... a pebble in the pond

Good-Bye to 2013


The best part of the year was in May. Here we all are at Nick's and Katie's wedding (more later). Chris is an Assistant District Attorney in Bucks' County, PA, Barb is teaching in CA, Nick is with Second City in Chicago, and Andy is in medical sales in AZ.

Waking up on New Year's Eve proved to be very chilly inside 202 North Elm Street. 46 degrees inside - the furnace wasn't working. I called Lamoni Heating, Cooling, & Plumbing. Sunday/New Year's Eve. No answer - no answer at the emergency number. HELP! It's cold! I knew I'd need a new furnace. Hundreds of dollars. Wow - Happy New Year! Line up the space heaters - dribble water out of facets so the lines don't freeze. I turned off the furnace - when I turned it on again ... HEAT! The heat went on and off until January 2 when Lamoni Heating, Cooling, & Plumbing came to the rescue.

I still managed to watch football & OD'ed on bowl games - eating my way through them. Thank goodness the Fitz (Graceland Fitness Center) re-opened January 2 - still sooooooo easy to gain weight & get out of shape over the holidays. ... hard to get back into working out!

No More Biking This was a year for the Lamoni Recreational Trails - in January, I was appointed to the City Trails Commission. And ... at my first commission meeting, I was elected chairperson. I think what that means that no else one wanted to be chairperson - and I walked into a trap. But just the same, I was happy to be chair because the trails are a big part of my fitness program. Over the year, we had a trails kick-off, clean-up with GU students in the spring and football players in the fall. We built bird houses with the Mayor's Youth Council and placed them next to the trails. We mended fences, trimmed branches, and mowed grass along the trail. But, for me, the trails are about biking. Remember: In 2012, I biked 2,016 miles over 174 hours on the trails. In 2013 I biked 2153 miles in 183 hours. I saw frogs, snakes, deer, rabbits, a family of skunks, opossums, and was even attacked by a snapping turtle. Snapping turtles are fierce! Along the way, I passed a lot of friendly people. But winter is here ... my seat is empty ... snow is all around - no more biking until spring 2014.

Python Text Book
January 28th - starting my next course as an Computer Science major at Graceland. An introduction to the fundamentals of computer programming through extensive practice developing software in the Python language. "Fundamental terminology and topics such as integrated development environments, variables, data types, control structures, functions, and objects" were covered.


It didn't take too long into Python to decide to change my whimsical major. It's all math for the first month - the last time I took a math course was 1964. UGH! It's still fun to watch everything happen in class - but fortunately I'm only auditing it so I don't have to worry about showing what I'm learning. But ... I think my days as a Computer Science major are over.

Great Read!
In March, my brother, Dave, published a novel - The Headline Murders. It's not often that a first time author stikes gold, but Dave Rees's The Headline Murders is truly a rich read for mystery lovers everywhere. Set in Rees's hometown of Pittsburgh, The Headline Murders leads the reader on a fast paced mystery tour of the burg with stops in Arizona and California. Go to his website to learn more about the novel - and I hope you order one for yourself.

That's his daughter, Beth, holding the book.

The Winner March marked the annual duel between Darrel Baker, my good friend from Sioux City, and me for March Madness supremacy. It's not like picking brackets that most normal people do. Darrel and I go through the teams and pick 32 teams that face against each other. We bet a quarter on each game - but coming out the overall winner is much more important than the money!

The winner gets a travelling card which I'm holding with the winnings. The inside reads: A Salute to Your Big A**ed Achievement!

Darrel has been the winner the last three years and was claiming to be The Winner of the Decade! You guessed it - I WON ... and have the card to prove it with $1.50 inside! Of course it sits on my mantle. (In case you're reading this, Darrel - EAT YOUR HEART OUT!)

Hannah and Betsy The highlight of the year had to be Nick's and Katie's wedding on May 5th. We all arrived at the resort before the wedding - I roomed with Andy - and thoroughly enjoyed our pre- and post- wedding festivities. Betsy, Chris's daughter (pictured with Hannah, Chris's wife), just keeps growing and was a real charmer - unfazed by all the attention she received.

Wedding Welcome
Wedding Welcome

The wedding ceremony was at the AZUL Sensatori, a gourmet-inclusive resort 25 minutes south of downtown Cancun, located in Riviera Maya, Mexico. All meals were included, mini-bars were restocked daily, pools everywhere, a dazzling ocean - amenities galore! It was a great venue to have a wedding, and we all agreed that we should come back.

Andy performed the ceremony, Chris was best man, I gave the wedding welcome (pictured with the bride and groom), and Barb did a reading. Katie did an absolutely wonderful job of planning the entire event - and except for a stiff wind, the wedding was perfect! Katie was a beautiful bride - Nick looked dashing in his wedding attire ... right down to his red adidas.

Amanda Rees Austin
In August, I travelled to Pittsburgh and met up with Dave. Together we drove to the Baltimore area via a quick stop in Perkasie, PA to see the Chris Rees family (My goodness - Betsy was fun & had grown so much since May) for the funeral of our niece, Amanda Rees Austin who passed away - much too soon - after a long fight with cancer. I was so taken with how Amanda had touched so many lives - how giving she was - and even how quirky she could be at times. She was a beautiful human being - both attractive to look at and - on the inside - glowing with love and appreciation for others.

Our family is so scattered around the United States - and we see so little of each other. Catching up with everyone made my head spin - but it was a treat to do so. How did those kids get so old - so big? Some of us had gray hair - some had wrinkles - some walked a little slower. Even with the external changes ... still a family who cares for each other.

A rode trip with Dave - THE BEST! If only it had been for another purpose.

They Took Away My Racquetball Court!
They Took Away My Racquetball Court!
They took away my racquetball court (pictured with lockers all around me)! Jim Jones, my Lamoni friend and computer professor, and I have been playing racquetball almost once a week for several years at Graceland University. GU has one court. This year the GU football team had nearly 200 players - and not enough lockers. The court is right next to the football team locker room. Now, the court is part of the football team's locker room. DANG! Good thing Jim is a pretty smart guy - he found a court at the Bethany, MO recreational center. Bethany is about a half hour south of Lamoni - so almost once a week we go south to play racquetball. The court is old - cement floor - and the ball bounces funny (or differently) so it took some getting used to playing on it. But we did - and it's fun ... and the drive back and forth makes for some enjoyable guy talk. And every couple trips, we eat at a Mexican restaurant splitting a fajita dinner.

Intro to Film Realizing that my talents in computer science were limited, I tried another pathway - English. This past fall I signed up for Introduction to Film - watching movies all semester. The class encompassed film from the early classical cinema to hollywood blockbusters up to current independent cinema. We learned the history and development of film and cultural practice. The goal was "to both appreciate the formal dimensions of cinema and to gain the tools to talk about movies beyond their entertainment value." I watched movies like Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window, Blue Velvet (which wasn't about a horse), Citizen Kane (which I hate), Romeo & Juliet, Amelie (which was quirky and fun to watch), Memento (which I'm still trying to understand), Bonnie & Clyde (WHAT A FINAL SCENE!), and many others. Here's what I learned: I'll never watch a movie again like I used to. Plain & simple - I will always think about mise-en-scene, plot, narrative, properties, editing, sound ... . You get it. I would never have watched most of these films on my own - and I found a lot of genres that I could enjoy because of the class. The thing I liked most about the course was that the professor really wanted his students to learn - just like I always imagined an ideal professor should be.

Thanksgiving in Chicago!
Thanksgiving in Chicago!
Thanksgiving in Chicago! On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I got up early and caught the train at Osceola, Iowa (about a half hour north of Lamoni) heading for Chicago to spend the holiday with Katie, Nick, and Andy who flew in from the Phoenix area. I really enjoy the train - it takes about as long as flying - but it sure is more comfortable. We ate dinner out the first night and then went to a performance at Second City where Nick was part of the cast. He got a lot of laughs and stole the show (Katie and Andy both thought so, too). Nick is in a Second City travelling troupe and goes around the country performing - their team is going to Vienna in January. This was my 3rd & 4th time seeing Nick perform - it was Andy's first. He enjoyed it and raved about Nick so much - & then wanted to go back on Friday but it was sold out.

We watched football during the day of Thanksgiving - SURPRISE! The guys and Katie did all the cooking - and the turkey was great. We continued watching football - the Steelers lost (DANG!). The next day, Nick made a prime rib - terrific. More football ... and then more football. Nick performed every night - and I saw him again on Sunday. He was even better. (Guess who the dad is?) I returned to Lamoni on Monday - it was a good trip. Great to see Katie and Nick - great to have Andy come up to join us.

Wedding Huddle
Wedding Huddle
These are some of the events of my year. Otherwise, I continue to volunteer at Liberty Hall where I am the "web master," write press releases, and do general marketing activities (we spent months working on an audio visual tour of Liberty Hall). I was on the LAFF (Lamoni Annual Fall Festival) Committee - raising funds and marketing. I was appointed to the Lamoni SAFE Coalition which is a coalition that strives to stimulate community involvement to promote responsible behaviors among youth and adults leading to SAFE and healthy communities. There are SAFE Coalition all over the country.

AZUL Sensatori - Around the Pool
AZUL Sensatori - Around the Pool

I'm working with an exploratory committee to determine if the concept of timeBanking (the concept is simple: one hour of help of any kind given to another member earns one time credit, exchangeable for an hour of help in return) can be successful in Lamoni. It's a neat concept - Google Time Banking. Maybe you'll want to take it to your community, too.

I was attacked by fleas at the end of the summer - and had to call in reinforcements to fight them off. I HATE FLEAS! I watched the end of Breaking Bad and thought it was sensational - I only wish Dexter could have ended on as high a note - Nick hooked me on both shows. I still have dinner with Virginia almost every week followed by a couple Elementaries, White Collars, or Covert Affairs. The Fall is filled with football and Steve Anders' Empty Nester Sunday evening picnics. And my cat, Whizzer, continues to climb on my lap on cold winter days to watch TV and nap with me.

I eat, I sleep, I watch TV, I read - and I think of those of you who got this far on my yearly review ... because I must mean something to you for you to have done so - &, therefore, you to me. & I think: friends and those you love & those who love you back aren't just for the good times - they're for all times!

Anyway ... That's 2013 - I hope you all had a good year!