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[Excerpt from letter to Michele]

Thank you so much for my birthday message – I listened to all my voice mails this past weekend, and yours was so sweet… thank you for remembering! I LOVED my message from Evan – I replayed it for Bobby on speaker phone…. too, too cute :)

We had a good holiday overall – definitely better than we had prepared ourselves for, you know? The cabin turned out to be the most perfect idea that we could have had… we ended up staying an extra night and coming home Saturday, and we’re already talking about going ahead and reserving it for next Christmas as well.

But I’ll start at the beginning, I guess – on Friday when I left work, Jennifer, Sue, Maggie, Bobby and I headed up to Virginia to visit my grandparents. Talk about feeling like you’re going to your execution…. we were dreading our arrival ALL the way up there. We just didn’t know what to expect, you know? We’d never been there without Mama, and we didn’t know how my grandparents were going to act, and whether my uncle was going to show his butt, or what. But our fears were unfounded – the visit was really good, thankfully. My grandparents were so thrilled to see Maggie that they couldn’t think about anything else, and my uncle didn’t even come by the entire time we were there (which is a little insane, since he lives maybe 100 yards away, and his entire family was at my grandparents the whole weekend… but whatever). I was really glad to leave on Sunday though – it was like nothing was different up there – all the Christmas decorations in exactly the same place, all the same Christmas cookies and candies, Christmas music playing – it felt very surreal because I guess we were expecting them to be in mourning still, but they’ve gone back to life as usual (on the outside at least).

So we left on Sunday. Jen, Sue and I had a “liquid lunch” on Monday, which we jokingly called our new Christmas Eve “tradition” :) And then Monday night, Bobby and I went to his family’s thing. Blah. They’re nice people, but they kept backing me into a corner and asking me things – “how are you?”, “how are your sisters?”, “how’s your dad?”, “has your dad gone back to work?”, blah, blah, blah. I know they mean well, and I appreciate it when people who really care, like you or David Lee ask me questions. But these people have been completely MIA for the last 3 months – some of them didn’t even come to Mama’s visitation and funeral and they’re all local – and every time somebody would corner me, I started feeling panicky and weepy because I was trying so hard to act normal.

But it was finally over – YAY – and Bobby and I went to Townville to spend the night. Jen, Sue, Tom and I ended up rearranging Mama’s room that night until 1am… we were deciding where we wanted to sleep and no one wanted to sleep in Mama’s bed because her room felt so haunted with bad memories. So we randomly started shoving her furniture around until it didn’t even feel like the same place… we were amazed by how much better the entire house feels (I know that sounds crazy – I guess it’s just psychological).

So on Christmas morning, Maggie “opened” her gifts (with her mommy & daddy’s help, of course), and then we went to the Waffle House for breakfast… Bobby and I went to his mom’s house for lunch and to pick up Oscar, and then headed back to Townville. Packed the car, then went to the cemetery, which was wretched. Completely and utterly wretched. By the time we got back in the car, we were so ready to get out of town. Headed up to the cabin, which was a 2.5 hour drive and stayed until Saturday… I’ll send pictures :)

And Bobby and I went to the Clemson bowl game on Monday, which was fun despite our last-second loss, and spent the night in Atlanta before coming back yesterday. WOW – I can’t say that I was glad to come back to work, but I’m honestly glad to be back in our regular routine.

And I have four other random pieces of news:

1 – Today is Sue’s first day of work… she looked so professional and super-cute this morning when she left the apt!

2 – Bobby & I are planning to move – we’re not sure where, but we have decided to go to a pet-friendly place so that Oscar can stay with us without fear of eviction. I’m traumatized at the thought of leaving Jennifer and Maggie though, so I’m not sure what we’re going to do, or when we’re going to do it.

3 – I got completely fixated over the holidays on getting another puppy… I know you’re probably thinking “WHY?” But I found this little sable/white Japanese Chin puppy online, and I can’t stop thinking about her. I want to name her Mabel….. Oscar and Mabel – isn’t that perfect? It sounds like a little old couple. But here’s the catch – she’s in Iowa. So we would have to either ship her (which worries me, since she only weighs 1 lb, 2 ozs) or Bobby will have to fly out to get her. It’s ridiculous, I know – if my dad rolled his eyes any harder, they would pop out of his head. But this is another reason that moving makes sense.

and 4 – Prepare yourself, because this is the most random one of all… Bobby and I came THIS close to buying a children’s shop over the holidays. There’s a little shop going out of business in Anderson, and we both got so excited about the possibilities. But we met with the owners, and they’re just asking too much for it, considering that they’re actually losing money every month – by the time we remodeled (new paint, carpet, etc), transferred the lease & utilities, etc, we would been $100k in the hole for a business that’s not even paying it’s own bills. But it really made us think – we might be really good at something like that, and Anderson really has a market for it if we were in a good location (which the current shop’s not). So it’s something we’re still thinking about…. maybe one day?