Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Cards

One of my favorite parts of Christmas is sending and receiving Christmas cards. I love when the mail comes each day and finding out who we've received cards from. Fancy photo cards and picture collages have become really popular in the past few years, and it's especially fun to get those. I would love to send those out for our Christmas cards, but my mom and I just aren't willing to spend $2 or $3 per card when we send cards out to about 80 people.

Sadly, it seems like sending Christmas cards is becoming a thing of the past This is so sad, because we love hearing from our friends! We seem to get fewer and fewer cards every year. And lots of other people have resorted to just putting a picture/newsletter on their blog and/or Facebook. That really isn't the same, though! (I'm only doing it because in addition to sending cards out, not in place of it.)

We took this picture on Thanksgiving and decided to use it for our Christmas card picture since we didn't have a lot of options to choose from. It's not the best of me (I look a little sleepy) but my mom and Chandra look great. 
My dad always wrote our family's Christmas newsletter when I was kid. After he died my mom started doing it, but I decided to take it over in 2006 so that my mom would have one less thing to worry about. I usually write about all of my married sisters, as well as Chandra, my mom and me, but this year I decided to make it easy on myself and just write about the two of us still here at home with my mom. I have to admit that writing a family newsletter sometimes gets a bit old since I feel like I say the same things year after year. Here's the short note I wrote for this year:

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Chan's 25th Birthday

My younger sister Chandra turned 25 last week. It's hard to believe that my little sister is 25. Where does the time go?!

Chandra's boyfriend took her out to dinner and then they went to the St. Louis Symphony to see "Too Hot to Handel" (a show that mixed Handel's Messiah with a gospel choir). She said it was really great and I'm just jealous I couldn't go with her!

I thought she looked really cute when she left, especially in this black shirt, which happens to be one of my old hand-me-downs that I gave to her after my accident. (I always like it when I see my sisters wear clothes that I used to wear before my accident.) I bought this shirt back in 2002, I think, and loved it because it looked really good on me. Even though the shirt's 10+ years old, it's still a great shirt, so I'm glad it's still getting use. Oh, to be that thin again! :)
We celebrated Chandra's birthday on Sunday and the three of us had a nice dinner, along with Chandra's boyfriend, Joe. Here's pictures of Chandra opening presents after dinner. These are from Mom…
and these are from me…
I gave Chandra Bath and Body Works' PINK Fresh and Clean body spray. This fragrance smells SO good, and it's one of our favorite scents to wear!

Channie loves cheetah print and she loves scarves, so when I saw this sparkly cheetah print scarf at Target, I knew I had to get it for her.
I'm sentimental, so I love giving sentimental gifts. I found this picture frame at Hobby Lobby that flips, so I put a picture of me, her and Joe on one side and a picture of the two of us on the other. I like the expression on Chan's face in the first two pictures:
My mom made a cranberry cheesecake for Chandra since the girl loves cranberries!
Chandra and Joe:
Above is a picture of Mom and me in our festive sweaters. The sparkly green turtleneck that my mom is wearing has special meaning to us. In the fall of 2001 my mom and I went shopping together and bought these matching green turtlenecks at New York & Company. Even though this sweater is more than 10 years old, my mom still wears hers once every year to honor/remember that time in our lives.

One Sunday Mom and I had both worn our sparkly turtlenecks and black leather jackets to church and we took a picture together after we got home. We were still using a film camera at the time, so I don't have a great copy of that photograph (which I used to make a special present for mom for Christmas 2003--that's why there's little papers around the picture) but I was able to take a picture of the picture.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

"Me Before You"

Last month I read an interesting book that I wanted to write about on my blog. It's called Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. Here's a synopsis of the book:

Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.

What Lou doesn't know is she's about to lose her job or that knowing what's coming is what keeps her sane.

Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he's going to put a stop to that.

What Will doesn't know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they're going to change the other for all time.

In the story 35-year-old Will was in a motorcycle accident two years previously that left him a quadriplegic. He's had a difficult time transitioning from the handsome, active, successful Will to the now severely disabled and completely dependent on others for all of his physical needs Will. He's even attempted suicide a few times with his limited arm/hand movement.

Louisa becomes acquainted with Will after she loses her job and is hired by Will's mother for a six month position being a personal care assistant to Will. At first Lou and Will don't care for each other, but as time goes on they come to appreciate each other. One day Lou overhears Will's mother talking about Will's plan to go to Dignitas (a Swiss group that helps those with terminal illnesses and severe physical and mental illnesses to die assisted by qualified doctors and nurses). [Dignitas is a real place in Switzerland, by the way.]

Lou is horrified when she finds this out and makes it her mission to change Will's mind. She starts making a list of exciting things for her and Will to do together to show him that although his life is different, there's still much to do that's fun and enjoyable. He's fairly willing to try new things and go on outings with Lou (although he has no idea that Lou knows of his plan to go to Dignitas). As the weeks and months go by, Will and Lou share lots of new experiences together and do things they most likely wouldn't have done otherwise. Will exposes Lou to new books, movies and even the opera, while Lou exposes Will to new places and the fact that his life could still have meaning).

Will's "to do" list has large and small activities on it, but the ultimate, most exciting one of all is to take a "holiday" (or vacation as we Americans say!). When Louisa tells Will that she thinks they should plan a trip together she's not sure what he'll think of the idea, but Will's surprisingly on board with the idea. They include Nathan (Will's other care attendant) in the plans, choose a location (New Zealand, I think) set a date and work on the logistics.

Everyone's thrilled when Will decides to go on this vacation, because they hope Lou's plan is helping Will find more enjoyment in life so that he'll change his mind about the whole assisted suicide thing. I won't go any further in my recounting of the story so that I don't spoil the book for anyone who might be interested in reading it.

There were a few mistakes/inaccuracies in the book. For example, at one point the author said something about the C12 vertebrae. If you're familiar with the anatomy of the spinal column, you would know that there are only seven cervical vertebrae. Most people probably wouldn't notice something like this, but I have a little experience in this area. ;-) Overall, for this book being written by someone able-bodied, I felt it was reasonably well researched for the most part. The author seemed to understand the issues and complications that go along with paralysis fairly well, in addition to the limitations that a C5/C6 quadriplegic would have. 

One of my major complaints with this book was the complete lack of anything spiritual. God was never mentioned in the book, which was unfortunate, because God is everything! I know there is a God and that He is closely involved in the details of our lives. Some people are going to be mighty surprised one day when they find out just how near to us God always was. 
Another thing that bothered me was that most of the relationships in this book were rather superficial and lacked depth.

From what I've heard, I guess this book is pretty popular and it's even being made into a major motion picture. When I heard that this book was about a quadriplegic, my interest was immediately piqued and that was enough to get me to read the book. 

I have to confess that I didn't really care for the book, though, and I don't really understand why people think this book is so great. Of course, you'll have to read it for yourself and then form your own opinion about it, but for me, it was just fair.

Monday, December 16, 2013

This Christmas…

I cannot believe Christmas is a mere nine days away! When I was a kid I thought Christmas would never arrive, but now that I'm an adult it seems like the Christmas season passes quicker and quicker with each passing year. Especially this year, since Thanksgiving was so late and there are six fewer shopping days this year than there were last year.

Fortunately, I have all of my Christmas shopping finished. Whew! My sister Sharon and her family arrive in less than a week, so once they arrive the fun will really begin!

I think this quote has some valuable advice in it:
Christmas is really the perfect time to mend fences, make new resolutions, start new traditions, rearrange your priorities, start anew, repent of past wrong-doings and recommit yourself to doing and becoming better. As I know all too well, life is unpredictable and you never know what is in store for you just around the corner, so it's really important to always be living your best life and to not procrastinate or to put off for tomorrow what you can do today!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Happiness: A Choice

Even though I'm a very happy and positive person, I still go through times when I feel sad and discouraged. Yes, even Miss Paralyzed with Joy has melancholy days! I know it's completely normal to get down at times, but it's not normal for ME, so I don't like admitting it. I'm usually really good about keeping my "eye on the prize" and keeping my gaze focused on what really matters, but sometimes it's just hard to NOT feel sad/disappointed when I think about what could've been. I didn't want fame or fortune, just the normal life I'd always dreamed of. Would a husband to adore me and a bunch of kids to love really be too much to ask for?!

The thought of aging can really drain my reservoir of joy if I think about it too much. I'm in so much nerve pain on a daily basis and my hands and feet hurt! The pain has only gotten worse over the years, so I dread to think of what's in store in the future. I also dread to think what I'm in for with my renal system. My urologist says that I'm basically a ticking time bomb waiting to happen. I'll take the paralyzed body, fine, but would a pain-free body be too much to ask for?!

I found some quotes about happiness that I thought were comforting, so I wanted to share them for anyone else who might be feeling a little downtrodden at the moment.
We might not be able to change our circumstances in life, but we can choose how we react to them. It's not always easy and takes consistent effort, but I know finding happiness during a trial IS possible.
No one is immune from adversity. Just because you're a good person doesn't mean you're exempt from having challenges, and you can't buy your way out of a cancer diagnosis, for example, just because you're rich. Suffering is just a part of life. I really like these next two quotes:
Here's another quote I like:
“Life is hard, true, but life is also beautiful, even when it's difficult.
When I write "pep talk posts" like this I write them just as much for my benefit as I do for everyone else's because the uplifting quotes are good reminders about what's important and help to lift me up when I get a bit down. The good news is that when I do have these gloomy days, they don't stick around long. The cloudy skies always clear quickly and my world is bright and joyful again. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Prisoner, President, Legend

Yesterday afternoon the news broke that Nelson Mandela had died at the age of 95. He's been in poor health for a while and was in the hospital for several months earlier this year, so the news of his passing didn't come as a surprise.
Mandela spent twenty seven years in prison for fighting against apartheid and for standing up for racial equality. He didn't let the unfairness of the situation turn him hateful and bitter, though, which is pretty remarkable. After being released from prison he went on to be elected the first black president of South Africa and did a lot to heal the wounds of apartheid.

Pictures of Mandela with the last four US presidents (George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama):
Above is a picture of the Obama family visiting the tiny 8 x 8 cell on Robben Island (the "Alcatraz" of South Africa) where Mandela spent 18 of his 27 year prison sentence.

There have been lots of interviews on TV today where well-known people (including celebrities and political figures) shared their thoughts about Nelson Mandela's wonderful legacy. Prince William said something about Mandela's "tragic passing" and I found that interesting. I wouldn't call Mandela's death tragic in the least; he was 95 and lived an inspiring life. Onto a bright future in heaven!

As I watched the montages of Mandela's life that have been all over TV the past 24 hours, I can't get over how much Barack Obama looks like Nelson Mandela in some of the pictures. It's not really that they look alike, but that they have similar mouths/smiles.
Nelson was truly a wise, insightful man and had the kind of character that I want to have. Here are some of my favorite "Mandela-isms" that I came across as I searched the Internet for material for my post:
I love the above quote; what a wonderful example Nelson Mandela was of turning the other cheek! He really put these words into action:

"But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." – Matthew 5:44
I don't know as much about Nelson Mandela as I'd like to, so I'm looking forward to seeing the upcoming movie Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. I first heard about this movie last month and thought it looked really good. It's a definite "must-see" that I'm eagerly anticipating.
Idris Elba as Mandela:
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