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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Holmes Family Annual Christmas Letter: 2008 edition

It’s the Holmes Family Annual Christmas Letter: 2008 edition.

The big news this year was Miss Emma’s first extended trip away from home, to Chimney Corners YMCA camp in the Berkshires, in western Massachusetts. She was there for four weeks! Emma stayed in a cabin with seven other girls her age, along with two college-age camp counselors. Her activities included Colonial Living—there’s a Revolutionary War vintage house on site—swimming, horseback riding, arts & crafts and the musical. The camp doesn’t allow any electronic devices, or cell phones or TV so they got to do lots of other non wired activities which pleased us. Her Mommy went up for the weekend the third week, and they stayed in a tent together and did lots of activities together. We could tell Miss Emma was having a great time, as she rarely kept in touch. Her Mommy got kind of weepy when she didn’t answer our letters after the first few days. Emma is clamoring to go back again this coming summer, and I think we can swing that.

Emma remains busy now that the school year has geared up. She played soccer in the Barrington Youth League’s fall season, she is taking ballet two days a week, and she is helping edit Magical Magazine, Primrose Hill School’s literary magazine. (Who knew elementary schools published their own literary magazines?) No doubt that’s only a partial list of her activities. I have a hard time keeping up. The third-graders started out with astronomy this fall and have also made a study of the Wampanoag Indian Nation, one of our local tribes. It’s a little-known fact that Massassoit was a resident of Barrington, Rhode Island, before there was a Barrington, Rhode Island!

I managed to weather my first year of teaching at the Naval War College, but it was touch-and-go for awhile there. This academic year it’s a lot easier, thankfully, since I’ve been through the curriculum once and have all of my notes and materials in place. The class-preparation burden has dropped off dramatically. Additionally, I’ve been working on assorted writing projects as time permits. I and my buddies Drew and Toshi finished a book on the Indian Navy this October. That should be on the shelves next April or thereabouts. The Institute of International Relations at National Chengchi University flew me out to Taiwan for the annual Taiwan-American Conference. It was good to be on the island again—the travel bug had returned! We got to spend an hour with Taiwan’s new president, Ma Ying-jeou, at the Presidential Palace. It was beastly hot—August in the subtropics will do that to you—but there was some time to revisit the old sights around Taipei. My conference paper is about to be published in Issues & Studies, the Institute’s scholarly journal. What else? Oh, in December, the China Maritime Studies Institute held its annual conference in Newport. I presented a paper on Chinese fleet tactics. That should be in print shortly as well. I intend to slow down sometime….

I don’t believe the bit about slowing down! Yes, this is Beth writing now. Jim only forgot two of Emma’s other activities: third grade chorus and Chimes club (something like handbell-ringing I think?) Their first performance for both Chorus and Chimes is this coming Friday so I will find out more then. Highlights of my year included: a trip to San Francisco in March, where Jim was attending a conference. We stayed an extra day and had a great time exploring and eating yummy food – this was an early 20th wedding anniversary celebration – it was great to have some time for just the two of us. I stayed on for an additional day and spent time with two school friends from my St. John’s/ Belgium days. We celebrated our actual anniversary (June 11th) too – with dinner at Rue de L'Espoir, a cozy French bistro in Providence. I really don’t feel old enough to have been married for twenty years! In August, I also spent a weekend at a Scrapbooking Conference with my college-friend Wendy. We had a great time learning lots of techniques, buying lots of supplies, and then scrapbooking the night away. I can’t remember the last time the two of us have had so much time to talk uninterrupted by our children. I enjoyed several visits with my niece Amelia and nephew Nikolas. They are growing up so fast and will be three in January and I love spending time with them as does Emma – though she is sometimes jealous of the attention they get. We all went to Stone Harbor, NJ to my Mom’s beach house in July and enjoyed the usual Summer beach things: waterpark, boardwalk, sandcastles, Springer’s homemade ice-cream and Bradley’s cheese steaks. While Jim was in Taiwan, Emma and I spent a relaxing ten days with my Dad and Hazel in Snow Hill, MD where we spent most of our time by their pool. I got to meet my “Step-sister” Caroline and her boyfriend joel for the first time as our visits overlapped by a day.

I am still working part-time as the Librarian at the law firm of Partridge Snow & Hahn. The hours and pay are great and I work in a neat part of Providence near downtown, RISD (Rhode Island School of Design), and Brown. I still find it lonely being a “solo librarian” as I miss the collegiality of working with other Librarians, but I am learning lots of new skills. I’m now the Treasurer of the Barrington Newcomers & Neighbors group which I am enjoying and I am still loving the Newcomers book group. My favorite books of this year were two non-fiction ones: What is the What about one of the lost boys from the Sudan, and Three Cups of Tea: one man’s mission to promote peace … one school at a time about building schools in rural Pakistan and Afghanistan. I highly recommend them both. We have a great girls night once a month where we discuss the book and then move on to talking about our husbands and children – all while enjoying a glass of wine. I’m still not singing anywhere – I can’t figure out how to fit it in, but am really missing it. I got sick of my back -- hurting from an old horseback riding fall -- in April so I tried physical therapy again – only this time with a really good therapist, who worked one on one with me for several months. At the same time I started going to a Personal Trainer who works with the physical therapist. I “graduated” from physical therapy in September and am getting stronger and in better shape by working out and am virtually back pain free – as long as I keep doing my exercises! I also love having more time with Emma and we cook together sometimes and reading books together.

Maggie, the Pug Dog is hanging in there at the ripe old age of 14. She came with us on our Summer trips and still enjoys belly rubs even though she can’t really see or hear anything.

If you are interested in more news and photos check out my blog “Aufenthalt” at: http://jimbethmag.blogspot.com.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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