2011 Christmas Letter

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

We’re having an unseasonably warm December in New England, so even though nearly all our Christmas shopping is done, cookies are baked, and we put the decorations up a week early, it’s taken awhile to get into the swing of things. Then last night, we celebrated “Christmas Eve” with the Feast of the Seven Fishes and assembled multitudes of Caritos, and exchanged presents with Rob and Sunny, who will be in Colorado on the actual day. I think we are finally in the holiday spirit.

This has been a year of change and more change for our family.

Kate has led the way by leaving not just her job, but the country altogether. She’s now living in Kentish Town in London, studying for her Masters Degree in Creative Writing at London Metropolitan University and loving every minute of her geographic and academic adventure. Bill and I joke that by moving from Manhattan to London, Kate seems to be on a quest to live in the most expensive cities in the world. She responds to this by ignoring us, which is usually the wisest course of action.

Bill has also made big changes in his life. In February, he left his operational role at Sage Systems after eight years. Like me, he is now focused on writing, working on a political thriller among other projects. In October, I became a heroine to women with retired husbands everywhere, when I “suggested” that maybe he find somewhere to work other than our couch. (He claims he was annoying me by breathing. This is a slight exaggeration. He was annoying me by breathing in our living room during daylight hours. There’s a difference.) Anyway, he’s rented office space in a commercial building half a block from us and we are both happy and incredibly more productive.

Running counter to trend, after changing jobs and/or apartments, often multiple times, every year since college, Rob and Sunny enjoyed a year of relative stability. Sunny did accept a new job in her field in post-production sound at Tantor Media, a major producer of audio-books. Rob is still at work as a technical writer at Blackboard. Their little area of Connecticut was the absolute epicenter for the northeastern snowstorms last winter with 93 inches of snow. They also endured two week-long power outages after Hurricane Irene and our freak October snowstorm. Despite all this, they are planning to look for a house to purchase in the area in the new year.

I have stayed free all year from corporate entanglements (and of course, the curse of regular income). With my co-editor/co-publishers, we released the ninth annual Level Best Books anthology Best New England Crime Stories: 2012: Dead Calm in November. My story “In the Rip” appears in this collection. I’m putting the finishing touches on a second novel and blogging regularly with some amazing mystery writers at www.mainecrimewriters.com. All and all, my writing career has progressed this year to the point where I am now in a position to be rejected by a much better class of people than ever before.

On the Carito side of the family, John and Heather’s daughter Hilary graduated from Boston Latin in the spring and started at UMass Amherst in the fall. Today, we learned that Carl and Eliana’s son Breno became engaged to Rachel, his girlfriend of many years. On the Ross side, Rip and Ann’s daughter Julia graduated from Wellesley College in May and is now working as a research assistant in psychology at UC Davis.

Of course, not all of this year’s changes were good ones. In January we lost our cocker spaniel MacKenzie. In February, came the most devastating loss of all, my Dad. It made for a long, sad winter, but my mother has led the way by focusing on all the wonderful things she and Dad did in their lives together. Her example has been a source of great comfort for the rest of us.

We hope that 2012 brings you happiness and adventure and that we get to see you some time in the new year.

Bill & Barb

2010 Christmas Letter

Best wishes for the season to everyone!

Here in Somerville we are having an “almost” Christmas—meaning the shopping is “almost” done, the house is “almost” decorated, the menus are “almost” planned and, if you are reading this, it must mean the cards are “almost” done.

The Caritos have had a busy, busy year.

In June, Bill and I spent ten wonderful days in Paris.  We rented an apartment in the Marais, a style of travel we heartily endorse and intend to adopt whenever we spend more than a few days in one place.  We took day trips to Normandy and Versailles, multiple walking tours of the city, did lots of touristy stuff and even practiced the French art of sitting in cafes for hours at a time.

My big news is that in August, my mystery novel The Death of an Ambitious Woman, was published by Five Star/Gale/Cengage.  I am having an absolute ball with book signings and library talks.  I’ve been telling people it’s one of those few things in life that are every bit as much fun as you imagine they’ll be. In August, I also became a co-editor/co-publisher at Level Best Books, which produces an annual anthology of short stories.  Our first effort, Thin Ice: Crime Stories by New England Writers was released in November.  It contains my short story, “Key West” which is one of my favorites.  Finally, also in August, we sold Wimba, the company of which I was (all too briefly) Chief Operating Officer to Blackboard, Inc.  (Yes, the same people who bought my previous company, WebCT). So I am now “retired” and writing and editing full-time.  As I’ve said, “How many times can the universe send you the same message?”

In October, Rob and Sunny moved to Middletown, Connecticut, a great college town with fun restaurants and lots to do.  Rob is working as a technical writer at Blackboard and Sunny is still doing contract post-production sound editing for Audible.com as well as getting a Masters in Library Science and working part-time at a library.  They’ve added a third animal to their menagerie.  Joining cats Mehitabel and Monkey is Fiver, a German shepard-husky mix, now six months old.  Rob spent a high school summer training our cocker spaniel MacKenzie to sleep until noon.  Perhaps because of his grown-up responsibilities, he has not yet achieved the same success with Fiver.

Kate is still at O, The Oprah Magazine and loving living in Tribeca.  She took a creative writing course at NYU this fall.  Poor child, can’t shake the family curse.  Bill is still busy at Sage Systems.

For the first time in more than a decade we don’t have a wedding, high school or college graduation in the extended family to report. Niece Julia Ross lived with us over the summer while she did an internship at Children’s Hospital. We see a fair amount of Carl and Eliana’s daughter Christelle who is living downstairs in our two family house with Bill’s mom. We did get to spend a lovely Labor Day weekend in Boothbay Harbor with my brother Rip’s family and all of our kids.  We were lucky to squeeze it in because this fall, Rip’s wife Ann has become a co-founder and manager of a knitting store in Kingston, PA called Gosh Yarn It!

We hope you have happy, happy holidays and fantastic New Year.

Call us, e-mail us, Facebook us, text us or tweet us in the New Year!  More ways than you’d ever want to get in touch with us listed below!

Bill & Barb

2009 Christmas Letter

Happy Holidays to Everyone!

I watched the lighting the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Plaza
last night. It so reminded me of the Christmas weekends spent
in the city with my grandparents– seeing the department store
windows, skating on the rink here and going to the
Nutcracker or the Radio City Christmas show. Twinkling
lights and happy memories. Nothing better to put you in
the holiday mood.

Here’s the annual update—just in case we haven’t called, e-mailed, facebooked, texted or tweeted with you this year!

The big announcements in this Christmas letter are mine. My mystery, The Death of an Ambitious Woman, will be published by Five Star Press in August, 2010. (Don’t worry about forgetting this important fact. I’ll remind you—again and again—when it becomes available.) In other news, after consulting for nine months, I’ve taken a permanent gig as co-COO at Wimba, Inc. The company is located in mid-town Manhattan and along with the consulting job came a corporate apartment just across from Rockefeller Plaza. It’s been great to be in the city. I’ve seen a lot more than I otherwise would have of Kate, Rob & Sunny and I’ll miss the apartment (but not the time away from home) when the company headquarters moves to Beverly, MA in January.

Speaking of Rob and Sunny, they decamped from Brooklyn to the smallest city in Connecticut (Derby) in October where they are riding out the recession free-lancing in their respective fields. Kate is still at O, The Oprah Magazine and living in Tribeca and Bill is still busy at Sage Systems.

In the extended family, my parents made the move from their big old house to an all-on-one-floor home in a 55+ community in Lehman, PA. For the first time in 15 years, they won’t be spending the winter in Key West. Rip’s daughter Julia transferred from Connecticut College to Wellesley last January and Carl’s daughter Christelle transferred from Mass Bay to Northeastern in September. Both are meeting these new challenges successfully.

So we all go on. Like almost everyone else we know, collectively we have too few jobs and too many houses, but it’s all just part of the zeitgeist. We also have much to be grateful for and, as always, wish the same for you.

Bill & Barb

My American Family

Christmas Day this year was spent at my husband’s brother’s ex-wife’s cousin’s house, which is to say, with friends.

We are as a group united by bonds of blood, law and friendship.  We have among us people whose ancestors came on the Mayflower and people who speak today with the accents of the countries of their birth.  We are Catholics, Protestants and Jews, some of us fervant in our beliefs, some of us equally fervant in our unbelief, and every form of questioner in between.

We range in age from eight to eighty.  We have children who came to us in every way children can come, step, adopted and biological, planned, longed for, and delightful surprise.  We have children who make us unbearably proud and children we worry about everyday.  Sometimes they are the same children.

This year we marked two deaths, four major illnesses, three surgeries, a divorce and two marriages.  On Christmas day, two couples no longer together smiled and treated each other with grace because their love for their children comes before their own pain.

This is my American family.  We are pale, ruddy, olive-skinned and brown.  We are blonde, red-headed, brown, black, white and gray-haired. For the last eight years this kind of big, messy stew has felt invisible, almost impossible in the onslaught of messages about things that should divide us, make us all one thing or another, push our differences in and our common humanity out. 

Yet all along, we have known it wasn’t so and gone on.

With hope for the future.  Happy New Year to all.


The Christmas Letter

This year without apologies–


Dear Family and Friends,


Happy Holidays to all!  In New England, we are in that awful snow/rain/sleet cycle that leaves everything treacherous and ugly.  We’ve tried to warm it up by hanging lots of outdoor Christmas lights.  I do love seeing them when I come up the street on these dark, dark days.

We are all well.  Kate survived both a layoff and an apartment disaster (toxic mold!) and has managed to land on her feet in both cases.  She is now the executive assistant to the publisher of O, The Oprah Magazine (see Kate’s name on the masthead!), and is living in TriBeCa.  I always explain to people that Kate has the Ugly Betty job, not The Devil Wears Prada job, because she works for the publisher, not the editor.  Also, she reports her boss is very nice.

Rob is still production manager at Leaders magazine (see his name also on the masthead!), so both the children are, as eight year-old nephew calls them, “magaziners.”  Rob is still living in Brooklyn, and one of the benefits for Bill and I is we have really gotten to know Brooklyn better—great restaurants and shops, museum and botanical gardens.

Bill is working hard at his company, Sage Systems.  I must say, he has taken the Red Sox victory entirely in stride (“Once a curse is broken, it’s broken.”) and has moved seamlessly on to football season and the Patriots.

I am coming off my infamous year off, and what a wonderful year it has been.  I actually get compliments about how good I am at taking time off.  (For anyone who wants lessons, write me!)  Some highlights of the full year included a writing seminar on Star Island, a small rock off the coast of New Hampshire, two visits to Key West, two fun long weekends in New York City, a wonderful week at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA and capping it all off, a fantastic trip to Italy.  Bill and I revisited Rome and the Amalfi Coast and then went to Sorrento, Pompeii and Capri.  Honestly, it was difficult to come home.

The extended family is well.  Next August, Rip and Ann’s son Hume will become the first member of his generation to tie the knot, so we are all happy and excited about that.  His sister Julia graduated from high school this spring and is at Connecticut College.  Carl and Eliana’s daughter Christelle also graduated this spring and is attending Mass Bay.

As always, we hope this letter finds you well and enjoying the spirit of the season.  We close, for the sixth year in a row, with hopes for peace.

Bill & Barb