Christmas memories

20131226-003155.jpgWell there’s another Christmas Day over.
Children and grandchildren returned to their own homes
Still enough food in the fridge to feed an army
House looking a little like a bomb has been dropped
Another trove of memories to bank
And as I sit here alone, smiling about the day, memories of other Christmases spring to mind

Christmas Day when I was 5 years old. And being in hospital having my appendix removed. Santa visited the ward and bought me a knitting bag…it’s still packed away somewhere.
I think it was then I decided I wanted to be a nurse

Christmas as a child in a strict catholic home. No opening presents first thing. Boiled eggs for breakfast, unless you were old enough to take communion, in which case you didn’t eat until after mass.
And hopping from one foot to the other as mum and dad dawdled outside the church talking, when all you wanted to do was get home and open your presents.

My first Christmas away from home, when I’d begun my nurse training. I was working Christmas and Boxing Day. It was a day I’ll never forget. Two events that remain etched in my memory. My first encounter with death. Something not usual in the Orthopaedic hospital I was working in. A lovely gentleman who collapsed and died in the bathroom, while I ran his bath
Then P was admitted. A 25 year old man who had been working on his car, getting it ready for it’s MOT. The jack failed, and the car collapsed on him, fracturing his spine and severing his spinal cord, leaving him paralysed from the neck down. The sound of his cries stayed with me for a long time

Christmas at ‘First Love’s ‘ parents house. Where I thought I’d stepped back in time to the Victorian age as the ‘menfolk’ retired to the front room for brandy and cigars, while the women were left in the kitchen to clean up. And how I caused horror and consternation by joining the men for a cigarette and to watch TOTP! I have written about this before. Needless to say it did not endear me to his parents!

My first Christmas as a married woman. Looking forward to cooking our first Christmas dinner. We’d declined invitations from both sets of parents. I was on night duty, so was determined to have a great day… …only to discover OH had taken pity on a ‘poor farmer’ who’d knocked on the door at 8am to say he’d forgotten to get a turkey….. So OH sold him ours!!! There was nothing else to eat, so had to go cap in hand to the In laws and beg lunch!!

The first Christmas with our darling daughter, who I thought I would never have. She was 6 months old, and had enough toys to open her own toy shop! She certainly had no idea what was going on… And her favourite thing was a large cardboard box that she spent most of the day sat in!! But the wonder on her face at the twinkly lights on the tree were a joy to see

The Christmas just before son 1 was born . I was large and ungainly. K was 5 and not at all complimentary! The only photos of me were ones she had taken, and she’d not got my head in as she didn’t want anyone knowing that ‘the fat lady’ was her mummy!

The many Christmas Eves at the hospital when we had carol singing in the evening . All the doctors, wives, and children would come in. The nurses wore their capes with pride, and we’d walk through the whole hospital , taking request from patients and visitors. Ward lights were turned off and the atmosphere was moving and emotional. Afterwards we’d gather in a day room for mince pies,mulled wine (before the no alcohol policy), and coffee. There would be presents under the tree for all the doctor’s children….. All bought and wrapped by Matron
Stockings were put out for the patients, and Night Sister played Santa
Then on Christmas Day. There was always bacon and eggs for breakfast if you were on duty. When I became Ward Sister, and then Matron .. It was my pleasure to take in the goodies for brekkie. Staff would dress up as fairies, elves. and Santas , and it was always great fun
At lunch time the senior GP would come in and carve the turkey
Sadly these lovely traditions have died out. No more Carol singing on Christmas Eve. No more proper turkeys for Christmas lunch. No fancy dress. No GP coming in to carve and serve lunch

The first Christmas after I had made contact with my birth mother, and the phone call from her first thing in the morning to wish me a Happy Christmas

There are others, but it sort of brings me back to today . And a house full of happy, laughing children … Young and old
The sheer excitement on the grandson’s faces as they see that Santa has delivered presents here for them as well
Master Chef taking over the kitchen, and producing an amazing meal.
SIL alternating between snoozing on the sofa and tweeting!
Son 1 and fiancée discussing how next year they’ll be married
K almost asleep on her feet from the late night, waiting for the boys to fall asleep, and then the very early start

And my heart soars

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Mummy’s buying sugar again………

“Mummy’s bought sugar again” my darling daughter announced, laughing hysterically at her poor distraught mother.

governments-cant-ignore-the-socioeconomic-impact-of-sugar-consumption-credit-suisse-believes-taxation-is-an-option-to-fund-growing-health-costs-and-reducing-sugar-intakeAnd what’s wrong with that you may ask?

Well nothing, obviously, unless that’s all you can remember to buy when you get to the shop….and you have enough sugar at home to feed the entire third world

So why was I buying sugar like it was going out of fashion? Well it’s a long story, but I’ll try to keep it brief

Having lived through a fairly major health scare when son 1 was 6 months old, which left me  briefly wondering if I’d be around to see him or his sister grow up, unlike most people who would then be ultra health conscious, I happily ignored any signs of illness and carried on living life to the full. And, anyway by now, I had 3 children and a very demanding full-time job…which (at one stage) saw me trundling off to an important meeting complete with 3 week old baby strapped to my chest, and writing policies in the middle of the night whilst a sleepless child played happily at my feet!

Fast forward to 3 years later, where much was going on in my life, including  family bereavements and beloved ex nannies leaving to live in Australia. Throw in a workaholic boss who expected the same commitment from her senior team and you have the perfect scenario for a stress filled life. Hence the sleepless nights, weight loss, palpitations, shaky hands, irritability, and strange memory lapses had all been put down to stress for at least 18 months, if not longer..even though they were having an effect on my daily life. I remember an incident when my hands were shaking so much that I dropped an injection I was drawing up. My teams were very sweet, and never said anything.  I’m sure they thought I had a drink problem!! I asked one of my Staff Nurses after why they didn’t question anything. She replied that they could always relate it to a meeting or phone call with my boss, so thought I was stressed!

And when I couldn’t carry my youngest son up stairs without getting out completely out of breath and having to  sit down, I put it down to a chest infection, as I had been coughing. My GP agreed with me, and  gave me antibiotics without listening to my chest! Well, we did have the conversation in the ward office, and when your GP is a work colleague…..and a friend……and your son’s godfather, you tend not to visit for medical reasons if you can help it, and  if you ever did the conversation invariably turned to work or children, and by the time you’d finished those you had forgotten why you’d gone to see him in the first place!

Things finally came to a head one day when I woke and could barely move. I thought I had flu. But had to go to work!! I dragged myself to the hospital, but felt cold, shaky, and awful. someone, and I can’t remember who, (but it wasn’t me) made me an appt to see a doctor. (not my own) He took a load of bloods and sent me home to bed. The next day I had a phone call from the surgery saying the doctor needed to see me urgently and could I come in straight away. It turned out my thyroid levels were “critically high” and my “flu” was in fact a full-blown thyroid crisis. 

So began the strangest 8 months of my life!

I couldn’t work, was an emotional wreck who wept at the slightest thing. My memory was completely shot, so much that I couldn’t even remember my children’s names. I have never been very big, but by this time I weighed less than 7 stone and was wearing my 14-year-old daughter’s shorts.

And, of course, there was the shopping!! At first I couldn’t even leave the house, but when I could again I’d go out, be unable to remember where I was supposed to be going or what I was going for. Sometimes I’d make a list. but mostly couldn’t even concentrate long enough to do that, or couldn’t find it if I did manage to write one! Hence the sugar! Why sugar I have no idea! I didn’t even take it!! It became a standing joke in the house, and my lovely family thought it funny to send me into town shopping for specific items knowing I’d never remember, and would come back with some very bizarre stuff…..and, of course, sugar!

I also used to fall asleep at odd times, and in odd places. often in the Consultant’s waiting room, and once on a train on my way home from my monthly hospital appointment. I woke 3 stations and an hour away from home!!

Thank goodness we had an amazing nanny who took over, looked after the children, the house, and me!!

Then when I thought things couldn’t get any worse I lost my voice.The thyroid gland had become so enlarged it was constricting my vocal chords. The children thought it was rather wonderful as the most I could muster for weeks was a very small whisper, and some days even that disappeared. It meant I couldn’t act or sing…pretty devastating for a drama queen I can tell you! When my voice eventually returned it was a croaky husk but often wouldn’t last the whole day, and I couldn’t sing a single note. In fact, I didn’t sing for 2 years, then if I did manage to sing anything I wasn’t able to talk for hours after. I  probably would never  have sung  again if it hadn’t been for a good friend, who worked with me on both my speaking and singing voice, and gave me the confidence to give it a go again. I shall be forever grateful to him, and although it is back now it has never been the same. So my greatest achievement was to be able to sing in his rock musical productions.

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But I did get loads done, I wasn’t able to sit still for very long. The house was spotless and the garden fit to be opened to the public!!

And I baked. Like a maniac. The house was full of the aroma of something bubbling a way in the oven….bread, cakes, oh, and flapjacks, which I developed a strange craving for.

And though we laugh about it now, it actually was quite scary at the time. I really did think I was going mad. It took 8 months and a few different types of medication before it became controlled enough for me to begin to feel “normal” again, and be able to return to work. And a further 18 months before I was able to stop taking medication. Luckily the Consultant I was under was a great believer in conservative treatment, whereas his colleague, who I saw on a number of occasions when the symptoms raced out of control again, was all for removing my thyroid gland, which I wasn’t keen on at all. 

It completely ruined my sleeping patterns, as many of you know I am a shocking insomniac these days…or should I say nights!

I am supposed to have my levels checked regularly but tend to forget. Still I always know if they are heading to the higher side of normal as my neck hurts, I get a husky voice….and I bake!!

So if you hear of me weeping over a kitchen full of cakes and flapjacks perhaps you could remind me to go and get my levels checked!

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