nan

“We are here to live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us.”

“It is a curious thing, the death of a loved one. We all know that our time in this world is limited, and that eventually all of us will end up underneath some sheet, never to wake up. And yet it is always a surprise when it happens to someone we know. It is like walking up the stairs to your bedroom in the dark, and thinking there is one more stair than there is. Your foot falls down, through the air, and there is a sickly moment of dark surprise as you try and readjust the way you thought of things.”
Lemony Snicket

It happened slowly. That’s the worst kind. When my time on this Earth is up, I want it to be over and done with. I don’t want to have my life warp into one I no longer have control over. One where my control and senses are stolen from me, where I can no longer function independently. One spent in a hospital bed. When I go, I want it to be quick. Being eaten by a tiger would be pretty terrifying, but it would make for a fantastic story. My future imaginary grandchildren would be the coolest kids in the playground. I’d take saving a cat from a burning building, too, or maybe having some kind of spaceship malfunction and getting sucked out into the lethal atmosphere of some planet far away. Once my time here is up, I don’t want to stay any longer than I have to. Not because losing control of your life sucks in itself, but because of how hard it is for others to watch, and not be able to do a thing about it.

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My nan passed away last week. It’s taken me a few days to find the words to put to paper, and I’m still not sure I have them, but after life in every sense of the word stopped on Tuesday night (and a couple of days becoming a bit of a solitary wanderer), I’m finally able to get something down. I’m thirty next year, and I guess in a sense I’ve been extremely fortunate that by this age, I’ve only ever lost one person—my grandad; “Guggs,” as I’d called him, and I was too young to really feel the magnitude of what it meant. I remember it happened around the same time as my first cat died, and I remember with great clarity how much that affected me. With my grandad, I remember him going into hospital, and making him a card with the silhouette of a cat on it. He never got it. He never came out. I vaguely remember deciding at eleven years old that even then, I knew if I went to the funeral, never having been to one, that I’d fall into a pit of despair and tears from which I feared I’d never escape. My parents had decided my brother was too young to even ask, and I don’t remember what we did or who we stayed with during it, and I don’t remember much after that.

No, losing someone as an adult is a first for me. Although my reaction was to fall into just as big a pit of despair as I would have twenty years ago. My nan was a huge part of my life. When I was young, I spent most of my time with her. We lived in a cul-de-sac, houses surrounding “the green”; my parents’ house was on one side, my nan’s on another, and my other grandparents’ on the other. We were all thirty seconds away from each other at any given time. I have so many memories of time spent at her house. I remember when she build the aviary and started raising quails and budgies in the back garden. Choosing a budgie, a bright yellow one, whom she named Sparky and taught to say things like “who’s a good boy,” “Where’s Emily?” and “cuppa tea, Charlie darling?” The bird sounded exactly like her.

I remember her teaching me to iron with tea towels and socks, and that a good cook never left any batter in the bowl when cooking. I remember her Welsh cakes, and making figurines and fridge magnets out of plaster of Paris and painting them with her. I remember her bedrooms; each with a terrible carpet and curtains that didn’t match and dressing stands with her gold chains on them and mirrors I used to sometimes be a little scared of at night. She kept two money boxes for my brother and me; one in the shape of a globe; that was mine; the other, a wooden church for my brother. She’d put a pound coin into each every week, and despite us moving halfway around the world, whenever I’d go back to visit, I’d find she’d been putting the pound coins in every week anyway. Her Sunday dinners were to die for. She’d boil every bit of nutrient out of the vegetables, but she’d cook lamb and introduced me to mint sauce and apple sauce with meat and potatoes. I was always in charge of the potatoes, putting in a bit of milk and more than a bit of butter, and then margarine on top of that once they were on the plate. And there was always a pudding. Rice pudding and jam, or custard if it was a particularly good day.

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She hated The Simpsons. “Them yellow people,” she called them, but she watched it with me anyway. I’m certain it was a pretend hate. I remember after school watching Trap Door and SuperTed and Neighbours with her every day while we had tea. She taught me that if you stirred milk and sugar into your tea and you had bubbles on the top, it meant you were going to be lucky and get some money. I used to drink them all up from a teaspoon. I remember her first e-mails, and being so incredibly proud of her, having gone for computer lessons on her own at the library after we’d moved. They were all one big sentence with no punctuation but were always full of so much love. I remember how excited she’d get, throughout my whole life, whenever I visited. It was all the time, but I adored her and I was infinitely as excited as she was. I remember finding a card I’d made as a child on a visit maybe four years ago now, in one of the spare bedrooms, apologising for not being allowed to visit every day any more but saying how much I loved her anyway. It had an outline of my hand on the front I’d drawn and coloured in.

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The decline happened slowly, over years and years, but her spirit was the strongest I’ve ever known. It was horribly unfair. She broke one shoulder, had surgery that went wrong and that meant she couldn’t use that arm any more. She started falling; in the street or in her house, and hitting her head. I remember coming home and finding her at the bottom of the stairs in her nightgown one night after a day in London and being so, so scared. Despite it all, she still cooked, came out to the seaside and down to the shops with us, out for a curry or fish and chips, with a smile on her face.

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She was in hospital a few years ago for an extended period, and went through a really worrying few months, but she emerged, resilient as ever. This time, she fell again, and the damage to her other shoulder meant she couldn’t use either arm. Couldn’t use a walker. Surgery. Surgery during which she had a heart attack. Again, she woke okay… but then the infection started. The skin began necrotizing, and antibiotics weren’t working. She was too fragile to operate on again, and we found ourselves terrified that either the infection or being put under again would kill her. Eventually she became strong enough to have surgery attempted again… and it was successful. My dad visited, and gave her a burst of hope and love after months of being stuck on a hospital ward with no wireless phone… but then her blood pressure started to drop. It kept dropping and wouldn’t stabilize.

This time last week, we got the news that she probably only had a matter of days. I couldn’t sleep. I lay there that night, my heart and mind racing, worrying that somewhere almost 4,000 miles away, my dear nan was laying there alone, her consciousness on the verge of disappearing into oblivion. I got maybe two hours and dragged myself up in the morning, but I felt like I was going to throw up at any moment. I was wide awake and exhausted and nauseous and anxious, so I called in and said I’d work from home. I’d been working that weekend, and I had a pile of things to catch up on, so I dove into it from morning ’til night to try to catch up and distract myself. The next day was spent at the office, waiting for any news. Again, I ploughed through; couldn’t eat for nausea and still had an enormous amount to do, and did as much as I possibly could. That evening I had to work an event too, and in the middle of it, I got a phone call from my dad I couldn’t pick up. I knew then that that was the call.

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He messaged me asking when I’d be home, and I said it would probably be over by nine-ish, so probably 9:30. I called as soon as I was able before even getting in the car, and got no answer. My mind started to panic, so I drove home, and found my dad outside my apartment building. It was a bizarre moment—I knew why he was there, but he didn’t seem upset. I said I’d tried calling him, and he said “let’s go inside.” I knew why, but my brain was working on two different levels and I blurted out something stupid about it being messy. At that point, he looked at me, his eyes welling up, and he choked out, “it doesn’t matter,” and put his arms around me. I cried, and I shook, and he cried with me. He’d only found out a couple of hours prior, and I’d been stuck on a tour bus taking photos of “ghosts” and “spirits” unable to be there for him when he did. We talked. We hugged. The grief came in waves. It was something we knew had been coming for a long time, but my nan had always been such a fighter. She’d always pulled through.

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We talked about how the most important thing was that she was no longer suffering. She’d suffered for so very long, and her quality of life was just gone. We cried as my dad said she’d never have to be in pain again, as we both thought inside we’d never see her again. The part that pierced my heart was when he had a moment after which he said quietly, “I’m an orphan now.” I couldn’t bear it. After a little while and many tears, I knew I had to call work to tell them. I spoke with the CEO who was incredibly kind, compassionate and comforting. I’d had no idea she was travelling, but she talked to me for a while and showed a kindness I’ll be eternally grateful for. The next night, my beautiful sweet friend came over to keep me company. She brought food and drinks and we told stories to each other and shared several heart to hearts. She held me as I cried and I felt such incredible gratitude. The next few days I found myself embracing the I in INFJ (uncharacteristic for me), on day one just driving with no particular destination in mind, looking for somewhere completely isolated from other people. I went south, and eventually an abandoned old barn popped up. I had no makeup on and a dress I’d worn the day before and looked as rough as it did, so I ventured through the long grass and sat inside. There were holes in the roof, which was collapsing; doors had fallen down, and it was a graveyard of its former glory. It was perfect. I sat there in the silence for a while, took some pictures, and tried writing. I just wanted my mind to stop racing for once, and for a moment, it did. The next day I spent alone in a bookstore cafe type place I’d never been to. I wrote for hours, and I found it therapeutic. My soul felt a tiny, tiny bit better after those two days.

As much as I’ve written here, it could never be enough. There could never be enough words in this language of ours to do justice to just how much she meant, and how cherished she was to the very end. I hope with all my heart she knew. And cherished she always will be. If it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t be a) here today and b) who I am today. Her gift of love was one I’m beyond lucky to have been given, and I’ll keep it safe in my heart forever.

My Nan, Guggs, and my Dad as a little boy. One of my favourite pictures ever.

My Nan, Guggs, and my Dad as a little boy. One of my favourite pictures ever.

I love you, nan. 

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Oh England, my Lionheart (Part One of Two)

Oh England, my Lionheart,
I’m in your garden, fading fast in your arms
Flapping umbrellas fill the lanes
My London Bridge in rain again
Oh England, my Lionheart
Peter Pan steals the kids in Kensington Park
You read me Shakespeare on the rolling Thames
That old river poet that never, ever ends
Our thumping hearts hold the ravens in,
And keep the tower from tumbling
Oh England, my Lionheart,
I don’t want to go

– Kate Bush

WARNING: This WAS going to be my longest post ever, and there was going to be a serious high five waiting for you if you made it all the way through – I did SO MUCH on this trip, I couldn’t leave anything out! However I think breaking it into more manageable pieces is probably for the best, so this is just part one. 🙂

It seems I’ve arrived back in one piece, and I cannot begin to describe how quickly the last two weeks seemed to pass. Or how mortified I was to have had to go back to work on extreme jet lag and a throat which may as well have been full of razorblades the morning after landing!  The trip was nothing short of breathtaking – visits with friends I’ve known over half my life; the feeling of pure belonging while roaming the streets of London by night, high on post-West End Musical awe and excitement while simultaneously thrilled at the feeling of sharing the grandeur of thousand year old monuments. Getting lost in a country not speaking the language and exploring another culture; seeing family and loved ones and moving on again in a whirlwind journey to the country’s most haunted city, full of gothic architecture, cobblestones, and ghosts. It was perfect, though all over far, far too fast.

The trip started in one of my favourite places in the world: London. I don’t know if you’ve ever been away from home before (though I suppose London is a train ride away from the place I should truly call home), but every time I see a reference to the city on Doctor Who, have BBC radio playing on a Friday morning at work, or hear another English accent, my ears perk up along with my heartbeat and I feel an enormous sense of longing to be back there again. Sweet and I arrived at our hotel, which was a stone’s throw from Big Ben, the London Eye, and all things iconic and dreadfully, wonderfully touristy. Which, after a brief nap, I threw myself into headfirst.

Initially, I went on my first international blogger meetup with the lovely Stephen Ko, where I overindulged in proper sausages, mash, and copious amounts of gravy. We then headed off to explore the city’s museums, which Stephen was kind enough to lead us to, though I must admit an hour’s sleep in over 24 hours didn’t make me the most brilliant of company! That night though, I must have got a second wind, and set off for what was certain to be a highlight: Wicked! I’d seen the show once a few years ago, and it was the best thing I’d ever seen, and once again, it was nothing short of gobsmacking. Dazzling costumes and special effects combined with incredible songwriting and world-class singers, and by the end of it, I was so thrilled with the evening ($12 for a drink aside – forgivable, since it was Pimm’s!) I decided to walk back through the streets of London by night. Illuminated monuments and landmarks were at every turn, and I arrived back, perhaps a hundred photographs later, and collapsed in a happy heap. Roaming London after dark should very well have been dangerous, so I hear, but I felt no sense of fear, only an incredible feeling of belonging. I must say a good part of my heart will forever lie in that city.

With the next day came my NEXT blogger meetup – brunch with Aly, who was absolutely lovely (she even left me with a little koala bear!). She took me to a favourite place of hers, where we talked for hours, feasted on pancakes, fruit and clotted cream, and discovered an amazing secret: our little table was in fact an old desk, and was the only one, it appeared, with a drawer. Aly opened it and found a secret stash of notes – on receipts, napkins, notepaper – little notes of love, hopes, appreciation and dreams, to which we of course added our own. It was quite remarkable, and made for quite the magical morning.

After moving on to Stevenage, my home town (as well as teen pregnancy and chav capital of England), I was shocked at its deterioration. The walk from the train station to my Nan’s should have been filled with little shops, friendly faces, a picturesque duck pond and flower gardens at every step. I’m not sure if it was a trick of the memory of youth, severe degradation, or a combination of both, but the streets I grew up on were no longer as I remembered. The pond was caged off; a rank quagmire of mud, shopping trolleys, and birds no longer able to swim. The shops had all closed down, and the streets were covered in rubbish and trodden-in gum. But I was going to see Nan. The last time I’d visited was two years ago, when she was still very much herself; in a sling, yes, but in good spirits and perfectly able to come out with us, to cook, and to hug. When I walked into her living room, I almost didn’t recognise her. She’d lost a lot of weight, as well as her glasses, and her hair had grown out, shining and white, making her look small, frail. She’d broken both shoulders, and was unable to extend her arms, and seemed consumed by the armchair which I’m certain hadn’t moved in years. But then she opened her mouth to speak, and then she was Nan again. Fiesty and opinionated as ever, and beyond thrilled to see me. Everything was okay once she spoke, and the next day we went out with her wheelchair, her first exposure to the outside world in two months. It meant so much to be able to do something for her.

That night we met up with Kier, one of my oldest friends in the world, for some drinks, pub food, and hours of talking and reminiscing. It felt wonderful to be able to share in his company again and I only wish the time didn’t have to be so fleeting, or the distance quite so far. We met again for a brief brunch later on in the trip, where he surprised me with a gift – a Star Trek bottle opener and a star ready for naming up there in the beautiful night sky. The thoughtfulness was incredible, and I must admit I shed a few tears on the way home that such good friends must be so far away.

I didn’t spend much time in one place – I only had nine days left of holiday time from work, and two of them were spent on the journey there and back, so I REALLY crammed everything in. Next day I headed off to Madrid, Spain – a city I’ve never seen. After a plane ride where I was sat in front of two of my least favourite things in the world (a seat-kicking, screaming baby), I arrived in the middle of siesta time, when everything shuts down for a few hours and people retire for a brief nap to energise for the night ahead. I hadn’t realised my hotel was in The Dodgy End, either, so the initial impression of deserted, streets covered in graffiti was slightly disappointing – until I asked reception what there was for evening entertainment, and was pointed to the Metro station, similar to London’s Underground, which took me to the heart of the nation’s capital.

Elegant, ornate building fronts combined with enormous billboards to envelop us in a city of culture. Nobody seemed to speak a word of English, but I’d been told of a hidden little Michelin Star restaurant, considered one of the “top 1,000 things to do before you die”, where I’d find fantastic food and see some of the world’s best flamenco dancers, which was supposedly a 10 minute walk from the train station. 10 minutes ended up being well over an hour, which had been filled with getting lost and exploring streets full of cathedrals, cityscapes and architecture (not to mention rather sore feet), but eventually, we found the Corral de la Morería, found my seat, and experienced a night of breathtaking entertainment. The next morning, I got up bright and early to visit the grand cathedral and the Palacio Real, where I was heartbroken to find I wasn’t allowed to take photos. A REAL PALACE, from the outside in, where I saw such elaborate decor – gold embellished walls, ceiling frescos, a dining hall which very well could’ve been a mile long, and the thrones upon which King and Queen sat only a few hundred years ago. It was remarkable, and I left thoroughly satiated in beauty, history and culture, before arriving back to a shocking and distressing surprise…

Going to stop here, as this marks about halfway – the rest to come on Thursday, along with stories of the most incredible, most haunted, most beautiful and one of the oldest cities in the world. Thanks for your patience 🙂

Of Pirates, Poetry and Prayers

I’m not going to lie, this week and last have been lots of things, but the victory prize goes to exhaustion! Not in a bad way – work has been packed with learning, meeting new people, and creating copious amounts of curriculum leaving little time for anything else. Except that what little time has been leftover, I’ve been filling to the brim with STUFF.  Theatre (the city’s enormous Fringe festival is in town. Read: 155 plays; sleep is on the backburner!); friends from far away staying with us for 2 weeks; weddings, new experiences, and family stuff. It’s left me running on adrenaline, excitement, nerves and of course, way too much coffee, so I think I may be taking a bit of a break from blogging until later next week when I have time to gather my thoughts.  So much stuff has been going on that today’s post is a tad disjointed, so please forgive me!

The Winnipeg Fringe is seriously my absolute favourite time of year. Huge theatre companies, solo shows, musicians, contortionists, comedians… you name it, if it can go on stage and entertain people, it will happen in Winnipeg in July.  Each year’s Fringe also has a theme – we’ve had the frightfest “Night of the Living Fringe”, James Bond, Vegas, a Fringe “Factory”, Cowboys, and this year – everything Science Fiction (I KNOW!).  The Exchange District is a BEAUTIFUL part of town, full of old buildings, ornate architecture, and little boutiques full of vintage clothing and music. But it’s also sadly one of the dodgier areas for most of the year, bridging downtown and the North End (think crime and poverty), and, for the most part, deserted.  Streets are empty and a slight feeling of danger lurks in the air (maybe because I’m a bit of a girl when I walk alone at night!). But in July, everything changes. Hundreds of artists take over the city; dance halls, upstairs book shops, pubs and even the streets become performance spaces, home to a thriving community of arts lovers. Colour and creativity radiate from every corner, and every conceivable surface is turned into prime advertising space for shows ranging from the hilarious to the moving, the haunting to the incredible, the brilliant to the downright bizarre. This week, I’ve seen a one man riot, a brilliant true story of one man’s joke gone wrong that shot him to international stardom, two actors playing one man as they deliver spitfire comedy in Freud vs. His Ego, Cirque du Soleil-esque 19th century pirates, a stunning romantic tale told through tin can radio, described as  “part fairytale, part vaudeville routine, part old-fashioned love story… the theatre show The Decemberists would create if Roald Dahl directed them.” This weekend we have one of the funniest men I’ve ever seen on top of a parody of everything Europop – it’s my favourite two weeks of the year, and this year I’m thrilled a good friend of mine (who visits every year doing shows) happens to be staying with us. All this culture is fantastic, but I’d be lying if I said my sleep pattern hasn’t been affected 🙂

In less than two weeks, I will be heading home to England with Sweet, for his first time to Europe. We’re chiefly going to visit family and friends that won’t be able to make it over for the wedding (it’s a long way, a lot of money, and December in Winnipeg pretty much qualifies for Arctic conditions) – so they get to meet him, and so he gets to see home! I have mixed feelings about the trip – I’m so excited to go home, see friends, see sights and castles and stock up on Angel Delight – but I’m also nervous. I had word earlier in the week that my Nan, who most of you know was in hospital from late 2009 – early summer, doesn’t remember being in there at all, neither does she remember my Dad’s visit from earlier this year. One of my biggest fears is a loved one losing memories of our time together, and worse, forgetting people – my Dad says she remembers we’re coming to visit, but I’m terrified one day she won’t remember me.  It breaks my heart to even think about, and this trip is going to be one of mixed emotions.  If you could spare a thought or prayer for her, I’d really appreciate it.

These past few weeks have also brought about big changes in terms of socialising. I’ve always been a big advocate for putting things out into the Universe, and an even stronger believer that the Universe is pretty amazing when it comes to delivering.  I don’t want to alienate anyone by talking about something that’s very personal to each and every individual, but let’s just say I’ve been very blessed on a number of occasions  over the last few months in which I’ve prayed… and my requests have been fulfilled. I believe more and more that there is a path that’s set for each of us, and sometimes we don’t understand why things happen… but there are certain things that are meant to be, certain people we were meant to meet and share experiences with, and certain people who we’re better off without. Recently I’ve experienced both.

Finding meaningful friendships and people who were genuine, who’d be around for the long haul, was something I’d wished for back in the Spring, and since then, people have arrived in my life who have welcomed me with open arms, talked and shared and listened like good friends, and have just felt 100% natural, fun and comfortable to be around.  I am so lucky to have crossed paths recently with so many awesome people.  On the other hand, people who had been around for previous chapters in my life, who, though still present, brought with them unnecessary disputes, stress, and a feeling of uncertainty, have recently had those doors closed. When we’re younger, I think we place such importance on popularity, sometimes at the expense of sincerity – we’re more content with lots of people who may turn their backs at the drop of a hat than we are with a small handful of amazing souls who’ll stand by through anything. I have a feeling I’m experiencing the tides turning, and I’m beyond excited to be able to start a brand new chapter.

Work! My first month is almost at an end, and it’s been full of training and learning and opportunities to create new and better ways to serve people, to empower them, and to contribute to the community. That’s not to say there haven’t been a few fits of tears worrying about not being good enough, or learning quickly enough, but I have to remember we’re all in the same boat, and we all have the same goal: to work to make people’s lives better. I’m so incredibly fortunate to have been given this opportunity, and though quite possibly the biggest challenge yet, I’m ready for launch come August. I can’t wait to see everything that happens over the course of the next year.

And lastly, there’s less than a week to go until the Weddingbells contest ENDS!! I have been in this competition for eleven months and words cannot come close to doing justice to how much I’ve appreciated everyone who’s stuck by me throughout this journey. Six days left, and trust me, after being in the semi finals I know how quickly a big lead can turn into a close call – I have so much love and appreciation for all your votes so far, and if you could keep spreading the word over the next few days, I promise I’ll never ask you to do anything again! 🙂  You have been absolute STARS!!

I’m off to spend the week soaking up the arts – see you all next week. Have a great one 🙂

Quickhits of Happy

This week has been going all sorts of wonderfully, and I had to share with you guys – in bullet-pointy goodness:

  • On Tuesday, I officially started in my new position at work. I arrived like a total keener at 7:15 after the long weekend, and the first thing I did was not setting up my computer… it was decorating!!  I have two big windows, blinds, tonnes of space for photos and plants… I absolutely love it! I must admit that it is a little different having my own space and I do miss my old officemates, but we’ve started making plans outside of work. Which is lovely 🙂 I’m learning tonnes in my new role, too, and am being given all sorts of marketing and promotion responsibility – which is perfect!
  • I also secured some contract work through a good friend, which has been keeping me busy and allowing me to be creative, and gain some more design experience (for a pretty big company, too), all adding to the portfolio. Three hurrahs for networking, and big thanks to ItStartsWith.Us’s Nate St. Pierre!
  • Great Skype dates with blog friends and surprise packages in the mail are awesome. Thanks to Jen for the beautiful handmade apron!
  • Tonight I start my Creative Writing class – as much as I love blogging and writing articles, I’m looking forward to more imaginative writing opportunities too, and hopefully I’ll meet some new people while I’m there. I’m excited, but I kind of feel like a bit of a noob never having attended the college before 🙂
  • More good news came this week regarding Nan – last time I wrote, she’d taken a turn for the worse, but this week, after speaking to my dad, it seems our prayers were heard – the reason for her confusion was because she was being put on morphine and sedatives constantly – which was awful. She’s been moved to a different place, where she has the option for pain killers but is choosing not to take them, and is being given rehabilitation exercises to help her get better. My dad spoke to her this week, and said she is sounding much like herself again – I’m thrilled!! Thank you SO much for all your kind thoughts and prayers…
  • And perhaps the best news of all this week is that Sweet and I will be visiting her in August. We decided instead of taking a honeymoon after the wedding, it was more important to go see Nan so they could both meet before the wedding, and I’ll get to see my friends, my home, my country… and show Sweet where I grew up. We leave for England on the 5th August for ten days, and already have our first day planned sightseeing, taking in a West End musical, museums, and staying over in a posh hotel. Ooh, and Stephen? International blogger meetup? 🙂  The rest of the trip will be spent visiting Nan, travelling by train like proper tourists, catching up with old friends, and hopefully a day trip or two to Ireland or France while we’re there. Our pockets are definitely hurting, but I think it’s most definitely worth it. I can’t wait to tell Nan the news, and to see her again – she’ll be over the moon!!

What are some highlights of your week so far?

Ups and Downs

So, the past week has continued to be an incredible turnaround of events, most of which extremely positive! This weekend, Sweet and I spent some good quality time together with sushi dinners and Star Trek marathons, went out for a little dancing, reconnected with some old friends and spent time with new ones. On Friday, I also got the news that at work, they’d found a need for me to stay in a position for another three months guaranteed, with the hope that within those three months, the new position they proposed for will be created, which will become permanent.  So, until 2nd July, I am officially not going to be unemployed! I’m also moving into a new role with another project, focused almost entirely on design and marketing (!), and as of next week I’ll be officially in my very own office. With blinds and a door and everything. Which makes me feel rather grown-up indeed 🙂

Sadly though, I got some pretty bad news this weekend about my Nan.  The doctors had decided the surgery on her shoulder would be too risky, and so they’ve moved her into a rehabilitation hospital.  She started the week off wonderfully, in great spirits to be out of a hospital bed and into her own room with a TV and company… however by the end of the week, things had worsened. Considerably. She’s refusing to eat or drink, doing abnormal things (which were very disturbing, one of which involved flushing her false teeth down the toilet so she can’t eat solid food), wandering off, and just being generally “antsy”, as my Dad put it. She’s also been drugged up on morphine throughout the day – which isn’t a long-term solution, but nobody seems to be doing anything to focus on a lasting plan for her.  Sweet and I have been praying for her strength and her recovery, and hoping this is just symptomatic of the stress of moving and the morphine… hopefully a physiological response which can be rectified. I can’t bear to think of my Nan like this.

This week is extremely bittersweet. I’m flooded with a combination of relief, worry, excitement and hope, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned recently, it’s the power of positive thinking.  Thank you so much for being here, all of you, not just this past week, but in general, through the bad and the good.  If you could spare a thought or a prayer for my Nan today, it would mean the world.

Updates – and some quick and easy decadence!

1. Huge heartfelt thanks go out to everyone who wrote to me with their prayers and kind thoughts and words about my nan last week.  The good news is that this weekend, I had another email from my dad:

Nan is on board with the idea of being safe, looked after and worry-free when she comes out, wherever that may be.  I’ll be speaking to her doctor this week. I am trying to organise a family meet with everyone.  Nan is in good spirits.  I was making some calls this morning and saw a slip of paper with the name “Brenda” and a phone number. This is Nan’s sister, so I called her to let her know what was going on.  She didn’t know.  To cut a long story short, she is 83, has had a heart attack and a stroke.  She came up to the hospital today after the call to see Nan. Nan was so happy!  Aunt Leslie too, didn’t know and will be visiting.  I’m pleased with my progress and what I have achieved so far.  I hope you are proud of me.  I’m glad you blogged and got the replies and support you have.  I’ll keep you posted.
Love, Dad

It was a huge turnaround to have such strides made in only a few days. Family that hadn’t seen each other, or Nan, for years are reuniting at her time of need, and I can’t imagine how happy she must have been.  I’m not sure when the surgery has been rescheduled for, but it sounds like a lot of prayers have been answered, and positive vibes sent her way have arrived in spectacular fashion over the weekend, and I can’t thank you guys enough.

2. I also purchased a treadmill this weekend.  The elliptical I got off Kijiji ended up being totally useless; with the dial broken and providing no resistance at all, it just wasn’t working.  I might try and sell it again, but for now, I’ve switched to this baby, made sure it worked and was ADJUSTABLE first, and it’s settling in in my living room.  Hopefully this will be a little more exciting to use, while I’m watching Eastenders in the week, I’m hoping to make this part of my weekly routine.

3. Speaking of Eastenders, Sweet and I spent our Friday night watching the first ever live-filmed episode in celebration of the show’s 25th anniversary.  The documentary afterwards was ridiculously interesting, showing how they had to move the actors quickly and quietly between far-apart sets, and how they kept the biggest plot ever secret from the public AND the cast until the real “whodunit” was revealed on the live episode.  It was great to see something I grew up with uniting the country (16.6 million viewers!!), with celebs and old friends alike ALL over Twitter the whole way through.  Brilliant.

4. Yesterday I went to my first Blogger Meetup!  Unfortunately I could only stay for about 40 minutes, but I’m hoping we can all do it again sometime. 🙂

5. Many of you know that one of my new year’s resolutions was to try and cook actual recipes from scratch.  So far, Sweet and I have learned new cooking vocabulary, had adventures with exploding noodles, and spent way more time together actually engaging in something fun and productive, and last week, in a pre-Bachelor panic to find something we could make quickly, we scoured AllRecipes.com and found something that looked delightful.  Promising us dinner in twenty minutes, we set out to make this near-replica of something we’d fallen in love with on holiday last month: Fettuccine al Salmone.  Honestly? One of the most deliciously indulgent meals we’ve cooked to date, and done faster than you could get through a verse of On The Wings of Love.  I had to share!

2 tablespoons butter
10 ounces salmon, cut into thin strips
1 leek, sliced
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3/4 cup light cream
3/4 cup sour cream
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
8 ounces dry fettuccine noodles
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sliced
salmon, chopped leek, onion, and garlic, and fry until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

In a medium bowl, mix together the cream, sour cream, and cornstarch; stir into the skillet. Stir in the lemon zest (or lemon juice as we did), pepper, and paprika (which we also didn’t have, so we used cayenne pepper!). Cook, stirring constantly, for 10 minutes, until sauce is thickened and salmon flakes easily with a fork.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add fettuccine (we used fettuccine with cracked black pepper in it already), and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente. Drain, and toss with the salmon sauce. Top with Parmesan cheese to serve.

OM NOM NOM! This was one of the most gourmet-tasting, quick and easy recipes we’ve made yet!  It was done in less than half an hour, perfect for those Monday nights when you may or may not have a 7:00 date with a certain pilot.  Bon appetit!

So Far Away

Back in December, I wrote a little about the situation with my Nan being in hospital back in England.  The situation was that she’d dislocated her shoulder a number of years ago, and the hospital cocked up the surgery, rendering her arm unusable forever.  She spent years trying to get by with the use of only one arm, and as she got older, started having these falls.  She lives by herself in a 2-storey house halfway across the planet, and my dad and I feel so useless.  Every day holds constant worry about her safety, and prayer for her protection. What would happen if she fell, and couldn’t get up to call anyone?  Well, in December, that happened.  She fell, injuring her other shoulder, and ended up in hospital right before Christmas.  My aunts and uncles weren’t in touch with her, my dad and I didn’t have their numbers, and she was alone, no visitors, until Christmas, when a good friend of mine went up on Christmas Day and absolutely made her day.

But the situation worsened.  Her blood pressure and potassium levels dropped drastically, so she was moved from the rehabilitation hospital into the general hospital – the one that had caused her disability in the first place.  They scheduled surgery on her other, functional (but injured) shoulder, for this past Monday, the day Sweet and I were away.  I worried the whole day, and returned to a phone call from my dad, saying over the weekend he’d heard from his stepsister that Nan had been pretty scared all weekend.  She was worried they were going to screw up her other shoulder – and if that happened, she’d never be able to look after herself again.  She was scared too because 13 years ago her husband had gone into hospital for surgery – and never came out.  And she was alone.

As my dad told me they’d postponed the surgery (her blood pressure was too low), I held my breath in a desperate effort to hold back the tears.  My Nan had basically raised me – as a child, my dad was working while my mum was in school, and I spent every day at her house, learning to bake, watching TV, making tea and crafts, and helping with her aviary full of budgies and quails.  I adored the little budgie we brought inside to keep, and Sparky lasted a good 8 years, every day calling out in Nan’s voice “cuppa tea, darling”, “where’s Emily”, and “who’s a good boy, boy, boy”.  So many years of joy were spent with my Nan, and it breaks my heart to think of her now, scared and alone in the world.

My dad decided to fly over to England.  He left yesterday, and I had an email this morning saying he’d arrived, and been to visit:

I have just come back from seeing Nan and, as you can imagine, she was overwhelmed.
She is not looking good and her memory is worse than last year but she is much the same as she was. She had some tears about dying and I had a very compassionate and serious conversation with her about coming out and maybe not being in the house. All very tearful but it ended very well.  More updates tomorrow.

Dad

My heart breaks at being stuck over there, completely useless to the woman who practically raised me and I love so dearly, in her time of need.  I’m glad my dad can be with her right now, and all I can do is pray for her.  That the surgery goes well and she comes out healed – but even if this is the case, she may still have falls, and the “talk” was one referring to the possibility of going into a care home.  If the surgery goes wrong like it did before, it would be the end of her ability to look after herself or do any of the things she takes joy in.  And the worst-case scenario – well, I can’t even bear to think about it.

If you could spare a moment today, for a thought or a prayer sent my Nan’s way, it would mean the world.  There’s only so much I can do from so far away, and right now I’m finding the situation pretty tough on top of my potential layoff in a few weeks.  I’m sorry to bring such a downer to your eyes this morning.  But you guys have always been here for me, and I thank you as ever for listening, and for your compassion.