Friday, December 31, 2010

Good Bye 2010

Tomorrow as we wake up it will be a new year, perhaps a new beginning, maybe new excitment but whatever term will define 2011 for us one thing is certain.  Life will go on, change will take place and we need to hear the Lord and act.  I am wondering what he may want me to change this year, what he may want me to do, where he may want me to go but of course time will tell.
I put the bike on my last blog of the year as it kind of sums up my year.  It was an item that I spent more money on than anything for myself in my life.  It was something that Aaron in such a special way guided me through so that I could get what I desired and then he ordered and built it for me.  I realize that "things" are not really important but for many reasons this bike is special for me because of who made it, how it was put together, what I can do with it and it surely sums up my life at this point. The only thing that it does in a wrong way is it is such a fast bike and I still have this slow body!!!!
This year was really not too eventful but yet was special in many ways.
  • Our family was able to all be together July 4th weekend at a camp ground.  That was special.  Even when I ended up in the hospital with a bad back it was great to be together as a family.
  • Servant Camp was again so powerful in how God worked.  It was inspiring to be part of it.
  • For sure the highlight was February 1st when little Ruby Gail Lee arrived in Madison.  I just can not believe that a little female Bucky Badger can be so cute!!
  • Christmas Day was special this year as we were again all together.  We almost did that earlier in June but Mike was out of town so we were all together minus one then.
  • Perhaps the most difficult part of 2010 was to see John/Mary/Audrey/Liam and Henry move to South Bend IN.  No doubt it was what God intended for them at this time but for me it was very difficult to see them move 500 miles away.  In our world now that may not be very far but when you desire to stop in for a cup of coffee on a cool rainy day it is too far!!
  • On a personal level biking and exercising was a highlight.  I have not gotten to my desired weight but I was able to lose weight, in fact I am now 35 pounds less than when I retired 3+ years ago.  Carrying less weight makes me feel better, makes me look better, helps me be more spiritually tuned in to God and it also gave me several new shirts and pants that had been too small!
  • Getting my bike was another highlight.  It may sound crazy that a 63 year old guy would be so excited about a bike but it was wonderful and I am so thankful to Aaron.
  • I would say that I did not accomplish 2 of my biggest goals this year.  Those were to get the electrical redone in the house and to paint the garage BUT I did finish round 2 and 3 of cleaning, ordering, throwing, and recycling.  The biggest of that was to completely clean the front attic of the garage.  In doing that I found a few things that I needed to find but really most of it was tossed.  
  • My "down" of the year was my inability to do much woodworking.  I tried and tried and tried to get out into the shop and mostly all I could muster up was some clean up, some ordering and then emotional turmoil would set in and I would sit and think of times past.  I have not given up on my woodworking so will try again in 2011.  Little did Gail know what went though my mind that sunny June day in 2009 when I brought in part of a project to show her.  She looked at me with those eyes and said, "Carmen I can not die yet because I want to see all of the beautiful things you will make in your shop".
  • I did get a new car this year.  It is always fun to have that but it was not a big deal.
So what will 2011 bring??  We do not know and would not desire to know ahead of time but for sure change will happen.  My hope and prayer is that I can embrace  and know what God has in mind and of course my free will enters into that in a big way so Lord give me wisdom and grace to live and act according to your desires for me.
I intend to spend a quiet last day of this year.  I may stop over to some friends for a short time this evening but for the most part I will be quietly ending this year and spending time in prayer and thought about what tomorrow and next year may bring.
For those who read this I pray that 2010 has been a good year and that 2011 will be full of "Godly" things.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

A day of contrasts

Gail would have turned 65 today.  I visited the gravesite and of course in the winter it is desolate and lonely feeling.  I remained there for a time just to remember some of her most happy birthdays.  The one where we gave her the table and chairs, the one where I gave her the special coat, the one where we surprised her at the Dodges, the one where we went out with Al/Deb and about 40 people came over and where here to surprise her when we got home.  Yes there were many times to remember BUT here I am looking at 2011 and it seems so strange that we lost Gail in 2009.  I am so thankful for the time with her.
The day was indeed strange.  We received rain most of the day and one could see that the snow went down but there is still much much left.  I spent about an hour and a half taking ice off of the two areas on the north side of the house.  I was able to get maybe 20% of the ice off but more importantly was able to make a path so that water will not build up but will drain off of the roof.  I expect and I hope that will take care of any problems before they start. 
I now have ALL of the Christmas things put away and it looks kind of stark in here.  I put all of the things in the attic as they were in my closet in the past.  Before I took the tree out yesterday I still could smell it which was interesting as it had gotten very dry.
I had to think to myself as I came in this afternoon that really my body at times tells me that things are different than 10 years ago.  I really did not like to be on the ladder near the roof line and when I got in the house I knew that I had worked for some time chopping.  What is this, am I really getting to middle age????
I just finished eating and as I ate I watched gunsmoke---a show from the past. 
I think it is time to do dishes.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A visit--a tear--a smile

Not a whole lot to say today.  Family gathered at the gravesite at 8:00 AM to remember Gail as it would have been her birthday tomorrow.  After a short time we motored to Starks where we enjoyed breakfast as a family.  We missed A/A/L/RG who of course are in Madison but be it Gail or other family members who are not here life continues to move oh so fast and change at a pace that is almost breath taking. 
It has been kind of a difficult day for me so far.  Thinking back on Gail/my life as her birthday approachs is difficult and then saying good-bye to John/Mary and family as they head back to IN has made the day a bit sad.  I will be OK but maybe will need a small amount of time to recapture God's grace now.
The title is about the morning.  A visit to the grave site, a tear for the sadness one feels and a smile for ALL the memories Gail gave each of us.  Liam said he remembered grandma actually being unhappy with him one time when he threw something in the living room and it went on top of the fireplace.  Of course he remembers all of the love that grandma gave him the most!!  The example Gail was to us for what she gave to family, what she gave to each individual was amazing and something one is so so thankful.
I have much to do as I plan to head out in a few days to get some warm weather, visit family and friends and just take some time to be "me" as I did not get a vacation this past summer.  I have decided to forget work at home, forget getting more order in the house and just be.  I also have some important things to get done while I am gone as I need to try to find out what I should do with my life.  I think it will help to get away, pray, visit, talk and just think  about my future.  Will D just stopped by to get something and I said I plan to take bike rides and maybe fashion a sign that says "I am Carmen and let me know if you have any ideas what I should do" but then as I thought about it that may not be a good idea!!!!!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A future rock star!!!!

Here is Liam on Christmas Eve playing his new guitar and rocking to Christmas music!!!  He fashioned a new hair style just for the song and I have to say he looks grand!!!!  For a 5 1/2 year old guy he is certainly a hoot to be around and observe.  He has a heart of gold and a mind that I dearly love. 
Here we are only a short time away from a new year.  What will it bring, what will happen and how will God appear in our lives daily??  They are questions that only time will answer and we wait, pray and hope each day. 
Today we have a wonderful weather day.  It is about +30 with bright sunny skies and no wind.  I see where it is supposed to be warmer tomorrow and Thursday with maybe rain!  How can that be when we have at least 3 feet of snow on the ground?  We have had record snows for the month of December and there really is not much space to put more.  I should get out to clear out the driveway again.  It was all clear before the last snow but when it snows all one has to do is drive on it once before the shovel hits it and it is packed down. 
In about a half hour there should be a dozen or more people here and it will be time to have hot dogs over the fire in the fireplace and then sit back and enjoy smores for dessert!!  The fire has been stoked since 8:30 so grandpa is ready.  Tonight a friend of John/Mary's is coming over and then the sad part---tomorrow morning the whole crew packs up and heads to IN again.  I have told them time and time again that it is a BAD idea but to no avail.  No I believe they are in the right place, the place God wants and intends for them but it is really too far away for grandpa.  So what do I do???  I guess I make the best of things and stand proud that they so carefully listen to God and what he desires for them.  It is indeed a wonderful thing when anyone of us can pray, listen, hear and obey our Lord.  It sounds like God is blessing John in his work and their family in many ways so Thank you Lord. 
I need to check the fire and get things ready for the hot

Monday, December 27, 2010

Here they are!!!!!

Here are the munchkins in the order of their age.  Of course it goes without saying that they certainly are the cutiest, smartest and best grand kids in the world.  Each has such a personality that it is wonderful to observe and see how God creates all of us in such a different way.
Here we are on the last Monday of the year.  Have a great day!!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Thank you Lord

Liam-5, Henry 7, Audrey 2, Jude 1, Ruby Gail 11 months, Faustina 2, Leo 3
I guess I forgot to say Grandpa 63!!!!  
It was a day to thank God for the wonderful gift of his Son.  A gift that is unsurpassed by nothing.  However it was also a day to thank God for family, for friends, for blessings and for the entire  year of 2010.  There were so many changes but will get into that at a later date.  All of family came yesterday and it was a good day.  We thought about Gail, we remembered Gail but yet we all know that she is in heaven and we must and we have moved on.  She will remain in our hearts forever and the gifts of love and family that she demonstrated daily we try to live out daily.  It was a day with some sad moments but a day to rejoice for so many reasons.
Now, December 26 we already begin to think and pray about 2011.  What to do, where to go, how to use the blessings that God gives us and the list goes on and on.  We already started things in a good way by all meeting at the place where Travis hangs out.  There is a wonderful water park there and for 2 hours we swam, talked, played and enjoyed ourselves.  John/Mary and family then went to friends for dinner, the rest went to Travis' for pizza and I came home to relax and go to bed early.  Life has been busy and good the last few days.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

Here we are at Christmas 2010.  May our mighty God continue to be with us, continue to love us, continue to be patient with us and protect us from the wrongs of our world.  Thank you for your Son, Jesus, who came to save us, love us and be an example for us.
It has been a busy place round here.  John/Mary/Henry/Liam and Audrey make for a full and fun home.  Better company, better food, more fun and all the rest when the home is full and busy.  Not much time to blog as this wireless is still giving me trouble and do not like to have it sitting in the kitchen with kids around.
I forgot to put out the stockings last night so had to do it at 5:30 this morning but you could guess Henry and Liam were up!!!
No I need to go, put the french press coffee on and spend some time with those guys.  They are getting so so big.  They each opened one present last night and Liam got a guitar.  He is such a performer!!  He may be the rock star some day.  His moves already can rival the best----at 5 years old?????

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas's past

Here is Leo (2 years ago) modeling his Grandma made PJ's which turned out to be Gail's last sewing project and the only project she did on her fancy 40th anniversary sewing machine.
Today was one of those days that one wants to just put behind them and not think about things again.  I had 2 situations where I just came away as an emotional wreck.  I do not know how people view me but I am kind of thinking that many friends would be surprised to hear me say that I absolutely hate conflict, disagreement or any kind of confrontation.  Gail would always tell me that I could not see reality some times and I just wanted everything to always be happy, fine and never have disagreements.  That may be a fairly true picture of me.  Anyway today was not one of my banner days.  DETAILS---well there will not be any here but it is enough to say that I feel batted down, stepped on and then left for fodder!!  Not that anyone did anything wrong, no that is not the case.  I just hate it when I know people are sad, upset or bothered in a big way and that happened today.  Of course things will be OK, life will be fine tomorrow and if half the people in the world had no bigger problems than me it would be a greater place than it really is.  But the truth is my day was not good.  It was more a product of who I am and not related to others.  Sometimes I just wish I could be different or have less faults or just was able to put things aside without attaching emotions to things but I often seem not able to do that.  So when I fail it seems to me that I fail big time.  Anyway I do need to gather my wits about me after a good nights sleep as Christmas is getting near and the focus needs to be on our mighty God and how he gave us his only son to be our savior.
It seems early but I am spent so will try to see if the pillow gives some relief.

A ride down memory lane

Here is our family picture of 2008.  Since then we have lost our Gail and gained Jude and Ruby Gail. 
As I was riding my 30+ minutes on the bike this morning I listened to Christmas music to help the time pass but I also spent the time reflecting on life over the last many many years.  Some of the thoughts were:
  • Life just moves way to fast
  • I have always been one to say I don't want to go back into the past I just want to move forward with my life and I guess I still say that but with the Advent Season here and Christmas fast approaching it is difficult to really have that in my heart.
  • I remembered the presents at home on the farm.  Mom and Dad always put them above the kitchen cupbroards.  I remember the reflectors on the tree lights.  
  • I remembered my all time favorite present which was a clock radio.  I knew I would so enjoy listening the Harry Cary and the St. Louis Cardinal baseball as I fell asleep in the summer time.
  • I remembered Gail's and my first Christmas together with our Charlie Brown tree.
  • One of the most fun Christmas presents in our family was when we gave a computer to the kids.  Each one had a present to open and it was maybe the printer or the key board or another part and the screams of delight still ring in my ears.
  • Of course the many many times we would go and cut our tree.  One year Gail decided she wanted 2 trees, one for the living room and one for the basement.  On the way home one of them fell off the top of the car!!
  • The first 2 Christmas' we were in St. Paul most of my family came.  We had aunts, uncles and cousins sleeping every place possible.  It was one of our most fun extended family times.
  • All our Christmas times after grandchildren arrived were special
  • I thought about the Christmas we gave each of the boys a tool box that I made.  I think they may still have them.
  • There was the time we drove to CA to be with grandma/grandpa Saunders
The thoughts went on and on and on.  As I glanced at my timer and saw that my 30 minutes was up I was ready to reflect just a bit more on today.  Here I was riding my bike at about 11:30 AM.  I had been to church, had read the paper, had a bite to eat, spent time praying and now was finishing some exercise.  As I went to take a shower I glanced at the guy in the mirror as I passed.  My what a life can do to a person.  It was not visible but I knew that in the back of that head was a bald spot, the arms did not look so strong, the neck had some wrinkles, the stomach was a bit too big, those biking legs were actually not bad, the chest didn't seem to be as broad as I think I remember BUT---with my best effort, with the attitude of a brave guy I smiled, held my head up straight and said in a voiceless tone, "God I am happy to be alive, I am happy to be here, I am thankful for a wonderful family and if I ever forget to be grateful please forgive me.  Thank you for the gift of your son and I promise you that I will always try my best to love and serve you."
Well it is on the a couple of things before a 3:00 Christmas program I will be going to.

Friday, December 17, 2010


The new picture on the blog is of the Nativity scene that I gave Gail for her 40th birthday.  It has stayed fairly nick and damage free for the last 25 years.  We have used it almost every year and it has been in many different places.  One year it was on the deck protected by  plastic.  It still is bright in color and of course has many memories attached to it.
It is hard to believe that one week from tonight will be Christmas Eve.  The season is here and it certainly is a time to rejoice for how good our God is.
One really nice thing this year is I have received many pictures in Christmas cards.  Actually I have not gotten that many cards yet but many of the ones that have come have pictures which is nice.  It is always fun to see friends, their families or their places. 
I think it is time to go to bed

I love that dog

Here is Wallace showing how much he loves me.  He is sound asleep using my shoes as a reminder that he loves to be near me!!
Not much new on my end.  I have been kind of marking time in some ways.  Can hardly wait to see everyone for Christmas, especially those little ones from South Bend.  It has been 4 months so I may not know who they are as they probably are so big now. 
I have gotten some work done in the house in preparation for Christmas.  I will share the details later. 
It seems like yesterday day that I had the open house and here it is a week ago so there again time flies when you are having fun.  I finally got the last of the things put away yesterday, things that are used only for parties etc.  Of course I again will get them out when Christmas comes. 
I did drive down to Burnsville today as that is now the closest woodworking store.  Well actually there is one in Bloomington but I like the one in Burnsville better.  While I was there I stopped in at the Burnsville shopping mall.  I think that is the first time I have been there.  I remembered our friends Marty and Dick Weber while I was there.  For some reason that was Marty's favorite place to shop.  Both of them died at a fairly young age several years ago.  Marty had some illness that caused her finger to just shrink and disappear kind of.  I remember how brave she was and how difficult it was for her to go places but she did get to all of her son's soccer games etc.  Times past, wow the memories are there for sure.
I did get over to John Krause's place tonight as some of us helped him get much junk out of his garage.  It is in my pick up now and will drive it out to the junk place tomorrow.  It was nice to help him get some of that stuff out of the place.  As I was driving home I thought about the attic in the garage and the fact that it is now clean--- so so thankful for the energy and means to get that done this fall.
Enough for now as it is way way way past my bed time.

Monday, December 13, 2010

A new day and all is white

Here is Niles Ave looking east towards St. Kate's.  The snow ended about 4:00 PM or so on Saturday and this picture is at about 4:00 PM Sunday.  No sign of snow plows yet.  As I write today there has been some plowing which means one can drive (carefully) on Niles.  The day is bright and COLD.  Not really as cold as the forecast said but at about -7 with a breeze it reminds one that winter is here.
Not much planned for the day.  Will have to get out and about later today as I have been home since Friday AM and it seems like I need to get some fresh air and new scenes.  Not that I don't like my home but enough is enough so will venture out later this morning.  Maybe I can find something to shop for even though I am pretty much finished with Christmas shopping.  Fleet Farm sounds kind of inviting.  I enjoy looking at the sporting goods and farm toys.  Maybe I should pick up an international M tractor just like the good old days!!  No I guess I am beyond that so will look at something else.  Anyway my driveway is shoveled and the street is kind of passable so will get out to rid myself of this "closed in" feeling. It actually would not be a bad idea to go for a walk but I think I will ride bike inside for exercise today.
I did finish picking up the house yesterday as party things were all over the place.  Got the table back in place, the card table down, the dishes washed and now it is what do I do with the left over pop and candy??  I could save it for when John/Mary come but I kind of think they may not want the kids to feast on that kind of stuff.  If I do that they may not want to come back to visit and that would be bad.
I think I may jump on the bike for a while, shower after that and head out to Fleet Farm to see if I can spend a dollar or two.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A party--A storm-A time to relax

Wow so much in so little time over these last 48 hours. 
To start out the open house was a success.  I am guessing about 40 people came to enjoy goodies, the season spirit and wonderful conversation.  We had too much food but why would one complain about that??  Cynthia's lefsa was again a hit as the picture shows.  Faustina and Mary Oberg became great friends and I did not get a picture of Jude but he had to be the hit of the party.  With his chubby legs, his famous smile and then running around in his diaper showing off his figure he was a hoot!!  I was happy the storm held off as 40 people over night---I don't think so!!!
I woke up to much snow yesterday.  I am guessing the yard stick is pretty much proof that we got about 19 inches.  I put the yard stick down until I hit the old hard snow so it is real.  As I write this morning, Sunday, I am the only one with a shoveled walk on my side of the street.  I have my driveway open but the street is about impassible so it is once again home alone for the day.  Wallace was so good as he did not want to venture out into the snow to do his business but he did and you can see that he and I could play house out there as the path to the garage is deeper than he is tall. 
The storm is kind of nice.  No mail, no paper and no company.  That means I can do computer work, read, watch TV, sit and think, pray, take a nap and all is fair play as the outside is off limits for now.  Don't start the car, don't venture out in the -30 degree wind chill, just hang out in the house and pretend that one is on vacation.  I did forget but maybe I should turn off the ringer on the phone.  I do know without a doubt that this kind of mini-vacation makes sisters Helen and Joan want to live in the midwest again!
With this snow and cold I am beginning to think about a possible vacation in January where I could stop at Helen/Mike's for a time, go to Flordia and visit a couple of friends who spend part of the winter there and then drive back and spend time in South Bend and Madison.  If I do that I would need to be back for Grandma Saunder's birthday February 5 but 4 or 5 weeks in warmer weather sounds kind of fun. Maybe??  It would be pretty exciting to put the bike in the car and head out to places one could ride.  Oh I almost forgot I suppose I would need to see if Helen/Mike are going to be home as they travel sometimes.   Anyway it is nice to dream and we will see.
No I had better see if there is any food in this house.

Friday, December 10, 2010

A party today

Here is the picture of the shoes from our open house last year.  We will see who comes this year.  I hope some neighbors and friends show up so we can laugh, share and get to know each other better.  Last year I met some people I had never talked to and that was fun.  If only Gail could be here to enjoy---but we will have fun and we will share memories of times past.  As I look at my life today and look at it a year ago I feel that I am ready to move on with happy memories and an excitement for the future.  I know that I will have to do that with dishes in the sink sometimes, dust under the table for sure, a bed that is made but looks like a man made it, grand-kids who love grandpa but miss grandma so much even though they do not realize it and perhaps most of all a heart that is healed to the point that only occasionally does it seep loneliness and emptiness.
I do think it may be time here to get some more work done.  The den is still a mess, the living room is not ready for a party and in general the entire house shouts with a loud voice "A man has prepared this place for Christmas and it is lacking MUCH!!!"  I had better be thankful for that "whoever" that left some goodies, some Kona coffee and some beautiful wreaths that are now on the front of the house.  I guess to be honest I am happy with what is done in the house and I know that the people are the most important so all is good.  Anyway it is what it is and tonight should be a fun time. 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Happy Birthday John

 Forty-one years ago John came into our lives and of course things were never the same in a good way.  He always had a way of reving things up, making things happen, exploring the new, doing things differently and in general making family interesting, fun, loving and new.  Today of course he has a wonderful family, is practicing being a super husband and father and as always makes his dad (and of course in the past his mother) proud of him.  Each of my children, in their own way, are creative, fun, loving and precious but today I salute you John as one of the BEST!
I continue to prepare for the open house Friday.  I brought some coffee to Cynthia this morning to thank her for the goodies on the deck but she said they were not from her.  So someone out there thinks I need help in Christmas goodies and decorations and they may be right.  Who ever left things on the deck for me a huge THANK YOU and next time let me know who you are so I can thank you in person.
I put the lights on the tree this morning so now must arrange them and get some decorations up.  I am not making a big deal of Christmas decorations but need to do a few things. 
I pray this Advent season will be great for all.

Monday, December 6, 2010

A relearning of a life lesson--AGAIN

Here we are on a Monday morning.  Another weekend is in the books and we are ever so close to Christmas.  Seems that Christmas now comes more than once a year the time flies by so fast!
I had an uneventful weekend but I did relearn a life lesson.  One should not have expectations of others for many reasons.  I went into more than one situation last weekend with expectations.  Of course when a person does that more often than not the other person or persons do not know what is on your mind.  When that happens of course things will not happen as one wants or thought they should.  Let down!!!  What I am talking about was not life changing, not terribly disappointing, not really that important but still when things happen like that they tend to be a bit of a downer.  So as I was in bed last night thinking of the day I was able to realize that what I had experienced was really a short coming on my part.  I know and I realize that I should go into social situations or family situations or what ever with things in mind that I need to give or things in mind that I need to do but to have expectations of others is a recipe for failure as all too often expectations are not met or not even possible.  And even more they many not even be right!   So as I slept last night I asked for grace to change, to realize that my shortcomings come all too often.
I am looking at some work that needs to be done before my open house on Friday.  Not a lot but some cleaning, some decorating, some ordering of things that need to be done.  It will be interesting and fun to see if the open house this year is as successful as last year.  I hope it is as people who came last year seemed to have fun and enjoy gathering, talking, sharing and having treats and eats that went with the season.
I do have a breakfast get together this morning at 7:15 with Jim C.  It seems like we have not gotten together for some time but we have tried to do it monthly. 
In the family we have John's birthday Wednesday.  It is so hard to believe that Gail's little red head and my little boy arrived 41 years ago.  Gail was so so ready to be a mother and oh my goodness she did such a wonderful job.
Maybe I will make myself some french press coffee before I meet Jim as we are going to a place where the coffee would be a B- at best.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Time goes just too fast

Here it is Friday and it seems that I blogged only yesterday but it really was Sunday.
The week has gone very fast.  What have I done???
  • I have been able to ride bike indoors each day for about 30 min or so
  • Had 2 breakfasts out with friends
  • Had 5 guys over for meditations Thursday at 6:00 AM
  • Cynthia/Mike/Faustina and Jude have been here since Wednesday afternoon as they are having some work done on their wood floors.  The smell is too strong to stay there.  They may be here tonight again.
  • I totally finished my Christmas shopping
  • Have gotten out the invitations for my open house next Friday
  • Have gotten out about 15 Christmas cards so far.  At this point I will send out cards as I get some
I guess that is the bulk of what I have done.  I can not believe how fast the time flies.  Here we are at December 3 already and almost finished with the first week of Advent.
Not too much more to say.  I do need to do some serious work in the house before my friends/neighbor open house next Friday but that is a week away so do have some time.  Before that I need to get the tree in and put up some decorations so a person knows that Christmas is coming.  Of course that is a VERY strong point in my skills so I am sure when all is finished it will look really really nice. NOT    Really it is not that bad but it always was Gail's thing and I never helped too much but one can always learn new things.  I think last year it turned out not too bad.