"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Friday, December 16, 2016

From Our House to Yours.

My writing career actually began with Christmas letters. The first one was such a success with our friends and family that I kept doing it. (BTW, the secret to a good Christmas letter is to keep it one page or less. People appreciate brevity.)

At one point, when I was completely on the fence about trying to write for publication, my hubby's cousin Amanda said to me, "I look forward to your Christmas letters. You are writing other things, aren't you?" She is now deceased, but I thank her lovely spirit every now and then for encouraging me to sit my tush in the chair and get serious.

The Christmas letter now includes a Christmas photo, which is not as easy as it sounds. We all go to the ranch, to take a group photo with two horses and two dogs. We used to bring the cat, may she rest in peace. She hated it, and wouldn't come near me for days after the experience.

Marcus is the only one capable of smiling through the entire session.

We try really hard to face the camera and keep smiling while we wrangle the animals. We are not always successful.

Frostie really likes to sniff the dogs.

The dogs tend to get bored with the whole thing.

My job is to keep Snoopy from biting me.

Finally, with a little help from PhotoShop, we get something we can use.

And here is the letter:


These are the last lines spoken by a famous actor in a much-loved but not crazily-famous Christmas movie of yore. (Made in 1945 and 10 points to the person who can name the movie.)

This year has been a rollercoaster, both for the Carlines and the world. You can read about the world in the newspapers. As for the Carlines…

Marcus is busy doing what musicians do: chasing the money, piecing together small gigs to try to make one living wage. Currently, he’s performing in two groups, an a cappella group that sings in Downtown Disney and a nonprofit choral group that performs and teaches in local schools. He’s also working a shift here and there at Cal State Long Beach. In October, he moved back home, to save money and commute time. He helps me around the house, so I’m happy to have him here.

Dale is still one busy retiree. He spent a couple of weeks at Angels’ spring training in Arizona, where he got to volunteer to work (ushering, parking, etc), went to Massachusetts for his friend’s golf tournament, and schlepped along with me to a few of my events. When he wasn’t on the road, he was coaching the Placentia Youth League basketball teams. They’re giving him two teams now, and he enjoys helping the community. He also golfs a little, from time to time (I’m trying to find a sarcasm font here).

This year, I did something special for my 11th book release. It’s my 4th mystery set in Placentia, so I had a huge party at my favorite local restaurant, hired Marcus and a combo to perform, and made certain everyone got food, drinks, a book, and some nice swag. It was a blast! In my horsey world, I went to a few shows with Snoopy this year, most notably a huge regional show in Las Vegas. Dale went along with me, and we had a great time. Dale also joined me for a few days in New Orleans at a mystery lover’s convention.

Our family went to the mountains, as usual. This year’s trip was particularly bittersweet. In April, we lost our dear friend and fellow vacationer, Alyssa Barnes, to cancer. She was Marcus’ age, so it hit about as hard as you can imagine. I’m glad we were able to attend her memorial in Sacramento.

In 2015, we replaced most of the flooring in the house, which now looks nice, but took almost until Christmas to install, leaving me with a bleak holiday. This year, we got a new TV and furniture for the family room, both things that took mere moments to install. So even if the world around me is losing its mind, I have great hope this year for Christmas lights and mistletoe, and evenings spent in front of the fire with a nice glass of something good.

I heard a pastor recently, speaking about hope at an event. After pointing out what we can’t control, he gave us three suggestions: rejoice always, pray incessantly, and be thankful in everything. So no matter how I work to effect change, I will always be both joyful and thankful. And prayer never hurt anybody.

Wishing you all a Loving Christmas, and a Kind New Year.

The Carlines

No matter what you celebrate, or if you celebrate at all, we wish you happiness, peace, and prosperity for this and future years.

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