Well it’s that time of the year again. “Time for what,” you ask? It is time for another year in review letter! “But wait,” you protest. “It’s not Christmas time any more. Isn’t it a bit late for this?” No, no it is in fact not too late. See that’s just one of the many things that make this letter so special. Many people send out a Christmas letter, but this is no Christmas letter. This is a year in review letter, which is clearly a different thing all together. For one thing, it does not neglect the oft-ignored days of December 26th through 31st. Also, this particular letter is a super-magnificent, extra-length two years in review letter. What else makes this letter special? Well I suppose you’ll just have to read on to find out. Or alternatively, you could stop reading right now and live the rest of your life with the horrible nagging feeling that you’ve been missing something. It’s up to you.
The intent of this letter is for me, Timothy (there are some who call me… Tim?), to update you on not just one, but two action-packed years of Ellis household happenings. This is of course due to the fact that the closing of 2004 was conspicuously lacking a year in review letter. I can’t elaborate on the reasons for this other than to vaguely allude to filthy squirrels, but whatever the cause, the result is that twice as much information must now be packed into relatively the same amount of space. As such, I should probably stop talking about the letter and actually get around to letting the letter talk about the last two years. Ready, set, go.
2004 started off on a somewhat awkward note when my best friend J.R. took me to a beautiful waterfall in a secluded back-woods Oregon forest and proposed. Of course, I had to turn him down, so instead he proposed to his girlfriend Jen two weeks later while Jeni hid nearby and took pictures so the memories could last for a lifetime.
In February, we got tired of spending $850 each month on rent, so we decided to move somewhere cheaper—a lot cheaper. When our friends Pete & Kimberly bought a house in Lynnwood, their former residence in Kenmore became available for little more than a song, and of course we jumped on the opportunity. I mean that literally. As in we actually went to their old house and jumped. We were pretty excited about saving money. With the move came not only a new address and a ridiculously hard to find house, but also the ability to have pets. Since one of my life goals is to operate my own personal zoo, we got right on that by getting two ferrets in March (Fezzik & Iliana), “rescuing” a Siberian Husky from a local shelter in June (Latcka), and getting two more ferrets in August (Grizzly & Dimitri). We also discovered a delightful litter of five one-month-old kittens in the attic in May, but couldn’t keep any of them due to Jeni’s allergies (they and their stray mother went to a local no-kill shelter). Yes, you read that right. They were living in our attic for at least four weeks before we found them.
April brought Jeni a new part-time job for our friends from church Yen & Veronica, whose new baby Zayn needed taken care of two days a week. Jeni was glad to do it and both of us were glad to have a little extra financial help in paying off the remaining school loans.
J.R.’s January proposal led to a June wedding in Astoria, Oregon, in which I had the great honor of being the “best man.” The weekend trip to Astoria was both pleasant and relaxing, and the wedding went smoothly. Two interesting notes about the church they got married in: 1) It can be seen in the background of the opening scene in the movie Goonies. 2) I can personally vouch that all of the windows in the sanctuary were shiny and spotless for the ceremony.
Jeni’s brother Michael came up to visit in August, and her other brother Darrell Jonathan came back and stayed a few weeks with us after we drove down to California for Thanksgiving. We showed them both all the local sites and gave them the full “Seattle experience,” which essentially consists of visiting the Space Needle, sitting in traffic, and getting rained on.
To celebrate our anniversary in October we spent a weekend on Orcas Island, enjoying nature and taking in the “island lifestyle,” which as far as we could tell involves not going out to eat or doing any shopping other than groceries after 6:00 PM, fending off sea otters from under one’s deck, and complaining that President Bush has personally destroyed the island’s tourism industry.
Just before Thanksgiving we made the first major purchase of our married life when we bought a new-to-us pickup truck. Although the truck doesn’t get as good of gas mileage as our cars, we decided to get a truck so we would be able to transport furniture, loads of dirt, and go places with our dog Latcka without getting her white hair all over everything in the car. Personally I didn’t mind the appearance of a fresh blanket of snow covering the entire interior, but Jeni wasn’t okay with it for some reason. Go figure.
2004 closed out with Jeni’s involvement in a local non-profit theatre group and their production of A Christmas Carol. In her capacity as the Assistant Stage Manager she was responsible for corralling the unruly actors, ensuring that the constantly disappearing props got on stage at the right time, and tending to the costumes’ emotional needs.
Now for those of you that are still with us, it’s time to move on to 2005. Right at the start of the year I joined forces with J.R., Jon, and Pete to form a crime-fighting super team. As a secondary objective we are working on a top-secret super-awesome website that will become wildly successful and make us all gigantic bags of money when we finish it. Stay tuned for more info next year, when our year in review letter comes engraved on platinum tablets.
Honestly, nothing else really interesting happened until May, when Jeni took a road trip down to California for her sister Rebekah’s graduation and her friend Beckie’s wedding. Joining her for the quest was my brother Matthew. I was unable to join them because I had to save my vacation hours for a later trip, but I don’t want to ruin the upcoming paragraph’s surprise. That would make the paragraph pretty sad.
In June we sold one of our cars, since we didn’t really need two nearly-identical cars in addition to a truck. After three attempts we found someone on Craig’s List to buy our 1991 four-door Cavalier. They were so excited about having a car that when we got back from the test drive they practically threw the cash in our face, grabbed the keys, and ran out the door.
The extra cash came in handy, since around that same time Jeni started a one-year program in Residential Design (interior design) at the Art Institute of Seattle. She has classes three nights a week, and gets to learn all kinds of neat stuff like how to draw houses, choose fabrics, tie-dye shirts, and build rocking chairs out of cradles.
As I mentioned earlier, the place we’re living in Kenmore is extremely cheap. In fact, due to a surprising turn of events in late 2004, it’s actually even cheaper now than it was when we moved in. By “cheaper” I mean “free.” We pay utilities and that’s it. Of course, having free housing doesn’t make us immune to the desire to own our own home, so throughout early 2005 we spent a lot of time “window shopping” and even finding out how much of a home loan we could get pre-approved for. Unfortunately this whole process was pretty depressing, as we realized that all we could reasonably afford would be a grass hut on a thousand square foot lot located in the tiny town of Index. Partly as an outlet for my frustration at the ridiculous cost of housing and partly as a way to track home price trends in the area to search for a glimmer of hope, I started a blog in August called Seattle Bubble. On it I track all the local news stories about housing prices and trends and post them online with brief comments. Hundreds of people read my blog on a regular basis.
Since we’ve decided to stay in our ghetto (but free) digs for a while, throughout the year we have been busy making various improvements both indoors and outdoors. One noteworthy example is that our awesome mailman Brock came and hauled away no fewer than nine dead appliances that were strewn about in the yard, allowing us to create a vegetable garden, from which we had a bountiful harvest of tomatoes and squash this fall. Brock also hauled away hundreds of pounds of scrap metal (including three car engines) that a previous owner was storing in the garage apparently in hopes of one day building a spacecraft. This allowed us to discover a leak in the garage roof, which I am still fighting with to this day. Once I fix the leak however, we will be able to convert the garage into useable rooms—practically doubling our livable square footage.
Also in August, we took a weekend trip to Spokane to be at the wedding of our friends Laura and Matt. Jeni did Laura’s makeup for the day, and I was happy to help run the sound board, sitting in for the intended sound man who had an unfortunate scheduling hiccup. August was a pretty eventful month overall, because a few weeks after we got back from the wedding, Jeni had her last days of caring for Zayn. The reason for the ending was that Yen & Veronica had their second baby girl in October, and shortly after this they returned to Singapore where Yen will be teaching accounting. We will miss them.
I have continued to work for Valberg, a small engineering firm in the town of Monroe, where I design electronic control systems for all sorts of things from half-million-dollar sports cars, to limousines, to fast boats. In order to help pay for school, and to gain experience relating to her classes in residential design, Jeni started a new job in September at a local store called Lighting Universe. She works as a sales associate in the showroom, where her responsibilities primarily involve helping people choose the right lighting for their rooms.
Speaking of lighting, this paragraph doesn’t have anything at all to do with lighting. In October I finally had enough vacation saved up, and we were able to make a long-planned trip to North Carolina to visit my grandparents, aunt, uncle, and cousins. We had a great time while we were out there, and since our plane tickets were free (due to frequent flier miles), we were able to pack a ton of stuff into our two-week visit. We visited two historical towns, went to two beaches, drove east into the hill country, stood in the place where the first airplane flew, watched my little cousin Kari demonstrate her mad Tai Kwon Do skillz, built sweet LEGO houses, rode fast thrill rides, and were flashed by an octopus. Not necessarily in that order.
2005 was also a busy year for our church (The Anchor), as we made a number of changes in pursuit of God’s calling for our body. We have been trying to sell our building, so we could use the very large amount of resulting funds to rent more appropriate facilities, expand our ministries to the community, and invest the cash remainder. Also we split into two more localized bodies to foster a tighter sense of community and to help those in the north end of Seattle better reach their neighbors. These changes haven’t been easy, and a number of people have left the church for various reasons, but we are continuing to do our best as a group of believers to follow God’s will.
November and December were very busy months for us, that included my parents and my brother Peter coming up to our house for Thanksgiving, us driving down to California for Christmas, and Jeni spending time with her best friend Heather upon our return.
Our last bit of big news is that with the sending of this letter, Jeni and I are now debt-free! In a mere three and a half years we have eliminated nearly $40,000 in debt. Although nobody gave us a trophy for the occasion, we definitely have a high sense of accomplishment, and are quite happy to be financially free and completely independent. By the way Matthew, that’s six months less than four years, which means that even including $5,000 in debt that wasn’t from my schooling, I win. Booyah.
Well, that pretty much wraps it up for 2004 and 2005. I’m quite impressed with you for making it all the way through this marathon letter. If you want I will get you a trophy. I’d also like to take this opportunity to put down those that didn’t read this far, because—hey they’re not reading anyway so I can say whatever bad things I want about them. Just kidding, I love them even if their attention span is equivalent to that of a hummingbird.
May the blessings of our Lord be poured on you without restraint this year. Don’t be a stranger.
Sending our love,
Timothy & Jennifer