The season of gift giving is almost upon us - sorry, I didn't mean for that to sound ominous. Am I the only one who gets surprised every single October that it's here again already? And then I usually hurry up and repress it, which inevitably renders my December busy and stressful. But this year, I've decided to get on top of things well in advance and, unlike last year (and the one before that and the one before that), I've vowed to be done with my shopping by December 1st! Maybe...
Although they say it's better to give than to receive, to receive is also very, very good. If you're still working on your letter to Santa, here are a few ideas, some of which I've received myself, that you may like, as well. They have unique qualities that may appeal particularly to people who have RA, but can also be enjoyed by others, so if you're looking for gift ideas for family and friends, consider this post your double whammy.
Several years ago, it became too difficult for me to read regular books due to neck and shoulder problems and I missed reading terribly. At Christmas, a friend gave me a membership to Audible, an online bookstore of sorts with downloadable audio books. And I'm addicted, in many ways enjoying reading books this way more than I did the old-fashioned way. The narrators are usually excellent, some well-known actors, some well-known in the audio field and their readings bring out nuance and texture in a book that can be missed as your eyes dance across the page.
Books can be purchased individually or through memberships and gift certificates. They tend to be less expensive than audio books on CDs and as they are stored on your computer, don't collect dust! If you already have an iPod, you're good to go, but if you'll be using another brand of MP3 player, check Audible's list of compatible technology.
One trick to manage your pain is to keep warm and there's nothing better for your feet than a pair of handknit socks. Knit by someone who loves you, there's an almost tangible sense of magic in sliding a pair of soft socks onto your feet - the love in each stitch makes you feel better immediately. If you don't know anyone who knits, the handmade goodies can be found at local craft fairs and even machine-made socks can be delightful for your feet, as long as they feel luxurious and soft.
Although there's no such thing as a bad massage, for me, shiatsu massage has been the most helpful. Based in the same principles in Chinese medicine as acupuncture, shiatsu is performed on meridians in your body, unblocking them and allowing your Ch'i (life force) to flow freely. Specifics aside and more importantly, it makes you feel better for days. As an extra benefit, it leaves you a boneless puddle of bliss at the end, to such an extent that I've been known to ardently proclaim my undying love to my shiatsu therapist. She's always been kind enough not to laugh at me.
When typing and writing by hand became too painful for me, a friend gave me Dragon NaturallySpeaking. Dragon is voice recognition software for your computer that allows you to dictate instead of type - it's how I write all my posts. It has an accuracy rate of up to 99%, can achieve well over 100 words per minute and although it gets better with training, you can use it right out of the box. Check the specs - the latest version (10) requires a specific component, so depending on the age of your computer, version 9, which also works brilliantly out of the box, might be the better choice. Aside from freeing you to communicate without worrying about pain in your hands, it also makes you laugh when it occasionally misunderstands your words, coming up with some truly inspired phrases.
A Personal Letter
Cheapest, yet most dear of all, is taking the time to write a letter to a loved one, thoughtfully describing how much they mean to you. Some people won't "get it", instead wondering where their stereo went, but for most, it's the kind of gift that can make you cry (in the good way) and treasure it for a lifetime. To make it extra special, you can choose quality, heavy paper and handwrite (if you can) or find a particularly beautiful font. But the packaging means less than what is in the letter - sharing your heart with someone you love can be the perfect holiday moment.
You can read more of Lene's writing on The Seated View.