Best Wishes for 2013!

All the best for 2013 from the staff at MSAA! We will be back on January 2, 2013 with a new post.

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Recovering from the Holidays

I still can’t believe it’s almost 2013! I hope everyone is having a wonderful (relaxing) time during the Holidays. I know that I’ve been extremely busy, but I make it a point to relax when I need to. During the Holidays, even though it can be stressful, I really do enjoy myself. For me, I spend my time enjoying the company of my family and friends and focus less on things I “should” be doing.

After the Holiday festivities are over, I don’t rush to my “to-do list”… Even if I haven’t done a lot of physical activities during the Holidays, it can still be a stressful, but wonderful, time. I have found that just relaxing completely and having ME time has helped a lot when it is time to get back in to the swing of things.

I read a lot post-Holidays. This helps me to feel less stressed.

Clear your brain, enjoy all of the presents you received, go grab a Holiday Starbucks Coffee and enjoy what you have in your life, no matter the circumstances! Yeah, I know we have MS & there isn’t anything we can do about it. Sometimes I get aggravated and angry and depressed, when my MS interferes with things I want or need to do but I won’t let it control me 24/7/365!

Talk to you next year!

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Happy Holidays

It’s that time of year again! The holiday season is upon us, bringing times of celebration and joy to rekindle holiday feelings that make the season unique. Regardless of one’s traditions or religion, we gather together this time of year to celebrate love, new hopes, and remembrance of times past. It is a time to remember those we hold dear to our hearts and to join with them to celebrate the magic of the season—the lights, sounds, and feelings that make the holidays truly special in their own way. Happy Holidays and Best Wishes for the New Year!

Be sure to read the next MSAA Conversations blog posting scheduled for Wednesday, December 26th, 2012.

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Hiking for MS – Final Thoughts

I tried to convince myself that I would not cry during my last few steps to the Mexican border, and thus completing my goal of 817 miles on the Arizona Trail. But even after all my meandering through desert, forests, and mountains, lack of uninterrupted sleep and my minimally acceptable hygiene conditions during those last two and a half months I was not hardened to the overwhelming floodgate of tears that swept over me.

I have admitted that I undertook this endeavor in a naïve fashion. I had a purpose in mind and didn’t truly consider the many obstacles that one might face: dropping out of hikers, injuries, maladies, and even getting lost to name only a few.  My purpose was to inspire others and create a national awareness to a disease that I, like hundreds of others, had been diagnosed with. It was my intent to bring national awareness that could impact many lives around the world and, so even my reach was just as ambitious as an 817 mile hike.

Recently I have been asked about the highlight of my hike. I can truly say that there wasn’t any one point that was any more special than any other. The highlights were not necessarily due to my experiences on the trail. Many were due to my interactions with those who opened up their hearts, homes, and selves to us.

Those days when I was privy to walk for an individual with MS were also special times. They were reminders of how we sometimes stumble due to physical impairments and have to find the strength to pick ourselves up each time.

I learned lessons of strength, commitment, and patience as I approached the challenges of each day.

I am thankful to family and friends who supported this hike, and to the MSAA for helping us with our fundraising efforts.

Most of all, I am grateful to all of those who believed that this hike could encourage and inspire those of us who suffer from multiple sclerosis. I thank you for giving me the chance to make a difference.

Seasons Greetings. May this Holiday Season bring blessings and health to all!


Editor’s Note: To see pictures and read all of Shawn’s entries from the trail, please visit her website


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Managing Holiday Expectations

*Written by Peggy Walsh:

What is your most tender holiday memory? Close your eyes a moment and find one in that vast wondrous catalog of pleasant experiences you hold in your brain.

In that memory, were you alone, with a close relation, a stranger? Is your recollection illuminated by candles, a wood fire, lamplight, or glowing bulbs?  Were the scents surrounding you familiar or exotic? Were the sounds soothing or happily chaotic?

Thinking again about that lovely memory, what made it stand out from all the other hoopla of holiday? Was it unexpected warmth? Surprising touch? Out of the blue kindness? Striking good will? An astonishing turnaround of circumstances?

The chance to surprise someone else? A close connection to another person or a moment to yourself?

Is that memory solid in your mind? Now let it go. Because it is not coming back. Seriously. We can’t recreate that experience, try as we might. And oh my, do we try, year after year, season after season. We try to perfectly recreate and relive the memories of years past. An impossibility. Yet, we throw money, decorations, exhaustive energy and loads of food at each holiday in the hopes of recapturing the unattainable.

Then we miss what is here, now. We don’t see the moments right in front of us. There is joy around, but we are all too debilitated and distracted to notice.

The unexpected is memorable because it is exactly that: unexpected. The surprise snowfall. The impetuous kiss. The stunningly smooth dollop of cookie batter. The liberating laughter of camaraderie.

We can’t create the unexpected moment. We can only get out of its way and let it happen.  Perfectionism strangles the unexpected. It allows nothing out of the ordinary, nothing spontaneous or unscheduled to happen. The magical gets planned away.

Any serious change in our health can deal us a startling and unexpected blow.  It may be the main reason we anxiously over plan: we simply want to prevent the pain.

Yet, strangely, it is the experiences we didn’t bargain on, painful or delightful, that often deepen us most. Allow us to find out what we are made of.

If we don’t fully acknowledge the changes in our lives, in ourselves, we continue to plan the same perfect holiday feasts, festivities, decorations, and gift giving, enjoyed in prior years.  Without grieving the loss of health, strength, stamina, identity, or financial stability, we’ll fiercely forge ahead into exhaustion, frustration and disappointment. Family and friends in their own tempered denial follow in kind. Eventually, though, when the shock is fully absorbed, when the obstacles are acknowledged, mourned and accepted, we can adapt another perspective, view the holiday from a different angle. The new angle helps narrow our vision to what is most significant and meaningful.

As with all grief, when one really allows what the unexpected brings, accepts that the holidays will look different from previous ones, but still contain their own magic, new possibilities emerge. With recognition of the unexpected comes realistic planning, scaling down, a joining of forces, delegating and pacing so that cookies can be leisurely baked, meals can be created together, and naps can be had, setting the stage for the joyous unexpected moments to appear.

*Peggy Walsh, M.S.- Is a psychotherapist in private practice in Bala Cynwyd, PA. She specializes in the areas of substance abuse and eating disorders but also sees a number of folks living with MS. She is grateful for the way her patients enrich her life with their interest in seeking understanding and depth in their own lives.

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How MSAA Helps Me

Hi Friends,

Thank you for all you do! I’d just like to take a moment to tell you about (the greatest mobile phone app ever!!), MSAA’s My MS Manager. In the video below, I talk about how vital My MS Manager has become in my daily battle living with MS. For me it means that I can live with my MS. Thank you for all your generous donations that help make free programs – like My MS Manager – happen, and this Holiday Season please help us make way for other vital programs that so many of us rely on. You rock!!



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How MSAA Helps Me

Hi Friends,

Thank you for all you do! I’d just like to take a moment to tell you about (the greatest mobile phone app ever!!), MSAA’s My MS Manager. In the video below, I talk about how vital My MS Manager has become in my daily battle living with MS. For me it means that I can live with my MS. Thank you for all your generous donations that help make free programs – like My MS Manager – happen, and this Holiday Season please help us make way for other vital programs that so many of us rely on. You rock!!



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12-12-12 Challenge

To mark today’s unique date of 12-12-12, we are proposing a unique one-day-only endeavor!

MSAA is looking for your help in spreading awareness and raising much-needed funds for the MS community by asking you and your family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers to make a gift of $12. These modest donations, when added up, will give a significant boost to MSAA’s vital programs and services.

How do you get involved? It’s simple!

  • 12 dollars: Make a gift of $12.
  • 12 people: Reach out to your family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers, letting them know how MS has affected you or someone close to you and ask them to give just $12.
  • 12 followers: Ask 12 people to follow MSAA on Twitter or “like” MSAA on Facebook to help spread awareness of multiple sclerosis.

Mark today’s unique date by helping to raise awareness and funding for essential programs and services supporting the MS community! Please take the 12-12-12 Challenge. Time is running out today!




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The holiday season frequently has people reflecting on and discussing what their family does uniquely, or times that are special to them. Many of these things result from tradition. Traditions are generally thought of as customs or beliefs that are handed down from one generation to the next. Holiday traditions would therefore typically be something which is done to honor or respect customs from your family in the past, or something instituted and repeated each holiday season over a long period of time.

These could be eccentric things, like everyone taking a trip somewhere they have never been during a particular week each year, or simple things like all the cousins of a generation taking out one day from their busy lives and going to grandma’s house to decorate cookies. They could include volunteering for a special cause dear to your heart, or hold specific importance within your family history or spiritual beliefs.

Many people may come from families where they have no specific traditions and then as adults they have the opportunity to create their own traditions. If we look at the reasons traditions are built, it usually boils down to respecting and honoring the past and/or evoking emotions: excitement, closeness or togetherness, thoughtfulness and thankfulness, etc.

So whether you are lighting a candle for past generations or hanging a new ornament on your tree, think about what those traditions, old and new, mean to you and your family.

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Self Care

“First say to yourself what you would be;

and then do what you have to do.”

– Epictetus

Throughout any given day, we all put things off; we tell ourselves that some things are ok to wait until tomorrow and we often lose track of time just trying to finish yesterday’s tasks today. Most of the time these “things” that we push to the side and put off for another day are self-fulfilling tasks; doing something we enjoy, accomplishing an activity we’ve been “meaning to get to,” but haven’t had the time or setting aside time to process the day’s events. We become lost in taking care of others and performing certain goals that we lose the time encouraged for completing our own goals.

Is there something you’ve been telling yourself you would do “when you have the time?” Perhaps one of the goals you set for the day should be making time for yourself. Write down that story you’ve had in your head, watch the movie you’ve wanted to see or get in touch with the friend you’ve been meaning to call. If you don’t take the time to encourage self-care activities that you want to do, you may find difficulty performing the tasks you have to do.

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