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Christmas is upon us and with it comes the joy, laughter, happiness and warm wishes of the season. And, those "holiday letters" that typically fill us in on all the wonderful activities our friends and family have been greatly exaggerating in order to make us all jealous of the fabulous lives they sort of lead.

Of course, as with just about everything else this year, the pandemic has, let's say, potentially impacted both lives and the nature of our humble bragging. To whit ...

•••

"Greetings and holiday salutations from our family to yours! Here is our joyous, happy, fun-filled family letter to all of you who are still venturing as far out as the mailbox and not sheltering in place under your beds.

"First all, we're all alive. OK, I know – in the past that might very well be a minimum expectation. This year, however, that's going down as one of our major accomplishments. And, given the fact that we've all been locked up together since early spring, will need to be evaluated for truthfulness on a fairly regular basis.

"When we look back on the year, it's fair to say that so much as changed. Not, of course, the sweatpants I've worn exclusively since early April. But, lots of other things.

"Seems like only yesterday when we started 'working from home,' sure we'd be back in the office shortly. ... Sorry, I had to stop there. I was alternating between laughing hysterically and breaking down crying, and typing was kinda tough.

"Actually I'm very proud of the way we've adapted to being locked in our house for the last, oh, I don't know, eternity (OK, maybe a few months). My wife Audrey, for instance, has channeled her energy into baking. Started well and got a little rocky when the sourdough "starter" she came up with took over the fridge and began menacing the cat. Hey, Audrey, how about we stick to something that isn't, oh, I don't know, alive? Yeah, honey, I think you're No. 1, too.

"We've also made great progress in 2020, thanks to our willingness to grow and learn from each other. For instance, who knew, after all these years, that I was spreading peanut butter on a sandwich all wrong? I mean, besides Audrey.

"The kids are thriving in this environment. Our teenage son, Broderick, has elected to spend most of this year in his room with the door closed and locked, playing video games and only coming out periodically to tie up the bathroom for hours and grab the pizza he ordered on my credit card. So, no real difference from the year before.

"Our college-age daughter, Samantha, has certainly embraced 'distance learning,' and is spending all her waking hours in front of a computer. She has elected to change her major from medicine to general studies, mostly after that unfortunate incident with cadavers being delivered to homes. Still, her time online has broadened her horizons beyond the medical arts, and she's decided to either be an 'influencer' or an eco-terrorist. Choices, choices!

"I have found various ways to put my time at home to good use. For instance, I'm exploring my artistic side. I've moved beyond my earlier forays into pottery (though I'm still amazed you can get an entire kiln delivered to your home -- along with a small herd of sheep and a loom, and a block of granite and chisels) and am still at this point looking for my medium. Though, since Audrey has taken to stress-baking plates of brownies, my medium is now an extra-large. Again, the beauty of those sweatpants!

"Travel plans took a little bit of a hit this year. Instead of trips to all sorts of places designed to make the rest of you jealous, we decide to spend our vacation in the southwest corner of our back yard. Followed by Fourth of July in the northeast corner. And a quick fall jaunt to the side yard. You can see all the photos at the link I've included. Forgive the ones where my hands are shaking from hysterical laughing followed by crying again. I'm getting much better at expressing my emotions. One more good thing from 2020!

"Hope this letter finds you all as happy, healthy and well-adjusted as we are heading into the New Year. And that you're all able to add to your 'tool boxes' like we've been. Take Audrey, for instance: Who knew she's be interested in archery? Apparently she wants me to be involved as well. Keeps talking about 'letting me have a head start.' What a giver!"

Gary Smith is a recovering journalist living in Rogers.

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