Christmas newsletter

I have been very slack at posting lately. Here’s my Christmas newsletter so everyone can catch up – will post more about my holiday to the US etc soon!

Greetings Friends Near and Far,
Well, it’s already December 2011 and Christmas is fast approaching – it just seems to come around more quickly every year! Last year was a big one and this year has been even more special. For those of you on Facebook, you will already know most of my news for the year. At the end of last year, Christmas was a chance to relax after submitting my thesis. This year, it’s been just as busy but with more time to spend with friends. I’m looking forward to the Christmas break to rest and celebrate a great year.

The end of last year I had a full house with Deb & Nik living with me after moving back to Australia. In January they found their own place (only 5 minutes drive from me) and moved out. The house seemed strangely empty without them and the cats certainly missed their backyard adventure time with Nik and cuddling on the couch with Deb. They were still here though for the day I came home from work with exciting news – 3 passed examiners reports for my PhD!!! It was a couple of days before I brought myself to read more than the front pages which all said that it passed. My supervisor Kate called from the UK the next day, with a list of what I needed to change and her congratulations! It was going to be a few weeks before I could face making the necessary changes though. For some reason, my examiners actually adhered to the request to return their reports in 2 months, I was not ready to dive back into my thesis just yet. I distracted myself with my annual visit to the Australian Open with Mum – we had a couple of glasses of wine to toast the good news with our dinner. In January Dad and I also had a great night out – Billy Connolly live! We hadn’t been to see him for years so I took the opportunity to go with Dad, my sister, Paul, Deb & Vanessa. Definitely one of the highlights of the year.

In February and March I got fully immersed back into making the necessary changes to my PhD thesis to submit it for classification as passed. Slightly tricky with my supervisor in the UK still but we managed with email and a few phone calls to make all the required changes. It was with a big sigh of relief and crossed fingers I submitted my thesis to the sub-committee for classification. By this time I know a lot of my friends were wondering if this process was ever going to end, and some had already started calling me “Doc”. But the submission was necessary so that I could take up a new challenge – the opportunity to be Acting Manager of Postgraduate Research Administration at work while my colleague Nat was on maternity leave. This new role meant that when my thesis came back classified as ‘passed’ by the sub-committee, I had to prepare my own letter advising me what to do next! I did however get my boss to sign it so that there was no conflict of interest. Taking on the new role also meant being unable to fulfill my promise to be at my dear friend Michelle’s wedding. Admittedly she did get married in Florida and I hope to be able to visit her there in 2012.

With lightning speed it was the end of May – GRADUATION! I think the day was made when I saw the look on Mum and Dad’s faces when I met them outside in the full gown and hat! I was also blessed to be surrounded with good friends with Deb & Vanessa both taking the day off work to help me celebrate, and Cheryl and Michelle both flying in from interstate for the day! So many close friends and family helped me through this degree and I only wish all of them could have been there to celebrate.

June 12 brought my close friend Jo’s second book launch. Jo has written several books so far and launched the sequel to “Dannan Frost Falls From Grace” at Caroline Springs library to a big group of enthusiastic readers. My signed copy of “Dannan Frost Embraces the Darkness” was even more compelling and I read it in a day (getting very annoyed when the phone rang with only 100 pages to go). Congratulations, Jo!

In early July Matty and I had yet another fun-filled night at the wrestling, accompanied by Deb & Nik. I am still surprised that he still wanted to go – fourteen year old boys don’t seem to want to hang out with their aunty too often. But then again, he had Nik to hang out with this time. Thank goodness Sanity music was closed or we may not have seen them for days. And as I write this, I have bought tickets for next year as Matt’s Christmas present – yes, he still wants to be seen with me.

The other big news of this year was my birthday/graduation present to myself! For a very long time, I wanted to go to New York – so finally to celebrate finishing the PhD, turning 40 (a year late) and also have a well-deserved holiday – I booked a ticket. I can honestly say that the 15 days I spent in the US was the best holiday I have ever had! I can’t thank George enough for organising all my internal flights and taking so much time out to spend with me. I flew into LA leaving all my cares behind on 30 September and went up to San Jose for three days with Tom, Margaret & Kim. Tom and my Dad have been friends for over 50 years and I had a wonderful time catching up with them and being shown around – redwood forests, the Golden Gate bridge, Lombard street, Santa Cruz and Sausalito. Then an overnight flight to Asheville in North Carolina. George picked me up at Asheville airport and dropped me at his place as he had to get back to teach a class. I soon found the local Starbucks and some wildlife that needed a quick Google search to identify. George and I have been friends since Grade One and it was wonderful to finally be able to see where he lives and meet his friends in Asheville. I can see why he wants to stay there – I fell in love with Asheville’s quirkiness and the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. Not to mention the wonderful friends who made me feel so welcome and went out of their way to spend time with me. On Friday George and I flew up to Newark, New Jersey to stay with Robin in Hackensack. Looking out of the plane window I finally got to see the lights of NYC. We spent a hectic four days getting the bus into NYC and walking for hours. Highlights (and there were many) were the Empire State Building, seeing an off-Broadway show (Avenue Q – brilliant!), the galleries, the night cruise around the island and of course, the visit to Tiffanys. New York City delighted me – and the best part was having George with me. I didn’t have to think about anything – he knew where we were going, how to get there and that occasionally he would have to let me shop! Robin and I had a running joke with George – everything got checked on the phone (even the New Jersey bus timetable). Too soon it was Tuesday and we headed back to Newark airport – George going to Asheville and me flying to Rochester in upstate New York. Arriving there was bittersweet as I knew the next airport visit meant heading home. I had a wonderful time with RJ, Barb, Chuck & Lucy who made me feel so welcomed (and were probably wondering how I was getting by on 6 hours sleep). I just didn’t want to miss a minute of my wonderful trip. We hung out, talked, went shopping (I love Wegmans supermarket and seriously considered moving into Barnes & Noble), talked and also went to Niagara Falls. When I thought my trip couldn’t get any better, I got to stand overlooking the Falls, watching rainbows materialise in the mist. Followed by lunch overlooking the Falls, it was a fabulous day. My trip to the States was the best holiday and coming back home took a bit of readjustment. I am already planning to go back as soon as I can, this time with a trip to Florida to visit Shelly & James.

As always, this newsletter includes only the main highlights of the year. I hope to keep you updated (or fill you in on the news in person) in the very near future. I wish you and your loved ones a very Merry Christmas and a safe, prosperous, healthy and happy New Year in 2012. You will be in my thoughts over the Christmas season and throughout the New Year and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

All our Love,
Lesley, Ember & Agatha XXX

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