Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Spring has sprung. No really it has. Honest.

It's Spring, but no one has told the weather this apparently. This week began with snow and then today it was so sunny that I hung my swimming kit on the outside washing line. Ok so it's frozen solid now, but that's hardly the point. On the drive down to Lewes to record my radio show the sun was shining and I almost didn't take my coat with me to the studio. Of course I did wear it - I'm not a penguin.

I've always said that my favourite seasons are Spring and Autumn. For me they demonstrate the most change and the most promise of what's to come. Let's be honest - for a lot of us this year hasn't exactly promised much so far. Spring has to come soon and with it the blossom, the sunshine and some warmth. When Brown Bear was a baby I used to pick blossom from the trees and hang it from the canopy of his buggy so he could look up and see it as went for a walk. I loved showing him the beauty of nature and now that the boys go to forest school I'm delighted that they have a love of the outdoors and an interest in wildlife. Blue Bear will often pick up acorns, chestnuts or leaves and pop them in his pocket to show his teacher at nursery. It does mean I have to check carefully before putting his clothes in the wash though.

The other member of our family who loves nature is Neo. When he came to live with us from Battersea Cats and Dogs home he had been indoors for weeks and was desperate to go outside. He always loved sunbathing and we'd often find him lying in the sunniest patch of garden and when we moved to this house he loved the garden and the flat roof next door where he would jump up and lie all day. Moving only to follow the sun or to get a drink of water. He doesn't spend as much time outdoors any more and today as the sun streamed into the back room he stretched out on his beanbag and enjoyed the warmth without enduring the chill in the air.

I've often said I'd like to come back in my next life as my cat and on a day like today that is certainly true.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Hold on for one more day

You know in Austin Powers when he is horrified that he's lost his mojo ? Then he discovers it's been stolen from him and bottled. I hope that's what has happened to my blogging mojo. Since the start of this year I've been struggling to find the energy to put into writing so I've been absent. There have been a lot of things happening that have been difficult to process and I've promised to take better care of myself so instead of staying up late to write a blog post I make myself go to bed. Even if that means I'm then lying awake at least I'm lying down. I had no idea that grief can be so debilitating. It's exhausting. Practical nonsense has also stepped in and as I type there is a fan heater on in this room as it's more than two weeks since our boiler broke down and we have an ongoing issue with getting it fixed - well replaced actually. 

In the time I've been out of the loop there have been so many topics that have inspired potential blog posts and I've just not been able to write them. Things that I hope to get round to eventually, but for now they just circle in my head when I swim and I ponder what I might have written had I been capable. 

Me Too: There is so much to say about the outrage and indignation that has been unleashed by this movement. I deliberately haven't added my voice to this debate or used the phrase. Not because it hasn't happened to me - it has. I just didn't have the capacity to deal with all the feelings it would bring up. 

International Women's Day: I chose to spend my time on twitter this year adding my voice to the whole, 'hey why do women get a day all for themselves' issue. I was delighted to see that Richard Herring decided to use the platform he has on this day to raise a considerable sum of money for Refuge. Some good can come from misogyny I guess. 

Oxfam scandal: I worked in overseas aid for many years and have seen how unethical some areas of the industry can be. I'm not being cynical when I say I'm not at all surprised by this story. I am being realistic in that the power relationships that exist between those in need of aid and those providing it are already out of kilter. If you then add in the concept that aid workers are 'doing good' by even being there then you can go some way towards understanding how it happens so easily. 

I call BS: I remember the exact spot I was in when I heard about the shooting in Dunblane. It is deeply ingrained on my brain and to this day. Whenever there is a school shooting in the US and the same old tired cliches are trotted out it reminds me how incredibly sick I felt when I heard that it had happened in Britain. Except this time it is the children and young people who are speaking up for their own safety. I don't know if it will be any different this time, but I hope it is. 

These are just a few things I have been thinking about and just not been able to articulate on here. Staying out of the way of difficult topics hasn't protected me from them, but it has given me space to think. I'm spending time with my boys and making plans with Hubbie. Dedicating myself to the causes and people that matter. Training to run a half marathon for Macmillan and looking at haircuts that might suit when I cut all my hair off to raise money for their cancer services. Checking in with my lovely friend who is at the start of her journey with cancer treatment and with the widower of my friend who reached the end of hers. 

I don't know when I'll get my mojo back - I can't promise it will be soon. I hope to get back, so please bear with me until I get there. I'm mostly swimming, running and making radio shows - oh and watching Bridesmaids - a lot. 

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Sunday, 11 March 2018

Sunday Night disco

I've written about Sunday night syndrome before. That feeling of dread you get as the weekend draws to a close and Monday morning gets closer. To be honest at the moment I'm not sure what day it even is most of the time. It makes no odds to me anyway.  I think a bit of music therapy is in order.

Free Fallin' - Tom Petty:

Let it be - The Beatles:

Where are we now ? - David Bowie:

Sunday, 4 March 2018

The incredible sulk - and other inherited characteristics

In recent months Blue Bear has developed the ability to throw sulks on an epic scale. He's fun and energetic, but he's also quick to take offence. Just this week I've been told he hates me, he's not my friend, he hates chicken, his brother and pretty much anything that has fallen foul of his temperament. It was during one of these monumental sulks - complete with not one, but two foot stamps - that I said "he gets that from you," to Hubbie. I wasn't thinking really, but one of the reasons we were considered a suitable match for him was because of his resemblance to Hubbie. That seems to extend to his personality as well as his looks. 

This morning all the boys were in the back room playing a board game and I looked over. The similarity in their looks, behaviour and moods was quite startling. It's not often I consider what we've bequeathed to our children. This isn't even a nature vs nurture thing it's more that Brown Bear is nothing like me in some fundamental ways. He is brilliant at maths, is a gifted sportsman and is very sociable and popular. I take it personally that he isn't a keen reader as I have always loved books and reading. He just doesn't care for it. We do share a love of music and the arts though. I took him to the theatre last week which we've done since he was about 3 years old. He's had music in his life since before he was born and he's been able to hold a tune and recognise certain artists from an early age. I am a bit terrified that he's good at things I don't know much about. It's inevitable I guess as so much has changed since I was a child.

We took the boys to the cinema to watch Ferdinand - a movie about a bull who wants to defy the expectations of him as he would prefer not to be a fighter. At the end of the film I asked Blue Bear if he enjoyed it and he said he did. Hubbie told me that during the screening Blue had turned to him and said, "it's a sad movie Daddy." It is quite sad at times and I found I was moved by it so it's hardly surprising he would be too. It was amazing to me that not only did he empathise with the character, but he was also able to express the emotional respose he had to it. This is a new area for us with him and might go some way towards explaining why he's so aggressive and changeable at the moment. As he is becoming able to identify and name different emotions we can start to talk to him about how he came to be in this family. We have never made a secret of the fact that he hasn't always lived with us. It's important to us to do this in a way that is sensitive and thoughtful. 

I've noticed that if I give a treat to Blue Bear he will always ask for one for his brother. If I give something to Brown Bear he will take it and eat it. If I give them both something Brown will always ask if I have given him the bigger one or more of it. They are so different in some ways, but then I see Brown holding hands with Blue to help him walk on the ledge along a path. I'm also there when they have almighty rows and it's like negotiating between two superpowers with a low attention span. 

The more I spend time with these boys the more I see how they resemble me and Hubbie. More than anything they are like each other. I'm not sure I have the energy for this ! 

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

A reflection on time

Don't have time 

The one phrase that is guaranteed to annoy the hell out of me is, "I'm too busy." Not because I think it's not true. I trust that if someone has taken time out of their day to tell me they are busy they must really mean it. The reason it vexes me is because pretty much all of us have plenty enough to do. It's not a competition. Making time for others is my first choice. I might say I'm too busy if I don't want to do something, but it's unlikely.

In the nick of time 

On Sunday Brown Bear fell down the stairs. Well he almost did - in a moment of clarity that would have drawn appreciation from a ninja I caught him as he tumbled head first knocking the coats and a pot plant over as he went. Of course as soon as I'd checked he wasn't broken I shouted at him for falling - a panic response familiar to anyone who has looked after an accident prone child. He's still complaining that his elbow hurts, but since he was able to swim and play Sonic on the Sega Megadrive with Daddy yesterday after school I think it's a safe bet that he's going to be fine.

Before her time 

This phrase is so often used when someone passes away. It's true of so many and I'm still struggling to understand why my gorgeous friend died so young, so painfully and so quickly. I've listened as people have reassured me that it will make me value life more. That this happened for a reason and it will not have been for nothing. That her passing has given others the impetus to achieve in her name. For now, though, I'm still just very angry and sad. That's all I can cope with right now.

At the right time 

Our cat is getting old. He's on two pills - one for blood pressure and one for his kidneys and he has a special diet to support his weak kidneys. I know not everyone is soppy about animals and we do spoil him a bit as we are fortunate enough to be able to. As he gets frailer and spends more time indoors I want to make whatever time he has left with us happy and comfortable. It's the kind thing to do and he is one of the family. I can't think about a time when he won't be any more.

Time flies  

When I was a new mum everyone told me that the time would fly and before I knew it my Brown Bear would be a toddler and then a boy. I was advised when we adopted Blue Bear to write down my feelings and take plenty of photos because the memories would fade so quickly. I see them every day so I don't notice how much Brown and Blue have grown until it's startlingly obvious - like when they grow out of all their trousers at once. Recently I realised that Blue Bear is now confident, cheeky and outspoken. Brown Bear has a complicated social life with friends in different circles. I look at the photos and videos of them as babies and toddlers. Before Blue could speak, before Brown could walk. Before these little bears became brothers. They are my babies, yet I can already see the young men they will become. It really is happening so fast.

Take your time

I've always overextended myself and try to pack far too much into each day. I think it's because I don't like to let anyone down so I rarely say no to anything. Instead I end up trying to fit everything in and inevitably it leaves me tired and grumpy. I've spent the last year being schooled in how to practise 'self-care.' I'm still a work in progress at this. Spending time with Hubbie or with the children one to one has been a big change for me. Pacing myself and ensuring I also get enough rest is still a challenge though.

Quality time

The phrase does grate on me, but the sentiment behind it does not. It's often used to berate parents who are twitter shamed for being on their phones with a coffee cup in hand rather than playfully throwing their giggling toddlers into the air while expressing joy in the moment. A few years ago Hubbie asked me what I'd like for Mother's Day and I said I'd like him to take the boys to see Grandma. Friends and other mothers were horrified at my choice. I explained that I'm a Mum every day of the week and for just one day I wanted to just spend the day by myself. Last year I also booked a night away in a lovely hotel by myself. Now that is quality time for me.

Time is an illusion - Albert Einstein

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

How can you mend a broken heart ?

It's been a sad day today. I don't know why in particular. I went to see my hairdresser to plan the big haircut for Macmillan. I'm cutting off my hair and donating it to make wigs for children and we needed to see if it would be long enough to donate. When I was talking to him I felt so sad - not about the hair, I'm not that vain. It made me think about the reason I am doing this. It reminded me how overwhelmed I was when I made the decision to do this. Within hours of hearing of my friend's death I wanted to do something and that was what came to mind. I don't know why and I can't explain what I hope to achieve other than to raise a lot of money for a fantastic cause. 

As I was going about my day today I was listening to the radio. This song came on and I started to cry. A lot. However much I think I've come to terms with loss I really haven't at all. I remembered how the sun shone on the day of the funeral. The funeral director walking in front of the hearse and the tears in her eyes as she also knew Soraya and had arranged her mother's funeral a few years ago. Driving to the crematorium with a family member I'd never met before and making small talk until we got to the chapel. All the while the sun was shining and it was beautiful. 

So why was it that today as I remembered all these things I just felt so very sad. Empty. Hollow. Maybe it is because my heart feels broken.

Friday, 16 February 2018

Some kind of wonderful

On twitter today I spotted the charity Macmillan promoting random acts of kindess by giving out sweets in advance of random acts of kindness day tomorrow - who knew that was even a thing ? As you already know I have a lot of love for the work of Macmillan. They have supported and cared for people I loved and continue to do so for those who are left behind. I've consumed many cakes as both a host and a guest of Macmillan coffee mornings and this year I'm hoping to raise as much money as I can for them in recognition of the amazing work they do. Their aim to ensure no one faces cancer alone is inspiring and much needed.

Earlier this week I was in Brighton with they boys and my sister. As it is half term I thought we'd do some fun things together. The weather put paid to some of those plans as it was cold, wet and windy on Tuesday morning. I still went for a run, but it was pretty miserable and I did keep asking myself why the hell I was outside in such rotten conditions. The evening before, however was much nicer and I had booked to take the boys on the i360 which is on the site of the old West Pier. We'd had a fraught afternoon with the boys getting on each other's nerves - and mine - so I didn't hold out much hope for the trip. As we ascended Blue Bear held my hand tight and said it was like being on a spaceship. We looked outside the capsule at the lights along Brighton Pier as the sky grew darker. I realised the music that was playing was all on the theme of flying. The boys and I danced around and Brown Bear declared, "I thought it was going to be rubbish, but it's not." High praise indeed !

Of course it was also Valentine's Day this week. I know not everyone is into the whole cards, flowers, chocolates, etc. I'm not judging anyone's decision not to join in and I'll thank you not to make a comment on my slavish adherence to all the cliches. I got carried away with buying cards and in the end had to find ways to use them all up so I asked people to address the envelopes and post them from different locations so that Hubbie would get a load of post, but not know it was all from me. The failing in this plan was that I had forgotten I'd signed all of the cards from me. Hubbie gave me flowers, took me to lunch and bought me a hamper of Reese's treats - which shows he's been paying attention to my latest chocolate obsession. The highlight for me, however, was something really simple. When we were in the car he started humming a familiar tune. It took me a few moments to place it, but when I did it was joyful. The night before we'd been to the theatre to watch A Passage to India and the highlight had been the indian musicans playing live on the stage. The tune he was singing was a disco classic from a Bollywood movie. In the early days of our courtship I'd explained the words to this song (something like, "when you came into my life that was something to talk about" - I can't be entirely sure that's accurate though). I was so touched that he remembered the tune and our silly conversation.

Kindness is something I rate highly and when my children are kind I give them a lot of praise to encourage it. In recent weeks I've received such lovely messages from people I don't even know offering condolences for the loss of my friend. I have found a whole new world of kindess that I didn't know before where people have shown care and consideration to me. The week of her funeral was pretty grim. I was honoured to be asked by her widower if I'd like to give a speech and worried about getting it right. I also had a job interview to prepare for and it was all pretty stressful. I attended the funeral on my own as Hubbie was at another funeral for a family member which was attended by my parents and siblings. It was emotional and difficult. As I drove home in the dark - hoping to see my sons before they went to bed - I remembered I had a job interview in the morning. I did my best, but I didn't get the job. All in all it wasn't the best week.

At heart the secret to kindness isn't some great mystery. I do my best to be kind. I like to think it's something that I do as a matter of course. I saw something today that said if you do for someone else expecting anything in return that's not an act of kindness it's a business transaction. My Mum has always been critical of my closeness to my friends and how one-sided she thinks my friendships appear to be. I don't see them that way at all. I love my friends and I will do a lot for them. Sometimes you just have to accept that giving is no guarantee that you will get anything back.

Kindness is not a transaction it is an end in itself. Go forth and be kind.