Friday, December 16, 2011

Norris Christmas Letter 2011

Across the miles, and memories, and dear friendships, from our home to yours, greetings of Advent Peace from the Norris Family!  As 2011 comes to a close, we can all say this sure has been an interesting year.  Read on, for a brief overview of what we have been up to in the past 12 months.

A Junior and a Senior 
As if life was not rushing headlong faster than any of us could imagine, Kelly is now a Junior at DePaul University in Chicago, and Heather is a Senior at Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy.  Kelly is looking forward to her last 18 months of college instruction (after spending the past three months with us here, as she finished some general ed classes in Southern California), and to being fully certified as an elementary level teacher upon graduation.  From there, only God knows what comes next, but the current plan is teaching someplace overseas for a few years.  She is quite used to world travel, having almost spent last Christmas in London, close to being snowed in on her way home from Livingstone, Zambia.  Heathrow in disarray, stranded in London, without luggage, and wearing only sweats and Tom’s shoes, she spent the next 72 hours improvising a new wardrobe, planning travel home, but also enjoying the snowy sights of London at Christmastide!   She made it home, via Houston to Los Angeles, on the 21st; it was the best Christmas present of the year for our family. Her smile on our doorstep will not quickly be forgotten.

Meanwhile, Heather’s life is never a dull moment, with present plans for 15 (yes, count them) separate college applications.  Thus far two acceptances, 13 more to go.  We are all so proud of Heather’s hard work, and Dad is just overjoyed he did not have to write an application check to USC.  Stayed tuned for more news.  The fall presented a surprise, as Heather’s grace and poise (characteristics having nothing at all to do with her Dad) propelled her to the final 30 young ladies to be considered for the Tournament of Roses Royal Court.  Alas, royalty was not to be, but Heather is quite happy with her life as a commoner, and another year on Varsity softball.  We love this girl.

Intramucosal Carcinoma of the Colon
Just a few words, but the gravity they contain can be life changing.  With those medical reference words, our lives together as a family took a summer detour we did not expect.  We don’t have a story of how our majestic and exemplary faith made this experience entirely free of questions or worry.  We learned deep lessons of love, commitment and friendship from so many during this time.  Surgery was required, and the result: no evidence of ongoing serious cancer.  In fact, what had previously looked likely cancerous was in fact, benign.  One more related surgery is scheduled for later this month; a purely preventative procedure.  Nancy is back to full and complete health, and we are all deeply and profoundly thankful.  Words simply will not do.  A word of prayer for one more short hospital visit for Nancy would be a gift to us.  The doctors want to keep a close eye on her in the years to come, but for now, the way ahead is clear.  Suffice it to say, we have a different understanding of the concept of the gift of each new day.  And in thanks, and as a celebration, we will be giving a financial gift this year in your names to the City of Hope (, where Nancy received truly remarkable and compassionate care.  This was a summer we will never forget.

More Modest and Thankfully Dull Adventures
As for me, the balding guy who is the oldest around here, this has certainly been a year.  From emails to and from Zambia, sitting in the City of Hope hospital waiting room wondering about the future, to awaiting a Rose Court announcement; it never, ever, got boring.  This included a business trip to Alaska last year just before Christmas (spotted several moose on major streets in Anchorage, high temperature +15 degrees), a conference in Washington DC in November, with a day to enjoy the nation’s capital.  The year was filled with some wonderful musical interludes with good friends, the Watkins Family hour at the Coronet, Alison Kraus and Union Station under the stars at the Greek, The Civil Wars at the Wiltern, and fall evenings at Disney Hall with good friends.  A week at the beach at the close of summer, complete with rooftop sunset dinners full of the kids and their friends and much laughter.  Summer evening barbeque dinners on the back deck with friends old and new.  Bruin games at Pauley with friends new.  Life is rich and full, each day.  Thankfulness abounds.

And so, in this past year, as Kelly traveled to Livingstone, via London and Los Angeles, I wondered about what seems to be the only event that can unite the people of these distant and disparate cities. An event that occurred in obscurity more than two hundred centuries ago, in a dusty village in the middle of, well, nowhere.

At the point of a single birth, everything changed.  Time was carved in two.  For everyone, forever.  For countless thousands alone, with their thoughts on Los Angeles freeways, for the masses riding the London tube, and for the dusty streets of Livingstone.  And even for you too, standing in your kitchen reading this Christmas letter.  All these places, all us people, given a chance again. Given hope. Christmas hope.  Christmas love.  Across continents, and time zones, and time itself.  This is what Christmas is all about.

Merry Christmas from Steve, Nancy, Kelly, and Heather
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