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Christmas 2016

Center: The whole family after Lincoln’s birthday weekend. Clockwise from top left: (1) Andy, Lincoln, & Janet at Lincoln’s honor roll ceremony. (2) Andy & Leann during Spring Break visit. (3) Leann, Mom, & Dad during their Summer visit. (4) Leann & Lincoln at Lincoln’s birthday. (5) Leann, Janet, & Mom on Black Friday. (6) Leann at Rocky Mountain National Park. (7) Stefanie & Leann decked out for the Ugly Sweater Party. (8) Visiting with the Leonards & Schwambs in Colorado Springs for Broncos Training Camp 2016. (9) College roommates/friends Leann, Stefanie, & Angela together again after 17 years. (10) Leann & Jessica at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Induction. (11) Broncos Super Bowl 50 Championship Ring. (12) 3 Generations: Andy, Lincoln, & Dad.

 

Dear Family and Friends,

Each year, when I compose this letter, I always go back and read last year’s Christmas letter to get myself in the mood to write the next one. This year, I decided to write this letter a little differently, organized in more of a compartmentalized format. I’m hoping it will keep me from rambling too much. Probably not, but we’ll see. Let’s start off easy.

Sports: When I left you last December, Alabama was headed for the college football playoffs as the #2 team in the nation. They won their playoff game against Michigan State 38-0 and went on to win a very hard fought and stressful game against Clemson 45-40 and be crowned the National Champions for the 16th time in school history. They are currently the #1 team in the country and slated for a playoff game vs. Washington on New Year’s Eve with a potential championship game vs. either Clemson or Ohio State on January 9th. Fingers crossed and Roll Tide! In other football news, Peyton Manning returned from his injuries at the end of last season and the Broncos marched their way right to San Francisco for Super Bowl 50, which they won in stellar defensive fashion against the Carolina Panthers. This proved to be the perfect ending to Peyton’s incredible football career as he decided to retire on March 7th. There were tears, but he got through it and so did I. In April, the North Carolina Tar Heels, after an up and down season, made it all the way to the NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship game but unfortunately, lost on a last second shot. I couldn’t have been more proud of how they fought their way tooth and nail to that game. I even got to attend their ACC Tournament semi-final game as it was being played here in DC.

Travels: In May, I visited my college roommate Stefanie and her family in Georgia for about a week. We took a little side trip to Alabama to meet up with my bestie and college friend Angela. The three of us hadn’t been in the same room together in 17 years, so we thought it was time. Keeping up with each other through texts, social media, and phone calls just aren’t the same as being able to visit with someone in person. In summer, I returned to Colorado to visit with my friends the Leonard’s and Schwamb’s and attend Broncos Training Camp. I wasn’t sure how Peyton’s retirement would affect my passion for the game of football, but through training camp and the start of the season, I discovered that by being a fan of his, he taught me to love the game in general. While there, we got to explore Rocky Mountain National Park, and I attended the wedding of a fellow Broncos fan and former co-worker. In August, my friend Jessica and I went to the Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony to see Coach Tony Dungy and Marvin Harrison receive their gold jackets. This was our trial run for 5 years from now when Peyton is sure to receive his. We also decided we need to go back when it isn’t enshrinement weekend with thousands of people so we can see everything. In September, I traveled home for Lincoln’s birthday. He turned 9, and I’m still trying to figure out how we got to the last single digit birthday so quickly. I was home in November for Thanksgiving and also went to Georgia earlier this

month for Stefanie’s Ugly Christmas Sweater Party. I went to NYC a few more times this year to visit with my friend John and his husband Justin and to see a few more Broadway shows including the final performances of 4 original cast members of Something Rotten. The tour of that show starts in January. I highly recommend it if it makes it to a city near you. During one trip, I even got to see the planting of the Rockefeller Christmas Tree.

Visitors: In January, my sweet friend Anita came for a weekend visit. We did a little sightseeing, watched Hallmark movies, and shopped til we dropped. In March, Andy, Janet, and Lincoln visited me during their spring break. We went to the National Geographic Museum, National Zoo, the Natural History Museum, the Lincoln Memorial, and every cupcake shop we could find! We also saw a motorcade and walked by the FBI building. In June, Mom and Dad came for a visit. It had been a long time since they’d been able to come up because of dad’s chemo treatments last year. Plus, they needed to see our new baby panda, Bei Bei. We celebrated mom’s birthday, father’s day, and my birthday all in one night since we wouldn’t be together on the actual dates.

Health: Dad’s leukemia has remained in remission at each of his follow up appointments and scans, the most recent of which was this month. My doctor has reduced my diabetes medication to a ½ pill each day as I continue to move towards managing the disease without medication. One day I hope to be able to type that I’m no longer on the medication, and I really hope one day I can say I no longer have diabetes because they found a cure. By all accounts though, we are all in good health.

Family: Mom’s big news this year was she finally got to see Barbra Streisand in concert. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her so excited about something. Even days afterwards she was telling me that every time she thought about the concert it made her smile. Lincoln competed in swimming, engrossed himself in Pokémon, finished 2nd grade, and took 3rd grade by storm at a new school. He even sang in the chorus program a couple weeks ago. Janet is now working as an Instructional Mentor for Hillsborough County Schools to help new teachers get acclimated to their job. Andy finished all his post-graduation requirements with Hillsborough County to be eligible for an Assistant Principal position, and he was hired in the summer as the Assistant Principal at Benito Middle School, the same school where he was teaching.

Next Year: As I sat down to write this letter I found myself grateful we are just a few days away from closing the books on this year. Despite what you have just read, 2016 has not been easy emotionally. We lost a lot of good people to cancer, Alzheimer’s, heart attacks, AIDS, diabetes, and unspeakable violence. We watched a man stand at numerous podiums and give a voice to hate, racism, intolerance, assault, and general disrespectfulness. It has made my heart grow weary because I was raised in a home where those thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors were unacceptable. I was taught that we, as human beings, are basically good people and that in good times and bad, we take care of each other. However, this past year challenged that teaching and made me question how much I really know the people in my life as I watched people I love be persecuted. There’s a lady who stands in a harbor with her arm raised high lighting America with the lamp in her hand and teaching us from her tablet which states, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Those words are not unlike Jesus’s words in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” On my office wall at work hangs a quote from the late Coach Dean Smith that reads, “There is a point in every contest when sitting on the sidelines is not an option.” So, as the new year begins, I am grasping at hope that love, kindness, and understanding will rule over hate and fear. I pray we will learn to trust each other again by showing compassion and care to rid our country and this world of the pain it has known in 2016. Despite the potentially damaging decisions that may be made in the coming years by our country’s leadership, I pray our society will continue to progress and not regress in human and civil rights for all people, and if we do regress, I pray we all live to see us find a better way as I am determined to always shine a light in the darkness. I hope you will join me in this prayer.

Happy Holidays, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Yule, Season’s Greetings, Feliz Navidad, and Merry Christmas!

Leann

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Christmas 2015

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Dear Family and Friends,

This year seems to be the year of blink and you missed it. I turned around one day and it was December when it felt like it was just January the day before. I don’t know about y’all, but the years seem to move faster as I get older. Nevertheless, I still try to pack as much into those fast moving years as I can. This year was no exception.

Sadly, at the beginning of the year, two of my heroes from the sports world shuffled off this mortal coil. First, in January, sportscaster Stuart Scott finished his battle with cancer and left behind a legacy of courage and determination as well as a completely different vocabulary of how we talk about sports. Then, in February, the world lost one of the kindest gentlemen it ever knew when Coach Dean Smith passed away. This one hit mom the hardest as a lifelong Tar Heel fan. He changed the way we play the game of basketball far and wide, and his contributions to our country’s civil rights movement remind us we should never be proud of doing the right thing. We should just do it.

In April, Dad’s chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), which he’s had for years but never needed to treat it, decided it wanted some attention. He completed six chemotherapy treatments between April and September, and at the beginning of November, he officially received the remission stamp. He will go back every three months for new scans to make sure he remains in remission, but at this point, it’s safe to say, dad kicked cancer’s butt with the help of mom and his wonderful doctors and nurses.
In May, I traveled to Rochester, Minnesota to visit some college friends, Robert and Erin Jackson and meet their sweet little guy, Beckett, who handled my stockpiled smooches and squeezes like a champ. The weather was beautiful as they showed me around their city where the Mayo Clinic is located, and I tried every form of fried cheese curd I could get my hands on. Also, having been a Twins fan since high school, I managed to talk them into taking me to the Twins game on Memorial Day, which they won because I was there, obviously. Booyah!

After seeing the Broadway cast of Something Rotten! perform on The Tonight Show, I was so entertained that I had to see this show, so I took a trip to NYC in July to see it. The cast is amazing, and over several trips back to NYC this fall for various reasons, I have seen the show a total of six times. The lovely people who work the front of house for Jujamcyn Theaters treated me like family and reminded me just how much I enjoyed being a part of live theatre back in my high school days, so if you find yourself in NYC anytime soon and you can’t get tickets to see Hamilton walk on over to the St. James Theatre on 44th and see Something Rotten! to laugh so hard you’ll cry. While I was there, I caught up with my high school friend John Cosenza. He and I grew up together, and while we have kept in touch with each other through the years, we hadn’t seen each other in far too long. He went to the show with me one night and showed me some of NYC from the perspective of an actual resident. It’s a beautiful thing to fall in love with a city through someone else’s eyes. He tells me that since the congestion in Times Square now drives me batty, I am officially a New Yorker!

In July, we lost my great Aunt Virginia. She was one of my favorite people in the world. She had a sweet smile, a rambunctious personality, and an insatiable hunger for all life had to give her. She was what they used to call a classy broad, and I miss her every day.

In August, I returned to Colorado to spend my birthday with my friends Vanessa and Brad Leonard and Tim and Cristi Schwamb and their kids and to attend Broncos Training Camp, again. There were to be two days of training camp while I was there, but the first day got cancelled due to rain the day before flooding the practice field. At least it wasn’t snow. Never fear, Vanessa and I filled the day with visits to Red Rocks Amphitheatre, the historic town of Morrison, the Broncos training facility team store, and every Walmart, Target, Kohls, and King Soopers between Denver and Colorado Springs that we could find
making sure I had all the Broncos gear I needed for the coming season. Vanessa, Cristi, and I even found time for a girl’s night out. It was refreshing to my soul. My sister-in-law Janet has taken a few of those soul rejuvenating girl’s weekends this year, too. There really is no substitute for them. Also this summer, my brother Andy finished his master’s of education in educational leadership with straight A’s throughout and is working towards a position as an assistant principal hopefully in the next school year.

Lincoln turned 8 in September, and we had an Ant-Man themed birthday party at Hooters after a day at Busch Gardens. Ant-Man was his choice of costume for Halloween, too. He continues to excel in school with his perfect report cards, and he can tell you anything you want to know about Minecraft. Mostly, I just nod my head and say, “uh huh” because I have no clue what he’s talking about. This September marked the start of the 40th season of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which mom, dad, and Andy have thoroughly enjoyed celebrating as inaugural season ticket holders still going strong. God love ‘em.

Also in September, one of my trips to NYC was for a 5K charity walk benefiting the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). My college friend Ti Keshia lost her sweet niece this year to Type 1 Diabetes and asked her friends to contribute to and/or join her on this walk, so I jumped right in and had the wonderful opportunity to meet and walk with her and her NYC friends across the Brooklyn Bridge. The views from up there are spectacular, and it was a beautiful day to celebrate Princess Victoria. Speaking of diabetes, my doctor has reduced my medication to one dose per day instead of two, so I am one step closer to managing the disease on my own without pharmaceuticals. While I was there that time, I managed to squeeze in a trip to see Les Misérables. This was especially exciting because my high school friend Joseph Spieldenner is currently performing in the show as Grantaire and occasionally goes on as Javert or Thénardier. He’s just brilliant in it and was so kind to give me a backstage tour after the show, and I got to stand on a Broadway stage.

In October, I was so excited to get a visit from another high school friend, Adrienne. Her husband was here for a conference, so she tagged along, and spent the better part of one day with me. I got to show her around the Capitol and take her to some fun little places that are not on the tour like lunch in the Senator’s Dining Room. I’ve come to truly understand the importance of keeping in touch with the people in our lives who make us smile and remind us of the dreamers we used to be before the world became jaded and routine.

In November, my sweet friend Annie from Australia came over to the states for what she calls holiday. We call it vacation. While she was here, we went to a John Lloyd Young concert at the Kennedy Center. He’s a Tony winner for originating the role of Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys. She also wanted to see the Washington Monument and the ruby red slippers from The Wizard of Oz, and I took her to the larger Air and Space Museum out by Dulles Airport because she’s a flight attendant. It made perfect sense to me. And I got her to try a fried pickle, which will likely never touch her lips, again. Pickles are apparently not a thing in Australia.

When I was home for Thanksgiving, I got to meet my new four-legged nephew Coco, Lincoln’s new cocker spaniel puppy. He’s adorable and loves to cuddle. We became fast friends, and that has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I kept giving him treats. I swear. Mom and dad have loved spoiling their puppy grandchild, too. Mom and I shopped til we dropped the week of Thanksgiving, and I helped them decorate the house for Christmas before I left.

And, that brings us to December. After fourteen years of living in the DC area, I finally made it to the White House at Christmastime to see the decorations. Everything is breathtakingly beautiful and intricately detailed to fit each room’s theme and purpose. Next weekend, I’m traveling to Pittsburgh to see the Broncos play the Steelers where I may or may not get to see Peyton Manning. I was afraid of this when I saw how late in the season this game was, but hopefully, he’ll at least be there even if he doesn’t play. At the end of the month, my Alabama Crimson Tide will try, again, to add to the National Championship total. They’re #2 in the college football playoff rankings, but they’ve certainly got their work cut out for them vs. Michigan State with a potential championship game vs. either Clemson or Oklahoma on the line. Roll Tide and Go Broncos!

Whew! Are you still with me? I would understand if you weren’t. I’m exhausted myself. I hope y’all managed to pack just as much into your fast moving 2015s as I did. Here’s to a slower 2016 with a little more peace and love around the world. Let’s never forget that “hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Leann

Christmas 2014

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Dear Friends and Family,

I don’t know about all of you, but as the year progressed, I found myself feeling as though I was on a runaway train because it was moving so fast.  Yet, here we are as the 2014 train is pulling into the station for us all to transfer to the 2015 locomotive.  All aboard as we take a look back at how far we’ve come this year.

Let’s start with the bad news that I’m hoping will be avenged early next year.  My Denver Broncos made me proud by sailing straight through the NFL playoffs right into the Super Bowl, but things took a bit of a turn for the worse right around the Joe Namath botched coin toss.  The rest of the game, which we Broncos fans affectionately refer to as “The Bruno Mars Concert,” is a bit of a blur.  While this season has had its ups and downs, I remain hopeful we’ll get another chance at that ring come February.

Having enjoyed our cruise last year so much, Andy, Janet, and Lincoln embarked on a Disney Cruise at the beginning of the year.  Mom and Dad came to visit me in March when it was still snowing here.  I think the snow lasted into April.  I lost track.  It started to get easier to count the days when it didn’t snow.  We did visit the zoo in an attempt to see our new panda bear, Bao Bao.  She was sleeping, of course.

Sadly, during Mom and Dad’s visit in March, we lost my great uncle, Charlie Peacock.  He had been a surrogate grandparent to my brother and me and all the cousins on mom’s side of the family treating us like we were his own kids and being proud of all our accomplishments.  The world lost one of its most loving and gentle souls.  I miss his laugh and his “how you?” every day, but his legacy reminds me to linger a little longer with the people I love, to follow my dreams, and to never take anyone for granted.

In April, Andy turned the BIG 4-0, and mom and dad celebrated by taking a cruise, just the two of them, to Cozumel, Mexico.  Ok, so maybe that’s not why they went on the cruise, but it just happened to coincide.

In May, my friend Jessica and I had the incredible privilege of attending the NFL Draft in New York City.  It was on my bucket list, and a very dear friend of mine was able to secure tickets for us to all three days.  Not just any tickets though.  Practically Radio City Music Hall orchestra pit tickets.  Being one of those few people who watches every second of the Draft every year, getting to attend it in person with nearly front row seats was amazing.  I looked around the theatre when we got to the last pick on the third day just to take in the small crowd of us who were still there, and I thought, “these are my people,” but the one thing that I took away from it was that those of us who were there weren’t there just because we were fans of any specific team.  We were there because we love football, every aspect of it.

The NYC fun didn’t stop there.  We also attended the monologue rehearsal for The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.  Every day, a couple hours before the show taping, Jimmy Fallon brings in a small group of people to run through all the potential jokes for that night’s monologue.  He’s tests them on us to see what works.  Since we were there on a Friday, he also tested the thank you notes on us.  It was a highlight of the trip, and it was clear to me that Jimmy Fallon is as advertised: kind, funny, and genuine.

In late spring and early summer, Alabama added to their national championships with wins in Women’s Tennis and a repeat in Men’s Golf.  Also, Mom and Dad returned for a summer visit right before I took off for another bucket list item.

In early August, I flew to Colorado to attend…wait for it…Denver Broncos Training Camp.  I have always promised myself I would go to training camp before Peyton Manning retires, and with that probably coming sooner rather than later, it was now or never.  I got to stay with and visit my friends Brad and Vanessa Leonard and their kids.  I was their youngest son’s first Bible class teacher at our church when they lived in Virginia.  It was so great to have that time with them.  We all went to training camp at the stadium and had such a blast.  I’ve even recognized some of the plays this season as ones I saw that day.  Vanessa took me on a world wind tour of Denver and Colorado Springs to include stops at Garden of the Gods, the Air Force Academy Chapel, and the Olympic Training Facility.  The whole family and I made the trek up to Pike’s Peak on my last day there.  I’m hoping to make another trip out there for training camp next summer.

When I returned, my college roommate, Stefanie, came to visit for a girls weekend (sans husband and kiddos).  We took a tour of the White House, had lunch at the Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives approved restaurant Tune Inn, went shopping til we dropped, laughed until it hurt, and went to dinner with some of my friends here who have heard me talk about Stef just as much as she’s listened to me talk about them.  Everyone loved each other as I expected they would.  It was so much fun.  I’m still surprised either one of us let her get on that return flight.

This school year, Janet started a new position as a teacher evaluator for the Hillsborough County Schools.  Lincoln is now in first grade and turned seven in September.  He has already earned a perfect report card as well as the Super Reader Award.  He loves hockey of all things for a kid growing up in Florida.  Go Bolts?

In October, my friends Dianne, Darlene, and I spent a week at the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  We relaxed, walked the beach, got massages and mani/pedis, searched for open ice cream parlors, shopped, tried every hushpuppy any restaurant would offer us, and toured lighthouses.  I climbed to the top of both the Cape Hatteras and the Bodie Island Lighthouses to see some spectacular views of the edge of the world.  We wonder daily why we’re not still there.

In November, Janet turned the BIG 4-0, and for Thanksgiving, she, her mom, Andy, and Lincoln went to New York City to take in the sights of the holiday week.  They saw the Rockettes, Toys R Us in Times Square, and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade before coming home in time for the Sunday Buccaneers game, of course, which I attended with them.  Everyone has to make sacrifices from time to time.  🙂  I’m just sorry I couldn’t bring the Bucs any luck.

As the year comes to a close, Alabama finds itself the #1 seed in the new College Football Playoffs with a chance at our 16th National Championship if we win the next two games.  My diabetes is stabilized to the point that I’ve been able to reduce the dosage on some of my medication and my doctor has stretched my check-ups to annually instead of every six months.  The coming year has much to live up to since 2014 set the bar so high, but I think it’s up to the challenge.  I hope all of you have had a year full of love, adventure, and laughter.

 

Until next time…Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,

 

Leann

Christmas 2012

I’ve been meaning to post this for the last several days, but kept forgetting.  In any case, better late than never.  Here’s my Christmas picture and letter for 2012.

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Christmas 2012

Dear Family and Friends,

I know after last year you all have been counting the days until you received my next Christmas newsletter, and I completely understand why, so let’s go ahead and get the “elephant” in the room out of the way.  I ended my last letter reminding you all to tune in on January 9th to see Alabama play for its 14th football National Championship.  Little did I know we’d need to stay glued to our televisions into June.  Following the 21-0 win over LSU in the BCS National Championship game in New Orleans, LA, the Alabama women’s gymnastics team brought home a national championship in April from Duluth, GA winning back to back championships in the sport for the first time in school history.  Not to be outdone, the women’s golf team brought home their first national championship in May from Franklin, TN.  And finally, the softball team that had been knock, knock, knocking on the door of the Women’s College World Series championship for years won their first national championship in June on a rain-soaked diamond in Oklahoma City, OK.  Quite a way for our women’s teams to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Title IX. We very nearly had a fifth team championship to report, but the men’s golf team came in second to Texas in the national championship literally by one stroke on the 18th hole.  So, by the time summer rolled around, my beloved Crimson Tide had experienced one of the most successful years in college sports history, and I couldn’t have been prouder of how each of them represented our school. It was practically surreal and still is even now as the football team is preparing to take on the Irish of Notre Dame in the BCS national championship game on January 7th in Miami, FL.  I know at some point this ridiculous ride will come to an end, so I’m savoring every ounce of it while it’s spinning.

Now, let’s see what else happened this year. In March, the South Florida women’s basketball team was invited to play in the WNIT.  They played a game against James Madison University here in Virginia, so I drove out to see them.  Despite losing the game, the girls fought hard, and it was great to get to see my brother. In April, I traveled to Atlanta, GA to visit my college roommate, Stefanie and her family.  It was a nice vacation, but not nearly long enough.  We ate and shopped and watched movies and got tattoos.  Yes, you read that right.  We both wanted new tattoos, so we decided to go to the shop (Inksomnia in Alpharetta, GA. Ask for Jeff.) together during my visit.  I had promised myself I’d get an Alabama tattoo if we won our 13th national championship in 2009.  I was definitely overdue on keeping my promise, but nevertheless, I kept it.  Interestingly enough, we got our tattoos on April 13th…4/13…FOR #13.  That was completely unplanned, but in hindsight it seems like it was meant to be.  Stefanie got an equally appropriate tattoo for her that read “Flawed but Fabulous.”  In October, Stefanie and her family came up to visit her husband’s family for an all too short weekend, but we got to spend an afternoon together window shopping at the mall and talking each other’s ears off.

In July, mom and dad came for a visit over the week of July 4th, so I took some time off from work to spend with them.  I even took them to their first Washington Nationals baseball game while they were here.  In late July, my annual conference for work took me to Nashville, TN.  I had been there before, but only briefly, so this was my first time to really see the sights of Nashville like the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Ryman Auditorium, and the Grand Ole Opry.  The Ryman even had this eeriness to it like you could feel the ghosts of past performers in the building; however, the eeriest part of any tour I took was the line that was nailed to the wall in the backstage lounge of the Opry showing where the flood waters had reached in May 2010.  The building is on a hill, and that line was easily up to my waist.

In August, the NFL, as it is wont to do, began a new season, but this time, my precious Peyton Manning no longer had a horseshoe on his helmet, but rather a horse’s head.  The Colts released him in March and a week later John Elway signed him as a Denver Bronco. It has been a relief seeing him play in a way that suggests he hasn’t lost a step during his time off recovering from four neck surgeries. As hard as it has been to embrace the color orange, I have enjoyed becoming a Bronco fan this season and hopefully for many seasons to come.  Also in August, at a Bucs preseason game, mom, dad, and Andy were randomly invited at the concession stand by the Bucs Executive VP Bryan Glazer to sit in the owner’s box for the game.  They were treated like royalty with great seats, food, and gifts.  It may very well have been one of the greatest days of my father’s life. The smile on his face in the pictures is priceless. It was an incredible honor for him considering the loyalty and dedication he has given that organization.  He can still count on one hand how many home games (all preseason) he has missed in 37 seasons.  Over Thanksgiving, I got to attend the Bucs/Falcons game with them, but even though I kept my eyes peeled for Bryan Glazer to walk by, we, unfortunately, had to sit in the regular seats.  However, I did get to see former Colt Dallas Clark and former Alabama greats Julio Jones and Mark Barron play.

In September, we celebrated Lincoln’s 5th birthday, and quite slyly, mom pulled off a surprise 70th birthday celebration for dad complete with my Uncle John and Aunt Gussie, friends, Rotarians, and former colleagues attending.  It was a joy to see so many people who love my father wanting to celebrate his life so far.  He is well loved, deservedly so.  While I was home, I attended his weekly Rotary meeting with him at which he presented Andy and me with Paul Harris Fellows (named for the founder of Rotary International) to honor us for all the work we’ve done with him over the years to help the Rotarians in their community service.  It was a truly unexpected honor to receive it from my father who taught me the importance of giving back.

Other happenings this year included Andy resigning from the South Florida women’s basketball team to return to the classroom full time at Benito Middle School teaching reading.  Janet received the Teacher Incentive Fund Award in recognition of the improvement her students have made because of her teaching.  Lincoln, having missed the birthdate cut off for kindergarten by five days and his preschool having to close its doors due to funding, started the Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten program at Family of Christ Christian School. He is smart as a whip, knows his alphabet and his numbers (much to the pride of his accountant Aunt), is easy to smile and laugh, and will talk your ear off about dinosaurs (complete with scientific names and facts).  I’m not ashamed to admit the kid’s probably smarter than most of us.  Mimi and Pa continue to be very good at retirement and at being two of the best grandparents a kid could have, in my humble opinion.

I hope all of you have enjoyed 2012 in countless ways, and are looking forward to a prosperous 2013.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, 

Leann

P.S. 1/7/13: “Are you hungry or are you satisfied? Because you can’t be both.” ~ Coach Saban

Christmas Letter 2011

Center: Leann and Lincoln. Clockwise from top left: (1) Grandpa (the Cat in the Hat) and Lincoln. (2) Andy, Lincoln, and Grandpa ~ 3 generations. (3) Janet and Lincoln. (4) Mimi and Lincoln on his new bed. (5) Dad and Leann. (6) Mom and Leann. (7) Ti Keshia, Leann, Mandy, and Carla in LA. (8) Houndstooth ribbon painted on the field at Alabama to honor the tornado victims. (9) Leann standing on the glass skydeck ledge in Chicago. (10) Leann, Annie Kate, and Angela. (11) Mom in the snow. (12) Dad shoveling snow.

Here is this year’s Christmas letter.  Enjoy!

Dear Family and Friends,

I don’t know about y’all, but I have packed everything I can into one year.  As I begin to reflect on all that has happened, my halls are decked, my shopping is done, and writing to y’all is last on my Christmas list, so let’s get started because I do love crossing items off my to-do list.

One advantage to living here is how close I am to other metropolitan areas.  In January, I ventured north to New York City to see my very first Broadway play.  I’ve been to NYC before for the cursory tourist attractions, but this was just to see the play.  I saw “Driving Miss Daisy” starring James Earl Jones and Vanessa Redgrave who were perfectly on par with Morgan Freeman and Jessica Tandy from the movie version.  Also in January, I visited my best friend, Angela, in Birmingham to meet her beautiful new daughter, Annie Kate.  I tried to hide Annie Kate in my luggage and bring her back with me, but she wouldn’t fit much to the elation of her mother.  Angela has been such a blessing in my life for so many years, and seeing her so happy with her family makes my heart smile.

In February, Andy’s USF Women’s Basketball team came up to play Georgetown.  Mom and dad decided to come, too.  It had snowed right before they came, and a good bit of it had not melted by the time they arrived, so dad got to shovel some snow that was still hanging out in my guest parking spot.  He didn’t seem all that enthused by it.  I really don’t understand why.

In March, Alabama’s Men’s Basketball team was invited to participate in the NIT, and they made it to the NIT Championship game at Madison Square Garden in NYC.  So, once more, I traveled north because I didn’t feel it appropriate for me not to be there with them so close.  Unfortunately, they lost the game to a Wichita State team that appeared to have brought their entire town.  Nevertheless, I was grateful along with my friend Ti Keshia to have the opportunity to be there for them.

And then April happened.  The Alabama Gymnastics team won its 5th National Championship.  It was their 27th appearance in the National Championship Competition.  For work, I traveled to Chicago for the first time, but with work completed and a little time before my flight, I took in the sights.  I toured the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower and stood out on the glass balcony ledge that extends about four feet out from the 103rd floor over the street below.  That’s 1,353 feet above ground with only a piece of glass under your feet.  It is AMAZING!  I also stopped to see the Michael Jordan statue at the United Center as all good Tar Heel fans should.

Sadly, I did not know that by the time I landed back in DC, a piece of my world would be torn to shreds.  During my flight an EF4 tornado ripped through Tuscaloosa, AL, a place that knows no other name to me but “home.”  This tornado tore a mile wide by 6 mile long path straight through the town that contributed greatly to the woman I am today.  When it was all over, more than 350 tornadoes were confirmed throughout the southeast over a three day period with 239 deaths in Alabama alone.  I am thankful everyday no one I personally know was harmed.  In the days since, we have witnessed from near and far that no matter our differences or disagreements or team pride, a tragedy of this magnitude pulls us together. People from every state in the country have helped with the relief efforts.

In May, I flew to Los Angeles to visit my friend Carla. She has lived there for many years, but I’d never worked in a visit until now.  She obliged my silly requests like a stop at the Rose Bowl to see where Alabama won its 13th National Championship, chicken and waffles at Roscoe’s, a trip to the Pacific Ocean, and a personal tour of ABC/Disney Studios.  I even made new friends in her roommate, Mandy and their puppies, DJ and Luke.  As luck would have it, while I was there, our friend Ti Keshia was in LA, too, so we got to meet her for dinner one night.  As you can imagine, it was VERY hard to leave.

As has become a tradition, Lincoln ran the bases at a few Tampa Bay Rays games this summer, but during one trip to Grandpa and Mimi’s he ran the bases at the Rays’s minor league affiliate.  This was special though as he got to be in a tag team race with the Charlotte Stone Crabs mascot, Stoney.  Stoney usually races against and loses to the kid runner, but this time Stoney and Lincoln competed against two others.  It was the first time Stoney (with Lincoln’s help) actually won the race.

By July, I’d stayed away long enough, and I took a trip to Alabama to see the damage myself and volunteer with the tornado relief efforts.  It took my breath away when I turned that first corner into town where I could see the destruction.  It felt like the world froze, and it broke my heart all over, again.  While I was there, I helped with organizing a warehouse where every day items are stored and distributed to those in need.  I also got the opportunity to spend some time with my friends, the Cunninghams, who I hadn’t seen in ages.  They are always gracious in opening their home when I come for a visit.  I also made quick stops to see Angela and her family in Birmingham and my friends Tom, Anita, and Jilian in Huntsville before I headed back to DC.  Jilian even gave up her Disney Princess bed to me so I could spend the night.  It was a rollercoaster of emotions during my July Alabama Tour, but it was worth every minute.

In August, my annual work conference took me to Las Vegas for the first time, and I have to admit, I finally understood what a dry heat was. It was still ridiculously hot, but not sticky like it is in the South.  The bulk of entertainment value in that city is lost on me because I’m not a big gambler, but I did enjoy the food and the fountain show at the Bellagio among other attractions, but I failed in getting a quickie wedding.  At the end of my trip, I crossed off a bucket list item and saw Garth Brooks live.  It was fabulous.  He puts on a heck of a show, and if you get the opportunity…GO!

Lincoln turned 4…FOUR…in September, and we all celebrated with a pool party.  It was the first time he’d gotten to invite his school friends to his birthday party, and they were all adorable to watch.  At his 4 year old appointment, our 2lb 14 oz, 16 ¼ inch preemie, weighed 45lbs and was 43 inches tall.  He’ll talk your ear off about dinosaurs and animals if you let him, and he’s smart as a whip, but I’m not biased at all.

In October, I did something I haven’t done in 11 years.  I went to homecoming at Alabama.  I took in the bon fire, watched the parade with my friends the Heggems, and thanks, again, to the Cunninghams, attended the Alabama/Vanderbilt homecoming game, which Alabama won 34-0.  Tuscaloosa was much easier to see this time around because I could see a lot of progress in debris removal and rebuilding preparations.  It’ll take time, but they are going to come back from this better than ever.

I was home for Thanksgiving.  Andy and the team were invited to the Great Alaska Shootout in Anchorage, so I didn’t get to see him while I was home.  Still not sure if they could see Russia from their hotel rooms.  I did get to see Janet and Lincoln who came down to mom and dad’s for Thanksgiving and Black Friday shopping.  I’m staying here in DC for Christmas, but mom and dad are coming up for New Year’s when they will see “The Jersey Boys” for the gazillionth time.  It’ll be my first time seeing the show though.

Well, that about wraps it up.  As I said, I don’t think I could’ve packed anymore into one year.  I hope your year has been just as jam packed with blessings and memories you’ll never forget.  I’m sending y’all warm thoughts, lots of hugs, and wishes for a spectacular year to come.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,

Leann

P.S. Roll Tide Roll ~ 01/09/2012

Christmas Letter 2010

Here is this year’s Christmas letter.  Enjoy!

Christmas 2010

Dear Family and Friends,

Just the other day I thought, “It can’t possibly be the end of the year. It just started.” The year 2010 was jam packed in my neck of the woods, and if you ask me, it started off with a bang…on the 7th day of the year. January 7th, 2010 was the day Alabama won our 13th National Championship in football. Granted, it was the efforts and pursuits put forth during the fall of 2009 that led to that auspicious occasion, but nevertheless, my letter from last year was written prior to the final game, so that is where we begin this year’s review.

Following the victory, the University planned a Championship Celebration on campus at the stadium. I decided I had to go, and through some very strategic planning with a friend from college, Ti Keshia, who lives in Charlotte, NC, we were Bama bound. It was a whirlwind 48 hours that included an impromptu tour of the football offices where we met coaches, players, and staff, taking pictures with both RB Mark Ingram’s Heisman and the BCS National Championship Trophy, a Coach Nick Saban sighting, attending a gymnastics meet, and standing in the cold and rain with our fellow fans and alums to partake in the victory celebration.

In February, Northern Virginia experienced a once in a lifetime snowfall. It was dubbed Snowmaggedon by the media, and I’m still not entirely certain of the total accumulation. At my house I had almost three feet over two days. I felt snowed in the entire month even after I could leave the house. I think it was nearly April before every last bit of that snow was melted and gone, but I have to say, because of the shoveling, my arms have never been so toned.

In March, the Alabama football team came to DC. During their visit, they stopped for a tour of the Capitol. I intercepted their tour along with some lovely ladies from one of the Alabama Senators’ offices. Our reward: meeting Coach Nick Saban, QB Greg McElroy, and CB Javier Arenas. And just to settle something, Coach Saban is not as scary in person as you might think. He’s actually quite nice. It was a true pleasure to meet and personally thank them for their dedication to our team and university. To finish out the month, Mom flew up and I took her to her very first Bon Jovi concert. Yep, you read that right. I converted her into a fan several years ago, and when I found myself with an extra ticket, I figured everyone should see Bon Jovi LIVE once in their lifetime. It certainly wasn’t the Elvis concerts she remembered from her younger days, but she had so much fun seeing them live, and she came away with most of her hearing still intact.

In April, Mom, Dad, Andy, Janet, and Lincoln took what seems to have become their annual spring break trip to North Carolina. Lincoln enjoyed his time at Dan Nicholas Park in Salisbury and visiting with his new pal, Uncle Charlie Peacock.

In May, my friend Jessica and I went on an honest to goodness Florida vacation. Jessica had never been to Disney World, and being the kind of person who loves to take adults to Disney who have never been, I said I could make that happen. We spent part of our time with family, but also managed to squeeze in a trip to the beach, multiple trips to Sonic, some pool time, visits to the Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios, and relaxing massages. Jessica only requested that she get to meet Winnie the Pooh, so we had lunch with him and his Hundred Acre Wood friends, but I still made her ride Space Mountain and the Tower of Terror. No trip to Disney is complete without that. It blew her mind how incredibly “happy” all the Disney employees were, but it’s not called the “happiest place on earth” for nothing.

During the summer, Mom and Dad took Lincoln to several Tampa Bay Rays baseball games where, occasionally, they let the kids run the bases after a game. He’s really gotten into it and can’t wait to get out there. It made such an impression on him that when he, Andy, Janet, and Malinda (Janet’s mom) came to visit me in July, he saw the domed roof on the Jefferson Memorial and said, “There’s the ballpark where I run the bases.” (The Tampa Bay Rays ballpark is a dome.) Mom and Dad also visited in July and happened to be here the week the Rays were playing the Orioles, so we went to the game that Matt Garza was pitching because he’s one of my favorites. Sadly, the Rays lost that game, but they did manage to win their division over the Yankees.

In August, my annual conference for work took me to Atlanta, GA. Despite the heat, I was really excited about this trip because it gave me an opportunity to spend some time with my college roommate Stefanie and her beautiful family. We had such a wonderful time, and they helped me celebrate my 32nd birthday while I was there. It had been at least 10 years since we’d seen each other, but the two of us just picked up right where we left off. We even caught a glimpse of our future selves in these two little old ladies at the movie theater. Her husband Mike was quite the trooper listening to our constant talking and laughing all weekend.

In September, we gathered to celebrate Lincoln’s 3rd birthday at Chuck E Cheese’s. Lincoln started attending preschool three days a week at Christ Our Redeemer Lutheran School. He seems to really love it and even had a little birthday party with his class (of all girls and him) that included cupcakes and popcorn. Since starting school there he has been in an Oktoberfest presentation, a Halloween parade (he was a frog), and a Christmas program. Also in September, Alabama played Duke in Durham, NC, so I drove down and met up with some fellow Bama alums to attend the game. It was actually my first Alabama away game, and as much as it pains this Tar Heel fan to say it, the Duke folks treated us very well and were very kind. I’m sure it had something to do with the amount of money they were making from our visit. Their gameday traffic plan was a bit flawed, but no one can really prepare for Alabama fans.

Over Thanksgiving, I was able to attend a couple of USF Women’s basketball games where Andy continues on staff as the Director of Basketball Operations. One game was against Auburn, which USF won easily and made this Bama girl smile when the student section started chanting “Roll Tide.” Janet continues to teach at Tomlin Middle School and has jumped right into the PTA at Lincoln’s school. Mom and Dad, at this point, are probably wondering why they didn’t do retirement first they’re loving it so much.

As we close the year 2010, I hope each of you have enjoyed this year as much as I have. May you feel the love and warmth of the season even though it is 28° outside as I write this. Look out 2011…here we come.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,

Leann

P.S. One final message on behalf of Bama Nation: GO DUCKS! Here’s hoping Oregon is celebrating its own National Championship on the 10th day of 2011.

Sounds of the Season

I had every intention of putting this playlist together before Christmas, but procrastination got the better of me, and it got postponed until now.  However, there’s a New Year’s song on the list, so I figure it all comes out in the wash.  One of my twitter friends (@jtw3) created a 2010 Christmas playlist and inspired me to think about the songs that I just can’t do without come the holidays.  He had simple rules: don’t pick too many songs, and pick songs you like but only one song by any one particular artist.  While his playlist consisted of songs for 2010, my playlist is actually my all time favorite holiday songs by the specific artist that I prefer singing the song.  It’s not that I don’t like listening to a different artist singing the song if it is a traditional, much recorded song, it’s just that I prefer these.  Also, my version of WordPress doesn’t allow me to publish a widget of the playlist in a post, so I’ve created the playlist on Grooveshark (with the exception of two songs that were not available on their site) and have provided the link to that playlist below if you care to have a listen.  The Playlist is in alphabetical order to save myself from having to order my favorites…you know like picking which child you like more.  Enjoy!

Listen to the Playlist

  1. Belleau Wood by Garth Brooks – This song isn’t actually on Garth’s Christmas Album, but it’s a song about a Christmas truce during World War I.  Garth took some artistic license with it as there was actually a battle at Belleau Wood during WWI, but not during Christmas.  It’s still one of the most beautiful and powerful holiday songs I’ve ever heard.
  2. Do You Hear What I Hear? by Vince Gill – This is one of a few songs on this list that I love the entire album, but I have to only pick one song.  The album is Let There Be Peace On Earth, which is also a lovely song as is One Bright Star, but when Vince starts singing, “Said the night wind to the little lamb…” my heart melts.
  3. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen by Barenaked Ladies and Sarah McLachlan – Sure it’s a song that you always seemed to find yourself singing in church during the holidays, but when you throw the Barenaked Ladies together with Ms. Sarah’s beautiful voice you create a musical masterpiece that you’ll crazily want to listen to year round…and why not.
  4. Grown-Up Christmas List by Michael Buble – Don’t you ever wish you could actually tell Santa what you’d REALLY like.  When I look around at this world and see so many areas that need help and feel helpless because I can’t do it all, I wish I could call the North Pole and say HELP! Pair that with Michael’s voice and who wouldn’t want to do more?!
  5. I’ll Be Home For Christmas by Rascal Flatts – I heard this song on the radio one day on my way home from work.  It’s always been a favorite of mine, but when I heard Rascal Flatts sing it a cappella, it tugged at my heart strings for every person who can’t be home for Christmas and made me want to jump on a plane that second.  Their voices have always been in perfect harmony, but on this song, they just shine.
  6. It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas by Perry Como – Perry Como is one of the signature voices of the holiday season and whenever I hear this song, I’m transported in my mind to walking through a mall at Christmas time and hearing it played over the mall sound system.
  7. Jingle Bells by Barbra Streisand – Sure everyone can sing Jingle Bells…heck I’m sure all of us could probably play it on the piano without a single lesson.  But Ms. Barbra will make you forget every version of Jingle Bells you’ve ever heard with this one.  It’s my opinion that this is the way Jingle Bells was meant to be sung.
  8. Mary, Did You Know? by Kathy Mattea – This song leaves me with tears streaming down my face every time I hear it.  I think in all the hustle and bustle of the season we absolutely forget why there is a Christmas at all. And on top of that, I think we forget that the Savior’s birth was just the beginning of His destiny here on Earth. This baby was born to die for our sins, and when I listen to this song, I imagine Mary rocking her newborn son, and I wonder if as she looked into His eyes she actually thought about what He would do for all of us.
  9. My Christmas Prayer by BeBe Winans and Rob Thomas – A few years ago BeBe Winans released a Christmas album that I believe was only sold at Starbucks, but he appeared on Oprah to promote the album (I think).  This song is similar to Grown-Up Christmas List, but speaks more specifically of how we treat each other.  The pairing of BeBe and Rob’s voices seems odd on the surface, but it really works.
  10. O Little Town Of Bethlehem by Sawyer Brown – Not available on Grooveshark, you can click on the title to see a YouTube video of the song.  Sawyer Brown’s Christmas album “Hallelujah He Is Born” is another of my favorite Christmas albums and much like Barbra Streisand’s Jingle Bells this is the way O Little Town Of Bethlehem was meant to be sung.  We should celebrate the birth of the savior.  It should be spirited and joyful.  Though He was sent to eventually be crucified for our sins, none of that is possible without first His birth.
  11. O Holy Night by Martina McBride – One of my all time absolute favorite songs period…not just Christmas songs…ALL songs.  I bought Martina’s Christmas album solely for this song (you know before iTunes existed and you could buy just one song).  Just as Mary, Did You Know? leaves me in tears, this song…this version leaves me breathless.
  12. Santa Claus (I Still Believe In You) by Alabama – This is another song from an album that I love all the songs but could only pick one.  I can remember loading up the car and heading for Orange Park to see my uncles and then on to North Carolina to be with my mother’s family and this is the album my dad would put in the tape player…yes, I said tape player.  Not just that, I had this album on…wait for it…8 track.  I have owned this album on 8 track, cassette, and now CD.  It’s the first album I want to listen to when the Christmas season arrives. It starts and ends with two of the greatest Christmas songs ever written.  Christmas just isn’t Christmas without the Alabama Christmas album.
  13. Silent Night by Sara Ramirez – This is one of the songs that wasn’t available on Grooveshark, but if you click on the title it’ll take you to a YouTube video of it.  This was played during last year’s (2009) Grey’s Anatomy Christmas episode.  Sara Ramirez, for those who don’t know, plays Callie and in the final scene of the episode, everyone is gathered around at Meredith’s house for Christmas dinner.  In the background you hear one magnificent voice begin to sing Silent Night and that voice is the only instrument you hear.  It was so wonderfully received by Grey’s fans that ABC released it as a single to iTunes.  As I imagine it, this is what it sounded like when Mary sang to baby Jesus.
  14. Sleigh Ride by Johnny Mathis – Who doesn’t LOVE Johnny Mathis, especially at Christmas?!  Like Perry Como, his voice defines the season.  I love the part where he says “Pump…Kin pie” and all the background noises like the pop, pop, pop and the crack of the whip.  I could pick a million Johnny Mathis songs to have on this playlist, but this one is my favorite.
  15. The Chipmunk Song by Alvin and The Chipmunks – I triple dog dare you not to start swaying your head back and forth when you listen to this song. It’s another in a long line of Christmas songs that defines my childhood.  Seriously, doesn’t it make you want a hula hoop?
  16. The World That He Sees by Trans-Siberian Orchestra – I know, I know…you’re asking yourself how on earth I can pick one TSO song.  Trust me…it was hard.  I could have gone with everyone’s favorite Christmas Eve Sarajevo 12/24 or one of my other faves Christmas Canon but I thought I’d go with the more obscure. Just listen to it…every bit of what TSO tries to bring to the table is in that song…but then again it’s in all of their songs, isn’t it?!
  17. We Need A Little Christmas by The Radio City Rockettes – Ok…so the playlist is actually Percy Faith’s Orchestra, but it sounds the exact same way when the Radio City Rockettes sing it in their Christmas Spectacular.  It’s the “It’s Christmas darn it, cheer up” song.
  18. What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve? by Harry Connick, Jr. – There is no other song on this list that I look forward to hearing more than this one, but that’s not to say it is my favorite on this playlist.  It’s just that I adore the lyrics and the melody and the whole entire package of this song so very much.  It’s romantic, sweet, beautiful, silly, and fun.  It’s like a Hallmark card wrapped up in a song.  The first time I heard this song Harry sang it with Carol Burnett on a Christmas Special for his When My Heart Finds Christmas album.  She was her trademark scrub maid and he played the piano as they sang it together.
  19. When Christmas Comes To Town by Matthew Hall and Meagan Moore – The Polar Express and Yes, Virginia There Really Is A Santa Claus are my two favorite Christmas children’s stories.  They’re about believing in the magic of Christmas…about seeing the season through a child’s eyes…and honestly…a little bit about faith because it takes faith to believe in Santa Claus and to believe that Jesus was born to die so that we might live?!  I have a million and a half Christmas items or decorations in my house that simply say “Believe.”  Heck, I even have a tattoo that says it.  Just believe people…life is more enjoyable and magical that way.
  20. White Christmas by Bing Crosby – I couldn’t find a version of the song that includes the original Beverly Hills introduction, but you can read it at that link.  I grew up in Florida, so really dreaming of white Christmases was all I had.  I didn’t see snow until I was 14 years old and as luck would have it…it was Christmas when I saw it.  It was light and just a dusting, but it was snow nonetheless.  Since then, I’ve experienced Snowmaggeddon here in Virginia with upwards of almost 3 feet, but even still, I don’t think I’ll ever get my fill.  It’s one of nature’s masterpieces and the only thing I think of when I see a blanket of snow is peace.

And Honorable Mention:

Christmas Wishes

As the last few hours tick away on this Christmas 2009, I thought I’d hand out a few virtual presents.  These are the people out there on my nice list who deserve a little something extra in their stocking…and would if I could I’d turn these virtual presents into the real thing.

  • Coach Roy Williams: A Carolina team that understands when they listen to you and the rest of the coaching staff, things happen…good things…like winning ballgames. I give you a team that plays with a sense of urgency and desire that knows putting on that Carolina uniform is a privilege and it comes with a lot of responsibility and no guarantees.  Much is expected, but just suiting up doesn’t automatically get the wins.
  • Indiana Pacers: An understanding that there are 4 quarters in an NBA game and that you have to play all 4 of them including the 3rd quarter, which your team seems to have a mental block on.  So I give you a stifling defense and an offense whose shots fall. Oh and I’ll throw in a bit of healthiness for the players who seem to have chronic ailments.
  • Philadelphia Eagles: To the other 52 players on the team who voted Michael Vick their representative for the Ed Block Courage Award, I give you all common sense, cause right now you ain’t got the sense God gave a billy goat.  Showing up for work on time for the only team that would take him, is not courage, people…it’s called responsibility and shockingly, when you’re an adult, you have those…responsibilities.
  • Nick Saban: A media crew that understands asking questions like “what’s it feel like to be playing for a national championship?” is one of the stupidest questions ever imagined. And it’s not that you want them to act like the national championship isn’t a big deal, but that you want them to do a little better with constructing the questions they ask your players.  Or better yet…hows about we just get rid of the media altogether.  I’m certain that would make you the happiest person on the planet.  I’m gonna throw in a fully customized calendar for your PDA/Cell Phone/Blackberry that buzzes you a week prior to your wedding anniversary and keeps buzzing you until you prove to it that you’ve purchased a proper gift for said occasion because Ms. Terry has put up with a lot being married to you, I’m sure.  She deserves at least a little recognition on the day y’all got hitched.
  • Indianapolis Colts: I’d give you a 19-0 season, but I think y’all would rather work for it than it just be handed to you.  So what I’ll give you is to stop the media from asking y’all constantly if you’re going to rest until the playoffs or if you’re shooting for the perfect season.  How about y’all are going to walk on the field prepared to win the game presented to you at that time…and we’ll just let the media take that and shove it down their pretty little broken record throats.  I also give you health for the post season that hopefully leads to a little something shiny from Tiffany and Co. round about the first weekend of February.
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Oh where do I start.  How about I give you Derrick Brooks back? I’ll also give you an ownership that cares about the franchise enough to stop playing games with it cause they think it’s fun to see what will happen if they do “X.”  It’s not a SimCity computer game, Glasers!  The great thing is that your true fan base still loves you and supports you.  They know where the real problem lies even if the local radio broadcasters have a gag order on talking about the elephant in the room.
  • Washington Redskin Fans: I give you Daniel Snyder’s head on a platter.  Period.
  • President Obama: A country of citizens with just a smidge more patience and understanding because Rome wasn’t built in a day and even still a lot of it is in ruins now anyway.
  • Congress: Oh wait…these gifts are for the people on my nice list. My bad.
  • Tavern on the Green: 100 more years in the restaurant business.  I’m sad you’re closing your doors on December 31st when I never got to dine with you.
  • Our Military Troops: A quick and safe return home to your loved ones and the certainty of knowing just how much the citizens of this country thank you all for your service to secure our freedom.

I think that about wraps it up (no pun intended).  I hope everyone had a very merry Christmas and that Santa brought you everything you asked for.  2010 is gonna be great…just you wait and see!

WW(T)IR

This is going to quite possibly be the fastest WWIR you’ll ever get, but I’m swamped with work, so you have to take what I can give you at this point.

  • GEAUX BAMA:  I’ve never been a fan of spelling the word “go” the LSU way, but after Saturday’s game, I think I have to buckle under the pressure.  To say I was stressed for the better part of 4 hours would be the understatement of the year.  If you are a friend of mine on Facebook, you can go back and read my status updates.  Some had some shortened colorful language in them.  I wasn’t planning on updating my status that much, but I needed an outlet for my frustration as I watched the game.  We could have won that game in regulation given that during that time period we left two touchdowns and a field goal out there on the field instead of on the scoreboard.  I doubt that win will keep people from reminding us every chance they get that Nick Saban used to coach at LSU, but it felt so incredibly good to get that win…not for Nick and not to keep the #1 ranking…but just to flat out beat LSU who had beaten us the previous 5 seasons.  Now I realize we’ve got an uphill battle on our hands and that #1 ranking and National Championship bid is ours to lose.  Personally, I’m kind of sick of hearing the announcers talk about Alabama and the National Championship in the same breath.  I’d prefer to actually get to the Championship game before we start talking about it.  Until then we’ve got dates with Mississippi State, Auburn, and Florida.  That’s not exactly what would be on my Christmas list.
  • Make A Wish: Over the weekend, I started seeing Macy’s commercials about the Make A Wish Foundation.  They peaked my interest because the commercials start out telling the story of “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.”  Next to the story of Jesus’s birth, that is my favorite Christmas story.  In any case, Macy’s is donating $1 up to a million dollars for every Letter to Santa Claus that is deposited into their special mailboxes at their stores.  For more information, go here.  So, if you’ve got some time, be a kid, again, and write a letter to Santa Claus.  You have to put a stamp on the envelope and Macy’s will actually take the letters to the Post Office, but really this might be the quickest way to donate to the Make A Wish Foundation.
  • A Win Streak:  I can’t believe I’m saying this in the middle of the season with a smile on my face, but the Colts are on a two game winning streak.  Now I realize they won 2 games in a row earlier in the season, but this current streak feels better because I feel like they scratched and clawed their way for these.  Playing the Pats and Steelers back to back is never easy, especially this season.  They were both tough opponents, but I’m pleased with the progress I’m starting to see on the field.  I never thought I’d believe we were in good shape with a 5-4 record.  Heck, after the 2001 season, I never thought we’d be under .500 again until after Peyton retired. 
  • Contingency Plans: I’m kind of tired of hearing Mike Martz’s excuse for the play that San Francisco ran Monday night to end the game.  The play that was sent in prior to the refs stopping the game for a booth review was for the ball being on the 1 yard line.  Now, the booth decided to review the spot of the ball, and when the decision came down to move the ball back 2 yards, the refs didn’t give the 49ers time to change their play…so Mike Martz says.  Well, regardless of whether the refs gave you time to change the play, there should have been 2 plays in the quarterback’s ear already.  Martz should have said, “if they leave it at the 1, here’s the play, but if they move it back, here’s the play.”  This is why women should run football.  We plan ahead.  Men make contingency plans only after plan A doesn’t work.  If Martz is looking for someone to blame for the 49ers losing that game on that play, he needs to find himself a mirror. 
  • Stress Reaction: Tyler Hansbrough’s stress reaction in his right shin is causing mestress.  Apparently, he is now “extremely doubtful” for the Penn game on Saturday afternoon.  That doesn’t so much concern me as the quick turnaround time to the next game.  After Saturday, North Carolina plays Kentucky the following Tuesday.  I’m hopeful that they’re holding Tyler out for Penn so he’ll be ready for Kentucky.  If not, I guess we’ll see what would have happened if Tyler had decided to go to the NBA and North Carolina kept everyone else.  And, while I enjoy seeing Tyler in a suit (I’m like a proud momma seeing her baby boy all dressed up.), I did NOT enjoy seeing the pictures of him on the bench in a suit during North Carolina’s exhibition game against UNC-Pembroke.