Dear Friends and Family,
Each year I send this out, I always get a few folks who have concerns as to the length of the yearly document. Other than removing that person from our mailing list, I generally use this as fuel for the upcoming year. This year’s letter will be in 20 parts and 6,000 pages long. Actually, I will try to keep things a little shorter because there is no reason to make everyone mad. They say a picture is worth a thousand words so I’ll try to use more pictures. I’m positive each picture will not cut out a thousand words because that just isn’t how I roll?!?! If you still find it too much, you can do what my best friend does and have your spouse read it and summarize it for you. If neither of you want to tackle it just use it for kindling.
As usual we’ve had a busy year and have tried to have some fun in between all the work and school. We started off the year with my parents (Gran and Golfball) and sister’s family (Susie, Nick, Ryan, and Kailee) in snowy Gatlinburg, TN. We rented a cabin, ate, lounged in the hot tub, and played games together. We fought the crowds and hit everyone’s favorite tourist spots; Ripley’s Aquarium, Dixie Stampede, NASCAR go karts, and the Ober Gatlinburg skating rink. Nick made it the entire weekend…we are…now…The Dean Dozen!!!
We went to Vero Beach, FL for Spring Break and again in July to be with Emily’s parents (Mimi and Pops). We swim and take boat rides when we go down there. We also went to see the Dodger’s spring training.
In late July we visited Emily’s dad (Granddad and Theresa), her brother’s family (Jayne, Cameron, Miles and Georgia), and grandparents (Mama and Papa Bear) in Evansville, IN. We went to Holiday World theme park and some of the more awesome people (Cameron and me) rode the new Voyage roller coaster. We couldn’t convince Preston to go (chicken, bwock, bwock). It is being deemed the best coaster ever built and definitely has my vote (and also my stomach).
In August we took our normal trip out west to Mimi and Pop’s place. We explored the city of Aspen, CO before heading down to their cabin in the mountains for days filled with golf. Before we headed down we got in a whole family whitewater rafting trip. Emmaline almost didn’t commit but we eventually talked her into it and everyone wound up loving rafting the Colorado River through Glenwood Canyon. By the end of the trip she was ‘riding the bull’ on the front of the raft.
In September we rented a houseboat on Center Hill Lake with a friend from work and his family (Mark, Jennifer and their 4 year old son Riley). We could have gone during summer but something about ½ price houseboat after Labor Day was calling my name. We were rolling the dice on the weather and didn’t do too badly. We had some rain but mostly at night and in the early mornings. The water was warm so the kids swam and went tubing. Mark is a wake boarder and has the boat for it. Emily and I got to where we could get up. Preston took a long while to get up consistently but by the end of the trip was talking trash to his dad as he went back and forth over the wake. Our only real problem of the weekend was when a storm woke us up around 6AM on our first night. We awoke to see our excellent docking job go up in smoke as the boat came loose and slammed into the bank. I blame that on Mark’s boat-to-cove positioning; he blamed it on my knot. We used the new positioning of the boat and secured it again (with no knots) and didn’t have any more problems.
As soon as we got back from celebrating the New Year I went downstairs and took a sledgehammer to the basement. Emily and I had ‘discussed’ how I wasn’t qualified to demolish our existing basement. Actually she of little faith had simply told me I wasn’t ‘qualified’! Who cares what she thinks?!?!? The goal is to turn our full basement into finished space. We started with 1/3 garage, 1/3 unfinished space, and 1/3 finished space circa 1950. My goal is to gut the current finished space, fully utilize the 1/3 garage space, and then fully finish the remaining 2/3 of the space. This is turning out to be a pretty big job for the old weekend warrior. I’m currently done with the demo and the garage space is finished up.
I started the job with a sledgehammer and little hand crowbar. I quickly realized that I wasn’t going to get the job done anytime soon. A man comes to a point in his life when he must have bigger tools in order to evolve. I wouldn’t want to be in a war today with a stick and slingshot. I needed some heavier artillery. “Emily, I’m going to Sear’s real fast…” I quickly rushed out the door before I could decipher her response and be stopped. Craftsman tool club here I come! I returned later that afternoon with a big crowbar and a reciprocating saw. I plugged it in and started ripping through walls like cheese. I had evolved! I was man hear me roar! Nothing can stop me…whoa…there’s an electrical outlet…I wonder if I should turn off the power to this room [reciprocating saw comes to a halt]?!?! Emily had lost interest quickly with this whole process and went upstairs to do dishes muttering something about me “burning down the house.” Relax; there is no way I’m going to do that, geesh!?!? I pulled the hot blade out of the wall and remembered that I had seen people knock walls down with sledgehammers. I need to knock a hole in the wall to see if there are any wires I’m about to slice up like spaghetti with my tool of doom! I put on my safety glasses, leaned back, and whacked the wall with all the force a little, sawed-off, troll like me could muster. I heard something and then the lights in the room flickered off an on…hmmm!?!? All of the sudden I heard the thunder from above…it wasn’t the house…it was human! I slowly turned around and felt like a kid with my hand in the cookie jar as I watched Emily descend the steps to enter the room and bless me out. It seems the ‘little short’ had caused the entire house to shutdown for a brief moment in time…unfortunately (for me) including the kitchen where she was working. She again listed the qualifications I was lacking in great detail. After several minutes I explained that obviously it wasn’t anything too bad since everything was acting normal again?!? In my brain I was hoping that the embers of a fire were not already torching my house from the inside out directly behind me. She finally left to go do laundry right outside the room I was in. I quickly turned and inspected to be sure a raging fire had not broken out. I looked into the electrical box and had no clue where the wire to the room was in the 1950’s spaghetti network of wires. No flippin’ clue. No problem, I’m just removing wood…note to self…no more sledgehammers…problem solved!?!? I slowly ripped away at this section of the wall. I got all the wood removed, assessed the situation inside the wall, and was ready to proceed. The last thing I’ll do before I crank up the heavy equipment again is remove the wood with the electrical outlet attached to it. I didn’t want to cut any live wires…heck, I’m not an electrician?!?!? Remember Joey, no sledgehammers.
I reached up and tugged the remaining wood piece off the wall. A lot happened quickly so I can’t say I remember it all but it all started with a loud “ZZZIIIITTTTT” and a spark shooting out of the wall socket. I remember the house going dark again, but then there was light. Had I died? Was heaven carpeted? Maybe this wasn’t heaven? What’s that voice? No, this was definitely not heaven?!?! I was fully alive but in a place far away from heaven. In fact I was much closer to the other place people can wind up. It seems all the activity had not escaped my loving wife and now she was also shooting sparks in my direction. I stood and took my whipping. It seemed to go on for days—“hire a professional”, “your not qualified”, “I don’t want my house burned down”, “this is what’s wrong with you”, “look at what you’ve done”, “now what are you going to do”!!! I was broken. I was an office worker who’d stepped outside my world and was now being punished. That afternoon was almost the end of my remodeling efforts. Instead we spent the remainder of the weekend mapping all the circuits in the breaker box…with my wife’s help?!?! ‘We’ (she) also set some nice ground rules for the remainder of the project. No plumbing or electrical…don’t even think about it!!!
From that point on we’ve made lots of progress. Emily has learned to develop her faith and trust in me over the past year (and I in myself). As soon as we get through New Year’s this year I am headed down to start framing!!! She is extremely excited.
Aside from some top secret things that we can’t tell anyone about (you know…spy stuff) Emily and I have been going about our normal routine. We chase kids and then collapse. Emily decided that having 4 at home (well 5 as she tells me), and teaching 15 in mission friends at church wasn’t enough ‘kid’ in her life. She now subs at Max’s preschool when they need her (which is most days). She is enjoying it and actually gets to interact with real live adults. I still work at Scorecard and now run the company’s Quality Assurance department in addition the Project Management department. This is excellent progression towards my future in world domination!
Preston is 11 and has settled into a rhythm in his school and extracurricular activities. He is back at the same school he went to last year. He has been involved with the same sports as last year, lacrosse and football. His football team was not all that good again. This season was much better than last year because we had some really good coaches. They kept things fun and focused on the positives through all the hard times. Somehow I got roped into coaching, but was more like team secretary and head water boy (since I know nothing other than fluorescent lights and cubicles). Emily was assistant water boy since she actually got all the water together. I just took it to the games and practices and took the glory. His football team only had 13 players on the roster so he played pretty much every snap on both offense and defense. Preston works hard but definitely enjoys his down time. If he could swing it, pretty much all his time would be down time. Alas, we often discuss how that just isn’t how the world is for the vast majority of us. I’m suspecting he doesn’t believe me yet?!?!
Dance, dance, dance! Emmaline dances in dance class, at community events, in recitals, in parades, in the car, in our house, while walking, and probably in her sleep. Emmaline is 8 and still in her dance groups company. She stays pretty busy and has roped me in as well. Each year at the recital we watch the father/daughter dance and everyone let’s me know my time is coming. This year the girls were old enough to participate so I got to dance with Emmaline. We danced a slow dance and then finished off with a little ditty to Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” where Emmaline and I ‘battled’! She Got Served! Emmaline still has the desire for everything in all of creation to be absolutely perfect. When Mom is not around to tell me I’m late or doing something wrong then Emmaline is right there letting me have it! She will make someone a wonderful wife one day?!?!
Molly is a 6 year old protégé of Emmaline. She is following in her sister’s footsteps with dance. She was also selected to be in her dance group’s company and puts on her bandana and does her hip-hop dances in front of 1 or 100. She started off the 10 weeks of practice for the father/daughter dance with Emmaline and me. About 6 weeks into it I stepped on her foot in practice and that was the end of that. I still think Molly has an evil twin that joins us from time to time. She seems to always be in the mix when problems break out in the clan. Most of the time, however, she is playing kitchen, mommy, maid, writing, reading, or helping us clean and organize the house. When I have a project, and I always do, Molly is usually there helping me. She loves to work and stay busy. Emily and I joke that she will be the richest of all the kids because she loves to work?!?!
Max is a freakin’ 5 year old soccer machine. I have never attended an event that any of my children have participated in where the roller coaster of emotion goes like it does with Max. With any kids you 1) hope they will do well and like what they do, 2) cheer and celebrate with them when (if) success comes. With Max we’ve added step 3) cower embarrassed on the sidelines each time he runs by on his way to score. We try to motion for him to slow down or pass the ball. After each goal we give him a very humble thumbs up…while the other parents glare at us. I act embarrassed when they look my way, but honestly I’m beaming inside after a typical double digit scoring effort! He goes to preschool every day. This week we went to his preschool’s Christmas show. We thought the quiet guy would be like his big brother and be a statue during the performance. We were floored. He stood tall and belted out song after song. Max is a lot like his brother in many ways but we are constantly surprised at how different they are.
This year about the biggest news to roll across the ticker has been the price of gas going up and down. We’ve all made it successfully through another year and have been blessed along the way. We hope you have a great Christmas season. We hope next year is good to you. We also hope that our paths cross sometime soon if they haven’t in a while.
Joey, Emily, Preston, Emmaline, Molly, Max and S’more