Happy New Year, readers.
I love New Year’s day because today represents the first day of a year’s worth of possibilities. As the holiday season comes to a close, I hope that you have enjoyed quiet moments of joy and peace as well as lots of unstoppable laughter with the people you love.
As you have by now noticed, I stepped away from this space for a few months. So many overwhelming things happened in my life during the last few months of the year that I had to impose a break from blogging. Deaths, cancer and a need to support and be supported by the people in my life are responsible for my absence. I’ve taken the time that I need and am returning to your inbox. Despite the many heavy things that have happened, many good things happened too. Below, here’s a short recap of a few fun things that have happened in my life over the last few months.
I’m looking forward to 2017 and sharing my adventures with you. I have many things planned and I can’t wait to watch them unfold with you. As we look toward the new year, I wish you luck, happiness and laughter.
We hosted our “First Annual” Friendsgiving celebration–
Rob and I decided to open our home to our friends and feed them a Thanksgiving dinner in the form of a “Friendsgiving” celebration this year. In years past, we had hosted soldiers on Thanksgiving day, and big dinners for American expats when we lived in Mexico. This year, we celebrated Thanksgiving with our families and decided to host our “first-annual” Friendsgiving party during the first weekend of December.
We invited our friends, presuming that the holidays are a busy time and that only a handful of friends at best would make their way to our home.
To our surprise and delight, more than 30 friends RSVP-ed! With the exciting prospect of our friends coming over to eat the race began to move furniture, uncover the best sale on turkeys (we had 2–in addition to a ham and a paella!), clean, shop and cook!
In addition to serving a lot of savory foods, we also served some great drinks– I experimented with a Chatham Artillery Punch, which was fierce but popular, and my friend Kenneth brought over a Frozen Brandy Milk Punch— a New Orleans treat we consumed to end the night/begin the after party. All told, the party was a success, despite the fact that we had more guests than chairs! Looking ahead, we’re excited to host another celebration in 2017.
We buried my cousin..
I stand firm in the assertion that we should never leave love unsaid. For so much of my life, I have put work before everything. For the first time in a long time I prioritized family, leaving a project early and in the hands of someone else to attend a family wedding. The wedding was a fun family affair, and I partied late into the night–dancing and laughing with my cousins and friends. I had a great time with one cousin in particular that night, a guy you could always count on to be the life of the party and the salvation and sanity at family functions. He had survived cancer and was finally returning to normalcy after the chemo, doctors visits and diagnosis. We celebrated his health and made plans to reconnect in two weeks. Two days later he died, unexpectedly.
I took his hard. It was difficult for me to digest that someone could survive a chilling cancer diagnosis and die on their road to recovery. And when vibrant people who we look to for warmth and laughter pass away unexpectedly, the world seems a little colder.
During the Christmas season, our team did a lot of volunteering….
Helping someone else has always been a great way for me to feel good about myself and better about the future.
At work, my teammates spent a lot of time organizing projects and initiatives that allowed our team and the company’s employees to get in touch with the community.
From making snacks for an elementary nutrition program (shouts out to the YMCA) to building bikes to surprise an unsuspecting community, I’ve been busy and involved with the various impactful work that my colleagues do for our community in west Michigan. Visiting their projects and volunteering has allowed me to spend much of this holiday season feeling as though I’ve spent time giving people a worthwhile gift: my time and enthusiasm.
I spent some much needed time in my favorite place (Washington, DC) with two of my favorite ladies (my BFF and her mom, Jan).
One of my favorite traditions is visting the White House at Christmas. As a little girl, my mother would take our family to the White House and to visit the trees each state would send and decorate. I have so many fantastic memories of Christmas at the White House throughout the years.
This year, as a special Christmas present, my best friend made arrangements for us to visit the White House. She knows how much I love the decorations, and the unique decorations. This year, the theme was, “The Gift of the Holidays”. The White House decorations paid tribute to our Nation’s service members and veterans for their gift of service and sacrifice, the First Lady’s Let Girls Learn initiative, and of course, the gingerbread house.
The State Dining Room was one of my favorite stops on the visit. The room featured two 14-foot fir trees, and circling the trees on layered shelves were 56 gingerbread houses, one for each of the American states and territories.
At the north end of the State Dining Room sat the White House Gingerbread House. According to the White House press kit, “Assistant Executive Chef Hans Raffert built the first White House Gingerbread House in 1969, and since then, the baked architecture project has become a holiday tradition. This season’s house, created by a talented team with White House Pastry Chef Susie Morrison, is made of 150 pounds of gingerbread, 100 pounds of bread dough, 20 pounds of gum paste, 20 pounds of icing, and 20 pounds of sculpted sugar pieces.”
The Vermeil Room was another of my favorite rooms. It’s sometimes called the “Gold Room,” and serves as a display room and, for formal occasions, as a ladies sitting room. The room features First Ladies’ portraits including Jacqueline Kennedy, and it was decorated with four evergreen trees, decorated with pearl strands and ballerina
The mantle featured numerous paper ornaments, similar to my own home—though living with all men, I know that I could never get away with decorating our home pink or incorporating pearls into our Christmas decor. The Vermeil Room was a nice place to dream about a feminine Christmas!
I know that’s a lot to read. But, I wanted to share a short narrative of my adventures and activities. A lot has been said about 2016. For me, 2016 was a year of terriffic highs and many gut-punching lows. Often, I found myself standing in the storm, tired and battered–but never alone. I can best summarize it by sharing this Gilda Radner quote:
“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.”
I’m looking forward to the adventure ahead. And, as 2017 begins, I hope that you write a story that has a memorable beginning, middle and end.