Rocky Mountain Snyder Family XMAS | 15

Dear Family and Friends …

Each year our friends Rachel and Matt invite us to their pumpkin carving party in October.

This year we got a note to park on one of their side roads because there was going to be a parade down their street. So Rose and I got dressed, grabbed our large pumpkins and drove downtown. I found a good place to park and we carried our pumpkins a couple blocks before we arrived at the Beck’s.

They live in a charming home that has a charming porch and as we stepped up I noticed that their front door was open. Wide open. In fact, a cat, perhaps their cat, hopped off the porch railing and ran into the house. Rose and I followed carrying our now heavy pumpkins.

The Beck’s home has an open floor plan. We walk through the family room. I notice the kitchen is empty; no activity. Hmm, that’s weird, I think. We get to the kitchen where I can see out the window. The backyard is empty.

This was my pumpkin from the 15th Annual Beck Family Pumpkin Carving Party. It is an homage to Frank Lloyd Wright and the Guggenheim building in New York City.

This was my pumpkin from the 15th Annual Beck Family Pumpkin Carving Party. It is an homage to Frank Lloyd Wright and the Guggenheim building in New York City.

Oh no.

“Rose, get out.”


“No one’s here.”

“Well, maybe they’re all at the parade.”

“No, get out.”

As we quickly moved to the front door, I pull out my phone, check my schedule.

“The party’s tomorrow.”

We hurry to the car, hoping not to be spotted.


When she wasn’t breaking and entering into people’s homes, Rose spent another year working with her beloved Falfins Swim Team, where she is now the Executive Director, running a very successful program for the young swimmers.

We took a couple trips to Minneapolis and Phoenix this year. In Minnesota we visited North Hennepin Community College, which was celebrating its 50th Anniversary. I thought it was a good excuse to go back home. We got to watch Dave and Michele’s kids; Deven play soccer and Riley play football. After Riley’s game he suggested that we should come home with them, saying, “We’ve got beer.” I have no idea how old Riley is, but he is wise beyond his years.

medalsWe, of course, can’t visit with everyone on every trip. On this trip we sat down with a few friends at their favorite places, all new restaurants for Rose and me. It was good to see a healthy Paul Gaulke – our best man — and Emily Porter. Facebook put me in contact with grade school friend Brian Velenchenko, haven’t see him since sixth grade; and my basketball buddy Paul “Z” Miller from junior and senior high. So good to see them and, as I suspected, Rose loved them all.

We also went to Phoenix for Charlie Cunningham’s retirement bash from the Gauchos Swim Team, the club where Rose served as the head coach. Charlie took over when Rose came to Colorado. Rose was a popular guest at the going-away bash. All of the old coaches were there, emphasis on old, including Marvin, Linda, and Barb. There wasn’t enough time to talk to everyone. Saw Nana and Grandpa Chuck, Beany, Joe, Joey, Jimmy, Tony, Sal, new mom Vianca and the new nephew, little Frankie.

But the big news of the entire year was that Rose rode in the Tour de Cure, after six years of cheering, this year she was gearing up the steep North Gate road. We rode together up that big hill and she made it. When we got to the halfway point rest stop, Rose was chatting up the other riders, like we had just biked to Montana. It was pretty awesome to see and she wants to take on a more challenging route in 2016.


Carli is a college junior, prepping for a four-month semester abroad in Amsterdam. She is minoring in Holocaust Studies, and has met a couple concentration camp survivors and renowned scholars. Ela Weissberger was put into a camp near Prague in 1941 as an 11-year-old … 15,000 kids went in, 100 came out alive. Carli spoke to Ela after her presentation. She held Carli’s hands and told her to follow her heart. Later this month she will do just that when she boards the plane to Amsterdam.

Carli spends most of her time in Tacoma at school, so the summer is really nice, because I get to see her a lot. I get to see her sit on our couch texting her friends back in Pacific Northwest. She is a classic ‘back home baller.’

But this summer Carli and I got off our hind ends and went for a whole bunch of hikes and all of those hikes were highlights of the year for me.


Gina is a senior in high school and is looking at colleges. Rose and Gina visited Cal Lutheran, where Gina did a singing audition. She’ll visit Pacific Lutheran soon too. She is looking at other schools, but she’s been accepted and offered academic scholarships at both schools already, so that helps.

Gina and I drove up to Denver in a snowstorm to see Walk the Moon at the Fillmore Auditorium. We stood on the floor for four hours; 4,000 teenaged girls and me. What was Walk the Moon’s first encore song? “All These Things That I’ve Done’ by The Killers. Gina’s favorite group covered Carli’s favorite group. Gina and I also saw Bo Burnham at the Boulder Theatre. He’s funny.

Gina made her debut as a featured player in the musical comedy, ‘The Pajama Game.’ She did a great job delivering her lines, singing and dancing, but the whole time I was just thinking, “Don’t fall into the orchestra pit.” Also, she earned All-State honors for choir, which included an audition process.

sammy footballSAM

Sam is a sophomore in high school. He sings too. In fact, he would join Gina and the choir to sing the national anthem in his football gear at the varsity football games. Sam was one of eight kids from Rampart to be named to the District Choir that performed in the bright lights of CSU-Pueblo.

This past spring as a freshman, Sam squatted more weight than anyone on the team. He’s strong. He played a bit on the varsity o-line and played virtually every play on the JV.

Sam likes videos and film making, so this year he joined KRAM, which is a student-run video production group that makes weekly newscasts. They also made a spoof of the TV cartoon, Scooby-Doo. Sam played the villain. He wore a mask that looks like a basketball; his character was called, Slam Dunk. At the end of the video, the school’s security officer ad-libbed the line, “Come on Slam Dunk, I’m taking you to the slammer.”

The year, 2015, will go down as the year Sam became funny.

This is a home in the Mauritshuis in The Hague, home to paintings by Rembrandt and Vermeer, including "Girl with the Pearl Earring."

This is a home in the Mauritshuis in The Hague, home to paintings by Rembrandt and Vermeer, including “Girl with the Pearl Earring.”


This year I enjoyed my first colonoscopy.

I also continued traveling a lot for work. I try to visit the local art museums when I can. I saw a rare Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo show at the Detroit Institute of Arts, which was pretty epic. The couple spent 1932 in Detroit as Diego painted the ‘Detroit Industry’ murals; it was also during this year that Frida really began exploring her art. She had a miscarriage in Detroit, a pivotal event that spurred some of her most iconic work.

Some might think of volleyball as a non-contact sport, but it can be dangerous.

One night, I took a volleyball to the face during pre-match warm-ups. Not a direct blow. I was walking away when one of those flamethrowers came in hot with velocity, a tremendous amount of spin and a touch of fury. It bounced off a dude’s head and ricocheted … much like the magic bullet that killed Kennedy … made a 90-degree turn in midair and smashed into the corner of my glasses, sending a lens flying to the floor of the Joe Louis Arena.

I took the glasses to an eye wear place the next morning.

“Did you sit on these or something?”

You only have to learn a lesson like that … well, I’ve been hit in the head more than once … so I guess I haven’t learned that lesson yet.

I spent 15 days in The Netherlands for the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships. I was headquartered in Amsterdam. A court was constructed in front of the Royal Palace at the historic Dam Square. There were three other venues in The Hague, Apeldoorn and Rotterdam. This was easily my favorite road trip of all-time. I enjoyed working with the athletes and the event. My co-worker, Corinne, and I split up the duties and cities moving from site-to-site.

(Together she and I will cover our beach volleyball teams in Rio at the 2016 Olympic Games.)

And when I had some down time I visited the museums. I saw a Matisse exhibition at the contemporary art museum; Rembrandt’s “Night Watch” at the Rijksmuseum; “Sunflowers” at the Van Gogh Museum and “Girl with a Pearl Earring” in The Hague’s Mauritshuis.

I walked through the secret passageway behind the bookcase in the Anne Frank Huis.

I loved everything about the trip and the city of Amsterdam. I’d go back tomorrow.

rose beersPizza and Beer

Rose and I went to Denver in March. I had a flight in the morning leaving from DIA, so we decided to spend the night. We got up to Tower Road and tried to find a Mexican restaurant. We couldn’t find it, so we kept driving and located an Italian place. We parked and walked in. Almost instantly we decided that we weren’t going to stay. So we drove to the bar across the street from our hotel.

This place is hopping. As we wait for a table, a waitress announces loudly to no one in particular, “Looks like I’m having pizza and beer tonight.”

They seat us and our server is that woman. I think she’s weird. I don’t give her the time of day. They seem understaffed. She is speaking to no one in particular again and I’m thinking what’s wrong with her. She’s actually talking to us … from 10 feet away. Unusual.

Later she engages us. Standing next to Rose, she asks us if we’re taking a trip. “Well, actually yes.” Where are you heading? I think, umm, Chicago. What airline? I’m thinking I’m not sure this is any of your business, but … United.

She tells us that she works at United.

I say offhandedly, “Maybe you can get me a better seat. I’ve got a crappy seat in the back.”

I’m still not engaging with this woman, not listening really, just looking out for myself.

Barbara tells us that she starts at five in the morning at the airport. She basically works around the clock. Her mother is home sick. Barbara and her sister take care of her. The sister stays home tending to mom, while our server makes the money.

She tells me to write down my name and flight number, which I do.

For the rest of the dinner, the subject doesn’t come up again.

She is bussing a table near us and says loudly, “Looks like I’m having pizza and beer tonight.”

I regret giving her my information. Rose gives her a big tip and we leave.

In the morning I’m worried. She seemed so off-kilter, what if she cancelled my flight?

I walk into DIA and find my gate. Gate 87.

Oh my God, look who is working the counter; looking dapper in her United work uniform, it’s Barbara. There are 100 United gates at DIA, how is it that she is here?

When I get to the counter, I am standing in front of Barbara’s co-worker.

Barbara is busy helping another traveler.

I say, “I was hoping I could get an aisle seat.”

I look over at Barbara and say, “Hi Barbara, it’s me from … “ She interrupts me, “Hello Mr. Snyder, how are you this morning?”

Like we were life-long friends. She turns to her co-worker and says, “He’s on the 99 list.”

The co-worker is puzzled. She’s looking at the monitor and something’s not adding up.

“Yeah, but …” she starts … Barbara says, “Just 99 him.”

The counter person says to me, “It looks like you’ve been upgraded, Mr. Snyder.”

I was surprised, happy, and a little bit ashamed of myself. Here’s what I learned …

Of course, you have to take care of you, but when Jimmy Durante sings, “Make someone happy. Make just one someone happy.” He means someone other than yourself.

I’m going to work on that in 2016.

Carli is home for the holidays and this photo was taken the moment we entered the house from the airport. For those of you wondering, Kirby and Rocky are doing great as usual, if you can take all of their yapping.

Carli is home for the holidays and this photo was taken the moment we entered the house from the airport. For those of you wondering, Kirby and Rocky are doing great as usual, if you can take all of their yapping.

My Favorite Videos … 2015 | My Favorite Books … 2015

Happy New Year.
Charlie | Rose | Carli | Gina | Sam | Kirby | Rocky | | © Snyder Family Holiday Letter 2015

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