What We Are Thankful For This Holiday Season

By Will Reisman, @WillReisman

“I can’t believe it’s already the holiday season.  Where did the year go?”  said by just about everyone we know.  Each year seems to have more demands than the year before, and 2013 was no exception.  The San Mateo County Transit District launched the first phase of SamTrans’ extensive service overhaul and Caltrain embarked on the beginning of a vital modernization program, while celebrating the 150th anniversary of passenger rail service on the Peninsula.

So as 2013 winds down, we asked District employees to spend a few minutes reflecting on the year’s accomplishments and the many blessings for which they are thankful.

Jim KellnerJim Kellner, engineering project manager: “This is an easy assignment for me, coming off a huge personal victory in the Big Sur Half Marathon last Sunday. My goal was to complete the 13+ miles in under 2 hours. Well, how does 1:49:49 sound?! Really, that was my official time. I knocked about 2 minutes off my previous best time and felt great (not wiped out) afterward. So in terms of what I’m thankful for, I’d have to say this state of health that allows me to do things like this.”

Chris ChildressChristopher Childress, employee relations officer: “I’m thankful for my wife who straight up gets it done. She works long hours, volunteers at the church and shows concern while listening to me complain about nothing important. She performs so many tasks, none more important than the love and time she gives to our daughter. And…we are expecting our second child in December. I don’t know how she does it all but I’m thankful for her.”

Customer Service DepartmentThe Customer Service Team (they responded as a group): “Thankful for the customer service team I work with, grateful to be alive and healthy!” “Thankful for my family, the roof over my head, food at my table and my job. God is great! ” “Thankful for health, family, love, spirituality, reason, balance, location, fulfillment, awareness, rational, impulse, maturity, innocence, emotion, vulnerability, passion, experience…Life!” “Where do I begin? I’m thankful for me! That sums it all the way up.” “Thankful for family, faith and friends.” “I’m thankful for the generosity of our community during times of need.” “I’m thankful for my family, health, home, friends and my job.”

Sid Levy FamilySid Levy, procurement specialist: “As the holidays approach, I am filled with gratitude for the wonderful life I have been given. It has been filled hugs and laughter as well as disappointments and loss. I am thankful for this gift and the people who share the journey with me. Each memory is but a small thread in the tapestry of my awesome life.”

Uhila MakoniUhila Makoni, engineer: “I am grateful for my wife, Tatiana and my family. I’m grateful for my SamTrans job and its opportunities for learning new things about the railroad industry. I’m grateful for basketball at SamTrans on Friday afternoons and the opportunity to meet other employees at SamTrans.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARita Haskin, executive officer of customer service and marketing: “I’m thankful for the Transit District’s participation in the Heart Walk. The funds the employees raise – more than $500,000 over the years – goes to important research. It’s because of that research that my younger brother is making a fantastic recovery from a stroke earlier this year. I’m thankful to be around people who make a difference.”

Rebecca ArthurRebecca Arthur, senior grants analyst: “I’m very thankful just to be able to enjoy the Holidays. A year ago I was in the hospital for all of November with a fractured pelvis from my bike accident. I spent that Thanksgiving Day in a great deal of pain and unable to get out to visit family and friends. This year, just being able to walk to Starbuck’s for a Gingerbread Latte feels very special. I’m also very grateful to be back on my bike, and I’ve extremely grateful every time I get home safely.”

Ana RivasAna Rivas, superintendent of bus transportation. “I am thankful for a healthy and loving family and for having a job where I have the opportunity to serve people.”

Chuck Harvey, deputy CEO of operations, engineering and construction: “I’m thankful for the “gift” of nine bonus years since my near-death heart attack and surgery in November 2004. These extra years have blessed me with the opportunity to work with a passionate group of people that are working hard to improve and grow our transportation infrastructure and service to the public. I’m thankful for the work that we have accomplished together and what we have planned next year and beyond. And I’m thankful for the joy that my family is experiencing with the birth of our first grandchild this year.”

Ana Valle, bus operator: “I am thankful for my family, friends, and coworkers. I am also thankful for my customers and the positive impact they make in my life.”

Johnna PabilonaJohnna Pabilona, bus transportation supervisor. “I am thankful for the little things most…my grandkids Joshua, Kailyn, L.E. and Maddie.”

Shayna M. van Hoften, legal counsel: “I have a wonderful family full of love and support for one another. We have a warm home and plenty of food. And I have the one job I wanted when I finished law school, working with amazing colleagues to support the public agencies that make this Bay Area so special. When I step back to acknowledge what I have in my life, I am humbled. Cheesy, I know, but true.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACathy Freeman, executive assistant: “I am thankful and am blessed by God with family, (of course, the addition of our two granddaughters), my church family, the freedom and liberty we have to live, work and worship in this wonderful country, health and my friends!”

Jeff JohnsonJeff Johnson, manager for transit operations training: “I thank God for the wonder of life, for the exuberance of youth, and for the love and affection of my wife and son. I am thankful for music, colors, diversity, solitude, and friendship; for the exhilaration of speed, the stillness of meditation, and Judy Garland. I remember my dad every time I look out over the ocean; and I remember my mom when I gaze up at the stars, and oddly, every time I see a 1978 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme…man, she loved that car. Happy Thanksgiving to all.”

Hilda LafebreHilda Lafebre, manager of capital projects and environmental planning: “The Holiday Season presents us with a unique opportunity for reflection and gratitude; allows us quiet moments to be thankful for the simple yet meaningful things of life. I am thankful for my family, friends and good health. And as a District employee, I am thankful for the great opportunity to provide services that have an effect on people’s daily lives.”

Brian FitzpatrickBrian Fitzpatrick, manager of real estate and property developer: “I am thankful for my wife and two daughters. This past year, I’ve been lucky to be able to spend time with them on a number of small family trips and other special events we’ve enjoyed as a family. I’ve been especially thankful for the opportunity to coach and referee soccer and for the hours I’ve been able to spend with my 8-year old as a result.”

Lynn LockwoodLynn Lockwood, rail contract cost administrator: “ I’m thankful for my family and all they do and have done in my life.  I’m also thankful that we live in a land where we have food, water, shelter and no war.  And lastly I’m thankful that I have the opportunity to give back in various ways throughout the year.”

Jayme Ackemann, communications manager: “Even on the hardest day, I’m thankful for this job.  It is a gift to come to work with people who are passionate about what they do and care about one another.  I’m a happier mom, wife, daughter and friend because I’m inspired by the people I work with.“

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