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Happy Holidays from the Holcombs!!


This year, Florida once again escaped all hurricanes and major natural disasters! We didn?t even have the usual  heavy spring storms,  so our two small mango trees rewarded us with us with a bumper crop of  some 200  2 and 3 pound mangos!  We had great banana crops and a few tangerines and avacados. However, a late spring freeze or some sort of blight caused our lovely pink grapefruit tree to produce only a few shriveled, inedible fruit (we hope to save it for next year).


Our other ?crop?, Samantha and Jennifer, graduated middle school with staight As, and were both accepted at St Petersburg High School in the IB (International Baccalaureate) program. This is a honors program leading to college level courses during their junior and senior year. Their first class this year starts at 7:05 AM so they are out of bed at 05:30 (UGGH!), and Pen drives them to school at 06:15.


This year, a special summer camp was offered for 8th grade girls by the University of Southern Florida (USF) in their Marine Science program. The camp was entirely free and only 30 girls were accepted from over 350 applicants. The camp included study of marine biology and marine ecology and included a cruise on their research vessel. Both girls applied, and wrote papers on why they wanted to study marine science. Unfortunately only Sammi was selected. She loved learned how to dissect a fish! To compensate, we enrolled Jenni in a Sailing Camp at the nearby St Pete Yacht Club where she gained experience in a 2 man 420 sailboat (and had lots of fun!)


Both girls have made excellent progress in their musical talents.  Both have been selected to join the all-county band which will perform in Mahaffey Hall in February. Sammi will play clarinet, and Jenni will play French Horn (Sammi is also learning to play Bass Clarinet).  Unfortunately, there is no interest in continuing the family tradition on Tuba! They still take weekly piano lessons from a very talented teacher and are progressing beautifully.


In February, Phil accidentally tripped and fell in our workshop. Nothing was broken, but the increased pain caused a loss of leg strength and mobility - a condition called ?failed back surgery syndrome? and is related to his back operation in 2008. The increasing pain forced Phil to seek relief through a ?pain management specialist?. Unfortunately, the cocktail of strong medicines created an environment which led to a ?mini stroke? on June 13th. Luckily, ?Nurse Pen? recognized the abnormal symptoms and called 911! It took 6 EMS wrestlers to schlepp Phil out to an ambulance and the hospital ICU. After two weeks of hell, Phil was stabilized, and was moved to a rehabilitation hospital - where unfortunately he developed sepsis with serious renal, cardiac and respiratory complications. He spent another two weeks in ICU where he was put on oxygen and feeding tubes. As he recovered, he was relocated to 2 different rehab hospitals where he slowly regained some strength - concentrating on developing transferring capability between different modes of transport! After 3 1/2 months of hospitals, Phil lost 50 pounds!! (We don?t recommend this form of diet)  At home, we installed an electric stair lift and bought an electric wheelchairs for each floor. Phil returned home early October.  Using old sailboat spare parts, Phil has designed a harness and rig so Pen and girls can help him get in and out of the swimming pool where he can exercise with minimal pain!  Walking is still a long term goal.


Happily, we live on the water where the scenery changes every hour! We are entetained by the calls and squawks of seabirds day and night! We were recently visited by several pods of dolphins cavorting just off our dock!  Its was great fun to see the frisky babies being loosely (but carefully) managed by their mothers.  From his bed, Phil gets to longingly gaze out on the water - and his ?Vina Queen? hanging on the lift!


Phil continues to sell off some of his brass musical horns and carpet collections through our website (rugs-n-relics.com). Some of our more exotic horns were recently shipped to a collector in Norway! Pen has become an expert tuba and carpet packer!!   Phil was recently contacted by a collector who wanted to buy the pair of Civil War swords displayed in the antique gallery on our website. The swords were once owned by a Holcomb ancestor named Sprague and were not for sale. The collector had a rare 1862 Colt revolver with Sprague?s name engraved on the grip ? along with a list of Sprague?s Civil War battles.  Needless to say, we started negotiations and this historically significant Colt is now in our own collection!


Despite mobility limitations, Phil played with his ?Mud Key Brass?at a Christmas service at a local church and at ?Tuba Christmas? last weekend.  This has been a difficult year, but we have survived with the family intact and mostly healthy!   We greatly appreciate the offers of help and kind thoughts from all over the world.  It is such continuing friendships which gave us the incentive to produce our annual Christmas card and (very late) Seasonal Greetings!!


 Best wishes for a Happy and Healthy 2011 ! Phil, Pen, Sammi and Jenni