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Christmas

Planning, Time, and Flexibility: Essential Ingredients for the Holidays

Christmas is a wonderful time of year; full of fun, excitement, and family gatherings.  For weeks beforehand, I spend time decorating, planning, anticipating the good times and envisioning the perfect holiday.  Like so many dreams, reality is rarely the picture perfect vision that I have in my head.  That is particularly true now that MS is part of our lives.
Lynn and I have three big family get-togethers at Christmas—my parents and siblings come the week before Christmas, our kids come Christmas Eve, and his family comes Christmas day.  Each is a wonderful time of creating memories and eating way too much food.  Even though these times are lots of fun, they are also very challenging.
Holiday celebrations are always held at our house since Lynn’s wheelchair cannot enter anyone else’s house in the family. Even though we often order pizza or one of the other family members will do the cooking, there is still a lot of preparation required to host a gathering. Everything takes more planning, more time, and great flexibility if you’re hosting the party at your house.  There’s the need to buy and prepare some, if not all, of the food, clean the house, and decorate (or make everything look festive).  When everyone gets there, you help make your guests comfortable, assist those who need to heat up items or put out food to do so,  make sure everyone has what they need to eat the feast (the fun part), clean up afterwards and put everything back into its original place.  Even if you and your family members are healthy, it’s tiring to host a party at your own house.  If someone in your family is not healthy, then it’s exhausting.
Read more at: http://multiplesclerosis.net/living-with-ms/planning-time-and-flexibility-essential-ingredients-for-the-holidays/

Thus the Week Before Christmas

Thus the week before Christmas and all through the house
Not a creature was stirring not even my spouse
A small Christmas tree had been placed on a stand
So he could “see” Christmas from his power wheelchair
The last of our children this past year had been wed
So most of my parenting worries I’d shed
While Lynn takes a nap, I put on many hats
I cook and I clean and on my keyboard I tap
When out of the quiet, I hear Lynn start to chatter
I listen intently wondering what’s the matter?
“Hey Sweetie,” he calls, “can you come get this trash?”
Now what is he doing? I muse as I dash.
The room as I enter looks peaceful and glows
With the lights from the tree and the wreath’s bright red bow
When what to my wandering gaze should appear
But his hand inching forward and heading straight to the gear
With a fear of disaster, I step over a split drink
Knowing in a moment he’d cross the room in a blink
More rapid than careful toward the joystick I aim
As he questioned my purpose and asked me my name.
Waking up a bit more, he asked, “What’s that you’re fixin?”
I give him my answer and head back to the kitchen.
In less than ten minutes once again he does call,
A deep sigh I do make and turn back toward the hall.
As I care for his needs and my hands I do dry,
I think of our blessings and tears of joy I do cry
I admit that at times my thoughts are quite blue
But I know in my heart that our faith is our glue
When I fear we won’t make it, I see I have proof
That our Lord is providing with His Word as the root.
His promises have power; His love does abound
His voice is a whisper, it makes not a sound.
Through Christmas He gave us the hope of new life
In His wisdom He gave me to Lynn as his wife
With God’s grace and Lynn’s love, there is nothing I lack
Through my service to both, a small portion I give back.
As I settle back into my chores for the night,
I pray for endurance, understanding and insight.
With a smile I keep going, there’s more to get done
But Christmas is here and we’ve been saved by the Son.
Merry Christmas!

English: Nativity scenes in Sanok
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Adapting Celebrations to Meet Our Needs
Finally all the Christmas decorating is finished!  What usually takes me two, maybe three days, has taken me twice that long. But then, almost everything I do now takes twice as long as it did in the past – before my spouse was diagnosed with MS. (http://www.multiplesclerosis.net)

Cheesecake Makes it All Worthwhile

English: Orthodox Christmas decoration Српски ...
Nativity  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I love Christmas.  I’m sure I’m not alone when I say it’s my favorite time of year.  I love the excitement, the beauty, and especially the meaning….but it IS a lot of work.
The reason I did not write a blog last week is that I was busy decorating for Christmas.  You see, I must have about 2o tubs of Christmas decorations.  I have stuff for the inside and stuff for the outside and although it takes a long time and my poor arthritic joints are crying the blues, I enjoy every minute of decorating. However, now it’s a bit more challenging to get all that decorating done and it takes twice as long as it used to do.
Once upon a time, I used to get all my decorating done the day after Thanksgiving. I would start early in the morning and keep at it till it was all done. Now, I always have the first three hours of any day devoted to Lynn’s morning routine of hygiene, toileting, and exercise. Then he rests in bed for 30-60 minutes depending on how restless his legs become.  During that time I eat breakfast and start cooking whatever is in low supply for his diet.  Then I get him up, connect him to his peddler, work to get him comfortable, and head back to the kitchen to finish cooking. Shortly after this he’s ready to eat breakfast.  All and all I usually start being able to decorate about 2-3:00 p.m.
Though he really does try not to bother me too often, on average I get a “call” from him every 45 minutes to an hour.  When I answer the call, I’m usually involved with him from 15-20 minutes depending on what he can think to ask me to do.  (He stores up his requests so that he won’t bother me as often).
On advantage to decorating now is that once Lynn goes to his room after his morning exercise, he does not venture out again till the next day. Therefore, I can spread out whatever I’m using as much as I need to do.  I don’t have to worry about him running over debris with his wheelchair or moving things to where I can’t find them.  All decisions related to how or what I decorate are totally mine.  His participation is very limited.
While Lynn has never been one to go all out and decorate like I do, he has always enjoyed the season’s festivities as well.  We both were involved in choir at church and so we had rehearsals and get-togethers we enjoyed as we prepared for the Christmas cantata.  There were family and friend get-togethers where we socialized with those we may not have seen all year.  And Lynn loved to cook.  He loved to invite family and friends over and provided them a feast.
Now all that has changed.
Lynn still wants to have family and friends over for get-togethers but now I do all the cooking (and I’m not a gourmet cook like he was; nor do I especially like the challenge of cooking for a group).  If we have people in, I have to split my time between making sure all the food is prepared and everything is available and running smoothly and taking care of Lynn’s needs.  I get to do very little socializing. I stay near Lynn all the time; watching for signs of fatigue or getting overheated.  We often have to excuse ourselves so he can bet cathed. He doesn’t like to be fed in front of others so I get him finger foods to nibble on and later I feed him something when he goes back to his room. All too often he feels miserable when others are having fun and that becomes very depressing when it happens so often.
But there is one bright spot for him that he always looks forward to.  Lynn always “cheats” on his diet at holidays and gets a big slice of cheesecake.  He loves cheesecake and he looks forward to it with excitement every holiday.  Somehow that slice of cheesecake seems to make it all worth while.
Even with all the challenges and disappointments, Christmas is a special time of joy, love, and sharing.  It’s more difficult than it used to be, true; but it has never lost that special place in our hearts. We still recognize the meaning of Christmas as a time of newness and birth. Christ’s arrival brought hope and promise of a better tomorrow. It was a time of celebration and love. It’s still that for us.  It’s a time of joy, remembering that there are possibilities of a better tomorrow in the year ahead. There is the love of family and friends which is renewed when we gather together.  There is the promise that thought we struggle with Lynn’s condition each day, there will come a time when we join Jesus in heaven and Lynn will walk again without any fatigue or stiffness and with lots of energy and strength.   It’s no wonder I like Christmas.

What do I do Now?

Following the get-together last Saturday with my family, Christmas was fast upon us two days later.  Christmas Eve we always have our children come over for our family time.  Since the baby was still recovering from his cold, my daughter brought him to our house before heading in for the Christmas Eve church service.  I planned to watch him, cook dinner and be ready for everyone to come back around 6 or 6:30 for dinner.  However, shortly after they left, Lynn started running a fever.
While fevers can be a source of discomfort and can make anyone feel bad, for an MS patient, they can be devastating. Between 4 and 6 p.m. his temperature rose to 103 degrees.  Along with the aches and malaise brought on by the fever, his spasticity became so severe he was asking me to stretch out his arms every few minutes.  Meanwhile the baby needed to eat and I had dinner to cook. I fed the baby but other than that, just rotated him from play site to play site.  Then he began to get sleepy and wanted attention.  I had put potatoes on to cook, and was literally running from kitchen to bedroom every five minutes as I bounced the baby rhythmically trying to “rock” him to sleep in my arms (it didn’t work). 
I called Lynn’s son, Eric, and told him, “Dad had a fever and I needed help; come early,” but by the time he got the message and could get ready to come, it was already six. When Eric and his wife walked in, I was so relieved. I handed Erin the baby, told Eric to stay with Lynn (I had finally gotten the temperature to start coming down) and I took off for the kitchen. Fortunately the other kids were late and didn’t get here till almost seven.  By then all had settled, and dinner was ready.  Whew!!!
Lynn was not able to join us because he felt too bad but everyone would go visit him periodically to keep him company and then let him rest.  It was disappointing that he could not join in the festivities, but, all in all, Christmas Eve was fun and certainly memorable.
The next day, Lynn was very tired from the aftermath of the fever but was able to participate in a late lunch with his family.  His sister came over in the morning and fixed the meal and it was delicious.  She left us some food for dinner and after everyone left (and Lynn had a nap) we rounded out the evening with a movie.  Later we had leftovers (his were made just for him according to his diet) and we went to bed around 2:00 a.m.
At 3:30 a.m., I woke up terribly sick.  My stomach was grumbling and I knew I better rush to the bathroom before I had an accident.  As I rushed past Lynn, he said, “I need to pee.”  I replied, “too bad, I’m going to be sick.  Hold it!” and rushed on to the bathroom where I proceeded to have both vomiting and diarrhea. Several people in the community had GI bugs so I was not sure what was going on.  I thought it might be food poisoning because the stuffed mushrooms with cream cheese had set out for several hours and I finished them off for dinner, but what if it was a virus?  I didn’t want to expose Lynn.  I could not imagine managing him through hours of diarrhea and vomiting, plus something like that could be a major set-back for him or even require hospitalization.  But he needed to pee so I needed to figure out how to care for him and reduce his exposure to me.
The entire time I was being sick, I had in the back of my mind, he needed to pee.  I figured if I could get a foley inserted he would be okay for a while till I could get someone to come take care of him.  So after I would vomit, I would have that period of peace between events.  I shuffled off and got the foley insertion supplies and laid them out.  Then went  back to the bathroom.  When all was calm again, I came and put in the foley and then went back to the bathroom.  Knowing he had a foley, I figured he should be okay for a few hours.  I grabbed my cell phone on one of my trips out of the bathroom and sent a text to his son, “I’m sick.  I need you now! Come take care of Dad.”  It was in the middle of the night so he did not get the message for several hours but came as soon as he could afterwards. By then the worst was over and I was sleeping the needed sleep of recovery.  Eric stayed most of the day until I felt strong enough to eat and take over Lynn’s care.
I had wondered before what I would do if I got sick like that.  Now I know.  I just keep going and work around the illness.  I thought about calling the rescue squad to put in a foley but I have heard they won’t do that.  They would take him to the emergency department and have it put in there.  Can you imagine?  I’m sick, they load him into an ambulance and take him in to get a foley.  He’s then stuck in the emergency department somewhere totally ticked off and worried about me and I have to figure out where he is and how to get him!  That would be a mess, wouldn’t it?  But then again, if you can’t pee, it does eventually become an emergency.
You may recall I have a daughter who is a nurse and you might be thinking, “why doesn’t she call her?”  Unfortunately, my daughter has a phobia of being around vomiting.  This is a true phobia and she becomes dysfunctional in such a situation.  She would be no good.  She could handle just about anything else calmly and professionally but knowing I was vomiting would make her avoid my house as if we had the black plague.  Her phobia is beyond her control and something we have dealt with since she was six so I know better than to try that route unless there is no other option, and even then, I’m not sure she could handle it.
Anyway, I figured out my own solution and managed to take care of Lynn while I was sick. I’m sure what I had was food poisoning not a GI bug because by the next day I was fine.  So all ended well.  Lynn’s fever did not return.  My cold is slowly getting better and tonight is New Year‘s Eve.  I’ve started taking down my Christmas decorations and hopefully will make a big dent in them tomorrow.   
I hope 2013 will be a good year full of family and love and hope.  I know if challenges come, as I’m sure they will, we are not alone.  Our Lord is with us and the angels he has given us (a family, friends, and acquaintance who look out for us every day serving as his hands) will met any need we may have.  We are truly blessed.
May God bless you all throughout this coming year! 
From my house to yours, Happy New Year.  
Donna

Warning! I have a Cold!

Yesterday we celebrated Christmas with my side of the family.  Several traveled about five hours so that we could be together. We had a wonderful time but it almost didn’t happen.
Earlier in the month I posted a blog about how difficult it was to choose between caring for Lynn and helping out my daughter who was sick and whose baby was very sick. After reading that post, my loving, self-sacrificing, 80-year-old parents jumped in their car and drove five hours to come help her out so I would stop worrying about her.  (See where I get my caregiving tendencies?)  It was such a relief to have them here so I knew Sarah could get some much-needed rest.  They kept the baby at my house, and I could help from across the room or up close if I was careful to stay away from his little contagious face.
My parents needed to get home for some things previously planned so they left early Friday morning of that week (two Friday’s ago).  A few hours after they left, my daughter sent me a text, “do you have a spare stethoscope?  I think Eli is wheezing.”  Though I didn’t have a spare, I immediately took what I had and went over to check his breathing.  In doing so, I walked into virus city but I took the risk because I was worried about the baby.  I’m glad I did because he was certainly wheezing and, in fact, ended up in the emergency department a few hours later to get breathing treatments.  I stayed away from them after that but it was too, late–the alien invader cold virus breached my armour and attacked.  I now have a horrible cold and I’m miserable…and feeling guilty and worried.
Several other members of my family had also been sick last week with colds and one developed an intestinal illness which was a totally new bug to throw into the mix. We almost postponed the family get together; but by yesterday morning, most were feeling better so we decided to have a “no touch” celebration.  Honestly, I think I was the sickest one there so I hope no one gets sick from me!  We occasionally forgot and gave a hug but for the most part, we did not touch.  Since the baby had finally gotten better, the only ones who could touch him were his parents and me (other than my parents who had no symptoms of illness and had already been exposed to him) which was disappointing for the others.  I was ill but from the baby sharing his germs so he could not be re-infected from me.
As I sit here, now, sneezing almost continuously, my biggest fear, of course, is Lynn.  I can’t help but share these germs with him.  I’ve washed my hands till they are cracked from dryness.  I put a towel over my shoulder when I have to move him to keep his face away from my clothes. I turn away when I cough and sneeze but he’s living in my germs.  I give him Zicam around the clock. However, I fear it’s just a matter of time before he is sick, too.  In fact, he said his throat was a little sore this morning and his use of nose spray has started to increase.
Everyone hates to get a cold and hates the miserable symptoms that cause sore noses, difficultly sleeping and other unattractive and inconvenient maladies.  However, for a person with MS, it carries even greater concerns.  MS is considered to be an autoimmune disease because the immune system in an MS patient is “confused.”  Where in the lives of a person who does not have an autoimmune condition, T-cells and other infection fighting agents are good guys, in a person with MS, they are traitors.  Instead of helping the body, they attack it.  Think of it this way…
Two little countries are located side by side and they hate each other with a passion.  Both countries train their soldiers to attack and destroy any soldier from the opposing country on sight.  The two country’s inhabitants have unique skin colors.  Country-A inhabitants have yellow skin and Country-B have green.  Finances are an issue one year and Country-B is low on resources.  They came up the strategy to put a blueing ingredient in the water of Country-A.  The next morning when Country-A wakes up, everyone who has had water to drink during the night has turned green.  The rest of the “yellow” inhabitants think they have been invaded and began to attack and kill the “green” invaders.  Thus they destroy themselves and the Country-B gains control.
Something similar happens in MS.  The person’s immune system senses danger and attacks itself so when a new infection is introduced, more “defenders” are produced by the body and these new defenders not only attack the invaders but also the person’s own body.  That makes the individual susceptible to having an exacerbation and developing new MS problems. 
That happened to Lynn two years ago.  He got a bladder infection that was not treated correctly. He lost his desire to eat and his body’s inefficiency to fight the infection led to him being hospitalized.  Once he was hospitalized, he developed pneumonia due to an accidental aspiration from the feeding tube he had, and between the two infections (respiratory and urinary), his body engaged in WWIII tactics which nearly cost him his life.  He has just now gotten back almost to his pre-hospitalization level but still has a way to go even now.  Before hospitalization, he had better balance, could use both hands, and had voluntary control of urination. Now he has none or limited ability in these areas.
So, it is with great concern I wait to see if my cold leads to an illness in his body.  I’m also concerned because he currently has a stage III skin breakdown on his right buttock.  Therefore, his body is already under attack trying to repair the skin damage.  I fear that adding in the defense of a cold will be over whelming. 
I’ll just have to wait and see and ask for prayers of defense.  I know if he gets sick not only will he need prayer support but so will I.  (He becomes even more needy when he doesn’t feel well and I’m already on overload from that front as it is!)
On a more pleasant note, I look forward to two more family events this coming week and one next week for New Year’s Eve if he isn’t sick. 
In closing, I wish you and your family a very MERRY CHRISTMAS and God’s blessings on your new year!

Christmas Eve

Fixing Christmas dinner

It’s 12:12 a.m. Christmas Eve.  In a few hours I’ll be back up getting ready for my kids to come over for our Christmas Eve time together.  I love having them come over but as with all things, MS gets in the way it seems.
I had a call from my son earlier saying he feels stuffy so he might not come for dinner Christmas Eve night because he doesn’t want to expose Lynn to anything.  All our family is very thoughtful regarding exposing him to anything. They know how fragile his health is and how difficult it is for him to recover. But I really want my son to come.  It just won’t be Christmas if  all the kids can’t be here.
Lynn has felt miserable all day.  He’s been very testy and hard to get along with. He’s so tired and uncomfortable and needs constant attention.  I wonder if he will even be able to enjoy the family time together.  Every night for the past two weeks he’s needed a hot shower to make him feel better.  The kids are coming over around 6:30 so that means he can’t have one.  How will that go?  Will he just suffer through?  I expect he will but I’ll see it and know he’s miserable.  Why can’t he feel good anymore?
He and I were not going to exchange gifts this year because we can’t go shopping but I had a chance to do so Thursday and picked up a couple of things for him.  I hope he won’t be upset that I bought him something but I love to give presents and it’s just not Christmas if you can’t give things to people you love.  I know he can’t shop; plus if he shops on-line he has to use my credit card so I know anyway.   It’s just the way it is. I’m okay with no gifts for me but I really want to give to others.
I admit I haven’t had too much Christmas spirit this year.  I used to do so much at church for Christmas and that really represented Christmas to me as much as anything did.  We haven’t been able to go to church in over a year now so a huge chunk of what makes Christmas special for me is missing.
So ready or not, Christmas is here.  No need to decorate anymore.  If presents aren’t bought by now, it’s basically too late…and in two days, it’s over till next year.  I need more time!  I want more celebration… and I want Lynn to be well enough to enjoy it.
It’s time to go feed him dinner then it’s off to bed for the night.  Tomorrow will be busy with a few errands to run and a roast to prepare for dinner and some last-minute wrapping.  I’m looking forward to it but afraid to get excited as well for fear that something will happen to keep us from getting together.  I sure hope we ALL get to enjoy it.
Here’s hoping you get to enjoy yours too.  After all, we are here, and alive, and loved, and Christ gave up everything to give us hope of eternal life by coming as a baby, totally vulnerable in the world.  What more could we ask for?  Whatever happens, we are blessed.
Merry Christmas.

Family Gatherings

Helping Lynn during family gathering

This past weekend, my parents and siblings as well as our children and theirs, came to our house to celebrate Christmas.  It was a wonderful time; lots of laughing and sharing…as well as good food.  We rarely get to see most of them since Lynn has become wheelchair dependent so these times together are especially precious. 
Changing where and how you do things is one of the adjustments that comes with being a caregiver. Since most homes are not designed for access and steps or narrow doors make it difficult to negotiate around most homes, the places a wheelchair dependent person can go are rather limited. The result is that you either become isolated from your former friends and family or you open your open to them coming to you.  That’s what we do; we have everyone to come our house.  It’s funny but before Lynn became disabled, I used to really stress out and have to have the house clean and neat with everything looking great.  Now, I’m just glad they are coming and have learned to let it go…somewhat.  I still like to make it look nice but I’ve also learned that if I don’t get the chance to do that; everyone understands and it’s no big deal.
Lynn was really looking forward to this year’s get-together.  He has not been able to participate in our  family get-togethers for the last two years due to some aspect of living with MS. This year he thought would be different, but it didn’t turn out as well as he had hoped. He realized shortly after he got up yesterday that it was not going to be a great day.  After breakfast he had to lie down because he was already exhausted.  He rested about an hour and he got up just before everyone got here so that he managed to great everyone and participate through lunch.
He was there for the welcoming greetings and for my daughter’s big announcement.  You
Baby's Ultrasound (profile shot)

see, he and I had known since October that Sarah (my daughter from my first marriage) was pregnant but she asked that we not tell the family so that she could do it herself.  Boy, was that hard but we managed. It’s been especially hard because she has had a difficult pregnancy so far; excessive nausea with a lot of weight loss and at least two hospitalizations for dehydration.  She was out of work for about six weeks and used up a great deal of their savings so it’s been hard not to share with our family the struggles she’s been having.  She’s better now but still on an infusion pump for nausea. 
We’ve been talking for a couple of weeks about how she would make her big announcement.  Since the pump is rather obvious, she had me call her when everyone was here so she could come in last with her coat on.  Then she presented a special Christmas present to my parents (her grandparents).  It was an oranament that she had affixed a picture of the baby’s ultrasound scan to.  It took them a minute to figure out what it was but when they did, everyone was very excited.  It made the day extra special, and Lynn was able to be there for that. 
He also managed to eat a pizza that was especially made for him by our church friend who cooks his gluten-free diet entrees.  Often when he’s this tired he cannot feed himself but he didn’t want me to feed him in front of everyone.  The pizza was the perfect solution. Because he could hold the slices, he was able to feed himself successfully, plus since everyone else was also eating pizza, he fit right in.  (Besides that, the pizza they made for him was wonderful!)
Right after lunch, the family gets together to play games.  It’s a way for all of us to be together and share in an activity of fun regardless of the age of the players. We divide up into teams and have a lot of good-natured competition.  Once we started the games though, Lynn had to lie down.  He was absolutely exhausted.  I put him to bed and kept the baby monitor close so I could hear him when he needed something.  For the rest of the day, I divided my time between taking care of him and coming back to the party. Even when he woke up, he was feeling too bad to join back in.  I attached him to his peddlar and would come back about every twenty to thirty minutes to make sure he had what he needed, give him either hot tea or cold water depending on what his body temperature was feeling at the moment, and cathing him since he was drinking so much.  He was very disappointed but felt so terrible that there was no way for him to join in. 
Overall this year’s gathering was better for him than last year’s by far but once again he wasn’t able to really fully participate… and neither was I.  I’m fortunate that my family just steps in and picks up the slack.  They put the food together and set everything out.  They also cleaned it all up and I came out of his room to a clean kitchen with everything put away.  They really try to pitch in with whatever they can do.  I really appreciate that because it allows me to also enjoy the time. 
When you are a caregiver, it’s like when you have small children–you never really get time off except that with children, it’s a little easier to get a sitter.  When the person you are caring for is 6 foot tall, weights about 200 lbs, and can only do very limited things for himself, finding a sitter is not so easy.  And while the person is an adult, you find that you watch over them in much the same way that you watch over a child.  You are constantly watching to make sure they do not run into anything with the wheelchair, you anticipate what they need so that it’s within their reach or you go get it for them, you watch for signs of distress…are they warm enough?  comfortable?  do they need to go to the bathroom? did they get enough to eat? and on and on.  I ate my meal standing up next to him so that I would be close in case of a problem.  I also am always looking around to see if he has a pathway that’s big enough for him to get into or out of areas without knocking over something or someone.  As a caregiver, you must always think ahead and plan for the what ifs?
All in all though, our family get-together was great.  I had time with everyone.  I managed to eat and snack and participate in the games.  I managed to be both a part of our family fun and the companion to Lynn that he needed…so it’s all good.  It’s different but it’s good; just like so many other aspects of this condition.  
I have three more celebrations coming up this week.  Thursday someone is staying with Lynn while I go out with my staff for lunch to celebrate the season.  Saturday night our kids and their significant others will be here for dinner and then Sunday, Lynn’s family will be here for lunch.  I am looking forward to it all and hope that you all will be having similar good times and good memories. 
Merry Christmas.

Christmas with Family

 

My Mom and Dad arrived today in anticipation of our family get together at our house on Saturday with my family and my brothers and their families.  Everyone comes to our house now because Lynn’s powerchair and other equipment do not fit as well into a home that is not equipped for them. 
For years we all traveled to Franklin County located at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  I really miss seeing those mountains with the snow caps through our kitchen window each morning.  Richmond has hills but those Blue Ridge Mountains are awesome with snow on them.  Every once in a while there would even be snow at my parent’s house when we went and that really made it feel like Christmas.
My brothers and parents are the ones who offered to start having Christmas at my house a few years ago.  I was worried about going to my parent’s home that year due to Lynn’s mobility issues and wondered how to help Lynn get around when we were there but did not share my concern.  However, they realized the struggle and offered to change our tradition and come here instead.  I know that was a sacrifice for everyone because, after all, home for Christmas is where you met Santa years ago, right?  I really appreciate them giving that up and coming here.
This year is especially special.  For the last two years, Lynn has been home but too sick to participate or really remember any of the activities.  Though he’s really tired from the ferritin deficiency, this year he should be able to participate.  He’s very excited.  He has decorated his wheelchair with blue LED lights (or rather I put them on with him telling me how to do them) and we have a small Santa hat and scarf on the back of his headrest.  It’s really very cute.  He even has a special Santa hat that lights up and bounces like a spring and blue and white toe socks to wear.   I’m jealous.  I don’t have anything festive to wear but then maybe I’m really okay with that. 
Several people have helped me decorate this year.  My brother, sister-in-law and niece came and got it started two weeks ago.  Then I did a little and a group from church came and decorated outside and finished up inside.  I must say, it really looks nice around here. It may stay up a lot longer than Christmas though since taking it down is not my favorite thing to do!
I love Christmas decorations.  I admit I wouldn’t do as much as we did this year if it was just me doing it but I’m so happy having so many Christmas items sitting around and having all the windows and doors decorated.  There is just too much to do to have spare time to decorate by myself but I’m very blessed that so many people seem to know how much Christmas means to me and came out to help me have the enjoyment I would not have otherwise.  God has blessed me with so many wonderful friends and family members.  I am so fortunate.
Another way our traditions have changed is the food.  My mom used to fix a huge spread.  She made everyone’s favorite food and had about 10 different desserts to pick from.  Really! It was awesome.  She still brings several desserts but we don’t cook on the day we celebrate anymore–we order pizza!  We all love it and not cooking or needing to clean up gives us all more time to visit. 
We don’t exchange presents either.  Most of us are on tight budgets. Instead we play games and win prizes.  We don’t really need the prizes but they are fun none the less.  We divide up into teams and all ages play together.  We have lots of good laughs.
The main joy of Christmas is the love of family and the celebration of the birth of our Saviour.  Traditions are a fun way to celebrate but when they no longer work for you, then it’s time to stretch them a bit and make the love and joy of the season be the focus rather than doing something that takes the joy out of the season.
I hope you get to celebrate with your family.  Christ’s love for us was so strong that he gave up his kingdom for a time and all the comfort and joy of home to come be with us so that we could live forever, if we only choose to follow him.  That’s the true spirit of Christmas and the joy and love of family together reinforces that same love.
May God bless each and every one of you this Christmas season. 
Merry Christmas!!!