It's hard to believe that yet another year has come and gone, and that we've all had to load another candle onto our birthday cakes. But it wasn't just any birthday this year for me. I have reached a milestone in my life: eligibility for AARP. Yes, dear friends, the old girl has turned 50! To be honest, there were times that I thought 50 was ancient, and other times that I thought I probably wouldn't even make it this far. But since they say that “50 is the new 30,” and most of the time I still feel like I'm 30, I suppose I'm not over the hill just yet.

For now, indulge me if you will, and let me use a little space this month for some personal thoughts.

I started to write an article for this issue describing all of the terrific things that ASA is doing in support of our industry and our channel of distribution. Indeed, we have a lot to talk about. Just take a look at the “Foundation Corner” this month to see some good examples.

But then someone gave me the idea to talk about all the travels I've undertaken this year on behalf of ASA. Well, I never need much encouragement to talk about myself, so I thought, “Why not?” After all, I did log about 50,000 miles in the air, sat through what seemed like 50,000 hours of meetings and other gatherings, met a lot of new people, and learned at lot of stuff I didn't know before. Here's a peek at my “dance card” for 2005:

    SWA Convention, Myrtle Beach, SC NCWA Convention, Maumee Bay, OH AIM/R Annual Convention, Orlando, FL KBIS Show, Las Vegas, NV Estate Tax Summit, Washington, D.C. CIPH Convention, Charlevoix, QUE PWDA Convention, Carlsbad, CA HARDI Convention, Phoenix, AZ MWDA Town Hall Meeting, Oak Brook, IL MWDA Fall Classic, Kohler, WI ASA Board and committee/task force meetings (x7) Meetings with PHCC, CIPH, RPA, Messe Frankfurt to plan for ISH-NA 2006 (x2) Meetings with PHCC to plan for Network '05 (x4) On-site visits with members (x4) Meetings with “Supply Chain Panel” facilitator and participants (x3) National Association of Wholesalers DREF Board of Directors meetings (x2) Meetings with my counterparts at other industry groups and buying groups (x3) Meetings with other industry associations (like NAED, ISA and HARDI) (x3)

Now I know that some of you, particularly my friends in the manufacturing business, would consider me a rank amateur in the travel department. And to those true road warriors, I tip my hat, and acknowledge your dedication to the job.

But still, you'd think I'd be tired of this by now, wouldn't you? Nope. I love the work that I do, for a number of reasons. First, none of these meetings is ever a waste of time. Each time I travel on behalf of ASA, I learn something. I make sure that I take something back that will end up benefiting ASA members, or maybe make me more productive in my job.

Next, I get to see ASA members face-to-face, and catch up with them, talk to them about their needs, and about the expectations they have of ASA. With so many members around the country (about 700 wholesalers, manufacturers and reps), it isn't possible for me to go out to visit them on their home turf on a regular basis as I'd like to.

And about those people: This job would be a heckuva lot harder if the people themselves weren't so darn nice. I am fortunate to work in an industry that is populated with really nice people -- friends, really. So spending time with them on a regular basis is enjoyable. It's not really “work” at all. But don't tell the ASA Board members that, or I'll never get another raise. A few might even question giving me a paycheck at all.

So I'm looking forward to a new year, and to filling up my dance card with a similar schedule that will enable me to keep in touch with this great group of people that make up this industry. I look forward to seeing you soon!

Have a great holiday season, and take some time out to count your blessings!

Best regards,

Inge Calderon