Sunday 23 July 2017


It's suddenly only two weeks to 40, and recently I've been asked a lot about how my list is doing. I'm pretty impressed with myself - of the 22 things on the list, I've completed 13, I'm part-way through another five, and the other four... probably not going to happen.More details on how I'm doing with the 22 are below. Just as important, though, is whether with two weeks to go, I feel that I've got what I wanted to get from this experience, and - cringe cringe - what I've learnt about myself. 

To answer that first part - if I got the experience I wanted - I'm really glad I did this. I feel I'll look back on the year, and the blog, and be glad that I marked it and that I actively did a few things that I've thought about doing for a long time. Most of all I'm glad I did the happiness jar. It's such a simple concept, so easy to do, and my jar is now full of little notes of things that have made me happy over the last 38 weeks. I don't remember what any of them were so am really really excited to read them all on my birthday, I think that's going to be really lovely.

If there was something on my list that I decided I didn't want to do, I haven't wasted any time feeling obliged to do it anyway. I'm just not going to do it. Less straightforward has been when I haven't been able to find, or make, the time to do the things that I've really wanted to do. I've realised, partly due to this exercise, that my life at the moment really doesn't allow for me to have much free time. To an extent I've always felt as thought that was a bit of an excuse and that there's plenty of opportunity for me to make time if I want to. But I've come to accept that even though I have a lot of help from family, I still have three children, one of whom is a toddler, a job, a husband who is fantastic when he's at home but isn't at home a few days every week - and that really does limit the literal time, and the headspace, to do as much of this list as I'd have liked. So I'm not going to learn to juggle. I'm not going to learn to say hello in any languages I don't know yet. And I'm certainly not going to go a week without coffee. Probably ever.

The original list is here and this is how it's going:

Completed: the happiness jar; the week without chocolate and TV; the documentaries, graphic design, affirmations, and drawing a face; raising money for charity; working with a community charity; Benjy and Chloë's requests for me to tidy a bookcase and go to York Museum; I've been to a gig (Ed and I in student-ville on a Monday night); and I knitted something (photo below!).

In progress: the non-fiction book. This is not going well at all! You may remember that Ed narrowed it down to four books for me to choose from, here, and I chose 'What's Left'. Well I never got past page 15. Just wasn't going to happen. So a couple of weeks ago I changed my book choice and started reading 'The Road to Wigan Pier' instead. That's not going well either! I think this is one that will end up on the 'not going to do it after all' list.

Also in progress is the reading more than watching TV. Again, not going brilliantly - frankly I'm just too tired - but I've re-instated a book club that I used to be in before Erin was born which I think will give me the motivation I need. The post-natal exercises are going well, I'm due to give blood for my second time in this 40 weeks the day after tomorrow, and I'm doing OK on the piano piece - although I can see that extending beyond my birthday and into - well, well into - the next year.

Not happening. A week without coffee - nope. Juggling - nope. Learning to say hello in lots of languages - nope. And not saying anything negative for a day, once a month - not sure I like what it says about me but I never even wanted to try this one! As an aside, the hello in other languages thing was, at one point, changed to learning basic Italian before our holiday there this summer. I still plan to do that, but don't feel I can really say it's in progress yet.

Here's a photo of the knitting. Explanation first. I really enjoyed knitting, really really enjoyed it. But it takes a looooong time. And as I sat knitting I couldn't help but think of all the other things I should and could be doing. So I decided I'd knit fingerless gloves, that's pretty quick. Then I changed it to a scarf for Chloë; then a scarf for Erin; then a headband for Erin; then in the end, it ended up being a headband for Erin's doll! But I did it! I knitted something!

Monday 6 March 2017

Blood and incentives

Ed devised this chart to incentivise me to do the exercises I need to do for post-natal recovery, so that I can eventually get on to proper exercise. It's working quite well. I think all I needed is someone else keeping an eye on what I am and am not doing, and an incentive - for every 30 ticks, he gets me a present/surprise. Intriguing... I'll get to 30, but will it be worth getting to 60?

Took these two hooligans with me to give blood. I'm pretty sure nobody there appreciated it in the slightest. They've never come with me before, and I wanted them to see it, understand what it's about, and not be afraid of blood or needles. But next time, I'm going on my own!

Tuesday 21 February 2017

If you only read one blog post, please make it this one

I've bored people to death about this, I know, but it's important to me, and it's my blog, and my 40th, so please, bear with me and give me the benefit of the doubt.

I want to explain more about my choices for number 13, the two charities I'm supporting. It's always so hard to choose to support a smaller charity when the big ones - cancer, NSPCC, heart disease - are so incredibly important, and more often that not touch our lives in ways we wish they didn't. I often feel guilty and even embarrassed about admitting that I am choosing smaller charities that can seem 'lesser' - but please, read on, and I hope I can do a decent job of explaining.

The first is Pregnancy Sickness Support (PSS) - a charity which, if you know nothing about it, seems to be asking for money to help women who have morning sickness. No. That is not right. Morning sickness is horrible, sure, I had it with Benjy and Chloë and it's miserable. But Pregnancy Sickness Support is about research and support for women with hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) - this is NOT MORNING SICKNESS. It's a very different disease and again, because this is my blog, I'd love you to read on and understand more about it and why it's so devastating.

The thing that gets me the most is that in the UK, 1,000 women terminate a wanted pregnancy every year because their illness is so bad. That's 1,000 babies a year whose parents wanted them, but who aren't here, because for some women it was a choice between their life and the baby's; for others, they were so severely ill that continuing with the pregnancy would mean losing a job, which for many women means not being able to pay the rent; and for others, medicine just hasn't yet got the drugs they needed to be able to cope with the pregnancy.

Vomiting 50 times a day; burning your oesophagus from the acid you're throwing up; post-traumatic stress disorder for years afterwards; kidney failure; post-natal depression; diabetes; fear and avoidance of sex in case you fall pregnant (both partners) - these are all real, regular consequences of HG. Death has even been reported recently in the US due to HG. And another - it sounds small, but imagine this in your own situation - stopping at one child when you always dreamt of more because you simply can't survive another pregnancy. And the worst thing is, there are drugs which can help, but because of the thalidomide experience, many doctors won't prescribe them, or doctors themselves don't see the difference between morning sickness and HG as being significant enough to warrant treatment. But there is clinical evidence, there are new guidelines, and slowly things are changing.

It sounds dramatic but I literally don't know how I'd have survived my pregnancy with Erin without the advice and support that PSS gave me, and given that Chloë and Erin are more likely than not to have HG, it matters enormously to me that things improve for women going through this awful condition. My case was only mild. I only lost a stone - albeit in the first 9 weeks of pregnancy - much less than most women; I never had to go to hospital to be rehydrated; my choices were between things like having a shower or lying downstairs on the sofa rather than in bed that day (it was one or the other, shower or go downstairs; to do both was impossible), or deciding whether it was worth stretching across the bed to reach the TV remote which would lead to half an hour of dry retching, or not retch but sit in silence all day; these are good choices, not like the choice of whether or not to keep my baby. I was lucky.

It's not morning sickness. Until you've seen it, please, take my word for it. PSS is desperate for funds - it's a small charity representing a poorly understood condition and it's in real danger of not surviving. I volunteer my time, and for my 40th, I will support them financially too.

I'd also mentioned in my 40to40 list that I want to support Tommy's, previously a 'miscarriage charity' but they now brand themselves 'saving babies' lives'. This week marks the due date for my first pregnancy, nine years ago. I had a miscarriage at 12 weeks. It was awful, and even though I fell pregnant with Benjy soon afterwards and that pregnancy, and the subsequent two, went smoothly, it took me a little while to come to terms with the loss of the first pregnancy. As time went on I thought about it less and less, but I do still think about it, particularly at this time of year. We knew at the time that it was 'just one of those things' and the way we responded to it was reflective of that, but later, when I started understanding more about pregnancy through my work with PSS, I got a better sense and more of an awareness of what other families go through, when things are much, much worse - repeated, inexplicable miscarriages, at all stages of the pregnancy, through to full term. I didn't use Tommy's for support after I miscarried - I used another, smaller organisation - but the information and support I got from there helped me enormously. Tommy's does that and a lot more - they research prematurity, miscarriage and stillbirth and support families who experience these things. They're a fantastic organisation, I've donated to them in the past but it never feels enough, and that's why I want to do something for them too this year.

Thursday 12 January 2017

New year update

Time and tiredness (when when when will Erin consistently sleep all night...?) are the barriers to many of the things I haven't started, or got very far with, yet. Maybe I have unrealistic expectations of how much 'free time' I have with a 9, 6 and 1 year old, a job, and a husband who's sometimes not here. However, it's all a learning curve, and if one of the things I learn in this exercise is that I am asking too much of myself and that I need to be firm with myself about what I do and don't take on, then I'm happy with that.

So, where am I? I've started the non-fiction book but am too tired to take any of it in when it comes to reading it in the evenings. But I'm ploughing on. I'm listening to factual podcasts which I'm finding very interesting. I haven't yet dared face a week without TV, it's such a nice way to flop and switch off with my spare 10 minutes at the end of the day. Also haven't done a week without coffee. I've realised that it's the ritual of making and drinking it that I love, rather than the coffee itself. I think that week, when I come to it, will be hard. I'm listening to classical music but find that I drift off into my own thoughts rather than actually listen. I'm at the early stages of involvement with local community charities - I'd originally hoped to get very involved with one charity, on a committee, but have now seen and accepted that time will be an issue (I've already had to, very reluctantly, cut back on my time commitments to another charity I volunteer for) so I am dipping in and out of various charities. Ed has an amazing plan for me learning my favourite song on the piano, a brilliant, achievable, plan; I just keep forgetting to practice. The ten minutes I need for that are also the ten minutes I need for a million other things, notably the post-natal exercises and reading. I need to focus on prioritising, without creating more of a burden for myself. All other things are in hand or in motion except the knitting which I've not yet started, the juggling which I think may well be crossed off the list altogether, and the hello in 40 languages. I'm thinking of changing that last one to learning the basics of Italian as we've just booked a holiday there for the summer and I know literally none, something I'm never comfortable with when abroad.

Back with another update sometime. Arrivaderci for now.

Monday 28 November 2016

Dungeons, faces and a small amendment

With Eddie away on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico (as you do) at the weekend I was looking for a day out with the kids, and decided to do number 15, which was Chloë's request - a trip to York Museum. A drive and a bus ride later (and that sounds way quicker, simpler and more pleasant than it actually was) we were there and once in, I was so glad I'd put it on the list as Chlo was so excited to show me everything she'd seen on her school trip there last spring, as was Benjy. They loved the Victorian schoolroom and the dressing up section, I loved the old toys, Erin loved running in the opposite direction to the rest of us. I also loved this bit:

Later the same weekend I started on drawing faces. This was my first attempt. I was really impressed with myself until I showed Benjy and Chloë and they both concluded these were rubbish! Which I guess they are... but they're more than I could do this time last week.

An update on no chocolate week. It wasn't hard at all. I barely noticed it. I realise that I could challenge myself further by doing it again, for longer... but I'm not going to!

And lastly, I showed my 40to40 list to my father-in-law who suggested swapping one of my nights of reading instead of watching TV, to listening to classical music. This is a great idea. Not least because I'm usually ironing which does make reading rather tricky, but also because I'm often too tired to read, and because when I was ill at the start of my pregnancy with Erin and was too poorly to read, I started listening to classical music and really enjoyed it. So that's a small amendment to my list.

Wednesday 16 November 2016

Educating myself (reluctantly)

I left it to Eddie to decide on a book that I should read, on a subject I've never had any interest in. Turns out there aren't really any subjects that I have no interest at all in - quite a relief to realise - but plenty that I would never want to read a book about. He narrowed it down to these four:

Absolutely none of them appeal. 'What's Left?' appeals even less than the other three. So that's the one I'll be reading.