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Holiday Letter

posted Tuesday December 31st, 2019



Greetings friends and family!

I’m getting this one in just under the wire, as 2019 slows to a halt. It’s extra chilly here in the Arizona desert, and we are enjoying rare views of snow on far away mountains and treasured time with cousins. I had every intention this year of sending a real letter, the kind that falls out of the holiday card envelope, full of news and snapshots. I even commissioned a family portrait — not a photo, since Annabelle has been off at college — by one of my favorite illustrators, David Quan (aka Luster Kaboom) and I must say, my boobs have never looked better. Thanks, Dave!

Ah, intentions. I could fill a whole letter with lists of the blog posts that weren’t written this year, the assignments I didn’t complete, the abandoned chores and tasks and ideas, but who wants to read about that? Instead I’ll tell you what we’ve been up to in 2019, and I hope you follow suit and leave me a comment with your news.

Okay, here goes.

It was quite a year. Annabelle graduated from high school in May, and we celebrated with cake and an epic family vacation, driving round trip from Phoenix to San Francisco. We spent a night at the Madonna Inn (Sophie was not a fan — but you might be, so check it out), twisted and turned up the coast along Big Sur, glamped near Santa Cruz, experienced Fourth of July fireworks in Chinatown and survived a couple of Los Angeles earthquakes (okay, we didn’t actually feel the earthquakes but it was still very dramatic) and generally had a lot of family togetherness. A LOT.

We also traveled as a family to Portland, Oregon in August to drop Annabelle off at Reed College, where she’s now completed her first semester. Reed seems to be the perfect fit (knock wood) for our creative, quiet thinker. She continued her dancing and climbing, took Intro to Drawing and fell in love with a class called “The Cultural Study of Music.” So far, so good. We are thrilled, though we miss her.

Sophie continues to love the stage. Both she and Annabelle participated in Detour Company Theatre’s Mamma Mia in the spring, and this fall she’s rehearsed for Rent, which Detour will perform in early January. Sophie was also cast in the ensemble of her high school’s production of Hairspray — a goal she’s had for a long time. She’s a junior this year and has really hit her stride, taking choir, theater and dance. She’s not a fan of Algebra 3-4, but unlike her mother, she’s taking the class and she’s doing pretty well. She earned a C for her first semester and the teacher’s comment was that she’s not living up to her potential — which, to me, is a true sign of real inclusion. She’s taking advanced dance with a phenomenal teacher and classmates; she will even travel to Chicago this spring with her class.

At this rate, we will all be sorry to see high school end in 2021. Sophie is considering community college in metro Phoenix, or maybe college in a “funky town,” as she puts it, with the ultimate goal of being a dance teacher like her grandmother. She’s already working as an assistant in a ballet class at the studio where she studies. We are very proud of both our girls.

Ray has proven this year that local journalism is far from dead — he’s worked his butt off as news editor of Phoenix New Times, also serving a stint as interim editor, and he and his team have broken several important stories about the environment, crime and local politics. His writers are really lucky to have him — I wish I’d had an editor like Ray when I was a new journalist. He is questioning and encouraging, all the right things in a newsroom leader. And he’s written some great pieces himself in 2019, too. I can’t wait to see what the next year holds for him. As always, he plays as hard as he works, and even with our mid 50s around the corner, one trip up and down Camelback Mountain is not enough — he regularly hikes it twice in a row. Whenever I misplace him, turns out he’s in the garage, Spidermanning up and down his climbing wall.

I will admit that I let this blog get a little dusty this year, but I was still writing. Last January I made the decision to pursue a full time career freelancing. I set myself several goals, most important to only take assignments I really wanted — which sounds like a given, but isn’t. I was lucky enough to be offered a column at PHOENIX magazine, the local city monthly, and I’ve tackled all sorts of subjects so far in Raising Phoenix, including my changing views of the city, attempts at gardening and even Annabelle’s departure for college. I managed to get published in a couple of bucket list places, like Lit Hub and the parenting sections of the Washington Post and New York Times, and did my first radio feature for KJZZ, the NPR member station in Phoenix. I have continued to teach memoir writing at Changing Hands, our beloved indie bookstore, as well as at Phoenix College, and being with the students is among the most meaningful work I do. I’ve continued to co-produce the monthly storytelling series Bar Flies. This year we also launched Fly Paper as a way to bring the literary arts to Phoenix, and we even published a book of essays from the first four seasons of Bar Flies.

I am so lucky to have work that I love, and in 2020 I’ll be focusing on one big project, a collaboration with ProPublica and the Arizona Daily Star, two of my favorite journalism outlets. More to come on that and other endeavors. Work and life continue to collide in meaningful and sometimes painful ways as I report on and write about the transition from childhood to adulthood for people with intellectual disabilities.

Living in the same city as my parents and so many longtime friends is something I appreciate more every year, and a big part of why I’ve come to love my hometown.

Ray, the girls and I wish you health, happiness and, just maybe, a real holiday letter in 2020.



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10 Responses to “Holiday Letter”

  1. Hi Amy, Ray, Annabelle and Sophie,
    It’s good to read your end of the year posting in Girl in a Party Hat. This has been a tough year for me in some ways, in others interesting, I’m still getting grief counseling. On the up side, Dani and I have met interesting relatives in Southern California. I’ll email you about that. Although, the water tank exploded in August and the carpet still needs replacement, things are good here. Skiing starts this week. Let’s talk soon. Love, Stef

  2. It’s so wonderful to read about all your accomplishments this year and how you’re loving your new career path! Also, love the updates on Annabelle, Sophie, and Ray.

    Here’s to 2020!

  3. Thank you, Amy, for allowing us to tune in to the latest, making it real (always!) and ending our year with another heartfelt smile! Look forward to more time together in the year and decade ahead…XO, Denise

  4. Hi Amy! Happy 2020! Thank you for this – since I moved away from PHX, I have missed being able to collaborate with you and many others there but I have loved staying in touch from a distance by following you and your always stellar work. This year I also had many intentions and am happy to say that some of the most important goals I had set for the year (and since moving) were met. Two big ones –

    I wanted to contribute to my new community by volunteering and applied for the Alameda Public Art Commission, where I was accepted!

    My career path in the Bay Area has been an interesting, challenging, and humbling adventure. It finally paid off this year when I became the Director of CIIS Public Programs. I work with some of the most lovely, brilliant people I think I ever meet and I am so grateful to have the creative opportunity of working as leader.

    I remain thrilled on a daily basis to be here riding my bike and the ferry in the sun and the fog. I am also finding marriage to be the best collaboration there is. Building a life with Ben makes me so very happy and I love him more each day.

    I hope you did indeed want our updates here and appreciate being able to share – thank you❤️

    If you’re ever in the Bay Area again and have some time for coffee let me know!

  5. Hi, Amy,
    Thank you for your hopeful, uplifting update, and delightful family portrait. Warm wishes for all that’s good in 2020.

  6. Amy, What a beautiful letter! What a beautiful life! Congrats on your many successes–and I connect with the lost intentions! Sending wishes for continued happiness and success to you, Ray, Annabelle, and Sophie in 2020! Much love, Sandra

  7. What a great letter! It sounds like your girls are doing well!

    The big news in our family this year is my husband deciding to have weight loss surgery. He’s lost more than 100 pounds on his own over the years and this will help speed up the process. We’re changing our eating habits and I’m losing a little as well. Beth lives in a apartment downstairs (our daylight basement) and she is still eating too much or the wrong things. I struggle with allowing her to make those choices (she IS 35) and insisting she eat healthy. But, one day at a time. Spring and summer will allow us more time outside and more physical activities.

    I pray you have a blessed New Year!

  8. Amy,
    I love your voice. I enjoy your truths and catching up on all the incredible things you and your family do. Thank you for sharing.

    Happy, healthy and a fulfilling 2020.

  9. sweet wondrous family you have every reason to celebrate – glorious Annabelle and Sophie, spectacular dreams, incredible family, and a network that adores you … May we all work together to instill a bit more love in a truly love-hungry world.
    Let’s give THAT a standing ovation. You do more than your share . sssss

  10. What a stellar year! Here’s hoping that 2020 brings lots of Good Things, too.

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