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

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Einstein

I had to take our dog to the vet and have him put to sleep last night. We’ve known for months that his health was failing and this day would come, but that didn’t make it any easier once the time arrived. Last night was rough. Today, it’s a little easier to think about. There’s a mix of sadness and relief in the strange reality that Einstein isn’t here. It was hard to see him struggle to live, and even harder to decide to end his life, but at the same time we know it’s good that he’s no long suffering with so much pain and a body that couldn’t really function anymore.

Jon and Ian got to say goodbye to Einstein. I don't know if Ian really understood the idea that Ein wasn't going to come home, but he was very sweet with the dog in seeing him for the last time.

Jon and Ian got to say goodbye to Einstein. I don’t know if Ian really understood the idea that Ein wasn’t going to come home, but he was very sweet with the dog in seeing him for the last time.

Jon stayed home with Ian and my brother, Richard, went with me, which I really appreciated. When Rich lived with us he was Einstein’s roommate in our extra bedroom and took the dog for long runs that Jon and I couldn’t do. He took care of the dog after Ian was born and we were consumed with a child and jobs, and continued to help this past year as Einstein’s health got worse. Einstein was as much his dog as ours of late, and he felt the events of last night just as much as I did.

I have to say, our vet is a wonderful man. Thank you to Dr. Maxwell and Union Hill Animal Hospital for making something awful and difficult as relatively easy as possible. Einstein was always comfortable with going to the vet. The staff was always very caring, and last night they were so reassuring and sympathetic. They enabled us to grieve, but to know that we were doing the right thing at the right time, and they let Einstein’s life end very peacefully.

Many people are very attached to pets, so I know lots of others have dealt with this situation. In thinking about Einstein, I think one reason our dog had a special place in my heart was due to the fact that he must have had some terrible moments early in life and was glad to be in a decent home. We knew that when he was adopted from a shelter he had signs of an animal who’d been abused or suffered trauma (like fear of certain noises and types of people for awhile). This past fall we found out what part of that was. An xray showed his body was being taken over by cancerous growths and that he was full of BBs. This dog, who was so sweet and smart and easy going, had once been the target of someone’s gun. It’s sickening and upsetting. So, to get on a soapbox for a brief moment, care for animals. If you want a pet, adopt from shelters and rescues and provide a home (and maybe some healing) to an animal who needs it. And if you can’t care for an animal, then don’t get one. Animals aren’t people, but they do have feelings and want to be loved and cared for. If you can do that, then do something wonderful for the pet that enters your life.

~Kate

And the time goes so quickly …

Ian in January 2012

Ian in January 2012

Yesterday was Christmas! We can’t believe the year is practically over. We’ve had a really good year, it has just gone by so quickly!

To state the obvious, we’ve been terrible at blogging. At one time, there were grand ideas of our blog getting regular updates about us, and especially about Ian, but time for that is elusive. Ian’s first year has been wonderful, but we tend to be short on free time. We’re doing good to post pictures on Facebook or somewhere from our phones. If you are reading this, then we hope you are in touch with us elsewhere to see the things we do manage to share.

Ian and guitar May 2012

Ian and guitar May 2012

Aside from the busyness of life not allowing for time to do everything we want to do (and sometimes need to do), we have much to be grateful for. As Jon posted several months ago, he finally got a long-awaited teaching job. While the income is much-needed, it has been a very demanding job with a steep learning curve. He’s encountered more than expected, with a pretty challenging group of students with some difficult things to overcome, but he’s been thankful for good coworkers and a lot of overall support from the Gillis organization for his work in the school, and that helps make things a little easier.

The Smiths at Truman Lake, August 2012

The Smiths at Truman Lake, August 2012

Ian is now over a year old! We enjoyed celebrating his first birthday and our ninth anniversary on November 1. Ian never ceases to amaze us and he’s a fun little guy to have around. He has a sweet, energetic personality and he keenly observes everything. He’s a quick learner, rarely sits still (though he loves books) and always wants to be in on whatever is going on. He’s now walking and trying to talk more and more. We are truly enjoying watching him grow and develop new skills. The kidney and bladder reflux issues that were a concern when he was born have been gradually clearing up on their own, so we hope that it eventually goes away completely without any surgery. The doctor didn’t think that would happen, so we are grateful for the progress! If you haven’t seen them, we’re occasionally posting videos on YouTube, so check out Jon’s channel to see clips of Ian doing all sorts of things.

Ian, dressed as Mickey Mouse for Halloween

Ian, dressed as Mickey Mouse for Halloween

Kate is still working full-time, and will be for awhile. We had originally hoped she could stay home whenever kids came along, but that wasn’t possible. Luckily, she enjoys her job and has some terrific coworkers. In a funny twist of events, she even got offered a bit of a promotion upon returning to work after Ian was born, which was nice and unexpected. She’s now more involved in various marketing and communications functions for the association and has been a big part of increasing their social media usage.

The Smiths 11/1/2012

The Smiths 11/1/2012

We’ve been very fortunate to have great childcare for Ian. Jon’s stepmom was wonderful with him through June, and after a summer home with Jon, he’s now at a great small, in-home daycare near our house. He’s with three other toddlers/preschoolers and doing really well there. Between job responsibilities and trying to keep up with Ian, we’ve not done much else. Kate didn’t do much with winterguard this past season, and she’s stopped volunteering at the art museum for now. Jon’s not done as much musically. He’s been taking a break from playing with a band and has just done a little recording and some playing with the worship team at church.

The Smiths December 2012 (our only non-blurry photo with Ian)

The Smiths December 2012 (our only non-blurry photo with Ian)

We’ve spent a good deal of time over the past year reflecting on how God has taken care of us and provided for us when we had no idea how things would come together. It’s been humbling and awe-inspiring to receive the support we did from family and friends around Ian’s arrival. We may never know why things happened the way they did over the past several years, but we know that God has guided us every step of the way.

We hope that this finds you doing well and enjoying the holidays.

Love from Jon, Kate and Ian (and Einstein)

Waiting is the hardest part.

Since I lost my teaching job at a small, private school three years ago, I’ve worked as a paraprofessional/personal aide for a wheelchair-bound middle school student. It has kept me from unemployment, but far from any gainfully-employed classification. I’ve been called in to interview for jobs for which I haven’t been qualified (at times due to no one reading my resume beforehand). I’ve been offered abysmally-low salaries for some rather large jobs. Two administrators, in particular, have interviewed me several times apiece, in what became obvious attempts to fulfill human resources-mandated quotas instead of helping me find a decent job.

So, I’ve just told folks I am underemployed, which is a great smokescreen. See, I’ve been jerked around so much in my job search that sometimes I’ve even tired of telling my wife about it.

I don’t want to appear needier than I really am.

Everywhere I turn, it seems like people have figured out all the lessons I should learn. As with other disappointments and tragedies, there are people who believe relying more on sentimentality than the truth will cheer me up. The problem is that no one can peek around the next corner to give any real advice. Worse yet, are the scores of people (including myself) who want me to feel entitled to some position because I’ve worked so hard and earned two degrees. The most valuable are the folks who keep focusing on our relationship and the day at hand because they know they don’t have all the answers for the end of my employment problems.

While the past three years have been wrought with much frustration, most wouldn’t necessarily know it. You see, I have whole-heartedly enjoyed my work. I’ve worked with the coolest kid ever in a class filled with awesome students in their incredibly-awkward middle school years. I’ve also been blessed to have a few great co-workers who focused on student achievement. In addition to all this, a beautiful son was born almost nine months ago and the bills got paid.

I reflect on all this because I just accepted a teaching position at the Gillis Center school for next year. While I’ve taught students with Individualized Education Plans for years, this will be my first special education position. (I just obtained that certification this spring.) The population of students will be similar to many of the kids with which I’ve been working for nine years. The staff I met at the interview seems great, and the pay will be good.

I know things will not necessarily get any easier. This will be a tough job. And even though the pay will be decent, Kate won’t be staying home with Ian for at least another year. Our bills have been paid over the past three years, but we’ve not been able to do home maintenance, etc. We need to paint, trim trees and fix a foundation. There are so many things we’ve had to put off.

Getting a new job just marks the end of a long search, but we are thankful the searching is over, and we have two weeks to celebrate before school starts.

-Jonathon

Walk on.

Sam’s painting, Birds & Wires

Less than three months ago, my friend, Sam Wagner, was diagnosed with lung cancer. I attended his funeral service this morning. He didn’t smoke, he was married with three children and he was 38.

Obviously, I’m deeply saddened and am sympathetic for his family (especially his children). But for me, I just don’t know quite how to feel because Sam and I had only started getting to know one another. We had a couple robust conversations about faith and theology, especially when, at times, they seemed out of place in the communities of artists to which we were both drawn.

We had just started listening to records together. Both ardent fans of bands like Starflyer 59, Joy Electric, The Church, Slowdive, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and The Choir, we plotted out the bands we’d listen to the next time we hung out. He couldn’t wait to return to my place and listen to The Boo Radleys and The Darling Buds.

Sam was like a muse for me, encouraging my work in My Science Fiction Twin. In fact, when he was diagnosed with cancer, I hurried to finish mixing our new EP. He told me he would create the cover art for it. (I’m still not quite done with it.)

Growing up, I used to hear that some people were “so heavenly minded that they’re of no earthly good.” While I think I understand that cliche’s sentiment, I still think it’s balderdash. We live this life under God’s loving gaze, and I think it’s only natural that we long to be physically united with our Creator. Sam’s in heaven now, and I’m a little envious.

-Jonathon

Ian plays and talks.

It has worked out well that Katy puts Ian to bed (usually later than I can stay up) and I get him up early. Around 5:00, I prepare him to leave with Katy to spend the day at Grandma’s house. Occasionally he will immediately fall asleep after he eats, but most mornings, he stays awake and plays.

Because some of our family has yet to hear him try to talk, I took a video of him playing on his mat yesterday morning. He is such a fun guy.

And that’s Wire’s album, Pink Flag, playing in the background.

-Jonathon

 

Introducing…Ian Parker Smith!

Ian, at birth

A week ago tonight, Kate gave birth to our first child, Ian Parker Smith.  He was born at 6:41 pm on November 1, 2011 (our eighth anniversary).  He measured 19.5 inches long and weighed six pounds and one ounce.

We made a couple videos for out-of-town friends and relatives.  The first showcases his long fingers and big feet.

Since newborns spend so little of their time awake, this second one catches him with his eyes open.

Jonathon’s sister and brother-in-law visited on Sunday and took a picture.  Kate was less than flattered by the family pictures in the hospital, in her glamour gown, so we figured we should get a few, nicer shots.  This is one of them.

-Jonathon and Kate

An uneasy empathy.

I spent a little over a year making my newest album, An Uneasy Empathy.  At times, the process was maddening:  repeatedly throwing out entire sessions for songs, re-working arrangements based on feedback from my wife and endlessly tweaking mixes so they sounded good on something besides my studio monitors.

Art can be made in isolation, but I don’t know that isolation always makes good art.  I hope this album reflects where I have been the past two years.  I’ve embraced friends, struggled with identity, ignored my wife, battled misperceptions and tore into the New Order catalog.  I feel like this may be my strongest batch of lyrics, but they certainly don’t make me look good.  When I hear myself sing,  “How quickly I rely on emotions when I forget just who I am,” I am floored and question how I ever got to a place where I would make such an admission.

I probably should not pull back the proverbial curtain too much.  You will understand the album; it’s not so cerebral that it’s not enjoyable.  I hope you enjoy it.  (And hopefully, if you enjoy it, you will buy a copy.  All proceeds go to support our cloth diaper fund.)

-Jonathon

11/1/11

Yesterday I attended Katy’s appointment with the obstetrician. While it was just a routine weekly visit at the end of her pregnancy, it also served as a follow-up to last week’s visit to a specialist at the hospital. Doctors have been monitoring a blockage between Ian’s right kidney and the bladder for a while, and after reviewing everything from the ultrasound last week, they feel it has worsened. Since we’re at 38 weeks and Ian is doing well otherwise, they want to induce labor just before the due date. They want to make sure he is born and can get treated before the blockage potentially closes completely, which would cut off the kidney and cause issues with it functioning.

Right now, the plan is for us to go to the hospital the evening of October 31, and they will induce labor early the next morning. Ian will probably be born on November 1, our 8th wedding anniversary.

-Jonathon