Friday, December 16, 2011

2011 Letter

Greetings one and all -


I hope that this letters finds everyone well in mind, spirit and body. A couple of months ago I heard someone talk about dealing with tough times and the importance of sticking with the fundamentals - the basic things that you would do in the best of times. Activities like taking a small break, taking a walk, eating good foods. Sometimes it is as simple as taking a five minute break to reset yourself mentally or go outside and get the sun on your back (at least when the sun is available). I followed this advice and found it immensely helpful; I’d often come back inside to find problems were no longer as difficult, solutions would flow and my focus sharper. So I encourage everyone to take a moment right now and remember the ultimate fundamental: breathing. Take a few deep cleansing breaths - go ahead, I’ll wait. To quote from Happy Gilmore, “in with the good, out with the bad.”

Ainsley had another productive year. She continued her involvement with the Kids at Play group, performing in Cole Porter’s Anything Goes. She played the photographer in the opening scene, with several speaking lines. Apparently this is a big deal for a second year student. She was great. She was pretty nervous about wearing a microphone, but it didn’t show during her performance. It was pretty amazing to watch her up there confidently delivering her lines and acting well beyond her ten years of age. This fall she’s been participating in an acting class. They are doing Shakespeare’s Macbeth. She was a little freaked out by the material at first, but has moved past that and is enjoying the class. So next time you have questions about iambic pentameter you’ll know who to ask. Next summer she will be part of the cast of Annie. We are all looking forward to that one. She continues to take piano lessons and Irish dance. Both of which she continues to progress in. Her piano recital pieces are getting more and more complex and more enjoyable. She is well beyond the days of “hot cross buns” and “Mary had a little lamb”. Phew.

Finley has really showed us his creativity this year. This has come in many different forms. The first form is art; this kid will sit down at the art table for a couple hours at a time and turn out copious amounts of art in various media: paint, colored pencil, collage (think glue, glitter, Popsicle sticks, mini pom-poms and more glue) and lately play-dough. The subject material ranges from praying mantis, turtles, dragons, airplanes to tornadoes and family members. The second form is construction. The old joke about kids liking the box something came in more than the gift itself is very true for Finn. He loves making things about of cardboard boxes. In November he made a “Pizza Tricker” contraption. This was a four box setup with one of the boxes being an old frozen pizza box that was used as a door - you could rotate it open to reveal the contents of the other boxes. He built different slats and openings in the boxes that people were supposed to attempt to throw coins into. One of the slots was covered with an old water bottle that also had two slots cut into it. So you would put the coin into the top slot and hope that it fell through the slot in the other side of the bottle and fall into the box. Tricky stuff. But the real genius of this contraption was this: he kept the money. He was up front about this when he asked you to play, but in good carnival worker fashion, he’d still convince you to play. Crafty little bugger.
The third form is language. He invented the word poosh. It is a sound effect that can be used for just about any event. Here are some examples: the sound a car makes if it drives off a bridge and lands in the water, the sound of a glass breaking in the kitchen, the sound you’d hear if you could magically fall into a pool of marshmallows, the sound of a high-five, any Mythbuster’s explosion. Along with this language is a game he likes to play called “which one”. Here he give you two choices and you’d have to pick one. Again an example: strawberries or the beach? The two choices don’t always go together which makes it that much harder to choose. The sun or arms?

At the end of October the construction thing haunted us a little. He took a four foot length of 2x6 and placed one end on the piano bench and the other on the piano. He then tried to scale the board which slipped causing him to fall - he ended up breaking his upper palate, cutting his cheek pretty bad and losing two more teeth. It was a scary moment for all of us. In typical fashion he has recovered much faster than either Christy or I. We find ourselves quoting the film “As Good As It Gets” a lot since then: “have fun but don’t run”. Our deep appreciation goes to Dr. Werner, the oral surgeon who put our little Humpty Dumpty back together again.

Jade is following closely behind in her older sister’s footsteps. She is taking piano lessons right along with Ainsley now. She is taking to it quite well and seems to have a natural ability. Wait, now we are back to “hot cross buns” and “Mary has a little lamb”. Shucks. She is currently in her second ballet class of the year. She always looks forward to her class and gets excited about going, but honestly I think it is more about dressing up and wearing a pink tutu than anything else. She is darn cute all dressed up though.

One of the things I have always found a little annoying about musicals is that there is nothing realistic about it. For instance, a group of people are sitting around and all of sudden one will break out into song and the rest will magically be dancing in unison - they all just happen to think and move the same way? Crazy. Jade has single handily proven me wrong. Recently we were sitting around having dinner when out of the blue Jade starting singing “Tomorrow” from Annie. As the first chorus started to repeat she slipped herself out of her chair, glided into the living room and proceeded to sing and dance for the next several minutes. It was as if she were in a trance. We were living in a musical. Unbelievable. The best part was instead of the lyrics “I just stick out my chin” she sang “just think of my chin and grin”. And of course now we do.

Christy, as you can guess, wears many hats around here. I often reference her as the traveling secretary because of all the schedules and appointments she manages. She always makes sure that everyone is where they are supposed to be, provides ample lead time and, in my case, provides reminder phone calls. It is really an impressive feat that she pulls off with stunning accuracy. We’d all be very lost without her. This fall she took an online photography class to help her understand the finer nuances of digital photography. She has always had a natural photographer’s eye and a great ability to capture the best images, but she wanted to do more - plus taking a class for herself was something she really deserved. She is getting deep into relationships between ISO, aperture, shutter speed, white balance, fooling the cameras light meter and forcing it to focus on things it doesn’t want to. In just a few short weeks you can already see the difference. The pictures she is capturing for her homework are really good. Her recent pictures from Tumwater Falls were really beautiful. I think I need to get a job at Snapfish in order to keep up with the upcoming printing bills. The downside now is that critical eye has been turned to all of her previous photos and see spends time dissecting them, “I should have done this, or that, I didn’t apply the rule of three here but did there”. The pictures that used to be good no longer cut the mustard.

In March I celebrated my fifth year at Ecology. Hard to believe. The time has gone by really quickly - at least that is what my manager said when he presented me with a pin. Another twenty and I get a plaque. I was awarded the Jim Krull Memorial Award for Outstanding Achievement. This award
“recognizes an employee or employees for outstanding accomplishments. Considerations for this category include contributions to the success of the Department of Ecology and Water Quality Program missions, the complexity and column of work requiring coordination between many parties, and a personal commitment to the project.“ During the presentation the program director said the application I built was a “game changer”. I don’t know if that is true or not - I’d like it to be and continue to work on making this true.

Our family did experience a small tragedy at the end of November as one of our goldfish, Rainbow Butterfly Pretty died. It was a surprise to us all as she seemed in good health leading up to her death. She was, to the best of our knowledge, a little over six years old. This, in my experience, is some type of record for domesticated goldfish. Godspeed Rainbow. The remaining fish, Benji, is thriving in his new found bachelor bad.

We did hold a tearful and very rainy ceremony for Rainbow Butterfly Pretty in our designated pet cemetery next to the lilac tree in the backyard. This area is the final resting place of Manuelo the praying mantis, the original Benji, the bird that hit our living room window and a baby duckling we found on the side of the road and unsuccessfully nursed back to health. At this pace we’ll likely have to find a new location as the unused real estate around the lilac is quickly drying up.

In the spirit of the Wall Street protesters: Occupy your minds and hearts with positive thoughts for a great 2012. May the new year be full of peace, love and good happiness stuff.

Best Wishes,

Tony, Christy, Ainsley, Finley and Jade