Category Archives: Christmas

Thinking About The Journey

Yes, I live in the past. While the discoveries are exciting, they also tend to make me melancholy at times. Christmas is almost always one of those times.
Yes, I live in the past. While the discoveries are exciting, they also tend to make me melancholy at times. Christmas is almost always one of those times.

Something about this season of the year, Christmas, always makes me reflective of all things past. Each year I write a post about something from childhood Christmases. I’ll be doing that, probably next week, possibly the week after.

The last few days I’ve been thinking of the journey my life has been. In my better moments for the last decade I’ve said that I would title my autobiography The Journey Was A Joy. I must admit, however, it hasn’t always been a joy. Sometimes it’s been a struggle. Rarely has it been routine, though in fact I love and crave routine. My journey through life has been anything but routine.

Almost everything I write about is about the past. Very little is contemporary, and, so far, nothing about the future.
Almost everything I write about is about the past. Very little is contemporary, and, so far, nothing about the future.

What’s got me thinking about this recently is looking ahead to the unknowns in the journey. One is retirement, which is now only 1 year 23 days away. Sure, I long for the time of not having to go to an office every weekday and tax my brain. But I also fear doing without the income. I have savings, but far less than I intended to have.

Other unknowns are ahead. Lynda’s mom is now 92, and has been living with us for a little over two years. Her care is becoming more difficult. It falls mostly on Lynda, as I’m away all day, and it’s not easy for her. A woman marries and moves out of her mother’s home, and doesn’t expect to move back again. But with her mom moving in with us, that’s essentially what happened. Lots of water under that bridge, lots of history to deal with. It’s not easy.

There’s the unknown of how long I’ll have the physical ability to keep up our property. We’ve lived at our house almost 15 years, the longest we’ve ever been in one place since we were married almost 42 years ago. Someday I will struggle with the upkeep. When will that be? Five years? Ten? Or hopefully twenty or more? Someday we’ll have a decision to make about that.

Remember, these are short stories which, by definition, are fiction.
Remember, these are short stories which, by definition, are fiction.

So those unknowns about the future are very real. There are also thoughts about the journey I’ve been on. From Mom’s death, to being a latch-key teen, with no parent in the home most of the night, to college experiences, to traveling half-way across the country for work and a fresh start, to traveling to the Persian Gulf area for work and career advancement, to adventures in Europe and Asia. To the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait when we lived there and having no home to return to in the USA, to finding work in (of all places) Arkansas. To revelations about family, learning of many relatives in three major discoveries over a twenty year period.

Sometimes, when I dwell on this, it becomes almost overwhelming. I suppose that’s why people who deal with mental health tell us not to dwell on the past. But as a hobby genealogist and historian, I do live in the past an awful lot.

Ah, well, the melancholy will pass, as will desiring the past more than the present. Winter will fully come, with it’s full on, refreshing chill. Some snow would help, would remind me about joyful childhood romps in the snow. While waiting for that, I’ll leave you with one of my poems.

Conflicted

I long to live that day when I will rest
and cease to tax my brain. Then I will die,
and stand before my Maker. Yet, I’m blessed.
I long to live! That day when I will rest
is somewhere out there, far beyond the quest
that now demands I try, and fail, and try.
I long to live that day when I will rest,
and cease to tax my brain, then I will die.

A Day Late

I often write my Monday blog post on Sunday afternoon, and schedule it to post on Monday at 7:30 a.m. This past Sunday, alas, I spent that time working on our annual Christmas letter. Normally I write this, then Lynda edits it—sometimes lightly, sometimes severely. It gets done, as do the cards, and they go out. Seems like fewer and fewer each year.

That took up most of my free time Sunday afternoon, so I didn’t get my blog post written. I wanted to do it Monday morning, in my personal time at the office before I start my work day. Alas, other things got in the way. My devotional reading ran long, and morphed into editing. I read in my Harmony of the Gospels, either the text or the Passage Notes. Right now I’m in the passage notes. I read those notes related to a certain passage, then I go back to the text and read the harmonized passage. It’s a good way to do it, except I tend toward editing rather than just devotional reading. Still, I enjoy this, and don’t mind if it runs long.

But that meant I had less time than normal before work started, and I had to get to my long to-do list before I could tackle writing this post. So, here I am, writing it a day late.

And, I have nothing more to say, really. The days are busy, the evenings full, and sleep is a welcome escape from all I have to do. Retirement is now 1 year and 26 days away. Perhaps that will be a welcome relief as well.

A Long Weekend

The house is decorated for Christmas; though, the Christmas tree could use another string of lights. I’ll look at that later this morning.

Menus are not fully planned; though Christmas day we’ll eat at a nearby retirement home, the one my mother-in-law lived at before she came to live with us. I bought a turkey, which we’ll have on Monday. I’ve got to have a second turkey dinner cooked at home this year.

My new computer hook up is complete! Shortly after Thanksgiving I bought a new laptop to replace my ancient desktop. Our IT guy said to buy a docking station so that I could hook up my extra monitors and easily take my laptop when I needed to go. I couldn’t get it all to work. Yesterday at work he walked me through the procedure. Last night I did it, and poof! It’s all working. So I have three monitors looking back at me. Blog on the left, spreadsheet in the middle, stock chart on the right. When I begin my day’s writing activities that will be on the right. I think. I’m still trying to figure out what’s best. I’m not quite done with all the computer hook-ups. I still have the printer to work on. Hopefully today I’ll get that set up. It’s a wireless printer, and supposedly I just plug it in, turn it on, and all my computer will be able to recognize it and print to it. We’ll see.

So, as you can tell I’m at home today. And I will be on Monday, both holidays for the company. A four day weekend is just what I needed, as I was becoming melancholy and lethargic. Some time away from the routine should do me good. My wife returned from Oklahoma City last night, which is good. My brother-in-law is driving in today. So the Christmas gathering will be complete. Not much to do today. Maybe a little grocery shopping. I even cleaned the house pretty good yesterday, so there’s not much cleaning to do.

Hopefully I’ll get to take a walk today, although rain is almost upon us, so we’ll have to see. Hopefully I’ll be able to find time to write 1000 or 2000 words in my novel. That would be grand. Doing so each day of the weekend would be grand as well.

I’m in The Dungeon, and hear stirring up above, so think I’ll head upstairs, get another cup of coffee, and be sociable. I’ll be back.

A View of Christmas Past: The Nativity Scene

bumpkins-manger-scene-croppedBack in December 2010, I started this series, intending to do a post each year, or many a couple, around Christmastime about my memories of childhood Christmases, maybe linking that to how times have changed. I didn’t do a good job with my series. I made two posts in 2010, then not another one until last year. Time to resume telling about Christmases past.

Long past? No, my past.

One of the things our family did, which perhaps was unique, was how we did the nativity scene. We called it the manger back then, or perhaps the crèche, not the nativity scene. That term entered our family much later, but I’ll use it now since that’s what most folks call it.

This was, perhaps, the first Christmas decoration to go up in the house. Last year I wrote about our tradition of progressive decorations. Well, the nativity was one of the first to go up, two or three weeks before Christmas. But it had only animals in it. I remember a cow, a donkey, a horse, and some sheep. Maybe we had a shepherd too (can’t remember), but probably it was just the stable and animals. So where were Joseph, Mary, and the baby Jesus?

They were somewhere across the house. Joseph and Mary were, that is. They were enroute to Bethlehem, to the stable. Every day they moved a little closer. I think the nativity was placed on the closed sewing machine table in the dining room. If so, Mary and Joseph were somewhere in the living room. But baby Jesus wasn’t with them. He wouldn’t appear until Christmas morning.

Day by day the couple inched their way to Bethlehem. Obviously the geography of the Holy Land wasn’t a factor. Focus on the journey, not accuracy, was the intent. Eventually they made it to Dad’s desk, also in the dining room, then to the Windsor chair next to the sewing machine, then finally, on Christmas eve evening, they arrived at the stable. Christmas morning Dad or Mom would bring out the baby, and one of us would put it in the empty feed trough. And a couple of shepherds would arrive, along with their sheep (three, if I recall correctly). And I think we added an angel as well, on top of the stable. What about the wise men, you ask?

They also appeared on Christmas day, but not at the nativity. They started a long ways away from the stable, and started their trek there, which would end on January 6, Epiphany. The next day the nativity would be put away with the rest of the decorations.

So for one brief day, the nativity scene was complete. This was a lot of fun for us kids. And I think it helped us to better understand the dynamics of the story. Rather than have a static scene of all participants, we had a moving story that we participated in. We never actually read the Christmas story, ever, on that morning. But we understood what was going on.

What about in adult years? I think I tried this a year or two when we lived in North Carolina. We had a large, older home, with lots of territory between Nazareth and Bethlehem, and between lands to the east and Bethlehem. But the tradition never got going. Maybe all the relocations we made made this impossible. Not every place we lived would have worked for a moving nativity. Plus, the nativities we had didn’t have as many moving parts.

Now, with just me and the wife, and now the mother-in-law, in the house, it seems unnecessary. So the manger sits, all participants in place, as if it were Epiphany. The photo above is of how it looks this year, on our new console TV converted into a table. It’s pretty, even if it’s not historically accurate.

A Little Progress

Our Christmas village, in part
Our Christmas village, in part

It’s Christmastime!

I won’t say “Bah! Humbug!” Though I’m tempted to.

We have only two Christmas parties scheduled this year. One was last Saturday, so we can check that one off. The other is next Tuesday. But my wife will be out of town, tending grandchildren, so I told the organizer I won’t be there. He asked why, and I said I didn’t want to leave my mother-in-law alone for all day and the evening. He said to bring her, but she won’t want to go, and won’t want me to miss it. So I haven’t said anything about it to her or my wife. It was fun last year, but I won’t miss it this year.

Our Christmas village is in place; the wreath is on the front door; a manger scene is out; and a few lights are showing in the front window. The Christmas tree is up and the lights are on, but not the ornaments. Maybe I’ll cart them upstairs tonight. I have two other decorations I want to put up. Then it’s get the string up to hang incoming cards on. The only other Christmas thing to do is write a short Christmas letter and do the twenty-five or so cards we do each year. I should have all that done by next weekend.

So Christmas is now manageable. On to other things, mainly writing. Yesterday, Sunday, after a great worship service, excellent but simple lunch, and a nap wrapped around reading, I went to The Dungeon for almost three hours of productive work. I had to re-read my last chapter and see where I’d left off writing two weeks ago. I did a few edits as I read, determined the chapter was complete, and plunged into the next one.

My goal was to write 1,500 words in three hours. That’s less than I can normally do in that time, but, given that I hadn’t written for two weeks I thought that was about what I could do. In fact, I added just shy of 2,000 words in a little less than that time. That brings the book up to over 53,000 words at present.

More than that, however, ideas came to me of how to develop the conflict in the second half of my sagging middle. I had most of the beginning of the book worked out before I started to write it, and I knew where I wanted the end to be, but I was clueless about the middle. How do I put the protagonist in enough conflict to keep the book interesting? Ways and means of doing that came to me yesterday as I was writing. Some of it had come to me during my two-week writing hiatus, but the rest came while I was writing.

Then, this morning, I started to jot down a few notes, and figured how to do some more conflict. It involves adding another antagonist, a trusted new “friend” who turns out not to be. Will it be enough? I’m not sure, but if the book comes in at 75,000 words instead of the 90,000 I originally thought it would be, maybe it will be enough.

In other writing progress, I finished re-reading Doctor Luke’s Assistant, and will soon work on correcting a few things and re-publishing that in advance of the sequel. I had two hours of reading in Civil War documents, which is for the book I’ll work on next: Documenting America: Civil War Edition. I also spent some time brainstorming in the series of which DLA and PTR are the first two (written, not chronologically), and see the potential for 12 books in this series. That would take me out over ten years to write.

So, I’m happier now with my writing productivity than I was last Friday. Oh, and my Thomas Carlyle bibliography is also moving right along.

Friday

I’m having a hard time getting excited about anything today.

I know I seem to be negative all the time, and that’s poison if you want to attract and keep readers. But it’s true.

I can’t get excited about Christmas. There’s always too much to do, even now that we’re empty-nesters and have less responsibility. Not much of it reminds me of the magical Christmases of my childhood.

I can’t get excited about work. I’m reviewing a project submitted by another engineering company to a city I sometimes provide city engineering services for. This is the third submittal, and they are finally getting it right. I think. I’m not sure because certain aspects of their drawings are hard to interpret. I’m having to slog through it, and can only concentrate for short spurts, then have to pull of and do something else.

I can’t get excited about my novel-in-progress. I haven’t worked on it in over a week. Instead, I’ve been tweaking and tweaking a document I plan to submit in response to an atheist challenge. It’s a waste of time, except for forcing me to concentrate on something. But it’s done. I made some tweaks yesterday, and I’m calling it final. I have no intention of looking at it again. Now, whether I actually submit it or not is another matter. I’ve started that process. Even have submitted it to an outside reviewer before submittal. But whether I submit it or not depends on a number of things, which I won’t outline here. Most likely my literary executor will find it and have to deal with it.

So, what to do? Maybe tonight I’ll be able to add a few words to my novel. Or maybe I’ll knuckle down and get our Christmas letter written. Then file receipts. Then file other papers. Then update my budget spreadsheets. Then read a little for pleasure—except now that I write, I find I can’t read for pleasure any more.

Can’t Get Excited

Can’t get excited about blogging.

Can’t get excited about Christmas.

Can’t get excited about work.

Can’t get excited about writing.

Can’t get excited about life in general.

I’m not sure what it’s going to take to snap me out of this. I know I will. It might have to wait till after Christmas. I don’t know why, but I’ve never warmed up to Christmas. We are way past the days of Christmas busyness, with the kids gone. Maybe it’s the incredibly gaudy commercialism of the holiday. But I can almost say I can’t stand Christmas. It’s not quite that bad, but it’s close.

In the last week writing has taken a back seat to busyness of tasks and weariness of mind. The tasks are not yet done. I replaced two old computers with laptops, for which I already have extra monitors. But, even though I bought docking stations for the monitors, I can’t figure out how to get them connected. Everything is connected, but how do I get the computer to know the monitors are there? I guess I’ll figure it out. But until I do I can’t decommission the old computers. With that hanging over me, I don’t feel like doing much of anything.

So, I’ll make this blog post, listen to a little doo-wop, and head upstairs for reading. Hopefully I’ll be able to write some day soon.

Childhood Christmases: Progressive Decoration

The modern way seems to be to put all your decorations up right after Thanksgiving. In fact, this year, for the first time, I saw a number of houses with exterior lights up a week or two before Thanksgiving. One in particular, on Lancaster Drive in Bella Vista, is a gaudy display of flashing lights that serve more to distract the driver than thrill the viewer. Alas.

Then, the day after Christmas, the decorations are all taken down. Many people put their used, natural tree at the curb, waiting for someone else to deal with their waste. The house returns to normal. Most people with outdoor lights will leave them up until New Year’s Day—even the gaudy one on Lancaster.

Growing up in the Todd family, it was not so. Mom and Dad said it was English tradition that Christmas decorations went up the day before Christmas and stayed up till Epiphany. Yet, it wasn’t quite that way. I few decorations went up earlier, but always in moderation, and always in the same order.

First was the candles in the front windows. We had four windows in the front of the house, and one on the east side close to the street. Each of these windows were given a single electric candle. They went up about three weeks before Christmas, and with a twist went on at dark and off before bedtime—but early enough to let the heat dissipate so we could pull the shades all the way down.

Actually, even before the candles went up, Christmas cards that came in became a decoration. They began shortly after Thanksgiving. The first was always from Aubrey Pooley, a man from the church. Dad ran a wide ribbon across the doors of the secretary in the dining room and paper-clipped the cards to it. When that was filled he hung string in the wide archway between the living room and dining room and hung cards on the string. They were always beautiful, and were a decoration before any other went up.

We got the Christmas tree, always a natural one, about two weeks before Christmas. I think I wrote about that in a previous blog post. If I did and I can find it, I’ll come back and add a link. If I didn’t write about it, perhaps I will between now and Christmas. But, the tree didn’t go up. It went into our detached garage in a bucket of water. Then, about a week before Christmas, Dad moved it to the basement to let it “get acclimated to the heat” of the house. It didn’t go up until Christmas eve.

The manger scene went up next. Maybe a week before Christmas we made room for it somewhere in the living room (I think). But, it had only a few animals in it, and maybe one shepherd. Mary and Joseph were put as far away from the manger as they could be in that attached living room/dining room combo. Over the course of several days they would journey to Bethlehem, arriving at the manger on Christmas eve. We added the baby, more shepherds, and a couple of angels. The magi weren’t there yet. They showed up far away in the house, and began a journey that would have them arrive at the manger on Epiphany.

So it came down to Christmas eve, and in a flurry of activity all the other decorations went up. We brought the tree up from the basement, cleared space for it somewhere in the living room, and decorated it, complete with a mixture of light types and colors, including the old style bubbly lights. And don’t forget the lit Santa and snowman that sat under the tree, or the spire that went on top. This was a dad and kids task mostly, and more on that some year in a dedicated post. Meanwhile, in the kitchen, Mom was working on a number of things. The most time consuming of these was the candy house. I’m going to see if I can find a photo of it to scan and add. I won’t say a lot about the candy house and all that went with it, for that’s a post in itself.

The rest of our decorations were a mixture of things gathered over the year. There was the vinyl Santa face we taped to the mirror in the living room. I think we scattered ornaments on various surfaces. The candy house, once completed, was moved to the dining room table and all the characters were placed around it. And, of course, Mary and Joseph made it to Bethlehem some time that afternoon.

Looking back, I don’t know how all that was accomplished on one day. Mom was sick with the illness that would take her life when her children were teenagers, but somehow found the energy to do all this. And, of course, make Christmas cookies. Dad worked nights, and if Christmas and Christmas eve fell on Monday through Friday, he had to work. So he would be sleeping in the morning and would be gone by 7:30 p.m. Yet, together they got it done.

Of course, as we children got old enough, we would help. It was great fun to add frosting to the candy house and drape it like icicles. But actually, the decorating wasn’t necessarily done. Since the tree went up so late, only a few presents were under the tree when we went to bed; but when we got up Christmas morning there were many.

I have one clear memory from one Christmas. I guess I was around 10 years old. It was a Christmas eve Dad had to work, so he was gone when we went to bed. I remember waking up one Christmas eve. Our bedroom door was shut most of the way; the light was on in the kitchen behind it, and I could hear Mom’s and Dad’s voices. It had to be sometime after 4:00 a.m., because back then that was the time Dad got off work. I didn’t get up to see what they were doing, and drifted back to sleep.

The next morning I got up, went into the kitchen, and found it transformed with many more decorations. Red and green crepe paper ribbons had been twirled and attached from the light in the center  to each corner of the room. Other decorations were also up, though my memory fails me on specifics. But I remember the streamers. They had worked a long time to put those up.

So Christmas morning would dawn in the Todd house with that house looking much, much difference than the previous morning. Rather than a month-long time of decoration, we had mostly 12 days. Looking back on this, it was a magical time, and I cherish the memories. My adult practices are different, in a world of different expectations, but the Christmases of my childhood are not lost.

The Christmas Writing Slump

Last night I found many reasons to be upstairs and not writing. Finally around 9:15 p.m., with all necessaries and unnecessaries completed, I went to The Dungeon and began writing on China Tour.

These were scenes interspersed with scenes I had already written. I decided to follow one couple through an intense 24 hour period and write all those scenes consecutively, even though they wouldn’t appear in the book that way. By doing so, I think I wrote more efficiently, not having to go back and think about what I had written before tracking the other couple. I took that couple through that critical period, to a point where they were apart from each other. Their next scene will be when they join each other again.

Sunday I began working on the scenes for the other couple. Their time is not all that intense, at least not physical danger like the first couple. They have a different kind of relationship crisis going on, with kids in the middle. I found it somewhat difficult to write these scenes, and on Sunday only wrote around 1,000 words in three hours. I couldn’t concentrate.

But by the time I got to the computer last night, I had been over these scenes in my mind. I opened the file, went straight to work, and in just 90 minutes pounded out about 1,900 words, bringing the total to 38,700. After I left The Dungeon and went upstairs to do a few things before going to bed, I realized I had left a critical part of dialog out. I’ll try to insert that tonight.

All of these scenes were basically unknown to me two weeks ago. Even as recently as three weeks ago I hadn’t figured out how to put the first couple in physical danger, and I had no idea how to put the second couple in the relationship problem. But as I write one scene, the next one comes to me. Then another and another.

I’m writing the action that happened on September 18, 1983. My intention was to go day-to-day all the way up to September 27, with the two climax scenes happening on September 26. If I do that, however, I run the risk of a couple of things. One, it might get boring, because I don’t know that much is going on of interest to the average reader. Second, it might run too long. That’s a surprising statement as just a couple of weeks ago I was lamenting that the book seemed to be trending shorter than I had first expected. I’ve now come full circle and think maybe the length will be just right.

I think what I’m going to do is skip some days. I’ll finish September 18th, right up to lights out (a long, long chapter). Then I may skip ahead to Sept 21, and figure out some action in Chengdu. then I may skip ahead to Sept 23 and a scene I’ve planned all along for Xian. Then it will be on to Beijing for planning on Sept 25 and the culmination of the two quests on Sept 26, and the denouement on the 27th.

BUT, for the next week or two I don’t know that I’ll get much writing done. We’ll be traveling for Christmas. I don’t write well on the laptop, and I don’t know how much time I would be able to devote to it. So I’m going to print out the manuscript as it now stands and edit it on the trip. If Lynda is interested, I’ll have her read it and make sure some of the, shall I say, edgier scenes in it get the spousal blessing.

Hopefully I’ll check in here a few more times before the end of the year.

 

Holiday Withdrawals

That’s one good thing about the holidays: They give you a chance to withdraw from life, if only for a brief time, and forget the normal things and think of and do different things.

This Christmas we left home on the 23rd and drove to Meade, Kansas. A little more than 7 hour drive, north to Joplin then across southern Kansas to the beginning of the high plains. The route is beautiful, through quaint little towns like Baxter Springs (on old Route 66), Chepota, Wellington, Medicine Lodge, and Coldwater. The landforms are varied, with the vegetation gradually thinning the farther west you get, along with the houses, and grain elevators becoming the dominant man made feature, other than the asphalt our tires hum on. Ranch land and farmland alternate. The winter wheat looks good this year. We saw lots of evidence of harvested cotton, which is a crop changes from years past.

Once in Meade, our Internet service was rather short lived, due to a computer failure of the wireless Internet service we used. So even brief checks of Facebook and e-mail became impossible. I had to delay my blog post, wasn’t able to track my page views and income on Suite101 (which, as it turned out, didn’t matter due to massive computer failures there that left the writers unable to access statistics for several days and which still isn’t fully rectified). So I just partook in family activities. Ate too much. Played lots of Rummycube. Attended church services. Talked with relatives. Drove past places of my wife’s childhood. Visited the museum. Ate even more. Talked even more. Alas, saw no football this last weekend, since neither the cousin or her mom had a sports package with their Direct TV.

Through all of this, I didn’t think too much about writing, except when Lynda’s brother kept asking me about the next version of my biography of their great-grandfather. We toured his ranch on Monday, first time I’ve been there in 35 years. We visited with the woman who now owns the spread, and she wanted to buy a copy of the book, Seth Boynton Cheney: Mystery Man of the West. Actually, she wants two (one delivered, and one to be printed). This is my first “book”, self-published on company copiers with relatively simple graphics, plastic comb binding, and lots of genealogy tables and information. But it was nice to have someone express some interest in the book. I’ve given away about 20 copies to relatives, maybe even 30 copies, and before this the only ones to express any interest in it are Lynda’s brother, one cousin in California, one cousin in England, and the local museum curator. Everyone else I’ve given it to has said absolutely nothing. Not one word of feedback.

Of course, that’s what I’ve come to expect from relatives and my writing. Almost no one is interested. One of Lynda’s cousins asks, every time I see her, if I’m still writing poetry, but never asks to see any. It seems to be more of a courtesy thing than real interest. And no relative, knowing I write novels, has ever expressed an interest in reading them. That is, until this trip. Two in-laws of that same cousin said they’d like to read Doctor Luke’s Assistant. So I’ll print and send them the latest version, and see what happens.

Well, I don’t want to exaggerate. My cousin Sue read Doctor Luke’s Assistant serially as I was writing it. She is a writer too (and a regular reader of this blog, I believe), and she expressed interest. Although, I’ve never bought a copy of her book and read it. So maybe I shouldn’t be too hard on relatives.

But it was nice to leave the pressure of office, writing, stock market, and all things regular for a few days. Here I am now, in Oklahoma City at my daughter and son-in-law’s house, where computer access is easy, checking Suite 101 and e-mail and firing off blog posts. I’m still ignoring most of my normal life, though a little football would be nice. We’ll head home more likely Saturday. Thus we’ll be on our normal Sunday schedule. I’ll be back to writing. I’ll be able to watch all the football I can stand.

But I’ll think fondly of our week away from the routine, and hope for something similar next year.