The Official Wallace Family Christmas Letter 2022

People have been sending Christmas cards at least since 1611 and the custom expanded to include family Christmas letters over the years since. The family Christmas letter has been much maligned because of its blatant glossing over negative events and exaggeration of family members’ accomplishments. Seeing as how I am in public relations, that describes my day job perfectly. So with that in mind, here’s the Wallaces’ 2022 in review:

Harris, Barron and Carlton Wallace stand arm-in-arm in front of a window with a candle on the sill and a Christmas wreath hanging above them.
The 2022 Wallace Family Christmas Card features our boys — Harris, 17; Barron, 21; and Carlton, 14. We rotate each year between a photo of the whole family and one of just the boys. We figured out a long time ago, people are most interested in how are boys are growing up and not at all in how Carla and Lance are growing old.

Dear Friends,

This has been another exciting year for the Wallaces. Carla and Lance celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary and were even able to get away together for a few days in June for a trip to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C. They continue to enjoy having her mother, Cynthia Barron, close by at the Sheridan at Eastside, a senior living community in Snellville. Lance’s parents are enjoying retirement in Lake Wales, Fla., but not enjoying the now regular visits from hurricanes and tropical storms. They weathered this year’s Hurricane Ian much better than the last storm’s eye to pass over their patch of Central Florida paradise. We hope to visit them and enjoy some warm winter weather the week following Christmas.

While Carla continues to manage the household, care for her mother and hold many leadership roles in our church, Lance shifted jobs this year, moving in September from associate vice chancellor for communications at the University System of Georgia to vice president of marketing and communications at Oglethorpe University, a private institution in nearby Brookhaven, Ga. He enjoys the work and especially likes the shortened commute. Oglethorpe is a fascinating institution with a unique look and feel and a compelling history.

Barron is in his fourth year of college, his third at the University of Georgia. He worked his second summer at PASSPORT youth camp, this year as a Bible study leader. He is playing trumpet for the Georgia Redcoat Marching Band and reveling in his opportunity to play at such high profile events as the national championship game last January in Indianapolis and the recent SEC Championship game at Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta. He hopes to end 2022 with a New Year’s victory for the Dawgs over Ohio State and the chance to kickoff 2023 with a return to the national championship, this year in SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles, Calif.

Barron transferred into the three-year furnishings and interiors program at UGA in the spring semester of his second year. This will afford him one more fall in Athens. He’s currently working toward securing a design internship for the summer of 2023 and enjoying his coursework and design projects.

Harris has completed the first semester of his senior year at Parkview High School and is immersed in the challenge of picking a college. His fall semester included serving as band captain and playing trombone for the Parkview Marching Panther Band, which was able to accompany the football team to the quarterfinals of the state playoffs this year. He will also travel with the band to perform in the prestigious Music For All National Festival in Indianapolis this spring. He puts his leadership skills to work in many extra-curricular activities including the Gwinnett Student Leadership Team, Parkview Student Leadership Team, Tri-M music honor society, and his favorite activity of all, the Mock Trial Team. He has been named lead defense attorney for this year’s team, and he looks forward to competing in early 2023.

Harris will graduate in May 2023 and is currently applying to colleges. He applied during the early action period to the University of Georgia and was accepted. Harris recently attended the President’s Scholarship Competition at Georgia College and State University and was awarded the Trustee’s Scholarship, the highest financial award offered at Georgia’s public liberal arts college. Harris has been granted admission and invited to scholarship weekend events at Mercer University and Oglethorpe University in the new year. He is also awaiting an admission decision in the spring from Emory University where he hopes to attend their Oxford, Ga., campus for his first two years of matriculation before completing his undergraduate studies at the main campus in Atlanta. It goes without saying that his long-term plan currently includes a law school, and do not be surprised to see his name on the ballot for governor of Georgia in 2038.

Carlton is in the eighth grade at Smoke Rise Prep School and working on his audition for the theatre conservatory at the Gwinnett School of the Arts housed at Central Gwinnett High School in Lawrenceville. He hopes to attend high school there and is working to be one of the 25 rising freshmen selected countywide. His vocal performance and dramatic monologue audition will be the first week of January, and he should learn of his acceptance by the end of the month.

Meanwhile, he is continuing to participate in music, dance and drama through the Smoke Rise Academy of Arts where last year he performed the roles of Mr. McAfee in the summer intensive “Bye Bye, Birdie,” Genie in the middle grades production of “Aladdin Jr.,” Mr. Bumble in the high school production of “Oliver,” and was a member of the ensemble in Smoke Rise’s Junior Theatre Festival competition show, “Beauty & the Beast Jr.,” which won its group allowing them to perform on the festival’s main stage before a crowd of nearly 8,000. He is currently working on two productions for the upcoming Junior Theater Festival in January 2023, and has also auditioned for roles in the high school group’s production of “The Sound of Music” in the spring of 2023.

A close up of the Wallace's white miniature poodle, Winston, wears a red Santa hat and red Santa coat.
Oh, and Winston wants everyone to know he’s doing great, too, and wishes you a “Merry Christmas!”

As you can tell from our letter, we are exceedingly proud of our three boys and grateful to be surrounded by good friends and neighbors in the Lilburn community and at Parkway Baptist Church. This has been a wonderful year for our family which included trips to visit Lance’s parents and Universal Studios Orlando at spring break, Santa Rosa Beach for the July Fourth week and a recent Christmas trip to New York City that included Broadway shows “Beetlejuice” and “Phantom of the Opera” as well as the Rockettes’ “Christmas Spectacular” at Radio City Music Hall.

We appreciate all of you and are particularly excited to receive your Christmas cards each year and learn how your families are growing and experiencing life. We hope you have a wonderful holiday season and a happy new year. Keep in touch and stay safe and healthy.

With love,

The Wallaces

Who inspires me

I am blessed by a number of people in my life who inspire me.

Jesus inspires me to love. I start each day before everyone rises to spend time alone in prayer and with the scriptures. The words and example of Jesus comfort and challenge me. Jesus not only commanded me to love God and love my neighbor, he showed me how. When I read his story and pay close attention, I am inspired to love unconditionally and without expectation.

Lance and Carla hug in front of a sand dune at Grayton Beach under a blue sky with white, fluffy clouds.
See? Don’t I look inspired?

Carla inspires me to be my best. Feeling needed and appreciated is a feedback loop that has created a never-ending cycle in our marriage of wanting and trying to do better. She gives me honest feedback and helps me prioritize what is truly important. She helps me focus on elements of life beyond myself, helping me avoid a shallow and self-absorbed existence. Left to my own devices, I could become too insular and selfish. She engages me directly and pulls me out of my self-protecting habits to share my feelings, good and bad, and put effort into the best areas of my life.

Barron Wallace in his red University of Georgia polo shirt waves at the camera in the middle of the Redcoat band in the stands at Sanford Stadium in Athens during the spring game in April 2022.
Barron has loved Redcoats, and thoroughly enjoyed his opportunity to conduct the band in the stands last April as part of his audition for drum major. He was one of eight finalists, but he didn’t make the final cut. More persistence!

Barron inspires me to persist. As the oldest, Barron has had to endure a lot of parenting missteps. He has developed a thick skin and a tolerance for hard work that continues to pay dividends. When he didn’t get any leadership roles in marching band at the end of his freshman year, he didn’t complain, and he asked us not to go to the band directors and complain on his behalf. Instead, he put his head down, went to work and spent his sophomore year leading by example, without a title. His work ethic and positive attitude combined with his mastery of conducting set up him up to serve as a drum major for his junior and senior year of high school. After attending drum major camp at the University of Georgia for two years, his heart was set on attending the state’s flagship institution and march in and eventually conduct their renown Redcoat Marching Band. Despite repeated attempts to get his SAT score up in the mid-range for UGA admissions standards, the best he could muster was to get wait-listed. When he was ultimately denied admission for fall semester 2019, he gratefully accepted his place at Kennesaw State University, auditioned and played trumpet in the Marching Owls. He auditioned for drum major as a freshman after learning how to handle a mace and master the high-step stadium entrance required of the Owls’ drum major, and he won the position. He maintained a perfect 4.0 grade point average through his first year, and within days of reporting to band camp for his second year at KSU, he received notification that he had been admitted to UGA for spring semester 2021. He is more than half way through his second season as a Redcoat trumpet player and was eyewitness to the national championship, had an opportunity to audition for drum major and is a rank leader in the trumpet section this year while the Dawgs pursue a repeat. That is persistence, and when I see how much effort Barron puts into reaching for his goals, I am inspired to do the same.

Harris Wallace holds his Gwinnett Student Leadership Team certificate in front of a screen with a project image that says "Thank you for attending the 2022 GSLT Graduation" at the Gwinnett County Board of Education offices.
This fella is going places, and he loves learning.

Harris inspires me to learn. As the middle son, Harris has carved his own niche, distinguishing himself from his older brother. He has his own personality, but he is continuing many of the positive habits of hard work and goal setting. Harris has an insatiable thirst for knowledge about history, public policy, leadership, government and the interplay among them. His ability to recall names, dates and events serves him well when making arguments, either in mock trial or negotiating an after-dinner trip to Bruster’s for ice cream. Even with the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic and his isolation in the basement for hours a day of online learning, Harris routinely put in five or six additional hours of study to complete assignments or go down rabbit holes to learn more about topics he wants to understand better. Whether it’s LEGO, Lord of the Rings, World War II or governors of Georgia, Harris’s obsessions are fed by an unquenchable desire to know things and understand how they work. Just half-way through his high school career, Harris has yet to make a “B” in a subject, and I have no doubt he will achieve his academic and professional goals, which are lofty. He has served as a band captain for three years for the Parkview Marching Band and led the Parkview Mock Trial team to the regional finals last year, the farthest the team had ever progressed. When I spend time with Harris and really listen to his verbal exploration of ideas, I am inspired to use my time and energy to be a life-long learner.

Carlton Wallace dressed in a purple and blue with a blue painted face portrays the genie in a scene with Aladdin on stage in front of a black curtain in a production of the musical Aladdin Jr. this fall.
I ain’t never had a son like Carlton, who sings “Ain’t never had a friend like me” from Aladdin with gusto during this fall’s performance at Smoke Rise Academy of Arts.

Carlton inspires me to create. As the youngest, he faces the greatest potential for becoming overwhelmed by his older brothers’ interests, achievements and pursuits, but his strong will and matching personality cause him to make his own way. When the omnipresent screens in his life are made to go dark, his mind reacts like flame to oxygen. His artistic instincts have found expression in drawing and painting, writing and storytelling, theater and the dramatic arts, singing, playing piano, and even baking and cooking dishes that please both his sweet tooth and his taste for the savory. He possesses a quick wit that can serve as his muse. When he exercises his creativity muscle, he becomes self-actualized in a profound way that he doesn’t fully understand or appreciate yet. When I have moments of clarity in my time with him, I am amazed at how his mind works and processes life around him. When I see him on stage belting out a ballad or pulling big laughs from the audience, I am inspired to make time for creative pursuits and recognize how much that contributes to my quality of life and feeds my need for creative expression.

Sharon and Larry Wallace stand with Barron Wallace, dressed in his blue high school graduation regalia, in the middle.
We haven’t been able to spend much time together physically in recent years, but my weekly phone conversations help me stay connected with Mom and Dad.

My parents inspire me to display integrity. I believe character is taught more than inherited, and I have been blessed to have been raised by parents who placed high value on honesty, fairness, hard work and trustworthiness. Throughout my youth while I was under their roof, these principles were reinforced. Now that I am a parent and our interactions are largely reduced to one or two visits a year and weekly phone calls, I hear in their conversations a desire not only for my happiness and for the fulfillment of my family but a hope that I am contributing and making a difference in the world by being a person of character. They have often said that my title and level in the organizational hierarchy doesn’t matter to them nearly as much as that I am honest and work hard. They inspire me to do things the right way.

Cynthia Barron wearing a white top and green sweater sits with her daughter, Carla Wallace in a blue dress and white cardigan, at a restaurant for Mother's Day lunch.
We love having Mama close by and are the beneficiaries of her kindness and her life lessons.

My mother-in-law inspires me to be kind. I’ve never heard her say anything bad about anyone, and whether she liked that person or not, she treats everyone she has dealings with kindly. I’m sure she has her moments, but she keeps them well hidden. I’m sure I have gotten on her nerves, too, but all I have ever received from her is generosity, affection, love and support. When I am in her presence, I am reminded that kindness is in short supply in this world and experiencing it from someone is a great gift. Cynthia inspires me to give people the benefit of the doubt and express genuine kindness rather than frustration or anger.

Bob Perkins and Lance Wallace make silly grins for a "selfie" in a waiting area at the Atlanta Airport.
If this isn’t the look of inspiration, I don’t know what it is.

Bob inspires me to laugh. Bob Perkins and I have been friends since 1987 when he showed up as the fresh-out-of-Baylor University sports editor of The Lake Wales Daily Highlander. His rambunctious energy and sometimes over-the-top sense of humor pulled me out of my shell and helped me embrace the absurd in some of life’s most difficult situations. Over the years we have maintained a friendship through sharing brief conversations and enjoying periods when we lived near enough to each other that visits and lunches and ballgames were treasured times of distraction and amusement. Bob knows me well, and he reminds me to laugh when circumstances can feel overwhelming.

Brian Greer and Lance Wallace stand in Lance's office at the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship wearing tacky Christmas sweaters.
Great holiday fashion choices are just another of the wellness outcomes from Brian’s inspiration.

Brian inspires me to be healthy. It’s not just that Brian Greer is 15 years my junior and has not yet had to have any surgeries or prolonged layoffs from exercise because of injury. I respect his discipline in not eating a French fry in more than 20 years. He’s careful about what he puts in his body and how he takes care of himself. With a wife and four children, he understands that there are habits he can embrace now that will allow him to enjoy life longer as he ages. He also has wisdom beyond his years about the need for balance. He inspires me to embrace well-being in all the facets of life: spiritual, physical, mental and emotional.

Clyde Edgerton, wearing glasses and a dark sweater, sits on a porch with trees in the background.
If you’re not familiar with his work, do yourself a favor and go order “Walking Across Egypt” as soon as you finish reading this post.

Clyde Edgerton inspires me to write. There are many writers whose work I admire, but the author I consistently enjoy and relate to and derive inspiration from is North Carolina-born Clyde Edgerton. He so deftly weaves stories of family, faith, tradition, race, class, humor, and Southern identity, I marvel at his books and wish to find my own voice to reach others in a similar way. The opportunity I had back in 2011 to hear him speak at the Decatur Book Festival was a treat, and I reflect on it often when I’m stuck in the middle of the re-write of my book. I can’t imagine ever being mentioned in the same breath as Clyde Edgerton, but for now, it’s inspiring enough to know what I’m aiming for looks like.

Inspiration comes in many forms, and for me, these people all provide me with the fuel I need to make life fulfilling.

What’s in a name, part 1

Our middle son will turn 17 on May 2, and this is the perfect time to look at how our penchant for family names resulted in him being named “Harris Goodman Wallace.”

A young father holds his newborn son who is wrapped in a hospital blanket.
See what I mean about the hair?

Our second born was the only one of the three we didn’t know the gender of until he arrived. We’re planners. With Barron we learned the gender of our baby as soon as we reliably could tell from the ultrasound image. So in early December during Carla’s second pregnancy we went for an ultrasound, assuming it would be just as straightforward.

We thought we would know immediately the baby’s sex, and we could go to the deacon-church staff Christmas party that night at our pastor’s house and share the good news with everyone. Harris had other ideas. Despite the technician’s best efforts, his position and the placement of the umbilical cord prevented her from getting a conclusive image.

Not only were we glum at the party, we had to go with a neutral green to decorate his room. As with our firstborn, we had “Ruth” and “Helen” on standby if it was a girl. We were partial to a double name, and Carla liked both of my grandmother’s first names “Addie” and “Minnie.” “Ruth” was prevalent on both sides of our family, so it had to be in the name somewhere.

“Harris” was the middle name of Carla’s paternal grandfather, Lee Harris Barron. We were clear it was to be “Harris” and not “Harrison,” just like my name isn’t a short form of “Lawrence.” His middle name would come from Carla’s mother’s side of the family. “Goodman” is my mother-in-law’s maiden name, and we both liked its strength and predictive quality.

Of all our boys, Harris fittingly came out with the most hair allowing for a few gentle puns with “Hair-is.” Like his brothers, Harris also likes his name, although he is annoyed when people call him “Harrison” and the silly nickname our neighbor, Charlie, once gave him: “Hair-less.”

At 17 he is planning a career in public service and politics. He likes the sound of “Governor Harris Wallace,” “Senator Harris Wallace,” or even “President Harris Wallace.”

And for campaigning purposes, it doesn’t hurt that his middle name is “Goodman.” You may have heard that they’re hard to find.

What was your naming conventions for your children? Leave a comment on how you came up with your kids’ names and join the conversation!