It’s Eric and Dennise’s annual Christmas letter. We hope this letter finds you and yours doing well.
As you may have noticed, this letter was not so “annual” last year. As the holidays approached, we just couldn’t find the energy to get a letter done. But a year later, we’re much more rested. So, here is this year’s edition.
As usual, this letter contains lots of links to other websites, pictures, and movies. Feel free to click away to your heart’s content. We’ve also switched from a clickable pdf, to a “rich text” html message this year. So, if you’re having trouble seeing this message, try going here and read it online.
Click here to download the actual Christmas card above in case, like us, you still enjoy taping these things up around your house during the holidays.
A big part of what had us so tired at the end of last year was the 2006 election. As you may recall, Dennise was up for re-election then, having served only two years. (Her first election was to fill an unexpired seat)
She won, and she won big: 31,000 votes, and almost nine percentage points. In fact, she won by the widest margin of any county-wide judicial candidate in the past five elections. (Republican or Democrat)
So, on January 1st of this year, Dennise was sworn in again; this time for a full four year term. After two elections in two years, she decided to take it easy on the political front this year.l
But as you may remember, the election of 2006 featured quite a change in Dallas County politics, with dozens of Democratic candidates winning elected office. Overnight, Dennise went from being one of a few elected Democrats to being one of many.
For this and other reasons, she was voted Presiding Judge of the Family Courts in Dallas County. This involves calling, attending, and running various meetings relating to the administration of the courts. Doing this administrative job, running her own court, and supporting all the newly elected colleagues has been a challenge. But it’s been good to learn so much in such a short span of time, and things seem to be calming down now.
This fall Dennise was invited to be a part of the 21st Century Council at SMU. This is a specially selected group of younger alumni who serve as an advisory group to President Turner.
This year, she also received a high honor from the SMU Women’s Symposium, being named one of six “Profiles in Leadership” honorees for 2007. Given her long association with the Women’s Symposium –dating back to her time as a student– it was a great honor to receive this award.
She also serves as a member of the board of directors to the Dallas County Child and Family Guidance Center. In August, she gave a speech on “Enforcement in Family Law Cases” at the Advanced Family Law Course in San Antonio.
Eric continues his ministry at Northaven UMC. The building is beginning to take on more of its own personality as landscaping begins to develop around the church and new signs and art go up. Easter this year saw a huge crowd in attendance; very likely the largest worshipping Sunday at Northaven in many decades.
Since we last wrote, Eric’s taken two mission trips to the Gulf Coast with Northaven members and members of Hamilton Park UMC. Even though it’s been two years since Katrina hit, there are still a number of places that look as though it hit yesterday.
Northaven is blessed with a truly wonderful staff right now, and is looking to round that out with the hiring of a new office manager. (Probably in late January). The church was honored to be a beneficiary of the annual Black Tie Dinner for the past two years.
Musically, Eric helped lead a new songwriter’s retreat at Mt. Sequoyah in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Eric served as a host for the weekend, and worked with other leaders like Effron White, Emily Kaitz, and Trout Fishing in America. (along with his old friend, Charles Gaby…) It was great confluence of his love for music, the UMC, and Mt. Sequoyah. Everybody involved hopes it will be the first of what will be a great annual event for that region of the country.
Since we last wrote, Eric been playing in Connections Band too. Connections was formed by several UM Ministers, who share a common love for music. The group has found a niche doing “cover” shows of popular artists, and raising money for worthy causes like UMCOR and “Nothing But Nets” in the process.
Shows so far have included tributes to Dan Fogelberg, Eagles, Chicago, James Taylor and Carol King. Here are some pictures from their very first show, and here’s some video for that show too. Here are some pics from the Chicago/Eagles Show. And here are some soundclips from several shows. To date, Connections has raised well over $20,000 for these worthy causes. It’s been great honor to raise so much money, to use our musical gifts, and to play music that people love to hear. You can always find Connections upcoming schedule at Eric’s music website.
Can you believe that Maria is the fourth grade?! Neither can we. I mean, just look at this gymnastics picture.
And here she is on the first day of school. How did she get so mature?! So poised?! Where’d that little girl go?
Maria still competes in gymnastics, now at “level five,” and she participated in her first off campus meets earlier this year. Here’s video of her bar and floor routine. Can you believe all the things our “little girl” can do? Also in the spring, she submitted a 3rd grade science fair project titled “Why Does a Singing Bowl Sing?” She apparently got the idea from playing around with the “singing bowl” that Eric brought back from Nepal some years back. She did research on how music is made from vibrations of air… whether it’s a singing bowl, or a violin. The work earned her second place in the third grade.
Maria also received a “commended” score on her Math TAKS test. This fall she joined the Prestonwood Elementary safety patrol, and was appointed a classroom representative to the Student Council. As of this Fall, she’s also is now a part of their Girl Scout Troop. She and Eric are still active in their Indian Princess program and they still go camping with all the other girls and Dads. Here is a movie from our campout that will show you more of her gymnastics skill in action.
Maria is really in to “American Girl”” dolls (if you don’t know, don’t ask…), reading books, and Hannah Montana. Surely you know who Hannah Montana is, right? She’s more famous to ten-year-old girls than the Beatles, Rolling Stones, and Led Zepplin put together.
If you doubt this, the day after the Hannah Montana concert in Fort Worth (we didn’t get to go…) Eric read aloud an item from the Dallas Morning News about how Troy Aikman had taken his little girls to see Hannah Montana, and had sat right on the front row.
To which Maria replied, “Who’s Troy Aikman?”
That story gives you pause about how fleeting fame is, yes? And how little each generation remembers about the last. Which, actually, was a part of the rationale for our Spring Break trip to California. Maria had wanted to go to Disneyland, and Eric and Dennise decided to make it a driving trip. We did this because every kid deserves at least one long car trip in their life, and partly because it’s such a great chance to see and learn about so much of the Southwest. And, it seemed to us, that if you fly everywhere, you never really get the sense of just how big the world really is.
As you may know, the trip to California takes you down I-40, which is a lot of the old “Route 66.” There’s lots of history there to uncover. We stopped to see the Grand Canyon. (That’s where the picture at the top comes from…) In California, we visited Disneyland, Universal Studios, and the beach at Santa Monica. (We got to see Eric’s old friend, John Ramey, too…)
Take a look at a video of our trip here.
Along the way, Eric remembered that the great guitar store, McCabe’s was right here in Santa Monica. And so, while on this trip, Eric bought his long hoped for “Santa Cruz” guitar. You can read the whole story about that here. It was a great trip and we spent some good time bonding as a family in a car. We hope to get in more vacations like this and take the opportunity to see the country this way.
Later in the Fall, Eric and Dennise got away to Memphis for a few days, when Dennise had a conference there. It turned into quite a nice little vacation, and Eric really loved learning about the history of Memphis’ music scene. We visited the Civil Rights Museum, Sun and Stax Records, and Beale Street…where Eric got to play on the street one night. True story. Read about it here.
Our contact info hasn’t changed. But if you need an update, just reply to this email and ask for it. (Hoping to keep from broadcasting it via email to the world of evil spammers…)
A lot of the links in this letter refer to Eric’s blog. And we hope you remember that he blogs there a lot, about a ridiculously strange menagerie of things, and in a format every similar to this letter. Hope you’ll visit there. It’s a good way to find out what’s happening with us personally, in between these annual letters.
We’re looking for a restful and relaxing holiday for the next few weeks, and we hope you have one too. We’re pleased to be your friends, and grateful for the year that has been.
Wishing you Christmas Peace,
Eric, Dennise, and Maria