NEW YORK CITY
Dear friends and family,
This has been a year of tremendous change and upheaval, and not just for Muammar Qaddafi/Gaddafi/Gadhafi/Qadhafi/Gathafi. (Susan says that the word “upheaval” might be hyperbole, and Dustin claims that she must not have upheaved very many boxes during our move.) First, the big news: we moved to Germany! … Well, almost, but that didn’t quite work out. We had our hearts so set on moving to a foreign country that we decided to move to New York City, which is pretty much the same thing. We live in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, a neighborhood with a Dutch name that is now full of Puerto Ricans. (We know: Puerto Rico isn’t actually a foreign country, but it might as well be, since we don’t speak the language.)
Some highlights of our new neighborhood: our friendly neighbors, Mike and Milta, who are the very definition of New Yorkers; the live poultry shop up the street, which we quickly learned to avoid due to the smell; and a Laundromat on every corner. (That still doesn’t make laundry very convenient.) It’s really a nice, safe, friendly place—gritty and charming all at once.
Our apartment is lovely as well. It’s brand new, with three bedrooms. We live on the second floor of a rowhouse. Our landlords are originally from China—which is occasionally a language and cultural barrier, but in a fun way—and live downstairs. Fiona has become good friends with their three children.
We’re enjoying exploring New York together. Fiona was already a pro at taking the subway and buses, but now she’s getting lots of experience with ferries and aerial tramways. For Dustin, New York is a magical land of soaring skyscrapers and rumbling subways. For Fiona, New York is a magical land of amazing playgrounds and enough carousels to make her head spin. And for Susan, New York is a magical land of farmers markets that don’t gouge you.
Susan is teaching 9th-grade history and Dustin is continuing his freelance work. At church, Dustin is the clerk/secretary of our congregation, while Susan … well, they haven’t quite figured out what to do with her yet. Fiona seems to have become the official baby mascot of the congregation: every time she walks into a room, the other kids come running over shouting “Fiona!”
We’ve done some traveling this year. In the spring, we took a trip to the Deep South. First, we rode Amtrak’s Crescent, a sleeper train, to Birmingham, Alabama. It was Fiona’s first overnight train trip, and she did a great job. She loved crawling around in our compartment and she slept remarkably well on a regular bed (shielded by a wall on one side and by Susan, who did not sleep so well, on the other). We visited the Birmingham temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and saw a few sights. Then, on 15 April 2011, at the age of exactly nine months, Fiona reached another milestone: her first ride in a car. She hated it, as we hoped she would. Fortunately, she discovered that the car ride to Montgomery was a great time for a nap. Alabama was followed by visits to Jackson, Mississippi, and New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana. That seems like a pretty good trip, but we decided to take the train home via Chicago. That meant two more nights on the train—one on the City of New Orleans, the other on the Capitol Limited—and an eight-hour layover in the Windy City. There was plenty of time to take in a few sights, such as the glass-floored Skyledge on the 107th floor of the Sears Tower, which didn’t faze Fiona at all. (We can’t say the same for Susan, who stood on terra firma sobbing.)
Over the summer, we flew to Reno, Nevada, to visit Susan’s family at Donner Lake, California. This is the very place where the Donner Party got stuck in the snow and resorted to … well, no one is really certain, but they had a hard time finding food. Today, though, it’s a beautiful lake with a nice little railroad town next to it, where Susan’s family has been vacationing for many years. We went kayaking, wading, and hiking, and ate some delicious meals and generally had a relaxing week. Unfortunately, Fiona got her first cold while we were there, but even she still had a good time.
The rest of the year was mostly spent checking items off our bucket lists. During our trip to the South, Dustin visited state capitols number 26, 27, and 28; on our trip to Nevada, he crossed off number 29; and he recently visited Albany and Hartford, Connecticut, which gets him to number 31 on his quest to visit all 50 state capitols. Fiona’s achievements were mostly in the areas of mobility and communication and include learning to crawl and walk and making up her own sign language. And Susan made it through another year without creating a bucket list.
In the end, our lives together are rich and full. We continue to be blessed not only with the basic needs of life but also the opportunity to travel and explore and show Fiona what a wonderful world we live in. Fiona is a beautiful little girl who is growing up too fast—but we are grateful we can see her every step of the way. We are blessed to have each other, and we are blessed to count you among our friends and family. Merry Christmas and a happy new year to you all!
Susan, Dustin, and Fiona
This article appeared on pages 8–9 of Issue 5 | January 2012.