Category: Christmas

Catching up on life

The past few months have been an absolute whirlwind.  A new marriage, lots and lots of birthdays and anniversaries, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, a dance event, a skiing trip in Colorado, huge amounts of interpersonal drama, and new jobs for both Michael and myself have proven to be just about all that I can handle.

It is ironic that, although I have been writing more than I ever have in my entire life, I think it’s the longest I’ve been silent on this blog since I started it.  Most of my time lately has been taken up writing for my new blog, forgingsignificance.com.  Right after the wedding I spent several weeks working on some quillwork for an artists’ market at my church, but since about mid-December I have officially taken the plunge and started working full-time toward becoming a freelance writer.

Since then, my days have consisted of lots of website tweaking and beating the pavement trying to submit articles to other sites.  I’ve consistently written at least twice a week on my own blog for several months now, as well as already had 3 articles accepted in other places.  Sometimes it’s frustrating and feels like I’m not making any progress; but then I remind myself that I’ve really only been at this a few weeks, and that helps puts things into perspective for me.

This post is just a brief summary, both for your sakes and mine, of what I’ve been doing the past few months.  Hopefully I’ll be able to write more regularly on here now that I’m in the swing of things :).

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Michael and I had the opportunity to go visit my New Jersey grandparents in October, just a few weeks after we were married.  I was so grateful that Michael had the chance to meet them both, but especially my grandfather, as he ended up passing away just a few weeks later.  We all miss him a lot.  He left quite a legacy.

I was able to do a few fall-specific things, like carve a pumpkin with Michael, meet my friend Sarah in Ellijay for their Apple Festival, and go to the Perry fair with my mom and younger siblings.  That was a really fun afternoon.  Perry is about half-way between Atlanta and Albany, so we met in the middle and made a day trip of it.  It’s hard to develop a relationship with your siblings when you live far away and they can’t drive and don’t have cell phones, so I’m always grateful for the opportunities that we do get.

I once again hosted a Christmas party this year, except this time I did 3 days in a row of Christmas parties!  We took this idea from a friend, and the thought was to try to incorporate as many people as possible, while also making an effort to focus on different aspects of the Christmas season.  So the first night was “celebrating friends,” which was basically my normal Christmas party.  I made dinner, we played games, decorated gingerbread cookies, etc.  One of the games was a new one – I wrapped little treats in saran wrap and made people unwrap the ball with oven mitts on.  It was actually a lot more fun than I expected!  You can read more about that here.

The other 2 nights were “celebrating others” and “celebrating God,” where we wrote letters to troops and did a lessons and carols service, respectively.  We had almost a completely different group every night, and it was really a lot of fun!  I was definitely tired by the end of day 3, though :).

One of the highlights of the last few months was New Year’s Eve.  Michael and I spontaneously decided to go to Birmingham for the night.  And it was really so much fun!  We hung out, played games, watched the ball drop, and enjoyed a great breakfast the next morning with people we love.  Nothing different from what usually happens when I go to Birmingham for NYE, but considering how much drama has been swirling around Michael and I lately, it was a welcome and much-needed respite.  You can read more about that trip here.

I also really enjoyed my birthday celebration a few days later.  It was a pretty low-key affair, but I was surrounded by some of my favorite people in the world (including my mother-in-law, who had just had knee surgery and could hardly walk!  It really meant a lot that she made the effort to come out.  I have great in-laws).  We had a potluck dinner and then went to downtown Atlanta to see the Christmas lights in Centennial Park.  The lights were gorgeous, and we even got a funnel cake!  I suppose that was my pseudo birthday cake, haha.

Several of my friends also brought gifts to the potluck, and as I opened them, I was overwhelmed by just how thoughtful they all were.  These people who had come to celebrate me together really cared about me.  I know it seems silly, as most people would say it’s obvious that I’m cared about…but when it feels like you’re being surrounded by selfish emotional drama on all sides, it’s easy to lose sight of that fact.  It was a wonderful night to be reminded that I’m cared for.

We went on a ski trip 2 weekends ago – Michael’s first time!  It was bitterly cold, but a lot of fun.  Even though I’ve been skiing several times before, I actually ended up being a lot more sore than he was.  I think I was so scared from how fast I thought I was going that every muscle in my entire body ended up tensing up, lol.  But we both made it through the day in one piece, so I count that as a victory! 🙂

All that aside, Michael and I have been trying to focus on taking care of ourselves and getting into a regular schedule.  We’ve become connected with a small group at church that focuses on outreach to internationals in Atlanta.  I’ve really enjoyed getting to know them.  I’ve also started part-time work teaching a beginner ESL class twice a week.  It’s quite a challenge when you have Spanish, Chinese, AND Russian speakers, and there’s no telling how many people will actually show up!

Now that things are starting to calm down a bit, I’m hoping to be able to update both blogs.  But for the most regular updates, be sure to head over to my new site (forgingsignificance.com) and sign up for my newsletter!  I always post there on Mondays and Wednesdays.

The most wonderful time of the year

I have been looking forward to Christmas time since….well, probably since last Christmas, really.  It is definitely the most wonderful time of the year for me.  I love the lights, the weather, the foods, the gifts, the music (I am one of those people who start playing Christmas music in October)…it’s just such a festive, beautiful time of year.  I always do everything I can to make the most of it. Because I enjoy the season so much, Christmas festivities always start very early for me.  I think that the kick off this year would probably be the Tour of Homes that I took Michael on for a date in early December.  I don’t know what it is about home tours, but I find them exceedingly fascinating and enjoyable.  I’ve always enjoyed riding around and looking at homes from the outside…perhaps it’s just the extension of that activity that I find so much fun.  Whatever the reason, it was a blast.  There were 7 homes and 1 historic church on the tour, although we only made it to 6 homes before it ended for the day.  But even so, it was worth our time.  All of the homes were gorgeous, and on top of that most were decked out in all of their Christmas glory.  There were also different restaurants from around town that were offering food tastings at all of the houses.  We had apple and cheese wedges and a fancy meat and olive sampler and grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup and key lime pie dessert shooters and lobster bisque and I’m forgetting the other one but they were all DELICIOUS.  Oh, and gawking at the gorgeous houses was pretty fun too, of course :).

The tour of homes was followed shortly thereafter with Michael taking me to see A Christmas Carol at the Alliance Theater, which was FABULOUS.  I’ve wanted to go see that for years, but could never muster up the willingness to bite the bullet and pay the steep admission costs.  But Michael finally got me there, and it was totally worth it.  The set was beautifully done, and the actors and musical numbers were brilliant.  This version of the classic story also had a marked “gospel music” feel to many of the characters and songs, which was a new and enjoyable twist to a very well-known story.

A week or so later was my company Christmas party.  Michael has gone every year since the tradition was started, but this of course was my first time.  The highlight of the Brightlink Christmas party is the gingerbread house competition.  There are 3 rules – things can be prepared in advance, but nothing can be assembled ahead of time; everything must be edible; and you only have 1 hour to assemble your house once the contest gets going.  Some of the entries have gotten quite impressive.  There have been nativity scenes, a barn, an iconic building on the Georgia Tech campus, and an angry birds fight that involved a blowtorch and flaming marshmallows launched in a catapult-like contraption, just to name a few.  Employees are generally paired into teams with their spouses, but since Michael and I are dating we were also put into a team together.  Before this year, the gingerbread house that Michael was most known for was “Snowpacolypse” – he knew he wouldn’t get a house standing, so he put a bunch of marshmallows over the battered gingerbread and said a snowstorm had come through.  Oh dear.  I had actually never before built a gingerbread house in my life, but I knew that I wanted to at least get one standing, lol.

What we ended up with actually far exceeded my expectations.  We decided on a “beach house” theme, and I spent a long time the weekend before prepping everything I could beforehand.  I even made the gingerbread – Michael said that it look liked it had been store bought, a comment which I considered high praise, indeed.  We dyed blue icing for the water, made some grey icing for the mortar on the walls, and used a variety of different types of food to make the designs and textures that we were going for.  Some of my favorites included dried dates for the stones on the walls, triscuits for the roof, green peppers for the trees, fruit roll-ups for the towel and hammock, and crushed up cheerios for the sand.  It was fantastic!  I was so very pleased with the result….winning “chef’s choice” (the caterer’s vote) was just icing on the gingerbread (pun very much intended, haha)!

And then, of course, I also hosted my own Christmas party before leaving for Albany.  It is becoming a tradition – this is the third year that I’ve done it.  It was a blast, as always.  And this time I didn’t try to cram all of the prep work into a single day, which meant that I had enough energy to actually enjoy it by the time that people started showing up.  We had a nice dinner, decorated gingerbread cookies, played some Christmas games, made some silly photos in front of the Christmas tree, and then did a white elephant gift exchange that was really a blast.  Last year about 2/3 of the gifts were some form of chocolate, so this year I forbade anyone from bringing that, and it seemed to ignite people’s creative juices when it came to white elephant gift-buying.  There were books, and funny hats, and blankets, and house decorations, and even a bungee-cord chair.  That’s the one I ended up with :).  I really do very much enjoy hosting, and I love Christmas, and so throwing this Christmas party has probably become one of my favorite events that I host all year.

After the bustle of celebrating Christmas in Atlanta, though, it was nice to have a toned-down week in Albany.  Michael came with me, but we had very little in the way of planned activities.  One night we all went out to see Christmas lights, my grandfather took us out to dinner once, I went clothes or grocery shopping with various members of my family, and we watched several movies together (if you haven’t seen Annie yet, go see it!  It’s fantastic).  And then Michael cooked dinner for my entire family the last night that he was here to celebrate my birthday, which was lovely.  He really blessed all of us a lot over the course of the week.  But overall, Christmas week was a pretty low week, which was just what I needed.  A little R&R is a great way to start a new year! 🙂

Extending the season

Well Christmas is over, the decorations have been put back into the attic for another year, the ball has dropped on December 31st, and I’ve started school again.  However, I’m not quite ready to let Christmas go just yet, so I’ve decided to extend the season just a little bit more by writing about my Christmas escapades from after my Oregon visit.

After returning to Atlanta, I hung out there for a few days.  I had bought tickets for mom and I to go see the Nutcracker ballet at the Fox theater the upcoming weekend, and there was really no sense in driving home to Albany only to turn around and come back up 2 days later.  I made the most of my time while I was waiting, though; the most memorable trip definitely being the one to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens.  Every year the Botanical Gardens are transformed into a magical winter light extravaganza.  My camera, while very good, does not even come close to doing it justice.  But I did my best :).

Christmas went by in a blur.  I’m used to spending weeks at home over winter break; it was very strange only having a little more than a week in Albany before heading back to Atlanta.  Chris and Julia came down for a few days around Christmastime.  It was nice to see them.  Having the entire family together all in one place is getting rarer and rarer these days.

After they left, I had a few days with just the family before our old friends the Roberts came into town.  We played games, and went out to dinner once (and were rather silly while there – I’m somewhat surprised we didn’t get kicked out of the restaurant, hehehe), and read books…much the same as what we did once the Roberts got here, actually.  Except Josh also got his learner’s permit.  Oh…my…word.  Such a terrifying thought to think that my baby brother is driving!!  😉  Well, I suppose time does march on, doesn’t it?  It has to, or we wouldn’t already be a week into 2014 :).  Updates from my awesome birthday festivities coming up next!

Can you believe he’s got a license now?!?

The whole gang!!

Matt’s reading a book called “The man who loved books too much.”  I thought it was a fitting title 🙂

Christmas is coming…

…the goose is getting fat!  Actually, I have no idea how fat the rhetorical goose is, nor do I have any plans on buying a literal goose, but I do know that Christmas really is coming!  Just a few days away at this point!  Eek!  School and Christmas-y things have been keeping me busy for sure.  There’s not much about school that I particularly want to talk about, other than the fact that it was really hard, but I managed to get all A’s; but there’s plenty of Christmas updates that I have!

The lights, the music, the decorations…everything about Christmas sends a thrill through me.  I absolutely love this time of year.  I dragged a few of my friends with me to Atlantic Station, to see the official lighting of the enormous Christmas tree that they had erected in the middle of the plaza.  The lighting of the tree was actually somewhat of a letdown – there’s only so much fanfare you can have when all that’s happening is a cord getting plugged into an outlet – but they had fireworks afterward, which more than made up for that :).

My church also had a volunteer Christmas dinner at the end of November.  It’s an event that the staff puts on every year, in which they invite all of the church volunteers to a big fancy dinner to thank them for their service.  That was a blast.  As you can see from the pictures below, the people at my church can definitely be clowns…regardless of how dressed up they might be, lol…

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Matt, Amy, and Elizabeth – some amazing friends right there!!

As sort of a last hurrah, I hosted a Christmas party for a bunch of my friends the last Saturday of the semester.  I had hosted a potluck party last year (you can read about that here), but this year I wanted to put a bit more effort into it.  Rather than have people bring stuff, I made the whole meal – the pièce de résistance was a pork tenderloin that I marinated in a honey and brown sugar glaze.  Super yummy!!  Since I’m in a much bigger place now, I also had the space to be able to plan a few more activities this time around.  So we played a few games, did a white elephant gift exchange, decorated gingerbread cookies that I had made in advance, and overall just had a splendid time.  Most of my best friends from Atlanta, and all of my roommates were able to be there.  I felt very blessed, indeed.  And then I promptly fell asleep after they all left – considering it was the first real party that I planned and hosted all by myself, I may have overreached a bit.  I was exhausted by the end of the night.  Was so totally worth it, though :).

L-R: Chelsea and Kelsey

L-R: Lauren, her fiance Michael, Matt, Jonathan, Jessica, and little Nicholas

This is such a fitting hat for Jonathan…

Decorating the gingerbread cookies…

As a bit of a side note…I went to see some of my relatives in the north Georgia mountains with my dear friend Elizabeth way back in October.  It’s not Christmas-y, but I have nowhere else to put the pictures from that trip, so it’s just getting tacked onto the bottom of this post.  We just went up for the day, to get away from school and visit my family and see the beautiful fall colors.  It was a lovely day :).  Pictures are below – enjoy!

Hitting the ground running

Well I returned to Atlanta the end of July, but since then I’ve spent a grand total of 5 days in the city.  Since I stayed in Albany all summer, I had to squeeze all of my traveling into just a few weeks :).  First stop was Tallulah Falls, for a retreat with my church.  I had been feeling so spiritually dry for such a long time, and God really spoke to me in a way that He hadn’t for a while.  I’m so glad that I went – I almost didn’t.  It was a really powerful weekend.  Exhausting, but totally worth it.

I spent the night before the retreat with Elizabeth.  Check out our culinary skills!

The retreat site was lovely….the cabins, not so much 😉

This was the main auditorium.  It had signs with names, dates, and locations of people who had been to the camp before us – dating all the way back to the early 1930’s.  It was a fascinating glimpse of history…

The next week, my family picked me up on their way to Pigeon Forge, and we all went up there for a weekend vacation.  It was far too short, but wonderful regardless.  We went swimming, explored the town, and played shuffleboard and tennis together.  On Saturday, we split up.  The boys went to a huge knife store – over 2 million knives of all types!! – and mom and Hope and I went to a Christmas extravaganza place.  Oh…my…word.  There were more Christmas things there than I’ve ever seen in my entire life.  Combined.  Thousands and thousands of Santa Clauses.  Every single type of ornament you could ever imagine….and then some.  Tinsel, and glitter, and candy canes, and music boxes.  There were glass balls, Christmas trees, and nutcrackers of every color and variety. I felt like it was a Christmas version of Skittles.  Instead of Skittles: Taste the Rainbow, the slogan of this place should have been The Nutcracker: See the Rainbow.

Both of my brothers tower over me now!

Oh, Josh….ever the comedian

This was the outside of the Christmas place

This tree was just Hope’s style… 

Some of the many types of nutcrackers we saw…

This music box played the most beautiful music!

 I also took my siblings to a place called The Track.  We all did one round of go-carts racing.  After that, my sister and I played a round of mini golf, while the boys did another race.  They had such a blast.  And I had a blast just being with them.  They’re growing up so fast!  And so well…I’m very proud of them :).

The 3 Musketeers at The Track


My last week of freedom before school resumed again, I went to North Carolina to visit my grandparents.  It had been a while since I’d seen them, so I was really grateful to be able to spend a few days of uninterrupted time with them.  I got to hear some fantastic stories from both of their pasts.  Man, kids who don’t take the time to listen to what their grandparents have to say are really missing out on a lot…  My last night there, Pa helped me make crab cakes, and then while they were both gone that afternoon, I made the rest of dinner.  They were so surprised!  I was delighted to be able to do it for them :).

The final product

But now I’m back at Georgia Tech, trying to hit the ground running.  Pray for me!  Of course, if past experience is any indication, I never really stop running, so it shouldn’t be too much of a problem ;).

Christmas break part 1

Well, after a long hiatus, Sinbad has returned!  Hopefully I’ll be able to be a bit more regular in my writings this semester! 🙂  But I can now officially say that I survived my first semester of graduate education!  It was a really tough semester, so I’m really pleased to be able to say that I survived :D.

The one good thing about being a graduate student, is that there are no finals in grad school!  So, I was able to leave about a week and a half earlier than everyone else, which was wonderful, to say the least. The latter half of my Christmas break was frenetically crazy, so having an extra week at the beginning of the month to just relax at home was just delicious.  I got to be home for both Josh and Matt’s birthday (and see their graduation from white to yellow belt in karate!), decorated the tree with my siblings, went to a tacky sweater party as a family, drove around looking at Christmas lights, and overall just had a grand time together.  I’m so blessed to have a family that loves me so much :).  It was even better this year, because last year my Christmas was so squeezed, since I only had 2 weeks of leave to be home from Korea.  I think having such a crazy holiday last year made me appreciate the extra relaxing time even more this time around.

Mom made a homemade ice cream cake for Josh and Matt’s birthday

The brand-new yellow belts! 🙂

My shirt is snoopy, and I’m holding a Charlie Brown ornament.  I thought it was cute… 😉

My family really got into the tacky sweater party

Mom and I dressed a bit more conservatively 🙂

Right before Christmas, however, the mayhem began!  Together with my family, I drove several thousand miles – right around 3000 – within the span of 2 1/2 weeks.  The whirlwind tour began in North Carolina, with a visit to my dad’s parents.  They took us to WonderWorks, the same hands-on science museum that I went to in Orlando late last year (check out this link to read about that).  And it was just as fun the second time around!  Maybe even more, actually, since this time I went with my beloved family :).

The whole family (plus Jan!) in front of WonderWorks

Indoor ropes course!

Even mom went up!  I was so proud!! 🙂

After North Carolina, we went even farther north, spending Christmas in New Jersey with my mom’s parents.  We did a bit of visiting, a bit of helping them move and get unpacked, a bit of hanging out; and then it was time to move on again!  After 3 days spent with each set of grandparents, we headed back down to Georgia.  It was quite a whirlwind tour, and exhausting to say the least; but really wonderful at the same time.  I get to see my grandparents so infrequently; getting to see all of them within the same week was just unheard-of happiness! 🙂  More about the latter half of my Christmas break in the next update!

Wrapping things up

Well I’ve been doing a lot of wrapping lately – both literally and figuratively.  This semester has had a lot of things to be wrapped up as I finish up and prepare to go home for Christmas.  My church had an appreciation dinner for all of the volunteers; that was a lot of fun.  It was a formal event, but they also had lots of games and silly dancing and such – the best of both worlds!  I love the fact that my church loves the Lord so much, but also knows how to have fun :).

I hosted a potluck the week before I left Atlanta.  It was sort of a “good-luck-with-finals-have-a-good-Christmas-break-I-love-you-all-immensely-so-let’s-have-some-fun-and-stress-relief” sort of deal.  Most of them didn’t know each other, as I had met them all from different circles, but we got together and had dinner and played lots of games and shared lots of laughter together.  I love it when my friends meet each other – it’s even better when they get along! 😉  Plus I made homemade chocolate truffles for everyone, which always makes things better…. 😀

I also said goodbye to my house church.  I’m going to have to take a class during our meeting time next semester, so I’ll have to change house churches.  It’ll be a while before we get together as a group again.  But we all have each other’s numbers, and I’ll still be in the same city, so I’m confident it’s not really goodbye.  Plus, it gives me the opportunity to get to make a whole ‘nuther set of friends at my new house church! 🙂

In other wrapping news…this year I finished almost all of my Christmas shopping before December!  I wanted to complete the stuff for my Atlanta friends before I left town, and so I decided I’d just go ahead and do them all while I was at it.  I actually ended up making pretty much all of my Christmas presents this year, which has been really fun to do – photo calendars, and homemade chocolate truffles, and glass etched things, yada yada yada.  I’ve been a Christmas-present-making fiend over the past few days, hehe.

But anyway, that’s basically all of my news!   I went home to Albany after classes ended, spent a whirlwind 2 weeks there getting organized and doing Christmas-y things with my family, and then was off again to visit family and friends over the break.  More on that in the next update :). So I can finally say that I’ve officially survived my first semester of graduate school – woohoo!!!!!  I hope the next one is a bit easier…..

Volunteer appreciation dinner at my church
The food was soooooo yummyyyyyy

Matt and Elizabeth, 2 very dear friends 🙂

My house church is silly 🙂

Potlucks!  Even more yummy food!!!

There and back again

Well my nerdy book-worm friends will recognize the title of this blog as a reference to J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit,” which I suppose is rather fitting considering the fact that I’ve just spent the better part of an hour downloading dozens of free literary classics onto my Kindle to keep me occupied during my numerous upcoming flights.  But other than that, there is really nothing relating to Tolkien or Middle Earth or Hobbits in this blog.  This one is about Christmastime in America :).

The trip to America was long and boring, but I would not go so far as to say grueling.  It was uneventful, and marked mostly by sitting and watching movies, but not a particularly pleasant trip, nonetheless.  I started at 2 in the morning from Gyeongju, catching a bus to the airport in Seoul.  I met a girl from California while I was waiting on my flight who was doing the same thing I was, and we got some coffee and had a nice long chat.  It was a much better way to pass the time than just sitting in a corner of the airport :).  So anyway, 1 bus, 2 planes, 3 customs and security checks, 4 airplane meals, and 27 hours later, I finally found myself in Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International airport.  My friend Sylvain met me at the airport.  We got some airport pizza, he got a good laugh at seeing me so completely jet-lagged, we caught up for a little bit, and then I took a shuttle to Columbus, where my family was there waiting for me.  Actually, I ended up waiting for them for a little bit, but it was ok, because I got to meet lots of interesting people while I waited.  I had forgotten how much I enjoy striking up random conversations with strangers I meet in my travels.  That’s not really something I can do in Korea, as usually there is a pretty large language barrier that makes communication of any depth really impossible.

So anyway, my first week in America was marked mainly by just spending time with family and friends, punctuated by Christmas, my birthday celebration, and visits from Grandparents.  I went on a picnic with my friend Tyler, saw the new Sherlock Holmes movie with James, took daddy to see Mission Impossible, and played lots and lots of games with my siblings.  I went to a Christmas Eve Eve service at my church on the 23rd, got a hair cut and a pedicure with my mom, and went shopping with my grandmother.  Christmas day was a relaxing affair – we waited to open presents until after church, and then just hung around and visited with each other.  It was also the only day that I got to see Chris, which was a nice treat.  Mom and I hosted a tea at our house with some of her lady friends who had been wanting to meet me, which was fun – I’ve been wanting to meet them, too, and I haven’t had a real tea in years.  Then my grandparents came down to visit on the 27th, and stayed until the 30th, so I got to spend a lot of time with them, too.  That was awesome – it had been close to a year since I’d seen them.

Josh’s birthday present – Joshua 1:7 in Korean

Tyler’s Christmas present – Kimchi!!  He was so happy 🙂

My first picnic in years 🙂

She’s such a cutie pie <3

The Fenner family, all together!  Such a rarity these days…

Merry Christmas!!!

I love, love this picture!!

Spreading the Korea love….

Yay for seeing grandparents!! 🙂

Tea with the ladies! 🙂

Haha we’re silly 😀

Christmas presents from the host family 🙂

On the 30th, we packed everything up and made the long drive to Birmingham, Alabama, to spend New Year’s Eve with our friends the Roberts’.  This has been an annual tradition with our families every year for as long as I can remember – we take turns hosting each other in our respective homes, and it’s always a lot of fun.  However, I haven’t been able to be present for several years for one reason or the other – usually it’s because I’m out of the country, lol – so it was especially nice for me.  So we had lots of fun, played lots of games, watched the ball drop in New York City (and for a special treat, watched the moon pie drop in Mobile, Alabama!  Gotta love the south, lol….), went to church, and then headed back home.

Games with the Roberts’ are always super intense, lol…

Happy new year!!

Friends… <3

On the way back to Albany, my parents dropped me off in Atlanta.  So that was goodbye to my family, and hello to Atlanta.  Bittersweet for sure, but it was good to see my friends in Atlanta.  So Rachel and her fiance Ryan picked me up from my parents, and we wasted no time.  That night was spent playing putt-putt with J-Parr, and then going to Jonathan and Jessica’s house and playing games until wayyyy too late at night.

The next day, January 2nd, was the day before my 22nd birthday.  However, since my 22nd birthday was going to be spent on a plane, the 2nd was the celebration day.  I got to watch the tournament of roses parade (my favorite parade…ever!) for the first time in like 3 years.  After that came lunch with David and the Knights and then more games.  And then the evening came.  What started off as a simple dinner with friends morphed, because of my fabulous friends, into a full-blown birthday dance.  They even had a steal dance just for me.  As I was looking around the dance room at all of these dear faces, half of whom didn’t even dance, but had come just to see me, I was overwhelmed.  I felt so loved.  It was a wonderful way to wrap up my visit to the states.

They were calling me the “princess” because of what I was wearing.  I think that’s why I was making that face, lol.  But…I did win the game!! 🙂

Soon-to-be newlyweds….love those guys

Jonathan and Jessica
Me ‘n David 
Old friends from Berry <3

again….spreading the Korea love.  What can I say?  It’s infectious 🙂

My friends are silly 🙂

Yay for sisters 🙂

So, armed with my suitcases and enveloped with the wonderful new jacket that they had bought me for my birthday, Rachel and Ryan took me to the airport early the next morning.  I was fighting a cold, but I sat next to a really friendly lady on the plane who made the trip a whole lot more bearable.  When I finally arrived in Seoul, the plan was to meet Sarah and Leora and Adam and go up to Hwacheon to see the ice festival.  So I met them and they gave me a little birthday party and it was great to see them.  But by then I was REALLY sick, so instead of going north to Hwacheon, I went south to Gyeongju.  I know my limits, and that would have been just too much.

Brand-new fiancees!  And I get to be in the wedding!! <3 

So I finally got home to Gyeongju…and my host father took one look at me and hauled me off to the hospital.  Within an hour, and after much poking and prodding, I found myself with an IV needle sticking in my arm and a bagful of medicine.  Add to that extreme jet-lag, and my host mom’s constant fussing and overprotectiveness was NOT appreciated.  All I wanted to do was sleep, and that was the one thing they didn’t seem to want to let me do.  Although I must say, sleeping with a needle in your arm is most certainly not the most pleasant sensation.

Today, the next day, was mostly spent in bed, with a short foray into town to swap stories with Elizabeth.  I’m glad I got to see her – I needed to get out of the house, and I think talking with her restored a sense of normalcy and acceptance to being in Korea again, which I had been lacking since my arrival.  So yeah, that was America!  Winter camp starts in 2 days – keep me in your prayers!!  I’m super nervous about it – I’ve never done anything like this before.  I’ll have my students for more time in the span of 2 weeks than I had them for the entire semester, and I’m terrified that I will run out of material.  I guess it’ll just be another chance for God to show His bigness!! 🙂