Happy Easter

Today is recovery day #10 since the shoulder arthroscopy. I’m doing OK with the recovery. The pain is much less than it was, I’ve gone from 19 painkillers a day (when I first got back from hospital) to just three a day. I feel it’s much more manageable, but I’m now itching to get the stitches out (no pun intended). I’m doing the exercises several times a day – they are much easier too. There’s one that causes me a little bit more discomfort than the others, but I’m getting on with them as best I can.

It’s also Easter Sunday. So, Happy Easter to all you lovely people out there.

Easter has always been family time for me. It’s about having a lovely roast dinner, watching kids find Easter eggs hidden in the garden and having a bit of a giggle at everyone gorging on way too much chocolate! Today’s a bit strange. I’m not able to drive home to Scotland to be with the family (well, technically, I could drive, but I doubt it would be sensible!), nor do I have any kids around for an easter egg hunt, and nor is my family around.

I’m still planning to do a roast dinner, though it feels pretty silly just for me…but, it’s tradition. And I’ll enjoy it.

For my far away family and friends Happy Easter!

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New year, new smile, new me?

Three years ago I had braces fitted as part of a ‘rescue’ package for my teeth. I had broken a number of teeth and braces were the least drastic course of action. Reluctantly, I had clear plastic, self-ligating (ooooh) braces fitted with the expectation that I would be done and dusted within 18-22 months. Well, that timeframe came and went.

To begin with, I was confident that nothing would change because of the braces, but in reality, much changed: diet, confidence, the ability to smile, and me. I lost a bit of me with the construction site that was my mouth. And then, there was pain. I didn’t mention it yet, but I’ve had three years of aches and pains, blisters, ulcers, cuts and more. Not to mention a constant fear that I had awful breath (despite much flossing, cleaning mouth wash use…).

I didn’t go into the whole ‘adult braces’ thing without doing my research. I read the blogs, I watched the YouTube videos, but none of them prepared me for the blow to my confidence or just how un-sexy they made me feel. None of what I read, saw or listened to actually gave details of what it’s really like.

So, New Year, New Smile and New Me. Absolutely! The braces came off on Wednesday 16th Jan and I’m delighted. The result is brilliant. I have a smile again. I feel I am ABLE to smile again and I seem to have some of my old sparkle back. 2013 is going to be a great year for me and my long-suffering BF. Cheers!

Smile

Family traditions?

There’s a family get together this weekend – it’s in Yorkshire. I’m travelling up there to be with family, my parents are travelling down from Scotland. It’s a surprise party for an aunt and uncle. My Mum is doing most of the catering, because that’s what she does.

My only role is to bake Parkin. Yorkshire Parkin. I used a recipe today that had been recommended online. I had to make enough for 30 people. So, that meant trebling the recipe. Halfway through baking it, Mum asked if I was using the family recipe…oops. No, it’s not my Gran’s recipe, it’s another. I don’t have Gran’s recipe.

With the cakes (three of them) in the oven, the aroma starts to permeate around the house and it’s gorgeous. It also takes me right back to Bonfire Night when I was a child. Toffee apples, bonfire toffee and Parkin. All homemade. All yummy.  Seasonal treats. All steeped in tradition as they are made.

Mum is making toffee apples and bonfire toffee for the event, so I had a look at recipes for toffee. Comparing the online recipes to ‘our recipes’ was interesting. All the online recipes recommended the use of a sugar thermometer to check the toffee as it’s boiling (to get the right point for ‘crunchy or chewy’ toffee. I don’t remember my Gran or Mum having one of those. We used a jug of very cold water to test the toffee. You simply drop a teaspoon of the (still boiling, liquid) toffee into the cold water and then you test it. Simple.

I’m quite lucky that I come from a family steeped in tradition. Baking is relaxing. It’s part of what makes me, me. It’s tradition. Family tradition.

I’ve made my Christmas cakes (one rum, one brandy and one whisky). I’ve made Parkin for bonfire night. What’s next??

Next…?

Work is going from bad to worse at the moment. With questions over brand, CMS, ‘best-of-breed’ agencies and upheaval, it’s no surprise that morale has reached an all time low. We’ve had two resignations in the past week. Correction – I have had two resignations in the past week. Two of my longest serving (longest suffering) team members are stepping down from the role and from the company.

It’s clear they’ve both had enough of the constant change and upheaval and that both are looking for new challenges. It’s clear that everything is different already. But, what of the company? What will be done to rebuild? Anything? Everything? Nothing?

I shall miss my team – as it once was. These changes are as a result of decisions made back to February. Changes were set in motion at that point, and here we are. This week’s news is a direct result. My question (rhetorical): why am I still here? what is there for me? where does this mis-guided sense of loyalty come from? what’s next? will I ever find the elusive ‘work/life balance’? and, losing my team members…what’s next?

Answers on a postcard, please.

In times of stress

It’s tough going at the moment. There’s a lot of stress for me. My other half is stressed too. I just found out that my mum has a back injury. It’s not good at the moment.

I’ve lived in this house for 5 years (nearly) and in the South for 17 years, yet in times of stress I want my home. My Glen. The Glen. (You’ll only get that reference if you’re from the area).

I want to go for a walk after dinner to the waterfall and drink malt whisky from my hip flask – while sitting on a rock in the middle of the river.

I want to listen to the noise of the Glen. The River. The sheep. The cows. The burn. The fox cries. The silence and then, the banter. There’s always banter in the Glen.

OK, so I’m homesick. I’ve been having a glass or two of wine and I’ve been watching Monarch. They’ve been to the cemetery on the hill. We’ve got one of those. I remember my first hike up there (Kindrogan Hill) to the cemetery. I must have been 13 years old. It was a wild walk. Deepest, dark pine forest – the light struggling through the needles to reach you. The smell of the pine. The worn dirt track, rough underfoot. Warm from the hike, I relished the cool air of the sheltered path to the cemetery where the local ‘laird(s)’ and his family are buried.

Last year, I took my step sons to the very same cemetery (with my Mum along for the walk). It was a trek for them, but they quite liked the history lesson, thanks to Mum. We saw deer, listened to the wildlife and watched a Buzzard do its stuff. But, for me, the sight I found was heartbreaking. The walls of the cemetery overgrown, and the graves not easily distinguishable from the weeds. There are no trees any more. There’s no path. There are no fresh flowers. The forest reached its ‘peak’ and so became a deforestation project for the ‘Forestry Commission’. The resulting landscape is just sad. Bare. The cemetery has lost its mystery. It’s neglected. It’s unloved. It’s forgotten.

I do, of course, have happy memories of the trip with J & B. We picked wild raspberries all the way home. The boys don’t like rasps when I buy them at home in Surrey. But, Scottish rasps? Any time, any place, anywhere… That’s how it should be, right??

We need happy times and happy memories to keep us going in times of stress. The Glen is one of mine.

Haste ye back…

The Boss

I use the term the boss to represent the person we report to at work. I’m now on my fifth boss at my current company – the second this year. I like the rest of my team wonder when this person will show us the way forward. When this person will lead. Today, I find myself doubting that that will happen.

We go to work every day. We offer a certain amount of time to our companies in return for a wage. We build relationships with the people we work with. We talk, we discuss, we argue, we debate and we do what’s necessary to get our jobs done. And then, at 5:30 we go home. But it doesn’t actually end there. Often, we work late because we don’t want to let anyone down. Because we want to do a good job. Because there’s a tight deadline and it’s an important task. We don’t get paid to do it. We do it through our good will. On the promise that our company will take care of us, treat us well and show respect.

In recent weeks,  my company has used up the good will of most of my department. It has used up the good will. It has ground people’s humour down. And it’s squashed the life out of some people. Why do companies (or the people running them) think this is good or acceptable?

Today, I took several (blows) pieces of ‘bad’ news about my ‘role’ and what I do for the company. Here we go again. The question is, can I find any tiny bits of good will to see me through? Or…what is the or?

Here we go again

Every year, around about this time, I get a little bit distracted. Not because there’s anything going on with my family, but because it’s close to the birthday of a special girl. I had a dream about her last night. I haven’t seen her for five years – almost to the day. And in one month she’ll be 12 years old.

As her ex-step-mother, I have no right to see her, or any access to be able to see her and I miss her terribly. (I have blogged about her before). I often wonder how she’s doing. I wonder how she’s growing up? Whether she’s enjoying school. Whether she’s a bright spark, a sporty miss or whether she’s just not enjoying it at all. Has she got a boyfriend? But, most of all I wonder whether she’s happy.

Unfortunately, I’ll think about her now every day until after her birthday. A little bit of me wondering if/whether/should I send her a card and if I do will it actually reach her. I know where she lives, but her mother always resented my presence in K’s life. I have my doubts whether the previous cards (birthday and christmas) ever got there.

K has a brother too. I miss him, but my relationship with him wasn’t the same. There wasn’t the same connection between us, as he’d been older when Daddy introduced his new girlfriend. K had been a baby. He was six. He was conflicted and torn between his loyalty to his Mother and the fact that he thought I was cool. Wherever he is, I hope he is happy too.

So, to all you step-parents out there – past and present – I’m sending you hugs. It’s not easy. And it’s hard if you create a bond which you lose. We all know that the rewards are high for step-parents when things are good, but very few blogs I read talk about this side of it.

Thinking about Gran

This week’s been another challenging week at work, for many reasons. It’s left my faith in companies, their HR functions, and management styles much depleted. But, it’s also caused me to look at my background, where I come from and how my family have worked in the past.

I’m the first one in my family to go to University. The first to leave the family home, town, region for somewhere very different. To my Gran, it was rather a strange choice, but one that she accepted easily. She was born, grew up, lived, married, worked, had a family and is still living in the same town. Yes, she lived for 23 years with my parents in Scotland, but she wanted to move back to her ‘home’ to be closer to the extended family.  Me moving to London was bizarre, but OK.

My Gran and Granddad were of the generation that worked in the same town all their lives. They worked for the same company for a number of years (many, many, moons!). They grew up with the people around them. They know (knew) everyone. So, when I moved to London, Gran came to visit. For her, sitting in my flat all day while I went to the ‘city’ to work, commuting longer than took for Gran to walk from one part of her town across to the other, it was odd. Gran always stayed for a month a year with me. She would either come by train, to Kings Cross, or I would bring her back with me in the car. She would iron, bake, wash, tidy, do word searches and watch TV while I was at work. In the evenings, we’d go out to eat. I introduced her to Pizza Express, Cafe Rouge, Thai food, and Bella Pasta. She loved Chinese food, and would always have the same thing.

Despite my university education, marketing manager position in a city firm and a making a decent living, I was not allowed to pay for anything. i had to resort to desperate measures to ensure that I paid for dinner. i felt guilty if she paid. So, there were many, many times where I was a very bad, disobedient granddaughter.

I loved taking her out. I loved treating her.

Today where she’s in the residential home, I feel guilty again. I’m not there to visit. I can’t just pop in on my way home from work. I don’t see her as much as I’d like to. So, I look back on the times where I shared my home with her. Laughed with her, ordered her a Bailey’s after dinner, and watched as she got mad with me on realising I’d already paid the bill.

I miss my Gran. I hope she knows just how much she means to me and how much I would love to see her more.

The UK is Snowbound?

The past week has been dominated by headlines of “UK snowbound” and “UK grinds to a halt” etc. There’s been widespread snow and falling temperatures over the past week in the UK. My parents have snow drifts up to 3m in height. I have three inches of snow outside the front door. My parents have been making a daily 80-mile round trip to see friends. I’ve been to work three times. The difference? Being used to the weather. And, being correctly equipped.

My first memory of living in the remote Glen (Glen Brerachan), I was 13 years old. Resentful. Wilful. Highly spirited. Disgusted that my parents would make me live in such a remote location. And then Winter hit us. We had white outs – I’d never heard of them before. We had snow drifts so deep that you could build ‘snow holes’ in them and hide. It was warmer inside the snowdrift than out. People abandoned their cars and walked to the nearest house, where they were welcomed as old friends (whether or not they were total strangers) and the entire community pulled together to make sure that old, young and needy were taken care of.

That year, I had three and a half weeks off school. The main road was closed for weeks. We had to wait for the local authority to bring a snow cutter into the Glen to cut through the massive three plus metre snow drifts. Even when the snow cutter arrived, we had longer to wait as there were cars abandoned inside snow drifts. Meanwhile, the community rallied around each other. The shepherd, Chic, loaded up his wife, collected lists of groceries from various households and drove in his Zeter (Russian brand of tractor) 20 miles to the nearest town. I learned to ski. It was the only way for me to get to the school bus.

I remember walking with my mum to the nearest village – 4 miles away – through the frozen snowdrifts to pick up essentials. It was a total winter wonderland.

Over the past 10 -15 years, the Winters haven’t really been that bad. They’ve eased somewhat and we ‘Glenners’ have defined this as ‘global warming’ – until now. To have heavy snow, as it’s been this week, as heavy as it is, is completely different. Unheard of. It would be OK in January. February even. But November? No way.

Today, in my Glen it was -22 degrees. My parents have  snow drifts that are three metres high and one of their cars is buried. They have to run the heating 24 x 7 just to maintain a bit of warmth in the house.

I worry about them constantly.

And I feel guilty when I complain that I’m cold. I’ve been in the South too long. I’ve gone soft. It’s 21 degrees in my lounge. I know my parents are about to go to bed and I know that their bedroom is a mere 6 degrees.

My parents have heating, thankfully. I will make sure that they’ll always have heating, but other, older people, don’t have a ‘me-type’ to help out and it’s not cheap to stay warm. What do they do?

Mac vs PC

I’ve long waited for my old laptop to die. It’s been giving up the ghost for months. About a month ago, I backed up all the data, including all the email files, ready for it to go to the big electronics graveyard (i.e. the dump). Then, my darling BF gave me a present. He bought me a MacBook. Out of the blue. Well, it’s for Christmas, but I’ve got it early.

I love it. It boots in a second. It is awake in a second.

I am now utterly frustrated by my work PC, my home PC and my phone – all of which are Windows based.

My BF says it won’t be long before I’ve got an iMac, and iPhone and I change my home WiFi to be Apple.

He might just be right…