Archive for December, 2010

Christmas Letter 2010

Friday, December 24th, 2010

‘Tis the night before Christmas… and I’m writing my Christmas letter.

The beautiful part is that if I do an electronic-only Christmas letter, then this is right on time!

It’s been a crazy year.  Definitely not one I’d want to live over again.  The big question of the year was:  Can God really work EVERYTHING out for the good of those who love him?  Really?  Even divorce and losing the job I love?

The answer of the year was a resounding: YES!

First, I’ll report that, as of today, my divorce from Steve is final.  Both condolences and congratulations are in order.  He was a very good husband for a very long time, and I’m very sad it came to this.

But I am seeing this was a good thing in my life right now.  It was time to let him go.  Clinging wasn’t going to bring about a change of heart, and it was time to settle legal and financial matters between us.  I’d better not say any more than that.

So I’ll only say that it feels incredibly freeing to be a single adult, responsible only for myself and my son.  There are some wonderful things about it.  Life is good!

The job situation didn’t work out at all like I hoped — at first.  At the start of the year, I was Youth Services Manager at Herndon Fortnightly Library, and loving it.  But library budget cuts were looming, and I knew I was likely to lose my job.  What I hoped God would do was give me a better, higher-paying job.  I put out about 30 applications, but only got two interviews, and didn’t win  those.

I also hoped the Board of Supervisors might realize how awful it is for the poor and the kids and the immigrants in the county to lose hours of library service.  And they might have a change of heart about budget cuts.  That didn’t happen either.

So, yes, in May I got a Reduction-in-Force notice.  But a couple weeks later they offered me a job in another county agency at the same pay grade.  So for half of this year, I was a Management Analyst in Childcare Provider Services.  Basically, I was a cog in the bureaucracy of adminstering the USDA Food Program.  (And it is mountainous bureaucracy!)  I did enjoy the job.  I loved not having to serve the public, and I loved getting to listen to music all day long.  And the people I worked with were fantastic.  I also learned that I am not only detail-oriented, I am freakishly detail-oriented.

But it did bother me that the job was much, much less responsibility and much, much less difficult than being a librarian — and didn’t require a Master’s degree like a Librarian job does — yet it was the same pay grade.  Something’s wrong with this picture.  (But working in a library is so great, they can get us to do it for lower pay than we deserve.)

So, the good that came to me through that job was a continued paycheck — and evenings and weekends off.  I used the time to go to several book-related conferences, which were the highlight of my year.  It confirmed that I am a Children’s Librarian by calling, and I had a wonderful time, learning librarian tips and making connections in the kidlit and book world.

The biggest highlight was the Newbery/Caldecott Banquet as part of the American Library Association Annual Conference.  A friend bought several tables, so I got to sit with friends, too.  And of course the highlight of ALA is meeting lots of incredible authors and hearing them speak.

Below, I’m meeting  Grace Lin, a Newbery Honoree:

Then here I am with Jessica Day George, whose books I love:

And I simply have to include John Green and David Levithan, joint authors of Will Grayson, Will Grayson, which I actually had on my bedside table with my bookmark a couple chapters in when I met them.

And of course the picture book genius, Mo Willems:

And the teen books genius, M. T. Anderson, who had nice things to say about how bad it is to cut library funding (in response to my shirt).

Okay, I’d better stop!  Other book events of the year were the National Book Festival, Author Talks by Garth Stein, Ann Patchett, and Jacqueline Woodson, the MAYALIG (Metro Area Young Adult Librarians’ Interest Group) conference with Catherine Gilbert Murdock, and finally the Horn Book Colloquium at Simmons in Boston.  I had a lovely October weekend in Boston for that trip, but the huge highlight was when, at the end of it, I ran into one of my absolute favorite authors, Megan Whalen Turner, in the airport.

We’d already talked a little bit — She knew I was a huge fan from some things I’d said online.  We both had some time before our flights left, and while we were waiting, she sat with me and we ate and talked for an hour.  It was just lovely, and I felt like I made a friend — with one of the most brilliant authors writing for children today!

Here I am with Megan Whalen Turner at the Horn Book Colloquium:

You get the idea!  Lots and lots of inspiring talks about books and meeting lots and lots of authors and feeling very much a part of the kidlit book community, even if I wasn’t currently working as a Librarian.

I also actually kept my New Year’s Resolution for 2010 — I worked on writing books for at least 30 minutes every single day (so far)!  And I’m happy to report that I finished a book, a middle grade novel, and I plan to start submitting it to agents right away in the new year.  I’m hoping that at last my time has come, and I will find a publisher!  So maybe next time I meet all those authors, I will be one of them.  We shall see….

But in November, everything seemed to turn around at once.

First, the afternoon before our scheduled court dates, Steve signed the agreement my lawyer had written — so we did not have to have a court battle, and I did not even have to face him in court.

Then two days later, Tim and I flew to California for Thanksgiving Break, where I got to spend time with my family and friends, and had a beautiful, restoring five days.  I was totally rested and rejuvenated.

Here I am with four of my wonderful sisters:

And I got to see my son Josh, who lives in North Hollywood and recently moved into an apartment with my brother Peter.  They both work for IQ Joe, making Zoom Math, software that makes graphing calculators much easier to use.

Here are my two sons together:

Tim, by the way, is doing great.  He got straight A’s first semester!  He’s a junior at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, so that’s a noteworthy accomplishment.  I made a deal with him back in 9th grade that I wouldn’t hassle him about doing his homework if he would DO it — never dreaming that he would actually take me up on that offer!  He’s an easy-going person to live with, except when I try to wake him up in the morning.  He and I went to the Rally for Sanity in Washington, DC, on October 30, and both thoroughly enjoyed it.  (And he will be old enough to vote in the next presidential election!  Look out!)

When I got back from California, they told me I could step into the job of a librarian who had retired.

So for three weeks now, I have been a Librarian again!  And I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that Librarian is the right job for me.  I’m currently not in the Youth Services department, but I still get to help kids who come to the Information Desk with questions.  I’m working at the City of Fairfax Regional Library, and I’m enjoying learning to use the Virginia Room, where we have a treasure trove of local history and genealogical materials.  I’m also processing reference books, which is quite different from what I did before, so I’m enjoying learning some new things.  And just reveling in being in the right place for me.

So — the year didn’t turn out at all like it would have if I were in charge of the world.  But I definitely like the way it turned out!

This Christmas, I even got to sing with a caroling group.  Thanks to all my years of being in choirs, singing at Christmas time is one of the most important parts of the holiday for me.  Tonight we sang in the Christmas Eve service.  It was a lovely service, with lots and lots of joyous music.  The theme was that Jesus was Emmanuel — God with us.  It reminded me, in a glorious way, that God has been with me this difficult year, and He has been wonderfully faithful.

Wishing you a Joyous Christmas!

Sondy Eklund

Christmas Havoc

Saturday, December 11th, 2010

Some verses in Isaiah 54 and 55 have meant a lot to me during the whole divorce process.  Particularly Isaiah 54:15 and 17 whenever any mention of the trial came up.

So, in preparation for going to court, for the last few weeks, I’ve been having my quiet times in Isaiah 54 and 55.  Today it just so happened that the rather odd verse came up that is right in between those two powerful verses for facing a court case.

Isaiah 54:16 —

“See, it is I who created the blacksmith
who fans the coals into flame
and forges a weapon fit for its work.
And it is I who have created the destroyer to work havoc.”

Today, when I read those words about the destroyer working havoc, all I could think about is Christmas.

Last night, at Home Fellowship, one of the men mentioned that this week he told his kids,  “Kids, Christmas is going to break your mother.”  It became a saying, because we felt like it could apply to all the mothers present!

This morning I slept super late, and I was very discouraged — I had planned to do so much to prepare for Christmas today!  I’m working six days in a row next week.  Now how on earth will I get it all done?

So I thought about Christmas when I read, “It is I who have created the Destroyer to work havoc.”

Surely it’s true that God created Christmas.  But where did the havoc come from?  Why does Christmas destroy our peace of mind?

I think it’s American culture that heaps expectations on Christmas, especially on Moms.  We’re supposed to make everything perfect — gifts for everyone, parties, projects, decorations, baking and cooking, everything has to be just so.  In Germany, the Germans didn’t seem nearly so over-the-top about Christmas.  But Americans go overboard with everything.

Why would God allow all these expectations to grow up around the celebration of the birth of His Son?  Why would He let Christmas become so full of havoc?

I got to thinking that maybe we need it to be havoc in order to take a good look at all those expectations.  Maybe it’s God’s grace that the expectations have gotten to be more than any one person could ever possibly meet.  Maybe it forces us to take a look and decide only to do what we can, and what’s meaningful to us.

After all, who will be happy if we really do get everything absolutely perfect?  Will our kids really care?  Do our friends and family want us to go into debt?  Do they care if maybe our gifts are a few days late?  If our decorating causes more stress than smiles, is it really worth it?

Anyway, thinking about Christmas as a Destroyer working Havoc this morning made me smile.  It helped me take it all less seriously and lighten up.  I did what I could, and the rest will have to wait.  And if stress drives out joy, it’s just not worth it.

I don’t want to think of Christmas as Havoc.  I want to think of it as Joy.