Christmas Greetings from the Inland Northwest

Hi there all you who happen on this page and are interested in an update on the Spokas clan residing primarily in Spokane.

I (Phil) was put in charge of the Christmas card this year, so if you happen to see it and are less than impressed with the layout and the design, it only reflects on my lack of design skills and not the rest of the family. I have an affinity for the Christmas Squirrel which was original artwork from my son John a few years ago. The wreath was provided by my daughter Emily, who can draw pretty nice looking cartoon figures. Artist's Allie and Cathy didn't have much of a chance to participate this year and daughter Marian claims to be artistically challenged like the old man (that "old man" would be me.) We need to give a huge shout out of thanks to Catherine Schaeffer Photography for all the awesome shots we've had since coming to Washington.

A number of cool, fun, exciting things have taken place over the past year and I hope to give you a bit of a peek into those in the page below. We did have a few challenging times and sad events, like everyone, and I'll fill you in on those as well. Since many of you know I always want to hear the bad news first, I'll start there.

Cathy's father, Bob, or "Bobo", as most know him, had a major heart attack or attacks in October. Bob is 86 years old and has been suffering from symptoms of dementia for a few years now. One evening in October, he had a pretty rough night that we all thought was due to being sick with the flu. It turns out that these are classic pre-symptoms for a heart attack. Janet (Cathy's mom) and Cathy ended up calling 911 in the morning and his heart arrested on the way to the hospital. The ambulance pulled over and resuscitated him. His heart arrested again when he arrived at the hospital. Needless to say, we didn't think he was going to make it, but he did. We're still not sure how, but he's proven to be a remarkably strong man. He spent several days under, then a few more days awake but not really aware of his surroundings and so on. He was in the hospital for about 3 weeks in total. He was then moved to a rehabilitation facility where he resides today. He's come along remarkably well. Clearly he's not in the same shape he was in prior to the incident, but he is constantly improving. We had him to our place for dinner and a gingerbread house competition last night and he participated. He was pretty tired by the end of it, but he was there and that's saying something.

Janet is hanging in there with the rest of us, and takes daily trips to the center to visit Bob. She is handling all of this with poise and grace, and her and Bob's positive attitudes are what's getting us all through.

In January of last year, we lost our dog Miles Davis to cancer. He was a real trooper to the end, and in spite of my claiming not to be a pet person, it was a true loss even for me. Miles was a great dog and a great friend and I hope to post a bit more on him in the near future.

And now on to the good stuff from last year, more or less in chronological order ...

John and I went on a few college visits including Montana State in Bozeman Montana and Colorado State. While we ere in Montana, we managed a little side trip to Big Sky and spent a day skiing. Bozeman is a really nice town, the drive to Big Sky was beautiful and the skiing was awesome. We did witness a few skiers throwing themselves off cliffs onto steep inclines and ski and board down, which inspired John to jump off his own (thankfully smaller) cliff.

In the spring, Cathy and I traveled to beautiful Chapel Hill, NC for Emily's Junior recital at UNC. In true diva fashion, the trip was not without incident. Emily was sick and didn't even have a voice until a few days before the recital, she did awesome to overcome that, and then on the day of the recital, in an already emotionally exhausted state, she had the Dreaded Dress Incident: the zipper broke out of her dress, a dress she swore she tried on just the day before. We scrambled and came up with the necessary sewing hands and equipment to get the dress fixed (more or less) in time for the recital.

John participated in most of the senior season of lacrosse for a joint team from Central Valley High School (his high school), University High and a few others. John had some great games despite some health challenges. My favorite moment of the year was when his girlfriend showed up at a game and John promptly won two-face offs, raced down the field, and scored on each one. He then immediately went to the sidelines to throw up. Nice. (For the record, he claims he didn't know she was in the stadium at the time. OK then, moving on...)

John graduated from high school! We went to a very nice ceremony held on the Gonzaga University campus. It was great affair, and a number of pictures were posted. John was challenged having to transition from Elmhurst's York High School to Central Valley High School in Spokane Valley, but he came through with flying colors.

Marian finished her Freshman year at Gonzaga Prep and started her Sophomore year. Over the summer, tryouts were held for the Cheer squad and Marian was accepted onto the team. We enjoyed meeting some new people through the squad, and of course, watching Marian cheer.

Huckleberry Hike, 2013. Over the summer, we were fortunate enough to get accommodations from Larry West for a weekend at his house at Schweizer Mountain in Idaho. It was great to have the family together if only for a short weekend, we thoroughly enjoyed our time together. John and I did have a great time taking a chair lift to the top of the mountain and then riding down on mountain bikes while the girls did their thing elsewhere. I only fell about 5 times the first time down, so of course we had to do it again. I did have to kind of talk the chair lift operators into letting me go again and thankfully didn't fall once the second time.

Allie took a camping trip to the Enchantments and had a great time. Considering it was her first time backpacking, a five day trip through the wilderness without cell service or indoor plumbing is pretty impressive! She brought back some blisters and bruises, as well as some pretty cool pictures and stories. It looks like a great place.

Cathy is now working at Pottery Barn downtown Spokane. Whenever I walk into the store to pick her up, she has a big smile on her face, or is otherwise heads down and intent on satisfying a customer requesting for something. She has (not surprisingly) made fast friends with many of her co-workers and is applauded for bringing her famous "Cathy's Christmas Crack" (a yummy milky way concoction) to the store's Holiday treat swap. Cathy also has been involved in the Liberty Lake Tennis Association, which runs free tennis clinics during the summer for children on weekends and adults during the week. Cathy participated in the LLTA in a variety of ways, including running sessions on her own, helping to run sessions with the head coordinator, or just enjoying playing. This summer, all six of us were out there a few times hitting the ball around.

Emily had her fall concert with the Loreleis and the group managed to get this gem posted. There's plenty of others on their youtube channel featuring the rest of this wonderful group of ladies.

For my part, I've been keeping myself busy with work at IntelliTect. The company is growing and very active, and we always looking for more to do. We're a bit crazy that way.

I found time to train for and complete a second marathon. Some may find this hard to believe, but aside from water breaks I ran the entire marathon, not fast, but I did run it. I even improved by personal best time by 20 minutes. So far, I've not ended up in the hospital as a result. My first marathon last year was a pretty much a slog the last 8 or so miles once I hit the wall pretty hard at about mile 18. Once a marathon is completed, it's funny how the perspective on miles changes. Prior to running a marathon, I was proud of myself for completing a 5 mile run, now that's pretty much the new jog around the block.

Cathy and I will be spending a lot of time in North Carolina the first half of next year as Emily completes her senior year at UNC. Upcoming is her Senior Recital on February 8th, her senior concert for the Loreleis and of course, her graduation with a double major in Psych and Vocal Performance. We are very interested to see what comes next. (And so is she...)

Our time together as a family always seems brief, and yet, I feel closer to everyone in the family than I have in years. That is the one overriding benefit to the challenges of moving so far away and the heartache of missing old friends we don't really get to see.

Until next time, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and Blessed New Year.

Phil and Family