2020 Christmas Letter

 Dear Family and Friends,

We returned from a rewarding but very difficult trip to Peru in January. In February,  Tom flew to DC to work with the Dept of Defense again, evaluating medical grant requests for work on chronic pain.
I stayed home and shot two commercials, for Kabbage (never aired) & Geico (“Aunts” multiple commercials found on YouTube.com, et al). Then prepped for a 2 week trip to NYC, UAI & Oman. An hour after I hit NYC,  news of the pandemic had me cancel flights and return to LA pronto. I/we canceled 5 more trips scheduled for this year.
So here we are,  like the rest of you, like the whole world, in a sort of limbo existence, that has been both difficult and rewarding.
We have lost many who were dear to us, chief among them my niece, Cindy M Bergendahl,  and my best friend of 48 years, Mary Pat Gleason. Beautiful memories lessen the loss.
Because of Tom’s medical status, we were property bound until July when he started having blood clots in his urine. We took a 14 week journey through bladder cancer, followed by a miraculous pathology report stating the cancer was removed completely, no further treatment required, periodic check-ups will suffice.
As in past years, Tom remains a consultant/patient partner for research at Cedars-Sinai and the National Institute of Health, as well as chronic pain advocacy and support involvement.
He is on Zoom 8 to 10 times a week, resting/sleeping in between, writing articles, evaluating grants, doing final editing of sci-fi novels, doing exercises with his VR Oculus 1. 
He has done so many speaking engagements, presentations, symposiums, webinars, podcasts, and videos. He has been covered in NatGeo, NPR, Lifetime, Spectrum, and been published often, but he is most proud to be a credited writer in the Cedars Sinai medical research articles placed in leading medical journals.
His area of chronic pain involvement has expanded to include: therapeutic use of Virtual Reality,  best communication practices between doctors and chronic pain patients, development of guidelines for treatment of musculoskeletal pain,  pain management and cognitive behavior, evaluating proposals relating to bladder cancer, diabetic foot pain, and one-on-one support for those in crisis, among others. 
God’s plan for Tom’s life became laser focused after his gift of chronic pain. We believe his suffering is meaningful and redemptive.
Below are three links Tom thinks you will most enjoy:
VRx book review: visuals & discussion on the therapeutic benefits of virtual reality
The Mighty with Cynthia: Tom’s in depth personal pain journey https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?v=391055222038096&ref=watch_permalink
An interview for NPR program Take Two, National Geographic: World of Pain:
2020.https://www.scpr.org/programs/take-two/2020/01/06/20480/ (At the 19:57 mark to 30:30)
As for me, the pandemic has given me the gift of time. As a project driven person who has lived happily with a To Do List every day since high school, my days fly by. I am very pleased to be tackling many long neglected projects, some completed, most ongoing.
I took a 4 day Zoom retreat in July that proved pivotal in how I now strive to view life. My goal is to accept people where they are - to find our shared belief/goal, and set aside our differences. This has given me renewed tolerance and patience. It has been especially helpful in my understanding systemic racism, my own white privilege and fragility. My journey inward has been the most rewarding part of 2020.
I shot a SLING TV commercial from home in April.  Then did another project for them in November. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m-5fiTBPktE
Also shot an episode of THE KOMINSKY METHOD with no air date available.
Remain devoted to Heifer International who did a story on me recently:  https://myheiferfoundationgiving.org/tell-your-story/#post-28314  
If you want to join my team I’d love to have you: https://fundraise.heifer.org/mariannemuellerleile 
I’m zooming for regularly scheduled sibs catch-up, friends chat, individual pals, WW, choir, block club, prayer groups, Mass, auditions, industry/agents/back to work, doing and seeing plays/ readings, museums, art, union health plan, celebrations for: a wedding, memorials, birthdays, a graduation, and so many educational zooms on social justice, racism, and on and on and on.
This chaotic time has allowed me to get more sleep than I’ve had since grade school and to finally read books whenever I want.  
Tom and I have loved having all this time together. So much laughter, card playing, discussing our projects, working together on some, watching TV & movies, cooking, a little dancing, talking about our future, discussing the present and sometimes, delicious spooning in afternoon naps.
Since Tom and I both post so much on social media I know that most of you already know what we are doing. So, if you’d like to receive our Christmas letter next year,  please let me know by responding to this email.
I think we could all do with a lot less email and more time to enjoy life.
We are sending you our love and prayers for a beautiful Christmas, a wonderful New Year, and a Covid 19 vaccine as soon as possible,
Marianne & Tom
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