Christmas Letter – 2014

It’s the Saturday before Christmas and I’m staring at a blank screen. By now I’ve usually had that random spark of inspiration to get started on the Christmas letter. This year, nothing. It’s a case of Christmas letter cramp, I guess. So, here’s the scoop – the next thing that comes on the television will be my spark of inspiration. Here goes…

Taylor Swift? C’mon, man! (sigh) OK, I guess I can work with “shake it off.” Most Christmas letters focus on just the good stuff, but if we’re honest, there’s a lot of hard things that fill the space between the happy times. But, those can be positive things too. Let’s give it a go.

Sonya has become the jock of the family. Every time I turn around she’s headed out the door to run more miles than I even want to drive. She trained hard for her first marathon this year, but a mission trip to India cut into some valuable training time. She finished, but I think she would admit, it wasn’t pretty. Her knees went out at mile 14. She walked most of the way after mile 18. She stopped at several medical tents in the last few miles as she fought consciousness. They made her sign a waiver at mile 24 to finish the race. She finished based on pure grit and determination alone. She was disappointed with her performance, but she’s already “shaken it off” and started training for another marathon in March. I think that kind of determination deserves a theme song, don’t you? Here’s a little ditty sung to the tune of It’s All About That Bass:

Yeah, it’s pretty clear, that she’s a size two
From exercising and
Some healthy eating too
That Sonya runs for God and sets a good pace
Encouraging others with firmness and grace

Yeah, her mama she told her don’t worry about other guys
With a fella like Lane there’s no reason to compromise
He’ll support you in all of the crazy things that you do
And though he’s got bad knees he might run a race with you too.

Because you know she’s all about that race
‘Bout that race, no walking
She’s all about that race,
‘Bout that race, some jogging
She’s all about that race
‘Bout that race, now she’s crawling
She’s all about that race
‘Bout that race

Besides running, Sonya continues her ministry as the Children’s Minister at Summit Baptist Church. She went on an eye-opening mission trip to India this past summer to minister to the children at an orphanage. To witness the overwhelming needs of those kids tends to put things in perspective. She’s decided we can’t have an electric can opener. Not sure why she’s zeroed in on the can opener, but it’s become our symbolic item of unnecessary luxury. Oh well, guess I’ll have to shake that off.

Kayla is a junior at Kennesaw State, majoring in Criminal Justice. She has hopes to join law enforcement in some capacity. Cobb County – your streets will be a safer place very soon! She’s living at home for the moment, looking for the first opportunity to escape us again. She had some roommate malfunctions last year that definitely fell into the “shake it off” category. But she’s one of the most resilient young ladies that I know. Well, maybe not so resilient bouncing back from hernia surgery. She definitely tiptoed into the “milking it” zone. After a month she’s still claiming she can’t clean the cat’s litter box because she can’t bend over. Uh huh, right.

Kayla is still very active in her sorority, Kappa Delta. She recently took two little sisters. There seems to be a requirement that you shower your littles with gifts, so she’s now learning firsthand how expensive a family can be. Good thing she has some cash flow from her nanny job. That cash flow also helps with all the expenses from the cat she’s adopted. Pepper joined our family this year. She’s pretty cool, you know, for a feline.

Kayla turned 21 this year. To celebrate, she went on a trip to Disneyworld with some friends. The timing for that trip was unfortunate, because the rest of the family was there the following week for our summer vacation. I know some people head to Disney every year, but to me, it loses some magic when your grown children only care about the thrill rides. I think we rode Rockin’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror four or five times each. We did manage to avoid “It’s a Small World.” Oops, did that song displace “Shake it Off” that’s been rolling around in your head since the beginning of the letter. Sorry about that.

Cassidy left the nest this year (excuse me while I swallow this lump in my throat). We moved her into Kennesaw State in the fall and she’s doing great. She just finished her first semester with all A’s. She’s planning to go into nursing and has her class schedule planned all the way through graduation. I knew one of them would get the project planning gene.

Cassidy is still dating that boy; I think his name is Tyler. A while back I told him if he was going to continue dating my daughter I was going to need his signature. I handed him a sharpie and a .30-06 rifle bullet. I placed the signed bullet on my mantle and told him “it only takes one and this one has your name on it.” Don’t worry Tyler, I’m just kidding around (or am I?).

All the graduation activities were bittersweet. She was beautiful at her last prom and on graduation day. It was a proud moment but really hard to see my little girl grow up. Guess I have to shake that off too; there’s no stopping the circle of life. Cassidy spent her summer as a lifeguard. She worked at Legacy Park most of the time, rain or shine. She was up there on some days under a blanket, freezing, diligently watching an empty pool. Nobody was going to sneak in and drown on her watch!

Austin plays games. The end. Seriously, that kid would play video games 24 hours a day and not stop to eat if we didn’t put some boundaries on him. He’s a junior in high school this year. He plays basketball and is going to give the golf team another try in the spring. As for academics, did I mention he plays games a lot?

Austin and I attended DragonCon this year. For the sci-fi geek, this is like a pilgrimage to Mecca. We saw all sorts of costumed characters that would make you cross to the other side of the street on any other day, but at DragonCon, you run toward them with your camera at the ready. There are some really creative people out there in geekdom.

Austin hiked a portion of the Appalachian trail this year in April. The guide who was supposed to get them to their campsite was a little challenged. The first night they spent under the stars instead of tents; sleeping bags only in 12 degree weather. He was not a happy camper, to say the least. But, it made for a great adventure and probably the basis for a video game that he’ll create some day.

He and Cassidy embarked on another adventure in June to Hawaii. Our youth group went on a mission trip to minster to the native Hawaiians. This was not a vacation in the least. The first night they fought a swarm of termites that overtook their cabin. After a few cans of bug spray they finally succeeded in beating them back. There were dead termites everywhere including their sleeping bags. You guessed it, they had to shake them off. It was an eye-opening trip for all the kids that went. They witnessed some fairly harsh economic conditions for the native people. In the end, they were able to share God’s love with them plus gain an appreciation for the blessings they have in their lives.

As for me, I’ve enjoyed the positive feedback I received from my book. It’s probably not going to win the Pulitzer as I had hoped, but it was nice to check that off the bucket list. Who knows, maybe there’s a sequel rumbling around in me.

I attended my 30-year high school reunion this summer. It was great seeing all of my old friends (we are all starting to fit into that category). As part of my walk down memory lane, I tried to put on the orange and brown corduroy suit that I wore in the senior play. Yeah, it’s pretty clear, I ain’t no size two.

I’m still working at Georgia Pacific as a project manager. We have a big implementation over the
holidays so I get to ring in the new year working all night on December 31. Awesome. Alas, such is the life of the project manager. Someone suggested there’s a Jeff Foxworthy routine just waiting to be written for PMs:

  • If you create a project plan to go on vacation – you might be a project manager
  • If you hold a lessons learned session after dinner to list the ways your wife could improve the next meal – you might be a project manager (a hungry project manager)
  • If you create an action plan after your daughter cries on your shoulder about friend problems – you might be a project manager (and wasting your time, because she just needed to cry a little)
  • If you have a daily reminder on your smartphone to tell your son to brush his teeth – you might be a project manager.
  • If you create a 20-page business case to propose the purchase of a Keurig – you might be a project manager (and a have an unhealthy dependence on caffeine).
  • If you have an unhealthy dependence on caffeine – you might be a project manager
  • If you have a packing checklist containing every item that you might need for any trip – you might be a project manager (and I still forget stuff).
  • If you’re excited that this turned into a list that required bullets – you might be a project manager

Yep, I’ve definitely got enough for a routine here. I’m going to kill them at the next status meeting.

2014 was filled with things that needed “shaking off.” Kids moving out and kids moving back in. Watching your newly-licensed driver run over the neighbor’s mailbox. Losing at Settlers of Catan over and over to the Geils. And the list goes on and on. But the love of family and friends far outweigh the daily challenges. Why, it’s enough to inspire another song:

Sonya’s gonna run, run, run, run, run
Austin plays games and has fun, fun, fun, fun
Lane just cracks jokes and makes puns, puns, puns, puns
Shake it off, shake it off

Cassie hangs out with Ty, Ty, Ty, Ty
Kayla wants to travel and fly, fly, fly, fly
Lane’s just gonna write, write, write, write
Shake it off, shake it off

Here’s hoping that you can shake off the challenges of the year and count your blessings. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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