Something Between Me and God

So Christmas is over. My own family doesn’t care about it much. We didn’t visit my parents this year. My sister, brother-in-law and three-month-old niece saw our parents for a few days before Christmas. My husband had to work, so we didn’t have time to come over then. We could have come over today, but I personally don’t like visiting my parents if my sister and brother-in-law aren’t there too. All of us live in different corners of the country and my sister and husband both work irregular hours, so ideally we find a day when we can all be together. That doesn’t have to be at Christmas. It helps that my family aren’t religious. My parents are both atheists.

I am not an atheist, but I prefer not to subscribe to organized religion. Yes, I derive meaning from reading Christian devotionals and listening to Christian music. I also sometimes pray. I no longer attend church and never attended regularly. I take the Bible with a large bucket of salt. Yet I feel very touched by the nativity story.

Recently, when going through my Facebook profile and privacy settings, I chose to delete my religion off my profile altogether. It listed “progressive Christian” up to that point, but really I think it’s none of my 500+ friends’ business. My husband says religion is something between him and whatever higher power he believes in or not. It is not that I don’t want to share – I am doing that now -, but I don’t want to label my belief system. Maybe in some respects I’m still a seeker.

And yet, sometimes I wish I subscribed to an organized belief system. I mean, I love to connect to spiritual and religious bloggers, but it’s hard to find this connection without sharing their doctrine. Am I truly being honest when I tell a Christian blogger that I agree with their spiritual message even though on fundamental matters of doctrine, we most likely strongly disagree. I mean, my husband at one point read me the Nicene creed, on which all Christianity is based and I didn’t agree with some points.

Then again, it’s not up to the humans who wrote that creed to judge me at the end of times. They may kick me out of their blogging communities, but they won’t ultimately decide whether there’s an afterlife and if so, how I get to spend eternity in it.

I love to derive meaning from all sorts of spiritual sources. Most are either Christian or New Age-based. I don’t think believing in God and Jesus contradicts belief in one’s inner spiritual power. I don’t think I need to take the Bible literally or even semi-literally to consider myself religious. Like I said, my spirituality is something between me and God.

I’m joining in with RagTag Daily Prompt, for which the word today is Spiritual.

Monday’s Music Moves Me (December 23, 2019): My Favorite Christmas Songs

It’s already past 10PM Monday here and I really need to be in bed, but I really want to have a blog post up today too. Don’t ask me why, as I’ve gone days without blogging before and it’s never been a problem. I originally intended on doing another Reading Wrap-Up, but then spent so much time actually reading that I don’t think I’ve got time for one now. Instead, I’m for the first time in forever joining in with Monday’s Music Moves Me.

The theme all December is Christmas. I wonder whether next Monday people aren’t seriously tired of all the Christmas songs, as it’s nearly New Year’s then. Anyway, I’m not yet tired of them, though I must admit I rarely consciously listen to Christmas music. I remember when I had my radio preprogrammed on Sky Radio close to Christmas one year when I was around fourteen. Sky Radio is broadcasted as “the Christmas station” here around that time and it practically airs just Christmas music then. My father-in-law, who usually has Sky Radio on in his dentistry practice, changes to another station as soon as he hears the first Christmas song, usually sometime in the third week of November.

Anyway, I know quite a few Christmas songs through Sky Radio, but this station doesn’t air any of the newer ones. Or maybe it does now. I honestly haven’t been consciously listening in years. So I guess all my favorite Christmas songs are rather outdated.

My favorite one is It’s Gonna Be a Cold Cold Christmas by Dana. I somehow love her voice.

Next I guess would be Last Christmas by Wham as it’s practically the first Christmas song you’ll hear each year here. It’s a pretty bad earworm, but oh well.

Then of course I need to include a not-so-serious one and I’m obviously going with Tom Lehrer’s A Christmas Carol.

What are your favorite Christmas songs?

The Third Day of Christmas

I’ve seen a lot of people share their favorite holiday-themed memories. I’ve wanted to share mine, but also felt rather unmotivated to actually sit down and type. Today it’s Sunday and I came home to the care facility from spending the week-end with my husband earlier than usual. I guess it’s about time I share some Christmassy cheer.

My memory isn’t really about Christmas though. Or even boxing day. I know there isn’t such a thing as boxing day in the United States. Well, here in the Netherlands, what British folk call boxing day is called the second day of Christmas.

From there on, many people count the day after that, December 27, as the third day of Christmas. Some go on to count the fourth and fifth day of Christmas. I’ve never heard someone refer to December 30 as the sixth day of Christmas though, and the fourth and fifth days are rare too. But the third day of Christmas is pretty much a thing here.

I first met my now husband Jeroen six weeks before landing in the mental hospital. I was hospitalized in early November and still didn’t have independent off-ward privileges by Christmas, let alone that I could visit family.

Jeroen had family obligations over Christmas and boxing day, of course, but he was free on the third day of Christmas. That’s how came he visited me in the hospital that day, December 27, 2007. Please realize we weren’t officially in a relationship then. He probably knew that he wanted to be by this time, as he told me he loved me on January 7, but I definitely wasn’t yet sure and just saw him as a friend.

Now that I write, I realize I hardly even know what we did that third day of Christmas. He probably accompanied me to the nearby hospital cafeteria, where we had a cup of Earl Grey tea. Or maybe I had coffee. I’m pretty sure he had some kind of tea.

A year later, in 2008, we were officially in a relationship and he asked to meet me again on the third day of Christmas. Same ward still, as I spent an incredibly long time (sixteen months) on the acute ward. I had off-ward and even town privileges by this time, but I think we met again at the cafeteria. He said the third day of Christmas was our traditional day to meet from then on. I’m not sure whether we stuck to it much, but this year, inbetween the two days of Christmas and the week-end that follows, I’m also spending the third day of Christmas in our home.

Essential Oil Diffuser!

Today we had a Christmas lunch at day activities. It was good. We got a hamburger, salad and ice cream. At the end of the day, we also got our Christmas presents from day activities. It’s a tradition here in the Netherlands that employers give their employees a Christmas package (usually a box with foods and a small gift). Though we aren’t really employees, our day activities gives us a present too. I had been more or less pestering my staff for an essential oil diffuser. A fellow resident at the care facility got one as a St. Nicholas present on December 5. I have at least one and probably two at home already, but they work with a fan and hardly give off any scent. The one my fellow resident got, works with water. You add a cup of water and a few drops of essential oil to it and then it somehow heats the water or otherwise diffuses the oil. I had had such a diffuser a few years back but that one had a lot of safety warnings on it and my husband was pretty sure I’d harm myself using it, so I returned that one to the shop.

Anyway, we did get the essential oil diffuser! It’s a cheap one from something similar to the Dollar Store, but I love it. Right now, it’s diffusing a bit of vanilla fragrance oil that I borrowed from the fellow resident, as I don’t have my EOs with me here yet. Its scent is a lot stronger than what came off the fan-based diffusers. I checked and it doesn’t seem like this diffuser is actually heating the water. Don’t know how else it produces the smell, but oh well. This particular diffuser also has lights in it that change color and it actually releases a bit of mist. I can’t see the colors, of course. I’m curious to know what this diffuser will do when I diffuse eucalyptus essential oil. I tried this in the fan-based one and hardly smelled it, even though eucalyptus is supposed to be a really strong scent. This diffuser has only a small water reservoir, so you can only add five or so drops of EO. This means I can hardly make any blends, but who cares? Maybe I’ll figure out blending tiny amounts anyway.

Oh, Christmas Tree!

Today, the staff at day activities have been setting up the Christmas tree and other decorations. I know some people in other countries do so much earlier, but St. Nicholas is celebrated on December 5 here and it’s pretty much not done to set up your Christmas tree before then.

I have a book of Christmassy journal prompts. They start on December 1, but I haven’t written on any of them yet. Today, I’m choosing to write on the Dec 2 prompt, which is about Christmas trees.

Growing up, my family had a Christmas tree almost every year. The one or two times we didn’t, it was because of our cat. We had a live tree and our parents pretty much detested faux trees. We had the tree decorated with silver and red Christmass balls and bells that were made of glass. Almost each year, I would accidentally break at least one ball or bell. We also had a ton of wooden figurines including santas, snowmen, angels, etc. I particularly loved to play with these figurines. We had yellow Christmas lights on the tree. I’m not even sure other colors were available back then. We didn’t have a star or other large decoration at the top of the tree.

When I moved out of my parents’ house, I didn’t particularly care for decor. After all, I was totally blind by this time. No Christmas tree for me.

In the psychiatric hospital, we did have a lot of Christmas decorations. Yes, even on the locked ward. Of course, they had to be safe, so they couldn’t be made of glass or in any other way used to cause harm. I was admitted in early November and, by the time the decorations got put up, was still pretty unstable. One day, in an anger outburst, I pulled all Christmas decorations off the wall.

I still don’t really care for Christmas decorations, though I don’t really dislike them either unless they’re in my way. It is very intriguing to know how much people can put in my way in the name of decorating. At my last psych unit, I was in crisis almost every December due to having bumped into one tree or another (we had several) a little too many times.

This year, I know my staff will make sure to place the Christmas tree somewhere I won’t bump into it. Both at day activities and at the home, I’m not the only autistic or blind person. My staff asked me whether I want to make a Christmas decoration with one of them next week. I said yes.

#WeekendCoffeeShare (December 29, 2018)

Oh my, it’s Saturday again! This means it’s been nearly a week since I last wrote a blog post. I really wanted to write more, but I’ve been feeling badly uninspired. Today, a few ideas are floating through my mind, including several blog challenges. However, I’m finding that I struggle to put much effort into a blog post. For this reason, I’m settling on a #WeekendCoffeeShare post.

If we were having coffee, I’d ask you how your holidays have been. Mine have been good but exhausting. I went to my parents for Christmas Eve and stayed there overnight. It was okay. We managed to avoid discussing my life, which is a good thing, since my parents are very disappointed in how I live my life. Like, my mother can feign a bit of interest in my activities at the day center for severely intellectually disabled people I attend. My father can’t even pretend to be interested. I’m fine with it, sort of. At least by avoiding talking about me, we don’t risk ending up in a fight. It was a much more relaxed visit than the ones at which I’ve tried to talk about my life.

If we were having coffee, I’d share about the gourmet dinner we had on boxing day at my in-laws. It was fun and tasty, but I did end up with a lot of IBS symptoms for a few days following it.

I’d also share about my plans for buying a Macbook. I did share this with my parents and sister on Christmas Eve. I’d not even told my husband before, because Macbooks are rather expensive and I was afraid he wouldn’t approve. Not that he has to. Buying a Macbook would mean I could use its built-in screen reader and no longer depend on JAWS, the main screen reader for Windows, which costs like 1000 euros and hasn’t been improved much sinnce it was first released. In theory, I could get JAWS paid for by health insurance as a needed adaptation, but I’ve been waiting for my insurer’s approval for nearly a year. My husband was in fact pretty supportive. We found an older Macbook Air model for a reasonable price. I can’t wait to go to the store to take a look at it.

I don’t have any plans for the week-end. Besides resting, that is. I’ll probably just chill out with some TV shows or books. My husband’s oldest sister is going to visit us for new year’s eve. That should be fun.

Gratitude List (December 21, 2018)

It’s Friday again, yay! Last week I skipped my gratitude list post. Not because I didn’t have much to be thankful for, but because I wanted to write some other things and was feeling sick with a cold. Today, I’m taking my chance to do the post. I have a lot to be thankful for this past week. Here goes.

1. The wonderful Christmas box I got last week. I already wrote about it last week, but I want to mention it here too. I particularly love Snowflake, the stuffed unicorn. I also loved the fleece blanket I got in my package. I sat covered in it on Saturday when my cold was at its worst.

2. My cold being almost over. I am still a little sniffy, but with how bad my cold felt last Saturday, I”m truly grateful it’s much better.

3. My staff being well again. My support coordinator was off sick for a few weeks, but late last week, she returned to work. She first visited me on Wednesday. My nurse practitioner, who was off sick even longer, returned to work this week too. I had a good appoitnment with him.

4. A Christmas meal at day activities. On Tuesday, we had a delicious lunch. It was a little chaotic, but good too.

5. Horseback riding again. It was rainy yesterday, but thankfully we could still go on an outdoors ride.

6. Eating delicious tuna macaroni with my mother-in-law. She went horseback riding with me and after that, I ate at her house. It was just the two of us, so I could decide what we had.

7. The application for long-term care being mailed. It was sent out yesterday. It was a little hard reading the application, because my staff had to fill out how impaired I am in various areas on a 0-3 rating scale. I got quite a few 3s.

8. My husband being supportive. He showed his support of me even when I disclosed some rather embarrassing aspects of the long-term care application (ie. The fact that I am quite impaired in my personal care). He knows to some extent, of course, but still it’s a little awkward to admit.

9. All the Christmas decorations at day activities and some at home too. I didn’t use to like those. In fact, the first Christmas of my psychiatric institutionalization, I even pulled them all off the wall on my ward. Now I like a little Christmassy cheer.

10. The weighted blanket a staff made for my day activities group. She gave it to us a few weeks ago and I may’ve mentiooned it before, but then I mention it one more time. I love being in the sensory room and lying under it.

11. Painkillers. I had bad shoulder pain last Tuesday and still it’s not completely gone. I also had a headache today. However, ibuprofen and paracetamol worked well respectively.

12. Christmas songs. I can’t get some out of my head, but it’s lovely. This year is the first year I can appreciate Christmas.

This list was a bit random in its order, but I can’t seem to reorder the items on my phone and am too lazy to open my computer. I hope you enjoyed reading it anyway. I looked forward to linking up with #TToT, but saw it had come to a close for 2018 last week. The linky also is no longer open, but I hope some of those who visit me from #TToT regularly, will leave me a comment anyway.

Ten of The Most Memorable Gifts I Ever Received

Originally, I wanted to post about the lovely box filled with snacks and gifts I received for Christmas at day activities earlier this week. It’s a tradition here that employers give their employees such a box for Christmas. Of course, day activities isn’t a real job, but we get a Christmas box anyway. Ours was even more special, since it had been partly personalized for each of us by our staff. Maybe I could devote a post to this box, but then I remembered that Finish the Sentence Friday is about gifts too. I am twisting the prompt a little and not just writing about the gifts I received as a child or for Christmas specifically. After all, like I may’ve said before, Christmas isn’t as important a gift-giving celebration as St. Nicholas on December 5. Besides, I don’t always remember which gifts I got for St. Nick and which for my birthday. For this reason, I’m creating a list of the most memorable gifts I received throughout my life.

1. Wally, the stuffed whale. I got her when I came home from the NICU at three months of age. I slept with her till I was nineteen. Yes, I slept with stuffed animals that long! In fact, I still do. Now I don’t sleep with Wally anymore, but I still own her.

2. Roza, my favorite doll. No, Rosa isn’t spelled with a z in Dutch, but I had no idea. I got her from my paternal grandma for my third birthday. She had bought her in Berlin and we joked about the German word for “doll”, which is similar to the Dutch word for “poop”. Roza remained my favorite doll throughout childhood. When I was seven, I was interviewed for a Dutch magazine for blind children and said that my memory from three years back was tha tit was the year after getting my favorite doll.

3. A Barbie doll I got for my eleventh birthday. The reason this one is so memorable is the fact that my mother regretted giving it to me. She felt it wasn’t “age-appropriate” and I might need to go residential at the school for the blind if I didn’t catch up with my age peers socially and emotionally. I need a separate post to explain the (lack of) logic behind this reasoning.

4. Deodorant. I got this for my fourteenth birthday from my sister. No, not in a package that had other toiletries in it. Just a deodorant stick. She clearly wanted to send me a message. I didn’t get it.

5. A coffee maker. I got it for St. Nicholas when I was 20. I was going to live independently the next year and needed a coffee maker then. My husband is happy he didn’t drink coffee when I still had the apartment I used that coffee maker in, as it quickly got very moldy and dirty from lack of cleaning, as did the rest of the apartment.

6. A Planxty CD. This was the gift my husband gave me for the first birthday after we’d started dating in 2008. I only played it when my husband was there, as I really didn’t like it. Then again, he didn’t like my first gift for him, which was a book of previously unpublished philosophical works.

7. A liquorice “cake”. My husband and I got it for our wedding from my staff at the psychiatric resocialization ward in 2011.

8. The sensory cat soft toy I got for my birthday last year. It can be put in the microwave and then gives off heat and a lovely lavender scent.

9. Rainbow/Sofie, the stuffed unicorn I got from my previous day activities when I left there. She’s truly so cool! She has two names, because two readers of my blog each came up with an equally good one.

10. A weighted unicorn soft toy. Finally, I have to include something from this year’s Christmas box. It is, interestingly, another stuffed unicorn. This one is weighted as to provide sensory benefits. I’m having another contest to name her, like I did with Rainbow/Sofie.

What gifts will you always remember having received?

Share Your Merry World (December 10, 2018)

I am still in the mood to write, but am still a little uninspired. I love the
Share Your World
challenge though. This week, Melanie has really interesting questions for it.

What’s the worst topping you could put on popcorn? (credit to Teresa for this one)
Mustard, LOL. Melanie answered hot sauce, but I wouldn’t mind that as much. I’m still not fully recovered from my husband’s kale macaroni, on which I chose mustard as a condiment. Such a mistake!

In what country did Silent Night originate?
I have no idea and am too lazy to look it up.

How would you react if there was irrefutable proof that God doesn’t exist? How about if there was irrefutable proof that God does exist?
I wouldn’t change much either way. I am not sure what I believe regarding the existence of a living, actually-involved-in-our-lives God, although I think the idea is comforting. However, the fact that I do not subscribe to any organized religion and do not feel that morality is based on God, means I would probably still live my life here on Earth as I do now whether God exists or not.

And last question:
What is the scariest non banned item you could take on to a plane?
Uhm, my white cane? I have no idea really.

Which version of the holiday celebration do you and your family enjoy? By this I mean do you follow Jewish traditions with Hanukkah; Christian celebrations with Christmas and (for those over the pond) Boxing Day; or some other festivities that I’ve overlooked? Please do share with everyone!
We celebrate Christmas, although I don’t care about any of the traditions that much. It’s just one of two good opportunities to see my parents and sister. My birthday in June is the other.

My Favorite Holiday

Carol anne’s most recent question of the day is about holidays. She asks us what our favorite holiday tradition is. She herself loves Christmas for its presents. My favorite holiday is also in December and we also celebrate it with presents. Today, I am going to share about that.

First of all, we’re not one for holidays. We don’t like the adjustment and lack of structure. However, we love getting presents. As such, our favorite holiday is Santa Clause. It’s celebrated here in the Netherlands on December 5.

Santa Clause is in many ways similar to Christmas in the United States. It is celebrated on December 5 in honor of St. Nicholas’ birthday. In reality, St. Nicholas, who isn’t a real saint in the Catholic church anymore, died on December 6.

Santa Clause is celebrated with lots of presents, which the Santa is said to deliver through the chimney. they are usually packaged in a surprising kind of way and it’s a tradition that Santa Clause leaves a poem for the children. These poems are intended to be a bit moralistic, telling the child what they need to learn next year to be a better child.

There is also a lot of candy that’s specific to St. Nicholas. I love most of these candies!

As young children, we of course believe that Santa Clause is real. I was about eight when I learned that he isn’t. One of my fondest childhood memories is of my father playing Santa Clause’s helper Black Peter being stuck in the chimney.

I obviously no longer believe in Santa Clause, though I’m not sure what the littles will think if I say this. As an older child, after I’d stopped believing, I found it very hard to play along with the game. Now though, I’m enjoying it. Most of my fellow clients at day activities believe in Santa Clause, which makes the holiday extra magical for me too.