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Xmas Letter Delayed!


We regret to inform you that our yearly Xmas letter has been delayed ever so slightly by the presence of numerous zombies, (all of whom are extras from The Walking Dead.) With any luck, they will be casted for the second half of the season and we will be able to get our yearly publication posted. Please come back soon!


On his shoulders

On his shoulders

Kembata 2013

White Like Me

If anyone were to ask me what was one of the most essential “ah-ha!” tools for learning about White Privilege I would say, without pause, “White Like Me” by Tim Wise. If you haven’t read it, you’re in luck — the movie will stream for free for one month. Here are the details —

I might add, “The Color of Fear” would be my other immediate response.

I revisit both in my personal work. Go and read them/view them.


Lean into Love



The sweet days of summer are here and I’m going to try to reinvigorate this space just a bit — because I miss blogging as a record for our family.

And, because we’ve actually jumped, and finally hit the soft landing. Life with 2 small boys (not so small?) and 3 biggies is settling down to a familiar feel once again. I’ve been away from blogging while tending to the hearth; it has been the hardest work over these past 5 + months.

And you can see where we have arrived with this photo — as our sweet boy shows his growing trust, and demonstrates what a courageous and curious kid he truly is! (He has been terrified of water, has a perforated ear drum <don’t worry, he has a wax swim ear plug>, the water is cold still, the whole experience is brand new to him….and still he jumps in! And this is sort of a metaphor for our family adopting an 8 year old…..). Meet our little Afar warrior. Blog name TBD.

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My 3 Sons

3 boys

                        My heart bursts with joy.

Happy Holidays, from our family to yours!


Welcome to our first-ever online family Holiday letter! We elected to offer this through our blog for a few different reasons, namely:

  1. We are increasingly aware of our global footprint.  Somehow, creating our letter on paper, which is then photocopied, distributed and then possibly read before being discarded didn’t make as much sense as putting it online for those who might be interested in further details. And, you will be happy to know that this letter was generated using only recycled electrons.  (FYI, the rest of the family allows me only one nerdy punchline per Holiday letter  and, sadly, that was all I could come up with.)
  2. Having our Holiday letter online allows us to use more photos, which typically take up way too much space on a printed page. (Some have even gone so far as to say that the photos are much more enjoyable than my pithy prose.)
  3. There are people on our Holiday letter mailing list who don’t yet know about our blog, and we thought it would be good to let you know about it. If you’re one of those who are new to the blog- – – welcome!  Feel free to look around . . .

(Okay, in the interest of full disclosure, you should probably know that the main reason this letter has ended up on the blog is that I didn’t get it done before the cards were mailed.)

What’s in a name?
For those of you who are new to the blog, each member of our family has a nickname. At the start, this allowed us to maintain some degree of anonymity, but, frankly, it has become a quirky and cherished part of our site. Those of you who know us even a little bit will certainly have no problem figuring out who is who, (plus the photos make it pretty obvious.)

And, now, without further delay . . .


Ms. Plum – her nickname comes from a favorite character in the board game “Clue.”  She is actually the one who started this blog and who, in all honesty, contributes most often. We all know her as beloved mother, spouse, teacher, cultural anthropologist and advocate for people the world over.  (I also know her as the one who schools me constantly on the tennis court.)

This has been a busy year for Ms. Plum.  She resigned from teaching to focus on her non-profit work, not to mention the chance to be home with Blueberry.  Her daily workouts at the gym have been interrupted only by trips to far reaching destinations, including two excursions to Ethiopia (as part of her non-profit efforts and some other activities to be described later) and a single stop in South Africa (to visit Twinkletoes, since she was “in the neighborhood.”)

If that isn’t enough, Ms. Plum also started her own non-profit organization, Roots Ethiopia, which provides support in a variety of ways to rural communities in this part of the world.

Needless to say, we are all quite proud of her and the work she is doing.  She has also learned to make injera and other Ethiopian delicacies.

Songbird – oldest daughter – – – also talented artist, musician, teacher, student and athlete; (let’s not forget to mention lovely daughter and sister.)  Her nickname is a bit of a play on words, given her first name and her love of birding.

Songbird stayed quite busy in 2012, teaching art at Madison School & Community Recreation.  She also worked as tutor and a barista (a skill which has, sadly, not translated to foamy, rich coffee drinks each morning for the rest of us.  Of course, to be fair, I haven’t yet bought an espresso machine, which she says is a “requirement.”  Go figure.)

She continues to exude joy, enthusiasm and positive spirit in all things and our house always seems brighter when she comes to visit.  Blueberry, in particular, loves when his sister engages him in an art project.


Twinkletoes – youngest daughter, also a talented musician, student, athlete and beloved daughter/sister. (Okay, truthfully – – – brain power and intellect seem to ooze out of her very pores.) Her nickname describes one of her favorite activities, ballroom dancing.

A big portion of her 2012 was spent with a semester of study abroad, in Cape Town, South Africa.  We weren’t surprised that she continued to excel in her studies, however, the fact she took up scuba diving in the frigid oceans around Cape Town raised a few eyebrows here at home.  (This is the person who wraps herself in an industrial-strength “Snuggie” every evening during the Winter months.) Still, this new hobby speaks to the adventurous spirit which kind of defines her.

Her time in South Africa was followed by a quick stop in Hungary to visit dear friends.  Currently, Twinkletoes is finishing up her last year at UW-Madison and plans to apply to med school in about a year.


Waffles – where to start?  Oldest son, also a gifted student, photographer and athlete.  After a year at Colorado State, and a lot of time nurturing his passion for social/environmental issues and Ecology, he headed off to Israel to participate in a 6 month kibbutz where he is doing some really amazing work in rural communities, further expanding his horizons and deepening his convictions.

(His nickname, btw, was given to him because of his favorite breakfast offering at the time the blog was started.  His experiences and palate have expanded a lot since then, but the name has stuck.)

Waffles also had a chance to join Twinkletoes in South Africa prior to her return and, true to form, made many friends there.  We all anxiously await his return from his kibbutz, just in time for the holidays.



Blueberry – named for a favorite food at the time of the blog’s inception, (although he has since decided that apple slices and ice cream are more to his liking.)   Now 4, Blueberry continues to be an amazing not-so-little guy (85th percentile for height and weight, for those of you keeping score at home.)

School is “4K” this year, which means he is in the classroom four afternoons per week.  His teachers love his personality and happy demeanor and he is doing very well.  He has also become more outgoing and adventurous as he grows older.  He is funny, happy, energetic, bright and demanding, as all 4-year-olds are supposed to be.  Things are great with this beautiful little man, who grows older and somehow more wonderful, day by day.

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Mr. Sillypants – okay, this one needs a bit of explanation.  When discussing possible monikers for me, Waffles enthusiastically put forth the idea that I should be called, “Mr. Smartypants,” because I seemed to know a little bit about a lot of different things.  (That was his explanation, at least.)  I humbly pointed out that “Mr. Smartypants” may be, well, a little – – – shall we say? – – – pretentious.  That spurred the immediate change to the label of “Mr. Sillypants,” which endures, much to my chagrin. 
(I tried, at least, to find a fitting photo – – – this was in response to Ms. Plum’s request for me to give her my “best Kiera Knightly.”)
2012 has been a good year for me, as well.  I continue my work with my non-profit medical group, with 60% of my time as Chief of Staff and 40% as Family Physician.  It’s a great place to practice medicine and there isn’t a day I don’t feel fortunate to be part of my medical group.
Musically, I’m able to stay active, playing regularly for church and working on a few favorite piano pieces at home.
Without a doubt, my favorite activities are spent with family, running around the backyard/dog park/zoo/children’s museum with Blueberry or doing a variety of things with Ms. Plum or the other lovely people in our happy, busy home.  Ms. Plum agreed to a “boat upgrade” this past September, so I’m counting the days until the lakes are warm again.  (That should be heard as an invitation to anyone who enjoys time on waterskis, wakeboards, tubes or simply swimming around the boat.)
And, finally . . .
<to be determined> – The biggest news in our world is the blessing of another son, who will soon be joining our life here in Wisconsin.  Ms. Plum returned from Ethiopia with magical stories of a sweet 7-year-old boy who had “made a connection” with her (a connection which found its way to all of us, by extension).  This bond did not fade and, after some of soul-searching and careful thought, it became clear that this beautiful boy would become part of our family. 
Ms. Plum visited him again this past Summer and we are now waiting for the last piece to fall into place, namely, the news that we can travel to his world so that he can become part of ours.
His nickname, obviously, cannot be known until he is part of our daily life (at least, in more than thought and prayer – – – he is already fixed in our hearts.)  I’m sure there will soon be pictures as well as stories about the joys, struggles, triumphs, laughs, tears and other mystical, magical and messy threads which form the exquisite fabric of family.
Just when you thought it would never end . . .
. . . here is my final thought.
As I have spent time trying to put thoughts to words, I have found myself reflecting on why so many people seem to engage in this ritual, the practice of sending out Holiday cards and letters.  (It’s a good question to ask, especially as the clock hits 1:58am and I’m still editing.)
To some, these letters may serve as a “family resume”, a chance to highlight (and perhaps brag about) all the things which have gone well in the past year.   To others, the letter can be a news blotter – – – here’s what happened with us since last year; any questions?
Truthfully, I am proud of the people in my life, and I am happy for the good things that are happening for each of them.  I also understand that some of you who come to this page want the news – – – you want to know what is going on and what is happening next.
However, the huge driving factor for me in creating this yearly publication seems different.  Bigger.
As I sit here trying to bring this to a close, I can’t help but think of the many people who are special to us.  I think about the fact that many of you will come to this page and read a bit about where we are and what is happening.  And, as I think of each of you, I am also aware of the fact that we all wait anxiously for your cards, for your letters, your emails, your blogs, your Facebook posts.  I think of how our hearts jump when you call us on the phone, how we anticipate the moment when you will pull into our driveway or when we will see you at a special gathering.
Each of you occupies a special place in our hearts.  And, our lives are so much richer because of you.  This letter gives us a chance to share our joys and our news, but, also, to let you know that you are special to us.  Thank you for your love and for the joy you bring to us.
As we move through the next few weeks and also look upon new vistas ahead, we send to you our wishes for a blessed Holiday season and Happy 2013. 
With much love,