(Smartphones and) self-worth.

It’s almost become some unwritten rule in Kansas City that stopping at intersections is when you check your phone. Remember when honking horns was some sort of provocative thing? Well, now many people seem thankful for the one person who looks up for a second to notice the light’s changed and taps the horn as a signal for people to stop looking down at their phones and hit the accelerator.

But this really isn’t about everyone else. You see, from 2012-2014, I commuted through Swope Park from Raytown to Waldo. My drive took me past The Lake of the Woods and down Blue River Road, two of my favorite places in Kansas City in the autumn. But when I would get to work, I noticed that I couldn’t recall much about my drive. (I imagine this sorta thing happens to most of us from time to time when we can’t remember if we stopped at a stop sign or if we paid for our food before leaving a restaurant.) Turns out, psychologists had a term for this phenomenon of blind spots in memory or self-perception.

While I was aware of that perceptual scotomas could occur, it still scared me to think that most of a 20-minute commute had practically vanished from my memory. I immediately started looking for a cause, and I noticed that I’d been texting friends on my drive. And, intoxicated with the newness of listening to music on my phone, I spent a lot of time shuffling between albums. Most of all, though, I realized that I was feeling compelled to respond immediately to every notification I received from any of my apps. My perceptual blind spot scared me. Sure, I was scared for the safety of others and myself as I drove to work. But I was also afraid that I was becoming a robot of sorts. I feel like detail and nuance are the enemy of laziness. And since I wasn’t noticing my surroundings, I started feeling a little less than human.

So I started occasionally interrupting my trip with a stop at the lake. Watching the sun rise over The Lake of the Woods quickly became one of my favorite ways to help me focus before particularly stressful days. Another way I sought to fight my problem was by putting down my phone while I drove. I would choose an album to listen to before I left the house and just let it play all the way to work. You know, like I used to before smartphones and seemingly infinite streaming possibilities.

Did these strategies work for me? Yes, immediately. Once again, I noticed the cars next to me at a stoplight, to the deer walking down a hill in Swope Park, and to that towering sycamore tree at the entrance of the driveway up to the Swope Park Memorial Golf Course.

But all change is a loss, right? While I regained awareness of my surroundings, my phone accumulated text messages and notifications during my short commute. (Sure, I remember the anxiety in college of racing home to see all the messages I’d missed on AOL Instant Messenger. But I think phones have obliterated our sense of context, and I feel a need to check it anytime and anywhere.) When I arrived at work or back at home, I immediately sifted through notifications and replied to text messages.

You see, this was never about using my phone; my problem was a little more disturbing. I had an insatiable desire for others to see me as responsive. And just like our belief that we can somehow keep up with all of our friends who moved away years ago, yet remain super close on Facebook, my responses to notifications on social media is frequently a charade. It’s not like I’m having a conversation with these people in a real location. Many times, my friends are just like me, commuting and not really in a safe place to engage in conversations. My immediate responses served to feed this vicious cycle of believing we’re in touch and that we’re having any semblance of a conversation.

So, back to my strategy of just putting down the phone. I guess you could say it worked out well. In fact, it wasn’t until I put my phone down that I learned about anything I’ve written. Much like many other seemingly-necessary things that we go without for Lent or for dietary reasons, I became aware of my reliance on my phone to give me some self worth. Worth and dignity that was already given to me when I was born.

And you know what, I also found that I listened to more albums in their entirety. A win-win for me.

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Ch-ch-changes (The Smiths in 2017)

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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We love exploring the city and food at places like YJ’s.

We hope you’ve had a good year. Our 2017 has been full of changes (we’ll now get David Bowie stuck in your head), and while that’s made for a crazy feeling much of the year, the changes have been good overall. We’ve been getting settled in our house, meeting new neighbors and learning new patterns and schedules in our new location. We love where we live and that it offers more chances to host friends and family, be involved in our church and explore the city.

The biggest changes are with Ian. He stopped going to daycare in June and stayed home with Jon for the summer before starting school. We are so thankful for Christina and her family opening their home to Ian the past few years. He loved being there and we are grateful for the safe, caring, educational space he enjoyed being a part of.

Ian started school in August. It’s been an adjustment (he falls asleep on the way home most days), but so far he seems to like school and going downtown with mom every day. His favorite classes right now are art and science. He’s very proud of making a comic book and other art projects and enjoys talking about what scientists can do. He also played soccer for the first time this fall. It’s a bit like controlled chaos at the kindergarten level, but we’ll probably try to do it a bit longer and see how much he wants to pursue it.

2017_8Another big change this fall was the loss of Grandma B. She was the only one of Kate’s grandparents that Ian’s been able to know, and the past several years we’ve stayed at her house when visiting Ohio. Our time with her has been sweet and she and Ian had a special bond. We’re glad we had time with her in July and got to make a few last memories. It was difficult to go back for her funeral over Labor Day weekend, but the time with family was important. We’re now seeing her home for the last time this holiday and are seeing a lot of changes to how we celebrate Christmas going forward as we plan on starting our own traditions in KC next year.

Jon went back to being a special ed co-teacher this fall after a year teaching math. He’s also in his second year leading a team of teachers. The adjustment has been fairly smooth and he’s been able to manage time paperwork a bit better this year. Kate got moved into a slightly different job within her office over the summer and is doing more with social media right now. The organization she went back to in 2015 continues to restructure, change and grow. We’re not sure where that will lead in the coming year, but are going with the flow and trying to adapt to each new development.

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We’ve loved finding cool places to explore along the banks the of Mississippi River on trips to Ohio.

Jon has been playing in a few bands with friends this year, more than the past couple of years, and he’s still playing with the music team at our church. Kate has spent some time volunteering at Ian’s school, mostly through a reading buddy program, which has been fun. It’s also been a big music year in Kansas City. Time together has involved seeing Robert Glasper, Radiohead, Herbie Hancock, U2 and Slowdive. Jon even got to see Echo and the Bunnymen this summer.

We know 2018 will bring more changes, adjustments and new opportunities. It will also bring a chance to open up our home more as we immerse our family in our community in new ways. As so much in the world seems to be falling apart, we hope we can be a light and we look forward to having you in our lives over the next year.

Much love from the Smiths!

 

 

That time I rode in a van for seven hours with As I Lay Dying.

Fifteen years ago, I attended the Cornerstone Music Festival. My girlfriend (now wife) lived ten hours away, so we saw the festival as an opportunity to meet halfway and see our favorite bands.

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The Choir’s guitarist, Derri Daugherty, and me at Cornerstone 2002

Looking back, this was a great idea. It would also be the only time Katy and I saw one another that summer. I saw longtime favorites Daniel Amos, The 77’s, The Choir, Rosie Thomas, Ester Drang, Embodyment, The Violet Burning, Luxury (twice), Fine China (also twice), Mars Ill, Rosie Thomas, Roadside Monument, Terry Taylor, and Mike Knott. I also talked to David Bazan about his new record, Control, while we watched Sixpence None the Richer.

For some reason, I decided to forgo the usual camping experience and sleep in my friend’s van. But then, as fate would have it, I saw some friends from Topeka on the dirt road near the entrance of the festival. (With 30,000 people funneling into the grounds of the festival, what were the odds???) My friends had a tent, and somehow I convinced them to let me sleep in it.

But, you see, my wife has always been smarter than me. She and a friend rented a dorm room a half-hour away at the Western Illinois University for the week of Cornerstone. Sure, they didn’t get the full Cornerstone experience. You know, the sulfur showers and really terrible hardcore bands playing makeshift stages in the middle of the night. But what they got was plumbing and beds and not being awaken by ants in their ears and in their underwear. Like I said, my wife is smart.

Now, I forget what all was going on, but my friend had to leave the festival a couple days early. Since he’s the one who drove, that meant I had to choose to cut short my only visit of the summer with Katy or find a ride home. I figured I could find somebody to ride with, so I told him that I would stay. I asked everyone from I knew from Kansas City or Lawrence, no one had room for me. So I was stuck.

On the final day of the festival, I was visiting Katy and her roommate in the dorm. The adjacent room housed like six or seven guys from a band for the week. Most of them were gathered a circle in the hallway, showing one another some yo-yo tricks. Because I needed to kill some time and wanted to do anything but walk out into the 100+ degree heat, I showed them a few of my own tricks. They seemed impressed, so we started talking about how their next show was in Kansas City. In exchange for a ride back to Raytown, I offered to buy their gas.

Once in the van, I learned these guys were in a band called As I Lay Dying. Their vocalist, Tim Lambesis, was excited to play me their music, but quickly moved on to all his favorite Jimmy Eat World songs. Then he played “Love Song” by The Cure for his girlfriend and announced it was their song. This started an exchange where the two of them went back-and-forth, dedicating songs from Disintegration to one another. It was cute and fun and killed lots of time. Seven hours flew by, and we were at my house. They couldn’t linger, as they needed to get to a house show that night.

In the years that followed, I occasionally got curious and googled the band. The vocalist married his girlfriend, and there were a few lineup changes. It was interesting to watch them grow into a popular metal band. The guys quickly got so popular that they could all command their own giant hotel rooms when touring Japan, instead of sharing one, dinky dorm room in Macomb, Illinois.

Then, in 2013, Tim was arrested after trying to hire an undercover officer to murder his wife. You know, the girl to whom he had dedicated “Love Song” while we were driving through northeast Missouri. After his arrest, he quickly became a laughing stock for his crime and as stories of his bodybuilding and steroid use surfaced. Yes, Tim he had made himself an easy target with his outrageous story that seemed straight out of a movie. He made tons of money in a metal band and was living up to some cartoonish, #merica tough guy caricature, so it was difficult to muster up any empathy for the dude.

But it seemed that Tim really liked his girlfriend and enjoyed his bandmates’ company. I’m guessing that, in 2002, he could have never envisioned treating them so poorly. I assume he didn’t decide overnight to kill his wife. His behavior was most likely the result of at least a decade of devastating choices. I doubt that he just woke up one morning with an extra $20,000 in his pocket to hire a hitman to end his marriage. And maybe I’m wrong; maybe he was a jerk all along. But one thing I do know is that I’ve watched well-intended friends ruin their lives, and I have done some pretty boneheaded things myself.

So I guess I could laugh at him, but that doesn’t feel right. When I see injustice and families being ripped apart, I have to choose to cherish my own family. One thing I know for sure is that I’ll never listen to the album, Disintegration, the same way again.

Why am I just now writing about this? The Roadside Monument reunion probably had something to do with it. I couldn’t attend their reunion show, but I started thinking about their “final” show at Cornerstone in 2002. Then I googled Tim Lambesis and discovered that he’s now out of prison and married the girl with whom he was having an affair. I guess the story doesn’t end well, and his family lives in fear. I can’t laugh at the guy, but I do pray for him.

-Jonathon

2016: Moving

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We’ve moved! Get in touch if you need our new address. We hope you’ll spend time here.

Merry Christmas from the Smiths!

We hope this finds you enjoying the season.

As you probably know by now, our big news for 2016 is that we finally moved. After 12 years in Raytown, and several years of occasionally thinking we might try to find a new home, we knew it was time for us to be in a different place. There are bittersweet things in any move. Our first house is connected to a lot of important moments, and Jon has wrestled with leaving the community he grew up in and wanted to support. But over time, it became obvious that we weren’t to be there forever.

We moved right before Thanksgiving and are looking forward to what the new house will bring. We’re in the heart of Kansas City in a lovely house that’s almost 100 years old. We’re a block from two different universities, not far from our church and near some of our favorite museums, restaurants and parks. We’re excited to open our home to people, and we have an amazing patio that should host lots of good music and great conversations. Our new location also gives us a chance to be more involved in things we care about in the city.

Ian turned 5 just before we moved. He’s still incredibly energetic, creative and funny. He loves to build with anything he possibly can, regularly makes up little songs and often has us laughing. His knowledge of everything is exploding. He is fascinated by animals and nature, how things work and the exploration of outer space. We’re enjoying each time we get to help him grasp more information. He’s also experiencing more at this age. He attended Royals baseball games for the first time this year, went to several Coterie Theater productions and saw the Kansas City Ballet’s Nutcracker for Christmas. It’s an exciting time for him and for us.

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Our realtor, Carla Tays, gave us our new home in watercolor! We’re thankful for all her work and for the help her husband, Mickey, was in getting home repairs done.

Jon’s job is still going well. After years of special education work, he was asked to teach math as a regular teacher for the first time and is also leading a team of teachers in his building. It’s hard work and presents daily challenges, but he doesn’t shy away from that and he knows he has a lot of respect and support. Kate’s job is also going well. Her office and association went through more transitions this past year, but all for the good. She’s also in a position where she is valued and given chances to grow, and that’s been amazing.

Other highlights this year include Kate’s brother getting married and time with family, Jon getting to record and perform music with long-time friends and seeing incredible concerts with Bill Frisell, The Bad Plus Joshua Redman and Emmylou Harris with Buddy Miller, Steve Earle and Milk Carton Kids.

As we wrap up the year, we have to also acknowledge there’s a sense of heaviness. While we have much to be thankful for from 2016, it’s also held some difficult moments. It’s brought everything from friends moving to concern over national and international events. We are all in need of hope, peace, love, wisdom and grace. May celebrating the birth of Jesus be a time to remember that we are offered those things and can live lives sharing them with others.

Much love to you from us for a new year!

The Smiths in 2015

Season’s Greetings!

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Ian loved going downtown to get a picture inside a giant inflatable snow globe!

2015 has been a good year, although not quite what we expected in some regards. Things have been busier than anticipated (hence the late arrival of Christmas cards and this letter), but we’ve enjoyed it.

Obviously, one of the most important things to talk about is Ian. He just turned four and never ceases to amaze with his energy and creativity. He is hilariously funny and has a great imagination. Ian loves singing and dancing for us (usually with songs he’s made up) and will build with anything he can get his hands on. He is still obsessed with books, cars, trucks and trains, and he absorbs everything around him from new words to what he sees outside. He loves going out to parks to run and explore and enjoys walking around the city, especially if it involves going to a coffee shop for donuts or to Union Station to see trains. He is also starting to develop friendships, and it’s really fun to see him get excited about time with certain peers. Ian is in a neat daycare situation, and we appreciate the care he receives and the many chances to learn and grow there over the past couple of years. Additionally, it is nice for him to attend daycare in a home-like setting in which to thrive while his parents work.

IanSanta

Ian got his first visit with Santa this year.

The big news, for those who don’t already know, is Kate’s job change. She left a job in June and returned to the professional membership association she had been at for six years. The nonprofit she was at for nine months was a good learning experience, but was not the great fit she anticipated from her interviews. The chance to go back to her old office, which has made a number of improvements, was a very unexpected yet exciting opportunity. She is now co-leading the membership department under a new executive director and anticipates amazing things to come for the organization. The last six months have been hectic, but long term, this job should be more family-friendly for us, which we appreciate.

A few months after changing jobs, Kate received a volunteer award from the Kansas City Society for Association Executives for helping update its branding with a new logo and website. Additionally, she was recently given the chance to move on from that and join ASAE: The Center for Association Leadership with her new position. She looks forward to attending its national events and diving in to resources for professional growth.

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We enjoy time at Crown Center, especially during the holiday season.

Speaking of jobs, Jon is in his second year teaching special education at a nearby freshman center. Overall, it has gone really well. He does a lot of co-teaching as a special ed teacher in a regular classroom environment, likes many of his co-workers and administrators and enjoys being in a district making some positive changes. Since being hired last year, he has experienced a level of respect not seen in most of his other jobs. The kids know and can articulate that he cares about them. It is often difficult and time-consuming work, but he has the support of the other staff and likes making a difference for the students.

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Ian made sure we’re ready for snow, though it hasn’t come yet.

A highlight of the year was Ian and Jon taking a trip to Indiana with Jon’s dad during spring break in March. It was the first time the three of them have traveled together, and the first time in many years that Jon and his dad have returned to where they were born. The trip meant a lot to them as they have few ties to there anymore, and it’s not a trip that will happen often. We also visited Ohio in July and drove down to see Kate’s great aunt, Jo, in Kentucky. It was a special trip, as she passed away a few months ago. Jo was like another grandmother to Kat, since her Mamaw Pearl (Jo’s sister) died when Kate was 10. We’re glad that she and Ian got to spend time together.

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A family selfie with a few hundred thousand friends at the Royals Victory Parade.

We’ve managed to keep up with a few interests. Jon continues to play music with friends and with the church worship team. Kate has enjoyed a few good book studies with women from our church and time with friends. Thanks to a fantastic babysitter who is usually available, Jon and Kate have been able to attend amazing concerts (Wilco, Kraftwerk and Stevie Wonder were the big ones) and performing arts events (mostly the Harriman-Jewell Series and one KC Rep production). We also joined with much of Kansas City in celebrating the Royals World Series win this year!

We hope you all had a wonderful year and a Merry Christmas! We look forward to a new year and new opportunities for our family to interact with yours.

Much love from the Smiths!

2014

IMG_20141115_205948Merry Christmas!

We hope this finds you doing well and enjoying the holidays. We were late getting our cards in the mail, so for those who are reading this after Christmas, we wish you a Happy New Year.

We’ll cut to the chase and fill you in on the craziness of our lives lately. At the end of the summer, we both got new jobs! While we both sporadically searched for new jobs, we never expected to have two positions open up for us within a few weeks of each other. Jon is now working as a teacher in a nearby school district, his first job as a public school teacher after 11 years in alternative education settings. Kate got a job with a co-ed fraternity that focuses on college students doing community service and she is in charge of all of their print and digital communications. In the short term, this means lots of change and long hours. In the long term, it should mean more time at home and for others.

Jon’s job is close to home and a little less stressful than his past experiences. He’s in special education and spends part of the day co-teaching in regular classes and part of the day teaching classes for kids who are behind and need extra help. Kate’s job is also closer to where we live, and after January it should mean an easy schedule and more time at home. As we both transition, though, there’s a lot to learn and get done. Jon has had a number of IEPs to write and has been appointed to a district safety committee. Kate has to be a part of a national convention the last week of the year and learning a new job and a major event at the same time has meant extra hours with work going into holidays. We’re ready for 2015 and a time when schedules start to settle down and get to a new, better normal than what we’ve had for the last few years.

Spiderman enjoys a donut!

Spiderman enjoys a donut!

Most of our time aside from work is spent with Ian. He’s now 3 and is full of energy and curiosity. His vocabulary grows every day, he is a keen observer of everything, he loves music and he enjoys running around outdoors and exploring Kansas City. We have a lot of fun visiting coffee shops, art museums, parks and we spend plenty of time at Union Station seeing trains. We also enjoy time at home putting together train track, playing with cars, dancing to records and watching classic cartoons.

Other than trying to keep up with Ian and adjust to new jobs, we’ve been trying to get a bit more involved with our church, invest in some professional opportunities and we occasionally get out to enjoy the amazing arts experiences available in Kansas City. We’re excited to see what 2015 holds as we have more time available to visit with friends and be involved in our community.

Peace and love to you all,

Jon, Kate and Ian Smith

Interviewing to the Glory of God.

After eleven years in education, I am about to begin my first as a teacher in a public school. Until now, I have taught in alternative placements and worked as a paraprofessional. I never landed a teaching job in this field, despite assurances that it would have a shortage of workers. I’m not complaining. I may have dealt with some feelings of entitlement along the way, but I’m not complaining.

I have applied and interviewed for countless jobs in these eleven years since graduating from college. No matter how much practice I gain with interviewing, I always feel uncomfortable with the process. I hate bragging about myself, but it seems like that’s all a person is expected to do in interviews. Because the Bible instructs us to do nothing out of selfish ambition, I don’t think I need another how-to article on making good impressions to calm my nerves. 

Growing up in church, I heard much teaching about working hard at a job, as if one was working for God that was based on Colossians 3. I’ve also sat through many sermons on 1 Corinthians 10:31, in which believers are instructed to do everything for the glory of God. If I am to take these scriptures seriously, then what would it look like for me to interview for the glory of God? How does that change my approach to the entire job hunt? I’m no theologian, but I’ve found a few things to be helpful.

  • Much like dating is to marriage, so is an interview to a job.  Sure, it’s easy to get caught up in emotions on dates, but hopefully we don’t set out to deceive a significant other. Much like these first baby steps in relationships, interviews shouldn’t be seen as an opportunity to misrepresent oneself or to mislead.
  • If God is orchestrating everything in my life, if Jesus is upholding the universe by the word of His power and if Jesus is praying for us, I can rest easy the night before and on the drive to the interview.  Obviously, I need to take the process seriously, but I can’t trust that landing a job is simply a result of my well-constructed answers, confident body language or my necktie’s double-Windsor knot.
  • When considering how to interview to the glory of God, I think it’s also important to see the process from the other side of the table. It’s maddening to realize just how much time, money and energy school districts spend with staff turnover. I feel it’s the best use of the interviewer’s time and the community’s resources to hire the best candidate for the job the first time. If I am to take Paul’s exhortations the Philippians seriously and think of others as more important than myself, I must value my interviewers’ time and not be fake.

I know that I haven’t offered a prescriptive step-by-step process, nor have I presented some systematic theology of job-hunting. I am, however, sharing lessons I have learned from my feeble attempts to be obedient to God’s word. I need to be humble, even in a situation like an interview that seems to be all about me and my own career path. Regardless of an interview’s outcome and no matter how well I have prepared myself, I must remember that I am still God’s son.

-Jonathon

Our look at 2013

Greetings from the Smiths!

We hope those of you reading this are doing well and enjoying the holidays.

Ian's first hotel stay was in Ashland, KY for his great grandpa's funeral. It was a sad time, but he brought a lot of joy to the weekend.

Ian’s first hotel stay was in Ashland, KY for his great grandpa’s funeral. It was a sad time, but he brought a lot of joy to the weekend.

2013 has been a crazy year for us, but a fun one, too. It has mostly been filled with work and time with family. Here’s an overview of what we’ve been up to in 2013 …

Ian is really the highlight of our year. He’s moved fully into being a little boy and no longer seems babyish to us. He talks all the time and acquires new words every day. He identifies letters, numbers and sometimes colors. He’s obsessed with cars, trucks, trains, music, books and monkeys (especially his sock monkeys and Curious George). Ian began to thoroughly explore outdoors this year, and he notices everything. We love seeing him grow and do new things. He’s very energetic, playful and outgoing, and is usually a lot to keep up with, but we are having a blast as his parents. As you’ll read below, we’ve really focused on time with Ian and close family when not at work.

Kate’s Papaw Bob passed away at the beginning of the year. He was very special to us. He’d lived with Alzheimer’s for a few years, and it had been a couple of years since we’d been able to visit him (he was living in San Fransisco, CA), so his unexpected death was difficult to process. We made a quick trip to Ashland, KY, for the funeral. It was hectic, since we’d just been in Ohio for Christmas, but we had family time with some people we rarely see, many of whom got to meet Ian for the first time. Gathering for funerals is never ideal, but it was a wonderful to be with everyone. We enjoyed repeating Pop’s infamous stories and tales of his generosity and love of family. Kate hopes to someday get things about him in writing. In March, we had to put our dog, Einstein, to sleep, so the first part of the year was emotionally rough.

Jon and Ian checked out the cool games in the Sub Shop in Columbia, MO while on our way to see a cousin's baseball game.

Jon and Ian checked out the cool games in the Sub Shop in Columbia, MO while on our way to see a cousin’s baseball game.

We took Ian to his first baseball game in March. Kate’s cousin played for the University of San Fransisco and had a series of games at the University of Missouri. We drove a couple hours to see him play and meet up with lots of family for a day. It was really fun and meant a lot, since we’d all just been together a couple of months before for Papaw’s funeral. Kate’s parents then came back to Kansas City to visit for a week and we enjoyed some additional time with them.

Jon’s teaching job kept him quite busy through the winter and spring, and continues to do so now. We are very grateful he finally got back into teaching last year and that he is able to do well with students who have a variety of special needs. We don’t want to make it seem easy, because it’s not. He puts in long hours and deals with some very stressful and delicate situations. That said, he’s able to show care and respect to kids that most people don’t want to deal with, and his coworkers see his efforts and are very supportive. He works with some great people and they all try to keep each other from going too crazy or getting burnt out.

We spent a lot of time at KC parks this year. It's been awesome to explore them as a family.

We spent a lot of time at KC parks this year. It’s been awesome to explore them as a family.

Kate’s job at a professional membership association is going well and she had her five-year anniversary with them in June. Her responsibilities continue to grow and evolve. She enjoys the challenge, but it makes for some hectic days. She now handles the association’s social media and does more with the membership department communications and marketing items. She has started getting involved in a local society for association professionals and is excited about opportunities that may come there. One nice aspect of the job is that Kate gets a lot of time off, so we’ve been able to spend time with her family when we’ve wanted to and she’s had days home with Ian.

We made a trip to Ohio in July to see Kate’s family. We didn’t fill our time with too many things to do and people to see, keeping it pretty low key and relaxing, which was needed. We let Ian really explore outside and have a great time with grandparents. He even went to Young’s Dairy for the first time. We also took a short trip over Labor Day weekend to north central Arkansas. Some friends from KC have moved south, and we spent a couple of days wandering through small towns and enjoying the Ozark scenery while hanging out with them. Jon had two breaks around teaching summer school, so he spent a lot of time with Ian before school started (read about it here).

It's amazing to see Ian becoming a little boy. We love this new phase of parenthood where we help him explore the world.

It’s amazing to see Ian becoming a little boy. We love this new phase of parenthood where we help him explore the world.

In November, we had Ian’s second birthday and our 10th wedding anniversary. Jon’s dad and step-mom helped Ian celebrate by treating him to his first overnight stay with grandparents. We appreciated their gift of watching Ian for two days so that we could celebrate our anniversary for a weekend. Having two days to ourselves was a much needed chance to slow down for a minute and enjoy being a couple. We stayed at an awesome KC B&B, ate at great new restaurants, enjoyed the art museum and getting coffee without a toddler in tow, listened to live jazz and got reacquainted with what grown ups do in our city. It was wonderful.

The end of the year has been a blur. Jon’s had a huge amount of work on nights and weekends, Kate’s job has been on overdrive, we’ve been trying to do holidays and see family and it has been a bit insane. We both have quite a bit of time off for Christmas and New Year’s and are enjoying the break and time with family and friends. We’re hoping to figure out more time with people in 2014. Days are flying by and we feel like we’ve not grown friendships as we’d like. If you are like us and feel the pace of life taking over, we hope you’ll also take a moment to reflect on what is most important and adjust your time accordingly.

Ian loves music and playing the organ (and any other thing that makes noise).

Ian loves music and playing the organ (and any other thing that makes noise).

Much love to you from Jon, Kate and Ian!

P.S. – Jon’s music this year has been mostly at church, not with a rock band. If you’re interested, there are some recordings online of songs written this year by musicians at the church. This particular project was related to communion. Many of the songs use old texts set to new music and some are all original material . The recordings are from church services and are wonderful to listen to. Jon’s contribution is here.

Summer Break 2013

blue springs lake

Ian, running around Blue Springs Lake.

After three long years of underemployment, I am extremely thankful for my current job. Because of this, it occasionally feels wrong to complain or just be honest with stress levels. (I’m no workaholic, but I don’t want to be whiny, either.)  I have paperwork of two regular education teachers. I have students from multiple grade levels in the same classroom. I have to be a quasi-social worker and parent to my students. I get punched in the face…you get the picture.  It took me a while to realize that, while a learning curve that comes with any new job is natural, it’s okay to be tired. Fortunately for me, the joys of summer couldn’t have been more of a contrast to the stress of the school year.

Dinner at Morgan Street Brewery in St. Louis, en route to visit family in Dayton.

Dinner at Morgan Street Brewery in St. Louis, en route to visit family in Dayton.

We finished summer school on July 11, and my dad encouraged me to treat each day with my son “like a Saturday.” I took this to heart and found a daily adventure for Ian.  I did something I can never do during the school year and  occasionally met my wife for lunch.  I attended about a zillion concerts with friends. I helped a friend move. We traveled to Dayton with my brother-in-law. I reconnected with an old friend. I took some wonderful naps. I packed as much into each day as possible because I know that life will get crazy in the fall.

Tomorrow starts my second year at Gillis, and I’m happy to work with such a supportive staff. We’re all in the same boat; we all have crazy jobs. Hopefully they will return as refreshed as me.

-Jonathon

Why I rarely share political views on social networks.

politicsEvery month, some hot-button political issue on Facebook and Twitter goads me.  I rarely respond, comment or share, but it’s not for lack of opinions on the matters.

See, I travel in far too many, wildly different social circles.  (I think this is a good thing.  I enjoy being challenged by others’ viewpoints.)  Being connected to everyone is an efficient means to share news and pictures of my family, but posts or tweets are a poor way to foster political conversation.  Nuance in a two-party system isn’t prized, and comments are typically viewed simply as either good or bad.  I’ve seen too many people throw zingers at others they don’t even know while commenting on a Facebook post.  I’d like to think my own friends wouldn’t stoop to that level, but I don’t want to needlessly set them up, either.

Most political conversations reveal a source of hope for our country that can’t easily be summed up in brief comments or jabs.  Some believe the most important thing is to get everyone started on the same, level footing.  Some think less government will enable people to be more charitable.  Most seem convinced that our country’s in a mess and that we’re spiraling into chaos.  While things certainly are crazy, I believe that God is in control and that Jesus upholds everything by the word of His power.  It grieves me to see the paranoia and fear slung around by both political parties.  In the end, it’s not up to us to fix humanity, but rather to be obedient to God’s call on our lives.

While my worst arguments and poor judgement in posts/tweets will not stop the work of the Holy Ghost, I must be mindful of ways that I “muddy up the water” of Jesus’ gospel message.  If His transforming work in my life is the most important thing I want you to hear, then I am happy to avoid distracting conversations in social networks.  Jesus never specifically addressed laissez faire economics or public education, so I don’t want my imperfect thoughts about issues to trip up anyone in their understanding of God’s love (about which He often spoke).

I’m not just taking a moral high ground here.  I have worked for years in a field reliant on public funding and governed by many state and federal laws, so I have plenty of opinions on almost everything.  Just ask me, and I’d love to talk.  Offline.

-Jonathon