Category Archives: xmas

For KrisE—2014 Retrospective

DSC03315 I kept a wonder jar in 2014, little scraps of paper pushed through a slot into a plastic container. Each one contained an event or image or fleeting moment of beauty, joy, or memory. On the last day of the year, I reviewed the scraps with Mark and our friends Ken and Benita. Benita was fascinated by my mostly mundane captures, and she helped me distill my entire year into four words: people, nature, food, dogs. That could be the end of this blog entry, but my friend Kris asked me to pen a holiday letter for 2014.

On January 4, a little dog named Autumn came over for a play date. We had adopted her in November 2013, but Mark’s allergies forced us (heartbreakingly) to return her. We kept running into her in the neighborhood with her foster mom Sue K. Autumn has not yet gone home from her play date, and her one-year anniversary with us just passed. Mark has been managing his allergies. And we are now a two-dog household. We have the dog beds and stuffed toys to prove it. Luke tolerates Autumn and occasionally engages her in play. Both dogs love to camp and hike, and Mark and I took five camping trips with them this past year, all within New Mexico for a change.DSC03101DSC02335Autumn in Hammock

My college friend Helen visited us in January, and Autumn approved of her.  Helen and I spent a few nights at Ojo Caliente in northern New Mexico, soaking in the mineral springs, plus hiking and bird-watching at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, one of my favorite spots in the state.Two Cuties


In March I headed to Memphis to hang out with high school friends Roxie, Kathy and Sally. It was my first time back since my mom died.


In May Mark and I flew to San Francisco to visit his brother Dan and wife Sharon. We hadn’t seen them in 18 years. We had a fine time, walking, dining, visiting Golden Gate park, admiring myriad murals, and hanging out, talking and laughing. I especially enjoyed watching the piles of seals at Fisherman’s Wharf and experiencing how many ways one could travel without a car.


In June I served as a presiding judge for the primary election. It was a grueling 16-hour day, but all our numbers matched at the end of the night. And my former student Willow won a second term as probate judge. My other friend Shannon was elected probate judge for Santa Fe County, proving that, every once in awhile, merit is rewarded. Then Mark and I spent a week at the Cruces Basin Wilderness with friends Melissa and Lew, camping in high aspen country beside a lake with one resident osprey. We hiked, hung out, cooked together and played hearts. Mark and I went back there in August for another week, camping in a different spot, which we had to ourselves the entire time. The trails were humanless too, and one day we encountered a herd of elk dashing through the forest and across the trail we were on. The dogs were suitably quiet and seemed as rapt as we were.

We did a bunch of work on the house this past year, upgrading both bathrooms, then adding a 250 square foot addition to the back. We now have a large bedroom and bath with walk-in shower. My office got bigger too and has a handcrafted Murphy bed for guests. After 27 years, guests no longer have to sleep on the pull-out sofa in Mark’s office. They’ll have a large, light-filled, comfortable airy space. Two “before and after” shots are here, but I’ve yet to cull the 100’s of photos I took during the 12 1/2 week project. We made it through with zero tears or fights, and for that we are grateful.

DSC02706New Addition 1214

I turned the big 6-0 in 2014 and managed to milk that for several events—a camping trip with Mark and dogs north of Santa Fe, lots of dinners and lunches with friends, and dancing with the folk community. We had an especially divine shared birthday dinner at Seasons with our friends Kris and Darcy. I also did a solo driving trip to the north rim of the Grand Canyon to meet my college friend Ruslyn and her New Hampshire book club. My other best friend from college Susan Robinson’s mom died at age 98 while I was en route, so there was some sadness too. Rusti, her friends and I had fun hiking and dining together, and one night Ruslyn and I laid on my car hood in the pitch dark watching zillions of stars and the Milky Way twinkle in the sky, as elk munched grass nearby. A magical moment that certainly went into the wonder jar.

In October I called a dance weekend called Boo Camp in Jemez Springs, NM with a fun band Steam! It was my first weekend calling gig in awhile, and a doctor friend who attended said it was the first time since my mom died that I seemed genuinely relaxed and joyful. Although I miss her daily, the raw grief has subsided. I was able to help my Albuquerque friend Meg with the final weeks of her dad’s life in November. It seems to be a time when many parents are leaving in their 80’s and 90’s. Yet, my dad died of ALS 38+ years ago, and Mark’s mom died of cancer 30 years ago. Time marches on. Some days we cringe and duck. Others we gather the light and joy and seize the day.

Mark and I finished our house project just before Xmas and hosted friends Kit and Mary for Xmas dinner. When their Schnauzer Oscar wasn’t humping poor Luke, it was a delightful event that we share each year. Then in a perfect segue to the year’s end, Ken and Benita joined us for New Year’s Eve and the unveiling of the wonder jar. It really HAS been a year of wonder, discovery, beauty. But, as Benita summed up my life…a year of people, dogs, nature and food. If each year is as full and joyful, it will be a life well-lived.unnamed[1] Thanks, Kris, for helping me to realize this.

Merri Family 2014IMG_5158

Another Year & We’re Still Here!


© 2012, Merri Rudd, All Rights Reserved

Holiday Greetings, Family & Friends,

Mark and I attended an “end of the world, maybe” party on December 21. Just in case, we wanted to be surrounded by great friends, food and merriment. We were! But since the world didn’t quite end, I must now ruminate about 2012 on this last day of the year.

All in all, 2012 was a fine year. Much of January was spent socializing and showing off our newly remodeled kitchen, which we love. I drove to Las Cruces in southern New Mexico to dance and visit friends, stopping at the bird refuge along the way. Lonnie and I literally walked across the Rio Grande, a giant dried-out swatch of sand. While the dry river was desolately beautiful, the forlorn great blue heron surveying the sand from the bank encapsulated the impact of the severe drought that has desiccated New Mexico for several years.

The biggest news of January was Mark reading a book called Wheat Belly, written by cardiologist William Davis. Mark asked if we could try going “wheat free” for a few weeks. After we both noticed healthy results, we kept it up. Eventually Mark lost 25 pounds doing nothing but giving up wheat. We didn’t feel terribly deprived and enjoyed experimenting with new recipes. We’re not fanatics and occasionally eat regular pasta or a flour tortilla. But the overall health benefits for both of us are happily evident. We recommend people give it a try! Months after Mark read the book, it became #1 on the New York Times nonfiction bestseller list.

Mark and I continued to hike almost weekly, seeing a variety of birds and wildlife along our river and at Bernardo Wildlife Refuge south of Belen. In February the national dance organization, Country Dance and Song Society, held a board meeting in Albuquerque. My friend Meg and I hosted a brunch for them and local folkies the last day, which was fun. In March I visited my mom, and we had fun driving around looking at the blooming azaleas and cherry trees. I also taught some sessions at the annual probate judges training. Sadly, our neighbor Paula across the street died on Leap Day. We were neighbors for 25 years and greatly admired her spunky walks even when her cancer turned deadly. Her Marine son Ben made it home from Afghanistan in time to say goodbye, and for that we were grateful.

We found another camper, a 2007 Sunlite popup, and got the truck ready with suspension enhancements and tie-downs. We added a concrete pad extension to our driveway so we can still get both vehicles into the garage. Due to a slight miscalculation resulting in the pad being a few feet too small, Mark must ‘jig’ his truck around the camper, but he has become expert at doing that. The heater actually works in this camper, a first! It’s quite swanky compared to our other two, and we are learning its tricks and idiosyncrasies.

Meanwhile, my friend who had the double mastectomy had her final reconstructive surgeries in 2012 and has been declared cancer-free. Having shared this journey with her as her health care power of attorney for four surgeries spanning several years, we are all happy, relieved and hopeful.

Mark and I celebrated thirty years together in February! They passed rather quickly and we are hoping for thirty more. He began working on another book project for Wiley Publishers: Windows 8 for Seniors for Dummies. In typical small world fashion, his editor, who lives in Maine, was also a contra-dancer and knew people I knew. His Windows 7 for Seniors for Dummies book sold more than 100,000 copies and was almost always in the top 10 of computer software books on amazon. com for several years!

My friend Ann from North Carolina visited the end of April, and we had a fine time attending a concert, hiking, and taking the camper out on its first trip. We went to the Gila during a fierce windstorm and just before devastating fires, but we saw tons of birds and enjoyed nature despite her ferocity. And yes, due to global warming, we wore shorts for some of the trip until it turned cold the last night. Ann is a dog-lover, so Luke loved her right back!


© 2012, Merri Rudd, All Rights Reserved

In early May I travelled to north Florida to visit my friend Susan. She and I celebrated FORTY years of friendship in August. She was my next-door neighbor freshman year at Vanderbilt. We had fun hiking, bird-watching, flower-watching, and spending time at Susan’s sister’s beach house on St. George Island. We love sea-kayaking with dolphins, cooking together, and talking for hours. When we got back to her house on Mother’s Day, husband Paul presented Susan with a white lab who found him while he was jogging with their other white lab Buddy. I promptly named the new dog Honey, went with Susan and Honey to the vet the next day, and persuaded them (didn’t take much!) to adopt her (Susan and Honey are pictured below). Honey is older, but very sweet and mostly healthy after Paul gave her a few flea baths. I also saw my first ever pileated woodpecker near their house, a very special treat!

09131013Honey Nurse

© 2012, Merri Rudd, All Rights Reserved

I got to be publicly politically active for the first time in ten years, working on my longtime friend Christine Trujillo’s legislative campaign. She won the primary and the general election, so will serve our district in the session that starts in a few weeks. At the end of May Meg and I attended the 20th annual Folkmadness music and dance camp in Socorro. We were roommates and twins in our matching turquoise fiesta dance dresses. A few days later I jumped in the Volvo and drove to Memphis for my 40th high school reunion.

What was I thinking—driving along across country by myself when it was 102 degrees in Amarillo? For the reunion, we lucked out in Memphis and got cooler weather. I stayed with longtime friend Kathy, and our other best friend from high school Roxie joined us for some of the festivities. It was somewhat traumatic that I didn’t recognize or remember most people. But it was mostly fun and interesting to hear people recount stories about me that I had no memory of. Then I moved over to my mom’s for the rest of the week before driving back home.

Merri Rudd, Kathy Caradine, Roxane TaylorThe Whole ClassMerri Rudd

© 2012, Merri Rudd, All Rights Reserved

July proved brutally hot for Albuquerque. Mark and I vowed to drive north, no matter how far we had to go, until we hit rain and cool, even if it meant driving to Canada. Turns out we didn’t have to go that far—central Colorado was our home for two weeks of camping with Luke. It rained the first 11 days and was in the low 40’s each night. Blissful! We loved hiking and camping, staying put at one remote campground beside a lake at the base of a mountain for four nights. At the end we joined our friends Melissa and Lew and their dog Siska for two nights at a cabin near Pagosa Springs. We enjoyed cooking together, playing cribbage and hearts, and hiking. Mark even saw a bear wander past our camper at six in the morning, plus an eagle fly downriver next to the cabin.

DSC01264DSC01266Friends by Age Order

© 2012, Merri Rudd, All Rights Reserved

In August we added an unexpected member to our family—a baby roadrunner (New Mexico’s state bird) that Mark named Spike. He hopped down one day while I was feeding our baby turtle a burger ball. I fed Spike a burger ball and the next day he followed me around the yard, sat on the hammock with me, poked his head through a slat in our fence and acted like I was his mom. I tried to teach him to hunt worms in the compost pile and caught a grasshopper for him. We think his parents kicked him out of the nest a bit too soon. [Note: Spike turned out to be female, which we discovered months later when she barked for a mate.] Hawks Aloft, Inc., our local raptor rescue group, advised us to feed Spike mice instead of burger balls and sold us a bag of frozen mice. Spike is very personable and photogenic, even wandering into our living room on occasion:

photo(4)Spike (5)Spike 100112

© 2012, Merri Rudd, All Rights Reserved

Mark posted a great blog entry about Spike, complete with a photo slideshow and some videos at:

Spike the Roadrunner

This year I turned 58 and my mom turned 85, so Mark and I headed to Memphis in September to celebrate both birthdays. We spent a lot of time eating, laughing and hanging out. At the end of September Susan and Paul visited NM and Colorado. Quite fabulous to see Susan twice in our 40th year of friendship! We hiked and ate and visited. They got to meet Spike before heading up to Telluride for a family reunion.

Also in September our longtime friend Gail moved into the house next door, which had been empty for many years. Now we enjoy all of our neighbors, on either side and across the street. We have formed our own neighborhood watch group and keep an eye on each others’ houses when one of us is out of town. Mark and I celebrated 25 years in our house this past summer…those years passed way too quickly!

Mark headed to D.C. area for a family friend’s funeral and to see friends in October, so I had the house to myself for a whole week. I enjoyed hanging out with Luke, reading and attending the musical LION KING with my former court administrator Lori. Mark and I reconnected with my old law school friend Michael and wife Didi this year, swapping dinners and stories. It was easy to pick up where we left off when we met 30 years ago, and we enjoyed catching up.

Did a bunch of socializing and got a new furnace (ours was 35 years old) in November. Mark and I hosted nine of us for Thanksgiving, an hours-long event that involved my favorite things: friends, community, food, laughter. I also started a short-term job, rewriting the Probate Judges Training Manual for the Judicial Education Center. I wrote the last five editions for free, but they’re paying me this time. A lot of laws and rules have changed, so the project is challenging.

In December our gang-of-six birding group—Dave, Kathleen, Melissa, Lew, Mark and I—did our 10th annual birding trip to Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge. There weren’t quite as many birds as usual due to low pond levels, but we had fun. Mark and I went to Albuquerque’s River of Lights for the first time ever. It was breathtakingly beautiful and a wonderful way to get into the holiday spirit, with live Christmas music and hundreds of lighted shapes. I posted a slideshow at:

River of Lights Photos (note Slideshow button in upper left corner)

I danced more in 2012, went to yoga classes three times most weeks, and took up jigsaw puzzles (more proof that I am officially an old lady with my knitting, cribbage and puzzling). We ended the year with a rush of socializing—hosting dinner for friends Kit and Mary on 12/25, then Mark’s longtime friend Steve showed up from Bozeman, MT on 12/26. We joined Steve and family and the Mullany family out in the east mountains for a riotous dinner on 12/27. Now we’re resting up for the new year. Our last day of 2012 started with an inch of pristine snow and Spike nowhere to be found (roadrunners ‘hibernate’ in the evening and during cold spells). I walked to the post office in 36 degree temps to mail my belated holiday cards, and now I’ve finished my year’s review.

Happy old year, happy new year, good health and fun to all!

Hope Springs Forth!

Dear Family and Friends, Happy Holidays and a Healthy 2012 to All !!

Happy Anniversary, Luke!

I did not post a holiday letter in 2009 or 2010. Both were filled with sorrow, death, and tragedy, and I did not want to sadden folks during the holiday season. Just so you won’t worry too much (and some of you know much of this), in 2009, my car was totaled, back injured, our dog Lucky died, AZ friend Craig had motorcycle wreck and became quadriplegic, and my aunt’s cancer spread to her brain.

In 2010 my aunt died as I was flying to see her on Valentine’s Day. Mark, 6 friends and I took a birding trip to Guatemala, we adopted new rescue dog Luke (a bassadorable, ½ basset hound, ½ Labrador), I spent months settling my aunt’s estate, making trips to FL to clear her house of 70 years’ of possessions and have a memorial. Kathleen (our longtime friend whom Mark and I helped for 25 years) died at age 94, my friend Craig died of complications from his quadriplegia, I listed my aunt’s FL house for sale, I was term-limited-out of my judge job, my fabulous former student Willow won an election to succeed me (although her opponent, a totally unqualified, retired nurse with zero law or probate experience, got 87,000 votes), and  right before Thanksgiving vandals in FL pumped 16,000 gallons of water inside my aunt’s house, flooding the entire interior. Just before Xmas the insurance company denied my flood claim. The county made a nice farewell video for me as my judge job ended, and there were several farewell events:

I know that life is a combo of good and evil, joy and sorrow, fun and work, gratitude and resentment, yin and yang. Thankfully, I can offer mostly good stories for 2011.

I entered 2011 without the job that I had loved for 10 years. And yet I believe in term limits. I had planned to take 2011 as a sabbatical to figure out what was next. Instead I spent much of January fighting with the FL insurance company, which finally allowed the flood claim. I travelled to see my friend Laura in southern NM the end of January, a solo girls’ trip, and we had fun hiking and dancing there with friends Lonnie and Julie (although Lonnie made me call part of the January dance in Las Cruces). Also drove to Tucson to stay with Jacquie, my fiddler friend and widow of Craig. We had a wonderful time hiking, dancing, eating and laughing. I got back to NM just in time for a visit from college friend Rusti-Ruslyn, who came to NM for adventure and relaxation. We rode the train to Santa Fe, saw the musical WICKED, hiked, ate and laughed. Good therapy to get me through the first month of missing my beloved court and staff.

Things got easier in February, when Mark and I committed to hiking at least once a week. One day we were walking down by the Rio Grande and saw a peregrine falcon eating a small bird in a treetop. The day was sunny and blue, and I turned to Mark and said, “This beats working!” for the first time since my job ended. Also in February, three friends and I drove up to CO for a dance weekend, my first since the car wreck. I danced every day for four days, something I’d not tried to do since the accident. Also saw a bobcat in the snow late one night driving back to the cabin, so close we could see tufts of fur between his paws, and that was the highlight of the weekend, despite the fabulous food, dancing, music and learning to play cribbage.

Mark and I visited my mom in TN in March, which was delightful—tons of flowers blooming and a giant full moon rising near her apartment one night. We also lunched with my longest-time friend (almost 50 years) Roxie and hubby Tommy in Jackson, TN, and stayed with our friend Susan Kevra one night in Nashville. I thought I had sold the FL house in March, but the sale fell through when mold was found all over the house. This triggered another fight with the insurance company about who was responsible for mold cleanup, and eventually they paid for that too, but not without first making my life miserable for months.

Our Maine friends Pam and Gary visited in April, and we enjoyed our eating tour of Albuquerque. Also, I visited college friend Susan in north FL in April and canoed with alligators nearby FL Nurse 0411 (97)

© 2011, Merri Rudd, All Rights Reserved

(Susan became a grandma in March!!!), had the mold cleaned up in the FL house, and the house sold again with a May closing. In early May I made a trip to NC to see my friend Ann, and then a 10-day trip to FL to do house repairs and help the buyers get their loan. Alas, that sale also fell through on the day of closing when the buyers didn’t get their loan. But I got my best photo of the year on that trip while walking along the bay, this shot of a very cooperative snowy egret.

Egret FL 2011 (800x600)

© 2011, Merri Rudd, All Rights Reserved

A few days later Mark and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary at a dog-friendly B&B in Taos, hiking at snow level each day and dining at very tasty restaurants by night. We’ve actually been a couple for almost 30 years, shocking, I know!

I decided to rehab the FL house and then relist it, so I made a trip to FL in June to oversee the rehab, spending 18 hours steaming wallpaper from the bathroom and kitchen and going to Home Depot with the awesome contractor every few days. All in all, I’ve made 14 trips to FL since my aunt’s diagnosis of metastases in April 2008. After the rehab was finished, I relisted the house, got yet another offer, and that one actually closed on August 26.  “Before and after” photos of the rehab are at:

In between all the FL fiascoes (I have written the first 700 words of my novel THE FLORIDA FIASCO), Mark, Luke and I camped in CO in late June with our friend Dave and his two dogs. Mark and I and Luke camped again in CO the end of July and beginning of August. We sold our old camper in an hour on craigslist after that trip (while it was still in decent shape) and sold the 16-year-old Toyota Tacoma truck too. We’ll look for another camper in 2012, but at least we don’t have to worry about storing the camper this winter.

So essentially my sabbatical started in September, since FL business ate up the first 8 months of it! Mark and I continued to hike each week. In September I flew to Houston with my Albuquerque friend for a second opinion about her upcoming double mastectomy for recurrent breast cancer (I am her health care power of attorney). The facility in TX was amazing, but we got the same advice from the doctor: do it sooner rather than later.

Our friends Robert Coontz and his beautiful bride Jolene Jesse visited us for a week in September, and we had fun playing tour guide, hiking, going to Taos, and to the hot air balloon fiesta. Robert introduced Mark and me 30 years ago. He and Jolene got married in 2010, so this was their first anniversary trip. They both declared it “their best trip ever!”

I called Boo Camp, a dance weekend in Jemez Springs, NM with the well-loved Privy Tippers from Tucson the end of October. You can view Peter Esherick’s Boo Camp Photos (click on a photo to get the large version, then use gray arrows to right and left of photos to move to next or previous photo) to see the merriment that ensued. My college friend “Big Bob” Chess, a former center on the Vanderbilt basketball team, visited in November. We enjoyed hiking, hearing a Czechoslovakian bluegrass band, and hanging out with him. A few weeks later our birding friends Melissa, Lew, Dave and Kathleen shared a fabulous Thanksgiving dinner with us. This week we all head down to Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge for our 9th annual birding/gourmet eating outing.

Mark and I had been planning a kitchen remodel of our own house for a long time. Destruction began November 30 and it was mostly finished last week (see Mark’s blog entry for details: We do LOVE the beautiful, functional results! Our contractors, Two Dads Construction, were great. The floating cork floor, cabinets made by a local guy (who lined up the grains of wood on the drawers), and engineered quartz counters are the stars.

 Kitchen Finished

In December I celebrated my 20th anniversary as a dance caller by calling two dances in Albuquerque; one was affected by snow and ice, but the other was magical. In the middle of kitchen remodeling, my friend had her mastectomy and they sent her home 4 hours after she emerged from the 3-hour surgery! She was sitting at her dining table eating soup soon after, kind of hard to believe. She is doing great and the pathology indicates she is now cancer-free.

Mark, Luke and I spent Christmas day with our friends Kit and Mary in the south valley of Albuquerque. We hiked near the river, saw hawks, cranes, towhees, llamas, goats, and geese, then shared a fabulous meal of leg of lamb with tasty side dishes.

As 2011 wraps up, I am grateful for good family and friends, good music and dance, good food, and the natural beauty in the world all around us. I hope that 2012 is kind to us all and that the Mayan calendar merely signifies an evolution to more peaceful times.

 Merri Xmas

Adieu, 2008

December 14, 2008

Dear Friends,

Today is a special day—it marks the moment that I have spent exactly half of my life with Mark Justice Hinton. We met around Halloween in 1981, and I had just turned 27 six weeks earlier. Today I am 54 ¼; you can do the math!

I hope the season is finding you hopeful and hale. 2008 was filled with projects, travel, joys, and sorrows. I continued to serve as Albuquerque’s part-time probate judge ( ) and the Court again had a record number of cases filed this year. We have finished a computer automation system to docket our cases, a huge change from the handwritten way we’ve done it since 1860! The public is now able to search our records online and see which cases have been filed in our court from 1975 to present. I was reelected in 2006 and my term ends Dec. 31, 2010 (we are term-limited, so will have to find something else to do in 2011). So Mark and I have two more years of health insurance and then….

I still write a column for the morning paper every other week. In addition, my publishing company Abogada Press ( is bringing out a new edition of Family Law in New Mexico, co-authored by the original author Barbara Shapiro and Antoinette Sedillo López. Books are due to be shipped here right after Christmas (12/25/08: actually, they arrived a week early on 12/23, and now I have to get them into bookstores around the state!). This year I also helped my 92-year-old local friend Kathleen, and continued to hone my dance calling skills (, calling two 4-day dance weekends in Colorado and Oregon. Here are some snippets from 2008:

In January I attended the mandatory probate judges statewide training. I participated as a presenter and audience member. Saw a few movies, continued to exercise, ushered a few shows at the University Fine Arts Hall. Continued to play internet scrabble with my friend Carol in Kentucky most Sunday evenings. We received a shipment of the new 2008 4th edition of my Life Planning in New Mexico book and have sold half of those this year.

In February we lost my cat BabyCat to cancer at age 15. Since I didn’t do a letter last year, some of you may not know that we also lost our 19-year-old Kitty on July 3, 2007. Mark and I have blog entries posted about both cats. You can search if you’re interested in the details. I still miss my BabyCat, although it’s been almost a year since he died. We were buds, as you can see by this

(Photo by Mark Justice Hinton–Merri & BabyCat in happier times)

Lucky is an only dog now and getting pretty old himself. But he’s still with us. Toward the end of February I traveled to Buena Vista, Colorado to call a 4-day English and contra dance weekend with a wonderful, nationally known band called Notorious. (I highly recommend their new CD called Elkins; it is spectacular!) There were 6’+ of snow up there, and I travelled from my cabin to the dance hall via snowshoes all weekend. I wrote an article about the weekend that was published in the Country Dance and Song Society’s magazine. The weekend was fun, but a lot of work. Mark and I celebrated 26 years together in Feb. too!

March stayed busy with work, ushering, exercising, social events, and company, including visits from Robert Coontz’s sister Connie, and her husband, father-in-law, and 2 kids. Former Albuquerque friends Eileen and Patrick also visited us from southern New Mexico, and we’re always happy to have an excuse to cook a fine brunch for friends.

During April I started the last of three beginning Spanish classes that I’ve taken and finished that class in June. I am now at an intermediate level in Spanish, and continue to perform weddings in Spanish. Figure it’s good brain exercise. I travelled to Florida to see my Aunt Jean, and we had fun toodling around the Miami area. Called a dance in Santa Fe, then entertained our Maine friends Gary and Pam, who were visiting to get their Southwest ‘fix.’

In mid-May my Aunt Jean called me with news that her breast cancer (mastectomy was in June 2004) had returned and spread to her liver and bones. We added another cell phone to her account so she can reach me at any time, and I promptly began to learn the medical and care-giving community in Miami and to help her with some financial and legal issues. She has been stable with the help of much chemo, other treatments, and pain medication. Not sure what her prognosis is, but I made trips to Florida in July and Sept. and will also visit in Jan. and April 2009.

I got to attend New Mexico’s 4-day music and dance weekend over Memorial Day, as a dancer instead of a caller and that was fun. Also camped with Mark a few days at the end of the month. There was cell phone contact with my aunt even up in the mountains! Our Pilates teacher Gail turned 50 on June 1, competed in her first triathalon and was diagnosed with breast cancer a few days before the race. She chose to delay treatment for a few weeks so she could do the triathalon she’d trained so hard for.

I had a free airline ticket to New Hampshire in June and saw my brother, wife and niece in Massachusetts and friend Ruslyn in New Hampshire. Ruslyn and I celebrated 35 years of friendship with a sailing trip on her husband’s sailboat. Encountered a terrible storm and I’ll spare you the gory details. Suffice it to say we all survived to tell the tale. Friends Susan and Paul visited NM the end of June from Missouri and announced that they planned to relocate to Tallahassee, FL the end of the year to be near her mom and sisters, who all live there now.

July included a trip to Florida to help my aunt and then a 2nd annual camping trip to southern Colorado with 4 other friends and 3 dogs. It rained and/or hailed on us every hike, but we prepared gourmet dinners communally and had fun anyway camping beside a raging river for 4 days. Also saw a magnificent hummingbird in our campsite, which should not have been so far north (usually lives in Mexico). At the end of the month my 92-year-old friend Kathleen and I visited a newer facility that hosts senior residents and had a delicious lunch. Over the course of a month we arranged for her to move into a much bigger, nicer and safer apartment there without too much increase in costs. She moved in over Labor Day and is very happy there. Plus it’s only 2.5 miles from us, instead of 6. Mark started work as an author on a book called Digital Cameras and Photography for Dummies. (YES! These are those famous yellow and black books sold nationwide.) He got to use his own photos in creating the book, and copies of the beautifully finished book arrived on our doorstep in November.

August was the usual with exercising, usher safety training, dinners with friends, helping my aunt, doing court work, marrying folks. My mom turned 81. Over Labor Day weekend I travelled to Oregon to call Northwest Passage, a 4-day music and dance weekend with Bruce Hamilton, Sue Rosen, Notorious and Phantom Power. This time there were 2 bands and 2 other callers, so I got to dance some too. It was great fun, and my ABQ friends Dave and Noralyn went with me for moral support (in a bit of serendipity, Noralyn moved her parents from TN to NM a few months later—into the same facility that my friend Kathleen had just moved into!)

September featured my 54th birthday and another trip to Florida. Don’t even remember what I did on my birthday except went to brunch with my friend Mary and grilled filet mignon that eve with Mark. Kathleen’s daughter Kristi visited ABQ from CA and loved Kathleen’s new apartment. Mark finished the manuscript for Digital Cameras and Photography for Dummies just in time to teach a computer class at UNM and then start writing a new book for Wiley called Digital Photography for Seniors for Dummies, which is due the end of December.

October was uneventful except for celebrating Noralyn’s 60th birthday with a special dinner here. Continued to help my aunt via 3-way calls, email, and cell phones. Voted on Oct. 9 (the 32nd anniversary of my dad’s death) so I could quit listening to all the negative campaign ads. Also continued to work producing and finalizing the manuscript of the Family Law book.

November was full of major stress but some good things too. Mark and I both worked on books all weekend long before T-Day. Mark had a deadline on his newest Digital Photography for Seniors for Dummies book. And I worked all weekend on his book, plus the Family Law in New Mexico book. I will spare you most of the details of Thanksgiving week other than to say Mark turned in his next ¼ of his book on Monday, then started finalizing the text of the Family Law book on Tuesday. The author and I scrambled to re-do a section the Wed. before T-Day. We wanted to send it to the printer that Wed. and have 4 days off. Got it into printer at 5 pm Wed. But it’s being printed in Canada and T-Day isn’t a holiday there (think their T-Day was in October). So bright and early T-Day morn the emails start re: problems—they had the wrong file of the manuscript. We finally straightened that out and I baked an apple pie for T-Day with Dave and Kathleen and Mary Smith. Friday morn the printer emails that the book manuscript was 3 pages too long. I spent Friday morning cutting 3 pages. A revised version of the cover went to the printer on Dec. 1. Then the proofs were supposed to be shipped to me overnight on Dec. 2. But they weren’t. They arrived Dec. 5, the day I was supposed to have them back in order to meet the shipping date of Dec. 19. I will say that the proofs looked good and that I reviewed them and shipped them back overnight mail within 4 hours of receipt. So we are not too far behind schedule and I can almost see a light at the end of the tunnel. We did have a nice T-Day finally about 5 pm. We brought a homemade pumpkin cake roll, homemade cranberry/orange sauce, and the apple pie. Hosts provided the turkey, stuffing, and gravy. Two others brought potatoes, rolls, veggies. Also, last weekend I succeeded in making pecan pralines (1st batch was runny, so it became icing for a spice cake). They were awesome and fattening! Mark’s book arrived and we love it ( has ordering details).

Now the year is ending. My aunt started radiation this month for pain control of her bone cancer. Mark is working on the next 1/4 of his book, and I am reading those chapters. He’s gotten a little ahead of schedule, hoping to get some time off for holiday fun. And he has to teach one class on Microsoft Vista next week. Our “reward” is the 6th annual Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge birding trip, set for Dec. 22 with four other friends. December so far has been a better month— I even did a wedding at McDonald’s last Friday! I have also exercised more and walked more (in August I was diagnosed with osteopenia in my lumbar spine, but have opted not to take any meds for it). I am hoping the extra walking and calcium will help with the osteopenia. Plus I think exercise helps my mental health too; I didn’t exercise much in Nov. and was really stressed out juggling all the balls thrown at me. Today I am baking holiday treats to share with friends and getting packages ready to mail.

That wraps up my year’s events. I hope that you had a great 2008 and that 2009 is health-filled and fun.