Dearest Family and Friends,
Here is my yearly “Christmas” letter. As I have mentioned in the past, it is a “highlights reel” of the year, which of course doesn’t mean everything was perfect. It is a reminder to me (that at the end of the day) there is more “good” than “bad.” This year, as I fell asleep at night, I tried to remember to list out the things I was grateful for. This is a habit I will continue because it has been a positive habit. In the overall scheme of life, I have no complaints. Well I do, but…
For my yearly “big” trip, I went to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. I have been asked several times how I ended up in these countries, and the answer is, “I don’t know.” I literally booked the trip a week before I left. I spent three nights in Tallinn, Estonia; three nights in Riga, Latvia; and three nights in Vilnius, Lithuania. It was my first time to all three countries. If you want to read about my trip, here is the first entry.
- Learning the history of the three countries, which have all be invaded and occupied over the ages but are now independent.
- I logged in many steps each day. Just walking around each city was a treat.
- The image of Alexander Nevsky Orthodox Cathedral (Tallinn) will always remind me of this trip.
- The Kalamaja area in Tallinn, which has a strong heartbeat. Old abandoned factories have been converted into shopping areas.
- The sightseeing bus I took while transiting from Tallinn to Riga. I particularly liked Viljandi and Cesis, which were both very charming towns. I also enjoyed our walk through the national park.
- The Central Market in Riga was amazing! The market is housed in WWI Zeppelin hangers and has outdoor stalls as well. It’s one of the largest markets in Europe.
- I enjoyed the Miera Iela neighborhood of Riga. It’s a district that is popular with young, “hipster” crowds.
- Walking around Riga was a treat because of all the Art Nouveau buildings.
- Remembering the Orthodox father who gave me candy and a smile always makes me smile.
- In Vilnius, I enjoyed all the high places to get great city views like Gediminas Hill, the Three Crosses and Subacius Observation Area.
- The “Republic of Uzupis” was awesome!
- One of my new favorite churches, Shrine of Divine Mercy, with its perfect spirit and altar that says “Jesu, in te confide,” which translates, “Jesus, I trust you.”
- I am thankful for the people I met a long way. Leonard who I met while walking around Tallinn. Daumants the guide from my sightseeing bus from Tallinn to Riga. Tom a fellow American I met after visiting the new library in Riga. Chin Lin from Malaysia who I kept running into in Riga after taking the Tallinn to Riga tour bus together. The young woman from Toronto who I sat by on my Vilnius to Frankfurt flight.
- I loved all of the churches, especially the Russian Orthodox churches.
- Each of the cities have areas going through rebirth. The flip side is that it’s part of the gentrification of areas that is happening all over the world. People who have historically lived there are being pushed out.
- I remain grateful for the gift of travel. It is a reminder that regardless of race, politics, religion, etc., most people pretty much want the same thing. I am also grateful of history that can teach us lessons if we listen.
My only other trip this year was going to Mississippi over Labor Day weekend to visit family. We had a barbecue in honor of my mom.
The fitness journey I began in January 2014 continues somewhat, though I did no races this year. I am over hills. LOL! I need to do a better job of hitting the gym and eating right in 2020.
It’s hard to believe my church newsletter is entering its 19th year! In spring 2020, we will publish the 75th issue.
I did not post that much this year. I need to do better in 2020!
A highlight for me in 2019 was when my job had an art exhibit, and I submitted pieces. It was so awesome to see my art displayed!
This year, my dear friend Anh passed away. Anh was one of the first people I met at the port in 1996, 23 years ago, and she was my supervisor for my first two weeks there. We became friends. Then we discovered that we had the same birthday, and it was a wrap. We also shared the same birthday with a woman named Clara, and we did what we called a “fish dinner” every month for years. During that time, they both gave me advice about life, work and finances. Toward the end, are meetings became more like quarterly. Then, at the very end, not at all because Anh was in a nursing home. Once she finally let us see her at the nursing home, we let her know we were there until the end and tried to visit weekly. She passed away during my trip. My memories of her are filled with joy and love. She will be missed.
I hope you have a very Merry Christmas, and I wish you a Happy New Year!
love. hug. xoxo.
P.S. Goodbye to 2019 and this decade.