Annual Christmas Letter

A Note from Fatty: For weeks, I have promised Susan that I would write a Christmas letter to send out to our friends and family. But while I — for some unknown reason — have no problem writing something each day for this blog, I have an incredibly difficult time sitting down and writing a letter recapitulating the year.

(Brief aside: could someone please explain why “recapitulate” means “to summarize briefly” when “capitulate” means “to surrender?” Thank you.)

Anyway, I figure that by now enough of you know me well enough that I ought to be sending you the Christmas letter anyway, so today’s post will do double duty.

And to those of you who hate Christmas letters: I apologize.

Dear Friends and Family,

2007 sucked. A lot.

Really, “sucked” is too weak of a word. “2007 sucked to the power of three” is more accurate. In the interest of brevity, let’s go with, “2007 sucked, cubed.”

This is not to say that nothing good happened this year. A lot of good things happened, and I’ll summarize them in just a minute. But the big thing that happened this year sucked (cubed), and I’m not going to pretend it didn’t.

Anyway, let’s get started with what happened to whom. I’ll lead with the lousy stuff, so we can finish on a positive note.

IMG_0731 copy Susan
Most of you know that Susan battled cancer back in 2004. We thought we were done.

We aren’t.

Early this year, Susan found out that her breast cancer had come back and had metastasized. Susan has done radiation, followed by six months of chemotherapy.

Meanwhile, one of the tumors in Susan had ruined her left hip so badly that it became difficult for Susan to walk. She started using a cane, then went to crutches. By October, Susan wasn’t able to get comfortable anywhere. We found an excellent surgeon — one who specializes in bone tumors — who did a partial hip replacement for Susan just a few weeks ago.

People mention — often — how tough and brave Susan is, and they’re absolutely right. Susan tells me, though, she would gladly turn in some of the bravery for less pain and the ability to walk without crutches.

The silver lining with all this is that we’re finding out exactly how good people can be. Our neighbors, family, and friends have taken us under their collective wing and picked up the slack left when a mom can’t get around. Meals, rides for the kids, people staying with us when we need some full time assistance — we’ve now been helped so much that we don’t even concern ourselves about ever paying it back. We just try to be thankful that there are so many good folks who are willing to make us their project.

Which leads us to Elden. Um, me.

I’ve been keeping a blog for almost three years, called “Fat Cyclist” ( It started as a place where I could tell jokes and embarrass myself into keeping my weight down.

When Susan’s cancer came back, I had to decide between no longer writing the blog (I seriously considered this), continue writing the blog as if nothing had happened (not really possible; I’m not very good at faking a good mood), or telling my readers what was going on.

I chose to tell my readers what was going on, which may have been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Fat Cyclist readers sent in hundreds of cards and gifts. Twin Six — a bicycle jersey design company — created a special “Fighting for Susan” edition of the Fat Cyclist jersey, splitting the proceeds between Susan’s expenses and the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

People bought more than 600 of these jerseys — all of them we made. It even — amazingly — wound up on the cover of the most popular bicycling magazine in the country. Thanks to these people, when we needed to buy a stairlift — not cheap — we were able to do so with cash, and we’ve got money in the bank for when Susan’s well enough to go on a trip to Italy.

Every day, now, people reading my blog ask about Susan, letting us know that they’re sending prayers and good thoughts her way. It counts for a lot.

Oh yeah, I also rode my bike a lot and did some races.

And I have a really, really, really good job, with a boss that actively encourages me to keep my priorities straight — take care of my wife above all.

IMG_0401 Nigel
Nigel is fourteen now. He is as tall as I am, with a high likelihood of being taller than me by sometime next week. He has an outrageous sense of humor, coupled with an intuitive grasp of math and logic, all wrapped up in a heart of gold. And he can crush rocks with his bare hands.

I may have made up that last bit.

Nigel loves programming in Flash, creating increasingly interesting and fun games and animation. He’s capable of keeping a non-finite number of instant message sessions going with his friends, who are spread across the globe. This means Nigel likes to both get up early and stay up late, so he’s able to chat with and collaborate with his friends in Australia, Canada, and the fourth moon of Jupiter.

Also, Nigel’s kicking butt in school. But not literally.

IMG_0397 Brice
Brice, now 12, is incredibly smart, and — thanks to his love of reading — is his mom’s best friend. The two of them remind me of each other, the way they each have stacks of books piling up everywhere. They often read out loud to each other, and the rest of us find ourselves gathering around to listen.

Brice is in a gifted program at school. The technical term for this program is “My Child Thinks Your Child’s Honor Roll Program is Adorable” (MCTYCHRPIA). Brice finds the curriculum amusing, but not challenging.

Also, Brice will eat whatever we give him — the only child in the whole lot who doesn’t have some freakish “I hate any food that is not on my arbitrarily-chosen list of five strange-and-often-gross list.”

Brice has recently started playing the guitar, and is doing well at it. I, for one, am just glad he didn’t go for the flute (those of you who know me know I have a doglike sensitivity to high, piercing sounds).

I should also mention: Brice can move objects using nothing but his mind. He mostly uses this gift to tease the cat.

IMG_0420 The Twins
The twins — Katie and Carrie — are doomed to always be lumped together, at least in these letters. That’s only fair, though; they’re inseparable. No, wait. That makes it sound like they’re conjoined. They’re not conjoined. They just do everything together.

Including the way they lose teeth.

I don’t know if all identical twins work this way, but our girls lost their front teeth within a couple days of each other. In the same order as each other. Wild.

The girls love to draw. They are as talented as they are prolific. Every day, they wake up, go downstairs, and work through about half a ream of paper.

They are not, alas, tidy. With the volume of paper they leave about, our house is probably a fire hazard. Please, extinguish your smoking material before entering the Nelson house. Or we’ll all die.

The girls have also fallen in love with mountain biking, which makes my heart sing. Carrie has proclaimed she wants to be a mountain biker when she grows up. Katie draws pictures for me saying she wants to go mountain biking again soon.

If only they would eat something besides soup, yogurt, and peanut butter sandwiches, they would be perfect.

Oh yes, they’ll eat ice cream, too.

We’re looking forward to 2008. As soon as Susan can walk around the cul de sac using just a cane, we’re yanking the kids outta school and going to Disneyland. The kids have been great during this sucky (cubed) year; they deserve a vacation.

Hey, don’t we all.

Thanks very much to everyone for your continued friendship and familyship. Chances are, if we know you, we’ve been leaning on you.


Elden, Susan, Nigel, Brice, Katie and Carrie Nelson


PS: This will be my last post ’til after Christmas. Merry Christmas, and thanks for reading!

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