Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Letter 2008

Sailing clipart

Dear Family and Friends,

This has been an eventful year for us. It started out with the worst possible news when our dog Charlie was diagnosed with cancer. He had a tumor in his upper jaw that turned out to be osteosarcoma. We decided not to put him through surgery, which would have been painful and disfiguring, and instead began a course of chemotherapy to slow the metastasis. Even with treatment, it was apparent by the date of his tenth birthday, March 29, that we needed to end his suffering. Charlie passed away peacefully on Sunday, April 6, as we sat on the floor comforting him. He was a wonderful companion and we will miss him always.

Two weeks later we flew to Athens for a trip we had been planning for over a year, to re-create the Odyssey with four other people by sailing a 47-foot sailboat from Troy in Turkey to Ithaca, an island off the west coast of Greece. The combination of starting in Greece and unfavorable sailing weather turned our adventure into more of a direct trip to Turkey and back than the grand tour of the Aegean and Adriatic Seas that Ulysses had undertaken, but he took ten years and we only had two weeks. We did get to see some sights along the way though that were in keeping with the spirit of Ulysses: the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion, Kusadasi and the ruins of Ephesus in Turkey, and the Cave of the Nymphs on Ithaca. We ended the trip in Corfu, where it took a few days to get our land legs back. If you’re interested, there’s a fun slideshow of the trip, complete with an authentic Greek soundtrack, on John’s blog at

A week after returning home, John flew out to Washington, DC for an Internet development conference that allowed him to stay with Curt and Meg Haensel and their kids in nearby Falls Church. The last time we got together, Meg was pregnant with Ada, who is now ten years old and has a little brother, Peter, so it had been way too long. It was fun to spend a few days with everybody, getting reacquainted with Curt and Meg, learning about nautiluses from Ada, and trying to keep up with Peter on Guitar Hero. We hope to have them come out to Colorado for skiing or golf sometime soon.

Speaking of golf, we finally got Nan some new clubs and played together quite a bit at Redlands Mesa, the course right up the road. John established his first handicap since junior golf, but it’s not a number he’s proud of. Bad golf lives!

For John’s fiftieth birthday in June, Nan gave him a golden retriever puppy to help ease the sorrow of losing Charlie. Raising young Scout has been a challenge. He is willful and tough-minded, with a cocked-head, what’s-in-it-for-me look in response to most commands. But he is also lovable and affectionate, and a terrific hiking companion, so he has endeared himself to us completely.

Scout was a real trouper when we drove home to Wisconsin in late July. For safety, we kept him in his travel crate, which we dubbed “the space capsule,” for two days of driving in each direction with very little complaint. In addition to spending time with family and friends, Nan in Manitowoc and me in Wauwatosa, highlights of the time at home included a Brewers/Cubs game, the State Fair, Lollapalooza in Chicago, and more bad golf.

In October we returned to Isla Mujeres, Mexico for the fifth time in ten years. It rained every day but then the sun would come out and turn the puddles to steam, so it was hot and humid but otherwise pleasant. We rented an apartment for ten days that was high enough to catch a cool breeze and provide beautiful views of the beach, palm trees and the blue Caribbean. We visited with our friend Juan and his family, and toured the new house he is building. It should be finished by the time we return next September, when we will be renting the same apartment for a month, taking Scout with us, and enrolling in an intensive Spanish class. The laptop and decent Internet access will keep us in touch with family, friends and work. ¡Debe ser una aventura!

A few weeks after our return, Nan went back to Manitowoc again, this time for the wedding of her niece Molly to Brandon and to spend time with her mother and siblings. John stayed home to look after Scout and to follow all the news leading up to the election. We don’t know about you, but we were pleased with the results. It feels like the country is back on track to make progress on issues that are long overdue, like improving the economy and ending the war in Iraq.

Here’s to peaceful, more prosperous days in the coming year for you and yours.

John, Nan and Scout
Christmas Card 2008

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