Annual Family Christmas Letter for 2013....

                   How Can It Be Christmas 2013 Already?



I’ve been contemplating over writing this “annual Christmas Letter” for weeks. Although it is a tradition, and I am not one for altering traditions; life in itself gives you no choice BUT to alter, change, move, forward, backward, and sometimes even upside down, as far as the traditional sense goes.

I do just sit here in wonderment of just how quickly this year has flown by. It seems each February that rolls around (my birthday month), makes that year fly by swifter than the one before. As kids we fuss that it takes such a long time for holidays, a new school year, Summer to arrive, time for us to have our driver’s license, time to graduate… 
After you are out of school, in a job, possibly have a spouse, a family, and all of the hustle and bustle that goes with those things, time seems to “turn a page” in a greater way than the years before. Marriages seem to go by more quickly, kids grow up just all too fast, and then you are again by yourselves, with an occasional visit from the kids and the Grand kids. 

As I watch my own Grand kids grow, they are also growing from one stage in childhood so fast, and the next thing you know, they are like my Grand Daughter Heather. Here she is a teenager and getting her driver’s license as they turn 16 in the blink of an eye. My oldest Grand son James jut turned 8 on the 6th of December. As I looked at all of his  birthday pictures on Facebook earlier this morning, my memories were of him, just practically a newborn a few weeks after we moved back to Texas in 2005. I am amazed as I think about them visiting at that time, with their first newborn son together; yet now their is the 2nd one Logan, who is sure not a baby anymore either. It was so cute to see Logan right beside James every step he made in those pictures! He follows his “big brother” around everywhere he goes. Then again I see Heather, the oldest as a young woman, not the tiny 2 year old child she was when I first met her. Time has flown by, and it does just seem to fly more quickly with each turn of a page in life. 

We tend to take “time” for granted. So, rather than spend this moment of time fussing about how time flies by, I’ll spend these few moments to let you know a bit about the homes of our families.

Mom is doing well. In fact, she is doing much better than the rest of us in many ways. Her health is good. But, she did go through a bit of a scare with her heart earlier in the year. She had been a bit short of breath, but she called me one morning to say she could not even walk to the mail box without being very winded. So, I called, got her into the doctor, and they thought it was her heart. They wheeled her over to the ER at the hospital next door. Her EKG, blood work, and all indicated she did not have a heart attack, so that was a good thing. In fact her doctor kept her overnight, and monitored her heart, along with doing labs every few hours to make sure nothing was awry. He wanted her to see a cardiologist just for the sake of making sure all was okay. in fact I took her to my own cardiologist, who is just wonderful. Dr. Meg Sullivan put Mom with a couple of other tests, and one was an echocardiogram. There was a “severe” abnormality of her mitral valve, which would not have been caught on an EKG or blood work. It was “sloppy” and loose, thus blood with oxygen is not all getting where it needs to be, thus causing her to be out of breath. The first “echo” was showing this in the “severe” range. That usually means open heart surgery, the only way to repair that valve. I think they have some doctors doing it with a scope, but I am not sure just how well that is going yet. Anyway, I asked Dr. Meg if we could do something “else” before we consider going through a huge surgical procedure. Mom was of course stunned and certainly NOT ready to even think about open heart surgery and I was also quite stunned myself. I think our cardiologist saw that neither of us were exactly thrilled and in fact both of us, Mom and I were in shock. That was the last thing we expected to hear. So, the doctor did suggest that Mom could “increase” one of her medications, Lasix, so it would take MORE fluid from her body. With that, even less sodium intake, adding more Potassium to her schedule, and “decreasing” the amount of fluids she drank daily. Believe it or not, it worked! The Lord was certainly on her side and all of ours. Two weeks after she began this routine, they did another ultrasound on her heart. Not only did the issue go from “severe”, but decreased that “sloppiness” so much, that her mitral valve was almost “normal”, rather than appearing diseased! Talk about miracles! That was a miracle. So far, that was at the first of the year, she has not had any real issues again. I am sure it may come to give problems some day, but for now, she had a 6 month check up about a month ago, and all appears to be well. I was extremely thankful. Mom has been so very fortunate health wise, that I am not sure she would stand to go through something that dramatic as far as a surgical procedure. She is having some horrible pain issues with her right shoulder. It has gotten so bad she is unable to even comb her hair. I’ve been fussing for her to see our Orthopedic surgeon. I feel it could be her neck, since I went through much of the same with mine. After having a shoulder replacement on the right, then also having cervical neck surgery due to continued pain in my right shoulder blade, I fear her issues could be cervical neck related also. Other than this issue with her shoulder, and of course she is having more problems with arthritis, and a bit “feeble” like having to watch going up and down stairs, holding onto rails more, and that kind of thing, she is doing very well to be 78 years old. She sends her love to all.

Both Jason and Amanda; along with Amanda’s husband and three children are all doing okay. Jason recently took a job not far from where Amanda and her family live; about 30 minutes out of Corpus Christi. So, he spends quite a bit of time with her and her family. I  am happy that they have one another close now. They have been close to each other, ever since they grew out of that “kid sister - older brother” stage years ago. It is wonderful to see them enjoy one another and have a good relationship. She stays on the go as usual. Never a dull moment with the three kids and their friends and families. She just doesn’t know “yet” how to sit still very long! Reminds me of “me” when I was her age. 

Jason decided to change a few things in his life. He is out of the career for now of any type of law enforcement, and is now working for a company out of Corpus Christi in the oil business. He seems to like it, and it seems to be less stressful, of course than the law enforcement jobs. Jason has some issues health wise with what seems to be symptoms of Fibromyalgia. He has had “aches and pains” with his joints for several years now. As of this past year it seems that some other symptoms have cropped up. These newer symptoms seem to exemplify more in the range of “FM” (Fibromyalgia)/“CFS/ME” (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome). He has been taking some medication that seems to be helping and our hopes are that he shall continue to see improvement, and be able to continue on with all of his dreams and plans for the future. 

Well, “our home”. Actually things have been not nearly as “upside down” on the health front as the past few years had been. In saying that, I have had “new symptoms” and side effects from the Autoimmune Arthritic Illnesses. They have not been the most pleasant to say the least. I suddenly developed “double vision” the first part of this year. We first thought it was because I was not getting much sleep. So, I was overly tired most of the time, thus it was effecting my eye sight. I went through several doctors/specialists, lots of tests, including a “temporal artery biopsy”, and in the end, one of the best specialists in the field told me, “Frankly, he thinks it’s the Lupus, but is not sure exactly why it is”. He put a totally different type of glasses on me, with spheres in both lenses. They do a great job correcting the double vision, while I am wearing them. With them off, I still see “double”. Although we are still a bit baffled by it all, we also know when it comes to these autoimmune illnesses that have kind of “taken” over; there sometimes it just “not” a “diagnosis” or “explanation” but to say it is one of those. 
I have made change in the RA medication. I am taking “infusions” every 4 to 6 months. The hope is that this medication will somewhat control the RA pain AND our greatest hope is that it will slow down the progression of the damage to my joints. I have my thumbs that are just in terrible shape. The use of my hands continues to get worse each year. Until I have just about lost all use, or the doctors insist on “fusing” the thumb joints or replacing them, I just do things to help assist me in opening things, buttoning, holding and so on. My only other “oddity” is that I recently developed an “oval lump” on my lower left abdomen. I was at three doctors, had a sonogram, and no one could figure it out! (what’s new)… Finally, one of my regular physicians’, PA (assistant) saw me again, and “bingo” she found the problem right away. Of all things I have a “hernia”, actually I now have 2 hernia’s, one on each side; left and right. Only me! From all I have read and been told, hernia’s (inguinal hernia’s) are EXTREMELY difficult to find in females. Plus, they are usually “genetic” in nature. When we are in the womb, well before even “sex” is determined there are two tubes that form, and after that then the “sex” of the baby happens. But, those “tubes” especially in females can be “weak”. That weakness tends to run in families. So, as my PA told me, my own daughter could be subject to having a hernia or hernia’s also. It is only genetic as far as they know, more on the female side. Even though male babies, often have a hernia(s) when they are born, or very small. But those in themselves, supposedly are not “genetic”. I thought it was “wild” but I did some research and that is exactly what I found. I guess we learn something new no matter how old we are. Life to me stays absolutely fascinating for that reason! No matter how lousy I feel, or what is going on, I still love learning something new all the time! Especially when it comes to the “medical realms” of life. 

Jim, is also having one heck of a time with a shoulder/neck problem. He recently had an MRI, and in fact we have not gotten the results as of the time I am writing this letter. Our hopes are, and fingers crossed, that he is not facing surgery. But, it just does not look good. He stays in a tremendous amount of pain, and of all things, the pain is almost unbearable each time he sits down at the computer to work. Well, being the he designs and develops web sites as a career makes it a bad situation all the way around. I pray that rather than be some that needs surgery, that it may be something that is a “chronic inflammatory” process, which possibly corticosteroids in a larger dose, for an extended length of time, and some powerful NSAID”s maybe the answer. Surgery is just not something he wants to face at all. Plus he is without health insurance at the time. As anyone knows that works for themselves, with things in a mess as they are in our country with the health insurance situation, we are not sure how we will face something surgical in nature. But, I know that our “Higher Power” is watching over us, and “He” will make everything happen as it should be. 

I swore I wouldn’t make this long, but here it is, long as usual. I’ll just say a couple more things. I did have my 2nd PUBLISHED book go out earlier this year. I now have TWO books published, and they are on amazon.com   …   I use the “pen” name of “Rhia” or “Rhiannon” Steele. Both are Poetry/short Prose books, and are named “Ramblings of A Seasoned Soul” and the other is “Time Tattered Musings”. If you want to and have a moment look them up and you can “Look Inside the book” on Amazon, on both and read a couple of pages in them. My hope was to have a “3rd” book out by now. My “dream” to  be a “published” author has came true twice! Yet, my ultimate dream is to have the journey of my life in a book published. I have the entire “story” in bits and pieces all over my computer as well as in my blog online, and dozens of “handwritten” journals I’ve kept since I was around 14 years old. Every time I try to “begin” the book though, I just never quite come up with how I want that very first paragraph, page; the first chapter to sound. All of us have “a book” in us, is what I had a dear friend say to me. In a way that is so true. We “all” have a story about our lives, and how we got from point “a” as a youngster to point “b” in our present, plus we have ideas about point “c” where we hope to be in the future. But, some just never write it. I want to take that step and tell my story. Much of it, I’ve never shared with anyone. Much of it, I have shared but with only those I felt could totally understood where I came from. Yet, everyone that knows me well, especially Mom and Jim, have continued to encourage me to write “the” book, book… as I call it. 

I hope to accomplish that “dream” and write the “ultimate”, “Book, Book”, this year. That is if the “Lord willing and the creek don’t rise”, as the saying goes. As far as the “rest” of our family, “Tazzy” and “Bubba Gump”, our two “fur kids” are just as spoiled rotten as ever. They are getting older also as we can tell. Tazz, our Pug, is the oldest. She came with us from Seattle. That was in 2005. She was about a year old then. Bubba, is a
“Chi-Weenie”, and he is a character. They both keep us laughing, and talk about “separation anxiety”. They “cry” if I or Jim leave to go to the store! Bless their hearts, they are so accustomed to the both of us being with them. But, they are a joy, even though they can aggravate the heck out of us as times also. Just like 2 kids for sure!


My “projects” are many. It seems I always have my “fingers” in a different pie. I recently became an “Active Volunteer” for a non-profit Foundation that is trying to help bring awareness to Autoimmune Arthritic Illnesses. I just “graduated” from a several month class learning about the Foundation, and all they are accomplishing. It is truly an amazing story. The “founder” began about 4 years ago, after she was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. She wanted to make a difference and she has truly already done “miracles” through what started out as a “Buckle Me Up Movement” and a bracelet she made with a “belt buckle” at her apartment in San Francisco. From there it has grown to her and 4 “co-founders”, became an official non-profit foundation, and is about 35 volunteers strong and growing quickly. She has honestly accomplished things in 4 short years that many would never accomplish in a life time. And ALL of us have one or more Autoimmune Arthritic Illnesses. The Foundation is International Foundation for Autoimmune Arthritis. I would love it if you have a moment to take a look at their website. Even it does not really tell just how incredible this truly is and how many lives she and all of us as a team shall touch! You can visit the website at: 
http://www.ifautoimmunearthritis.org  …
Also, I will be doing some blogging on their own blog, which is called “Systemically Connected”. Plus my own personal blog, “Gaze Thru Pain - Lupus/RA & This Foggy Brain” is the name of it, and the URL to my blog is :  
http://rhiannonsrisetodreamstate.blogspot.com 
I have to laugh, of course, as I say every year; I’m not going to make my “Annual Christmas Letter” so long! Of course it is always long, and probably longer than usual. I find as I write, there is lots more that went on during the year, than I think did. 

My hope… Our Hope is the you and your families are healthy, happy, and enjoying one another throughout the holidays. May you find peace, joy, and most of all love throughout 2014 and beyond. Know that we think of you often; even though we aren’t close physically, in our hearts and spirit we are always right there.


Much Love, Merry Christmas and A 2014 that shall be Wonderful!  Rhia,Jim, Tazz, Bubba… and All of Our Family!!!! 
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