2009 . . . finally

That's Dad in the striped shirt & baseball cap . . . playing poker with his Knights of Columbus barkada this past July. 

Other than Christmas, I found myself distracted by the laughter and innocence of my cousin's kids -- five-year-old Malachi and two-and-a-half-year-old Emi . . . which is a good thing.  

2008 wasn't so great, and I'm thankful it's over . . . though the emotional ride of Dad not around is not quite over, and I'm pretty sure it never will be.  I felt like an orphan this past holiday.  Mom abroad in the Philippines, Dad gone.  On Christmas Day, I was harshly reminded that the tears & sadness are always there, and it's okay. And in other moments, I was reminded that family members continue to support us & keep us in their thoughts & prayers.  It was so heartwarming to feel that, especially from my mother-in-law & sister-in-law.

Highlights of the holiday season?  Experiencing Emi's entertaining facial expressions and participating in the 1st Annual McElroy Smokeout in Kennesaw, GA where chefs Al & Thom shared their smoking & grilling talents.  We feasted the entire time -- smoked & grilled vegetables, duck, chicken, ribs, dumplings . . . bailey's in my coffee every morning . . . and did I mention, I loved using the iron, non-stick stovetop griddle to make perfectly fried eggs for breakfast?  We definitely indulged, and it all tasted great!  And every so often, we'd remember something Dad used to eat too.

Happy New Year, Dad.  We remember you every day.