Saturday, December 20, 2008

Our year in pictures

Well, our Christmas newsletter has finally gone out. (Whew!) We wish we could send it to every reader of The World of Wombat, but due to the stifling economic slump and the fact that we chose to have two major surgeries to pay off in the middle of it, we've basically had to limit our Christmas mailing list to either (a) friends we've known longer than 25 years (both of you), and (b) those within walking distance, to save postage.

But fear not! Because you, as a regular reader of this blog (both of you), you have a benefit our Christmas letter recipients don't (or at least don't unless they come here) -- you not only get to see our year in pictures, but you get descriptions of what the pictures are!Clicking on the photo montage above (or clicking here) should take you to a full page-sized image on Photobucket for greater detail. As to what the pictures are, here is the key:

1. From our late December 2007 Disney trip, Brandon, Benjamin and I on our first late-night outing to the Magic Kingdom. The "ice lights" decorating Cinderella Castle are stunning, and it actually snowed on Main Street!

2. From the same trip, Becky and Benjamin relaxing on Castaway Cay, Disney's private island, on our three-day Bahamas cruise aboard the Disney Wonder. It wasn't too cold, but it wasn't exactly warm, either!

3. Brandon and Benjamin in full costume for the Armstrong Middle School production of The Clumsy Custard Horror Show. Benjamin played the valiant Sir Cumference, while Brandon was the aptly named King Dumb.

4. Brandon playing some tight defense in his East Plano summer basketball league.

5. From the Disney trip, Becky relaxing in our luxurious home for the cruise, the Walter E. Disney Suite. (It's not the greatest picture of her, but it shows a little of this huge suite we were able to enjoy.) We still aren't sure how we wound up with the best passenger space on the ship -- we got a call from the Disney Cruise Line about two weeks in advance offering the upgrade. And this is the second of three cruises on which we've been upgraded to the concierge level!

6. Mannerchor Gesellschaft in concert, December 2008. The Mannerchor is a society for male singers in Plano. This was Brandon's second year with the group, and it is always a wonderful performance.

7. Benjamin in the Walt Disney Suite. This picture shows part of the living room, and the dining room is visible in the background. There were several other rooms in the Suite -- and a 40-foot veranda all our own! (They made us give it back, though.)

8. A decent family picture of the four of us in front of Cinderella Castle. Both boys have grown several inches since this picture was taken at the start of the year.

9. Benjamin singing wholeheartedly as part of a children's musical at our church, The Heights. He's enjoying this year as a sixth-grader, his last in the children's program, since he's able to get some great solos and leading roles. Both he and Brandon really enjoy performing. (Wonder where they got that?)

10. Brandon and Benjamin dressed up for Easter. If you look closely at the Disney pics and compare them with this one, you may notice that the glasses were a new thing in Brandon's life this year.

11. The boys driving/riding on the "EZ-Go" (golf cart to me) at "The Farm," which for us is not the CIA Agent training grounds but is instead some family land in East Texas. Riding shotgun is Brandon's friend Michael Demings (who's around here enough he's almost family!).

12. Brandon and Benjamin pose with all of their many, many stuffed friends. The occasion was the visit of Flat Wallaby and Mini-Meghan, who are posed among the friends. (Explaining who they are and why they were visiting is way more than I want to get into in this post.)

13. Our formal portrait from our cruise aboard the Disney Wonder, with Becky's parents Bob and Linda Murdock. In the center is our good friend Mickey Mouse, who also is around here enough that he's almost family.

14. A portion of The Vocal Majority Chorus from our Spring Show, The Best of Broadway. That's me, Brad, on the upper right. I may be in the group (I'm still officially a rookie after almost two years -- haven't won my own gold medal yet, you see), but may I humbly state that if you've never seen the Vocal Majority in person, you owe it to yourself to do so. (Tickets are on sale for our next Spring show series, Back to Broadway!)

15. Becky and the boys with my parents, C.S. and Gail Randall. The occasion was Benjamin's fifth-grade "graduation" at a local park. We no longer have any elementary school kids!

16. A group shot of the full Vocal Majority, this time in concert with the San Angelo Orchestra. That was an amazing experience (I'm on the top row, third from the right). I've been on the VM "injured reserve list" for a few months with my ankle surgery and have missed two show series and a District competition, but I can't wait to rejoin the group after the New Year.

That's it! If you really want more, let me know... But hey, I did great to whittle this to just 16 pics from our entire year -- especially considering I took over 1000 photos on just our Disney trip alone!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

More fun when it's optional

I have long held to the belief that just about anything in life is much more enjoyable when it is optional.

I first noticed this in college, where the norm for me was slogging slowly and painfully through assigned readings in textbooks or literature, even when the subject was one I liked. I'm normally an avid reader, but somehow the idea that a particular text was mandatory -- was homework -- made it a drudgery. But then to my surprise, several months later when the class was behind me, I could pick up the exact same textbook or story and find it fascinating.

With my recent surgery, I'm experiencing the same thing. People would see me hauling my useless leg around on the scooter and say, "Wow, that looks like fun!" (One precious little girl even greeted the scooter with an awe-filled, "Cooooool!!!!!")

Um, no. While riding a scooter in general is fun, somehow the fun evaporates when it is your only mode of transportation -- when you can't move even a few feet without it. I came to be competent using it, and eventually did find a measure of enjoyment in rolling down long hallways and inside courtrooms, but it never rose to the level of "fun." And now that I'm on crutches and the scooter has been sent back to the medical supply store, I can't really say that I miss it.

Likewise my handicap parking privileges. Yep, I have a pair of those blue handicap parking tags, one for each family car, because of my infirmity.

I'm not proud of this, but over the course of my life there were many times when I wished I had the privilege of parking in those nice, close-in handicap reserved parking spaces. Admit it, you have, too. When the mall is packed with cars filling all the normal spaces out to the street; when last-minute grocery shoppers have taken all the good spots, preventing you from your last-minute grocery shopping; when you just don't want to walk much farther -- those empty spaces marked with the blue-and-white signs look awfully enticing.

Well, I have that privilege now. And like the textbooks and the scooter, it would be a lot more fun if it were optional. As it is, any extra distance I have to travel can be a literal pain, so the tags are a necessity (as they should be).

Now, my handicap access is temporary, which is extraordinarily good news -- it means my disability is also temporary. Having been given a small taste of this "privilege," I cannot begin to imagine having any disability which is permanent. I'll happily stop using the tags when I am able.

But a year or so down the road, I might just have to ride a scooter around in a handicapped space. While reading an old textbook.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Finally, confirmation?

I'm making progress on my post-orthopedic-surgery healing. Today my surgeon cleared me to start walking again, for the first time in ten weeks! Granted, I'm on crutches, can only put so much weight down, I move slowly, and I get sore and cranky pretty quickly, but I am walking. The process may be slow but at least there is measurable improvement.

As I've written before, my right ankle now contains a collection of metal plates, pins, and screws to hold the new bone arrangement in place. Well, today's doctor visit also brought a mild surprise -- one of the screws on the right-hand side did not hold to the bone as well as planned. It doesn't seem like it will be a problem or affect me for the worse, though. That's the good news.

The bad news is this: my family now proudly trumpets that they have medical confirmation that I have a screw loose.

Sigh. At least so far I've been able to keep them from saying "another screw loose."