Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year --                                                                     December 2013

We were doubly blessed this year with two new granddaughters, which now gives us 11 grand kids! On Feb. 12, Steve & Jenny welcomed Elektra Miran Mark, weighing in at 7 lb and 19.7 inches long. She joins her sister Teagan, along with Andrew (now a freshman at UVA) & Sarah, in Poquoson, Va. And on Aug. 11, Cindy & Israel added one more to their brood, namely Jewel Grace Nelson, who was 8 lb., 3 oz. and 21 inches long and lives with her three sisters and five brothers in Maricopa, Ariz.

I continue as League Director (46 seasons!) for the Springfield/South County Youth Club (SYC) Under-19 Girls Division, which participates in the aptly named "High School Girls House Soccer League" with two other Northern Virginia clubs. And an SYC team won the end-of-season tourney championship for the eleventh straight year. And for the third year, I’m serving as vice-chair of the Advisory Council for the Burke/West Springfield Senior Center Without Walls (look us up on the Web at: www.scwow.org).

Both Mary and I are continuing our Tai Chi classes -- helps the balance! Mary still volunteers at ECHO (Ecumenical Community Helping Others) and is active in her church groups, The 49ers.

Health issues (at this age, what else do we talk about?): On July 30, I had a femoral artery bypass to address circulation problems in my left leg. Long recovery period, so I'm still not 100 percent -- but hopefully moving forward. I’m looking into a hearing aid (nowadays, my favorite word around the house is “What?”). But we’re reasonably healthy (with reasonably cute grand kids -- for more pics, check my website: www.ldmark.com).

Recently, Dear Abby got a letter from a man who was friendly with his ex-wife and wondered who to give her for Christmas. So I immediately thought, “What woman wouldn’t want a new ironing board cover!” I can't understand why Abby didn’t mention that . . . .

Maturity is when you finally realize that mother did know best!

The year’s license plates: N PLAN B; JST TRI; DGTL AGE; SKNS FAN; R SKNZ; N8TI2DE; IVRY88; QUIXOTE; I EXMS; HAVA FIT; H2O FROG; GAWLPHR; CHHAKLT; R3KL3SS; KNITTER; GR8 LABS & QUE PASA. Ones I made up: W8 N C; 42ITUS; UN4UN8; & my feminine tag - SQUAT2P.

I venture that the first thought of 99 percent of the people who use or hear the term “Redskins” is of a football team or player. So, boo to the “thin skins” -- my name for the few who take issue with the name.

I’ll end on a high note: We had a most memorable anniversary lunch at P.F. Changs this year! As we were finishing up, the manager came over. While I, as usual, was showing him grand kid pictures on my iPhone, Mary happened to mention that it was our anniversary. “How many?” he asked. “Forty-nine,” we answered. “Well,” he said, “the meal is on me.” Then he added, “Do you like champagne?” So shortly we had two glasses delivered to our table -- along with a huge dessert of ice cream topped with fruit & surrounded by fried bananas! Then, to top it off, the manager gave us two $25 gift certificates! Wow!!

Best wishes for the year ahead from Mary & Larry.