Saturday, December 31, 2011

Year's End

Dear George,

Well, there are just a few hours left for 2011. Once again, that slipped by too quickly. The year’s end always puts seems to generate a mood for reflection and summing up. All in all, 2011 was a pretty good year for Katja and myself. Our most monumental years together have been 1957 when we met, 1960 when we graduated and married, 1966 when we moved from grad school to jobs in Cincinnati, and 1969 when J was born. However, 2011 ranks up there too because of Katja’s retirement on June 1. She’s worked all her adult life, so this was a huge transition -- sort of in a league with marriage or childbirth. And. even though I retired three years ago, changes in Katja’s life situation have inevitably meant transitions for me too. I found my retirement disorienting at first, but then you start filling in the blank spaces, and, before you know it, you find yourself with a newly structured life. That seems to be happening for Katja too. She resumed her membership in the fitness center and began working out with a personal trainer. She joined a woman’s writing group which meets every two weeks, and she continues in her long-time women’s book club. Katja did three music courses in the university’s OLLI (Learning in Retirement) program and is expanding to five for the winter. With lots of flextime, we’ve done more stuff together during the day, including lunching at Panera or Olive’s a couple of times a week and going hither and yon.

From the left: J, V, K, L (at Burnet Woods, May 2011)

The other big happening of the year is that our grandchildren, V and L, turned three, thus completing a full third of their lives to date in 2011. That’s a lot of exciting growth and change. J, K, and V went to China in the autumn of 2009 to bring their new son and brother home to New Orleans, so 2011 has been L’s first full year with his family. When you think about how much happens from ages two to three and add on top of that a total change in L’s culture, community, and family, it’s hard to imagine. Given loving parents and a sister who is a best friend too, L has adapted excellently, becoming proficient in English for a three year old, secure and bonded in his family, and increasingly outgoing. Our granddaughter V has always been happy and full of enthusiasm, and her personality continues to blossom. The whole family came up to visit us in Cincinnati in late May, and we spent Thanksgiving with them in New Orleans. K and J are wonderful parents and fun to be with, laid back, full of good humor, committed, and always up to interesting things. We wish we didn’t live so far apart, but the distance makes get-togethers even more rewarding.

Duffy (left) and Mike in Mt. Airy Forest

On the home front, our Old English Sheepdogs, Mike and Duffy, turned nine last April and continue to be a daily source of happiness in our lives. They are wonderful dogs – intelligent, loving, obedient (or maybe semi-obedient). Getting a little creaky in their senior years, they’ve been visiting the dog chiropractor in Northern Kentucky every couple of months, and that’s been helpful. Most days I try to walk them a couple of miles, and we often do excursions on the weekend with Mike and Duffy’s younger sister Sophie and her “mom” Donna. I took the dogs on half a dozen short camping trips this past season. Frankly, they are not enthusiastic campers, showing a clear preference for air conditioning and a king-size bed, but they’re good company nonetheless. In mid-summer Katja and I took them on a four-day camping trip to Hocking Hills State Park, a beautiful place on the eastern side of the state lined with deep gorges, sandstone cliffs, and rich evergreen forests. I’m trying to talk Katja into more camping road trips with the dogs, e.g., to Michigan or Tennessee, though I know she shares their preference for indoor comforts.

At the Western & Southern Tennis Tournament (Aug., 2011)

Thanks to Katja, 2011 has been a busy year for us on the cultural scene. We’ve had season tickets to the CCM (Cincinnati Conservatory of Music) series in drama, musical theater, and opera. We’ve gone to the symphony regularly and are subscribers to the Linton Chamber Music series. We have season tickets to the Playhouse in the Park. We go to each new exhibition at the local art museums. Katja goes to Metropolitan Opera broadcasts at Springdale Cinemas, and she’s considering joining the Opera Guild. We’re inveterate movie-goers and have also enjoyed some quality TV this year (e.g., Boardwalk Empire, Mildred Pierce). Always to my surprise, Katja likes to watch NFL football, and we’ve cheered for the Packers and the Saints as well as the Bengals who have had a better than expected run. In August we went to several sessions of the world-class Western & Southern Tennis Championships in suburban Mason. In New Orleans we went with J to a Saints game at the Superdome, our first pro football outing in years.

Line Dancing Party (DCL at right)

I get a lot of regular enjoyment from get-togethers with friends, e.g., hiking with the dogs, walks in the neighborhood, lunch out or dinner at our house, antiquing, going to the movies. Every Tuesday night I go to my line dancing class which I look forward to all week. I’ve kept an office at the university where I work on writing and keep up informal contact with long-time work friends.

My siblings – Peter, Steve, Vicki

On a more melancholy note, I’ve found myself dwelling during the holiday season on our loss of family loved ones in recent years – my younger brothers Steven and Peter and my brother-in-law George, all in their early 60s. I’ve always had a vision of us all growing older together, and my and others’ lives today would be richer and more fulfilling if everyone were still around. There’s no good way to sugar coat this. I guess I would just say that our long history of shared experiences continues to make life more meaningful.

I looked back at a blog posting from twelve months ago where I made about a dozen New Year’s resolutions for myself for 2011. They were admirable though challenging. I recently rated my yearlong performance on each on a scale from 0% (nothing) to 100% (total fulfillment). My average score was 11%. I had more zeroes than anything else, and never topped 30%. I guess I’ll skip New Year’s resolutions this year. I’ll just plan to enjoy the year for what comes up, and, if I accidentally become more healthy, wealthy, or wise in one domain or another, so much the better.



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