Monday, January 09, 2012

A New Year's Wish

Shawn here.*

So much for our intent to try to update this once a month. The reality of the seminary work schedule, where there's always something to do and always something due, kept that from happening. Perhaps once a year is a realistic schedule? In any case, this post will serve as our version of a year-in-review Christmas letter.

For those of you who have been completely out of touch, and who haven't read any of the previous posts on this blog, and aren't Facebook friends with us, and who haven't talked to any of our other friends/relatives in 2011, and ... is there anyone who meets all of these qualifications? If you do, you should know that we moved in July.

OK, there was a bit more to it than that. Let's recap. At the beginning of 2011, Shawn was employed by SAP as a computer programmer, Tami was employed by Thrivent Financial as a Financial Advisor, Megan was attending La Crescent Middle School in La Crescent, MN, and Nessa was attending La Crescent Montessori School. I'm happy to report that Megan is still attending La Crescent Middle School and doing well (more below). As for the rest of us, well...

Even last January, big changes were afoot. Shawn and Tami had both applied to and been accepted at Wartburg Seminary in Dubuque, IA, a seminary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America--Shawn in the Masters of Divinity program and Tami in the Master of Arts, DiaconalMinistry program. Shawn had already been granted permission by the La Crosse Area Synod of the ELCA to enter seminary, while Tami was still working through that process.

In February, Tami left Thrivent Financial in order to concentrate on getting our house ready to sell. This became her full-time "job" for over two months. She was very, very good at it. She chose several realtors for us to interview, arranged the meetings, started going through all of the accumulated clutter in our house, and doing everything else necessary to get the house on the market. In March, we were able to take advantage of some unseasonably warm weather to paint the exterior trim on our house. Then, naturally, after weeks of warm weather and occasional rain and just after Tami bought lots of flowers to place around the exterior of the house for showings, it snowed on the day they were going to come take pictures for the listing.

On April 2nd, Nessa turned six, and had some of her cousins and a few friends come to our house for the party. Tami had her final interview with the Synod and was also given permission to enter seminary. Shawn learned that he had been nominated for a full-tuition scholarship through theELCA Fund for Leaders in Mission. Also, all of Tami's hard work on the house (Shawn helped some with the painting and hauled things to storage units, but really, Tami did 80%+ of the work) and the excellent advice of our realtor paid off when we got a signed counteroffer approximately 50 hours after the first showing of the house. Yes, two days. Yes, we realize how blessed we were--it was a major prayer answered. Later in April we had a major hailstorm which shattered the rear window on our van, broke a couple of windows in the living room, and caused damage to the roof. Fortunately, this did not cause the buyers to change their minds.

In May we closed on our house and moved to the old farmhouse on Tami's parents' farm inRidgeway, MN, 20 minutes west of the Mississippi River. For the next two months the upstairs floor of the farmhouse was our home. Thank you Grandpa and Grandma Groth! Almost all of our possessions were in two storage units, awaiting the move to Dubuque. It was no fun moving twice in two months, but it was so much better than some of the alternatives!

In June, Nessa had her bridging ceremony at La Crescent Montessori School, symbolizing that she had finished her time in one multiyear classroom and was moving on to another. It was bittersweet for all of us because Nessa wasn't going to be in that new classroom. Also in June, Shawn was told that he had been awarded the full tuition scholarship from the ELCA. Finally, on Thursday, June 30th, Shawn walked out of the door at SAP for the last time, saying goodbye to his career as a computer programmer. That wasn't bittersweet at all. He misses the people, but not the job.

On July 6th the moving trucks came to the storage units and we loaded up everything and headed for Dubuque. We were sad to leave our friends in La Crosse and La Crescent, especially our fellowship group at our home congregation, Good Shepherd in La Crosse, but we were excited to formally start this grand adventure we're on. We spent the next few weeks unpacking, arranging, applying, transferring, and all the other stuff that comes with a change of address, as well as the extra stuff that comes with changing states. On July 16th Megan turned 14. She continues to blossom into a mature, capable teenager. Soon after Megan's birthday, Dubuque was hit by tremendous rains one evening--it rained over 15 inches in 12 hours. We, and several others in seminary housing, got water in our basement. We were lucky--most of our stuff was unpacked and off the floor, and we were able to get the remaining boxes to safety in time. All we really lost were most of our empty boxes, which we had been planning to save, and a few days of unpacking time as we dealt with things. On July 25th Shawn started summer Greek at Wartburg, and seminary officially began. Meanwhile, Tami cooked, took care of paperwork, unpacked, and generally did everything else so Shawn could concentrate on Greek. Nessa contributed by making friends and playing outside a lot.

In August, Tami hit a milestone birthday with class and grace (it helps that she has a much older husband to help her feel young). The celebration was low-key. Nessa started first grade at her new school in Dubuque, Bryant Elementary. The differences between a regular public school and her Montessori school took some getting used to, but she has settled in and is doing very well. She gets glowing reports from her teacher, who can't believe Nessa ever causes problems at home. Nessa's reading has really taken off, and she is into chapter books in a big way. She regularly brings home reading from school, library books from the Bryant library, and library books from the Dubuque public library. We also still read to her--we spent the summer working through A Series of Unfortunate Events and have now moved onto others. Nessa is learning addition and subtraction, and generally does quite well on her spelling tests. She's at that charming stage where her writing is often phonetic and thus sometimes like code to read and decypher, but it's getting better as the year goes along. Nessa generally likes school, but she really likes the after-school room at Wartburg, a room staffed by work-study students where school-aged kids can go for a couple of hours to let off some steam and just have unstructured fun.

Also in August Megan once again started cross-country. She made big strides this year, improving her times and reaching some personal goals. She was pleased with what she accomplished and we are proud of what she has achieved. Megan continues to play trumpet in band and to do well in school. She has an additional distraction this year named Chris, but so far he doesn't seem to have affected her performance too much. However, between Chris and Megan’s girlfriends, we are very glad that our cell phone plan has unlimited texting. Megan continues to get outdoors whenever possible. She did not show goats at the fair for 4H this year, but did compete in several other areas. She also enjoys spending time with her friends at sleepovers and such. Megan is finishing up Confirmation at Good Shepherd and should be confirmed this spring.

Shawn finished Summer Greek a few days before Labor Day, having completed the equivalent of two semesters of Greek in 5 1/2 weeks. He likens it to sprinting a marathon. We all went back to La Crosse for a long Labor Day weekend.

In September, Tami and Shawn started fall semester. The first week was a one-week intensive course for everyone in our class year, and then normal classes started the next week. It took us a while to establish a routine of who does homework when and so on, but once we got it down we got into a rhythm. The semester was unlike anything Shawn or Tami have ever experienced. The amount of reading was huge, and one really needs to plan out when one does which assignments in order to avoid being overwhelmed. It is immersive in every sense, but it is also rewarding and can be exhilarating. Shawn went to Chicago at the end of September for a banquet where he was formally awarded his scholarship. He found it interesting, if a little strange, to be in a room full of bishops, seminary presidents, and other movers and shakers and yet be one of the centers of attention.

In October Megan came to Dubuque for a few days when on break from school. She doesn't get down here very often, so we look forward to it when she comes. Our niece and nephew Ahnika and Cully were here at the same time. Unfortunately, Nessa's break was a different week, so she was in school when her cousins were here. But they still had time to play in the afternoons and on the weekend. Shawn and Tami’s class organized a pumpkin carving event that weekend, and someone else in the community took some wonderful pictures of the kids. Nessa also took an acting class through a local community theatre in October.

In November, Megan got a buck while deer hunting. She was very excited. She had previously gotten a doe, but this was her first buck. Nessa joined a group of seminary kids who are the cheerleaders for the Running Reformers, the Wartburg basketball team in the Dubuque community league.

In December, Shawn and Tami finished their first semester of seminary classes. It was a little crazy getting everything done, but they managed to do it without imploding or exploding. Nessa was in two Christmas programs: she was a shepherd in the program at Good Shepherd, and an angel in the Christmas Eve program at our Dubuque church, St. John's in St. Donatus, IA. She enjoyed them both. We spent Christmas Day here in Dubuque, then went to La Crosse for a few days between Christmas and New Year's. New Year's Eve was a quiet one back in Dubuque.

January finds Shawn and Tami on J-Term. Tami is in Gettysburg, PA, for a required Formation Event in her Diaconal Ministry program, so Shawn is in Dubuque with Nessa and doing an independent study consisting of reading several books by C. S. Lewis. Megan and Nessa are back in school. Spring semester begins for Shawn and Tami at the end of January.

We had been working towards this year for quite a while, and now that we have finally experienced it I think it was everything we hoped it would be. The journey is far from complete, so stay tuned. In the meantime, we wish you all a happy, healthy, and blessed 2012.


*Tami and I used to have posts to this blog automatically become Notes on both of our Facebook pages. I believe Facebook has disconnected that, but just in case I'm wrong, those who see this on Facebook should know who the author is (in case it isn't evident stylistically).