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Posted by on Nov 30, 2017 in Rare disease | 0 comments

It’s a wrap! (30.11.2017)

It’s a wrap! (30.11.2017)

I’m one of those people who plans for the holidays all year long, happily squirrelling away gifts – in February – for the following holiday season. November’s drawing to a close, so my Christmas & New Year’s gifts are already wrapped & under the tree. That’s my goal, each year; to have the gifts all wrapped by December 1st.

And if my much-loved sister’s reading this post, she’s sure to be rolling her eyes by now! She’s traditionally been one of the last-minute shoppers in our family, all of whom tease me about my advance-planning approach. But hey, it works for me ,-)

Why New Year’s gifts? Because my in-laws follow an old French tradition; we exchange gifts on January 1st, rather than on December 24th or 25th. It seemed odd to me, the first year I spent the holidays with my now-husband, but I’ve grown to appreciate the less-commercial outlook of this New Year’s Day get-together & gift exchange.

We take the time to revisit the positive moments & events of the past year, often looking through photos and sharing funny “Did I ever tell you about this last year…?” stories. And we share our plans for new activities & challenges, for the year that’s just begun.

This focus on the New Year has also meant that my husband and I (and my 37 year-old stepson & his mother) have never had to deal with the kinds of family negotiations that we so often hear about during the holidays. We’ve been spared all the discussions, through the years, of whose family to see on which day – which can be challenging; especially for families with young children, and when traveling’s involved.

A Christmas tree ornament with the logo of the Montréal Canadiens hockey team

Photo: Sandra Woods

So each year, as soon as we’ve put up our Christmas tree, I can arrange all the gifts beneath it. For me, these gifts are a representation of the love that went into selecting – and wrapping – each one of them. (We’re empty nesters, with no pets, so can put the gifts out long before the 25th!)

Why so early? I decided long ago to avoid shopping in December, as it had become such an unpleasant experience; crowded shops, long line-ups, fraying tempers, so many people being downright unpleasant. And I hate shopping at the best of times, so prefer to completely avoid the line-ups and overall shopping rush in December.

It’s something of a running joke now; that avoiding stores in December is what allows me the retain my holiday spirit, right through into the New Year!!!

And there are always a few very specially-wrapped gifts under the tree. These are the gifts for ‘Secret Santa’ charity gift drives, for underprivileged children. Read My favorite Christmas story (15.12.2007) for more on this.

For these Secret Santa gifts I don’t buy toys per se, or anything that requires batteries (which their families may not be able to afford). Nor do I give anything that encourages fighting, or might remind someone fleeing a war-torn country of violence. Instead I choose things that will help each child to create something of their own…

Washable large-grip crayons (and extras, in case they want to share!), lots of colouring books & craft paper, funny & multi-use sticker books with areas to be coloured in, reusable modeling clay in different colours. Small make-at-home (age 3+) craft kits; with pictorial instructions, so a child can “do it by myself”.

Crayola has some nice fold-out themed kits, with built-in colouring pages & crayons, small enough to easily fit into a parent’s or guardian’s bag or purse – or a child’s backpack. And I always include some fun fridge magnets (too large to be swallowed), so each child can put up their coloured-in drawings ~~> And be proud of their creations ,-)

I used to wrap most of the gifts at the same time; our kitchen counter would be buried under all the wrapping supplies – and my husband would suddenly decide to clean the garage, or rake leaves ,-) Then, when I’d finished wrapping all the gifts, I’d take a photo of our tree; with all the gifts spread out beneath it. And I’d give thanks that we’re able to share holiday joy – and gifts – with others.

But since being struck by CRPS (a rare neuro-inflammatory disease) in early 2016, wrapping gifts – like so many other activities – has become a challenge. If I use my right (dominant) arm & hand ‘too much’, I’ll later suffer excruciating pain along with pain-induced fatigue, nausea (vomiting), tremors…

Even after 18 months with this disease, I still – usually – can’t tell which amount or level of use is ‘too much’ for my hand and arm. So this year I tried to limit myself to wrapping only 1 or 2 gifts at a time… which meant that all the gift-wrapping supplies have been out, all over our den, for well over a month now!

Photo of a Christmas tree

Photo: Sandra Woods; November 30, 2017

So when I took the photo of our  Christmas tree this year, with all the gifts beneath it, there was an additional sense of thanksgiving & satisfaction – and a little bit of pride. It’s such a small thing; but despite this horrid disease, I was still able to do something that’s important to me.

It took weeks rather than days, but each of those gifts was wrapped with love and care. The ones missing bows are wrapped for mailing…


Now I’m hoping that each of the children who’ll receive the Secret Santa gifts – who’ll open the boxes of creative activities that I put together for them – will have that sense of pride, from creating something themselves; no matter what they colour, draw, or make.

And an added bonus of having my holiday shopping done early is that I can usually spend my away-from-work time in December doing holiday baking & cooking. I don’t really like to cook, but I love to bake. Stay tuned to find out what I’ll try baking this year, almost one-handed!


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