Christmas 2011

[caption id="attachment_134" align="aligncenter" width="720"]cardphoto_bw_enchanced_1240 A typical holiday afternoon at Stonebench.[/caption]

Friends & Family, Thither & Yon,

The world appears to spin faster and faster about the sun, each year briefer than the last, events separated by what once would have been long intervals now practically on top of one another. Reviewing our lives in 2011 reveals an astonishing wealth of life which has taken place in what feels like the blink of an eye. Thank you all for sharing in our joys and our miseries, whether in person, by voice, or by text; the encouragement and inspiration we receive from family and friends is truly beyond value.

Emerging from the winter doldrums in March, we revisited a favorite getaway for a quick Spring Break recharge before Christina plunged back into the classroom. On this visit to Fredericksburg, we stayed in a peculiar lodging known as the 6666 Pullman Bed and Breakfast, a private Pullman car once used by Teddy Roosevelt. A train nut since early childhood, and a fan of TR since Bugs Bunny wielded a big stick while wearing a fake mustache and pince-nez, Russell could scarcely have been happier if he got Christina to scale Enchanted Rock. Which he did, slowly but surely, on a gloriously brisk and overcast morning.

April marked the one-year anniversary of Russell’s daily bike ride to and from work, a slow, ongoing trek which should reach it’s thousandth mile sometime in early 2012. In addition to a much-needed workout, cycle commuting has also provided him an opportunity to exercise his narrative voice, racking up two wins in a weekly essay contest on a local cycling blog. The prizes were, naturally, re-invested in safety gear.

In late May, Russell’s maternal grandfather, Papa, passed away unexpectedly. It was a devastating loss for the family, an absence keenly felt in this season. Russell was called to bend his writing style to the task of memorializing the man who inspired and encouraged him in so many areas, from their shared love of reading and speaking to cooking and baking. His unconventional narrative obituary ran in the local weekly, but was initially rejected because of its unusual style by Papa's hometown newspaper.

In the midst of record-breaking summer heat in Austin, the air conditioning system in our heretofore reliable Suzuki gave up. Once repaired, it cooled us down nicely, but presaged a cascade of system failures which finally resulted in a hunt for a new car. After a few test drives, much deliberation about features, and a search for the right configuration, our new silver Kia Soul is cozily resting its wheels in our garage.

As December began, Christina's semester at the University of Texas' School of Information Science came to a close with her poster presentation on the role of graphic novels in the classroom and in the library. Capping off a year of three complete courses, Christina is steeling herself (while Russell, Soot, and Smoke steel their respective selves) for the coming Spring semester, when she will take on a two class workload in preparation for a Summer practicum to finish her degree.

This Christmas finds Stonebench silhouetted with festive lights for the first time, and the kitchen in a near-constant state of production of sweet treats for gifting and bringing to celebrations, including our forthcoming Christmas Day with the Taylors in Buda. While Canadians enjoy their annual celebration of fisticuffs, we will be on our way to spend the last week of 2011 with the Streeters in Plano, ringing in 2012 with the western swing of A Ride With Bob. However you celebrate, we wish you safety, health, and happiness.

And of course,
a Very Merry Christmas,
and a Happy New Year!

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