A friend said to me recently that tears and laughter are the mortar of life. Through the changes of this last year, they are what have held us together and kept us (questionably) sane.
Losing my mother-in-law in December last year turned Christmas 2009 into the “Amazon.com Christmas.” My husband took our wish lists, pared them down to a reasonable level, and, with a few clicks of the mouse, brown UPS boxes began showing up. Our son thought we should just leave them that way under the tree. I drew the line at that and wrapped the brown boxes. It gave us something to chuckle about as we hung Mom's ornaments on our tree with the tissues nearby.
One hectic work year done and another underway, in January my beloved headed to Bangkok for two weeks of meetings. The people there are great, but it's a long plane ride. Upside: frequent flier miles, which you get a lot of for sitting in a plane for 20-some hours each way. He continues to do genealogical research, and we tramp around the local cemeteries once he's found a great-grandparent or long lost step-great aunt. It's fun to do the detective work. Our kids think we're odd, which is kind of true.
At Spring Break we went to Pensacola Beach. In late March, pre-oil spill, the beaches were beautiful. The water was freezing, however, so we didn't swim much. With the exception of our daughter the Vegetarian, we ate lots of seafood and loved our visit to Joe Patti's fish market in Pensacola. Wow and yum.
In our first major change of the year, our oldest graduated from high school. He was very sad to leave his friends and very excited to go to college. Our summer travel schedule meant he couldn't get a job, so he got to spend the time hanging out with his friends, broke, but totally, lazily happy. Once he had none to do, I realized how much of my time had been spent “asking” him about homework. Twelve years of a topic of conversation, gone in the time it took to walk across a stage on a beautiful May evening.
Shortly after graduation, the kids, my niece and I headed up to Lake Vermilion for a relaxing week of fishing with my folks. I missed VBS for the first time in years, but the family time was sweet.
We celebrated our 25th anniversary by taking a trip to Maui with the kids. We snorkeled a lot and also ascended Haleakala, driving the switchbacks from sea level to 11,000 feet up, way above the clouds. The views were spectacular and neither kid fell off the mountain – certainly thanks to my “nagging,” which they failed to appreciate. We visited a goat farm (again, not appreciated by the kids) and a winery (ditto), and Sean and I decided that next time we are not bringing said, unappreciative kids.
August began a season of leave-takings. My friend Patty moved to London, which I was sad about until we realized that we can video conference on Skype and that visiting in person requires a trip to London. Thanks to my husband's frequent flier miles, my friend Kathy and I are going in February. Tea and crumpets, plays and museums, cottages and castles here we come!
August also saw our leaving us to go to ISU, majoring in teaching Middle School math and science. He absolutely loves it. He has an unlimited meal plan, interesting classes, and a great dorm floor. He did well and finished finals in mid-December. I've enjoyed having my car to myself, but we miss him a lot otherwise. He misses my cheeseburgers.
Thankfully, our daughter still comes back home at the end of the day. She started sophomore year and has her permit. She's playing flute, piccolo, alto recorder and soprano ukulele. Last month we went to hear her favorite group, Project, play and went to a flute workshop by one of the band members the next day. They play beatbox flute, cello and bass. Not only does she now want to learn cello, but the flute player in the group advised the kids that busking on street corners playing flute is a great way to earn money. We are torn by that idea. It would save on college, but what parent wants to tell people their daughter works on a street corner? Her room looks like a music store, but we love listening to her play. She's also joined the French, Art and Drama clubs at school.
September was very hard. My sister-in-law, Karen, and her husband, Tom, moved back to Illinois in July. She'd been battling malignant melanoma for over six years and her health was worsening. During the next couple of months, we had the luxury of time with her, enjoying trips to art galleries, walks, watching movies, or just sitting and talking. She was increasingly tired, but was not in pain until a couple of days before she died. She passed away on September 19th, just a few weeks after celebrating her 55th birthday and their 19th anniversary. She was a gifted teacher and artist. I don't know how to put into words how wonderful she was or how much we miss her.
Also in September, my mom went into the hospital for a scheduled, and long overdue, back surgery. It went very well, and we expected she'd be home in three days. Instead, she returned home almost a month and two more surgeries later, with not only a new device in her back, but also a stent and a pacemaker. I'd say it was three for the price of one, but I'm pretty sure it was three for the price of three. We were blessed that Mom received excellent care. We spent a lot of family time together eating hospital food, “discussing” politics, and solving the world's problems.
November had us celebrating Dad's 75th birthday and spending Thanksgiving with my family. It was a particularly poignant holiday this year. Having a healthy Mom at the table, and having friends and family who prayed for us and carried us through the last few months, gave us a lot to be thankful for.
Cold weather is baking season and I've been baking bread a lot, beginning with crusty French loaves and more recently trying gluten free variations. I've been baking for church events, which lets me bake without eating it myself. My very favorite thing to bake for is my Wednesday night class when I get to sit on little chairs at little tables with a dozen of the wee Souls (my name for kids at All Souls Church), memorizing verses, reading the Bible, coloring, and munching on brownies - it's a glorious thing.
And now we're in Advent, a time of quiet, reflective waiting in the midst of frenetic activity, which ends for us at the beautiful, candlelight Lessons and Carols on Christmas Eve. We'll spend Christmas morning with my parents and then head to my sister-in-law's home in the afternoon. As always, I hope this finds you all spending Christmas surrounded by those you love and who love you.
Grace and Peace.
Ann and company