Dear 2007: Don't let the door thwap yer booty on your way out. Love, The Hults'
OH it wasn't that bad. Many, many wonderful and memorable things happened in 2007. It's just that there wasn't an ABUNDANCE of wonderful memorable things. Its like, if ONE LESS wonderful memorable thing had happened, there wouldn't be enough to offset the stinky nasty things and WE'D BE TICKED OVER HERE. But no, it all worked out.
Personally I'm most grateful that we gained a Gramma Hults this year. AK's probably grateful for this little light of mine. Max is probably grateful for the Wii he bought with his own earned money. Ben, Milo and Emily are probably grateful for whatever just happened to them in the last 3 minutes (gnat-like attention spans make for a very optimistic outlook on life).
And while we could bitch about our finances until the poodle wakes up --we can honestly say that this years was a financial crisis like no other. When you're driving your car, it's one thing to completely lose control of steering, brakes and throttle. Like you're on ice. It's quite another thing to carefully and intensely balance careful throttle, steering and brake controls to negotiate a slippery winding road. The difference is control. Control means you don't slam into a tree, first off. Control also means that you are where you are by choice and that is very powerful. Control means you are more found than lost. Control gives you the conviction and confidence necessary to negotiate your way PAST the ice.
So heading into 2008 we may just be past the ice. The road is still twisty and we expect it to be for 2 more years. But we've metaphorically upgraded the horsepower of our car and literally traded in for a smaller more economical model.
Aside from the about-to-start-a-new-job-jitters, I'm also concerned about my ability to balance the new job, the usual volunteer commitments, and the Lux Graphics workload. My Lux clients must have gotten word that we were looking to scale back -- because I got 4 new orders just today and a couple more rolling in. We'll see.
New Years Eve finds Max having a sleepover at Grammas so he can watch the ball drop on TV. Maybe some Rose Bowl Parade in the morning too. AK is knitting and kvetching that she'd like to watch some mindless TV also. Yet she seems content to knit knit, and knit. She's reading our new "Eat to Live" book, about the vegetarian diet we're considering. She tried cooking a big veggie soup today and despite early concerns on both of our parts (it looked more "plants in water" than it did "soup") she assures me it tastes quite good. Which is good. Because we have enough to feed a platoon or two of vegetarians. She must have lost the "Cooking For Two" and "Cooking for Your Family" cookbooks, and found the "Cooking for Your Country's Entire Armed Forces" cookbook. To celebrate 2007's passing, my recent Lux orders, and perhaps the end of our treat-eating ways -- I got us some treats for tonight :).
Speaking of treats, CHRISTMAS was just peaceful and simple and wonderful. We had visits from family and friends. We had a double-barrelled Gramma Gun on Christmas Day with 2 of the boys' 3 Grammas there. The boys got their gimme gimme groove on AND shared in the joy of others as we slowly and fairly distributed presents over the duration of the morning. Our goodie cup SO runneth over, with AKs creations and also the goodies our friends & family dropped off. Here are a few snapshots. . .
This is Mondo Matriarch! On the right is Alaskas great friend from the Navajo Nation. Her daughter just finished her PHD in Special Education at Penn State, so they stopped over on their way back home. This here is a rare gathering of sweet strong mothers, all of whom we are honored and blessed to know and love.
Below is a photo Max set up in my photocube and insisted I take for his Uncle Alex. . .
He specifically instructed me to take the photo, then Photoshop text into it reading "Thank you. . . . from a galaxy far, far away". So here it is, I hope Uncle Alex is one of the 4 people reading this blog! It was a fine gift, his very own "vintage" original Star Wars lego kits. I can't imagine what it took to cull the pieces and put them back in their original boxes!
This of course is typical Christmas jubilance. T-shirts from Gramma Donna and Gramma Gaye, stuffed toy cheeta (named "Chee") and the very popular build-ur-own-monster puppets.
And below is AK's impersonation of her adorable nephew Oliver. Oliver and Oliver's Mom and Oliver's Dad (who surely have learned by now that they won't be needing their first names for a few years. . . ) came for a much-overdue visit. Oliver charmed absolutely everyone. He was delightfully intrigued and befuddled by the mittens AK had sewn for him, and it was hilarious to watch him go between excitement and interest in these fuzzy soft things and then concern and consternation at his now-useless hands and fingers. At once point, he ran down our hallway with his mittened hands in the air seeming to say both "Yay!" and "Ack!".
With a hearty "Yay!" and a characteristic "Ack!" we are happy to shuffle 2007 out the door and invite 2008 in for some leftover Christmas cookies & fudge. We say to you, 2008 -- as we also might say to the next president of the U.S.A. -- "We don't know you, we haven't met you. But we know where we've been and where we're going has never looked so good."
Season of Sharing! or "You HAVE to take zuchini. We're related."
I hope this works. I'm inspired to share some music not only by the musicalized Sunday post, but because I have another song to share. You should be able to click on the links and then they'll play as long as your computer has Quicktime plugins. Which I would imagine most do.
The first is, as promised, Joe & Eddies Children Go Where I Send Thee. The recording levels are very low, it might have been recorded in mono the record is so old, so TURN IT UP if you can! The munchkins and I insist that it be played at 11 here at Chez Hults. If you can get it that loud, close the curtains because you'll be dancin' (or at least boppin a little waist-up car-dance. . . ) by the end. 2 men, a banjo and a tambourine. . . .
This second song I heard back in November, the first time in my life I actually REMEMBERED to tune in to XMPR and listen to Prairie Home Companion live. The show had a Fall harvest theme, and this lady played this song ALL ABOUT ALASKA! I couldn't believe it. So I made a SERIOUS mental note to remember the name of the singer and the song.
Ohhhhhhhh, 2 months later. . . . . I think "BOY did I hear a song you would have liked AK. It was all about tomatoes and canning and frosts". She was interested, so I got out my nun-chuks and did a little Google Fu. I can't beleive I not only found the artist and song but iTunes actually had what I wanted! That never happens. I often have to go to Limewire. Which I don't like to do for about 12 reasons. But that's another blog. From Stephanie Davis, here is. . .
Not really. I get a lot of spam. And as I'm going down the list, trying to train my Thunderbird to recognize spam from not spam, sometimes an e-mail subject catches my eye. I have no use for these catchy phrases aside from blog post titles :(.
It is a good Sabbath :). Sabbath, near as I can tell, is what churchy people call "Sunday". Some churches have a list of recommendations concerning what should or shouldn't be done on Sunday. Mine is one of them. As a family, we adhere to the spirit behind the details on the lists wholeheartedly. However, we are not about lists. I would venture to say that those who get caught up in the yes/no good/bad ok/not-ok stuff are missing the point in a big fat hairy and green-boogered way.
We went to the first third of church despite Milo's awful wheezing cough and AK's coming down with the same crud. Then during the Christmas program, with all the singing and the rocking piano (for Mormons. . .) playing, Daddy felt awfully weird & woozy. So we waddled off early into the slushy icy snow that'd been falling all night. Before reaching Terminal Wooze, I jumped into work clothes and shoveled Gramma's house so she can to therapy tomorrow. Gramma explained how sick Bubbacat has been. I looked into Bubba's normally predatory eyes, saw his deepfelt woozy wierdness, and shared his wooze. Maybe Bubba and I have the same bug? I sure do feel like hucking up a hairball right now.
Max snuck off for some snow play. AK is cooking cookies and fudge for Xmas gifts. I go back and forth between whining under an afghan on the couch, and chasing AK around the kitchen for smooches.
AK asked awhile for ago for a copy of my "Gospel" mix, so I condensed it and put it on a CD for her. This was some time ago. I grabbed it today and asked if she wanted to hear her Gospel CD. She was not aware there ever was a gospel CD. :( ANYWAY its' awfully good. And I must say I'm using a very loose interpretation of the word "Gospel". Many of these are songs I've loved for a long time merely on their merits as moving music. Some are bible'y, some are family'y, most merely touch on themes of faith. Here is the condensed CD-length version of my iTunes mix:
*Friends & Family by Trik Turner
*Living Prayer by Alison Krauss and Union Station
*Try to Believe by Oingo Boingo
*Come On in This House by The Fairfield Four
*People Get Ready by Rod Stewart
*How Many Miles Must We March by Ben Harper
*Children Go Where I Send Thee by Joe & Eddie
*I'll Fly Away by Alison Krauss and Gillian Welch
*We're Moving On by The Seekers
*Down To The River by Alison Krauss
*I Couldn't Hear Nobody Pray by The Fairfield Four
*Higher Ground by Stevie Wonder
*Church by Lyle Lovett
*This Little Light of Mine by The Steeles
*Do What the Spirit Say by Sweet Honey in The Rock
No, your eyes do not deceive you. The Gospel According to Chris blends Stevie Wonder with Oingo Boingo with Lyle Lovett and Trik Turner. Here is some ad-hoc, questionably factual but inspired musicology. . .
Trik Turner: This was their one and only single I believe. They were about the time Linkin Park was happening, but had a slightly different flavor. Apparently America liked the taste of Linkin Park better, but this has always been one of my favorite songs.
The Fairfield Four: These guys were on the O Brother album, and while I didn't dig their song there I sure liked their sound so I googled. There are five of them, see. And last I googled they were all so old they might be down to three now. Traditional old-timey gospel, they sound like a a barbershop quartet EXCEPT the highest key any of them sing in is TENOR! Lots of clapping and snapping, which I love, which I really with the Mormons would get with, but oh well.
Allison Krauss: Also discovered her via O Brother. She is totally hot, and on YouTube somewhere you can see a duet with her and Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant that made me swoon. Her voice is like an angel's, like the little missionary girl who visited us in Minnesota. Some music, you don't have to believe it, the musicians believe enough for all of us, and I gotta give mad props there. It's like in the Marc Cohn song (which I find far superior to the recent country cover) Walking in Memphis:
Now Muriel plays piano Every Friday at the Hollywood And they brought me down to see her And they asked me if I would -- Do a little number And I sang with all my might And she said -- "Tell me are you a Christian child?" And I said "Ma'am I am tonight"
Like DIANE LANE hot. If you can say that about a Christian. She's a CILF (Christian I'd Like to Familiarizemyselfwith)
The Seekers: My mother loved the folk music of the 60s, and I don't know if my Dad did but he tolerated it. So I grew up with an abundance of both classical music and folk music. As a child I loved the catchy tunes, as a man (and I had to dig to find some of those songs, it wasn't nearly the popular movement Rock was in the same era. . . ) I love the harmonies and the counterpoints and MY GOD SOME OF THOSE LADIES CAN BELT THAT SHIZZLE OUT! This lady is a top notch shizzle belter, and on this one she really rocks for a white girl.
"On any Sunday. . . . la la leeee. . . "
Oingo Boingo: Danny Elfman (Boingo) and Mick Jones (The Clash, Big Audio Dynamite) somehow, at some point, lived inside my head as a young man. I don't know how, but they write songs that speak to me, of me, from me and about me. This song was from one of Oingo Boingo's last non-collection original albums and much to my wife's chagrin (along with B.A.D's "Free". . .) makes it onto pretty much every mix tape/CD/Playlist I've ever done.
Do you remember Danny Elman in the 80s? This is a mild look for him.
Sweet Honey in The Rock: A nice hippie girlfriend of mine had a tape of them singing children's songs on one of our long motorcycle trips, and I've liked them ever since. Great traditional gospel harmonies. Again with the clapping and snapping :)
Little Light of Mine: I don't know The Steeles from boo, but this was on the Corinna Corinna soundtrack and it was our wedding processional. Awesome.
Joe & Eddie: This is another folk-era throwback. Apparently they had a short Jan & Dean style tragic career. I found a few of their songs when I was looking for counterpoint examples to show my Readers Theater students. This song, Children Go Where I Send Thee, is a traditional Christmas carol. I remember a rousing version of it in the TV-movie sequel to Lillies Of The Field. But THIS version. OMG. I've found nothing else by them that does to me what this song does. NO idea really what they're singing about. But listen. You don't have to know. They are FEE.
It's been a favorite here for a few months. Max loves it. Twins sing "ELIJAH SHOUT SHOUT" every other day. I'll see if I can't upload it and link to it or something. . .
Stevie: Stevie grew up in pop music, and you can see his maturity, growth and changes in the progression of his albums. I like that. My favorite period was Talking Book and Hotter Than July, this was his afro-centric/ghetto champion period lyrically. And musically there is little funkier than the funk rhythm guitar and organ work on these albums. You know the opening bars in Superstition? It's almost TWO ALBUMS (remember albums?) WORTH of that slow twisting soul. Personally, I believe the artistry of his earlier work (the boy could blow a harp, too) more than compensates for some of the pop tripe of his later career. I forgive you, Stevie. You can come play at my party any day. But we can't have the party at church. At least not in the chapel. If anyone out there wins the lottery, lets get Stevie Wonder to play my 39th birthday party in the State College Ward's Primary Room!
Where else have you seen S-Dub without his shades?
Rod Stewart: He's got a cool voice, very stylized, and love or hate some of his top-40 pop music you've got to admit he feels it when he sings it. That, and when I was 14 Heather Black wrote the lyrics to "You're In My Heart" in a card just for ME. So he can play at my party too. If he's still kickin'.
Lyle Lovett? NO idea. I've always wondered about this guy. Love his nose, LOVE the hairdo, and he ride's Ducati motorcycles so he must be cool. But I'm not very familiar with his music. This song isn't a spiritual, but it's in the gospel style (SNAP AND CLAP! Woot!) and it's very funny. My brother likes him, so he must be a talented musician with a sense of humor.
. . . that's not a Duc but it is Italian. I could swear he's got a whole collection of Ducatis and can often be found at track days tearing it up.
OK. Inserting all those pictures? In my blog? Was a nightmare. I don't know why, but BLOGGER always puts the photo at the top and adds "return"s into the whole blog every time you link to a photo. Does anyone know what I'm doing wrong? Is there a way around this? But it's OK, I know how both of you out there appreciate some eye candy with your brain candy.
It's going on dinner time here. AK has baked herself into a sleepy poodle pillow on the couch. Max is building legos. Milo is lecturing, um, someone. I don't know where Ben is but it's too cold out for him to have gone far. Our big nasty storm didn't bring us more than a few inches of slush. But now the winds are really kicking up and making some righteous noises so I'm going to sign off and listen to some different music until bedtime.
Word has already mostly gotten around, but yes the search for the elusive straight job is over. Shain Solutions is an educational/commercial furniture manufacturer about a half-hour from us in Philipsburg. They are growing fast and changing faster with an agressive new VP, and they want to change the face of the company. So they went looking for a PR/Customer Relations Manager to oversee CSRs, Inside Sales and Custom Quote staff. I'm what they got. Though we mostly talked marketing and manufacturing during the interview, I imagine my main task will be to "change the culture" there in the office. I love a challenge, and Honda taught me deep lessons about corporate philosophy, lifetime client loyalty and team building.
Of course this time, for team building, we'll stay away from Razor scooters and multi-level parking ramps. And Captain Morgan. And Emergency Rooms.
At least for the first year :)
Enthusiastic congratulations have been rolling in. And I'm grateful :). Indeed, I've been want ad-scanning, resume spamming and going on interviews for about two months now. It did feel good to finally feel that "this is right" vibe, and it felt redeeming to get the offer. Like Thomas the Tank Engine, I had come to want nothing more than to BE A USEFUL ENGINE!
I also think it's important to point out that I have not been unemployed for the last 3 years. I capitalized and started my own business, and though the niche is small it's probably safe to say I'm #3 in the market. Over this past year, there were times that Lux Graphics provided our only income.
A straight job has only been a goal this last two months, as difficult decisions were made by Alaska and I regarding our finances and our short and long term goals. Working for myself has provided me with something infinitely more valuable than a 401k or health benefits: quantity time with my sons and wife. And while painting people's model racecars for a living sent -- and still may send -- shivers of paralyzing fear up and down the spines of some people who care for us very deeply. . . it gave the most important people in my life (my family) exactly what they needed (an active, involved and very very PRESENT father & husband). This is why it's been such a difficult decision.
A straight job (if it could be found, and it did prove more elusive than planned) would provide the following items that we, at this time, place great value on: -more income than Lux Graphics -someone ELSE taking the taxes out for us -less expensive health insurance (we have not gone without, we just paid through the nose) -some regularity & consistency to our income, to avoid the peaks & valleys of 2 self-employed people with 2 sets of loyal but flakey clients
At the same time, with a straight job, the following sacrifices must be made: -lessens the time I can give to volunteer work with scouts and Readers Theater -puts more of the parenting load on Alaska, while not lightening her work load at least for the first 2 years -it puts me back with the rest of the Dads out there fantasizing about mythical "quality time" with my sons because I no longer have quantity time. -TWO THOUSAND HOURS that I will NOT spend with my sons or wife in 2008. That one kills me. There is nothing more precious to me than that time.
Do you see why, while it's nice to feel I actually DO still have value in the professional world, this is as bittersweet as it is thrilling? I have learned to see my value in terms much broader and more meaningful than those of the professional world. But we want so badly to be debt free, to SHOW our sons while they are still impressionable the liberty and joy this kind of life can bring them. We want this badly to begin the lesson when the twins are 8 and Max is 13, not later. We believe that these two years of sacrifice will be the key to perhaps much more freedom and success when we launch our NEXT entrepeneurial ventures.
I am grateful, and I am so happy. I'm so excited to get back in the game because while yes -- it nearly destroyed my family last time :) -- I was gooooood at playing the game. And it feels good to be good at something when there are others there to see it and benefit from it. There are so many more millions of dollars being spent on educational furniture than there are on custom RC paint, and so much more opportunity to bring my family what it needs right now.
It's not the last chapter, but it is the next chapter. I only hope, and pray I guess (gotta work on that) that I can keep the perspective and priority these last few years have given me. I hope I can apply myself in this new direction while still maximizing my time with my sons. I know not to put pressure on our limited time together, I know to just let us be. I know to never stop hugging and adoring and trusting in them. I know to work harder and schedule better so I CAN still be the Scout Leader and I CAN still teach Readers Theater. It will be a balancing act, but I really can't worry about it too much because I know I've got what it takes to fix it if it ever gets that broken again.
Photography: Still moving forward with Self Taught Studio Portraiture 101, as it can supplement the income with a little more study and help me move toward making the photos I want to make -- whether or not I get paid for those. After 2 years of study, this may become Lux Version 2.0
Lux Graphics: I can't imagine letting go of it, as much as I want to huck my Iwata brushes into the woods. I hope to paint a few bodies a week, custom or Ebay, after the kids go to bed. I hope to build up an "Economical Commute Alternative" savings fund if you know what I mean. If it just doesn't work? Well. I've lived without an Economical Commute Alternative for a few years now, it won't kill me. And in that case I sure would enjoy that Iwata Hucking Party.
OH! Back on celebrating the new job: Alaska took us all out to Hoss's Steak House. This is a regional chain of family-friendly steak/seafood/buffet places, and when she went a couple of weeks ago thought it was pretty good. Well, AK just about cried when Gramma could barely eat her crabcake sammich and I could not get halfway through my still-moo'ing "Medium Well" cleaver cut steak. She had to admit that while her scallops were good, there were only about 3 of them! Max, Ben and Milo were sick & couldn't taste anything. And it WAS cool that the cooks sliced the boys' names into their hot dogs! Gramma and I thought it was hilarous because it just would not get better: AK's Mountain Dew had the syrup mix all wrong, and instead of offering to credit us for the steak the waitress nervously offered to cook it some more. Ew.
Emily LOVED it. And the manager did credit us the steak with much apologies for some data entry mix up. I didn't have the heart to tell him that I've had rare steaks before and loved them. The problem was that THIS WAS A VERY OLD AND VERY ANGRY COW WHO LIVED A DEPRESSED AND MISERABLE LIFE. Every bite was full of grisle and my jaw was sore from chewing what tasted like a big bloody beef liver.
But mostly, it really was funny. And poor AK just couldn't get the joke, she was crushed and felt our fine celebration was ruined. But we have some funny memories, we STILL didn't have to do any dishes -- and since they probably won't be seeing Young Scholars of Central PA Charter School for another fundraiser -- maybe they'll serve the next PAC President who takes her family there more scallops.
Has it been a MONTH since I blogged? Sheesh, I suck.
It's raining heavily. We've had several good layers of snow this past week, and now it's all melting and freezing to create driving/walking danger and a slightly less picturesque Pennsylvania outside our windows. But I am so glad it's raining. I love the weather. Which, if I think for a moment like I did living in California, sounds absurd. It's as though I said "I love socks" or "I love spice racks". The weather used to be something that simply was, and never deserved comment aside from an occasional rainy inconvenience. But here (Midwest too) it's a very big part of what you do on any given day and how you go about doing it. It's a relative, visiting often, that we have in common with everyone else who lives here. So we've always got something to talk about! She does dramatic things to us. She makes all sorts of noises, like the din right now coming from our metal window eaves or the melting ice crackles of this morning. Most importantly, she provides us with seasons that mark the passing of time. Occasions and birthdays and holidays and whole years can just blend into one another when you don't have the demarcation of seasons. Temperatures change, trees and colors and wildlife change (the bear family I think is getting desperate, we found a mysteriously-colored and frighteningly large poo in our driveway yesterday), and from day to day there can never be any doubt that time is passing. Clocks are ticking. Boys are growing. Moments need seizing! Maybe that's why I haven't blogged in awhile :)
Operation Straight Job continues as does Lux Graphics. Our (very) local newspaper did a series of articles last week about how tight things are getting here for the middle class. Duh. One of the articles was particularly relevant to O.S.J.The article detailed how -- while unemployment and job growth here are better than most places -- all the growth has been in retail and service jobs. If you're an educated, experienced, handsome bald man then the pickins are slim. Duh. Needless to say there haven't even been many resume's sent out lately. Though I did have a nice interview last week with a company in Philipsburg, and have my fingers crossed there. I liked the people and the company, and even if they didn't enjoy it as much as I did they got an accurate and healthy dose of Chris so they can make an educated decision about whether or not I fit in there.
Photography progresses, and I hope to set up some kind of studio in Gramma's big dry basement with it's high ceilings. I research and learn more every day in my spare moments, but doing what I am starting to think I want to learn how to do. . . . takes money. See previous paragraph.
Yesterday was my berfday, I'm a bouncing baby 38-year-old now. I was also baptised yesterday, so it's been a joyous weekend. We had friends visiting for the big occasion all the way from Western PA, Ohio and Vermont. It was such a peaceful wonderful time with all the visiting and the eating and the hanging out (and the eating). There was a healthy haze of estrogen floating around this weekend, as adorable little girl after adorable little girl seduced me. Aged from just months to 5 years, they made me so want the baby girl we never had. And hopefully their respective parents were inspired to be just a little more grateful via my envy. If nothing else they were grateful that it was a just a weekend visit. Because my freak mutant bongo-headed monster boys might have playfully broken them (the girls) as easily as Emily could have eaten our othervisitor's "Pocket Yorkie" on Saturday! Emily wouldn't have really hurt that little dog. But in retrospect I'm glad AK gave Emily one of her (AK's) anti-anxiety pills because the sub-Yorkie did seem to be in eminent danger of cardiac arrest should Emily so much as sniff her. Life is VERY frightening when you are that small.
And regarding the little girls again: AK is standing by with adoption papers, filled out and ready to sign, the very second I decide I'm not kidding about wanting a daughter.
Pupp Daddy Dog spends his days working as an entrepeneur and as a Dad. He is passionately in love with/obsessively neurotic about his family. Imagine Kicking Bird mixed with Albert Brooks. Oh, and throw in some Notorious B.I.G.
Alaska is the frustrated but caring cat at the center of our canine universe. All of us alternately worship, rely on and ceaselessly whine to her. Her need to control everything is confounded by the fact that she really pretty much does control everything, so in her few free moments, she knits and searches desperately for things to fuss about.
Max is smart and handsome, with a big heart. He is not only growing like a weed, but he has the attention span and concentration abilities of a weed. Despite my best efforts, AK keeps feeding him and he keeps growing. Our plan is to keep him so busy with school, sports & the arts that he won't notice he's a teenager and is supposed to hate us. T minus 2.5 years to teen launch, so far so good.
Ben and Milo are phenomenal little creatures who remind us minute-by-minute not only how little control we have in this world, but why we should cease our controlling efforts and just laugh at all of God's jokes. Lately, Milo likes to dance and is good on the piano. Ben likes to mimic Max and enjoys manipulating adults and anyone else who has no idea how quietly brilliant he is. Both of them would love your full and complete attention. Really, stop reading silly blogs and join the fan club now. Ok? Ok.