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2015 Holiday Letter

We began 2015 at Toronto city hall. Fireworks at Nathan Phillips Square is a local tradition. We skipped most years, but we decided to be different in 2015. This is an image that my camera captured (images expand when clicked). The first real celebration was dinner with the Borodins - Judy, Allan, and their two youngest children. This was also a kind of birthday party for Judy.

In April, we drove down to Maryland. Mira's sister Doris and her husband Zoltan have always been our closest family. They now live in a retirement condo in Annapolis, on the shore of Chesapeake Bay. Unfortunately, Doris is suffering from a progressively more severe case of Parkinson's Disease, and Zoltan continues to have health issues. But they and their children remain our closest family.

While there, we looked at old family photographs. The image below was captured by Zoltan (he's the only one missing from the photo). The older couple are Mira's parents. Mira and I are in the back row on the left. All the siblings, their mates and their children are present, except for the second child of Mira's younger sister (who was not yet born). Doris is standing next to “my” Mira and holding her youngest daughter, “little” Mira. The picture brought back fond memories and shows us as unbelievably young.

Ryerson University's LIFE Institute continues to be important. LIFE – Learning Is ForEver – offers non-credit courses largely by and for those 50+. Mira presented a book club review of Anna Karenina. She assisted me in my LIFE courses. If you're interested, my courses have their own website. Mira acts as Class Host, making sure everyone feels welcomed. Several people remarked about our effectiveness as a team – Mira asks the questions others are reluctant to voice.

In the Winter term I taught “A Great Yonge Street”. We live immediately east of Yonge; it's the central street of Toronto and has a history that stretches back to when Ontario was Upper Canada. Many of us are working on improving the street. Also during the year, I helped out with the LIFE Computer Club, and taught another two music courses, one on Bach and a second on Shostakovich.

LIFE courses are different. Regular courses have value as a “proof” of what you know. A LIFE course is valuable if the experience is entertaining, engaging and enlightening. And many LIFE course have “students” who have more knowledge, in certain areas, that the teacher. For me, teaching came together in the music courses I offered. We sampled actual performances using YouTube videos, with optional full home viewing.

This summer, Dora, (Mira's neice), Lou and their twin boys visited us in Toronto. The city had just played host to the PanAm Games and a large “TORONTO” sign remained in Nathan Phillips Square. This image shows all four of them standing next to and within the sign. Lou and the twins discovered the game store located across Yonge Street from our condo. As a memento of their visit, I invited the twins to each select a game to take home with them. As you can see, this gave rise to considerable thought.

This year we again went to the opera with the Borodins (even though I'm not all that fond of opera). We also went with them to Stratford, where we arrived in time to have a picnic lunch on the shores of the Avon River. Stratford is (almost) always an interesting theater experience, and She Stoops to Conqure was well done. In addition, Mira and I enjoyed a theater experience offered at the LIFE Institute – four afternoon performances followed by open discussions with the cast.

In the Fall, I presented a Shostakovich course. The course led me to some less traveled Soviet musical works. I found it interesting and the class of 25 said they also found it of some interest. And in the Fall, we returned to the series of professional string quartet concerts presented all the way downtown. Inspired, in part, by this concert going, I'm slated to teach a LIFE course on the string quartet in the coming Winter Term.

I didn't just teach a course about Yonge Street. I helped with the North Downtown Yonge Street Planning Framework. It was accepted by city council, and then challenged by those who want greater freedom to put up condo towers in our neighbourhood. This challenge will be close to a court case, but heard by the Ontario Municipal Board. I've taken the step of developing a detailed, rational argument in favor of key portions of the planning framework. A recent blog entry presents my arguments.

The Fall also saw the arrival of Paul, Mira's nephew, and Jonathan, his life partner. Their visits have become a regular and welcomed US Thanksgiving event for something like 25 years. We hope this will be a continuing event and that they will again bring some of the boys with them.

Before moving downtown, we didn't recognize how important walking would become. When we had a house, we took the car most places. Now, we walk or take the subway. Almost all our shopping is done on foot. We walk to friends. We walk to the theater or concert hall. We still have a car and its important because it is the only convenient way to get to our cottage. But we now do most things on foot. It's easy, … and healthy.

We spent the last ten days of 2015 at our cottage. It was warm enough that the lake was free of ice on Christmas Day. We returned to Toronto in the new year and I began writing this Holiday Letter. Life continues. There will be new LIFE courses for Mira and me, and planning for Yonge Street continues. 2016 looks to be another interesting year.