Five O'Clock Somewhere

Welcome to Five O'Clock Somewhere, where it doesn't matter what time zone you're in; it's five o'clock somewhere. We'll look at rural life, especially as it happens in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, cats, sailing (particularly Etchells racing yachts), and bits of grammar and Victorian poetry.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

What my Christmas letter would say if I wrote one

I don’t dare actually mail this …

Those of you who know me well know that the past few years have been disastrous. 2007 was calamitous; at the end of that year, I hoped that 2008 would be better. It wasn’t. At the end of 2008, I desperately hoped that 2009 would be better – I even said that things were so bad that they couldn’t possibly get worse. Unh-unh. 2009 was so bad that, by the end if it, I was calling it annus horribilis, because of all of the disasters that had occurred.

And then 2010 was even worse. There were times I wondered why the hell I even bothered trying to survive. What was the use?

Pat and I used to send out Christmas cards, which I always chose carefully to express exactly what we wished for our friends and family, along with a letter telling of our adventures and accomplishments over the previous year. I worked hard to keep it honest – no “little Susie is the most accomplished violinist in the state for the third year straight” or “Butch became the first high-school player ever to be nominated for the Heisman Trophy.”

Unfortunately, the need to be honest clashed with the expectation that holiday letters also be cheerful and upbeat. For that reason, Pat and I haven’t sent out a Christmas letter for the past three years.

So … if we were to send out a holiday letter this season, what would it say? Let’s see …

Holiday greetings to all of our friends and family for 2010 and the 2011 New Year!

We’re sorry that we haven’t been in touch lately as much as we should. Life has been busy. If you wish to contact us, you can find our email addresses and cell-phone numbers at the bottom of this letter.

It has been an eventful year, although not always in a good way. Pat continues in his fourth year “between jobs,” so we’re not exactly financially comfortable. We’ve had to cash in retirement funds to pay off bills and fend off foreclosure, leaving us with nothing but Social (in)Security and the New Mexico Educational Retirement Board to fund our “golden” years. And the one-eighth of my paycheck that has gone, without any choice on my part, to the ERB, has been invested 20% with Bernard Madoff and 70% with companies represented by buddies of the governor based not on which was a wise investment but on who got the biggest kickback. Not exactly reassuring.

We lost a lot of good people this year. In March, Pat’s dad died. He had been in declining health for quite a while, but he had never made plans for that eventuality – he had never made any arrangements for his care in the event that he became incapacitated, or much of any other advance plans, other than making some extremely naïve assumptions about how things would work once he was gone. In this case, it was fortunate that Pat was “between jobs,” because if he had had a job, he would have lost it because of all the time he had to spend on his dad, both before he died and after.

For me, probably the most devastating event of the year was the loss of our dear sailing friend Marty Stevenson. On May 1, we were preparing to start a regatta when Marty went overboard from the boat that he was on. He was not wearing a life jacket. We were only a hundred yards away; many other boats were even closer. The Coast Guard Auxiliary was already on the lake, doing an exercise; they and the park rangers were on the spot within minutes. But Marty was gone. His body wasn’t found until three weeks later. Stand by for sermon: ALWAYS WEAR YOUR LIFE JACKET. ALWAYS. YOU MAY THINK YOU DON’T NEED IT. HOGWASH! IT’S BETTER TO HAVE IT AND NOT NEED IT THAN TO NEED IT AND NOT HAVE IT!

OK, stepping down from soapbox.

On to the next obligatory section of the holiday letter: accomplishments of the offspring. That area, too, has not been up to the typical Christmas-letter standards. Last year, the financial aid office repeatedly lost forms that had been filed showing that Gerald’s father was unemployed and that therefore Gerald was eligible for financial aid. Because of the bungling in the financial-aid office, Gerald was found in default of $11,000 tuition for the Fall 2009 term and therefore ineligible to enroll for the Spring 2010 term. We’re still trying to straighten out the records, but at least he was allowed to enroll and take classes in Fall 2010. Problem is, the financial aid office is still losing paperwork, and we’re now sending a barrage of faxes to replace the same forms that we’ve already filed that the office keeps losing, in order that he can enroll for Spring 2011.

On the upside, Gerald seems to have found some direction in his life. He’s discovered that he loves photography, and so that’s now his major. He does, however, recognize that photography is not necessarily something that pays the bills. He also loves nature and the outdoors. He has decided that he wants to become a park ranger, so he can work in a beautiful place and indulge in photography on his days off. Especially at the elite levels in such organizations as the National Park Service, rangers have to perform a wide variety of duties: law enforcement, emergency medical technician, resource management, interpretative services, archaeological preservation, and more. This summer, Gerald got his basic EMT training, so that’s a start on the park ranger track.

OK, now that I’m done bragging about the offspring, I’m supposed to talk about what the parental units are doing. Well, Pat has just stepped down as the commodore of the Rio Grande Sailing Club, and I think he’s glad to be rid of the burden. Pat and I both went to the US Sailing class in race management a month ago; Pat’s already certified as a Club Race Officer and is hoping to get certified as a Regional Race Officer; I hope to get certified at the club level, but I also passed the test for regional level, so if I get ambitious, I could also work on the resume component.

Meanwhile, I’m still teaching developmental English at Central New Mexico Community College. My job is to work with students who need to get their English skills up to the level at which they can do college-level work. On my darkest days, when I am most discouraged, it is my students who keep me going. I may feel like giving up, but then I realize, my students need me and I don’t want to let them down. And then when I come to class, one or another will say something, and it will cheer me up, and then the whole class session is happy. I have the very best students in the world. I am so lucky to have them.

Yeah, not exactly a conventional holiday letter. But then, my life hasn’t exactly been conventional lately.

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Blogger Baydog said...

Merry Christmas. Things will get better. They have to.

Sat Dec 25, 09:57:00 AM MST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll hope that the darkest hours (days, weeks, months, years) are behind you all and you'll see a new day dawning that brings better times - easier times, with more reward and less tribulation. May the challenges you've experienced lead you to greater wisdom and a diminished need to apply it to your sorrows. May the realization of the hope and growth you instill in your students repay you in ways you can't imagine, too! ~ Brenda Kelley

Sat Dec 25, 11:14:00 AM MST  
Blogger Carol Anne said...

Thanks, Brenda. I need all the best wishes I can get.

Sun Dec 26, 03:15:00 AM MST  
Blogger bonnie said...

With all the warmth & humor in the blogs & comments written by you & your family, I sometimes forget how much you've been through (and I'm not even sure I knew some of the troubles you list here).

Best & warmest wishes from snowy Brooklyn. Here's to a happier 2011. So glad to have met you, Pat & Gerald through the boat-blogging!

Sun Dec 26, 10:01:00 AM MST  
Blogger JP said...

Hope 2011 is a better year - sounds like you totally deserve a break

Sun Dec 26, 11:21:00 AM MST  
Blogger Carol Anne said...

Thanks, Bonnie & JP. It's good to have friends like you.

Sun Dec 26, 10:48:00 PM MST  
Blogger nbk said...

Bless you,Pat, and Gerald, Carol Ann, in your lives and work with others. I feel your devastating losses but admire your coping and determination. This letter was more honest than any "conventional" holiday letter I have read.

Fri May 20, 04:13:00 PM MDT  
Blogger Lisa said...

Truly impressive stuff!Christmas Letters

Sat Jul 14, 12:25:00 PM MDT  

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