Hello 2018

Hello 2018

So, we are in that time of goodwill to all men. That time when we usually pledge our good intentions of change. And speaking of good intentions of change, for some unknown reason to me yet, I’m making resolutions. Attainable resolutions for a change. New moderations. I usually don’t make new year resolutions (I find them to be a waste of time) but this time, I thought I would share mine with you. My 2018 resolution is simple, I intend to expand my hobbies…

  1. Focus on art. Make more drawings, practice painting and make more art pieces.
  2. Take up swimming classes. I’ve been meaning to start in the past years but I haven’t gotten around it yet. And I have to exercise to stay healthy. So, swimming it is.
  3. Tailoring. November last year, I had begun taking tailoring classes. Unfortunately, they were cut short because I got a job offer. Well, sort of. So, I want to complete my tailoring classes. And I also want to learn carpentry as well.
  4. Take up gardening. Because apart from growing vegetables and using them in the kitchen (fresh veggies taste fabulous), gardening is good for you. I know gardening can lead to neck strains and backaches. I know it’s not easy and can get messy, leaving you looking like you’ve been digging tunnels with your bare hands; and may not provide instant gratification but it’s transformative. It’s a journey of discovery and it is fun. It’s a creative, continual learning process. It’s rewarding standing in your garden, looking at the green things growing around you. Gardening is beautiful. Gardening is magical.
  5. Read more books. I don’t read half as many books as I would like to. I want to read not just photo captions on Instagram or WhatsApp statuses. I want to read every book I can get my hands on or (illegally) download. Sadly, I open a book and 10 minutes later I’m already dozing off (is it just me or books are like sleeping pills to you too?) I’m really ashamed of myself. I need prayers.
  6. Procrastinate less. I am a super lazy, but also highly motivated individual (yeah, I know how contradictory this sounds but it’s true). Procrastination is my specialty, but I’m trying to procrastinate less. I really am. I intend to leave it behind in 2017. Pray for me.
  7. Earn a driver’s license (so help me God).
  8. Positively impact the lives of as many people as possible. 

At the end of the year, I hope to have crossed most (if not all, haha) of the items off this list and enjoy the simple pleasure of accomplishment. Then I can pat myself on the back, smile and say “I’m a good girl”.

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The pleasures of cooking your own food

This is really little, but it made my day. One Saturday I was traveling with my best friend to the countryside (for a friend’s wedding). As soon as I sat next to her on the bus, she quickly told me that I looked great, which put an enormous smile on my face. And recently, some people have been telling me that I’ve put on some weight, which makes me feel fantastic that it’s noticeable. Isn’t it wonderful how sometimes, the littlest things can touch you in the perfect way? Well, it’s just a thought, but to me an act of kindness is a gift to you, as well as the person you give it to.

However, months ago, it was the opposite. I knew it was bad when I would meet people I know and they would look at me shocked. Everyone asked me what was wrong because I was losing weight. I started to hate how I looked. I felt ugly. But I didn’t imagine that my relationship was the cause. Little did I know, it was a toxic relationship. My life was deteriorating. Toxic relationships can drain the life out of you and sometimes you don’t really see the damage until you force yourself out. Finally, the relationship ended and I had to find self-love all over again. Through nursing my heart to health, I googled articles on weight gain. All the answers seemed to be the same. Increasing calories intake. More calories meant EATING! Eating lots and lots. I had to force myself to eat more, and consistently. I began with taking breakfast, daily. I usually skipped breakfast, because:

One, most of the times I woke up really late and it would be lunch time. I also wasn’t into breakfast because I had no appetite in the morning. It meant forcing food down.

Two, because of waking up late, my mornings would be a mad dash getting ready for classes and by the time I would be ready, there would be no time left to sit and have breakfast. I would just be rushing out the door.

Anyways…

Two years later, I now take care of me on a regular basis. I no longer skip breakfast. I’ve learned to eat breakfast and it has helped me to build healthy eating habits. My goal is healthy eating (to put on some extra weight), and the best way to do so is to cook for myself as much as I can. 

Since childhood, I’m obsessed with great food. All of my favorite family memories involve food (in some way). My most cherished moments include mom cooking hearty meals for us during weekends. And, so my relationship with food has been a loving one. Today, as Mom is ageing, I’m learning to cook so I can take over that responsibility from her and still make good meals like her. 

Cooking is a craft and learning to cook is one of the essential human skills. My cooking skills are nowhere near as good as I want them to be, but with continuous practice I’ll be good in a few years to come. If I’m in a good mood (or not feeling lazy), and with ingredients and some time, I try to make food that’s tastier. Cooking challenges creativity and encourages to discover new dishes. I don’t always know what I’m going to cook, I just take what’s available and use it the tastiest way I can think of. I also look up recipes (what would I do without Google?), and cook them myself. Some I recreate successfully, some I don’t. I love it when I succeed at a dish and I’ll curse for hours when I fail but I still love it.

Cooking gives great pleasure and is rewarding. There’s something about feeding people. I am always delighted watching contentment spread across my folks’ faces when I prepare for them a delicious meal. I find it immensely satisfying watching my younger brother eat chapatis or a salad that I made. There’s a special feeling when they say the food I cooked was delicious. It is a huge motivator for me to keep spending time in the kitchen learning how to cook. It makes me feel good to give someone something tasty and enjoyable that I made. I love the process of creation. However, when laziness kicks in, then I have no interest in food if I have to make it myself. That’s when I don’t see cooking as a craft, but rather as a chore. And that’s when I’ll be in the kitchen without a clue about what to cook and wishing take-away food in our area was readily available or that we had a maid to cook whenever I’m not feeling particularly inspired. Because my creativity doesn’t go as far as cooking 3 meals a day, seven days a week. Nah, that isn’t my thing.

On the healthy eating part, I’ve realized that healthy eating means giving up basically everything that makes life worth living. And that’s not happening, even though I have no intention of addicting myself (since that would kill me). I ain’t refraining from eating grilled meat, or fries or cheese so that I can live to be 90 years. What matters to me is the delight I derive from ingesting something that I love and enjoy. Do I feel good after eating a burger and fries or a pizza? Yes. Do I feel good after eating some sausage? Yes. How about after eating fried chicken? Very much, because it’s very delicious. I am forever grateful for the animals that end up on our plates, the meat which satisfies the carnivore in me. 

It’s always good having a good meal. And what a pleasure when I have a good meal, followed by a bottle of cold beer!

Eat well, enjoy life, be happy.

Kizigenza

Kizigenza

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. But this here, is worth a bajillion words. Fond memories. Happy memories.

This was taken in 2011, if I remember well. We were at a party, 11 d’or party. I guess it was a birthday party. I don’t remember, I was there just for the food (read meat) and drinks. There were lots of drinks and brochettes. 

Later in the night, while the others were jammed in the living room, dancing; I and Jaz sat there, watching some pull out wild moves and boogieing like nobody’s watching. It’s always entertaining to watch others dance. But my legs never itch to hit the dancefloor. I can tell you why I hate dancing. One, I’m an introvert and I avoid (and hate) socializing with strangers. And dancing involves socializing to some extent. Second, people who like dancing can be aggressive about it, and think that I need to be dragged onto the dance floor. They feel like they’ve won points if they bully me into dancing. Or they think I secretly want to dance but I’m too shy to start…so they feel the need to pressure me into it. The idea of a big party with dancing is horrible to me. 

Back to the photo…

People wanted to drag us onto the dancefloor, and no matter how many times we said no, they kept insisting. What’s wrong with people anyway? So, we needed a spot, maybe in the corner of the room, where we could sit and watch in peace, without being disturbed. As we were trying to find a spot, the guy (in the picture) stopped us and asked where we were going. As Jaz was busy explaining, I couldn’t help it but laugh, and baam…the photo was taken!

Anyways…

The year was 2006, when I first saw Jaz. I never knew that that day in Senior 4 when I heard her argue about The Matrix (the movie) and I said to myself “she must be a really interesting girl!” would be the beginning of our journey. And indeed she is an amazing girl. After completing highschool we met again in 2010, sharing the same room on campus hostels. 7 years later, we are best friends. I am so lucky that this crazy world brought us together.

So, today is Jaz’ birthday and I am dedicating this post to her…I’m writing  things that I love about her.

  1. Her weird vocabulary. Ni akasamutwe! Haha
  2. Her integrity.
  3. Her determination. She sets a goal and works hard to achieve it.
  4. Her funny stories.
  5. Her love.
  6. To others she might seem as a sober lady (yes, she is) but underneath is one of the most loving and caring person I have ever met.
  7. I can speak my heart out to her.
  8. Even if we’re not in touch for ages, I know that she’s there for me.
  9. She brings sunshine into my life.
  10. She knows how to pamper me.
  11. She understands me.
  12. I can count on her. Always.
  13. Each time I think of her, I smile.
  14. I can trust on her advice.
  15. She’s a reflection of me. Truly.
  16. She’s seen me at my worst and still stood by me.
  17. She has more faith in me than I do in myself (thank you for believing in me, always).
  18. She works hard for what she wants. 
  19. Her love for movies.
  20. She is very very smart.
  21. We can make fun of each other and never take offense. She laughs at me when I fall but it’s cool, because I always laugh at her when she falls too. 
  22. Even when she laughs at me, I still feel loved.
  23. She talks me through hard situations without fail. What would I do without her?
  24. She is an inspiration to me…she’s one of the strong women whom I look up to.
  25. She loves meat.
  26. She’s the sister I never had.

Dear Jaz,

Thank you for being such an amazing friend to me for the past 7 years. I’m so grateful and blessed to have you in my life. 

A very very happy birthday to you.

I love you, to the moon and further. And I terribly miss you.

Did They Do It To You Too?

It is beautiful outside. The sun is REALLY shining. Birds are chirping. It is summer, which means weddings, which means gutwerera and bridal showers (and the inevitable pressure that comes with weddings). Almost every weekend on your calendar is booked. Every now and then, you get texts reminding you to attend those wedding planning meetings (a.k.a. the fundraisers). You groan everytime you get such a text. 

If you are a chick and also a friend to the soon-to-be bride, you’ll be added to a new WhatsApp Group called ‘Gisele’s bridal shower’, then the fun will begin (Hehe). The admin will welcome you all and inform you that it’ll be a surprise for the bride (bya he?) and that the shower is due in 2 weeks. She’ll proceed to tell you that the contribution is fixed at not less than 5000frw, followed by contact details to transfer the cash to. Dress code: all white. 

For me, the concept of sitting in a room with a bunch of women (whom I don’t know) while one special lady sits on a throne-like chair for hours freaks me out. I hate bridal showers. However, I don’t hate showers out of jealousy or the urge to be on the receiving end. Naah! I may say that I hate showers and be told “Do not worry, it’ll be your turn soon” Hehe! I can’t even predict what the next day of my life will look like, let alone harbor the idea of getting married and having babies! Anyhow, I know that couples need household items, and we all need all the help we can get. But isn’t that what wedding gifts are meant for? I find these showers unnecessary. And I always wonder why these bridal showers don’t include men? If the marriage is between a man and a woman (as per Rwandan Constitution), why should the shower be an all-female event? Also, men have money, and more money equals more gifts, and we all know that showers are gift-grab events.

Bridal showers aside. There’s also the (inevitable) pressure that comes with weddings. The pressure of being single. I don’t feel the pressure on the daily, but when I get ‘save the date’, I can’t help but think “am I missing something?”. I wonder why the fuck am I single? And there’s always that relative or your mother’s friend who for whatever reason needs to know why I’m still in school after so long, why I’m still single, and what I’m doing about it. Like my choices are any of their damn business. They be giving subtle hints like “Ko ntacyo wibwira?” or “Uzaduha inzoga ryari?” These old guys are unimpressed by one’s ambitious pursuits and be reinforcing notions that marriage and babies should be the primary focus in our lives

*rolls eyes*

Anyways, it is wedding season, remember? Which means that you need several outfits so that you won’t be wearing the same outfit to different ceremonies. You wore the red and black dress to Fiona’s wedding and to Alice’s introduction. You wore the long blue dress to Mutesi’s introduction and to Jack’s wedding last month. You don’t want to wear the black and white dress to Fred’s wedding, since you wore it last weekend. So, there’s one person you need: a tailor.

You’ve got a piece of fabric/material. You’ve already chosen your own style. You ask your friend, Solange and she recommends a tailor. Mama Sumaya is her name. You have hope. You tell Mama Sumaya that Solange recommended her, and you proceed to tell her that there’s a wedding in 3 weeks that you plan on wearing the dress to. She seems to pay attention and nods. You show her the style and she immediately says that she can sew it. Hmm. You explain that you want it embroidered with black and she still nods. You agree on the price, pay 50% (the remaining is to be paid when you pick your dress) and take her contact number. 3 days before the wedding, you remind her that you’ll be coming to pick the dress the next day. The next day, you try reaching her but both her Tigo and MTN lines are switched off. After a couple of times, you finally get through to her but she doesn’t pick up. You text her but get no reply from her. Then you know that something is wrong. You text her that you want your dress or the material in whatever form. And that’s when she comes clean with you, telling you that she had finished the dress but burnt it while ironing it. Hehe! How does one cope with such?

It’s like tailors find it easy to let people down. If there’s anything that tailors can teach someone, it’s patience and the importance of having plan B. When you take your material to the tailor for sewing, just add 2 weeks (before the expected time) for adjustments here and there…maybe too tight or a bit loose (when she takes your measurements but then decides not to use them) or when the tailor decides to remix your style, because well you know tailors and their madness. Like, when you repeatedly tell her to use black embroidery but instead uses yellow embroidery.
Speaking of plan Bs, your outfit is burnt (sorry) so you have to find another one. And it’s not easy to pick out an outfit. You stare at your closet, wondering if you don’t own anything nice. After an hour or so, you’re dressed and out the door. You arrive at the reception hall. Only 30 minutes late. Good thing, the newly-weds have not arrived at the reception hall yet. 50 minutes later, the newly-weds still have not yet arrived at the reception hall. They are still taking pictures. You are wondering why the reception hasn’t begun, yet. Why aren’t you at least drinking? The drinks are right there. You could grab one. But you have to wait. I have many problems with the food aspect of weddings. You never know what to expect. At most weddings, there’s only cake and fanta (that is if you’re seated in the front rows). If you’re very lucky, there’s take-away (bread, a slice of potato, and a tiny meatball). I miss that time when they served food and beer during wedding receptions. Weddings are about celebrating the union of 2 people. But what’s a celebration without food and drinks?

Anyways, you’ve already eaten your cake. So, it’s time to go home.

Happy Wedding Season to you all.

Fuck the Past

At any given moment, you have the power to say: this is not how the story is going to end

~ Christine Mason Miller

Have you ever made a mistake you thought was terrible that you simply couldn’t forgive yourself? A mistake you thought was so bad that you sunk into depression? A mistake that made you wonder silently if you’re not probably the stupidest person alive?
Well, here is my story…

I was in this relationship for almost 4 years. Though he said that he loved me, his actions proved otherwise. But I continued to see the relationship for what it could be, rather than what it actually was: toxic. There were lots of things that I thought I could ignore or shove under the carpet. Then he hurt me, on purpose. He cheated intentionally. I, on the other hand, not knowing better, kept wondering silently what lacked in the relationship that gave room for such betrayal. Perhaps love is truly blind.

Despite it taking me months, I came to terms with reality that it wasn’t much of a relationship, at all. It was just a fantasy world created from his half assed efforts, with a strong foundation in delusion. It was entirely unsatisfactory! I used to think that I was never good enough for him. I was constantly coming second to dozens of other girls. I thought I was the main chick, but I was being played. I was led on, for almost 4 years. I thought he shared my love for him. Then the cheating happened and photos on his social media accounts broadcast the fun they were having, status updates said what was on his mind or announced his availability, commitment or something in between. When I questioned him about it, he quickly pulled them down and denied it! Hehe. I kept quiet but I’d seen everything! I tried harder than anything to forget that but I couldn’t. He made me feel completely worthless. He emotionally ruined me. However, I finally realized that it wasn’t me not being good enough for him. And these words have resonated with me for some time now. 

Later, I was overcome by shame. How could I be so stupid? Why did I tolerate such behavior? Why did I allow all that to happen? This terrible feeling continued. Flashing before my eyes, I saw all the opportunities I had to walk away, but I had chosen the other way. I would be so close to getting out, but he would call or text, and I would blow it again. I would fail myself again. The logical-side knew the truth long ago, but the emotional-side nearly destroyed it. Sure, emotions keep one from being cold and cruel. But they can also cloud vision and enable scum to try to create a mess.

After walking in and out of the door so many times, he taught me to lock the door. The hardest and saddest part was to stop fighting and just walk away. But then I thought why should I be sad? I had lost someone who didn’t love me but he had lost someone who loved him, genuinely. Not only was I done investing my time in him, I also cut him off completely and burned down the damn bridge, instead of running around absorbing and forgiving everything. Sometimes, you got to be cold to show people that you were being loving (and understanding) the entire time.

Looking back, now, I wonder how I even tolerated such unhealthy behavior. No matter how hard I tried to forgive myself, I continued to beat myself up for this. I couldn’t shake off the feeling. Even after the break up (for lack of a better term), I continued to experience shame and self-loathing thoughts. But you know when you’re dealing with a person who did you wrong/hurt you, you can choose to forgive, release the hurt, and maybe not maintain contact with them anymore. But with yourself? That’s not even an option. You don’t get to quit or walk away from yourself. No!

Fortunately however, one day it gets better. You wake up and you’re not angry or sad anymore. And there’s no explanation or reason why. It just happens like that.

I can’t go back in time and fix it. However, I can recover from the mistake, learn from it, forgive myself and move on with my life. Because having had my heart broken, I learned to forgive but I can never forget how a broken heart feels. I’m learning to be selfish with me and with my time. I don’t want to reconcile with him. I want to forgive myself for not knowing better. To forgive myself for all the pain that I’ve caused myself. For not loving myself enough. I am constantly reminding myself that I deserve better than the distorted perception of love that was handed to me on a tarnished platter. 

The experience has changed me. It made me a better person. It made me stronger and more discerning. I learned the dangers of not putting myself first and not loving myself enough. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be loved in a way you feel you deserve. I deserve better than being ignored and taken for granted, I deserve better than being manipulated. I deserve God’s best for my life and nothing less. Simply because I’m worth it. I am thankful for the opportunity to grow in these ways. I celebrate who I have become because of my past mistakes.

I’m happy now

Dear INES, We Are Officially Over

2011 is the year I got into INES, a place that I would quickly learn to loathe.

I heard about INES Ruhengeri from my best friend. The small school in the middle of nowhere, Musanze, didn’t sound so appealing at first, until I learned they had a Biotechnology program. Oh, and it was run by Catholic Fathers who are known to be serious & committed when it comes to education. Decision made! Boy, I was in for a big surprise!

Within minutes of being there, I could feel the rot beginning to set in. The first thing that hit me was its uniquely depressing appearance.

To begin, there was a maze of things to figure out – who to get to know, where to go for this or that. A lot of my energy went into trying to make sense of the new environment. It felt overwhelming to start over in a new place with temperatures that were uncomfortably low. Also, coping with new people took me enormous energy.
As such, I suffered with my eating. I’d struggle to eat my meals. And on several occasions, I was physically sick. Even on the shortest of days, when I only had to be in class for a morning lecture, I’d go back to my place feeling physically and mentally drained, exhausted. My weight suffered greatly. I was scared and confused as to why this was happening because I’d never previously had a problem with my eating. Well, I was a picky eater but nothing more sinister than that.

At times I felt suffocated. I spent most of the time at my place, with little to do but read, watch movies and sleep. Though I tried, I never felt as though I belonged. My place (read: ghetto), was my safe haven.

There were days when I was so tired that I could barely drag myself out of bed to go to class. Those mornings when the alarm went off and I would lay in bed thinking to myself “do I really need an education?” All I wanted to do was sleep in or watch movies. But with my imminent future constantly on my mind, I couldn’t afford to sit on my butt, watching movies, while my classmates were studying.

Well, sometimes I did. If I woke up (feeling lazy) and felt like I didn’t want to go to class, then I didn’t go. There was no one around to force me to study, to go to class, or to get a good night’s sleep. However, to stay productive, I had to know how to control myself…I had to maintain my own schedule and develop my own study habits. So, generally in the days approaching exam time, I had to catch up with the rest of the class. Those were the times when I’d lots of work that even thinking about sleeping was a luxury. I would be pushing past midnight reading. On such occasions, it was hard to take a night off, even when my mental health depended on it. When my body said enough is enough and finally gave in, I would try to take a 20-minute nap but wake up 8 hours later confused as f*ck. 

It takes enormous self-control to go through the pressure of college life.
Generally, the pressures are financial problems and a lot of work to do. Though, personally I didn’t have any financial problems.

College life for me has been a series of the worst possible scenarios I could come in and during my final year, INES became a hellhole. The experience that can be deemed the worst would be when we had to submit our dissertations. After getting  the signature from my supervisor, I went to submit the dissertation only to find that 3 other different guys had to first review it before submission to the department. I was like…

It was like they took immense pleasure in tossing us around and making us wait. I always left the place swearing all the cuss words that I knew.

And I suppose this is what eventually brought about the problems INES is suffering from now, and what will probably be its downfall. INES Ruhengeri is a very bad university in terms of anything that management/administration should be really be judged on. It is terribly run. But things need to be tightened up, standards need to be improved. 

INES is full of people who really want to be there…like those students who ask a question that requires a 30-minute explanation, 6 minutes before the class ends. Seriously? And it always has to be to that professor who can’t leave a question unanswered. Those were the students who had obviously bought into a badly sold dream of bettering themselves and, at times, it was horrible to watch – knowing that they were doing five times as much work as me, but somehow we were still drifting along in the same leaky boat. Hehe. INES is an institution that needs a serious overhaul, but is instead potentially ruining the lives of thousands of people. 

Some people think being a student is easy. But being a student (especially being a student at INES) has never been easy. As with every struggle, studying calls for the grace of God. And the encouragement of friends and family.

College life, though it was fun at times, but make no mistake, it was exhausting. However, it has helped me grow as an individual.

The step into the real world is a scary one. Finding a job is horrifying because the job market is tough, now. It’s a real struggle and it’s hard to remain positive. Jobs that once took an associate’s degree now take a master’s, and debt-strapped students wallow in student loans. And there are those who are studying for a degree that may not be very helpful (at all) for finding work.

Graduation is glowing in all its golden glory a few days away. I’m super glad I’m finally done with INES… With all that’s cost me, I’ll not miss INES or anything that has to do with it. And I’ll not miss being a student any time soon.

Sincerely,
The student who won’t miss you.

It’s that time of the year

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, the festive season. Christmas has always been my favorite holiday and probably will always be. Ever since I was a child, I excitedly await Christmas because there is so much that I love about it. First, there’s the moving magic of Christmas carols. The joy of listening to Christmas carols can cheer one up, no matter how bad things in life may be. Second, the beautiful lights and pretty decorations that give a feeling of happiness. Decorating the Christmas tree with lights and other sparkly ornaments was enough to brighten even the most gloomiest of moods. It’s a pleasure worth experiencing. Third, Father Christmas.

I went to La Colombière School. Every year Father Christmas celebrated Christmas with us before school closed. It was the school policy to make sure that we, the pupils celebrated Christmas with the school management before we went for holidays. And I so loved that. I loved seeing the man in the red and white suit.

“How old are you?” He asks.

“Eight” 

“Have you been a good boy/girl?”

Then you nod. I always felt proud to receive a gift from Santa. So, whenever I saw Santa, I begun absorbing the Christmas spirit as if by magical Santa osmosis.

I loved making cards for Daddy and Mommy, plus all the decorations for closing day celebrations. A certain teacher who was our neighbor and who taught in baby class at school, noticed my artistic skills (which have long departed me). When closing day would be around the corner, she would ask for my help to make cards for her class. And I would get treats for my services.

Mums who still uses the decorations that we made in nursery school, evokes a wave of nostalgia that sweeps over me whenever I see them. It makes me excessively yearn for returning to the irrecoverable period.

Christmas was a time when I hoped to receive presents from my folks. Mom always bought us new clothes and shoes for the festive season. Everyone wears their best clothes for Christmas (hehe). For some families, the only new clothes they get every year are for Christmas. And the parties are a good place to show off the new clothes. If there was an auntie or uncle who had travelled from abroad to be with the family for the festivities, then we would also get some chocolates and sweets.

Christmas Eve has always been one of the biggest nights of the year, as it kicks off the festivities. And for new year, one song really puts me in the mood. The Bonane (Bonne Année) song by Orchestre Impala. I listen to the song and feel like I’m flying.

Now that the holidays are in full swing, I’m already absorbing the Christmas cheer vibes and I’m going to smile at everyone I encounter and say “Merry Christmas”

Oh and Santa, I have been a really good girl this year, so do you think you could give me an extra special present?