the Not Fake Holiday Letter - 2011

[Every year about this time I start to get daily hits for the Not Fake Christmas Letter post I wrote in 2006. I think it's about time for another one.]

Dear Family, Friends, and people who won't even open this when it hits your inbox.

It should come as no surprise to you that I'm not going to print this letter out and sign it and address it to each of you and then pay $40 for postage. It is 2011 after all, and I have a blog, and the feed goes to my facebook account, which is linked to a twitter account, and a Linkedin account that picks up the twitter feed, not to mention a google+ account. I have at least 5 email accounts that I monitor daily, or more, I've lost track really. I also have 4 facebook pages, a website, another blog to go with the website, another twitter account to go with the other blog, and that's one of the pages. I have social media profiles everywhere, some of which I even update daily, so unless you don't have a computer/tablet/ipod/smartphone you really have no need for a snail mail letter. I make it really easy to spy on me. (I will write to you, dear grandparents, and maybe even you, dear mother who finds the updating of her antivirus software confusing, but it may take me a while.)

It made me tired just typing that. No wonder I always feel behind.

So, the good news first. I got to go to a blogging conference, which was a lot of fun. I met some of my favorite online people and was totally awkward with many of them. But I still enjoyed myself.

Oh, and I won blogging recognition for some stuff I wrote about how much I suck as a parent. Come to think of it, that bit that I published in an anthology last year was also about how not very good at parenting I am. Apparently people like to read about how badly I fail every day. I'm not sure if this counts as a success or not.

It was actually a pretty good year for the non-profit that Aaron and I co-founded and that we fill all 3 of the necessary officer of the board positions for. We raised enough money to buy land to build an orphanage on, and a farm to feed the kids. Not that we can actually take credit for much of that since it was other people's money and generosity that made that whole thing work.

If I tell you that one part is going well you should really ask yourself what kinds of things were neglected to make that happen. I'll go ahead and tell you. It's school. Particularly math.
Please don't ask my children to do long division because they will look at me in accusatory tones and mutter, "Mommy hasn't taught me how to do that yet, she's been busy on her computer."

Yeah, and I don't even get paid for it. Well, there was that one time one of my posts was syndicated... and there's the less than lunch money in ad revenue... let's stick with not even paid. It's less confusing. After all, most of the time when I'm on the computer I'm not writing, I'm trying to learn how to be the CFO of a non-profit corporation, or answering emails, or answering more emails, or accounting, or editing websites, pages profiles, etc.

My five year old will take my face between her hands and turn it to face her in order to break my gaze on the screen so I will notice she's talking to me.

Not my proudest moment.

You see, a mom who homeschools, runs a non-profit corporation, and likes to write never, ever keeps all the balls in the air. It's less like jugging and more like constantly dropping things and then picking them up and chucking them as high as I can so that I have time to pick up the other balls on the ground and chuck them back in the air, over and over and over again. There are just too many balls.

But math needs to be picked up more often.

Aaron took a job that has both less pay, and more travel. So we see him less, and don't have enough to fix the car, or pay all the bills all at once, or take the girl to the orthodontist, though the dentist asked for an emergency consult. He is enjoying the challenge of learning something new though, as he usually does. We hope he'll be successful at it and then we can do things like go to the dentist again. Woohoo! We didn't take a family vacation this year, or last year, or the year before that. The time we can afford for Aaron to be off work is time he spends in Thailand with The Charis Project. The Boy might go with him this summer though, which he's excited about.

I thought maybe with Aaron gone a lot I'd have more time to watch movies that he doesn't like. I've still never watched The Notebook. But usually I just work until Bam Bam wakes and then drop off exhausted when I nurse him back to sleep. My oral hygiene is often not up to par as a result.

We like our kids still, that's something. They continue to amaze us with just how well they adapt to our craziness. They have started figuring out how to do a lot of things for themselves. We like to tell ourselves that we are fostering independence and a can do attitude in them by having them make their own breakfast, lunch and dinner, and clean up after all of it. Of course, they prefer that to going hungry so they're becoming quite proficient at it.

The economy has hit hard this year. Not so much because we are tightening our belts, though we are, a lot, but because we know so many more people who are in real difficulty and we wish we had the means to help.

I'm writing this on Christmas eve, while Aaron is in Thailand at the orphanage, and making caramel sauce for the cranberry cake I'm taking to the friends who live outside (homeless) Christmas party tomorrow. Odds are the sauce will be chunky because I will forget to stir, but that's ok. It will still taste good.

I probably won't actually post it for several days after that though, I'll fall asleep instead and forget to put all the links in for a few more days after that.

But I think it's been a good year nonetheless, if measured by a different standard. There was the guy who told us that he's reconciled with his family and will be leaving the state to live with his son when he gets his kidney transplant. He says it's the past decade of being around our extended family that healed him enough to make him able to make that phone call.

There were 150 people at the Christmas party in Mae Casa Thailand yesterday, mostly political refugees, migrant workers and ex criminals, all drawn to the life and light they see in the community we get to be a part of there.

Thirty-two formerly abandoned kids went to bed somewhere safe, with full bellies and warm hearts clutching Christmas gifts that our kids handpicked for them.

So while far from successful by conventional standards, and though I still, daily, feel as though I am failing at something, maybe it was a good year after all.

I hope you have a lovely holiday, that you have someone you love nearby to celebrate with, and that if not you find someone else who's lonely and invite them in. I hope that the coming year will be full of light and life for you as well and that you will have the strength to welcome it.

Carrien and family


  1. Mrs Dljohnston6:02 PM

    You make it sound like it is a bad thing to send snail mail. Hope you got mine. :)
    Wonderful letter. Love hearing about you and yours.

  2. I did get yours and enjoyed it. :) Thanks.

    I don't think it's a bad thing, I think I'm just too lazy to do it.


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