32 gifts

Early winter kicks me in the shins every year. I can’t help feeling glum as the merriness of Christmas fades and I look ahead to three cold, hard, vacationless months. Plus, I’m pretty sad and anxious for the world right now.

I temporarily banished the doldrums this morning, with what’s become a January tradition: listing some of the highlights of the year gone by — one bullet for every year of my life.

In 2016 I…

A view from the side of the road in Slovenia

A view from the side of the road in Slovenia

  • Performed in a band
  • Skated the ice trail at Arrowhead Provincial Park
  • Celebrated my amazing grandfather, Dinis Rebelo
  • Had pancakes at the Wye Marsh Sweetwater Harvest Festival
  • Replaced the ugly mudroom ceiling with handsome beadboard
  • Hugged Odie on his one-year anniversary with us
  • Had my first Thai massage
  • Travelled to the top of 30 Rock to watch the sunset
  • Checked out a California beach
Violet, Joël and Avery at Ocean Beach in San Diego, CA

Violet, Joël and Avery at Ocean Beach in San Diego, CA

  • Learned to throw an axe
  • Got awesome false eyelashes
  • Bought my first king-sized bed
  • Came second in the five family nerd tournament
  • Joined Weight Watchers and lost 15 pounds
  • Attended my 10th Festival du Loup
  • Hosted an epic garage sale on my birthday
  • Started the world’s longest bathroom renovation
  • Went to the ballet
  • Spent time with my avo
Hanging with avo usually looks like this - except add food

Hanging with avo usually looks like this – except add food

  • Attended my first night time santa claus parade
  • Danced with mom, Yève and Elise on international women’s day
  • Got to level 23 in Pokémon Go
  • Powered through a few injuries and illnesses (concussion, poison ivy, an epic battle with a nettle tree)
  • Partied with the Lefaives at JoAnne and Dan’s 40th anniversary party
  • Bought a new mommy mobile – Linda the Forester
  • Greeted many friends’ adorable new babies
  • Drank margaritas the size of my head in Mexico
Some of the gang that travelled to Mexico with us. So cool!

Some of the gang that travelled to Mexico with us. So cool!

  • Started focusing on our little family — quitting several volunteer roles
  • Helped good friends move into their first home

Somehow I forgot to post my list from 2015, but here are those from 2014 and 2013.

As usual, counting my blessings makes me feel a heck of a lot better. 2016 may have been a shit year for the human race, but it was a great one for me. Thanks to everyone who played a part.


30 gifts

Last January, in my usual post-holiday melancholy, I wrote a list of 29 gifts offered by the year 2013 – one for each birthday gone by. It was like sunshine on my face after days of cold and dark.

Sunshine on our faces.

Sunshine on our faces.

This January felt entirely different. After happily bouncing around Europe for a few weeks, I came home rested and excited about my engagement.

Now I’m settling into the usual winter doldrums. Brushing my car off every morning is killing my soul. My face hurts when I walk my (lovely and adorable) dog at 6:30 a.m. I’m dying of a vitamin D deficiency. Yadda yadda yadda.

This is us trying to embrace winter.

This is us trying to embrace winter.

So here it is, my cure for the murky, miserable winter blues.

In 2014 I…

  1. Played my first round of real Penetang bingo.
  2. Took on a new volunteer role with le Festival du Loup.
  3. Travelled to England to see dad and Nora get hitched.
  4. Survived the worst winter ever – barely.
  5. Bought a snowblower. We’ve christened it blowy.
  6. Tried and loved stand up paddleboarding.
  7. Hosted a few good shindigs.
  8. Met real witches in Salem on Halloween.
  9. Drywalled the kitchen ceiling and painted the attic.
  10. Sang and played in public – a bunch!
  11. Celebrated New Year’s Eve in Paris.
  12. Explored every high tea joint in Toronto, eating tiny sandwiches at every one.
  13. Started going to the gym again – kind of.
  14. Toasted my sister and her perfect partner at their wedding. 
  15. Became flexitarian.
  16. Checked out the Elmvale Maple Syrup Festival.
  17. Made the local papers a few times.
  18. Baked cookies with cousins.
  19. Kindled my passion for municipal politics by volunteering.
  20. Deepened my love of boardgames. For our wedding, we might register for Ubongo, Munchkin and Dominion.
  21. Celebrated a whole year of blogging.
  22. Was offered a fantastic permanent job.
  23. Kind of figured out the gardening thing – kind of.
  24. Got into the Elmvale groove.
  25. Went on another wine-fuelled trip with the Humber gals.
  26. Played my first round of golf and didn’t totally suck.
  27. Joined our local francophone community choir.
  28. Celebrated nine years with the world’s handsomest Franco-Ontarian.
  29. Dropped my 15-year Wal-Mart boycott and took vavo shopping.
  30. Got to know every inch of Tiny Marsh.
Maybe winter isn't so bad after all!

Maybe winter isn’t so bad after all!

Much love to all the beautiful people who made 2014 great. May you all enjoy 2015 as much as I think I will.

29 gifts

Every January, my slightly-above-average whining abilities grow to superhuman, x-men mutant power strength.

This year’s self-pity key messages include: “Christmas is over,” “I’m exhausted,” “that wasn’t a real vacation,” “I’m sick,” “I’m overweight,” “our 113-year-old house is draughty,” “my arms aches from shovelling,” and the classic “there are three long months of winter to go.” Blurgh. Cough. Sigh.

When I was 12, my mom rarely let me spend more than 10 minutes being surly and grumbly. As soon as she heard a complaint or sniffle, she started singing this song:

So, with the grouch anthem bouncing around in my skull, I’ve decided that instead of feeling sorry for myself, I’m going to:

  1. Focus on the positive. Like my friend Kristin, who keeps reminding me of life’s gifts.
  2. Cleanse. JF and I are officially off wheat, dairy, sugar, caffeine and booze for two weeks.
  3. Clean the house. I’m obsessively tidy, but the place hasn’t been scrubbed down since early December.
  4. Exercise. I’ve bought some purple shoes. Now I have to use them.
Purple, adidas running shoes - squeaky clean

My new, squeaky clean runners. Talk about incentive!

To start thinking positively, I’m emulating a former colleague. On her birthday, she makes a list of highlights from the year gone by – with one bullet for every year she’s been in the world. Here’s my new year take on her tradition.

In 2013 I…

  1. Finally achieved my dearest wish: slowing down and moving back to Simcoe County
  2. Discovered that for good friends, the road from Elmvale to Toronto (and vice-versa) isn’t so long
  3. Celebrated eight years with a handsome, kind and smart man
  4. Bought a big, beautiful, draughty house
  5. Cleared said house of wallpaper
  6. Watched the sun rise over the north rim of the Grand Canyon
  7. Accompanied one of my dearest friends down the aisle
  8. Gained a “new” car and travel buddy
  9. Celebrated my sister’s engagement to an amazing person
  10. Hiked to the highest point in Zion National Park in excellent company
  11. Had a great time making ugly clay bowls at the Gardiner Museum
  12. Joined a book club
  13. Performed with two great choirs – I even did a small solo
  14. Grew my hair long
  15. Explored Ontario on weekend trips with JF
  16. Planted a lilac tree in my own garden, to honour mémère
  17. Went on a wine and pizza-fuelled road trip with college friends
  18. Took a graphic design course at OCAD
  19. Took on some exciting new volunteer roles
  20. Found a great (and local!) job
  21. Started a blog
  22. Had my avo over for dinner for the first time ever
  23. Saw my dad finally find true love
  24. Rode the barf-inducing Polar Express at the Elmvale Fall Fair
  25. Hosted a few good parties
  26. Flew to New York with some great people
  27. Discovered lululemon tights
  28. Had the Rebelo cousins (age 8 to 25) over for the weekend
  29. Got and decorated my first Christmas tree

Reading this list banishes all of that whiny goop from my heart and reminds me that I really am tremendously, astoundingly lucky.

If you’ve got the early winter blues, I recommend blessing-counting. It works just as well as your granny promised.

I believe in little things

Prairie Dawn (yes, the one from Sesame Street) sings a song I’ve always loved about her belief in the power of little things. Her examples are honeycomb, spiderwebs, and starfish.

The pace of our lives remains blistering. It’s JF’s busy time at work and he’s exhausted from travelling to head office in Toronto and back. I’m trying to get used to this whole nine to five thing. And we can’t seem to keep ourselves from chipping away at house renos every night.

But, optimist that I am, I continue to find heaps of joy in things like perfect donuts from the Elmvale bakery, clean sheets out of the dryer, and colourful tea towels.

One of the best compliments I ever got was from my childhood taxi driver, Carol. She drove my sister Alicia and I to elementary school every day. Not because we had money (I wore hand-me-downs from my cousin Anne-Marie until I was 14) but because we lived so far in the boonies there was no reason to send a bus.

Anyway, Carol was obese, wrinkly, and had platinum blonde hair of dubious authenticity in with neon pink curly ribbons coming out of it. She was also, I thought, one of the kindest people in the universe. When I was 11, she told me I had the greatest capacity for seeing beauty of anyone she had ever met. I guess that’s kind of questionable coming from a woman with plastic hair, but I felt pretty special.

At that age, I collected purple rocks, walked through woods alone to admire fall colours, and sighed with pleasure at the sight of an open peony. I also did dumb things like keep dead leaves I’d seen twirling in the wind and practice making perfect impressions of lipstick on Kleenex. I was pretty cool.

Things haven't changed much. I picked these around Elise and Roger's house a few weeks ago.

Things haven’t changed much. I picked these around Elise & Roger’s house a few weeks ago.

I have been using all my powers for admiring loveliness lately. I’ve needed them to spot the potential in my patchy bathroom walls and see through the stained carpet on my 2nd floor.  I’ve also used them to remember and appreciate the many small blessings in my life.

Sunflowers + fresh picked apples + sunrises over canola fields = happiness.