Dish – 5th April 2020 (daily prompt)

I love travelling. And I don’t mean holidays as such, just visiting different places: experiencing life elsewhere. Whilst I have done package holidays and like a beach as much as everyone else, I actually prefer immersing myself into the culture and history of a place. Part of that, is eating the local dish of the region when I can. I’m not one for finding the tourist inspired cafe to eat their take on fish and chips. So here goes, some of the dishes that I have tried and loved abroad:

Austria – I ate a smorgasbord of meats, sausages, cheese and sauerkraut in the mountains. I also ate apple strudel and their version of vanilla custard which is really light and delicious.

Belgium – Not a dish as such, but it goes without saying that you try their chocolate and pastries.

Bulgaria – in the hotel we stayed in, I ate the most amazing fish dish which was accompanied by a sauce made with vodka.

Czech Republic (Prague) – a traditional stew with dumplings served with a blob of cream (it works, believe me!). And then, a ‘chimney cone’ filled with chocolate, fresh strawberries and cream.

France – Steak and fries which was the best I have ever had. Plus, pastry from a local village bakery as a birthday treat.

Germany – it has to be German Bratwurst.

Greece – stuffed vine leaves, moussaka and their peaches and water melon.

Italy – admittedly, I love everything! Pasta, pizza and gelato.

Mexico – Bbq fish at a restaurant at the side of the road, near the sea. The place was basic but the food was amazing.

Morocco – Harira is delightful. I really enjoyed chermoula marinaded fish though, served with salad dressed in olive oil and preserved lemon.

Spain – Paella, every time.

Switzerland – I’m cheating here a little as we only stopped off in Switzerland on a coach trip to Italy. We were at the most picturesque motorway services I have ever been to – wooden building, surrounded by mountains. I ate the most delicious fruit, yoghurt and museli I had ever tasted, sat on a balcony looking at mountains.

Sadly, there are a few places I have been to where I can’t remember a particular dish that I ate when I was there. Never mind!

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Song – 3rd April 2020 (daily prompt)

Don’t you love how music is a memory? How a song can evoke thoughts and feelings and sensations?

I love how, when playing a song, a line or a verse can alight a fire in you as if somehow the writer has written exactly what you are thinking and feeling.

There are songs that remind me of my dad. Songs that he loved – many that we played as he was dying and at his funeral. There were songs that we sang to him when he was unconscious because they summed up how we were feeling. And afterwards, these songs give us comfort. Like the time when I was cleaning my son’s bedroom and had music playing out of my phone. I was thinking of my dad and hoped and prayed and willed him for a sign that he was OK. The next three songs, I kid you not, did exactly that. Weird.

I have a YouTube play list of songs for Wild Card. Songs he has sang or played for me. Songs I have sang for him. Songs I played when I lay in his bed each morning, waiting for that knock on the door and the warmth and love of his body as he came to me.

But it’s not just songs that can have this effect. Listening to particular sounds are important too. Like the wind through the trees, birdsong, waves. Just closing your eyes and listening… Nature has its own songs too.

Taking the time to pause and listen is really important.

Irony

The irony of this blog has not been lost on me. I started it when I separated from my husband in an attempt to see this as a positive chance to start my life again.

The irony of course, comes from what happened afterwards. Seems like Life wanted to change anyway, regardless of my marital status.

In November last year I had a ‘breakdown’, although I much prefer the Teaching Unions’ labelling of ‘burnout’. I was mentally, emotionally and physically exhausted. Once the tiredness had finally ebbed, I was left with a numbing darkness: a malevolent emptiness which reeked on my own self-dissatisfaction and sense of failure. In those burned out eyes of mine, I had failed at my marriage, failed to keep my Dad well, failed at my job because I wasn’t strong enough, and failed as a mother because I was weak and a mess.

Months later, sedated by antidepressants and the memories of counselling, I returned to work. The phased return helped and soon I was feeling like the old me again. Not the new me my blog had promised to recount, but the old me.

And then, only a couple of months later, Dad deteriorated further. We thought we were losing him in April but he survived somehow and we were told that he was at the end of his life and we should prepare that he would have about twelve months with us. I believed we would be lucky to have another Christmas with him, but I hoped. He was a strong man despite his illness.

He returned home frail and didn’t seem to recover the way we had hoped. There were more tests, doctor’s appointments, carers… And then the ambulance calls in the middle of the night, only for him to be sent home days later with more medication.

Then in May he was admitted again with severe anaemia. Within days, a chest infection started. Then a little heart attack. And still we had hope. We had til Christmas, didn’t we? We had a year! He’d pulled through before.

After a week we started to doubt. He was not getting better. The hospital were not giving up, but our hope was fading. Our handsome, strong Dad was pale and weak and sleepy. He was black and blue from blood tests and transfusions.

And then, on June 6th, after discussion with the doctors, we made the decision to withdraw treatment – Dad’s non-invasive ventilator – the thing that was keeping him alive. He wasn’t getting better and we couldn’t see him suffer any longer.

Dad died less than twelve hours later with me and my two sisters by his side. And my life as I knew it ended.

I’m not the same person without my Dad. I’ve lost what little strength I had recovered after my ‘burnout’. A colleague has described me as a ‘broken woman’ and its stark accuracy startled me. I feel broken.

The clichés – a ‘part of me is missing’, ‘something has died inside me’ – how I wish they were metaphorical! I always thought they were but then I had never experienced grief like this before.

I write about my grief to cope with it. To remember it. Because it, in a slightly strange way, is also a part of Dad and I don’t want to forget this part either. And I hope these honest reflections can help someone too. Help them realise that they are not going mad, that these tumultuous feelings are a normal part of grief. Grief is not just crippling sadness – something I didn’t know until now. Grief is a very lonely place.

Change was a positive aspiration two years ago. It’s now a source of anxiety and pain.

My counsellor tells me that my grief is ‘healthy’. I’m told that it’s ‘selfless’ which is a good thing apparently. These are just words to me. I’m glad I’m not dipping back into depression again but these words mean nothing. I’m still grieving.

For six months I have tried to do what is expected of me. Carry on with my life. Keep being a mum and a teacher, a sister and a homeowner. As each month has passed, I’ve tried to hide the grief which is still as strong as it has ever been. (Maybe that’s it – you never get over it, you just learn to hide it better? ) Apparently, I’m not doing very well at this.

Last Sunday, after some Christmas shopping, I returned home and cried and cried and cried. I went into work Monday morning, frog-eyed and raw, to speak to HR in the hope they’d let me hide myself away in my office and work. Carry on, the way I’m supposed to.

An hour later, I’d let out my grief again. I’d discussed my pain, my fear about Christmas. My fear that people saw through my very carefully constructed facade of being OK.

My fears were well founded. My colleagues say that I am not the same, that I don’t have the same ‘gumption’ I once had.

How hard I have tried to hide this! I know I don’t have the same strength, but I didn’t want everyone else to see this. It was OK in the beginning, people expect you to be that way. But after a time, I believed that I should be back to myself, externally at least.

Although I feel like a failure, I’ve been told that I’m not and people don’t see me as one. I’m not sure I agree on either count.

Day to day, most days, my grief is a burning ember inside me. It’s a gossamer veil that covers me. Change is a catalyst though. It stokes the embers and the grief burns in my chest. Like today – simply preparing for Christmas with final shopping and cleaning and tidying has caused anxiety all day. Such a strange emotion as I’m not sure why it’s anxiety, but that is what I have felt and what I always feel when I experience change since Dad has died.

I know Christmas will be hard. Its a change. I’ve never had a Christmas before without my Dad: now I will never have one again with him. My anxiety is a symptom of this knowledge.

But somehow, this week’s grief and work revelations have created something new in me. I don’t want to fail. I don’t want people to see me as weak. How can I find myself again? I haven’t created these changes but I need to embrace them somehow. Use them as a catalyst for positivity if that is at all possible. That determination, the strength that has been bred in me, encouraged in me, from my Dad, is wanting to fight back. It was fine for me to pretend to be OK if I thought no one realised. Now I know that I have failed to hide it, I’m even more determined.

I can’t change my grief. I can’t erase it or end it. It’s there because I loved my Dad and will always love my Dad so it will always be there too.

I have no answers to this. It’s another irony. I share my grief in this blog because I believe that grief is personal but should not be private. And yet, I’m determined to find a way to hide it.

I’m shaking my head at myself as I write this.

So, to all of you that are missing someone this Christmas, I know how hard this is. I’m with you. We are not alone. I will be sending a prayer to you all, as I pray to my Dad, asking him to send a little bit more of his strength my way.

Merry Christmas xx

On WordPress

I tend to come onto WordPress every couple of days to catch up on the few blogs I follow. I only follow a few blogs because I want to make sure I give your writing my full attention – I follow enough so that I have enough to read and enjoy. I’m not going to follow a blog that I don’t have the time to read – that just seems rude, as does the apparent practice of liking posts that haven’t even been read (does that really happen?!)

Of late though, there seems to be less and less on my blog feed. Today I worked through my ‘followed blog’ page on settings and realised that many of the blogs I follow have just stopped – that’s so sad! Sure, a couple have moved to Facebook or other platforms that I don’t use but many have just stopped, frozen in time on those last thoughts and posts.

So, I’m going to start adding some new blogs to my list over the next few days and it’s quite exciting. I love new reading material. 😊

As you can see, I’m still trying to ride the positivity train. I have a road trip that I need to write about but at the moment my mind is preoccupied with my dad who is ill again. Things are not looking good and I will post on this soon too.

Hope you are a having a restful and celebratory Easter with family and friends. Today, for me, is about celebrating being alive – about new beginnings, miracles, and the wonders of this world we live in. Enjoy. 😊

One year on.

A year today I started this blog. Madness. At first I was pretty proud of myself for posting for a whole year, but then I realised it was more than that.

This blog has got me through some really tough times this year. It’s been a friend, a sounding post, a crutch.

Without a shadow of a doubt, on my second and final separation from my husband a year ago, I felt the absence of utter misery and stress would leave me feeling a lot happier. Surprisingly, it didn’t.

My circumstances are a lot different from the first time. I’m older (obviously), have three children (not two), and a more demanding and high pressured job.

I’ve found my separated life to be quite lonely. I’ve gone through dark clouds of depression to euphoric bliss and the boredom of monotony in between:

Dates – nope.

Rooms redecorated – half (don’t ask).

New hobbies – one.

Weight lost – none.

Evaluation of creation of new life? Poor.

But (and there is always a but)..

I HAVE MADE IT!

I have been a single parent to three gorgeous but highly demanding children whilst holding down a career and attempting to keep my house from looking (and smelling) like a dump.

So my advice to you, ‘newly separated and hopeful’ is:

Don’t put so much pressure on yourself to make big changes. Let the dust settle.

Accept that it will take a while for the dust to settle.

Don’t think that the big hole left (however desired) by your ex leaving/getting kicked out is going to be filled with love and wonder and happiness. Not at first anyway. You need to explore every inch of that crater to process what happened: how you feel about it and what you truly want now your dream of night long sex with [insert sexy movie star here] is no longer needed to get you through the pain of a dissolving marriage.

Be kind to yourself. You are going to emote in ways you didn’t know possible. You may even miss him a little. Doesn’t mean you want him back or that you should backtrack on your decision, necessarily. It’s OK to mourn what once was and what could have been.

Give yourself the gift of time. Go out with the girls. Get out in the fresh air whenever you can. Laugh, cook, dance. You don’t need a replacement to make you happy.

Take stock of your achievements regularly. This is a big change to your life. It’s not easy to go it alone.

Don’t be afraid of asking for or accepting help. It doesn’t make you weak. Just reminds you that you are not Wonder Woman. (More’s the pity).

Don’t settle for mediocrity. You’re better than that. You deserve more than that. There’s no rush – get it right this time.

Thank you to all the people who have read my blog and the two special ladies who regularly comment. It is always appreciated. 😊

Here’ s to Year 2 and all that may bring.

Happy Blogging!

Xx

Fighting on

Although my own blogging may have slowed, I enjoy catching up on followed posts most days. Some of you out there are experiencing a life I can’t even begin to imagine: be it through exciting dates or travelling or photography or experimental cooking.

I always find it sad when someone stops blogging for a while. I feel an anticipation when I log in, wondering if the next installment will be there, and then disappointment when it isn’t.

I’ve lost my way with my own blogging. I started out wanting to chart how I was starting again: separated at the age of 37 and desperately wanting to live a fulfilled life.

First, depression hit me. Then, Lost Soul came back in my life and dominated so much of my thoughts, emotions and life. I’ve managed to wriggle free from that hold he had over me.

Since then, probably as I grieved the potentially perfect relationship that never was, my writing has reflected my ever changing emotions. Unfortunately it hasn’t demonstrated my journey to the life I want, mainly because I don’t feel like I am any closer to it.

But I will fight on and write on.

Talking of fighting on, it has been a difficult week. My dad ended up in hospital again with a severe chest infection- not good for a man who has survived lung cancer and has COPD.

We thought we were losing him on Thursday and he was not responding to treatment. Slowly though, he is starting to pull through. Confusion and hallucinations have followed but today as I visited him in hospital, he seemed more like a very weary version of himself.

His scan results have come back today too. As expected, his lungs are continuing to deteriorate. Not expected though, was that he has also had a little stroke.

I have lived with my dad for most of my life. I estimate about three years in total where I have lived away, before I bought and extended my childhood home.

It’s not easy sometimes. My dad is stubborn and is not too keen on change. He also doesn’t always tolerate my moods which is fair enough. On the whole though, we get on great.

I haven’t had a lot of patience with him though this last year. Fighting my own inner demons makes it hard to cope with someone else’s. My dad is naturally a pessimistic person and that can be hard to deal with day after day when you’re fighting to keep yourself positive.

He is a fantastic dad though. He has been there for me and my siblings whenever we need him. He is funny and caring and generous.

He tells us that we are his life and he is certainly the centre of ours.

I can’t wait for him to get home. I’m looking forward to hearing his grumblings because, you know what? He has earned them. He has survived cancer twice, three serious infections that have brushed with death and now a stroke. He is fighter.

Keep fighting daddy. Xx

The big plan

I hate that title but I can’t think of a better one.

Today I feel strange.

My cough and cold seem to be waning but I feel woozy headed and tired. I had booked my daughter and I in for a long awaited hair appointment and didn’t want to let her down so we went at 9 am.  It was relaxing and I love my hair but the best part was watching my daughter emerge from the chair feeling happy and confident.  As we drove home she said it was the ‘best day she’d had for ages’ and although I think the hair helped, I can’t help but think it is a little to do with the feeling of today.  Where I am, in the North of England, today has the magical feeling of a promise of spring:

The air is crisp and fresh and wintery thanks to this morning’s frost and the trees are still bare.  The sky is a patchwork of white and grey-blue as the clouds thin to show a hint of the sky underneath. And yet the quality of light seems to make the green of the grass all the more prominent: the snowdrops that are coming out seem to glow in contrast.  I can hear birdsong and although the world is at peace it is still filled with the excitement and promise of spring, almost like the anticipation of spring has magically awakened our senses to the joys of what is to come now winter is slowly ending. 

Days like today make you want to go for a walk and just breathe.  And even though I do not feel the joy my daughter feels today, I know that if I was not depressed (or ill for that matter) I would feel like her. A tug of war or see saw effect is playing out in my mind today as the spring light challenges my inner dark.

As I was hanging some washing outside (only thin shirts – it is not that warm!) and enjoying the spring air, I was thinking about how much better you feel when you are outside.  Yesterday I was reading fellow blogger’s post on depression in the news and recommended an article I had read a few years ago about the power of nature to improve your mood.  You can read the blog here and the article from the BBC here.

I thought about my garden. Carved up from what once the council owned small holding my parents rented, it is huge but is in a state of decay and clutter since the onset of my dad’s ill health some years ago.  I have tried to reclaim it from the weeds and mess and once had a blog dedicated to it which I have just recovered the password for – ironically, the blog was as lost as the garden still is. I haven’t read over the posts yet but coincidentally, one of my last posts was about the power of nature:

The Lost Garden Diaries

(The hairs on the back of my neck have just gone…

 

So, in the way that your mind does, mine jumped and skipped from thought to thought until I arrived at my big idea. I’m too woozy and ‘depressed’ to feel excited about it but the flutter of potential excitement has temporarily replaced the drag of anxiety in the pit of my stomach.

Bare with me…

In just over three years, I turn forty.  By the time I am forty, I want to be happy with my weight, healthy and happy.  I want a big party to celebrate this.  I want this party to be at my house meaning the house that I have transformed into the home of me and my three children and father and away from the home that I made with my husband. I want the garden to be similarly transformed to hold said party.

I know this is big. Too big probably. But what it will do is focus my mind.  My garden depresses me for so many reasons so doing it up will make me happier. Being outside makes me happy. Exercise supposedly makes you happy. Exercise makes you lose weight which should make me happy.  Three years is a substantial amount of time to take this reasonably slowly but I know I have the support of my sisters and brother in laws.  I also think it will be a good project for my children too. I have a goal. It is no longer get over my marriage but something more concrete which will help me get over my marriage.  This feels good. Scary, but good.