Christmas Letter, 2013

Merry Christmas from the Welles! In case we haven’t had the chance to catch up in person, or in case you just weren’t listening, here’s the lowdown on what the year brought for our family.

2013 was the year when our children Oliver and Alice officially became best friends. They’re inseparable these days. Oliver is always trying to goad Alice into some new game and Alice can usually found chattering away two steps behind her brother. It’s really cute, when it doesn’t end in tearful recriminations. Oliver (4) remains a sweet, sensitive boy who sometimes gets a little too hyper when he’s around his friends (like his dad in high school) and Alice (2) is a talkative, playful girl who experiences emotions like a roller coaster ride (like, uh…nobody else in our family). Being parents has been an amazing blessing for Bridgette and I. In fact, we’ve enjoyed our two kids so much that we went ahead and got pregnant again. Bridgette is now out of the first trimester, and we’ll soon be finding out whether we’ll be having a boy or a girl. Exciting times!

Oliver not watching the game.

Oliver not watching the game.


Bridgette has enjoyed her year being at home caring for and training our two kids. She had a rough couple months when she first became pregnant, but we’re thankfully through that. It’s amazing for me to come home after work and see how Oliver and Alice have been learning their letters and numbers, or the artsy-craftsy stuff they worked on that day. She’s a terrific mom and she’s blessed to have a network of friends from church at a similar spot in their lives.
Preparing the Christmas pumpkin.

Preparing the Christmas pumpkin.


This year I worked harder than I ever had at a job, now in my second year as a high school administrator at the International School of Minnesota. The challenges at my job are sometimes logistical ones like building a master schedule that can work for an entire upper school, but more often they have to do with digging down to find new ways to encourage and support a kid who’s struggling to do well. I still continue to teach a philosophy class, because I enjoy the classroom experience. In the same fashion, I continue to eat at Wendy’s when Bridgette is gone. We should never let go of the things we love.

Bridgette and I continue to be blessed by so many other things in life. We’re deeply invested in our church community and find honest friendships and meaning there. Our kids delight in visiting their grandparents, aunts, and uncles (Oliver keeps strange, careful track of which family members are silly and which aren’t). We’re currently three seasons into Mad Men (don’t spoil anything for us!). We go to Pizza Ranch sometimes and enjoy it. Life is full of these major and minor blessings, and we’re thankful to God for it.

Another round of forced patty-cake.

Another round of forced patty-cake.


So, the abject failure of professional Minnesota sports teams aside, 2013 has been a happy year. We wish all of you similar blessings, be they large or small, challenging or comforting, plain or hidden.

Merry Christmas!

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Twitter Death Spasms

For those of you looking for new JLP-style content, I have taken my obsession with irrelevant historical curios and irrational cat hatred to Twitter. Follow me @PeterWelle, and be fulfilled at last.

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Why I Am a Christian

This is the product of a challenge from my church small group – could I write a thoughtful account of why I am a Christian in just 700 words? No jokes to be found here, but maybe it will be meaningful to some of you.

Unstable Ground

When I was a young person, happiness was circumstantial. On the outside, I’m sure I looked like a typical goofy teenager – cracking jokes with friends, looking for attention, trying to get a girlfriend, and doing enough schoolwork to get by. Internally, though, things began to break down. If my circumstances weren’t great, I quickly became weirdly anxious and unhappy. I remember a lot of Saturday nights obsessively calling friends to mask the knot in my stomach. Even though I had a lot going for me, being alone or even being with my family was never enough.

Going to college exacerbated this problem. The process of making new friends sometimes brought out the worst in me, and I came across as hyperactive and high maintenance. I also started taking the girls way too seriously, and often wondered why no girl ever liked me as much as I liked them. When I eventually did enter into a serious relationship, things only got worse. All my feelings of self-worth that had been tied to social relationships now became dependent on this single romantic one, and things became unhealthy on my end. When that relationship inevitably collapsed, things turned ugly. For a period of about 18 months, I was totally out of control in my relationships. I thrashed around to fill that black pit of anxiety that told me that nobody cared – I manipulated situations and lied to get what I thought I needed. When some of my closest friends called me out on what I was doing, I alienated them by lashing out. I had just graduated college, I was unemployed, and my friends kept a wary distance. Every coping mechanism I had learned had failed, and I was a mess. I began having anxiety attacks, I felt utterly alone, and I was briefly hospitalized when I began fantasizing about suicide. This was my rock bottom.

Recovery

Around that time I had begun attending a church in Minneapolis called the Rock. It was filled with people about my age who seemed to possess some kind of spark that I was attracted to. They may not have been as funny or as “cool” as my college buddies, but they were genuine, kind, and they stuck with me. I had attended church before with my family, I’d had close friends who were Christian, and I had always nominally considered myself a Christian, but this had not been a particularly meaningful identity to me. At the Rock, I learned to meditate on character of God, and what it really meant that God created me, that he loved me, that he desired a relationship with me, and that he entered into the world to sacrifice himself for me and make up for all the ugly, dishonest things I had been doing. What I quickly understood was that the more I reflected on these things, the less power that black pit of anxiety had over me. This was the point at which I allowed Jesus to really begin to lead my life and change me from the inside.


Solid Foundations

There have been a lot of changes in my life over the decade since. I still make mistakes every day, and I can still find myself placing my hope in the wrong things (i.e. the Minnesota Vikings), but my faith in God has made me a much more secure, stable, content person. I’ve gotten married, had kids, and have a fulfilling career as an educator. An interesting twist is that I face many more everyday pressures and tricky circumstances today than I did in those dark days, but God has given me the ability to respond to those in a much more appropriate way. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus spoke to this when he said, “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”

I’ve experienced such a crash, but my life today has deep meaning today because of what Jesus said and did. As a history and philosophy teacher, I can’t help but remain astounded and enchanted by the Christian worldview rooted in radically self-sacrificing, faithful love from the creator of the universe. Resting in this understanding, the problems I face are surmountable, and I am called to express this love to others.

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From Embers

After a couple quiet years, I recently got the chance to take part in a special musical project – an EP of new songs with my old friend Jon Smith.

From Embers

The Sadness

Music has always played a central role in my friendship with Jon. I enjoy his songwriting and whenever we got together, the guitars would come out and we’d be off. Though we never had a formal musical partnership, we did a couple concerts together, and he added a number of really great parts to my two solo albums THE NAPTIME SESSIONS and SILENT ERA. He’s got a great musical sensibility, and there’s an ease to his songwriting that I really appreciate.

Long story short, Jon moved back to his home state of North Carolina a few years back and inertia pulled us apart for a time until I got a call from him one day telling me that he and his wife were getting a divorce. We had a number of long conversations in which he didn’t do much more than express the grief he was feeling and I couldn’t do much more than listen. Divorce really is the worst.

Inevitably these conversations gave way to a new musical project built around Jon’s pain and renewal. That project was finally released this week, an EP of songs titled FROM EMBERS. (Listen to it and download for free HERE!) It features six songs of Jon’s that range from aching (Where Do We Go From Here?, Jupiter Raining) to hopeful (Your Love is Carrying Me Home) to brutally plain (“From Embers”). Along the way, I contributed an old song of mine called Truth in Pain, about watching a friend go through hell. We traded tracks back and forth for many months, communicating everything we needed to in the songs.

Watch and listen for yourself:

I don’t profess to claim that this EP is without its flaws, but it’s sincere and utterly honest to the moment. I’m happy that I got the chance to make it happen.

Back cover


Liner notes

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Christmas Letter, 2012

Against my better judgement, I recently removed the password protect feature from my blog. Soon the whole world will know my secrets, or at least that I fetishize beards and breakfast cereals. If that costs me my job and my dignity, so be it.

At any rate, here’s the Christmas letter my wife and I are sending out to friends and family and Mexican soap opera stars. Enjoy the update, and if you’re good enough, I may return with more JLP content and a bloody nose!

—-

Christmas time is here, so along with the blizzards and various songs about bells, we have all been inundated with Christmas cards featuring pictures of everybody smiling. ‘Tis the season for writing pithy summations of our lives and then using the copying machine at work to print them!

2012 was a great year for our two kids Oliver (3) and Alice (14 months). Alice went from being a pleasant but somewhat strange-looking infant to becoming a cute little toddler with pigtails and a drunken sailor walk. Presently, her likes include drinking anything, touching computers, and being thrown onto couches by her father. Her dislikes include being tackled by her brother and naps lasting longer than 90 minutes. Meanwhile, Oliver is growing into a sensitive, happy boy. His favorite times of day are probably when he’s building with his blocks or chasing his sister back-and-forth across the house. He really loves Alice and enjoys playing with her, but he’s usually pretty happy just entertaining himself. Unlike Alice, who is our screamer, Oliver usually signals his satisfaction through quiet stillness. These days his hobbies include stacking anything, misidentifying colors, and eating sandwiches.

For Bridgette (413 months) this year has been a blessing, by and large. 2011 was marked mostly by pregnancy-related nausea, childbirth, and sleepless nights, so the improvement in 2012 was mostly a function of our kids getting a little bit older. She continues to enjoy staying home full-time with Oliver and Alice, though she still works some weekend hours at the group home for disabled adults that she’s been at for years. Her days are filled with raising and training our kids, with the occasional visit to see our church friends and neighbors. It’s no easy thing to devote the vast majority of your day to the well-being of little kids, but Bridgette has always done so with grace. Oliver and Alice are blessed by her patience and emotional generosity. Lastly, Bridgette beat me in bowling several times again this year, extending her lifelong streak.

As for me, I really don’t think I could have been more blessed in 2012. In August, I accepted a significant promotion at the International School of Minnesota. I’m now something called an Academic Quality Controller – what the rest of planet earth refers to as an assistant principal. I still teach one class, so fortunately I still get to experience what I enjoy about teaching. To this point, I’ve really enjoyed the new challenges of being in administration. My favorite part of every day, however, continues to be the moment I get home and hug the kids and kiss my wife. Aside from the satisfactions of work and home life, I continue to burn off resentment at the fact that my wife won’t laugh at my jokes by co-leading the Rock TV ministry at my church that produces short comedy videos. One of those videos was even accepted into the Twin Cities Film Fest this year, which was deeply surreal.

In sum, 2012 was a year of domestic comforts for the Welles, punctuated with some professional successes and the continual blessings and proddings of our church community. We wish each of you the same in the year to come, and may this Christmas season be a quiet reminder to all of us that we live in a world with radically self-sacrificing love at its center.

Merry Christmas!

With love,
The Welles

P.S. Our cats are still alive, presumably.

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Normal Oatmeal

Great news, everybody. I figured out that if you add enough sugar and raisins to it, plain instant oatmeal can actually taste pretty good. According to my other preliminary studies, the same is also true for cauliflower and wood glue.

In case you didn’t already know, I’m something of an innovator in the kitchen. Any food you can think of, I like to add sugar and raisins until it tastes right to me. I don’t care about the rules of taste or good health or human decency – I just like what I like. Specifically, raisins and sugar.

I haven’t always been this way. There was a time when I ate my food just like any other person. That was before I read an article on the internet about how Obama is personally adding mercury to vaccinations to make us government slaves. Once I read that, I decided to start adding a ton of raisins and sugar to my food to protect myself. You’ve got to stay one step ahead of those guys if you value your freedom. After all, the science is settled.

But I digress. Instant oatmeal is a hearty, natural meal that contains few, if any, government-inserted chemicals known to cause children to become autistic socialists. When heavily laden with sugar and raisins, it is a wonderful change of pace from other foods like apple cinnamon oatmeal.

I have repeatedly berated the baristas at my neighborhood Starbucks to concoct some sort of coffee beverage that tastes like sugary, raisin-riddled oatmeal, but little progress has been made. It always ends up with me being escorted out by some hotshot shift manager who thinks he’s God and knows what normal people like.

Well, Mr. Shift Manager, you can’t make me change. I know who I am and I know what makes me happy. My secret garden is beautiful and you and your government vaccinations aren’t welcome there.

Me being awesome.

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