I want to share my Christmas Bonus with you this year but before you get too excited, it's not cash, or a smoked ham, or a Tie-Of-The-Month membership. It's just some "sappy-happy-feel-good" moments I've had this year, and they mean more to me than anything else and I'm so happy to have them and reflect on them at this special time of year.
This year, a very good, close, personal friend of mine deployed to Afghanistan, visiting us before he left, and again after he safely returned and we got to see how his sweet daughter has grown in the years since we last saw her. I got to spend time with him and a couple other "Army Buddies" this year, and they are so much like family to me and my family, my kids call them "Uncle".
I got to spend time with my Goddaughter from Germany, and reunite her (at least momentarily) with her father that she hasn't seen since she was a toddler. It was a time of pleasure and pain, seeing the woman she had become, reconnecting, and the disappointment of realizing that the values she had been brought up under were so vastly different from ours. Our time together didn't end well, and we may never reconnect, but we had the opportunity to find out.
We found out the true colors of the people Susie worked for, and found them to cheap, perverse, and devious. They used and abused her skills, qualifications and good nature until they poisoned her and infected our family. Yet once we saw them for what they were, Susie applied to two other businesses, and had two better offers, each better than the last. I am so proud of her and all she has accomplished. She has reached a point where she could support our family on her pay alone if we had to. It wouldn't be much of a living, but we could survive. Coupled with my wages, we can finally get those ends to meet in the middle and even have some string to spare to enjoy things more. The best part is that we've worked hard to earn that position, and we've done it honestly and with integrity.
The next part of my bonus was going back to Arizona to visit my parents for Thanksgiving. We had a wonderful visit, sharing laughs, sights, and even a few sour notes on Mom's Karaoke machine. It was a truly wonderful visit and we realized how much we missed being around family, especially Mom and Dad. All the way home Susie and I talked about how we would like to be closer to be there for them, and share their grandchildren with them more.
I think I've always been a gypsy, I never seem to stay very long anywhere. I thought I found home in Missouri. I was active as a Boy Scout leader, as well as Susie... we were taking notice of local issues, even survived a terrible ice storm on our own for about two weeks without power. Right after that I was laid off and moved to Oklahoma in search of better opportunities. It has been nice here, but I never felt it was home as much as Missouri, or Arizona felt, but I got a good job and things settled down. The kids are in the band and doing great, have more friends than ever, and we have close friends nearby from our Army brotherhood, even adopting their families and friends somewhat.
Yet all the way back from Arizona we thought and talked about, "what if" we could move there and be closer to Mom and Dad. When we went back there for Thanksgiving and we hit the Arizona/New Mexico border at sunrise and looked over the landscape and I realized just how much I missed it... When we went through the mountains in Flagstaff, across the badlands to Yuma, across the southern half of the state along I-10 to New Mexico... I felt as if I were home at long last.
I showed up to work Tuesday after Thanksgiving weekend to find out there were open positions in Dallas and Wichita. I asked if there were any in Arizona and was directed to the job postings page for our company. Within two weeks of returning to Oklahoma I had applied for, interviewed, been accepted, offered, and accepted a job in Phoenix doing what I already do, with a raise and relocation allowance.
In the meantime I had asked my friends and family to pray that the right choice, the right option, would present itself and be attainable to me that God wanted for me.
So now, in just three weeks I will leave the majority of my friends, to start a new life in Phoenix, closer to family, and in the middle of the land and laws that I love, honor, and defend. I will range on ahead of my family, to find a suitable place to live and start my job there while they remain with the familiar and finish up the school year, then we'll join up in the summer to move out to Arizona as a family, permanently.
I may not be all that old, but I'm now old enough to know where I am happiest, and I am moving to Arizona, and I will die there. Preferably not anytime in the next 40-50 years, but my faith is in God that I will be where I need to be, when I need to be there.
So, that is my Christmas Bonus, and it's more than I could have hoped for. Sure there have been hard times this year, when ends didn't meet, or things didn't go our way. When I was sad, angry, depressed, worried, etc, but I choose not to focus on those in a negative light. Looking back, it was a pretty damn good year, and we all survived it.
What more can we ask?