Chip MacGregor

July 24, 2012

Summer Sabbatical – It’s a Very Good Thing


Sandra Bishop, MacGregor Literary, Inc. Agent, shares her reflections on a rare thing indeed for people in the publishing biz–time away. Sandra represents fiction and nonfiction authors in multiple genres. 

Each of the past few years as summer approached, I’ve told myself it’s what I would do. Slow down. Lay low. Say no. Cultivate my inner life. Spend undistracted time with my family. Reach out to friends. Remember what – besides work – brings me joy and satisfaction.

I’ll be honest, if I hadn’t been forced this year to stop completely and take time to heal from surgery, I don’t know that I would have actually done so.

It took me a full ten days before I was not schlepping around in my PJ’s at least part-time, but once I started feeling well enough to do more than sit around with my feet up all day, I began to enjoy the gift of just “being.” And I gave myself permission to take a full month off. Now that I have, it’s something I plan to do again next year – and something I recommend everyone do if possible. Not the surgery part, of course, but the taking of a good stretch of time away to rest, recharge, and remember what you love to do – besides work and write.

It sounds easy – the notion of taking time away – but for those of us who are driven to produce, it is no small thing to stop and really enjoy the simple pleasure of taking each day as it comes. After being immersed in work day in and day out for years, it took me some time to relearn what I enjoy most in life. I’ve been a bit surprised that it really, really is the simple things that matter most.

I’ve grown increasingly grateful for God’s lavish blessings in my life. In addition to understanding what a privilege it is to work in a field I love, I have grown more appreciative of my good health (and health insurance!), my family and friends, the Church, my home (and the cleaning crew I recently hired!), and …my adorable, faithful dog.


My husband takes such good care of me when I’m down. From full-time kitchen duty, to fetching, to hauling dirt (see below) to reminding me to take it easy when he knew I was getting eager to push myself, he’s the cream of the crop, to be sure. I’m a lucky, lucky wife.

I’ve had some rare moments with my son recently. I’m amazed how spending unplanned, spontaneous time together can make so much difference in a relationship. He and I really needed this time to just “hang.” (And apparently he’d been needing to “hang” his face in a box of Voodoo Doughnuts.)

Thanks to my mom, I’ve exercised those muscles in my tummy that only hurt when one laughs SO hard. She’s always, always good for that. I appreciate her sense of humor – and her giant laugh.

My first venture out was on Independence Day to enjoy a BBQ and fireworks at the invitation of one of the authors I represent who happens to live nearby. What a gift to enjoy a full-fledged fireworks show with their friends and neighbors, right from the comfort of my outdoor lounge chair. It will be hard to convince me to ever brave crowds again on the 4th!


As is typical in the Willamette Valley, summer weather officially kicked in around July 4th this year, and since then I’ve spent nearly every day outside. With the tinder-dry, scorching, and humid temperatures other areas of the country have suffered this summer, life without climate control is not something I take for granted. Trust me, I’m grateful.  I do complain a lot about the rain and gray skies, but when it is warm and clear here in the summer, I cannot imagine living anywhere else. No bugs. No humidity.  Practically no place I’d rather be than outside on my deck.

And … thanks to my brother, I finally identified one of my favorite birdsongs,  though I’m not quite yet over feeling rather simple that I’d never known it came from a common American Robin.


I enjoyed a beautiful rose bouquet from Chip & crew when I returned home from the hospital. And I’m looking forward to planting the lovely summer annuals that were sent to me by my authors, now that I’m fully bendable. I just need to add some fresh soil to my friendship garden, and in they go.

By the time the rain stopped, it was too close to surgery and I knew I wouldn’t feel well enough to bend over, so we didn’t plant a vegetable garden this spring; we just let the garden patch go. Of course by the time I was feeling well enough to wish we had done something, it was really too late to plant anything we could expect to produce.  With the help of my son, niece, and husband we transformed the weed patch into a lavender garden. It’s a bit sparse as it was difficult to find many starts this time of year, but we’ve done what we could – and have made a small population of bees quite happy. I’m told these plants love drought, and that by the end of summer I’ll have plants of respectable enough size that they’ll come back in the spring ready to flourish. By then I can move then to their permanent home outside our family room picture window.

The lack of homegrown veggies encouraged me to stop in and meet the owner of a new year-round fruit market that just opened up in the neighborhood. What a find. As I write this, I’m enjoying sweet, fresh local cherries, and for only $1.39 per pound!


I have finally had time to figure out how to utilize Google to capture, play, and catalog my music collection (sorry iTunes – just never been a fan) AND I’ve now synched my music collection to my smartphone! So I’m now fully enjoying old favorites and actually buying some new tunes.

My son has been taking drum lessons for just over a year and is doing really well.  We’re grateful to have found a drum teacher who is inspiring him to keep after it. People say we’re “brave” for putting up with drums in the house, but honestly, I like hearing him play. Sounds like joy to me.

Until this morning when he left for his first day of Blazer Basketball camp, the only other camp my son has been to this summer was Rock Band Camp. This year they practiced Mat Kearney’s “Ships in the Night” all week, and he did a bang-up job on concert night.

A couple weeks ago we scooted out mid-day to a local radio studio to hear Lyle Lovett. It was quite an indulgence knowing that we were going to see him later that evening at The Schnitzer – our beautifully refurbished historic downtown music hall. Love me some Lyle!

As much as I love live music, I’ve never played an instrument. But, feeling inspired by some local musicians, I recently started taking online harmonica lessons. As in very recently. As in seven lessons down and about 100 or so to go.  I’m certainly not holding my breath that I’ll be playing like Mickey Raphael (Willie Nelson’s harmonica player) anytime soon, but I’m having fun.  (Check out this fun video of him playing MAN OF CONSTANT SORROWS with The Reflectacles – a new band I was just getting into which, unfortunately, doesn’t seem to have hung together.)

Last weekend, on the spur of the moment – and with thanks to an author I represent who happens to be very close to the band – I was able at the last minute to trek up to a Switchfoot concert a couple hours away and enjoy watching the concert from the side stage. It was a joy to share this experience with my son and his buddy – who didn’t tell me until we were on the way home that this was his first concert. Hopefully he won’t be disappointed at other shows when he isn’t invited to watch from the stage.


First stop: Annual Doodle Romp. Yep. Our breeder invites us back once a year around our dog’s birthday to a family reunion.  And guess what these Golden Doodles do? They romp! And guess what the owners do? We compare notes and take turns touring the new puppies. It’s hard to resist not adding another one to the family, trust me.  In fact, I’m still working on resisting.

Next stop: Annual Church Gathering. We go to a large, ever-growing church that meets in three locations and comes all together only twice a year: Christmas (at the Schnitz) and in July for “The One” event at a local football stadium. Unlike the last two years, it was not 100+ degrees this year, so I’m thinking that baptismal water was chilly! Fun event, great message (as always) and … more live music, thanks to Evan Wickham.


I’m happy to say I’m feeling recuperated, recharged, and ready to get back to work. I’m declaring my summer sabbatical officially over …  just in time to be getting ready for RWA in LA this Wednesday – Sunday.   Perhaps I’ll see you there? If so, please say hello. I’m ready to work and raring to go!

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  • It sounds easy – the notion of taking time away – but for those of us who are driven to produce, it is no small thing to stop and really enjoy the simple pleasure of taking each day as it comes.” 

    EXACTLY. Our family has made a good habit of taking Sundays off from all varieties of work, but other than that, I have a very hard time unplugging and pulling back. I’m so, so glad that you made that choice, Sandra. And that you have a family that encouraged you 🙂

  • Kjreusser says:

    Loved this post as I’m feeling particularly tired today from running around all summer. I’m working on a worthwhile project — interviewing WWII vets for a possible book compilation of their stories. So interesting! But doing 6-7/week is getting to me. I’m starting back to my school job soon and know I need some rest. Will try to work that in at least on Sundays. Also good to know about lavender’s drought qualities as we had a big drought this summer in the Midwest. Take care,

  • Julie Surface Johnson says:

    Sandra, I’m so glad you’ve had this time off to rest and recover…and have fun! I love  harmonica music, too, and you inspire me to drag out my grandpa’s harmonica and learn to play it. 

  • Cherry Odelberg says:

    Glad you are recuperating nicely and made refreshing, rejuvenating use of the down time. 
    Whatever happened to the last two weeks in July downtime in the publishing industry?  Back in the day, publishing houses cleared out after CBA convention and everyone took a two week break.  This was not limited to Christians.  U.S. News and World Report, to name one, also took an issue off and made up for it with a double issue.

  • Connie Almony says:

    Nice post, Sandra! It gave me that Calgon-take-me-away feeling. Love it! It’s funny how we think we should work, work, work, when the Bible outlines so much time for rest–sabbaticals, resting of fields and a weekly sabbath. God knows these things are important. He even made sure to get a day off Himself. Glad you were able to use your time wisely. I love those days I can be productively unproductive!

  • Robbie Iobst says:

    What a wonderful time of self care!! :0) And I LOVE that you are learning the harmonica! You go girl! Maybe you could start a band next year…:0)

  • Ane Mulligan says:

    Okay, I’m righteously jealous over the price of cherries! I paid $3.99 a pound for Northwest cherries, and thought I’d scored a deal!!

    It sounds like you truly spent yoru time recuperating as God intended. So glad you’re feeling so chipper ~ I just realized my pun. Sorry. LOL

  • Sandra, One of the things recommended by Stephen Covey (Seven Habits of Highly Successful People) is to “sharpen the saw.” However, I don’t think he meant have surgery in order to rest. Glad you’re doing okay now.
    Haven’t thought of the song, Man of Constant Sorrows, since I saw O Brother, Where Art Thou? Thanks for the link.

  • Ramona says:

    Once again, you’re teaching me. Thank you – and keep hanging… 🙂

  • Peggy Dover says:

    Welcome back. I have two cats who sneer long and hard at me when I so much as think of adding a dog to the family. But a Golden Doodle is my dog if that ever happens. I absolutely love them.

  • Jodie Bailey says:

    Sounds like you were very busy in your “quiet” time.  🙂  Here’s to rediscovering what you love.  So glad you are feeling better, body and soul!

  • karenrobbins says:

    Always nice to recharge. Sorry it was because of surgery though. 

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