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Tuesday, 31 March 2009

An offer and an entry to Limboland

I am sitting at my voluntary placement with a mouthful of chicken sandwich when someone hands me my mobile and says that the person who interviewed me for a job wishes to speak to me right now. "How are you?" says Louise, the potential line manager. "Eating!" I say in a totally unprofessional manner. And then loyal readers, she says they want to offer me the job! Got into shaky excitement mode and give more inane babblings but they got me a job offer so hey, maybe I should give in to them more often. After the call, I do a sort of tango like dance up and down the corridor leading people to wonder what I am on.
The good news is tempered by the fact that the last time I had such an offer, my former boss gave a bland reference and the offer was withdrawn. So I am in Limboland not knowing what the next few weeks holds. Will he be decent this time? To put things into context, I returned to my role with him two weeks after having a Caesarean birth! Apparently, that and my successful project leadership was not good enough to merit a good reference!
My voluntary placement provider is promising to "wax lyrical" about me so I am hoping that will help but I remain nervous of what the former boss will do.
Then I am reminded of the difficulty of balancing parenting and anything else as I rediscover the costs and inflexibility of childcare providers.
For now, break open the champagne and hope for the best

Thursday, 26 March 2009

The Return of the Woman

Once upon a time, I used to think that it was unfair that there were special schemes for women returners. As a single woman without children, it seemed to me that if a woman wanted to return to the workforce, all she had to do was apply for and get a job. Simple! One husband and three children and bullying experience at work later, I find myself as a terrified woman returner. I feel I can only confidently talk about Bob the Builder and that my previous (fairly impressive) career is another country and besides the wench is dead.
Yesterday, I had a job interview at 1pm. My other half took the children to school so I was only parenting my boisterious three year old son. So the tasks ahead were two baths and two clean and tidy outfits, one for nursery and one for my launch into the free world.
As a project leader, I made clear and confident decisions. Now I struggle what time to bathe, what time to get dressed and what to wear Worried about being late, I start the getting ready process at 9am.
I will confess now that despite the best efforts of my very stylish mother, I am very much a slummy mummy. When I gave up work, the skirts, bras and tights followed me onto the scrapheap.
After the bath and locating an outfit that my Mum had given me, I tried to give myself a nice sleek line with underwear You do remember that I have three children so my line is usually more curvaceous (branding it very positively) than sleek. Knickers are the first choice - lacy, granny or support. Vote for light support so I can speak during the interview as well as hide the tummy from hell. I put on the "large" tights which appear to have being designed for a very small person. I could use other terms but after years in the third sector, I am more pc than your computer. This will not do and I don't fancy trailing round the shops with a three year old in tow looking for replacements. Twitter comes to my rescue when someone advises me to wear pants over the tights. I reflect that the fact that I could not remember this old trick probably means I will not be able to function properly in the interview later either.
Next the bra challenge. The bra that I bought after my washing attempts is now "pink not quite" like the paints they used to advertise. I hate bras with a passion. I have never understood quite why we have to wear them or how to get them on. Most bras fasten right in the centre of your back which is about the worst place for them to be if you are dressing alone. Once on, with my sloping shoulders, the straps will practise a merry jig un and down throughout the day in a most annoying fashion.
Underwear on followed by brown suit which despite myself looks fine.
Collect loads of messages of support from my Twitter friends and hop into the car with son also changed and ready to go.
Just listening to "It's really, really good" Lorraine Kelly talking about the vagina monologues. Think I have done the underwear one here, maybe the vagina next time lol
Tune is soon for reflections on my interview and why my 82 year old mother may well be pregnant

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Hard to be serious all the time

An email from my brother tells me Mum sees a breast cancer expert today and an oncologist later in the week. More prodding and poking and for what? She is dying - we know that, she knows it. Why should her final journey be one of invasions on her dignity and a taking away of her control?
All this hassle for her and they still have no clear information on where the cancer started. So what is really being achieved?
As for me, I find it hard to be appropriate all the time. Sometimes I am drinking too much, getting silly, taking risks just to change the focus of my thoughts. I want to blog about things that make me laugh or make me passionate. Our lives, not just Mum's, are being taken over by the curse of cancer. This is not what she wants.
My birth half-sister sends a sympathetic email
Comfort is taken in little things like my daughter getting her words ever so slightly wrong so "mayonnaise" becomes "maynonnaise". She also has an imaginary horse called Beauty who apparently has wonderful keyboarding skills. The stableyard has grown with the addition of Thunder and Lightning. I used to have imaginary sisters, about 7 of them as I recall.
Parenting is required so blogging must wait

Monday, 23 March 2009

A very special Mother's Day

Visited my mum yesterday for Mother's Day. My three children trooped in with their pots of primulas - red, purple and yellow. Magical moments. I had got up early and baked her a cake. She has lost much of her appetite so wanted to tempt her. The cake has raspberries and almonds it in it, two of her favourites. Could see that she knew how much love had gone into the baking of the cake.
She was on top form mentally as for the first time in decades, she had cards from all three of her children plus flowers from the black sheep of the family. The black sheep is the one she loves with a deep passion, her first born son.
She marched me into the lounge whilst my brother entertained the children. She has been offered chemotherapy. She talked and I realised she was asking my permission to say no. She declared herself bored with cancer talk and wanting to just live what she has left. She had the same talk with my oldest brother on the telephone later. Maybe she is just ready for a rest.
It amazes me how easy it is when I am with her. We laugh, we tease, we live. Conversations about the persecution of the Jews throughout the ages, neighbourliness and all manner of things.
She remains concerned for a sick 3 year old in her town. She does not know him but wants to help. Triggers a thought that the whole family should get as involved as we can in raising funds for this little boy.
She gives my children a recorder each, a pinky/purpley one for my little girl. She found them "just waiting for me as if it were meant to be". Makes me laugh. This is the same philosophy that led to her adopting me. Husband rolls his eyes - she has always loved winding him up with the noisiest of toys.
I leave it as late as I realistically can before leaving. Stopping for petrol on the way home, the tears start up again. Why is she so hard to leave? I want the party to go on for ever.
Just before I left, she told me the roses I got her for Valentine's Day "lasted for ages". It was a whim at the time to give her them but how glad I am that I followed it. Probably her last Valentine's and Mother's Day. What will I write about her this time next year?

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Tears in the face of it all

Slept well last night for the first time in ages. Cure for insomnia - Mum tells you she is dying and they will not offer treatment. Who would have thought it?
Lurching between tears and strength today. Email from my brother tells me I am positive, constructive but possibly the most vulnerable in the family.
My sadness differs from my brothers', complicated by being adopted and by having children that will also be bereaved.
Mum says the worst thing was telling us. I guess you are a Mum for ever and that it is never easy, just a different set of challenges over time.
Need to let relevant people know so they can offer support to Mum.
Hate the idea of a disease being in control of such a feisty woman.
Am I over-playing everything? Shouldn't I find something funny to blog about? Will return with laughter I hope.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009


Mum has phoned. First thought from her was whether my husband was home which sort of signalled that the news was bad. Cancer has spread although they still can't find where is started. Nothing they can do for her. She says we can have a nice day on Sunday. No nice days left methinks

Results Day

I am in the strangest mood. Mum is going for her MRI scan results today so finally we will have some proper information. This feels good but then again I also in the same moment want to run away and pretend all this is not happening. As daft as it sounds, St Patrick's Day acts as a useful focal point that life is continuing despite our own family crisis.
Offered for my other half to drive Mum for the results but with that feisty, independent spirit, this was an offer refused. I knew it would be. How can we help when she is like that with us? I know she has always being the helper, the organiser and so on. She clings on to this till the end. She was telling me the other day how she is looking for things to sell to raise money for a 3 year old child who needs medical equipment for a life-threatening condition. She was also running round after my brother because he has flu. All of this when she is tired and in pain.
My constant bouts of crying have waned over the last couple of weeks. I now am having real trouble in sleeping waking up almost every hour during the night. Is this connected to the mum situation or something else?
Last night my four year old daugther asked me why I was not happy and said she would sit with me until I was happy again. Mothers and daugthers - the most wonderful and complex relationship in the world.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Stage Management and More

A couple of days ago, I emailed my brother telling him it would be good if he could phone our parents. Mum had sworn me to secrecy about her diagnosis but I felt he had a right to know.
They have shared a long history of passionate love for each other often expressed destructively in arguments and long silences. I have long thought that when Mum died Michael would suffer more than any of us for a host of lost opportunities for magical memories.
I feel strongly that he had a right to know about Mum in the same way as my other brother and myself. I do not think it was fair to treat him differently. I was in a real dilemma to go against my mum's wishes or to do what I felt was the right thing. In the end, I stage managed a phone call so that he would find out the awful truth.
So now he knows and we spoke yesterday. He describes himself as "devestated" and in his case this is not a word used at all lightly. He has had cancer himself and has persuaded his oncologist to look at Mum's records. However, Mum and Dad appear to not be going with this generous offer. Pride it seems will last a lifetime. Meanwhile there is no clear information coming from their current medics which is frustrating for us all. Sometimes, I find myself feeling quite hard. If the cancer is incurable, why is Mum subjected to all these tests and invasions? Yes, we can all want her to stay with us for ever but wouldn't it be better for her to go peacefully and soon without all the loss of dignity.
I know she has some views about how her funeral should go. She always used to say she wanted a jazz band there. Today, I looked at some funeral readings to see if any reflected how I feel and what I would want to share about her. It helped in a funny sort of way.
I find myself as the "baby" of the family being the lynchpin for communications between family members. It is a heavy burden but also complimentary in that they must think I am the strong one. Or maybe these things always fall on the woman!
I kept a mental note today of all the things I was asked to remember and do that were actually other people's jobs. It was my job apparently to remind my children to remind their Dad to give them their Comic Relief money. It was my job to persuade Mum to take up my brother's offer of medical support. It was my job to reply to an email from my husband's colleague informing him of the colleague's wife's death from breast cancer. It was my job to send family news to my stepdaughters. And so the list goes on.
There were some lovely moments today. My youngest son came out of nursery with his face painted in red spots, big splodges of Comic Relief madness. My daughter gained a superstar award for her reading. My son was proud to go into his Dad's work "like a grown-up". Life goes on and is definitely for the living!

Monday, 9 March 2009

Knickers with holes in the back

We visited my parents this weekend. I was very worried that I would break down as this would be my first meeting with my mum since her diagnosis. However, they were so full of fun and plans that I found myself just enjoying being envelopped in that warm family environment. They had created lots of little jobs for the grandchildren to do like feeding the birds. It was lovely to watch my dad pottering around with my three children chattering away. I hope it gave him a break from what seems a constant round of medical appointments with mum.
Mum looked so well that it was almost hard to take her diagnosis seriously. She made a huge meat and potato pie for us followed by her Christmas cake. As everyone shared news, I reflected that it would soon be time to get hold of these family recipes. I have every intention of taking over mum's matriarch reins when the time comes, certainly where cooking is concerned.
As the children played with their toys in a room they have for the purpose at grandma's house, Mum opened up. However, this was not to be a revelation of her fears and worries. Instead, she regaled us with stories of having to dress in a gown without a strap and knickers with a hole in the back at hospital. She has had this procedure before and had said to staff "Oh, I see you are bringing on the designer outfit again". When the procedure was being carried out, she was in a torment of pain and moaned out. The male nurse said, "Irene, hold my hand". As she did so, she spotted his tattoo. "And I thought", she said "Look at what I have come to. I would never have looked at a fella with a tattoo before".
So if we cried this weekend, we did it with laughter. She is the greatest comedienne complete with a great sense of timing and utter wickedness. She kept saying to my husband "You do know what knickers are, don't you? I imagine you will have seen a fair few!"
Many people who read my blog ask for updates on her condition. The procedure referred to above failed to locate the source of the primary cancer so she is off for a full MRI scan today.
I hate the thought of her being poked and prodded and hope she makes her own choices in this final journey.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Parents' Evening

Last night was all a bit of a rush. Had to survive the teeny weeny chairs in two parent evening sessions. One cheek on either side of chair lol. Most undignified. I think they do it to make you feel suitably inferior in comparison with the teaching community. Laughed to myself at the parents who were hanging around reading "little Freddie's" work after their appointments and glancing at each other to see when they could morally make an exit.
Good results for both my children. Particularly thrilled that my eldest son has finally managed to reach the target for handwriting. He has a statement of special needs as although very bright, he has always struggled with writing. Various tests have suggested mild dyslexia possibilities but no clear diagnosis months later. Daughter's only weakness is not liking role play which is not a major worry to me. Her particular strength is handwriting which shows how individual children are in their skills.
Phoned my parents to share the news. My dad was quite distracted as mum's needs are obviously pressing and he is her main carer. Mum not well enough to come to the phone. Despite understanding, felt a bit let down that they did not appear as over the moon as I am.
In the last week or so, I have realised that mum's diagnosis transforms her into neither a sinner nor a saint. I have found myself irritated and annoyed at her. Perfectly normal I suppose but in the first days after the news, I was so focussed on her best points.
Leapt back into the Landrover and off to the shops under pressure to find costumes to celebrate World Book Day. More on today's events later.
How are your parents' evenings going?

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Volunteering and a return to sanity

Today, I actually entered a real working environment for the first time in over two years. I think I had got myself into a mindset that I would never do this again so today is a huge cause for celebration.
My volunteering currently involves looking into the needs of ex-service personnnel and their families who find themselves homeless. I find myself researching, networking and promoting - all things I love to do.
My boss seems to think I am worth listening to which is a huge shock as I have three children who never want to listen to me!
My colleagues are pleasant with me and make me coffees!
It is so energising to set targets and then to reach or exceed them. No bigger thrill in my particular world.
I have now returned to the school run, the toast-making, the refereeing that makes up modern day motherhood. Ah, but now I know there is another life and I will be back living it tomorrow.
I am a volunteer. I exist. I am contributing. I am worthwhile.
Do you volunteer? What do you do and what do you get out of it?

Monday, 2 March 2009

Angels masquerading as human beings

Support in difficult times comes from unexpected sources. With my mother's illness, I feel like my whole world is caving in. It is a physical and emotional pain that hovers waiting to catch me unawares.
Total strangers via Twitter and my blog are offering help and sharing their own stories of loss. Having felt very alone, I now realise that I have entered a huge community of people who are affected by cancer. People are willing to talk and to listen, to question and to challenge. In this apparently hard and money focused world, human beings still have an instinct to reach out to others in need.
As I have explained, mum is a strong and amazing woman. Today, I want to play tribute to my three adult step-daughters. Even giving them that label is strange as relationships have not always being good. I emailed them with the news of mum and they pitched in with compliments about her, sorrow for us and offers of practical help. All three have different life issues to deal with from parenting, step-parenting, mental health battles and a whole lot more that they probably would never share with their wicked stepmother. Over the years I have expected little of them. That is to my shame and how they prove me wrong! They are strong women too - the legacy continues