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.


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


  1. churchmousie January 7, 2022 / 8:59 am

    I guess we should thank God for the healthcare you and yours have been able to secure and benefit from as well. Whew! A busy year for sure. I hope this coming year is kinder and gentler. May all of your adventures be invigorating!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan January 7, 2022 / 9:34 am

      Thanks, Churchmousie. I hope so, too. We are both disabled vets, so our healthcare is all through the VA.


  2. Tippy Gnu January 7, 2022 / 9:53 am

    Wow, there’s a lot of ups and downs in this post. Sorry for the loss of your dog. And I hope your husband is doing better.

    I also hope you’re over the chronic sinus infection. Maybe the new crown on your tooth will do the trick. I’ve had chronic recurring sinus infections for years. Then last month I had a root canal on an abscessed tooth, followed by a crown, and oila! So far, no more sinus infections. But my fingers are still crossed.

    Congrats on winning first prize for your poem. I’ve always thought you were a good writer, so I’m not surprised you won.

    And congrats on figuring out the Block Editor. Welcome back! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan January 7, 2022 / 11:05 am

      Thanks, Tippy. I still miss Tailor (my dog) every day. He was my constant companion and a total cuddler. Hubby is stable now on meds. I had a root canal revision about 5 years ago, but it didn’t cure my sinusitis like I’d hoped. I think my sinus problem is structural (broken nose and deviated septum from a car wreck many years ago) and allergy-related (why I’m taking allergy shots). No one was more surprised than me about the poetry win. I only submit to make sure some of my poems live on by appearing in a real book. Block Editor is frustrating, but probably because I’m old and set in my ways and dislike having to learn something new to do things I did with ease before the “improvements.” Hope 2022 is good to you.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. murisopsis January 7, 2022 / 9:58 am

    Wow! What a year! I’m glad that your sense of humor has survived and that all the bad stuff has been balanced by really good things! I’m also very thankful that you’ve mastered the Block Editor. As a hint, a friend told me that to eliminate the space between lines do Shift + Enter to get the next line without a new block…. I haven’t tried it as I’m still using Classic editor!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan January 7, 2022 / 11:16 am

      What a year is right! Erma Bombeck always said if you can’t change the bad stuff, at least you can laugh about it. Which is more easily done looking in the rearview mirror after the dust has settled. My biggest disappointment in 2020 was not getting to attend the Erma conference in person; I am crazy excited, and grateful they gave me a second chance. I wouldn’t say I have “mastered” Block Editor, it’s more like a scavenger hunt, pressing various buttons and dropdowns looking for my favorite features. Thanks for the tip, I’ll try it when I have a poem to post.
      Addendum: I went back to a weirdly-spaced poetry post I did on block editor last year and updated it using your tip. It worked. Thank you! 🙂


  4. Carol January 7, 2022 / 10:03 am

    | | | | Hi Joan!I surely enjoyed reading your Christmas letter and I surely do miss you! You have so much on your plate that it is difficult to spin them. I relate to your dog rainbow bridge story. My 16 year old beagle is recently lame in both back legs. Suzy is recently on nerve pain pills and I carry her around. The bridge is near, but difficult as to timing and crossing. Her brother Jack crossed that bridge at 14.5 years. I also read your Greyhound Story. So colorful and interesting. It also bespeaks to your open and welcome hospitality. I remember you most for your constant  smile. Congrats again on your Erma Bombeck win and your 2022 invitation. I moved a couple years ago and am 3 blocks away from UD. it would be good to see you then, or even at Cedar Point sometime in the summer. Meanwhile I have also been diagnosed with mild sleep apnea, and will soon be getting one of those breathing contraptions. But the good news is that better breathing delivers you into more restful deep sleep (REM sleep) which even aids in giving your brain a glymphatic fluid “wishy washy” at night, according to a study I just read. Anything to fight getting older!Carol

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan January 7, 2022 / 11:30 am

      Hi Carol! Great to hear from you. Our fur kids really are our everything, aren’t they? I’m sorry Suzy isn’t doing well. I worried that our other dog might get depressed without her buddy, but she has adapted well. Better than I have. The Erma conference days will be long and full and all meals are provided, so I probably won’t be socializing much. Maybe that’s for the best, with COVIDs new spawn, Omicron. The guy who administrates the local poetry contest and anthology has asked me to be a judge for the 2022 entries. Imagine that! What do I know that makes me qualified to judge others’ work??? Good luck with the breathing machine, I hope it wishy-washes the cobwebs out of your brain and makes you feel years younger. Best in the new year!


    • Just Joan January 8, 2022 / 6:06 pm

      Me, too. Every year has its ups and downs, so 2022 probably won’t be a bed of roses, but I expect it will be less rocky than 2021.


  5. Obong eno January 30, 2022 / 8:06 pm

    Guess it was fulfilling ,this year will be great 🥰


  6. cupcakecache February 6, 2022 / 11:12 am

    wow, I wish you the best. We have also had a challenging beginning to the new year.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan February 6, 2022 / 11:26 am

      I just read your latest post, Cupcakecache, and have to agree. The older we get, the greater the challenges, and sometimes previously quiet things erupt, like a dormant volcano. I’m sure 2022 will have its ups and downs, just like every other year. May the good moments outweigh the bad ones.

      Liked by 1 person

      • cupcakecache February 6, 2022 / 11:53 am

        Yes, I have been spoiled by good health most of my life. I am near retirement age, so my ills are still slight and I have been fortunate. It is a serious time of the year with flu, colds, etc. and since my husband has cancer, he is more vulnerable. Thank you. I hope the good moments will be there for both of us!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. L. T. Garvin, Author February 7, 2022 / 10:12 pm

    Joan, I am very sorry to hear of yours and hubby’s health issues. I hope all is much better now. I am also very sorry about the loss of your beloved dog. As a fellow fur parent, I well understand the love and bonds with our furry family. I am thankful for the Covid vaccines, I do get it about every three months working in public schools, but at least it isn’t as bad as it could be without the vaccines. As for block editor, I have no idea what I am doing, I just type and hope it all works out on the page format. I am glad you are still writing, I rarely write creatively anymore, but there is always a glimmer of hope that I can get something written here and there. Always good to hear from you, Joan.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. lyart March 12, 2022 / 3:20 am

    That’s a real nice XMas letter.


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