Christmas 2016

Time once again for our yearly retrospective. This year, our friends lives have been far more interesting than ours ... but generally not interesting in a good way. Many friends had problems with health, some died. One depressingly common theme among many of our friends was forced retirement; a lot of companies just don't like hiring old people, but they do like laying them off. We compiled a list, but decided it was just too depressing, so we dropped it from the letter.

This has been a year of shocks & surprises. After Brexit and the contentious American election cycle and surprising results we can all show additional grey hairs. However, this was a pretty good year for us overall.

Ryan graduated from NIU in mid-December with a degree in Computer Science. <Insert fireworks here> Then he made the trek out to LA to move in with us, and will continue looking for work. Ryan helped construct the new database interface Samoyed Rescue of Southern California will be using to help save dogs.

Gillian is currently living in LA. After a productive year of recovering her health and researching options on what to do next, Gillian is drawing up concrete plans to go into web design for a few years, before returning to school for a Masters degree in computer science to work towards meteorology. She's working to arrange a livelihood in Albuquerque, and taking time to ascertain she doesn't rush into it blindly.

For Carolyn, this was the best year she has had since 2011. There were some very sad things too which she does not want to share in a Christmas letter. But this Christmas, we are thinking about her cousins who lost their Mum, Carolyn's Aunty Kay, and especially her cousin Ali who lost her Mum and then a few weeks later her husband. The best thing about this year for Carolyn was starting work in March at California State University in Los Angeles as part-time faculty supervising graduate students in the teaching clinic. She really enjoys the work and it has been a social outlet for her as the staff and students are great people and wonderful company. Making friends has been the hardest thing about her move to LA. People just don't have much time to socialize. They are either working, or working out, or en route in-between sitting behind the wheel of the car. Carolyn works 2 long days so she can limit the amount of time she spends in soul crushing bumper to bumper traffic or hair raising and dangerous, lane changing, high speed driving on the "freeways" when not at an abrupt stop. She works remotely from home also on any other day. Carolyn still does not take the warm sunshine here for granted and she still enjoys the beaches, ocean, and scenery. She still enjoys the gym she joined when we moved here which is another social outlet as well as fun exercise classes.

Gary is still working for Symantec. He's still practicing Judo (as the oldest student anyone seems to know) and folk dancing (where he is among the younger folk dancers ... not many people have taken to folk dancing since the 70s). He's bicycling to work most days, and when the weather is cool enough on the weekends he's running his one non-retired dog Gusty on his scooter. His other dog Vita continues to enjoy retirement. He managed a few trips to skijor - a day trip to Mt. Pinos, another to the Truckee area (to scooter & train, not skijor), another to Utah (meeting Carolyn & Gillian). Gary's been pretty active in the local Samoyed rescue, using his computer skills to help.  He made two short trips back to the Midwest - drove up from O'Hare to Iron River, MI to visit Betty Petroski & her kids living in the area. The old Disgusting Dinner crowd got together at the Kimber's for brats & beer. He returned to the Midwest  when Ryan graduated, and managed to see some high school friends in between packing boxes for Ryan's move. He sees cousin Barry (currently living in Alameda) from time to time. He finally manged to close down the absolutely last portion of  Vivian's estate. All assets have finally been distributed, and all done with no acrimony. He's very grateful to have siblings who have been cooperative, and very grateful to have the chore behind him. Gary still misses the cold weather, and enjoyed walking across fields of snow to attend Ryan's graduation (though he managed to leave Chicago before having to deal with the really bitter cold). All that lovely cold weather, snow, but neither dogs nor skis!

This was also a great year for travel for the women. Gillian and Carolyn took a trip to New Mexico in February and they both fell in love with the place and the people too (hence Gillian's desire to move there). Then they drove across Arizona through stunning scenery (and NO TRAFFIC!) to southeastern Utah to meet up with Gary and the dogs. We did some fun cross county skiing and spent an awe-inspiring day touring Bryce Canyon draped in snow.

In March Carolyn spent her 60th birthday in Chicago (where else?!) with friends. She spent the St. Patrick's Day parade downtown with her friend Kathy and family to watch Kathy's sister Karen and her Irish bagpipe marching band, the Shannon Rovers step off the parade. Later they joined them on the bus touring around the city and suburbs to their various venues at Irish bars. It was a fabulous day and she will never forget it.

In April, Carolyn's high school friend, Kath, flew over from Wales to spend 3 weeks with us. Kath was desperate for sunshine but brought rainy weather with her for 3 of the only consecutive days of rain this year during a severe 5 year drought and actually saw the Hollywood sign in sheets of rain from the car (a rare event). But after that they spent a glorious week in Maui and had a very memorable, fun trip exploring, swimming (well Carolyn did; Kath had just had surgery on her arm) and enjoyed sailing (well Kath did; Carolyn got sea sick) and did not get burned. She would have recommended the resort which was the best hotel/resort she has ever been to, but it closed it's doors this year to become a high end condo resort (and no, Trump did not buy it). After Hawaii, they drove to the Grand Canyon with Gillian to enjoy mind blowing scenery, took hundreds of pictures and it gave Kath a taste of the American Wild West.
In August she spent a couple of weeks in Britain with her brother and family visiting her Mum and spending time with some family and friends. They enjoyed their time together but it was different from any time before in that 31 Taliesin has been sold and they stayed in rented accommodation in Chester, close to her Mum's care home. Pat is doing well and is reasonably content at the care home where she is well cared for and comfortable. They had unusually mild, sunny weather and really enjoyed Chester at it's best. Carolyn will be back in Wales in January for 10 days to visit her Mum and stay with Kath. Hopefully she can visit with other friends too.

This was a pretty good year for us. It is strange moving someplace foreign in our 60s. We do notice the lack of connections out here to both people and places. We look forward to hearing from our friends over the next year ... via snail mail, email, facebook, or whatever.
Gary: (630) 401 0065
Carolyn: (630) 660 3717
Gillian: (630) 660 8800
Ryan: (630) 401 9466

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