Yes, infamous. Not famous. I call it that because most of the time the Christmas letter is simply a venue for someone to tell you how utterly fabulous they are, how much more incredible than your's their life has been and how their perpetually well-behaved children are members of Mensa. I have successfully resisted sending out a letter with my holiday greetings solely because of the ones I've gotten over the years. I've had the four page letter outlining the accomplishments of each member of a large family, the one page rhyming letter that was a painful attempt at poetry, the letter that was copied in mass quantities at a slight slant so that you found yourself tilting the page to read it, the letter accompanied by a group photo of six people in coordinating red and green corduroy outfits, the letter printed on stationery featuring calico clad kitties wearing angel wings...you get the idea. I've had bad letters.
Every once in a while when Christmas falls on or near a full moon I get a good letter. One that has me thinking "wow, I wish I spent more time with the ______ family!" This is the year that I'm going to write a letter and it is my sincerest wish that your reaction will be a positive one. However, if I'm guilty of the usual Christmas letter crimes, please feel free to tactfully critique me. Without further ado, here we go....
In my way of thinking, Christmas is the ultimate season of giving. After all, think about Mary. Somewhere around March of that year several thousand years back she consented to what Christians believe is a virgin birth. She was betrothed but not yet married and she caused a scandal bigger than me moving in with Frank this fall. You can imagine the talk around Nazareth when Mary's EPT showed two pink lines. She was courageous and selfless and the epitome of generous. She gave up her good reputation because her faith was stronger than her potential embarrassment over the speculation of the neighborhood gossips. After pondering how difficult her situation must have been while she was enduring the general uncomfortableness of pregnancy in a land without indoor plumbing, air conditioning or heating my thoughts turned inward. What am I thankful for? What lessons have I learned?
This year has been one of growth, both physical and emotional. Thanks to my boyfriend's support, faith in me and several (okay many) swift kicks to the bum I amazed myself by completing a half marathon and a triathlon. For those of you who've never heard my tri story and are intrigued, you can read all about in in my archives. It was the singular most grueling thing I've ever done and there was no way I could've done it on my own. Without Frank, without my swim coach Jesslyn, without 'Chelle who is the world's greatest SAG person, without my awesome Cheer Squad I would have given up. What did I learn? That determination comes from inside but the job is so much easier when you are surrounded by people who believe in you.
Frederick has been a source of constant support. I am so thankful to have him and Jed in my life. One of the stellar moments of this year was watching the adoption video of their son Adrian. I can honestly say that the most peaceful stolen moments of 2005 have all been when I've had the luxury of putting Adie to bed. There is nothing in the universe like holding a warm and sleepy child in your arms and listening to his breathing become slow and steady, head down on your chest, snuggled against you as if you are his entire world as he relaxes into sleep. I always do the same thing when Adie falls asleep. I whisper to him how much I love him and how wonderful his life is and how much more there is to come. I tell him he can be anything, do anything, accomplish anything. The simple act of rocking him to sleep brings me to a level of thankfulness that defies description.
I've had many new people enter my life in the last year. I've moved into my fourth office in a year, thankfully on the same floor of my office building. I've been lucky in that everyone I spend 40+ hours a week with have been interesting, entertaining and fun. And Frank & I found that our hair stylist wasn't just cool when he cut our hair but also a helluva good time outside the salon. We scored a bonus when we met Jake's wife, Raquel, and clicked immediately. Frank has cultivated friendships at work as well, and through Yutaka and Laurie we've learned to worship at the foot of the Green Egg (see archived posts). Don't think that gaining new friends has diminished our love for those who were already in place in our lives. I am thankful for all of my friends who gift me with their love. Life without you would be empty and boring. What would I do without ya'll? Just because you aren't mentioned by name doesn't mean you aren't important. I treasure you all.
This year has been a good one for my Dad. We're approaching the two year anniversary of his diagnosis with esophageal cancer and subsequent major surgery, chemo and radiation. He's finally able to go eight weeks in between endoscopy procedures where his esophagus is dilated, stretching the tissue open enough for him to easily eat most foods. The doctor is optimistic that soon the procedure will be done once each quarter and possibly become unneccesary. He's retired now, making house-husbandry his hobby in between trips to our property in Burnet. It's wonderful to see Dad happy and healthy. Mom went back to work at the State and is happy to come home and find dinner on the table. What a nice change for her!
My life has been further enriched with the addition of Frank's family to my life. I'd met them before, but in the past year they have gone out of their way to make me feel not only accepted and cared for but truly a part of the family. I won over the patriarch, Frank's Grandpa, in August. My granny gave me an old cookbook that contained little quotes about food and life. One of them was "you can catch a man with face powder but you keep him with baking powder". Well, it wasn't my baking that did it, but a bowl of my menudo. Grandpa had decreed that if I was going to be a part of the family I needed to prove my mettle by producing a delicious menudo. I did and thought I was in scott free. Nope. Grandpa now says I need to become fluent in Spanish. He doesn't speak English and he wants to be able to talk with me. How completely sweet is that? I never thought someone would care enough about me to ask me to learn their language so we can have conversation. (And no jokes about how ya'll can't get me to shut up.) I am humbled by his request. I hope one day I have the opportunity to show someone that what they have to say is that valuable to me.
My work with Meals on Wheels has taught me to be thankful for the ability to still be able to change my health for the better. I've accomplished a lot, but need to do more. I can honestly say I've been lazy and lackadaisical this fall. When I'm delivering meals to my clients there are a few who aren't exactly elderly, but their failing health has placed them in an undesirable quality of life. Seeing people who should be enjoying their golden years but can't because they're dragging around an oxygen tank, their diabetes is uncontrolled, their hypertension is straining their body and much worse problems spurs me to think about what I need to do to live a long, healthy life. I've also learned that you can be in your 90's and still think firemen are hotties and flirt outrageously with the boys. Gotta love ya, Mrs. Spikes.
It's been a fruitful and fulfilling year. I have laughed a lot, cried a lot and loved a lot. Yes, cried. The only way we appreciate happiness is to know unhappiness. My year may sound rosy but there were rough spots along the route. All I can do is live my life as best I can every day. I can savor the moments and realize that not everyone on Earth has it as good as I do. It's my life. I live it and love it and hope that through this letter you get a glimpse of why. My Christmas wish for you is that the coming year brings more peace, happiness and love to your lives. And a healthy dose of fun.