.. Letters and Email



Richard Sawyer

December 2000 (received Summer 2001)
Dear Friends,

It's that time again--except that, with us, you never know exactly when that time is. An early snow day is allowing us to write most of this letter in December, but there's no telling when you'll get yours. If you're one of the dozen or so who receive this on paper, but you have an email address, please zap us a note so we can communicate more easily in the future. Speaking of communicating in the future, if you plan on calling us anytime, you should note that we have a new area code.

Janet still teaches biology at William Penn University in Oskaloosa. The job seems secure enough now that the school's financial condition has been upgraded from "stinking, bloody awful" to "surviving." It still lacks the enormous endowments some other colleges are piling up, but then it doesn't have any billionaire alumni lining up to have buildings named after them. Janet is very relieved to be finished with her two-year stint as a report writer for William Penn's accreditation process, which is now completed with the happy result that the University can continue to grant degrees for another seven years. The past year has been a very busy one, as she spent a lot of time working on that as well as chairing search committees for the hiring of two new faculty members in her department last spring. This spring should be easier, but we never know what a new semester will bring...

Rich was sufficiently discouraged by the conditions of his science teaching position at Newton High School to think seriously about quitting, but then he got the transfer he wanted, to math. It means another frightfully busy year setting up new courses--and next year we do it again, because we get new textbooks--but after that the job should be better suited to a 50-mile commute than the old one was. No longer does he have to set up, and then clean up after, two or three labs per day. He's stuck out in the portable classrooms for now. In the spring it gets worse, when he'll have a class out in the portables, then one in the main building, then another in the portables, but by next fall the whole math department moves to brand-new rooms in the main building.

Ben is two years old and talking all the time. Some of the time we can even understand him. If you call us, however, probably the only thing he will do that is directly related to the conversation is to hang up. That's up there among his favorite activities, along with eating cookies, having books read to him over and over, and dragging the vacuum cleaner all over the house. The vacuum cleaner has been an object of adoration ever since Ben could first crawl to it. Ben is happy in day care in a private home a few blocks from the William Penn campus. He's one of about half a dozen kids there at any one time. In fact, he is happy most of the time, although he will certainly cry if he doesn't get to eat a cookie or watch his favorite video ("Zoboomafoo" from PBS) at exactly the time he wants. So far, the terrible twos aren't nearly as terrible as they could be.

Rich is completing the second year of a three-year term as elder at our church. It's an exciting time, with a new pastor (since July), increasing attendance, and beginning plans for new construction. He chairs the missions committee, of which Janet is also a member, while Janet is missions coordinator for the women's organization. Rich admits he looks forward to the end of the third year, whereas Janet is starting two years as a deacon. Both Rich and Janet still sing in the choir, which means that Ben runs in and out of the pews all through choir practice. Although more and more kids are coming to church lately, no one regularly attending has had a baby since Ben was born. He still gets spoiled a lot.

Ben has already done more traveling than his father did until a much more advanced age, although we know Ben won't remember any trips this early. This year we spent a week in Virginia with Rich's parents, who had traded in their annual week in a Hawaii timeshare for one they could share with us. On the way we spent some time along the Mississippi River in Missouri, wandered through hilly southern Indiana, enjoyed Cumberland Gap, absolutely did not enjoy the awful, slow drive through garish Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, but loved the Great Smoky Mountains once we got to them. Ben is not yet up to any strenuous hikes, but he had fun splashing in a waterfall. That was on one of two paved trails Rich pushed the stroller on--steep, paved trails, Rich wishes to emphasize. On the return trip we spent a week with Janet's family in Ohio. Ben actually saw all four grandparents on the same day, something neither Rich nor Janet ever came close to doing.

We'll be back in Ohio for Christmas, leaving the moment Rich's school lets out on Friday the 22nd. Ben doesn't know a whole lot about Christmas yet, but he loves the lights. It's been a pretty good year, and now we're ready for the real turn of the millennium.

Rich Sawyer & Janet Ewart (and Ben, too)

February, 2000
Resolutions & Christmas Letter

[Rich usually includes a personal note with the annual family newsletter. Often, as in this case, there’s a gap of several months between them. -- Ed]

Dear Mia:

First of all, I don’t do New Year’s resolutions. If I did, writing my Christmas letters on time might be one of them. It would be the best kind, one you don’t have to think about until the year you resolved it in is almost over. ...

Perhaps you should have a section on resolutions we want OTHER people to make [too bad we didn’t get more of these -- Ed]. John Rocker recently joined a long list of people who should resolve never to open their mouths again. George W. Bush should resolve to take at least one stand before election day. Al Gore should resolve to let at least one hair go astray. Jesse Ventura should resolve to make no more Iowa jokes... . (Our first lady's response to a recent Ventura outburst: “If you want a book moved, call the governor of Minnesota. If you want it read, call the governor of Iowa.”) A whole lot of people need to resolve never to forward any more e-mail; please pass the Costa Rican bananas and thank you very much. By the way, I also have an opinion on “millenium crap,” which is that it is no worse than ordinary New Year crap, except that it all came and went a year early. [Hear hear! -- Ed]

Ben at 16 months ... is still happy and healthy. He plays with anything he can get his hands on. It only takes him a few minutes to spread toys across a clean floor, so we don’t bother to clean it all that often. ... Ben nearly runs now, but not very far before he falls down. He understands lots of words and even sentences, but he still speaks only a few... . His first and, so far, only fully correct two-syllable word is “money,” so perhaps with that focus he'll do a better job of making it than his parents are doing. He's outgrowing 18-months clothes and wearing 2-year stuff, which proves only that children’s clothing manufacturers flatter all parents into thinking that their kids are above average, like those at Lake Wobegon. People say Ben is starting to look less like a baby and more like a little boy, although he is still way behind in hair.

The only reason I have time to write even now is that it’s a [long] weekend. Perhaps I'll take a walk up toward the open part of the lake and see if I can spot some bald eagles. I saw one down at our end of the lake several weeks ago, but I haven't seen any since, and I hear there are frequent sightings elsewhere in the village. Merry Presidents' Day.

-- Rich


December 1999
Dear Friends:

Well, you know not to expect our Christmas letter to arrive before Christmas, and for most of you it won’t. Those of you with whom we communicate by e-mail will probably hear from us sooner, and with more pictures, than the rest of you. Please zap us your address if you haven’t already. (Rich’s college friends will recognize his new handle. For others, it’s too long a story [Suffice it to say, these editorial comments are wholly appropriate -- Ed].)

Ben ... has dominated our year. He’s eating well, as we are reminded every time we lift him. He started walking in November and he hasn’t stopped yet. He’s also popular, especially at church where the little girls crowd around him. This only goes to prove that popularity, if it has any genetic basis, is a recessive trait. Our friends at church say they’ve never seen him unhappy. We have, but overall Ben delights us.

Although Ben brings chaos to the house, he may have brought stability to our lives. Neither of us changed jobs this year. Janet is in her fourth year teaching at William Penn College, and Rich is in his second at Newton High School. [Rich went on to comment on the length of his commute and long work hours, but nobody wants to hear whining -- Ed]

Actually, by the time you get this Janet will be teaching at William Penn “University.” Apparently there are no particular rules around here for what is a college and what is a university, and many small Iowa colleges are renaming themselves as universities. It seems a little silly for an institution with less than 1,000 full-time students, but we have actually expanded to more than one campus. At any rate, this is the idea of the new president who has brought in $6 million in gifts in his first year, so I guess he can call the place whatever he wants. Things are going pretty well for Janet in teaching, although work and Ben together take a lot of time! Ben is now going to a very nice home daycare a few blocks from campus, which does make things a lot easier for Janet.

Exotic travel is out for a while, what with a baby and all. We did get away to see Janet’s family in Ohio in July, where Ben attended his first orchestra concert, hearing the Cleveland Orchestra on the lawn at Blossom Center. On the way Ben got his first swim--in Lake Michigan, at the Indiana Dunes. He also attended his first big-league baseball game (not that he’ll remember it), at Tiger Stadium in Detroit two months before the old place closed. At the game Ben tasted his first ice cream, but he’s had plenty more since. We almost didn’t make it to the game. In the midst of the Midwestern heat wave and urban road construction, our van died on the freeway, five miles from the stadium. A wonderful Michigan state trooper, whose name we were too stupid to write down, pushed us off the freeway, called AAA, let us sit in his air-conditioned cruiser while we waited, recommended a mechanic right across the street from the stadium, took us there himself while the car was towed, and persuaded the mechanic to take our car on a busy afternoon. We went to the game, then picked up the car--and the mechanic refused all attempts to pay him for his time after he couldn’t find anything to fix.

The trip also gave us the chance to visit old friends Karen and Mark Muyskens and their two kids ... in Grand Rapids, and Tom Ticich ... and Ellen Rosen .... At a family gathering at the marvelous new digs ... of Janet’s sister, Diane, and brother-in-law, John, we also got reacquainted with her cousin Jennifer [We cut out a bunch of parenthetical statements in this sentence. Live with it. -- Ed]. While hardly anybody ever visits us, at least Ben attracted both sets of grandparents to Iowa. It is perhaps unnecessary to say that a great deal of film was shot by the respective grandmothers. Just be glad we didn’t scan ALL the pictures and attach the whole lot to this letter. This year we’ll spend Christmas in California with Rich’s parents. ... We’ll be back in time to catch Rich’s dream Rose Bowl (Wisconsin vs. Stanford) on TV, provided that the electricity is still on.

Among those we mourn in 1999 is Rich’s cousin Pam Booth, whose January liver transplant came too late to overcome her long illness. We expect she’s already taken charge of Heaven’s child care center, and she’s probably also sewing clothes for the younger angels. Not only did she never get to meet Ben, but she never even met Rich’s brother and sister. We are reminded that family is a lot more important than jobs and vacations and Y2K (or the new millennium, which won’t start until Y2K+1). Our Christmas wish is that you can spend more time next year with those you love.


Rich Sawyer & Janet Ewart




What a pleasant surprise to hear from you. Your excursions through distant lands were a fun way to spend a few minutes before I get down to the nitty gritty of work.

You may notice, I have a new email address. Since moving to Florida, I usually go by "Susan" instead of the old "Sue." Took awhile for me to get used to it but Steve introduced me around that way long before the rest of the family moved here. I still prefer the ancient nickname that few people remember, but amusingly, is now reflected in a new website I have. Funny thing is that I didn't choose the site name.

You may recall (or not) that I have been expanding two business opportunities since moving to Florida. My Mary Kay business continues, although due to demands of time with my other endeavor, it is only part time (but still growing). I have a Mary Kay website which the company has set up for me, they chose to use all of my names when naming the site:

www.mymk.com/sparkerharms

No one has called me by that nickname since my very old school days in CT (of course, then it did not have the "Harms" part).

My other business, HOA Publishers, has grown steadily also and now actually offers a reasonable salary for both my partner and myself (and yes, we pay our bills and taxes too, and even have some part-time help). We aren't getting rich, but we do have a name and reputation in the area. Even my mother in CT met someone who lives here part time, and is familiar with our newsletters. (I guess that made it more real, that someone actually has heard of the company!)

My partner and I both work when we can around our youngest children's schedules. We both have home offices, which simplifies things, especially for me since Steve is my maintenance guy for the computer system. He still runs both our businesses from our home. HOA Publishers does not yet have a web site, although we would love to get that side of it going. There just hasn't been the time to plan, and create, and get the day to day work done (unless we just work round the clock, which is not the reason I started my own business). We have plans for expanding too, just need more help, a good lawyer we can trust, and time to meet with all of them to work out details.

Summer is in school at Univ. of Central Florida studying forensic science and testing the limits of what a college student can endure. She works part time (graveyard shift), is captain of the color guard (which means she travels nearly every weekend), a member of a sorority, and has a full load of classes.

Sara is still at home and working nearly full time. I think she hopes to have enough money saved to move out, but is still driving my old '84 Honda Accord, and I told her she can't take it with her (not that she'd want to).

She occasionally talks about going back to school. We'll see. Steve still travels some, but has been able to establish himself more in Florida lately, so he actually comes home for dinner most nights now. Business is good, a little crazy at times for him, and he's always got his eye on retiring to the Caribbean. He keeps asking when HOA Pub. will be able to support him too.

And Shannon is the wonder child. We wonder what she's going to do...a constant amazement to me. At 8 (ok, almost 9) years old, she has developed a completely wonderful sense of humor and a small-adult-like attitude that often catches us off guard. Of course, she thinks she already has all the answers, and constantly challenges.

Take care.

Susan [Harms]




Hey, Mia --

I've enjoyed your travels very much this morning. (Thanks for going, by the way, and thanks especially for paying.) It was a bit of a shock when my brother-in-law Stephen Lovekin ever-so-casually e-mailed me the link to your Web site. (If he has had it for a long time and is only now getting around to passing it on, I'll ... I'll ... well, I'll be most vexed. Perhaps it would be best not to ask too many questions.)

Anyway, the shock was short-lived, and only flared up briefly when I clicked on the link to the Poly High Class of '77 reunion site. What made me do it? Morbid curiosity, probably. I didn't know about that reunion until it was over, thank goodness. And Allen Simon's list of addresses, spouses and careers was plenty. I was pleased to note that the address listed for me is wildly incorrect, but so much more glamorous-sounding than the true one that I hope nobody notices the error. I think you made out pretty well, too -- "address unknown" has a nice, mysterious ring.

I read your resume with interest, and it's nice to see some of what you've been up to since graduation. I'd send you mine, but it's boring -- and besides, I can't find it. Luckily, I don't need it very often; I've been working at The Press-Enterprise for at least 100 years. I started as a news assistant, was a reporter for a long time and now am an editor.

It's kind of fun. The P-E is sort of like Colonial Williamsburg. We no longer use hot lead, but our technology remains old-fashioned. One of my favorite activities is floor work -- abusing the paste-up artists and slashing the heck out of stories with my trusty photo-blue non-reproducing felt-tip pen. But we're graaaaddduuallllyyyy introducing pagination, and I also get to use QuarkXpress three days a week to put out the teasers on the front page.

I hope all is well with you.

-- Laurie Williams




11/11/99

Dear Mia,

Dave and I are so very touched by the tribute to your Mom. She was one of a kind and we both felt fortunate to have known and been friends with her. [See Travels With Sue -- Ed]

I don't know if you remember the event of Dave versus the rat at your house...

Your Mom called our house and asked if Dave could come over and kill a rat that was in the high window of your living room [on the outside -- Ed]. Dave and I both went right over and after assessing the situation Dave knocked the rat off the window ledge with a broom stick and caught it in a bucket as it fell. The lid did not fit just right on the bucket and the rat got out and into the bush next to the house. He couldn't leave the rat in the bush so he went and got his 22 rifle, loaded it and shot the rat. He tried to get it at an angle so the bullet would ricochet but could not get it right so there is a bullet hole in your house.

Your Mom and I used to talk on the phone from the time you and Mark went to school until you would come home. I can't even remember what we possibly could have found to discuss for all that time. If we were not on the phone I would be at your kitchen table smoking and talking. We really did get to be good friends. She did love to tell the same stories over and over, but I always listened as if it were the first time she had told me. She used to get Dave over to visit too. They got along so well.

I know about Moms getting ill. We cared for my Mom for 10 years before she passed away. I feel so lucky that I was able to do this. Holly was a big help as well and learned so much about illness, laughter and real agape love. My Mom's quality of life at the end was not good. She never complained and neither did we. It was a blessing to be able to be together. She loved our new home and was able to enjoy it with us for 2 years before she died.

Mia, your Mom loved you so very much. She loved all of you almost with a fierceness. She taught me many things about being a Mom. It was hard with Mark because of his talent and she always gave me good advice. Mark had his growing pains, but you and he gave us so much pleasure with your Halloweens and you being his page turner in the school musicals.

Thank you for sharing this with us. We are appreciative. Let's always try to keep in touch.

Dave and Jane



11/12/99

Mia,

There is another story you may remember:

Your Mom and the lady next door, I can't remember her name, used to have a daily battle over the wooden planters that your Mom had on the edge of her driveway. The neighbor said they were in her way and you Mom said "tough, they are on my property." They also had a running feud over some garbage cans. Maybe your Mom had a thing with garbage cans.:) I recall the story of your Mom and Mary. Your Mom told me all about that mess.

Mark is in the same situation that you are regarding work. The company he works for was just bought out by a mega bunch and his last day is November 30. He lives in a small mountain community with not much chance to find jobs. He has been lucky so far and I pray he will be this time too. His theater work is weighing him down and draining him. He is doing My Fair Lady now but is not happy about it. He is the music director for the Methodist Church and so is hoping that one of the parishoners will be able to help him find a job. Keep your fingers crossed.

I did see the pictures of the wedding. I remember David when he was born.

Do you still have the doll house that your Dad built for you? [Absolutely, just ask the friends who've helped move it twice. -- Ed] It is so amazing. I have told my daughter in law about it because she loves that sort of thing. The first time Holly saw it all lit up her mouth just fell open.

Jane



11/12/99

Mia,

My God, the memories are coming like a flood. Don't feel bad about the kitchen table being messy. I think you must have forgotten how it used to be. Your Mom always had the morning paper all spread out on it and then there was my ashtray that I got from the cupboard below by the range and of course whatever we were munching on. And the t.v. blaring and us not watching. What happy times!!!

Oh, I remember how a couple of times Dave had to come over and help your Mom move the furniture around. She was always wanting a change. But when it came to the big stuff, Dave had to be called in. One time he said, "Now are you sure this is where you want the big t.v. cause I'm not going to move in again." And we all started to laugh. It was on the inside wall and she kept it there for quite some time. And she was so proud of the blue carpet. It was so soft and deep. I was envious to the core.

She had a good crying spell the first time I came over to see the carpet. For some reason she felt a little guilty or something about spending so much money. We talked and she cried some and then decided that it was all a good thing. It was the only time I ever saw her actually cry tears.

She used to tear up a lot talking about when Bruce was at Poly [high school] and you were attending Victoria [elementary]. She had some strong ideas about people trying to hurt you guys and I really never thought that she was totally correct in those assumptions. But then [a neighbor] pulled a real boner on Mark and I thought if she could do that to Mark then she could have tried to hurt you guys too. I hit [the neighbor] right in the face over the lies she told about Mark. She told people in the neighborhood that Mark must be gay because everyone knew that piano players were always gay. She came to our front door and started to say something to me and I just saw red and hauled off and punched her. She nearly fell to the cement. I'm lucky she did not sue me. :)

We still drive by the old house every now and again and I always look at yours too.

Girl, we have to calm down now. Later.

Jane



So grand to hear from you! Now, you too can be bored with my ramblings. Can’t believe you went to Turkey. would have loved to join you... and least in my fantasies. Wish I could cooridinate a day or two layover to visit with you and see all your photos. I wanted to go to Turkey to get my visa renewed, but england was cheaper. And wasn’t sure turkey would be as much fun by myself.

If you’re bored to death with stories, I’m sending this along -- to everyone -- so you might want to edit out the part about naked ladies and hunky men... :) [nah -- Ed]

 A Day at the Beach

see you,

Antonia



Mia,

How the hell are you? I ran into Gaston the other day while I was eating lunch and he gave me your email address. As it turns out, he and I are both working in the same general area in Santa Monica.

I’m still in the software biz, focusing on Marketing Communications (for the last 15 years now!). I guess it just seems like forever.

What have you been up to? Are you still in contact with Mike and Jane? If so, give Mike my email address, I’d love to hear from him.

I ran into Bob Wells at the MacWorld Show in San Francisco last year. He's still down in Australia, working as the editor of MacWorld Australia.

I still talk to and see some of the folk from Arrays, but not many at this point. Pam Nowatka is married with children and living up in San Jose. Nancy Carter (one of the Sales girls) is now one of the senior execs at CMP Publishing. And, up until a couple of years ago, I had also been in contact with Tim Mitchell and Dan Finley (used to work in Tech Support).

Now, I get to add you to the list. Hope things are well. Drop me a line and let me know how life is treating you. Would love to get back on the subscription list for the Mar Vista News! [Unfortunately, by the time I replied, a week or two later, Gary’s email address was no good. His name below links to a personal account that may still work. --Ed]

Take Care,

Gary



Whoop-Dee-Do ...

...for your new Subaru!!! You've deserved (and needed) a new or nearly new car for quite some time!

I'm still trying to figure out just exactly what it is you've bought, though. The Subaru America web page has several derivations of a Subaru Legacy, and several derivations of a Subaru Impreza, but I'll be damned if I can find a Subaru Legacy Impreza. Of course these are all Y2K cars, so what might have been a Subaru Legacy Impreza in 1996 may now have split into 2 different models.

At any rate, I’m glad you will have some modern and reliable transportation. Now, about that trade-in.

When David bought his Firebird, I kept his old Hyundai and sold it myself. What a gigantic pain in the ass. The first problem is that no one will buy a car without looking at it first, and on top of that they always want to take it for a drive. So you have to make sure it looks OK AND make sure it runs. Then you have to make an appointment to meet some stranger (should I tell tham where I live?) and let him/her drive you around town while they bad mouth the car. Then you have to politely tell them “no way in hell” will you sell the car for the ridiculously low price they invariably offer.

I had one young lady look at the Hyundai who said she needed a car because the Toyota she was driving was about to be repossessed. She wanted to take it to her mechanic, so she drove her soon to be gone Toyota over, took the Hyundai and said her boyfriend would be over to pick up the Toyota later. I told her that as long as she had the Hyundai, the Toyota would stay right where it was in my driveway. She brought the Hyundai back the next day saying her mechanic “advised her not to buy it” and drove off in her Toyota.

Finally unloaded the Hyundai, but only after a lot of time and effort.

When I bought Meghann’s Nissan, there was no way in hell I was going to keep the Shadow to sell myself. Like your dealer, the Nissan dealer didn’t want it in trade, but made the mistake of offering me $200 and were probably shocked when I said OK.

So you don’t have to explain your reasoning to me, I would not want to be having to sell that old rust spotted Samuri. I think it would take a lot of advertising and time to find someone to buy it. You got your money’s worth out of it, so any trade is money ahead.

Love,

Bruce



Returned from Peru yesterday and I discovered a few things: South America is fascinating and I want to go back, and I love (and am good at!) trekking in the mountains. (Anyone up for Ecuador or Bolivia next year?) I guess the most concise thing to say is it was magical. I’d say spiritual, but I'm hardly one qualified to make that distinction. But if I were...

Machu Picchu is all it’s cracked up to be... and more... and since this is not a heavy travel time there weren’t a lot of people to compete with for access to the ruins. I hiked a few miles of the Inca Trail and climbed Huayna Picchu -- the little ...1000 ft... mountain in all the photos of Machu Picchu. We started from about 8000 ft, so it wasn’t a piece of cake, and it was very steep (check out www.lonelyplanet.com). Altitude wasn’t much of a bother, though it played a few tricks (one of which is I couldn’t read until late afternoon, even with glasses).

There was a sweetness and serenity among the people, despite the crushing poverty. Some of the children looked like they were the subjects of the Save the Children commercials, begging for money or selling their crafts. There’s only so much (or so little) a tourist could do (I bought a lot of crafts... hey, it was the least I could do). The sad thing is that Peru has the potential to be a much wealthier country because of its natural resources... but for some reason it isn’t. We visited a house in Ollantaytambo where there ... still... is no sewerage, and whole large families live in 10x10 rooms with dirt floors and stone walls, complete with about 20 or 30 guinea pigs to eat (yecch) on special occasions. The skulls of their ancestors (the people, not the guinea pigs) looked down on them from a shelf for protection. I think I’d rather hang photos.

Food was so-so, but there are about 600 kinds of wonderful potatoes and I probably ate half of them. (Didn't gain weight... one of the great things about hiking). Pisco Sours (made from grape brandy) weren’t bad either. Lucky me, the desserts weren’t great and there wasn’t good chocolate anywhere (I searched and sampled). That was the major incentive to return to the US.

On vacation for another week... to sleep it off and pamper myself. Then back to the salt mines (I visited a real one near Urubamba. I don’t know which is worse, that one or the one I work in). Hey, it's a way to pay for my next vacation.

Mona

..

Copyright 2001 Mia's Mar Vista News. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction by permission only.