Monday, December 24, 2007

A Christmas Eve Sonnet for Susan

The instant that the snow has caught her eye
My sweetheart bursts outside within a trice
To feel the flakes fall gently from the sky,
Each one a tiny miracle of ice.
She laughs and dances in the winter light
And tries to catch a snowflake on her tongue.
Her hair and all the earth are flecked with white;
Soon there will be snowballs packed – and flung,
And maybe we will make a snowman too.
Then, sudden as an unexpected kiss,
I feel the rush of love for her anew,
A perfect moment of untarnished bliss.
Summer, spring, and fall can never cause the glow
That winter brings with wondrous, magic, blessed snow.

Christmas Eve

Sunday, December 02, 2007

All of 2007 - The Year in Review

The time has come again to flip backwards in the calendar and review the events of the year to remember and share the highlights with you.

In January we celebrated Susan’s birthday at Morton’s in downtown Richmond. It was our first (and so far only) visit to this upscale steakhouse, and it definitely ranks as a “special night out” kind of place. The food was excellent, and they definitely “put on the Ritz” with the attentive service and waiters in tuxedos. It was also in January that Susan filled in for our regular Bible school teacher with a series based on Watchman Nee’s book Sit, Walk, Stand. The book is a meditation on the book of Ephesians, and despite its short length, it is packed with insight and challenges from Paul’s letter. This was the second time Susan taught from this book (the first time was back at Paramount Terrace Christian in Amarillo), and it was great to share with our new class.

February was quite busy for both of us. Susan continued teaching Real Life Connections class, and Geoff presented a series on witnessing to people of different faiths in a different Bible class. And then on Wednesday nights we both team-taught a class on spiritual disciplines, based on a series of pamphlets by Watchman Nee. (We both respect Watchman Nee as a challenging Christian author.) If that weren’t enough, Geoff had a business trip to Houston one week to conduct training and we also started seriously looking for a house to buy. We looked everywhere, but our focus was in Mechanicsville, which is a suburb of Richmond and is also where our church home is located. We spent so much time traveling back and forth from the far West End of Richmond to Mechanicsville to spend time at church and with friends, that we decided it would be best to just live there.

In March we found a home in Mechanicsville and started the contract procedures with our realtor (and fellow church member) David Filegar. Two weeks before closing Geoff had to be in Dallas to conduct training, and the week before he had to fly to Memphis to help with a major conference hosted by his employer, Shelby Systems. This was a bit nerve-wracking, but we were able to get closed on March 30th, so we could move in last Saturday of March and first Sunday in April. With a lot of help from our Bible class members, we got our furniture and most of our other belongings to the new house that weekend. Our lease with the apartment complex extended to the end of April, so we spent the next several weeks moving more stuff bit by bit until we were all out of the old place.

(our new house)

April was almost surreal. The Wednesday after moving into our new house we received a phone call late in the evening. It was Gary, Geoff’s father, calling to let us know that his grandfather, C.T. Johnson, had passed away. Although he had been ill for awhile, gradually going downhill since his heart attack a couple of years prior, it was still a shock and a terrible loss. Geoff flew to Amarillo the Sunday before the funeral on Monday, and that night the family had the kind of somber, bittersweet reunion that seems to always accompany these occasions. The funeral was touching. Along with two of his cousins, Geoff spoke a few words to honor a man that we will always remember as a loving grandfather, devoted husband, and faithful Christian. Shortly after the funeral most of the family left Amarillo to go back home to Lubbock or other places, so Geoff spent the afternoon with other friends from our old home church and then flew back the next day.

As April closed Geoff’s Mom flew down from Minnesota to spend a little over a week with us. It was good to see her and to introduce her to many of our new friends and church family. We got to go to Jamestown during the 400 year celebration and we walked around colonial Williamsburg and also saw some historic places around Richmond.

(Susan, Geoff, and Cheryl on the steps of a courthouse in Colonial Williamsburg)

We didn’t get up to Washington D.C. because of rain, but we’ll work it in next time! It was while Cheryl was here we discovered the tulip tree. We first noticed the unusual leaves and flowers on a relatively short tulip tree at a historic Pole Green church site, and then we realized we have two of them in our own yard. The great height of the tree canopy made it harder for us to identify the ones in our yard.

(historic Pole Green church and the tulip tree that first caught our eye)

In June Susan and Geoff both flew to San Antonio to participate in the annual Shelby user’s group meeting (now called the International Shelby Conference – ISC). Susan presented several sessions on using Microsoft Office effectively, and Geoff did sessions on using SQL to design custom reports. It was Susan’s first time to meet most of Geoff’s coworkers face-to-face, and it was nice to be back in Texas for awhile. The whole town was in a festive mood because the Spurs were in the playoffs, and the game was in San Antonio that week. We stayed in a hotel right next to the Alamo, so we walked past it every day we were there. We got some great pictures in front and from above.

Late in June, Susan's family came to visit - her mom, dad, sister, brother, and more came to our house for a mini-reunion. We knew it would be too great an opportunity to miss, so we hired a professional photographer to come capture the day.

July was a busy travel month for us both. We drove to Baltimore so that we could both take training in Microsoft Reporting Services, a tool we both use in our work. It was interesting to see more of the region, and the training was good, but we did not really get a chance to sightsee while we were up there because the training site was away from the harbor and the usual sightseeing opportunities. But the next week we took a short trip up to New York City and stayed in a Hilton very close to Central Park and Broadway. This was our second trip to the Big Apple (the first being on our honeymoon), and we enjoyed it despite having to “pay” for the trip by enduring a sales pitch for half a day on a condo investment. Our main entertainment on both trips was walking around Times Square and going to Broadway shows. This time we saw The Drowsy Chaperone, which was not hyped like some of the others, but was great fun nevertheless. The next night we went to The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, which was also fun. At one point the cast was practically standing on us as they came into the audience to sing to a “contestant” in the Bee who happened to be a lucky audience member who was invited to “participate” in the play by spelling some words in the first act. Geoff finished the month by flying to Memphis, with the goal of training others on the knowledge he had gained in Baltimore on Reporting Services. It was a good trip, and it was his first time to meet his new “boss,” as his previous supervisor had moved to a different department since ISC.

In August we continued our patronage of Broadway shows, although this time we went to a theater in Richmond to see Into the Woods. It was an intimate theater, with the stage in the center of a three-sided audience arrangement. The theater probably sat no more than 200 people. It was Susan’s first time to see the play, although it has been one of Geoff’s favorites for a long time. Geoff took another trip in August, this time back to Memphis again to participate in the planning of the national Shelby meeting next year and to spend some time “training the trainers.”

September was largely uneventful, though Geoff did take two trips that month. He drove to Alexandria to do “extreme reporting” training at Christ Church Episcopal (one of his favorite churches at which to train because it is a historic church connected with President George Washington) and later went to San Antonio to do some onsite training. While in San Antonio, Geoff took the opportunity to go to Max Lucado’s church on Wednesday evening and heard his preach on prayer. He also took the opportunity to eat at Taco Bueno and Whataburger, both food chains that we miss greatly in Virginia. While Geoff was in San Antonio, Susan taught the first class of a Wednesday night Bible study series on sin that we co-taught through October and up to the week before Thanksgiving, though Geoff’s travelling schedule kept him on the road for the weeks he wasn’t teaching.

On Thanksgiving Day, Susan cooked a turkey and made dressing and pumpkin bars. Then we packed them up and had our meal with the Raines’ family at their house. Rick Raines is the preacher at our church, and he and his wife Betsy have become good friends since we moved out here to Richmond. For “Black Friday” we did not get up before dawn and hit the stores, though we did eventually make it out to do some shopping before the sales all ended. In fact, we went to Garden Ridge about 11:45 p.m. Saturday night to pick up a pair of porch trees that were on special Sunday only. We checked out at 12:05 a.m. Sunday morning with the trees and got the special.

As we write this December has just begun, and we are trying very hard to get our Christmas cards in the mail early (or at least earlier) this season. Geoff has a trip to Memphis scheduled for the second full week of the month, and that weekend we are driving down to North Carolina to watch his sister Melody graduate from college and receive her diploma. After that, our Christmas plans are just to spend some time with friends and make some phone calls to family.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!

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