Thursday, December 29, 2011

My Year in Review-2011, part II

Or as it's otherwise known, 5K Month. I ran three 5Ks in July, one of which being the Warrior Dash in Michigan. I was also testing out new footwear. I ran the Firemen's Race in the Merrell Pace Gloves and the Chase the Lake race in my Luna Sandals. I got many strange looks for running a race in sandals, but otherwise it was a good race. I ran the Warrior Dash in the Merrells and was very glad of it- the protection of a sneaker, but not the bulk. All the racers were caked in mud, but at least my shoes weren't heavy!
That's Mrs. Warrior to you, punks!
Buck and Alyssa hosted a post Warrior Dash party and de-mudding shower for all the warriors. A visit with Buck, Alyssa, and Baby Wyatt was the first leg of the Great Tour of the Mitten (also known as our annual trip to Michigan).
Asha, Uncle Buck, and Baby Wyatt!

After our stop in Brighton, we travelled up to Blanchard to the farm. Cyrus and Janet are always the gracious hosts and served up loads of tasty steaks and glasses of fresh milk. Asha was able to see first hand where the milk came from, too! She really enjoyed kicking off her shoes and running around with her cousins. She fit right in. While we were up North, we travelled even farther north to see the dunes up at Traverse, which I hadn't seen before. We went to the beach, but it was brrrrrrrrrrrr....... Before heading to Olivet, we took a paddle down the Chippewa River in kayaks. It was a good time!

Cousins, cousins, everywhere cousins!
Then we were on to Olivet and the Land of Hempel! Mom signed me up for a 5K that weekend, so there was more running. While we were in Michigan, we even got to see a band from Virginia that we got to know in Maryland play in Marshall, Michigan! It was such a fun date night to listen to the Steel Wheels play at the Dark Horse.

You'll never know what you'll find at Hempelonia!
Asha, Nana, and Gertrude!

We were home in Pennsylvania a week, when Erik's sister and her family came for a whirlwind visit. And I ran the final race in the Twilight Quad. After that, I felt pretty burnt out from all that running and just stopped, kind of like Forrest Gump. Then we were off again to visit family in New Jersey since we weren't planning to go for Christmas (saving up for a little sunny vacation in February 2012). We took Asha to the beach, an authentic New Jersey boardwalk, and to New York City!

Asha and I at the Jersey Boardwalk

Asha at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Exhausted from all that travel, we settled into some semblance of a routine. Asha went to school with the bigger kids at the YMCA three days a week. Somewhere during that whirlwind summer, I was awarded a commission to do four three-quarter-life-size sculptures for a church in Carnegie, Pennsylvania. The studio situation didn't work out, so I started work in theliving room.
Living room studio.

On the 15th of September, Olde Town sponsored the first annual Art Walk in Grove City. About twenty or so artists were partnered with local businesses. Each artist set up a display in a location downtown and people walked from place to place, looking at art and meeting the artists. It was a very busy evening and the turnout was better than we expected!
Also, in September, a group of people in Grove City got together to form the Grove City Arts Council! under the auspices of Grow Grove City, a 501c3 non-profit revitalization organization. We are working on some very exciting projects, including an art center that will house studio space, a gallery, and space for classrooms.

The Cutest Picture of the Year was taken in September.

In October, Erik and I celebrated our sixth wedding anniversary. We had a lovely lunch at The Pines Tavern. Then Asha and I were back in the car to Chicago. We stopped at Niles to pick up Aunt MaryBeth, Ben, and Abilgail and drove to the big city to celebrate the wedding of our cousin, Carrie, to Lee Donohue. It was a great chance to see relatives we haven't seen in ages. We had to head out just as the dancing started to get the kids in bed, but from what I heard, Granny closed down the place. She danced all night long.  Then we traveled north to celebrate Nana's birthday in Olivet! We stayed a few days and stopped to wish Baby Wyatt a Happy Birthday before heading home again.

I turned thirty-four on the first. 11-1-11. Pretty cool, huh? Also, the first weekend in November, Christina (or MissTina, or ChristmasTina, as Asha calls her) moved into our upstairs loft. She is a recent college graduate, an artist, and all around fun and hilarious person. We are two peas in a pod and she certainly brings more light and joy to the house. We are so happy to have her.

I was hoping for a quiet month, so that I could work on those sculptures for Carnegie, but it came to my attention that the National Portrait Gallery was hosting a big portrait competition and the deadline was November 30th. It had to be a recent portait, too. I had been out of the studio the past several years and had nothing recent. So, in a fury, I worked on a sculpture of Asha. I started over once. I even had to cast and finish it before doing a late night photo shoot the day it was due. I didn't sleep for a week, but I got it done and submitted. I won't find out whether or not I was accepted as a semi-finalist until April, 15th.
Slinging plaster to make the mold.

Asha, four-and-a-half, detail

On December 7th, our loyal dog, Emma, was laid to rest. She was fourteen years old and took at least two walks a day, every single day, totaling about 7300 miles. She could have walked to Juneau, Alaska and back. She was the dog who turned people who aren't really fond of dogs into husky lovers (myself included). She was gentle and loyal. She will be missed.
Emma Irani ~1997-2011. We miss you.
"I'm thinking about coming to visit," Nana said on the phone.
"Sure, when?"
"I'll leave today." And at 8:00pm, Nana pulled in the driveway! Asha was over the MOON! We had a great time all together. We got to go shopping, decorate the world's fattest Christmas tree, set up the Nativity, wrap gifts, and go to the movies. We took Asha to see her first movie at the theater. We saw the Muppets! She loved it, I loved it, everyone had a good time.  It had been raining so much that when Nana set out to leave, she got stuck in the mud. We had to call AAA to call a towtruck and pull her van out. Asha thought this was hilarious and repeated the story to anyone who would listen.
Christmas Shrubbery.

Then Christmas came so quickly! We went to the Christmas Eve service at All Saints. Asha really enjoyed lighting the candles at church. And she looked ever-so-adorable in the dress Nana got for her.

Santa visited and left a trail from the door to her stocking. She woke me up saying, "Mom, someone left a huge mess in here!" She was happy with the stocking for about a half hour before I pointed out that there were presents under the tree. She loved being the center of it all! She opened each gift carefully and placed the paper in a bag. It was a little overwhelming for her to know what to play with first!

And then fairies moved in! We'll see what sort of magic is in store for us in 2012.

My Year in Review- 2011, part I

Christmas 2010
Last Christmas we took the train out to New Jersey to spend the holiday with Erik's family. We went to the Latvian Church for Christmas Eve services, which I always enjoy. Pr. Eva always gives memorable sermons that give much to think about in the coming months. She asked us to consider the JOY of Christ in the world and to think on that amid suffering, struggles, pain. Joy is not the same as happiness. On Christmas morning we like to crash the party at Liz and Rob's place. (My brother-in-law's sister and her family.) They always make a fantastic breakfast and there is much merriment. Then we migrated to Grandma Jean's house (brother-in-law's mother's house) for more food and mimosas. The Thomas family really knows how to party and Christmas morning is no exception. Then, we make our way back to Oma's house for gifts and the traditional Christmas ham with raisin sauce, tomatoes, cucumbers, spice cookies, coffee and pie. We spend the rest of the day snacking on pīrāgi and playing with our new toys. We were really socked in with a huge blizzard that shut down New York City for about three days.

Then I got the flu. I spent the rest of the week with 103* fever, laying on the couch beneath a sea of warm blankets. Erik went up to New York and saw "Promises, Promises" on Broadway with his sister, once publis transit was up and running again. I was upset to have missed it, but was very glad that the two of them were able to get away from regular life for a bit and enjoy one another's company. This is our house from last Christmas:
Christmas House

January 2011
When we got back and I got better, I started taking swim lessons at the YMCA. I've been able to keep myself afloat, but never learned how to properly do a freestyle, back, or breast stroke. I really enjoyed having an activity that kept me active throughout the winter.

Also, in January, I finally finished my Masters of Arts in Humanities with a concentration in Medieval and Renaissance Studies. My Thesis was called, "Piero Della Francesca's Misericordia Polyptych: Artist, Patron, and Community." It's about a painter, the painting, the folks who hired him to paint it, and the community from which they all came. This is the main part of the painting:

At the end of January, we spent a long weekend in Michigan.  It was Granny's 88th birthday and there was a big surprise party for her! She was so delighted that so many people came out to wish her a HAPPY BIRTHDAY! We really enjoyed getting to know the newest member of the Hempel clan, Wyatt Lee Hempel.

Uncle Buck, Aunt Alyssa, Baby Wyatt, Nana, Papa, Asha, Daddy and Mommy all together!

My Granny is 88!
I continued with swimming throughout the month and enjoyed the freedom of finally being done with school. Almost thirty years in school; I was tired.

The best part of February was the JUBILEE conference put on by the Coalition for Christian Outreach.  Every person I've met through the CCO has been tremendous and I have enormous respect for the organization. Jubilee pulls together the best and most challenging Christian thinker, doers, and makers into one place to encourage college students (and grown ups!) to go out and live their faith. They share stories of how their own faith has shaped their paths and how they have worked with the Holy Spirit to shape the world for His sake. I listened to a man who was overcome with compassion for children in a particular village. He was a lawyer and worked with the local government to break down political barriers to free innocents from jail, help children go to school, etc. Other speakers worked in their own communities. I talked with dancers from New York City who worked with Christian artists in the city to offer encouragement and support in a place and a line of work where being a Christian is not seen favorably. I learned to dialog in pictures. I met some incredible people. I am pretty sure that the CCO plans Jubilee in February to help us get through the darkest parts of the year by focusing our eyes on the Light that shines in the darkness.

On March 4th, I was the guest artist for a student-led event at Grove City College called Project Eve: A Celebration of Women's Creativity. It was so exciting to see how the students wanted to showcase the creativity of the people in the community as well as on campus. I set up my area as a mock studio, showing some of the process, tools, and materials that a sculptor uses. I had carefully placed "please touch" and "do not touch" signs around the display. It seemed that the students really enjoyed feeling the rubber on the mold, getting to roll the clay around a bit, and watching me work on a portrait. It was such an honor to be a part of it.

Asha and I travelled to Michigan to stay in Olivet for five days just because. We enjoyed visiting Hempelonia, seeing Nana, Papa and the gang. Asha especially enjoyed the pig and gathering eggs in the morning.

It also started raining in March and didn't stop until May. It was a very. long. three. months.

Still raining. One of the highlights of April was Erik's birthday weekend in Cleveland. You see, RUSH was playing the TIME MACHINE tour and even though we had already seen them in Pittsburgh, it was on his birthday. So, we checked in at the Cleveland Renaissance (by Marriott, of course). Nana met us there! She and Asha enjoyed playing in the pool and watching movies at the hotel while Erik and I got all dressed up in concert tees and rocked out. Another fun fact about RUSH and Cleveland is that a Cleveland radio station was the first American station to give them air time. Their song, Working Man, became a huge hit in the industrial town and subsequently the band took off. So, they filmed a Live in Cleveland Time Machine Tour DVD that very night we were there. We can't wait to see it to see if we can see our cheesy faces waving at the microblimpcam (just made up that word, but it was a very small blimp).

On Easter Sunday we enjoyed a beautiful Easter celebration at All Saints Lutheran Church.
Asha and Mommy sharing a smile at church.

On the night of April 28th, I got a text from my best friend Grace, "So, do you want to come over and watch the miracle of birth." My first thought was that she wanted me to watch some PBS nature documentaries, but in reality she was in labor! I stayed the night on her sofa and witnessed the birth of her second son, Garrett, being born at home on the morning of April 29th. It was a true honor to have been part of such a miracle.

Garrett Daniel Barber, born at home on April 29, 2011.

Still raining. Not sure how it's possible. Feeling pretty miserable by now. Though, we did get to take Asha to the nation's capital and Capitol! We enjoyed a day at the zoo followed by a tour of the Capitol building, which I had not been in since, oh, 1992. On Saturday of that very weekend, I GRADUATED! It was very exciting.
Daddy and Asha at the Capitol!

Graduation day at last.


Asha turned four years old on June 5th. We threw a big party for her. Nana, Papa, Uncle Buck, Aunt Alyssa, and Baby Wyatt drove all the way from Michigan to celebrate with us. We enjoyed a delicious spread of Indian Food from Taj Mahal in Pittsburgh as well as a yummy ice cream cake. (We even had an ice cream cake at our wedding. Iranis love ice cream.) Asha and I wore saris for the occasion, but they were soon replaced with swimsuits as the kids ran through the sprinkler in the back yard.

Asha played t-ball in the local YMCA league. She was the tiniest, youngest and only girl on the team, but that girl can HIT! And RUN! And SCORE!
Tiny Slugger

On the 22nd, I pushed Asha in the stroller for the first of the four Twilight Quad 5K series. She enjoyed the ride and got out of the stroller to run across the finish. At the end of the month we were back in Michigan! Asha and I drove to Niles and stayed with Aunt MaryBeth, Uncle Rob, and Granny for a week. We enjoyed lazy summer days at Clear Lake, in the backyard pool, and fishing with Aunt Melody and Uncle Jim. It was great to reconnect with Ben and Abigail as well and Asha getting to know her family.
Tiny Fisherwoman!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Gratitude in the Grove, Snow Day

It's snowing outside! Our Siberian Husky is much more excited about it than the fellow who wakes up at quarter of six to walk her. The four-year-old in the house was thrilled. Mommy isn't feeling well and is rather indifferent to things happening outside the sofa. So, that's the weather report.
A house for all seasons.

When I traveled to Chicago a few weeks back, I drove into a beautiful, clear Indiana sky and drank in the colors of the sunset. It occurred to me that I rarely, if ever, see sunsets in Grove City. Between the cloud cover and my house being nestled in a grove of trees, we just don't see them very often. God must have heard my murmuring because the past two weeks have been filled with brilliant skies.
Unfortunately, this was before 5pm, but it was brilliant!
The sun was going down in Pittsburgh.

The skies we magical the whole ride home.

On another note, I shared a book and some treats in Asha's pre-school class. They made me a giant Thank You card. It felt really, really, really good. Gratitude feels good when you are the one offering it, or the one receiving it.

nota bene: I'm not a photographer, aspiring or otherwise. All the photos on this blog are taken with my iPhone. Nothing fancy here, folks.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Gratitude in the Grove, Sick Day

There is no rest for moms, but today I am grateful that I can call up a kid in the neighborhood to walk my dog at s moment's notice.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Gratitude in the Grove, Day Seven

What a fabulous sunset!
What a beautiful day! That alone fills me with gratitude. Wednesdays are special, however. Today is our CSA pickup day. Each week we are blessed with a small mountain of delicious, locally and sustainably grown foods. This week I ordered some extra goodies: oxtail, soup bones and artisan cheese. In addition to our CSA, we also have access to fresh milk in glass jars delivered weekly. I often complain about our local grocery stores, but why go to the store when you can get food from the farm?!
Oxtail, peppers, parsley, potatoes, soup bone, cheese, milk, kolhrabi, lettuce, and eggs (not pictured here): what a bounty!

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Gratitude in the Grove, Birthday Edition

Today is my birthday: thirtysomething. 11/1/11 seems like a fortuitous day to have a birthday. The weather this morning was a dense fog, but I could see the sun pushing through. By eleven this morning, the sky was blue and only traces of clouds were left on the horizon, fortuitious indeed.
Glorious blue skyes above my yard.

Today, and every day, I am thankful for my ever-gracious husband, Erik. Volumes could be written on the contents of my heart, but I'm no poet. He is the gravitational pull of our house, keeping things from hurling off into space. His companionship is a gift to me.
The grand love of my life, Erik. He may seem just like a regular nice guy, but there is so much more...
He is a great spot for a nap. (He took me to the MET and held her the whole time.)
 He is a tea despensor for a princess.

And a liontamer.
In fact, he is the ringleader of this three-ring circus.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Gratitude in the Grove, Day Five

You guessed it: grey, overcast and cold. I took this picture out of the front door this morning. Most of the trees have lost their leaves. Thankfully some frat boys at the college do a leaf-raking fundraiser each year. We are glad to support their efforts if it means that we don't have to spend our whole weekend raking leaves.
Despite all the angst I've been having over the chaos and endless projects that has marked my experience with this house, I want to give thanks for it. When we left Frederick, the real estate market took a serious nose-dive. We loved our house there and didn't want to leave it, but we felt that Grove City was God's provision for us during the recession. We lost an obscene amount of money on the sale of our house, but (and this is a huge BUT in this economy) we walked away in the black and were able to buy another house in a market with considerably lower home values. We were even able to fix it up quite a bit. (I am still daydreaming about kitchens and baths, however.) It is a charming, yellow, stucco cottage, which I love. It's nestled in some lovely trees; in fact, the largest tree in town is in our backyard. We have delightful neighbors. It's a quiet neighborhood, which helps me sleep. And even though it's a very tiny cottage, we have a finished loft and bath in our attic that we've been able to use to show hospitality to others. There is a story in town that the family who lived in this house years and years ago had a monkey and it was called, "The Monkey House." Considering that the inside of this charming little cottage is much like a circus, it seems a fitting name for our home.
The Monkey House- October 31, 2011
This is one of my favorite pictures of our house, taken last Christmas.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Gratitude in the Grove, Day Four

Today is Reformation Sunday. It is overcast and cold, but we dodged the winter mess that socked the East Coast. I took this picture outside of our church after services this morning. The skies opened up a little bit in the later afternoon, but not what you would call "clear."
The sky is blah, but the hospitality inside makes up for it.

I am so very thankful for our tiny, but vibrant church in Slippery Rock, All Saints Lutheran Church. The church is committed to hospitality, especially to the Slippery Rock University community. There are so many things to love about this church: it's small enough to know everyone, but large enough to to have young families, students, older members, retirees, and everyone in between. So often, churches tend towards one demographic or another; All Saints makes room for all the saints, so to say. I really appreciate and enjoy Pr. Scheer's sermons. He speaks on the given scripture text for the day and always focuses on who Jesus is and how He reconciles us to God. Pastor does not speak down to the congregation, but his sermons are articulate and intelligent. Besides, Asha really enjoys hugging him. All Saints uses a traditional liturgy and an old-fashioned organ, but don't think for a minute that this congregation is stuffy. I get choked up all of the time during the liturgy, the grace offered to me through the Word of God declared aloud and in Communion where Christ nourishes His people with Himself.

When Asha was here only a few weeks, we brought her to church strapped closely to my body in a baby carrier. Since then, the folks at All Saints have become her extended family. The teens play ping-pong with her in the church basement; and today Pr. Scheer's daughter sat with her throughout the service. According to Asha, they are now best friends. After service, Asha likes to run around the church and there are always at least a dozen eyes on her, making sure she doesn't get into trouble. When Asha was here only three months, we had her Baptized at All Saints. It was a really momentous occasion for us as a family, both spiritual and physical. I felt so united to her on that day, as I recalled after the event back when things were still so hard.
Pr. Scheer all in red for Reformation Sunday.