Dearest Friends & Family,

We have such good news this year – after seven long years, Funk is finally a Ph.D. He graduated with his Doctor of Philosophy degree on the 15th of December. We are so thrilled and so relieved. It was a really long road. I had to beg him to let me go to his dissertation defense – he was afraid of what I’d do if they didn’t pass him. But I won out and got to go to the nerve-wracking event. Funk looked so awful when he came out of the room to wait while his committee voted on whether or not to pass him. He was so tired from a 6-month sprint to get his paper finished that he looked like an old man. Really. I was worried for him. But they came out very quickly and told him that not only did he pass, but they required no revisions. He’s slowly recovering – hearing people call him Dr. Funk seems to be recharging him quickly. Personally, I can’t go there – I much prefer what my neighbor calls him, “The Doctor of Funk.”

Another dream came true this year. Ever since leaving West Virginia, I have yearned for a little piece of land in the country – preferably in W.Va. But W.Va. is too far to travel to in a day, so a few years back, I sent Funk on a hair-raising journey to look for land in Colorado. He looked at six pieces of land in a day and a half – all over the state. He was traversing the Continental Divide one night at midnight to get to his next stop that morning. But that’s another story. It turns out that land in Colorado is a small fortune, so Funk tells me we have to give it up until the kids are grown. Next thing you know, one day last February the little princess (Tara) says, “Daddy, I wish we had some land in the country.” That’s all it took. The next day our butts were in the car and we were looking for land in Missouri. We went out almost every other weekend after that until we found the most perfect little piece of land. It seemed like it was designed just for us because it wasn’t for sale anymore. After much trial, including the guy countering our offer $2500 higher than his asking price, we now own a little piece of land in the country. We lucked out because for about the same price as the land would have cost; it also came with a tiny, but well maintained and equipped cabin. It’s so beautiful and it’s so much fun. I always wanted the children to know what it’s like to be out in nature. And now they do with all the wonderful and scary things about it. It is so dark at night there and either really quiet or really loud, depending on the season. There’s so much nature there that there was even a bat in the house one night. I took that as a good sign though as the first night I spent alone in West Virginia a bat visited me that night too.

Tara is in 9th grade now. She is going to an all-girl school with rigorous academic standards. She was completely overwhelmed the first couple of months with the amount of homework and the level of snobbery from the other girls, but is doing better now. This is all her choice – if it was me, I’d be going for fun – play now when you’re still a child. But she has dreams of a scholarship to a good university far, far away – not the State University we’ve promised her right up the street from us.

Andrew. How can anyone be so exasperating and so incredibly lovable in the same instant? This sums up my little boy. All I can hope is that, like his sister did before him, he’s starting the nasty part of puberty a little early. And Funk reassures me that he was exactly like Andrew, always with the last word, when he was a little boy too. Every rose has its thorns I guess. Fortunately for all of us, one of my very favorite flowers is a rose.

Lastly is little Anna. The exchange student we weren’t meant to have. The only reason I agreed to take her, supposedly temporarily, is because she’s from Italy. I call her, “not the real Italian” because she’s not exactly like my relatives. She’s LOUD, she never stops talking, everyday is a party – BUT – she’s also kind, loving and helpful. She just turned 17 and I’m afraid we’re going to miss her when she’s gone.

Well, this is just a little piece of our life this year. We hope this letter finds you all in good health, with a loving family by your side.

Love from all of

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