OMG, is 2018 ending?
Must be ... because here we are writing another Christmas letter. Late again.
years ago in 1988, Carolyn was so overwhelmed with work and taking
care of an infant (Gillian), that Gary offered to do a Christmas
letter in a form letter format on the computer (being the techie he
is) and Carolyn had a cow. Until she realized that she could not
possibly write (by hand) all the cards going to everyone in two
countries. Hence, our Christmas letter tradition was born. Since
then, the Christmas letter took off and overtook cards for many
years. And now, in the past few years, both cards and letters have
tapered off to a trickle and then almost none. In all the hustle and
bustle of the holidays, it has become too much. And we have
jettisoned a lot of things ourselves. But staying in touch with
family and friends is paramount because we have friends and family
now in so many places as well as two different countries. We really
want to stay in touch with you. However, we promise we will NOT
bring up politics. It has been way too exhausting for us and no
doubt for you too.
year was bookended by a crisis with Carolyn’s Mum. She has been to
Wales four times in a year's time. A year ago, she was concerned
about the care at her Mum’s care home and that there had been a
dramatic decline in her care. This was confirmed in rather dramatic
ways when she was visiting in January, right under her nose and
resulted in a visit to the hospital. Following this visit, Carolyn
felt compelled to report neglect and possibly abuse to the Care
Inspectorate of Wales. And this resulted in such a level of concern
for her Mum’s welfare that the local council in the county had to
inspect the home due to safety considerations. The home became
aware, due an unfortunate leak, that it was Carolyn who had blown the
whistle and she and her brother were given a month (the minimum required by law) to find Pat a new
home and move her somewhere else. Not an easy task when they both
live thousands of miles away.
good fortune (and maybe a lot of prayers) resulted in a wonderful
outcome. Carolyn’s Mum was assigned a social worker who had been
Carolyn's best friend when they were growing up and had even been on
holiday with them in Spain. Not only have they reconnected and are
enjoying that tremendously after many years of being out of touch,
but Carolyn's friend was able to help out a lot with this predicament right
before her retirement from social services.
a space opened up in a care home that specializes in dementia care
and has been absolutely fantastic in every way. Carolyn and brother
Bill, moved their Mum in April into a nice room with a view over the
Welsh hills and cared for by a loving and attentive staff. Pat is
very happy there and has settled in well. Bill and his family visited
her in July and Carolyn visited her in August. It was great to
reconnect with a family member she has not seen in years as well as
so many friends and neighbours from Taliesin Avenue in Shotton. Pat
remembered Carolyn's friend going on holiday with them. (Sadly, one of
her neighbours, Joan Edwards, has passed away recently.)
the year is ending, we have another crisis with her Mum. She
stumbled and had a bad fall causing her leg to break so badly that a
bone was exposed. She is currently still in the hospital following 2
surgeries, and a couple of infections. After a month in hospital
we are hoping she will be medically stable enough to return back to
Haulfryn, which has become "home" to her in a relatively short time. We
are happy with her care and Carolyn is going to be visiting soon for
a week in January from the 12th to the 20th.
There has been news on this side of the Atlantic as well, having nothing to do with the UK.
Both kids have been furiously looking for work.
Ryan finally found a job in computers working for a consulting company.
He leaves in mid-January for Virginia; after a month of training he will be
offered his choice of two or three postings.
Gillian is now working as an intern for the company where Ryan did most
of his interning. The CEO told her they hope to be financially stable
enough to offer her a full-time compensated position in a
Meanwhile, she is continuing to look for gainful
employment. She also completed her black belt training this year,
took (and passed) her test, and filed the necessary paperwork (which is
working its way through the bureaucracy) and attended a ceremony on 15
December to receive her shodan. She managed a trip to Chicago this
year, and twice to Arkansas where her boyfriend is training to be a
Carolyn continues to really enjoy working as an adjunct faculty at
California State University, supervising graduate students. She took on
more work this year and at times it was stressful, but she finds it
very rewarding and is hoping to continue for a couple more years yet.
She still works out at the same gym doing Zumba, pilates, and yoga.
She, Gillian and/or Gary bike down near the ocean most weekends once a
week when time allows. In May, she visted her friends in Chicago which
was relaxing and enjoyed seeing everyone again. She would like to be
back to visit Chicago next year too. She also visited her brother in
San Jose to celebrate his swearing in as a new U.S. citizen.
Gary is still working for Symantec, still playing judo, still mushing
with Gusty the Samoyed, still folkdancing (when the weather won't allow
for mushing), still bicycling to work most days, pretty much
doing what he was doing last year.
We had a few visits this year. Barry, Gary's cousin came a couple of
times and visited a few museums (including the weirdest museum either
had ever seen, "The Museum of Jurassic Technology"). Carolyn's brother
Bill and his kids came to visit with us on what turned out to be the
hottest weekend in living memory (we have no air conditioning) but
fortunately stayed in an air-conditioned hotel. They went out to the
Universal Studio theme park in Hollywood with Carolyn.
California is still California. The traffic in Los Angeles has become
noticeably worse in the 4 plus years we've been here. This
past year has seen some very bad fires in both Northern and Southern
California, and some of the wildfires have burnt structures in pretty
urban areas (in addition to the town of Paradise that was destroyed).
At times, areas of the state had air pollution levels that were
considered life threatening from the smoke, and schools were
closed briefly across a wide area. Carolyn, Ryan, and Gillian suffered
from asthma as a result. A lot of good folks have lost their
homes in those fires; even homes built for fire resistance were not
spared. Lives were lost, and the way forward is anything but clear. We
are considering several areas for retirement ... but
have not yet settled on a single area. Carolyn doesn't want to face
another cold winter, Gary enjoys winter sports ... but neither enjoy
the pollution, congestion, and very high cost of living in LA.
But having a beach nearby is nice, and there seems to be a great deal
to see ... so it will do for now. We've made a few friends in LA, but
the culture of LA is not really conducive to relationships. The cost of
living is so high (one of Gary's workmates is living in his car and
commutes home to Arizona on weekends) that many are forced to hustle to
make more money, and low density housing pushes people far apart: which
both increases the distance people have to travel to meet up, and
worsens traffic (3 hour commutes in dense traffic each way to and from
work are not rare).
We are all in good health here, and have been spared the trials brought
on by poor health and penury. Many of our friends have not been so
lucky, some are facing very serious health challenges, some with very
On a happier note, we hope you have all had a great year and wonderful
holiday season. We wish you good health and fortune in 2019
We'd love to hear from you. Here is our contact information:
Gary (630) 401 0065 email@example.com
Carolyn (630) 660 3717 firstname.lastname@example.org
Gillian (630) 660 8800 email@example.com
Ryan (630) 401 9466 firstname.lastname@example.org
The year in pictures:
Christmas dinner with Jordy, a friend from judo, and his girlfriend
Annette. Both went home to see their families the next day - Jordy to
Spain, and Annette to Hawaii.
Gary's personal favorite. Gillian has just received her promotion to
Shodan. The funny characters after the "G" are in Kanji, a Japanese
phonetic alphabet, and they spell out "Fenchel". Thanks to Yoshi at
work for the translation!
Gary's cousin Barry at a pub with most of us by the beach. It is
just about 105 years since Gary's grandmother Mollie met Barry's
grandmother Sarah off the boat when Sarah arrived at Navy Pier, having
immigrated from Britain to marry Mollie's uncle Philip.
This picture was taken at the Obsidian Dome in the Mammoth area in
mid-December. The hill in the background is made of mostly Obsidian,
which is a black glass-like substance formed in a volcano. The snow
conditions were not very good, but the scenery was breathtaking.
We found a new place to skijor in the Mammoth area the day after we
went to the Obsidian Dome called Tom's Place. It was pretty warm that
day! Conditions were much better than at the Obsidian Dome.
Vita doesn't mush any more... but she still knows how to take a great photo! She is probably 11 years old now.
Carolyn and Pat in Pat's new digs in Wales.