December 2014

The arrival of December always seems to take me by surprise, but this year has been so different from others because I “lost” October and part of November (as you will see below).  Nevertheless it has been a good year thanks to our family and friends.  Marc continues to teach at Saugus High School where he is department chair, a member of the negotiating team, and a popular and innovative teacher.  Beth still travels a lot with her event and marketing work.  (Sometimes we look on Facebook to see where she is.)  She continually has requests for her to be on projects, so she can choose.

In January Jenk and I once again volunteered to be judges at the L.A. County Academic Decathlon.  It is always amazing to see that today’s youth continue to work to excel.  Perhaps the most impressive are the immigrants who have mastered English and are working to make our country better for all, just as our ancestors did.

From January through March I was busy preparing for the spring trip to China for 12 students and 4 adults.  I met weekly with the students, bought tickets and obtained visas.  (I was refused a visa on the first try because my passport was too full of visas, so I needed an emergency replacement.)  Our non-profit, Santa Clarita International Exchange, Inc. was thrilled that we were able to provide at least partial scholarships for nearly all of the students.  Our board of directors (including our treasurer, Jenk!) works very hard to make this possible.

However in February I took off to New York City to meet my two French “sisters”, Claude and Nicole, for a great adventure.  (I met their family while attending the university in France, and the other sister, Michele, was here last fall with her husband.)  We rented an apartment two blocks from the Empire State Building and had a great time in spite of the cold weather.  We took three different “hop on hop off” tours and walked miles.  It was my first time in NYC, and I loved it.  I can’t wait to go back with Jenk.

As soon as I returned from China Jenk and I set off in our new 2014 Prius on a 6-week trip across the U.S.  Our first stop was Lubbock where we visited Jenk’s sister, Carolyn as well as other family.  Then it was off to Paducah, Texas (pop. 1100) for Jenk’s 50th high school reunion.  Of the 39 graduates 22 were in attendance!  We also found the remains of Jenk’s home when his family lived there, and the still-standing corral that Jenk built 50 years ago!

We continued eastward stopping to visit relatives in Arkansas, friends in Kentucky and eventually family and a former student in South Carolina.  Each day was an adventure as we stopped to visit many historic and interesting places.  We especially enjoyed our two days in Nashville, including visits to the Grand Ole Opry and Andrew Jackson’s home.  In Virginia we visited Montecello and then Jenk got deeply involved in the main purpose of our trip – his continuing efforts to research his family’s history in southern Virginia and northern North Carolina.  We visited museums, libraries, state archives and cemeteries, meeting some wonderful people along the way.  On the way back west we spent four days in Georgia visiting Plains, Atlanta and Warm Springs.  Back in Texas we visited Jenk’s sister’s family in Longview, then to Dallas to see Jenk’s brother David and his family.  It was a wonderful 9000 mile trip!

We returned in time for me to get to work finding more host families for our 3rd English Immersion Summer Camp for 24 students and two teachers from our sister-school in Xi’an.  (This is the major way our non-profit earns money.)  Once again we met so many incredible host families willing to open their homes and hearts to students from a totally different culture.  Then in August the new fall group (only 5 students and a teacher) arrived for the fall.

In mid-June Marc and Jenk left for a wonderful European trip.  Our family was in Normandy during the summer of the 50th anniversary of D-day.  Marc was determined to redo the trip for the 70th anniversary.  So the two “boys” spent 4 days in London (a first for both of them), then took the Eurostar train under the channel to France.  They rented a car in Paris and visited the Battle of the Bulge battlefield in Belgium, then spent 6 days in Normandy, before heading back to Paris where they were able to spend time with our friends there.

In July my mom’s youngest sister, Harriett died suddenly of cancer.  It was a shock to all as she was healthy and energetic until only a couple of weeks prior to her death.  We have tried to go see my Uncle Alan in Ojai as much as possible and really enjoyed having him join us and our friends for Thanksgiving.

In September I started feeling unwell, and by the end of the month was in the hospital.  After more than a month in the hospital, two operations and multiple blood transfusions I came home.  The recovery has been slow, but thankfully I am “retired” so I have had time to get stronger.  Jenk has been a terrific “nurse” and so many friends have kept us fed!

But the best news of the year happened while I was in the hospital – Beth’s boyfriend, Nathan Blake, proposed, and Beth happily accepted.  They plan to marry sometime next year, with a date and location still to be determined. We are all thrilled!

As we reflect on the year we remember our friends and family.  We wish you all good health and happiness.  I have been reminded again and again to take the time to find the joy and beauty in each day.  Jenk and I are thankful for all of you.  Merry Christmas, and may 2015 be a year of peace and happiness.