Welcome to the 2008 online version of the Holly Herald. This environmentally-friendly GREEN version is saving trees one web page at a time.

Merry Christmas and a very happy 2009 to you! As one of our friends or family members, we would like to state emphatically and up front that we love you and value our relationship with you. Life is short, you never know what's around the corner, so we want to make sure you know how we feel about you. Okay, on to the Holly Herald . . .

Dora and I have had a wonderful 2008 and we'd like to share a few highlights, photos, and videos with you. Where to start . . .

Note: After clicking on a link to web site or photo below, click the BACK BUTTON on your internet browser program to return to this page.

Spring sprung early as it always does in Arizona. February and March are my two favorite months to sit on the back patio and enjoy the beautiful foliage, such as the flowering bottle brush shrub and the rare cactus flowers. In March, Dora was the first to take a dip this year.

In May, I took my annual trip to California to join 70 other recovering alkies in the Sierra Nevada mountains, about 50 miles east of Stockton, CA. This was my fourth year at the campout, hosted by the Men's Answer Group of San Leandro, CA and I had a blast. It was great seeing all my California buddies, relaxing in the beautiful mountains, hiking, eating well, meditating, and napping. Those are all my favorite activities at the Men's Campout. Check out this year's photo album.

In June, Dora had foot surgery to remove a bunion and correct the alignment of a toe. Sorry, I promised her there will be no photos of her feet in the Holly Herald. She endured much pain and inconvenience, not to mention the wheelchair and walker. She's also endured too much arthritic pain this year as well as an intestinal infection. She was on disability as a result of all her physical setbacks and lost her management position at Banner Estrella Medical Center, but this turned out to be a Godsend. The position contributed to way too much stress for Dora (imagine supervising 70 people). Her life is much simpler now and she obtained a new job within 3 weeks of starting her job search. She's working 2-3 days/week in the Quality Control department of Banner Thunderbird Hospital, and the stress level is virtually non-existent. More than that, the spiritual principles we learn about in Religious Science allow us to know that her physical challenges are just transitory and her true nature is one of perfect health, energy, vitality, and inner peace.

I have continued my weekly classes at the Spiritual Enrichment Center of Peoria, AZ to become a licensed Practitioner - a trained spiritual counselor. I graduate in May and will then take a written and oral exam to meet the licensure requirements of the United Centers for Spiritual Living. Now that my two classmates and I are "coming down the homestretch" we have become more actively involved with weekly services in which we lead the morning meditation group, perform invocation prayers and spiritual readings during the service, and meet with parishioners after the service to offer prayer and counsel. I love the work that I do as a practitioner and feel like I've found another way to help and uplift my fellow travelers.

As a board member of the Spiritual Enrichment Center, I have been very involved with planning and facilitating activities, events, and fundraisers - my favorite event this year was the Chili Cookoff and Improv Group event, in which I won second place in the green chili category. Next year I want to be contest judge. Another of my favorite contributions is maintaining the web site and coordinating the bi-weekly "E-Minder" service - a web email that advertises upcoming events and news - here's a sample.

During the scorching summer here in Phoenix, Dora and escaped for a couple of three days weekends. On the 4th of July, we drove to Prescott, AZ to relax and cool down. We attended a great arts and crafts fair on the town square - here's a photo of Dora relaxing in front of the county courthouse and also at an old-west bar and restaurant. The higher altitude green scenery was a nice change from the low-lying Phoenix valley, as evidenced by these photos of Payson, AZ and Show Low, AZ, two other weekend trips.

One of our favorite types of outings is dinner out with Dora's sister Wanda, our brother-in-law Mike, and our cute 14-year old niece Taylor. At one of our birthday dinners, Mike and Wanda looked a bit goofy, Mike was acting a bit more bizarre than usual, but they finally calmed down for a somewhat normal pose. Taylor was playing the shy teen, but I got her on video the following month for a couple of minutes without her knowing it. That was funny. Oh, and here's the whole motley crew. We do lots of fun things with the McKenneys. Here's a photo of Wanda and Dora at the "So You Think You Can Dance" TV road show.

In July, Mark awoke to a howling kitten at 5am. The poor thing was crying and cowering outside our bedroom window, so we rescued and adopted him. We named him Sunny, because he's the color of yellow sunshine and also because he's brought so much loving sunshine into our life. His favorite pastime is napping with Mark. Videos speak louder than words, so here's Sunny . . .
  1. Welcome Sunny
  2. Sunny Loves Cheese
  3. New Toys for the Boys
  4. Taylor Plays with Sunny
  5. Sunny Explores the Backyard During a Sprinkle Shower
  6. Chasing Nurf Darts
  7. Sunny Chases the Remote-Controlled Mouse
  8. Sunny and His Blue House
In August, Dora and I attended the United Centers for Spiritual Living international conference at the Asilomar Conference Center in beautiful Pacific Grove, CA. Here's our Asilomar Conference Diary and Scrapbook.

In early October, I attended the National Academic Advisors Association annual conference in Chicago. Yes, the conference offered good professional development workshops, but the best experience I had was eating Chicago-style deep dish pizza.

To celebrate Mark's 50th birthday in October, Dora threw Mark a wonderful surprise birthday party and purchased a hot air balloon ride. What a great experience, I recommend it! We watched as they inflated the balloon, then we had to pose of course. The takeoff was lighter than air, the landing was as gentle as an introverted lamb, and the breakfast they served us immediately upon landing (including a cake for Mark) was delish! What a kind and considerate way for Dora to say, "Happy Birthday Mark!" Here are the videos . . . I work with some fun and goofy folks at Glendale Community College. They love to celebrate Halloween and take their costuming seriously. This year, I dressed up as a "cereal killer" (get it?) and the Admissions and Registration crew posed as Snow White, the Evil Queen, and the 7 Dwarves. What fun! Oh yes, and I garnered first prize in the costume contest. I'm already planning my 2009 costume.

So that's our year in review . . . good times. We know your new year will be filled with love, happiness, peace, kindness, compassion, patience, understanding, acceptance of self and others, forgiveness . . . all the biggies. As the wise hillbilly said, "as we think, so we is". Don't forget, Jesus is the reason for the season - J.C. is the great example for us all, not the great exception. We can all aspire to a higher level of consciousness, self-awareness, and spiritual understanding through the deliberate control of our inner-God-expressing thoughts. Enough preaching . . . we love you all . . . Merry Christmas!