Family


Eli has been waiting for three years for this birthday! Finally she got to go to the American Girl store to pick out her very own American girl doll.

After much debate the lucky doll turned out to be Maryellen Larkin, a little girl born in 1954. Each doll comes with her own life verse. Maryellen’s is very much like Eli herself:

“I follow my heart instead of the crowd
I have a heart full of high-flying hopes and a head full of
pie-in-the-sky ideas, even though they don’t all get off the
ground. But I know that if I stay true to who I am and what
I believe, the sky’s the limit.”

She will be a welcome companion for Kit Kittredge who has been already been around for three years, when Abi turned seven.

Our oldest son Jon was always investigating ways to get involved in what was then the emerging tech field. He took the initiative to offers his expertise to the only computer retailer in St. Thomas to help their clients get their computers setup then did a thriving after-market business in installing software and trouble-shooting for the clients he helped. He investigated the nascent bulletin board systems (BBS) in our area and taught himself early forms of computer coding languages. At Conestoga College he landed a cooperative learning position with a local tech company that allowed him to explore connecting various machines through a digital interface and began to think through the digital diagnostics that would make that possible.

After a three year stint with a local IT startup and a two year interregnum as digital manager for a customs broker, Jon and his new wife Nicole moved to the States to pursue his career in a succession of IT positions. All through those years he continued to develop and refine his concept of a digital diagnostic machine interface, pitching successively more advanced iterations of the concept to various companies. However, while generating interest, there were never any takers. Until three years ago. Then the company for whom he had originally designed the concept came head-hunting with an offer to facilitate its development.

After two years with this new company, and after months of heading up a diverse team of software engineers that included a former NASA scientist, the new product, called Shelby, was launched with much fanfare and widespread approval. Recently that approval coalesced in the Engineering Choice Awards. The annual Control Engineering Engineers’ Choice Awards “shines a light on 26 categories of control, instrumentation, and automation products.” A total of 88 finalists from 44 companies were chosen that were the most exceptional based on technological advancement, service to the industry, and market impact. A total of 1 grand winner, 26 winners, and 29 honorable mentions were named for 2018.

I will let Jon himself describe the product for which he received his award: “The new FactoryTalk Analytics for Devices appliance provides health and diagnostic analytics from industrial devices. It crawls your industrial network, discovers your assets and provides analytics by transforming the data generated into preconfigured health and diagnostic dashboards. The system also delivers action cards to your smartphone or tablet if a device requires attention. As the application uncovers information about how the devices are related to each other, such as their network topology or fault causality, it starts to understand the system on which it is deployed to make prescriptive recommendations.”

It goes without saying that we are inordinately proud of our eldest son, who like all our three children is pursuing his dreams in his chosen field. This post recognizes Jon’s achievement, but we are just as proud of our children on the days they don’t get recognized by the world for what they do. All three of them are independent and articulate, caring and committed. Though our own careers place us many miles away from them, they are constantly on our hearts and in our prayers. It has been the greatest joy of our lives to be the parents of such fine human beings.

We are travelling fools, Pam and I, so you have to take the following with a grain of salt, but when you get to the place that you can’t remember the last trip you took, it is time to take another. We try to fly home to Canada and the States as often as we can. Three kids and five grandkids are a big attraction. But other than that, there hasn’t been much. It is true that we did take a cruise a year ago. Sorry to say that was a bust, as any moment’s worth of reflection would have revealed before the voyage. Seriously? You live in the Caribbean and you are going to take a Caribbean cruise? D’Oh!

Anyway, after that fiasco of a cruise last year we decided to bite the bullet and actually visit a foreign country, even if it meant going through Miami to get there. We were coming up for our 40th anniversary and wanted something to match the amazing trip to the Nihiwatu Resort in Sumba, Indonesia on our 30th. After much debate and a consideration of options, we settled on Machu Picchu.

Because we hadn’t travelled in a while, I had a bucket of points on my Visa travel card that enabled us to get everything in country – flights, trains, and hotels – on points. We did what we normally do when a target destination is unknown. We have a look at the ridiculously expensive packaged tours, see where they are staying and how they are mapping the route, and then pattern our trip after that to book our own.

Having checked out Lima on Google, we thought it best to stay on the southern edge in a district called Miraflores. Again, no mistake there, for as we drove along the Pacific boulevard the hang gliders were sailing down over the cliff and the surfers were braving the gravelly beach by the score. We checked into the Radisson, where we got an upgrade to a superior room that overlooked the ocean and after a quick change of clothes and a brief look at Google maps, wandered out into the late Peruvian afternoon to J.F. Kennedy Park.

Peru is not Southeast Asia. Crowds, by Asian standards, were not a problem, and at least in the areas we travelled plenty of locals spoke sufficient English for our needs. We never felt threatened or were ever in any danger of getting lost or even separated from each other. After the organized chaos of Southeast Asia, travelling in Peru was a breeze.

Kennedy Park was filled with vendors with their leather and pottery crafts. The local art was amazingly bold and unique, with strong colours and dynamic designs. Bordering the park were a number of outdoor cafés where we stopped for dinner so we could watch the crowds.

A pleasant stroll brought us back to the hotel to cash in a voucher for free drinks, then off to sleep in a most comfortable bed. This trip to Peru, much delayed and postponed, was starting out on a very positive note indeed. Why, we asked ourselves, have we waited for so long to travel in this part of the world!

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

Our dear sweet Abi, we love you so very much that it is impossible to say all the things we would love to tell you as you turn ten. You have brought such special happiness into our hearts and our family. You are unique and beautiful and touch our hearts in ways that only you can.

Dave didn’t manage to join us for Christmas but was able to sneak in a five day visit between projects, and before  the start of the new construction season. Dave comes without pomp and circumstance, no massive preparations and no demands. His job is wonderful but demanding and stretching him in terms of catching up with the Engineering theory that he studies ten years ago. The company offers him great opportunities to update and to pursue some new certifications so he has been studying diligently for upcoming exams in March.

 

Dave is pretty ease to have around. He is happy to spend time with us or happy to go out and meet up with some random people to chat for an evening.He knows the island well and takes the old car and a pile of books to explore the various beaches; Barkers being his favourite of this visit.

Feb 11/18

While we feel very blessed by the opportunities given to us as a result of the lifestyle we live, there is also a price to be paid. The biggest price has been in the family times we have lost and the celebrations we miss so much.

This year we were doubly blessed by not only having family with us to celebrate Christmas but also being able to celebrate the eleventh birthday of this amazing boy who introduced us to the joy of being grandparents. It has been a wonder to watch him grow into such a sweet, curious and creative young  man who makes us and his parents so proud. Happy Birthday Ben. We love you!

We have ‘celebrated’ Christmas overseas by ourselves since 2007. That is a long time to be without family at Christmas. Last year – the first since we left Canada – we went home. It was bitterly cold last year, and we are no longer used to the Canadian winter, but we loved it just the same. No amount of cold could chill hearts that were warmed by being with our children and grandchildren and our extended families. We even got to see the New Year in with our grandchildren in Cleveland.

This year was even better, for this year Jon and his family came to Cayman and celebrated Christmas with us here. During winters in Cayman the almost unbearable heat of the summer gives way to more moderate temperatures and the cooling Caribbean breezes gently blow the sea air across the island. Sunrises are long, and the sunsets linger for hours.

Our days were filled with the happy sounds of children at play on the sand and surf. When our time at the beach was done, the kids would happily return to the pool at our condo and play the rest of the day, practicing their dives and checking out their snorkeling equipment.

Friends of ours, Tom and Jana Hartley, went home to Florida for Christmas, leaving us the keys to their condo where Jon and Nic could stay. They left food in the fridge and freezer, and even bought them a welcoming bottle of wine and some snacks. Their place, like ours, has a pool so the two of them were able to have some quiet time.

The grandkids stayed with us in the spare bedroom, Eli just barely able to fit the small bed we bought for Russ on his visit. Typically, Jon and Nic would show up just after breakfast and leave when the kids went to bed.

Having been here once before was a blessing as none of us felt the need to do the things you are supposed to do when visiting another country. We went for walks, barbequed some meals and hung out on the beach. In the evening we watched some shows on Netflix that at our place is hooked to Jon’s account, so the kids could just pick up on what they usually watched. It was low key, low maintenance and highly enjoyable.

On Christmas Day Pam and I got to play Nice and Naughty Santa to hand out the presents. I will let you figure out who was who. We had enjoyed shopping in the limited retail market of George Town for weeks, and likely took more delight in seeing each gift unwrapped than the kids did.

The most fun gift – for me anyway – was the kite we took to Seven Mile Beach on a blustery day with Ben and I falling over each other trying to get this thing in the air. However, Ben would likely say it was the toy helicopters with their LED lights that they could fire off our balcony into the driveway below. Or perhaps it was the ukulele, and the opportunity to play a duet with Grandpa on his guitar with some chords that I hastily taught him.

It was a wonderful visit, the more so as it was so rare. Of all the things we miss about this itinerant life, it is not seeing the kids at Christmas that tugs at our hearts the most. The blessing is that now we are in the Caribbean we are only four hours from Toronto and see our kids and grandkids more easily and more often than we did in Malaysia. We really need to do Christmas together more often!

Another school year for our American grandchildren is well underway. From the looks of things, they all look pretty eager to be going back.

Ben in Grade five has begun his last year of Elementary school. In addition to his continuing interest in things technological, he is beginning to learn to play the clarinet.

Abi is rocking the maturity of fourth grade and is a wonderful big sister to Eli.

Eli is more than ready for Grade 1.

ArtAbiApr14

Abi is a lovely little artist but less than thrilled about showing off her work,

ArtApr14

Eli has no such reservations about her art. I must say I am partial to the little snowman.

They are all growing up so quickly and so sweetly. We miss not being closer, but are grateful to be able to visit on Skype and through Alexa.

Shortly after their marriage, Greg and Liz purchased the home in which that Greg was born and raised. He lived in that home until his mid-teens when his parents built a house in a newly developing area.It was a lovely, well-built, spacious family home into which Greg and Liz welcomed their own babies. However, it was also aging and badly needed repairs and expensive upgrading. With both of them in demanding jobs and two young kids, the work was overwhelming.

They decided to put it on market to see if they could find a buyer. Not only did one become available quickly but the buyers wanted immediate possession. Liz and Greg had two weeks, at the end of November, to find and purchase a new home, pack up and make the move. They found a lovely, smaller, brand new home that was ready for occupancy. Other than the fact that the landscaping will not be able to be completed until the spring, at the expense of the developer, it is a move right in, maintenance free home.

I was able to take a week off work for a quick visit to Calgary to help with the packing, moving and settling in. Quite uncharacteristically for November, it was a balmy, 11 degrees and a beautiful day for a move. It was a monumental task and the weather meant that Greg’s crew was all working so Greg, Liz, Greg’s Mom and I did the work ourselves. We were exhausted but so happy to see them settled in their new place by the time I returned to Cayman.

Russ and Layla are pretty resilient kids and just rolled with the punches. We even had some time to explore the new neighbourhood and just hangout in the new digs. Calvin and Hobbs even made the move in the form of a large, canvas print for his new bedroom wall.

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