Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy New Year and Hello!

Unlike more recent years, 2008 brought some unplanned excitement to the household.  Travel-wise, this was an average year – trips to Montana (skiing and visiting), China (business and pleasure), Napa Valley (eating and drinking), Grand Canyon (paddling and hiking), Seattle (hiking and planning), and Mexico (snorkeling and beaching).

The real excitement was professional:  Linda accepted a temporary promotion and Dean works for a short while longer at American International Group (AIG).  Linda is now the Interim Executive Director for the Alpha Phi International Fraternity following the retirement of her predecessor and until the selection of a permanent replacement. This role involves heavy travel, mostly to Chicago, and a new set of challenges, like any job change.

Dean will lose his job in 2009 or 2010 – notice has been served so the only open items are when and how.  Dean works in one of AIG’s two largest business units, neither of which were involved in the primary debacle related to credit default swaps (kind of like insurance for portfolios of consumer mortgages).  Since his business unit is large, profitable and not involved in the problem areas, AIG is selling it piece by piece to repay the government.  Dean is part of an 80 to 100-person management team that supports the 45,000 global employees of this roughly $80 billion collection of life insurance companies in approximately 70 countries.  Once all the companies are sold, there is no need for a management team.

The job Dean had the 1st half of 2008 effectively no longer exists, which is disappointing since he very much enjoyed what he did.  The upside is he is now assigned to an interesting and challenging role directly involved in quickly selling the largest collection of business assets in history.  From an insider’s perspective, there is a sense of responsibility and accountability to customers, employees and the American taxpayer.  Don’t believe everything you read in the paper.

Our August trip to the Grand Canyon was very fun and one of the highlights of the year.  We keep a list of ‘things to do / places to see’ and rafting the Grand Canyon was one of Dean’s entries.  The rafting was challenging, the water was cold, and the 10-mile hike up and out of the canyon was actually fun (certainly once you get to the top).  Many more details are on our blog at http://www.deanandlinda.com.

One goal for 2008 was to see some Broadway shows, which we have both enjoyed.  We recommend Avenue Q, Boeing Boeing and (surprisingly) Young Frankenstein.  We also enjoyed the Broadway version of Wicked.  Mark Twain’s “Is He Dead”, The Lion King and Spring Awakening received mixed reviews.

New York City is still a fun place to live and we continue to explore and enjoy our neighborhood on the Bowery.  Surely the immediately surrounding neighborhoods are some of the best food neighborhoods in the world – or at least in New York.  It is the perfect balance between old style Lower East Side immigrant fare, East Village cheap eats, and hip, modern SoHo cuisine.  Choices are endless and everything can be reached by foot, including Chinatown, when we hunger for something spicy, authentic and familiar.

Another thing we wanted to do while living in New York was to travel to Europe – last minute romantic weekend jaunts to Paris and Rome, all at a discount.  Despite relatively close proximity, high fuel prices and uncertain job situations put a damper on 2008 (total # of European trips = zero).  In 2009 we will not be deterred.  Tickets are purchased for Reykjavik, Iceland in February (Dean’s list) and Berlin in March (Linda’s list).  We have a weekend of food and love planned in New Orleans and hope to add a couple of ski trips, too.  The 2nd half of the year is not really planned out, so we will see what happens.

Our next major adventure is a quest to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania in 2010.   We believe we have suckered some friends into joining us for the hike followed by a safari.  Again, this is on Dean’s list and Linda has graciously agreed to tag along.  Watch the blog to see how plans develop.

Other than Dean getting fired, 2009 is shaping up nicely.  We are loading up our savings accounts and balancing travel and spending plans in anticipation of being jobless. Dean also turns a handsome 40 in July.  A little time off to contemplate life and priorities might be exciting.  Call it a sabbatical.

In the end, we don’t have many serious responsibilities – no kids, no cars, no mortgage.  So while 2009 might be a bit uncertain, we are looking forward to planning and embarking on whatever is next.  Dean is not ready to step off the international executive fast track despite hitting the first bump of consequence.  Linda is keeping her options open.  There are always rewarding jobs for good people.  Whatever we decide to do, it will be on our terms, and will include the beach, Linda in a bikini (she still looks hot), and a bottle of red wine.  We will also be updating our resumes.

Belated holiday greetings to all our friends and family.  We wish you a prosperous and exciting 2009.  We promise to let you know where we end up and, more interestingly, how we got there.