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Monday, December 31, 2012

Christmas Ribbon

One of the most beautiful subtleties of Christmas is the way each year notches out a little nest in the timeline of our memories. It is one day each year we remember with great attention to detail. While we forget what we wore, or where we were, on Monday, March 14th or the third Thursday in August, we can recall details from past Christmases in great detail; like the texture of silk on our porcelain doll's pinafore and the way the ruffles of our Christmas dress chaffed our legs in the pew sitting next to Grandma at church. We recall the care we took to paint an awkward Rudolph that still finds his way onto your mother’s tree. We can remember hiding from the “stench” of lutefisk in the basement at our Great Aunt’s house; then later sitting with our noses pressed against the cool glass, our breath creating wreaths of fog on the window, watching for any sign of Santa’s sleigh. These memories float easily to mind each Christmas, arousing our senses and flooding our head and our heart with nostalgia and appreciation.
The timeline of our memory ceases to be ordinal. That ribbon of time holding memories of Christmases past bends, folding back and forth, back and forth, condensing time and allowing us to live Christmases past and present simultaneously. In this way, we are able to keep the spirit and traditions of family members that are no longer with us on Christmas Day very much alive.
This year, the Thoe cousins went caroling wrapped up in coats and cloaks that have been passed down from our mother’s, grandma’s and great aunties. To the surprise of our great aunts, we showed up at their door on Dec 23rd and sang through “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”, followed by a funky version of "Joy to the World". We thought we sounded pretty good when we were breakin' it down... until we heard ourselves on video!  
In Oshkosh, we  shared a very poignant moment; one that will now be woven into the fabric of our Christmas memories for many years to come.  
December 14, 2011 my Uncle Leon passed away unexpectedly. Last Christmas was the worst I can remember, and yet it was a miracle in its own right. Leon's passing right before the holidays allowed the family to come together for an extended period during a very difficult time. We spent Christmas laughing at old stories, sharing our grief, comforting one another and healing. 

Christmas was his favorite time of year, and this year his big presence (and recipes) were notably absent from the festivities. Jim and Candy surprised everyone when they brought out 20 large lanterns after dinner. The roar of excitement that inevitably rumbles when the Luker clan is together calmed to a hush. We quietly filtered out of the living room into the backyard, through knee-deep snow out onto a little bridge all four of my uncles built for my grandparents’ four-wheelers years ago. Incidentally, the last time the whole family was together with Uncle Leon we took a picture on the very same bridge. We lit the lanterns and watched them sail out over the Luker farm.  At Leon's funeral each cousin placed an item that represented their favorite memories with Leon onto a fir tree. The tree was covered with fishing lures, arrows, camouflage, blaze orange, gun shells and cooking utensils. Last spring, the tree was planted near a four-wheeler trail overlooking a little meadow and the forest. The wind caught the lanterns and carried them directly over that little tree.
Had any children been watching with their nose pressed up to a window nearby, they would surely have mistaken the bobbing lanterns for Santa’s sleigh and eight tiny reindeer.            

Friday, December 28, 2012

Drew's Very First Christmas Letter

This year we sent out our very first Christmas letter. In the Imes family, men take Christmas letter duty very seriously. I really enjoyed Drew's first rendition!

Hope you enjoy our Cyber version of the Christmas Card! If you are reading this, you are probably someone we know and love. We are thankful for you and hope to see you often in 2013!

Growing up is hard. Your first few years of life are genuinely awesome. You get to run around naked, play with toys all day, and generally speaking, aren’t expected to do much at all except eat, sleep, and eventually sit on a toilet. Life as a toddler is so great that people think you’re cute even if you puke or soil yourself. After those childhood years though, life begins to make demands: Get good grades, get a job, find your own place to live, pay the bills, do this, do that, don’t soil yourself. They say these things are just part of growing up; part of becoming an adult. Well, what if you don’t want to be an adult? What if you don’t want to cross that line from being young and exuberant and full of potential to becoming old and boring and hopeless? “Too bad” they say, “It’s impossible, you have to grow up.” Well, I’ve always clung to the hope that I was winning the battle with age, that I would stay young at heart forever and never become a boring-old adult. But alas, I now realize that I have lost the war, for the day a person writes their first family Christmas letter is the day their childhood officially dies. Therefore, by writing this Imes Family Christmas Letter, on this 6th day of December, 2012, I now declare that I am truly an old and lame adult. God forgive me.

Besides falling into the dark abyss of adulthood, 2012 has been one heck of a great year. I’ll start with the biggest and best news, which of course, is that I grew a mustache. Wait, no, I mean, Amanda and I got married!! Yes, this was and continues to be the best thing that has ever happened to me, and Amanda agrees, that it is the best thing that has happened to me. Our marriage was on August 3rd at the Mayowood Stone Barn in Rochester, MN. Most of you reading this were probably there, so I won’t go into great detail. I will say, however, that despite the average temperature of 197 degrees (in the shade), it was the most amazing wedding that mankind has ever witnessed. The only thing that overshadowed the wedding was the bride herself. She was, (the following statement has been proven to be true by various unbiased scientific communities), the most beautiful bride ever. Period.

So the wedding was a big part of the year. Unbeknownst to me, it takes a certain amount of planning and preparation to make a wedding happen. You have to collect buckets of rocks from the shores of Lake Superior and very nearly break your wrists hauling them up a steep hill back to the house where you will use them to make candles and other crafty things. You have to scour Craigslist looking for hundreds of mason jars and then go to these strangers’ homes hoping that they are not a serial killer or some sort of deranged lonely widow. You have to search the countryside for a certain type of plant/flower that you bundle up, tie up, and then hang from every possible space in your small condo to let dry. Oh, there is also the small matter of collecting dozens of shepherd’s hooks, which, if you are educated like me, now know that these are things you hang flowers from and not the actual hooks used by shepherds to tend their flocks. And don’t forget the invites. No, you cannot forget the invites. But if you are a male, please do not attempt to surprise your lovely fiancĂ© by preparing the invites yourself. You will most certainly put the cards in backwards, use the wrong stickers, and forget to include a vital piece of information.

Bosco, our French Bulldog, also played a major role in the wedding. No, he wasn’t the ringbearer, but he did manage to get lost five minutes before Amanda and I were supposed to be at our ceremony. It’s true, as we were leaving the Thoe Farm to get married we realized that Bosco was missing. We looked and yelled and yelled and looked, but we couldn’t find him. Eventually, people told us we HAD to go and some volunteers stayed behind to find the worthless mutt. Surprisingly, having a lost dog, possibly a dead dog, on your wedding day, is not something young girls dream of when they sit around and plan their weddings. So we both arrived at our wedding ceremony with heavy hearts, until… hallelujah!!!!...a report came in that Bosco was found in someone’s’ car nearly, but not totally, baked to death. Bosco is alive to this very day.       

We did do more than just have a wedding this year. In March we went out to Colorado with a group of friends to get in some spring skiing/snowboarding. We skied from morning to night for about seven days straight. The girls took a day off from skiing to take a hike up to Hanging Lake, which, when all was said and done, the guys were jealous of. In all, we skied Keystone, Copper, Vail, and Beaver Creek. To give you an idea about what the weather was like, after skiing all day, we would swim in the outdoor pool at our hotel. It was definitely a lifestyle we could get used to.

In June we went to Alaska to visit the Alaskan Imes Family, which consists of our two beautiful nieces Anna and Mara, their lovely mother Maren, and my “special” brother Nate. It was an amazing trip. The best part was seeing the family, but climbing mountains, kayaking with sea otters, fishing for halibut, and eating elk hotdogs were okay too. A memory Amanda and I will always cherish is climbing the Blacktail Rocks via Mount Baldy in Eagle River, Alaska. This was a pretty legitimate scramble up a steep snowcapped peak. We stopped before the snowline (in June!) and shared a miniature bottle of wine and took in the view from what looked like the top of the world. The wind was so powerful it felt like it would blow us off the jagged cliffs, so we holed up in a little cranny until we felt rested enough to begin the long descent. I think we both could have stayed up there forever, but that was before the wolves began to howl. Amanda might have set a mountaineering record for the fastest descent of Mount Baldy. Alaska is a huge and wild place, and we both can’t wait to visit the Alaskan Imes family there again.

Let’s see here, what else? Ah yes, we also went to the Bahamas for our honeymoon. Neither of us had ever taken a dedicated “beach” vacation so this was our attempt to do so. Amanda had no idea where we were going until we were at the airport and we arrived at the gate which said: “Destination - Nassau”. Amanda got really excited for a minute, and then she realized she didn’t know where “Nassau” was. If it wasn’t for the unfortunate invention of smartphones and Facebook, she wouldn’t have known where we were going until we actually touched down on the island. The trip was fantastic, yet not quite so relaxing as one might expect. You see, being the savvy shopper that I am, I found a beautiful bungalow on the beach for a surprisingly modest price. The only caveat was, it was part of a Yoga Retreat. Well, Amanda loves yoga so I didn’t think that doing yoga once or twice would be a big deal. Little did I know that guests were expected to do 4 hours of yoga and 4 hours of meditation/crazy chanting a day! However, through conversations with other guests, it quickly became apparent that you could skip stuff without fear of punishment. To be fair, the Yoga Retreat was great. It was like a jungle oasis on the beach. We also stayed in a former buccaneer’s mansion which has become the oldest hotel in the country. It was very classy with beautiful art and furniture, a 4-Diamond restaurant, a guy that rolls you fresh cigars, an in-house chocolatier, bottles of wine worth $200,000, and the delightful company of the father and son Italian Mafia owners and their overly-dramatic Mafia wives and daughters. Lastly, we stayed at the Hilton British Colonial Inn where we had access to the VIP lobby on the top floor where you get free food and drinks. Swimming with dolphins and being attacked by schools of rabid fish while snorkeling the barrier reefs are some other highlights of the honeymoon trip.

Okay, I have to start wrapping things up now, but there is still so much left. We are both really pumped to have my new sister-in-law Bonnie and my “special” brother-in-law TJ live here in Minnesota. They moved up from Texas in August and it is great to be able to spend time with them. We all went and chopped down our Christmas trees and walked a Spruce Maze (the girls cheated of course) a week or so ago. We are looking forward to many more adventures with them in the near future, as long as the girls promise not to cheat anymore.

Amanda is a busy bee. She is working part time at the Department of Revenue researching the effect of online sales on the state’s sales tax revenue. She also works ten hours a week working for a professor to research the effectiveness of university extension programs. Oh, and she goes to graduate school fulltime. She will get her Master’s Degree when she finishes her thesis in early Spring. She also found time to go on a trip to South Africa through her graduate program. In Cape Town she went to the top of Table Mountain, frolicked with monkeys, and took a day-trip to the southernmost tip of Africa, Cape Point. She also went on a safari, stayed at some really authentic ranches, fell in love with a meerkat, and observed that South African men still wear really short and tight cut-off jean shorts. If you haven’t noticed, I was not on this trip. Am I bitter about that? Yes. Do I tell Amanda that I am going to go on a cool trip by myself? Yes. Am I really going to take a trip by myself? No.

I still work at the Department of Revenue full-time doing boring stuff. I also coach a freestyle snowboard team for 9-12 year old kids. On top of that, I am working part time at REI, which is a big outdoor recreational equipment store.

We live in condo in downtown St. Paul, which is quickly becoming a trendy area. Our new family consists, of Amanda, myself, and a dog that can only be described as “gremlin-like.” As mentioned above, his name is Bosco. He pukes, farts, smells bad, and generally misbehaves; and yet we still think he is cute. I guess nobody ever told him he needs to act like an adult.

Happy Holidays!

Amanda Joy Thoe Imes and Andrew Ralph Imes