Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas Letter 2012

Greetings All,

Big 2012 events:  Bob’s fall and concussion in April, Hurricane Sandy, and the Presidential Election. 

We started out the year with a late “Christmas” at Biz and Tom’s (Tom, Andy and Sam all at home) and the regular Thursday afternoons and evenings, “Baba Days”, with Ethan, Sammy and Aaron Cohen.

In January we visited with Adrienne, Judah and Zoe; Clifford and Dixie; Kaaren and Steve; and West and Dani. We put 1200 miles on our rental car. We found a “new” birding area, Panoche Pass and Quien Sabe Road, near Hollister, CA. Prairie Falcons, Ferruginous Hawk, Golden Eagle, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Roadrunner.

Saw several HDTV Met Operas. Notables:  “Siegfried” and “Gotterdammerung”.

PhilOrch’s new and energetic music director, Yannick Nezet Seguin, inspired me to get a subscription to Friday afternoon concerts.  This season’s highlights: Verdi’s Requiem, and Prokofiev’s “Alexander Nevsky”, which was accompanied by the 1939 Sergei Eisenstein film. I take the train in and out of town and find it relaxing.

Cheltenham Township Adult School outings took me to Brooklyn and other places. Also with CTAS, Bob and I visited the new Barnes Foundation (not as charming as the old one in Merion, we thought) and toured some of the spectacular murals around Philadelphia.

On TV we watched “Downton Abbey”, liked “Person of Interest”, “Call the Midwife”, “Wallander”, “The Good Wife”, “The Mentalist”, “Homeland”,  Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and Rachel Maddow .  We subscribe to Act II Theater in Ambler, and watch Netflix movies at home.

We saw Sam Cush in three plays: “Romeo and Juliet”, “Get Smart” and “Les Miz”. He’s acting and directing.

In February I spent several hours a day scanning family slides. It was fun revisiting family events.

We did a little home repair: interior doors and backyard fence replaced, new stainless steel fridge and range.  We bought a new gas fireplace & are ordering a generator for the next time our power goes out, which it does all too often.

In March I went to Katy, TX to help Sharesa recover from a torn ACL. I played meanie “Nurse Ratched”, and had her up and walking in short order.

In the afternoon of the April Delaware field trip I got a phone call from Russ.  Bob had tripped running backwards after a lob on the tennis court and had fallen backwards on his head. He was at the trauma unit at Abington Hospital. To read more, go to: Of course we had to cancel a couple of trips. His recovery has been spectacular.

In June we went to young Tom’s graduation party. Saw lots of family: Faye, Lee & Mary, Sheri & Joe, Tom & Mary Cush. 

In August we made our annual jaunt to Santa Cruz for the Dickens Universe, and stayed with Cliff & Dixie.  The novel was Bleak House this time, my favorite of all of Dickens. We stopped off in Katy, Texas on the way and visited Jim & Sharesa in their beautiful new home.

I put some time in on the run-up to the presidential election, and was overjoyed with the result.

I’m still president of Wyncote Audubon Society. I arrange for monthly speakers, and set up the calendar of activities for the year. This December we had well-known naturalist, author and speaker Scott Weidensaul for our annual dinner speaker. 

Bob continues to play tennis (yes, tennis) and golf nearly every day. So far so good for both of us.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Anatomy of a Skull Fracture

Anatomy of a Skull Fracture from the Perspective of a Care Giver: Me

Saturday, April 21, 2012, 4:10 PM: I was on a Wyncote Audubon Society field trip in southern Delaware. We had just finished counting Black-crowned Night-Herons (over 50, we estimated) at Bombay Hook NWR when Martin’s cell rang. My phone had been “searching” in that rather remote area, so I’d turned it off. Martin listened to the message and then handed the phone to me. It was Russ, Bob’s son, telling me that Bob had taken a fall at the tennis court at 11:30 AM that morning. He had suffered a skull fracture, having evidently caught a toe and fallen backwards on his head. He had been taken to the trauma unit at Abington Memorial Hospital. We immediately called an end to the field trip (Lynn was leading the field trip and also driving, so it was her option to do that.) We notified the other participants and started the 2-hour drive home.

My mind started racing. Of course I wanted to get to the hospital as quickly as possible. Martin offered to take me straight there. I considered that option, and had several changes of mind as we headed back. A huge traffic jam (car fire) didn’t help my state of mind. Finally Martin said, “Wait till we get on the Blue Route, I-476, to make up your mind.” So I stopped talking and began to think what to do. By the time we got on I-476 I’d decided to have Lynn take me home so I could get my car and head for AMH on my own.
When I got to our house, Bob’s RAV4 was in the driveway, and at the front door I found Bob’s tennis gear, his car keys and some other stuff. At that time I had no idea how they got there. As it turned out, Ray had been among the group who were playing tennis when Bob fell. (I found out later that, after the EMT’s had come and taken Bob to AMH, the tennis players cleaned up the blood on the court and continued the game.)

Probably one of the key factors in how this all turned out was the speed at which the EMT’s arrived at the tennis court. Ray said one of the tennis guys had a cell with him, called 911, and the emergency vehicle was there in 5 minutes. Ironically, the gate at that tennis court is too narrow to handle a gurney, so four guys carried Bob out on a board. Ray said later that he felt like a pallbearer. Grim humor.
Russ had told me on the phone that Bob was in the ICU trauma unit on the third floor of the Toll Building. I was unfamiliar with that hospital, an enormous, spread-out facility, and I wasn’t even sure where to park. I knew that one of the entrances was off Highland Avenue, so I headed for that. I entered the lot and parked the car. (On subsequent days I got to know that parking lot very well.) At street level I asked someone how to find the Toll Building, and she directed me to the main hospital entrance. I followed signs, and walked down endless corridors, found the appropriate elevator and made my way to the trauma unit.
By then it was about 6:45 PM. Russ and his wife Ellyn were still there. Bob was lying on his back in a hospital bed. I think he recognized me. His right eye was swollen up like a plum, and blood was dripping out his left ear. We found out much later that fluid seeped out the “contra coup” fracture over his eye and caused the eyeball to pop out.

My first thought was, “This is the end of my life as I know it.” I couldn’t imagine that he’d be able to recover from the trauma and become his “old self” again and that we could ever get back to “real life”.  Bob and I had previously shared most of the household chores, and we’d had a vigorous schedule of travel as well as cultural and outdoor activities. So I began to accept the idea that things would be different from then on.
Russ and Ellyn stayed there with me for a while, and then headed home to their three young boys. I stayed till 9:00 PM, and then went home to listen to phone messages – all well-wishers. I called a few back, and made notes to return the rest of the calls the next day. Bob has a very devoted group of friends. My final note that day says, “He seems to be doing OK, considering.”

Sunday, April 22: I got to the hospital around 9:00 AM. Bob was very uncomfortable and pretty much out of it. I went home around noon, had a little lunch and dealt with phone calls and emails. I went back around 2:00 PM. Bob was miserable, and in a lot of pain. I can’t imagine what it would have been like without the morphine drip. I left at 6:00 PM, too agitated and miserable to eat dinner.
I cancelled our Magee Marsh bird trip for early May. Everybody understood.

Monday, April 23: I spent the whole day at the hospital. In the afternoon Bob got moved from the ICU to a private room in the Widener Building. The move to a private room seemed like a nice idea, but there was only one nurse for several patients, and I felt that I had to be around to be his advocate. It was very cold in his room. I should have thought to bring a blanket from home. The hospital’s skimpy cotton blankets were not close to adequate, and the standard pillows were hard and uncomfortable for his damaged head. Back home in the evening, I returned more phone calls and answered more emails. I’d thawed out some frozen lasagna, but I couldn’t manage to eat it.

Tuesday, April 24: I got to AMH around 9:00 AM. Bob was slated to be sprung that day. The papers were finally signed at 3:00 PM, and we left the hospital with discharge papers. The nurse said Bob should take Tylenol for pain. It did not occur to me to ask for a prescription for pain killers. This failure haunted me/us for the next several days. The car trip home was very hard for Bob. Every bump (who knew there were so many?) created a splitting headache. He made it up the stairs at home and went right to bed. He got up later, and showered and shaved. He hadn’t showered or shaved since the day of the accident.

Wednesday morning, April 25:  Bob had an intense headache (“10 out of 10”). I called everywhere to get a prescription for oxycodone with no luck. The bitterly ironic thing: Bob’s family doctor had retired just before Bob’s accident, so he was unreachable. No other doctor in the group was willing to write a prescription. So the only recourse was to head for the ER at AMH. Another bumpy ride. They reviewed his case, did another CT scan, and 4 hours later, wrote a prescription for oxycodone. A bright spot: Ellyn and Aaron had been in the area and stopped in to visit Bob. Aaron was very much interested in all the hospital paraphernalia. Russ came over to the house to visit later on.

Thursday, April 26: Bob was miserable all day again. Severe headache. People called and wanted to visit, but I had to head them off. I’d planned to go to opera class, and Bob said, “Go!” so I got in the car and started out. I got a few blocks away and changed my mind. I hated the idea of leaving him alone that long (a couple of hours). In the evening his head felt warm. I took his temperature and it read 100.4. At just this time Ashley Angert, an old friend, called to check on Bob. I told him about the fever, and he said, “Get him to the ER! It could be an infection.” So I called friend and neighbor Martin, who’d said he wanted to help. “Now’s your chance,” I said. Bob said, “No!” but I said we had to go. It was another 4 hour stay in the ER. A very fine trauma surgeon studied Bob’s case (by that time his temperature was normal). He gave us a very reasoned assessment of Bob’s condition, after another CT scan, and said there was no reason to admit Bob. So we bundled him up (poor Bob – he was so miserable) and took him home. I guess we got in around 12:30 AM.
Each night for the first week or two he got up around 2:00 AM and went downstairs to make coffee and sleep the rest of the night on the couch. Of course that woke me up (I was sleeping in the guest room) and each night I got up to check on him. I was terrified that he would trip on the stairs and fall. Our house is a split-level – all stairs. He was very careful, and used his cane for balance, but still … I got an email from JoAnn Raine who said, “Don’t let him wander around at night. He might fall.” Apparently her husband fell and hit his head, and JoAnn thought that triggered his eventual dementia. One more thing to worry about.

Friday, April 27: A better day. Bob was still “out of it” but the pain seemed to be less. He slept most of the day, but did talk on the phone with Linda Hoffman, Adrienne and Zoe. I finished reading In the Garden of the Beasts by Erik Larsen while Bob was sleeping. It’s a remarkable book. Thank goodness for books.

Saturday, April 28: This day started out badly. Bob hadn’t made it all the way to the toilet to pee when he got up at night, and hit the bathroom floor instead. Afterwards he’d tried to balance with his cane and clean it up with tissues, but that didn’t work out too well, and I slipped on it when I went in there in the morning. It took a lot of water and Spic ‘n Span to clean it up so it wasn’t sticky and smelly. To make matters worse, right after that I flooded the kitchen with coffee. I hadn’t seated the basket in the coffee maker correctly. The first of the visiting nurses came. She said Bob was doing well. Russ, Ellyn and the boys turned up for a visit, and Russ went out and got a WAWA sandwich for everybody. Biz arrived from Maryland around 11:00 AM to help out. It was pretty hectic, but Bob really enjoyed seeing the boys. When he wanted to go back to bed (he was exhausted) I had to run upstairs to make the bed for him. I’d had to wash the sheets and the mattress pad after the pee episode. We needed more pain medication (I’d forgotten to request it at out last visit to the ER) and went through a series of phone calls to see what we could do. I called the visiting nurse and she contacted the physician’s assistant who called in a prescription for hydrocodone. It wasn’t what we wanted but that was the best he could do. Biz went out and picked up a pizza, and Bob ate a slice for dinner! His first food since the accident. He had eaten nothing while he was in the hospital. He’d been smelling like acetone – starvation smell. Scary.

Sunday morning, April 29: Bob got up at 3:00 AM, came downstairs and made coffee. He had a severe headache. I led him back to bed, with pills and vitamin water, which he knocked over with his cane. More clean-up. After more phone calls Biz and I took him back to the ER for more oxycodone. This time we were there 3 hours. Biz was a great moral support. She did a little grocery shopping for me, and provided much needed quiet company. She left for home around 2:30 PM.

Monday, April 30: An up and down day for Bob. He felt awful first thing in the morning as usual. PT came and put him through some paces, then Buck came, and then Marvin, then the visiting nurse. Exhausting. He wanted to take a walk down the path behind our house. Unrealistic, and it didn’t happen. Later, he said he wanted to get back on a “regular schedule” so he got out the ingredients for some sort of gumbo (goodness knows what prompted that) and then lay down on the couch and went to sleep at 7:30. I put everything away. He went to bed for the night at 9:30 PM.

Tuesday, May 1: A quieter day, though Bob got up at 2:00 AM to make coffee. He decided to take himself off oxycodone (hallucinations). So from now on he’d be on extra-strength acetaminophen for headaches. Ivan came to visit. Bob walked down the sidewalk, with cane, as far as Pam’s driveway. He made the Creole dinner, finally. A good sign.

Wednesday, May 2: The first narcotics-free day. It was raining. Bob got up a few times during the night. PT people came in the morning, put him through more exercises. We went to see Dr. Urbanski, Bob’s new family doctor, at Ambler in the afternoon. Bob’s case was totally unfamiliar to him, and the visit was long and tiring. Bob was exhausted. His hearing and eyesight are improving slowly. We watched a little TV after dinner (the first time it was turned on since the accident – he still sees double) and were in bed by 10:00 PM.

Thursday, May 3: Not a bad day. Still no narcotics. We’ve been living on Safeway soup (Biz introduced us to it – it’s about the only thing either of us can stomach with all the stress and discomfort). Bert came over for a visit. Visitors wear Bob out. When he left, Bob and I took a walk down the block – a little farther this time. It was very tiring for him. We decided to scuttle our planned late May-early June Alaska trip, and told Ann and Mac Scott, who would’ve traveled with us. We went to bed at 9:30 PM.

Friday, May 4: An OK day. Bob’s not allowed to drive. I drove him over to Bert and Les’s (It was Bob’s first outing that didn’t have to do with the ER). Bob wanted to loan Bert one of our GPS’s for their trip to Magee Marsh. Bob had it all equipped with appropriate coordinates. Ann and I had a talk about Alaska. It looks like friends of theirs will take our place. All good. It’s relief not to have to worry about that. Bob and I took a short walk.

Saturday, May 5: I went outside and did a little yard clean-up. It’s starting to look like Jurassic Park here. Russ, Ellyn and the boys came over for a short visit. We all took a short walk down the block. We watched the Kentucky Derby, and had a quiet evening.

Sunday, May 6: We did“dry run” to all the locations for doctors’ visits this coming week. We found all of them. I did some more yard work in the afternoon. Martin came over to visit. We watched some TV and went to bed early. I’ve been sleeping badly this whole time. Every time Bob wakes up I wake up too, even though I’ve been sleeping in the guestroom.

Monday, May 7: A crazy day. Bruce and Frank took delivery of our new dishwasher and range, and began installing them. It didn’t go smoothly. In the midst of all that I had a Wyncote Audubon meeting in the front room transferring responsibility for publicity for our chapter. Bob hobbled about with his cane, giving advice to Bruce and Frank. He’s doing much better.

Tuesday, May 8: Another crazy day. The PT person came in the morning, in the midst of Bruce and Frank and my trip to Produce Junction. Bruce and Frank pretty much finished up in the afternoon. Bob and I took a walk to the mailbox and back. Sammy called to tell us about the bird’s egg he found.

Wednesday, May 9: We went to see Dr. Lam, the eye doctor. Seems Bob is doing as well as can be expected at this point. We learned then about the “contre-coup” fracture over his right eye, along with the primary fracture on the other side of his head. This was news to us. Getting information from the AMH people was not easy. The OT person came. She was very good. She suggested that Bob play solitaire and other games, and also play the piano to strengthen eye-hand coordination. We did a few errands together after lunch. I was worn out. So was he.

Thursday, May 10: We went for the required CT scan. We had to wait 2 ½ hours to get a properly written script. The physician’s assistant at the hospital had not specified “head” on the script, and they couldn’t do it without that. Very aggravating. We saw the ENT guy, Philip Rosenfeld after that. It turned out he had been a classmate of Bob’s at Elwood Elementary, Wagner JHS and Central HS in Philly. He got some of the dried blood clot out of Bob’s ear and said the rest would disperse of its own accord in time. We hung around home in the afternoon. I started reading The Best and the Brightest by  David Halberstam. It is a remarkable account of the run-up to the Vietnam War. I’d been meaning to read it for years.

Friday, May 11: We went to see RJ Meagher (pronounced “Mahr”), Bob’s neurosurgeon, for his final check-up. Bob was given a clean bill of health. Meagher said Bob can do whatever he wants, including drive. That’s a relief. He did say, though, if Bob vomits he has to go to the ER right away. That made me glad we cancelled the Alaska trip. I sent refund forms to insurance company for Alaska trip reimbursement. We started watching the PBS production of Bleak House, the book for this year’s Dickens Universe in early August. Bob’s reading the novel now. I read it earlier, and will reread it before the Universe.

Saturday, May 12: We went to Ethan’s baseball game. Bob was wiped out afterwards. Too much. We went to the cemetery with Mother’s Day flowers. Bob’s worried about his eyes – still seeing double sometimes.

Sunday, May 13: Bob’s doing much better. I worked in front garden.

Monday, May 14: Visiting nurses all done. Bob is allowed to drive and there’s no need for them to come.

Tuesday, May 15: Bill Mann came over to visit. Bob enjoyed the visit, but took a nap afterwards.

Wednesday, May 16: I went to Peace Valley for Ann’s bird walk – my first bird trip since Bob’s accident. David and Debbie Bell came over for an afternoon visit.

Thursday, May 17: I went to Opera Class. The Ring Cycle. “Real life” is coming back.

Friday, May 18: Crisis over Wyncote Audubon program – speaker for Friday night had to cancel. Cliff Hence filled in. Bob stayed home this time.

Saturday, May 19: Bob and I walked FWSP in morning and went to “All Star Little League Game” in afternoon. Ethan’s team lost 12-2.

Sunday, May 20: On our walk at FWSP we ran into Stephen Decker, Bob’s retired physician at Ambler. I told him he picked a terrible time to retire. He gave Bob the name of a nearby neurologist.

Monday, May 21: Bob went to the tennis court with Bill Murphy to say hello to all his tennis buddies who have been missing him. More “real life”.

Friday, May 25: Bob played 5 holes of golf.

Wednesday, May 30: Visit to Dr. Lam, the ophthalmologist who examined Bob at AMH. Everything checked out well except for double vision in one little area. Dr. Lam could not explain that. Maybe it’ll improve in time. Bob played all 9 holes on the Flourtown course.
Since then we’ve been taking walks, almost daily, at Fort Washington State Park. Bob’s been playing some golf, too, sometimes only 5 holes.

During the first rough weeks, many friends offered to visit or to help. In most cases these offers were gratefully acknowledged and refused. Any sort of excitement or noise was very difficult for Bob to deal with. Even visiting family was warned, “Keep it short, and keep it quiet.”

Wednesday, June 6: Update. Advice from family doctor: No tennis for the foreseeable future, no bike riding until double vision clears up. Otherwise, resume normal activities. So far, so good.

A final note: It’s pretty ironic that the laws make it so difficult to obtain opiates for legitimate pain relief, and so easy, apparently, for abusers to get them.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Adventures With Scanning Old Family Slides

Adventures With Scanning Old Family Slides

I’ve spent the last few weeks scanning boxes and boxes of old family Kodachrome and Ektachrome slides. I made a few key decisions before starting out. First I had to decide whether to purchase a slide scanner or send them to a commercial outfit to have them done professionally. I decided to buy a slide scanner. I found that they range from under $100 to over $1000. I ordered an $89 ION scanner from B&H Photo. From the description and the reviews it seemed adequate to suit my purposes. Then I had to decide how to go about weeding out the discards. Early on, when I began thinking about the project, I made the decision to throw out any images that were not associated with family. In other words, the thousands of travel, nature, bird, butterfly and mammal slides were going to go. I filled many, many plastic garbage bags with those. I still think that was a good decision, even though many of the pictures, to say nothing of the memories, were excellent. I looked at over 4000 family pictures, and kept nearly 1500. Both my dad and my ex were photographers, and I took up the hobby myself eventually.

So then the project actually began. I worked with the scanner in my upstairs office and downstairs at a light table made for me by Uncle Art, probably 40 or 50 years ago. I had a Trader Joes paper bag next to me for the discards. The only downside of this part of the project was an aching back. I had to lean over a little to look at the images on the light table, and I had to sit for hours at my laptop to review each image and make further decisions about keepers and discards. I’m not good at sitting still. The little wastebasket in my office was full of further discards each day that I worked on the project.

But the fun part of all of it was reliving so many memories. The “kids” in the pictures are now in their 50s, or very close to it. So the slides go back a long long time. I found the only record of 10-year-old Biz in a leg cast. I found records of the kids’ old boyfriends and girlfriends. I found pictures of James in his Navy uniform, leaving for the Persian Gulf in 1989, and pictures of Cliffi leaving for San Diego and her first year at college. There’s a picture of Biz holding a cigarette. And a picture of West in his Boy Scout uniform. There are pictures of high school and college graduations, and pictures of the kids at University City Swim Club, where the younger two learned to swim, James at age 2.

So now the images are all in folders on my laptop, and on an external hard drive for safekeeping. Too many hours of work to risk losing anything! I’ve kept the original slides, too, just in case. They take up 1 ½ slide boxes.

I have records, now, of all the significant black and white pictures, too. I scanned them some years ago. Each one of my children has a CD of those. The next project will be putting these new scans on CDs, too, to send to them.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Thinking about New Year's Resolutions

I’d been planning to write a little something about my own New Year’s resolutions when I came across a piece in this past Sunday’s New York Times Sunday Review section. John Tierney, the author of the article, “Be It Resolved”, wrote: “… you’re much more likely to make improvements than someone who hasn’t made a formal resolution.” I guess that means making an actual written list of the resolutions, not just thinking about it when I wake up in the middle of the night.
 The article starts out with people’s most common resolutions: to lose weight, to exercise more, to spend less money.

So far I had not made a list of my own 2012 resolutions, so I’ll do that here:

1)      Take off the 5 pounds I recently put on, after losing 12 last year. How did that happen?
2)      Work on Rosetta Stone Spanish at least an hour a day.
3)      Spend at least an hour a day playing the piano.
4)      Spend less time on Facebook so I’ll have more time for #3 and #4.
5)      Call, not just email, my grown-up children more often. They live all over the place.
6)      Get back to pursuing some genealogy.
7)      Scan slides of family activities. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of them.
8)      Blog more often. It gets me writing, which I need to do.

Weight: Those pounds snuck up on me. I don’t think they have anything to do with holiday celebrations. I think I’m just back into my old eating habits. I exercise as much as I ever did, so I don’t think that’s a factor. I just need to be more careful about what I put in my mouth, both liquid and solid. Wish I didn’t like Scotch and brandy so much.

Spanish: I’ve recently taken classes in conversational Spanish. They  got me basically nowhere. I’ve stuck little labels all over the house: “el horno” on the oven, “la ventana” on a window. A little of it stays with me, but I still go into a “deer in the headlights” mode when I have to come up with a word or phrase. So I need to practice more if I ever expect to hold a conversation. I’m hoping that a greater commitment to Rosetta Stone will help.

Piano: We got a nice little spinet from our friend Lynn who had no further use for it. We’ve had it tuned several times to get it up to pitch. It sounds pretty good. Bob plays it off and on, and I do too, except that, for me, it’s mostly “off.”

Facebook: No explanation needed.

Phone contact: I really don’t like to use the phone. I can’t understand why I think I need an iPhone; I don’t think I’ll ever turn it on, but we’ll see. But I do like talking with my sons and daughters, grandkids, and sons and daughters-in-law. So I plan to get around the time zones and do more of that.

Genealogy: My daughters are asking questions about who came from where. That should motivate me. I have to get back to a somehow removed cousin to find out more about my father’s family. Mother’s data is much more difficult to access. I think I might have to travel to Prague, or at least the courthouse in Cleveland  to find out more.

Scanning slides: I just have to resolve to do it. A couple of years ago I scanned all the black and white photos (hundreds of them), copied them to my external hard drive, and sent CDs to all the kids. So now I have to attack the slides. I need to find out about slide scanners and buy a decent one.

So maybe I’ve bitten off more than I can chew (no reference to food). I’ll just have to see how it goes.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Looking Back on Some Memorable Readings, Movies, Plays, Operas, TV Shows

Maye’s Request, by Clifford Henderson
The Feast of the Goat, about the Trujillo regime, by Vargas Llosa
Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson
La’s Orchestra, by Alexander McCall Smith
An Unsuitable Job for a Woman, by P.D. James
The Right Attitude to Rain, Alexander McCall Smith
The Darkest Jungle, by Todd Balf, about finding a way through the Darien to the Pacific
Cleopatra, by Stacy Schiff
In the Time of the Butterflies, by Julia Alvarez
The Lacuna, by Barbara Kingsolver
Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese
Innocent, by Scott Turow
Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens,  for the 2011 Dickens Universe
Unbroken, by Lauren Hillenbrand
The Rest Is Noise, by Alex Ross
The Border Trilogy and The Road by Cormac McCarthy
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot  
Undaunted Courage, by Stephen Ambrose
Frankenstein, by Mary Wollenstonecraft Shelley
Bleak House, by Charles Dickens
Supposing Bleak House, by John Jordan, for the 2012 Dickens Universe
The Help, by Emma Donoghue
How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, by Julia Alvarez
Alma Rose, by Edith Forbes
Darwin’s Armada, by Iain McCalman
The Room, by Kathryn Stockett
Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen
The Disappearing Spoon, by Sam Kean
The Ape House, by  Sara Gruen
The Marriage Plot, by Jeffrey Eumenides
A Good American, by Alex George
Code of the Woosters, by H.G. Wodehouse
The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern
Darwin and the Novelists, by George Levine
The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros
The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak 
 Verdi’s Shakespeare, by Garry Wills
Catherine The Great, by Robert Massie
and, into 2012, Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eumenides.

Movies (in theaters and on TV):
True Grit with Jeff Bridges; Letter to Three Wives; The Siberian Express; Pollock; The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest; The Bourne Ultimatum; Social Network (my favorite for the year, should’ve won the Oscar); Gaslight; The Graduate; Born Yesterday (with Judy Holliday); Not the Messiah;  Reduced Shakespeare; Charade with Audrey Hepburn; Annie Hall; Major League (an annual favorite); The Fighter; While You Were Sleeping; The King’s Speech; Easter Parade; Tell No One; The Wedding Planner; David Copperfield; The Best Years of Our Lives; Emma; Get Shorty; Bringing Up Baby; City Lights;  The Soloist; Great Expectations (David Lean); Harry Potter II; The Lincoln Lawyer; Midnight In Paris; The Big Year; Moonstruck (again); My Week with Marilyn; Hugo; The Front (Woody Allen); The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (American version); the new Muppet Movie.

Plays (at the Arden and Act II Playhouse):
Superior Donuts, Wanamaker’s Pursuit, Art, The Male Intellect, Sylvia, The Mystery of Irma Vep, Romeo and Juliet (Severna Park High School production)

Operas (all HDTV productions):
Iphegenie in Tauride, Nixon in China, Lucia di Lammermoor, Capriccio, Le Comte Ory, Die Walkure, Anna Bolena, Siegfried, Don Giovanni, Satyagraha.

Classical Music:
Philadelphia Orchestra, three concerts. Highlights: Brahms Requiem;  Higdon’s  Concerto for Orchestra, both conducted by Yannick Nezet-Seguin; Copland, Clarinet Concerto with Ricardo Morales, conducted by Marin Alsop.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Our Holiday Letter -- A Summary of the Year's Activities

Dear Friends and Family,                                         

We’ll best remember the winter of 2011 for the snow. It seemed as if we’d just finished shoveling the driveway and cleaning off the cars in time for another blizzard.

But, for more fun things, we started off 2011 with a visit to Biz and Tom and the boys in Severna Park for our traditional late holiday celebration. Soon after that we left for a couple of weeks in California to see Adrienne, Judah and Zoe in San Francisco; Cliff and Dixie in Santa Cruz; Kaaren and Steve in Morro Bay; and West and Dani in Winchester. We’ll do the trip again in January 2012.

In February we drove to Florida, stopping in Salisbury, NC to see Jerry Cochran, and in Decatur, GA to see Rafe and Ilze. We spent a couple of nights with Ann and Mac Scott in Sarasota, and three nights in Naples with Tom and Mary Cush. Then across the state to see Alvin, and the long drive home.

March brought our second trip to Panama. I had put the trip together, along with Hernan Arauz, our guide from our previous trip. All of the participants were good friends of ours. We visited several different parts of Panama, from the resort at Gamboa to a native Embara village where we stayed in an elevated hut. One highlight was a long, muddy hike to see the Harpy Eagle, a truly awesome bird. Hernan and his fiancé Rebecca visited us at Christmastime, and we took them to Longwood Gardens.

We drove to Boston in early April to attend Andy’s pre-graduation concert. He and classmates had composed several pieces, which were performed in a concert hall by professional musicians. As part of that trip we visited Linda Hoffman in Harvard, MA and Carol and Don Scott in Chatham.

In May we met friends Susan and Jack at Magee Marsh in Ohio to see migrating warblers. In late July we returned to Santa Cruz for the Dickens Universe and Great Expectations. Then to Katy, TX in early September for a few days’ visit with James and Sharesa. Back to Santa Cruz in mid September for our annual dog-sit on Monterey Bay.

Clifford and Dixie visited us in October, as part of their East Coast trip. We all went to NYC to meet friend Fred Huber at Penguin Publishing. We ate a memorable lunch at Ear Inn in the financial district. Later on that month we saw Sam perform in “Witches” in Annapolis.

In the midst of all that we managed to get to see several HDTV Met Operas, some PhilOrch concerts, a few plays at Act II Playhouse in Ambler, and went to PMA for some special art exhibits.

I continued as program chair of our local Audubon chapter, and went out birding with friends at least once a week. I also did some NY trips with Cheltenham Adult Education School. I post some ramblings at Bob continued with his golf and tennis. We had our kitchen updated, with new counters and a new floor. It looks nice.

We’ve been discouraged with the way financial markets continue to operate, and with the current political scene, but all in all, it’s been a good, busy year for us.

We wish you all the best in 2012.