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:
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.
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.