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?

A Secret Thought

Folks, I was exceptionally greedy today, and had two helpings of chocolate cake with custard after dinner. Dessert is not a normal occurrence in our household, mainly because I don’t make any, and my husband cannot cook. Scratch that, he has NO INTEREST in cooking and therefore cannot make anything remotely edible. Much like me when I am forced to watch old Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson boxing matches. Yawn.

The custard came out of a tin costing 75p, and started its life in powdered form. The old me would have lovingly made it from scratch out of egg yolks, which would have resulted in a ridiculously creamy, warm, homey concoction. The new me does things by halves, and so I ate chemical-tasting custard and I damn well enjoyed it because custard is not a regular occurrence in my household. My son is allergic to eggs.

This time last year my son was 2 days old, and I was cloudy with hormones and recovering from a c-section. I thought he was the most beautiful thing on earth (I still do think that), and my feet were swollen like balloons. I don’t like to think about the immediate aftermath of the birth, to be honest. My mother stayed with me for a week and in my horrible, swollen, post-surgery, post-labour hormonal self, I was a total bitch to her. I did not trust anybody with my baby and could not sleep a wink for over a week; every time my eyes closed my dreams would rise up, cluttered and clustered and mountainous, full of events and sweat, and when I awoke I felt as though I had run a marathon. I was crying, uneasy, anxious and altogether rather horrid. This lasted, gradually fading, for a year. I am still suffering the repercussions of it and while I adore and cherish my son more than anything, I can’t help but have clouded thoughts.

I know this ought to be about him, because it is HIS birthday, and why am I so bloody negative when millions of women have births and c-sections and still manage to make the day about their kids. Don’t get me wrong, I never breathed a word about these feelings to anybody. I genuinely showed everybody sincere happiness, and I danced with my boy and told him how he was one that day, and how special he was to me and his dad, and he relished it all with big smiles and mild chatter. I was all laughs and smiles, folks. But as I walked home from the park, the winter sun shining, spring so clearly on its way, my boy nodding off in his pram, I couldn’t help thinking of the events of last year, and my personality change, and how horrible I was and how awful I felt.

When I got into the house, I put the pram away and rocked my son to sleep, tidied up and washed the dishes and out on a load of washing. I went outside and swept the garden of all the weeds I’d pulled up, I cleaned the tiny hand prints off the window, the table, the fireplace edges, I mopped the floors, I peeled and chopped some onions and put some pasta on to boil… and I just thought about it all and my heart sank.

That is how I can explain it. Mind you, this is all deep within the most secret crevices of my heart. I will never let my son know how I feel.. maybe when he is much much older and time has erased the rawness of it all. Or I will never tell him because there is no way his birth is the reason for this. I can’t have him thinking it is his fault because it most certainly is not. I can’t even describe it. It’s like a lump on my chest, that I can smother with life, but it does rear its head, and it is always there. I am always aware of it. It’s a fact of life, folks, that sometimes, a woman’s mind and body just are never the same after they have had a child.

You can say, well Lenora, get on with it. Well. I do get on with it. I do. I am happy, as everybody around me will attest to. I am full of cheer and joy. Just here, in this nook of the internet, I sometimes release these little feelings like gentle moths.

 

Wisdom (teeth and lemons)

One of my biggest pet peeves is when young people write ‘wisdom’.

It annoys me on so many levels.

Level 1: They are way too young to have accumulated such an insane amount of wisdom (see: ’25 things I have learned in 25 years on this planet). Level 2: Wisdom is more impactful in smaller doses. Level 3: It’s irritating and assumes people will want to hear what a green, relatively inexperienced young person has got to say about life. Level 4: If you overlook all the previous levels and actually delve into what they have to say, you will more often than not discover that they have listed the most mundane, common sense things ever.

So it might appear ironic that I am here today to list some things that I have learnt from other people.

I don’t pretend to think that my things are of any value to anybody but myself. But I like that I have learned them, and wonder at what others might think of them.

Are they mundane?

Are they common sense?

Do they mean anything to anybody?

Who knows.

Thing One: My mother taught me through words and actions that people will like you much more if you don’t take yourself too seriously. You see, growing up, my sister and I were lemons. Oh, such lemons. It shames me to remember it. If we were at a gathering, even if the party was full of people we knew, we would just stand there and wait for people to socialise with us. We never thought to join a group and attend the party properly. My mother, a social butterfly, would become so impatient with us. She would flit from group to group leaving laughter in her wake. We felt awkward and shy and socially inept. Complaining to my mother about my inability to make friends or be happy socially, she told me it was because I took myself too seriously. Let loose. Laugh at yourself a little.

I am still trying to learn how to do that.

Thing Two: My father taught me about faith. Real, sincere faith. This thing is perhaps an incredulous thing to believe, if ye are of little faith. Or not religious at all. I am religious. Not fanatically, but respectably so.

My dad has such strong, unwavering faith. He always says to me in Arabic, ‘you will see wonders’ (If you have faith), and I always see goosebump wonders happening to him. Once his car got stolen. Somebody broke into our home, stole all the keys and phones, and took the car from the garage. We reported it to the police, nothing. It was a Chevrolet Suburban, and our first big car since the seven of us used to cram into my dad’s ’89 caprice. We loved it. I was in tears. My father, however, was stoic. You will see, he told us, it will come back. I have strong faith. It’s in God’s hands. God has never let me down. Two days later, my father received a phone call from an old man who said, Your car is outside my house. It was the strangest story. The old man had noticed this strange new car outside his house for two days, and on the second day went out to investigate. He said he found the car keys under the car, and when he got inside it he found some of my father’s work papers with his work number on and gave that a call. The car had cigarette butt stains on it and the seats were a little torn, but was otherwise in perfect condition. This is not the only story I have about my father’s faith, there are many more, but this one has stuck in my head for 12 years. You could call it luck, you could call it coincidence, but I have never seen anybody as sure as my father that he would get his car back. And he did.

Thing Three: My sister in law taught me to wash the dinner dishes, clean the counter and broom the floor in 15 minutes. Look at the clock, she would say, porcelain arms slipping into rubber gloves, in 15 minutes, I shall have finished everything and will be sipping my tea. Then she would daintily, yet efficiently wash everything up, wipe the counter with a furious deftness that was fascinating to watch, and then neatly broom the floor and empty the dirt into the bin with a little flourish. Gloves off, neatly and quickly draped over the tap, feet sliding out of slippers, cup of tea in hand, little tidy dance, arms out, hands elegantly swaying. It all looked so neat and tidy and efficient and deft and, dare I say, exciting. A challenge. So that is what I do now. And seeing a tidy kitchen in the morning makes me more likely to have a productive day. Also my sister in law is a little sparrow and makes me laugh, so it’s nice to remember her as I deftly and neatly scrub away at my kitchen counter.

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Image Credit: Elizabeth Floyd. Check out her beautiful website!

Can a blog be hacked?

I think my WordPress account has been hacked or something. All my newest posts have vanished, and replaced with a sentence which contains a link. When you click on the link an odd document immediately gets downloaded onto the desktop!

It’s really weird. Has anybody else experienced this?

I am going to have to investigate the matter. How annoying!

Write in Good Times and Bad

Some people do their best writing while they are depressed. And others write beautifully when they are happy, their emotions lending wings to their minds and their fingers. It’s all down to emotion at the end of the day, and how one perceives feelings, and reacts to them.

I’ve learned that people react so differently to the same emotions and situations, which is why you can never win at situations no matter how hard you try. If you can’t get through to someone, you can’t get through to them.

In my previous life I have managed to write the best during my times of depression, but now that I am 25 and feeling a way I have never felt before in my life, I find that words somehow escape me.

I don’t know why this is. I thought that if I let my emotions out in stories they would somehow live a life on paper that they couldn’t live inside my mind. But it doesn’t work. On paper they seem mundane and mismatched. They teeter and totter on the edge of a cliff and fall off. They are the missing planks in a swaying wooden bridge, and you just fall right on through when you try to follow the track.

They just do not do the truth any justice, and it leaves me feeling frustrated and sad.

So I have come to the conclusion that my best writing happens when I am marginally sad, but not overwhelmingly so. When I see hope shining like a beacon at the end of a time period. Now time appears to stretch endlessly before me and hope is dragging her heels behind. Why, Hope, WHY? Well, she replies, I really don’t think that time has anything for me at the end of her path. I feel like time is shaving pieces off me as each of her seconds drip off her chain, like desolate, worthless diamonds.

Did you know that diamond rings are worthless if you want to resell them? Jewellers will only charge you for the price of the band, whatever metal it was made from. A fascinating piece of knowledge I got from my husband’s friend’s wife, who is a jeweller. I’d always wanted a diamond ring but now I am glad I don’t have one. But I digress.

You see my sadness cannot be fixed with time, or so the naive youth in me bemoans. It knows it will have to go through a harrowingly narrow tunnel before anything changes. Or it could get solemnly worse and I will just end up old and regretful and the vicious cycle continues.

So there. I am an in-between writer. I can’t write well when I am happy and I can’t write well when I am desolate, but there is a good in-between niche that hits the spot just fine.

Apparently L M Montgomery wrote her later Anne novels when she was in depression. Perhaps that is why the Anne voice we know and love recedes massively in her later novels.

Some people can write when they are both happy and depressed. Others can channel their particular emotions while writing and produce work that is representative of it, challenging themselves marvellously and being just ridiculously talented at making terrific use of their mental state, whatever it may be, to produce written work.

What kind of writer are you? Do you write best when you are happy, or sad? Or both? Or do your emotions not feature in your creativity at all?

Also, secret question, are all men afraid of conflict? Is it an inherent trait of a man? Is that why they don’t communicate with their wives/partners?

Myself

Hello. Yes it is me. Peering into the internet. I am sitting in bed with a baby snoozing in my arms as I type this. It has been some kind of day. He won’t seem to settle tonight unless he is being held but I don’t mind I don’t I don’t I never will mind because he will never be this little again and he is my big big blessing.

We did nothing today but are exhausted. But that is the reality of parenthood.

It’s been three months to the day since our lives changed completely, and as I was getting into the shower at 10:47pm I thought to myself – you know, self, your life is never going to go back to being like it was before. So stop thinking of that. Embrace this change and make the most of it.

So that is what I have decided to do. Babies are not a pause in life – rather an enrichment of it. See it’s taking me a while to get there but I am working on it.

See what I have to do is throw myself all the way in. Go all out. Dedicate my brain and time to learning and teaching and loving and nurturing. Not wishing for a holiday.

I love this boy more and more every single day it’s insane.

Like at the beginning I don’t think I bonded very well with him because of how traumatic the birth was – and because I was under general anaesthetic when they pulled him out of me via emergency c section – I didn’t witness his entrance into this world. They literally put him on me while I was woozy and drowsy from the operation and I tried to connect but all I wanted to do was sleep. So weird right?

But now I am in my right mind again – I think… i don’t know yet because back then I thought I was in my right mind but I very obviously was not…

anyway. Myself. That was the prompt for today. I must work on myself and not hang about the fringes of things if I want to give my boy a valuable childhood.

I want to give him the best in terms of mind enrichment and education. So that means I have to make sure I am educated and informed.

If you have had kids, how did you navigate being ‘yourself’ in order to nourish the brain of your child? Any tips would be so very welcome!

Conscience

I am challenging myself to write a post every single day in May, to kickstart my writing again. I will be following some prompt words that I ‘stole’ from somebody on instagram. Here is my sixteenth post – a day late!

 

When you see a group of teenage boys legging it out of a grocery superstore as though there were jets on their heels, you just know they are up to no good.

‘Where’d you park the car, Mark?!’, one of them yelled, while the rest guffawed, their trainers hitting the road with barely a sound as they whooshed past little old ladies tottering out with their trolleys. I could hear the rustling of the bags of sweets and whatnot in their hands, as two more dashed out the supermarket and sped across the carpark like they were being chased. Loud laughs and shouts and whoops as they leaped into their car and it took off with a swerve, shooting out that carpark sharpish.

The world was quiet again after they’d gone. No security guard came rushing out after them. Nothing.

I guess large chain supermarkets account for small thefts like this?

I couldn’t help staring at those kids as they were running. The excitement and adrenaline was plain for all to see. Togetherness, teenage fun. It certainly isn’t moral but it is memories being made, so does that cancel out the crime?

I confess, I stole once too. I must have been about seven. It was a packet of chewits and I ate them in the supermarket as I trailed behind my parents, without them noticing. When my mum found out she gave me such a telling off. She made me pay for it out of my pocket money and apologise to the manager. Never had I been so mortified. But she did it all in such a way that, out of pure ethical reasons, not fear, I never stole again. I was tempted a few times but I kept remembering the things she told me about being upstanding and having good character and I didn’t do it. She gave me a conscience.

But if I was a teen and my friends pressured me into it, would I have given in? I like to think not but you never know unless you’re actually in that situation.

Did you ever steal something when you were younger?

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black and white

15th post – playing catch up.

Black and white is actually a very exciting concept for me, full of opportunities. Something about staying within the constrains of such a vivid contrast of colour.

A black and white floor, a black and white house. Black and white. A chess board. Piano keys. A crossword puzzle, dice, some newspapers, footballs (soccer balls to you Americans out there!).

Penguins, zebras, pandas, orcas, skunks, Dalmatians, cows and ermines.

The possibilities are endless because when you mix different volumes of black and white paint together you get a multitude of greys. Dark white and light black.

Malory Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses series is an interesting observation of the tumult within society when it comes to race, only in her universe the whites are the prosecuted ones and the blacks are living it up.

What about the colours in between? For example I am yellow – a mix of different races, not white nor black. Where do I fall in? To be honest I still feel ostracised in mostly-white towns. That’s England for you.

Again, not everything is black and white. Nothing is, in fact. Unless you’re thinking of penguins, but even penguins can be grey, have orangey beaks and feet and of course their insides would be red.

What comes to your mind when you think of black and white?

 

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Sunflowers

I am challenging myself to write a post every single day in May, to kickstart my writing again. I will be following some prompt words that I ‘stole’ from somebody on instagram. Here is my eleventh post.

We had a painting in our living room when we were kids, and it was of a field of sunflowers, tall and fierce. The background was some hedges and a stunning sunrise.

At the front of the field there was a small opening in the fringe of tall flowers, a black hole leading to the undergrowth, a tunnel winding through the strong stalks that were taller than a man.

The painter had just painted the opening of the tunnel, and some stalks at the opening had been trampled and the heads of the flowers ripped off and scattered about. But the painter had left no clue as to who the culprit was or what they were doing with the tunnel. It was all a mystery.

We had that painting on the wall for a good seventeen years. When we had white paint, we moved it to paint the walls ‘apple green’ (something my mother seemed to hanker after), and there was a small yellow rectangle on the white paint where the frame had been. Then we replaced it over the apple green walls and that stayed how it was for a good two years before my mother got sick of apple green and decided to go with magnolia.

That painting was on the wall from when I was about 7. And now I am 25, my father finally took it down, wrapped it in bubble wrap, put it in his suitcase and flew all the way to England with it to put it on the wall of our house here. This happened last week.

And when I saw it on the wall I didn’t even question it. It was like it had always been there. I looked at it and wondered at the tunnel in the sunflower field again, as I had always done before, but didn’t think anything of it, even though I hadn’t seen that painting in 4 years… until I walked into the room again and it hit me! What is that painting doing here, in another country?!

Isn’t it strange? How a memory or a thought makes a home in your mind? How it is not a stranger to you when you revisit it, because you’ve looked at it so often and thought about it so much over the years? It’s just a painting, but it’s been there for almost my entire life barring seven years, that it’s almost as if it were part of my life.

Are there any objects in your life that are seemingly mundane but have inexplicably taken residence in your mind?

Olha Darchuk

Umbrella

I am challenging myself to write a post every single day in May, to kickstart my writing again. I will be following some prompt words that I ‘stole’ from somebody on instagram. Here is my ninth post.

When my brother and I were very small, our parents moved us away from rainy England to Dubai, where it barely ever rained and the sun shone down upon the barren desert with a beaming ferocity that unrivalled anything we had ever known.

You see, if I were to describe England to you using only the colour spectrum, I would say it was ramaadi (grey) and a thousand shades of green, with a few splotches of brick red thrown in for good measure. Clouds here are stunning, and seemingly perpetual. When it rains it does not rain as it does in Malaysia (there it POURS). It is a slow sort of rain, seemingly innocent and gentle, but viciously incessant, soaking you through in a matter of minutes all while apologising meekly and drizzling away.

The green is of all hues. Dark sultry evergreens, pale shoots, regular green of birches, the humdrum green of privet, cheery green of oak, green hills rolling away into the distance and grass that just grows and grows and grows. Green ivy creeping over beautiful homes and driveways fringed with neatly clipped grass. An abundance of green and all looking like it came out of a picture book – which I suppose it did, for Beatrix Potter did base her paintings on the Lake District!

When you fly above England it’s all neat little squares of varying shades of green. It’s similar in France I suppose but there is a foreign vibe to it there and lots of browns creep in.

When you fly above the United Arab Emirates the land is brown, a hundred shades of it, and you can see the winding marks on the earth where rivers and mountain ranges signify a land that barely changes. It’s always changing in England, for we have seasons. In Dubai there is summer and winter and a week or two of rain and that’s it.

So whenever we came back home to England for the summer holidays, my brother and I relished the rain and the greenery like a pair of mad children. We ate buttercups and yanked all the dandelion seeds off their stems, blowing until we were blue in the face. I naughtily picked the neighbour’s flowers because they were pretty and sobbed inconsolably when my mother gave me a good telling off about it.

My mum bought us two children’s umbrellas one summer, darling little things, coloured like a rainbow, and we would rush into the garden when it rained and stand out there like a pair of wallies under our umbrellas. The neighbours thought we were bonkers and their dog barked at us.

Those odd children standing out in the wet under umbrellas!

It was such a novelty, you see. The pattering of soft rain on the umbrellas, splish splash of water by our wellies, tap tap of heavy drops on wide tree leaves.

It’s funny what makes children happy.