The Other Christmas Letter

Our Christmas letter this year was…well, bland due to my wife’s insistence that I not make it more interesting. I offer this to my friends who really understand my penchant for exaggeration and frivolity.

Another year has passed for the Redmond Vaughn’s. At least we survived. I would like to announce my YA series The Seldith Chronicles has been picked up by Pixar. They plan to make the heroic efforts of Hisbil and his clan of Seldith elves into a series of feature-length movies sometime in 2018. I’ll be moving to Emeryville, California (I have no idea where this is) this summer to work with the screenwriter. We’re still in negotiations with Lionsgate for rights to The Timkers series. I’m insisting that Jennifer Lawrence play Ruth, the teenage girl from rural Snohomish county-turned prostitute. She likes the story, but is unsure about the nude scenes — I’m standing my ground. As I said, I would like to announce all of this, but sadly, I can’t. While I can sell the books to anyone I can tackle, it languishes in obscurity.

My wife and I spent three weeks being carted around on cruise ships reminiscent of the space cruiser in WallE where we were wined and dined to overflowing by a host of smiling minions. We visited Alaska with relatives from Missouri who are (mostly, but not entirely) Democrats. That trip was spectacular as usual (it was our seventh cruise) but all too short. Next time, we won’t leave from Seattle.

Our next ordeal involved a day-long pummeling by the airlines as we had to fly from Seattle to Copenhagen. Because we spent enough money to buy a beach house on Whidbey Island for the tickets, we were able to walk afterwards. Unfortunately, we had to walk the last two miles inside the airport and another two miles from the train to the hotel. Copenhagen was cool, but the rain held off most of the time. Yes, we were nearly run down by a bicyclist. We had no idea there were lanes on the sidewalks for them (really). We got our 10,000 steps on both days, as well as several hundred pictures — a couple of which are worth sharing. We boarded the Regal Princess and sailed off to visit Oslo, Grungekey, some strange city in Norway that’s not even on the route any longer, Warnemunde, Germany, Estonia and then two days in St. Petersburg. Of course, I was detained almost immediately because I asked one of the Russians to smile. Their jails are not nearly as bad as in the Bond films. A kind man at the embassy got me bailed out in time to visit the Hermitage where I was able to take enough pictures to recreate it if it was, heaven forbid, hit by a cruise missile. The amount of money the Russians spend on gilding everything from the sculptures to the urinals was… well, obscene. Ironically, their subways were decorated with murals that reminded me of the plates Robin Williams used in the movie The Bird Cage depicting naked (gay) Olympians. We spent another couple of days visiting ordinary, but picturesque countries like Finland and Sweden where the shopkeepers smile and appreciate our American dollars and don’t look like they expect to spend the Winter in a camp in Siberia. And then we had to endure a long flight home. As I said, we survived.

Other stuff happened this year, like a trip to Kansas to photograph my mother-in-law’s 90th birthday — more family pictures. We also visited Florida for my granddaughter’s confirmation — more family pictures. I also went to a studio in Phoenix and spent three days recording some pretty dull SQL Server videos to be sold to sleep clinics. My wife tried to get her Gold status back by traveling to Kansas and Florida a couple more times but alas didn’t make it — she was seven miles short. She needs to back that often ’cause she’s still teaching her mother how to keep her car on the road. She spent the entire month of October crocheting scarves for charity. The den was literally buried in yarn. We have yet to find one of the cats. She only made 130 this year — down from 150 last year. She also made 90 “seamen’s” bags to give to a local shelter that helps visiting sailors. I didn’t ask what they contained. There are some things a husband should not question.

We hosted my brother and his lovely wife for a week and I got to know my nephew who has been living here for months without us knowing if he had been kidnapped by a Colombian drug cartel or was just reclusive. It turned out neither was true — he works for Amazon.

Fred (my youngest daughter) is currently working for a company they now call “WE.” They used to call it Waggener Edstrom but no one (myself included) could spell it. She’s doing well — at least Microsoft stock has shaken the Ballmer funk. She has to endure countless trips to New York and San Francisco to wear fancy gowns and smile and be pleasant and perky and keep the paparazzi at bay. There is no truth to the rumor she had to slide-tackle one of the gate-crashers at a major launch event. She had one of the security guards do it.

George (my eldest daughter) has her husband back from someplace “over there” so she has more help shovelling horse manure, chicken manure, cat boxes, dog poo, fish poo and feeding a nine-foot alligator they keep in the pool ’cause the fence is busted. On the plus side, it keeps the neighborhood kids from peeing in the pool. Because she wasn’t busy enough, she’s also teaching online college courses. The grandkids also keep her busy as they’re (mostly) homeschooled. They’re into 4H, band, riding expeditions, Girl Scouts, and (apparently) boys. The eldest is driving (well, almost) and she’s itching to follow in her mother’s footsteps. That’s what her mom is worried about. I sent her a big stick to fight off the suitors.

To keep sane, I’m still plodding along on the next book in The Timkers series I’m tentatively calling “Borrowed Time.” I’ve written about twenty chapters so far, mostly set in 2084. It’s pretty dark. As a result, I’ve begun to take anti-depressants and gone into bi-weekly counselling sessions with a local psychiatrist. Somehow, I have to have the story conclude with a happy ending. I’m thinking about something involving s’mores.

Have a happy year. I hope to be here next year to continue this saga.


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