Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas Vacation

My this is nice. I recommend two weeks vacation to everyone. It’s been a busy year and I (like others) face the use-it-or-lose-it situation. Company rules only allow me to carry forward 40 hours into 2011, so it’s now or never. As it is, I’m still going to “lose” a few hours.

The weather is cooperating and I’ve been spending a great deal of time outdoors. Yesterday Shana and I went to the local municipal golf course for a few quick laps on the cross country skis. We were under the impression the trail was “groomed”. Not sure where we got that idea. It’s near the high school and used by the cross-country ski team for practice – so maybe we just assumed. It wasn’t groomed – but that did not matter too much as others had broken a nice trail for us. It’s not a long course – only about 10 minutes per loop – but the weather was great – almost 30 degrees and sunny.

Part of the fun was wearing this old jacket on the course. I found it in the closet, and it screamed 1979, so I tried it on and it fit perfectly. We are unsure of its origins, but it’s most likely a Jake original, one of Shana’s father’s hand-me-downs. Not even sure why it’s in our closet as Jake never gives up old items. I usually give most of my clothing away before it gets too outdated, so I’ve been burned lately when all these 1970s (and now 80s) styles are coming back into vogue. Perhaps the time has come for this jacket – perhaps not.

Goal today – give away stuff. We have one bag for Goodwill and another for the local community center which collects stuff for the Karen refugees. [Old Strib article.] Finally, there will be several bags for Half Price Books. I’m afraid to bring them all in at one time – but what’s the chance that I will go back over several days?

Finally - making potato soup today. I currently have a large ham bone left over from the Christmas ham simmering away to create the broth. Smells great!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas 2010

[The past few years I've wondered why I don't just post this online and save all the hassle of mailing it, but then I remember that my aunts and uncles would never find it that way. Besides, it wouldn't be a Christmas "letter" then.]

It was a very busy year – but what’s new? Every year we take on more activities. Somehow we find time to do it all, and it makes our lives more interesting and rewarding.

John (the Dad) started the year with his first ever broken bones. Alas it wasn’t the sort of injury that resulted in a cool cast that all his friends could autograph. He slipped on the ice while walking Duke and fractured two vertebrae and suffered a nasty whiplash. The recovery went well, but it involved many weeks of physical therapy. He still complains of the occasional pain-in-the-neck but we’re not sure if that’s due to the injury or something else.

John continues to spend his days at Thomson Reuters. This year was especially busy with some new duties, and tons of glamorous business travel. The highlight of his business travels was dropping his BlackBerry in a cup of coffee while returning home – one day before the family vacation. The result – no work BlackBerry on the family vacation – excellent timing!

When he’s not dropping BlackBerrys in coffee, John keeps busy with his duties on the Roseville Planning Commission. They re-wrote (updated) the old 1959 zoning code this year – lots of work, and what seemed like a million public hearings.

John and the kids performed in two Rosetown Playhouse productions this year – the summer production of Oliver!, and a crazy version of A Christmas Carol in December. John enjoyed his first speaking role in A Christmas Carol, but it was nothing compared to Maria’s “love scene” as the adolescent Belle (Scrooge’s lost love), and a beautiful musical number. John-John played Random Reveler #1 – a role he excelled in.

Shana continues to make history at the Minnesota Historical Society. When she’s not carting the kids around to after school and evening activities, she is active in Girl Scouts and various volunteer activities at Rosetown Playhouse. Dad and the kids haven’t talked her into coming on-stage yet. She seems content to sell tickets, concessions, and usher. Some day!

Maria turned 13 this year. As always, Maria lives a life immersed in song. In addition to two different church choirs, Maria sings in a school choir and the Giovani choir – part of Project Opera. One of the highlights of the year was Maria’s performance in the Minnesota Opera’s production of La bohème at the Ordway.

John-John (age 10) – stays out of trouble with school, plays, basketball, drumming, and piano. One of the highlights of 2010 was the boys (Dad and John-John) trip to Washington, D.C. for spring break. They enjoyed spending time with Shana’s brother John and his wife Sue (and Otto – of course). The boys also walked (and walked) all over DC checking out the museums and other cultural landmarks. The highlight (according to Dad) was coming within 20 feet of the President as his motorcade left the White House. Not bad for just stumbling upon this while walking around the White House. Too bad the President was looking the other way. We did confirm it was the back of his head.

The family zoo welcomed a new member this year with the addition of a stray cat John found in a local park. That cute little kitty subsequently attacked Shana, requiring a trip to the doctor for Shana, and a visit with the Vet for the stray. Luckily no one had rabies, but Shana had to take monster-sized antibiotics while she waited for all the scratches to heal. That makes three cats – Roscoe the original, Patches who we are keeping “temporarily” for a friend, and Reggie the attack cat – who has adjusted to life in his new home quite nicely.

Duke the Golden Retriever continues to enjoy life with only a few emergency trips to the vet this year – the latest for ingesting too many mushrooms. We also lost one member of the animal family when Chubby [or was it Haley] the hamster passed away.
We didn’t spend as much time at the cabin as we would have liked. The first part of the summer was taken up with rehearsals and performances of Oliver! Later, in August, we flew to Maine for a week on the Atlantic shore. We stayed in a very nice home and took lots of pictures. In fact, all the pictures on the Christmas card were snapped there. After a crazy, crowded day in Acadia National Park, we spent the rest of the week enjoying the smaller, out-of-the-way attractions in all the little towns nearby. It was fun to explore along the beach – though it was a work-out as we climbed and jumped from rock to rock (really huge boulders) that make up the “beach”.

We hope you have had a great year, and wish you all Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year.

John, Shana, Maria, and John-John

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Flash Mob - Project Opera

As I posted on Facebook, I was on carpool duty today, driving Maria, a friend, and the Dude downtown for a Flash Mob performance of Night of Silence/Silent Night at City Center. It was a Project Opera event for the young people in the two choirs, along with alumni and parents.

I think it delighted the shoppers and noon lunch crowd. Maria saw one woman start to weep, and I overheard someone say, "Oh, this is one of those flash mobs like on the internet."

Yes, it's on the internet. Here's the Project Opera report. and I captured it in all it's glory on the Flip - don't know why I stood behind and to the side of the singers the whole time. Video here.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Curtain Call

[Photo by Chas Campbell,]

Whew! It’s over. The last performance of A Christmas Carol was Sunday – Saturday’s performance being cancelled due to the blizzard. Of course the kids and I miss it already and are looking forward to the summer production of A Wizard of Oz.

The last few days we've been busy digging out of the blizzard that cancelled Saturday's performance and wreaked all sorts of havoc across Minnesota. The Dude has been home from school the past two days as his school. Yes – it’s true we live in Roseville where the streets have been plowed clean since early Sunday morning, but the Dude attends a private school in St. Paul which follows their schedule. St. Paul schools are closed – so we are home.

Maria attends school in Roseville – and is getting a little jealous/angry about her brother’s situation. Both Minneapolis and St. Paul schools have been closed due to the snow, cold - and the inabilty to plow the streets in such a manner as to allow safe passage to and from school.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

What is Vacation?

Never again will I be caught in December with 150 hours of vacation. Company rules only allow me to carry 40 hours over into the New Year. I’m taking it as fast as I can, but I suspect I'll "lose" some before the year runs out. I still need to work and I find that “vacation” just means not being physically in the office, but responding to emails via BlackBerry anyway.

I started this year with 40 hours carried over from 2009, but given my senior status, it seems I get more vacation that I can actually use. Looking back the only real vacation I took was the week in Maine last August and a day or two throughout the year.

I plan to take the last two weeks of December off – but that seems a bit irresponsible to my products so I will probably monitor and respond to email anyway.

Why do they give you vacation anyway when you really never get away?

Christmas Carol - Week One

[Christmas Carol promotional photo with both me (upper right) and the Dude (lower left) reaching out to grab Scrooge. [Photo by Chas Campbell, Visit Rosetown Playhouse on Facebook for more photos.]

We had a great time last weekend at our first three performances of Christmas Carol. The first two shows (Friday and Saturday night) seemed a bit slow and the audience didn't laugh at all the funny parts - in my opinion. By Sunday afternooon we really turned it on and the audience really responded.

I think we all fully recovered from last week which began with 8 (yes eight) hours of rehearsal on Sunday, November 28 and ran straight through the week with rehearsals every night from 6:00 to 9:30, then performances Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The kids slept 12 hours on Saturday and Sunday night. Even I "slept in" until 7:15 on Saturday - late for me.

Still three performances remaining - Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, December 10, 11, and 12. Visit Rosetown Playhouse for more information.