Dear friends and family,

It’s been another year of trying to guide our stubborn children, earn a living, write fiction, and volunteer at church.

About the children:
The older son, Erik, now age 19, seems to have settled down a bit and is less intent on shocking his parents. He’s already in his third year of college at the University of California at San Diego and has chosen a major: economics. So, he’s challenging his brain.

He’s also challenging his body. As a tennis player, he’s competed for his school since his freshman year, but he suffered a wrist injury at the end of his first season. Surgery before his second season seemed at first to have cured the problem, but before the end of the school year, his left wrist was bothering him so much that he was unable to hit a two-handed backhand, and thus was unable to play tennis. His coach, most graciously, offered to teach Erik to play one-handed tennis. His mother encouraged him to accept this offer, giving him a “don’t give into defeat” speech. She should know by now that teenagers don’t listen to their parents. Instead, Erik quit the team and headed to Northern California to work for the summer in a lumberyard owned by a classmate’s mother. He returned with all fingers (a co-worker lost two! but they were successfully reattached.) Erik’s mother suggested that now that he had his forklift operator’s license and all this free time without sports, he should get a part-time job to help pay for his college education. Again, the do-the-opposite rule of teen think kicked in: Erik rejoined the tennis team determined to learn one-handed tennis. Within two weeks, he discovered that his left wrist had apparently healed after all, and he’s now playing a strong, two-handed tennis game. Overcoming adversity in sports is easier to do when faced with the threat of having to get a real job.

On a proud-parent note: we were very pleased that Erik stuck with his summer job. After the first week, as he now admits, working outside all day in a physically challenging job had him dreaming of quitting. But instead, he stuck with it and even earned a raise. And even more amazing: he did some cooking for the family that he spent the summer with.

Our younger son, Justin, age 12, appears, at least so far, less determined than his brother to forge an independent identity by testing every one of his parents’ rules and beliefs, or so we thought. But early this school year we found out that this good-natured child, without a word of warning to his parents, had decided that homework was optional. By the time the notes from teachers started flooding in, he was well into the second month of school. This called for emergency measures, which meant disconnecting him from all computer and PlayStation games. He went through a rough period of withdrawal (maybe he’d previously been so good-natured simply because he’d been drunk on electronics!) As with most addictions, it took more than one attempt to get him back on track. But now even he’s noticing how much easier it is to get decent grades if he simply turns in every assignment.

When not avoiding homework, Justin paints and continues tae kwon do lessons.

About the parents:
Gene is the least rebellious of our family members and holds the family together. His water-truck business was great until the rains in late October. The ground stayed wet enough from subsequent rains to keep water-truck demand low. He’s been helping out weekends with the swap meet, setting up the display for Judy’s brother’s (Mark’s) custom-wood-furniture business.

Gene’s doing this weekend job because we lost the man in charge: Judy’s dad. It was such a shock, on June 13, to find out that her dad had died suddenly of a heart attack. He was sitting in church, after a morning spent setting up the swap meet, joking with friends, singing hymns, and giving a speech at a congregational meeting about the future opportunities for the church. He was only 72 years old and such a vibrant person. The family has no doubt where he is right now, but we still feel so sorry for ourselves.

In April, Judy got laid off (again!) from Fluor and decided to take off six months from corporate writing to spend more time as a fiction writer (no, still not published). This also gave her some time to mourn the loss of her dad. She exercised two horses and watered plants at an antiques shop. She wasn’t a complete hippie: she worked on a web site for her brother’s business and collected some overdue money for Gene’s business. When the garden at the antiques shop went out of business (not her fault!), and her self-imposed deadline for getting a job rolled around (she’d promised Gene she’d be working for more than minimum wage by November), she registered with a temporary placement agency. She’s now back indoors, working on a web-site writing assignment.

With Judy back at work, Gene’s looking into a career change, selling for Mark’s business (see Gene’s both excited and nervous about this opportunity.

So, we feel like old dogs, but we’re learning new tricks. We have to, to keep up with our boys.

May you experience God’s love and peace this Christmas,

Judy, Gene, Erik, and Justin Alexander

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