One In A Thousand

It seems every night lately, I watch the news and a little part of me dies inside.

Our world is struggling. People are dying, rioting, and children are crying. The gangs are taking over the streets, families are flailing, and legends have taken their own lives.

My heart has been breaking, and my mind whirling. Where is my place? How can I help?

I firmly believe we must be the change we want to see in the world, and I’ve been trying. But how do we change things like compassion and kindness? How do we take the hurt away and help others smile?

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And then I saw this movement. Some bloggers were getting together to spread compassion. #1000Speak. 1000 voices coming together to make the world a little brighter, if only for a day. I was blown away. Here was a whole group of people like me, people who just wanted to spread a little goodness in a weary world.

So I signed up. I committed to blog about compassion on February 20, 2015. Now I’m spreading the word. We still need more people to reach our goal of 1000 voices. And if we hit over 1000, all the better.

I’m humbly asking you to join with me. Let’s be the change we hope to see in this world. Let’s spread compassion. It might just be for a day, but that one day could start a lovely ripple effect. And wouldn’t that be something to see?

I Promise You, I’m Bored With This Mess

I’ve been pretty absent around these parts lately. Life simply has not been wanting to play fair. It seems as soon as one thing eases up, ten more plop into my lap.

We’re still trying to get a handle on some new health matters, and that’s been my primary focus lately. It’s also been the primary trigger of stress lately. I feel as though I’ve been kicked into hypochondriac mode. Every new symptom brings concern. Is this related? Should I call the doctor? What if it’s not a big deal? What if it’s a really big deal?

I’ve been reduced to spinning circles within my own mind.

And honestly? I’m pretty bored with this mess.

I want to go back to how things were a few months ago. When I was only worried about the usual things, bills and such. I want to have a break from this added pressure, and just go back to the usual amount of stress.

Which is hardly something one wishes for, right?

But it’s true. I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired. I’m overwhelmed with the constant onslaught of drama, problems, and stress.

Anyhow, I promise you this:

I’m ready to get things back to normal. So I’m going to do what I can to help it get that way. And I suppose that means letting go of some of the stress, any way I can.

Anyone have some sharp ideas?

We Can Be Compassion

Today there are a 1000 voices coming together for compassion.

I’ve been excited about this project from the moment it came across my Facebook feed. It’s such a beautiful goal, and I thought it fit in nicely with my 2015 resolution to spread more kindness. And if the start to our 2015 hasn’t opened Scotty and I up to compassion and kindness, then we need a lot of help.

In my heart and mind, compassion and kindness go hand in hand. They are one, interchangeable. Maybe that’s not the way for everyone, but that’s how it is for me. And so as I sat this week working on this post, I wondered how I would approach it. I had many different ideas as I readied myself for bed last night.

Then I read this post from Tamara. And I knew what I wanted to write.

Compassion is what I strive to teach my son, what, I think, all us parents strive to teach our children. But, as Tamara pointed out, it’s so often the little ones who teach us. I read her post and was reminded of a time my son was a wee bit younger. We were picking out a Christmas gift for the Angel Tree and I was telling him how there are some children in the world who can’t have big Christmases like ours. How we share our blessings by giving to those less fortunate. I think maybe he was four at the time.

That night at home, I walked into his room to get him ready for bed and found him wrapping some of his favorite toys in his blankets. I asked what he was doing and he said,

“Mama, I want to give these toys to the angel kids who can’t have Christmas. Can we share these ones with them?”

I tried to hide my tears as I sat on his bed and praised him and his big heart. I told him we would donate his toys the next day, if he wanted to, and I helped him stack them by his bedroom door.

My heart overflowed that night.

Children are not born knowing hate or discrimination. They are not born knowing the woes of the world. They are sweet and innocent little sponges who soak up all that we show them, whether we intend it or not.

We adults have years of the world hardening our hearts, years of skepticism and judgement (however unintentional it may be) in our minds. We no longer see the world as simply as our children, but we can.

We can step back and take a lesson from those we’re supposed to be teaching. We can FEEL again, and lead with open hearts. We can show compassion and kindness, it really isn’t that hard. Nor does it require that much.

Buy coffee for the person behind you in line. Smile at your neighbor and ask how they are, instead of brushing by impatiently. Leave a Star Wars Valentine at random places throughout your weekend. Pass along a blender you’re not using to someone who needs or wants one. Text that friend whom you haven’t heard from, maybe they just need to know someone is thinking of them. Hold the door open for a stranger. Take flowers to work to brighten the office for you AND all of your coworkers. Donate to your local mission. Make sandwiches and take them to the homeless on the streets.

We can all do these things, we can all be these people. We can be the change we wish to see, we can be the hope in this worn and weary world.

We can be the little boy giving his beloved Finding Nemo and Lego toys to the less fortunate.

We can be compassion.

Living Better: Being The Change

LivingBetter

If you’ve been around these parts much, you know one of my main mantras is “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

One of the best ways to be the change, in my humble opinion, is to spread kindness. I see it as my way of putting good karma out there, or leaving a better world for our children. And yes, there’s a great feeling in my heart when I’ve done something kind for another.

I know I’m not alone in this. There are entire boards on many a Pinterest account dedicated to RAOK (random acts of kindness), inspiring change, and sharing love. But maybe, just maybe, you’re like me. Maybe your budget doesn’t always allow for buying someone’s coffee or meal. Maybe you need some ideas on how to help change the world that are a bit more…affordable? Times are hard for all of us, and being kind doesn’t have to mean emptying your checking account.

So I compiled a list here for you. For those of us who want to help, but maybe don’t always have the funds.

*Cards, letters, and emails. This one applies more to people in your life, but it still counts. Maybe there are a few people you missed talking to over the holidays. Drop them a line. Don’t have a stamp? Email them. Or call them. Everyone likes to know they crossed someone’s mind today. So bring that smile to someone’s face, far and wide. If you want to branch out, fill out a handful of little cards (you could even do this with post-its!) with inspirational or happy thoughts and leave them in random places as you go about your day. Drop one in the tip jar at your coffee shop, include one as you mail payment for your power bill. Leave one on a bus seat or in a taxi. The possibilities are endless!

*Hold a sign on the corner. Seriously. Over the holidays, my fiance and I saw a family standing on a street corner holding signs. Instead of asking for help, they were offering it. Their signs said things like “You matter!” and “Have a great day!” It warmed our hearts and inspired us. Sometimes people just need a reminder that there is some good out there. Be that reminder for someone!

*The next time you bake cookies, take a few over to a neighbor. Or save some for the guy who comes to work on your cable. It’s not much, but I bet it’ll make them smile. And hey, it’ll be less there tempting you, so it can also help out that New Year’s diet, eh?

*Same concept as above- The next time you’re packing lunches for your kiddos, pack an extra one. Take it to the person on the corner on your way to school drop-off. It’ll warm your heart to know they’ll have a meal that day, and it can be a great lesson for your kiddos. If you can, include an extra pair of gloves or socks with the lunch. I promise you, they’ll be grateful.

*Donate. Donate those clothes that are cluttering your closets. Help your kiddos sort through and donate their old toys and books. Donate your time. Help out at the school, the local mission, your neighbors, online. An hour spent helping someone can make a world of difference, for you and them. Unsure who needs your help? Sometimes it’s as simple as putting the offer out on social media. Reach out, you might be surprised to see who reaches back.

I hope I’ve inspired you to spread some kindness today. Even the smallest gesture can turn someone’s day around. This world is scary, tired, and weary. Let’s make it a little kinder, one act at a time. Together, we can help each other to live better.

Playing With Dogs

Life lately has been pretty complicated.

My health has been having some ups and downs and even some sideways. The holidays came, conquered, and left. Once again we find ourselves in January where money is a little more than tight, the weather is a little colder than chilly, and we’re all pretty burnt out.

I find myself stepping back to evaluate where my heart is. What projects have a I committed to, and which do I really WANT to do? How do I balance what I want to do with what I NEED to do? How do I take care of myself and others?

Yesterday, after a particularly emotional doctor’s appointment, I came home and cried. I curled up with my doggy and tried to shut out the world. Except the world didn’t want to stay shut out. There were emails to answer and phone calls coming in and…

I’m overwhelmed.

So this morning, I didn’t check my email, I didn’t answer my phone. I loaded up my doggy into my friend’s truck, and we took our dogs to the dogpark. We stood bundled up, chatting with other dog owners as our dogs all sniffed each other. I walked around with our little Toddy while he sniffed each and every fence post. I threw the squeaky ball for the dogs who would chase it. And I watched my shy little guy chase dogs three times his size.

I got a little muddy, more than a little chilled, and am definitely tired. But the dog slobber made me smile, and as I watch my Toddy nap on the couch, I realize my mind is clear for the first time in weeks.

And suddenly, things aren’t so complicated.

Living Better: Tips For Parents New To Autism

LivingBetter

Welcome back for another dose of Living Better. We’re starting of the New Year with our gal Echo, who’s here to share her tips for parents new to a diagnosis of autism. So stick around and make her feel welcome. 

5 Tips For Parents Beginning The Autism Journey

My son is what most would consider a “late diagnosis”. He was not diagnosed with Autism until he was 5 and a half. He has a high functioning form of Autism known as Asperger’s Syndrome. For most, a diagnosis is a sad moment. For us, his diagnosis was a relief. We finally knew what was wrong and how to approach it. I have learned quite a bit in our three years, but there is always more to learn. I think the very beginning is the hardest part. So here are some tips for those of you that are just starting the Autism journey.

Tip #1: Don’t let the diagnosis defeat you.

Having a child with Autism is not the end of the road. You need to do what you have always done. You adapt to the situation. Yes, certain things will have to change, but now that you have a clue as to what you are dealing with, the changes are more readily known. Adapt, live, love.

Tip #2: Do not believe everything you read, hear and see.

I fell into this trap at first. I was given books, sent links to articles, listen to the stories from doctors and forums. Don’t do it. Just don’t. At least not right away. No child with Autism is like another, so all of the “advice” that people give you, is just going to scare you and stress you out at first. Nobody knows your child like you do and now, you have another layer to get to know.

Tip #3: Do start looking into programs that can help.

There are a lot of programs that can help children with Autism and their families. I’m talking about beyond the doctor. A lot of local play places will hold sensory nights for kids with special needs, there are wonderful OT groups, respite (help for parents) programs, PCA programs. There are grants and more available. The list grows everyday as the awareness does.

Tip #4: Prepare yourself for questions and judgmental stares.

I can’t even count how many times someone has asked me, “Are you sure your son has Autism?”. A lot of people fall into the cookie cutter trap. They think that if they have seen one Autistic child that they have seen them all. I get questioned all the time. It comes with the territory. I mainly get questioned by family and friends. If your child has a more severe diagnosis, you may get questioned by complete strangers. The judgmental stares happen daily. When my son shrieks in excitement because a store carries blenders. When we eat out and he has more food on his face and shirt than my 3 year old. When he can’t figure out if he should push or pull a door or how much force he needs to use. When I bend down and give him a stern warning, through gritted teeth, that he needs to knock it off. People stare. People judge. Just perfect your fake smile or, if you are like me, your major stink-eye!

Tip #5: Your child has Autism, but Autism doesn’t have to have your child.

Set expectations. Set goals. Set rules. Don’t let your child have unexpected behavior just because he has Autism. We refuse to let our son use Autism as an excuse. Yes, we know it can make things harder for him, but we know he can achieve whatever he sets his mind to. I know that my son is capable of great things, so I am not going to let him surrender to his diagnosis.

Again, adapt, live and love, but don’t let it defeat you!

You can find more Autism resources at AutismSpeaks.org

Echo is a mom, a blogger, and is a constant battle to hold on to the last shreds of her sanity. She can be found blogging at Domain of the Mad Mommy, on Twitter, on Facebook, and Pinterest. If you’d like to keep tabs on her, be sure to sign up for her newsletter

A Year In Review 2014

After spending New Year’s Eve playing cards and games with my fiance and one of our good friends while our dogs played and hid from the fireworks, I spent a chunk of New Year’s Day in the ER with some odd symptoms. Muscle tremors, shooting pains, and random numbness throughout my left arm/elbow/hand. Turns out I’m fighting a harder RA flare than I knew, and this was just another manifestation of that. They fitted me with a sling to keep the arm elevated and told me to go home, take my pain meds and…REST.

Anyone else hate being told to rest all the time? No? Just me?

Anywho, this morning I was getting caught up on blogging and showing some of my blogger peeps some love, and I found this on Tamara’s site. And I thought, “Yes, I need to do this!” So here you go, loves, my 2014 in review, and some hopes for 2015.

What did you do in 2014 that you’d never done before?

I had an article published. 

Got our adorable doggy, the first pet Scotty and I’ve had together.

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I started Remicade infusions for RA treatment. I’ve never had any sort of infusion before.

Did you keep your new years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I did, and I will! For 2015, I want to focus on living better. I want to spread kindness and joy and do my part to make the world a better place.

Did anyone close to you give birth?

A few of my dear friends blessed us with babies this year. Rebecca, Crys, and Fallah all had adorable bundles of joy ❤

Did anyone close to you die?

Not anyone I know personally, but the loss of Robin Williams touched me deeply. I grew up with him, and it breaks my heart to know the world is missing his genius.

What countries did you visit?

Sadly, none. We’re hoping to visit Canada later this year.

What would you like to have in 2015 that you lacked in 2014?

A blender. A yard for our doggy to run and play.

What date from 2014 will remain etched upon your memory?

I don’t have a specific date, just little snippets throughout the year that make me smile. The look of joy on my fiance’s face as he played his music again. My son and fiance exploring the space museum together.

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My doggy running through the tall grass at the dog park. Game nights with my fiance. Nights at Denny’s with Kristen and Seth. Civil War on the big screen. Evenings with Cathy.

What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Following my dream of being a writer. It involved more than just sharing my words here with you. I put myself out there more and faced my fear of rejection. I hope to continue this in 2015 and maybe finally finish a book.

What was your biggest failure?

This question really stumped me. I think as long as you continue to learn from your mistakes, nothing is a failure. As for me, I’m still learning.

Did you suffer illness or injury?

Still rocking the battle against my autoimmune disorders. I was also diagnosed with TMJ, and am awaiting an appointment with a oral maxi-facial specialist to determine our treatment plan.  I also had a bout with chemical poisoning. Joy.

What was the best thing you bought?

I honestly can’t think of anything right now. Does the cheesy popcorn I’m calling my lunch count?

Whose behavior merited celebration?

My fiance, who continues to be by side and hold my hand as I walk this path.

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Where did most of your money go?

Bills.

What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Time with my son.

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Planning our wedding. Making a new friend. A visit from Kristen and Seth.

What song will always remind you of 2014?

Foo Fighters Something From Nothing

Compared to this time last year, are you:

Happier or sadder?  Happier
Thinner or fatter?  Thinner, though I still have a ways to go.
Richer or poorer?  About the same, I guess. Scotty did get a raise, but those bills keep coming and they’ve just increased our rent, so…

What do you wish you’d done more of?

Living. Chasing dreams. Crafting. Learning new things.

What do you wish you’d done less of?

Hurting. Being stressed and anxious.

Did you fall in love in 2013?

I fall in love with my fiance every day. I fell in love with our doggy when we first met him and knew he needed to come live with us.

How many one-night stands?

None. Or 365 with the same man, however you want to look at it.

Who were your best friends?

All of my friends are best. Kristen and Seth. Nolan and Courtney. All my girls, the sisters of my heart. Kerry. Cathy ❤

What thing did you do that was meaningful to others?

I continued to share my stories. The crew helped me launch the Spoons 4 Spoonies website so we can continue to offer support to those battling chronic illness.

What were your favorite TV programs?

Once Upon A Time. Just about anything true crime related. Sonic Highways.

Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

I try not to hate anyone, it’s so bad for your own well-being. But there are a few people I wouldn’t mind never seeing or hearing about again.

What was the best book you read in 2014?

Written In My Own Heart’s Blood by Diana Gabaldon, the latest book in the Outlander series.

What was your greatest musical discovery?

Sonic Highways by the Foo Fighters. I loved getting to watch how each song came together on their HBO series, and then feel in love with their songs. I’ve always been a FF fan, but this made me love them more and in a new way.

What did you want and get?

A lap desk. A mellow and laid back Thanksgiving holiday. A new phone with a better camera (Thank goodness for Verizon’s free phone offer!). Time with my sisters.

What did you want but did NOT get?

Time ALONE with my sisters. A money tree. A new body.

What was your favorite film of this year?

Uh… I can’t remember seeing many movies this year… Sad story.

What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 32 and spent the day with my son and my fiance and some of our dear friends. We went bowling, which was something I didn’t think I could do with my RA hands, but I did it and it was awesome! We also had pizza from my favorite place, and cupcakes, which makes everything awesome.

What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Less stress.

What kept you sane?

My writing. Therapy. My fiance. Our dog. All of our lovely friends who popped in to keep me trucking along ❤

Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Sam Heughan, the guy who plays Jamie Fraser in the TV version of Outlander.

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Colin O’Donoghue aka Captain Hook

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What political issue stirred you the most?

I was in an uproar over a few things, others just broke my heart. I’ll say this: I stand for equality for all, and for a safer world for our children.

Who did you miss?

My grandmother. My brother. Misty. My daughter. I always miss my son when he’s not here with us. All of my friends who live near and far, whom I never get to see often enough.

Who was the best new person you met this year?

Kerry! She’s become a dear friend and a lovely support system. Also, with whom else can I sit and reminisce about the 80s?

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2014.

Sometimes you have to just let things go. Accept that you need to put yourself first, and set boundaries, even if the things you have to let go are people you love. You can’t help others at the detriment of yourself.

Quote that sums up your year:

 

Thank you all for following along this past year, and for joining me for this little walk down memory lane. Here’s wishing 2015 is full of all the best for all of us! Happy New Year!

Did I Meet My 2014 Goals?

Way back in January, I listed my goals for 2014. And then, like most people, I promptly forgot about them.

Today I went back to that post and, shockingly, I realized I had actually worked on these goals all year, even though I thought I had forgotten about them.

Maybe I didn’t do something each day to make myself feel better, but I did make it a regular practice. I dressed up more often, and found some makeup my skin could tolerate. I broke my jewelry out of retirement and tried a few new hairstyles. I finally settled again on an A-line bob which requires pretty minimal effort to look good. Sure, there were still jammie days, but there were also more days where I looked like my old self. Not too shabby there.

I worked on growing my blog all year, linking up with the gals at Ask Away Friday and Tuesday Ten. I took on some guest posts and started the Living Better series to showcase how we all are making choices to live better, no matter what life tosses our way. I also guest posted for a few blogger friends, as well as writing my first article for RheumatoidArthritis.com.

While I didn’t set a strict schedule for myself, I did settle into a nice routine to make the best use of my time and energy. I also created a planner for myself, which helped keep me organized when it came to doctors appointments, as well as scheduling blog posts and brainstorming ideas. This was a great change for me, and I’ll be using my planner in 2015 as well.

I think I made a lot of strides this year in living life while still managing my health. I started therapy, which is helping me work through many of my mental health triggers, as well as helping me find new coping tools. I’ve been better about practicing self-care and putting myself first. I cut out a lot of what was causing stress and chaos in our lives, and streamlined those things I couldn’t cut out completely. I learned how to set boundaries, which has been a huge thing for me. Mostly I’ve learned how to take care of me, all of me, and how taking care of me can help me to live a better life, even with chronic illness.

And last, but certainly not least, I LIVED. I made new friends and reconnected with old friends. I made memories with my son and my fiance. I tried things I wasn’t sure my body could handle, and tested my limits.

I’m proud of all I did this year. As much as 2014 was rough, and my health took some turns, I still accomplished a great deal and I’m very proud of that. I’m looking forward to 2015 and all it has to offer. I know it’ll be great because it will include our wedding, a visit from one of my dearest loves, and more memories with my son.

I hope you all will continue to follow along on this journey with me. I plan on continuing the Living Better series, as well as starting a newsletter. I’ll also share sneak peeks at the wedding planning here, and I’m sure there will be some pics of the big day. There will be more photos and recipes, life tips and stories about my journey and treatment. There will be more guest posts, and I’ll be visiting a few friends myself.

What were your goals for 2014? Did you meet them? What would you like to see happen here in 2015?

Christmas Is For Gratitude

I know I’ve been pretty quiet this month. My family decided that since my fiance and I couldn’t travel to them for the holidays, they would come here. Which means I’ve spent much of the last month swamped with the regular holiday stuff and then an added side of stress and anxiety. Add in a big dose of my health being wonky, and it’s been busy to say the least.

I had a little mini meltdown last week when it all became too much. After I vented, cried, and snotted all over the place, I was reminded of all the good I have in my life. So here’s a great big holiday dose of gratitude for you, just in case you’ve got a little too much yuck on your plate, too.

GratefulMondays

*I’m grateful for friends who let me send them epically long emails full of my drama. I’m equally grateful for their love and support, and all the wonderful advice they offer.

*I’m grateful for a fiance who, when I’m feeling swamped, tells me to make him a list and he’ll make sure it all gets done. And you know what? I’m grateful for my awesome fiance who made sure that list got done. Every. Single. Thing.

*I’m grateful for friends who send cookies, and for the same friends who don’t mind their cookies being a little late while I battled the crud.

*I’m grateful for Cathy and all her love. For the new sheets and heated mattress pad, which have turned my bed into a haven for my sore body. For her working through her own pain to give me a mini makeover every month so I can look good, even when I don’t always feel it. For her unwavering support and all the very best hugs.

*I’m grateful for the roof over my head, the food in my fridge, for a doggy who loves me and snuggles me, and for family who want to be with me (even if it does cause a bit of anxiety).

*I’m grateful for the blogger friends I’ve made this year, for all the help and advice they’ve given, and for the growth in my writing. I’m grateful for exciting new opportunities in the new year.

And last, but never least, I’m thankful for you, my dear readers. For sticking by me when the writing is thin, for offering support when things are rough, and for helping me celebrate the good times. I’m looking forward to all the things we’ll share together in 2015. Until then, I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas.

Tuesday Ten: These Things I Wish

So if you were around on Facebook yesterday, I promised you a 2014 Lookback Truthful Tuesday for today’s post. Then I logged in this morning and saw this prompt from the #TuesdayTen link up over at Rabia’s site, and I knew I had to hop on board.

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Don’t worry though, that other post will be coming up before the end of the year!

I’m gonna take a note from Rabia and also break my list into five realistic wishes, and five fantasy wishes. Because, hey, it seems like a great thing to do.

My Five Christmas Wishes

1. New slippers. The ones I have I got from my parents last Christmas, and they are WORN DOWN. I pretty much live in them around my house because my feet rarely stay warm, even in the hottest part of summer. Yay for poor circulation! Anyhow, nice fluffy slippers, preferably with the memory foam soles. And a fun, bright color or my favorite sports team.

2. Portland Winterhawk tickets. This is kinda more for Scotty than me, but I would love to be able to surprise him and take him to see our hometown hockey team. He’s fostered a bigger love for sports within me, and it’s always a fun date night with him.

3. New clothes. I’ve lost some weight over the last year, and most of my pants don’t fit well. I’d like a couple pairs of jeans and a few new sweaters or nice shirts to wear out. We don’t go out often (money, yo) but when we do, I want to look nice for my fiance. And of course, I want to dress up on the nights he plays. The future wife of the awesome guitarist shouldn’t look all frumpy, right?

4. New dishes. This one is a little off the wall. I don’t need an actual dish set, per se. But there are a few kitchen tools and silverware that are made arthritis-friendly that would be a great help to me. I’d also love a couple refillable water bottles that are spill-proof and sturdy while still being easy for me to open and shut. I have a tendency to drop or spill things when my hands are bad.

5. A bundt pan. I’ve always wanted one. And now Pinterest has so many awesome recipes that call for one. And I’m over here like… Yeah. So that would be cool. And I promise to cook something lovely for whoever gifted me this. That makes it a win-win really.

My Five Fantasy Wishes

1. A maid. I know there’s probably a lot of women out there who wish for this. Even though the Remicade is working well for me, and I do have a bit more energy, there are still chores that are just physically difficult to impossible for me to do. Scotty tries his best to help out, be he’s been swamped at work. And really? After he’s worked all day, I don’t want to ask him to scrub the bathtub or vacuum the floors. Even if we just had someone who came twice a month for a few hours, it would be such a great help.

2. A world where we all practiced more kindness and compassion. I know I always say “Be the change you want to see.” And I firmly believe that. But I’d like to jumpstart that change, and just sprinkle fairy dust on us all. I want to spread compassion instead of hate or judgement, kindness instead of indifference, love instead of hurt. I want to see people smile to one another on the street, I want to be able to watch the news just once without crying. I want to live in a better world.

3. Our dream house. One with a bedroom for my son, and a spare room for guests. One with a music studio for Scotty and a craft room for me. One with a yard where our doggy can roam and run to his heart’s content. One with a library filled with the books that so warm my soul. One with a chef’s kitchen and a dining room where I can host dinners. One with a glorious master bathroom designed to meet all my needs, including a jet tub to ease my achy body. A place to make our forever home and grow old together.

4. A new car. Ours has been trucking along for a few years now. We keep putting just enough into it to keep it from breaking down, but there’s always that worry. My medical bills hit us hard, and we just can’t afford a new car right now. But to get one and not have to worry would be such a blessing.

5. A way to help my loved ones. I’ve often dreamed about winning the lottery and being able to help those closest to me. I want to help Teala pay off her schooling, and help Tracie’s family find their forever home. I want to send Dawnie on her next adventure, and maybe go along with her. I want to visit my gal Fallah and get to spoil her and her little bundle of joy, take her on a spa day and maybe a little vacation. I want to open an animal rescue for my friend Natalie, where she can save all the animals and spread her love to them. I want to find a forever home for Shevaun where her girls and she can have their own vegetable garden and a yard to play in, a place she and her husband can make new memories with their awesome kiddos. I want to reward our Cathy and pay off her salon and home so she can continue doing what she loves but not push herself too far just to pay the bills. The list is long but they are all deserving, there are many who’ve helped us throughout the years who I would love to repay in the biggest way.

I thought about asking for a life free from pain. Certainly there are days where I wish this. But ultimately, this pain has shown me how incredibly strong I can be, and has lead me to follow dreams I always thought were impossible. I am a better me because of this life I now lead, and while I might wish for the ease of no pain, I wouldn’t want to lose this stronger, more confident me, or the lessons I’ve learned along the way.

What’s on your Christmas list this year? What are your fantasy wishes?