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My annual Christmas letter is taking the place of the Jonal for Christmas eve

Dear family and friends,

It's already toward the end of December 20 when I begin this letter, my annual recap of the year’s highlights for friends and relatives on the occasion of greeting you all as part of observing the Savior's birth.

After several years of reporting loss of family members, this time there's an addition instead. My brother Bob, who lost his wife of over 40 years, Lois, more than two years ago to cancer, found and, in August, married a new partner, Katy, in Willows, Calif., where Bob had returned to live, a year after losing Lois. Bob had become a regular at the Willows Baptist Church, where Katy had been a member most or all of her life. They appear to be quite happy and their attitude gives encouragement and hope to all of us who feel we're entering our sunset years with little to look forward to. They're living in the Willows home that Katy has lived in since her first marriage to her late first husband, in 1942!

At the end of April, after only six months, I was laid off from the new job I described in last year's letter, as the company's senior (and shortly after taking the job, the only) technical writer. The company was one of the early casualties to the recession that's hit hard to many technology companies this year. Fortunately, however, I was able to resume work almost immediately at my previous job, at Xilinx, largely because I had continued helping my Xilinx friends by weekend work now and then after leaving there for the "better" job. I'm still working full-time at Xilinx, still as a contractor, but now have a contract through June 2002 which, in this industry and this economy, is so long-term that just after Thanksgiving I bought a new car and signed up for 36 months of car payments for the first time in many years (for a new car rather than previously owned, that is).

Despite the setback of losing my senior writing job, the six-month transition was worthwhile. For one thing, at that job I was able to build up a wonderful music library through Napster, which wasn't possible at my previous work. Also, my computer there was so advanced that I started writing a daily new page for the Nanty Glo Home Page every day, and even though I'm back to a more limited computer system, having mastered the techniques I've been able to keep it up. And I've recruited two volunteers who now fill two days of the week every week and one additional day of the week on alternating weeks, so I've been able to cut back the commitment of my own time (though I am still the one who does all the formatting and file manipulation seven days a week). I even kept the commitment through two vacation trips this year. These pages not only get added to the permanent website of the Nanty Glo Home Page, but are sent to a mail list of just over 100 who’ve subscribed to receive them in their email every day, so it has been a rewarding addition to my life. (Incidentally, the Nanty Glo site now numbers well of 2000 "pages," or major text files, since its inaugural in 1997.)

My sons Mike and Kevin both, also, have been able to keep working despite the recession, both in the same jobs described here last year (after this was written two days ago, Mike learned he has no job to report to after the Christmas break). Chris has been the most negatively impacted by the poor economy, and has moved about 60 miles away to take advantage of lower rents than those in the Bay Area, so we don't see enough of her and the kiddos any more.

Because I had been engaged last Christmas to do an extra freelance assignment that was expected to provide a previously unanticipated windfall, I offered to take son Mike, who continues to live at my house, on a major trip, to Turkey, in the fall as his birthday present. As the time came closer, Mike found he couldn't get time off after the start of his fall night classes resumed, so we had to scrub Turkey and instead opted for a trip earlier in the season, a rental-car tour of England, Scotland, and Ireland, seeing many of the same places I'd visited on earlier trips and wanted to share with him, but especially adding the Hebrides Island of Iona off Scotland, and Northern Ireland (Belfast and Derry) for the first time. Mike ended up underwriting some of his expense of the trip, as my freelance extra job never did pay off, and he bought an excellent digital camera to take along. We have more than 500 photosfrom the trip, and my daily email postings from it, online

Photos: Mike in Picadilly Circus, London; Jon at Galway Bay, Galway, Ireland

at http://www.nantyglo.com/tourism/2001/tour01.htm. (Of course it was a blessing that we had to scrub Turkey and Greece before the events of September 11, after which I’m sure we would not have tried such a tour this year.) In July, I also took a quick trip to Pennsylvania and met some of the new friends (as well as some older ones) of the Home Page. Photos from that trip, including highlights of Cambria County beyond my native Blacklick Valley, are online at http://www.nantyglo.com/7_01photos/.

I continue to stay on a low-carbohydrate diet because of my diabetes, but never have reached my final weight-loss goal, which is somewhat discouraging.

I continue to be regularly involved in my parish, St. Stephen's, though not doing any ministry through it as earlier, my "ministry" now being confined mostly to the inspirational component of my daily web pages, and continued extensive personal reading, mostly on Orthodoxy and saints of the church. I do have an Internet-based ministry project in mind to develop soon, however, and will let you know if it gets launched.

May the Lord who came as a babe at the first Christmas be the beginning and the end of your joy both now at Christmas and for always.

best,

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