Holiday Letter 2006

Dear Family and Friends,

What an unforgettable year 2006 proved to be! The Rowlands gang experienced many ups and downs, but we endured and adjusted and have comfortably settled into our new selves. Let me share with you a bit about our journey.

The greatest challenge revealed itself early in the year. After months of radiation and chemotherapy and hyperbaric treatment, Dad faced surgery. But his courage and strength and humor carried him through the tough times. By now, he’s an expert with his new voice and is learning esophageal speech as a back-up method. And I don’t think he’s stopped eating since May! It’s not unusual for him to eat six or seven meals per day. And what does he do when he’s not eating or socializing? Well, I think he works longer hours than I do these days. From landscaping during the summer months to home improvements through the fall and winter, he goes non-stop. And Dad relaxes in the evenings with his newly rediscovered love for the guitar. He no longer quietly strums the strings in the back of the family room, he entertains us with “name that tune!” Word in the house is that he’s saving for an electric guitar. Laura wonders if he’ll buy leather pants and become a true rocker!

Speaking of Laura, she’s also experienced changes this past year. As a freshman at Dover Area High School, she attended her first Homecoming dance and nearly every football game this season. She joined “Students for a Better Future” and will participate in the upcoming dance marathon to raise money for the Four Diamonds Fund–an organization that benefits children with cancer. Laura “retired” from her 12-year gymnastics career earlier this fall to explore new interests. She didn’t stray too far from the flips, however, as she’s now a diver for Dover. She placed second in her first tournament!

While Laura moved from middle school to high school in 2006, Andrew moved from the “country” to the “city.” He graduated from Penn State University in May and headed to New York City two months later. He recently moved into his own apartment in Queens and works for an international investment bank in Manhattan. He’s a member of the risk control team with colleagues from across the globe. He loves to call and brag about his seventh-row seats to Knicks games and dinners at exclusive steakhouses with expensive bottles of wine and full car service. Of course, I couldn’t be a prouder big sister. Andrew has also joined the company volleyball team and bowling league (of which he’s captain!). We’re anxious to visit him later this month to enjoy the sights and sounds of the city during the holiday season.

As for me, I spend my days designing and developing Penn State websites and hosting a weekly conversation series in downtown State College. I’ve also recently been introduced to public television and am anxious to see where that interest may lead. In the evenings, I play volleyball and softball with the local alumni chapter or hit the driving range to improve my golf swing. One of my goals for 2007? To beat Andrew on the golf course! (I’m sure it will take a few more years until I’m able to compete with Dad.) A great benefit of my job is the time it allows for travel. This summer, I took a fantastic road trip with a friend across the country. We drove from Pennsylvania to Colorado to Arizona to Utah (and covered a few states in between). I’m always looking for a new adventure!

The final family member–the one who keeps this busy clan organized–has been pretty busy herself in 2006. Mom’s endurance amazes me. She’s been a nurse and a pharmacist. A loyal employee and a kindhearted friend. She was Dad’s voice when he had none and our cheerleader when we needed one. Above all else, she’s been a compassionate wife and a proud mother. Surprisingly, Mom found free time this past year to complete cross-stitching projects and experiment with “Dream Dinners.” She’s most recently enjoyed playing interior designer for my grandmother. She always has had a keen sense for colors and decor! You can bet I’ll recruit her help when I purchase my first home!

Onto our four-legged family members. Sadly, we lost our dear Golden Retriever, Molly, in February. She was Dad’s best buddy and the most gentle dog. Sadie, our younger Golden, has since matured and keeps good watch on the house while we’re away. And yes, Laura’s bunny, Lizzie, still lives in the shingled rooftop home in our backyard.

A few other family highlights from the past year include our trip to Avalon in July and Dad’s first annual Oyster Feed in November. Both involved fun times and, of course, good food!

We’re incredibly thankful this holiday season to be happy and healthy. Thank you to all who prayed for our family in 2006. May your homes be filled with as much love and gratitude as ours. Best wishes for joyful holiday and may all your prayers be answered in 2007.

With love,

Emily and Family

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