Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas 2011

Hello from the home of the sniffles, where we have contributed to the profits made by the folks who make Kleenex. You'd think they'd send us thank you notes with dividend checks, even though we don't hold stock in the company. We are sorry for felling so many trees, though.

My beloved has worked very hard this year, including, but not limited to, the four hours he spent on the phone after spending two hours in the ER being diagnosed with bronchitis that morning. He's still coughing a bit, but is getting better. He's been spending his free time on genealogy, turning his efforts to my family after hitting the black hole of Irish records – they gathered parish records together into one central location...and then the central location burned. Makes Irish genealogical research a wee bit difficult. Interestingly, he found that one of my great-great-uncles is buried in the city we live in now.

Our girl is a junior and thinking about colleges. We've visited two, but neither is on the short list. She's still playing flute and went back to flute camp this summer. She's been taking a photography class, so we've been taking her to photograph places and people – most recently people with tattoos for her final project. She missed lots of school this month between strep and bronchitis (see above note on Kleenex), so last Wednesday, trying to get her project done in time, we went to three tattoo parlors, the VFW and a bar. That was interesting. Folks with ink are great, but she's still not getting a tattoo, says her mother, the fun-ruiner. We also went to the Jesus People USA community. Lots of tattoos there. Our kids went there for their mission trip over the summer, so we knew where to go.

Our boy's half way through his sophomore year. He thinks he got either two Bs and three As or vice versa. He has a lot of friends and is having a good time. He's now seeing all his friends who went to other colleges, so the fun continues. Our house is very loud when he's home. He spent the summer working for a landscaping company, which earned him both an appreciation for how hard that work is and some of his own money. Mom liked that. Not the stinky laundry bit, the his own money bit. He'll turn 20 the day after Christmas, which is hard to believe.

I'm doing some freelance writing for an internet-based education company. It's steady, interesting work, and I can work in my pjs from the comfort of my dining room. I'm also enjoying being a church lady, leading bible study, teaching the wee Souls, doing bookkeeping and serving on a diocesan commission. We had our church ornament exchange here Friday and our couples' group white elephant exchange dinner Saturday. I'm now wearing the sock-monkey slippers I got in the white elephant exchange. Score.

In August, I read a book about going on a vegan diet to reverse heart disease and strokes, and it made sense to me. I'd been a veggie in high school, so I joined my girl in her diet. Mostly I'm vegan, except for fish, as giving up sushi was Not. Going. To. Happen. Poor beloved, he says. I still fix him a steak now and again. I went veggie for health reasons, not because I hate meat, so he need not suffer, methinks.

We logged some air miles this year, beginning with a trip to London for me with my friend Kathy to visit our friend Patty. We spent a week talking and seeing the sights. We took a day flight over and got in late and stayed up talking until 3 a.m. Got up six hours later, toured Windsor Castle and stayed for Evensong, which was beautiful. We sat in the Quire, right behind the choir. Under the floor were the graves of Henry VIII, Jane Seymour and Charles I (and his head). We spent the rest of the week staying up til 3, getting up around 9 and onto the tube – saw the clock museum at Greenwich, the Victoria and Albert and the British Museums, had tea at the Orangerie by Kensington Palace, shopped at Harrods and Fortnum and Mason, saw a play, ate fish and chips at pubs, and went to Westminster Abbey and to Evensong at St. Paul's. Just scratched the surface - we need to go back! We never had any problems with jet lag, mostly because we never shut up and thus barely slept. I got home just in time to take my beloved to the airport for his two week trip to Thailand. Then I shut up and slept.

We took our baby to Portland in March – where we visited Reed College, two vineyards, the ocean and tried for Mt. Hood. Just an FYI, Mt. Hood in March is snowy. If you want to see that lovely lake they show in all the pictures – yeah, it doesn't look like that in March and you should wait until summer, otherwise you might hit a blizzard at 2500 feet and have to turn around in an Alpine-like village. The park rangers told us we were smart to have turned around. They were probably thinking we were idiots for trying it, but were glad we'd had the good sense God gave our beagle to turn around before we were the “stupid tourists” featured on the news. The best part was seeing my aunt, uncle and cousins, who kindly drove for hours to see us, as we were in the same state.

In June, while the kids were on their mission trip to JPUSA, we went to Mexico with our traveling friends. We didn't get sunburned this time, only because it was hurricane season...first night we came back to our room and found a note on the door with an update on a storm we hadn't even known existed. But not to worry, the staff were all trained just in case of emergencies! We had a good time anyway; went to a cooking class, took long walks on the beach, lazed around, and read books.

Summer also saw the celebration of my parents' 50th wedding anniversary. After they got back from the lake (where we joined them for a week), we were blessed to have many of the family together. All of my parents' living siblings were there, as were lots of cousins. It was horribly humid, but the resort was lovely and the company even better. My main worry had been political discussions, as we had all ends of the political spectrum represented there, just as the debt-ceiling debate going on. But it all went off without a hitch, and it was truly wonderful to see everyone.

The kids returned to school in August, bringing to an end our summer family travels. I went to Galena with my girlfriends in September; the leaves on the hills were beautiful and the time just flew by, as it always does.

In October, we drove up to western Wisconsin to the Quinns' cemetery to bury Karen's ashes. Next to the Celtic cross marking my brother-in-law's parents' graves, we gathered to raise a glass of Jameson's in her honor. It is still such a surreal thing that she is gone. She rests in a beautiful place, though.

We were with my husband's family again to celebrate Thanksgiving and the finishing of his younger brother's new kitchen - it is a thing of beauty and I have a bad case of kitchen envy. Ah well. Christmas will be spent with my family, at my brother's home. They are hosting friends from Germany and we are looking forward to meeting them and spending the day together.

As always, we hope that the day finds you with those you love, celebrating the birth of the One who loves you.

Grace and Peace.

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