HAPPY NEW YEAR from the CONGERS !

December was so chock full of activities this year that this letter had to be postponed, but here it is! As always, the holidays flew by. Our children and grandkids (except Pete and Lindsay) were able to be here for Christmas. The house rocked! (literally!) Let us share with you a recap of 2011 for the Conger clan.

January- We traveled out to Pittsburgh to be with Cathy’s family while her father underwent surgery to repair an aortic aneurysm. We thank God that it was a huge success and he has a new lease on life. Cathy stayed 2 weeks to help nurse him back to health.

She also tackled an advanced knitting class, making a cabled wool vest and deciding that she should stay in the intermediate class for awhile longer!

February- We took a 10 day winter vacation to New England where we spent time on the coast of Maine visiting Cathy’s college roommate and her husband in Saco. We’d never been to the ocean in winter before! Then we drove to New Hampshire’s White Mountains to enjoy the snow and sights, staying at the famous Sugar Hill Inn in Franconia. Check out our vacation photos at www.flickr.com/photos/congerfamily .

March- We traveled to Longmont, Colorado to spend a week with Michael, Kim, Katie and Andy. Michael is working very hard in his second year of a PhD program at the Leeds Business School at Colorado U. Kim teaches on the faculty of Colorado State U in Ft. Collins. Longmont is halfway between. Michael has had several opportunities to present his academic papers at conferences and Kim has been able to continue her research. Katie, now 4, is in pre-kindergarten and Andy, now 2, is a little linebacker (Packers naturally)! Life is a rat race for them, but we were able to spend a day together driving up to Estes Park in the Rockies. They enjoy a striking view of the Rockies from their apartment. Mostly we got to hang out with (and spoil) the grandkids. (see photos on Flickr site)

April – Cathy was commissioned by our church to write a one act play for the Good Friday service. It was about the experiences of Simon of Cyrene and his two sons on the day Simon was forced to carry Jesus’ cross. The actors were magnificent and it was a very moving drama. Spring was late in Wisconsin. We still had some snow for Easter!

May- Cathy was excited to attend a 3 day quilt conference in Eau Claire, WI, which featured 3 of her favorite quilting instructor/celebrities. She learned several new techniques and was so excited to concentrate on quilting again that she came home declaring 2012 her “year to quilt”. Rachel’s husband, Mike, earned his doctorate in educational psychology from the U of Minnesota. Congratulations Dr. Mensink!

June- We flew to New York City, staying in Times Square while Chuck attended an emergency medicine conference. Fortunately we saw quite a few of the sights (see photos on Flickr site) the first two days because on day 3, as we were about to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, Cathy fell on a sidewalk and broke her left leg (although she didn’t know it was broken)! She didn’t want to go to the hospital so carried on until we got back to the hotel. The next 3 days she stayed put with ice on her leg. We were able to borrow the hotel’s wheelchair to get across Times Square to see How to Succeed in Business starring Daniel Radcliffe of Harry Potter fame. We also managed a carriage ride through Central Park. The flight home was miserable. After diagnosing a tibial plateau fracture, her orthopedic surgeon put her in a full leg brace with zero weight-bearing for 12 weeks – a long, hot 12 weeks!

July – All the children and grandchildren came for our fourth annual family vacation in Bayfield, WI on Lake Superior. It was a scorching hot week but we enjoyed swimming (Katie has learned to swim) , sailing, good food, and birthday celebrations for Katie and Andy. As a bonus, we got to see two Tall Ships that sailed into our harbor. The clan was housed in a third floor walk-up condo except for Cathy and Chuck, who got a first floor single at the last minute. Cathy didn’t want to miss out on any of the fun upstairs so each day, the men carried her and her wheelchair up three flights and then back down at night. Despite that and Katie and Andy not understanding why Grandma couldn’t play, it was a fun week for everybody! (more photos on Flickr site)

August- For Chuck’s 62nd birthday, the two of us we went to a lake resort in Elkhart Lake, WI (this place had an elevator) for the weekend. What a beautiful place! (see photos of Flickr site) And Cathy got to swim at last as she was allowed to remove the brace to float in the pool. Heaven! When we got home, we had to drive Laura to O’Hare. She took a leave of absence from her U of Minnesota job to spend August and September in Merv, Turkmenistan on an archeological dig. You might remember that she worked on that dig last summer as well. Her applications are in for graduate school in archeology and we’re keeping our fingers crossed that she will be accepted for fall. In the meantime, she shares a third floor apartment in St.Paul with 2 girlfriends, sings in her church choir, and dog sits Ole, Rachel and Mike’s yellow lab.

September- To celebrate getting her brace off, Chuck took Cathy back to Colorado to visit the grandkids since she barely got to play with them in July when her fracture was fresh. Rachel’s husband, Mike, accepted a post-doctoral fellowship position at Northern Illinois U. However, since they had no time to sell their house in St. Paul, MN and Rachel has an excellent job at Como Park Vet Clinic as medical manager, Mike went off to Illinois and Rachel stayed in St. Paul. However, it is only for 1 year and Mike gets home 2 weekends a month. Before he left, they took a second honeymoon to Belgium. Then in October, they went to Oslo, Norway for a conference Mike attended.

October- We returned to Pittsburgh to visit Cathy’s family for a week, enjoying the breathtaking, fall color at their mountain retreat. We attended an Octoberfest and took some amazing photos of the colors, which we put into a book for Cathy’s parents for Christmas. Out in Oregon, Peter and Lindsay celebrated their first wedding anniversary with a trip to New England. After a tough time of unemployment, Pete now has a good job in the office of a shipping company and Lindsay is in accounting at a department store chain. Sadly, October also brought sorrow with the tragic death of Lindsay’s father. While Peter has put in his application and has finished night classes to prepare to go back to school for a masters in education at U of Oregon, he says he may have to put it off a year due to the stresses of his father-in-laws death on the family. They are, however, moving to a bigger apartment next month and plan a trip this winter to Mexico. Hallelujah!

November-The way we alternate holidays, this was the year that our married kids spent Thanksgiving with their in-laws. Laura flew out to LA for Thanksgiving with college friends and to interview at UCLA. Andrea could not get home either, so when Chuck discovered he was scheduled off for Thanksgiving weekend, we decided to drive to Indiana to have turkey with Andrea and celebrate her 35th birthday. We had not been there (Indiana U at Bloomington) since we helped her move into her apartment last year. We ate out and generally relaxed and had fun together touring the campus. This is her second year of a PhD program in dance anthropology. She’s had numerous opportunities to present academic papers at conferences, teach classes at the university, be a guest choreographer and do research. Now that we have experienced what PhD programs are like with Kim, Mike, Michael and Andrea, we realize how demanding they are – especially the first 2 years. Just imagine- soon there will be five more doctors in the Conger clan!

Chuck continues to enjoy his job in the ER in Waupaca, WI, despite the 50 minute commute. He’s looking at retirement in 3 years. This year, one of his job perks was receiving a new I Pad, which he is having way too much fun with! This year’s home project was to clean out the basement and make it useful for storage and recreation. Since April, we’ve cleaned out 35 years of junk (filled a big dumpster!), had a carpenter come partition it into 2 storage rooms, the furnace room, and Chuck’s workshop. We’ve finished the remaining space as a rec room with a big play area for grandchildren and exercise area for us. Chuck worked hard for 6 weeks painting, carpeting, and wiring to get it ready for the kids at Christmas. Cathy was in charge of organizing and putting everything in plastic bins for storage. She repaired and scrubbed up all the toys we’d saved from our kids plus those she bought on Ebay. The result was all worth it when Katie and Andy went deliriously wild in their new play area!

Chuck’s current challenge is recovering from shoulder replacement surgery. You may recall that he had the right shoulder replaced a few years ago. It was so successful that when the arthritis pain in the left became too much, he was eager to go through the procedure once more. The surgery was on January 11th. He will be off work for 10 weeks, the last 2 of which we will spend on a Caribbean cruise!

Cathy continues to write, quilt, knit, and do photography. Unfortunately, the broken leg played havoc with her fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, necessitating lots of physical therapy and pain management. She’s trying to get her strength back by swimming. If you don’t already do so, check back to this blog periodically to follow her writing and photography. She’s looking forward to a writer’s retreat next month at Green lake, WI ,when she will do nothing but meditate and work on writing projects for a whole week. We are also in the planning stages of a trip out west in May to take Cathy’s parents to see the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Pike’s Peak and Bryce Canyon. Speaking of trips, please accept our open invitation to come visit us any time! We know exchanging Christmas cards has become expensive (thank you to all of you who sent us greetings and photos!) but please send us an email. We’d love to know what you’re up to!

We all are facing tough financial times, a crucial election, and uncertainty in unfolding global events. Fear and stress can become overwhelming without a solid faith in our mighty God, who knows the future and has it under control. Turn to Him. His line is never busy. We pray that you will have a happy, healthy, and prosperous new year and that, as God is willing, you will stay safe through the storms and find warmth and strength in your loved ones.

Love,

Chuck and Cathy

conger@wctc.net or cathy@cathyconger.com

Michael and Kim Conger

804 Summerhawk Dr. Apt 10304

Longmont, CO 80504

michael@congerclan.com

Andrea Conger

956 E. Hillside

Bloomington, IN 47401

andreaconger@gmail.com

Peter Conger and Lindsay Stamsos

711 SE 11th Ave. Apt 37

Portland, OR 97214

peterconger@gmail.com

Mike and Rachel Mensink

1335 Mackubin St.

St. Paul, MN 55117

rachelconger@gmail.com

Laura Conger

77 N. Oxford St.

St. Paul, MN 55104

lauraconger@gmail.com