2004 Christmas Letter

The year started out on a bad note when I lost my war with the college. I couldn’t understand why a University would offer all but 3 required classes at night. I appealed, wrote letters, complained, and basically drove people insane until I gave in and decided my only alternatives were: Quit my job so I could finish my degree, or Quit my degree so I could pay my bills.

Fortunately, two knights in shining armor came along and fixed my problem…John and Ernie. John was my boss, and Ernie was another manager where I worked. Ernie managed the night shift, but agreed to switch with me and let me work nights. John approved the whole deal, which was a very good deal for me, and not so much for anyone else. So thanks and a shoutout to them for helping me get that degree done.

What that meant was a hellish schedule which went something like this: 8:00 AM – Go to class. 2:00 PM – Leave school and get lunch. 3:30 PM – Go to work. 3:00 AM – Go home from work. 3:30 AM – Eat dinner, or breakfast, or whatever you want to call it. 3:45 AM – Finish homework. 4:30 AM – Go to bed. 8:00 AM – Go back to class. The schedule also included working Saturdays. Lots of Saturdays. 13 in a row to be exact. But before I get too far ahead of myself, let me mention some things that were happening in the meantime.

At the end of January, a dear friend, Traci, lost her battle with cancer, leaving a baby boy less than a year old. She had made a list before she died of people she wanted to be pallbearers, and I was on the list. It was a time to pause and reflect on my own life, on friendships, and on priorities. Traci had always told me that I had my priorities messed up, and her death really drove it home. More on that some other time. The funeral was in a little town about 2 hours outside of Kansas City. “Lynne” rode along with me and we got to have lunch at the greasiest diner I’ve ever seen. Because we were out on the prairie, you could see miles in every direction. When the funeral procession got on the road, I looked in front of me, and the line of cars was so long, I couldn’t see the start of it. I looked behind, and it was just as long behind. I’ve never seen that many people at a funeral. It was a testament to the kind of person Traci was.

Then in February, I started hearing rumors about the Fed increasing rates, and I realized that waiting another year to buy a house was a foolish idea. I went and got pre-approved, found a real estate agent, and went on the hunt… Online. Yes, I must have looked at 1,500 houses online. I finally decided that Olathe was my best bet for the size house I wanted with the budget I had. Sure enough, once I had toured the “best of” from my online search, I settled on a beautiful 3 bedroom front entry split, and once inspections and whatnot were finished in March, I… uh… worked all night, then went straight down to the assessment center and took the GMAT.

Yeah, that’s right. I forgot to mention I had been studying for the GMAT because the deadline for Fall admission was April 1st. The only time they had was an early morning test on March 27th. Of course, that night I had to go right back to work. Needless to say, I didn’t get an 800. I did however get a high enough score to get into the MBA program at UMKC. That was the goal.

So ANYHOO, on March 30th, I finally closed on my house. April 3rd and 4th, I moved in. And what fun it was, too. I was picking up furniture from about 10 places all over town. I had lots of help, thank God, because I had to work on the 3rd, too. On April 10th, I had to take an exit assessment from the undergrad program, which was immediately followed by, you guessed it… work.

Finally the first week of May, it was time for finals. I studied, took the tests, and said “SEE YA” for the next 8 months. Yup, I’d decided that I didn’t want to start the MBA until January 05. And a good decision it was, I might add… So, now I’ve been in my house for a month, and still haven’t had a housewarming party. Once I finished finals, I could get back to my normal day work schedule, and that should have made it easier. But it didn’t.

The weekend after commencement, I drove a truckload of my friend Sarah’s stuff to Arkansas. We moved her into her fiance’s apartment, and then we went to the back woods and drank around the bonfire. This was right around the time I had a nervous breakdown. Not the kind where you go out into the street screaming and stripping your clothes off… but the kind where all sorts of good things are happening, and you’re still inexplicably depressed and apathetic.

I went to my doctor and learned what long-term elevated adrenaline does to your system and your brain chemistry. The doctor actually started laughing when I told her about my schedule for the previous 5 months. I think her words were “It’s a wonder you didn’t off yourself.” Not exactly encouraging, but at least she understood. So she gave me some happy pills, and I went on my merry way. The pills had some unfortunate side affects, not the least of which were vomiting and uncontrollable shaking.

So the next weekend, I drove to Carthage, Missouri, so I could accompany on the piano at Sarah’s wedding. Once that was over, most of my life’s pressures were gone. I had the pleasure of season tickets at Starlight Theater, which led to some interesting evenings. We saw Cats, Annie, Anna and the King, Camelot, and Chicago. Hopefully that tradition will be continued next season.

In August, I got to see the Northeast for the first time. I spent a week in Maine, seeing the sights. It was a nice week, and I actually ate seafood, which is against my better judgment. Then on August 12th, someone special came into my life. Someone so sweet, precious, loving, and affectionate, that no one else could compare….Abby.

I rescued her from almost certain death, and she loves me for it. She should considering I have spent almost 5k on her so far. But it just wasn’t complete. She was lonely and sad when I was gone, and I couldn’t keep up with her activity level. So I added another member to the family, Olivia. Together, they are the happiest, most destructive, loving girls in the world. So then, it got to November, and I decided to take the big leap.

I left my job of 9 years to try something new. It was a tough choice, and I left behind a lot of people there that I like, but I was starting to atrophy in that old job, and really needed a new challenge. I don’t do well with routine or boredom. Unfortunately, the new job has cut into my ability to update regularly, but I still write whenever I have a chance.

So, who knows what 2005 will bring, perhaps new challenges, new disappointments, new friendships, the woman of my dreams… you never know. That’s why the future is referred to as the Undiscovered Country. 2004 is behind us, and all that is left to do is to put the lessons in the vault, and move ahead. Here’s to the future.