24 Dec 2016 11:00 am

Posted by under Family,Photos

Merry Christmas!!

Merry Christmas!!

Christmas time has come again and with the holidays an opportunity to reflect on the year that is quickly drawing to a close. And what a year it was, characterized predominantly by the extended period of unemployment for Brenda and I. Despite a few short contracts for each of us – working as occasional tour guide or electrician’s assistant – the “tightened-belt” was never far from our minds. Fortunately, in September Brenda got work and about two weeks later, so did I – after more than 11 months without steady work. So, this Christmas, we are most grateful for work and for the support of our family in 2016.

As the year began, we were already making significant adjustments to our activities, focusing on things that we could do as a family that were close at hand. We did more walking, we took advantage of family swim deals at the local pool, used the library more and we got rid of cable TV – all initially to save costs. As we made those changes we often found that we didn’t really miss some things (cable TV) and were quite enjoying time together walking or just hanging out as a couple or as a family. The kids certainly were quite aware that the usual list of things that we might do or purchase was much reduced, no dining out or movies and pretty modest birthday gifts, but the sense of pulling together was certainly there.

Alyssa finished grade 8 at Master’s Academy, in June and in light of our situation and Alyssa’s desire to be allowed to learn from home, like her cousins and  as Mark had done for his grade 9 year, we decided to make a change. After her summer off, she started virtual schooling through the Centre for Learning at Home. The program has a degree of flexibility that allows her to set her own schedule and determine options that she is interested in pursuing – this fall it has been pottery.  During the summer she did an art camp and spent time with me tumbling a bunch of agates and other stones.

Mark is halfway through high school now, in his second year at Rundle Academy.  Rundle has been just excellent – their approach to giving Mark the tools and skills to succeed academically and to advocate for his needs has been fantastic. His grades continue to improve and he is quite engaged in the life of the school. He even joined the extra-curricular golf team and was back with the drama team for a third show in his time at Rundle – taking care of the lights and sound for the school play (Elf) in December. He’s got a good group of friends and is thriving in grade 11.

Steven is nearing the end of his formal education with only one semester left before completing his Information Technology diploma at SAIT. It’s hard to believe that our Aussie bubbie is 19 and nearly ready to begin his career. His interest and aptitude for computers is pretty strong – he spent some of his scholarship money on a new computer that he spec’d out himself, ordered all the parts and built one evening – no help required from me! Hopefully, the economy will improve enough by April to make finding work in IT possible.

For Brenda and I the year has been full of ups and downs – the time spent together going for walks in the middle of a weekday, being free to help at the kids schools and not being at the mercy of a “9 to 5” schedule was great. The juggling of expenses and the knowledge that all the free and cheap items on the To Do list were long done with many other desires (landscaping, travel) having to be deferred or canceled altogether was difficult. Added to that was the constant effort to network, look at job ads, write cover letters and resumes and apply to positions which resulted in no response the vast majority of the time. It was a bit of a roller coaster of hope and disappointment.

The roller coaster did finally come to a halt – first for Brenda who secured a role at the new international terminal at the Calgary Airport working as a customer care ambassador in the various information booths. The job lasted until mid-December and now Brenda is looking again for something in the New Year. I was able to secure a one-year contract with Husky (I know, an oil company!), the work is interesting and the team is very good and, hopefully, there will be a contract extension next September.

All told, it has been a good year, maybe not an easy one, but we are all together we have our health, enough to eat and a fine home. That is more than some have and we are grateful. We wish all our friends and family, wherever you may be, a very Merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous year in 2017.

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