Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Happy Enough?

Can we ever be completely and utterly happy with our life? I know we can all have  moments of true happiness but if we could would we change things.
How many times do we say," I wish I could win the lottery " and then plan what we would do with all those millions. Give it a thought,would we really like our lives to change in the way they would if we won millions?

Last year on holiday in Turkey we stayed at a small pension with only sixteen rooms. This was owned and ran by a husband and wife. The owner built the pension with his mother when he was a young boy so he's very proud of it. He told me that over the years visitors have asked him why he doesn't make the pension bigger, he has the room. Why doesn't he use space in his garden and build a few villas as many in the surrounding area have done? He would make a fortune,they tell him.

He said he has always refused to do this. It would mean hiring more staff,working longer hours,or maybe even taking a step back himself and hiring a manager and a cook.
The business is just the right size for him to manage and for his wife to do what she loves and cook for the guests. They work hard. He is on the go from 7am until the last guest retires to bed which can be the wee small hours of the morning. They are friendly people and this creates a convivial atmoshere where their guests and everyone who stays leave feeling part of the family. 

He asked,"Why should I change things when I don't need a bigger car or more money stored away in a bank account? I am happy enough!"
What he said stuck with me and I admired him for not being greedy and wanting more.

I suppose if I won the lottery I wouldn't send it back but I would like to think I would give a good deal of it to charities and maybe change the lives of people who have far less than I do.

 I have decided 
 I don't want a huge mansion, I would need to employ cleaners.
 I don't want to travel the world (like I once did) I would miss my family too much.
 I don't want to buy expensive shoes or handbags, I'd probably just buy more books that I don't have time to read.

My children make me happy.
My husband makes me happy
My granddaughters make me happy.
My little dinosaur boy makes me happy.
Friends make me happy.
Writing makes me happy.
Reading make me happy.
Sewing makes me happy.
Dancing makes me happy.
Singing makes me happy( but no one else !)

Listed like that I have many things to be happy about.

 The more I think about it The more I agree with my host in Turkey, I don't want things to change as 
I'm happy enough!

I wrote this a few days ago and only yesterday on Sky News the question they asked was,
"Are you happy?"
I think the conclusion was that being happy meant different things to different people.
You can't say fairer than that!
Are you happy enough?

Saturday, 23 January 2016

We Never Change!

For a few weeks before Christmas I watched a tv programmed called The Secret Life Of Children.
 The series started with two year olds and finished with six year olds. A group of children were chosen from different parts of the U.K. and brought to attend a playgroup where hidden cameras recorded their interactions with each other. Child physiologists were in another room listening, viewing and commenting on the children's behaviour.
I found the programme very interesting. It showed us how children learn how to be social at different levels of their development. Some children are naturally more advanced than others and learn quicker.   

When children are very young they can't empathise with their playmates. They only understand how they themselves feel. Some children just couldn't accept not winning or not being first and broke down in tears. During the course of the days spent in the playgroup friendships were formed. New children were then introduced to the group. Some new children were ignored but some of the children welcomed new faces excitedly and willingly.

What I've experienced in the past few months as the new face in town and my experience of life in general has drawn me to the conclusion that we are all still little kids at heart and never grow up.

In a place of work a new person starts working alongside you and your workmates for the first time. I've noticed some people welcome them and show them the ropes almost without being asked. Other people will be suspicious of this new person, worried if they give too much away the new person could end up better at the job than they are. I worked in a GP surgery and I remember that one new girl was disliked by some staff because she was too nice and too friendly with the patients. Yes and that's true!

As a newbie I have joined a few different leisure classes. Like at school most people were in little groups, cleeks we used to call them. Some have imaginary walls around them giving off vibes of "enter if you dare" All you can do is smile and say hello.

Everyone seems reluctant to be the first to welcome you, but it only takes one person. When that person breaks through the wall and holds out the hand of friendship and draws you into their group the other members also welcome you. Gradually over time the other cleeks notice you and think,
" Well if she's good enough for that group then maybe she's okay." Then one day you'll find you're excepted by everyone. Yes it's just like being back in school.

As you get older it does get harder to make new friends in a new town. Most people have a shared history. Maybe they worked together at some point or even went to the same school, know the same people. You have to find some common ground. It starts off by being the activity of the group you have joined,everyone is there for the same reason. It then has to branch out, do you read the same books, have similar taste in music, enjoy tea and cake,etc...
This was just like the older children in the tv programme. I heard them asking each other about food they liked,toys they liked etc.

As for me being the new girl in town well someone did step outside the group and welcomed me in and I'm gradually feeling like I belong.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

May Contain Nuts!

I wonder if when you see this title you are expecting to read about strange people? Yes, I could write a story or two about them but this is a post about an allergy.

My two year old youngest granddaughter is allergic to nuts. It was discovered when she was just under a year old and my son (her father) let her taste a little bit of peanut butter,he just put it on her lip.
She immediately had a reaction,swelling of lips and face,screaming, rash. Later she had the tests and the diagnosis was that she was allergic to peanuts but had to avoid all nuts or nut products just to be safe. Her mum was given an appointment to come back in for about 18 mths. She was also told,"She's a child,you control what goes in her mouth."
 Nice! and obviously not from someone who has to take care of a crawling toddler who puts things in her mouth or who will attend a playgroup where some other child might give her a taste of something.

 When her father was a child peanut butter was one of his favourite foods. He was a fussy eater and when taking a packed lunch to school a peanut butter sandwich was the only thing he would eat. That wouldn't be allowed in schools now as so many children are allergic to nuts.
So far it has been manageable but as she gets older and is now attending playgroup and soft play and birthday parties her mum has to be even more vigilant.
She also hit the terrible twos a while before reaching that magic age and been know to throw some amazing tantrums for no reason whatsoever. These are the times which worry her mum as she always wonders if she has touched something with peanuts or put something in her mouth. She is inconsolable during these tantrums and it's no wonder her mum thinks she's having some kind of reaction so it's very worrying.

When she comes to stay at our house with her sister who's now four I spend a few days beforehand reading labels on foodstuffs and what drives me mad is, " May Contain Traces of Nuts"
What? It either does or it doesn't, get your act together manufacturers. This carries on through a wide range of foodstuffs, yogurts, biscuits,cakes,ice cream, ice lollies, sauces, chocolate, shampoos and bodywash. These are not nut flavoured but it seems that nuts can be used as a thickener or it may be that something made with nuts has gone through the machine before. I find myself asking her older sister if mum gives her the things I have in my cupboard or fridge and she's very good at telling me.

I have always baked with her older sister and for quickness I buy packet cake mixes usually themed like Frozen, Peppa Pig or Mickey Mouse. On reading the packet,yes you've guessed," May Contain Traces of Nuts." 
I have now started to bake cakes the sensible way, weighing flour and butter and sugar and that means that both of them can eat the cakes when they're ready. The little one doesn't usually eat cakes as her mum doesn't bake and a cake is hard to find that doesn't have a warning on it. When she was given a cake that she had helped bake her face was one of happiness as she devoured it.
 Bad Grandma!

I think manufacturers should stop saying "May Contain " and clean their machines properly or use a different machine to produce products without traces of nuts.
I feel so sorry for mums with children who are allergic to multiple foodstuffs it must be a nightmare trying to find the right products.

It has been relatively easy to hide treats from the youngest and give the oldest the occasional treat behind her back but as she gets older it will be impossible.
I have started thinking about what I can bake or make with her in mind. I would like to try and make ice cream myself then I could be sure it had no traces of nuts. 
Our local fish and chip shop has a counter with a range of delicious ice creams . I had a chat to the assistant and we found a raspberry ripple one that didn't say anything about nuts so I tried her with a small amount at first and she was fine with it. It was a great treat for her.
The assistant I spoke with told me her son is allergic to many things contained in food, dairy, gluten, E-numbers,wheat,nuts...the list goes on.
It surely must be the way food is processed now that so many children are allergic to so many things. It looks like we should all get back to basic and have a cleaner diet. I don't remember hearing of anyone being allergic to anything when I was young or my children were young except perhaps eggs.
I read an article that says instead of not giving your child anything containing nuts until after a year old they have found that if babies are given nut flavoured foods three times a week it prevents most of them becoming allergic. This is of course contrary to what mums have recently been advised.

The little one is due back at the hospital this summer and I really hope she will grow out of the allergy. I don't know how her mum copes with it but the worry I have when she stays with me will have me going nuts soon.

She has a little bracelet like this which is a great idea and can be bought from Amazon or eBay.

Thursday, 31 December 2015

Let it Go! The End of the Year Post.

As I sit here typing I feel like the queen writing her Christmas speech,except she doesn't write it and this is a New Year speech. I suspect the same speech writers who write for the politicians write her Christmas speech and she just looks it over to see they haven't made any spelling mistakes.

For many people this will have been a terrible year and they will be glad to let it go. For many it will have been a great year. I think for the world in general 2015 has not been good. I'm thinking primarily of all those who lost their lives in terrorist attacks. Words can not express how we all feel about those. Lives were also lost to the elements of nature,to earthquakes,to floods, to forest and bush fires and to Tornadoes across the world.
We leave 2015 a little more insecure, a little more suspicious and a lot more aware just how very fragile our lives are.

On a personal note my hubby and I moved into our new house in June but I'm sure you all know that by now and if you don't,where have you been?
I posted my Moving Diaries, the trials and tribulations of buying and selling and I hope I never have to move again.
It has been exciting moving to a new town. I've found people to be very friendly here and we're enjoying the move.
At long last I found a Writing Group and I love it. For such a long time I have only been writing this blog and my book reviews but this group has opened up a new avenue for me. I haven't stopped writing stories and poems since I joined. It's great to spend time with like minded people and if anyone loves to write then my advice is...join a group. Before I joined I was very apprehensive. Would I be good enough? Did I have to be good?What if I couldn't think of anything to write about?
I asked one of my fellow bloggers and author Ros Adam all those questions and she said,
"Go for it, you will love it" and she was right. Thank you Ros.

I have also joined a gym and I have started Zumba, Aerobics and a dance class aimed at the over fifties. This is just not like me at all but I am enjoying them all so far. I don't have a new body yet but watch this space! Ha ha.
Hubby and I had a lovely holiday in Kayakoy in Turkey and again I posted my Turkey diaries which start here.
I'm not sure about returning to Turkey in 2016 we may try somewhere different. If you know of anywhere nice let me know.

We had a sad time in October when our twelve year old German Shepherd dog Sam died. We knew he was a good age for his breed but it all seemed to happen so suddenly and after a few days of trying to heal him we had to do the right thing and let him go. He is missed so much as he was a large part of our lives. This is the first time in 29 years we have been without a dog. I get my dog fix from my daughter and son in law's two dogs as we have them for a few hours a few days each week. They are delightful to have and delightful to hand back again.

My gorgeous granddaughters are now four and two and my highlight is when they come for sleepovers,I just love it. Dinosaur boy who has been in many of my posts over the years became a five year old schoolboy this year and also comes for sleepovers. He is now a dinosaur expert.

My health has had a good run this year and I haven't had a stay in hospital,must be all that exercising that is keeping my lungs good.

Well that's my roundup of my year I hope you are one of the many who has had a good year,if you're not then I wish with all my heart that 2016 will be happy and healthy and a good year for you.
We can let go of the old one and open a new page in 2016. We can make it a better one.

Thank you to all the faithfuls who read my blog. I love reading yours too.
Cheers and here's to 2016!

Monday, 21 December 2015

A Christmas Poem.

I want to wish everyone who has read my blog this year a very happy Christmas.
If circumstances mean it can't be a happy one then I hope it's at least a peaceful one.
My Christmas gift to you is a poem about what it's like to be a harassed mum at Christmas but it could apply to everyone as we're all busy at this time of year.
 I hope you enjoy it.
Merry Christmas!

                                                         A Busy Mum’s Christmas                 
                                    Christmas shopping,what a rush,
                                     Waiting ages for a bus.
                                     Stood in queues buying this and that.
                                     No time for coffee or a chat.
                                     The rain is heavy, soaked right through.
                                     Hail a taxi that’s what I’ll do.
                                     Home at last,wrapping gifts
                                     Checking Santa’s Christmas list.
                                     Just one more toy to come for Mike.
                                     I wonder how to wrap a bike?
                                     Wrestling fairy lights,putting up the tree
                                     In front of the window for all to see.
                                    Clean the house from top to bottom,
                                    I’m sure there’s something I’ve forgotten.
                                    Christmas Eve, what a rush.
                                    Trying not to make a fuss
                                    Bathing kids, preparing food
                                    Not really in the Christmas mood.
                                    Wine and cookies on a tray
                                    For Santa on Christmas day.
                                    Children sleeping just in time
                                    Dad eats the cookies,mum drinks the wine.
                                    Six am the kids are awake
                                   “Santa’s been mum” for goodness sake
                                    They run downstairs and gasp and smile
                            And the magic of Christmas makes it all worthwhile.




Friday, 18 December 2015

Another of my favourite posts.

Another of my favourite posts, this one too is from four years ago.

                                           LITTLE BOXES.

Each night, before falling asleep I delve into the filing system I have in my mind and take out a memory. I walk beside the  rows upon rows of shelves holding boxes each one containing  something precious to me.
Sometimes it's a smell or a song on the radio that sends me looking for the box it matches, sometimes I just want to experience a moment again.

The first box is the earliest memory, one of my brother being born. I know this is not just a story told to me by my mother because I remember the feelings I had.
I was sent to the flat upstairs while my mum gave birth in her bedroom, the girl who lived there was seven years older than me . After the baby was born she took me by the hand downstairs to meet my new brother.
I can remember feelings of excitement and then disappointment when she was allowed to hold him first, her being nearly ten and I being a tiny two and a half.  I think I probably stamped my foot and behaved like a terrible two, after all the baby was MY  brother and not hers. There the memory ends.

There are boxes marked,"Schooldays" and " Places I have worked". Some boxes  are so tattered and torn from being taken from the shelf and looked at so often. Those boxes hold the memories of my husband and I on our wedding day,our first home together and the births of our two children. I look at these often, I take them from the box and relive the happiest moments of my life.

Some boxes are too painful to open fully, not because the memories are bad but because they contain loved ones who are no longer here. I have to be feeling brave as I peek inside and  see the faces of my gran, my parents and aunt and uncle, all who played major parts in my life, they helped make me who I am but sometimes it hurts too much to think of them.

The brightly coloured shiny boxes are the loveliest ones to look inside, they contain my children's childhood, the holidays we had, Christmas days, their "firsts in life". These memories make me smile and fill my heart.
 They have both flown the nest now and are making their own memory boxes and I'm so proud of them both, but how I miss those noisy, messy kids fighting with each other and not giving me a minutes peace.

There's a special box marked," three dogs and a cat." Sandy, Tess, Cassie and Jake. What fun those animals brought our family over the years, Sandy our first dog, a spaniel, had a big attitude problem and went to live with someone new when he took a dislike to our firstborn. I cried for days but it had to be done.

 Tess was with us for seventeen years until old age claimed her, she was the most gentle animal ever and a big part of the children's childhood.
 Cassie, ah! Cassie,  her memory is one of the painful ones, we lost her to cancer  two years ago but the loss of her is still raw. She was a Boxer, the silliest, funniest most lovable dog, taken too soon at eight years old .
Jake the cat, he looked like a Russian Blue, completely grey in colour but from a litter of  tabbies. His best friend was Tess and when I took her for a walk Jake used to run along beside  us. Everybody loved him and he lived for fourteen years.
 Sam, the  German shepherd dog we have now  is making more memories for us.

We capture our magic moments with cameras and videos whether it be on holiday,  a new baby, a graduation  we always have the evidence that these events took place and if the worst were to happen and these photographs and videos were no longer there we still have our memories.

My mother-in-law had a stroke a few years before she passed and it affected her memory. Her filing system didn't work any more, the  boxes had fallen and their contents scattered.
Her limited recovery from the stroke meant that the contents of the boxes were never returned to their rightful place and most of the memories were gone forever.

As I tidy the shelves of my filing system and make room for the new memories I am making everyday, I look at these old and tattered boxes and hope there will never be a time that I can't take them down and have a peep inside at the memories of my life.

P.S. Since writing this I have added a new box to my shelf, it is pink and very pretty and marked, " Abigail" who is my new granddaughter. I will  fill this box with so many happy memories of her growing up and hope that she too will have a box on the shelf  in her mind where she will store her memories of  me.

Dec 2015 Update : Another bright shiney box has been added called Katie's box my second granddaughter is just turning two. My brother I spoke about sadly passed away last year and his memories are now stored. Sam the German Shepherd also passed away a few months ago and his memories are with the other three dogs. There is now a white lace box in my memory store with the wedding memories of my daughter and new son in law. Wonderful memories.
I have memories of the house we lived in for most of our married life and I'm now making new memories and new friends on the other side of the city.
 I still look through these memories before falling asleep which is probably why I'm awake half the night but I just can't help myself.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

One of my Favourite Posts.

Since posting my three most popular posts of the past four years of blogging I have been thinking about which ones mean the most to me. This is one of my first posts from Oct 2011. Some of you who have followed me from the start might remember it. The ones I have chosen are probably the most personal, maybe that's why I like them.

You Took My Words.

You have been part of me for as long as I can remember, although my mum said you didn't come along until I started school and  it was my fear of school that invited you in.
I hate you. I've always hated you. You make me feel inadequate, different and sometimes make me appear  stupid. You see, you do this thing, you take away my words and replace them with yours, with words that are so difficult to say that they make me sweat and shake, they make me want to disappear.

You made my days in the classroom miserable.  I feigned sickness when asked to read just to keep you away, although one day a teacher forced me to. You spoke instead and she ridiculed me. She should  have known better.
You destroyed my childhood dreams of being an actress or a teacher because I knew that you would always be there, waiting, ready to mock. I just wasn't strong enough to fight you, I was too young then.

I tried to suppress you. I recited poetry at school concerts and Church soirees. I sang in a choir. You were powerless while I was reciting or singing.
 I joined a drama club and had three lovely years when as a teenager I appeared in various plays and no one guessed you existed.
But you were still around. My college days were haunted by you. I always made an excuse when it was my turn to talk to the class, sometimes I even took the day off.

Despite you always being there I passed my college course and qualified to work with very young children and loved my job, you were never around when I read them stories or played games with them. You were never there when I was with friends who knew me well, but when I met people for the first time it was you who introduced yourself and not me.
In large groups, I was very quite and had to pretend I didn't know the answers to some questions because I knew it would be you and not me who would answer.
Travelling on buses was a problem as you wanted to tell the driver where I was going you didn't let me speak and he didn't understand you.

As the years went by I challenged you more and more. I gave a speech at a medical conference (as a patient) I went back to college, I took a job where I had to answer the telephone and speak to strangers all day.
I knew you were still around but I fought you so hard.
I went to visit a hypnotist, hoping she would banish you from my life forever. That didn't happen although she did give me the tools to keep you at bay.

Now I am much older and much wiser,  my heart breaks for the little scared girl that I once was.
I now know that you that you are a part of  many  people's lives, some are never without you. Yes, I think you have ruined lives and prevented some people from reaching their full  potential.
No one knows why you become part of their lives but you are certainly not welcome.
I have not conquered you yet but I can control you and most people apart from my very close friends do not know you exist. I think my family have forgotten about you.

 What makes me win over you is that now I am not afraid to tell anyone about  you. I used to keep you secret and wanted no one to find out about you and that made you stronger.
Now, if you do manage to get through to take my words away I tell people I have a bit of a stammer and to bear with me and do you know what? They are always very nice.

P.S This has been a difficult and personal story to tell but it's been floating around in my head for years.
 My stammer does not bother me much now so please don't feel sorry for me, just always have patience when someone with a stammer speaks to you, it annoys the hell out of them too!

Update for December 2016. I have now joined a writer's group and the first night I was asked to read out something I had written. In the past I would have ran out of the room but I asked the group leader if she would read it for me which she kindly did when I explained the reason. Every week since I have read out my own work which to me is a big accomplishment and something people who know me would be surprised at. I stammer no more than anyone else does who gets mixed up when reading their work.
Onwards and upwards!