Tuesday, December 24, 2013

2013 is a wrap...

"We're going to have a good time and share a few laughs" was all I was told in advance about a recent day-long Dale Carnegie-style seminar I was to attend.  That, however, was not a forecast of why I should give up a day for it, or what it would be about.  But it proved true - and worth it.

The same could have been said about 2013.  It came and went with a lot of whimsical decisions, some good times and a laugh or two.

Perhaps the highlight: This summer our good friends Dan and Laurie Briggs and their kids went to Europe and we decided we couldn't miss the chance to meet them in Paris, and fulfill one of Caroline's dreams. And, we would stay in a flat across the street from the Louvre.  And, of course, would follow Caroline's lead to La Tour Eiffel.  Which is how we wound up in this completely ridiculous photo of the troupe capped in berets, 1100 feet above my comfort zone (at about the same white knuckle height for static line parachuting out of a plane).  The trip was a two week whirlwind of all the stuff kids are supposed to see vacationing in Paris, more museums than patience allows and a stunning number of broken milk glasses.

Caroline (11) caught her stride this year at Exploris Middle School, an intimate academic environment steeped in experiential learning.  Every week includes a hands-on component at NC museums or the like in downtown Raleigh.  Two weeks ago, we joined a pilgrimage to Pocosin National Wildlife Refuge outside Plymouth for a closeup visit with migratory birds, river otters and over a dozen bears (oh my!).  It is a measure of success when the chief disappointment was wolf tracks... but no wolf encounter.  Guess we'll have to go back.  Caroline otherwise continues to revel in art and animals -- and is a proud parent in her own right: to Dasher, the chinchilla.  In the spirit of catching a stride, Caroline has taken up the family pass-time: thumbs up from our new runner!

Will (10) played another season of CASL soccer before turning his attention to Scouting.  He seems to be getting a lot of fellowship out of the experience, is plugging away on activity badges and has been dubbed "squirrel" (which is truly an honorific) -- I, on the other hand, have been overcome with waves of nostalgia remembering all of the incantations and recitations.  Will is also plugging away at Wiley Elementary, clearly also enjoying fellowship there (and a few classes).  Among his friends is other-Will (a/k/a "Will D").  Thanks to a visit to Will D's house one Friday afternoon, when we're in Raleigh, we now live across the street from he and his family... and every morning, Will C and Will D can walk to school together (images of Norman Rockwell...)

The adults keep doing adult things: Elizabeth has grown the NC New Teacher Support Program -- now consisting of over 1200 first year teachers, paired with over 40 master teacher/mentors.  The Program is delivering real, demonstrable success in some of North Carolina's most challenged schools.  But it remains to be seen whether the State's current leadership will continue it after this year.  She continues to run.  And run.  And run.

Professionally, I continue to practice law and am particularly proud of the incredible efforts of the folks at WasteZero, which is partnering with municipalities all over the US, cutting trash and creating the most effective recycling incentives in the country.  In the Army Reserves, I transferred to the 134th Legal Operations Detachment, reconnecting with many long-time friends and meeting some great new soldiers.

Finally, in two fits of whimsy around my 40th birthday this summer, I found a cheap sailboat and a twenty-five year old Jeep to haul it.  Perhaps in the Spring, Liz will agree to get in the boat.  And, the kids will agree to stay in it when we're in the middle of the lake (thanks life jackets).

And, while we've expressed our fair share of disgust at a lot of ugly politics this year- in Raleigh and Washington, we continue to believe in the power of public service to improve the lives of people.  And we continue to add to the community woodpile in quiet and meaningful ways.

The new year will certainly bring many long days, and a fair share of challenges, but we'll continue to be sustained as a family by having had "a good time and sharing a few laughs" in 2013.  We hope the same for you and yours -- and we look forward to what comes next.     -Cal