Season’s Greetings! (our annual end-of-year letter)

Looking back on 2009 has been quite a process, as it’s been an interesting year for us, to say the least. It’s had many ups and downs, and we’ve faced some issues we’ve not had to deal with before. In spite of some struggles, we’re doing alright and looking for a better year to come in 2010.

The year began as any other, with both of us working and pursuing Master’s degrees from Baker University, and Kate judging winterguard. Katy enjoys working as the Membership and Publications Assistant at the International Association of Assessing Officers, an organization for people involved with property assessment and tax policy. She started there in June 2008, and loves her co-workers and her job. Jonathon was in his sixth year at Hilltop, a school for adjudicated youth.  A highlight of January was Jon passing the national exam to be a licensed school administrator.

As you might remember, Katy’s brother, Richard, moved in with us in December 2008, and overall, it’s been nice having him here. Sometimes it’s a little cramped in our small house, but it’s been fun, and there have been times he’s been a huge help as we’ve hit rough spots.

Richard

Some close friends of ours, Jonathan and Lena Andrews, had twins on March 30th. Isaac and Clara (and their parents) have been a big part of our lives this year. We were quickly named “aunt” and “uncle” and have spent a lot of time with this family. This Spring, we also worked on a friend’s campaign for the Raytown Board of Aldermen, and were very excited that he (Shane Par-Due) was elected.

Isaac (L) and Clara (R) Andrews

In April, Jon was notified that his contract at Hilltop School would not be renewed. DeLaSalle Education Center (which provides educational services there) has repeatedly slashed the budget at the facility in the past few years, eliminating almost half of the teaching positions. Perhaps our biggest challenge this past year has been trying to remain positive as we deal with doors closing and very few opening.

On the positive side, Jon finished his Master of Arts in School Leadership in May. This degree, along with a good score on the licensure exam, qualifies him for jobs in administration. He’s hoping to become an Assistant Principal or Principal at some point. We had a great time at his graduation party, especially since Kate’s Papaw Bob was in town from Ohio (he hasn’t been here since our wedding).

Papaw Bob and Einstein

This summer we launched two web sites, this one for us personally, and one for Jon to talk about music. The first site is jandksmith.com, and its main page hosts this blog (which we’ve not been diligent about updating). The second site, radiofreeraytown.com, has gotten much more time and attention. On Radio Free Raytown, Jon blathers about anything music related, and every Friday he posts a podcast that can be streamed or downloaded. He hopes to at some point get it synced with iTunes as well.

Toward the end of July, Katy became a volunteer at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, one of our favorite spots in Kansas City. Around this time we also helped put on a concert with Mike Roe and Terry Taylor (of the bands The 77s and Daniel Amos, respectively). Steve Hindalong (of The Choir) was there to play drums, and Michael Miller was a great opening act. If you aren’t familiar with any of these artists, we highly recommend you check them out.

Kate’s Papaw Bob made it possible to make a last-minute trip to Ohio over Labor Day weekend. Her Uncle Rob got married, and we visited her Aunt Jo in Ashland, Kentucky. Jon’s never been to Ashland, so it was nice to finally introduce him to where part of Katy’s the family is from and spend time with Jo (we haven’t done so since our wedding).

Aunt Jo and us outside her house in Ashland

Shortly after, Kate returned to Kentucky for IAAO’s 75th annual conference in Louisville. It was her first trip for the organization, and a lot of fun. In addition to being a great work experience, she got to see some of the revitalized downtown and tour the Muhammad Ali Center.

We had another tough moment this year with the death of Anne Winter, Kate’s boss, on October 22nd. Anne committed suicide, and for the first time many people (including co-workers) learned she had been bi-polar and battled depression for a number of years. She had been able to keep it hidden quite well, so her death hit very hard because it was so unexpected. Anne was loved and respected by everyone who knew her, and there’s not space here to go into what she meant to us. In addition to being Kate’s boss (and a great one), she had owned a record store and befriended Jon years ago, always encouraging him in his music and recommending new things to listen to. Jon did a Radio Free Raytown show in her memory. You can listen to it here.

Although he has not had constant employment in 2009, Jon has found things to do with his time.  He was asked to help organize a benefit in October for Angel Tree’s work in the Raytown area.  (Angel Tree is a program sponsored by Prison Fellowship Ministries to purchase Christmas presents for children of incarcerated adults.) His band, My Science Fiction Twin, even performed at the event, which was held at Benetti’s.

My Science Fiction Twin performing at the Angel Tree fundraiser

We spent Halloween weekend in Topeka, Kansas, to celebrate our sixth anniversary and see the Billens, whom we don’t get to visit with as much now. Sam held a release party for his third CD, and we spent that Saturday with Bill, Dan and Rosa, and their kids.

Dan and Rosa's son, Isaac, dressed as a bat for Halloween

In early November, Jon began a new job as a paraprofessional at Raytown Middle School working one-on-one with student with special needs. It is a difficult job for a number of reasons, but it’s a start in a good school district. Hopefully, he can use this to his advantage in working toward a job for which he’s better qualified. At least it is back in his field and a step up from the job he took as a delivery driver at Pizza Hut in August. To make himself more marketable, he’s seeking certification in another area besides social studies (he’s mainly looking at math certification).

The year has ended on a better note. Jon joined The Sexy Accident as the band’s new bassist in November. He looks forward to the band recording in February and booking a small tour to New York in June. (You can watch a video from Jon’s first performance with the band here.) We hosted Thanksgiving again and enjoyed having Katy’s parents in town. That weekend, we had a surprise progressive dinner birthday party for Jon, who just turned 30. Shortly after, he quit his Pizza Hut job. Katy is halfway through her Masters of Liberal Arts, and it’s going very well for her. And we were recently asked to be Isaac and Clara’s godparents. We are honored Jonathan and Lena want us to fill this role in their children’s lives.

Isaac and Clara Andrews

Isaac and Clara, at seven months

This year has been rough, for us and for many of our friends. It has been hard to remain optimistic through everything we’ve dealt with and seen people around us experience, yet we are. We know there are people who support us, a God who loves us, and we know that things will change, even if we can’t say when. As we now spend Christmas in Ohio, we pray that you can also find the hope to look forward to another year. May you see the beauty of the season and know that there can be peace in the midst of chaos. Thank you for being in our lives.

Have a very merry Christmas,
Jon and Kate (and Einstein)

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5 thoughts on “Season’s Greetings! (our annual end-of-year letter)

  1. Jon and Katie, what a beautiful letter. Have marked it in my favorites so when time allows, I will go in and check out the websites you have posted.

    We wish you both a Merry Christmas and a Happy Healthy Prosperous New Year.

    Love,

    John and Thelma

  2. Thanks for the letter. It was a good way to catch up on what is going on in your lives. Also, thanks for including us…we had a great time!
    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
    Love,
    The Billens

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