Many apologies to all for not sending a printed version of our annual holiday letter last year. Between selling the house, moving, and splitting time between Austin and Chicago, email seemed the way to go. Unfortunately, however, I don’t always have updated email addresses for all, so some of you missed out on my description of combatting head lice and ripping the door off my car. But don’t worry–2007 has some special adventures all its own!

Erin and Joel, relieved that all of the boxing and unpacking is done with

Erin and Joel, relieved that all of the boxing and unpacking is done with

We did both make it down to Austin. Joel started work for National Financial Partners in March, and up until early October, I worked for Aberro, a start-up software company I moved down here to join. Unfortunately, Aberro died a painful death due to lack of funding this autumn, which led to my first-ever bout of unemployment. I’d enjoy unemployment a whole lot more if it included a paycheck. As it was I repainted the living room, cleaned closets, went to the gym, haunted estate sales in search of patio furniture, walked the dogs twice daily, baked a few pies, and probably numerous other time fillers that drove people nuts. Not to worry! Another software company here in Austin picked me up, and I start again in a couple of weeks. Here’s hoping that this company isn’t acquired.

And while I am nothing more than an innocent bystander, I’m an auntie! My brother, Matt, and his wife, Tanya, welcomed their son Colton into the world in May. For those of you wondering, Colton is perfect. He even managed to turn my mother into a bona fide doting grandmother. Just ask to see her digital photo book!

My New Year’s Eve Was Better than Your New Year’s Eve

Last year was special in that i was to fly from Austin to Billings for Christmas (yay for Mom and her frequent-flier miles), and I was ecstatic that I was avoiding such a long drive. So, how–and why–did I end up back in my crusty red Subaru? Well, pre-Christmas blizzards in Colorado knocked out my flights, meaning that I was the lucky winner of a fun-filled 25-hour drive. The return trip, however, was a little more dicey because of the second round of blizzards. Interstates in Colorado and Kansas were closed, so I rerouted through Nebraska. I stopped in Kearney (pronounced like Art Carney) for the night, only to final that all of the motels were booked up for a hundred miles due to a freak ice storm. So where did I spend New Year’s Eve? The Red Cross disaster site, conveniently located in a frigid elementary school gym, featuring a woman with a chipmunk laugh and a child with a Santa hat that had a sheep singing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” New year, indeed. Jail was preferable and nearly a reality considering how much that woman’s laugh annoyed me.

And a special shout-out to Tom Lydick, who said that he laughed so hard that he woke Teresa up when he read the emailed version of this story back in January May you always find my misadventures to be this humorous.

SalsaFest!

In early October, Joel and I trekked north to Bozeman, Montana for a weekend of dicing, canned goods, industrial-sized propane grills all to learn the importance of chopping habanero and jalapeno peppers in the great outdoors. In other words, we joined my family in our grand annual tradition of making homemade salsa. Ten of us made about 20 gallons of salsa, which you’d think was enough salsa to last for eternity, but judging at the rate my stash is disappearing, I’ll be lucky to make it until spring. And to whomever get the jar with the stay-fresh pack in it (you know, that tiny packet of chemical that somehow keeps food “fresh”), that was my cousin Nolan’s fault. He had absolutely nothing to do with me dropping it into the pot, but it’s his fault for sealing it in the can. I bet he chucks me in a snowdrift for writing this.

Yes, you’ve read this correctly. We went all the way to Montana for salsa and beef, probably the two most readily available items in Texas. Even I think that I’m nuts. (Pecans are available here as well, should you be interested.)

Will the God of Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham Smite Muddy and Reba?

So, one glorious September afternoon, I took the dogs to the dog park. Nothing new here: one of us takes Muddy and Reba to the dog park nearly ever day as the more they swim, the more we sleep. What I couldn’t figure out, however, is why so many people were at the dog park on a Thursday afternoon. The place was packed! Regardless, I chucked Muddy’s tennis ball into the water for a while and then struck up a conversation with a woman busy appreciating the zen of the Muddy leap. “Are you here for the family reunion?” I asked. “Oh no,” she said, “these people are from my temple. It’s Erev Rosh Hashanah.” (Right. Erev Rosh Hashanah is the night before the Jewish new year. I knew that living near Skokie, Illinois, for so long would finally come in handy.) Right about then, the rabbi arrived, the congregants gathered, and everyone began singing. I durg Reba and Muddy further downstream to give everyone some privacy (Muddy cannonballing into the creek is not exactly idyllic), and it was right about then that mortification struck. Everyone was casting bread upon the water, symbolizing casting off sin. Muddy actually dropped her ball, jumped in the water and started to eat the bread. Reba didn’t even bother getting in the water. She just went up to people and started to beg. I wanted to crawl under a rock but couldn’t as I was too busy hissing at the dogs to “Come HERE! Right NOW!!” to no avail. Fortunately, everyone was laughing. I wasn’t, but I’m thinking that it’s more important that no one was offended. So there you have it: Muddy and Reba, sin eaters.

The Zen of the Muddy Leap

The Zen of the Muddy Leap

Eavesdropping, Abandoned Headlines, and More…

  • “Dad! I want a piercing for my ninth birthday!”—Kennon, Hank and Julia’s daughter, made this announcement at her morning school assembly. I have since started shopping for studs, spikes, and really cool tattoos, since I figure that request is coming next. And yes, I really want to be there when she makes this next special announce-ment. Hank blanched, and Julia’s eyes were saucers over the piercing decree. I cackled.
  • “Muddy isn’t lazy, she’s just a conservationist.”—Yes, this observation is credited to Joel. And while Muddy has-n’t eaten anything too weird for a very long time, that’s generally because she is hoping that you bring the food to her. See the aforementioned paragraph on smiting.
  • “Temperature nazi!” Joel began to use this classification for me a few years back after I informed him that shorts and t-shirts were not acceptable January gear, and no, I wasn’t turning up the heat. Well, this maxim still holds true, even in Austin. The house might be a little steamy in summer and chilly in winter, but the utility bills generally fall into the “affordable” category. And yes, if you call me the temperature nazi, I will answer.
  • “That’s what we call `The Dave.’”—My cousin Sarah came to visit for a weekend in August, and we spent a sunny afternoon at Hank and Julia’s house swimming and trying to get into kayak. It took us four attempts to even get in and away from the dock, and then we capsized a fifth time. In honor of her father’s inability to exit a canoe without getting wet up to his neck, Sarah named our misfortune “The Dave.”
  • “Want to check out my bug bites?”—No one believed me when I kept saying that the bugs in Texas loved me until they caught sight of my legs. Apparently, all those bug bites made me look like I had chicken pox. Of course, when applied to me, it changes to, “Well, at least your sunburn helps to cover up your bug bites.”
  • “That is the first weight-appropriate chocolate lab that I’ve ever seen.”—This year’s Christmas miracle is that Muddy no longer has ripples; instead, she has curves. All that swimming and those trips to the dog park have resulted in a svelteness seldom seen in chocolate labs. However, she does still do the baum-chicka-wow-wow walk.
  • “And this is our evil cousin, Erin.”—Julia having a girls’ weekend with some friends, so Hank and I went with the kids to parents’ night at the school. Hayden’s succint introduction of me says it all.

We hope this finds you healthy, happy, and with a life full of joy. As always, the beer is cold, the avocadoes are fresh, and the guest bedroom is open should you happen our way. We even promise to keep the dogs in our bed!