Christmas 2002

Holiday greetings!

As usual the year brought some changes: Larry retired (for the third time!) in January and has kept busy with some European travel, jury service (a month-long trial to convict a murderer), house projects, courses in Wizetrade and Adobe Photoshop, and planning our future kitchen remodeling. He claims this is his final retirement, and has even gone so far as to start drawing Social Security payments. So it must be true.

And I'm playing with the retirement idea, but I don't seem to have gotten it quite right yet: I formally retired from teaching high school in June, but I'm now teaching more than full-time with four classes at Cal State University Northridge and a semester-long teacher training course for my former school district. However, it's a change of pace, and the best thing is that full-time at the college level is far fewer hours than full-time in the K-12 system. Maybe the second-best thing is the opportunity to travel a little: a seven-day eastern Caribbean cruise just after Christmas seems the perfect way to celebrate the end of the college semester.

Brian at the Karfiguela Falls, Burkina Faso The itinerary: Morocco to Nairobi

Brian, as you can see from our family photo, is conspicuous by his absence. He quit his job at Intuit in March, has been traveling around the world since, and may not return for years. Larry met up with him in Germany in May and they traveled together through France and Switzerland for three weeks. He is currently in Africa and his website contains daily dispatches and amazing photos. You can see and read all about it at http://briggs.modwest.com. You can write him at blur@modwest.com.

Cathy and the happy UCSB grad

David graduated from UC Santa Barbara in June and we three flew to Italy for a wonderful week-long cultural event: the wedding of young Bill Weber and the charming and lively Carlotta Scaramuzzi in Frascati. Our villa—a converted monastery—was able to absorb the many family members and friends who made the trip to participate in this intercontinental marriage. Best of all (from my viewpoint) was Brian's arrival to share in the festivities.

Carlotta and Bill, in front of Santa Maria in Vivario Church

We sweltered in the heat and humidity, and trudged gamely over cobblestone streets to see the wonders of Frascati, including Gelateria Tris, which our neighbor Gabe called the “best gelato place in the world.” Since he was born in Frascati and had lived there 30 years, we paid close attention to his suggestions. Carlotta's family connections got us into the observatory at Castel Gandolfo, as well as the pope's private gardens. We took advantage of some daytrips from the villa, arranged by the moms of the bride and groom, and visited the Colosseum, Vatican, Catacombs of St. Sebastian, and of course the Trevi Fountain, to ensure our future return (but in cooler weather).

Mary on the Rio Douro (Porto, Portugal)

Larry and I headed out to Lisbon, Brian left to continue his northward journey into Scandinavia, and David traveled for four weeks on his own, meeting up with friends in France, England and Spain, where he ran with the bulls at Pamplona. (He reported to us the next day via email (read the complete text): When they blew the second horn announcing the release of the bulls “everyone started running towards us like they're about to die. This part was so scary I was literally about to pee my pants.”)

Our more sedate three-week trip took us on a circuit from Portugal through the north of Spain, through the Pyrenees into Andorra, then south again to Barcelona and Zaragoza, terminating in Madrid. We traveled by plane, train, bus, rental car, and boat (for a trip on the Rio Douro in Porto). Our sightseeing included the shrine at Fátima, Frank Geary's Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, and Antonio Gaudí's extravagant Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona.

Mary and Teresa, at the end of their walk

After all that excitement, it was a little hard to come back to the realities of weeding, watering, and laundry. The rest of the summer was spent in training for my own personal physical challenge, the Avon Three-Day Walk. I wore out at least three pairs of shoes, raised over $5,700 for breast cancer research, and learned how to avoid blisters and hyponatremia. Walking 20 miles in a day takes about 7 hours with a lunch stop, and I discovered that a 6-mile walk is just a “quick couple of hours.” My sister Teresa and I trained separately and it was lonely; but walking with nearly 5,000 walkers in October was anything but. What an amazing feeling to accomplish this, and to see our parents (both 81 years young) and husbands waiting in the crowd to cheer us at closing ceremonies. You can see the photos among the Slide Shows at http://www.riggsca.com but be forewarned—we swore off makeup for the 3 days!

The girls have each bought a new home: Jenny took the plunge first and finally found a roomy condo in South Pasadena after searching more than six months. She has fantastic storage space so has taken on Brian's boxes and furniture, giving us a little breathing room here. Cathy just got moved in to her new condo in Valencia and is unpacking and trying to find things stored since last winter.

David is still job-hunting in this tanked-tech market and seems very close to finding something marginally related to his computer science degree. “Hold off the Christmas letter a few days,” he asked, “so you can report that I'm now employed.” But alas press deadlines must be honored! [On Friday, December 20, David received and accepted an offer from Ticketmaster. He'll start on January 6. He is thrilled! He'll be working in LA on Wilshire Bl., near Western Ave., and will initially be living with Jenny, reducing his commute to 11 miles. He'll be working on their Citysearch site.] Having him back at home has been an interesting experience for us, and we're enjoying the texture it adds to our lives. He and Larry go to the gym together to lift weights, eat out a couple nights a week when I'm in class, and generally get a lot of quality time together.

We hope you are well, safe and enjoying life, family and friends as we are. Happy holidays!