Monday, December 26, 2011


My task this week following Christmas is to pull together a serious pile to take to the Goodwill, or rather our local Coastside Senior Opportunity Center store.  One of the pleasures of sorting and stacking used books and clothing is to find shards of memorabilia.  Stuffed as a bookmark in a copy of a fading paperback was a 3 x 5 card with this poem handwritten.  I can't discern a date, but the back of the card was used to score some game when Ron and I partnered against our niece Elissa and her brother Ryan.  I wonder what the game was? Here is the poem. 


You served breakfast on the beach
broke bread with thousands at a hillside picnic
celebrated with many at the marriage of Cana –
exciting events all of these.

But this morning it’s only me
on an ordinary Monday
requesting the honor of your presence
at my kitchen table
for coffee and conversation.

Comfort comes in knowing
you require neither
feasts nor crowds—
only an invitation.

Joan Rae Mills
      from “St. Anthony’s Messenger”
        a Catholic Magazine 

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Madsons Christmas Letter 2011

 The Madson’s Year in Review 2011

I was reasonably sure that the past year was not memorable, with the exception of the journey to India and Bhutan in November, until I sat down with a pencil. “I don’t think we did much to report,” I said aloud.  But then we both got out our trusty iPhones and began skimming the quick pictures starting from last January. We were happily surprised to discover that it had been a year filled with family, warm adventures and lots of happy social times.  And, now dear friends, we foist this laundry list of “doings” on you.

January-March was Stanford women’s basketball.  Most of you know that we are rabid fans and attended nearly ALL the games, following our women all the way to the Final Four in Indianapolis, only to experience the heartbreak of losing to Texas A & M in the semifinals.  In April – I taught a weekend workshop at the Esalen Institute.  Winter quarter I had taught for Continuing Studies:  “Everyday Spontaneity: Improvising our Lives,” a ten week class.  And speaking of improv, I’m happy to report that 2011 was the year that my book, IMPROV WISDOM was published in Japan in March (the same day the Tsunami and earthquake hit. ;-( )  In July the first Chinese edition went on sale in Taiwan.  Later in the year, rights were sold to publishers in Italy, Mexico and, most recently, mainland China.  My little book is really traveling!

Family events this year included the visit of our great niece, Jysenia in February, resulting in the Madsons learning to ride a Segway.  We all took the San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf Segway tour.  In May we were part of the wonderful wedding of our niece, Sarah Louise Offenbacher to Lejon Douroux in Big Bear, CA.  July saw us travel east for the wedding of a dear friend and former student, Victoria LaBalme to Frank Oz in the Adirondacks.  We coupled this trip with a visit to our best friends who live in Gananoque, Ontario, Dalla and Jeremy Brown.  Ron was treated to a surprise birthday party in August and we had a lively visit by my brother Michael and his wife Lynn in October.  This occasioned another trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  Thanksgiving was at our house (photo below) and Ron’s brother Gary, his wife Cheryl and ALL of their children and grandchildren came from far and wide.  They all made the dinner!  We were still in jetlag from our big trip. 

Our family expanded by two when we welcomed two crazy new Himalayan kittens into our life in July.  Meet Bodhi and Dharma, brother and sister and the newest occupants of our hearts and litter boxes.  In October Patricia held court at Stanford with a reunion of the past 20 years of Stanford Improvisers, the group she founded.  The weekend was an ecstatic celebration of living the life of YES!       
November saw us take the BIG TRIP to Bhutan and India, a long awaited adventure. Ron is still sorting the four thousand photos.  In India we got to meet our Tibetan “daughter” Pasang Dolma.  She and her sister traveled from Dharamsala to meet us and spend a day at the Taj Mahal.  Bhutan remains a poem of an adventure.  The Buddhist culture, art and smiling people are engraved in our hearts.

Ron’s love of photography has grown this year as he took several classes in Photoshop and camera craft.  He was one of the wedding photographers for Sarah and Lejon.  Oh, and Patricia had her 15 minutes of fame this year when the New York Times interviewed her for an article on “What I would do if I were President.”  She would send them all to improv school.  And the best news is that we have both flown through this year with good health.  2012 promises to be a quieter year . . . unless our Stanford women go all the way to Colorado! 

And, news just in this morning:  Aaron and Brenda Offenbacher, our nephew and niece in Richmond gave birth to twins, Holden Drake and Stella Jade Offenbacher.  Welcome to our family!   It is indeed a holy day when children are born. Here they are with their smiling mother on the day they were born.

This overlong newsletter brings with it the warmest of wishes for a New Year filled with good sense and good health.  (Although with the elections looming the “good sense” part may be a stretch.)  Blessings for 2012. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Madsons Christmas tree 2011

When my husband Ron built our house he created a 16 foot ceiling at one end of the living room.  I didn't know until our first Christmas came around that he had a purpose in this.  Each November we go over to Pastorinos on highway 92 and select the largest tree that Ron can get me to agree to bring home.  It's always a struggle since I like "little things" and Ron clearly likes big ones.  So a family tradition was born.  Put up the biggest tree you can find, and decorate it with the thousand ornaments you have collected over the past forty years.  Our friends know that we have a large tree and so, many of them give us lovely ornaments.  Our stash includes the complete White House ornaments collection.  This was started by my brother, Michael who gave us one a decade ago.  Now we have them all.  
And, here stand I with another family tradition:  dressed for my birthday dinner at Gary Danko.  Ron treats me like a princess and takes me to the best place in town.  Truly it is.  So, I bring you today our fondest wish for a year of health and strength.  And I'm wishing the world a dose of common sense and down to earth-ness in 2012.  I know that's a big order in an election year.  Perhaps if we are lucky we can find that still center which is at the heart of this season.  

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Art of Listening

A recent article in the Sunday New York Times by Henning Mankell, a writer living in Africa makes an important point about listening, an art we have seem to have lost.  Further he talks to us about storytelling and the need we humans have to share stories.  As a teacher of improv I find both of his points compelling.
He relates a story about two old African men who return to a friend's home to hear the end of his story. Unfortunately, the man died before telling the end.  He relates their lament:  “That’s not a good way to die — before you’ve told the end of your story.”

Have you told the end of your story?  Have you told your story at all?
Check this out