Thoughts on well-being, sustainability and those things that constitute a good life beyond consumption.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Holiday greetings and looking back on 2016

Happy Holidays from the Husics!

Each year, I think I am going to be able to get a holiday letter composed and cards written, but usually grading, end of semester reports, other holiday preparations, etc. get in the way. Hopefully, I will finish this letter this time around instead of having it in my folder of uncompleted documents!

This past year has certainly been a time of transitions.

Last year at this time, I accepted a new position on campus – serving as the founding Dean of the School of Natural and Health Sciences. There has been a lot of change on campus – restructuring, new leadership, the development of new programs, etc. It is an exciting time and an honor to have been chosen for this role. I have less contact with students , but overall, I enjoy the new challenges that come with the position.
My new office
Sadly, we lost both my father and Dave’s mother this year. It is tough to put into words the emptiness that comes with the loss of a parent. The intense sadness dulls, but I am not sure it will ever fully dissipate.
Dad with Ray and me at his 80th birthday celebration - just before he passed away
My brother Ray moved my mother into assisted living in May – after a long time trying. Neither of us live close, and she didn’t want to move away from Michigan (or to move anywhere, actually), but it wasn’t safe for her to be living alone anymore. It is a comfort knowing that she is getting good meals that she doesn’t have to fix, there is someone to make sure she takes her meds, and, best of all, she has companionship.
At Presque Isle Park with mom
Mom and Roy - friends since childhood
Because of this move, Ray and I got to clean out the home we grew up in. I think my mom saved everything from 1965 on! It as a lot of work, but was also fun spending time with my brother and his family and reminiscing. Sort of a week-long slumber party where we trashed the house! We were fortunate that there was an interested buyer who had sort of been waiting for my mom to move out. So the sale went smoothly. But this also represented another sort of loss – of place. 

Where I grew up
Not of the same significance, we also lost ShooFly the cat – who hung with us for over 21 years! We had her before both boys were born! 

Shoofly enjoying the warmth of the sun
We still have Zyzzz and Shadow though. Zyzzz likes to pose (below); Shadow not so much.

Yikes, didn’t mean for this to sound like a sob story. On to more positive things.

We still live on the old farm which keeps us busy as there are always projects. It is a wonderful place to go for walks with Revi the Retriever, and we were inundated with peaches and pears from the “orchard” this year. (A tough problem to have, I know.) 

Putting last year's Christmas present to work
We are so blessed with this view
An early spring walk with Revi
Over the year, I had the chance to reconnect with some acquaintances from the past – including a fellow Bay Cliff staff member who I hadn’t seen since 1980! Despite its flaws, Facebook can be a good way to stay in touch with far away friends and relatives.

Reconnecting with Suzi Banks Baum

Dave continues to serve as chair of the Chemistry Department at Lafayette College. The college is planning a new science building and he is helping to shepherd that process. He continues to play fiddle and loves getting out to do photography.

Typical habitat in the Poconos
Corey, now 21, is in his senior year at Harvard – studying Chemistry. Future plans are uncertain, but he is considering a gap year before graduate school or maybe environmental law. He plays fiddle a lot and won or placed in a number of contests this year, and rumor has it that he gets invited to play gigs in the Boston area. His interest in birds hasn’t waned and he gets out whenever he has the chance.

Mom and son annual fall birding trek to Delaware and Cape May
Joren (18) graduated from high school in May and is taking a gap year before starting at the University of Chicago next fall. Over the summer, he did an ecological monitoring project of a site along the Appalachian Mountains that experienced a forest fire last year and he volunteered at a local nature center, helping with a variety of things, including class field trips. In October, he and Dave traveled to Scotland for hiking and sightseeing. Joren's big trip is yet to come as he leaves on December 27th to spend almost 3 months in Costa Rica. He will be volunteering at El Zota Biological Station and helping to teach English is a rural area for school children and adults.
End of year awards ceremony at Moravian Academy
Not a wedding; this was Joren's graduation!

I have the good fortune to be able to travel a lot for work-related things. In January, I took a quick trip to Costa Rica with Corey and friends/colleagues from East Stroudsburg University to check out a potential location for a new field station and returned to head to San Antonio for the NCAA Convention. In March, I was back in Costa Rica with students for the field portion of a tropical ecology class I taught. Our trip coincided with that of the classes from ESU and Delaware Valley University, and we also had a faculty/ornithologist from Gettysburg College joining us. Six faculty with different expertise means we all learn new things. And suffice it to say that a bird list for 8 days that has about 250 species on it means a good trip for birders!
Five of the six faculty in Costa Rica - El Zota Biological Station
We had some students with us as well!

One of my favorite places for lunch in Costa Rica
In April, I traveled to Asheville, NC with students and a colleague to the National Council for Undergraduate Research conference. My research student Laura did a great job presenting data from her Honors work. There are some students who you get really close to; Laura was one. She took several classes with me, did 2 summer research projects and Honors under my supervision, served as my TA for a first year seminar I taught, and traveled to the U.N. meetings in Paris with us in 2015. I miss her, but she is doing great in graduate school in Maryland.

NCUR poster session; Laura explains her project
In May, I once again served as a faculty mentor for the Rocky Mountain Science and Sustainability Network academy. We spent time with students from around the country in Colorado, the Tetons, and Yellowstone and initiated an interesting pollinator monitoring project in Yellowstone that will be ongoing. (We are trying to understand the impacts of climate change and altitude on pollinator diversity and populations.)

Camping at the base of the Tetons gets a bit cold when it is in the 20's and raining! (I cheated and stayed in a hostel)

One of my favorite places in Yellowstone.
I was back in the Rockies for the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem conference in October. The fresh snow and the golden colors of the aspens was quite striking even if the tops of the Tetons were hidden in the clouds for most of the time I was there.

Because I wasn't teaching in fall, I could finally take a vacation trip during migration season. I went to Hog Island, ME and had an amazing time with great friends, birders and storytellers, even if there weren't a lot of birds.

Some wonderful sunsets viewed from Hog Island
With Drew Lanham and Mark Garland
Chatting with Scott Weidensaul
Joren came with me to the U.N. climate conference in Marrakech, Morocco for two weeks. Quite an interesting place with a rich history and fantastic food. We also took the train up to Tangier for me to do a site visit of a campus that hosts study abroad students.

Joren enjoying our nice digs in Marrakech
With Gillian Bowser and Joren in a Moroccan spice shop
With 3 trips to Michigan and a trip to Indianapolis to run a leadership workshop added into the mix for the year, it feels very good to be spending the holidays at home.

4th of July family reunion

My 12th Faculty Athletics Reps Leadership Institute
In going through photos from the year, I realized once again how blessed we are.

Wishing you all the very best during the holiday season and may 2017 be filled with happiness, good health, and an appreciation for all that is good in the world.

Love, Diane, Dave, Corey, & Joren
(We seem to find it tough to all be in a picture together, so here are a few from this year!)

pizza time
Fall birding and hiking