Tuesday, 14 February 2012



It's February and my birthday is at the end of this week. It's time for a fresh start. A time to take stock, and a time to look forward.

My father-in-law sadly passed away recently. The funeral was held in Scotland last week. And my husband has started to make preparations for retirement ( in 2 years time !! ) handing in his notice this last week or so. My daughter has been offered a place at Edinburgh University in September - they're the last university on her list to reply, and up to this point I had thought she would be just a stones throw away in Leeds. ( I fully expected her to be made an offer from Edinbrugh, but didn't want to think about it and put bad luck on it.)  So it's a time of endings, and a time of beginnings.  I'm finding it a bit overwhelming if I'm honest.  I've reacted more strongly to it all than I expected,  I'm feeling as ancient as Methuselah and thinking of my own life folding inwards. But my excuse is that it's all come at once. It's not been the best Christmas - with father- in-law in hospital and going downhill - (his passing was expected, and he was 94 the day we buried him ) but we've sadly come to expect difficult Christmases. It just seems we've had a bad run of them over the last few years.  I think looking forwards I just have to say that the only way is up. Upwards and onwards.

So, on a positive note I have much to look forward to .
  • I've just paid my subs for my allotment. I've been down to survey the damage of a few months of neglect and it's not as bad as I thought. I'm planning on getting down there after half term to start tidying it up and my gardening friends have volunteered to come and help me in March. I'm now planning what to put in and will devote a post in the future to it. And as I got a camera for Christmas you can look forward to some photo's - with a little help from my daughter in figuring out how to include them !
  • I'm going to Paris !!!! With my daughter. It's a joint birthday present for us both from my husband.  I've not been properly abroad since our honeymoon so I'm a little trepidatious . It's the language that worries me a little , but my daughter has a smattering so I'm hoping we'll manage.  I'm really excited. I was forced by my family to look to the future and apply for a passport last year - I found the whole thing really stressful as the desire for travel is something I put in a box a long time ago. Coupled that with my oncologist warning me about travelling when I was diagnosed. I kissed goodbye to the hope of travel completely at that time, so opening the box was very painful, particularly as it felt like a leap of faith into the future. But I booked a 3 night break yesterday and I'm really excited about it. It would have been better to book ahead - it's ridiculously expensive !! - but we couldn't plan ahead as we've been living day to day since the end of november when my father-in-law was hospitalised. I think we'll have a great time. I'm just worried that after this I'll want to get out there and travel the world ! I think my husband is too. His idea of a holiday is definitely not a city break.
  • I've enrolled on a dressmaking and pattern cutting course. I am really excited about this. I think all the stuff that's going on in my life has led me to it. I'm feeling ancient and washed up. My husband's retiring, my father-in-law's gone before me ( and I was certain the old coot would outlive me !!) , and my daughter's off to start her life in Scotland. I'm feeling ancient and ugly. I can cover up in the day. Put on my hair and my eyes, my makeup and my boob. I can look great by day. But at night the crone cannot be denied. I'm as ugly as sin, and lopsided to boot. So I'm determined to make a nice nightie that won't make me feel like Quasimodo. And to have that I'm going to have to make it myself. If you look in the fashion magazines peplums are making an appearance this year on clothes and they can hide a multitude of sins. I've also noticed and been interested in the work of some Japanese designers over the years who are designing clothes with a very strong architectural feel. Their clothes are very structured and the fabric takes on a life of its own. I'm hoping to incorporate their ideas into a few nighties for the mastectomally challenged. This may sound a little project to you, but I can assure you it's not. I have found 2 nighties on the Internet in the five years I've been looking, and 2 in catalogues. But they've all been pocketed. In those nighties the bodice has to be tight fitting so that the prosthesis sits properly, but not only do you want something loose for night so that the lymph in that area can flow, but the bodice can still move around when you sleep. I tried pocketing a nightie, but on waking in the morning and sitting up I looked incredibly peculiar with humps and lumps where they shouldn't be -the pocket having curved around my body. So I'm on the quest of the perfect mastectomy nightie. And that fills me with more excitement than you can imagine.  There's Hope !!   Perhaps I don't have to look so bad first thing every morning when I walk past my mirrored closets, and stare in the bathroom mirror above the sink. There's just no getting away from how I look on a morning! I've been fine with this for 5 years now . Let's face it, it beats the alternative. But I've been more bothered than I can say since December. And I know that it's to do with the 5 year anniversary marking a minor miracle of survival, and also with father-in-law's , husband's, and daughters plans. I know it's about being overwhelmed because it's suddenly a really big issue for me. So I'm taking positive steps. I'm taking the bull by the horns. I'm getting off my butt and doing something about it. And I'm even considering doing a foundation degree in fashion to that end. Part-time of course, and done locally.  But I'm considering it - finances allowing. It would be nice to have a big project for when I have uninterupted time without having to run around after my daughter and before my huband stays home and dominates my life. I secretly ( is it still a secret after you post on a blog ?1? ) think I should have something which occupies my time and gets me out of the house in place before said husband retires. I've given my family my time whenever they are around in the past, but I can't maintain that. I had been hoping to enjoy the next year when Rosie goes to University to travel the country visiting galleries and cities I've not seen unencumbered by time restraints and domestic duties. Finances won't stretch to that now, so I need to think of something else. Working is out as no employer in his right mind would employ someone with my diagnosis, so perhaps this project will fit my bill. Here's hoping. But, it's one step at a time. I'm going to see how ten weeks of pattern making and construction feels. Starts next Tuesday.!!
So I'm making a fresh start in this next year. These are exciting times. I just have to keep looking forwards with optimism. Concentrating on my positive future opportunities certainly feels a lot better than thinking about past difficulties and regrets. I just need to pace myself as I have come very close to being overwhelmed. but I haven't capsized yet ! I think being positive and proactive is the only way for me right now. Off to pick up my tickets for Paris now. Will hopefully have pictures for my blog next time !! 

Sunday, 5 February 2012


 It's February already. One month into the New Year. Like so many others I started the year with a number of resolutions. By and large I've kept to them. They've not all been to do with health, but one certainly was. And as resolutions are most likely to stick if you are accountable and if you constantly remind yourself of your goal I post today about my feelings about food as of one month on in my new target (Which is good health, naturally ! ).

I believe three things.
  1. Tastebuds are not necessarily your friends. Manufacturers and chemists are making large profits by entertaining our tastebuds for a few moments at a time. We are no longer using our tastebuds for pure survival, but for recreational reasons and for emotional support.
  2. Different people are born with different experiences of taste sensitivities. There are super-tasters - people with a much greater concentration of taste buds on their tongues. They taste more intensely than the majority. Did you know that within the general population there is a wide range of taste experiences. And taste includes sensations of heat, texture, and pain - such as heat from chillies. As bitter foods are avoided and sweet, salty and creamy foods are actively pursued this impacts food choices, and this in turn impacts health. So your taste buds play a role in your health.
  3. We can no longer depend on our taste buds to keep us out of trouble and to point us in the direction of where our best choices in food lie. With the advent of refrigeration, irradiation, and sell by dates, with the growing lucrative market that panders to our food taste and sensation preferences - in the form of sweetness, saltiness, oiliness and creaminess ( high energy foods that were once necessary for our survival as a species ) -,and with the development of non-biological or man-made additives to, on, or in our foods which to all intents and purposes are tasteless, odourless and nutritionally valueless, we can no longer rely on our senses to help us make optimum food choices for our health. Nature and evolution have hardwired us to seek out high energy foods to ensure that we are fit enough to reproduce. Once we have satisfied this urge nature has little more urgent use for us. Eating a high fat, high sugar, high salt diet is good for survival of the human race in general and us in particular in the shorter term  but it does us, as individuals, no good in the longer term,and leads to chronic degenerative diseases.
So, once again, our taste buds are not necessarily our friends.  Now some people say that it takes a month to break a habit. The Internet is full of 21 day challenges aimed at rebooting our minds and retraining us in our food and lifestyle choices. I personally believe that it takes a lot longer than this to retrain ourselves to make lifestyle choices, and perhaps that's why so many of us fall off the wagon , expecting things to all run smoothly by the end of the challenge. I think that with food habits we're dealing with very deep and primitive instincts, with cultural norms ( magazines and tv are full of full colour adverts for foods and beverages that really need little selling !), and with emotional memories and linkages ( Can't we all remember the treats, the desserts, the rewards, the family feasts we had in happy times.).  So it can take much longer to change a habit where eating is concerned. But we can change behaviour and intention in 30 days. We can change energy and focus. But a month is only the start. It takes determination and mindfulness and discipline to maintain lifestyle changes. I know from personal experience that lifestyle changes made more than 4 years ago are being maintained by determination , and not habit., by daily decisions, and not by reprogramming. It's just not as simple as doing a cleanse and getting on with it from there. Our bodies and minds often go into auto-pilot mode and that can be a stubborn and pernicious thing.As soon as we relax, all our bad habits of the past reappear. It might seem negative and dis-empowering to suggest that a month isn't long enough. Far from it ! A month will see a significant change in the body. A month is a good start and foundation. I'm simply suggesting that it will take continued determination and intention. I sometimes catch myself still looking for the quick fix, for a magic potion, for a silver bullet.  But the reality is that we live in the real world. A cleanse is a great start, but it won't magically change anyone's preferences. It can't change instinct, and instinct is where our tastebuds operate. Give them sweet, salty, creamy any day of the week. Now fresh fruit and veg are delicious, but they don't give quite the same feeling of comfort and nurture. We don't go out of our way to binge on broccoli. And broccoli doesn't initiate quite the same cascade of reactions in our bodies. I don't know anyone addicted to cruciferous vegetables ! Now sugar - that's a different story altogether!

But, as I say, a month can refocus us, change our energy and attention, change our motivation. So I'm looking to make some changes over the next month. The timing is not optimum - there's holidays coming up and lots of commitments where I'll not have full control of what I eat and do with my time.  But that's life. It's never going to be optimum for change. Waiting for the right time is like waiting for Godot. Pointless. So knowing that now is not a good time, I commit to refocusing myself on healthy lifestyle choices.  I started last month. As so many do. And I have made some very positive changes. I'm just committing to doing the same this next month and consolidating and building on last months. And I'll doubtless do the same thing the month after.

Awareness is knowledge, and knowledge is power. With the best of intentions I will live Today mindfully, to the best of my ability. And, I'm going to acquaint myself with my taste buds today.

 What do I hope to gain ?  Health.   Peace of Mind.   Energy.

So for the next month I will go easy on myself. I'm apt to be very critical of myself. I could have done better last month, but then I did my best in the circumstances. There is no point in regrets or recriminations. It won't change where I am.. The longest journey begins with one step. And I can only take one step at a time.  My legs won't stretch further than one span. It's one step at a time. No negotiation. No possibility of anything else. This is true for me. And as author Kathy Freston says, " Progress, not perfection "

Resources :-
There is a very interesting podcast available for download from itunes that talks about our taste buds. It's the All In The Mind podcast entitled  " Mmm...that's tasty "  (March 4th 2011) . Host Natasha Mitchell  interviews psychologist Linda Barloshuk on March 4th 2011.