Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Good Bye 2009, Hello 2010!!!

2009 was a mixed bag for me. OK, OK - it kinda had some pretty sucky parts. But I'm the type of person who sees the glass half full and looks forward to the future. Despite some bad juju, 2009 was filled with many good things and I ended the year with a lot of family, fun and fluffy white stuff.

Just a few days after my Grand Targhee Cat Skiing early Christmas gift, Jesper and I packed up the Subaru, made all Santa-like with the Yakima Christmas Box loaded to the gills with gifts. This time Strelka came along for her longest road trip yet - Ohio; never thought that dog would ever set paw in Ohio, but I couldn't bear to board her again and I love to have her around for Christmas. Jesper and I drove the 1,300 miles straight through, opting not to stop in Kansas as tentatively planned. A massive winter storm was on our tails and we were fearful that an overnight rest stop might turn into Christmas in Kansas! We made it to Ohio in good time despite a rimey fog through most of Kansas. Dang - that's a long drive!

We had planned for all of my siblings to be together this Christmas, our first since my Dad died. But my younger brother Jeff was ill and did not make it. It was very disappointing not to have him there, but we decided to make sure each of us enjoyed the holiday regardless. Jesper, Strelka and I stayed with my younger sister Chris and her family (husband Steve, daughter Emma and son Ben). My older brother Vince, his wife Nanako and their two boys (Kyle and Eric) stayed with my older sister Vicki and her family (husband Doug, son Tyler who is grown up and moved out and daughters Tasha and Tara).

On Christmas Eve at Chris' house, we all symbolically donned one of the dozens of silly/trashy/ethnic T-Shirts my Dad had been fond of 'collecting' for a family photo. Jeff even put one on at his apartment in Saint Paul and we included him in the photo in effigy. Digging through the piles and piles of joke T-shirts reminded us all of Dad's raunchy sense of humor!

The family in Dad's T-Shirts with Jeff in effigy (photo cred Steve Webster)

Christmas morning came early in a house with a 9 year old! There were many, many presents for my sister's family and quite a lot for me, Jesper and Strelka. As usual, Jesper spoiled me! The 'best' gift was the warming, washing toilet seat my sister Chris received from her husband. Not only was it a most unusual gift, but my sister was absolutely thrilled that her beloved husband bought her a toilet seat!

Jesper helping Strelka open one of her presents

After a Christmas day run with my younger sister, we cleaned up and headed to our big sister's house. Big is relative. Although she sometimes seemed gigantic to me when I was young, Vicki is 5'2" and svelte. Funny how things change like that. It was good to hang out with the whole family (minus Jeff). My family is loud and fun and I thoroughly enjoy the chaos of our conversations.

Chris and Vicki had a few surprises up their sleeves. First off was a sweet and sentimental slide show Chris put together with some of the photographs my Dad took of us kids growing up. My parents had all five of us within just over 7 years, something I can't even imagine. We all grew up very close and affectionate. We also seem to have grown up half dressed and filthy, based on the pictures! But under the mud and dirt we played in, we were a happy lot. Might have been all the cake we ate - seems like there was always a birthday party for one of us! The slide show also featured numerous pictures of my parents before they started their family. I am very happy my Dad was a bit of a shutterbug.

One of the many cake-filled birthday parties of my childhood, my fourth - I'm in the chair with my back toward the camera (photo cred Victor Kwasniewski)

All five of us with Mom, from l to r in front - Vince, Chris and Vicki; in back - me, Jeff and Mom (photo cred Victor Kwasniewski)

After the slide show, we had our sibling gift exchange. We played the exchange game in a manner that allows and encourages stealing gifts from each other. It was a hoot! Especially funny was the gift I gave, which Jesper chose much to my chagrin. Earlier Christmas morning, I had opened a wonderful gift from Jesper - a kitchen mandolin. I have wanted one of these for years! I also purchased the very same mandolin as my sibling exchange gift. Hey, you often buy gifts you would like to receive yourself! Great - now we had two identical mandolins! Fortunately, my brother-in-law Doug stole the mandolin from Jesper, who ended up with a dutch oven (we needed one!) and the book/DVD "Julie and Julia", which I can't wait to read and watch! I ended up with some ear buds that actually fit my small ears and some body glide - perfect for the training I will be doing to run some long distance races this year.

Vince implementing the Eenie-Meanie-Minie Mo procedure in selecting his sibling gift (photo cred Tasha Carnes)

Box 'o catalogs! (photo cred Tasha Carnes)

Later that evening, Vicki's in-laws and family showed up for a dinner of various kinds of lasagna. Before long, it was time to go back to Chris' house; another Christmas had passed.

The next day, Vince and his family left early to fly to Colorado of all places for a week of skiing (Jesper and I would join them early the next week). I had a nice day visiting with some friends and former colleagues I had not seen in awhile - good to get caught up! On Sunday morning, Jesper and I packed up Rubie the Subie again for the long drive back to Colorado. I must confess, I was completely useless on this drive. Once it began to get dark (not that late this time of winter), I could not keep my eyes open! Jesper, rock star that he is, essentially drove straight through the whole way.

We arrived back at our house at 5:00 am Monday morning and tried to sleep until about 10:00 am; I had more luck than Jesper, whose head was still in DRIVE mode. That day, we did laundry and unpacked from one trip, only to pack again for another one; this time a week of skiing up in Summit County. Jesper and I rented a 2 bedroom, pet-friendly condo with our friends Suze and Patrick through January 4th. We headed up mid-day on Tuesday the 29th of December with plans to ski for four days straight with friends and my brother Vince and his family, who were staying at Copper.

We had a nice NYE dinner in Frisco to ring in the new year. It was wonderful to spend more time with Vince on the slopes and apres ski. I had to laugh when my girlfriend Sue proclaimed him "adorable", but upon reflection, he is pretty adorable; funny, always smiling and self-effacing. Not a bad skier either! I discovered that three days of hard tele skiing is just about right for me. I was completely cooked on day four!

Vince following Jesper down a steep slope

Me coming down under the S Chair (photo cred Jesper Kristensen)

NYE dinner - Vince, Nanako, Sue Bushman, Suze Bragg, Patrick Bragg, me and Jesper (from l to r)

On Sunday January 4th, we had a leisurely morning at the condo. Vince and his family had departed the day prior and made it home safely. Jesper and I had only been home 5 out of the previous 23 days; I was ready to be home again too. Good Bye 2009, Hello 2010!

See more pics here!