It's that time again, to look back and take stock of all that has happened in the year. I know that 2016 has been rough for a lot of people, with the crazy election and such, but this has personally been an exceptionally hard year for the Germain family. It's been a year of major life changes, definitely one of the most transformative years of my life.
The year started in an amazing way, Dan and I drank champagne and watched fireworks from our hotel in Orlando during our eight day vacation. Most of our vacations include family, so it was special to have a romantic getaway. The weather was sunny and perfect. Plus, we purchased Disney World annual passes, so that we could have a cost-effective way to return to Orlando with the kids in the summer. We had to test-out the rides first, right?
In January, we learned that Dan's division at work was being dissolved at the end of April. The bad part was the stress and worry that comes with losing a job. However, we had several months to prepare, and he was given an excellent severance package. The unknown is always scary and I'll admit that the first half of the year was bumpy, but ultimately, this loss sent us on a new and better path.
I spent the winter finishing my UCLA Extension Fiction Writing Certificate Program, which I completed a year ahead of schedule and with honors. I'm now finishing my manuscript, which is due at the end of this winter for an instructor review, an incredibly perk for completing the certificate program. The pressure is officially on.
In April, we spent two weeks at the MGM Grand Signature Hotel in Las Vegas, so that Dan could run his final trade show for his former company. We even drove all of the equipment out to the show, which involved hanging out with truckers, and seeing the "behind the scenes" action at the convention center. While Dan was working, I was busy in our hotel room, setting up our new home-based travel agency, Easy as Pie Travel, LLC.. Of course, I also took daily trips down to the pool for some sun bathing and relaxation. Working in Vegas is tough.
In May, we realized that running two houses was draining resources rapidly, and that the best course of action would be to sell my childhood home in Glendale. This was HUGE for me. It was not an easily made decision. We began the process of moving our stuff up to our Big Bear Lake house, which was still ( and is still), under construction. Our hope was to have it finished for Zoe and Felix's summer visit, and although it was livable, it was not completely done, which was a huge disappointment. We moved most of the stuff ourselves, renting small Uhaul trucks and slowly taking up all of our belongings over several trips. I will always use a moving company for future moves. Lesson learned.
Exhausted and needing a vacation, we used my travel agency discounts, and booked a last minute Alaskan Cruise on Holland America's MS Amsterdam. It departed from Seattle, which was a city I had never visited. We spent a day and half exploring before our cruise, visiting the Space Needle, Pikes Place Market, and the Chihuly Gallery. The cruise was amazing, something that everyone should have on their bucket list. We saw the Hubbard Glacier up-close ( the sounds of cracking ice were unbelievable), we flew in a seaplane, saw wild Bald Eagles soaring, and went dog sledding. We also visited the Canadian island of Victoria, BC. Everyone should see Alaska, it was gorgeous.
Our cruise was extremely sad and unforgettable for another reason; when we arrived in our first port of Juneau, we learned that Dan's father, Dave, had cancer and his time was short. We were told not to abandon our cruise, but we spent the entire trip worrying. It was impossible to not worry or feel sad.
The day after we returned home from Alaska, we were on a flight to England. I'm grateful that we were able to speak with Dave when he was still coherent, and to be with him at the hospital when he passed. I'm also extremely grateful for the years and vacations that I was able to spend getting to know my father-in-law. I never really knew my own dad, so this made my relationship with Dave even more meaningful. I met him shortly after Dan and I started dating, and I had a crash-course in getting to know my future father-in-law, when I spent an entire day with him alone at Disneyland. We had so much fun. I will always remember his kindness, his great advice, and his sense of adventure. He had the best stories and was an excellent "grump." We spent a few weeks in England, spending time with family and helping make arrangements. Although our reason for the trip was terrible, we were able to enjoy the family time. We finally got to see my brother-in-law play in his band Beatlejuice (Beatles covers, they're really good!) and we visited the Bombay Sapphire Gin Factory with friends.
This sudden trip to England, sent our lives on a new path. It meant that Dan had to postpone a job interview, but while in England, Steve (my brother-in-law), gave Dan a lead on a position with Amazon, based out of Portland. When we returned home, he followed up, and soon was flown to Oregon for an interview. As you probably already know, he got the job, and our lives were about to be kicked into overdrive.
We had already booked our summer holiday with the kids, so Dan agreed to start work a few days after their vacation ended, at the end of August. We had to clear out the Glendale house and prep it to be sold, find a place to live in Portland ( which we did entirely online), and we had to get Big Bear ready for the kids. Our plate was overflowing.
In mid-July, Dan flew to Sweden to pick up Zoe and Felix. This was the first time we were spending our summer vacation with them in America, and we had them for an entire month. We spent a few days in Los Angeles and then nearly a week in Big Bear. The big surprise, was we took them to Orlando for two weeks to experience Disney World and Kennedy Space Center. It was cheaper to fly out of Las Vegas ( That's my travel agent expertise saving us money), so we spent two nights at the Luxor on either end of the trip. Yes, we were "Those people", who take kids to Vegas, but really it was the perfect place for a family vacation. We were easily able to avoid anything inappropriate. We rented a cabana at the Luxor and used the pool all day. In the evenings, we saw shows ( Beatles Love and The Blue Man Group), plus we introduced the kids to our favorite Vegas spot, The Pinball Hall of Fame. It was an amazing summer holiday. I have no idea how we will top it in 2017.
We packed a few suitcases and took the last flight to Portland on the evening of August 20th. The next morning, we picked up the keys to our downtown apartment, which we had picked sight unseen. It's worked out, but I don't recommend it. We've spent the last few months having "renters-remorse", as we see all of the other buildings that we could have picked. It's not terrible though, we are right across from the Portland Art Museum, and near all of the major theaters. It was easier to buy new furniture and house goods, so a majority of our things are still in our Big Bear house. The cats were surprisingly okay with the fifteen hour drive, that we made in early September. They were heavily drugged.
This fall has been a blur of getting settled into our new Portland life. Dan is incredibly busy with his new job and I continue to work on my manuscript. The weather is cold and grey, but we have purchased a S.A.D. Lamp ( it works) and I'm loving my new cold weather wardrobe. My ear muffs are so cute, that I even wear them around our apartment. We sold our Glendale house in November, a move made easier because a close friend was our realtor, and the couple that purchased my house, seemed really nice. Plus, they have a cat named Penny, which is probably the biggest sign that the universe has ever sent to me. I know my mom is smiling.
A few other non-travel related highlights: I went to two concerts, Josh Ritter at the Fonda, and the anniversary tour of Jenny Lewis and The Watson Twin's Rabbit Fur Coat album, which was at an gorgeous cathedral in Los Angeles. With the setting and the music, it felt like a religious experience. We attended an awards gala honoring James Cameron, sitting at a table adjacent to Cameron, just a few feet away. Speaking of celebrities, I got to meet one of my favorite authors, Alexander McCall Smith at Powell's Books. I attended my first writer's conference; AWP in Los Angeles, where I packed in two days of non-stop panel discussions. At AWP, I met more authors, such as Cheryl Strayed and Bret Easton Ellis. AWP was one of my best weekends of the year. In Portland, I went to the Wordstock Literary Festival and saw, Karen Russell, Laurie Notaro, Richard Russo, and Carrie Brownstein. This very lit heavy year, ended with me having read sixty-eight books.
2016 brought tremendous change. I'm hoping to spend 2017 slowing things down a bit, and focusing on getting to know our new city, building Easy as Pie Travel, and polishing my manuscript. But first, it's off to England for Christmas and New Years. Let's start the year off right, by spending it with family.