Life is a Highway

geograph-104893-by-Dave-Fergusson From the day we are born, we’re on a journey. All of us are headed to the same destination (aka Death De Mar) but we each take different routes along the way.

Throughout our travels, we encounter challenges. We all experience love, joy and happiness as well as sadness, tragedy and hopelessness. Life can be good and a total bitch in equal measure.

Sometimes the road is bumpy as hell (with annoying roadworks and potholes) and we feel frustrated like when we get stuck behind a tractor for an eternity (or Stop/Go man takes the piss) and sometimes it’s smooth and enjoyable. In my experience, the moment that I acknowledge happiness, life throws down a stinger.

The ‘Big C’ became part of my journey when Dad was diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer, on my birthday as it goes.. You could say that his life choices of slumming it at the ‘Greasy Spoon’ cafe (despite Ma’s nagging) and smoking were a contributing factor in his illness. His choice not to act on his early symptoms, combined with him being misdiagnosed twice, cost him his life and my insistence that Mum saw her GP on her mentioning a bloated tummy and brown discharge (at the age of 65) probably saved hers.

Cancer made short work of my dad but I liken my mum’s experience to swatting an irritating fly. In her case, one well aimed whack got the bastard and she lived for another six years to die of something completely unrelated. Ma 1 Cancer 0.

Our journeys aren’t just about us.

As with any journey, who you travel with can be more important than your destination.

Cancer has entered my life once again but this time it’s my friend who is suffering from this horrendous disease. I haven’t known her long but our boys play together so we’ve become friends. She has advanced cancer but If you saw her you wouldn’t imagine she’s ill. She looks well. She’s certainly fitter than me and by her own admission, she doesn’t even feel ill. However, the scans tell a different story…

I have been around cancer. I’ve experienced the effects of cancer but I don’t know how it feels to have it. Nobody can know unless it happens to them.

My friend is a wonderful lady. By her own admission, she chooses to be positive. Despite the indifferent attitude of the cancer specialists, she’s giving it a run for it’s money and good on her, I say.

She told me that some days she finds it hard to get out of bed to face the day, which is totally understandable. So I made her a card with a quote which reflects this along with her desire to be positive.

Some days there won’t be a song in your heart. Sing anyway.

I am deeply sorry she’s going through this. I can’t stop this from happening to her but what I can do is be there for her for practical and emotional support. Nobody should ever have to go through this alone. Cancer is an incredibly difficult journey to to be witness to so one can only imagine how it feels to be living it.

Most of us have times in our life when we struggle to face the day, for whatever reason. I’ve got lost a few times and questioned what it’s all about but ultimately, all roads of thought lead back to the fruits of my womb. My body resembles a clapped old three wheeler (think Trotter van) but I look at my boys and know it’s all been worth it.

My latest run in with one of life’s proverbial potholes resulted in me having to assume the ‘On your side, bend your legs and face the wall, dear’ position while my GP swiped her index finger around my rear-end. No doubt I’ll end up having a camera up it (oh-the-joy) before the year’s out  but as long as it gives me peace of mind that my botty probs are simply an IBS flare up or yet another menopausal perk, I can cope with a bit of bum invasion. Dignity, me dears, went out the window the day I went into labour. These days, ‘dignity’ is a song by Deacon Blue!

Nobody’s journey will be free from heartache. Bad things happen but It’s what we learn from the experience that matters. Reading stories about the Holocaust has taught me that hope can exist even in the most horrific of circumstances. Our freedom to choose our own attitude throughout any given circumstance is something that nobody can take away from us. Nobody can make us feel bad about ourselves without our permission!

People enter our lives and the journey changes direction. It’s like a Sat-Nav that keeps re-calculating. However, in the journey of life, there isn’t a reverse gear. We don’t get to go back and do things differently. We can only learn from our mistakes and move forwards. Maybe if we knew how our lives will pan out, we’d be too scared to live them? All I know is that I’ve made it to almost 45 years of age so far and count myself lucky. The journey so far has been full of tears and laughter and with each sharp bend of the road, I’ve learned a little bit more about life.

There are a few more miles left in this ol’ jalopy yet (despite a biological age of 102) and I’d like to think I’ll manage a cheeky sideways skid when it’s ‘destination reached’ aka, the big scrap yard in the sky. Knowing my luck, I’ll be towed in on the back of a recovery truck but a girl can dream, eh?

Until then, it’s on with the ride..

I think it’s my adventure, my trip, my journey, and I guess my attitude is, let the chips fall where they may. ~ Leonard Nimoy

mumturnedmom

Not All School Bullies Are Children.

Jim Henson

Dear Miss,

No doubt you have taught so many children in your years as a teacher that you have forgotten us individually. I wish I could say that I have forgotten you but you are unforgettable in the worst possible way.

Allow me to refresh your memory..

‘STAND ON YOUR CHAIR!’, your voice boomed across the room.

The classroom fell silent (as was the case when some poor kid was in for a telling off) and on this occasion the kid was me.

You were my primary school teacher but I could never take to you. It was dislike at first sight.

I remember you as a tall, thin woman with slate grey hair which hung limply either side of your face. You never wore make-up and and your piercing eyes were magnified by those unflattering glasses you wore. I recall you wearing Jesus sandals which drew attention to your man-size feet and unsightly toe hair but most of all it was your unsmiling face which unnerved me.

Why, what’s the matter, that you have such a February face, so full of frost, of storm and cloudiness? ~ William Shakespeare

Some teachers are charismatic but you and your ‘February face’ had the charisma of a wheelie bin. Truth be told, I was scared of you.

I don’t remember any of what you taught me, I just remember you and an incident which stuck in my memory like a thorn sticks in the flesh.

I didn’t like school – it was too loud, smelled of feet and my being there meant that I missed Pipkins. School was all about surviving and my survival was avoidance. It was my safety valve in any situation that I wasn’t comfortable with. However, my strategy would prove to be my undoing on that particular day.

That Day

So, we did craft lessons, and this one was sewing. Our task was to stitch two sides of felt together using a blanket stitch in a shape of our choice. I chose a fish. We were supposed to take our work to you if we made any mistakes. I’d made a mistake fairly early on (I was crap at sewing) but the thought of walking up to your desk made my stomach want to part ways with my lunch. So I stayed put and prayed that the fire bell would go off.

It didn’t.

You decided to walk around the classroom to check on our progress. I knew you were behind me without having to look. It suddenly felt cold despite it being a warm day, though this was probably due to your six foot frame blocking out the sunlight. I froze up from the inside, except for my cheeks, which were crimson. After what seemed like ages, your large hand reached down and snatched my work away from me. Seconds passed, then your voice boomed out..

“STAND ON YOUR CHAIR!!”

The classroom fell deathly silent. You could have heard a mouse fart, it was that quiet!

Every child was looking at me. Me, the child who tried so hard to be invisible. Of course, the problem with trying to be invisible is that sometimes it backfires and you find yourself becoming totally the opposite.

You bellowed, “THIS IS WHAT WE DO TO RUBBISH!!” and in front of the class – you ripped my work to shreds. The wobbly stitching gave zero resistance and with one final act of malice, you threw it at me.

You made me stand on my chair, hands on head, for the rest of the lesson and into playtime.

I was eight years old.

I wanted the ground to open up beneath me. Tears stung my eyes but I refused them permission to fall. There was no way that I was going to give you the satisfaction of seeing me cry! So I just stood there looking at my shoes through blurry eyes wishing to be anywhere but there.

I certainly know of a few children who would have stood on that chair smirking at you and I have been that child when re-enacting it out in my mind. In reality, I was a sensitive girl whose behaviour at school was misinterpreted as shyness or disobedience. My sensitivity made me a target for bullies for my entire school life but that day, I learned that not all bullies are children.

You humiliated me in front of the entire class.

Your lasting impression on me, Miss, was one of fear.

Humiliation damages young children – it undermines their self-esteem.

A good teacher doesn’t intimidate their students. Humiliation isn’t character building – it’s abuse. Humiliation is rooted in power and some teachers need to humiliate children in order to control them. What you did was wrong. It was an abuse of power – I just didn’t know it then because grown ups had to be obeyed. We are hardwired to obey those in control, especially as children, so I didn’t question it. I just did as I was told and tried as best I could to deal with the hurt in order to be able to walk into the classroom the next day.

You were a bully. You probably had reasons why you acted the way you did but it doesn’t excuse you. There is no excuse for bullying. Ever.

As Jim Henson said,

Kids don’t remember what you try to teach them, they remember what you are.

I’ve remembered you for being a bully and the monster of my nightmares.

However, being older and somewhat wiser, I am able to see you for the imperfect human being that you were and the monster fades away into insignificance.

You most likely graduated up into the big school in the sky a long time ago and perhaps after being such a miserable cow to little children, you found a sense of peace?

Maybe one day I’ll find mine.

Regards,

T

Scan5a

The Boys Are Back In Town

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Tuesday 25th January 1994

I’d been waiting for this day with a mixture of excitement and anxiety.

I woke up with my stomach doing somersaults. Food? Not a chance. Somehow, I had to keep the anxiety under control otherwise I’d end up talking myself out of leaving the house and I’d regret it for ever. I had to do this. For once in my life, my debilitating anxiety wouldn’t be robbing me of another experience, so armed with a miniature bottle of whiskey, I headed off in the car with the former Mr Shambles towards Birmingham.

I clutched the tickets in my clammy hand, checking and re-checking the date. Did I have the right date? Oh my God, what if I’d got the date wrong! Had I remembered to put some emergency loo roll in my bag? What if I fainted? What if I threw up over myself. Or worse, someone else?

We got to the NEC early to avoid the crowds but my anxiety was rocketing. I headed to the toilets and did some breathing exercises on the loo. I could hear the noise building up outside and was in danger of legging it out through one of the fire-exits but managed to calm myself down. It was now or never so I propelled myself through the door, elbowing a couple of women out of way on route.

My heart was clattering like an old tin drum and my legs were buckling as I took my seat.

Three months of anticipation almost at an end…

This was it.

Music blasted throughout the arena and I screamed as I saw three familiar faces appear on the stage. I waved my arms in the air and danced away and when I say danced, I mean awkward upper body movements with the occasional rib-shot to the unfortunate sod seated next to me. I must have been at the back of the queue when coordination was being given out – as anyone who has ever seen me try to do step-aerobics will testify to. I was 24 years old, but that night I was 13 again. Much to the former Mr Shamble’s amusement. Or was it embarrassment?

It suddenly hit me..

I was in the same room (albeit a very large room) as Duran Duran – my teenage idols! Well, three of them, anyway, as this was the 1994 line-up of Simon, John, Nick and Warren Cuccurullo.

The memory is fallible but I seem to remember them starting with Too Much Information and Simon Le Bon was prancing about wearing a pink suit, though I could be wrong. I’ve gone through the menopause since then and my memory, along with the rest of me, is a bit shit. So maybe someone else who was there will read this and say “Actually, he was wearing jeans and a t-shirt – you deranged old cow.”

The details might have become hazy but I’ll never forget seeing the band which stole my heart. Dad was the first man I loved, then it was Nick Rhodes.

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Still have the ticket!

The early 80’s was an exciting time music-wise. In the wake of Punk came the New Romantics with their puff-sleeved blouses, frills and lip-gloss and that was the blokes! Dad’s reaction to seeing Duran Duran perform Planet Earth on TOTP in 1981 was to roll his eyeballs, tut, and say “Just look at the state of them. I give those poncy buggers 12 months”. And with that pearl of wisdom, he tucked the paper under his arm and headed off to the loo. 15 years later he had to concede that he’d been wrong. In fact, they’ve been together in various line-ups for the last 30 odd years and show no sign of retiring to Shady Pines anytime soon!

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Rollin rollin rollin keep those eyeballs rollin!

Duranie = A devoted fan of Duran Duran. Or someone who would happily gouge your eyes out for one of Nick Rhodes’ lipstick stained fag ends.

The Duranies of the 80’s are now forty and fifty-somethings, like me. Menopausal maniacs (and those hurtling towards it) who only have to hear the intro to Save A Prayer to be nostalgically catapulted back to 1982 when hair was 50% peroxide and it was fashionable for blokes to wear lip-gloss and eyeliner. Nick still does. And why not? He could share mine any day. Gorgeous boy.

I felt very grown up when I was wearing make-up, thank you very much. Nick Rhodes

Duran Duran were mostly about image. They were good looking, made great videos and their songs were catchy with lyrics that made you think. Simon was quite the poet in the early days. I played the Rio album that much that I actually wore it out and Ma bought it for me again one Christmas, along with the newly released Seven and the Ragged Tiger.

DD went up in Dad’s estimation when they released the uncensored video of Girls on Film which was a saucier version where attractive girls wearing rollers (and little else) straddled a shaving cream-covered post and flashed their nips. Seems the boys hadn’t been as squeaky clean as Jackie et al had portrayed them to be. It was a bit of a culture shock for me, like when Kylie went from being the curly-haired girl next door to the pert-bummed vamp we’ve come to know and envy.

Watching them play live was one of the biggest thrills of my life and the fact that I saw them in Birmingham (the place where it started all those years ago in the Rum Runner) just added to the occasion. The boys (minus Andy and Roger) were back in town and my beloved Nick was there in all his magnificent pouting glory.

Duran Duran provided the soundtrack to my youth. Their music helped to make life more bearable – giving me breathing space from my troubled school life. Escapism was only a click of the turntable away, therefore, they’ll always have a place in this old Duranie’s heart.

mumturnedmom

 

Reality Bites

Frankl

Reality = The state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them.

Conceived by choice or mistake, we are dispatched into the world whether we like it or not. The first few months are spent spontaneously pooing, weeing and draining every ounce of energy from our parents, not that we have any memories of this. We get to find out for ourselves when we have children of our own. This is the real reason why grandparents can’t stop smiling.

As a young child, I was spared the harsher realities of life. I existed on a need to know basis. I was happy. Then one morning, Ma took me to a place called school (later referred to as ‘that shithole’) and after numbing her backside on one of those miniscule chairs for a while, she quietly walked out without so much as a backward glance. I wanted to run after her but for some reason my legs wouldn’t move.

My tiny heart broke. I cried and my bottom lip quivered for the rest of the day, if not life. I wanted to be home watching Play School and eating beans on toast. What was happening? Was I being punished? Is it because I crayoned on my bedroom wall? After five years of relative bliss being at home with Ma, school life had started and my childhood idyll fell apart.

On the first day, I remember standing on the school yard staring at the bruise which was forming on my arm from where an older girl had pinched me, for no apparent reason. Cow. My reality took a direct poo-hit and would remain so for my entire school life.

Children, teachers, they all had it in for me. I attracted bullies like shit attracts flies. Or light-bulbs attract moths. Sounds nicer.

When I was little, I thought that monsters only existed in books and films but that’s not true. As well as certain little monsters, there were some bigger ones roaming around school calling themselves ‘Miss’ and ‘Sir’.

Me & Nev

My opinion of school aged about 6. Was too young to say “It’s shit”. FYI that’s not a rainbow, it’s just typical of 1970’s processing and that privet needed trimming.

I went through many phases where I wished I was someone else. Not a famous person or a character from a book, just someone else. I thought that maybe if I was someone else, I wouldn’t be bullied. When I was at home I read stories where bullied children triumphed and bullies got what they deserved – a damn good thrashing – if Enid Blyton had anything to do with it. Reading as escapism was healthy but wanting to be someone else wasn’t. However, it might give you, dear reader, some idea of the level of anxiety I was experiencing at school.

At some point we all have to face reality and mine is that I am overly sensitive to most things including people. I don’t fit as easily into the world as most do and that’s why I’ve been bullied. That’s my theory anyway. Escapism has been my saving grace. A book, a film, music and sleep.

In my dreams, I was popular, gorgeous (and spot free). In my dreams, I wasn’t the awkward girl with sweaty pits anymore. In my dreams, Nick Rhodes was waiting for me outside the school gate, leaning up against a massive limo with his lippy on and Le Bon as his chauffeur.

I daydreamed whenever possible. While the biology teacher was droning on about plant reproduction, I daydreamed. When the balled up pieces of paper hit the back of my head and brought me back to reality, I imagined stabbing the perpetrator’s zit ridden face with my compass. I doodled their initials on my notebook, then drew a fancy bracket with the word DIE at the point. {

I didn’t really want them to die – I’m not a psycho! It was just my teenage angst finding an outlet, innit.

Alright, maybe I did want them to die a bit but only because they were being really mean.

So that was school. Eleven years of misery and dreaming of the day I could legally leave it all behind. Then my life would surely change?

Nope. No matter where I went or what I did, I was still a misfit. Only difference was, I got slightly better at hiding it.

At almost 45 years of age, I’m still a misfit, only I quite like it now. And I don’t give a toss, which helps.

Normal? It’s overrated.

I’ve learned that, while reality is what is real, people’s attitudes are very different. My reality is that I am socially awkward. So what? I’m also a caring person and I can speed read. Go me! I have OCD, agoraphobia, anxiety, sensory issues and a list of flaws as long as an orangutan’s arm. Could be much worse, eh!

Oh, and I’m menopausal. Have I mentioned that I’m menopausal? I do like to get that in most of my posts, just incase I forget myself.

Sometimes I get tired of having to put so much effort into existing and find myself sinking into a supermassive black-hole (not a euphemism) but then I hear a voice or read a text saying ‘I love you, Mum’ and I re-boot, as it were. I might have given my children life but they’ve given mine it’s meaning and I would go through every shitty day again to have them in my life.

Life can be hard and some people’s realities are tougher than others but as Holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl, says…

The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.

I choose to accept who I am and acknowledge my experiences with an element of humour because it gives me some control back over my life and the only real control I have over reality is my attitude towards it.

mumturnedmom

 

The Impossible Dream

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From the day a child is born, it’s our job as parents to teach them the skills they need to survive in the world. Those first weeks of total reliance fly by and before long, they are taking their first shaky steps towards independence. This isn’t the case for all children because many are born with disabilities which make independence a more difficult, if not impossible, goal to achieve.

There are different disabilities. Some are evident and some are not. My youngest son has autism – the invisible disability.

I knew that S was very different to his brothers quite early on. He was late with his milestones, i.e still crawling when all of his peers at playgroup were walking. His challenging behaviour went way beyond the ‘terrible twos’. His ‘tantrums’ were unlike anything I’d experienced before. They were extreme and as bewildering for him as they were for me. Then there were his ‘quirks’ and obsessions..

My fear turned to relief when, at four years old, he was diagnosed with ASD and SPD (autistic spectrum disorder and sensory processing disorder). It made perfect sense and I was relieved that there was a medical explanation for his behaviour. However, an element of fear crept back in as I realised what the implications of his diagnosis could be.

Two years on, S has received the best support we could ask for. He has a statement in place at school and a support teacher who works closely with him for the majority of the school day. He’s also been approved a place at the local autistic children’s group. This is so he can spend a few hours on a weekend with other autistic children. While it’s primarily for him to spend time in an environment where he can comfortably be himself, it’s also to give OH and myself some needed time to ourselves. Parenting any child is hard work but parenting a child with special needs is exhausting and can test even the strongest of relationships. This is why we’ve taken the necessary steps to get support for us as a family, not just for S.

Autistic people are capable of amazing things. Many if the world’s greats, past and present, are considered to be on the autistic spectrum. I don’t see autism as a curse, I see it as a blessing, albeit a mixed one. The autistic person can see beauty where others cannot. They can feel music deeply and when they read a book, they become part of the story. Their obsessive nature means that when they like doing something, like art or music, they excell at it. S loves numbers and by the age of four, knew, off by heart, the entire twelve times table. This is classic autism.

In my heart, I dream that S remains as happy as he is now but in my head, I know it’s an impossible dream because the statistics speak for themselves.

Children with autism are four times (or more) likely to be bullied (at school or via the internet) because of the way they communicate and interact with their peers. Autistic children are generally more trusting, have a poor sense of danger and can be manipulated very easily. The differences between them and their peers become more apparent with age.

I’ve already witnessed incidents in parks and on the playground with children laughing at S instead of laughing with him, as he thinks they are. To him there’s no difference between playing with someone much younger than himself, or older. He has no social boundaries. He thinks it’s perfectly OK to barge in to a group of tweens (or older) and expect them to play with him. I can’t control what other children do or think,  all I can do is help my son to develop the coping skills he needs in order to function. I want him to live, not just exist or be someone that he isn’t in order to fit in. The problem is with society, not him.

The challenging behaviour is a problem but it’s his reaction to an overwhelming world. It’s important to understand that. The behaviour has a function – there is always a reason. When my child displays challenging behaviour in front of other parents, it’s understanding that I need, not judgement.

In a perfect world, S wouldn’t have to learn how to ‘fit in’. He would be free to be himself and his quirks would be embraced instead of mocked. For instance, he came out of school last week and it was raining. He doesn’t like rain so he shouted at it. Parents stared. His peers stared. Wouldn’t they like to have the freedom of mind to be able to shout at the rain?

I wish the world was more empathetic to children like my son. But the truth is that people are selfish and cruel, choosing to boost their own self-esteem by demolishing someone else’s. They knowingly target the vulnerable with no regard of the long-term damage that they are inflicting on another human being. There is a lot of ignorance towards autism and I’m hoping, by spreading awareness, we can change this.

I can’t stop children being unkind to my son but I can intervene and give him strategies to cope. It’s because I was bullied by children and teachers, that I am extra vigilant. I am watching and ready to defend him. Education is the key to giving children an understanding of what it’s like to be different. How S’ autism is approached within the classroom, is something I will be addressing with the school, although I’ve had no real problems with them so far.

Like any mother, I just want my child to be happy.

My problem isn’t with my son, it’s with the people who don’t see him as I do – beautifully imperfect.

CC Image Credit Frankieleon via Flickr

mumturnedmom

 

And Winter Came…

Winter

Definition of nesh ~ Being either afraid of the cold or feeling the cold a lot. Used across the Midlands and the North.

You don’t need to wear a coat today, you nesh git!

Nesh: I am the definition of nesh. I was born in the middle of summer but swear I came into the world wrapped in a duvet, well, maybe not a duvet as Ma didn’t give up her sheets and blankets until the late 70’s but when she did, to quote the youth of today, ‘It was like totes amazeballs!’

In my day it was just ‘ace’. Gone were the itchy blankets and ten layers of clothing. It was like sleeping in a marshmallow. Once you’ve had duvet, you never want to go back to blankets. If heaven exists, I hope it’s got a 13.5 tog rating!

On top of my natural nesh-ness, I am menopausal and I suppose you could think of winter as the menopausal season because reproduction grinds to a halt, things turns white and bits snap off. The only difference is that the youthfulness of spring won’t be returning, unless you want to pay a few thousand to look like a crap waxwork.

Poo Bags: Autumn’s riot of colour gives way to winter. The berries and evergreens inject life into the landscape. The woodlands, alive with greenery in the summer, are stripped bare to reveal hundreds of black poo-bags. Seemingly, people gather up their pooch’s poo in a bag and then SLAT THEM UP INTO A TREE OR A HEDGE! No, I don’t understand it either.

Snow: Winter can be barren but when Mother Nature does her stuff and makes it snow, it can transform even the ugliest of places into something beautiful. That is, until a dog pees in it or someone sticks a Carling can in it.

I used to love snow. All children love snow, right? When I was a girl, winters were hard and the snow used to drift up the back door. Of course, not every winter was like that. In fact, for the first seven years of my life, there was no snow to speak of. The first year of any significant snowfall was 1977/78. I remember the unconfined joy of being snowed in. No school! Ma hated the snow. She saw only inconvenience. I saw Narnia.

My love affair with the white stuff ended abruptly in 1984 when I fell over on my way to school. I was 14 and very self-conscious. My hair (styled on Sara from Bananarama) was a work of art, taking an hour and a half to achieve. It was backcombed to within an inch of it’s life but looked fabulous, or so I thought. Being a teenager, vanity won over common sense so I attempted to walk to school in a pair of flimsy suede effect boots in about four inches of snow. I skidded (a lot) and finally went down with the finesse of an elephant in full view of the entire world, or so it felt like. My hair was a right off. My boots, once they’d dried out, had nasty white rings around them. Lesson learned.

31 years later, it’s a totally different story. I couldn’t care a less what I look like as long as I’m warm and vertical. I have become my mother and whinge like buggery everytime I see a flake of snow.

Cold: Despite being Nesh of the North, I embrace the cold for two reasons. One, I can cover up my bingo wings guilt-free and two, it helps with the hot flushes which are the bane of any menopausal lady’s life. A quick arctic blast in the face and sanity is restored, well, sort of.

Cold weather means having to put the heating on more. Unfortunately (for OH)  I was brought up with Ma’s philosophy of ‘If you’re cold, put another jumper on!’. She demanded to see breath on the inside of the house before she’d reluctantly override the boiler. This would be met with, ‘You’ll all be the bloody death of me!’ to which we’d reply, ‘Not if hypothermia gets us first!’

Winter Nights: Another negative is the longer nights which means more time in front of the TV. The problem in our house is that OH guards the remote like a dog with a bone. He keeps it within grabbing distance and, short of tranquilizing him, there’s not much I can do about it. This means that I have to watch boring woodwork and wildlife documentaries. Oh the joy of sitting down to enjoy a chicken madras just as some poor gazelle gets downed by a lion with the munchies. Occasionally I’ll put my foot down and demand to watch Eastenders and he’s exited the room by the second duff. Men, eh?

Beauty ‘n’ Stuff: Personal grooming takes a back seat in winter, well it does in this house. What’s the point in spending precious time shaving bits which won’t be seen? My Bic is redundant until at least April by which time my legs need strimming, rather than shaving. Bad hair day? I stick a hat on. One of the perks of the menopause is that you stop worrying about such things. Quite liberating, really.

Defrosting the Car: Is always easier when you use the correct implement, i.e, an actual ice-scraper – not an old beer mat. Trust me!

I’m bored of winter now. The novelty has worn off. I’m looking forward to spring when I can go for long walks without freezing to death. Not that we’re safe from snow in spring, or summer for that matter..

A bit of trivia to amaze you. Or not.

In June 1975, SNOW stopped play in Buxton.

It was a real experience,” explained Bird, 77. “I’ve never known anything like it during my 50-year involvement in cricket. I’ve seen plenty of games affected by rain and bad light in my time, but never snow. ~ Dickie Bird

Good old British weather, eh?

mumturnedmom

 

Family Is What You Make It

Fam 4

The era of the nuclear family is all but gone. It’s been replaced with single parents, non-married parents, foster families, couples without children and my family – the step-family, also known as the blended family.

According to an article in The Guardian, one in three people in the UK  are now a step-parent, step-child, adult step-child, step-sibling or step-grandparent. The statistics speak for themselves.

I was born into your bog standard ‘nuclear family’ – a mum, a dad and three children and in turn I helped create my own with my husband and two boys. Twenty years later the marriage sadly ended and a new chapter began..

After what I call my ‘wilderness year’ I bagged a blokey who was willing to put up with my shit. By shit, I mean my mind baggage and in my mind, I have more baggage than Manchester airport. Like me, he had children and we both understood that if we were to have a any kind of story, our children would be part of it.

The next few years were all about dipping toes in the water and trying to keep all ten. After being used to boys, I was faced with the daunting prospect of girls. Scared? Erm, YES! I’d been one myself and knew how challenging it could get. I decided the best approach was to be my strange, but amiable enough, self.  At first (and understandably) there was resentment. They named a toy dog after me and chucked it out their bedroom window. Well, at least it wasn’t actually me they were hurling onto the pavement. I counted my blessings!

My lads seemed to cope better with the situation (of which I am grateful) than the girls but studies suggest that this is generally the case with blended families. Us females are more complicated, don’t you know.

After living together for a year, OH and I decided to try for a baby. He knew all there was to know about me and hadn’t legged it so this was the next step. Also, there was the small matter of my biological clock reminding me that I was 38 and in danger of being ‘past it’. However, Mother Nature was on my side (for once) and a year later we had a baby boy. It proved to be a good decision as my ovaries surrendered soon after. We hoped that our little boy would help to bond our two families together.

I have read that it takes step-families (or blended families as is becoming the term) about seven years to function well together. It’s totally unrealistic to expect a step-family to work from the outset, it takes time, patience and effort. Some step-parents try to assert themselves as being equal to the child’s parents and it’s a mistake. I don’t try to be a mother to my stepdaughters. They have a mum. That job is taken. I know my place and my place is a supporting role. My sons get on well with OH and that is largely down to the fact that he’s never tried to be their dad.

I would advise any step-parent to understand that, while a certain amount of respect should be a given, respect works both ways. If you are a complete arse to them, they are likely to return the favour with bells on or ignore you completely. If you go all Eric Cartman and demand that they respect your ‘authoritah’. You’ll most likely be greeted with a two fingered gesture as the door is slammed off it’s hinges. Expecting your step-children to like you from the start is unrealistic. With time and effort, feelings do change. Go in with low expectations and you’ll save yourself thousands in therapy.

Parenting is hard but being a step-parent can be an absolute minefield. You just can’t bollock em like you can your own, can you?!  Neither should you lie on the floor and assume the doormat position. There is a line which you need to find. It can be difficult but there are moments when you feel you’ve turned a corner. Its the smile that isn’t forced, a kiss on the end of a text or them simply choosing to sit and talk to you.. small things which mean a lot because maybe your starting to become part of their story instead of being the outsider.

Step-monsters mothers get a bad rap. If the Disney films are to be believed, we all cackle in front of the mirror and think up evil ways to kill our step-kids. Well, I do cackle a bit, especially first thing, but I don’t plot my step-daughters demise. I quite like them.

Eight years down the line, we are beginning to blend together. We’re an eclectic mix of creative and logical (and in my case, slightly insane) minds. Each unique and caring in our own ways. We’re not perfect, but then, no family is.

mumturnedmom

Forever Begins Today

Neil Baldwin

Every year we make resolutions that we fail to keep.

We promise ourselves faithfully that we will lose weight, stop smoking, drink less, spend less, save more, get fit, etc etc

We celebrate the end of the of the year by getting totally trollied. We dance about, cry a bit and Big Ben’s dongs are usually drowned out by the strangulated sound of somebody barfing their Shiraz up all over the cream carpet.

First resolution is that we will never drink again!

This resolution usually fails within a week, especially if the Coop have a deal on.

I’ve had my share of heaving down the toilet, we’ve all been there, right? But thanks to my menopause, a pint of beer is now my limit and I’d had it by 8pm so I saw the New Year in with a mug of Horlicks!

So I was able to ponder 2014 with sober eyes and it was a memorable year for me and my clan.

It was the year that my youngest son was diagnosed with autism. With a statement in place and excellent support from school, he is thriving.

My eldest son made his TV and film debut and was nominated for best actor in theater awards. One of the other nominees was only Kenneth bloody Branagh!! Branagh won (the bastard) but C was just happy to be there. To be nominated for best actor only three years after leaving drama school aint bad at all, folks!

My son, K, held his first photography exhibition in London and passed his university course with flying colours. Clever boy! Gets it from me? Er, no. He knows how a camera works, I just click and hope.

My step-daughter, C, qualified as a hairdresser and having fantasized about being 18 since she was 13, decided she wanted to be 13 again having reached 18 to find that it involved having to pay board – which she found a bit shite. I had to cough up half my YTS money to Ma so I felt her pain.

We finally got the lurcher spayed, so now there are two menopausal bitches in the house!

After a three year break from driving (due to malfunctioning hormones) I started to drive again.

I’M BACK ON THE ROAD, MOFOS!!

And finally, on Christmas Day, K and his girlfriend ‘face-timed’ me with the news that he’d popped THE question and the fool said YES so I’m to be a mother-in-law! *preens*

Unfortunately, prior to the call, I’d been watching The Snowman and when he melted, so did my face. I had a full emotional breakdown at my son’s announcement, ON SCREEN and in front of her PARENTS!! Damn technology!!

I’ve always wanted to be a mum. I remember wanting to be a hairdresser when I was about 15 but that was because I had to do something as ‘dole’ wasn’t in Ma’s vocabulary and it was becoming obvious that Nick Rhodes wasn’t going to marry me. :(

I’ve worked in pot-banks, been a nursery nurse, a school caretaker, packed drugs (that’s pharmaceutical drugs I’m not Mimi Maguire, dear!)  and I’ve cleaned bogs for a living but the best job of all is being a mum.

Watching my boys grow up has been the joy of my life. They think I’m a tit at times. They even tell me I’m being a tit occasionally (and I can be a bit of a tit) I’m complex but they know that as long as I live and breathe (and beyond) I’ll always love them. I hope this paragraph will earns me some extra TLC in my dotage..

So, I’m going to gain another daughter. She knows were all insane in this family and still wants in, so she’ll do for me! I hope she’s as happy about gaining me!

Yes, life can be good but, sadly, it’s not always the case..

In 2014, four stories affected me deeply.

The first was of Stephen Sutton – a terminally ill young man who spent the last months of his life raising money for charity. He raised over £4.96 million. I was humbled by his selflessness.

The second was the story of the amazing Neil Baldwin, the former Stoke City kit man, featured in the inspirational BBC film Marvellous.

The third was the tragic death of Aussie cricketer Phil Hughes who died after being struck on the neck by a cricket ball.

The forth happened a few days before Christmas…

Reports on the radio started coming in that a bin lorry had gone out of control in Glasgow and several pedestrians had been seriously injured. As the tragedy unfolded, the gravity of what had taken place became shockingly apparent. Six people were dead and many injured. For me, the saddest part of this tragedy is the woman who is thought to have stopped to use a cash machine and witnessed her mother, father and 18 year old daughter fatally injured after being struck by the lorry.

I have no idea how someone can even begin to deal with that much sadness.

I can’t make sense of it but if I’m to take anything from such a tragic story, it’s to remind myself that life is unpredictable and precious. We all think we have time but unfortunately life has other ideas.

A new year is the chance to start afresh but so is every day. If every year is a new book, then every day is a fresh page on which to write our story. We may not be able to control what life throws at us but it’s completely up to us how we write it.

I have only one resolution this year… to be happy with what I have today because that’s all that I can be sure of.

I hope 2015 is kind to you all.

mumturnedmom

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 piss 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 three 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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