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A Million Little Pieces Of My Mind

Merry Christmas, 2008

By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 4/15/2024
Posted: 12/10/2008
Page Views: 7041
Topics: #Christmas
A recap of the doings of the Cilwa/Manions in 2008.

Oh, my, oh my…what an amazingly full year 2008 has been! Complete with cast changes and changes of scene, it seems appropriate at this time of year that I recap the doings of the residents of 10143 East Lobo Avenue and share them with you, our dear friends and extended family.

We began the year with the following in our immediate family (using the word "immediate" to describe those within our walls):

  • Myself: Paul, your faithful blogger
  • Michael, my husband
  • Mary, my ex-wife and our friend
  • Karen, Mary's and my second daughter
  • Jenny, Mary's and my third daughter
  • Zachary, Jenny's son
  • Cirrus, Astro and Amber, our three dogs
  • Cassie and Milton, the cats

I am not counting fish as they, like Munchkins, come and go so quickly! And I should also mention other close family members, who don't live with us but share many of our adventures, such as

  • John, Mary's and my son, who lives a couple of miles away with his fiancĂ©e, Rachel
  • Surya, Michael's sister, who lives about 25 miles away in central Phoenix
  • Dorothy, Mary's and my oldest daughter, who lives in Virginia with her fiancĂ© (in January; in May, husband) Frank and their daughter Cailey


Our big January adventure was a cruise to Ensenada, Mexico aboard the Monarch of the Seas. Jenny wasn't able to go, but in her place we enjoyed the company of Michael's sister, Surya, and our dear friends Barbara and Peter Lafford. It rained most of the trip, but that was okay because the main reason for taking a cruise is to eat, anyway!

The "Monarch of the Seas" Paul and Zach
Michael Mary in Ensenada Peter and Barbara
Karen's Birthday Surprise Surya

Making our trip a little more interesting was Michael's illness—I thought it was seasickness but it was actually the first episode of what turned out to be a kidney stone. Also, Karen's 34th birthday was to come at the end of January, but we celebrated it early on board.


Zach makes the Cub Scout rank of Bear.

Taking the whole family on a cruise obviously was a hard (if worthwhile) hit to the wallet, so we spent February mostly at home and work. Zachary continued to be active in karate (he'd gotten his yellow belt in late January) and Cub Scouts, participating in making working model rockets and getting his Bear Badge. In addition, Michael celebrated his 58th birthday (and we sent first daughter Dorothy, who lives in Virginia, a card for her 35th). I also began the gargantuan task of digitizing my sizable CD, LP and cassette collection, a task which is not yet complete—I've made it up to the M's, though!


By March, Michael and I realized that the pounds we'd put on during our cruise were apparently not going to melt away on their own. So we joined a gym, the 24 Hour Sports Club on Elliot in Gilbert. We've gone pretty regularly, but so far the best I can say is that we haven't gained weight since joining. Well, not a lot, anyway.

We also began the month with a visit "up the hill" (the Mogollon Rim) to let Zach and his friend, Chris, play in the snow stopping on the way at a lower altitude to hike among the saguaros.

Jenny, Karen, Zach and Chris. Chris, Jenny, Karen, Zach Zach


This month saw a family member get older—me, I turned 57—and another pass on, as our dog Astro died of old age. He was about 77 in dog years, so I figure I've got another 20 left (in people years, not dog years). It gives me pause to realize that, when Mozart was my age, he'd been dead for 22 years.

Anyway, my favorite present was a GPS, which I promptly installed in my car and used to drive everywhere, including to places I knew how to find.

Meanwhile, Michael was attempting to navigate the treacherous waters of bureaucracy as he worked to get his Arizona Massage Therapist's License. Michael has, of course, been a highly-skilled massage therapist for nearly two decades, having been trained by the famous Swedish Institute in New York City. Until recently, Arizona did not have a statewide licensing requirement. Now it does, and in order to get his Arizona license, Michael first had to renew his New York state license! He put in his paperwork for that at the end of April. The adventure continued.


Dorothy, graduate Karen, Jennifer, Mary; granddaughter Cailey in front.

This past May was quite packed, what with Karen's graduating from college with her bachelor's in Anthropology from Arizona State University, and my oldest daughter, Dorothy, coming to Arizona to get married! I even managed to fit in a rafting trip on the Upper Salt River—my first rafting trip in over a decade.

Karen's graduation was big deal, since she'd been working towards it so long and hard. Not a nit was left unpicked; the attendees even wore outfits coordinated to match Karen's graduation robe!

Dorothy's presence at Karen's graduation, having flown all the way from Virginia, was no coincidence; she had cleverly timed her wedding to follow it so she could attend both.

Dorothy got married in Sedona, with yours truly officiating.

The attendees:

Kathy and Joe Kinder, parents of the groom.

Kathy and Joe Kinder, parents of the groom.

Mary Cilwa, mother of the bride.

Mary Cilwa, mother of the bride.

Michael Manion, step-father of the bride.

Michael Manion, step-father of the bride.

Paul S. Cilwa, officiating, also father of the bride.

Paul S. Cilwa, officiating, also father of the bride.

Rachel Madsen and John Cilwa, sister-in-law-to-be and brother of the bride.

Rachel Madsen and John Cilwa, sister-in-law-to-be and brother of the bride.

Jenny Cilwa, sister of the bride.

Jenny Cilwa, sister of the bride.

Karen Cilwa, sister of the bride.

Karen Cilwa, sister of the bride.

L to R: Mary, Karen, Dorothy, Frank, Cailey, Jenny, Michael, Rachel, Zach, Paul, John, Kathy, Joe

It seemed like we'd barely caught our breaths from the wedding, when Zach turned nine years old, which we celebrated by taking a few of his closest friends to SunSplash, a local waterpark.

And just as the month was coming to a close, Michael took the first of his massage courses required over and above the exhaustive list of courses required by the State of New York for his Arizona massage license, these being courses in Aromatherapy and Therapeutic Touch taken at the Southwest Institute of the Healing Arts in neighboring Tempe.


Jenny, Zach, Paul, Zach's friend Lane

By June the heat around Phoenix becomes something you just can't ignore. Some of us went for river floats on the nearby lower Salt River.

Zach continued to be active in Cub Scouts, which meant I got to take him on a campout with his pack at Bear Canyon Lake. And I closed out the month with a solo camping trip, the first of several as it turns out, to Verde Hot Spring a few hours north of Phoenix.

Nature Boy Zach in our tent at Bear Canyon Lake.

Nature Boy Zach in our tent at Bear Canyon Lake.

Nature Boy Paul in the Verde River just upstream from the hot springs.

Nature Boy Paul in the Verde River just upstream from the hot springs.

Michael was busy in the meantime, keeping cool at the Healing Arts school on his next class, on Thai Foot Massage. I benefited from that by virtue of being Michael's "guinea pig" on his final exam. I can personally attest that the Thai Foot Massage is awesome and well worth getting if you can find a practitioner!


Zach and Paul in the very cool Oak Creek.

In 2007, we determined that, as a family, we were not really "into" going to giant, crowded, expensive, fireworks displays as a way of celebrating the 4th of July. So we scattered to enjoy the holiday each in his or her own way. But the next day Michael, Jenny, Zach and myself went camping in beautiful Oak Creek Canyon just north of Sedona.

Michael completed his course in Trigger Point Massage. When he sets his mind on accomplishing something, nothing gets in the way! His final course in Sports Massage was completed just as the month ended; he then sent in the required paperwork and waited…for what shouldhave been a week or maybe two…but ended up being much, much longer.

Karen, who had taken a much-needed vacation at home after getting her degree, decided to take just two more weeks off before going job hunting, and flew to Virginia to visit Dorothy and her old friends in Reston, where we used to live. While there, she realized she really missed it, and started job hunting there. She found a job, too—not as an archaeologist, but as a flight attendant, which had long been her dream job. Her degree wasn't wasted; it helped her get the job, and the skills she had developed as a student enabled her to (three months later) graduate at the top of her flight school class.

Plus, starting in November, this meant that Mary and I (alas, not Michael who is not Karen's biological parent) would be able to fly places for free.


I figured that August would be the last month of the year we could really go camping, fearing it would be too cool in September. Michael and I went on another of my frequent visits to Verde Hot Spring.

Eddy works while Michael poses. Paul cooks a gourmet camp meal.

But our grandest trip (no pun intended) was to Grand Canyon. Michael and I took Zach and his pal Chris right to the South Rim, where we camped and then hiked a mile or so into the Canyon the next day. This was a really special time for all of us.

Chris and Zach on Bright Angel Trail

Chris and Zach on Bright Angel Trail

Michael helped Zach and Chris get special badges from the Grand Canyon ranger.

Michael helped Zach and Chris get special badges from the Grand Canyon ranger.


In September Jenny celebrated her 33rd birthday with a quiet gathering at home. A week later, the recovery home she manages put on their annual Recovery Walk. It made me so proud to see her comfortably behind the microphone, introducing speakers, and making sure the event came off smoothly. John and Rachel joined Mary, Zach and me for the festivities. Michael, unfortunately was home sick (more on that in a moment).

Jenny, mistress of ceremonies Zach demonstrating face-painting Mary enjoying a burger and chips

Last December, Michael had had a lithotripsy, a procedure in which a kidney stone is blasted by ultrasonic sound waves into, we had been led to believe, microscopic particles that the body can then flush away. We expected that would be the end of his kidney stone; yet he continued to have periodic attacks, such as the one that hit him on our January cruise. It turned out that sometimes a lithotripsy only blasts the outer shell of the stone, leaving its core intact. He had a second procedure done in late spring, and a third in September. Fortunately, that one seems to have done the trick. But as you read this epic, please consider the fact that Michael was taking all these massage courses while in pain from carrying a kidney stone. The man deserves a medal just for that.

Instead, he got a license: After months of waiting and trying to track down governmental snafus, Michael finally received his Arizona massage therapist's license, and can once again work legally.


By October it was clear that it wasn't that cold, and I made two more trips to Verde Hot Spring. Michael and Zach, both of whom love Halloween, bonded over their thorough decoration of the house for that holiday. We went with our friends Barbara and Peter, and Michael's sister, Surya, to Barbara and Surya's church for a Halloween party; then returned so that Zach could enjoy his first Halloween trick-or-treating without a grownup. Remember how big a deal that was for you?


At the beginning of the fall, Zach dropped out of Cub Scouts so he could devote more attention to his karate classes. In November, he got his Blue Belt. And just a couple of weeks after that, he took part in a sparring match with several hundred other boys and girls (and some adults). All his partners were older and bigger than him, yet he received a trophy for third place! We were all startled—he's so mild-mannered in his day-to-day life—but very proud.

Halfway through the month, Karen flew home for a brief visit. It was wonderful to see her again, and to watch the final direct-to-DVD episode of Stargate: SG1 which I'd been saving for her, with her. And then a few days later, Mary and I finally got to reap the benefits of Karen being a flight attendant, and made our first free trip! to Virginia to see Dorothy, Frank and Cailey. We even managed to catch up with Karen at the airport between flights.

And then there's Thanksgiving, for which Michael made his traditional, marvelous, all-the-trimmings Thanksgiving dinner: A thirty-pound turkey, glazed sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, stuffing and mashed regular potatoes, home-baked biscuits, his special homemade cranberry relish, and deserts galore—homemade (and Michael's recipe) cheesecake, apple pie, homemade cookies, and ice cream. We were joined by Surya, our friends Jock and Diane, and Maurean, and well as my friend and co-worker Jerry. Actually, we had two Thanksgivings, because Michael and Mary collaborated on a "pre-Thanksgiving" dinner for Karen, since she couldn't be with us on the day itself.

And, at the end of the month, I finally got to see The Mikado, a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta I fell in love with as a kid but had never been able to see performed live. (The movie versions suck.) Michael, who loves opera, has been attending each performance by the Arizona Opera Company with our friend Willis, who has season tickets. Although I love classical music, I am not that fond of opera—not enough to justify spending the money on the tickets! But this one I wanted to see, and Willis kindly accommodated me with an extra ticket. Unfortunately, he himself couldn't make it but we had an awesome time at a terrific performance.


…Which brings us to this month. We are, of course, gearing up for Christmas. Already I've been to see a show in New York (courtesy of Karen's flight benefits). Michael has given me an early Christmas present—he's going to let me make the Christmas dinner! (I like to cook, too!) Our tree is up, thanks mostly to him and Jenny and especially Zach, who is old enough to seriously help with decorating.

In putting this list together, I must say that we certainly have been blessed with a terrific year, thanks to good luck, hard work, and the willingness to get out there and do things. We're grateful for that, and hope that your year has been as blessed and enjoyable as ours. In any case, do write back and let us know how you are faring.