Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Happy Christmas

To everything there is a season, and the calendar says it’s the season to say, “season’s greetings, and God bless us, everyone!”
Hannah at the Hall of Fame
 Hard to fathom, but it’s almost Christmas again according to the calendar on the kitchen wall. That particular calendar came from the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown where Cheryl and I took Hannah last June to celebrate her 13th birthday. Yes, having failed miserably to pass along to two sons my lifelong love affair with the summer game, I have raised a baseball-loving daughter – and what a great year it was for that in these parts!

We live our days, as you probably do, according to many calendars and the baseball calendar is one among them. Of course, according to the Mayan calendar, you might never get to read this at all if I don’t rush on quickly and get this year posted to the blog. So, according to the calendars …

Mike, Cheryl and Clark
The travel calendar was full of lots of small jaunts: the five of us spent a grand long weekend at a house on Virginia Beach in early spring; Martin and I journeyed down the Crooked Road to record what became his senior project; Cheryl and I joined a couple (Clark and Mike) from church for a long weekend on the Outer Banks where Clark and I ran a half marathon (while Cheryl and Mike created a fantastic breakfast for the conquering heroes!); Cheryl and I had another lovely short trip through Virginia’s wine country to celebrate our 30th (!) anniversary; I attended General Assembly in Pittsburgh in early July; and the whole family journeyed to Chattanooga in later July. Other travels crossed onto other calendars, as you’ll see.

The academic calendar saw one major milestone: Martin graduated from Wakefield High School in June! With appropriate fanfare – which is to say very little for our introverted middle child – we trooped down to Constitution Hall on a steamy summer evening and witnessed Martin march across the stage that famously barred Marian Anderson from performing. Wakefield has to be one of the most racially and ethnically diverse public schools in the country (and the one where President Obama delivered his Faux-News-controversial“back-to-school” speech a few years back), so it was fun to sit in those seats and imagine the 1930s Daughters of the American Revolution revolving in their graves! One of the “just-plain-cool” aspects of life in metro DC is how often the ordinary parts of life intersect with momentous pieces of American history.

Immediately after graduation Martin headed of for a few days at the beach with his girlfriend’s family and then decamped for camp. He spent the summer on the staff at Hanover, following in his parents’ footsteps as a counselor on those sacred 600 acres outside of Richmond. At the moment, Martin is taking a gap year before entering the U of Mary Washington next fall. The gap year is filled with a fantastic, crowd-funded film project documenting the music, musicians and instrument makers along Virginia’s CrookedRoad. This father-son filmmaking project has taken us to the stage of the Carter Family Fold, the workshop of internationally renowned guitar-maker WayneHenderson, and the dance floor of the Floyd Country Store. Early in 2013 it may take us all the way to meet and interview Ralph Stanley. We thank many of you for supporting the project and look forward to a red-carpet debut next spring!

Bud at the beach!
Martin will be following his big brother’s footsteps at UMW from which Bud will graduate next spring. He has spent a busy, focused year of study and work. He spent the summer living back home while completing a fine internship experience at a small, DC-based tech firm. During the summer he had a paper accepted at an international academic conference, and traveled to Melbourne, AU, to deliver the paper the week of Thanksgiving. Those experiences may point him toward graduate school, and his Christmas break is being filled with applications to Georgia Tech and UC Santa Cruz. He’s focused on those schools first for their digital gaming programs, but also high on the qualifying factors: good ultimate teams! The lad is mad for Frisbee, and travels extensively to play tournaments up and down the East Coast as president of UMW’s men’s team club. He is also mad for Monica (as are we), his girlfriend of several years, and the two of them joined us for a trip down to Chattanooga over the summer to visit with the southern grands, aunts, uncles and cousins. A truly lovely time was had by all, as the bucolic pics indicate.

Hannah on the beach
The academic calendar saw Hannah begin her final year of middle school, which means we’ve now attended the last school music concert that will include beginning musicians – no more Hot Cross Buns! In the way of gifted and talented 8th graders, Hannah is a busy kid: soccer, band, model UN, honors society along with various volunteer service activities keep the family calendar a crowded mess. Add the baseball schedule to that (and we are counting the days till spring training) and you’ve got some joyous chaos. Hannah and I made it to about 10 Nats games last season, and we were in the seats for the sad end of the season as the hometown boys came up just a bit short in their last playoff game. The girl suffered a couple of bouts of “baseball fever,” a strange malady whose only known cure is skipping school to ride bikes to a big league game.

the whole crew
The work calendar continues more or less apace for Cheryl. She is now in her 10th year at the Library of Congress, and still calls her work “the best job in the world.” Even as I jot these musings, she is anticipating a call from the Library’s human resources department with news that her job – a “not to exceed” appointment that expires soon – has been made a full-time, permanent position … at least until the whole institution falls off the fiscal cliff! (UPDATE: she got her job!) Cheryl continues to teach teachers how to use the Library’s massive on-line resources, to write and edit content for their blog, and to represent the Library at various conferences around the country. She spent some quality time in Vegas this fall, but we heard nothing about it because what happens in Vegas …. Actually, she was impressed by the sites, amused by the lights and saddened by the hopelessness that feeds the place and that the place feeds on. And work was, well, work.

My work calendar has changed rather dramatically this fall. Beginning in September I went to 3/5 time at the wee kirk. That freed up the church’s budget such that we were able to hire, for the first time in anyone’s memory, a church administrator, and, beginning next month, we’ll add a part-time Christian educator to the ministry team. More changes are coming, and I believe we’re finally living into the promise that drew us to Clarendon almost a decade ago.

in Seattle
It’s amazing to me to write that … a decade ago. Now my own calendar has turned to a new page. I don’t know what the next page will look like. The transition to a new schedule kicked off with a month-long study leave in August. The highlight of that time was an amazing writing retreat out on Vashon Island. It was the first time I’ve ever been to the great northwest and I loved it! No humidity! No mosquitos! Volcanoes! Oh, and coffee shops on every corner! I got a huge amount of writing done, and this fall I completed the first full draft of a novel. In addition, I’ve been recording a cycle of songs (with Martin playing a variety of instruments including violin, mandolin, banjo and dulcimer), and trying to get through a long list of house and garden projects. At some point the household budget will make demands on this calendar and I’ll be looking for a second part-time gig, but for now I’m taking the time to do some creative work that I’ve longed to do for years.

The liturgical calendar continues to be the dominant one in our lives. This season of Advent, of preparing our lives for the coming again into them of a light that no darkness can overcome, challenges us to seek out the light that shines forth in each soul, including our own broken ones. As the great Leonard Cohen put it in Anthem, “there’s a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in.” So, as the calendar turns to another year, pay particular attention to the broken places because, as the story of Jesus reminds me, that’s where the light will shine. Let your light shine brightly, because the world needs still more light to break forth.

Grace and peace to you all.