red Christmas candle with wreath around it

Letter Five, December 1994

Our 3rd Annual Christmas Letter

Wes & Tom's Update '94!

Season's greetings!

Last year, we left off with Tom finally moving to Houston after two years of commuting. I'm including a picture this year because many of you who had not met Tom wanted to know what he looks like. Related, this gives an updated picture of me. We both, of course, look much cuter in person!

Right after the Update went out last year, I got my annual IV antibiotics for the sinus infection I'd had off and on since May '92. But this time it didn't clear up. My doctor suggested we operate again. I wasn't up for that: The operation in '92 was expensive, didn't work, and hurt. I went to a new ENT and the doctor looked up my nose. "Antibiotics are never going to clear this up. It's as thick as peanut butter." A bit descriptive, but it got the point across. He suggested that we use an endoscope and just vacuum them out. I agreed. Within two days of the procedure, I felt great and have not had a sinus infection since. I've been really, really happy about that!

While the IV tube was still in my arm, though, Tom was doing everything around the house. I felt like I wasn't contributing. So, to help ease my conscience -- and because I don't like housework anyway -- we got a housekeeper. He's been a Godsend.

Another thing we did while I was still having sinus problems was brainstorm all the things we could do to help clear up my nose. One idea was to raise the bottom sides of the house a bit so that we would get ventilation under our pier-and-beam foundation. That would help clear out molds from standing water. Well, that led to The Great Remodeling Project.

Yes, since we were going to have some construction people out, why not get some other things done that we'd like. It was a simple thought that led to several months of, well, hmm. How to phrase it. Havoc. Turmoil. Change.

We wound up putting new electrical wiring in the garage apartment, re-finishing the stairs to the garage apartment, putting a new roof on the garage and part of the house (the main part of the house we'd done last year, as it really needed it), putting up new rain gutters, replacing 13 windows with double-paned ones (this particularly helps cut down on dog barking noise, which used to wake us up from naps), painting the outside of the entire house, pouring a concrete driveway, putting a new electrical service panel on the house (the old one was only 100 amps -- which was strained -- and the new one is 200), adding two electrical circuits (one to the office, one to the music room), putting in wall-to-wall carpeting in the house (mainly to keep our toes warm in winter) and new linoleum in the bathrooms, putting in a new bathtub in the guest bathroom, getting all new faucets, insulating the attic and underneath the garage apartment, replacing the stove and dishwasher, and -- the crowning touch -- putting a chandelier in the dining room.

Anyway, it was a hassle but it sure is nice now. And Tom handled the contractors and was really good about trying to keep the dirt down for me. We paid for the remodeling -- and a Lincoln Mark VIII -- with Tom's retirement money. (Speaking of cars, I sold the Stealth and bought a Camry. The Stealth sure was sexy, but it wasn't suited for driving on bumpy city roads.)

In June, about the time the remodeling was done, I went to NYC for the "Stonewall 25" celebration. It was held to commemorate the 25th anniversary of gays rioting at the Stonewall Inn. The riots were in response to a police raid that was part of systematic and routine harrassment of homosexuals. It was the first time gays stood up for their rights and is widely viewed as the beginning of the modern gay rights movement.

In July, one of my best friends, Burt Picone, started dropping weight and losing the ability to walk or feed himself without help. He went downhill quickly and died August 6. It's by far the most personal death I've experienced.

That led to Tom and I getting all the rest of our own affairs in order (cremation arrangements, additional life insurance). And, on my part, a big push to get unfinished projects done. The biggest was getting the music room set up. (Similarly, I now have no Post It piles, which is pretty amazing.) I also got depressed and started "Effexor," an antidepressant. And my T-count dropped below 300 (by one darn T-cell) for the first time.

But Fall has brought a new completeness. Genevieve, my sister, has some baby squirrels that are very adorable. Tom and I celebrated three years together on Thanksgiving. And friends and family have started to visit us in our comfy home. Life is good.

We send our love to you & hope that you are well.

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