Christmas in the Land Where Palm Trees Sway

Lake LivingstonNo, we didn’t Christmas in Hawaii. Rather, we spent the holiday at Lake Livingston, in Onalaska, Texas. The weather was mild, the views spectacular, and the KOA campground exceptional. This is the nicest campground we’ve experienced thus far. Tucked among the Piney Woods of East Texas, the campground wraps around the shore of Lake Livingston, offering easy access, flawless hook-ups, clean facilities, a friendly staff and unanticipated amenities, including daily trash pick-up, propane service and a strong WiFi signal. As in most circumstances, it’s the little things that count the most.

The location, near Huntsville, enabled us to visit family in Spring and Richmond. Christmas night found us at the home of Cliff’s brother and sister-in-law, enjoying a holiday feast and gift exchange. The highlight of the Garner family Christmas is gathering around the tree, decorated with ornaments collected throughout Steve and Nikki’s 39-year marriage.

Next day, we headed to the home of Cliff’s nephew, Christopher, and his wife, Beth. Their recently built five-bedroom home is, in a word, breathtaking. Christopher eagerly showed us his plans for a magnificent pool (we thought it was more like a residential water park) and took particular delight in revealing his newest toy: a 2015 Corvette–tricked out beyond our comprehension or ability to describe. He said he was able to get it (and the pool) because he had a good year selling software. It must have been a very good year.

All of this prompted reflection on and discussion about our life together and our aspirations. We recently invested a lot of money (well, it was a lot for us) in home improvements, primarily because we decided to stay in our home and to remain only weekend Airstreamers. Our humble cottage, our single vehicle and our beloved Airstream reflect a household income of $100,000. We’re clearly not among the 1 percent, but we’re not poor, by any means. Call us solidly middle-class. We have the same strong work ethic that Cliff’s family instilled in his nephew and brother, but we have different needs, different values, and different measures of success.

Were we envious of all the luxuries and amenities they enjoy? A little, perhaps. But not really. Because we know that maintaining these things requires much effort and resources.

The German inventor of the high-speed printing press, Frederick Koenig, said that happiness doesn’t come “as a result of getting something we don’t have but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.” And so, our gift this Christmas was the recognition that we are completely content with–and grateful for–all that we do have.

We may not have the best that money can buy, but we have the best that we can afford. Ambitious? Probably not. Realistic? Sure. Who has time for envy?

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