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Amy F. Quincy Author/Freelance Writer

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December 2011

Auld Lang Syne

Merry Christmas to you! I’ll assume you’re reading this after the whirlwind has subsided. So now that the presents are opened, the cookies baked, and the cards sent (or not,) it’s time to begin thinking about a holiday I can really get behind – New Year’s.

It’s easily my favorite holiday of them all. I love to reflect on where I’ve been and where I’m going. Metaphorically speaking, of course. I always make resolutions. Some, like lose weight and be more patient with Mom, are repeats every year – but hey, at least I’m trying, right? That’s what clean slates are for. To try and try again.

This year, my writing coach emailed me something interesting. It was a list of assessment questions for 2011. Things like “what energized me?, what did I look forward to?, what have I regretted not doing?, and what made me cry?” She said we have to become self-aware before we can recognize patterns and choose to grow.

So this week I’ll be looking back before forward. It’s bittersweet to reflect on days gone by. I always get wistful when I hear Dan Fogelberg sing about meeting his old lover in a grocery store (you know the one?) or the notes of “Auld Lang Syne.” Even When Harry Met Sally makes me sad when she wonders what on earth the song means and he responds that he thinks it’s about old friends. But it’s a happy sad.

At a New Year’s Eve party I went to many years ago, you had to bring something from the closing year to toss into a big bonfire. Everyone took turns going around the circle explaining what they would be burning and why. A recent grad brought textbooks to burn. They were so fat, the fire went out. Practicality aside, it’s a nice tradition.

I like to dip my feet in the ocean on the 1st (my version of a polar plunge.) Others stay home to cook a big pot of black-eyed peas and ham hocks. In Spain, they eat 12 grapes at midnight to secure 12 months of happiness in the coming year. In Japan, misunderstandings and grudges are forgiven and houses are scrubbed. Buddhist temples strike their gongs 108 times in an effort to expel the 108 kinds of human weakness. 108!

Whatever your tradition, I wish you and yours all the best for 2012. And wherever you are when they play that familiar song, I’ll be somewhere feeling nostalgic. Happy New Year.

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A New New Year’s: A Holiday Excerpt

I must have been insane to do it.  Maybe my ability to reason had not been fully restored.  I still operated under my old personality.  It was the end of 2007, and the old me loved going out to ring in the new year.

Vivian looked cute.  She wore tight metallic pants with a black silk scoop-neck and the strappy heels with the high cork wedge I’d passed on to her.  I loved those shoes.  Even as painful as they’d been after a night out, I loved them.

We waited in a short line.  The girls wore tops covered by leather jackets that would later be shed to reveal sparkly colors and glitter and too much skin.  I was conscious of my jeans and frumpy black sweater.  I wore flat, black boots that might as well have been corrective shoes surrounded by all those tottering heels.  These women clacked.  I clomped. Continue reading “A New New Year’s: A Holiday Excerpt”

Snap Out of It!

I’ve been in a bad mood for a week now. The universe seems to be conspiring against me. Bad things keep happening, creating a kind of chicken and egg scenario. Am I in a bad mood because things keep going wrong? Or do things keep going wrong because I’m in a bad mood? You know the theory: send yuck out, get yuck back. I’m like Pig Pen, only instead of dirt, I have a cloud of negative energy surrounding me. Don’t come                                                 into my force field if you know what’s good for you.

Recently, an unsuspecting friend got sucked in. When she came to the door, I was struggling to get my wheelchair, myself, and a bag of garbage outside all while keeping Frankie in. Hearing her voice, he pushed past me. Once outside, he took off down the street. My friend gave chase, inspiring him to greater speeds. And she left without food. One thing I know about Frankie — he doesn’t care who you are or what you have to say unless there’s food in your hand.

While they circled the block, I stayed inside to stew, worry, and generally be useless. Unfortunately, during the first few moments of Frankie’s escape, with everyone outside and the door open, Bella had seized her own opportunity. When I managed to get back outside (in full-blown panic,) I found her tiptoeing across the carport. I scared her back in with lots of yelling and foot stomping, just as my friend and Frankie came back, Frankie leading the way. He walked in of his own accord to collapse on the tile floor, dirty and panting. I’m not sure she ever caught up to him.

The day before that, I spilled milk all over my legs and the floor. And the day before that, a bag of dog food. It tipped over in my lap and of course, I made it worse trying to right it, sending kibbles flying throughout the kitchen. Frankie was helpful during the cleanup in both instances.

To understand how this happens, first you need to realize that pictures don’t do me justice. You really must see me in action to begin to understand just how uncoordinated my handicap makes me. The other night, for example, I planned to read in bed when I threw a pillow onto the floor. It hit the cord of the ceiling fan light, sending it up into the blades (which were spinning.) The cord broke and was whipped across the room, leaving Bella and I on the bed in complete surprise and darkness in a matter of seconds.

Enough is enough. During the season of merriment, when everyone is at their jolliest, I don’t like being the bah-humbug type. So, I researched some cures that guarantee to banish the blues. If you’ve been grumpy too, here’s what you might be missing:

Exercise – It’s long been known that working up a sweat releases feel-good neurotransmitters, like endorphins, into the brain.

Vitamin D – When the days are shorter and the weather’s worse, your body could be running short of “the sunshine vitamin.” Upping your intake can rebalance your mood.

Friendship – Feeling alone can only increase bad feelings. Don’t isolate yourself. Pick up the phone and call a friend.

Fish – Try to have 2-3 servings a week of the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish or take a daily fish oil supplement.

Chocolate – Some sources say to cut back on sweets to avoid suffering from a sugar “crash.” Others point out all the wonderful ingredients and properties, including mood-enhancing dopamine, that make chocolate good for you. Guess which take I’m going with?

Having just finished a nice bar of chocolate and making a lunch date with a friend, I can feel the cloud beginning to lift. I think my funk is starting to fizzle. I even think I’ll listen to some (dare I say it?) Christmas carols.

Holy Holidays!

I’m not prepared. Either mentally or physically. I have no money, no time, and very little good cheer. Not that I’m a Grinch. I’m not. I’m as pleasant as usual. But it seems this time of year requires extra pleasantness when all I really want to do is be left alone to don my sweatpants and eat a big plate of Christmas cookies.                                                             Baked by somebody else, of course.

I attempted to commiserate with a friend a while ago. I should have known by the carol music playing in her car well before Thanksgiving that I was barking up the wrong Christmas tree. Turns out she’s Martha Stewart’s fourth cousin twice removed. She’s had her shopping done since October.

If you’re also kin to Martha, then by all means, bake, shop and decorate away! The season is what it is because of you and your 10-foot trees and chocolate rum balls. If, however, you’re more like me — here are a few of my survival tips:

One for all. This year, almost everyone in my family is getting the same thing. It isn’t unthoughtful if you put a lot of care into picking that one item. You’re really just taking a great idea and duplicating it. I have a standard wedding present that gets rave reviews — delivered champagne and chocolates. A friend has a favorite bereavement gift that includes a comforting, soft blanket and beautiful engraved wind chimes. Giving in mass works for friends and co-workers too. A variety of teas, cocoa and a candy cane with a nice bar of chocolate in 20 mini-stockings and you’re good to go.

Bag it. Do yourself a favor. Use gift bags instead of wrapping paper. Avoid the hassle of needing the scissors, tape and bows. Or better still, opt for gift wrapping if it’s free.

Just say no. Don’t feel obligated to do everything. There’s a reason more people get sick this time of year and it usually involves burning the Menorah at both ends. I’m not suggesting you skip the office Christmas party and all of the good gossip that entails, but you don’t have to R.S.V.P. yes to every invite in the mail. Speaking of mail, one thing I’m forgoing this year is holiday cards. Skip the stress of that terrible moment when you open a card from the neighbor you left off your list. And I’ve never been the family newsletter type. I find that when you write a blog, people you’ve never met know your life story anyway.

‘Tis better to give … Instead of buying one more anything for the person who has everything, why not experience the joy of giving to someone who really needs it? Let the people on your list know that this year you will be doing something charitable with your holiday budget. Who can gripe about that? I found so many organizations online and ways to give, it’s hard to pick just one. Help nationally through the Salvation Army, Toys for Tots or Make a Wish Foundation. Or research programs in your area. Provide presents for a low-income family, shop for children with a parent in prison or give to the victims of domestic violence. How about helping make the holidays brighter for the family of a fallen military soldier? Pick what tugs at your heartstrings the most.

“Get it yourself!” Let them buy what they really want. Gift cards are quick to purchase, easy to redeem, and can be slipped in a stocking. Plus, you avoid the risk of buying the wrong thing in the wrong size.

If you’re still feeling overwhelmed, there’s always egg nog. Sane animals usually hibernate this time of year. So, take a tip from nature: unplug the phone, stay in your pajamas, and don’t come out till it’s 2012. It’ll all be over soon.

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