Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Joy Is in the Living

As Christmas approaches, I feel the urge to write...especially because a friend told me the other day that she misses reading these updates. I apologize, dear reader, for not posting here more often in the past few months. I have been responding to the siren's call of Facebook and using it to update so many people about our day-to-day lives, even though not everyone is on Facebook very often.

So, here's a brief (let's not kid ourselves--it's as brief as I can make anything) summary of our year:

Mike began a contract in November 2010 at Ball Corporation, and in May of 2011, they hired him full time. He, the new man on the team, was going to be relegated to working a lot of overtime while everyone went on vacation in the summer. That never let up. Since about July or August, he has been working 60- to 84-hour work "weeks." Understandably, much of the responsibility for the gardening and care of the house fell to me.

In the spring, a lovely neighborhood dog showed up at our house and seemed to adopt us. We loved her greatly and renamed her Princess from Snowball, because she really was a princess. She kept us company and brought us much joy throughout the summer. Around the beginning or middle of August, she showed up a little injured one day. Then she disappeared.

In July, we learned I was pregnant again. We were cautiously optimistic, but we didn't want to tell anyone until we made it out of the first trimester. In August, we lost that baby, as well. I was about 6 weeks pregnant. The good news was that the miscarriage went much more swiftly and effectively than the first. I still had to go to the ER because I lost so much blood, but it was over very quickly and I suffered no more than the "normal" ill effects of a miscarriage--almost all emotional, and only a few cramps physically. Overall, we were sad but hopeful. It took us less than two years to get pregnant this time, whereas it had taken us three or more years the first time, and this pregnancy progressed further, and we had a lot of emotional and physical support this time, in the form of very good friends, Becca Sparks Lowry, Christina James Chase, Dana Fischer Welborn, and Jill Bastian Truax chief among them.

In the late summer/early fall, Sir George, our older kitty, began to decline healthwise. I made an appointment to have him put to sleep, but either I waited too late or he decided he preferred to pass on at home. Becca was with me via text, and Tina was with me through the day. Both provided tremendous emotional support. George passed away at the ripe old age of 18. It wasn't as peaceful a death as I would have hoped for, but he died at home, with me right by his side. I was incredibly honored to be with him in his last few hours. I know, he was only a cat, but to share a natural death with another being you love is truly touching. George is "planted"--for whatever reason, that day, when I talked about trying to bury him, all I could say was "plant," go figure--in our front yard, under the maple tree and next to the boxwoods lining our driveway.

A very short time later, because Maury seemed to be very much missing George's company, we adopted Cali, a real sweetheart of a kitty. We were told she was a little more than a year old, but she is still very much a kitten, though she had already had a litter of kittens before we adopted her. She was not very keen on Maury at first, doing a lot of hissing and spitting and growling, but with patience and calm, he soon won her over. Within two weeks, they were almost as good of friends as Maury and George.

Our garden gave some good harvests this year, despite its neglect. Through the summer, we were on a night shift, so we didn't have long each day to really tend it. Even now, only three days from Christmas, we haven't removed the stakes or fencing from our garden, because we have so little time. In addition, this was the busiest summer *I* have ever had for my freelance work, and even though I had a full crew of people helping me, we were still swamped at maximum capacity with slow turnaround times for most of the summer...the summer I had wanted to use to go slowly so I could care for the house and garden while my husband worked insane amounts of overtime.

So, you ask, why aren't I mentioning my husband more? Well, because I barely see him. The only things I really know about him since August are that he is perpetually exhausted, he's trying to fix his Montero single-handedly, and he has a blood elf paladin that has partnered with my blood elf priest for the past two weekends in the world of Kalimdor while he has been too exhausted to do anything but sit in front of a computer and I've been too tired to care, as I'm in the first trimester of my third pregnancy.

We've shared the news of the pregnancy this time. Not telling most people last time turned out to be a little too emotionally stressful for me, especially trying to work out getting to doctor appointments and the like with Mike's very limited free time. Plus, I believe strongly in the power of prayer and positive thoughts and know that when two people get together to pool their "spiritual resources," they create benefits greater than two working individually. So, I'm telling anyone and everyone and unabashedly asking for prayers, energies, positive thoughts, whatever, to keep this pregnancy going in the right direction. So far, it seems to be working well. I've had some spotting in this pregnancy, as I did in both the others. The thing is, we don't know if the spotting in those other pregnancies were precursors to my miscarriage or if it's just normal for me to spot. With all the prayers and positive thoughts for us, however, the spotting has been minimal this time and has tapered away. Now, if it appears, it's once, maybe twice, a day, right before bedtime and right when I get up in the morning. I'm amazingly calm this time around. Even though I have yet to find an OB. Even though I have a history of miscarriage. Even though hormones are doing their damnedest to make me anxious. It's partly because I know that if I'm going to miscarry in the first trimester, there's not much I can do about it, so I take the best care of myself that I can, getting plenty of sleep, not overexerting myself, but still staying active, and eating the best I can with random nausea spikes and food aversions. With every new "pregnancy woe," as one of my friends called them, I cheer. I smile. And I share. And my friends on Facebook cheer with me. And smile with me. And offer words of encouragement. And so that's another reason I'm amazingly calm--because I know that, no matter what happens, I have amazing friends and family supporting me, cheering with me, crying with me. And that makes a HUGE difference.

I just keep hoping and praying for the best and telling the baby that he or she is very, very loved and will be fortunate to be born into such a loving circle. In addition, the baby will have a grandpa (we haven't yet worked out if he wants to be Pappaw, Grandpa, Gramps, Geezer, etc.) with a new lease on life. My dad had bariatric surgery not long after our miscarriage in August. My mother tells me I won't recognize him, as he's lost more than 100 pounds. I'm looking forward to seeing him tomorrow to see him at the lightest I've ever seen him. Hell, he might even be lighter than me now...I have no idea!

We miss Mike's friends and family in Oregon, but our friends have really stepped up to help lighten the sadness a bit this year. Though we didn't get to travel to share Thanksgiving with my parents or his, and though none of our family members could share that holiday with us, we did get to host Becca and her husband, Shaun, and we had a great day.

And so, as Chanukkah has begun, people all over the world are celebrating Yule, and Christmas approaches, we are happy and hopeful. Mike is researching options for starting his own business. He's also trying to study so he can take a test for another certification. And he's enduring the incredibly long hours at work, getting whatever experience he can as he sorts out when he will leave if he wants to leave, and what he will do when he leaves. He's got two (nonconsecutive) weeks of vacation coming to him in May if he's still at Ball then--the first vacation he will have ever received. That's right, EVER. Since leaving grad school, he's been unemployed or employed in seasonal jobs or working as a contractor and in jobs that don't award vacations or that give vacations only after a full year of employment. So, May is when we have our sights set on him taking more than two days off. He may be taking a week-long certification class, but who knows?

2011 has been a challenge for us, but it has also been rewarding. We've had sorrow, and we've had joy. And I'm sure we have more of both to come, but we look to 2012 [even the coming return of Nibiru/release of Becca 2.0/end of the Mayan calendar/shift of the magnetic poles/return of Cthulu/galactic alignment/return of Jesus/Armageddon/cosmic shift in consciousness/zombie apocalypse (well, *I* can never look forward to a zombie apocalypse. We all know my fear.)] with hope. It's the only thing that keeps us going--aside from each other...and all of you.

So, to all of you, I wish you the happiest of whatever holidays you are celebrating, and the rosiest of new years. Thank you for being there for us, and for loving us. We appreciate all you do for us.

* Stringham high: Life is beautiful.
* Stringham low: Separation from loved ones for far too long.
* Stringham super-high: Our blessings, including loved ones, are too numerous to count!

(Remember that if you view the post on my blog, the title links to a video specially chosen for the day.)

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