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Here in Australia, it’s New Year’s Eve 2013.  To say that 2013 has been a big year for me is an understatement.  It’s been huge!  It’s probably been the best year I’ve had in 20 years or more.  I’ll try to remember everything that has happened to me this year to give you a rundown of my 2013.  ..

I started 2013 off with a highlight and something crossed off the bucket list.  I’d always wanted to see the New Year in looking over Sydney Harbour.  Now, at heart, I’m a Victorian and  Melbourne is still my favourite city in Australia, but you cannot beat Sydney Harbour for beauty and spectacle, especially when there are major events happening.  It is simply stunning.  Being out on a ferry sailing under the Harbour Bridge or past the Opera House  is a sight for sore eyes and one I never get sick of seeing.

So imagine how excited I was to get an invitation to a New Year’s Eve party from an old friend whose apartment overlooked the Harbour.  Lachlan knew someone who lived nearby, and as he was celebrating the dawn of 2013 there, I was able to stay there too which made the night easy to organise.  You have no idea how thrilled I was to watch the Harbour light up on the stroke of midnight.  Thanks to Mark for making one of my dreams come true.

My friend Annie came up for a week and we got to spend some time wandering around which was fantastic too. We just chilled most of the time but we spent some time with Cecile in Sydney, playing tourist.  Like most people, you don’t explore your own backyard until you get visitors so it was a great excuse to go and do the things we so often overlook.

My niece, who had suffered a brain anuerism and wasn’t given a good prognosis at the end of 2012, was starting to speak and recognise people, so the year was already looking like a good one.  Later in January, I was in the running to be Star Now magazine’s Blogger of the Year and with many thanks to so many of you, as well as friends and family, I won the award.  Pretty thrilling all in all considering how new I was at this whole blogging game.

Come February, I started at TAFE, studying photography.  Now while I’ve always loved taking photographs, using a DSLR really tested my perseverance but I have met some of the loveliest people including one who has since become my adopted daughter.  If I never learned anything from the course (which I have), I have still come out of this experience a much richer person for having these people in my life.. They are talented, funny, smart, generous and most importantly, my friends.

On Valentine’s Day,  I watched my niece who I mentioned previously, walk down the aisle as matron of honor at her sister’s wedding.  What an amazing sight that was.  I don’t think there was a dry eye in the place knowing how close to losing her we had come.

March brought a huge heartache.   I lost my little dog Bobby.. I was shattered.  Yes he was 15 and so ready to go to that big soft squishy dog bed in the sky but it still broke my heart.   He had been my faithful companion and although he started out as my sons’ dog, he ended up being my baby.  I never thought an animal could break my heart quite as badly as he did.

April I just plodded along.. I was finally starting to learn  how to use my camera and took a few shots that I was completely wrapped in.  It’s the little victories that keep you going in life I think.  Nothing huge, but finally getting a photograph that I could be proud to display that had been taken on manual settings.  Yes…. achievement!

May….. well this is notoriously my worst month.. I celebrate my daughter  Aimee’s birthday on 1st May although she is in heaven… Then mid May is Mother’s Day (here in Australia at least) and I so miss my Mum still.  Then at the end of May is the anniversary of Aimee’s death.  It is the time of year I always tend to fall in a hole and don’t want to come out of the self pity and grief I’m feeling. Well this year, I started the month off with the news that I had won another award for my blog.. This time (on Aimee’s birthday no less) I was awarded the “Most Outstanding Advocacy Blog” from the Australian Writer’s Centre.  Of everything I have ever written in my life, this particular blog was the most personal and hardest thing I’ve ever written, yet also what I was proudest of. It was completely fitting that I should win an award for a story based on her, on her birthday.

I also did my very first night shoot in May… and was thrilled with the result.. I spent a weekend at Mt Wilson with some friends from TAFE which was a fantastic experience.. May was a GOOD month.. such a nice change from sadness.

In June I  was  busy getting the last of my work ready to be handed in for TAFE so didn’t get a huge amount of much except that done.. Of course, the fact that I broke my ankle on a TAFE excursion really didn’t help with achieving much but still, the sense of achievement when I finally handed in the last of the work and passed everything was sensational.  Cert IV in Photo Imaging is now mine.. It was a full on 6 months.. but a very worthwhile one.. Oh and I enrolled to go back and do Diploma of Photo Imaging.. I think the sweet smell of Cert IV somehow blinded me to the pitfalls of going back to study when you’re 52 and I had my rose colored glasses on.. A bit like childbirth. Afterwards all is rosy and you think you enjoyed it.. till it all starts again the next time.. then your memory comes flooding back.

July… ahhhh another thing ticked off my bucket list.. I went to Alice Springs.  I’ve always wanted to see Uluru (or Ayres Rock) but have never managed to get there.  When my cousin phoned me to say she was going with her brother and his wife and would i like to come.. I answered before she had a chance to draw breath.. So July was spent travelling with the cousins (to visit their sister who lives in the Alice) and I had an absolute ball.  It was more than seeing these places, it was spending time with my oldest friends (my cousins) …. And I have to tell you, Uluru is a magical place. If you’ve never been, you really want to go.. You can feel the past generations as you walk around it.  Brilliant!!

July also heralded a new addition to the family.. While I was away, Lachlan met a gorgeous girl called Jenna and she was welcomed with open arms.. It was such a pleasure to come back and see the smile on my son’s face.. Both my sons are happy and have met the partners who are just perfect for them. They adore their princesses and the feeling is obviously very mutual.  I’m one happy mother nowadays..

July/August saw yet another of my dreams come true with being asked to write the copy for a booklet that was coming out in conjunction with an exhibition of photography I was involved with.  Yes folks, I am a published author.  Nothing huge, but it was a great honor to not just be asked to write it but be paid to do so.  Around this time I was also asked by some companies to be allowed to advertise on my blog.  For years I’ve wandered around jobs not really knowing where I belonged. Between photography and writing, I feel I’ve finally found my niche and damn it feels good.

My birthday month heralded another new addition to our family…. My beautiful little pink car, Meeai.. For Meeai Mirage and myself, it was love at first sight.  We travel lots of places together and I even bought a pink handbag to match her.. She’s so special. Driving her out of the showroom was a huge buzz.  She was named Meeai as it is a derivative of Aimee’s name and I wanted her to be part of my travels with Meeai.

September.. ahhhh.. wedding bells are in the air.  Yes, my beautiful baby boy watched his gorgeous bride walk down the aisle towards him, on the arm of her proud  Dad.  I spent the first part of the month looking for a dress to wear, the middle was the wedding and all the travels involved with that.. then the end of the month was spent winding down from it lol.  It was such a beautiful wedding and a very special moment in my life.

I also got to be a guest on the Tall Ships during the Naval Fleet Review.. Wow, what an experience.  A sunset cruise with food and champagne supplied.  I took Kirsty with me and we had a fantastic night.  A very special night indeed.

October saw me wipe even more things off the bucket list.. I got a passport. Yes I had reached the ripe old age of 52 and never had a passport.. Needless to say, I’d never been overseas.  So with my good friend Cecile, I headed over to China.  Unfortunately, the Blue Mountains was on fire the whole time we were over there which put a huge dampener on the trip for us as we worried about our families at home.  But, I was thrilled that I had finally headed overseas, I climbed the Great Wall of China and I had a fantastic time doing it.  I met lovely people while I was there and I came home feeling like a million dollars.. or at least wishing I had a million dollars so I could keep exploring the world.  I also ran my very first photo booth for a fantastic organisation  ARCAN.  Have a read of the work they do.  It was a fantastic fun night and I had an absolute ball doing it.

November………so in amongst putting the finishing touches to the first semester of Diploma I also had my very first exhibition.  I had been working on it earlier in the year and the time had come to see it all fall into place with lots of help from the Penrith City Council and some amazing TAFE staff. It was really daunting to see people walking around looking at and commenting on your work but also a huge thrill.  As it happens, I sold a photo from the exhibition so I was delighted to know I’d sold my first photograph.  Then to really top it off, I won People’s Choice in a local camera shop’s photo competition.  Not a massive deal to some people I guess,  but it just felt like a pat on the back for the effort that I’ve put in this year.

So here we are in December.. almost at the end in fact.  TAFE is finished again until February.  Last week, just before Christmas I got a beautiful surprise. My youngest son Stuart knocked at the door unexpectedly.  I love that he is happy but I hate that he lives so far away from me.  So it was the greatest surprise to see him at the door.  He went home Christmas Eve but the 2 days he was here were just gorgeous. Lachlan and Jenna are shifting in together which I think is wonderful.  It’s their time.

We had Christmas dinner at Jenna’s family’s house and it was such a great day. I was exceptionally spoiled this year with lots of fantastic presents.  Life keeps changing but now that I’ve stopped fighting the changes it seems to get so much better on a daily basis. I have another six months to go to finish my Diploma.. In March I’m heading to Ireland.. This, next to having children, has been my greatest desire all my life.  I don’t ever remember not wanting to go there and now I finally am.  I got a new camera for Christmas, so tomorrow night I’m heading down to Kiama to take some photos and more importantly, see the new year in with dear friends.

All in all, this year has been fantastic for me.  I’ve gained 3 girls in my life, Sarah, Jenna & Kirsty, all of who I adore.  We females are finally in the majority again lol.  I’ve fallen in love with photography all over again and my writing still feeds my soul.  I have fantastic friends who “fill my glitter pouch” every time my  joy is depleted.   I have been very blessed.

I know life hasn’t been all beer and skittles for many of my friends and family.  My sister in law has been fighting cancer (and she’s winning the fight).  Friends have lost loved ones.  Depression plagues so many people I know.  Sadly, sometimes bad stuff happens to good people.  But I hope all of my friends and family (including all my Blogging friends) have a wonderful New Year’s Eve and that 2014 brings with it, love, laughter and happiness to you all.  I hope to see everyone back bigger and better in 2014.  I believe it’s going to be even better for me than this year has been.  I truly hope it is as wonderful for you too.

Whatever you have planned, please stay safe.  I’ve made a  slideshow of My 2013 which shows the highlights (and some not so high stuff) of the year… Farewell to 2013….

Happy New Year 2014 ……Livvy 🙂

Happy New Year 2014