Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas 2008 Letter

It’s not a Christmas letter without a story about our annual hunt for that pagan symbol of life, The Christmas Tree. I live in fear each fall as the day of the hunt approaches that I will not be able to write about anything that is fresh or new. It was with trepidation that I approached the day. December 7th, a day with tremendous potential for infamy. This year’s tree dilemma was unusual due to the economic crisis and we anticipated that there would be a run on the “not so premium” trees. As you may recall, it has always been our policy to buy the cheapest tree and perform a decorating miracle. Some people rescue pets; we rescue trees. So fate being a cruel mistress, we combed the discount lot (these trees one step from being mulch) and the field of holiday dreams was nearly bare. You could tell at fifty paces that the pickings were slim - you could see across the field not only through the sparse branches but under them as well, as no tree had any branches three feet or below. Undaunted, we set out to give that one special tree an opportunity to get in touch with its inner beauty and be given an extreme makeover. The winner indeed had no limbs three feet from the ground and a decidedly leftward lean to the trunk. We took that lean as a sign of hope and change to come and took it home. Once up, the apparently not so sparse tree became voluminous, filling the room and knocking man and beast from its path. We were grateful for the ample space which enabled us to maneuver the tree around the room to find the least intrusive position. The decidedly left lean posed a small problem and required corrective adjustment to keep it upright, however it remains stable. To enhance its appearance and take advantage of its natural beauty, I was able to wrap the trunk top to bottom with festive red holiday lights giving the tree an eerie red glow from the middle. Then cover it with a thousand points of light and a bunch of shiny baubles and you have a holiday symbol of fertility. It seems you can put lipstick on a pig and distract folks from the true underlining flaws. The kids are excited about the void of space under the tree because they erroneously assume that means room for more and larger presents to fit. Sadly for them all it means is an avenue to crawl to the other side of the room. As our good friend Louie Ratterman observed, “That tree is showing a lot of leg!”

Luke hit another milestone this year by graduating from high school. Along with this achievement was his acceptance into the University of Dayton School of Engineering. He is doing well and has come to the conclusion that the University does require more effort than his previous academic endeavors. It always good to achieve ones goals in life and Luke was able to tick a few off his life list by visiting the West coast. Going to California and Las Vegas has always been a dream. The marriage of our nephew DeMark and our new niece Colleen drew us there. He held the opinion that sitting on a beach all day is not his idea of fun, but being the good son, indulged his mother’s wishes and joined her for the day. After an hour or two, he aptly observed that the girls of Southern California were ”pretty remarkably fit!” With this new observation in hand he said he might reconsider his harsh judgment of hanging out at the beach. Another transformative experience was his discovery of the West Coast cult involving the In & Out Burger. This famous fast food parlor made quit an impression on him and he managed in 14 days to eat at one six times, including detouring a wedding limo in Las Vegas for a quick drive by of a Double- Double “Animal Style”. He continued on part time with the Dragons ground crew, but took on a full time position with the NCR Country Club grounds crew, and quickly became a valued employee.

Zac is a junior at the University of Dayton and continues to do well. He also has passed some milestones this year. The major one was the celebration of his twenty-first birthday in October. He staged a party that was themed around the life of James Bond. He, of course, came in a tuxedo and invited his guests to dress the parts of various Bond characters in the billon or so movies that have been released. In keeping with Sideras family traditions his party was as the kids say ‘off the hook.’ Paula and I provided the food (apparently serving food at a UD party is unique) so he was able to claim that his event was professionally catered. Luke was the bartender and performed with distinction. Many guests remarked how classy it was to be at a party that not only had food but wine served in real glasses. Combine all that class and Zac in a tuxedo, you could see him as the next James Bond. Zac also received an award from the local chapter of the American Fundraising Professionals in recognition of The National Day of Philanthropy. He was recognized as the Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy (18-23). We were invited to a nice luncheon and awards ceremony. He is still majoring in international studies and history and plans to study abroad next year but details remain sketchy.

Paula continues to be the family’s moral compass and the fiber that hold our family together. At her age you can imagine the importance of fiber. We would all surely spin into a downward spiral if not for her strong field of gravity. She continues to work at UD in the Office of Special Events. Her job has taken her on the road a lot this year with trips to New York, Atlanta, and Florida. Because of her being a major-domo she has gotten a Blackberry. I am somewhat worried about her and her new toy after reading a poll that suggested that 38% of woman preferred their Blackberry over their spouses. I feel the heat of competition getting very close. She was pleased with the family vacation not only because it yielded that quality family time but also it resulted in one of the only decent family pictures we have ever taken. (Thank-you Stephanie Smith) Paula continues to be healthy and once again received a clean bill of health from her doctors. Certainly the best Christmas present we could hope for.

As for me, I am still with Nestlé and living the dream. I have managed to combine several business trips this year into add on climbing trips. I have been able to climb in Colorado, Wyoming, and Nevada and do some canyoneering in Utah at Zion Nation Park. The trip to Zion was particularly rewarding, seeing that I was able drag my children and wife with me for some quality time. While the children are not begging to go canyoneering (hiking in water) they will begrudgingly admit that the Virgin River and adjoining canyons are beautiful. I reminded them that someday their turn will come and they can ruin their children’s lives. This letter is getting to be to short of a forum for me and I am not able to share with you all everything that I want. I have decided to try an experiment this year and start a blog about the Sideras family and their many adventures. I want to be able to share with you some action photos, pictures of our rescued tree expanded soup recipes and web links. I hope that you will log into it and see our postings and share with us this most wonderful time of the year.

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