Christmas, Diabetes, & Me

xmastree

 

So, the big day is over (and so quickly, I hardly had time to breathe). It’s funny how we make such a big deal about one main day, plus a few other pieces of says here and there. I saw my two best friends on Christmas Eve. We had a wonderful night. I laughed like I haven’t laughed in a couple of years or more. And that happened without drinking more than one alco-pop!

Christmas Day was nice. I got my wireless headphones, which I’ve wanted for a long time. My husband cooked a delicious meal, but I over-indulged. Not as much as I normally do, but I ate too much for my current circumstances.

You see, three weeks before Christmas, I began taking a new drug for my diabetes. It’s a once-a-week injection called Bydureon. It’s not insulin. I’m not entirely sure what it is, if I’m honest. When I started two take it, my doctor told me the most common side effects—that most people get—are nausea and vomiting, along with a generally painful tummy.

So, I was apprehensive to take it, but I need to get my diabetes under control, so I thought, why not? It’s supposed to work really well. And, guess what? I had no side effects at all the first week. The second, I felt a little uncomfortable a couple of times, but it could have been my IBS and not the injection. I also had a headache for most of this week. The third week, I had a general feeling of nausea, but it was still not too bad. The worst thing that happened this week was the start of the itching. Around the old injection sites. So, so itchy. That hasn’t gone away yet.

One of the things my doctor said to me was that I should make sure I listen to my body and never overeat. That was key in controlling the side effects. And I did really well. Until Christmas Day which—let’s be honest—is made for excess. The result of my indulgences (which, I cannot state strongly enough, were nothing like my indulgences of yore!) was a night spent throwing up and feeling really ill. Yesterday, my stomach was still unhappy, and today it’s not right.

The moral of my story . . . listen to medical professionals. It just so happens they may know what they’re talking about. The sub-moral of my story . . . listen to your body, and don’t continue eating once you are full. Whether you have diabetes or not, take care what you eat. It’s everything when it comes to taking control of your own health. Treat your body kindly. You deserve it. For both physical and mental health. That’s what I plan to do in 2018.

Christmas Songs ~ Day Six

So, Christmas is almost upon us. Only two full days of preparation left. Which kind of freaks me out because I have so much to do. You know, those everyday-dull-as-dishwater things like cleaning and tidying. I wish I’d been more organised. But I’ve spent all my time writing and blogging. Those are—surely—more important than cleaning and tidying?

Finding the right videos for each of my favourite Christmas songs has been time-consuming, as well. But in a good way. My husband is the actual Grinch (except, he’s not green), so listening to festive tunes is usually something I do through my headphones. But this week, I’ve had the excuse that I’m researching for my blog. It’s important. 

So, the first song I want to share is ‘Carol Of The Bells.’ This song is truly beautiful. Last Christmas, it seemed to be all over the TV. In 2015, ‘Downton Abbey’ used it on the trailers for their last ever series. It was hugely popular, so last year it seems to get used on every TV ad going. But, anyway. It is beautiful.

 

 

My third favourite Christmas song of all time is ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.’ Many versions of this song have been recorded. I almost shared the Frank Sinatra version.His voice is so rich and warm and it’s easy to get lost inside it. But, in the end, I had to go with the version that grips my heart: Judy Garland. This version, taken from the film ‘Meet Me In St. Louis,’ just breaks me a little each time I hear it. Okay, I know that’s me being over-dramatic. But, her voice . . . oh, her voice. It aches. She’s so young in this film, but her voice belies a whole world of pain. Then, we have the lyrics. Even as a small child, I found them moving. Each verse has at least one killer line. The one that gets to me—above all others—is, “Through the years we all will be together.” I don’t know why I find this so emotional. I think I always knew that the times we were all together were limited. I think I already felt nostalgia for a time that had been lost. Maybe, a time that never existed.

Well, I’ve gone off on a bit of a tangent. So, I’ll leave you with my number three song:

Christmas Songs ~ Day Five

I’ve loved sharing my favourite Christmas songs with you this week. So much so that I’m going to keep sharing until Christmas Eve (only another six songs in total, but I couldn’t not share any of them). So, my first song is a classic. It really needs no another introduction than to say it is ‘The Christmas Song.’

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hwacxSnc4tI

This song really takes me back to my childhood. It’s one my Mum played a lot. She loved Christmas music. Actually, she loved everything about Christmas. When I hear this song, I’m in a living room filled with Christmas decorations, a big tree, covered in tinsel, and something magical in the air that sprinkled Christmas all over us. Wonderful memories.

 

My next song is from a little later. It’s still a classic, but it’s not so much connected to my parents. ‘Last Christmas’ by Wham! is one of my favourites. I don’t care how cheesy it may be, or how dated the video, I absolutely love it. I spent quite a large part of my teenage years madly in love with George Michael, so that probably has a bearing on this choice.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E8gmARGvPlI

It still seems surreal that he’s not here any more.

 

Okay, onto a happier note. I just wrote this really silly Christmas poem, and I thought I’d share it with you.

Eldred The Naughty Elf

Eldred was a naughty elf,
he loved to lark around
whilst other elves worked on their toys,
He oft’ could not be found.

Moving tools the workers used,
they scratched their heads, confused,
hammers, screwdrivers, sparkly glue
disappeared; they were bemused.

But Eldred couldn’t hide his glee,
he chuckled, his eyes shone bright,
’til Santa grabbed him by the scruff
and told him to make things right.

 

A Christmas Miracle

This is a short story I wrote this time last year. Bear that in mind when you read it: I wrote it in a different political time. This is story is a fantasy story, so I appreciate there is no chance of any of it ever happening (I did actually get a couple of people telling me the story doesn’t work because it’s not possible!), but I thought it was a cool idea for a story. I’m a bit of a dreamer, at heart.

A Christmas Miracle

For most of the year a small, round table stood in the centre of the Blue Room. Made of the finest mahogany, it sat underneath the two-hundred year old crystal chandelier. Barack lost count of the amount of awestruck gasps he had witnessed over the previous eight years.

With Christmas two days away, the chandelier had been removed in order to make way for a twenty foot high Norwegian pine. This year, Michelle and the girls had insisted on decorating it themselves. In keeping with the decor of the room, Michelle chose a colour scheme of silver and baby blue.

As he stood before the towering Christmas tree, the scent of pine needles filled his senses. He reached out and touched his fingers to the needles; jabs of pain shooting through his hand. Memories of Christmases from another lifetime, when happiness came easily, danced before his eyes.

“Sir, there’s a telephone call on your private line.” He spun around to see his personal assistant, Kiara, standing in the doorway. His cheeks flushed, as he took a moment to recover his thoughts.

“Who is it, Kiara?”

This time, it was she who blushed. “She says her name is Sophia Claus. She . . . ugh . . . she says she needs to you speak about her husband, and that you know who he is.”

“What? That’s a little cryptic. Can’t you get rid of her?” He pinched the bridge of his nose and turned back to the tree.

“I can’t, sir. I mean, I tried. I hung up the phone and cut off the line, like, twenty times. But she’s still there. She said she can’t go until she’s spoken with you.”

A shiver tickled the president’s spine. Sophia Claus? On the private line? About her husband? No way. A rash of adrenalin spread across his chest. “Okay. Thank you, Kiara. I’ll take it in the Oval Office.”

As he slid into his leather swivel-chair, he took three deep breaths, then hit the loud speaker button on his phone. “Mrs. Claus? It’s Barack here.” A line of sweat formed on his upper lip. There could only be one reason for this phone call.

“Barack? Mr. Obama? Hello, deary. You sound far away. Can you hear me?”

The old woman’s buttery voice reminded him of his Grandma. He smiled as he said, “Yes, I can. What can I do for you, Mrs. Claus?”

“Oh, wonderful. My husband asked me to speak to you. We’re in a bit of a bind. It’s my Fred, you see. The silly man had an accident on the chimney entry practice pad. Truth be told, he’s getting a little old to be shooting himself down chimneys. He could use the front doors, I tell him. But he prefers the traditional approach. Now he’s broken both his legs. He’s completely incapacitated. The most he can do is oversee the elves in the workshops from a wheelchair.”

Barack’s head buzzed as he tried to sort through the barrage of information. He turned and glanced at the Grandfather Clock behind him. The thought of what sat underneath, of the magnitude of this telephone call, sent shockwaves through his body.

“I’m so sorry. I hope he makes a speedy recovery.” Lifting the receiver from its cradle, Barack held the mouthpiece close and said, “Are you saying what I think you’re saying?”

A pause crackled through the airwaves. “Yes, deary, I am. Invoke Operation Rudolph.”

Before he could prevent it, a gasp escaped the president’s mouth. His hands trembled. This was the pinnacle of his career. “Okay. I will need you to give me the password, Ma’am.”

“Of course. The password is sprouts. Good luck, Mr. Obama.”

With that, the line fell silent. Barack stood and faced the Grandfather Clock. Never, in his wildest dreams, did he think he would be the president to push the Rudolph Button.

Every president, when they are sworn in, is told the location of the Rudolph Button. The clock is a replica. It’s made of cheap, light wood: easy to move on your own. As Barack stood before it, searching for a sign of its inauthenticity, he shook his head. This can’t be happening.

Throwing his arms around the clock, he heaved with all his might. He exclaimed as he stumbled backwards. Wow. That was easy. Cream carpet pooled where the clock once stood. You would never guess something so important could be concealed underneath it. Barack crouched down and peeled back the corner. There it is! A square cut into the wooden floor: two inches by three.

Three taps to the bottom, right-hand corner, and the president held his breath. His eyes widened as he watched the wood give way to a scarlet, shining button with the letter ‘R’ engraved above it in diamonds. The force of the movement sent him reeling backwards.

Eyes closed, he pressed the button before he could chicken out. He could only imagine the reactions of his fellow leaders as the Rudolph Alarm sounded in every corner of the world. The next move for him was to gather his own military and political colleagues in the Situation Room. First, though—for the next minute—he had to regain his breath.

“Sir, the switchboard is crazy. Every line is jammed up.” Kiara’s dark ponytail swished as she entered the room. “Are you all right, sir?”

“Yes. Can you patch each line through to the conference call system please? I need to speak with everyone.”

“But there’s at least twenty people on hold. I can’t put them all through.”

Barack exited the room, and said her his shoulder, “Normally . . . no, you couldn’t. But today is no normal day. Today, Kiara, I think you will be surprised at what is possible.”

Every screen in the Situation Room came to life as Barack entered the room. World leaders from Teresa May to Vladimir Putin, and from Angela Merkel to Xi Jinping, sat in squares on the five large wall screens. The Rudolph List had gathered as promptly as he ever thought possible.

As he began to speak, he steepled his fingers in front of him. “Thank you all for responding so quickly. Time is of the essence. I’ve just finished speaking with Mrs. Claus, and they need our help. We have two days to organise our countries’ aircraft. Christmas Eve deliveries must be carried out as usual.”

The room filled with voices muttering. Barack wasn’t clear whether it was excitement at the challenge, or annoyance at the enormity of the task. He scanned each face, and it occurred to him how foolish he had been. These people had one thing in common: a deep-seated hatred of one another. He pinched the bridge of his nose, and rested his hand on the black, leather chair in which he always sat with his government.

“I appreciate this is a tall order, folks. But we all signed up to be part of the Rudolph List. We can’t back out now just because the button has been pushed.” A silence settled in the air. “Okay. Y’all know where your warehouses are. You all have your bombers on standby at this time of year. The warehouses have lists and addresses. For those of you who finish early, check the main computer log—details will be sent in the next ten minutes—and see if you can help anyone. You know what to do.”

One by one, the screens turned black; save for the solitary face of Ash Carter, the president’s Secretary of Defense. The older man cleaned his glasses without looking up. “You sure about this? You really think we can pull it off.”

“We have to pull it off, Ash. Christmas depends on it. We have our B-2s and Lancers ready to go. There’s even the old B-52s waiting for the signal.”

Ashton Carter shook his head, as he placed his spectacles back on his head. This time, he looked Barack in the eye. “Okay. Let’s do it. I’ll notify everyone from my end.”

Barack sat at the head of the empty mahogany table, with his hands behind his head. All he could do now was wait. His part of the deal was done. Whispers of world leaders pushed to their limits clung to the air around him. If this works, it will truly be a Christmas miracle.

As the day moved along, Michelle joined her husband in the conference room. He wasn’t supposed to speak of Operation Rudolph: it was top secret. But, heck, he had spoken to Mrs. Claus: wife of Santa! The farther away he moved from the enormity of the situation, the more filled with wonder he became.

“She sounded like Grandma Madelyn. You remember her voice, right? The way she always sounded like she was smiling. It was incredible, Michelle. I actually spoke to Mrs. Claus.” A grin spread from ear to ear, and he hiccuped with delight.

Once Kiara set up the data for each country on one of the large screens, it surprised Barack how quickly some of the boxes were checked. It helped that there were varying time zones around the world. It meant everyone could pitch in to help others.

The resulting friendliness and goodwill toward previous sworn enemies was a side effect of Santa’s broken legs no one could have foreseen. Barack felt his heart stop for a moment when he saw Putin video high five-ing Petro Poroshenko. Whoever would have thought delivering millions of presents to children at Christmas time could cast such a unifying spell over the world?

At four-thirty EST on Christmas morning, the last presents settled underneath the tree of Jackson McNally in Alaska. The Rudolph spreadsheet lit up, and an animated Santa danced across the screen. Barack glanced at the faces of each world leader. They had all thought this would be an exercise of great stress and pressure.

In fact, it had the opposite effect. Each leader smiled at him, and their smiles stretched all the way to their eyes. Contentment filled the room. When Barack spoke, he stood and steepled his fingers in front of him.

“That’s it: we’ve done it! Every child will receive their presents this Christmas, and it’s all thanks to us. We worked together, as a world at peace. We helped our neighbours, put our own needs aside. I know I am not speaking only for myself when I say the feeling that fills me is one of pride. Folks, let’s build on this pride. We’ve seen what we can achieve when we come together. Let’s not waste this opportunity.”

Barack moved to his end of the table and loosened his tie. “I propose we safeguard the goodwill that is in our hearts today. No more nuclear weapons. No more wars. No more bombs. These evils are not necessary. We have so much more in common than in opposition. Let’s make this world great. All those who are with me, check the final box on your section of the spreadsheet.”

Tension crackled in the air. Some countries took longer than others to reach their decisions. Barack looked at his wife who was stood in the doorway beaming at him.

The final yes came in twenty-three minutes after Barack’s speech. Every country agreed. Lightness washed over the president’s body, lifting him high into the air. Cheers rang out from every screen. World leaders he had known for twenty years looked happier than he had ever seen them.

“This is the best Christmas ever,” he shouted. “Everyone, pour yourself a drink to toast the occasion. Here’s to a Christmas when peace and goodwill has reached every corner of the world. May it last forever!”

 

Christmas Songs ~ Day Two

My dog’s Christmas presents arrived this morning. He was so excited. I don’t know how, but he knew the parcel that arrived was for him. So I gave in (with some peer pressure from my husband) and gave him a small, squeaky duck toy. Which he promptly ripped to pieces in about ten minutes.

You may think it’s a waste to buy him toys, knowing he’ll rip them apart. But, that’s how he plays with them. That makes him happy, and that’s the point of presents, surely? And this duck did make him very happy! The key was to make sure we grab the squeaker before him, or he might swallow it. Although, probably not. Whilst he loves ripping toys apart, he doesn’t eat them. It’s purely a destructive pleasure he gets from them!

He’s currently fast asleep, snoring and twitching, worn out from his play. I think he might be dreaming of chasing ducks, judging by his whimpers and leg-twitching.

But, this post is not about my dog and his presents. It’s about Christmas songs. The first one I’m going to share is ‘O Holy Night.’ This version by Il Divo is my favourite (although, Josh Groban comes a close second). This song—to me—encapsulates everything Christmas is about. It’s so moving and joyous, and it fills my heart with love.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a5j_XuATgRU

 

My second choice today is quite different, and I love it for completely different reasons. ‘I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day’ by Wizzard. This song was a staple in our house every Christmas morning and every family Christmas party. It’s so much fun. It celebrates the joys and magic that Christmas brings to children. I also love the video for this song. The children pretending to play instruments is the best part. It was also my Dad’s all-time favourite Christmas song. Happiness is probably the best adjective to ascribe to it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bnczB6LXkqE&list=RDbnczB6LXkqE&t=22

 

I hope you all enjoyed today’s choices. I know I enjoyed watching the videos. Tune in for more tomorrow!

Missing Mum

 

IMG_0274

It was the annual Christmas Party on my Mum’s side of the family yesterday. Mum was one of ten children (eleven in total, but one died age three months), so I have a lot of cousins. Consequently, each year, we have a Christmas Party and a Summer BBQ. It’s a lovely tradition, and one I have always looked forward to.

This year, I found myself feeling sad, though. The older I get, the more of Mum’s siblings are no longer here. Only five remain, and one of those lives in Australia. My cousins are all married with grown up children, and a lot of them have moved away.

Yesterday, only sixteen people came to the party. In one way, it was nice because I hate being amongst too many people. The smaller number meant it was easier to talk to people. But Mum’s loss felt huge. It always does. She died in April 2012, so it’s not my first Christmas without her. I should be used to her loss. I think, maybe, I was already feeling sad before I went yesterday. Something inside made me sad, and I felt old and like my life is going nowhere, and like all the good bits have gone forever. Old feelings, for me. But I wished they had stayed away yesterday.

After losing Uncle Rob in August this year, I’ve felt like Mum’s family (and my connection to her) is disappearing. Which, I know, isn’t true. I worry about my Auntie Beryl. She’s always been my favourite. She and Mum were next to each other in line of birth, and they spoke two or three times every day on the phone and saw each other once a week. Plus, she is the kindest, most generous person you could ever meet. She’s seventy-four and has a better social life than me! She’s always on the go. But I worry about her. She’s had two heart attacks in the past.

I didn’t intend to write this post today. I had a story all ready to paste into here, but my fingers had another idea. I guess, what I’m trying to say is, don’t take those you love for granted. Love them and hug them and laugh with each other. Spend precious times like Christmas together. The company of loved ones is so much more important than presents and Christmas lunch. Enjoy the time together, make memories you can fall back on when you have the mean reds.

I will share this poem with you, though, in an attempt to brighten the mood a little:

 

The Silver Trousers

The moment I dreaded was finally here,
My auntie’s house, full of festive cheer,
With twinkling eyes, she gave me my gift,
Uncomfortably, on the spot I did shift
“Open it now,” she said with a grin,
“Show everyone what you find within,”
Smiling back I carefully unpeeled
the paper, saw the present, I reeled,
Silver trousers, shining bright
I had to shield my eyes from their light,
“How festive,” my dear husband said
“You should try them on, go ahead,”
Grimacing, I climbed the stairs,
Into the bedroom, I sat on the chair,
One leg first, then the other,
They fit perfectly, “Oh bother!”
In trepidation, I rejoined the crowd,
My husband actually laughed out loud,
I shot him a look that plainly said,
When we get home, my love, you are dead.

Sliver Trousers

Ghosts of Christmas Past

CTree

As the big day rapidly approaches, I can’t help but think of my parents and how much I miss them. Christmas was always a big, family time of year. My Mum loved the holiday, and her love filled the house. A big part of the joy from opening presents came from watching her face as I ripped the paper she had carefully wrapped. She smiled through every second of the day.

Things are different now. Mum is gone, and so is Dad. Christmas is a whole different affair, and their loss tugs at my heart even harder than usual. So I wrote this poem. Because, what better way to deal with my grief?

 

Ghosts of Christmas Past

I cast my eyes over our festive tree,
delicately graced with shimmering lights,
and my mind meanders
along winding lanes,
leading me back to
Christmases past.

The ghost of my mother
smiles at me,
anticipation lights up her face,
as her memory captures my reaction
to every gift;
so selfless, and now forever lost.

As I prepare our meal—
the most important of the year—
I feel sad it’s just for two,
but I can see the spectre of
my father,
sipping brandy,
rosy cheeked and laughing;
the warmth of his joy
tugs at my heart . . .
there used to be such happiness.

I return to this Christmas,
table settings are sparse, and
loneliness consumes me,
residual is the only love that stays.

My eyes tear at the sight of two                                                                                                                    empty chairs                                                                                                                                           I will feel their presence, see their smiles, and hope
my memories can keep them near.
These ghosts I love, as they loved me,
I’ll miss them for eternity.