chronic illness

Shortcut Saturday – Holiday Tips

Let’s face it.  The holidays can be tough on everyone.  All of the travel and preparation and parties and shopping and…well… the list can go on and on!  But add in a chronic illness (or two!) and the holiday rush can really take it out of you physically, mentally, and most of all spiritually.  If you are flaring, its tough to think about the true meaning of Christmas when every joint in your body feels like its going to explode?  Am I alone in this?  So in looking for tips for surviving and actually ENJOYING the holidays, I went to one of my favorite sites But You Don’t Look Sick and they have tons of articles related to the holidays and this one particular article I found extremely appropriate for Shortcut Saturday entitled Holiday Tips: Let Go Of The Guilt of Using Shortcuts.  Enjoy!

Holiday Tips: Let Go Of The Guilt of Using Shortcuts

Many of us have long-held family traditions, which we feel is our duty to uphold each year. From slow roasting a large turkey and kneading homemade rolls at 4 am on Thanksgiving to baking 40 varieties of cookies around December. (I have only narrowed mine down to 25 varieties, but I’m working on it!) Many of us also face the reality that our illnesses can’t always allow us the good fortune of having that much energy, stamina, drive and/or ability when we set out to do so.

It’s hard to let go of the things we cherish so much about our holidays. For some they stretch back to foreign countries or maybe just that one great-grandmother you just can’t let down, no matter how long she has been
gone. Somehow we manage to think a special homemade cookie or caroling out in the snow, makes or breaks it for us and everyone around us, but there is a happy compromise. You can still do things, even if they are the exact same ones you usually do and come out on top.

For starters, and this is the big one, realize that the holiday season is about love, giving and family togetherness. Remembering the true meaning and passing it on to our kids helps everyone, including ourselves, deal with smaller disappointments. As people miss something, they may even start a new tradition of pitching in to accomplish it themselves, with you supervising perhaps. You don’t have to do it all yourself. If the cookies aren’t quite shapely and the fruitcake doesn’t have as many nuts, no one will be the wiser, because it’s all in the cheer of the season! (And who knows, maybe that story about too much butter in the cookies will spark a funny story years to come.) Perfection, is simply, overrated when it comes to this sort of thing!

Try a new recipe; Something more simple. So they aren’t the sour cream Italian horn cookies of your youth, but they are cookies and they are homemade with love. If you watch Food Network, you know all about Sandra Lee and her “Semi-Homemade Cooking” style. She has a great point and it’s something I grew up learning from my first day cooking. Shortcuts and doctoring products to make them your own is perfectly acceptable, still considered cooking and can save you so much time and energy when you are already running low. (See below for a shortcut cookie recipe that uses cake mix and is so easy and fun that kids love to use it!) Also, consider pre-made products, like frozen pre-cooked meats. Many of these are delicious and if you re-heat in a slow cooker (also a time-saver you don’t have to baby-sit!) they always come out juicy and perfect! Got a potluck? Try a bag of frozen meatballs, cooked in a sauce of Heinz Chili Sauce and Welch’s Grape Jelly (not jam) in equal proportions. Voila! Easy sweet and sour meatballs! (A girlfriend in college gave me this one and warned that there is something about these brands in particular and I highly recommend sticking to them.)

Consider shopping online or early in the season when crowds are not as bad.
(Late October to Mid November.) From the Friday after Thanksgiving, known as “Black Friday”, the crowds get thick, unfortunately rude and brutal on someone with zapped energy to begin with. Sometimes you can get in a crowd and the people seem to be blurs of color, making it hard to focus or maybe all of a sudden you find yourself at the opposite side of the mall with fatigue that hits you like a brick wall and a migraine spreading slowly across one temple and a crowd yet to wade through. Who needs that? and many other merchants provide low price, some price match other competitors and will ship directly to your door. Many also offer free shipping and other customer services that make them a very affordable and smart choice. Or maybe you go to the front desk at each store and get gift certificates. They are just as much fun to unwrap and then they are sure to get exactly what they want. (For more ideas, see my other article on gift giving for the season.) Also, consider having those mall people wrap the gifts for you. I know in my area, the wrapping stations in the malls are fundraisers for Vera House and often many organizations will do that. So not nly do you save time and energy, but for nominal fees you help others at the same time and isn’t that what it is all about?

Lose the guilt. You may be wondering how you go about this one, but I assure you it’s easier than you think. Try writing a letter with all your guilt and anger over not being able to do things. Get it all out with as much or as little rage as you need. Now burn it safely in the kitchen sink or somewhere where it won’t blaze as a fire hazard. (Exercise great caution around fire, please!) Now stare in the flames and imagine it eating up all that guilt and rage. Let it go. Let it evaporate into the air. Give it a moment and then let it free. Another way is similar, get a helium balloon (latex only please as Mylar can cause issues and won’t break down as latex) and tie your letter to it, letting it go in a breeze and as it floats away, imagine it carrying your feelings with it, high up to the clouds where the rain washes it all away one day or the sun purifies it. Let it go. Another idea is making a special bath with relaxing bath salts and slipping in to wash the guilt away. As you scrub and soak, the bath salts purify your body and leech out all the negativity. (Heck, pamper yourself by adding some candles and soft music and you can do a double duty session! You deserve it after all!!) For the artist in some, you can draw a picture of the things upsetting you and bury them in the ground so that they will decompose and fertilize flowers next summer. It’s a reminder that even when bad happens, it nourishes the soil to help new and wonderful things grow! (You can even find handmade papers strewn with flower seeds to really make this a full circle.)

Plan ahead. Okay, so you don’t buy any of it and you are determined to do it all the same way as always. I can understand how sometimes you refuse to compromise and that can be alright as well. This just takes a lot more planning. Most cookies freeze well so you can start a few months in advance. Just leave frosting to the end. Make cut-out sugar cookies ahead, freeze and when ready to use just leave on the counter in an open container overnight and then frost just before using. Pre-cook what you can, revise some for the crock pot and delegate a few items to others if you can. Maybe the compromise is you pick up a cheesecake instead of making it, but you do everything else. It’s a reasonable trade-off. Do only what you can and make lists and timeframes so you can get it all done, but not all in one day. (Maybe someone runs to the store for the ingredients and you still cook, for example.) Remember, no one will remember the year the cookies were different, as much as they will remember you working yourself to be too sick to participate among the family in the holiday cheer. Focus in on what matters, what you can do realistically and realize life is all about the give and take even for those without an illness. The important thing is to be safe, share the love and accept that you are only human. Enjoy and have a Happy and Healthy Holiday this season!

1/2 c. soft butter
2 lg. eggs
1 1/4 c. water
1 pkg. cake mix (any flavor)
Combine all ingredients. Drop from teaspoon on greased cookie sheet 2 inches
apart. Bake 10 to 12 minutes at 350 degrees. Yields 4 to 5 dozen

Jennifer Altherr,,© 2008

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