Sunday, December 30, 2007

Christmas Letter 2007

Dear Friends,

Over the last few weeks, I have enjoyed checking the mailbox and online blogs for everyone’s Christmas cards, letters and especially the photos. Pictures really do say 1000 words! I love seeing all your smiling faces and watching your kiddos grow up. So many of you asked how I’m doing and since I’ve joined the blogging world this year, I thought I’d post here and review what’s been happening with me in 2007.

This year’s update really starts in December of 2006. About 2 days after I sent out my Christmas cards last year, I got laid off from my job. I had been doing marketing for KB Home, and if you watch or read any news at all, you’re probably familiar with the woes in the housing market. Truthfully, I was not entirely surprised, and while many said, “Bummer getting let go right before Christmas,” I actually was pretty happy about it. If you’re going to be out of work, why not have some extra time off at the holidays? It was GREAT!

I was also about due for a vacation, and decided there was no reason to postpone, so I booked a trip to the big island of Hawaii. Did I mention there was a severance package? WOW. Hawaii is amazing, and I highly recommend it if you ever have the opportunity to visit. I started plotting my next trip on my flight home! I enjoyed lots of sightseeing, some snorkeling, and visited Volcano National Park. Coincidentally, my uncle arrived in Kona on business the day before I left, so we enjoyed a rare chance to catch up over dinner. Mental note: job-hunting priority should focus on jobs including business trips to Hawaii.

When I got home from Hawaii, I learned that finding a new job is both time-consuming and… well, boring. Don’t worry, I’m not about to put you to sleep by getting into details! By March I was still unemployed, and I was starting to feel a bit stir-crazy, so I took a road trip to visit friends in the Bay Area and family in Lemoore and Hanford (CA central valley.) While out of town, I got a call for an interview for the job I eventually accepted, and on March 30 I went back to work.

I am now doing marketing for RMSA, a retail consulting company in Riverside. I have joined the ranks of (crazy) Californians who commute to their jobs, and travel about one hour each way. The hours are 7-4, so I beat the traffic a little bit. Who knew that so many people are actually awake at 6:00 am? I was intrigued by what this company does, and by the opportunity to get in with them at a time of expected growth. For a lot of reasons, it hasn’t quite turned out to be what I signed up for, and I’ve resumed job searching for something that is a better match for my interests. Like something with frequent business trips to Hawaii. Australia or Tahiti would be OK too.

After going back to work, I squeezed in a few weekend trips this year… April, I visited some good friends in the Phoenix area… in May, most of my family flew to Canada to attend a cousin’s wedding in Ponoka, AB (south of Edmonton)… in September, I visited cousins in Lakewood, WA, south of Seattle… and in late October flew to the Bay Area for a weekend. I’m starting a local chapter of Traveler’s Anonymous… “Hello, my name is Rebecca and I have a traveling problem.”

In October, California caught on fire. Let’s just say that when I left for work that Monday morning, I wasn’t exactly prepared to be gone for a week! Although the fire burned through the backyard, there was no fire or smoke damage to the house, and really very little ash to clean up. (I posted fire updates on my blog daily; you can scroll through the October posts to read more.) I did get home almost a week later, and for about 10 days after that, we lived without electricity which was interesting!

Throughout this year, I became more involved at my church which I enjoyed a great deal. I help out with nursery and hospitality events, and joined a Bunko group just for fun! Next year, I’ll be doing some singing with the praise team and getting involved with some worship planning, which I am really looking forward to! My church has become an important part of my life, and I have very much enjoyed the fellowship there.

In November, I took a long vacation, which I’d have to say was highlight of my year. I flew to Chicago and visited with friends there before driving to Michigan for a week to see many more friends and spend Thanksgiving with my “Michigan family.” As always, I couldn’t spend enough time with everyone, and missed a number of people I really had hoped to see! But it was so wonderful to visit with as many people as I did, and it was hard to say goodbye. These visits are never often enough or long enough!

Living here in California where I have lots of family nearby, I actually enjoy the chance to stay home for Christmas. I made two trips to the airport to drop off and pick up my Grandma. She is almost 87 (!) and is a special part of my life. As I’m sure is true of many of you, various celebrations extend both before and after Christmas with various family members and friends, and it is the same for me. I relish the chance to have Christmas last longer, and we will have our last get-together on New Year’s Day.

For me, having lived away from here for so many years, Christmas has always been a special family time for me. I love the visual feast of festive decorations at home and pretty much every where else. I love the Christmas cookies way too much, and like every other year, will be starting January with a resolve to lose a few pounds! And I love checking the mailbox every day for your Christmas greetings, so thank you for filling it!

I wish for all of you a wonderful 2008, and hope that it brings blessings beyond your expectations.

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Just a Little Christmas Fun

One of my friends sent this list as an e-mail, and I decided to post my answers just for fun. After all, one must have a little fun on Christmas!

(E-mail directions.) Welcome to the Christmas edition of getting to know your friends. Okay, here's what you're supposed to do, and try not to be a SCROOGE!!! Just copy the list of questions into a new e-mail and change all the answers so that they apply to you. Then send this to a whole bunch of people you know, INCLUDING the person that sent it to you… ‘Tis the season to be NICE!

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?
A mix, but I definitely appreciate the convenience of gift bags.
2. Real tree or artificial?
Artificial, with a nice evergreen candle burning in the room.
3. When do you put up the tree?
Whenever I get around to it.
4. When do you take the tree down?
See answer to #3
5. Do you like egg nog?
Nope. Every year I try it thinking maybe this will be the year I like it, but so far, it hasn't happened for me. So also no for eggnog shakes and Starbucks' eggnog lattes.
6. Favorite gift received as a child?
Lite Brite
7. Do you have a nativity scene?
8. Hardest person to buy for?
Dad or Brother
9. Easiest person to buy for?
10. Mail or email Christmas cards?
11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?
Can't think of anything so terrible that it bears mentioning for this question.
12. Favorite Christmas Movie?
It's a Wonderful Life
13. When do you start shopping for Christmas?
When I first spot something ideal for someone on my list, usually sometime in the summer.
14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?
15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?
Carol's Cookies
16. Clear lights or colored on the tree?
17. Favorite Christmas song?
No way I could list just one....
18. Travel at Christmas or stay home?
Stay home :)
19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeers?
Yes (Don't forget Rudolph!)
20. Angel on the tree top or a star?
21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning?
Varies. This year, Christmas Eve (that's today!) My brother is a firefighter, so we open gifts whenever we can get together around his schedule.
22. Most annoying thing about this time of year?
Buying a gift for someone when you really don't have any idea what they might like!
23. Favorite ornament theme or color?
Red & white makes a very pretty tree, but lots of my ornaments have other colors too.
24. Favorite for Christmas dinner?
Turkey with all the trimmings, basically like Thanksgiving #2.
25. What do you want for Christmas this year?
What I want: Apple iBook and iPod Nano.
What I'm going to get: No idea, but my sister-in-law has my name, so I'm sure it will be great.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Dilbert is my life

Art imitates life... sometimes a bit too well. Yesterday's Dilbert pretty much sums it up for me lately.

If, like me, you are a fan of Dilbert, you can click this Dilbert box to visit the official Dilbert site, sign up to get e-mails, or just read online every day.

Thankful Thursday

Today, I'm thankful that my Christmas shopping is done! Yippee! (If anyone is still looking for ideas for me, I'm still hoping for that iPod nano. Haha.)

Here's my funny story about Christmas shopping. I drew my dad's name and he tells me he wants a new Shop Vac. OK, well, not that exciting in my mind, but if he wants it, sure that's what he'll get. So I go to Sears last week and buy the biggest one that fits in the budget... and it barely fits in my car. I guess it's a good thing the budget wasn't any bigger!

I have a hatchback, so there's a cover that hides anything in the "trunk" but the box is actually big enough that I have to remove the cover, and now the word "CRAFTSMAN" is clearly visible from all sides. Clearly, keeping it in my car until Christmas Eve is not going to work, and I need a plan B. Conveniently, my brother keeps his vacation trailer parked in the backyard, so he doesn't know it, but it's serving as Christmas gift storage at the moment.

If I'm lucky, my dad won't have some random reason to go in the trailer before Christmas Eve and spoil the "surprise."

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Gee, thanks. No you REALLY shouldn't have.

I'm sure this never happens to you. Someone gives you a gift, and watches with anticipation while you open it. Whatever it is, you just umm... aren't that excited. (Remember Ralphie's bunny suit in A Christmas Story?) As I was saying, I'm sure this never happens to you. But I have not always been so lucky.

So today, I thought I had an experience like that. It was the office holiday party, big lunch, white elephant exchange, and a raffle for some door prizes. The gift cards were for Best Buy, Olive Garden, The Cheesecake Factory and a local grocery store. I won the first drawing, and you guessed it... it was the grocery store gift card. So, of course it's cool to win anything, but at the same time, I was thinking "what on earth could I get from a grocery store that is exciting?

... bananas?
... frozen dinners for a couple weeks? Then I wouldn't have to pack lunches for a while.
... give it to Grandma, she shops there?"

Then I realized...

Grocery stories sell tequila!

Suddenly I’m thinking I got the best gift of them all!

Margarita anyone?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Thankful Thursday: A new weekly post

So, I finally finished "catching up" on some previous posts yesterday. Posts I'd started a while ago, but was having trouble finding time to finish! Anyway, one of them was about Thanksgiving, and I listed a few of the blessings I was thankful for in the moment. It reminded me that I do not take time often enough to be thankful or to express gratitude to those who are blessings in my life.

That said, I’ve decided to start posting weekly about something I’m thankful for. Sometimes these will be silly and sometimes they will be serious. We’ll see how this goes, I’m not usually the best at keeping things like this up… but at the very least, I will be thankful today.

Today I am thankful for… yesterday’s office announcement that we will have “casual dress” daily through January 31! It’s the little things….

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Another Hero in the Family

Today, our family gathered for a special kind of going-away party. My cousin Michael decided some time ago to join the Air Force, and on Monday night he will depart for basic training. I was 12 when Mike was born, so it seems impossible that he is (already?) old enough to join the military. In truth, it is my lack of objectivity about my own age that leads to this perception.

So today, I take this opportunity to thank him for his service to my country. It is with great pride that I will say, "My cousin's in the Air Force." It is with gratitude to him and countless others who are serving and have served, that I recognize that their service is responsible for my continued freedom.

Thanks, Mike.