30 July 2010

Green Fingers

Lately I've been sharing some of the darker and more serious things in my life, so for a change I thought I'd share something I'm quite pleased with.

I've never been brilliant with plants. I usually end up with stringy, sickly looking things, which while alive can't really be displayed. Several months ago Mr Goldfish bought me a pretty white Orchid as a present. After the flowers bloomed, the stalks withered right back and I worried that I'd killed the poor thing. I hid it in a back room and forgot about it for several weeks. I felt quite guilty when I found it again, so set myself to nursing it back to life.
I'm thrilled to say I've been successful, and here's the proof.




But that wasn't my only success! About a month ago a Friend brought some small aloe plants to meeting, looking for a good home. I took two of the brown sickly looking plants and set them on the window sill. Some gentle watering later and I've got lovely lush greens and loads of sprouts around the edges! My only problem is that I don't know what to do with them now.
Do any of you green fingered souls have a suggestion?

aloe plants

29 July 2010

I want a bid on my eBay auction!

Rather than writing about something I want, I think I’d rather write about the thing I desperately want rid of. This is the third time I’ve listed my wedding dress on eBay and each time I’ve waited with baited breath for it to sell...to no avail.

A wedding is supposed to be one of the best days of your life, but mine felt like a disappointment. I mean I was thrilled and happy to be married to Mr Goldfish, but I felt let down by several of our friends and family. It’s not worth rehashing, as it will never sound more than superficial, but since then my wedding dress has become a focus for the frustration and disappointment I felt.

The morning hadn’t started well. We had very early hair appointments, the salon had forgotten to call me back when they opened the dates in their calendar, and these were all that were left.When I got to the salon, I warned the hairdresser that my hair had completely fallen in the hour after our test appointment. I tried to explain again that you can’t dry it straight and then curl it, you have to dry the curl or wave in. So she decided to put it in curlers. I came out looking like Marilyn Monroe. The hair dresser was obviously at a loss and was just hacking the brush randomly at the back trying to get rid of the volume. I held it together till my bridesmaid leaned over and said I didn’t need to look so panicked; I immediately burst into tears. I climbed out of the chair, paid my bill and left. Once home I went straight to my room and cried.

Now this may not seem related to the dress, but my dress was already a compromise. Between my kidney stones and the fibromyalgia I couldn’t wear dresses with boning or fancy bras. The pressure on my skin made me nauseous and prone to vomiting, not brilliant when walking down the aisle. I was turned away from several bridal stores as soon as I mentioned the problem with boning. Eventually I found a dress in Debenhams. It was comfortable, had straps over the shoulders, no train and even better it was on sale! If I couldn’t get the dress I wanted, at least I could get it at a bargain.

I desperately tried to cling to this positive idea that I had bagged a bargain, a smart and savvy bride, but after the horror at the hair salon I just couldn’t. My hair was a mess and my dress felt frumpy, it very much felt like the Fibromyalgia had robbed me. My maid of honour...she thought I was over-reacting. There was nothing I could do about it, so I put my best face on and made the best of the day.

So left down by friends and family, feeling ugly and dismissed; even years later it brings tears to my eyes. I want to be proactive. I want to turn what was painful into something new and positive, so I’m selling my dress on eBay.

I discovered after I bought it, that the dress had been used in the Doctor Who Christmas Special. As I bought it on sale, I’m hoping that I can get my money back, put it towards something really worthwhile. Maybe I’ll add it to my baby savings account, where I’ve been squirreling away all the money I earn taking internet surveys. Use the money to buy a pushchair or to decorate a nursery. Use it to buy some luxuries I’d never justify otherwise. And if we’re never blessed with a family, maybe I’ll think of something to spend it on that will give me a small boost of reassurance and confidence that my wedding took away.

So know anyone who wants a wedding dress?

Edit July 31st : Didn't sell this time, but I've also listed it on PreLoved so there's still hope.

28 July 2010

Northern Nature

I love living in Northern England. My family has lived here for generations, and I never feel far from the countryside. Looking out over the rolling hills I instantly feel grounded, like this is where I belong. I’ve been living here more than ten years now, but getting out onto the moors, dales and lakes is a bit harder than it used to be. So I love the little pocket of nature I’ve found near our house. Walking down the path under the bridge, you never know what you’ll discover around the bend.

You can click the image for a closer look on Flickr

Over Grown Path
You can click the image for a closer look on Flickr

This post was written for Week 21 of The Gallery: Nature
Sponsored by organic chocolate maker Green & Blacks

26 July 2010

A Leap of Faith

Leap of Faith

Two years ago I began to consider joining a church, and this in itself is proof of desperation. I could feel the depression creeping closer, and while I had my own spiritual beliefs, I found that I couldn’t find strength in them by myself. Life tends to smother me and I cope by staying busy; I fill my life with noise so I can’t hear the worries and pain. It works for a while, but eventually makes things worse by crowding out sensible things like relaxing, thinking and contemplation. So I thought perhaps joining a church would force me to embrace my own beliefs give them the structured time they deserved.

It was never a question of belief. I’ve always been aware of something more, though I may not always find the words to explain it. At best, I find it’s a bit like describing fate as a river. You don’t need to believe, to get where you are going. You can struggle down the shallow banks banging your legs against the hard rocks and struggling over obstacles, but if you have faith and trust in the world you can reach the centre of the river. There the deep water sweeps you quickly along to where you belong, with fewer obstacles to face. I’ve been in the centre of that river. Times in my life when it seemed like luck was on my side, where coincidences lined up to create incredulous experiences you wouldn’t believe if you saw them in a film or book. I desperately want back into the centre of the river, but I spend most of my life in the shallows.

Besides trying to step back in sync with the world, I also thought there were some practical advantages of church. First we wanted to start a family, and I felt it was important for children to grow up in a community. When I was young we were members of a sailing club, and the people we meet there became like grandparents to me. I wanted our kids to have that sense of belonging and being a part of something, and to learn the responsibilities that includes.

I also wanted to get out more. My friends from university have all moved away and I live 3,000 miles from my family. Time has made me very isolated and my illness makes it very difficult to meet new people. I’m lucky if I get out a couple of times a week. So I thought joining a church might help me mange my life better, build towards the family life I wanted and be an opportunity to make new friends.

It all sounds good...except for one rather big problem. I’m not a Christian. I can see the good people find in the Bible and Jesus, but to me they are hollow words with very little meaning. For a while I wondered if I could just sit quietly at the back, participating in the spirit of worship and ignoring the details, but unfortunately I’m a gobby thing. When I truly believe something completely, I can’t keep my mouth shut. All I’d need is to hear someone make a homophobic comment or harsh judgement and I’d find myself in hot water.

So I gave up the idea for several months, until one day I noticed a childhood friend, someone I used to sail with, was a Quaker. I was a rather surprised and had no idea what the Quakers believed, so I turned to Google to find out. In just a few weeks I’d bought a few books about Quakerism and attended my first meeting for worship. That was about eighteen months ago now. I’ve attended two meetings a week since, and love the silence of the meeting. I love that we are encourage to experience for ourselves rather than be told what to believe.

Now normally I wouldn’t write about religion, it seems a guaranteed way to offend someone, but last week was a notable event. Last week I decided to apply for membership in the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). I knew it was something I wanted to do. Specifically I knew it was something I wanted to do before we had a child, but how do you decide when is the right time? Quakerism is definitely something I'm still exploring and learning about, but I suspect it will always be that way.

In the end, I waited for the river to take me there. Last week I was approached by two different Friends on two different occasions, both asking me if I had thought about joining. I took that as a sign. Though I’m a bit apprehensive, I think this is the path I should follow. If I let the opportunity pass I think I could spend years struggling to decide when is the right time to act, all because I was to scared to swim into the river.

22 July 2010

Blog with Substance Award

I’d say that I’m sorry I didn’t see this sooner, but I’m rather glad I found it tonight!

I’d been having a good day: I finally got back in sync with the meeting, I found lots of information in the family history library and we went to see Inception which was brilliant. Mr Goldfish suggested we finish this off with dinner at Pizza Express. The first restaurant we tried had a huge queue, so we decided to try another location. When we finally found a table, I was disappointed to discover they’d run out of the spinach and ricotta cannelloni I really fancied. Then as I showed off all my hard work from the library to Mr Goldfish...he knocked his cold glass of water straight into my lap. I was completely soaked! And of course there were no paper towels in the ladies. I made it back to the table and sat in my wet trousers and squashy knickers, only it find out that our food would be delayed another 20 minutes. At this point we gave it up as a bad job, obviously we weren’t meant to eat out. So after a cold, wet and chafing walk home I was just a tiny bit grumpy.

So imagine my surprise, when I discovered that Nudie Princess has given me a Blog of Substance Award! I was completely astonished; here I thought I was just chuntering away in the corner. I never really thought anyone would want to read it. So it’s with great gratitude that I that Nudie Princess, the award really brightened what has been a miserable evening and gave me a lovely warm glow. So here's how it works:

The Rules

  1. Give groveling gratitude filled thanks to the blogger who awarded you.
  2. Share your five word blogging philosophy.
  3. Nominate further bloggers of substance.

Hopefully I've already covered number one, but my blogging philosophy? I’m not sure it’s a philosophy so much as an aim, but started this blog as an attempt to say all those things I kept inside. The things I was afraid to say or struggled to share.

To speak truly and freely

I’m rather ashamed to admit I’m already struggling with this. The last Writing Workshop entry, I avoided the more serious topics because I didn’t want to sound like I was always miserable or simply obsessed. The result was a rather rubbish posting that didn’t really say anything at all. So I may not always achieve my aim, but my blog is definitely an attempt to be truthful without fear.

Now comes the hard point, I have to pass the award on. I’m afraid I’ve only been writing this blog a month, and for two of those weeks I’ve been so busy I’ve barely read anything. So rather than try and recommend a blog to you, perhaps you’d recommend a blog to me. Who should I be reading? I don’t necessarily mean the most popular, but those that really speak to you. Perhaps with your recommendations I'll discover the next award winner.

A Novel Idea

The Gallery this week had really left me stumped. The prompt is ‘A Novel Idea’, where you take a photo that represents your favourite book or novel or children’s story. Unfortunately for me, I love fantasy and thrillers. So unless I wanted to terrify the neighbours by creating a crime scene in my front yard, I was going to struggle.

After taking Mr Goldfish’s grandmother to Dunham Massey, where deer roam the lawns, I was tempted to cheat and pick Bambi as my story, but I felt that wasn’t really in the spirit of the challenge.


So I went to my bookshelf and tried to work out what my favourite book was. The only thing that stood out was an old battered book of fairy tales I’d had since I was very young. The Twelve Dancing Princesses and Other Fairy Tales.

Twelve Dancing Princesses

So I went back through all the wedding photos we’ve ever taken and all the parties with no luck. Finally I casually flicked through the photos I’ve taken the last few weeks and found this photo from our local Walking Day. Not a brilliant photo for this application, but you don’t find yourself twelve princesses everyday.

12 Dancing Princesses

18 July 2010

Never give statistics to a Mathematician


Friday we went to see the doctor. As a first appointment it wasn’t too bad; we were lucky and managed to get an appointment with the doctor I prefer. She’s a slim and cute woman, who doesn’t make a point of being condescending or patronising.

As we left her office, Mr Goldfish’s first comment was that you shouldn’t give statistics to a mathematician. After 12 months 84% of couples will get pregnant. Of the remaining, half will get pregnant in the next year. So if you filled a room with one hundred couples a year ago, there would be 8 left still with a chance of getting pregnant and 8 who wouldn’t. Ignoring the fact that we have no idea what effect age would have on those statistics, we didn’t find them as optimistic as the doctor did.

As expected, for me I was given the useless advice to relax. At times I wish I could speak in bold or italics, so I could try and explain that I’m not just a bit anxious. I have diagnosed Anxiety with a capital ‘A’. We were also given a bit of contradictory advice, in that we should try and avoid scheduling so we can apparently relaxed and enjoy it. When I pointed out that between fatigue and low sex drive that would be difficult; she said I didn’t have to enjoy it, I just had to be there.

For Mr Goldfish we did discover something new. He thinks he had mumps as a child, which could be causing a problem now. So next week we’ll go in for tests. I need a blood test on the 19th and 2nd day of my cycle, while Mr. Goldfish needs to take in a sample. If the tests come back fine, then we might need to press for a more accurate understanding of my anxiety. Till then though this seems like a reasonable beginning.

15 July 2010

To find beauty in the details -- Revisited

Kate over at What Did You do Today Mama suggested that try converting my Gallery photos to black & white, so I gave it a try and here are the results.





With a Bang

Don't Drink the Water
When I was about sixteen, I was a member of our school theatre group. Not one for the lime light, I worked back stage, creating the sets and helping run the shows. This particular year we were performing Don’t Drink the Water and I was asked to create one of the props. The stage manager brought in a heavy thick dowel rod, and cut it into foot long sections; with these I was to create a bomb. I painted the sticks red and stapled black cord to the ends for wicks. I then bundled seven sticks together and bound them with duct tape and created a box with a clock face as a timer. On reflection it didn’t need a timer, but at sixteen I didn’t know much about bombs. Everything I knew I’d learned from the Road Runner and Wiley Coyote.
In the play, the character is supposed to throw the bomb out the window where it will then explode. During rehearsals it’s immediately apparent that we have a problem with our bomb. They can’t throw it through the set window as it makes a clatter when it lands on the other side. So in their infinite wisdom the director and stage manager ask someone to stand just off-stage and catch the bomb as it’s thrown.
Now you’ll remember, when we built this prop we made it out of wood. It’s not exactly soft and fluffy. The actor throws the bomb out the window and it flies into the stage girl’s waiting arms...only then to bounce into her face. BANG! For just a moment there is silence, before she cries “My nose! My nose! You broke my fucking nose!”
We continued to use the prop for the rest of the production, but only the lads were allowed to make the catch after that.

12 July 2010

To find beauty in the details

I may not have taken this topic as literally as others, but I attempted to find an interesting up close view of the everyday objects I found around me.

Bench at Hesketh Park

Stairs at Hesketh Park

Green House Roof at Hesketh Park

Green Houses at Hesketh Park

7 July 2010

I Really Thought it had Worked this Time

La Pedrera
This week we really thought it had worked. I had a sharp stabbing pain that took my breath away on Sunday morning before meeting, and later that day some spotting that quickly stopped. I desperately tried not to think about it in case I jinxed it, but I couldn’t help hoping. I was planning to wait till Thursday before testing, but by Tuesday morning I thought I better check. Not because I thought the test would be positive you understand (though obviously I hoped), but because I didn’t think I could handle the crushing disappointment after another two days of optimistic dreams and fantasies.
From the beginning we knew trying to conceive would be difficult. I’ve always had a low sex drive, but I also have Fibromyalgia, which is a chronic pain and fatigue condition, coupled with Hypermobility. Sex just isn’t that easy when you’re exhausted, everything hurts, and your nerves are all miss-wired. Add problems like hip joints slipping painfully out of place and wrists that bend too far back...to say the least, it becomes something of a mine field.
So from the beginning we knew we had to plan. Trying every other day for a whole month was completely out of the question. A couple of months before we started, we began taking Basal temperatures every morning. This gave us a good idea of when we needed to try and we kept it up for about six months. The problem was that you start every single morning thinking about pregnancy. You can’t escape it, and when things don’t work, the thermometer is a constant reminder that it’s not as easy as you hoped. So we switched to the ovulation tests. They aren’t as cheap, but having a few weeks each month when I could just ignore the whole subject was a god send!
I should probably add here that through either nurture or nature, anxiety runs in my family. I’m fully aware that I shouldn’t get so worked up over things...but that really doesn’t help. The biggest problem is that my anxiety is bad enough to short my cycle. My cycle is somewhere between 24-27 days generally, when my mother came to visit for a month I cut that down to 22. I can even do it intentionally. I knew my husband was going to be out of town one month so I let my anxiety run riot and shorted that month to 22 days. It’s an impressive trick, but it means if I get stressed and accidentally short a cycle...that’s my fault.
And as times passed, I’ve become more stressed about getting pregnant, creating a vicious circle. I’ve been avoiding this blog the last few days, because I dare not let myself think freely. I might think about the whole messy process of trying to conceive, getting even more stressed and anxious. So not only am I censoring everything I say, but now I’m trying to censore what I think. Every time a stray thought wandered through my mind I’d smash it, desperate to smother everything. It doesn’t work. Ignoring huge elephants in the room is not a peaceful pastime.
So we decided it’s time to go see a doctor. I completely and utterly dread this. For months I've been spotting a few days before my period and had a huge spotty rash down both arms, which I think is stress related. A quick check on the internet suggests that chronic anxiety can lead to low progesterone, which leads to early spotting, which is a sign that something is wrong. If I’m right, it sounds like an easy fix, but who wants to go into their doctor’s office and say “Hi, I can’t get pregnant because I worry too much.” It’s ridiculous! Then you get the condescending look from the doctors, like you’re only just on this side of sane, as they placate and patronise you.
I hope going to the doctor’s won’t be that bad, but I’ve had a really bad run of them. In any case I don’t have a choice. The wonderful Mr. Goldfish is making the appointment and in charge of talking to the doctor (as they don’t think he’s mad), I’m just there for the tests. In ways I hope it’s his tests that show problems, as it would make a nice change. However he’s the picture of health and I’m the one falling to bits. If there’s going to be a problem anywhere it’s bound to be me.

Uncomfortable Silence

Blackpool Pier
When I started this blog I never intended to write about trying to conceive. It’s been such a roller coaster of emotion that it leaves me feeling exhausted and empty, not exactly the most cheerful frame of mind from which to write. So I thought I’d keep it to myself, I mean no one wants to read or listen to someone whinging and whining all the time. The last week though I’ve had chance to reconsider. The first was something I read over on Josie’s Blogging Manifesto at Sleep is For the Weak:
4. Good writing, good content comes with practice and with authenticity. Yes, that word. It is about writing from where you are at. It is about writing honestly about the things that matter to YOU. That means not being afraid to write about pain. It is not about being perfect. If you don’t feel like blogging, don’t blog.

10. And, which is what I said in my talk and I’ll say it again here: blogging is ABOUT your life, it is NOT your life. Your blog will be soulless and boring if you are not getting out there and living. So switch off you computers and go and do something different and fun.
I’ve realised that for the last year trying to start a family has been my life. If I try and avoid a subject that’s winding its way through every aspect of living, of course I’m going to feel boring and soulless. I can’t speak freely or truly when there are huge fields of banned territory.
Secondly, I’m frustrated by how little information is out there. It’s a common problem thousands of couples face, yet it feels like a taboo subject no one talks about. It’s so painful that we all stand silently, isolated and alone, when people all around understand and sympathise.
This week we were completely convinced I was pregnant...only to be disappointed again. After trying for twelve months now, it’s finally time to go visit the doctor. It seems like a good starting place for a blog.

5 July 2010

Holiday of my Life

The Atomium - 1999
I don't have many photographs from this trip, but this photo of the Atomium in Belgium is one of my favourites. Taken in 1999, it was part of my grand trip around Europe visiting artwork I'd only seen in books.
Backpacking Trip 1999
When I say that this was the holiday of my life, I’m not just talking about the length and breadth of the trip. If you were to look over a map of my life, I think this trip would be a turning point; one of those key events in time that forever change your course.

I was 21 and attending a top-rated design university. My course was a five year degree in which we alternated three months of classes with three month internships. In the winter of 1999, the job market was looking scarce, and it seemed unlikely I would find a placement. Rather than continue on, taking another three months of classes, my mother suggested I take the travel alternative.

Each student was offered one opportunity to substitute a travel quarter for the standard internship. This gave you the chance to see with your own eyes the great works of art and architecture around the world. I jumped at the chance. Within three weeks my itinerary was submitted to the University, I bought my equipment and had my tickets in my hand. I was flying 3,000 miles across the world to spend three months backpacking around Europe on my own.

While the countries were beautiful and the architecture inspiring, that was only the facade. For three months I stepped out of my life. No more thought about the bills or the rent, no more deadlines and projects to worry about, I didn’t even have to take out the rubbish. For once I was free of all the niggling thoughts and worries that plague everyday living.

I discovered that there was another way. That I didn’t need to live a life smothered in stress and anxiety; that I didn’t have to keep racing along this path that had been set before me. I finally had time to stop and consider what was important to me. Ten days after the plane touched down, I rang home and told my Mum I couldn’t go back.

As I continued my trek across Europe I learned that I like my own company. I learned that I could just let go of all those things we are told to worry about...and I’d still be alright. I learned to shake free of mass opinion and discovered passions of my own.

While it was a holiday of museums, tourist attractions and even a whirlwind romance, the real exploration was of myself. I returned home just long enough to complete the final term of my third year and put my affairs in order. Just five and a half months later I was flying back to the UK, ready to start the next chapter.