Monthly Archives: September 2014

Survival and my Mum part one

As you know, I’ve been a bit sorry for myself lately – physically and emotionally. Okay. I’ve been having a massive pity party but you know sometimes it helps to get it all out. Sometimes it doesn’t and we need to work through it by ourselves and it’s good to know the difference.

I’m far from perfect though and can’t always tell the difference but writing helps me and it’s cheaper than therapy! I know I have a long way to go to work through all my crap but hey, I’m a work in progress and this work in progress needs to start thinking happy thoughts.

A lot of this had been because I miss my Mum. A lot. Like every day a lot. She was my best friend and she understood me and my baggage in the way that only a Mum can. She stuck by me through everything and I always knew she loved me no matter what dreadful shit I put her through.

I often spend too much time feeling sad because she isn’t here and because I don’t get to share all the new amazing things that happen every day with her. She isn’t here for me to ask for her always incredibly wise opinion. She isn’t here to ask about great recipe ideas when I have totally lost my cooking mojo. She isn’t here to ask for the parenting advice I desperately need. But most of all she isn’t here to be the Nana that she so dearly wanted to be to her Grandchildren.

But then I started to think the other day that actually she is here isn’t she? After all I am half her! I have all the memories of all the years she was here too! So I am going to try and remember all the fun and awesome stuff about my Mum so that I don’t forget because sometimes I feel her memory slipping away and it scares me. I find it harder and harder to hear her voice and the way she hugged me tight. I don’t want that to happen because she was a very special lady.

I will write about what happened when she died but I’m not ready yet, certainly not at the moment.

So here’s some stuff about my Mum, to help keep her alive, because sometimes I pretend she is and I pretend I could just pick up the phone and she’d be there. It’s not denial. I know I can’t really do that but it is survival and we all have to do that in whatever form it takes.

My Mum was Jennifer Susan Greenacre (nee Oakes) She liked to be called Jenny and this year she would have been 70 on the 25th September. We would have done something special for her I like to think because she did love to have fun.

I have a great memory of her headbanging to Queen at my wedding with my dear friend Sue who also sadly passed away after my Mum. I like to imagine that they are being drunk and disorderly somewhere together with gin and Freddy Mercury.

Mum loved Queen and she wanted ‘Don’t stop me now’ played at her funeral but I couldn’t pull that one off as my dear Dad just couldn’t. I still feel to this day that I let her down on that one and am still trying to think up a way to make up for it.

She also loved her red Audi TT roadster and she drove around very cautiously in it with Freddy blasting out very very loudly. She wanted to be buried in it but I couldn’t pull that one off either, sorry Mum.

She really liked gin. See? I take after her…

She was very very funny and had a dreadfully infectious laugh. Once she started that was that. I remember being in France with the whole family and we were a bit tipsy at a cafĂ© where a mariachi band were playing. The trumpet player was definitely wearing a wig which unfortunately for him seemed intent upon rotating around on his head as he enthusiastically jigged about. This caused Mum to shout ‘WIGGY’ at every possible break in the music and then promptly look around innocently. Naughty Mum.

I had an Art teacher in high school who’s name was Mr G Bennett. I told Mum his christian name was Gordon and she came home extremely red faced from parents’ evening. It was Graham. Sorry Mum, it was just too good to pass up! She was trying very hard not to laugh whilst pretending to be cross.

Talking of parents’ evenings there was one rather special one where I had drawn a lovely picture of Mum and written a piece about how great she was and that she didn’t even jump on chair when we got mice in the house. It was the same parents’ evening where my sister had drawn a picture of Mum and Dad holding what appeared to be martini glasses with the caption ‘My Mum likes to drink a lot’. I remember her saying “So your teachers now think we are alcoholics living in a vermin infested house!! Great!!”.

Once Mum and I got so drunk at a Christmas party in our village that Dad had to get the car to bring us home. We lived about 300 metres away. I blame a certain Mr B and the vodka. well that was our excuse anyway. I was 16 and thought it was just orange juice. Oops. Oh well it was the 80s, it wasn’t such a nanny state then!! Sorry Dad.

Mum loved parties. She also loved food and was an incredible cook who could always rustle something up out of nothing. Her Christmas dinners were especially legendary! She studied home economics and needlework at college despite going on to teach Special Needs later in life before she retired early. She wanted to help my husband look after me after my diagnosis of MS.

She told me that a college assignment she once had was to knit a pair of gloves. She and her classmates suspected that the teacher had her favourites so they decided to repeatedly submit the same pair of gloves as they didn’t have to be all handed in at the same time. They all got different grades. She was right. She hated injustice. She told me that when she left college she sprayed FUCK YOU in weed killer on the grass bank facing the main building. I hope that was true and knowing Mum it probably was!

She loved Science fiction and read Asimov when it wasn’t cool and she went on to introduce me to Star Trek, Dune and Star Wars. I remember queuing in the pouring rain in Ambleside in the Lake District with her to watch The Empire Strikes back only to be turned away because the tiny cinema was full. We were devastated although still got to see it when we got home to Suffolk. I still remember both of us nearly in tears and so began my life long love of Star Wars which my children and thankfully my husband share with me.

She loved my husband and affectionately called him Big Chick much to his embarrassment and amusement. She often did it absentmindedly in restaurants for some reason and I remember when she died Ben saying broken heartedly between sobs “who’s going to say Big Chick pass the salt?”.

She made everything fun, especially Christmas. I remember feeling like all the fun had been sucked out of it as I realised that it was her that made Christmas fun. This was a few weeks after her death on the 7th of December 2006, barely 2 months after mine and Ben’s wedding. It took a long time and two children to help get that back. She always spent weeks choosing exactly the right gifts for everyone and she got it pretty perfect every time.

When I was in my twenties and had come home for Christmas one year, I woke up abruptly at 5am with her jumping on my bed. I asked her what the hell she was doing to which she replied “Revenge darling, revenge! For all the years you woke me on Christmas Day far too early!” whilst giggling.

So if you wonder where my refusal to grow old gracefully and my slightly strange sense of humour come from, as well as my love of gin, Sci Fi and the generally bizarre now you know….

She loved Monty Python, Spike Milligan, Billy Connolly and Only Fools and Horses. She loved my Dad so much she once said looking at him was like looking at a beautiful painting she could never tire of and she was fiercely but silently jealous of any woman who so much as glanced his way. She loved my sister and I more than her own life. She found life painful, rarely watched the news because she couldn’t bear the hatred and the hurt in the world. She was kind and gentle and couldn’t deal with conflict or disputes. She just wanted everyone to be happy.

She made us happy and for the time I got to spend with her I will forever be grateful. I wish that I had told her more often just how incredibly special she was and how I could never repay all the things that she gave up and did for me. I wish I could have said goodbye. I hope she knew just how much we loved her and still do.

I will try to remember her every day and for the memories to hurt less and make me smile more.

There is so much more but then isn’t that exactly how it should be?

Not how she died but how she lived. With joy and laughter and love and kindness.

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That little voice

I’ve been losing the plot a bit lately…huge confidence issues have been stirred up again and that little voice that tells me that I am not good enough and never will be has begun to get a little louder.

I am struggling.

I am under water, fighting for air and trying to get back to the surface and the little voice is there taunting me….

‘You thought you could run? You thought you could have a normal life? You thought you could beat all the demons and rise above the years of low self esteem and lack of confidence? You thought you could be a good parent, a good wife, a good friend? Really? You really thought you would get to have all that? You thought you wouldn’t get ill again? Silly girl…….’

I swallow down the hurt and the grief. I try not to listen to that little voice. I want my Mum. I want to be like everybody else. I want to run…….

…..because when I run it feels for a moment that I can run away from everything and silence that little voice with the pounding of my feet and the sound of my breathing and my heart beat that grows ever faster. When I brush the sweat from my face I am brushing away the years of illness, depression and grief at the loss of loved ones, good health and friends that once were.

I run from the hurt, the disappointment, the anger. I run from the tantrums, the tears, the constant demands. I run to fill myself back in where I have become hollow as what was once me has been sucked out over the years.

Who am I now?

Am I the girl who was bullied and told to be quiet, hush my smart mouth no one likes a too loud too clever child?Am I the girl committed in a relationship too young not knowing how to get out? Am I the girl that still doesn’t know what she wants to do when she grows up? Am I the girl always playing the joker, always wanting to be loved by everyone?

That little voice thinks it knows…..and I can’t run to keep it quiet right now because I have hurt myself and I am scared that I might not get better and then I won’t be able to run so that it can’t catch me.

So I have to find a way to quiet it because yes, I am all those things but I am more than that too.

I am a woman who fought to birth her babies at home.

I am a woman who refuses to be beaten by illness because what is the alternative?

I am a woman who fights through everyday without her beautiful mother to help and guide her.

I am a woman who adores her incredible best friend of a husband who never stops believing.

I am a woman who despite her harsh and selfish ways loves her children really so much more than her own life and wants the world to be beautiful for them.

I am a woman who will give everything for her friends who have become family through choice and everything for her family because blood is strong.

I am a woman who makes mistakes and can’t always fix them but tries anyway.

I am a woman who tries every day to rise back up to the surface and hopes that that little voice stays under

That little voice tells me I can’t.

I tell it to be quiet…..

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Starting school and more poo news

Well it has finally happened. My smallest small boy at barely 4 years old has started school.

My smallest small boy who is barely potty trained and is still tantrumming and hitting if things don’t go his way.

My smallest small boy who sometimes smells of strawberries and sometimes of damp dog despite us not having one.

My smallest small boy who wraps his arms around me and squeezes me just that little bit too tight so that I can’t breathe and snuggles into my neck all soft, whispering “I love you to infinity and beyond Mumma”.

I have waited and longed for this day, for the very difficult toddler years that I don’t cope well with to be over and for my freedom at last. How sad that sounds I know, it’s true though. I haven’t felt like a good parent this summer, shouting, controlling, trying to make order out of chaos, patience worn thin and feeling tattered and frayed around the edges.

I haven’t been very well this summer, my hypothyroidism spiralled out of control making me sure that the Multiple Sclerosis had taken a turn for the worst but it turns out that at best it was my thyroid and at worst it was a combination of the two. This isn’t an excuse for my shoddy parenting, just a contributory factor. One that I could do without though in the face of a new school year and a whole lot of new emotions to deal with!

We all tried extra hard over the holidays not to go on about “Big School” all the time as I know the pressure it can put on a small person who is already panicking about the unknown! I think I was just in denial though as I had just forgotten all the things that needed doing and all the uniform needed – jeeeeez!

Knowing what he is like I labelled everything and I mean everything including socks. Not pants though. Even I have a limit!! I just sat sewing labels into the smallest small shorts that even then looked far too big and just felt….I don’t know….scared. Excited too, don’t misunderstand me oh my god I knew I would be cheering with glee in the school car park the minute that I had dropped off my little darlings. But who would notice when he was hopping up and down needing the toilet but too engrossed in his current activity to realise? Who would cuddle him and rub his back to calm him down if he got upset and started lashing out? Hundreds of scenarios played themselves out in my mind as I calmly sewed the little name labels in, imagining him struggling to do up his buttons.

I sewed my love for him and my frustration at not being the parent that he so desperately needs at times into those labels, hoping that he would feel me with him in the moments he felt unsure and lost. Hoping that at least we had taught him kindness and compassion and that he would take with him all the things he had learnt from preschool where they loved and nurtured him in the safe environment he had grown to feel was a second home. I hope that he will grow to feel that about his new school in time.

I sewed my love for her into her labels, my strength to help her deal with the twists and turns of growing up as a girl, the challenges of friendships and emotional changes. She takes my breath away she is so beautiful and so smart and so courageous. She is everything that I would love to be, untarnished by grief and pain, new and shiny with all her life ahead of her. So excited and curious and questioning. I feel so full of love watching her on her journey.

The last few weeks leading up to the beginning of school term small boy’s poo problems returned. Probably a mixture of being in a less structured routine and his dawning realisation that things were changing. I tried to protect him from all of it but it is easy to forget that mentioning school can cause stress and hard to stop other well meaning people’s remarks of “Ooh you’re such a big boy now I bet you can’t wait to go to big school!” every single time we left the house.

He would have accidents and go off and hide his pants in the wash basket, get scared to use the toilet and start lashing out at us all again. We tried our very best to play it down, keep our cool and just pray every day that it would get easier for him. I had already pre-empted things with ‘Matron’ at school by explaining the ongoing situation and she was very supportive but I was still very scared.

The day arrived and he and his sister stood together in the kitchen in their new school uniforms. She, complaining because I had insisted on new dresses that had ‘growing room’. “Mumma I look like an idiot!!!” (okay she did look a bit like an orphan but I am a great believer in getting the most for your money) and he, with his feet so big in his school shoes that he looked like a puppy needing to grow into his feet and his unruly hair so short now.

I felt so proud of them whilst at the same time wishing so desperately that I could turn the clock back and do a much much better job than I have. Wishing that my Mum was alive to tell me that everything would be okay and that she had made all the mistakes that I had and see? it’s okay after all. God I missed her in that moment, I could barely speak as I felt my throat tighten with grief and pride and love all jumbled up together. I hope she’s watching all this somewhere I thought, I really could do with a hug right now. I know I look like I cope on the outside but it’s all a front a lot of the time, although less as time goes by. We’re doing okay all of us.

They both pottered into school with their bags, looking so smart. Big girl was thrilled to see her new classroom and looked so grown up it was untrue. Small boy skipped into his classroom and never looked back. I told him I was leaving and he said “Shush Mumma I’m building something!”. I spoke to his classroom assistant,who had also been big girl’s, about the toilet problems and she smiled and said “Oh don’t worry, lots of them have challenges and they all have accidents at some point! Some are still doing it when they leave us!!” she made light of it which was actually just what I needed. In that moment she made him just a normal little boy who sometimes has accidents just like everyone else and for that I will be forever grateful.

So, a week and a half in we are okay. I sent spare pants and we have had a few slightly wet pairs back but he has done all his poos on the toilet at home. He says that he doesn’t want to poo at school which inevitably means that he is holding a little but he is doing it at home, sometimes unprompted, which is amazing. I am not resting easy for one moment but for now I have 2 small people at school and they are tired but happy and that is all I want. For them to be happy. Although he made a sword out of cardboard yesterday and hit a poor girl in his class with it. I guess we need to work on impulse control a little.

Now what the fuck do I do with my life? Anyone want to offer me a job?

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