Thank you to all my wonderful friends, both real and virtual, who sent us cards; my wall is happy and I'm surrounded by reminders of those we love dearly.
Per my request, Mr. Jason has written our Christmas letter, it will be going out shortly. Never has a keyboard been put to such good use, I think I'm going to hand it over permanently.
Ok that's a lie. No way am I giving up the Christmas letter forever.
J and I were discussing 2011 in the car today, reminiscing about some of the things we've done/seen/visited.
Holy backpack we've been busy. We've never had a year this monumental and if we know what is good for us, we'll never have one like it again.
We've been to: Disneyland, Sun River, Las Vegas, Izmir, Jerusalem, Basel, Rome, Athens, Paris, too many German villages to count, plus a number of cities in between.
We've purchased a house, a trout pond, four vehicles, a couch, two dressers, and enough Ikea crap to furnish a moderate apartment.
We've sold four vehicles, a couch, two dressers, and enough old Ikea crap to furnish a moderate apartment.
We've lost five teeth, a cat, car keys, a house key, six stuffed animals, four dozen socks, 190 euros, $40, and numerous tubes of June's lipstick.
We've found 150 euros, $40, four of the six animals, too many new friends to count, and strength we didn't know we had.
Frankly, I can't decide if 2011 has been exhaustingly fun or just plain exhausting. Judging by the state of my kitchen in this post-Christmas moment I'm going to go with exhausting.
I've learned in 2011 that my little family is strong. We've moved across the world, left family and friends and familiarity behind, and what we've found is a well of strength and love I didn't know we had.
We're like an aquifer and I've got to give credit to the Lord. If it wasn't for the example Jesus Christ has set for us and the Gospel here on Earth, I'm sure we'd be a surly, faithless bunch with a lot more spitting and biting (something we're working on these days) and not nearly as many hugs.
As we finished up the Christmas celebration with friends and games and food, we found ourselves comfortably seated around the dining room table listening to Seattle's KIXI AM 880 streaming online. I was saying how happy we are here in Germany, how much I love my house and what wonderful friends we've found ... and then I heard it.
Within seconds of the music hitting my ears I was choked up and homesick beyond belief.
I'm certainly not the first person in the last 150 years to hear the tune to "Home, Sweet Home," and find herself misty-eyed and speechless.
"Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam, Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home."
Truer words were never written.
To my friends and family members who keep up with us online and in print, we love you. We miss you. You matter to us. Seeing the world is great, seeing you is better.
I am certain I've been blessed with more wonderful people in my life than just about anyone. From close relatives to distant cousins, teachers, neighbors and really nice grocery store clerks, I am continually reminded just how great people really are.
Throughout the world, there's still so much goodness to be found.
Happy Holidays, my friends.
Annie Valentine is a wife, mother and columnist. Readers can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her blog at regardingannie.wordpress.com.