life, mental health

Learning to Be

The world has stopped. The unthinkable has happened and we’re in crisis mode, trying to get our heads around this ‘new normal’.

I’ve been here before.

No, not exactly like this, obviously. But almost five years ago, my world stopped when I finally admitted I couldn’t teach anymore. I’ve been adapting to my new normal ever since. It’s been a bumpy ride, but there have been many surprising blessings as well.

Learning to be. This is a big one. We are so inundated with messages telling us we need to be doing something all the time. There’s a culture of busy-ness, where the more you’re doing is like a badge of honour. When you have a chronic illness, that’s not really an option because the fatigue, among other things, is so killer that You. Just. Can’t.

So you spend a lot of time at home, sitting around, isolated, without a whole lot of options for entertainment. Sound familiar? I’m sure it’s a new experience for most healthy people, and it can be uncomfortable just sitting in your own skin sometimes. Or maybe that’s just the MS. 🤔

But just being, instead of always doing can be a wonderful opportunity to get real with yourself and figure out what’s really important. We’ve been conditioned to believe we need to be working, be productive, be entertained, be adventurous, be travelling , be consuming, be socializing.

We’ve forgotten that sometimes it’s important to just BE.

When you stop doing and sit quietly with yourself, your mind has space to process. This is why meditation has become so popular. But you don’t even have to be that organized about it. I’m not knocking meditation in any way, I’m just suggesting that you pay attention to whether you take any time during your day to stop doing and just BE.

Staring at nature is my go-to for times when I need to stop and be for awhile, even if it’s just out the window, or the nature channel on TV. I guess that’s technically doing something but the mental health benefits outweigh any slicing of that proverbial hair.

We’ve been running on the societal treadmill for so long that doing nothing, just BEING is a difficult thing for many people right now. I get it. Like with anything though, a shift in perspective can change this strange situation we’re finding ourselves in, into an opportunity to examine our values and decide if we really want to go back to the “old normal”.

As much as I miss teaching, I am grateful every single day for my many blessings. Learning to be comfortable with just being and not doing all the time has helped me enormously in accepting my new normal. I hope it helps you too.

Just be.

Hummingbird in flight feeding
Look what you can see when you stop doing for a few minutes. Just be.
Photo credit: Amanda L. Callin

❤️ Amanda

Health, life, mental health

Love. Not Fear.

View at Medium.com

It has been far too long since I’ve published anything but this article is important enough to share. If you allow your fear to spiral out of control, that lowers your immunity and makes you more susceptible to getting sick.

Stay informed, but focus on connection and gratitude. Turn off the screens and get outside. Wash your hands, and stay home unless it’s essential to go out. Stay safe and healthy out there!

❤️ Amanda

life

Christmas: pressures and perspective

So, I was ‘voluntold’ yesterday by my youngest that ‘we’ were providing the vegan gingerbread house kit for her and a friend for the class contest on Friday. Ummm… okay? 🤣

I love that she knows I love to bake so assumed I’d be happy to do it. Happier that it doesn’t occur to her that I’m carefully pacing myself at the moment so I can make it through the holidays without the MonSter rearing it’s ugly head too far. One of the perks of an invisible illness when it comes to your kids, at least when you can…

But it’s always smart to remind yourself, chronic illness or not, that it’s not worth pushing beyond your limits. Everyone owes it to themselves to take time for self-care, to take things off their plate when necessary and to ask for help sometimes.

The whole season should be about being cozy and spending low-key personal time with your people. Let go of the consumer, commercial side of it and focus on what matters. You can only do what you can do, and good enough is good enough. Otherwise, you…

The best thing I’ve started doing since I finally got decent running shoes is getting my butt out the door every weekday for a 20 minute walk. Sometimes it’s a few minutes more, but never too much because in the past I would get back into ballet or yoga and go too hard, setting myself back several steps. So now I’m the tortoise not the hare, and I find I look forward to my walk each day and it sets me up well for the day ahead. There are days when 20 minutes doesn’t get me too far…

But I’ve only missed one day, when the wind was too much for my sensory issues, and then the last couple of days when I needed to brave the crowds to finish the Christmas shopping. Now I will get out there every day if possible because I know it’s the single best thing I can do to make it through our busiest Christmas season ever, and enjoy it.

Finally, chronic illness or not…

Depending on how things go, I may post one more time about the vegan gingerbread house. If it’s a total fail, maybe not, so…

Wishing you all a restful, joyous holiday and a healthy, peaceful New Year.

❤️ Amanda

life

Moment of truth: Opinions?

Okay, here are two versions of our fully decorated Christmas tree, using the handmade decorations I presented in my last post. It only took six trips to the store for lights, some creative sawing and duct-taping to get the star on, and four days of decorating, undecorating then redecorating. Who says MS has screwed up my decision-making skills?! 🤣

I can’t decide whether I prefer the first, more minimal tree using just the handmade ornaments, silver wire stars and silver balls; or the second that adds a bit more sparkle and fills in the gaps. But maybe it detracts focus from the handmade – what do you think?

Exhibit A – minimalist tree

Exhibit B – more colour and sparkle

Like a true Canadian, duct tape is an integral part of our Christmas.

Next year I’ll plan things better so I can wrap the lights around the star more unobtrusively. At a certain point, you have to let things go, say good enough, and move on. That’s where I’m at.

But for next year – what do you think? A or B?

❤️ Amanda

life

Crafts and chronic illness: A Handmade Christmas

As I said in my last post, crafts keep me sane and help me feel productive in my spoonie lifestyle. So, together with my desire to rid our household of plastic as much as possible, I decided to make the decorations for our tree this year. Oh, an important detail: Our youngest requested that I decorate the living room tree myself this year. She’s all about matchy-matchy at the moment.

Usually we have the schmozzle of family heirlooms on the tree, which is wonderful, and they love to tease me about being Monica from Friends when I encourage them to space out the ornaments. The little twerps have been known to clump all the ornaments as close together as possible, just to get a reaction. Too bad for them, I bite my tongue and stealth redecorate later. 😏

This year, the family tree will be in the basement where we spend a lot of time together, and will wait until our son is home from university to decorate. Upstairs, we’ll have a live tree and I will fully embrace my inner Monica when I decorate. Some of the ideas here may flop, or or I’ll choose to go another way, but here’s what I have so far.

Finger-knit and finger-crocheted Garlands

I only started using garlands on our tree the last few years. When I decided to finger knit the garland, I looked up how much I would need for a 7 foot tree. Ready? 63-70 feet!!! 🤗 1-3 feet per foot of tree, so there you go.

Off I went, finger knitting and crocheting approximately 80 feet of garland. Here’s hoping it doesn’t look ridiculous, but if it does I’ll turn them into something else.

Finger knit and finger crocheted garlands

Clothes peg stars

The clothes peg stars are all over the internet and I just loved the look of them. I made five of each colour; translucent, brushed silver, and rose gold. Then I added the herpes of the craft world: glitter!

Pompoms

My youngest and I had fun making pompoms with super soft, chunky yarn and the same white fluffy yarn I used to finger crochet the thinner garlands. We started off wrapping them around our hands and that worked fine. Then I found a rectangular piece of cardboard with a hole in the middle and it was even easier, and the pompoms became slightly more uniform. Fun to use for indoor snowball fights too!

Diy pompoms

Borax Snowflakes

This is a craft/science experiment I used to do with my first graders. The correct formula is 3 tablespoons of borax per cup of hot water. I was doing these in a big bucket though, and could only do two of the twelve 6-inch silver snowflakes or three of the fifteen white 4-inch snowflakes at a time. This took some commitment as the water has to be reheated each time, and the crystals take overnight to form. You can tell I was free-handing the Borax because of the different degrees of crystallization. Measuring might be an idea.

Wire hanger Star

No wire hangers! Sorry, Mommie Dearest.

I got the inspiration for the star from here but did my own take by adding the yarn around the star macrame-like, a craft I learned from my Great Aunt Ede. Then I added cylindrical glass beads as well as regular round ones. I also kept the pompoms small, more because that’s what I had and I was determined not to spend more money.

How to attach? Not sure. I’ll have to Handy Mandy it. 🤓

So, my version of Santa’s workshop has kept me busy for the past few weeks. Getting crafty allows me to indulge in my Christmas obsession early, without buying into the commercialism.

We have the tree, the lights are on (that’s a whole other story), so I’m off to decorate. After a cup of tea – with a healthy shot of rum. Cheers!

❤️ Amanda

Have you gotten crafty for Christmas? Let me know in the comments. I’m always looking for new things to try!