Lehman Family Christmas letter

Originally written December 8.
Yesterday was a good day. Woke up when I felt like it; opened Christmas presents with my fiancée Ellen; lounged around all day munching candy, listening to Christmas carols and doing a puzzle; had the traditional Christmas dinner of spaghetti carbonara; made and ate an entire batch of chocolate chip cookies; and fell asleep watching “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
“But it’s not yet December 25!” you exclaim. “This is madness!”
As you may have realized, I’ve been re-watching the movie “300” and enjoying the story of the ragtag band of Spartans taking on the hordes of Persians trying to conquer them. Though they ultimately lost the battle, it is the struggle against a seemingly insurmountable force that makes the combat so entertaining. That, and the seething badassedness of King Leonidas and his warriors. For the Lehmans, 2008 proved a similarly difficult task, but you’ll be happy to know we emerged victorious.

You may be wondering why I’m celebrating Christmas before Christmas. I could tell you it’s because I’ve been living in Germany from October until December 20, but then you’d just ask why I’m living in Germany, so let me explain by telling you about my year. I spent as much of ’08 as possible staying out of Los Angeles, my disdain for the traffic, the people, and even the constant sunshine getting the better of me. Through my job as a supervisor with SkyWest Airlines, it cost literally nothing to fly, so February I went to Orlando, March I went to Thailand, April was Phoenix, May I saw Vegas, July I outdid myself with Salt Lake City then Dallas then Des Moines, and August found me in Colorado for our family vacation (more on that later). So when October came, I decided it was time for a break, quit my job, and moved to Germany.

Okay, so it wasn’t that simple. Ellen got a Fulbright scholarship to teach English in a little town near the Swiss border called Meersburg, so I took the opportunity to live out here until the end of the year with almost no expenses and even fewer commitments. We’ve taken a couple short trips to Vienna and Slovakia, as well as day trips throughout southern Germany, but for the most part I’ve been working on independent writing and projects. For more on that, check out misusingecards.blogspot.com. But right before Germany, I flew up to Portland and asked Ellen to marry me, to which she of course said “Hell yes.” To victory!
To save up for my life abroad, Daniel let me crash on his couch for the summer, effectively cutting my cost of living by about a grand. Plus, it gave me the chance to see how the other half lives. He still works at WaMu, he’s still going to school for his Master in Psychology, and he’s still surfing, despite a small mishap where his board attacked him and gashed open his face. But he just shouted, “Nobody makes me bleed my own blood!” and got back on it. Some new things he’s doing: worrying about whether or not he’ll still be working at WaMu tomorrow; preparing to do his practicum for school, meaning actual psychology stuff like “it’s obvious you’re subconsciously in love with your dog and this love is manifesting itself in the brightly-colored ties you wear”; and accompanying me to the great state of Iowa for a visit with our old friend Becky, where we drank beer out of Das Boot and saw a Moose on the Loose (it’s exactly what you think it is, as long as you think it’s a store full of Midwestern doodads).
It wouldn’t be a year in the life of Daniel without some risky behavior, so in September, he and I drove up north to Whitney Portal, where we met up with Dave (dad), Roger (uncle) and Dennis Reibold (friend) and hiked all the way up to the 14,505 ft summit of Mt. Whitney, the tallest peak in the lower 48. It was breathtaking, truly. We could barely breathe. Then just a week later, Daniel took me hang gliding for my 24th birthday at Dockweiler Beach in LA, and we ran up and down hills with wings attached, trying desperately to fly. Each time Daniel gripped the glider, and each time something went slightly awry. Finally, the last attempt: his hands were steady, his aim—perfect! And by the end, we each caught at least 10 feet of air for at least 5 seconds.

By now you must be wondering: did Dave make it down off the mountain alive? Surprisingly, yes, and so did Roger and Dennis. For a few old fogies, they really held their own as mountain men, especially considering that only 1 out of every 3 people who attempt to climb to the top of Whitney don’t make it. (Don’t make it as in can’t get to the top, not as in die.) We each just put one foot in front of the other, trudging every step of the way, even when darkness came and we were still on the mountain. But it wasn’t fear that gripped us, only a heightened sense of things. And yes, I may have dropped in that statistic just to brag, but can you blame me?
Aside from several practice hikes, Dad spent the rest of ’08 in the usual manner: deaconing, real estate brokering, and music group singing with Michelle (mom). He took a few trips, including one with Michelle and I to Orlando for the annual Century 21 convention, and we enjoyed an air boat ride through an alligator infested swamp and a day at the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (or EPCOT, for you philistines out there). He also celebrated being cancer free for two years, and he took on a post as spiritual advisor for St. Vincent De Paul Council of Northern California. In his position, he is sure to usher in a future brighter than anything we can imagine.
With their traveling buddies, the Reibolds, Dave and Michelle went to Arizona in April to see our good friend Corry, and I tagged along for a couple days. We all went to see feathered dinosaurs at the Mesa Natural History museum, then I flew back for work and the rest of them did all the stuff I didn’t care about like botanical gardens and Sedona. A couple months later, Michelle met up with me in Salt Lake City because I had a free hotel room for a work conference, so she spent a couple days exploring and we enjoyed some good old fashioned Mormon culture. And because they have a million timeshares and had to use one up, Dave and Michelle just spent a week in San Francisco pretending they haven’t been there a bunch of times by riding cable cars, taking a Bay Cruise, and visiting Golden Gate Park, Fisherman’s Wharf, the Ferry Building, Pier 39, the Aquarium, China Town, Union Square, and St. Mary’s Cathedral.

Other than excessive travel, mom kept herself busy trying to stay afloat in the midst of real estate craziness, but with her “never retreat, never surrender” attitude and the help of His Holiness the Deacon Dave, she managed to close enough deals to keep putting food on the table. Since real estate wasn’t so busy, she also took the opportunity to get elected to the Board of Directors for the Sacramento Association of Realtors, as well as be reappointed to the Deacon Advisory Council for a second 3 year term. Who really knows what either of those do, but it’s important to note that she, too, is sure to usher in a future brighter than anything we can imagine.
Of course, what would a year be without a Lehman family vacation? Worthless, that’s what. Last December, just before Christmas, we all flew down to Cancun for a week full of ancient Mayan ruins and deadly ball games, aquatic zoos with pooping pumas (pictures available online), and a tour guide named Jesus that constantly reminded us to “trust in Jesus.”

But that was last year’s vacation that just didn’t make it into the newsletter before deadline. This year, we stayed closer to home by getting Rocky Mountain high in Breckenridge, Colorado. We drank some brews at the Coors factory in Golden and did a lot of hiking. Dave, Daniel and I drove out to Quandary Peak, where we did what we were trained to do, what we were bred to do, what we were born to do. Three hours and several meetings with mountain goats later, we reached the top, and enjoyed the view that only 14,265 ft can afford. I couldn’t get an entire week off, so I had to fly back early and missed the second hike of 12000 ft up to Black Powder Pass. I can’t imagine anything being fun that doesn’t involve the possibility of blacking out from lack of oxygen and falling thousands of feet to one’s death, but the pictures made it seem like Dave, Michelle and Daniel had a good time. So all in all, Colorado was good to us.

And that’s our story for 2008. We faced some challenges, but only the hard, only the strong may call themselves Lehmans, and we triumphed in the end. As for me, I’ll be headed home December 21 just in time to enjoy my second Christmas of the month, then the 25th I get to have a third. With three days of gifts and celebration, I feel like I’m three-eighths of the way to becoming a Jew. However many days of festivities you and your family have, we Lehmans hope they’re everything you wish for this season. And if there’s one piece of advice I can leave you with, it’s this: Prepare for glory!
Dave, Michelle, Daniel and Mark (me)
P.S. For Michelle’s website, visit www.fairoakshomes.net. Dave and Daniel can be reached via e-mail at deaconlehman@gmail.com and ddlehman@gmail.com, respectively. And we are such a high-tech family we can all be found on Facebook and LinkedIn.
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