Forgiveness and Letting Go

An-Exercise-in-Letting-Go

Recently, I read a blog post by Kerri Sackville about people who surprise her, in both good ways and bad.  This got me thinking about when people suprise me, or more accurately let me down.

I’ve always thought of myself of someone who doesn’t give a second chance.  You have my trust from the beginning but if you let me down, we’re done.  I always thought this made a strong, smart woman.  But in fact, it’s both arrogant and immature.  It puts my high expectations on other people and quite frankly, it makes me sound like an arsehole.  I let people down all the time, unintentionally and without malice.  If they draw my attention to it, or when I realise what I’ve done I take time to make amends.  Or take stock of the reasons why I thought it was okay to do this.  I would hope that the people closest to me would give me another chance.  And I realised that this is something I do actually do.  I give people another chance.

In this past year I’ve had a few people who have let me down.  More than once.  And I’ve taken the apologies, the reactions of surprise when I’ve mentioned I was hurt by the actions of someone else and I’ve thought that life is too short to hold grudges.  But how many times do you go back for more?

Recently I found out that I was left off the guest list of a gathering which I had taken for granted I’d be invited to.  I found out via social media.  I was really hurt.  I thought about why I’d been left out and if I am completely honest with myself, we haven’t been close friends for a while now and even though this person will always be welcome in my home, I’ve decided it’s time to let the friendship go.  Does this mean I don’t forgive her or that I do?  My letting go is not a “so there” declaration but I’ve noticed that my past few interactions with this friend have left me feeling sad and rejected and I think for all concerned, letting go is the smartest thing to do.

I feel like I am fairly forgiving.  As well as the above there have been a couple of other instances where I’ve been let down.  The first of which was in one, vicious fell swoop (to that one I’ve struggled to forgive and the other person has withdrawn from me anyway) and the with the second there’s been the constant let downs followed by apologies, followed by let downs, followed by apologies…and around and around it goes.

With all of these things I’ve encountered in the past year or so, I’ve been prepared to keep the person in my life.  I’ve decided that it’s better to move on, let go, embrace and enjoy the best of that person and to maybe be a bit more giving myself.  Unfortunately, the enjoyment has gone out of all of the contact with these friends and I’ve come to the decision to let them drift out of my life.

So the question is, when is it forgiveness, and is there a limit on how many times you forgive?  At what point do you go from being a person who can let go to being a doormat?

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So You Think You Can Dance?

Zumba

Tonight I tried Zumba for the first time.  I was not very good.  The answer to the question “so you think you can dance” was a resounding no.  But I don’t care one bit.  In an effort to reconnect with my 14 year old daughter, who has been going through a “mum sucks” phase, I signed us both up for the local Zumba class.  She is quite the mover when it comes to dancing.. me, not so much.  But I’ve always fancied myself a hot blooded Latin type (even though I’m not Latin) and I thought this would be just the thing.

Our first little hurdle was turning up at the wrong church hall.  There was a big sign saying “SHHH! YOGA IN SESSION” but no hint of thumping music.  I saw a woman emerge from the building in exercise type gear and I asked her.  She said “oh, the Active Expecting class is just on the left”.  My 11 year old piped up “that’s a pregnancy class, you have to be pregnant to go there” and the woman pretended she hadn’t taken in my post holiday belly and made the assumption I was about 6 months along.  I doubt she missed the slightly crestfallen look on my face.  On the bright side, I guess some people think I’m still young enough to be having babies.  Was a bit of a mood killer though.

Anyway, we realised our error, jumped in the car and headed to the other church hall, where things were in full swing.  My daughter, full of teenage angst was worried about the number of “skinny girls” who might be in attendance, adding to her feelings of inadequacy.  For the one millionth time I assured her she looked just fine and when we entered the class there were about 12 women of all shapes and sizes.  Hurrah!  All of them were dressed in regular exercise gear, except the instructor of course, and the instructor’s mum who welcomed us in and then jumped right back into routine in her rather funky “zumba” pants.

I had expected an innate talent to spring forth as I gyrated and stomped however, it seems that even working out my left from my right was going to be a challenge.  But it didn’t matter.  Apart from the instructor there was only one woman who had the routines down pat.  Otherwise the women there varied in the ages, sizes and ability.  Perfect.

My daughter took to it as quickly as I knew she would and we laughed and danced and jumped together.  There were some very funny moments involving some hip wiggling, shoulder shimmying and what can only be described as pelvic thrusting.  But we embraced it all with enthusiasm and it was well worth it.

A couple of times when I wasn’t furiously concentrating on our young and athletic  instructor I caught sight of myself in the mirror and I almost let myself succumb to the negativity I felt when I could see fully the result of turning to food for comfort.  But then I shook it off.  It’s awful the ways we put ourselves down and I wanted to be a role model for my daughter.  So I didn’t comment on the daggy t-shirt I wore or how many times I got the steps wrong or how enormous I felt.  I simply laughed with her, shared her water bottle and vowed to the instructor that yes, we would definitely be back next week!

For Bailey

Bears-of-Hope

In the upcoming Blackmores Bridge Run, I will be running for Bears of Hope.  Here’s why:

Once, when I was 27, I decided I wanted a baby.

One night, on the way home from work, I dropped into the newsagent to find a magazine for the train journey home.  I did this most nights.  Sometimes I grabbed newspaper, other times a fashion magazine.  This night, I glanced around the selection and came across a magazine with my brother in law’s partner and their baby son on the cover.  Both models, they had produced a very cute baby who now laughed gorgeously on the cover of a Mother & Baby magazine.

I was delighted to see people I knew on the cover of a magazine, so I grabbed a copy and eagerly read it on the train.  I’d never read this sort of magazine before and the only reason I was reading it now was because I was hoping to see the pair of them featured somewhere else in the magazine.  I read it from cover to cover and in the hour it took to get from work to home, something clicked and I knew I had to have a baby.

My (now ex) husband was not quite as keen as I but it was a discussion I kept going and even though I went off the pill that night, we waited a couple of months before officially “trying”.  The next month when my period, 28 days on the dot, was a couple of days late I was convinced I must be pregnant.  I bought a test.  Negative.  But no period meant pregnant right?  Alas the next day I woke up cramping and cranky and disappointed.  Never mind I thought.  We’re both young, healthy, in love (I convinced myself that this helped), so I was sure I would be pregnant the next month.  And the month after that.  And the month after that.

After six months I couldn’t understand why I still wasn’t pregnant.  In a panic I began to make enquiries of the process of adoption (yes, I jumped straight to that) and read everything I could about making it happen.  I started taking my temperature, found out I wasn’t ovulating when I thought I was and just a few weeks later, after spending a small fortune on home pregnancy tests, I finally got two blue lines.

I cannot begin to say how thrilled I was.  I had imagined this moment for so long, cooking dinner for my husband, saying “guess what” and telling him we were finally having a baby.  I couldn’t wait however and I rang him at work and blurted the news over the phone.  He seemed shocked.  He said he was happy.  He said he’d have to call me back.  And when he did call he said “I really want to be with you to celebrate but I can’t miss going to the gym tonight.  I’ll see you at 10pm”.  I can’t say I wasn’t a little deflated but I didn’t let it faze me.  Because I was pregnant.  I was going to have a baby.

The doctor confirmed that I was about 4 weeks along and I immediately started buying baby magazines, pregnancy books and staring longingly into the windows of Mothercraft.  We agreed we wouldn’t tell anyone until we had reached the magical 3 month mark but after a 10 week scan revealed a strong heartbeat I couldn’t wait any longer.  I told everyone at work and was greeted with much happiness and congratulations.  I was living in the UK at the time, far from my best friend and my mother and those I most wanted around but was excited about the fact that we were moving back to Australia later that year and I would arrive home six months pregnant. I imagined my maternity outfit, how glowing I would look, how people would rave about my pregnancy suiting me.

Things seemed to progress as they were supposed to.  At 8 weeks I had a scare when I started spotting but was reassured by a doctor who said it was an implantation bleed.  It stopped after a couple of days.  My boobs were gigantic by the time I got to 12 weeks and the morning sickness had stopped by then.  But I didn’t feel like I was growing much.

I went to the doctor who reassured me that my strong abdominal muscles were keeping my stomach flatter than I might think it should be.  Given that I hadn’t done a sit up in over a year, I should have questioned this but I didn’t.  My appetite was huge and I was certainly putting on weight but I didn’t feel that I looked pregnant.  When I enquired of a friend she said she hadn’t really begun to “show” until she was five months along so I relaxed a bit.  Despite having barely a bump I began to wear maternity clothes.  It was coming into summer and I opted for flowing dresses and loose blouses and was very pleased when someone asked if I was pregnant.  Yes I said, beaming.

At sixteen weeks I had to go to the hospital for a check up and some blood tests.  It was a nightmare there that day, reliant on NHS care, there was a huge back log of women to be seen before me and by the time I was supposed to be seen, they had forgotten about me.  I started to panic and spoke to a nurse who took me to see a doctor who spoke such heavily accented English I couldn’t understand him.  Eventually it turned out that I wouldn’t get my blood test because it was too late in the day and I was to come back again.  I became very upset about this, I couldn’t quite work out what was going on and I was anxious to know the baby was alright. The same nurse came back again and let me listen to the baby’s strong, regular heartbeat.  I felt better.  I went home.

At the next appointment I had the blood test and was told that if anything was wrong, they would come and see me.  The nurse explained that they were very careful to ensure they spoke to  women directly if irregular test results occurred.  “We don’t want you getting anxious, so we will come and see you and explain what is going on.  We find it’s less worrying for our mum’s to be”.  I went off not expecting to hear anything until my next appointment where they would tell me everything was normal.

A few days later I came home and found a handwritten note in the letter box.  Someone from the hospital had come to see me.  I wasn’t home, of course.  It was a week day.  I had been at work.  The letter said I needed to call the hospital for my test results.  I was 18 weeks pregnant.

Within a few days I was at the hospital.  My blood tests had shown that there was a 1 in 110 risk of my baby having Down Syndrome.  I couldn’t believe it.  I was only 28, as was my husband.  How could this be?  Didn’t this only happen with older mothers?  The hospital tried to reassure me but they were concerned.  They said to be sure, they would have to do an amniocentesis.  I was reluctant.  I knew there was a risk of miscarriage.  But I was also terrified and I needed to know.

I was booked in shortly after for the procedure.  My husband and I did our best to convince ourselves over the next few days that everything would be fine.  The night before the test I lay in bed, not sleeping, saying over and over again “please be okay baby, please be okay baby, please please please be okay baby”.

The next day we went to the hospital.  I was wearing a pink maternity dress which I loved.  It made me look pregnant.  I was frightened about having a needle inserted into my uterus but I tried to be brave.  There were lots of people in the room.  They set up the ultrasound machine and began to pass it over my stomach.  No one spoke.  It was too quiet.  No one happily said “there’s your baby”.  No one said anything.  “Is the baby alive” I asked and they said yes.  Then I heard the heartbeat and my breath caught with relief.  Then they told me they couldn’t do the test.  Both the doctor and the nurse looked unsmilingly at me.  The doctor said, there’s not enough amniotic fluid.  We can’t withdraw any fluid.  I didn’t understand.  Where had the amniotic fluid gone?  They told me that the baby had swallowed it.  They said the baby’s stomach was distended, the organs weren’t developing properly.  I said “is the baby going to die?”  And the doctor said “yes”.

I just don’t know how to describe how I felt.  It was like someone had taken my breath away.  The doctor had been so certain in his reply.  There was no hope.

I had heard about some new breakthrough surgery that had recently happened.  A renowned neo-natal specialist had performed life saving surgery on baby whilst in utero.  The baby had then be placed back into the womb and had continued to develop normally and had been born alive.  Perhaps they could do that for my baby?  I didn’t care what it took, whatever had to be done to keep my baby alive.

They said there was no hope.  They looked at me sadly and said I would have a decision to make.  I could continue with the pregnancy, carry my baby to term and then give birth.  Although there was no guarantee that the baby would make it to term and no matter what, when I did give birth, my baby would not survive. My other alternative was to be induced in the next couple of weeks. I could end the pregnancy.  It’s such a terrible, terrible choice to have to make.  I could hardly comprehend what was going on.

The doctor referred me to a specialist in London and we headed down a day later, to sit in a room full of women in various stages of their pregnancies.  None of them were smiling, their partners all looked anxious and it was very quiet.  We waited for hours.  When finally it was our turn my husband said “we don’t want to know the sex of the baby, it’s better if we don’t know”.  I just went along with what he said.

When I walked into the room the specialist was the same one who had performed the ground breaking in utero operation I had heard about. I couldn’t believe this world renowned surgeon was seeing me on the NHS.  I was astounded.  He and his team, were the kindest, most caring people I’ve met in the medical profession.  He scanned my woefully small belly and I knew straight away it was the end.  He kindly explained that my baby had Prune Belly Syndrome caused by obstructive uropathy.  The specialist then said “you’re baby is a boy and this condition is most common in boys.  You didn’t do anything wrong, it’s just a one in 100,000 thing that happened”.  He went on to give me the same choices my original doctor had.  He told my baby’s lungs were trapped under constricting ribs and that he would suffocate to death at birth.  This was unbearable to me.  My baby boy.  My precious baby boy who was so wanted, so loved already, who I longed to bring to term, to bring home, to wrap in a blue blanket and hold close to me.  I couldn’t let my baby boy die this way.  So I chose to bring it all to an end.  I was 20 weeks pregnant.

The hospital was a nightmare.  There were pregnant women everywhere, arriving in labour, excited about giving birth.  I was in the labour ward next to women who were loudly laboring, then the cries of the new babies were heard again and again.  I sobbed as I passed a picture board in the hallway, full of women holding newborns, smiling, happy, exhausted after having their healthy babies.

I didn’t want to experience labour only to have no baby to take home at the end.  I had been given medication before arriving at the hospital and after I was set up in bed, I was given an epidural at the same time as I was given the drugs to induce labour.  All I felt, in the entire time, was a short cramping at the start.  Then I was numb from the waist down.  I cried a lot through it all.  I cried when a cruel and unfeeling nurse jammed the cannula into the back of my hand causing bruising and swelling that lasted for weeks afterwards.  I cried when I wet myself not once but twice, laying in bed, in front of my husband dripping in urine because nobody told me that when you have an epidural you don’t know when you need to urinate.  And so my bladder just let go.  After the second time one of the more thoughtful nurses organized a catheter.

I cried when my husband told me that because of this he was taking up smoking again.  And when he sat in front of me eating toast and drinking tea which I couldn’t have, just in case I needed to be rushed into surgery.

I cried when a nurse told me, after 20 hours of labour, that she was finishing her shift and when she came back tomorrow, it would all be over.  I cried when she came back the next day and I was still waiting for my baby to be born.

After about 40 hours, I was examined for what seemed liked the millionth time and was told it shouldn’t be too much longer.  My husband asked the nurses to tell him when it was almost happening, because he didn’t want to be in the room when the baby was born.  He said it was too much for him.  Approximately 5 hours later the nurses said it was time.  I was 8cm dilated and that was as far as I needed to go.  It was time to push.  My husband left the room, left me alone with strangers, to give birth to my baby boy on my own.  He was born quickly after that.  I said “is it a boy” and it took them a minute to tell me because his poor, swollen belly was so low.

I chose not to see my baby.  I was just too scared, too alone, too young.  I didn’t know what to do.  My husband didn’t want to see the baby, he didn’t want to name him and instead of “baby” he simply said “the pregnancy”.  The nurses told me they would take the baby away, take photos of him and if I ever wanted to see them, they would keep the pictures on file for me.  They said they would clean and wrap my baby so that I would have a memento one day if I wanted one.

And then I was done.  I stayed the night, by myself, in a room with a double bed which looked a bit like a motel room.  I think they had it for bereaved parents.  The next morning my friend, who had driven down to support me, picked me up and I went home.  Without my baby, just me.  And then he was gone.  My milk didn’t come in, my breasts went back to normal and all I felt was the heavy, dragging blanket of grief which settled over me.

A year later I wrote to the hospital requesting the photos.  I was desperate to see my son.  Unfortunately, they didn’t clean him or wrap him or save a memento for me.  The only pictures I have are of my baby son, newborn, naked, laid out on a green cloth.  They’re upsetting but they’re also deeply important to me.  I’m glad I at least have these, the photos of my son, Bailey.

I’ve joined a club that no one wants to be a member of and one that I can never leave.  It’s been 15 years and sometimes I’m overwhelmed by grief and other times, his birthday passes me by without a thought.  I feel so guilty when this happens.  I’ve been lucky too though and that’s what comes to me, when the sadness creeps in.  A year after my son was born, I gave birth to a healthy baby girl.  Three years after that, I was blessed with a second baby girl.  For both of them, I am truly grateful, they are the most precious things in my life.  I will never forget how lucky I am to have them.

(Image borrowed from Bears of Hope)

What I’m Doing Now…

heart

Popped over to Katie180 and saw she’d been making a list.  I decided to follow suit and post my own list here.  I kind of like doing this sort of thing… I will post the list at the end.  Why don’t you do it as well

Making :  Some changes.  Have taken a long hard look at myself of late, after getting sick for the third time in as many weeks and I think it’s time to do things a bit differently.  Watch this space.

Cooking : Spag bol.  Comfort food, easy to freeze, easy to thaw, easy to pop in the microwave ready for dinner after coming home at 6pm on a winter’s night.

Drinking :  Red cordial as a very special treat.  Ms11 found a brand new “punch fountain” at the local op shop and we’re giving it a run tonight to help mum’s husband celebrate his 62nd birthday.

Reading:  Lonely.  By Emily White.  It’s a condition I know only too well.

Wanting:  To stop feeling tired and sick.

Looking:  Tired after a late night at the Opera House watching Ms11’s choir performance.

Playing:  A Thousand Years by Christina Perri.  I just like it.

Wasting:  Time.  A little bit.  I know I shouldn’t.

Sewing:  Curtains for the bathroom.  It’s taken me a year to get around to it.

Wishing:  I could find the energy to make the changes I need to make.

Enjoying:  Having the folks here visiting.  I love a bit of family time.

Waiting:  For my new Optimum blender from Froothie.  I just CANNOT wait!!

Liking:  Reading foodie blogs, especially the ones with great green smoothie recipes.

Wondering:  Where I will stay when I go down to my beloved Melbourne in September.

Loving:  This list!

Hoping:  That one day I will meet a nice man who thinks I’m a nice woman.  I have hope but no faith that this will actually happen.

Marvelling:  At the fact that both of my daughters can now say they have performed at the Opera House.

Needing:  More motivation.

Smelling:  The first perfect pink rose of the season.  Intoxicating scent.

Wearing:  Trackies and slippers and a scarf.  I’m cold and my throat is sore.

Following:  Homo Erectus – @PiloceneBloke on Twitter.  I love his tweets.  They keep me amused.

Noticing:  Dappled afternoon sunlight

Knowing:  That I’m incredibly lucky most of the time.

Thinking:  About work, stupidly.

Feeling:  Cold.

Bookmarking:  The Wellness Warrior, lots of great recipes and positive thinking.

Opening:  The door to two young Mormon chappies, who I politely sent on their way.

Giggling:  At the sweet earnestness of the Mormon chappies who couldn’t have chosen a more difficult person to convert.

Feeling:  Relieved that I was able to get my car serviced and I was charged the same amount I was quoted

Here’s the list – go for it, can’t wait to read what you’ve written!

Making :
Cooking :
Drinking :
Reading:
Wanting:
Looking:
Playing:
Wasting:
Sewing:
Wishing:
Enjoying:
Waiting:
Liking:
Wondering:
Loving: 
Hoping:
Marvelling:
Needing:
Smelling:
Wearing:
Following:
Noticing:
Knowing:
Thinking:
Feeling:
Bookmarking:
Opening:
Giggling:
Feeling:

Obsession.. Doggy Style

doggy style

When I moved into my new house, I made a concerted effort to get to know the neighbours.  To be honest, most of them made it pretty easy. I moved in just before Christmas and there were several cards in the letterbox welcoming us to the street and wishing us a happy festive season.

On one side I have a “hello, how are you” relationship with the neighbours.  They are a lot younger than I am, they both work (as do I) and I only see them from time to time.  Also, I did ask them if they could do something about their tom cat beating the living daylights out of my poor cat at every opportunity.  This may be dampened relations somewhat.  On the other side there is a retired couple.  They were very welcoming from the start.  They invited us in for afternoon tea and there was general chit chat over the fence whenever we were in our respective backyards.

Right away Betty*  was very friendly, particularly towards our dog.  She would say hi to the dog, pat her through the fence and occasionally throw over a bone.  The dog, needless to say, loved this extra attention.

One day I came home from work to see a brand new dog toy in the yard.  And then a couple of weeks later, another.  When I queried this, Betty said “oh I hope you don’t mind, I just thought Spot might like something to play with”.  I thanked her and insisted she needn’t bother.  I thought it was a kind of nice thing to do.  But then it started happening more frequently and it made me feel a bit uncomfortable.  Betty started commenting on how hard it was for the dog when we were at work and school respectively.  It felt a little judgey but I let it slide.

When we went away for a week, I asked Betty if she would feed the cat and she readily agreed.  She went on to say she wished she could take care of the dog for us but it was too much for her and her husband.  “Of course!” I exclaimed.  “I hadn’t even considered such an imposition”.  I had, but she’d made herself very clear on that front.

And so the little gifts for the dog kept arriving. One day I noticed a new blanket, then a new dog bed.  It was starting to get out of hand – at first it had felt like a neighbourly kindness but now it felt like she was suggesting our dog wasn’t being properly looked after.  Once, when I was at home sick I watched her climb over the fence into my backyard with yet another toy for the dog.  When I went outside to ask what she was doing she claimed to be deeply embarrassed, that she never usually did that, that she just wanted to bring a toy that her dogs didn’t want.  Oh, that’s right.  I forgot to mention.  She has TWO dogs of her own. Every time she brings something over she says her dogs didn’t want it.  She also has a husband, two grown up children and four grandchildren.  So she isn’t lonely or isolated.

From time to time I would come home and see the dog’s bedding hanging on her line.  I was going to say something, this felt like boundaries were being blurred, but I figured she thought she was helping and I didn’t want to cause any issues.  She’s our neighbour after all.  So I simply thanked her

But things started to turn slightly sinister about 3 weeks ago.  I was admonishing the dog for taking my pegs, yet again, when suddenly Betty appeared at the fence and said “hello Alice” in a low and menacing tone.  As though she’d caught me beating my kids or something.   (I should mention here I wasn’t beating the dog either, simply yelling at her to “drop the pegs”).  I felt like she was going to report me to the RSPCA or something.

A week or so later when I was checking the doors at bedtime, I noticed the dog’s bedding strewn across the back porch.  And I couldn’t find the dog.  I glanced next door and the dog’s blanket was hanging on their line!!  It had been in the dog’s bed only an hour or so before.  When I mentioned this to my mother, expressing my increasing concern, she said that sometimes dogs pull their beds apart.  When I queried as to whether they then sometimes take their bedding and hang it on the neighbour’s line, she admitted no, they do not.  Clearly, my neighbour had stolen into my backyard under the cover of darkness and hastily taken the dog’s bedding.  So she could wash it!!!!  When we were home!!!!

And the most recent display of absolute madness?  She bailed up my very sensitive daughter when she came home from school and stated that we should probably give our dog away since we were struggling to look after her.  What bloody cheek!  My daughter was so upset, she rang me at work sobbing.

Admittedly, our dog is an idiot.  She regularly escapes despite the fact that I’ve nailed every bit of fence down with tent pegs, doubled up with chicken wire, sustained scratches the length of my arms just trying to close up every possible gap in the fence.  I’m going to change the dog’s name to Houdini.  But we love her.  Suggesting we get rid of her is like suggesting we get rid of a member of our family.  It is my firm belief that an animal is for life so I’m hardly going to give her away.

I think my neighbour must have some sort of mental illness.  She regularly lets herself into our yard, and has openly admitted to bringing her grandchildren over to see our dog, but never when we are home.  She no longer comes to the front door, she simply strolls into the yard when she thinks we are not here.

What to do?  I don’t want to start a big thing, I have no intention of moving and since she has told me they moved into their place in 1972, I don’t think she’s moving either.  I could padlock the gate but this impacts on my children.  So now what?  How can I tell my neighbour she’s way past crossing boundaries and well into crazy dog stalker obsessiveness territory?

*Not her real name.  Obviously.

Smash Cake!

It is my humble opinion that The Woman’s Weekly Birthday Cake book is one of publishing’s greatest hits.  My brother’s and I spent a good deal of the 1970’s poring over this wonderful tome, choosing which themed cake we would have for our birthdays each year.

I’m very grateful to my mother for saving this book for many years, and handing it down to my daughters.  I love that they choose from the very same book that I did.  I’m no Nigella, but I have managed to produce some passable cakes over the years, with the help of a lot of butter cream icing and some artfully placed silver cachous.

My youngest daughter is particularly interested in baking.  She starts choosing her cake each year around the first of January.  Her birthday is in June.  But she goes over these pages again and again.  She is also obsessed with the television show Cake Boss and was very excited when we recently discovered a cake shop close by which supplies all the professional tools need to create a masterpiece.

Each year, my birthday falls around Easter time so it usually means my mother is around.  She helps the kids make me a birthday cake and each year, my youngest daughter has eschewed  the concept of “less is more” and produced an elaborately decorated masterpiece.  This year was no exception.

I came home from work to this…

photo-1

 

I took a mallet to it and revealed this…

photo-3

I then cut into it, and revealed this..

photo-2

Pretty impressive huh?  My 10 year old had apparently spent all day making a heart shaped, multi coloured cake which she then iced and covered in different coloured mini cupcakes, and she then concealed the lot under a large, chocolate dome (which she made herself).  It was a fantastic birthday cake and all the better because it was made with such love.

Wonder what I will get next year?

Backing music:  Isn’t She Lovely – Stevie Wonder

Gifted

When I was a kid, my mother used to keep all of her birthday and Christmas gifts in their packaging, and display them for a up to a week after the event.  She could always show anyone who visited her gifts and they always looked so pretty all lined up.  Unfortunately, due to my desire for instant gratification, I am unable to do this but now that I have Instagram, I can display my gifts prettily here.  As soon as they were photographed they were opened and I’ve begun to enjoy them.

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A gorgeous photo album, Thorntons chocolates (the best chocolates in my opinion) and drawer soaps to make your smalls smell sweet.  Gifts from my darling daughters.

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A terracotta pot full of lovely succulents.  A gift from a friend who knows I want to fill my garden with cuttings from friends.

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This little beauty opens up to reveal an actual cupcake inside.  Yum.

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Now I just need for the weather to cool down to proper Autumn temperatures so I can start wearing these lovelies.

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Oh, how I enjoy a gift card!

 

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A cute surprise from my little girl.

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Beautiful flowers make every birthday complete.

I feel incredibly blessed by all the love and gorgeous gifts I received for my birthday.  Thanks to all xxx

Happy Birthday to Me!

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This morning my daughter told me that her father (my ex husband) told her to remind me that I am another year older today.  That I’m 44.  That I am “getting old”.  To this I merely snorted.  Because I LOVE birthdays.  Love them!  I get excited when it’s coming, I tell anyone who will listen that it’s my birthday and I try and string it out for at least a week.

I made no secret about it at work, I told the shopkeeper at the local vintage shop this morning (to which she said “happy birthday” and gave me my purchase for half price) and I will be telling pretty much everyone I speak to throughout the day that today I am celebrating my birthday.

I care not a jot that I am another year older.  I embrace it.  I’m still here!

So far I’m loving being in my 40’s.  Lots of things have changed for me since hitting the big four oh.  I changed careers, I changed towns, I bought a house… it’s all been pretty good.  There have been some lows and some scary times but most of all there has been a big bright shining light at the end of every tunnel I’ve reluctantly entered and this is pretty good I think.

A couple of weeks ago I was awaiting biopsy results and thinking the worst (as you do).  Now I am thinking of all the possibilities that my 44th year can bring.  I am something of an optimist with a fairly large pinch of cynicism thrown in.  I can be a downer with the best of them.  The black dog has come knocking at my door, many more times than I care to remember but for the most part, I feel lucky to be alive.

I was inviting someone to come to my birthday dinner the other day and she asked if it was a significant birthday (ie turning 40.. at least I think she meant 40, perhaps she thought 50?  I’m pretty sure she didn’t mean 30).  And I said, no, not significant as such, I just want to celebrate my birthday.  Which I do.

So tonight I am headed out with friends from a long time ago and friends I didn’t even know on my birthday last year and I’m going to have a blast.  There will be wine, a pub meal and conversation.  This to me, is what a great birthday celebration is.

Wishing everyone born today a very happy birthday.  You’re in good company, if I do say so myself!

 

Backing music:  Happy Birthday – The Beatles

Nails:  OPI – You Only Live Twice

 

 

 

 

Sunshiny Days..

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At high school, in the 80’s the best accessory for our truly vile summer school uniform was a tan.  From September to December we sat outside on every sunny day, dripping cold water on our legs to attract the sun, rejoicing as winter white turned to pink.  As the weather got warmer we would share around a bottle of baby oil and by December, the white bobby socks we wore with our brown roman sandals (told you it was a vile uniform), would reveal an adequate tan line when removed, to show just how far we’d come.

As the Christmas school holidays came around, we’d grab our baby oil, head to the lake and sizzle and burn the whole day long.  Midday until mid afternoon was the best tanning sun and the paler girls would burn and peel and eventually emerge with a light golden sprinkling of freckles whilst the olive skinned girls would burn and darken, occasionally peeling but mostly just getting browner.

There began to emerge the “slip slop slap” ads, warnings of holes in the ozone layer and skin cancer.  But cancer wasn’t something teenage girls got and so we carried on, applying the sickly coconut smelling Hawaiian Tropic, Le Tan for those of us who dreamed of Paris one day and Johnson’s baby oil when funds ran low.

When I moved to the UK in my early 20’s I hit the sun beds after a winter of zero sun and the shock of a fish belly complexion for the first time in my life.  On my first trip home in two years, I spent a 2 day stop over in Bali burning by the pool (and subsequently suffering heat stroke) so I wouldn’t go home pale skinned.

Stupid really.  All of this ran through my head when a week and a half ago I discovered a new, strange looking mole on my chest.  Within 2 days it had increased markedly in size and I began to panic.  I went to the doctor who took one look and said it had to be removed immediately.  I asked him if he was worried, he said yes.

The mole was removed and sent for biopsy the next day.  The doctor apologised that I would have a scar on my breast.  I said “take the whole boob, I don’t care.  Just get rid of it”.  He reassured me that I could in fact keep my breast  (I like my boobs, I just panicked, you know?)

I have spent the past 7 days in a strange sort of limbo.  Alternating between an all encompassing dread of having to face a potential fight with cancer (what about my girls I thought as I cried), and telling myself I was being ridiculous, that I would be fine.  It may sound like I was over-reacting but two deaths from cancer and a fight with it in my family in the past 4 years got the scares into me.

On Good Friday, I decided to just get on with Easter and enjoy the time off with my kids.  I thought I was doing okay, but when I went to the doctor today and he said everything is fine, no cancer, just a mole, I sobbed with relief.

I am covered in moles, yet this is the first scare I’ve had.  I guess that makes me pretty lucky.  But it did make me re-evaluate.  These things do I suppose.  The message is… don’t tan.  Spray tan may be smelly but it won’t kill you.  Also, pale and interesting isn’t a saying for nothing.  Check your moles.  And do your best not to take life for granted.

Backing music:  Raise Your Glass – Pink

Earrings: Silver and Amethyst three tier drops