10 on Tuesday: Things I Would Put in a Christmas Letter

Confession time: I like a good, newsy Christmas letter. I like getting them, and occasionally, I even like to write them. So, when I saw Carole’s topic for today — 10 things I would put in a Christmas letter — framed them as a “dreaded” thing, I started to wonder if I’m the only person who enjoys them. I don’t mind if they’re braggy or pompous or weird; I want to know what people have been up to. I guess that’s not all that surprising, given how much I like social media. Christmas letters are the slow-mo, analog version.

Knowing that this might very well become a draft for a last-minute actual holiday letter, here are my 10 things:

1. In March, I got a new nephew, named Jonathan. He’s the cutest thing going, as you might expect.

10 on Tuesday: Things I would Put in a Christmas Letter
Jonathan is bigger now, of course, but this is from May, back when we first met.

2. I went on vacation to Australia with my friend Alison. We met koalas. And saw kangaroos just hanging out in parks, like they’re squirrels or something. We explored Melbourne, Canberra, and Sydney — and many nearby areas. (If you get there, don’t miss the Great Ocean Road; the scenery is spectacular.) Oh, and one day, there will be a blog post or something about the end of the trip. In the meantime, visual proof that I made it to Sydney:

10 on Tuesday: Things I would Put in a Christmas Letter
Hey, look! It’s the Sydney Opera House! And me!

3. In August, I got to spend some quality time in the Adirondacks with BFF Shannon. There was swimming, and hiking… and lots and lots and lots of talking. And, as the icing on the cake, we even managed a picnic with our college friend Tara while we were in Lake George.

10 on Tuesday: Things I would Put in a Christmas Letter
Don’t go chasing waterfall… selfies.

4. My friends Dan & Kim hosted a fun luau-themed party on Labor Day weekend, where I drank mai-tais an caught up with other college friends I hadn’t seen in far too long, which was great. (And as a bonus, I got to finally check out The High Line in NYC while waiting for my bus back to DC.)

5. Also on the party front, my friends Julia & Michael decided to celebrate their 50th birthdays in New Orleans, which was a blast — we danced until 3am!

10 on Tuesday: Things I would Put in a Christmas Letter
No trip to New Orleans is complete without beignets.

6. I worked on my friend Charles’ run for the DC Council seat for our ward, mostly helping with the stuff I know best, online and social strategy. He won the election and gets sworn in on January 2. Woo hoo!

7. As I started this bullet, I didn’t think I had that many work trips, but I’ve had to come back and update it twice with work travel I had nearly forgotten. In 2014, the job took me to Paterson, NJ; Queens, NY; Savannah; and Cincinnati — where I wore the building we were trying to save. (A ended up being another big win on Election Day!)

10 on Tuesday: Things I would Put in a Christmas Letter
See? I wasn’t kidding about wearing the building.

8. The Nationals made it back to the NLDS this year, and if the 2012 NLDS broke my heart, this year’s Game 2 endurance test on a cold October night was more like having my heart slowly sanded away to nothingness. By the time the Nats lost in the 18th inning, I wasn’t even sure I liked baseball anymore. (But I do. Of course.)

10 on Tuesday: Things I would Put in a Christmas Letter
Silly sibling selfie, before it became the longest game in Nationals history.

9. I saw Springsteen three more times — twice on my own (Sydney, Australia and Houston) and once with my brother (Hershey, PA). Funny enough, I was far less intimidated finding my way to Sydney’s Olympic Park, which involved navigating two trains in a foreign city that I’d been in for less than three hours, than I was driving from southwest Houston to northwest Houston at rush hour.

10. I marked my 15 year anniversary at the National Trust. It seems like a rare and lucky thing to have found an organization I believe in that has believed in me right back, allowing me to learn, grow, and take on new roles and challenges without having to job hunt every couple of years.

So that’s my year. Tell me about yours — or better yet, send me your Christmas letter. I will be happy to get it!

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Australia 2014 Days Eight and Nine: Canberra to Sydney

After our day-trip extravaganza over the long weekend, we had a fairly low-key day in Canberra on Tuesday. (Translation: we slept in for a while, and didn’t head off to the museums until just before lunch.)

We started at the National Museum of Australia, where we went through a lengthy exhibit about the history of the first Australians, which was very interesting… and sad… and thought-provoking. It’s too much to get into in a light travelogue post, but — as an outsider to the country — it was a surprisingly frank examination of the way aboriginal people were/are treated in Australia.

We also spent a lot of time outside at the museum, on the two café patios (one at lunchtime, the other a few hours later when we needed a snack) and also just checking out the wacky post-modern architecture of the building. The design, overall, isn’t really my taste, but I did like the way the windows reflected the sky.

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After we finished up at the museum we headed up to the Australian War Memorial, which commemorates all Australians lost in wars, but most particularly World War One. It’s an impressive building overall, and the poppies people place along the panels of names make a striking image.

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We happened to be at the memorial just before closing, when they do a ceremony called “Last Post.” Dignitaries from foreign nations come to lay wreaths (on the day we were there, delegations from Afghanistan and Singapore were present) and the life story of a soldier is read (we heard about a young man who died in the First World War). There is also a little music (bagpipes and a bugle, not at the same time) — overall, a very lovely and solemn remembrance.

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After the memorial, Mark picked us up and drove us to the top of Mount Ainsley to take in the panoramic views of Canberra before we headed off to dinner.

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And then came Wednesday, when it was time to leave Canberra. We took a quick tour of the Embassy grounds, since that’s where Mark & Sara work, had a leisurely breakfast in the Yarralumla “suburb” (which is what Canberrans call neighborhoods) , and then headed to the train station.

It’s only a four-hour train ride to Sydney, but along the way, we caught back up to the rain we’d been chasing around the country.

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A little (or even a lot) of rain was not going to keep me from my first activity in Sydney: seeing Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band at one of the venues in Olympic Park. It took two trains to get there (which was actually easier than it sounds) though a delay on the first train left me sliding into my seat about halfway through the first song. (In my defense, Bruce’s US shows start 30-40 minutes after the ticketed time; this show started a mere 23 minutes late.)

It was a terrific show — I got to see the band play the complete “Darkness on the Edge of Town” album, and because I was at the top of the lower section with a wall, rather than people, behind me, I could stand up and dance as much as I wanted. I also had a view of the TelePrompTers on stage, so I could tell on advance every song that was coming — and what they skipped. And yes, Bruce… Replacing “The Rising” with “The Ghost of Tom Joad” was an excellent call.

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I was back to the hotel shortly after midnight and tucked in for a quick six hours rest before a full day tour of Sydney. Which is a story for another post.