2016 Year In Review

I’m editing this just after I heard that news that George Michael has died. I think we can all agree that his death is a bookend to a year that has been completely horrendous. I know people die every year and horrible things happen every year but 2016 has been the worst year of my life personally. And I think objective historians will look back on 2016 and say “Holy shit what an awful year.”

I’ve been keeping my “month by month” journal for years now. I’m usually pretty diligent about it. But for this year most of the months only have an entry or two and almost all are about my mom’s very rapid progression from cancer diagnosis to dying.

In a way it feels wrong to do this review. Because in addition to my “month by month” stuff I usually talk about the music I listened to over the year and the books I read and the movies I watched. How can it be right to talk about those trivial things when my mother just died? The truth is they aren’t trivial. Video games, action movies and British crime shows were the things that allowed me to not lose my shit completely during this year. They helped turn the hurting in my brain down a few notches, at least temporarily.

Month by Month

January
– Had my wisdom teeth taken out. The recovery was brutal.

February
– I got a promotion at work.
– My grandmother died.
– My mother had surgery for a tumor on her sacrum.
– She was diagnosed with stage 4 colorectal cancer.

March
– Mom started chemo and radiation.

April
– Mom started suffering from “chemo brain.”

May
– Visited Los Angeles and while it was wonderful trip I managed to have a serious tonsil/throat illness and my mom was hospitalized for an infection while our plane was leaving Louisville. But I got to see some of my very favorite people in the world so the trip was worth the worry, endless boxes of lozenges and the trip to urgent care in a weird ass neighborhood somewhere between Long Beach and Los Angeles.
– We decided we want to sell our house and buy a one story house. That severally limits our neighborhood selection in Louisville.

June
– Mom decided that she would not continue chemo.
– The sadness became so overwhelming. I had to start taking meds to help sleep.
– Began “lets get this house ready to sell” project to give me something else to focus on besides being sad all the time.

July
– Turned 40
– Had a birthday lunch with my mom, Belinda and my aunts. It was the last time we were all together when my mom was awake and lucid.
– My siblings (who don’t have the same mother as I do) came to visit for my birthday and suffered through Star Trek and video games. They’re good siblings.

August
– Doctors told mom that at best she had 6 months to live.
– Could honest-to-god barely get out of bed most days.
– Mom bought Belinda and I a lot of jewelry and gifts because she knew she wouldn’t be here to give us gifts in the future. You try keeping your composure when your mother tells you that.

September
– Traveled to San Francisco for work. The trip included an “off site” in Sonoma. It was lovely to spend time with coworkers and do some work things. I still love working from home most of all though. The hotel in Sonoma had the best smelling shampoo I’ve ever used in my life. When I got home I was going to order a bottle of it but it was $50 for 8 ounces.
– Dixie Chicks concert

October
– My mom entered home hospice

November
– The Wednesday before Thanksgiving my mom went to sleep and for the next week there were only hand a handful of moments in which she was awake and never truly lucid. We sat vigil at her bedside for a week. She died at about 9PM on November 30.

Belinda was home in Louisville at the time but somehow she got there shortly after my mom died and then she got me home. It’s weird that I only have a few memories of that night after my mom died. I don’t remember the funeral home people getting there, I don’t remember leaving my mom’s house, I don’t remember arriving back home in Louisville. There are just gaps of time completely missing from my memory.

December
– My mother’s funeral and cremation

Mourning

For two years in a row my year in review has had a “mourning” section. That could explain why my soul feels so tired all the time these days. I’m writing about grieving my mother in individual posts so I won’t rehash that here. I’ll just say please, please may 2017 be a year in which I don’t have a mourning section in my year in review.

Music Consumption

Spotify did not compile a “year in review” for individuals this year. They just have the 2016 global roundup and “Your Top Played Songs of 2016.” That’s very disappointing and I guess for 2017 I’m going to have to go old school and setup some last.fm scrobbling or something. And of course Lemonade never made it to Spotify so their data isn’t a true reflection of my listening for the year.

So here’s what I can pull together from my top played songs lists and my memory.

Top Artists
1. Beyoncé
2. Adele
3. Nathaniel Ratliff and the Night Sweats (horrible band name)
4. Chris Stapleton
5. Nina Simone

Top Albums
1. Lemonade by Beyoncé
2. 25 by Adele
3. Changes by Charles Bradley
4. This is Where I Live by William Bell
5. Traveller by Chris Stapleton

Top Tracks
1. All Night by Beyoncé
2. Hold Up by Beyoncé
3. Reaper by Sia
4. Fire Away by Chris Stapleton
5. All Your Stories by William Bell

Again, I don’t have strong data on my listening habits but it will surprise no one that I listened to a great deal of sad music during 2016. So while the above lists represent a lot of my music listening in 2016 it’s not a complete picture.

Songs that break my heart but I listen to a lot anyway
1. The White Trash Period of My Life by Josh Rouse
2. When It’s Cold I’d Like to Die by Moby
3. My Father’s Gun by Elton John
4. Six O’Clock News by Kathleen Edwards
5. Talking in Code by Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s
6. Everything Trying by Damien Jurado
7. September When It Comes by Rosanne Cash
8. Hope She’ll Be Happier by Bill Withers
9. Falling Awake by Gary Jules
10. Not Dark Yet by Bob Dylan

As an aside, the older I get the harder it is for me to find new music that I like. Part of that is Spotify’s fault I think. Its audience seems to skew much younger than Rdio’s did. No matter what I listen to on Spotify it is always trying to get me to listen to what the kids are listening to these days. I’m too old for most of that.

Garden & Gun and The Bitter Southerner were probably the places I got the best music recommendations from this year. Toward the end of the year I started streaming KCRW’s “Morning Becomes Eclectic” and found some good stuff there. So I guess I should listen to KCRW more in 2017.

In September we saw the Dixie Chicks live. I had gotten some bonus money at work so we splurged and got second row seats. It was worth every penny. It was an absolutely amazing show. And they even covered a Beyoncé song!

Movies/TV

We saw a few more movies in theaters than we did in years past. Part of that relates to the trend of awesome, giant recliners in movie theaters. Comfortable seats, less crowded environments makes theater going much more pleasant for me. Part of it relates to me needing as much distraction as possible. That being said we still watched the vast majority of our movies at home.

In 2015 we watched all of the Bond films. In 2016 we watched all of the Star Trek movies. All of them, even though some were really bad. I say that as someone who really loves the Star Trek universe. We also watched almost all of the “Marvel Cinematic Universe” movies, I think. It’s hard to keep track of all those.

Basically it was an escapism action movie year by and large. However my favorite movie of the year, without question, was a delight from New Zealand called “Hunt for the Wilderpeople.”

If you watch this movie and don’t love it don’t tell me. We won’t be able to sustain a friendship with such a crack in the very foundation of our relationship. I watched it the night after we picked out the casket for the funeral and urn for my mother’s ashes after her cremation. It let me stop crying for at least a little while.

In terms of TV I enjoyed Luke Cake and Westworld a great deal. The fourth series of DCI Banks and the second series of Happy Valley were very good. On the comedy front Black-ish continued to be excellent and we’ve been delighted by Speechless.

Books

I stepped up my reading game in 2016 and finished the year having read 50 books. In the year that my mother was dying I read a lot of dystopian fiction, that’s something I should talk about with a therapist, probably. In any case here are some of the books I really loved this year:

The Door by Magda Szabo
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel
The Fifth Season by N.K Jemisin
Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett

Work

The first week of January will mark two years that I’ve been working at Slack. Since I wrote about it last year Slack has grown tremendously (I think we have something like 600 employees now, there were less than 100 when I started). I’m still extremely proud to work at Slack. I’m proud of both the product that we make and the values we embody as a company.

My mom was very proud that I work at Slack. She loved the animals commercial and was super excited when one of my cousins told her that she uses Slack at work. I’m really glad my mom got to see me in such a good place professionally. I think she was proud but also happy that I was happy. A few years ago, after a lifetime of doing something she didn’t love, she got into real estate. Got her license, was a serious realtor, the whole deal. She absolutely loved it. It breaks my fucking heart that she only got to do it for such a short time. So I like to think that it pleased her to see me do work that I enjoy and find meaningful.

2015 Year in Review

Though I haven’t been writing here much I have still been tracking things that happen, by month, in my journal. As ever some of the things I write down are terribly important, some are silly, but all are things I want to document and remember.

Month by Month

January
– Started working at Slack
– Our heat stopped working and we woke up to a 55 degree house
– Finished “The Bond Project” (meaning B and I watched every single James Bond movie ever made up to that point)
– Finished knitting a scarf for B
– Got a very nice “you’re doing great” message from my new boss  that gave me a confidence boost I needed
– Got to meet Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg when she came to Louisville. Her book, Surprised By God, was very influential to me years ago so meeting her was a true joy. She’s a very lovely person.

February
– Met with a friend to discuss serious concerns about another friend’s mental and physical health and wellbeing.
– Visited California for the first time when I went to San Francisco for work. I got to work out of the Slack offices for a few days and attend the company’s first anniversary party. It was very festive.

March
– Bought a new MBP
– Significant (significant for Louisville any way) snow storm
– Felt a little out of touch with my colleagues. Partly due to being remote, partly due to my generally being introverted
– Decided to buy a new car after being a one car family for nearly a year.

April 
– Various health and age related issues caused some serious thinking (and maybe a little freakout?) about mortality and aging.
– Seder at The Z’s
– N briefly hospitalized
– Grace turned 14
– Bought a new car

May
– Started writing a Charitable Giving Plan to be more thoughtful and deliberate about charitable donations
– Made plans to go to DC for my birthday
– Grace’s health started declining
– Decided I wasn’t completely happy with Rdio and started comparing streaming services in earnest

June
– We discovered froyo. It was the summer of froyo and toppings.
– Got TSA Precheck. Amazing decision.
– Friend we were concerned about in February confirmed she’s suicidal
– Named a Slack Windows release
– My marriage became legal in all 50 states

July
– Celebrated my birthday in town at an arcade and playing miniature golf with friends
– DC trip which included seeing some of my favorite people, lots of good food and great museum trips
– Confirmed my love of 17th century Dutch landscapes and seascapes
– Led the memorial service for a very lovely person who died much too young
– Found out our house needed a new roof
– Decided to switch to Spotify for music streaming
– Started feeling much more connected to some of my colleagues. They’re my friends now and it’s wonderful.

August
August was awful. I’m crying now as I write about it.
– My grandfather died after a brief illness
– Led the funeral/memorial service for my grandfather
– My beloved dog Grace died

September
– B got a commendation at work
– Holiday celebrations at various friends’ houses
– Adopted a new dog, Scout

October
– Received a very beautiful ring as a 20th anniversary gift from B
– B and I started a new Sunday ritual of bagels, coffee and the New York times and it’s really really lovely

November
– Started taking Scout to doggie daycare sometimes because he needs an outlet to get his energy out while I’m working
– Got new chairs for The Listening Room and they are amazing. It’s now a perfect room to sit in while reading and listening to records
– Emergency dental visit which confirmed I need to have oral surgery
– Met with oral surgeon who lived up to every stereotype you’ve ever heard about surgeons. I found another surgeon to perform my procedure
– Went to the Slack mothership in San Francisco. It was really lovely to be in the office for a few days but it also made me appreciate my remote home-office situation.

December
– Received an internal award at work and it was extremely gratifying and came with an epic illustration of me holding a no beets sign and Scout wearing a Slack coat
– Scheduled my oral surgery
– Fourth night of Hanukkah at the nursing home again

Music Consumption

Since I switched from Rdio to Spotfy halfway through the year and Rdio closed shop at the end of the year my listening statistics aren’t as accurate as they’d been in years past.

However Spotify’s year end wrap up had a mostly accurate overview of my listening habits.

Top Artists
1. Nina Simone
2. Hozier
3. Johann Johannsson
4. Sam Hunt
5. Coldplay

Top Albums
1. Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
2. Hozier by Hozier
3. Montevello by Sam Hunt
4. Coming by Leon Bridges
5. Sound & Color by Alabama Shakes

Along with several of my friends I became (and am still) obsessed with the Hamilton soundtrack. It’s amazing and I can’t wait for the day I can see the play in person.

Top Tracks
1. Earned It by The Weekend
2. Show Me Love by Sam Feldt
3. A Sky full of Stars by Coldplay
4. Believe by Mumford and Sons
5. Single for the Summer by Sam Hunt

The track data is a bit skewed because during July and August I drove back and forth to my hometown quite a bit and was in such a funk I just had one driving playlist on repeat each time I went. The tracks that Spotify lists as my “Top Tracks” were all on that playlist.

So with that in mind here are top tracks not based on Spotify data but what songs I remember listening to and remember being important to me:

1. From Eden by Hozier
2. When We Were Young by Adele
3. Both Sides Now (Both Sides Now album version) – Joni Mitchell
4. A Song for You*
5. Here Comes the Sun – Nina Simone

* I have a playlist that consists of nothing but different versions of “A Song for You” and I play it often. Donny Hathaway, Ray Charles, Amy Winehouse and Willie Nelson are all on it.

Movies/TV

Our trend of not going to movie theaters continued. We watched a lot of movies at home but I didn’t keep a list other than all the Bond movies.

We watched a lot of British crime dramas this year. Like all of them I think.

Books

I read 35 books this year, far short of my goal. Of those 35 here are some that I really enjoyed:

Euphoria by Lily King
The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey
The Dog Stars by Peter Heller
Expats by Chris Pavone
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

Technically I read 38 books this year but 3 of them were about dog training so I didn’t count them in the list.

Mourning

My grandfather and my dog died within two weeks of each other. Comparing human loss and canine loss is unfair and difficult and complicated. My grandfather was a good person and had a really wonderful, wicked sense of humor. He had a good life including a 60+ year love story with my grandmother.

I’m very sad that my grandfather died. I was briefly devastated by my dog’s death. For 14 and a half years she had been my constant companion. She’d been with me for so many changes and stages in my life. Life without that dog seemed overwhelming. I depended on her more than I even knew.

As hard as it was on me it was even harder on B. During our initial mourning period we discussed whether or not we’d ever get another dog. The sad quietness of the house led to us deciding yes we would get another dog and sooner rather than later.

Though the timeframe was quick we had gut wrenching discussions about whether we were trying to replace Grace or whether we were ready to love another being the way a companion dog requires being loved.

In the end we adopted Scout. He is as different from Grace in every way possible. Grace was very much a lady. She was a purebred poodle who hated the rain and mud and liked people far more than she liked other dogs. Scout is a boy who is ready for every adventure even if that means sprinting through mud puddles or walking two miles in a torrential downpour. He also really loves other dogs. He likes people ok but to be honest he’s suspicious of most men. After he gives them the once over he’s usually ok with them but god help you if you’re a man and you try to reach over Scout to hug myself or B. He will give you the business with a quickness. He also hates the mailman more than just about anything.

Scout being so different from Grace is a very good thing. We met two poodles who, though they were different colors and sizes, reminded me far too much of Grace. I think it would have broken my heart every day to look at one of those dogs and see so many physical similarities to Grace but not have Grace.

Scout and I have bonded now though we still have a long way to go. We adopted him from a no kill shelter. He had been moved there after a stay in another shelter after he was found roaming the wilderness in Michigan. He was house trained and even knew how to “shake hands” when we got him so clearly he lived with humans at some point. We don’t know whether he was abandoned or ran away and couldn’t get home (he likes to bolt out open doors). We do know he’s suspicious of men and at times cowers like he’s afraid of being hit. So we think he maybe didn’t have the greatest early years (he’s about 3 or 4 now). He has some habits and manners that definitely need improving so we’re working on it, together.

Work

Last year at this time my work with ThinkUp had just come to an end. In last year’s year in review I wrote “Outside of building Menu and Hours, being part of ThinkUp has been the best work experience of my life. “

In what can only be described as the greatest stroke of luck imaginable, my job at Slack has continued my streak of really excellent jobs. I love my job, my company, the product we make and the people I work with. I am truly very fortunate to work there.

2014 Year in Review

I keep a journal in which I write down things that happen each month. Some of the things are very important, some are very silly. Some I’d remember without writing down, some I want to make sure I don’t forget. Not all of them are appropriate to be shared but I like to share the ones that are.

Month by Month

January
– Decided to sell my car and become a one car family
– My dog had 14 benign growths removed
– My wife started a new job (a year later she still loves it)

February
– Applied for a job with ThinkUp
– Was hired by ThinkUp
– Our marriage was briefly recognized in Kentucky and then very quickly not recognized again

March
– Big snowstorm (well big for Kentucky)
– Began working for ThinkUp
– Fell sick with a GI bug, the sickest I’ve been in years in fact
– Got a gigantic federal tax refund compared to the previous 18 years of tax returns. Why? Turns out marriage is a huge freaking tax saver and the federal government recognizes our marriage

April
– Actually sold my car and we officially became a one car family
– Got new ceiling fans in the kitchen and master bedroom (Look, as a home owner you have to take note and be excited when you can)
– First night of Passover with the Zs, second night with the S-Ts

May
– Had to replace the downstairs toilet (see previous month’s note about being a home owner and taking note of things)
– Carpenter bee invasion
– Found out my nuclear family was planning a family vacation that my wife and I weren’t included in (it’s tacky to note this but it’s honestly what I remember most about May so there it is)

June
– Commandeered the remote control and turned off the “soap opera effect” on the tv in the bar at my favorite Thai restaurant
– Took our nephew to the Kentucky Science Center
– Vet thought Grace had cancer but thank goodness she did not
– Started consciously working to improve my handwriting
– The worst migraine of my life
– Started learning to knit again

July
– Went to a VFW hall to play bingo with friends (it’s way more fun than it sounds)
– A long stretch of perfect weather
– My wife got me a PS4 and a Batman cake for my birthday
– Finished re-reading the Game of Throne series of books
– Was asked to read Torah on Yom Kippur again

August
– Had a bat in our house
– Made plans to head to DC for our first wedding anniversary
– Emergency temporary med adjustment
– Grace had a series of bad infections and allergies. My poor sweet dog is on a million twelve meds now

September
– Went to Portland, Oregon for XOXO. It was an amazing trip overall and a spectacular conference. I’m very lucky I got to attend. I’m also obsessed with moving to Portland now.
– Saw Matisyahu in concert again
– LO/CJ clusterfuck that sprang from a concert of Jewish composers on Rosh Hashanah and the LO’s tone deaf response to criticism

October
– Celebrated our first wedding anniversary (a week late) in Washington DC. It was an amazing trip with a swank ass hotel suite, very good friends and so much good art and food
– The idea of bringing Menu and Hours back to life started to gain some traction in my brain
– Re-played a lot of Assassin’s Creed Black Flag
– Saw The Avett Brothers in concert (outstanding show)
– Brought this here blog back to life

November
– After several starts and stops I finally completed my first knitting project: a scarf, of course
– Found out my time at ThinkUp would be ending in December (startups are hard yo)
– Another Thanksgiving alone (it’s a tradition) playing lots of Assassin’s Creed Unity
– Thought more about what a back-from-the-dead Menu and Hours might look like and how it might be more sustainable this time around
– Handled some very adult financial planning stuff
– Re-launched Consuming Louisville
– Horrible decision by a panel of judges lets Kentucky pretend I’m not married for the foreseeable future

December
– With my time at ThinkUp done started looking for either a full time gig or to get back into freelancing full time (ThinkUp was always part time so I was still rocking the freelance hustle all year). At the moment I’m leaning more toward the former. I have a good offer I think I’m going to take.
– Celebrated the 6th night of Hanukkah with the Jewish residents of a nursing home/long term care facility
– Did a lot of baking
– My dad was briefly hospitalized for a heart procedure

Music Consumption

I use Rdio to listen to music about 90% of the time so their stats are the most revealing about my music habits for the year.

According to Rdio Matisyahu was the artist I listened to most while the album I listened to most in 2014 was actually released in 2011: Drake’s Take Care.

The songs I listened to most are in this embedded playlist.

The top 10 songs I listened to are:

  1. Over My Dead Body by Drake
  2. Welcome Home by Radical Face
  3. Elastic Heart by Sia
  4. Can’t Pretend by Tom Odell
  5. Started From The Bottom by Drake
  6. Everything Trying by Damien Jurado
  7. Cover Me Up by Jason Isbell
  8. I Wanna Get Better by Bleachers
  9. I Go To Sleep by Sia
  10. The Man by Aloe Blacc

Albums I purchased from iTunes or from Amazon this year:
A Love Like Ours by Dominique Toney
Black Messiah by D’Angelo
My Favourite Faded Fantasy by Damien Rice
Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone by Lucinda Williams
Akeda by Matisyahu

Movies/TV

I get so frustrated with the movie theater experience these days we nearly always watch movies at home. We did recently see Exodus: Gods and Kings in the theater but that was because it was a fundraiser for the Hebrew school that started at 9:45am. With Hebrew school teachers and rabbis in the audience I knew everybody was going to be on their best behavior (and they were!).

I can’t remember all the movies we rented at home this year and didn’t keep a list. I’ll do better in 2015.

My favorite new tv shows of 2014 are Jane the Virgin and Black-ish. The Shonda Rhimes Thursday night lineup of Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder held onto my affection.

Books

This year I re-read the Michael Chabon books that I love (Wonder Boys, The Yiddish Policeman’s Union) and still love them very much.

I read a lot this year, not as much as I’d like but a lot. Of all the books I read (I’ll keep better count next year) my ten favorites were:

Station Eleven
Emily St. John Mandel

Wolf in White Van
John Darnielle

Shotgun Lovesongs
Nickolas Butler

The Martian
Andy Weir

The Mathematicians Shiva
Stuart Rojstaczer

The Rosie Project
Graeme Simsion

The Children Act
Ian McEwan

The Marrying of Chani Kaufman
Eve Harris

The Rise and Fall of Great Powers
Tom Rachman

Redshirts
John Scalzi