Monday, December 31, 2012

Post Christmas Post

Last Christmas was our first one away from our families and friends back home ever, and it was a little tough, a little lonely, and a lot more peaceful. We had minimal decorations and no tree or lights in the apartment, and spent Christmas day together on the couch watching Die Hard. Not the worst way to pass the holiday season, but very different from previous years.

2012 was certainly an odd year for us. We couldn't work for five months due to shenanigans with our work permits, and we lived off potatoes and cheap sausages, or pasta and cheap pork mince. Without work, we were heavily restricted in what we could do during that time, so at the time it felt like forever, yet looking back on it now, it was a good period in general, during which I got to spend a huge amount of time with my wife right at my side.

We got back to work in July and I haven't had a day off since. I love my job, and it was so nice to get back to meeting all the kids and families, not to mention the wonderful co-workers. While Claire's freelance work was going from strength to strength, a setback in October to our plans pressed her into starting a new job that month for a small web development company. This annoyed me greatly at the time, as I had always wanted to be able to support her 100% in her building of her own online business and identity, as well as her writing. I felt that having her start this new job was a failure on my behalf, and it took me some time to come to terms with our new situation. Mostly, it just took me a little time to see that she really was loving her new job and the challenges it threw at her.

All this meant that, as well as a nice bit of savings tucked away, we had some extra cash to spend on each other this Christmas. Because of the break in employment, as well as the move to Canada before that, the effort to save as much as possible before the move, the fact that my job in Ireland didn't pay me enough to save substantially, and a whole list of other reasons going back several years, this was one of the first times we both agreed that we could treat ourselves a little this holiday season.

So we bought some decorations and fairy lights. I made a tree and wrapped some empty boxes to go under it. Slowly, over the early half of December, those were joined by actual gifts and everything felt more like a Christmas I remembered. We wrote Christmas cards and posted them to friends far away. We had friends over to play boardgames and Rock Band in the run up to the final week, and we went out with more friends to play pool, or watch movies, or generally have a good time.

It was feeling a bit more like the festive time of year.

And then it snowed!

Admittedly, it only snowed for a day, but it was magical to wake up to, thrilling to walk in, and resulted in one rather unusual Christmas event that will be forever burnt into my memory, side-by-side with walking on the frozen lake back home in Tipperary in 2010, and the Christmas we lost power at home minutes after the dinner was cooked, resulting in dinner by candlelight and easily the most peaceful, video-game-free Christmas in memory!

Christmas Day 2012 was spent in good company. We were invited to join a friend that Claire had made through writing for Christmas dinner. It was just the two of us, her son and his girlfriend, and herself. It felt very Irish, as they are all from Dublin, and dinner was chicken (turkeys over here are big enough to feed an army, far too big for just five of us) and the most delicious ham I have enjoyed since leaving Ireland. We sat around afterwords playing word puzzles and relaxing, and everyone had such a great time that we've agreed to do it again next year, should the fates allow.

Finally, the last few days have been spent playing yet more Rock Band and boardgames! In particular, yesterday, December 30th, saw us hosting a mammoth 12 hour boardgame day, starting around 1pm and finishing in the wee hours of this morning! We had a Geeky Gift Giving with six other friends. Basically, it was like Secret Santa, only there were no names drawn. Everyone arrived with a geeky gift and we played a bunch of games. Winners picked the gift they wanted. If you had already won, we simply went down the order until we hit the first person who had not yet picked and let them pick one. By the end of the evening, all eight of us had a great time, and everyone went home with a new boardgame, graphic novels, or, in Claire's case, a Nerf Vortex (I fear for my appendages). It was a fantastic night with zero organisational requirements, stress-levels zero, and smiles all around![1]

2012 was a roller-coaster of emotions and events, ranging from the life-affirming to the life-altering and much in between, but it ended on a high. I'm looking forward to seeing what 2013 has to bring, and I'm ready to take whatever it throws at me, safe in the knowledge that, no matter what trials I may face, I face them with Claire at my side.

So roll on 2013, you beautiful bastard!

[1]- I always enjoyed the Secret Santa back home, and Sinead always did an amazing job of organizing it and poking people to get involved, but if people couldn't make it at the last moment, it threw a spanner in the final gift swapping. Our G3 party required no organisation apart from an email inviting people to join in, and only those who showed up on the day were involved. The downside, of course, is that the gifts couldn't be tailored for any one person, because you didn't know who would get yours.

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