Monday, December 28, 2015

The Twelve Days of Christmas

Growing up Christmas was never just one day. There was the season of Christmas; Advent in our Church. On Christmas Eve we would have dinner with our neighbor and then we would all go to Church for the service of Lessons and Carols. Back at home after the service there was hot chocolate while we hung up our stockings.
But Christmas did not end the next morning. My parents made it a day-long event. We could unpack our stockings before breakfast. However, presents weren’t opened until after we were dressed and had consumed a hearty breakfast that would last us until dinner later that afternoon.
And then there was Boxing Day. The day after Christmas, (or at least sometime during the holiday break from school), we would get together with friends that were part of the family. My sister’s Godparents were another “aunt and uncle” to us, and they had two kids our age. We would go to their house for the day. We children would play together. There would be a shared meal. Family gifts were exchanged. Christmas went on all week.
My husband and I have no children of our own and I tend to think that we have no Christmas traditions. Upon reflection, that is not entirely true. When we were first married my niece and nephew were quite small; 18 months and three, respectively. My nephew’s birthday is New Year’s Eve. So with various in-laws among my siblings, and a birthday we wanted to celebrate, we would spend Christmas with my husband’s family and New Year’s with mine.
The children are grown now. My niece is married with children of her own. My father passed away almost 20 years ago. My sister and her husband are like us, no children, but plenty of family and friends with whom to celebrate. We now alternate between families. One year we are with my mother, the next with my in-laws. It works well. Whoever we don’t see on Christmas we visit later in the week; sometimes for New Year depending on how the calendar falls and schedules work out.
In addition to family, there are get-togethers with various friends. We celebrate our own Christmas together after the rush of travel and the many different gatherings of family and friends. Christmas is a week-long event for us.
My mother reminds us annually that there are twelve days to Christmas. That Christmas is not over until January 6. In our tradition, mine and my husband’s, this seems to be very, very true.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

If you enjoy my blog and would like to follow me on Facebook, I can be found at The Reluctant Survivor. And on Twitter @relucsurvivor.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

I Heard the Bells

My personal Facebook newsfeed is filled with reflective posts, the year in pictures, and memories that my friends are sharing. They remind me that 2015 is coming to a close, and my own thoughts are mixed with pain as well as joy. A year ago I was spending time with my friend Linda, reading her the Christmas story from Matthew and Luke. We knew it would be her last Christmas.

In March God took her to be with Him. It was heart-wrenching. Yet I would gladly do it again. What she gave me in those few short years that we knew each other will always be with me. Her love. The way she accepted me into her home and family. She let me be with her. When we were together we were simply together. No agenda. No ulterior motivations. No mandated reason to show up. We laughed (a lot). Sometimes we cried. We cuddled. Our relationship was like no other that I’ve had. And I will always thank her for letting me in.
At the end of August we lost my cousin’s husband. As heartbroken as I was, I watched in sadness and helplessness my mother’s devastation, and my cousin’s heartache. My cousin is my older sister in many ways. Losing her husband was more than losing a cousin by marriage. He had been in our lives since we were teenagers. The hole he left behind is enormous.
I ran the “year in pictures” that Facebook offered and was struck by the number of pictures of flowers that the app generated. Each bouquet was bright and cheery. Each one celebrated a moment of joy.
This year was filled with “firsts.” The first of many holidays and events without Linda or David. But also memories of joy and love were created. We had a “girl’s weekend” of me, my sister, our cousin-sister, and my mother. Just the four of us making a casserole for dinner out of items from my mother’s pantry. Laughing. Trying to take selfies.
Going to church once a month with my mother at the church where I grew up. Opportunities of growth and learning at work. Meeting up with friends when we were in the same area. And travel. Lots and lots of travel.
I was faced with much darkness and pain this year. The heartache and brokenness of so many. Death. Disease that threatens to take friends away too soon. But there was also joy. Babies were born. Friends advanced in their careers. There were flowers in my home. I spent time with those I love most. And I have added to my collection of dear ones; friends that I cannot imagine my life without.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s civil war poem is reflective of the deep despair he felt at Christmastime, but it ends with “Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: God is not dead, nor doth He sleep: The wrong shall fail, The Right prevail, With peace on earth, good-will to men.” My wish for you is to know the depth of Peace, and the joy of Love that you found in 2015.

If you enjoy my blog and would like to follow me on Facebook, I can be found at The Reluctant Survivor. And on Twitter @relucsurvivor.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Ten Years Later

I recently had my third colonoscopy; my first one was ten years ago and I am on the every-five-years plan. The quick explanation is that I have a family history of polyps, I have a history of cancer, and the doctor always finds polyps when I have one done. If you know anything about colon polyps, it is not a question of “if” they will turn into cancer, it is a matter of “when.” Since it seems that I am predisposed to cancer I do not mind this procedure.

Ok. I’m lying. If you’ve ever had a colonoscopy you will understand when I say the prep sucks.
But let’s do a reality check. If you were told that you could prevent cancer by having a scan every five years wouldn’t you take it? I would. And that was my perspective this time around. As a result, it didn’t seem so bad. I knew what to expect, and I knew that I’d need a day to recover after the procedure. So I took care of myself and took a couple of sick days from work.
The thing that struck me was how things have changed in ten years. Ten years ago you could not take aspirin or anything that would thin your blood for the week prior to the procedure. So of course that would be the one week I’d get a headache. Also, ten years ago you had to go on a “low residue diet” for a whole week in advance. Basically that means no nuts, seeds, whole grains or fresh fruits and vegetables. A difficult task for someone who eats a lot of fresh produce every day. Prep day was “clear liquids” which meant no coffee or tea.
This time was different. I could take aspirin if I wanted. I’m happy to report I had no headaches or joint pain this week. The low residue diet was only three days before the procedure; i.e. the two days before I what I call “purge day.” And the “clear liquid” list included black coffee and cranberry juice. Since I drink my coffee black I was ecstatic.
Purge Day consists of lots of clear liquids: water, ginger ale, apple juice, etc. Of course I had my morning coffee.

Lunch Options

Food” consists of Jello®, broth or bullion, and popsicles. But nothing “red.”

And then, of course, there is the “purge” itself. What you have to drink is the worst part of the procedure. I call it “drain-o.” I’ll leave it at that.

Over ice & thru a straw is recommended

For me, it really is the worst part of the procedure. Even though I buy the lemon flavored I find it hard to get down.
As for the rest of it, I knew I’d be hungry on “purge day” so I wasn’t as hungry as I remember. The procedure itself is straightforward and the drugs you are given are great; a combination of Morphine and Fentanyl. It’s no wonder the doctor tells you not to drive or make any major decisions that day.
The good news is that my polyps continue to be benign.
P.S. If you have a family history of polyps or colorectal cancer, please get yourself screened.

If you enjoy my blog and would like to follow me on Facebook, I can be found at The Reluctant Survivor. And on Twitter @relucsurvivor.