The 2005 Heller Games

Family Portraits by Dottie Hilbert

Welcome to the 2005 Heller Olympic Games! This annual sporting extravaganza runs non-stop all year long and features a variety of individual and team events. Athletes compete and serve in supporting roles, all at the same time. How is there enough time in the day? It's a mystery to us all.

There are several teams warming up on the soccer pitch. Becca's town travel team and her Stars club team are to the left. Becca enjoys goal keeping and play on the field. On the right is Ilana's team, The Amazing Monkeys. In the winter, they reform as an indoor team, The Shooting Stars. Soccer players no longer have an off season, and both Becca and Ilana are in full swing. Debbie and Steve are the team parent coordinators for Becca's town team, Deb coordinating most aspects, and Steve facilitating communication through a team web site. Deb also honed her skills in digital photography capturing key moments on the pitch.

Over at the gym, the gymnastics competition is beginning. There is a nice video of Shari performing her floor routine at the Level 5 Spring MA State competition available online that we recorded as part of our Up Close and Personal segment. Shari moved up to level 6 at the start of the fall season. What's that? There seems to be a commotion: one of the level 4 athletes is wearing cleats and shin-guards. It's Ilana! She ran right off the soccer pitch and onto the gymnastics floor. Although she stepped up her gymnastics training, her competitive schedule is still minimal.

In the medal presentation arena, flags are being hoisted, and an anthem is playing. No one we recognize is on the award platforms, but all three kids are in the band. Becca plays her trumpet for the second year, Shari has taken up the flute, and Ilana taps the ivory all the time (no lessons yet, just fun - Ilana knows how to live). Becca also plays in the Jazz Band, but hitting the high notes was initially a challenge when she got braces.

Over at the cultural pavilion, Becca's fifth grade class is presenting their "Handshake Project," which they conceived to encourage the Red Sox and the Yankees, prototypical sports arch-rivals, to shake hands on opening day of the '05 season. The students generated tremendous discussion about sportsmanship and appropriate attitudes for competition. This project caught the attention of the national press, and Becca and her classmates appeared on ESPN and in The Boston Globe, with coverage in The New York Times and other papers. Opening day proceeded without a shake, but both Red Sox and Yankee organizations commended the project, and Becca's class received a VIP tour of Fenway Park and baseball caps from the Yankees.

What do these kids do in the off season - you know - their spare time? Spare time? Spare time? Ilana attended sleep-away gymnastics camp with Shari for a week during the summer. It was toughest on Debbie; Ilana handled it just fine. Becca continues to be an avid reader, reading everything in sight; her current favorite is the Eragon series. Shari took hip-hop dance, which she enjoyed very much. Becca and Debbie spend Sunday afternoons in the fall absorbed by some sort of primitive mother-daughter bonding ritual, glued to the TV watching football. Burt is chuffed, and Shari gets into it too, but we don't actually know what Ilana does Sunday afternoons. All the kids are doing well in school, have friends, and have gold medals in social skills, i.e., Debbie's influence exceeds Steve's.

Team Heller enjoys family visits. In May, we went to Colorado for cousin Samantha's Bat Mitzvah. That was the first Cohen extended family get together we've attended for a while. And Steve's parents came east for a Thanksgiving visit.

Coach Debbie and Coach Steve both went to Israel this year, although they weren't able to get there together or organize a family trip - yet. In July, Debbie had an opportunity to go with a program called Follow Me to Israel that trains adults to recruit families to sign up for another program called Passport to Israel that in turn sends teenage kids to Israel. In November, Steve went to Israel for business, first to the Technion, and then to Sun, squeezing in a weekend off: Shabbat in Jerusalem. Both Deb and Steve enjoyed their jam-packed trips and especially enjoyed meeting and sharing experiences with delightful fellow travelers.

At the race track, the carpooling event is just getting in gear. In its first year of competition, the field is dominated by veteran driver, Debbie. She puts more miles on her minivan than do most NASCAR drivers. Debbie, who is warming up her Dodge, is at a microphone. Debbie, driving seems to be a full-time activity. What else do you enjoy? "Well, the baby blanket business (Cozy Covers) is expanding to include gymnastics lap blankets and we'll soon offer soon multi-colored masterpieces and designs for other sports." Debbie, is it true that you are in the modern biathlon, driving and book-clubbing? "Yes, my book-club trains once a month. Eating gourmet food and discussing literature is tough, but someone has to do it!" That's food for thought! Now back to the booth.

Ilana and Steve competed in the Philosophy competition. Ilana asked, "If God created everything, who created God?" You go Girl! Never stop asking questions. Steve recommends The Jean-Paul Sartre Cookbook by Marty Smith and an essay on happiness based behavior, Why I Am an Atheist by Ian Lance Taylor, both available on the web. Steve is driven by sharing and participation, both themes advocated by Steve's company, Sun Microsystems. To facilitate sharing, Steve built a family website which contains family news, images, travel photo journals, memories of relatives, George's memoirs, notes, songs, jokes, & stuff, Steve's martial arts stories, and this holiday letter, which is chock full of web links. Steve's web project led him to connect with a number of old friends, which has been a delight for Steve. Please let Steve know of any ideas you have related to his web project, for he has way too much time  and is looking for more ways to share by publishing on the web. Who needs sleep anyway? To keep up with Team Heller, please bookmark the Heller Web Space:

That concludes our coverage of this year's games. Thank you for joining us. Please let us know about the ups and downs of your lives. To our family and friends, please accept our best wishes for a happy and healthy new year. Please see us so that we can hug each of you individually. That's one thing that even Steve admits is better in person than in email.

Ilana, Shari, Becca, Debbie, and Steve
shari at-sign, becca at-sign, debbie at-sign, and steve at-sign

Cards & Letters: 5774 - 5770 (video) - 5767 - 2005 - 5766 - 2004 - 2003
Heller Web Space: Images - Notes - Travel - Memories