Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all –
Last year, I mentioned that we were setting unrealistic expectations by sending our Christmas letter two weeks before Christmas. I’m uncomfortable with unrealistic expectations; I am not sure who first said that the right approach is to “set low expectations, and then fail to achieve them,” but I like that guy. The timing of this year’s letter is an attempt to swing the expectations pendulum back towards center. Yeah, that’s it – I did this on purpose.
2016 was a year of starting and stopping for the King family. Amy the linguist points out to me that the French like to say, “ Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.” The literal translation of this saying is, “Blah blah blah blah blah, blah blah blah blah blah blah,” which I believe means something like “ The Kings can’t make a plan and stick to it.” I may have misheard, though.
We are still in the same house in San Antonio that we have owned since 2007. We tried to sell it, but no one wanted it. Well, that’s not quite true – we had two offers. The first offer was to take the house off our hands for only $20,000. We negotiated hard for $10,000, but the potential buyer insisted that if we wanted the honor of having them as a buyer, they would take no less than $20k from us for the privilege. I think they missed the point. The second offer was less attractive, so we’re still here.
Our decision to stay has opened up new opportunities for finally making the house a home, after ten years. We (and by “we,” I mean “Amy”) developed a talent for interior decoration, and we have been busy for most of the year painting things, moving furniture on a daily basis, repairing items we never use, and taking items we do use (and, here, by “we”, I mean “I”) to the dump and the Salvation Army. We have a beautiful home, and one of the reasons is that I now live in the garage.
We were also blessed to be a part of two joyous events this year. Amy’s mother Jeanette and Gene Shackelford, a beloved family friend, were married in February after a long engagement. Part of that statement is not true, but I’ll leave it as an exercise for the interested reader to determine which part. They are both overachievers, and have already moved twice, built a house in San Antonio, disposed of two households of furniture, and acquired a third household of joint furniture. One has to be careful calling on the San Antonio Shackelfords – they’ll put you to work.
Our beloved daughter Rebecca married Christopher Mahler in October. We could not have been more pleased with her choice, or with his. He is a fine man, and they make a beautiful couple. I am certain that Rebecca’s choice was completely uninfluenced by my comment that we really liked Chris, and if she didn’t marry him we were going to adopt him. She had a choice between having Chris as a husband or as a brother; I’m relieved at the outcome.
The wedding was at a beautiful wedding venue in Comfort, Texas. “Comfort, Texas,” by the way, is a French phrase that means, “shut up and keep writing checks.” Or so I hear. The wedding was wonderful; a happy event filled with family, friends, jokes and laughter, and even a beignet or two. Beignets are French doughnuts – why they were at a wedding in Comfort, Texas is anyone’s guess. We’ve received feedback that Rebecca and Chris’s wedding was the happiest wedding people had ever been to, and they’re still married two months later. The wedding will even be featured in an upcoming issue of SA Weddings Magazine. That’s a success in my estimation.
“Ramblin’ Man” Andrew, having decided that the International Space Station was capable of staying in orbit without him, spent the last year (God help me, can I actually say this?) working for Texas A&M University, also known as “that cow college in College Station, Texas”. He is the engineer responsible for the care and feeding of a fleet of underwater autonomous vehicles that collect oceanographic data for a variety of research and scientific purposes. Yes, Andrew builds, maintains, and flies underwater drones. Is that cool, or what?
Never content to let the moss grow, Andrew is on his way to Oahu, Hawaii. His significant other, Willa, is one of a few people in the entire world with the intellect, education, and degree for a job with the federal government analyzing, identifying, and repatriating the remains of fallen servicemen and women who died in service to their country. She holds a PhD in biological anthropology, and is using her education and talent in a noble cause that honors the sacrifice of these brave men and women, and brings peace and closure to their families.
The job is at Hickam AFB on Oahu, so there’s that, too. She has been there for several months, and Andrew is on his way there after the holidays. With typical good fortune and hard work, he has landed a job with the University of Hawaii, doing data collection and analysis for oceanographic data for NOAA research. I don’t know what that means, but it sounds so darned cool, I just had to say it.
Amy, ever the underachiever, is working on a second book in parallel to the first book. Neither is quite finished yet, but there are contracts and legal obligations, so there is also hope. The second book will probably be published before the first book, by the Royal Academy Press in Belgium.
Andrew got his “ain’t no moss on me” nature from Amy, and she has decided that the time is right to return to school. She will add a master’s degree in legal studies, a certification as a paralegal, and an endorsement in arbitration and mediation to her portfolio over the next year.
We added another new family member to the menagerie, as well – to go along with Izzy and Skitter, Honeybee has joined the fold. She is a tiny kitten Amy found abandoned in a parking lot in Uvalde, Texas. Amy took her to the animal shelter, spent a sleepless night thinking about her, and returned the next day to pick her up and bring her into the lap of luxury. That’s apparently what we call my lap – the two cats fight over who gets to sit there, and no matter who wins, I bleed. She’s got a fighting spirit and the heart of a lion, and she’ll do just fine in this family of strong personalities and insistent demands. I’m happy as long as I continue to get fed.
As usual, I’m the man of leisure in the family. I did write another book this year, entitled, “Stumbling Toward Victory: Living in Defiance of Parkinson’s Disease,” and continued to volunteer as the president and chairman of SA Moves, an educational foundation for movement disorders. Amy and I did some traveling (DC, Dallas, and Portland, Oregon for the World Parkinson Congress), and my brother Ken and I traveled to Nevada for a firearms training class. Nevada has plenty of experience with far worse than Ken and me – the state survived. The disease continues to progress, but I continue to get meaner and more stubborn at the same pace. Immovable object, meet irresistible force. The outcome should be interesting, at least.
Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Happy Hanukah, and best wishes and love from the San Antonio Kings to you all –