New Year 2017

By Dan Dunkle | Dec 31, 2016

2015 was probably the best year of my life. I know I typed 2015... that's not a typo.

The family spent a week at Disney World and we followed it up with trips to Plymouth, Mass. and Mystic Seaport where I got to tour a whaleship and bore Wesley questioning a cooper about the art of barrel-making.

I started my first garden and grew a few tomatoes and radishes.

2016 was the year to balance the scales, pay bills, take fewer trips.

If you're young and you happen to be reading this, my advice after the past few years is to focus on experiencing life, not accumulating things. True getaway vacations with people you love are where the best memories are made.

2016 started bad. On Jan. 2, I had to go over to City Hall for special closed-door meeting of the City Council and wait around in a cold space for very little information to trickle out. I should have known right then the year was going to be a bit of a downer.

Much of the year was dominated at work by controversy in city government and then the elections. Presidential elections are very busy times at the newspaper. They are a mixed bag. On the one hand, it's kind of a high covering elections because there is more interest and reader engagement... what we are doing is really important and even the casual news followers acknowledge that. But there's always a lot of stress around elections. There is this massive build up to election night and then everything depends on whether the town clerk on an island or in a little town of 3,000 people sends in voting results and not only that, but whether the office fax machine is working and gets those results. Even though our local town clerks always come through for us, there's always stress. A journalist, no matter how hard working, has to depend on others to help them with their stories.

One highlight of the past year for me was The Positive Edition, which we did for the first time in June 2016.

I ran into a guy I know at the Rockland Cafe and he accused us media people of never reporting anything positive. That is not true and has never been true in my experience. Each year we write features about valedictorians at local schools, innovative business people, local volunteers doing good in the community. But those stories are overshadowed by the tragic news.

So I thought, what if we did an edition that was only focused on positive news? The Courier family embraced the idea and we had features about people surviving cancer, service dogs, volunteers who pick up trash and teach classes for the elderly and volunteers who have been helping out at the hospital for decades.

It forced me to consider, what is positive news that is still really news and not just public relations or advertising.

Ultimately I learned a lot from the experience and I hope to do it again soon.

On the personal side of things, we gained two family members. We adopted Luna and Nemo, two gray and white kittens, in September. Christine felt I wasn't stressed enough with the election in the fall, so she decided that would be the best time to add not one, but two cats.

Luna had a birth defect where part of her heart arteries was wrapped around her esophagus. It caused her to regurgitate every time she ate and as a result slowly starve. It also caused a slow heart rate.

This required surgery, and people around us were helpful and donated to that cause. Now she is all fixed up and doing fine. Her food had to be mashed up for her and mixed with water, and we suspect she is developmentally a bit behind her brother. She only got a C in personal grooming while he has gotten an A-, and he seems to pick up routines quicker. He also is more patient with being fed. She remembers being hungry too keenly and jumps up on the counter every time we open the food package.

Like everyone else, they like Christine the best in our household because she takes care of them. They lie draped all over her, one across her legs and the other across her chest while she watches West World.

I was sorry to hear about David Bowie, George Michael, Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds.

I was happy to enjoy Rogue One.

My garden didn't do so well this year. Not enough water and not enough fertilizer.

So 2016 wasn't the best, but I'm thankful to have had another year.

I do make New Year's resolutions. In 2017, I resolve to not drink sugary sodas (Pepsi and Canada Dry are my vices). I also hope to walk more and to always bring a lunch with me to work to avoid the cost and calories of eating out. I may have to make exceptions here and there to help support my favorite local eateries.

My hope locally is that the City Council will find a person who is kind and rational to serve as City Manager.

I also hope people will drive a bit more carefully since my 15-year-old will soon have his learner permit.

Those are my thoughts as 2016 draws to a close today.

I hope this finds you with friends and loved ones enjoying a toast for the new year!

Daniel Dunkle is News Director for Courier Publications. He lives in Rockland with his wife, Christine, two children and two cats. Email him at ddunkle@villagesoup.com and follow him on twitter @DanDunkle.

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