I wrote most of this when I first got back Sunday night - but have been having a brain block about finishing it.
December was a whirl. There's been gorgeous snow this year already, so there's also been plenty o' x-c skiing. Yippee! The month ended with a 1 1/2 week road trip, from which I just returned. I had a great time - and am even a tiny bit unpacked - but still not QUITE ready for the start of the work week tomorrow. I'll work on composing my "game face" even as I work on this update!
I've had people tweak me about what I've been up to and why I've been so silent.
Sometime in December: had really good hang out/connect/catch-up/present-swapping times with Paula, Katie and Linda. Game nights have been fun, and have mostly featured Javier, Tammy, Jim, Marc, Ray & Becky. I had an amazing time catching both a Badger basketball game in Madison and a chamber orchestra concert in a Green Bay cathedral. Since August or so, I've been hosting/attending a Bible study-small group with Alan, Jean, Matt, Mariel, Erica, Jim, Paul and Liz. I also got to sing in a mini-choir & play bongos for one of the December church services. Hooray for good times with good friends.
But there are several reasons it's hard to blog about an entire month - or really any series of events that include lots of details and people.
Dec. 23: Patrick was in town! We got a good ski in, and then he and Tammy helped me madly make tons of my favorite cookies (a recipe I got from Dave Rosene - here's a "close enough" version), before we all headed over to game night at Tammy's.
For one thing, I have a hard time believing that the folks reading this would have interest to the same level of detail that I have in recounting events.
Dec. 24: Headed to Eau Claire for an evening with Mom, Harley & Jode. We sang carols, read the Christmas story, and did some gift-swapping. Really a sweet, fun time.
How do I summarize, keep things interesting, and yet give attention to the things that meant the most?
Dec. 25: Tony & Mindy had a brand-new baby, Julia Rose on the 23rd, so they invited us all over to meet her & hang out for brunch Christmas Day. She's precious, and it was a blast hanging out with Dahlia, Joey & Anthony for a bunch of the day. Anthony, at 6, plays Boggle with the 'grown-ups' and proudly takes the 2-5 words he gets each round. He can get 3-letter words, while we have to get a minimum of 4-letter words, but every so often he gets one that no one else sees. Nathaniel Joe at 4 is full of stories and takes the time to tell each one. He kept time for us while we played Boggle. Dahlia (2) looked adorable in white pantaloons and a bright-red velvet Christmas dress with matching hat. She loves shoes and playing with her brothers. She's putting words together, and trying to figure out her place now that there's a new sister around.
And what happens if I actually have an incredible time at five places in a row? How do I keep my tone from sing-songy-ness and my adjectives from becoming tinny after a while?
Christmas evening, I headed to college-roomie-Joce's place and hung out with her & her family. We had a great time hanging out, watching movies, playing games, talking, and eating. It's so fun to feel so welcome and at home at her place, and Ed, Annabelle and Brooke all make me laugh - they're all just so fun to be with.
Worse yet - what if I forget or inadequately recount something? I was the recipient of so much kindness and hospitality throughout the holidays. My cousin Abby recently blogged about unconditional love and it made me think about this more. It's hard to receive!
Dec. 26th I headed through some rather scary weather to the Hanks residence in the Quad Cities (between Illinois & Iowa). Tom had gotten there Christmas Eve; Mary, Matt & Kalina (hooray!) had gotten there earlier that day, and Nancy and Tom Sr. had everything all set to host a marvelous weekend. After a fun Christmas celebration Sat. morning at Nancy's (she's renting a very cool house in a tiny town called Preemption), we headed back to meet up with the extended family. Food, games, food, swimming, games, and more food - what could be better?! I ended up getting permission from work to work from "home", so I stayed in the Quad Cities & worked from there in the early part of the week. We had a blast playing more board games, discussing things, listening to bits of Tom playing piano, and holding Kalina.
On a lighter note, I like to blog when I have pictures to go with the text. For this trip I stopped taking pictures after we left the Quad Cities, since Tom and others were doing so. Gosh-darn-it anyhow!
Tuesday, Tom and I headed up to Waterloo where we met/hung out with Michael - his good friend since elementary school - and his family. I really liked getting to know Michael, his wife Laura, and their son Isaac. We talked and ate pizza and played Power Grid, and I got to hear all sorts of stories! They're the kind of people that you just want to get to know better.
And then there's the concern - particularly when I'm talking about a series of events like this - whether my excitement at various opportunities and joy in the moments I share will sound like bragging or an endless litany?
Then we headed to Jen & Mustafa's place in the Twin Cities. They had invited friends to a house/birthday party, and Jonathan, Becky, Ray, Ben, Andrea, Tom and I were able to make it. We bummed around, ate amazing quantities of marvelous food (no idea how Jen pulls it off), karaoked, skiied, winter hiked, wandered a bit downtown, and generally had a stellar time. Oh - and we played board games!
And of course, a Christian's blog about December had better include something about the birth of Christ and how much it means to her - right? Hmmm. I think on that one, I'll simply follow a good role model this time around, and "treasure all these things up quietly" in my heart.
Saturday brought the final holiday gathering: Christmas with Amy's family at Augusta's house. Amy and Tim and Augusta and Chris and Sherman were there, of course. But also, Amy's mom Beth flew out, as did her daughter Katie, and then Grant, his girlfriend Christy, and daughter Margo were also able to drive in. It was great that it worked out for all of us to be there, and we had a lovely time. We had an outstanding Christmas dinner, and great fun exchanging gifts (I got Bohnanza - uh oh!!).
Finally, there's the fact that putting words together takes TIME. Time that could be spent packing up ornaments. Or sleeping.
Sunday I got to meet up with Jody for a quick ski in Eau Claire, and then got back safely to Appleton. Hooray!
Speaking of inadequately expressing appreciation, I got to listen to some great stuff on the car ride home. One such "stuff" was a podcast of the Dec. 7 teaching from Rob Bell: "Who Doesn't Want In On That?" - there were some really great thoughts in it that I may try to blog about in the future. Take a listen, if you get a chance, and we can compare notes - and I can maybe depart a bit from this monologue format and go toward conversation! Phwew!