We hope this digital letter finds you safe, healthy, happy, and enjoying a wonderful holiday season. In the spirit of the annual holiday letter, I thought it would be fun to share some of the highlights of the past year with you.
I know, this is a blog. You've been keeping up. But for the sake of those that don't like to log in twice a week for my ramblings, well, here's a summary:
Rick just wrapped up a 3 year term on church council at Mt. Tabor. He was heading up the IT committee and did a great job updating the website (which was his major project for his first year on council) and with keeping up staff technology needs. It did get to be a bit of a challenge this year, though. We lost both of our pastors this year - the head pastor left for a higher position with the Synod in March, and the associate pastor left to head up a congregation in Charleston, which is where he's from. It was tough losing them - and then major changes at Rick's job drastically altared his work situation, which has required more overtime work and made serving a bit more challenging. But he stuck in there and was determined to see his term through. We're very proud of him for hanging in there despite the challenges of the past few months, and for all he's done for the church. You can check out the church website that he designed at www.mttaborlutheran.org
Unfortunately, I had to quit both of my church committees. I had always planned to step down from the IT committee when Rick's term ended, but major changes in my own work situation and my writing picking up cut significantly into my spare time for volunteer activities. There are some things and events that I do hope to continue participating in, but right now being on a standing committee isn't something that's practical for me. It's a shame, too, because I enjoyed it and hated to give it up. Maybe in another season of life.
My work has picked up with additional duties. I'm now working with 4 licensure programs, and recent staff shortages have put more of a burden on remaining staff. I do finally have a window office, which is good (although I got the workload that came with it), and I'm also required to travel twice a year for the landscape architect program. Last year I attended the spring meeting in late February in Miami, and the national meeting in September in San Francisco. That trip to Miami was the first time I've ever flown! It's not bad, either. And while I'm not a big fan of travel, well, I'm hanging in there to see how it works out. The next meeting up is the regional meeting in Scottsdale, Arizona in March. We'll see. That's all I can say for now. Overall the job is good, although it has been very stressful lately. Our workload usually peaks in December (exam deadlines, plus people in a rush to get licensed to get projects in the new year), and being down a person has been hard. Hopefully, we'll fill that open position soon and things will level out. I'm off work until January 2, so hopefully some time with family, friends, and at home with Rick and the birds will do me some good.
My writing is also making progress. I published my second fiction novel, Anywhere But Here
, through Whiskey Creek Press in April. They offered me a contract for my third fiction novel, a sci-fi apocolyptic novel titled Splinter
, last summer. I'm already working on two writing projects now that I hope to wrap up in the spring. One is another mystery novel titled Move
. It's about a young woman that unknowingly makes a deal with a djinn (genie), but unfortunately his help is rather radical and leads to more problems than solutions. The other is a non-fiction book titled Feathered Frenzy
. It's basically a "quick reference guide" to give people tips on making their home and lifestyle bird-friendly. And believe it or not, I ALREADY have an idea for my next project. That one is still in a very early brainstorming stage. I'm not even considering working on that one more until I get my two current projects finished. I'm building an audience and working on many promotional things for my published novels. It's slow work, but worth it. I enjoy writing and I think going the "independent author" route was the right choice - especially with the traditional route going into decline as e-publishing picks up. I hope I hit the e-book wave at just the right time!
The birds are doing well. They'll be doing their own Christmas letter to you on their blog over at http://conurecorner.weebly.com
soon. Santa has big plans for them and I think we're going to have three very happy birdies in a couple of days!
Our families are doing well. Mom and Dad are staying busy, as usual. Mom had surgery for carpral tunnel last summer and I tell you, that's the fastest surgery recovery I've ever seen! She was back up and running in no time! Dad is still working. Retirement talk comes up from time to time, but no definite plans or timeline yet. I tell you, those design professionals - they love their work and don't like to retire! Stephen and Nicole are doing well too. Stephen's still keeping them straight as a department head at Public Safety, and Nicole is working at home in medical transcription. She graduated from a medical management program in the spring, but unfortunately she had to have surgery for diverticulitis shortly after graduation, so that was an unexpected hiccup in her life. But she's doing fine now and moving forward again.
Rick's parents are also doing ok. You know his father has dementia, so there are good days and bad days - that's just how it goes with that. They joined the Methodist church up the road last month. Our nieces and Rick's sister and brother-in-law are also doing well. We just got back from our Christmas visit with them in Greenville this morning. They stay busy with work, school, and activities - much like all of us.
And yes, in case any of you are wondering, I did complete my New Year's resolution of reading through The Bible again this year. I actually finished it in September!
Well, that's pretty much it. We are truly blessed and thank God every day for all that He has done for us and allowed us to do for others. We hope all of you are doing well and that life is being good to you. You know that everybody is welcome to visit this website and blog. I strive to update it at least twice a week. Some people have themes for their blogs and while the theme of this website is my writing, the blog isn't limited to that. In fact, I believe all of life inspires my writing, and this blog is open to anything and everything happening in life. Feel free to read, share, and pass it along to anybody interested, whether it's family, friends, readers, other writers, or anybody that's interested in how one writer's life inspires her tales!
Merry Christmas everybody! I hope you have a safe and happy holiday season and that your new year is filled with joy, peace and prosperity.
God bless and best wishes,
Rick and Sherri
If you've been following me on Twitter or Facebook, you know that I was in San Francisco on business the past few days. As usual, it was some updates, some silliness, and some pondering on the meaning of it all (but not too much of that). It was suggested that I post a rundown of the trip through social media, but I thought it would be easier to just do a blog and send the link around. And so, here you are.
All in all, it was a good trip. I see why so many people wanted to go, and said I was lucky to be sent there. San Francisco is a beautiful place. I was fortunate that it was sunny the whole time I was there. They said they were having great weather. The temperatures were in the 50's day and night, which was a bit of a shock to me, coming from 90 degree weather and high humidity - but I have to admit that it was a refreshing break from summer. I took a bus tour after my meetings ended Friday and saw more of the city. It's beautiful and the people are very friendly. I definitely wouldn't object to going back. In fact, I'd love to take Rick there sometime. I think he'd really like it, and I'd like a chance to see more of the city myself.
The conference was great as well. We had representatives from 37 states there and I got to meet a lot of great people. Sorry I can't outright mention my board - you know, conflict of interest stuff with me working for state government and all forces me to keep it general - but I can say that it was a great group and I really enjoyed having a chance to get to know my own board members and members and counterparts from other states as well. In a way, it's a shame that the department will only send 1 employee to the meetings. There's something about going to these that widens your perspective and makes you have a deeper appreciation of "the meaning of it all" that you just can't get across in a 5 minute report at a meeting back home. I do wish more of my colleagues could experience what I did over the past few days. And I enjoy meeting and talking to people too. It's interesting to hear about their experiences and their stories. We learn so much from one another, and it's fun too. I see now why the interaction is so important. I think some of this harkens back to my previous entry about relationships. The professional ones are important too. You can talk on the telephone and email, but there's no substitute for being able to know them, and to put a face to a name or a voice. I kind of felt I had lost that "connection" to the people I serve when they no longer allowed me to give the registration exam (and now it's fully computerized, so that's gone bye bye for good), but I think I've gained that element back in a new way by attending these meetings.
It was also good to get out of the office. Sometimes it's refreshing to leave the office and do your work with a different group of people.
And for those that remember my report from Miami I have to tell you - yes, the food in San Francisco is MUCH better than the food in Miami.
I have relatively few gripes about this trip, but of course, life is life and nothing is perfect. Most of them were counterbalanced by other things, and I'll be honest enough to share them. First, of course, is that I missed Rick terribly. A 30-45 minute telephone conversation each day wasn't much in the way of staying connected, and the 3 hour time difference made it challenging to coordinate so I could make sure that I called when he was off work and I was out of conferences. I'm glad my parents could go with me, though. I wasn't alone and I haven't spent that kind of time with them since we got married, and I'm glad I was able to have this time with them. They really enjoyed the trip. But I missed Rick badly. I think this trip could have been a bang up great time if he had been able to come but alas, his work was not generous enough to allow him a few days off.
Second is that San Francisco is expensive. If you go, take plenty of money because you'll need it. And don't depend on your credit card either. Most places take it, but you get hit with the "cash only" thing at the weirdest intervals, so be sure you have it.
Public transit there is also a bit of a trick. Contrary to popular belief, they only have 3 trolleys running in San Francisco, and that's more of a tourism thing. If you want to get from Point A to Point B, a taxi is your best bet. Shuttles and buses are slow and I never found the BART thing they said they had (I believe it's some sort of tram system). Traffic is bad and parking is scarce and expensive where it exist, so a taxi is your best bet, and you know how expensive they can get. But the good news is that it isn't difficult to get a taxi, and they seem to want to help. As I said, the folks there are nice.
And last - Miami International has been beat as a nightmare airport by Salt Lake City. OMG. I didn't realize that was the major hub in the midwest. That place was like Walmart on Christmas Eve. Or maybe the grocery store the day before Thanksgiving. You couldn't get anywhere without pushing over 5 people. It was so crowded that I even had to wait in line to get a paper towel to dry my hands in the bathroom. Thank God our layover there was short. If I head back out that way, I'm going to try to connect through Minneapolis like I did on the way out. That worked out good. And Miami, you have officially been reclassified as reasonable.
So that's a rundown of the trip. Good, productive, I met and reconnected with a lot of good people, but it's always good to be home. And I think traveling gives you a greater appreciation of home too. Somehow, laundry, grocery shopping and car repairs don't seem quite as annoying today as they did a week ago.
Well, this entry is long enough so I'm signing off. I hope you have a great week.
Welcome to my latest "mini blog series" on surviving the holidays! In these weeks leading up to the holidays I'm going to offer my experiences, insights, and observations on getting through the holidays without losing your sanity. I'd like to open this series with a list of do's and don'ts - basically, simple tips that will help you get through this season with less stress and more time and resources to enjoy what the holidays are all about.
DO keep a schedule with you at all times, as this is a season filled with cordial invitations to events of all sorts - and those invitations can come at any place, at any time. It's never safe to be without a calendar this time of year. If you don't have a mobile device, get a small calendar that you can carry in a purse, briefcase, or pocket.
DON'T be afraid to decline an invitation. It simply isn't possible to do everything - there's too much going on. There is a polite way to decline an invitation. Simply say "I appreciate you thinking of me and offering this invitation, but I'm afraid I'm not going to be able to attend." You don't owe anybody a doctoral dissertation on your calendar. It's perfectly ok to say "no" just because you need time to do other things, or for yourself.
DO go ahead and make travel plans and arrangements now. Waiting until the last minute is stressful to you and rude to the hosts. It takes a lot of "doing" to hosts guests in your home, so be considerate and let them know arrival and departure dates and relative times now so they can plan for your visit accordingly.
DO make shopping lists. In this season of buy, buy, buy, it's easy to lose track of how much you've bought. Do like Santa - make a list and check it twice.
DO check your resources to avoid needless spending or duplicating resources. I was fixing to buy more wrapping paper this past weekend - until I checked my supplies and discovered 10 rolls of paper from last year. People won't remember what wrapping paper, gift tags, bows, boxes or gift bags you used last year and truth be told, you probably didn't remember until you pulled it out of storage.
DON'T be afraid to ask someone on your gift list what they want if you're completely stumped on what to give them. We usually buy gifts for the same people year after year, so after a while it's hard to be original. Don't try. Just ask.
DO ask the people on your gift list if they're ok with receiving gift cards for presents. People seem to have strong opinions on this. I love them, as do most of my family members, but I've had some friends that believe giving gift cards is wildly offensive and insensitive. I actually plan to do an entry just on this topic soon.
DO regift if you got something in the past that hasn't been opened or used, but be careful and DON'T regift it to the person that gave it to you. In fact, if you get something that winds out in the "strorage" drawer or closet, it would be wise to put a note on it indicating who gave it to you to prevent such an embarassing error.
DO observe important traditions, but DON'T feel obligated to hand on to ones that don't mean much to you - or others. Things tend to pass in time. People get married, people have babies, people die. Some things stay and some things go, and that's ok. Keep what means the most and let go of what doesn't.
DO take care of yourself and mind your health - mentally and physically. Be sure to take time out for yourself, excercise, eat right, and get enough sleep. It's easy to skimp on self care during this busy season.
DON'T go off your medications now. I'm not being a smart alec. Money is typically tight this time of year, and often people decide to skip the medication refills to save a few bucks. Don't do it. Your doctor put you on your medication for a reason, and you feel better because of it. If you go off now, you will suffer. This is no area to skimp on ever. It's for your better health. You have enough on you without having to battle your body as well - and you will if you go off your medication. So don't do it. And if, by chance, you do feel it's ok to do so, I urge you to do two things: Do it under doctor's supervision, and strongly consider waiting until January and making this a New Year's Resolution instead.
DO realize that there's no such thing as a perfect holiday. As much as we'd all like our holiday to look like a Norman Rockwell painting, realize that's art, not reality. We live in an imperfect world and it shows that every day, in every way. It's extremely rare for things to go as we planned, and they never go perfectly, People get sick, cars break down, things get sold out, casseroles burn, wrapping paper tears, turkeys don't cook right, gift bags bust, the milk goes sour, people fight, shipments get delayed, bad weather hits, somebody moves and the Christmas card is returned on December 26 leading to misunderstanding and hurt feelings - the list can go on and on.
So there you have it - a few simple, common sense list of suggestions to get through the holidays. I believe that's a good place to end this entry, as well as a perfect lead in for the next entry in this series.
Next Time: Can't We All Just Get Along - It's The Holidays! (or, Reality 101)