Saturday, December 15, 2007

Winter 2007 Newsletter

Now that our family has been spread apart for more than a year, I am really feeling what the empty nest syndrome is all about.

John is again teaching his class on Severe and Unusual Weather in Illinois this fall, with the resultant, rather long commute to also work half time in Alaska. He is still working on global climate, with a specialization in the Arctic and has been involved in writing the IPCC report, which, along with Al Gore, won the Nobel Peace Prize this year. John says that his portion of the prize amounts to about 78 cents, given all of the thousands of scientists who worked on the report.

Rachel returned from Suriname at the beginning of August, after spending a bit more than 8 months in the jungle watching monkeys, although I think they had close encounters with other beasts, too (See the picture of the caiman at left.). They worked 10 hours a day, 6 days a week, and she says, “It was awesome.”

While Rachel was cavorting with capuchins, her mother was busy monitoring grad school applications and making travel arrangements for visiting said schools. Rachel finally decided on Berkeley, where she is currently working on a Ph. D. in Integrative Biology. Not only did she receive a Berkeley fellowship, but she also received a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, so she is off to a good start.

I visited Rachel at Berkeley briefly when we went to my sister, Wynell’s for Thanksgiving. Rachel’s apartment is fairly small, but isn’t terribly expensive for Berkeley and she has a nice room.

We had a good time at Wynell’s. It was great to see Lindsey and meet Bill. We drove up Highway one and had a gorgeous day. In Aptos, we stayed with Aunt Win and got to see Paula, Tom, and Nate (Gabe was off gallivanting with some girl ☺).

I also got to take the trip of a lifetime to visit Alyssa when she was in Egypt. We took an 8-day tour that included a 4-day cruise on the Nile from Aswan to Luxor and a flight to and from Abu Simbel on the southern Egyptian border. It was a fascinating trip, not just for a look at the antiquities, but also as a look into current Egyptian culture.

And Alyssa was quite a traveler while she was in Egypt, with trips to Switzerland, Scotland, France, England, Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey, and Jordan. I wish I could include all of her pictures from her travels, as they are fascinating, but here, at least is one.

This fall, Alyssa is back at the University of Illinois for her senior year. Her major is International Relations and she is anticipating graduation in May 2008. She also has a new baby. His name is Sark, he is an orange tabby and he is adorable.

I have continued subbing and am enjoying it most days. I especially enjoy 3rd through 6th grades.

Just before Rachel got back from Suriname, Kathryn (aka Kay) and I went down to visit our mother in Alabama. At 92 now, she is still doing pretty well and we had a nice visit.

I am still enjoying the cats – Hobbes (aka Piggy) is now two years old and is large, furry, and sweet. Cookie is not healthy, but she has been more affectionate, with age and illness now taking their toll.

Alaska is gorgeous at this time of year – with the low sun turning the sky to pastels and gold. I know a lot of people think only of how dark and cold it must be, but I marvel nearly every day at how beautiful it is. This is sunrise from our deck in Alaska.

I wish you all a happy holiday season.
Love, Laura

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