Happy New 2009

Blogger’s Note: I don’t think we’ll be sending many holiday cards this year. Aside from the expense, I just can’t get myself motivated to do it. So I’ll be emailing the following post to most friends as a holiday email, and sending it in letter form to those close to me who aren’t comfortable on the internets.

I apologize for the repetitive (to my blog readers) portions of our family’s newsy 2008 letter, but it seemed like it would be a nice blog post.

It’s January 2009, our family is intact, we’re all here, relatively healthy and happy to be with each other.

So far in our story we’d moved to MN in Feb 2007, a few weeks later the diagnosis of Gerry’s Multiple Myeloma began and later that year he had a stem cell transplant to stop this insidious blood cancer in its’ tracks.

Aside from continuing bone pain, a loss of many inches in height (we disagree – he says 4″, I say 6″) and a new found appreciation of the phrase, “Your days are numbered…” we continue oddly intact as a family. Honestly, whose days aren’t numbered?

The cancer, although not officially in remission, is what is called, “Smoldering” – meaning the numbers are good, it’s not currently active or growing, but it’s there and according to all the docs it will, eventually, return.

In 2008 we’ve had to settle into a daily routine of pain and fear punctuated with – well, it has to be said – the reduced financial situation of a single-adult earner in a medically affected household. This is when we give up our amateur status in the

It sounds worse than it is – Gerry being home and present is actually quite a blessing (this is said in a secular tone) and allows the kids to spend more time with him than most kids would get with their fathers in 5 childhoods. Yay, cancer!

I’ve cut down my travel and teaching schedule dramatically. When I’m away more than a few days the pressure on Gerry to be two parents is so hard that it almost breaks him, and he is so kind and wonderful that he can’t (or won’t) tell me.

The Minnesota Treat
Originally uploaded by modeknit

Thank heaven for kids with keen eyes and big hearts. Hannah and Max report – in a loving way – about how Dad is doing when I’m away, and this has helped me make the decision that no matter what the cost financially, I can’t afford to be away from home for extended periods during this time.

This means I’ve been writing and designing more this year than last, not as much as I’d like (who ever does DO as much as they’d like?) but I’m keeping my hand in. I’ve had designs in most of the major knit magazines this year and hope to continue the trend, perhaps working back up to my 2 designs in most mags by the end of the year.

I also published a book in September, “Knit with Courage, Live with Hope”, a title that makes me cringe and grin simultaneously.

It’s a cheesy title for a book, but I figured if any title would get me on Oprah, this might be it… It’s the 12-month story of our lives from Jan 2007 to Jan 2008 as we learn why Gerry’s back is hurting so much, what MM really means, and how to be grateful and happy in the midsts of what seems (from the outside) as a tragedy. Please.

Our lives are so blessed (once again, secular..) that to complain about anything would be not only mean and small, but idiotic and ungrateful.

Oy – I didn’t mean to get all preachy (secular…) You can take the girl out of the fundamentalist Methodist childhood, but can you ever separate the fundamentalist child from the woman? We joke that I was actually born Jewish, but kidnapped by a roving band of Methodists and raised as one of their own in Ohio. Weirder things have happened…

The book’s been getting very nice attention. Without a big PR budget we’re pretty much left to small periodical reviews and word of mouth, but it’s doing well. I was approached by an audio book company and one thing led to another. The book – with my voice (aspirated T’s and slight lisp notwithstanding) will be released in early 2009. I’m planning a trip to Baker’s Square for one slice of every type of pie they make as a celebration on that day.

The kids are doing remarkably well. We’re honest with them, for better or for worse, and they seem to thrive under our insane and Simpson-inspired parenting. Both started piano and skiing lessons this year, both excel, both are firmly planted in the ‘above average’ portion of the grade card. Should we expect anything less having moved just south of Lake Wobegone?

The cancer lives with us, but we don’t let it control our lives. We treat it like a child who could throw many tantrums if we’d let it, so we are firm with it and often send it to it’s room. We give cancer frequent ‘time outs’ and so far it’s responding well.

In September Hannah and I realized a 5-year dream (8 years, really, the dream was born when I watched the Eiffel Tower on TV light up on New Year’s Eve 2001) I used up about 2 million frequent flier miles and took Hannah to Paris for her birthday.

We traveled with a new St. Paul friend and her daughter and had an amazing time. Hannah’s taking French this year, and just having been in an environment where folks are communicating in a foreign language is a huge boost to comprehension. I swear, it wasn’t until I was 24 that it sunk in that folks actually DID speak French, that they weren’t just faking it.

Max has fallen in love with the Piano and the Bells (he plays in his school band) and seems to get his musical inclination from Gerry’s side of the family.

He’s also turned out to be an amazing water skiier, downhill skiier and kayaker. Minnesota definitely agrees with him, and he remains a sweet, kind and very fun kid – a little young for his age, but also profoundly wise when we least expect it.

Gerry fights boredom, that’s his biggest adversary.

He’s tired and in pain enough that a regular job is out of the question (if he’d started with one he might have been able to stay with is, but starting as a non-employed newcomer to MN, finding and getting a job that allows for unlimited days off is sort of a pipe dream…)

So aside from helping me with book shipping, and being our chief cook and bottle washer, he is constantly looking for something to engage him and make him feel more a part of the world around him. Winter’s hard for him – it’s cold, his pain is worse and he can’t get out as easily to see folks. But as we’re able to keep the pain under control, I’m trying to get him to look into volunteer opportunities. And, of course, there’s always that Knitting DVD that we’ve been threatening to make for 2 years now…

As far as our family is concerned, the hard part of this year has been the not knowing – how far can we plan? What can we expect? Will Gerry be a 3-year, 5-year, 10-year survivor of this disease?

But when we’re honest with ourselves, will any of us be 3-year or 10-year survivors of life itself?

When Gerry was diagnosed my cousin was in remission from breast cancer and we celebrated. But her cancer returned this year and in October we lost her. Jan was more like a sister to me than a cousin, my last link to a childhood of strong emotions. With her passing, (along with my mother and brother 4 years earlier), there’s no one around with whom I shared a Christmas morning. That’s an odd feeling, and I miss her very much.

Another cousin recently lost her 8-year battle with her own cancer. Patsy passed at the end of 2008 and will be missed by everyone who knew her -she was so loving and funny!

Another close family member, my nephew, Alex, was also diagnosed with cancer this year. He has Ewings Sarcoma and is fighting through treatment (radiation and chemo) right now as surgery has been determined to be too invasive (the tumor is inoperable). He’s a brave kid, with a brave mom who is doing the whole parent thing alone since my brother’s passing. Cancer sucks. You can quote me.

So we, as a family, start 2009 knowing that there are no guarantees, no promises, and the silliest thing any human being can say is, “But it’s not supposed to be like this…”

Life is not supposed to be like anything – it just is.

We’re hoping to regain a bit of the bounce and rhythm we’ve lost over the past 2 years. We’ve gained so much, learned so much. We realize that our greatest good fortune isn’t the current smolder of Gerry’s cancer, but our ability to turn toward each other and grow from this experience rather than let the fear and grief rip us apart.

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