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

Goodbye Wimba

Both the beginning and the end came head-spinningly fast. The middle seems like a dream—did I work in New York? Take the Acela every week? Have that great apartment? Did I really go to Orlando three times in the first six months of 2010? From the vantage point of life as I’m living it today, it’s hard to believe it was real.

Here’s what was real. At Wimba, Carol and I found a culture that cared deeply about its customers and its mission in education, a core team of managers and team members who worked hard and got their jobs done through thick and thin, and a market hungry for new and better ways to teach and learn. All Carol and I had to do was not mess that up.

We tried to add “Say What You’re Going to Do, Do What You Say” accountability to management, create a simple narrative about how we could help our customers and integrate exciting technology advances into our products. We didn’t get to finish, but it’s amazing how much was accomplished in such a short time.

My personal proudest moment at Wimba came in a conference room with an expansive view of Boston Harbor. I sat with the Blackboard due diligence team and, with no preparation, walked them through every single person on the Wimba org chart. For 100+ people, I knew every person’s current job, background before coming to Wimba, and what they were working on now.

So whether you are staying with Collaborate or moving on to other adventures, know that what you did at Wimba was known and deeply appreciated. I hope you will always be proud of your accomplishments.

I already miss my time and Wimba, and wish the best to all of you.


When My Parents Named Me Barbara Did They Know I’d Be a Brand?

Lately I’ve been learning about
brand-building and platforming
for authors
Makes perfect sense to me
because nothing gives more pleasure
than to close a perfect book
by an unfamiliar author
then run out to the bookstore
and find a dozen more

But I wonder, not just for me, but for all of us
In this brand-building, tweety, statusing world
What to do with the stuff that doesn’t fit the narrative?
What to make of my contradictory enthusiasms and concerns?
job in ed tech
scrapbooking hobby
patient husband
great kids
insane cocker spaniel
addictions to the Project Rungay blog,
Mad Men, So You Think You Can Dance?

It’s the perfect age for monomanics,
people with one consuming passion
who live and breath it everyday.

But what about us poor, unintegrated schmoes?

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