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2018 Holiday Letter

‘Tis the season for Holiday Letters. This one is from the Fabians. It’s been aSpring Thaw milestone year for us. In the spring, we celebrated our (joint) 160th birthday. And on a much sadder note this spring, Doris, Mira’s older sister, died. Doris and Zoltan, her husband who died last year, were key members of our family. They and their children have been an important part of our lives and our Christmas since our first year of marriage, back 56 years ago. We miss them both. [Image of sping thaw at the cottage. Click on any image to see an expanded version.]

Some years ago I started saying (about our health) that, “Everything still works, albeit not as well as it once did.” Fortunately, that’s still true, but the “not as well as it once did” applies with increasing force as the years go by. Still, during our week’s holiday in Vienna this fall we did manage to log over 10 kilometres walking every day. Our time in Vienna preceded the course I offered this Fall at Ryerson’s LIFE Institute - “Musical Vienna in 1800”. [Image of the forces about to perform Haydn's Creation when we were in Vienna. The concert took place at the Musikverein Vienna and celebrated the 175th anniversary of the Vienna Men's Choir.]

I continue to teach at LIFE (Learning Is ForEver). In the Spring I offered a course called “Bach Again”, and a course called “Smartphone Basics”, and led a walk along what many of us hope will soon be Toronto’s Downtown Inner Green Pedestrian Loop. After offering a baker’s dozen of LIFE courses, I’m beginning to understand what makes a successful LIFE course. There are no grades and no exams in LIFE courses. Participants are there because they want to be there. Which means that the classroom experience needs to be positive – educational, engaging and entertaining.

Mira continued to act as my Class Host for the courses I taught at LIFE – she made the official announcements, took attendance and was the point of contact for questions about LIFE and the course. She also made a positive difference in the classes. She asked questions that others might  have been unwilling to ask. The classroom experience was improved because she was Class Host. Mira also continued in her work on the CAWIC bursary awards – the Canadian Association of Women In Construction awards bursaries to deserving young women whose studies are in construction and related fields.

I continued as a board member of the Church Wellesley Neighbourhood Association, but feel that this should be my last year in that role. Urban Planning continues to be important to me. The last two years I was one of the outside resources that supported the Urban Land Institute’s programme in local high schools. The students are challenged to develop and present an urban redevelopment plan for an invented down-at-the-heels urban neighbourhood. Outside resources are made available to help answer questions that the students may have. It’s a creative way to connect students to the urban development issues that they can see around them in Toronto.

Our year contained a reasonably full measure of social events and aPricilla goodly number of concerts. We went back to Baltimore for the memorial service for Doris. Appropriately, it took place in a local park that Doris enjoyed. Priscilla drove up from Pittsburgh to Stratford to see all four of the Shakespeare plays that were offered this year. We met her there, enjoying dinner and a performance of The Tempest with her. The performance featured one of Canada’s top female actors playing the role of Prospero. [Image of Pricilla at lunch with us in Stratford.]

Eshrant's 70thEshrat, a colleague from my days at York University, had her 70th birthday and we joined her for the event celebrating her birthday at her brother's house. We again went with the Borodins to Stratford, this time seeing Coriolanus. After the theatre and on the way home, the talk was all about the planned major renovations to their house in Toronto – they’re now living in rented space as the renovations continue apace. Let’s hope this renovation is atypical and they can return shortly after the planned completion date. [Image of Eshrat ane her husband Don at her 70th birthday party.]

For another year we subscribed to Music in the Afternoon. These chamber music concerts are now in their 121st season. We continued our practice of joining Joe and Anne Cira for lunch before the concert at Jacque’s Omelette, an informal French bistro in Yorkville, a short walk away for the concert hall. Joe and I continue with our occasional lunches to address the world’s problems. Solutions have become ever more illusive, but the lunches remain enjoyable. All three Weirs – Claudette, Doug and Remy (their wonderful Ganaraskan dog) – again visited us at the cottage this summer. [Image (selfie) of Joe and me at one of the concerts.]

Lynn's 80thThe Friesens had two big events to which we were invited. They celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary and Lynn celebrated her 80th birthday, both events presented with the flair that is distinct to the Friesens. Two of Doris’s daughters, Charlotte and Dora, visited us in Toronto this fall. It was a welcomed continuing connection to Mira’s sister’s family. Paul, Mira’s nephew, and his partner Johnathan, visited us again this (US) Thanksgiving. It’s now been more than 20 Dora and Charlotteyears of visits to us in Toronto. US Thanksgiving just wouldn’t be the same without Paul and Johnathan in Toronto. [Image of Lynn at her 80th birthday party. Image on the right is Dora, Mira and Charlotte.]

Politics is increasingly with us. Donald Trump continues to demonstrate the destructive power of divisive politics. He may not be the cause of social division in the US, but his rhetoric and actions seem almost calculated to inflame the problems facing us. More locally, we have Doug Ford as the Premier of Ontario. He’s the older brother of the infamous Rob Ford, Toronto’s former mayor. Doug Ford doesn’t have the power of a Donald Trump, but he’s doing his bit to inflame social divisions in Ontario.

In the face of all of loChristmas 218oming problems over climate change, automation and multiculturalism, there remain local signs of hope. Some positive things have begun to happen in our urban environment. The new Bentway Park has opened under the Gardiner Expressway in Toronto. The vision for a Downtown Inner Green Pedestrian Loop continues to attract supporters, including a growing number of developers. It is possible to make a positive difference. Will it be enough to stave off looming disasters? Maybe not, but we can and should do our best to make it the most positive future possible. Welcome to 2019! [Image is looking out at the lake on Christmas Day at the cottage.]


Café Sacher Vienna
alas, it was too crowded to stay,
maybe another year