Tag Archives: Holiday

Christmas on Crutches


by Lillian Csernica on December 23rd, 2016

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Some time around last Friday, I sprained my good knee, the right one.

Don’t know how I did it. I suspect it has to do with all the getting in and out of the car while Christmas shopping. I tend to push out with my weight on my right leg, and that’s the first leg in the car when I climb back into the driver’s seat.

I expect this kind of thing from my left knee, but it came as a nasty shock when my right knee exploded into a great big firework of pain. Spent the weekend hobbling around the few times I was on my feet. Ibuprofen and even Extra Strength Tylenol mean nothing to whatever is wrong with my treacherous joint. The Spousal Unit took pity on me and offered me one of his Vicodin.

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Matters hadn’t improved by Tuesday, so I went to the local Urgent Care clinic. Two hours and three x rays later, the diagnosis came in. A sprain, along with the possible onset of an arthritic condition. They wrapped my knee up in two Ace bandages, taught me how to use my crutches, and sent me home with my own Rx for Vicodin.

I know all about being sick for Christmas, but this is ridiculous.

So now I’m off my feet, icing my knee, wrapping it when I do have to move around, and hoarding the Vicodin for those times when the knee starts throbbing. Nobody has had the bad taste to make any Tiny Tim jokes yet, which is a good thing. Crutches might be padded in some places, but elsewhere they’re good stiff metal!

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Tomorrow I’m up with the sun to pull half the morning shift with Michael. Can’t take any Vicodin, because there are a few last Christmas errands to run. One does not take Vicodin and attempt to drive a car. Operating crutches while taking Vicodin is enough of a challenge.

God rest ye, merry gentlefolk. God bless us, everyone!

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Filed under Christmas, doctors, Family, frustration, hospital, Lillian Csernica, marriage, therapy, worry

Santa Claus Needs You!


by Lillian Csernica on December 5, 2016

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The letters to Santa Claus have begun to arrive. Right after Thanksgiving, I let the local post offices know that once again I’d be ready, willing, and able to join the network of Volunteer Elves all over the U.S.  We answer the letters children write to Santa Claus. We help keep the magic of childhood bright and sparkling.

If you believed in Santa Claus when you were little, please consider lending a hand this holiday season. There are always more letters than there are volunteers available to answer them. Would you like to know how much joy a letter from Santa Claus can bring? Let me share with you some moments from the more than ten years I’ve been answering these letters.

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One young lady asked for a gift certificate to a local bookstore. I called the bookstore, explained myself as a volunteer with my local post office, then told the clerk about this very specific request. Would the bookstore be interested in make a donation? The manager asked me to come on over and bring the letter with me. The result? The store donated a gift certificate for the full amount.

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Another young lady appealed to Santa Claus to help her convince the kids at school who kept telling her Santa didn’t really exist. Would Santa please send her some sleigh bells so she could prove to her classmates Santa Claus is real? I found two jingle bells, one large, one small, that looked a bit weathered and put them in a padded envelope along with Santa’s reply to the young lady’s letter. A few days later, my mail carrier brought me a note addressed to “The Post Office Santa Claus” from this young lady’s parents. It said, “Thank you so much for keeping our daughter’s dream and belief alive. WE LOVE YOU!”

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One year a letter came from two kindergarten age children, a brother and sister who included their school photos. It was clear to me that an adult had helped write the letter. The kids wanted Santa Claus to know that their family had just received housing assistance, so they were going to be moving. They were worried that Santa wouldn’t know where to find them on Christmas Eve. The children each asked for a single toy. Would Santa please bring their mother something nice, maybe perfume?

Thanks to the help of some enthusiastic postal workers, a very generous toy store, and my long-suffering and very supportive husband, we delivered two large, brightly wrapped gifts to the children’s home while the kids and their mother were out looking at Christmas decorations. Grandma was there baking pies. I discovered she’d been the one to help the kids write their letter. They watched a TV show about the people who volunteer to answer letters written to Santa. The little boy had asked Grandma if she thought Santa Claus really would answer their letter. Grandma suggested they give it a try.

One of the happiest moments of my life will always be the way Grandma burst into tears when we brought in the gifts for her grandchildren. I apologized for not knowing what perfume might be best for their mother, since so many people have allergies. Grandma said that didn’t matter. The best gift we could have brought Mom was how happy the kids would be when Grandma told them Santa’s elves had not just answered their letter but made a special trip to bring them their presents.

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Be a part of the magic. Stop by your local post office. I know more than a few mail carriers who have been the ones to answer the letters they pick up on their routes. The Post Office provides a starter kit, and there are lots of examples and suggestions online.

Happy Holidays!

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Filed under charity, Christmas, classics, creativity, dreams, Family, family tradition, fantasy, home town, legend, Lillian Csernica, love, mother, parenting, Writing

The Truth About New Year’s Resolutions


by Lillian Csernica on January 1, 2014

The tradition of making a New Year’s resolution seems quite virtuous, but the endless jokes about people breaking their resolutions almost immediately shows the tradition is more honored in the breach than in the observance. Why is that so? I believe the New Year’s resolution has become an ugly epilogue to the happy glitter of the holiday season. The process of making and keeping the New Year’s Resolution is the Puritanical demand for the paying of the check, the return to sobriety, responsibility, and practicality. We’ve had our fun, now we have to go back to the dreary grind of everyday living. That we have to do so in the middle of winter sets us up for a psychological climate that is hostile and antithetical to the way human nature tends to cope with a cold, dark, dismal environment.

I know from my own experience that the physical and mental effort involved in taking down the Christmas tree and putting away all the various lights, ornaments, gift wrapping supplies, etc. can leave me and other people in no state of mind to take on some new effort. People need a break. The pressure to create and abide by the almighty New Year’s Resolution starts the New Year off with a guilt trip, which nobody enjoys taking.

Nothing much happens between New Year’s and Valentine’s Day. That post-holiday lull creates a psychological environment where one has to work uphill to battle the natural emotional letdown. That makes it twice as hard to maintain enthusiasm and motivation for a new goal, especially a goal centered on self-improvement which also carries a certain element of guilt.

January is a cold, dark, depressing month. It also rains a lot. Hard to stay motivated when all we really want to do is keep warm, stay in bed, and eat comfort food. People who have a normal, healthy outlook on life can find the prospect of upholding their New Year’s Resolution daunting. Those of us with SADD or other mood disorders may find life even harder to struggle through.

For many people, all their financial outlay during the holidays catches up with them, creating a situation of stress, tightening the belt, and potential anxiety. Resolutions regarding one’s spending habits, sticking to a budget, creating a savings plan, etc. might be not just appropriate but necessary. Such resolutions are also at risk for crumbling in the face of the physical and emotional climate.

One of the key principles of Positive Deviance says, “It’s easier to act your way into a new way of thinking than to think your way into a new way of acting.” With that principle in mind, I believe that making New Year’s Resolutions is a process that’s doomed to fail because it hinges on the state of being resolved to do something. That means it’s all centered in the mind, in thought, in the resolution itself, as opposed to being grounded in physical actions that produce immediate tangible results. Instead of dwelling on the idea that I’m going to write one thousand words every day and triggering all the excuses, avoidance behaviors, and other genuine commitments to get in the way, I can just go to my desk at the appointed time, sit down and write. This is where free writing with a pen and notebook comes in very handy. It’s a lot less intimidating than composing at a keyboard and therefore much easier to just start doing.

By simply taking action, I break through the resistance that builds up around the mental component, the resolution itself. There will be the inevitable struggles with competing commitments and outside interruptions, but I know I can get up and walk to my desk. I know I can sit down and pick up my pen. I know I can move my hand across the page. I know I can write for a given amount of time or a given amount of words. I can take those physical actions, and I can do them every day.

A long time ago, I read something in Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg that has remained a shining jewel of truth in all conditions of my life. That jewel is a statement made by Ms. Goldberg’s master of Zen Buddhism. He said, “When in doubt, take positive action for the good.” Feeling dejected by the weather and the post-holiday blues? Write those thank-you notes for the gifts you received. Expressing gratitude is one of the best ways to make yourself and other people feel better. Showing appreciation is a vital part of healthy relationships. Letting the other person know that you see the effort he or she has made and you value that effort can make all the difference.

The New Year is a time for optimism, for a new outlook and a fresh start. Instead of some huge resolution that weighs like a millstone around our figurative necks, why don’t we just take it one day at a time, doing our best to “take positive action for the good”? There are opportunities everywhere, from the desperate needs of disaster victims to the neighbor who could really use some small act of kindness. By doing so, we can turn the purpose of the New Year’s Resolution, that of self-improvement, into a much broader approach where we do what we can to improve life for everyone around us.

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Filed under Depression, Family, Goals, Humor, Self-image, Writing

The Sisterhood of the Baking Aisle


by Lillian Csernica on December 23, 2014

Tonight was the night my husband chose to venture out in search of my mother’s Christmas gift and everything we’d need for Christmas dinner.  His madness must have been contagious, because I threw on my Santa hat and red Christmas light earrings and went with him, determined to hunt down the ingredients for the three types of “easy Christmas cookies” I’d chosen to bake.  The last four hours were full of funny moments and grand adventures.  I’ll tell one in the classic style.

Once upon a time, I went to market to buy flour and sugar and coconut and cream cheese and Heath bars and several other strange and wonderful ingredients.  I wanted to bake Christmas cookies, three different kinds because three is a magic number.

The market was so crowded I had to move fast, dancing through the gaps between carts and whirling to avoid the people who appeared suddenly behind me.  At last I turned the corner into the aisle beneath the sign that read “Spices.”  Ahead of me, each with her list in her hand, was a woman wearing the same frown of concentration or lost look of bewilderment.  I recognized them at once at let out a delighted cry.  “Ah, so here we all are!”

The other ladies laughed.  We made our ways up and down the aisle, some looking high, some looking low, all of us trying to find every last item on our lists.  We made room for each other.  We said, “Please” and “Excuse me.”  We sent other lost shoppers on their ways to the aisles they needed.  Soon we were calling out what we needed and someone would answer, pointing out the location.  The call for baking powder came.  I yelled “Here!” and pointed to the top shelf above me.  The lady who needed it was shorter than me, so she never would have found it on her own!

Item by item and cart by cart, with smiles and best wishes for happy holidays, we all went our separate ways.  For a few brief, wonderful minutes, a handful of strangers had joined forces to help each other find that special something that would make a holiday delight for our families.  We knew how tired we all were, we knew our feet hurt, some of us were hungry, some could use a cup of tea.

We were the Sisterhood of the Baking Aisle.

I don’t know their names, and we may never meet again.  I hope each and every one of them lives happily ever after.

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Filed under Christmas, Family, fantasy, Goals, Humor, Writing

The Special Needs of Christmas


by Lillian Csernica on December 7, 2013

Thanks to my last post, I’ve been asked to share some of the holiday traditions unique to the traveling circus that is my family.

My husband is old-fashioned about when it’s time to buy the Christmas tree.  We get ours about a week before Christmas.  It’s a big family affair to haul out all the boxes of lights and tinsel and decorations.  We put Michael in his wheelchair so he can help too.  Few things bring me greater joy than seeing Michael’s face light up when he points to the spot on the Christmas tree where he wants us to hang the next ornament.

John loves to bake, and he’s good at it.  When we bake Christmas cookies, John takes the tray of cookies over to Michael so Michael can shake colored sprinkles all over the dough before that tray goes into the oven.  Michael is very artistic, so we let him choose between red sugar, green sugar, or the jumble of fancy sprinkles.  John is careful to leave some of these cookies out for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve.

Chris and John go to a tree farm and cut down a real live Christmas tree.  They’ve been doing this since John could only hold on to one end of the saw while Chris did all the work.  Now John can carry the whole tree all by himself.  (He could even carry Chris too, if he really needed to!)

Asking Mom what she wants for Christmas, which is a face-saving way of finding out what she needs but can’t really afford on her own. At this point in our lives, only the kids enjoy surprises.  It’s much better to give up a little mystery in order to make sure Mom is happy.

Not embarrassing my sister by making a big deal out of giving her something special. My sister is much happier giving gifts, and she does it really well.  Oh, I still give her at least one gift that relates to one of our in-jokes.  After all, I am the little sister and the brat of the family.

There are a few other holiday rituals that have evolved over the years, ones that I look forward to with a mixture of wary anticipation and gleeful dread:

Every year when we get out the boxes of Christmas ornaments, I wonder if this is the year when I should go for a Christmas tree with a theme. The magazines are full of so many great ideas. Now that I have this wonderful house with a living room big enough to have a decent-sized tree, will this be the year I achieve the style and grandeur of my dreams? My sister is good at theme trees. If we come up with a plan and I turn her loose, I’m sure she’ll create something spectacular. I also know that sooner or later John will find an ornament that just has to go on the tree, and we’ll probably end up letting the boys go wild with all of their favorite ornaments.

When it comes time to open our gifts on Christmas morning, my husband and I often exchange looks of good-natured anxiety. Who will it be this year? Who will be the one to receive my mother’s really tacky Christmas present? For a while it was always poor Chris. The crowning glory of my mother’s inappropriate Christmas gifts had to be the Garfield alarm clock that was as big as a truck tire. It’s a standing joke in the family that nothing can wake Chris up, not even a meteor strike.

Mom has this habit of finding out something a person likes, then locking on to that idea for every gift-giving occasion. My sister has gotten tigers year after year. My brother gets pelicans. Me, I’m the lucky one. Mom is always interested in my writing, so I get gifts that have to do with medieval history or Japan or living the writing life. And cats. I have so much cat-related stuff I could open a boutique. It got to the point where Chris absolutely forbade me to buy or accept any more cat Christmas ornaments. Some day I have to join a society for ailurophiles, just so I can volunteer to decorate its Christmas tree!

On the weekend before Christmas, I take John to see Santa Claus. Even though he’s been “too old” for a while now, he really believes in Santa Claus and I’m OK with that. John’s favorite Santa Claus is at a nearby mall. John is fifteen now, six feet tall and close to two hundred pounds. As we stand there in line with all the little kids who come up to John’s hip, people give us funny looks. John doesn’t notice and I don’t care. The first time we went to that mall about three years ago, I took the photographer aside and mentioned that John is autistic. The photographer was great, quite familiar with special needs kids. He and that Santa Claus have worked together for years and know how to handle just about everything. Of course John doesn’t sit on Santa’s lap, but Santa takes the time to have a nice talk with John every year when John brings Santa his wish list.

Last but certainly not least, every year I do my best to answer all the letters to Santa Claus the postal carriers deliver to me. I’m now in the happy position of being the volunteer for four post offices. (This isn’t as huge a job as it might sound, although last year I did answer almost fifty letters.)  I’ve been making my rounds, letting the postmasters know I’m at their service.

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Filed under autism, Family, fantasy, history, Humor, romance, Special needs, Writing