So. Here we are once again. The end of yet another year. Twenty-eleven is dwindling to a close as I write these words and prepare my annual — seventh-annual — and ever-growing evaluation of the year gone past. I’ll warn you, as I often do on this blog, these words are merely my personal ramblings. It’s scattered and opinionated, despite my best efforts to tie it into a neat and cohesive rant. Nothing more.
You may know already that I took a lot of time off from writing — blogging, specifically — in 2010 and early 2011 to re-evaluate why I was writing here. I did that evaluation. I got a sense of it. And I’ve come back this past year with a different focus, different motivation, and a different style. At least, it’s different than you’ll find if you dig back into my archives. And while all this might seem like so-much navel-gazing and a little too introspective of a question, I see it something akin to when you hang your laundry out in the backyard to dry: sure, it’s just clothes and everyone wears clothes, right? But that’s your underwear out there on the line and what will the neighbors say if they see your knickers flapping in the summer breeze?
This is my laundry flapping in the breeze. This blog, and for some reason, this annual post in particular is my washing out in the sun for the neighbors to see. And this particular garment, well, this is just a recap of the months gone past. That’s it.
I’ll warn you before you tuck in. It’s long. (Long underwear? *smirk*) And it’s been a complex year, all round. It is what it is, is what I’m trying to say. So, without much more ado…
The New Years List, Take Seven: The Revenge!
First, what are you leaving behind in 2011? (q.2010)
It’s been a quiet year. This first question is supposed to be me telling you about something big: that someone close to me died (which thankfully didn’t happen) or that I made some major life change in 2011 (which didn’t happen either.) This was a year that just sort of, well, happened.
I’d like to say there are lots of things I’m deliberately leaving behind. I’d like to say that all those hang-ups and frustrations and youthful antagonistic attitudes that I occasionally foster and set alight at inappropriate moments are a thing of the past. I’d like to say that it’s a new year and a new, responsible me is on the horizon. But in reality, I think this kind of moment-to-moment change is kind of bogus. I’m not leaving much behind. I’m packing some things up and storing them, but they will still be hidden away somewhere. But no, not left behind.
How did you make money in 2011? How might you briefly describe to others what you do for a living?
It’s funny. Last year I got to apologetically summarize a year spent in a scattered set of roles, punctuating that description of my career with an abstract sort of “this is what I’ve been hired to do but actually I’ve just started, so…” kind-of appeal to my readers. Now, having been back in the metaphorical saddle for over a year, having a much better sense of my job and role, and — in fact — having started a regular routine of writing about that role over in a parallel blog, my summary here is oddly less clear. My exact job title is “Web Information Architect.” And the thing is that web architecture (even more so than data architecture or software architecture) is a young field, soft and unfocused in many ways. Web architecture, I’ve come to admit, very much is a response of scope to the numerous web designers who grew up in the nineties (and later) building little funky websites, first for themselves and friends, later for little business clients, and then… one day… got real salaried jobs managing — or helping to manage — huge corporate-sized websites. They had skills. They had talent. They had put in enough time to deserve their jobs. But calling them “the web guy” or “a web designer” made them seem as though any fifteen year old with a copy of WordPress or a Tumblr account could replace them. My job is a web designer with scope. But when I say scope, an analogy is as follows: a “web designer” is akin to the handyman building decks, fences, basements, or whatever. Quality work, but for small audiences. One the other hand, a “web architect” is akin to that project manager for that bridge being built across the river: bigger, with lots at stake — but with lots of people to help get it done. My sites have hundreds of editors, thousands of clients, and millions of monthly hits from real people who get to legitimately cite the cost of their taxes in relation to the quality of my work — a complaint a try hard to avoid my putting my all into being increasingly better at that job. And that’s what I did in 2011.
What do you wish you\’d done more of? Less of?
I kinda wish I’d done more stuff with Claire. I mean, we seem to have our days filled with all sorts of things. But at the end, looking back, those kid-focused “just hanging out and playing” moments seem few and far between. Maybe it’s a scheduling issue. Maybe it’s just perception. Maybe I’m judging myself against an impossible standard. Or maybe, I really am a lazy dad. I don’t know. I just wish I’d done more of something… anything… and I’m not exactly sure I know what that something is. This probably means I wish I’d done less of the practical stuff: commuting, all those selfish activities, all those hours spent playing video games while she’s been doing her own things. It’s just a feeling, but… well… wishes, too.
How would you describe the world from your perspective in terms of:
Touchable. It was the year of the touch-screen, it seemed. Yeah, all that stuff came out a year or two back with the iPhone and the tablets, but this year… well, it seemed like everything got a touch screen. Tablets were everywhere, smart-phones were everywhere, anything that could be touch-enabled was given a touch-screen. And from my perspective needing to tell my daughter NOT to touch a screen because that’s exactly what she’s inclined to do with technology, means we’ve hit some kind of tipping point in my little world.
Divisive. This supposedly benign Internet tool we’ve built to help us communicate with each other in so many new ways has done a many great things for the sharing of ideas and information, but (this year in particular, and from my meagre perspective) it seems to have set our beautiful and diverse cultural tapestry back tens, if not hundreds, of years. Civility failed in an epic way 2011, online and moving outward — a dark side that’s always sort of been there, but this year… The electronic echo-chambers of public and political discourse amplified and tipped the balance towards near ubiquitous anger and hate. The digital highways originally meant to free us from these things, instead have increasingly locked us into rigidly defined cultures and subcultures, billions of people content and eager to rapidly label each other by political shading or conflicting ideologies. I’ve tried — deliberately and often with great restraint — to rise above this fray this past year, but my own success has been mixed. Shame on all of us for not moving culture towards the better. Shame.
Grassroots. From the Arab Spring to the streets of major European cities to the North American #occupy movement, 2011 has been filled with average folks from a variety of cultures taking to the streets trying to affect change through sharp turns and adjustments to the status-quo. Whether you agree with these folks or not, their influence on the political landscape worldwide this past year has been unmistakable.
Existential versus individualistic. I’m not a real philosopher (but I sometimes play one on this blog) though what I’ve witnessed the last year is a kind of battle between two different philosophical positions. There are those who are feeling vaguely existentialist, in that they are feeling rather undefined, confused, and batted around like a play-thing in world that controls them by either random chance or a design larger than themselves. And there are those who are feeling vaguely Rand-ian individualistic, in that they feel that there is an undercurrent of social malaise that risks pulling them down unless they overtly fight against it and strive for purely personal gains. These two philosophies seem to neatly align to two very common and (aforementioned) divisive political opinions.
All that said, I don’t think our prospects are nearly as dire as one might conclude from watching, listening to, or reading the news. Really. I think the good still outweighs the corrupt.
What three experiences will always remind you of 2011?
1) The Great Turtle Chase: In March we went to Hawai’i. And, having little other interest in the ocean besides sticking my face into it whilst simultaneously breathing through a cheap plastic tube, I was pleasantly surprised by the breadth of snorkeling opportunity. One of the first few days on Waikiki beach I was poking through the coral a few hundred meters from shore, dodging surfers, and generally browsing the marine life with my waterproof camera in hand. This would turn out to be a case of being in the right place at the right time. Despite the clear water, the stirred sand and silt only provided visibility for a few dozen meters ahead, and even the colourful fish and urchins blended into the uniform brownish-green of the underwater landscape. But then, out of no where, appeared a sea turtle, just there mid-depth, minding its own business as it lolled by in the surf. My camera ready, my flippers full-out, and my swimming practice of the past few months coming in very handy, I swam (at a distance) as fast as I could manage in underwater pursuit. I kept pace for a mere two minutes (according to my camera footage) and when I couldn’t keep up any longer I emerged from the water some distance from where I’d started the chase and completely out of breath. It was one of those defining moments of a vacation — and a year.
2) Commuting on transit. Having spent the better part of my working life in Edmonton driving too and from work, often down busy oil-boom-packed highways, at dawn of 2011 I wandered down to the local drug store and bought a transit pass. A few months later I scored a discounted annual pass through work. And nearly every weekday since I’ve found myself on either a bus, a train, or both. It is a small chunk of time, not worrying about traffic, huddled into a noisy seat with my nose in a book or playing some random game on my phone while an audio-book pumps through my headphones. It has been a very different year for me in that respect.
3) Pixelated. About mid-year I was having a lot of reservations about my photography. I mean, I’d set some impossibly high standards for myself (as usual) and was trying to keep up with scattered obligations around the same. I gave it some thought and round-about the middle of August I decided it might be interesting to make an attempt at a mega-photography project in an attempt to both (a) get a bigger sense of my actual skill level with this camera and (b) improve those skills with daily photography. “Pixelated” my daily photo project began on September first, and as of this posting has included four months of daily photos. Some have been amazing (see a later question about the best picture I took this year) and some have been absolute crap. But each and every day the thought crosses my mind: what am I going to photograph today. Sure, there is a lot more to go in 2012, but I’m pretty sure this little effort has had a very big role in the personal-record-shattering seventeen-thousand-plus photos I took this year.
What are the details (events, memories, etc) surrounding important days in your life in 2011:
I was thirty-five. Whoa! Getting older, though as always I doubt I\’ll get any sympathy from readers or my future self who — by simple result of the unidirectional nature of time — is virtually guaranteed to be reading this in a state of being much older still. Karin bought a cake, invited some folks over to help celebrate in the evening following work, and gave me a very nice little fish-eye attachment for my camera. I was fairly mum on the subject elsewhere, however, and so the day went on average and routine with the regular hours spent on transit, in an office, in meetings, and bumming around downtown. I did have ‘Chicken For Lunch’ for lunch, though… so that was a nice treat.
Falling as it does right around mid-Fringe Festival, I managed to get the day off from my volunteering duties and — as I recall — enjoyed a dinner out with my wife and daughter. Karin and I, as usual, celebrated (a few days late) by enlisting some grandparent child-care for a weekend and taking in a few late-evening Fringe shows and a sushi dinner.
c) the holidays?
Without taking a single day of holiday time, I managed to roll up a five day weekend this year… and it seemed as though every minute was stuffed full of some kind of family frenzy. Friday, my folks arrived in town to attend Claire’s preschool party and later take us out for an xmas-eve-eve dinner at the local burger joint. Saturday, Karin’s family descended upon our humble house for two days of food, gifts and one giant jigsaw puzzle. Boxing day saw us scoot down to Red Deer for a night and a day to wrap up the annual celebration with my side. We ate too much. We got too many gifts. We played board games, watched tv, played video games, and did a lot of dishes. I met up with an old friend from high school, too. All-in-all? It was just busy and I was quietly glad to get back to the office when it was over.
d) new years?
The week leading up to New Years was bad. I went back to work on the 28th… and was home in time for lunch, sick and sore. What I thought was going to be a short week turned into a non-week, jumping between resting on the couch and hiding in the basement playing Skyrim for numerous hours, all the while hacking up — well, we won’t go into that. The evening before New Years Eve we found ourselves at the Chamming’s “Annual” post-xmas games bash. We played some games (of course) and ate some more food, before retiring early to get Claire to bed. New Years Eve was a quiet day at home after which we took in the annual festivities at our neighborhood park: a sleigh ride, some hot chocolate, fireworks, and huddling from the wind near the fire.
How would you describe your life from your perspective in terms of:
Apart from traveling and running (arguably by some, not fun) fun in our house was a mix of things. I took a lot of video this year, and alongside the photography did a lot of video editing of home movies. I also got myself a (staff discounted) recreation centre pass and spent a bunch of time at the pool. But then I also played a bunch of video games in my off hours: the weekly gaming meet up sporadically attended by enjoyed when I could make it. For the first year since we moved in there were no major home renovation projects, so our house was just — for this year — a fun place to live, pretty much complete and enjoyable.
Our little family has become more interesting in 2011. I only say that because Claire has, in the past couple years, entered into that uniquely independent phase of life and the result has been a life where we, as a family, are drawn into things outside ourselves because of her activities. She goes to preschool, so we meet new people from preschool. She does music, so our life does loops around piano practice. Family suddenly wasn’t just three people in a house: it was three lives twisted together.
Our friendships have become pleasantly complex this past year: Old friends have become steady and reliable friends. New friends have appeared in unexpected places. Past colleagues have become scattered friends. Co-runners have become a stable social circle. Long lost and distant friends have re-appeared. Digital friends have tapered and trailed off.
I hate to call myself a foodie for two reasons: first, I’m not nearly as picky or as intense as a true foodie, and second, “foodie” has become something of a bad-word — or so I’ve heard. I do like food, though, and between our new gas stove, a little bit of spare income, and working downtown with access to at least four different food courts on a whim, I’ve definitely scaled up this year.
At the turn of this past year I would have grumblingly declared myself on the “injured list.” Having (what my random self-diagnosis — tsk-tsk — and online research revealed) a tiny bit of sheared bone fragment rumbling around inside my ankle (not a major injury, but a pain in the… uh… ankle, I was slightly side-lined. I set some goals, missed them. I did a lot of cross-training in the form of swimming at the new pool, and that helped. Then I gradually got back into running. Looking at my stats it measured out as one of my weaker running years since starting into the sport, but somehow it seemed like a bigger achievement. How does that work?
I was listening to some random economist on the radio mid-December and he used a word that pretty much described how I’ve been feeling about shopping lately: saturated. I go buy stuff that I need, or a pick up new game when I happen to see it on sale. But I just don’t have the interest I once seemed to glean from roaming malls for deals. Not that I was ever a “power-shopper” but there was a time when I’d hunt through fliers and could tell you the prices of certain bits of tech. In other words, I guess, I haven’t been spending much on ‘stuff’ lately. This hasn’t stopped us from buying trips or tickets to things, so, financially at least… 2011 was fairly level, especially on a double income.
Working in an office that is perched atop a shopping mall has had absolutely no effect on my fashion sense this year. Sure, there were a few days I’d wander through the department store one level down and pick up a new shirt or a sheath of fresh socks. But on the whole, its been office casual for the past year.
Compared to this time last year, you are:
a) happier or sadder?
Older. Wiser (I’d like to hope.) And at the edge of a dark chasm of economic uncertainty. But I have my health, a wonderful family, and a good job. I’m happy, just more worried about the future than I was last year. That makes me a little sadder.
b) thinner or fatter?
That’s a tough one, if only because I have no data to back up any perception I might have. On the one hand I ran less than I had planned in 2011. But on the other hand, my appetite has calmed in recent years and I’ve been eating less sweets. I’d wager I’m spot on the same from this time last year, but leaning towards the thinner end — but only because my pants feel looser these days.
c) richer or poorer?
Richer. But only relatively richer and for the simple reason that I spent the better part of 2010 (at worst) unemployed and sitting in Second Cup penning half-baked novels or (at best) begging for contract work. 2011, which I spent entirely employed, has been relatively flush for me in that respect… despite a stumbling international economic situation.
d) focused or distracted?
A few months of unemployment has a way of focusing the mind like a laser. That’s where I was this time last year. It’s been a long, distracting year since, full of lots of commitments, changes, and uncertainty. Definitely more distracted.
e) responsible or irresponsible?
More places to be. More people counting on me. Bigger projects at work. A four year old with a mind like a whip. And lots of years ahead for which to get things planned and balanced. It feels weightier each year. Is it any doubt I feel more responsible.
What was your biggest achievement of the year? Failure?
I’d have to say my biggest personal success is my own private and work-related efforts at self-education and professional development. Between starting a professional industry-topic blog (that has over twenty-five thousand words of content already), acquiring and actually reading a wider selection of field-related books, securing a year-worth of job-titled professional experience under my metaphorical belt — and lots of other little things on the side, too — I’d say I’ve taken my career multiple steps forward in 2011. And for the first time in a long time could actually tell you where I anticipate working in the coming decades (rather than just the coming months!) At the same time I’ve really given up on the idea of independent contracting. I’ve put lots of metaphorical eggs in that metaphorical basket in the past few years, but I sort of just let them go stale and rot in 2011. Failure or just admitting defeat? Either way…
Did you travel? Where?
I made two international trips this year, both state-side.
In March and April, I went on the family vacation to end all family vacations: a troupe of us trotted off to a couple islands of Hawai’i, spending a week in a condo overlooking Waikiki beach and participating in a random mix of tourist-type things, eating expensive food, and bumbling though events surrounding the wedding of Karin\’s cousin. Afterwards, we escaped the hustle and bustle of the island city and spent a further week in a condo overlooking a lavastone beach on the western shores of Maui. Over the two weeks we climbed volcanoes, snorkeled (a little less than I would have liked, but still snorkeled), boated, hiked near pineapple groves and island rain-forests and suburban landscapes, swam near turtles, saw humpbacks, luau\’d, learned the ukulele, zip-lined, drove a lot, shopped a little, and took a zillion photos.
In July, I trotted off alone to a science-type conference in Las Vegas. As I wrote shortly following the event, it was a surreal and mind-blowing few days, eating bacon and doughnuts, listening to enlightening talks, socializing with old and new friends, and cavorting with an eclectic mix of odd, brilliant, amazing, and sometimes famous people. And that was that, and never to be adequately described because… what happens in Vegas… well, you know the rest.
What did you want and get? Not get?
Get? Late in 2010 we hired a couple of very professional young gas-fitters and had a line run from our basement to in behind our stove. That’s as far as it went for a while. Then, sparked by some kind of inspiration over the summer, we found ourselves out shopping and actually bought a very cool, gas range with a convection oven. The old beast disappeared in a mere few hours thanks to Kijiji, and a few hours after that, the soft blue glow of a gas flame was cooking me pancakes. If you’d asked me a few years ago if my most exciting purchase of the year would have been a major appliance I probably would have scoffed at you. But… gas! GAS!
Not? A new tripod. Don’t ask why, but I just never found one I liked — despite the generous contribution of a camera store gift card by my parents on my birthday. Claire pretty much destroyed my old one: she calls it her “telescope” and… yeah… it can’t even hold its own weight up anymore, let alone my camera.
What ___________ will likely remind you of 2011 and why?
Part of me is tempted to say one of my blogs. This one, because I re-invented it this year. Or the other one because I started it this year. Or the photo one, because even though I don’t update it as much as I should I think about it daily when I’m snapping photos. But, if for no other reason than I’m paid to understand the very essence of its little digital soul, an effort that requires hours each day of focus, reading, thinking, testing and deciding, I would have to say… well… the one I’m paid by my awesome employer to help architect.
It was in theatres in late 2010, about the time we were getting ready for our winter Caribbean vacation, so it is no doubt that missed Disney’s Tangled until we acquired a copy early in 2011 on Blu-Ray. Once we had that movie, our house, my car and nearly everything Claire touched for the next few weeks (and less, but still some in the subsequent months) became Rapunzel-this and Rapunzel-that. We’d listen to the music. She’d play with the doll. We’d watch her climb the playground equipment to play Rapunzel. I have a feeling when I think of that movie in the future, this year will stick out in my mind.
“Fireman Fred is a Happy Fellow…. oh, Fireman Fred!” Claire started music lessons this year and this little sugary gem was burned into my brain a mere few days in. This is where I shake my fist at the sky. Curse you Fireman Fred! Get out of my head.
For those who don’t know, our City has a standard beautification-type policy that effective takes the budget for any construction project and allocates one percent to public art. From our website: “The City of Edmonton adopted a percent for art policy in 1991 (revised in 2007). The policy allocates one per cent of the eligible construction budget of any accessible municipal project for art to be publicly displayed. This is a standard municipal practice across North America.” I love it. Despite the numerous naysayers who routinely chime in through radio call in shows or in the comments section of various local publications, art is and should be something more than a pretty painting or framed photograph: it should be weird, unique, epic, disjointed, clever, huge, unnerving, awkward… or any combination of the above. That the City supports such art makes this a cool place to live.
One piece of public art that has framed my year stands in front of our local recreation center. It’s called “the running track” (or something) and for all intents and purposes looks like a thirty-foot tall mash-up of some gummy-feet and an athletic track kicking off for a fifty-meter dash. Between seeing it erected, photographing it, being photographed in front of it, and using it as a running landmark for my uncounted jaunts from the nearby Running Room store, this particular bit of art has loomed heavy in my life these past twelve months or so.
Early in the year my co-workers — still relatively new in that I\’d only been at the job for a matter of weeks — introduced me to a now-famous sandbox game called Minecraft. I could spend many words here outlining the basis of the game, the seemingly never-ending clicking and wandering, all for the digital equivalent of building massive Lego-like cube-block structures in a geographically limitless environment whilst being attacked by incomprehensibly viscous creatures bent solely on your electronic destruction. (And given this is a retrospective post designed to be read in the future when Minecraft may or may not exist or be remembered, perhaps I should spend some words!) But needless to say, numerous hours were whiled away constructing absurd architectures on some rented server space, and 2011 shall probably stand out as the year I very probably could have accomplished so much more had it not been for this game. But worth it, all around.
What was the best book or story that you read and what was your greatest literary discovery for 2011?
A few years late to the game as usual, I stumbled upon an awesome and epic graphic novel called Bone, by Jeff Smith. The Bone series — oddly shelved in the Young Adult section of most bookstores — is an engrossing story of trust and war and politics and deception — and I bought the four-inch-thick compendium of the core nine books of the series, reading it nearly straight through. And I’d highly recommend it.
Describe the best picture you took — or that was taken of you — in 2011
Mid-year I picked up a nifty little lens system called the Lensbaby. I very-likely bored many people to tears, I\’m sure, expounding on this for weeks afterward, and at the risk of a repeat I\’ll just add the following (for future-reading clarity) to the list: the Lensbaby is a kind-of non-specific, flexible lens that attachment allows one to take photos on the artistic end of the photography spectrum, softly blurring edges, enhancing distortion, flexing angles and shifting foci. It also forces one to shoot far more manually than many amateur photographers are generally comfortable. A few weeks after I\’d acquired this system, and had been toting it nearly around virtually-permanently affixed to my camera body, I took both Claire and the dog out for a walk in the nearby park. It was late in the summer, the sun was setting around quarter to seven in the evenings, and the clouds would cast these magical illusions of light and shadow upon the horizon. Claire was learning how to walk the dog, so I had her lead Sparkle up onto a low hill that is in the middle of the park, a hill generally used only in the winter for tobogganing down. In a rare moment of luck and acutely perfect settings on my camera, I caught a short series of images of my daughter and my puppy silhouetted against an orange-cast sunset, their crisp, black-toned shapes on a sun-smudged background, the contrast, focus, and composition aligning unbelievably for a few quick shots.
Thinking ten years in the past: reminisce. What do you recall or what event stands out most of all from your life and beyond in 2001?
Ten years ago was an odd time of big changes for me — and the world, too. Of course, the whole World Trade Center in New York being ass-ploded and the political-fallout-war-starting-thing punctuated that year, far more than my little life ever could… but personally? Well, I was an un-married, child-less guy living on my own in an unfamiliar city, for one thing. I started blogging in 2001 and I did that largely because I got my first real job and moved out to the west coast to live in Vancouver in 2001. I spent a lot of time either commuting on foot between my Oak Street studio-apartment and my Granville-adjacent office — or by plane between my then-girlfriend in Alberta and my new lonely-home in the big city. I had my first Disney experience in 2001, Karin and her family dragging me for a vacation in Florida. I took up digital photography in 2001, my then-boss handing me a still-boxed company camera with the instruction: “You’re technical. Learn how to use this thing so you can take photos at events.” (And, obviously, I’ve taken lots of photos since!)
What dates from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory because they made you…? And why?
On July 28, 2011 it was a small thing… but it was big, too. I took the day off and I took Claire to the local annual fair. My folks tagged along. We spent too much money on those wristband day passes. We bought cotton candy. We wandered. We got a little too much sun. We played carnival games. We rode on the silliest of rides. But it was brilliant and exhausting… and totally worth the pain.
On November 18, 2011 Karin and I spent nearly two hours on the phone across five separate phone calls — a lot for us — plus countless others to the other players in this little episode, all in trying to sort out a problem. A person we’d trusted — hired — to look after our daughter day after day, as it turns out was… bluntly… screwing up her job. And she was hiding it. Even as I write this the situation is still in flux — a permanent situation a few days away — the childcare situation we had figured we’d long-since settled, fell apart in a sad and clumsy afternoon of half-truths and meandering trust. And Claire, tears streaming down her cheeks that evening because her world was tossed upside down merely because of some very poor adult choices and some very hard parenting decisions, put a lump inside my heart for a few long and sleepless nights.
On December 12, 2011 our life was a mix of crazy and defeat. It had been a busy and exhausting week for all of us and… well… let\’s just say that it had been an interesting year for fatherhood, too. I was still quietly reeling from giving up a lot of things that made Claire and mine relationship so great during those the first four years of her life. Most of that special-ness, as I saw it, revolved around one sad fact: we have no more true Ã¢â‚¬Å“daddy-daysÃ¢â‚¬Â anymore, what with our conflicting busy schedules, and — of course — she is growing up, too. But early into that mid-December evening, as Karin was putting Claire to bed, I was summoned to bathroom to have a look at Claire\’s ears. Long story short: the earrings so adored by my daughter, so wished for that past summer, so diligently tended and cleaned for months, and so proudly displayed to everyone she met, those earrings had somehow grown into the back of her ear lobes. And I, a few hours later sitting in the emergency room at the University hospital, the same little girl drugged to sleeping on the hospital bed and surrounded by a pediatric surgery team, was a spectator in a very difficult moment. The surgeon was forced to cut those earrings out of her tender, young ears, and I felt more than a bit defeated as a dad.
At some point in mid-November — I don’t recall the exact date — after a few months of our refrigerator acting up (you know: generally not working for six to eighteen hour stretches for no particular reason) I had what some might call an upsight, a bit of blind inspiration, or just a splash of common sense. Call it nothing more than it was: a small victory. A girth of self-education on refrigerator function and repair suddenly clicked one evening and led to an experiment. It was nothing complex. Instead, our thinking that the thermostat had fried, or the coolant was leaked out, or that the electronics needed a reboot — this was all wrong. It just occurred to me that there was probably some frost build-up somewhere I couldn’t see and the too-smart fridge was cycling itself trying to melt it off. We did a mass clean-up, gutted the icebox, and left it to thaw to room temperature. That was a month and a half ago and it’s been working perfectly since. Time will tell, but I’ve had a lot of little moments of feeling pretty victorious, each time I open the door and check the temperature display. Funny the things that will spur emotions in your thirties, huh?
Thinking ten years in the future: prognosticate. What do you think the world will be like in 2021?
First, let’s just start by stating the obvious: in 2021 I’ll be the father to a teenage girl. Claire will be fourteen in 2021 and very nearly getting ready for high school, a thought that is virtually unfathomable in my father-to-a-toddler mind. I expect such a thing will shape my existence in more ways than I can possibly imagine. We’ll be somewhere. We’ve talked of living and working abroad again someday, and in my mind that will play out either yay-or-nay in the next ten years. So we might be here or we might be there and both paths are still wide open at this moment. Karin and I will both be in our forties, I hitting the ripened and finely-tuned age of forty-five that year. Part of me thinks that if I’m still able and willing to be running — barring injury or boredom — I’ll have talked myself into training for and running an actual marathon during one of those years.
Career-wise, my brilliant and upwardly-mobile wife will probably be some high-level manager of some software or consulting firm — or maybe her own company — while I will likely still be trucking away at my grunt-work career, satisfied to do what I’m doing for lots of more years… but who can say? Unfortunately, Sparkle doesn’t have that many years left in her, so our lives will be emptier that way. I hope we’ll have taken the lightened responsibility of a dog-less home and the potential financial-improvements of upward careers to travel even more, hitting some of the world-wide sights of wonder and lessening the weight of the bucket list.
I expect I’ll have taken tens of thousands of more photos, my blog posts will become even longer, I’ll have spent even more money on the latest and greatest technology and gadgets, and my tolerance for irrational ideas and the people who trumpet them will have shriveled even further.
The world, I anticipate with mild cynicism, will be warmer, more populous, more expensive, and increasingly divisive — and we’ll look back on 2011 with idle wonder at how we got to there from here.
Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011:
Sometimes you think there are things and events (and occasionally people) that are important. Mostly they are not that important at all. They are just pieces of this one life that happen along the way, and they seem invaluable, but they are just the driftwood from the ocean that is your life. Sometimes you realize there are other things and events (and very often people) that are more important than you realized: the stuff that keeps you afloat and the other stuff that lets you find your way back to shore. Sorting the difference between the two is tough, but worth the effort.
What is one thing you\’d like your kid(s) to know about the year 2011?
For lots of people this was a big year. For us? Not so much. This was a year that just sort of, well, happened. I don’t think there will be much to mark twenty-eleven as some epic milestone in our lives, or some crazy memory of days gone past. Sure, we had some fun times. Sure, there were moments of frustration and moments of joy. But it was mostly just one of those quiet years of getting things done that let us get back up on our feet and keep at it.
One quote that sums up your 2011 is:
“Men are born soft and supple; dead they are stiff and hard. Plants are born tender and pliant; dead, they are brittle and dry. Thus whoever is stiff and inflexible is a disciple of death. Whoever is soft and yielding is a disciple of life. The hard and stiff will be broken. The soft and supple will prevail.” – Tao Te Ching