January 6, 2016

The New Year started off with a bang, but not in a good way.  Today Karen and I had to drive to Springfield early in the morning so that she could get to a doctor's appointment.  The roads were congested as usual, but the drive was uneventful.  After a few hours at the doctor's, we were free to go and I offered to drive her Subaru Crosstrek back home.  The office was on Springfield's busy Main Street, and the driveway was part of an awkward 4-way intersection with a stop sign at the driveway and a stop sign at the road opposite the driveway (which is where we were heading).

The traffic finally let up.  I let a car opposite us go, then -- with no cars coming on either side -- I slowly rolled across Main Street.  A red Jeep then waiting at the opposite stop sign inexplicably gunned its engine, turning and slamming into our rear driver side, sending us spinning like a pinwheel.  Karen was screaming.  The impact knocked my glasses flying.  No airbags deployed, though.

After we caught our breath, we began frantically searching for my glasses.  Karen found them in the back seat.  When I could see again, I put on our emergency flashers and limped the car away from the intersection and off to the side of the road.  I looked about for the vehicle that hit us; it had continued down the street, stopped a ways down (in the wrong lane) and then backed up a bit.

Some witnesses came by to ask if we were all right.  We were.  I couldn't talk to them because my window and door were both jammed.  I called 911 and within a few minutes the Springfield police arrived.  Interestingly, none of the witnesses stayed around;  they all left before the police arrived.  The elderly gentleman in the Jeep walked over to us to see if we were okay.  He said he was fine.  The front driver side of his vehicle was crushed.  And then, oddly, he said, "Well, you know, these things happen."

Karen got out and I was able to climb out the passenger side door and inspect our Subaru.  The driver side running board had fallen off.  The rear door was smashed and the rear wheel well was completely caved in.  It looked like the rear axle had been knocked off center.  The rear passenger wheel was flat and coming off the rim.  The police took down all our particulars and said they would file a report and send it to our insurance companies.  The Jeep was still drivable and eventually departed.  I called AAA and told them what happened.  They put us on a "priority" list.

Fortunately, we were able to stay in our car to keep relatively warm.  The police said we weren't in a bad spot, and to just wait for the tow truck.  Karen and I talked about what had just happened.  It was such a bizarre incident.  How did that Jeep hit us with such force, and why did that elderly man suddenly decide to gun it while we were crossing the intersection?  The only answer we could come up with was that he thought he was stepping on his brake, but was actually pressing his accelerator.  And when the Jeep didn't stop he stepped on the accelerator harder, flooring the Jeep.

Two hours later, the tow truck arrived.  The operator was pleasant and efficient.  He dropped us and the car off at the nearby Bertera Collision Center (the dealer from whom Karen got the car).  Karen called a co-worker to come get us and bring us home.

Over the past few weeks, I had been telling acquaintances about my plan for the coming year.  The lease on my little electric Smart car will run out in September.  At that point, I could trade it in for a new model and keep the lease going, or just give the car back.  Today's incident cemented my decision: I'm giving the car back.  I simply don't want to drive any more.  Yesterday I went downtown in my Smart to do some shopping.  As I was driving along, a car approached on my right and began swerving toward me.  I bore down on my horn, but the car kept drifting toward me and I thought it was going to ram me.  I let off my accelerator and hit my brakes and they drifted past, entering my lane and then drifting back off to the right as if I hadn't even been there.

A day before that, I was at a stop light in the right-hand lane.  On my left was a left-turn-only lane and a car was there.  When the light turned green.  The car on my left lurched forward and without warning cut me off, veering in front of me.  Driving is just becoming too dangerous, and I'm tired of continually driving defensively, watching out for others who can't be bothered looking at what they're doing, or think they're on a race track (or in Grand Theft Auto) or are distracted by a mobile phone.  I've even seen people driving while reading a newspaper!  Driving has become a serious and costly stress that I don't want to deal with.

I never wanted to drive.  When I was young, I had a bicycle that took me everywhere I wanted to go.  I used to ride about 40 miles a day with it, in all kinds of weather.  I didn't have to worry about paying for insurance or excise taxes or gas or oil changes or repairs.  And I was also in great physical shape.  But my father said if I didn't get my license, he was going to make me get a job in a factory, rather than let me go to college.  So I acquiesced.

When I was 18, I went to the Registry of Motor Vehicles in Northampton for my driver's test.  It was a late winter morning.  The roads were still coated with snow and ice.  The Registry officer had me get in their car and directed me around the back streets of Northampton, which I knew quite well.  He had me do the infamous three-point turn on a narrow street.  Then he directed me south on King Street, heading back toward Main Street.  The sun was at such an angle that it reflected off of the still-icy streets, blinding me.  The visor wouldn't do any good.  I just couldn't see.  I didn't want to look like an idiot and just stop in the middle of the road and tell the officer I couldn't see.  So I continued to inch forward until I came to the Main Street intersection.  I could make out the silhouette of a van in front of me, but I couldn't see the stop light.  The van pulled forward and turned right, so I figured it must be green.  I looked to the right, and an elderly woman stood at the sidewalk with a bag of groceries.  I put my blinker on and drove onto Main Street -- right as the woman walked in front of the car.  I knocked her flat, groceries flying onto the street.  I slammed on the brakes and sat there paralyzed with fear.  The officer turned to me and flatly said, "Aren't you going to get out and help her?"  I couldn't move.  I saw a hand appear on the hood, and then a second.  The woman pulled herself to her feet and waved that she was all right, then picked up her groceries and continued crossing the street.  The officer, in that same flat voice, said, "You have a green light."  In a panic I drove forward and then turned down the street for the Registry.  I knew I had failed the test.  The officer called me into his office, handed me back my permit and curtly said, "Don't ever let that happen again."

I didn't attempt a driving test again for several months.  I finally did get my license.  When I did, my father wanted me to drive his car (with him in the passenger seat) over Mount Tom and up to Holyoke Community College for my classes.  I drove very slowly going up the narrow winding mountain road.  My father told me to step down on the accelerator more.  I did -- just as the road leveled out.  The car flew forward and past a waiting police car.  Sirens blared and I was pulled over for speeding.  For many years after that I stuck with riding my bike, even though I had my license.  When I finally did get my first car almost a decade later (a 1963 Mercury Comet I bought off a friend), it was freeing in a way.  I could cover far more ground than I could with my bike.  And I learned to be a mechanic, which was fun for a while.  But the roads were far less crowded back then, and driving was actually a peaceful passtime.  I can remember calmly riding my bicycle down Riverdale Street in West Springfield, which today would be considered suicide.

I'm no longer interested in riding a bicycle, but I'm more than willing to deal with the current state of public transportation.  Buses run right by our house, and I can easily take them to work and back.  Will it be a bit of an inconvenience?  Yes.  I'll have to plan my schedules a bit more carefully.  And I won't be able to hop in my car on a whim and risk my life spontaneously going places.  But the inconvenience will be more than offset by the reduced stress in my life, and the reduced payments.  (An entire year of bus passes adds up to less than what I pay just for my car insurance!)  I'll leave the driving and all its stresses to a professional.

There is a future that I probably won't live to see, a future I would probably enjoy, where self-driving cars are the norm.  By either owning one or summoning one like a short-term rental car, people will get to where they want to go safely and swiftly, since the onboard computers in all the cars talk to each other and manage the flow of traffic.  Accidents in that scenario would be drastically reduced.  And even the elderly could go anywhere they needed to go at any time of the day or night without having to burden relatives or friends, or even public transit.  Driving finally could be stress-free and maybe even fun once again.  But until that time comes, I'll content myself with watching the world pass by from the modest comfort of a passenger's seat.

July 17, 2016

There's nothing more effective for getting me to work at tasks I've long put off than having something more important to do.  Procrastination is a great motivator of trivial pursuits.  I call it distractive reasoning.

For example:  I have a stack of essays that I have to grade for the next day.  Suddenly, I'm struck with a desire to clean out a section of the cellar, a project I've been delaying for years.  Or there's a window at our house that I've been planning to repair.  I make a move to start the project, but all of a sudden I have a desire to fix a stuck relay on my pinball machine.  Or I start to write this sermon, but I have a revelation about how to orchestrate a particular section of a choral piece I've been working on for ages.

In the normal course of events, I wouldn't have touched the choral piece.  It would have sat there languishing for months.  So why did a more important task suddenly cause me to take an interest in something that was – at that moment – trivial?

This is the same dilemma facing Martha in chapter 10 of Luke's gospel.  She had invited Jesus into her home.  It isn't written that Jesus came knocking or that he was imposing on her.  All the passage states is that “she welcomed him into her home”.  So there she was with the Lord sitting in her living room.  What could have been more important than that?  But what did Martha do?  She busied herself with other duties.  Couldn't she have done those things after he left?  Couldn't she have paused just a few hours to pay attention to the Son of God?

Instead it was Martha's sister Mary who sat quietly and listened to Jesus.  And Martha got upset, because then she thought she had to do everything with no help.  In reality, she didn't have to do anything!  She blamed Mary for her own inability to focus on what's important.

My mother used to do something similar at family gatherings, whether it was Thanksgiving or a picnic: she'd constantly busy herself with chores, getting more food out of the refrigerator or refilling guests' drinks.  But she never blamed anyone for her actions.  She simply loved serving people.  I could understand if Martha had been that way and Jesus told her, “Hey, calm down.  Sit over here and rest a while.”  But instead Martha threw blame onto Mary for not helping out and whined that she was stuck doing all the work.  Jesus didn't fall for that.

Supposedly, according to Martha, Mary was shirking her duties.  But if that's the case, why did Martha even invite Jesus in at that time?  If Martha knew that this was a chance to be close to the Messiah, then why did she care so much about chores?  In Matthew, Jesus says, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear.  Is life not more than food or clothing?  Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of more value than they?”  So Martha really needn't have been concerned about chores.

Luke's telling of this incident lacks detail.  We are left to wonder who's house this was and who these sisters were.  But there's another prominent mention of them, from John's gospel:  according to scholars, this is the same Martha and Mary from the story of Lazarus.  It's the same Mary of Bethany who anointed Jesus' feet with oil as Judas complained about the money that's she wasted.  Martha would later become famous in French medieval literature as the woman who tamed a dragon.  Jesus knew them very well, and seemed to consider them as close as family.

So why would Luke write about such a seemingly innocuous incident as Martha whining about her sister, and omit the fact that Jesus knew these people and had in fact raised their brother from the dead?  There are some scholars who think that Luke isn't talking about Martha doing housework.  The term Luke uses can be translated as “serve” or “do work”, but the type of work isn't specified.  For all we know, Martha might have been trying to rally more disciples around Jesus as Mary sat and listened to him rather than simply preparing a meal as is generally assumed.

What Luke is saying is almost a parable in itself, a lesson in distractive reasoning.  Martha apparently thought that the most important thing she could do in the presence of Jesus was to make herself look busy.  But where did that get her?  Yes, it was commendable that she wanted to serve the Lord, but Jesus at that point seemed to want something different.  He seemed to want simply to be heard.  And Mary knew that.

I often wonder why I want to pull myself away from the task at hand.  Whether it's writing prose or music, I often find it so difficult to sit down and actually do the work even though it's work I love doing.  I can find myself easily distracted by pinball or my model railroad.  But every time I immerse myself in one of those distractions, a new distraction appears.  If I try to escape into pinball, I find myself feeling guilty and not enjoying it.  So I'll retreat to my model railroad.  But the guilt follows me down into the basement.  I know what I should be doing, yet for some reason I just can't force myself to do it.  Perhaps that inner conflict is what Martha was feeling.  She knew she should have been spending time with Jesus, but there was just so much else to do.

Maybe Martha was taking Jesus for granted.  She might have thought that, as the Messiah, he'd be around for a long time and she could catch up with him later.  That reminds me of my attitude toward Mountain Park; I never bothered taking pictures of the park when it was in operation because it was going to be around for another hundred years.  I'd take pictures later.  But later never came.  One day the park was no longer there.   I had missed my opportunity.  It was gone and there was nothing I could do.  Life doesn't have a rewind button.

“There is need of only one thing, which Mary has chosen, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Jesus knew that his time was running short.  He would soon be gone, and knew that both Martha and Mary would regret not spending more time with him.  So he was giving them his time, his most precious commodity.  But Martha's only concern was that there was work to be done.

How can we ever know the right thing to do?  Martha probably thought she was being perfectly rational.  But toil itself can be a powerful distraction, a way to avoid doing what truly is needed at that time.  Often, people who are depressed or grieving are told to keep busy.  The assumption is that being preoccupied with tasks will distract a person enough from their troubles so healing can begin.  But that's not the approach Jesus took.  He didn't say, “Martha, I won't be with you for much longer so to avoid confronting that, go ahead and keep yourself busy.”  Jesus' advice was to stop, to be still, to notice what was truly important.  That was what Mary was doing.

This is how prayer can be so powerful in healing.  Prayer forces you to stop what you're doing, to let go of the busy-ness of life and to just be with God.  Sometimes that's all God is asking of you, to simply be in communion.  Just as with Jesus, the most valuable gift you have is your time.  What better way to spend it than with God?

Martha also seemed to resent doing her tasks, which would be why she'd want Mary to help.  That's similar to how I feel sometimes when I retreat into my hobbies: they aren't enjoyable when I use them as a distraction from something else, a shelter from other problems.  Tasks are best enjoyed when you do them freely, not because you have to but because you want to. 

So how can you know what the right choice is?  It it the easiest choice?  The most difficult?  We aren't told what was going through Mary's mind.  Maybe she was feeling conflicted about not helping her sister but at the same time thought that listening to Jesus was the right thing to do.   How do you make difficult choices, whether it's who to spend your time with or which job you should take or even what you should be doing from moment to moment?

Again, this is how prayer can help.  It doesn't have to be an elaborate act filled with beads and incense, but a simple clearing of the mind in order to let God inside.  While Martha was filled with activity, she couldn't live in the moment and realize what truly was happening in her own home.  Mary on the other hand chose to sit quietly and allow herself to fully experience her time with Jesus.

Besides retreating into a task, there can also be a problem when you stay with a task for which you really have no enthusiasm.  The writer of Ecclesiastes mentions this:  “That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil – this is the gift of God.”  It's about being happy at what you're doing, whatever it is, without guilt or pressure.  There are times when I can work on a piece of music all day, and suddenly find that it's one in the morning.  And I don't want to stop working on it.  There's a joy that comes from such toil.  But then there are other times when it feels more like torture, when I stare at a blank page and I feel completely void of any ideas, as if I'm enduring a prison sentence that will never end.  At those times, why not get up and retreat into another task?  Will that send me into the endless loop I described earlier of darting from one task to another, never finding satisfaction?

“There is need of only one thing, which Mary has chosen.”  Perhaps, like Mary, all I really need to do is clear my mind and and listen to what Jesus has to say.

It's interesting that this particular set of verses in Luke is directly preceded by two other familiar excerpts from Jesus' life: the first is the mission that Jesus gives to seventy disciples, to go out into the world and spread the gospel.  That's followed by the parable of the Good Samaritan.  The final verses of the chapter are reserved for the story of Martha and Mary.  Since they're all in the same chapter, they couldn't have been placed there by accident.  So what could their connection be?

To me, all of the stories in that chapter revolve around the concept of being attentive to someone's needs.  Jesus carefully instructs the disciples on what to do when they enter each town, how to judge whether they're accepted or not, in other words how to listen to the mood of the residents.  The disciples are told what actions to take in each case.  The Good Samaritan parable is about hearing the plight of someone unfortunate.  Again, each agent in the story takes a different action, but there is need of only one thing, the better choice, which the Samaritan makes.

And so it was with Martha and Mary.  Mary was truly attentive to what Jesus wanted (to be heard), while Martha busied herself with peripheral activities.  Recall Jesus' words to Martha: “You are worried and distracted by so many things.”  Martha hadn't learned to be observant, to simply listen to what Jesus needed.  It wasn't that Jesus was condemning Martha; he just wanted her to relax and be with Him.

Our society places so much value on accomplishments and on competitiveness.  Is life really such a failure if you don't earn millions of dollars or have the nicest house on your block?  Is life a failure because you haven't made headlines in the national news, or because you haven't gotten the most likes on Facebook?  What then is the point of life?      Jesus was giving Martha a clue.  Life is not about how you busy yourself from day to day.  As the writer of Ecclesiastes hints, there can be joy in your day to day tasks – but only to the extent that what you do is to glorify God.

So rather than rushing from my pinball to my model railroad then back to my writing, never feeling like I've accomplished much in any of them, what if I just calmly prayed and asked for simple guidance?  What if I thought about which, if any, of my tasks were truly glorifying God?  And what if, like Mary, I listened for the answer?  Perhaps then the distractions would dissipate like a morning fog and I could then clearly see tasks that were worthy of God's children on earth.

September 24, 2016

Today was the day I gave up my car.  With a certain amount of sadness and uncertainty, I drove my little Smart EV nearly 40 miles to New Country Motors in Hartford, CT.  It was the end of my three year lease.  The Smart had been one of the best cars I ever owned.  Mercedes (or Daimler, to be more precise) had put a lot of nice touches into it.  The motor and battery were made by Tesla and worked perfectly, giving me about 80 miles per charge on average, though about half that in the winter months.  The car had remarkable acceleration and a surprisingly smooth ride.  There were heated seats, automatic wipers and automatic lights.  It had a touchscreen Bluetooth stereo that synced up with my iPhone.  It also had a glass roof, one of its best features that made the car feel much more spacious.  I had purchased snow tires to take me through a typical New England winter, and with those on the car performed remarkably well.  Its all-wheel stability control plowed steadily even through deep snow.

The only drawbacks were on the financial side.  The lease cost me about $170 a month.  Half of that was for the actual lease; the other half was a mandatory "Battery Assurance Plan".  Still, that wasn't too bad a price, especially considering I no longer had to buy gas.  (And my electric bill didn't go up the entire time I had the car.)  What irked me were lots of hidden fees.  Occasionally, a "Connecticut tax" fee of $300 was tacked onto my monthly bill, in addition to my regular Massachusetts excise tax.  With a lease, the Smart really wasn't my car; it belonged to the dealer.  I didn't know why I had to pay tax on a car I didn't own.  There were also the scheduled mandatory maintenance visits, which I had to pay for twice a year.  Each one was between $200 and $400 a visit.  Again, it wasn't even my car!  They should have been paying for their own maintenance.  That was one of the supposed benefits of leasing the car: the dealer took care of the vehicle.

As I've mentioned before, though, I was simply getting sick of driving.  The roads had become much more dangerous since the good old days when I would tool around in my 1963 Mercury Comet, cruising at moderate speeds along fairly empty roads.  Now it seemed as if every conceivable road was congested with traffic.  And the people behind the wheels of the other cars seemed blissfully ignorant that they were on the road along with other people.  They would routinely ignore stop signs, stop lights and traffic patterns.  They couldn't be bothered using their signal lights.  And most disturbingly, they still found it completely acceptable to talk on the phone or text people while they were driving, putting everyone on the road at risk.  Karen and I had even seen someone on the highway reading a newspaper while they were driving.  So constantly dealing with the high stress of driving these days made it easier for me to give up my car.  From now on, I'd be relying on public transportation, which was fairly extensive and reliable in my area.  And there were few cocoons more protective on the road than a bus.

Last weekend I took my Smart to an electric car rally that was held in a shopping plaza about a mile from my house.  It was sponsored by our gas and electric company.  My car was one of only three completely electric vehicles there; the others were hybrids like Toyota's Prius.  But I got a chance to talk with the owners.  It was interesting how passionate the electric car owners were.  They said they wouldn't give them up, even though the range was relatively low.  An electric car wasn't an option for going on a long trip.  The industry (even Tesla) still wasn't at a point where an electric car could be a family's sole vehicle.  But for short range commuting, I thought it was a shame that more people haven't gone electric.  It's the perfect low-cost vehicle for getting back and forth to work.  Perhaps future models will incorporate solar cells into the body so that the car can trickle-charge while in a parking lot.  But even without that option, most people would find that an electric car makes perfect sense as a second vehicle.

I had always dreamed of a time when I could own an electric car, and I'm glad I finally got to experience it.  The Smart was a lot of fun.  It always made people (especially children) stop, smile and start conversations.  And while I watched other people in their giant SUVs flush half their paychecks down their gas tanks, I had the pleasure of saving not only a lot of money but, in a small way, the environment.  And I also could park where no SUV could ever fit.

New Country took the car back in a smooth and fairly painless transaction.  They asked me to sign a few forms and handed me a bill for $401, an "end-of-lease" fee.  I asked them why I had to pay them in order for them to take back a car they already owned.  They responded that it wasn't their choice; Mercedes made them do it.  And besides, every other car company did the same thing.  That may have been true, but that didn't mean it made any sense.

So I entered a new phase of my life.  I got my bus pass at HCC, where it will cost me just $17 each semester.  I'll no longer have to pay for car insurance, nor maintenance, nor taxes nor inspections.  When I retire in a few years, senior bus passes will cost me about $20 a month, much cheaper than owning another vehicle.  Some people view a lack of a car as a lack of independence.  But then how did the human race survive prior to the 1940s, before nearly every family had an automobile?  I think I'll get along just fine.  And when we want to go on a trip, Karen still has her rugged Subaru (which recovered nicely from the accident at the beginning of the year).

In an interesting development, I've heard that the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority is planning to deploy new electric buses along the route I take each day.  So even though I gave up my EV, I might still get my wish to keep riding in one.

December 24, 2016

Today would have been my mother's 99th birthday.  I'm not sure what she would have thought had she been alive.  She passed away when the Internet was still in its baby-steps stage.  Transactions were cash or check.  The local grocery store was still the only place the buy food.  And that was less than 20 years ago.  In the decade or so since, personal technology has blossomed in a way nobody at that time could have predicted or understood.  Nine-eleven changed the U.S. into a paranoid and reactive nation, culminating in this country's most bizarre election.

For me, the past year began with a car crash and ended with a crash of a completely different kind.  Just at the time when I was relaxing into my later years and planning for a quiet retirement, the entire world has been upended into a scenario of unsettling uncertainty.  My friend Dave has talked about global psyche and political systems traveling around the world like the weather.  China was one of the world's foremost superpowers thousands of years ago.  Then the power drifted westerly to Greece, then to Rome, eventually to Germany, France, Spain, England and then to the U.S.  Now the center of power is drifting again across the Pacific and back to China.

What exactly determines what "power" is?  Is it simply military might?  Is it manufacturing?  Is it a measure of wealth?  I think it's what a culture contributes to world consciousness, how the rest of the world looks at a culture and tries to imitate it.  For over two centuries, the U.S. has been a role model for the rest of the world.  Now many other nations look at us and just shake their collective heads.  As each nation rises, so eventually will it fall.  A democracy can function only when citizens are continually involved in the process.  When citizens no longer value being involved in the process, democracy devolves.  I don't know what its final form will take in this case, whether it's oligarchy or fascism.  But when a driver is asleep at the wheel, the vehicle will inevitably crash.  We seem to be driving blind right now.  I hope the road is straight enough to keep us going.

I'm reminded of the exchange between Gandalf and Frodo in Lord of the Rings.  Frodo says, "I wish the ring had never come to me.  I wish none of this had happened."

To which Gandalf responds: "So do all who live to see such times.  But that is not for them to decide.  All you have to decide is what to do with the time given to you."

The highlight of the year was our trip to Broadway to see Hamilton.  The production exceeded even my highest expectations.  I was already familiar with the music, but couldn't imagine how it was going to be staged.  The production was inventive and even breathtaking.  The hidden counter-rotating turntables on the stage were brilliantly utilized, creating some achingly beautiful stage compositions.  The performances were all exceptional.  The energy was electrifying.  And the writing was impossibly good.  Seriously.  I just don't know how Lin-Manuel Miranda was able to create such moving and intricate verse out of what otherwise could have been a dry history.  He was certainly deserving of all the accolades he's received this year.

Karen is having our church choir perform one of my Christmas anthems tomorrow.  It's certainly no Hamilton, but I'm glad someone will get a chance to hear it.  And the Greater Westfield Choral Association will be performing one of my hymns for its 40th anniversary concert on April 2.  (I always end up singing in my own pieces and never really get to hear what they sound like except in recordings).  GWCA is now officially a non-profit organization.  But in order to get that status, they needed to have a President, Treasurer and Clerk.  They had the latter two but couldn't find anyone to be President.  So I volunteered.  As President, it's a bit awkward that they'll be doing one of my pieces, as if I've proscribed them to do so.  But hopefully someone more qualified to run the group eventually will step forward.

I'm also entering a new era at work.  Holyoke Community College has just hired a new president, only the third in the college's history and the first Latina.  I was impressed with her resume and look forward to working with her.

So as we all venture into new territory, I wish everyone a happy and healthy New Year.   May it be one that we can all look back on with fondness.