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

What Penny has been doing!

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Well Hello World!

It has been a while since I committed words to paper or digital media. I am hoping that someone out there is interested in just what Penny has been up to since Project Penny back in 2012. Its been an eventful couple of years! Bit of a boring starting post for my new blog, but I just want to bring you up to date briefly on whats been happening.

2 years ago I was made redundant from the stressful job that was referred to often in my blogs. Although it was a very good thing, it did take me a while to truly appreciate that fact. As so often happens we are so hard on ourselves in times of trouble. I should have been kinder to myself and taken some time out. But hindsight is a wonderful thing!

Anyway, it took me a good year to sort myself out. It is similar to the grieving process. You start out with shock and denial, there is pain, then you get angry and depressed and then gradually there is a chink of blue through the clouds, until finally you wake up and discover a day of blue skies and brilliant sunshine!  Then you never look back!

The second year found me working hard but not really focused. Searching for something but not really knowing just what it was that I was looking for. Thankfully the Universe knows what is best and at the end of 2015 my path was cleared with the demise of Pampered Chef. Something that initially devastated me, but was quite obviously exactly what I needed.

I have started 2016 in such a positive place, with 4 businesses, all very different but all fabulous! Of course! More about some of them along the way.

So what about health and well being? The original aim of Project Penny. Well the weight has remained pretty constant for the last two years, there have been a few half hearted attempts at healthy eating but nothing substantial. Working at home has its own challenges and I have found that I rather like being a lady who lunches, when I have the opportunity! What I have found is that I need to consciously think about eating, it is way too easy for me to skip meals when I am busy. Or to eat the wrong things. Both options as bad as each other!

I have had several bouts of ill health in the past year, the worst being a serious dose of tonsillitis in the summer. Took weeks to recover and got me out of my regular visits to the Toning Rooms. So there hasn’t been much exercise going on, and I am feeling it! Planning to put that right.

Mentally I am in the most positive place I have ever been in. I am enthused and I have established a strong self belief system. I have surrounded myself with mentors and supporters who inspire and encourage and above all I am determined. Ready to start reaping the rewards of all my hard work.

That’s the boring preamble out of the way!

I am about to take some drastic action. Today, Monday February 29th I have started out on something called The 8 week Blood Sugar Diet. This diet has been developed by the amazing Dr Michael Moseley, also responsible for the 5:2 diet and well known for turning science on its head and working hard to change how people think. This 8 week diet is drastically low calorie, and is based on Dr Roger Taylor’s Newcastle diet that has had some success in reversing Type 2 Diabetes. The diet is low carb, but nutrionally sound and I am very excited by the science behind it. I am aiming to lose weight and get control of my blood sugar, perhaps even reducing my medication. You can read more about the diet here: https://thebloodsugardiet.com/

I will be sharing more about the plan over the next few weeks, and proving just how well you can eat on 800 calories a day!

The lovely Nigel is joining me on this journey – although not diabetic he has gained quite a lot of weight over the last 2 years and is really keen to get himself in shape too. We are not using ready made shakes/meals but will be cooking delicious recipes every day which should make it much easier for us to sticik with it!

We are both comitting to lose 3 stone each over the next six months, upping our exercise and improving our health and energy levels.

I hope that you will be interested in following our journey. The blog is intended to be a funny, entertaining and honest reflection of our lives and this new “journey” (such a cliché!). So strap yourselves in and enjoy the ride! Here we go!