Christmas, 2004
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Dear Family and Friends,

Well, it’s been another year for the Franklins and all Hell broke loose. This year began with travel brochures for Costa Rica. They were beautiful: lush jungle; sparking, blue oceans; a variety of wildlife only seen in magazines. Joe was hooked. As far as Nancy was concerned, he was smoking crack and needed a stint in rehab.


Joe’s version of Costa Rica is not for the faint-hearted. Nancy neglected to look up the definition of “eco-tourism” before agreeing to the trip. She assumed it meant you recycle your empty alcoholic beverage containers. Imagine, then, her surprise when the Franklins were asked to load themselves into a 5-seat Cessna for a one-hour flight to the eco-lodge. The pilot was an expert- at crop dusting, tree trimming and aerial stunt flying, all of which he incorporated into the Franklin’s brief flight. Landing was fun; only someone with a great deal of skill and, apparently, strong religious faith can find the landing area which materializes as a strip of earth about the size of a band-aid, but only after Nancy had already assumed the crash position and given herself last rites.


The first night, the Franklins learned that the eco-lodge has electricity only two hours of each day. None of it in the Franklin’s tent. As night fell, bats came out and frogs, large ones, began to croak in the jungle. Nancy heard other sounds but was afraid to ask what those were. Later, returning to their tent, the Franklins shook off the jet lag to notice that the ground was alive with all manner of crustaceans, reptiles and insects. Nancy’s trusty flashlight beam picked up a spider large enough to require a license plate. Jimmy, exhausted from the first day of travel, became hysterical. Nancy silently soiled herself.


Being in Costa Rica is like being in God’s “Pick-A-Part” lot. Every insect looks like a toy from under the bad kid’s bed in ‘Toy Story’. The aptly named Halloween crab is purple and orange with bright white spots on its back. At least that’s what Nancy remembered before she started screaming.


The Franklin’s survived Costa Rica only to plunge, wallet-first, into “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition”. Joe, displaying a heretofore repressed ‘queer eye’, proceeded to insert his opinion in all aspects of design and decoration. Not that Nancy let his taste influence anything outside his mouth, you understand. As the 6-week project staggered beyond the 3-month mark, Joe was heard to mutter “If that master bathroom toilet isn’t installed by next week, I’m going to go in and take a #$%* on the floor.” To which Nancy replied “Then you’ll have your nose rubbed in it and get swatted with a newspaper.” Perhaps some of you have noticed the many, varied shades of green splattered across the front of the Franklin’s house. Contrary to what Jimmy is telling everyone, the Franklin’s are not going with a camouflage theme, although if the painter gives them one more delay, they might just throw military netting over the whole thing and install that rocket launcher Jimmy wants. With any luck, that will deter the realtors.


Speaking of Jimmy, he’s now 13, and still playing Pop Warner Football. His team was 8-0 in the regular season, beating most of their opponents by 30 or more points, and was invited to play in two national tournaments. Nancy and Joe look at it this way: Trip to Minnesota for Jimmy: $500. Trip to Orlando for Jimmy: $800. Interrupting a business meeting to take a call from Jimmy telling you that the neatest part of his Orlando trip was going to Hooter’s and winning a baseball cap from one of the waitresses: Priceless.


Taylor, now 12, entered Manhattan Beach Middle School this year which, apparently, is like being in orbit around the planet “Hormonal.” Nancy and Joe are enjoying the extended, in-depth conversations, the family closeness, the respect and warm, loving interactions for which Taylor is clamoring. Yeah, right. Her room is now off limits to anyone genetically related to her, which is just as well: It’s as if a strawberry-scented glitter bomb exploded in the center of the Girl Mania section of the local mall. And, unless you use some form of the verb “to shop” in a sentence, Taylor’s just not interested. Nancy and Joe expect she’ll orbit back into their universe around the time she needs a car or a ride to the mall.


This year Joe decided it just wasn’t enough to have opposable thumbs that can hold a TV remote. And when researchers at Harvard University and the University of Utah determined that early man’s ability to run long distances is what set humans apart from primates, well, Joe just felt the urge to evolve. And so Joe, and the next door neighbor, Tony Perez, (who shall forever more be referred to as “That-Bad-Influence”) decided to run--- mile, after lung-stabbing mile. First, the L.A. Marathon, then the N.Y. Marathon; Why, it was like watching Forrest Gump: “Run, For-REST and That-Bad-Influence, RUN!” Nancy swears that if she hears Joe and That-Bad-Influence talking about Chicago and Boston, she’s going to know that the two of them are splitting Forrest Gump’s I.Q.


Nancy continues to work at Tenet HealthSystem. She would like to blame job stress for the fact that she can grow chin hairs better than Jimmy, but has been told it’s just advancing age. She continues to put her aimless ramblings on her website- www.mirthquakes.com- and has been interviewed by Clear Channel, the Orange County Register and some TV show in Australia. She invites you all to log on and pass it along to your demented friends.


You should all know that this year, Joe had a real hankering for authentic, Chinese food. And, as you read this, the Franklin family is having Chinese food…..in China.


So, as the Franklins pause to wonder “Is this succulent stuff on our plates duck or dog?” they give thanks to you, their family and friends, for always being there when they need you, United frequent flyer miles, and to God, who kept them safe through it all. And Nancy particularly gives thanks to the intestinal parasite she picked up in Costa Rica that allowed her to lose 10 lbs. May you all have safe and joyous holidays and a wonderful new year!


The Franklins

Joe, Nancy, Jimmy and Taylor