Thursday, December 31, 2009

The last hours of 2009.....

Missy has gone home. Isn't it amazing how one small girl can light up a house? As I watched her unpacking my bookcase this morning, wiggling with delight and making all those little noises only 10 month old girls can make, my heart was filled with joy. She is such a delight. Her shrieks of "Aiya" and "dadadadadDADADAD" and the huffing and puffing noises she makes as she crawls through the house.... the silence now is overwhelming.

I know it is New Year's Eve. And I am trying NOT to look back on 2009. And failing miserably.

The two greatest delights of the year were, of course, the arrival of Missy into our lives in February, and then Diana's visit home in May. There have been other delights, of course - time in the mountains, time spent with family, adventures with friends, and watching my children thrive, wherever they may be. And the relief of knowing the legal stuff is now in the hands of the experts.

Lessons learned.

That the old me is gone, and there is a new me. And that accepting that is just fine. That I am not 25 any more. That "slower" does not mean failure. Just different. That obstacles can be overcome. And that patience is something I need to work on a little more, although I have come a long way already. The pacing too, could do with more work, but it is better. Sort of. A little bit. Maybe that goal of serenity one day is not an impossible dream after all.

In all things, I think I have learned that contentment is a wonderful thing. Being content and even happy in whatever circumstances I find myself. Enjoying each moment to the full. The dreams are not for things any more. (Except a laptop. And a woodburning stove. And a new bathroom. And...) I am joking, my friends. Of course there are things I would love, but they are not longings. I do not spend my days hankering after the impossible. If they happen one day, great. If not, I am thankful I have a computer, a way to stay warm and a functioning bathroom! Remind of this the next time I am trying to change a loo seat, please.

The dreams are still there. Of course they are. They are part of me, after all, and without them, life would be very dull. I stopped making New Year Resolutions a long time ago. But this year I have decided that I must make an effort to be a part of the world, and not simply an observer. Over the past year, I have withdrawn a great deal from social events, and gatherings, and tended to stay home. This is part of CRPS, and I acknowledge that. It has just been easier to stay home, and not do the explaining and justification thing.

The worst bit is that I actually LIKE staying at home. But it can be very lonely at times. So I need to get out, and Get a Life, as I said in the last post. Meet new people. Do new things. So watch this space.

If I had thought for a second that I would be where I am right now this time last year, despair may have taken over. Bitterness possibly, even though I am not prone to despair and bitterness. I may have given up though. So in a way, it is a very good thing that we cannot see into our own futures. That would also have taken away the voyage of discovery. I can't see the plan for my life. I can just set goals, but be open to change.

But to look back and see the pattern which has unfolded in the past 12 months, the lessons learned, and the experience adding up in areas where there was none before, is a salutary lesson, isn't it. My life is unfolding according to the Master Plan, in ways I cannot imagine.

I have no idea what 2010 holds for me. Good and bad will go hand in hand, and hopefully the good will triumph. I have got this far, and survived, so bring on the next decade, then. One day, hour, minute at a time.

My word for 2009 has been "Hope". I have found that focussing on one word has been really interesting and has opened up a whole new way of looking at things for me, and I have battled to choose the word for 2010. I wanted "Live", to encapsulate my intention to re-enter the world, but instead, the word I keep hearing is "Celebrate". Although I have no special events happening in 2010 that I know of, I am listening to the still small voice, and going with Celebrate. I intend celebrating the small things, as well as the big things. Each and every day. Celebrate denotes joy, laughter, happiness, praise, worship, thankfulness. I am going to celebrate life. That combines both of the words I dithered over.

I looked up the official meaning of the word, and it is full of "publically acknowledging" and "solemnity" and "ritual", and while I am sure that is technically accurate, I am using the more colloquial meaning. I fail to see how one can celebrate with a solemn face. Mine, I hope, will be grinning.

And now I am going to go and usher out the last few hours of 2009 by loading the 5th lot of washing into the machine, and the 4th load into the drier. Then there is the folding, ironing etc etc etc.... At least we will start the New Year clean!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The days are flying by.....

No pressure, then, Linds....none at all. Just announce to the world that your 1000th post is pending and then completely fail to come up with any adequate ponderings or a worthy giveaway, so stop posting altogether instead.........

Hello all. This is my 1001st post. The 1000th is half written, and on the grounds that I have been a little distracted in recent days, the ceremonial posting will be whenever I can get my mind in gear. Sometime. Soon. I think.

I hope you have all had a wonderful Christmas. Ours traditionally (when home in the village, of course, ) starts with the Carols on the Square on Christmas Eve. Thousands wander down to sing carols, organised by Churches Together in the village, and this year was great. Many many people. Fog, and music, singing, and fireworks. Some of the fireworks and the fog combined to leave us totally unable to see a thing. Smoke and fog are not a good combination! So there was much laughter as well. And good heavens, was it COLD!!


We met up with friends, which is a feat in itself in the masses, and here we have Janine, Kate, David, Peter, and Glynis, the wounded one. I did mention the cold, didn't I??
Then it was home to thaw, and in my case, fall asleep on the couch before Father Christmas did his rounds. In this family, all resident children leave letters for him, and age does not preclude anyone from this worthy tradition. And FC ALWAYS answers the letters. Before he has a sip of the port, or a bite of the mince pies. "He" finds that a snooze under the tree aids his letter writing, you see.

And Christmas Morning dawned, with calls from across the globe, skype link-ups and messages flying back and forth. Diana's parcel, which arrived on Christmas Eve, contrary to NZ post's ideas, contained some lovely baubles of a distinctly NZ flavour - see the green bauble here with a kiwi in a Santa hat!! We all got one for our trees, so that is lovely. More memories for the tree. And she also sent me a beautiful runner for the table, so I have been thoroughly spoilt. I just wish she could have been here too. In person. Real.

And guess what!!! I have moved into the 21C!! I am now the owner of an iPod !! I have yet to work out how to make it go, but it is purple! It takes movies! It works sideways! And David (who bought me this wonderful piece of modern technology) assures me he has loaded my music onto it. Now to find it..... the music, that is......

But, leaving the marvels of music at home, we headed off to the Harpers for Christmas dinner, a feast prepared by the wounded one ably assisted by her entire family. Matt makes the gravy, complete with a Yorkshire accent. You had to be there. Hysterical. Peter and Kate were amazing, and never seemed to sit down. I, on the other hand, did a lot of sitting down and consuming. Sigh. I now waddle.

And then it was Boxing Day........ and look who arrived!!


Just LOOK at those little legs!! Couldn't you just eat it up? She discovered the basket pram which Diana got for her first birthday in Cape Town - made by the Civilian Blind, which was a charity set up to teach blind people to weave baskets, and sell them to learn to be self sufficient. They still exist, but are called something else now, I think, but every little girl I knew, had one of these prams, and Missy shrieked with delight and off she toddled. Not too good at turning yet, though. There is much banging and bashing, and looking over the shoulder and if no help is forthcoming, there is a gentle roar. But she goes back and forth and the giggles and wiggles....

And I have a sign up now stating "Granddaughter in Residence", because in 2 nanoseconds, this is what happens to the house. And I wouldn't have it any other way. One small girl has a load of fun!

The weather has been very cold, and we took a short walk through the fields to see the sheep, but did not stay out long. Never mind Missy, her parents were freezing, but she did like the sheep.






This is the Mill House, with the water churning out from the water wheel under the house. As you can see, the snow is gone, but the wind was icy. And today, we are waiting for more snow to fall. A and A and Missy have headed north for the night to see friends, and I am trying to catch up a little.

Yesterday, I went along to Peterborough with them to visit Kiddicare, and it turned out to be a ruse to get us to P'boro, because they had ordered me a DYSON and had to go there to collect it!! My old original one died in a ball of flame, if you remember, after about 14 years, and this is an all singing all dancing fancy new blue one. The prospect of having a vacuum cleaner which actually picks up stuff from the carpet is truly exciting. And it is also quite clear, given the level of my excitement, that I need to get a life. Maybe that can be the resolution for the new year. Get a life. Hmmm. We will see.

So there you have the quick version of the RCR Christmas. Family. Friends. Noise. Laughter. And one little girl who has her Moregranny firmly wound round her little finger. I babysat last night for 2 hours. For one of those hours she screamed the place down, and finally sobbed herself to sleep in my arms. It nearly broke my heart. This Granny business is exhausting. Exhilarating. I need a nap. They will be back tomorrow.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas, everybody!!!

It is just after 3.30pm here in an icy England, and I have finally packed the food mixer away. Time to sit down and relax, and remember why we celebrate Christmas.

However, this morning has not gone smoothly. Oh no, it has not. I have had a Bad Kitchen Day. To start with, for some bizarre reason, the cinnamon cake took nearly 20 mins longer to cook than normal. I have no idea what I may or may not have done wrong. It looks ok, but has yet to be sampled.

Then I discovered that I had bought copious amounts of baking powder, and had totally forgotten the bicarb. So off we shot to the local supermarket, which closely resembled Chaos. I saw an old man lying in the road. He had fallen on the ice, which is lethal today. Cars whizzed round him and no-one stopped. People everywhere seemed more intent on getting their shopping done, or grabbign a parking place, so I stopped on the double yellow line and my stick and I got out. He was a large man. And bless her cotton socks, a little old lady who looked at least 110, hobbled over with her stick and the 2 of us levered him up onto his feet. I was not viewing the local populace with a great deal of Christmas spirit at that exact moment.

Home again, after delivering walking sticks to a friend for the shepherds to use in the Crib Service at church. You will be delighted to hear that Mary will be riding a donkey down the aisle. A hobby horse, who, if you press the button on his ear, sings the theme tune for the Lone Ranger. I suspect the Crib service is going to be a classic.

And I popped the loaf of bread in the oven. After adding the bicarb. Completely forgetting the grill was on. So 45 minutes later, it was charcoal. Start over again, and this time it looked splendid. Until I prised it out of the tin and broke it in half.

Sigh. It did not get better.

Ice cream. Mum's ice cream. You need to chill the evaporated milk, which I had done. Whip till it gets to the right thickness, and drizzle in the condensed milk and vanilla. WRONG. The condensed milk was solid caramel. Well, that was when I discovered the tin was best before 2004. Back in the car, off to the local supermarket. Again. Ice. Queues. By the time I got home, the milk had warmed and collapsed, so it is a disaster. In the freezer, but I hold no great hopes for its recovery.

I have since replenished the cookie tin. We had almost run out of chocolate dipped custies. Then the chocolate did not harden.

I have now retired from the kitchen. Enough is enough.

None of the above is important though. It is already Christmas Day in New Zealand, and it is not long till we wrap up warm and head down to the Carol Service. We all want everything to be perfect for our families. For there to be plentiful food. For memories to be made, and for laughter to ring out in our homes. For families to gather together.

There are many for whom this will be a difficult, maybe lonely time. Many are far from their loved ones. Many will be hurting. Many will go hungry and some will be overwhelmed by sadness.

What I want to suggest is that we all keep our eyes open, and SEE and recognise those who may need to be loved this Christmas. The King of Love is the birthday boy tomorrow. The greatest gift we could give Him would be to share the love we have in our hearts because of Him, with those who need it most. Nothing should get in the way of that, my friends. Nothing.

MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYBODY!!!!!!

Some photos from yesterday....







Ice, snow, blue skies, and chocolate dipped cookies. Not a bad combination!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Bags......

I have decided that shopping bags are absolutely FINE for transporting presents about for friends. After a nudge from my artistic sister, who suggested that Hello? Let's be a little more classy here and get some Christmas gift bags, I thought I might just go and see if any were on sale. That was until I looked out the door, and saw the amount of ice on the car and then I turned round, put the slippers back on and decided that too bad, the Tesco bags will do fine for delivery. It is not as if the parcels are not wrapped up! This plan may well change if the ice melts. I just took another look at the bags. Hmmm.

Yesterday's movies, by the way, were Santa Who? and I Saw Mummy Kissing Santa Claus. We are reaching new heights around here, and I love them all. Perfect accompaniment to the Tesco/Christmas Bag Dilemma.

It is a beautiful day here - sun and snow and blue skies and ice. Did I mention the ice? And I remembered that I need to make ice cream. This is getting to ridiculous proportions, you know. There is something about being in your own home at Christmas, and all the traditions from years gone by surface, and even if there is no great crowd to cater for, I feel the need (note that word) to re-create times gone by. And feed the 40, 000.

Thankfully, the mountain of cookies has diminished now that I have wrapped the gifts. They are packaged in cellophane bags with ribbons and bows, and we are in no danger of o-ding on biscuits any longer.

But back to the need to re-create things. It is in the bones. The heart. The genes. Whatever. We make new traditions over the years, but there is something about making Moregranny's gingerbread, baking the custies my babes grew up loving, Mum's home-made ice cream, and stuffing.... the scents and smells which are so familiar and trigger so many memories.....

Do you do this? Glynis and I were talking about the little knitted Father Christmasses which her aunt made. The thought of her family having a Christmas without them in place on the dresser is inconceivable. My kids notice things, even though they are adults now. Where is the Father Christmas face which sings Jingle Bells when you pull the cord? It is where it has been since Andrew was born - on the wall near the front door. Of course it is.

And dear old Kenny will be singing O Holy Night as we open our presents on Christmas morning. This is a standing joke in my family. I bought his Christmas LP (remember those days???) years ago because it was the only version of O Holy Night that I liked. Not a choral performance, but a man singing. And from the year dot, he has sung for us as we opened the presents. There was one year when SOMEONE in this family hid Kenny from sight, and Christmas morning suddenly developed a Dark Side. He was not the children's favourite. Especially when they were teenagers. But a couple of years ago, Diana found the old Christmas album on CD! Kenny had moved into the 21Century! So all is now back to normal, and Kenny will be in fine voice for Friday.

Traditions. Now, the kids grin as the music starts, instead of the moans, and all is well in the world. Memories, you see. Loads and loads of wonderful memories. On the subject of O Holy Night - it was voted the UK's favourite carol last week, and that surprised many. Not me. It has been my favourite carol for a very long time.

Christmas Eve in the village means the carol service down in the Square. Thousands of people walk down to the Square in the evening, to sing carols out in the open air, all wrapped up and warm. It is a wonderful tradition. The roads are closed off, and everyone goes. For some, it is the only time they will have the opportunity to sing carols. They may not go to church, but they do go to carols.

And which ever way you look at that, it is a reminder to everyone that Christmas is about the birth of a Baby. A Baby who was born to change the world. To save the world. The greatest gift ever given. How do we even begin to say thank you??

Monday, December 21, 2009

Monday.....

995 posts so far, my friends. This is #996. It is totally possible that Christmas will herald the 1000th post here at Rocking Chair Reflections. So keep watch, because there will be a giveaway to mark the occasion. Who would have thought that I would/could keep talking for so long! Mind you, those who know me well will not be in the least surprised, I suspect. Silence is not a quality I am well known for at all. I am working on the silence bit, but it may just be a wasted effort.

One of the nicest things about the week before Christmas is the plethora of family movies on tv, and I have loved re-watching all the old favourites, like Miracle on 34th Street, Elf, Matilda, Christmas with the Kranks etc. I am sick to death of reality tv, murder and mayhem, economic doom and disaster, and just love the happy ever after family tv instead. It is perfect. For now. Not for all time, but right now.

Along with a great many people, I mourn the demise of family comedy series, like the Cosby Show, Keeping up Appearances, The Good Life, Little House on the Prairie, Fawlty Towers, Dad's Army, and the other classics from the 70s and 80s. The 90s brought the Vicar of Diobley too, but there has been very little since. And Saturday night TV used to have the family shows like Morecombe and Wise, and now we have the X Factor and Big Brother.

The age is showing. My age. I like Happy Ever After. There is enough gloom out there in real life.

David and I ventured out to the supermarket today, did a turn around the carpark and drove straight out again. The whole world is at Tesco. Except me. And the whole world waited till exactly the same moment to go shopping - when the car had defrosted sufficiently for me to be able to see out the windows without spending 30 mins scraping and de-icing. Sigh. We will not strave, however. There is the small matter of the 6 tins sitting on the counter.

Right. "A Grandpa for Christmas" is calling. So is my coffee.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

One of the chicks is back in the nest....

David is home. At last. One out of three is a great deal better than none out of three, I have to say. There is someone in the house who will help eat the mountains of biscuits!

It is still freezing here. -7 this morning and never warmer than -2ish. Delightful. And the ice..... it is unbelievable. Glynis, my friend who has taken me all over the place, and with whom I have adventures managed to slip this afternoon and has broken her wrist. *&*%!*! Yes, you heard right. The timing is dire. Her sister arrives this week for a month's stay, and they had such wonderful plans for adventures. They will still have them of course, just not quite the way they intended. Thank heavens her daughter is home for the holidays now. And Kate, Janine and I will sort the Christmas dinner. Glynis can issue orders from the comfort of the chair. What was that I said re the best laid plans?????

And for good measure, Glynis's son is in Europe. He and his friends crossed the channel on Eurostar. The one which has since suspended all crossings after 5 trains broke down under the Channel. Oops. He will find a way home for Christmas, but says that may just be an adventure too. Also unplanned.

I don't think there have been any other disasters I need to relate. Yet. I have not written a Christmas missive either this year. Everyone knows the great highlight of course. That was Missy's arrival and that was indeed a stellar event. And Diana's visit, which was a delight. Oh how I miss my girl. The rest has been a series of lowlights, which I refuse to dwell on. (I know the grammar is appalling.)

But I am happy right now. My baby is home. Never mind that the child towers over me, and is a man. I am his mother, so I can say what I like. He makes me grin.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Snow and plans changing.....

The best laid plans........ No-one can remember when last it actually snowed when the Christmas trees were up. Friday was chaotic - the last day of school yet 1000s closed because of the snow, teachers unable to get there, and treacherous roads.
This morning, after spending 30 mins de-icing the car, I drove very slowly to the neighbouring town, and when I looked out over the valley, it was so beautiful, I had to go home and grab the camera.
Our road never sees a gritter, so it was, as it has been for 2 days now, total sheet-ice.

But back to the best laid plans....
David managed to get to Andrew and Ann yesterday, even though Kent was dire, and the motorways closed for accident recovery on and off all day. And that is as far as he got. The boys, together with Ann and Missy, were due to come here for the weekend, but it is not a great idea to be out on the roads at the moment, and more snow, ice and temps below zero (they have not risen above zero yet) is forecast, so they are there and I am here. And wondering how and when David will get home. I am just thankful he is with his brother, and not stranded down in Canterbury.
So, I am baking. At least that way, I actually feel like a mother, given the absence of all my kids. And as the house is Christmassy and the parcels wrapped, there is not a great deal to do. These are the few chocolate chip and butterscotch cookies which did not fit into the 2 huge tins I baked, courtesy of Mary, from Owlhaven and they are superb. Maybe I should have realised that the 5 cups of flour would indicate a great many cookies, but they will be eaten, I am certain!
Gingerbread loaves have just come out of the oven, and the house smells like Christmas yet again, but the baking will have to stop. I am running out of tins. I would go and deliver cards, as people do here in the village - you go for a walk and pop cards through the letterboxes. However, the ice precludes that for now, so I may just go and read a while.
Oh - I have a new book called Rest by Keri Wyatt Kent. Note the title. I am trying to learn the finer art of resting/pacing etc. So wait for it.....I took it into the bath 2 nights ago, and after reading a paragraph or 2, I woke up to find "Rest" floating happily face down in the water. Sigh. It must be good, because I certainly rested! It is drying out as I speak. It will be a trifle wrinkly, but readable. I hope.
Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The other side of life....

Just in case you thought that life was all sweet rosy and delicately scented with cinnamon and spice and filled with the glorious sounds of Christmas music around here........

I bought a new toilet seat. Easy to replace. HAHAHAHAHA. Just unscrew the bolts underneath. HOHOHOHOHO. Going back a little, the reason I needed to get a new one was because the old one had severed all connections with its stabilizer, aka the bolts. And this made sitting on it a perfect exercise for strengthening the core muscles. Balance, you know. And this was all very well, but with the children returning and a baby around, one did actually want to have a working loo seat. I don't want them to think we go without the basic amenities around here. Groan. The basics are essential after all. Like a fully functioning toilet seat.

So....

I got one. And spent a fruitless hour or 2 trying to unweld the old bolts, and failing, cutting myself in the process and only noticing the blood when it had dripped all over the place, including all over me. So I gave up, and called Jean and asked if I could use her hacksaw.

And let me tell you to stop right now, and go and investigate UNDER the rear of your toilets, people. Beam me up, Scottie. I can honestly say that I have NEVER scrubbed the bottom of the cistern behind any loo I have owned. It showed. I was appalled. So just picture the scrubbing, the muttering, the blood and the tools flying all over the place, as I draped myself over the toilet bowl (which had no seat, obviously. That was the whole reason I was in the bathroom in the first place).

This was all complicated ever so slightly by the fact that I can't kneel. Nor can I get up or down from the floor with ease, but let me tell you, there was no way I was ever letting another human look at the back of MY toilet. Not even after it was shining bright.

So yesterday, I got down on the floor once again, armed with the hacksaw, and started sawing. And sawing. And more sawing. Did I mention sawing???? At the same time, I was having a little conversation (ok, it was more like a snarl) with my Friend Upstairs. I pointed out that while I was indeed grateful to have a bathroom, and a toilet that flushed, I needed a new seat in place, and that He had NEVER had to saw off a bolt on a toilet because they had not been invented, and while I was aware that He was well acquainted with saws and wood because He was a carpenter, STEEL was not around back then, and even though He invented everything, I needed a little miracle RIGHT NOW because my arm was threatening to fall off, my hand looked like a claw, and I was doomed to spend the rest of my life on the floor of my bathroom, way too up close and personal with my toilet. The rant went on quite a while. And then I started telling Him that there were TWO bolts, and heaven only knew how I was going to get to the other one as the one I was sawing was the easy reach one and that a LITTLE HELP was in order. Right now. I tend to get quite specific.

You get the picture. And eventually, after nearly 2 hours of sawing and snarling, I cut through the wretched thing. Hallelujah. One down and one to go. So I wiggled round to the other side, still snarling, and I touched the screw to see if I had room for the hacksaw to get in, and I tell you, there was a Miracle In My Bathroom. It fell off in my hand. I did not even have to lift the hacksaw. Never ever doubt that He listens to , and is probably highly amused by, the rants as well as the more dignified requests.

I started laughing. Some may see this as a happy coincidence, but me? Oh no. We worked as a pair on that toilet seat. And believe me, more heartfelt thanks have not been uttered in a long while around here.

And then I tottered down the stairs to make coffee. Normal Christmassy festivities resumed. Music back on, candles lit.........

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A different sort of Christmas gift.....

It is beginning to smell like Christmas around here. And I have started lighting more candles each evening, now that I have the world's largest stock of candles. The house glows at night. And I love it!

Batch #1. The Custies, as we call them. I still need to dip them in chocolate.
Batch #2. The peanut butter crinkles. Well, the second tin of them. The bigger one is full. These are the extras. That can be interpreted as "these are the ones Linds will consume without guilt".

And here is my Nativity scene with the candles burning. I will light all the tealights in the big tree behind the figures on Christmas Eve. The fire brigade may need to be on standby.
I mentioned "giving" in my last post, and I wanted to talk about that a little more. The way I have been looking at Christmas gifts. In recent years, I have come to appreciate the Swiss way of doing things more and more. Well, my sister's way of doing things, to be more accurate. She and her friends tend to give Christmas things to each other as gifts. Decorations, ornaments, candles, paintings, wooden things, things like the hand towels I have embroidered. The blankets I have embroidered. Beautiful things you use at Christmas. Things which help to make your home a very special place at Christmas time. Into that category, I would add home baked goodies too. (And yes, I do realise there is an over abundance of "things" in this paragraph. But I can't think of alternatives. )
You see, I really like the idea of gifts being focussed on the reason for celebration, instead of solely on the recipient. I love the idea that whatever you give to a friend will help to augment the Christmas holiday. And will, at the same time, create memories. You know how we all smile as we unpack the ornaments our children have made over the years? Making ornaments which will be brought out year after year and trigger memories of people who have touched our lives can only be a good thing.
Birthdays are the time I tend to focus on the individual. Plenty of scope for special gifts then too. But Christmas.... it is different. Children, however, fall into a different category altogether, don't they! And having a granddaughter has meant that I have had an excellent reason to frequent the toy shops. Sigh. It is such fun! There is no reason why children can't be encouraged to make ornaments too, though. Or Christmassy things. Heaven knows they get a great deal of practice at school in the weeks before the Christmas holidays!
I used to race around trying to find the perfect gift for everyone on the list, spending way too much money at times, and now, although I spend a lot of time thinking about each of my friends, and deciding what to make them, I know that whatever it is, it will be a part of Christmas. When I visit their homes, I look at the trees sometimes, and see the little wooden or handsewn ornaments I have made over the years hanging there. And it makes me smile. So many years, I have just baked biscuits and attached a homemade ornament to the packet. It is enough, you see. It does not have to be expensive. One year it was wooden tags, another, little stuffed fabric hearts.
Anyway. This is something I think is important, and the more I think about it, the more convinced I become that this is the right way for me. And I swear that the moment I actually learn to crochet, I will be making stars. A milky way of stars. Like Lucy at Attic 24 has made in recent weeks. I love the idea of star garlands, stars on the tree. Snowflakes too. What about lovely red striped aprons for friends to wear while doing the Christmas baking?
It is all about creating memories. Making people smile. More than anything, though, it is the way I am looking at Christmas. Me. Not as a huge shopping list any more. No. A list of people I can make something for instead. Something for Christmas.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Baking starts....

For some bizarre reason, Blogger is now telling me I do not follow any blogs and my list is nowhere to be seen, which means I cannot see who is doing what where and how. Sigh. 200 of you lot could be doing the most amazingly splendid things and I cannot see. Well, I could re-start the computer and hope you all magically return but that can wait till the morning.

I decided to bake the first batch of Christmas biscuits (cookies, that is) today and got a little carried away, and so have been asleep on the couch ever since. This preparing for Christmas thingy could take a looooooooong time! But I have time. So that is good. The scent of cinnamon and spices needs to be wafting through the house.

The Christmas music has been playing, (with me singing along with vigour, of course) and the twinkling lights are on all over the house as well, and it really does look so lovely. Add the red Christmas apron, a dusting of flour over the floor, dishes in the sink, the old and much loved recipe books open at the favourite pages, the candles flickering, and the smell of freshly baked biscuits, and you get the idea. I love it.

I am preparing for my boys to come home over the Christmas season, just as mothers all over the world are doing right now. I wish my girl could be here too. David finishes the term this Friday and Andrew, Ann and Missy will bring him home. Then they (A, A and M) will come back on Boxing Day and stay a while, so I will have a BABY in residence! How exciting is that! Hopefully, this time she will know me. Well, she will by the time she has been here a day or two at least. She is 10 months old now, can you believe. The time has just flown by.

Temperatures are set to plummet even further this week, and there may well be snow as well. I wonder if we will have a white Christmas this year?

But this is a time for thinking and dreaming, for giving thanks and for remembering. All those years....... as a child, a wife, a mother. Old traditions. The chance to create new traditions. I look at the page in the recipe book, and I run my hand over the page, thinking back to the very first time I baked those biscuits, a long long time ago. The friends who have passed through my life since then, who have sat in my kitchen as I baked them each year. The little children lining up to lick the bowl. The stampede of little feet through the house. The big ones still wanting to do the same. These too, are the biscuits I give as gifts. Made with love every year. Simple gifts. And down through time, I hear all those happy voices filling my heart with warm memories. I may be sitting in my quiet home right now, but I hear those beloved voices as clear as bells.

And, in the years to come, there will be another little one who will stand on a chair and help me bake those biscuits. Whose voice will be added to the remembered ones which make me smile. Maybe next year she will be big enough for us to start.

This, then, is what life is all about. Sharing, teaching, learning, loving, giving the gift of love. And as Christmas is the time of the Greatest Gift of Love Ever Given, maybe one of the lessons I re-learn each year is that giving is what brings the greatest of joys. And that, in turn, brings with it, the greatest memories.

I am so thankful.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A weekend break....

My weekend was a little out of the ordinary. Jean has taken to entering competitions, and she actually WON something! People do really win! Who knew....

She won a weekend at a country hotel not very far from here. For 2. And that was where I came in. I went along as well, and we had a hilarious time. Bed and breakfast were provided, and it was an old gothic sort of manor house set in 7 acres of grounds, which meant we could wander around the gardens as well. We arrived in thick fog, which made it even more eerie, but there was a roaring fire, Christmas decorations everywhere, and a great welcome. Our room was in the coach house, and after settling in, we went out to a nearby reataurant for supper, and then back to relax. And yesterday, we went off to nearby Coventry after an enormous English breakfast, and then to a country park where we could watch the yachts on the water, and let the icy wind blow away the cobwebs, and any semblance of a reasonably classy hair style at the same time.

After popping in to the local Tesco and gathering up pate, cheeses and crackers, (as well as a few seasonal bargains) we headed back to the hotel, and had a hysterical evening doing our nails, having a footspa, and watching tv. There was much laughter involved, and a delightful bottle of wine with our picnic as well.

We had such fun. You know, we were talking about how, had we been at home, we would never have taken the time to do the footspa thing, or a proper nail treatment, nor would we have enjoyed ourselves as much, because we both have lists of things which are "pending "at this time of the year. Cleaning, baking, shopping, cards, wrapping......

Because we had nothing with us, we could just relax. It was exactly what each of us needed. I did point out that a slightly more exotic destination would be good for the next competition she entered..... !! 20 miles up the motorway was a little close to home, but it was FREE!

Sigh. I am still grinning here. And thinking that I am also going to start entering competitions....

Friday, December 11, 2009

Practicalities.....

The best laid plans etc etc etc..... I wrapped all my presents a while back and then yesterday, I remembered that I had to post a parcel. Well, in my enthusiasm to wrap, I completely forgot the practicalities of posting. So we are back to square one, and I have to re-jig what I send. Sigh. If you could have seen my attempts to get a Christmas tree into a box, you would know just how ridiculous it was.

The world is foggy and very cold this morning. The dampness gets right into the bones, as my grandmother used to say. Believe me, it is in my bones as I speak. And it can get out immediately. I do not like it there.

The sewing continues, and I keep thinking of new things to try out, so I now have a pile of assorted crafty stuff next to my machine. As I dream up something, I look for the required stuff, and then pile it up. But, I go back to what I was doing in the first place, so the pile is getting to skyscraper levels. And I can't remember why the stuff at the bottom is there at all. I am clearly firing on all cylinders. The dampness. That is what it is.

Right. It is Friday and I am off to finish Plan A so I can get to Plan B, C D etc etc etc.......
I will be back.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

A few words for Wednesday....

One of my friends had never been to Ikea or Costco. You know where this is going, don't you.... Today she arrived at an early hour, and I helpfully introduced her to both. I think I broke my own record at Costco, and only bought olive oil for another friend as requested and some Brie. I love Brie. Ikea was just as frugal, and we now stand no chance of running out of tealights. Oh, the relief. I did come dangerously close to buying a small table and chairs on offer though. It was just as well Tessa filled the car with her purchases!

When we arrived home, I keeled over on to the couch and have been there ever since. And that has been my day. Gone are the times when I could shop for hours. Just lead me to the nearest chair and a supply of coffee.

But it was fun. And there was coffee involved after all. As for the rest of the day....well, I think it will consist of a quiet evening watching tv and quilting. Or maybe reading. Or napping. Or a combination of all the above.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The distance one will go to try a special latte.....

Well, I wanted to try the gingerbread latte from Starbucks. I have read about these wonders here in the blogiverse, you see, and I am not going to be left out. Oh no. So Glynis had to return some library books to the Abbey where she goes on retreats, and I went along for the drive.
It has been a beautiful day - sunny and clear, and the skyline with leafless trees has been stunning. I look at them and wonder if Oliver Cromwell stopped to rest in the shade of one of them. They are old enough, you know, and the sense of history is sometimes overwhelming. Just beautiful. The Abbey is very old. It is about to undergo a major renovation. The Chapel there is all that remains of the original building, and that dates from 1119. Parts of the house are dated around the mid 1550s. See..... I said old.
And here is Glynis, outside the Abbey.
Anyway, we checked on the internet to find our nearest Starbucks, and I have to say we do not live in the centre of any metropolis. That is clear. The fact that our nearest ones are miles away says it all. And off we toddled. Bearing in mind the circuitous route through middle England to drop off the books, we actually drove for an hour and a half to reach the gingerbread lattes. And they were worth every mile. Wonderful!!
I told you my embroidery machine was whizzing along, and here are a few of the bits I have been making. I bought some cream fleece blankets from Ikea, and then embroidered on the corners, and I am really pleased with the result. And while at Ikea, I bought some seriously cheap white cotton hand towels, and embroidered on them too. So for very little money, I have some lovely gifts.

Monday, December 07, 2009

We know how to queue here....

I remembered those cards. Off I went to the Post Office in the village and when I opened the door, I was met by half the population of the village. Stuffed inside. It was hilarious. The queue wound back and forth around the place, and whoever ended up nearest the door acted as doorman and chief director to the end of the queue. Those who were slightly unsteady on their feet were ushered to the 2 chairs in the front, and bless them, they each knew exactly where they were in the queue. No-one snarled. There was much laughter, and lots of chatter too, and everyone was comparing destinations for the cards they wanted to post. We did discuss the need for coffee and considered singing a few carols as well.

It was so village-like and so typically British, that you had to smile. I am not sure those behind the counter had remembered the smiling bit, poor things. They were worked off their feet.

Today is the UK version of Cyber Monday. The day internet sales peak. We are apparently a week behind the States. The first Monday in December is The Day, I gather. And I have had a lovely quiet day, apart from the PO run. I tried to catch up with bookclub reading, but kept nodding off on the couch. It was so warm and cosy under the blanket, you see. I failed to read more than a chapter. Oops. Bookclub is tonight, so I will go and confess I know nothing. Yet again.

But it doesn't matter. Nodding off or not, I have loved the slowness and peace.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Catching up....

I am SO organized. I did all my Christmas cards ages ago and completely forgot that the foreign ones actually need to be posted. Oops. Tomorrow. I will get there. I tell you, it is the ordinary things which I forget to do which complicate matters. I also spent a fruitless afternoon yesterday on a quest. Nothing earth shattering, let me hasten to add. I needed more of those hooky things which one hangs tree ornaments on to hook onto the branches. Do you think I could find any???? No. I went all over the place, and people seemed amazed that they actually did not have any. Then I happened upon a man in a small shop who told me that nearly half his normal Christmas order came back as "unavailable" this year. He says the manufacturers have cut their stock drastically. Including pesky little hook things.

So I bought some giant paperclips. The only ones available. None of the delicate little things in the shops. Not one. And hooked up the baubles. Then today, the quest continued and finally ....FINALLY good old John Lewis came up with the goods. At a price. But still. I now have enough hooks for the next millennia or 2. My children will thank me.

I do realise that this is not wildly exciting, but it is life! I was going to finally get the cream rug to hide the hideous carpet yesterday too, but on the way to the shop I noticed an orange light. Petrol. I had been driving about with zero petrol, so that rather took care of half the rug. Oh well. I will get it one day!

On Friday, 5 of my friends got together at Jean's, and had a "making" day. Jean provided endless cups of tea and coffee and delicious soup for lunch, and we all worked on Christmas projects and chatted. It was absolutely great. And so interesting to see what everyone was making too. So many great ideas.

And this afternoon, I have been letting the embroidery machine do some work. I programme it and then walk away for a while. And have more coffee. And watch the masters tennis. And shake my head when I see the Tiger news updates. And the pre-budget talking amongst the politicians. And eat the homemade bread I baked yesterday.

And now, the tree is lit, as are the Advent candles, and I can relax a little and forget things like lists. This is the best time of the day. Tomorrow is another day, and things can wait.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

And upside down house.....

I am trying to sort the chaos in this house. This is not an easy task. That would be because there is far too much STUFF in the place. Remember I went up onto the deck last week and found cupboards I had not been into for 10 years? Well today, Jean popped round to help and we heaved all the boxes down from the deck. Fabric. More fabric and yet more fabric. I was ruthless. The fabric I will never use again, I tossed to one side, and Jean took it home. 90% of what was up there. She will check out what she wants and the rest is going to a friend who sews for her church bazaars. Brilliant. If she doesn't want it, it can be recycled. And the pieces I kept have been added to my epic stash.

And the house looks no different. I think minimalist may be a bit beyond me. I also need to spend a week shredding paper. The mountain grows, and I have so much paper in the sewing room too. When I get the study sorted - after having the piano and gigantic cupboard removed, all the study type stuff can exit the sewing room, leaving place for the craft and sewing things. Just do not ask where the contents of the giant cupboard will be going. I am being an ostrich about that.

Well. That is the plan. I need to get it done. But why oh why do I get the spring cleaning bug just before Christmas? I have lost my marbles.

And in addition to this, I am busy altering a dress for the wife of a work colleague. I loathe and detest alterations, especially for other people, and it is driving me crackers. Tomorrow. It will be done tomorrow. My friend very kindly repaired an old oak chair for me, and when I tried to pay him, he said, no he wanted nothing, except for me to alter his wife's dress. Groan. I had no choice. Tomorrow. I will gather the courage and cut the wretched hem off. Shudder. I have visions of catastrophe. Things for my family = no problem. For strangers???? This is a one time event, people.

I am restless at the moment. Maybe I need to go and wrap a few more things up and deposit them under the tree. Or something.

You know what? Just 16 more posts and I will be writing my 1000th post! Who would have thought..... We will have to celebrate somehow. I will be doing a giveaway then, and maybe some of you have a few ideas of how I can mark the 1000th post. Let me know in the comments! I have to make sure it is this year, I think!

All those words......
Wow.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

December is here........

Yesterday was absolutely freezing. Clear blue skies, so just look at the sunset. I had to grab the camera and drive down to the lakes to take a couple of photos. If I had been there 15 mins earlier, it would have been even more stunning!

And yesterday I may just have overdone things a trifle. Just a little bit.

The nativity scene is up. I have not got any wise men, but hey, they only arrived ages after the birth, so I am not bothered right now. This is absolutely perfect, and I LOVE it. Simple.

Autumn is gone from the house, and now all the cushions are red and cream, and so are the throws, candles and flowery bits. And the tree is done! We will not discuss Linds standing on a chair either, thank you. Or simply standing to decorate. Or the fact that the decorations were in the loft, and after getting the ladder in from outside, taking it up stairs, and then leaving it in place to consider how I was going to get the stuff out of the loft and going up and down the stairs pondering, or finding that most of the boxes were close to the door, and going up and down the ladder, or the fact that if one lies on one's stomach and heaves oneself along under the rafters, legs dangling out the trapdoor, one can reach the giant snowman, without which Christmas is incomplete, I tell you. No. We will not discuss any of the above. We will just enjoy the Christmassy house for a bit.

See? He was worth it! So was Rudolph..........
My modified Advent candle thingy. Not a wreath, because that is further into the loft than I can reach. But this looks great anyway, and I love the angel in the middle too. I am nothing if not inventive. I did take my phone up the ladder with me, and take the keys out of the door, by the way. So help would have been possible had I needed it. Just know that the frustration levels were stratospheric. Asking for help does not come easily to me. And this is the first time I have had to do any Christmassy stuff with no kids home. Last year I was away for Christmas. And the year before, David was here.

So it is the fact that ordinary every day things I have done for my entire life are now complicated beyond belief which frustrates. Snarl. (Snarling is not in the Christmas spirit, I know, I know....)

Anyway.

Christmas has arrived here at the Casa de la Rocking Chair. The kitchen/family room is still to be done, but as that involves much standing on chairs, I do believe that can wait till I recover. Or aid arrives in the form of either a son or a friend or 2. Last night I felt like death, and at some stage, got down on the floor, fell asleep and then had a slight hitch when I tried to get up many hours later. So today, I will sit and look at the tree. And drink coffee.

And I refuse to think about 397647884 boxes of other Christmas stuff out of reach of the wiggling-on-stomach-Linds up there in the loft. This is a minimalist Christmas for me this year. It will do. And besides, I am the only one who knows where anything is up there, and my ladder climbing days are now over.
I promise.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Mindless chatter.....

Advent starts tomorrow. All of a sudden, it is time to start thinking about Christmas. I couldn't find my wreath, because I am absolutely NOT going outside in the freezing cold to wrestle with the ladder, carry it in and climb into the loft. That would be a recipe for disaster, and I resisted the impulse, you will be happy to hear. I may well have been stuck in the loft for the entire Advent season. Withering away.

So I made an Advent candle arrangement without the wreath. And it looks good anyway. I will add a photo when I download the contents of the camera later.

I have had a quiet few days, but you know, I tend to assume that if I am home, I am resting, and I perch about the place as I am doing things and then wonder why I feel 298. Memo to self: tomorrow sit and do nothing that requires excess movement. I am using the embroidery machine, you see, and it sews by itself, but then I need to keep going in and out to check whether I need to change colours, or if the bobbin has run out so I am moving all the time. But I do love the end result!

I ran out of a particular thread yesterday and went along to my local sewing machine shop. BIG mistake. They have the new Bernina 830 and were using it at the time, and there I stood drooling. DROOLING, I tell you. It is amazing. My life is incomplete without one. Obviously. So I made the mistake of asking how much it was. Hahahahahahahahah. HOHOHOHOHO!

But still.

It was beautiful. Especially the size of the sewing table. And the stitch regulator. And the stitches. And the screen. And I just wanted to pat it and take it home. But I departed with my £3 spool of thread, and something to add to the wish list for my mythical lotto win. I absolutely do not need it. But oh, I want it! See - I am quite frank with you. Need = good. Want = bad. I know. I know.

And that slow cooker I bought???? Just marvellous. Why I have waited so long to invest in one is a total mystery to me. The smell of delicious food when I walk in is just the best. I have great plans for next week's food.

I am rambling yet again.

Right now, I can think of nothing better than curling up under the fluffy cloud blanket with my recession heater, coffee, chocolate and the tv remote. However, I am supposed to be out. Socialising. Looking glam. Without my pink fluffy socks and slippers. And it is raining. And cold. And I need to stop whining and get a life, so.....

Over and out for now. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Reasons to be thankful.....

We do not have Thanksgiving here, but I wish we did. Not for the founding fathers, of course, because there weren't any around these parts, but for a myriad other reasons. I honestly feel that having a special day to stop, look around, and take stock of the enormous blessings we are all surrounded by, would do everyone so much good. Me included.

I have often talked about my habit of waking in the mornings and listing 5 things I am thankful for as a way to colour my day, and to remind me that all is not actually lost. But, like every other human being on earth, I tend to get bogged down at times with the things I do not have, and cannot do to the exclusion of everything else. Even those multitude of blessings. I am an idiot. Human, though.

So I thought I would talk to myself today a little. Bear with me, people.
  1. No, I cannot run (yet) but I CAN walk (with a stick). I am thankful.
  2. I cannot climb down a mountain, but I CAN climb up (a small one). I am thankful.
  3. I hurt a great deal, but I CAN feel, and am not as bad as some. I am thankful.
  4. It takes me longer to do most things, but I CAN still do things. I am thankful.
  5. I can only drive short distances, but I CAN drive! I am thankful.
  6. No, I don't have a wood burning stove or a fireplace, but I CAN keep warm. I am thankful.
  7. I don't live in my dream house, but I DO have a home. I am thankful.
  8. My bathroom may need to be replaced asap, but it STILL works. I am thankful.
  9. I may not like what I see over the fence, but I DO have a garden I can grow things in. I am thankful.
  10. My children may live far away, but I CAN talk to them, SEE them (on skype), and chat to them thanks to the marvels of modern day technology. I am thankful.
  11. I can't afford to spend loads on presents, but I CAN use my time to make things. I am thankful.
  12. I can't fix everyones' problems, but I CAN listen. I am thankful.
  13. I may get lonely, but I DO have great friends. I am thankful.
  14. Life may be a trifle challenging, but I CAN still smile. I am thankful.

And that list is just for starters. I could go on. And on.

It is so easy to focus on the stuff I can't do. Don't have. Bad stuff, and heaven knows there has been a great deal of that in my life in recent years. It has been challenging all right. BUT what have I learned from that? So much. So much stuff which has shaped the woman I am today. Not quite what I had in mind, I freely confess. I was born to glide through life. Hahahahahahahaha! Well, the thought would be great at least! Sigh. Oh well........... I do still have dreams, of course!

Actually, gliding may have been a little boring. Perhaps.

No. Everything has happened for a reason. I popped in to the doctor's today to collect a note, and I was chatting to the receptionist about how, until a few years ago, I never darkened their doors. Ah yes - the reason I said that was because she knew who I was straight away, and I said - so anonymity is out then, or something like that. And I left grinning. And as I walked out the door, she called after me and said - "At least you can still smile, Linds."

She is right. I can still smile, after all that has happened.

And for that, my friends, I am truly thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends for tomorrow!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Spring cleaning in Autumn.....

The rain..... Cumbria and parts of Scotland have been flooded badly, and it is now raining again. Mind you, it has not really stopped for days. 1000s of homes are wrecked, and people are staying with friends or family or in refuges. Bridges are falling down, and roads destroyed. How hard it must be for all those people who have had their lives up-ended as we ease into the festive season. Dreadful. Hopefully something will be organised soon as a way for everyone to help.

I got a little carried away on Friday. You see, I have had plenty of time while resting, to re-organise my house. In my head. So on Friday, I decided to empty my linen cupboard. Please tell me why I have so many towels, sheets etc, which have not seen the light of day for.....oh....maybe 20 years. I use and re-use the same things, and there was this mountain.....

I threw the lot onto the floor in the lounge. Then I hauled out the garbage bags and tossed 85% into it. However, in order to get the things I was keeping back into the new place I wanted them to be, I had to move ALL MY FABRIC. Oh good grief. You have NO idea how much fabric is stuffed into this small house. I was ruthless. I have now got a full rubbish bin, and a full recycling bin.

Then, because I tend to over do things (remember how bad I am at pacing???) I decided that I would toss all the bags into the car to take to a charity village close by. And so I thought a half full car was silly. You can see where this is going can't you...

In went old chairs. Bags of books. Clothes. China. A hat. And the front seat was full of things to take to the tip on the way home. And then I called Jean, and arranged for her to collect my chest of drawers - a huge oak one so we could take that as well. It is too big for the house. She arrived early on Saturday and we discovered that it would not fit in her car. That meant calling another friend with a huge car. So he arrived (after racing round his home to find more things to take too) and off we went. In convoy.

And when I got home, this house was exactly the same. 2 car loads did NOTHING. There is not the slightest gap in this place, and how on earth is that possible. I swear everything expands the moment I turn my back. So, as I was still in a ruthless mood, I managed to get up onto the deck in the sewing room. You see, there are 4 cupboards up there which I have not opened in 10 years, and clearly the contents cannot be vital to my health and happiness, or I do believe I may have opened them sometime in the past 10 years. What did I find?? More fabric.

Sigh. I now have a total mess, and have run out of steam. And storage space. I need a nap. You would not believe the state of the sewing room. I hyperventilate when I look in there. So I shut the door, and retreated to the couch.

Tomorrow is another day......

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Randomness revisited.......

It has been quite a week. And it is just Wednesday. It has been marked by an inability to sleep when I go to bed, and an overwhelming ability to sleep when I sit down on the couch. Sigh. My body clock is up the creek.

I always knew this was going to be a tough week. And there have been unexpected added extras .......
  1. A friend's mother died on Monday.
  2. Photocopied another file. More than a ream of paper. And a leg which did not appreciate being stood on.
  3. Could not sleep. In bed at midnight. Up at 3am.
  4. I saw my GP yesterday and totally forgot why I made the appointment 2 weeks ago.
  5. Still can't remember.
  6. I have conceded the need to keep taking the meds. Defeat in one way and reality in another.
  7. Ate chocolate cream cakes with Jean. She found them reduced so we were obviously meant to eat them.
  8. I saw the pain specialist yesterday too. Nothing more they can do. Just keep on doing what I am doing and accept limitations. Wonderful.
  9. Could not sleep. Up at 3am etc etc.
  10. A friend's father died today.
  11. Went to see lawyers today. Had to go over the whole G thing from the start. Over 2 hours of the whole story all over again. Ceremoniously surrendered the files to her. 3 years of work and blood, sweat and tears. It could take months still, but the whole thing is in motion now and I am not fighting alone any more. Praying for a swift conclusion and a miracle or 2. One big positive is that she knows what CRPS means, knows about Bath being a centre of excellence, and knows all the problems associated with CRPS. Without me saying anything. Eureka.
  12. Home to fall asleep on couch for hours. Many hours.
  13. Scoffolding down on monstrosity behind. It has not improved the look. At.All.
  14. Tomorrow........... final meeting with the school, which is going to mean dismissal on medical grounds.
  15. Then maybe, just maybe, I will get to sleep and wake rested on Friday morning. And start trying to find me again.
  16. After burning 2 dinners last week, I invested in a slow cooker. Now have to learn how to use the thing. Sandra ......... I need help!!!

You know, on the way home from the lawyers today, I was discussing timing with Glynis, and I suddenly thought that, had I got lawyers involved before now, it would all have been different, because we would not have known about the mistakes with the valves. This is the right time. For one reason or another, even when I went to check out some lawyers before, something has always been not quite right. I am glad I waited. Or, let's be accurate here, was made to wait.

So, I am sorry I have nothing light and frivolous to expound on today. Maybe next week. Oh wait.....next week is mammogram time and other assorted delights. Groan. Life is just a frenzy of fun and excitement around these parts.

Thank heavens the sense of humour is still showing some feeble signs of life.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Mums and other wonderful things.......


It is Mum's birthday today! Happy Birthday, Mum! I swear she has more energy than Marge and me combined, and never seems to age at all. Marge and I say frequently that if we ever get to 84, which will probably require a miracle or three, we will be wrecks. Mother on the other hand, is amazing.

The photo was taken this summer, next to the lake. One of her absolute favourite things is to go on the lake steamer. She loves being on the water, and it is a wonderful way to relax because there is absolutely nothing to do except sit back and enjoy the trip. Please note the hair. I am greyer than my own mother, under the highlights. Sigh. She has never coloured her hair. That is the real thing. Bigger sigh. And that stick she is holding, please note, is MINE. Not hers. I need a stick. Mother does not. That says it all.

Anyway. Both Marge and I know we have been incredibly blessed to have her as our Mum. The whole family adores her, and she is wonderful. And once she reads this, her head will be too big for her hat. We love you, Mum!

My morning involved sharp objects. I went to await delivery and installation of a new dishwasher for some friends of mine, and the delivery men arrived, and took one look at the old dishwasher and informed me that they were " not allowed to disconnect old appliances". So I told them to move out the way, and hauled the old one out, and, muttering righty tighty, lefty loosey to myself, I switched off the plug, closed the water off, and removed all pipes. Then stood up and told them to get on with things.

10 seconds later, they informed me that they had a problem. The outlet pipe was too big to go through the hole in the side of the cupboard to the drain. "We will have to leave it" they said. I think not. I told them to stop right there, grabbed a kitchen knife, and buried myself in the cupboard, and sawed through the wood until the pipe fitted. There is nothing like taking a kitchen knife to one's friends' kitchen units. Believe me. There was no way I was letting them leave without finishing the installation. Strike one for me. Not sure about the knife though. It may never be quite the same again.

So that was the first of the sharp objects. The next collection of very sharp things was at the hospital, where I had the last (of this set) of my acupuncture appointments. Not pleasant. I am not at all convinced they have worked. I will reserve judgement. Apparently I can have another series in a month or so if I want them. We will see. Right now I am not thrilled at the prospect.

So there you have it. Oh, here is a photo of my new best friends. The gloves I talked about.

One of them. I have not mastered the art of taking a photo of both my hands together. I can't tell you how wonderful they are. They are not even a week old, and look as though I have worn them non-stop for 4 years. Maybe I need more than one pair.......

I have not forgotten Psalm 46. Tomorrow. I am not doing a thing tomorrow. I need to recover from the sharp stuff!

Monday, November 09, 2009

A cold autumn day.......

I have just had a poxy little blue box appear on the tv screen saying that I am about to lose my free channels. I need to get a new viewing card. Screech. I cancelled our Sky subscription when Geoff died, and have been just getting the free satellite channels, which has been ok. Not great, but better than nothing, and now they want me to go and buy another card. I am less than impressed. Buying a new card does not even begin to feature on the List.

Just one of the little things in life which irritate one. I am definitely irritated.

I have taken life very slowly today. I did indeed fall asleep on the couch the moment I sat down yesterday evening, and woke at midnight. Last week was a mega week, and I am still feeling it. Next week will be another mega week, so I am trying to drift rather than march, if you see what I mean. I have spent a great deal of today on the phone to lawyers etc, and we have more meetings scheduled for next week. I have also taken down the last 2 posts for now. You can email me direct if you have any questions or answers. But things are starting to move at last. Slowly.

It has been really cold today. If I had been a little more active, I might not have noticed it as much as I have done. Thank heavens I got some fingerless gloves. They are my new best friends. I can even use the computer while wearing them! I would love to crochet some like the ones at Attic 24 - Lucy is absolutely amazing, and her blog is such a delight. If you haven't visited her before, run over as fast as you can right now at check it out. And she can crochet.....oh yes. I dream of arriving on her doorstep clutching some snuggly wool and a crochet hook and begging for a lesson. I want to be able to make a ripple blanket too. And birds. And flowers. And especially those wristwarmers. What a pity I have not got the faintest idea how to start. Groan. Her blog makes me smile. I just love it.

But please come back after you visit her....hello??? Are you still there??? Maybe not. If you don't know her yet, you will be wading through her archives, so I may as well sit here and chat to myself for a while.

Mumble. Mutter. Stupid tv. Coffee. Maybe that will cheer me up. I need chocolate.

Right. I need to snap out of the Mood. Here are 5 more things I am thankful for:
  1. Being able to talk to my family
  2. New gloves
  3. Warm and cosy bed
  4. A lawyer who is going to make a difference
  5. Hot coffee right here next to me

So much more I could add too. Remind me to tell you a little about Psalm 46. You will not BELIEVE what happened. If ever there was confirmation that God takes care of the details, my Psalm 46 story is it. That can wait till tomorrow.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Shared lunch...

20 people arrived for shared lunch today, and we all had a great time. Once a month, friends take turns to host a shared lunch after church on Sunday. This month it was my turn. It is great, because once upon a time, we all went to the same village church, and now we all go to different ones all over the place, and this is a way we all keep in touch and get to relax, chat and eat together. There was a great deal of eating involved today. So much food! Babies, children, noise, laughter and fun.

It is good. So good that I forgot to take any photos.

I have now restored the house to a semblance of normality and I have to say every part of me aches. I do believe tomorrow will be a slow day. Pacing myself. But I loved it all, and it is worth the aches.

I am looking around as I write, trying to think of anything I need to do while I am upright, because the moment I sit down and relax, I will be there to stay. You have no idea how it all seizes up. I feel it coming on rapidly.

So a good day. I hope you are all having a lovely Sunday too!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Labcor heart valves and other ordinary things.....

Morning, all....

A couple of minor heart points before I move on to more mundane weekend type of things:

The valves in question are Labcor (Brazil) bio-prosthetic porcine aortic valves.
  1. Has any hospital reported an increase in failure of the valves? This is presenting with a ring of abscesses around the base, visible in a TOE (trans-oesophogeal echo-cardiagram), and dehiscence of the actual valve. Cultures all negative for bacteria, although patients show all the other signs indicating endocarditis, and heart failure. Failure rate or re-presenting patients vary from 3 months post op +.
  2. Do hospitals follow the prescribed washing instructions to the letter, including squeezing the ring?
  3. Who trained them in washing procedures?
  4. Is the redo rate higher using Labcor valves?
  5. Has there been any alarm or concern raised re the valves?
  6. Instructions to wash for 2 mins in saline solution 3 times, are different to washing twice for 3 minutes. In my view. The concentration of the saline and gluteraldahyde will be higher in the second option. I think. Am I right?

Anyway. Just a few details I need to get out there. 4 confirmed deaths so far at the hospital where G died that I know of, and there could be more. He was the first. Any info can be emailed to me. The address is on the profile page. Thanks - for all your support, and for asking those questions wherever you may be, when the opportunity arises!

So the weekend is here, and the sun is actually shining. I couldn't sleep last night, so I was at Tesco at dawn to do the food shop. Then at a Ladies' Breakfast and talk at the church in the village at 8am. Food has featured quite highly in recent days, now I come to think of it. There was breakfast in Oxford at a lovely hotel before the Inquests, and then breakfast at the hospital before acupuncture, then scones and coffee out in town yesterday, followed by chocolate brownies and coffee with friends in the afternoon. Breakfast this morning, and tomorrow it is the shared lunch and this month it is here, at my home. So, as I said, food features highly in my life at the moment!

I have just planted the tulips in the pots. I can't kneel or crouch, so it is all bending from the waist stuff, and you have NO idea how awkward it is. I get vertigo after a while. Not to mention that the jumper tends to fall over the head in an unattractive fashion, leaving the back exposed and the hands are too muddy to re-adjust. I am quite sure you have a mental picture of the sight. It is not pretty.

You will be happy to know I have received my first Christmas card. Give me strength. The shops are all full of Christmas stuff now. But I am not ready to think about it yet. Diana has sent me a beautiful book, and I am going to try to relax a little and read this afternoon. It has been quite a week, and the brain is still up and whizzing along at a ridiculous pace. Sigh.

I will be back.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Heart valves and Inquests.....

I am wiped out, people. Unexpectedly, I was listed as a "person with special interest" at the Inquests, and granted permission to speak, and question the witnesses. They combined the 2 Inquests, and with no papers or copies of statements, and with the most delightful lawyer lady sitting next to me writing more questions I needed to ask, I was back in the "seat", so to speak.

The focus and concentration necessary when you are well prepared is one thing. Flying by the seat of your pants and coming up with really telling questions while making notes, and listening to all the evidence is totally another. Remember the inability to focus I have developed with the CRPS? Yes. Well. It was a bit of a challenge, but then indignation and fury can drive you to superhuman levels at times. And I was given a great deal of leeway by the Coroner. The barrister leading the huge hospital team did everything right with great deference. Me? Hahaha. "Any questions, Mrs L?? Yes, you will have questions", said the Coroner. "Oh yes, I have questions". And I did. Many.

Semantics. Was the print on the instruction papers large enough. Oh give me strength. Get glasses. Just an example. However, in the end, a narrative verdict was delivered, stating that the 2 deaths can be mainly attributed to a combination of the hospital failing to follow washing instructions, the supplier failing to train the hospital staff properly in those washing instructions, and the manufacturer writing ambiguous instructions.

No-one is off the hook. The hospital is clearly trying to shift the blame. There was apparently no washing protocol in place back then. There is now. However, there is a washing protocol in every restaurant in the country, so there should have been one in a theatre when dealing with heart valves and life and death. Without a doubt.

At the end, the Coroner looked at me and said to get in touch with his office and he would help with any papers etc that I needed. His officer repeated this after the Inquest. And the delightful surgeon, who I attach no blame to whatsoever, came up to me and one of the other families and my lawyer and said that there is never a day which passes when he does not wonder if, by using another make of valve, all this could have been avoided. He also looked at me and said "You should have been a barrister". I missed my calling, it seems.

So in a short while, I am speaking to the lawyer, and on we move to the next phase, which will involve press releases. At the moment, while it is out of the press, the hospital appear to hold all the cards. That is about to end. I am now ready to do whatever it takes.

So if any of you out there know any heart surgeons, I have a couple of questions about Labcor aortic heart valves. I want to know if any other hospitals around the globe are having problems. I do not do "discreet" enquiries. The time for "discreet" is long past.

This is now later, if you know what I mean. I was interrupted by a call from the lawyer, and we have sorted the next bit, which involves an article in the Sunday papers. I have emptied every paper I possess onto the floor to find various documents, as my filing consists of many piles. And shopping bags. And baskets. Sigh. Note to self: Sort the papers.

Oh - today was the 5th acupuncture session, just to add to the joys of life. I should be resting on the sofa. I am not. My brain is still in overdrive. Yesterday when I got home, after falling asleep a couple of times in the car, I spent the evening dozing, then waking to scribble questions down, dozing, etc etc. I was a passenger, I hasten to add, not the driver. Today has been much the same. I need to sleep, but my Brain. Will. Not. Stop.

I said you would hear all. So there you have it. Check out your address books to see if there are any cardiac surgeons lurking, if you wouldn't mind. I need all the help I can get.

My notebook, pen and I are now retreating to that sofa.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The warrior is back.....

So today is Tuesday. This is worthy of note, because tomorrow is Wednesday. Tomorrow is the day I am going back to Oxford for 2 more Inquests. Not for Geoff, but for 2 more of the people who died like he did. Unnecessarily. There is every chance they will be adjourned because they do not have all the information needed.

And today I had a call from a lawyer who will be there observing both Inquests, as her (very large) firm has been appalled at the fact that there has not been any big investigation into the fact that 7 people (she says) have died so far. They found out and have been tracking events from the Medical Alert issued when the heart valves were withdrawn from use in the EU last year.

I have been praying for an angel, people. I am tired of this warrior mode I have been in for the past 3 years. I have nothing left in me. And maybe she is the angel. Who knows. I do know that we are meeting at 9am tomorrow. So a multitude of prayers would be appreciated. Many multitudes, in fact. And please continue those prayers all day. One Inquest in the morning, and one in the afternoon, and then we start on talks re re-opening Geoff's Inquest again. And this time, there will be lawyers, barristers, and whoever I can get there. Bring it on - the gloves are coming off.

Miracles do happen. I believe that. There could be a miracle too, if someone stands up and says - Enough. We blew it. We are so sorry and accept full responsibility.

Yes, I know, it is naive of me to hope for that, isn't it. However, as I said, miracles do happen. In the end, truth and justice will prevail, of this I have no doubt. I have NO idea how this has been kept out of the press, by the way. But tomorrow, there will not just be two families alone vs the hospital, because I will be there with my 2 wonderful friends, and the lawyer, watching and listening. And holding fast to the promise in Psalm 46.

My papers are ready. My brain has slipped into medical mode again, and adrenalin is surging through me. This is not promoting a peaceful and/or relaxing afternoon or evening.

For so long I have refrained from talking about details, but you know, now I am beyond caring. You will be hearing it all. Geoff died from a massive mistake. Whether the valve was faulty, or the hospital failed to follow procedure and didn't wash the toxic chemicals it was stored in off it before planting it in his chest, the end result is that they killed him. His heart disintegrated.

He did not have to die.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

And October 2009 will be history in a few hours.....

The last day of October is almost over, and with the setting sun, no doubt the kids around here will be out to collect their loot. Some years we have no callers, and some we have streams of them. You can guarantee that tonight we will have streams as I have very few sweets on hand. It is the way things go.

Halloween is not a huge thing in the UK, but every year it seems to get bigger, and the shops have been full of paraphenalia this year. I have to confess that I am not a fan. I have no problem with the dressing up bit, it is the creepy side which I don't like. The churches have Light Parties instead, and I am far happier with that idea.

It is all about culture, and the way we grow up and the traditions of different peoples and places. We have Bonfire Night on 5th November - Guy Fawkes. Harvest Festivals at churches. We celebrate the bringing in of the harvest, and this I can identify with, particularly as I happen to live in a village in the countryside. Blending of cultures is always going to be interesting though!

I have been trying to get the garden sorted. It is a very slow process, given that my chief labourer is off at university enjoying himself. There are times when I really need his strength to do the heavy stuff. He is incredibly strong, and makes it all seem so easy. It was so funny to hear him issuing instructions re lifting to his mother when he was home in the summer - what not to do etc. I heard my own words over the years come back to me. At least he listened!

Ah well, it doesn't matter how long it takes. We don't have winters like my sister does. Putting her garden to bed for the winter is a mammoth task. Fleecing, barking, wrapping, protecting, tossing out all the summer plants, emptying pots, taking cuttings, saving seeds, putting away anything that may freeze, all the garden furniture...... it is an epic job. And she has a BIG garden.

I have the pots ready for the spring bulbs, and the builder behind has given me a bag of tulips he had spare too, so there is a lot to plant out. The pots are all in the squirrel fortress. I will not have those pesky things digging up all my bulbs this year. They have already dug up most of the ones in the beds. And I can't tell you how many peanuts I have found sprouting green things in the pots as I got them ready. I do not need peanut trees, or whatever they grow into.

So I may just have overdone things a trifle in the past 2 days. The couch calls. Strictly Come Dancing is on soon, and that is where I will be. On the couch watching.

Happy Halloween, to those of you who celebrate the holiday! Happy weekend to those who don't!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Ta da.......!

The Happy Quilt. I put it on my mother's bed to take the photo. It is bright. Happy. Perfect for miserable winter days. If I were to become Prime Minister, I do believe I would issue an edict compelling everyone to wear bright clothes in winter, paint their houses instead of all the grey and brick around, and smile.

And now on to another project......

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Tuesday again.......

Well, we are reaching the home straight on the Happy Quilt. It is bright. BRIGHT. I went to our local patchwork shop to find the right binding this afternoon, and had to come home and fetch it to check colours, and the consensus is that it is "colourful". They liked it - well, the ladies on a course there liked it anyway - and I went with the majority opinion for the binding. I listen to advice. Hahahahahahha. I am learning to listen, that is. You will see it when it is finished.

While I was there, I mooched about drooling over the fabric, and found some wonderful pieces which I resisted buying. I have the sudden urge to make a leaf quilt. This is not on the plan. But it would look so beautiful with the autumn stuff in the lounge. Maybe I will put it on the list for next autumn. We will see. I have a few things lined up to do over the winter first, before the hands stop working.

Tomorrow is needle day again. Yep, I am back to acupuncture early in the morning. Glynis is taking me, and has tried to sweeten the pill by suggesting we have tea at a garden centre on the way home to check out the Christmas things. Sounds good to me. Thank heavens I have already had a few chats with friends, and we have agreed that, much though we love each other, we are going to cut out Christmas presents from now. What a relief. I have no idea what I am making this year. My recession heaters were a great hit last year, and now I need a new idea. One which will be stunning and cost me very little. Nothing would be even better. As in cost me nothing. I have a good stock of "stuff" to make things, so I am ever hopeful.

Missy, on the other hand, is sorted. I bought her present for this Christmas before she was even born. A doll and stroller. On sale. And we have also managed to secrete a few more bits in the cupboard over the year. Geoff would be grinning and shaking his head at this point. He thought my early shopping for Christmas was a little loopy.

Strange I thought of that right at this point. Of him. Next week, I am going to spend the day in the Coroner's court, at 2 separate Inquests for other people who died like he did at the same hospital. I have been asked to attend by the Coroner. Maybe we will be one step closer to answers. Who knows.

And now I am off to finish cooking some supper. I do it in stages, because standing is not the easiest thing in the world.

I will be back.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Nearly 40 years ago....

I was chatting to an old school friend on Facebook yesterday, and we suddenly realised that in 2010, it will be 40 years since we all matriculated. 40 YEARS. Good grief. The school we went to was an academic powerhouse, and all girls. Strict rules, and hard work. And, it has to be said, loads of fun. I loved my school days, and while I know there are those who were there when I was, who have less than stellar memories of the place, it played a massive part in shaping who we have all become.

Some of my friends and I have stayed in touch all these years, and we pick up our friendships with the greatest of ease when we all get together. The command of the english language was obviously something we all mastered back then. I remember the debating society meetings after school - did any of you have to do parachute debates? We certainly learned to think on our feet.

So I got out my photo album. I did a photographic diary of the last year of my schooling, and it includes the massed photo of our year. All 98 of us. Our hair had to be tied back if it touched our uniform collars, and so 89 of us have long hair. 27 of us have the name Ann(e) in our names somewhere. Everyone who applied for Matric Exemption (university entrance) got it, and 68 got First Class passes. As I said, it was an academic school.

We all had choices, and had to do 6 subjects for Matric. I did English, Afrikaans, Maths (all compulsory), History, Latin and Physics and Chemistry. I never did learn how to balance chemical equations. Sport was also very important, and inter-school sport was incredibly competitive. As was inter-house competition. And the extra-mural activities were many and varied, and I confess, I threw myself into the lot. Choir, Scripture Union, History, Science, Debating Societies, you name them, I was there.

Where was I ..... the old friends I have stayed in touch with over the years. Yes. We are friends NOT because of the school, but because we happened to meet at the school. We shared experiences, and discovered shared interests, and grew up together. Had we gone to a different school, I think we would have still become close friends.

But looking though the list, there are a few girls who names I had to look up, you know. I used to know them all, of course, but it is 40 years ago, and there were 98 of us! Girls I didn't know much about. Girls who were at school with me all those years - some of them all 12 years of schooling, and I have no idea of who they really are, or were. I wonder what I missed. What we may have missed. It intrigues me, you see.

Fiona and I can account for a great many of our old school friends. We also know that some have died. Way, way too young. Some never married, and others did, and there have been quite a few divorces too. Some are grannies, and some started their families much later than others. Lots have scattered to the 4 corners of the world - Canada, Australia, UK, USA, Europe, New Zealand.

There are a lot of doctors. Architects, business women, lawyers, teachers, professors, nurses, social workers, authors. Sporting stars, farmers, missionaries. Interesting women. Very interesting.

Hmmm. And me. All of a sudden I am feeling very insignificant indeed. There is a great gathering next weekend in Cape Town as quite a few of the farflung ones are in CT on visits, and they want to skype. Sigh.

Oh well. I can at least say I blog, and am on twitter, and facebook, and am clearly a techno whizz. Just do not ask me how to work an ipod. I am a COMMUNICATIONS expert!! I have just discovered this. Of course I am. I talk a lot. They won't know about feedburners, stats, stumbling etc, will they now. This is just as well, as I am also a little hazy on some of those parts too.

Hah. I am a modern woman. I think I need to get my hair cut before skyping them.

I have a week.