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Christmas snowflake
JW Goossen Xmas Letter 2001

Dear Friends and Family and the occasional Random Reader,

We send along heartfelt greetings and a very Merry Christmas to you all. To mis-quote the famous and now 'grateful' poet of the last millennium, whose likeness but not lifestyle I sometimes approach, 'what a long strange year it's been…'.

This year I have spent some time evaluating my fatherhood (or parenthood for those who believe in equality and keeping the toilet seat down). I try and learn from my mistakes and make corrections but I am having trouble keeping up. I find when dealing with the kids I have to relearn the English I thought I knew. I guess it's just semantics (look it up kids) but my children constantly berate me for getting them in trouble, as in 'You're always getting me in trouble Dad, when it isn't my fault'. When I was young, I was getting myself in trouble, now I am doing it for my kids.

I have two requests for name changes. Apparently Joan and I didn't choose wisely when they were born (how were we to know that Skywalker Goossen was a perfectly acceptable name - and I'll bet you thought it was their last name they wanted changed. Wrong.). Perhaps we should have waited until they were two and then named them according to their personalities. Of course then I might not be able to print them here or maybe they would have names like Snow White's dwarves. In an amazing act of deflection, Bethany has decided that I call her name out so often, not because of her actions but because I am choosing to do so alphabetically. Hence the desire to change her name to Zelda.

Sometimes I see it more as failurehood. Then I am buoyed by the fact that the kids want to have kids of their own. Much as I try to convince them otherwise. Look around you I say, but they figure there are better ways to raise kids and why destroy their optimism. I had dreams once as well.

This year in May we went to Jamaica as a family to an all-inclusive resort (Beaches Negril). It was a reward trip through work - not for me but for our dealers (have you noticed it's only with computers and drugs that you have dealers and users, but I digress). I was allowed to go because I looked after our channel. I got to take Joan as well and we had points for the kids, so all we paid was for their time at the resort. Had a great time. Good weather, nice beaches and an overall relaxing time.

Another milestone (or perhaps millstone) Rachel is driving. When she was two or three, I was worried when she crossed the street, now I worry when I cross the street. To help fuel her driving habit, she has recently landed a job at a nearby Tim Horton's. Finally, someone in the family in uniform.

I also took a driver training course. In my case it was a motorcycle course that I have wanted to do for a while. It was great fun and toward the end of the summer, I bought myself a Yamaha V-Star 1100. Had a couple of good months riding and managed to take both the Grandparents and Oma for a ride around the block. I still have the scars.

Our big dog, half-wolf Suzy died this year. Well we actually had her put down because she was unable to walk and wasn't eating. The kids had been encouraging this for a while, which makes me a bit uneasy about getting old. Contrary to my original plans, we didn't have her stuffed and brought to the cabin. I am not sure if this fact has anything to do with my next point but things have come full circle, the kids are now listening to country music, and if you remember my Xmas '93 letter, they weren't even sure if it was music back then. Of course I have moved on to punk because that's what they're playing on the oldies station. Let's hear it for Joey Ramone, DOA (for you locals) and The Clash. Natalie can't believe that Dad says 'one day 'NSYNC will be on the oldies station'. How could he talk such nonsense?

This summer we made it back to Oliver for a week of relaxation. Had a great time and it brought back some old memories. I had a conference in Orlando in late August and then we were at the cabin for a bit after that. During late August I ended my employment (voluntarily) and decided to become the unemployed bum I was meant to be. At some point you have to live up to your parent's expectations.

Tabitha has continued on with her gymnastics, training 16 hours a week. She and Hannah flew to Manitoba for a summer visit with the Grandparents. Natalie went to camp for the first time and Rachel and Bethany traveled throughout BC for the church Summer Ministries tour.1

Hannah started high school this year and with three kids there, we are over the hump. Soon Joan and I will take up lawn bowling. We've already switched from Coffee to Postum. Natalie is finally getting letter grades, although because of the teacher's 'job inaction' we haven't actually seen any yet. While Pokemon is still a rage, the latest is Harry Potter. I tried giving Natalie a ride on the Electrolux and chasing ping pong balls but it wasn't the same as catching snitches on the Nimbus 2000.2, 3

It was also in the summer that we were informed that Joan had what looked like cancer in her kidney. The surgeon booked an operating day and we waited. Our (Joan's really) choices were to remove the kidney or try and just take part of it out and hopefully save the rest of the kidney. We went for the latter.

On Sept 10th, Joan had her surgery and while there were some complications with the surgery, the operation was a success and the doctor was able to remove the cancerous growth and still leave part of the kidney to perform its duty. While the healing and recovery is taking its time, we are thankful that Joan did not have to go through any radiation or chemo treatments. My Mom and Joan's parent, who came to stay with us for 6 weeks, we a major help and blessing to us. We are also thankful to the family and friends who came to our aid during this time. Now we have to monitor the kidneys every 6 months for the next 5 years to catch anything else, should it re-appear.

The day after surgery was also Sept 11th. Waking up to the news and then going to the hospital to see Joan fully out of her post-operative stupor gave everything a surreal feeling. At some level the New York incident concerned me but not nearly as much as the events happening in my immediate family. I am sure those directly affected by the attack were probably more concerned with their immediate families than with global implications of this act. The reality of this world is brought into our living rooms, and along with that, the fact that we are all neighbours (a neighbour now seems like anyone near enough for you to feel their pain or near enough to hurt you). Loving your neighbour takes on a whole new significance and seems like a better long-term strategy than the alternatives.

As Joan gets stronger every day and I alternate between helping out and getting in the way, she reminds me that it was for better or worse but not for lunch and its time I get a job or at least keep busy in some way.

To bring this year to full cycle, the coming celebration of birth, has for my family, been preceded by the death of my Grandmother in early Dec. at the age of 95. I highlight this with one observation out of the many memories that I have - my Oma Wieler was someone who, although her own mother was taken from her at an early age, was able to exhibit throughout her life the characteristics of what it meant to be a good mother to all - which in my thinking is defined as showing a loving acceptance of all her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and any one they cared to bring along.

I am glad she was able to be Home for the Holidays, while we all stick around Waiting for the Circle to be Unbroken. I hope that all of you are close to or at least in contact with your family and loved ones this Christmas as we recall once more how the Father sent his Son to live among us to teach us how to love one another and to reconcile us into the one big family we are meant to be.

Merry Christmas and Peace to you all,
John, Joan, Rachel, Bethany, Hannah, Tabitha and Natalie.

P.S. I have been exhorted by Rachel, Bethany and Hannah to explain the family Theory of Lame Dad Jokes. (it was going to be Dad's Lame Jokes but apparently there are other Dad's who 'try' to be funny, according to the kids). Whenever they tell me that a comment I've made wasn't funny, I ask them if any one laughed. If not, then I explained clearly it wasn't meant to be a joke. They didn't get it. Now they give me a sympathy laugh but say that doesn't count toward the joke quota. It also doesn't count if I laugh at my own jokes. Their favorite joke these days is to tell me not to quit my day job and then remind me that I don't have one.

P.P.S. The footnotes below are post-editing comments from the kids who wanted to have their say as well.

1 Tabitha: Tell them that I am a bright, fun loving energetic child who has recently become interesting in acting.
2 Hannah: How come there isn't much about me in there and so much about Bethany. What about my jazz dance, horse back riding and the fact that I am getting into playing volleyball.
3 Natalie: We do a Christmas letter? I didn't know that.

P.P.P.S. Hannah still doesn't think this is good enough yet but is willing to let me send it.

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