Wednesday 31 December 2014

Tomorrow, I'm hoping to...

... plan out my 2015 NaNo novel.

I wrote my 2014 novel in less than 2 weeks so I'm thinking of writing 100k words in 2015 - double the challenge word count, but if I write 4k words a day again then it's definitely doable during November... just got to plan out 50 chapters and decide on the theme and story line and stuff now!

You hear so much negativity about drivers, but...

You hear a lot about the negatives of drivers on Britain's roads today so I just want to do my little bit to redress the balance a bit.

A grand total of 100% of the drivers on the road I was dreading crossing this morning stopped for me.  They didn't have to at all, but those 4 drivers helped me to cross the road safely by holding up the traffic behind them while I crossed.

Not all drivers are bad... some of them have hearts and I was helped by 4 big hearts this morning.

If you were one of those drivers... thank you so much from the depths of my heart!  You made a great morning, spectacular!

Feeling so proud of myself!

I took myself for a trip into town for the first time in over a decade... no big deal except that it is for me because I did literally everything myself for the first time since I've had the wheelchair!

If you imagine something that you've wanted to do for over a decade and the only thing stopping you was your self confidence... that was me yesterday.

Now imagine you've done it - that is an amazing feeling, eh?  That's me today.

For the first time since I've had Patrick the powerchair, I've had a taste of total freedom that I haven't had since I first got ill in 1999!

It means that I've crossed off the first of my New Year's resolutions already... next stop, the spiritualist church to see if it's wheelchair accessible.  If it is, I'll be going there regularly now that I've tasted independence!

I did literally everything today... I took Patrick into the street, assembled him, took him to the pharmacy then into town then home and took him apart and put him to bed... his batteries are even charging up now which I also did alone for the first time since I've had him!

I'm feeling on top of the world now!

Tuesday 30 December 2014

Soya ice cream

I'm watching a programme on the Food Channel atm and the host has just made ice cream in a machine.

I want to do that too, but I'm allergic to dairy, so Steve's just said "find out if you can make ice cream with soya milk before you get one"

So, can you make ice cream with soya milk please?

Any comments in reply to this post would be brilliant!

Thank you!

Monday 29 December 2014

So close now, I can feel it!

My first trip of total independence is going to be within the next 7 days.

I’m going to drop my repeat prescription off at the pharmacy then go into Gloucester and get Steve’s watch strap adjusted, then, if I’m feeling brave enough, I’ll try going to the Spiritualist Church at the other end of Gloucester.

Totally do-able in theory, but in practise, will I be brave enough?

If I manage it then I can cross the first 2 resolutions off the list within the first week of 2015, which should, hopefully, give me the bravery to try going into Cheltenham on the bus.  I haven’t been there for about 7 or 8 years and even longer since I went there by bus!

Wish me luck!

Very light dusting

Just taken Mitzi for her walk and there's a very light dusting of snow out there... the crunch under our feet as we walked was amazingly magical!

Beautiful look to the cars and the crunching snow and bitter cold was so refreshing!

Sunday 28 December 2014

OK, so...

  1. If I suddenly stop being able to send emails, kick the router and see if that works
  2. Next time I have a bath, fill it up half way with hot first time round so that I can hopefully get more than one refill out of the hot water tank
  3. After I've got Steve his car, set up a standing order to move £250 a month into the joint account so that the money is there if either of us need it at any time in future
  4. Save up to get an electrician out to fix the hall and stairs lights
  5. Then save up to get the stairs redecorated like my dad wanted me to do before he died

Post 470... yay!

The tumbled stones that I bought for myself with an Amazon voucher are easily double the size of what I was thinking from looking at the photo on the site!  They've changed the photo now though!  lol

I also bought 2 sketching books with another voucher.  I was spoilt rotten at Christmas!

The first book was exactly what I'd thought it would look like and if the improvement in my drawings are anything approaching the images in the book then I'll be a very happy bunny!

The second book was a lot thicker (think veritable tome and you won't be far off) than I was thinking and covers a variety of things to sketch!  I bought it purely for learning how to draw realistic humans but there are so many other things to draw in it too!

Hopefully my drawings will improve after reading the books and following the advice in them!

Saturday 27 December 2014

Is anyone reading this, good at maths please?

I'm trying to work out how much I'll have saved up by this time next year.

I'll have £460 every 4 weeks after all my bills come out of my account.

I want to put at least £300 every 4 weeks aside for Steve's car so that I've still got £160 every 4 weeks for myself.

I'll have £1,200 saved up in a different account by the end of next year which, in theory, I'm willing to add £1,000 of to the saved up money.

If I'm feeling generous, I'll add another £60 to the £300 for gifts but how much will I have saved up by next December?

I've already put £450 into the joint account to start things off right.

So, this is my maths... is it right though, please?


Is it right though?  Have I included everything and done the adding ups right?

Friday 26 December 2014

Post 468 - yay!

I've just watched a You Tube video of a "mum" obviously and seriously a*using her small child and she was only locked up for 4 years as a result.

She should have been jailed for life IMNSHO!

Thursday 25 December 2014

Hope you all had a good day today!

For the first time since going over to the in-laws for Christmas Day (more than 15 years), I'm going to bed with a full, not bloated, belly!

Nite nite orl!

Wednesday 24 December 2014

According to Steve, apparently...

... I'm looking forward to Christmas tomorrow because I bought Lizzie's gifts (Steve's family dog) and his gift down here before I forgot!

I celebrate Yule, not Christmas for flip's sake!  lol

Tuesday 23 December 2014

My Christmas gift from Steve has just been delivered, so...

...I can now go back to bed for a rejuvinating nap as soon as I've finished the can of ginger beer!  Hopefully it'll only be for 3ish hours but I've got huge dark circles under my eyes and I'm totally wiped out!

Apparently the "cheese board selection" that Steve got with yesterday's shopping and apparently it consisted of 4 or 5 mini blocks of vacuum packed cheese that can be eaten in a couple of mouthfuls!  D'oh!  lol

Monday 22 December 2014

OK, so Steve's decided for me!

I'd forgotten that I was going to get Steve a car, so that's what Steve wants as a triple gift at the end of the year for our anniversary in June, his birthday in October and Yule/Christmas in December.

If I save up at least £300 every 4 weeks, it'll mean I'll have at least £3,500 by the end of the year which will hopefully be enough for the car!

I'll still have a few hundred to myself too, and moving over £450 either tonight or tomorrow will give him at least £4,000 at the end of the year too.

Is my maths right though?

£300x12 is £3,600 plus the £450 makes it £4,050, yeah?  Is that near enough?

Opinions please!

For the sake of easy maths, let's say I get £700 every 4 weeks.

All bills add up to just under £300 and they are all direct debits.

That leaves me with £400 to play with every 4 weeks, yeah?

Here comes the dilema I was pondering on in the bath... do I double my 3 credit/store cards payment from £25 to £50 every month?  Do I leave everything as is?  Or do I move £300 into the joint account for when either Steve or I need it and still have £100 to play with every 4 weeks?

I can see the positives and negatives to all of them and I'm going to have £1k to play with in the first week of January which is a nice number to start from, so, starting in February 2015, what should I do please?

Any comments are much appreciated and you're free to make up a name if you prefer, I'm just after some opinions is all!  Any thoughts in the comments bit will be very much appreciated!

Did you have a good Yule yesterday? :-)

We're almost at the end of 2014 and I've already decided on my New Year's Resolution!

To totally reclaim my independence in Patrick!

I've broken it down into 6 tasks:

First task is to get into Gloucester and back totally alone.

Second task is to get to the Spiritualist Church and back totally alone.

Third task is to go into Cheltenham and back on the bus, totally alone

Next up is to go to Gloucester quays and back with someone

Then go to and from Gloucester quays alone.

Then go to the cinema, alone...

If I manage all that by the end of 2015 I'll be oneheckuva happy bunny!

Sunday 21 December 2014

I've given up waiting for them now

They haven't turned up so I'm going to take my pills and head to bed now... if they come before the morning then tough luck!

I'm hoping that 2 people will come to the door today!

Knowing my luck, though, they won't come until after I've gone to bed!  lol

Hope you all have...

... a blessed Yule today!

Saturday 20 December 2014

Just ordered my Yule/Christmas gift from Steve

I have just bought loads of stuff at an online shop that Steve has paid for so I've just got to remember to not open the box from Crystal Age before Christmas now... I'll have forgotten what I've ordered by tomorrow, so it will be a surprise in 5 days time!

I celebrate Yule, but everyone around me celebrates Christmas so I celebrate quietly from sundown tonight to sundown tomorrow then celebrate openly on Christmas Day... two celebrations in a week!  lol

I hope you all enjoy the season, however you celebrate it!  :-)

Stupid Sainsburys!

Steve's been adding things to his basket ready for Sainsbury's and he'd paid for a slot for it to be delivered to us, but Steve's just gone in to add more stuff to the basket, only to see that the delivery slot he'd booked and paid for was no longer there!

Luckily there were some slots in the afternoon so he's gone with one of those instead.

Friday 19 December 2014

Post 456 and...

...I'm now officially size 12!  Big yay!  Just got one more size to loose and I'll be the right clothes size again! 

It also means that I'm less than half the size I was when I came out of hospital in 2003 without dieting or cosmetic surgery and very little exercise too!  Literally the only exercise I've had is walking up or down the street and back home every morning with Mitzi!  That's literally it!

I'm so close now, I can almost taste it!

I don't suppose anyone knows of a way to reduce the size of my thighs, do they?  They've been big since I injected HGH into them as a child and the weight gain in hospital made them even bigger and they haven't reduced in size since I've lost the weight!  :-(

So much bad news in Australia! :-(

First there was the cricketer dying.
Second was that seige in the cafe.
Now there's the stabbings!

I hope that's it now though!  There's been too many deaths too quickly  :-(

Thursday 18 December 2014

I like post 454 too!

This is post number 454 for me and, because it reads the same both ways (forwards and backwards) my OCD is happy!  Next up is post number 456 because my OCD likes sequential numbers too!  lol

I've now successfully added an app to my Windows phone that will show up my accounts balances on the move, just using my passcode... as long as I remember what it is of course!  lol

I've also put Facebook onto the phone too and taken my supplements as well so I've accomplished a lot already this morning, so I'm going to treat myself to a long, hot, deep bath later on!  Just got to decide whether to have a bubble bath or bath bomb bath now!

Wednesday 17 December 2014

FFS, Evernote!

I've just downloaded Evernote onto the new phone and my details won't log me in anywhere for some reason, so I'm resetting my password again to see if *that* works!

Tuesday 16 December 2014

I've now got Steve's previous Windows phone!

The sim card arrived with the post and Steve's activated it, so it'll take between 2 and 24 hours and hopefully all my friends numbers and text messages will turn up magically on it!  Hopefully my calendar items will cross over too!  :-)

Olanzapine Glenmark pills

I've got psychotic depression.

I've never made any secret of that.

When I was first diagnosed, I was prescribed Zyprexa.

When I changed GP, the Zyprexa was replaced with generic Olanzapine.

In what I reckon was a prescription price cut measure, I got Olanzapine Glenmark pills this time.

They're teeny, tiny tablets and they don't send me to sleep as deeply as the first 2 lots of anti-psychotics or for 12 hours a night and I wake up feeling more relaxed, awake and clear-headed too!

Literally the only negative is that they make me nauseous if I eat just before taking them but that's easily sorted if I don't eat for at least half an hour before taking them... sorted!

I'm going to try and remember to ask for them again next time I drop my prescription off... they seem to be perfect for me!

Post number 450

This is my 450th post to my blog!  I like that number!  Next one will be in 6 posts time to make it 456... my OCD is working over time!  lol

I've inherited the "George knees" by marriage as well... I'm OK for the first couple of hours after waking up, but then the pain starts!  lol

Monday 15 December 2014

I'm getting old!

I is 37 but feel double that this evening!


Sunday 14 December 2014

My money again

Just checked my bank balance and I'll still be comfortably in credit when all my direct debits come out tomorrow!

Yay me!

I haven't got anything else to buy now, until the New Year and I'll get another £200 on 22nd December too!

I've just got a £75 direct debit and a £76 one to come out then I'm free to spend, spend, spend!

I'll start 2015 with being comfortably in credit and my New Year's resolution will be to not use my overdraft again.  I've conquered my spending addiction so, in theory and with sensible spending, I'll be able to save up the money to buy a used car for Steve by the time our anniversary rolls around at the end of June!

My Higher Powers have been good to me this year!


I had a different brand of AP and I took the first one last night and it almost made me throw up!

It's a teeny tiny pill and I wake up more refreshed and ready to start the day so I'll see what tonight's pill is like and take it from there!

I had me tea about 15 minutes before taking it so maybe that's why I was almost sick?  I didn't feel sick or actually throw up so maybe if I eat an hour before I take it tonight then it will be better?

Saturday 13 December 2014

Sooo tired, but I can't go to bed yet, because...

... I've just had me tea and I haven't taken my pills yet!


I stole these from a Pagan forum and I just want to redress the balance a bit with humour from a Pagan to celebrators of Christmas!

Santa's Wisdom Teachings
…A Pagan Yuletide Story

Five minutes before the Winter Solstice circle was scheduled to
begin, my mother called. Since I'm the only one in our coven who
doesn't run on Pagan Standard Time, I took the call. Half the people
hadn't arrived, and those who had wouldn't settle down to business
for at least twenty minutes.

"Merry Christmas, Frannie."

"Hi, Mom. I don't do Christmas."

"Maybe not–but I do, so I'll say it." she told me in her sassy voice,
kind of sweet and vinegary at the same time. "If I can respect your
freedom of religion, you can respect my freedom of speech."

I grinned and rolled my eyes. "And the score is Mom -one, Fran -
nothing. But I love you, anyway."

People were bustling around in the next room, setting up the altar,
decking the halls with what I considered excessive amounts of holly
and ivy, and singing something like, "O, Solstice Tree."

"It sounds like a…holiday party." Mom said.

"We're doing Winter Solstice tonight."

"Oh. That's sort of like your version of Christmas, right?"

I wanted to snap back that Christmas was the Christian version of
Solstice, but I held back.

"We celebrate the return of the sun. It's a lot quieter than
Christmas. No shopping sprees, no pine needles and tinsel on the
floor, and it doesn't wipe me out. I remember how you had always
worked yourself to a frazzle by December 26."

"Oh honey, I loved doing all that stuff. I wouldn't trade those
memories for all the spare time in the world. I wish you and Jack
would loosen up a little for the baby's sake. When you were little,
you enjoyed Easter bunnies and trick-or-treating and Christmas
things. Since you've gotten into this Wicca religion, you sound a lot
like Aunt Betty the year she was a Jehovah's Witness."

I laughed nervously. "Yeah.. How is Aunt Betty?"

"Fine. She's into the Celestine Prophecy now, and she seems quite
happy. Y'know," she went on, "Aunt Betty always said the Jehovah's Witnesses said those holiday things were Pagan. So I don't see why you've given them up."

"Uh, they've been commercialized and polluted beyond recognition.
We're into very simple, quiet celebrations. "

"Well," she said dubiously, "as long as you're happy."

Sometimes long distance is better than being there, 'cause your
mother can't give you the look that makes you agree with everything she says. Jack rescued me by interrupting.

"Hi, Ma." he called to the phone as he waved a beribboned sprig of
mistletoe over my head. Then he kissed me, one of those quick noisy ones. I frowned at him.

"Druidic tradition, Fran. Swear to Goddess."

"Of course it is. Did the Druids use plastic berries?"

"Always. We'll be needing you in about five minutes."

"Okay. Gotta go, Mom. Love you."

We had a nice, serene kind of Solstice Circle. No jingling bells or
filked-out Christmas Carols. Soon after the last coven member left,
Jack was ready to pack it in.

"The baby's nestled all snug in her bed," he said with a yawn, "I
think I'll go settle in for a long winter's nap."

I heaved a martyred sigh. He grinned unrepentantly, kissed me, called me a grinch, and went to bed. I stayed up and puttered around the house, trying to unwind. I sifted through the day's mail, ditched then flyers urging us to purchase all the Seasonal Joy we could
afford or charge.

I opened the card from his parents. Another sermonette: a manger
scene and a bible verse, with a handwritten note expressing his
mother's fervent hope that God's love and Christmas spirit would fill
our hearts in this blessed season. She means well, really. I amused
myself by picking out every Pagan element I could find in the card.

When the mail had been sorted, I got up and started turning our
ritual room back into a living room. As if the greeting card had
carried a virus, I found myself humming Christmas carols. I turned on
the classic rock station, but they were playing that Lennon-Ono
Christmas song. I switched stations. The weatherman assured me that
there was only a twenty percent chance of snow. Then, by Loki, the
deejay let Bruce Springsteen insult my ears crooning, "yah better
watch out, yah better not pout." I tried the Oldies station. Elvis
lives, and he does Christmas songs. Okay, fine. We'll do classical ~
no, we won't. They're playing Handel's Messiah. Maybe the community
radio station would have something secular humanist.

"Ahora, escucharemos a Jose Feliciano canta `Feliz Navidad'."

I was getting annoyed. The radio doesn't usually get this saturated
with holiday mush until the twenty-fourth.

"This is too weird." I said to the radio, "Cut that crap out."

The country station had some Kenny Rogers Christmas tune, the first
rock station had gone from John and Yoko's Christmas song to Simon
and Garfunkel's "Silent Night," and the other rock station still had
Springsteen reliving his childhood. "–I'm tellin' you why. Santa
Claus is comin' to town!" he bellowed.

I was about to pick out a nice secular CD when there was a knock at
the door. Now, it could have been a coven member who'd forgotten

It could have been someone with car trouble. It could have been any
number of things, but it certainly couldn't have been a stout guy in
a red suit–snowy beard, rosy cheeks, and all–backed by eight reindeer
and a sleigh. I blinked, wondered crazily where Rudolph was, and
blinked again. There were nine reindeer. Our twenty-percent chance of
snow had frosted the dead grass and was continuing to float down in
fat flakes.

"Hi, Frannie." he said warmly, "I've missed you."

"I'm stone cold sober, and you don't exist."

He looked at me with a mixture of sorrow and compassion and sighed

"That's why I miss you, Frannie. Can I come in? We need to talk."

I couldn't quite bring myself to slam the door on this vision,
hallucination, or whatever. So I let him in, because that made more
sense then letting all the cold air in while I argued with someone
who wasn't there.

As he stepped in, a thought crossed my mind about various entities
needing an invitation to get in houses. He flashed me a smile that
would melt the polar caps.

"Don't you miss Christmas, Frannie?"

"No." I said flatly, "Apparently you don't see me when I'm sleeping
and waking these days. I haven't been Christian for years."

"Oh, now don't let that stop you. We both know this holiday's older
than that. Yule trees and Saturnalia and here-comes-the- sun,
doodoodendoodoo. "

I raised an eyebrow at the Beatles reference, then gave him my
standard sermonette on the appropriation and adulteration that made
Christmas no longer a Pagan holiday. I had done my homework. I listed
centuries, I named names–St. Nicholas among them..

"In the twentieth century version," I assured him, "Christmas is two
parts crass commercialism mixed with one part blind faith in a
religion I rejected years ago." I gave him my best lines, the ones
that had convinced my coven to abstain from Christmassy cliches. My
hallucination sat in Jack's favorite chair, nodding patiently at me.

"And you," I added nastily,"come here talking about ancient customs
when you–in your current form–were invented in the nineteenth century
by, um… Clement C. Moore."

He laughed, a rolling, belly-deep chuckle unlike any department-store
Santa I'd ever heard.

"Of course I change my form now and then to suit fashion. Don't you?
And does that stop you from being yourself?" He said, and asked me if
I remembered Real Magic, by Isaac Bonewits.

I gaped at him for a moment, then caught myself. "This is like
`Labyrinth', right? I'm having a dream that pretends to be real, but
is only made from pieces of things in my memory. You don't look a
thing like David Bowie."

"Bonewits has this Switchboard Theory." Santa went on amiably, "The
energy you put into your beliefs influences the real existence of the
archetypal–oh, let me put it simpler: `in the beginning, Man created
God'. Ian Anderson."

He lit a long-stemmed pipe. The tobacco had a mild and somehow
Christmassy smell, and every puff sent up a wreath of smoke. "I'm
afraid it's a bit more complicated than Bonewits tells it, but that's
close enough for mortals. Are you with me so far?"

"Oh, sure." I lied as unconvincingly as possible.

Santa sighed heavily.

"When's the last time you left out hot tea and cookies for me?"

"When I figured out my parents were eating them."

"Frannie, Frannie. Remember pinda balls, from Hinduism?"

"Rice balls left as offerings for ancestors and gods."

"Do Hindus really believe that the ancestors and gods eat pinda

"All right, y'got me there. They say that spirits consume the
spiritual essence, then mortals can have what's left."

"Mm-hm." Santa smiled at me compassionately through his snowy beard.

I rallied quickly. "What about the toys? I know for a fact they
aren't made by you and a bunch of non-union Elves."

"Oh, that's quite true. Manufacturing physical objects out of magical
energy is terribly expensive and breaks several laws of Nature–She
only allows us to do that on special occasions. It certainly couldn't
be done globally and annually. Now, the missus and the Elves and I
really do have a shop at the North Pole. Not the sort of thing the
Air Force would ever find. What we make up there is what makes this
time a holiday, no matter what religion it's called."

"Don't tell me," I said, rolling my eyes, "you make the sun come

"Oh my, no. The solar cycle stuff, the Reason For The Season, isn't
my department. My part is making it a holiday. We make a mild, non-
addictive psychedelic thing called Christmas spirit. Try some."

He dipped his fingers in a pocket and tossed red-gold-green- silver
glitter at me. I could have ducked. I don't know why I didn't. It
smelled like snow, and pine needles, and cedar chips in the
fireplace. It smelled like fruitcake, cornbread savory herbal
stuffing, like that foamy white stuff you spray on the window with
stencils. It felt like a crisp wind, Grandma's hugs, fuzzy new
mittens, pine needles scrunching under my slippers. I saw twinkly
lights, mistletoe in the doorway, smiling faces from years gone by.

Several Christmas carols played almost simultaneously in a kind of
medley. I fought my way back to my living room and glared sternly at
the hallucination in Jack's chair.

"Fun stuff. Does the DEA know about this?"

"Oh, Frannie. Why are you such a hard case? I told you it's non-
addictive and has no harmful side effects. Would Santa Claus lie to

I opened my mouth and closed it again. We looked at each other a

"Can I have some more of that glittery stuff?"

"Mmmm. I think you need something stronger. Try a sugarplum."

I tasted rum ball. Peppermint. Those hard candies with the picture
all the way through. Mama's favorite fudge. A chorus line of
Christmas candies danced through my mouth. The Swedish Angel Chimes,
run on candle power, say tingatingatingating . Mama, with a funny
smile, promised to give Santa my letter.

Greeting cards taped on the refrigerator door. We rode through the
tree farm on a straw-filled trailer pulled by a red and green
tractor, looking for a perfect pine. It was so big, Daddy had to cut
a bit off so the star wouldn't scrape the ceiling. Lights, ornaments,
tinsel. Daddy lifted me up to the mantle to hang my stocking. My
dolls stayed up to see Santa Claus, and in the morning they all had
new clothes. Grandma carried in platters with the world's biggest
Christmas dinner. Joey's Christmas puppy chased my Christmas kitten
up the tree and it would have fallen over but Daddy held it while
Mama got the kitten out. Daddy said every bad word there was but he
kept laughing anyway. I sneaked my favorite plastic horse into the
nativity scene, between the camels and the donkey.

I came back to reality slowly, with a silly smile on my face and a
tickly feeling behind my eyes like they wanted to cry. The
phrase "visions of sugarplums" took on a whole new meaning.

"How long has it been," Santa asked, "since you played with a
nativity set?-"

"But it symbolizes–"

"The winter-born king. The sacred Mother and her sun-child. Got a
problem with that? You could redecorate it with pentagrams if you
like, they'll look fine. As for the Christianization, I've heard who
you invoke at Imbolc."

"But Bridgid was a Goddess for centuries before the Catholic Church-
oh." I crossed my arms and tried to glare at him, but failed. "You're
a sneaky old Elf, y'know?"

"The term is `Jolly Old Elf.' Care for another sugarplum?" I did. I
tasted gingerbread. My first nip of soy eggnog the way the grown-ups
drink it. Fresh sugar cookies, shaped like trees and decked with
colored frosting. Dad had been laid off, but we managed a lot of
cheer. They told us Christmas would be "slim pickings." Joey and I
smiled bravely when Mama brought home that spindly spruce. We loaded
down our "Charlie Brown Christmas Tree" with every light and ornament
it could hold. Popcorn and cranberry strings for the outdoor trees.
Mistletoe in the hall: plastic mistletoe, real kisses. Joey and I
snipped and glued and stitched and painted treasures to give as

We agonized over our "Santa" letters…by now we knew where the goodies
came from, and we tried to compromise between what we longed for and
they thought they could afford. Every day we hoped the factory would
reopen. When Joey's dog ate my mitten, I wasn't brave. I knew that
meant I'd get mittens for Christmas, and one less toy. I cried. On
December twenty-fifth we opened our presents ve-ery slo-wly, drawing
out the experience. We made a show of cheer over our socks and shirts
and meager haul of toys. I got red mittens. We could tell Mama and
Daddy were proud of us for being so brave, because they were grinning
like crazy.

"Go out to the garage for apples." Mama told us, "We'll have apple

I don't remember having the pancakes. There was a dollhouse in the
garage. No mass-produced aluminum thingbut a homemade plywood
dollhouse with wall-papered walls and real curtains and thread-spool
chairs. My dolls were inside, with newly sewn clothes. Joey was on
his knees in front of a plywood barn with hay in the loft. His old
farm implements had new paint. Our plastic animals were corralled in
popsicle stick fences. The garage smelled like apples and hay, the
cement was bone-chilling under my slippers, and I was crying.

My knees were drawn up to my chest, arms wrapped around them. My
chest felt tight, like ice cracking in sunshine. Santa offered me a
huge white handkerchief. When all the ice in my chest had melted, he
cleared his throat. He was pretty misty-eyed, too.

"Want to come sit on my lap and tell me what you want for Christmas?"

"You've already given it to me." But I sat on his lap anyway, and
kissed his rosy cheek until he did his famous laugh.

"I'd better go now, Frannie. I have other stops to make, and you have
work to do."

"Right. I'd better pop the corn tonight, it strings best when it's

I let him out the door. The reindeer were pawing impatiently at the
moon-kissed new-fallen snow. I'd swear Rudolph winked at me.

"Don't forget the hot tea and cookies."

"Right. Uh, December twenty-fourth, or Solstice, or what?"

He shrugged. "Whatever night you expect me, I'll be there. Eh, don't
wait up. Visits like this are tightly rationed. Laws of Nature,
y'know, and She's strict with them."

"Gotcha. Thanks, Santa." I kissed his cheek again. "Happy Holidays."

The phrase had a nice, non-denominational ring to it. I thought I'd
call my parents and in-laws soon and try it out on them.

Santa laid his finger aside of his nose and nodded.

"Blessed be, Frannie."

The sleigh soared up, and Santa really did exclaim something. It
sounded like old German. Smart-aleck Elf.

When I closed the door, the radio was playing Jethro Tull's "Solstice