Sunday, December 31, 2017

Looking back over 2017 and forward to 2018 - Happy New Year!

No Christmas cards or letters sent again this year... This will take the place of those and take time to remember big events from 2017 and the things we think will be happening as we move through 2018.

Together finally in Branson!
Happiness definitely was in evidence as Kristen moved to Branson, Missouri and started her new life there working at Sight and Sound Theatre. She moved from New York City where she had lived for two years and experienced life in the fast lane. So many young people move to the city with the hope of getting the big break to work on Broadway with few being so fortunate. Life is hard and survival jobs with the need to travel on the subway at all hours of the day and night really take its toll. To say that we were relieved when she moved from NYC would be an understatement! Of course, we can't forget that she was also engaged and planning her wedding to Justin which was also something that was a large part of all of the happiness surrounding her move! They were both able to come and visit with us in Belgium in January and we had a great time visiting some of our favorite places.

April quickly arrived and off we went flying to the States for the wedding in Maryland. We had a great time meeting new members of the family and spending some time with the kids before the big event. We even had a quick trip to State College to find out what was awaiting us in Kristen's storage unit there from college. Two cars were filled up and we were on our way to Havre de Grace, Maryland to unload everything there for sorting and their eventual trip to Missouri. Living in Europe has complicated many things to include not having a place for your college graduate to come back to on the US side of the ocean! It is also causing other complications but that comes later in this story.  The wedding took place on Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland near Justin's family. It was a wonderful venue and everything was easy and perfect. We all had a wonderful time seeing family and friends and celebrating with the newly married couple!

Just before the ceremony
At the reception

Just after the wedding, we took a flight to Florida and spent a week in the sunshine where the boys enjoyed golfing at Orange Lake and we celebrated my 60th birthday. I wouldn't mind celebrating each year by the pool at Orange Lake but I'm pretty sure that won't be happening anytime soon!
Cheers to 60!
April and May quickly flew by and, before we knew it, we had a high school graduate to celebrate with! The graduation was held at the base in the theater this year and Michael sang both the Dutch and US anthems at the start of the ceremony. Michael graduated from AFNORTH International School in the Netherlands with plans to enlist in the Navy. We said goodbye to the days of driving over an hour each way to school from Belgium to the Netherlands and closed the door on our visits to a school that saw both of our kids grow up. Very few of our military and ABMC families can have both of their children graduate from the same high school. We were very fortunate for this to occur even though we moved to Italy right after Kristen graduated there and moved to a different cemetery in Belgium for Michael to finish school -- a gap of 3 years.

Class of 2017!

Graduating class fit on the small stage

Last day of school after grad practice
July/August brought us back to the States for home leave and we started with our visit to Orange Lake in Florida, then up to York, PA and finishing in Branson, Missouri. This was Michael's final home leave with us and we definitely had a good time visiting with family and friends with lots of golf for the Michaels fitted in along the way! While in York, we had a mini Class of 1975 reunion at the Reliance. It was wonderful being able to visit and see friends that I haven't seen in person for a long time! A highlight of our trip to Branson was being able to see Kristen and Justin in Moses. We actually saw the show several times and were able to see all of the actors who rotate in as Moses which was really fun. Of course, seeing Kristen and Justin up on that huge stage in all of their roles was unbelievable and a really great experience. The Sight and Sound Theatre cast and crew are amazing people who bring biblical stories to life to the many people who are able to attend. What a blessing that is!

Fun family pictures - Mike's Dad is now 93!

Mike and Vicki (his "big" sister)

The pool is also 60 this year too!

Bulldogs always find their way home!

Sight & Sound - Moses

Awesome fairy crowns in Midsummer in the Park

I was blessed to be able to fly to Branson in November and visit with Kristen and Justin. They were both in the cast of Miracle of Christmas which was a blessing for them to be a part of the show and also continuing to be gainfully employed at S&S! I had a wonderful time staying with them and getting to play with their new bulldog puppy, Clover. I also got to see Jodie and Cal (Justin's parents) at the end of my visit! It was fun to also be able to do some shopping in America for Christmas presents for the boys at home. In person vs. shopping online was a definite bonus! While I was there, I got to visit with dear friends we met in the South of France --Wayne and Drue Huffman. We had a great time visiting at dinner and spending a little time together! At the theatre, I got to see Kristen in all of her roles (they are understudies for roles other than their principal ones so that everything is covered when actors need to take time off) and this was quite overwhelming due to the fact that her regular role was the innkeeper's wife who helps Mary give birth to Baby Jesus and also she played Mary's mother as an understudy and did both during the one show. She was in almost every scene and had lines and sang and danced -- my heart was full and overflowing for her and her abilities and the messages she shared as part of the story.

Friends since 2004 and the South of France!

The rest of the year has been pretty mundane in comparison to all of the above with one exception. I hinted that living in Europe brings complications and it definitely has brought about a big logistical problem for us now. We found out in September that Michael would probably not be able to stay in Belgium with us until he is ready to enlist. The ID card we need to allow us to live in Belgium expires in early March and his card will not be renewed because he is over the age of 18 and not in school full-time. This was a huge surprise to us with no warning and no easy solution since we have lived in Europe since 2001 and have no home in the States to send him to. We looked into all sorts of ideas through the Embassy but found that there is no legal way to keep him here with us full time. The only way he can be with us in Belgium is to travel here for 90 days at a time on his tourist passport (which also was expiring in January -- a new one has been applied for). Then he would need to return to the States for 90 days, etc. until he is ready to enlist.

A potential position may be created in the Virginia office of Mike's agency which is being designed for someone approaching the end of their ABMC career. We were honestly thinking we would be here in Europe until 2021 and Mike would then retire but that may not be the case. If this new position occurs, we will buy a home in York, PA and Mike will commute home on the weekends. I will find us a home, get a job hopefully with a law firm in York or Harrisburg and Michael will enlist in the Navy. Or, in the alternative, we will stay here and Michael will stay with our friend, Jim, or other family members and then fly back, rinse and repeat until he can enlist. Having to write this makes my head hurt because I'm the one that needs to feel in control (which is funny if you think back on us living through Mike's military and ABMC careers and all of our moves) and that certainly isn't the case right now! The only thing for certain, as we close 2017, is that Michael and I will be flying back to the States in early March and we will stay with our dear friend who is taking the poor wandering nomads into his home!

This has been a stressful period for us and we know that God has a plan for all of us. Of course, I would be thrilled if that plan were revealed step by step to me... God works in mysterious ways and the mystery is yet to unfold for us.

We wish all of our friends and family a very Happy New Year!

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