Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 - the balancing entry

As an accountantant I've always been aware of the debits and credits, the fact that a negative is always balanced by a positive. Recent years, and 2009 in particular, seem to be have been full of negatives, many of which I have chronicled on here.

So I sat down to think about the balancing entries, some of the positives of 2009, and this is what I came up with:

1. I completed my 'accidental' Open University degree with a higher classification than I obtained in my brick uni degree *cough* years ago. On the way I obtained the Diploma in Literature and Creative Writing which, if anything, means even more than the degree. It is proof that I have learnt my craft.

2. I have added around 55,000 words to my novel, despite being unable to write for significant periods due to my health problems. The end is firmly in sight now.

3. I have submitted five pieces of writing during the year, of which two were selected for publication. Not a bad hit rate and I am particularly proud to have had a piece of flash fiction selected for the forthcoming Even More Tonto Short Stories anthology.

4. We have raised Son 1 safely to adulthood.

5. I have renewed contact with some very old friends, including my most longstanding friend who I have known since I was four.

6. I have met up with some of my lovely, encouraging writer friends and my faithful local friends continue to be there, offering day to day company and support.

I can only hope 2010 brings more of the same.

Happy New Year to you all.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

It had to happen...

Well something had to go wrong, didn't it? But it's an annoyance rather than a catastrophe. Nothing major in the scheme of things.

We got up yesterday to find that our Virgin Media set-top box had died. The usual rebooting methods of retrieval came to nothing. A call to Virgin Media confirmed that the code it was displaying did indeed mean it was terminal. And they couldn't bring another one until Saturday afternoon.

We do still have an aerial so we can receive the basic five channels. The picture on two of these is extremely poor as we live in a reception blackspot, one of the reasons we were early adopters of cable. Because the reception is so bad we probably couldn't get Freeview either, without spending a lot of money on a huge and amplified aerial.

But it's not the end of the world. We actually watched very little TV over the holiday ( apart from the fantastic Lie to Me box set and a few episodes of Bones on Sky). Son 2 has accepted the temporary loss of CBeebies, after all he likes it on in the background but rarely watches. We have DVDs, and laptops to use the BBC iPlayer and its like. Who needs TV?

Monday, December 28, 2009

It's over for another year...

In the end it wasn't a white Christmas, in fact we woke up on Christmas morning to find the very last remnants of the snow had disappeared overnight. But we had a fabulous, very relaxed time. Just the four of us at home, which is how we like it best. It may not be too long before Son 1 is off doing his own thing at Christmas, so these moments need to be treasured.

Thinking about it, one of the reasons I felt so relaxed was that, for once, I didn't have to do almost everything myself. Most of the food and alcohol arrived via Tesco home delivery. I persuaded Hubby to do the wrapping and he hand-delivered the cards and gifts to neighbours and local friends. I took charge of the cooking and, for the first time ever, dinner was ready fifteen minutes before promised.

Son 2, who had been clearly feeling under the weather in the run up to the holiday, had recovered enough to enjoy the day, especially his dinner! For the first time ever we felt that he had some understanding of Christmas, that he actually looked forward to the now familiar festive routines rather than finding them upsetting. He is particularly enjoying a digital photo frame which I had preloaded with family photos and he is gradually exploring the digital camera to go with it.

Christmas was a great success.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Wishing you...

...a very merry Christmas and a happy, healthy New Year.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Autism and Christmas - part two

After I wrote here about son 2 and our Christmas tree, I was contacted by the lovely folk at The National Autistic Society, who have produced lots of information this year to help parents of autistic children get through the festive season.

There are three short videos and a downloadable hints and tips guide, all of which can be found at the NAS Christmas webpage.

If you have time, do take a look at the video clip below of Sam and his family, which highlights just some of the issues we as parents face at this time of year. Then please visit the NAS website for the other instalments and more information. You might just learn something.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The mysteries of MS

So I knew that for many people MS symptoms increase in heat. Warm weather and even a hot bath can leave an MS sufferer feeling worse. My own symptoms, even prior to diagnosis, have had a pattern of appearing in the summer months.

I was looking forward to the winter and hopefully some good health. I was pleased with my progress. Over the last few weeks I have been getting stronger and stronger, able to increase the distance I walk and not even needing my stick.

Then the snow arrived. Now my legs feel stiff and heavy, my back hurts and even my painkillers aren't providing relief. I can only walk a very short distance. Could this be the MS?

A quick investigation on Google shows that a minority of people with MS are affected by cold weather. It appears I may be one of them. Bugger.

In other news, son 2 is at home, on what should have been his final day of term, as the council has suspended transport. He is not impressed. But I would rather he was here than out on dangerously icy roads. How is it that Scandinavia and even Scotland can deal with snow and ice, while the South East grinds to a halt?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The white stuff

So we have snow again, though not as much as in February.

I don't like snow. It makes me want to huddle up at home and keep my babies (OK, my big thugs) safe with me.

Yesterday I rang the council transport department at 7am to see if son 2's school bus would be running. We need to know early as he can't cope with last minute changes to routine. They hadn't yet decided, so although I knew the school was to be open, I made a snap decision myself and told them he wouldn't be going. This turned out to be a wise move on my part, because as the day progressed it became clear that son 2 was under the weather. No obvious symptoms, but he was very quiet and abnormally lethargic, so I think he must have a slight virus. He was quite happy to stay indoors on his computer and eventually go to bed earlier than usual. Perhaps he was still tired from being a dancer in the school play on Wednesday evening.

It hasn't snowed again overnight and the sun is out, so I'm hoping that the icy pavements will melt. I want to go into town this afternoon for last minute Christmas shopping and with my balance problems, I just don't trust myself on snow and ice!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Words to inspire

Do you remember I recently wrote that I would use this blog for an update of the year, that I would direct friends here instead of writing in Christmas cards?

Well, I changed my mind. Because when I thought about it, the only possible title for the post could be 'Misery Memoir' and I don't want to write one of those. After all, if anyone wants to know what has happened to me and my family in recent times it can all be found somewhere here on the blog. Apart from, that is, a very recent breast cancer scare which I didn't write about at the time because a) it was far too frightening and b) I didn't think anyone would actually believe that yet another thing was possibly going wrong for me.

Last weekend I sat down instead to write a mass Christmas email to old friends who I have neglected for far too long. It was a difficult task and as I drafted and redrafted my words, I tried hard not to sound too much like a victim and attempted to show the many positives as well as the negatives. I don't know how many of the emails will actually reach their target, my contacts book may be well out of date, but I was shaking as I pressed the send button.

I can't deny that we have had four difficult years. At the start of this year I thought we were finally moving on, only to be hit by the events of the last six months which may well have changed our future in ways we don't even yet know. But we are not the only people who have had a hard time, far too many of my friends are in pain for one reason or another this Christmas.

Then this morning I read this beautiful post by fellow Novel Racer Mel, which is just so inspirational.

Bring on 2010.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Christmas - autism style

Son 2, like many people with autism, finds Christmas difficult. There are too many changes to routine, both at school and at home. People insist on altering familiar environments by putting up decorations. Receiving presents is confusing. The only interesting part of Christmas Day is the dinner.

This year, because Hubby is at home, our meagre decorations were put up at the start of December. The little fibre optic tree, purchased a few years ago with son 2 in mind, was installed in the lounge. But as soon as we tried to switch it on, son 2 threw a wobbly and insisted we unplug it. So it stayed dim in the corner while he got used to the idea.

On Sunday evening son 2 finally went over to the tree and plugged it in. Last evening he did the same. At this rate it might even be twinkling for the whole of Christmas Day...

Monday, December 14, 2009

The X Factor final

Right winner.

George Michael.

Crap winner's song.

That is all.

(but I did warm even more to Olly and I'm sure Mr Cowell is laughing all the way to the bank at the success of his PR machine)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The man's still got it...

I first fell in love with Billy Joel's music when I was 17 and bought a copy of his album 'The Stranger' in the only record shop of the small town where I grew up. His music has stayed with me over the years, some of the tracks gaining extra resonance as part of the soundtrack of my life. In the 1980's I saw him live at Wembley and he was every bit as good as I had hoped.

I've just found this more recent video of my favourite Billy Joel song on YouTube. It doesn't say when it was recorded, but he can still sing and it still makes me cry.

Friday, December 11, 2009


Can it really be almost two weeks since I wrote here?

I have no excuse other than that I have been busy with various medical appointments, Christmas shopping ( mostly online, but it still takes time) and catching up with old friends. Oh yes, and I had a horrid cold last weekend and was forced to miss Cally Taylor's book launch party, which was very disappointing.

The medical side has brought all good news. My neurologist is pleased with progress and doesn't want to see me for six months. Indeed my legs have been feeling much stronger in the last week, when I haven't needed to use my stick at all. Other potentially scary issues have been addressed and, all in all, I feel I have had a fairly thorough health MOT over the past six months, though I'm still awaiting some blood test results. I hope it won't take another major scare to make me look after myself properly next time, but I am still debating whether I want to have the swine flu vaccine.

Probably coming up soon: my views on The X Factor final and a summary of the year, because I am too lazy to write letters to go with Christmas cards and will direct friends here instead!