Christmas 2012
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Christmas, 2012

Dear Family and Friends,

¯It’s the most wonderful time of the year! ¯With the Franklin kids yelling it’s very compelling to have some more beer! It’s the most wonderful time of the year! ¯

Taylor finished her freshman year at ASU and is now midway through her sophomore year. She upgraded her living accommodations from a cinder block, gated prison to a 4-star resort apartment complex that’s nicer than the house her parents own. The amenities are better, too, as the new digs come with boys swimming, boys playing volleyball, boys playing basketball and boys working out just a few short steps from her room. Taylor switched her major from business to communications/ journalism this semester.  She finally learned from her father that if you can just talk a good game, you can baffle everyone with your own personal brand of hooey. On the downside, if you don’t know accounting or economics, you have a harder time explaining to your parents the benefits of shoes vs. food or how a new, flat panel TV will attract boys to your apartment.

The big news is that Jimmy completed Marine boot camp this past spring. Thirteen glorious weeks of doing all the things you would never do for your parents. But by golly, when someone with no stake in your comfort or personal hygiene asks you, you do it. Just getting into boot camp is quite the ordeal. You must show original birth certificates, social security card, school transcripts and driver’s license. Which took awhile to locate because, as you can imagine, Nancy and Joe had long ago buried these as a way of having plausible deniability should they be asked if they were related to Jimmy. So when the Marine recruiter lost the precious documents that would get Jimmy off the parental dole and into boot camp and requested replacements, Nancy was one step away from showing said recruiter the original orifice from which Jimmy sprang forth into this world. But the recruiter managed to relocate and remove the documents out of one of his orifices before she had the opportunity.

Once the paperwork is complete and you’ve passed all your physicals, you must remain in peak shape until you leave for boot camp—which was, not surprisingly, when Jimmy decided to merge his nose with a closet door during a college campus “beer tasting.” This required a trip to the E.R. and twelve stitches. Fortunately his nose wasn’t broken but Joe and Nancy had to keep repeating “Thirteen weeks of payback!” over and over again to avoid breaking his nose themselves.

Basic training is called that because you only need to learn one, basic thing: When the drill sergeant  puts his face so close to yours that you can count his nose hairs and yells “WHAT IS YOUR JOB, DUNG BEETLE?” your answer is always “TO DO WHATEVER YOU TELL ME TO DO, DRILL SERGEANT!”  Boot camp is like a cross between summer camp and “Survivor- Pendleton!” You sleep in barracks with a bunch of men. You eat at communal tables using as few social skills as necessary. You go days without showers or changing your clothes. And you have all sorts of fun, outdoor activities and games, like playing “Marco!Polo!” with your fellow campers in full dress and packs; Relay races hauling logs the size of telephone poles from point A to point B; Extreme hiking and camping with tarantulas and rattlesnakes; Sleeping under the stars and eating meals right out of cans! Blisters! “Barrack Crud”! Rampant bacterial infections! Jimmy claims he found Jesus during boot camp. Nancy thinks Jimmy just saw Jesus’ impression in the mud from which his face had just been extricated.

And for those of you who have watched your dreams of professional sports greatness disappear with your children’s increasing interest in beer, fast cars, boys/girls and designer handbags, do not despair! Get a dog; preferably something with a totally absurd career orientation like a fox hound or sled dog. Or, in Joe’s case, an Old English Sheepdog. Did you know that for the price of a new pair of soccer shoes you can have your dog run through a herding “instinct test?” This involves putting the OES, a herding breed, into a corral with 5 sheep. Action ensues.

Now, pardon Nancy for thinking this, but wouldn’t the same “action ensue” if you put a cat into a cage full of mice, say, or wolves with deer, lions with wildebeests? And if your dog does well (what a surprise!), for the added price of a pair of regulation CIF Division III football cleats, PER LESSON, you can improve your dog’s ability. To what end, you might ask? Well, apparently, there are “herding tournaments” for your dog in every cock-fighting arena, dung-spattered pasture and greyhound racing track between the Yukon and Tijuana, Mexico. Seeing the crack-addict glow in Joe’s eyes as he contemplated coaching a future herding champion was enough for Nancy. She slapped his nose with a rolled up newspaper and rubbed his face in the checkbook to remind him that he’s still paying out-of-state tuition for his daughter.

And speaking of Nancy, like a carton of milk she continues to edge ever closer to her expiration date. Nancy is now, officially, a karate brown belt. She’s only a “lethal weapon” in the sense you’d consider a Red-Ryder-BB-gun-with-a-special-sight-and-compass-in-the-stock a lethal weapon. She’s more likely to put out her OWN eye, than yours.

Nancy won an overnight trip tuna fishing out of San Diego. She knew she was in trouble when she strolled onto the dock with her fashionable rolling luggage and personal pillow to see a group of seriously determined men, with only the clothes on their backs, holding just their tackle boxes and poles.  And since Nancy appeared to be the only one with all her own teeth, she felt particularly strongly about brushing them. Which turned out to be the only concession to hygiene that ANYONE on the boat made for the duration of the trip.

In October, Nancy fled Joe, the dog, and her job to go to Baja with her family. On the second day, it started to rain. And it rained all day and, yea, verily into the night, for it was hurricane Paul, a category 3 hurricane, which barreled forth from the yaws of the Pacific. Which is why, at zero-dark-thirty the morning of her third day of vacation, Nancy was rudely awakened by her sister screaming “Evacuate all ye who sleepeth here!” Which Nancy ‘s family did. By boat. In blinding rain and 60mph winds. Providing the most disturbing, retina-burning wet t-shirt contest by women over 50 the deckhands had ever seen.

You can tell a lot about family members by what they put in their grocery carts when facing the prospect of roads being washed out and having to cook on a barbeque for an indeterminate number of days. The “Mayans” in Nancy’s family, celebrating the end of their world, put beer, wine, Pringles and candy in their cart. The “Survivalists”, Nancy in this group, not believing the end is near and refusing to let Joe think he was going having the house to himself, put in eggs, bananas, flan, unrecognizable Mexican marinated meat and a 10 lb. block of unnamed white cheese because her group doesn’t know how to say “a half pound of orange rind Muenster, sliced thin, deli style, please” in Spanish as a storm rages outside.  After two days of no hot water, cooking eggs and chorizo while wearing water-repellent Hefty bags and sharing rooms with family members who hadn’t showered in awhile, Nancy decided the Mayans might have the right idea after all.

And so as we edge closer to the end of the Mayan calendar, Nancy and Joe encourage you to gather your loved ones close and thank God, wherever you find him, for your many blessings. May you have health and happiness in 2013!

Joe, Nancy, Jimmy and Taylor Franklin

As always you can find this letter and other mirth on Nancy’s website www.mirthquakes.com

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