Another year has passed and it is time for another Christmas letter. Our vagabond lifestyle has once again taken us to many fresh corners of the earth and introduced us to new people as well as reacquainting us with old friends and family.
Abigail’s side of the family has had its ups and downs health wise this year. Her father Randy continues to struggle with his car accident injuries and subsequent health issues. He is dealing with a lot of back pain that they just can’t seem to get under control. He is soldiering on though and continues his work with the county electrical co-op managing their 2 wind turbines among other things. His 1964 Ford Fairlane has not suffered and he continues to compete and place (winning more often than not!) in classic car shows around the Midwest. Abigail’s grandmother Pat recently suffered a mild stroke and is currently in a nursing home. We all hope that she will improve enough to move to assisted living in the next few months. Her mother Kathy continues to be the rock, coordinating care and family business. Abigail’s brother Zach and wife Jill, who live in Omaha with their 4 children, Derrick, Dorothy, Elizabeth, and Jacob are doing well. We look forward to seeing them over the holidays and spending time with them.
My side is doing well. My mother Karlyn has settled into retired life quite nicely and stays busy with volunteering, grandchildren, and social engagements. I think my father is starting to feel a bit envious and is looking forward to his retirement in 2014. I don’t think he is counting days yet (shocking for an accountant) but he is definitely looking forward to the new freedoms retirement will afford. My brother Nathan is now Chicagoan proper, living on the North side with his wonderful girlfriend Christine and working for the Chicago Public School District. His position is a new one and he has had his struggles getting started but we all expect that he will be successful. His son Jonas continues to grow we enjoy hearing about he and Nathan’s adventures around Chicago. My sister Annika and husband Jaime with their boys Fred and Jacob continue to thrive in Minnesota.
As for Abigail, me, and are little dog Pippi, we have had an exciting 2013. This time last year we were gearing up for our 3-week trip to New Zealand. That country is all it is advertised to be. Breathtaking landscapes, friendly people, just exotic and wild enough to keep you on your toes. I couldn’t possibly speak of it all in this little letter (nor even the highlights for that matter) but the trip included: sprints to catch planes; lost luggage; foreign holiday traditions; spectacular scuba diving; halflings, elves, dwarves, and orcs; New Years Eve at an Irish Pub with a Queen cover band; a very hung-over ferry crossing; washed out bridges leading to 10 hour detours; glacier hiking; Moa Hunting bungee jumps; river surfing (aka waterboarding according to Abigail); sea lion dodging; and daily death defying deeds of driving. From North to South we saw it all (nearly). Feel free to inquire next time you see us. Whooh!
We also got to visit a few spectacular National Parks this year. We finally made it to the Grand Canyon in Arizona for the first time in both our lives and did some camping and an overnight hike down into the canyon. It is absolutely spectacular and deserves its reputation. Our work had us in California quite a bit this year (yes we do work) and we had a break in the schedule that gave us time to hit Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks. Yosemite was extremely busy but deservedly so; the trip up the valley is out of this world. We happened to be there during National Parks Week (free entry to the public) and we couldn’t get a campsite in the park. I was able to pull a backcountry permit however and had an incredible solo trip that included a summit overlooking the valley. After, the madness of Yosemite, Sequoia NP felt nearly deserted. I highly recommend making a visit here if you can to see the trees. Sequoia trees are the largest living organisms on the planet and there is no substitute for seeing them in person. The grandeur of them is beyond words or pictures.
Earlier this December, a good friend of ours we met from my rugby days in Minnesota was kind enough to give us an excuse to take a trip to Hawaii by marrying the love of his life on the island of Maui. It was a beautiful and fun wedding and we spend the better part of a week experiencing one the finest places on earth with friends, before going off on our own adventures on Maui and the Big Island. We circumnavigated Maui by car, driving the road to Hana, watching the big wave surfers, and at Haleakala National Park we did waterfall hike that included a ½ mile through a bamboo forest. We also did a little rock climbing to get to one of the waterfall pools to swim! The scuba diving we did in Maui and on the Big Island was spectacular although there was a fair amount of peril involved (We survived relatively unscathed). We also made it to a 5th National Park, Volcanoes’ NP. We got to see the lava glow from a caldera at night (no lava was flowing during our visit), walk a lava tube, and also did a great interpretive hike through an eruption site from the 1960’s. Very cool! We also drove to the top of Mauna Kea (where the majority the worlds most powerful telescopes are located) and watched the sunset and stars come out. Although it was chilly (33 degrees) the views were worth the discomfort! It was a great winter vacation!
In spite of appearances work kept us quite busy this year. The majority of the year we spent on tour for our old client Rohde & Schwarz operating their mobile classroom. However, we also launched a new project for the Smithsonian called Animal Connections. It is an open to the public exhibit about the human-animal bond; how our lives and success as species are interconnected. The project was created to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the American Veterinary Medicine Association. We launched the tour during their convention in Chicago, and included events at the Shedd Aquarium, the National Mall during the Marine Corps Marathon, and the New York Stock Exchange (which required some fancy driving if I might be permitted to toot my own horn a bit). We aren’t sure how involved we will be with Animal Connections next year but I suspect we haven’t seen the last of it. It is an interesting and challenging tour. With all of this going on Abigail still found time to start working on her masters in marketing, she is attending Southern New Hampshire University via their online program.
We do truly enjoy this lifestyle and don’t expect to tire of it anytime soon. For those of you we saw this year, it was a pleasure and I feel confident that I can thank you for letting us do laundry (as we always seem to need it). For those of you we missed we hope to see you and your washing machine this coming year.
Josh, Abigail, and Pippi