Saturday, December 13, 2008

Christmas Greetings, 2008

Christmas Greetings, 2008

Wishing you love and peace, throughout the season and the coming year.

This has been a year of transitions, and of highs and lows. In February, hankering for true winter in the Upper Peninsula, I had my longings fulfilled and then some, as I experienced blowing snow, icy temperatures, a beautiful snowmobile ride with my brother John, and then crash! I flew over the handlebars, landing hard on my right wrist and severely fracturing it. I returned to Albuquerque for surgery. (“It looks like the hand is about to fall off,” said the Albuquerque surgeon.) I recovered fairly rapidly, except that the imbalance caused by the fracture led to serious back pain during the spring and summer. In the past month I’ve been working with a personal trainer, to strengthen core muscles, and I’ve continued Nia and yoga.

At the end of May, I went to San Francisco to spend my birthday/anniversary weekend with Psyche. Julia was also there that week, and we both saw Psyche and her friends and a few thousand other riders depart early in the morning from the Cow Palace in Daly City on their week-long AIDS/LifeCycle bicycle ride to Los Angeles. When I returned home, I finished packing every book in the school library in preparation for construction over the summer.

In June I attended the Children’s Literature Association meeting in Normal, IL, and visited friends in Lower Michigan before heading north to see some of the folks I’d missed when my February trip was cut short. Over July 4th, Jesse and I drove to Big Sky, Montana for a Philips family reunion. We were saddened by the news of the death of Ed’s brother Bob, the last remaining Philips sibling. At the end of July, Cousin Jane Bruemmer came from Michigan, and we enjoyed two operas in Santa Fe as well as a Georgia O’Keeffe landscape tour of the Ghost Ranch.

It was back to school in August, and unpacking the 20,000 some library books. I said I couldn’t do all that lifting, and the principal hired some movers to help.

In early September I flew to Copenhagen for the International Board on Books for Young People Congress (IBBY). After five days in wonderful Copenhagen, I took the train over the bridge to Sweden, where I had an incredible ten days visiting relatives and ancestral sites. Cousin Magnus Persson guided me around in Skåne and Småland, and Nanna and Tage provided us gracious accommodations in their lovely home in Vittsjö. (My mother and her father had visited the Mårtensson family in 1939, and Ed and I and Jesse and Psyche had previously visited in 1991.) Then I took the train to Torsby in Värmland, where I stayed in Youth Hostels and had the expert and generous help of Tore Bakken in finding the home places and ancestral records for Hendrickson, Erickson, and Johannes Olson ancestors. In addition to visiting the places where my ancestors had lived, the biggest thrill was meeting some third cousins on the side of my mother’s mother, whom Tore had discovered for me. I was expecting to meet two cousins, and much to my surprise a whole group of extended family came to the evening gathering at the home of Maj-Lis Riddarsporre. (Photos of the entire trip and other of this year’s events are on Flickr.)

The first weekend in October a small group of friends (several from my UNM cancer caregivers writing group), Craig Werner from Buffalo, NY, and Jesse, Psyche and I had a small ceremony in a beautiful spot in the Sandia Mountains where we scattered Ed’s ashes, and had a breakfast picnic, singing and sharing memories.

In early November I spent a week in New York, connecting with children’s literature friends and others in New York City, and my college roommate Mary Kay Olson in Tarrytown, as well as going to the remodeled MOMA, Madama Butterly at the Met, the Cloisters, Dia: Beacon, and the Roosevelt and Vanderbilt estates in Hyde Park.

Our good friends John and Karen Nystrom, and Karen’s mother Mary came down from Ft. Collins, CO for Thanksgiving. It was such a lovely time – it almost felt like the old days when our two families shared nearly every holiday meal together for many years. Jesse was with us, but Psyche was vacationing in Korea.

Many experiences this year, even the difficult ones such as the broken wrist and the debilitating back pain, have in the long run been positive in giving me strength. I’m beginning to move beyond survival, to build new traditions and a new life. Friends, family, faith, and my writing group have all been sources of support. A person I’ve never even met, a friend of friends, sent me a wonderful book, Elizabeth Neeld’s Seven Choices: Finding Daylight after Loss Shatters Your World, an excellent resource.

I will be serving on the 2010 Newbery Award Committee this coming year, and I am contemplating retirement. The Obama election gave me hope – on election night I said I didn’t think I’d felt so happy since the day I married Ed. I wish Ed could have seen this election. I’d love to hear his thoughts on the current economic crisis. He’d be saying, “I told you so,” since he’d been saying the stock market was over-inflated for at least 30 years. I don’t think anyone knows what’s next. Perhaps our capitalistic lifestyle based on the endless acquisition of possessions is coming to a deserved end?

Jesse and I will be joining Psyche in San Francisco from December 19-28 – a new kind of Christmas celebration for all of us. I’m already nostalgic for the luminaria and the smell of piñon smoke on crisp cold nights, but I am sure San Francisco will have its own holiday charm.

May love strengthen us as we face the challenges of each day.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Sandia Mountain Overlook

October 2008

Last weekend we returned Ed's ashes to the earth, in a beautiful spot in the Sandia mountains, and had a lovely small gathering. The photos are on Flickr. Then this week, I found our last sheep, Beezus, who was born here, on her side and unable to stand when I tried lifting her up. So, I called the vet, and now she's gone to sheep heaven. It won't be the same without a sheep in the backyard, and I'll miss her bleating, and her gazing at the house, as though she were hoping to be let in some day.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Copenhagen and Sweden

I'm working on my itinerary for my visit to Copenhagen for the IBBY Congress September 7-10, and to Sweden to look for ancestral roots and visit relatives during the week following the Congress. Here is a link to a video of the Trainhostel where I will be staying for one night in Lund, Sweden. It is in Swedish, but the message is clear. Here also is the link to the IBBY Congress.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Bob Philips

The last of the children of Mildred and John Philips, Bob, died on July 2 as several of us were enroute to the Philips family reunion in Big Sky. We miss you, Bob.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Philips Family Reunion, Big Sky, Montana

Over the July 4th weekend several members of the Montana Philips/Courtney family gathered in Big Sky, Montana. Rich and Mary Ann Comstock graciously shared their lovely home with us, and provided many meals. We had many opportunities to visit and to hike in the surrounding mountains. Julia, Joan, Jesse, and I shared a primitive campground about 10 miles down the road at Swan Creek. Mike, Maggie, Anthony, and Danny from North Carolina stayed at the River Rock Inn. Maggie Scheid and Father Edward Courtney stayed with Rich and Mary Ann. Dorothy and David Richhart were in their house down the road, and Lisa Philips Graham and sons Duncan and Logan came for one day from Butte.

Joan's Tribute to her Father

Driving down here from Minnesota, I kept thinking how much I am like my dad. He liked to travel, I like to travel. He was frugal, I am frugal. He had a quiet, easygoing nature, I have a quiet, easygoing nature. He was good with numbers, I am good with numbers. I also inherited his sense of social justice and concern for others. I am lucky to have had him for a dad.

-Joan Philips

Presented at the funeral mass in June 2007