Dear Friends and Family,

I realize it’s been five years since my last holiday letter. I’m sorry. Life intervened. Back then, I put a lot of cute pictures of pH on the card and sent it out early, because I knew we had a lot coming up.

I had no idea.

Back then, pH was two, recently potty trained, and starting to exert her considerable will.

We were homeowners.

kH and I had jobs that stuck us solidly in the middle class.

And…the bottom fell out.

There was a back surgery.

There was a massive falling out with my family, for which I ultimately became grateful, but fallings out, like deaths, leave holes. It doesn’t matter that the relationships were rotten. The hole remains.

There was a bankruptcy.

There was a foreclosure.

There was a massive downsizing on our part, by necessity, which I pretty much had to manage on my own, because kH couldn’t. I put a great spin on it, and it was an adventure, and it was probably the one thing that kept us sane during that year and the next, but it was three years before I could look at pictures of the old house. We did that for two years, and moved again, which I pretty much had to manage on my own again. (I am good at moving, although I hate it.)

It hasn’t helped that in the last two years, pH has informed me daily that she hates where we live now. I used to tell her to stop. I tried turning each instance into a demerit (a dollar off her allowance). Then one day when I was out of patience, I gave up and said, “You know, I hate it, too, but this is where we live and we live here because it is cheap and we have to deal with it and I’m sorry you don’t like it. We will not live here forever.”

(That worked, by the way.)

I wish I could go back in time and tell my humiliated self that the worse thing in my life was not going to be accidentally running into anyone I might have gone to school with or practiced law with during the bankruptcy. (I didn’t.) The worst thing wasn’t losing the house and carefully tended garden. (It wasn’t.)

Four years ago, there was a child having a hell of a time in preschool, so I quit a very difficult job to work with her to get her over that hump, never realizing that what was supposed to be six months would stretch to four years. And six months. So far.

Or that it would turn into homeschooling. Oh, FSM, there is the homeschooling. When I think about sacrifices for kids, I think of maybe not buying something or working extra hours. I never thought it would be embracing penury so I could teach a seven-year-old grammar, history, and math.

(If at this point you are thinking that I just get a job and stick her in school…please go away. No, really. Fuck you. Go watch cat videos.)

There were three months of solid, daily migraines (mine), I don’t remember how many neurologists, medication changes, and MRIs, a cancer scare (mine, negative), and then finally a doctor who listened to me and said, here take these pills. And I did, and I will defend big (or at least generic) pharma until my dying day.

There was a year of five ER visits. We hit our catastrophic insurance deductible in record speed that year. It was really, really expensive.

So far, there have been no ER visits this year. Fingers crossed. We may not even hit our catastrophic insurance deductible, now that most our medications are generic.

(That’s good, because there have been no raises for federal employees, unless we count the 1% raise recently announced by the president. That news came out around the same time we found out we’d be paying 3.8% more for insurance premiums next year. Gosh. Thanks.)

There was kH’s employment debacle, the whistleblowing (his and others), the “accidental” release of our personal information in response to a media Freedom of Information Act request. Say what you will about internet trolls, I cried when I read the nice things people said in the comments of the news stories about kH when people tried to troll him. Because I’d thought no one else knew how much he does for the people where he works. (His management surely doesn’t.)

There was kH, who took this all very hard. There were months of terror (mine). There were long, long weeks he was in therapy. There were lots of panic attacks all around. (This is a gross oversimplification, but this is not kH’s blog.)

But there were also hundreds of leave hours donated to him by other employees to cover his time out of work. We have no way of knowing who gave what and the chances are probably not good that any of them are reading this. But they kept food on our table and paid our rent over the summer. These people gave so many hours we didn’t need them all in the end.

There were friends we could count on when family let us down. Friends. I will cry, so I’ll just say thank you, friends.

There have been good things: despite what pH’s first grade teacher said to me (“She can’t learn”) before we pulled her out of school, pH can read significantly above grade level and we’re past reading/writing perfectionism (not with math yet: she will still break down if she misses a math problem). Through the county she can take swimming and martial arts lessons inexpensively. There is piano, too. We save so she can go to summer day camps. I have done everything I can to keep the insanity from her, although I suppose we’ll never know until she’s in therapy as an adult.

I have not lost my sanity, although it was a near run thing. I credit pH, xanax, friends (yes, it bears repeating), my gratitude journal, and the part of me that was raised to suck it up. Suck it up doesn’t work so well with viruses, but it helps for getting out of bed. (Also, crying in the shower once a week: I give myself permission to do that.)

Last year I resolved that, in 2014, I would write down something I was grateful for every day, and that I would study German every day—and I have. I try to write, but I have decided it’s okay not to write, too. pH is a very spirited seven-year-old. We are reading the Mysterious Benedict Society books together. She is a beautiful child, and I’m pretty sure it’s not just bias on my part. kH plays Skyrim, works to keep his people safe (even though they don’t seem to want to be safe) and tries to keep his agency from doing illegal things (although they seem to want to keep doing illegal things), and has learned to laugh again. It is nice to hear him laugh again.

So I’m sorry about the five-year-gap in holiday letters. This almost went out as a real letter in a real card with real pictures, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to do it. For one, pH wanted to celebrate Hanukkah this year, so we are, and while it would have been fun to confuse everyone with Hanukkah cards, I’m punting.

I hope you understand. The last five years have been a bit tough. Maybe next year I’ll send real cards.

Love, qH and family