Music, Work, and Mid-Life Crises

Let’s start with the animal photo this year. This is Xena, our 13-year-old Cornish Rex cat. She had a pretty serious fight with cancer during the year, which has left her weaker. But for the moment she seems comfortable and content, especially in her heated bed here.

Xena the cat

Dan is thriving 200 miles from home in his third year at The University of Texas at San Antonio, studying Computer Science and Anthropology. His grades are excellent and he has taken on some important leadership roles, in addition to being employed by the college to work on some of their web sites.

Dan at college

In a stroke of entrepreneurial genius, Dan seized on an opportunity to make some serious money for his student organization by designing, buying, and selling several hundred t-shirts in the space of a few days. The occasion was the school’s first ever American Football game (they’ve never had a team before) with a record-breaking attendance of 56,743 spectators. And yes, in a fit of school spirit, Dan’s hair is indeed orange and blue in this photo.

Dan's fundraising shirt
In addition to his studies, student leadership, and job, Dan also finds time to do some volunteer work. Here he is working on a Habitat for Humanity house.

Dan working with Habitat for Humanity

Jason is equally busy with his school-work, college applications, and school band activities. He has applied to Rice University and the University of Texas at Austin to study chemical engineering, but doesn’t know yet if either of them will offer him a place. During the football season (August to November), he and the rest of the band spent hours rehearsing and performing. He was the Drum Major (conductor) for the second year running.


As soon as the football season was over, the focus switched from marching to orchestral playing and as a percussionist Jason is expected to play not only drums, but also pitched instruments. Twice he has dismantled this 8-foot long marimba to bring it home for practice over the holidays, and his efforts were rewarded by a 2nd chair place in the all-city student band this year.

Jason playing marimba

Jason’s waking hours are so consumed with the school band that he has even made custom shirts for himself.

Jason goofing off

Alan has been busy with work as well, especially in the latter part of the year. However, he has also found time to do manual labour with a local urban mission when they needed a house remodelling, continue to work with the Take Heart Association Project, and to ride again in the fundraising MS150 bike ride in aid of the Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Alan MS150 bike ride

However, when you say “bike” to Belinda she has something entirely different in mind. She used to ride a motorcycle in England years ago, but had not done so in America until this year. The newest edition to the family is a little Suzuki 650 (Boulevard S40, if you’re interested) on which she is very carefully navigating the crowded streets of Houston. Like Jason, she loves to flout stereotypes and finds it amusing to watch people’s faces when they realize that the motorcycle is being ridden by a 50-year-old grey-haired woman.

Belinda motorcycle

Most of Belinda’s time is spent performing or doing administrative work for Houston Choral Showcase, the only community show choir in Houston. She has been singing with this group since 2005 and their Executive Director since 2010. At the holiday show in 2010 she got a small solo part in one of the songs, which has made it onto YouTube.

Another exciting Houston Choral Showcase experience was a very brief appearance on the “America’s Got Talent” TV show. They didn’t progress beyond the first appearance with the judges, but it was all very interesting to see how the show is put together.

Belinda with Houston Choral Showcase

In contrast to the show choir, Belinda has gone back to her English roots and after the third attempt was finally cast in the Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Houston’s annual production in July. With some heavy use of make-up and wig she was transformed into a Japanese teenage schoolgirl for “The Mikado.” There’s some video from the dress rehearsal on Youtube. To be a part of this production was an amazing experience, as it is professional in all aspects except for the volunteer cast. Most of the other cast members are music professionals or students, and Belinda felt honored to be a part of the group.

Belinda in Mikado costume