Blogging sucks (Christmas column)

For someone that has a lot to say, I seem to have nothing to write – ever.

I thought updating the background might inspire me to visit the blog more often. We’ll see how it goes.

I do have something on the writing agenda though. As December rolls along, my staff and I have found ourselves running out of story ideas. We produce about four issues in two weeks so we can all take some time off around the holidays. It’s worked out before, but as we try to plan all the issues at once, our brains tend to give us duds for ideas.

None of us write editorial at all for North Augusta Today, but we do have several columnists that we rotate each monthly. We decided since we don’t really share a lot about ourselves that we would write a column about our favorite Christmas memories. I have more than enough to share, so I thought I’d start here to narrow down No. 1 that I want to share with 17,000 + people.

The perfect summer
I moved to Aiken during the summer of 2006. At the time, I was more worried about surviving one year post-undergrad, saving a little bit of money for a car and not losing touch with my tight-knit group of friends from college. Aiken was a layover to something bigger and better. I didn’t know at the time that bigger and better awaited me here.

A couple of months after settling in, I made fast friends with members of a Cedar Creek Church H.O.M.E group. Without my roommate being a member, I might have found myself on my couch every Monday evening being one of the unfortunate souls watching Two and a Half Men. Instead I met my new best friends that ended up keeping me here longer than the one year I had planned.

Saying everything clicked is an understatement. We initially didn’t mean to segregate ourselves from others in our H.O.M.E group, it just happened. Collectively we’d make the best person ever, but individually we all need each other to make ourselves smarter, funnier and just better. Through them I’ve learned more about unconditional love and compassion than any other relationship has ever given me. Regardless of my tactless snide comments, my knack for cutting people down with one look or my need to be ring leader, they always accept me and encourage me to become the adult I could never dream of being. If we had a name, it’s probably be The Nine.

By March 2007 I found myself with something to do almost every night of the week and craving time with these people that not only challenged me spiritually, but they also gave me a great ab workout with their wonderfully funny personalities. It even worked that several of my college friends clicked in with the group too, so I had the best of both worlds on any given weekend.

As spring passed, our H.O.M.E. group numbers dipped and eventually the core people I hung out with made our Monday night groups. Game nights weren’t icebreakers, but these deep bonding experiences where we came to know each better than some people we’ve known our entire lives.

By spring those in our group collectively began naming off things we wanted to do: camping, lake weekend, touring Redcliffe Plantation, movie nights, etc.
Our hangout time eventually became these epic nights of memories that number too many to remember. As the events strung together through summer and fall the next thing we knew it was December and 2007 was winding down.

H.O.M.E group had begun to flourish again, which was a blessing and a curse. Other groups saw our bond and spread the word that we were a great group to join, but I definitely felt like a slow intrusion was happening. Sure we had to add new members, but did we have to add new friends?

As December wore on, we began to plan our H.O.M.E group Christmas event. Other members dropped in, but were caught unprepared as we came in with armloads of presents for our nine. Sure we had $5 nick knacks for those who showed up, but as presents were unwrapped, our inside jokes were beyond being figured out. Our group even ended up circled around together with the other members sitting just far enough outside the circle that it was clear they weren’t “in.”

Our presents to each other weren’t just picked up by chance, but were more thoughtfully planned out than any Christmas I’d ever had before. That year I received the movie Superbad, but the best part of the present was that is was wrapped in Duct tape from the guy who thinks it solves all problems. I still have it. One girl made wallets for everyone. Another made our midnight runs to Wal-Mart a little easier on the wallet. And because of the last year’s conversations, all my guilty pleasure movies were found out and presented to me. But the best was yet to be unwrapped.

One friend, who acts like our personal paparazzi gave us these wonderful paper boxes covered in snowflakes or flowers. Since we were all receiving the same gift, we all opened it at once. As I was removing the lid, there was a collective “Ahh!” and then squeals from the girls.

I just started crying. It was photos of all of us from our perfect summer pasted on an ornament. There was camping and the lake, our photo on the widow’s roof of Redcliffe, photos of us at our 8th-grade style sleepover, movie nights – everything. Each one was tailored to us, but we were all there. That little ball contained more love and life from one year than I’d probably ever allowed myself to be a part of before. Sure I had great friends, but these were the first people I’d ever opened up to about my spiritual struggles and triumphs, which is probably the most raw part of me. I still feel overwhelmed and unbelievably blessed when I pull out the ornament each year.

As we opened our presents, we joked that it was like being home for Christmas – all of us surrounded by some of the most thoughtful gifts ever, but also surrounded by our extended brothers and sisters. We said it was something we should do every year, and we have. It’s been hard as we’ve added boyfriends and our relationships with each other have either intensified or gone through winters, but we’re still the first people we put on a list for a get together and we’re still the first people we call if we need help.

Since then our H.O.M.E groups have not only doubled, but we multiplied. I realize that we weren’t the cause of the boom in the last year completely, but I like to think that we show that group is more than a one-night a week gathering and people want to be a part of that feeling of family that we were so fortunate to find in each other.

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