(This is the longer version of this year’s Christmas letter.)
Peace to you all!
Last year at this time, I was just a few days away from my last day of full-time employment. I had worked 40-plus hours a week, except for one or two short breaks, since 1979, when I was hired as a reporter at the Gloucester County Times in Woodbury, New Jersey. Since then I’ve also worked as a high school English teacher and a writer/editor/manager in corporate communications.
I didn’t plan to retire completely, but it was time to shape a different life. And so, it has been a year of transitions, with a move from Rhode Island, where I’d lived since 1985, to a condo in Groton, Connecticut, which is nearer to my daughters and their families – and three, soon to be four, grandchildren. (Thrilled!)
One month after leaving work, I took a huge leap and traveled to Thailand and Cambodia on my own, where I joined an international group that mixed tourism and volunteerism. We lived with a Thai family, worked with elephants, helped build a school in Cambodia and toured some beautiful temples and markets, including the incredible Angkor Wat complex in Cambodia.
Then it was back to the Connecticut deep-freeze, where I explored the local roads and relied on my GPS to get me back home. I took care of Charlie and Clark when they were too sick to go to daycare, signed up for online writing classes, became a regular at the local library, attended photography workshops and joined the art museum, where I took art classes. (More time for the things I enjoy.)
When spring finally decided to show up, I was lucky enough to get my own 10’ x 10’ garden plot in the community garden. I was actually surprised when those bare plots grew into little humid mazes of vines. I had luck with green beans, cucumbers, yellow squash, cherry tomatoes and zinnias (which attracted tons of butterflies and honey bees). Broccoli and Brussel sprouts – not so much. I enjoyed digging in the dirt and learning from the other gardeners – even though someone plucked my prize yellow tomato!
Summer was here and gone before I knew it. Lots of tourists in this area, which is close to Mystic Seaport, the RI and CT beaches, and the ferries that take you to Block Island and Long Island. Lots of little inlets and places to walk – I’ll explore even more next summer.
I also took a record number of trips back home this year – first in late May for Mitchell Meylor’s graduation in Sioux Falls; second in August for the Marcus Fair and Iowa State Fair, a girls’ trip to a friend’s home in Nebraska, and an introduction to my great-nephew, Theodore Karney, in Des Moines; and the third in early November when I finally had the opportunity to hear my niece Kaitlyn Meylor sing in her high school musical as Maria in The Sound of Music. Madalyn was also a nun in the musical and had a solo, and Matthew painted the backdrops. Talented trio of seniors – so I’ll be headed out for their graduation in May 2019 (which will be here before you know it)!
As I write this, I’ve just started a part-time temporary job at an art gallery, where I simply walk around and make sure no one’s destroying the paintings. But the best part of the job is the stories people spontaneously share. One of the exhibits is a beautiful display of Tiffany windows, lamps, vases, etc. (The Tiffany family has ties to the New London area.) Several people have told me about the Tiffany windows in their hometown churches. I hope to hear more stories, which will get me through another frigid winter.
I am very grateful for this year of so many firsts and changes. I am grateful to my daughters and their husbands who kindly include me in so many moments of their lives. Oh, yes, and for doubling the number of my grandchildren. (I’m sure that won’t happen again.)
I’m grateful to my sisters and brothers and their families. I hope we all continue to gather for celebrations in years to come. Looking forward to my first-ever cruise with family in 2019! I am grateful for cousins and relatives I don’t see often, but still am glad to stay connected.
I’m grateful to long-time friends from all corners of my life who still keep in touch. I had a chance to see many special friends this year, and hope for more surprises and spontaneous get-togethers in the years to come. Who’s next? If you’re ever out this way, please let me know. I have an extra bed/bath and a pullout sofa (that I’ve never used yet). Guests are always welcome.
I also want to send my love to those who experienced great losses in their family this past year. So many, and it is never easy, especially at this time of year. My prayers are with you.
If you made it this far, thanks for reading. This is a lot longer than I expected – I guess I’m getting my 50-cent stamp’s worth.
The kids on my card this year are my grandsons, from left, Clark Breitmaier (who is impatiently waiting for his little sister to arrive on December 27), and big brother Charlie and one-day-old Henry Piazza. Clark and Charlie are good buddies, and I can’t wait to see how Henry and little Eloise will add to the mayhem.
Blessings for the new year,