We started out our year with another mission trip to Africa. We returned to the same place in Zimbabwe – a small rural village in the center of the country that has been hit hard by AIDS, famine, and unemployment. It was great to return to the same place and see so many familiar faces, and it fueled our passion for Africa.
Shortly after returning from Africa, Mark pulled his biggest attention-seeking stunt to date by getting hit by a car on the freeway after stopping to help an accident. This resulted in a broken pelvis, femur, vertebrae, and extensive injuries to his head and lungs. It also resulted in a month in the hospital, even more months in rehab, and a very noticeable limp. In the end, though, Mark felt it was all worth it for the cheesy primetime news story on Eyewitness News.
Having Mark in a wheelchair for several months was an adjustment for both of us. That wheelchair placard assuring good parking just isn’t worth the price of admission. But I was beyond relieved to have him home and healthy, and our friends really outdid themselves with surprises for his homecoming, including a fully remodeled garage/ home-office.
We are still dealing with some of the after-effects of such a major injury. Fortunately, it’s been easy for me to be patient, calm, and joyful throughout this whole ordeal. Mark will have two more surgeries this coming year to correct his legs, and will be in rehab for another year as well. We were also warned about the potential effects of brain injury – the doctor told me to watch for impulsive behavior, lack of motivation, difficulty focusing, and hyperactivity. I assured the doctor that it was all pre-existing. 
We took a short trip to Carlsbad in May, to try to get some rest and relaxation after a trying season. This summer, our nephews Austin and Derek came for a visit – we love having them out from Florida. Later in the summer, we took a trip to Hawaii with Mark’s parents, his sister and her husband, and my mom. We also took a trip to Florida for my sister Brooke’s wedding. By this time, Mark was getting around on crutches, and setting off all the security alarms at the airport with the new hardware in his legs.
After our summer o’ fun and rehab, it was time for us to go back to work. We had both taken off about three months after the accident. Mark was fortunate to be able to work from home quite a bit in his new garage/office. I was so inspired after the accident that I made a career move. Well, not exactly – I took at part-time job at Room & Board as a Design Associate. For the last few months, I’ve been doing that along with seeing clients at Journeys Counseling and teaching at Vanguard University.
This fall, we had a slew of weddings – a couple of which were in Mexico, which provided some more welcomed time on the beach with friends. We spent the holidays in California, and I’ll be celebrating my 30th birthday this year on New Year’s Eve. Then, we’ll be gearing up for Mark’s surgery on January 4th. Good times!
It’s been fun getting everyone’s Christmas cards and photos this year. In a way, I feel a kinship to all of you with young children. I’ve also had a year full of sleepless nights, loud late-night crying spells, doctor visits, and cleaning up poop after someone totally helpless. God willing, we’re hoping those skills might come in handy in a more “life-stage appropriate” way in the future.
This has been a year full of trials, but also a year of taking stock in all that we have. We are so blessed to have such a wonderful support system of family and friends. Thanks so much for all of your support this year.  Here’s to 2005 – it can’t be worse!
Mark and Kristen Howerton
 Interesting is one word to use. Other words for this year: [edited for content] [edited for content] [edited for content]. I find it’s always best to make inappropriate jokes about near-death situations. That’s right. Mark’s got a pimp limp. And a cane. Mark’s in the hizouse, for shizzle. Which, if you had the pleasure of watching, reported that Mark, “a man who has dedicated his life to serving others”, had “every bone from the waist down broken, crushed, or shattered”. It’s good to know we can trust the accuracy of CBS network news without exaggeration or sensationalism. I had to take over ALL of Mark’s household duties. Wow, writing that monthly check to the gardener was more work than I thought. Right. Which Mark has banned me from entering like the alpha male lion defending his territory from an encroaching savage enemy. Ah, love.‘ Things like, ‘do you think that you can’t do laundry ‘cause of your leg?’ or ‘Is that brain injury making you forget how to empty the dishwasher?’ Please stop laughing at that sentence. Really, what do you say when a doctor warns you that your husband might act more like himself? Both mother-in-laws in one hotel suite. Sounds like a vacation to me!!! And proudly informing every guard who searched him that it was all about his
18-inch rod. Um . . . thanks? Inspired by medical bills, that is.Making the world a better place by helping people pick a sofa. Celebrating, mourning my youth, having a total crisis . . . same difference. A few we didn’t mention: Mark’s grandma passing away, Mark’s mom
surviving breast cancer, and our house flooding. Hence our New Year’s
toast: “Piss on 2004”. And if you still love us after this sarcastic Christmas letter, we’re thankful
even more. Let’s hope not. Dear God, let’s hope not.