Christmas 2018 Newsletter

All my life’s a circle
Sunrise and sundown
Moon rolls through the nighttime
‘Til the daybreak comes around.
All my life’s a circle
But I can’t tell you why
Season’s spinning round again
The years keep rollin’ by.

So it has been awhile, hasn’t it?

2018 ends as a year of change for our little family. A year of highs and lows, which can probably be said about most years. We’ll try to stick with the highs, though, because those are most fun. If you want lows, just read the news.

Scarlett finished preschool in April. Our little girl is growing up so fast. She had a graduation ceremony where she got to sing and perform for her family and she was thrilled by it.

We took two big trips this year. The first was to … Disney World! And we didn’t even have to win the Super Bowl to go!We actually went down to Orlando a few days early and spent some time with Lori and Ryan, two dear friends of ours that we don’t get to see nearly enough of. They were kind enough to show us around town and we got to see some of the other side of Orlando, that tourists don’t get to see much of outside of the House of Mouse. We had a lot of fun swapping stories of growing up not too far away from there.

We then met up with Sarah’s family and spent five wonderful days doing all of the Disney parks. Scarlett especially loved seeing anything Frozen as you might imagine, including seeing the Frozen show and meeting Elsa and Anna. She also went on her first roller coaster and loved it!

Sarah and I really enjoyed Animal Kingdom, so much so that we went back for a second visit. The last time I was at Disney was maybe 1990 or 1991, so much had changed since then including all of Animal Kingdom, which was quite new. But it was also neat to see all the things that hadn’t changed since I was a little boy.

Our other big trip of 2018 was to celebrate our 10th anniversary. We took a six-day trip to Costa Rica and loved it. This was the first big trip for Sarah and I, just ourselves, since we went to Jamaica way back in 2011.

We stayed in a part of Costa Rica called Guanacaste, which is on the Pacific coast near the Nicaraguan border. Especially for a trip that we planned sort of last minute (we decided to do it in March) I had no real preconceived notions of what we would see. But it was amazing.

I have never been to a place as stunningly beautiful as Costa Rica was. We took a tour one day and hiked in the rain forest (and, shocker, it rained). Took a boat trip and saw wild birds. We toured a wind farm (those wind turbines are seriously huge, much bigger than they look) and saw a volcano. We soaked in a volcanic hot spring, swam in crystal clear water and of course, ate amazing food.

It was also refreshing to hear how dedicated people there are to protecting this stunningly beautiful place – our guide mentioned that they currently get 96% of their energy from renewable sources, and are aiming to be at 100% renewable energy by 2020.

The other interesting thing was everyone we encountered was bilingual. I was looking forward to getting to try some of my (albeit rusty) Spanish, but everyone we encountered spoke immaculate English. We were talking with a shopkeeper and she mentioned that English instruction begins as early as Kindergarten there.

I had not been that sad to leave a place in a very long time. Costa Rica exceeded every expectation I had. The astonishing natural beauty, wonderful people, delicious food. It’s been so wonderful. The saying in Costa Rica is “pura vida” – pure life. After having visited there I can truly start to get what they mean by that, and we cannot wait to go back.

Shortly after we got back from Costa Rica, our little girl started Kindergarten! They start schools so early now, her first day was August 7th! Scarlett is quite bright – she was reading on a first-grade level only a couple months into Kindergarten and doing pretty advanced math (multiplication) before she even started. Keeping her challenged is something we have to work at. We have been fortunate that she has a very good teacher who is keeping her engaged and challenged by providing her with additional opportunities.

Scarlett also started Girl Scouts this fall. She looks so cute in her little Daisy smock. And yes, you will be getting a link to buy those cookies.

In September, we went white water rafting on the Pigeon river in Tennessee, near the North Carolina border. It was a lot of fun, something I haven’t done since college. Water wasn’t too cold, either, which was fun.

Towards the end of September, a little idea I had been tossing around in my head finally bore fruit. I’d been driving my ultra-reliable 2006 Toyota Tacoma since it was new. Things were a lot different for me in 2006: I was less than two years out of college and a year and a half into my first post-college job. I was in a new city. I was unmarried, with no kids, living in a run-down apartment off Sparkman Drive in West Huntsville.

A lot changed in 12 years. I changed jobs, moved twice, bought and sold a couple houses, got married and started a family, but kept driving my little blue truck. But over time my needs changed. Namely, I need more space. It was getting really hard to wedge Scarlett into the tiny space behind my seat. Also, being a manual, my wife couldn’t drive it.

So, after a lot of thought and research I decided it was time to buy a new vehicle. But I still loved my truck. So what else to get other than … a new Tacoma! And after much searching, I caught the unicorn (four-door long bed Tacomas are rare beasts). Hopefully, I get 12 years out of this one too.

In October I spent a few days visiting my best friend Jamie again. It’s always special to get to spend time with him and Zeb, two people I also don’t get to see nearly enough of.

In November Scarlett celebrated her 6th birthday, and we had a party for her at Altitude trampoline park. This was our first time actually having a big party for her at a place with all her friends, and she had a wonderful time. Thanks to everyone who helped make her special day possible. I know she was thrilled to have all her friends and family there to celebrate her special day.

We also had our usual family Thanksgiving, this year with fourteen people! But having the house full of people always a pleasure.

In December, we took Scarlett to see Nutcracker here in Huntsville. This was our first time taking her to see the ballet and she loved it. She especially loved getting to meet the ballerinas before the show. All week since then she’s been asking Alexa to play the Nutcracker and dancing in the living room to it. I foresee dance lessons in her future.

Which brings us to another year coming to a close. Like I said, ups and downs. Sure, there were some bad things that happened, but I try to focus more on the ups than on the downs. And as the years keep rolling by, I keep in mind the lyrics to Harry Chapin’s “Circles.” People come and go, the seasons change, the days roll by, but we all end up together in the end. That’s what the holidays are about, right? Family and friends, togetherness, and belonging.

No matter where we are or who we’re with, take a moment to appreciate what we have.

It seems like I’ve been here before
I can’t remember when
But I have this funny feeling
That we’ll all be together again.
No straight lines make up my life
And all my roads have bends
There’s no clear-cut beginnings
And so far no dead-ends.

Harry Chapin, “Circles”