Yeah, I'm still here. Though I wasn't here for much of the past month. I was sent off to "executive training" for a solid two weeks by my boss, an experience I'm still trying to digest. It was some of the most intense training I've attended in my 25 year career. Not only was I far from home, and away from my daughter for the longest stretch of her life, it was during the lead-up to Christmas, my favorite time of year, and I was forced to do all of my Christmas shopping online. Thank goodness for Amazon Prime!
Upon arriving home, Christmas was practically on top of us. I spent last Saturday wrapping presents, and Melody and I spent the day doing some fun things together, including our service at Grace Community Church. On Sunday, I introduced Melody to my personal annual Christmas tradition by taking her to see IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE on the big screen at the AFI Silver Theater in downtown Silver Spring. It is the best movie ever made.
I returned to work on Monday, spending much of my time getting re-acclimated to the office. Things were pretty much shutting down for the Holidays as the week went along, though, so I didn't feel pressed. And the President gave us a half-day on Christmas Eve, so that was a nice gift, as well.
Monday evening was Melody's Middle School Band's concert, rescheduled from December 10 (when I was away), and I was so thankful to be able to attend. Melody made first-chair clarinet in the Concert Band, and she has improved greatly over the last several months under Mr. Twigg's tutelage. The concert was awesome! It was a great evening, all around.
I could feel my stress and anxiety level drop all during the day on Christmas Eve, and after leaving the office, I had a leisurely lunch by myself (an annual tradition for me), and then I attended my church's Christmas Eve service at 1:00. I returned home with plenty of time to prepare for the evening's festivities. I was proud of myself for having gotten all of my Christmas shopping and wrapping completed early despite being away so long, and I felt relaxed when I left the house to attend my in-law's church's Christmas Eve service. I had dropped off Melody with them the night before, and upon arriving at the church, I found out that she was singing during the service. This was the third year in a row she was doing that, and it filled me with excitement and emotion to see her stand in front of the whole church singing from her heart. My father-in-law delivered a great message, and then it was time to eat.
My parents and sister always join us on Christmas Eve for the service, and my in-laws host a great dinner. After we all eat, we exchange gifts. It's a wonderful tradition that we started about 3 years ago, and I'm happy to give my in-laws a day to spend with their only grandchild for Christmas. My wife was an only child, and after her death and home-going, Melody is all they have. After opening gifts and enjoying everyone's company, Mom, Dad, sister Angie, and Melody head over to Mom & Dad's while I rush home to pick up Faithful Pup Scout. Then I join them at their place. It's usually after midnight before I get to sleep, but all of the preparation is well worth it.
And Christmas Day was as meaningful and memorable as it can be. God has truly blessed our family despite all of the tragedy we've experienced, and it was great to enjoy each other's company. My brother, his girlfriend, Erica, and her two teen daughters, join us, too, and it's a big party. We spend all day having a great time together.
Melody and I finally returned home last evening, and we spent today enjoying our gifts and preparing for the week ahead. We're both home until January 4, so it's a great time to rest, relax, and recharge.
I hope you all had a meaningful Christmas and wonderful Holiday break. Best wishes and blessings! Have a great evening, everyone!