Christmas Letter 2023

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and Happy Holidays to you!

When it comes to Christmas letters, I love the tradition of looking back on my year and reflecting on its joys. I also love the tradition of using that to connect and reconnect with friends. Now that I post the result electronically, it’s become a meditative tradition added to my Christmas celebrations — and we’re talking Christmas in the “Twelve Days of Christmas” sense. So I hereby declare this isn’t late, since the twelve days of Christmas aren’t finished. You’ll have more time to read it after the 25th anyway, right? I certainly have more time to write it.

Another result of posting electronically is that I’m no longer confined to one page. I’ll still try to keep my text short, but I’m going to fill the post with some of my favorite pictures I took in 2023.

As I look back on 2023, it feels like the year I didn’t quite have time for all the things I wanted to do. Just slightly overdoing it. And what that was all about was totally worth it: Serving on the 2024 Morris Award Committee! The William C. Morris Award honors the best Young Adult Debut book of the year, with the year defined as November 1st to October 31st. So we are done with our reading, have chosen our Finalists, and are scheduled to choose our winner on New Year’s Day and announce on January 22nd.

So, yes, I was reading young adult debut books all year long. When I was on the Newbery committee in 2018, I cut back drastically on any other commitments. But I didn’t do that so much this time, which is why the crunch. And while I had a joyful and busy year, I’m ready for a break now and happily reading adult books. Well, as soon as I finish chairing the groups choosing the Cybils Awards for the Young Adult Speculative Fiction category and facilitating discussion for the Birth to Five group of Capitol Choices and reading the remaining books for the 2024 Mathical Book Prize. The truth is, I didn’t even give up other award committee participation this time. (But I love it all so much!) And yes, I’ve been trying to keep up with posting reviews on Sonderbooks as well. (If you’re ever wondering what to read, do take a look!)

I was telling a friend about all of this and she asked, “But what do you do for fun?” Make no mistake about it, reading is what I do for fun, and that award committee participation is not work but volunteer joy. And I love it, though I may need to take a break from any more year-long committees for at least, say, a year.

Though yes, my job is very much related and also my idea of incredible fun. I am in my second year as Youth Materials Selector for my public library system where I’d worked as a youth services manager since 2008. I get to select the books and other materials for kids from birth through teens for all twenty-two branches. And I still believe it’s the absolutely perfect job for me. It’s not necessarily the perfect job for too many other people, but it’s completely suited to me. I love working with spreadsheets and budgets, and I also love keeping up with what’s being published and the best books for children and teens (see all that award committee fun).

But that’s not all I do! Once a week, I get to play online Dominion with my kids Zephyr and Tim, who are adults living on the other side of the country. And we Skype while we play, so I get to talk with my kids at least an hour a week, and I love that. (My kids are doing great, but I won’t post too many details publicly – ask me privately if you want to hear what they’re up to lately.) I also continue to attend the Sunday gaming group that my friend brought me to almost ten years ago on our second date. We didn’t keep dating long, but we’re still friends, and I still say that ten years of that gaming group is a great big win for online dating.

And that’s not all! I’ve been attending Floris United Methodist Church for over four years now and singing in the choir adds joy to my life every week. For a year and a half now, I’ve also been co-leading a Monday night ladies’ virtual small group, which is another lovely way to connect with people. At the start of the year, we went through my unpublished book, Praying with the Psalmists. I was able to polish it up, and I think it’s ready to be published — but finding an agent or publisher was where I dropped the ball this year. I’m planning to continue pursuing that in the new year. (You can follow the Praying with the Psalmists category on this blog to get a small taste of what it’s about.)

Now, besides all those great things, 2023 was the year of two major leaks happening in my condo — the first into my master bathroom and bedroom closet from the condo above and the second from the windows in my bedroom and office. I ended up with a nice newly-painted bathroom, slightly less cluttered closet, and brand new windows – but come to think of it, all that was a big part of why I felt behind this year. (I’ve almost finished cleaning up all the stuff I moved in response to those leaks.) Those windows still frame an awesome view.

But 2023 also held two big trips that brought lots of joy. In May, my youngest sister Melanie got married in Oregon. I flew out and spent a few days with family in Portland (sisters and brothers and nieces and a nephew), then took my two kids and spent a beautiful, peaceful week at the Oregon coast, then drove back to Portland for even more family time at my sister’s wedding, now with aunts and uncles and cousins, too.

Stayed with my sister Marcy’s family for a bit.
Incredible view from our vacation condo.
So good to be with my kids!
It took a week to play through all 50 missions of the cooperative card game The Crew.
I dragged them on a strenuous and gorgeous hike.
The happy couple
With Tim and Zephyr

And in late September, family came to me! My sister Wendy and her husband Jim were visiting his family in Connecticut, so we split the difference and met up for a day at Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania, for a lovely day together.

Then in October, I flew to California with my friend-since-3rd-grade Darlene to celebrate our friend-since-7th-grade Ruth’s 60th birthday. Ruth has early-onset Alzheimer’s. So it was painful to see the difficulties she’s having, but beautiful to see her as well as her adorable grandbabies. She is surrounded by family and surrounded by love, and she’s still my incredible friend who always has something to smile about. Darlene and I also connected with some more school friends, which was such a joy.

With Ruth and Darlene
With Darlene and Abby
With Darlene and Daphne

So that was my 2023: Lots of reading, writing, singing, playing games, and enjoying people. Oh, and taking pictures of the great blue heron that visits the lake outside my window. Yes, I’m still taking walks by my lake, and I still am not tired of those beautiful birds.

Wishing you abundant joys in 2024!

— Sondy

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