Without going into detail, 2012 was a shitty year for me, especially the second half. But there's nothing like being in a children's hospital at Christmastime to call the cops on your pity party. So despite my urge to growl 'good riddance 2012' and never look back, I've been moved to count my blessings and focus on the top 10 highs, delights and warm fuzzies of the past year before happily seeing it out the door.
1. Peanut finally had the surgery to correct a birth difference for which we've been on a waiting list for nearly two years. Welcome to socialized medicine. It was free, but really at the outer limits of the age it should ideally be done. At any rate, thank goddess the surgery went well and recovery is, though painfully slow (in every sense - my poor bear), getting easier every day. Plus, I cannot stress enough how incredibly lucky we are to live near one of the best children's hospitals in Europe. Everything about our experience at Meyer--the facilities, the care, the staff--was absolutely top-notch.
2. One of the best things that happened to me this year was getting to interview and then hang out with Vladimir ("Vladi") Luxuria, the Italian transgender activist, writer, former MP, TV personality and all-around household name. What a delightful paradox she presents with her amazing success in a country that can be so punishing to its LGBT folks. I interviewed her for a story I wrote for Maclean's magazine, The perils of being LGBT in Italy. Then I invited her to give a lecture at Syracuse University, where I work. Not only did she totally inspire me with her rocking talk, but I got to have dinner with her after and discover that she is kind, funny and down-to-earth. And incidentally, just striking in person.
3. The reason I even had the chance to interview Luxuria in the first place was because I had the name of Canada's national news magazine, Maclean's, behind me. I left the magazine, where I had been working as the editorial assistant, four years ago to move back to Italy for love, and with the plan to pitch stories about Italy to my ex-colleagues. For various reasons, that didn't happen. Until, that is, this year. Writing for Maclean's again has filled me with so much excitement, and has made up for so much that has gone wrong this year, that it's been fairly killing me not to have more time to devote to it. Here's hoping that changes in 2013.
4. For whatever reason I got my writing groove back in a major way this year and also launched this here blog, following nearly four months of work to get it online. I'm especially grateful to Kate Hash for her precious, painstaking work to help me get here. For web design and blogging advice, I cannot recommend her warmly enough. Many thanks also to Sarah Bairstow, who designed my logo and whom I hope to see back online where she shines; and Emiko Davies for giving me permission to use her gorgeous photo of me and Peanut. Watch out for big things here in 2013!
5. Numbers 3 and 4 helped me achieve another 2012 highlight: connecting with my blogging hero Andie Fox of blue milk. First I got to chat with her over the phone for this article about feminist mummy bloggers and working-mum heroine/Berlusconi papi girl Licia Ronzulli. That's when we agreed it would be lovely to have a glass of wine together one day if ever I'm in Australia or she gets over to Italy. Later in the year her praise for this blog made my heart sing -- what's better than getting props from someone you ardently admire?
6. In July I spent the first weekend away from Peanut since he was born (i.e. the first time in 23 months) to visit a close friend in Berlin. Before that, we had only ever spent one night apart, when Andrea and I slipped away and left Peanut with his nonna, and it did not go well. It went so badly in fact that when we asked my MIL to do it again a few months later, she categorically refused. Yet somehow, against all odds, this weekend apart could not have gone better. Peanut slept through the night for the first time in months and never asked for me once. I completely disconnected from motherhood to relive earlier freer days and relax to the max: spending a whole morning at the gym, eating amazing ethnic food, talking for hours, drinking, dancing. It was an absolute ball and totally recharged my batteries. I feel so lucky to be able to truly shut the mom-brain off -- I know it's not so easy for everyone.
7. In a similar vein, our one-week family vacation on the sea in Rimini in August was such a pleasant surprise. I will frankly admit to a snobbery that had prevented me from ever wanting to venture there before. But a combination of low funds and child-related needs led us to discover why thousands of families flock there each summer. Located in the region of Emilia Romagna, the "gastro-erotic heart" of Italy, Rimini is justifiably renowned for how it caters to both clubbers and kids. It's the largest seaside resort in Europe, packed with row upon row of bagni (beach clubs) that, despite miniscule details to set them apart, are practically indistinguishable. As are the hotels all situated steps away. This mass-market approach to holiday-making is exactly why I avoided it for so long, but it turns out to be a pretty great recipe for a fun family vacation. And oh, the food. We stayed in a typical all-inclusive, the Hotel Plaza, where the meals and service were stellar. I didn't think it was possible to have a relaxing and truly enjoyable vacation with a two-year-old, but Rimini proved me wrong.
8. After more money than I care to mention and a ridiculous amount of hours spent studying and practicing, I FINALLY got my Italian driver's license. I probably should not get started about how absolutely RIDICULOUS it is that I had to go through all that after already having a (Canadian) license for more than 20 years when people from Morocco or Taiwan or Great Britain (where they drive on the other side of the road) can simply just convert their licenses. I suppose now that it's done I can forget about how bloody angry the whole thing made me. Maybe.
9. Three years after Simone Cinotto and I first embarked on the translation of his book, Soft Soil, Black Grapes: the Birth of Italian Winemaking in California, it is finally in print, and it's gorgeous! Published by NYU Press, it delves into the fascinating history of Piedmontese winemakers in the sunshine state and examines how Prohibition played a key role in bringing Italian wine into the homes of millions. The thrill of having my name associated with a big-name publisher for the first time makes up for the fact that they spelled my name wrong in the credits. Twice. At least Simone got it right in his kind acknowledgements. It was a long time coming, and it feels great.
10. For the first time in ten years of Italian living, I finally introduced a beloved family tradition to my new home: celebrating Ukrainian Christmas. Last January I cooked all the major dishes--even handmade pierogies!--for 10 people. It was also the first time I'd ever cooked it all by myself--I'd only ever sous-chefed for my mum and then my brother. I'm referring of course to the Orthodox holiday celebrated on January 6 that many Canadians simply refer to as Ukrainian Christmas. And as Colby Cosh says in this great article about this quirky Canadian phenomenon, "you don’t have to be Ukrainian to participate in Ukrainian Christmas."