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Christmas snowflake
JW Goossen Xmas Letter 2007

Greetings from our tribe to yours, at this special time of year when I pass along the local folklore and associated myths and half-truths that can only leave you asking yourself 'I wonder what he meant by that'. Perhaps we'll never know.

Yo ho ho and a bottle of egg nog (that was close, almost got caught up in the pirate fever that has a hold of Natalie - or is that Johnny Fever - [a veiled WKRP reference {kids, ask your parents} and a play on Natalie's interest in all things Depp] - this will be the only explanation of odd allusions that appear in this letter - the rest you'll have to figure out yourself]

This has been a milestone year. Not the restaurant or the town in Saskatchewan, but the kind of numbered markers that appear along the road, life's road in this case. The passing of time that makes it clear - everything in the mirror does look closer, or is that farther away, than it appears. The actual milestones will be enumerated throughout.

Earlier on I thought that with 5 daughters in the house I might have to wait for the 5 Chinese brothers to come along (kids, ask your parents – it's a reference to a banned book) but as it happens Rachel got married this year in June. Our new son-in-law is Andrew Cornelsen. And yes, for all those of you who have to ask, it is nice to have another man in the family but if I have to explain this again....

We began the year in Maui. That would be Mom and Dad and the 5 girls. Andrew and Rachel weren't engaged when we bought the tickets and Andrew decided to stay home and work so he could buy a cow or two. We were there 10 days and the weather was great. Joan and I enjoyed taking long walks on the beach each day.

One of the highlights on Maui was driving on a switch back road surrounded by green velvet landscape through a dense layer of fog to arrive at the top of Haleakala, the hopefully extinct, or at least dormant, volcano. We were 10,000 feet above sea (and beach) level to experience the sunset. The clouds we drove through formed a seemingly solid platform and the view was magnificent. We enjoyed ourselves for a time and then the air cooled quickly as the sun began to set behind the research station. The colours were spectacular, even if the direct view was a bit obscured. Got some nice pics regardless. The next morning Rachel and I drove up again to try for a sunrise view. The wait was chilly and the air didn't warm quickly. The sun fought to break through the clouds but even without any brilliant shots it was worth the second trip.

The engagement was big news and meant a lot of preparation up to June 10th. My wallet and I both lost about 20 pounds. If only that had been English currency and not dollar weight. Rachel wanted an outdoor wedding and got that, just barely, as the ceremony ending with showers of blessings. The happy couple is busy reconfiguring their nest, not wanting to wait until linoleum and the colour white make a comeback.

This year Joan, looking better than ever, turned 50. Having braved this ground a few years ago, I was able to ease her through the trauma. Soon we'll both enjoy free coffee at McDonalds, especially now that they have the cappuccino drink as well. She enjoys being called ma'am but didn't seem to appreciate it when I helped her to cross the street.

As I look back I realize there are things I used to do that I don't anymore. There was a time when I helped fold the laundry but that stopped once I didn't want to know who owned what, much less handle the particular piece of dental floss known as underwear that fell out of the dryer into the basket. I originally thought someone's sweater had unraveled. I used to take more pictures - the girls smiled, waved and said hi to Daddy. Now they turn their heads, put up their hands and pretend they don't know Daddy. I have some nice hand pictures.

Let's get maudlin - Joan and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary this year. I am amazed (that she's put up with me) and thankful for the time we've had together. We celebrated with a trip to Italy (Florence, Tuscany and Rome) and it was great. Would do it all again, except for maybe driving in Rome. All roads might lead to Rome but once there they don't seem to lead to where you want to go. After circling a fountain (and every square [read major intersection] has one)  more times than Little Black Sambo's tigers (kids, ask your parents) we finally figured out which road to take, only to find it forced us in a direction of one-way streets that led us 2 miles away on the wrong side of the river. Highlights of the trip included Donatello's Magdalena, Michelangelo's unfinished Pieta, and the Catacombs and, of course, the obvious food, wine and general ambience of being in a place where 2000 years of history doesn’t even seem old.

Joan also made a pilgrimage to the underground caves of Moose Jaw in September. No, this is not a joke - look it up. It's something she's always wanted to do. While there she met up with her Altona posse - 6 childhood friends who had all graduated from WC Miller together. Some hadn't seen each other for more than 20 years. It was a great reconnection. They're already planning the next sleepover.

Revisiting this issue of the 5 girls, now that people don’t see us together with them all as the same time, no one says curiously, “Are they all yours?”, like I would try and herd five girls under any other circumstances. For those keeping score, we have one married, one left in high school and three in various stages of university and college. Bethany is home except when she’s at school, at work or out with friends, Hannah is home even less than that and Tabitha is not home at all. Our dinner table has shrunk to the point where more than a few times a week it’s just Natalie and us at the table. The nest has a hole in it.

Bethany is majoring in History and Sociology at Kwantlen, well into third year. This is more of the same but longer and harder. She's switched jobs. No longer watching for thieves at Liquid World, she's landed the more relaxing job of folding towels at Linens and Things. Her spare time is spent in her scrapbook headquarters where she can watch the latest (bogus1) reality show while creating wonderful pages and collages. I hope that side of her brain wins.

Hannah is at UBC, 2nd year, studying HKin (Human Kinetics) and she's still playing hockey. Her women's team made it to Western’s in spring. It was good that they were held in BC because it was during exam time. She’s been scooping ice cream all year and spent part of the summer being a mother's helper. This has helped her realize that little kids aren't as bad as she once thought. She won't tell me what she does with the rest of her time.

We found another reason to go to Manitoba this year. Joan's parents sold the family home and are now living in a nice ground floor apartment on the edge of town. Joan flew out while I drove with Tabitha and Natalie. I don't want to turn this into a Halloween story but apparently a lot of things entered the parents' house over the 52 years they lived there but not much came out. At least until we came to help them move and set up for an auction sale. Memories and keepsakes were in abundance and in the end the house was empty, the apartment was full and the keepsakes have went to find a new life of their own. And to make the trip worthwhile for the girls we stopped at the West Edmonton Mall.

Tabitha completed her gymnastics and graduated high school this year. And the only major trip she took was to Kelowna in September. She's attending UBC Okanagan, studying HKin (same program as Hannah but the courses aren't). And she'll be home by the 19th. We've kept in touch with electronics and she allowed herself to give up one of her 5 faves for the home phone number so we could talk to her on and off. She's embraced the dorm life and still managed to get some studying done. We'll confirm this when the marks come out.

Natalie has just turned 15 and is looking for a job. And is still interested in acting. In last years play at school she got the perfect part - she was able to lie in bed and scream. This was the part of Betty Parris in The Crucible. She even kept practicing after the play was over. This year she has been absorbed in teen police dramas (21 Jump Street) and this switched to pirate movies and then cartoons (Corpse Bride) and recently Sweeney Todd. I had trouble keeping up until I found the common denominator – one Johnny Depp. This interest seemed innocent enough, until Natalie wanted a straight razor for Christmas and asked if I needed a shave.

We've basically finished some renos at the cabin and we've tried to winterize the water system. This isn't really interesting for any of you but for those of us who had to drill a hole in the ice this is good news. And civilization has always marked an upgrade in any plumbing situation. Privately if not publically. We were also able have a weekend with my mom and brothers at the cabin. We rented a couple of cottages at the lake, some of which were preoccupied but overall it was a good time and Clare caught the biggest fish I'd seen there.

And as I wind down my annual missive, I am once again thankful for the many friends and fortunate circumstances we are blessed with. Let us use this time of Advent, Nativity and new beginnings to bless others. Have a Merry Christmas and a Peaceful New Year.

John, Joan, Bethany, Hannah, Tabitha, and Natalie

ps. Rachel and Andrew also send their greetings but are no longer officially considered as part of the immediate household, so I didn’t include them above. They should really be sending their own cards at this point, as well as buying their own shampoo and gas.

pps. Hope you like the photo. As usual the website will also have some updates on it - www.humanpilots.com

1This is my one flashback to the footnotes concept and editorial comment because I am amazed at the 'simulated' reality shows and the fascination that they seem to engender. That being said, Bethany would like to add that I have watched more than one episode of Top Model, Survivor and Numbers. Natalie would like to point out that Numbers isn't a reality show to which I counter – what could be more real that solving crimes using Mathematics.

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