January was pretty uneventful, but went out with a blast of icy air, covering much of the midwest in ice and causing my office to shut down for an unprecedented two straight days at the beginning of February.
Jen, Amy and I pulled off a Semi-Feral Mercy "Trouble Comes In Threes" concert when Barry and Sally were unable to attend Capricon after Barry's mom passed away. Drummer turned seven, Thunder turned nine, I acquired a foster English Setter named Trevor (who turned out to have heartworms), all the cats were healthy, and I started Naturalist training at the Indianapolis Zoo. The month ended with yet another Weather Event... flooding so bad that multiple roads were closed and yet another round in the game of Let's Dry Out The Basement.
March started with more Naturalist training and then an assignment to the Forests Biome at the zoo. Since Forests was getting a new bat exhibit and a completely revamped tiger exhibit, I was thrilled with the assignment! On March 17th, a really big dairy barn down the road from me burned down, which caused me to look for info on the local volunteer fire department on the web, which led to the discovery that their site hadn't been updated since 2007, which led to both the best and worst things to happen to me in 2011. :-) More on that later, though. The new bat exhibit at the zoo opened on March 18, and the Flying Fox Bats have become some of my favorite zoo denizens. So adorable... and adorable is not a word I really expected to find myself applying to bats! The month ended with lots of band practice, getting ready for FKO, a quick trip to the emergency vet for Thunder (for what turned out to be just a really badly bruised leg), and then the mad dash to get packed for our caravan to Canada for Wild Mercy's Guest-of-Honor visit to FilkOntario.
The high point of an eventful April absolutely had to be Wild Mercy's concert at FKO. We always try to take our "A" Game when we're guesting at a convention, but guesting at an all-music-all-the-time convention requires extra care... polish... energy. We put a lot of thought into our set list, rehearsed a lot, even managed to rehearse with Amy (oh, the joys of living several states away from our favorite fiddler...), and then we absolutely nailed the concert. I think I floated through the rest of the month just on the energy from that weekend! In the middle of the month, I walked in my first Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, and after starting off w/ a modest $100 fundraising goal, I was thrilled when my friends and family chipped in for almost $700 in donations (a whole lot of which came from my filk family). On the work front, April was the month when font licensing started to dominate my life. Thank all the gods that we've just finally hired a person who'll be dedicated to managing the font library and licenses and I can keep what small sliver of my sanity remains.
May 1 was the day that, in a lot of ways, changed my life and started me on the path to feeling like I really belong in Frankton rather than just camping here between trips to Fishers/Indy/otherwhere. On May 1, I went to my first meeting w/ the Frankton Volunteer Fire Department and presented them w/ my proposed revamp of their website, and an offer to maintain it on a volunteer basis. Before I left the meeting, they'd discovered that I also take pictures (and have a journalism background), asked if I'd be interested in taking pictures for the department, and voted me in as a member so I could respond to incidents. The reason they had to vote me on before I could start responding was so that I'd be covered by the department's workers comp insurance. I had no idea at the time just how important that would become later in the year. Got to shoot my first FD training exercise at the training center in the middle of the month, which was my first opportunity to start getting to know the guys on the department. Also, my first trip to the training center, where there's a house inside a barn so it can be made dark and smoky for training. I got to know that house a whole lot better in upcoming months! In critter news, Trevor (the foster dog) spent the entire month of May on crate rest as part of his (ultimately successful) treatment for heartworms. The end of the month found Wild Mercy on the road again... this time over to Columbus to perform at Marcon. I was also helping out on art show security with the Dorsai, so I spent the con bouncing between my security duties and the filk room. I think I may have slept once. Maybe. Oh... along the way I finished the conversion of the FD's website and the new site went live. W00t!
On June 2, a Toller puppy was born in Peterborough, ON. I'd been having conversations with the breeder which involved a lot of (very weak) protestations of "But I don't need a puppy right now. I can't afford another mouth to feed!" followed by the reminder that "But he's a Nick baby. You lurve Nick. He's the most Nick-like puppeh EVAR!" Somewhere along the way, I stopped protesting and started puppy-proofing the house. :-) Also in early June, we had an extremely busy couple of days at the fire department, as a series of storms rolled through town, the power went out, and then a store on main street caught fire. It was my first fire, and it was a big one. We were on scene for something like 14 hours, I shot a couple hundred pictures, and I spent a lot of time talking to the guys about fire behavior (thankfully, they like explaining!) and realizing just how complicated firefighting can be. Then, in the middle of the month, I realized just how much FVFD was changing my life when I found myself driving pell-mell towards a large anhydrous ammonia spill and being upset that the bulk of the vapor cloud was gone before I could get there with the camera. Most sane people run away from these things... not towards them! Busy month. Lots of time spent getting to know the other FVFD members and coming to the realization that, after living in Frankton for three years, I finally actually know people in town and have friends and ties to the community. Very cool.
Which brings us to halfway through the year...
July was a busy month. I picked up the Beetle from one mechanic, with $2000-worth of new turbo in it, and drove it down south of Indy and dropped it off w/ a different mechanic for fine-tuning. Turbo diesels are weird little beasts, and its timing wasn't happy, so it went off to see the specialist, who discovered that at least part of its problem was that the VW dealership who did my timing belt change (right after I bought the car) did a really piss-poor job of it. So there went another $800 into a new timing belt so he could actually adjust it properly. Sadly, even that didn't solve the cute little car's problems. It runs smoothly and doesn't smoke, but it's still not generating power. Hmph. I got it back long enough to make the trip to Canada to pick up Petey, but it made for very boring driving as it just had no get-up-and-go. But at 40+ miles to the gallon, boring and cheap beat driving the 15-mpg Trooper that far, so I coped. :-) Went to Canada with an empty car, spent a few days getting to know all the puppies and spending time with Kristina (the puppies' breeder), and ultimately came home w/ the most Nick-like puppy boy, eventually named Florence Grove Swampwater Cove, call-name of Petey, or Pirate Pete, or occasionally Smee. The naming of dogs is an interesting game... Kristina's kennel name is Florence Grove, and I've used Swampwater on all my Tollers (even though I don't breed, so it's technically not a kennel name). You only get 30 characters for the full name and I'd tied up 25 of those with Florence Grove and Swampwater. She wanted a Newfoundland theme for the names, if possible, so a long process of playing with ideas led to the discovery that there was a famous pirate from Newfoundland named Peter Easton, and since pirate ships frequently lurk in coves, the name came together. Originally I was going to call him Easton, but he's so not serious enough to be an Easton. So he's mostly Petey (though everybody was entertained by the possibility of Smee as a call name for a pirate puppy, so he'll occasionally be Smee just to confuse folks). And coming home with Pete, and his daddy Nick (who's visiting with me for awhile), was the best thing that happened to me in July. There were a few other notable events during the month, though... I took (and passed!) my HazMat Awareness and HazMat Operations certification classes and started Firefighter Mandatory training, which is exactly what it sounds like... the first big mandatory training for people who want to be certified as firefighters. Originally, I was gonna go take pictures and kind of audit the class, 'cause the more I know the better job I can do with the pictures, right? But the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to really be able to be useful, and that seemed to require certification, so suddenly I found myself getting much better acquainted with that training center mentioned a bit farther up the page. Training was hard work, but fun... We were a class of four: me and one other guy who's a few years younger than me, and two guys who are barely old enough to qualify for training. Boy did I feel old. And out of shape. Oof. It was good incentive, though... it got me back into a physical training program for the first time in quite a while. Oh, and in the middle of all that? Wild Mercy trekked over to Pittsburgh to concertize at Confluence (where I once again pulled double duty by working security with the Dorsai... I have fun with those guys, so I seldom pass up an opportunity to work, even if it does lead to some bizarre scheduling antics when coordinating security and filk schedules. :-)). Randy runs a nice filk track and we had a lovely time... met several new-to-me filkers, which is always fun!
Shortly after getting back to the US w/ puppy and dad, we shoehorned me, Nick, Petey (in a crate), Jen and Maddie (in a car seat) all into the Beetle for a road trip to Chicago and Musecon. Nine-week-old Petey was a hit with children and adults alike, but especially with the Roper girls, and it was fabulous socialization for my gregarious puppy. August kinda went by in a blur... returned from Canada, went to firefighter class, went to Musecon, firefighter classes, worked security with the DI at IndyFurCon, more firefighter classes, took Nick to the Muncie dog shows, more firefighter classes, etcetera etcetera etcetera. All seemed busy-but-routine until I had a bit of an altercation with a fire hose during a search-and-rescue training exercise. That was August 27, and the best thing I can say about that day is that if you really must break an ankle, doing it with a dozen firefighters and several EMTs all within shouting distance really is the best-case scenario.
September 1 was ankle surgery day. Three weeks before my birthday (one of those fancy ones ending in a zero), and I was having my first-ever surgery to fix my first-ever broken bone. Ouch. In the days between the fall and the surgery, I spent a lot of time panicking (and drugged) and my friends rallied 'round and did all the Stuff that was necessary in order for me to get through surgery and recuperation. Facebook proved to be incredibly useful, and people came out of the woodwork to help. Bed got moved upstairs from the basement and the living room turned into recovery central. Five dogs got carted off to boarding (my puppy... in his formative months... off to live with relative strangers *sigh*). People drove me to and from surgery, stayed with me for several days, then visited regularly for a couple of weeks to help w/ all the things that are anywhere from hard to impossible to do when one is supposed to be non-weight-bearing on one leg. I am so incredibly thankful for the friends who convinced Ms. Independent Me that it's okay to ask for (and accept) help when something like this happens. Without them, I have no idea how I would have gotten through the next month. Spent three weeks off work (yay for short-term disability at 100% pay!! Oh, and remember that whole "voted onto the department" thing? My emergency room visit, ortho visit, surgery, follow-up appointments and eight weeks of three-times-a-week physical therapy were all covered by workers comp. No deductibles. No copays. Just covered. I never even saw the bills.) and then got my orthopedist to agree that I could go back as long as I stayed non-weight-bearing, because after three weeks at home, I was going stir-crazy. Rented a nifty KneeWalker scooter which is OMG.So.Much.Better than crutches. Three weeks post-break, I was driving again and managed to go hang out at the fire department's booth at Frankton Heritage Days for the weekend. So good to be out w/ people! Various department members (and their kids) fetched and carried for me so I didn't have to try to navigate the festival grounds, and at one point I found myself alone in our booth with one of the guys who'd been with me when I broke my ankle. He was the first one to actually ask... "So... when your ankle heals... are you still going to go for your certification?" I didn't hesitate because there was no question. I refuse to let a stupid 1 3/4" fire hose change my life, so hell yes I'm going to go back through the class and get certified! :-)
And hey, look... now we're up to October, I'm still in a cast (and non-weight-bearing) and Wild Mercy is set to be Guests of Honor at Conclave. If I hadn't been grateful for the KneeWalker already, I would have been after 'Clave. That was a big hotel. Lots of long long hallways. Sleeping spaces a very long way away from performance spaces. If I'd had to do that on crutches, I think I would have just curled up in a corner and cried. With the KneeWalker, it really wasn't too bad, and I managed to get around pretty well. Of course, it was hard to deal w/ the KneeWalker on stage, which led to me hopping or walking a bit once I was off the scooter and onto the stage. This led to Dr. Bob threatening to rat me out to my orthopedist, so I was more careful after that. Yes, yes, I do know the meaning of non-weight-bearing. I wasn't on it much. Really!! We had two concerts... the regular Wild Mercy concert, then the Biohazard Backing Band concert, where all of Wild Mercy plus Mary Crowell became the backing band for Seanan McGuire, who was there as author GOH. Did we have fun? Why yes! Yes we did!! And I must not have done any damage to the ankle in the occasional bits of standing/walking on stage, 'cause right after we got back from 'Clave, I got my cast off! The rest of October was mostly a blur of physical therapy appointments, bringing dogs home from boarding, a very fast Friday round-trip to OVFF w/ Jen, and a joint concert w/ Il Troubadore for Halloween. Yeah... busy month, that October.
November was blessedly quiet, at least compared to the few months that came before it. Ft. Wayne dog shows with Nick (and Petey, who was just there to get used to the environment)... A day-trip to Chicago for lunch with the Ropers and a Capricon concom meeting... a bunch of physical therapy... some paperwork to get Petey registered with the AKC (I think that means my puppy has dual citizenship now, as he came with CKC registration :-))... Thanksgiving with friends... and back to volunteering at the zoo for the first time since the ankle incident, working as a firepit tender at Christmas at the Zoo.
December was, well, December. More shifts at Christmas at the Zoo... helping to organize the department holiday party at work... the fire department Christmas party... my annual Oh-Crap moment with the Trooper and replacement of the alternator (where, thankfully, my fire department mechanic friend may have found and cured the underlying cause of my ongoing alternator problems!!)... Petey's First Dog Show at the Chicago Christmas Cluster (neither he nor Nick got any points, but it was a good show anyway)... Winter Solstice Celebration with the UUI choir, first at UUI on Friday and then at the Indiana Women's Prison on Saturday... shopping... then rounding things out with 10 days off work wherein I could just stay home (it was wonderful!!) instead of travelling, followed by Christmas with the family via Skype.
So yeah... eventful year, and one that I could look back on and find a lot of negatives, but instead I look back and realize that I have amazing friends (both new and old), I have challenging volunteer opportunities that I enjoy and which get me out of my house and interacting with people, I've got four healthy dogs (counting the visiting Nick) and four healthy cats, and I got to spend the year making really incredible music with Wild Mercy. So I'll count 2011 as a win for me and challenge 2012 to be even better for all of us!