Merry Christmas 2007

Dearest Friends and Beloved Family,

The year has sped by at an astonishing pace. There hardly seems to have been enough time to fit in all that appears to have happened: the fear, the loss, the joy and the hope.

It was not long after last year's letter went out that Russell resolved to look into the increasingly troubling spells he was experiencing. It was the last day of a major January ice storm here in Austin when he learned that scans had found a tumor on the top left side of his brain. It causes an occasional electrical disruption, sometimes accompanying a strange, brief, daydream-like experience, which is followed by a headache. The growth is benign, though, and a daily regime of medication has the symptoms under control. An annual scan for changes awaits in future summers.

The beginning of the year also saw the passing of Christina's grandmother, and our return to Plano for the services. G'ma Streeter will be sorely missed, especially during the holiday season. This will be the first Christmas that Christina can remember without the only grandparent she's ever really known.

Before that first month was out, Russell started his new job as a Geospatial Technician with the Geographic Information Systems Department at First American Flood Data Services, where he wrangles digital land parcels into an ever-growing national geodatabase. By late summer, the enterprise was spun off into a new company of its own: First American Spatial Solutions (FASS). Ever unflappable, Russell just hopes he gets a better cubicle out of the deal.

Christina's career in the care and feeding of young minds has taken an interesting turn as she and colleague Colleen Frerichs have become Westwood High's gurus of Team Teaching, an educational technique that serves to help students with special educational requirements thrive in mainstream courses. They've completed the coursework necessary to teach their peers how to do what they have had much success in doing.

With an eye toward moving from classroom to library, this autumn Christina began studying to take the GRE in preparation to pursue a master's degree in Library Information Science. Russell, who has long held an interest in librarianship, may join her in this pursuit, but is holding off until the prospects for FASS are a bit more clear.

In order to undertake this continued education, Christina has had to let go of some of her duties with her chapter of Zeta Phi Beta. While she continues as secretary, gone are the many weekday nights that we find ourselves on or about local college campuses observing the efforts of undergraduate Zetas. While the change frees up some much-needed time, the fun and minor adventures will certainly be missed.

The greatest thrills of the year, though, have been our new adventures in home ownership. Following months of casual browsing, including one close call that almost materialized, Russell saw the front corner of our new home on a local real estate website. Fleeing a noisy dryer and tedious grading, we saw it first in the twilight. Christina thought it looked like a gingerbread house, with its cedar-shingled gable and turned trim. A couple days later, we saw the inside and fell for it, hard. The custom-designed tile floors and counters, the generous closets and the modest lot suited us well. We closed the month our lease was up, giving us several weeks to get it ready for move-in. Russell surprised himself with just how much he knew how to do, learned from a childhood spent helping and "helping" his parents work on their home. Christina acquired at a lightning pace the finer points of prying, masking and painting, while at the same time bringing bathroom fixtures up to her discerning standards of sanitation. The end of June saw the move complete. In rapid succession, we had our first houseguests , our first chat with the neighbors, our first neighborhood association meeting, our first dinner guests, and a housewarming. The Thanksgiving Dinner that started with turkey at Russell's grandparents' home ended with pie at ours. Now the Christmas Tree is lit, the stockings are hung, and this odd little gingerbread house has become quite the sweet little home.

We'll be ringing in the new year watching fireworks from a bridge over Lady Bird Lake, perhaps in the company of Christina's folks. 2008 looks exciting already, with tests and admissions processes, more changes at the office, home improvement adventures galore, and Zeta-fied trips to such disparate locales as Beaumont and Las Vegas. Wherever you are and whatever you have planned this holiday season, we wish you safety, health, and happiness.

And of course,
a Very Merry Christmas,

and a Happy New Year!

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