Wednesday, December 21

Happy Holidays 2011!

Happy Holidays! Joyful Solstice! Merry Christmas! Happy Hannukah! Joyeux Noel! Feliz Navidad! Glaedelig Jul! Seasons Greetings! Peace!

Another year has flown by, generally following the familiar and wonderful pattern of our lives over the last several years. Frequent and fun get togethers with friends and family. A great family spring break trip. Good jobs. Good health. We know that life offers no guarantees - which makes us all the more thankful that our lives continue to follow such a pleasant trajectory.

A tremendous highlight for us was a Spring Break trip to Paris. Madeline and Peter are both college graduates, but Madeline is a teacher, so we have retained the ability to plan a Spring Break trip. If my memory is correct, this is at least the sixth consecutive year that Kate has said this might be the last year that the kids will join us on a trip - so let's make it a good one. And we did. But I'm starting to think that if we keep funding the trip we might still be making family spring break trips decades from now. I hope that is true.

Paris is a magical place for us. And it was such fun to be in such a great city for art and wine and food and friends with our adult children. (There is much more description of our trip somewhere down the page - so I won't try to recreate it here).

Another highlight this year was a trip to California's wine country with our great friends Tom and Kathy Seymour.

It was such fun! Great wine. Great conversation and laughs. And it's the vacation that keeps on giving. Apparently we joined several wine "clubs" while we were there. So wine (and charge card bills) keep arriving at our door - even months after the trip.

We didn't get the opportunity to get dressed up and go dancing as a family at a "Train Party" wedding this year. But Kate and I did get the chance to go to Pennsylvania to see Kitty and Bob and attend Nick and Lindsay Albright's wedding.

Sadly, we did get dressed up as a family. But it was for the service for my mom, who died in August.

Alzheimers can be a cruel disease, and even in the best of circumstances it's never easy. Over the past years mom gradually lost her skills as a driver and then her exceptional skills as a cook and as a bridge player. But even to the last week of her life she didn't lose her personality and her joy in living. For that I am thankful. In an odd way (which I freely admit may just be a rationalization), I feel like the disease "distilled" in my mom her wonderful essential spirit as other aspects of her life fell away.

Even in this last photo of us together, I see the joy and spirit that I was lucky enough to have as such an important part of my life for the last 59 years. A life worth celebrating and trying to emulate.

Our other ancient mariner, Greta, is still hanging in there. The nerve signals from her brain no longer reach her back legs efficiently. But at 16, she's still part puppy (and part old woman).

As our only "child" still at home, she gets the royal treatment (at least from Kate, and sometimes even from me). She really is a wonder. She ignores any obstacle (including me if I am in her way) and always soldiers on.

We enjoyed lots of weekends at the cabin with friends, which are always fun. I love the fact that several have become annual traditions. Bird watching on Memorial Day. The Gang of Eight.

Labor Day. The Gang of Six. Such a great place to share with friends. We're so glad they keep coming back. And the wine and conversation on the porch only seems to get better.

This year Madeline and I made a trip to the Boundary Waters - in addition to my traditional spring and fall trips. It was three trips to this most wonderful of places for me. Marvelous. And such fun to experience with my daughter as well as with dear friends.

The kids grow up. Peter has a "for real" job in Minneapolis. Madeline is substitute teaching daily at Lincoln Elementary in Madison. Kate and I don't feel like we are growing old. The last year has been a good one indeed.

We all wish you the best this holiday season.

Happy holidays!

Stan, Kate, Madeline and Peter.