1. More about the legislative process than I ever imagined possible - or even wanted to know. My work move in 2010 was a result of changes to the law governing the landscape architect and soil classifiers programs that I worked with. I got a crash course in bills becoming laws that year and believe me, the old "School House Rock" on how a bill becomes a law didn't even scratch the surface! Once the move was done, I still had to assist with getting regulations passed to go with that new law - a process that crossed over two sessions due to some oversights in the statute for the soil classifiers. Over the past 3 legislative sessions I've sat in more legislative subcommittee and committee meetings than I can count - including that fateful meeting in May 2011 when the cemetery regulations were on the agenda before mine and I also got a crash course education in things that can go wrong with burials that curbed my appetite for a few days and scarred my poor mind forever (note to self: dying is disgusting). It's not easy. In fact, it's slow, and snafus and roadblocks can pop up when you least expect it (think my "life is like a jack-in-the box analogy). You have to have a pound of patience and a ton of flexibility. But boy have I learned a lot now, and I have a new respect (or rather, understanding and better knowledtge) of what's happening in the State House. Thankfully, everything has been updated for both programs, and now they're all up to date. Barring any unexpected changes from the inside or other sourses outside the Boards, we will hopefully be ok.
What I'll do with this knowledge: As it turns out, the architects are updating their regulations and the engineers are considering updates to their statute. Those are bigger programs, so my "hands on" assistance won't be needed as much as it was for the smaller programs I worked with, but I will track their documents through the process and do whatever I can to help.
2. More about writing and publishing than I thought possible. This all started with a power resolution I made in 2011 to do everything possible to improve as a writer and to get myself published again by going "outside of the box." I brushed up on my grammer rules, revised my work, and decided to give e-publishing one more try (I had a contract to e-publish Quarantine in 2009, but the company broke the contract and filed for bankruptcy before it went to print). It worked - I got contracts for Blurry and Anywhere But Here, and they've both been published. This year, I added educating myself on publicity and promotional opportunities for my published works, and I decided to work in the areas of keeping a strong online presence and pursuing book reviews and author interviews. I also signed a contract for Splinter, the National Novel Writing Month book I wrote in 2010, and started another mystery novel and another non-fiction book for bird owners this year.
What I'll do with this knowledge: First and foremost is to finish Move and Feathered Frenzy,to work with Whiskey Creek Press on Splinter when they're ready to take it into pre-production, and to promote it like crazy when it's published. I'd also like to expand on a couple of projects that will serve in the promotion and the writing more and writing better categories: I'd like to get back into writing articles, short stories, and novellas. Shorter works are a bit more of a challenge for me because I'm a novelist at heart, but the fact is that I need to have new material to release more regularly than is possible to do with a novel, and the only way to do that is to delve into shorter markets. I'm already working on some articles, and once I get Move and Feathered Frenzy done, I'd like to brush up on my skills with the shorter stuff and see what I can get out there.
3. I flew! I did it twice, actually. My job started to require me to travel to the landscape architect conferences, so I made trips to Miami and San Francisco last year. That was a new experience for me, but not as bad as I thought. Actually, I was fortunate that my flights went well and I don't mind flying at all. This educated me in so many ways. I learned that I can travel with two carry-on bags and less than I imagined possible. I learned that it's not terribly difficult to find your way around an airport, and that Charlotte really is reasonable and easy to get around. I learned that although I love ebooks, paperbacks are really a better way to go with reading material since you have to turn off electronics so much. I learned that if you're nice to the stewardess, they'll give you the bag of pretzels that aren't all broken and crunched up. I learned that Miami International Airport is about a million square miles, and I think I walked every bit of it - but Salt Lake City is like Walmart on Christmas Eve, and located in what looks like a crater to boot, so there are different kinds of suffering. I learned that taxi drivers can scare the hell out of you. And I learned that turbulence is really a "come to Jesus" moment in a patch of rough airspace over Kansas. And yes, I've seen places I probably wouldn't have gone before. I mean, San Francisco? I had never been on the west coast,in a different time zone, or put up in a five star hotel (albeit business class) before that. It was something.
What I'll do with what I learned: Become more travel savvy, whether I planned to or not. And next up is Scottsdale, Arizona.
4. Smartphones don't make you smarter, but they sure help you look smarter. Rick and I finally got iPhones last January, and I'm so glad we did. For all the people that say "how can a phone make you smarter?" I say in about a zillion ways. I can keep up with things. I can be reached just about anywhere (unless I'm on a flight). I can keep my schedule, make lists, check news and weather, and set reminders. Heck, the only things it won't do are clean the house, clean the bird cages, cook my meals, and rake the yard. But it's the 21st century. Who knows? Rosie the Robot maid might come about in my lifetime yet.
What I'll do with what I learned: Thank God that I live in an era of computers and smartphones to make life easier and keep using them to the fullest advantage!
5. Balance in life is a personal responsibility, and sometimes you must make hard choices to maintain it. There are only so many hours in a day, and it's impossible to do everything you want to do. With personal responsibilities and the relationships in our lives, we often have to choose what we like best, do that, and drop other things. This really hit me when I quit the evangelism committee at church in October. I didn't want to do it, but frankly I'd felt the nagging in my spirit that my life was too full and I needed to let go of some things to focus on what was growing in my life. Rick and I are fortunate to have a good marriage, our birds, all of our parents alive, our families, good, stable jobs, and our home. Rick does some website design here and there, and my writing is continuing to build and grow. We have some excellent friends that we're in contact with. Unfortunately - that's all we have time for. The time we had for volunteer activities has filled up with other things growing, and we both had to accept that it was time to let the volunteering go, for a while at least. His term on council just ended and it's obvious that we need to take a break to nurture the things that are most important and tend to the biggest responsibilities that the Lord has laid before us. Life does change, so it's inevitable that this season will pass and perhaps we'll have time to resume the volunteer activities. But for now, we've decided that we want to dedicate ourselves to and fully appreciate the blessings we have at hand without overcommitting ourselves to secondary or perphiery endeavors.
What I'll do with what I've learned: This sounds like it's coming out of left field, but pondering this discovery inspired me to make getting on the treadmill regularly a part of my life again. I believe we've made good decisions to keep a balance of our responsibilities and relationships in order, but balance is a holistic thing, and it occured to me that while my priorities are in order, I'm still stressed out because I'm not physically in order. I sit behind a desk at my job, then come home and sit behind a computer to write. I need to get more physically active, and the best way to do that is to get on that treadmill sitting in the computer room upstairs. I felt better, got sick less, and actually was less stressed and had better ideas for my writing when I was walking regularly. So I'm expanding the balance issue to my body as well as my mind and soul by getting back on the treadmill and integrating exercise into my life again.
6. Breaking Bad and Arrow are awesome shows. OMG! If you aren't watching these shows, you should be. Thanks so much to whoever it was that suggested Breaking Bad to Rick. We caught up on that show through Netflix and it's addictive! And Arrow, the new CW show based on The Green Arrow, has surprised me by hitting the ground running right in it's first season. I don't watch much TV (in fact, Supernatural is the only other show I do watch, and it's much better this season too), but these are worth checking out. Arrow and Supernatural come on The CW Wednesday nights at 8 and 9. Breaking Bad is a summer show that comes on AMC. Unfortunately, we don't get AMC through Dish TV, so we'll have to make arrangements to buy the 2013 season through our iTunes account and catch the episodes as they're released.
7. Skimping on sleep is counterproductive. I had a bad habit of staying up late to work on my writing, then getting up early for work the next day. It used to not bother me but, well, I'm not in my 20's anymore and skimping on sleep plus increasing job duties = bad idea. When Rick and I changed our work schedules in August, we decided that we needed to be serious about getting to sleep on time and getting a full night's rest so we could focus and be at our best the next day. So no more late nights for me. And you know what? I've actually been MORE productive since then, because I find I plan and utilize my time better (for example, I can do some pretty good writing and editing on my lunch hour if I take my laptop to work).
8. Transitions are tough, but once you've been hit with so many, you get numb. I learned this when our church lost our head pastor and associate pastor within a month earlier this year. Did it hurt? Yea, like hell. But I was amazed at how people seemed traumatized by it. At first I thought wow, that's selfish. Don't you want them to move ahead and better themselves? It's unfortunate they both left, but I couldn't begrudge either of them taking new opportunities and frankly, pastors are always going to move on eventually. Then it hit me: No, that's not it. It's just that after my life got smashed to smithereens in 2010 and I had to completely reconstruct it, losing two pastors was barely a blip on my radar. Other people hadn't seen the massive changes in their own lives that I'd just gone through, so this WAS major to them. And while we have certainly had to find new pastors plenty of times, it had been a while so frankly, we as a congregation were settled in and since we didn't see it coming, it was a shock to many. But to me shocks and adjustments had been a way of life for a while.
What I'll do with this knowledge: This was a good reminder of the concept of grace and of realizing that perspective is a personal thing. We all come from different places, and I believe this is a good illustration of how your experiences color your perception. Frankly, I'm still pondering this realization and what it means to me, and I really don't want to rush it because I think it's one that needs to sink in and grow strong roots in my own mind. But I think it's a good thing because one thing I already see is that we all handle things differently, and we need to be patient with one another and work together to help others and move forward. Where they are weak, we might be strong and where we are weak they might be strong. Working together, we can come through with a greater overall perspective. And it's a good lesson of faith too, as we work, wait, and look for a new leader for us.
I'm sure there are many more discoveries I've made during the year, but these are the big ones that spoke to me and are guiding me into my future. I hope that you'll also take some time to take stock and forge ahead into the new year using the confidence and wisdom you've gained through your experiences to keep moving ahead and making a better life, each and every day.
In closing, I believe today's benediction at church was a wonderful and beautiful sentiment that I wish all of you for the new year, and beyond:
"May you be filled with the wonder of Mary, the obedience of Joseph, the joy of the angels, the eagerness of the shepherds, the determination of the magi, and the peace of the Christ child. Almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirigt bless you now and forever."
Amen. Bless you friends.I wish you all joy, peace, prosperity, and happiness and thank you for being there to listen, help and support me.
Happy New Year!