Saturday, January 23, 2016

2015 Family News




Annual greetings from Keith and Jessica!  We’ve come through the past year on an even keel, and wish the same or better for our correspondents.    

Keith continues leading Bikes for the World.  It has had its ups and downs, generally up, e.g., strong local Washington DC “production” of bicycle donations and shipments, augmented this year by satellite efforts in New York, which shipped its first 40’ container in October, and Pittsburgh and Charleston SC, which hope to ship in 2016.  This expansion is supported by three capable and dedicated staff members, a helpful board of directors, and an active cadre of volunteers.  But there have been setbacks, as with the unexpected loss of a significant corporate partner.  After ending financially in the red for the first time in 2014, Bikes for the World broke even in 2015, better than expected, putting the organization in a good position to afford commercial storage space following the anticipated loss of donated warehouse space at the end of 2016.

Despite one scare in the spring, Keith appears to have stabilized health-wise (see last year’s blog). However, he is no longer as active physically at Bikes for the World, so needs to catch up with Jessica and do more hiking, biking (yes, ironically), and other exercise.

Jessica continues her life as a “dilettante retiree”, albeit with a focus on personal fitness and health.   Beginning in the spring, aided by a Fitbit HR, Jessica lost the 20 pounds she had gained the previous year during Keith’s illness.  When she isn’t visiting her mother in PA, she attends a “core conditioning” class three times weekly at the county rec center; makes a weekly bike ride along the Potomac; and hikes, bikes, or takes other bike trips.  Recently, she has also been doing physical therapy to recover from neuropathy in her left hand and associated cramping in her shoulder and back, which stem from a dislocated front collar bone (an old injury that can’t be fixed).

Another priority of Jessica’s is support to her 94-year-old mother Kay Mott.  During the year, Jessica has been more regularly visiting Kay at her continuing care community some three hours’ distant.  Despite increasing physical limitations and a move this year from the assisted living to the nursing home section, Kay continues to exhibit gumption and cheer as she carries out the basic tasks of daily living.  Not un-relatedly, one of Jessica’s favorite of many books read this year—and recommended to others of our generation--was “Bittersweet Season--Caring for Our Aging Parents and Ourselves” by Jane Gross.

Jessica also became more active volunteering for the Langley Hill Friends Meeting, principally as Treasurer and Clerk of Finance Committee, as well as a member of the Nominating Committee.
If you are on Facebook, look for her.  Although her own postings are still limited, she has moved beyond sporadic, passive “stalking” to checking in more often and increasing her roster of “friends”.

Daughter Kate leads an active young adult life.  She continues to enjoy her job as reference librarian at Arlington Public Library and taking initiative in reaching out to job seekers, college students and young professionals. The American Library Association elected her as the Secretary on the Board of the Reference and User Services division (RUSA), the same division whose committees choose the annual ALA Notable Books, Carnegie Awards and other well-known awards and write the standards for professional reference librarians and other publications.

She is one of three co-clerks of the Young Adults part of Friends Meeting of Washington.  She also spends a lot of time with her boyfriend, Taylor, including numerous weekend trips. Despite all this, we actually see her with some regularity taking advantage of her residence nearby.

For those who may not have received our missive of last year, son Alex and daughter-in-law Carla Cevasco married in August 2014 at Boston City Hall.  The public celebrations followed later, first in late December 2014 here at home in Arlington, and then this past August in the beautiful setting of Carla’s parents’ farm in western Massachusetts.  The summer event took place under a large tent, in a field surrounded by flowers (which Carla’s mother grows professionally), with nearly 100 guests enjoying barbecued pork–an entire animal—prepared on-site by the caterer.

The pair lead busy and dynamic lives.  Alex, after over three years at MIT providing help in the use of “GIS” (geographic information systems) tools to student and faculty projects, is moving to a civil service  position with the John A. Volpe National Transportation System Center (aka “Volpe”), a self-funded research and consulting arm of the US Department of Transportation.  As Volpe is also located in Cambridge, Alex’s commute will change little.  Meanwhile, Carla is well on her way to a Ph.D. in American Studies at Harvard.  With the help of several recent research fellowships off-campus, she continues work on her dissertation on food and hunger in colonial New England.  Recognizing her scholarship, the History Department at Harvard has presented her with an opportunity, rarely offered to graduate students, to teach her own original undergraduate course, titled “The History of Hunger,” during the spring 2016 semester.  However, life is not all work; the couple take time to go on long tandem bike rides, care for their pet cat McGrath, and visit family and friends.

We’ve been spending more time with the mid-west branch of Keith’s family, the Smiths from Kansas City.  Early in the year, his cousin Glenn Smith lost his wife JoAnn to pancreatic cancer and we traveled to Kansas City for the funeral.   Since mid-summer, we’ve hosted Glenn’s daughter Brooke as she returned to her DC job punctuated by travels back-and-forth to Kansas City, and visits from her father.  Amidst this sadness, however, the Kansas City connection distracted and made this year’s World Series a more pleasurable affair.  It also afforded Kate, Taylor, and Keith the unique opportunity to attend--as the guests of Glenn, Brooke, and sister Jamie--a Royals baseball game in nearby Baltimore, and to witness a memorable ten-run inning, with two grand slams…which unfortunately for our hosts was not scored by the Royals.

Each year we struggle to say something constructive about things in the wider world.  We are pleased with the modest progress on confronting climate change demonstrated by commitments made at Paris.  We are trying to do our part, among other things, by installing a 3 mw photovoltaic (solar electric) system on our roof, which we expect to be operational by spring.

We also urge all people, including politicians, to put aside fear-mongering, to work to reduce gun violence, to seek peaceful resolution of conflicts locally and abroad, and to offer compassion and support to all victims of violence.  The examples of the forgiveness of Charleston church members, the diplomacy of John Kerry on the Iran nuclear accord, and the welcoming of Syrian refugees by the Canadian government inspire us.

Wishing you a happy, healthy 2016,

Keith & Jessica

P.S. More photos are attached below.

Kate giving a toast at August marriage celebration
Keith, Jessica, Carla, and Alex with Peter and Elaine,
Carla's parents

Carla and Alex with Jessica's relatives
Carla's childhood home &
site of August marriage celebration
Alex and Carla with Keith's relatives


flowers at the farm during celebration

On top of Monadnock, NH

Monadnock Mt.

Jessica with sisters Margy and Bethany and mother
Kay who was recovering from severe anemia


Jessica and Kay back at Kendal


Jessica, Keith, Kate and Taylor
during birthday dinner for Kate

Dinner out during fall visit of
Carla and Alex 
Christmas Eve with Kay at Kendal


Botanical Gardens
Botanical Gardens Xmas exhibit

Keith's sister Jory and
nephew John
Post Christmas visit to Great Falls