This is not, I repeat NOT one of those you know, holiday letters!

December, 2011

Dear Dear Ones,

As I look at the calendar, I see it is that time of the year – for singing and eating and drinking, making merriment with family and friends. And catching up.

No, silly, this is NOT one of those letters!

Over the past year, I look and see I have many reasons to be oh-so grateful – I got a job, yippee, and really, really like it! My son Tyler got a great job, is ensconced in a cool apartment in Denver and living the good life. My son TJ and his lovely wife, Emily, far, far away in Illinois, produced and directed the ever-enchanting Violet, my newest granddaughter (and I got to see her, hold her, burp her, change her diaper, feed her – and most precious of all, sing to her and rock her to sleep – and smell that baby smell, the most heady perfume in the world).

I palled around in Boise with my grandson Max, now a young man of 7(!). We trudged into the Boise foothills, went to the park, took Karate lessons (I didn’t, he did) skied on Bogus Basin, went to church, a parade, the zoo, the circus (and an elephant ride!), the fair (he milked a cow!), the movies, the pumpkin patch, the mall. Everywhere I go with Max, we talk and talk, sometimes we sing and we always laugh.

I also got to get a little closer to my sweet, shy granddaughter Julia, now nearly 3 and also living in Boise (with Tracy and Joe and Max). Every time she says “hi, Grammy” on the phone, my heart melts a little more. She helped me choose flowers at Edwards Greenhouse – but mostly she wanted to pull the flower wagon! We played at the park, watched a parade, tried to go to church – she’s not much for the big, booming, singing church sounds – but mostly we played games like ring-around-the-rosie and hide-and-seek. She likes to hide in her room in the dark. She’s a great shopping companion and a great little singer and knows every word to the “Winnie-the-Pooh” song.

Don’t worry – this is not one of those letters. You’ll see.

My lovely, beautiful daughter Tracy, my oldest who is now all grown up, is carving out a burgeoning business at Coco Fringe, THE avant-garde salon in Boise. And, she’s a great mom, insists on a family dinner at the table every night, has the cleanest house in town and just goes and goes – she reminds me of my do-it-all-till-it-makes-you-dizzy mom who is no longer with us, but will always be with us. Tracy’s husband, Joe is a real college Joe and has set his sights on the geology field. He also helps with Max’s baseball team and spends hours playing catch and baseball with Max and does his own fair share of getting dinner ready and kids to bed. He loves to mow the lawn and keeps the yard ship-shape.

My husband Bob and I were happy we got to go to the Oregon Coast for a summer trip. The weather was perfect, we squenched our toes in the sand and let the sound of the surf lull us into a state of Nirvana. We met Bob’s parents there, Sara and Ralph and just gallivanted like beach bums. My favorite memory is when we built a bonfire on the beach and the seagulls ate out of Ralph’s hand.

(I promise, this is definitely not one of those long, boring happy holiday, this is what we did this year letters.)

It was a big year for Bob – he celebrated his 50th birthday by leaping out of a plane – and yes, he did have a parachute strapped on! He became the president of the board at TVCTV and works hard at the VSA, both non-profits – when he’s not creating some fabulous Bob Neal art, that is. He finished up his commission with the Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step project and most recently donated a beautiful Dick and Jane style painting for a benefit art show.

Even though we have much to be grateful for, I sadly will say it has not all been roses. As with all life, we’ve had our ups and downs and we have lost some very special people in our lives. Bob lost his Uncle Lew and cousin Mark; on my side, my dear brother Dan and Aunt Alice.

But with Dan’s passing to that old grave robber cancer, came a rekindled closeness with my nephew Ken and niece Dana. Ken, who has always been more like a little brother to me, will, I hope, remain so. Dana, Dan’s lovely daughter, I hope will become a regular fixture in our lives.

(Don’t worry – this letter, not one of those, is almost over.)

Also with Dan’s passing as a side note: I am the last living member of the family I grew up with. Kind of weird. There’s nobody left alive who can corroborate or dispute any of my memories. Hmm.

Our faithful furry friends are fine. This year has been good to Payton, he has spent hours running amok in the foothills, off-leash and loving it. Hasn’t bitten a single soul. Mister, who has seemed in some sort of hibernation or stupor for the past few years, suddenly rallied after he killed and ate a mouse – I think it woke up the animal inside. Whatever the reason, he has a renewed bounce in his step, which is a feat in and of itself, considering he is one of the fattest cats I’ve ever seen.

Another pet note, on the sorrier side – Mister lost his cousin, Clawdia, Bob’s brother and sister-in-law’s cat and much beloved friend and family member. (To Mike and Rachel from all of us, our condolences. It is hard to lose a friend.)

My New Year’s resolutions: I will try to be a better person. I will try to turn down the volume on gossip – but I do love it so! I will try to be a better mom, with a less critical voice (it’s true, I can be harpy) and loving, hugging arms. I will try to be a better Grammy (I wish I could clone myself and just be a Grammy here and in Illinois, 24-7). I will try to be a better wife and try not to tell Bob what I think he should do (tongue biting! Tongue biting!). Most of all I will try to be a better me. And I will try to remind me to be happy and joyous each and every day I am here. It is a gift and I often take it for granted. Bad me.

I suppose that’s about it for this year. I hope you and yours are happy and healthy. Aren’t you glad I didn’t send one of those end-of-the-year, boring, guess-what-we-did letters?

Happy holidays,

Jeanne and Bob

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