Thursday, December 9, 2010

We're Back!

Dear Friends and Family,
We would like to take this opportunity to share our story, express our gratitude, and extend our wishes for a wonderful 2011.  Though holiday letters are not our usual style, recent events have prompted us to send more than the annual funny picture and handcrafted card.

The year 2010 brought many challenges, blessings, and changes for our family.  We faced them all with my typical trepidation and Michael’s ever present optimism.  Before going into detail, let me first say that despite all of the bumps in the road and difficulties, when all was said and done, we emerged stronger and closer than ever as a family.  I’m constantly reminded of what wonderful boys we have and how incredibly lucky the four of us are to have each other.

Beginning with Joel:  Our oldest is a continual source of pride and comfort.  We are so impressed with the amazing human being that Joel has become.  He has a heart the size of Montana and can be counted on by friends and family alike.  Joel has been apprenticing with a talented interior finish carpenter this year and has learned a great deal while working very hard at both the carpentry and his night job at Hamlin Pub.  Little did we know when Joel first began working with his boss that he would play a key role in one of our biggest challenges this year.  In addition to all of this, Joel has continued to strengthen his relationship with Sarah, a young lady that we love and adore.  I thank God for Joel every day.  He is a wonderful son, an outstanding brother, and an all around great guy.

Trevor:  our youngest (now 22) made us very proud by graduating from the University of Michigan in May.  He found out earlier in the year that he had been accepted into medical school at Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.  This of course represents both a blessing and a challenge from mom’s point of view!  Soo happy that he was accepted at his first choice of schools, and sooo sad to have him move so far away!  In addition to the academics, Trevor continues to excel in his efforts as a power lifter.  He has steadily improved his personal best and derives great satisfaction from the sport.  We miss him very much, but through the magic of the internet and cell phones have managed to keep in touch with our baby boy. We are so blessed to have Trevor in our lives.  

Michael:  This year has provided Michael with many learning opportunities at Televideo where he has mastered Final Cut Pro and has proven to be an editor extraordinaire.  Michael’s support and understanding during some rough patches in my life have been invaluable and have proven just what excellent taste I have in men!  His current project as an independent is a documentary film called The Goatyard.  Many of his films have been shown at the Detroit Mitten Project this year.  He is also sharing his editing talents as adjunct faculty for Baker College where he teaches basic editing techniques utilizing Final Cut Pro.

Mugsy and Meggie:  Mugsy continues to be both a stinker and a constant source of joy to me!  He is adorable and is beginning to sleep through the night.  Meggie tuned 14 this fall and has had some health issues.  The week we moved back home, she developed severe ear infections and Vertigo.  It has taken her two weeks to begin to walk again and she still looks like a drunken sailor when she crosses the room.

The there’s me:  Well, the year began with two different doctors giving me a knock up the side of the head.  Within two months I heard the words, “at high risk for breast cancer” and “diabetes”.  Combine that with a very rough economy, pressure from the state, and a family history of failing health by the age of 54, I decided to retire early.  It was a very tough decision but something that I felt I had to do.  I started an online art business and began my journey into the art world.  I had a wonderful summer both creating art and spending every possible minute with Trevor.  I lost 60 pounds, stabilized my blood sugar, and prepared to become an empty nester.  We moved Trevor to Florida in August (lots of tears) and as a coping mechanism I turned his bedroom into my long dreamed of art studio.  Of course a physical undertaking such as that could never happen without my injuring myself.  Day one of remodel had me breaking my toe and Day two found me falling over a dog and destroying my knee.  I ended up flying to Florida for Trevor’s white coat ceremony with a purple leg (it was also a great introduction to my new “retiree” insurance policy – no more trips to the ER for me!  Did I mention that Trevor had a car accident three weeks before he left and we had just that amount of time to find him another vehicle?)

Trevor moved on August 31st.  My art studio was completed by September 9th.  On September 10th we had a house fire that completely destroyed the art studio and resulted in enough smoke damage to move us into a hotel for two months.  We had our dogs with us.  It was cozy!  The blessing:  we all survived the fire (even the dang tarantula).  The challenge:  living in a hotel room with two dogs, having all of our belongings moved to a warehouse, losing everything in my studio (including lots of art work), dealing with contractors, unpacking four truckloads of boxes (the week before Thanksgiving) when we were finally able to move back in, and dealing with muscle pains we hadn’t faced in years.

Now for the gratitude::  It’s amazing to see the people who come forward when you find yourselves down and out.  We would like to say that we couldn’t have gotten through it all without my brother and his family taking care of our dogs until we could bring them to the second hotel, my brother calling me every day to check on me, my sister-in-law making us a wonderful lasagna dinner, my father doing our laundry and helping to dog sit, my mother-in-law feeding us and helping to clean once we began moving back, Mrs. Becker feeding us, Dan and Nancy Burns feeding us every Wednesday for two months (those dinners became our little mid-week oasis in the midst of incredible stress and turmoil) and Nancy  helping me to unpack boxes once we moved back, Deborah calling every week to check on me, Carol calling to offer support, Joanne taking me to dinner and a show to lift my spirits, Ryan and CamieLee sending me text messages every week to keep my spirits up, our next door neighbors Mike and Marilynn for taking us into their home, watching our things,  and offering comfort, our neighbors across the street Jamie and Scott taking us into their home the night of the fire to use their phone and give us a place to sit while the firefighters did their thing (thank you to the firefighters!), the card and gift from Mike Nowinski to help us get through the extra expense of living in a hotel, MaryLou coming to the hotel to keep me company during some dark days, our son Joel putting in 115 hours of hard labor along with his boss to get our house back in living condition by Thanksgiving as well as coming to the hotel every Monday night along with Sarah to feed us and keep us company, the wonderful people at CropStop who sent me a care package of art supplies for the hotel room, and Trevor and Meghan coming home from college to help us unpack.  If we missed anyone, thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

Thank God for friends and family! We are home, we are grateful and we are desperately wishing you and yours a fabulous holiday season and a safe, loving New Year.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!  The Pfaendtners J