Christmas 2005

Merry Christmas!

Marion and Brian, newlyweds Marion's pensive parents, Christine and Klaus

A year ago we were preparing for Brian and Marion’s December 30 wedding at a time when Southern California was dodging rain showers. Fortunately their San Diego garden wedding occurred during a dry spell, auguring well for their future. Soon after they said, “We do,” the skies opened up again.

Last year’s near-record rains brought a spectacular display of wildflowers in the desert, as well as a massive number of Painted Lady butterflies, the most seen in years. Along with thousands of other travelers, we went to check it out, from Borrego Springs in the Low Desert to Kingman, Arizona. Our return took us along portions of the historic Route 66 to the Colorado River and through the High Desert to Joshua Tree National Park. It took three car washings and one detailing to get all those crusty little butterflies off the radiator!

California's Anza Borrego Desert State Park near the Salton Sea

Earlier we had discovered a roof leak after our house was tented for termites, so now there’s a new “lifetime” roof. Of course we also had to paint the outside of the house, which caused us to notice the warping front door and rusting outside lights. Now, visitors are greeted by a new oak door and attractive carriage lights. Then we told the contractor, “While you’re at it, how about replacing the patio cover and deck?” Now that’s being rebuilt … does it ever end?

Nice pair of boobies!

Excursions in the spring to Cambria (Hearst Castle and elephant seals) and to Atascadero for a family-and-friends wine tasting organized by my sister Teresa got us prepped for the really big trips this year. In early June we flew to Quito and the Galápagos Islands for a week of cruising, hiking, snorkeling, photo ops (including the renowned blue-footed boobies), and great food. Our traveling companions were long-time friends Judy, Warren and Ronda Searls, and we established new friendships with globetrotters from the UK, Holland, and Florida.

Breakfasting in Tramore, on the coast south of Waterford

Late June found us winging our way to Ireland with Teresa and John, spending a fortnight poking around old ruins of beehive huts, viewing historic forts, Kilmainham Gaol, galleries, and museums, and seeing a play at the Abbey—a modernistic version of an old Celtic legend. Driving seemed at time life-threatening, but so did peering over the top of the cliffs at Dun Aengus on the Aran Islands, where the pace of life probably has changed little in the past few centuries. The highways have improved significantly since our last visit in 1978, but we still encountered sheep on the deserted Connemara roads, the popular Ring of Kerry, and the windswept Atlantic coast along the Dingle Peninsula.

We lived here at 35 Kingsley Avenue, Camberley from 1977-1980

After Teresa and John flew home, we continued on to England and spent a few days visiting long-time friends and neighbors and seeing our old home. The London bombings occurred as we were driving to London’s Stansted Airport before our flight to Berlin. We were greeted on arrival in Germany by a crowd of reporters wanting to know what we knew about the situation in London. “Less than you do,” we told them.

Volker and Marion, newlyweds

Larry’s son Volker was married to Marion the day after our arrival in Braunschweig. We got to experience all the fun of an echt Deutsch wedding, complete with zany “challenges” put to the newlyweds by their family and friends. Among these were cutting a giant heart-shaped opening through a decorated bed sheet with nail scissors, breaking a board with a karate chop, sawing through a log to gain entrance to the garden reception site, and sifting through a big tub of sand to recover the exact amount of coins buried.

We enjoyed the fun and appreciated the warm welcome from their families and friends, although as usual, we regretted our limited communication skills in German. We rounded out the German trip with a few days in the nearby Harz Mountains. At Hahnenklee, an unspoiled ski resort—mercifully not crowded in July—we relaxed, hiked down the mountain, explored the restored stave church, and were able to unwind after six weeks on the road.

Back to reality, we’re keeping busy. I’m teaching more classes at CSUN, allowing Larry to focus on the important issues, such as which day should be laundry day. (He informs me, “Thursday, except for bedding and towels, which is Friday.”) In view of his busy life, it’s probably good that he has his space.

Ten miles down, ten to go, and looking fresh

He juggles his time among serving his first year as an activist Homeowners’ Board member and helping friends and the church with their computer and website needs. He served a months-long stint on a Federal Grand Jury in Los Angeles (they indicted the scoundrels!). He keeps the contractors moving on the outside renovations, updates my course website (for 5 classes!), and for recreation has taken the odd day-long hike with Kirk.

He discovered that Her Majesty will pay him a small pension for the four years he worked in England, a pleasant surprise. It’s enough to fly both of us there—albeit off season—once a year to say thank you.

The Check-in Chicks!

In October, Teresa and I served as “Check-In Chicks,” crewing for the Susan B. Komen 3-Day 60-mile walk for breast cancer in San Diego. This was the fourth year in which we have either walked or crewed this event.

Since my mother has finally retired from teaching piano at the age of 84, I’ve got a peg in the ground for how much longer I might work! Dad, also 84, is still writing for newspapers and magazines, so I plan to watch and see how long he holds out.

Up, up, and away in a hot air balloon

Cathy and Kirk (The Force) have each moved to a different worksite and Kirk has passed the LAPD lieutenant’s exam. Jenny works more hours than any human should, but doesn’t seem to complain. She makes the occasional trip out to see the old folks to make sure we’re still in our right minds (when were we ever?). She’s got a senior citizen facility picked out for us, she says, so we try to appear alert and focused when she’s here.

Brian and Marion moved to San Francisco in August after his start-up company went belly-up. She’s studying graphic design at the Academy of Art, he’s working for Macromedia (now part of Adobe), and they live in the city. We are babysitting their car again, since it’s impractical to have two vehicles in the confines of San Francisco. David still does web programming for InfoSpace to support his Club habit, and talks about eventually buying a house with a couple of friends.

The family will all gather at Cathy and Kirk’s house for Christmas Day, and then Larry and I will head north to see Marion’s parents when they arrive for a brief winter vacation—Hearst Castle and elephant seals again—a definite favorite! Have a wonderful holiday!