2018 in threes

End of year reflections.

Three moments of 2018

April: the day after my birthday, sitting alone near the top of Mount Kanimbla with a camera on a very cold morning to catch the sunrise. I’d had a badly injured ankle for a week at that time and so getting myself outside was a real independent triumph.

Dawn over the Blue Mountains escarpment, Kanimbla Valley
Dawn over the Blue Mountains escarpment.

September: the top of Thredbo resort with Andrew and V, looking towards the Basin t-bar in gale force winds. While it was still open, none of us love t-bars or have any experience riding them in high wind. So we skiied/trudged uphill for 500m straight into the wind to the top of the run we wanted, our faces being scoured with freezing rain, and then we skiied down until we were below the cloud layer and high-fived.

October: Saturday in New York, the end of the first week of a three week work trip, before flying to California. I’d planned to visit either the Holocaust Museum or the 9/11 Museum, but a nor’easter blew in. I went down to the World Trade Center to find people queuing outside for the museum in the pouring rain in flimsy white plastic raincoats, and turned right around and went back uptown. I was tired and I needed snacks and mains power, so I went into work, went up to the top of the building, and sat on a couch eating yoghurt and hummus with my fingers because I was too tired to figure out where the spoons were.

Rain in New York
Rain in Chelsea, October 2018.

Three meals of 2018

January: V’s birthday lunch in Kauaʻi, for which he of course chose McDonalds. It seemed exactly the same, but somehow also gloomier.

August: at the local Indian restaurant, discovering paratha after twenty years of Sydney naan.

December: lunch at Quay, squeezing in before a gift voucher from Christmas 2017 expired. We had the ten course meal, it was all lovely, but what instantly comes to mind when I think back to it is the incredibly buttery crumpets about half way down the menu, delivered in a wooden “toaster”.

Three photos of 2018

Photographer under Hanalei Pier
Photographer under Hanalei Pier, Kauaʻi
Reflected Australian flag
Australian flag reflected in Darling Harbour
Wave breaks over Icebergs
Wave breaks over Icebergs pool, Bondi

Three pleasures of 2018

February: three days of alone time in Birchgrove. I needed to have a radioiodine thyroid scan and moved out of home for several days as a precaution against exposing the children to radiation. While the doctors thought this was a little excessive for the dose, it meant that I hunkered down in a granny flat with a harbour view, caught ferries, took myself out to solo dinners, and watched harbour waves break in the dark on the shores of Birchgrove Park.

View from Birchgrove
View from Birchgrove

December: summer foods, defined as stone fruits and dark and stormies. We’ve been drinking dark and stormies and catching up on the final two seasons of Rake.

Throughout the year: my daughter’s immense wavy head of hair after years of her pulling it out and being mostly bald. My current line about this is that we finally understand why she was pulling it out: it was a last ditch defence against the complete takeover. She lost; now she is a being more hair than child.

After party
A, November 2018

Three news stories from 2018

All the news about cryptocurrency, particularly scams and regulatory crackdown. This is my popcorn news, having read David Gerard’s Attack of the 50 Foot Blockchain: Bitcoin, Blockchain, Ethereum & Smart Contracts around the time of the Bitcoin peak.

Global hunger has been rising for three years. There’s been a narrative for a while now among the philanthropy wonks I follow that, somewhat silently and without fanfare, disease, poverty, and hunger were gradually reducing and we weren’t giving ourselves enough credit for creating a better world. But not so in the last few years. Which is the interregnum, the few decades of progress or the last couple of years of worsening?

Which brings me to the IPCC 1.5°C report (“we have 12 years”), the November student strikes in Australia, and other climate change news.

Three sensations from 2018

April: crutching my way out of Balmain Hospital with a pain-free foot. The injury only hurt when I put weight on it, so the absence of pain was a common and lovely sensation. Lying down! On crutches! Complete absence of pain! When the doctor asked if I needed pain relief I gave her an uncomprehending look.

August: freezing rain scouring my face at Thredbo as I went up the chairlift in a gale just shy of closing the lift. “Welcome to outdoor sports!” chortled the instructor. I liked it in an odd way, but V found it so frightening he insisted on being taken right back down the mountain. (At the end of the lesson I had to wring my gloves dry of water; it’s a credit to GoreTex my hands were still warm.)

November: pumpkin spice latte at Starbucks in San Francisco, in honour of Glen Weldon’s take on pumpkin spice (offset 06:45). It’s mostly cinnamon.

Three sadnesses of 2018

Cancer in the family, again.

Much smaller but you can have more details: I had a couple of nasty and slow healing injuries this year. First I twisted my right ankle in April playing with A at a drop off beside one of V’s soccer fields and hurt it badly enough that it didn’t take weight for days and I couldn’t walk long distances without pain for about half the year. Second, I tore my left supraspinatus skiing and have only regained most of the flexibility in the shoulder in the last few weeks and am yet to get much of the strength back. This put paid to one of the previous set of plans, learning to sail, and made sleeping, housework, and cycling difficult all year.

The California Ideology, to which I am not native but from which I profit, coming up worse and worse over time. See this interview with Fred Turner.

Three plans for 2019

Throwing my children birthday parties this year. This was a millstone last year, and we left it until the following birthdays were nearer than the ones being celebrated and then abandoned all hope. This year two parties are planning, and from now on, since their birthdays are only 12 days apart, they get a party every second year alternating.

We’re taking the first two weeks of the year off work. Our only holiday plan — really, one should be enough — is to spend a week of that on the south coast, which I haven’t visited since diving with seals at Montague Island in 2007. Unlikely to dive this time but perhaps boating on Jervis Bay.

Because of the injuries, we didn’t get to learning to sail — at one point I could neither have stood comfortably on my right foot nor pulled with any strength in my left arm — so that returns to the plans again.

Three hopes for 2019

To quote my entry a year ago: “Some good news about climate change, whether statistics or serious political will.”

Some new horizon of family life, as my youngest child turns five and we’re increasingly free to explore things for older children and adults. So far we’ve done ropes courses and water parks, I’m sure there’s more to come.

Involvement in some kind of activism. I gave what I had and to spare to tech feminism already, perhaps labour activism or something like 350.org is next.

2017 in threes

End of year reflections.

Reading over last year’s (very dark) reflections, I would say 2017 was not the year I feared. While it will take a few years yet to tell what 2017 really was to the world, for me, it was a quiet and quite inward looking year, after a very hard 2015 and 2016.

Three moments of 2017

January: I was ill and taking regular naps at work; weirdly easy to go to sleep. Dark rooms, trip-hop through my headphones, and free associating.

May: New York City, so overwhelmed in a new job and so jetlagged that I worked a fifteen hour day and fell into bed for a brief sleep when I lost the ability to speak English.

November: Snorkelling in the Whitsundays, wishing again and always that I had scuba equipment, but happy and peaceful in the water.

Three meals of 2017

May: our wedding anniversary meal, degustation at Restaurant Como. Especially the rose-and-raspberry Eton mess, adding a bunch of subtlety to something that’s usually more like a hammer for a sweet tooth.

May and November: sashimi at Asuka Sushi. In planning to visit New York a few times a year, I wanted to find a few rituals to get me through the visits. Sashimi seems like a good choice. Protein versus jetlag.

Throughout the second half of the year: the truffle oil dumpling at the Din Tai Fung outlets throughout Sydney. As with making an Eton mess subtle, this makes truffle just subtle enough. And there’s only ever one of them…

Three photos of 2017

This represents being happy at work to me, although it’s also a million years ago in 2017-career-time. I was a newbie facing her first performance review, not the incoming manager of the team):

Today's look: writing self assessment for performance review. 💪

By the following cycle, I was doing performance reviews for other people.

A sweet boy and his baby cousin:

Cousin cuddle

The sun setting over the exit from Monk Park in Tamworth, a walk I did many times as a child:

Last rays

Three pleasures of 2017

Throughout the year: bike rides to work after a fresh service and with full tyres, fast climbs for a change.

May: our wedding anniversary weekend away west of the mountains. Wood fire, hot tub, creek nearby, eucalyptus leaves glowing yellow-green when the sun shone through them.

August/September: the week when skiing finally clicked for me. Mid-week, I led Andrew down a narrow run that neither of us had seen before. With my daughter ill on the last day of our lift ticket, Andrew took care of her in the morning while I did my last ski runs; three each of the intermediate runs on Merritts Mountain. Two falls all week; one the now traditional collision with Andrew. Lots of fun.

Three news stories from 2017

January: the first of the Trump travel bans, the one that proposed to limit green card holder travel to the US. Protests at US airports, mobilisation inside my workplace. I ran a fundraiser for a few tens of thousands for refugee rights activism in Australia.

February onwards: Reflecting on one very, very strange year at Uber and the ongoing work of The Silence Breakers, whether named in Time or not. Australia’s version, I think, is just firing up.

December: the passing of Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Act 2017 on the 7th. I wasn’t in the country when the postal vote results came out and it became clear that fears that the ‘Yes’ vote would be complacent about turning out were unfounded. And I wasn’t following the parliamentary progress either, so I had to catch up that evening. I got a rather mystified Vincent to watch it carefully.

Three sensations from 2017

Throughout the year: hypnagogic hallucinations, almost every night. I’ve occasionally had them before but not nearly so constantly. They’re more like dreams than like free associating for me; they have images and plots. They’re mostly harmless; they’re only somewhat annoying in that I usually wake up from them a few times before going all the way to sleep.

November: New York, around −5°C and windy. Despite my (excellent) new winter coat that I bought for that trip, the cold surrounded my legs in their thin trousers and got up into my core that way. I run very hot, thyroid or no, so getting truly cold on a short walk is very memorable.

November again: sleeping under the stars on a boat in Queensland. I was committed to the outdoor plan as soon as I heard that the cabins often get above 30°C at night. The first night I was short a blanket but really tired, so I woke to squint at the stars over and over before sleepiness won over chill. On the third night, it rained just enough to wake me gently, and not enough to drive me inside.

Three sadnesses of 2017

May: my uncle Rob died of a brain tumour aged 57, just shy of nine months after he was diagnosed (alluded to in last year’s version of this). I wasn’t in the country for his funeral; I flew up to Tamworth the day before I left and drove my teenage cousin around to shop for soft drinks to be served at his wake.

Later in the year: another friend was diagnosed with cancer.

I’ve thought more about Nóirín again this year. It was the year of the silence breakers after all, and of course the Ninth Circuit ruling. Nóirín was one of many silence breakers who paved the way.

Three plans for 2018

We’re heading to Kauaʻi in January with some of my friends, the first time we’ve travelled overseas with both children and both adults. I’m a bit wary of what it will be like, with Vincent the child who is only alive around other children.

I’m going to do an introduction to sailing course early in the year, and if it works out, train through to day skipper so that we can charter sailboats for weekends away. Like camping, only with more water, wind, and creature comforts. That’s the theory.

New York is my main work travel destination, so I’ll be there again at least once. My parents are hoping to join me for one trip. I’d like to spend time in Brooklyn while I’m there.

Three hopes for 2018

Some good news about climate change, whether statistics or serious political will.

Travelling to North America with my family. This is somewhere between a hope and a plan; I’ve barely begun putting it together. But it is increasingly strange and sad having two lives, one as a single career woman in North America and the other as a married mother of two in Sydney. Andrew and I have both walked the High Line in New York, but never together, both explored Lands End in San Francisco, but never together.

An easy one: I hope it rains all day at some point. It’s been a dry year; I really miss a good rainy day.

End of year prompts

I came up with my end of year prompts in 2014, feel free to use them yourself.

2016 in threes

End of year reflections: 2016, at its low points, has been the worst year of my life, and many people including me fear that it is the year that marks the beginning or escalation or point of no return for a time of increased oppression, war, and death.

This is thus hard to write, but 2016 was also a year in my life, such as it is, and remembering is part of living as best I can, so here we are.

There are several pieces of writing that have been important to how I feel about the world right now, here’s one:

(Transcript of poem at the bottom of the entry. If this poem speaks to you as it did to me, consider tipping its author.)

Three moments of 2016.

May: Another visit to Dolores Park, a place in San Francisco that’s been important to me in 2016. I was restless and in a bad mood so I walked up and down the hill, around and around the park, and then up to Market Street as the sun set and along and eventually caught BART back after dark had fallen and I’d walked several kilometres.

September: A family member who is ill and was visiting for medical treatment came to lunch at my house with other members of my family. My daughter A, who was 2¾, had taken a long long time to come out of her shell with strangers, and was only just starting to agree to interact with them at all. But she ended up playing with water guns with the teenagers, aiming water at our window where adults were protecting themselves, while dancing and cackling.

November: I found out Donald Trump was likely to win the US Presidential election on my final day of isolation due to radioactive iodone treatment for thyroid cancer. I was out of strict isolation in hospital but still not allowed to be physically close to anyone, particularly my children, so I was driving a carshare car by myself to visit my parents. It was a rainy drive, I stopped in the light mist at Sutton Park to go to toilets there — it’s a lovely park and rest area largely used as a chance for a loo break — and looked at the news on my phone and then drove down into the bright sunshine and ludicrous green on the other side of the mountains and started thinking through the implications.

Three meals of 2016

All in the US, where I spent six weeks this year.

1. May, Zuni Café, San Francisco: the second time a friend and I have eaten there, this time upstairs with a reservation rather than squeezed in near the kitchen, both times with the fried chicken. I have never gone anywhere for the fried chicken. I have never imagined I would. All the better.

2. September, SHED Cafe, Healdsburg: a lemon pancake which was in fact a lemon pudding. Not even in disguise, it came in its own ceramic dish it had been cooked in. It wasn’t self-saucing or it would have been lemon delicious pudding in disguise. It was left off the order originally, I got two kaffir lime waters in apology. Unnecessary.

3. October, Andrew’s Cheese Shop, Santa Monica: a work dinner, comprised of gourmet grilled cheeses with matched beers. Again, I would never ever think to do something like this for myself.

Three photos of 2016

The first day of a silly between-jobs project of exploring the City of Sydney swimming pools:

Making a little tour of the City of Sydney pools this week.

A selfie I’m pretty happy with:

Mary

I was still taping the thyroidectomy scar at the time; it’s more purple than it looks there.

Someone climbs a rope, hands-only, as the sun sets over Santa Monica beach:

Rope climb

Three pleasures of 2016

1. I did do the intermediate run on skis I wanted. The very first one was the result of a misunderstanding; my skiing buddy thought I’d done intermediate runs in Australia and therefore after warming up could do one at Heavenly. Instead it was a first. The day went downhill (ha) after part of the resort was shut due to wind, and we missed lunch, but the cold grey morning was lovely.

2. Being taken to the ward after my thyroidectomy and having Andrew smile at me and squeeze my hand during the brief moments I was able to be awake for that afternoon.

3. The feeling of my hair swishing on my neck now that it has grown long enough.

Three news stories from 2016

Putin, I think? I’ve talked enough about the US. So: Putin, Aleppo, Brexit.

This is not fine.

You have to be a better and stronger person than I am to find something else to say.

Three sensations from 2016

1. “Koala” snuggles with my daughter, who is not as demonstrative as her older brother, except when she curls firmly into me to avoid anything or anyone she doesn’t like. Or when she’s ready for bed. Fierce sleepy marsupials are about right.

2. The taste of Haigh’s chocolates on several occasions: I bought them for myself for both cancer treatments, and when I left my job mid-year (between treatments). I remember the sweetness of the cremes, so sweet it hurts, but what I recommend is the truffles.

3. The taste of lemon sherbet boiled sweets. I went through a bag of them on medical advice during the radioactive iodine treatment; the I131 also gathers in the salivary glands and gives them mild radiation burns. Getting it excreted is the main fix, hence sour things.

Three sadnesses of 2016

1. A number of serious illnesses that aren’t mine, so aren’t mine to talk about.

2. Speaking of illnesses, but that are, or were, mine, the morning before a surgery is always a terrible time for me.

3. I actively chose to switch jobs again this year, but it was really hard and sad.

Three plans for 2017

1. I’ve started cycling in the last few months of this year. It’s a nice ride just shy of 4km with enough hills to get some exercise and a long bridge ride. In 2017 our ongoing ridiculous childcare situation will be improved, and I’m hoping riding three or four days a week will be my normal thing.

2. A peaceful week-long holiday with Andrew and the kids at Lake Macquarie. I find skiing hard work, so this will be only the second relaxing holiday we’ve all had together in the three years since my daughter was born.

3. As little travel as I can get away with. I’d love to clock up six months without a boarding pass.

Three hopes for 2017

This year, a very close cousin of “three fears”.

1. I hope my strong and wise friends are here and fighting and see something good growing from their hard work and their fear.

2. I hope it’s still possible to work for US headquartered employers in my industry without rapidly worsening complicity in human rights abuses.

3. I hope for at least one night out together with my husband that isn’t “last night before I go away for work” or “last night before I’m admitted to hospital again”.

Poem transcript

Transcript of the poem by Saladin Ahmed:

How do you talk to your kids?

Spit out the scorpions
Spit out the cyanide
Fill your mouth with thorny
flowers

Sit and hold their hands
Sit staring at their
superhero posters
Explain that villains win
sometimes

Tell them no one can tear
apart their family

Even if it’s a lie

Tell them that no one can take
away their home

Even if it’s a lie

Tell them you will keep them
safe
Even if you can’t

Teach your daughter to throw
a punch if she has to
Teach your son to cry if he
has to

Give them knives
Give them the sturdiest wax
you can find

Teach them to make candles

—Saladin Ahmed, buzzfeednews/reader

End of year prompts

I came up with my end of year prompts in 2014, feel free to use them yourself.

Previous years: 2014, 2015.

2015 in threes

Three moments of 2015.

February 2015: V’s first day of school, calling to get him to pause at the gate for his first day of school picture.

April 2015: sitting in a dark hotel room in San Francisco recovering from AdaCamp in Montreal and travel in general, while Andrew used my power of attorney back in Australia to buy a house. (Yes, after much discussion. Still. It was a weird way to have it done.)

July 2015: lying in bed in a sunny Airbnb room in San Francisco, my first day in town, hot and tired and sweaty from jetlag and mosquitos biting me all night my first night in town. Around 7am Val told me online that she had news that Nóirín had died.

Three meals of 2015

Tapas at MoVida, while the couple perched next to us at the bar had a very awkward first date conversation about themselves and we hoovered up chorizo because one day, there may be no more chorizo. More than the meal I remember the freeing feeling of wandering around after dark, something I do so little of now.

The really quite good sushi I bought several times from Walgreens at 135 Powell St San Francisco. It got me through the dark and tired period of buying the house in the gloom of Hotel Union Square in April; and it got me through my two night stay in San Francisco in October for a job interview. Fatty, slippery, and tasty. Goes down well when you want to hide out in San Francisco with a blanket over your head.

Fish tacos at Verde in Kapaa. The fish of the day is always `ahi or makimaki — and why not have both? Verde is a physically non-descript restaurant, but the tacos are memorable. It became very clear to me that I need to seek out a lot more Mexican food before having an opinion on it.

Three photos of 2015

A vastly inadequate photo of the best sunset I’ve ever seen, over the equator flying from Sydney to Vancouver:

Sunset

Goodbye to San Francisco, after we shut down the Ada Initiative:

Goodbye

A slightly fun mirror-selfie in Bondi:

Self portrait in Bondi

If you’re after quality rather than feels, have a look at my Bondi to Bronte and Kauaʻi photos

Three pleasures of 2015

“Child piles”: encouraging both my children to flop on top of me. They also like to hug each other. V has got bony but he’s also got a lot more considerate in the last year, so we’re having some great hugs.

Returning to the slopes at Thredbo and not falling down. And the feeling of getting my skis back under me occasionally when I started to lose it. And hot doughnuts after skiing wrapped up each day.

My two visits to Dolores Park in summer and autumn, enjoying sun and grass and sometimes slightly too many people, and nice views of distant fog, and even, one time, a rainbow. I want to go to Northern California with my family someday. Someday!

Three news stories from 2015

Video: Hamilton’s “Wait for It” – Gypsy of the Year 2015
Can you imagine?
The flotillas of the Rohingya. While they were at sea, a friend of mine said that this was what it was like, to know a genocide was going on but not doing anything.

The Prime Ministership change in Australia. I am not a huge fan of the “they’re all the same anyway” analysis; I well recall that argument being made at the last Federal election, referring to a Rudd-led ALP government and an Abbott-led Coalition government. I don’t think Turnbull is here to govern for people I wish he would govern for; I don’t think the change was nothing either.

The entire Syria and ISIS and Middle East and global terror catastrophe, but particularly the Paris and San Bernardino attacks; and France’s frightening response with regards to civil liberties. I don’t feel, from this distance, like the US has responded as intensely after San Bernardino, but after Paris they had less far to fall. And in contrast to many other countries, especially mine: Germany.

Three sensations from 2015

The sea spraying in my face for a half hour standing at the railing on a motor boat between Niʻihau and the Nāpali coast of Kauaʻi, to a degree where my eyes were stinging. Blood was dripping down my ankle from a previous fall on the boat. Nevertheless, it was exhilarating; my happiest moment alone for the year.

Motion sickness as I haul giant floating rafts up five flight of stairs for V at Wet ‘n’ Wild; wishing there were queues there that day so that I could get it to subside between rides.

Some of the first times my daughter has really hurt me: leaning too hard on me, jumping on me, squeezing my fingers tightly. She does this so little still that I get excited about how she’s growing up.

Three sadnesses of 2015

Writing memorials for Nóirín and Telsa.

“Mixed feelings” is the right characterisation of how I felt about shutting down the Ada Initiative but sadness is in the mix. Specifically, I wrote the business case for shutting it down. It was very convincing. Sadly.

Cutting people who’ve died, and people I’m not in touch with, from my Christmas card list. Relatedly, recalling a three-person conversation to which both the other parties have since died.

Three plans for 2016

Work in the technology industry again, in the technical hierarchy. I’ve never stopped coding, and I’ve learned a lot about project management since I last worked in this way (in 2005). Even interviewing for positions has taught me what a different person and employee I am now. Watch this space!

An intermediate run on skis. I’m skiing twice in 2016, this really should be do-able I hope. My long term ambition probably ends at “can ski the bulk of blue runs on Australian mountains”. That’s lots of variety.

Getting to grips with Melbourne, which I will be visiting a lot. My familiarity with Melbourne right now is so low that I got a takeaway coffee there this year and had no idea where people go to sit down anywhere inside the CBD. A place I like to go and sit would be a good start.

Three hopes for 2016

So prosaic, but I would love to get daycare for my daughter in the suburb we’ve moved to, and resume our walking childcare run. It got me outside and moving every day. That’s really really turned out to be something I miss. I guess a broader version of this is integrating into the neighbourhood and suburb more, since we plan to be here a long time. Having V in the local school will help a lot.

Growing my circle of adult friends in Sydney. It is, as always, somewhat more healthy in San Francisco than it is here.

And… the continuing emergence of a persuasive economic reform plan from the left. Basic income and wealth tax experiments!

Feel free to answer my end of year prompts yourself!

2014 in threes

Answers to my own end of year prompts.

Three moments of 2014

1. January, and deep night in my living room. My induction has taken effect, nineteen days (yes, one, nine) after my due date and she will be born in four hours. I have rarely spent time in my living room in the darkness and I labour in the glow of quite a few LEDs. My life is measured three minutes on and one minute off: in between contractions, we work down our mental packing checklist, and I walk and walk.

2. June, and deep night over the Pacific Ocean, 10km up in the air and about 1000km from any significant features on the map (we were south of Hawaii), most of the plane asleep around me, including, incredibly, my five month old baby who I have nonsensically taken on a business trip to the United States. My seat is reclined and I reached to close my window shade behind me. I partially dislocate my shoulder joint and spend ten seconds gazing into the vortex of getting a non-covered pre-existing condition incurred on a plane treated in the United States. Then my shoulder joint goes back into place. I spend some time awake afterwards.

3. August, sunshine over Thredbo. I am on the magic carpet — Syd’s Snow Runner — riding up to the easiest run, so shallow that when I am on the run I keep having to use my poles to push myself along. There are young eucalypts across the creek to my left. I am smiling because it is my first day of skiing and I haven’t fallen over constantly and when my instructor looks at me she says things like “you have good balance!” rather than “you really really try hard”.

Bonus:

Also August, standing in a crowded underwater tunnel at the Sydney Aquarium, really really pissed off and seeing the sharks swim around me and thinking that no, I absolutely am not in any way done with SCUBA, not even close.

Three meals of 2014

1. April, Café Sydney. I can’t remember for the life of me what I ate. (Maybe pork belly?) But the point is, this is our yearly tradition. Instead of birthday presents, we go out for lunch at a restaurant of finer quality than we usually do some time between our birthdays in February and April.

This tradition was about to be killed off at all of three years in, because of the new baby. But unexpectedly, the new baby had a childcare place at three months old. I was very ambivalent about it, but it did get me to this lunch with Andrew, the first time A and I had ever been in a different suburb. (To this day, we’ve not spent a night apart.)

2. October, a Sydney Picnic Co picnic with Andrew on Cockatoo Island, which turns out to not have great seating if you aren’t camping, so we balanced oddly on a steep hill. Those picnics, in addition to being expensive, are really really huge, so it’s basically a day’s worth of eating. But they really are delicious scandalously expensive enormous picnics. I think the Le Dauphin has spoiled me for any other cheese.

3. The chicken, fig and quinoa salad at one of my local cafes, which I’ve had a few times. I think this is the first year I’ve had quinoa, which I feel is a bit embarassing (I think of myself as reasonably adventurous with food, and I am in that I like most things, where I fall down is trying them in the first place). There’s no single visit to the cafe that stands out, but the salad is memorable.

Three photos of 2014

The number one photo of 2014 is a photo I haven’t put on the web and won’t: a photo of me seconds after my daughter was born (she’s curled up in my arms, blue, with the cord still alive) with an expression of “WHAT THE HELL? THIS IS NOT HAPPENING” on my face. If you know me well, ask me to show it to you some day.

Here’s some runners up:

Newborn hiding!
My daughter’s face, when she was an hour old. She already looks like herself.
Sibling love
One of the earlier photos of my children together, when my daughter was two days old and still rosy, and apparently feeling pretty pleased with the world somehow.
Storm cell over Rozelle
One of many December storms bears down from Rozelle.

Three pleasures of 2014

1. For all but eight days and nine hours of 2014, I wasn’t pregnant. This is so amazing I can’t even begin to explain. I first learned the details of pregnancy from reading one of Sheila Kitzinger’s pregnancy guides (probably The Complete Book of Pregnancy and Childbirth) that my mother had, when I was seven and eight. I was fascinated. I learned so many things from it, from what episiotomies are to simple genetics (as it applies to blood typing) to the various breech presentations, all sorts of things.

While being pregnant was an interesting finale to this nearly lifelong project of reading about it, essentially every other part of the experience sucked. The first time sucked because it was so medicalised, and the second time sucked because I had a non-stop three year old to look after, and because I had an anterior placenta and couldn’t really touch the fetus or feel her all that much and because organising labour childcare was, no kidding, a huge undertaking and massive emotional journey. (Suddenly I sympathise with social inductions a lot more.)

Anyway, that’s really a 2013 reflection. But from my first post-birth shower after A was born, in 2014 I wasn’t pregnant any more and I sure did enjoy all that stair-climbing and walking down the street and being able to get into and out of cars in narrow parking spots and into and out of public toilet stalls and all the other non-pregnant accomplishments of the year.

2. Losing arguments to my older kid when I am definitely for sure right. For example, I cannot win an argument with him about when his birthday is, what day tomorrow is, which way is north, or what the rules of any game are. His bush lawyer skills are very annoying on issues like bathtime and whether watching three Pixar movies in a single day counts as “a lot” of TV or merely “some” TV, say, but on the simple clear facts of the world that he categorically denies, they’re usually fun.

3. Many many things about babies that I’d forgotten once and am already forgetting again. I enjoy babies a lot, contrary to my expectations prior to having them. (I thought I was having kids in order to have a two year old. Not so much.) The one that I always think of is the link between their breathing and their attention. Huff-huff-huff as the baby stares at coloured lights, or learns to work its hand.

I also got an odd pleasure from realising that while I love babies, I don’t miss the baby when the child gets older. So I didn’t feel as ambivalent about the disappearance of baby things as they marched off one by one in A than I did the first time when V was a baby. I am happy to have the time, and then for it to be done as well.

Three news stories from 2014

1. Again with 2013 for a moment: I recall that a frequent style of commentary following the Federal election in September 2013 was “the incoming Abbott government knows this is a centrist social democracy, stand down from the panic station, there will merely be tinkering at the margins.”

So my first story is the May 2014 budget, which I hardly think is tinkering at the margins, and the ensuing year in Federal politics spinning around whether it will pass. I won’t make predictions; I notice that the predictions of people who regard themselves as politics tragics or even insiders make terrible ones. I was relieved that other people also thought it was terrible.

2. The death of Reza Berati. The pregnant women and new mothers in offshore refugee detention. I don’t have a lot to add about Australia’s treatment of refugees. I give money to organizations that I hope are better placed than I am to make the best changes.

3. The Lindt cafe siege. I’ve been to that cafe three or four times; one of them was the night of my wedding. (I can’t recall, but I think we got there after it had closed for the evening.) Katrina Dawson’s youngest child is the same age as my eldest. I can think about it only in little fragments.

Three sensations from 2014

1. The smells of the baby’s head. A lot of people sniff babies in order to smell some special baby smell that I’ve never really picked up on (babies smell of milk and poo to me), but after a while she started napping with her father in the mornings, and so for a while she smelled disconcertingly of him. Later, she began to smell of my perfume oils. Always amusing.

2. The taste of Rekorderlig ciders. Which, sure, is mainly the taste of sugar. But we drank Rekorderlig many nights as an indulgence while Andrew was on his six weeks of paternity leave+annual leave, so I have a fondness for it (in addition to generally liking sickly sweet things). It tastes of long lazy days inside the house with a newborn that did a hell of a lot of sleeping.

3. The smell of BPAL’s Vice (“a deep chocolate scent, with black cherry and orange blossom”) which I really hated when I first tried it, but returned to again and again. Apparently I want to smell like a chocolate truffle. (I’m wearing Carnal right now, same thing.)

Three sadnesses of 2014

1. So much sadness through a glass: more than one friend has lost a mother in 2014, among other deaths of the family and friends of friends. ♥ all.

2. None of my grandparents will meet my daughter, or vice versa. They will be even more of an old tale seldom told than my own great-grandparents are to me.

3. I am a little sad that I did not have my planned homebirth. I think in reality it would have been rather flustered to get the room cleared, and then Andrew distracted by being a gopher. But my favourite bit of labour was at home by a long way.

Three plans for 2015

1. This is stretching the definition of “plan”, but Andrew and I will continue our thing where two or three times a year, we take a day off work to have a “date day” while the kids are at childcare (well, soon to be school in V’s case). In 2015 whole new vistas are opening up because I have Friday care, and we can go to the many many places that are only open for lunch on Fridays!!!! My family Secret Santa gave us a voucher for The Boathouse, so that’s a good start. I’m also going to go back to Skyzone.

2. More concretely, we’re planning to travel to Montréal in April to see my sister-in-law before the baby turns two and needs her own seat. This is likely to be the only time we go overseas as a foursome for quite some time, other than to New Zealand. Having flown across the Pacific alone with each child before, I know what I’m getting into: I anticipate the flights will be exactly as horrible as you’d imagine.

3. We’re also looking into skiing again, probably in the first week of September. V is so excited that he insists most days that it is about to be winter. It’s complicated by needing to choose between paying one billionty dollars to do it in school holidays versus incurring the wrath of the nation-state by doing it in school term.

Three hopes for 2015

1. I hope to overcome my Australian political inertia where I tend to get trapped thinking that because I am not doing all that I could do, that doing small things and doing nothing are morally equivalent. They most certainly are not.

2. I hope to find the money, time and energy to go diving once or twice. Energy is the main problem, with a 6am-ish wakeup for morning diving and on from there.

3. I hope to see my daughter and her same-age cousin having serious fun in each other’s company at some point during the year.

End of year question template: the year in threes

The end of the Gregorian calendar year is an increasingly significant time for me, with both of my children born in January, as well as, sadly, having had three of my four grandparents die in the last months of different years. And as the children get older, the school year forces itself back on our notice to go with the long standing summer traditions of our household. (Which are, for reference, Christmas and the Boxing Day test. I’m trying to get the solstice to sneak in there.)

And so I’ve always enjoyed Julia’s end of year reflections (see 2014’s version) but I’ve never found the question set resonated, and increasingly less so as I get older. (Did anyone close to you give birth in 2014? Me, but I don’t think the question envisages that answer.)

So I thought I’d come up with my own set that I can do each year. They’re broad to the point of banality, but I want to leave room for answers. Here they are, by all means use them if they suit you too.

Three moments of YEAR.

Three meals of YEAR.

Three photos of YEAR.

Three pleasures of YEAR.

Three news stories from YEAR.

Three sensations from YEAR.

Three sadnesses of YEAR.

Three plans* for YEAR+1.

Three hopes for YEAR+1.

* Not resolutions, but plans. Things I don’t need to resolve to do because they’re already in progress.

As a side-note, my Internet archeology is not good enough to find the source of the questions that Julia uses. The earliest year I can find them being used is 2004 (here and here) and then not again until 2007, and then just a few people each year until in 2011 it either got a lot more popular or Google has indexed it better. Anyone got a source earlier than December 2004?