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Holiday Letter 2022

It’s a great building, a conversion of an old Jewish temple. One of the coolest buildings in town in a town with a lot of cool buildings. It’s the first time I’ve lived alone for more than a few months. I like it more than I thought I would. Gives me a lot of time to reflect which I was short on for the nine years I served on the Columbia City Council which I wrapped up last year leading to the big changes. In general, it was nice to rip the band aid off and be done with Columbia. Between the brutality of political life and the toll of working with homeless folks it had started to get to me. Getting away and being in a new place doing new things was just what the doctor ordered. If I had stayed in Columbia I would have been pulled into more drama and been put upon do more hard stuff for free, then I feel like doing at this point in my life.

It’s been a little while since I’ve done a holiday letter, but I want to get back in the swing of blogging in 2023 and this seems like a good start. The beginning of the year found me starting a new life in Leavenworth Kansas. I had moved here in November to take a job as the Executive Director of a domestic violence and sexual assault service center. I kept my house in Columbia, Missouri which is about three hours away and I make it back to visit about once a month or so. I got a nice two-bedroom apartment a short walk from work.

So, asides from work my life is pretty quiet. I walk a lot. One of the first things I did is get a list of the Leavenworth Parks and walk to them all. There are some nice ones. Haven Park has mountain bike trails that are fun to hike on, even though the woods are pretty scrubby. Veterans Park has some good trails but it’s on the other side of town, so I don’t get over there much. Three Mile Trail and the River Walk are my go-to walks I do several times a week. I like hikes that start at my front door and a walk through town and down the River Walk to Three Mile Creek and then take the trail to the end and circle back home or walk it backwards if I need more steps is my go-to walk.

It’s a beautiful day for December so I walked down 7th Street to Three Mile Creek to the River Walk and then down Esplanade to 2nd and back was a nice walk and a little longer and may become my new one. I had some back pain so I took the day off and thought a long walk might help me stretch out. I’ve put on a lot of weight this year and am looking to get a lot more active and do some portion control and drop a few pounds.

My job has been fairly stressful until recently. The nonprofit was a bit of a fixer-upper to put it mildly. It had closed down for about a year and never really got straightened back out after reopening four years ago. It took a lot of work to get the accounting straightened our, fix the grant reporting system and bring in solid management staff. We still have a lot of turnover but we are stable if still a bit fragile. I have repaired our relationship with our funders and been out in the community a lot, so donations are up. We’ve improved the data collection but that still needs some work. We are close to getting certified which will be a big accomplishment. We have a few things left to do from our site visit as far as rewriting our rulers to be more trauma informed and paring down our fairly onerous intake procedures. I’m kind of excited about having the space to improve programming.

There has been so much catch up and back-office repair I haven’t been able to focus as much on process improvements. I was finally able to fill our contract counselor position so it’s nice to have another clinical heavy hitter on the team. I hope to start doing some motivational interviewing training for my staff next month. I wrote myself into a COVID grant to do that but haven’t had the time to make it happen. I am also looking forward to doing an annual report. We’ve not done one in many years, and I didn’t have the data or accounting nailed down to do one last year.

Mostly I’ve been pushed at work. Have had very little time to choose my own adventure kind of activities and have been keeping the wolves at bay. I actually have some discretionary time and some ability to slow things up a little and focus more on selfcare. I want to go to Italy in June so I need to get in much better shape to properly enjoy it. Walking more and getting back on the ebike are my big plans and adding some inside workouts when the weather isn’t cooperating.

Besides work I am active in the Chamber of Commerce. I’ve been on the Board of Directors since January which is pretty good for being a new resident. This January I’ll start on the Executive Committee as the Vice Chair. I’m also plugging in on their strategic plan. I’ve also gotten active with the Leavenworth County Human Services Committee and am spearheading their strategic planning efforts. I hope to do it in pieces over the next year working in small groups with rotating members. We rewrote the mission statement, so vision is next.

I’ve also been a Chamber Ambassador, so I go to all the ribbon cuttings. It’s a good way to meet people and find out what is happening in the community. I’ve read research that having lots of weak ties is one of the components of a happy life so I’m doing good on that front for a newbie.

I’ve done a bit of regional travel. I’m planning on wrapping things up here in a little less than a year after I fulfill my two-year commitment. I’m not really cut out to be an executive director. I was a reluctant administrator much preferring direct service and clinical work and clinical management and training but once you’ve been an executive director it’s really hard to get a job doing anything else. It’s been satisfying fixing a broken keystone nonprofit but it’s not how I want to spend my days and the small “p” politics of small-town organizing is a lot to put up with for not having a particular passion for the work or the community. I like them both, but I have a lot of interests and I like a lot of places.

So, I’ve spent some time checking out Lawrence, Topeka and Wichita as well as Atchison which is a bit closer. I’ve done all the hikes within a half hour drive and am working on the hour drive hikes. I’ve also checked out the Flint Hills and Osawatomie. I have concert tickets in Hayes Kansas to see an alt country band, 49 Winchester, in May and my grants manager is getting married in Wichita so I’ll be back down there. The Capitol with the famous John Brown mural is a must see. The John Brown Museum in Osawatomie also has some cool artifacts.

My friend Harry came out and we went to Lawrence to see mewithoutyou on their farewell tour. It was an awesome show and I saw some shows with John. Most notably the Firewater Festival with Blackberry Smoke, the Old 97’s, and 49 Winchester giving memorable performances. I did a float trip down the Missouri from Leavenworth to the next river town. I also did Hartsburg to Jeff City later in the year which was pretty fun. For my vacation I flew into Detroit over Labor Day and caught the Detroit Jazz Festival. I came early and stayed late to see my friends in the homeland.

And that friends has pretty much been my year. Mostly I’ve tried to live a humble and quiet life. I’ve given up big ambitions and focused on what’s in front of me. Overall, I’m pleased with the results. The ego gets going a bit, but I’ve gotten better about keeping it in check and will keep working on it. I’m going to stay on much the same path in the coming year but take better care of myself while doing it. By the end of the year, I should be wrapping things up and packing my things back to my house in Columbia. From there its epic road trip and finding a quiet place to hole up and write a book. I hope to blog more to keep me in the writing mode.

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