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December 2011

Dear Friends,

I don't want much for Christmas, I just want the person reading this to be happy. Friends are the fruit cake of life --- some nutty, some soaked in alcohol, some sweet, but mix them together and they're my friends! At Christmas you always hear people talking about what they want & bought. This is what I want: I want people who are sick with no cure to be able to be cured. I want children with no families to be adopted. I want people to never have to worry about food, shelter & heat. I want peace and love for everyone!

Our thoughts and prayers go out to you this season as you begin to celebrate whatever holiday you will be celebrating.  We hope that this letter finds you in good health and gathered with your loved ones.

The comedy and tragedy masks above seem to be particularly appropriate for 2011.  It seems to have  been that kind of a year.   On the happy side of things, the top of the list was the birth of Lacie Ann to Tom and Laurel in September, joining sister Brianna, now 3-3/4. 

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Unlike her sister, Lacie is a baby who eats well, sleeps lots and hasn't given her parents the worries that Brianna did in her early months.  As for Miss Bri, who doesn't really have splotches all over her face (though cheetahs do), she is growing into a lovely, intelligent, funny little kid who is a great 49er fan.  On Halloween, these were the costumes....

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(Isn't a football the very BEST costume for a newborn baby?)

Another happy thing this year was the trip Walt and I took to China, with our friends the Blackfords (with whom we have now been traveling for 50 years!)  It was a somewhat grueling trip, which included 8 flights from 7 airports and a 5 day cruise on the Yangtze, but what a fabulous trip it was!  And we now know where our happy room is.

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(I told Walt that we're going to have to find another communist country next year, since last year's photo was from Red Square in Moscow!).  My personal goal was to walk the Great Wall, and I did.  We also saw a lot of the "biggies" like the Terra Cotta warriors, the Forbidden City, the Peking Opera and so much more and we didn't eat Chinese food again for at least two weeks after our return!

Later in the year, the four of us went to So. California to attend a taping of Jeopardy and watch UCLA trounce Cal at the Rose Bowl (in the stadium, not the Rose Bowl game itself, of course).  It proved my hypothesis that whenever I attend a Cal game, they lose.  No more Cal games for me!

On the sad side of things, we had too many losses this year.  Walt's mother died in March, at 97.  It was bittersweet -- she had fought for so long and was finally reunited with her husband, who died in 1955.   We all miss her terribly, but she would have been proud of the memorial service the kids arranged.  If nothing else, we are great at funerals!

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Jeri, Marta and Ned provided the music
(including a version of Amazing Grace for clarinet and ukelele!)

The other most difficult loss was the death of my cousin Kathy, one of the "Cousins Day" cousins, who lost her battle with COPD in October.  It is good that she is out of her suffering, but she leaves a big hole in everyone's heart.  Cousin Nora in Ireland died and her funeral was streamed on the internet from a church in Dublin, so we stayed up until 3 a.m. to watch it and say our goodbyes.  The wonders of modern technology!  There were also other good friends who died, making this an emotional roller coaster of a year.

But thankfully, we seem to be all healthy now, even my 92 year old mother, who still lives independently and though her activities are a bit more limited due to some minor physical problems, she still continues to be the Energizer Bunny and I am glad to have the opportunity to spend so much time with her.

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It seems Jeri and Phil spent most of their year shoveling snow in Boston.  Their enthusiasm for winter did finally begin to wane a bit as the storms continued to sweep across the east coast.  They visited here in August, Phil coming out ahead of Jeri so he and Ned could drive to Seattle to see a Phish concert. 

Jeri has also been doing some baking this year and likes to send me pictures of things like her freshly baked loaves of bread. 

And, of course, there are always lots of pictures of our granddog, Lester, who gets them out walking all over the Jamaica Plain area.

Ned remains with Jack-FM radio in Sacramento.   You can see some of his video work on the radio's web site.  Marta is still doing massage, but has recently completed extensive training to do spiritual counseling and will be transitioning into that work at some point.

She and Ned have joined a gym recently, and are especially enjoying "playing" racquetball, which involves very little in the way of rules and a lot of laughing.

They are in the process of selling their house in Natomas, and hope to become Sacramento Midtown Hipsters in the near future.

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Ned, Marta, Jeri and Phil joined with the other members of the band Preoccupied Pipers and returned to the scene of their former Lawsuit triumphs, San Francisco's Hotel Utah, for one short concert as part of the International Pop Overthrow.

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We had no foster dogs this year.   Not one.  At the end of last year, I talked about Polly, the Chihuahua who came in January of 2010 and as of December had not yet found a "forever home."   In January 2011, she found one -- we adopted her.  With three dogs of our own, now, we decided to take a break from fostering for awhile and it has been a nice break.

I am still reviewing stage shows, about 50-60 a year, and my co-author Alison Lewis and I are continuing interviews for the 60th anniversary Lamplighter history, which may or may not be released in November of 2012.  I also re-started "pen paling" this year, discovering how lively the pen pal community is on the Internet.  I seem to have lost my Australian friend Peggy this year.  She just kind of stopped writing without letting me know why, and I missed having someone to write to.  So now I'm doing my bit to save the US postal service. 

Walt remains on the board of Citizens Who Care, a group which advocates for the frail elderly and their caregivers.  He helps with the fund raisers -- a concert in February and a beer tasting in the fall each year. He still works at his old office occasionally and he flew to Boston to spend a week with Jeri while Phil was out here with Ned.  He also did a fund-raising walk for Lou Gherig's disease, in memory of his friend Bill Cunningham, who died of it a few years back.

As this year comes to an end, I wonder what is ahead for us in 2012.  When we get together with friends now, we seem to mostly do "organ recitals" (who is suffering from which ailment) and comparison of who has died.  That part is very depressing.  But when I look to the grandchidren, I see that life goes on and that gives me hope.

Love to all of you this season.

~ The Sykes Family ~

Walt & Bev ** Jeri & Phil ** Ned & Marta ** Tom, Laurel, Brianna & Lacie
Sheila, Lizzie and Polly
and, in absentia, Paul and David

Bev's daily journal:  Funny the World
and The Pen Pal Project


Our Compassion Int'l Family

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Top row:   Anjali (India), Fred (Phillippines), Shallon (Uganda), Briana (Haiti)
Middle row:  Emmanuella (Ghana), Henrique (Brasil), Leniel (Dominican Republic), Murugi (Kenya)
Bottom row:  Theresa (Ghana), Wainaina (Kenya), Esther (Indonesia)