Count Your Blessings

We all get so wrapped up in our lives, that until something happens to stop us in our tracks, we just carry on in our little bubble

There’s so much suffering, poverty, hardship happening  in  the world today that some days it just seems ‘the norm’ in newspapers and on tv, and perhaps we occasionally become a little blasé. So it’s not until things actually affect us do we stop.

Recently a few things have happened,  within the family and to friends, which have made realise how much I have to be thankful for.

A couple of weeks ago Son2 (Master Chef) was driving home from work around midnight. He works about 26 miles away from home, and is usually returning late at night after long days in the kitchen.  And because he knows he’s tired he’s conscious of keeping his speed down in case his reactions aren’t as quick as others may be. And thank god he was this night. He  was driving around a bend, only about 3 miles from home, only to be met by a car coming at him at about 60 mph….. On the his side of the road.  MC swerved to try and avoid him, but not enough and he was hit head on.The driver of the other car abandoned  his vehicle and “legged it” The car is a complete write off. Luckily, and goodness know how, he escaped with relatively minor injuries. Back, fractured ribs, sprained knee. And thumb. Though they are likely to keep him off work for a month at least. The emergency crews were fantastic. (Right down to the fireman who took charge of his chef’s knives and ensured they were returned to me the following morning.)  As were the staff in A&E the next day… Including the doctors, who despite what Jeremy Hunt would like us to believe, were there in abundance, and working hard.

Shock affects people in different ways. I’m not sure whether MC has been hit by it properly yet. Me? Tears flowed in the privacy of the bathroom. Tears of shock and fear that I could have lost him, tears of relief that I didn’t.  MC had a photo of his car, but wouldn’t let me see as he didn’t want me having nightmares. However they came on the Monday night after I’d taken him to collect the rest of his belongings. There was no front left on his car at all, and how he ever got out in one piece I do not know.  His guardian angel was definitely working overtime that night, and he’s lost another of his 9 lives. He’s got 7 left!  A car can be replaced…even though it was his pride and joy.

More importantly he is (along with his sister and brother) my pride and joy. And alive.

There are 2 other things which have had an effect  on me.

The first concerns a lovely girl I know, have known since she was in her teens. The daughter of a very good friend of mine. A beautiful, talented, funny young lady, heading towards her 30th year, with the world at her feet. We’ve done stuff on stage together, and partied together. I’m always amazed when the  ‘youngsters ‘ want to spend their Saturday nights with us ‘oldies’!!

She’s had some niggles healthwise over the years, which frustrated her, but didn’t stop her. Then last year a number of strange symptoms and ‘happenings’ meant several visits to her GP. He referred her on to a consultant… And after a number of tests, including lumbar punctures and MRI scans she was diagnosed with MS, with a number of active lesions showing in her brain. MS is one of those ‘invisible illnesses’ Sufferers can be well for long periods, then have an acute phase where their mobility is severely affected, and the extreme fatigue means they can struggle to even get out of bed. But since her diagnosis she has been determined not to be ‘defined’ by the MS.  She has to inject herself daily, but hopes she may fit criteria for a newer drug which doesn’t have to be daily. When she is well she carries on and lives and enjoys life to the full. When she is poorly she quietly gets on with it. She carried on with  her college course, completed her assignments and theses, and qualified as a counsellor.  And does fantastic work with young people with mental health issues. But there are so many issues and hurdles she faces… And i’m sure she will do this with grace and dignity, as she does now. Loved and supported by her family, her friends, and her wonderful boyfriend.

And finally, there’s T. A former colleague, and a friend. I first met her when she came to interview for a post in one of the teams I managed. A vivacious redhead, who knocked the socks off all the other candidates with her knowledge and passion.  We appointed her, and all looked forward to her starting with the team. One her first day in post I didn’t recognise her! Her brilliant red hair was now blonde… And she told me that she had dyed her hair red for the interview as it made her feel more confident.. She didn’t want anyone to think she was a dizzy blonde, but whispered “I am really”and I whispered back “so am I”That kind of sealed our relationship.  We didn’t always see eye to eye professionally but were always able to sit and discuss things, and usually come to an amicable agreement. And our friendship was never affected. She was a breath of fresh air in the team, well liked and respected. We were professional but also had great fun. If you could see some of the memos that went between us you wouldn’t believe we were senior members of the service. I still have some of them, and I still cry with laughter when I read them.

Her  mum had early dementia and died young. It was always her  fear she would develop dementia as well. And used to laugh and joke when we were both sat there struggling to find the words we wanted, that we were both destined to be sufferers.

As happens so often, when you leave a post, you do lose touch with people.. No matter how determined you are not to. We kept in touch, but not as much as either would have liked. Then we worked together again for a while, but due to reorganisation of services she left to take up a post in another unit, and lost touch with most of her old team.

We heard she had been unwell and away from work, but no one really knew what was going on. Then last year we heard that her worst fears had come true.

In her late 40’s she had been diagnosed with early onset dementia. A particularly cruel type associated with a condition called Pick’s disease.

And now she is unable to work, doesn’t really know who anyone is, and has to have someone to care for her 24/7. she has no family so a friend has taken on this mantle, even though she more often than not doesn’t  recognise her.

And I feel awful that, for a number of reasons on both our parts,  I haven’t seen her for nearly 2 years now. If I do go to see her she won’t know me, and although I am able to cope with that professionally, and deliver training on dementia awareness, I’m not sure I will cope personally. (I’ve not had to yet, have been lucky enough not to have to. No one in the family has been afflicted with dementia) The thought breaks my heart. Does that make me an awful person?

And part of me just wants to remember the dizzy blonde laughing down the phone  to me “you know you can’t tell me anything important after 4pm cos my brain turns off”

So I sit here and think about my life… It isn’t  all a bed of roses….But.  I thank my blessings

It’s A Matter Of Opinion…. Or when you really think you know someone

The other day I was unfollowed on a number of social media platforms by someone I had been friends with for quite a long time.. ( in fairness, I said for them to feel free to do so if they felt they wanted to. But suppose , in my heart of hearts, sort of hoped they would just cut the RL contact and stay with the safer cyber one) Someone I had met often and got on pretty well with, but who has decided our friendship wasn’t working because we had differing opinions on a number of things, felt my opinions were a direct and personal slating, and saw disagreeing or discussing as being confrontational as opposed to being able to have an honest conversation with ‘a friend’

I had noticed a few times that if I said something they didn’t agree with they would disappear. I would then be left wondering what I had said or done wrong, usually being the one to make the first move at addressing things, taking a bunch of flowers as a peace-offering… When, in fact, I hadn’t really done anything wrong apart from express a personal opinion.

And I am inordinately and ridiculously upset by this. And I don’t know why, other than I have quite a lot going on in my life at the moment so am possibly ultra sensitive, and less able to be logical and sensible about it.
Confrontation is the last thing I like. I will do anything to avoid, often to my own personal detriment.

Believe it or not I am a sensitive soul, who hates the idea of deliberately upsetting anyone, and over the years this has had an impact on both my personal and professional life. Perhaps if I had confronted some personal issues head on I may not have found myself lying awake at night agonising over things.

Perhaps if I’d stopped that member of staff in their tracks all that time ago, when they were hell-bent on a mission with their own agenda, I wouldn’t have been driven to the brink of a total meltdown… Rendering me unable to walk through the main gates of the building without becoming a shivering, gibberish wreck.

However, having said I’m not one for confrontation, I do tend to say things as I find them. I don’t believe in lying in order to preserve someone’s fragile ego. But I do try to be gentle and am always open to discussion, and the first to apologise if I’m in the wrong…. Which I often am. I can’t be someone or something I’m not. And, anyway, if you are you will invariably be found out at some stage.

I’m lucky in that I have a small circle of very good friends, who also feel the same way as me, and we can be completely open and honest with each other. Express opinions, disagree without it causing upsets or rifts. After all isn’t that what real friendship is all about?
Perhaps in this day of cyber friendships we find ourselves being drawn to people we most likely wouldn’t be in the real world.

Having said that I have met some really wonderful people through social media.. Some of whom I am very fond of, and we have a fab time every time we meet up. There are a few I haven’t been able to meet yet, but plan to.. And I’m pretty sure we will get on famously.
And there are some very special ones I’ve got to know, and we will be friends for life now.

What you see is what you get with me… And if others don’t like that then I have to learn that it’s not my problem, and I shouldn’t have to change to appease them. And perhaps they aren’t meant to be part of my life… However hard I find that.

I am who I am and I can’t, and actually don’t want to, change.

 

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Hi, How are you ?

Your phone rings, and at the other end is a friend you’re not heard from for a while

“Hi, how are you”? They ask. You reply “okay thanks” or some other fairly non-descriptive response “and, how about you”?

Then you realise why they’ve called you…. The cursory enquiry into your well-being was only ever meant as an opening into a full-blown, 20 minute account of how they are, what latest ailment they’re suffering from, how terrible their lives are, and how badly they’re being treated at home/at work/ by friends. You don’t need to say anything… Well, you can only get the odd “oh no/ poor you/really/surely not” in anyway , so engrossed are they in their tale of woe.

Now, please don’t get me wrong, I do I genuinely care about my friends and their welfare. And I have some who have horrendous things going on in their lives. But ask them how they are and the normal reply is “I’m hunky dory hun” when I know full well that’s not true, but I also know that when they’re ready to say something they will… And they know I’ll be there for them, in whatever way I can.

This is particularly true of one dear friend who, 9 times out of 10 manages to completely ignore/change the subject/use distraction whenever I ask how things are.. Or dare to suggest they should perhaps slow down/take some time out/see a doctor. So when they do, on the very rare occasions, actually reply by admitting they’re tired/sad/fed up/ unwell. Then I know things are bad. And I wish I was nearer so I could do something more practical to help.

No, I’m talking about the ones who seem unable to get through a week without some drama occurring, that they need to off load….on me. They need advice/help/to tell me a secret. Jeez, I’ve so many secrets tucked away I could be a millionaire if I ever resorted to blackmail!! And, NO, I’m not telling you any!!

Then, after 20 minutes they suddenly remember you’re still there, and finish the call with “ thanks for listening, gotta dash. But if you ever need to talk……”

Once, when there was something particularly grim going on in my life, I did actually dare to try “talking”. Oh my! That was a mistake! I’m not sure if they were shocked at what I was trying to say, and unable to cope… After all, as they said “but you’re the strong  one, you deal with everything”. Quickly followed by “look, I have to go now. But I’ll ring you back later. Now, I’m not sure how much later they meant, but it was just as well I didn’t wait in for them as it was over a month before they rang again. And guess what? Yep, they had a problem they wanted advice on! Obviously any memory of anything I’d started to tell them was long forgotten.

On another occasion someone rang, asked how I was.. I replied with my stock answer, but didn’t ask how they were…..oh my again!
They launched into me…. “Aren’t you going to ask (whatever it was going on at the time) is?” “ I can’t believe you can be so thoughtless” I bit my tongue, apologised and then before I could say anything else they proceeded to tell me anyway, in great detail.

I don’t want to sound as if I’m hard and unfeeling. I really am not. And have lots of lovely friends that I know would be here for me, at the drop of a hat, as I would be for them. And some of those are relatively new people that I’ve met on Twitter, and then in RL. We’ve shared stories and confidences, and it’s been good, and therapeutic to have been able to share some stuff, that I possibly may not have shared with friends closer to home.

I am a fairly private person, and choose carefully what I share and whom with. But , sometimes, it would be nice to think that the “how are you” from some people was actually meant. Or that if they did stop to listen, they’d, maybe, give some indication next time we spoke that they’d remembered any of it.

I really don’t mean to sound like a whingeing old bat… And I certainly don’t want my dear friends to think they can’t tell me anything again, I hope they know me well enough to know I’m there for them when they need me.

It’s just…..

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And remember ‘listen’ and ‘silent’ have the same letters in them. And it’s a real skill to “really listen”’ So many people find silences awkward and have a need to fill them, for their own comfort.

In my role I facilitate sessions on communication and often engage groups in exercises on ‘active listening’ I really think everyone should try it. Sit with a friend. Ask them to talk to you for 2 minutes about something about them. You have to listen. No speaking. No asking questions. Just listen. Then at the end feedback what they’ve told you. It’s not easy. The brain is constantly thinking how the conversation relates to stuff in you life, and the temptation to ‘jump in’ is hard to resist. But try it, and you’ll be amazed how much more you’ll ‘hear’

And, please, remember sometimes that ‘strong’ person at the other end of the phone may be desperate for someone to listen to them.

Happy Easter

Another Easter weekend done and dusted. Back to ‘normal’ tomorrow… Except I’m not working. Or looking after boys this week. So actually have a whole week to myself. Almost. Practically unheard of.

Strange to be home on a Friday, it felt like Saturday.

I had fully intended on having a highly productive day doing all those domestic goddess type things that get put  to one side. However a phone call from my friend suggesting a long dog walk saw them swiftly fly out the window! Instead of our usual beach walk, we decided to go into Exeter and do the circular canal walk. It was a lovely late morning and C’s dog was having a whale of a time making acquaintances with half the canine population of Exeter. We walked around the Quay area where I spent many a happy hour in my student days drinking in the local hostelries and dancing the night away in one of the many night clubs there. The pubs are still there, though changed hugely, but sadly the night clubs did not survive. However one of them is now a rather nice pub/ restaurant. Which was dog friendly and enticed us in!

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After a lovely lunch and a wee glass of wine we continued on our way, popping into the local Tesco for some last-minute Easter egg shopping. By then though, the ENTIRE population of Exeter had cottoned on to the fact that the shops were going to be closed for a whole day…. And panic buying had set in. We made a hasty exit, minus any Easter eggs.

Saturday dawned bright and sunny. My daughter and SIL had invited me to spend Sunday at theirs. She’d also asked son1 and his wife, and son2 who was coming down after work.

I asked if I could bring anything. “Oh yes please” could I bring a pudding. And some plates. And some cutlery….

So I started baking… With a vengeance!

I made a leek and blue cheese tart

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A strawberry and poppy-seed cake

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Baked a large gammon joint, and prepared the dough for hot cross buns, which I put in the airing cupboard for second proving…. And forgot… Because I stopped and went for a walk on the beach!!

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I found the dough Sunday morning when I went to airing cupboard to look for some clothes! So my first job Sunday morning was to finish making the hot cross buns! Which I have to say we’re rather tasty!

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Oh, then there was the fudge chocolate pudding requested by MasterChef!

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Then all that was left to do was load the car up and hope and pray everything would survive the 26 mile to my daughter’s. As it was Sunday I took the normal approach to Sunday driving……

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I’m happy to report everything made it in one piece. Including me, despite the best efforts of the “recently arrived in Devon” city dwelling holiday makers who know the roads and the best way to drive them, much better than we locals do…

Now I normally always have an Easter egg hunt at mine, so this year took the eggs with me, and secreted them around K’s garden for the little men to find.

We had a lovely day. And K had put on a fab spread. The boys were delighted and excited to see Uncle A and Auntie L. Uncle N didn’t arrive until 7, as he was very busy at work and didn’t finish til 6. Luckily SIL and son1 found something to amuse themselves with while we girls sorted the meal!

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We were entertained by 8 and his amazing ability as a human satnav… He can give you the route to anywhere!! And 7’s long and intricate details of the different types of ‘dub step’ he knows about. He mixes his own on his tablet and has announced he wants to be a DJ when he grows up. He also wants to write to Skillrex, who apparently is an awesome DJ, because he wants to know how to do a ‘wobble bass’… Or something!!!

The cake was devoured, as was the Choc pudding.. And we rounded the day off playing a game of Tension… Which was great fun… Mainly because our team. The girls + 7 won

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I think the boys took it reasonably well

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And Monday? Well, the sun was shining . So what better way to spend the day at the beach. My friend came with her dog. We had breakfast in Lyme Regis and then walked across the beach to Charmouth

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Then after a coffee, back into Lyme along a coastal path, a lot of it has been diverted due to the landslips there have been, making it very dangerous.  So we walked through the woods.

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Then this evening I have finally sorted out all my recipes and put in a folder. I had about 3 years worth of foodie magazines which I have been meaning to sort for ages …. I now have a folder with about 100 recipes in it… Probably 3/4 of which I’ll never make!!! And I HAVE to stop buying more magazines!!

So, all in all, a lovely… And, eventually, productive weekend

I do love my family and friends

I hope you’ve all had a fab weekend too, and thank you for indulging me. Again

How Kind

So today is National Kindness Day.. I’ve been touched by a number of acts of kindness over the years, Hopefully, in some small way, have offered to kindness to others.  Both professionally and personally,

One  particular episode that comes to mind, is when my daughter and I were planning her wedding. K wanted to have cup cakes. They were just beginning to become popular in the UK. So, after doing the rounds of cake makers and seeing the prices they were charging for them, we decided to make our own. Her colour theme was deep pink and ivory so she wanted pink smarties to decorate the cakes. Do you know how many pink smarties are in a tube? On average 3…. When you’re looking for them. We couldn’t find any loose ones anywhere either. So I thought I’d ring Nestlés and see if they could point me in the right direction. After explaining to the lady who answered the phone, I was then put through to a number of departments, none of which could really help. Eventually I spoke to a very pleasant lady who promised to look into to it and get back to me. I explained the wedding was in 2 months. Gave her my name and address, and telephone number. “Leave it with me” she cheerily said, and put the phone down. We never did hear from her, and as the wedding approached and it was time to think about making the cakes, K resigned herself to not having smarties and started looking for an alternative.

A week before the wedding I arrived in from work to find a note from postman saying he’d been unable to deliver a parcel and it was at the local office ready for collection. The next morning I went to collect it, and was completely baffled as I hadn’t ordered anything.

Once home I opened the mystery parcel. And what did I find?

A great big bag of pink smarties with a compliment slip from the lady I’d spoken to a few weeks ago!

There was no indication of how much they cost, or how to pay.

I rang the company and, after a number of false starts, was put through to the lady I had originally spoken to

I thanked her profusely, and asked how much I owed and how to pay

“Oh no Mrs.S ” she said ” these are with the compliments of Nestlé, and we hope your daughter has a wonderful wedding. Just send me a cake”

How lovely was that?  And as well as having enough to decorate 240 cakes, there were plenty left over to put a dish on every table

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There have been other times that have stuck in my mind. The time I had just finished working 8 nights, as a student nurse, and was going home to see Mum and Dad. I caught the train, and settled down with a book to pass the 40 minute journey……I must have dozed off and I woke up at Waterloo!! I was completely panic-stricken. The station staff were wonderful,I explained what had happened.

They  gave me a free travel voucher, and vouchers for coffee and sandwiches, put me on the next train back to my original destination, and spoke to the guard….who checked on me regularly, and made sure I was awake and got off at the right station. Not sure that would happen today.

Then earlier this year, my fab ladies organised an amazing surprise birthday party. I had absolutely no idea. They spent months plotting and planning.  And with the help of  my lovely children managed to access my twitter and FB account to find people to invite, including old work colleagues, my best friend from my training days, my wonderful Twitter Housewives, and so many others, I’m sure I didn’t speak to them all.  And the cake was out of this world!  I will never ever forget it.image

 

I’m so lucky to have such amazing friends and children

So, this brings me up to date, and an act of kindness yesterday that backfired on me!

As some of you may know, as well as nursing, I also work as a trainer. Delivering training all over the place. I was working fairly locally yesterday, and when I arrived at my destination there wasn’t anywhere to park, so I parked outside the front door, and told the receptionist that if it needed to be moved to come and give me a shout.

I was setting up when one of the delegates looked out of the window, and said that there was now a vacant parking space, and would I like him to move my car. I thanked him and said “that’s very kind, but its ok, I’ll do it in a minute” He insisted that he would do it, and some of the other delegates told me how he often moved their cars for them when they hadn’t been able to park.  So I handed over my keys and off he went. He came back after 5 minutes and showed me where he’d parked the car.

3 hours later and I’m ready to head home. I head off to the car. But when I go to unlock it I discover it has been left unlocked all afternoon, and the driver’s side window had been opened….and left open! but there was worse to come.It was cold and pouring with rain, and I was keen to get home. I started the engine. Only to find that my ‘car park attendant’ had left the car in gear, something I never do. I suppose I should have checked. BUT not only that…..he hadn’t put the hand brake on properly. So as I turned on the engine my dear little car jumped forward…straight into a brick wall!! I could have wept!Luckily there isn’t too much damage done, but will need some bodywork repair. Luckily I know ‘a man who can’ I know I should have gone back in and spoken to him, but I didn’t. I guess it was my fault for agreeing to let him park, and then not checking the car was out of gear before I fired her up. The saving grace was that it wasn’t my beloved Molly, but my ‘sensible’ car.

I know he did it out of kindness…..but I’m sat here wishing he hadn’t

Hey Ho!