Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Christmas Letter That Almost Wasn't

 2013 - the year of the Christmas letter that almost wasn't. Some years are busier than others and this was one.

Some of my Christmas cards went out without a Christmas letter for the first time in years. The rest aren't done yet!

Thanks to the wonders of Facebook, digital photography and the mind of a writer, the Christmas letter has been rescued.

Here are highlights of our year, month by month.

In January, a big group of my coworkers retired, just ahead of the mail processing plant's closure. The group included eight who worked on daylight shift with me.

Our oldest grandson Kyle celebrated his 12th birthday in February.

It doesn't seem possible that 12 years have flown by since Kyle was born.

Kyle's in 7th grade and plays trombone in band. He also loves creating video games.
The Lynchburg Mail Processing Center closed at the end of February.

This was the end of an era for me. In this picture, I'm in my office on the last day in the transportation job I've done for 20 years.

But life goes on and life is good! I work now as a window clerk and get to see lots of people every day.
We had most of the family together for Easter in April. Our two youngest grandkids loved the Easter egg hunt.

This picture of them holding hands is so sweet that it had to make it into the Christmas letter.
Our daughter Lauren's friend Brenda also joined us for Easter. The little ones love Brenda, who lives near Lauren for part of the year.

The rest of the year, Brenda's in California living the good life of sleeping late and scuba diving as time permits.
Our two daughters Jenny and Lauren celebrated their birthdays in March. But Mother Nature cancelled the planned family celebration.

So we celebrated their birthdays on Easter with the Easter Bunny birthday cake.
Our little granddaughter Alexis turned 3 in April. She's a little cutie who loves My Little Ponies and princesses.

Alexis attends three-day preschool. She loves her friends, teacher and the director of the preschool.

Alexis requested a pink animal zebra cake and her mom Lauren made her one. Very cute!
In April, Kenny and I took our daughter Stephanie to Washington DC to see the cherry trees in bloom. Of course, the trees waited until a few days after we left to be in full bloom.

I'd only visited the National Basilica once before. During this trip, I went to Mass at this beautiful church. I know I wasn't dressed for the occasion, but I was meeting Kenny and Stephanie to do tourist stuff afterwards.

The Mass was beautiful and I got a woman to take my photo inside the National Basilica.
We had a good time walking around DC and seeing all kinds of things.

No matter how many times I visit Washington, there's always something new to see.

This time, we watched a huge pillow fight that we found when looking for events.
May was the month of the graduates. Our son Jack went back to school after working part-time following earning his four year degree in 2011.

Jack graduated from Central Virginia Community College in May and we're really proud of how hard he worked!
Our son-in-law Steven also graduated in May. Steven has worked full-time while attending National Business College since he got out of the Navy.

Early in May, we celebrated Steven's birthday. May was filled with celebrations but there's one very important celebration I missed.

My Mom's 88th birthday was celebrated without me. Even though I had pre-approved vacation time, our management team took away my vacation and that of coworkers. Such is life.

You never know where you'll find Thor or what he'll be fighting.

In June, we celebrated our younger grandson's birthday with a party held at Riverside Park.

There's a really great Sprayground at the park. Andrew wanted a superhero birthday so he and his friends all dressed in their superhero costumes for the party.
Jack spent most of the summer working a paid internship at NASA in Maryland. He loved the job and we loved visiting him in July.

Jack took us around the building where he worked and we also visited nearby Annapolis.

Here I am with my son, the rocket scientist! Jack is currently working a paid internship with a local company that will most likely lead to a full-time job.
In July, I finally got to see my Mom. My July vacation was thankfully not taken away.

Mom's sitting in her favorite spot on the front porch in this picture with her favorite petunias in the picture.

Whenever I go home, we always try to take a photo of "the primes" of our family.

The three siblings who live in Kansas are numbers 2, 3 and 7 out of the 8 kids in our family.

I'm number 5. If you're not sure why that makes us the primes, ask a math teacher. This photo is Mom and her primes.
Note that Kenny's shirt says, "Growing old is mandatory. Growing up is optional."

We celebrated Kenny's 60th birthday in August. The kids and I got together and bought Kenny a bike for his birthday.
In August, Andrew started kindergarten. I didn't get to watch him go to school the first day, but I walked from our house to his in September to watch Andrew get on the bus.

Andrew loves his new school and especially loves writing and math.

Unlike his Grandma, Andrew writes mostly about superheroes.
In September, our son Brian came for a visit with his girlfriend Bryce to announce their engagement.

Brian and Bryce live about an hour from us and plan to be married in October 2014.

Two of our granddogs live with Brian and Bryce. Lily and Tebow came along on the visit but weren't in this picture.
One of the columns I write is about outdoor recreation in Lynchburg. This year, my work schedule allowed me to ride the media truck for the 40th annual Virginia 10 Miler, a local race that draws elite runners from around the world the last weekend in September.

Although I'm not much of a runner, I'm a member of the Lynchburg Road Runners Club.

I was overjoyed to attend a club meet and greet with two running legends, Kathrine Switzer and her husband, Roger Robinson the weekend of the 10 Miler. Switzer broke the gender barrier when she became the first woman to compete in the Boston Marathon in 1967. What an honor to be in the picture with Kathrine and Roger!

Earlier in September, Kenny and I celebrated our 13th anniversary with a short weekend trip to the beach.

We both love the beach a lot. We've been to many of the East Coast beaches, but this was our first trip together to the Outer Banks. We'd each been separately but never together.

I wasn't able to enjoy my favorite sport at the beach. A work injury earlier in the summer kept me from riding a float on the waves. Instead, I had to be content with walking on the beach.

I'm still trying to get healed. I've been going to physical therapy for a month, but not making much progress. My orthopedic doctor will have to figure out where to go from here.
For the first time in a long time, all of our kids and their partners were able to come over at the same time on Thanksgiving.

You'd think an ace photographer like me would have noticed the sun wasn't in an optimal location for this photo but you'd be wrong.

But this is one of our Christmas card photos anyway.
Don't you love Pinterest recipes? I found a recipe for this turkey veggie platter on Pinterest.

I made one tray for Alexis' Thanksgiving party at preschool. Stephanie made another tray for our family's Thanksgiving celebration.

On Thanksgiving, we also celebrated Jenny's husband BJ's birthday.
Our family's tradition on my birthday is to put up the Christmas tree. As a December baby, I have a special love of Christmas that even years at the Post Office hasn't taken away.

We didn't finish decorating on my birthday but we got some of the ornaments on the tree.

Lauren made me an awesome Wizard of Oz cake for my birthday.

Jack's girlfriend Raichel also has a December birthday so we shared the spotlight.

Alexis was very interested in the cake and had to get a closer look.

Kenny decided I needed a new camera for my birthday. Wow, it's super!

I have been able to take some awesome pictures with my camera including great daybreak photos out the window of my writing room.

My new camera allowed me to zoom in for several close-up shots of Kyle during his band concert.

On Christmas Day, we will celebrate Brian's quarter-century birthday.

The day after Christmas, I won't be out bargain shopping. Instead, Kenny and I will be flying to Kansas to visit my parents and siblings and celebrate a late Christmas with them.

We'll return home in time for New Year's Eve. We often have a family party early in the evening and watch the grandkids so the kids can stay up late.

Time with friends also marked 2013. Friends are one of life's great gifts. I've been blessed to be a part of a wonderful group of women. Among the group are two of the friends I've known the longest.

Our group enjoys many social gatherings, including Bunco nights once a month.

Our friends Linda and Jack returned to Virginia and Linda promptly joined the group.

Several friends moved away during 2013. Our group said farewell to JoAnn and her mom and to Judy. I will miss these friends, but know that they will enjoy being closer to family members.

Kenny and I also said good-bye to our good friends, Doris and Dewayne. We've known them for a long time and will miss spending New Year's Day with them this year, but know that they'll enjoy spending the day with their son and his family.

Our church family said farewell to Father Richard this year and welcomed Monsignor Michael. We've been blessed by being in the presence of both of these men of God.

2013 brought some sadness too. One of the young men who attended high school with Jack, Ben Kunkel, was tragically killed while jogging in the Norfolk area. Ben and Jack played soccer together for many years on a team coached by his dad. The Kunkels are a wonderful family and Ben's loss shook so many who knew the family.

Kenny's company and the greater Lynchburg community lost a giant of a man in December when the company's owner, Sonny Merryman passed away. Sonny was a driven man who never forgot his simple roots. Sonny's fingerprints can be seen throughout the state in the many places he contributed to the betterment of others, including the Merryman Center at Virginia Tech.

Just a week before Christmas, one of my coworkers, Paul Farley, died from a heart attack. Paul was a great guy who was always ready to help others in need and he'll be missed.

May the joy of Christmas fill your heart to overflowing and may 2014 bring you more joys than sorrows!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Blogging Grandma Sandy, Kenny and the Bottoms-Wallace family.

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