An Open Letter to Santa - 2016

Dear Santa,

Greetings again after another year.  I'm sorry we don't keep in touch more.  I guess we both get busy doing our own things during the rest of the year, so that's no surprise.  How have the elves been this year?  Did your reindeer get enough training over the off-season?  I hope the weather currents aren't too harsh for your yuletide present run this year.

We've been doing a bit better this year in the Reynolds family.  We survived another hurricane season without any unfortunate mishaps here in Houston.  Thankfully we have also been able to improve out living conditions quite a bit this year after purchasing a townhome just down the road from where we had been living for the past four years.  I can tell you going from 1400 square feet to 2200 square feet makes a big difference.  Now my children actually have room to run indoors, I have an attic to store boxes, my wife can entertain guests, and I have a bathtub I can actually fit in.  Oh, and now I can grill.  And I grill a lot.  We thankfully moved down the road and it was relatively simple to pull off.  We also were able to keep our kids in the same school boundaries and can still attend the same church congregation we've been with since we moved to Texas.  It has been a real blessing.

I'm still gainfully employed at NASA's Johnson Space Center, working on future concepts of human spaceflight missions.  I've also started getting back into doing industrial design work on occasion, which is a welcome change from my normal day-to-day tasks.  I never seem to have enough time to do the creative things I want and I keep hoping something will change to get me enough mental energy at night to finish the dozens of projects I have dreamed up.  Maybe 2017 will be different.

My wife, Sarah, has had an up and down year, as I'm sure you've heard.  After giving birth last year, she sustained an injury in her back that wouldn't go away without surgery.  We were all a bit nervous going into it, but it seems as if the problem has been relatively resolved.  (Don't get me started on all the mess we had to sort out trying to get the doctor's office and insurance company to actually give each other the right information...)  Thankfully she has had a good challenge this year by becoming an independent sales consultant with Usborne Books.  She has filled our home with good books for our kids to read and made a difference in the lives of some of the families she has introduced the books to.  I'm glad she has found something that she can do from home while the kids still need her.  She's been working hard to get going and I'm proud to see her passionate about something.

My oldest, Leah, just turned five this past month.  I can't believe she's been a part of our family for five years.  She continually surprises me with how grown up she is getting.  She is now old enough to be a help instead of a hinderance and I'm grateful for the many times when she realizes the joy of helping out others.  The other night she cleaned up all the toys without being asked, just because she wanted to do something nice.  She's becoming quite the artist and loves to draw, color, paint, and play with play dough.  I see a lot of myself in her and I love it when we get to do the occasional daddy-daughter dates.

My son, Sean, is a boy.  A three year old boy.  And he has more energy than I think I'll ever have again.  I don't seem to be able to match the level of activity he seems to constantly be at.  I often say that he's got 100% of his mom's genes in him, which isn't bad, but I'm constantly having to learn things about him and how he functions, sort of the opposite of the way I am with Leah.  However, he's got a cheery attitude most of the time (even if it is coupled with a three-year old's sass 75% of the time) and is a friend to everyone.  Honestly, if you're not a scary monster, you're automatically his friend.  He's got a tender heart and even asks for nice things to happen to cartoon characters when he says his prayers at night.  It's adorable.

Lucy, my youngest, has been both a blessing and a curse to me this year.  Don't get me wrong, I think she's the cutest baby ever.  However, for the first year of her life I have been the one to get up in the middle of the night to take care of her, sometimes multiple times in the same night.  My mental health hasn't been that great as a result of it all and I've been exhausted for quite some time.  Thankfully she started sleeping through the night a bit more once we moved into our new home.  Aside from that, she's a pre-toddler that's just happy to be here.  She always gives us smiles, blows us kisses, and will come plop on you to give you a good hug.  She's definitely the cuddliest baby I've had, which makes up for all the times she transformed into a banshee-esque night demon.

I'm sure your elf intelligence network has already informed you that we mortals here down south have had a bit of a rough year during 2016.  The country I live in, particularly, has had less than Christmas-level feelings spread around this past year due to the political climate.  The recent presidential election brought out mediocre candidates and bad mojo all around.  It frankly got exhausting seeing each individual political ideology vilify anyone that deviated from their way of thinking.  As we headed into the holiday season, I don't think that feeling really got left behind.

Don't get me started on all the negative things that I hear about in the news.  Between the domestic violence in my nation to the civil unrest I read about abroad, it's been a bit hard to keep the light of hope shining in our hearts.  I think people are feeling a lot of darkness in their hearts right now, either due to circumstances or just hidden hurts.  I honestly don't think that presents are going to solve that problem, so maybe you have something else in that sack of yours that might help.

Usually in letters that people send you, they have a list of things that they'd like for Christmas.  I honestly can't say that I want anything.  I'm just excited to see my kids open their presents on Christmas morning, or to have my wife be surprised at the gift I got her (she's never going to guess it!).  I haven't given a single thought to what it is I want.  I guess that is something that just comes with getting older.  I'm not saying that I'm a selfless human being, by any means.  I mean, I'd love to have some new toys to play with or go on some fancy trips with the family, but the truth is that I really don't have time to play anymore.  All of the things I need aren't something you can put in your sack: more sleep at night, more self-confidence, more hours in the day (unless you've got a TARDIS... which I might be able to use). 

In the end, I think maybe just a little more hope is something I could use.  I haven't had a real vision for the past few years of what I wanted my life to be.  It's lead me to become a bit aimless, taking things one day at a time, trying to soak in whatever scraps of inspiration I can find.  I'm not totally lost right now, just a little dazed and confused.  Probably a lot of people are feeling that way.  If there's any way you could trade a few iPhone 7s in the world for some positivity, it would be appreciated by many more beyond myself.

So anyway, Santa, I hope your trip this Christmas Eve goes according to plan.  We'll leave out a plate of cookies for you.  Feel free to eat any leftovers in the fridge.  I know you need the calories to stay warm.  Most of all, have a Merry Christmas!


-Brad Reynolds.

P.S. If you really, really need to put something under the tree for me this year, here are a few things that I think would be really great: a Gibson ES-355; components for a high-end PC graphics workstation; an all-expense paid trip for the family to go to Disneyworld for a week; lifetime maintenance for any vehicle we own; free tickets to visit family out west; a 60-inch smart television with soundbar; Google Fiber; no more Micheal Bay Transformer movies; and a never-ending block of Parmesan cheese that has great flavor with zero calories.

P.P.S. I know those are all tall orders, so if you don't have room under the tree for them, no worries.  We've already been blessed with way more than we deserve.