Thursday, December 14, 2006

Christmas Letter 2006


Every year our family writes a Holiday Newsletter to insert into our Christmas cards. Here is this year's letter formatted as a blog entry. I have previously blogged on several of the topics mentioned and clicking on the links will bring up additional information even longer and more dreary that the letter itself.

Your faithful corespondent has been told, quite clearly, that this year’s Christmas letter is to be completed in time for Christmas. I think last year’s went out in February (or was it March?) Please check the date on the postmark for this letter: if it doesn’t say December, 2006 please pray for me -- I may be in big trouble.

This year has been good to the North Carolina branch of the Haslup clan… for the most part. It did see the passing of Irene’s father, Allan Croft, in August. He had been diagnosed with terminal cancer in 1998 and was given less than two years to live. He managed to add five more active years to that span and he passed away comfortably, having beaten the odds, at least for a while. His ashes were scattered at sea at his request. He is remembered by the Winter Haven, Florida, Little Theater and Public Library, two organizations for which he did years of volunteer work.

lee at pilotirene at pilot

Lee – aka. “faithful corespondent” – is working on a contract at the North Carolina Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources. With a team of other programmers, he is working on a system to track the environmental impacts of DOT road projects to make sure they are offset by comparable environmental cleanup projects in the same part of the state. Irene compares it to the medieval church selling indulgences, an analogy which Lee does not altogether support.

After struggling with his weight for forty years Lee has finally found a way to control it and he is down 75 pounds from this time last year (over 100 pounds from his heaviest). He must now resist the urge to stop random strangers on the street and give them advice about weight control. “Hello,” he is tempted to say, “I can’t help noticing that you are really fat. Let me tell you about the viscous fiber supplement that – when combined with a sensible diet – has helped me lose a hundred pounds.” It is an ongoing disappointment to him that such valuable advice is so often badly received. So… he has learned his lesson and there will be no mention in this Christmas letter of PGx fiber (a blend of Glucomannan, Xanthan Gum and Sodium Alginate) nor will there be even the slightest suggestion that readers visit http:// and follow the link to his blog entry about his diet. That would be tacky.

In that spirit, no mention will be made that Irene has recently joined Lee in the diet and has lost 20 pounds. Instead, we focus on her prize-winning Halloween costume – The HOT FLASH: Mistress of Thermal Incongruity – which edged out Lee’s OBSTRUCTO: The Human Roadblock to take first place at a Halloween party hosted by our friend Calvin. The theme of the party was “Your Inner Superhero” and Irene’s costume needs no explanation. Lee is convinced that this is how she beat him since his costume tends to require rather a lot of explanation.

photo by cspowers.
In her secret identity – Irene Haslup, mild-mannered cheese specialist at Harris Teeter – the Hot Flash has also enjoyed a good year. She was chosen as one of six outstanding cheese sellers, and was flown to Wisconsin in the corporate jet to tour several cheese factories and be schmoozed by management. Apparently they have their eye on her as someone who might be tapped to run the cheese department in one of their new superstores. This is quite a feather in her cap, especially since her super powers are only occasionally useful for selling cheese – when she has to go into the cooler for another wheel of Brie.

In her other poorly-kept secret identity – docent at the NC Museum of Art – she is giving tours of the Monet in Normandy exhibit which is the biggest, most highly attended show ever at the NCMA. Irene will continue to do several tours a week until the show closes Jan 14th. If you hope to attend you might contact Irene for advice: the show sells out every day, usually before noon.


Our children continue to do well. Chris is a Junior at the Ringling School of Art in Sarasota, does a weekend a month with the Army Reserve and works as a barista in a local coffee shop. He formerly worked at Barney’s – a large chain coffee shop – but when Barney’s sold out to Starbucks Chris finally yielded to the requests of the owner of his favorite local coffee shop to come and work for him. As a Junior he has been talking to recruiters who visit the campus. The two he has mentioned are Hallmark Cards and the CIA. If next year’s newsletter has random parts crossed out with black markers you may feel free to conclude that the Hallmark thing didn’t pan out.

Amber works at the Carolina Living and Learning Center, a home for adults with Autism in Pittsboro, NC. She is currently applying to medical schools where she hopes to specialize in psychiatry. Her scores on the MCAT test were good and she is hopeful about acceptance but, as of now, she hasn’t heard back from most of the schools. She lives in Chapel Hill with a roommate, her two ferrets, and a cat she found as a newborn kitten in the middle of the road on her way to work. I suggested that she should name the cat “Speedbump” but Amber let her roommate pick out the name: Annie Teacup.

This past summer included two family reunions. The first was the 100th annual Fahl-Motts family reunion in Canton, Ohio. (see this and this and this) The Mottses are Lee’s paternal grandmother’s people and the reunion gave us an opportunity to catch up with second and third cousins. The Carlisle Inn in Walnut Creek, Ohio, is run by the Amish and was charming. The furniture in the hotel was all locally-made Amish work and was beautiful.. The site of the hotel is quite picturesque, in the middle of an Amish agricultural area outside town. One young lady stepped out onto the balcony to check out the view and asked her Aunt Irene: “What’s that smell?” Irene grew up on a cattle ranch in Florida and she knew. “Those are cows,” she said.


Dad and I with assorted nieces at "Beach" Week.

The other reunion was the Haslup family “beach week” reunion, held at Disney World (with no actual beach time this year). We stayed at “Pop Century” – one of the more reasonably priced Disney hotels. It was very enjoyable and Irene was able to get away to spend some time with her father. (See this and this.)

I will not mention of our two dogs, Cello and Jaxon, this year. They simply haven’t done anything interesting. But please don’t tell them. They are quite content with their humdrum lives. Why spoil it for them?

Most of the topics mentioned here – reunions, Halloween costumes, etc. – are covered in more length in my weblog. Links to the postings are available at http:// I’ll be glad to provide paper copies to anyone who asks.

With warmest wishes for a Merry Christmas and the Happiest New Year,

Lee, Irene, Chris and Amber