Christmas 2013

Happy Holidays to All!

Mary, Dad Jerry (92), with John and Sister Teresa in Atascadero The weather’s looking a lot like Christmas (at least, a California Christmas) and it’s final exam week, so let’s finish the last of the Thanksgiving turkey (sandwiches again?), deck the halls for Christmas and New Year’s, and prune roses for a California “winter.”

 

Life Is Good (Knock on Wood)…

Second Grade Curriculum—To Infinity and Beyond! We’re all well here, and hope you are too; we oldsters try hard to keep up with the first-grader but she’s learning so fast she’ll soon outpace us. I asked Tori the other day if she knew about planets—she said no, so I’m still one step ahead. However, she’s learning about deserts, rain forests, and other such ecosystems, so the planetary system can’t be far behind.

Travel Here and Abroad…

“Horseshoe Bend” in Page, AZ, Site of a Giant U-Turn by the Colorado River Our planned trip last December to Southeast Asia didn’t happen, as I had to go into the hospital for tests on what proved not to be heart problems. Cambodia and Thailand are apparently still there; perhaps in another year or so we’ll try again.

From Tallinn, Estonia, to Vilnius, Lithuania--Our EXPLORE! Tour We managed a spring break trip in April to Nevada and Arizona. An hour east of Las Vegas, petroglyphs and pockmarked rock formations intrigued us at the Valley of Fire State Park. We continued east into northern Arizona, spending a few nights in Page, along Lake Powell and the Colorado River, hiking and enjoying the southwestern scenery that is the envy of the world.

The Hill of Crosses, a Lithuanian Pilgrimage Site Bristling with 100,000 Crosses May and June took us to the Baltic States—Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania—a delightful part of eastern Europe. Their political history as former Soviet republics—each shares a border with Russia—makes their economic progress and achievements since throwing off the Soviet shackles even more remarkable.

Our tour group was lively and diverse—Brits, Kiwis, Canadians, Aussies—and we had great conversations about English, the “common” language which divides us in intriguing ways.

Larry Keeps Active…

From the Astor Tower, a View of Astoria and the Bridge across the Columbia to Washington Larry set up and delivered several computers during the year, keeping his mind and body occupied. He got in trips to Florida, Chicago, Seattle, and San Diego, for sightseeing but also with a technology focus, addressing computer issues across the country. And I thought Geek Squads were just a local phenomenon!

In San Diego with (Vietnam Pilot) Warren Searls, next to an F-4 Phantom II aboard the U.S.S. Midway He’s hitting the new neighborhood gym regularly, with visible results; it’s a good thing, since he has to be the power lifter here for projects like putting together Tori’s new swing set. He works on various church projects, such as winter shelter dinners and food basket collections and distribution. He says the fitness exercises help to keep his back in shape.

Sgt. Cathy Says “Seconds Count”…

Cathy Shares the Stage with Councilman Dennis Zine and the Other Six Recipients of Zine’s Z-Award for ExZelence on May 16 Cathy’s been working long shifts—frequently 12-14 hours at a time—as Assistant Watch Commander and overseeing the training unit at LAPD’s Topanga Division. She’s looking forward to a change in schedule next year to give her a less demanding routine. In response to the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary school, she has developed and with her team has presented a “Seconds Count” program at various schools in Los Angeles. She was recently on radio and television [video taken down], explaining and demonstrating some aspects of this run-hide-fight response to an active shooter.

Jenny, Litigator…

Jenny, Sharing a Secret with Tori and Lucie at Marion’s Party in Berkeley Since February, Jenny has been working for Meyers Nave in downtown Los Angeles. She is usually able to take public transportation to work, an experience as well as a money-saver, given parking fees in L.A. She enjoys the work, and still manages to be favorite aunt to the nieces and nephews. In January she was the support person for Christina Shin’s labor and delivery with little Cassandra, and it’s been fun watching this new little person grow and develop this year.

Up in Berkeley…

Brian and Marion seem to have survived the year with the busy schedule of the three little ones—did Nicky, 4, really swallow that missing toothpick? Nope. But there was a rush trip to the E.R. to x-ray his little intake pipe. In April, Lucie, 6, went to the E.R. for a distal radius fracture, thanks to a zip-line ride that ended abruptly. Let’s hope it’s not Jamie’s turn now.

Cousins Nicky, Lucie, Jamie, and Tori Listen as Mary Reads “If You Give a Moose a Muffin” The family managed a lengthy trip to Munich in the summer—consider it language school for the three kids. Then in September, Marion and the twins celebrated a 40-4-4 birthday with a block party and band on their Berkeley cul-de-sac. It was great fun—the neighbors, the family, and even the kids’ former pre-school teacher were there!

Señor Brian y Familia (sin David) Celebrate His 40th Mexican-Themed Birthday around the Swing Set Brian’s still at Adobe, and had a business trip to Romania this fall, leaving Marion to manage kids, school runs, and her own job in graphic design for a week. Omi and Opi and Onkel Felix arrive soon to join them for Weihnachten, likely white, as they will all be staying in a rented North Lake Tahoe chalet over the holidays.

David, Search Engine Optimizer…

David and Larry at Lunch in Brentwood David will host the rest of us for Boxing Day in Santa Monica, along with his friend Jen with whose team he did a Breast Cancer fundraising walk last month. He’s still with Experian, honing his SEO skills for which there is extraordinary demand in our web-centric world, in which successful website promotion can literally make or break a company.

His two-week trip to the Philippines in January convinced him that living there would not work for him, in spite of the abundance of well-educated and inexpensive labor which could advance his dream of working independently. His mom is somewhat relieved, although I know planes do fly there regularly.

Still Teaching…

Aboard a Riverboat in the Daugava River in Riga, Latvia, our Favorite Baltic City I’m still teaching at CSUN; in the fall, I had three freshman classes and one late-in-the-day upper division course in linguistics. I love everything about the latter except the drive home in the dark, but courses like that must be offered at a time when school personnel can participate. The university has accepted far more students this year after the lean years of budget cutting (we’re over 38,000), and having so many more freshman and transfer students has been a challenge.

Around the House…

Tori, “Embracing” the May 2 Fire that Consumed our Hillside Vegetation The home projects still await, though we did get an outdoor heater installed on the patio, so we could spend more time out there in the cool spring and fall evenings. The weather has been quite strange this year—more heat than we’re used to—and the garden kept producing tomatoes and zucchini until early December. We’ve had little rain to green-up our scorched hillside (see the photo of Cathy and Tori on the card) so we’re praying for some precipitation to cover the desolation with a layer of green in the spring.

Here’s hoping your holidays are merry and bright, and we’ll be thinking about you all as we celebrate a New Year full of surprises and new adventures!

We wish for all of you a wonderful 2014.