If you follow my blog, thank you for the time you haven taken to read my ramblings and hear about the happenings in our household. I wish you and those dear to you a very Merry Christmas. 

If I was to come up with a theme for our family for 2015, it would be new opportunities for projects, work and adventures. We have been immensely blessed.

Steve had the opportunity to dust off his skills from his days in the ad agencies making TV commercials and produce a TV show. Sponsored by our longtime client Bubbies Pickles, “Spoiled to Perfection” is about all types of fermented or preserved foods. The third episode is almost posted and more are planned for 2016. Quicker than you can say kombucha, it became a family project with Valerie illustrating cider and cheese-making posters and Jennifer videotaping Sonoma County food preservation experts for social media.

This past year also found Steve working hard to get stronger, fitter, and thinner after his bypass surgery in 2014 – goals which I can proudly say he has achieved with enormous success. While he laments that he can’t jog for as long as he would like to or that he’s tired at the end of the day, I help him get some perspective, delivered in my typically gentle way; “Knock it off! You look fantastic and have the energy of men half your age!” The truth is that when Steve tells people how old he is, they almost always want to see his driver’s license as proof – otherwise no one believes he’s really that old.

I am rejoicing in a new but familiar work situation. After spending two years as a computer-bound project manager creating email threads a mile long, I found myself missing a sense of community and interaction with living, breathing people. So I reached out to my former boss at the Petaluma Visitors Program just as they were about to receive some additional funding. Hooray! As of mid-November, I’m back at the same desk I was when I left in 2013 but with broader responsibilities. In addition to managing the Visitors Center, it’s all about making Petaluma the must-see destination of Northern California. One of my first tasks is to get my social media skills up to speed: #IsThereAMillennialInTheRoom

Ethan finished his year in Seoul in September, spent a couple of weeks on our couch getting caught up on Netflix and then moved on to his new post at Fort Riley, KS, home of the fabled Big Red One. I’m not sure how much he’ll be using his Korean language training in Kansas but he’s ready to meet the challenge of whatever the Army serves up, which as of now, involves field exercises in freezing rain.

In the New Year, Ethan will tackle the Warrior Leader Course, the first step in becoming a non-commissioned officer. After that, who knows? Ideally, the Army will continue to offer him interesting things to do for the remaining two years on his contract and possibly beyond. I think Steve said it best, “As young soldier, I know he hungers for action. As an old soldier, I hope he gets his wish as long as it doesn’t involve returning fire.”

Valerie continues to amaze, not with words, but with pictures. While no less courageous in her own way – I needn’t remind any of our regular readers that she’s a one-armed martial artist – Valerie has settled into her role as an in-store sign designer for Trader Joes; the perfect job for someone who chooses to spend the day drawing. And even better, now she gets paid for it! When she’s not graphically romancing Pumpkin Body Butter, Peppermint Bark, or Pinot Noir on signs that rightfully belong on gallery walls, she freelances artwork for outside clients. And, in her “spare time,” Valerie fills her Tumblr blog with inspired paintings.

It was around this time last year that Jennifer broached the subject of studying abroad during her sophomore year at Pepperdine…and then she dropped the news on where she wanted to go.

You see, Steve and I joke that one of Jennifer’s life goals is to be as far away as possible from her AARP parents and the possibility of having to live out her life in a 1600 square foot condo. Going to college in Malibu was nice but just a little too close to home. So her chance to really fly the Cotati coop came in the form of studying abroad. Since Pepperdine didn’t offer a program on the moon, Shanghai had to suffice.

By the time she comes home for the summer in May, she will have been gone for eight months and have traveled through China, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, and Malaysia. Really, it’s an over-protective dad’s nightmare: a cute and fearless daughter equipped with a curious mind and a passport. Thank goodness for internet phone apps; being able to talk and text regularly makes the world seem much smaller but we’ll still breathe a sigh of relief when she’s back. You can get follow her adventures along with some great photos on her blog at www.JennniferRustad.com.

Once again, we get to the end of the year counting our blessings. We wish you peace, love and joy in the New Year.

The Rustads