2016 Year in Review

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. 2016 was a hard year for me and for the world, but amidst all the sorrows, there were some wonderful and happy events—my best friend became a mother, I finished a humongous project at work, and it was definitely my best travel year to date.

There have been a lot of angry diatribes floating around the internet blaming this year for being awful—like it’s somehow 2016’s fault that a lot of celebrities died and Donald Trump got elected and despite all of our best liberal moral efforts there is still darkness in the hearts of mankind. But a year is just a measurement of time. Everything will not be fixed when midnight strikes and we put up our new 2017 wall calendars. People will not stop dying or being born. A new year cannot magically solve all of the world’s problems.

But beyond all that, there was a lot in 2016 worth celebrating and being thankful for. Joy and pain are both a part of life, and God has purpose in each. So let’s take a cup o’ kindness yet, and look back over the year that was, with all its good, bad and ugly. 

Can you believe I have been doing this for six years? Tradition! For Auld Lang Syne’s sake here are the posts from 2010, 2011201220132014 and 2015.

What did you do in 2016 that you’d never done before?

  • Paid off a car loan
  • Went to the Grand Canyon
  • Got (accidentally) drunk with my Mother
  • Went to Cabo
  • Ate Cactus (it reminded me of green peppers, not a fan)
  • Got called for Jury Duty (but didn’t end up having to go)
  • Saw the Dixie Chicks in concert
  • Dropped my phone into a slow cooker full of pot roast beef
  • Mourned the death of a friend
  • Travelled overseas by myself
  • Went to London/Edinburgh/Liverpool/Cambridge
  • Saw the premiere run of a play in the West End
  • Recorded an EP of original music and arrangements with some friends
  • Was in a photo shoot
  • Wore my winter parka in Vancouver
Road trip to the Grand Canyon with Mom & Dad in March.
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Boat tour in Cabo.
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We made a German tourist take this super nerdy photo of us. He didn’t want one of his own, can you believe it?
Rest and Be Thankful Pass in the Scottish Highlands.
The view from Liverpool Cathedral
The view over the Mersey from Liverpool Cathedral.
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Punting in Cambridge.

Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Last year I resolved to eat less baked goods in 2016. I think I was (sort of) joking about that, but I’d say I have been marginally successful. I also resolved to read 20 books this year, which I have done (barely—I turned the last page on my 20th book this morning).

For 2017 I am resolving to get up earlier and make it to work at a regular, grown-up time. My job is flexible with start/end times and it’s fantastic, but I have had basically zero self discipline in getting out the door before 9:00 in the morning. No more!

I would also like to up my reading challenge to 24 books this year and start writing more. I started writing a book last year which I have since abandoned. I need to pick that back up again, or start something new or blog more. Do people read blogs anymore?

Did anyone close to you give birth?

Yes! Marc and Chars welcomed Elliot Judah way back in January.  He’s a pretty happy guy and loves food and blowing raspberries and is approx 1.73 times the size that Oliver was at the same age. He came to Mexico with us in May, so he’s already very well-travelled.

My bestie, Ariana and her husband Jared welcomed little Willa Shiloh B in May. She’s the first of my close friends to have a girl, so it’s been fun to buy dresses and girlie books for a change. Her main interests include jumping in the jolly jumper and listening to her dad read history books.  

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Also Jodi & Nick had baby Angus! I haven’t even met him yet because I’m a bad friend.

Did anyone close to you die?

My friend Matt passed away in August, after a long and painful battle with cancer. I first met Matt two years ago. Thom and I were leading a community group together, and the week before we were supposed to start meeting, there were no guys signed up. We prayed that God would bring the right guys to our doorstep, and on the first night Matt showed up. A few months later his brother Adam moved to Vancouver and joined our group. And then a few months after that their brother Mike moved to Vancouver and joined. The three of them were an answer to our prayers—so consistent and committed; fun-loving; and willing to be open and honest. They were equally ready to engage with hard questions or tell a funny story to lighten the mood. They were an integral part of our community group.  

When Matt got sick it was so hard. He was only 25 when he passed away, and for most of his friends and family—being so young— it was the first time we’d experienced that kind of pain and suffering. It’s tough to watch someone you care about go through that, and it’s overwhelmingly sad to think of his brothers now without their best friend.

Here is what I know, though: God was so present with him and all of his family and friends. He took care of them, and dealt with them (and us) tenderly. Hundreds of people prayed and rallied around their family. They remained steadfast and faithful, still able to see and talk about the goodness of God  in the midst of immense suffering. The God of peace that passes all understanding took care of their hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. I’m blessed to have known Matt, Adam and Mike and thankful for their faith and friendship.

Then in November, my Gramma Miller passed away. Her health had been slowly declining over the past year.  She was my last grandparent, and it’s strange to think that whole generation of my family is now gone. I’m thankful that I was able to go home for a visit in September before I headed off on my big trip to England. The weekend I was there she was in fairly good spirits, cracking jokes and telling stories about camping trips she took my Dad on as a boy. It was good to get to say goodbye, and to see her when she was still so Gramma Miller.    

A little glimpse into Gramma Miller's sense of humour: she showed this to me on my last visit with her in September.
A little glimpse into Gramma Miller’s sense of humour: she showed this to me on my last visit with her in September.

What countries did you visit?

In order: The United States, Mexico, England and Scotland.

Cathedral Rock, Sedona, AZ
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Somewhere near the arch in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
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Wandering in London, somewhere near Kings Cross.
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Royal Mile, Edinburgh

What would you like to have in 2017 that you lacked in 2016?

For the past three years I’ve said a boyfriend and a tropical vacation. But last year I got a tropical vacation so I will stop being so greedy and just say a long-lasting relationship with a member of the opposite sex.

What dates from 2016 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

March 2 – Launch of our new website at work

May 20 – The day Willa was born

October 6/7 – The nights I went to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in London

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March 2nd, 2017 – gv.ymca.ca is live!

What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Launching the new YMCA website in March. It was a huge project and there was a sense of relief/accomplishment when it finally went live.

It hasn’t been released yet, but we spent the better part of this year arranging, practicing and recording for the Heritage Hill EP. I’m proud of how the songs have turned out and can’t wait to share them with everybody in the new year. 

Our "bass drums" on the wall in the music office at Westside. The Heritage Hill one was later thrown out.
Our “bass drums” on the wall in the music office at Westside. The Heritage Hill one was later thrown out.

I’m also pretty proud that I planned an overseas trip all by myself.

What was your biggest failure?

How much I let fear and anxiety get the better of me.

Did you suffer illness or injury?

Nothing serious. However, I am starting to notice old lady aches and pains in my neck and back from working at a desk all day long.  

What was the best thing you bought?

I’ve wanted a Cambridge Satchel for a long time, and while I was in the U.K. I dragged both Steph and Laura into the store twice (each). Finally Laura convinced me to just get one already. I also love that I bought my Cambridge Satchel in Cambridge.

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My Cambridge Cambridge Satchel, with Kings College in the background.

Honourable mentions in this category: a pair of patent leather oxfords (also purchased with Laura’s peer pressure moral support in Cambridge) and my Winston Churchill Holding a Tommy Gun coffee mug.

Whose behaviour merited celebration?

For this one, I would like to give a shout-out to some of my friends who are parents.

First up, watching my best friend become a mother has been amazing.  Ariana is one of my oldest friends and biggest cheerleaders, so I was pumped to get to cheer her on as she became a Mom this year. She has grown so much and faced all of the hard and wonderful parts of motherhood head-on and I couldn’t be more excited or proud of her.  Also, even though she has another human being depending on her for life, she still responds to all my angsty text messages and never makes me feel like my single-person problems are less important or real. That’s true friendship.

Marc & Chars have gone through a lot of craziness this year. From sickness, to Elliot being in the hospital (he’s fine), to moving with almost no notice, to trying to discipline and parent a toddler, to Chars’ back injury—they’ve had everything and the kitchen sink thrown at them. I have been so impressed with how they have remained steadfast and faithful and just kept going through it. It’s an honour to call them my friends.

Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?

The United States of America.

Where did most of your money go?

Travelling!

What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Going to England, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, The Oilers’ making it to December and still being in a playoff spot.

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Mischief managed.

What songs will always remind you of 2016?

Love Yourself – Biebs

Hello – Adele

Can’t Stop the Feeling – JT

S.O.B. – Nathaniel Rateliffe and the Night Sweats

In Tenderness – Citizens & Saints

Come Lord Jesus – Patriot Sail

Compared to this time last year, are you:

Happier or Sadder? A bit sadder tbh.

Thinner or Fatter? A tiny bit thinner that I was at this time last year. But fatter than I was in October.

Richer or Poorer?  Poorer (because travelling).

What do you wish you’d done more of?

Sleeping. Reading. Writing.

What do you wish you’d done less of?

Being anxious about things beyond my control.

How will you be spending Christmas?

Since I used up all of my vacation time on various adventures this year, I only had a few days off at Christmas. I did go home to Edmonton and spent a very low-key Christmas with my immediate family. We watched It’s a Wonderful Life, had a turkey dinner and spent a lot of time reading and doing puzzles.

Did you fall in love in 2016?

Yes, with London.

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Oxford Street
Went to Buckingham Palace to wave to Her Maj.
Went to Buckingham Palace to wave to Her Maj.
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That gun is 100% real, folks.

What was your favourite TV program?

Jeopardy

Happy Valley

Peaky Blinders

The Night Manager

The Great British Bake Off  (RIP 🙁 )

The Crown

Grantchester

What were the best books you read?

I read a lot of really good books this year. Looking back through my list, they’re mostly 4 and 5 stars. Here are my favourites:

The Lake House by Kate Morton

The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson (cry laughed a few times)

Double Cross: The True Story of the D Day Spies by Ben MacIntyre

What was your greatest musical discovery?

A little something I learned in Liverpool: that when John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote songs together, they would only keep lyrics if they could come back to them the next day and still remember what they were.

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Beatles statues at the Albert Dock, Liverpool.

And just for fun here were my favourite albums:
Local Natives – Sunlight Youth

Citizens and Saints – A Mirror Dimly

Needtobreathe – Hard Love

What did you want and get?

A trip to the U.K.! It was everything I hoped for and more. I got to see all the museums, castles, churches and old buildings on my list. I fell in love with London (and Cambridge), cried on the tour of the Beatles childhood homes in Liverpool and geeked out over everything Harry Potter with Steph. My life dream is to find a way to move there. Grad school? Arranged marriage with a Brit? I’m open to suggestions/set-ups/job offers.

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Off to Hogwarts.
Edinburgh Old Town.
Edinburgh Old Town.
Paul McCartney's childhood home, where the Beatles used to have band practice!
Paul McCartney’s childhood home, where the Beatles used to have band practice!
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A street in Cambridge where I nearly got run over by a man on a bicycle.

What did you want and not get?

A meet-cute with a British dude.

What were your favourite films of this year?

The Beatles – Eight Days a Week the Touring Years – AKA The Beatles Anthology, light. I went to see this on a totally platonic, wife-approved date with Marc because he is the only person I know who loves the Beatles as much as I do. I then re-watched it after going to Liverpool and cried more than once.

Florence Foster Jenkins – Meryl Streep is a fabulous NY society lady who loves music but doesn’t realize that she can’t sing. Equal parts cringe-worthy and heartwarming. The most impressive thing about this whole movie was watching Meryl sing off key. It’s actually quite hard to do when you’re trying.

Sing Street – Irish kids start a rock band in the 1980s. Lots of crazy clothes and makeup and good tunes. I watched this on the plane home from London.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – Whatever you guys, it’s Harry Potter. I loved it.

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I found this picture we took for Chars in front of the movie theatre when I was going through my camera roll for this post. Decided to share it with the world because as Marc says, “People don’t post enough bad photos of themselves on the internet.”

What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned thirty two this year. Matt had passed away two days before my birthday, and I wasn’t feeling very celebratory. It was a bit surreal to go from mourning the death of a friend to celebrating another year of your own life in the span of a week. There were a lot of tears.

I ended up going out for burgers with a bunch of girls and then coming back to my house after for ice cream cake and rose. After all of the tears and sorrows of the week, it was nice to just sit around and shoot the breeze with some of the people I love the most.

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All of my birthday ladies minus Ariana, who had to drive all the way back to the burbs.

As I get older, birthdays seem like less of a big deal. When I was in my 20s, I used to put a lot of pressure on myself to have an amazing and special day. But now that I’m in my 30s it seems like overkill.

What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

I struggle to come up with an answer to this every year, maybe I should just skip this question. The usual suspects all apply here: More down time! A higher salary! More vacation time! A promotion! A boyfriend! Losing 10 pounds! But I don’t like the implication that I can’t be satisfied with my life without those things. God has blessed me abundantly, and looks after my every need. Maybe I need to change this one to something more about thankfulness. Am I thinking about this too much?

How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2016?

Scarfs & lipstick.

What kept you sane?

Jesus. And making jokes when I felt like crying.

Which celebrity or public figure did you fancy the most?

Connor McDavid, Tommy Shelby, that guy from Eddie the Eagle, The Royal Family, James Norton. I was super into Tom Hiddleston while I was watching the Night Manager and then the whole Taylor Swift thing happened and ruined it.

What political issue stirred you the most?

Politics, UGH. I closely followed along with the Brexit vote and the U.S. election and was appalled/dismayed along with the rest of the world. Here at home in Canada, there were quite a few eye-rolly moments as well. I would say that I followed the housing affordability crisis here in Vancouver with intense interest, but my political activism stopped short of actually sharing any articles on Facebook.

Who did you miss?

I miss my Grandma a lot. Some days go by and I don’t think of her at all, and then some days I’ll be reminded of something she used to say, or something that would have made her laugh and the loss feels fresh and new. When she first passed away, I spent a few sleepless nights worrying that I would lose all of my memories of her. I stayed up scribbling things down in my journal: Gramma used to say, “Oh for Pete’s Sake” all the time. She loved Paul Newman. She wore grandpa’s wedding ring on a chain around her neck and used to play with it when she was deep in though. She taught me this silly song that I can no longer remember the tune for:

If passengers would please refrain
From flushing toilets while the train
Is standing in the station in full view
We encourage constipation
While the train is in the station
Standing in the station in full view.

When I confessed this fear to my Mom after the funeral, she assured me that her memories of her mother (my Gramma Weiss) haven’t disappeared or faded with time. Moms always know.  One thing I hope to do over the next few months is write down some of my favourite Grandma stories, so that I can remember. She was a remarkable woman. So funny, smart and interesting, a great cook and a great friend. And I’m so glad she taught me how to make Yorkshire pudding.

Last Christmas with Grandma, December 2015.
Last Christmas with Grandma, December 2015.

Who was the best new person you met?

Nearly every year that I’ve been doing this, my “best new person” is someone that I already knew, who became a closer friend or more important to me over the course of the year. Why should this year be any different? I like this trend because it shows that you never know when you first meet someone what role they’re going to play in your life.

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Left Cabo two hours apart. Met up again at the skytrain.

Travel makes the heart grow fonder. Chris and Brandon have been my friends since…?…before 2016 anyway. They’re both on the sound team so we’ve gone to a lot of the same band practices over the years. But they became my real friends and part of our “misco family” when we all went to mexico together in May. Since then Chris has been dating my bestie and Brandon has done all the production on our Heritage Hill ep so we’ve spent tons of time together and my admiration for these dudes has grown heaps and bounds.

I’m also going to put Grace and Natalie in this category. Again, we’ve been friends since before 2016 (technically we started Heritage Hill in 2015). But I got to know them so much better this year and it was a joy to talk about life and music with them.

Band practice.
Band practice.

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2016?

Life is both joy and sorrow, light and dark.

Quote a song lyric that sums up your year

There is blessing in the battle, so take heart and stand amazed.

2 Comment

  1. Ariana says:

    Well, I cried. Thank you for your kind words about me and my kid.

    I feel I should maybe clarify that you have more than one bestie, and I am not the one dating Chris and am in fact happily married.

    Speaking of which, Jared loved The Beatles at least as much as you. Remember that.

  2. Chars says:

    Love reading your blog Sarah! Blessed to be in your life 🙂

Comments are closed.