Happy Holidays everyone! This is the 27th edition of the Holiday Herald! Yes, we've been annoying our family and friends with our annual journal since 1984 when it was printed on a dot matrix printer. If you know what that is, you're "aged" like us.
As in recent years, this Holly Herald is completely electronic since most all our family and friends are online these days. I don't remember the last time I licked a stamp . . . So here's our year in review, electronically speaking.
In January, Dora and I celebrated 31 years of marriage. It seems like just a few years ago - time flies when you're having fun and in love. Here we are when we went out to eat at that famous, chic, and romantic hideaway, PF Changs. :)
Later in January, our beloved Sunny snuck out the house and we lost him. We were heartbroken... and now we just know he's safe and comfortable on someone else's couch. So Sherry get all the more lovin'. She's such a lounge cat, and she's so cute when she sleeps with her tongue sticking out and when she's "watching the birdies".
In February, I attended a work conference in The Big Easy. Unlike my younger years, the loud and bawdy Bourbon street held no attraction for me. Since learning to cook well (some say), I was much more interested in the local cuisine, such as gumbo, blackened shrimp, more gumbo, and of course beignets and cafe au lait at Cafe Du Monde next to Jackson Square. For this Illinois boy, there's nothing better than fine Creole food served by a waiter with a quasi-French accent in a small restaurant with real linen. :) Here I am in front of Jackson Square. To work off all the calories, I took long early morning walks either along the Mississippi, or in "the quarter" to enjoy the beautiful architecture and more architecture. I think I lived here in a past life, it's gorgeous. I also took a horse-drawn carriage tour of the French Quarter which was fun and educational. My hotel was near the convention center where the New Orleans ComiCon convention was being held. When I heard that some of the actors from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" were featured, I headed over "bloody" fast. I talked to Nicholas Brendon who played Xander, Julie Benz who played Darla, Clare Kramer who played Glory, and my favorite character on the show, James Marsters who plays the beach-blonde-punk-rocker vampire, Spike. Can you believe that I'm such a Buffy geek that I paid good money to get autographs from Marsters and Brendon? Did I tell you I have the entire series on DVD? :) Oh yeah, almost forgot . . . the conference was educational too.
Another work conference . . .
In March, I attended another work conference in Philadelphia. I was so excited because I'm such an American history buff and had never explored Philly, other than the airport. I saw Independence Hall and the room where the US Constitution was written (that gave me goose bumps). Of course I stopped by to see the Liberty Bell, and I also visited Ben Franklin's grave, the beautiful city hall building with William Penn atop. While at the conference, I attended a Western Illinois University alumni and friends social and got to see a couple of my classmates from my grad program, Class of '98, including Dr. Regina Hyatt Young (congrats on the doctorate Regina), Raj Bellani, and (now) retired Student Affairs VP at WIU Dr. Garry Johnson who was a friend of my father back in the day.
In April, I attended a seminar at the HUGE University of Oklahoma campus and then drove 3 hours east to Beautiful Lake Eufaula, OK to see my brother and 91-year old Cousin Maude (who just turned 92). She told me stories of my dad when he was a boy... nice.
In May, Dora and I attended a GCC graduation party for our dear friend Aline, pictured here with her father. We also saw our niece Taylor in a ballet production where we shot this photo of us with Mike and Wanda.
In June, Dora turned 39 again and at Dora's birthday dinner we got this photo of Taylor and I - isn't she cute?
In July, Wanda turned 30-something too and we got this shot of the five of us at the traditional restaurant birthday dinner. And on the July 4th holiday, we travelled back to the Bay Area to help our dear friend Danny celebrate his birthday and while there we saw our friends Shaun and Les, Anthony, and Phil and Lisa.
We took a couple of trips up to higher-elevated and cooler Payson, AZ during the summer to escape the heat and play blackjack at the casino and during one of the trips a local craft fair had a petting zoo. My favorite baby animal of all are kids (no, not that kind) -- this one thought I tasted good and these two were just plain exhausted.
In September, Dora and I took an 8-day trip to Kauai, our favorite Hawaiian isle. We stayed in a nice hotel near Kapa'a on the west side of the island. It had many fragrant plumeria trees and kitchenettes -- we like to cook our own meals, and so we had lots of fresh pineapple. But we also like to eat out at our favorite Hawaiian pizzeria, Brick Oven Pizza. Dora and I believe that some of the best Hawaiian cuisine is found at a luau and so on this trip we went to a new one at the Kilohana Plantation - before the feast we road their full-sized train around the beautiful grounds, and then I had to pose with all the girls who wanted their photo taken with me! We visited Kalihiwai Beach our favorite beach on the island, and also Anini Beach for the first time. And as always, we "crashed" the Lihue Marriott's beach and pool, this time having a delicious dinner, wonderful massage on the beach, and posed for a photo. We also took a relaxing boat ride up the Wailua River where we had our photo taken at the Fern Grotto. No helicopter rides or parasailing for us on this trip, we were in relaxation mode, so we did things like taking a walk along the stream at the gorgeous arboretum, visiting the Spouting Horn on the south side, taking in the beautiful Opaeka'a Falls, and taking photos of beautiful Dora surrounded by beautiful purple flowers. Ah, the simple pleasures. But Dora and I agree that the best time on the island, when we felt that one-ness with each other and the Divine, was when we arose early one morning to witness one of Nature's most spectacular sunrises. We held each other and were just in awe of the beauty and each other. Then I had to show off a bit and try to grab that sun and wash my hands in the sunshine.
A week after returning from Hawaii, I took off for another conference. Destination: D.C. I hadn't been there since '89 and that was in January when it was frozen. The weather was moderate but I was re-acquanited with the concept of humidity again, something we don't have in Arizona. I walked until my hips and ankles were sore and saw the sights, including Lincoln's Memorial, and the spot on top of the Lincoln Memorial stairs where MLK stood to deliver the "I Have a Dream" speech (goose bumps). Here's a shot of a Gulf War vet paying tribute to the Vietnam Vets at the Vietnam War Memorial Wall, and when I visited the WW II Memorial, I was lucky to catch a group of vets posing for a photo. God bless you WWII guys and gals! I also made a height comparison at the Washington Memorial and stopped by to see my man Barack at the White House. While there, I interviewed for CJ Craig's job as press secretary and even got a tour of the Oval Office where I got to shake the President's hand and sit at his desk . . . not. Those last two photos were taken at a gift shop down the street from the White House. But enough of this political stuff. The most beautiful sights I saw were at the National Art Gallery and the Smithsonian where I reveled in pop culture Americana and saw such masterpieces as Farrah Fawcett's bikini from the iconic poster, Dorothy Gale's ruby slippers, the original Superman #1 comic book, and most importantly, from my favorite TV show of all time, Archie and Edith's chairs. Now THAT'S art!
October is birthday month in our family and first up is Taylor who turned 17. Isn't she cute? Taylor's birthday restaurant choice was the Cheesecake Factory where we got photos of the sisters and Dora and I. Mark turned 53 years young a week later and the whole clan went out to Buca de Beppo. Mmmmmmmm.
We had fun dressing up for Halloween at church and for a work party. Dora and I dressed as Queen Guinevere and Sir Lancelot. Dora slayed 'em with her costume and Mark won best costume award at the party they attended. Mike and Wanda got primitive and dressed as a cute cave couple.
I am so lucky and grateful for the wonderful job I have and people I work with daily at Glendale Community College. I'm the Director of Early Outreach, managing a program that provides hundreds of high school students the opportunity to take college classes while still in high school. There are 6 of us in the office and we're all close and enjoy what we do. After almost 40 years of work I know this is so RARE! Anyway, here are some photos of our birthday celebrations for Sheryl, Julie, and Fredrick. You're next Harry! Here's the whole gang for my birthday outing. And here I am giving myself a 5-second introduction.
Dora continues to enjoy her nursing job as Informatics Coordinator at Banner Estrella Hopsital, a seven minute commute from our home. She supports the Operating Room staff and doctors by teaching them how to input, read, and use medical documentation into electronic medical records.
She says one of the reasons she loves her work is because she's in a leadership role without the hassle of actually supervising anyone and all the resulting headaches; she's a natural-born teacher so this position is perfect for her. In terms of medical documentation, she says, "the future is her now!" She thoroughly enjoys helping people learn the newest documentation procedures and being part of a larger statewide team that is developing cutting edge medical documentation technology and methods.
Dora and I have been very active in the West Valley Center for Spiritual Living, a Religious Science (Science of Mind) church. Dora is manager of the bookstore and member of the Board of Trustees and I am still a Practitioner, helping members know and accept their divine natures. As our new minister says, Mark's "a good pray-er." I just try to love everyone as much as I can. Our good friend and mentor Reverend Ron and his wife Becky moved to another spiritual center in Coco Beach, FL (how many of you thought of "I Dream of Jeannie"?) and we spent several months searching for a new minister. Reverend Karen Rice was our first choice, and embodied all the loving qualities that we (dozens of us) stated that we were looking for in our next minister. She's a perfect fit, we love Reverend Karen very much -- she's a wonderful speaker, teacher, pray-er, and person. And we love her Harley-ridin' hubby Hugh also! We've had much fun, gained much inspiration, and had our consciousness shifted a bit higher from all the wonderful activities and relationships in our spiritual home. We are truly blessed. . . and so it is. Here are a few slideshows and YouTube videos of all the fun and fellowship we share:
Well, that's our year in review. Hope your jaws aren't sore from yawning so much. Dora and I want you to know how much we love you and are glad that you're part of our lives. We KNOW you're having a wonderful holiday season and that your 2012 will be amazing! Stay in touch!
Mark and Dora