Sunday, December 2, 2012

Holiday Greetings 2012

Dearest Friends and Family,

A book-on-CD is reading me a story while I putter in the kitchen. I am surrounded by an autumn plenty of newly harvested, fresh-from-the-earth goodies. Apples, once red, green, and yellow, now lay peeled and chopped in heaps and mounds on the cutting board, waiting to be transformed into applesauce in the slow-cooker. In the oven, butternut squash halves roast one rack below sizzling pans of cubed and sliced eggplant, carrots, beets, onions, and peppers, all destined for soup pots already bubbling with kale, chard, and other greens whose names I have forgotten. 

A highlight of my summer and fall has been my weekly CSA box of produce from a small local farm, Bakbraken Acres. Each large box, filled to overflowing with a seasonal treasure trove of colorful edibles, some familiar to my kitchen, some new or strange to me. I have delighted in the just-picked, fresh flavors, as well as the numerous opportunities to expand my cooking and eating repertoire. I learned to cook and eat beets, turnips, butternut squash, eggplant, persimmons, kale, and chard. I also thoroughly enjoyed summertime favorites like tomatoes and watermelon. Though this past Monday marked the last box of the year, and I’m feeling a bit sad, my freezer is stuffed with homemade pesto, applesauce, and a winter’s worth of savory, hearty soups! 

The year 2012 is chasing its predecessors at a rate so fast as to actually catch them; no year has sped faster than this one! It has been a full year, too; events seem to have stacked up on top of one another in my memory. I hope my annual holiday letter finds you healthy, happy, and surrounded by loved ones. I also hope that you will find time during this holiday season to find peace and inspiration in the annual traditions and rituals of your celebrations.
(Wally @ Big Game - We Miss You!)
This year has been marked by a number of transitions. We have celebrated milestones that mark accomplishments and new beginnings, and others that visit us with pangs of sweet nostalgia. Mom and I took two trips to Southern California. We drove to the San Fernando Valley in the spring to celebrate the long life of my Aunt Darlene, who passed away less than a year after my father. We communed with three generations of Griffins and took a driving tour of “old San Fernando,” prompting the telling of wonderful stories set in “the Valley” and in “the War” in the 20s, 30s, and 40s. A few months later, Mom and I returned for a reunion of former students and families of Christian Day School, the tiny K-6 elementary school I attended in San Fernando so long ago. So many people attended, people I hadn’t seen in 20 years, and we told our own generation’s stories about life in that sweet small town in the 50s and 60s.
(Class of 1966!)

In March, I moved from Lake of the Pines, where I had lived since we migrated north 23 years ago, to the small town of Colfax. I am now five minutes from work in a cute and roomy condo/apartment under the pines. I keep wondering why I didn’t do this a long time ago. The move itself was an arduous event, but well worth the effort. 

I continue to teach English/language arts to seventh and eighth graders at Colfax Elementary. I can hardly believe that I have been a teacher for 23 years! The children still inspire me and make me laugh, and despite the dire state of the educational environment at large, I continue to love what I do and cannot imagine anything more personally rewarding or valuable. (Thank you to everyone who voted yes on Prop 30.)

(Thanks, Tom, for the photo of us at Dean's Graduation!)
Dean has had a big year. In June, “Dr. Dean” graduated from Stanford with his PhD in Communication and an MS in Statistics. Dean has been at the university for nine of the last ten years, working, studying, researching, and teaching, so this event marks a major milestone for him. The last year was really intense, and ultimately extremely rewarding. Mom and I, along with Dean’s dad, Tom, and Dean’s bestfriend-since-second-grade, Chris, enjoyed watching as Dean presented his dissertation in May. How proud we all were! Tom and I returned for the graduation ceremony in June. Dean immediately began work as a scientist with Facebook at their new campus in Menlo Park, where he studies the impacts of social networking and peer influence.
(Thanks, Chris, for the photo of Dean in Nepal.)
Dean recently returned from a most excellent adventure abroad. Along with four friends (Chris, Amy, Wenzhe, and Russ), he traveled to Cambodia and Nepal. The short trip to Cambodia included a visit to see the many temples near Siem Reap. More time was spent in Nepal, where they went trekking through the Himalayas for over a week, before returning to Katmandu, where they enjoyed participating in a national festival celebration. The photos are stunning, but do little justice to the breathtaking scenery and the exciting experiences.
Dean also moved recently. Since May, he has been living in a large and beautifully refurbished old Victorian in the Hayes Valley neighborhood of San Francisco, which he shares with three roommates. Since graduation, with his workload and stress levels radically reduced, he is enjoying having time to socialize and take part in the myriad of cultural events the Bay Area has to offer.

(Thanks, Dean, for the photo of your Grandma Louise!)
At this time last year, my mom, Louise, was quite ill with her second bout of Endocarditis, an infection in the heart. She ended up staying in the recovery wing at the local hospital for a couple of months, finally coming home two days before Christmas. Since then, she has been on the mend, a slow and sometimes frustrating path towards renewed health. My sister, Diane, lives with and cares for Mom in her home in Eskaton Retirement Village in Grass Valley. Mom recently “graduated” to a new-fangled walker, complete with handbrakes and a cushioned seat, which, by allowing her to be both safe and mobile, also encourages her to get out and about more. Mom and I dine at the Eskaton lodge dining room one evening a week and try for an “outing” most weekends.

The events of this challenging year have heightened my appreciation for the loving people who populate my world, and I am blessed to number you among those beloved souls. By being a part of my life, you enrich it, and I am deeply grateful. I am looking forward to a healthy and peaceful 2013 and wishing you the same.

May all beings be happy and free from suffering.
May all beings be healthy.
May all beings love and feel loved.
May all beings enjoy beauty and be at peace.
Namaste’ and XOXO