DISCLAIMER: I think we all know I don't own any of these wonderful characters. They are the property of the creative and tolerant folks at Gekko, Double Secret, SciFi channel, MGM, Showtime, et al. I just play with the characters from time to time for my own amusement. I made no money from this story, nor did I get any interesting bribes of chocolate or coffee mugs or sugar plums. (Of course, I don't know what the hell a sugar plum is in the first place.)
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is just a light little holiday story … nothing all that serious or deep. I do need to make note of the fact that I like Christmas newsletters and have written them myself for several years. So if anything, I'm poking fun at myself <g>. At any rate, I hope your holidays are merry … and I hope the story brings a smile to your face.
SEASON/SPOILERS: let's say season three, with specific spoilers for Singularity.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Janet Fraiser and the Christmas Letter
By ocean gazer


Janet hummed along with "Winter Wonderland" as she fluttered around the living room. Kneeling down in front of the fireplace, she picked up an artificial log from the neat stack in the antique woodbin. Stripping it of its packaging, she settled it on the grate, careful not to stir up the ashes littering the base of the firebox, left over from when she'd burned the limbs pruned from her fruit trees. Tossing the packaging into the nearby garbage can, she shook her head briefly. At one point in her life she would have scorned anything except a fire made from real wood from real trees. But as with many things, her youthful zeal had given way to middle age practicality.

Striking a wooden match on the side of its box, she held it to the log in various places, lighting it. Seeing the flickers of flame, she smiled, feeling the first tendrils of warmth drifting into the air. She stayed there for a moment – to be sure the log had really caught fire – before pulling the mesh screen closed. Levering herself off the floor, she brushed her hands on her sweat pants and picked up the box of matches. Then she made her way over to her desk, popping off the lids of the two glass jar candles that she normally used as paperweights. Setting the lids atop the papers in her inbox, she moved the candles to a cleared space, and struck a match to light the wicks. She planned to use the candlelight in lieu of the lamp bulb this afternoon, liking the gentler, more diffuse light.

As the candles began to burn, slowly starting to melt the pool of softer wax that had solidified around the base of the wicks, the scents of cinnamon and vanilla started to waft upwards. The aromas mixed nicely with the smell of Chai tea. She'd set an oversized mug of the beverage on her desk when she'd walked into the room. The trio of scents was not one she'd have consciously thought to combine, but it worked today – reminding her of childhood baking days with her grandmother. Maybe she was reading way too much into something so simple, but it made her think of Christmas pies and cookies. Which was just what she needed – well, that combined with the music, the fire, and the fat snowflakes falling outside – to get her in the mood for mailing her Christmas cards. Given that she only had a week before the holiday, she figured that anything that motivated her would be a good thing.

She wandered over to the CD player on the bookshelf by the window, pausing to throw the spent match into the fireplace. Giving in to her mild obsessive-compulsive tendencies, she assured herself that she did indeed have five CD's loaded into the player and that it was indeed set on shuffle. When the styles of music were vastly disparate, that feature tended to annoy her. But she had only loaded the player with Christmas music – ranging from the Vienna Choir Boys to Amy Grant to John Michael Talbot. As the machine shuffled into the first notes of "Lo, How A Rose Ere Blooming" she glanced around the room. A slight frown tugged at the corners of her mouth as she tried to figure out what she was forgetting. A look at the soft halo of candlelight reminded her, and she moved over to open the curtains, to further illuminate the room. The grey light of a snowy afternoon sky filtered in through the pane.

She stood still for a moment, staring out at the thickening layer of white coating her front lawn and street. Mesmerized by the beauty of the sight, she felt a surge of gratitude that she was home for once to actually enjoy a snowstorm. Usually it seemed like she had to fight her way to work and then stay cooped up in the mountain on days when they had heavy snowfall. She momentarily felt bad for Sam, who was still at work and missing the show, but then reality set in and she chuckled at herself. While her lover was as capable of enjoying nature as the next person, the woman just didn't find things like this all that exciting or magical. Now, if there were mathematical equations falling from the sky, then that would be another story …

Given the odd tangent of her thoughts, she was almost grateful when the ring of the phone cut into that mental sentence. Padding over to the desk, she picked up the receiver, not terribly surprised to hear Cassandra's voice on the other end.

"Hi, Mom. Um … you know how it's snowing outside? Well, Janey's mom just got called in to work since one of the other nurses can't make it. And … she's kinda wondering if I can spend the night here again with Janey … you know, to help her keep an eye on her little brothers. I figured I could just ask you … but her mom wants to talk to you."

Janet barely had time to get out an "okay" before the other woman got on the line. And then, she wasn't given a chance to get much of a word in edgewise, as Ms. Sampson was talking in a loud and breathless voice. She held the receiver slightly away from her ear to dull the sound a bit, listening patiently as she was assured that the girls really were babysitting and that the neighbor would be watching to make sure that they didn't try to invite anyone else over and that there was no alcohol of any kind in the house except the rubbing variety.

Glancing out at the falling snow, she bit back on her urge to laugh, instead mumbling "okay" and "uh huh" whenever there was the slightest pause in the word flow. She wasn't worried about the two, though the other woman clearly seemed to think she was. While Cassie and Janey were typical adolescents in many ways – musical taste and eye rolling at parents among them – they were good kids. That wasn't just typical parental denial talking – she and Sam spent considerable energy making sure they knew who their foster daughter's friends were and what they spent their time doing. And as Janet knew from past experience with the Sampson three-year olds, the two girls would have their hands too full to be able to find any trouble, even if they were inclined to do so.

Apparently, her responses to the semi-monologue had been appropriate, because the rapid fire voice in her ear stopped and Cassandra came back on the phone again. Janet picked up on the notes of embarrassment in the girl's tone as she promised that she and Janey would behave. Wanting to reassure her daughter, she interrupted quickly. "It's fine, honey; don't worry about it. Ms. Sampson is just trying to make sure I trust her as a parent; it really doesn't have anything to do with you or Janey. Good luck with the triplets tonight … don't stay up too late … and call me if there's any kind of problem."

Once they'd exchanged good-byes, she hung up the phone and walked around to the other side of her desk. She found that now that the room was toasty warm from the fire and the curtains were open so she could see the winter weather beyond the frosted glass, she was ready to get started on her project for the afternoon. Picking up her hefty mug, she took a hearty drink of her tea, reflecting that in a way it was probably good that she had the house to herself. That way, she could get things done with no fear of interruptions. Settling into her cushy and comfortable desk chair, she took another swig from the mug. Normally, Chai was not her hot drink of choice. She was more into strong black coffee for the caffeine or rich, sweet cocoa for the sugar. But somehow, the spices in this tea seemed to her to be almost synonymous with winter and the holidays. It was an odd connection, given its origins, but then again, she'd never claimed that her thought processes were always logical.

Shaking her head as she realized that she'd once again gotten sidetracked from her task, she glanced around her desk and visually checked all of her supplies. Pile of already signed Christmas cards – check. Pile of pre-addressed, stamped card envelopes – check. Pile of light green printer paper with a border design of holly branches, candles, and poinsettias – check. The last two items were Sam's contribution to the annual card writing process – the blonde had run all the address labels and added the borders to the paper while Janet had hand-signed "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the Fraisers" in all the cards. The brief signature was something new for her, as was the project she was working on this afternoon. It was something she'd finally given in to for practical, time sensitive reasons. It was the writing of a Christmas newsletter.

When she'd first seen those lengthy epistles popping up in the cards of her relatives, she'd actually cringed. It seemed so … impersonal somehow – to lump all the card recipients into some kind of faceless, uniform mass of people. But she had understood that Uncle Stanley's tendonitis kept him from writing by hand. And she had seen that her cousin Sandra, who had been out of touch with the family for several years, had too much "catch up" news to write out the same thing in fifty separate cards. She still didn't like the trend, but it made sense to her.

But then, the newsletters, with the insidiousness of English ivy, began showing up in almost every card she got from friends. Yes, they were all busy with families and with careers, but it still had grated on Janet's nerves to get a typewritten form letter in a Christmas card. Especially since at times it seemed like the only purpose of said letter was to brag about how wonderful the past year had been and to, essentially, show off how perfect the writer and his or her family was. She would grudgingly admit that there were exceptions to the rule – there were letters where good and bad were both laid out side by side, and there were letters that employed abundant humor to add a nice dose of reality instead of just gushing over with insincere sentiments. Those – unfortunately – were few and far between.

Janet, blessed with a stubborn streak, had persisted in years past in writing notes in every card and foregoing the letter. She'd hoped that by refusing to get her feet wet, she could somehow hold back the tide. And yet, here she was, a week before Christmas, getting ready to jump right in for the first time. She hadn't wanted to – had even had a ridiculous (in hindsight) argument about it with Sam. But the past couple months had been insanely busy and Christmas had not been on her mind until about a week ago. Then, she'd raced to get through her shopping and buy a tree, but she still had a pile of presents to wrap and mail, and the tree was bare of anything other than its needles and two strands of lights. And Sam had been the one to put those on. She still had to get out the decorations, to plan their holiday dinner, and get through two double shifts scheduled for the coming week.

Finally, reluctantly, she'd succumbed to the inevitable. Well … almost. Her letter was not going to be typed; she was going to handwrite it. At least that way, she could hold on to the illusion that it was still somewhat personal. She'd simply write the master version, throw the decorated paper into the copy machine, and print off her letters. It still wasn't what she wanted to do, but she could always go back to her old ways next year … when she had more time to prepare. And she was determined that despite the format, her form letter would be genuine and personal – not gloating or stilted.

Taking another sip of her tea and noting absently that she was now hearing the notes of "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing," she looked around for her favorite roller ball pen. Snatching it up as she set down her mug, she grabbed the top sheet off her pile of plain white paper and began to write.

"Dear Friends and Family,

I apologize for not writing more personalized notes this year, but things have been very busy lately. I really meant to take the time to sit down and connect with everyone on an individual level. It's just that my work has really been taking a lot of time lately. And I do try to stay involved with Cassandra's school activities, and she's definitely added in more things in the last year. Working on Top-Secret projects isn't easy, and neither is being a single parent. I try to keep up with everything, but this year, I just fell short. I hope you understand and will accept my apologies for this impersonal form letter."

Scowling, she crumpled up the piece of paper and batted it off the back of her desk. There was a garbage can right beside her, but it felt vaguely cathartic to let the offending piece of paper fall to the floor. Well, she'd managed to avoid gloating and stilted. Instead, she just sounded defensive and whiny – a wonderful combination. She tapped her fingers against the wooden desktop, realizing that she might also have been coming across as somewhat offensive – given that almost every card she received had a newsletter inside. Glancing towards the window, she stared for a long moment at the swirling snowflakes, taking a deep breath to calm her aggravated nerves. The subtle aroma of vanilla and cinnamon soothed her slightly. Her rational mind took over, reminding her that it was her first time trying to do this and that she couldn't expect to be good at it right away. She wasn't quite sure she believed her own thoughts, given her perfectionist tendencies, but it sounded like the kind of thing Sam might say, which made her feel infinitely better.

Picking up her mug, she sipped her lukewarm tea and stared at the steady candle flames. She opened her ears to the slight crackle of the fire and the harmonies of "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" as she slid another blank piece of paper off the pile. Okay, she could do this, she could write a good Christmas letter. Pen in hand, she stared down at the page for a moment to compose her thoughts.

"Dear Friends and Family,

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I hope that your holiday season has been filled with lots of good times with friends and relatives. Things here have been fairly hectic this month … this entire year, actually. I've continued to really enjoy my work as a doctor for the Air Force. Obviously, I can't discuss my work in any sort of detail, since it's all very classified and top-secret. But I've had the opportunity to try and figure out viruses I've never seen before and treat all manner of exotic injuries. And I'm very proud of the fact that I've been able to save some lives with my knowledge and skills, especially since some of the things I deal with go well beyond the scope of traditional medical training. It definitely keeps my mind sharp and I'm never bored. Being the Chief Medical Officer means that I can delegate some of the more mundane tasks and focus on the more difficult cases. And all the hard work has paid off, as I got a glowing review this year. Not everyone is able to find a job that they love and one that brings them so much personal satisfaction."

With a pained sigh, she balled the paper up in her hand and threw it on the floor next to the other reject. That letter had clearly crossed into the territory of bragging, and she was determined not to go there. Of course, it was hard to write a letter offering the highlights of the past year without getting into some of the things she was proud of. She drummed her fingers against her chin, thinking. The trick, clearly, was to mention things that were noteworthy or interesting to other people, but that weren't focused on her specific accomplishments. She felt like she'd done a little better with her second attempt – a little more practice, and she'd have the perfect Christmas letter. Encouraged by that thought, she grabbed another fresh piece of paper and started in.

"Dear Friends and Family,

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I hope that this letter finds you well and enjoying your holiday season. With luck, you're able to spend time with friends and family, sharing love and laughter. This year has been a good one in the Fraiser household. I've continued my work as a doctor in the Air Force. It's hard and sometimes difficult work, but it brings me a great deal of satisfaction. Cassandra has also had a good year. It's amazing to see how far she's come from her first year here as a scared foster child. She's gotten very tall and very pretty, and is in very good shape since she's taken up many different sports. She plays soccer with friends and made the school basketball team and the school track team. She's been a starter in several important games. And her grades have been remarkably good – she even made the Dean's list. Given that when she came into my life, she was too traumatized from her experiences to care about school, the change has been remarkable. She's so much more responsible and mature than many of the kids her age. In fact, as I write this, she is spending the night with her best friend, babysitting triplet three-year old boys! And they are a handful … but she handles them very well."

She paused for a moment – her pen poised over the paper – and reread the letter. Then she gave a little snort of disgust and crumpled up the page, batting it off the desk to join the other two discards. Once again, she'd crossed the line into gloating, and she was determined not to go there. It was bad enough reading other people's letters, where they made their families sound like candidates for sainthood. She didn't want to commit the same sin herself. A tiny corner of her mind told her she was being a little hard on herself, but she squelched the thought. She might have given in to this as an inevitable time-saver, but she didn't have to give in to cheap sentiment and aggrandizing.

Picking up her mug, she took another drink of her Chai, noting that it really didn't taste all that great once it had cooled down to room temperature. She pushed her chair away from the desk, standing up and walking over to the window to once again renew her sense of purpose by watching the snow fall. Of course, given how much trouble she was having composing a simple little letter, it might be just as fast to scrap the whole idea and go back to just writing an individual letter in everyone's card. A quick glance at the clock cured her of that delusion. Usually, when she did her cards, she started early in the morning and wasn't finished until late in the evening. Since it was already after four, there was no way she could go that route. Well, not without staying up all night, and she had to work an early shift tomorrow. She was only vaguely aware of "Wonderful Counselor" drifting out from the player beside her, and even the fat flakes of snow weren't really holding her attention.

For the first time, she could understand why people typed the damn newsletters – if there was a mistake, or if they thought better of what they'd written, they could simply delete it and not have to start over. She even glanced over to the computer monitor where it sat against the wall, on the table to the left of her desk. For several moments, she debated whether or not to turn on the machine. Then she shook her head resolutely, her stubborn streak coming fully into play. She'd said she was going to write this by hand, so that's what she was going to do. And if she ended up wasting more paper, well, it was just more starter fuel for the fireplace.

Besides, in the olden days, authors had written entire novels in longhand. Surely she could come up with a one or two page letter without the help of a machine. Fired up by a new sense of determination, despite her frustration with the whole process, she plodded back to the desk, settled in her chair, and once again picked up her pen.

"My dearest friends and family,

I want to send you all my warmest wishes for a very Merry Christmas and a wonderfully Happy New Year. May this holiday season be cheery and bright for you and for those you love. It is once again the time of year when we put pen to paper, sharing the events of the past year with one another, refreshing our relationships in the process. As I have enjoyed reading the news from your lives, I hope you also enjoy reading these tidbits from my humble home. The year past has been quite productive and fulfilling for both myself and Cassandra. She has become quite interested in sports and has concentrated mightily on her school work. I am very proud of the steps that she has taken this year, especially given the fact that her childhood left her with many scars and necessitated her overcoming many obstacles. My work continues to be a source of interest and I very much appreciate the opportunities I've received by working in a classified facility. Though I cannot, for obvious reasons, provide you with the details of said assignment, I can share with you that my work brings much satisfaction to me and I have been able to do some quite fascinating research."

This time when rereading her opening paragraph, Janet rolled her eyes. Okay, while she'd managed to avoid sounding like a braggart, she'd more than made up for it by sounding so formal and stilted – yet another thing she was trying to avoid. With a head shake, she wadded up that piece of paper and tossed it over the side of the desk to join the growing pile on the floor. She stretched her arms over her head and managed a dry chuckle as she mentally reviewed the words from her last attempt. Apparently, thinking about the novelists who wrote their works by hand had caused her brain to subconsciously try to imitate them. Since it wasn't even close to her normal style of speech or writing, she had no other explanation.

Bringing her arms back down, she moved the merrily burning candles along the back edge of the desk to the left, leaving them between the stack of envelopes and her inbox. She took a deep whiff of the candles' scents. Then she crossed her arms, laying them on the top of the desk, and leaned forward to rest her head on her forearms. After a moment, she turned her head so that her left cheek was lying against her forearms, enabling her to see the rest of the room – the crackling fire, the oversized bookshelves. And she could see the grey light spilling through the window, the snowflakes still dancing through the air on the currents of wind.

She couldn't believe that scribbling this simple little Christmas letter was turning out to be such a hard task. Normally, she didn't have this much trouble with written language. Not since grade school could she remember having such a hard time finding the words to say what she wanted to say. Maybe she was just overly conscious of how her words sounded, given her general antipathy to these form letters in the first place. More likely, her own irritation at reading some of the epistles had set her up for failure in writing one. All she knew was that she didn't like any of the attempts she had made so far, and she would be here all night if she kept tossing out everything she wrote.

Hearing the CD player shuffle to a new song, she perked up her ears, trying to identify it. It didn't take too long, given that the title was the same as the first line of the hymn: "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence." She nearly laughed out loud at the irony of it all – she was struggling to find words while the song title said to keep silent.

Then she sobered up, realizing that she still had a letter to write and fifty cards to send, and only a week until Christmas. Lying there with her head cradled comfortably, she decided that she should figure out what she wanted to say before she put pen to paper. Once she knew what direction she wanted the letter to go, she could simply find the right words to bring it to life. She drummed her fingers against her arm, thinking.

Obviously, she was going to talk about Cassandra and some of her activities. That was a given. She wanted to talk about her work, and decided that she could do it, as long as she didn't try to make it sound nearly as exotic as it really was. Having already put variations on those themes down in written form, she was sure that she could bypass her earlier problems in her next attempt. But what else was she going to say?

She chewed on her lip, as though the physical motion would somehow help her mental processes. Okay, she could always write about how her relationship with Sam had gotten more serious over the past year, and about how if gay marriage were legal, they'd only be a few steps away from it. That would fill space in a letter, and it was an important part of her life. And she'd come out as bisexual years ago – the only people in her life that didn't know were her co-workers in the "don't ask, don't tell" military. She started to mentally compose a few lines on the subject, but then stopped herself. Given where she worked, she couldn't run the risk. Granted, most of her card recipients wouldn't know Cheyenne Mountain from a hole in the ground. Metaphorically speaking, of course, since any intelligent person knew the difference between a hill and a hole. And most of them wouldn't even think twice about the underlying issue. But there was always the remote chance that somehow the information would get back to General Hammond and it could have consequences for both her and Sam.

Okay, so she couldn't fill space by talking too much about that subject. She thought for a while longer, and then focused in on the trips she, Sam, and Cassandra had taken over the last year. Granted, they were short weekend trips, but they'd be a relatively neutral subject. There were several trips to the lake, going out in the rowboats or fishing. And then there was the skiing trip in Aspen, where they'd met three vacationing members of the US Women's Olympic Team. Cass had hit it off with the young women, and had several photos to prove it. Or she could write about the five days they'd spent in Las Vegas, courtesy of a medical conference where she was the guest speaker. They'd had a blast, seeing magic acts and concerts, and just taking in the almost surreal atmosphere.

But even as she thought about it, she vetoed the idea. No matter how carefully she phrased it, she feared it would still come across as bragging. Maybe that was, quite simply, unavoidable in a letter that could only touch on the highlights of a year. But she wasn't ready to accept that as a given – not yet. She sat in her chair, eyes focused on the window, her brain desperately trying to figure out what to do.

She wasn't aware of drifting off to sleep, but must have, because she came to the rather sudden awareness that someone was shaking her shoulder. Blinking hard, she looked up into the darkened room, seeing a cheerful halo of blonde hair that told her Sam was home. She shook herself awake, and pushed herself into a sitting position, nearly banging heads with the other woman in the process, since the blonde had been bending over her.

Mumbling an apology, she glanced over to be sure that the candle wax hadn't overheated and caused the glass jars to crack. Focused on that, she only was vaguely aware of the frown she caught from the corner of her eye. She blew out the candles and clicked the switch to turn on the lamp. Ah, now she could see. She watched as Sam looked down at the desk, seeing the pile of decorated paper sitting untouched, then looking down to see the crumpled wads on the floor.

Janet could only manage to shrug when she saw the quizzical look directed at her. Then she gestured to the papers on the floor. "I was having a little trouble trying to find the right words." It wasn't all that articulate and glossed over her moments of acute frustration, but it was all she could think to say. She just watched while her lover bent down, retrieving the discarded pages, and smoothing out the wrinkles so they were readable. Then, seeing that Sam's facial expression seemed to be fluctuating between mild disgust and veiled amusement, she burst out giggling.

"They're pretty bad, aren't they?"

She wasn't too surprised that the other woman didn't respond immediately, clearly not wanting to hurt her feelings. Despite the fact that she'd been the one to point it out, her lover wasn't the type to want to twist the knife. But before long, she heard a muffled snort of laughter from Sam, and she decided she didn't really want to know which of the pages had elicited that response. She just sat there, watching as the other woman carried the papers over to the fireplace and tossed them inside.

"I hate to say this, Janet, but those were a little …"


She couldn't help laughing as she said the word, and laughed harder when Sam joined in. The other woman nodded her agreement. "Yeah, a little scary." There was a measurable pause, and she looked out the window, seeing that the snow had stopped falling for the moment. When she felt a gentle hand under her chin, she turned her gaze back to her lover, who was looking at her with serious eyes. "Look, Jan, this doesn't have to be some big production or anything. I don't know about anyone else, but what I like about Christmas letters is getting a sense of what my friends and family have been doing during the year, and knowing that they're happy."

Janet shook her head. Not that she disagreed with the sentiment, but she couldn't quite let go of her expectations of herself. "I just … well … I don't want to come across like I'm bragging or showing off. I hate it when people do that." She knew the other woman would understand that particular aspect of things, even if she couldn't put all the rest of it into words. Since Sam had never been the type for writing letters or sending cards, regardless of the occasion, she wasn't quite sure what kind of analogy to make to put her struggle in terms the woman would understand.

She felt a slightly calloused hand running through her hair and heard a soothing, "I know." And she realized that somehow, the other woman really did know. "I think maybe you're just trying too hard to write something perfect. Just remember – you're writing to people who already know you … who already love you. You don't need to impress anyone. And there's no rule that says you have to fill up a whole page or anything. Just write the same kind of note that you'd usually write to, say, your mom, and call it good."

The gentle cadence of the words touched something deep inside Janet, and reminded her of what the whole point of the letter was. She'd gotten way too caught up in seeing the individual trees and had forgotten all about the forest. Reaching up, she caressed Sam's cheek and smiled up at her. While her lover usually had her mind off in the theoretical stratosphere, Janet was lucky enough to see the more nurturing and down-to-earth side of the other woman. And even luckier – it usually showed up right when Janet needed it most.

She breathed a "thank you" to her lover, and was graced with a brilliant smile in return. And then, the more tender moment drifted away on the winds of practicality. She followed Sam's gaze to her – by now – cold cup of tea and chuckled as the woman's nose crinkled in distaste. Reaching over, she picked up the mug and started to stand up. "I think it's time for some coffee. And, thanks to you, I think I can actually get this letter written now."

It didn't really surprise her when the mild compliment made the other woman's cheeks flush pink. She still had moments where she couldn't quite believe just how clueless Sam was about all her considerable personality charms. And it wasn't an act of coquettishness – the woman honestly was that oblivious. At any rate, given her lover's embarrassment, Janet wasn't too surprised when the other woman offered to leave the room and go brew the coffee. She handed the mug to Sam and sat back down at the desk as the woman trotted out of the room.

She took another look at the white sky beyond the window, and then glanced over at the remnants of the fire. Pricking up her ears, she recognized the lyrics and melody of "Tender Tennessee Christmas," a song that reminded her of holiday times spent with family. She closed her eyes for a moment, imagined that she was sitting at the dining room table with her mom. Once she was in the moment, she opened her eyes, reached for a new piece of paper, picked up her pen, and started to write.

"Merry Christmas to my friends and family. I hope this finds you all healthy and happy, and hope that you're having a good holiday season. Things here have been going well this year. It's been a busy year, but a happy one. I'm still working as a doctor for the Air Force and am lucky enough to have a job that I really like. There are lots of long hours and it can be stressful, but at least I'm never bored! Cassandra is doing well in school this year and has recently gotten into sports. She even joined a couple of school teams and has really liked that. Her grades have gone up in the last six months, now that she's finally doing her homework. She's a typical adolescent in many ways, but she's a good kid and doesn't get into trouble, and I'm grateful for that. As many of you know, I've been seeing someone and the relationship is going well. There are no wedding bells on the horizon or anything, since we're both too caught up in our work, but just know that we're happy and enjoy spending what time we can together. Cass and I did take a few little trips together this year and those were nice breaks from the daily grind. Our favorite was a trip to Las Vegas. It's a pretty overwhelming place, but there's a lot of stuff to do and we were able to see a few concerts and things. Other than that, I don't really have a lot to say. Basically, I'm happy and healthy and my life is pretty good overall.

I send wishes that you all have a happy new year. Take care of yourselves and know that I'm thinking of you. May your Christmas be merry, and full of good times with friends and family.

With love,


The End

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