Here’s my annual letter, the one I decided not to mail because I prefer readers who volunteer to read the info (blog visitors) rather than “forcing” it on folks. ;)
I would describe 2013 as the most challenging year of my life, but that could be because I’m sitting here looking straight at it for the first time, and I don’t really have the stamina to actively compare it with challenging years that have come before.
The year began with Jay away, finishing the last week of the multi-week trip that had him in Antarctica over Christmas. The rest of the winter was filled by the children finishing out their spring semester at Far North Christian School.
In March we had our first-ever big family vacation, flying to Hawaii for a week for the wedding of Jay’s brother. All of us loved the experience, and Natasha knows now where she plans to live once she is grown up.
Jay’s travel intensified this year (as in, he says he’ll have to check if he was in-state enough to count as a resident during 2013 :P ), with an extended trip to Midway, along with the more prosaic visits to Newport and Colbert, WA, where he gets the privilege of bunking with extended family, instead of sitting in a generic hotel room. (Other travel destinations included Dillingham, in SW Alaska, and a solo trip to Honolulu). These are the trip where he performs maintenance and calibrations on the arrays of infrasound sensors he builds as part of his work as a project engineer at the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.
Also this year, Jay took over the care and keeping of our herd of little goats. We really enjoy their rich, rich milk, but with the price (and accessibility) of hay becoming more challenging, we don’t know how much longer we’ll continue the exercise.
This spring and summer we sold off (and filled the freezer with) the last of our meat rabbits, and we’ve butchered the last of our chickens that stopped laying as well, so our hope is to shift our focus more to internal affairs.
Natasha continues to be a voracious reader. In addition to her budding interest in all things Hawaii, she enjoys crafts and creating projects. She is in 5th grade now, and a meticulous student. We use an app (called Homeschool Helper) to organize everyone’s subjects, and Natasha enjoys keeping track of her work on the iPad, always thrilled to show me when she has turned the red flag green by completing all her work for the day.
Natasha is in the Northland Youth Choir this school year, and just finished her first two concerts, one with the Fairbanks Symphony, which she described as an “Awesome!” experience. In both, it was a delight to watch her unwavering smile and attentiveness to the conductors. She truly is engaged in the life she is living.
Melody is 9-years-old and has improved greatly in her reading in the last several months. We are mostly managing confidence, now, since she sometimes is discouraged by the amount of work that learning entails. She is in 3rd grade this year, and says her favorite subject is Math. I imagine this preference is because of its black-and-white, no-ambiguity nature.
Melody has a tremendous heart, and when we acquired a (surprise) foster baby the day after Jay left for Antarctica this year, she (along with the others) stepped up immediately to be a genuine care-giver, recognizing and meeting baby’s needs, not just a “helper” who does what she is asked.
Elisha was less impressed with the baby and following directions. He was still quite adept at recognizing needs, but did what he could to delegate them. Elisha is 7, now, and in 2nd grade. He enjoys math, and avoids writing as much as he can get away with. Elisha is also an incredibly focused storyteller. This diverts his focus from other things he should be doing, but I am still delighted to see the way is mind works to make connections and predictions and is learning how to think.
All the kids play stories together and I delight in their creativity. This summer Melody and Natasha both began writing down their stories, and it did my writer-mama heart proud to hear how many solid story principles they’ve integrated already.
They were driving to town one day, and– bored– asked their dad to tell them a story. He began to list things about the car in front of him (“It’s red, going to town…”) and the girls interrupted that that was no way to tell a story. One needs an inciting incident and conflict and resolution!
My own writing has begun to feel rooted and valued. In May I finished a significant rewrite of the story I began when Elisha was a baby (Lindorm King, a fantasy novel), and in November I began my fifth novel. Sherlockian Daze is a couple of firsts, both a fresh idea (literally dreamed up only a month before I began to write it) and a story not directly based on a fairy tale. I’ve had a ball exploring new territory.
In April I hung out my shingle and began giving talks to different groups about the importance and the how of Professional Bios.
At the end of May we left our church of 13 years, and have since been exploring some other church options. We know that no group of humans is perfect, so the home-church hunt continues as we evaluate what we’re willing to live with.
For the first part of 2014 we are digging into (getting involved) Journey Christian Church, to see if we can find connection with this group of people to “do life with.”
In June a group of friends and I launched a project that was 18 months in the growing. Wyn Magazine is designed to provide information and encouragement to women struggling with mental or emotional health issues. I am Associate Editor, and my long-time friend Becky Castle Miller is Executive Editor. We both had an intense and negative experience with depression and trying to find our own way while we were ill. Our stories overlapped but were substantially different, leading us to more research and eventually to our mutual desire to provide resources for other women like us.
Also in June, Jay had the privilege of baptizing all three of our kids, and I had the delight of describing their confessions of faith and the beauty of being a part of that time.
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During spring break-up the increasingly (dis)colored water revealed that our well was no longer safe. The water table is very high on our property, but the water to the house was always kept clean by an artisian spring.
Once the snow was gone we confirmed it had died, and Jay spent a fair portion of the summer building an addition on the house for a 2500 gallon water tank to replace it. The experience was highly educational, considering the plan when we bought this property (Dec. 2010) was to live in this small house (debt-free) while we saved up and built a “forever” home.
Our plans with the property have shifted as we narrow our interest in animals and question whether we’d really want to build on our own, but we continue to enjoy the freedom of living without a mortgage, and that is a huge plus of our current living arrangements.
So entering into 2014 I am diving into a new year and a new church, while continuing commitment to some significant projects (homeschooling, noveling, and Wyn).
This and more I’m still figuring out as I go along, and I’m getting to be mostly-okay with that.