good will to all men


via We Heart It


Merry Christmas, everyone! (Or happy holidays, if Christmas isn’t your thing.)

The Professor and I are up in Canada. I’m still doing fairly well. All and all, I don’t think I could have asked for much more for Christmas.

I hope everyone is doing as we as I am, and that time spent with family adds instead of takes away spoons.

let’s hear those sleigh bells jingling


The Professor tying a jingle bell onto his shoelaces.

So, today was the big day: the Jingle Bell Run/Walk for Arthritis. Since it was held about 30 or so minutes from where we live, the Professor and I got up early to eat breakfast, have some tea, put on a bunch of layers and head out.

After we got there and grabbed our stuff, we tied on some jingle bells to our shoelaces (well, OK: He tied the bells on for both of us.) There were so many people there, all ready to walk or run in support of the Arthritis Foundation—and people like me.

Dogs weren’t allowed, and we were definitely a bit bummed about that; Otis and his adorable sweater would have had a blast. We did see a couple of dogs, so we may just have to sneak him in next year! (Probably not; I think I’m still too Canadian to break the rules that way. It would be rude.)

It was really amazing to see hundreds, thousands of people at the start/finish line. People were wearing all kinds of crazy outfits: reindeer antlers, candy-cane tights and even one guy dressed like Santa. (He was crazy; he ran in that red suit and black boots!)

Start/finish line

But there were tons and tons of people. They shut down a major street in the state capital, and Arthritis Foundation volunteers and police officers stood at the side streets, offering encouragement to those of us passing by.

The course was about a mile and a half in one direction before we did a u-turn and went back the way we came. I’d say maybe a quarter of the way in, I started feeling it. About half-way, my knees had had enough. Still, I managed to finish the whole 5 km, which was my goal. As a bonus, we didn’t come in last place! But heading in, I was OK with finishing last, as long as I finished.

It was lovely, spending part of my Saturday morning walking with the Professor for a cause that means so much to me. It was so important to me that I do this and that he match me step for step. There’s no one I would have rather done this with and very few in my life who would know how much the simple act of going for a walk would mean.

There have been days—and I’m sure there will be again—when simply getting out of bed was an epic struggle, days when buttoning a shirt reduced me to tears—days when it feels like my body has betrayed me. It was so important for me to push through all of that and walk 5 km, 3.1 miles, by just putting one foot in front of the other, over and over, until I was done. It was important to feel, if only for a few steps, how much my body still does for me, how much I can do.

It was a great day.

chronic holidays

The holidays are a great time of year: gathering with family, eating good food, spending time with friends. Still, they can be rough on those of us with chronic illness. Gathering with family can be stressful, with fights, tension and potentially seeing people you wish you weren’t related to. Too much eating can lead to weight gain or eating food triggers or stuff you wouldn’t normally touch. All of it can mean pushing yourself passed your limits. It can be a disaster.

There are some things that I’ve learned through 13 years of having a chronic illness. A lot of the same things that apply during the rest of the years help during the holidays. Limit your stress as much as possible. I know that can be hard with traveling, seeing relatives with whom you may not get along and demands on your energy when you may not have all that much to give. But keeping everything in perspective is essential. Maybe you don’t go to every holiday party to which you’re invited. Maybe you let other people cook the big show-stopper dishes. Maybe you plan in naps during all-day family affairs.

Eating as well as possible is so critical, too. I know it’s tempting to have two or three helpings of all that deliciousness, plus a few slices of pumpkin pie for dessert. Bad idea. The way I (try to) prevent overeating is I only allow myself one plate. Whatever I can fit on that plate, I can take. No seconds. But I’m sure there are lots of other ways to keep from eating too much.

But, really, all the holiday tips in the world boil down to one thing: Take care of yourself. It’s not worth working yourself into a frenzy and hit every holiday high note only to be flattened for days or weeks afterward. My advice? Do as much as you can. No more. The holidays are no less special if you spend a few evenings basking in the glow of a Christmas tree, listening to carols on and sipping on hot apple cider or (soy) egg nog.

no place like home for the holidays

One of the houses I grew up in.

After we got married, the Professor and I set up an arrangement: One year, we’ll spend Christmas with his family, and the next year we’ll spend it with mine. Sure, there are some inequities; since we live near his family, we see them every  (American) Thanksgiving, and we never go up to see my relatives for (real Canadian) Thanksgiving.

This year, of course, is our year to go up to Canada to see my family, and for awhile, it looked like we might not be able to go. We can’t afford plane tickets (and I’m not really a fan of the TSA’s new full-body scanners or the groping new pat-down techniques), and there’s just no way I was going to be able to sit for 14 hours in our fuel efficient, yet incredibly uncomfortable Honda Civic.

Then, Mum and Dad came through for us: They’re going to rent one of those giant, 15-person vans, so I can have an entire seat to myself and lay down, to make the trek. Instead of our usual one-day, no stopping marathon sprint, we’ll make the drive up to my grandparents’ house in a leisurely two.  And $200 or so later (thanks, extra fees for applying for a U.S. passport for the first time!), I will (hopefully) be good to go. And, you know, come back.

I’m still a bit nervous, though. It will still be a long time in a vehicle for someone who gets stiff and painful after 30 minutes. It’s still going to be my dad behind the wheel, and I have horrendous memories of trips to Myrtle Beach when I was a small child and being unable to stop for pee breaks until my brother or I started crying. (Mum says he’s mellowed. I guess I’ll find out.) And, if I can’t get in to see my doctor in time, who knows where I’ll be pain-wise.

Even so, I’m super, ridiculously excited. I haven’t seen my dad’s family since Christmas 2008 and my mum’s family since before that. So, merry Christmas to me! Even if I end up stuck in bed for a week, it will still be worth it.

happy list

Because it’s Tuesday — the worst day of the week — I thought I would pull a rockstar diaries and post a happy list. Of course, this list is by no means exhaustive, but sometimes it helps to think of things that make me happy. Especially on a Tuesday.

  1. doing absolutely anything with my husband.
  2. getting that perfect shot.
  3. re-reading a favourite book — again.
  4. Italian soda from the local coffee shop.
  5. that first day of spring after winter, when it’s finally warm enough to shed that heavy coat.
  6. anything green.
  7. snugging with my furbabies, Remy and Otis.
  8. butterflies.
  9. listening to thunderstorms as we fall asleep.
  10. hot apple cider on a cold day

What’s your happy list?