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Our 2022 Christmas Letter

For our friends, acquaintances, and anyone else who is mildly interested, we are providing a online version of our annual Christmas letter. Read if you care or ignore if you don’t.

Here we are at the end of 2022 and we still haven’t finished the 2021 Christmas letter.

Looking over the 2021 draft, Mark seems to have only gotten as far as describing our trip to visit daughter Kelsey in South Korea, last December. We’ll pick up there.

Since early 2020 Kelsey has taught English as a second language in Suwon, about 40 minutes from Seoul. Note the timing. She arrived just weeks before COVID-19 blew up, making it impossible to visit her until late last year. Things were still very strict when we arrived – only family members allowed in the country at the time and we got in just one day before a mandatory 10-Day isolation period went into effect for all incoming passengers thanks to Omicron.

We had a great time visiting Kelsey, touring Suwon and Seoul and even taking a birding trip to the DMZ, where we got to photograph Red Crowned and White-Naped Cranes, although Mark came down with a horrendous cold (not Covid) that had him holed-up in the hotel room for the last half of the trip.

We are excited because Kelsey plans to visit here after the first of the year, before returning to Korea for another tour of duty teaching English. We are hoping that a return trip to Korea is in our future.

Our big news was a “trip of a lifetime” to the Galapagos Islands in July. It was a photography-centric trip and we can’t begin to say how fantastic it was, especially because we were there at the height of the baby-raising season. We’ll let our photos speak for themselves. If anyone cares, you can see more by following Carol on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook or by going to Mark’s Galapagos Gallery on the website. Carol is fast closing in on 10,000 followers on Twitter, so she would appreciate anyone choosing to follow her. 

In other big news, youngest daughter Rachel and her fiancé Mason Wickham tied the knot in June, shortly before our trip. They had a small, but very nice ceremony at Lincoln Memorial Gardens here in Springfield and her mother threw an impressive, classy reception for them afterwards.

Son Patrick returned from California in June and is working as a manager at a local wholesale food company that supplies a number of restaurants in town. He hopes to return to California at some point, but is using his time in Springfield to regroup and recharge.

Daughter Sarah and her husband Scott are doing well. Sarah continues to teach, while Scott is a manager at Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

Grandchildren Owen and Reese are now officially in their teen years. Both are geniuses (what grandchild isn’t) as is third grandson Kolton (Rachel’s son).

Daughter Rebecca has completed the transition of her mom’s lobbying and association management firm to Rebecca’s capable hands. Rebecca’s latest equine project is a highland pony that she is raising from babyhood with the help of a “nanny” gelding. The nanny horse is actually quite amazing to watch as he teaches the young one appropriate behavior and manners.

Son-in-Law Clayton has acquired a dirt bike, which means family gatherings have now become an opportunity for Patrick and Clayton to discuss all things vehicular. Probably a welcome relief for Patrick to talk to someone other than us.

Again this year, Mark took Owen, Reese and Kolton on a Grandpa/Grandkids field trip to Lincoln, Nebraska, where Mark grew up and where his siblings Mary and Jim live. Among the highlights was a visit to the Strategic Air Command Museum. They had a special display honoring the Martin Bomber Plant in Omaha where Mark’s dad worked on the design of the Enola Gay during World War II.

Carol’s mom Eudoxie is approaching her 98th birthday the day after Christmas. She passed up Queen Elizabeth and is now bearing down on Betty White. She is still living at the assisted living center in nearby Chatham where frequent deliveries of “Skinny Pop” popcorn sent by Carol’s sister Crystal help to sustain her.

We did have a sad/happy transition in our family, with the passing of our cat Kosmo in the spring. Kosmo had much personality and actually predated Mark, having arrived in Carol’s household several months before we began dating in 2005.

We have a new addition, Cheesecake, who in his own way rivals Kosmo in the personality department. He’s probably the most affectionate cat we each have had and, importantly, Cheescake met the longstanding Carol standard that cats must be orange.

If you have made it this far, we will conclude with a simple wish for Happy Holidays to all.


A few highlights from Korea, including traditional Korean villages and palaces, cranes, mountains near the DMZ and scenes from Mr. Toilet House (Home of the former mayor of Suwan converted to a museum celebrating the history of, yes, toilets!)

Rachel and Mason Wedding

Waved Albatross Mating Dance

Galapagos Babies!

We were very lucky. The birds, sea lions and even the marine iguanas all were raising their young when we arrived. (Although we wouldn’t say that the iguanas were doing much parenting.)

Cloud Forest Birds

Before our flight to the Galapagos, we took a day tour to the Cloud Forest outside of Quito to see tropical birds, including many types of hummingbirds. A long day, especially since we had to get back for a Covid test and then up at 3 a.m. to head to the airport.  

Considering a Trip to the Galapagos?

A few details about our trip to the Galapagos for anyone interested. After much research Mark booked the trip through Galapagos Travel ( They specialize in trips for avid photographers.

These are small group trips (ours had 10 people) and concentrate on giving their customers plenty of time to photograph. Nearly every day we landed on one of the islands, spent the morning photographing, returned to the boat and then in the late morning or early afternoon went snorkeling. Some days we made a second stop in the afternoon for more photos.

For birds that can’t easily be photographed from shore (penguins and flightless cormorants for example) they took us out on rubber boats that hugged the cliffs so we could get good shots.  

At night the yacht would move on to the next island and the process would repeat itself.

We watched other tour groups get marched across the island trails, pausing only briefly for a few quick snaps, while we leisurely hung around able to get not one or two shots of any critter we saw, but dozens or even hundreds.

Probably the most significant difference was in the quality of tour leaders and naturalist. Our tour leader, Tui De Roi is probably the premier photographer of the Galapagos and the author of several books on the island wildlife, as well as books on other wildlife around the world. Our naturalist, Monica, (all tour groups must be accompanied by a government-certified naturalist) was equally knowledgeable. (Her father was director of the Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz Island.)  The great thing about both of them was that they knew exactly where the wildlife could be found. In fact, in some cases, they even knew individuals.

The base cost for any trip to the Galapagos is high, but we reasoned that rather than try to save a small amount and cut corners, it was better to invest a bit more and get a true “trip of a lifetime.”

Link to Tui De Roy’s page on Amazon

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