Thursday, December 27, 2012

Looking Back at 2012

One of my new traditions, since retirement, has been to create a annual photo book to summarize the year. The process of putting it together allows me to meander through my collection of photos to select the best representations of places and events throughout the past months. It used to be common to lovingly put together photo albums to keep memories. Now, with digital photography, too many of our favorite photos hide in our computers where we just don't see them that often. That's a bit of a shame. Hence my photo books, which frequently get plucked off an occasional table for re-review.

Construction of the book has the welcome side effect of stimulating remembrance. I smile and chuckle as I see pictures I had forgotten, recollecting conversations and visual snippets of activity. It all is a reminder of the abundance of happiness and love in our lives today.

2012 was a crazy busy year for us.

We packed up our urban condo life to move everything to our ranch cottage in Prescott. Then we worked like dogs to clean and paint the place to prepare it for renters. Closing that chapter was challenging and very bittersweet. Eventually we will sell the place in Chicago, when market conditions so allow. For now, we are fortunate to have found a very nice couple to live there and take care of it.

The happy highlight of our year was our trip to England with friends. There are so many special memories from our tour around southern England that I had to make a photo book for just that trip, a copy of which I gifted to our dear friends and travel companions for Christmas.

Summer in Prescott in our Talking Rock community was a giddy whirlwind of golf, parties, club events, and more golf. It was fun and exhilirating and, somehow, relaxing at the same time. It was a period of recovery from the stress of moving, and truly established us as full time residents in Arizona.

October took us to New Hampshire for my mother's open heart surgery. We were so thankful that Mom made it through the main event with flying colors. Two and a half months later she continues to struggle some through her recovery, and we are concerned about several after effects. But we are amazed by Mom's courage and grit, and thankful for the care provided by my sister Althea and the visiting nurses. Our hopes are high for continued improvement.

As this year winds down and I sift through my photos and memories - I am grateful for so much. We have wonderful, generous friends, a beautiful place to live, many things to keep us busy, and the health to allow us to keep on truckin'. We love our family and hope to see more of them in the new year.

Happy New Year to All! Let's make it a good one.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

What I See

This should be a season of comfort and joy, yet last week it was shattered by the violent and tragic events in Newtown, Connecticut. I admit that I haven't watched much of the news on this, because it's grossly and inappropriately sensationalized by the media. Besides, it makes me deeply sad - for the families of those killed, the family of the shooter, for their community, our country, and for the state of our world today.

Perhaps some positive change will come out of what happened. We're thinking about it, dreaming about it, and questioning how something like this could happen. We're praying for the innocent souls of the children and adults who lost their lives. We have discussions and engage in arm-waving about gun control and mental illness. I hear people railing in anger. I suppose "something" will be done, and changes will be made in policy and laws. Will it make a difference? I hope so, but I don't know. Our need for change is deeper.

I believe there is Evil in our world. This is the dark side of Faith. I believe that given an opportunity, Evil can become resident in human souls. We can successfully fight it, but first we have to recognize it. It can be kept at bay by each of us by applying love, patience, grace, humility, and care to our thoughts, our words, our relationships with others, and in everything we do. It's not always easy - but we can try. We can make things better.

This Christmas, when I look at our Christmas tree, I see many things. In the lights, I see the Star of Bethlehem, and the stars over our own home. In the gifts, I see the wonder of the Three Wise Men, and the love my family and friends have for each other. In the ornaments, I see new angels on high and an appreciation of the blessings we have in our lives. I see hope. I see love.

Merry Christmas / Καλά Χριστούγεννα

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Any Excuse

When I chatted with my mother yesterday, part of our conversation was about our busy social calendar for the next few days. While describing the plan for that night - Ladies Poker Night in celebration of a friend's birthday - Mom aptly commented, "Any excuse for a party!" Obviously, our friend's birthday was well worth celebrating, but it's true that we residents of Talking Rock don't need much of a reason to get together and have fun.

Parties can be planned or break out spontaneously at the drop of a hat. Ladies Poker Night was a well-planned event, made easier by the willingness of attendees to pitch in. We all brought food and drink (too much of course), but our hostess and her friends added fun with a few creative touches. We were invited to dress the part of poker-players, and were provided with (candy) cigarettes and sunglasses. I'd share some cute pictures of the girls, but we agreed "What happens on Jay Morrish Drive stays on Jay Morrish Drive" and I need to respect that.

Tonight Talking Rock Club hosts their annual Holiday Dinner and Gift Exchange. Chef Richard will create a wonderful meal, then we will gather around the Christmas tree and fireplace and open gifts that can then be "apprehended" by others who wish to trade theirs for someone else's. I'm looking forward to the fun, laughter, and holiday spirit among good friends.

Friday night is the ever-popular weekly Happy Hour at the club. We'll start gathering at 4:30 for cocktails (it's great to be retired); a happy habit that normally progresses to dinner. Tomorrow, we'll be part of a table for 10 that will help us celebrate Ron's birthday. Friday is a weekly excuse to get a just a little gussied up and just ENJOY the company of others in the warm, comfortable environment provided by Talking Rock.

We are very fortunate to live among people with similar interests and attitudes. Our friends are generous with their hospitality, time, and hearts. There is no place we would rather be, and we are loving spending our first Christmas season here in Prescott.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Building New Traditions

Several friends have recently asked me whether we miss being in Chicago during the Christmas season. The answer comes quickly - yes, we do. We loved navigating snowy sidewalks while shopping for gifts, and meeting up in a restaurant or tavern for a bite to eat and a hot toddy. Each year we would attend either the Chicago Symphony's "Welcome Yule" concert, or the Goodman Theatre's production of "A Christmas Carol". The season wasn't complete without buying a new glass ornament from the Christkindlmarket (the German Christmas market that pops up every year in the Loop.) Our tree was placed in the front room to provide a festive view to neighbors walking down Bittersweet Place. During our four years of city living, we created new traditions that helped us greet the season in comfort and joy.

This is our first Christmas season in Prescott. How could we not embrace new traditions in the city recently officially proclaimed as "Arizona's Christmas City"? Prescott takes this designation seriously by hosting a number of festive events open to the public.

We have attended the Christmas Light Parade, where local businesses and organizations create lighted floats that make the rounds downtown. The very next week, you can attend a Christmas Parade in the daytime, where Santa make his official appearance. That night, the Courthouse Square Lighting takes place. This creates a fabulous tableau, including lighting on the Courthouse itself, as well as on many huge trees, and the town Christmas Tree. Tomorrow night, we will attend Acker Night for the first time. Acker Night is a showcase of more than 100 musicians, who perform in numerous downtown venues, including parks, galleries, restaurants, bars, and street corners. Tips proffered are donated to music education programs for local children. I love that idea.

Our own traditions are being modified this year. In addition to some of the city's events, we will attend a Christmas Dinner and Gift Exchange with our friends at Talking Rock. There are also several private parties to which we have been invited. We'll host a few close friends in our home for champagne and hors d'oeuvres on Christmas Eve.

The Christmas tree is up and lighted, and our Christmas shopping is winding down. Soon we can slow our pace, and just enjoy the new traditions we're building.

Happy Holidays!