The magic of Greece….

“…There is the heat of Love, the pulsing rush of Longing, the lover’s whisper, irresistible—magic to make the sanest man go mad.”
― HomerThe Iliad

I first went to Poros in August of 1993. After over 10 years of travelling around Greece, both on my own and with my first husband Steve, I opened a travel brochure and saw a picture of a gorgeous cerise sunset filling the sky above calm seas, and a number of boats, bobbing gently in calm bays. The edges of the sunset were tinged with orange and yellow. One look and I fell in love. I had not heard of Poros before. I knew of the Saronic Gulf having planned a holiday to Spetses with a friend when I was 17. We planned to stay in a big hotel with lots of night life, our first proper holiday abroad, cheap and cheerful. But she decided to get married, and we cancelled, losing our deposit.

Later that year in October, just after turning 18, I booked with a “singles” holiday company to visit an island called Thassos. Described as “the jewel of the Aegean” I was unprepared for the journey. Landing at Thessaloniki airport in the early hours, watched over by machine-gun toting guards, something that was not common back in 1976. We embarked on a 5-hour coach journey and along the way we watched Greek troops drilling and marching. It was kind of scary.

Sometime around dawn, we stopped for breakfast in the Greek equivalent of a motorway service station. On enquiring where the toilets were, we were directed down to a hut at the bottom of the car park where we discovered a fly-laden foul-smelling hole in the ground with 2 pieces of wood to stand on. As a complete novice traveler I was filled with horror and my bladder seized, refusing to let go, and I remained convinced that I was going to be unable to go to the toilet for 2 weeks – this actually was the start of a very strange relationship with my bladder when travelling…but that’s another story!

Back on the coach, feeling despairing, we travelled for another few hours until we came to the small port of Kavalla, where we embarked onto a small Greek ferry that stank of diesel and chugged along through a calm sunlit sea to my chosen island.

Thassos was gorgeous. Un-spoilt. Green, and welcoming. We were housed in “village rooms” and of course they were clean, comfortable and they had working loos! A basket for the loo paper of course, but flushing and clean! That is where my 40-year long love affair with Greece and the Greek people began.

I have often wondered if I had had that holiday in the big hotel in Spetse, would I have fallen in love with Greece in such a spectacular fashion? Spending time on that little island, getting to know the family that cared for me, even after I got so drunk on ouzo and lemonade that I lost a day, taught me so much about the Greek way of life and love of life. And there was a Greek boy, of course! His name was Christos and he was beautiful too! I was hooked.

Over the next 15 years I visited Greece most years. Often on my own – never quite brave enough to backpack, and sometimes with a friend, I visited many islands. Corfu, Kalymnos, Skiathos, Kos, Zante, Mykonos, Kefalonia…and some whose names I have forgotten.

When I met my first husband, I discovered that he too was a lover of Greece. And we continued our journey, Lefkas, Andros, and then finally Poros. Poros is where we stopped.

So what is it about Poros that has kept me going back time after time for some 24 years? Why do we keep coming back to the same place? It does not have the best sandy beaches and it is one hell of a journey to get there.

There is something about this little island that draws you in and embraces your heart, surrounding you with love and care, soothing your soul, breathing new life into you, however heavy your heart. I have spent time in Poros during the happiest times of my life, and some of the worst times of my life. And Poros has always made me feel content and at peace with myself. It works some kind of magic on the people that visit. And the beating heart of the island is the people.

Over the years I have made many friends on the island, and every time we visit they are so happy to see us. I am still friends with two people who I met on my very first night on the island.

In 1994 we went back for the second time. We stayed in a house we found to rent. I was 5 months pregnant, it was early May and we experienced Easter in Greece. It was an amazing experience. Spiritual, fun and full of passion.

In 1995 we took my 9-month old daughter to Poros for the first time. I even gave her a Greek name. Zoe means “life” in Greek. By the time we returned home she was walking. The following year she learned to swim in the pool of a little hotel close to the house we rented. Over the years the family that run that hotel have become our Greek family. The Saga hotel has become home and refuge over the years and every time I step out of the taxi and into the embrace of Zefi and Takis I know I am home. Zefi is an amazing cook, and Takis a generous host. Their children, Dimitra, Yiota and George are gracious and I love them.

Lunch with Takis, our host
Lunch with Takis, our host

There are many stories I could share from my visits over the years. I have many Greek friends who welcome us back with love every year. They have watched Zoe grow, and I have watched their children do the same. Some of those children have children of their own now!

Over the years there have been many changes on the island. When we first went there, there were over 1000 tourist beds on the island. Many big holiday firms included Poros in their brochure. Now there are none. With the economic problems over the last few years the island has struggled. But it has never lost its magic.

This year was no exception. We had the most wonderful break. Any holiday is good for you. We all need time spent with loved ones, time to sleep, rest and revive. We need to eat good food, bask in sunshine and forget about our stress. But Poros does more than that for me. Every time I go I am able to clear my head, rediscover my passion for life, love and laughter. Conversations with friends, old and new remind me of how lucky I am, and I have the head space to really think about what I want and need.

Some years this is needed more than others. It was this year. I have come back with a clear plan, a belief that anything is possible and buckets of determination. And even better than that, for the first time I have come away from the island, sobbing as usual, but with my next flight booked! We are going back to Poros in just six months for Easter. If ever I need motivation to sort out what I need to sort out, that is it! My next visit to Poros.

If this blog has encouraged you to visit this wonderful island, do get in touch. I know a great hotel!

Saga Hotel
Saga Hotel

pool

Two weeks to change my life…

So 4am on a Saturday morning and I am wide awake. I had the germ of an idea earlier in the week and sometime around 2:30am the idea germinated into a full blown infection. So instead of laying in a stuffy bedroom listening to my lovely hubbie snoring I got up, made tea, and joined my menagerie downstairs to get my plans all down on paper.

Ready? Here goes.

I am going to take 2 weeks to save, erm…change my life!

I have been waffling on all year about sorting my eating out, losing weight, getting fitter….well, lets be honest, I have been banging on about all this for a lot longer than this year!

Anyway. Moving on!

Most “diet plans” require you to stick to whatever regime you are following for at least a month. It takes 21 days to change a habit! But I have been struggling to find a 21 or 30 day window without an event or a commitment where I would be required to eat.

And there, in that statement, lies the problem! There is NEVER a right time, a GOOD time or a PERFECT time. There is just life. It is what it is and we have to deal with it. As usual I am making excuses, putting off what needs to be done. So I am hereby committing to 2 weeks, just 14 days, and that is 14 days with real stuff happening that I just need to deal with!

What is going to be different this time? I am going to use the power of Facebook live to “vlog” every day. And I am going to look at every aspect of my life. Health, diet, exercise, my businesses, my house and so on and so forth…

My lovely friend Judi Hampton (she of unicorns and rainbows) is joining me on this fortnight of focus. Her positivity and determination is legendary! I am glad to have her in my corner.

I have set up a new Facebook page for this little project. I am committing to the following

  • Daily vlogs to you, my accountability buddies
  • Healthy, low carb eating
  • Regular exercise – visits to The Toning Rooms at least 3 times a week
  • Drinking at least 2 litres of water every day
  • Being brave!

I have been thinking about why I “fail” or at least give up whenever I embark on projects to lose weight, get fit etc. I tend to let any minor “problem” get in my way, use it as an excuse to stop whatever it is I am trying. Am I afraid of succeeding. Is Penny happy hiding behind her weight, her public profile? I present this happy positive face to the world on social media, and to be really honest, it is how I am, how I want to be. But I tend to hide the dark moments. I guess we all do. Social media becomes a kind of contest with everyone wanting to show the world how good their lives are, how beautiful their children are, how well they are doing.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Facebook. I love sharing, I love knowing what my friends are up to, I grab positivity, reject negativity, I embrace the good stuff. But it is a distraction and I use distraction to avoid. Avoid things I should be doing, avoid things I need to deal with. I am a master of avoidance. Mistress. Whatever – everybody has to be good at something right? J

I think that I “fail” because it is easier. Easier than succeeding. Easier than being honest with myself. Easier than facing up to the fact that if I don’t do this there will be consequences, possibly very serious consequences. Time to get real.

Anyway – its now Sunday evening and I just went live on Facebook, bared my soul, put all this out there. So now its time to start doing. Starting with a meal plan for the first week and a Sainsburys order!

Lets do this hold my hand

Make your mark…

 

vote

I am sitting in my living room on my laptop on a damp, miserable Thursday morning. There are limp England flags plastered to the walls of houses down my street, looking rather dismal despite our success so far in the Euros. My dogs are miserable and damp, and quite frankly I could live without the odour of wet Labrador while I write. Across the country people are visiting their polling stations, voting on whether or not the UK should remain within the EU or strike out on its own and leave.

In the last week I have been pilloried by people from both sides of the argument when I dared to publically state on Facebook that I was struggling to decide how I would vote. I was looking for more input to make up my mind, and as I value the opinions of my friends and family it seemed a sensible thing to do. Find out what they were thinking, browse more facts and figures, share some questions. This little exercise has resulted in a culling of my Facebook “friends” since I do believe in free speech and I believe that everyone has a right to an opinion. What they don’t have a right to do is to privately and publicly attack me on Social Media, I can choose not to be “friends” any more, so I exercised my right to eject them from my life! Felt quite liberating too!

However, some of my other friend’s comments did lead me to me questioning some long held beliefs that I have held. Asking myself what I meant by one of two sweeping statements I have made during the long months of campaigning. I have wrestled with my conscience and thought long and hard about the pros and cons of MY vote, from MY point of view.

I went through a stage of thinking that I would not even go and vote because I was simply unable to choose. But then I thought about how hard we fought for the right to vote, and how there are still places in the world where women are fighting to have a voice, and I realized that not voting was not an option.

I did not actually 100% make up my mind until I was there, standing in the booth with the voting paper in my hand. I looked at it, in black and white, and listened to my heart and my head before placing my cross in one box, posting it in the ballot box and heading back out into the rain.

It was actually a huge relief that, for me at least, it was done.

So much rhetoric, and warnings of dire consequences whichever way we voted, and the truth is NOBODY actually knows what will definitely happen, and whatever the result, we will never really know how it would have turned out if the vote had gone the other way!

I am not going to share which way I eventually voted. It’s between me and my conscience. No one else’s business, and whichever way it goes we will simply cope with the circumstances like we always do, and always have done.

Life goes on. My family and friends love me. The rain is still raining. The sun will shine again. (Actually as I proof-read this, the sun burst into my living room through the window!) People will continue to post cute pictures of puppies and kittens on Facebook, and tweet meaningless….erm I mean meaningful things on Twitter in 140 words or less, the world will continue to spin on its axis.

I have realized this week that whatever I am “going through” and sharing in my blog, it is nothing compared to some people. Trying to get my head around a lack of self-esteem, a struggle with my health and weight, learning to deal with my “issues” is a very small thing. There are people out there struggling with so much worse. I am really working on “living in the moment”, appreciating every small thing in my life that is good, and there is a lot! And those things will not be affected by a vote on whether to remain in the EU or not. They are the important things and will transcend whatever economic reality we find ourselves in.

Appreciate the good stuff! But don’t forget to vote!

Here are my damp, and smelly, dogs, Barney and Ben 🙂

dogs voting

Happy Fathers Day…

Fathers Day always makes me sad. I loved my Dad so much, but he left home when I was 16, and although we did spend some time together in later years, we had been estranged for over 10 years when he died. He never knew my daughter Zoe, and he missed out on so much with her.

I am still bitter sometimes, and angry, and so envious of everyone that has or has had a strong dad in their lives. My dad was selfish and caused a lot of hurt. I have forgiven him, but it still hurts, even at the ripe old age of 57.

I have written about this before of course. But today I have a slightly different perspective.

You see, I went to a school reunion last night. It’s the first one I have ever been to! I didn’t really want to go, even up to 10 minutes before I went I was hesitant. But I did, and I am really glad that I did. It was fun, very weird…but fun. Interestingly most of the people from my year group had pretty much the same personality, as far as I could see. For me? I felt more confident, more sure of myself. Much of my school years were spent trying to fit in and not really knowing where my fit was.

Those of you that follow my blogs will know that that has been me for many years, but in the last five years I have found my way, established a more confident “me”

My year group are planning to meet up again, and I am looking forward to it. There was a genuine fondness between us which I think we should nurture.

So what has this to do with Fathers Day. One of my old school friends asked after my parents and was reminiscing about being at my house. And he said “I loved your dad, he was so cool”.

So, there you go Dad. Happy Fathers Day. You were cool, I just forgot that.

 

And by the way, Happy Fathers Day to my lovely Nigel. Although he didn’t come into Zoe’s life until she was 9 years old, he has been a wonderful Dad, and they love each other dearly. He is pretty cool too.

Hug your Dad, tell him you love him. Tell him he’s “cool” – while you have the chance.

family

Ready for take off…

I just had an amazing weekend. I flew to Aberdeen with Nigel to attend the annual festival of the company Enjo UK, one of my businesses. It was a brilliant event in a gorgeous castle-like hotel, working with some of the most genuine people I have ever come across. I was made welcome, embraced, gathered up and gathered in by this bunch of people, most of whom I have never met before, and I know that I have made some amazing new friends.

The weekend had an unexpected ending when our flight was cancelled and 7 of us chose to drive all the way home from Aberdeen in two hire cars, driving all through the night. It was an incredibly bonding experience, a real adventure! And despite being exhausted I have ridden the week so far on a wave of exhilaration, and I finally feel as though I have discovered my path – it lit up before me like a runway expecting the touchdown of a Super jet! Opportunities keep arriving! Exciting times ahead.

But back to the festival. Direct Marketing conferences are always very positive affairs. An opportunity for testimonials, recognition, appreciation and forward planning. What’s not to like? And there is always an element of personal development, which regular readers will know is something I love!

One of the features of our weekend was a couple of hours with a lady called Patricia Bacon. Patricia is a coach and a couple of things that she took us through rather took me by surprise. At one point she asked us to turn to our neighbor and pay them a compliment. That bit was easy – but accepting the compliment that they gave us? How hard was that? My lovely companion was easy to compliment, she is young, beautiful, passionate and very sweet. She threw compliments my way and quite frankly it made me squirm! And I think that nearly every other person in the room felt that way too! It is very, very hard to receive a compliment without joking, or brushing it off, when we should be just saying “thank you”.

At the beginning of this week, I received many accolades and compliments from lots of different people. For some reason it seemed to be “tell Penny how great she is” week. People were “impressed” and “inspired” by me, wanted to share things with me and quote me! I am not sharing this so that you can add your “but you are wonderful….” comments (you were going to, right?). But rather to tell you how I felt. I was feeling unworthy, embarrassed, uncomfortable and quite frankly a fraud! Worried that I would be found out because I generally do not believe that I am any of the things that “they” said I was.

Sure, I can always be counted on for an inspirational quote or a joke, I think I am great at understanding people so can be counted on to usually say the right thing at the right time, and I always try my best to help people when they need it. I have a good sense of humour. But, and it is a BIG but. I am not, or more accurately, I do not feel “successful”. I am a nice person but quite frankly I am not yet the successful businesswoman I need to be.

Anyway, I have been mulling this over and today I had a bit of a revelation (yes gentle reader, another one!).

I have spent most of my life feeling as though I was on the outside looking in. Whenever I enter a room I feel as though I have just missed the punchline, or perhaps I have walked in on some secret club and I don’t know the password. Or that I was too dumb to “get” it, that people were talking in some secret language that I was unable to translate. This even goes right back to school.

Now this feeling has definitely held me back. I am over-sensitive because I dread making a fool of myself, or offending, or being pushy…and it has definitely affected my “success” in my businesses because I hold back there too, reigning in my passion for my products, and my beliefs, terrified of overstepping the mark. I talk the talk, but definitely do not walk the walk!

I have developed strategies for coping with all this fear. I am a great bluffer, treating each social occasion as a theatrical performance – after all I am a Leo, and we love a stage! I have been a clown, a drama queen, the quiet one in the corner, the entertainer, the cook/kitchen staff and on occasion, the punch bag. Hiding in plain sight. But often dying inside at some perceived slight or exclusion. For many years I was the “jolly fat girl” hiding my pain and lack of confidence behind my weight. Wow, this is painful stuff!

Those of you who have patiently followed my slow, agonizing progress over the last few years know that I have discovered little bits of this along the way, but I feel as though I have turned a very significant corner this week. Although I am not yet on the home straight I have a glimpse of the finishing line, I think.

I am still not quite ready to battle my weight and my attitude to food. I am eating reasonably healthily and maintaining my weight. My blood sugar has settled down a little so I am feeling a bit better. The coaching I have invested in is helping my perspective. The new challenges in my working life, and my discovery of something new that I feel very passionate about, the new people I am working with, new friends – all of these things are contributing to me finding my way through the door that I have been frightened to open. The answer to my weight issues are very probably on the other side of that closed door.

I need to discover my brave and wear it proudly on my lapel. Wave it high in the air and just believe that I have every right to join the club I have felt excluded from. Or that I have excluded myself from.

In recent years I have been helped by the lovely Nigel. Corny but true, he has been the “wind beneath my wings”. He has an unwavering powerful belief in me that never falters. But at the end of the day, the only person who can cross this particular finishing line is me. Better limber up!

Post Script: I was writing this blog tonight and then came across the senseless savage news of the murder of Jo Cox. She seemed to be a courageous, feisty lady who fought hard for everything she believed in. My thoughts are with her husband and children. RIP Jo.runway

June is busting out….

 

june is busting out all over

Well here we are, 6th June and I was very quiet last week, wasn’t I? Despite big plans for June I was so totally not in the right mindset last week. It was so cold and grey, we had the heating on and although I made a stab at eating a little better (and did ok-ish) I was not really feeling positive enough to trumpet it to the world.

But I planned!

This morning the sun is shining, the sky is really blue and I so have my positive hat on. So, let’s do this!

Here’s some bullet points of my plans  for this week:

  • Building some structure into my day/week
  • An early power-hour every morning, taking time for me to read, meditate and clear my head
  • Healthy low-carb eating
  • Back to the Toning Rooms for regular exercise at least 3 times a week
  • A little mini accountability blog every day
  • Firming up basic business plans for my businesses
  • Picking up the phone and talking to some customers

Plenty to be going on with there!

Next weekend I am off to Aberdeen for my first major Enjo event and am really looking forward to learning lots more about this business and the products.

Learning. It’s a huge part of my life right now. I guess we never stop learning, if we do we risk missing huge opportunities and I really believe it keeps your brain functioning! But I wonder if we appreciate the learning process when we are younger.

This last week I set out to learn about the EU before taking part in a vote that will determine the future of this country from quite some time. As with all study I had to shut out the noise and scaremongering to try and discover some facts. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I actually already knew!

I am also learning a lot from my lovely coach Ian. My weekly conversations with him on a Saturday are providing much food for thought. We are working through a well-known book/program – The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Yes, I can see some of you who know me well sniggering in the background, but just go with me on this!

We do meander a little as the book triggers many realisations and revelations, some professional and some intensely personal and very emotional. But this is a process that I am finding is changing my attitudes and helping me decide what motivates me and what I actually want out of life. I thought I knew, but I am not sure I still want the same things as I did two years ago. Life goals need constant review and renewal.

I had a reminder on Thursday of my reasons for launching myself on another round of healthy eating, self-discovery, blogging etc. My hospital appointment for my eyes is set for 27th June, and I have a blood test form so that I can set up an appointment with my diabetic team. For my own peace of mind and confidence I need to be already making an effort when I ask for help.

Today I am sitting out in the garden working in the sunshine, feeling determined and positive. Stay with me, hold my hand, all encouragement welcomed.

desk

 

 

 

Tempus Fugit…

Tempus fugit….

time flies

In the spirit of my making myself accountable to my lovely readers – here goes, stage 1 of reorganising my life!

After my wake-up call last week and the realisation that I need to get a grip, I have been thinking about the changes I need to make in my life. As  well as sorting out my food choices and exercise options I need to overhaul my working-at-home life too.

Back in the day when I worked in an office the days seemed long, and the weeks dragged. But my life did have structure and routine. For many years I longed to be in charge of my own destiny and dreamt of working at home.

Two years ago of course, the company I worked for obligingly gave me the opportunity to do just that!

dogs

It’s not as easy as I thought. There’s the dogs of course, they love having me home. And of course they need attention and a fuss. There is always washing to be done, and who knew that I enjoyed housework? My lovely Enjo business is helping with that! And Facebook calls constantly!

What am I trying to say is that I am frequently distracted. And my days fly by! I cannot believe how quickly time passes at home.

The other problem is that my lovely family and friends forget that although I am at home, I AM working! I need to remember to say no from time to time.

The end result of all of this is zero structure and routine. Which in turn means I am not efficient. And I will often find myself working in the evenings and at the weekend when I should be spending time with my lovely hubbie.

The other thing that this affects is my eating routine. When you work in an office lunch time is a welcome release. Time to get up from the desk, surf the net, talk to co-workers etc etc. Working from home means that lunch time often passes by unnoticed. Not good for maintaining good blood sugar levels.

I also have 4 businesses and a part time job that I need to stay on top off! So, this is something that I really need get sorted moving forward.

Of course the great joy of working for yourself is that you CAN choose what you do and when you do it. But you do have to do it!

The end result of all this is that I need to build structure and organization into my working life – it will reduce stress, ensure that I am earning money and it will help me as I move to improve my health and wellbeing.

So I have a plan! This is the start of my structured working life!

  • I will work a basic minimum 30 hour week – this may be made up of daytime and evening working given the nature of my businesses
  • I will eat at regular times EVERY day!
  • I will keep a record of my working hours
  • Mondays will be my planning and stay-at-home day

I am sure that this plan will need tweaking and adjusting but this is the first step. Here goes

 

 

Change is gonna come…

I had a bit of a wake-up call yesterday. At my annual diabetic eye screening appointment, I was told that I have diabetic retinopathy in both eyes. Not severe, but enough that I will probably have to have a more intense scan and more regular monitoring, that could lead to eye surgery if I don’t start taking better care of myself. I also have neuropathy in my feet, I actually had that prior to diagnosis, some 15 years ago, but recently I have been aware that it has progressed. I have also been feeling pretty naff for a few months, and in my heart I know it is due to poor control of my diabetes.

Back in 2001 when I was diagnosed, Type 2 diabetes seemed like the end of my world. I was going through the most stressful time in my life. My first marriage had broken up, with violence and nastiness. I had lost touch with many friends due to that situation. I was in loads of debt, on my own with a 6 year old, things at work were horrible. It was a very dark time. I knuckled down and took brave steps to deal with these problems. In 2000 I weighed over 25 stone. I lost 3 stone, started exercising more, did what I had to do to keep my home, went out and made new friends. And I took control of my blood sugar too. It was hard work but somehow I got through 3 very difficult years.

At the end of 2003 I met Nigel and things got a little easier. Like everyone, we have had our moments but we are best friends, support each other in everything and with Zoe have a brilliant little family. Zoe has grown into a beautiful, smart young woman, who has yet to realise quite how amazing she is, but has a bright future ahead of her. Following redundancy from that horrible stressful job I am now a reasonably successful entrepreneur with a small portfolio of businesses.

In the background of all of this has been my struggle with my weight. Many of you will have followed Project Penny when I was given a lot of help and support, blogged my way through another 3 stone weight loss and met some amazing people, some of whom are still in my life and supporting me.

Generally, we eat reasonably healthily, interspersed with spells of low carb or total gluttony, like many people. Sometimes I exercise, sometimes I don’t. I will be going along quite happily, feeling well, losing a few pounds, and then for some reason I lose focus. There is still work related stress in my life, I don’t earn as much money as I used to, I stress about Zoe who has her own battle with Type 1 diabetes to contend with. I worry when Nigel is tired from working long hours. Bereavement, the dogs bring 2 inches of mud in the house, the sun is shining, its cloudy, its cold…you get the picture. Interestingly stress does not have me reaching for chocolate and cake. When I am stressed I stop eating. But then when I get hungry I reach for toast. Bread is my downfall. It’s easy, quick, delicious and just like shoveling sugar into my mouth!

I had big plans for May. I have been investing in myself a little more. Getting some coaching, reading more inspirational stuff. Reconnecting with some inspirational people. I planned a new way of eating with the support of my lovely friend Dee who has turned her nutritional life around in the last couple of years. But, as always, something got in the way. Major issue leading to a couple of worrying weeks so everything went on hold yet again.

success is not final

But. There is never a right time. There will always be another problem, another distraction. Yesterday reminded me that sometimes you need to just do it.

I am a wife, a mother, a daughter and a friend. For all of those reasons and many more I need to get my act together. Diabetes is a silent killer. I will be 58 in August. Recently Nigel and I have determined where we want to be and have started working towards it. I need to be well and healthy to enjoy the life we have planned, and to be there for Zoe as she works out what she wants and goes for it.

I know for any major life change to be successful I need to plan. So I am digging myself out of my ostrich stance with my head in the sand. I need to see the doctor; I need to start making small changes before tackling the major plan. June will be the month that I had planned May to be.

None of this will work without support and this is where you lot come in lovely readers. I am going to blog my way through this, with honesty and humour I hope. I would love to hear your stories, welcome your support and need your encouragement. I will be blogging a little most days, to keep myself on the straight and narrow, make myself accountable. I promise I will try not to be boring! 🙂

I’m doing it!

change is gonna come

Food, glorious food!

It’s been a while since I put pen to paper, well, fingers to keyboard. Last time I wrote anything was just after my mum-in-law’s death. It has been a very emotional couple of weeks, more so than I expected. And it has brought me face to face with some uncomfortable facts that I think I have previously been able to ignore.

We all know that most people have an emotional response to food. Food is at the centre of celebration, friendship, family events and yes, even funerals. For me too, cooking is an emotional thing. When I feel happy I love to cook, when I am uncomfortable I like to retreat to my kitchen to hide behind recipes and ingredients. I am confident in a kitchen, its somewhere I know I can shine. Food is sharing, loving, joyous.

As you know Nigel and I had embarked on the Blood Sugar Diet – an 8 week, 800 calories a day, plan to stabilise blood sugar in Type 2 diabetics, or pre-diabetics. It requires some dedication and much enthusiasm but the results are spectacular. Nigel lost over a stone in the first week and I lost 6lb. We both felt great, full of energy and keen to continue.

But in between when Mum died and her funeral last Thursday we both felt like we were wading through glue. Everything felt like a huge effort, and time ran so slowly. To be honest all I really wanted to do was to sleep or sit on the sofa and watch mindless TV. Those of you who know me well know that this is not my default mode! I have been so miserable.

People often talk about comfort eating. It conjures up pictures of people stuffing their faces with cake, chocolate, takeaways, and all the things we think of as “comfort food”.  There have been times in my life when I have done this, but what usually happens to me is that I completely lose interest in food and cooking. Again, not my default mode!

The problem with this is that when I do eat it is usually simple carbs that I want. Toast. Cream crackers. Potatoes. All of which are as bad for me as the cake and chocolate. Suffice it to say that with a few exceptions I have not eaten properly or sensibly for nearly 3 weeks. And I feel terrible! Lethargic, with joint pain, bloat and so, so tired.

I did not consume massive amounts of food, but I did eat the wrong things, I didn’t plan meals, didn’t pay attention.

This complete contrast to how I was feeling on the low calorie eating plan, has prompted me to take a brutally honest look at my relationship with food.

Having Type 2 diabetes does not help with my emotional response to food. At times it is as though everything I eat is poison to me. Even though my sensible head tells me that I can eat perfectly well with a little thought and planning.

We all know the feeling of wanting to eat everything in sight the moment that we hear the word “diet” – for a long time I have substituted “eating plan” for the d-word. We also all know that to sustain health, well-being and weight loss, we need to be in it for the long term. The minute that you return to old habits the benefits of a period of healthy eating are undone. My emotional response to stress or unhappiness is always to pull the covers over my head and sleep, or read. I get lazy and introverted. I take no pleasure in food – simply eating because I have to, cooking if I must, taking the easy option with no creativity or joy. This in turn makes me more miserable and tired.  A vicious circle, and raised blood sugar.

So, the funeral was on Thursday. It was a beautiful service. Mum’s children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren were there. The weather was miserable but there was sunshine in our hearts. We shared memories of both Mum and Dad, the flowers were beautiful, there was poetry, music and laughter.

Good Friday was spent mainly huddled on the sofa, in front of the TV, although sunlight was pouring through the windows. It was what we needed. And gradually over the Easter weekend we came back to life, ready to get back to normal, still grieving, but still breathing.

And here is where it gets corny! Although I am not “religious” per se, Easter always seems to me to be about renewal, new opportunities, new futures. So on Easter Monday we went right back to our carb-free regime. Back on track and newly determined! And I think I have a new awareness of my complicated relationship with food. Let’s see how it goes….

 

I leave you with one of my favourite quotes from the amazing Julia Child

Julia child steak quote

Death and other stories…

Last week my lovely mum-in-law, Barbara, passed away. Not a tragedy, she was 85 and had had a good life. But incredibly sad for her family. I count myself lucky to have found my way into that family and along with Zoe, my daughter, to have been welcomed with open arms and unconditional love.

I first met Barbara and her husband Denis in October 2003, about a month after I met Nigel.  Right from the start they were so kind and lovely to me, although Mum asked me so many questions that it felt a bit like I was on Mastermind! I guess that she needed to ensure that I was worthy of her “baby boy”, (well over 6 foot and somewhat well built)!

My favourite memory of Barbara comes a couple of months later. On a family trip to Centre Parcs over Christmas, to which Zoe and I were late additions. Following a very bad meal in one of the restaurants we were served desserts, and Mum’s choice of Chocolate Fudge cake came out and was frozen! She plunged her fork into the offending item and marched across to the manager of the outlet, to whom we had previously complained, and waved the cake in front of his nose protesting loudly! She could be a formidable woman, but with a wicked impish sense of humour.

Dad died about 4 years ago, and after a few lonely and miserable months in the home they had shared together Mum decided that she would prefer to live somewhere more secure and with care available. She walked into a lovely care home in Hemel Hempstead and declared that this was where she wanted to be, and how soon could she move in?

She was very content there and made the best of everything going on in the home. She made friends, terrorized the catering manager into submission and generally enjoyed her life. My lovely sister-in-law, Gilly visited her almost every day and the rest of the family visited as often as they could – we are rather spread across the country. Her health deteriorated gradually but she was so well cared for, we of course assumed she would go on forever.

Nigel and I went to visit her last Saturday. She looked well and was full of news and gossip about everything in the home. We talked about the imminent birth of her 5th great grandchild and her grandaughter’s wedding in April, but she was very philosophical, talking about Dad and how much she missed him, and wondering what “it was all about”. I cannot say that I knew it would be the last time that we would see her, but Nigel and I did have a conversation about how it seemed as though she had had enough.

So when we got the news on the following Tuesday it was not the biggest surprise to us.

Death, even when expected, is always a shock, and leaves a person-shaped hole in all our lives. All week that hole has filled with memories of Barbara’s life and the effect she has had on us all. Her 4 children and their partners, her niece, 7 grandchildren, and 4 great-grandchildren will mourn her for a long time, and we will share stories whenever we get together for family events. She and Denis were so central to our gatherings I know that we will feel their presence all the time. There will be a lot of laughter whenever we remember them.

For me, I am grateful that they came into my life, at a time when Zoe and I were a little lost. For those Star Trek fans out there, my husband says we were “assimilated”! It was a painless experience.

The next couple of weeks will be challenging, but in a strange kind of way I am looking forward to the funeral. A chance to say goodbye with all the family, and to celebrate their parents.

Rest in peace lovely lady.

Mum throwing confetti at our wedding in 2008
Mum throwing confetti at our wedding in 2008