It's the very last day of 2013 and as I walked along the glorious beach this morning, I gave it a lot of thought. I just got back from the best time ever back home for the holidays, and that gave me a lot to think about too. Like the people and things that matter. And how truly grateful I am to have two places that I consider home.
Minnesota is one of the best places on Earth to be for Christmas. It just feels exactly like it should. This year particularly cooperated, with snow falling just about every day, creating a sparkling Winter Wonderland wherever you went.
Of course, this is the time of the year when my first name becomes a verb - Carol.
I don't think I've ever sung more than I did in the last couple of weeks. From a caroling party with celebrants gathered around the piano, belting it out with all we had, to good old-fashioned outside door to door revelry as snow fell (and you better believe we had some nice full mugs to warm our hands and insides) all around us.
I went to Wood Lake and reflected as long as I could before honestly starting to freeze to death. I dragged Mom along with me, and felt so incredibly happy that after all her health drama and fear earlier this year, we were together for Christmas, and she felt great. That was my very favorite part of the holidays, in fact, just doing all the traditional things with Mom, but loving and cherishing them all more than ever.
Things moved me more than ever too. I still feel somewhat dehydrate after all the tears I shed, not from being sad, but just from being incredibly touched by every last thing. I saw Mom direct her choir at her Daughters Of Norway party, and saw how well-respected she is by everyone.
I saw a brilliant performance of All Is Calm (The Christmas Truce of 1914) by Cantus and the Theater Latte Da, written by Peter Rothstein. Beautiful singing that illustrated the absolute futility of War. I cried my eyes out. I saw Saving Mr. Banks with my Mom and brother and nearly had to leave the theater from crying. I saw my friends' kids growing up (Elsie! Inga! Jane! Kate! All of 'em!!!) and blowing my mind and tears sprang to my eyes just to be there with them all. It was a highly emotional week for me, for sure.
The emotional capper was probably attending the Norwegian church (Mindekirken) for Christmas Eve service with my Mom. All the people were decked out in their Norwegian sweaters, their voices reaching for the wooden rafters singing Silent Night together in Norwegian. I looked at my Mom's face as we sang by candlelight, and got so choked up I couldn't finish.
A male tenor beautifully sang "O Holy Night" to close the service, and left me a complete puddle. We ran into my family's oldest friends, Dan and Mary, as we were leaving, and the newly falling snow made the night that special kind of silent. I'll never forget it.
I also laughed until I cried. My cheeks still hurt and I'm sure I have new wrinkles, but it was more than worth it. My hometown friends are some of the very best people in this big world, and some of the funniest too. It helps that I always know they're out there rooting for me too. Always.
They are also some of the kindest. The entire Krsnik/Hendrickson clan added the Gronners into their family tree last week, and a blast was had by all.
My Fairy Goddaughter, Jane, sang more carols with her Aunt Julie, and I was bursting with pride for her, and how talented she already is.
It also wouldn't be a Hendy Christmas without some stitches and this year it was little Leo Oss' turn. 3 to the lip. That's how they get 'em ready for hockey. Speaking of hockey, I like to say that Minnesota is where the Moms PLAY hockey. I went to my first Hot Tamales game at the good ol' Richfield Arena, and was floored at how good these ladies are, and at how into it you get. Between all the caroling and the yelling for goals, I'm still a little hoarse.
I went to the places that MUST be gone to when I'm home, like Ingebretson's, the Scandinavian shop and deli. I got re-stocked up on lefse, and delighted in the thick Minnesota accents you hear inside those walls. A true treasure in Minneapolis. Also, the best smell on Earth is Mom's julekage baking while you're sitting next to the Christmas tree. No contest.
Besides the people, the lakes are probably my most treasured parts of home. It doesn't matter that it's sub-zero out, the lakes always have people out on them. It's just too beautiful to stay inside.
It was so special to spend quality time with my loved ones, and I hope they know how very much they all mean to me. I get stronger every time I go home and touch - and am touched by - my roots. These folks are the real deal. Salt of the Earth. Minnesota NICEST. I am blessed beyond measure by each and every one of them. And I know it.
There is nothing like a winter sunset in Minnesota ...
... except perhaps a winter sunset in Venice. I'm so happy that I have a place to come back to from such a precious trip home, or I'd probably be really bummed. Instead, I'm again blessed and more than know that too.
2013 was super hard in a lot of ways, for a lot of people. I heard that
the most stressful things people can go through are the illness or death
of a loved one, moving and starting a new job ... I did all of that in
one month this year! I cried
harder than I ever have, both with fear and joy. I loved more truly and
unconditionally than I ever thought possible. I found out that sometimes
that doesn't matter, and sometimes that's all that does. I learned a lot. I laughed a whole lot. I gave. I received. I LIVED.
As we kick off 2014 (I think the new year's motto will be "Greatness is foreseen in '14!"), that's the thing to remember. LIVE - with your whole heart and soul. MEAN it. And remember what it is we're striving for ....
HAPPY NEW YEAR 2014!!! Here we go .... !!!