Saturday, 31 January 2009

Singing and dancing like no one is there.

I collect quotes from famous people like some people collect stamps. I don't collect any old phrases, I write down the ones that speak to my heart. My favourite quote of all time is:

“Sing like no one's listening, love like you've never been hurt, dance like nobody's watching, and live like its heaven on earth.” (Mark Twain)

I try to live my life by this quote. I try to remember to make the most of every day and live life to the full, experience has taught me that anything could happen tomorrow.

This is more difficult than it sounds. Life has a habit of trundling on without you really noticing. I have days where I cannot see the good and I am not trusting in God and His plan. I have days where nothing seems to go right and of course, I have the boring, run of the mill days that we all have.

I have been told that I am a positive person and, although I have to remind myself of this at times, I do agree with that view. I try to see the good in situations and in people, I think that is why, when I can't see the good, it hits me harder.

I have so much to be thankful for: (in no particular order) my parents, my amazing family, my 2 wonderful husbands, my 4 beautiful children, fantastic friends and the love of God. I am a very lucky girl (can't use the word woman, as at 36, it still seems too grown up for me) and I count my blessings regularly.

I sing and dance an awful lot. If you catch me at it, don't be concerned by the awful noise and the strange movements, I am living my life to the full, come and join me!

Thursday, 29 January 2009

January blues.

January is a tough month for most people. A Dr Arnells has come up with a calculation to work out the worst day of the year (1 of the Mondays in January).
The formula for the day of misery reads 1/8W+(D-d) 3/8xTQ MxNA.
Where W is weather, D is debt - minus the money (d) due on January's pay day - and T is the time since Christmas.
Q is the period since the failure to quit a bad habit, M stands for general motivational levels and NA is the need to take action and do something about it.

Now I don't know if this is true, but January 2009 has been pretty bad for me. A dear uncle died, my husband's job is not certain family members are playing silly games and hurting others, some friends have displayed some pretty ugly behaviour and are quite open about what they have done, almost proud, my parents' health has not been as it should and I am trying to support someone who has recently lost her husband.

I have tried to pass on everything to God in prayer, but I still go around with a huge weight on my shoulders. Why? Who knows?

What I do know is that next month HAS to be better. Already the evenings are getting lighter, it is a shorter month, Valentine's Day should bring romance into most relationships and we are heading closer to spring.

Not sure what the point of this entry is, but it has helped to get it all off of my chest.

Monday, 26 January 2009

If life throws you a lemon...

...make lemonade! (Joan Collins)

In the past I have often wondered about this phrase, what does it mean? Starting to write this blog has shown me that a lot of the time I have caught the lemons and made some delicious lemonade.

There are some situations that you just cannot make the best of. For example losing your husband, best friend and soul mate when life together is just beginning.

Matthew and I had 1 son and had just found out that I was expecting another baby, after losing a baby a couple of months before. We lived in a lovely area and both had jobs we enjoyed. Most of all we had each other.

Matthew collapsed on Rememberance Sunday 2001 and within weeks we found out that he had an incurable cancer. For 11 months he received treatment to prolong his life, but as in many cases of cancer, the disease was too strong and Matthew died peacefully on 30th October 2002. Ross was 2, Anya was 3 months and I was 29 years old. We had been married for 5 short years.

I have been thinking about this a lot, as I know someone who has been recently widowed, it has bought all of those memories of the initial feelings back.

I was with Matthew when he died, he had slipped into a coma and was being lifted to slide a special mattress under him. He made a funny noise and he was gone. At that moment all the strain and pain and sadness went from his face. After a lot of pain and struggle, Matthew was finally at peace.

I cannot remember my first reaction, but I remember that I was left alone with Matthew, and it was very quiet. I also remember bringing Ross and Anya to say goodbye, it meant nothing to them, but it was very important to me that I could tell them later on that they had said goodbye.

That day my house was full of people coming to say goodbye. I sorted out Matthew's favourite shirt, and trousers and I made sure that his boxers and socks were the ones he had got on Father's Day. Silly maybe, as he was being cremated, but it was vitally important to me that Matthew wasn't in his pyjamas.

I know that I didn't cry. I went into organising mode. Matthew's mum and I went to the funeral directors and made the arrangements. Peter, our vicar came and made arrangements. I spent ages on the phone ringing people and telling them that Matthew had died and then ringing them with details of the funeral. Organising the funeral was not too difficult, Matthew had stated what he wanted and had marked several songs in the hymn books.

The tears didn't come for 10 days, and it was the kindness of someone I didn't know that well. We arrived at the church in the pouring rain and as we got out of the car I saw the midwife who had looked after me during my 1st pregnancy and the midwife who had delivered Ross and Anya. They wrapped me in a huge hug and that was it, the damn was broken.

I don't remember much of the funeral, I spent most of it in tears looking at the box beside me, the box that contained my husband, and all my hopes for our future.

After the funeral I went home to mt parents and stayed the night, I could not face being alone. Christmas passed in a blur, as did my 30th birthday. I made sure the children were ok, I ate, I went through the motions but I was numb.

Every so often the pain would break through and I would cry, usually at some stupid time in the early hours. I've often asked if I was angry, I can honestly say no. hat would be the point of getting angry? Who would I get angry at? Matthew? He didn't ask to die. God? He had given Matthew and I the strength to carry on, He had helped me get through that first week, I was thankful to Him not angry.

Grief is a strange creature, it can make you feel sad, tearful, frantic, disinterested but worse of all numb. Not just numb to the sadness but to everything. I couldn't enjoy my children, I don't remember many of Anya's firsts. She asked me the other day what her first word was, it made me feel bad to tell her that I cannot remember.

Grief shaped my life for many months, now it just adds shape once in a while. I like to think of my life as a book, in chapters. Each chapter leads to the next and builds on the story, what has happened in 1 chapter is not forgotten and will be referred to throughout the story, maybe not in each chapter, but every so often.

This post is quite random and probably doesn't make sense, but it has taken me a week to write, I may well come back and rewrite, butfor now I will publish.

Friday, 9 January 2009

Random thoughts

Do your own children delibrately time tantrums for maximum impact, ie when you are running late or whilst out shopping?

Why is it that Mum (me) is the only person to notice the bins need emptying?

Are thank you letters not the 'done' thing any more?

If thank you letters are not the 'done' thing, why do I feel compelled to mae my children write them?

Why is it, when you have spending money, you can't find clothes to buy, but when you have no money, there are lots of things that would suit/fit you?

Why are all the lovely things fattening?

Do New Forest Ponies enjoy their freedom, or do they wish they were 'kept' like the horses in fields?

Am I a nutter for these thoughts? (answers on a postcard.)

Thursday, 8 January 2009

The big C.

What Cancer Cannot Do

Cancer is so limited...
It cannot cripple love
It cannot shatter hope
It cannot corrode faith
It cannot destroy peace
It cannot kill friendship
It cannot suppress memories
It cannot silence courage
It cannot invade the soul
It cannot steal eternal life
It cannot conquer the spirit.

This poem was on the wall of the local cancer help centre and it is so true.

Cancer features heavily in many people's lives, statistics claim that 1 in 3 people will be affected by the disease.

In my life I have lost 3 important people to the disease, my Grandad, my Aunt/Godmother and my husband. I have watched as cancer has reduced the people I love to shells of themselves. However, these shells are their physical shells only. All 3 of these people retained their dignity and showed remarkable courage.

Matthew never gave up hope, during his illness he became closer to God and inspired others with his witness, his dignity and his strength. He refused to be known as a cancer victim and refused to talk about his *battle*, as he said how can you *battle* a disease. His bloody minded stubborness helped him to outlive expectations and to meet Anya. His kindness and love for me meant that I was able to love again.

Cancer is an evil disease, it can rob you of those you love, but it cannot rob you of your love.

The college years: 3rd and 4th years 1993-1995

Each college year involved some sort of drama......I must be a magnet for it.

Our 3rd year started off well. Jenny, Kirsty, Becca and myself found a house to rent together. Becca was going off on an American exchange for the 1st term and so her room was let out to Neal. The term started well enough and at the end we had all visited our teaching practice schools ready for the spring term.

We girls planned to go to the Christmas ball and got home from our school visits to get ready. Waiting for us were official looking letters. We were being evicted. Apparently our landlord had been charging us a fortune in rent, but had not been paying the mortgage. Frantic phone calls to our parents followed. Within the next few days the mortgage company had agreed that we could stay on until the end of our tp and then the house would be repossessed. We then did something that I now now is against the law, ooops ;o). We opened the landlord's post (he used to come and pick it up once a month). We discovered he had several different credit cards maxed up to the limit and he wasn't paying them, they were threatening legal action....he obviously wasn't good with money.

The Christmas ball was a little flat after the news, but we did have plenty to drink funnily enough.

After a fantastic TP, I went back to live with Julia and Robin, my surrogate parents. I met Matthew (see previous blog entry) and actually enjoyed the rest of my 3rd year.

My 4th year started in the east end of London. I was due to start my final year at Star School in Tower Hamlets, but first I had a 3 week community placement in a school for children with a range of disabilities. The 1st few days were great, apart from the fact that I felt rough. I am sure I was coming down with cystitis, so got some med from the pharmacy. One night I was in an awful lot of pain and then started bleeding, I collapsed. Someone called an ambulance and I was taken to Newham General hospital. I remember the ambulance men being less than sympathetic and telling me I was probably experiencing a miscarriage. My parents were called and I remember stressing that I wasn't miscarrying as Matthew and I had been very to tell your parents that you are in a sexual relationship . What's worse is my parents had been told that it was likely that there was a problem with my kidney, so had no idea what I was going on about. I really don't remember the next couple of weeks, but I have been told the following: I was transferred to Whitechapel hospital at Bow, where a scan showed that my left kidney was blocked and in danger of bursting. A tube was inserted into my kidney and attached to a bag to drain said kidney. I contracted blood poisoning and at 1 point my parents were told that I had been lucky to make it through the night. Matthew was constantly by my side apparently.

During this time my parents were running themselves ragged. My Nan (Mum's mum) was living at my parents' having broken her hip, my Grandad (Mum's Dad) was in the local hospital dying from cancer and my aunt (Dad's sister) had just been re-diagnosed with breast cancer. The fact that they coped with all this just goes to show how amazing they are.

While I was in hospital, my Grandad died. I remember being told by Mum and Matthew. I was close to Grandad and his death was devastating. I was allowed out of hospital for his funeral and hid my bag in an old handbag.

I was then transferred to St Andrew's, a hospital so dirty and badly run that it has since been demolished! I was on a mixed ward, where there was no such thing as dignity...if I felt that at 21, what must the elderly gentlemen in the beds beside me felt? The first op to sort out my kidney failed, a few weeks later I went back for an op to remove part of my uretha where the blockage was. This would be my 3rd general anesthetic in 3 months. I finally went home on Christmas Eve.

Against advice, I went back to college in January, the thought of having to repeat a whole year rather than just my TP spurred me on. I attended every lecture, seminar and tutorial and completed the year despite a particular tutor telling me that he doubted I would finish the year....I really am stubborn!

My college year finished with my repeated TP. This time I was in Upton Cross, just down the road from West Ham's ground. I loved the time in the school. My class consisted of 1 Afro-Carribean girl and 29 Indian children. The Indian children came from Islamic, Hindu and Sikh families, this was a real eye opener, the racial tensions between these 10 and 11 year olds was incredible.

At the end of my TP I was offered a job in the borough of Plaistow but I turned it down as I wanted to be down south with Matthew. I got my job at Holy Family on Millbrook on 4th December 1995 and started in the January.

Monday, 5 January 2009

The college years: 2nd year 1992-1993.

Moving into the flat was interesting. The car could not be parked very close to the building and the flat was on the top floor (only 3 or 4 floors, can't quite remember.) The lift was tiny, so Mum, Dad and I shuffled boxes and cases from the car, through the security door (wedged open with a box), into the lift (also wedged open by a box), sent the lift up and ran up the stairs.

Living in the flat was a laugh. We lived around the corner from the good pubs....always a plus. We lived a short walk away from college. We became very childish while walking to was the height of David Baddiel and Rob Newman's 'History Today' sketches,( and we used to get more and more ridiculous with the 'that's you that is' comments.
The flat was also the time of practical jokes. I received a phone call as I was interested in a new garage door. The sales person got most irate when I explained, I had no car, no garage and therefore no need of a new door. Kirsty received details of a man desperate to meet her if she paid the dating agency x amount, Becca went away 1 weekend and found her clothes and food missing, Jenny arrived back from a weekend home to find her posters all upside down. The worst threat was the piggy cupboard. Kirsty was visiting a pig farm as part of her course and her clothes and boots were locked in this cupboard as they pillow was found in there once. We called a truce when it got to the point that no one wanted to go away for fear of what might happen.

College was still good, although Teaching Practice was wearing as we had to catch the mini bus at 6.30am and we didn't get back until 6.30pm. I was in a school on the edge of a notorious estate on the way to Portsmouth. This experience set me on my love of tough areas, and to this day, I have preferred my inner city experiences in teaching to my *nice, safe* schools.

During the 2nd term, the court case of the man who had threatened us happened. My Dad and my brother came down to support me. As the man had changed his plea to not guilty, Bryony and I had to give out statements to the court. The man was represented by a woman and the Crown Prosecuter was an oldish man. Bryony went 1st, we weren't allowed to talk, so as she was escorted out of the court, I was escorted in. The Prosecution wnet first and basically led me through my version of events. I concentrated on him until he asked me if the man who had jumped out that night was there. When I looked up the man was there smirking at me. Then the Defence questionned me. She ripped in to me; Was I flirting? Was I drunk? Had I been dressed provocatively? Surely 2 girls don't go out on the town without wanting male attention etc etc. When I came down from the stand I began to feel like maybe it was my fault. We went to wait in the witness room and then we were told that the case had collapsed. Apparently the police should have asked us to identify the man in an id parade.

This was the first time I attended counselling, I had real problems coming to terms with the attack and the court case and 1 of my tutors set up sessions with the college cousellor. I was able to shout and cry without upsetting/boring my friends and family. This really helped as the man would follow Bryony and I when he sw us in town. This was before the stalking laws, so as he did not touch or talk to us, the police could do nothing. What finally helped me come to terms with it was a poem I wrote during my creative writing course.


Please go, I'm asking you nicely,
Your presence unnerves me
and fear builds up.
I had finished that chapter
Now you are back,
Haunting me,
Taunting me,
Please go, I'm asking you nicely.

Please go, I'm asking you nicely,
Not demanding like you,
No weapon to threaten with,
No promise of pain.
Let me continue my life,
I don't want to feel fear,
Or know that you're near.
Please go, I'm asking you nicely.

Please go, I am asking you nicely,
The court case has been,
The casethrown out.
You have your freedom,
But I have none.
While you are here,
My prison is fear.
So, please go, I'm asking you nicely.

Saturday, 3 January 2009

The college years: 1st year 1991-1992.

One Sunday afternoon in September 1991, my parents drove me down to Winchester and dropped me off at a strange house. I was 18 and had never been away from home for more than 2 weeks.

My first term was nerve racking and I grew in many ways as I discovered the student lifestyle. I still had the home feel as my landlord and landlady were like another (less strict) set of parents. Their younger daughter, Bryony, was still living at home and we became firm friends.

On our fisrt day the Teaching Studies tutors had us doing the strangest things to 'break the ice'. All B'Ed students had to go to the exam hall with a pebble. Once there we then had to wander round and find a match for our about 30 seconds!!!! We then had to sit down with our new friend and tell them what their name was, where they came from and which course they were doing. I got my partner completely wrong. He was almost right about me, he reckoned my name was Karen (not too far from Korinne), that I came from London (just outside actually) and that I was studying B'Ed English (now that bit wasn't too difficult as most B'Ed students were doing English).

By the end of the 2nd term I had met the group of friends who have become lifelong friends. We have been through a lot together and although spread around the counrty, we still keep in touch and meet up when possible.

We studied hard and we played hard. I learnt how to eat frugally so that I had more money for cider and walked most places ...again to save money for cider ;o) I agreed to share a flat with 4 friends, Jenny (Maths), Becca (English), Kirsty (Biology) and Annemarie (Art) for our 2nd year...true independence!

Before I knew it, my 1st year ended and I went back to Stevenage to work for the summer. In a year I had parted with a boyfriend, learnt to budget and live independently, learnt that college life was amazing and grown up an awful lot.

One Friday night after work, I got on a train to go back to Winchester to spend the weekend with Bryony. We were going out for a few drinks and a boogie at, the *delightful* club, The Red Electric (commonly known as The Dead Epileptic). We were both off men so we wore jeans and t-shirts and made less effort than usual with our appearances. We spent the evening basically slagging off the male species. At 2am the club closed and we set about walking home as we had done on most Friday nights.

Arm in arm we chatted as we walked up Romsey Road. We were part way up when we were jumped out at by a short fat drunk. He held a screwdriver at our throat and demanded we did as we were told. I froze. Thank God Bri had the presence of mind to grab me and scream run. We ran down the road until we met up with a man on the railway bridge, he and a man who had seen what had happened accompanied us to the police station.

Bri phoned her parents and they came and waited with us as we gave our statements. While Bryony was giving hers, our assailant walked by the police station and I pointed him out. He was duly arrested and was found to have the screwdriver in his pocket....idiot!

Summer holidays passed in a state of fear and tears. A lady from Victim Support came to see me to *help*. She was as useful as a chocolate teapot, I still remember her words; ' Well, in a way you are to blame, you shouldn't have been out at that time of night.' I knew that I couldn't let my life be controlled by fear so I decided that my 2nd year would be a fresh start.

Friday, 2 January 2009

Elasticated love....or how I found the loves of my life!

As a student at King Alfred's College, I embraced the student lifestyle. I was young, free and single and just enjoying life. One Saturday night at the end of April 94, a friend and I went out for a night on the town. We had started with a bottle of wine between us and carried on drinking in the pubs and ended up quite merry in the town's only nightclub. My friend and I watched the dancing for a while and then she deserted me. There I was watching the dancers whilst standing on my own. I watched 2 men across the bar. 1 immediately caught my attention as he had the most amazing blue eyes I had ever seen. Feeling confident,with more alcohol than blood coursing through my veins, I approached the men. Mr blue-eyes smiled at me and asked me if he could buy me a drink. We chatted and danced and then he and his friend walked me back to the Halls of residence where I was staying the night at my friend's room. It was fair to say that we were all rather drunk and I remember writing my name and number on his arm. I didn't think he would ring, but was pleasantly surprised when he rang to ask me out for a drink the next day.

Matthew and I met regularly and he drove me home at the end of the term and met my parents. Come September I started my final teaching practice at a school in Tower Hamlets. I liked Matthew a lot, but what we had was fun, I didn't think it was serious. During my 1st week I felt a bit rough, but thought I was coming down with a bug. I collapsed and ended up in hospital with a blocked kidney. Matthew drove his Morris Minor from Winchester to the East End to see me that night. He arrived after a nightmare journey and after visiting hours. Apparently the nurses let him see me, but I don't remember much until a week or so later.

From that time on, both mothers were planning our wedding as they were convinced we were made for each other.

Due to my illness I missed my TP and had to repeat it at the end of my final year. I finished in London in December 1995 and moved in with Matthew just after Christmas. Just before New Year's Eve we had an almighty row and he shouted that he was going to ask me to mary him. The following morning I accepted his proposal and we married in July 1997.

August 2000 I gave birth to our 1st child and in November 2001 I fell pregnant with our 2nd child. Matthew had been feeling rough for a little while, the doctor believed it was down to stress but had taken some blood and was running tests. The weekend I took the pregnancy test, Matthew collapsed. Within a matter of weeks he was diagnosed with cancer of the Oesophagus, treatment was started to prolong his life and we prayed that he would meet our new baby in July 2002.

Our daughter was born in July 2002 and a week later we were told that no more could be done for Matthew. On October 30th 2002, Matthew died he was 33, I was 29, our son was 2 and our daughter 3 months old. I thought I would never ever meet someone as wonderful, and therefore at 29 believed that my life would consist of bringing up my 2 gorgeous children and seeing friends and missing my soulmate.

In the November of 2002 I joined the WAY Foundation for those who are Widowed And Young. I spent many nights in their chat rooms talking to people who really understood how I was feeling. I took some leaflets into the local Wessex Cancer counselling centre where Matthew had had counselling before he died as I knew there would be others in my situation.

One night in June I got chatting to someone who was complaining about a storm, I said that I was listening to a storm too and I asked where he was, he was a few miles down the road. We chatted on and off for a few nights and agreed to meet at a local pub.

He was a lovely man called Alan, his wife had died from breast cancer a few months before Matthew, she was 32. It was good to chat in real life to someone who understood my pain.We became good friends, Alan would come over to help with DIY and cook for me and I would take the kids over to see him and help with his gardening. We spoke on the phone most nights into the early hours, helping each other through our grief.

In late August I went away to stay with friends down in Cornwall and they teased me about how I kept talking about Alan. It got me thinking about my feelings for him and how attracted to him I was.I decided to do nothing about it,but I turned conversations round to 'THE FUTURE' and said that I was beginning to feel that I could accept someone into my life,but he said that he didn't think he ever would.

By late September I realised I had pretty powerful feelings for him and I spoke to a friend about it and she said to go with what I felt would be best. I sat and rewrote an email hundreds of times telling him how I felt,but saying that he was a very important friend and I didn't want to lose him. I pressed send and then ran round to a friends house to tell her all the time thinking 'shit what have I done?' A couple of hours later I went home to find his reply, saying he had similar thoughts and he needed to come round and talk tome. We discussed everything and decided to do nothing as we had to think about the kids and they had already has turbulent little lives...that resolve lasted about a week.

We went out to a local WAY get together and then he drove me home,I asked him in to watch Match of the Day as Southampton (Matthew's,mine and Alan's team) had won that day. When he went to leave, instead of the usual hug, he kissed me.That was September 2003, less than a year after losing my beloved Matthew. On the Valentines Day 2004 Alan proposed and I said yes.

We had a long engagement, so that all 4 families could get used to the idea and then a big wedding in December 2005....which included my family, Alan's family, Matthew's family, Ju's family and loads of friends. It was a very emotional day. We now have 1 daughter and 1 son together. Alan adopted the older 2 children in 2007 and we are 1 big (if somewhat extended) family. I still love Matthew dearly, just as Alan still loves Ju, but both of them gave us their blessings to move on and meet someone new before they died.
I didn't think I could ever love another man, but I have found out that love is elastic, it stretches to encompass all.

Oh yes....the way that Alan found out about WAY was from 1 of the leaflets that I had handed to the we were obviously meant to be together!