Tuesday, December 31, 2013

This Year in Life... Including Dogs, Trips, Zines and Glasses

Hi! Long time no see.

I'm back because I've realized that, since this year was one of such infrequent posts, there are some things that have happened, changes and experiences and projects, that blog readers just never heard about (or maybe might have heard about if they caught that one post on the Facebook blog page at midnight on a quiet Tuesday in July, but otherwise almost certainly didn't).

So this is my year in review. A peek into some things big and small that happened in my life, be they actual events or emotional revelations or what have you, in the year 2013.

I got glasses 

After years of seeing everything in a kind of fuzzy blur, and two years of holding onto the prescription without choosing frames (because what if I got them and then hated them??), I finally bought a pair of glasses. So this summer, for the first time since I was 15 and got my first pair (which I promptly decided I hated and never wore), I could actually see! And it really has changed my life. I can read subtitles on movies now, read the digital clock from across the room, read street signs (which though it's not solving my getting lost habit is certainly helping), and can actually recognize individual people from a distance of more than 15 feet. It's really nice. And I even like how they look!!


My family got a new dog

After our beloved Airedale Terrier, Winston, passed away in the spring of 2012, we were devastated. It took many months of grieving before we felt ready to start looking for another sweet puppy to share our home, but in February of 2013 we started. We've never had any animals that weren't adopted before, and we weren't about to change that this time, but when you're looking to get a dog through a rescue organization, it's not like you can just say "well, this is my list of specifications, where is a dog who fits them??" and have one be waiting there for you. You have to have patience and just keep looking until you find a good fit for your family. This is especially true when you're dealing with one family member who is allergic to many breeds, and two much adored cats at home whom the dog absolutely has to be good with. Then even when you find a dog that fits those specifications on paper, often it just won't click between you and the dog in person. There needs to be that spark. As usual (that was the case with our last two dogs, as well), how we finally ended up finding our boy was through actually being in touch with specific people at specific shelters. We got a call from the woman we'd been in contact with at the Montreal SPCA (ironically the very evening my father had taken a plane to France for two weeks), saying hey, a dog just had a failed adoption and came back to us, and I think you might like him...

Blue at the SPCA, the first day we met him.
Enter a shaggy, skinny, big eyed Irish Wolfhound  mix who looked up at us with worried eyes and leaned on our legs. My mother, sister, and I were smitten. But we couldn't exactly adopt a dog without my father meeting him and being part of the decision, even if the SPCA had allowed that, which it doesn't. However, we were encouraged to foster him for those two weeks, since he wasn't doing well at the shelter, and then make a final decision once all members of the family had spent some time with him.

We were warned that, despite Blue's age of a year and a half, he'd be more like a 6 month old puppy due to his early neglectful and abusive life. We nodded, but anyone looking at this solemn, calm, well behaved creature would have had trouble picturing that. 

Blue on Christmas day.
Fast forward to now, over 5 months later, after my father having fallen in love with him as much as all of us have. While he still has the capacity to be both very calm and polite, as often as not he's bugging the cats (whom he absolutely adores) to play with him, climbing mommy (he loves putting his feet on her shoulders and kissing her face), snuggling with Papa on the couch, racing up and down the hallways going SQUEAKY SQUEAKY SQUEAKY SQUEAKY with one of his much loved plushies, barking at us to give him the human food on the counter, table, or stove that he would very much like to taste, and trying to (very gently: he's always gentle) chew on/mouth hands, arms, and occasionally noses (yup). In short, he's kind of like a 6 month old puppy. A very intelligent (he learns things scary fast and is most excellent at communicating his needs and wants), snuggly, energetic puppy. I can't even put into words how much laughter, joy, and love Blue has brought into our lives, and it's just been amazing to watch him become more confident and so much more happy in the time he's been with us. I couldn't have hoped to find a better dog.

And if anyone is looking to adopt a dog in the Montreal area, though the Montreal SPCA had a horrible reputation for many years, under current management it's great. Every employee and volunteer we dealt with was lovely, helpful, and seemed to really care! 

Here, have a couple more pictures of the cutest dog ever.

Getting cheek scratches.

Covered in snowballs from frolicking in the snow.


I went on a few visits and trips (though less than some years)

In the spring I met up with a couple of close friends and we spent almost a week in Maine, with a stopover in Vermont on the way. It involved staying at beautiful places, lots of time wandering around the streets of Portland, eating pizza and drinking mead, and even more time spent just hanging out and talking. Things went to shit after that trip, and stayed pretty shitty for the rest of the spring and summer, but that trip... That trip was good.

Bread and Puppet Theater.
The view from a friends house.

Live music and tasty pizza.

July brought the 4th annual Summer Montreal Unschoolers Gathering, a cozy group of teens and young adults, and parents of teens and young adults, that my family organizes each summer. There was lots of art making, game playing, swimming, bubble blowing, and even some jazz listening.

There was so much coming and going that sadly this shot is missing some people!

In august was the Northeast Unschooling Conference! My very favourite unschooling con, where some truly amazing people go. I miss them the rest of the year when I don't get to see them! It's the unschooling conference I recommend most.

NEUC picnic!


In October, for the first time in a couple of years, I headed back to Not Back to School Camp, in the capacity of a brand new role, assistant, at a brand new session, a retreat session with the aim of, essentially, helping people figure out their lives! Goals, plans etc. I have very mixed feelings on this event. Or, not so much the event, which was a huge success and a great idea, but more my own role in it. I felt like I failed. Like I could have done SO much better at connecting with campers, and being a good role model or some such thing. Instead, coming out of a very difficult summer, I barely held it together. If it wasn't for friends who sat with me and talked long into the night when I was shaking and dizzy and struggling to breathe, or just plain old sobbing my eyes out, I would have managed even worse. Though when I actually stop beating myself up for a moment, I can say I definitely worked hard at my dishwashing job, and considering how much trouble I was having, I handled things okay. I had some good conversations with many good people, attended  couple of cool workshops, and got to know some cool people better. Not too bad, all things considered.

Photo by Signe Constanble, found at the official NBTSC photo collection.


I dealt with some anxiety stuff

As mentioned previously in this post, my mental health this past year has not been superb. And in fact, I've struggled with anxiety for a very, very long time. This year doesn't really mark a turning point in the existence of anxiety, but it does mark a turning point in my commitment to being a lot more open about it. I don't think that's something I need or want to go into more here now, but I did write a whole post about the subject!  

I made a half-assed attempt to start selling clothing online

I love thrifting, and I find so many good things for ridiculously good prices, so this past year I decided hey,
I have a fill-a-bag-for-$1 store. This all was $1 total. Not kidding.
why not sell clothes online? However, I quickly got bogged don't in worry and fear (wait, I have to actually get things shipped out, what containers/packages do I use?? What if it gets damaged?? what if people ask for their money back?? How much should I charge in the first place anything? There's nowhere clean to take pictures all these clothes will look horrible in my messy house no one will buy them!!). Which is why I only ever posted 1 item to Etsy, I still owe etsy 20 cents for that posting, and I have not even signed in there in months. Oops. I do still want to do this, so providing I can get my act together, that might be something you'll actually see in 2014!

I started feeling at least a bit more comfortable identifying as queer

In case you didn't know from my brief mention in my bio or the very rare comment to that affect on the Facebook bog page, consider this my coming out: I'm queer! Which for me means I'm attracted to people of different genders. My sexuality has been something I've been angsting about since my later teens, mainly because it's never seemed clear cut, and the ways and levels of intensity with which I'm attracted to people does tend to vary with gender, leading to all kinds of questions about whether I'm really queer, or queer enough, or queer in the right way. But this year I think I'm finally coming to terms with the fact that I'm really, genuinely sure I'm not straight. Therefore, I have every right to claim the identity of queer, and, since I really do feel more kinship to that label than any other I've seen, for now I'm working on being comfortable with my queerness.

I started writing a zine

And I'm still working on it, I swear! I even had over half of the content finished, when I decided much of it was horrible and awful and why would I want to publish that?? and that it needed to be re-written. It's working title is Breaking Pavement, and it's essentially a personal zine. In October I wrote this rough list of contents:

  1. An article on domestic rituals (bread baking, fermenting) and how comforting they are, how those things, as well as other direct connections to the… products of everyday life, I guess? Help me feel grounded. I’m sure there will be discussion of how anxiety works into all that, and how much it matters for someone who’s almost always stressed to find rituals, whatever they are, where you can actually feel at peace.
  2. Navigating being a feminine queer feminist woman, how people treat me, my struggles with how I feel happy presenting versus how I want to be perceived, etc.
  3. An article on my almost lifelong love of traditional fiddle music, including a few recommendations.
  4. A small collection of one breath poems/haiku.
  5. My cinnamon bun recipe.
  6. Some comically bad illustrations.
See? I said comically bad.

I plan to post periodic updates on the Facebook blog page as it starts to come together more.

I'm finally building a personal site

I've been feeling for a while that my presence on the web feels... Spread out. Disorganized. So I've wanted to build a personal website, a place that can act as a gateway to my various blogs and projects. I've been using weebly, and I am amazed at how easy it is to use. My site is nearly finished and looking great, even though I have pretty much no skills when it comes to web design! All I need now is to buy a domain name, which I'm not currently feeling like I have enough money for. It might only be $10 and change, but that's a day out in the city actually doing things, since I live in the suburbs far from anything, and those days out are more important for my mental health than a domain name. If you feel moved to help out with that though, and would like to send a dollar or two my way, I would be very appreciative. I can't figure out how to link it (remember that very-little-web-skills thing I mentioned?) but a donate button can be found at the top right sidebar of this blog. Thanks!

Sneak peek of the new site!

 Now I think that's it

As in, all I can think of right now. All I feel like sharing. Already longer than I'd either expected or wanted it to be! But that is my year, in headlines, with the boring parts skimmed over. That's what I've been up to. I hope, since I've been so out of contact with all you lovely readers this past year, that you can feel like you know a bit more now, and that you have a better grasp of where I am in life!

Wishing everyone all the very best in 2014! Happy New Year!

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