As a Multiple Sclerosis patient, it has become necessary for me to reinvent myself. I have ... and continue to ... refuse to lie down and die, or in this case, follow the normally prescribed drugs and treatments that do nothing to defeat my disease. I am not only surviving by pursuing alternatives, I am thriving. I do the things specialists told me I would never be able to do. I walk and hope to one day even run regularly. I retain my cognitive and creative abilities for the pleasure of my readers. Although you may never see me on my daily walk, you are welcome to read my novel(s) and in doing so, come to ask yourself, "How can the 'out of the box' protocol she has followed, help my loved one with an autoimmune disease like Multiple Sclerosis?"

Santa and I's Secret

(submitted to Chicken Soup for the Soul 6/11/14 for Christmas 2015)

The merry jingle of bells signaled the imminent arrival of the season's featured guest. I, along with the other children lowered my voice to a barely audible whisper.
"He's coming!"
I knew better than to wonder who might be arriving but I couldn't help but wonder if Santa would remember me this year. For years I had heard stories from my older siblings of how every year they sat on Santa's lap and every year he greeted them by name. How I wanted Santa to do the same for me. I wanted that so bad my teeth hurt. Did he not remember me because I was the baby of a long string of toe-headed children? Or because I hadn't been quite good enough? I tried extra hard this year, even going so far as to apologize to my Sunday school teacher for missing class when I had the flu last spring.
"Children, line up in an orderly fashion. One line, don't push. Jason, let the little ones go first, please."
Sister Beal put us in line and of course, the lambs from the Nativity program never got to go first. The angels and of course Mary and Joseph always seemed to get positioned in the front of the line. Had they been better? Was that why they got to line up first? I couldn't hold my green monster of jealousy at bay and scowled at the back of Mary's head. The wool of my costume scratched my bare legs without mercy. It seemed the longer I had to wear it, the hotter the cultural hall got and the more uncomfortable I became. Why did my grandparents have to be so generous to offer real lambs' wool for each of the plays lambs to wear? Why, just for once, couldn't my grandparents be chicken farmers and donate the feathers for the angels wings? Maybe then I would get to stand on the risers and sing or better yet, be at the front of the line. But then, grandpa had been ill this year and he was getting old, too old to change professions.
At last my turn to sit on Santa's lap approached. I heard Santa greet my cousin.
"Merry Christmas, Jacob. Have you been a good boy this year?"
Of course Jacob lied and didn't tell Santa about how he and his brothers teased us girls. Maybe Jacob had confessed or something 'cause he hadn't teased me for weeks. Did Santa work hand-in-hand with God? Was Santa, God? He was here every year for our children's Christmas program. Maybe… I rejected the idea and hastily repented. I'd have to do more repentant confessing when I got home and especially on Sunday. But if they worked together and God knew my thoughts… had I just ruined my chances for Santa to remember me by name? Did it work that way?
 I peered closely at the aging man. Santa looked tired this year. His 'ho, ho, ho' sounded half hearted. His eyes didn't twinkle and I somehow knew his smile, if he had one under his snowy beard, had to be forced. He didn't even let the children sit on his lap. Had that wicked bully, Johnny Walters, broken Santa's lap for the rest of us? He probably did. Broke his smile, too.
I stepped closer, my heart going out to this aging man who worked so hard all year to make Christmas special for all the children everywhere. His gaze fell on me and I knew. He didn't really know me. He recognized me as one of the children in the community, but he didn't remember my name.
He motioned me closer with his red sleeved arm, his gloved hand stiff, just like my grandpa's. I knew grandpa's was stiff from driving a team of horses in the freezing cold, three years earlier. He'd gotten frost bite and nearly lost his fingers. Maybe Santa had the same thing happen with driving his magical team of reindeer.
I moved to his side but held myself erect, not wanting to wear Santa out before the other children got a chance to meet him this year.
"Ho, ho, ho…if it isn't another Jorgensen child. My, my how you've grown this year. You've got to be what? Seven, eight?" He pulled me close and I could smell his shaving cream. It reminded me of my grandpa-- my grandpa and his wide leather shaving strap. I had no idea how grandpa could sharpen his razor on a leather strap, I just knew I feared that strap even if he'd never tanned my hide with it. It hung in the bathroom and I knew, I just knew if I misbehaved at grandpa's house, I was in for a world of hurt.
Shaving cream…wait a minute. Santa didn't shave. Obviously he had a generous beard. By this time I had completely forgotten Santa's greeting.
"Cat got your tongue? Well, little one," I wasn't that little. I was the tallest girl in my third grade class at school. "Tell me what you want for Christmas."
I pulled back from his casual hug, searching his eyes and whispered, "I want a doll that wets, but most of all, I want you to remember my name."
I'll never forget the tears that formed in Santa's eyes when I said that. Santa pulled me close enough that I was the only one to hear. "I'll always remember my shoshkin."
My eyes flew wide. Santa knew me! Not only did he know me, but he knew my grandpa's nickname for me. That's why he'd never used my given name. That year my baby doll arrived under the Christmas tree with 'Shoshkin' on the nametag.

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