The 2020 Christmas letter

 Dec 6, 2020

My dearest Rodney,

As in the past many years, I have written a Christmas letter to our friends and family. Its easier now that I can type and print copies and I’m sure its quickly becoming old fashioned to write a letter and even more to write a personal note. Its a habit I enjoy and so I decided to keep it. Even now, after 2 years, I have to catch myself in the signature when I was so used to write Rod and Sarah, now starting and stopping with just Sarah. I walked into town last evening to mail the letters at the post office and stopped to take a couple of pics for my solo French Christmas. I’ll be OK Rod, lots of time to paint, cook and maybe even take a hike in the country!

As you used to say, here on earth we live in this box of space and time, the dimension we can understand. Even though I don’t know how the other dimensions work, (I leave that to the quantum physics experts!), I know they exist, and I believe our souls are able to experience them. Sometimes, I imagine a life with no constraint of space or time, no past or future, only present. What a comforting feeling with our souls together in the present and anchored to God. I know that when I need to understand more, it will be revealed to me. It reminds me of the bible verses from 1 Corinthians 13, 11-12: “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. Now we see but a dim reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” Even at 60 years old I am such a child in my understanding and you were so advanced in your understanding Rod. I miss the times when you would tell me your learnings, your convictions, your understandings. I so miss hearing those heart-melting words “I love you”. I look forward to a reunion in some form or another Rod because I believe we will be together again. Today, that belief accompanies me as I always see you just behind my eyes. I sing my Hallelujahs with the heavenly hosts as I praise God the Father and Jesus our savior for the gift of redemption and salvation. No greater gift. Merry Christmas a little early Rodney, our life together was our greatest gift to each other. I will always love you Rod. Always.

Dear friends and family,

I take this opportunity to wish you all a wonderful Christmas season in 2020.  Yes, I am a Christian and I celebrate the birth of Christ.  For those reading this who are not Christian, feel free to substitute your holiday name as my greetings are meant for all!

I could probably just restate the date of the year 2020 and stop right here and focus on the difficulties this year 2020 has brought us all.  Instead, I am choosing to focus on the positive, seeking ways to learn, being grateful, adapting and improving!  I continue this note with this mindset.  I do not aim to minimize the impact of Covid19; for like you, I have had friends, colleagues and family members who have suffered from this virus.  I try to do everything I can to protect myself and others.  I pray for those who have it to recover and I pray for those researching and testing the vaccine to find a safe and effective solution that we can take with confidence to protect ourselves from this disease like we have done with Polio or other childhood vaccines.  I’m not getting into political debates, so if you don’t agree with me, that’s your right.

Like every day, month, year or any segment of time, this year has been full of opportunities and challenges.  In January of this year, after a training/handover period, I officially started in my role as VP of Manufacturing Operational Excellence for Michelin Group.  This means helping our manufacturing plants world-wide strive for excellence in all we do to produce an excellent product for you, our customers, and at the same time being a great place to work!  I have a small team of experts based in here in France, and just as importantly a network of Experts and Plant managers all over the world to keep us all defining and striving for excellence.  It’s a never-ending and constantly evolving mission!  I have spent most all of my professional life with Michelin since 1987 working all over the world in factories and I have learned a few things over the years, so I’m honored and humbled to have this responsibility to achieve this world-wide mission.  What an order!

France, like most everywhere in the world, has taken measures to combat Covid19, which include social distancing and in some cases confinement to home.  Living physically alone, I knew this had risks to feel isolated.  God anticipated this and sent me what Rod called ‘intuitive thought’ to keep me from sinking into loneliness and the related mental health issues.   When I was still in Greenville, after Rod’s death, a dear friend of mine, who is also on a grief journey after the death of her husband, gave me an art kit.  I gratefully accepted this gift, but I didn’t get past opening the box to use it.  She had kept some watercolor Christmas cards I had sent in the early 1990’s and encouraged me to restart painting.  I brought the kit with me to France but didn’t open it…until confinement!  Thankfully, during confinement, I was able to work from home (although it’s a challenge to inspire operational excellence when you can’t see the operations firsthand!).  The world-wide economy had virtually come to a halt and Michelin was taking many measures to conserve cash and prepare to be able to rebound when hopefully demand for our products rose (thankfully this is the case as I type this note).  One of these measures taken was to force ‘vacation’ during confinement. Stay-cation to the extreme!  During this time, I had “intuitive thought” to get the painting kit out of the closet and try to paint.  I hadn’t painted for 25+ years!  My 1st attempt was to draw and paint the pansies in my balcony box.  The challenge was to remember to draw what I saw (right side of brain) , not the shortcut version image of a flower (left side of brain).  Then, once starting to mix the colors and use the water, trying to remember techniques with a test and learn approach and, gradually gaining confidence, learning to accept that each piece would not be a masterpiece!    I am so grateful to have restarted this hobby/work/creative expression.  I have invested in some new tools and enjoy them, but I will always keep the kit that was so instrumental in the rediscovery of a latent ability.

Here are some of my personal favorites from 2020. (No, I have not sold any paintings, nor do I take commissions for anything!  At this point in this journey, The subjects have to”speak to me before I paint!)

“The Princess is coming”
Slim Pickins
Murphy’s Roadtrip

This year has also been a year of learning another type of creative expression…cooking.  Rod used to do all of the cooking in our home and he was so good at it! When he was sick and after his death, I knew that it was either eat out all the time (not what I wanted to do alone, then or now) eat processed foods and heat them up (not a healthy option in my eyes) or learn to cook for myself.  So, I chose the latter.  I have invested in some tools that I never imagined would excite me (good quality pots/pans and kitchen gadgets) and while I can’t say it’s a passion, I am slowly getting comfortable cooking and hopefully at some point get to the point I feel confident!  Work in progress! “More time on the tool” required!  Here are some food photos…, yes, I realize they are very basic…trust me when I consider where I started on this journey, they are just fine for me!

So, in resume, thanks to you and many other people all over the world and spirits not of this world, I am not only surviving this chapter of my life, I am starting to thrive. I strive to keep an attitude of gratitude and keep gratitude an action word.   I’m grateful for you and I wish you all a wonderful Christmas season and great 2021!



So now you see it Rod, your 2020 Christmas letter. I’m grateful for our time together here on this earth and for so many other other things. Starting to thrive in this chapter of my life. Attitude of gratitude. Sometimes its real, sometimes is “fake it ’till you make it”. I ask God to bless you in your mission Rodney and give you everything I ever wanted for myself. I love you😘 💕 ❤️ . I will always love you.