Merry Christmas Family and Friends,

 

I’m just going to start this year’s letter by throwing it all out there for you. In a year that I turned thirty-something, I lived with my mom, worked three jobs, went to Branson, and got stopped at the Canadian border in my 1983 automobile as a suspected drug trafficker. I am: (See bottom of page 2 for visual aides.)

  1. A worker in a NASCAR pit crew
  2. A country western singer
  3. Donny Osmond
  4. A drug trafficker
  5. An English teacher from Wisconsin

If you guessed B or C, you’ve never heard me sing. And if you chose A or D, you don’t know how disorganized I am.

 




At this point in the letter, Lisa would like to remind me that the letter is not about me and that I should tell you something about what our family did this year, while also explaining the intriguing opening paragraph, crafted just the way it should be in order to grab your attention.

 

The year began with Lisa going back to school after taking some time off for maternity leave to rear our child and read every single book available on the subject. Not that I blame her for wanting to be informed, because taking care of something about the size of a raccoon is hard work, especially when you can’t just send her outside to eat scraps out of the garbage and poop in the yard. Helena is a full-time job, and when Lisa showed me an article in Good Housekeeping that said women who stay home and raise their kids are worth $80,000 per year, I believed it, but pointed out that teachers would have to be worth $100,000 per year for me to actually pay her that sum.

 

Speaking of teaching, that gig is going pretty well, but I’m also trying to diversify my talents, as did Lisa. After the school year ended, she dropped her teaching job to become a full-time mom, and then got offered a position at church just when she was getting used to the whole Days of Our Lives and Bon-Bons lifestyle. Actually, she took what appears to be the perfect job for her, because she gets to show off her organizational skills, her writing ability, and a bunch of other abilities I don’t have. She is the Director of Assimilation and Deployment, which sounds a bit like she joined the military, but it means she helps church members _____________________________________. Uh, go to her website (which I helped design), to see part of what she does: (http://immanuelbrookfield.org/serve). She’s good at it, whatever it is.

 

I began two new careers in addition to teaching this year. I am the Director of Something or Other for Real Wisconsin News (http://www.realwisconsinnews.com), which means I write most of the stories for the satirical online newspaper. The fact that it’s satire means that none of you can disown me, since I’m merely attempting to point out society’s flaws while being funny, not trying to get you to all become communists and wear funny hats. Big difference. In my other new job, I am the Director of Internet Stuff for a new website called Innovative School Funding (http://www.innovativeschoolfunding.com). Our goal with ISF is to help fund schools through people buying items they’d normally buy online and then donating the money back to school districts. It allows schools to help pay for programs, and allows people to buy things they actually want as part of a fundraiser, instead of overpriced candy and Mr. Z’s pizzas. Not that I wouldn’t eat a Mr. Z’s pizza if you threw it in front of me. We’ve also created Parish Funding (), which does the same thing, but with churches. People can use it in conjunction with the SCRIPS gift cards, or as another fundraising tool. Anywhere from 3-15% of purchases from major online stores goes right back to the school district or church, and we can customize each site to reflect local/congregational advertisers and interests. It’s a sweet deal!




 

Another sweet deal was when my mom came to live with us so that Lisa could go back to teach one last semester at Tosa West. Lisa’s friends were pretty much like, “You’re doing what?” Lisa was a real trooper, though, and my mom is fairly easy-going, so the whole thing went off pretty well. My mom never said anything like, “I never thought you were good enough for my boy!” and Lisa never said anything like, “You’re raising my daughter all wrong!” Of course, I didn’t help much because I let my mom pick up after me, and I watched too much Dancing With the Stars with her. Helena liked having her grandma around, as well, and we’ve all been spoiled by both sets of grandparents.

Helena has progressed well over the year, partially because of all the entertaining and educational gifts she’s been given by her grandparents and others. At first, she just did a lot of looking around and crying, but she eventually started grabbing things and then stumbling around. While this might sound like a bad night out at the bar, it’s actually a big deal for a baby. Says so in all the books. She started walking early, but she’d rather point and scream than say actual words right now. I made a joke recently that she’s in a phase of pointing at things and screaming right now that she’ll grow out of, but it will come back to her when she gets married. Lisa always appreciates my jokes.

 

Yakov Smirnoff tells jokes, too, but I once again missed an opportunity to see his cutting-edge USSR-mocking humor while in Branson this summer for the Shriner Family Reunion. Helena was very good about the 10-hour drive, never once asking if we were there yet. We got to see family members, and Lisa and I visited Arkansas for the first time—home of Wal-mart, Bill Clinton, and the Mark Martin NASCAR Museum/Ford Dealership. (Must be a joke there somewhere.)

 

Lisa and I took separate mini-vacations with friends to recharge a bit. Lisa went to Door County with her friend Ashley, and I went to Cleveland, Toronto, and Detroit with my friend Jeff. Lisa did some wine-tasting and lighthouse spotting, and whatever else people find to do up there. Jeff and I hung out in a few bars in Cleveland, and then saw a baseball game and went to the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame. (We also saw a game in Detroit.) We drove to Niagara Falls, and then up to Toronto, though we were detained for a good hour at the border. Apparently, in Canada it’s odd for two guys to want to drive an hour into the country just to stay overnight, while driving an 83 Mercedes with the spare tire in the backseat (and 20 gallons of vegetable oil in the trunk). I made the mistake of getting into a line for English or French speakers, and having to deal with a French-Canadian lady. Probably the only two peoples that hate Americans more in the hemisphere are the Venezuelans and the Cubans. Our other mistake was Jeff, not knowing border-crossing etiquette, appeared more concerned with the mp3 player than with trying to understand her questions. So, yes, they dismantled the entire car, went through our dirty underwear, and of course X-rayed the spare tire, being sure to later touch Jeff’s clothing with brake dust-stained hands. If that wasn’t depressing enough, Jeff and I went out to a Toronto dance club (Jeff’s thing, not mine), and we got to feel ancient, since the Canadian drinking age is 18. It’ll be sports bars, church fairs, and VFWs for me from now on.

 

 

 

And the big payoff for those of you who have read this far in the letter… Lisa is once again pregnant! With child, that is, not something more metaphorical like love or happiness, though we are very happy about getting one more crack at parenthood before we try to straighten the house. Lisa’s due July 20th, so mark your calendars.

 

Happy Holidays,

 

Brian, Lisa, Helena, and Unnamed Embryo

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