THE "CROSS-MAS" CHRONICLES
Dear Friends and Family,
It's been a year of many changes and strong emotions family-wise, one very sad – the death of my Dad at 93 in late June – and another, the most joyous birth of twin grandsons, Andrew and Austin, to our oldest son Richard and daughter-in-law Christiane in early September. And another milestone – John and I celebrated our 40th anniversary this summer.
It is hard to write about Dad's passing on June 27th. He was the patriarch of the family and it was his mission to hold the family together. He was known and loved by many, and did not want to give up, but his will could not keep his body from failing. Every time, I was in Oregon I took him around to see his friends and relatives. Being with people made this outgoing, friendly man the happiest. This is how I want to remember him.
The Great Joy
We were overjoyed when we heard in late April that our son, Richard and daughter-in-law, Christiane, were expecting, and twin boys to boot! Their due date was November 10th, but the boys didn't want to be held back and kicked themselves out 9 weeks early! Andrew and Austin arrived September 7th, weighing in at 3 pounds and 4 pounds, 2 ounces, respectively. The boys stayed in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) 8 and 7½ weeks, respectively, before coming home in late October. John and I were honored to help Richard and Christiane for 7 weeks until boys came home and more. Now, the boys are growing fast and looking great! We are so grateful for the prayers and good wishes of all.
The Big Trips
John and I continue to travel and had some awesome adventures this year. The first trip was a 5½ week trip, early-May to mid-June, to Alaska, where we honeymooned 40 years ago. We retraced some honeymoon places like Glacier Bay and Juneau, where we visited friends and the capitol, but also spent a few days each in Sitka, Ketchikan, Anchorage, Denali and Fairbanks. On the way to Prudhoe Bay, we had our first crossing of Arctic Circle, and later put our feet in the Arctic Ocean. All of the trip was “on our own,” except for 11 days through the inland passage on a catamaran The Alaskan Dream with 36 passengers. The weather was great - we encountered little rain, mostly blue skies and fortunately none of the notorious mosquitoes for which Alaska is known. Coincidently, we took a flight around Denali when our son David was climbing it! More on this later.
Our second trip of the summer was to Iceland, but we only got to Reykjavik before we headed back to Oregon upon the news of my dad. The trip was to be a month-long, self-driving trip around the island, which we will revisit next year.
Our third trip was a month-long trip to the Canadian Maritimes, Newfoundland and Labrador from early August to early September. We decided to visit this area using two back-to-back Road Scholar tours as well as doing some independent touring. We first flew to Halifax and had a couple days on our own before joining the first group of 39. Together, we toured Nova Scotia, part of New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. Highlights were the tides at the Bay of Fundy, which were exceptionally high then due to a “super moon,” the House of Green Gables on PEI, learning the history of the area and getting to know some fascinating people. After our 11-day Maritime tour, we flew to Deer Lake to start our tour of Newfoundland and southern Labrador with a group of 24. This was an incredible trip, a lot being due to an exceptionally talented tour guide, Tony Oxford - son of a fisherman, 30-year, now retired, school principal, and singer/songwriter. His lectures/stories were often accompanied by a song he had written. At the end of the tour, we all had to present a song, poem or story of the trip. It sounded somewhat intimidating at first, but it turned out to be great fun. We learned so much about the history and culture of Newfoundland, as well as how to pronounce it, i.e. with the accent on “land.” (It rhymes with “understand.”) One very off-the-beaten-path place we visited was Battle Harbor in Labrador, a long-abandoned fishing outport, now a preserved historic site. There were no battles at Battle Harbor - the name is thought to evolve from batteau or “boat” harbor. We learned of the sad plight of the fishermen and their outports from olden times to the present. There were so many cultural quirks – one being the concept of “eye contact.” If you make “eye contact” with a Newfoundlander, you may be invited in for coffee, cake or cod and expect to spend the rest of the day. After the tour, we spent another nine interesting days on our own in eastern Newfoundland.
The Small Trips
We are blessed with many friends all over the country and love to be able to see them. Besides trips to Oregon, including Mom's 90th birthday in March, and trips to Alpharetta and Kennett Square, to see our kids, we went to Austin in March for a mini-high school reunion of John's Texas-relocated classmates from Downers Grove, IL. We also went to New Orleans several times to stay and play with long-time dear friends. From Kennett Square, we took short trips to see friends, tour historical DuPont sites in Wilmington and venture out to Brandywine Battlefield, New Castle and Valley Forge. We also added Trenton, New Jersey, and Dover, Delaware, to our “capitol” list. On our way back from Kennett Square in early November, we went south through the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel and spent time in Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown. The fall foliage was incredible! (And in a deep voice) We’ll be back!!
Last year we put on about 20,000 miles on the road. Mostly, the trips went smoothly, but for the first time, we started having flats, such as on our to Oregon trip - a flat in Wichita, KS, a massive blowout at 80 mph in Idaho, and another flat just after returning to Houston. We had never had any flats before; so maybe it’s because we got “road hazard” insurance with our new car in 2012. Well, this pales compared to what happened in Newfoundland this year, where we had a blowout out in the middle of nowhere - in a rental car – with NO spare! John had “a cow” (mildly speaking) when he opened the trunk, and found only this little gizmo that looked like a mini-air compressor. As we had no cell phone, I went to look for help. Running down the hill like at crazy woman, I waved down a retired Newfoundland gentleman, who invited me to have some coffee as I made “eye contact.” He said, don't worry, this is Newfoundland. He let me use his phone, but also said he had a shop at the top of the hill. He followed me up to the top of the hill, where John proudly showed me that he had read the instructions on the gizmo (Is that manly or what?) and was pumping compressed air and “goo” into the tire. We would be off in no time. Our Newfoundland man, Mr. Fleming, compassionately thought otherwise. As we waited while the micro-compressor did its thing, we learned his life story, the history of his village, and the history of Newfoundland. Although the tire never got to the prescribed pressure, we hopped in the car and gave it a test run while Mr. Fleming and one of his friends watched patiently. It wasn't long that we were back at the top of the hill with the tire again running flat. Incredibly, Mr. Fleming, by now a very dear friend, had an old shop that was a tire shop! with the right equipment to remove the tire from the rim, as the tire had a side-wall tear that no amount of “goo” would repair. Mr. Fleming looked through a couple piles of tires he had lying around the shop and down the hill, and, lucky for us, found a tire of the right size. As it was late, and it would take us a couple hours to get back to our hotel in St. John's, we couldn't stay for dinner, but paid him generously, and sent presents when we got back to Texas. It was more than amazing to have such luck to have a breakdown where we did, as there were not even gas stations for miles. In one place, on a major road, it was 262 kms until the next exit! And, just to let you know, we haven't lost our touch, we had yet another flat at Richard and Christiane’s in Kennett Square.
The “Kids” - Richard, 33, and Christiane – New Parents to Twins Andrew and Austin
On September 7th, their lives changed forever with the arrival of beautiful twin sons, Andrew and Austin. They are very proud and happy parents, and so grateful for the prayers and kindness of friends and expertise of their medical support team while the boys were in intensive care. Prior to knowing of the pregnancy, Richard became a part owner of a power plane – a vintage Citabria. He had been flying gliders this year, but he'll be spending more time, for sure, with the boys as a very involved dad. Richard, a senior database engineer at Moody’s Analytics, and Christiane, a medical device product specialist at W.L. Gore, continue to live in Kennett Square, in “horse” country, a beautiful part of PA, near Lancaster and many Amish communities. Besides our 7 weeks with them and boys, we’ll see them around the holidays.
Robert, 31, Laura and Peyton - 2½ – The Terrific Twos
Although 800+ miles away, we made several trips (May, Sept., Nov. and Dec.) to see Robert, Laura and grandson, Peyton. In May, we went to Peyton's 2nd birthday bash themed around Toy Story. Peyton was “Woody” and there were lots of toddlers in Brownian Motion keeping the parents on alert for any “random collisions.” Peyton loves toddler soccer, helping his parents cook and Disneyworld – I think he's up to 8 times now! Robert is now the Director of R&D at NanoLumens, a specialty manufacturer of high-end, custom LED displays; Laura is now the Director of Co-Brand Credit Cards with InterContinental Hotels Group. We are excited to be able to spend Christmas with them in Alpharetta, GA.
Dave, 28 – Finishes 49 State Highpoints and Aims for Denali (Mt. McKinley)
Last year I wrote that, Dave, our youngest son, had climbed the highest point in all of the lower 48 states. After I sent the letter, I found out that he had also climbed the highest point in Hawaii, Mauna Kea. This May/June he attempted Denali at 20,320 feet. John and I were in Talkeetna, Alaska, the jumping-off place for hikers starting their climb, when we found out that Dave was on “the mountain.” (We usually find out these things after the fact.) From a National Park ranger, we learned the requirements for climbing Denali and found out that he was around 14,600 feet when we got to Talkeetna. We had planned to take a plane around Denali, at least to wave, and make a glacier landing. It was our great luck, that on our flight, the glacier landing was at base camp at 7,200 feet. We picked up 2 hikers and saw the camp with many hikers getting ready to ascend. Dave made it to “High Camp” at 17,200 feet before being “weathered in” for 5 days, and forced to climb down. The treks are a maximum of 21 days and supplemental oxygen is not used. Dave plans to try again next year with the same 6-person team and 2 guides. (See his blog www.meatsleeprepeat.com for pictures/commentary.) Dave is with Shell as a Completions and Well Interventions Engineer in natural gas fracking, and recently moved to New Orleans, aka “party city.” He's still eating “paleo” and works out at “Cross-Fit” gyms.
All the best for a blessed Christmas and New Year!!!