Dear Friends and Family:  Happy Holidays and a Wonderful New Year to Everyone in 2017 in the Whole World

20161201_2055481Karen says that I should start our annual holiday letter off because I write better than she does.  Well, since it is the holiday season, I will let her slide.  For my part, (Karen will add hers in a short while), I promise not to talk about politics, religion or philosophy.  We are all sick of politics and you are probably only marginally interested in the latter two topics.  What’s left then?  Well, I was thinking that I just turned 70 in September.  I never believed that I would see 30 years of age.  Now here I am 4 decades later pondering the same mysteries of life that I pondered forty years ago.  Feeling a little nostalgic, I got to thinking about the “firsts in my life.”  For instance, my first kiss and my first job.  So how about participating in a little nostalgia here and fire up your memories as well.  I have posted a list of “my firsts” with my responses to each item.  List is on the left with my responses to each one on the right.  Can you remember your answers to my list?   I would love to hear your list of firsts.  Please post your FIRSTS in the comments section if you can remember what they are and don’t mind sharing.

  • First day at school? — I remember just walking to school by myself 
  • First job? — I was a newspaper boy in Woonsocket, Rhode Island
  • First promotion? — Got my first stripe in the USAF after basic training          
  • First car? —  1947 4 door Plymouth, cost 50 dollars in 1960
  • First apartment or house? —  Osceola, Wisconsin in 1967
  • First child or grandchild? —  Christina born in 1968 in University of Minnesota
  • First day you left home? — I joined the USAF in October of 1964 
  • First date? — High school with a friend of mines girlfriend’s cousin                     

20161008_1133251Hi all.  I think I’ll stick with my firsts for the past year.  My first Dulcimer Jamboree in April, 2016 in Mountain View AR where I met the dulcimer 9 years ago.  A fateful meeting it was.  My first chromatic travel dulcimer which I took with me to New York in Nov.  My first raised bed garden this past summer made from old discarded stock tanks.  It produced more food than we could eat and it was so easy to weed and harvest.  My first grandson, Garrick, getting married to Kat this coming spring.  My first viewing of an opera at the Metropolitan Opera in NYC.  My first concert in Carnegie Hall.  My first trip up the Statue of Liberty and out to Ellis Island to look for ancestors.

20161124_1108581It’s been a full, fun and sometimes exhausting year.  We still work part time to support our “snow birds” lifestyle.  I’m working with start-up home care agencies, teaching and consulting, and ICD 10 coding.  John has taught both on-line and residence classes.  We escaped our part time work with trips down to Kentucky for Kentucky Music Week, trips to the ocean in Puerto Penasco, Mexico, and a fall anniversary trip to Bayfield, WI.  And, of course, the trips back and forth from WI to AZ where John tries to find new unspoiled routes each time we go.


Juli and Rob remain in Hastings with daughter Logan as a H.S junior this year and son Garrick and fiancé Kat are fixing up a home and planning their wedding.  Susan bought a home in Bloomington and accumulates mileage on her car with Sam (also a junior) in Northfield.  Her eldest son Zach is a college junior at Augsburg.  My son Kevin is still with LinkedIn and living in Silicon Valley, CA with his 3D printer and other tech stuff I don’t understand.  Megan works with AZ Multiple Listing Services and trains realtors on their software.  She writes the company blog and is about half way through her first novel.  She has discovered writing and loves it.

John volunteered this past year with Interfaith Caregivers in WI and spends time with the “Cucumber Guys”—the group who daily solve the world’s problems at the Frederic Library.  My “spare time” is generally spent practicing and playing with my dulcimer friends in both places.

Our good friend, Dar, frequently wears “Life is Good” t-shirts.  It’s a nice saying.  I’m thankful for our many blessings, friends, family and activities.  We wish you a very Happy 2017 and hope to see you all in 2017.

Love, John and Karen

Dear Friends, Family and Loved Ones,

Benjii our sheepThe year is 2015.  It is the Year of the Sheep.  Sheep are gentle and calm and we love their wool.  We bought a sheep this year and named him Benjie.  He lives in the living room and keeps us company.  He is very low maintenance.  It is hard to believe that the end of 2015 is only a few days away.   My blog this week will be our annual Holiday letter that Karen and I both write and send out through a variety of media including snail mail, emails, hand delivery and my blog.  Each year, we use this letter to sum up our lives and the events or people that have had an impact on us during the year.  Probably not very exciting but this was 2015 for us.

Karen and John

Karen and John

It is 5 days before Christmas as I write this.  We celebrate the holidays each year rather traditionally.  Karen loves to bake Swedish cookies that she learned from her grandmother and also make a ton of lefse, much of what she gives away to a coterie of fans who swoon over it.  Myself, I would rather have fruitcake which I now buy each year from Costco.  I have many fewer fans for my fruitcake.  Less presents under the tree each year and gift cards now seem to be the order of the day.  We spend evenings watching old Christmas specials on Netflix which help get me in the mood for the holidays.  Christmas was never a really big deal for me like it is for Karen.  One message that seems to keep emerging from most of these movies:  Christmas is really not about presents, travels, accomplishments or awards.  Its real meaning is the love of the people we care about.  In this respect, 2015 was a good year.

Xibo and Dan DanKaren and I made a trip in January to see some very good friends in San Francisco and Karen’s son, Kevin.  Karen juggled her time to be able to spend some good time with Kevin and even get a glimpse of his new job at LinkedIn.  When we came back to Wisconsin, Karen was able to get some time in with her daughters Julie and Susan.  Karen and Susan went out together to visit my sister Jeanine in Rhode Island for the 4th of July and had a grand time.  Alas, the grandkids seem to have mostly flown the nest (Is there an empty next for Grandparents?) and it is hard to tag or catch up with them.  Nevertheless, Logan, Garrick (now engaged to Kat), Sam and Zach all seem to be pursuing the typical life of most young people today.  They are either in school or working and trying to really figure out what they will be when they get old like us.  We see them occasionally like ships passing in the night. I suppose our snow birding between Arizona and Wisconsin also complicates the matter.

megan and karenKaren and Megan now have a good thing going and each year around this time they get together for several days of baking.  It becomes a mother and daughter day to schlep flour and sugar all other each other’s kitchen since they alternate houses to flour.  This year we will finally get to meet Megan’s new friend Dave.  After cookie baking this Saturday, we plan to go to one of his gigs and listen to his band.  Dave is a guitarist and singer with a popular cover band named Furious George in Phoenix.

Curves Group

Karen and her friends at Curves 

If relationship wise, we were doing a balance sheet for 2015, on the whole it would be very positive.  However, it was not without its losses.  Both Karen and I lost some good friends this year.  Death seems to be something that becomes almost omnipresent these days both on a personal level (with more and more loved ones aging) and on a social level with the media constantly showering us with episodes of violence and mayhem.  Perhaps, something I should not bring up at Christmas time, but as Jesus was about bringing love into world, maybe it is something to reflect on.  I have to admit, my blogs (see have been more and more about the evils and vices that I believe it is our personal responsibility to confront.  As I age, I wonder how I can do more in this respect or if I am even doing enough.  Am I making a difference or just annoying people?  I try to balance a certain amount of negativity in my blogs with a decent dose of let’s say “positivity” if there is such a word.  One of my most popular blogs was on the subject of gratitude.  I am certainly grateful for the good health that has blessed Karen and me this year.

Tucson Dulcimer Ensemble

Karen and the Tucson Dulcimer Ensemble

Karen and I are both working part-time.  I continue to teach both residentially and on-line.  Karen passed her certification test on the new ICD-10 coding procedures in September as well as doing some home health consulting.  I am envious that at 71 years of age, she has more job prospects than I had when I was 22.  She has so much work in her queue that I have to keep reminding her to have fun and enjoy her retirement.  In actuality both of us would go crazy without some regular work to keep us focused.  I guess neither of us has ever learned how to play well.

On the other hand, after years of practice, music camps and many music jams in Minnesota, Arkansas, Kentucky and now Arizona,  Karen has become an excellent dulcimer player and enjoys playing with dulcimer friends in WI and just south of here with the Tucson Dulcimer Ensemble.   In the last two weeks, she has played at a fund raiser for the local library, a Red Hat women’s group and an Episcopal Church bazaar.  We don’t have to worry about taxes though as these are all free gigs.  I keep encouraging her to keep it up though as someday there might be a talent scout out there and she could be the next Lady Gaga.  Carnegie Hall here we come.  I can pick out her outfits.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you all.  My God bless you and keep you with good health and much happiness.

John and Karen

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