Benson 2011

I'm sure your 2011 had many Ups and Downs like ours did-- thankfully with Jesus the Ups always make the Downs seem insignificant...

In 2011, everyone but Jim turned an ODD age... Janet turned 53, Jim turned 52, Miriam turned 25, Maggie turned 23, Jimmy turned 21, Michal turned 19, Mary turned 17 and Martha turned 15.

The clan suffered a few loses this year: Janet's aunt passed away in May and Jim's sister passed away in early October.


The car inventory held steady in 2011 although some vehicles received a few "dents worth keeping" as Mater would say. The Toyota Sienna earned its keep this year with two trips to the East Coast, a trip to Holland, Michigan; Chicago, Illinois and the Wisconsin Dells. Jimmy's (my) Saturn kissed a frozen snowbank for the tune of $1,000 and Michal's/Mary's Honda tn took a kidney punch in the snow and later a jab to the jaw, both leaving the poor rust-bucket with less class and more character. Maggie brought her old Cavalier down from the Twin Cities for a new vacuum fuel regulator giving her coupe a new lease on life. Sadly, I broke the reverse gear on Frank's old Ford Ranger so now "parking with foresight" is a required driving skill on top of the already necessary "manual transmission".


Janet tn spent another year as the poster child for "Unsung Busy Matriarchs", championing the causes of home-schooling, baby-sitting, taxi driving and grocery shopping. With Janet's parents entering the "homebody" phase of retirement, Janet spends even more time than ever at the Hitchcock plantation. As Estate Manager for the Minnesota Hitchcock family, Janet learned much this year about finances, income tax and investments... Need a hot tip on Medicare? Ask Janet... As a homeschool teacher, Janet added another notch to her ninja teacher's belt when offspring #1 (Miriam) graduated from Winona State University with a double major in Business and Accounting! Another notch is being prepared since it looks like offspring #5 (Mary) is on schedule to graduate from High School this next Spring! Janet is also chief score-keeper when Jim plays Quizmaster for local and regional Bible Quizzing tournaments. As was mentioned before, Janet's aunt Frances passed away back in Pennsylvania on May 9th.


Jim tn is *still* an IBM employee, tho that fact was a bit touch-n-go this past year. Christmas 2011 marks the start of Jim's 30th year at Big Blue. With the last offspring (Martha) still only 15, it would be nice if Jim stayed employed for another few years... With his earthly occupation somewhat secure, Jim has the resources to continue in his role as Husband, Dad, Sunday School Teacher, Wednesday Kids Club Leader, Deacon, Assistant Treasurer, Church Webmaster, Quizzing volunteer and Church/Home IT Help Desk. Despite all this, Jim's free-time was horribly wasted on a number of video games and Netflix features...

As many of you might remember, Jim's sister Missy tn was diagnosed with ALS in early 2010. Melissa or "Mel", as her friends in Holland, Michigan called her, was a stellar example of steady determination who fought off the physical pain, living to her final day with an attitude that amazed us all. Missy finally lost the battle long after the doctors predicted her end. Melissa passed away October 5th. Melissa wasn't the church-going type so Jim was asked to lead at Missy's funeral services. Jim did okay, but only because God blessed Jim with some composure and a head-game that would make Missy proud.


Miriam has a lot to tell this year-- after working hard at Wal-Mart to pay for all her college tuition, car and a data phone, she also saved enough to purchase a ticket to Scotland tn to visit a close friend who is doing a veterinary internship in the small hamlets of Northern Great Britain. Anticipated for well over a year, the excitement built until the plane left the runway and took the first Benson to Europe just as planned. Miriam enjoyed a wonderful two weeks of sight-seeing and travel from June 29th to July 9th. Her Facebook picture volume made Mark Zuckerberg rethink keeping Facebook a "free" service.

Besides Miriam's big overseas trip, she also graduated tn December 9th from Winona State University with a double major in Accounting and Business making Miriam the first Benson to graduate from a college institution. Although Miriam only took a couple of classes the final quarter, one of the classes was partly a "competition" for presenting business cases. Miriam's team tn took first place regionally and 7th place across the nation. This performance earned everyone on the team a really nice certificate of excellence and an easy "A" in the class. Miriam is still working the night shift at Wal-Mark, but feels a bit freer without the long drives to Winona and the tuition and book expenses stealing from her checking account. She's looking for a job so pray for her.

Miriam is a still a well respected and sought-after Quizmaster not only at our local league, but also at the regional Chicago Tournament and the always-fun Crown College Tournament. If that isn't enough, she also breaks out Sunday mornings and runs the powerpoint for worship at church.


Lovely Maggietn spent a long year, including one hot summer in the Twin Cities, working as a Caribou Coffee barista between classes at the Minnesota Art Institutetn. Jim's funds started running low, so Maggie had to switch her game-- she is now living on the college tuition repayment plan and working at the coffee shop to make ends meet. There's still a lot of hope for a good job for Maggie since she has a gifted flair for the art of web site design and the programming skills to go with it. The year+ of classwork didn't earn Maggie a diploma, but others have told her she could make it with what she knows if given the chance-- pray she gets a chance!

tnLiving alone is tough and on the expensive side, but Maggie has done pretty well for herself up in the cities: at the beginning of the year, Maggie was living out of a good friend's spare room for little or no rent. When Maggie found out that the Honor Academy (Maggie went there for a while) was now renting some of their unused dorm rooms as very, very small apartments she moved there. Then just a few months ago, Maggie found a tiny efficiency apartment very close to her Caribou work location and moved again. This last location has worked well even tho it makes Janet a bit nervous since the new apartment is in a less suburban and more downtown part of Minneapolis. Outside the neighborhood might seem a bit seedy, but inside Maggie has made the place very homey.

Maggie still hangs out with a great guy named Will Sherman.


This has been a quiet year for Jimmy-- and he's probably glad.

Jimmy still has to take medicines daily to maintain his transplanted kidney and visit the clinic for blood draws on a regular basis.

Jimmy's bedroom got a make-overtn this year when we disassembled his large, sturdy blue bunk-bed and replaced it with a plushy futon. This makes more room for visitors since Jimmy is a very good host and entertainer... he could use a larger bedroom now for the many friends who stop by to play XBOX or watch movies. Along with new bedroom decorations, Jimmy also got a couple body decorations this year-- colored forearm tattoos. Thankfully both images show good taste compared to the kind of tattoos most kids go for these days...

Jimmy's pet iguana tnOzzie continues to be healthy and grow a bit longer each year. Ozzie is perhaps approaching six feet of teeth, claws, scales and tail. Passive and calm most of the time, we did have a brief run-in with the more aggressive side of Ozzie back in February when for some reason, Ozzie decided to clamp her microscopic, lettuce-eating teeth on Jimmy's thumb. Ozzie acted a bit like an alligator with a lot of holding power and didn't easily release her jaw. The resulting gash hardly broke the skin, but the dozens of razor sharp bitty teeth did make the injury bleed like crazy. Jimmy got a lot of strange looks when he had to explain to everyone at the emergency room how he came by his injury :)

Jimmy is not in school at present, but has held down some good jobs: he started the year at the Weherenberg Theatre as a concession stand jack-of-all-trades, then got a job at Papa John's making and delivering Pizza. The delivery end of the job paid good tips, but the wear and tear on his Saturn was significant... better tips when you get the pizzas delivered fast and hot, but tire blowouts and out of gas mishaps were costly. After several months at Papa Johns, Jimmy joined some friends at the Shorewood Assisted Living Dining Room where Jimmy waits tables. The pay is good and being the social sort of person he is, gets along well with the customers.


Along with the trip to Europe, a Texas mission trip and a college graduation, Michal's adventure this year is a big part of the family news:

Michal tested the water early this year asking her parents what we would think if she joined the Marines... Jim was fine with the idea, but the suggestion gave Janet a pause. Sure enough, Michal began a relationship with the recruiters here in Rochester and after getting all her questions answered, signed her life away. Michal opted for the 8-year plan: four years active duty and four years in the reserves. I don't want to make this story too long, but believe me, there is a lot to tell. Anyone who has had a loved one enter the armed forces knows the adventure is a crazy one.

Let me just highlight the fun with an outline of events:

tn The day before we left for Michal's Boot Camp Graduation, Frank (Michal's grandfather) crashed his Cadillac and totalled it-- no one was injured, but Frank and Maxine decided to not attend the graduation with us.

Michal's schooling will continue well into 2012 before she is finally assigned a post. If Michal gets her way, it will be on foreign soil.


tn Mary is still our avenue into French classic culture and street gangs since she continues to be a pretty darn good en-pointe ballerina and hip-hop rap dancer. Without much arm-twisting, she'll also show you some classy lyrical, jazz, tntap and contemporary dance moves. The road between the Benson house and the Allegro Dance Studio is well worn from over 8 years of dancing lessons. Mary is a beloved face at the studio and in dozens of homes and churches where she continues to supplement her meager allowance with babysitting gigs.

Mary's dance skills make her a top performer at both the Allegro Spring concert and the traditional Nutcracker Ballet. Over the years Mary has had a dance part in just about every possible dance group in the Nutcracker. This year she was the primary Spanish Dancer as well as a contributor to several other minor parts.

Mary joined the other Bensons before her who have taken advantage of the Post Secondary Option where high school credits can be earned simultaneously with freshman college credits at many colleges in the area. Mary took French and Voice this past fall at RCTC and she has more classes scheduled for the spring. If all goes well (and all is going well), Mary will be our 5th high school grad who successfully mingled homeschool with public school to get a top notch education.


tn Martha's talent continued to blossom this year through many opportunities to show off her baking/cake decorating skills, baby-sitting prowess and musical abilities behind the reed of a clarinet and shaking golden handbells and silver chimes. One of the cakes Martha was commissioned to make was a Wedding cake for a close friend. Martha plays the clarinet very well and used her talent in several mid year recitals and tnpublic performances with the "First Players" band. Later in the year, Martha joined the homeschool handbell choir and entertained folks with the lovely sounds of bells and chimes at performance halls and nursing homes.

The big news for Martha tho was clearly her life-changing Texas mission trip with Teen Mania. Martha and two other young ladies from across the street signed up in the late spring to take a 14 day trip to Texas to do many various mini-missions in the Dallas area-- mostly involving tnchildren. The trio spent a lot of time raising the $1200.00 needed through day labor and bake sales at church. When the day of departure came, Martha and the girls were excited and terrified-- for Martha this was the first time she had been over 100 miles from home alone as well as the first time she had flown on an airplane. Needless to say, we got a TON of phone calls and text messages the first few days pleading for us to save her and one of the other girls from homesickness. Thankfully it didn't take too long for Martha to begin using her sour wit and funny expressions to make some life-long friends, becomming a sort of Northerner in a Southern Land comedy act. A Minnesota accent sounds just as funny to a Texan as a Texas accent sounds to a Minnesotan.

God Bless Everyone in the coming year!

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