Reflections of 2021!

What a year this has been for everyone…yet another year revolved around Covid which is becoming a new ‘normal’. Absolutely it has had an impact on 2021 for me personally but as I sit and reflect on this year it isn’t the first thing that springs to mind, instead its more like a sideline. Admittedly it is heart-breaking that it is still affecting so many lives and that so many lives have been lost to Covid, what I find more saddening and disappointing (although not surprising) is the governments handling of it and the anti-Covid/anti-vaxxers out there.

I howled with laughter when I watched Live at the Apollo Christmas Special on BBC iPlayer when Jason Manford spoke about Covid….the best bits were when he spoke about people who listen to the scientists and medical professionals and trust and accept what we are told (even if we don’t like it) and those who don’t believe what incredibly intelligent people are telling us and instead take to the university of Facebook for ‘facts’ on Covid. He talked about someone taking the piss out of him for wearing a mask and he said well ‘I figure if I’m wrong, I just accidentally wore a mask for a year whereas if you’re wrong someone’s nana died, you know?’ Brilliant!!

I know this is the time of year when you’ll see lots of posts about creating jars filled with positivity and some people write down all the good things that have happened throughout the year so that on New Year’s Eve, they can empty the jar and remind themselves…I love that idea, but I admit that I can imagine I’d get to the end of January and stop doing it. However, if I had done that it would have helped me write this post!! Instead, I’ve had to wrack my brain and look back through my calendar and photos to remind myself.

So much has happened this year…. I’ve certainly been through a lot, even I can’t quite believe it.

So, I’ll start with the not so brilliant things….

-Lockdown – although I enjoyed spending quality time with my girls, particularly as I knew that Florrie would be starting school in September. A highlight of lockdown was being able to legitimately go to York for my Covid vaccines!!

-Going through another court case…this time for divorce proceedings and it was pretty horrendous, it could have broken me at the injustice but instead I had to focus on the positives which were that I was finally free from my ex, and I was given a lump sum.

– My first surrogacy experience with a set of Intended Parents went pear shaped and knocked me down to the point where I questioned if surrogacy was something I wanted to carry on with.

– Having my jaw broken by my dentist which resulted in me being in a lot of pain for 2 months and led to me having to have an operation under general anaesthetic which petrified me, but it’s done, and I am now pain free and hopefully my jaw is pretty much healed.

Now for the better things!!…

  • I GOT DIVORCED!!!!! – Definitely a highlight of my year!!!
  • I booked 2 holidays for 2022 (Covid permitting) …so I’ll have to get over my fear of flying for one of them!
  • I completed the Ration Challenge and raised £440 for refugees. I am proud of this achievement, not only because it was tough going but also because I never imagined that I would raise that much, I didn’t even know if I’d raise £50 as I don’t know that many people. I’m very grateful for everyone who donated and sent words of support!
  • I passed the first year of my counselling course
  • I gave a presentation to the rest of my class at college where I had to speak openly about myself for 10 minutes…it was the first time I revealed so much about myself. It was a major milestone for me.
  • I got a tattoo… which I never thought I would do and I still love it. (Which is lucky because I’m stuck with it!!)
  • I started my placement as a trainee counsellor, and I am now more than 1/3rd of the way through the 100 hours I need to qualify!
  • Amazingly I was incredibly lucky to find and be able to purchase a house of my own – I still can’t believe it. It has taken a huge weight off my shoulders as the rising cost of renting was terrifying. I have to admit that I found moving and the process of buying a house rather stressful, but I did it.
  • I got to spend some quality time with my best friend, and we had annual trip to Bettys for afternoon tea which we hadn’t actually done for 3 years!
  • Florrie started school!! Fortunately, she has taken to it like a duck to water and loves it! She had a glowing report and ended the year by playing Mary in the school nativity! I am very proud of her.
  • Even though my first experience of surrogacy didn’t work out I met Paige through my old IPs, and I feel very lucky to have her in my life.
  • I met the lovely Ali & Andrew through surrogacy, and we are embarking on our journey together.
  • I have enjoyed discovery myself (even though there is still more to go) …I am so much happier in my own skin and feel like me and I quite like me. I have definitely taken more risks in the past year, mainly speaking more openly which I find risky as I still have a fear of judgement and rejection, but I am getting better at this. My best friend has massively helped with this as she has encouraged me to say how I feel and take more risks as life is too short.
  • And….my Christmas wish came true!!!

I am looking forward to 2022 and can’t wait to spend time with the important people in my life, to create lots of happy memories and hopefully qualify as a counsellor!

On reflection, I have realised that it is too easy to get caught up in life and to forget the good things that have happened. So as much as I still may forget to carry it on, I think keeping a notebook handy to jot down some key happy memories throughout the year would be a lovely thing to do. Having a notebook by the side of your bed is an easy way to jot things down before you go to sleep, and it will become something really nice to look at either at the end of the year or whenever you want to remind yourself of these things.

So, here’s to 2022…I hope it brings you all happy memories!

Birthday…

So last week was my birthday and I wasn’t particularly excited about it as I didn’t have anything exciting planned (and I wasn’t keen on hitting 35!).

However, I woke up to discover it was snowing and it looked beautiful as the snowflakes were falling and I couldn’t help thinking that it was my Grandads way of saying Happy Birthday as he knew how much I love snow. It’s been years since its snowed on my birthday, so it felt rather special. Before it was time to do the school run there was just about enough snow to have a snowball fight with my girls which was a giggle although despite it being Mummy’s birthday, they both still got me!!!

Then I had 2 clients to see but I knew that we can’t always have our birthday off, I guess I have been spoilt in recent years having not worked since I was pregnant with my eldest daughter. I couldn’t help recalling 2 years ago when I woke up in a lovely hotel in Prague where I was served prosecco with my breakfast and last year despite being in ‘tiers’ we still made the most of it by going to the beach and paddling!

However, as I drove back from seeing my clients, I couldn’t help but feel honoured to be training to be a counsellor. One of my clients had shared something with me that they had never felt able to share with anyone before and I was incredibly touched and honoured. Some of my peers from my course said that they would have been honest with their clients and told them it was their birthday but I’m not one for drawing attention to myself and I wouldn’t have wanted it to affect their session e.g., if they then felt unable to share anything less than pleasant.

My day was broken up by having a birthday lunch with my Mum which was lovely as I don’t often get chance to spent quality time with her without my girls.

I then had to go to college which I wasn’t thrilled by purely as this meant that I wouldn’t see my girls as they would be asleep by the time, I got home but being the big kid that I am I decided to have a birthday tea the following day…mainly so that my girls could blow out candles! A few of us managed to sneak away early from college and went into a tipi bar for a couple of drinks which was a lovely way to end the day.

My eldest daughter kept asking how old I was, and she rolled her eyes every time I tried to convince her I was 8 or 21 as she didn’t believe me!! So, once she knew I was 35 she was determined to put 35 candles in the cake!! Fortunately, my Mum convinced her not to put that many candles in the cake but there must have been more than 20!!

If it wasn’t enough that my daughter kept asking how old I was my wonderful best friend (are you sensing the sarcasm?!) kept rubbing it in that I was now a year older than her (for the next 6 months) and that I was now in my MID thirties meanwhile she is still in her early thirties!!! Fortunately, we have known each other that long that we can take the mickey out of each other and know that we love each other really.

So, all in all it was a lovely birthday and I felt very lucky to have some special people in my life!

Making memories…

I am currently on holiday with my little girls and with it being the last holiday before my eldest daughter starts school, I am focused even more than ever on cherishing every minute and making memories as a family. Of course, there will be plenty more opportunities to do this throughout their childhood, this feels like a momentous moment before one of my eldest’s first big milestones in life.

For my girls, this week marks more cherished moments together as well as a family. I love nothing more than seeing the smiles on their faces, hearing them giggling and seeing how carefree and happy they are. They are both still so innocent and that is priceless.

Sometimes I wish I could record every moment of their lives so that I could remember every moment because it goes so fast. They are both growing up so quickly and becoming unique individuals.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could just press pause sometimes to hold on to the here and now?!

Being away gives us the chance to fully embrace time together without all the distractions of everyday life from the phone calls to the washing up, washing, shopping, cooking, cleaning…the list goes on.

I know I say ‘in a minute’ or ‘Mummy’s busy’ far too often to my girls when I am trying to prepare tea and put the washing out and wash up all at the same time or similar daily chores.

However, I can’t beat myself up about it because I also know how much quality time my girls do get with me. Not a night goes by without me reading them a bedtime story, singing to them, and giving them oodles of cuddles and love.

You can’t put a price on the love you feel as a mother and being able to have time away with them is incredibly special.

Despite taking some photo’s, I’ve not taken 1000’s because it’s also been nice to not have to carry my phone with me all the time and instead of taking photos to capture our holiday and memories, having the memories just for myself.

Making memories with those that you love and treasure …is incredibly precious. It doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg or involve anything extravagant, just spending time doing something fun together is all that matters.

Some of the best memories so far this week have included going on adventures without clock watching and being able to fully embrace those moments, whilst having both girls holding my hands, knowing that it won’t be that long in the scheme of things before they won’t want to hold my hand anymore.

Having people in your life that you can laugh with, be silly with, have fun with and share a hug with are those that matter most!

I can’t remember the last time I was able to take the girls away on my own for a week, it was definitely pre-Covid!

So far, it has been amazing, we have made lots of memories and I am looking forward to more holidays with the most precious little people in my world!

Birthday fairy!

This week has been a busy one, full of adventures, running around like a headless chicken and trying to keep my Mary Poppins persona always going! (As I write this I am smiling and wondering if I maybe expect too much from myself?!)

My youngest daughter turned 3 last week, I do not know how that happened! She will always be my baby (mind you, both my girls are) but she is quickly turning into a little girl with a personality full of love, life, cheekiness, feistiness, and giggles! As you may know from reading an earlier post, at times I have struggled with my youngest daughter but not anymore. Of course, there are times when she can be challenging (as with all children) but now I find it easier as I recognise that she takes after her Mummy! I certainly do not want her to lose that feistiness, stubbornness, or zest for life! She is certainly far braver than I am, but I love that about her – although having said that, when we went to Sundown Adventureland as part of her birthday, I was surprised that she was not too keen on the rides especially the water ride that sprayed water on you – whereas Mummy loved it and would have happily gone on it again! Saying that, my eldest (and myself) loved the Christmas ride and after much persuasion we managed to convince my youngest to let us have a second ride!

Both my daughters believe in the birthday fairy (which I am aware, may be hard to keep up for the entirety of their childhood!) which is lovely although not always easy as surprise surprise…. I am the birthday fairy! Shhhh…don’t tell anyone!! So, the birthday fairy buys presents and wraps them up, this year she also made both girls a princess dress (because I do not have enough to do!!), organise and prepare party games including pass the parcels which includes a small sweet/chocolate in every layer, and source party food in secret and a cake. Then the night before when the girls are in bed, she has to secretly bring down the presents and decorate the house with banners and balloons. This year she had a bit of a cold so instead of blowing up 58,000 balloons she used a hand pump, by the time she had pumped them all up she felt as though her arm was going to fall off or that she would wake up with one arm looking like Popeye!!

It is wonderful to see children’s imagination and seeing the world through their eyes is amazing.

It made me smile when we woke up on her birthday and I said happy birthday and she said, ‘Happy birthday Mummy’. She knew it was her birthday though and she was very excited but the thing she likes most to begin with was playing with all the balloons – never mind the presents! It was her sister that wanted her to open the presents rather than play with balloons. However, she soon got into it and unlike last year when she soon tired of unwrapping presents this year, she happily ripped the paper off them and enjoyed playing with her presents. It was far too hot to play musical statues, but she still managed to convince my mum to do the leg dance to How Will You Know by Whitney Houston!

Then we spent an amazing day with my best friend and her little girls at the seaside and they all happily played in the sea for hours. I loved seeing them all so happy and my little one was more than happy to get covered in sand and found it funny when the sea decided to invade our picnic which meant we all got wet!! It was safe to say that we probably brought more sand home with us than at the beach and we were finding sand everywhere! We made so many happy memories and it was much needed to be able to relax, giggle and feel myself without judgement. We sat and put the world to rights and gave each other a much-needed boost as we both can be a little harsh on ourselves. (One example is that I aim to post 2 blogs every week but having spent the week running around and not having a minute to myself as well as feeling a little run down I decided I should not beat myself up because I hadn’t managed to do that this week).

I felt a little emotional on her birthday, partly because it was so hot, and we could not do an awful lot as we were all struggling and also reminiscing about how many people appeared to care when she was born and in the first few months of her life but that most of them have disappeared. Of course, I blamed myself for that as I do not have a big family or a lot of friends and my girls are so amazing, they deserve all the love in the world. However, on reflection I know that it is not quantity that matters its quality and that those people who have disappeared must be false and therefore not worthy of being in their lives. There are too many false people in the world as it is, and I would much rather my girls be surrounded with genuine people who love and care about them no matter what.

As I write this, I am still surrounded by balloons which of course I will not get rid of until the weekend as I grew up with birthdays being celebrated for a week (meaning that we kept cards, banners, balloons up etc).

Sometimes I wish I could press a pause button so that they stopped growing up for a bit as it goes so fast, having said that, everyday is a new adventure with them.

End of restrictions…

Well, we all knew that it was coming, and it has been a long time coming. For some of us it cannot come soon enough and for others we are more hesitant, particularly given how many cases there are in the UK at the moment.

To be honest I did think that good old Boris would decide that life should go back to normal on the 19th July as I imagine he needs to keep people happy (e.g., businesses and other MP’s) however once again it feels as though he is passing the buck to society by telling us to use common sense as we move forward. Is he completely ignorant of how selfish and ignorant a large proportion of society is?! Give them an inch and they will take a mile! I have already seen people blatantly not wearing face masks on buses and refusing to wear them in shops despite what the rules are and security guards reminding them of this. I only imagine that now he has made the announcement that social distancing rules and face masks being compulsory are going out the window on 19th July that people will think they do not need to bother anymore.

I understand that we are going to have to learn to live with Covid and that will involve an element of risks and unknown factors, however I do not understand why Boris has said that masks will no longer be compulsory. Given that cases are increasing, hospital admissions are on the rise again and not everyone has had both vaccines, yet I would have thought that face masks would have been the one thing to have stayed at least until things improved or until all over 18’s had been offered both vaccines. (Or at least in schools, on public transport, hospitals, large gatherings etc.)

I wonder how businesses feel now that they have implemented all the one-way systems, screens, signs, hand gel etc about taking it all away? Will they be jumping for joy to be able to remove them all or will they want to be able to keep some of these things in place? Personally, I hope that hand gel will remain a part of life, after all, it has been noted how general illnesses have plummeted during covid and hand gel is bound to have played a part in this (as well as face masks).

I have enjoyed booking for events and knowing that numbers are limited so now I am not sure how I will feel about going out particularly in indoor venues such as a cinema.

I never thought that I would feel comfortable wearing a face mask, but they have become part of the norm and personally I will continue to wear one in supermarkets and crowded venues even though I have been double jabbed.

I hope more than anything that people will be kind to one another as we take the next step into life that will be as close to pre-Covid as possible. I hope we will not judge one another whether we decide to wear face masks or not, whether we jump at the first chance to go to a nightclub or whether we are more hesitant about going out once restrictions are removed. After all, it has been more than 16 months since we were able to go out and about without face masks and without keeping our distance from one another. My youngest daughter certainly cannot remember a time before Covid and one of her first words was hand gel.

However, you feel about restrictions lifting I hope you will remember to be kind to yourself and others and treasure the memories made during lockdown. Although it has been bizarre and at times incredibly challenging, I have made lots of wonderful memories and have made a photo album for both lockdowns to remind ourselves of these treasured times. I mean, when else would I be having a birthday tea party whilst playing musical chairs in my 30’s rather than going away?! I got to spend so much quality time with my children and mum and I am incredibly grateful for those times.

Family…

Families come in all different shapes and sizes. Some mean more to people than others and I guess culture can play a part in that.

I am very close to mine; some may say too close because I couldn’t be too far away from them and it’s a contributing factor as to why I’d never emigrate or move hundreds of miles away. Admittedly we have to live our lives for ourselves, but I suppose it comes down to what we value and what we want out of life.

So, when asked about my family I can chose how much detail I go into on that one. In its most simple form, my family is a twig! But I love my twig very much!! My twig consists of me, my mum and my two daughters. My grandad was also a huge part of my life and was more like a father figure. I still think about him every day and miss him very much. He was an amazing man who I loved a lot. I wish he had been around to meet my girls; he would have been an amazing great grandad. He would have given them £1-coin every time he saw them, offered them a morning coffee biscuit or a chocolate digestive and even let them dunk it! He would have shared his bacon sandwich or tea cake with them, cutting it up into small pieces and no doubt ending up with none for himself! He would have let them honk his bicycle horn that he had on his table and made them giggle. Every time I see a robin, I say hello to him – Grandad loved birds and I believe it’s him coming to see us whenever I see one.

Sounds fairly straight forward right? Well, it is and it isn’t. When I get asked about my dad, I suppose it depends on who’s asking and how I feel as to how I answer that one! In the past I’ve just said I don’t have one. People who have known me since I was a little girl will know that I did have a ‘dad’ until I was 9 years old. So, this is when it gets confusing! I can remember a woman visiting us a few times when I was little, and I can remember going to court when as far as I knew my ‘dad’ adopted me. I was a clever little girl, but I still only remember him being in my life as he was around since I was 2 so being adopted by him didn’t bring any questions up for me as he’d been around all my life as far as I was concerned.

Then less than 2 years later after what I can only describe as a picture-perfect childhood, I remember waking up one night to the sound of arguing and went to sit on the stairs where upon I listened to my mum and dad arguing. I can’t remember what it was about, but I remember going downstairs and begging my dad not to leave and asking him to promise me that he never would.

I can still remember to this day; he did indeed promise me he would never leave. (Not something I personally think a parent should ever say to their child, the damage is horrendous when this promise is broken). Then I remember either the next day or soon afterwards (bearing in mind that he had promised he would never leave), he sat me down and told me he was leaving, meanwhile my mum was in floods of tears and my dad’s offer of comfort or consolation was giving me the Argos catalogue and saying that I can choose something out of it from him, I suppose as a leaving gift!!!

Needless to say, my world crumbled around me after this and I never saw him or his parents again. (Sorry I’m having a shiny eyed moment…deep breath)

Anyway, without going into the consequences of his departure right now, over the years it raised questions for me.

One day I discovered 2 birth certificates for me…one with who I believed to be my dad on it and one with a different man’s name on it. I was only a young teenager at this time. So, this is when I found out about my birth father. I was confused as to why my adopted dad did indeed adopt me, after all he had been in my life since I was 2 and was married to my mum so why did he feel the need to adopt me? I also found out that my mum had to adopt me too and there was a long in-depth process to do this. I have to admit that I then questioned if my mum was my mum, I mean why would your birth mum adopt you?! I didn’t look like my mum; I didn’t think I was like my mum and my ‘dad’ had just vanished off the face of the planet. What was I to think? But the UK legal system is very odd sometimes and I eventually stopped questioning this.

So, when I found out about my birth father, I discovered a whole other side to my family I never knew I had including grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and siblings.

I’d always wanted to have a brother or sister and a big family – a bit like the Walton’s!! So, I was excited at the thought of having a bigger family. But being a teenager, being a deep thinker, worrying about my mum, fearing rejection again and questioning why I’d want to try to get to know someone who has already rejected me once, I struggled with this. (However, in recent years I have met some of my extended family and recently I have started to get to know my birth father and his family).

I was left with a lot of different sides of stories and a lot of unanswered questions.

I later discovered that my adopted dad had remarried and gone on to have 2 of his own children. Imagine how that made me feel?!

So, from the age of 10 onwards it was just me, my mum and my grandad. They will always be the core of my family. They were always there for me and they are who I grew up with, they’re the ones I share memories with. My grandad was a traditional man, he never really spoke about things other than the weather yet his love for me never seemed to change despite him knowing I was gay (which I know he never understood) and he even came to my wedding.

I don’t intend to live in the past, but I know I struggle with not knowing the answers to things. Not knowing how or why a parent can abandon their child and disappear off the face of the earth.

However, I am lucky to have such a close relationship with my mum and my girls are very close with her too – they definitely have her wrapped around their little fingers!!!

I also believe that friends are the families we choose for ourselves. So to add to my twig there is also my lifelong best friend who is more like a sister to me. We have known each other for 29 years now and have been there for each other ever since. I love her to pieces! What is also special is that she has 2 little girls that are a similar age to mine and they are all very close.

I’ve often said I could write the script for a soap opera based on my life!

My family have given me strength and unconditional love always and I couldn’t have got through the last couple of years without them. They are absolutely amazing, and I love them with all my heart!

So, I have a very strong twig for my family tree but I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Today, I’ll leave you with this…. whoever you class as family, I know it’s harder especially during lockdown but pick up the phone and tell them how much you love them! If they are in your house or your bubble, give them an extra squeeze! I sent some pocket hugs to those I can’t see right now to let them know I’m still there and will be giving them an extra extra long hug when the time comes!!

Finally, one of my favourite scenes in Lilo and Stitch is when stitch says….

(particularly as it’s similar to my name!)