November flew the coop!

Wow, nothing has been posted in November, so I guess that November flew the coop! It was a busy month as the fall quarter became more intense for Steve and me. Two weeks ago I managed to put together my presentation for my Spanish class. Then my lecture series ended last week. Throughout the term I was Steve’s proofreader for his papers. HOWEVER, the biggest news is that Steve completed his first quarter of grad school. The even better news is that he did a marvelous job and is very pleased with his grades. The look on his face this evening when he opened his grades was one of joy and relief! Over the course of the quarter, Steve wrote several papers, read something like 14-15 books, met twice weekly with study groups, researched for his papers, and proceeded with his volunteer training at The Conflict Center. One of his most involved assignments was a Conflict Resolution role-play simulating negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. He was in the Palestinian group. Each person in the class was to take the role of an actual individual who is currently involved in the real negotiations. Steve took on the role of Saeb Erakat, the senior chief negotiator for the Palestinians. Sadly and much like real life, they did not establish a peace accord.

At the end of October we volunteered for Project Homeless Connect. Denver’s Road Home and the United Way of Denver have a goal of eradicating homelessness in Denver by 2015. They began five years ago so they are half way toward their goal. Twice a year a one-day effort is held which provides one-stop services for homeless individuals and their families. They come to one location and a multitude of services are provided for the day, saving them from getting around the city and county to locate these services. It was a very rewarding experience and if our schedule allows, we’ll happily volunteer at future events. On our day of service, 1030 volunteers and 386 service providers served 957 people (102 of whom were children).

We’ve been to downtown Denver several times over the last 4 weeks. We attended two documentary films at the Starz Theatre: Budrus, which followed the efforts of a group of Palestinians, inspired by a teen girl’s passion. They used non-violent means to keep their community’s olive trees from being bulldozed by the Israelis in order to create a 20′ wall between the two “sides”. The other film, My So-Called Enemy, featured a group of Israeli and Palestinian teen girls who participated in Building Bridges for Peace, a summer camp to help seek common ground. The film continues to follow them after their return home and for another two years.  Both were promoted by Seeking Common Ground, an organization in Denver which promotes peace. Last Sunday night we went to A Christmas Carol at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts with Steve’s Mom. It was a top-notch musical and a wonderful start to the Christmas season.

We attend the University Chaplain’s book discussions that he offers each month. It is a nice way to read some thought-provoking and contemporary literature. Either the author or a spokesperson from the field are present to facilitate the discussion, much like any other book club might do. With DU on break until January, there will not be a book discussion in December, so we’ll look forward to next quarter’s offerings.

One of our biggest transitions that we’ve faced since moving to Denver has been to locate a place to worship. After 19 years at the Congregational Church of Batavia-UCC, we developed a very close bond with our congregation through friendships and ministry involvement. Since the end of July, we’ve attended several UCC churches, a Presbyterian church, and two United Methodist churches. Finally we feel that we have found a place which provides a nice balance: diversity in the congregation, contemporary issues are discussed, meaningful sermons and worship experience, and numerous community outreach efforts are offered. University Park United Methodist is right across the street from University of Denver (DU), which places it approximately a mile’s walk from our home. It has close ties to both Iliff College of Theology and DU, with Iliff being adjacent to DU.

I’ve been attending DU’s career services job club for the past 6 weeks. We meet every two weeks and cover most things pertaining to a job search. It is a wonderful group of people and I’m finding it another way to meet folks. My plans are to kick off my job search after the first of the year.

Thanksgiving was special as we shared brunch with a friend, played a game, and caught up on our lives. Later in the day our Iowa State friends who live near Steve’s Mom, Denny, Bette, and Derek, came for dinner. We even uncovered the foosball table and played a few rounds of foosball. What a perfect day! We missed our kids so much, but with their work schedules and Steve’s volunteer training, we were not able to make it to Illinois. Our friends, John and Karen, from Montana were to come to Denver over Thanksgiving, but a winter storm kept them huddling for warmth in Bozeman.

Today we took a day off from everything else we should be doing and went skiing. We didn’t realize how much we needed to get away for the day! For our Christmas present to each other, we purchased season ski passes. We drove to Winter Park, spent 4 hours skiing, and were home by 4:40 this afternoon. The resort temps hovered in the mid-20s, a series of good snowfalls over the past few weeks made for perfect skiing conditions, crowds were sparse since it was mid-week and not a holiday, and the winds were of minimal consequence. The pine trees are flocked with snow, which always makes one think of Christmas!

Winter Park was where we have done the most skiing over the years with some of our most special times with Jeremy and Stephanie. We enrolled them in a combination of day care and ski lessons when they were little: Jeremy, 5 and Stephanie, 2. Each time we returned to Winter Park in the winter or made our way to another ski resort, they took lessons. We’ve shared in some wonderful ski vacations with them over the years. How grateful we are for the memories with them! Until 2002, Winter Park was owned and managed by the city and county of Denver. 1939-1940 was its first season as a ski resort so it has a long-standing presence in the Rocky Mountains. We’ve also enjoyed its summer activities including hiking, mountain biking, and taking the alpine slide.

We are having fun entertaining at our small “casita” when we can. It is just great to have our friends, Meghan and Colleen, in the area so we can share an occasional meal together. Our friend, Jenny, was in town last weekend from her AmeriCorps position at Red Cloud Indian School, Pine Ridge Reservation. We enjoyed an evening with her. Next Sunday afternoon, we will have Mom, Meghan, Colleen, and our friends from Denver, Dorothy and Gully, here for a Soup supper. We are truly blessed to have bonds here as they have helped to soften the transition to Denver.

We leave in one week for the Midwest. It will be wonderful to see family in Nebraska and Iowa on our way to spend a week in Illinois with Jeremy & Michelle, Stephanie & Shane. Our hugs are waiting for our “kids” and it will be fantastic to have some time with them!

Stay warm, stay safe, and make snow angels or snowmen when the opportunity arises!

With love from the Mile-High City of Denver,

Diane (& Steve)