White Christmas

The week before Christmas we went to the joint handbell-choir Christmas party. What a blast! The music director’s house was full of musicians, delicious food, and good wine. Then someone brought out the crazy hats…

Ariel and Nicole got run over by a reindeer

Christmas Eve brought snow, but we battled our way through it to the 11:00 service. The prelude music started at 10:30 and included a couple of fantastic handbell pieces and a solo by my dear husband. There were a couple stumbles but after all we weren’t there just to play or listen to beautiful music… We were there to remember the ultimate gift, Christ humbling himself to come to earth and be a human in order to pay our debt. We tolled in Christmas Day, put the bells up, and dragged ourselves home to bed in the wee hours – but for all the right reasons!

I remember my mom taking me to a midnight service at a Lutheran church when we lived in Texas (we were Bible church people so it was a change of pace). There was something thrilling about the tradition and ritual and of course staying up late. It seemed so special, so sacred, going out into the cold, dark night, just as Jesus brought his light into the cold, dark world. I’m glad the handbells play at the late service.

On Christmas morning, Chris made us a tasty breakfast and we Facetimed with my family while we opened our wonderful, thoughtful presents from family and friends. Then I got the best present from my job… the afternoon off!!! We spent it walking the dogs, clearing the driveway with our new electric snowblower, and making mac ‘n cheese to share with our friends the Hills. We had a feast with our friends… chicken, stuffing, mac ‘n cheese, salad, and apple pie for dessert. Sooo good! We also played one of our Christmas presents, the fantastic game Citadels.

So here’s the picture of us looking nice and Christmas-y, but you can’t really see the dog. He’s black so he blends right in. Here is the picture with flash:

Doesn’t the dog look like a robot?!!!

Anyway, we had a very merry Christmas… even though family were far away, we were able to celebrate with them through technology and the power of UPS. I hope the rest of you had a very merry Christmas!

The Danger of Settlers of Catan

I love games. Card games, board games, dominoes – I enjoy the friendly give and take of games, the chance to focus on an activity together and use my problem solving abilities.

But there is one game that I dislike, and that is the ubiquitous game Settlers of Catan which has a board, cards, and dice. It’s the quintessential game night game – takes a long time, accommodates up to four players, makes people feel “in the know” and cultish while at the same time being very familiar and straight forward.

If you’ve never played, it’s a resource production and utilization game. Every time a particular number is rolled, a certain good is produced. You can use those goods to build certain things and you get points for building them.

How can I not like it?

Well, I don’t. Fine… I’ll play it with you if you really want me to. But here’s why it’s NOT my favorite game.

1) It makes many people mad. Or at the least irritable and competitive. Even good friends. Even when you know it’s “just a game.” Even when the people playing are nice, ordinary, sweet, gentle people every other time you see them.  And it makes people upset because…

2) It’s a game that has a fair amount of tearing down what other people are building. Many of the cards give you the opportunity to take cards from other players, even though they may have been accumulating that particular card for a long time. In addition, every time someone rolls a 7  (the most common roll), they can relocate a piece on the gameboard that then takes away other player’s productivity.

3) It’s a long game that allows people to simmer in their anger and resentment. Instead of – “oh, rats, lost that hand, let’s play another” it goes on and on. “I’m still losing because X took this card and I couldn’t build that important thing and Y built a road where I needed to go and and and.”

I like a friendly bit of competition. I am not saying that games shouldn’t be competitive. Somebody usually has to win. But I don’t enjoy games make people short with each other and snippy and chilly and cause a negative attitude that hangs over the rest of the game.

Maybe Settlers is perfect for some groups. But not for me. I’d much rather play Pandemic, Ticket to Ride, Sequence, Mexican Train, bridge… there are so many good ones! In my view, life is too short to play Settlers.