Somehow I have managed for the last few weeks and weekends to keep myself fairly occupied! As planned, I headed south to Chicago for November's second weekend, after two fun-crazy exhibition basketball games between Division I and Division III teams.
I had an awesome time with my buddy Alex. We talked about doing several things... and even stood in line for a while to try to get last-minute tickets for Wicked (I'd never done that whole stand-in-line-and-hope-for-scalped-tickets schtick before; and, so far, can't recommend it!), but what with the Blue Man group having only view-obstructed balcony seats available, and most other interesting things shows & plays being sold out, we ended up just bumming around and eating great food. Alex took me to my favorite: authentic Mexican at a place called La Pasadita. Kind of a low-key hole-in-the-wall with the best food. Saturday night it was some of the best Indian I've ever had, and we mixed it in with various visits to yuppy yummy Old Town restaurants. Alex is one of those best-ever kinds of friends who you might not talk to in forever, but when you do, you just pick up right where you left off. I even got to see him dance!
The following weekend was deer hunting! Uncle Dean and I headed out to the stands Saturday and Sunday mornings, bellies loaded with yummy breakfasty things Dar had made, and pockets packed with chocolate. Saturday night cousin Scott joined Dean & Dar & I at a game of smear. The good guys won, if I recall correctly, and we had a great time. Talk ranged from everything to Dad and Grandpa & Grandma, to neighbors and old stories and catch-ups on our current lives. I got a doe on Sunday; unfortunately it wasn't a clean kill so Dean helped me track it. I was really glad we found it because the trail was sketchy and hard to follow in the leaves, and I would have felt terrible if we had left it to suffer. Dean's a great tracker, so it was a really good thing he was willing to help me with it. I don't like the killing part of hunting necessarily, but it's great fun to be out in the woods; standing, sitting, listening to a whole world that we normally just drive quickly by.
Last week was Thanksgiving week, and a bit of a whirlwind. One of the gamenight crew and my rambling buddy/former neighbor Justin moved to Colorado on Saturday, so Tuesday was our last game night with him still living here. It was actually pretty neat because Patrick (another gamenight dude) was home again from Boulder for the holiday, so he got to be there too. Justin's girlfriend from Boulder also made it to town that night so she got to meet a few of the legendary game night folks at the lovely establishment of The 10th Frame - an old style bowling alley where you still keep your own score! We had fun; the music was fun and some of us actually bowled quite well. (uh, I wasn't one of them!).
Wednesday I headed down to the quad cities, on the border of Iowa/Illinois, to spend Thanksgiving with my friend Tom and his family. I blogged earlier about Debbie, his mom, so I felt priveleged to be invited to spend the holiday with them. We ended up having a really neat time; Tom's sisters and his Uncle David really pulled an awesome meal together, and the rest of us helped! I was in charge of making rolls, and had remembered that Lisa from my church (this wonderful, grandmotherly, German lady) had made amazing crescent rolls for a group of us when I was in college. I called her, and she actually wrote her recipe out for me so I took a stab at making those for the holiday (Patrick helped!). They did not turn out as well as hers, but they were good, so that was definitely fun. The weekend had several highlights, including Tom playing the Titanic theme song (seriously one of my LEAST favorite songs) for his 13-year-old cousins, and cracking them up completely with his insane vocal rendition of it. It was amazing. Besides that, there were other great spots of football, learning to play "pepper" a great bidding card game, playing with Pokey, Nancy's dog, watching the birds, listening to Tom play (for real!), and heading with the family to get and decorate a Christmas tree. And - it has to be included in this list - Bill Callahan was finally fired!
One non-highlight: I found out that my car is worthless. It's been eating obscene amounts of oil and then spewing them over the paint on the back side... and apparently it's a problem with my car's make and model and there's really nothing that can be done about it. It's actually lasted 120,000 miles instead of the 50-70,000 others were getting out of it. I like my car! And had just gotten new brakes and tires for it! I think I'll try to make it through Christmas/Germany and get serious about car shopping after that. I scrunch my face at the general situation.
I've been listening to Guns, Germs & Steel and am nearly done (16+ hours worth! - but good for these long car drives!), my friend Katie has a brand-new boy-friend-person, my friends the Dunhams and Camerons are heading to New Zealand, and I've taken a fair whack out of Christmas shopping. Have heaps o' homework to get done, though, and it's not... :( And for book club we'll be reading Shepherds Abiding - and I haven't yet started! Ah life! I do have several friends going through pretty rough times right now... so if you're the type, please pray for them!