Friday, 25 January 2019

2018 Year in Review

Kayleigh at Christmas

Aidan at graduation
Abigail from an Open Sky photo shoot
At the Lindsey Sterling\Evanescence concert on our anniversary

T. Alex before heading to Japan

Kyrie in Tennessee
Kayleigh didn't feel left out this year!

Dear family and friends,

Another year has flown by, and it’s time for yet another New Year’s missive from the Colliers. 2018 was an eventful year; here are a few of the highlights:

In April, Tartan Alex moved to Mito, Japan to teach English at a couple of elementary schools in Ibaraki Prefecture. This was a huge step, but one that Tartan Alex embraced wholeheartedly. Between learning the area - and how to navigate on foot, bicycle, bus and train!, putting together lesson plans, and figuring out how to do all the basic things of life when everything is written in a different language, he’s certainly keeping busy.

Kyrie continues to enjoy a busy college life at UTD. She attended two conferences as the marketing director for UTD TV, one in Minneapolis and one in Seattle. She applied and was accepted as the assistant production manager for the second semester of animation lab which produced an animated short called “Drift”. She is looking forward to being the producer for the next two-semester animation lab. She has also become more active at her church, volunteering with middle school girls.

In May, Aidan officially became a high school graduate of the Class of 2018. Congratulations, Aidan! Since then, he has been working as a nearly-full-time lifeguard for the YMCA, and will be taking classes at Lone Star Community College starting in the spring of 2019. Aidan also attended the National Order of the Arrow Conference at Indiana University in the summer, and was called out for the OA’s “Vigil Honor” - a very prestigious accomplishment! - in October.

In July, Abigail went to Mongolia as part of Ballet Excelsior’s “Saviour” ballet tour. The company danced two shows in the capital city of Ulaan-Baataar and one show in Darkhan, accompanied by a full choir and the Mongolian Military Orchestra.  Like last year's trip to Bulgaria, Naomi went along as the photographer/videographer and Tartan provided tech support for lighting, sound, and prop construction.  In the fall, Abigail began dancing as an intern with Open Sky Arts Collective, and she is absolutely loving it! In the lead up to Christmas, they had several inspirational performances at churches, children’s hospitals, and senior living centers.

Kayleigh continues to dance with Excelsior in their trainee program, and had a number of performances as well, including a busy weekend of shows just before Christmas. She officially became a teenager in June and has grown a lot this year.  She’s taking two outside classes (writing and science) as part of our homeschool and doing very well in them.

Tartan continues work at ExxonMobil. He is also still the assistant children's supervisor at Bible Study Fellowship, where he is joined by Abigail in the senior level children's class and by Aidan, now in an adult discussion group. (Aidan also has the distinction of being the youngest "adult" in the entire BSF class!) This year, Tartan started playing with the music team at church, playing the cajon for a couple of months before shifting over to play bass keyboard. Both Naomi and Tartan have been trained as facilitators for GriefShare, a grief recovery program, and are helping to host a course being offered nearby. Naomi is still the treasurer for our homeschool association, Homewood, and every year she keeps adjusting to having older children.

Our big family trip this year was to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. We stayed in a mountain cabin in Sevierville, and made a couple of day trips into Pigeon Forge and to Cades Cove (in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park). The rest of the time we spent watching movies, playing games, and generally enjoying each other’s company.

That's what the Colliers have been up to this past year. We hope that, just as we have seen God working in and through us, that you have been similarly blessed. Looking forward to what 2019 holds in store!

Tartan, Naomi and the Collier Crew

Sunday, 7 January 2018

** IMPORTANT NOTE: This is the post for last year. 2018's post follows this one so don't miss it! **

Greetings to our friends and family as we head into 2017!

Another year has swept past and we hope it's been a blessed one for you whether in ups or downs.

We headed north this year through Missouri and on to Michigan. We drove through Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee and Kentucky.  Over 3000 miles. We visited family and friends. We ate lunch at the restaurant Tartan's mom had her first job and then visited with extended family.  In Michigan we spent New Year's Eve with a sweet family we visited last year- in California! And we spent a (too) short time with a friend of Naomi's from junior high who recently moved from Houston to Michigan. (And  I waited until now to get together with her!)

Previously this year, Tartan Alex graduated with honors from HBU with a double degree in English and Creative Writing. He's taken a short term job as a tutor with the Houston school district.  Kyrie took classes at Lone Star College and is preparing to transfer to The University of Texas at Dallas in the fall. For two weeks in the summer, Kyrie, Abigail and Tartan went to Poland and the Czech Republic with Ballet Excelsior to perform a ballet of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in a variety of venues including a small theatre that had never had a Christian group perform before and where they had to turn people away because it was completely full. Another performance was in a large square in front of a church where many people stopped to watch.  Tartan spent his first couple of days there figuring out how to build the "stone" table and a frame for hanging prop curtains.

Aidan has continued with Boy Scouts and has until September to become Eagle. He completed his project and has just a few merit badges to finish. He is making progress in taekwondo. Though he has his black belt, there are degrees of black belt so he's working towards the next degree. His favorite class is weapons class. They don't fight each other with weapons but learn sequences of moves.

Kayleigh moved up to level 5 in ballet. She's a little young for pointe shoes; that'll likely come next year. However she danced in the annual Dance with a Purpose fundraiser for Ballet Excelsior. She loves ballet and hip hop, but her favorite is tap. Ballet Excelsior and the Excelsior Trainees perform in a Christmas show at Market Street almost every year. Kyrie is in the company and Abigail is in the trainee program. This year was special because Kayleigh got to dance with her tap class at the beginning of the show so all three girls participated. It was an interesting two days. The first night the temperatures were in the low 70s, high 60s. The second night the temperature was hovering around freezing.

Naomi learned a lot about the frustrations of gardening last spring. This year we're going to build an enclosed walk in garden box and hope for better success. She's also enjoyed loom knitting and plans to finish a small blanket and make a hat for Abigail (so she'll give back the one Naomi made for herself).

And now the photos…

 Tartan receives a scouting award in January

About to head to the Father Daughter Dance

T. Alex enjoying the love on his birthday 

Aidan officially receiving his black belt

Kayleigh after her grade 4 and Abi and friends after their level 7 exams

Kayleigh IS the fox (from the Christmas dinner scene in The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe, though this photo was in our back garden)

Mission trip to Poland & the Czech Republic with Ballet Excelsior

Kyrie depicting Edmund as he makes the decision to obey the White Witch

Tormented by the Queen's crones when she comes to claim Edmund

Charging into battle

 Abigail IS the butterfly

Aidan arranged for the children's wing at church to be painted for his Eagle project

Our annual visit to Renaissance Festival

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Dear Family and Friends,

I actually did have a letter for 2017 but my editor did not get back to me with whether it needed any changes, I forgot about it and then it was February! I'll post it with this one anyway, though that'll be in a couple of days. I want to post photos with that one that I don't have access to at the moment.

2017 - what happened this year? The good thing about these posts is that it causes me to look back on the events of the year.

In February, Kayleigh got her braces and Abigail got her driver's permit. Hopefully, she'll get her license in the next month.

March brought a trip to Bulgaria for Tartan, myself, Kyrie and Abigail with Ballet Excelsior. The girls performed in an extended version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in Sofia, Stara Zagora, and Varna. Tartan was the sound tech again and I was the photographer. Kyrie and Abigail reprised their roles as Edmund and the butterfly. Tartan also built a garden box for me. I had better success, especially since I was able to put my blueberry bush containers inside the box. My best harvest was from those!

Abigail participated in the homeschool science fair for her biology class in April. She created a model of a butterfly wing and called it ”Layers of Beauty." In May we went down to Corpus Christi for a short but sweet visit with my dad and his wife that included a visit to the beach. At the beginning of June was Kyrie's last performances with Excelsior. I'm not sure how many times between rehearsals and shows she performed as Edmund but she did it each time with energy and emotion that the audience could connect with. Abigail's butterfly was graceful dancing alongside Lucy and Kayleigh's fox led a dance at the Christmas dinner.

At the end of June, another child got braces! Abigail is hoping she won't have to have them for a full 18 months, but we'll just have to see. In July, Aidan traveled without us with the contingent from BSA Sam Houston Area Council to the national jamboree in West Virginia. He had a great time and brought home one of the official tents. I insisted he take pictures so he averaged about one a day that he sent to his dad. His favorite area was the OA Circle where he found his OA lodge name in the brickwork. Finding places where he could charge his electronics was a challenge but he discovered a spot outside the bathrooms near the sinks. So, he'd let his phone charge and he'd help people dump pots of water. He lived up to the Colonneh lodge motto of "cheerful service."

August was a busy month! We got Kyrie settled in to her on-campus apartment, school started for everyone and the following weekend Tartan and I spent a few days in Hamilton, Texas at a vacation house for our anniversary. It was very nice and relaxing but we returned to heavy rainfall from hurricane Harvey and a very busy week helping out families in the neighborhood next to our church who got flooded. We pulled out wet furniture and household items, removed drywall and insulation, and shop-vacuumed a lot of water. Our church served meals and handed out donated clothes, food, personal items, and bottled water.

September was memorable in that Aidan earned his Eagle Scout rank and turned 18! We will have his Court of Honor at the end of January. Tartan Alex was informed that he had a job in Mito, Japan in the spring. He'll be going at the end of March or early April to teach English for at least a year. In October, we visited Kyrie at UTD during Family Day, though we didn't participate in any of the official activities. Her major is Arts and Technology with a focus in Design & Production. She really enjoyed her classes and has made many new friends. She found time to become very involved with UTD TV where she became part of the production crew, doing things like set up and take down and working camera and audio. And she even had the opportunity to do some editing at the end of the
semester and hopes to do more.

November was busy with a lot of rehearsals for DWAP (Dance with a Purpose) and Christmas performances. Abigail is a trainee senior this year and was able to dance with the Ballet Excelsior company. Each year, Excelsior teams with Lifepointe church to do a Christmas show for the public. A dance with three small dancers was requested to perform both at the church (which had limited room) and at Market Street. Since Kayleigh is small, an intermediate level dancer and has a sister who was already going to be involved with the Christmas dances, she was asked to be one of the three. The three girls persevered through many rehearsals and did a superb job at all three performances in December. Abigail danced a duet at the church, performed in several of the dances at Market Street, and danced with company at Faith Bible church on two different weekends. It was an unusually full dance schedule this December!

While two of our vehicles were getting maintenance work done at the same time, Tartan Alex volunteered to go to the ExxonMobil campus to pick up his dad. He was asked by two different security guards if he was an Uber driver and so was born an idea for a temporary career. He soon became a Lyft driver, which has been an interesting experience for him. He's helped people load and unload their groceries. He's driven very talkative passengers and some that are on their phones the entire time. He drove someone from the airport to the hospital- a sobering experience. He's even created Spotify playlists that he tries to match to different passengers. Hopefully by the time he's off to Japan he'll be so sick of driving that he won't mind not having a car in Japan.

Our end of year trip was to Duck Creek Village, Utah. We rented a wonderful cabin where we just hung out together for a week. We made one day trip to Zion National Park where we hiked the Emerald Pools trail. On the way to Utah we stopped by Petrified Forest National Park which seemed like a great place to go to on another trip. Since T. Alex will be in Japan next Christmas, this year’s trip is likely the last time (for a while, at least) that we’ll all be together, traveling and making memories. As a “finale” of sorts, it’s been a really good one.

As always, we hope for a wonderful 2018 for you all! We don't know what the new year holds for us but we know Who holds us in everything.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Thoughts from a Morning Walk

There is a lot wrong with this world we live in. There is the all-too-common violence of theft, assault and even murder of our fellow sojourners that we share space with on this planet. There is built-in bias in our society and our workplaces and our schools, and there are predators in Hollywood, government, and at the corner grocery store that harass and abuse those who are weaker or less advantaged that they are. There is a lack of civility that manifests itself in hate-filled posts on social media toward those who don’t hold the same political, religious, or intellectual worldview, and there are those whose lack of regard for anything other than self lead them to operate heavy, potentially lethal equipment at unsafe speeds while talking on their phones and ignoring everything else around them. We live in a world where world leaders publicly behave in childish ways, and engage in a pattern of public brinksmanship that risks the lives and futures of those they should be protecting and serving.

However, despite the evident brokenness of the world around us, we can find things to be thankful for: When I woke up this morning and turned on the tap at the bathroom sink, clean and drinkable water flowed forth. When I stepped outside, I breathed fresh air and didn’t have to wear a mask like they do in some parts of the world. If I’m hungry, I have a choice of restaurants and fast food places within easy driving distance, or if I want to make my own breakfast there is a grocery store less than a mile away that has any ingredient that I might need. I can pick up my phone and be instantly connected to people I know despite the fact that they live thousands of miles away, or I can listen to whatever music, news, or commentary I feel like at the time. If I want to know something, I can “ask Alexa” and she can (sometimes) provide me with exactly what I was looking for.

I am thankful for the many blessings that I experience in the midst of such a broken and flawed world. This morning, my soul resonates with the words that the Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Philippi: “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things.”

Thursday, 14 January 2016

The Didn’t-Even-Make-It-Before-Epiphany 2015-2016 Letter


As has been usual the past few years, our Christmas letter has become the new year’s-looking-back letter. Join us in taking a look at the past year:


We spent the end of 2014clip_image002 and the beginning of 2015 in Disney World in Florida. It was a great family time. We stayed on property in our camper and visited all the parks. Meeting Hiro and Baymax was a highlight.

February was Dance Mission Preview by Ballet Excelsior and the dance school. This is an annual fundraiser in which dancers levels 5 and up participate.  Aidan had an ecology project (Alaska tundra) and an insect project (termite) for biology class.clip_image002[4]clip_image004.IMG_7645IMG_7744

clip_image002[6]clip_image004[4]Tartan Alex turned 21 in March. There was Project Dance Houston and then in April, Project Dance New York.


clip_image002[8]Tartan and Naomi celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary a few months early on board the Oasis of the Seas. We had a wonderful time away from it all in the Caribbean.

Also- Kyrie graduated! Kyrieseniors (1 of 1)-209 (42) And, she passed her level 8 exam for ballet.


June was the end of year Excelsior School of Dance performance called Awaken. Kyrie danced as a company apprentice with Ballet Excelsior.


And also Bug’s 10th birthday (double digits!). She had an outdoors\camping theme. Instead of cake, we had Dutch oven crumble and s’mores!                                                                               


July was a trip to see Grandpa at the same time my sister was visiting on July 4th weekend.(Tartan’s birthday!)


August and September were birthday months. Kyrie turned 18 and Aidan, 16! Naomi became a year older as well.


October saw another visit to Grandpa & Grandma’s. Abigail celebrated her 14th birthday at the end of the month.


In November, there was Thanksgiving and our annual visit to Renaissance Festival the day after. We added something new this year- we went out Thursday evening and stayed in the RenFest campground in the camper trailer until Saturday morning. Tartan spent two weeks in Phoenix at a training class. Aidan joined an Order of the Arrow ceremony team this year, and Tartan finally got a picture of him as Meteu, the medicine man. Abigail performed at the Bay Area Christmas Market with BET (Ballet Excelsior Trainees).


IMG_2096IMG_2102IMG_2125(do you see the owl?)

Finally we reach December. We spent two weeks on the road to and from California. IMG_2268IMG_2273IMG_2331

We visited friends about to move away and just spent time hanging out, watching Star Wars: The Force Awakens and visiting the Mouse. Kyrie got emotional spending time in the place her hero, Walt Disney, actually spent a great deal of time. On the way home we visited the Grand Canyon, so now we can all say we’ve seen it! IMG_2670


IMG_2241(Christmas eve pajamas)


That brings us to a new year and new adventures. Tartan Alex will be graduating from college, Kyrie will be taking college classes at Lone Star, and Kyrie and Abigail plan to go to Poland, Austria and the Czech Republic on a mission trip with Ballet Excelsior in the summer. Aidan continues on his Scouting adventures and hopefully will make progress towards Eagle and a black belt in taekwondo. Naomi hopes to have better success with her garden and Kayleigh will be a sixth grader next fall and will move up to youth group at church.

Wishing you all much joy and happiness in 2016! God bless!

The Colliers