Sue-On's 2011 Hillman Family Chronicle
The Annual Massive Missive from 41 Kensington Crescent
Bill is outside putting on the snow tires; an email just arrived from friends discussing their Christmas plans with their families; there is a thick blanket of snow all around the yard. That could only mean one thing: It’s time to put our friends through their paces with our annual  “massive missive” ;-)

This year, as with every year since we have gotten “older”, seems to pass us by faster than a speeding bullet! Maybe it’s because we are all so busy in our lives. We must remember to slow down, love, and enjoy each other; otherwise, there will always be regrets. So first, let us wish each and every one of you good health, much happiness, and a Merry Christmas and a Happy 2012.

Busy is the buzzword these days. Son Ja-On has moved into his new Reactive Massage clinic! He and a Traditional Chinese Medicine doctor have taken over a large historic building in downtown Brandon. Major renovations were completed, and they will each have more treatment rooms than before. Ja has also been going into his alma mater, Wellington College in Winnipeg, once a month for his continued studies in Osteopathy. Angela is busy with her position as Home Care coordinator. It’s a little different than her previous work in a personal care home, and free weekends are very welcomed, especially during the summer when they were able to enjoy the Patton family cabin at Clear Lake. Soulin is a teenager! The 13-year old is still in a French immersion school. His class will be traveling to Quebec next summer, so fundraising is an on-going effort. He comes up for guitar lessons every week, and enjoys his time with Grandpa. Recently, he’s decided he’d also like to play drums now that Grandma has her old drum kit set up in the music room. Good Boy! This little family has settled in comfortably in their home, and they will be hosting Christmas Day.

Robin has been kept busy with his creative juices at He is involved in many website projects, so they don’t get to come out as often as we’d like. He did make time to play summer gigs with us, especially when we performed in our hometown, Strathclair.  That brought back many memories for the hometown folks of Robin’s first public appearance as a drummer, at about age 7 - backing us on a Rolling Stones song "Satisfaction"! Jen continues to care for children in her home daycare. In addition, she has started a line of children’s clothing called Tinkerwear. She’s being very creative in designing the little dresses, diaper covers, booties, etc. Oriyen is now 6. She was able to model some of Jen’s creations, but she’s grown too tall now! Oriyen is busy with dance classes and grade one. We love it when she comes to visit Grandpa Bill and Nana in Brandon.

China and Ryan come out and check up on the parents regularly. Not quite sure whether it’s the food or hunting opportunities that entices Ryan, but we so appreciate his handy-man skills whenever they are here. No new gates this year, but he did put the exhaust for my downdraft cook top to good working order. Ryan continues to work for the web design company Peaceworks in Winnipeg. It seems they need his expertise even when he’s off for the weekend and visiting here. Good thing we have many computers in this household! It was a pleasure to have Ryan’s parents Dennis and Sharon join us for Thanksgiving. Sharon put me on a new cooking-path -- gluten-free cuisine. I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge, and Sharon survived!? China is in her second year residency at Winnipeg Health Centre. She took her GP licensing exam in October, and hopes to be able to get some practical experience in walk-ins on her “free-time” when she receives that license. We’re not sure what free time she would have as they seem to work the residents pretty hard! She is enjoying the radiology immensely although it can be taxing and stressful. I’ve had to call her for medical advice a couple of times, and her tone became very professional, very different from our usual mother-daughter banter.

Along with these two Winnipeg families come three rambunctious canines: Torith, Lily, and Keifer. It’s always a riot to watch these three rough-housing in the backyard. They are all big dogs but so nimble on their paws. Lily seems to be the “little sister” constantly nagging from the sidelines at her “brothers to behave! But given the opening, she’s right in there with them.

Bill - what can I say? The same as in every missive - HE’S BUSY!!! His web-empire continues to grow, adding more pages to each of his websites. Every day when I get home from work, he tells me about his latest creations. The only WebPages that he wished he didn’t have to do were the ones as tributes to our long-time friend and Federal Grain Train “engineer” Russ Gurr who passed away at age 92 on November 8th, and Barry Forman, our close friend, fiddler and bass player for many years, who passed away after a short battle with cancer on November 17th. 

Music is in Bill's blood. Not only did we celebrate a major wedding anniversary, Bill also celebrated his 50th year as a musician. He began in Strathclair, and most appropriately, celebrated his 50th at a gig in Strathclair. He continues to enjoy his weekly jam sessions with his buddies out at the Cantina.

One of our major projects (spear-headed by brother Kenny Choy) within the city of Brandon was the completion of the Chinese Head Tax monument.  It was a hugely successful unveiling on June 26th, with a full slate of dignitaries from all levels of government. Family members from the western provinces came home, and cousin Velda and Ron Schei of Redmond, Washington came up for the event as well as to meet our family for the first time. Velda is my Dad’s niece, and we just “met” via the Internet for the first time in October 2010. They spent a week in Brandon and met many members of our families.

This year, we had two ERB related road trips. In May, we drove in one-fell swoop to Minneapolis for the ECOF convention, hosted by Rudy Sigmund.   It was a great weekend as we got to see our regular attendee friends and made new acquaintances. In particular, we had wonderful conversations with several artists, like Mike Hoffman who did a sketch of Bill and me as John Carter and Dejah Thoris, characters from an ERB novel A Princess of Mars. This novel has been made into a movie, John Carter, which will be released in theatres in March 2012, as part of the Centenniary of the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs. At that time, we will fly to Tarzana for the ECOF for a private viewing on the Disney Studios lot. We had visited many of the filming locations last year on our trip through Utah. It will be interesting to see how these locations translate to the big screen. In addition to the convention, Rudy surprised Bill with a special plaque for his continued efforts in honouring the life and works of Edgar Rice Burroughs. Sue-On was rewarded with a trip to the Mall of America for a little shopping therapy.

On August 3, we left home for what turned out to be a +6000KM road trip. We arrived in Pocatello, Idaho for the second of the annual ERB conventions - the Edgar Rice Burroughs DumDum.  Bill was one of the presenters on a panel, and we performed a song that Bill “revised” to be in tune to the topic. It was not the “jam of Chicago”, but nevertheless, well received.

From Pocatello, we drove to Tarzana, to meet with Jim Sullos and the ERB staff. There are many exciting events planned for the two 2012 gatherings of Burroughs fans, and Bill was assisting in whatever capacity they needed. Besides, it’s always exciting to be amongst all things Burroughs! We also spent a day with Linda Burroughs, sorting through and cataloguing a shipping container of items saved from the house fire three years ago. In between meetings, we met and had dinner with numerous people within the ERB realm, from Hollywood actor and writer Tracy Griffin, artist Shawn Hoadley, to artistic director Kevin Conran from the movie Sky Captain, and our special friend Mary Burroughs.

On our free days, we had a great time revisiting The Gene Autry Museum, and a walk-thru’ in Forest Lawn Cemetery. Then it was time to hit the road for non-Burroughs related activities. We made a stop in San Rafael to spend some time with Stacy Burroughs. She was recuperating after surgery at her Mom Mary Burroughs’s house located over the water. What a perfect healing place!

We had a long stretch of driving over the next couple of days, arriving at my cousin Velda and Ron Schei’s home in Redmond late Thursday evening. Velda and I share a love of cooking, and we spent the next day cooking massive amounts of food in preparation for her annual open house on Saturday. It was a great opportunity to meet her younger sister, her daughter, son-in-law, little grandson James, and many of their close friends and neighbors. A couple of days were spent at the Schei cottage in the wilds of Puget Sound - picking up and eating fresh oysters right from their beach! There could be no more perfect location for a cottage - peaceful waters, majestic trees, and snow-capped mountains in the distance. And, I think I’ve met my match as far as power shopping is concerned;-) On Sunday, we were able to spend time with my older brother Gene, sister-in-law Susan and family in Seattle, about a 45 minute drive from Redmond. It was a family reunion as we had not seen some of the family for more years that we care to remember. Another day was spent visiting Experience Music Project Museum. What an amazing place, beginning with the three-story sculpture at the entrance, composed completely of hundreds of guitars and other musical instrument. We spent hours checking out and photographing the tributes to musicians from this area, including Nirvana and Jimi Hendrix. 

The last leg of our road trip was to visit my sister and family in Burnaby, B.C. On all our trips, we’ve depended on our GPS, Carmen the Garmin. However, she was having some power problems, and totally gave out on us just after we got on the exit for Burnaby. We did not have a map of Vancouver and area, so we got lost for a couple of hours before finding a Wal-Mart to buy a new power cord. This was our first visit to my sister and family’s home, and what a fun and food-filled time we had! It was non-stop feasting with dim sum, fresh crab, etc, at the family’s favourite restaurants. Cousins Velda and Ron joined us for more feasting on the weekend. We just happened to be in Burnaby for our 45th wedding anniversary. Nephew-in-law Paul picked up fresh scallops and whole fish for our supper. Earlier, they had picked up Chiliwack corn. The whole meal was a great treat, ending with a Dairy Queen anniversary cake! The visit ended with my making a huge pot of a family favourite - my Dad’s famous beef stew, ostensibly for great nephew Brendan to take back to the University of Edmonton for the new school year. Not sure how much was left by the time everyone had a ladle full ;-)

We actually traced our honeymoon trip of 45 years ago backwards, through Golden B.C, Banff, Calgary, Swift Current and home! It was a wonderful road trip but we were glad to be home.

We had a week to get settled in, and then I was back teaching at the university for the fall term. Here we are, nearly done, with final exams only a week or so away. Unfortunately, the rest of the university has been on strike. It was disheartening for our former students who have traveled such a distance to study at our university.

In October, we had a wonderful long-awaited-for visit with Bill’s sister Bonnie Schneider. She returned to Canada two years ago, having lived in Saudi Arabia since 1992. Bonnie had spent the summer in Kingston, close to son Mark and daughter Noelle. We spent several evenings looking at old family pictures and videos. Bonnie has since gone to her winter home down in Lubbock, Texas - smart woman! Since then, we have received a huge packet of family pictures - wonderful treasures. ? 

My main project this year was trying out new recipes. Bill has been very quick to add each new item to my food web page: Sue-On's Kitchen. This was instigated by a “published” cookbook that China-Li had made for me last Christmas. For the next edition, she won’t have to sneak around hunting for my recipes. Sometime in the future, there might be a bigger, more comprehensive volume of the family’s and my favourite. I am taking paid advance orders, by the way! Even though we were away most of the summer, I was able to get lots of plants into the flowerbeds and baskets. Again, the Webmaster has collated the pictures into a web page Sue-On's House and Garden

That about covers it from 41 Kensington! Whew you said…A few last words:

Enjoy and love each other and every day to the fullest - never mind tomorrow!

Love from Bill, Sue-On and Family
Hillman Family Xmas Online


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