5 Months . . .

You are long overdue for an update, my friends.

MUCH has happened.

Stephen is doing very well in school — already exceeding the third grade math targets in some areas — which is pretty cool.  He has more and more confidence and friends every day. The adjustment has been hardest on him.

Jonathan is flourishing in a school environment. He can spell and write his name– and sound out or spell simple words.  But where he really blows us away is his aptitude with numbers. He can recognize and name numbers in the thousands.  He can do simple math! A lot of it (beyond the 15 + 2) is memorization, I’m sure, but it is still impressive!

Randy is doing awesome at work. His company lost the contract at the Opryland Hotel, which was a total bummer, but he was able to easily transfer over to Bridgestone Arena which has been great for us!! We got to go to the Nashville Predators (NHL) game last night, and had awesome tickets!

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We really love it here.  But — it hasn’t been completely easy. Since I was not able to land an actual teaching position, our situation is a little bit different than it was back home.  So I was very excited when I was able to become a Jamberry Nails Independent Consultant.  I really love the products, and I have been able to do everything from my computer, while at home with the boys. No babysitters needed!  It has helped us always have enough money for gas — which is a good thing when you have a 45+ minute commute to work each way. 🙂  I won’t say anything more about it — but if you are interested, just message or email me, and I will send you a sample or set you up with a facebook party. 🙂

On the music front — you know, the whole reason we came here — a couple of exciting things have happened.  I had my first gig at a lovely little coffee shop in the next town over from me. My friend Alice was invited to perform there, and asked me and one other songwriter to share a “Writer’s Round” with her. It was amazing!

AND I will be going to a Songwriters Retreat, put on by a songwriter named Christa Wells, whom I greatly admire. She is an independent artist (unsigned by a label), intentionally, and it is inspiring the way she is marketing herself and becoming a presence in the music scene.  The retreat is in January, in the mountains of Tennessee, and I am so very excited to be meeting and connecting with 14 other like-minded artists! It is going to be amazing!

Also exciting — I finally went and created my “artist” website!  I bought the “meredithdukemusic” domain, and have started working on that. Check it out!

This weekend has been bittersweet — missing family and home, while finding new adventures that may become traditions of their own. I am grateful for telephones, facebook, and Voxer (like a walkie-talkie app for cell phones) to be able to keep in touch with everyone!

On Labor Day, City Traffic, and Dreams Coming True

I can’t believe that it has been almost a month since I updated all of you. (Guys, I am not going to lie. If we were face to face, it would have been y’all,  and I had to force myself not to actually type it. It’s weird.)

Things are ridiculously busy. The boys and I leave the house by 6:30AM so that we can beat the traffic. We arrive at school by 7:15 — usually a little bit earlier than that, and it works out pretty well because then I have time to fix all of the broken things… or at least TRY to fix it. 

I absolutely love the school, the teachers, the staff and the administration. It is a wonderful school, and exactly the type of place I would hope for my boys to be– but wasn’t really sure I would find once we moved to the big city.

It didn’t really hit me until we got closer to Labor Day, when I knew that my friends and former colleagues back home were just getting started how much I miss everyone — and how much more I really appreciate Labor Day now that I have already been back to school for over a month!  Oh that 3 day weekend is a beautiful thing– no longer a stigma of sadness that the summer is ending, but now a reward for a month of hard work and adjusting!

It was pretty cool. 🙂

Our morning commute goes very smoothly — it takes about 40 minutes in the morning in the middle of that we see the awesome Nashville skyline.  The way home it does take about 55-60 minutes because the traffic in the city, but I have learned to weigh the cost — jockey for position and switch lanes 4 times in less than two miles, or creep by at a snails pace and not have to switch lanes at all.  Truly it depends on the type of day I have had, and how hot it is.  We are almost always home by 4:30 in the afternoon. Stephen will work on his homework, and when he is finished the boys will play together — usually Mario Kart 8 or Super Mario 3D World. Jonathan is learning how to be patient while his big brother does school work!

Last week, those of you who get email updates from this blog got a song list that I posted to the WRONG BLOG!  I have been helping my worship pastor out and created a blog for our team, and weekly post the links and lead sheets for the songs we are doing. I was not paying attention and accidentally created that post on THIS blog!  Sorry for the confusion! 🙂  

However there is some exciting news on the songwriting front.  I wrote a song based on the theme that our Pastor will be focusing on for this year, and my worship pastor likes and we will do the song in church in October!! I am so excited!  I also had my first co-writing experiences with a very good friend. I was sharing with her some lyrics I was playing around with, and it just so happened that she had been hearing a melody and even wrote it out in music earlier that week — and the two FIT!  It was such a cool experience. I love the collaboration process!  I also have made contact with another local songwriter that wants to co-write, so hopefully I will be able to connect with her in the next week or two.

Right down the road from us is an awesome music store — Sam Ash Music. I have submitted my resume in hopes of joining their teaching staff! It would be awesome to be able to supplement our income with some private lessons. 

Randy is still doing very well at his Opryland job. I think we have finally settled into a routine that allows him to actually have a little bit of time to be awake, accomplish things, and feel like he has a life outside of sleeping and working. Working overnights is NO JOKE!

We miss everyone a lot, but we are feeling settled and happy here in Nashville! Thanks for all of the support and love! I will try not to wait as long for my next update!

 

 

 

 

The BEST of all possible situations. #srsly

First Day of School 2014

 

Today, August 6th, was the first day of school. Yes. The first day of school for kids in Tennessee. It is CRAZY. I went back to work LAST THURSDAY — which was still JULY!

But, nevertheless, the schedule is the way it is. And you know what? It was 98 degrees today. School was a perfectly fine place to be!  (And I felt every single one of those degrees on the way home today — the AC isn’t working in either vehicle right now!  HA!)

You have followed along with the school drama. Will Jonathan have a school, or won’t he? Will it be at the same school as Stephen or no? If only, if only, if only.

We thought we had everything settled. And then I found out that my hours were actually 8-3:30 instead of 8:15-3:45. Which all of a sudden made the kid-swap we had been doing when Randy got off of work not feasible any longer, since if anything happened and Randy was held up for a few minutes, I would definitely be late to work.

So we scrambled, looking for someone to watch him locally for an hour until Randy got home from work. Our sweet neighbor was willing to watch him– but it still felt awkward. It was so much to suddenly try and find solutions for.

On Friday at my school I was hanging out with the preK team, and was told that the other preK class had openings for peer models, because it was a blended class. (Mainers, think Head Start.)  So I talked to my principal, and she talked with the director of the program and Jonathan got in!

The next hurdle was that now we had a two hour child-care need because his class ends at 1:30, and mine ends at 3:30.  It was very stressful trying to find someone to watch him, because I don’t know anyone and it was so sudden.

I don’t feel comfortable sharing exactly what the solution is online, but let me tell you that it was absolutely the BEST possible scenario, and that I will probably be very hungry at the end of the day. (People who have rearranged schedules to work childcare/feeding issues will get my subtlety.)

And my principal is amazing. AMAZING. I am so excited about working in this new school. I really, really like everyone. The kids that I have seen — wait, I had lunch duty for ALL OF THEM today, so I have seen all of them — are adorable. 

So my two boys are BOTH WITH ME at my school, which is exactly what I had HOPED for but didn’t ever think would be a possibility!!  YAY!!

 

One Month Ago – – –

It has already been a month since we arrived here in Nashville.  To recap:

Randy got a job almost immediately. He started working overnights, so the boys and I practiced being really quiet during the day time.

I spent a day and a half getting immunization records up to date, and attempting to get the boys enrolled in the school next door. Jonathan was 45th on the waiting list for an 18 student preK class.

I sang at church.  We spent three hours in traffic one night after a really bad accident closed the highway we live off of. 

We went to Krispy Kreme and the brand new Super Walmart that both just opened in our town.

I heard about openings in a different preK, and called to find out if Jonathan had been accepted. He had been!  So now both boys had a school. At different ends of the city. That both started at the same time.

And we had a problem. There was no way Randy would be able to drop both kids off on time each day. And — since they weren’t going to be at the same school, like I had originally (naively) hoped, there was absolutely no reason at all for him not to come to the school where I will be teaching, in one of the best school districts in Tennessee. The only reason he wasn’t coming with me to begin with was because I wanted both boys in the same school. Yeah. That didn’t happen. So — Stephen will be attending school with me. And I am THRILLED! And next year, they will both be able to attend my school! 

So – we got that all figured out.

We got a cool new bank. It has connections to the Tennessee Titans. (My dad felt the need to make sure it wasn’t a PeeWee league or anything like that.) We get tickets to FIVE games! At the totally awesome LP Field!

I have gotten involved in the administrative details for the worship team — finding the copies of the songs we are doing, in the right keys, and putting all the information in one place– stuff that I LOVE to do! 

My summer vacation ends today, as I start my new job tomorrow. I am excited and nervous, and ready for new challenges!

 

The Waiting Game . . .

I sang at church on our anniversary — the 13th — and the funny part is that neither Randy or I remembered that it was our anniversary until we were in the middle of the practice before church. Ha! Twelve years. 🙂

Randy had an amazing week at the hotel. He is told frequently by his supervisors that he is doing a great job, and that he is making a difference.  It is very exciting! Another amazing thing happened. Randy went to Thailand on short term missions trips twice before he moved to Maine. On those trips he worked with a hill tribe displaced Burmese people called the Karen (kah-ren). At least FIVE of the men that Randy works with are from the Karen hill tribe! Some of them even remember the missionary that Randy worked with on his two trips!

On Wednesday I brought the boys down to Franklin to meet up with the two ladies that will be my acoustic trio! It was strange, trying to sing in the middle of a restaurant, to see if our voices blended, but it was still such a neat experience! Now we will set up a time to see if practicing via Google Hangout or Skype is a viable option, since I live north of Nashville, and they are both south. 

Thursday I finished all of my paperwork with the School District, and spent a few hours learning everything I could from the woman I am replacing. I love the computer lab, and I am so excited about getting to know the programs, the people, and the students!

On Saturday I went to a meet-up of Nashville “Dreamers and Builders” – part of a group that is supporting each other as they make progress toward their dreams and goal. It was a blast — and they even gave me a Welcome card! 🙂  After the meet-up, friends who live in the same town (remember the first 4th of July party? This is them!) came over and spent some time with us! It was so much fun! 

We are still waiting to hear about Pre-K for Jonathan, but in the meantime, STEPHEN TURNS 8 TOMORROW!! I can’t believe it! He just keeps growing, even though we have told him repeatedly not to! 

 

Getting Established!

This has been a busy week!

Church on Sunday was fantastic! We love it there!  The boys and I also ended up going to a friend’s church on Sunday night as well, letting Randy have a quiet place to sleep before his very first shift at the Opryland! 

On Monday the boys and I headed out for a fun filled day of waiting in lines, and job required identity checks and drug screening. (The previous statement was written in the sarcasm font. Just in case it didn’t come through on whatever screen you are reading this off of.)

We waited in line for more than an hour at the DMV and I left with a brand new TN driver’s license! Then off to Franklin for fingerprinting, which once I found the place, was really easy and painless, and DYE-FREE! After that we went to a career services place so I could do my drug screening. Since Randy was on his first day after working the night shift, the boys were so lucky and got to go on all of the errands with me.  They were mostly good. After I fed them, anyway. 🙂

Tuesday we were apartment bound, waiting for a UPS package containing Stephen’s birth certificate (it was supposed to be BOTH childrens’, but that is a separate rant). Of course it didn’t come until after 5pm. But I made tremendous progress on the unpacking! It’s starting to feel organized. A little bit, anyway. 🙂

Wednesday. Oh my. At 9 o’clock I picked up the immunization records that the kids’ pediatrician had faxed over from the office of our apartment complex. Then we set out for the East Nashville Health Clinic and waited a longish time for them to put the information on those papers onto an OFFICIAL TN FORM.  I am so grateful that my friend from church told me about that form because I had NO idea about it– none at all.  So, we were doing that, and realized that Jonathan was missing ONE immunization that he should have received when he was 1 (ONE). *facepalm*

The lady, who I adored up until about 2 hours from this point, told us to go to Walgreens and that they could give him the shot he needed. They couldn’t. They were mystified why she would have sent me there at all. But — the pharmacist made some calls and found a clinic that could give him the one shot that he needed.

We drove there. We waited. We talked to nurses. We talked to the nurse practitioner. I explained the whole situation — just moved, blah blah blah, missing one shot, blah blah blah ….  and there was much confusion.  The ladies at this practice were so incredible in making sure that we were all set, I almost feel guilty using the local Pediatrics instead, but they are so much more convenient.

This is where it starts to get frustrating. Apparently, the health center where I started out is able to give that shot, and should have just given it to me!  I think the problem was that the lady helping me wasn’t sure if they would accept our insurance, and that’s why she sent me away. :/

Anyway. The ladies at the second clinic put us on the schedule to meet with the Dr. that afternoon, so I suddenly had an hour and a half to kill. My great plan was to find a restaurant that had a playplace and let them have fun. Unfortunately, my GPS kept finding ones that weren’t really options… like the one in Downtown Nashville that was probably part of an office building food court. Or the one that was on the Tennessee State Campus.  I finally asked the attendant in the gate at Tennessee State about it, and acknowledged that it probably didn’t have a playground, and she kindly directed me to one that met all of requirements.

By the time we got there and finished eating, Jonathan was only able to play for three minutes, because he was eating just a little bit slower than his brother. Poor kid!

Back at the clinic Jonathan got squared away, and we were out the door with the OFFICIAL VALIDATED TN FORM, on our way to the enrollment office. We get to the enrollment office and get Stephen all set. Jonathan would have to be enrolled at the school itself.

By the time I got home, it was 7 and 1/2 hours after I had started, and Jonathan is still not enrolled in PreK.

Today — shortly after 9AM we head to our local elementary school, naively assuming that Jonathan will be enrolled without an issue. Ha ha ha.  There is a 33 kid waiting list for Pre-K at that school. The principal, who was absolutely lovely, and the substitute secretary were so helpful finding other schools that might not have waits, and giving Jonathan the screening test that he needed.

I left with all of his materials and went to one of the two Pre-K centers that have multiple classrooms. It isn’t too far away. I dropped off the materials and now we wait. We won’t know until they finish the second round of “the lottery” which is apparently the cruel and inhumane process they use in big cities to assign children to pre-schools. Or schools in general, for all I know! 

After the chaos and emotions of the morning, I decided to take the boys to the local branch of the Nashville library. But it was 10:45 AM. The library opened at Noon. *facepalm*

So we went home, relaxed, and had lunch. After lunch, I took the boys to the library and got Stephen and myself a library card! They do the coolest thing for the kid cards — they put them on a lanyward! Stephen was thrilled to get an orange lanyard! They gave Jonathan one as well, even though he and I decided that it might be best if he just uses Mommy’s card for a while. He wavered on his previous decision a little bit once he realized he was missing out!

After the library, we picked up Randy and he and I opened up TN bank account! We are SOOOOOO excited, because we chose a bank that partners with the Tennessee Titans, and we got the accounts that give us tickets to 5 (FIVE!!!) different games, and invites to special events, like NFL Draft parties at LP Field, and Titan’s debit cards. 🙂 SO MUCH FUN!  All Randy has to do is remind me that Michael Oher plays for the Titans now and I get all excited for football season!

Tonight I am going to practice with some people on the worship team at church — I get to sing on Sunday! I was going to say “I am so excited!” again.  But — that’s redundant. So, find your own phrase that means the same thing, tack on lots of exclamation points, and imagine that I said that.

OK? Okay.

Have a great night, everyone! I love sharing our adventures with y’all! (Just kidding. I haven’t assimilated THAT much!  It won’t take long, though, I bet!)

 

We’re here!

One week ago, we headed out on our move to Nashville. The first day of driving went very smoothly — and the boys were incredible! My sister was an amazing help with the driving, the refereeing, and the present giving out.  (Three friends — well, two friends and the community band — put together care packages for the boys to help make the trip go faster!)

When we arrived in Virginia at our hotel, we saw LIGHTNING BUGS for the very first time. I am told that they are in Maine, but I have never seen them before. And neither had my sister, so it was a pretty cool sighting!

Monday morning Randy and his friend Rob, who was making the drive in the truck down with him (thank GOODNESS), called and reported that something was wrong with one of the tires on the car carrier, and that they were waiting for new tire. It turned out that the wheel was cracked, and two hours later they were back on the road.

The second day of driving was less interesting — we were only in Virginia and Tennessee — but we had a brief rainstorm that was pretty scary. I was so grateful that Steph was driving, because I would have been in tears, panicking. She just powered through while I watched the radar on my weather apps and could see that it would pass in 5 minutes. 

Even with the wheel issues the guys had, we still arrived at our new home within 20 minutes of each other! Randy and I signed the lease, got our keys, and we began the unloading process.  My sister took the boys to the pool so they wouldn’t get hurt trying to “help.” 

Friends from our new church came over and unloaded us, all bringing a different part of our first meal here! We were finished unloading in less than an hour, but we had friends here until after 9. It was so fun. Except for the parts when ComCast didn’t come to set up our internet and I spent more than a half hour on hold, and then finally someone came and he couldn’t do anything because he didn’t have any of the right equipment . . . Oy.

On Tuesday morning, Randy woke up very early because he had an interview at 8am with the Gaylord Opryland hotel. He got an awesome job, as a maintenance supervisor, cleaning all 17 of the kitchens in that amazing place! We are thrilled! He starts tonight at 11pm – he will be working 3rd shift.

After Randy got home, the kids and Stephanie and I headed out to the nearest Comcast location and got the equipment to do a self-install of our internet and basic cable. It worked, and everyone was happy. We hung around the apartment – unpacking and swimming. The highlight of the evening? Pizza delivery from Pizza Hut!!!  DELIVERY!!

On Wednesday, my sister and I took the boys to Franklin (the town I will be working in) to visit the Cool Springs Galleria (a mall), and the Savory Spice shop downtown, which we had fallen in love with when we were here in April.   After that we decided to go to one of the TWO hibachi places in our town. The boys were enthralled during the chef’s “performance.” He made the rice into a Mickey Mouse, which Jonathan loved! It was such a fun evening!!

Thursday was harder. We took Stephanie to the airport and had to say goodbye. The boys held it together until I was driving away, but then we were ALL crying pretty seriously. We had an AMAZING time with her. Her flight home took the craziest route, avoiding the storm. It was rerouted through Michigan, and CANADA, and eventually back down to Boston. But– she got there safely.

Friday — the 4th of July — was AWESOME!!!  We, the new folks in town, had TWO different parties to go to! Our great new friends, Jonathan and Lindsey — who also live in the same town we do — invited us to their place for a party. What a fun time! The kids were so great. We brought their new Build-a-Bear dogs (thank you, Auntie!) and some matchbox cars, and they entertained themselves (and others) beautifully! We were treated to some authentic southern barbecued pork. OH MY WORD. It was delicious!! We had a wonderful time getting to know people, and just enjoying being in our new home.

After that we went back to the apartment to rest for a bit before the second gathering, which was for our new church family. They had a massive backyard where all the kids were running and playing and having a great time. It was just so much fun! Then we all drove out to the next town to watch the fireworks. It was a PERFECT evening. I could even have worn a sweater, it was that cool. 

Saturday was an awesome day as well.  We had breakfast at the Pancake Pantry, came home and went swimming for a  bit, and then decided to go to the Opry Mills mall. We had dinner at Chuy’s — AMAZING! — and played SkeeBall at Dave and Busters. Stephen is awesome at SkeeBall!! I love it! On our way home we were commenting on what a perfect day it had been. And then we spent 3 hours on the highway in standstill traffic because of a major accident. We didn’t get home until nearly 11 — but we DID get home, and the day still pretty much rocked. 🙂

Today we head out to our new church for the first time as not just visitors!! We are so excited!

This may very well be – – –

It’s an awkward time in preparation for leaving. Every time we do something we are faced with the reality that “this may very well be the last time we ____________________ .”  Yesterday it was Bet’s Fish Fry. Today it might be using this beloved computer that I have been able to use for the last year.

Ode to my 13″ MacBook Air:

I love you, silvery machine of wonder–
with your sleek,
cool design,
and the solid state drive
that doesn’t make scary noises when it is working . . .
I love your beautiful screen,
and the glory of your sound card.
Thank you for helping create the music,
the memories,
and the magic.

—-

You already knew that I was melodramatic, right? I thought so. 🙂

 

All in a days work-

Things that I accomplished yesterday:

 

  1.  Set up our internet (and basic, basic, basic cable) order from Comcast. I was absolutely shocked that I could not find a decent internet alone package for less money than the internet plus basic cable package. Randy was so grateful – I may be up for “Wife of the Year” award this year.
  2. Reserved our 615 area code phone numbers!! They will be in effect July 1st!
  3. Got a renter’s insurance and auto insurance quote from one of my new friends in a the Nashville group I have been able to be a part of.
  4. Made a SIGNIFICANT dent in the work that needs to be done in the band room!

 

Tomorrow I will most likely finish the band room — with the possible exception of bringing everything home. I have two more events with the community band next week, and then this chapter will be officially finished.  Also on the agenda is a major Goodwill drop off! It feels good to downsize!

 

 

In Ten Days . . .

We are leaving our comfy, cozy home in our beloved state to chase a dream that I have had since I was very young. I put the dream away, thinking it was childish fantasy, and got to work doing my real job. And I loved it– every second of it!  I have had the best job in the world as the band director for grades 5-12 in a small community in Maine. My colleagues are friends and confidants. My students are fun, creative and inspiring.

And this past week I have said goodbye to them all: students, friends and colleagues, and very soon will be saying goodbye to the band room where I helped bring such beautiful music into the world. It seems crazy.

But — my husband and I are loading up all of our earthly possessions and our two small boys and headed southwest, to MUSIC CITY.

You see, I am a songwriter.  A songwriter with aspirations of singing, and starting an acoustic female trio that will bring lush 3-part harmonies and happiness to all.  Maybe even rainbows.

In ten days the adventure begins. Will you come along for the ride?