Dear Friends and Family,
Editor’s Note: Who needs Christmas Letters anymore. Those are so overdone (especially this one some say!?!?). This year due to a hectic Dean schedule you are receiving a Martin Luther King Day Letter!!! This will probably be the only such letter you receive for this occasion so cherish it…or at least pause in a moment of remembrance before tossing it in the round file!
2009!?!?!? At the end of last year’s letter I taunted 2008 a bit with a ‘is that all you’ve got…bring it?!?!’ I should have just left it alone. 2009 started off with a bang with the market hitting new lows and giving us our 2nd biggest bear market in US history. After that it seems we are just sick of hearing bad news because we just were not having it. Everything bad with the world has somehow gotten better. What are the news jockey’s going to scare us with now that the world did not actually come to an end. Markets are coming back, it seems we have plenty of food and energy after all, we did not really deflate or inflate (yet), and Alabama beat Florida this year for the SEC championship, then got a Heisman, then a national title (ROLL TIDE)! Things are looking up!
The recession put the brakes on many of the capital improvement projects (basement remodel, home improvements) I had planned. I admit it I panicked! I spent much of the beginning of the year worrying, stewing, and working like a hound at work (since we had reduced the old workforce to a mere skeleton staff). Once I came out of my shell I decided it was time to get going on the project list again.
My plan was to finally finish that #&*^@$% basement. The problem was the deck/pier/thingy that was attached to the back of our little cracker box was in dire straits. We had been doing a sort of balance beam routine each day to get up and down “the good part” for quite some time. Preston’s almost 200 pounds of force romping up and down the steps each morning and afternoon put the finishing touches on what was left of the steps. In August I enlisted the little Dean Army and we tore the deck off the house. I’ve learned from experience that the little Dean Army is very good at demolishing a house (and about anything else they come in contact with). Let people use their talents that’s my motto. Once demolished I went into thinking mode. For the better part of September I read and researched and thought (and thought) about what to do next. For my “first deck” it wasn’t all that easy. There was a ‘wrap around’ part, a set of old steps to build over, another set of brick steps to attach to, and an old brick wall that needed to be repaired and built around. Enough thinking! In October (during the kids fall break) we set into action. It was the most beautiful Tennessee fall week I’ve ever seen and I was outside from morning to dark for every second of it. Preston was supposed to help me and did. He does however have a unique ability (?!?!) of doing the exact one thing I asked him to do and then disappearing into thin air. My Dad and the other kids would show up from time to time and I always found something for them to do when they were around. Emily helped almost the entire time (which is not common). About halfway through the week I asked her if she “felt lucky?” “What do you mean?” I explained most wives went to shop, get manicures, ride around in nice cars…while I had mine doing construction. I pointed out how lucky she was and what a good choice she had made almost 15 years ago! She just smiled and kept screwing boards down!?!? I think that’s a good thing!??!? Anyway, built it, landscaped around it…DONE! I testify here today you could drop a Sherman Tank on the deck we built and the tank would lose!
My next goal was to finish the basement before I sent this letter. Frankly this is part of the reason you are getting it in January. I couldn’t bear boring you to tears another year with an unfinished basement. If I’m going to bore you it will be with a basement remodel all done (not that you care one way or the other). For the better part of 2009 I was about 1 day of work away from calling in the drywallers. I wrapped up my remaining tasks and called in the troops! Over the course of November and December things moved along at a good clip. I had the project plan ready and people stacked up and ready to roll at a moments notice. I had been waiting for this moment for what seemed an eternity. Drywall done…paint done…doors done…trim done…steps done…lights done…electrical done…floors done…graffiti artist (?!?!) done…punch list still going. We still have to tile the bathroom and finish several other minor items but for the most part IT IS FINISHED!!! I accomplished what I set out to do. Before I started this project I had never so much as bought a 2×4. I learned plenty and have a pretty nice basement to boot.
What’s next? I have a course already set (as I often do). Some guys golf, others do things they shouldn’t be doing (Tiger?!?!), hunt, cook, ski, fish, daydream, or watch TV. Those are not for me. I have to have exactly 39 projects in progress at all times. Emily grows weary of my constant need for ‘a project’. So far she endures it. For the past 7 years there has been about ½ of a 1938 Model A John Deere in the garage that should consume much of 2010 (don’t tell Emily)!!!
The best way I know to kick off a deep recession/depression is to give a ton of money to Walt Disney. Not what I would consider one of the strongest financial moves of my lifetime. We had planned the trip early in 2008 and purged forward. We kicked off celebrating New Year’s with Mickey. We spent over a week with Emily’s brother and their family. Max and I saw the New Year in riding the Tower of Terror (the boy is courageous). After that we spent Spring Break in Vero Beach, Florida with Emily’s parents (again with Emily’s brother). Then in early June the Dean family spent a week in Destin, Florida with my parents and sister’s family. Then before summer’s end we went back to Vero Beach (again with Emily’s parents and brother’s family). Emily and the kid’s left for her Dad’s farm in late July and rode/drove about every vehicle known to man while there (I got to stay at home and dog/cat sit?!?!?!). The pattern shows that we like spending time with our family and our favorite place to do it is in Florida (as I write this I sit in Florida yet again). We do enjoy both!
For year’s I’ve sworn off business travel and also having a ‘crackberry’. With four little kids at home I just wanted to be at home and did not want work calling while I was there. That all ended this year I was told to pack up I was going to visit our new largest client. “By the way here’s a Blackberry so we can keep in touch.” I didn’t know they cared. So at age 36 I took my first real live business trip. I borrowed a suitcase and broke out my funeral suit. I’m such a big boy now! Big boys don’t drive little toys so this year I sold my scooter (“Little Buddy”) to a lucky lady at work (funny no guys wanted it)??!?! I have to take Emmaline to school over in East Nashville each morning so I wasn’t getting to drive it much. I also sold my truck after finding an old truck that could take the abuse of 4 kids and constant projects much better (and much cheaper). I basically sold everything not nailed down early this year to find money to buy stocks. In the process I traded in 125 cubic centimeters (.124 liters) for 5.8 liters of V8 Ford power! I feel manlier already (and also like the earth just got warmer)!!!
This year Emily said the words many of us wish we could say…TAKE THIS JOB AND SHOVE IT! The same words I wanted to say when they handed me the Blackberry. This fall she went back to her job at the daycare. It was just an extra thing in our life that had more negatives than positives. One day when Max was sick and there seemed to be “no way” for her to stay home she told them they could have her job back! Life is good again. Early this year we took Cameron and Jayne on in a weight loss challenge. Cameron, Emily’s brother, won and rubbed our face in it by wearing a Speedo on our Spring Break Florida trip. We upped the ante for the second half of the year and I’m counting on Emily to win our money back. She has been hitting the gym and often shows me her “guns” (firepower!!!). I don’t know what provokes it she just does it. The girls got guns!!! She also stays pretty busy in different performances around town. We were party parents in the Nutcracker again this year with the girl’s dance school. We were also chosen to represent the ‘married with children set’ in the church’s Hanging of the Green ceremony. Emily used her new guns to carry that garland down the aisle up to the balcony and lift it over the side. You see big time show producers want people who are awesome and hot to be in their performances. I’m thinking all Emily’s working out is drawing the talent scouts out. Who knows what next year holds?!?
Preston (personality – funny guy) fought off some form of flesh eating something or other this year. He got a cut at school playing basketball and then his arm almost rotted off! Okay it wasn’t quite that bad but it had us all scared for a few weeks. Preston is not like me in many ways (lucky him). For one he is 6 feet tall and weighs in at a hefty 195 as a 14 year old freshman at Hillsboro High School (I’m 3 foot 4 and also weigh almost 195). Secondly he is very athletic (does playing trombone count?). In his last half year of middle school he was the basketball team manager and played on the lacrosse team. He was like a man versus little boys on the lacrosse field most of the year. It was by far his best season as he played many different positions (wherever he was needed). When high school rolled around he decided he no longer wanted to play football. I was fine with that but it needed to be replaced with an equally time consuming (and calorie consuming) activity. During the summer he plays in a lacrosse league and he also started taking mixed martial arts. He really enjoys taking marital arts and goes 3-4 nights a week to grapple and spar with other full size adults. With his size and his new found skills I’m pretty sure he can now snap me right in half. He has figured this out…so if you see me one day walking down the street in two pieces you’ll know what happened. High school lacrosse has not started yet so since the beginning of school he has been on the wrestling team. As a freshman he is mainly just a live practice dummy for the upperclassmen. He just wrestled in his first match and beat some mean looking giant person. I had one of those proud father moments and he was equally proud/excited. Preston is also a lot like me in many ways. He is motivated by the almighty dollar and eager to punt working for grades and start working for money. We are still working on figuring out that balance on an almost daily basis. He and I butt heads plenty as I guess many father/teenage son tandems do. We always seem to get it worked out. Preston is a well rounded kid who generally has a smile on his face, a kind word for others, and generally ready to help others out when they need it (unless they are his Dad and they are building a deck). To round out his life he spends plenty of time at church participating in youth group activities, providing us all with “bodily sound effects” (very classy), riding mountain bikes, bothering his siblings, eating, and laying around the house in front of the old boob tube (aka hiding from Dad’s project list). Our little baby boy is fast turning into a full grown man.
Emmaline (personality – diva) is our 11 year old teenager. I know it is technically not possible to be a teenager and not actually be in your teens but evidently no one let Emmaline know that?!?! The look on her face and what I imagine is in the “thought bubble” above her head to some of my commentary is pure teenager. I’m officially the dumbest person alive at times. Many times I admit I don’t word things in a way that coddles the feelings of others, especially my budding teen daughter. Emmaline has a little dancer body and a cool little style. Earlier in the year she came home with a new haircut and had ‘bangs’. Good. Some boys at school called her Lady Gaga. Lady Gaga is cool so, still good. Some days she would pull them back and put no less than 29 berets in to hold them back. “I’m like…Lady Gaga is cool…so like…wear your bangs down…OK…because… like…your hair looks…like…not good…pulled back with all those …like…things in it…OK?!?” “OK Dad your right!” The exchange in no way went like that but it is what I felt like it must have sounded like (as I normally don’t get involved in hair style discussions). Regardless, it ended positively and we had come to an agreement. A few days later I come in and Mom is applying the 28th beret to the front of my daughter’s head for school. WHAT?!?!? That’s not the cool hip style we agreed to. I took a less subtle approach this time. “Emmaline, you look like a hood ornament!” I’m not even sure what that meant but it went over like a lead balloon (as you might expect). On the way out the door Emily mouthed ‘fix it’ to me. I knew I was wrong so as we drove down the street I explained I was wrong and offered my apology. No response. A few tries later still no response. Then with great tact I topped the morning off with, “Fine…don’t talk to me…just be a diva!” Without flinching she reached into her coat pocket, flipped open her phone, tapped a few keystrokes, closed the phone and continued to stare out the front windshield (extremely focused on not acknowledging my existence). We just let it sit with that. I dropped her off and immediately called Emily to find out what the text said (I knew exactly who it went to). “I hate him!” I deserved it and I’m still doing community service for my crime. Thankfully that was the worst ride of the school year. She still goes to Meigs Magnet School where she is in 6th grade. She works hard to keep her grades up while keeping up with a full dance schedule. She spends 10+ hours each week in class with the company group at Green Hills School of Dance. All that dance practice paid off this year as she got the role of Clara in the Nutcracker. Smart, stylish, and talented…that’s our girl.
Molly (personality – mischievous) turned 9 this spring and for 134 days leading up to this birthday she let us know that the only gift that would satisfy her would have two long ears and a lucky foot. Just what our little home needs…another living creature roaming the halls. I would never allow any of the other 3 kids to even consider this, but Molly always helps around the house and helps take care of S’more when no one else does. We decided she will do fine with a pet and deserves one. We researched what would be needed to make her wildest dream come true. We went out and bought most of the stuff we thought we needed. For her birthday it was all presented and “when we get back from vacation” we will find the bunny. We got back and the search started. We quickly found out that we bought all the wrong stuff (bunny abusers?!?) and that the bunny adoption process was a very intense process. No wonder Brad and Angelina keep getting kids from overseas…it is probably easier than trying to get a bunny. Who knew?!? After contemplating a potential home addition or turning an existing room into a bunny room we returned all the bunny equipment and rebooted the entire search. As we sat Molly down to deliver the bad news I expected the worst. I could just see the well works running full tilt when Dad (Mom was going to let me deliver the news) crushed every hope and dream in the little petal’s life. No bunny. Would this have a lasting impact? What path would this drive her down?!?! Would she turn to a life of crime? “Molly, your Mom and I (might as well try to throw Mom under the bus on this one) have decided that a bunny is going to be too much for us. Maybe there is another pet that might work better.” Brace for it! “How about a dog?” What…that’s it?!?! Two months of research and ‘no’ was an acceptable answer?!?! So much for dreams. “We already have a dog.” Besides that’s like having another kid. No way I’m falling for that! “What about a cat?” “Molly…you see…” Wait a minute! What about a cat…I felt like having a V8. Why hadn’t I brought that up before? Those things basically take care of themselves. Perfect! Let’s do that. Later that summer we closed the deal and Jesse James joined us from the local shelter. The kids all love our latest addition and he has settled in nicely so Molly gets the sibling of the year award for her efforts and cooperation. Molly does a lot of the same things Emmaline does. She is also in company at dance for 10+ hours each week. This year our new Nutcracker party girl was Molly. She will finish up 4th grade this year at Percy Priest Elementary. In a few days we find out if she will win the lottery (not that one) to be able to go to Meigs Magnet as well. She isn’t about to let Emmaline get too far ahead of her!
Max (personality wise-cracker) is our little 8 year old baby. Not! Max is our baby but he is not at all a baby. He is only in 2nd grade over at Percy Priest Elementary but is the biggest talking little kid I’ve met. He almost always has a quick quip to anything any kid or adult says to him. He trash talks when engaged in any form of competition except when actually on the field. There he just focuses on results. He is a big dude (like his older brother) but doesn’t let that slow him down. He is always one of the fastest kids on the soccer field. I often think about how sorry I am for the kids he will one day play on the football field…YIKES! This season he didn’t get a lot of playing time or practice time because for some reason Tennessee became an African rainforest. He donned the helmet and pads and started playing lacrosse this summer. He had never played before but picked it up quickly (with some help from big brother). He looks like a little gladiator in all his equipment. The time he talks the most trash is during video gaming. He kicks my booty regularly in most any game we play and let’s me hear about it the whole time. The most common words in his vocabulary are “Will you play with me?” I could spend 235 hours a day playing with him and it wouldn’t be enough. He plays games on the PS3, Xbox, Wii, internet, Gameboy, Iphone, board, card table, paper, court wherever and whenever. When not gaming he can be found watching Youtube videos about Legos and building elaborate Lego vehicles or domiciles. We’ve always thought he was pretty intense and had a knack for figuring things out no matter how long it might take. Most little kids would just give up and move along. One day he surprised us by coming home on the principal’s list. He wasn’t on the one I figured he would wind up on…he was on the good one! He’s smart!!! He’s also really coming out of his shell. A year ago most people who met Max thought he was a mute. Now he never stops talking. Sometimes the music (I guess in his head) grabs him and he will start shaking his money maker and will belt out tunes as long as no one is listening. At the pool he keeps us all in stitches with his patented “belly-flops”. Bordering on child abuse he will do them one after the other with perfect form. He has several versions “hands behind the head”, “superman”, “hands down”, hands to the side”, etc. Painful looking but anything for a laugh! This year he also wanted to ride bikes with the big boys so he comes with Preston and I on our trail rides and keeps up surprisingly well. He and I took a 12 mile ride while in Florida. I kept my normal pace and he never complained once. Max is a fun kid and tough to keep up with!
I’ve been saying for year’s we needed a good depression/nasty recession to get everybody’s priorities rearranged. The vast majority of American’s are fat and happy and/or overextended trying to be so. It’s been a long time since our nation has experienced some of the things my grandparents and great-grandparents had to face. I’m thinking of real live adversity; change your life adversity. I don’t think the recession we just endured got us anywhere close to that but it helped. I know in my own house we take so much for granted. I know I take a lot for granted. I always thought this wake-up call was needed for everyone else. I never realized what an impact it would have on me as well. The past year has thrown us all some curveballs. Thankfully it was nothing we couldn’t walk away from. Most of us have a lot less money than we had a few years ago. Most of us work in a different world than we did a few years ago. Some people work in industries that will undergo tremendous change (or already have). Most everyone I know has done some reevaluating this year. I’ve personally done plenty of soul searching, research, and reassessment this year. I’ve come out at the end with more focus on the important things in life and an appreciation for the things we have. I’m happier at times, grumpier at times, tougher on my family at times, easier on my family at times, work harder at times and work less at times. It has been a great year to reflect. We have a lot to be thankful for each and every day. Family, friends, health, a place to live, skills to earn a living, enough love to go around…that’s what it is all about. We hope all of you digested everything you were dealt and came out ahead in 2009. We wish you a happy 2010!
Joey, Emily, Preston, Emmaline, Molly, Max, S’more and Jesse James