The Harmsworths' post-holiday letter

Dear Friends and Family,


We can no longer call this our “annual holiday letter” inasmuch as it’s after the holidays and we didn’t write one last year.  How about “belated attempt to stay in touch letter’” or “better late than never letter?”  In any case 2005 was another year of transition for the Harmsworths.  Unwilling or unable to put down roots in Texas , we’re back in Montana again, this time in the beautiful Bitterroot Valley south of Missoula .  Wendy’s mother Sherry and her husband Terry moved here last winter.  In June we sent Sarah and Dave to stay with them while Wendy and I prepared our Texas house for sale.  We joined them in July, but I had to return to Texas to finish packing and tie up loose ends.  In mid-September I rented a U-Haul truck, got it loaded with the help of some friends (thanks, Goran, Sriram, Gan, Pavan, Shekar, Indran and Vasudevan!) and drove 2100 miles in two very long days, staying overnight in Boulder at Wendy’s brother Tom’s condo.  We’re staying at Sherry and Terry’s house until we can find and afford a place of our own.  We’re very grateful for the lodging and for the beautiful view out the west windows of the Valley and the Bitterroot Mountains .


The hardest thing about leaving Texas was saying goodbye to the many friends we’d made there in the past five years, and also to my fifty-or-so cello and violin students.  I’m teaching a few students here, and have rented a studio in Missoula for that purpose, but it’ll be a while before my schedule is full again.  Just before leaving Texas I finished recording a cello CD with pianist Saida Kafarova, an album of pieces originally written for other instruments, as well as for voice.  We actually completed recording the day before I moved.  This made it impossible to go back to the studio later and re-record the spots that were less-than-perfect, so while the finished product is basically satisfactory, I’m not sure whether I’m proud enough of it to release it commercially.  Right now I’m finishing up the liner notes, after which I’ll have to come to some decision about production and marketing.


Wendy continues to do her transcription work to help pay the bills, but she’s hoping to find a fulltime job, perhaps one that will utilize her past training in the sciences.  This is a real possibility, as the two largest employers in the Valley are the National Institute of Health’s Rocky Mountain Laboratory in Hamilton , and Corixa, a local pharmaceutical company recently purchased by Glaxo-Smith-Kline.  The big challenge seems to be finding time to fill out job applications; the transcription work, along with family duties and volunteer work (she’s now a den leader for Dave’s cub scout troop and enjoys helping out at the kids’ schools) take up all her time and then some.  She did recently manage to make some time to create Christmas presents for family members and she and her mom, a past art teacher, had fun producing some ornaments out of Sculpy (polymer clay) together.  Her recreational activities have also been curtailed as a result of her duties, though she does try to exercise more regularly and gets out to walk the dogs often.  One of her greatest pleasures this past fall was taking walks in the crisp morning air while soaking up the fantastic mountain scenery and eating a ripe, tart apple just picked off one of the many trees on the property.  We did manage to go cross-country skiing on a nearby mountain pass this past week and had a good time though we also discovered some real problems with our ancient equipment and as a result were provided with many moments of comic relief.  I’m still hoping to drag her up to the cabin in the near future, but don’t hold your breath.  


Sarah and Dave seem to be thriving in our new environment.  The Corvallis schools are excellent, and both children are doing well there, Sarah in the sixth grade (except for seventh-grade math) and Dave in first.  Sarah’s almost as busy as her mom, continuing with her violin study and participating in the local youth orchestra as well as in a chamber group which I coach.  She’s taking weekly lessons from Margaret Baldridge, the violin professor at the University of Montana .  On our way back from Missoula on Tuesday evenings we usually stop at the Hamilton House in Victor to fiddle at a Celtic jam session.  There are some awesomely accomplished musicians at these sessions, but they have been very welcoming to us newcomers.  Sarah’s current infatuation is with horses and she’s read everything she can get her hands on about the subject.  Most of our neighbors are horses – no, wait, that’s true but it doesn’t sound quite right – most of our neighbors have horses, and most of them are quite neigh-borly.  She’s taking a weekly equestrian lesson and loving it.  This has worked out nicely in so far as I am able to teach Sarah’s teacher cello lessons in exchange for the riding lessons- hurray for the old barter system!  In addition, Sarah and Dave are both involved in Destination Imagination (DI), an after-school activity designed to foster creative thinking and teamwork and Wendy is also serving as a volunteer in this program.  Sarah is discovering a great talent and enthusiasm for drama, as the challenges that are offered in her DI sessions require a great deal of theatrical improvisation.  Both kids were taking gymnastics in Texas and continued this activity here in the fall, but it now looks as if something’s gotta go, and it may be the gymnastics.  So many activities, so little time. 


In addition to the above, Dave has been active in Cub Scouts and soccer.  His team was coached by Grampa Terry, who knows more about soccer than Dave probably wants to know.  Dave’s big interest at present is airplanes.  He spends hours on Terry’s flight simulator, checks out library books on airplanes constantly and the house is littered with paper airplanes of all designs and descriptions.  Grampa T. is taking flying lessons, and hopes to build his own airplane in the near future.  I’m sure he can expect plenty of help from Dave, who shows a great interest in all things mechanical.  Dave’s only problems of any significance are learning how to deal with issues of a social nature.  He does a pretty good job of standing up for himself, and is steadily learning better ways of handling the day-to-day conflicts that crop up on the school scene as well as those with his big sister.  Overall, he’s a pretty easygoing and gregarious fellow who seems to adapt fairly easily to new situations.


So as the year begins we have much to be thankful for; good health, a mind-numbingly beautiful location, and loving and supportive family and friends, including you.  We hope to see you and hear from you soon. 



Don, Wendy, Sarah and Dave.

1956 Haywire Lane

Corvallis , MT 59828



A pickup game of hockey

There goes the neighborhood!
The extended family