Wednesday, December 23

Happy Holidays 2020

 Happy Holidays! Joyful Solstice! Merry Christmas! Happy Hannukah! Best Wishes! Joyeux Noël! Feliz Navidad! Kung His Hsin Nien bing Chu Shen Tan! Glædelig Jul! Gajan Kristnaskon! Hyvaa Joulua! Buorrit Juovllat! Gledileg Jol! Nodlaig Mhaith Chugnat! Buone Feste Natalizie! Natale Hilare et Annum Faustum! Pozdrevlyayu s Prazdnikom Rozhdestva is Novim Godom! God Jul and (Och) Ett Gott Nytt! Season's Greetings! Peace!


I hope this greeting finds you well. It does us (at least if you don't ask for details). And as we near the end of 2020, that is saying something. Obviously, it's been quite a year. 

Our family has remained virus free so far. The only blip on the health front was that I had a Pacemaker "installed" in mid-May to enable me to keep up with Kate on our many walks around Saint Paul. We've walked most of the streets within a few miles of our house, as well as lots of parks and woods in our area. I think my favorite photo of the year (or at least the one that I think captures 2020 the best) was taken near the end of one those long walks.
Though our travel has been limited for much of the year, Kate and I did make our trip south to Florida early in the year (sadly, we are staying put this year). First, we spent a little beach time with friends. Through our clever use of the AARP Bulletin we demonstrated how to "social distance" on a Florida beach even before social distancing was a thing.
Then it was great to make our way to Cedar Key for a month. Sunrises and sunsets. 

The amazing birds enjoying the area with us. 





With a little fishing thrown it (which this year resulted in a few lovely dinners). 


Lots of reading in the sun. Just a favorite place to be. We returned home in early March (with stops in North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio, Illinois and Wisconsin).
We arrived home just as the pandemic was seriously setting in. From then on Kate and I shifted into the "hunker down and be safe" mode. To be honest, these two photos encapsulate our most frequent positions from mid-March until today.

But that is not to say that we have been entirely sedentary. There have been lots of walks.
We spent lots of great time at the cabin this summer and fall.
And fortunately the "Hill House" we added at the cabin last year gives us three separate buildings at our cabin in which people can stay in relative safety. Combined with our open air porch and a couple of decks we were able to have guests and still maintain safe social distance with just a little bit of care. Not the large groups we have enjoyed most years, but at least some social contact that didn't involve a computer. We were even able to get the whole family a bit of cabin time together (which helped Kate and me with by far the hardest part of the pandemic - not enough time with our granddaughter Frankie).





What a joy it was to have everyone together. We even got a little time in Saint Paul as Frankie continued to grow up, climbing stairs and just being incredibly cute.


Probably the most exciting nine seconds of the year for us was Frankie's then-record 15 step walk on our deck (the record no longer stands, but she does. Just not in one place very long). 

We also got to babysit Frankie for a few days in Denver while Peter and Erin did a little hiking in the mountains. Fortunately Kate is a great student of safe travel, wiping down our hotel room on our way to and from Denver - TV remotes put safely in a Ziploc bag to avoid germs. 

Family updates: Madeline has been teaching first grade in the Madison school system virtually so far this year. No clear answer as to whether the balance of the year will include some classroom time with students or not. She is (rightfully) ahead of us on the vaccination list. Her students are lucky to have her as a teacher. Virtual or not.

Peter and Erin have also been really busy. Both working hard (Erin at a new job) from their lovely (but small) home, all the while raising Frankie. It looks like they have solved the small home problem. Barring complications they will close on new home (to them) shortly after Christmas. One large enough to accommodate us for visits! Come on vaccines! They have been so generous with us - letting us share in dinners with Frankie via phone.
She likes black beans! Here she is celebrating right after Joe Biden was declared by the networks to be our President Elect!
I celebrated shortly thereafter with a drink of my own (mine had olives stuffed with blue cheese). A great relief to us (and probably to most of you).

In closing, I thought I'd include a bit of a song from "Meet Me in Saint Louis" that seems particularly apt for the 2020 holiday season:

Have yourself a merry little Christmas. Let your heart be light
From now on, our troubles will be out of sight
Have yourself a merry little Christmas. Make the yuletide gay.
From now on our troubles will be miles away.  
[Editor's note: a bit optimistic perhaps, but hey, it's the holidays] 

Here we are as in olden days. Happy golden days of yore.
Faithful friends who are dear to us gather near to us, once more.
Through the years we all will be together. If the fates allow.
Hang a shining star upon the highest bough.

And have yourself a merry little Christmas right now.

Happy holidays from our bunker to yours! Here's to a joyful 2021!!!

Stan and Kate


(Note: Photos may be enlarged by clicking on them.)

Monday, December 23

Happy Holidays 2019

Happy Holidays! Joyful Solstice! Merry Christmas! Happy Hannukah! Best Wishes! Joyeux Noël! Feliz Navidad! Kung His Hsin Nien bing Chu Shen Tan! Glædelig Jul! Gajan Kristnaskon! Hyvaa Joulua! Buorrit Juovllat! Gledileg Jol! Nodlaig Mhaith Chugnat! Buone Feste Natalizie! Natale Hilare et Annum Faustum! Pozdrevlyayu s Prazdnikom Rozhdestva is Novim Godom! God Jul and (Och) Ett Gott Nytt! Season's Greetings! Peace!

     I hope this greeting finds you well. It does us. Another excellent year has passed. In almost every way - a great year. 



The absolute highlight for Kate and for me has been the arrival of Frances Grace "Frankie" Oleson on May 30th. Most of this card will be devoted to her arrival and presence in our lives. But not all of it. So I'll start with some non-Frankie highlights and photos. 

For the fifth year since our retirements we spent all of February and parts of January and March south of Minnesota, much of it in Cedar Key, Florida. Warmth. Birds. Books. Sunrises. Sunsets. Food. Drink. Doing (next to) nothing and resting afterwards. And this year I even spent some time fishing next to an 8 foot alligator. 














We even made it home in time to celebrate the NCAA basketball tournament with a couch full of fellow basketball fans.


Kate and I made our way to Pennsylvania and became long-haul truckers and moved some family heirlooms to Minnesota.



We added a new "outbuilding" at the cabin (now officially known as the "Hill House"). With lots of help (especially from Dan) I finished the inside of the Hill House. We hope this will add to the comfort of our guests - particularly those who, like us, are less than pleased to climb into a top bunkbed once (or twice or three times) a night. And we got lots of good time at the cabin - both alone and with great friends. It's a joy to spend quiet time at the cabin, particularly so in the middle of the week!





Of course we made our annual sojourns to the great Minnesota Get-Together. A highlight of the end of summer (spoiler alert - Peter, Erin and the aforementioned Frankie joined us at the state fair. So there will be a Frankie "sneak preview" in one of the next two photos. See if you can guess which one).





In connection with one of our trips to Colorado we made a side-trip to the Durango area to visit cousins Bill and Diana, and on to Mesa Verde and Moab. Great fun. And we returned to Denver in time to attend Frankie's baptism and the attendant festivities.








I think you will agree it's been a year of political turmoil in the United States and around the world. I found I was getting pretty worked up over some of the craziness.



I decided I needed to get control of myself. So I became an ordained minister of the Universal Life Church. [The real reason for this 'epiphany' was to enable me to officiate at the wedding of my godson Will Summitt and his now-wife Sophia]. It was an honor and a great experience for me, and a powerful reminder of the joy that exists in the world.



I've delayed Frankie for as long as I can (and I hope at least some of you are still reading this). But first a story that I find funny. Since the beginning of our parenting years I have made fun of the need of parents and grandparents to regale one another with stories of the exceptional nature of their children and grandchildren. Over the years I've tried to deflect some of this blather by saying something like "My daughter is the 95th percentile in fingernail length." Imagine my joy and wonder when this photo was one of the first batch of photos we received of Frankie! She really was in the 99.99th percentile in fingernail length!



As far as we are concerned Frankie is in the 99th percentile in every way. We've so enjoyed our chances to get to know her. This card is perhaps a bit late, in part because Peter and Erin were kind enough to let us provide a week of daycare services in Denver earlier in December. What a joy! Here are a few photos of Frankie in roughly chronological order. If you want to see hundreds more - just stop by any time.

























All in all, it's been yet another excellent year for us. All the best to you and yours. Enjoy the holiday season and every season. We'll do the same.

Here's to a joyful 2020!

Stan and Kate