Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Ahhh...  Dear friends and family, I'm so sorry I haven't been here lately.  My computer died in September, and I've been "making do" with some old relics that don't quite have the toys that I'm accustomed to for my photos and blogging...  So, I've taken an extended break from this place.  BUT, hopefully, after the holidays we will be getting a new computer and I can get my blogging mojo back! 

In the meantime, I couldn't not post a Christmas letter!  So here goes:

Well, it's Christmas Eve Eve.  (Smile.)  And I'm sitting on the couch, Christmas lights lit, a fire in the fireplace, a poodle cuddled next to me, and my Christmas pjs keeping me warm and cozy!  I've already had a glass of egg nog, and am looking at our tree with thankfulness in my heart.

It's been another wonderful year.

Mike and I are still loving life in Minnesota, and loving our life together!  I can't believe we've been married 8 years (and together 12!).  Everyday is a blessing to my life - laughing together, exploring new places, and learning as we go.  It may be cliche, but I really feel I married my best friend - and couldn't ask for anything more.

My job is going well - and as busy as ever!  Our church merged with a smaller church this fall and we have gained another 80+ members!  Such fun to get to know these new faces and personalities!  (And such a challenge for our ministries to keep up!)  Our whole church feels really blessed to be healthy and growing - and excited as we look forward to what comes next...

And of course, we've been squeezing in lots of fun with family and friends!
**Lots of visits with our god-daughter and her family - especially making crafts and eating cookies!  (And a fun day at the zoo!)
**We got to see Mike's sister, Kerry, get married, buy a house, and have a baby - all in one year!  It's been so fun celebrating with her and the family!  (This is Gillian and her daddy - just a couple of weeks ago!  How cute are they?!)
**Saw a few concerts this year:  Civil Wars, Corey Chisel and the Wandering Sons, G Love and Special Sauce, Fitz and the Tantrums, Michael Franti and Spearhead, Amos Lee, Ray LaMontagne
**Enjoyed Mike's nephew, Brandon, visiting over his Spring Break for the second year - so fun!  (The boys enjoyed a day at the skate park...  Uffda!)
**The Huck (my Dad's side) Reunion was in Colorado last June.  It was such a wonderful few days - seeing family I hadn't seen in years(!), and getting to know the cousins that are my age.  Mike and I had a great time exploring beautiful places (mostly Denver and near Vail, CO) and spending time with some entertaining family!  We loved it.  (Dad and I in Vail, at the top of a gondola ride!)
**Got to go on my second mission trip to Rosebud Reservation in Mission, South Dakota.  Always a humbling and thought-provoking trip - and a joy to travel with the ladies from my church.  (Our fun day was spent at Mount Rushmore and Bear Country USA!  Too fun.)
**Spent a weekend in Wisconsin with Mike's sister, Shelly, and her family.  All kinds of trouble to get into there!  Here's Mike, his niece and nephew - playing nerf tag...  Trouble, I tell ya!
**Went sky-diving again (after an 11 year break)!  Our local food shelf/clothes closet/many other services for the underprivileged, Neighbor's Inc, held a fundraiser for their new building - get people to sponsor you if you jump out of a plane.  So, of course I did!  Ha!  It was a blast - and I hope to do it again this May!
**Mike and I had a wonderful vacation out West this summer.  We flew into Seattle, drove through Olympia National Park in Washington, and then down the Oregon coast, into Portland, and then back down the Pacific Coast Highway - all the way to San Diego!  It was a whirlwind trip - only 10 days - but so worth it!  Great memories!
**We began to buy our meat "straight from the farm" through True Cost Farms.  It's been really eye-opening learning about the practices of factory farms vs sustainable, humane farming.  And it's really intriguing how different the meat tastes!  We're loving the experimenting with recipes!  (And we're still loving shopping at the farmers' markets during the summer, picking berries at local farms, and doing our own canning - there's just nothing like fresh food in the dead of winter!)
**We were able to sneak in two trips to Minnesota's North Shore this fall - near Grand Marais.  If there is any place we love to get away to, this is it!  So relaxing and beautiful!  (On one of the trips, we went into Canada and walked across Canada's longest suspension bridge - just for the heck of it!)
**My sister, Emily, and her family visited Minnesota in August - what a wonderful treat!  My niece, Fin, is almost four years old - and they're expecting a little brother for her anyday now (actually, the due date was today!  I have my phone with me as I type!). 
**My other sister, Kayla, transferred to the University of Minnesota-Duluth this year.  Emily, Fin, and I got to join the caravan in moving her up there this fall.  A busy day - but the first time all three sisters moved one into the dorms! 
**Mike and I found a new hobby - Beer.  Sounds funny, but very true!  You'd be amazed at how complex and interesting the brewing process can be!  We go to tastings every month, have been to beer festivals, toured the Surly Brewery, taste craft brews every chance we get, AND Mike's going to be brewing his own batch this year!  (Go ahead, make fun...  I'm becoming a "beer connoisseur.")

I guess that's our year in a nutshell.  We were laughing at the dog the other night - and I realized, not a day goes by at our house without something to make us bust out laughing.  Even on those days when life is trying to get us down - we can always come home and find peace and love and joy.

As I look forward to tomorrow and all the festivities of Christmas - I think it's a day when we all come home.  Home to family and friends, home to faith, home to love, home to generosity - home to all that is good in the world.

Merry Christmas, friends!  And may the peace, love, and joy of the season find you wherever you may be this season!


Monday, July 18, 2011

Rosebud Mission Trip 2011

Another week spent at Rosebud Indian Reservation in Mission, SD, with a wonderful group of women from church - Wonderful, exhausting, enlightening, fun, and beautiful.  Love these trips!

Here's a quick recap of our week with Tree of Life Ministry:

Sunday:  Hope in the car at 8am and head out!  The drive was about 8 hours...  with a quick detour in Mitchell, SD, for lunch.  (Tell me again - how did we get lost in Mitchell, see half the town, and NEVER caught a glimpse of the Corn Palace?!)  We got to Mission about 5pm, got settled into our little red house, had a delicious dinner, attended orientation, and enjoyed some time as a small group talking about our day and expectations for the week.  Bed time was early as we anticipated what the week would bring!

(Home sweet home, for the week.)

(Devotions as a group every night.  We agreed to journal about our experiences as we watched for God throughout the week.)

Monday:  Devotions in the yard with the other teams (about 30 of us) - Russell was spot-on as always.  Full of wonderful lessons and uplifting stories of the changes that are happening.  He's a wonderful bridge between the cultures (bringing joy and friendship, respect and dignity to all he works with)!  I ended up working in the warehouse all week with Beth and Lydia.  We stocked store shelves, loaded trucks and delivered goods around town, unloaded deliveries, and sorted through boxes upon boxes of products...  Sounds like a boring day, but there's always stuff to do!  In the evening, we went to hear Dolores Kills In Water do a presentation about the artifacts she has collected over the years (many going back multiple generations in her family).  She's in her late 80's and continues to do the presentations in order to teach people about the strength and beauty of her culture (especially the women).  It was an honor to sit a listen to her stories...

(Russell delivering his morning lesson and devotion out in the back yard - a beauitful morning!)

(The artifacts we got to learn about - they all travel in a couple of suitcases...  She's like "Mary Poppins!")

(Delores Kills In Water - one spunky, fascinating woman.)

Tuesday:  Back to the warehouse!  Stocking (the never ending supply of) Kool-Aid Jammers, sorting Wal-Mart returns (make-up, hair products, fake nails, skin care, etc), delivering hand sanitizer to businesses around town and books to the local library.  Hard work - but fun people to work with, and starting to get to know some of the people who always work in the shop and warehouse.  In the evening, we got to peruse local crafts and art at an art fair and then see a presentation by Steve Tamayo and his family about the history of the arts of the Lakota Sioux.  (I met him last year and was fascinated by him...  It was fun to see him again!)  His whole family are experts in the native traditional arts - like textiles, dress-making, buffalo hide tanning, headdress making, etc, etc.  He's the person the Smithsonion Museum calls when they need help with Native American artifacts.  Pretty cool, huh?  (We also got to play some "handgames" while we were waiting for the other group.  It's pretty much a game of guessing and trickery...  It's perfect for the mischievious.  I love it - and Steve loves to tease me during it.  Next year, I'll be ready for him!)

(If I ever see another Kool-Aid Jammer...  it will be too soon!)

(The arts and crafts fair - fun stuff!  I bought a necklace from Floyd - the same person I bought earrings from last year.  He seemed shocked that I remembered him and appreciated his stuff - as well as his beautiful paintings!)

(Beth and Lydia - too cute!)

(Hand Games!  Lydia and Laura are hiding the "bones.")
(Then, the opponents guess which hand it's in - by her smile, we probably guessed wrong...)
(These are what you're trying to win - once you have all of them, your team wins!  It can take forever!)

(My guess is, Steve is giving my team a hard time here...  He's very sneaky, that Steve.)

(All items made by Steve and his family - beautiful craftsmanship!)

Wednesday:  Our day off!  We headed out to Mount Rushmore, Bear Country USA, lunch in Keystone, and dinner at Wall Drug.  A very fun and lively day!

(Carly, Corrine, Laura, Lydia, Beth, and I at Mount Rushmore!)

(Keystone, SD - got our tourist-y fresh taffy here!)

(Bear Country USA - Lydia begged to go here...  I'm glad we did!  Cheesy?  Yes.  But totally fun!)

(The ride back to Rosebud...  A beautiful evening!)

Thursday:  The warehouse work never ceases.  We were back again - every time we think we've got the warehouse emptied and organized, more shipments come in!  It's literally never-ending.  But for a task-oriented person like me - it's all good!  Today, the people we worked with started to loosen up a little.  We started getting to know them, and they us.  We had a lot of fun joking around and enjoying each other's company.  But it was HOT!  Being in the warehouse, we took lots of breaks so that we wouldn't overheat.  We worked hard to finish a little early - it was a tough one.  In the evening, a few of us (Laura, Corrine, and I) went to a sweat lodge ceremony.  It was shortened due to the heat and because another group was doing one right after us...  But it was still cool.  Chief Duane Hollow Horn Bear was our leader again this year.  I love the stories he tells and the values he shares with us.  This year especially, his family is dealing with a huge loss - and he and his wife seemed to quietly bring that to the sweat lodge...  Really, it's a prayer circle - a beautiful, powerful way to commune with God.  And it's a gift to share in that.

(Some of the shelves we help to keep stocked.)

(The clothes closet - always a job in progress.  As soon as a box is emptied, the stuff is taken out to the store - it's never ending!)

(The warehouse...  after we emptied it once...  Yowzers.)

(Stunning sunsets...)

Friday:  Our last day of work - and another sweltering hot one!  I busted my butt trying to accomplish as much as I could on this last day...  And about 2pm I lost all steam.  I was ready to be done.  And of course, a 15 passenger van pulls up - with no seats in it - it's just piled floor to ceiling with bedding, donated from a church!  We started unloading...  A huge job in the heat!  But by the time we were done, fruit smoothies were waiting for us inside!  I tell ya - that made my day!  It's funny, in the midst of the heat - this was probably my favorite day.  We had worked with Adrian, John, Teresa, and Ray all week - but today we really started seeing each other's worlds and sharing bits of our lives with one another.  Adrian kept asking me if I really worked for a church...?  Seriously?  He was trying to feel out if I could respect his tradtional beliefs while I was Christian - we came to the conclusion that we were probably both worshipping the same great Creator, just in different ways.  And he walked away with a big smile at that!  John shared stories about his little daughter.  Teresa made us laugh everyday - all while dealing with cancer herself and looking after everyone in her community with such nurture and devotion.  And Ray just made us smile - she's revamped this center into a community gathering place full of laughter and commaraderie that wasn't there last year.  It was fun to see her living out her gifts and talents in such a wonderful way!  It was hard to say good-bye this year...  Such a special community.

(John and Adrian - good guys.)

(Lydia, Beth, and Teresa - a special lady in our hearts.)

(Ray - can't wait to see what her energy, passion, and creativity will do with the Welcome Center by next year!)

(I predicted we'd stock the last Jammers by noon on Friday.  Lydia was overjoyed to place the last case at 11:59am!)

Saturday:  We got up early, made sure the house was cleaned up, our bags were packed, and we hit the road!  An uneventful ride home - just what we needed.  Time to think back over the week, reflect, and process.  It was a good one!  God was at work all around us - spreading grace and joy.  I can't wait to visit again next year!

(And there you have it - a "darn tootin'" good trip!  Right, Lydia?)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A Little Fun

Summer's flying by!  Just a couple of fun activities...

A drive-in movie...  ("Transformers" and "Super 8")

(A little pre-movie entertainment.  That guy is on a little motorized chair with a propellor.  We see him all over town in the summer!)

(Waiting for the sun to set...)

(Gorgeous night!)

Fourth of July in Hudson, WI...

(It's a busy place...)

(Bailey got to come!  She's happy as can be...)

(These little girls were as festive as can be!  Lit up streamers coming off their headbands, fun red, white, and blue dresses - they were having the "best night ever!")

The "real" Fourth of July in Minneapolis...

(Watching "The Billy Johnson Roadshow" on St. Anthony Main.)

(A perfect day for lunch on Aster Cafe's patio!)

(The scenery's a little different from Hudson...)

(My buddy!  I see this guy at least once a summer - always at a music festival, always wearing the same outfit, always smiling and dancing, happy as can be.  My summer would not be complete if I didn't run into him somewhere...)

(Enjoying the skyline as we wait for fireworks - such a great day!)

A delicious new recipe...

(And a beautiful rainbow...)

A concert in Mears Park, St. Paul...

A morning at the MN Zoo with some of my favorite people (Em, Elly, and Sam)...

(Sam, my buddy.)

(We were mesmerized by the giant aquarium...)

(I believe Elly and I were watching the otters under water.  Always entertaining!)

(What a great mom!  Sacrificing a run through the sprinklers on a hot day!)

(That's Elly.  She's a pretty darn cool kid.)

And two great nights at the Basillica Block Party...

(Night One - G Love and Special Sauce, and...

Fitz and the Tantrums, and...

Michael Franti and Spearhead!  Best night of music I've been to in a long time!  So fun!)
**These three pictures are courtesy of Google Images.

(Night Two - Amos Lee, and...

His special guest, "Angel" - hilarious!  And...

Ray LaMontagne and the Pariah Dogs.  Awesome night.)

It's been a great summer so far... and we're only half way!!!
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