To celebrate my (hard-won eventual) success at learning to use Block Editor, I thought I’d share my Christmas letter with all my WP peeps, a summary of the ups and downs that contributed to my hiatus. If you already received a paper copy via snail mail, you are not obligated to read it again.
THE HARRIS CHRISTMAS CHRONICLE 2021 EDITION
Christmas is fast approaching, family and friends, and the drawing at the top of this letter pretty accurately sums up our year. Think of those spinning plates as physical, mental, and dental health, caretaking of husband, pets, and other family members, keeping our hundred-year-old house and aging cars in working order, doing Zooms and coffee dates, adjusting to new technology (computer and Bluetooth hearing aids), getting vaccinated for COVID, figuring out what to make with the oodles of bell peppers arriving weekly in our summer farm share, submitting poems and filing rejection letters, while doing the things that normal people do—wondering if eating potato salad at a family picnic is a bad idea, getting blisters from wearing new sneakers to Cedar Point, hoping my use of the word “sneakers” doesn’t brand me as old, enduring haircuts at Great Clips from stylists who graduated beauty school last month, sitting outside wearing two jackets and gloves to pass out trick-or-treats to ten kids wearing winter coats under their costumes, and pondering the mysteries of life, like why I think Callie is tan and Peaches is orange when, in fact, my dog and cat are the same color.
Age eventually catches up with all of us. In April, after years of relative peace with his diagnoses, Brian had to be hospitalized for a mental breakdown. In their zeal to get to the bottom of things, the doctors ran a lot of tests. These unearthed low thyroid and Vitamin D, mild sleep apnea, and pre-diabetes. One day, he took no daily meds—the next, he was filling the biggest Pill Minder on the market. His vision became blurry. Stronger reading glasses helped with small print, but I still do most of the driving. Ten hopelessly decayed teeth were extracted. By comparison, my health problems—worsening hearing loss, a persistent sinus infection, and weekly chiropractic adjustments and allergy shots—seemed almost trivial. When our 11-year-old dog Tailor fell ill, therapy was my salvation. At each session, I poured out another chapter in the unfolding story. How the vet examined his lame leg, said he had torn his ACL, and referred him for surgery. How by the day of his Ortho appointment, he had lost 13 pounds. How x-rays showed an intact ACL, but also a shadowy mass in his pelvis that turned out to be colon cancer. How he went to the Rainbow Bridge on June 21, the first day of summer. He is survived by his heartbroken dog parents and two tan (or orange?) fur-siblings, co-Alphas in the new household order. A few weeks into autumn, my invincible mom fell and broke her leg, just below the hip joint. On the fourth of October, my surgeon gave to me… four Oxycontin, three rods and pins, two weeks of rehab, and a walker with tennis ball feet!! She is currently convalescing at my sister Judy’s house, doing physical therapy and outrageously difficult jigsaw puzzles.
Between appointments, we coped with smaller crises, like a burned-out attic fan, a sink with a hairball, and a relentless supply of farm share vegetables. I used my stimulus check to have a crown replaced. A week later, my aging computer, whose touch-screen had been overly touchy for months, conked out. I drove to Best Buy on the hottest day of summer and plunked down $1500 for a shiny Dell laptop. On the way home, the AC in my Honda breathed its last. For a minute there, I questioned the Lord’s judgment regarding how much I could handle.
In times of doubt, it’s helpful to count your blessings. Like having an attic, access to farm-fresh produce, and hundreds of gratis government dollars to spend on things you need. Readily available COVID vaccines with nothing but minor arm soreness afterward. An end to wiping down groceries with Clorox towelettes. The safe return of our nephew Chris from his overseas AF assignment followed by a blow-out homecoming party in the park. The safe return of Brian’s lost cell phone… Twice. Strolls along the Cedar Point midway. Julie’s summer visit, including outings to the Carousel Museum and Toft’s Dairy. Sharon’s birthday visit, a whirlwind of autumn leaves, food truck gyros, and tea cart conversations. A new Ohio driver’s license that doesn’t expire for eight years! Finding Christmas gifts in this, the Year of the Back Order.
As for what I’m writing? You’re looking at it. I submitted a few pre-pandemic pieces to the local 44839 contest and, at a live reading in September, was awarded first prize for my poem People of Greyhound. A month later, a fellow poet who attended the event brought me a Greyhound badge he’d come to possess when his friend, a career driver, passed away. It resides in my Special Box, a tangible reminder of the connections I’ve made through my writing. An unexpected email from Team Erma (Bombeck) had me LITERALLY jumping up and down. It said 2020 essay winners had been granted free admission to their 2022 conference. Did I want to attend in-person or virtually? That morsel of good news put me back in the black in the Giant Ledger in the Sky, but doing the Happy Dance caused me to pull a muscle and smell like Ben Gay for the rest of the day. Please don’t say that’s the “new normal” at my age; I’ve really come to hate that expression.
Phrases like “new normal” are eye-rollers in my book. Whatever this is, it ain’t normal. That’s exactly what Jesus must have thought when he woke up in a manger on Christmas morning. Just when he got used to swaddling clothes, warm milk, and naps, he had to flee to Egypt and live on the lam, then move to Nazareth, learn to be a carpenter, turn water into wine, feed a crowd with provisions from his disciples’ knapsacks, and finally, die nailed to a cross. Makes spinning those plates seem like child’s play, doesn’t it? Maybe I’ll up the ante and try it with my Christmas china! Just kidding!!
May the Ringmaster watch over your circus, at Christmastime and always.
Love, Joan, Brian, Callie, and Peaches