What Not To Buy The Menopausal Woman This Christmas

 

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In the spirit of the season, I am imparting my menopausal wisdom onto the male of the species so that they may not only survive Christmas, but gain valuable brownie points by not buying something totally crap for their hormonally challenged other half.

If your significant other is going through the *whispers* change of life, then read on, this post is for you.

If she isn’t at this stage of life yet, read for future reference. You’ll thank me!

Jewellery

Steer clear of chokers if, like me, your beloved has acquired an extra chin. Or two.

Lingerie

Us women know how you men love to wander through the lingerie department on Christmas Eve. It adds a little frisson of excitement with the added bonus that you just might get your leg over this festive season if we neck down enough mulled wine. It is Christmas, after all!

Reality check..

The skimpy bits of string modelled by anorexic looking dummies will most likely not translate as well onto your other half’s posterior. Thongs (bum floss) should only be worn by those with a functioning bladder.

Perfume

You’ll still be in an hypnotic trance brought on by the sight of all those bras and knickers as you stray into the land of the orange people (the beauty section) whilst looking for the exit. The combined scents of the perfume section are just about to put you in a coma when you have a brainwave…

“I know, I’ll buy the light of my life her favorite perfume – the delicate floral one she’s worn for the last thirty years”

Alas, due to hormonal changes, that perfume now smells like fox pee and will continue to do so until her hormones settle down again.

Cautionary note…

My dad bought my mother some Tweed when she was going through the menopause in the 1980’s. I now associate that smell with flying plates and slamming doors. I get flashbacks whenever I smell it.

Anti-Ageing Products

In the name of all that is Holy, DO NOT buy the menopausal lady anti-ageing make up or skincare products. You might as well write “Merry Christmas, you old crone!” on the gift tag.

We all buy it but you’re not supposed to know that. It’s our little secret.

Body Hair Removal Appliances

My OH asked me if I would like an “all singing, all dancing” body hair removal thingy for Christmas. I replied, “Yes dear, if you don’t mind spending the day at A&E having it surgically removed FROM YOUR ARSE!!!”

We might be turning into Sasquatch at an alarming rate but we deal with this in the beauty salon (if posh) or the bathroom with a Bic (if not). It’s our secret.

However, it is perfectly acceptable for women to buy their middle-aged OH’s nose and ear hair trimmers…

Stuff what requires AA batteries (or a small generator)

As you wander up the high street clutching a carrier bag containing naff slippers and a bath bomb, you spot a well known British multinational retailer company specialising in sex toys and lingerie, and think, “Ah ha!, I will buy my sweetie pie a little something to ‘blow out the cobwebs’ as it were.

Problem is that, being a bloke, you’re bound to buy something totally inappropriately sized for a woman who’s squeezed out babies the size of, er, Wales. So your ‘purse’ sized one will pail into insignificance compared to the seven inch bad boy she’s got stuffed in an old boot at the back of the wardrobe.

Get out of there, now!

No, don’t stop to look at the French maids outfit! (or the pretty girl serving behind the till) Your good lady is hormonal (bordering on psychotic) and more likely to strangle you with it than flick a feather duster around in it.

Kitchen Knives

Not a good idea for a woman who’s bang out of oestrogen to be honest…

Anything from Poundland

No.

Books

Steer clear of murder mysteries – don’t want to be giving her any tips.

Petrol Station Goods

Rest assured, if Schnookums rips open the wrapping paper on Christmas morning to find an ice scraper and a Magic Tree (or cheap equivalent) you’ll die.

A Onesie

In my opinion, the onesie is the worst fashion crime since the shell suit.

Hot sweats, malfunctioning bladders and general insanity make the onesie a no go area for menopausal ladies. “Eh-Oh!!” for sure or “soggy bottom” as they say in the Great British Bake Off!

Ped-Egg

You would only buy this as a gift for somebody you truly despise.

This year, I asked OH to have Alan Titchmarsh gift wrapped for me, complete with wellies and trowel. In return he can have Wendy James (Transvision Vamp).

Ol’ Wend doesn’t have quite the same allure as she did in the 80’s (when OH was spotty) whereas Titchmarsh has aged like a fine wine and can still lay a decent patio.

I hope my little what not to buy guide helps to keep the yuletide A & E free.

Just to add that this isn’t representative of all menopausal ladies, so don’t panic! Some are total Goddesses. Sadly, I am not.

The one thing women don’t want to find in their stockings on Christmas morning is their husband.~ Joan Rivers

Image Credit Via Flickr

The Ghost Of Christmas Past

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Christmas is supposed to be a time of great joy but my dad died on a Christmas Day. Of all the days, it had to be that one.

Losing somebody you love on any day of the year is hard enough but to lose someone on Christmas Day just intensifies the pain. My world was in the bin and it was as if life was taking the piss. I listened to Noddy Holder scream out “IT’S CHRISTMAAAAAASSSS!” and pondered how cruel life can be..

Mum (Ma) and Dad always made a big deal about Christmas. Having three children and not much money, Ma started buying our presents in September. They both worked hard to make Christmases magical. I love them so much for that.

Ma usually put the decorations up (with me hindering her all the way) but one year she allowed Dad to put them up. The result was that our living room looked like Santa’s grotto. He really went for it. We loved it, Ma absolutely hated it. It turned her orderly world upside down. She tolerated it but could have out-smoked Dot Cotton through the stress of not being in control.

Ma loved to remind me of the time I sang Jingle Bells on the bus in the middle of summer and how amused the other passengers were. Apparently I was ‘jingling all the way’ from the bus station to our bus stop. I loved Christmas, you see, and when you love Christmas it’s in your heart.

Once Christmas With Bert Kaempfert and his Orchestra hit the turntable, we knew that the boxes of decorations would soon be brought down from the loft. Once opened, they would unleash an aroma acquired by decades of dust and nicotine. I especially loved the fairy lights… I still do. In my opinion, fairy lights should be for life, not just for Christmas.

I was 6 years old when, a week before Christmas, my paternal grandma died. I was too young to understand but now I know how hard it must have been for Dad.

On Christmas Eve in 1978, I risked the wrath of Ma to go downstairs and get a drink of water. Unfortunately I saw Dad putting the presents under the tree. In a moment of defiance, the magic was lost.

I remember my maternal grandparents coming for Christmas…Nan enjoying her brandy (bottle of) and Grandad with his whistling deaf aid and wheezy chest. In 1983, aged 81, the wheezing stopped as his heart gave up. Nan was lost without the man she’d loved for over fifty years. She only lived for two more years before she became unwell. Ma went to look after her and one morning Nan told her she’d had a strange dream that Grandad had ‘come for her’. In the time it took for Ma to go downstairs and make a cup of tea, Nan had a massive stroke and died. I like to think that Grandad was there and it wasn’t just a dying brain playing tricks.

I was fifteen and old enough to understand about death but not the depth of grief my mum was going through. Her heart broke again when Dad died but this time, mine broke too. Now I understood the pain of losing a parent.

Ma never stopped missing her mother and often told me to make the most of her because, one day, she too wouldn’t be here. I always told her that she’d have nagged me to death first…

The surreality of Dad’s death in a hospital ward which was in party mode is something I’ll never forget but reality hit when we returned to the family home to see his presents unopened under the tree and his empty chair. The house felt cold, despite the heating being on. It was as if the house itself was grieving.

Over the next 15 years, Mum came to us (or my brothers) for Christmas. It was never the same, how could it ever be the same without Dad? But we made the effort for her and the children’s sake. It’s what you do.

In 2010, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had to have Mum at ours that Christmas. I can’t explain it, I just knew that I had to. She loved being with S for his second Christmas. I held her tighter than usual. When she went home I was overcome with emotion. I lay down on the bed she’d been sleeping in and cried until the tears ran dry. I’d put a letter in her suitcase telling her that she was the best mother in the world and I loved her so much. She phoned me later to tell me she’d found it. She got emotional (it took a lot for Ma to cry) but I put it down to the pain of her arthritis getting her down.

That was the last Christmas I’d ever spend with her because eight months later my beautiful mum was dead.

There’s not much I wouldn’t give to see my parents here this Christmas but I know they’ll be here in spirit. In the spirits knowing those two! And who knows, maybe Mr Kaempfert himself will be serenading them as they dance around the stars.

Life has taught me not to take time for granted. We all think we have lots of time but life just isn’t like that. It sometimes gives a warning before it takes a loved one or it blindsides you on a summer’s morning. What I am trying to say is we should live in the present and make each moment count.

My parents live on in me, my family and the music of Bert Kaempfert.

Instead of feeling sad for what I’ve lost, I am happy for what I had and what I had were the best parents and grandparents a girl could ask for.

When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things- not the great occasions – give off the greatest glow of happiness. ~ Bob Hope

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Friendship In A Digital Age

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On Christmas Day in 2011, 42 year old Simone Back posted this message to her 1,082 Facebook ‘friends’.

Took all my pills be dead soon bye bye everyone.

The police knocked the door down the next day and found her body. She’d killed herself.

Nobody went to help her, despite some of them living within walking distance of her house. There were some who were desperately trying to get her details but unfortunately were out of town.

As if this isn’t bad enough, while she lay dying, some of her so called ‘friends’ were taunting her.

This person replied,

She ODs all the time and she lies.

It makes me feel incredibly sad. The lady was in mental distress and was reaching out for help. Where was the compassion? Where were all her so called friends?

Can online friendships be real friendships?

Despite the heartbreaking opening story, I think so.

I’ve made some really lovely online friends who I genuinely care about. I might not have have the pleasure of meeting them in person yet but they are part of my life and they matter to me.

There was no such thing as social media when I was a kid. We had pen friends and it was exciting waiting for a letter to come through the post. I had a French penfriend and remember that she had beautiful curvy handwriting and used little hearts instead of dots above her i’s. I remember that I tried to write like her for a while but no matter how hard I tried, my writing still looked like a spider had rolled in ink and break-danced across the page.

Like most people of my generation, I have adopted social media and found it to be a lifeline..

Even my Ma went online! She was absolutely delighted when she realised that she could bollock me via MSN. I’d jump a mile every time the little box pinged up saying, “I know you’re there, Madam!!”

Being the parent of an autistic child in a mainstream school can be socially isolating. I am the mother of ‘that child’. I am a pariah – a social outcast.

Or this was the case until recently when I found a fellow autism mum at school. We’re now good friends. Hurrah!

And just this week another mum came up to me at school and asked if I was S’ mummy. My heart sank and I thought, “Shit…what’s he done now?” but she surprised me by asking if we wanted to go on a play date! I picked my jaw up off the floor and thanked her. Maybe my pariah days are over?

It’s lovely to be able to go to somebody’s house, sit with a cuppa and have a chat, safe in the knowledge that my little boy can be himself. Being able to talk to someone who ‘gets it’ is wonderful. I get hugs, too.

But in general, me and the boy are given a wide birth. He might be oblivious to the judgmental stares but I’m not. Sometimes it gets to me and that’s where the online support becomes invaluable.

Added to that, oh joy of joys, I’m agoraphobic!

I struggle in crowded areas and can’t stand where all the parents congregate without hyperventilating and touching my house keys umpteen times. After 44 years I’m used to being me. I’m probably labelled as shy (or weird) by the yummy mummy’s club but it’s not shyness and I don’t really give a shiny shite what they think anyway. Eff the lot of em, I say!  It does isolate you though because you try and avoid those situations which make the old circuits spark.

My little man displays challenging behaviour and it is mentally exhausting. but whenever I’ve really needed to ‘talk’ to someone, without fail, there’s always been somebody there. It makes the difference between coping and crying myself into a coma.

We all need friends. We all need to communicate with others. We are a social species. Even the most introverted of us needs a friend. We need to feel loved, appreciated – needed.

People with friends (and I mean friends, not just a trillion Facebook ‘friends’) live longer and are happier. Lonely people are more likely to die younger. Now there’s a sobering thought…

When my mother died, there were a couple of special ladies who were there for me. I’d never met them but they got me through one of the worst times in my life. One of those ladies also has an autistic son and she was there for me from the very beginning of our autism journey. I am indebted to her. She’s a lovely person.

The posse of online autism parents support each other and that support means so much. We are a band of mothers fighting for our special children. If one of us is having the day from hell, the others step up and offer words of comfort. It really helps.

Social media is an eclectic mix of personalities. It gives the narcissists a platform on which to inflict their relentless selfies on the world and puts like minded people in touch. It allows the socially awkward to be themselves without the obstacles which hinder them in ‘real life’. The downside to social networking is that it allows for anonymity and while that it a good thing for those who have a genuine reason for wanting to remain unknown, it unfortunately leaves the door open for abuse.

My life is enriched by a few special friends and they know who they are. They make me smile most every day and are proof that online friendships can be a real friendships. I would never ignore their cry for help and I hope they would never ignore mine.

Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself…. ~ C S Lewis

 

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63 Not Out

The news has been dominated by the sad loss of Phillip Hughes, a 25 year old cricketer who died after being struck on the neck by ball during a match at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

His death has been very public, as has his funeral.

Tragedy brings out the humanity in people and it’s been an incredibly moving sight to see the bats laid out in remembrance of the young man who loved his cricket.

As a former ‘cricket widow’, I understand the love of the sport. I have a place in my heart for the game which dominated my life for twenty years. On a beautiful summers day, with a book on the go (for the boring bits) and a glass of wine (or three) what’s not to love about it?

I was uncomfortable with the intrusiveness of the tabloids – his poor mother’s grief there for all to see. No mother should have to bury her child. That’s not the way it’s meant to be. But the media also showed us the compassion of cricket fans the world over. In this grief there is love and unity.

Australia’s captain. Michael Clarke, gave an emotional tribute to his friend.

This truly must be what they call ‘the spirit of cricket’.

Michael Clarke may have his critics but I like him. He played for my (now) local team in 2002 in the Lancashire League. As a captain his role has been tested both during and the days after the accident. He has won the admiration of his country. He’s certainly won mine.

No captain envisages a day where they will be called upon to deliver a message from a heartbroken family nor a message on behalf of a stunned team.

On what must have been one of the hardest days of his life, Clarke delivered an emotional speech in memory of the man he considered to be his “little brother”.

So what now for cricket?

Protective helmet sales in Australia have increased by 70% since the accident and that’s a good thing.

ECB guidelines are that under 18’s must, without exception, wear a protective helmet. It’s standard practice throughout England and Wales. There are no such rules in adult club cricket. I’ve known many cricketers who’ve refused to wear helmets for various reasons such as comfort, ability to see the ball, cost or the, “I’m ‘ard” – approach.

For the mothers and significant others who spend their weekends watching their loved ones play cricket – it can be nerve racking. The ‘near misses’ are enough to have one reaching for door to the bar and I’ve certainly done the “Wear your helmet, you silly git” nag on a few occasions.

Should we change the way the game is played?

I don’t think so.

My heart goes out to Sean Abbott, who bowled the unfortunate ball. He bowled a bouncer - a tactical ball that is used to intimidate the batsman.

Intimidating bowling is considered to be part of the game and has been since the 1932-33 Ashes tour of Australia when the England team devised a tactic to combat the awesome batting machine known as Don Bradman. It became known as the Bodyline Series and it changed the game.

According to the ECB, fast bowlers regularly win international matches. It’s natural in the aftermath of such an accident to want to take steps to make sure it never happens again but in this case, I don’t see that anything can be done that wouldn’t take the game a step backwards.

Only 100 cases of this type of injury have ever been reported and only one was due to a cricket ball.

The wearing of helmets has only become commonplace within the last 30 years and that in itself has changed the game because batsmen are less fearful of the ball. Some would argue that, although it’s safer to wear a helmet than not, it does create it’s own problems.

Helmets have unfortunately taken away a lot of that fear and have given every batsman a false sense of security. ~ Geoff Boycott

Having seen the state of helmets that have taken the full impact of a ball, it’s clear that while they can’t prevent injuries, they do an important job in absorbing the impact.

Hughes was wearing a helmet but it was a 2013 design. The new one offers more protection but experts say that there is currently no helmet which would have been guaranteed to save him. Realistically, if a sport involves contact with a hard ball, it has to be accepted that there will be freak accidents. It’s tragic but I don’t think for one minute that he would want the game to be changed.

I can’t imagine what’s going through Sean Abbott’s mind but I’m sure that his team mate would want him to carry on playing their beloved game to the best of his ability. A big ask, but I hope he receives all the love and support he needs in order for that to happen.

The Australian team will grieve but when it’s right they must pick themselves up and play on. Grief affects people differently. I’ve known players go to pieces after the death of a loved one. I’ve known others go out to bat and score a century. The difference here is that the death was that of a cricketer and it took place on the pitch.

Phillip was a talented young cricketer with a bright future ahead of him. Sadly it wasn’t to be. He will forever be 63 not out.

Phillip’s spirit, which is now part of our game forever, will act as a custodian of the sport we all love.

We must listen to it. We must cherish it. We must learn from it. We must dig in and get through to tea. And we must play on.

So rest in peace my little brother. I’ll see you out in the middle. ~ Michael Clarke

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November 30, 1988 – November 27, 2014

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A Letter From The Front.

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December 27th 1914

Dear Mam,

Hope you are all well back home, I miss you all so much. Who’d have thought this time last year that I’d be spending this Christmas on the front line?

We all got a Christmas gift from Princess Mary – a tin containing a card, cigarettes, picture and a pencil. I got your card and package, those socks were just what I needed! Thanks, Mam.

The weather has been wet for most of December but the temperature dropped on Christmas Eve and there was a heavy frost, which at least made it feel a bit more like Christmas. I longed to be sitting in front of the fire, teasing our Gladys and the boys. How is Glad? I worry about her. Tell her she must be brave like her big brother.

Conditions are hard but our spirits are up. The trenches are waterlogged and one solider, Albert, keeps singing about being in the Navy. Funny lad, he should be on the stage! Humour is never far away and thank God for that!

I wanted to tell you of the strangest thing that happened on Christmas Eve…

We heard the Germans singing carols. Word came from their lines that, if we didn’t fire on Christmas Day, neither would they.

We were wary at first but then we saw them climbing out of their trench, hands in the air – obviously unarmed.

They shouted out to us, “Happy Christmas English soldiers!” A few of us ventured out of our trench and met them half way. A German shook my hand. He told me his name was Karl. He didn’t look much older than me. He showed me a picture of his wife and son. We exchanged gifts. I gave him some cigarettes, he gave me some cake and we both swapped buttons off our coats.

Everybody was so friendly, it was surreal.

During those two days, not a shot was fired. If I hadn’t have seen it happen with my own eyes I wouldn’t have believed it, Mam. I keep looking at the button to check that it really did happen.

It made me realise that they are just following orders the same as us and they have families too.

Hopefully this war will soon be over and, God willing, we will return home safe and sound.

I must close now but take heart that a miracle really did happen this Christmas.

All my love,

Jack

P.S Could you send some lice powder next time?

The letter is fictional but it’s inspired by a true event.

The Christmas Truce took place in the Christmas of 1914. Though there was no official truce, roughly 100,000 British and German troops took part in unofficial cessation of fighting. This would prove to be the last significant act of chivalry between the two sides. Future attempts at cease fires were met with threats of disciplinary action. At this point in the war, censorship was still in its infancy so many letters sent home reported this as having happened.

Letters played a huge part in the war. The most effective weapon wasn’t a rifle, it was morale. Receiving letters was one of the few comforts a soldier had and writing them helped relieve the boredom. The given reason for censorship was to prevent the enemy from finding out secret information but it was also to stop bad news from reaching home. Some letters slipped through censor net and for the sake of this post, this is the case for this letter.

Support was vital from the home front. The majority of soldiers kept their letters as upbeat as possible, shielding their loved ones from what life was really like.

Given the appalling conditions which these men were living in and the horrors that they faced each day, it’s not surprising that the Christmas Truce should have had such a profound effect on those who witnessed it.

Seemingly neither side wanted to be the first to break the goodwill so those men were replaced with others who hadn’t taken part and the war (which people initially thought to to be over by Christmas) carried on for four more years with the loss of about 10 million military personnel and a total of around 37 million casualties.

The legacy of the truce is the message of hope that in our darkest hour, humanity can still be found.

But, however, looking back on it all, I wouldn’t have
missed that unique and weird Christmas Day for anything~ Bruce
Brairnsfather, an English solider.

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Header Image by Kevin Walsh

Christmas Truce Image – Wikimedia Commons

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Older

For the sake of this post, I am borrowing Doc Brown’s DeLorean. (It’s a time machine, kids)

*Blasts back to 1981 aged 11*

Puberty starts with a bang, literally. It’s bonfire night, I presume I’m dying, Ma thrusts a sanitary towel the size of Wales through the bathroom door saying “stick this in your knickers, dear!”

*Fast forward to 1983 aged 13*

I inform my dad,  “I’ll NEVER leave you! I’ll NEVER get married!! I HATE boys!!!” (except Duran Duran)

*fast forward four years to 1987 aged 17*

Gets married.

*fast forward to 1988*

Is handed a howling bundle of joy by an extremely cranky midwife with staffing issues. I am smitten, (with baby not midwife)

*fast forwards to August 1992 aged 21*

Cantankerous old biddy of a midwife (been delivering babies since the 1800’s) thrusts a sleepy bundle of joy in my arms. Smitten again.

*fast forwards to June 2009 aged 38*

Limps into labour ward looking like Alice Cooper. Within a couple of hours I am descended on by theatre staff who unceremoniously prepare me for an emergency C Section.

The 9lbs 7 oz bundle is extracted from my mangled womb and promptly pees on the nurse. For a third time, I am smitten.

*fast forwards to 2009 aged 39*

Gynecological consultant (male) cheerfully informs me that he is going into retirement, as are my ovaries. I am menopausal. I manage to refrain from lamping him one.  I’m only 39! In my prime, aren’t I?

*fast forwards a year 2010*

Tries to look on the bright side of being 40 and menopausal by thinking of all the money I’ll save on not having to buy sanitary towels.

*fast forwards to 2012*

Post menopausal –  ovaries have officially retired.

*fast forwards a year 2013*

Pelvic floor surrenders.

*rewinds back to August 1992 – maternity hospital*

Pleads to have a couple of stitches put in.

*fast forwards back to 2012*

Craves comfortable shoes, ruched tops  and Alan Titchmarsh.

Orders Tena Lady’s by the pallet load.

Displays erratic psychotic behaviour.

Forgets stuff.

Mourns youth.

*fast forwards to 2014*

Acceptance.

This has been my reproductive life and now it’s officially over. Kaput. Knackered. Finito.

Initially miffed that my eggs are about as much use as a chocolate fireguard, I soon reminded myself that I have three wonderful children and am lucky to have had the privilege, many don’t.

My journey has brought me to a place where I finally like who I am.

I look at this photo of 16 year old me and realise that I didn’t like myself very much. I mean, just look at my body language. Am I handcuffed?

I was 16! Why wasn’t draped across the sand in my bikini?

I suppose it’s something that I wasn’t wearing my cardi…

The hair is hideous but I only have the one chin and, what’s that, a belly button?

I haven’t seen that SOB in five years!!

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Note the white skirt. Must have been THE holiday where I wasn’t on my period!

So now I’m middle-aged.

I have a wibbly bum, rogue nose hair and boobs which look like a couple of deflated airbags (if airbags came in Borrower size)

Oh, and I dribble when I laugh.

‘OOPS’ moments? I’ve had a few…

But all this comes with the realisation that, despite disintegrating faster than a dunked Rich Tea biscuit (but with less finesse), I am more comfortable with my body than I’ve ever been.

Menopause isn’t the end of the world, it’s just part of life – a new chapter.

My body is curvy and that’s not another way of saying I’m fat. Well, OK, I am a bit fat but I like it.

The me in the photograph felt ugly. The years of having been bullied were ingrained in my psyche. Thanks, cows.

Not anymore.

I have reached that wonderful time in my life where ” I aint bovvered!”

That’s not to say that I’ve given up on my self and lounge about in leggings and tea-stained tops…uh huh, I’m my mother’s daughter and she’d haunt me if I did. I mean that I’m not bothered by what other people think of me.

Time changes you physically and mentally. You start to see your loved one’s get ill and die and you know that one day it will be you in that box.

It’s important to love your body and, for me, it’s easier now because when I see the stretch marks and c section scar which cover my tummy, I remind myself of why they are there.

 

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Lets get philosophical…

Kintsugi is the ancient Japanese art which repairs chips and cracks in pottery with fine gold, silver or platinum. Rather than rejecting or hiding it’s flaws and imperfections – they are highlighted and the object is considered to be more even beautiful than before.

This is how I choose to see my scar and stretch marks. I embrace them for what they are – a beautiful reminder of three boys who gave my life meaning.

You reading this boys? Your mama loves you! I am a broken pot but I love you.

To the bullies, I raise two fingers.

No, make that one.

When we are young we try on different masks in an attempt to find our identities. Age brings acceptance of who we are and we’re less inclined to take people’s shit. Good, eh?

I’m finally OK with being me.

Don’t you think I’m looking older?
But something good has happened to me
Change is a stranger
You have yet to know

George Michael ~ Older

Image Credit

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Imagine…

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Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world.

Today is World Kindness Day.

According to the Gulf news “it is a day that encourages individuals to overlook boundaries, race and religion”.

A wonderful concept but one that we shouldn’t have to be prompted to do.

We’re all different but we’re all human and kindness is a human emotion which transcends culture, religion, gender and race.

So why do we treat each other so badly?

Social media is rife with hate, mainly by anonymous people who hide behind a computer screen. I found this example on Twitter.

Somebody needs to send your gelatinous useless mass to the incinerator already, you’re a waste of resources.

This was one of a few messages that were posted a disabled boy’s Twitter account. His mother deleted them before he got chance to see them. Her son died last week. As if life wasn’t hard enough, she had to put up with this.

Trolls unleash their vitriol on the world, hiding behind their computers, believing that their anonymity will protect them. I for one am glad to see that internet trolls will receive a longer jail sentence. There needs to be a deterrent that will make people think twice before spewing their hate.

Other people believe that they are entitled to offend others because it’s their ‘human right’. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Some opinions can be downright hurtful and insensitive.

I saw this comment on a post written by Hayley Goleniowska for the Huffington Post about women and the choice of whether or not to abort following an antenatal diagnosis of disability.

A commenter replied..

Further i believe (get ready for the hate mail) that if you deliberately bring a child into the world who cant cope you should pay dfor it. i see no reason why I should pay for your decision..

From a different person,

the problem is that said Kid is a burden and will always need more resources than a healthy kid. And since nowadays Downs syndrome patients live to be in their 50s that means they will eventually end up in the state’s care.

It saddens me that some people see disabled children in terms of money, not as the human beings that they are.

My child has autism. There are some who will see him as a drain on society.

These people don’t realise that Einstein, Mozart, Newton, Darwin, Michelangelo (the artist, not the turtle) and Lewis Carroll are all considered to have been on the autistic spectrum. Our world has been shaped by these amazing people!

Then there are acts of cruelty.

In 2011 a toddler known as Yue Yue was knocked down by two different vehicles on a busy street in southern China. The vehicles did not stop. Eighteen people walked by before a humble scrap-collector picked her up. She later died in hospital.

A five-year-old boy was run over by a bus in east-central China. Online footage show bystanders ignoring his mother’s pleas for help.

A heroic homeless man, stabbed after saving a woman from a knife-wielding attacker, lay dying in a pool of blood for more than an hour as nearly 25 people indifferently strolled past him.

EIGHTEEN people walked past a child who was dying!!!

How does that make you feel?

Some would argue that we live in a lawsuit society which makes people wary about being the good Samaritan. I would argue that they are losing their humanity if that’s their first thought. To walk past a child who is dying in the road is inhumane.

Thankfully, such reports are rare and the revulsion at these stories proves that most of us are still singing from the same moral hymn sheet.

Kindness should come from the heart but so often it’s not the case.

Jimmy Savile was one of Britain’s most charitable celebrities with the majority of people believing him to be a kind and caring man. We now know that his ‘kindness’ came with an agenda.

Kindness isn’t expecting something in return. It’s unconditional.

It isn’t announcing to the world that you’ve just given someone large donation of money. The most genuine altruistic acts are those which happen anonymously because it’s not motivated from self-interest. Sure, a lot of charitable people but not all are doing it for the right reasons.

The flipside is that for every act of unkindness, there are many more kind ones. Random acts of kindness which rarely make the news but they happen everyday. Ordinary people showing their fellow human beings kindness and respect. A kind word. A smile. An offer of help. Even the smallest act of kindness can make a big difference to someone’s day. A smile at the right moment is capable of saving a life. To those who think kindness and compassion are irrelevant, I beg to differ.

If we went by the media alone, we’d be forgiven for thinking that the world is an unkind place but that’s not true.  It’s some of the people that live in it that are unkind but kindness is infectious and maybe all some people need is to be shown a little kindness to be able to give it back.

Small acts like buying a warm drink for someone in need, giving your seat up on the bus to expectant mothers and the elderly, telling somebody they look nice or giving your time to someone who needs you.

One act of compassion will always stay with me…

During the shocking murder of Lee Rigby, a woman risked her own safety to comfort him as he lay dying.

It was an act of pure compassion – a selfless act.

A world without kindness and compassion doesn’t bear thinking about.

Today and all days, be kind.

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

John Lennon

 

Photo Credit Heath Brandon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forever Autumn

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I love autumn. I love everything about the season.

Being born in the middle of July, you’d be forgiven for thinking that summer was my favourite season but for as long as I can remember, it’s been autumn. For me, it’s the most interesting time of the year. It’s also cooler which most menopausal ladies (like myself) will appreciate having spent the summer loitering in the chilled section of the supermarket.

This summer has been hot. Too hot for some and not hot enough for those with asbestos for skin.

But we’re Brits and we do love a good whinge about the weather. If whinging about the weather was an Olympic sport, we’d win gold every time.

But summer has taken her final bow. The flies have buzzed off and it’s time for autumn to take to the stage with her flamboyant style.

I could bang on about autumn until, well, winter but I’m on a word count so I’ll keep it brief (ish)

If life can be divided into seasons, I would say that the childhood years are spring – a time of birth and growth. Then with the child producing years comes summer, so the natural menopause must mean autumn. I am 44 and post-menopausal. I feel deciduous, as in, there is more hair on my brush than on my head.

The winter years are the home run. If you’re lucky, you will have remained compos mentis. I wouldn’t mind reaching a grand old age if I can hold onto my marbles but given that this week I tried to give the dog Cheerios instead of Bakers and used gravy granules instead of coffee – I’m not holding by breath. I will be the old dear who flashes her support tights on an hourly basis and thinks that Thatcher is still prime minister.

Menopausal women have a lot in common with autumn with their own hues mirroring the season.

Browns (the hair dye which covers the rapidly greying hair)

Reds (the face during a hot flush),

Yellows (a flogged out liver due to excessive gin consumption)

Orange (overdoing the fake tan – but this applies to summers as well, and maybe springs if their crazy mama’s enter them into a beauty pageant at the age of three).

I’m joking. Sort of.

Like the menopause, autumn is a time of great change.

Mother Nature invites you to pull on your walking boots with the promise of an awe inspiring display of colour.

The wisps of smoke coming from chimneys make me stop and sniff the breeze like demented Meerkat. It makes me think about ‘ye olde’ pubs with a roaring fire and a decent pint but I mostly have to make do with tea out of a flask.

Then there’s the rustling sound as my boots plough through the piles of newly fallen leaves.

Here I must add a cautionary note about kicking leaves…

I was having an autumnal kick about in the leaves the other week. The fun police (aka other half) said to me, “I’d be careful if I were you, you don’t know what’s under those leaves!”. I snorted and carried on kicking with abandon. Within seconds my boot came up and with it a huge mound of dog poo. My autumnal walk was marred by having to scrape my way along the grass for the next few hundred yards – much to OH’s amusement. Oh how he laughed. Git.

Let this be a lesson to you. Think before you kick!!!

Autumn is the most exciting season. Aside from ol’ Ma Nature doing her thing with the trees and stuff, there is Halloween – the most charming of celebrations where one’s sweetie stash is massively depleted by little monsters threatening vengeance if their buckets are not filled with cavity inducing confectionery. I’ve taken to answering the door with no make up on – that trumps any scary costume they can come up with. Muhaha

Then there is Bonfire night, though it should be called Bonfire Nights as it is spread across the entire month. Most children love it and most pet owners hate it because BANG BANG BANG SQUEAL WHOOSH BANG equals doggy bodily fluids all over the lino.

As a child, I associated the smell of smoke with Bonfire night. As an adult, it’s shit.

After Bonfire night, we’re on the annoying countdown to a visit from the fat man and his huge sack. *coughs*

But for now, it’s just lovely to admire the show.

To stand in the woods and watch thousands of leaves float down like snow is a wonderful experience. There is beauty everywhere, so get out there and enjoy it. Unplug the kids (and yourselves) from electronic paraphernalia and go out into the countryside and explore!

Metaphorically – my life is in this beautiful season, or at least that’s how I see it. Autumn is a time of reflection and reaping the fruits of your labours. I delight in the success my grown up sons are making of their lives and as for my little man? Well he’s my Indian summer. Time will tell where his talents lie but all I know is that he brings sunshine to my days. All of them do in their own special ways.

I’d love to see winter but only if I can still appreciate it’s beauty, if not, I’ll settle for autumn, forever.

“Spring passes and one remembers one’s innocence.
Summer passes and one remembers one’s exuberance.
Autumn passes and one remembers one’s reverence.
Winter passes and one remembers one’s perseverance.”

Yoko Ono

Image by Antonia Foy

mumturnedmom

 

Something’s Gone Wrong Again!

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I’ve made mistakes in my time, who hasn’t?

Some of those mistakes have been arse clenchingly embarrassing, like when I wrote “pubic act” instead of public act in my history book at school. Not content with putting a big red line under “pubic” with the words “OOPS!!” written alongside it, the history teacher decided to have a laugh at my expense by revealing my little faux pas to the ENTIRE class.

Course, I can laugh about now, Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha, couldn’t then – went home and died.

Then there was the time I underestimated how slippy grass can be in the rain..

A short sharp shower stopped play at a local cricket match and I decided to run and rescue my deck chair, as you do. Needless to say it didn’t end well, tripping and sliding across the outfield in full view of, well, everybody.

Aaaand there was the time when I went to school without my knickers.

Nope, I wasn’t the school tramp, let me explain..

We had swimming lessons first thing on Monday mornings and I used to put my uniform on over my costume to save having to strip at the baths. Only on this occasion I’d forgot to put my knickers in my bag so having confided my lil dilemma to the teacher, she issued me with a skanky pair of PE knickers from out of the lost property box which, by the musty smell of them, had been in there since 1962.

Then I had a near death experience at high school when I got mixed up in the ability groups in swimming and was pushed in at the deep end of the swimming pool by a sadistic SS trained PE teacher (and cow) I nearly drowned. My friend had to jump in and save me (cus the teacher couldn’t be arsed) and I eventually surfaced with more snot on my face than a two year old and, WORSE, my swimming costume around my midriff. Yes, I flashed my Brad Pitts to everybody. Oh, nearly forgot to mention that it was a MIXED session!

Or maybe the time I’d worked up the courage to go to college as a mature student. After many self-help psyching sessions, I marched in the PACKED room, flounced up to the important looking lady sat on the table at the front and announced in my most confident voice, “Hello, I’m T, pleased to meet you. Where do you want me to sit?” to which she replied, “Wherever you want love, the tutor isn’t here yet!” I smouldered my way over to a seat with a set of cheeks that would fry an egg in three seconds flat.

Have you ever wished for a big hole to open up and take you down?

Plenty more little anecdotes from where these came from only I like to limit my posts to under 1000 words!

Then there are the mistakes which eat you up from the inside.

The things I’ve done that I wish I hadn’t.

The things I said.

The things I didn’t say.

But I’m human and to err is human, as they say.

So now I look at my life, my gaffs, my faux pas – my mistakes and acknowledge that they have all been learning curves. Life is one big learning curve and it’s OK to make mistakes.

But what about the mistakes which cost lives? Doctors, police, firefighters, paramedics and military personnel all have the burden of other people’s lives in their hands on a daily basis and then there are other professions which are responsible for the safety of others. They are human beings so it is inevitable that mistakes will be made and while they will no doubt learn from each one, I don’t know how they are able to cope with the knowledge that their action or decision cost a life. It’s an immense responsibility and not one I envy. I accidentally knocked my mate’s tooth out the first time I played hockey and I felt bad enough about that! Yet another mistake!

Mistakes are essential for our personal growth and we’ll keep making mistakes until the day they put the toe tag on because we never stop learning. If you get to the point where you feel you have nothing more to learn, you might as well shuffle off your mortal coil and make some room for someone else.

My mistakes were embarrassing but nobody died. Well I nearly did but in the end I survived to the entertainment of my class. You’re welcome, folks!

Even though I’ve been shifting about uneasily in my chair as the memories have come flooding back, I’m able to see the funny side and laugh at myself even it’s a manically insane, hide the knife, laugh. At the time it would have been a full on crisis because I was a teenager and a teenager’s very existence is fraught with angst over the slightest thing. Such as:

  • Zit = angst
  • Broken pencil = angst
  • Period = psychotic angst
  • Flopping boobs out in front of the class in the swimming pool = kill me now my life is over – angst

I dealt with it by locking myself in my room and playing Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now on repeat.

I was (and still am) a complete disaster zone but, in my humble opinion, there are no mistakes that we can’t learn from – it’s just that some mistakes are harder to live with than others.

Some of the worst mistakes of my life have been haircuts. ~ Jim Morrison

Blyton Revisited

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Once upon a time, there was a lady who wrote enchanting fairy tales which fired the imagination of children all over the world. Her name was Enid Blyton.

My first taste of Blyton was The Faraway Tree and I became hooked. The anticipation of reading her stories made going to school more bearable as escapism was only ever a few hours away. Hurrah!

All too soon, puberty arrived and I considered myself too old for Blyton. I gave away my books. I deeply regret doing that now because they were originals not the bastardised ones that have been trawled out since the PC brigade got it’s claws in.

I feel that adapting her work in general to fit into 21st century is wrong. Enid’s writing is reflective of the time that she lived in. Isn’t it insulting to children to presume that they won’t be able to appreciate that fact?

Some aspects are undoubtedly racist and while I’m sympathetic to those changes I don’t think it’s fair to judge a woman who lived in a very different society by today’s standards.

Should we edit all the nasty stuff out of the history books? And what of the other authors of Enid’s time. Why does their work remain untouched while hers is changed so dramatically?

One such example being The Faraway Tree.

The characters Fanny and Dick have been changed to Frannie and Rick because of their “unfortunate connotations.” with genitalia.

I’d rename them Nokia and Chezney. Chav em up a bit. Make em more street.

Dame Slap was also given a makeover because, well, she liked thrashing kids. With thrashing rights revoked, Dame Snap now gives naughty kids a darn good telling off while they flick her the V’s, threaten her with Esther Rantzen and smoke her fags. Ha!

I don’t condone smacking children but when this book was written, corporal punishment was accepted. Her stories reflect that. It’s part of our history. It’s certainly part of mine.

Malory Tower’s act has also been cleaned up with no more spankings. Instead children are scolded. That’s a bollocking to you, kids.

Now then, Mr Pink-Whistle..

As a child, I had a soft spot for this half-man, half-brownie. To the 44 year old me, he looks decidedly iffy, appearing in children’s bedrooms, bribing them with cats and his never ending bag of peppermints. Oh dear, Mr Pink-Whistle!

Noddy didn’t escape either. The PC brigade considered his and Big Ear’s ‘improper relationship’ too much for children. No more “gay times in the woods” for those two and separate beds if you please!

*facepalm*

What about the woman behind the typewriter?

Enid wasn’t the warm loving, maternal person I’d expected her to be. She had a string of affairs including a lesbian encounter. I SAY, ENID!!

Her husband, Major Hugh Pollock, (I keep seeing Huge Pillock) wasn’t without his failings either. As a married man, he started a relationship with a young writer by the name of Ida Crowe. He found out about Enid’s affair with Darrell Waters and threatened to divorce her but according to Crowe’s memoir, Pollock agreed that Blyton would present the petition and in return he would be granted access to their daughters. Enid broke her promise and made it increasingly difficult for him to see his children.

Well that’s just not cricket, Enid old girl.

When her daughter, Imogen, wrote A Childhood at Green Hedges in 1989, she totally shattered the illusion that her mother’s idyllic stories in any way reflected their home life. She states, “The truth is, Enid Blyton was arrogant, insecure, pretentious, very skilled at putting difficult or unpleasant things out of her mind, and without a trace of maternal instinct”. Her sister, Gillian, painted a more favourable picture of their mother.

Enid herself had a difficult childhood. She and her mother didn’t get on. She adored her father and was heartbroken when he shacked up with another woman shortly after her 13th birthday. Enid’s relationship with him broke down and later she all but ceased contact with both parents. She didn’t go to their funerals. You know you’ve properly pissed your kids off when they don’t come to your funeral!

Enid initially had trouble getting pregnant and was told by a gynecologist that she had a uterus, “like that of 12-13 year old girl”. It’s as if her emotional development froze the day her father walked out. It excuses nothing but explains a lot.

It’s fair to say that Enid has her critics but love or loathe her, she was a genius and part of that was in the simplicity of her writing and the ability to think as a child. She wrote more than 600 books for children. At her peak, writing 10,000 words a day. She was the JK Rowling of her time. Similarly, JK hasn’t been without her critics having been accused of promoting witchcraft. I wish! I still can’t do the Expelliarmus spell on my other half to get him to let go of the TV remote!

I have re-bought nine Blyton books so far, all original text. I’m not interested in the edits. I want spankings, Fanny and Dick. Oh, and lashings of ginger beer – not that she never wrote that. Just testing.

Yes, the originals are flawed by today’s standards but they were books of their time. It’s important to remember that.

Enid might not have been a great mother or a particularly nice person but nobody is perfect and it doesn’t alter the fact that she wrote great stories.  I owe my love of reading to her and can’t imagine a childhood without some Blyton make-believe in it.

“I don’t believe in things like that – fairies or brownies or magic or anything. It’s old-fashioned.’
‘Well, we must be jolly old-fashioned then,’ said Bessie. ‘Because we not only believe in the Faraway Tree and love our funny friends there, but we go to see them too – and we visit the lands at the top of the Tree as well!” The Folk From The Faraway Tree ~ Enid Blyton

~The End~

mumturnedmom