Merry Christmas all. I know that not everyone who reads this blog(all two of you) are actually Christians, however, take my Merry Christmas in the spirit it is given regardless of what you believe. As you will see on another post I am preparing I'm not particularly "christian" either. But I've always believed in Christmas as a celebration of family, love and giving. If you can't believe in that regardless of your actual religion, or even lack thereof, then we probably aren't friends. Merry Christmas anyway.
The following is this year's Christmas card that due to technical and time problems we didn't get out this year.
The following is the note that my wife added to the email we sent out in lieu of regular cards this year.
To this email, I attached a picture of the Cleveland Hawkins Family. Included is a picture of Grandpa. We all miss him very much. Here are some quick facts from this past year.
Robert : Robert traveled a lot this year. He currently has 7 projects that he's working on for Hyland. He took Ken on a College tour during the summer and he is very happy that Ken's favorite was Wesleyan.
Arisa(me) : I started a part-time job this year to help support our family. I miss Elly, who is studying hard in American. With only boys(Robert is included) in the house, I constantly worry about the state of our house, and often tell them to clean their rooms because Santa is coming.
Elly : Elly is a Freshman at American University at D.C. She tells us that she enjoys her new freedoms, and life in general. Her major is "International Business". You cannot tell in the pictures, but Elly cut 12 inches off her hair for a new look.
Ken: Ken is a Senior at Mayfield High School. His soccer team made district champions for the 3rd year in a row, and now they have a spot in the school hall of fame. As with Mayfield tradition, Ken bleached then dyed his hair. Ken even cut his hair into a mo-hawk. The soccer shirt he is wearing in the picture is from Grandpa and Grandma Ishii(japan).
George: George joined the soccer team this year. He also got his temporary license, adding some new grey hairs to Rob's head. Although in the picture you cannot tell, He has grown, and is nearly as tall as Ken. The picture is of him tutoring a Japanese boy, which he does every week.
We all hope to see you soon.
The Cleveland Hawkins Family (Rob and Arisa)
As you can tell, Arisa's English isn't perfect. I still think you get a sense of what our year was like. The year started off on a grim note, with us taking a trip down to Charlottesville VA to say good by to my Dad on New Year's day. 10 days later he had passed on, and we made a trip out to Boston for his funeral. The funeral, while a sad event, obviously, was also a really fun time. It has been quite a while since the extended family had gotten together, or at least a long time since my family and I had a chance to participate.
Life goes on though, and Elly was accepted and matriculated to American University. With the exception of one "b", she got all A's and did well enough in Calculus that she didn't need to take the final exam! Ken was on a team representing the State of Ohio at the SkillsUSA contest in Kansas and came home with a gold medal. He played varsity soccer, is in all honors or AP classes at school with the exception of "Chefery", which is what I think they used to call home economics. Several years ago George was labelled "gifted" by the State of Ohio and while I'm still unclear as to what that means, he is also in all honors classes, and getting straight A's. What really surprised me was his joining the soccer team. I certainly didn't expect it. While still not the best player - he had never played before - you could see improvement in foot skills over the season and just as importantly an understanding of how the game is supposed to be played.
Arisa continues to be the rock of this household. This year she is transitioning from focusing on her online business to finding a job. She currently works at Target for a minimum wage job to help the family finances. This job is just a step for her. As she looks for a job one of the things that really hit home is that she needs to improve her English. So she has drastically reduced her efforts in her online business to focus on studying English. I could tell that she's improving, probably not where she needs to be yet, but improving. But more importantly she is really trying, and she will get there. I really appreciated her efforts last night at dinner where she was very talkative and it was clear she was trying to use her English.
The other thing we found was that companies don't really take her online business seriously. Regardless of the fact that the amount of work across the spectrum of the business, from market research to marketing communications, to sales, to customer support(to some of the pickiest customers in the world) and P/L tracking, she is not working for a "company" and therefore it is discounted. So the job at Target is part of the plan. It helps the family finances but gets her working for a "company". The other major part of the plan is already in the works as well. We have gotten her transcript from Japan and it "officially" evaluated to be the equivalent of a B.A. here in the U.S. The next step is for her to take the Social Worker licensing test for the State of Ohio.
While I continue to be a cog in the machine at Hyland, both Arisa and I are active with the Japanese Association of Northeast Ohio. I am, not surprisingly, involved with the web team which is probably the most active part of JANO other than our two main events, the Shinnenkai and the Sakura Picnic. We have three other volunteers that make up the web team and they are truly spectacular. One of their more important roles, other than posting to our website, is the "welcome" they give to Japanese nationals that are moving to the area. I am currently tracking an email thread from an individual who will be attending a graduate program beginning next year. Over the last 3 or 4 days, 20 or so emails have gone back and forth over such things as health insurance, places to live, what to bring from Japan, what not to bring from Japan, etc., etc.
For JANO, this support of Japanese coming to Northeast Ohio prior to arrival is a relatively new thing and it has been hugely successful in my mind. Almost every single person we've helped has turned around and become a JANO member. But more importantly, I think they are arriving with substantially increased ease-of-mind. For many of these individuals, moving to Northeast Ohio will be there first time outside of Japan - and moving to another country for anybody can be a worrisome thing just because of the unknowns of a new country and culture. I think it is telling that the vast majority of people these ladies have helped in 2010 became members of JANO.
Thank you ladies!
Obviously, there's a lot more that happened in 2010, but in the end I think it was a good year with the huge exception of losing my Dad. And most of all, looking back on it, I realize how lucky I am to be surrounded by some of the best people in the world - my kids and my wonderful wife. Merry Christmas guys, I love you!