I am who I say I am.

I haven’t written on here for ages. I haven’t really had anything much to say to be honest, it’s not that I don’t have anything going on, I do but there’s a lot that I can’t talk about because it’s not mine to discuss and it involves family and friends. I’m not going for one of those passive aggressive mysterious Facebook posts here I hope you understand, I just don’t think that it is right to share other people’s stories. That’s up to them. 

So what can I talk about? Well, I’ve taken my children out of the school they loved and moved them to our local school which I know they will grow to love just as much given time. Yeah. That was a biggy. 

The realisation that my husband and I had that we just could not continue financially if they stayed at the Independant school that they had been in since Reception was a bitter one. They loved it, we loved it, we had all made some amazing friends. We cried a lot and there was much heartache. It was not a decision that we made lightly and the tears really were for them not us because we can handle it (or so I thought). Telling them was the worst thing…..the confusion on their faces….even now they talk about their old school and I see the “why?” that goes unsaid. 

They are trying to make the best of it, it’s easier for my whirlwind of a 5 year old son. He is who he is and makes no apologies for it, if people don’t like him he just moves on and finds those who do. I aspire to be more like him. But under that bravado he misses his friends I know. My 8 year old daughter finds it much harder. She misses those friendships hard won over the last 3.5 years. She is struggling to find her place and she has inadvertantly disrupted the status quo in her new class, creating a new dynamic and there are consequences in that. I can’t protect her from that, how do I explain that sometimes children can lash out when they are unsettled or frightened by change? I have tried, I know it will just take time and I hope there won’t be too much hurt along the way for her and her friends. 

Children are fragile whilst at the same time being amazingly resilient. Which is more than I can say about me. I think I find this the hardest of all. I miss my friends, the children mainly take the school bus now so I don’t really see anyone and I feel disconnected from my old life and my new one. I feel in a strange sort of limbo that reminds me of how I felt when I moved schools when I was young. I must be careful not to let my own experiences colour my feelings about where my family is at right now and I try to be positive about it all in front of them.

I have told them that it is okay to be sad too because denying them their emotions and making them feel that they have to be super happy and enthusiastic all the time is really not helpful. It comes out in their behaviour at home though, they are more confrontational and emotional and regress to childlike behaviour and old rituals. They take comfort in watching tv programmes and reading books that they loved as little ones and want more hugs and reassurance. I do too. 

So that’s been one of the biggest things but really it is a first world problem after all, to choose between two really good schools and be in the fortunate position to do that. Really not a problem at all is it?

I just feel like I am constantly apologising for everything though. That I chose the path we took in the first place, that we have chosen a different one now. As well as apologising for what feels like a million other bloody things on a daily basis – that I don’t work, that I have MS, that I am trying to get as fit as my body will allow, that I have completely fallen out of love with cooking and borderline hate it now, that I find it really hard to maintain friendships through lack of confidence and self-belief, that I seem to forget everything and that I am just really tired most of the time. 

Why do we do it? We apologise for someone else bumping into us in a shop, we apologise for not being able to fit yet another thing into our already busy lives, we apologise for not being who we think we should be and who we think others think we should be. It’s like a constant stream of mental torture. I’m sorry for not being whatever perfect idea of me that you had. I’m sorry if you thought that when I said one thing you thought I meant something entirely different – when often these are our thoughts alone. Agonising and over analysing continually. 

We are constantly criticising and judging  ourselves and I have really been doing a number on myself over the whole school and friendships thing recently.

What I really want to say is – If I say I care, I do. If I say I have done my best, I have. If I say that I made the best decision based on the information that I had at the time, I did. If I say I am your friend no matter what, I am. If I tell you I love you, I do. If I say don’t hurt the people I love or you will regret it, then you can’t say you weren’t given fair warning. I am who I say I am. I am going to stop apologising for being me.  

I have found myself starting to apologise for going back to college even though I know it will lead to bigger and better things for me and my family. I feel selfish about it somehow. I love learning though and firing up my rusty old brain, it’s wonderful. So I won’t apologise for that again. 

I don’t think that I am coming to any particular conclusion here but the words of a dear friend came to mind as I wrote this “never apologise for what you have or haven’t got”. I want to add to that –

Never apologise for who you are or who you are not. 

Sorry for the ramble. 

Damn.

I did it again.

  

Fibs

Let’s face it, we all tell a little fib now and again don’t we?

Sometimes because we can’t face going into deep explanations, sometimes so that we don’t hurt someone and sometimes to save face.

Like the times we’ve told a friend that their butt really doesn’t look big in those jeans that they just spent a fortune on and obviously really love. And the time when we forgot someone’s Birthday and happened to leave the card at home that we haven’t actually bought yet. And the time when we hadn’t really double booked and couldn’t go out with a friend we just wanted to get our bras off, get into our PJs and watch crap on the telly.

(All my friends are reading this and crossing me off their Christmas lists, Birthday lists and possibly deleting me from Facebook as we speak. Oops sorry, I do love you all honestly and these are just examples I promise!)

And then there are the whoppers that we tell our children.

When I was little my Dad told me that a twat was a female fish when I asked him what it meant. Thanks Dad.

My Poppa told me that a haggis was a wild creature that lived in Scotland in the mountains. He also told me because it ran round and around the mountains the legs on one side of it’s body were shorter than the other so that it didn’t topple off. I totally believed him because he was my Poppa and I told all my friends.

One of my children’s teachers said that if you whistle inside a building your ears will eventually fall off. I use that one a lot. Genius. There must be one for recorders too?

And then there is Father Christmas. I mean really? We are teaching our children not to lie and every year we drag out the massive big fat white-bearded man clad in fur trimmed red. We can dress it up as Christmas spirit and how it all adds to the enchantment of childhood and so on but let’s not mess about here – one day our kids are going to know that Mummy and Daddy told them a big fat fib. I am not sure where to go with that. I remember my friend telling me that her son had come home from school saying that some of the boys had told him that Father Christmas wasn’t real. I held my breath knowing that one day this was going to be me. She had one of the best comebacks that I have heard and said “Oh. That’s a shame that they don’t believe anymore. They won’t get as many presents.” Her son decided to hedge his bets and keep on believing for a bit. Wise boy and smart Mum!

I still don’t know how I honestly feel about it all though. Part of me thinks “oh shut up everyone does it what are you wibbling on about” and then there’s the other part that shouted at her daughter twice this week for not being honest.

Let me elaborate. Earlier this week I noticed after school that my youngest had a very neat wiggly scribble on the back of his neck on the collar of his brand new school shirt. I had in fact sat lovingly sewing in his name label that morning at breakfast. I questioned him about it knowing that he can be a little sod and has a previous record of drawing on things that are not paper:

Boy “Mummy, I can’t reach the back of my collar can I and anyway it was my sister”

Girl (red faced and shrieking) “It was not me I would NEVER do that I did not draw on his collar!!”

Boy “She did!!! She did Mummy I am not lying!!”

Me “Beloved daughter. Did you draw on his collar? He can’t have done it because he can’t reach so someone else has done it and it wasn’t there when we got home. I didn’t do it, Daddy isn’t here and you are the only other person in the house. Apart from the cats and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t them.” Eat your heart out Miss Marple.

Girl “NO MUMMY WHY DON’T YOU BELIEVE ME I DIDN’T DOOOOO ITTTTTT!!!”

She is a terrible liar and I hope that she never plays poker when she is older.

Me “I know you did it because you are a rubbish liar and I can tell. I have asked you twice now and I am giving you the chance to tell me the truth”

Girl “I didn’t do it I didn’t and oh I didn’t there was a pen……it was in my hand…..I didn’t do it though…..then I wanted to hug my brother……..it was an accident.”

See what she did there? Snuck in a hug. Because obviously that makes it all peachy.

Me “So you did do it. Why didn’t you tell me the truth straight away?”

Girl “Because then I would get in trouble”

Me “But now you are in even more trouble because you lied. That’s worse. Plus you still are telling me a massive whopper because that is not an accidental-I-was-holding-a-pen-in-my-hand scribble. It is a perfectly neat zigzag.”

Cue massive meltdown, sobbing and running to her room slamming doors.

Sometimes I really am shit at parenting and have no bloody idea how to handle this stuff. She did it again yesterday when she suddenly announced “Ooh look Mummy I have a shorter bit of hair at the front sort of like a fringe, I don’t know how that happened?”. So I asked her “Did you cut your hair?” to which she replied “Noooooo Mummy I would never cut my hair”. And off we go again. I asked her 6 times and each time she denied it. I really had to go on at her and eventually she gave in and admitted another accident. We went to homework club afterwards at the local cafe and her friend said “She cut her hair in humanities!”. Gotcha!!

So is this a phase? A developmental stage? Or is it happening….she is beginning to enter the very grey area known as ‘becoming an adult’ where sometimes it is okay to tell a little white lie and sometimes……it really is absolutely not. I don’t know if I am well enough equipped to help her with this. I seem to be shouting a lot and then talking rationally, explaining that it is really important to tell the truth but this approach doesn’t seem to be working….

And it’s nearly Christmas…..

Work

Recently I ventured tentatively back into the world of work after many years. I had no idea how it was going to pan out but as with everything I went into it with hope and enthusiasm and figured that the best thing to do would be to give it a try. You don’t know until you give it a go do you? Optimistic me had surfaced and was ready for action!

So what happened? Well, I found out that after all these years my old anxieties and fears were still there. Can I do it? Am I good enough? What if I make a mistake? What if I can’t do it? What if they don’t like me? I didn’t realise how much my old fears of failure would rear their ugly heads like unwanted ghosts whispering away at me. I didn’t realise how much my innate desire to please would impact on my performance at work. But it did…..these things still matter to me it seems. I did not enjoy not being able to separate all of this from my daily work and the emotional effect it had on me.

My darling husband is more than aware of how crippling my fear of failure has been all my life and how much it has stopped me from challenging myself and doing new things. When faced with something that I cannot be my version of perfect at, my natural instinct is to run from it, making excuses as to why I can’t do it at the moment and go and hide back under my comfort blanket where there are no challenges or threats. (I do actually own lots of blankets in real life so maybe I should have seen the signs!! But hey, who doesn’t love a warm snuggly blanket?).

The trouble is that when you know this about yourself it is really really difficult to figure out when your gut instinct to walk away from something that isn’t actually working out and isn’t right for you is going into overdrive and is shouting at you “YOU ARE FLOGGING A DEAD HORSE AND MAKING YOURSELF CRAZY, WALK AWAY NOW!” and waving a big white flag at the same time. OR if you are just working through old fears. I think that is possibly the hardest thing to know.

I also still appear to have issues with authority and being told what to do as well as a huge fear of looking silly if I admit that I haven’t quite understood something. I tend to hope that things will become clearer as time goes on and that I can wing it and hopefully not get found out or that everything will suddenly click and I will know what I am doing. Sometimes this works and sometimes it really absolutely doesn’t.

So…..this week I made the decision to walk away. I realised that doing that when I knew something wasn’t right for me wasn’t failing or quitting and that was actually very very liberating. It has been a massively worthwhile experience and I have learned lots about myself which I think is always a good thing.

Things that I have learned:

I am very good at writing and editing.

I am passable at social media and am getting better.

I can learn new things but it takes time.

I have nice hands and am good at hand modelling haha who knew?

I can say no, I don’t understand and I am not doing that.

It is better to do one thing really well rather than lots of things averagely/badly.

I am learning when to walk away.

I am good at making friends.

I talk too much.

I care about what I do and I cannot detach myself from that.

I do not need to apologise for who I am and who I am not.

There are some really amazing people out there.

I have some awesome and very wise friends and you can never have enough of those.

I would really like a job but it has to be the right one for me and not make me into a crazy person.

I am good enough.

So if there is someone out there who would like a slightly sensitive person who is good at writing, cares too much about too many things and talks more than they should, give me a shout. But maybe not today!

My girl

I started writing this as a retort for one of the very funny “You know you’ve got boys when….” poems that has been doing the social rounds recently. 

Predictably my writing never quite turns out as expected so this is what I ended up with. I’m no Carol Ann Duffy or even Pam Ayres but I do quite enjoy a slightly poetic ramble. So here you go. 

My girl. 

Knickers on the kitchen tables, dirty PJs on the chair. 

I just can’t brush those tangles out and sticky honey’s in her hair. 

A feisty girl all spins and twirls with daydream eyes, lost baby curls. 

Pouty lips and hands on hips, dirty nails and bogey trails. 
Glitter pens and sequin skirts all covered in some kind of dirt. 
Fluffy bunnies, kitten paws, sticky sweets and notes in drawers, 
Baby blues with long soot lashes, tangled hair and temper flashes. 
Sparkly stickers everywhere, secret diaries on the stairs. 
Fancy dress, her room’s a mess, I can’t keep up, there’s change afoot – this little girl is growing up. 

I wonder what she will become? An artist, builder or a pilot?

No doubt her hair will soon be violet and I will hold my mouth tight shut and not say the words from long ago…

…no you will not leave the house like that with too small skirts and too high shoes! 

Where’s your favourite cuddly toy?
Please don’t go with that too old boy! 

He has a motorbike you say? Please don’t, I am already grey! 

For now she cares of friends and toys 
And tries to get her homework done. 
She reads and writes and draws and paints,
Plays games and dreams of times to come. 

I know these days will soon pass by
And I will miss her clothes thrown here and there and wonder why,
I spent my time tidying up
and shouting hurry up 
we need to go 
because we’re late. 

She will be gone in a twirl of glitter, sparkles and crazy hair 
And I will miss her knickers on the kitchen table and her stickers everywhere. 

  

Stop shouting Mummy!

Lately I have been shouting at my kids far too much, somehow it has become my default setting – shout first, think later. I don’t like it. I don’t want to be that sort of parent but somehow that is exactly the sort of parent I have become. Everything seems to annoy and irritate me. I have zero patience and virtually no tolerance. What has happened to me? More importantly when did this happen?

How the fuck I have I become such a grouchy parent?

Maybe if I write down the stuff that really triggers a cranky attack it will help me so here goes:

Having to repeat myself over and over again. For example (to Big Girl)

“In the morning will you please put your duvet back on your bed, turn your light off and shut your bedroom door.”

“Why?”

“Because you have eczema and asthma and if the cats sleep in your bed it will make it worse AND I have told you every day for the last 4 years and you get sad and grumpy when you are all itchy and sneezing.”

(To Small Boy)

“Please have a wee and brush your teeth”

“Nooooooooooo aarrrrgggghhhhhh nooooooooo I won’t you can’t make me!!!! I hate you!!!! Nooooooo!!!! Whyyyyyyyy??????”

“Because it is bedtime and we do this EVERY NIGHT!! IT IS THE SAME EVERY NIGHT!! BRUSH. YOUR. TEETH. OR THEY WILL GO BAD AND HURT AND FALL OUT!!!”

“Nooooooooo!!!!!”

You get the gist. It can go on for quite sometime. We use bribery, distraction but it always ends the same way – with one or both of us shouting.

And then there is just the kid stuff everywhere.

Bits of paper, sellotape, toys, bits of toys, stickers, half eaten food, sweaty socks, Lego, broken stuff, unidentifiable sticky stuff, pens with no lids leaking all over the carpet, underwear, dressing up clothes, clothes, books, junk modelling, sticks, more sellotape, CDs, bogies, snotty tissues, cuddly toys, drinks cups, magazines (oh that’s a whole other rant don’t get me started), the junk shit from the front of the magazines, loom bands, hair bands and so on….

Because it doesn’t matter how many times I ask them to put their shit away or put stuff in the bin they just don’t. And they don’t care. And then I start……

“Please tidy up, I can’t see the floor and it can’t be much fun in there for you.”

Then…

“I will give you pocket money if you tidy up”

And…

“If you don’t tidy up there will be consequences”

But it always ends with..

“TIDY UP YOUR RUBBISH OR I WILL PUT IT IN BIN BAGS AND TAKE IT TO THE TIP!!”

They still don’t do it and we all end up in tears – me because I have lost control yet again and them because I am scary.

So…I don’t want to go on like this because it doesn’t work and we all hate it and it is wrong. Ultimately it is wrong. I am not modelling good behaviour, I am not respecting them, I am choosing being right over being kind. I am choosing what other people think about my children and their behaviour and the state of my house over our wellbeing as a family. That is wrong.

They don’t need to be taught to do as they are told, they need to be loved. They don’t need harsh words, they need kindness and understanding and when did I stop realising that? When did I decide that it is okay to shout and bully my children into doing what I want because that is what fits in with my life?

When did I stop looking at them as the incredible miracles that they are and start seeing them as untidy, noisy little nuisances? Yes, I am cringing writing this because it isn’t true, it isn’t and I don’t believe that at all so WHY am I treating them as if that is exactly what they are?

It isn’t okay is it? There are no excuses. I chose to have them. It isn’t enough just to do that and hope for the best. I have battled through mental illness, grief and health issues so why am I not fighting as hard to be the parent that I know they deserve?

I have to try harder. So I am going to. A lovely friend posted a link to an article about stopping shouting. I know that is only part of it but it is something I can try to get better at. So thank you to my friend and to the writer of that post for the idea of becoming more accountable to your children. I have told mine that Daddy and Mummy are going to work harder at not shouting and that they can decide at the end of the day how we have done.

They are delighted and keep reminding us that we are not shouting anymore if they see a situation escalate. Yesterday we did pretty well. Today I am struggling, fighting emotions and feeling tearful. Perhaps I have become so used to shouting as a way of release that my emotions are spilling out of me in different ways now. I am trying to be kind to myself. I am trying to be a better me for my children. I am trying. I will keep on trying…

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Losing Mum. Part 2.

I have wanted to write this for a very long time whilst at the same time really really not wanting to. It’s more of a need than a want I suppose. I need to write it down. I don’t want to because it will hurt but if I don’t then I will forget and that hurts more. It is an itch I need to scratch, a scab that must come off. A purely selfish act.

How someone dies isn’t who they were. It is the end of who they are but not the end of them entirely. They live on through us, through their deeds and actions and so in turn they are part of us. Not just genetically but through the connection that they made with us whilst we were here together. Their death hurts us. We feel their absence. They have been ripped away from our timeline. We grieve not for what we have lost but for what we can no longer have. For what we cannot share with them any more.

So this is what has taken me eight years to write down. It isn’t a perfect account but sometimes it is okay for things and people to be good enough. I hope it is good enough.

Jennifer Susan Greenacre (nee Oakes)

25th September 1944 – 7th December 2006

It was 10am ish and I was at home in Swindon, still lazing about in bed thinking about Christmas. So looking forward to going home to Northamptonshire to spend it with my parents, my sister and her husband and my husband Ben’s family. I was still so happy after our wedding that October and I had spoken to Mum the night before to tell her that Ben and I were trying for a baby.

It had been a funny phone call. Mum called me from her home in France (she and Dad lived there part of the year and Northants the rest) to tell me that she was having a 70s dinner party that night. She was ridiculously excited because she had managed to track down a Black Forest gateau which she felt was an essential for the evening and we laughed about it, reminiscing about 1970s food – prawn cocktails and cheese and pineapple hedgehogs. I told her we were trying for a baby, it would be her first grandchild. She was over the moon and I pictured her face and her reaction when I would tell her I was pregnant. I couldn’t wait!

At the end of the phone call she said “goodbye darling” which you might think normal. But it wasn’t. She phoned me and my sister almost daily and Vikki will vouch for me on this that she always ended her calls with “I love you! Speak soon!”. I know it’s easy to say with hindsight but it felt wrong. I rang her back with a made up excuse about a recipe I needed and made her say it. “I love you”.

Daydreaming about all the fun there was to come I suddenly snapped back to reality as I heard the front door open and close again just as suddenly with a bang. I froze, remembering that I was in bed not properly dressed, listening to the footsteps thundering up the stairs.

Suddenly my darling husband Ben appeared in the bedroom doorway. His face was grey and he had obviously been crying. I remember him saying “Your Dad rang me, it’s your Mum…..” His voice trailed off and in that moment I knew. I knew that he wasn’t going to say that there had been an accident or that Mum was in hospital. My beautiful, brave and wonderful man, my best friend in all the world, had come home to give me the most devastating news.

Before he could speak I said “Please don’t say it please. Please let me not know just for a minute longer please…” Then there was just silence and then the words came “Your Mum had a heart attack this morning…I’m so so sorry baby….she died this morning…..”

I don’t remember much then. Just beating his chest as he tried to comfort me and pushing him away as if somehow by saying it he had made it happen and that this was not real, it couldn’t be real and I could hear screaming over and over. It was a while before I realised it was me.

I don’t know how long it took before I could speak coherently. When I finally could though I remember saying that we had to drive to Northamptonshire immediately. In my grief I had forgotten entirely that they had been in France.

Finally I spoke to Dad. He had called Ben at work because he didn’t want to tell me whilst I was home alone. He could barely talk and when he did he said “I need you princess please come”.

I remember speaking to my sister, both of us sobbing down the phone, barely able to understand each other but knowing that we had to be together somehow. She and my brother in law drove from Milton Keynes whilst Ben silently booked flights and a hire car and I randomly threw things into a suitcase.

I went next door to see my neighbours and sobbed in my dressing gown and pyjamas whilst sitting on their sofa. I went back home and called my ex husband and we cried together as I knew he had kept in touch with her and that they were still very fond of each other. I rang my best friends and they listened with disbelief.

My sister finally arrived and I remember running outside in bare feet and we stood there on my driveway holding onto each other for dear life, crying in the pouring rain.

We all drove together to Bristol airport. Queued to get on the plane with tears streaming down our faces. Once on board I had to explain to the air stewards that we weren’t terrified fliers but that our Mum had just died. They left us alone and we drank gin to dull the pain.

Somehow Ben and Pete found the hire car in the dark and managed to navigate us to La Pistoule, Mum’s beautiful home in France.

Dad was waiting for us on the steps, his hands clamped tightly over his mouth as he tried to hold in the grief that threatened to burst forth at the loss of his dearest Jenny, his best friend and love of his life. His wife was gone and so was our Mum. Forever.

Then he told us.

It had been 10 hours since Ben came home to tell me she had died and Mum’s body was laid out in their bedroom upstairs. She would be there overnight. They would collect her in the morning. He thought that we would want to say goodbye.

We didn’t want to see her like that. We wanted to remember her how she was. She didn’t look like her. They had already embalmed her and she looked like a waxwork. I couldn’t even look at her properly. I wanted to kiss her, to touch her but I couldn’t. I was paralysed with fear and grief and I knew that she would feel cold and wrong and dead.

My sister collapsed sobbing in the doorway. I knelt at Mum’s bedside unable to touch her or look at her.

I barely slept that night knowing she was only a wall apart from me and Dad slept on the sofa in the upstairs lounge outside their room.

The next morning Stephanie, Mum’s friend, their gardener, came in to see Mum with me and talked quietly to me in French and held me whilst we cried together. She had seen the bodies of her relatives laid out before when they had passed away but we hadn’t and we were unprepared and it scared us in our grief. I regret not holding her hand one last time and not kissing her goodbye but I couldn’t and I didn’t know what was wrong with me.

It was years later when I finally got help for my second lot of Post Natal Illness that I discovered that I was also suffering from untreated PTSD. The two combined meant a misdiagnosis of Bipolar disorder which has since been revoked but not before I struggled through weeks of taking anti-psychotics and anti-depressants whilst trying to look after a 3 year old and a baby. This was no-one’s fault and I don’t blame my Dad at all. He was grief stricken and was coping in the only way he knew how. He thought it was the right thing to do.

The coroners came to take Mum away down the steps that led from her bedroom to the gravelled side garden. Vikki and I hid until they had done it. We couldn’t bear it.

Afterwards we went to clear up in their bedroom. We found her nightdress cut to shreds and the empty adrenaline needles and packets in the waste paper bin. We had to try to piece together in our minds exactly what had happened as Dad wouldn’t tell us much at all. He still can’t talk about it even now, eight years later. We wish he would, he thinks he is protecting us but not knowing is worse. We have to respect his choice though and his right to privacy no matter how hard it is not knowing the full story of Mum’s final moments.

We stayed at the house for over a week in the end I think, maybe two. There were tears and fights and dark times. I smoked too much and couldn’t eat properly. It was December and so cold and the only slippers Vikki and I could find to buy were giant blue monster ones which looked wrongly comical starkly contrasted with our pale, heartbroken faces. Dad, Vikki and I divided a long list of family and friends between us and took turns calling them all to tell them Mum had died. It was horrible, reliving our pain through them and hearing them unable to speak and some, like us, screaming in shock.

We arranged for Mum’s body to be repatriated back to England with the help of a wonderful English lady who dealt with that sort of thing but the airline lost the paperwork and everything was made all the more difficult.

Dad initially wanted her cremated but we couldn’t bear that as we knew she had always wanted to be buried in the Lake District, in the Langdale valley with her parents. In the mountains that she loved. So we pushed for the funeral there which it finally was but not until the 23rd of December. And not until after we had re identified her body at the hospital in Kendal where they had to do a post mortem examination to determine the cause of death. I remember my sister crying and saying in a very small voice “Dad why won’t she wake up, why can’t my Mummy wake up”. It was devastating all over again.

Mum had died of a fatal heart attack. She had severe sclerosis of the arteries of her heart. She had smoked up until 2 years before her death and she drank and ate what she liked and never exercised in later years. She knew she wasn’t well, she couldn’t walk far. We all begged her to go to the doctors about it especially as she’d had two minor strokes (TIAs). She wouldn’t. She didn’t want to know. She used to say “I don’t want to get old and dribbly and if I go mad just stick me in a home, I won’t know after all will I?” So congratulations Mum, you did it your way in the end as you always did. At home, in your own bed, in your sleep.

I wrote the eulogy with Dad’s help, he couldn’t face it and I stood up with Ben supporting me and read it in the Church in Chapel Stile. I felt like I was floating a over my body watching myself speak whilst praying that my body wouldn’t fail me, I knew an MS attack was imminent. I still couldn’t believe it was happening.

I still can’t.

I just kept thinking that she wanted Queen’s “Don’t stop me now” played at her funeral and that Vikki and I had promised her and we didn’t do it because Dad didn’t want to. I still feel that I let her down.

I remember us all trying to have Christmas together at their house in Northamptonshire, ironically now only 15 minutes from where we live. It was an awful time, like we were actors in a very very bad play. I remember standing at the kitchen sink with Ben’s Mum and asking her “when will it stop hurting so much?” As her Mum had died only a few years previously. She looked away and replied “you really don’t want me to answer that”.

I realised that the reason we all loved Christmas so much was Mum. She was our Christmas. She loved it so much. It was a long time before I did again.

Mum was 62 when she died.

She never met her Grandchildren – my children Isobel Jennifer Rose, Jack Alfred Roger and my Sister’s son Mason. She never saw them take their first steps or in their uniforms ready for their first days at school.

She didn’t see me run the Race for Life 10k twice last year after my diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis 14 years ago. She didn’t see my Sister train to work at the preschool she is currently at after finishing all her qualifications. She never saw me finally pass my driving test. She never saw me and my sister finally come through the worst of our years fighting mental illness. She never saw us become Mums.

She did see us both marry our loves though and I know that she died believing we were safe and cherished.

We miss her and we always will.

Mum, I am so sorry you never got to spend your retirement years with Dad as you planned with your Grandchildren around you. I wish you were here to guide me and comfort me. I wish I had been given the chance to repay everything that your gave to me and sacrificed for me. I wish that I had said thank you more. I wish that I had said goodbye….you did say goodbye though didn’t you? I just wasn’t ready to hear it…..

Goodbye Mum.

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Grown ups

I made a comment in a recent blog post about not feeling like a grown up. As I wrote it I thought – more on that later – because in all honesty, I really need to know that I’m not the only one out there who genuinely thought that once they got past 40 that they would somehow transform into a proper, fully fledged grown up.

I do believe I actually thought that I would no longer feel like I was “faking it” and that by the power of whatever I would magically transform into a bonafide adult who knew exactly what she was doing, had a purpose, a calling and felt entirely satisfied with herself.

Um…

Isn’t happening….

I am sure that someone promised me that this would happen.

Someone asked me the other day what I wanted to be when I grew up. I couldn’t answer and the reason that I couldn’t answer was because I still don’t know for sure. I thought that one day I would know, the mists would clear, that there would be that “thing” that would make my heart sing. But I am still waiting for it. I vaguely remember thinking about being an artist and then not thinking that I would be good enough. I think that I thought that about being a writer too and possibly lots of other things.

So I didn’t.

I was waiting to feel like a grown up so that I could make the right decision. I realise whilst writing this that I am still waiting.

So what do I do now? I am hit with the realisation that grown ups don’t actually appear to exist and no one seems to really know what they are doing apart from world leaders and maybe even they are bluffing which is REALLY scary.

I do a fair bit of voluntary work but even that I just sort of fell in to because someone asked me if I would be interested. Maybe they thought I looked like I knew what I was doing or perhaps they just wanted to give me a chance. I think the latter probably. I love what I do there, I get to share my experiences sometimes in the hope that they might give others clarity and learn so much from all the amazing people I meet. Very inspiring.

But I still don’t feel like a grown up!!!

AND I still want to…..

stay in bed all day, go to festivals, dance until I can’t stand up, drink too much, get stoned and laugh until it hurts, dress inappropriately, get lots of tattoos (I am going to get one I’m just indecisive), stay up all night talking crap to friends and random strangers, go on crazy adventures, back pack around the world, live in a commune…..

Be Wonder Woman!!

That’s what I wanted to be when I grew up. Wonder Woman. I remember now…the hair, the outfit, the fabulous gold rope. I won a fancy dress competition dressed as her when I was about 7 years old despite having blond her and pink NHS glasses. I was fabulous. I felt like I could do anything, be anything, the world was my oyster and I was invincible.

Maybe I don’t want to be a grown up. Maybe I just want to be a 7 year old dressed up as Wonder Woman. Can anyone see a career opportunity here?

Anyone?

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