Am I winning?

scales_1So I’ve been going to the gym for a while now. My fitness level is improving as is my muscle strength, even if my immune system seems to be taking a hit.

My trousers are looser; I can pull some pairs of jeans up and down without undoing them and my jogging bottoms fall down when I run!

When my partner came home last week from working away he asked where my bum had gone.

Problem?

 

I haven’t lost ANY weight.
Can I still be winning?

 

*Image from bbcgoodfood.

I’m not running, I’m just walking

(Sung to tune of Just Looking by Stereophonics…)

I was in the gym today thinking about the people who were there. Giving them little back stories about why they were there, just for my own entertainment, like when I make up reasons why all of the cars are stuck in traffic, stories about where the drivers are heading and why.

There is the marathon runner raising money for charity, the secret nacho libre who fights crime at night, the rower training for the next olympics, the fabulous at fifty looking hot as ever for her much younger and well earnt toy boy and flying man, destroyer of gym machines everywhere, to name a few.

I need to be clear, I’m not judging them or why they are there, just exercisercising my imagination as well as my body.

Then I wondered what people might think of me. Do they invent stories about me or do they judge?

A seemingly healthy woman in her mid thirties not really running on the treadmill, lifting the lightest weights, doing the strangest exercises on the blance ball and the most unconventional stretches.

Do they wonder why they rarely see me running? What’s the point in going to the gym if you don’t run?

Do they wonder why I only do short sets of light weights? Aren’t I supposed to be working out?

Do they wonder why I spend so much time on the balance ball, wobbling left to right, front and back. What on earth can I be doing?

The thing is, it’s what they don’t see that matters.

They don’t see the pain I feel in my stomach everytime one of my feet pounds on the treadmill if I run.

They don’t feel the crams in my ankle as I repeat my reps on the leg press.

They don’t hear my ankle click as my legs turn on the bicycle or feel my tendons giving way as I wobble about on the balance ball.

I’m not there to be a hero, to run a marathon or compete in the olympics. I’m just there to survive the Zombie apocalypse. The gym doesn’t mean being fast or strong for me. It means not falling over on my ankle for no reason at all or collapsing in invisible pain as I make my eascape!

This Jo will survive!

The Beauregarde Incident

Violet-BeauregardeSo last night it happened.

I went out for a perfectly lovely meal with my partner at a local fine dining restaurant. I was good and avoided gluten, enjoying a prawn and crayfish cocktail followed by a roast chicken main and accompanied by a glass or two of Rose. Absolutely delicious.

I made the boyfriend drive home as the wine had gone straight to my head, or so I thought…

Sitting on the sofa waiting for The Boy to join me to watch The Walking Dead, I surfed Facebook.

Very quickly I noticed my hand was itchy and when I looked there were red blotches on the back of it. So I rolled up my sleeve, more red blotches. I pulled off my jumper and called for The Boy. My chest and shoulders looked like I had spent all day in the sun without the appropriate protection as, it turned out, did my back and face. My top lip looked botoxed and the scars on my stomach were red raw.

Now I’m no Violet Beauregarde, and I’d skipped dessert to be good, so why on earth did I now resemble a giant raspberry?

The Boy called 111 before I had even finished removing my jeans (my legs remained milky white so all good there, although a tan wouldn’t go amiss). After speaking to a couple of Operators/Clinicians they confirmed what I thought. I’d had an allergic reaction to something and told me I would need to see an out of hours Dr.

Seriously! Don’t they know Tasha is hauled up with Negan doing the bad and Rick is about to unleash his inner Brit on the woman’s colony. Come on. This is important stuff.

So, rummaging through my apothecary, I get the call that I have an appointment at 11.40, that’s 11.40pm! It only half eight. Should I expect V.B. syndrome to last that long? Really? Hell no. Thanks very much but no thanks. ‘I’m very sorry,’ I explain. ‘I have to be up at 5. That’s far too late. I’ll be in bed.’ Instead I am told a Dr will call me. No-one told me it would be at 11.30pm, a time at which I’d made it quite clear I would be in bed.

I hit the Piriteze, watched some Zombies get their brains blown out and hit the sack.

Of course by the time the Dr called I was a) Asleep and b) Happily no longer a walking raspberry!

I now sit here wondering what had caused me to react in such a way. I’ve had the starter at that restaurant before and there was nothing in the main that should have caused that.

I guess I must have magically developed an allergy to something I’d eaten. Apparently this can happen, especially when your immune system is compromised, as it certainly is at the moment with this horrible cold (which also needs a name; yes, I’m calling it the Snot Monster).

So I guess it’s a trip to see my GP to request an allergy test. I really hope it’s not the shellfish as I LOVE prawns and shrimp and lobster and crab and scallops and… well… you get the idea.

In the meantime I’ll be carrying a box of Piriteze in my bag at all times, just in case.

Now, what shall I have for lunch? Mmm, scampi n chips…

 

**UPDATE**

Today I said goodbye to the Jo whose favorite food was Salmon and Sushi. She has to be left behind. Dr’s orders. No Seafood until my blood test results come back. He completely agreed with the diagnosis of shellfish allergy and has ordered blood test to confirm both that and my gluten intolerance, and I have another pill to add to my apothecary; a strong antihistamine to be taken for at least a month. Apparently sudden onset allergies are linked to my other nemesis but more on those when I’m ready.

Mothering Sunday; the hardest day of the year*

Mother’s Day has always been very hard for me but this year is different, this year it could be catastrophic and I’m not looking forward to it at all.

This year there are additional stresses to consider. Not only is my mum my mum but there are feelings relating to my grandmother and myself I have yet to resolve.

Let me explain…

Being a good daughter, I celebrate Mother’s Day for my mum.
There it is, right there, the truth, staring back at me. For my mum.

Not for me to tell her what a great mum she’s been or how she’s the best, because, well, those aren’t the kinds of thoughts I have when I think of my mum.

It is so difficult to choose a card, because they all share those sentiments and I won’t lie. So, I stand, reading cards, looking for one which picks out the positive qualities in my mum, or something that’s humourous or sarcastic. Happy Mother’s Day on its own doesn’t scream thought or care. I am thoughtful and do I care. But, as I’ve said before, my mum is special.

This card, so hard to choose, carries so much emotional weight. My mother did her best, I’m sure she did. I think her worst fear would be that she wasn’t a good mum, that she didn’t do enough for us, that she didn’t love us enough. Doing your best and being good at something aren’t the same thing, especially when the odds are stacked against you. I have to remember that. She did what she could, she loved us in her own way. She still does. (I note the unconscious use of the past tense and will address this in future posts.)

My feelings for her are complex and mostly not her fault, in that she has no awareness of how her ‘illness’ and actions have impacted our relationship.

So, being the good daughter I write my card, I find the good memories and I thank her for everything she has done for me, for the times she has been there for me and for being my mum. She needs to know I am grateful for her, and I really am, but not in the same way most children are.

Despite everything, she helped me become who I am and I like who I am. Mostly.

Then there’s my grandmother, no longer the woman I knew, my hero gone, taken from me one Saturday night in February. Now there is a stranger occupying her body. I do not know her, she barely knows me. Worse, she barely knows my mother, my mother, her eldest daughter, who now has to care for her everyday, and look after herself, my mother with her ‘illness’ trying to be a good daughter. 

Heartbreaking isn’t a big enough word. 

This Mother’s Day may be the last she gets with my grandmother, the last we get with her, her and yet not her, and every part of me cries out with sadness at that thought. Sorrow for my grandmother, sorrow for my mother, her siblings, my cousins and their children, sorrow for my siblings, my nieces and nephew and for me, that our world is on a knife edge. Catastrophe is waiting.
When my grandmother is gone who will my mother become? What will that mean for us? 

I hope my mother’s ‘illness’ protects her. I hope this doesn’t make her worse. I’m not sure how much further down is left before she hits the bottom, never to come up again.

And finally, there’s the big one, the one that I can’t reconcile, tears running down my cheek as I type, receiving strange glances from other passengers on the train; me, coming to terms with the growing probability of having to leave the mother in me behind. Never knowing what it’s like to carry my own child, to feed my crying baby, to hear the word “mum” coming from a small voice at my feet. No mother’s days for me. But that’s another story for another day, when I am ready.

*written by last week’s Jo as I didn’t know if today’s Jo would be strong enough. She is. She always is. She has to be.

Thoughts from the daughter trying to be good

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Today I learnt that my younger sister (Aged 11) walked my brother (7) to our grandparent’s house the day my father left.

They called my mother, or my sister called them, she doesn’t remember.

She does remember needing to get our brother somewhere safe, somewhere there might be answers.

She remembers going there being her idea. She reasoned with our mother that it was a good idea. That she could go there and get answers.

She remembers us taking over. Maybe that’s why our roles flipped? It’s certainly when.

Now I feel incredibly sad.

We all left her that day. Her husband, her children.

She was all alone.

Maybe she wanted it that way?

Time to be alone, time to not be a wife, to not be a mother, to be her.

Time to be angry, to be sad, to grieve the loss of her marriage, the loss of herself?

Time to say goodbye to the person she left behind?

Time to start to become someone new?

I’ll never know.

I do know that I had a short time to be alone, but I was still a daughter and a a big sister and I was on a mission.

No time to be angry, no time to be sad, no time to grieve the loss of my parents marriage, the loss of myself.

I didn’t have time to say goodbye to the person I left behind, to start to be someone new.

It had already happened.

Making the effort to be a good daughter

GOOD DAUGHTER
I can hear the air escaping from your mouth as you sit aghast after reading that heading.

Making an effort? To be a good daughter? It shouldn’t be effort. It should be easy. That’s your mum!

That’s right. That’s MY mum!

And MY mum is special. MY mum is challenging. MY mum is not the same as most people’s Mum.

She is undiagnosed with whatever she has. I don’t know what it is but I need to remember. She is special, she is MY mum.

We have never had the best of relationships, not that I’m sure she knows that? She always did the absolute best she could for us and tried to never leave us wanting for anything. I know a lot of who I am is because of our relationship but I also know a lot is in spite of our relationship. I am forever grateful for who I have become. I have to remind myself of this everyday.

My heart fills with sadness when I think of my childhood. My memories are not what they should be. They are not filled with the joy and happiness that comes with innocence, imagination and exploration. I mourn for all the things I didn’t get to experience.

Don’t get me wrong, there was joy and happiness and mischief but these memories are so often overshadowed by the ‘other stuff’.

In my junior years. Whilst my friends were out playing I was at home being the good daughter, comforting my mum with whatever drama was unfolding before her, convincing her it would all be okay. I was distracting my sister through play and checking on my crying infant brother as my parents argued downstairs. I got caught once (the shouting stopping, hearing footsteps, I hid in a wardrobe) I  got a smack for waking him up, despite the fact he had been crying for a good few minutes and I had actually stopped him crying by the time the parent arrived!

As I got older things got worse. My mother became increasingly insecure in the relationship. I believe this was triggered by several miscarriages. Each one sent her spiraling into a pit of depression. Unable to do what all women should be able to do, have a child, perhaps she felt less like a woman, a failure? (I know some will argue about my right to make that statement and I’ve considered it very carefully; but I have every right, more so even that my mother, which I will talk about in another post, another day.)

My father tried so hard to support my mother. He tried to get her to have counseling. She insisted she didn’t need it. For some reason there was a stigma attached to this is her mind. It was a dirty word.

Slowly, my mother pushed my father away, consistently berating him, convinced he was having an affair, about to run off with some other woman. She sent me out at all hours to check his car was where he said he was or to look in the pub window to make sure he was there. What would I say the day he wasn’t?

I remember wondering what would happen when my parents broke up, wishing they would break up. Planning to live with my father, not realising I would never get a choice.

Of course he did end up having an affair. And I understand why. There’s only so many years of being accused of something before you think “To hell with it, I might as well do it then!”

I remember the day he left. I was thirteen I think. I woke up to them arguing again. I remember hearing the front door slam. My mother crying. I got up and got dressed. There was a phone call. I remember the words “How old is it?” She still wanted them to be together. She would help raise it. We could be a family. I cannot believe she still wanted to be with him! She would have said anything. But it was the circle. Her self prescribed fate. If you believe in something enough it will happen. Good or bad. Her nightmare came true, and worse still, there was a baby involved. A baby she was denied so many times.

Upon going downstairs I was promptly sent to find my father. A 12 year old girl, with no idea where to start to look, to find a young man with a car who could cover more miles in a few minutes than her two little feet in a day. But I had to do it. It was what a good daughter would do.

But I wasn’t going to do it alone. So I called for my friend but she was at her dads. That’s okay. I thought. It’s on the way. On the way to where? I didn’t know. I decided to stick to the main road, he might drive past after all. I checked the shops as I walked to meet my friend (he wasn’t there), right past my grandparents house (he wasn’t there either). My friend’s dad lived next to the town centre and less than an hour later I was outside her house explaining our mission. So we went to look in town (we didn’t find him there of course) and stopped in the park to regroup. It was passed lunchtime so we decided to head back to her dad’s house to refuel.

Once we were full we went back out again. I couldn’t say where, I don’t recall, I just remember the overwhelming fear of going home, of telling my mother I couldn’t find him. I was a bad daughter.


I didn’t have a chance! After going to my maternal grandmothers house (about a 45mins walk in the other direction) to complete some chores he had visited his parents, for advice I guess. I had been and gone by that point. Then he had gone to ‘hers’, to be with his new family. She didn’t even live in the same part of the town as us. It was a part that at that age, I didn’t even know existed. But I had searched my whole world, and I had failed. I was a bad daughter.

I don’t know what my brother and sister went through that day. We’ve never spoken of it. I expect my sister was the one left comforting my mother. My brother, so very young, probably hid in his room, playing computer games in fictional worlds, places in which he would hide for many years to come.

I vaguely remember getting home at tea time and informing my mother of my failure. I was informed that I clearly “hadn’t looked hard enough” and if I had ran out of places to look “I should have come home sooner,” to be given more places to look I assume. I was a bad daughter.

Part of me wishes it happened sooner. Staying together for your children not only makes the grown ups unhappy, it makes the children unhappy too. It makes for an unhappy home and an unhappy childhood, but at least my father can say he tried. He gave it everything, until he had no more to give.

I know why he left but he will never know that he took what was left of my childhood with him.

And ever since? I’ve just been trying to be a good daughter.

The Orange Soup

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I’ve become a little bit famous at work, or rather my lunch has.

Trying to be healthy, I began to make all of my own soups to take into work for lunch. This way I know exactly what is in them and can guarantee that there is no gluten or preservatives or additives or any of the scary ingredients ‘they’ put into our food.

I have become somewhat addicted to my Orange Soup and always get compliments about how good it smells. So, being the sharing, caring type I took some ‘basic’ Orange Soup into work for a friend who enjoyed it. Then other people wanted to try it. Next came the recipe requests. I can’t recall where I got the ‘original’ recipe from – I know it was a butternut squash one – but it has been Jo’d since and changes every week.

So, here is the recipe for Jo’s Orange soup. I hope you enjoy it.

Ingredients:

1 regular Butternut Squash (90p ones in Tesco – They are 90p in Lidl too but tend to be a bit smaller. Not sure about the other reputable veg retailers)

2 large carrots (I like organic)

1 large sweet potato (The loose ones in Tesco/Lidl or any other respectable vegetable selling establishment)

1 large onion (Can be white or red; I prefer red makes the soup a bit sweeter)

3 cloves of Garlic – crushed (Feel free to add remove to your taste)

 1 dessert spoon ‘ish’ of organic, unsalted butter (If I am feeling particularly healthy I have been known to substitute with coconut oil)

Approx. 1 litre of Chicken Stock** (Just adding this so the Stock doesn’t feel left out)

Cooking:

Peel and chop the veg into small chunks. Throw the butter in a deep pan with a large surface area on the base and melt on a medium heat (so the butter doesn’t burn). Pop in the veg and fry off stirring regularly. Do this for around 5 mins.

Once your happy all of the veg has a nice coating of butter, pour over enough chicken stock to cover the mixture.**

Simmer for 45 minutes on a low heat.

Souping:

Once the vegetables are soft turn off the heat and leave to cool. According to Masterchef Australia (and proven by a few silly NutriBullet owners) if you blend hot liquids they can explode so this step is very important!

After the soup has stopped steaming I mash the vegetables and then pour them into the blender. I usually end up with two of three blender loads. The mashing makes the mixture easier to pour into the blender and stops it splashing everywhere.

Once blended I add all of the mixture back to the saucepan on a low heat so I can add Salt and Pepper.

The base soup just has a sprinkling of salt and pepper to lift the vegetables.

I like to add Paprika and Cayenne pepper to taste (Or whatever else is in the herb and spice cupboard – I added Turmeric this week and it tasted like chicken korma – yummy).

My partner likes to add a little sprinkling of sugar (Naughty!) to his as well as he has a sweet tooth!

**I make my own chicken stock by breaking up a roast chicken carcass, covering it in water and slow cooking it in my slow cooker for about 8 hours. You can do this on the hob on the lowest heat. If you wanted a stronger roast taste you can brown off the bones with butter in a large pan first until they go soft. (I have also read that you can soak the chicken in a water/apple cider vinegar mix for an hour or so before cooking to draw out the calcium from the bones. I have yet to try this as I’m a bit reluctant about vinegar drawing chemicals out of the metal of the slow cooker or damaging it in some way , although I have no science to back up this concern… yet.)

Once the bones are soft filter the stock and cool in the fridge. It should have a jelly like consistency and you will get a thin white layer of fat on the top which you can scoop off using a spoon and dispose of. I then freeze until needed.

I have also used Kallo organic gluten free chicken stock in the past and it has tasted fine.

That’s it.

Easy Peasy.

Jo

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