To those about to be named/mentioned/described, you hold a special place in my summer home, and I salute you...
1. First and foremost to my friend Nikki, whom words can not describe (well, at least not so few words as this will be - look for Nik to star in an upcoming blog post). One of my best friends in the world, and my kind host this summer, Nik deserves an award for the best laugh, greatest hair, and kindest heart. For months and months, you will be seeing me and Nik go back and forth with inside jokes that have been a part of some of the funniest moments I have EVER lived.
2. To, Jen, the Hanf House members, and Mooncheez, who are my favorite form of summer entertainment, thank you. From Rockband jam sessions, writing Japanese on your chalkboard, and glow-in-the-dark sardines games, thank you. I am honored to be a part of your coffee table, as well as your circle of friends.
3. To Jess and her beautiful, beautiful girls, thank you for allowing me to be a small part of your big lives. You and your children are so gorgeous, and I loved every moment of our time together, even if we did only talk about nursing, phonics, and photos. Plus, you had the best PBJ lunch I had all summer, which assures I will come again next year and dine again!
4. To my (literal) old school, from Aimee and Melissa (and Ken) to Randy and Cheryl, and all in between, I appreciated the calls, the coffees, the barbecues, the volleyball games, and the new babies. I wouldn't call it a summer home, or a complete trip if I didn't have time to catch up with you, all of you, who shaped me into who I am today. The team may be split, moved, and switched around, but a better group of people I know not of.
5. A big "talofa lova" to my new friend Albert, whose accent was slight enough to be caught, and whose new friendship included my introduction to arena football, as well as a great partner for coffees. I am still sorry about punching you in the face...
6. Marm and Auntie, my number two girls, thank you so much for all that you give when I am home. I couldn't get around and see people without the both of you, and your patience and giving throughout my summertimes home is not unappreciated or unnoticed. I miss you two an awful lot when I'm away, but know that you are both always ready to welcome me with open arms (and a huge sign) when I come home.
7. To Tandem, I give you lucky number 7. Along with Nik, as a person who influenced my summer in such a positive and healthy way, you deserve one of the biggest shouts. What started out as checking out a movie with Hayley and turned into more games than pool than I can count, time with you was an unexpected surprise and a great treat. I am glad and fortunate to have crossed your path so early, and then so many times thereafter (although I could have easily, and greedily been happy with a little more). You have such a great heart, and I am glad you let me have a little piece of it...
8. Kel-bel, you also fall into the category of 'people I didn't get to spend nearly enough time with.' I enjoyed our dissertation of Harry Potter, a cool night out with some guacamole, and a day at the pool. Next summer we'll do it again, only more.
9. Uncle Don and Grandpa, my golf partners, are the (most patient and) coolest guys to play a round of 9 with. I, like usual, will not do any practicing this year in Japan, but will be glad to take your advice and tutelage next summer, for sure!
10. To the Waages, Foxes, Orths, and Megan - some of my best old kiddies and their families, thank you for all of the traditions - Friday night steaks, Dairy Queen, and Stella's. I look forward to these trips down memory lane more than you know, and it is so much fun to watch you all grow!
11. To the University of Iowa pitching coach - it was nice talking to you at the game. Although you don't know it, I thank you for the inside jokes that my friend Nikki and I still (and will always) have at your expense. If you're ever in my neck of the woods, and find yourself NOT married, call me, because you have great skin.
12. Gary! I enjoy baseball the most when I am: a) sitting front row, b) a bit drunk, and, 3) with you. I love our tradition of catching as many front-row games as we can, whether or not I can or can't speak Japanese to the players. You are one of my favorite people in the world, and I thank you for being my sports pal each and every summer. Next summer, though, let's just share one brat, and splurge more on beers instead!?
13. Dearest Brent, please continue to treat my friend Nikki nicely. She deserves it, and frankly, so do you. I look forward to more free ball games, and fun times at Johnny's with you, and your friends, next summer.
14. To my Chi-town girls (and guy), Tess, Mary, and Tera (AJ too!), thank you so much for making my weekend in Chicago so fun and friend filled. How fortunate I am to have good friends who would come so far to spend some good time together.
15. And lastly, to Daniel - I missed you and our good times this summer, and vow not to do the same next time around. Thanks for your late-night texts, they always made me smile. Even if you do live 1500 miles away (at the closest)...