Anniversary

Yesterday was our seven year anniversary and we both forgot.

I don’t know what we were doing. It was a Monday so D was working. In his office. Slash second bedroom. Slash nursery.

I was downstairs with baby. Who is not a baby anymore. He was sliding his teddies down his little slide in the living room and I was sitting on the sofa trying to get work done. And getting interrupted, so really nothing was done. It’s ok, I told myself, as I got up for the millionth time to do something or other, I will work once he is in bed.

Then it was lunchtime. For baby. I gave him leftover pasta from the night before. And then hustled him upstairs for his nap. As he fell asleep, I did too. The exhaustion of being 8 months pregnant, working, caring for a toddler and doing the million other things people have to do just took over.

I woke up at 3pm, and baby was still sleeping, so I stumbled groggily and in a bad MOOD to the office slash nursery slash second bedroom where D was still working. I grumbled about not doing any work, dragging my laptop towards me. We started talking about things one talks about when they are parents and trying to make a life together.

And then five minutes later a small voice called from the other room, ‘Mamaaaa! Mamaaa!’

We laughed, because it’s the first time he has done that. I got up and went to him. He was sitting up on the bed, smiling at me.

D closed the office slash nursery slash second bedroom door, as he had a meeting.

I sat on the floor, feeling heavy and deflated. Baby ran around the bedroom making a mess and being joyful. He grabbed all his books from the windowsill and made a little hill out of them which he attempted to climb. Then he picked one out and spread it open on his little legs and began to read in gibberish. Some real words made their way in there too.

‘Ann done!’ he clapped for himself, slamming the book shut. All done.

My friend called. I debated whether to answer. I had to work, I had to cook dinner, I had to sort out the baby clothes, I had to clean the room.

I answered. We hadn’t talked in weeks, so it was a good catch up.

Then it was 6pm. The room was messy. I’d been playing with the little one. D finished his meeting and took over. I was still on the floor, feeling achey and tired.

I pulled myself together, got up. Went downstairs. Made cauliflower cheese and mashed potatoes, with a side of fish fingers. D and our little came down, tidied up downstairs. We had dinner. We cleaned up. Baby boy ran around. D played tag with him. Then he began running up and down the stairs, in the slow and stumbling way little toddlers do. Lots of chuckling ensued.

Then it was bedtime. Wash, brush, PJs, books. Left him with his dad, closed the door. Sat down to work. Baby boy crying for 15 minutes straight before I went in there. He was sitting on his dad’s chest, looking at me with tears in his eyes.

‘What’s wrong?’ I asked.

‘He wants you,’ D said, looking drained.

Mama.’

Ok. It wasn’t my turn to put him to bed so I felt stressed out and irritable. NO WORK was done. That means an all nighter which, in my state, I am not equipped for.

‘Ok.’ I said. ‘Let’s switch.’

‘Are you sure?’ D asked.

‘We can’t have him sobbing himself into a state. He won’t sleep. Then we’re really screwed.’

I put him to bed. It took two hours. At 10pm I stumbled out again, and sat at my laptop. I tried to work until 2:45am. Not much got done. I felt groggy and achey.

At 3am I fell into bed. D was sleeping soundly.

At 7am the alarm went off. D got up in a rush to start a meeting.

At 8am he popped his head downstairs where I sat, trying to work while the little ate porridge around me.

‘Hey’, he said, ‘We were married seven years ago yesterday.’

‘Is that so.’ I said, absently.

‘Yeah. Have to run.’

Up he goes to another meeting. Tap tap tap I go on my laptop.

Crash, goes something in the kitchen. The little one is pulling saucepans out the cupboard.

I think I will let him.

Can you say no?

Can you decline a wedding invitation, a request to go dancing, an enquiry about your ballet shoes?

Can you say no to the girl who asked you to watch her sister while she spends some time with her boyfriend?

Can you say no to the woman who wants to go cycling with you… but you really want to be alone?

Can you say no… when someone says they will pay you £2.50 an hour to teach their son another language?

Can you?

I couldn’t.

I couldn’t say no and I was told all the time.. SAY NO. Say NO. No.

No, I said, to those telling me to say no. No, I can’t say no.

Even though I just did.

Say no to the man who says ‘come and see me, be brave.’

Alarm bells clanging and mouth dry and heart wringing in fear.

Say no, Lenora, please.

Say no.

Just say no.

But I did not say no.

Sometimes I think I have healed but then I wake up dripping in sweat, heart palpitating, from a dream in which I am saying yes to all the things I do not want to do. I am frantic and anxious and running away but I cannot escape him, he has his sharp claws dug deep into my back.

It’s been eight years.

I said yes for two years and then one day I said no and it took all my strength to do it.

And it took me seven months to stop hyperventilating everytime my phone rang.

Took eight months for the severe stomach pains to go away.

It’s been eight years since I said that final no, and I still dream I can’t say no.

So please say no.

Let your children say no when they’re little, so that when they’re big and need to say no, they should be able to.

Say no.

To the right people.

It’s okay.

Trees

When she doodled, she always found herself doodling the same thing.

It started off as a trunk. A trunk of a tree. Usually she had two browns, so light brown for the outline, the branches, and then in with dark brown, shading the sides and adding rough texture to the branches. And then the leaves. Hundreds and hundreds of them. But she would not sit there and painstakingly draw every leaf.

It was different each time. Different, but the same.

With pencils it was clouds. With coloured pencils, it was still clouds, but lighter ones sat under darker ones and shadows filled every nook and cranny, and soon you could see the sunlight filtering in between the gaps.

Sometimes she had paint sticks.

If you don’t know what those are, they are fat little sticks that you twist out like lipstick and it’s some sort of crayony paint that dries quickly and is washable. It’s meant for toddlers, and she worked with toddlers.

When she had paint sticks she would swirl her trees. Swirl her trunk and her branches, the roots would swirl into the swirly grass, little circles of never-touching harmony, each colour giving way to the other until there was a kaleidoscope of colour and movement. Perpetual movement. That was a masterpiece, she would think. Better than the meticulous shadows of careful doodles.

Sometimes little effort yeilds great return.

And then chubby little hands would come along and add their special touches.

Dots and spots. Spatters and stains. Smudges and scribbles. But in each one was a proud smile, a toothless grin, a pair of large brown or blue or green or grey eyes in complete contentment.

And she drew so many trees, so very many. And so many hands would, sure as rain, come along, and deck them for conquest.

Trees that if they were to spring to life, would be tall and harmonious with the earth and skies. They would be of all colours and hues. They would drip with life and light and laughter, they would not fit in with the world but they would stand out and all who saw them would be in awe. Purples and blues and yellows and oranges, the sun beamed from the cracks in their rough trunks. The dreams danced between their branches, and the jewels of hope dripped and glittered in all colours from their branches.

And she would always doodle her trees, let them set their roots between her deft fingers, and grow tall and wide, spreading their branches through the world. Business and law and retail and marketing and publishing and writing and artistry and medicine and dentistry and order and dance and motherhood and fatherhood and leadership and travel and thought… it did not matter where they went or what they did.

What mattered was the roots that sprung from between her fingers.

Amy Giacomelli

Thank you and Goodbye, 2020.

Do you have New Year’s resolutions this year?

I don’t.

Well, except to survive. And finish my work before the baby pops out. I am increasingly worried I won’t be able to, as taking care of a toddler who now NEEDS to be challenged…. is, well.. CHALLENGING. Lol.

My husband and I watched Death to 2020 on Netflix last night after baby was in bed. We also shared a pizza. That is now called ‘date night’. The show is basically Charlie Brooker’s Yearly Wipe, but not on the BBC anymore, so the budget is much bigger. It’s a great thing to watch, and makes what has been a taxing year on many seem a little more light hearted. It got a few laughs out of us, and some sighs.

I have come to understand now why Britons spend much of winter in a state of ‘waiting’. See folks, I was born in this country, but brought up in another. A hot country. Where the sun beamed all year around and when a cloud was spotted, even a far away teeny tiny wisp of a thing, one prayed for rain. Where the ground was parched and the dust settled the moment you wiped it off a surface. Rain was a joyous celebration. All I knew of British weather was the summertime. Luscious, plentiful greenery and heady long days, the best of British weather.

Ten years ago my parents returned to their country, and brought me back with them. So it took me ten years to develop a sort of cold disdain towards winter. I used to love winter. Squelchy leaves underfoot, beautiful frosty mornings, warmth of an evening around a kitchen table with a hot drink, snow and ice and perpetual grey. Now I detest it. I think it might have something to do with me having moved to a tiny little ghost town called Crewe, which according to some, does not even exist and this is all a dream.

Some people are very proud of Crewe. It has a nice history of being a railway town, the biggest one up North, where they made the trains.

Now it is bedraggled and in need of some love, but all it gets is… well economic disappointment. Year in year out. And four years living here has really taken its toll on my soul. I wanna get out, folks. I WANNA GET OUT. I hope I do! Some say one never escapes Crewe. If that is true… shiver me timbers.

Anyway, as I said, a lot of Britons spend winter waiting for summer, and that is what I am doing this year. I want summer. I want heat. I want warmth in my heart and soul. I want family. I want the heat of the sun on my cheeks and burning in my hair. I want lots of things.

But I also want to learn how to be grateful for what I have.

That’s a huge lesson that I learnt this year, but one that still needs a lot of practise by me.

Be grateful.

Have a roof over your head? Heating? Food in the fridge? DESSERT? A job!? A family? A little boy who loves life? Lots of family? People who care?

BE GRATEFUL.

So that is my resolution for this year, then. To remember to be grateful and thankful and contented. To stop wanting things that are not meant for me just yet. To remember all the good things I do have, and hold them dear.

Now then. That was a good exercise in thinking about things. It’s also snowing here in Crewe for the first time since November last year. That’s quite nice. I shall enjoy that a bit.

Thank you and goodbye, 2020.

Stone Cold Silent Still

It is different this year.

I can feel it and smell it and taste it.

There are more lights.

Twinkling through the night.

Signalling the happiness that seems to lie beyond reach but… oh hey, hullo, what is that softness I feel in my fingers as they graze the icy air? Could it be…?

Entire streets in my town are lit up. Santas climbing through windows and peering down chimneys and knocking on doors, carrying sacks of what we can only assume is hope. Desperate hope.

And people who never made an effort are making one.

It’s a bit like the American movies.

We take little one out for a small walk before dinner, when it’s pitch black under the heavy drapes of the winter sky at night. And all the houses are decked for conquest. Each competing with the other.

So eerie, if you stand still and let the breath cloud away in front of your face. Stone cold silent still, twinkling lights in the darkness. Sometimes faint bells ring and sometimes a disjointed jingle sears through the thickness of cold.

But then a pair of bright eyes meet yours from down somewhere by your knees, and tiny little fingers grasp your solid warm ones, and little feet stamp stamp stamp excitedly, and it’s not eerie after all. It’s joy. We all need a sprinkling of joy.

I see a light at the end of the tunnel. I am so so scared, but so hopeful too!

What are your plans for the holiday season this year, folks? Can you see and taste and smell it yet?

Dear December (in 2020)

Hello December.

You dawned frosty this year.

Coating the cars in a thin icy layer. Spreading over the grass and roads, hardening the mud that loves little hands and somehow gets into little wellies and smears itself on little socks.

Pretty, pretty frost.

Some say Jack Frost has been.

Others watch the morning clouds scud by, the steam rising from people’s pipes, cars, breath visible in the air.

Life, really.

But the sun has not risen yet.

It’s only dawn.

People still lie dreaming in their beds.

I drink your icy air, December, in the pitch blackness of winter dawn. The sunrise is in 1 hour and 24 minutes, and my fingers will freeze and my toes will fall off, but I will welcome this first sun of December… that’s if the cloud allows me to see her.

The first sun of the last month of a strange, strange year.

Did we think we would get here in one piece?

Did we think we would have our lives tipped over and tumbled out?

Resolutions made in 2019 froze 9 months ago, and now you are helping to usher in a new year. A new dawn. A new …. or not?

I won’t rush you December. I refuse to. I know how hard it feels to be rushed.

You must be feeling it this year. Many people are counting on you. People began decorating their homes and trees months ago in anticipation for you. They think you’re going to be some sort of saviour from the evil that has infiltrated the ranks of humanity.

But don’t worry, December.

You take your sweet old time. It’s not your fault you herald the turn of the year. You just keep on being you, frosty, twinkly, candy cane you. We will manage.

On 7 Years

Happy WordPress-i-versary to me!

It’s been 7 years since I started a blog on WordPress.

This was my first ever post.

This was my second ever post.

I was a little old 19 year old back then, I had a very messy bedroom and fancied myself quite… well I don’t know. I remember feeling happy and comfortable in my skin and rather excited about life – I think it was because I had just met my husband-to-be and that was a Very Exciting Time.

It was better than being 18 and being manipulated by a psychopath but that’s another story.

I am now 26, and look back on those times wistfully. They were simpler times. I am glad to have lived them.

In seven years I have moved 5 times, got married, had a baby with another on the way, had six jobs, travelled 10 times, lost a lot of friends, gained some very special friends, and jolly well grew up.

I did not write a book, although do have three or four in various stages of being written.

I still love this blog, and blogging, and I don’t anticipate that I will stop blogging for a while.

It’s not a long time, 7 years, but a lot can happen in 7 years.

How long have you been blogging for?

To Document

I am just writing this here because I have had a Very Bad Day.

A

not

very

present

day.

A

Lost.In.My.Head.

DAY.

With lots of fog and tiredness and mounting worry and frustration.

Probably boils down to the fact that I am Very Exhausted and Really Struggling.

I spent the day alone with my son today as my husband had to work outside the home – usually he can work from home. See I think I take this man for granted, because today was horrific. I had no energy at all. I was trying so hard to get work done, and I did all the things I usually do to exhaust my boy, like going for a walk, painting, building things, making muffins, having a long bath with lots of pouring and splashing. Video calling Nana. In bed by 8pm.

He did not sleep until 11pm, folks.

He rolled around, pinched my arms, gave me cuddles and kisses, cried a little when I got frustrated and told him to GO TO SLEEP PLEASE. Eventually he fell asleep in my arms and I slowly heaved myself up and out into the light of the hallway and my goodness did I cry.

I felt really out of my depth and out of control. And I did not get any work done at all. With a deadline tomorrow this means no sleep for me tonight.

I also have other issues – health issues – that do NOT help the situation. For example I am

seven months pregnant.

So my fuse is short.

And my patience is thin.

My hips are locked, my pelvis is turned the wrong way and it’s bloody uncomfortable to sleep so sleep is not sufficient for rest. It’s actually funny if you really think about it. I have for sure laughed about it when I have had better days.

I am so done, folks.

And I frankly just want my mother around but she is a Very Busy Woman. You see she still has my other siblings at home and while two of them are adults and have jobs/lives of their own, the other two are still boys. Teenage boys. She also works full time and is currently undergoing lots of household changes.

It’s very difficult to acquire help in these times. And I know I am probably being pig headed about this but I refuse to travel two hours to stay with my in laws just so I can get ‘help’. To me it’s not help. To me it’s having my son babysat while I struggle with heart palpitations and walking on eggshells and crippling anxiety. I lived with them before and being pregnant, working full time and having a toddler will make it worse than it was. I would probably end up in deep depression like I did last time. They can stay over all they like although when they do it’s actually more work for me, but nobody sees it that way.

See if my mum stayed over I wouldn’t feel the need to get out of bed early and make her breakfast or cook full meals for everybody or appear in control. I would let her see me in my glorious half naked frizzed out state. I would feel comfortable. Not so with anybody else, and I suppose that’s mostly natural, people’s personalities differ. Their expectations differ.

Anyway.

I do not write to complain.

I write to release and document.

It’s a hard phase of life and one day I will look back and say, ‘Man, that was rather a hard time wasn’t it.’

Or maybe I will say, ‘Man, I wish I had it as easy as I did then!’

Lol. Who knows, eh?! And if you can’t laugh about it then you’ll jolly well cry and I am going to laugh about it.

Tomorrow. With my husband. Who I DO take for granted. And I will tell him so. He makes my life easier. So much easier. When he is gone it’s totally miserable.

On Feeling Burnt Out

I am very tired lately. I sneak naps by accident, like when I am putting my son to bed. I will fall asleep for an hour then wake up groggy, panicky and shaky because my blood sugar is low and I also have lots of work to do.

Work is stressing me THE FUDGE out. Which is so selfish to say because I work from home and am very lucky to have this remote working job. The whole company works from home, as they are an app and it’s a start-up.

I just sometimes feel out of my depth because I need hours of uninterrupted thinking time to do this job, and you can’t have that when you have a one year old with you full time. So I get this work done when he is asleep, often staying up until the small hours, and getting up in the later-small hours to work until he wakes up, and work through his afternoon nap, and while he eats his meals, and sometimes pop The Gruffalo on for him (it lasts 28 minutes) so I have half an hour’s time to work.

But even so I think it’s not enough. It’s 8 hours per day but I need more than that.

And I am falling behind and sometimes appearing stupid in meetings. And am worried they will think I am not doing enough or thinking enough and will fire me. So I am pushing and pushing and pushing harder and harder. And I am so goddamn tired. Bloody hell. And lonely. But too goddamn tired to connect with anybody, even my parents. And when I cook and clean I feel half hearted, and when I read to my son my eyes start to close. I take him to the park 3-4 times a week and try to run around with him and play with him, and that’s tiring too.

How do people do it? How do they work full time and mother full time and get 8 hours of sleep and work-out and eat healthy and be in a good mood?

Because I can’t do all of that. So something has to give. And that’s my sleep. I probably get 3 hours of sleep a night. And when I crawl into bed at 3am my son wakes up and asks for my ‘mam’ – which means ‘arm’, which means he wants to sleep in my arms.

And I lie there in the dead of the night, my arms numb from the weight of his head, and my fingers stroke his soft round cheeks and I listen to his even breathing, and smell the softness of the top of his head, which has lost the ‘baby’ smell but still has this sweet toddler smell, and sometimes he mumbles ‘mama’ in his sleep, and he nestles into me, and moves my arm tighter over his little baby body, and I relax.

Because yes I am stressed and sleep deprived and often think I cannot do this, but I realise that with each day, my son grows a little bit more. Maybe taller, maybe something in his brain grows, maybe he learns a new word, or conquers a new skill. And life is never the same again. And soon I won’t be as stressed or worried or tired, and I will feel glad I pushed through this period of time.

Often I think back to my pregnancy and how bloody hard and painful it was, and I remember the mantra I would recite as I hobbled around on a stiff hip, I would say only way out is through.

And that is true. Only way out is through. Just keep pushing. It will be over. Or get easier. Enjoy the time, as much as you can.

So I can smell the top of my baby’s head, and I can’t let the negativity get to me. Because it will change and shift again. Life always does.

Halloween Grinch

Folks it was Halloween yesterday and some people celebrated more than others. Here in the UK it is a pretty low-key event and you are even allowed the luxury of complaining about trick or treaters.

Maybe in some areas houses are insanely done up and it’s a party outside but I have never seen it. Only seen footage of that street party horror vibe in places like America and Canada where it actually is a big event.

My husband and I never did Halloween and to be honest I didn’t even do it as a child. I lived in the middle east and my British-grown parents who grew up in the 70s and 80s did not know anything of the holiday, because it is not a very British holiday.

So usually, on Halloween, we turn off our lights and put a polite sign on the door saying ‘Sorry, we aren’t trick or treating this year :)’ (with a smiley face to appear less obnoxious!). We spend the evening upstairs with a movie and a pizza or something similar, like a cup of tea and a packet of digestives and pleasantly ignore all the persistent knocks downstairs.

I know.

Mean and cruel.

We had a child last year and in October the child was 7 months and didn’t know any better. He was also quite poorly so we spent Halloween upstairs, in the bedroom, with the news on, a cup of tea and lots of toys to entertain a grizzly baby. We looked like zombies so I expect if someone had seen us they would have supposed we were in costume. Wouldn’t have blamed them at all.

This year nobody knocked on our door.

Well I lie.

Someone did. At 12:14pm. My husband peeped through the peephole and said, ‘Oh no, the trick or treaters have started already! There is a boy in a crocodile costume outside holding a bag!’

‘Don’t open it!’ I said frantically, scanning my cupboards, ‘we have nothing to give him! What about an apple?!’

Too late, my husband opened the door. The little boy came tentatively forward and handed us a paper bag before leaping back. On it was written: ‘Happy Halloween, love from O, S and L’.

“It’s for your baby!” he said, eyes bright, little dimples dancing.

Oh my goodness my mellowed mother heart.

“Awwwwwwwww” was the only thing I could say, “Thank you darling, that’s so sweet!”

He was the neighbour’s little boy, and he was dancing with glee. And my ‘baby’ was peeping around the door at him in curiosity.

‘Look, E, look what the little boy got you!’ and I took the bag and I kid you not there were tears in my eyes. How weird. The bag was filled with handmade Halloween crafts and little bags of sweets.

We waved as the little boy pranced back up the path and along the road to his own house.

And I felt so despicably awful for some reason, like I was such a grinch in the face of such innocent and sweet kindness.

It made me realise that these celebrations and events are for children, to make them happy and connect each other in a genuine way. It’s completely changed my outlook on why people celebrate Halloween like that and lie to their kids about Santa. It’s about creating magic and joy for kids which I think is so important. Seeing my baby boy’s eyes light up at this goody bag JUST FOR HIM made my heart melt.

And that is my Halloween story for this year.

What was your Halloween like? Do you celebrate it in true fashion or do you lock yourself away and grumble at the frivolity?

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