…and in with the New

While we were busy getting ready for the evening’s celebrations, it seemed like we might never get there.  Just one thing after another seemed to keep getting in the way, hindering our progress in one way or another.

First, the washing machine decided to start making that horrendous noise AGAIN, and then just quit about a minute before the cycle ended, but a minute early was nothing.  The clothes were done, so we put them in the dryer, and moved on to the next load.  We weren’t so lucky with that one.  The second load stopped mid-cycle. The machine was locked.  It refused to let us reset it, turn it off, unlock it, open it, change the cycle, stop it.  It was just stopped there, and we could do nothing.  I got the brilliant idea to unplug it.  That should work, right?  I mean, you would think.  At this point, I jus wanted to get the clothes, which Justice needed, out, and take them to the laundromat.  I plugged it in again. Still locked.  Everything still the same. I tried again.  This time, it wouldn’t let me turn it off, but it did at least let me reset the cycle.  Since it had stopped during the rinse and spin, I set it to rinse and spin only.  Luckily, it finished rinsing and spinning, and, miraculously, unlocked.  I have been terrified to use it since, and we desperately need to do laundry.

I planned to make two treats to take along to the usual New Year’s Eve party: Fantasy Fudge, and Amaretti.  One, I had made dozens of times, so it was a no-brainer.  The other was a brand new recipe, but one I had long wanted to try, and had been reading about for some time, so I had a good idea of how it should work.  I felt confident enough to give it a go.  I was all set…except that I didn’t have sugar.  So, I decided I would have to run out and get some sugar. Since the store is just up the block, and everyone else was home, I turned on the oven to heat, while I ran up the street to get the sugar I needed.  Then, I went to grab my purse from the bedroom where I’d left it.

That’s when I smelled it.

There was a very strong, obvious gas odor.  I first noticed it as I approached the door of our bedroom.  My first thought was to ask Hallie to check all of the burners on the stove, which, in retrospect, was silly, since I was nowhere near the kitchen.  They were all off, but we made sure, and decided to turn off the oven, too, after Justice confirmed that the room did, indeed, smell strongly of gas.

Kaia, who was resting in the room with a heating pad, had been complaining of a headache, and I started to put two and two together at this time.  I texted Shane, who was out front, checking a few things on his new (used) car.  He brought in the cat carrier.  Justice started opening windows and turning on fans;  and we let out the two cats who are allowed to go out, and everyone set to work trying to find the one who isn’t allowed out while I called the gas company.

While everyone tried to wrangle Leia, who is still a bit skittish, has no interest in going outside, and doesn’t especially like to be picked up, into the carrier, I talked to a representative of the gas company.  We realized that the closest gas appliance to the odor was the fireplace.  I made sure the pilot was shut off, removed the key; and, at some point, they managed to get Leia into the carrier.  We all went outside to wait.

Luckily, the guy arrived quickly.  It seems the key that turns on the pilot to the gas fireplace had been left in, and had been accidentally tripped slightly.  He also replaced a couple of fittings that were incorrect.

Finally back int he house, we had only lost hours and hours to washing machine and gas woes.  Shane let Leia out of the carrier, then ran to the store for me.  I think I was doing something, but I can’t remember what it was at this time.

At some point, much earlier in the morning ~ and really, it had come up days before, too ~ Justice had told us that, this year, for the first time ever, she would be spending New Year’s Eve celebrating with friends who were home from college, instead of hanging out with the family.  Of course, that’s totally fine.  She’s an adult, and can celebrate New Year’s Eve however she wants.  It is a big change, however, and one of those things about raising kids ~ they grow up, and one day they are adults, and off doing things on their own.

And Hallie was busy with school stuff, so we decided that Shane would come to the party a little later with Hallie, and I would go earlier with Kaia.  So, I made my Fantasy fudge and Amaretti (they’re little Italian almond cookies, in case you don’t know), and got myself a little bit gussied up, and Kaia and I headed out to the party.  Then, later, Shane and Hallie joined us.

As always, it was a fabulous time.  Our friends, the Foxes, always host a marvelous New Year’s Eve party.  I feel like it was a smaller crowd this year.  I know we weren’t the only family who was short a kid.  There was no shortage of desserts!  (I brought, like, four pounds of fudge, you guys.) But, as always, we all had a lovely time, and it was a nice crowd.  The “core group” was all there ~ the 5 families who were all in that MOMSClub playgroup together many, many years ago, when our kids, who are now Seniors in high school, were babies.  The youngest kids are freshmen in highschool now.

We rang in the New Year, watching the ball drop on TV, and toasting with champagne for the adults and sparkling cider for the kids, just as always; but it seemed, this year, everyone lingered a little longer.

Leftovers were packed up by one family, who will be distributing them to homeless people, so they won’t go to waste.

We all said our goodbyes, “Happy New Year’s!” and headed out into the crisp night air.

Shane and Hallie hopped into his car, and Kaia and I into mine.

As we drove off, Bob Dylan sang over the car stereo:

Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside
And it is ragin’.
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’.
Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin’.
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’.

 

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Out With the Old…

I am not going to pull any punches, 2017 was a tough one.

I know, at the end of a year, we are supposed to stop and count our blessings, and, as always, our year has been filled with those; but I would be lying if I sat down and wrote a post about how great the year has been, and pretended it hadn’t been hard.  It’s been a hard year, in a lot of ways, for a lot of people I know.

I am not talking about politics.  I know that the social and political climate has been difficult for a lot of people to navigate, and that has put real strain on familial relationships and friendships.  I know there has been a great deal of social upheaval, and stress, and anxiety, and real life consequences as a result of what is happening in the political arena, because those things impact us all every day.  I don’t want to discount that, or for anyone to think that I am not taking those issues into account ~ they are part of the reason this year has been difficult for a lot of people.  In fact, for some people, that is the primary reason this year has been so difficult; because, for some people, those issues directly impact their daily lives so profoundly that they can’t help but think about them every single day.  So it’s hard for me to come here and say, “but that’s not what I’m talking about.”  Perhaps what I meant to say was, “That’s not all I’m talking about.” I would be remiss not to mention it at all.

There were deaths in families, and deaths of long-admired celebrities, as there always are.

Here, in California, we recently had the fires, and so they are fresh in my mind, but all over there the world, there has been disaster, and violence, and so much suffering, anguish, and frustration.  It’s difficult to even know what to say.  Some days, it felt like the world had gone mad.  It was hard to want to read the news ~ there was a genuine fear there.  What else could possibly have happened?  

On a very personal level, it’s been a difficult year for me, in regard to my health.  If I were to say, “I don’t talk about my health much,” you would probably think I’m being ridiculous.  It seems I talk about my health all the time.  But, really, I don’t.  Or, perhaps, I do more than most people, but there’s a lot I keep to myself.  So, when the CRPS started flaring up, I didn’t mention it, because, frankly, I feel like all I ever do is complain about my health issues, and, quite frankly, people must be tired of listening.  Nevertheless, it did start flaring up.  I figured it was probably because I had slacked off on my exercise routine.  I wasn’t doing my PT every day, and I wasn’t walking as much as I should.  Oh, and also because I had cut the dosage of my daily medication down just slightly because, in combination with the other medication I take daily ~ for that other issue that I am still reticent to discuss, because I STILL don’t have a diagnosis, so I feel weird about actually saying much about it ~ it was making me VERY SLEEPY; but only at night, after I took it, and upon waking, but this matters, when you have school-aged teenagers, who might still need your help, sometimes…and they do, sometimes, and I am their mom, so I want to help. (Do I win an award for that run-on sentence?  I think it was fairly spectacular, ‘though I am not convinced it was actually a sentence.)  So, I decided, first, to try doing all of the Right Things.  I exercised.  I took my medication.  The CRPS kept flaring.

I did the logical thing.  I kept going to my class taking kids to school, doing chores, attending performances, meetings, shopping, driving all over town, picking up, dropping off, running errands… You know, all of the usual “mama” stuff.  I kept tie-dyeing things, and playing my banjo when I had time, but it kept feeling like I had less and less time.  Everything felt like it took so much longer.  You know, because it did.

While all of this was happening, other things were happening, too.  I wasn’t the only one having a hard time.  Other people I knew were having hard times, too; and, while I am not at liberty to share other people’s hard times, you know, when people you care about are having hard times, you want to help, and you probably try to, and I hope that I did.  I think, at least, I tried.  I keep trying, and I will keep trying.  I feel like, a lot of times, I fall flat on my face, or my back.  Sometimes, I feel like I started there, and, if we are both there, maybe we can just lie there, hold hands, look at the stars, and know that, whatever is going on right now, it will all be better someday.  It will.  I promise.  It always is.

Also, while all of this was going on, I was having increasingly terrible digestive issues.  I’m not going into detail, because nobody wants that (and also because I don’t have all of the answers yet), but, basically, it breaks down like this:  I was diagnosed years ago with IBS.  I hadn’t had a lot of symptoms for a very long time.  Then, in recent years, I started having trouble again.  This year has been the absolute worst.  (This is NOT the undiagnosed issue I’m not talking about.  That’s still something else.  Sorry to keep being cryptic about that.  If you know me, I’ll probably talk to you about that ~ I just feel weird putting stuff down in writing and out on the internet about that one.)  So, I saw a gastroenterologist who has put me on a low FODMAP, gluten-free diet.  I was skeptical, but cautiously optimistic.  I have to tell you, after two weeks on the new plan, not only are my digestive problems virtually a thing of the past ~ as long as I stick to the plan, which is very restrictive, and difficult to stick to when I am away from home, and can’t cook my own food ~ but, now that my digestive issues are under control, the medication I am taking for that other (cryptic) issue seems to be working well again, because my body is actually able to absorb and process it.  I still need to return for a couple of tests to make sure we aren’t missing anything, but the good news is, things are much better.

So…back to the CRPS:

While I was busy getting everything else under control, it was still flaring out of control. To the point that I was having difficulty getting around to complete simple tasks like a trip to the grocery store.  Pain was interfering with my ability to concentrate, focus, sleep, eat, remember things.  It was bad.  Worse than it had been in a long time.  I contacted my neurologist and my pain management doctor ~ to see if there was any way we could change either medication, since, in combination, they made me SO SLEEPY.  To make a long story short (and remain as cryptic as possible), neurologist said something like, “This medication is controlling your symptoms, so NO.  We won’t be changing that.”  Upon reviewing that situation, we all agreed, this was a good plan.  After an examination, my pain management doctor determined that the CRPS was not just flaring up, it was progressing.

As you can imagine, this is not the news I was hoping to hear.  He scheduled me for a lumbar sympathetic nerve block, as soon as possible, in hopes that I would get some pain relief, and that we might stop any further progress.  That would be December 21st, and I would need to rest for several days after the procedure.  Perfect timing.  I hadn’t been able to accomplish much shopping, due to pain, and now, I had to be completely done by the 20th, so I could rest until Christmas Eve.

But, there was nothing else we could do, and just that little glimmer of hope that, maybe, we could stop it from progressing…or, at the very least, get a little bit of relief.  So, I agreed.

It’s been 10 days since I had the nerve block.

I think I must be in that “might get worse before it gets better” phase.  This hasn’t happened to me before, but I am trying to be optimistic.  They say you might not know until at least two weeks after how effective it will be.  So, I am waiting.

During all of this, there was this whole swirl of life events going on around us, and, quite frankly, I couldn’t keep up.  I tried.  I tried to attend to events I could attend.  I went to the performances and parties, I smiled, I chatted, I tried to make small talk, but, you guys, I am an open book.  I’m not good at this.  I am a terrible liar.  I don’t just wear my heart on my sleeve; it’s stamped all over my face.  Which is weird, because I’m an actor, right; or, well, maybe I was, many years ago.  But I think that’s different.  I like to think, in my real life, I’m not assuming a character when I interact with people for whom I actually care; and so, it’s different.  In real life, I am an open book.  If I am upset, or angry, or tired, or sick, or sad, or anxious, or lonely, or in pain, the whole world will know just by looking at me.  I thinkI have been every one of those things this year.  I suppose we all have, at some point, every year.

Some great things happened this year, and others are still in the process of happening.  Justice finished her Child Development certificate, and CPR and first aid training, and was accepted to the Music Performance program at her college.  Hallie is a Senior in high school this year, and is busy earning A’s in classes like AP lit and Digital Imaging (things I couldn’t even grasp in high school ~ and let’s review the fact that I didn’t make it through Senior year of high school, so kudos to kids who do), and looking into art schools for after graduation.  Kaia finished middle school and moved on to high school where she is participating in and loving Marching Band. She finished her Computer Science class early, and was allowed to move on to the AP course in independent study.   I took my first ever ASL (American Sign Language) class, and finished with an 87%, which is a B, but a high B, so I’m cool with that.  I probably can’t take another class just yet, but I will keep practicing what I have learned, so I don’t get too rusty before I can continue.  I do plan to continue.  Shane has worked on so many projects that I just can’t name them all ~ and I probably shouldn’t here ~ but I can say that he was recently able to purchase a used 1999 Jeep Cherokee 4×4 that appears to be in very good condition (fingers crossed).  I bought him a repair manual, so he can maintain it.  It’s a vehicle he’s wanted for a long time, and it means that, with Justice’s busy schedule, and with us on the brink of having a 4th driving in the household, we finally have a 3rd car.  I think it should make think easier for everyone.

There have been weddings, and engagements.  There have been children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, grandnieces, grandnephews ~ oh, heavens!  Not all mine!  I just mean, in the world, there have been these things. In lives of my friends and family members, I have watched them unfold.

So, as I look forward ~ ever forward, never back…well, occasionally, wistfully, back, but never, ever with regret ~ it is with the very highest of hopes.

Here’s to 2017, and all of it’s challenges. Here’s to the tears we’ve wept, and the losses we’ve suffered.  Here’s to the lessons learned, and to every victory, every happy memory, every blessing and every joy this year has brought with it, as well.  For some, this might have been the best year yet.  For some of you, this was the year you were married, or the year your child was born, the year you finally bought your first home, or brought home the pet that filled that hole in your heart and made your life complete.  So here’s to 2017, for everything it’s been to every one of us.

2018, we see you on the horizon, and we have pinned our hopes on you.

We’ll see you soon.

 

 

New Year’s Eve Eve -by Sam

As I find myself looking back on the past year, I can’t help but think, “It’s been a rough one;” and the thing is, I’ve been here before. It’s starting to feel like I say this to myself at the end of a lot of years. You might be thinking, Oh, that must be a chronic illness thing. Some of you might be thinking (and some might be irritated about it), Is this about all of the famous people who have died this year? Is it about politics?

You know what, it’s not.

Well, or, maybe…maybe those things are all a little bit harder to take because everything is a little harder to take because there’s just always this underlying…well. Things have been difficult for our little family, dear friends and readers. The thing is, see, I don’t…well, this goes back to that complicated part of my last post, in which I talked about how I don’t talk about all of my business, because it’s not solely my business. So, I can’t just put it all out here for the world to see. In fact, I can’t put it all out anywhere, so, I am just kind of alone with it, and that’s very, very difficult for me. But I guess it’s normal, too.

What I mean is, you know, life’s not always a bowl of cherries. Or, well, maybe it is. But, maybe, sometimes, it’s not just a bowl. Maybe, sometimes, it’s a huge, steamy, rotten, mess of moldy cherries somebody bought a really long time ago, and no one ate, and they’ve been fucking sitting in your favourite chair for so long that they’ve started to decompose. Then, one day, you come home, sick and exhausted, and overwhelmed, unable to work, and in debt, and thinking, good god, if one more thing happens, it will put me over the edge!…and you flop down in that chair just as the phone rings to tell you that someone, somewhere needs you to come, immediately, to do something, or else the world will collapse, because, really, you’re supposed to be a superhero. And your coffee spills all over your lap, causing a chemical reaction with the rotten, moldy cherries, making their effect seemingly permanent.

So, now, everywhere you go, for the next two or three years (at least ~ jury’s out. This could be permanent) the rotten cherry funk is in your clothes, your skin, the very fiber of your being, maybe even your soul. It’s still in the chair, too, so other people in the household are going to be exposed, and there’s nothing you can do. It’s terrible stuff. It makes everyone miserable, and no one knows why, and no one knows how to talk about it, because no one even really knows what it is.  It is just so incredibly awful, so unexpected, so utterly preposterous.

And people can tell something is wrong, so they ask.

They keep asking.
“How are you?”
“Are you okay?”
“How’s the family?”

And, you know, society has these conventions, so you have to say,
“Oh, yeah, I’m fine.”
“We’re fine. “
“We’re great.”
“Everything’s good.”

But you know you’re not fooling anyone. You’re a lousy liar. You always have been, and you always will be.

To further complicate things, in the meantime, all of the normal, everyday things that happen in life keep happening around you and your moldy-ass cherries; and, you know, they’re totally normal things. Things that involve other people, but actually aren’t a huge problem. They’re little things, normal things, easy things that might be sort of challenging or, you know, require an adjustment in the way you think or do things; but they aren’t a big deal. They aren’t bad. They aren’t cause for strife or anguish or concern. It’s just that, sometimes, these people, who don’t know about your moldy cherry situation, they just don’t get that, and they think it’s all about them. Maybe we all think it’s all about us, all of the time. I guess that’s just the way humans are made.

And then, if you’re super lucky, you get not-a-diagnosis (which has nothing to do with the cherry situation, by the way, but conveniently occurs right on top of it), and they say to you, “Just keep on this band-aid*, and don’t take it off! I mean…we really don’t think you’ll bleed* profusely if you do, but DON’T TAKE IT OFF….just in case.” So you tell them, “Hey, you know, that’s…um…great and all, but…uh…I’d really like to know why I am having these symptoms.” And they tell you that what you can do, if you really want a diagnosis, is take off the band-aid, hook yourself up to a monitor for a few days that will cost roughly 8-gazillion bucks* and hope you bleed a lot during that time, so they can record it and figure out what’s happening. “Uh…” you say, “That sounds sort of…um…expensive…and dangerous…” They confirm that this is true, and so, you decide to keep your band-aid and lack of diagnosis, so, when people ask you what particular health problem you are having, you can now, officially, say, “Fuck if I know, man.”

So.

When I say it has been a hard year, I mean it has been a hard year. I mean it on a very personal level. I can’t say I don’t want to talk about it. I want so very much to talk about it. I mean, come on, guys, I’m a talker. It’s just, well, I can’t, because you’re not my therapist. I say I am alone with my problems, but the truth is I can go talk to a therapist, and so, at least there is a place where I can unload all of this bullshit, so I don’t have to unload it all on my family and friends, and that is good, I guess.   I mean, it’s expensive, and I will always have trouble spending money, because, no matter how much money we make, and no matter how many times I am told not to feel guilty about my current inability to work outside the home, I will always be made the way I am. It’s hard for me to spend money ~ especially money I did not earn. Also, I would rather talk to friends. Or even strangers that, you know, I’m not paying to listen to me. It just feels more natural, somehow. Therapy has never felt natural to me. I guess that’s just me. Also, it’s expensive. Did I mention that it is expensive? I’m kind of a cheapskate, in case you have forgotten.

Anyway…

I sat down and wrote this up today for two reasons:

One) I plan this year to get back to writing, and this seemed like a logical place to start. I can start journaling. Honestly, as I sit here writing, I don’t even know if I plan to share this with the world. I am writing this in a Word doc on my MacBook Air, and it may never see the light of day. If you are reading it, we will know what decision I made. Hopefully, writing this way will lead to other writing. Who knows? Maybe I will take a class. God knows I could use a little more class. (Ha. See? I’m funny)

Two) I need to get back to being me this year. I am not able to carry the weight of knowing I have this secret funk lurking in my life; and, even ‘though I cannot share details about it, I think just sharing the fact that there was a Thing, and it was Bad, might help. Just so people know that I actually have been dealing with something. You know, because I know people must have been wondering. I feel like I haven’t been true to myself. Like I have been presenting a façade to the world, and I don’t do that well. So, I guess this is me, very vaguely, coming clean. ish. sorta.

I know that, if I share this, people will, most likely, start all kinds of wild speculations about what The Thing was. Can I ask you a huge favour? Don’t. Please. Just…stop it. If it was your business, it would have happened to you. I know that’s a tall order. But, you know, it’s also a respect for privacy thing. I’m asking. I would do the same for you.

So, I guess, in a way, this is me, getting a jump on my New Year’s Resolutions.

I’m off to a decent start, really, if you count yesterday. I talked to my mom and dad, and my cousin, Alice, very briefly, on the phone. Left a message for one of my very best friends (will call another today). Texted back and forth with my big brother (because we are just so cool and modern like that), and set up a time to call and talk (we penciled each other in ~ I’m having my people call his people ~ we are ever so Important). Talked on the phone with my big sister, while going for a walk around the neighbourhood, thereby killing two birds with one stone (my least favourite idiom ~ so gruesome!). I also cleaned the bathrooms, dust-mopped all the hard floors, did some laundry, tidied up the house, worked in the yard a little, emptied the rain barrel (just in time for today’s rain), made a nice dinner, did my physical therapy, practiced banjo, and baked the last of the froggers. Then, I took a hot bath with Epsom salts, because some of that was a lot of work, and sat down to watch an episode of Major Crimes with Shane. I even worked a little bit on a ruffle scarf while watching.

This morning, I awoke to find the rain has come to wash away the dregs of 2016, and not a second too soon. So, today, I’ll balance the checkbook, and make sure all of the bills are paid. I might even make a pot of soup. Seems appropriate for a rainy Southern California day.

Wishing you all peace at the end of this year, whether or not it has been a rough one for you; and wishing us all a bright and beautiful New Year. I think we all deserve it.

 

*For clarification purposes: the terms “bleeding,” “band-aid,” and “8-gazillion dollars” are as analogous in this piece as cherries. I am not bleeding. Well, not at the moment. Give me time. I am very accident-prone. I do have a chronic health problem that requires constant medication. I would rather not be specific.  It’s a thing I do.

Necessity ~ by Sam

I keep trying to come up with something to say about the New Year, and, you know what?  I got nothin’.

I am a work in progress.  If I make any headway, you’ll be the first to know.

I think I started out to write about how necessity is the mother of invention… and I am not even sure now where I was going with that.  I think my brain has gone to bed before the rest of me this evening.  Perhaps, I was going to invent something to write about.  Oh, well.  Whatever it was, it’s gone.  I guess I am not feeling very inventive.

I did have a moment, not long ago, when we got up to Lake Arrowhead for a brief vacation with friends, and I realized I had brought my banjo, but not my fingerpicks.  I could have tried to play without picks, but I have virtually no fingernails to speak of, and, besides, I like to play with fingerpicks.  So, out of necessity, I fashioned some preposterous little fingerpicks out of the poptops (from ginger beer cans) and paperclips.  They were pretty silly-looking, and not the most comfortable thing in the world, but I was able to play, and that made vacation much better.  For me, anyway.  I can’t say anyone else felt about it.

IMG_9870IMG_9873IMG_9874

So, maybe there is hope yet for my inventiveness.  Maybe it’s just napping.  If not, at least I can play my banjo.

Good Morning, 2014 ~ by Sam

It’s 11:16 on the morning of January 1st, 2014, and I am the only one awake here.  Last night was spent at an annual New Year’s party at the home of our dear friends, the Foxes.  Once again, a grand time was had by all.  I want to take a moment to thank our “playgroup” friends for the numerous ways in which they have contributed over the years to making our lives rich, joyous and low-stress.

When Hallie was a toddler, we joined an infant playgroup through a local chapter of MOMS Club.  If you are a mom, and you haven’t heard of MOMS Club, you should.  Honestly, I don’t know what I would have done with little kids ~ 3,000 miles from my hometown and all of my extended family ~ without the support I received from the wonderful people I met through MOMS Club.  Check them out here  https://www.momsclub.org/  to find more information, locate a chapter in your area, or start one of your own. I guarantee, you will not regret it.

Over the years, five families from Hallie’s MOMS Club infant playgroup have remained close.  The other four families have become our family here.  We have picked up each other’s kids from school, enjoyed moms and/or dads nights out, played, had sleepovers, partied, vacationed and grown together.  The 5 girls (formerly known as infants) are now teenagers, and remain the best of friends.  We are the only family with an older child, and one of 4 with a younger child.  The other children are best of friends, too, as are the adults.

I honestly do not know what we would do without all of these wonderful people in our lives.  I need people in my life.  I am a terrible loner.  I mean, I guess I am interesting enough for a while, but, having grown up close to my large extended family, I need to be surrounded by people.  For my kids, this is like growing up with cousins, aunts and uncles nearby was for me.  We celebrate one another’s victories, and mourn each other’s losses.  We may not be blood, but we are family.

The reason I bring this up today is that I have decided that my major focus this year is going to be on keeping life as low-stress for myself, Shane and the kids as possible.  With a new house, Shane working multiple jobs, me not working due to continuing health challenges, one kid looking at colleges, another at high schools and the third at middle schools, you might think this would be difficult, and you’d be 100% correct.  That’s why I am so grateful for the support we receive from our friends and family, near and far.

So, for instance, when I can know that, on New Year’s Eve, we can all count on having a wonderful time partying safely at a friends’ home ~ where big kids can do their thing, little kids can do their thing, and grown-ups can do their thing, all safe under one roof, that takes a lot of stress off me ~ no celebration to plan, no arrangements to make for kids; just throw on a dress and bring an appetizer to share. That’s my kind of party!  (And I won chocolate in one of the party games, and we all know good chocolate melts away stress.)

When we can throw a simple Tree-Trimming party at home and have it turned in a fabulous, memorable event when one of the other dads in our group gets the kids organized enough to put on a little variety show for guests, we realize, again, just how deeply our friendships enrich ours lives and the lives of our children.  I have tried, but have never managed to host the party AND get the kids to provide entertainment, ‘though it has always been a dream of mine.

When I can know that, if my kid suffers the effects of severe asthma while on vacation in the mountains, I am going to have a support system in place, right there with me ~ when Shane’s boss gives us a trip to the spa during that same vacation, nobody will mind if we leave our kids at the house for a few hours while we slip off to the spa to relax after Holiday stress and pushed up deadlines ~ it takes so much stress off us as parents.  I am eternally grateful for the continued support of our playgroup friends ~ ‘though, now, “play” often means watching Sherlock, Doctor Who and anime, or practicing a capella arrangements ~ and I catch myself thinking, “I can only hope they know how much we appreciate them.”  Then, I catch myself again; and I realize I can do more than hope.  I can say it.

So, thank you, Sheryl, Tim, Megan & Marshall; Priya, Chris, Maya & Nadia; Lisa, Ray, Gianna & Ryan; Lauren, TJ & Makenzie for being our California family.  Thank you for laughing, crying, playing and fighting with us, because that’s what families do.

Thank you, too, to our far-away friends and family, and to those nearby whom we see less often.  We receive so much love, support and encouragement from all of you that we are constantly humbled by your compassion, your kindness and your concern for our little family.   Thank you to our “Arizona family” (also a great group of friends) who supported us through college and marriage and our first venture into parenthood, and who continue to support and love us today.

More than anything, thank you all for letting us be the nutty, freaky people we are, and for loving us, anyway.  Everyone should be so lucky to have such friends.

To all of our readers: I wish you a healthy, prosperous, joyful, low-stress year, in which you are surrounded by people who love you and make you feel good about yourselves.  Remember, in the words of one of my favourite angels (Second-Class): “No man is a failure who has friends.”

Now, go make 2014 the best year yet.