Holiday greetings to all of our friends, near and far.
This was the year of the "little dog" for us. Polly, a skinny, terrified little chihuahua mix arrived here on the 2nd of January and is still waiting for her "forever home," though I know she thinks she already found it.
As of this writing, we have seven dogs in the house -- our own two, plus Polly, Shiloh, and the Andrews Puppies--Patty, Max and Laverne, who are about 4 weeks old right now (they have grown incredibly since they first got here!)
This was also a big year for Walt and me. Never in my wildest dreams did I think we would ever go to Russia. It was nothing I ever realized I would be interested in, but when Char and Mike asked if we'd like to do a river cruise with them in Russia, we immediately said yes. We flew to Helsinki and spent 3 days in Finland, with one side trip to Estonia. Then we flew to St. Petersburg, boarded a Viking cruise ship and went down the river to Moscow. It was a fabulous trip and I remember thinking, as we stood in Red Square, how amazing it was that I was standing in the middle of Red Square!
We had such a good time that we've decided to go with Mike and Char to China next year (something else I never in my wildest dreams thought I would ever do).
We took shorter trips too. I drove to So. California for my friend Lynn's 60th birthday party; Walt flew to Boston for a week with Jeri and Phil. We both went to Los Angeles for our annual "Says You" trip, going to two different tapings of our favorite radio show. Walt spent a lot of time traveling back and forth to Santa Barbara, visiting his mother (who just celebrated her 97th birthday). Most of us (except for Ned and Marta, who weren't able to make it) were in Washington, DC for the wedding of Walt's cousin Kayleen in October, which gave me the opportunity to reconnect with my friend Melody, from my old days typing for The Secretariat here in Davis.
Walt and I both were in Santa Barbara for Brianna's second birthday. She's 2-1/2 now and growing into a beautiful little girl.
She started pre-school this fall (the youngest child in the school) and from all reports seems to be doing well. Tom and Laurel recently bought a bigger house, which is closer to the schools Bri will attend and seem to be very happy in the new location. Tom, our now-youngest child, celebrated his 40th birthday this year (alas, we were in Russia and unable to be there for the festivities). He and Laurel ran another marathon in October and did it in less time than the last time they ran a marathon, so are very proud of themselves!
Ned is now at a different radio station (actually the one he used to work for). He found someone to pay him to make the same kind of dumb movies he's been making since he was 8 years old, now posted on YouTube as "JackFM Cinema." He's very good at what he does.
All he wanted for Christmas this year was his two front teeth and he actually got them in time for Christmas.
Marta continues her studies in Sufism (which someone described as the "flower children of Islam") and is supplementing her income from her massage business by working at the school at which she studies.
Jeri and Phil were able to make a few trips out here this year, sometimes together, sometimes separately.
Jeri's annual August trip is always fun because the band Preoccupied Pipers aways gets together to put on a show, this time at a club in Davis.
They are both busy with their respective jobs in Boston and obviously loving their dog, Lester, who seems to be the subject of most of the photos that they send. Jeri is now a full time member of the faculty at Berklee College of Music, a huge step forward. Phil is the caretaker for a handicapped young man.
Walt and I have continued to see lots and lots of theatre, but only in this area this year. It is not unusual for me to review 2 or 3 shows a weekend, though a lot of the fun has gone out of it this year, with newspaper downsizing requiring the loss of my boss of the past 10 years. Derrick and I had a wonderful working relationship and I miss him a lot.
I had fun in June, reuniting with a group of women from high school, as we were honored on the occasion of our 50th anniversary. How did we get to be so old? I went to a very small school and only a small number of people came to the reunion, but it was still nice to see everyone again. And to see parts of the new school, since ours was torn down in the 1960s. It was also fun to see our freshman homeroom teacher, Sister Louise, who may be the only one of my teachers who is still living!
Walt's mother, at 97, has now been moved to a convalescent hospital, where she will live out her days. She broke her hip this past year and is no longer able to walk. She is also all but blind. My own mother, at 91, still continues to amaze us all and I am fortunate to be able to spend a decent amount of time with her. We still look forward to our almost-monthly Cousins Day get togethers.
The year was sad for the loss of three friends. Merrell Frankel, who was a force of nature, died suddenly of complications from lap band surgery in March. It's amazing that the planet has continued to spin without her electricity in the mix. Juan Ignacio Vergara, the leader of our first group of Chilean students lost his battle with cancer. He will be much missed. And my good friend Diane, in Seattle, died suddenly and much too early in July. I am still struggling with her loss, though continue to stay in touch with her daughter. Diane loved her 3 young grandchidren and it hurts so much to know that they will not have her in their lives as they grow up. It's sad to realize that we have reached an age when our friends are starting to die (and to know that if I drop dead tomorrow, nobody will say "but she was so young!")
Our Christmas plans are somewhat up in the air at the moment, but will include one celebration with my mother and Jeri in No. California and one in Santa Barbara with Brianna and the rest of the So. California family.
We have had a good year, with lots of highs and very few lows. We wish for all of you the warmth and love of family around you as you celebrate whichever holiday you celebrate at this time of year.
~ The Sykes Family ~
Also, our Compassion International family
Anjali (India), Pedro (Brasil), Briana (Haiti)