of New Jersey

        See the world as I see it...                     Happy Holidays!
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Christmas 2001

Dear Family and Friends,
Dennis So... as we close in on the end of another year, what can be said about 2001? I think it can probably be summed up best in the words of Charles Dickens: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." From the spectacular high of February 28th (welcome to the world, Dennis Alexander!) to the unspeakable low of September 11th, it has certainly been a year of extremes. That we have made it through it all speaks worlds for the resilience of the human spirit.

It is still so very hard, even here three months later in December, to deal with what happened to us on September 11th. To lose so many, so horribly, so quickly, for so little cause... it hurts at so many levels. Everyone here in the New York area lost someone. A loved one, a friend, a neighbor. I still shift quickly between tears and rage whenever something happens that calls the attack to mind. The lighting of the tree at Rockefeller Center, with children who lost parents helping to throw the switch. Or, even more painful, the lighting of the tree at Ground Zero, with angels for ornaments representing the thousands who died, and an American flag at the top of the tree.

Every day, as I drive into work, there is one point on the highway where the road suddenly gives me a view of lower Manhattan. And every day it still hurts to see what isn't there. It took me a while to get up my courage to go into the city, to see for myself what can be seen as an ordinary civilian, to be able to say I personally stand witness to what was done to us on September 11th. I know what we had Before September 11th; I know what it looked like After September 11th. As long as I live, I will never forget what was done to us and I can only hope that we as a people have the courage and the fortitude to see this fight through to its conclusion.

This isn't, as everyone has so often pointed out, a fight against Islam. It's a fight against zealotry and bigotry and the closed minds that believe that theirs is the Only True Way and that God will reward them for being murderers. The Islamic fundamentalists who murdered thousands at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon are different only in degree from the Protestant fundamentalists who threw rocks at elementary school girls -- four- and five- and six-year-olds -- in Northern Ireland this year because they dared to want to enter their school through its front door or from the Catholic fundamentalists who shoot down British soldiers in the streets of Belfast or ...

Bleah. This is cold cold talk for what should be a warm time of the year. If there is anything at all that I hope we have learned from September 11th, it is that the people we love and who love us are far more important than anything else in the world. So let's talk about them instead...

The highpoint of 2001, without question, was on February 28th, when my nephew Dennis Alexander was born. Son of my youngest brother Bill and his wife, our sister-by-adoption Carolyn, Dennis tipped the scales at 9 pounds and 3.4 ounces (we don't believe in small babies in our family!). I got to be his godmother, which was way cool for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that he was born and christened in Monterey, California. Sigh... I really don't like Los Angeles, and I need a bit more sunshine than San Francisco provides, but I could easily live forever in Monterey... I can't afford to live forever in Monterey, but... Sigh...

His Daddy graduated with a master's degree in electrical engineering (with honors, no less, and a patent on the concept in his thesis and...) from the Naval Postgraduate School in September, and Dennis got to meet -- and totally charm -- a bunch of his aunts and uncles as he traveled cross-country to Daddy's new duty station at Quantico, Virginia. He arrived just in time to finish unpacking and dress up as bumblebee for Halloween. He'll be the highlight of everyone's Christmas this year as a bunch of us -- as many as possible! -- gather at my sister Kacy's house in Blacksburg, Virginia, for his very first Christmas. First Christmas

My niece Bobbi, my brother Fred's daughter, gave us all a terrific excuse for a party in July when she married the love of her life, Joel Craig, in Frankfort, Kentucky. We almost had a full house. My older brother Evan was there with his wife Judith and daughter Gina; my brothers Paul, Fred, Warren and Bill made it; and my sister Kacy was there with husband Mike, sons Ian and Thomas and daughters Hannah and Rose. But my sister Diana had surgery in June to remove a pituitary tumor and hadn't quite fully recuperated, so she didn't make it. Plus Paul couldn't manage bringing his wife and four kids out from Arizona, and Carolyn didn't want to fly with Dennis quite yet. Next year, we're shooting for a full house though: it's Gina's turn to provide an excuse for a party when she gets her Ph.D. in audiology. (You are going to finish that dissertation in time, right, Gina? Uh... Gina? Gina!)

My niece Hannah graduated from Blacksburg High School in Virginia on August 2nd -- not a bad feat for a kid who wouldn't turn 17 for another three weeks. She pushed through a grueling summer session in order to forego her senior year and go on to college. She's in her first year now at Virginia Western. She's sure doing one heck of a job catching up with older brother Ian, who's in his second year at William and Mary.

Hannah's Mom, my sister Kacy and her crew (including Hannah, Ian, Thomas and Rose) were up here at my house again for Thanksgiving. The deal is, I get the Broadway play tickets; they cook. Since my brother-in-law Mike can do some gourmet-quality meals and my sister makes pies to die for, it's a fair trade. This year, we were off to 42nd Street to see 42nd Street. Terrific production, and a hit with everyone from the 11-year-old up to the oldest, uh... me. We also had some fun seeing Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone, too.

The year ends, as it began, with me still working as an editor at Gann Law Books in Newark, New Jersey, and teaching part-time at Rutgers Law School, and serving as faculty advisor to the Moot Court Board (I was regional coordinator for the Jessup Competition that we hosted this year), and coach to the mock trial team, and... Sigh... Occasionally, I think back wistfully to the days when I was only working one job! I did have another thyroid scan at Columbia Presbyterian and there are still no little nasty cancer cells out there trying to multiply. January makes three years post-surgery; two more years, and I can pretty much put the whole thing behind me.

The kitties are also fine -- though Mist had an extended visit with the vet in October after deciding to eat part of a plastic bag which then decided it didn't want to leave her digestive system. A kitty looks very woebegone after being (as the vet put it) "roto-rootered" out. I think she has forgiven me.

I suppose I should mention that I turned 50 in March. I was kind of dreading it, since I had been the moving force behind some fairly elaborate pranks on others for their 40th birthdays. Turned out I had nothing to be concerned about. And I do mean NOTHING. Not even a single prank gift. (No party, no ice cream, no cake, no balloons, no flowers, either, but no pranks...) Remind me to throw my own party for my 60th birthday... (Do I hold grudges? Who, me? Remind me to tell you about the time my Uncle Mike left me behind when he took my sister and my cousin to the movies. I was four at the time...)

That's about it from this end. To all and everyone a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! And (sigh) though it seems farther away than ever before, peace on earth, goodwill towards mankind.


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Copyright © 2001 Judy G. Russell | All Rights Reserved.
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