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Christmas 2018


Christmas, 2018

Dear Friends and Family,
Greetings to all! Well, we learned a lot this year! Even, in retirement, it is possible. Top things you should know –
1) If you have never screwed up water skiing, there’s always a first time.
2) If you ever ride one of those “Hop-On-Hop-Off” buses, don’t hop off – until the end.
3) If you don’t know what LIDAR is, try speeding over the Atchafalaya Swamp.
4) If you don’t know what’s in the grass, don’t drive into it.
5) Dealing with home insurance claims can be a full-time job.
6) It may be “Sunny in Philadelphia,” but it’s also really, really cold in January.
7) Mom (94), kids, grandkids and we are all fine.
8) We cancelled our landline and the world didn’t fall apart.

Hotel Ledgestone is Open for Tours and Guests
After last year’s “house-rebuild” mode – from the previous year’s 2nd floor broken toilet “water disaster” – this year found us in the “furniture-buying-and-insurance-filing” mode. Of course, the project was approached like a Ph.D. thesis. Found out the only way to get full “replacement” values, was to -“duh” - replace them. Luckily, everything lost was duly documented, but buying something close to the same after 40 years, was not exactly straight forward as everything from furniture to electronics has changed – A LOT! But, thanks to the Internet, and weeks – no months – of examining every corner of every decorating website, I found things comparable to what we lost. I’m still working on minor flourishes, like pictures and pillows, but, essentially, we’re done. So, if you’re ever in our part of the world, stop by and sit a spell – or even come for a sleep over! Y’all are welcome!

January and February – Northeast Road Trip with a Month in Pennsylvania
Living in Texas for so long has made us love warm weather, however when Richard and Christiane invited us to come up to their place in Pennsylvania from mid-January to mid-February to help with grandsons Andrew and Austin, we weathered the icy cold and snow and had fun with the family. A side bonus was that we were close to Lancaster and were able to find some outstandingly beautiful Amish-crafted, last-you-a-life-time chairs for the kitchen.

March – Oregon for Mom’s 94th Birthday
In March, I flew back to Oregon for a week to give my mom a 94th birthday party in assisted living. It turned out great and much of the family, including cousins and relatives, came for a fun time. Mom’s doing well and really enjoyed it.

April – San Antonio for a Texas “Coussens Cousins” Reunion
Of the 29 first Coussens cousins, most live in Oregon and Washington, except for 4 of us who discovered Texas. In April, we decided to get together with spouses in San Antonio for a long weekend. We enjoyed a lot of Tex-Mex, as well as Western Shooting, Top Golf, Live Trivia, the Alamo and other historic Missions, where we attended a rousing, festive and exciting Mariachi Mass. A great time was had by all, so we decided to do it again next year in another “party” town.

May – At Home in Houston - and June – Celebrating with Robert in Alpharetta and Seeing Dave in Covington
In May we were home in Houston to receive all the furniture that we ordered that was being dropped off “at the curb.” Some of the furniture, like large bookcases, also came in pieces and needed assembly. How long does it take two Ph.D.s to put together a bookcase? (Hint: Longer, if they’re married.) We got the bookcases assembled, as well as a few other pieces, and are happy to report, we are still together – now 44 years and counting.

In June, we drove to middle son, Robert and Laura’s in Alpharetta, GA to celebrate grandkids’ Peyton’s, Kensie’s and my May birthdays, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. It was a non-stop, party weekend. On the way back, we had a Tex-Mex dinner with Dave and his girlfriend, Kristie, in Covington, LA, just north of New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain.

July and August – Road Trip out West from Texas to Oregon, Washington, California & Everywhere in between
In July, we headed out on a 6 ½ -week road trip out West. The “driving forces” were my niece Becky’s wedding in late July and my 50th (ouch) high school reunion in mid-August. Our first big stop was Capitol Reef Nat. Park to see one of our Nat. Park ranger friends. Then, it was on to Promontory Summit in Utah where the Golden Spike was driven in 1869, to complete the Transcontinental Railroad. We then went to see friends in Washington. Our Anacortes friends, who have done all 59 National Parks, encouraged us to do the same. They then toured us through our 38th National Park – breathtaking North Cascades. With our Redmond friends, we toured the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum and the Pacific Science Center in Seattle. The friends live on beautiful Lake Sammamish and asked if I’d like to waterski. Of course, I did, but this time, I looked like I was in terror for most of the ride. When I got brave enough to jump the wake, I wiped out and tore my meniscus. Three months later, I had arthroscopic surgery. So much for my water skiing career.

From Washington, we went to Oregon to see friends at Ft. Clatsop, where Lewis and Clark wintered 1805-1806. We also saw a dear college friend and her husband in Lincoln City and then went to North Plains for the wedding of my niece Becky. Her brother, Kevin, an Internet ordained minister, “married his sister” – to her fiancé Bryan, that is.

Between the wedding and my 50th Hillsboro High School “Hilhi” reunion, we decided to go to California for 3 weeks. There, we visited our 39th, 40th and 41st National Parks – Lassen Volcanic, Pinnacles, and Redwoods – as well as Kings Canyon and Sequoia, which we’ve seen before. From all the fires, we encountered lots of smoke, not only in California, but also in southern Oregon, where we rafted Class 4 rapids down the Rogue River. In Chico, CA, we went to the National YoYo Museum (home of the world’s largest working wood yoyo at 256 pounds) and the Sierra Nevada Brewery (John’s favorite beer). We also visited Hearst Castle (San Simeon) and the Winchester House (San Jose). Times have changed since we last went to Muir Woods – now you need a parking reservation! Don’t show up without one – you’ll be turned away! In San Francisco, we were told to empty our car of everything, lest it be broken into. We had a reservation for a city tour and bay cruise that was over booked. After being bumped, we were comped a Hop-Off-Hop-On Bus. We hopped on OK, but hopped off at Golden Gate Park, not to be picked up there again. After waiting about 1.5 hours, we walked (I hobbled) for about a mile out of the park. We were then picked up by some other bus company that felt sorry for us. I guess that’ll do it for our Hop-On-Hop-Off bus adventures.

Our return to Napa Valley after 36 years was also an eye-opener! There are now between 550 and 600 vineyards! Where do you start? Well, the Wine Train came to our rescue. All you do is pay (a lot of) money and get on the train. The train stops at various vineyards and, in between wineries, you are served appetizers and a progressive gourmet meal. What’s not to like? It was fantastic! And, no worries about drinking and driving!

After quite a few mudslides last year, the Pacific Coast Highway (CA-1) just opened and we were able to drive most of it. After 3 weeks in CA, we had our 44th anniversary in Bandon on the Oregon coast and then stopped in Corvallis to see my OSU professor, who is now 98, and my advisor, both of who are still going into the lab! See, chemistry keeps you young!!! The trip finale was a 3-day Hilhi reunion. Heading back to Texas, we saw friends in Albuquerque and had a day tour of Chaco Canyon, a remote site in the Four Corners region, once inhabited by a special tribe of Anasazi.

September and October – Alpharetta, GA and a 5 ½ - Week Road Trip through the Midwest and East
In early September, we made a quick trip to Alpharetta and had a great time with grandkids – having lunch with Peyton at his school and tea and cookies for Grandparents’ Day at Kensie’s daycare. On this trip, speeding over the Atchafalaya Swamp we learned about LIDAR, the hard way. (No talking your way out of it. Google it! Too much to explain here.) Also, in case you’re driving in deep grass, there could be an immovable object there that requires a new door to your car. (On the last two topics - more information upon request.)

In mid-September, we started out on a 5 ½ -week road trip through the Midwest and East, with the highlight being John’s 50th high school reunion in Downers Grove, IL. Along the way, we saw Coussens relatives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, friends in Oklahoma City, an old fort in Fort Smith, AR and the Truman home and library in Independence, MO, where the historic Oregon, California and Santa Fe trails began. On the way to Minneapolis to see John’s sister Jean and her family, we stopped at Ft. Osage, sited by William Clark in 1804. We also visited our 49th capitol in St. Paul and saw cousins in Wisconsin. Near Milwaukee, we toured the Johnson Wax buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and visited a MIT grad school friend, whom we haven’t seen in 38 years! We picked up where we left off and had a grand evening with him and his wife. After 3 days of partying at John’s HS reunion in Downers Grove, we continued east to see friends in Indianapolis and Columbus. In Dayton, we spent days engrossed in the Nat. AF Museum and learned more about the Wright Brothers at Carillon Park. In Kennett Square, we spent a weekend with oldest son Richard and his family, and then headed south to Fairfax to see friends on the way to Shenandoah, the Blue Ridge Parkway and Smoky Mountains (our 42nd and 43rd Nat. Parks). We had planned to do this 12-day, 606-mile adventure in 2013, but the government shut down. This year, we rebooked everything. The leaves were fantastic in 2013, but not so much this year, as it was warmer and wetter, and we even had Hurricane Michael come through! So what we missed in leaf color, we made up in waterfalls. They were fantastic! At the end of the trip, we went to Pensacola Beach for 3 days of festivities at a friends’ wedding. Everything was great, and at the exact time of the outdoor ceremony, it poured! How special is that!

November - Richard & family and Dave come for Thanksgiving - and December – with Robert & family in GA
In November, Richard (37) and Christiane came from Kennett Square, PA with 4-year-old twin sons, Andrew and Austin, for a great week at Thanksgiving. Richard still heads Quantitative Research at Moody’s Analytics, and Christiane is now in the pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical division at W.L. Gore. In December, we’ll go to Alpharetta, GA to be with Robert (35) and Laura, “Baseball Slugger” Peyton (6) and “Disney Princess” Kensie (3) for Christmas celebrations. Robert is a senior product manager with Promethean and Laura is the director of co-branded credit cards with InterContinental Hotels Group. Dave (32) now lives in Covington, LA and still works for Shell as a Completions and Well Interventions Engineer in natural gas fracking. Dave and his girlfriend, Kristie, also came for Thanksgiving and brought their very well-trained Border Collies, Brodie and Mako, with them. And a fun time was had by all!

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