I left my sanity at home

I have been on long term sick due to labyrinthitis, M.E and fybromyalgia. Today I had a meeting at work. Although I was initially excited, as time drew near I started dreading it in a heart dropping, stomach churning way. What if they thought I was faking because externally, I look no different. What if they pushed me to return or allocated work which would, at the moment, be too much? My imagination fired up as non-existent conversations between colleagues in my absence came to mind. “Ere, I bet she’s dragged this out coz her kid’s had the summer holidays, don’t you?” “She’ll have forgotten everything, we’ll have to train her again! Imagine the time that’ll take!” “Have you noticed how quiet it is?!” “She’ll be wanting annual leave next!” I distracted my mind before it traveled further into the realms of the untrue..

I ambled slowly to the bus stop (I am, for now, unable to drive due to symptoms). I felt as though I was in a Victorian novel:

The sky was a blanket of grey, draining the world below of all light and energy. The wind blew icy cold and light rain bit the face of Angel as she pulled her coat tighter around her. “I should’ve let this coat dry after washing it! Now I feel colder than ever” she thought (O.k, that veered from the Victorianesque slightly). She shivered and kept her head down as she battled through the winds. The streets were empty. save a few brave souls, blowing into their hands and marching on to their destinations. Cats lurked down every pathway, glaring accusingly as Angel passed: their whiskers kissed by the fine rain, their eyes bright with the challenge of the day.

The bus stop, when I got there, was busy with people waiting: A lady in her tracksuit smoking to “pass the time.” A young man in a t-shirt bouncing from foot to foot, puffing on an electronic cigarette and swearing profusely, his mother giving him the odd smack on the shins with her walking stick. A young mum rocking a pushchair gently back and forth. Her baby shoeless, coatless, sockless, hatless and blanketless wriggling red toes in the rain. I perched on a wall away from the group and started to plan things to say at the meeting.

Maybe I could ask for a fan. I struggle controlling my temperature. Maybe they would let me have drinks by my workstation. Maybe I should mention my hearing is now damaged in my left ear and my memory is shocking. Maybe not. The bus came, the group of people boarded and I stayed put. My bus was next. A lady joined me and asked if she had missed the bus. She was relieved to learn that I was waiting for the same one. We watched a postman across the road slip and drop his letters. How long before the red vans, the post boxes and the daily deliveries from, generally, cheery postman become a memory of the past? Will Abi tell her children about it:

When I was a kid, we posted letters in a red letter box to Father Christmas. He would write back, you know. And we got post everyday. If the postman had a big parcel, he would pull up in his red van outside the door. My stepmum was a postwoman for a while, and our neighbour was too. They have some stories to tell about banging heads on hanging baskets, running away from barking dogs and finding pet rabbits on pavements! (all true!)

I digress.

The bus arrived. The clock was now ticking. In exactly fifteen minutes I would be walking off the bus right on the doorstep of work. My heart started beating faster. I distracted myself further by staring out the window trying to get gardening ideas from the properties we passed. I started feeling travel sick. I looked down. I looked ahead. I looked to my left. Nothing helped.

By the time I got off the bus, I felt dizzy, exhausted and sick. I stumbled in to the door frame of my workplace and came face to face with my two bosses. Well, I thought, at least I look ill! My worries were instantly quelled as they both held me and were happy I had made it. Over coffee and a catch up, all my questions were answered and my worries eased. In two to three weeks I will be back at work. In my swanky new workspace complete with new chair and new blinds (so I am more in control of the light in the room). I will be meeting the rest of my colleagues next week and I am told there will be a buffet for the occasion. I do hope there is carrot cake!

I am a notorious deep thinker and worrier. Nothing is ever as bad as I fear it will be and today is a classic example. The results of my worry are, as always, exhaustion. I have spent the rest of today power napping whenever I can. I have longed for pyjamas since the meeting closed. I have wanted to run back to the safety of my home and close the door on the world for the day, safe in my cocoon of home comforts: my partner, my stepdaughter, my space, my cats, my sanity! At home I am, for the most part, calm. I am free to be me. I don’t need to wear the “i’m fine, really” mask. I don’t need to worry about what’s about to happen. At home, I am never alone. At home I have unconditional love and support. At home I am complete.

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facebook, ebay and polyester knickers

I am sat here, having finally managed to get Cath set up on wordpress, watching her type her “about me” blog. The TV is off. The room is quiet. Deep concentration ensues, followed by the odd giggle and a look in my direction. “What?!” I ask. “Is it OK to talk about farmville on Facebook, items on Ebay and debate the number of “p’s” in polyester knickers?!”

“Yes hun,” I answer. “You can talk about anything you want.”

Cue another giggle.

She is now set up, still in her nest, cheeping away as she learns her way around the site. She is guaranteed to make you smile on a not-quite-so-guaranteed daily basis! (for being online, I mean – NOT because she is half Sicilian and therefore it is compulsory for her to keep a straight face most of the time!)

Cath would like everyone to realize that she has a very Victorian style of writing (long sentences, and long explanations for points which could be paraphrased). She does however, draw the line in painting her rooms dark red and mourning for more than five years!

SO I have introduced Catherine: cathmoran73 to the wonderful world of wordpress. I am sure she will receive as warm a welcome as I did 🙂

Will the parents of Abi come to the pool side please.

ImageThis is my stepdaughter Abi (8). The picture speaks many words. Abi is confident, cheeky, dramatic and always singing. Always armed with her quick wit, she is a master (or madam!) of managing to get herself out of trouble by making others laugh. Those who meet her never forget her: she is our shining light, our star.

We have never been pushy parents – I see too many pushing children through auditions and working numerous rehearsals around and sometimes during school hours. I watch from a distance and see the toll it takes on their little ones. These parents I have known since school. They too used to audition for shows. One mum in particular desperately wanted fame (I think the writer Judy Blume classed this type of person as a bun head). She now wants the same for her daughter. Nor are we pushy in the sporty sense. We are not the lone parents standing up to watch our child win a swimming gala race, shouting “faster, faster” from behind the video camera, then giving a twenty minute lecture about technique and how this will evidently need work- even though their child won the race and even had time to tread water and check where his competitors were in relation to him!

Whatever Abi wants to try her hand at, within reason, we let her try. She will find her niche someday but needs the opportunity to try things out first. We have encouraged swimming though. When Abi was little we lived in Cornwall near a river. We figured swimming was essential for safety purposes so enrolled her in the local swimming club. Abi was four. We spent ages choosing swimming costumes (“not that one, it hasn’t got FiFi on!”), goggles and floats. We made it exciting with songs and games, then the day came.

It started much as it ended: Abi, despite being surrounded by peers she knew, screamed! I don’t mean shouting and crying which echoes around the sound-magnifying hall, I mean deep breath, full lung scream! We reassured her that she would be safe and went to the cafe in the hopes that she would calm once we were out of sight. We could still hear her from the cafe. We snuck a peek through the window to see her clinging on to the teacher, legs hitched high out of the water.

At the end of the lesson, the teacher asked why Abi would have such a fear of water. We couldn’t give an answer. We had never “dropped” her in water, she had never been out of her depth. She relished baths, enjoyed splashing around and loved water toys. We couldn’t understand it.

The next week was a little calmer, but Abi continued to cling to her teacher. And so it went on, sometimes screaming, sometimes not. Never jumping in and never letting go. Her peers moved up a class, Abi stayed put. On bad days, the tannoy would boom “Would the parents of Abi come to the poolside please” and we would have to fish her out. We gave up. We figured Abi would learn in her own time. Just like she did with potty training (on her terms), riding her bike (on her terms – she would not let us help!), tying her laces (on her terms) and getting dressed (you guessed it! On her terms!). We don’t always give in to Abi but we choose our battles wisely.

Fast forward to eight years old. Abi is in a school swimming gala. She struggles to swim a width whilst her peers are diving in the deep end. She watches them intently. She decides she wants to do what they are doing. Abi has finally set her terms. Now is the time!

We enrolled Abi in three 1-1 lessons so they could gauge which class she should be in. Over the summer, in three half hour slots, she mastered swimming a front crawl, swimming a width, jumping in the shallow end and swimming for short times out of her depth. She is now having group lessons. Her swimming peers are mainly younger than her by a year or two but she is driven by determination to “show them” at the next school gala and dive in with the boys. Today she was made an example of swimming a width front crawl. The others had to watch and copy. Today she jumped in the deep end for the first time.

Today she smiled.

Abi has decided she actually likes swimming now and is keen to learn everything there is to learn. Abi has decided she will not only “show them” next year but will win too. It is such a magical thing to watch your child grow in confidence. All it took was the opportunity to do it….

…… on her terms!

marmite, marmite everywhere….

ImageI used to run around as a toddler with tea in a bottle and marmite soldiers (toast strips with marmite on) squished in my hands. (Not a lot has changed since – my tea is now in a mug, my toast now sliced in half. The essence is still there). I remember the stickiness oozing through my fingers and the fascinating marks my fingers would then leave on the walls! Marmite has always been a part of my world and there is always a sinking feeling when the jar is nearly empty! It may be more expensive per gallon than petrol (so my mother used to tell me), but it is almost drug like in the way it has a hold on me. I have to have it. It is pure comfort.

As I got older, I experimented: Marmite on toast dipped into boiled eggs, marmite drizzled on to pasta and cheese, marmite dumplings! Friends and colleagues would joke about it, handing me meals and leaving a jar of marmite on the side in case I wanted to use it as freely as children use ketchup!

I first noticed marmite merchandising when I was ten: marmite crisps. My mother never bought these because thesewere a “want” item rather than a “need” item (We worked strictly within these boundaries). As I got older I noticed more products on offer – Marmite chocolate, cashew nuts and biscuits! Even marmite toothpaste and lip balm was on offer! I tried the cashew nuts but it was, I am sad to admit, a little too odd! I didn’t try anything else. Alongside the alternative treats, jars changed. Squeezy bottles were now an option, different “collectable” flavours came in to play: old, extra old, champagne, gold. I tried them all! (The gold was my personal favourite) There are now marmite tea pots, aprons, china pots, mugs….. you name it, marmite has made it.

Marmite even made an appearance on an antiques TV show. Old jars (I can’t remember now if they were open or unopened), from years ago – particularly the limited edition ones are, apparently, worth money! What a shame I didn’t keep all the jars I have gone through!

So, after three days with no marmite (possibly a record for me), I have finally relented and bought a jar. I am feeling creative so the floor is open to suggestions: Have you ever cooked with marmite? Have you ever baked with marmite? Have you added marmite to dishes in any unusual way? Maybe you are not a lover of marmite (I call these the marmaladi). Whether you are a lover or not, I would love to hear from you.

For now though, my toast has popped up. Time to break the seal and dig right in!

I will hold the mirror up to you

When you try to hurt me I will smile and close the door. You try to enter my mind and fly around in fits of excitement playing games but the way is barred and the only storm raging is yours. You think I don’t see you with eyes wide open, but I do. You have no power over me, my life is my own. I will not react.

BUT

If you try to hurt her, the door will not close. You are in her mind playing in the playground she freely shares. There are no storms there but bitter laughter echoing in her head. She is waking up. She is seeing you of her own accord. She knows. If you think you can continue, my own storm will brew. You will not be solitary in your bitter world for I will join you. I will hold the mirror up so you see yourself. I will hold her up so you see what she has become. I will show you the results of your mindless acts then I will take her hand.

We will walk towards beauty, towards love, towards calm, leaving you behind in your ugly, dark, lifeless world.

The oddity of cats!

Image I have always had cats. As a child, I would whisper my secrets to Bridie. She kept all my secrets. Being a stereotypical female cat, she was fairly allusive, but if I needed her she would somehow turn up. She would sit by me and keep me company. Her warm body calming or healing me. Sooty was the same. A healer. He would know when he was needed. He really was the funniest, soppiest cat.

 

Now I am older. I have my own house. I have three cats. Charlie (pictured above), is our baby. We also have Tigger and Heidi. Since having my own cats, I have observed them closely. The boys often stare in the same direction at, well, nothing in particular. I have tried to break their vision by moving my face in front of theirs. They just look around me and continue to stare at the “nothing.”

Image Tigger (pictured here), is the most sensitive to people’s emotions. We got him for free from freecycle: a recycling website which ordinarily deals in furniture. Tigger was unloved, living in filth and very nervy. He is still scared of loud noises and plastic bags. And yet, If somebody is poorly, tigger is there. If somebody is upset, Tigger is there. He sits as close as he can to you and settles down. He is soporific and calming.

 

ImageHeidi is another rescue baby. She was found in a laundrette with kittens, curled up amongst the washing. Now, if you can’t find her, she is likely to be found in amongst the ironing, under blankets or balancing on the washing line ready to swipe any fingers which try to remove pegs! Heidi is, as Bridie was, allusive. She spends most of her time outside and yet, if Abi is poorly, Heidi is there. Heidi is extremely reactive to the emotions of children, in particular.

 

I can understand why most literature portrays witches as having cats. I can understand why stories about cats usually contain magic of a sort. They truly are magical. They see things most people cannot, they alert us to movements we otherwise would not have known about. They heal and calm and just know when to be close to us.

 

As I type this, I have Charlie sat next to me, Tigger is stepping through puddles outside in a way which makes him look like he is wearing high heels, and Heidi is on the trampoline, though due to the weather, she is not jumping! (She does! Honest!) 

Has anyone else experienced the oddity of cats?! I am sure any cat owner would have tales to tell!

 

Cue the over the glasses stare: “And which one are you?”

ImageWe all have labels, right? Mum, career seeker, health conscious, OCD (I believe most of us have an element of OCD – a need for routine of some sort). I have many labels. Although I don’t like the labeling society seems to crave! Why should we be put into neat little boxes and filed into the consciousness of the many?

I hid my sexuality until I was nineteen. From that moment on, I have been “filed!” I have a label which has been an interesting one to wear. I met a very unsavoury female and traveled each month to meet up with her. Of course I felt liberated. I had waited my whole life to be me and here was a door to a world I had only dreamed of. It was unhealthy though. Far too many negatives surrounded this relationship. My mother was worried and used to ask what I was up to every time I went away. One day she shone lights in my eyes and checked my arms to see if I had been taking drugs. I snapped. “I’m gay!” I shouted. “I’m seeing someone.”

“Oh I always knew that.” Mum said. Nineteen years of hiding my “label” and worrying about how Mum would react and she was fine. She knew all along! Her only worry was the absence of grandchildren. Now Mum knew, the rest of the world could. I worked with young people with special needs and had done for some years. I went to my boss and explained my sexuality. I did this because some male members of staff can’t do personal care for the girls and I wanted to check I wasn’t going to be in that bracket. I wasn’t. My honesty was appreciated and I carried on as normal. I went through school with some of my colleagues and their only problem was that I hadn’t told them earlier. It turns out one, who was in my “friendship group” (I was always on the outskirts of any group) also wore the secret label. I am pleased to report that she is now happily married to her wife, has a steady job in the police force and is doing very well for herself.

 

I met my current partner , Cath, seven years ago when I was 24. Eight years older than me, she had only worn her label openly for a year. The response from her family was different. Her Mum took baby Abi out of her arms believing it was an infectious disease. She was told it was a phase. Something she would try out then leave behind. Her parents have always been nice to me after all “If I had the right equipment, I would be the best thing since sliced bread.” So I have been told. Cath drip fed the label to her family for fear of being disowned. Her Aunt was fine. Her Nonna knew all along. Her Brother and sister in law were also accepting and this was a huge relief for Cath. It took her five years from meeting me to inform the family. They know but it is not talked about. Cath’s parents have really come to terms with this in the last two years. Maybe I have proven my worth. I have been supportive, loving and providing and always will be. In return, they are supportive and hello’s and goodbyes now involve a kiss on the cheek. The first time this happened I was elated! I felt acceptance. Nothing beats that feeling.

The negative reactions are still present. At Abi’s fifth birthday party (she is now eight), one Mum told her children to say “thank you for inviting me” to Abi’s Mum. She pointed to me. I said “oh, no. This is Abi’s Mum,” and pointed to Cath. (This often confuses people because ironically Abi does look more like me!) The mother said “Oh.” Threw us a filthy look and promptly dragged her children away from the party. If our paths cross now, she still blanks us. We are not worried by this but we do worry about how Abi will feel. She is, thankfully, savvy and headstrong. She knows that she is happy, healthy, loved and safe and that is all that matters.

More recently, a drunk man unfortunate enough to be homeless yelled “lesbians” at us from across the street. Our previous neighbours would shout “dirty f***ing dyke” at Cath and another parent from Abi’s school has targeted us in some kind of witch hunt which has seen him banned from school grounds.

On the other side of the coin, school have been excellent. We have solid friends old and new and family around us. Abi is growing up with an open mind to different lifestyles. We are used to the “so which one are you?” when people try to figure out who is the Mum. We are used to the “I thought one was meant to be more masculine?” (neither of us are) We are used to the surprise when people realise we are in a long term forever relationship. Stereotype seems to label us as sexual deviants who flit from one person to the other.  We are not.

We are also used to the “and who are you?” Which I often get.

Abi ended up in hospital with suspected meningitis when she was six. The doctor asked who “Mum” was. Cath verified it was her. She looked over her glasses and me and said “and who are you?!” I said I was Abi’s other mother. My name was scribbled into the margins of her paperwork. This happens often too. Hence the self made title “margin mother.”

We are no different to any other family! We do school runs and after school clubs, we deal with tantrums, illnesses and fads. We love to snuggle on the sofa and watch films or walk along the beaches to see what we can find. We bake, we read, we write, we love, we cry, we have routine and standards.  It isn’t easy but where there is acceptance, it is accepted whole heartedly. We also have labels but we wear them proudly.