Not All is Merry and Bright

In spite of the almost non-stop showings of Hallmark Christmas movies at our house, not all is merry and bright. I did something to a muscle (or tendon or ligament or something) in my left thigh that pulls on the knee and zings right into the groin when I raise my knee (say, to walk or anything). And getting the leg up into bed with the leg lifter is excruciating. It’s hard to get comfortable IN bed, too, especially with Ellie plastered against my other leg. She rarely sleeps with me and I don’t want to push her away – but trying to find any position that doesn’t hurt is a challenge. My therapist has been using the diathermy machine on me – but I only have a few more sessions left. It will just take time, but meanwhile, it hurts.

This is my first Christmas away from my home in Emerald Bay. I was back last week for the Women’s Club Christmas luncheon to hear my friend Curtis offer a Soul-ebration of the season and had the chance to see lots of people for about 2 minutes each. But I’m very aware that I’m no longer part of that community and it felt weird to be back with so many people and activities that I knew nothing about. Lots of changes in just four months but it feels like so much longer since my life was normal.

I want to go hear Messiah and sing the Christmas Cantata, and to go Christmas shopping, even if just to look. But I can’t do that. Transportation is tricky and not available evenings and weekends. I’m learning to live a smaller life and it’s a hard adjustment. I’m trying to remember that I’m giving this one year to just be what it is and see how much healing happens. But waiting is hard and it’s lonely. Oh, there are things to do here in my new community but it’s still a big adjustment and I have to work around therapy and my aide’s schedule.

Three of my new friends here are moving to be closer to their children. It’s logical, it’s sensible, and it’s another loss for me. I need to get used to it – there’s a lot of turnover with moves to new places, moves to assisted living, and deaths. It’s part of living in a community of older people – and have I mentioned that I’m the youngest resident here?

So I’m feeling a bit depressed and sad, and eating more than I should, which makes me depressed and sad. I have the lovely kitties to keep me company, books to read, Hallmark movies to watch, but still. I want to bake cookies but don’t trust my ability to stand and maneuver around the hot oven, so that’s out. I want to rearrange the closet but can’t stand up and do it. And I want to weed out stuff to take to the thrift store, but can’t do that either. I can’t even set up a puzzle at the table because my legs are too swollen and I need to keep them raised up. Arrrrgh. Whine. Sorry.

Image credit: Photo 66773269 © Androlia |

Decorating from the Chair

I wasn’t really sure how it would work to put up my Christmas decorations this year, working from the chair and in a new place – and not remembering what things I actually brought with me in the first place. Many of my decorations were given away before I moved but I didn’t remember which ones went, which stayed – or really, which ones I had in the first place. I’ve always been surprised in opening my boxes at what was inside and this year was no different.

The decoration boxes were stowed away in the storage closet back in August when I could actually stand up and move them around myself; that’s not possible now, so it was a bit of a challenge to get them out. But with a few exceptions, I did get most of the boxes down and out of the closet, though putting things where I wanted them wasn’t quite as easy. I did manage to get my new cute gnome wreath on the door, and the shorty nutcracker out in the hallway outside my door, and the cats’ stockings, nativity, and all the elves. I have LOTS of elves, and in fact gave away my really big one to help decorate our common space downstairs.

My aide helped me with two boxes and moved around things that needed to be taller than I could place them, such as the metal gnome with a little planter; the cats tried to eat the fake greenery when it was closer to their level so it had to go high. We put out the Christmas pillows and the vintage Christmas card box I made for my parents 45 years ago and still love. Today we put up my metal tree in my bedroom and decorated a table top tree that runs the risk of cats batting around the Shiny Brite ornaments. Jamie had to do all of the work of setting up the wrought iron tree and placing ornaments while I unwrapped them and remembered their history – this one came from Harrods, this squirrel is from Boston to remind me of squirrels in the Public Garden, the flamingo represents Emerald Bay, the swan from my days going to the UVA Christmas concert and singing in the “seven swans” section for 12 days of Christmas. Most had a story; all had a memory.

Small things that decorate my space and remind me of places and people past. It’s not the same as last year, but it looks like home.

Christmas Baking

I’ve turned into a lunatic. In the last 24 hours, I’ve made 5 different kinds of cookies. I love to bake but having cookies sit around isn’t a good idea because, well, I want to eat them. Not all of them, because that’s too much sweetness and it makes me sick. But still. I really do like cookies.

Some of these are Christmas cookies, at least for my family. I’ve been making the molasses cookies since college. The chocolate meringues have nothing Christmassy about them but it was the only time of year Mom made them. Walnut Crescents became Pecan Balls somewhere through the years. I still can’t make the Swedish Spritz cookies that Mom made so well, but that’s okay.

Here are the recipes for the ones I made today:

Recipe: Mincemeat Cookies

These cookies are moist and cake-like. You might need to call them spiced raisin cookies because lots of people don’t like mincemeat without even knowing what it is!

3 1/4 C. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. orange peel
1 C. shortening
1 1/2 C. sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 C. prepared mincemeat (from jar)

Sift flour, salt, soda, and spices.
Cream shortening and sugar. Add eggs and continue beating.
Gradually add flour mixture.
Stir in mincemeat and mix thoroughly.
Drop by teaspoonful about 2″ apart on greased sheet.

Bake in 400 degree oven for 12 minutes.
Cool on wire rack.

Optionally glaze with mixture of powdered sugar and orange or lemon juice.

Recipe: Pecan Balls

These started out as walnut crescents, but now I make them with pecans from the trees in my yard. Walnuts work, too, but pecans are easier for me. And crescents were too hard to make, so balls it is.

1/2 C. butter
1/2 C. shortening
1/3 C. sugar
2 tsp. water
2 tsp. vanilla
2 C. flour
1/2 C. chopped nuts
Confectioner’s sugar

Cream butter, shortening, and sugar. Mix in water and vanilla, then flour and nuts.
Chill 3-4 hours.
Roll into medium size balls. Cookies will not spread so can space close together.
Bake a 325 on ungreased cookie sheet for 15 minutes.
Roll in confectioner’s sugar when removed from oven.
Cool on wire rack.
Yield: approx. 4 dozen