Category: Design

Advent, Christmas, 20th Anniversary

Advent, Christmas, 20th Anniversary

As 2020 comes to a close, a lot of folks are talking about what a disaster this year has been. We’re keenly aware of how many families around the world are grieving the loss of loved ones due to COVID, still suffering under the weight of systemic racism, and wondering how to pay the bills, much less find a little money to celebrate the holidays. As members of the human family, we hold these sorrows and so many more in our hearts with hope for healing.

At the same time, we’re aware that 2020, like any year, has been a mixture of grief and gratitude, and we’re grateful for the many gifts in our lives as well. Just this month alone has brought great joy…

Advent candle
Advent candle

Along with many others around the world, we observed the season of Advent—anticipating the birth of Jesus—with self-reflection, reading, and candle-lighting.

Zuzu by the wood stove
Zuzu by the wood stove

The main event this month was realizing a long-time dream of installing a wood stove in our home. As we try to do our part to protect the earth, we’re trying to move to renewable energy as much as possible. Our cat Zuzu may be enjoying it even more than we are!

Arms outstretched
Holding hands with those we can!

Because of COVID, we weren’t able to gather with our families for Christmas this year, but we did set out on a one-day driving tour on Christmas Eve to deliver gifts outdoors to seven family households. Even with the zero-degree wind chill, it was so wonderful to see our loved ones in person! This silly pic taken by Rob’s mom was for a family photo project.

Christmas gifts
Sharing gifts during COVID

Our family gift-giving traditions are simple and thoughtful, which we love. Kirstin’s brother and sister-in-law gave us a gift card to use at a local coffee shop or restaurant—they know us so well!

Reading at home
Reading by the wood stove

With a week and a half off work, we enjoyed reading by the warm wood stove, watching movies, taking walks, and working on special projects around the house.

Singing at our wedding
Singing at our wedding, 20 years ago

Twenty years ago, we held an epic New Year’s Eve party: our wedding! In more recent years, we’d typically host a big group of folks at our home on New Year’s Eve for games, food, drinks, and midnight toasts, but: COVID. While we missed hanging out with some of the friends who join us every year, we did enjoy a creative substitute: a progressive outdoor New Year’s Eve party at three different houses with walks in between to warm up. Happy New Year! We wish you all you need to find joy, clarity, and stability in 2021.

Adapting to new normals

Adapting to new normals

April passed in a strange blur as we and everyone around us struggled to understand the new reality we’re living in under the pandemic. We’re grateful that we’ve been in the position to be able to work mostly from home, but we are hurting for those who are at risk for all kinds of reasons.

Walking the Portage River Walk Trail

Over the course of many, many, many walks this month to get out of the house safely, we’ve been able to enjoy the unfolding of spring with more attention than we might usually. We’ve especially appreciated the Portage River Walk Trail, a relatively new trail through the woods just a short distance from our home. In the absence of many of our usual social activities, we entertained ourselves with forcing forsythia blooms indoors and cheered ourselves, if not our neighbors, with a series of silly superhero bike rides (see above). We’ve been keeping in touch with family and friends by phone and Zoom—thank goodness for technological advancements that make this all possible!

Blooming forsythia

In the midst of everything, Rob’s been coordinating a project to renovate a small house owned by the non-profit we help run here in town. We bought the house in December to house an on-site caretaker who will help with seasonal maintenance at the Huss Project, and hopefully also help out with the Huss farm. We’re very excited that our friends Dan and Margaret have decided to move back to town and take on the first term as caretakers. The house is looking super lovely and cozy as we look forward to welcoming them!    

Huss Project Caretaker House

Unveiling the Imaginarium

Unveiling the Imaginarium

Well, it was a race to the finish line and we gave it all we had! The new community space, called the Imaginarium, came together about 95% of the way before our big annual community festival at the Huss Project at the end of July. While we wish we’d gotten everything finished, it was certainly enough for visitors to Future Fest to catch the vision for this vibrant new space.

Imaginarium under construction

Launching the Imaginarium was just part of Future Festival. Along with dozens of volunteers, we hosted a rummage sale, farmers market, bake sale, live music, an art show, and a Community Carnival with hands-on activities and free school supplies for kids and families. This was actually the tenth annual Future Festival, chaired by our good friend Julie. A lot of friends, both local and out-of-town, come together to make the Fest happen every year and it’s always an amazing celebration of creativity and friendship…and then we crash!

Rob taking a break with his parents at Future Festival
A view from the second floor
Family, renovations, farming

Family, renovations, farming

Between late May and early June, we enjoyed several opportunities to visit with Kirstin’s sister Alyssa’s family while they were visiting from Idaho. Alyssa and her husband Dave have two kiddos, and this was our first opportunity to meet the youngest who was born in March. They’re growing up so fast! We also grabbed a couple of days away to visit Chicago in celebration of Rob’s birthday, taking in a Cubs game and lots of good food.

Visiting Chicago

In between out-of-town adventures, we’ve been hard at work on another renovation project. This was actually the one that we PLANNED on doing this year before the community house project came along. Basically, we’re taking two rooms in the historic elementary school our organization owns and turning them into a new community space for all sorts of programming. Rob has a gift for designing spaces, and he had the idea to cut a hole in the floor between two levels and install floor-to-ceiling bookshelves made out of old barn wood. In addition, the old barns we had taken down at our friends’ property will be furnishing most of the wood for a new pavilion as an outdoor extension of the community space. Among other things, the pavilion will provide a space for our summer lunch program that provides a mid-day meal for any school-aged kid in our neighborhood. We’re also working hard to get everything rolling for the season at the farm. Thankfully, we have a lot of help from volunteers and contractors!

Pavilion at the Huss Project
Concerning resurrection

Concerning resurrection

April has been a big month for working on the new community house as we anticipate moving day in May. Thankfully, a whole crew of people from our church have volunteered to pitch in, including skilled trades people. The house was converted to a bed and breakfast at some point, so most of the bedrooms have a bathroom attached, but only one bathroom was in working order. We actually ended up demolishing that bathroom to combine it with another one and create a wheelchair-accessible bathroom on the main floor. Besides that one, we got three other bathrooms up and running as well. Removing old wallpaper and putting a fresh coat of paint on most of the main floor has made a huge difference. This house is going to make a wonderful space for overnight hospitality and group gatherings.

Painting at 208, the *cino community house

We also celebrated Easter this month, which is an important holiday for us. Nearly every year, we attend the Easter vigil at St. Gregory’s Abbey, which is a Benedictine monastery just west of Three Rivers. The service starts at 11pm with readings of Bible stories leading up to the life of Jesus. At midnight, the bells ring, the lights come up, and we celebrate the first communion of Easter together, followed by a delightfully subdued party (remember, this is hosted by monks who are usually in bed by 8:30pm every night!). Then we head home around 2:00 a.m. to catch some sleep before driving to northwest Indiana to spend time with both sides of our family.