2019: A Whirlwind

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,

We hope those of you reading this are doing well. We’re ready for the holiday break from work and school that’s just begun. It’s nice to rest as much of this year has flown by and felt difficult and weighty. At the same time, that’s made the good moments stand out so much more.

The first half of the year was spent trying to find clarity and keep our heads up in many ways. Ian was having a lot of issues at school we couldn’t quite figure out, though it was becoming clear the school was a big part of the problem, and he had mono in the spring. Kate was trying to figure out a new job and what that means for her long term after being forced into a big career shift due to layoffs and a period of being unemployed in 2018. The district where Jon works consolidated schools, and his was one of the buildings closed. This left his job up in the air for awhile. To name a few things…


Many thanks to Robert Deeble for a wonderful evening of music

There were big bright spots in the midst of this. In January, we hosted a house show with Robert Deeble. We’ve loved his music for years, and having him play for some friends in our living room was beautiful. We enjoyed a visit from Kate’s aunt and cousin in February. Two college friends of Jon’s started getting us all together for dinner every month or two, which has been really fun. Although we’ve been fans of his for a long time, we saw Jeremy Enigk in concert for the first time this spring and fell in love with the music of his opener, Tomo Nakayama. We also got to see Unwed Sailor and namelessnumberheadman for the first time in years and both were special shows for us.


Enjoying a night at the Music Hall to see the musical, Hamilton

The summer brought needed transitions and time to breathe a little easier. Jon was asked to move to another school within the district as part of a leadership team his principal wanted to keep together in a different building. As Jon’s school was closing, it was a relief to learn that some of the great people he’d started working with would get to move somewhere together. We experienced the incredible musical Hamilton and Kate’s parents visited. Ian got enrolled in a new school and he took a class with the Coterie Theatre and loved it.


A family photo taken by a stranger at Weston Bend State Park (one of the best spots to take in autumn)

This fall has been a blur of wonderful and sad things. Jon’s job as a special education process coordinator at his new school, while rewarding at times, been extremely demanding. There have been challenges with the process of consolidating schools and with supporting students in a struggling district. Kate has still been figuring out aspects of her job and what it means career-wise. Multiple people in our lives have had to deal with unexpected deaths in the last several months (if you can, please consider donating to the wife and kids who lost a husband and father to suicide).

As busy and involved as Jon’s position has been, he knows people in his building and the district value what he does. Working in urban education is difficult, and talking about it can often sound like complaining when that’s not necessarily the case. He’s grateful for the appreciation and support he gets. Even though Kate isn’t sure exactly where her path may or may not lead right now, she is very thankful to have ended up with such an awesome group of co-workers who are glad she’s part of their team and make work fun and as stress-free as possible. A few months ago she received the Allied Member Award from KCSAE, a wonderful surprise.


A piece Ian made this year with oil pastels

One of the best things this fall has been Ian changing schools. Everything with him got better as soon as he started second grade at a new school. He loves his teachers, he’s making new friends and he truly enjoys school again. He’s so much happier and isn’t upset, stressed out, and acting out in class. He still loves art, especially drawing, as well as anything math and science related. His reading continues to be way ahead, and he’s participated in a martial arts club and lego club after school. We’ve been impressed by the staff and the school community and are so glad to be somewhere that’s good for Ian, seems good for us as a family and is a positive presence in our city.

Kate moved her volunteer work with Lead to Read to Ian’s new school and enjoys seeing his class each week. Jon has continued to create music on his own and with friends in Euphoric and Mr. Golden Sun. Ian is still playing soccer and just got his first pair of glasses. We’re grateful for a little time at the end of the year to see family, reflect on all we’ve wrestled with and found joyful moments in, relax some and attempt to ready ourselves for whatever 2020 may bring.


Ian, being visited by the angel Gabriel, after a performance of The Nativity by Mesner Puppet Theater

One thing we feel more deeply this year is the effect of brokenness in our lives, our community and the world. We’ve been more challenged than ever to really embrace what the season of Advent brings to our lives. We face darkness and then celebrate what the birth of Christ means for us, “not as a saccharine act of delusion but as a defiant act of hope” (as one writer says so beautifully). We believe that hope should lead us to love. Something Jon said elsewhere earlier this year in response to current events in our country is becoming more of a theme for us: “Maybe I should also, in humility, consider others more important than myself. Maybe I should try to love my neighbor as myself. It’s becoming pretty clear that love is the protest.”

We pray this finds you hopeful and that we can love each other well in the coming year.

Peace, joy and love to you,

The Smiths 

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.