Sunday, December 15, 2013

2013 Family News

Dear Friends,

This has been an inward-looking, family-centered year.

Keith, Jean, Jory, and Jim
Keith lost his mother Jean in early April of complications from open heart surgery at the end of 2012.  Supporting her and then dealing with her death dominated our time and attention (and that of Keith’s sister Jory and husband Marty even more so)  -- and strengthened Keith’s bonds with his two siblings and extended family.  Jean was 91, but until her final illness had maintained a high level of energy and social engagement, chairing her continuing care community’s Activities Committee, introducing wii bowling, playing bridge, leading a painting group, reading to the blind, etc. Even in the post-surgery intensive care unit, she amazed staff by playing word games and making silly Christmas hair decorations out of hospital supplies. But during subsequent rehab, she suffered a stroke and then an infection. We feel her loss strongly, not the least because she was "much the same Jean” to the end. We miss her.  And celebrate her life.

Family gathering on the day of Jean's funeral

Family gathering with Kay
 at Thanksgiving
Jessica made regular visits to her mother, Kay, resident in the assisted living part of a continuing care community in southeastern PA.  Kay at 92 makes use of a walker and wheelchair to remain mobile, gardens (on her hands and knees), reads the New York Times editorial pages, and enjoys contributing to various causes.  However, she is increasingly frustrated with declining short-term memory.   Jessica is grateful that her sisters--especially Margy but also, in spite of a full-time job, Bethany--are also devoting significant attention to Kay.

When at home, Jessica has continued hiking, working out at the gym, and participating in several bicycling groups.   She’s also read more (including a range of books on neuroscience, as well as her old staple – fantasy/science fiction “candy”).  She has tried to stay professionally informed in natural resource management and land tenure developments, but for the time being she relishes her flexible schedule and has had no “drive” to return to the job market, or even spend much time at a computer.  She is beginning to re-engage with her Quaker meeting.

Keith returned from attending to his mother to a hectic spring collection season at Bikes for the World.  Highlights include receiving 5,000 trade-in bikes through a partnership with a national retailer.   By the end of this year, 14,000 bikes will have been shipped, and three corporate partnerships will have been formed.  With a strategic plan in place and a fourth salaried employee hired, Keith is feeling increasingly confident that the program will “take off”, but challenges remain.  A professional video on Bikes for the World produced by a Texas foundation can be found at

Together, we found time to enjoy a broad range of music -- folk, reggae, and Broadway musicals including John McCutcheon, Bobby McFerrin, Soja, and Showboat --overcoming what was in retrospect several years of cultural drought, and lifting our spirits.

Kate and Alex at Iguacu Falls
Kate still enjoys her apartment and her work as a reference librarian. Living and working nearby, she visits regularly.  A favorite family activity is watching taped Jon Stewart programs.  In November, Kate traveled to Brazil for tourism and a friend’s wedding in Rio de Janeiro, joined by Alex for a second week visiting Iguacu Falls and the Amazon.

Alex and girlfriend Carla moved to a new, more satisfactory apartment—with a responsible landlord—last spring.  They acquired a cat during the summer.   Alex continues to enjoy the work at the Geographic Information Systems “help desk” at MIT while Carla began her third year of a PhD program in American Studies at Harvard.

Keith, Jessica, Carla and Alex
overlooking Crawford Notch
Keith, Jessica, Alex,
and Kate overlooking
Mount Washington
All of Keith and Jessica’s personal travel this year has been by land.  We drove twice to New England last summer– the first in June for Keith’s 40th Middlebury College class reunion and then over to New Hampshire for hiking, the second in August back to New Hampshire for more hiking.  The kids were able to join us for portions of the hiking.  We spent Labor Day with Quaker friends near the beach in Chincoteague VA.   After 35 years of countless airline trips, mostly long flights for the World Bank, Jessica has enjoyed a 22-month respite from airports and planes.  We will break this hiatus, however, flying to New Zealand early next year.  While we face the economy fare flights there and back with some trepidation, we look forward to enjoying the 19 days in-country.

Speaking of the world…   May we all witness one that in 2014 is more peaceful, equitable, and environmentally-sound.

With affectionate best wishes,   Keith and Jessica

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

2012 Family News

Dear Friends,

2012 was another year of significant changes…work transitions and succession planning for the old folks, new jobs and digs for the young.

Jessica concluded her employment at the World Bank at the end of March, nearly 34 years after she first started to work in “operations.”  Her goodbye letter to colleagues gave highlights and her retrospective on her experiences.  Other web postings of short films (Tajikistan Farmland Restructuring,  Tajikistan Sustainable Land Management,  Kyrgyz Republic Real Estate Registration) show three of the development projects she worked on in Tajikistan and Kyrgyz Republic.  In her new free time, she has enjoyed hiking, exercise at a local gym, gardening, cooking, and reading.  She has also spent more time with a range of family members (see below) and it has been a huge relief to be free of other responsibilities to make this possible.  But the lack of deadlines and pressures to be conventionally productive is not entirely positive.  While she has taken baby steps in reorganizing the current family filing system, reducing paper, and digitizing a few historic family photos, she laments that she has not tackled the six large boxes filled with more recent photos in the study, and mountains of boxes with paper files in the attic.  

Keith has deepened his commitment to making Bikes for the World a national movement.  The board of directors has expanded to incorporate a wider range of professionals, with business, fundraising, and program experience, and at year-end was engaged in a strategic planning process laying the groundwork for a more sustainable organization.  In the spring, a partnership with national retailer Dick’s Sporting Goods delivered more than 4,200 bicycles to the BfW warehouse in Lorton VA, filling it to capacity (see video link) and contributing to a record 13,500 bicycles shipped in 2012, a 50% increase over the previous year.   A redesigned web site is scheduled to be launched in early 2013, making use of the growing volume of beneficiary stories, photos, and video coming from overseas partners.

Kate is flourishing since January as a reference librarian at Arlington County Public Library.  In February, she moved to her own place but, with our house on her bicycle commuting route, we still get to see her regularly for supper and/or watching taped segments of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. 

Alex switched jobs in August, resigning from his research analyst position with an environmental consulting firm and starting as a geographic information systems (GIS) specialist within MIT's Libraries.  Also in August, he and girlfriend Carla Cevasco moved in together, to a third floor walk-up.  Both sets of parents provided physical and logistical support, moving furniture downstairs and up.  Note: it is very hot in Somerville MA in August.

Speaking of heat, we managed to avoid the infamous derecho storm, resulting power outage, and much of the intense mid-Atlantic region heat wave in early July.  We had opportunely departed only the day before, to attend a Quaker conference in Rhode Island, where we participated in the “Cycling in the Spirit” workshop (which basically consisted of daily long morning bike rides).  Following Alex’s move in August, he and Carla, together with Kate, Jessica’s sister Margy, and nephews Graham and Brian Pratt joined us at a cottage on the grounds of the Philbrook Farm Inn, our traditional base for day-hiking in New Hampshire’s White Mountains.

Other transitions this year have not been so positive.  Jessica’s brother, Jeremy, died in early September in Roanoke VA.  Although he had been quite ill with Parkinson’s and other maladies, his death at this time was unexpected.   Jessica keeps thinking of the things she was planning to discuss with him.  Much of the immediate burden of supporting widow Judy fell on family living nearby--daughter Mary and partner Jake, and Jessica’s younger sister Bethany and husband David.  But Jessica was able to spend a week immediately after Jeremy’s death to help Judy deal with some of the logistical follow-up.  We attended a lovely and meaningful memorial service in late October—Jeremy had been active in peace and Quaker circles going back to the mid-1960s.

Both Jessica’s and Keith’s mothers turned 91 in 2012.  Kay Mott is now happily settled in her assisted living quarters, continuing her passion for gardening and her interest in the New York Times editorial pages.  Jessica has been glad to have more time to spend with her, helping her cope with everything from financial matters to new hearing aids.  Jean Oberg had open heart surgery the week before Christmas and is now in rehab in New York City.  All has gone well so far, and we expect her to return later in January to her own apartment in the continuing care community where she has been actively involved for the last ten years.

The family was active in the political campaign this year.  We hosted a Democratic Party volunteer for much of the fall; Jessica supported Emily’s List candidates, Keith and Kate canvassed; Keith organized volunteers at the precinct level.  Kate also worked the polls on Election Day as a non-partisan election officer, paying the price of these efforts which contributed to an unprecedented 85% voter turnout in Arlington, working uninterruptedly from 5 am–an hour before the polls opened—until 10 pm, three hours after the polls officially closed. 

Thanks to those who have shared their news!  We look forward to hearing from others who have yet to write.  In the meantime, we wish you all the best for a healthy, prosperous, and happy new year 2013.

Keith & Jessica

Alex, Carla, Keith, Jessica, Graham and Kate
 in the White Moutains
Jeremy in the 1960s

Jessica's retirement party

Graham, Jessica, Alex, Margy, Kay, Bethany,
David, Judy, Keith, Mary, and Kate