Christmas Letter – 2017

I’m writing this year’s letter as we travel to Alabama for a family Christmas gathering. That’s probably appropriate because travel was the primary activity in this year’s recap. Man, it seemed like we were barely home this year. One of big trips was a cruise to Cuba. It was interesting to see a communist culture up close. If I had to describe it in one word, that word would be “crumbling.” It doesn’t appear that infrastructure has received much attention since the “revolution.” Nonetheless, the tour guide had an extra dose of the communist Kool-Aid that day – she was very excited about free health care, free education, school supplies, etc. But after a first-hand look at the hospitals and schools, I think I’ll stick with capitalism. The other big trip was to New York for Sonya to run the NY marathon. Unfortunately, she injured her foot and was in a boot. I thought she was gonna just jump in there boot and all, but we stuck to spectating and cheering on her running buddy. We stuck around a few days and had a great time sightseeing.

Other trips included beach outings to Miami for our 30th Anniversary and a trip to Hilton Head just because Sonya can only go so long before the sand and sun magically call her to the shoreline. The perfect tan is still the goal, although its starting to feel like skin cancer Russian Roulette every time we go out there to soak up some rays. Oh well, it keeps the dermatologists in business.

There were several other opportunities for water sports during the summer as well. We rented a boat on Lake Allatoona one weekend and did some tubing. It was my first experience as skipper (although I’ve always identified with Gilligan). I had two primary responsibilities – don’t hit any other water craft (successful) and try to violently throw my kids off the tubes (also successful). When they climbed back in the boat looking like a cowboy thrown from a killer bull, I knew I had done my job. We also went tubing with our lifelong high-school friends on a weekend getaway. We used to get together every year, but took a long hiatus to raise kids and participate in our own family activities. It’s nice to get those going again. We also had a frozen watersport outing to go skiing with our church friends. Well, a couple of us stayed in the lodge where it was cozy and warm. The last time I skied I came home with a shoulder injury and decided it was time to hang up the skis. I never quite mastered the art of stopping. I usually relied on the plastic orange netting to keep me from careening off the mountain.

We broke in a couple of brand new Atlanta venues with inaugural concerts. We saw Billy Joel at Suntrust Park (Atlanta Braves) and Garth Brooks at Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Atlanta Falcons). Both concerts were more successful than the sports teams. We did get a chance to catch a Braves game with all the extended McGullion crew. It’s tough to get us all together, but certainly worth the effort.

Sonya turned 50 this year, but she’s fighting Father Time with all her might. She spends so much time in the gym, I’m pretty sure they all yell “Norm!” when she walks in. She’s tinkering with the idea of becoming a personal trainer. That will allow her to combine two of her favorite activities – working out and being bossy (now that’s funny, I hope it makes it past the editor). We had a big shindig for her birthday. How she continues to get better looking over the years still boggles my mind. I’m pretty sure research papers will be written to chronicle this medical oddity. I’m sure part of the reason is being around kids all the time at church. She’s a blessing to all the kids in her ministry and they bless her in return with a magical youth elixir apparently (OK, maybe I’ve made up for the bossy comment).

I had the great honor of walking my eldest down the aisle in November. Kayla married Tyler Willis in a beautiful ceremony and they are now happy newlyweds. Yes, Kayla married a Tyler. Cassidy is married to a Tyler. Now we just have to find a girl named Tyler for Austin. Kayla was promoted this year to a full-time victim’s advocate with Cobb County. She always has a new story about a family she’s assisting – some funny, some quite tragic. Her job pays the bills, but its also a ministry. I’m sure the Lord will use her in some significant ways. Kayla and Tyler got a new dog, a Siberian husky named Kira. She sheds like nobody’s business. It’s like a cloud of hair in the air everywhere she goes. When I asked her about some highlights for the year she ended the reply with “just overall adulting going on over here.” Yep, welcome to the real world.

Cassidy and Tyler are in their second year of wedded bliss. Both just graduated from Kennesaw State. I think Cassidy thought it was a race, graduating a semester early and almost overtaking Tyler. But he technically graduated 4 hours before her, which he is fiercely hanging on to. Cassidy graduated with honors and had a couple of job offers immediately. She will be a labor and delivery nurse at Piedmont hospital starting in March. Of course, that’s assuming she passes her boards in the next couple of months (no pressure).

Austin continues to work at Chic-Fil-A while he considers his options for the future. He had a burst of independence in the summer and moved into an apartment with friends. I actually think he was tired of “dad lectures” and needed to be his own man. Part of that evolution was probably his brush with death in May. He and a friend were rear-ended by an impaired driver. The car was a mangled hunk of metal, but they walked away without a scratch, physically anyway. An event like that can change a person. It was significant enough in Austin’s life that he had the date tattooed on his arm. In his words “this is the date that I realized God knows who I am and cares enough about me to spare my life. Now I need to do something with it.” Well, I’m not a tattoo fan, but its hard to argue with that.

The hardest part of writing this letter is the initial motivation. I keep waiting for something to give me a “spark.” I got that today. We just completed our Christmas musical at church. The drama centered around an older man in a nursing home lamenting the lack of Christmas cards he’s receiving. It got me thinking that I’ve received fewer cards this year as well. It seems with the advent of social media, Christmas cards are becoming an outdated medium for keeping in contact with friends and family. Well, not on my watch, baby! I know not everyone really cares about the McGullion exploits, but it gives me the chance to recall the blessings and challenges each year. We spend so much time looking forward to the next event, it seems we don’t take the time to cherish the precious memories of the past. So, I encourage you to spend some time this holiday season remembering the good times of family and friends. And spend some time pondering the greatest event in the past, the birth of a Savior who reconciles us to a loving Father. Merry Christmas and happy new year!

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