Counting blessings

Posted December 17th, 2006 by Penny Wise

Not sure what to call today's blog entry – I was thinking maybe 'The 12 Days of Bleurgh' as it must be at least that long since I came down with the current bug that's doing the rounds. It's certainly put a damper on festive celebrations around here, I can tell you. Tonight is the school concert but the way the school roll was looking this morning, only half the cast is going to be well enough to take part. Even our neighbours were forced to put themselves into isolation in an effort to avoid contracting the dreaded lurgy before flying out to spend Christmas with family in England. Unfortunately the prevention tactics came into force too late and poor Maxine woefully admitted this morning that she had been up half the night with 'the bug' and is now living with the fearful prospect of spending most of today's 26 hour flight ahead in the toilet of a Boeing 747. On the bright side, at least it's somewhat more spacious than your average plane seat!

I've been thanking my lucky stars quite a bit over the last week – for starters, I'm even grateful that this bug turned out to be all it was – a bug. During the first few days I honestly felt so dreadful that I was scared to death that I had something truly horrific like meningitis or a brain tumour. It was only when I realised that everyone else who had it was experiencing the exact same symptoms and fears as me that I breathed a huge sigh of relief and happily got on with the process of just getting over it. It might sound like I'm overreacting to some, but it was a really sobering experience to have the fear of the unknown hanging over my head for a few days and it has really made me count my blessings and realise how lucky I am to have my health.

On a brighter note, at least being ill kept me away from splurging any more money on Christmas this week! Well, that and a little divine intervention I suspect. For example, early last week I had to drive an hour to the city to arrange for some new carpet to be laid. I didn't really want to go, but there was only one day remaining to sign and accept the quote and it was a darn good one, so I didn't want to miss out. I consoled myself with the fact that at least I could have one last browse around the shops at the same time – just to make sure there was nothing else I had forgotten to buy for Christmas of course. Just ten minutes after setting off, I was happily pootling along when a cat darted across the road in front of me. Luckily there were no other cars around and I slammed on the brakes and swerved in an effort to avoid it, but I could see there was no way I was going to be able to avoid hitting it. I braced myself for the inevitable thud – which never came, and when I plucked up the courage to look in my rear view mirror, the cat had gone! I checked again but it was nowhere to be seen. By some miracle I had avoided squashing someone's beloved pet but while of course I was hugely relieved, the knot in my stomach did not abate until I arrived at my destination, with no further thought of extra shopping stops in between!

I duly arrived at Forlongs, which is a huge department store a bit like Harvey Norman. I hadn't bought anything there since 1997 and once I entered the building, I remembered why. I was told to pick a number, join the horrendously long queue of people and sit down until my number was called. It felt more like I was queueing up for the dole, not a carpet and what should have taken approximately 30 seconds to sign took a grand total of 80 minutes as I waited impatiently for the 31 people before me to take their turn – and that was at 10 o'clock in the morning! Understandably I was getting itchy feet after being stuck there for so long, but my main problem was that the Forlongs car park had been full and I was parked on the roadside with a limit of 60 minutes. I couldn't bear the thought of having to cough up for a parking ticket when it wasn't my fault! Finally my number was called, the deal was done in a flash, I grabbed my free Christmas ham and raced out to my car, just in time to see the traffic warden working her way up just a few cars away! The plan had been to sign the agreement and then spend a leisurely while browsing around the various other departments, but instead I had no choice but to zoom away and out of the warden's clutches. Just as well, as the helpful young man in the camera department who had nabbed me on the way out had been doing a very convincing job of selling me a new digital camera with a $60 off voucher and a Philips DVD player thrown in!

Thanks to these unforeseen circumstances I had so far avoided any unnecessary purchases, but I still had one more stop to make – Noel had asked me to go to the Warehouse. With so much time still on my hands, I was steeling myself as best as I could but I admit, it wasn't looking good. For starters, I grabbed a trolley on my way in – BAD move! I have found from experience I'm always much less likely to overspend if I use a basket – the simple reason being, you can't fit so much stuff in! Anyway, I had picked up three boxes of Weetbix on special and was merrily wending my way towards the most tempting aisles when a siren sounded and a burly store attendant grabbed my arm and told me to abandon my trolley and to make my way out of the store and into the car park as quickly as possible as there was a fire. I duly did as I was told and as the panicking crowds ensued I felt very fortunate not to have been stuck at the back of the store as I was able to get out quickly and be on my way once again. I decided one way or another I was destined not to shop that day, so made my way home having not bought a single thing!

I was feeling pretty lucky that day, but I felt even luckier the following day! It was the town Santa Parade and the boys and I were taking part on the Lions Club float, dressed up as rugby fans. Dressed up was a bit of an understatement really – with our red, yellow and black striped jerseys, socks, wigs, flags, face paint and cowbells nobody recognised us! The whole town had turned out for the parade and we stopped for a well-earned drink at the local bowling club before going home. The following day was my birthday and as I left the bowling club my in-laws gave me an envelope containing my card and some birthday money to put towards whatever I wanted. I said thank you very much and went off, clutching my assortment of flags, wigs and bells to my car, which was parked three long streets away. I gratefully dumped everything in the boot and was about to set off home when I remembered my envelope. Where was it? I double checked my boot and realised I must have dropped it in my efforts to hold on to everything. I felt suddenly nauseous at the thought of my cash-filled envelope out in the open on the town's busiest night of the year. The boys, Mum and I set off, hurriedly retracing our steps but we weren't confident – someone would have been bound to pick it up and have a great night out with it. Liam ran on ahead and shouted that he could see something across the other side of the road. I refused to get my hopes up too high but sure enough, there it was, still lying forlornly in the bowling club car park! It went a fair way to restoring my hope in the human race that someone hadn't snaffled it and I did something I never usually do - bought a lottery ticket! Which reminds me, I haven't checked it yet...

As mentioned, Saturday was my birthday, but once again circumstances had put the cobblers on the day's events. We were all set to enjoy a pre-Christmas dinner with the neighbours and had been looking forward to it for ages, but this had to be called off due to our various bugs and lurgies and them not wishing to catch it. As always, I was sharing a birthday with Daniel Carter. I wasn't looking for it – in fact when I discovered it the auction only had four minutes remaining, but when I saw it I knew it was the perfect addition to the boys' bedroom which I planned to decorate in the holidays.

In an effort to justify my shameful splurge, I weighed up the pros and cons as in the Six Steps. What was my gain? A huge, autographed poster of Daniel the Divine, which let's face it, is much more appealing to me than my children, even though it's going in their room (I don't think it would really go down too well if I were to stick it up in mine!) My loss? $75 – eek! However, saying that, my excessive purchase was at least in a good cause as the seller was a national radio station raising money for their annual campaign to send 20 sick Kiwi children on holiday to the Gold Coast, so I was quite happy for them to gain from my loss. Is there a better way? Um, no – not unless I happened to bump into him down the street, which is extremely unlikely. I decided that compared to the cost of having to fly to Christchurch to watch the Canterbury team play a home game on the small offchance of being able to get an autograph from the man himself, my gold plated poster was indeed a cheaper option. Finally, did I have the spare cash? Er, no, not really and in fact I wouldn't have minded adding another step after that ' Was it worth the guilt?' Sorry Dan, but it wasn't...

At least I can console myself with the fact that thanks to the Vault I have countless ways to save in order to cover the cost of my daft bid. It's really reassuring to know that whatever unexpected expenses come our way, we can always find more ways to save on other things in order to cover it. This afternoon's job is to go and get a new set of tyres on my car. Remember how I complained

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