Two days after Christmas…

I’m sitting here wearing my new Minnie Mouse slippers (thanks to my daughter, son-in-law and grand-kids) and my new purple earrings (thanks to my son and daughter-in-law) – and, for the naughty-minded, yes I’m wearing clothes! – waiting for the Old Boy to come back from buying more Christmas lights (the after Christmas sales), so we can eat left-overs for lunch. Yes, it’s two days after Christmas and it’s all over bar the left-overs. I expect some of them to still be with us a week from now. We’ve entered the “should clean up but can’t be bothered” stage of the Christmas season. The garbos (rubbish collectors) have already been and, may I say, God bless you all for working today. And, don’t worry, there’ll still be plenty next time you visit. It’s been an interesting mix of moments and feelings this year. First there was Christmas Dinner (on the 23rd) at my favourite restaurant with my sisters and their husbands. Unfortunately I was still recovering from the squits and couldn’t manage dessert. And, one of the sisters couldn’t come ‘cos she’d just had an operation on her knee. It didn’t feel the same without all of us there. We toasted our dear departed mother, as it was the day of her birth, and the memories came flooding back. We had a nice family dinner on Christmas Eve with the kids and grandkids. I think I did rather well with my gift giving this year. The son scored a stone Easter Island face which is a tissue box cover. The tissues come out of the nose. It’s fantastic. The son-in-law got a screaming flying monkey which was hilarious until the grandson took it over. Then it became something akin to fingernails on blackboards on steroids. Note to self: don’t do that again. We had a lovely Christmas Day lunch with the Noble clan, at the Old Folks Home with the Old Boy’s parents. We’re so blessed to still have both of them with us, even tho’ Dad sometimes goes walk-a-bout in his head. Last night, after a day of mainly sleeping, we had tea with close friends and then went cruising with them, looking for Christmas light displays. They were in a good mood, having just announced their engagement, so we drove and let them cuddle in the back seat. We entertained ourselves by trying to remember the theme songs of old TV shows: The Monkees, Rawhide; Davy Crockett and The Cisco Kid. However, during the evening, another friend phoned to tell us her mother had just died and suddenly life came back into focus. We don’t know how long any of us have on this earth, so we should treasure our family and friends and let them know how much we love them; we should treasure each moment and enjoy the little things in life that make it special; we should thank God for every new morning and every safe sunset. I hope you all had a special Christmas/Chanuka/Kwanzaa/Family gathering. I know that some of you didn’t and I send you my love. I hope you all get to enjoy moments of kindness, warmth and laughter. And now…bring on the New...

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We’re a weird mob.

We’re a strange breed, we humans. Just watching the nightly news gives us an interesting snapshot of the human condition. A weirdo holds a bunch of people hostage in a chocolate and coffee cafe in the heart of our biggest city. His demands: a terrorist flag (obviously didn’t have one of his own) and a chat with the Prime Minister. Yep, definitely the sort of thing worth terrorising and killing people for. India are putting up a good fight in the cricket but the Aussies are holding their own. Isn’t the new young captain doing well? The Taliban wage war against dangerous children in Pakistan. The Taliban in Afghanistan distance themselves from this attack. The only reason I can think of is that boys seemed to be the main target. Apparently, in Afghanistan, the educated girls are far more dangerous. Someone has won the “best Christmas lights decorated house” competition. Good show, that man! (No, it wasn’t us.) A mother in Queensland had a brain snap and killed eight children. We’re reassured that the rest of the community have nothing to fear. Are you serious? I would have thought we’d all be slightly afraid that whatever went ping in that lady’s head, may well do the same in someone else’s! Petrol prices have gone down. Hooray. In the background, there’s a little choir singing quietly, soothingly, calmly, “You better watch out. You better not cry. You better not pout, I’m telling you why: Santa Claus is coming to town.” Ah yes, holiday cheer with menaces. The message the choir of angels brought to those smelly, marginalised, probably slightly crooked shepherds was revolutionary in its time: Peace on earth; good will to all. It was a time when people were acting slightly nuts, invading other people’s countries, slaughtering indiscriminately, forcing people into slave labour etc. The king of the local area was crazy with paranoia and was about to launch an attack on all boys aged 2 and under. Anything sound familiar? Yet, in spite of humanity’s propensity towards acts of extreme wickedness, that message persists. Perhaps it persists, because of it. The human heart (when it’s sane) still yearns for peace and goodwill to triumph. It was demonstrated by the young man who tried to wrest the gun off the hostage-taker, to protect his fellow hostages. It was demonstrated by the teachers in Pakistan who protected their students with their own lives. It’s demonstrated by the home-owner who has his own personal grief to fight but who decorates his house in light for the pleasure of his neighbours. (Love my Old Boy.) We can only overcome darkness with light, hatred with love, indifference with compassion and misery with kindness. May you all experience moments of joy, love and light in your home and in your community, and I hope you all get a chance to share a bit of that with others. Merry Christmas....

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Dear coffee, I miss you

Had a bit of a nasty shock the other day; heard a good friend of mine was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. This was the lady who often gave me a place of refuge away from the hospital, when I was having radiotherapy, many many years ago. I don’t know why I thought she’d be immune but I did. She’s doing well and the prognosis is excellent, as they seem to have got to it very early on. That’s all good news. But… Well… Excuse the language but…bloody cancer! Note to cancer: I hate your stinking guts. The other day I was chatting to an acquaintance and we were comparing notes on what it’s like to need a walking stick, weird medications etc. A reasonable way into the conversation she said, “I didn’t know you have cancer.” She’s known me for close to three years but I guess she entered my life after the diagnosis. I don’t talk about it a lot (don’t want to bore the pants off people) so I guess she never picked it up. Of course, I’ve confused and bemused her because I don’t look as though I have the disease. Here’s the thing: many people who have metastatic/stage four/can’t-be-cured cancer, don’t look ill. We live in an era when medication still can’t cure secondary cancer but it can certainly maintain and control it; sometimes for a short time but often for quite a number of years. We usually still have our hair. We don’t look very frail although we need to be a little more careful with our bones. We still have “off” days, usually due to the medication we’re on, but we don’t get sick like someone on chemo…at least, not until we are on chemo. The medication sometimes has a strange effect on our senses – particularly taste and smell. (My deepest regret is that coffee no longer tastes like ambrosia.) Medical costs can mount up so we sometimes feel as though we’re a financial burden to our loved ones. However, the treatments, scans, blood tests etc are keeping us well and alive, so… We live as normally as possible, with the knowledge that the beast within could go on a terminal rampage at any time. (I am extremely grateful for the wonderful medical team looking after me and for the excellent care I’m getting. I’m glad that I’m still well and doing fine. But, oh coffee, how I miss you.) Sometimes we wish we could be like the others who actually look sick and are on chemo. Why? Because most of them are going to finish their treatment, recover their energy and well-being and get back to a healthy life. Meanwhile, we keep going to the oncology unit every month, or every two months, and we see the sick-looking ones come and go and new ones come, and us stage 4s know there’s no reprieve. We’re part of the furniture, part of the routine, part of the crew until the beast goes nuts and we join the sick ones, hooked up to their infusion bags. Only, when they attend us, the nurses look a little more grim, a little more determined and a little sad, until we learn that there’s one less of our number… until the new recruit signs in. See, that’s the trouble with the Big C, we keep getting new recruits, new members of the C club. Have I mentioned how much I hate this disease? It’s (excuse the language) a bloody mongrel. Dear readers, stay well out there. Oh, and please give my love to coffee when you see it. I really miss it.  ...

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It’s St Nick’s day.

Happy St Nicholas’s birthday, everyone! December 6 is the day the first, the original, St Nicholas/Santa Claus/Father Christmas was born somewhere in Turkey. He was a kind old boy who gave a peasant some bags of gold (allegedly dropping them down the chimney) so that he wouldn’t sell his daughters into servitude. (That’s my kind of Santa Claus!) His actions were so inspirational that people began giving gifts to each other on his birthday, to commemorate him. Over the centuries it gradually became part of the Christmas tradition. Here endeth the lesson for the day. It looks like the Old Boy has finally finished festooning the Noble castle with Christmas lights. It’s been phased in over a couple of weeks as he’s had to wait for a spare hour here and there, cooler temperatures and the oomph…not an easy commodity to find at the end of the year. This year, after adding the final touch to the roof  he made the announcement: ‘I’m not going up there again. I’m too much of an old fart.’ I was quick to agree but I’m not sure that pleased him. Now that some of the other houses in the street have joined in, it’s beginning to feel a bit more festive around here. We went for a drive the other night, searching for other little oases of Christmas cheer, but came home sadly disappointed. I guess people are worried about electricity bills. But, the new LED lights and the solar lights, mean that it really doesn’t cost much more. We see it as a gift to ourselves, our family and our neighbourhood. I’m experiencing a few pangs of nostalgia for the USA. Those people sure know how to decorate. I remember the first time I had a white Christmas over there. The church service was at night on Christmas Eve. It was a magical, candle-lit service that has remained etched in my memory. When I woke up Christmas morning it was dark, cold and soooooo quiet. All the houses were decorated with lights and they sparkled in the grey, snowy air. Funnily enough, in spite of my life-long yearning for Christmas in the snow, when it happened, it felt all wrong. I was used to waking up to the sounds of a summer  morning: magpies yodelling, little kids in the street laughing and playing, my mother yelling, “Hurry up, I want my presents!”  We would have a piece of Christmas cake and a cup of tea for breakfast, while we unwrapped our presents so that we wouldn’t be late for the morning church service. Most of the kids brought their favourite gift to church and we all compared notes while the grown-ups had another cuppa after the service. Then we’d walk home in the warm sunshine. I’ve been blessed to have had three Christmas seasons in the USA. On our last trip we had the best of both worlds: a snowy Thanksgiving in Washington State in the north and then a warmer Advent season in Texas. I noticed on the world news last night that Dallas (near where my friends live) was only 2 degrees (Celsius) cooler than it was here in South Australia. Weird, hey? If I had any sort of bucket list then one more trip to the USA in December would be at the top. As Christmas lights junkies, the Old Boy and I still talk about some of the decorations we saw and then we breathe a little sentimental sigh. And, I’d love to hug all the people who are special to me over there, just one more time. For, if St Nick has taught us anything, it’s that people are the most important treasures in our lives.  ...

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