Less Than Sixty Days Until …

Yep, you guessed it, Christmas.  Which means less than a month until Thanksgiving, the weekend when I traditionally attempt to compose my yearly family re-cap letter to insert into the family Christmas card mailing.   Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve actually mailed a Moss Family Christmas Letter for several years now.  I tend to avoid whining about all the negative depressing events in my life (of which 2008 and 2009 where overflowing with) and highlight those items that inspire and lighten.

But 2010 started off well, since both my kids, Rachelle and Derek (and his wife Royna) were visiting us over their holiday break from college.  While I didn’t see much of Derek and Royna (who spent most of their time with their friends), it was good to have them home again since moving to Texas in August 2009.

The rest of January and most of February were quiet but very cold – and I mean the coldest I could remember having lived in this area all my life (except for twelve years in Wichita which I prefer to just forget most of the time).  We received shocking and sad news the last week in February, when I learned my aunt’s mother died very unexpectedly from a fall.  This prompted the first of two trips this year to Winfield, Kansas.

March events escape me … didn’t come in or leave like a lion for me at least. Oh, but now it’s coming back to me.  We had a deja vu scare with my paternal grandmother, who fell while out eating dinner with my uncle in Raymore.  I learned the news from my dad as I arrived home from work, which prompted me to jump back in my car and drive back to where I had just been (or nearly so) to a hospital emergency room just off US-71 southeast of the Plaza.  To our surprise (my dad, my uncle and myself), the hospital released her on her own recognizance to return to her apartment in Raymore.  If you’d seen her injuries, you would have thought they’d have kept her for observation overnight.

April and May proved the highlight of my year because of a rare opportunity to meet two of my favorite authors at science fiction conventions within driving distance of Kansas City.  The first occurred in Lincoln, Nebraska, the home town of Brandon Sanderson, an author who will probably make the NY Times best sellers list, again, next week with the release of The Towers of Midnight, the next to last volume in the Wheel of Time series started by Robert Jordon back in the 80s.  Since the Lincoln science fiction convention was fairly small, access to Brandon in most of the panels and readings was nearly one-on-one.  Brandon graciously signed my hardcover edition of his first published novel (and a first edition) Elantris, which surprised him as it’s out-of-print and hard to find.  I now have everything published by Brandon in first edition and signed (with the exception of his young adult series).

As an anniversary present, Terry and I found and purchased a second vehicle to supplement our one remaining vehicle, which had not fared well during the extreme winter weather conditions earlier in the year.   When the kids left for Texas in August 2009, Rachelle took my Oldsmobile Aurora and Derek took his Chevy S10, leaving Terry and I just the Pontiac Firebird between us.  Carpooling helped to alleviate Terry’s stranding at home without a vehicle to only half a week, but the winter weather kept us grounded more than anything.  I’m eternally grateful to my carpool buddy, who owned a four wheel drive pickup truck for getting us to and from Kansas City last winter.   So, as May approached, Terry and I started looking at used vehicles, specifically older Cadillacs.   We knew we needed comfortable seating for the 8-10 hour drives (one-way) to Texas in our future.   We had almost decided on one from a local Leavenworth dealer, when we responded to an individual’s ad for a Pontiac Bonneville.  We drove down to Olathe to test drive it and fell in love with the very well maintained (over-maintained with an extended warranty and some extras features).  I managed to get a check cut from my credit union before they closed on Friday evening and drove the vehicle home for our 24th wedding anniversary.

In mid-May, we drove to Des Moines for a pirate themed science fiction convention featuring as the guest artist of honor Don Maitz, and his wife and guest author, Janny Wurts.  I spent a pleasant couple of hours talking with Janny on Saturday afternoon between panels.  Again, since she was not the ‘main attraction’ her panels and readings were sparsely attended and nearly one-on-one.

Rachelle flew back home in late May, but only stayed a few days before traveling overseas to study abroad in Europe, specifically Leipzig, Germany.  She celebrated her twenty-first birthday half a world away from where she was born.  During her five weeks in Europe, she visited many cities in Germany, Austria and also Prague in the Czech Republic.  She returned to the States on the eve of the Fourth of July and remained with us for the rest of the summer.

While Rachelle deeply immersed herself in learning German, my grandmother began to suffer from rapidly advancing congestive heart failure.  Just two days before my daughter’s birthday, and actually on my grandmother’s 88th birthday, she passed away.  I was glad to have visited her in her final days and to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to her with my aunt and dad.  The next week became a blur as plans for the memorial service were ironed out and I offered my house as a staging area for family gatherings.   The first, and hopefully last time for many years to come, I actually took advantage of my bereavement leave employee benefit.

The following week, my husband finally attended his Social Security Disability hearing before an administrative law judge (via video conference since the judge lived in New Mexico).  We had been waiting years for this hearing, having been denied twice by bureaucrats in the SSA.  Just last week (middle of October), he received his first regular disability check, but the settlement check for previous years is still several weeks away.  The hearing, while stressful for Terry, relieved some of our agony of waiting.

In August, we mailed, er flew, Rachelle back to Texas and life settled back into it’s routine.  I’d joined a vanpool mid-Summer so I wasn’t putting any miles on any of my vehicles.  We received the welcome news that Terry’s appeal of denial of SSD benefits was awarded by the judge.   September flew by, mostly from some stress caused by my daughter’s student loans, which have finally, as of Monday this week, been fully resolved, at least until next August.

October proved to be the complete opposite of September, starting with good news on my daughter’s student loans and a fantastic birthday present from my father – an amazing telescope with a plethora of accessories, which I’ve been exploring and learning how to use for most of this month.

The damper to our activities for most of this year has been an unfortunate accident incurred by Terry in the spring.  While negotiating the stairs in our house, he missed the last step and injured his back.  For the last several months, he’s been almost completely bedridden or recliner-ridden from pain and now muscle fatigue and atrophy.  Thankfully, the back injury has finally healed itself and we are slowly exercising the legs and other extremities with short jaunts to the dog park, because both dogs also need the exercise.

The next two months are busy, of course, as most families get this time of year.  We’ll travel to Texas for Thanksgiving, leaving the dogs behind boarded at a local Leavenworth kennel and doggie day care facility.  In mid December, we will return to Texas, with my dad in tow, to attend my son’s graduation from SMU’s Guildhall.  And we’ll wrap up the year with Rachelle returning, as an early Christmas gift via her adopted Greek family, the Kelloffs, on their return trip from Houston, Texas to Lansing, Kansas on the 23rd of December.

There, I’ve done it, my first draft of the 2010 edition of the Moss Family Christmas Letter.   I’ll expand upon this throughout the month, and include select photos from the year to add the human touch and connection for the final printed color edition.

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