Christmas “letter” 2009

[more hyperlinks to be added soon–stay tuned!]

So I started to write a Christmas letter . . . only it ended up being four pages long . . . so because I am guessing that most people don’t care that much about the intimate details of my life in the last twelve months (and yet, I still feel a strange compulsion to share those details!), I figured I would put the longer version up here and try to do a “Twitterized” summary for the hard copy.

Of course, it’s December 22nd and I’ve not even STARTED writing my Christmas cards, but that’s another story.

Here is my 2009–the good, the bad, and the ugly.

As I think back on this year, a fragment of a song keeps coming back to me “Time it was, and what a time it was” . . . I don’t even know if that’s taken out of context, but it just seems to fit . . . what a time it has been . . . what a year I have had! And yet, on Thanksgiving, I sat in church and realized that I am filled with gratitude, despite what this year has brought, and not the least because I still have so many reasons to count myself blessed. And if nothing else, I have had many, many experiences this year that fit nicely into the category of, “someday we’ll look back on this and laugh!” So here, for your reading pleasure, is my year in a nutshell. I am also scattering pictures of some of my favorite kids throughout . . . as one of my greatest joys this year has been being an “auntie” to so many lovable kids. Enjoy!

January . . . oh, I can barely remember January. After my beloved godbaby, Elijah, was in the hospital the week before Christmas with “failure to thrive” (oh, how we hate that term! look at the picture at the end of this post and ask yourself if that looks like a baby who has failed to thrive?!), severe reflux, and what was eventually diagnosed as “laryngomalacia” (his larynx was just too soft, and causes him to be rather rattle-y.), January consisted of waiting for his surgery to be scheduled. And probably a lot of spitting up . . . it’s hard to remember now, but those first four or five months of his life were a constant puke-fest.

Elijah, at about 3 months, looking like an angel in his hospital attire.

February – On the 11th, Elijah had a surgery called a Nissen Fundoplication, in which the top part of his stomach was wrapped around his esophagus to relieve his reflux, and had a feeding tube inserted. I honestly do not know how a parent can handle their kid being sick . . . it was heartbreaking to me to see him in pain, and I’m “only” the Auntie. I spent one or two nights in the hospital with Elijah and his momma . . . the first night, his other auntie Sara and I took turns standing over his crib, stroking his hair to try to help him feel better, while his mom got some much-needed sleep (like all of us, I think Mona was a bit overwhelmed by the whole thing).

Mona and Elijah trying to get some sleep in the hospital

I could go on and on about Elijah, but I don’t want to bore you to death . . . if you want to read the whole saga, you can see it at his Care Pages site. You will need to register for the site if you haven’t used it before.

March was quite a complicated month. An impromptu high school reunion was planned on Facebook, and I decided to attend it, since this would mean that I could also visit my father. On Saturday night, I spent time with old friends; on Sunday afternoon, I spent several hours with my father, not knowing that this was the last time I was going to see him. On March 31st, after almost a year of battling his cancer, my father passed away at the age of 69. For the second time that month, I found myself traveling home to New York.

April—en route to my father’s funeral, I got a call from my brother Kevin and learned that my beloved godfather, Steve, had passed away, one day after my father had. Uncle Steve’s death, unlike my father’s, was sudden and unexpected. However, the timing felt strangely providential, as my brothers and I were able to be with our mother’s side of the family after some difficult interactions at my father’s funeral with my stepmother’s family. April was a bit surreal, to say the least.

In May, two of my oldest and dearest friends, Max and Rosemary, traveled some 800 miles to help me with my own personal “Clean Sweep”/decluttering project. This was probably one of the most difficult things I had ever gone through, but somehow I survived this long-overdue event, and to this day I am trying to live a life with much less clutter and “stuff”. After the hard work was done, we had a blast visiting local “attractions” (think Tulip Time) and going to Chicago overnight. Despite the difficult beginning, that weekend stands out as one of the highlights of my year!

June was a difficult month emotionally. Although I didn’t expect anything from my father, and knew he would leave everything to his second wife (to whom he was married for 21 years), I was not prepared for the ugliness that ensued.

In June, my other godbaby, Donovan, turned one year old.
Handsome little guy, isn’t he?

June also brought the unexpected death of Nathan, a young man from my church, who was a week or so shy of turning 20 years old. His mom has been a good friend and ministry partner of mine, and the entire family was/is well-loved in our community, so it was a huge blow to so many of us. I still remember him at random times and tell myself, “I can’t believe he’s gone” . . . I am grateful, knowing that we will see him again, but it’s still not easy, and I know that his family is still walking around with this heavy burden, especially at the holidays. If you’re the praying type, please pray for his parents, Cheri and Greg, and their four surviving sons.

July came around, and somewhere along the way I made the decision to go ahead with ankle surgery on my left ankle. After having had a fusion done on my right ankle 19 years ago, with great results, it was almost a no-brainer. Almost six months later, I am still confident that the results will be worth it, but I admit that I am getting tired of the slow process.

In mid-July, I met my two brothers at Cedar Point, a huge, amazing amusement park in Ohio. We had a blast, but I also got confirmation that it was the right time for this surgery, as I could barely walk the next day. On July 29th, I had the (outpatient) surgery—formally known as a “subtalor fusion”.

my lovely foot. Yes, I got screwed—twice!

August consisted of me sitting around my house and watching a LOT of TV. My dear friends Jacylyn and Tracy would occasionally come and fetch me for a brief outing, but being non-weight-bearing on my left leg took a lot out of me. Towards the end of the month, I returned to work, just in time to touch base with my boss before she left on maternity leave.

my first outing after the surgery was to Alyssa (left) and Alanis’s
third birthday party. I love these little princesses!

September . . . ummm . . . nothing really significant, I suppose. My boss had a baby boy, and I continued to work and to deal with being one-legged, so to speak. Ummm . . . I had a Tupperware party . . . Elijah had his first birthday . . . that’s about it.

In October, I had three appointments with the foot doctor. First appointment: “Okay, start trying to put weight on the foot.” Second appointment: “Okay, I know it’s not comfortable, but you definitely want to start putting weight on the foot.” Third appointment: “Wow, your foot is swollen. Have you been putting a lot of weight on it?” Um, YES–you told me to!

The verdict: the screws in my heel were causing my pain and swelling, but because the fusion wasn’t quite complete yet, they couldn’t be removed. I was given the “lovely” gift of having another month of not putting weight on the foot. Go, go Speed Racer!

“Speed Racer”, as I dubbed him—my knee walker that has been my
constant companion since the end of July.
This is actually Speed Racer III—they’re not very sturdy at all.
Or maybe I’m not supposed to let my friends’ kids play on it?!

October also brought a health scare with my brother Michael . . . he had pneumonia and spent a couple of weeks in the hospital, some of that time in the ICU on a ventilator. He is doing better now, and has even stopped smoking, so that’s a good thing. Again, I found myself grateful, as many around me in the ICU were facing a more dismal situation.

November found me scrambling at work, and very much feeling my supervisor’s absence. Preparing for a huge missions conference called Urbana, I found myself missing my boss and her attention to detail. I spent the month being non-weight-bearing on the ankle again, but the “good” news was that I got an extension on my handicapped parking permit . . . and suddenly, everybody wanted me as a Christmas shopping partner! Who knew?!

December is here . . . and once again, I am frantically trying to get a Christmas letter out . . . have started walking on the foot again, but it’s definitely painful. (and great fun in snow and ice! I was blessed in that we didn’t have really cold/snowy weather until this month.) The two screws that are in my heel will come out in early January, and I’m hoping for some semblance of normalcy beyond that . . . both in walking, and in life in general.

I hope that all of you are feeling the hope of this season, in spite of whatever adventures you yourself may have had this year . . . and I wish you all the best in the year ahead!

Elijah today. Is he happy about Christmas, or what?!