Happy Holidays to you. It is 3 am on 21 December 2012 as I begin writing this – winter solstice and the end of the Mayan calendar? I’m up early because I am still adjusting my internal clock, having returned home from Kazakhstan late on 19 December. The house is completely quiet (even the cats are sleeping) so it is a good time to reflect and write a few thoughts and messages to our friends and family.
The christmas tree has lights on it – Grant and I put them on yesterday evening. This morning I cleaned up the living room and put the tree skirt on. So my part of getting the tree ready is done – Karen leads the “putting on the ornaments” effort. It’s funny how some of the holiday traditions are actually the split of responsibilities – who cooks (Karen), who cleans (Marc), who buys AND wraps presents (Karen), who shops for food (Karen), who shops for beverages (Marc) – you get the picture – it’s mostly done by Karen. But I do handle the christmas cards, and this christmas letter – need to hurry up and finish as Karen continually checks on me until it is done. The cards are ready to be sent (Karen put the addresses on) – they go in the mail today!
I’m maybe a bit more reflective this season as I was in Kazakhstan last Christmas, and have just arrived home. I’m certainly not jaded by all the seasonal activities – can’t wait to hear some more christmas music. One fun thing I did when I got home was to go through the stack of Christmas cards that we have received over the last couple weeks – getting / sending holiday cards is a tradition I think is awesome. With our digital age not sure it will last but I truly enjoy the various cards, and pictures and notes. Some highlights included getting a picture of a friend who was in my wedding 20+ years ago – Karen says he looks the same (heck of a compliment). Another from a friend who pointed out that his toddler son was the one in the picture between the two dogs (I had made a mistake when sending him a congratulatory note last year by referring to the new son with one of the dog’s names). Cards from Karen’s relatives and our friends from all over the country. Pictures of children we have know from pregnancy. Anyway, it’s just a great tradition that makes me feel connected with people and realize that we live a fortunate life.
Well, enough with the intro – here is our family news from 2012.
Zack is in college at University of Arizona – he was definitely challenged / struggled his first semester of his freshman year. We are hopeful he will figure out what it takes to succeed and “bear down” in his second semester. He worked at UC Berkeley Strawberry Canyon camp for the fourth summer in a row and took a road trip to Southern California with friends in June after graduating from High School. He is home for the Holidays – looking forward to spending some time with him. We see glimmers of responsibility beginning to emerge.
Grant picked up his driver’s license just before school started in August so we again have two driver’s in the family to help while I am out of country. He spends his time hanging with his friends, studying and lacrosse. He has challenging classes in his junior year at Miramonte HS and is beginning to look into universities he would like to attend. He is considering signing up as a camp counselor for next summer – that would be good.
Andrew is doing well in the 8th grade at Orinda Intermediate – he is much more on top of his homework / studying then in years past. It helps that Claudia has the same classes (though they only share one) so he has a built-in check on what is coming up. He continues to spend all allowed time on various video games – his dream job is a Video Game Tester (probably a long line for this position). He wants to go to the Video Gaming camp again next summer – what a surprise.
Claudia continues to push herself, excelling in school and taking dance classes 4 nights per week. Last count was 15 classes – hip/hop, jazz, contemporary and ballet. She is in a couple “company” classes where they practice for performances. She competed in Lake Tahoe this last summer, and has several competitions planned for 2013.
Karen continues at Kaiser – same group practice in Walnut Creek. This last year she was involved in a pilot program where she provides phone advice 4 – 8 hours per week. It gives her a bit more flexibility as she does some of it from home and gives her a small break from the relentless patient load in the clinic. In 2012 another physical ailment has emerged – neck and shoulder pain. She was recently diagnosed with a disk problem in her neck, and just scheduled surgery for mid-February that has hopefully a six week recovery time. She readily handles all the tasks associated with single parenting for half the year. Can’t say it is any easier with only three at home (there is less laundry) as she coordinates / worries about Zack away at school.
For me I just finished up my 10th rotation in Kazakstan (and proudly have collected 20 KLM houses you receive on overseas business class flights) – that’s 1-1/2 years. I co-lead a relatively young group of engineers – enjoy the leadership responsibility and challenge along with the appreciation of working with a group of great people. This assignment is a very good fit for me professionally and personally. Getting used to rotation work went a lot quicker / smoother than learning how to handle the rotation home. Entry and exit each rotation from the family has gotten easier over time but it is not natural for me. I do appreciate the time I get to spend with our kids, picking them up, dropping them off, seeing them at every activity or just hanging out on the couch together. I have had many laughs driving Claudia around; one of my favorite quotes was from Grant who asked if I would take him somewhere so we could spend some “quality time” together. My plan is to work in Kazakhstan through 2013 as a minimum – not sure what I will do in 2014 except that it will continue to be with Chevron. Retirement is on the horizon but not thinking about it too much – lots of college tuition coming our way.
Extended Family News
We had one addition in 2012 – the arrival of Beatrice Gehlen Houssian in July. My niece Lauren and husband Jamie had their second child to go along with older sister Rose. We saw them at Thanksgiving but they will be spending the Holidays in Vancouver with his family this year. Our younger niece Alison is doing well working for the Gap in San Francisco – we enjoy seeing her throughout the year. Our nephew Kevin and wife Tina have two growing boys, Christopher and Carson, both soccer players (and both coached by Kevin). They also live in the Bay Area and we are fortunate to see them growing up.
This year we are having both sides of our family to our home for Christmas dinner. Karen’s father Dick and wife Cynthia, brother Bruce with wife Courtney and son Cooper will all be spending several days here in the Bay Area. My mother Gloria will be over plus my sisters Robin, Joanne and husband Steve. We are looking forward to creating another round of family memories.
We hope this missive reaches you in fine spirits and good health. We wish you and yours happiness and prosperity in 2013.
Karen, Marc, Zack, Grant, Andrew, and Claudia Evans