Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Letter 2011, Advance Social Media Distribution

Our Christmas cards are getting out late again this year -- one of our most honored holiday traditions. Here is an advance electronic distribution of the tedious newsletter that gets folded up inside. If your card doesn't arrive for Christmas, feel free to print this, stuff it inside of an on-sale Christmas card of your choosing, and forge my name.

wedding_pano by bigleehimself
Walking Amber Down the Aisle in Tampa, Florida on New Year’s Eve Day


As I sit down to write this sentence, on Saturday, November 12, 2011, I am, as far as I know, still an expectant grandfather. That is, I don’t think I am a grandfather yet – we were promised a phone call on Amber’s way to the hospital – but it is only a matter of time now, and not much time. When this has been mailed and delivered, Liam and Eva, or Eva and Liam, depending on the order in which they are delivered, will be the newest and second newest members of the family.
Irene is taking to the whole grandparent thing way faster than I am but I don’t suppose that I am unusual in that regard. I think it is a sex-related thing – something carried on the Y-chromosome. If you take your typical middle-aged man and you hand him a baby, saying: “Here is your grandbaby, Lee. Love it forever”, then he will. But until that moment it won’t seem altogether real to him. On the other hand, a woman, on hearing that her daughter, who lives five hundred miles away, is a week late and might have managed to get pregnant, will immediately head for the nearest store where baby paraphernalia can be had at a discount. Once there she will scour the shelves for unisex merchandise, mostly featuring fluffy yellow ducks – the pink kittens or blue puppies will come later once the sex of the baby is determined. In our case, expecting one of each, we bought everything in sight, but the ducks were first.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

from the North Carolina Branch of the Haslup Clan

Since I mentioned the date on which I wrote the prologue, I will tell you that I am starting this paragraph two weeks later. Liam Connor McPherson was born on November 23, 2011, a few minutes before his twin sister Eva Claire McPherson. I am now a grandfather, with all the privileges and responsibilities pursuant thereto. Having gotten that out of the way I will now get on with the Holiday Newsletter. If my narrative wanders, my new grandfatherly status requires you to cut me some slack.

lee_amber_cake by bigleehimself
Amber and Lee cutting the cake.

Lee and Amber have had the most eventful year of anyone in the family and the most tightly-scheduled one as well. They were married on New Year’s Eve day in Tampa, Florida during Amber’s brief midwinter break from her studies at the Lake Erie School of Osteopathic Medicine in Bradenton. The ceremony was beautiful, the weather perfect, and as is traditional, the flower girl completely stole the show. It was wonderful to see so many of our favorite people but, as the parents of the bride, we saw them only fleetingly, as we had to stay in constant motion to keep the event on schedule. Now that both of our kids are married off it is someone else’s turn to host the next weddings – it’ll be nice to have a leisurely, more sociable role at a wedding or two.

Shortly after the wedding Amber started her Clinical Rotations – a series of clerkships in various clinical settings – that will comprise most of her third and fourth years of school. Since Amber and Lee were eager to start their family they decided to attempt to have their first child during Amber’s one-month fall break. There was some nervousness about the schedule when Amber found out she was expecting twins, since they often come a bit earlier, but Amber managed to finish enough of her Radiology Rotation to get full credit before her condition made it necessary for her to stay closer to home.

Amber came back to North Carolina briefly so we could throw her a baby shower. This proved a very efficient way for her to catch up with all her friends in a very short visit. Instead of having her drive around like mad while she was here, trying to see everybody, we threw a party and had everybody come to her. Brilliant! … and quite a nice party, actually.

babyshower2 by bigleehimself
At Amber's baby shower.

Lee and Amber continue to live with her grandfather (my dad) in St Petersburg. Dad recently celebrated his 85th birthday and remains active and in generally good health. Lee’s mother arrived before the twins were born and was there until December 13th. Amber was grateful for some experienced hands while she and Lee were learning how to deal with two babies in the house. Irene and I will be there for Christmas. Lee teaches chemistry at a local college, which is convenient just now, since much of the work associated with the job is done at home and many activities involved in dealing with the nutrition and hygiene of twin infants are more conveniently handled as tag-team events. Things seem to have gone fairly smoothly for the first two weeks although not altogether without some family adventure. They have learned, for instance, that when a key breaks off in the ignition on your way home from the pediatrician’s office, two adults, two infants, two car seats, and a big pile of baby-care hardware and expendables, will not all fit in the cab of a tow truck. Fortunately, dad’s friend Marty Hallas drives a big van was close to her phone.
reidGrad by bigleehimself
Reid and one of her professors

Chris and Reid have been married now for over a year and it doesn’t seem possible that it has been so long since the wedding. It has been an eventful year for them. For one thing, Reid finished her PhD this year. It turns out that getting a PhD is a bit like making Chinese lacquer work – the piece is sort-of, mostly, generally “done” for a long time but it always seems to need just one more coat of something or other to achieve its full shiny black perfection. When her committee signed off on her dissertation they extracted a promise of some follow-on cleanup work, basically so they could go on bossing her around after she got her degree. As of this writing that work has been completed, too, and she is now actually done. She is making good progress on adjusting to her various name changes. “Mrs. Haslup” is starting to feel natural and “Doctor Reid Haslup” only sounds a bit odd, but “Doctor Haslup” still makes her think people are talking about Christopher’s grandfather.

Chris continues to enjoy his job as a graphic designer at Capstrat and Reid has found a position in the Chemistry department at UNC in Chapel Hill. They are looking at houses in the area and thinking about buying when their lease is up early next year. I realize that all this puts them rather out-of-step with many of their generation – not only are they both working, but they have jobs that have something to do with their college degrees. Despite being a bit strange that way, we love them both and are very proud of our kids. Our main struggle is to avoid becoming insufferably smug, and I am afraid that battle is half lost.

calvinsCake by bigleehimself
Calvin is a big Wallace and Grommet fan; thus the cake topper.

Our long-time friend, and next-door neighbor twenty-some years ago, Calvin Powers, was married this past year and Irene and I were in the wedding party. Calvin married Pat French, an editor of medical journals, whom he has been dating for several years and whom Irene and I like very much. Calvin and Pat are our most reliable social friends in the area – the people with whom we are most likely to go out to a movie, or to dinner.

bling1 by bigleehimself
Bling the Merciless: Evil Master of the 1%

Irene and I very much enjoyed their Halloween party this year (as we do every year) and our costumes, drawn from things that were in the news at the time, were well received. Irene went as the “Ghost of Muammar Gaddafi” and my costume – “Bling the Merciless, Evil Master of the One Percent” – won a prize in the costume contest.

calvin_and_pat_group by bigleehimself
Family group photo.

The photo at right is of Pat and Calvin posing with family members just after the ceremony. The two young ladies with the bouquets are Pat’s daughters. Calvin’s dad is in the center in the back and the rest are relatives of various sorts. Irene and I were also in the wedding but weren’t in this family-themed photo.
Our other social friends, Bill and Caran, drove up from Atlanta to meet us in the mountains of North Carolina in October for a Photo Safari vacation. Karen, Irene and I are all avid amateur photographers and Bill enjoys driving around and looking at the scenery. Timing a trip to the mountains for the peak color for the fall leaves is as much a matter of luck as of planning. Peak color depends on the weather and it comes earlier at high elevations than lower ones. We were incredibly lucky this year to hit the peak exactly in the Grandfather Mountain area of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The views and the weather were gorgeous.

We also had an opportunity to spend time with Bill and Caran, and with Calvin and Pat over the Labor Day weekend because we all attended a Science Fiction/Media convention called DragonCon. I think it was Pat’s first time at DragonCon – the rest of us had been many times, although Irene and I have missed the last couple of years due to scheduling constraints.
20110924_38-cropped by bigleehimself
Costume at DragonCon. Her hat has a pirate ship being attacked by a giant squid.

It is interesting that Pat and Caran are both medical editors. There aren’t a lot of them in the country (or in the world for that matter) and they tend to know one another by reputation. Pat and Caran recognized each other’s names when they first met at Christopher’s wedding last year.
bill_caran_lee2 by bigleehimself
Bill and Caran

caran2 by bigleehimself
Irene continues to frustrate my by often taking better photos than I do, as in this one of Caran.

We are sending out Christmas wishes to my sister Holly (Lieutenant Colonel Elizabeth Lowe) who is finishing up a deployment in Afghanistan where she has worked in an outpatient clinic. In her latest note she mentioned packing up stuff to be shipped home but seemed a bit vague about when she would be back in the US. So her Christmas wishes are being sent via psychic emissions, and for the more-concrete wishes in the form of a Christmas card she may have to wait until she has a mailing address, even if we get the cards sent out on time for once.

Clinic%20Crew[1] by bigleehimself
Holly in Afghanistan

This will be our second year running where our empty nest has left us with a bit more passive and flexible role in our Christmas planning. In past years with our children unmarried, it was pretty clear that everyone would come to our house for Christmas and the only real decision we had to make was whether I would cook a four-rib roast for Christmas dinner or whether three ribs would be sufficient. (In general, both are true: three would be enough but I cooked four anyway.) Last year, with Chris and Reid at her mother’s for Christmas and Lee and Amber getting ready for their wedding a week later in Tampa, Irene and I were planning to spend Christmas Day as a couple when a chance encounter with my cousin Bill Dawson landed us a last-minute (and much appreciated) invitation to Christmas dinner with his family. It was much more festive with a bigger group and the food and company were lovely. This year we are spending Christmas in St Petersburg, Florida, to see the new grand-babies. I am sure there are some sorts of plans for Christmas activities but we aren’t making them. We just plan to show up and enjoy whatever happens. And whatever happens will probably be wonderful for us. This card is sent in the hope that the Holidays turn out wonderful for you, too.

A few random photos:
speed_racer by bigleehimself
Speed Racer in DragonCon Parade

parade_photog by bigleehimself
Photographing Parade from Fourth Floor of Parking Garage

wedding_group- by bigleehimself
Group Photo from Amber’s Wedding

irene_in_blowing_rock by bigleehimself
Irene in Blowing Rock

20110530_27 by bigleehimself
The Simple Pleasures of Beach Week on Hilton Head Island

20110914_95 by bigleehimself
Breakfast at Le Farm while Amber was up for her Baby Shower

liam_and_eva by bigleehimself

At Christmas we remember a birth that changed the world.
They all do.

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