First up is my annual half-birthday celebration!
My long-time friends who go way back might remember a past post in which I shared with you the lucky break I had when my mom allowed me to play hooky from school the day I turned 11 and a half, a fantastic bit of revel-making that I never again convinced her to indulge in. Really, I still have no idea what happened to my mother's mind that day, but I am forever grateful, because here I am 11 years later keeping the rest of the traditions born that day alive. Each year I bake a pumpkin pie (or, as was the case this year, a pumpkin cheesecake, because you know that everyone goes through a rebellious streak at some point in their life, and mine happened to hit when I turned 22 and a half). And it wouldn't be a half-birthday party without my customary "I Love Lucy" marathon! Add a wish made with 22 and a half candles and an evening cozied up by the fireplace, and you have a very contented half-birthday girl. In my happy little world, a festive half-birthday is the perfect gateway into the holiday season!
And as the latter months of 2013 ushered in cooler weather, they also brought oodles of fun! You won't be surprised to learn that I don't shy away from the unparalleled opportunity to cook a humdinger of a feast that is only appropriate on one day each year. Typically I begin my Thanksgiving meal preparations several days in advance, but this past year I had a bunch of commitments elsewhere the week before zero hour approached. Despite an extended hem/onc appointment that sopped up most of my waking hours on the eve of the holiday, I managed to return home and bake three pies and three loaves of bread. And on the big day I donned my darlingest pink polka-dotted apron a la Donna Reed as I whipped up an idyllic Thanksgiving feast as if it were 1950's television magic. (It's our little secret, but I'm exhausted just thinking of such magic!) My favorite moments of the holiday, however, were those spent with my family whom I love so much. I think they found the food to be highly palatable, but if they didn't they put on some believably brave faces. Either way, I am oh so thankful for the lot of them!The day after Thanksgiving I was moving on to my favorite season: Christmastime!!! What did we do first? Alice Eloise threw on her service dog vest and sniffed out the perfect Christmas tree!
They say that Christmas is the season when dreams come true. I'm not sure who "they" are. And really "their" aforementioned philosophy is of my own devising, but I know it to be true that fantastical dreams can become a magical reality. Some little girls fantasize about becoming a princess. While I wouldn't turn down the chance to gain royal status and the wardrobe to match, if I had my druthers I would wish for a sweet little evergreen tree of my very own so that I would have a bit of Christmas cheer in my yard the whole year round.So guess what! We planted a tree!!! (And when I say "we" I mean "they". Sadly my one-handed tree planting skills are nonexistent.) My sweet tree is rather reminiscent of a Charlie Brown Christmas tree. Isn't it charming?
I am feeling slightly worried because this past week we have noticed that my darling tree is looking a bit sickly. I grow very attached to my Christmas tree each year. And being my silly self, I've been known to talk to my tree. You can imagine how fond I am of my special year-round Christmas tree. Golly, I sure hope it pulls through!Anywho, our first snowfall of the year happened to make its appearance on St. Nicholas Eve! Snow is a most magical, sparkly delight. Most of my winter days are spent contentedly indoors as I cozy up by my beloved fireplace, and a sprinkling of snow out the window is the perfect finishing touch. But it occurred to me that my sweet Alice Eloise had never been given the chance to play in the snow! So on a windless day we bundled up and trekked outside for a quick snowy frolic. What a blast we had in a few short minutes! Alice Eloise found that snow gives her the perfect leverage for a rockstar game of frisbee fetch. Who knew? Still, once that glittery snow turns to gunky slush, the great outdoors doesn't hold quite the same appeal as the winter wonderland that is entirely unique to my bedroom alone. I have a vivid memory flashing back to when I was fourteen years old, writing thoughtfully in a notebook under the heading "Christmasy Plans". I remember writing: "Everything not related to Christmas must go. Either that, or tie a red ribbon around it." I was on a mission to transform my room into a magical world where even Buddy the elf himself would be in awe... You know, just in case he happened to show up with an engagement ring in hand. I just know he would appreciate my affinity for elf culture.
I'm not sure that my mom knew what she was getting herself into when she agreed to support my vision. Years later she informed me that she had felt kind of sorry for me. It had been a rough year for me trying to adjust to being a "sick child" and all that. Surely a bit of extra Christmas cheer was just the ticket!"A bit of extra Christmas cheer" would be a major understatement. By the time I had finished decorating, there were over a thousand Christmas lights in my bitty 150-square-foot bedroom! I was so thrilled with my achievement, I tried to sleep with all those twinkling lights on, a failed attempt not only because of the brightness, but also due to the fact that it felt something akin to sleeping in an Easy Bake Oven. But when my constant migraines moved in a few years back, all but a few mellow strands of my beloved Christmas lights moved out. I must say that somehow my decor lost none of its festive charm; in fact, I believe it is even merrier than before! As striking as the lights were, upon first sight a person might have been inclined to take a step back for a moment or two. But now my wonderland has a welcoming aura about it that makes one want to enter into the enchantment; why not stay for some figgy pudding and cocoa while taking in the surrounding pizzazz? Shock factor isn't everything, after all.
In years past I quite enjoyed the intense exhilaration surrounding the Christmas season. Yes, I was that kid who was totally hyped, waking up the rest of the family at the earliest acceptable hour which happened to be long before daybreak so that we could open our presents. Sugar cookies had me continually buzzed as I attempted to beat my previous record number of viewings of the film "A Christmas Story" within a 24-hour period. I am grateful to be able to tell you that despite my overzealous behavior, I grew up in a home with parents who were able to channel the hype in such a way that I was always more pumped about my Savior's birth than anything else.
But now I have come to appreciate the peace that whispers through the Christmastime bustle. It seems that in the days leading up to the holiday everyone is whirring about trying to accomplish each task on a seemingly endless to-do list. Circumstances being what they are, in recent years I haven't been up to doing much "whirring", but altogether I think it has improved my outlook and promoted a grateful spirit.
This year I enjoyed what was in my estimation a perfect Christmas. Krista, Tim, and Lulu showed up early for Christmas breakfast. And according to tradition we all wore our jammies! (In fact, wearing pajamas all day has become something of a daily tradition for me. No shame in that!)
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose." Romans 8:282013 didn't bring healing for me, but I have come to expect that even in my most difficult moments, I can trust that God has a blessing ready anytime. When I think over the past year, I am so very thankful for the most striking gift of friendship! The Lord has brought such a lot of amazing people into my life who have given me all sorts of joy and inspiration. These remarkable friends have inspired me to strive to be the best me that I can be. I don't so much have a resolution for 2014; sometimes life gets so crazy, I can't always predict what I will or won't be able to accomplish in a given timeframe. But I do have a simple goal that I hope God will help me to achieve. For years my family and I have continually searched for answers and help for me. Sometimes my ideas can go in so many directions that my mind just reels. This year I would like to focus some of that energy on helping others somehow. I am hoping that with thoughtful and prayerful consideration God will help me discover a purpose in which I can make a beneficial difference for some of the people and causes that have touched my heart.
After reading this post entirely devoted to holidays, would you feel gypped if I don't give you the scoop about a romantic Valentine's Day to spice things up? Take comfort in that my lack of lovey-dovey content could not possibly leave you feeling more romantically gypped than me; but it just so happens that my Valentine's Day was full of unconditional love, even if I have yet to stumble upon a charming, witty young man with the handsome bone structure of Gregory Peck. If you happen to bump into such a guy, feel free to send him my way. In the meantime, take a gander at my valentine, and I think you will agree that I have no reason to pout!This past September I was admitted into the hospital with fevers and dropping blood counts when my central line had a bit of "greenish gunk" at the exit site. It was suspected that I had an infection in the tunnel tract around my line, but thankfully a weeklong course of IV antibiotics seemed to take care of it. But I'm afraid that this line's time is now coming to an end. Last week my chest was aching at the site much more than usual. We came to find that my line has partially slipped out of its exit site, with the cuff aimed at securing it in place and preventing infection now on the outside of my body. In hindsight we realize that this malposition began back in September, which likely caused the minor infection. I will be having surgery to replace my line in the morning. As many of you know, there is no such thing as a "simple procedure" with me. I almost always experience highly painful paralysis in the hours following. This time we are being proactive and I am being directly admitted so that I can avoid a long day spent paralyzed in the PACU until someone can find me a vacated room. I will also be having one of my very favorite anesthesiologists, Dr. Nikiel! She is very nice, and calls me "sweetheart" and all that. Still, I could really use your prayers... This guy is my surgeon: Sarah Kathryn Frey