The Holiday No One Talks About

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It’s start of the holiday season, and just coming off of the bazillion Thanksgiving posts from grateful people, we are now inundated with posts of people’s decorated Christmas trees.

I, for one, boycott decorating for Christmas until the first weekend in December. I say “boycott” with love and affection because I just can’t enjoy one holiday by rushing into another. And truthfully, I still haven’t put away all my dishes from Thanksgiving yet, so I’m not ready to make another mess in my home without cleaning up from the one I already have right in front of me.

And besides, there’s still ONE more unnamed holiday event that I need to get through before putting up the tree and lights. Mother Nature sponsors this magnificent occasion, and yet it doesn’t get a special date on the calendar. Instead, we recognize this as an entire SEASON of colorful joy, known simply as FALL, or more delicately, as AUTUMN. And the crowning event of the Autumnal Season is that glorious holiday, Leaf Raking.img_0429

Now, I know what your thinking. How is leaf raking a holiday? Well, naturally, fellow New Englander, it IS a holiday since we go through the same stresses of holiday cheer and angst for raking leaves as we do for celebrating any other date on the calendar.

Let’s take a look, shall we?

First, there is the anticipation of the event. As the weeks roll from September to October to November, we anticipate the joy of fall, the changing of the leaves, and the cooler temperatures. Much like any other special event, I look forward to fall to temper my days and my wardrobe. Fall makes me realize what a great life we do have in New England and how lucky I am to be surrounded by maple and oak trees. Waiting for the hallmark leaf-raking event is like waiting for that suprise gift at Christmas or my birthday. It’s just looming in my future, an ever-present invisible force in my life that continues to create more excitement and wonder as the days draw cooler and darkness falls sooner. When  the leaves start to signal their arrival by gracefully floating to the ground in my yard, I know that the holiday is soon approaching . The only difference between the gift receiving events and the leaf-raking holiday is that not one tree ever thanks me for my leaf raking skills, and I don’t thank the trees for their bountiful yearly gifts, either.

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This year, the leaf raking celebration took on an added element: wood stacking from a felled tree. Oh, joy!

Next comes the actual pre-planning of when to rake so the town can collect the leaves. Just like any other celebration, leaf raking requires preparation, and in order for it to be a wonderfully remembered event, all the little details need to be attended to before the big day. Between Mother Nature and the local paper, I can determine when our leaves will be picked up, and then I can begin to plan when to start to rake. (Luckily, we don’t have to bag our leaves where we live…that would add another whole layer of planning!)  Raking before rain or snow hits is extremely important. Nothing breaks the blissful leaf raking spirit than soggy leaves that have been left too long to create mold on the underlying grass. Personally, I like to savor this holiday, much like you savor a delicious piece of chocolate or dessert, and do a little raking at a time.  My husband, on the other hand, likes to wait until all the leaves have fallen before participating.  But this type of thinking leads to wet leaves, colder temperatures, and generally a longer celebration. Every once in a while, praying for strong winds to blow some of the leaves out of my own yard and into the neighbor’s crosses my mind when planning for the upcoming leaf raking day. But this type of prayer always back fires.  Mother Nature somehow works it out with God to make the wind blow the neighbor’s leaves back into my yard, so I strongly advise not wasting your prayers on this self-serving invocation.

Then comes the actual day of leaf raking. Hallelujah! We’ve been waiting and waiting with our rakes in hand for this sacred day for months!  Dressed in our fall raking clothes, hats, and gloves, I want to get the holiday festivities underway as soon as possible, much to my football-loving husband’s disappointment. He’d rather stay inside and watch the 500 football games on television instead extracting the million or so leaves that we have out from under every bush and hasta plant, between the fence, and under the patio furniture. img_0424

It’s usually on a Saturday morning when we celebrate leaf raking together, and if we’re lucky, it is a sunny one. Gathering up the holiday tools like the tarp, the blower, rakes, and electrical cord isn’t too much of a hassle, but it is at this point where celebrating this joyous event takes a drastic turn for the worse. No matter how much planning or work that is done in advance, there is always anger and bitterness that comes instead of rejoicing in Mother Nature’s leaf raking ceremony.

On the days when the leaves are dry and brittle, it is pleasurable to rake if my husband and I show up with the right attitude. But adding one little change to the environment, like a whipping wind for instance, our attitude shifts very quickly, giving just the right spark to light our short fuses. I hear Mother Nature’s silent laugh as the wind continues to howl, causing the tarp not to want to be placed on the ground and the leaves to exit quickly from where they were placed. Of course, this stressful situtation forces us to speak to each other in flamboyant language, bringing unexpected color and excited gestures to the experience. These words cause a rift to rise between us, completely changing the festive tone of the event from delight to dread.

img_0430Aside from the wind whipping issue, our own ideas of how to appreciate this particular holiday to its fullest potential often cloud our pleasure. Take this common scenario: my husband wants to lug the leaf-filled tarp one way, and I want to go another way and I wonder aloud in a sharp and fiery tone, “Why are you going that way?”  This ignites some anger and makes my husband, the lead person on the tarp, to walk faster, thus pulling the tarp in such a manner that I lose my grip on the tarp. Leaves tumble out, creating another pile needing to be raked and extending the anger jamboree.

Another common issue is that my husband walks faster than me, so I can’t keep up, and I literally have to run with the tarp in hand to the curb without tripping. As you can imagine, I do trip, and more colorful words ensue between the two of us as leaves continue to tumble out of the tarp.

Pace also impacts our raking. Typically, my husband rakes more quickly and thoroughly than I do. And because of this, we are often in competition with each other to get the leaves done our own way. I’d rather take lighter trips with the tarp to the curb whereas my husband would rather fill it so it weighs as much as a blue whale and then drag me behind, tripping and cursing.  Clearly, our pace and viewpoints are no match for the glory in leaf raking.

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Then the blower or rakes get misplaced, seemingly miles away from the actual leaves, making it more tiresome to retrieve these items after each turn-over of the tarp. Or one wants to use the blower instead of the rake, or both of us want the blower, and the other is putting the tarp too far away from the leaf pile or heaven forbid, ON TOP OF some leaves! The emotions overflow for hours during this holiday affair, and we are both are thankful once the nightmare of leaf raking is finally over.

The tools are slowly returned to the garage, and the merriment is over until next year. The yard still has leaves that have been missed and will have to wait until spring, because by this point, I don’t really care if every leaf hasn’t made it to the curb. I just want to sit down and watch the 5o0 football games we missed.

I just love the holidays, don’t you?

Yours in HOLIDAY adventures,

TWL

The Big Ten

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If you are a sports fan, you may be envisioning a football conference right now, or the number of your favorite player’s jersey.

For me, it reminds me of my daughter’s upcoming birthday in a few days.  We’ve been planning for a few weeks now, and this morning on my bike ride, it hit me that this will probably be the last birthday that will be more ‘kid oriented’.  I’m a Kindergarten teacher by profession, and I LOVE to use my creativity for projects and activities.  So every year, celebrating my daughter’s birthday has been an extension of my classroom, allowing me to have fun decorating and planning ‘birthday fun’ for her and her friends to experience at home.

A few times, we did her party outside of our home. Last year, we held it at a popular kid’s nail salon at her request. It turned into a bad scene the next day when on of the girls had a skin burn appear across her fingers. Imagine those phone calls! We finally determined it was a reaction due to the chemicals that were used to clean the tables. (Anyone in my area want to know the name of the salon, let me know.) Needless to say, this unexpected event further supported my view of having house parties for birthdays.

To me, being at home to celebrate life events is a nice memory to look back on. Sure, it’s a lot of prep work to clean and organize beforehand, but it’s all part of the party process.  In the end, I’d rather have the cake and candles blown out in the comfort of my own home, surrounded by the people we love.

This year, my daughter is having a Star Wars themed party.   It’s been a big to-do as far as planning.  My husband, a fabulous graphic artist, made an extraordinary invitation that would put any self-respecting Pintrest parent to shame.  I admit, I have been using that website, that sometimes makes me feel like a creative failure at times, to find some cool project ideas. While many are from parents of younger Jedi warriors, we found some pretty good ones for the older crowd. All the party goers have been instructed to wear their best intergalactic gear on party day, and her aunt is making her costume. And my husband has a few surprises in store, too!

I’m looking forward to this party, even though it is a gateway to my daughter’s teen years. I hope her friends will enjoy it, and I hope my daughter remembers all the fun we had getting ready for The Big Ten celebration.

Yours in Lyme Adventures,

TWL

Budgeting

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Living with a chronic illness changes your life in so many different ways.

One of the ways in which I’m still trying to manage is budgeting my energy. “Just like you budget your money, you need to budget your energy.”, a friend of mine told me recently. She worded it so well, and it’s been quite a realization at how true those words have become in my life.

Prior to Lyme, going to three different family events over one weekend was normal and while tiring, didn’t wear me out to the point of needing a few days to recoup.

Now, I have to really think about how much family time or extra events are ‘too much’ and learn to say “no” without feeling guilty. Even trips to the store or naturopath need to “planned” for me. No more quick jaunts about town to pick up a card for someone or buy that needed birthday gift. I just get too run down and need to factor in my eating schedule, too. Putting off eating or not eating properly drastically impacts  how well I feel.  It seems to take longer to get back up to “normal” for me if I miss meals, don’t eat or drink as typical for me when I’m at home, or if I miss my supplement regime.

One week recently, I had a wake, funeral, dance recital practice, and dance recital show in the span of 4 days. In my heart of hearts, I knew it was going to be a long four days, and I’d pay for it later, but I just couldn’t say no to any of these events. I had lost a childhood friend suddenly, and it was my daughter’s 5-year dance recital, complete with a trophy. Saying ‘no’ to these events that were truly important to those involved just wasn’t an option for me to even consider.

But true to form, all this activity was too much for my tick sick blood and body to handle. Even though I tried to pack enough food and drink to keep up my energy, just zipping around from place to place took its toll on me. I had a day’s break between the practice and the actual recital, and boy, did I need it!

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Memorial Day weekend just passed, and it is one of my favorite weekends in the year. As a child, I loved going to my town’s parade, with the bands, the old cars, the never-ending Brownie troops, and the veterans.   I would proudly wear my red, white and blue each year, waving a flag and clapping and singing along to every patriotic song played. I still do this each year, and my ten-year old daughter has been encouraged as well to wear her colors and wave her flag proudly alongside me.

My husband has been helping with a Veteran’s float in a neighboring town for many years now, but this year, the parade was cancelled due to weather. I hate to admit it, but I was relieved. We had already hosted people at our home that Saturday night, and then we went to another family gathering on Sunday. I knew I needed a day to just recoup just from those two days, and I really didn’t have the energy for another all-day affair on Monday.

We will be going to the Memorial Day parade this coming Sunday instead. Thankfully, I will be able to rest up for the picnic food preparation, early morning drive, parade watching, and then the picnic that follows.

We’ve already been invited to a July 4th picnic. And my sister hosts one as well, although hers, I just found out, will be on the 2nd. We’re already planning on bowing out of some activities that weekend so that we can at least enjoy time with friends and family without me becoming completely worn down.

I need to budget my energy right now, like my friend so aptly stated. Next year, I hope it to be a different kind of budgeting!

Yours in Lyme Adventures,

TWL