December 24, 2002
Greetings and blessings of Christmas 2002.
It seems that in my circle Christmas cards have become passe. I've received only one this year as of the date of this writing, and I haven't sent any. The last relative whom I was keeping in touch with but hadn't been able to do so by email has finally gone "online," so I've tentatively decided to discontinue the snail mail Christmas card tradition, too, settling on these annual letters, sent by email. I miss having cards to help decorate the house, and perhaps you will, too. But, I for one have kept most of the cards I've received over the years, so if I really meant it I could decorate the whole house with the old ones, and why not? Mom used to put some of her favorite cards on the tree for many consecutive years.
I hope you don't resent this tradition. It is in a sense an intrusion, assuming you care enough to read a recap of our year...but what are friends for if not to "lean on" at least that much, and as people with whom to share our lives? So let me "bend your metaphorical ear" and, if you'd rather not, there's always the delete key!
It seems almost appropriate to take stock of the whole decade this year, as this is the year in which I passed into "official old age," turning 60, and the decade of my fifties has had so many landmarks, most of them the passing of loved ones: Dad in '92, Mom in '93, both sisters-in-law over several years later, and my eldest brother, Tom, in 2000. And of course my stroke and diabetes diagnosis in 1999.
I was finally able to do some international travel this decade, too, which had been a lifelong goal; to England-Wales-Ireland with a church bus tour group in '94; around the world with brother Bob in '96; two trips with brother Tom: Ireland by rental car in '98, and a Britrail tour of parts of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales in '99; and a rental car tour with son Mike of points in all those same destinations in 2001.
This year, it seemed I "owed" a trip to the other son, Kevin, so he and I planned an itinerary similar to that done with Mike, but with more Northern Ireland and omitting Scotland. As we planned, Mike offered to come along at his own expense, which made it even a much better trip. (The boys and I constantly remember highlights of our many roadtrips across the country to visit their Pennsylvania family members in their teens.) Mike said he'd come if he could break away from our itinerary to visit France. Of course Kevin and I didn't want to miss that, so all three of us spent four days in Paris which was, of course, the highlight. I'm working on an idea for an Ireland tour book, so much of our week there was seeking out sites and photos for that project. Unfortunately, however, the Ireland week was the wettest one I've yet encountered in my international travels. The whole story in photos is told in the tourism department of my Nanty Glo Home Page.
Though we lost no family members this year, two of my former employers and major influences in my life passed away: Writers Connection founder Steve Lester, 46, on March 4, and Dr. Carl McIntire, 95, on March 19 (whose death didn't come to my attention until July). Also, the deaths of two teenagers, one in Nanty Glo and one from my church parish, were the sources of some reflection in my writing, though I wasn't personally acquainted with either of them. The links in this paragraph are to the beginning articles I wrote on each subject.
Sons Mike and Kevin both continue at their earlier described jobs (Mike's layoff last New Years having been a short one). Chris and my two grandchildren continue to live in Manteca, a 90-minute drive away. I've been on "hiatus" from my contract job at Xilinx, since September, having come to the maximum number of months allowed under government direct-contracting rules. I'm scheduled to return to the same job in January. During my down time I've enjoyed trips to the Los Angeles haunts that I lived in while working there in '98 and '99, and most of a week with brother Bob and his bride, Katy, in Willows, Calif.
I mentioned in last year's letter a plan then taking shape to launch some sort of "ministry" in 2002 (having earlier volunteered and begun the development of web pages for several ministries in recent years, but which fell by the wayside). This began becoming a reality on February 1, with the inauguration of Xnmp, the Christian News and Media Portal, which links to what we feel is the most important news each day, in terms of its spiritual or "anti-spiritual" significance, and, when news is "slow," articles, columns, and editorials that provide insights into the current culture. And as an adjunct to this, I launched a running cultural commentary, NewsComment, on November 1. I'm hoping this may eventually grow into a source of at least a little supplemental income in my "retirement" which, Lord willing, is still a few years away. My longtime closest friend here in San Jose, Michael Masterson, is the major enabler of this endeavor, by providing the online server and personal feedback and ideas.
The Nanty Glo Home Page, which receives similar enabling from friend Mark Mellis, continues to be my major avocation and outlet for creative endeavors, including most of my writing. And it in turn is supported by other members of the Nanty Glo community, some of which, led by Judy Rose and David Caldwell, have also made it an avcocation of their own, too.
I do love receiving updates and greetings from all friends and relatives at this blessed season, and wish you all a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!
your Christmas letter with the Blacklick Valley community.