Another Day, Another Month, Another Year.
Another Smile, Another Tear, Another Winter,
A Summer too . . .
May Lovely, Happy Times
Decorate This Time of the Season.
May Warm, Special Memories Brighten Your New Year
As I write this blog on the last day of 2015, at the end of a string of busy holidays, I cannot help but reflect on and feel thankful for what I have learned throughout my life about many types of transitions, including seasonal ones. It seems like it was just yesterday when I walked into retail stores in July (!) and saw Halloween decorations. By September I had decorated my house with fall décor, quickly followed by jack o’lanterns, ghosts, and goblins in October; Pilgrims, turkeys and cornucopia in November; and Christmas trees, nativity scenes, Santa Claus, and twinkling lights in December. And it didn’t stop there. As I packed the Christmas décor away, I brought out snowmen to help with the after-Christmas letdown.
In the year to come there will be more seasonal transitions. Hearts will appear for Valentine’s Day, then shamrocks and leprechauns for St. Patrick’s Day, and bunnies and baskets full of colorful eggs for Easter. A patriotic theme will begin in May and last through the summer months until; once again, it’s time for the fall décor to reappear. It is a cycle I love and have become very good at planning for. I have a sweater that illustrates this madness and makes me laugh, but I have never worn it (for obvious reasons).
I wonder if my work with a child who has a disability has made me good at seasonal transitions or whether being good at seasonal transitions prepared me for managing all of the details involved in having a child with a disability. Perhaps these skills complement each other. The parallels between the systemic approaches needed for both sets of activities are profound to me. Both require flexibility, organization, planning, and goal setting.
I have learned, especially during the holiday months, to be extremely flexible because there is no set schedule. It’s time for a “new normal,” with kids home from school and visits to and from extended family members. This year we even had a wedding to attend the day after Christmas. Because I am a person who loves routines, I need to prepare myself for this period of time when I know won’t be able to stick to them. I tell myself, “Get ready, Patti! Your daily schedule is about to get completely out of whack!”
Flexibility is such a key factor during the holiday season. Even after making careful plans, opportunities arise that would add extra activities into the holiday mix. In my family, we have a tendency to over book ourselves and the importance of prioritizing is something I definitely learned from working with my son. There can easily be 25 things to do that I think would better support him, but I have learned to choose the top 5. I now apply strategy this strategy to holiday planning, too. Doing and having more isn’t always a good thing. It’s easy to suffer from sensory overload.
Seasonal planning and organization are also important to me. I have just put away my Santa notebook that contains menus and numerous lists—lists for shopping, lists of people to whom I send Christmas cards, and lists of presents I plan to give to friends and loved ones. It is documentation that helps me survive. I also save Christmas cards I receive in a zip-lock bag and will cross check them with my own Christmas card list sometime between now and next Christmas (the sooner, the better!). I don’t want to miss someone to add to my ongoing list.
Another organizational strategy I use is to store home décor for each season in separate containers. I arrange them in a line, much like a filing system, so I can easily move the container for the holiday just finished to the back. I recently moved my Christmas decorations to the back of the line and now Valentine’s Day hearts and cupids are at the front waiting for their turn.
And last, but not least, transitions are all about setting personal and family goals. The beginning of a new year is a common time to do this. A New Year often means a fresh start and just like IEP goals, New Year goals have meaning. They are intended to bring us success and should be well thought out. And even though we know there will likely be obstacles and barriers and our goals may require adjustment as the year goes on, we can make a commitment to continue to strive positively toward them and remember to plan, prepare, allow flexibility, stay strong, and strive for the best.
As the New Year begins I look forward to life’s many changes. From my family to yours, I wish you happy and healthy New Year with smooth transitions.
By Patti McGowan