Sunday, December 19, 2010

Challenges and cheers marked 2010

Holiday wishes from West Michigan, where we don’t have to dream of a white Christmas. It’s pretty much guaranteed.

It’s been a year of transition for Julie, Dave, Andrew and Caroline, with changes in school and work, challenges and adventures – and good times, too. We’re blessed to have wonderful family and friends to lean on and celebrate with.

Andrew had the most eventful year.

He had been on the Rockford High swim team for several years and saved the best for last. In his final meet, he swam the 500-meter – the marathon of swimming – and finished in first, shaving about 20 seconds from his personal best. That was enough to earn his varsity letter, hugs from teammates and tears in the stands.

Coach Dave McWatters worked with Andrew in his years on the water polo and swim teams, and was the first to congratulate him.
Andrew later enjoyed the other rites of passage for seniors: attending the prom and marching in the commencement, and hosting an open house with relatives from Florida and Illinois arriving for the celebration.

Andrew started taking classes at Grand Rapids Community College right away, enrolling in a math course in the summer to get a feel for the college world before launching into a full load in the fall. He plans to study psychology and transfer to Grand Valley State University.

He also keeps hanging around the high school pool -- working as a lifeguard when he's not hitting the books.

Andrew got a special, surprise gift from the Nelsons -- Pop Pop's prized pick-up truck.

A trip to Illinois was more somber, as Dad's brother Sherwood died. But it allowed for the kids to see Morris, Ill. where Dad grew up. We found the family farm -- and chatted with the current residents -- located on Nelson Road, named after Dad's family. We'll also miss Mom's sister, Darlene, who we lost earlier in the year.

Caroline became an official teenager, turning 13 in April. She’s an eighth-grader at North Rockford Middle school and enjoys playing the flute. The band performed at several concerts and before two football games.

She’s teaching herself to play the piano, but passing on the classics to perform Lady GaGa and Katy Perry songs because, well, we’re 13.

Caroline’s a good little writer, too, with a poem published in an anthology with other middle-schoolers from around the country. She also has a small publishing empire, writing and distributing stories about Chumpo the walrus and his assorted friends.

Perhaps all that writing inspired her. Caroline spent her summer volunteering at the local library, part of the teen team that helped with events and returned materials to the shelves.

Caroline was able to meet some neat people. She's a big fan of Kerry Vincent, a culinary sugar artist and stern judge on “Food Network Challenge.” When Vincent appeared at a culinary competition at the community college, we were allowed to slip backstage and meet the star. We are pleased to report that Vincent is much friendlier than her television persona.

Caroline also got to meet Olympic beach volleyball star Misty May Treanor at Cornerstone University, and she let us hold her two gold medals.
Julie’s work duties changed a little as the Grand Rapids Press shifted more attention to its website. She’s in charge of the paper’s team of free-lancers and posts their work to the site.

Julie also kept up with her hobbies -- knitting and chronicling the family’s adventures in scrapbooks.

We had all sorts of adventures during our spring break trip to visit Dave's family in Florida, including an afternoon at the Juno Beach Turtle Rescue Center. Young Katie took this group shot!

The trip also included a cruise around Miami, a "Diva Duck" tour of West Palm Beach and a Jupiter Hammerheads game with Mets shortstop Jose Reyes playing in an injury rehab game. No Hammerheads were injured when Dave nearly tumbled into the dugout as he and Andrew particiapted in the dizzy bat race.

The trip also was special because we were able to celebrate Easter, Dave's birthday and Caroline's birthday with family in the Sunshine State. And check out the cool Mets cake Uncle Neil created!

Dave is still covering education and editing at the Press, and the online column raised his profile around the state a little. He moderated a discussion at the Governor’s Education Summit and appeared on several other panels during the year. He still prefers writing to public speaking.

Dave’s teaching, too, adding a journalism class at Kuyper College in addition to pitching in at Cornerstone University. He’s learning a lot from the students.

More exciting, he’s the coach of the Trinity Lutheran coed softball team and finally, after all these years, won a championship! And Andrew, now that he’s 18, was able to be a part of the team. He’s taking credit for the victory.

We headed to Illinois to cheer nephew Zack Horve and his Dee-Mack Chiefs in a big game, and were joined by Mom and Dad Nelson, and Zack's Mom, Kristen, of course!

Dave and Will Christensen celebrated 20 years of friendship with multiple baseball adventures. First, they found their way onto what's left of Tiger Stadium -- don't ask -- and then met up in Chicago to see fave slugger Frank Thomas have his number retired.

We had much to celebrate, and we recognize that the Lord has blessed us in many ways.

We’d love to hear from you. Dave, Andrew and Caroline are on Facebook, and the family e-mail is

Wishing you a very merry Christmas and a happy, healthy new year.

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