Category: family

Dual Citizens

This past weekend, Denisa and I took the family down to New York City for a quick there and back again trip that’s been a long time coming. When we were first married, all our attention was on getting Denisa her US citizenship. It was a long process, filled with many hoops to jump through and fees to be paid, but we got through it all after . . . five years or so? I can’t honestly remember.

But once we had children, we always wanted them to get their Slovak citizenship to go along with their American passports. Naturally, that took quite a bit of hoop jumping and fee paying as well. Denisa’s been the driving force behind it all, and while she and the kids were over in Slovakia this past summer, she got a lot of the process completed. It helped to have a person in Trenčín office who was actually nice and willing to help shepherd her through the process. Fun things like getting birth certificates officially translated and filling out the right forms and paying the right fees.

To top it all off, you have to go in person to the Slovak Consulate that oversees where you live in America. There are two consulates in the US. One’s in New York City, and one’s in Washington DC. (I’m glad we don’t live in California . . .) Maine falls under NYC’s umbrella, so that’s where we had to go. They have very specific windows when you can come. (Monday – Wednesday 10am-12pm and Monday – Thursday 2pm-4pm.) You make an appointment weeks in advance, and you’d better be there.

Since Tomas is essentially gone as of next Monday, we had a very small window to get this all completed. (We couldn’t make an appointment until we had the paperwork in hand, and that didn’t arrive from Slovakia until mid-August, at which point all of the August openings were full.) If we wanted the girls to miss as little school as possible, it would have to be the 12th.

It helps that I’m familiar with NYC and how to get around it. We drove down on Saturday and came home right after the appointment yesterday. Traffic was, as expected, a nightmare, but the actual visit at the consulate was very straightforward. Denisa had all her paperwork completed correctly, the person she submitted it to was nice, and a few photos later, it’s all complete. The kids should get their passports in the mail in a few weeks.

Of course, this is just the first step. From what I know in movies, people are really supposed to have at least six or seven passports, ideally with different aliases and a stack of cash in different currencies, all tucked into the floorboards of their house. But the way I figure, Denisa and I are providing our kids with a good head start toward that goal.

In all seriousness, I see this as very advantageous for my kids. As Slovak citizens, they are also EU citizens. They can travel, live, work, and retire anywhere in the EU, without restrictions. They have the chance to go to universities in the EU for free or reduced tuition. They have access to universal healthcare across the EU. Will they use any of these advantages? I have no idea, but they *could* use them if they want to. (Tomas certainly might, when he’s over in Slovakia for the next two years.)

Now the only trick is to keep renewing those passports, as if they lapse, you have to begin the process all over again. (Denisa actually had to do it for herself at the same time she was doing it for the kids. It’s not fun.) But the passports are good for 10 years for those 18 years old and up, and 5 years for those younger than 18. I suppose there are worse things than having to go to New York City every so often. (Especially if you can actually plan the trip in advance . . . )

And for those of you wondering if I could become a Slovak citizen: yes, if we lived in Slovakia for 5 years, I could. It’s harder for a non-Slovak than for a Slovak, obviously . . .

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking this DON’T GO TO SLEEP Amazon link. It will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

In Memoriam: Stephen Coltrin

Hmm. This one’s going to be a hard one to write. I alluded to some tough times I was going through the last bit, and here’s the reason. My step-father, Steve Coltrin, passed away a few days ago. He’d been in and out of the hospital steadily for the past few months, and this past time (a few weeks ago) the decision was made to move him to hospice care. When that happened, I came down to Pennsylvania from Maine to see him and help take care of him as he passed. At the time, it seemed like it wouldn’t be long at all. In the end, I stayed for three weeks. Three very long weeks.

I’ve been in a house as a person lay dying before, but this time last much longer, and was very draining. A lot of that came from the uncertainty of just how the process would work and what sort of timetable we were on. There were many times I was just so frustrated that it couldn’t be over. But it wasn’t, and you have to deal with things as they are, not as you’d like them to be. And in any case, it’s over now.

My relationship to my step-father has always been a complicated one. My mom married him when I was . . . six? Seven? I can’t quite remember. In any case, I lived with him from then on, so he played a huge part of my upbringing. Losing him feels every bit like losing a “real” father, even though things weren’t always peachy keen for us growing up. As I’ve tended to do when loved ones pass, I wanted to jot down a few of the memories I had of him. Not sure how many I’m up to putting down right now, but here we go.

  • “Coltrins love to walk.” I heard that so so (so) many times growing up. To this day, Denisa is always frustrated with how fast I walk, but it’s something I have a very hard time changing. Dad was a fast walker, and he and Mom took us into New York many times, and we were expected to not just keep up, but to move out. My siblings and I walked out in front, and if we started walking slow, we’d hear “Move out.” And we had to walk faster. (NYC is already a city full of fast walkers. You have to go even faster when your legs are only so long.) If we ever complained about the walking, we’d be told “Coltrins love to walk.” It was just a fact of life. We’d go to Disneyworld and be at the park, walking the entire day. When it came time to go to our car, did we take the tram? No. Coltrins love to walk.
  • Connected to this, he took the slogan to heart so much that in his later years, he would pretty much always be walking. We would get to a restaurant, and he’d walk the perimeter of the parking lot while we were waiting to be seated. He’d walk up and down hallways in hotels. He would count steps religiously, though I don’t remember him every using a pedometer.
  • Up until the last year or so, the only time I could count on him reaching out to contact me was when he accidentally switched the menus on his television to Spanish. I was typically the resident tech help for the household, and so it fell to me to tackle the big problems of life. I have no idea how he managed to do it so often, and it would have made sense for me to make notes for how to switch it back to English, but I never did, so each time it usually ended up with me having to Facetime with him and then show me the screen and the remote. I’m proud to say I had a 100% track record of always getting it back to the right language.
  • He liked to sing, but he wasn’t always the best at knowing the words to the songs he’d sing. (Or perhaps he knew the words, but just didn’t choose to sing them?) In any case, he’d just sort of make them up as he went along, and he would do this often.
  • He liked war movies and westerns. The last few days as I was sitting next to him in hospice, we watched a number of both. No matter what movie he was watching, if there was a horse involved, he would always critique the horse for how good (or bad) it looked. Sometimes he would watch movies just to see the horses.
  • Going to a restaurant with him was always a nerve wracking experience. I’m the sort of customer that won’t even complain if they bring the literal wrong dish. (Well, as long as it tastes fine.) I really (really) don’t like confrontation over silly things like that. A big reason for that is because I had to sit at a table many many times while Dad chewed out a server for getting something wrong, whether it was not filling his drink enough, cooking the food wrong, not being polite enough, or anything else. That has never been my style, but it very much was his.
  • He was big on playing basketball. I was not. He and my brother would go outside and play basketball all the time, and they’d often try to rope me into playing with them. Every now and then I went along, but my typical approach to the situation was to pretend I was asleep until they gave up trying to wake me up and just went outside to play, at which point I could pick my book back up and resume reading. I assume they were on to me, looking back on it, but it seemed like a good life hack at the time.
  • I wore a baseball cap a lot of the time growing up. For a while there, I wasn’t to be seen without it. It had never been an issue at all, until one day it suddenly was. Dad got angry I was wearing it indoors, something I’d done all the time for probably the last few years. But from that point on, I would get in a lot of hot water if I wore a hat indoors. You didn’t want to get in hot water with Dad. He’d be away on business trips a lot of the time growing up, and I often breathed a little easier when he was gone, because I didn’t have to worry about stepping out of line as much. (Such as leaving my shoes in the entryway. That was another potential time bomb if he found them.)
  • He was a verified Diet Coke addict, if such a thing exists. He branched out a bit into Coke Zero toward the end, but he pretty much was never found without Diet Coke within arms reach. He preferred it in fountain drink form, with plenty of ice, and he would even drink it when it was completely flat. He also was known to mix in other things, like orange juice. This is not something that has transferred to me. Then again, he could go through an entire large bag of peanut M&Ms, and that’s something that I’d have to admit to having the same penchant for.
  • He was a fantastic source for advice. If I ever needed someone to think through a problem from all angles and give a solid read on what I should do, Dad’s input was always fantastic. I remember calling him when I was thinking about marrying Denisa. At the time, I’d always sworn to myself I would wait to know someone for at least a year before I even though about marrying them, but Denisa and I clicked so easily, I was seriously reevaluating that decision. I called him thinking he would do a great job of reminding me why rushing into marriage was a bad idea. (He had always harped on that when I was growing up.) To my surprise, he said if I felt like I should marry Denisa, I should do it right away. “When you know, you know.” I’m still shocked that he gave that advice, but as it was so often, it was the right decision.
  • We went to Disney World a lot when I was growing up. Sometimes multiple times a year. He loved going on the rides and buying the photos they would hawk to people at the end of the ride. We bought so many of those over the years that I imagine if you flip through the collection fast enough, you can see me age from 8 to 18 in stop motion.
  • He owned a PR firm, and it was his pride and joy. He was totally devoted to it, often gone for long stretches of time as he worked around the globe. He started it from nothing and grew it until it had offices in New York, Houston, Salt Lake, San Francisco, Singapore, and London. He represented Burger King, the Salt Lake Olympics, Popeye’s, eHarmony, and more. He did a ton of work for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as well, helping line up the Larry King interview with President Hinckley and the Mike Wallace interview as well. Before my mission, I worked for him for about a half year. We’d commute into the city a lot of the time together, which involved a half hour drive to Trenton, an hour plus train ride to Penn Station, and then a fifteen minute walk to the office. Growing up with a PR executive has really helped me throughout my life, as I feel like I’m much better at knowing how to handle a crisis and how to respond to difficulties. I also got a ton of IT tech support experience there, which later helped get me my first job as an IT Librarian in Maine.
  • Many of my views of how to live the Gospel stem from watching his pragmatic example. He always would emphasize the human nature of the whole endeavor, and I’ve never viewed church leadership through rose colored glasses. I know they’re human just like the rest of us, and it was interesting to talk to him and hear about some of the back room discussions that would sometimes go on at the top of the church. (President Faust was my grandfather’s mission companion, Elder Christofferson was a close friend of Dad’s, and Dad personally knew many of the Prophets and Apostles over the years.) Before I left on my mission, he gave me some of the best advice I got for the two years: “Remember that anything you can think of, a missionary has done, and he’s probably doing it right now.” It helps not to idolize anyone and to see things with a clear view.
  • He was almost always on the phone. He had a cell phone before there were many cell phones (back when they were the size of a football), and he would be talking nonstop. Business, usually. On vacation. In restaurants. In church parking lots. In his office. Always talking.
  • He was an ardent supporter of McDonald’s for the first long while I knew him. Not only did he use it as his primary Diet Coke source, but he loved their ice cream cones, as well. We’d go to McDonald’s pretty much anywhere, often multiple times in a day. (Probably a reason I ended up working at McD’s as my first job.) That said, when he added Burger King as a PR client, he made the switch to Burger King. (A switch he made multiple times thereafter. He did PR for Quizno’s for a while, and suddenly all the food we had for parties was catered by Quizno’s.)
  • We were driving across the country once, and we passed some animals on the road. “I think those were beefalo,” he said. All of us thought he was making that animal up. Beefalo sounded like the sort of name a kindergartner would give their imaginary pet. He doubled down on the claim, though, coming up with this elaborate back story about how they were cattle crossed with bison. The more he talked the more skeptical we all became, but he also grew up on a farm, and so he’d have a much greater chance of knowing the truth of this than we did. We still didn’t really believe him. Of course, back then you couldn’t just google the answer. Today, I’d have known right away that he was right.
  • “Plow the ground all the way to the fence.” Dad wasn’t always one to do the chores around the house. In fact, I can only remember a few times when he really worked with us to get something done. (He might have when I was younger; my memory doesn’t go that far. But by the time I was in prime Chore territory, he was a director, not a co-worker.) So when we had a job we’d been tasked doing, he would wait until we said we were done, and then he’d come give an inspection. Raking the yard? Every single leaf had to be off that yard. Shoveling the driveway? All snow had better be gone. Because if it wasn’t, we’d get the “plow the ground all the way to the fence” talk, referring to how good farmers wouldn’t cut corners, but get the most out of their field.

I could go on, but there’s only so much time, and everything has to come to a close eventually. I’m sure there are tons of things I’m forgetting, and it feels like I should just keep on adding memories, but I’m calling it quits for now. He definitely had a huge impact on me. As with most parent/child relationships, some of what I do is because he did it, and some of what I don’t do is because he did that too. I’ve had a lot of time to think over many things the past few weeks. They’ve been very hard in many ways, but I think I’m a better person because of them, just as I’m a better person because of the interactions I had with Dad over the years. He’ll definitely be very missed.

Tomas: Graduation Day

So Tomas went and graduated from high school yesterday. It was a gorgeous day. Puffy clouds. Mid-seventies. A light breeze. The ceremony took about an hour, and he and the other graduating Fiddlers played a set as part of the festivities. He’s got a busy summer ahead of him: heading to Europe for a month next week with Denisa and the girls, and then he’s got a week of Fiddle Camp in August. After that, it’s “off” to the home MTC on September 19th, the Provo MTC on October 5th, and then Slovakia on November 22nd, where he’ll be until fall of 2024. At that point, it’s BYU for mechanical engineering. He ended up graduating magna cum laude, and he’s done a great job in high school. We’re very proud of him.

I’ve enjoyed seeing people post pictures from their graduates’ lives, and I thought I might do the same thing today, giving a bit of a “best of” selection of blog posts I’ve written about Tomas over the years. I’ve been blogging almost every day for most of his life, so I should have more than enough to choose from. Not sure who else will find this interesting, but I know I will, so here we go:

Honestly, I could do this for a long time. I’m just up to his 13th birthday, and there are already a ton of posts I’ve skipped over. After his 13th birthday, I noticed many of my posts about him changed to “this is what Tomas is doing” to “this is what I think about what Tomas is doing.” Instead of talking all about how he’s in sports, I talked about what it was like to be a sports parent. I think it’s the transition I had to make to be able to give him space online. He didn’t need his dad constantly telling people what he was up to, but I could still talk about what I personally was going through.

In any case, I’m out of time for today. This was fun to look back, and I hope you enjoyed it as well. Tomas, ya done good, and I know you have lots more good in front of you. Congratulations!

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking this PERFECT PLACE TO DIE Amazon link. It will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Tomas Has His Mission Call

[Yes, I’m going to bury the lede here. Sue me.]

Tomas got his mission call this morning, quite out of the blue. Well, not entirely out of the blue, of course. This is something he’s been working on for months, if not years. Putting in your mission application involves multiple interviews with church leaders, doctor visits, and dentist visits, not to mention the big question of “do I really want to do this?” Missions are a two year commitment. You don’t get to say where you go, or when. They’re largely an act of faith. You trust God will send you to the place where you can do the most good.

Tomas put his papers in last week. Typically we understood that it takes about 2-3 weeks to get the call, and that when it comes, it comes on a Wednesday. This morning at 11:00am, he got the email that his call had arrived. Many people do livestreams of themselves opening their call these days. Tomas had told us ahead of time he wasn’t interested in that. We’d already decided he’d open it up when he wanted, whether or not Denisa and I were there.

Heading into this, all three of us really wanted him to go to Slovakia, though it was sort of an unspoken rule in the house not to say that out loud. Denisa’s from there, obviously. All her family is still there. We’ve gone multiple times over the years. Denisa’s worked to make sure to teach him Slovak since he was born. It made a whole lot of sense for him to go there, and if he did, he’d have two years living in a culture that’s always been somewhat removed from him, even though it’s half his heritage. He’d come back really fluent in Slovak, with a much better understanding of what it’s like to be there. I served in Germany, and I still feel a strong connection to the country more than 20 years later.

But . . . just because something seems obvious when it comes to a mission doesn’t mean that it is. One of Denisa’s Czech friends had two sons serve: one to Poland, and one to . . . Brazil. Or he could just as easily be called somewhere stateside. St. Louis. Tampa. There are 404 church missions out there. Only 1 of them speaks Slovak. And so I was steeling myself to give Tomas the “it’s okay, all missions are wonderful” talk. This reminded me a lot of when I was finding out where I was going to go on my mission. I really wanted to go German speaking, and I worried that just wasn’t going to happen.

So when Tomas texted to say he got his call and had opened it, I was quite nervous.

Where’s he going? Czech Prague Mission. Slovak speaking!

And there was much rejoicing.

He’s scheduled to leave on September 19th, which was a bit of a surprise. He’d put July 5th as his availability date, with the thought of coming home before BYU’s fall semester starts in 2024. This means he’ll likely miss that semester, but no worries. It’ll work out. The good news is this means we’ll also be able to fit in one last European vacation before he goes. (Which means I need to start planning that yesterday.)

But for now, a hearty congrats to Tomas. T-minus 5 months and counting . . .

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking this PERFECT PLACE TO DIE Amazon link. It will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

A Weekend Away

Things have been crazy hectic this semester, as I’ve noted on here multiple times (to the point that most of you, I imagine, are getting sick of it). So it was very nice to reach Indigenous People’s Weekend, where the kids had Friday and Monday off, and the university gives us Monday (and I don’t have to teach today!)

Looking at the semester ahead of us, Denisa and I decided back when this all began that it would be a good idea to head somewhere else for the weekend. As is usually the case with me, by the time the appointed date came around, I was seriously beginning to question why in the world I’d decided to do this in the first place. I was stressed, I had a ton of things to do, and we were just driving 1.5 hours away to go be in a house that wouldn’t be that much different from the house we live in every day. Sure, it was on a pond, but I can drive to a pond any time I want. Why in the world had I thought it was a good idea to spend a bunch of money, just to give myself something else I had to do?

But the nice thing about spending all that money ahead of time is that it forces me to actually go through with things. So we packed up and headed out. I was in much less than a good mood.

However, as is also usually the case, by the time I reached the end of the vacation, I was very glad we had gone. Yes, technically it was about like being at home, but there’s something to be said for not being at home. When you’re at home, there are a bunch of little things you know you need to be doing. They’re always there, nagging at the back of my mind. Going somewhere else makes them all go quiet. We could just relax and spend time together as family without worrying about pretty much anything.

Did we do anything stellar? Not really. We paddled around in kayaks, went swimming (yes, in cold water), watched movies, ate good food, played board games, and generally lazed around. We did go to a rather epic corn hole tournament a friend hosted on Saturday, but other than that it was just taking a nice breather.

And that’s the thing about breathers: yes, breathing is something you do all the time anyway. Do you really need to take some time to just keep breathing? Well, when you’ve been running at a full sprint for far too long, yes. Yes, you do. Taking that time to catch your mental breath can be incredibly refreshing. I felt much better heading home than I had heading down.

Now if only our cabinets would come. The current “delivery date” is tomorrow. I’m crossing my fingers, toes, and eyes . . .

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking this PERFECT PLACE TO DIE Amazon link. It will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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