Archive for December, 2003

Proverbs 2003


A warm holiday greeting to you all from Marion, Iowa!

Life is good here for us, how is it by you? Mike and I are doing well, our kids are growing up and our parents, all of whom have had some health problems this year, seem to be doing better. We are all so busy that it is sometimes hard to relax and breathe, so our goal for the coming year is to slow down and smell the roses. Mike and I really enjoy sitting around with family and friends, having a great meal and a good bottle of wine while talking, laughing and debating. We need to do more of that! This letter is an open invitation for you to visit us and join us around the table. Our door is always open and there is always enough room at the table! Wherever you are this holiday season, we hope that this letter will find all our old friends and old relatives (?) well and happy.

As I think back over the year, I realize that I have spent the year having an internal dialogue with myself. I am influenced by the proverbs that I learned as a child and which now shape the way in which I think about various situations. Do you hear the voices of your parents in your head or is it just me who hears the voices?   I hear voices!!! My mother taught me to not burn the candle at both ends and if you dance to the tune you will have to pay the fiddler, but I am struggling to follow her wise counsel. Well, I admit it; I am a work in progress! Surely there are many of us who should learn everything in moderation. Ask me about this as I continue to try to fridge on my Weight Watchers diet. (Fudge and Weight Watchers in the same sentence seem a little oxy-moronic don’t they?) Certainly more is better does not always apply when it comes to chocolate!

I should have learned the proverb politics is like a rotten egg: when broken open it stinks, but I spent the first
four months of the year in a bitter and acrimonious dispute with my French friend Regine debating our countries
respective positions on the U.N. involvement in Iraq. To the French on the subject of Iraq I was feeling if you
can’t run with the big dogs, stay under the porch and never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.
But I have learned this year that nothing in this world is permanent except change, hope for the best and
prepare for the worst and victory belongs to the most persevering. If nothing else, friendship with a French
person is always educational!                                                                                  v

Just prior to the Iraq conflict, Mike and I took a vacation to Guadeloupe in the French West Indies to visit Regine
and her family. Regine shows up in these holiday letters fairly often because being friends with her gives me so
much material to work with. We had a great trip and while we were there we visited a rum distillery, explored a
rainforest, took a boat to a deserted island and went scuba diving in the Jacques Cousteau Underwater Preserve. If
you can stand the mental picture, imagine me trying to squeeze my Rubenesque figure into one of those slick black
wet suits! Mike had to have a weight belt on to sink below the surface, but I sunk like a real professional. I had a
great time having my rather attractive French diving instructor (hubba bubba!!!) show me the plant and sea life in
the preserve. I thought it was a fantastic experience; but Mike liked the bikini-clad girls on the boat better than the
diving! Go figure, we all have our preferences. After our scuba diving adventure and at Regine’s insistence, we
stopped at a grass shack by the side of the road and had a Rastafarian make us a beverage concoction out of fresh
coconut, papaya, guava and “water”. The man was barefoot, toothless, and shiftless and his wife was a bra-less
wonder, sort of like natives you would expect to see on the Discovery Channel. In order to cut open the fruit, he
had his wife cross the dirt road to get his rusty old machete out of his stripped-out 1982 Mazda. What is wrong
with this picture, have they not heard of cooties? What you don’t know won’t hurt you, but I did know!!!   I kept
praying that I wouldn’t get some funky kind of flu all the while telling Mike that the entire day reminded me of
something right out of a National Geographic special.

Because we had resolved to put our political differences aside, Regine sent her 14-year-old stepdaughter Nina to us for the month of July. We wanted to use our family vacation to show Nina a little bit of our country and since we loved our trip to Yellowstone four years ago, we decided to head that way again. I might as well mention that I had accidentally-on-purpose shown the kids some video clips (what was I thinking??? It is better to be safe than sorry) of the dangers of getting too close to Yellowstone’s wild animals. In particular I was thinking of those fools who leave the safety of their cars (the old forget, the young don’t know) to get close up pictures of elk, bison, or buffalo as they are commonly called. These people’s safety constantly worried Emily. As Mr. Obvious, a.k.a.Will, informed me, “Don’t they know about something called a zoom lens?” We stayed in a posh Yellowstone villa (I lie- it was a scary rat trap cabin in the woods) and to our chagrin discovered that all six of us were to sleep in the same room. Go ahead, please start humming the theme song to the Beverly Hillbillies. So it will come as no surprise to you all when I say that Mike’s intense snoring was unfortunately interrupted by Emily’s sleep talking and crying.   She moaned all night about the ignorant tourists and their quest of the “Darwin Award”, for the survival of the fittest/stupidest human. I worry about that girl, I truly do.

We were all exhausted by the next morning. Mike was cussing that I had shown the video clips of When Bison Attack to Emily. Nina was thinking, “What kind of dysfunctional American family did I drop into??” Emily was still traumatized by the previous day’s events and she decided to go outside to empty the pebbles out of her shoe because, you know- the early bird catches the ____. She opened the cabin door and there, right outside the door in all of his glory, stood an approximately 2,000 pound male buffalo.   Avon had not come calling! Slam! Emily whipped the door closed and slid the .99 cent chain into the safety lock. Whew-ee! Now, wouldn’t that make you feel much better??? I know it was a real comfort to me. Mike sprang out of his seat at the table and promptly upended our scrumptious villa breakfast; the Cheerios and chocolate doughnut gems went flying. (The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach) Then the crying commenced; the girls’ that is, not Mike’s. Emily was in spasms of tears, Abby was bawling because she had been frightened when Emily slammed the door in her face, Mike continued with his string of expletives, Nina ran around the room in a panic because she had not understood our screaming English; Will was hysterical with laughter over Emily’s sliding the chain on the door to keep the buffalo out. I’m not making this up; this is a true story. Truth is stranger than fiction.

Here I pause to ask myself, “What have I done to deserve this?” Children are a gift from God – but are ya sure and whose little old grandma came up with that proverb??? Well, if that is true, God has a serious sense of humor. The “gifts” that I am living with are a twelve year old who actually believes he is the smartest human being alive, a nine-year old preservationist whose mantra is “Save Yellowstone’s wild animals, and its stupid tourists,” and a five-year old who kicked her daddy’s car seat all the way to Wyoming and back. I know for a fact that you shall reap what you sow, but please help me. Where have I gone wrong???

All good things must come to an end, so we’ll look back on 2003 with a mixture of appreciation, amusement and gratitude. We’ve been especially grateful for the good times together with our much-loved family and our dear friends; we’re holding especially close in our hearts our Ankeny (Polk City) and St. Louis friends who have suffered through tragic losses this year. Let’s look ahead for 2004 to be a thought provoking, amusing and holiday-letter, material-filled year. Since it will be an election year, I’m sure there will be plenty of opportunity for a laugh or two! This holiday season please remember to love and appreciate the family and friends who give you joy and laughter and to slow down and smell the …poinsettias!

Happy Holidays 2003!