Silver Bells, Silver Bells

“The holidays are coming! The holidays are COMING!”

Words that strike fear, panic, and immediate exhaustion into everyone’s hearts, but particularly for those who suffer from chronic pain illnesses. I have fibromyalgia, and it took me a really long time to adjust what I did before with what I can do now. Here are my top tips for hopefully surviving the holidays without a flare up.

BFMS (before fibromyalgia syndrome), I was full of rules, etiquette, and tradition. We still have our traditions, but they have altered just a bit. Here’s how:

1. Buy an artificial tree that is pre-lit. Putting on the lights is the worst holiday chore, and it kills your back and shoulders (generally problem areas for fibro people). For years, I insisted that we have a real tree, in spite of my being so allergic to them, I would break out in a rash. Artificial trees are better for the environment and save a ton of effort, including not having to shop for a tree. It also saves a fortune, as trees become more expensive every year. There are no needles requiring constant vacuuming, and it’s much less attractive to the cat, so he leaves it alone. We actually bought a small tree (6ft), but we put it on top of an IKEA LACK end table. It looks bigger, the dogs don’t run into it, and we keep the presents off the floor.

2. This is a big one: GIVE UP THE CHINA! Every year, I would break out the good dishes for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Then I would stress about the kids breaking something, and I’d have a huge mess to hand wash, since good china can’t go in the dishwasher. One year, I had 20 people for Thanksgiving. At that time, we didn’t have a dishwasher, and our kitchen was tiny. I splurged and bought the prettiest paper plates, napkins, and cups, and matching plastic forks, spoons, and knives. It took five minutes to clean up the mess, and it was so easy, I had the kids do it. If you want to be fancier, buy nice chargers from a discount store, as they are usually about a buck each.

3. Make the holidays a more intimate affair. Have the big dinner with immediate family, and then invite everyone else over for desserts and coffee.

4. Check at your favorite BBQ restaurant and see if they roast turkeys. In South Texas, Rudy’s is the place to go. For around $25, you get a turkey that will feed at least eight people. You save yourself the effort of having to defrost, clean, and roast the thing yourself. That’s at least an hour off your feet, so it’s well worth it.

5. Start writing your holiday cards early. When I say early, I mean work on them while waiting between trick or treaters. Do a few each day. Try to avoid “marathon” task events like writing all your cards at one sitting.

6. Speaking of trick or treaters, weather permitting, sit outside and relax in a chair while handing out candy. It saves a ton of energy if you’re not constantly sitting down then getting up to answer the door every five minutes. I love seeing all the kids in their costumes, so this is a task I don’t want to delegate to my husband or kids.

7. DELEGATE! Give up the idea that YOU are the ONLY ONE who can do everything PERFECTLY! Wow, was that hard for me to accept. I used to be a hard core perfectionist and control freak. Now, I make lists and hand them out to my family members. My daughter wraps presents better than I ever could, and my husband is an excellent grocery shopper. Play to your family members’ strengths, and let them do the work while you relax in front of the computer…which leads us to #8…

8. Shop online. Did you know that many stores start their Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving day? Some start as early as right after midnight on Thursday morning. Why in the world would you stand in line when you can just click a mouse?

9. Take advantage of free shipping. Have gifts sent directly from the online store to the recipient. If you really feel it’s necessary, pay for the gift wrap service. You can send a card with your sentiments, and save a fortune in shipping costs.

10. Shop small. Etsy and eBay are the best places to find unique gifts, all while supporting small businesses or artists. Believe it or not, some Etsy sellers offer discounts in their shops, just like the big box stores.

11. If you do feel up to shopping in a brick and mortar store, shop local. Support the small businesses in your area, instead of lining corporate pockets. Not only will you be helping someone to stay in business, normally local shops are much, much smaller than a big box store, so you’ll have a LOT less walking to do.

12. Spread it out. I know it is really tempting to do everything that needs to be done on a day when you feel pretty good, but that is the quickest way to a flare. Just like with your holiday cards, do a little each day.

13. Wrap it up. By that, I mean put it in a bag. Use bags and tissue paper rather than wrapping paper. It’s faster, and you don’t have to stand or sit hunched over for hours. For something really special, buy kraft paper bags (the plain brown ones) and let your kids decorate them. It will keep them busy for a while, and grandparents love getting art from their grandchildren.

Hopefully this will help get you through the holidays without being stuck in bed for weeks, trying to recover! Do you have any tips to add? Post them below!

“It’s Christmas time in the city…”

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There’s A Fire

As South Texas reluctantly cedes summer to autumn, it has finally started to drop in temperature enough to warrant a fire in the fireplace, as opposed to blocking it with a large piece of furniture. This required much rearranging of furnishings, and some creative space planning, as I needed to somehow put my bed next to the fire, and still have the TV across from it. The problem is that if the bed is next to the fire, across from it is half the French doors. Fortunately, it’s the half that locks at the top and bottom, so I put my entertainment center in front of it anyway. Problem solved.

Yesterday was grey and chilly enough that we went through three fire logs. Considering they last for several hours apiece, my daughter and I felt it was an all day fire kind of day. It’s probably a good thing that she works in a restaurant that smokes meat, as she insisted on sitting in front of the fire to warm up after her shower, so she smelled slightly smokey, but in a good, bbq kind of way.

I’ve become quite attached to this whole fire thing, which is good since we’re planning on moving north as soon as our credit cards and a couple of other debts are paid off. I know that not only is it nice and homey, but when the electricity goes out, it is a source of cooked food, warmth, and hot drinks, so any house that we consider will need at least one, if not several.

Of course, here, a fire is pure luxury. Aubrey and I often go camping, so having all the gear necessary to survive and knowing how to use it is no big deal. Keeping warm means putting on a sweatshirt and some socks. Besides, we’re far enough from the coast to not be bothered by hurricanes, wet enough to not have to worry about wildfires, stable enough that there has only been one minor earthquake here in my entire life, and low enough that we don’t get the ice or temperature differentials that the Hill Country experiences each year. Oh, I guess we do get some serious floods, but I’ll take floods over earthquakes any day.

However, the primal instinct that draws us to a flame is undeniable. To me, it’s soothing, and I often get lost in my thoughts, mesmerized as the flames flicker and dance in their orange and red finery. Perhaps this is why autumn is my favorite season.

“burning in my heart, reaching a fever pitch and it’s bringing me out the dark”

Even If I Am In Love With You

I’ve recently started a new blog about my love affair with yarn, Toil and Treble Crochet. I’ve been meaning to do it for years, but I’ve never been organized enough to get it going. Not that I’m organized now…I’m just more motivated.

Two of my nieces opened Etsy shops this summer, and I realized Etsy would be a great way to get rid of my creations while generating income for more yarn. Talk about a win/win! Although it took me a few months to take pictures, create an fb page, start a new blog, and open the shop, the planets have finally aligned. I’m open for business at http://www.etsy.com/shop/ToilAndTrebleCrochet!

If you have a yarn passion, follow my new blog, as I will be posting about yarn, patterns, various designers, book reviews, product reviews, and a few secrets here and there. If you’re going to be shopping for holiday gifts, remember that this year, November 24 is Small Business Saturday. This is the day after Black Friday, and serves as a gentle reminder to support small businesses, whether they are local or online. By a strange coincidence, my shop is an online small business!

At the moment, there are only a few items posted in the shop, but there are more coming. I still need to take pictures of some preemie hats, a few baby blankets, and my current works in progress. While I love making shawls, there will be plenty else, and I will also consider custom pieces (as long as they are crochet!).

With all that said, there will be no more talk of yarn on the Life of Wonder blog. I’ll still be posting here, of course, because life does exist outside of yarn…somewhat. So join me at the new blog, check out my shop, and like my facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ToilAndTrebleCrochet. You know you want to…

 

“all this to say, what’s it to you?”

Happy Birthday to You

Today is Isaac’s 20th birthday. He was 13 when he first came into our lives, and 18 when he last left us. Yes, I still miss him. Yes, I still think about him every day. Yes, I wonder how he’s doing, if he’s happy, how school is going, what he intends to do after he finishes…It was two years ago that he and Aubrey began dating again, and I truly thought they would be together forever.

Aubrey and I were watching Royal Pains the other day, and one of the characters told her stepdaughter, “You may not have grown inside my body, but you grew inside my heart.” Indeed, that encapsulates my feeling exactly. Isaac was a pain in the ass, but I loved him just as much as the two pains in the ass to which I gave birth. He grew inside my heart, and I loved him with every piece of me.

I sent him a Woot t-shirt for his birthday, just like I did last year. I have no idea if he wears them, or if he just tosses them out, knowing they are from me. It doesn’t matter to me. Every year on this day, I want him to remember that somewhere, people love him and miss him and think of him.

So please forgive me if today, I mope around a bit. I am sad and heartbroken. I miss my little boy, and I miss knowing the young man he’s grown into. I hope that someday I see him again. I hope that he is happy and doing well. I will put out a candle with my tears, but I will try to remember the good times.

Happy Birthday, Isaac. You are loved.

Our Hope and Pride

When women are pregnant, we spend a lot of that time thinking about firsts. Our baby’s first cry, their first tooth, first steps. We spend so much time thinking about all the events that will happen in their first year that we can’t even comprehend that there is a lifetime of firsts ahead of them.

My son was my first child. I remember the exact moment I became a mother. It wasn’t when he was born, but actually 36 hours later. I came home with him after just one night in the hospital to find a message from his pediatrician. I needed to bring him back to the hospital right away because they were worried he might have strep B, a common infection that my OB should have checked me for, but didn’t. Because he failed to do so, I didn’t get the antibiotics during labor that would have protected my son from becoming infected.

His dad and I were living with my parents at the time, and my mom had brought me home. We turned around and she drove me to the hospital lab. When we got there, the lab tech told me he needed to draw blood and get a urine sample. I held Matt in my arms as the lab tech inserted the needle into Matt’s foot. Matt screamed and started to cry. There was nothing I could do to make it better, and I had no choice. At that moment, I realized I would give anything in the world to bear that pain for him. My instinct kicked in, and I knew I would protect him with my own life, if necessary. Although I gave birth to him the day before, it was that second day when I finally understood what it meant to be a mother.

There have been countless other firsts since then. The first time he played a song on a little Kermit the Frog Casio keyboard…he played “Mary Had A Little Lamb” and he was two. I would listen to him make up his own songs on the 16 little keys, and I knew then that he was a musician. He wasn’t just someone who played music, but music was his identity.

Eventually there was the first time I heard him play the cello, his first drum set, his first guitar, his first band, the first time he performed on a stage… He was in high school when he heard the local junior college radio station and said he was going to “do that” one day. My biological father was a radio engineer, and my mother met him while working at a radio station, so I guess he was genetically predisposed.

After high school, he went to one semester of college then drifted for a while. It was five years before he finally decided he wanted to go to school. We agreed to pay for his spring semester as a Christmas present. He had talked to various people about degree choices, and I did some research online. When I saw the Music Business degree plan, he agreed it was exactly what he wanted to do. The required courses would cover music production, radio production, music composition, and promotion. In addition, he would have to spend at least one semester as a dj on the radio station.

Today was the first time I heard my son’s voice on the radio. He said he was going to be on this station someday and he made it. I could not be more proud. I know it will not be long until I hear one of his original songs on the radio.

I have been proud of Matt every step of the way…don’t get me wrong, there have been a few disappointments, too, but the good far outweighs the bad. I’ve been to every concert, dragged him to piano lessons, drum lessons, bought software and hardware…now the result of all his efforts is paying off, and it’s only up from here.

I guess what I want to say is never tell your child that their dream is silly, or wrong, or impossible. If you believe in them, they will believe in themselves, and no matter if that dream materializes or they get a new dream, you get to go along for the ride. What an amazing ride it is.

You can listen to Matt’s original and cover music at http://www.MatthewWrightMusic.com. To hear his radio show, tune in to KSYM 90.1 San Antonio on Wednesdays at 1pm central, or online at KSYM.org.

“You shape our world with every step.
Oh, the will to fly is in your eyes.

Our strength and love all in your blood.
Our hope and pride all in your eyes.”