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Monday, December 31, 2012

Goodbye 2012: The Year of Music and Travel

Today, on the last day of 2012, I take my yearly stroll back through the year and reflect on ups, downs, highlights and themes. This was a year filled with many ups and downs in the US, and several terrible tragedies, combined with the effects of the faltering economy, give it a melancholy feel for me. But, let's get started...

First of all, as you already know, the world didn't end.

Next, I remember writing this reflection about 2011 and it seems last year's theme was "connection." Thinking about this year, I would say the theme that stands out is "music and entertainment," followed by a close second of "travel."

Music and Entertainment

It mostly started in May when Mary, Annalisse, Nic and I went to see "Wicked" in Raleigh, and was followed by Annalisse's Lady Antebellum concert in June, then Squeeze, then Train/Mat Kearney/Andy Grammer in July and August, "Nice Work if You Can Get It" on Broadway (my first Broadway show) in August, Alec Baldwin at RIT in October, Annalisse's senior trip to Boston (where she also saw "The Blue Man Group"), and finally the Fun concert for Annalisse and Cam in November. Really fun stuff. This year we hope to see Wicked again when it comes to Rochester in the spring, and Annalisse is all set to see Taylor Swift in Ohio in April.

Travel

This year was also characterized by a lot of travel (again!), and in particular to some locations that were new and exciting.

New places: In January I had the chance to go to Puerto Rico for a NAGAP board meeting, and in April I was headed to Austin for the NAGAP conference. In May we went to Raleigh to visit Anthony, and in October it was off to Kansas City for another NAGAP meeting. All new Cities.

Along with the "new" experiences, we also traveled to Washington DC and Roanoke VA in April, and it was back to DC for my girl's weekend in June, followed by a return to Las Vegas in July (while Annalisse was in Germany for three weeks), then off to New York City in August for another NAGAP board meeting, followed by four days in Maine.

Whew! It does sound like a lot, doesn't it?

And let's not forget to mention...

A recap of this year would not be complete without an honorable mention of the college visits that consumed much of our summer. Also very fun as we await the last four decisions before Annalisse decides her academic fate for next fall. May 1 is the official "decision date," but I'm sure we'll know way before then which college she settles on.

Looking Ahead

At midnight tonight it's onto 2013, another milestone year for the Bakers. This year will find Annalisse, Nic and I traveling to Puerto Rico in January, Annalisse traveling to Ireland in February, Cam's 20th birthday in February (WHAT WHAT?) me possibly going to Orlando in April, Annalisse's High School graduation in June, Las Vegas again in July (hopefully with Mary, Nic and Annalisse), Annalisse's graduation celebration in July, a not-to-be-named birthday milestone in October, and hopefully a trip to Vermont this year. In late August we'll be empty nesters, and I'm not sure how I feel about that except that I will miss my little buddy very much when she goes to college.

2013 will also see some home improvement as we start some much-needed repairs and updating on the house. We will be installing a new corner fence in the yard, building a new front porch floor and stairs, and installing a new sewer line from the upstairs to the cellar - a very expensive, destructive project which will including cutting full panels out of the walls on two floors, then repairing them to look exactly the way they did before. Apparently, though, according the plumber, we don't want the alternative, which is sewage leaking into our rooms from the rapidly deteriorating pipes from the second floor to the basement.

Onward, upward to 2013. May it bring you good health, good fortune and much happiness!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

End of the Year Checklist

During the week I have off between Christmas and New Years I count on getting certain once-a-year things done. They are:

  • File the backload of photos into an album (or albums) - thanks Mom Shiao for the two albums of 500 photos - they are filled already and I've got to pick up a couple more [I missed last year's photo-filing]
  • File paperwork, projects, memorable items into the kids memory boxes or tax box in the attic
  • Order the current year's photos (January - December)
  • Buy a new calendar (50% off, of course) and fill in appointments, birthdays, trips, etc.
  • Put away the Christmas decorations, dust, and get ready for another year

I also need to find a way to download Annalisse's pictures from Germany, which are currently only on Facebook. They were on her MacBook but her hard drive crashed a couple of months ago and she lost all her pictures. I believe that 10 years from now she'll be pretty upset that she did not get prints from the trip so I'll (hopefully) find a way to get them back so I can print a select few (she took 900 pix...my goal is to whittle that down to 100 pix).

Other than that, I'm enjoying hunkering down during the various snowstorms that have passed through the area, sleeping in, and playing outside with Jasper. It's been awesome!!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Surviving Christmas

The tree aglow on
Christmas morning
We made it through another Christmas holiday. As I sit in the relative dark with just the lights of the Christmas tree, fireplace mantle, and candles to light the room, I think about how much I'll miss the soft lights and decorations a week from now. As much as I usually sort of dread Christmas with all its overblown hoopla, I have to admit that Christmas found me once again on Christmas eve at our church service. It's probably the singing of all the familiar hymns and the beautiful music of the service that got me, but I finally felt it. It's a daily challenge to try to live more in the present, and I felt so blessed to be there with my family, safe and sound, after the terrible events earlier in the day. I couldn't help but think of those families, suddenly without their loved ones, on what was supposed to be one of the happiest nights of the year.

Our Christmas eve was very low key. After church the kids made popcorn and I prepared for the morning's Shiao family breakfast. Gone are the days when I shoo the kids to bed so I can fill stockings and put the finishing touches on the morning's surprises. I headed up to bed before them, but admittedly they we're too far behind!

The next morning Mark and I got up and did our "chores"(took the dog out, shoveled after a fresh snow), and finally woke the kids up around 7:15 so we could get moving with the festivities as I needed to get breakfast ready on time. It sounds kind of rushed, but it wasn't and we had a leisurely time opening our presents. Mom Shiao, Lena and Ken, and Nara and Jim arrived around 9:30, and we had a great breakfast with lots of laughter! After opening presents everyone relaxed for a while then headed out for the continuation of their celebrations. After showers all around, we got ready to head out to Grandma Pat's and off we went. We picked up Pat and Nic on the way as they were spending the afternoon with us. As always, it was a fun celebration with great food and great gifts. By late afternoon, it was obvious that we were fading, all really tired. Last night was very low key and we all turned in early (which is a relative term depending on the family member).

So, another year has come and gone. We don't have a lot planned for this week off, but there is apparently a huge snowstorm headed our way. YAY!

Just lovely
Helping Dad open his presents
Cam's gift to sister
New Toy!
Modeling Cam's Beardo
Getting ready for breakfast


Look at that bounty!
The Shiaos-Bakers-Cookes-Bennetts!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Silent Night, Holy Night?

Not for some after another senseless tragedy today that included not just the shooting death of two firefighters (one of which was also a policeman) and the wounding of two others, but also resulted in the loss through fire of seven homes - right in our backyard this time, in Webster, which is about 10 miles from here. I'm sure if, as recommended by the spokesman of the NRA, those firefighters had been armed they could have defended themselves. Of course, I'm being sarcastic. When will it end?

In spite of this, we will carry on with our Christmas celebrations, but I can't imagine what those families are going through. With tonight also comes a sad reminder that Aunt Mary, who, with Uncle Pete hosts the family party on Christmas Eve, has had her health challenges this year and they will continue into the new year. Our throughs are with her, Uncle Pete and Sarah during her battle against cancer. It adds to the already sort of sad nostalgia I'm having this year (and every year, come to think of it) remembering Christmas celebrations past with relatives we don't see as often as we used to, or those who have left us, and have left a hole in our hearts since.

All I can do is appreciate, love, and enjoy the time with those around me, which is what this holiday is all about anyway, isn't it? If I didn't receive (or give) another present I'd be happy and contented for the blessings of health, family, happiness and prosperity. I hope the same for you. Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Day After the Last Day

Hello there! Well, we're still here. The world didn't end on 12/21/12. Carry on.

Five other reasons to be super happy this morning.
  1. The kids are home.
  2. Mom Shiao is home.
  3. I'm finished with my Christmas shopping (except for stocking stuff).
  4. We're off until January 2.
  5. We got a lot of snow overnight. 
Who could ask for anything more? Happy day!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

At the risk of being a bore...

Another college acceptance yesterday, this time to Roanoke College in Salem, VA, where Sue and Ken live. Wouldn't that be awesome?! I can tell Annalisse is getting a little anxious about the decision she will have to make, but wasn't that the idea when she applied to seven colleges - to have some choices? I told her she will have a lot of time to decide since deposits are not due until May 1 and there will be accepted student programs, and a chance for one last look for her top choices, before then.

Fun, fun times!!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Two for Two

In the mail today Annalisse received the second (out of seven possible notifications) acceptance to a college. So far she has been accepted to Mercyhurst University (her first choice!!) and Lycoming College (one that I really liked but was not high on her list). I expect we'll get official notification from Naz around January 15 (although a little birdie with inside info told me the decision already...), and I suppose it's also possible that we might hear from some of the other "rolling" application deadline colleges this week. The only one I really don't expect we'll hear from in the very near future is Alleghany College, which has a deadline of February 15 (and notification afterwards, I asume).

When she received the packet from Mercyhurst on Thursday there was a piercing screech and lots of arm waving. I also think Mercyhurst would be a good fit for her with it's beautiful campus just three hours away (AND THEY HAVE A KRISPY KREME!). Very exciting times, indeed.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Haunted

Tonight I am haunted by the tragic massacre of 27 children and adults at an elementary school in Connecticut. Where is God? Why, America, does this keep happening? Surely evil seems to be winning with all the young, disturbed men who open fire on innocent children, teens, shoppers, movie-goers, bystanders. Is it the easy access of guns? The violent video games and movies? Family troubles? Rampant mental illness? WHAT WHAT WHAT?

I actually found a lot of comfort in the words of Mister Rogers:
"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of 'disaster,' I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers - so many caring people in this world." -- Mister Rogers
My heart breaks for the families of all who lost their lives, and their innocence, today.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The College Waiting Game

It's almost mid-December and we are anxiously awaiting decisions from the seven colleges to which Annalisse has applied. A lot of her friends are hearing back from the SUNYs and several "privates," but no word from the colleges she's interested in. The good news: there have been no rejection letters. The other good news: of the other kids who applied to the same schools as A, no one has yet "posted" on Facebook (a big deal for the kids) that they've been accepted to Mercyhurst, Alleghany, Lycoming, Susquehannah, Roanoke or Dickinson - so I assume no one has heard from these schools yet. As for Naz, since I work there I know they won't be notifying freshmen until after January 15 so we're not expecting to hear from them yet.

I think she's anxious about the whole thing and would just like to be able to say she's been 'accepted' somewhere. Many of the colleges have rolling application processes, so we're hoping to hear very soon as her apps were pretty much complete by December 1. What a nice Christmas present that would be!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

O Christmas Tree - 2012 Edition

Last Sunday in the windy rain and cold sleet, we ventured out with our neighbors Morey and Ann, and Nic and Patrick in tow to find "the perfect Christmas tree." For a couple of years I've wanted to get a different type of tree, one that looks more old fashioned like Mémère and Pépère Moquin used to have. Their trees always seemed not super-full, and were adorned with old fashioned ornaments and strands of tinsel. I'm working with our current ornament collection and probably won't be putting tinsel strands on, but still wanted that "look" in a tree. I think I actually have a picture of them next to "said tree," but for the life of me I can't find it.

So, this is what we ended up with. It's beautiful, simple and not too overwhelming. I love the light the deocorated tree gives off - so warm and comforting!

Tree (and kid) in the wild
The World's Most Patient Dog 
Decorated. Kind of looks like last year's tree. And the one before that.
Mantle
HE'S EVERYWHERE!
Fresh cut greens and mouse guy 
Red ball and little Cammie
Looking Up


Outside. Now all we need is SNOW.


Friday, December 7, 2012

New Driver Alert

Watch yourselves on the road. There is a new driver out there and he's fast and loose.

Cam FINALLY got his license today. We've put it off long enough. A combination of procrastination and disinterest on his part, and fear on my part, added to him being probably the only 19 (almost 20) year-old driver in Fairport who did not yet have his license. All that changed today, just in time to take him back to school for two more weeks where he won't have the opportunity to drive anyway.

How did our parents ever do it? I just need to trust (and hold my breath) that when he gets in the car he'll get to where he's going safely. I often stress to him it's not always his driving I'm worried about, it's the "other driver" who may not be paying attention or driving recklessly (Or impaired. Or texting. Or talking on his phone.). Wow, there is always something to worry about, isn't there?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Class Clown

Annalisse excitedly texted me this morning to let me know she had been chosen for the Senior Superlative "Class Clown." Hmmm...am I proud? Am I mortified? Proud, I guess!! There's no denying it: that kid has a special twinkle that lights up her bubbly personality. But, it wasn't always that way!

When she was little (toddlerhood) she was a terror. She would have frequent meltdowns and had great difficulty with transitioning from one activity/time of day to another. We always had to be sure she was well rested, because when she wasn't she was out of control (right, Sue?). Even today she knows when to put herself down for a nap and is alternately whiny and non-communicative when she's tired.

Obviously, she's not always as perky and upbeat as she is when she's with her friends at school, but she is actually pretty pleasant most of the time. When she sasses back or gives us a hard time, I have to tel Mark that we "have to take the good with the bad."

Her current designation got me thinking about famous people who might have once been class clowns. Of course, a quick search of the World Wide InterWebNet revealed many sites that featured such talents. A sampling of celebrity class clowns include (many are not a surprise for obvious reasons):
  • Henry Winkler
  • Robin Williams
  • Jim Carrey
  • George Carlin
  • Gillian Anderson (The X-Files)
Not that I'm saying Annalisse will be famous, unless by "famous" you mean she will be working in an aquarium with evil dolphins.  Not sure where she gets it from (I like to say it came from the Bell family), but it certainly makes life interesting for the rest of us.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Welcome to December *sigh*

Queue the annoyed melancholy.

Well it's here. The last month of another year that flew by way too fast. Why does time go by so quickly as we age? This guy explains it for us. Anyway, with Thanksgiving being so early this year I am feeding compelled to get our tree a week earlier than usual, and was anxious to get the house decked out and the cards stuffed and addressed. All ramped up.

I'm not super happy it's December already; not a fan of winter, it is simply something to be endured until next spring. Although, I will admit that some mornings with a fresh coat of snow do seem magical at times. The dog certainly loves it, and I usually can't wait to go out and play with him in the white stuff. Also, who doesn't like hunkering down for a good snowstorm? The excitement that schools (and businesses - and colleges!) might be closed the next day?! Better stock up bread, milk and eggs! (Why is it always bread, milk and eggs?)

Tonight starts the first of our holiday celebrations with a visit to a friend's yearly open house (also early this year because of the wacky calendar). Very important to remember: the world is scheduled to end (again) on December 21 (12/21/12). I think I'll keep my affairs in order just in case. I'd hate to have the house foreclosed on or the electricity shut off just because of some damn Mayans and the fact that they ran out of paper to continue their calendar.