Friday, December 21, 2012

The Annual Weldon Christmas Letter-version 2012













Merry Christmas and/or Happy Holidays! I thought that as the kids got older, more self sufficient, that my life would slow down a bit leaving more time to watch sunsets,etc. I am still waiting. All grandparents are doing well. Mom and dad just got back from Cambodia and Vietnam Nam for moms 80th birthday! Mom asked at Sunday dinner where she could go to get her ears pierced. Assuming it was a senior moment, I reminded her that her ears were already pierced and she looked at me like I was nuts and said, "I got my first piercing at 40 and now that I am 80, I am ready for my second hole (Alan spit beer out of his nose)”. At least it is a second ear piercing and not a belly button piercing! We went to Puerto Rico spring break minus Sarah who was at spring rowing practice. We had a typical Weldon adventure traipsing off on our own looking for rock petroglyphs through fields on mountains, leaping across stones in a fast moving stream feeling quite adventurous until Alan missed his leap and split his knee. The rain forests were beautiful and there were squished iguanas all over the road. We did a Florida college road trip with Polly and Mac and saw UCF, USF, FSU, and UF in 2 days. We spent a week at the beach. We took a family trip to the Waldo flea market (actually quite interesting) and Silver Springs for a glass bottom boat ride. All 7 of us made the Bahamas cruise (see camo shot, a bone of contention but after negotiations, if no Facebook, ok for Christmas letter use). We had our annual Halloween Horror nights trip and introduced the Van Cleve's to the Rain Forest Cafe, one of my favorites. We spent Thanksgiving on Cumberland again with the Van Cleve's and had a great Turkey Bowl game with the Islanders. Alan and I went to a Beach Boys and a Moody Blues concert in St. Augustine, a great Monkees concert (one of Davy's last) in Jacksonville, and Tib's Ben Sollee concert at Ponte Vedra. We had fun at the ACVIM meeting in New Orleans and enjoyed seeing many friends there. Alan went on a trip sponsored by Purina to St.Louis in October and saw Sarah briefly. We cruise to Jamaica this Saturday with Polly, Murphy, and our niece Katie.
     Alan is doing well, working out (The Beast by Beachbody is his current choice of weight lifting torture), playing team tennis, surfing, reveling, working very hard, and just having fun. We put in an outside shower for Alan for Fathers Day and he is really enjoy sitting in the hot tub, unwinding and easing some of the old age aches, and then showering. Alan says that if the neighbors have night vision goggles we might be in trouble until the banana trees get  bigger, I think we are more of a deterrent to using their night goggles than anything else! Alan is a diet nazi, no wheat, high fat/low carb, the Paleo diet, basically animals and vegetables and a little fruit. He got an 82 inch TV for his birthday and he loves it. At the Beach Boys concert in St.Augustine with Pam, Theresa, Hailey, and the Mikes this summer, we were running late so Alan, in high tech style sent a voice to text message to Mike saying "running late, getting a couples massage first, will meet you at Osteen's later". After our massage, Alan checked his phone and saw Mikes response was a "?". Alan rechecked his message and saw that the "auto-correct" had changed his text to "Running late getting massage and molesting teens " he quickly sent a text explaining what had happened, Mike replied "wondered!" Alan hasn’t learned that the kids are really no longer kids. This summer he started rough housing on the beach with Mac and before he knew it, he was on his back in the sand. He says the only way he got loose was to use the "scrotal roll". I did not even ask! Later that evening, after we went home, showered, and were in bed I reached over to give Alan a goodnight pat and ended up picking shells out of his back. Three days later he had a dermatologist appointment to check for skin cancers and as the doctor was checking his back, he told Alan "you have a rough spot here I better check". Yes, it was indeed yet another shell!
      I have had a very blessed year as always but we lost Nessie our lab at 9.5 to stomach cancer and Sarah's cat got attacked by 2 dogs causing multiple abdominal herniations and a fractured back in my driveway. She is such a pistol she was still laying nose to nose with them in a stand off when I arrived on the scene despite her injuries! After surgery and 6 weeks of cage rest and medication (and many wounds on my part) she is up and walking but still wobbling a bit like a drunken sailor. Not happy at all with confinement!  Two weeks later Alan heard a cat meowing and he ran outside afraid that the dogs had come back for our other cat and he found her hanging upside down where she had gotten stuck while climbing the fence.(This is the most uncoordinated cat I have ever seen and is frequently breaking things and falling off of beds, furniture, whatever). Mac had to help him get her out, she was sore but fine. As I was writing this I heard screeching in the back yard and ran outside to find Scrabble (Dani's Mishka) our 11 month old Italian greyhound pup with a broken front leg! I work out and play tennis a bit, currently have a bruise from my knee to my ankle from the Thanksgiving football game (Mac was unhappy because we missed his favorite football last Thanksgiving, I guaranteed him a game so I had to scrounge up people and play), and am trying to adjust to Alan's gluten-free wishes (I have cut back but am not as adamant as he is). Perhaps my most memorable moment of the year was the shark dive on our cruise with all 7 of us before everyone headed back to school. Polly has always wanted to dive with sharks and Alan has tried to set it up on previous cruises but the timing at Stuart Cove,(the famous one in Nassau) never worked. It was not going to work on this trip either so Alan checked to see if there was any shark diving in Freeport.There was only 1 shark dive, only on Fridays at 1:00. We got in at noon on a Friday and the dive shop was 15 minutes from the dock so it was perfect, or so I thought. I must admit that diving with sharks has never been on my "to do" list and I was perfectly happy with our previous failures but most of the kids were excited and Polly was ecstatic so I went with the flow. The 2 other booked people did not show so it was only the 7 of us and 2 dive "Masters". As we headed out, Polly enlightened us with stories from "shark week" like the man that got attacked by a shark, punched it, got his hand bitten off, then punched it with the other hand and had that one  bitten off too! She advised us that sharks could sense fear and that it attracted them and I could feel my stomach start to clench. I decided to ignore Polly's lecture and turned to the nephew in this mom and pop dive operation. I warned him that Dani has trouble getting down because of her ears. He assured me that he would stay with her and help as he had some tricks she could try (of course he stuck to Dani like glue)! I then advised him that Mac has frequent nose bleeds, but had never had one while diving (although this was only his 4th dive). He verified "but not while diving? " I said that this was correct. He seemed satisfied. I asked if they ever had any trouble. He looked at me and smiled and said "dey be sharks mon, deys always trouble with sharks!" I felt the knot in my stomach get tighter. We arrived at airplane reef and I went in first to make sure it was safe for my babies as my protective instinct was on high alert. I descended, reminding myself that this was the easy dive and the second one was the shark dive and that I needed to relax so no sharks in the area would sense my fear and come to investigate...then I saw the first shark, a 4-5 foot black tip reef shark sitting on the bottom watching me. I looked up and noted that one master was working with Dani trying to get her down and the other master was helping everyone else get into the water. Polly came scurrying down the anchor line and Sarah immediately after her. I pointed towards the 2 large sharks and tried to put myself between them as Polly reached her hand out! Definitely got that from Alan, I would never in a million years reach towards a shark (unless it had one of my family in its mouth) and then I reminded myself "stay calm,think happy thoughts". Murphy came down quickly followed by Mac and Alan and yet 2 more big sharks! We now had 4 large sharks swimming around us on the bottom and no dive master so I did not know if this was okay or not. The 6 of us instinctively made a circle on the bottom facing out and then Mac tapped me on the shoulder and I looked at him and wondered how he had gotten seaweed in his mask. Then it hit me, blood is green under water and that was a nosebleed and we were surrounded by sharks and I knew my terror was attracting every other shark for miles to the Weldon buffet line. I cursed but no one else had a clue what was going on(except of course Mac), I pointed immediately up the anchor line and shoved Mac in that direction. I turned to check the sharks and number 5 broke away from the rest and headed slowly for Mac. I hurried to get in between them reminding myself to only punch with my left hand and then the remaining stub. Thankfully the shark swerved at about 8 feet away, my pulse is elevated just recounting the incident! At this point the dive master arrived with knife in hand and waved us quickly away, Mac had made it back up to Dani and the other dive master at the boat and no sharks had followed, so I shooed my children after him and lagged back to keep an eye on the sharks. They did not follow but I noticed that every time I stopped to look back, Murphy was also stopping frequently and checking too. Alan was happy as a clam filming my panic with his Go Pro camera. We continued on with only one more shark sighting in the distance and Dani and Mac and the other dive master joined us. The dive master started handing us bread to feed the fish. When I held the bread out, one very hungry (or aggressive) fish took a hunk of my finger with the bread and then I was bleeding! I hurried over to show the dive master, he seemed unconcerned but I was holding my finger as tightly as possible to prevent any leakage. Finally the dive was over and I breathed a sigh of relief. When I got on the boat, I noticed that the seas had picked up because hurricane Irene was following us. Alan had given everyone Bonine but we had to sit and wait 30 minutes for the next dive while the real shark divers with metal suits came to set up for the feeding. Turns out our dive master drove their boat for 10 years so when he got certified he just started tagging along behind, charging 1/2 as much, and watching from a distance and they let him. The nephew told us that sharks are attracted to sand stirred up on the bottom because they think it is a wounded fish and that's why all the sharks were surrounding us. At this point, Murph and I decided that we had already dived with sharks and we were done. As the seas started getting even higher, we all started to feel queasy. I was the first leaning over the side and as I was getting ill, Murphy and Mac immediately jumped back in for the second dive (apparently avoiding the high seas was more compelling than avoiding the sharks for Murph, not me!). As I leaned over the side, I realized that fish were leaping out of the water when one bumped my nose, apparently they were enjoying my breakfast more than I was! I could hear Alan over my shoulder asking Mac if he was alright and I heard a lot of splashing. Apparently Mac jumped in, then got sick and was absolutely swarmed by fish! He was thrashing and trying to scare them away.  Alan got into the water behind Mac and Murph who were already in trying to settle their stomachs. When he arrived at the bottom, Murphy and Mac were digging in the sand like dogs burying a bone! He stopped them and they finished their shark dive with Polly reaching out, yet again towards another approaching shark. When they got back on the boat Alan was berating the boys "didn't you get the memo about disturbing sand attracting sharks?" Murph responded "yeah, But I was bored". The video is on you tube.
      Sarah will graduate this May and is applying to grad school for Occupational therapy, she rows crew for Wash U, works at a cookie company called Dough to Door and has finally had enough winter. Last spring, Alan was very upset when he read the Drudge Report one evening and the first story up was about a riot in St. Louis on Delmar, Sarah's street! He called Sarah, she told him that she was at work when the crowds of people came by and that her boss asked her to take a tray of free samples out to the mob. Perhaps she is not their favorite employee! When Sarah came home this summer, Alan invited Sarah and me to go out with the Taylors to a surprise. We both agreed and headed out with a group of 6 friends. Kendall told us we were going to a show at a bar. Sarah was excited because this was her first trip to a bar as a 21 year old. When we arrived we ordered food and found out the show starred transvestites! Sarah and I were fine, Alan was not! It was a very entertaining show and everyone had fun and Alan even went up on stage with us after the show for a picture. As Kendall was getting the picture, she yelled to Alan to bend over some so we would all fit in the picture. The performer behind us immediately piped up "Do you really want to bend over in front of a bunch of drag queens!" We all busted out laughing! Hard first bar experience to beat.
      Dani also turned 21 this year and will finish at UF at the end of this summer with a double major in psychology and accounting. She has gotten yet another speeding ticket (#5?) and so decided to stay home and work to pay for that and a dropped class instead of coming on the Jamaica cruise (don't know if the shark adventure had anything to do with that). She will be applying for the masters in accounting program at UF. She keeps telling me that they have a 100% employment rate. I sure hope so. My favorite Dani story happened at the dinner table and as usual it involved an unsavory topic. Alan was fussing about me not stopping when we are on trips because I like to get there once we start. He compared me to his dad who once when they were little made his brother go number 2 in a bait bucket in the back of the car because he did not want to stop. Dani was horrified and exclaimed "why couldn't you just go in the woods like a civilized person!" She's come a long way and we were all teasing her because she now thinks going in the woods is civilized ! 
     Murphy is a business major at UNF. He has a roommate and an apartment. He has given up on the Jaguars and so we rarely see him (which I assume means all is going well). On our trip to Puerto Rico when we arrived at the accommodations, Murphy selected a bed, jumped in to claim it, and discovered that it came with a pair of brown panties and a bunch of sand! Murph did come to church with us (a rarity) on Mothers Day. As I sat next to him, I noticed an angelic smile on his face and I was thinking how nice it was to have Murphy with me on Mothers Day, and then he started fanning with his program and I discovered to my surprise that he was fanning gas at me on Mothers Day! I see why they call it a pew!
     Polly is attending FSU and loves it! It is a perfect fit for her and other than some roommate woes, she is adjusting well. She told me about the huge guy headed for the gym who saw her watching some birds and walked all of the way around the building to avoid disturbing them and then watched with her for awhile. She loves helping at the Wolf preserve and has attracted a tuba playing Buddhist admirer/stalker. She has had a few glitches. When her first midterm came up she advised me that she was going to stay up all night studying. I told her that I thought this was a bad idea but she insisted and I made her promise not to leave the library unescorted in the wee hours. I got a call from her the next morning and she was in tears. When I asked what was wrong, she told me that she had studied all night, gone to breakfast, taken a shower, put on her pajama pants, and sat at her desk to study, next thing she knew, her roommate shut the door and woke her up 15 minutes before her 2 hour exam ended. I asked her where she was now and she replied "running to class in my pajamas". I told her that was good, everything would work out and to calm down. She was sure she would never get into vet school now because she was going to fail genetics. I advised her to talk to her professor that he might give her an F, or let her take the exam and penalize her some points, or let her take a retest, or if she was really lucky, he might let her take it with no penalty. I told her to hang up, run faster, and catch her professor to see what would happen and to call me back after speaking to him. I didn't hear back for an hour and a half so I figured she was taking it. When she called, her professor had taken one look at this sobbing freshman in her pajamas and took pity on her, allowing her to take the exam with no penalty but advising her a good nights sleep would probably be more productive than studying all night. Alan and I both thanked God that she was at FSU as they are a little kinder and gentler than UF (where Dani has had similar experiences but with no compassion)! When a distraught Polly told Mac about her experience, he burst out laughing, exclaiming"Polly you actually lived the nightmare everyone has of sleeping through an exam!" Polly was in-sensed (but it was funny). This year Polly decided to give up soda for Lent, this meant that when we went to Puerto Rico for spring break she had to drink piña coladas instead, somehow this did not seem quite right! We found a stretch of beach that had 55 kiosks (small restaurants, bars, or shops not much more than fancy shacks) all next to each other. They were numbered and we were eating some great seafood at #13 and ordering piña coladas and Polly somehow ended up having hers, Mac's (he ordered a virgin but got one with alcohol which he did not like), a refill, and maybe Dani's too(Dani preferred the Mojito), and when we left she kept insisting she only had one as she giggled and listed towards home.
     Mac is a junior at Episcopal. He ran cross country and is captain of the wrestling team. He is doing well this year and has lost to 3 opponents in 14 matches so far. He is taking a bunch of AP classes and doing a good job in school. Mac had a girl friend for a while but decided it added too much drama to his life and he does not like drama. Poor Mac is the only one left at the dinner table but he and Alan seem to enjoy discussions on theoretical physics, or the Krebs cycle (Alan actually remembered the steps, I forgot the specifics the second I walked out of my last exam on it), or what makes food spicy hot (capsaicin and pain receptors on the tongue). The 2 of them amaze me. Polly and Sarah were talking 2 weeks ago and Polly told Sarah that ice had been discovered on Mercury and she could not wait to call Mac and tell him a scientific fact that he did not already know. Sarah said she had to hang up because she had to talk to somebody. They hung up but when Polly called home the phone was busy. She tried again 10 minutes later and when she reached Mac, she proudly imparted her information. He told her that he already knew because Sarah had just called and told him!  Mac came home with a new black lab pup today as an early birthday gift. He named her River Song. God Bless! Love, Alan, Beth, Sarah, Dani, Murphy, Polly, and Mac!

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