Thursday, December 20, 2007

Sam Thinks He Can . . .Modernize His Annual Holiday Letter

Is it December already?

We are wrapping up an amazing year, filled with much joy and accomplishment. Life on the farm is still Deb’s dream come true and I have a hard time believing that I’m a lucky enough S.O.B. to be able to go home to 20 acres in God’s country where a dozen horses roam the pastures with the itinerant wild fauna. Years ago, just after moving out to the country, during a cocktail party at which I expressed some reservation about kept down on the farm after I’d seen
Paree, former neighbor Shannon Marlin advised me, “Remember, Sam, ‘happy wife, happy life’”. I’m living the proof that truer words were never spoken.

Both Phil and Ellie graduated from college in the spring. Phil lives in Duluth, Minnesota, where he works for an Americorps division, Men As Peacemakers, teaching men how to mentor troubled youth. When he completes his commitment to MAP, he plans to use his teaching degree from the University of Minnesota to hold forth in a classroom of elementary school students. Phil remains active politically and it would not shock me to see him run for office some day. His magnetic personality, acquired from his Papa Irv Stern, makes him a natural vote getter.

Phil and I took our annual father/son trip to Kansas City this summer. We ate at legendary barbeque joints, including the original Arthur Bryant’s, whose sauce I’d enjoyed for more than 25 years whenever I could get someone traveling to K.C. to bring me back some. We also enjoyed hours in the Truman Presidential Museum and Library, dinner in a lower level jazz club, and, after 35 years of trying, the payoff on my first Royal Flush on a slot machine.

Ellie obtained her Bachelor of Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison a week after Phil graduated. She moved home, obtained her certification to be a nursing assistant and took a job in a nursing home near the farm. Currently, she is in the process of applying to nursing schools and hopes to return to life as a student in the fall. After a hiatus of several years while in college, Ellie has resumed eventing on her horse, Bucky, who she recently renamed “Bacio” ("kiss" in Italian).

Both young adults (children no longer) make us proud. Their mother’s influence is apparent in their maturity and focus on helping others.

Deb continues to amaze. She spent early 2007 developing her carpenter skills and cut, stained and installed the inside trim for all 13 windows replaced last fall. Not satisfied, she built Shorty and C.J. a doghouse big enough for them to live as roommates. With a shingled roof. Then, once that was done, she built a complete cross country course for the south pasture, designing and building jumps to practice on horseback. The front pasture is filled with stadium jumps Deb maintains and, between April and October, is also filled with the thundering of horses as Deb and her friends practice for competition. For the first time in the 18 years that she’s owned horses during our marriage, Deb sold one. Super Trouper, whom Deb had trained as soon as he was able, developed a fear of flying and preferred ground work. As that eliminated two thirds of eventing competition, Deb was in a quandary. She found a great home for him as a high end trail and second level dressage horse and used the money from his sale to acquire Oliver Twist, a new eventing horse out of the Chicago area, and Beso ("kiss" in Spanish) , a very young “project” to train. Deb’s parents needed an increasing amount of TLC during the year and Deb was always available to them in South Dakota to make sure it was delivered. In her spare time, Deb continues to work half time at the ENT Clinic at Hennepin County Medical Center.

Outside of work, I’ve had a mostly great year. I increased my photography work, ranging from serving as Event Photographer for the Little Everglades Steeplechase in Dade City, Florida, to Bet Shalom Synagogue’s school photographer to on-location portraiture for high school seniors and their families to the images I capture on the “hobby” end of the equation. I’ve also started blogging. In fact, the rest of the holiday letter is on my blog . If you’ve received these letters in the past, you’ve noticed there are no photos here. They’re on my blog. Lots of them. And discussions on friendship and the loss of my mentor, Louis Meyers. And an update on the Stern menagerie. It’s 2007. This is a green holiday letter. Take a moment and check out the rest of the story on my blog. It will be worth it. Promise.

All the best for a happy and healthy holiday season and year to come.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was so impressed with all the goings on with the Stern family and wondered where was I? To consummed in my own activities to be part of the joy of the graduation of my close friends two children. Did I send anything to either one of them? I guess our relationship has been more about me than you! I like your life as well. Will I get an honorable mention in the picture of friends? Thius by the way is the first time I have been in a blog. Hopefully it will be easy to navigate out of!!

Your longtime friend, Brian