I thought some of you might enjoy reading my annual Christmas letter, below. (Names & places have been removed/changed to protect the innocent!)
Fun & Frivolity
Top 10 of 2013
10. Since changing jobs and moving, my travel has been sharply curtailed. I went from traveling virtually every other week to just twice in 2013 – and both trips were to San Francisco. Luckily, San Fran is one of my favorite cities (tied with Washington, DC) so it was a pretty good experience. I’ve been there several times now but on these two trips I did a couple things I hadn’t in the past: had dinner in Chinatown (YUM!) and perused the Ferry Building. The Ferry Building is like a huge indoor farmer’s market with little independent shops. I had the BEST grilled cheese of my LIFE there, too, at the Cowgirl Creamery. And of course, when in SF, you MUST have a Ghirardelli hot fudge sundae, which I did (both times!)
9. On my birthday this year, I started volunteering at one of the local nursing homes, doing crafts with the residents. Thank heavens for Pinterest! I know the folks really look forward to my monthly visits and I try to ensure that the crafts I choose are not only fun but able to be completed by various levels of dexterity. I’ve got several ladies with very bad arthritis or tremors who can’t really craft but they so love coming that I just “help” them make theirs. I’ve been so blessed by this time but also by rediscovering my inner crafter. I’ve found that I like “flipping” furniture as well; I tiled a $10 table I picked up at the Salvation Army and then caught the bug. I rehabbed a nightstand and a small table as well and actually SOLD them to a shop in town! I’ve got two chairs to work on next!
8. I spent Thanksgiving with newlywed friends and had a wonderful time. Their place is only about a 3 hour drive from me and I was blessed to have them come visit me a couple times this summer as well.
7. Speaking of which, I am so thankful for the friends who made the journey down to visit me this year. The winter was a pretty lonely and boring time because I didn’t really know anyone here and I was so glad when spring sprung and suddenly, people were able to visit! I hope everyone who came had as great of a time as I did experiencing all the beauty and fun to be had here.
6. I’ve really spent the last year learning not only about where I work, but also about my town in general. This area was home to several former presidents! I’ve visited all and I’ve learned so much history.
5. One of my visits took place earlier this month. A friend in Indiana had put out a request on Facebook for people to take a paper gingerbread man that her kindergartener made in school and take photos of him around your town. (If you are familiar with Flat Stanley, it is the same concept.) I was ALL OVER that idea! “Indy”, as I named him, journeyed with me for Thanksgiving, with a quick stopover in Colonial Williamsburg, and then visited Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello with me during a holiday open house. Mr. Jefferson himself was on hand for that event and I was able to get a photo of Indy & I with TJ! So exciting.
4. In a stunning development, I signed up to train for the local 4-Milerthis summer. The 4-Miler raises money for the cancer programs at the local hospital. A dear friend from high school was fighting breast cancer, so I decided to train and walk in the 4-Miler in honor of her (as well as my aunt and another friend who beat breast cancer.) I was up at 6:30 AM every Saturday from June through August to train and was so thrilled when I completed the race on the first Saturday in September! This was a huge accomplishment for the girl with chronic pain issues and a rod in her spine and who used every excuse in the book to skip gym class growing up!
3. When I returned from visiting friends & family last Christmas, I was about at my wits end with regards to meeting people here. In the short months I had been here, I had tried just about everything I could think of but to no avail. I kept looking for a book club, thinking that I would find like-minded folks there, but everyone I tried was a bit of a letdown…so I started my own! We had our first meeting in February. Of all the things I’ve done here, I have to say that THIS was the one that helped turn the tide. The folks who come out are so nice and we have so much fun. I really enjoy our monthly discussions! And we meet at a different restaurant each month, so that’s been fun as well.
2. And I’ve met some really great gals to hang out with! We’ve watched polo (seriously! And it was fun as heck!), done wine tastings (there are about 30 wineries within 20 minutes of me – and that is no exaggeration!), done beer tastings, had lunch and just generally had a good time. I’m thankful for the “Sunday Fundays” we’ve been having and am looking forward to more in 2014.
1. By far the coolest thing I’ve done since moving here was to train for and become a CASA. I was having difficulty connecting with the kids in the youth ministry at my church here and was feeling very discouraged and disappointed. Then I saw an ad in the weekly newspaper about CASA! CASA is an organization that trains Court Appointed Special Advocates, who work one-on-one with abused and endangered children to assist the courts in determining the best environment to ensure each child’s safety and well-being. In some cases, the CASAs may be the only voice that can truly speak for these children. After 30 hours of intensive training, 2 hours of court observation, 3 interviews, and being evaluated on writing a sample court report, I was sworn in as a CASA on October 15. I know the work will be challenging, but I believe this will be one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.
So that’s my year in a nutshell! I want to say thank you to every one of you who has prayed and offered your support during my first full year of this transition. It certainly has not been easy (and it’s still ongoing!) but I can honestly say, brighter days have come and I’m looking forward to what’s ahead.
Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday season and a fantabulous 2014!