Yearly Archives: 2008

So long, 2008!

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It has been a tremendously eventful year to say the very least. I’ve gotten a new job, moved to a new city, gotten married, and had all kinds of fun with friends and family here and around the country. Vivian and I were able to ring in the New Year the same way we did 366 days ago: with a sparkling cider toast in the basement of 1316 Jones Street at GAMe’s New Year’s Eve party. We had live music courtesy of Big Bo and the Biscuit Eaters, who covered a series of very danceable songs as dozens of us squeezed into the too-small dance floor to bump into each other in a crude mockery of East Coast Swing. They had plenty of other things going on as well, including two rooms of Rock Band, Apples to Apples, and Foosball. After the party, we dropped by Eric’s apartment for some waffles and do-it-yourself mixed drinks.

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2008 was truly a year to remember.
Here are just a few of the highlights:

Here’s to the end of one amazing year, and the dawn of yet another. Cheers to you, 2008!

Order of the Shovel

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It was the Saturday after Christmas, a Lisa decided to invite us to a party with the illustrious members of the Order of the Shovel. She cooked up some delicious chili and potato soup for us, and we spent the evening stuffing our faces and bull scrapping the night away over samples of wine and beer. Lisa had some Christmas Crackers for us to open, winning herself a Boy Toy in the process, among other things. Our friend Ben “Risky” Rassmussen asked Sarah and Jillian pull his cracker, earning him a knighthood in the Order of the Shovel. We worked in a game of Apples to Apples somewhere in the mix, and we had intended to watch The Princess Bride, but we had more fun just being goofballs.

Video from our evening of mayhem

Married Christmas

Another eventful Christmas season has come and gone once again. This one was special, of course, because it was our first Christmas as a married couple. I suppose we were fortunate, in a way, to have been able to see my side of the family a few weeks ago when we gathered for Grandma’s funeral in Cedar Rapids, because we were able to celebrate with both sides of the family a bit this year.

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Vivian and I celebrated our second first date anniversary down at La Casa Pizza on Leavenworth, the restaurant I intended to take her to on our actual first date, but found it was too crowded that night.

Then on Christmas Eve, we dropped by the Bellevue Christian Center, Vivian’s old church, to attend their candlelight service. They had a couple very cute skits and several of our favorite Christmas songs to sing together. After the service, we drove up the road to have dinner with Vivian’s parents and open a couple presents. It was a memorable occasion for me, because I got to learn for the first time that there is, in fact, a big difference between “yams” and “sweet potatoes.” I’d grown up calling those orange things mashed up with marshmallows and brown sugar “sweet potatoes.” In fact, sweet potatoes seem to be golden yellow mashed things that you dress up with butter and garlic instead. At least that’s the way Jack does it.

We opened a couple presents, including Dilbert on DVD and a book on marriage from my parents, and Vivian surprised me with a lovely pair of black dress shoes! They’ll be perfect for dancing once I break them in.

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On Christmas Day, Vivian and I made some bacon and eggs for breakfast together and watched It’s a Wonderful Life on the couch, snacking on some egg nog and pumpkin pie fudge throughout the morning. We also opened more presents. Vivian gave me the Star Wars Robot Chicken video, which was hilarious, and I gave her a sushi starter kit among other things.

We gathered at Vivian’s parents’ house together that afternoon. We stuffed ourselves with hors d’oeuvres, and then filled what space we had left with turkey, stuffing, and green bean casserole. Vivian invited Eric and her friends Sherry and Rob to join us. My brother Nathan also came. Sherry is quite an artist, so we enjoyed passing a sketchbook back and forth and “improving” one another’s artwork. We opened our stocking presents later, which included such trinkets as a colored pencil frog, a boxing snowman pen, and mismatched socks. After the presents, some friends left and others came to play an extended two-hour game of cut-throat solitaire together before calling it an evening.

I was busy getting photos and video here and there and put together a brief video summary of the season for you all below. It includes footage of our Christmas tree, Vivian’s office Christmas party, and gathering at her parents on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Merry Christmas, everybody! We’ll see you all next year.

Married Christmas

Christmas Dumplings

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Christmas is nearly upon us now, and with temperatures dropping below zero at night and drifting around single digits in the daytime, it’s beginning to feel just a bit like the North Pole here in Nebraska. We’re finding fun ways to stay warm, fortunately. On Saturday, a couple of us went to see the Christ Community Church Christmas program, “I’ll be home for Christmas,” which was a strange kind of musical mixed with shades of World War 2 1940s radio trivia blended in. I got a chance to try some new settings with my camera for low-light settings that my cousin-in-law Bridget showed me. It let me snap some fairly decent pictures in the dimly lit auditorium.

That evening, it was time for another Dumpling Party with Hugh and company. We put together a couple hundred yummy “pot stickers” and stuffed ourselves with pumpkin bars and a variety of other sinful Christmas treats. We played a lengthy game of Imaginiff afterward while dodging orange slices and paper plates thrown at us from the roudy bunch on the other side of the room.

Video summary of the evening

Grandma Gibbs: 1922-2008

Eula Faye Gibbs: April 30, 1922 – December 11, 2008
My grandmother has been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease for the last several years of her life, and her passing last week has honestly been long-expected. Nonetheless, it was with a great deal of sorrow that her family gathered together to release her into the Lord’s hands over the weekend. She is survived by five children, thirteen grandchildren, and too many great-grandchildren to count (including one more on the way we discovered this weekend, congratulations, Catina!) Nearly everyone on my mother’s side of the family gathered to say goodbye to a woman I called Gramma. I’ll carry in my heart many years of coming to see my grandparents, Faye and Bud Gibbs, in Cedar Rapids for Thanksgiving and summer visits. I consider it a blessing that Vivian and I were able to come and see grandma one more time just a week or two before her passing.

The weekend itself was also a real blessing from the Lord, since we were all able to arrive before any serious winter storms hit the Midwest. Mom, Dad, and Jonathan flew in on Friday to pick up their estranged Chrysler from Nathan and travel across Iowa. Vivian and I joined them the day after, arriving in time to catch up with family at the Visiting at Cedar Memorial before going to dinner at Valley View Baptist Church. My cousin-in-law Arlan cooked up some sloppy joes for everyone made with (surprise!) venison he’d hunted down himself. My cousin Barb also brought a bunch of cookies she’d received at a cookie exchange, and I was able to work off the sugar high by giving “airplane” rides to a number of little second cousins running around.

IMG_8265On the day of the funeral, most of us gathered at the Spring House restaurant for a big meal together, having some greasy breakfast and diner-type food before heading on to the church. The service was very lovely, and I was elected to capture video of the ceremony from a convenient perch in the balcony. I’m hoping to put together a DVD with video from the funeral and other activities over the weekend for anybody who wants one. A brief ice storm passed over Iowa toward the end of the day, sending most of us out to our cars to chisel them free after gathering for a few group photos. The cold snap temporarily froze the latch shut on my car door, and it kept most of us indoors for the night. We were fortunately able to get home safely.

It was a difficult, mournful weekend for those of us gathered together in Iowa over the weekend. It gives me comfort, though, to know that my grandmother been released from her sickness at last and is now in the arms of the Lord. We’ll miss you Gramma, and hold you dear in our hearts on this side of Heaven. We’ll all be reunited once again someday.

The Christmas season starts

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It’s that time of year again, the stores get crowded, and time starts running short as the days until Christmas start flying by. Vivian and I dropped by the Eagle’s Lodge for another fun Jitterbugs Night Out, and then spent most of the weekend getting in the Christmas spirit. On Saturday, we hunted down a Christmas tree in the blistering cold, hauled it home on the roof of the Taurus and started decorating with lights. I also got to show Vivian the National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation movie for the first time. I’ve seen it at least a dozen times, and it’s still just as funny after all these years. (Got to love Aunt Bethany, played by “Betty Boop” voice actress Mae Questel).

Our other holiday preparations include doing some frantic Christmas shopping and writing up our Christmas letter for friends and family. I also want to wish my Mom and Dad a Happy Birthday this week! My dad turned the big six-oh on Monday, and my mom will be 39 again on Wednesday. I think.

One bit of sad news: my Grandma Gibbs has unfortunately taken a turn for the worse. She’s been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease for a number of years now, and on Monday I learned that her kidneys are starting to fail. We suspect that she had only a matters of days left, so I’d appreciate any prayers you all can muster up until that time comes.

Turkey, Hot Dogs, and Chili

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I hope everyone enjoyed sharing in the great American tradition of gorging on turkey and battering crowds of demented shoppers at five in the morning this year. Vivian and I got to enjoy having Thanksgiving in Cedar Rapids, the first time as husband and wife. We hit the road bright and early at 4:30 AM, arriving in mid-morning with plenty of time to play games with cousins and their kids. We had a big turkey dinner and then settled in to watch home movies and play games. There was a rousing game of Wii volleyball, and then Shannon got to kick my butt while playing chess. We also had a fun game of Balderdash that evening, with Vivian defining dungarunga as an Australian Pooper Scooper, and me spelling out SBA as the Sagging Bottoms Association.

IMG_8837The next morning, Uncle Ben took us out for Coffee at a local coffee shop called Brewed Awakenings, which has to be the absolute coolest name ever. We also dropped by to visit my Grandma Gibbs at the nursing home. Her Alzheimer’s is unfortunately progressing to the point where she’s having trouble eating, but it was good to visit her and see her somewhat responsive. When they started serving lunch, Vivian stayed by her side with my Uncle Jim for well over an hour coaxing her into eating something. I’m reminded day after day what a wonderful woman I married.

IMG_8850After saying goodbye, we headed downtown to have some lunch. On the way, we toured some of the flood damage from the Great Flood of 2008 There were plenty of depressed-looking homes tagged “unsafe” with spray paint and condemnation notices. I’d seen the photos like everybody else, but when you drive through dozens of city blocks that were all underwater and now remain uninhabitable, the reality really hits you hard.

Fortunately, one of the businesses that went underwater and survives just fine was the Flying Wienie: a hot dog restaurant our family fondly remembers passing by every time we went to church at Valley View (where my parents were married, by the way). We got to enjoy some supposedly authentic Chicago-style hot dogs, though I’ll need some authority like Onion-Boy to give us the official verdict on this.

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And speaking of Onion-Boy, Vivian and I returned Saturday to enjoy a Chili Throwdown over at his apartment. We had a number of admirable contestants creating some mouth-watering (and searing) concoctions. I liked Mark’s spicy little pot of steak chili the best, though I was impressed how Ben’s experimental beet chili made those dirty little vegetables nearly palatable. After stuffing ourselves, we played a bunch of games together. They included Werewolf, a 2.0 version of Mafia that included expanded roles for the bunch of us who didn’t get to participate in killing other guests while they slept. We also played a long, long game of What’s Yours Like, which offered up many “TMI” moments as we tried giving each other the worst clues ever for one word or another. It was a good time, though while we enjoyed ourselves with chili, some freezing rain outside made it a little difficult for some other people to get home. I-80 and 75 were apparently shut down due to accidents.

On Sunday, I had Thanksgiving with my new in-laws, Jack and Donna. We had more turkey, watched some home videos courtesy of Vivian’s Aunt Alice, and played a couple rounds of Mappy, a classic video game from 1983 that Donna is apparently hooked on. It came as part of a five-in-one standalone video game console that you hook up to your TV. I bought it for Jack as a Christmas present last year, and I’m happy to see it getting such good use now that we actually figured out how to hook it up to the TV.

The Chili Throwdown

Date Night with Improv 88

Since arriving back home from our trip to Kansas City, it’s been a fairly uneventful week for Vivian and me. Last Wednesday, I went to Lincoln to hang out with some of my former co-workers from Land and Sky. It was nice to hang out and have a burger while catching up on what’s happening back there now that I’ve moved to Omaha. Vivian and I dropped by Jitterbugs Night Out for about an hour on Friday and got to hang out a bit at Village in afterward with Lisa, Kevin, and Suzie. The weekend was fairly uneventful, outside of church, watching the Hulk on DVD, and doing a little grocery shopping.

88 ImprovThe highlight for this week was having a “date night” on Tuesday. Vivian and I went up to Benson after work to have tapas and paella at España, and then walked next door to see Improv 88 performing at the PS Collective inside the Pizza Shoppe. They put on a good show, as usual. I’d seen them just once before, back before Vivian and I were even officially dating, so it was nice to see the, again.

In other news, I’ve officially completed my Nanowrimo novel, passing the 50k word mark today during my lunch break. My little piece of literature will require much more editing before it’s fit to be read by the general public. I’m hoping to polish it up soon, however, and try putting together an actual bound-and-printed copy on or some such service. I’ll let you all know if and when it ever becomes available for purchase that way.

Mr. and Mrs. Vorticus

\Dan & Michelle get all kissyVivian and I had a big weekend in Kansas City, where I had the honor of being best man in the wedding of two close Comic Genesis friends: Michelle “Dragonmajik” Mayo and Dan “Vorticus” Zastrow. I got to meet them both in person for the first time at the Comic Genesis cookout in 2006, and I was there to witness their first date at the cookout last year in 2007. It was quite an amazing experience to witness such big moments in a couple’s life even know we all live hundreds of miles apart from each other.

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The big weekend started on Friday when Vivian and I left early to come down to Kansas City and participate in the wedding rehearsal. I got to meet Dan and Michelle’s families for the first time, and afterward we all went out to dinner at Ryan’s. It felt good to catch up with them and see what craziness has been happening on Comic Genesis in my absence. Dan’s brothers and I absconded with him afterward to have a makeshift bachelor party with his dad down at Dave and Buster’s, which we were able to find eventually, no thanks to Google Maps (which led us on a wild goose chance downtown and then scrambling for exits to get to west Kansas City).

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The main event on Saturday was just lovely. I and the other groomsmen got to wear Hawaiian shirts as we bore witness to the union of the couple, and after having several hundred pictures taken, got to blow bubbles at the couple on the way out the door. Vivian, along with Dan’s brothers, had taken the liberty of decorating the groom’s getaway car before the ceremony (with minimal damage, I hope).

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Next on the agenda came the reception, where I had the honor of giving the new couple a toast after we stuffed ourselves with prime rib and potatoes. That and the sugar-laden cake gave us enough energy for some serious dancing throughout the night. The couple went first, then the bride and her father, and finally the groom and his mom did a little Jitterbugging before the rest of us took the floor. I got to work up a sweat and work off a few calories from the evening meal before the bride and groom made their eventual escape.

Drawing with Fading Aura Jack Stack's Barbecue

Once we got the reception hall tidied up, Vivian and I did a little exploring with our Comic Genesis friend “Fading Aura.” We dropped by a World Market to check out a wide selection of Missouri wines, and then made our way downtown in a vain search for a coffee shop in the midst of the busy bar district. We eventually crashed at the lounge of the Marriott to draw comics on a napkin while sipping Bailey’s and hot chocolate together until midnight.

The next day, Vivian and I got to tour the beautiful Country Club Plaza, ducking into interesting little shops along the Spanish-themed streets. We had some delicious Kansas City barbecue for lunch at Jack Stack, finishing it all off with some warm and gooey carrot cake before driving back home.

Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. Vorticus! Here’s to a long and happy life together.

Video from Dan and Michelle’s wedding day

Swinging in Lincoln and our first Taco Party

Three cheers for another busy weekend! Vivian and I got to spend some time in Lincoln on Saturday hanging out with Nathan and his girlfriend, Ranae. We played Pictionary together for an hour or two and got to indulge in one of the things I miss about Lincoln: Big Sal’s Pizza: a warm, gooey indulgence straight from 27th and Vine.

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We spent the rest of the evening with our fellow Omaha swing dancers down at the Pla-Mor Ballroom on West O Street. It was a big night, with two bands playing back-to-back sets in a night of non-stop live music. The Prairie Cats and the Grand Marquis from Kansas City duked it out in a “battle of the bands” in a very lively night of dancing. Jillian brought some delicious cookies with her that gave some of us a much-needed sugar boost, while the presence of actual alcohol gave other swingers a chance to down a couple glasses of Rum and Coke to loosen things up on the floor.

I would have loved to stay late for a pick-me-up at Perkins or hijinks with Eric and company at an unsuspecting HyVee, but I was dangerously close to falling asleep by the time Vivian and I finally got home.

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On Sunday, Vivian and I got to have our first official get-together at our new home. We invited a bunch of our mutual friends to come over and enjoy an afternoon taco lunch together. After eating, we played a rousing game of Apples to Apples and then settled in to watch a movie. Vivian had rented us a couple choices from the HyVee RedBox, and we opted to see Journey to the Center of the Earth. Unfortunately, this was not the version with Brendan Fraser that we expected. Instead, it was a low-budget and extremely cheesy direct-to-video rip-off arguably created with the sole intention of having people rent it by mistake. It’s easy to see how anyone could fall for such a sneaky trick, but we wound up playing some Mystery Science Theater 3000 and had a good laugh at the terrible acting and incredibly goofy plot of the film. I don’t recommend seeing it unless you have some very creative friends.

The final score: Funny friends: 1, Bad movie: 0.