Have you all recovered from last year’s mental image of my father driving his Harley wearing his Kaiser helmet and buttless chaps? Then the year has been kind to you. Dad still has the Harley, but it has yet to see highway miles. Why, you ask? In reality, it’s a high-class dog exerciser. All the dogs tag along behind as Dad circles the house.


Joel, Muddy, Reba, and Erin (Joel is the one to the far left)

The Basics…

Joel works for Hewitt Associates as a lead systems analyst (no, I don’t know what that means, either), passing the eight-year mark over Labor Day weekend. I changed jobs this spring (no eye-rolling, please) for a technical-writing position at InstallShield (yes, the name that pops up every time you install a new piece of software on your computer). True to form, InstallShield was purchased by Macrovision a scant three months after I started, prompting a friend to
remark that if she ever wanted to sell a company, she would just hire me as that would seal the deal. This made the fifth acquisition for me, meaning that I’m very good at filling out benefits forms. We can’t complain too much, however. Joel has the satisfaction of knowing that millions of retirees have him to thank when they get their monthly retirement check, and I’m making the world a better place for those who really do read the directions. The Nobel committees will be calling for us any day now.

We had a great year for travel. Wendy and Rakhim did indeed get married in South Africa in April, and then we spent a week with new friends driving the Garden Route of the South African coastline. In early August, we met Sarah and Fred at Angie’s house in Colorado for a weekend of baseball and Rocky Mountain National Park. (Holiday note: ask to see Fred do the “Floss Dance.”) Mom, Dad, and I went to Colombia in late August (Mom judged a show, Dad and I spread cultural goodwill), and we found the country beautiful and the people very friendly. I have no idea why the State Department is so worried. While we are lucky to have visited so many beautiful places, we are cursed with that curiously American affliction of never enough vacation time. If someone ever sells extra vacation time on e-Bay, we’re in big trouble.

Mum Shakes Her Maracas with the Colombian Trio

Mum Shakes Her Maracas with the Colombian Trio

My brother, Matt, had some good advice (namely from anyone related to him) that Tanya really was his better half, and they’re getting married next April in San Antonio. In his spare time, he’s applying for large-animal surgery residencies in places like Saskatoon and Florida. (I’m sorry, Tanya, I know it’s cold up there, but Canada has my vote simply because it’s soooooo much more fun to say “Matt and Tanya are in Saskatoon!” rather than “They’re in Florida.” Saskatoon is ripe for Christmas letter jokes; Florida is ripe with…oranges.)

Joel’s Infamous Quotes and Stupid Stuff Erin Said…

Apparently, this was a real crowd-pleaser in last year’s letter, so I’ve had to listen to Joel all year in case he said something funny that needed to be in this letter. I suppose there are worse things than listening to one’s husband—I just
haven’t figured out what they are yet.

  • “Don’t go in the trash, dear. We’ve got ferrets in there.” Ooooooooookay. In the first place, I wasn’t in real danger of going near the garbage anyway as women only get married for two reasons: someone to reach the stuff on the high shelf and someone to take out the trash. But ferrets? In our trash can? We thought Muddy was the only one interested in our garbage. One bright August morning featured the two of us in the driveway in improvised haz-mat gear (meaning Hefty bags and gardening gloves), knocking the trash cans over in our search for ferrets. We didn’t find any of those, but we did unearth the family of possums curled up in the empty MGD beer case. Don’t ask me how he confused the two.
  • “Like it? You lived it!!” One day while at Costco, I got all happy because I discovered that the “Dukes of Hazzard: Season One” had been released on DVD. I regaled Joel with tales of how Matt, Dad, and I used to watch the show whenever we could, much to Mom’s chagrin. Joel’s off-the-cuff response, however, makes me think that he’s seen me pull up to the house one too many times driving the tractor and the manure spreader. Nothing keeps the romance alive in a marriage like seeing your wife drive farm equipment.
  • “He’s a veterinarian. You know, for animals.” Apparently that Australian English is so different than our funny American dialect that I felt the need to translate for our friend Jasmine. Both she and Joel looked at me and laughed. I’ll stop talking now.
  • “I wonder if they can see the Northern Lights from here.” “Probably not, but I bet the Southern Cross is pretty clear.” It’s not the comment itself that is painfully stupid but the timing under which it was said. We were in South Africa, enjoying a very clear night, and then I looked up and made the fateful Northern Lights comment. Joel and our friend Brian both looked at me as if I’d lost 50 IQ points, which I apparently did, and then Joel made his timely response.
Elephant in Hluhluwe National Park, South Africa

Elephant in Hluhluwe National Park, South Africa

We hope this finds you healthy, happy, and with a life full of joy. And as always, the guest bedroom is open should you happen by. We promise to keep the dogs upstairs in our bed and to dig out the coffee pot for you.