1998 Christmas Letter

The year started off with a huge disappointment – if you are a Packer fan. As I put the final touches on this letter, I have to grudgingly admit that it doses not seem possible for a Packer Three-Peat or a Quad-Peat for Farve. The good news is that the worse the Pack plays, the closer I get to receiving my season tickets at Lambeau. I put my name in years ago and started off around 10,000 on the list. I’m currently number 6,223 and hope to have tickets by the time I retire.

The cold winter months brought on thoughts of spring and the backyard grill. Thus began a search for a grocery store that carried good brats. The brats that these New England folks seem to like cannot compare to a good old Johnsonville. We were unable to find any grocery store that carried good brats – at any time of year. However, one store would special order them for us, direct from Sheboygan, Wisconsin, if we purchased a case. Guess what, we purchased a case (24 - six packs) and had brats to last us the summer.

The only other bit of news from the winter is that we sold Jan’s Honda Prelude. Since we both ride to work together, we did not get much use from a second car. It was a sad day for Jan, but the car seemed to go to a good home. We even see the car from time to time as we drive into work !

In May, we celebrated our 3rd wedding anniversary at Wequassett Inn on Pleasant Bay in the town of Chatham on the Cape. We discovered that it’s a lot more relaxing spending time at the Cape during the off season.

We celebrated the Memorial Day weekend by flying up to Minneapolis for Jan’s parents 50th wedding anniversary. Since it was a nice long weekend, we also had time to meet up with some of Jan’s long time friends who all got together for a barbecue at Kim’s house. The beer, brats and shish kabobs were great.

June would begin with a visit from our Wisconsin friend, Craig Halberstadt. Craig took a trip out East which ended in Boston for a three day visit. Of course, a visit from Craig would not be the same unless an O’s game was involved. We attended a two game series at Fenway that resulted in the Sox splitting the series with the Orioles. A week after Craig left, Joshua and Justin arrived for their summer visit.

Our vacation plans this summer called for a two week get away in Maine. The first week would be spent roughing it in the north woods of Maine on Moosehead Lake. The second week would be spent in a more civilized manner, on the coast in Bar Harbor .

At Moosehead Lake, we stayed in a log cabin built in 1900. In order to reach the cabin, we had to drive 6 ˝ miles on a dirt road. While driving in on the dirt road for the first time, we saw two moose and a deer. The cabin was rustic, but very well kept. It had a shower and a propane run stove and refrigerator. It had a set of bunk beds and an upper loft. The camp only supplied generated electricity from 6-10 in the morning and 6-10 in the evening.

After we arrived at the cabin, we did a bit of fishing from the shore and saw and heard our first loons. The loons swam about 50 feet from us.

One day, we drove to Elephant Mountain to view the wreckage of a B-52 bomber that crashed on the mountain in 1963. There were pieces of wreckage strewn as far as one could see. Only two of the eight crew on board survived.

On another day, we took the boys to the Kennebec River for their first Whitewater rafting trip. The trip was fantastic as our four hour ride encountered class I to class IV rapids. "Whitewash" and "Magic" were class IV rapids that we hit head on without tipping the raft. During the trip, Justin and I jumped out of the raft and were able to float down some class II rapids. We all wore full wet suits to keep us warm in the 55 degree water. Everyone had a great time.

After a week of silence and black nights in the backwoods of Maine, we drove to Bar Harbor to spend a few days hiking in Acadia and eating lobster. On our first night, we ate dinner at a seaside restaurant where I had a 2 ˝ pound freshly caught lobster, Jan had swordfish and the boys had Teriyaki chicken. Even though the boys shied away from the seafood, they each tried the swordfish and lobster. They each liked the swordfish the best.

On another day, we booked passage on a lobster boat for a first hand look at how lobster is caught. We watched as a number of lobster traps were examined and re-baited with herring. The boys got to hold a live lobster, star fish, and sea cucumber. The trip also included a close up look at the harbor seals. That evening, we ate at a different seaside restaurant for dinner. It seems that the sea has gotten into the boys blood, because both ordered the swordfish for dinner. They each tried my crab cake appetizer as well.

Shortly after we returned from Maine, Uncle Daniel and Aunt Becki arrived for a week’s stay at the ole Kram homestead. One day during the week, Uncle Daniel and Aunt Becki rode the train downtown with the boys and had lunch at the PRU (Prudential Center). They all then met Jan and I at work so we all could ride the "T" (subway) up to the Red Sox game. We watched the Red Sox beat the Montreal Expos 7 to 4. We had some great first row seats in the roof boxes. The boys have seen the ‘green monster’ before, but this was Daniel and Becki’s first glimpse.

This was the 25th year for the combined fireworks/Boston Pops celebration. Since Daniel and Becki were still here for the 4th of July, they were able to attend the festivities with us. We left home at 12:30pm to get good seats, and to scope out the area in front of MIT on the Charles River. We were able to secure great seats directly in front of the barge as well as the Sony Jumbo Tron and speakers. The weather cooperated, too. A great day in the low 80s and some clouds to occasionally block the sun. The fireworks lasted a full 30 minutes and were excellent. The entire evening was televised live on the A&E television network. The crowd was estimated at 500,000, but it was not too difficult getting to the "T" and then to our car.

In September, it was time for the Hansen clan to visit. Jan’s sister Judy came to visit for about ten days including Labor Day weekend. She almost had to take up residence with us due to the Northwest pilot’s strike. However, in the end, she was able to switch her tickets and get re-routed on Continental through Houston. Judy also attended a Red Sox game with us. The Red Sox won against the Anaheim Angels after a couple of rain delays.

Less than a week after Judy’s departure, Jan’s parents and their friends, Doris and Roger came to visit for about ten days as well. Since Jan and I had to work, the visitors embarked on their own adventures during the week. They went to Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard for a couple of days, Salem on one day, and Concord on another day. Most days, they would return to the ‘Kram Castle’ in the evenings for their daily dose of ‘soap’ and cards. Everyone seemed to have a great time. I have to take this opportunity to again thank Roger for cutting my lawn one day during his visit – thanks ‘Sam’.

As the leaves began to change to their dramatic New England colors, two more visitors would spend a couple of days with us. Jan’s brother, John, and his wife Kathy, spent a few days with us in October. One evening we had a spaghetti dinner and shared the bottle of Italian wine that they had given to us last year from their trip to Italy.

Late in October, Jan’s friends from Viking country (Go Packers), Kim and David, flew down for a short visit. They arrived in time to spend Halloween with us. Since the ghoulish day fell on a Saturday this year, we decided to spend the day (and night) at one of the country’s most famous haunts – Salem, Massachusetts. We toured one of the haunted houses and the witch museum. We also walked through an old grave yard. Some of the Mayflower pilgrims are actually buried there. The real party began after it got dark. The majority of revelers were all dressed in costumes. It was the biggest costume party that I have ever seen. We ended the night at an Irish pub in the Fanueil Hall area. It was a night to remember (if one could remember).

One other noteworthy event which occurred while Kim and David were here – Jan ate her first, whole lobster. She has eaten lobster meat before, but she finally was brave enough to crack one open herself – in fact, she ate two, one pound lobsters for dinner that night.

In November, I attended Unisys’ semi-annual conference in Reno, Nevada. It was a brief, but informative four day stay. The last night of the conference was a night of dining and entertainment provided by Unisys. The entertainment was the Smother’s Brothers. Yes, both Tom and Dick are still alive and as funny as ever. I guess now that Unisys’ stock is climbing again, they can be a bit extravagant. And yes, I was fortunate enough to leave with more money than I had when I arrived.

This is our year to come home for Christmas. We will be flying into Milwaukee first and staying at Mary’s from the 23rd through the 27th. We will be attending the Christmas Carol at the Pabst Theater with the boys on Saturday, and then driving down to Chicago on Sunday to see the Bears/Packers game. On Monday, we are driving up to Minneapolis with the boys to stay with Jan’s parents. We will be celebrating New Years there as well before driving back to Milwaukee on January 2nd. So, you see our time in the area is short and packed with activities. We hope to stop and visit a few other friends and relatives, but please forgive us if we are unable to see each of you in person. Remember – we have plenty of guest rooms here in Boston and everyone is welcome to visit (just not at the same time).

We wish everyone a Merry Christmas and may God Bless you during this holiday season and throughout the coming year.


Jan and David