I hope you love this post

Many a time I've heard that writers are a weird crew, and it's true: the need to write, like the need to eat or breath or sleep, must be satisfied, and the results are these streams of words strewn forth into the world, bound or on bright screens or on bathroom stalls. It occurs to me that some may find an open Christmas letter to the world by blog a bit strange: some will wonder if this isn't a symptom of my generation's compulsive social sharing in the online sphere; others will long for days when the only airing of skeletons that occurred was through Grandma's shaky cursive on handwritten letters that arrived via snail mail to tell the family news.

My world has shifted again over the past year. These are details of life that I share with colleagues, students, friends, family and therefore details I long to share in a Christmas letter. The Christmas letter of my dreams arrives at your door in a thick paper envelope sometime a week or so before the holidays. Inside is tucked a carefully posed family photo on nice card stock with a wish for your happiness and a handwritten signature. It's typed in Word without any spelling errors, and printed on Christmas paper like it used to be when I had my life "together". I know you're reading this on a rather impersonal screen, and I know it's not the same. I know the photos aren't perfect and I didn't even snap an iPhone pic during that 20 minutes the kids and I had coordinating holiday outfits on Christmas Eve. The whole mission of life this past year has been honesty, so here I type regardless of these failures. I sometimes think my very existence is a punch in the throat to the world in general, and my poor, dear Christian circle in particular. And so I {tentatively} give you...

My Awkward Family Christmas Letter 2014

The year began with enrolling the kids in public school, which was a major sock in the mommy gut - and the former fundamental Christian mommy gut especially so - since I had shakily envisioned at least getting them through basic math in homeschool. Even when you know something will be okay in the end, even when you're sure it's the best decision - it's still hard to buck tradition and long-held personal values.

The kids did enjoy and succeed in school, for the most part. This fall semester has been much easier for all of them as they understand school culture now - where to walk, how to behave, that sort of thing. They've met fewer bullies than I would have imagined, and have made friends on different levels and in different ways. They excel at different areas - some socially, some in math, some science, some reading, some as hard workers, or helpers, or for their empathy - but all stand out as artists and musicians, which makes my mama heart swell with joy. They frequently are singled out as loving and giving, and also have a reputation for being a bit quirky, intellectual and funny. Teachers enjoy their silly accents, professor-mama factoids, and original ideas.

I've continued on faculty at UW-Eau Claire and have enjoyed a stressful but successful beginning to my 3rd year. Health continues to measure high on the Richter scale of our family stress, but the storms seem to at least come fewer and farther between these days, and the seas aren't quite as high during them.

In some ways I wish I didn't have to type this next paragraph. For my own children, I dream of and work toward a world in which they will simply declare whom they love, that person, and those of us who love them will love their person and there will be no more "coming out" as anything. 2014 marked the end of a long process in coming to terms with my identity as a lesbian. "Coming to terms" seems more fitting than "coming out", because reaching acceptance of myself was at least as much part of the process as inviting others into the reality of my life and my being.

In August, I moved full time to my apartment in Eau Claire. Reaching the decision to drive away from the farmhouse I crafted in my dreams, the home I thought I would raise my children in, raise them a certain way, with their parents always there, was the most difficult point of my life thus far. Once it was made though, I felt myself quickly and easily relax into the form of my new life like an old glove. It felt a little like picking up in my early 20's, and re-envisioning where life might lead me, now with four precious pieces of cargo and a heavily invested career in tow. There have been little discoveries of lost joys, like perfume, candles, and funky art; new discoveries, like a garbage disposal and a buzzer to let guests in. New challenges, like establishing a home again at a time when professors haven't been paid for months; and new experiences, like single motherhood, paying for hot lunches, doing homework evenings, and managing a custody schedule.

I will file for divorce legally in a few days. By the end of spring semester, I will be Doctor Holmen instead of Doctor Thul. I have a beautiful girlfriend who has brought my life full circle to a type of joy and peace I haven't known since I was a small girl on a farmstead in fields of gold. The future is still hazy: a lot of puzzle pieces still have to be found and fit with this new, complicated life. The haze isn't the cold fog I've walked alone, though: it is the warm lemony mist of the morning of a beautiful new day, the kind that shrouds the world in tantalizing mystery but holds no fear within it's curtains.

I was starting to heal when 2014 began, just barely budding into new growth. Choosing freedom and truth over rules, judgments and lies set my feet back on the path I know as my own. Walking confidently forward, however alone I felt, has led me to a place I am proud to call my own. Whatever steps I've taken that have required bravery and strength and support, I share because I want it to take a little less bravery, strength or support for someone else to become who they really are, to let their true voice be heard.

So here's to a New Year that is a little less awkward and a little less brave. A little more ordinary and a little more joyful. Here's to a bit more Bohemian drama and a little less stark and stoic, a little more responsibility and fewer expectations.

Wishing you and yours the chance to celebrate the holiday truthfully and fully,
Genevieve & crew