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This year began with the death of my mother. My sister Andie and I are still adjusting to the fact that we no longer have parents. In April we brought mom to her final resting place next to our father in Bozeman, Montana.

In the middle of the year Olivia graduated with Honors from the John F. Kennedy School of Berlin and we celebrated at the Abitur Ball in Wannsee. She’s now headed to California for a gap year internship with Yosemite National Park. In September she will begin her studies at the University of Glasgow. She’s going to study Statistics!

In August we splurged on a family vacation in Gran Canaria to celebrate Andie’s sixtieth birthday. Everyone needed a break from work and studies so we stayed at a resort and spent a lot of time at the pool. We squeezed in a little bit of sightseeing too.

Sam’s bar mitzvah, led by Cantor Jalda Rebling at the Jüdisches Waisenhaus Berlin, was the biggest family event of the year. Andie had just moved to Santa Barbara when one of the worst fires in California history broke out. She left in the middle of the Thomas fire to be with us for Sam’s coming of age ceremony on December 16th. We’re also grateful that my brother-in-law Todd and his wife Barbara who live in Malawi took time out from their family vacation in Amsterdam to join us.

Another special bar mitzvah guest was my friend Mike, who I met through this blog. He drove all the way from Chalon-sur Saone, France in his rather ancient VW van to celebrate with us. Mike is a phenomenal photographer and human being. Please have a look at his photo-essay, Samuel Brian Swarthout Becomes a Bar Mitzvah, a beautiful gift to our family.

Thanks for reading my blog this year and best wishes for 2018.