End of Year Letter


I just finished my annual End of the Year Letter that I send out to friends and family and thought that it would also be nice to include the letter here on my blog (along with the pictures from the letter).  Sharing our lives and connecting with those in our personal community of friends and family is mindfulness in action.  Happy reading!

December 2014 – End of Year Letter

Hello family & friends :) Here in the Rocky Mountains of western Montana autumn turns slowly to winter and the peaks are capped with snow.   With each passing season new beauty dawns anew. This year began with my trek to Deer Park Monastery in southern CA to spend a month on retreat.  I had such a wonderful time that Mike and I will soon be heading there together to spend two weeks in mid-January.  An unfortunate tragedy struck our town of Missoula earlier this year when an unprecedented avalanche swept a house away, damaged other homes, and buried 4 people (of which 3 survived and 1 died).  Both Mike and I were closely involved on the organization team and the volunteer efforts to search, sort, and store belongings that had been covered in the many feet of snow.  Our community really pulled together in the wake of the avalanche.  We were grateful to have witnessed such support, care, and concern for those affected in working alongside so many other community volunteers. In the spring Mike travelled back east to Pennsylvania to work with my stepdad Steve in his painting business.  In deciding to leave his roofing business behind Mike continued to work with Steve through the summer here in Missoula and then found himself in a new job this past fall.  He’s now working with a local business called Energetechs, which specializes in energy efficiency, owned by his good friend Russ.  He continues to meet every week with the men’s group he started a few years back and has recently gotten involved with a committee interested in forming a support group for inmates recently released from the prison system. Our son Jaden graduated from middle school in June and started 9th grade at Big Sky High School at the end of August.  He turned 15 in November and is looking forward to taking driver’s ed in the spring.   We did some driving with him over the summer and he did great (albeit a little fast on those turns :).  He recently joined the speech and debate club at school and is really enjoying it.  Oh, and over the summer Mike and Jaden took to making wooden swords and selling them at our local Saturday outdoor craft market.  It has been a fun father son project for them.


As for me, let’s see.  I’ve continued joyfully serving as the director of The Open Way Mindfulness Center in Missoula and as program director for the meditation group I founded in 2002 called Be Here Now.  In May I was the co-director of our local spring residential retreat up on the Flathead Lake and I’m looking forward to serving in that same position for our next spring retreat.  I’ve been involved with a lot of meetings, trainings, and workshops over the past year with the Missoula Interfaith Collaborative and have enjoyed our partnership with them on behalf of the Open Way Mindfulness Center.  As a spiritual leader of the Open Way center I have also been part of an interfaith clergy group.  I continue to host various events and community building opportunities as part of our meditation center and I find it a great joy to be able to offer my time and energy to such beneficial activities.  Whether it was putting together a yard sale fundraiser in the spring, hosting potlucks, showing a documentary to kick off our food drive collection month, heading up a crew of volunteers for the annual Clark Fork river clean up, hosting our monthly open mic nights, or facilitating council meetings I am so very grateful for the community that I am part of and it is a pleasure to be of service to it. I continued my part-time childcare work with young children through most of the last year and then decided to search for more consistent work at the end of the summer, as my health was improving with my nerve disease.  I interviewed for a job as a teacher’s aide in a local middle school and started at the end of September.  I work 3 days a week and am really enjoying the students and staff there.  It’s a good fit for me right now (although I sometimes miss working with those little ones :).


We had an action packed summer which included some great family time, visiting Glacier National Park, canoeing, kayaking, Jaden and I’s first rope swing into a lake, biking on the Hiawatha Trail (a converted railway line which leads you through old train tunnels and over high trestles), hiking, zip lining, picking 100 lbs of cherries around the Flathead Lake (100lbs!), stand-up paddle boarding, tubing, and volunteering on a local community farm.   And this fall I volunteered as an apple picker with the Great Bear Foundation, which helps local homeowners glean their fruit trees in an effort to keep the bears from wandering into town to stock up on fruit.  So it was a great year of local harvesting of fruits & veggies.  We wound up with a delicious bounty!

My volunteer work with hospice continues and this coming February I’m helping to host a two-part series workshop on end of life care.  This work is near and dear to my heart.  As a volunteer with hospice for the past 12 years I have learned how to deeply appreciate the preciousness of the time I am afforded.  I have been honored to spend time with individuals nearing the end of life and listen to their stories – in many ways they teach me how to live well.

There is so much to be grateful for – so much beauty and abundance surrounding us all.  As the new year unfolds, like a flower opening in the sun, may we practice to expand our perspective, increase our kindness towards ourselves and others,value the time we have and those around us as a gift, strengthen our gratitude, smile more, and not let the things that matter the most be at the mercy of the things that matter the least. With Great Love, Nicole, Mike and Jaden


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