Sunday, December 13, 2009

Merry Christmas 2009!

So the last I wrote (Christmas 2008) we were looking forward to Ann’s Christmas visit and eagerly awaiting the holiday; what we didn’t know was that the snow was coming…and coming…and coming. We had a white Christmas last year and it was white enough for long enough that even Christopher was done with the snow by the time it was over, three weeks all together! Ann did end up finally making it to Portland on Christmas Day, three days later than she had intended! It was an adventure for sure but I for one am not Dreaming of a White Christmas this year!

Christopher has been busy with the college search this year. His list has slowly whittled down from everywhere, most everywhere, top 30 to top 15. We visited with the top 6 choices either on campus or through their outreach programs. Stanford, Champlain, Digipen and the University of Michigan got on campus visits and I believe the top two choices are U of M and Champlain. Now we wait and see where he is accepted and who gives him the most money to attend, though Brent is, of course, humming Hail to Victors under his breath daily! Christopher is in the school Jazz Orchestra along with the Portland Youth Jazz Orchestra this year. He did Funk and Groove and Salsa workshops this past summer and had a blast with those styles. He was also named a National Merit Scholar Semi-finalist and we couldn’t be more proud of him! Neither Brent nor I can believe this is our last full year with him in the house before he leaves for college. The time seems to have flown by!

For me this year has been Denise’s Taxi service as Christopher opted out of driving but opted in to a busy schedule with school, band practice and courses at the junior college. I tell everyone this is the year of the car. That’s where I am most days, sitting in the car either driving someone somewhere or waiting! But it’s been nice to get the bonus time with him. I also had the opportunity to take a trip to Toronto this past fall to meet with a group of friends I made through an online game. I know, it sounds just wacky, but it was a great time and so much fun to meet people face to face I had gotten to know through the virtual world for the past year.

Brent is looking forward to his Sabbatical this summer. Instead of using his time off to watch Christopher during summer vacation this time he will be taking him to college! Brent was also able to reconnect with his cousin Kim this year and on the campus visit to Michigan he and Christopher were able to spend time with Kim and her family and had just the best time. Kim is now actively campaigning for Christopher to attend U of M!

Ann was able to come for another visit in May and not only spent time with us but was able to drive north to spend time with a family friend in Washington for a bonus visit! We did a quick (and I mean quick!) trip to Disneyland over Spring Break and had a great time there as well.

My family in New Mexico had a more difficult time of it this year as my mother was diagnosed with lymphoma this past spring. She underwent chemo therapy and the doctors are keeping a close eye on her but she is doing so much better than she was and we are all hopeful for a full recovery within another year. I am extremely grateful for my brothers and sisters in New Mexico for keeping me informed and in the loop during all of her treatments. They really had a rough go of it during her treatment and I am so glad that they were there for each other and for her and Dad. We are planning a trip home this spring to see everyone, to celebrate Christopher’s graduation and to see our new Grand Nephew Liam.

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a safe and Happy New Year!

In defense of the the Christmas letter

Some Christmas traditions seem to be universally despised. The two that top the list most often are Fruitcake and the Christmas Letter. I grew up in a house where Christmas morning always included Fruitcake's German cousin Stollen. My mother would make the annual trip to Zinn's Bakery to pick up the Stollen and I would hope and hope and hope that they would be out and she would have to pick up the Cherry Cheese Strudel instead...but no...every year the Stollen made it on the table. Every few years I would try a slice just to see if maybe I was remembering incorrectly and it was actually a yummy treat...and I can safely say that I am never going to be a fan of Stollen or Fruitcake.

Now the Christmas letter used to be met with the same level of disdain and even outright mocking. When Brent and I were first married I composed a Christmas letter putting our family 15 years in the future filled with all of the wonderful amazing things we were doing. Solving the world's problems, curing cancer, winning Nobel Prizes and I swore that would be the last Christmas letter I ever wrote. But then a funny thing happened...

Christmas would come and we would get cards from family and friends and I started to notice that my favorites were the ones that included guessed it...Christmas Letter. Brent joined the Navy shortly after we got married so we spent the first few years of our life together moving around with the Navy. Then he went to work for Intel and we spent the next batch of years moving around with Intel. All of that moving means we have friends scattered across the country. And in the days before things like blogs and Facebook and MySpace and Email and free long distance it might be only once a year that you hear from people. That Christmas letter gave me a window into what was going on. How everyone was. Just for a minute I was back in their life sharing their world.

So I figured if I liked getting the annual missive, then others must as well. So the Christmas letter was revised. I started sending one out the year Christopher was born and I have every year since. It's pretty standard fare. I have friends who write letters that are really works of art. Even though we live in the same town, we chat on Facebook, I read her blog, and see her at least once a month I love getting my friend Raquel's annual letter. Each year it's a different theme and it's always funny and still covers the year they had. Brent's father used to write a letter (never quite made it out at Christmas, usually closer to New Year's) that was snarky and funny and reflective of his sense of humor. Megan's mother took the Christmas letter completely digital this year. She did a webpage and posted photos of events through the year with little blurbs about what was going on. It was beautiful and so sweet to see.

Now some years the letter is harder than others. When Brent's father died I wrote and rewrote the news. I put it at the beginning then moved it and put it at the end. I really struggled with how do you put that in a letter with the same news that we went to the beach that summer? But in the end I decided that it was our life. And there would be people who hadn't heard the news and so it went in the letter. The same thing with my mother's cancer this year. It's a big part of our lives.

I always forget something and wish I would have added it once the letter goes out. This year it was that Amanda Frost showed up unannounced on our doorstep last spring. Amanda is the daughter of Hoke and Margaret and we have known her since she was 11, she is now a young mother with a daughter of her own. Hoke died unexpectedly five years ago right before Thanksgiving. That was another really difficult Christmas letter to write; grieving and reflecting on the year at the same time makes for a maudlin letter. But seeing Amanda and "hearing" her dad talk through some of her attitudes was a real treat.

So the letter went out this week and it is posted on my Facebook page for those that have gone digital, and I will post it here in the blog as well. The Christmas Letter is now one of my traditions and I have grown to really appreciate the other families who send one as well. But as far as fruitcake is concerned? Nope...still just no.