Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas and Farewell 2016

With the closing of 2016, or biggest year of change since 2011, I thought I'd give a Christmas lettery-ish type blog post, in lieu of thinking through, selecting photos, and writing out a formal, properly formatted letter. My blogging has always been far less thought-out and therefore better suits my current attention span. That makes it more fun, and if it's more fun, it's more likely to actually be written.

So here is a recap of 2016, our current lives, and looking forward to 2017:

Christmas Past: 
This time last year, cozy and warm(ish) in south Texas, we stuck Michael on an airplane and sent him off to Virginia to start a new job. The kids and I spent the rest of the month working out our final season in the Rio Grande Valley, teaching Mary to take over bass lines and working through music we can perform without Michael.  It was an excellent show, and that made it all the more difficult when spring arrived and we set down our instruments and headed out of the south for the last time. Due to family emergencies we cut our time short and went to Colorado for a time before heading to Virginia.

Some good friends rented us their garage apartment while we made the transition from a wandering group of vagabonds, to sticks-and-bricks inhabiters. In order to afford a larger sticks-and-bricks, we had to either find lots of performing jobs in the area or get ordinary jobs. Because of burnout and a desire to live on the other side for a time, we opted for jobs. Starting in the late spring, Katie got a job at Subway, and Alex held a temporary job at a fireworks booth.

In early July we moved into a 4-bedroom rental house, ranch-style, no basement or garage, and quite tiny, though huge compared to a bus. The exterior painting is an eye sore, like someone was a big Washington Redskins fan and took it out on the house, but it suits us otherwise.

At the end of July, Alex got in a fight with a BMW and lost the fight. You can read about that in a previous blog post. Her temp job at the fireworks booth was finished and she hadn't found a regular job yet, but 6 weeks in a cast put that back even further, killing her savings from the fireworks booth. At the end of her life as a Dufflepud, she got a job at Chick-fil-A and doesn't hate it. (Good enough for a fast food job.)

This summer Sean began working at McDonalds and seems to like it. He has been spending most of his money as quickly as it comes in, first on violin lessons, because as much as he likes fiddle, he prefers to have Vivaldi and the gang kick his rear. Second, he's been building the "ultimate gaming computer", complete with a 55" HD something-or-other TV in which to better experience the excess brain melting device. We agreed to the big TV (way too big for his small room), and the brain melting device on the condition that it stays in the main living room. It's his computer, all must have permission to use it, he has headphones if his games use too much potty-mouth for his parent and younger sister to listen to, and any gorish violence must be considerate of others as well. Plus, as a side benefit, I can better keep an eye on his brain melt when the TV is in the living room. He readily agreed, because, well, 55" TV, male, pew-pew... (Ok, his dad also wanted the big TV too. Go figure.)

Finally, he recently purchased a 5-string electric violin. I've declared an end to the excess spending after that and he'll now be saving for college.

Probably. The violin still needs special effects, new strings, and a YouTube channel, after all. Ah, parenting.

Continuing with summer of 2016, after we moved into the house we needed some additional supplemental income, and since I wanted to leave my days free to play chauffeur, I picked up a job cleaning buildings at night while I waited for more exciting opportunities. In October my new opportunity arrived when I got a job as a Youth Aid at a local library. Sadly, they can't give enough hours at this time, so I am working two jobs in hopes that the local county will decide the library is worthy of more money for youth service employees. It's tiring working both jobs, but I love, love, love the job at the library and I'll keep my foot in that door, so that when the county money gods of the region decide to grant favors, I'm first in line.

As for Mary, in addition to a youth choir at church, she started helping out as a volunteer for preschoolers at the library. She and other kids get to do the puppets behind the  curtain for the dance music and singing between story books. As you can probably imagine, she loves it! My job at the library is largely with the school age to high school kids, leading the Lego Club and Anime nights, with tween to teen book displays and posts, so I can just go be a patron and sit back to read when I take Mary to help lead the puppets.

Heading into fall, in October Mary and I took off together to visit Colonial Williamsburg for a weekend. That was fabulous!

Finding a church has been the biggest challenge we've faced after finding a home and jobs. During our time on the road we desperately missed having a church community like we enjoyed in Colorado but nothing in the area seemed to fit. We tried the mostly-homeschoolers church because we wanted the kids to be able to make friends and connections, and they enjoyed it, but overall it simply wasn't going to work.

So... this fall we started attending a church where we think we'll be happy. It's a historical church in the Old Town district, big and beautiful. They offer both a contemporary service, youth groups, with modern preferences, and also maintain a couple of traditional services, complete with old hymns, choirs in formal robes, liturgy, etc. It's wonderful to hear the choirs and sing the hymns in a lovely old historic church. Sort of like being stuffy where you like it, not because it's required, but because it can be beautiful. Love that.

Christmas Present:
Michael is doing well at his job. Training is very extensive and it's been rather stressful at times, but he appears to slowly be making progress and gaining more confidence in the work. Sometimes he finds himself climbing big water towers (his company deals in water treatment automated systems), and has occasionally taken pictures or video calls while high above the city.

We now have a dog. Boots, who lived with us for a time in Texas, was my parents' furry step child and he is now officially our full time furry step child. The cat hates him, but mostly she hates that he ignores her when she tries to taunt him.

Recently Alex and Katie headed out to tour Lord Fairfax Community College to see if there is any way they can meet requirements in time for this coming spring semester. They have to pay out of state tuition, so that's been a drawback and it may be late to gather funding, but neither feel like waiting until next fall if they can manage somehow. They've waited long enough. Needless to say, they loved the campus and are excited to start ASAP. Of course, they'll need a car to travel as well, so managing everything by January may be optimistic, but it's worth the try. Once they are in and through the school programs, and if they get high enough grades, the current thought is to head out after their associates to continue studies at one of the many great universities here in Virginia. Alex is leaning towards English, Katie towards something in biology.

What does this mean for the band??? Sadly, it means it may never fully resurrect, but there will likely still be music here and there. We have agreed to do a show in April and I may throw in our hats over the summer at a few other places if we feel we can make the schedules line up, but I suspect we'll now be one of those groups who just have the occasional reunion concert from this point forward unless the kids pull together their electric instruments and create their own project in the future.

But last weekend this happened:

The music definitely continues. Katie plays ukulele, Alex is hoping things will work out with school and work to leave her money to take lessons on the electric guitar, Sean now has his 5-string electric violin and has plans for some youtube arrangements and humorous videos, Mary is practicing guitar and singing in the youth choir. I planned to write a book about family and music. I have a basic outline and resources lined up, but with chauffeur duties and two jobs, it's shelved until at least the evening cleaning job goes away. Besides, all of my needs for a creative outlet are being happily used at the library.

Oh, and big news: We have a 7 foot Christmas tree! No more teeny-tiny bus trees. Yay!

Christmas Future:
Looking forward to 2017, my hopes for the year include seeing the twins further into the adult universe of life in studies and doing their own chauffeuring. Both are also looking at college programs that will take them to Japan to study abroad for a time, too. Not sure how they'll manage that with their cat... Our parenting responsibilities only go so far, right?

Sean plans to be a world famous YouTube personality with his electric violin and his "Ultimate Gaming Computer". He also wants to dye his hair red. I said no. He argued, because he's Sean, and I agreed after he gets his first 1,000 followers, because I'm me. Tune in next year to see how that turned out. We'll argue further over how far a PG13 rating his channel gets to go because pushing boundaries is what he does and pick battles is what I do. He also hopes to get his license. Virginia drivers beware.

Mary will do the choir thing, the puppet thing, and I'm hoping to find her either a drama thing or an art thing on the side when time and money allows. She's easily pleased, thankfully. She reads voraciously, mostly Warrior cat books so she can wake me at 1:00 in the morning after Erin Hunter kills off some cute little baby kitty and leaves her traumatized and in tears. And yet she still devours them, often at 1:00 in the morning when she's supposed to be sleeping.

Michael will work, I will work and eventually try to work only one job instead of two, the dog has no further plans, nor does the cat. We may or may not purchase a house again in the future, and will likely stay at this rental at least one more year.

All and all, this year has been one big roller coaster, but through God's grace, the difficult transition was made and now we carry the hope of all finding our footing on more solid ground in the coming years. Where there is a will, there really is a way, even if that way is sometimes a bit bumpy. Bumpy is at least not boring. Never accuse us of ordinary, boring, or normal, huh?

Have a blessed Christmas everyone!