20 December 2011

2011-We're glad to see you go!

The start of this year found Joshua and I at our lowest point, desperately trying to survive this economy, like many others.  My first year of teaching happened to be one of the most dramatic in the state and nation's recent history, with extreme budget cuts leaving many educators out of work or facing new challenges in the classroom.  I am fortunate enough to be working in a district that went out of its way to save teaching jobs, and my contract was renewed for another year.

At the end of the school year, we had visits from Heather, as well as Tanya and Matt.  We enjoyed a fun night together starting with dinner on Lake Travis, and then on to the outdoor venue in Bee Cave known as The Backyard for Willie Nelson's birthday concert.  It was a much-needed fun weekend that allowed Joshua and I to show off this wonderful city to loved ones.

A few weeks later, I completed my mega-portfolio and passed my state exams, leaving me certified as a Generalist for 4th-8th grade in the state of Texas.  In June, a few days after finishing my first year of teaching, I flew to New England to attend the required one week residency for my Master's of Diplomacy from Norwich University in Vermont.  

The campus was beautiful, and the cool Vermont weather was a welcome relief from drought-striken Texas.  Although the trip was an unwelcome expense for Joshua and I, it was an amazing experience that left me feeling very positive about my future and provided an opportunity to be inspired by my fellow grads, who are also facing obstacles and looking for ways to put their new degrees to work.

Joshua and I enjoyed the following month by seeking out cheap ways to have fun, and taking advantage of our central apartment location before our upcoming move to the south side of the city.  And, yes, we gave the furry boys mohawks to beat the insane summer heat...  

Of course, he was still actively looking for a permanent position and I was completing my final semester at Norwich online.  Eventually, one of my new connections led Joshua to an interview, and a new career at a senior living facility in northwest Austin.  He was still in the application stages when I flew home to visit my family and wait for the arrival of our new nephew.  The new job in a new industry has taken Joshua through an experience not unlike my jump into education last year.  He has learned a lot in his first 5 months, and he's just getting started.  He's working in the business office, working with healthcare providers and insurance companies, and mingling with the friendly residents whenever he can.

While I was back in Wisconsin for 4 weeks, I was lucky to spend a lot of time with my beautiful 7 year old niece Olivia, and adorable 2 year old nephew Connor, as well as their new brother Grant, who arrived on July 27. 

I also tried to catch up with as many friends and family members as possible, and I stood up in Ben and Julie's wedding, which was an adventure in itself...Rain storms and a slow chairlift ride to the top of a ski hill do not mix, though they do result in good stories and more reason to start drinking before dinner.

When I came home to Austin, it was to a new apartment in the south side of the city.  Joshua's sister and brother came down to help him move us over his birthday weekend.  Of course, I cannot thank them enough, especially considering the triple digit temps that they were working in.  Our new place is wonderful, we finally have all the amenities that we couldn't afford downtown (Geppetto loves the dog park!) and we have found a new favorite Thai restaurant nearby.
The fall was a busy one for us, as we tried to get our new schedules in sync.  I am teaching a new class this year, journalism, as well as French, and producing the yearbook, co-sponsoring student council (which I started last spring), and sponsoring a UIL academic team.  All these new things made this semester nearly as busy and stressful for me as last year, which was frustrating (I thought this was supposed to get easier!).  Bartleby does a good impression of me grouchy and tired:

At any rate, visits from Jaime, and Heather and Danielle in October and my dad, plus Colleen, Rob and Emma in the November helped get me through my third semester as a teacher and Joshua's first few months in the health care field.  Call us if you are in the area-we want to show you this city!

Our fall concerts included seeing Buddy Guy at the new Austin City Limits theater in the fancy W Hotel downtown, Bon Iver (Eau Claire's favorite hipster) at the beautiful Long Center at Auditorium Shores on Town Lake, and an amazing line up of local musicians at a concert to raise money for victims of the Bastrop fires, including Willie Nelson, George Strait and THE DIXIE CHICKS!
Our fall road trip was an October Saturday in Houston.  We had a great time visiting the Rothko Chapel to see works by Joshua's favorite painter, and we stumbled upon the impressive Menil Collection nearby.  A tour at the St. Arnold's brewery and lunch at the delectable Pepper Tree left us loving this city.

Joshua and I enjoyed Thanksgiving at home, cooking a delicious feast and cheering on the Packers.  Christmas day, we plan to do the same thing, but with new recipes.  We love to cook, love watching cooking shows (The Next Iron Chef is our current favorite), but we rarely have time to dedicate to trying new things in the kitchen and spoiling ourselves with mouth-watering bites.  
So, while we will miss our families and friends all across the country, we will make the best of it by getting use out of all those wonderful kitchen gadgets we received as wedding gifts. :)

New Year's Eve, we'll be checking out an up and coming Austin musician, Gary Clark Jr., at one of the city's legendary clubs, Antone's.  I always look forward to going out in the city for an evening of good food and good music, one of the main reasons we moved to the Live Music Capital, and I'm grateful that we have come far enough in 2011 to comfortably enjoy our new home.  

Happy New Year's to our friends and family!  May 2012 bring new opportunities and adventures!  
As a wise man said-- Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.

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