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Middle Age Motherhood, Mayhem, and Musings

For the sake of humanity

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In my work as a freelance writer, I have to do a lot of research – I would say 75% of my time is spent researching and only 25% is spent writing.

Now, I try not to get involved in politics, and for good reason. Yesterday I did become involved in an online conversation about the London atrocities, and it didn’t go well – the entire thing left a bad taste in my mouth as blatant racism and hatred came spewing out of the keyboards of several of the participants of the group. I’m sure I don’t need to go into detail as it is becoming increasingly commonplace for an entire race/religion to be blamed as soon as there is an attack before any details are even known. You can imagine the vitriol. Interestingly, the only people who resorted to using foul language were the ones spitting racist diatribe – presumably, they don’t have the eloquence or vocabulary to get their point across. Or maybe they are just vile human beings.

Anyway, I digress slightly. As I said, I do a lot of research, and recently had a contract to write about Marcus Luttrell, the only Navy SEAL to make it back alive from an operation in Afghanistan to capture a known Taliban sympathiser and leader of an army of militia, Ahmad Shah. The operation was the subject of the film ‘Lone Survivor’ starring Mark Wahlberg.

The unit which went into the mountains consisted of only four men, and Luttrell only survived because he was blasted by an explosion and landed in a hole, hidden from view.

And here is why I loathe the way every Afghan, every Iraqi, every Muslim is tarred with the same brush – Luttrell was taken in by an Afghan named Gulab, and protected. When the Taliban came looking for Luttrell, Gulab refused to hand him over. He kept him safe until help arrived and Luttrell was airlifted. Gulab and his family were forced to flee their village, he has been shot, and is on the Taliban’s hit list, along with his family.

When the US base nearest to Gulab’s home closed, a letter was posted publicly in a newspaper:

“You are informed that your Jewish colleagues and Americans friends are gone now, so who will save you and what will you do? I ordered my commanders and the Taliban Mujahedeens to kill or arrest you alive and bring you to me. Then I will know how your Jewish friends cannot save or protect you.”

And yet this quiet, unassuming Afghan didn’t hesitate to save the life of one American SEAL, knowing what it would mean for himself and his family.

 

 The same compassion was displayed by the Muslim community this week, when they raised over £18,000 in one day to support the victims, even as they were all, as one, being vilified by the press, and the public.

The attacks which are taking place are not being carried out by Muslims, they are being carried out by fanatics who happen to be Muslim.

We need to stand together, and stop the racism and hatred in its tracks. Direct the anger towards the people who deserve it, the ones who commit these vile actions, who take the lives of innocent people in the name of an Islam that the majority of Muslims don’t recognise. Anyone can take a religion, a cause, and twist it to suit their own deranged needs and ideals – it has happened throughout history and will, sadly, always happen. The ones who join in the racist chanting and witch hunts are no better than the abominations who commit these heinous crimes, and yet they are so blinded by poison that they cannot even see it.

This week I have been both humbled and ashamed at the same time. Humbled because of the way mankind has come together to help – the emergency services, the public, fellow man – and ashamed because of the toxicity of those who refuse to see the good around them and go straight in with the pitchforks and flames. The only way we have any hope of rising above this is to teach our children kindness and compassion, and to create a world where this hatred cannot thrive. I’m not idealistic – these attacks fill me with loathing and disgust, I watched the news and wondered how the paramedics could even look at Khalid Masood, let alone touch him or treat him. That speaks volumes about these men and women who are on the frontline every day. I don’t know that I could help in the same situation.

But you can’t combat darkness with darkness – darkness will only be broken by light, and that light can only come from raising our children to be better people.

Only then will we have any hope of coming through this.

 

Too Close For Comfort

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“I spent the morning preparing – long soak in the bath, legs shaved, bikini line trimmed and a quick tidy up elsewhere. I even shaved my underarms, although I had no idea why. Maybe I would be grabbing hold of the head of the bed to steady myself? Who knows? Then I had the dilemma of what to wear? Jeans? Hmm…a bit tricky to get off and on in a hurry. Skirt? Easy access but it was really cold out. I could wear tights but same problem as the jeans, plus they might get laddered in my haste to get them off! Jeans it is then.”

 

I’m a passionate advocate for the smear test. Not that I enjoy them because I don’t, and I’m not sure there are many women who do! But, as with most things in life, putting a humorous slant on things can go a long way to making them less awkward. Unless, like me, you have foot-in-mouth disease!

For the rest of the article, as usual, head to Suburban Misfit Mom where I can be found, putting the world to rights, with other equally irreverant writers!

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Dad

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Usually, my articles on Suburban Misfit Mom are tongue-in-cheek, but World Cancer Day seemed the perfect opportunity to remember the man who gave me my love of books, of libraries, and of the world. My Dad. Read the full article here.

“Saturday was World Cancer Day.
Cancer.

C for Cancer. C is for Cruel and Callous, for Crummy, Crappy and another word I won’t use.
That one word, those two syllables which change your entire life. In the one second it takes to hear that word, your entire world can be turned upside down and inside out, and nothing will ever be the same again.

Cancer steals your innocence.

I can distinctly remember the day I found out that my Dad had cancer. I was in my late teens, and working in a printing shop. My Dad had been to the hospital and I was waiting to hear how his appointment had gone. Impatience got the better of me and I called home. My Mum answered the phone and I knew – I knew by her breathing, before she even spoke.”

I am Glad I Lied to my Children

 

 

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There have been a lot of posts recently about how telling children that Father Christmas is real is damaging them. How we are teaching our children not to trust us. How they will lose faith in us as parents if we perpetuate the myth.

Well…I would dare anyone to watch this video and tell me that believing in Santa is a bad thing. This little boy’s belief gave him joy, and magic, right to the end of his life, literally. Magic and belief that his family gave to him. Comfort at the end of his short life, when he was probably feeling very scared and confused. It is one of the saddest, but also most beautiful things I have ever watched. What Eric Schmitt-Matzen did for that little boy is beyond measure. And by the same token, what his family did for him – because of them and their ability to inject magic into their son’s life – he died happy, and at peace.

I have always told my children that Father Christmas is real and I will never apologise for that. None of them are damaged. None of them are traumatised. And ALL of them trust me with their lives, and yes…before you ask, I have talked at length to them about it. They trust me, they know I will never lie to them. But putting magic and wonder into a child’s life isn’t lying, it is giving them something truly wonderful. Something they will look back on for decades to come.

Taking them into the garden when it’s dark on Christmas Eve and pointing out the International Space Station as it crosses the sky, and telling them it is Santa’s sleigh is simply adding to the magic.

Queuing up to go and talk to Santa in his grotto isn’t lying, it is simply adding to the magic.

Putting all the presents under the tree and telling them Father Christmas has come is simply adding to the magic.

And eating that mince pie and taking a bite out of the carrot they have left out for the big man and his reindeer on Christmas Eve is…yep, you’ve guessed it…simply adding to the magic.

Yesterday was my birthday, and my girls took me for afternoon tea. While we were there, entirely unplanned, Father Christmas took a break from his grotto and came in to the restaurant to talk to some of the diners. My 2 year old Grandson’s face, when Santa came to talk to him, was pure gold. I will never forget that moment. The wide-eyed wonder as Father Christmas crouched down next to him and talked to him, and counted with him, is something no amount of money can buy.

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Why would you deprive a child of that? If it’s done correctly there is no damage done. You are simply giving a child some colour, some magic, some wonder in a world of sadness. They will learn soon enough that life is not rainbows and unicorns, Santas and elves – why not let them have that innocence as long as they can hold on to it?

I call BS on the studies and papers written on this – the Grinches of this world can tell me I damaged my children all they like. All I can say is that I feel sorry for them, their Christmases must have been pretty bleak when they were children.

 

Feeling My Age, and Then Some

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This getting older lark can be a pain in the bum. Literally.

Next week I am 48, although most days I still think I am 21, at least in my head. But today I feel more like 100.

I have arthritis, which is a sucky condition for anyone to have, but when it hits a young(ish) woman, who still has the youthful mentality of Tigger, it is doubly cruel.

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I won’t go into the whys and wherefores of it developing – it’s all here – but today it is getting the better of me. It mostly affects my spine, and most days no one would even be able to tell there was anything amiss. Today, you would have to get down on your knees to look me in the eye, as trying to straighten up brings me out in a sweat.

Fortunately my dignity is kept somewhat intact by the fact that I work from home, and therefore I don’t have anyone to witness the fact that I am bent almost double over my keyboard, looking for all the world like I am trying to hide porn on my screen.

(I don’t have porn on my screen – Jesus, even the thought of it makes me want to weep! Sex, that is, not porn. Although porn would just make me jealous of the positions they are able to contort themselves into!)

Luckily, the powers that be, when they decreed that I should have a crumbling spine, decided to let me keep my sense of humour, which is pretty much as warped as my back.

But today, it is getting the better of me. Every movement is like a blade slicing through my back, and trying to straighten up is like a dawn chorus of Rice Krispies – honestly, the sound is deafening, and quite stomach churning. I have Space Dust in my back.

On top of that, I have tennis elbow. When I first mentioned it to the specialist, she asked me if I play tennis. I laughed. Then she said it was probably from ironing. I laughed even more. I gave up ironing a long time ago, when I realised that I was getting ironed clothes in the wash basket, where the kids had just dumped them on their floor after ironing, and then, rather than hanging them up when it came to my monthly ‘tidy-your-room-and-don’t-come-down-til-it’s-done’ outburst, they found it easier to just stick them in for washing again.

I get it in both arms, and it is usually dealt with by way of steroid shots. But, for reasons best left for another day, I cannot have any more at the moment. So right about now I look like Quasimodo – hunched over and with an arm I cannot straighten without swearing. A lot.

Stress triggers a flare up. Needless to say I am under a lot of stress at the moment, hence me sporting a very ‘Notre Dame’ look. Except, I would be screwed as Quasi, as there is no way I could manage all the steps to the bell tower. What I need to do is reduce my stress, which is difficult when it is happening close to home. But, I can’t change someone else’s behaviour, so I will have to work on changing how I deal with it.

Failing that there are (prescription) drugs. And wine. Not together though. Obviously. Ahem.

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Today I am feeling middle aged and sorry for myself. Getting older sucks.

 

Flying the (Robin’s) Nest

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I love Christmas. It has always been my favourite time of year. My oldest daughter and my son are only two years apart, so Christmas was always a magical time with double the fun, double the excitement.

My youngest daughter was born with a bigger age gap, so once my older two stopped believing, they kept the magic alive for their sister’s sake.

We have so many Christmas traditions – every year we would all buy a ‘special’ bauble to go on the tree, stockings would be hung on the bannister so we could see whether Father Christmas had been before going downstairs. The tree would go up, accompanied by a Christmas movie and mince pies.

And then every Christmas Eve we would all go down to the village square, where the roads would be closed off and a Carol service would take place, complete with Santa Claus walking around, and to finish it off there would be a firework display over the church tower.

Then, new pyjamas would be donned, a mince pie and a carrot would be left out for the big man, and Rudolph, and the children would go to bed with strict instructions not to come down again in case Father Christmas saw them.

And then it was my turn. I would set to work, bringing down presents, arranging them under the tree, taking a bite out of the mince pie and getting the dog to gnaw at the carrot, before drinking Father Christmas’s Baileys Irish Cream  before eventually falling into bed, exhausted but happy.

But children grow up.

This year, my daughter is staying at home, quite rightly, with her fiance and their little boys. Their special baubles hang on their tree, not mine. My youngest daughter no longer believes in Father Christmas, so there is no need for talcum powder footprints on the carpet, or a carrot for Rudolph. My son is still living at home, and will thankfully be spending Christmas day with my youngest daughter and I, but there will be no 6am wake up, or bouncing on the bed.

Last Christmas Eve we went, as a family, to the carol service on the square – my three children, my son in law and my grandson. This year it will be only my youngest daughter and I, as my son will be spending the evening with his friends – again,quite rightly. The entire village turns out for it, so I will doubtless see him there, but it isn’t the same. It isn’t the same as being surrounded by my family; laughing, joking, singing carols and watching their faces as the fireworks explode in the sky.

Boxing Day will be busy – I will, once again, have all of my family with me. They are coming over for the day and staying the night and the house will be filled with laughter and fun. But it’s not the same.

I shouldn’t complain – I have three children who love me very much and who are my best friends. I have two beautiful grandsons who I adore. And I still love Christmas. But the magic has gone. And I miss it, so much.

My nest is emptying, and I hate it. I’m a single mum so there is no partner to share how I feel. I feel…redundant. I still have two children at home, and for that I am extraordinarily grateful, but my son has his own busy life and my little girl is no longer little, she is approaching teenhood and prefers to do her own thing.

Nobody told me that being a mother would have, among all the beautiful times, moments of searing pain, of regret that I let the years go by so fast that I didn’t even notice. I wish I had captured the last time each of them believed in Santa, and had it ingrained onto my brain forever. The last time they shook with excitement as they opened the door and saw all their gifts under the tree. The wide-eyed wonderment of it all.

If I had one Christmas wish, it would be to turn back the clock and have just one more magical Christmas with them all. My babies.

To have the magic back.

Children’s Jewellery Giveaway

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When the lovely people at Kaya Jewellery asked me to run a giveaway for them, how could I resist?

The site is an Aladdin’s Cave of unique jewellery for children – with gorgeous bracelets, charms and earrings, as well as items for Mums, and even beautiful ‘three generations’ sets.

And, as Nana to two beautiful little boys, I was especially pleased to see jewellery for them, too, such as this cute little onyx bracelet.shine-bright-childrens-bracelet-black-onyx

 

With Christmas right around the corner, what better time could there be to offer one lucky reader a £40.00 gift voucher to spend on anything in Kaya Jewellery’s online store? Their Christmas Range has some adorable personalised items, such as charms, ‘First Christmas’ bracelets, and more. 

If you would like to get your hands on a £40.00 gift voucher just in time for Christmas, head over to my facebook page and click the link to fill out the Rafflecopter form. Winner will be chosen at random.

 

Good Luck!

 

Did you just smile at me, you sexist pig?

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Recently I came across an article which claimed that men with manners were sexist.

Or, to be more specific, men who still practiced the art of chivalry. Apparently, according to the study, men who held doors open for ladies, gave up a seat for them, or any of the other behaviours associated with being a gentlemen, meant they were, in actual fact, sexist.

I’m sorry – maybe it’s an age thing, but I love to see a man with manners, and actually, a true gentleman extends this courtesy to everyone; male or female, young or old. Ok, so a gentleman in his 20s isn’t likely to offer up his seat to a man the same age, but he will offer it up to man in his 70s. Is that sexist? It can’t be, because they are the same sex. Is it ageist? Some might argue yes. I myself would think it instead shows a man who has been well brought up, to show respect.

Read the full article here at the fabulous

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Why I will NEVER have a flu jab again

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So it’s that time of year again, when carrying tissues and hand sanitiser are as important as making sure you have your keys and purse. A shopping trip becomes a slalom course, as you try and dodge the sneezes and coughs, and sleeves are pulled down over your hands when you have to hold on to a handrail, rather than risk getting the germs on your hands.

I’ve only had the flu a couple of times in my life, along with swine flu a few years ago, and it is hellish. At the height of it, the house could have been falling down around me and I still couldn’t have ventured from my bed.

So, about five years, I thought I’d do the smart thing and have a flu jab. As a single mum I couldn’t afford to be out of action – who’d look after the kids and the house? I wasn’t eligible for a free one, so I handed over the obligatory £10, and let the pharmacist inject me with the vaccine.

24 hours later, I started falling asleep, anywhere and everywhere. I was sleeping 18 hours a day, 7 days a week. It was horrendous. I would manage to stay awake long enough to take my youngest to school, then go home and sleep until the alarm woke me at 3pm to pick her up again. Then I would fall asleep until it was time to make dinner, and after eating I would sleep again until it was time to go to bed. My days became a blur of alarms going off.

This wasn’t a choice. It was exhaustion, the absolute inability to stay awake.

After a few weeks of this, the fatigue started wearing off. But it was replaced with pain. Severe, unrelenting, intolerable pain. And it hurt everywhere. Worst affected was my spine and my hips. It took a couple of years, yes years, to finally have a referral to a rheumatologist, and after an MRI I was diagnosed with arthritis of the spine. The damage had caused spinal stenosis, which was squeezing the nerves, and the neural pathway which ran down the front of my thigh was affected. I also had a blown disc, and degenerative disc disease.

I was 42.

Further tests revealed joint damage in my hips, along with my knees, ankles, shoulders, sacroiliac joint…in short pretty much every joint in my body has been damaged.

And this all started immediately following the flu vaccine.

Of course, various doctors dismissed this. But I know my body, and I know that somehow the vaccine caused some kind of response in me, which caused the fatigue and the joint damage. I felt it happening. 

My mobility was massively affected. At one point I even had a wheelchair. But I knew that once I got in that thing, I wouldn’t get back out. So I gritted my teeth, and drew on my stubborness, and went to crutches, then one crutch, then a walking stick. I was damned if this thing was going to beat me.

(Of course, I blinged the cane to hell – glitter, sequins, the lot. Hell, if I had to use one I would bloody well make it pretty!)

Blood tests always came back negative. Doctors refused to entertain the idea that I might have a sero-negative auto-immune disorder. They refused to send me for a blood test to check for a genetic marker which would have shown at least a possibility of AS (ankylosing spondylitis, an auto-immune arthritis which affects mainly the spine and sacroiliac joints), even though I was displaying the classic symptoms. I was told it was my age – 42. AS can lie dormant in people with the marker, and then flare up when it is triggered.

I became an advocate for my own health. I researched, I read, I studied. I learnt which foods are anti inflammatory, when to use heat, and when to use cold. I learnt to recognise when I was heading for a flare up, and on those occasions to be kinder to myself. I also learnt that I cannot take NSAIDs (essential for reducing the inflammation in arthritis) when I ended up in A&E with a suspected heart attack.

And all this because I wanted to make sure I was well enough to care for my children.

Oh the irony.

I was put on a diet of heavy duty drugs, highly addictive pain killers. Luckily I can take them or leave them, and I don’t have an ‘addictive personality’ anyway. They’re GREAT for insomnia though! I was also prescribed amitriptyline to deal with the nerve damage which affects my leg. If you can imagine the worst toothache you have EVER had in your life, and picture it in your thigh, you’ll have some idea.

Even those closest to me had no idea how much pain I was in, most of the time. I became good at smiling through it. But sometimes it couldn’t be hidden. Those were the days when I could only move from my bed to the door on my hands and knees. The times when I could only get downstairs on my bum. The occasions when it would take me 10 minutes to climb one flight of stairs because every movement felt as if broken glass was being hammered into my spine.

My children had to witness all of this.

I was supposed to be the strong one.

I suffered steroid injections into my spine. In desperation I underwent radio-frequency ablation, where the nerves in my spine were burnt – this is done when you are wide awake. That didn’t work for me at all.

Other medications were discussed – gabapentin and pregabalin (both epilepsy drugs) – but the side effects were something I just wasn’t prepared to risk.

Five years since that flu shot, and I still don’t have any answers. I still don’t have a diagnosis, apart from wear and tear. One doctor even told me I had arthritis in my wrist because I was overweight! I don’t sit on my bloody wrist!

Something systemic started the day I had that shot.

That shot cost me my health, days/weeks/months of my children’s lives, and it cost me my business. I had a successful therapy practice until then, but from that day on I was too sick to work.

I am not saying this is a usual response to the vaccination – in fact, research has shown me that it is rare but that it does happen. I would never advise anyone else on whether they should have it or not. As I said, the flu is a dreadful illness, and can in some cases be fatal. And that is what I was trying to save myself from.

For the record, I am pro-vaccine. I always had my children vaccinated. I believe wholeheartedly in herd-immunity. Which is why I had the flu shot.

Sadly, that 5 seconds changed my life forever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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