On Sunday my Oma passed away. The more I think about her, the more I have to say. So I figured what better way for a writer to process than to write it out. This is gonna get a little long, so buckle up.

Growing up my joke was that while all my cousins lived within three hours of Oma and Opa, I was a three-hour plane ride. There were obvious downsides to being the one that didn’t live in easy driving distance, but there were unexpected upsides as well. When they came to visit, I got them all to myself, and even as a child I talked to Oma on the phone more than I saw her in person.

In the early 2000s when my parents moved halfway around the world, my Mother and I made a deal. I might not always be able to call her, but I had to call Oma instead. So began a many years tradition of weekly phone calls with Oma. For almost a decade Oma and I talked on the phone 3 to 4 times a month. So here, in somewhat chronological order, are my favourite of Oma’s phone stories.

My Oma was born in 1925 in Holland to a large family. To help support her family, she left school at 14. At the time she didn’t have a bicycle so she rode on the back of her father’s bike to work each day. She was supposed to ride with one leg off each side of the bike, like riding a horse, but she was more comfortable with both legs on the same side. Each time they saw the police she had to pull her leg through so they wouldn’t get in trouble.

She and my Opa married, twice, when she was 24. They had to marry twice because in Holland church and state are separate and the government doesn’t recognize religious ceremonies. So they had a ceremony at, I think, city hall, and then a month later they were married in the church. I also married twice. Once legally in a Canadian courthouse and then in a more formal religious ceremony in Mexico a few weeks later.

When people ask about my two ceremonies, I tell them it is a family tradition to get married twice. May it bring me as many years of happiness as it brought my grandparents. They were happily married for 70 years!

A year after marrying Oma and Opa had their first child, my Mom. When I was pregnant with my son, Oma would tell me how jealous she was of ultrasounds and other technologies that let you know the baby was okay. I told her I was jealous of her midwife.

She had her first four children at home in Holland with a midwife. When she had my Mom, the midwife made Opa put blocks under the bed before my mom was born so it would be higher. That way it would be easier for him to take care of them. The midwife also made soup, so they would have food for after the baby came.

Oma said it was a stark contrast to when she had her fifth child, my Aunt. My Aunt was the first in our family to be born in Canada. “Nicole,” Oma said, “They made Opa leave the room each time they checked me under the sheet. It was nothing he hadn’t seen before. How did they think the baby got there!” She said that if she had had a sixth child she was going back to Holland. I don’t think I would blame her.

Oma and Opa came to Canada with their four small children when my Mom was 8. I can’t imagine coming to a country where you don’t speak the language. They didn’t expect to even see their homeland again, but they came to Canada to provide a better life for their children.

They traveled on a Holland America ship (My mother years later wrote to them to get the points, they gave them to her!). When they arrived the immigration woman who processed them asked Oma and Opa questions in English. Oma and Opa didn’t understand English and shook their heads. Then the woman tried french. Again Oma and Opa shook their heads. The woman tried french again, but this time she spoke very slowly. When Oma and Opa still didn’t understand, she gave a great huff, stamped all their paperwork, and shooed them along.

While I was learning to knit, I shared my excitement about this new skill with Oma. I didn’t realize at the time that she was also a knitter. We compared notes and I told her about a sweater pattern I was knitting. “I don’t use patterns,” she told me. She had a better grasp of garment construction than I did and knew when to increase and decrease by how things looked as she went. I would be lost without a pattern. I’m still impressed by that skill.

She also told me about (and later showed me) her knitting supply chest. It was a padded box a friend had made. It could be used as a stool but opened on top. She let me have some stitch holders and a few knitting needles that I still have tucked away with my knitting things.

I am my grandparents’ first granddaughter. I was also born on Oma’s birthday. When my mother called to tell my Oma that I had been born she didn’t get the response she expected. Oma told her to stop being ridiculous and to “put Bill on the phone.” She believed I was a girl, and that I was born on her birthday, but the idea that my mother could be calling so soon after birth was silly. My Dad assured her that I had arrived, was a girl, was indeed born on her birthday, and that the hospital had brought a phone right into the delivery room for them.

For years Oma and I have raced to call each other on our shared birthday. For a few years, she got sneaky and would call when I was at work, so she could win. Each time our conversation started the same way. “Happy Birthday.” “Happy birthday to you too.”

There are other great stories, and countless memories of time spent with Oma. But the thing I will miss the most is these phone calls. The stories she shared, the encouragement she gave, and the love she had will all be sorely missed.

Reflecting on 2018

At the beginning of 2018, I set some goals for myself. I’ve sort of condensed them below, so I can quickly reflect on what I got done and what I didn’t.

  1. Finish two quilts and two quilt tops
  2. Finish three cross-stitches
  3. Complete the second draft of my MG SciFi and submit to Critique Group at least six times
  4. Sort the basement storage room
  5. Deal with paper in the study and set up my desk in the study
  6. Weight train twice a week
  7. Cardio twice a week
  8. Flexibility two to three times a week
  9. Eat dinner as a family at least twice a week
  10. Facetime with SIL’s family once a month
  11. Boardgames with S and C at least 10 times

Numbers 1, 3, 7, 8, and 10 were a complete bust. I didn’t do any of them more than 2-3 times or for 2 months. In part, I’m sure that is because I set far too many goals last year. How can one person focus on all of those things for a whole year? I’m sure I went into it thinking I would knock several things out early and then pick up with the next things, but that just didn’t happen.

I accomplished 5 and 11. As for the rest: I finished two of the three cross stitches I set out to do (2). We made real progress in the basement storage area, but there is still some work to do (4). I have been weight training twice a week since Sept 1st (6) and feel confident I will continue to do so for this year. The eating dinner as a family (9) is something I have made a priority off and on through the year.

I wish I had accomplished more of the things I set out to do last year, but I also feel I learned a lot from failing. Next year I need to simplify my goals. I need to focus on just a few things. If my list is too long, it will overwhelm me, not encourage me to pick a few things off so I can work on the rest.

How did 2018 go for you? Did you get any big things off your goals list?

2018 in Review

Total number of blog posts: 14

Top five posts by views (none of these were posted this year):


I had visitors from around the world. People from 40(!) countries came to my little corner of the web. The top five were: the US, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and the Philippines.

Highest Activity Month: 

November was the most active month on my blog. That isn’t a big surprise since I posted nine of my fourteen posts in November.

NaNoWriMo – Day 22-24

At the end of day 21 I was at 46,300 words. I told everyone I wanted to finish on the 23rd, but really I was aiming for the 22nd. Why don’t we see how I did?

Day 22 – Goal 3,700 (cumulative 50,000)
This was a big goal for a workday. It had to be one of those days where if I was able to write, I needed to be writing. No excuses or fiddling around. It was deadline day.

On the way into work in the morning, I managed to get about 200 words. A not bad start. Over lunch, I was hoping to get up to 1,700. That would still leave me with 2,000 words after work, but I could manage that. I didn’t quite make it, but I was at something like 1,400 when I got home.

My husband and son decided to go climbing in the evening which gave me two hours to write by myself. I got another 1,600.

When I made it back to writing at around 9 pm I had about 700 words to go. I updated my word count and now I had friends cheering me on. I HAD to finish before I could go to bed. The first 500 words of that 700 went quickly. Then it really slowed down, I was checking my count every 30 words. BUT! I made it. When I hit 50,007 I did the validation on the NaNo site and came in at 50,005. I’d won my twelfth NaNo! Actual – 50,005

Day 23 – Goal write something
I only wrote a little bit on the 23rd. I got 400 words for the day, but it was nice to write because I wanted to, not because I had to. Of course, I forgot to update my word count on the 23rd and had to do it on the 24th when I remembered. At least you can update individual days now on the site!

Day 24 – I wrote nothing
What more can I say? I didn’t write a word. It felt kind of nice actually.

I have won NaNoWriMo for another year. Not my fastest or smoothest finish. I didn’t have my biggest word day ever (but I have a goal for that). It was an inconsistent year filled with good and bad days.  The last few years when I’ve finished NaNo I’ve thought, maybe I’ll take next year off. So far I’m not feeling that way, but we’ll see what happens next November.

If you haven’t finished yet, good luck and keep writing. If you have finished, congratulations!

NaNoWriMo – Day 19-21

Day 19 – Goal 2,000 (cumulative 43,000)
It was the first day after the retreat. I thought 2,000 wouldn’t be too much of a stretch. I came close with 1,800 words. There really isn’t much to say about this day. I wrote on the bus on the way into work, and when I got home I sat down and got it done. Actual – 42,800

Day 20 – Goal 2,150 (cumulative 45,000)
I knew I wanted to Tuesday at 45,000. My plan was to only have about 2,000 words, but I had to make up the extra from the previous day as well. It turned out to be a good writing day. I got some words in the morning on the bus, then I got a few in the afternoon during lunch. Tuesdays are fairly low key, so I was able to get a fair amount written without it feeling rushed. Actual – 45,000

Day 21 – Goal 2,500 (cumulative 47,500)
If I am being honest, I knew 2,500 was going to be tough. I had a lot to do, and I didn’t sit down and get words over the lunch hour. That was my big mistake. After work, I needed to write up a grocery list, deal with dinner, and I had gymnastics in the evening. After gymnastics, I didn’t have the energy to get many words. I didn’t even par for the day. I was disappointed, but sometimes things don’t go as planned. Actual – 46,300

How is your month going so far? Is NaNo what you expected it to be?

NaNoWriMo – Day 16-18

For the last three years, my group of writing friends has gone on a writing retreat for one weekend each November. We work on getting caught up or ahead on our NaNo word counts, catch up with each other’s lives, and generally have a really good time. The focus is on writing and we have quiet hours to encourage productivity, but we also tend to eat meals together and take breaks to laugh and enjoy ourselves.

My Goal for the writing retreat was to leave on Sunday with 40,000 words in the bank.

Day 16 – Goal 2,800 (cumulative 31,667)
Going into the retreat I was a bit behind what I wanted. I had hoped to be at 30k before leaving and I didn’t quite make it. I did get close though with some words written at work over lunch and on the bus. We also made decent time getting to the retreat and I had more time to write after we arrived than I expected. Overall it was a productive day and I was happy with where I finished the day off. With a 5,000 word day on Saturday and a double day on Sunday, I was on my way to 40k before heading home. Actual – 31,700

Day 17 – Goal 5,000 (36,667)
Saturday is always the biggest word day at the retreat. It is our only full day and we tend to have a good amount of quiet hours. I wanted a minimum of 5,000 words but was hoping for more like 6,000. In the end, I got about 6,500. The real story of the day though was one of my friends got 8,500 and that is now my future one-day word goal! Actual – 38,400

Day 18 – Goal ~3,333 (41,667)
On Sunday at the retreat we spend the morning writing, the early afternoon packing up and cleaning, and the late afternoon getting home. I knew I wanted to have 40k before I left the retreat. That meant I needed ~1,600 in the morning quiet hours. Once I had those words I helped clean up and went out to spend a bit of time at the end of the boardwalk looking out over the ocean. It was beautiful and I’m glad I had that 20 minutes to recharge. At home, I managed another 1,000 words before bed. Actual – 41,000

Overall it was a successful retreat. I made my goal of 40,000 before leaving the writing retreat. I wrote almost 10,000 words while I was away for the weekend, which in some ways is less than I usually get, but was as much as I needed. I’m in good shape to get my 50k by Friday.

Are you where you wanted to be at this point in the month? How are you feeling about your chances of finishing 50,000 by the end of November?

NaNoWriMo – Day 13-15

At the end of Day 12, I was halfway at 25,000. My goal for days 13-15 was to make 1,667 each day. I wanted to keep my lead. Sounds simple enough right?

Day 13 – Goal 1,667 (Cumulative 26,667)
I didn’t have a lot going on this day. I didn’t write at lunch, which I have been trying to do. But I got a few hundred words on the way to work, so at least I wasn’t looking at starting from scratch in the evening. Things at home were busy and difficult, but I struggled through getting to my goal just before midnight. Actual – 26,667

Day 14 – Goal 1,667 (28,333)
Wednesdays are my gymnastics day. Once again I didn’t do enough writing at work to have much of a lead going into the evening. I’m out of lunch writing practice and I need to do better. It was a slow start, but once I got going I wrote the last 400ish words very quickly. I finished up a bit late again, but not as late as Tuesday. In the end, I even had about a hundred extra words. Actual – 28,450

Day 15 – Goal 1,667 (30,000)
My pattern this year has been to get ahead, stay ahead for a few days and then have a really bad day with only a few hundred words that eats up my lead. I was determined to break the pattern. I didn’t succeed. I wrote a few hundred words on my way to work, and thought I would write more at lunch … but I forgot we had a retirement lunch for my old boss. Then when I got home I had to make food for the writing retreat and pack my bags. I just had too much to get done, and I wasn’t able to hit the keyboard again. I have had too many tiny word could days this year. Actual – 28,800

I really wanted to have 30,000 words before heading off on the writing retreat. I might still get it before leaving the city, but with the poor weather who knows how many words I’ll get tonight. I guess we’ll see in my next update how things went.

Do you have any big writing events planned this month? Is your family still feeling supportive of your writing efforts halfway through the month?

NaNoWriMo – Day 10-12

At the end of Day 9, I had lost my lead but was still sitting at par. My goal for these three days was to get three days ahead. That means a double word day each day of the long weekend.

Day 10 – Goal 3,333 (Cumulative ~18,500)
This was the first day of a three day weekend. My goal for all three days was simple; get 3,333 each day. My husband took on a lot of the ‘extra’ stuff for me, and I was able to get a lot of writing time in. I got my first 2,000 words fairly quickly and easily, but then I hit a rough patch. It was a slog to get the next 1,000, but then I raced through the last 400 words. I finished the day with a little over my goal, putting me (once again) at one day ahead. Hopefully this time I will build on my lead instead of burning it up. Actual – 18,600

Day 11 – Goal 3,333 (~22,000)
A second double day felt like a tall order. Most years I have at least a few big word days (over 5,000). This year I seem to be getting a decent day of words followed shortly by a horrible day of words. I was determined to break the pattern. I had plans to go climbing in the afternoon, and I needed to get some laundry done, but the rest of the day was mine to write with. It was a slog, and I didn’t quite make it, but I wasn’t too far off. Actual – 21,100

Day 12 – Goal 3,900 (25,000)
I really wanted to be three days ahead by the end of the long weekend. Monday was a bit busier than I anticipated. My husband was at work and it was just my son and me at home. I broke the day into smaller goals. 500 words over breakfast, 1,000 before lunch, another 1,000 before dinner, and the rest after the kid was in bed. I came close on most of the goals and when I went to bed I had hit my goal for the end of the weekend. Actual – 25,000 halfway!

Are you starting to lag? or have you just hit your stride?


NaNoWriMo – Day 7-9

At the end of day 6, I was one day ahead of schedule.

Day 7 – Goal 1,667 (cumulative 13,333)
Wednesdays I have gymnastics, so I kept my goal to just a regular days worth of words. I made it with exactly 1,667. It was a decent day, and I continued to be one day ahead of the game. Actual – 13,333

Day 8 – Goal 2,000 (15,300)
Thursday nights I lift weights, but I don’t find that as disruptive as gymnastics. I figured I should be able to get a few more than a single days worth. As an added bonus, I had the house to myself so it would be nice and quiet. I came close with more than a usual day but didn’t make the full 2,000 I was shooting for. I just couldn’t get that final push to meet my goal for the day. Actual – 15,100

Day 9 – Goal 2,000 (16,100)
I wanted to keep working toward getting two days ahead. I knew I didn’t have a double day in me, but I figured I should be able to get par plus a few extra. Ya, I didn’t even come close. I was tired and lazy and only wrote 150 words. My lowest count so far. It has been a month of great word count days interspersed with miserable ones. This was a miserable one. Actual – 15,250

I’m at par overall, but I’ve lost the one day lead I had at the start of these three days. I guess for the next three days I’ll work first on getting one day ahead, then start pushing for two. It has been a bit of a roller coaster of a NaNo.

How are you doing so far? Have you had any miserable word count days?

NaNoWriMo – Day 4-6

When last we left off I was about 1,000 words behind at the end of day 3. In short, things were not going well. I’m not worried yet though. Here is how days 4-6 played out.

Day 4 – Goal 5,000 words (cumulative 9,050)
Five thousand words might sound like a lot, but I always have at least a few 5,000 word days during Nano. I figured if I could get one in early, then I could get a good buffer of words going. I did have a good writing day, but I also had a lot of distractions. I managed to get 3,500 words and I was ahead at the end of the day by about 1,300. I went to bed feeling better about this whole NaNoWriMo thing. Actual – 7,600

Day 5 – Goal ~2,400 words (10,000)
If I hit 2,400 words, I would be one full day ahead. That would give me a lot more leeway going forward when bad days happen. On my way to work, I wrote a little over 250 words, and I was feeling good about the rest of the day. Unfortunately, I had another frustrating personal day on Monday and only wrote a total of 800 words. I was still at par with 8,400, but I certainly wasn’t ahead by as much as I would have liked. Actual – 8,400

Day 6 – Goal ~3,250 words (11,667)
My goal for the day was 3,250. I still haven’t given up on getting at least one day ahead. At a minimum, I vowed not to fall behind. I wrote a little bit at lunch getting around 400 words. After work, I had friends over for weight lifting (it was my night off, but I helped keep track of sets). Once they headed out I really got down to business. I finished the day with almost exactly 3,250 words. Finally, I made my word count for a day! Actual – 11,666

How is your NaNoWriMo going? Are you ahead or behind?