The year I got a new Easter basket

My mom still makes us Easter baskets. I’m the youngest child and I’m going to be 25 this year, and she still makes us Easter baskets. I have told her that we’re all adults now and she doesn’t need to keep doing this, but she insists that she must.

Now, before you get the wrong idea and think that we were helpless, coddled children who did nothing for ourselves, I would just like to point out that one year my mom decided she wasn’t going to make our lunches for school anymore and so we had to start making our own. Totally reasonable. Except that this decision was made for all three of us at the same time, and while my sister was in grade seven I was only in grade three.

So yeah, my mom still makes us Easter baskets, but I also started making my own lunch when I was eight years old.

Anyway, we’re kind of big on holiday traditions in my family. At least I am. I have probably always been the most enthusiastic about carrying out our traditions, but I wasn’t always alone. It’s just that everyone else has matured past their need for everything to be exactly the same every year, and I might never reach that point.

Did I mention we’re kind of into tradition?

For as long as I can remember we’ve all had our own specific Easter baskets, and even now that we’re grown up and the other two have moved out, my mom still checks with me to remind her which basket belongs to whom. This was the scenario on Saturday afternoon when, all of a sudden, my eyes landed on a basket I didn’t recognize.

My first thought… who is this interloper basket and where did it come from!? My second thought…oh but it’s so cute! And my third thought…I kind of hope it doesn’t belong to anyone because I want it.

“Hey mom, where did that basket come from? It’s so nice and Easter-y!”

“It’s yours. Don’t you remember?”

“What? No…”

“I bought it for you last year but you didn’t want it because –“


Apparently not my entire life…baby me with a basket I don’t recognize. She knew not what she was doing

And then I remembered! As you can probably imagine, when you have a daughter who can’t eat any chocolate, jelly beans, or other such traditional Easter treats, it can be a challenge knowing what to put in her Easter basket and so to compensate for the fact that tic tacs are just not as exciting as mini eggs, my mom thought I might enjoy a pretty new basket. I, however, was not on board with this. Quite the opposite, I was shocked that she tried to tamper with tradition and last Easter I was rather dismayed to find that my basket, the basket I had been using my entire life, was nowhere to be seen.

Fast forward a year and there I was, delighted by this pretty basket that was apparently mine.

Phew! 500 words of backstory for a basket that lives in the crawlspace and gets at most 48 hours of stage time a year. Let’s get to the point now, shall we?


I’ve written a lot about giving change a chance and being open to new ideas, and that definitely could be applied here, but I’m actually going to take this in another direction.

When I dismissed the new basket last year, my mom didn’t take it personally that I didn’t love her idea. She let me be. And when all of a sudden I was all for it this year, she went with that, too. She laughed at me, as did I, but she didn’t get all high and mighty about it. There was no, “I told you so!” Now, I realize we are talking (in a lot of depth) about an Easter basket, which is just not something worth getting high and mighty about, but let’s take a step back.

I have received so much unsolicited medical advice over the years therefore I know how frustrating and annoying it is to constantly field good intentions that look and sound a whole lot like unhelpful and irrelevant suggestions. And yet, I still find myself doing it to other people. My first instinct is often to skip past listening lane and start straight down problem solving street. This isn’t just unique to health problems. We’ve all been there, on both the giving and receiving end, countless times in our lives.

I do believe that much of the time it comes from a genuine place of care and concern. We want to help alleviate each other’s struggles. We want to be useful. But sometimes, I think the most helpful thing we can do is just listen and then let each other be. I have definitely thought, “I don’t understand why they won’t try this…why don’t they just take my suggestion?” but the thing is, everything looks simpler and more straightforward when we’re looking at it from the outside in. We can say, “If it were me…” all we want, but unless we’re the ones in the middle of it, we have no idea how tangled and complicated a situation really is.


And after all that, here’s the pretty new one

In our own lives, we come around when we’re ready. We try new things when we feel steady and grounded enough to do so. We reach acceptance on our own timelines.

And we have to let other people do the same. We can always listen and offer encouragement along the way, but there are times when we need to step back and give each other space to figure things out.

Sometimes the most helpful thing we can do is just be there. Quietly. And trust that it will all work out okay.

And if that doesn’t work you could try buying someone a nice basket…however success is not guaranteed!

Health and happiness and peanut butter

I love Christmas (you’re all shocked, I know). I would give up birthdays for the rest of my life for one Christmas season. I have always loved Christmas, but the last few holiday seasons have come when I needed it most, when I really don’t know how I would have made it through if I didn’t have Christmas to look forward to.

Now, as much as I love Christmas, and as much as it’s helped me through those otherwise very bleak times in my life, Christmas has also brought with it some big letdowns…I mean come on, is a pony really too much to ask for? No but seriously, for the last few years, Christmas was also the time of year for facing up to the fact that despite how earnestly I had wished that by next Christmas I would be healthy, I still wasn’t.

Christmas is the time of year when the whole world sort of turns into a greeting card. I love a good dose of cheesiness as much as the next person. Actually, that’s a lie; I love a good dose of cheesiness more than the next person, but one type of holiday wish always contributed to the letdown…

Wishes for a healthy and happy new year!

Health and happiness to you and your loved ones this holiday season!

Blah blah blah healthy and happy blah blah blah!

Health and happiness join forces as a very common wish this time of year. They are kind of the peanut butter and jelly of the Christmas card world. Heck, I’m sure I’ve wished the pair countless times in the past. I’m a sucker for alliteration so I can’t help liking how they sound together, especially when you add the word holiday to the mix.

Yet, each year when I would write Christmas cards and wish people health and happiness, and each year when I would open Christmas cards wishing me the same, I was faced with the disappointment that another year had gone by and I still wasn’t healthy. And then I would once again spend the next year wishing and waiting for that magical holiday combination of health and happiness to find me. Basically, I was waiting for my life to turn into one of the made-for-TV Christmas movies I spent all day watching. But all that wishing and waiting and disappointment? It was exhausting.

I was really sick last Christmas. Well guess what? I’m still really sick. Sure I’m better in some ways, but I’m also worse in some ways. Mostly I’m just more used to everything so I’m a lot better at faking my way through it.

Bummer, I know.

But wait, it gets better.

This is the first year since I was first sick six Christmases ago that I’m not disappointed to not be healthier than I am. I spent all those years wishing and waiting to be healthier because I thought that I needed better health to make me happy. Here’s what I’ve come to learn, though – one does not depend on the other. Don’t get me wrong, being healthy and happy at the same time is wonderful! However, there are a lot of people in the world who are healthy and not happy. And there are a lot of people in the world who are happy even though they aren’t healthy.

I know because I’m one of them.

I’m not waiting to be healthy anymore. All that waiting was actually getting in the way of me being happy. I don’t need to be healthy; I can be happy anyway.

I am happy anyway.

Of course I would love to be healthy, too! Who doesn’t like peanut butter and jelly? And being healthy is definitely something to be happy about. But it’s not the only thing.

Now, don’t get the wrong idea here and think that being sick sounds like a good way to find happiness. It’s not like that. And it drives me crazy when people don’t appreciate their health and don’t take care of themselves, so if you start to throw your health away I will probably hit your head against the wall…except not actually because what if you got a concussion? Then I would be the one contributing to your compromised health and I wouldn’t want that. No heads against the wall then…instead I’ll just stare you down and I don’t want to brag or anything, but I do a pretty good stare down. But this is off topic…

Anyway, health is not the only thing to be happy about. Today I’m happy that my sister gave me some rolls of life savers. I’m also happy that I had enough energy to drive myself to go drop off a Christmas present for my favourite doctor. I’m happy that I got to spend some time catching up with one of my friends via text this morning. I’m happy that my cousin Nicole helped me pick colours for my next crochet project. Oh, and I’m happy that my favourite sweater was clean so I could wear it.

Happiness is about making all those little things you’ve got count for more than the big things you don’t. It’s about loving what have, not having it all.

Yes, peanut butter and jelly are a classic combination, and health and happiness together are lovely, but let’s be honest here, peanut butter tastes pretty damn good all on its own.

So to all of you wonderful people reading this, you make me happy. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for following along and being part of this with me. Wishing you a Merry Christmas and may your holiday be full of…

Peanut butter 🙂

P.S. No I didn’t eat the peanut butter! Yikes. The temptation was worth the photo opportunity!

Faces of invisible illness

Life with chronic illness has changed so much because of the internet. Between blogs, Facebook groups and hashtags, you can always find someone facing the same challenges as you and feeling the same jumble of emotions. It might sound really strange to a lot of you, but some of my closest friends I have never actually seen face to face. Many of them I don’t even know what their voices sound like! When you live out in the real world and are able to go to school, maintain a job and go out with friends, your friends live out in the real world with you. But when all of that slips away and you find yourself seeing your doctors more often than your peers, a lot of your friends start to live in your computer.

One of my favourite people in this world lives in my phone and my computer. Okay, she actually lives in Pennsylvania, but within the realm of our friendship, she lives in my phone and my computer. We’re less than a year apart, we’re in very similar health situations, we led very similar pre-sick lives and most importantly, we get each other. Normally, I would now show you a picture of us together, but we’ve never met! At least not yet.

Day to day, Leah and I crack a lot of jokes, use a lot of sarcasm, and share a lot of memes and cute polar bear videos to help us deal with everything, but we also help each other acknowledge and accept our situations. Earlier this year we were having a late night conversation about the realities of being young and living with chronic illness when Leah said, “Hey, we should turn this into a free verse poem,” and I said, “Okay!”

Then this happened.

And then we decided to take it one step further. A few weeks ago I suggested that we re-share this piece for Invisible Illness Awareness Week, which, by the way, is happening right now. She said, “Yeah! Why don’t we make a video and see if we can get some other illness bloggers involved?” and once again I said, “Okay!”

Then, after a lot of emails and a lot of cooperation from a lot of awesome people, this happened.

When we first published this piece all those months ago, it was really intimidating! We usually try to keep things light. We tend to downplay how hard it can be. We like to end things on a positive note. But these words? These words are blunt. These words are stripped down. These words are real.

Keeping things light, finding the positive, and focusing on gratitude? That’s still real, too. It’s not all one or the other, and part of how we cope with our chronic conditions is acknowledging both sides. Since we can’t expect anyone else to understand that scarier side unless we talk about, that’s what we decided to do. We decided to share the faces and voices behind our words. And we decided to invite some of our friends and/or favourite chronic illness bloggers to help us.

A huge thank you to everyone who helped us out with this project! We know it was out of a lot of your comfort zones (it was out of our comfort zones, too!) but we so appreciate you taking the risk anyway.

And a huge thank you to all of you who took a few minutes to watch this video! You are giving us a voice and that is one of the most meaningful things you can do. That is one of the most important ways you can help us. We didn’t create this video for pity; we simply just want to be heard. So thank you for listening.

Before I go, meet the awesome ladies (in order of appearance) who put themselves out there and helped us make this happen!

Catherine…pretty sure you know where to find me!

Leah Holstein

Katie Brook

Amanda Bryant

Sarah Frison

Sarah Rush

Samantha Brink

Stephanie Torres

Lisa Tschetter

Chanel White

Michaela Shelley