Sharon's Christmas Letter - a Little Late
I didn't call myself a writer until 2007, and it was my husband who named me one initially. Writing has been my passion since childhood, though I never dreamed of being able to publish anything until my 40s. I published on my own site and in a local paper, but had never written anything for pay until 2008. Now, it is a critical element of my job and it remains my passion.
I am a middle-aged, happily married woman. I have a teen age son and two step children in their 20s. My parents call me their "flower child", though my friends consider me relatively conservative. I live in Great Falls, VA with our menagerie of cats and dogs and neighboring wildlife. I vacation in New Mexico and Florida at every possible opportunity.
I was born in El Paso, Texas, but was raised just a few miles from where I live now from age 7 until I attended college at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, VA. I taught middle and high school English for a few years, moved to Okinawa, Japan for a few years during a short first marriage. I earned my M.Ed. in Counseling & Personnel Services from University of Maryland, then taught a few more years, then married my current husband.
I worked with Jeffrey for 12 years as co-owner of a remodeling company, and then I started myNeighborsNetwork.com in 2000. In 2003, I turned my hobby into a business and have been running it ever since.
I am an introvert, shy by nature. I love to read, knit, needlepoint, pet my cats, and of course, write.
Dearest Friends and Family,
As I prepare to write each year’s letter, I reread the previous year’s letters. Rereading my 2016 letter was like reopening a fresh wound and rubbing salt in it.
My grief has “improved,” lessening in intensity and frequency, but it remains constant.
I have always believed that even our worst moments offer gifts, if not immediately, eventually. I know God is always with me, guiding me to my next growth opportunity.
Jeff is continuing with Home Equity Builders (www.hebinc.com). We are readying for a big master bath renovation. I am continuing with www.myNeighborsNetwork.com.
The entire month of March, through the first anniversary of Dad’s death, I painted.
And I have not stopped.
Nor have the images in dreams and visions.
A friend saw my work and encouraged me to join our local Artist Studio. I did and then I participated in my debut show in the local art tour. I sold my three largest pieces and did very well. It was a fantastic start to a new passion. I have also completed commission works for individuals as far as Las Vegas, Nevada. You can see some of my pieces at www.sharonraineyart.com. I had two more successful art sales/shows in December.
In the meanwhile, Jeff started perfecting his work with the camera lens. His favorite subject is a pair of bald eagles near our cabin in Maggie, VA. Though, honestly, I love his scenic pieces more so. He can capture birds in flight and sunsets on the pond. I think I have talked him into joining the local Artist group as well and participating in local events.
At the end of February, I was dreading the first anniversary of Dad’s admission to the hospital and the 26 days that followed. That same week, I started dreaming in images, something I have never done before in 54 years. It became so intense and obsessive, I bought some paint and brushes and try to paint what I saw in my dreams. I had never painted, drawn, or done anything artistic before that week.
EntertainmentIn September, Jeff and I saw Sting in concert at Wolftrap. Score one for Wolftrap. That concert ROCKED. Sting ROCKS. Wolftrap is still infused with Dad’s spirit, so it’s a double-edged sword when we attend. I feel Dad’s spirit there, which is good and hard.
I still drive to Mom’s once or twice weekly for dinner. She went to Wolftrap once this year – progress. Mom also traveled with Carol over a long weekend, once in May to San Diego, and once in November to El Paso. She thoroughly enjoyed each trip to see long time friends.
ChildrenHeather still loves her job at the Loudoun County Detention Center, running treatment groups within the population. She is dating a young man her own age (36 is still young, right?) whom we adore. Heather had her gallbladder removed earlier this year and Garnett handled her beautifully. He loves her and it shows in every way he looks at her, talks to her, and treats her.
Joey is still in California, working and enjoying his life. He is saving up money to open his own restaurant. He turned 34 this year.
Stephen and Hannah are still living in Richmond, though now in a much quieter community that better suits them. Stephen is working in the vape shop, but considering attending culinary school. Hannah’s art skills are exploding and I remain in awe of each piece she completes. We are completely different in skill areas. I have great respect for her tenacity, attention to detail, and patience.
In November, I traveled to Grand Junction, Colorado for an art resin course at www.DiamondEpoxy.com / www.CountertopEpoxy.com. The course gave me more working time with the product and I absolutely love it.
Our office manager (and friend), Kathy, accompanied me. I bribed her with tales of hiking trails and scenic views. Kathy is an avid hiker. Our first morning there, we took Route 128 from 70 to Moab, Utah. It’s usually 1.5 hours to drive, but it took us four hours to drive because we kept stopping to take photos. We made it to Arches, Utah and took the three-hour drive up and back. Honestly, I enjoyed the drive TO Arches more than the drive THROUGH Arches. STUNNING. We drove along the Book Cliffs (Colorado National Monument) twice and were mesmerized both times. Sunset up there is a spiritual experience.
Jeff and I have been enjoying our cabin – we try to go every other weekend. No words are necessary to understand why we love this place. It is right across the road from Maggie, VA, just a 30-minute drive from Blacksburg, VA. Jeff fly fishes, photographs birds, and creates lots of outdoor chores for himself. I paint. And I nap.
HealthJeff remains in treatment for the protozoa. It can be exhausting at times, but he is sticking with it. Treatment is not easy, nor painless.
In early autumn, I had an eye infection that was quite painful (sobbing in the waiting room) and left my eyes permanently scarred and my vision permanently affected. It was a long week with a sad ending, but also a great sense of gratitude for what I do have.
In November, I had the best-looking blood smear I have had in eight years. Thrilling, and yet my fatigue remained overwhelming.
I tested positive for complete adrenal failure. The new meds are LIFE CHANGING. I don’t need a nap every day. I can work almost full time now. And I sleep well almost every night. I have gone off three meds as a result of this diagnosis and treatment.
VisitorsWe had two visitors this year.
Becca Moses is in treatment with Dr. Mozayeni. She lives in Tennessee, so she stays with us when she has her appointment. She also paints with me and is the super duper organizer of my painting mess.
Chef Lorraine came to see us this past autumn after the two hurricanes hit Turks and Caicos. Her stay her gave her a respite and time to prioritize what she wants and how she wants to achieve it. Her presence in my life is healing in context, content, and aura. The best part was she taught me some really awesome cooking secrets. And now, this woman (me, SHARON), CAN COOK some pretty damn awesome meals!!!! And healthy ones to boot!
BooksA year ago, I had just completed publishing two books, The Best Part of My Day Healing Journal and Lyme Savvy: Treatment Insights for Lyme Patients and Practitioners. I’m glad that’s done! They are still for sale on Amazon. We have received tremendously positive feedback on both books, for which I am grateful.
I still have notes for a book I am considering writing entitled 26 Days and Nights – My Final Conversations with Dad. But the grief remains too raw as of yet. I am still amazed by and grateful for the gifts Dad gave me in those final days. He took leaps into realms I never thought he would go. While it was a time of great sadness, the love our family shared and witnessed was one of God’s many gifts during that month. Dad’s spirit is with me often, especially when I am painting.
I also was gifted with the idea of another book – just a hint: Rise, Move Forward, and Conquer. That’s all you get for now
Wrapping it UpI’m not sure how to sum things up this year.
I still find myself thinking Dad is alive for a moment and then having to reprocess everything.
I find myself creating revised relationships with family members and finding solace in their authenticity.
I find myself cooking and loving it. Loving that I can finally create healthy, tasty meals.
I find myself falling deeper and deeper in love with Jeffrey. We have been through innumerable moments that cement our love in the deepest foundation I never thought possible.
I find myself saying less and painting more – painting seems to be my primary method of communication now. I can’t find the words right now. But I can find the color, the pattern, the mixture, the texture, and the emotion.
I go with and do what I can, knowing God has a plan.
I need to mediate more and listen to the butterfly whispers.
Love, Sharon & Jeff
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