Sunday, December 18, 2011

Marching our way through 2011

We learned all about marching bands this year.

If 2010 was Andrew's big year, 2011 belonged to Caroline.

Caroline became a freshman this year, but she started working on being a member of the Rockford High School marching band early in the summer. She had two full weeks of all-day practices – including a stay at St. Andrew's University for camp – plus twice-a-week gatherings to polish their show, “Reactivity.”

The marching, marching, marching continued through the fall, with state competitions in the Pontiac Silverdome and Detroit's Ford Field. The hard work all paid off when the band qualified for the finals in the national competition at Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis. The team finished No. 22 in the nation.

But perhaps the most exciting performance came in late October, when Caroline got to play before family and friends who made it to Michigan to celebrate her Confirmation at Trinity Lutheran Church. It was exciting to have Nana Nelson and Aunt Kris come from Illinois and Grandma and Grandpa Murray from Florida for the event, which capped more than two years of classes.

We are all very proud of her!

And we're so proud of Andrew, too. He's a sophomore at Grand Rapids Community College, planning to graduate in May. He's sending off applications to transfer to a four-year school. Andrew, who is studying to be a social worker, made the Dean's List. He also was asked to represent students from Rockford in a GRCC holiday video.

Andrew keeps busy when he's not studying, working as a Rockford High School lifeguard and at S'barro at the mall, learning how all his psychology classes apply to the retail world.

He and his friends also are active with a hobby that involves little models he paints and repaints. It's complicated.

With all these activities in play, Julie is the master scheduler, somehow keeping everyone headed in the right direction and on time. Julie also kept up with her hobbies -- knitting and chronicling the family’s adventures in scrapbooks.

She and Dave had a special getaway to Traverse City – the tip of your pinkie when you do the Michigan hand thing. They took a much-needed break in the Northern Michigan community, enjoying the water, shopping and spectacular views.

Dave's work responsibilities changed a bit. In addition to his education duties, he's been assigned to cover the Michigan Legislature, commuting to Lansing three days a week to keep an eye on the governor, Senate and House.

He's kept up his running, competing in four 5K races this year. One race was rough – in a downpour – but he set a personal best of 22:29 in another.

But the most exciting night of the year? Dave and Caroline headed to Detroit to see the Mets play the Tigers. Not only did the Mets win 14-3 – with two grand slams – but Mets pitcher Manny Acosta threw Dave the game ball.

Dave a a nice surprise, appearing in the ESPN documentary "Catching Hell." The show was about Bill Buckner and Steve Bartman. The producers found a photo of Dave recreating the Bartman pose at Chicago's Wrigley Field and asked to use it in the program.

He was able to do some traveling for work, too, attending an education writer's conferences in New Orleans, Chicago and Silicon Valley, touring the Google headquarters and running through the beautiful Stanford University campus.

Those are the high points, but this was a very, very difficult year. We lost Julie's father, Dale Nelson, in June. The family's quiet foundation, Dad was never, ever one to boast. So we were all so touched to see former University of Illinois colleagues and students step forward to tell us all the ways Dad touched their lives.

Dad didn't like posing for too many photos, but he allowed a very young Andrew to snap this one -- our favorite.

It's fair to say we are looking to flipping over the calendar and moving ahead to 2012. But we recognize that the Lord has blessed us in many ways and are looking ahead to celebrating Christmas in Illinois.

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

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

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