'Twas the weeks before Christmas

December 16, 2002

Roni keeps busy decorating our tree the weekend after Thanksgiving. Photo by Glenn.
The weather outside is frightful — at least by California standards — but so far it hasn't kept us from our appointed rounds of holiday preparations. Those of you in snow country likely won't be impressed when we report that a strong Pacific storm dumped a couple of inches of rain and a dollop of 50 mph winds on us over the weekend, but when you go through most of the fall with only trace amounts of precipitation and one morning awake to find raindrops sheeting through your yard at 80-degree angles, you sit up and take notice.

See, we Californians have little patience. We like our lattes doubled, our cars luxurious, and our communities upscaled. So why have 90 days of gray skies and drizzle when you can get an entire season's worth of rainfall over with in 72 hours? That's the California way! And why do all your holiday shopping in the months from September to November when you can put it off and do it with all your fellow Californians the weekend before Christmas? OK, so that may not be the California way exclusively, but it does seem to be the way of most folks we know — at least the ones who were wandering through the malls yesterday as we were.

We're a little more behind this year than usual. See, Thanksgiving fell later, which left five fewer days to get things done. As soon as we had cleaned the carcass from our Turkey Day feast it was time to unpack the phony tree from its box in the garage and perform the annual ritual of assembling the tree stand. For us that means screwing together a 4-by-3 foot table that we cover with cotton batting to resemble snow, then arranging a miniature ceramic village around the table and placing the tree somewhere in the middle. This process usually takes a day. Of course, there is the assembling of the tree sections, fluffing up its wire branches and then stringing the lights. With all of that done, the hanging of ornaments commences, then it's up to Dad to hoist the entire creation into its spot on the display table.

We didn't get around yet to a group shot by the tree, so here's the next best thing: Roni and Ben... Photo by Glenn.
...And Glenn and Ben. Photo by Roni.
Roni is the decorator in the house. She usually does a splendid job transforming our walls into red-and-green colored yuletide displays, and getting her little village in shape. She wanted us to string lights outside the house, but the weather and our busy lives didn't cooperate, so this year the front yard is dark except for a few plastic candy canes and metal reindeer anchored in the grass along the driveway. We aren't alone; seems that many folks around Oakley weren't as elaborate in their displays this year. An excuse perhaps, but a true comparison nonetheless.

With Ben out of school for break it has been hard to get out and shop, so we took him with us Sunday on a jaunt to Concord where we did some "creative" shopping at Barnes & Noble and Sunvalley Mall. By creative we mean, "Why don't you go look at the stuff over there while I pick out something over here..." That approach works for small items, but it doesn't work so well for stuff in large boxes that you can't easily hide behind your back as you walk from store to store. So on Monday we left Ben with our friend who owns a local daycare business and the two of us helped Toys R Us and Target improve their quarterly earnings reports. With Ben's shopping out of the way we can now concentrate on a few presents we still need to get for others, including each other. And then there is the wrapping...

Christmas has been a preoccupation for us this past few weeks, but we have been busy in other ways as well.

Those who care will be happy to know that both of us finished our November novels for National Novel Writing Month. Roni wrapped up her creation at around 54,000 words, while Glenn made the 50K mark before the Nov. 30 deadline and took another four days to wrap up his story at around 57,000 words. Now we are planning revisions to commence after the first of the year. You may yet get to see one or both of us in print.

With a nearly full moon hanging low in the sky, Ben (left) and his class hike their way up to Rose Hill Cemetery at Black Diamond Mine. Photo by Glenn.
Roni's work with the Oakley Chamber of Commerce came full circle this month as she returned to the president's post for the first time since 1995. She is looking forward to a challenging year, but it also means more challenges for our family as the new demands of leadership will keep her busy in the community. We did all right eight years ago, so we should all be battle-scarred veterans at this by now. Seriously, we are excited for Roni and pray she has a smooth year at the helm.

Glenn got the rare opportunity to join Ben on a class field trip to Black Diamond Mine Regional Preserve in Antioch on Nov. 25. The kids took the steep hike to Rose Hill Cemetery, had a picnic lunch, and then got to go inside the Hazel Atlas sand mine with a park tour guide. It was a great day and the two of them learned a lot about local history.

We finally grew tired of the rickety old dining room chairs we have owned since we were married in 1988 and decided it was time for new ones. We picked up a new set of four from Kmart and somehow managed to cart them all home assembled in the back of Roni's Corolla sedan. It's times like this that we really regret not having bought a pickup or SUV. You can't live in suburbia nowadays without hauling capacity. It just doesn't work.

Our refi loan closed just before Thanksgiving, so now we are committed to the house for at least a few more years. Not that we were planning on selling, but the mere act of signing your life away on all those legal documents sure makes you think twice about doing it more than you have to. So for now it's "Hi-ho, hi-ho, it's off to work we go... to pay down what we owe. Ho ho ho."

Have a holly, jolly Christmas and a peaceful start to 2003 (Iraq notwithstanding).

Glenn, Roni and Ben

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