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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:

Happy Thanksgiving

I hope everyone enjoys the 4 F’s today: Family, Friends, Food, and Football.

We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing;
He chastens and hastens His will to make known.
The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing.
Sing praises to His Name; He forgets not His own.

Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining,
Ordaining, maintaining His kingdom divine;
So from the beginning the fight we were winning;
Thou, Lord, were at our side, all glory be Thine!

We all do extol Thee, Thou Leader triumphant,
And pray that Thou still our Defender will be.
Let Thy congregation escape tribulation;
Thy Name be ever praised! O Lord, make us free!

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!

Independence Day

Happy 4th of July, everyone!


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Christmas 2008 Newsletter

The following is the 2008 Newsletter that is enclosed with my Christmas cards for out of town family and friends or in town family and friends who don’t get to hear all this stuff throughout the year.  A lot of it has been highlighted on the blog, so I guess you could consider this a 2008 blog recap.  Enjoy!

Christmas 2008

Dear Family and Friends,

I can’t believe it’s already been a year. It seems like just yesterday we were ringing in 2008. This past year has been exceptionally fun as I’ve watched my nephew Lincoln grow into an active toddler, traveled a bit, and tried new things.

In March, I traveled to Huntsville for a quick weekend trip to visit some friends who had recently moved there from Virginia and to attend their daughter Jilian’s first birthday. In May, I flew to Savannah, GA to meet up with my parents and go to Paula Deen’s restaurant, The Lady and Sons. No offense to my mother or anyone else who has cooked me a meal, but that Sunday Buffet is the BEST meal I’ve ever had in my life. After our short visit in Savannah, mom, dad, and I drove down to Tampa where they dropped me off to spend the rest of the week following Memorial Day with Lincoln (and Andy and Janet).

This was the first time I’d been with Lincoln since Thanksgiving. By all accounts, he seemed to take to me right away. We spent most mornings sitting in the floor playing, and by playing I mean I sat there and he crawled all over me. Andy and Janet said I was spoiling him with all the play time, and he wasn’t going to know what to do once I left and didn’t have his play toy anymore. But, I do what I have to since I have such a limited amount of time to spend with him.

In July, mom and dad visited me in Virginia, and at the end of their visit, I traveled with them to North Carolina for a long weekend. We stopped in Chapel Hill to see the new basketball museum at UNC. While on campus, we actually spotted just about every single member of the men’s basketball team on their way back from a workout. I’ve been to Chapel Hill several times in my life and never seen any of the players, so that was a real treat.

Also in July, my annual work conference took me to Denver, CO. It was exciting because I’d never been there. I stood a mile above sea level, saw a few mountains out in the distance, ate at John Elway’s restaurant, and toured the Broncos stadium. I also got to catch up with some friends of mine who moved out there several years ago. It was a great trip, and the change in altitude really didn’t bother me.

In August, I turned 30 and had the great pleasure of Andy, Janet, and Lincoln visiting me for my birthday weekend. This marked Lincoln’s first airplane ride, which he handled like a pro. It was going to be a surprise, but my mom convinced them to give me a heads up. It made turning the big 3-0 a little less “painful.” Lincoln loved Aunt Leann’s house, and I even got to take him to church and “teach” him in my nursery class. He loved it there, too, but what kid doesn’t love a room full of toys and Cheerios?

I decided to commemorate my 30th birthday by getting a tattoo on the inside of my left leg down by my ankle. You can see it on the enclosed picture. It’s smaller than the picture suggests, and it reads “Believe, John 20:29.” I kind of had always wanted one, but never knew what I’d want on me permanently. I finally settled on this as it was one of the first Bible verses I memorized and has always been one of my favorites.

In September, we all congregated in Tampa for the auspicious occasion of celebrating Lincoln Robert’s very first birthday. We all agreed that we couldn’t believe it had already been a year. Lincoln took to his cake like a champ and had half of it eaten in no time flat. Promptly following the cake he was given a bath and put down for a nap. A few weeks following his birthday he decided to give walking a try and has been on the go ever since. At his one year appointment, our Super Baby’s measurements registered on the 12 month chart, something his pediatrician has never
had happen with a child who was 2 months premature. Preemies will show up on the chart matching their gestational age, but usually not the chart for their chronological age. I wasn’t surprised AT ALL.

In October, mom flew up to Virginia, and she and I traveled back to Chapel Hill, NC for the annual Late Night with Roy (Williams). This is the first time the NCAA allows college basketball teams to hold full practices. The North Carolina players, like many other schools, hold a show of skits for the fans and then a scrimmage following the show. This being the senior year for several members of the team, not the least of which is current National Player of the Year Tyler Hansbrough, mom and I just felt like we couldn’t miss it. Concerned that there would be long lines, we joined the ranks outside the Smith Center at about 12:30pm for an event that started at 7:30 (doors opened at 4). Mom nearly froze, but even with all of that we had so much fun and enjoyed every second of it.

In November, I went home for Thanksgiving. I got to babysit Lincoln while Andy and Janet finished up work before the holiday. Lincoln and I really enjoyed ourselves. We watched Noggin, took a couple walks to the park, played, and napped. He really is the happiest child I’ve ever been around, and that’s my completely unbiased opinion, of course. That brings us to December after what seems like a whirlwind year.

Here are a few more news items to share. Janet returned to teaching in August and is now a middle school teacher in Plant City. Andy changed grade levels from elementary to high school and is now the head girl’s basketball coach at Gaither High School in Tampa. Mom and dad continue to enjoy retirement, if you can call it that in dad’s case. Their new favorite job is being grandparents, of course. In fact, I think dad has found a new best friend. They laugh and walk and read together. It’s really a sight to see.

In case you missed it, Alabama’s football team had a strong hold on the #1 spot in the polls for a good bit of the season this year. They’ll be playing in the Sugar Bowl against Utah on January 2nd. The Colts got off to a rocky start, but seem to have righted the ship and as of this writing, are on a six game win streak. And, North Carolina’s men’s basketball team continues its prominence at #1 in the senior class’s final bid for a National Championship. Oh yeah…and Michael Phelps won eight gold medals in one Olympics!

As 2008 comes to a close and we look forward to a 2009 that seems to have more promise than I ever imagined would happen in my lifetime, let’s all remember to dream big and believe that anything can happen when you do.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,

Leann

WWIR: 9 and counting

  • Lazy Daze: This weekend was most relaxing, but a little odd.  It was the first Saturday that I didn’t have college football to watch, but thankfully, there was college basketball.  I got all my errands done on Friday night (since I lead a fabulously exciting life), so Saturday I got to just hang out at the house and do laundry and various other lazy day things.  I went to the post office at about 8pm and mailed the last of my packages.  My post office has one of those automated shipping machines, and I’ve discovered if you go at night or on Sunday, no one is there and there’s no line.  Oh I love it.  Sunday I finished my holiday baking, so from now until after Christmas I just get to look at all the pretty decorations.
  • Inevitable: Saturday night’s game was UNC v. Oral Roberts.  Yeah I know…what a combo, but hey…the #2 team in the nation played Stony Brook the other night.  Deal with it!  Going into the game Tyler Hansbrough needed 35 points to become UNC’s career points leader.  Coach Williams pulled him at the 26 point mark.  As you can see in the Tyler Tracker to the right, he needs 9 points tomorrow night against Evansville to take the top spot.  Coach Williams wanted Phil Ford (the current #1 and still the best point guard to ever play at UNC) to be there when Tyler broke the record, and Phil couldn’t be there Saturday (he’s an assistant with the NBA Charlotte Bobcats).  So, Coach pulled him before he could muscle his way through the last 9 points.  It’s amazing to me that we’ve gotten to watch 4 years of Tyler Hansbrough, but it’s even more amazing that Tyler and Phil are cut from the same cloth only 30 years apart.  I think it will come on a 3-point play, and I think Tyler will have no idea when he hits it.  Someone will have to pull him aside and tell him that the last shot sealed the deal.  And then Tyler can go back to playing basketball…just as it should be.  For a rather humorous and tongue in cheek perspective on Tyler Hansbrough, read Rick Reilly’s column this week.
  • Fail Safe: James M. Fail graduated from the University of Alabama in 1949.  Since then he has become a wealthy man through his work as a financier.  Monday, the University named a room after him.  Mr. Fail never expected to have anything named after him because, as he says, “who would want anything with the name ‘Fail’ on it?”  I tend to agree until I found out what they named after him.  The Visitor’s Locker Room at Bryant-Denny (football) Stadium is now called…wait for it…The Fail Room.  You can’t make this stuff up people. 
  • Still Waiting: Well…speaking of failures, my campaign to get Dallas Clark’s ticket punched to the Pro Bowl failed miserably yesterday afternoon when the rosters were announced and his name was not on it.  I’ve heard a lot of analysts say that he was one of the biggest surprises not to make it.  He gets beat out every year by Tony Gonzalez of the Kansas City Chiefs and Antonio Gates of the San Diego Chargers mainly because he’s not as flashy as they are.  Tony and Antonio rack up stats as the primary receiving option on their teams, while Dallas plays a more traditional tight end role for the Colts.  This is due in most part to the fact that Peyton has so many weapons that Dallas is just one of several options.  His contribution to the team can’t be found on a stat sheet.  Never mind the fact that Tony is on a team whose offense is ranked 24th in the league and current record is 2-12, but I guess since he’s the best player the Chiefs have, he should get to go to Hawaii for the umpteenth time in his career.  And Antonio Gates ranks 4th (2 behind Dallas) among AFC tight ends and is on a team whose record is 6-8.  But I’m not bitter.  Dallas Clark will always be All-Pro in my book. 
    • More Pro Bowl: On a happier note, the Colts had 4 players selected: 2 offense and 2 defense.  Both Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis were selected, which means both our defensive ends are going to Hawaii.  Robert (an Alabama A&M grad) has long lived in Dwight’s shadow, but he is more than deserving of this honor.  This will be the 5th round 2003 draft pick’s first trip to the Pro Bowl.  Reggie Wayne will be making his 3rd consecutive trip to Hawaii, and Peyton Manning will finally get to hold court at the players hotel with his baby brother Eli. 
  • Sweatin’ It Out: Detriot came to Indy on Sunday to play the Colts.  Yes, the 0-13 (at the time) Detroit Lions.  I was afraid we were going to get our behinds handed to us because it’s crunch time.  Going into Sunday, Detroit had 3 games left to keep from going winless the whole season.  The Colts tried ever so carefully to be THAT team that helped them get over the hump.  With 9 minutes left in the game, the score was tied at 21.  The Colts had a 21-10 advantage at halftime and watched (literally…just stood there and watched) Detroit spend the first 17 minutes of the 2nd half climbing out of the whole to tie it up.  And then Peyton just got pissed off and racked up 10 more points on them before the game was over.  Dallas Clark broke his own franchise records in Sunday’s game catching 12 balls for 142 yards and one touchdown.  But, suffice it to say, beating Detroit by only 10 points wasn’t very thrilling.  The Colts need one more win to earn a wild card spot in the playoffs.  I still find that last sentence remarkable after the horrid way this season started, but I’m so proud of them for hanging in there and making it happen. 

Christmas is 8 days away.  Are you ready?

WWIR: Finding Peace

  • The Most Wonderful Time of the Year: This weekend I pulled out all the Christmas decorations and managed to get them all up.  I love coming home to my house with the Christmas lights already on (they’re on timers).  Thanks to my friend Jessica for coming over on Sunday afternoon and helping me finish everything off.  It helped keep my mind off the events of the previous day.  I have almost all my Christmas shopping done.  One last gift I’m going to get tonight because I had to wait until it was released.  Then it’s off to the UPS store to ship the gifts.  I am SO excited about one of the gifts I got for the daughter of a friend.  I can’t wait to hear how she likes it.  All the Christmas cards are ready to go into the mail, but I feel like I’m forgetting something completely.  It may just be that December seems to be rolling by incredibly fast.  Today we are 14 days from Christmas Eve.  That’s just too quick for me.
  • No Smiles: Saturday afternoon/evening went horribly.  In the back of my mind I pretty much expected Bama to lose that game, but one part of me couldn’t shake the fact that I thought we could do it.  I really did.  There are no words to explain how proud I am of the team for the way they performed this season.  I wanted something to be proud of, but mostly I just wanted them to care when they played poorly and not have that better luck next time attitude.  I can say without reservation that they overachieved on my request.  Never in a million years would I have guessed that a team that had nearly the same record the two previous seasons would turn around hold an everlasting grasp on the #1 spot in the polls for half the season.  No matter what you might think of him, Nick Saban is worth every penny we’ve paid him.  And honestly, if you think there is a soul out there who wouldn’t leave their current job for $4 million a year, you’re delusional unless the individual makes more than $4M a year.  Some day, I hope Coach Saban tells the whole back story of how everything REALLY went down.  I am excited about next season if for no other reason than we still have Nick Saban.  The only thing that worries me is that the majority of the 9 scholarship seniors were the O-line.  Take a moment and think about that…Bama did everything they did this year with fewer scholarship seniors than the 11 players needed on the field for a team at any given time.  That’s remarkable to say the least.  It’s on to the Sugar Bowl for us against what the media calls Florida’s clone (Utah).  Hopefully, we’ll send the seniors out on a happy note. 
  • Priceless Time: My friend Knoel came in to town on Thursday night.  She stayed with me on Thursday and Friday night and I dropped her off at her hotel downtown on Saturday afternoon for her conference this week.  I took Friday off and we just played.  Did a little shopping and had a lot of fun.  Knoel was also a big help this weekend with the Christmas decorating…and despite my protests, she even cleaned my kitchen for me.  Saturday we went downtown to see the sights because Knoel had never been here before.  She was in awe.  I enjoy seeing DC through some one’s eyes who’s never been here before.  Sometimes the city’s elegance gets lost on me, but those moments bring me back.  Knoel seemed to have a great time as well, and hopefully the next time she comes she’ll bring the whole family. 
  • Streaking: The Colts are on a 6 game winning streak, and suddenly the media is back on their bandwagon.  Imagine that.  There’s even been mention of Peyton for MVP.  I’ll admit, I was ready to throw in the towel on multiple occasions, but something always gave me just a little glimmer of hope.  Now, I’m not saying we’re gonna win the Super Bowl, but I am saying we’ve got a shot.  Stranger things have happened.  You just have to be playing your best ball at the right time.  This weekend the Colts play Detroit.  I’m crossing my fingers that we’re not THAT ONE TEAM.  You know what I mean.
  • First Times: Saturday, Lincoln went to his first football game with Mimi, Grandpa, and Daddy.  They took him to the ACC Championship game that was played in Tampa, FL.  He liked the band.  🙂  Mom thinks that the football game was just too far away for him to realize it was the same thing that shows up inside the box at home.  But still he had fun!  Mom is wearing her Carolina shirt in protest that she had to go watch VA Tech and Boston College.  Apparently there were several people there under the same protest. 
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