It's still January, so why not? 2016 Year-in-Review
I know, I know...you are all done with Christmas letters and year-end reviews. I do apologize for my lateness, but since my computer spent the first two weeks of 2017 in the shop, I'm a little behind the curve this year. Anyway, with so much energy focused on our new president, politics, and protests...I thought you could all use a little stress break! Pour that cup of coffee, that glass of wine, and get comfy...here we go again. Note: For those on Facebook, this likely WILL be a review of things you've already seen and heard through my posts, but I hope you'll enjoy the recap anyway. For our non-Facebook friends and family, I hope to keep you up-to-date on our family goings-on during 2016.
A PLACE TO LIVE
Tom & I remain settled in the woods of Niles (MI) with one little birdie left in our nest. With more time spent biking and less time available for yard work and home maintenance, the thought of downsizing at some point in the future often crosses our minds. But for now, we love watching the snow fall on the trees and the birds flocking to our feeder.
Speaking of downsizing, Jared has done so in a BIG (or should I say "tiny?") way as he spent the summer converting a big red Chevy Express van (named "Blue") into his "tiny house on wheels." He is now living and traveling in it...sampling the coffee, food, beer and lifestyles of this great country of ours. He's meeting up with old friends and making new ones, working from his van, and basically just living the "vanlife" dream. You can read more about his adventure on his Travel Log here.
On a somewhat larger scale, in July, Seth and Maddie bought their first home in Wyoming (MI). They have already learned much about mortgages, escrow, leaky windows (after torrential rains), painting, and general "fixing up." Maddie has a great eye for decorating, and has transformed the house into a home with all the cute, homey touches. They enjoy the company of Gibson and Cody, their two lovable dogs, at home and on walks around their new neighborhood.
Not to be outdone, Leah also moved into a new home this fall. In her second year at DePauw (that's with a "W," not an "L") in Greencastle (IN), she moved into the Delta Gamma sorority house and is loving life with her DG sisters. Chapter meetings, recruitment of new members, and service projects with the visually impaired add a little extra busyness to her life, but she wouldn't trade it for the many friendships she is forming.
Chloe, always trying to keep up with her siblings, spent the year looking for a new home for next year. College visits to Brown Univ, Univ of Vermont, Univ of Rochester (NY), Cornell Univ, Macalester College, St. Olaf College, Calvin College and the Univ of Notre Dame have kept us very busy (and allowed us some fun excursions). She has narrowed her selection down to the last three and has submitted her applications. Now we wait.
WORK TO DO
Tom continues as Senior Systems Administrator at the University of Notre Dame library...same ol' same old, but at our ages, routine is a good thing!
I'm still working as a Speech Language Pathologist for Edwardsburg Public Schools...in my 7th year at EPS and keeping comfortably busy with around fifty 4th - 12th graders.
Jared works remotely as a front-end web developer for a company in Washington state called Fuel Made. He recently had a retreat in Palm Springs in which he met his coworkers in person for the first time, and was thrilled to find out they were all just as cool as he is!
Although he was able to find a couple of nice, steady jobs after college, Seth has been searching for a more challenging work situation. His searching paid off shortly after Christmas when he was offered a position with Davey Resource Group as a Consulting Utility Forester (the guy who figures out which trees need to be cut to make way for utility lines). He's very excited about the new job, and Mom and Dad are happy to see the college degree in biology put to good use. This past fall, Seth also felt called to get more involved at their church and took on an intern position in the children's music program.
Maddie works at Hudsonville Christian School as a para-professional in a middle school special ed classroom with extra hours in the Hudsonville Public School's aftercare program. She's keeping an eye out for certified teaching jobs for next year, and is excited to be starting her master's degree in early childhood this summer at Grand Valley State University. To help her unwind (and as a fun little side-business), Maddie is using her craftiness and eye for art to make and sell greeting cards.
After a difficult freshman year and some soul searching, Leah decided to change her major from music education to a music minor with a math major. She still loves her music and studies piano, sings in the University Choir and also in DePitches (a girls' a Capella group). During the summer, she refilled her slim bank account through babysitting, car-hopping at Sonic, and work at the Notre Dame library. Now back at school, she works as a chapel intern with a Methodist church near campus. Managing diabetes in addition to her studies has proved challenging and downright stressful at times, but she's found supports along the way to help her cope.
Although "senior-itis" has set in, Chloe has managed to maintain her good grades and will have to start writing her valedictorian speech soon (along with about 10 co-valedictorians)! Last spring she played a "lady of the court" in Cinderella (the musical), and had a great time attending her first prom. After a successful marching band season on marimba, she's now honing her musical skills on the piano in jazz band, and has landed a role as "Chava" (the 3rd daughter) in "Fiddler on the Roof" for this spring's school musical. All these activities (along with working at Subway, attending youth groups and a Bible study) don't allow much time for completing college and scholarship applications...but hey, sleep is overrated, right?
SIGHTS TO SEE
Jared outdid all of us in the travel department this year, with a 2-month trip to southeast Asia (Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia) and Japan while between jobs. It's always entertaining to hear his stories and harrowing airport adventures (especially once he's returned safely home again!).
Leah and four of her friends enjoyed an "amazing" (Leah's favorite, overused word for it) trip to the Smoky Mountains over fall break. Having experienced the awesome beauty of God's creation in that part of the country made the news of the forest fires even more heartbreaking for her. (You can read more about her "amazing" travels here ).
Tom and I completed a northeast tour with Chloe over spring break (feel free to read about it here) and took our annual trek to Minnesota for fishing and fun with family in July (my Lake Log can be found here).
And of course...there was biking. Tom and I took to the roads and trails around Michigan, Indiana, and Minnesota; together, alone, with family and friends, and in several organized rides. I surpassed my goal of 1,000 miles with 1,135; while Tom put in a whopping 3,150! He also completed his first century (100 miles) and I managed a 100K (62 miles) by the end of the season. It's great to know we've found a pastime we both enjoy as we look forward to those empty nest years.
PEOPLE TO LOVE
One of the hardest things our family, and especially Leah and Chloe had to face this year was the loss of a good friend...16-year-old Makayla was killed in a car accident on a bright sunny morning in early May. After such events many tears are shed, many "why?" questions asked, many hugs given, and many prayers sent up to heaven. We continue to miss her...in school choir concerts, spring musical, phone calls and texts...and just in her daily presence that always brought smiles and singing. We were reminded once again of the precious gifts of life, of friends, and of family.
Our extended families have had no big changes this year...we love spending holidays and other special events with them, which in April included my parents' 60th anniversary! I've been making it a point to get down to DeMotte about once a month to help out with little things around the house, and to spend some quality time with Mom and Dad. We're thankful Tom's mom and family live along the route to DePauw, which has given us more excuses to visit them as well.
Well, I think I've hit most of the highlights and hope I've provided a lovely little distraction for you. As we head into 2017 with a bit of fear and trepidation, angst and worry...it is great to know that we have friends and family around the world whom we can count on for a smile, a chat, a hug, or a text. Thanks for your cards, photos, letters, emails, and posts that keep the light of love shining in our lives.
With a place to live, work to do, sights to see, and friends to love...we are so blessed!
May you all experience the same in 2017!