Fasten your seat belt! It's the 2017 Year-in-Review!
The hubbub of the holidays is over, and with our nest empty once again, my conscience tells me it's time to write our family's year-in-review post. Recalling the events of 2017 is much like stepping off a roller coaster. At our age, the speed at which time flies is akin to Cedar Point's "Top Thrill Dragster," and the ups and downs of the past year fill us with excitement and joy, but also leave us a bit queasy and uneasy. If you'd like to review the events that have transpired with our family over the past year, I suggest you fasten your seatbelt, and come along for the ride on our 2017 year-in-review! January: We started our year with a jolt, as Chloe and her dear friend Emily were in a car accident on the 4th day of the new year. Relieved to find no one was injured, it was still disappointing to learn that the car was totaled (and only minimally insured as it was our "beater" car Leah had been taking back and forth to college). Leah, of course, was the most disappointed of all. (No worries...in late summer we were able to find her a really cute 2011 Honda Fit...so she is happy, and mobile, once again!)
February/March:As the year progressed, we experienced an increase in speed, an exhilarating peak, and then a sudden descent. Chloe busily prepared for her role as Chava in our High School's production of Fiddler on the Roof. All of her siblings, and many relatives and friends joined us to watch the show...definitely one of the highlights of our year. In addition, Chloe had the excitement of being accepted to both St. Olaf College and Notre Dame...her top two college choices.
At the same time Leah was experiencing some college struggles at DePauw. Having switched her major from Music Ed to Math the previous fall, she found she was feeling unhappy and unsuccessful on this path. Her spring break allowed us some time to really talk about other options, and for her to do some soul-searching regarding her future.
The end of March brought one of life's unexpected turns, as my brother-in-law Steve passed away after a 14-year battle with colitis and the complications associated with it. We delayed our spring break trip in order to be with my sister and her kids, as well as the rest of my family, celebrating Steve's life and all he meant to us.
April:Things slowed down for us and we started an uphill climb again. After last year's freezing spring break temps in the Northeast, we all voted for a trip south with some warmth and sunshine. Jared was able to join Tom, Chloe and me as we traveled to Georgia (Jekyll Island and Savannah) and South Carolina (Hilton Head Island) for some biking, beach-going, and general relaxation. It was a much needed reprieve from the busyness before break and the craziness to come after.
By the end of the month both girls had made big college decisions. Chloe chose St. Olaf in Northfield, Minnesota with it's amazing music/choir programs, math department and "Up North" appeal (not to mention proximity to the Mall of America!). Leah made the decision to transfer to Indiana Wesleyan University (one of her earlier college choices) and to change her major once again...this time to Music Therapy. (Current update: Both girls are very happy with their choices, as are we!)
May: We hit fun point #1, as we helped Chloe prepare for her senior prom, which she attended with her newish boyfriend, Caleb. They had a great time, and looked amazing (as the many pictures proved!).
Like a roller coaster's loop-de-loops, the month also brought many upside-down, bittersweet moments. So many "last" events for both girls (and Mom and Dad), left us feeling happy, sad and nostalgic all at once. Leah experienced her last DePitches and choir concerts, as well as her last days in Delta Gamma and at DePauw. On the home front, we watched Chloe in "our" last parade, last collage/band concert, and last choir concert at Edwardsburg. The month ended at fun point #2 as the whole family reunited for a Memorial Day weekend getaway to Lake Michigan, complete with funniest family home videos, awesome family meals, beach photos and winery visits. June: We reached a peakin June with Chloe's graduation from Edwardsburg High School. She delivered her 1-minute Valedictorian speech with grace and poise, played and sang her final band and choir songs, received her diploma, and bid EHS a tearful farewell (while Tom and I had visions of empty-nesting dancing in our heads!).
After the big graduation open house, Chloe settled down to work at the Notre Dame Library, a job she came to love! Leah became a camp counselor at Camp Ray Bird, a local overnight Christian camp for underprivileged kids. She also had a wonderful summer and hopes to return again this year.
July:The climb continued to the pinnacle of our year as we made our annual trek to Cass Lake, Minnesota. My mom, dad and sister Phyllis stayed with us in our cabin the first week, which was fun (and at times interesting?) for all!
They moved to the resort next door the second week so that our older adult kids (Jared, Seth & Maddie) would have a place to sleep when they arrived. Speaking of our older kids...it's time for a little pause so I can fill you in on their lives (let's imagine the roller coaster has broken down for a few minutes while I digress).
Seth and Maddie continue to live in Wyoming, Michigan, with their dogs Gibson and Cody. They have been focusing on new jobs and new healthier lifestyles. Maddie worked as a paraprofessional last spring, but in August started a new job as a certified special education teacher (grades K-8) at Paramount Charter Academy in Kalamazoo. She loves her students, her work, and having her own classroom! (She could do without the hour-long commute every morning and evening, but has learned to make the best of it with podcasts, etc.). Seth has enjoyed working in various tree care jobs over the past year, but Michigan's change of seasons has limited the amount of work available year-round. Since he's not too fond of snow removal, he has decided to try a new career pathway, and, taking after his Grandpa (and Great-Grandpa!) Hanstra, has just started working for a pest-control company. He's quite excited about the company and the new and challenging work he'll be doing!
Jared's "van life" adventures, which began in November of 2016, continued through the end of July. He had been working remotely in a contract position, and the hours were great for traveling and exploring, but not so good for the bank account. He decided to look for something more stable. What he found was an excellent opportunity to work for Accenture/Fjord in Austin, Texas. Austin had been one of his favorite cities on his van-life tour, so when the job was offered, he jumped at it. He enjoys his new job, loves living in Austin, and has even found time to develop his hobby of wood-working, continue his passion for climbing, and form some new friendships. He quickly realized that a van with no air conditioning in August, in Austin, was no place for a young, urban professional to live, so he parked old "Blue" for now and began renting a room. Life has been good to him in Austin...we all just wish he were a little closer!
Okay...thank you for your patience. We're ready to roll again. Please keep your hands (and elbows) inside the car at all times to avoid injury! Are you ready for the BIG DROP?!
August: As summer was winding down and we were prepping for college move-ins and empty-nesting, Tom went out for a nice long bike ride. We're not exactly sure what happened, but it appears some rough road caused him to fall, and he landed directly on his left elbow. He shattered the bone severely. After two surgeries, each followed by a hospital stay, many doctor visits, and months of physical therapy, he is still working on his range of motion and nerve issues. The most frequent question he gets is: have you gotten on your bike again? The answer is "yes" (in the basement, on the trainer) and "no" (not on the road yet...but that is definitely the goal!).
With the help of our friends and family, and some miraculous timing on God's part, we managed to move Leah to Indiana Wesleyan between surgeries. With his arm in an external fixator, Tom was a great supervisor as three girls and I carried boxes and bags up two flights of stairs.
September: One week after Tom's second surgery, we (meaning, Chloe, Caleb and I) loaded up a U-haul trailer with all of Chloe's things. We (meaning I) drove the nine hours up to St. Olaf College, where we (meaning Chloe, several student volunteers and I) unloaded her things. Tom was a great co-pilot with his arm propped up on pillows, and once again, supervisor of move-in activities. He also served as the designated parent to attend all optional parent information meetings while Chloe and I settled her in. (I often teased that he injured his arm just so he wouldn't have to drive and help haul the girls' things, but seriously, he would have given anything (except his left arm?) to help out!)
After a tearful good-bye, we drove away from St. Olaf...officially empty-nesters! Our original plan to do some biking in Wisconsin that weekend was re-routed. We instead spent a day in New Glarus (WI) where we enjoyed the amazing brewery and cute little Swiss town, followed by an afternoon in Chicago, where we took an architectural boat cruise, and then happily ran into old friends from South Bend who shared tales of empty-nesting (with the voice of experience) over some deep-dish pizza.
October: The crazy ride of 2017 took a smooth turn into Fall, with a lovely weekend of reunions in early October. In Chicago, we were able to meet up and have a nice dinner with Jared and his newish girlfriend Kara as they were passing through the city. We spent the next two days reunited with Tom's old college roommates, our beloved Beta 4 gang. The beautiful wedding of Katie to Chris was the event that brought us all together. We celebrated their love as well as our friendships, which have withstood the test of time for over 30 years. To top off our weekend of reunions, Chloe was also home for fall break so we managed to get home in time for Sunday dinner with her, Leah, Seth & Maddie.
November: Our ride wasn't over yet, as we had a few more bumps to contend with. Thanksgiving weekend brought our usual traveling to my family in DeMotte, Tom's family in Lafayette, and this year an added trip to Detroit to see our EHS Eddies football team play in the state championship!
Unfortunately, I started feeling sick the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and spent the next 2-3 weeks recovering from a virus that left me with no voice and swallowing problems, and which opened the door to shingles in my right ear/side of my head. We added a couple more ER visits, several doctor appointments and more meds to our health insurance claims (no problem meeting our out-of-pocket limit this year!).
December: The end of the track was in sight, but a few more thrills awaited us. Thankfully, God's timing again was perfect in allowing me to get an accurate diagnosis and the right meds just in time for me to be able to join Tom (who flew in from a conference in Vegas) in Minnesota so that we could attend the St. Olaf Christmas Festival. An amazing concert with over 500 voices (and Chloe as one of them), it was just what the doctor ordered to lift my spirits, and to prepare us for the Christmas season.
Our holidays were merry and bright, as we had all the kids home and together for at least a few days. We had a great time with both of our extended families as well. This year marked the final year for Kingma's Christmas Tree Farm, a bittersweet ending to a long, happy story (you can read about it on my previous post).
Looking back, and recounting the memories, I realize 2017 really has been quite a ride! Though empty-nesting was not what we expected in many ways, we've had many more quiet moments this fall than any other season in the past 26 years. We've started watching Netflix for entertainment, but we've also had more time to reflect, talk, and pray together. Despite the ills and injuries we've faced, the struggles we've helped our kids through, the losses we and those around us have suffered...we feel blessed. We have truly experienced love beyond measure, from you, our friends and family.
And now we look down the path that is 2018. Will it be another roller coaster?
Well...we're kind of hoping for a lazy river instead.
God bless you in 2018, and may you and yours enjoy the ride!
(Last year's update can be found at my other blog site, Wildness & Wonder, here.)