If I don't make a short record of this year I'll regret it in years to come, though, so here goes.
I took an entire month of work to go to the US. This was my first overseas trip and it was a nice gentle start; the states and Australia share many similarities. On the other hand, I burned through so much leave I'm still in deficit at work, and I feel like the trip was a bit of a missed opportunity. I'm a huge fan of the natural world; my favourite form of travelling takes me to national parks, on day-long walks, and in places rarely-trodden. Because I was there but for the grace of a very generous friend, I spent my time essentially in the suburbs (with a brief visit to San Francisco) and didn't get to do much that I couldn't have done at home. Although your cheeseburgers are GODLY.
I did get to go to a furry con. It's not my scene, but it was interesting and I got to meet a number of people there who I've known online for years. In fact, spending meatspace time around old friends I'd never met face-to-face before was the theme of this trip, and what made it worthwhile for me. Spending time with Amy/Crow was a special highlight.
Toward the end of the trip we went to Vegas, which was amazing - I got to see Penn & Teller live! I also finally got to drink in some pretty awesome American landscape along the way.
I started studying where I work, at the University of Tasmania. My half-completed B Animation from way-back-when provided me with a few RPL credits, which helps when you're squeezing study around full-time work. I'm doing a Bachelor of Arts now, representative both of my interest in ALL THE THINGS and of the fact that I have a career now, so I can study whatever I damn well please, even if it has little application in this 'real world' people keep telling me about. After some indecision I settled on a major in History and a minor in Gender Studies. The former helps me with my writing (good fodder for stories and worldbuilding). The latter helps me question my standard lens for looking at the world. I find once I learned to look afresh at the gender lens I took for granted, it was easier to see the world with fresh eyes across a number of other areas. This is also useful for writing.
At the same time, I also enrolled in the Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing, because I'm a little insane and think it's totes cool to do a degree, a diploma and work full-time all at once. This dynamite combo would come to cause me some angst later in the year.
We sold our Kombi van, Watson, to a group of Swedish backpackers. Watson was costing too much to run, and every time he broke something, the bill nearly broke us. We survived for a while thanks to waqem loaning us her little old car, which was on its last legs.
'Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine', a long-running Australian speculative fiction mag, bought one of my short stories for publication in their February 2013 issue. This marks my first paid publication as a writer. Now I have my sights set on selling a novel and a picture book too, and when I've done that I'm sure I'll set myself yet another ridiculously unlikely goal; that's essentially my hobby.
We moved from our house at Franklin to a small one-bedroom unit in Taroona. This came with upsides and downsides. I still miss the Franklin house; it was right on the river and beautifully isolated. However, the garden was epic, and becoming too much for us to care for, especially with me working full-time. Moving also substantially cut down my work commute, though again, that's a mixed bag - more time at home is good, but those long bus journeys through the beautiful, pastoral Huon Valley used to give me a lot of thinking time that I now miss.
The Taroona flat was lovely in its own way: quite close to the beach and in a gorgeous area. I cobbled the cat run components into their most epic run yet; it went twenty metres along the backyard and terminated in a disused chicken coop.
I turned thirty with no real fuss (I don't see why people are so horrified by turning 30). I popped briefly up to QLD around my birthday (which always falls conveniently around easter) to briefly stop in at dad's, and spent a while staying with mum. Enjoy this photo of the hoedown I awkwardly found myself a part of.
I wrapped up Semester One with pretty darn good grades - two High Distinctions. Now that I'd developed a taste for study, my usual impatience kicked in and I decided to try to whiz through as many units as possible, so I enrolled in a couple of Winter units. I set myself an ambition of completing the degree in three years, which is normal if you're not working, and completely insane if you work full-time.
At this point I also bought myself a very unusual secondhand tablet-computer: the Motion Computing LE1700. It weighs a ton and has maybe thirty minutes battery life if unplugged, but it's a thing of beauty because it is pressure sensitive: not via the pen, but within the tablet itself: it's built on Wacom technology. So essentially it's like a Cintiq you can carry around, provided you're carrying it around to some place with a powerpoint. Thankfully, all my favourite cafes have those.
This purchase was a good and timely thing, as I'd sold my actual Cintiq to partially fund the urgent purchase of a secondhand car from my friend Cass. Finally, we had wheels of our own again! The car was a Daihatsu Charade, thirty years old but in good condition. She is with us still, hasn't had any major problems (a few minor ones, but only usual old-car things) and runs on the smell of an oily rag, which suits our budget just fine.
Winter semester began; I took a week off work to give myself time to do the two intensive units I'd chosen. One was an elective, a Fine Arts drawing unit I genuinely enjoyed. It got me working with real media again, and I found myself doing some life drawing for the first time since Disney. That the unit took place in the Tasmanian School of Arts, on Hobart's beautiful waterfront, was a bonus. I'm a sucker for a lovely view.
The other class was a History unit focusing on genealogy, and though I'd initially taken it as a fast way to a history credit for my major, I found myself enjoying it. I studied the history of the German side of my family (mum's side) and unearthed all the various horrible things in my family's past, this time in greater detail than before. I've long come to terms with it all, so it wasn't too troubling, but it made for an insanely good essay. I think I wound that unit up with a grade of something like 92%. Flush with success, I got overambitious for Semester Two and enrolled in four subjects: a History unit, a Gender unit, a writing elective and another fine arts elective.
With four subjects, a Diploma and full-time work on my plate I began to realise I'd made a mistake. As much as I enjoyed the Fine Arts unit (which wound up kicking me into doing a few illustrations for 'Hairy Mollet', a Tasmanian-inspired rhyming picture book I'd written some time ago) I had to drop that unit as it was by far the most time-consuming. With that gone, I was able to focus on the others.
The chilly weather was perfect for bushwalking; Joe and I started delving into Mt Wellington's endless track offerings.
I did our taxes, which we'd both been putting off since arriving in Tasmania. As a result we got quite a chunk of money back and were able to mostly use it to pay down the bills that had crept up on us throughout the year, with Joe being out of work.
Then life went rapidly pear-shaped when we were informed, at the end of our six-month lease and with the minimum amount of notice, that the landlady needed us to move out because her spoiled son had demanded she let him live for free in the big house above our flat... which meant that the landlady herself needed to move into the flat, displacing us. This isn't the first time this has happened to me as a renter. I did the usual mad scramble and managed to find us a new place at Sandy Bay, even closer to work, and only a couple of minutes walk from the beach. All in all it was a win. I don't want to be that stressed out again any time soon, though.
With the remaining tax refund money I bought us a gorgeous carved four-poster bed. It's nice to have at least one bit of furniture I know will be with us for the rest of our lives. We had to start over with furniture when we moved to Tassie and there's been quite a lot of chipboard involved.
Mid-month, work took me to Sydney for the Web Directions conference, which I enjoyed until two days in, when I came down with a terrible flu. I'd had my shots, but to no avail. This thing LEVELLED me, and by the final day of the conference I had to head back to the hotel mid-afternoon to collapse in bed. The flight back home was a nightmare. Never fly with a congested head if you can avoid it; yow.
Thankfully it cleared up pretty well, because just a week later, Joe and I flew to Melbourne and sprung a ninja-wedding on all our friends. We'd had the weekend itself planned for ages: it was what we'd called a Fakesgiving get-together, a long weekend in a big fancy house with turkey and pie (one of our friends is American and misses the whole Thanksgiving thing), with most of our mates flying down from Bris and a couple who lived locally joining us. Knowing we'd have few other opportunities to have most of the folks we love in the same place at the same time, I quietly organised a celebrant just a month ahead of time, quickly found a dress on eBay, and then Joe and I went to get our wedding rings tattooed on just a fortnight before the big event. The event went off without any (major) hitches and I couldn't imagine a more perfect day: just us, the celebrant and a handful of our closest friends together, being ourselves, filled with laughter and mischief and love. Talk about serendipity - a brass band turned up in the park opposite us to practice, and they played us a song.
Also, I made everyone create and wear fake beards for one of the wedding photos.
My Poppy (dad's father) died after a long decline. I couldn't afford to go up to Queensland for the funeral, but I was glad to have reconnected with him when I visited in April, when he was still strong in mind and health.
With small commissions, I'd been trying to keep up my art practice all year. People request all kinds of things and the ones that interest me most are the non-cartoony ones - they're more of a challenge.
Back home, we'd been spotting a large apricot-coloured rabbit hopping around the place, apparently lost, but we couldn't capture him. After a couple of days worth of failed attempts we sprung him snacking on the lawn in our courtyard, and were able to get him surrounded. The poor thing was crawling with fleas - I've never seen anything like it. You'd stroke his head with a single finger and four or five would wriggle in the area you'd just touched. He was muddy and daggy and thin as a rake, his backbone clearly visible. We took him inside, bathed him (twice), tugged the matted bits of fur off him and gave him a flea treatment. I still had the old hutch from my previous rabbit, Harvey (who met a premature end due to what we now think was a mosquito-borne rabbit virus), so we cleaned it out and put the rabbit inside.
I don't think there was ever any question that we were going to keep him. He came to us. We named him Gravy, and soon picked up a small companion for him, because rabbits are social creatures. Her name is Spud. We took the pair to the vet to be checked out and the vet told us she doubted Gravy would live due to the extent of his former neglect, so, of course, I became even more determined that he should survive.
And he has. Two months later Gravy is fattening up nicely. His snuffles (a real, adorably-named rabbit illness) has cleared up for the most part, and he is the most gentle, chilled-out bunny you could find. Spud is a ball of mischief, but the two adore each other, and their gorgeous personalities meld well with those already in the house. They even get along with the cats.
My Opa (mum's father) died.
I got my uni results and did well again - two Distinctions and a Credit. The slight fall from Sem 1 and the Winter Sem is a reflection of how much I overloaded myself in the latter half of the year.
I also successfully finished my Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing, earning what would have been a High Distinction if TAFE marks worked that way.
The intensity of my schedule allowed me to achieve a lot over the year, but the amount of time work - which I do purely for the money - sucked away from my creative pursuits had increasingly become a source of frustration. Fortunately, in December Joe landed not one, but two casual jobs: one with UTAS on IT service desk, and the other with AI-Media as a caption respeaker (he always lands the most unusual jobs, honestly). I think the latter in particular is going to be great for him; it's a flexible work-from-home position using a lot of the skills he developed in the military, along with his own natural talent for language. He scored 99.4% on their aptitude test, which blows my mind. At any rate, once the dust settles and we get an idea of what kind of hours and income we can expect from Joe's jobs, I may eventually have the opportunity to cut my work hours back a little to allow me time to pursue some of the amazing art job offers that've come my way this year. Yeah, that happened too. I've got some awesome freelance opportunities in my future if I can just find some space in my life for them.
On the other hand, my usual office-job restlessness is allayed a little by the fact that I get to work from home one day per week.
I'd also like more time to be active - this is something I did quite well when I was working casually in 2011. This year, I've put all the weight I lost back on. Started with too many delicious American cheeseburgers and ended with too much living behind a goddamned desk. I'm well over it. We'll see what comes of that.
We flew up to QLD to visit our mates and family over Xmas, and the heat and humidity did an excellent job not only of reminding me why I left, but confirming that I can never go back. At least, not outside of the two or so months of winter when the temperature up there doesn't suck.
On NYE we hosted friends at Joe's parents' farm (his parents were away at Woodford Folk Festival, as is their Xmas custom). We had a bonfire, many drinks, lots of laughs, and then the fire-twirling commenced. Here's something to celebrate the beginning of another great year.