Courage… Be Brave

January 30, 2016 at 4:30 pm (Anxiety, mixed media, Multiple Sclerosis, occipital neuralgia, Trigeminal Neuralgia)

One of the reasons I stopped blogging was because I didn’t want to ‘splain myself.  But, since I’ve started again, I need to be honest.  Ugh…

I have Multiple Sclerosis, trigeminal neuralgia and occipital neuralgia.  Blah blah blah… you know, I’ve explained it before, legs don’t work, eyes don’t work, pain in the head and neck – literally.

But every once in a while another issue rears its ugly head – agoraphobia.  I have one day a week that I absolutely MUST leave the house — errand day. I plan carefully for six days and I usually take my trusty sidekick, Jazzy.  I manage to make it through, although by the time I get home my anxiety is sky-high and I compensate by counting… by fives… 1,2,3,4,5 or 5,10,15,20… on and on.  By the time I get my groceries put away I am exhausted!!

This coming week I must leave the house two days — once for a very necessary hair appointment and twice on Wednesday — dentist and pain management doctor.  I am already looking towards those days, working to manage my anxiety.

Tonight I am going to a fun paint class I signed up for two months ago.  It is a fundraiser for the Cresson Lake Playhouse.  When I signed up my agoraphobia was under control. Today… not so much.  But, I said I would be there and I AM going.  I am ready to go, two hours early, with my supplies packed.  Rushing and last-minute things increase my anxiety.  If DannyO were going, it wouldn’t even be a problem.

My brain goes to stupid places like, what if there isn’t a seat for me?  What if I don’t know anyone (which is totally stupid because I know I know most of the people!!) What if I can’t find a parking place?  See??? Stupid places.

This week I’ve been working on a Journey piece for a gal I went to college with.  She chose “Find Courage for the Journey.” She had three specific Bible verses she wanted in the piece.  I put the final layer on earlier today — the beeswax.  I am going to blog later this week on my step-by-step process but today I will show you the final piece.

There is a quote I put on every “Courage” piece.  It’s by Eleanor Roosevelt.  It says, “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.  You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” 

I’m sure she was talking about people with many more problems than agoraphobia, but today it is my REAL problem so…  I will do the thing I think I cannot do.  Head out the door at 5:30, paintbrushes in hand, and enjoy myself for three hours moving paint around.

Courage-Tammy Fast



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Moving Through the Next Chapter of My Life (such as it is)

June 16, 2015 at 11:28 am (mixed media, Multiple Sclerosis, occipital neuralgia, Sewing Projects, Trigeminal Neuralgia)

I have been moving right along as I work through a rough spring with my trigeminal and occipital neuralgia.  When these storm systems roll through, my face and head have their own agenda.  My botox injections were adminstered late due to a change in hospitalization (which is a pain to navigate when one has chronic conditions).  The botox, while not completely effective, takes the brunt of the worst pain from me.  The last two months have been more bad days than good.

I have had some orders for my mixed media “Journey” pieces so I have been spending a few hours each day working on them.  I am having them photographed by a wonderful photographer, Tab James of AdLiv Collective in the hopes of selling prints on line.  I will continue to work on original pieces.  I promise I will blog about the beginnings of my Lovingly Millie collection.

Find Strength for the Journey

Find Strength for the Journey – Tab’s photographs bring out all the layers of the mixed media piece.

I have an order for some terra cotta pendants and usually spend an hour in the evening rolling clay and molding it — very relaxing.

I also have gained weight and not many of my clothes fit me so I am trying to sew a few summer pieces that actually look good on my “new” body.  Accepting where I am right now weight-wise is very hard for me.  I am posting these pictures, although most of my being is screaming to keep them hidden.  This is part of my journey too…

A little pink dress (the back is open with a tie)

A little pink dress (the back is open with a tie)

This actually is a

This actually is a “muslin” of a new pattern that actually fits so I will wear it 🙂

Throughout my day, my constant companion is our one-year-old Airedale, Jazzy Joy.  THIS is what she does while I create.  I promise you, this bed was beautifully made earlier in the day 🙂

The tornado that is Jazzy

The tornado that is Jazzy

Oh, and, do you like my sunglasses I got for the beach??  The great thing about glasses and earrings… they usually fit!

Cool shades!!

Cool shades!!

Be blessed and encouraged.  If I can do one productive thing on days I can only carefully move my head, so can you!!

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A Place Of Rest

September 26, 2014 at 12:11 pm (Multiple Sclerosis, Musings...)

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11: 28.

Fair warning… this isn’t a happy blog post.  It is a cry from my heart.  No pictures. No profound statements.  Just me trying to put a very long battle into perspective and searching for a bit of peace.

Those of you who read my blog understand that I work really hard to find JOY in every circumstance.  You haven’t heard from me because I didn’t want to burden you.  Many, and I might say most public blogs only show the fun side of life.  Right now, it is very hard to read them because it seems most people are sailing through life, creating, functioning beautifully, without a bump in the road.

My “bump” is coming up on 25 years… multiple sclerosis.  I have fought bravely with all of my being but I am tired, very very tired, tired in my bones, tired in my soul.

Several factors have culminated to get me to this point.  First, my disease is progressing.  My trigeminal neuralgia gives me a literal pain in my head most days.  Medicating that is tricky.  I walk a fine line between being addicted to opiates and under-medicating to the point where it takes more drugs to get rid of the pain.  My MS is causing my legs to weaken by the end of the day, meaning that by the time DannyO comes home from work I am totally spent.  Add to that sweet Jazmine.  If I am honest, we have a love-hate relationship.  She is nearly 5 months old, very smart, but a puppy with frenetic energy.  I no longer have the privilege of staying in bed all day.  Sometimes I need to do that but right now am unable to do so.  Since I agreed to get her, I cannot complain to Danny about it.  If it was up to me, we wouldn’t have her – she is Dan’s.  But what is done is done.

I weep a few times each day.  Yesterday I took Jazzy outside to run off some steam.  It was a beautiful sunny Autumn day but I couldn’t see the beauty.  As I lie in the grass I asked, “Where are you Lord??  I can’t feel You!!  I can’t see You!!”

A whisper came through my spirit… “Breathe, my child, in and out… breathe My Name. I am here. I love you my child”

You see, I forget to pray for myself.  I pray for others… sweet Madeline, my darling DannyO and children, my MS Ninja friends, Jenn, requests that come over the EBC Facebook page, my Momma and Daddy.

While it wasn’t a big “ah-ha” moment, I decided to just breathe the name of Jesus.  Today I am doing better.  I was able to do a load of wash, pay bills and pick a few things up at the grocery store without having a panic attack.   I took Jazzy to the store because I went early enough that it wasn’t too hot.  Right now she is crated so I can rest.  I am learning that her crate is my friend. 🙂

Tomorrow??  Don’t know.  I’m just trying to get through today.  Jazzy will want out soon and we will be taking a slow walk (that would be me) to help wear her out.  She romps and runs as I shuffle along.  My house is filthy (by my standards).  It probably would be a good idea if I found someone to help me one day each month.  We need to clean part of the basement so Jazmine can go out using that door. It would help keep my kitchen floor clean.  I can’t go into my art room during the day because she likes to be right by my side and there are too many things she could ruin.  In the evening I am just too tired.  Soon she will be willing and able to simply lie at my feet… soon… I want to sing.  I want to sew.  I want to paint.   I want to dance (not really but I’m planning to dance in heaven).

So, I breathe, in and out, breathing His Name, asking the Holy Spirit to intercede on my behalf because I don’t know how to pray.  I behave my way through each day, knowing that there is a chance that tomorrow will be better… maybe.  But I hold on to the promise that, if I am weary and heavy laden, I know a place of rest.

There is a place of quiet rest,
Near to the heart of God;
A place where sin cannot molest,
Near to the heart of God.

O Jesus, blest Redeemer,
Sent from the heart of God;
Hold us, who wait before Thee,
Near to the heart of God.

There is a place of comfort sweet,
Near to the heart of God;
A place where we our Savior meet,
Near to the heart of God.

There is a place of full release,
Near to the heart of God;
A place where all is joy and peace,
Near to the heart of God.

O Jesus, blest Redeemer,
Sent from the heart of God;
Hold us, who wait before Thee,
Near to the heart of God.

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Link to My Guest Blog Post – Tab’s “Mom Next Door” Series

July 6, 2014 at 11:48 am (Multiple Sclerosis)

I know this terrific lady. Her name is Tab. I met her through her sister.  She is an amazing mother and wife and an even more amazing woman!!  I am sure that, if we were both raising children, she would be one of my best friends.  As it is, we are blogger friends and each other’s encourager.

She has a fabulous blog, which I read faithfully.  I love the way she is teaching her children how to find their places in this world and how to be people who make a difference.  I know that I didn’t thoughtfully raise my children the way she does…  I was mostly flying by the seat of my pants.

About six weeks ago she asked me to participate in her “Mom Next Door” series.  I was honored to answer the questions she posed and I included pictures of our family throughout the years.  Interestingly, she said the photo that prompted her to ask me was this one…  I was getting an IV steroid treatment (notice the makeup and earrings and new nightgown I made).  Dan would bring the kids in to see me.  I got treatments every three months or so until my stomach couldn’t handle the steroids and I developed bleeding ulcers.

1994-95 -- I was in the hospital having a solumedrol treatment.

1994-95 — I was in the hospital having a solumedrol treatment.

Take a few moments and read my guest post:

Thanks, Tab, for using my life experiences to encourage other Moms and, most of all, thank you for being an inspiration to me!!  I am honored to call you my friend!!

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And so began the rest of her life

May 28, 2014 at 12:33 pm (Memories, Multiple Sclerosis, Trigeminal Neuralgia)

“One day she decided to listen. Really listen. Not to the noisy chatter of her mind that told her she couldn’t, but to the voice within her heart that knew she absolutely could. And so began the rest of her life.”

I cannot take credit for that quote — I just found it today and it spoke to me.

In my devotions today, Jeremiah 33:3 was the verse I studied. “Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.”

I have been really struggling lately, struggling with intense TN pain, with my weight, with the continued MS deficits, with my place in this world.  I am over half-way through my life and I spend most days just barely making it through, with pain being my battle.  I am my own worst enemy.  I have so many creative ideas, but no energy.  I wake up in pain, and then must medicate, which makes it impossible to really, truly function.

This past weekend, I tended both of my sets of grandparents’ graves.  I was blessed to know all four of them.



Grandma Amelia died when she was my age, 54, in November 1969, killed by a drunk driver.  I spent the summer of 1969 with her.  We spent lots of time in her garden.  She entered me in the Garden Show and my flower arrangement won first place!  I remember her as a strong woman — not afraid of any man, of anything.  If she wanted to do something, she just did it.  She told me there was nothing that I could not do.

Grandma and Grandpap Gay

Grandma and Grandpap Gay


Debbie, me, Susan and Grandma Amelia

Debbie, me, Susan and Grandma Amelia

Pappy Savering was a hard worker who spent lots of weekends fishing.  My first real memory involves him.  I had cut my chin on a plastic cup while in the bathtub.  Pappy held my head while Dr. Ebandjieff stitched my chin.  I remember seeing my Momma, sitting by a big Coke vending machine, with her head between her knees.  Pappy was very tall and handsome and could be intimidating, but his hands were gentle, that I remember.  He died in 1988 from a stroke.

Pappy and Grammy

Pappy and Grammy

At their 50th wedding anniversary party

At their 50th wedding anniversary party

Grandpap Gay lived until 1999, with terrible issues as a result of the accident that killed my Grandma.  He was a prayer warrior.  I used to go over to see him and, if it was a while since I had been there, he would say, “Did you lose the map?”  He had strong opinions.  I can just imagine that he and Grandma had some knock-down-drag-out fights!!

Grandpap and Molly

Grandpap and Molly

Grammy lived the longest, until 2009.  She prayed for me every day.  As my sister said, “she loved, more than anything, she loved!”  Grammy never had a bad thing to say about anyone. She would find positives in every situation.  She was very quick to tell you that “outer beauty” wasn’t as important as “inner beauty.”  She’d tell us that we were still in our “ugly duckling” stage.  She was the one who handed out nickels for us to put in the offering plate and could split a piece of gum into five pieces (it was usually very stale so it broke easily!).

Me and Grammy

Me and Grammy

Me and Grammy

Me and Grammy

I shared brief memories with you, but there are so many more!!  As I tended the graves, while I said hello to Grandpap and Pappy, I had conversations with Grandma and Grammy as I loosened the soil, removed the pansies from their temporary pots, dug some more and planted.  As I planted a purple-themed bed, because she would have liked that, I told Grandma Amelia that I missed her and that I wished that I had her strength.  I used many different colored pansies for Grammy, because she never saw a color she didn’t like!! I told Grammy that I missed her and that I wished that I had her sunny outlook.  I told both of them that I was looking forward to seeing them in heaven.  As I left each grave, I kissed their names, told them goodbye.

This morning, I found the quote, I remembered Grandma’s strength, Grammy’s positive outlook, and realized that I was listening to the wrong voices.  For reasons I do not know, the Lord still wants me here on earth.  I need to accept where I am, what I weigh, my physical limitations, my pain issues, in order to live my best life!!!

So, today I am listening… remembering my sweet grandparents’ advice, waiting for the Lord to reveal the “great and mighty things” I do not know.  Above all, I am hearing only the voice that tells me what I CAN do… and so begins the rest of my life.

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Solumedrol Treatment and MS Awareness Month

March 18, 2014 at 3:06 pm (Multiple Sclerosis)

I used to blog more regularly, but always wondered if people really wanted to hear about all the bad days I was having, so I got out of the habit.  I miss blogging.   When I write, I can really “think through” the issues I am dealing with and sometimes actually come up with solutions.  🙂

My multiple sclerosis has been galloping along at a breakneck speed.  If I think hard, I will recognize why… First, I have had MS for 24 years, and MS is mostly a progressive disease and sometimes it gallops.  The situations with my Mom and Dad were also stressful last year, beginning in May when Daddy dislocated his ankle and broke both bones in his leg.  Then my Momma had her acute issue in October.  Thanksgiving and Christmas came… all through it, I was hanging on for dear life, spinning plates in the air.  It was inevitable that the proverbial spinning would end in catastrophe.  My body fell apart.  My balance was so bad that I needed a rollator for walking (unless I can hang on to a grocery cart).  My eyesight was both blurry and unfocused – two completely different issues, but when they occur at the same time, bad things happen.  Indescribable fatigue was the norm rather than the exception.   Of course, my trigeminal neuralgia continues to be off the charts painful.  I could no longer ignore the signs and symptoms.  I called my neurologist and scheduled a solumedrol treatment (steroids).

The last time I had solumedrol (1998 or 1999), I was hospitalized for seven days, with five days of IV’s.  This time, a visiting nurse came to my house each afternoon and hooked up the medicine and sat with me while the bottle drained.  I am so happy that I could stay home.  That meant I could use my own bathroom, drink my own coffee, sleep in my own bed.  Amanda has the ability to work from home so she drove up on day four (Thursday).  She willingly and happily did all of the chores, cooked all of the meals and kept me company.  Have I mentioned that I love my daughter??

The treatments were uneventful until Thursday afternoon when I noticed that my throat was closing and I had the feeling that someone was sitting on my chest.  I tried not to panic and my nurse, Linette, talked me through it.  She slowed down the drip and I took two Benedryl.  Linette is the Mom of one of my former students and we spent some wonderful hours getting to know each other and solving life’s problems (isn’t that what all women do when they get together???).

On Friday, I had a different nurse, Katie.  She is Brent’s age, an ICU nurse who works as a visiting nurse part-time.  She was so sweet and I felt safe in her hands.  Again, my throat and chest closed.  She found the epi-pen and had it at the ready just in case.  Fortunately I didn’t need it.

After five days of steroids, my face and belly are puffy and I have a metallic taste in my mouth. I pre-treated with protonics, but my stomach ulcers are protesting.   Nothing tastes good, even coffee!!  I had forgotten how hard it was to get this treatment.  My skin feels dry and leathery.  My hair is straw-like.  I am unable to laser focus (something I excel at) but the nurse told me that is a side-effect.  I just have an “unsettled” feeling.   I have “creepy-crawlies” all over my body – think spiders crawling over you… Yikes!!!!  And my face (TN) has no change at all.  It will be a few weeks before I will know if the treatment helped.

March is MS Awareness Month and the “color” that represents MS is orange.  I am not an orangey girl, but I had to make a few pieces of jewelry to commemorate and honor those (including me) who are fighting so hard.  The first two pieces are made from beads I bought at an auction – they were strung together in a necklace.  I would say the necklace dated from the 1950’s early 1960’s.

I love this bracelet -- I used an elastic cord.

I love this bracelet — I used an elastic cord.


The second bracelet is just a simple design and I used random beads from my (very very big) stash!

Butterflies... :-)

Butterflies… 🙂


The third set, the necklace and earrings, is a design I came up with during one of my insomnia nights.  I wanted to (of course) use orange but accent with another color.  The green-blue perfectly sets the orange teardrops.  I LOVE this necklace!!

Green-blue for the accent

Green-blue for the accent

Hand-bent clasp

Hand-bent clasp

I have a watercolor ready to go – orange themed – poppies.  I am going to calligraphy “Be Brave” on the piece.  I want to finish it by the end of the month, but my body isn’t cooperating. I will make no promises.  But it’s going to be beautiful.







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A Snowy Saturday Afternoon Contemplation

January 18, 2014 at 3:06 pm (Multiple Sclerosis, Social Anxiety)

I am sitting on the couch, bundled in a blanket, just reading, studying and contemplating…  I seem to be doing a lot of contemplating.  As my MS and TN progress, I am constantly adjusting to a “new normal.”  What worked a month ago sometimes is completely unfathomable today.

My little snack... an orange and three Hershey's kisses :-)

My little snack… an orange and three Hershey’s kisses 🙂

I had a good week.  I exercised three times using my Pilates Power Gym.  That sort of exercise seems to bother my vertigo the least.  I think it is because my head is either completely still or completely supported in 95% of the exercises…

I also went to a concert at the Central Cambria High School, which was a victory for me overcoming my social anxiety issues.  It was held on Thursday.  On Monday I started to plan, what I would wear, what time I would leave, etc.  On Wednesday, I announced that I was “going” on the event’s Facebook page.  I dressed up. I wore my contacts and my new pink bracelet.  I snatched up the last handicapped parking space (there was a person who was going to pull into it right after me… normally I would acquiesce, but I really needed it on Thursday!!)  I walked in, grabbed a program and proceeded to the center section, right side.  I sat in an aisle seat and, as people were filling up the seats around me, promptly started panicking.  I grabbed my purse and coat and went to the far left section, close to the front.  {{Sigh}}  I could feel the stress leave my body!!  I thoroughly enjoyed hearing Mariah, Josh and AJ and Devon sing and play.  I helped these kids along their musical journey when I worked as an accompanist at the high school.  I call them kids, but they are college seniors!!!  They spotted me because I am a very active listener… I can’t sit perfectly still when I listen to music.

My view from the couch...

My view from the couch…

Little victories… they may seem unimportant, but they can add up to real progress!!

Amanda shared a verse with me last night.  I promptly forgot the exact reference (thank you MS and menopause brain fog!) so I emailed her requesting the specific reference.

“(Abraham) grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able to perform.”  Romans 4:20b, 21.  In Matthew 9:8, after Jesus healed a man of his paralysis, this was the crowd’s reaction. “But when the crowds saw this, they were AWESTRUCK, and glorified God.”

His promises to me should overwhelm me, because of his faithfulness to me.  These promises aren’t the “prosperity” claims but promises that the Lord’s Grace and Strength are sufficient for me no matter what I am facing, and His Mercies are new each morning.

A Snowy Saturday Afternoon-5

I had an epiphany this afternoon as I was sitting looking at some painting and sewing books.  I always wait until summertime to sew something summery and paint something summery.  In the same manner, I wait until Fall to sew something for winter or paint something with a Christmas theme. Inevitably, I run out of steam and neglect to finish the project in time for the season. I have decided to turn over a new leaf!!!  I am going to sew two summer garments through February and paint two “summer themed” pictures.  I think I want to do one study with a David Jansen DVD in the Peter Ompir style.  The other piece will probably be a Millie piece. Then, in the summer, I will sew a few winter garments and paint a few Christmas pieces!!  See, this old brain still works sometimes!!

I am enjoying my iPod music as I write this blog.  I have such a variety of music playing.  In the time it has taken me to write this, I’ve heard songs by “Judith Hill,” “Little Big Town,” “Guns ‘N Roses,” “Rachelle Ferrell,” “Earth, Wind and Fire,” “Israel Houghton,” and “Florence and The Machine.”  My Dad would be proud of my song list.  He encouraged us to listen to a variety of music styles (no bad words, though).

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A Blog About Simple Blessings

January 12, 2014 at 4:21 pm (Multiple Sclerosis, Musings..., Trigeminal Neuralgia)

I am sitting here with darling DannyO.  It is 12:48 on a Sunday afternoon. There are two football playoff games on today.  Yesterday I  “undecorated” our Christmas tree.  It took all day – as long as it took to decorate it!!  I knew I would pay for the long day, and I am paying… in spades!!  My trigeminal neuralgia has paid a visit and my back is spasming.  This is not a blog about my aches and pains, but a blog about blessing.

Our tree -- in the day and at night

Our tree — in the day and at night

Our tree... in the day and at night

Our tree… in the day and at night

My "undecorated" living room -- It feels decluttered!!

My “undecorated” living room — It feels decluttered!!

I read some fabulous blogs – their authors seem to have boundless energy and creativity. These women seem to have tapped into a force I am not aware of, because how else could they create such perfection in an imperfect world without magic!!!  My days are mostly filled with figuring out how to make supper, do laundry, sweep the floor without falling flat on my face, either from vertigo or uncooperative legs.  My brain is filled with so many ideas, but my body betrays me.

One way I keep going is by reminding myself of Scripture… I always seem to recall the perfect verse for my situation (thanks to many years of Bible School, SMM, church camp, at which verse memorization was emphasized).  One of my new friends on a Facebook page for fierce women who battle MS, Debbie, wrote this wonderful reminder.

A Blog About Simple Blessings-6

The part of these verses that truly are the reason I get out of bed every day is the part of this Scripture that promises, “They are NEW every morning.” His compassions are new every morning.  HE knows the number of hairs on my head.  He is interested in me.  “Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you.” 1 Peter 5:7.  I memorized it as a child in the King James Version and I like it best this way.

This morning I read a Facebook post from a man who is a missionary to the Central African Republic.  He said, “SAD SAD news…..The Boulata Grace Brethren Church in Bangui is burning as I write this. There are between 1000 and 1500 members in this church. There have been a number of Mosques burned in the past weeks and now there is revenge being applied. Dear God please protect your people, we pray this in Jesus Name.”

I am safe in my house today.  I am blessed.

The bank called at 9:00 a.m., stating that one of our bank accounts had a transaction that they were questioning – giving us the opportunity to double-check it.  We are blessed.

I was able to make a wonderful pot of coffee and ate exactly what I wanted for breakfast.  I am blessed.

Our house is warm thanks to the efforts of my darling DannyO. Wood makes the warmest heat.  We are blessed.

I am able to focus my eyes and move my fingers to write this blog.  I am blessed.

I have a heated rice bag lying on the right side of my face, helping me to fight the TN pain.  I am blessed.

I was able to afford the pain medicine (the big guns as I like to call them) that I need to help fight my TN pain.  I am blessed.

The water in my glass is cold (thanks to electricity) and sweet tasting (thanks to a Brita water filter).  I am blessed.

The man who has loved me for 34 years is sitting beside me.  We have laughed and cried this morning (we watched the movie Marley And Me). I am blessed.

I made the prettiest pink bracelet yesterday — Swarovski crystals and pink and everything!!  I am blessed.

A Blog About Simple Blessings-4

It’s the simple blessings in life that makes life really worth living.

I AM INDEED BLESSED.  How about you???

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Crawling Back (Editing As I Go)

December 17, 2013 at 12:04 pm (Multiple Sclerosis, Trigeminal Neuralgia)

I have often talked about getting things done with a chronic illiness…  editing is an important vocabulary word.  Nothing can be written in stone — I usually have to adjust my wonderful plan 🙂

Today is Tuesday.  I’ve lost three days and am in danger of losing a fourth.  Beginning on Friday night, I noticed that my nose felt like an ice cube (never a good sign).  Then about 2:00 a.m. Saturday morning, I awoke to pain, severe enough to, well, wake me up.  I worked to relax and eventually fell back asleep.  Remember, last week I spent the days opening boxes and wrapping presents.  I didn’t think I had overdone it but I must have.

Saturday morning I woke up in pain, stood to go and get some pain medicine and promptly threw up.  Not good.  My MS has effected my central nerve, which, in turn, causes vertigo.  Throwing up means I cannot keep pain meds down.  I spent Saturday, sitting on the recliner with a heated rice bag wrapped around my face.  If I was very careful, I could avoid throwing up.  It seems I was never careful enough!!

On Sunday, I couldn’t even get out of bed.  I could have called my neurologist, but they would have told me to go to the emergency room.  The ER closest to my house uses a neurologist I reported to the hospital, so that place was out of contention.  Darling DannyO spent the day asking me if I needed anything.  Every six hours I took vertigo AND pain medicine and within ½ hour, threw up.

Moving to Monday…  I had a feeling this would be the last really bad day.  The pain didn’t get any worse (although I’m not sure it could have gotten worse).  I made myself get up and make tea and ate cereal and applesauce.  DannyO had to forage for food.  By 8:00 p.m., the pain was just a whisper.  I did a whole lot of “self-talk.”  “Come on Mel, you can do this!!”

On Monday, I pushed through and made three batches of sweet dough for my nut roll and apricot roll.  I screwed up two of the batches (I blame it on the meds!!).  One batch I added twice the sugar, and another batch I didn’t add sugar… don’t ask!!!  I am converting the dough without sugar into a loaf of bread.  Of course, I love sweets so I decided that the dough with double the sugar couldn’t be all bad.  All I need to do is to make one more batch of sweet dough and I will have enough for 12 rolls!!!  I planned to make the filling Tuesday and bake the rolls on Wednesday.

Today (Tuesday), I woke up and got out of bed… and promptly threw up!!  It seems the vertigo is still with me.  So… editing as I go… I will make the filling Wednesday and bake the rolls on Thursday.  I am not sure when I am going to decorate the tree (which isn’t even up yet)…

Oh well…

Here’s our 2013 Christmas Card.

From Our House to Your House

From Our House to Your House

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Surviving the Holidays

December 8, 2013 at 3:12 pm (Multiple Sclerosis, Time Management, Trigeminal Neuralgia)

Anyone who has a chronic illness understands me when I say even thinking about the holiday season puts me into a state of panic.  How am I supposed to manage myself and family, which I barely do on a good day, during the hustle and bustle of November and December.  After all of these years, I’ve finally figured it out and I thought I’d share my ideas with you.

I start thinking about Thanksgiving and Christmas in October.  I get out my date book and write all of the hard deadlines and functions into the calendar.  Those are days that I schedule nothing else because I need to be able to hold conversations with people, usually in the evening.  With MS, if I am tired, I have cognitive issues, i.e., I cannot carry on a good conversation because I lose words and my speaking becomes muddled.

In October, I also begin a Christmas list and set my budget.  My children are adults now so I don’t have any idea of what they really want or need.  DannyO gets paid every other week so I begin to purchase gift cards, usually one a paycheck, and by Christmas I have all the gift cards I need and haven’t had to whip out my credit card to pay for them.

The one thing I usually give my kids is a bag of essentials, toothpaste, contact solution, teeth whitener, deodorant, chapstick, things like that.  Again, I purchase them bit by bit, with each paycheck, so by Christmas, I am able to have spent $200 on essentials (yes, they are THAT expensive!!) without using my credit card.  I am usually also reminding my kiddos that I need their Christmas list.

I have Thanksgiving dinner at my house for my parents and children.  We usually have between 7-10 people and I make my grocery list two weeks before that date.  I pull my recipes out (yes, I have a “Thanksgiving” file) and check my pantry supplies and note anything I will need, down to the sage and the white wine I use for the gravy.  At this point, I also purchase the walnuts (usually three pounds) and dried apricots (usually three pounds) for my Christmas nut and apricot rolls.

Thanksgiving 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

Thanksgiving 2013

Thanksgiving 2013

I cook a fresh turkey and do not purchase that until the Sunday before turkey day.  This year I got three different frozen vegetables in their “microwave in the bag” and it made things so easy!!  If I had thought about this post before Thanksgiving, I would have shared all of my recipes with you.  Perhaps next year… 🙂

Pies -- they were scrumptious!!

Pies — they were scrumptious!!

The week of Thanksgiving:

  • Sunday:  purchase turkey and pull out all of the dry/pantry ingredients, setting them on the dining room table in groups of recipes.
  • Monday:  Decide what serving dishes I will use for each specific dish and add to the dining room table pile.
  • Tuesday: Make brine for the turkey (I boil 1 gallon of the 2 gallons used and dissolve the salt, brown sugar, etc. I let the mixture cool to room temperature and then add another gallon of cold water to it.  I use three kitchen garbage bags into a 5 gallon bucket and pour the 2 gallons of brine into the garbage bags.  After that cools completely, I add the turkey to the brine.)  This year (and most years) I was able to just put the bucket in the garage, with a lid on it, of course, until Thursday morning.
  • Wednesday:  Bake the pies (this year I made three pumpkin pies and 1 pecan pie). Make the fresh cranberry sauce (I just use the recipe on the cranberry bag). I chop the celery and onions and French bread used in the stuffing mix and store them in a Ziploc bag.
  • Thursday:  Put turkey into the oven between 8 and 9.  This year I bought a probe-type thermometer, recommended by Alton Brown of Good Eats.  The temperature device sits on the counter for easy reading.  I loosely packed about two cups of stuffing into the bird cavity and put the rest into a doubled non-stick aluminum foil packet and added the package to the turkey pan.  At about 11:00 I (Amanda, really) peeled the potatoes and boiled them.  I use a ricer to make the potatoes perfectly smooth.  I also add sour cream, butter, salt and pepper.  After mixing everything together, I tented it loosely with aluminum foil and put it over a pan of simmering water until it was time to eat.  The small pan of sweet potatoes, I started in my Ninja crock pot/oven/stove.  I finished them in the oven while the turkey was resting.

Then I poured the wine. We ate at 1:30. Dinner was delicious!!!

Okay… on to Christmas.  Remember, I have the hard deadlines/functions put in the calendar.  I give myself a three-day window for each specific task culminating on December 25.

  • November 29-December 2:  Beginning on Black Friday through Cyber Monday, I purchased Christmas presents on line.  I paid exactly ZERO for shipping and was able to compare prices and got some wonderful deals.  I would recommend becoming an Amazon Prime member because shipping is free and I have paid for my membership many times over this last year in free shipping.
  • November 30-December 2:  I also addressed Christmas cards.  I had a picture card made with our greeting pre-printed so I only had to address the envelopes.
Our Christmas card 2013

Our Christmas card 2013

  • December 2-5: (Monday through Wednesday) I decorated my kitchen.  I worked as I felt well enough to work.
  • December 6-8: I decorated the living room, which included washing windows.  I finished that room on the 7th, because I had some good hours to dedicate to the task.

Surviving the Holidays-8Surviving the Holidays-11

Surviving the Holidays-9

Next week I have two doctor’s appointments and a hair appointment so that eliminates Monday and Thursday.  On Monday, after my neurologist appointment, I will pick up the five or so remaining gifts that I didn’t get on line.  I also have made a list of my Christmas brunch dishes (yes, I have a “Christmas recipe file”) and will purchase those ingredients sometime this week.

  • December 10, 11 and 13: Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, I will wrap presents.  I may begin today if I feel like it.
  • December 16-20: I will give myself the whole week to bake the apricot and nut rolls.  DannyO puts up the tree (it is real and usually very big) and puts the lights and beads on it.  I will then decorate the tree.  I will decorate as I bake – because there is so much down time with baking.

Surviving the Holidays-12Surviving the Holidays-10

Surviving the Holidays-6

So, if all goes according to plan, by Saturday, December 21, after I have cleaned the house well,  all will be done and I can enjoy the week of Christmas.

Surviving the Holidays-4Surviving the Holidays-3

By making a plan and giving myself (usually) a three-day window to accomplish specific tasks, I am able to enjoy the season and can place the focus where it should be… on Jesus.

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