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December, 2004

What better wish to give to everyone for this holiday season:  Peace.   We aren't likely to get it this year, I fear, but we  can always hope.

As eventful as 2003 was for the Sykes family, 2004 wasn’t! No marriages. No job changes. No accidents. No big trips (but lots of little ones). 


Walt, who is about to turn 65, is going to retire "in a year or so." Of course he has been going to retire in a year or so for the past five years, so who knows. One of these days he’s going to surprise me by coming in the front door at night and saying "I did it. I retired." Nobody will believe him.

He’s practicing "being retired" by starting to repaint the house. He figures that if he does one big chunk at a time, he’ll eventually get it all done (it’s kind of like painting the Golden Gate Bridge--it never ends because by the time you get to the end, the section you started with is ready for paint again!)

He went off to Boston for a bit this year to visit with Jeri, what is becoming their annual father-daughter time, which they both enjoy so much.   He arrived the last day of the Democratic convention and that weekend, the city of Boston gave a "thank you" to its residents by having many attractions open for free--Walt got to go on a tour of Fenway Park, and Jeri took his picture standing in front of The Green Monster.

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Jeri is in her third year on the faculty of Berklee College of Music, each year with increasing responsibilities. She seems to have found her niche. She also continues to be a professional musician, playing in pit bands for various theatrical productions around Boston.  At one point this fall she was playing Company, Rocky Horror, Beauty and the Beast and Annie Get Your Gun, all concurrently.  In her spare time she has several clarinet and saxophone students.

She was able to come to California for a few weeks this summer. It’s always a whirlwind trip and it always surprises me that she manages to fit everything in.

Jeri is pictured with Walt's mother, who turned 91 this year.  She is now legally blind, due to macular degeneration and recently moved from Sacramento to Santa Barbara, where she now lives just a few minutes away from Walt's sister (rather than 40 minutes away from us).  It seems to have been a good decision for everyone.

Ned and I have been working together on a Big Project, to be announced soon (I hope).  It's been fun working so closely with him.  He's mellowed a lot in the last couple of years. 

Professionally, he still brings Howard Stern to the world on Sacramento FM radio, and on Sundays he is back at his old haunts, the Veterans Memorial Theatre in Davis, where he runs the building for a Christian church group that holds its services there.  When not otherwise occupied, he's trying to get his house remodeled.

Marta has her own massage business, Jakarta Bodyworks.  They've been telling me she's "really good," and I discovered this for myself, when I treated myself to a couple of sessions with her, hoping to get some improvement in my arm (which is now, thank goodness, just about back to normal).   Anybody in the Sacramento area needing a good massage therapist, give her a call:   (916.718.5903)*

*this is an unpaid business advertisement :)

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Tom and Laurel celebrated their one year anniversary in October by going to New York for a vacation, and stopping by Boston to visit with Jeri. They had the good (I guess) fortune to land in Salem, MA on Halloween!

They continue to work on remodeling their house in Santa Barbara and Tom has done a bit of traveling again this year for his job, as has Laurel.   Tom's company changed hands and there were some layoffs, but his job seems to have remained secure.  Laurel continues at Santa Barbara Bank and Trust.

Over the 4th of July weekend, they hosted their annual barbecue on Goleta beach and this month, Tom threw a big surprise party for Laurel's 30th birthday.

I briefly went back to work in January, but the job ended by mid February. So my only work these days is continuing to transcribe psychiatric reports, and doing theatre reviews. (I’ve actually come to the point where I sometimes say "Oh damn...I have to go to another show tonight.")  I spent a lot of time learning PhotoShop, a software program for working with photos.  I loved it so much I took a seminar in it recently and am all enthused about the new stuff I learned (I just have to figure out how to do it, now, without an instructor at the front of the room!)

I became somewhat involved with MECA (Marriage Equality California), fighting for equality for same sex couples who wish to be married.    My friends Ellen and Shelly were married in San Francisco, after 31 years together and raising a family together, and then had to suffer the pain of having their marriage invalidated six months later.  It is criminal that two people who love each other aren't able to make a legal commitment to one another, while the Brittney Spears and Newt Gingriches of the world continue to make a mockery of what the government would have us believe is the "sanctity of marriage."  (Climbing off my soapbox now, but I really get very angry at the injustice of it all!)

I also volunteered  with the local chapter of the SPCA.  I agreed to be on the newsletter committee and occasionally take photos which appear either on the Internet or in the newspapers for dogs that are available for adoption.

The SPCA involvement came out of the adoption of Sheila, a 18 month old Australian Shepard mix, whose picture I found on the Internet and couldn't resist.  That cute face, big smile and mismatched ears behind the mesh of that cage just broke my heart, and so she came into our life.  She's younger, larger and more active than I originally thought I wanted in a dog, but she is a real sweetheart.  If she can only learn to "come" consistently when I call her, we'll get along just fine.

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I learned a new art form (at least it’s new to me) this year, altered books. When Walt’s mother asked him what the craft was, he said, "they destroy books." And in a way that’s what it seems like--taking an old book and using the pages to create artwork by cutting, pasting, painting, and just being as creative as you can.  It's doing all the things that your mother and your kindergarten teacher told you you should not do to a book. Truth to say, I’m not sure this is a project I would ever have taken up on my own, but some women I knew from the Internet were chatting about getting a group started and I thought--what the heck--and joined the group just for the fun of it. An artist I’m not, but I did have fun "destroying books" and in August I met with the 7 other women in New Jersey, so we could all ooh and aah at our handiwork.
In March, Walt and I flew to Chicago, to see The Big Voice: God or Merman, a musical written by our good friends Steve Schalchlin and Jim Brochu.   I've been involved with this show since it was just a hint of an idea in Steve's head.  In its first months, it contained a song that Steve and I wrote together (later dropped for a better song).  The Chicago opening was an opportunity to travel to Chicago for the first time.  In addition to TBV, we also saw Blue Man Group, on Ned's recommendation--definitely a unique show!

In September, Jim  and Steve opened The Big Voice at a musical theatre festival in New York City.   We had to be there for its New York opening, so Walt and I flew to NY to spend a long weekend. We saw 3 plays (including The Big Voice), and did a lot of sightseeing. I suspect Walt enjoyed it more than I did. I have to admit that I seem to have lost my city-girl genes and I found New York too big, too loud and definitely too crowded. But I did love being able to see The Big Voice in New York and hope that it will start its expected extended off-Broadway run next year, as is the tentative plan.

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I spent a couple of strange overnighters in San Luis Obispo getting caught up with friends, one with my friend Lynn, visiting from Houston and one with Steve and Jimmy--Steve was the featured performer at Cal Poly for World AIDS Day.  San Luis Obispo is about 250 miles from Davis, and not exactly "half way" between here and Los Angeles, but it seems a logical place to meet since there's so much "nothing" between there and Sacramento.  Besides, it always gives me a chance to have a meal at The Apple Farm, which I enjoy.

My mother and I flew to Seattle to attend the Tulip Festival in March.  I also spent a week with my friend Olivia in Boise in May, and a long weekend in Annapolis in November, with my friend Roz, following the death of her husband of 50 years.

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In mid-October we threw a surprise 85th birthday party for my mother.   It was really a surprise, because her birthday is September 7th.  But all of her side of the family wanted to do something for her, and mid-October was the earliest we could swing it.  It was a gala affair and she was fetted quite handily.   At 85 she's doing better than I am at 62, I think!

Apologies to all you Republicans, but I did not vote for your president and found this year's election to be the most depressing I can remember in my lifetime.  I actually went to bed in tears on election night and have been in a deep depression ever since.  I don't know why it has affected me so strongly this year.  I've certainly voted for enough losing candidates and not felt like this.   But I feel that Bush is destroying everything I have loved about this country, and has destroyed our good name around the world and I am powerless to do anything to stop it.  I know that there are those who feel he is the greatest thing since sliced bread, but I fear I am not one of them.

Life creeps on apace. A year with no major incidents in our personal life may not make for an interesting Christmas letter, but it’s not so bad, given some of the years we’ve had in the not so distant past.

Our best wishes to all for a very happy holiday season and an uneventful 2005.

The Sykes Family:
Walt, Bev, Jeri, Ned, Marta, Tom, Laurel and Sheila
(and in absentia, David and Paul)


Bev's Daily On-Line Journal, "Funny the World"

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