Well, it happened again. I missed the deadline for the annual1 holiday letter to friends and family. Happily, I’m still nearly a month ahead of schedule for a Groundhog Day message. So, if you’re tempted to proceed any further, consider yourself among the first to read my breathless (or is it, at age 75, out-of-breath?) recounting of all the exciting2 family-related events that took place in the course of Earth’s most recent circumsolar journey.3
For chronological significance, two events stand out. On Aug. 12, Sandra and I marked the 33rd anniversary of the day we met at Kilauea Caldera on the Big Island of Hawaii. One third of a century later, she has yet to throw me out! Remarkable patience!
A few days earlier, on Aug. 8, we celebrated our 32nd wedding anniversary. And a day later, Aug. 13, I hit 75 — an astonishing three quarters of a century. Funny … I’ve slowed down some, but I don’t really feel old. I guess 75 must be “the new 60.”
Sandra, who has long pegged me as a cradle robber, won’t catch up to the 75 mark for another couple of years. Despite her November birthday not being divisible by five, we celebrated it, like the milestones noted above, in traditional fashion — with a sumptuous dinner at one of our favorite restaurants.
Despite packing away a swarm of extra calories on these and several other noteworthy occasions during the year, I’ve managed to maintain my weight at around 195–200 pounds — down around 15% from a high of 230 in August 2018, when I forswore eating (well, almost — I stuck to about 1,200 well-balanced calories a day for months) in an effort to lose a few inches around my middle and improve my quality of life.
In addition to eating more healthily, this past year I also began working with a personal trainer, Nick Cann, who has greatly strengthened me, making it a lot easier to climb stairs and get up off the floor. (More info in my Yelp review.) Nick also picked up where a terrific physical therapist left off in helping me regain most of my equilibrium following a highly disconcerting episode of “balance-nerve”-related vertigo.
For greater-than-calendar significance, two items stand out.
First, there was the Kincade Fire at the end of October, which came within a mile of incinerating our house. I told the story of that fire and our evacuation in a blog post at the beginning of November, so there’s no need to repeat myself here.
Sandra’s back at it
Second, Sandra began a new chapter in her pedagogical/people-helping career; she can’t stay away from offering help for long. Beginning last spring, she began volunteer tutoring/mentoring several kids in reading — both in small groups and individually — at Kid Street, our granddaughter Amarie’s charter school. Both we and Amarie’s parents (our daughter Melissa and son-in-law Julian) think it’s a great school, and it’s a delight to see Amarie growing in so many ways.
Kid Street is located in a low-income neighborhood (yes, we have those in California too), and not all the students are lucky enough to enjoy the kind of at-home learning enrichment that Amarie does. So Sandra works with some of the kids in grades K–3 who could use a little help in catching up to their peers in that most essential of all foundational skills, reading.
In addition to “feeding” their brains, Sandra also helps feed their growing bodies with tasty but nutritious treats because many of the kids don’t always get enough to eat at home. This fits nicely with a secondary mission at Kid Street which, for the same reason, serves breakfast, lunch and snacks, and also serves as a clearing house for donated objects of all kinds that can make low-income families’ lives a little easier.
I’ve been doing some highly rewarding volunteer work as well, but the time is not yet ripe to discuss it. Stay tuned.
All three of our kids and their families — including our four Eastern grandkids (two each in Michigan and Maryland) have been doing very well this year. Grandson Jonah will have his bar mitzvah in May, and we’re certainly looking forward to joining the Daniel side of the family for that.
We got to visit with a number of Daniel clan members twice this year. This summer we flew to Pittsburgh and got together in the hills of western Pennsylvania for a week with son Adam, daughter Naomi and their families — plus my stepsister Dolores and her family. It’s all written up in four blog posts: here, here, here and here. Why Pennsylvania? It’s a great playground located roughly halfway between Michigan and Maryland.
Then, this past Thanksgiving, Adam and his wife Jodi hosted a memorable gathering in their new home. This was our first Thanksgiving back east in more years than I can count. Normally we’ve celebrated with the Kelleys in California. From here on, we plan to alternate between East and West coasts and the Daniel and Kelley gangs for this wonderful holiday.
The whole gang! The Daniel side of the family (minus Jodi, who took the photo, and Sophia, right foreground) is mostly at left. Everyone else is from Jodi’s family, the Goldsteins.
Adam, Jodi, Jonah, Sophia
Naomi and boyfriend Clarke
Adam & Jodi
Sandra & Jodi
Adam and Naomi with all their “parental units.” (Martha, their mother, is at left.)
We celebrated a lovely Christmas in Santa Barbara with a small circle of Kelleys: Melissa, Julian and Amarie, Sandra’s “kid” sister Dorcas, and — of particular note — Madge, Sandra’s 94-year-old stepmom, at whose home we gathered.
Madge, Julian and Amarie
Dorcas with Ceci
Just for the occasion, I’m in an “ugly Christmas aloha shirt”
Eight months earlier, however, we had a sad occasion in Santa Barbara. Sandra’s beloved Uncle Bernard passed away on Good Friday, April 19, a few weeks shy of his 89th birthday. Bernard was the youngest brother of Sandra’s late mom, Rosalie. A Franciscan priest, he was an extraordinary scholar, very internationally and ecumenically minded (he always enjoyed my kidding about being the Jewish nephew of a Catholic priest), who wrote or contributed to 21 books, among many other accomplishments. There was a packed house at the Old Mission for his service, which included prayers offered in his numerous languages — German, French, Italian, Spanish, Latin, Greek, Hebrew and some Chinese.
Uncle Bernard with three nieces, Dorcas, Sandra and Marilyn
This was a good year for my Pen-for-Rent business-writing-and-editing work. The highlight of my professional year was collaborating with my oldest client, Dr. Richard Kelley,4 on his forthcoming book. (Details will have to await its publication later this year.) This included two very enjoyable visits with him in Denver — in March and August — for final edits to the manuscript and then to help select photographs for the book.
I’ve also been working to expand my clientele. I redoubled my networking efforts, joining both the Sonoma County Alliance and an extraordinarily congenial chapter of BNI (Business Network International), a very successful referral marketing organization. Results to date have been promising. I also gave well-received presentations at a “story slam” of the Northern California Peace Corps Association (topic: a funny tale from village India where I served as a volunteer half a century ago) and at one of the local Rotary Clubs (topic: the humorous side of editing business prose).
And that, folks, pretty well wraps up the year. It remains only for me to wish you, in advance, a joyous Groundhog Day.
- OK. Let’s be honest. For a guy who makes a living by writing and editing, I’m embarrassed to admit I haven’t exactly been issuing an “annual” holiday letter on a yearly basis.
- To tell the truth, it’s a little hard to describe the year gone by as overly exciting, so I hope you’ll be willing to settle for something at least a few degrees north of soporific.
- As precisely as I can tell (after checking my sources at Wikipedia) this would be Earth’s 4,542,999,999th trip (±1%) around our life-giving star. Because I checked our planet’s age in the earliest days of January, I can only assume that as of the turn of this New Year, the Earth is now officially 4,543,000,000 years old — and counting.
- While the name Kelley connotes a family connection (Dr. Kelley and Sandra’s late dad were cousins), in the interest of full disclosure, I feel it necessary to make clear that this connection has had nothing to do with the work I’ve been doing for him now for nearly two decades. Dr. Kelley was the long-standing public relations client of my then-employer in Honolulu, CommPac, and in 2003, I was asked to take over the editing of his weekly newsletter articles. At the time, he was unaware of my connection to the Santa Barbara Kelleys, who were not in close touch with the Honolulu branch of the family. It was only several years later, at a dinner honoring Dr. Kelley, that his sister Pat introduced me to him as a cousin (by marriage). By then, I’d already worked with him for quite some time and earned his confidence.