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A Million Little Pieces Of My Mind

Christmas Letter 2006!

By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 4/15/2024
Posted: 12/18/2006
Page Views: 4980
Topics: #Christmas
Our Year In Review: 2006.

It's time again for your yearly recap of the adventures of the Cilwa-Manions.

It's interesting to me to observe how, almost every year, the medium for this exercise changes. The very first Christmas letter I sent out was in November, 1977. I was a dispatcher for the Florida State Division of Forestry, and automated sending the letter out to everyone (with customizations) with paper tape and a teletypewriter. The next year, it was via mainframe printout from data cards and a simple COBOL program. I've used dedicated word processors, TSCRIPT, a text formatting program I wrote for the Tandem computer, and Microsoft Publisher. Last year was the first we sent our letter via email to most of the people in our address list. And this is the first year I've made it part of my blog. Here's what's been happening in our neck of the woods.

Jennifer Paul Karen Mary Michael John Zachary Dorothy Cailey

Edna Mae

My mom, Edna Mae, passed away in March at 93 of abdominal cancer. (You can read her obituary/tribute page here on my web site.) We miss her, though in a way she'll always be with us—especially when we see a Wal-Mart.

All of Us

In late March we moved from Peoria in the West Valley to Mesa in the East Valley. This saved over two hours of commute for me to my job in Chandler, and Michael and Karen to ASU. The house in which we now live is absolutely beautiful, two stories (which was Zachary's only requirement) and convenient to everything.

In May we made a rented-motor-home trip to California. We spent a night at McGrath State Beach and also got to swim at Newport Beach. Zach loved it because the ocean is a special treat to him. But, heck, we all love it.

When summer came, I discovered we live just 15 miles from the Salt River—better yet, the section of the Salt River where people go tubing! We bought floating chaises, inner tubes and even a giant floating platform and almost every weekend afterwards, until Labor Day, found us floating down the river.

The expedition begins Zach, Jenny and Cailey floating down the Salt

Most of Us

In June, everyone but I went to Disneyland and California Adventure to celebrate Zachary's birthday. (I had to work, but the others were on break from school.) They drove out, stayed at a nice hotel and Disney'd until they could hardly walk. Then they went to Medieval Times for dinner and a jousting show. Zach said he liked that best of all!


He also preferred Medieval Times to Wicked, the road show of the Broadway hit musical reimagining of The Wizard of Oz, told from the viewpoint of the Wicked Witch of the East. Having previously fallen in love with the score, no one could possibly have enjoyed it more than I!


In January, I finally got with the program and added a blog to my web site. In case you haven't figured it out yet, a "blog" is short for "web log" and is like a diary. You can put anything in it that you like, with the understanding that anyone in the word can read it. So it isn't a good idea to put your Social Security Number in your blog! Some people use their blogs for recounting their social activities; some use them for religious or political essays. I've done all that, plus essays on subjects as wide ranging as the history of recorded music and facts about alien abductions. If you'd like, feel free to visit I try to update at least once or twice a week.

Work-wise, I am still at Toyota Financial Services as a consultant with Adecco. I've been here over a year, and really enjoy the atmosphere and friendly employees. Also, I get to wear shorts in the summer and jeans in the winter, so I couldn't be happier.

On the other hand, I am still looking for the right agent to represent me and my latest novel, Joshua Rising. There's been a couple nibbles, but finding the "right" agent is, they say, tougher than finding the "right" spouse. So wish me luck.

In September I was diagnosed with sleep apnea. It took until last week to get the CPAP (Constant Positive Air Pressure) machine that is supposed to allow me to sleep more deeply. I've only used it two nights as of this writing, but already the difference in how I feel is nothing short of astounding.


Michael has been focusing with unbelievable tenacity at his goal of getting a doctorate in Physical Therapy. In the January semester at ASU he took Functional Anatomy and Kinesiology, Motor and Developmental Learning, Peoples of Meso-America, and Survey of American Music. (The requirements of his graduate school include cultural courses as well as medical ones.)

On May 12th Michael graduated From Glendale Community College with a second Associates in Arts degree.

Rather than take a summer break, he kept right at it, taking General Physic I and Biomechanics. In the fall he attended two schools. At ASU he took Biomechanics of the Musculoskeletal System, Electrocardiograms, Blacks in Medicine and Science, and Basic Calculus as well as completing two internships—a total of 300 hours of work—at a Physical Therapy clinic. In addition, he took two night courses, Developmental Psychology and Abnormal Psychology, at Mesa Community College.

Michael looks forward to graduating this coming May with a BS in Human Physiology, then transferring to A.T. Still University in Mesa to become a Doctor of Physical Therapy after three more years.


Mary has become Zachary's unofficial home teacher and cheerleader (though all of us chip in on occasion). She makes sure he has memorized his spelling words, done his math homework, and gets on his school bus in the morning with his papers and his books and his lunch. She is still interested in becoming a potter—the pieces she did last year attract favorable comments from every visitor—and we hope she'll find time for that this coming year.


Karen is also a student at ASU, studying for her BA in archaeology. A common sight at home is seeing her curled up on the sofa, computer in her lap, watching the TV with one eye and doing her homework with the other. (She also watches Zachary with the eye in the back of her head.) I've stopped telling her not to try and watch TV while she studies, since she makes A's in most of her classes anyway. She's taken and completed 14 credit hours for the Fall semester, and an additional 17 credit hours by the end of Spring semester. One of her more interesting assignments was to write a children's book version of the mediaeval legend Beowulf. She asked me to collaborate on the artwork. You can see the result at

All this is in addition to reading Zachary a bedtime story each evening.


John, who rejoined us from Iceland last year, has made himself the supplier of entertainment. When we first moved into the new house, he donated a wide-screen HDTV to the family (which has been used pretty much non-stop since). In the summer he bought and erected (with help from everyone else) a huge aboveground pool for the back yard.

Late in the year, after a great deal of careful searching, John found the ideal job as Visual Manager for Dillard's. Not just locally—next year he'll be flying to stores in other cities! Not only is this in his field (making use of his degree in Graphic Design), but the people he works with are nice and the work itself is challenging and fulfilling. This time of year, of course, he has to put in a lot of overtime; but he smiles when he says it and that's good to see.


Zachary is now in 2nd grade at Augusta Ranch Elementary School. It's close to our house, but far enough that he "gets to" ride a bus each morning to go there. He is now spelling words like "scooter" and can even spell words that are not in his spelling list if they are similar to words that are. (For example, "parrot" and "carrot".) He has continued to hone his building skills, being now able to assemble a Lego Castle faster than we adults can read the directions.

In Disneyland, this year Zachary was tall enough to ride on almost every ride they had. His favorite (Karen's, too) was the Tower of Terror, they went on this twice and both times it was equally scary! Which means they loved it.


Dorothy Ann and Bob

Michael's sister and brother-in-law, along with their friends Mike and Sue and their son and his friend, traveled all the way from Connecticut to Sedona to stay at a timeshare there. They spent a week; we enjoyed a day of site-seeing with them. In spite of heavy rain we were able to visit the Navajo jewelers at the north of Oak Creek Canyon; Airport Mesa vortex, and Bell Rock. We managed to injure Dorothy Ann on the slippery rocks at Red Rock Crossing, but not before all the men (including Zachary) got to swim in Oak Creek. (The ladies preferred sunning themselves and looking beautiful in their bathing suits.)

Then, on the evening before they were to leave, they all came down to Phoenix for a surprise birthday party for…


Dorothy Ann, Michael and Surya

Michael's other sister, who is a frequent visitor to the house, was literally speechless (for a few seconds, anyway) when we took her to what she thought was going to be a quiet dinner with just the three of us—to find, among others, her sister there. Since Surya lives in Phoenix and Dorothy Ann lives in Connecticut, this was the first time they'd seen each other in person since our wedding in 2000. So it was a delightful evening.

Jock and Diane

In June Jock McNeill, my co-author on The Sun City Cannabis Club, and I attended a book-signing. We sold a few autographed copies and did a lot of networking with the other writers and publishers there. Diane kept hopping up to bring us food and snacks so we wouldn't have to miss a customer! (And the food there was really good.)

Speaking of The Sun City Cannabis Club, sales are starting to pick up as the word gets out. So far, any bookstore that has given it a prominent position has sold out of it—again and again. It's the cover and title that do it, of course. (See it in the upper sidebar at the right.)


Mary's and my daughter, Jennifer (Zachary's mother) has been able to visit a number of times this year and we're very pleased. She is being groomed for the staff at the women's home where she works, and is finally able to make use of her organizational and interpersonal skills in a way that can bring hope and help to people who need it.

Dorothy and Cailey

Our oldest daughter, Dorothy, and our granddaughter, Cailey, managed to visit during the summer. (Unfortunately, Cailey's daddy Frankie couldn't make it.) Both ladies looked lovely and were sights for our sore eyes—we hadn't seen them in so long.

Michael especially had fun with Zachary and Cailey, leading them in the creation of individual magic wands. He had already made a wizard's hat for Zach; he made a princess hat for Cailey while Dorothy made wizard robes for them both.

Cailey has the most amazing singing voice for a kindergartener—it doesn't sound like a baby voice at all. This is especially nice since the carrying-a-tune gene, shall we say, skipped a generation in Dorothy's case. We look forward to hearing Cailey when she gets a little older and a little more training.

Barbara and Peter

These dear friends of ours are also our landlords. Both work at ASU and spend so much time there they couldn't deal with even the 30 minute commute and bought a townhouse just a few miles from the University, which left their house empty, just as we needed a larger one. So they agreed to rent it to us. And, occasionally, we convince them to visit and soak in their own hot tub, which they left with the house!

Cirrus, Astro and Amber

The three dogs have finally gotten enough used to people that Zachary's friends can come in the house without the dogs' howling in response. Well, they still howl; but now they stop after five or ten minutes instead of keeping it up till the guests are gone. While we all enjoy the dogs' company, Zachary especially does, and often watches TV in the evening using Cirrus as a pillow.

Merry Christmas to All!

As usual, looking back over this recap I realize that we did more and had more fun in the past twelve months than I had realized. I bet the same is true of you! So do write and let us know how your year went.

And be well and happy and healthy in the months to come!