I’ve been wondering if I even want to write a summary of the last year, but I think there are a few items worthy of some introspection.

But I’ll be honest: mostly I’m just really happy that 2018 is over. I guess I won’t go so far as to say it can die in a fire, but here are certainly parts of it that I wouldn’t mind seeing a bit singed.

One year ago, I was just starting my new job after taking my sabbatical from the rat race. 2017 overall was a pretty good year and I was looking forward to 2018. And then 2018 happened.

The Year I said goodbye

2018 was the year I said goodbye to my sister. The good news, I guess, is that it was only about seven weeks between her lung cancer diagnosis and her passing away, so her suffering was fairly short. The bad side of that short time was that nobody really had a chance to get used to the idea of losing her, and so the feeling of loss for all of us was both abrupt and strong.

I know personally there was about two months where it was a struggle to keep things moving at work — and everyone there was very supportive and understanding, and I appreciate that greatly. For my sister’s partner, life is still about trying to sort out the what the hell just happened? emotion and he’s finally starting to think about what’s next, but it’s still rough and tough for him. We’re all doing what we can, but what he seems to need most is time and company.

For me, losing her has brought up some things I didn’t realize I need to think about. Having lost mom and dad and now Susan, I am the last survivor. Neither of us had children, a point of major disappointment to my mother that she occasionally reminded me of to the very end.

But being the last one reminds me that while I never have to pay for someone’s college, when I go there’s nobody left to clean up the mess I leave, and so I’m thinking about what I need to do to minimize that mess.

Not that I intend to go any time soon, of course.

So over the next year, I need to sort out my thoughts on various things, and figure out what I need to do to put my estate in shape so that whatever mess I leave behind, it’s small and manageable. Big things like — where does whatever’s left go? Small things like — those boxes of family photos?

Either I figure it out, or I leave it behind for someone to try to guess. At the very least, I know I have to revise the will to make sure my wishes are clear.

The year I said “what?”

There isn’t a lot to talk about health things in 2018, which is generally good. I was hoping to continue the weight loss that I had in 2017, but as I write this, I am literally going to end the year within 1 pound plus or minus of how I started 2018. Which, given my history as a stress eater and a tendency to gain weight looking at food, is in a way a victory and I’ll take it. But I have to do better in 2019.

With one exception, things were mostly status quo, which is good. My knees continue to be the big challenge, but we’re in year 12 or 13 of “we can try some things, but you are probably going to need replacements in about five years”; in about two weeks I’ll be switching one medicine, shifting to Mobin (aka Meloxicam) instead of Relafin. I did a quick test, and it seems to improve things on a lower dose, which gives me some treatment flexibility.

The one exception is something I haven’t talked about — my hearing. I woke up one morning and couldn’t hear a thing in my left ear, which, well, is bad. I ended up talking to a specialist, who gave me a shot through the eardrum, and offered me a free ride in an MRI, which, if you’ve never done it, is sort of like crawling inside a pinball machine for 20 minutes while someone repeatedly tilts it.

The good news is the found nothing bad growing in the ear. The bad news is that when something like a virus gets into the inner ear, there’s little treatment other than time. I was told it might get better, or maybe not, and it might take weeks or months, or it might not happen. And that’s basically what’s happened: it got better, but not as good as it used to be, and it varies day to day, and it’s not something that a hearing aid will help, so it’s mostly about being careful about putting my good ear towards conversations.

The funny aspect of this is that my dad, who was hard of hearing, hated his hearing aids, so he wouldn’t wear them except under protest, and often he’d put them in and turn them off thinking we wouldn’t notice, but in reality, he liked the quiet. But it also meant he missed parts of conversations, and answered with what he thought he heard, which was sometimes frustrating to us, and often amusing, but the word “What?” was a running joke in the family. I long ago told Laurie she could tell me it was time for the hearing aids and I wouldn’t argue and I wouldn’t complain.

And now it’s that time — except they won’t help, so there’s no reason to. And I find myself saying “huh?” and “what?” more, and it annoys the hell out of me.

And I’m still figuring out how to best minimize that without being annoying to those around me.

That, in many ways, sums up 2018 for me.

The year I got pissed at Social Media

And 2018 was the year we realized Social Media was toxic. There’s no other way to describe Facebook and Twitter and their impact on society world-wide. Walt Mossberg walked away from Facebook. We keep seeing leaked news about how Facebook operates that have shifted my viewpoint from “they just don’t get how communities work” to “they’re happy to screw us all over if the margins are good”.

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know I’ve been pretty critical of both Twitter and Facebook over the last year. I actually feel like Twitter is making progress, although I still think existing leadership there needs to be replaced. Facebook? the more I read and the more I see, the angrier I get, and not only do I think their leadership needs to go away, some of it needs to go to jail, and Mark Zuckerberg will never convince me he’s not an evil person. Sad, but I don’t just want Facebook management fired, I want Facebook blown up and shut down. Not sure it can happen, pretty sure it won’t.

But while I’m tempted to follow Uncle Walt out the door, I basically can’t, which sums up the problem with Facebook in a nutshell. Among other things, it’s my only way to stay in contact with a few people I really can’t jettison, and who I really can’t say “hey, we have to move off Facebook” to. Beyond that, an organization I work for is dependent on it for some of their group activities and are looking to use it for fundraising, and I have to help them figure it out — and my take is they need to be on Facebook, because that’s where their audience is. And I have a couple of Facebook groups that don’t exist outside of Facebook and I don’t want to leave.

(quick digression: I’m both amused and annoyed that while writing this, I went to a couple of web sites to do some fact checking on the Meloxicam to make sure I got the write up right. And now I realize that wherever I go on the web, I’m being followed by an array of arthritis product advertising. And that’s all Facebook and Google’s fault….)

So, yeah. I’m not deleting my Facebook account soon, although I’d like to.

But that doesn’t mean I have to accept the status quo. Since I’m enjoying my time on social media less, I’ve decided to spend less time on social media, and the best way for me to do that is to slim down what I do and how I interact with it. As a result, I’ve cut way back on my Facebook connections — removing a number of contacts, cutting the pages I follow, and generally removing all of the stuff I can do elsewhere, leaving just the bits I can’t really replace. Facebook got removed from my mobile devices months ago, so the only way I visit it is through a browser, which limits some of their access to me.

On twitter, I’ve gone through and removed people and things I followed, and spent some time deciding what things I still wanted in my feed. I ended up with about 30% fewer tweets posting to my feed every day, which feels about right for how much time I want to spend there.

This implies that I’ve unfriended or unfollowed various people I used to track. If you’re one of those, I’m sorry. It’s me, not you. I just needed to focus and prioritize my time, and I can guarantee my choices weren’t perfect and I’ll be adjusting them. But for now, things are a lot quieter, and that’s what I want. Maybe Twitter will continue fixing things and convince me I want to be more involved with it again, but for now, I needed to really cut back and reduce it’s time needs out of my life. Maybe I’ll get more writing done this way, too.

2018 is the year our choices got real

It seems like 2018 is the year that the damage we’re doing to the planet e live on started getting real. From the massive fires in California to the Blizzards on the east coast to the melting of the arctic and the loss of habitat around the globe, it’s clear we’re starting to see the changes we expected to see based on the changes happening to the globe, and we’re rapidly hitting a point, if we haven’t already reached it, where getting this under control and turned around will be impossible. Worse, our existing government seems intent not just on ignoring the problem, but in revoking what restrictions already exist that were trying to minimize the impact.

So I’m not hopeful right now, but in reality, I’ll be gone long before the worst of it hits. That, though, doesn’t make me feel any better about it, which is why I continue to work with the organizations I do to help make some impact in helping get this long, slow disaster under control.

What I feel bad for most is the kids: the next generations we’re creating and raising right now that are going to get dumped into it after all of the people ignoring the problem now are also gone. 2018 was the year I realized I was happy that back in my teens I decided I never wanted children, and never hit a time in my life where I considered rethinking that decision. I would hate to have to explain to my son or daughter why we did this to the world they are going to have to live in, and how we thought it was okay to ignore the impacts of climate change as long as we did when we should have been more responsible caretakers of this place in which we live.

it’s our fault, collectively, but our kids are the one who will get stuck with the bill and have to figure it out, because we’ve refused to. I feel really sad for the next generations, and while I feel there’s nothing more I could have reasonably done to stop it, I don’t feel I did nearly enough.

It wasn’t all bad

I apologize for being a bit of a downer, but 2018 wasn’t my favorite year, not by a long shot. But that doesn’t mean the year was all bad….

It was a year where I got to spend it with Laurie, my life partner and best friend, and any year I get to spend with her is a good year.

It was a year where I got to spend time and re-connect with people in the extended “family” clan, even if the reason we were brought together was pretty damned sucky.

It was a year where I didn’t have to get my knees replaced, didn’t die of a heart attack or stroke, and yeah, I’m at that age were “hey, status quo on the health thing” feels like a plus, but I’ll take it over the alternatives.

It was a year where I got more involved with the organizations I support, and I feel like I’m making an impact with and through them. Writing checks for causes I care about is one thing, but donating hours in sweat equity is a lot more fulfilling, and I can see the results of my involvement. Volunteerism is a positive thing, and you probably have skills a group you care about can take advantage of…

My year with a camera started out terrible, but over the year I think I figured it out, and I feel good about my photography, and it makes me feel 2019 will be a good one for me.

I re-dedicated myself to my birding, and 2018 was my best year since 2014 and my 2nd best year ever in terms of number of outings, number of species and generally having good things happen. And that’s got me looking at 2019 as a way to take it forward that next big step and do even more next year, both for my personal work and for the work I’m doing for Audubon in leading outings and helping the organization.

And with that, let me wish you a happy and healthy 2019, and if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to see if I can’t convince 2018 to head to pasture a little early and let us move forward with a fresh, new calendar.