Michael & Danielle’s 2012 Newsletter

For Danielle and me the Year of the Water Dragon was a year of significant passages.
In March my mother, Jessie Mae Smith (nee Safford) passed away at the age of 84 from pneumonia. All of the
surviving Smith children (myself, Dan, Sharon, Maureen, John) as well as three of her grandchildren (Chelsea, Charles, and Brian) were at her bedside in the hospital when she ascended into Heaven (for surely her loving care in raising eight 'wild' children should more than suffice). A week later family and friends gathered for a memorial at our sister Maureen's home in Yucaipa. I wrote and delivered the eulogy which is saved to this link: Mom. The Smith household, which at its peak brought ten to the dinner table, is now half in number.
The weekend after Mom's memorial I reached my 60th birthday. In terms of the Chinese zodiac, I completed a full cycle (the previous year of the water dragon was 1952). So, being a water dragon, it seemed only fitting to do something grand, possibly outrageous, to celebrate. Thus, a week later, Danielle and I flew from San Francisco to Sydney, Australia where we boarded the Princess Cruises ship, "Sea Princess", for a 29 day cruise across the Pacific Ocean back to San Francisco. Enroute we visited New Zealand, Fiji, American Samoa, Bora Bora, Tahiti, Moorea, and Hawaii. Surprisingly, one of the stops that I expected to be the least interesting ended up being one of the best and most beautiful - Pago Pago (American Samoa). Our favorite was Moorea - I think we left clawmarks on the pier when we had to return to our ship... The photo below-left was taken in a garden at the Paul Gaugin museum on Tahiti. The photo below-right was taken on the island of Moorea; in the background is the island of Tahiti. Click on the link to see a slideshow/video of our 'trip of a lifetime'.
Aikido and Aikibojitsu continue to be significant parts of our life. Aikido of Monterey, Danielle's school, has weathered most of the economic downturn, due in large part to Danielle's efforts to expand the children's program which at this point exceeds the adult enrollment. Danielle and I attended, taught, and/or hosted several seminars throughout the year. In fact, we hosted a seminar only days after returning from our trans-Pacific cruise. We again participated and taught at the Mt. Baldy Retreat (my 25th year) and this year we hosted our 21st annual weapons retreat. The logo I designed for this year's retreat is pictured above.