2018 Christmas Newsletter

25 12 2018

It’s the holiday time of the year again and keeping with tradition here’s our newsletter outlining what we Windstrups have been up to. Let’s start with the kids. Gabrielle is now in her third year at La Sorbonne studying French literature and communications. She is doing well there and is already planning on continuing her scholastic career beyond her current bachelors. We sort of expected that. One thing we didn’t expect was her interest in learning Italian. Two years ago, she went to China and took Chinese classes. Now she is dreaming of studying in Italy. We were in Italy some for vacation this year, talk about that in a bit, but she didn’t seem overly interested beyond your average tourist activities. Now however, she is very seriously learning Italian and will be applying for an exchange program in Florence, Italy next school year. I hope she’s accepted because this is one of her life projects but neither Jeff nor I are wanting our little girl to move out for a school year. I guess we’ll just have to accept they are getting older. David too is growing up. He is now in his last year of high school at Notre-Dame du Grandchamp. He’s doing alright and is preparing for a month long work study program in Dublin, Ireland. He has already done several smaller internships the last couple years that he’s truly enjoyed. He’s eager to finish school and join the work world. He’s also thinking about pursuing his future in the good old USA. Maybe living with grandma. David, our youngest, like our oldest is wanting to expand their horizons; wanting to get out there; wanting to grow up. We don’t want them to leave the nest but we want them to follow their projects and dreams. That said, we don’t want them getting out there too soon or not being entirely prepared. We’ve been encouraging David to continue his education further. He’s looking into a 2 year degree at the private school he is currently attending. He’ll apply early next year and since he is currently a student at Grandchamp there’s a good chance he’ll be accepted. Fingers crossed.

Jeff is doing well and still playing airsoft with the guys. Actually, Gabrielle, David, and I tried airsoft too on “family day”. It’s fairly physical and it’s exciting to play. Don’t think we’ll be out there every other weekend like Jeff but why not every now and then. He’s also still playing with his gadgets in the forest and campground. He fancies himself a bushcraft / survivalist. That did give me a gift giving opportunity to send him off for a survival initiation training in the Alps close to Annecy. He came back all pumped up about purifying water, tying knots and making feather sticks whatever that is. We had a few camping trips this year. Once in Rambouillet for a couple nights close to home. David spent one night and Gabrielle spent the following night. I just came and visited… Jeff, David and I also pitched the tent to camp with friends from the Netherlands in the Loire Valley. And finally Jeff and I had an extended weekend camping trip close to the Guédelon Castle. Jeff and I also had our weekend getaway this year on Jersey Island. It’s an English island just off the Normandy coast of France. We stayed in a nice hotel, toured the island, and went ocean kayaking. I didn’t see the elusive puffin but I did enjoy the island’s pretty gardens and plants. We’ve all been keeping busy. As most of you know dance is really my thing. I still go to my weekly lessons. This year I went with a friend to study for a week with one of my favorite dance teachers and choreographers in Lourdes, France. It was great. I love his dynamic style. That said, my girlfriend and I noticed 3 intense hours a day with lots of low to the floor and high in the air activity really had us tired out and sore. We suffered a bit but it was worth it. I guess we’re not 20 anymore. Then again I didn’t think I would go back to school at 47 and get another master’s degree but I did. I was proud of myself despite how stressed I was during the school year with the pace of study and all the exams. Now after getting my masters in professional training this year I’ve started teaching classes on social work as that is my area of expertise. I plan on extending my “train the trainer” type trainings beyond social work next year.

On to vacation time. In addition to the weekend trips I mentioned we went on a great week long Mediterranean family cruise. Gloria, Jennifer, Josephine, Jonathan and the 4 of us had great experiences together on the ship and visiting Venice and Bari in Italy, Dubrovnik in Croatia, The Blue Eye Spring in Albania and Athens, Olympus, and Mykonos in Greece. It was an action packed week of incredible fun. Check out the video. Preceding the cruise we spent a week together including Mike. We went to Dunkerque in the north of France, crossed the English channel to see The White Cliffs of Dover and its Castle. We even set foot into Belgium for a Geocaching trifecta. Check out the video. Gabrielle and David had their own trips this year. Gabrielle went to both Naples, Italy and Lisbon, Portugal with her girlfriends this summer. David had his first solo trip to Chicago this year. He loved it and he confirms that he is really thinking about living in the US in the future. Finishing out 2018 we were very happy to spend Christmas with Jeff’s sister Mary Jo and her husband Tim from Florida. They got to see Paris for the first time and we spent the holiday together. We also squeezed in a day trip to Brussels, Belgium that was nice. Those were the highlights of another year for the Windstrups. Hope this finds you well. All the best in 2019.

2017 Christmas Newsletter

25 12 2017

Like I noticed last year it’s getting more and more difficult writing our Christmas Newsletter. Could be me getting older or could just be our busy lives. One thing’s for sure I do enjoy thinking back through the year and years gone by remembering all the great times spent with family and friends. As you may have noticed I like to talk much more about our vacation and fun times than the daily routine of work and school. So what fun have we Windstrups been up to this year?

In May I was a bit nervous with my little girl going to China alone with her girlfriend for a couple weeks. They had a marvelous time together visiting both with Gabrielle’s friend’s family and setting out on their own to explore Nanjing and Shanghai. When Easter came we took some time and headed south to my parents’ house. Even though we’ve been in France for more than 15 years now we’ve rarely spent Easter together. It was nice. In June Jeff and I had our long weekend getaway. Continuing on from Eastern Europe’s Prague last year Vienna was on the itinerary this year. Both nice places to visit you can see and feel the opulence of the rich imperial city in Vienna. After that welcomed break I had to prepare my thesis presentation to the board of professors at university. It hasn’t been easy at my age working on a 2nd masters in professional training. This second year is even more difficult than the first. I’m pleased to say it was worth all the work as I passed. After that Jeff, David, and I went old-fashioned tent camping for a few days in Brittany. Jeff and I also made time for camping and kayaking in Normandy this year. Simple camping is yet another of Jeff’s “new things”. When summer came around we were very much looking forward to our big summer vacation this year in the US. Chicago, Clearwater, and Miami. It was great seeing everyone. We went rafting with the Olson’s, a White Sox ballgame with the Mann’s, shooting with Jeff’s cousins, visited the Jelly Belly factory, Henry Ford Museum, and the Amish village with grandma. And we all got together for backyard games and then Chicago RidgeFest. I was pleased to see my friends of old. And sadly we showed our respect at the passing of Jeff’s lifelong best friend. Our hearts goes out to Dorothy and we’ll fondly remember Paul forever. After a few weeks in Chicago we were on to see Jeff’s family in Florida. It’s been so long since we’ve seen them. Jeff’s aunt and uncle, sister, step mother, brother and sister and all their families. There were a lot a people to see. Dawn even had T-Shirts made for the occasion. We went to a water park, an escape room, various restaurants, the beach, and Mary Jo had an awesome yard party and dinner at their place. Everything we did together was so much fun and such a good feeling seeing them after so many years.

Summer fun over it was back to school for David, Gabrielle and me. I guess David, Gabrielle and me are all sophomores now. David’s second year in high school at Notre Dame du Grandchamp in Versailles, Gabrielle’s second year at la Sorbonne in Paris, and I too am in my second year of study at a university close to home. My work is basically the same but Jeff changed positions at his company. He went from IT to program management. He likes it. David turned 16 and is into playing online games, tea, and has started making YouTube videos. Gabrielle turned 19 and is also into tea, traveling and her boyfriend. In addition to camping and bushcraft Jeff is also into airsoft now. And me, as you know, I cannot stop my dance even if my body is giving me signs to slow down. In November we spent time with David’s godparents in Aix en Provence where we all climbed Montagne Sainte-Victoire. Not too shabby and not slowing down. Further, I recently got involved in our town’s politics by joining one of the four parties running for mayor and municipal council. Our party group did not win so I nor our guy for mayor won but I enjoyed the race. It was close. I think I’ll try next time round.

To wrap up the year we’re at my parents for Christmas and vacation. We wish you all the best this Christmas and we hope the New Year finds you well.

2016 Christmas Newsletter

25 12 2016

Remembering back the whole year is not as easy as it used to be so I’ll start with today and work my way back on what we Windstrups have been doing. Now for Christmas this year we’re skiing with friends. We met the Smiths when we first moved to France and have enjoyed vacationing with them before. This time we’re going to conquer the blue and red family oriented slopes of Les Gets in the French Alps. Hearty mountain food to keep us going like Raclette and Fondue is on the menu. It’s nice for us and the kids to spend winter vacation together. They need a break from school and a big year in school it was. This year both Gabrielle and David changed schools. Gabrielle graduated high school with good grades and is now enrolled at the La Sorbonne University in Paris. She is studying French literature and communications. She likes going into the city everyday. Very cosmopolitan. David graduated junior high and is now enrolled in a private vocational high school in Versailles. He’s studying sales and commerce. He likes it and doesn’t seem to mind too much getting up and off early every day. Very grown up.

What else have the kids been up to? Let me think. David is now playing baseball. There’s not a lot of baseball in France but luckily there’s a team, small stadium even, not far away. When the weather warms up we are looking forward to seeing him play the quintessential American game. He’s getting bigger. He now stands taller than both me and Gabrielle and he’s catching up to his father. Gabrielle is not getting taller but she’s getting older. 18 – an adult in fact. She can now vote, drink, and drive. Hopefully not in that order. For spending money she babysits and teaches English. She’s still taking guitar lessons and she’s decided to start learning Chinese. She hopes to go to China with one of her friends. Already planning a trip I think. Both she and David love to travel. Gabrielle went with her girlfriend to Barcelona last summer to celebrate the end of high school and she will leave in a couple days with her boyfriend to spend the New Year in London. David went to a summer camp in Sardinia for a week of fun in the sun and water sporting activities in the Mediterranean. David and I also went with friends to Brittany to visit the area and go to a well known Celtic music festival. What else? Gabrielle and I had an awesome trip to India with the American Girl Scouts. Going to India has been on my bucket list for decades now. Other travel opportunities included all of us going Arachchon to visit my mom and dad and a long weekend trip to visit the “Mémorial de Caen”.

For Jeff’s big 50 we had a romantic getaway in Prague. It’s a pretty town with a baroque style of architecture and music. We just loved the charm and views of the Charles Bridge. Jeff took some stunning photos and made one of his videos there. We’re all waiting for the video of our summer vacation to Ireland. We met Jeff’s mum and her friend Maureen. We saw the sites in Dublin then we took to the road. We enjoyed seeing the lavish green countryside, the sheer cliffs, various castles and manor houses, and of course the traditional and unpretentious Irish pubs. Jeff still is into photography though he slowed down a bit on the golf. Now his “new thing” is ham radio. When in the US for a work trip he passed some exams to get his call sign. KD9HKJ whatever that means. My “new thing” is that I’ve become a student again. I don’t know. Seeing Gabrielle going to university and David moving to high school must have got me thinking. I was accepted in a 2 year masters program “Formation de Formateurs à l’Accompagnement Professionnel” that will allow me to teach professionals to train others in their profession. It’s basically a high level “train the trainer” program. I have lots of classes and homework. I’m wondering if it was such a good idea now as I have to read, write, and study with all my spare time. I do enjoy the subject and look forward to implementing what I’m learning in my field though there’s hardly any time left for sports or dance. Don’t worry, I’ll always find time for dance…

From all of us to all of you Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

2015 Christmas Newsletter

25 12 2015

It’s the holiday time of the year again. We would like to take this opportunity as we’ve done for many years now to give a quick shout out, say hello, and let you know what we’ve been up to. Last year we celebrated Christmas with my brother in his new condominium just a few kilometers down the street. This year we’re 1,500 km away spending the holiday with my family in Poland. Jeff likes to say, “we have family all around the world”. It’s good to see my aunt and uncles, cousin and godson at this wonderful time of the year. We’re kind of lucky to be able to travel and see them. We were also fortunate this year to go to the United States. Couple weeks with family in Chicago and a couple weeks visiting Washington D.C., Historic Williamsburg, New York City, and Philadelphia. As usual Jeff captured the highlights in photos and on video. It was great to see Mike, Jen and the kids. We got to spend some time in their new house, go Geocaching, play games including some Topgolf and trampoline center fun, and have a nice dinner out. Over at grandma’s we had a backyard carnival experience for the kids replete with tickets and prizes. It was so great to spend time with and see Gloria in good health and recovered from her cancer scare. She was doing so well in fact that she came with us on the East Coast trip. It was an excellent trip for all of us. We discovered new cities and places, saw many monuments, and learned much more up close and personal about American history.

The trip from beginning to end was nonstop adventure and fun. After seeing all the sites and spending quality time with family and friends we needed to head back to home and prepare for the school year. David is now in the last year of middle school and Gabrielle is a senior now. Big school years for both of them. Later next year David will have a test that determines what type of high school he can enter and Gabrielle will have to pass her baccalauréat test to get her diploma and be eligible to go to university. She’s already had and passed some preparatory tests for “le bac” as its called here. Quite a stressful time in a young woman’s life. Young woman indeed. Gabrielle now has a steady boyfriend, is learning to drive, and very soon will be able to go to discotheques and bars if she wants as the drinking age in France is 3 years lower that in the US. In addition to these new distractions she still continues to take guitar lessons and is taking Zumba classes as of late. Jeff and I can’t believe how much she is growing up. She even gets paid weekly to give private English lessons for two 11 year old kids since September. David continues with handball he loves even though the games are getting technically harder and physically rougher. He’s come home a bit bruised up a few times. Like Jeff says, “you play with the big boys you might get hurt”. David’s not put off though. Jeff got a new camera and has been taking even more photos that usual. Also, he’s still addicted to golf whereas I’ve gone a bit rusty. I do hit a bucket of balls now and then. For me it’s dance as usual and I’m still with yoga. I don’t think I’ll ever stop dancing. Work is the same job wise though I did change from a junior high with 600 students to a high school with 2500. Bigger kids bigger problems and there are more of them. I like changing where I work from time to time. It keeps me current and keeps me on my toes.

Other notable events this year included a visit from some good friends from Chicago, their son and girlfriend on a separate visit months earlier. Got the opportunity to meet up with a couple of Jeff’s cousins while they were on vacations in France. Good meals and even fireworks at the base of the Eiffel Tower on Bastille Day. The kids of course spent time in Arcachon with Mami and Papi. And the 4 of us got some additional family trips first visiting Futuroscope a futuristic theme park halfway between our house and my parents. Then we had a few days in the Burgundy region and enjoyed visiting the “Hospices de Beaune” and “Château de Savigny-Lès-Beaune” where Jeff took a ton of photos. There are some of the highlights of another year for the Windstrups in France. Hope this finds you well. All the best in 2016.

2014 Christmas Newsletter

25 12 2014

We would like to wish you Happy Holidays with this our twelfth Christmas season newsletter. It gives us a chance to keep you updated on some of the things we’ve been up to.

We had several vacation opportunities this year. In February we spent a week skiing in the Alps. David and Gabrielle improved their already good skills. David progressed to the coveted “troisième étoile” or 3rd star designation and is now able to tackle the more exhilarating and technically difficult black diamond runs. So now, Gabrielle, David and me are at a similar level and go pretty much where we want. Jeff, not to be left out, does get out there with us as we leisurely explore the green and blue slopes. He enjoys all of us participating in the same activity and in fact is quite a good skier as he stays upright and dry all day. We started summer vacation with a family oriented long weekend with friends. Adults and kids combined all 16 of us explored the southwestern coastal tip of the Netherlands and spend a day in Bruges, Belgium. Right after our weekend adventure the kids went on to spend 3 weeks in the US to spend time with grandma and the rest of the family. We heard that Gabrielle had her first behind the wheel driving experience and David probably played too many games with grandma and the others. The kids wanted a shout-out and thanks to their cousins Josephine and Jonathan, Uncle Mike and Aunt Jen. Not to mention second cousins Kevin, Karin, Catlin and Tommy. Let’s not forget first cousins once removed Dean, Dale and Russ. And cousin-in-laws Mary Ellen and Gloria. Probably should mention that Dale serves double duty as Gabrielle’s godfather too. I think I got most of that cousin stuff right. When the kids came back we went to visit mamie and papi in Arcachon close to Bordeaux. On the way there we spent a night in this really cool multi room treehouse in the woods. A Disney World Swiss Family Treehouse dream from Jeff’s childhood I think. We also fulfilled our dreams of an Italian vacation by spending more than a week visiting Cinque Terre, Pisa, Florence, and Venice. We didn’t just take a gondola ride on the canals, we learned how to navigate as apprentice gondoliers! “Splendida Esperienza!”

Speaking of experiences, Gabrielle and David continue with their guitar lessons, girl scouts, and handball respectively. Jeff and I signed up for golf lessons while the kids were away. It was fun and we both got our golfing “green cards”. Basically it’s just a certification that we know basic etiquette and have an idea how to hit the little white dimpled ball down the fairway. Jeff is into it way more than me. I’ve seen him go at the crack of dawn even when the temp is just above freezing. I think he is addicted to golf. I have recently taken up yoga in addition to my old stalwart of dance. The dance is great though the yoga helps with stretching and increased flexibility to avoid some of the pain that has crept into some of my dance routines as of late. Oh well, I guess we are all getting older.

David is now in 8th grade and Gabrielle in 11th. I guess that makes her a junior now. She’s in a literature major program and loving it. Getting very good grades and it’s obvious that she really enjoys what she’s learning. David’s grades are good too in spite of the increasing workload this year. He has to learn Spanish this year. “Buena Suerte!” In addition to this year’s vacations, activities, and school we had a nice visit from Julia, Ben, Liam, and Samantha. Also, it was great that Iwona, Krystian, Zenon, and Maria could make it from Poland for David’s “communion solennelle”. After mass we all had a wonderful lunch in an old nicely restored abbey.

We really enjoyed seeing and hearing from friends and family this year. We’re especially thankful that Grandma Gloria is doing well and recovering from her serious health scare earlier this year. We look forward to all the best that 2015 has to offer and wish you all the best.

2013 Christmas Newsletter

25 12 2013

Time really goes by quickly. Christmas is here and the New Year following right behind. As we’ve done for more than a decade now we would like to give you an update on what we’ve been doing. We visited and were visited several times this year. In March Jeff’s mother came to visit. Gloria has always wanted to experience Lourdes so we took the opportunity and made the pilgrimage together. On our way south to Lourdes we visited the WW II martyr village in Oradour-sur-Glane. On the way back we visited Cordes-sur-Ciel a picturesque medieval fortified town built high on hilltop. In May we went to Poland for my godson Krystian’s communion. It was really nice because celebrating this event brought all of my French and Polish family together for a family reunion. In July my friend Cheryl visited us. Her family of 4 and ours visited Paris, Fontainebleau, and we watched all the hype and excitement of Le Tour de France as it passed through our town.

Our big trip this year was 4 weeks in the good old USA. We split our lengthy summer vacation in the US into 2 parts. For the first two weeks we were on a classic American driving vacation. Our road trip out west allowed us to visit and enjoy the splendor of Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Yosemite, and Redwood National Parks. To balance out mother nature in the parks we did some cityscape traveling in Seattle, San Francisco, and Portland. As usual now Jeff documented it all for posterity’s sake in quite the home movie. The 2nd part of our tip was devoted to family time in Chicago. The trip from beginning to end was nonstop adventure and fun. After seeing all the sites and spending quality time with family and friends we needed to head back to France and prepare for the school year.

David progressed in junior high to the 7th grade and Gabrielle moved on to the 10th grade in high school. So far this year in school they are both holding their own. It’s a bigger change for Gabrielle this year than David as she’s in a new school where she has to take the commuter train every day to get to and fro. This along with her age is propelling her toward wanting more independence. We accommodate within reason. David is now the typical teenager with the typical teenage attitude. Again, we accommodate as we can. David continues with handball and Sunday School and Gabrielle continues with music, drawing and Girl Scouts. She’s reached the highest scout level of Ambassador now. My babies are growing up.

Jeff and I are still working and keeping our same activities as before with the exception of dance for me. This year I thought I’d take a break from modern dance. Might have been a mistake as I miss the balance it used to bring me. Good thing I still have tennis and belly dancing. The balance scale can tip in both directions. This year I pushed the envelope quite a bit by trying overcome my fear of heights by going on a hot air balloon ride. It was actually a birthday gift I offered Jeff. The gift was an hour long initiation ride for both of us. What was I thinking. After the initial trepidation and fear I have to admit that I enjoyed the experience. Jeff too offers gifts for two. This year he gave me a get away weekend in La Baie de Somme in the Picardie norther cost of France. We stayed in a nice bed and breakfast and explored the area for a few days while the kids were visiting mamie and papi. We saw the rocky cliffs along the English Channel, the WW I trenches, and a splendid ornithological park. I think I may take up bird watching one of these days.

We wish you a Merry Christmas now and happiness and health for the coming new year.

2012 Christmas Newsletter

25 12 2012

We would like to wish you Happy Holidays with our tenth Christmas season newsletter. We hope this finds you well.

We started out the year in the Netherlands. A brief Amsterdam tour and then off to visit friends to bring in the New Year together with a bang. When spring rolled around we all got to share in one of Jeff’s longtime wishes when we got to navigate the waterways of the “Canal du Midi” for a week with friends. Jeff proudly wore the captain’s hat. This summer I had social work conference in Sweden. At the close of the conference Jeff came and joined me in the capital city where we spent a few days alone in an impromptu vacation. It was the perfect mix of work and pleasure. Our summer family vacation was spent with my aunt, cousin, and godson in Germany. We met and had an action packed day at Legoland Deutchland. The following days we spent in Munich and the surrounding area where we did typical tourist things. As usual now we have some nice videos of all this. They can be found on our website windstrup.com.

This year both David and Gabrielle had lengthy summer camps. As expected the sports minded David signed up for the sports oriented offering. He along with 2 buddies joined the athletic group for days of soccer, handball, basketball and any other “ballgame” out there. Gabrielle’s first “colonies de vacances” was photography oriented. Her and one of her girlfriends learned the art of photographic vision on their more than week long séjour. When September came around the kids were eager to get back to school. David joined his sister in the junior high school in the 6th grade and Gabrielle is finishing her last year there in the 9th grade. Since the kids are in the same school and both are or are becoming teenagers they seem to have more in common. As young teens they have both mastered getting on their parents nerves in addition to being into music and their after-school activities. This year Gabrielle chose guitar lessons in addition to her long standing drawing lessons and Girl Scouts. With the scouts this year she planned and went on a 3 day trip to London which has been her favorite city for some time now. She imagines herself living there as an adult. The scouts also have her making presentations to educators about dyslexia and planning next year’s trip to Switzerland. She is growing fast. As tall as me now and wears glasses like her daddy. David’s mainstay activity is handball. He loves it and is good at it. He goes to all the practices and has even been moved up rung to the next category. Jeff continues his putzing with computers, videos, video surveillance cameras, house alarm, and phone system. He really is a geek. I mean that in a good way. His new thing is running. He’s made a goal to go running once a week and that’s what he’s been doing. I join him fairly often to keep him motivated. As usual dance is my thing. I just realized that I have been dancing for 33 years or more. I’ve tried many forms over the years though there are many more I want to try. This year I’ve signed up for oriental dance. Bellydancing or “danse du ventre” requires more control and energy than I thought. I enjoy it a lot. I have also added another year of tennis instruction. I’m not a pro yet but like my dance I do enjoy it.

We Windstrups wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year filled with happiness and good health.