Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Thanksgiving and Christmas, 2013

Thanksgiving and Christmas were extra special this year, since our youngest son, Jeremy, was home for the holidays for the first time in 5 years!!  He's been traveling the globe, teaching English as a foreign language for the last several years, and it's never worked out for him to be home for these special holiday seasons until this year.  He's been in Greece, Sudan, Ethiopia, Peru, Cambodia and now Thailand.  Since his school term in Cambodia ended in the fall, he took a couple of months to travel around Southeast Asia and then made it home the week before Thanksgiving.  So, needless to say we were ecstatic about having him home for the holidays!!  And he was quite the draw for lots of my family, as well:  we had Walt and Timo from LA, Todd and John from Seattle, Jimmy and Colleen, Marshall and Jesse and Eisa, along with Uncle Mac from Boston, and Shelley and Ken from Atlanta; and joined by friends Jessica and Caleb for Thanksgiving Day Dinner.  It was a glorious family time together, as nephew Marshall's wife, Jesse, had not met Todd or John or Timo.  Uncle Mac, then 97, made the trip fine and enjoyed himself immensely!  And of course we all loved having him with us, as the oldest living Senterfitt, now occupying the patriarch's seat!  Played lots of games, told lots of stories, shared lots of hugs and, naturally, some wonderful food.  Even though we had about 6 or 8 vegans in the group, we had promised Jeremy that we would still have all the traditional favorite dishes we always had on Thanksgiving for him.  So we had a bountiful plenty and quite a variety.  Suffice it to say, no one went hungry!

Christmas was low key for us, as Shelley and Ken were in Colorado with Ken's parents; John, Karen and Todd wanted to stay in Seattle with Karen's mother and sister, and Jeremy really wanted to be in Atlanta around Christmas, so he could see more of his growing up friends who were in town for the holidays.  And, he really wanted to be at the Christmas Eve service at First Presbyterian in Atlanta, always a favorite tradition when he was growing up, and of course for the few years he was the Assistant Youth Minister there.  So Trisha, Jeremy and I went to Atlanta a few days before Christmas and stayed in Shelley and Ken's house.  We had a wonderful tie together, seeing some of the old haunts, Christmas Eve at the church, and a very low key Christmas morning.  We even walked to a nearby restaurant for Christmas Day dinner, so it was a nice change not to have any cooking to do--of course we had saved a candy cane bread for Christmas morning.  We went to a movie that afternoon and it was just a very relaxing day.  My birthday is the day after Christmas so we had a nice celebration, just the three of us.  Trisha had baked our favorite vegan chocolate cake, and we saw another movie that afternoon, and topped off the day with dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant.  Jeremy was delighted to eat Ethiopian food again, after being away from that country in Peru and Cambodia, and he had fun speaking Amharic with the waitress.  Brought back lots of wonderful memories of the two trips we made to Ethiopia to visit him when he was teaching there!

Santa season was quite busy this year, probably the busiest I've had so far.  Started a couple weeks before Christmas with the incredibly talented photographer, Nichol Colwell of Southern Grace Photography in Ellijay, GA.  She always finds the most unique settings for the shoots--this year was in a big barn at an old apple house, using an antique pickup truck for the setting.  Being under cover was really great since it turned out that we had pretty hard rain on both days of the shoot!  Had a one week old precious little baby girl come visit--she slept for most of the time, but she got fussy at one point--then Santa pulled out the ole magic song that always worked with our kids when they were babies, and I walked her around the barn, singing softly in her ear--in no time the sweet little angel was back asleep!  Did lots of fun events, including the McCaysville/Copper Hill Christmas Parade, visits to lots of HeadStart and PreK classes, parties for foster children in two counties, plus some fun and meaningful home visits, both to families I've visited previously and some new families.  It's so much fun to watch the kids change from year to year as they grow up!  Always the highlight of Santa season is the work I do with Santa America, visiting terminally ill kids.  This sweet little boy near Macon I first saw last year I got to see again this year--twice:  once the pre-Christmas visit to his home, and once after Christmas, when he had to be hospitalized at Children's Hospital in Atlanta, and we were still there.  So Trisha got to meet him then and his remarkable Mom, and, while on my previous visits he had really been non communicative, at the hospital I got him to smile!  Man was that an incredibly moving experience!!  He has a very rare genetic disease and all of his doctors are amazed he's still with us, but it is such a privilege to be Santa for him and his Mom.  Just love it!

Everyone had been wondering what I would do as Santa this year, in light of having lost 90 pounds since we converted to plant based eating; people kept saying that kids wouldn't think I  was Santa, or they would be confused, etc.  Those who read this blog during our travels last year will remember my talking about our daughter promising to buy me the best fake Santa belly made--well, she did, but it looked so unreal that Trisha made me one that did a lot better.  She sewed a pillow case into one of my stretchy Tshirts and stuffed it with batting.  I never could have kept my suit up without this extra padding, though I was still much skinnier than in years past.  Well, the funniest thing--while many, may adults worried about my being a skinny Santa, not a single kid seemed to mind, or even to notice.  In fact, even when I didn't have my suit on, but just out and about in "civvies," kids still came up to me crying "Santa, Santa!"  My conclusion is that once they see the big white beard and long white hair, nothing else matters--very interesting.  Anyway, it was another magical and wonderful season of bringing the magic of Santa and Christmas joy to lots of lovely children!

Trisha and I returned to Cherry Log the day after my birthday, so we could get ready to once again host our annual New Year's Day Open House, and Jeremy stayed in Atlanta, to see a few more friends before they headed back out of town.  By this time he had decided he was going to Thailand to teach for the coming year, and eventually settled on leaving mid-January.  I never knew much about this teaching English as a foreign language industry before he started doing it, but it's quite remarkable, how he's done this.  He first went to a school in Greece to get his certification, and since then has just found jobs totally on his own, all over the world.  There are a couple of websites that are sort of clearing houses for job postings, and he just decides where he may want to go, looks at these postings, does a lot of research on the country, the school, etc., including communicating by email with others who have taught at a particular school to get the inside scoop, and then just applies.  Sometimes he's had interviews via Skype and has had a job when before he hits the country, but other times he just goes to a country before he has a job, secure in the knowledge that his experience will land him a good position once he gets to a place.  And he's built quite an impressive resume, with great references from every place he's been, so it's just amazing to watch.  He got to Thailand and within a week had a job at a very prestigious school!  What an experience.  He signed a contract through March of next year; won't get any Christmas time off, but will have a month off between semesters in October so we'll go visit him then, and travel with him in the country for a couple of weeks.

Here are just a few pics from the holidays:

Thanksgiving dinner
 Uncle Mac, Trisha, brother-in-law Timo, Walt
 Jeremy, son-in-law Ken, Shelley, sister-in-law Colleen
 Nephew Marshall and his wife, Jesse
 Uncle Mac enjoying Shelley and Ken's two dogs
 Though he's slowed down some, Uncle Mac is in incredible health and spirits for 97 (now 98!)

 Colleen with her granddaughter, Eisa
 Jeremy, the main draw for everyone to come to Cherry Log!
 Grandson John, teaching Eisa how to play games on his Nintendo DS
 Eisa in the beautiful tutu Trisha had knitted for her
 Four generations of Senterfitts:  younger brother Jimmy, Uncle Mac, me son Todd, older brother Walt, son Jeremy and grandson John in front
About to partake of the bountiful feast!

 The whole gang around the table
  Tofurkey, compliments of Timo!

Dinner at the Blue Bicycle in Dawsonville, a few days before Christmas, with Shelley and Ken, Jeremy and Trisha's brother Wiley and his wife, Karen

 Wiley and Karen
 Trisha and Jeremy with Rena Grizzell, Jeremy's "adopted grandmother" from First Presbyterian in Atlanta
 Christmas morning--through the years we always took a picture of the kids, anxiously waiting on the stairs before they could go into the living room to see what Santa had brought--so we did our best to recreate this with Jeremy on the stairs at Shelley and Ken's house
 Christmas morning--Trisha with the unbelievably gorgeous knitting bowl Todd turned for her out of black locust wood
 Us with some of our goodies!
 New Christmas doormat from Wiley and Karen--can you believe they found one with Santa in his red pickup--just like mine??  And I'm wearing the new bicycle jersey from Shelley and Ken
 Jeremy with his stocking
 Trisha with the wall hanging artwork I had commissioned for her--when we visited this gallery in Rockport, Texas, we had seen this artist's work, so I contacted her and got her to make one especially for Trisha, and pulled it off as a surprise!
 Later on Christmas Day we walked through Piedmont Park and visited the Nelson Mandela memorial
 Jeremy in Piedmont Park
 Coffee ceremony at the Ethiopian restaurant

 Santa and the delicious vegan chocolate birthday cake!!

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