Five O'Clock Somewhere

Welcome to Five O'Clock Somewhere, where it doesn't matter what time zone you're in; it's five o'clock somewhere. We'll look at rural life, especially as it happens in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, cats, sailing (particularly Etchells racing yachts), and bits of grammar and Victorian poetry.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

2007 Holiday Greetings from the Byrnes family

As usual, we're late getting our holiday letter out ... if you want the hard-copy version, with photos, send an email with your snail mail address.

Wow! Another year has gone by, and this one sure went fast, with more than the usual share of ups and downs.

Pat is still working for Ktech, a contractor at Sandia National Laboratories, but the project that he had been working on suffered a funding cut. Right now, he’s doing miscellaneous short-term assignments and odd jobs while he and Ktech look for a more permanent full-time position. His most frequent assignment is “meeting support.”

Carol Anne is still teaching at Central New Mexico Community College (formerly known as TVI), in developmental English. She still teaches primarily evening and night classes, in which many of the students are older, returning students with a more mature approach to life than the straight-out-of-high school set.

This year, as in previous years, she participated in National Novel Writing Month during November. The challenge is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. As in the past, she made the 50,000 words, but the novel, Murder at the Family Reunion, isn’t finished yet … she’s up to 71,137 words, and there’s probably another 20,000 or so to finish the story.

Gerald is keeping very busy in his senior year of high school, and he has had many accomplishments this year. He wasn’t able to get the calculus class he needed at his high school, so he’s now enrolled at CNM. By the time he graduates from high school, he will already have 8 hours of college credit – four credit hours of calculus, three of political science, and one credit hour for a special mini-course in mining engineering that he took this summer at New Mexico Tech.

In his high school, he’s taking advanced placement English, orchestra, and a special class called We The People, in which students study the Constitution and also current events. The class is also a competitive team that represents Highland High School. The competition involves making presentations and then being grilled by a panel of judges, and it simulates a Congressional hearing. Highland won the state championship, which was held in hearing rooms in the State Capitol; in the spring, the team will head to Washington, D.C., for the national championship, in which Highland usually does well.

Meanwhile, he’s still playing both cello and bass, and he’s a cellist in the Albuquerque Youth Orchestra, a city-wide orchestra made up of some very talented young musicians. At this level, rehearsals are serious business, and practicing hard is also a must.

Another activity that Gerald takes part in is Boy Scouts. This year, he earned his Eagle award, the highest rank and one that requires a whole lot of work and commitment. Now that he’s 18, he’s officially an adult and a full-fledged Assistant Scoutmaster.

Yet another group that Gerald is involved with is Key Club. The club has organized food drives and given time to assist a local food bank, and helped to remodel visitation rooms at the state Children, Youth, and Families Department. The club also helps its parent organization, the Kiwanis Club, running the parking concession at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

One more item on Gerald’s schedule is a German class trip to Germany this coming spring. The students are scheduled to spend three days in Berlin, then have home stays with German families in Ulm for several days, and finish up with three days in Munich.

As this is Gerald’s senior year, he’s making plans for college. He’s interested in architecture and in several kinds of engineering and materials science, and he’d like to go somewhere that he can pursue both music and sailing, not as major fields of study but as serious hobbies. He’s considering Rice University, where Pat and Carol Anne met, and before that, Carol Anne’s parents. He’s also considering New Mexico Tech, which now, believe it or not, actually has a sailing club.

We did have a bit of a scare this summer as Gerald was on the way to Socorro for the mini-course. Carol Anne got a phone call: “Mom, I’m OK. The car’s not.” The second sentence was an understatement. A tire had blown at full freeway speed, and the Cavalier did some ricocheting off both guardrails, very thoroughly smashing it on all sides. Chalk another save to seat belts and air bags; Gerald was uninjured except for breaking his glasses and getting a burn on his chin from the air bag.

Another of the downs this year was the loss of one of our cats, Tres. He had been suffering from a metabolic disorder, and just when we thought he was doing better, he took a sudden turn for the worse, and he died before we could get to the vet. Our other cat, Dulce, is now adjusting to being a single cat. We will all miss Tres very much; he was the most affectionate and empathic cat we have ever known.

We’ve still been doing a lot with sailing and the sailing clubs, especially with Pat as (soon to be past) commodore of the New Mexico Sailing Club and vice commodore of the Rio Grande Sailing Club. Pat spent a lot of time working on the marina that the NMSC operates at Heron Lake, reinforcing old docks to increase their lifespan, and working on a new gangway arrangement that will allow better access to the marina even when the lake level is low. The NMSC also hosted a regatta pm Labor Day weekend with 20 sailboats and crews from three states.

We’re still racing the Etchells, Black Magic, although we have cut back our plans for the coming year due to financial uncertainty. We did go to the Dillon Open Regatta in Colorado this year, and we enjoyed it, especially the condo that we stayed in, but overall the experience was a bit disappointing, and there’s a family reunion (on the ocean at Big Sur, no less!) that will conflict with it next year. So we’re going to save our money by not hauling the boat up into the mountains outside New Mexico next year.

The aftermath of the Dillon Open was another down – we came home to find out that the house in Albuquerque had been burglarized. What the burglars took had very little monetary value, less than the deductible on our insurance, but there were some things of sentimental value that are now long gone.

Another sailing related activity that Pat and Carol Anne did this year was a race management seminar in Houston. They both passed the test at the regional level, which is one step toward certification; another step is getting on-the-water experience running and helping run regattas. Pat has logged enough experience that he has earned club level certification, and he’s working on getting to regional level. Carol Anne hasn’t gotten around to submitting her log; once she does, she should be club-level certified too.

We also still have the vacation place, Five O’Clock Somewhere, up at Heron Lake, although Carol Anne didn’t get to spend as much time up there as usual, since we’re now short a car (the insurance on the Cavalier wasn’t enough to buy another car, so it went to pay bills instead). As usual, if any of you find yourselves traveling in or near northern New Mexico, drop us a line – we have plenty of room for guests, with two guest rooms with queen size beds, a queen size hide-a-bed in the den, an extra futon in Gerald’s room, and an air mattress and several sleeping bags that can be deployed as needed.

The Byrnes family
Pat, Carol Anne, Gerald and Dulce

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