It’s not easy at this time of year to be focused on the reason for the season. Thanks to this new world where we have to be offended by something every other breath, this season has been even more fraught than usual. Once we’ve all taken sides and pitchforks against each other in the social media battlefield over songs, there is still all the other exhausting holiday things to do: decorating, shopping, wrapping, gifting, parties, events, traveling, cooking, baking, and more shopping.
I’ve been out of the Christmas loop for the last few years as we are usually moving at Christmas. It’s easy to justify no need go all out with decorating when your life is in boxes. However, this year, we are staying put for once, and the kids have expectations. Adults aren’t the only ones bombarded with media telling us what the “perfect Christmas” looks like! It affects kids as well.
I’m homeschooling this year and so I’ve bought more presents than I usually do. I’ve noticed that my daughter isn’t playing with certain toys and asks for time with others that she would find in a more traditional kindergarten classroom. Lord help me, but I’ve bought a few puzzles. They’re not the first puzzles, we’ve owned, of course. It’s just that it’s so easy to lose pieces. Sigh. I’ve bought a few other activity things for us to do, replacement supplies for her play kitchen because I guess they sprouted legs but I can’t find them anywhere. No wonder she doesn’t want to play with it! I’ve complained on Facebook that the only thing I can find for my son is Lego kits. He happens to love Legos but it seems like his gifts should be more well-rounded.
I came up with a plan to buy cookies and pass them around the neighborhood. We’ve been here 6 months and I only know the next door neighbor’s name. She has custody of her grandkids who are near in age to my daughter. However, since we are homeschooling, I rarely see them. Thank goodness my husband is on vacation this week. He can help us in the kitchen while we bake and make sure tiny hands are washed so we don’t spread salmonella or something.
I actually don’t have to do much cooking for the big day itself. We will be traveling to visit family a few hours away. But then…well, then there’s the politics of family and in-laws. It comes with a strange house the kids don’t know and strange people and strange customs and lots and lots of opinions. I’ll be sure to take my anti-anxiety medicine that day.
And then there’s the issue of the Ghost of Christmas Past. I’m a headcase, plain and simple. Growing up, Christmas was always a tough time. I’m full of memories of arguments and fights, fear of bills, anxiety over presents, and just a looming sense of disaster. Again, pass the anxiety meds, as I try to bottle up memories and keep them from seeping into everything in my present life.
Through it all, I try to teach my children the true meaning of Christmas. I tell them it’s better to give than to receive when they can’t understand why we are donating new toys to Toys for Tots, donate to a charity, or give some loose change and spare cash to red Salvation Army bins. I remind them again, and again, and again, that Christmas is NOT about presents. It’s not about Santa. It’s not about all the expectations we’ve created of decorations or food or even forced cheerfulness and visiting family. I want them to know the real reason for the season because I don’t know what the future holds for them. What if they one day take a job where they have to work on Christmas? What if they live far away from us and can’t visit over the holiday? What if they just prefer a minimal existence and don’t enjoy decking the halls with holly? I want them to know that Christmas is in their hearts and can be all year long. I want them to know that they can still have a wonderful, blessed, happy Christmas even if xyz doesn’t happen.
And just when I am feeling entirely over-exhausted from it all, one of them will say something that lets me know they get it. It makes it all worth it. This holiday season, remember the real reason for the season. Remember to give to the less fortunate. Remember to spread love and cheer. Have grace for others, you never know what battle people are going through. Have open arms and an open heart. And if that exhausts you, and it might, well, at least then it will be worth something instead of being exhausted from all the manic shopping and vainglorious display the media tells us is necessary for Christmas. Take back Christmas!
I am a frequent pharmacy shopper. Mr. Woodhouse would be so proud of me! Do I win a prize?
We’re not quite to the middle of the month and so far I’ve spent $447 in 8 trips at Walgreens. That doesn’t include the trips in which my medicine was not ready yet. Truthfully, not all of that was medicine. It is all sickness related, though. We need cleaning supplies, more fluids when sick, husband wanted some soup, after the fourth day in a row at the place I was NOT going to Walmart for office supplies. I practically live there and could easily be a walking advertisement for the place.
Toward the last week, I was ill with sinus congestion resulting in dizziness. I didn’t even realize I was congested because it wasn’t in my nose! Once I decided to attack the dizziness with allergy medicine, it lowered from my forehead to my nose and started to drain. I perked up just in time for my husband to wake up sick on Tuesday morning. He insisted that it was no big deal and a good sleep and Day Quill would take care of his raging fever and other aches which he wouldn’t even mention. On Wednesday, both of my kids woke up with stuffy noses and sore throats. As they had no fevers, I sent them to school and said we’d watch it but it was probably just allergies. Around noon, I insisted in taking my husband to urgent care as the doctor had no openings. I expected it was the flu until I got him to actually answer some questions en route. He said his throat hurt but he didn’t have muscle aches. That screamed strep throat to me.
Doctor mom was right.
We get him home and the pharmacy is backed up. By the time the kids get home from school, my husband’s prescriptions were ready. My son also came off the bus with glassy eyes and looking like he felt miserable. A touch to his forehead told me fever and the thermometer confirmed what I instinctively knew–102. My daughter also had a fever but upon hearing her father had strep throat began to insist her throat felt fine. She hates the swab test. I decided to not deal with her fighting at the moment and took my son into urgent care. He was positive for strep as well. By this point, I was pretty sure my daughter also had it. I could not convince her to come to the doctor that night but she did agree to take ibuprofen after I bought three different kinds so she could decide on a flavor and between chewable tablets and liquid. Le sigh.
Teddy slept through the night but it didn’t surprise me in the least that my daughter woke up around 4 am burning up, shivering, and in pain. I gave her some more ibuprofen and when she was due for another dose, I finally convinced her to go to the doctor. I’ll be honest. I LIED. I swore up and down she wouldn’t need to do a strep culture. By utter luck, the doctor agreed just by looking at her throat and knowing that two others in the house had strep that she didn’t have to do the the culture. I tried EVERYTHING to get her into the room before I lied but hey…desperate times. The doctor gave her a firm talking about next time she’ll have to do it. We’ll see if she will agree after being told by the doctor. It was given with a nice side dose of judgment. What’s with that? I’m doing the best I can! I can’t convince her to just handle it. I can’t make her just *not feel* something. She’s not spoiled rotten. We’re actually waiting for results on an autism evaluation for her. If she does have ASD, then she feels pain differently. Something which should not be so distressing can be acutely painful to an ASD child with sensory processing issues. More sighs.
I dropped her off at the house with my husband and son then headed back into Walgreens…again.
So, how am I doing? Well, I think I’m genetically superior for once! I got my tonsils out when I was 12. I have actually had strep a few times since then, but not often. At this point, my husband is feeling better and if I do come down with strep, at least one parent will be capable of running the show. The worst time I think we ever had was when we both had the flu the same week our son learned to walk! It was also over Christmas and none of our relatives could help. Miserable we were but survive we did.
As much as I complain, I know how fortunate we are. I’m thankful for antibiotics and modern medicine. I’m thankful for the convenience of local pharmarcies and wellness goods. I’m exceedingly grateful for the income to go to the doctor and buy supplies. I can never take my readers for granted when they allow me to keep my family healthy!
Illness also makes me think about Marianne Dashwood and Lydia Bennet. I think of Marianne because of her illness in Sense and Sensibility (clipped for brevity).
He came, examined his patient, and though encouraging Miss Dashwood to expect that a very few days would restore her sister to health, yet, by pronouncing her disorder to have a putrid tendency, and allowing the word “infection” to pass his lips, gave instant alarm.
Towards the evening Marianne became ill again, growing more heavy, restless…
Marianne, suddenly awakened by some accidental noise in the house, started hastily up, and, with feverish wildness, cried out,— “Is mamma coming?”
“Not yet,” replied the other, concealing her terror, and assisting Marianne to lie down again, “but she will be here, I hope, before it is long. It is a great way, you know, from hence to Barton.”
“But she must not go round by London,” cried Marianne, in the same hurried manner. “I shall never see her, if she goes by London.”
Elinor perceived with alarm that she was not quite herself, and, while attempting to soothe her, eagerly felt her pulse. It was lower and quicker than ever. And Marianne, still talking wildly of mamma, her alarm increased so rapidly, as to determine her on sending instantly for Mr. Harris, and despatching a messenger to Barton for her mother.
It was a night of almost equal suffering to both. Hour after hour passed away in sleepless pain and delirium on Marianne’s side, and in the most cruel anxiety on Elinor’s, before Mr. Harris appeared.
His medicines had failed; the fever was unabated; and Marianne only more quiet—not more herself—remained in a heavy stupor.
he had still something more to try, some fresh application, of whose success he was almost as confident as the last; and his visit concluded with encouraging assurances which reached the ear but could not enter the heart of Miss Dashwood.
Hope had already entered; and feeling all its anxious flutter, she bent over her sister to watch—
Her breath, her skin, her lips, all flattered Elinor with signs of amendment; and Marianne fixed her eyes on her with a rational, though languid, gaze. Anxiety and hope now oppressed her in equal degrees, and left her no moment of tranquillity till the arrival of Mr. Harris at four o’clock, when his assurances, his felicitations on a recovery in her sister even surpassing his expectation, gave her confidence, comfort, and tears of joy.
I think of Lydia because she suddenly grew sick in Letters from the Heart:
“Lydia fainted, only she will not wake,” Jane said.
By this time the commotion of the house was so great that Mary and Kitty entered the room as well.
“Thomas! What are we to do?” Mrs. Bennet was growing alarmed.
Darcy approached, “Excuse me, sir, but I think it best to send for the apothecary immediately, and I will send for my physician from Town.”
Mr. Bennet looked at him for a long moment. He was too reserved of a man to say much, but Darcy saw the usual laughing glint in his eye disappear and be replaced with concern. “You think this serious; have you seen this before?”
Darcy slowly nodded and spoke quietly. Only Mr. Bennet and Elizabeth could hear. “My mother. She had an acute sickness strike her. See how Miss Lydia perspires and her breathing is so shallow? My concerns may be for naught, but I think she ought to be moved to a sick bed.”
“I will ready things,” Elizabeth offered.
Darcy managed a very small smile when he saw Elizabeth rise to the occasion. How did he ever think she would be incapable of managing manage his homes? Georgiana was still distressed and Miss Kitty facilitated between believing Lydia was getting too much attention and wailing her best friend’s unknown condition. Jane and Miss Mary went after Elizabeth to help and despite the noise of Kitty, Darcy recognized it was quieter than he expected.
Scanning the room again, he recognized Mrs. Bennet standing over Lydia, who still lay on the sofa. She gently stroked her daughter’s hair. She was entirely silent but tears streamed freely down her face. Mr. Bennet wrapped one arm around his wife and was murmuring something in her ear. The tenderness surprised Darcy and he turned away from intruding on their private moment. He turned his attention to Bingley and they considered the best way to transport Lydia upstairs to the chamber when it was ready.
An hour later, Mr. Jones arrived and examined Lydia.
“It is as Mr. Darcy feared. I have bled her, but I believe this illness is beyond my experience. It is good a physician has been sent for. In the meantime, I must ask that those who are not family leave immediately,” he told the assembled group.
Jane began to cry, and Bingley was at her side instantly. “I will not leave you again, Jane.”
“No! I could not bear it if you became ill, too.”
Darcy interjected, “My friend and I assisted in moving Miss Lydia several times now, and my sister was alone with her when she fainted. I doubt the wisdom of us now leaving.”
“It is all my fault!” Georgiana wailed. “She would not believe me about Mr. Wickham, and I was too forceful!”
Everyone hastened to tell her that could not be the case, and Elizabeth attempted to console her. When the apothecary amended his statements that everyone should stay confined to Longbourn, Elizabeth took the sobbing Georgiana to her room.
A storm began, delaying the physician until morning. The house was still and sombre, the various ladies of the house were reduced to mostly silent tears. They all retired early and the situation was grave enough Darcy managed to give little thought to the fact that he was once again only a few doors down from a sleeping Elizabeth.
The next morning arrived with dark clouds in the sky, though the roads proved passable for the physician. He scarcely had more information to give but he did have additional medications to try. They had little effect. Lydia lay abed insensible to everything, with a high fever and symptoms of delirium.
Elizabeth, Jane and Mrs. Bennet took turns remaining at Lydia’s side. The gentlemen consoled the ladies as best they could. Mary and Kitty took to keeping Georgiana occupied. Elizabeth had scarcely been able to comfort her. Georgiana still blamed herself entirely.
On the second night of Lydia’s illness even Elizabeth’s spirits began to slip. Darcy sat with her hand in hand next to Lydia’s bedside. The door was open for propriety although it was unnecessary. Elizabeth wiped her sister’s brow and in what Darcy believed was a fit of exhaustion began to weep uncontrollably. He pulled her to his chest and pressed kisses in to her hair until she calmed. Then she looked up to him with reddened eyes.
“I never gave her enough attention. I was content to merely scold or laugh at her. And now…”
“No, Elizabeth. I will not allow you to despair. I have seen the deathbed. Look, her cheeks are still rosy.”
She looked more hopeful but still did not quite believe him. “But you said your mother…”
“Lydia is stout and young. My mother was always frail. Nor does Lydia cough. The physician tells us not to fear yet.”
She laid her head against his shoulder again and said, “I will try.”
“Dearest, you are a very affectionate sister. Would you still have come to Netherfield if it was Lydia who was sick instead of Jane?”
“Of course!” She wrapped her arms around his waist. “I am so thankful you are here with me.”
For Lydia and Marianne, their illnesses served as the jolt of awareness they needed to re-examine their lives. The same could be said for Tom Bertram in Mansfield Park. I don’t think my family will be given to such deep reflection as we recover but it is interesting to consider how a serious illness can change a person’s outlook–whether it be fiction or reality. What is the sickest you have ever been? Did you ever have near death experience which allowed you to see life clearer?
Parts of the US are expecting a hurricane today. I was one of them until yesterday. I don’t live on the coast, but less than fifty miles from it. Massive flooding from the rivers which surround us was a foregone conclusion. More than that, the winds would still be very strong by the time they hit my house. Faced with the idea of losing power for many days and having to seek shelter in a local school with my special needs kids, I decided to leave the area for higher ground.
It was my first hurricane and I think I over anticipated that it’s trajectory wouldn’t change. I wanted to beat the last minute evacuee traffic and so I left Wednesday afternoon and drove to the mountains of Virginia where I grew up. By the time I got there, reports came in that it’s expected path had shifted and Florence would stay mostly in the Carolinas. In fact, this area might receive more rainfall and wind than my home closer to the coast.
This trip has felt a bit like a fool’s errand. My son came down with an ear infection. My daughter is acting poorly. My fall allergies have kicked in. I’m massively behind on all work. I sleep awful in hotels. I have joked that next time, even if they’re calling for the hurricane to land right on top of my house, I’m staying put. I don’t know about you, but if I don’t have adequate rest I just feel like I’m going to die. It even affects how I can handle emotional stress.
I’m currently feeling like there’s not much to anticipate about my Friday. By the time this posts, I will probably be on the road home. My husband manages a 24 hour truck stop and so many of his employees have already left the area that he might be working 20 hours or more tomorrow. So it’s not like I will have a nice break when I get home–although the kids will hopefully cooperate a bit better in our home than where everything is new and not enough to entertain.
However, I’m fortunate. So many will be without power and probably even without homes. This hurricane has changed course and so it means people who will be affected have had less time to prepare. For me, this Friday will be nothing worth feeling special about. For them, this Friday could be the end of a chapter that marks the loss of stability in their life.
I’m sure you join me in prayers and good thoughts for all who will be affected by this hurricane and the other storms to come this season. No matter where you are or what day it is, I hope you find rest. It’s essential for living and for coping with this life.