After many months apart due to Covid-19, we formed our bubble in early August. Himself is shielding his Mom and so we have to be very careful with our contacts which is why I have barely come out of lockdown myself. Earlier this month he was able to take a break and he spent the weekend with me. We ate junk food, drank wine, watched films and as the weather was great we had a very long walk. It was such a happy and wonderful weekend. These are things we took for granted before the pandemic, now these are treasured, special, magical times.
Himself does make the best pancakes…I had the blueberry one.
Beautiful afternoon for a very long walk, I ached. It’s been a long time since I walked 9 miles.
It was such a simple, happy and sparkling weekend. It was so good to spend some time together not working, not in a caring role, not carrying out domestic duties, but real quality time where we just had to concentrate on ourseleves. No plans, no stress, no deadlines. Just time to relax and just be. One of the many lessons I have learned over the past two years is to value the small things, take time to enjoy the simple things and to spend time with loved ones when you can. It could be some time before we get this opportunity again, it was over in a flash and yet we felt refreshed and ready to tackle the world again.
I was dreading Christmas 2019. The first one without my parents. It wasn’t the best Christmas in 2018 however we were together and we made the most of the time together. I have been lucky enough to always spend Christmas with my Mom and Dad. When I lived away from home I was always back for Christmas Day. I couldn’t imagine things any other way.
As I look back on Christmas 2019 I truly believe I was still in a state of shock, numbness. I cried a lot yet it felt as if I felt nothing which I know is hard to understand. I wasn’t going to put any Christmas decorations up at all, my heart wasn’t in it. Mom and I would always undertake this task with Dad on hand for the more difficult tasks; the places we couldn’t reach. My bereavement counsellor suggested I look at things a bit differently, do what I feel would be right to do in memory of and in honour of my parents. Himself said that as I love sparkle so much perhaps I could put up a few sparkly items so that Christmas isn’t totally missed within the home. I decided to put up the old Christmas tree in the porch for Mom and Dad. They had this tree since they got married in 1960 and it had been put up every year since. I was happy to do that.
Christmas 2018 I had purchased a small fibre optic tree because Mom was in the hospital bed in the lounge. There wasn’t any room for our usual Christmas tree. So last year I put the small one up again, with some sparkle on the window sill and a photo of Mom and Dad underneath.
I attended Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve which Fr Michael was offering for Mom and Dad. I had many tears hearing the beautiful hymns and carols what we had sang all my life. The church looked so beautiful in the stillness of the midnight hour and hearing the bells ringing out for Christmas was just heartbreaking and yet healing.
This year is going to be a very different Christmas for everyone because of the Covid-19 global pandemic. We are all under various restrictions about what we can and can’t do, where we can and can’t go and the message everywhere about staying safe, washing hands, keeping a social distance and looking after ourselves and others. Things we previously took for granted will not happen this year. However, we must do our best to stay positive. We must celebrate Christmas in some way, in each household, as before. Whether we have many internet calls, social media pictures, videos of sparkling lights or candles lit. Glasses of good cheer or hot chocolate with cream. We have to make the most of the Christmas holidays during these strange days. Don’t let this wonderful time pass us by. Christmas is a time of celebration, of hope and joy. We must hope that when Christmas 2020 arrives that we are looking at a brighter, happier and more positive 2021.
Long time readers of my blog may remember that when I was working and looking after my parents, I was also studying for a BSc (Hons) in Health and Social Care with the Open University. http://www.open.ac.uk/ I graduated in July 2017 and I was scheduled to attend my graduation ceremony in October 2017. Unfortunately on the day of the event my Mom wasn’t well and I couldn’t attend.
I was re-scheduled to attend the following October however my Mom was in hospital and I was staying with her in the hospital and I therefore missed the ceremony. I contacted the Open University to explain why I had missed this second ceremony and they were very supportive of my situation and arranged for me to re-book for October 2019. Little did I know that by then I would have lost both of my parents.
As graduation day drew closer I really didn’t feel like going at all. The two people who had gone through all the studying with me, read all my assignments, revised for exams with me weren’t here anymore. Himself, my cousins and my friends all told me to attend. After so much studying and having to cancel twice before it would be a shame to not go and celebrate my achievement and that Mom and Dad would be watching from above, so proud of me.
I was allowed one guest at the ceremony so himself was with me. It felt amazing to be amongst all these people of various ages who had all managed to study and pass a degree in all manner of subjects whilst working, bringing up a family, caring for someone or suffering ill health themselves. It wasn’t a straight laced and staid event, it was full of fun, laughter and shared community spirit. Afterwards there was glasses of Prosecco to celebrate and you know how much I love fizz!
We then met up with my wonderful cousins for a fabulous celebration afternoon tea at The Ivy in Birmingham. https://theivybirmingham.com/ followed by cocktails at The Cosy Club https://cosyclub.co.uk/location/birmingham/ which was a favourite haunt of mine when I worked in the city. It was an unexpectedly wonderfully happy day and although I did shed a few tears, I really did feel the presence of my parents.
I love lists. I love making lists. I have lists for everything. I appear to have amassed a number of notebooks over the past twelve months for various things. There’s the notebook for house administration, a notebook for things to do in the house, a separate book I purchased all beautifully sectioned out to keep track of house cleaning activities. I have a notepad for my new found gardening “to do” lists. There’s a book on the kitchen counter with the week ahead activity lists and any telephone calls I need to make. Yes I am officially a crazy list woman!
When I was working I had a diary on my desk where I recorded the daily, weekly, monthly tasks and kept a track of what was needed to be done. I had a similar one at home. The sudden, life changing events of last year turned my brain to mush and as such my organisational skills were kaput. I found a blank notebook in a drawer last November and started to record what I was doing on a daily basis. I was attempting to restore some order to my life, to keep track of myself and very slowly it started to work. I felt more control over myself and what I was doing.
I was also recording what I was eating. On the whole I was fairly good with my diet; some days I was bad with my diet and I just went with the flow. Getting myself back to me was more important to me than any lack of fitness or weight gain. I’m a lover of Instagram, my newsfeed is full of lovely people, positivity, sparkle and lots and lots of things I want to buy…that’s a whole other blog post!
When lockdown hit in March it caused another revaluation on my life. I decided that life was far too short too be worrying about diets and that I should just eat healthy 80% of the time and have some treats along the way, in moderation. That it was important to move more, get active, look after my heart, lungs and brain. Yes, that’s another blog post also.
I noticed on Instagram that a number of people were purchasing a box from Nonna Diary https://nonnadiary.com/ mostly to track what they were eating as they were following various diet plans. People were raving about this box of goodies arriving and in the end, after much visits to the website, I gave in and bought myself one.
Oh was I thrilled when it arrived. A personalised diary for tracking what you eat, your water intake, your exercise, goals for the week or month which do not have to be diet related, your own general goals can be recorded here. Lots of motivational quotes, a notebook, a shopping list pad, a to do list pad, a pen, a lovely shopping bag, a wishing bracelet…you get my drift. I love these kind of things and I have used it everyday to track myself, motivate myself, dream big and allow myself to be without pressure. I set goals for the week and check at the end of the week on what I achieved and what I didn’t achieve and why didn’t I. This is helping me to keep engaged with me, it’s getting my brain back into gear and a huge benefit is that I’m supporting a small business.
One area of my life which is not at all orgainsed is the music. Oh I have notebooks galore, but nothing is listed in order, nothing is neatly written, nothing is easy to locate. I can only assume that the musician within me is so creative that I cannot be bound by the tidiness and countless lists of the homemaker in me.
Vitiligo is caused by the lack of a pigment called melanin in the skin. Melanin is produced by skin cells called melanocytes, and it gives your skin its colour. In vitiligo, there are not enough working melanocytes to produce enough melanin in your skin. This causes white patches to develop on your skin or hair. (NHS, UK, November 2019).
I first noticed the white patches on my hands, underarms, thighs and very slightly on my face during the Autumn last year. I had a chat with the GP who diagnosed Vitiligo. He wasn’t surprised. This condition can be brought on by sudden traumas such as childbirth and bereavements. As I had experienced the loss of both parents, suddenly and without warning within a short space of time, this was possibly one way my body was dealing with things. Vitiligo is an autoimmune disease and therefore a blood test was performed to check on my thyroid function ( all good there). There isn’t a cure for Vitiligo, it can disappear, remain as it is or gradually get worse. Over the past months mine has definitely got worse. I now wear Factor 50 suncream when outside as my white patches are at risk of severe sunburn if left unprotected. Other than that, and I know I am very lucky with this, it is not affecting my daily life. I have fair skin, I tan easily and in places the skin looks a little strange, almost like I have put a self tan treatment on and forgotten to cover certain areas.
I noticed when I was recording one of my songs on my iPhone over the Summer that the patches on my face were becoming much more noticeable. Himself remarked that I looked like a reverse Homer Simpson, charming! As much as I have accepted that this condition is part of me and I just have to get on with it, I wondered if this would affect my confidence long term especially as I want to follow a singing career. I am only now getting confident to sing and record on the phone for posting to my social media, was this going to stop me in my tracks?
A chat with my closest friend one day about this situation led me to the discovery of IT Cosmetics. https://www.itcosmetics.co.uk/ My friend was using their CC Cream (Colour Correcting for those who like me didn’t know what CC stood for) and recommended I try it. She knows I am not a full make up kind of woman, lippy and mascara and that’s about it, but I decided I would give it a go.
The IT Cosmetics website offers a step by step guide to gauging the shade of cream you require. I played it safe and selected the light medium. I also had the opportunity to try a couple of free samples so I went for the gel moisturiser and the night time beauty sleep moisturiser, both are really lovely on the skin. I am very impressed with the CC cream. It is extremely light on the skin, I cannot feel that there is any product on at all. It blends beautifully with my natural skin tone and a little goes a long way. It completely covers the white patches on my face so when the time comes to hit the stage and perform I know I can rely on this product to remove any anxiety I may have about sickly white skin patches.
This is my own personal experience and I am not in any way affiliated with IT Cosmetics.
If you should require any information on Vitiligo please visit the following organisations;
I’ve never really been a gardener. My parents loved their garden, if they weren’t out there gardening they were sitting back with a cup of tea reading a large, old, gardening book held together at the seams by masking tape. Looking for various plants, bushes or trees to plant. During the last four years of their lives, they didn’t really bother with the garden at all. Sadly they weren’t able to and neither was I as I was looking after them.
This year of course we have had lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In the UK, from the 23rd March when our Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced lockdown, the weather was incredible. Warm and sunny, day after day after day. After a very dark, wet Winter this sudden early Summer was amazing. At the time, we were allowed out once a day for exercise. The weather was just too good for me to stay indoors and I am so lucky to have the garden. So I located Mom and Dad’s gardening tools and I got myself out there.
I didn’t know where to start or really what to do, so I just went for it. The plant borders once full of colourful plants were now covered in thick grass and weeds. Trees and bushes had taken over corners of the garden. I wasn’t sure what I was doing but I decided that hopefully I wouldn’t kill anything. It was much harder work than I imagined. Clearing the smallest area of thick grass took almost nine hours (not nine hours all at once you understand). I ached so much yet I was so happy with my achievements. I cut roses back, trees back, pulled up weeds and what I thought were weeds. I’m sure Mom and Dad must have been looking down in total shock that their daughter was not only in the garden, but gardening. I hope they are happy with progress so far.
From a grassy and weed filled border to weed free with roses and Dahlia’s blooming.
This bush blooms white twice a year and had totally overgrown. It has taken months and I’m still making my way through to clearing up the area near to the Willow tree. It was so good to locate the small garden ornaments again.
I cleared away the old garden shed and luckily there was slabbing underneath it for a patio area. I grew some sunflowers from seed and I love the Pinks and Purples of the Bizzy Lizzies and Violas.
I’ve even had a go at growing Tomatoes, Green Beans and Potatoes.
I tidied up a patch in the front garden and bought three solar lights which sparkle, of course, at night. So happy to see that Dad’s Shamrock has started blooming again and Mom’s Fuchsia is stunning in the sunlight.
I look forward to clear, bright days so I can get out into the garden. Weeds just keep coming and there are still a couple of small areas that I have to tackle. I’m loving it. I’m planning which plants to buy for some Autumn and Winter colour and I so enjoy looking out of the window at my handywork. Having the good weather and the garden to escape to not only helped me through lockdown, it brought me peace, healing and acceptance. Everyone needs nature, it really is so good for you.
I haven’t blogged for over twelve months. The words just wouldn’t come. I needed time away from everything to process my thoughts, my feelings and my heartbreak. I was a shell of myself. The Autumn and Winter arrived with the darker nights, the darker days and the constant downpours of rain. It matched how I felt. I hid away, I went through the motions of everyday living. I felt nothing but pain as Christmas and New Year arrived and left. I wasn’t on my own all the time, I had himself around and along with my cousins and friends, all ensured I was kept occupied.
Last October himself and I had a week away in Playa Blanca, Lanzarote. Our first holiday in over four years. It was another milestone for me to encounter. It was a lovely week away. A strange week away and coming home to the empty house was horrendous. I cried, I ached and I lived to face another day.
I had emergency bereavement counselling over a period of six months which helped enormously, it helped me to see things from a different perspective; how to deal with emotions, obstacles, practicalities and daily life in general. I spent a week in Costa Teguise, Lanzarote, in February, with my beautiful cousin in her home. It was a slow, peaceful, calm week and I felt alive for the first time in a very long time.
I attended two concerts, Nathan Carter and a few weeks later, Derek Ryan. The songs made me cry, the memories can cut you like a knife at times. Four days after the Derek Ryan concert we were in lockdown. The weather went from grey, cloudy and torrential rain to fabulously warm sunshine – in March!! The good weather has more or less lasted and lasted and we’ve had a couple of very hot heatwaves with a couple of random weeks of bad weather thrown in. We were allowed out once a day for exercise. I took up C25K and starting running again. Three of my cousins also started this programme and we would have a regular Houseparty call after our run and we all graduated and still go out for the walk/run.
I took up gardening!! I’m sure my parents must be looking down with surprise that their daughter is in the garden. I enjoyed it so much, I was out there every opportunity I had and it has done me the world of good. The garden had become so overgrown in four years, it was hard work and so satisfying.
I didn’t see himself for 21 weeks as he was shielding his Mom. We had video calls everyday, it’s not the same though is it? I have had so many video calls I’m quite the old hand at it now and it is so good to see people on screen. I met with my cousins and my friend in gardens, all socially distant. It was strange at first not to hug one another but we have got used to it. Just as we have adapted to wearing face masks when we go to the shops, hair salons and other indoor venues. What a strange year we have all had, who would ever have thought this could possibly happen to everywhere in our world. I found lockdown peaceful, healing and therapeutic. It did me good. I know we were blessed with the great weather which undoubtedly helped, yet apart from not seeing himself, my close friends and cousins, lockdown agreed with me.
With all of the above going on, one day I woke up and things had changed. Within me, things had changed within me. For the first time in a very, very long time, I felt positive. I was at peace with myself. I could feel parts of the pre carer me coming back and I could feel a new me appearing. Perhaps I am now in the “Acceptance” stage of grief? All I know is that things feel different, feel good and I can see a new path ahead.
I had reminders that my blog plan was expiring and eventually I logged in and found that I have received a lot of traffic to the blog over the past twelve months which both surprised and inspired me. Perhaps my story so far has helped people with a similar story who have visited the blog from around the world? Perhaps they were just interested in a particular blog story? No matter, you visited and I am extremely thankful that you did.
I have revamped the blog and my social media as a whole. As you know from my Instagram feed I am posting more. My YouTube channel is growing and I am singing again and posting my videos from my “Kitchen Sessions” and receiving such wonderful feedback, my confidence is growing, thank you.
I still have pain, I talk to my parents everyday, I still wish I was with them. I feel them around me and that gives me strength. I have formed the “Single Person Bubble” with the household of himself, I see my close friends and cousins in gardens and I am content. I know I have a new and very different path ahead now. There is more to my story and I’m back to start sharing the sparkle again. Thank you for sticking with me through this period and hello to all the new followers who have arrived over the past months, so good to have you here.
Have a wonderful weekend, stay safe, wear your mask and as always, share your sparkle.
Things are so different. You wonder how is it possible for life to change so completely, so quickly and with such heartbreak and yet it has. I know I am not alone in this. I know this happens to people on a daily basis. Of course I am struggling with my own loss of everything right now and so I write about my story, my grief journey and about restarting my life. That’s how it feels, that somehow, right now, in the midst of everything I’m having to deal with this dreadful pain, the loneliness and yet restart my life.
Our GP said to me that if I was married, or had children or had still been at work, the days would be easier to get through because I would have distractions. However as my life for the past three years has been as a full time carer for my parents, with both of them passing so close together, suddenly my whole world was gone. I have to find myself again. Some people have said this is really exciting as I can now decide to do anything I want to, which is true. However right now, I don’t want to. Does that sound mean of me? I would give my life to have my parents back with me right this second. Perhaps that is mean of me, it’s selfish of me. I truly believe they are in heaven and fully restored to health. Things that they both told me long before their sudden passing leave me in no doubt that they are there, together, reunited with my sister and other family members. So yes it is selfish of me to want them back here with me but I want to be with them. I miss them. I miss the life I had with them. I know that I am incredibly lucky to have been blessed with them as parents and that I enjoyed such a great relationship with them.
Each morning is another realisation that this is it for me now, I can go out when I want, come in when I want, do what I want and I am just not used to this. This new freedom makes me feel so guilty yet what can I do, I must keep going and build a new life. No big decisions for the time being, my brain is not operating as it was and I don’t want to do anything in a rush and make a terrible mistake. If this is a new and exciting restart in my life I want to do it right. Although small errors are allowed, how else do we learn.
What was I thinking I bought Bikini’s and you know what, I’m going to wear them and not worry about curves and a bit of fat. Holidays are coming and I don’t mean Christmas, more about that on another blog post.
Dessert and a glass of Prosecco is never, ever, ever a mistake.
A new favourite, Vanilla Espresso Cocktails.
A new favourite flower, Alstroemeria, also known as Lily of the Incas.
I know my posts are fairly random as in randomly written but that’s just how I am, my brain is on automatic pilot, it feels like cotton wool some days but the blogging is such good therapy for me. My wonderful chap makes me laugh and looks after me so well. My friends and family are good to me, checking up on me, taking me out, we have laughs, long talks and some tears. My neighbours have been very supportive and are looking out for me too. I have some great support and for that I feel blessed and very grateful.
In my opinion I don’t think anything can prepare you for the amount of administration, organising and general work that appears when someone close to you passes away. All this work appears when you are in the worst frame of mind and least prepared to carry it out. Having to do so much when my Dad passed at the end of January was a real eye opener, there were envelopes arriving every day with something to respond to, forms to complete, never mind the trip to the registrar to register the death and obtain the various forms required for the funeral to be carried out. I had only just finished the administration for Dad when my Mom passed four months later and I had to start again. Of course this time I knew what I had to do and when, but this time I had double the grief and trying to deal with everything was easy because I had done it once before so recently, and trying to deal with everything was difficult, because I had done it once before so recently.
Arranging orders of service, choosing readings and hymns, photographs for the orders of service. Liaising with various people to ensure everything could be done on a particular day and a particular time. Then designing memorial cards. Sending them out to family and friends, whilst in the meantime dealing with the various forms and letters, telephone calls, amendments of names etc etc. All whilst your brain has decided not to co-operate. You cannot be prepared for these events. I think it’s impossible.
Thankfully the people you are dealing with are used to talking to and helping bereaved family members. Everyone I have spoken to has been supportive, kind, helpful and explained in terms I understand what I need to do and by when. One of the nicest things that was said to me was when I was speaking to a chap in Ireland on the telephone and as he finished the conversation he told me to “mind myself”. Irish people will know that phrase, it means to take care of myself. It brought tears to my eyes, tears of comfort that a huge corporation had a human side and understood my pain.
A long time favourite film of mine is “Meet Joe Black”. I loved a scene towards the end of the film where Joe reveals his identity as an IRS Agent. The saying is correct, there are two things which are a certainty in life Death and Taxes.
My family has been amazing. My cousins here in the UK have built what I can only call a wall of comfort and love around me. I feel so protected by them. They are not in touch with me every day, they don’t need to be, they are there, I only have to reach out. With WhatsApp we are in contact, we meet up for lunches, we plan meeting up in the future and they make sure I am as ok as I can be at the moment.
We recently had a fairly impromptu visit from our cousins in Tipperary which was wonderful. We hadn’t seen each other for such a long time it was fabulous to get together. Fourteen of us got together one evening for a birthday meal and it was just a crazy, everyone talking at once, laughing and enjoyable family evening. We even had two cousins arrive from Ireland that we didn’t know were coming, as a surprise. My Dad’s brother was so happy that we were all there together. Again, I felt protected, loved and looked after. We wondered if our respective parents were looking down from above and loving that we were all together after such a long time.
My cousin Marji and I go back a very long way, to my holidays as a teenager with her in Tipperary and the freedom we both had going to see the Irish Showbands at the dancehall miles away. My Dad was always there to drive us, bless him. We reconnected as if we had only seen each other last week.
Such a happy group photo – it was like herding cats getting us all in one place for photo’s, I think this was the most of us that managed to get into a photo at any one time.
My cousin Marji has the most beautiful voice. Marji runs the Tipperary Gospel Choir. Here is a link to her solo performance on RTE last year. Marji Maxwell
Her brother Michael runs Laois People which now also has a 24 hour country music radio station. Country music, Irish music and singing must just be in our DNA.
We may not get together very often but our family ties are strong, we have that bond and that’s what matters.