New year's 2009
What do people in warm places do over the New Year's holiday?
I mean, Christmas in southern California seems a little odd, but if you put Santa in a fur trimmed Speedo and swap out the reindeer for chihuahuas, the whole thing still works. Hang a little tinsel on a palm tree and you're home free.
But New Year's, when you pause to reflect on your life and decide on your path for the future, how the heck do you that on a beach? Dabbling your toes in the warm surf as you're sipping a margarita doesn't inspire you to try harder next year -- it just makes you scheme and plot a way to not go back to work.
I don't think you get real philosophy without misery. I think sitting in your office, drinking a cup of coffee, munching thoughtfully on stale Christmas cookies while staring out the window at a howling blizzard gives you some real motivation for forward thinking.
Part of getting ready for the new year is looking back on the old one. I spent an hour or so reading all the Christmas letters people sent us.
We don't send out Christmas letters. Let's face it, anything even vaguely interesting that happens in our family ends up in my column, (even if I have to make it up) and if someone doesn't read my column, I have no interest in sending them any sort of Christmas communications.
Although I sure enjoy reading the Christmas letters other people send us.
We heard from some friends in Texas. They were in the path of Hurricane Ike and came away with some serious roof damage. They were feeling pretty chipper about it, though. They aren't living in a FEMA trailer and even though their roof is leaking, at least it isn't a blue tarp. They've had kids in college now for about a decade and their youngest is a senior in high school, so they should be done with college expenses about a week before they qualify for social security.
We heard from a nephew and his wife. She was in a car accident and while being assessed for possibly needing x-rays, found out she was pregnant. Tthis came about shortly before her husband's employer went into bankruptcy protection. She sounded chipper, too. Granted, her neck still hurt and her husband might end up unemployed, but...she's gonna have a baby!
We heard from a cousin. He and his wife are both in the real estate appraisal business in California. This doesn't seem like a pleasant business to be in right now, but he sounded pleased that they both had jobs and the rest of the letter was about the pleasures of their three daughters.
Another letter was from a neighbor who also has three beautiful daughters. Most of their news was about their children, including a paragraph about their two year old who loves baths, toys, and is still having two seizures a week. But the little girl has a great laugh and they have hope.
That seems like a good way to start a new year. Plenty of things to fret about in the months to come -- challenges and concerns, problems and worries. But among all the hard stuff, the tough stuff, there's the awareness that life is good, that while we may not get what we want, we do get what we need. And that there is real value not in things, but in friends and family.