Our annual Christmas letter

This Christmas, quite frankly, finds us in a rather challenging place.

In October, Pete was diagnosed with bladder cancer and is now undergoing chemotherapy. And just as he was preparing to begin his chemo treatments two weeks ago, I was taken by ambulance to the ER for chest pain and really bad heartburn that turned out to be … a heart attack. So I got two stents for Christmas.

Despite the distressing news, we both consider ourselves fairly lucky. Pete’s cancer was actually discovered accidentally, while he was being screened for something else. If his cardiologist hadn’t spotted the mystery mass on his CT scan, who knows how far the cancer would have progressed before it was caught? And my heart attack was caught early enough, the doctors don’t think there will be permanent heart damage.

We also had some major sadness in our household earlier this year. We lost our sweet Olaf DaVinci in the spring. Oley was a big, beautiful, majestic and totally lovable Maine Coon cat with a flamboyantly irrepressible personality. He had a studious little face, thick luxurious fur and a magnificent plume of a tail. He loved to sit on laps. We miss him terribly.

Here he is on the table in our sunroom, the king of all he surveys.

The coming months are going to be a bit of a challenge as Pete continues his chemo, followed by surgery, and I begin cardiac rehab. So everyone’s prayers are greatly appreciated!! Luckily we have been surrounded by the love of supportive family and friends as we go through all this, along with delicious meals sent our way by some special angels.

We’ve even gotten support from complete strangers who probably have no idea how much of an impact their small action is having. When we’re out and about, we make a point of driving by the house on MacArthur Boulevard with this sign in their yard.

Despite the sad and scary stuff, there have been some bright spots this year.

Pete turned 80 in September, and about 30 friends and relatives turned out for our Zoom birthday party. It was GREAT seeing everyone, including people from California, Colorado and upstate New York, as well as Illinois, Iowa and Missouri, most of whom probably would not have been able to attend an in-person celebration.

We’re now part of the Associates Program for the Dominican Sisters in our community. Associates assist, among other things, with the Dominicans’ social justice activities. We had both admired the Dominican Sisters for a number of years. During our 20-plus years of working for human service agencies (me) and teaching at Benedictine University (Pete), we saw up close the many valuable contributions they’ve made to our community and the world.

The photos below show us with our sponsor during the commitment ceremony at the Motherhouse in May.

We continue to be involved in our own congregation. Since COVID broke out, we’d been “attending” church online and doing book group and Bible study sessions via Zoom, and we continue to do so due to our health concerns. We miss being in our church’s choir, which we sang in for years. But we’re finding other ways to contribute our time and talents in our congregation.

Since January, we’ve been leading a new adult faith formation class called Sundays@6, which meets on Zoom. So far, we’ve covered subjects ranging from the 10 Commandments to evangelism to what we can learn from Christians whose denominations are different from our own. The group has about 8-10 regulars who “attend” each week, and the discussions are great!

This year we also had extensive landscaping work done in the spring. I planted lots of native perennials, as well as an abundance of annuals. I’ve found gardening to be therapeutic, and the yard is looking beautiful! We’ve turned our flower beds into a welcome center for hummingbirds and bees and butterflies, and managed to attract some much-loved visitors (above).

And we still have our sweet, lovable, ornery, beautiful Champie Cat. He has been such a source of joy to us as we’ve survived this past year. I often refer to him as our furry little comforter. He was a “rescue kitty” we adopted from a shelter 15 years ago, but there could be a definite debate about who’s rescued whom. We love him so much, and he has us utterly wrapped around his paw!

Here’s hoping everyone has a safe Christmas and an even better New Year.

27 thoughts on “Our annual Christmas letter

  1. I can only imagine how hard all of this has been. But I am so relieved to know that the prognosis is good! I will keep praying. I am so deeply sorry for the loss of your kitty too. I know there are no words for how much that hurts. May Jesus be so close, comforting and strengthening you and drawing you both ever closer to His heart.

    P.S. I love that picture of Champie so much!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Oh, my! I will be praying for you and Pete, as this year gets underway. I pray for healing and recovery for both of you. I love the sign you drive by. And yes, everything will be okay. One of my favorite Dallas Willard sayings is that, in the kingdom of God, things are far better than we could ever imagine. Grace and peace to you!

    Liked by 3 people

  3. That’s a lot to deal with in a short space of time. You’ll have my prayers as well. When life gets extra hard, I look for anything extra funny to bring balance to my heart and body. Extra rest is vital to healing and that in itself is hard for us to do. You have already come through so many challenges that you will both certainly overcome these. Wishing you a brighter new year.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Hey, you two oldies but goodies, hang tough, fight the good fight of life. Eat well, exercise and think good thoughts through the challenges of life. I have a good idea of your challenge. Kick its ass!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This has really been a year of challenges and opportunities for both of you. Your ability to take all of these happenings and weave them into your Christmas greeting is another gift for communication and journaling skills. We are still pretty strict in our inviting people to join us in worship and meals. Just when it looks like COVID is letting up, something pops up and precautions resume. So sorry you both have had health challenges.

    Liked by 3 people

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