Thursday, 14 May 2015

Education vs Work

It's often the case that Amy comes home from school with a complaint about something or other; I guess it's quite normal at her age to find anything and everything an issue. If it isn't a so-called friend that's upset her, it's usually a patronising comment made by a member of staff and when I ask which member of staff, she will never say. I think I may have a reputation for being one of *those* parents who rings the school to try and sort out my child's issues, rather than leaving her to sort them out herself. But it's hard when your child is unhappy about something and you feel that pressing need to do something about it. Amy is hard as nails on the exterior and can most definitely hold her own. If she's ever threatened or on the verge of bullying I don't think she'd hold back from giving verbal abuse, or even striking out physically. Not that I encourage that of course. But the fact I was bullied at school for a long time, and would sit in a corner like a frightened little mouse for most of break times, I'm quite proud that my daughter is nothing like me in that respect. But she is sensitive. She dwells on things, thinks about things too deeply, finds it difficult to ignore a situation and not get involved. She sticks up for her friends if she feels they're on the receiving end of abuse and she has no problem with reporting other kids to members of staff if she thinks it's necessary. Whether she gets that off her dad I don't know, but I can only assume she does.

Recently, however, she's been particularly unhappy at school and that's not like her at all. She's spent the past few years at special school making the most of the opportunities she's been given and as the staff have been amazing so far, encouraging her to go further, giving her the push she needs and making it clear that she's more than capable of doing at least three GCSEs (English, Maths and Science), and perhaps a fourth (Music), I feel quite worried that her recent lack of enthusiasm is going to pull her back from achieving the grades she needs in order to get into a decent college. She wants to do animal care. I'm currently looking into different colleges around the North of England. I am no longer tied to Northumberland and have many reasons to move away now, not least to help Amy with her education and future employment. I have always done what it takes to ensure she has what she needs, and I will continue to do so.

But the next move I make won't just be about Amy and her education; it will also be about me. I could have moved back to my roots last year when I left the farm because that is where my family are. But I chose to stay in the county so that Amy could continue attending her present school, which has, as I said, been a tremendous asset to her education. I don't know at this stage what is going to happen in so far as schooling and my own wellbeing are concerned but something has to give one way or another. I've heard some things about the ethos of the school recently that I'm not altogether happy with and although I'm not going to mention them here, it is quite concerning that my very capable daughter, whom I have made sure has received a bloody good upbringing, isn't being pushed and encouraged enough to get through these vital exams. I'm not sure whether this new rule of staying in school until you're 18 is actually for the best. It did me no harm to leave at 16, go to college for two years then into full time employment when I was only 18. Amy wants to leave school and go to college; she actually can't wait. She knows what she wants; she's known for years. So many thoughts are going through my head right now, not just to help Amy get decent grades and therefore on to a good course at college, whichever college that may be, but for me, too. When I sit alone (most of the time) I often think that if I didn't have Amy in my life I wouldn't be here now. But I do have Amy in my life and my life is so much richer because of it. However, I won't sit back and allow her to be unhappy at school, knowing there is something I can do about it.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Popularity Contest

Lots of voting going on today of course, and quite rightly. At least if my chosen party doesn't get into power, I will have every right to complain about the next government. If you don't vote, then in my humble opinion, you have absolutely no right to complain, whinge or indeed rant anywhere in public about the next Government. So many people didn't vote in the 2010 elections: their excuses being they didn't think it would make a difference. Of course it makes a difference. What bloody planet are these people living on? I do a postal vote and have done for a long time. It's easy. It means I can sit back on voting day and observe. Then I can sit back on deciding day and feel good that I made the effort. It isn't rocket science. Really, it isn't.

Then we have another kind of voting going on right now and that is perhaps not quite so urgent or indeed serious, but it does mean a lot to some people. It is something, however, that I have always struggled with as a blogger. I've been involved with several blogging communities over the last 8 years, many of which have been awesome. But one thing has always put me off getting too involved and that's this obsessive need to vote for each other's blogs in order to be "Best this" and "Best that". I'm quite sure a lot of my blogging friends will disagree with me when I say that no one should be competing to such a degree with their blog that they feel they have to persistently canvas for votes just to be crowned "Best this or that". Of course, we all have our own personal reasons to blog, some of those being to earn a bit of money with writing posts for companies...something else that has always put me off. I'll read anyone's blog, whether they write from the heart or are just ranting about politics. I think everyone should be commended for their blog, for the time and effort they spend on it, for feeling so passionate about it that they want to be a part of a blogging community. But do we really need to find ourselves in competition with each other over who has the "Best Blog"? Really? I'm sorry, but I don't think we do. I think it's demoralising when there are so many amazing blogs out there that are hardly recognised and someone with a bit more clout who spends more time blogging and has a bigger following goes on to win a prestigious blogging award, even though they can't string two sentences together. A good blog to me is...a blog. Simple. Anyone can create a blog. We all have a story to tell. Look at me, for example. Or don't. It's up to you. But always remember that popularity in blogging is not a winner. Being a blogger, however, is.

p.s. A little mention goes to Kate who blogs at Kate on Thin Ice and runs a fabulously inspiring blog called Striking Mum. Credit where credit's due.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

To Dream a Dream

It was eight years ago when I created this blog. I was a different person then. The dreams I had were surrounded by an uncomplicated existence, a stable future and a home I thought I'd never leave. I'm living proof that none of us know what's around the corner. I didn't think I'd spend two years agonising over a life-changing decision or that my then seven year old would grow up to be a 6 foot rebel with attitude. The little girl on her scooter raced up and down the farm road, making my heart beat much too fast at the vision of her landing in the ditch. She never did; always the daredevil. There was a craze of blog awards in those days. Everyone seemed to join in, handing them out, accepting them with pride, displaying them as they listed seven unusual things about themselves. Tagging and Memes were big back then.  Perhaps they still are and I've just lost touch with the blogging world.

I wish, eight years on, that I could tell you about my dreams now. The thing is, I probably could but they are so different to the ones I used to have that you may be forgiven for believing you are reading someone else's blog. I was known back then: Crystal Jigsaw, Blogger of Note, Number One in ranks and lists and statistics, which meant I'd made it. I had my 15 minutes of fame - it lasted months - and then it waned. I could have kept it going but other things started to fog my brain and that clear vision of what lay ahead became a haze of mixed emotions and uncertainty. I knew what I didn't want but I wasn't sure what I did want.

In 2015 I know what I want. I've finally discovered the grass is never greener and the sky never clearer. I don't see the child on her scooter anymore but I do see a young woman with ambition to race ahead. She can't wait to be 18. She can't wait to go to college and be treated like a grown up. My heart misses those scooter days, climbing on the straw bales, running through the fields with dogs in tow. Those are memories I will keep forever. Now we have new memories to make, ones to look back on in eight years and say, "Remember when..." I will always remember when. Always.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Freedom of the Noose

A few tears shed over four collies as I think about them scrambling out of their baskets at the sight of four leads. A short walk through the fields due to limited time in the lambing season, but that doesn't matter to them; the gratitude in their eyes lights up a master's day, breathes new life into the weary bones that have trudged through the sheds with suspicious ewes and wobbly lambs. My Meggie doesn't like the lead and hangs her head in the hope you will give up trying to put it around her neck. Perhaps she sees it as a noose. I saw the farm as a noose. A noose that was closing in around my neck. I empathise with a collie dog. She wants to be free, too.

Four collies pull and struggle, eager to reach the open fields, and you trail behind, almost running to keep up, ordering them to stop pulling whilst knowing your commands fall on deaf ears. Then you reach the gate and they stop, knowing that within seconds they will be released and free to run for the hills, through the meadows, across the fields. Four pairs of eyes look at you longingly, pleading with you to hurry up and open the rickety wooden fence that separates the noose and the freedom to breathe again.

They shuffle about impatiently, making it difficult to remove the lead as the anticipation builds. One by one they bound off, sniffing the ground, rummaging through the undergrowth. Four excited collies free of the noose, the big wide world theirs to explore. They discover something new on each walk, even though they trample over ground they know so well. They're free. Life is there to discover. I no longer wear a noose; I'm free, too.

Friday, 27 March 2015

The Wonder of You

She sits on the stairs sometimes and cries at her losses, wondering if regret is the right way to feel. Then the tears dry up and a future looms on the horizon. She stands and looks around, soaking in an atmosphere of silence, ticking clocks and the distant hum of traffic. It's the silence she remembers. That's what fills her head. That's what gives her the ability to think, reflect, perhaps regret. We all regret something, though it's pointless of course, because we can't change the past. The losses have been huge, not just a mere misplacement in a gentle wave. They affect her deeply because she's a sensitive soul beneath the hard exterior, and takes things to heart.

She looks through the window at the passers by and wonders if they have an unbearable silence droning through their heads, if they have a past that has eaten away at them and left them feeling empty, desolate. She sees their smiles and the way some of them swing their hips when they walk, and then she wonders if she is alone after all. She's confused. Being alone is what she likes, what she finds most comfortable. Yet being alone can stretch the loneliness to the point of disconcerting silence.

She looks at the photographs in frames, smiling faces with arms outstretched, covering each other in adoration. She wants to be in one of the photographs. She has always been the one taking them, standing behind the camera, suggesting her subjects smile and look happy. She wonders what they have lost during their life; what the younger subjects have yet to lose. Then she dries her tears and starts to wonder what she has yet to gain.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Road to Recovery

I think I could write a book on the changes that have occurred in my life over the past twelve months. It could even be a best-seller. There's a thought. I go for a decade pottering through life with the hardest decision of the day being 'apple or banana for breakfast?' and then all of a sudden my head is filled with cross roads and T junctions and roundabouts that seem to lead nowhere. Where are all the signs? Does my Sat Nav work? Can I even use a Sat Nav? There's another thought. I can get from A to B in the car with very few issues, but getting from A to B in my head...well, I seem to go the long way round, stopping off at C, D and E en-route. When I realise that Z is on the horizon, I apply the brakes and ponder for a while. Now I have another decision to make and this time it will change the course of my life. Oh, hang on, I did that last year. This is a new year. Shouldn't it have been a new me, too? Perhaps. Though we can't just write off the last decade and forget it ever happened, can we? What happens in our future often reflects on what has happened in our past. Are there any signs on this bloody roundabout? I seem to have been on it for far too long.

This week I've been visited by two girlfriends, on separate occasions, who have stood by me through the upheaval. We've talked and laughed and almost cried. We've compared our difficulties and newly single status and realised that the big wide world isn't quite so scary once we get the hang of it. I'd like to get the hang of it one day, even if it means going on a world trip to "discover myself". That's what people do these days, isn't it? Discover themselves. All part of life's interesting journey. Then they come home and realise that they're the same person as before they went away. I'm going to settle for the roundabout. The time differences would mess with my body clock, and I do need my beauty sleep. Maybe I will write that book after all. It could even be therapeutic. It could help me to find a way out of the maize. Of course, if someone would cut the hedges down and teach me how to use a Sat Nav, I'd be well on my way to discovery. Sorry, recovery.

Friday, 13 March 2015

A Brighter Tomorrow

I've had a bad back for a while. If you've ever looked at medical advice online, like I did recently, you'll understand when I say I might not be here next week. I think it should be a given rule that non-medical people don't seek information or advice from online sites such as the good old NHS, and all the others on there that have a rather dramatic outlook on the human being. It's probably my posture and the fact I don't get enough exercise. The fact that I'm stressed to the eyeballs may or may not have anything to do with it, but who knows? Certainly not the Internet, that's for sure. Anyway, I plucked up the courage earlier on in the week and went to see my GP - a lovely, sympathetic female who seemed to really understand the words, "I've got a few things wrong with me." I felt a bit pathetic when I sat down and said that but there's no point going to see your GP once every blue moon like me, with only one issue when I have "a few things wrong with me."

Unfortunately, we never got round to the back pain. I sat down and cried. Pathetic, eh? She shoved a box of Kleenex in front of me and asked me a series of questions before telling me it's not surprising I feel like I do after everything I've been through. The word 'depression' was mentioned but it's something I'm not prepared to accept. I'm anxious; I have panic attacks; I have days where I could murder the post man for bringing me a brown envelope with the words HMRC or DWP on the back. But depressed? I can't accept that.

I wanted to talk about my bad back and the excruciating pain I have. But I didn't think it sounded important enough after all the leaflets she sent me away with, mainly about therapy. I've shared this on Facebook because I have a lot of very empathetic and sympathetic friends on there who have given me sound advice. I made myself sound disrespectful when I said therapy isn't for me: talking to a complete stranger with a few letters after their name pretending they understand the last 18 years of my life in a matter of a few one-hour sessions. It just doesn't seem possible. Depression isn't a condition that you can just snap out of. It's real and it's debilitating. But I can hear myself constantly saying do this, do that, and for the love of God, snap out of it.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Moon River

I sometimes lie awake at night because I have so many thoughts racing through my mind and it makes my brain overwhelmingly active. I blame it partly on my age; that stupid transition that we women go through, the one that changes just about everything we've known for the past few decades. Perhaps I'm not quite middle aged at 45, but some days I feel dreadfully old. I have good days and bad, some of them really good and some of them really bad. There never seems to be a happy medium anymore.

So many of the thoughts I have, focus around what's happening to me right now, and then they develop into what may happen in my future. Some people live for today; others plan. Since I discovered my independence and the fact that I can look after myself, I, too, wish to live for today because, as I keep reminding myself, life is too short. Perhaps I am middle aged. Is 45 middle aged? I never have worked it out. I guess it depends what age you live until, but none of us know that, do we? So if I live until I'm 90, then I guess I am middle aged.

I close my eyes in the darkness of my room and ponder today, tomorrow, next week, next year. I have no idea what kind of mood I'll be in from one day to the next. I can get up and be raring to go, ready to face the world with a smile and a made up face. Or I can get up and feel a need to wrap myself in protective clothing, afraid to let the world enter my thoughts. Most nights I lie awake and think about the people I know, how they help me to turn day into night and night into day, how different my life would be if they weren't a part of it. Some of these thoughts leave me thinking about the future: will the people I ponder be a part of it, or will they become a memory?

Live for today or plan for the future. I haven't yet worked it out. Perhaps when I'm 90 I will.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Win or Lose

It's almost an everyday occurrence to fall out with my teenager since she morphed into this rebel that often leaves me wondering where I've gone wrong. I'm sure I'm not the only parent to say they have a rebellious teenager and that the company I keep online and in my personal life will relate totally with my frustration. But sometimes I feel like the worst parent in the world. I want Amy to grow up gracefully, to use her manners and have friends she can rely on because they are true friends. Then she tells me something that happened, usually about another kid at school falling out with her because of something she said (she is rather opinionated...not sure where she gets that from), and she wonders why that kid retaliated. I try to be as tactful as I can and explain the logic of 'treat your friends how you'd like to be treated yourself' but it doesn't seem to sink in. She is a drama queen, there's no doubt about that, and I'm still learning daily that I will never win. If I tell her what is right, she assumes I'm being patronising: if I tell her what is wrong, she accuses me of not being on her side. So you see, I can't win.

We have a very close relationship, always have. I will never forget what my dad said to me when Amy was just a year old: "One day, you two will be best friends." I'd like to think we're friends now, but Amy can't relate to family as being 'friends'. If I tell her I just want to be her friend, she makes that teenage face at me, grunts, drops her shoulders, then says, "You're my mum, not my friend." I hope one day she will think otherwise, but, as her mum, I simply have to accept her way of thinking. For now.

She's doing exceptionally well in her education and I'm so very proud of her. I praise her whenever it's due and remind her that she's on the right track to getting a good job, having a bright future and being independent when she's older. She will have a bright future; I'll make sure of that. As for being independent, I'm really not so sure. Right now, she's very teenage and prefers to slob around watching TV or playing with one of her gadgets. I've had to have words with her this week about helping more around the house, not leaving wet towels on the floor, remembering to bring down dirty pots from her bedroom and occasionally washing them up. And her answer to these requests was...

"I do help."

"In what way do you help?" I asked.

"I open my bedroom curtains," she replied.

I think I still have a long way to go.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Sunny Days

We walked briskly today for a good hour, along a pathway strewn with dead leaves and discarded drinks cans. The fresh air hit the right spots and left us feeling regenerated upon our return. My teenager did well: she moaned about her hair blowing in the breeze (forgot to put a bobble in) and was reluctant to use the tissue I'd got nestled in my coat pocket. But on the whole, she enjoyed spending some quality time out in the late winter sunshine walking side by side next to her mum. I'm usually the person who embarrasses her, the one who makes her look ridiculous with invisible cotton wool wrapped around her body. But today she was happy to stroll through the village with me, pointing out the nicer houses with street-cred that stood out in her world of 'this is what I want when I'm a grown up'. I smiled a lot at passer's by and we stroked a few dogs as their tails wagged in anticipation of our petting. Workmen stood back to allow us a clear path through their debris-cluttered jobs, and one even acknowledged us with a gentle nod and a friendly 'hello'.

"I really enjoyed that walk," I said to my teenager when we got back to the house. "We should do that more often."

"Yeah, whatever," she replied.

But her smile told me that the 'whatever' was teenage language and it was the 'yeah' I needed to take note of. I don't think we should let sunny days pass us by when we have the opportunity to walk around the block and get to know the area in which we now reside. It's a nice little place; lots of iggledy-piggledy houses, village halls and a small school. It was a mining village many years ago and contains a row of miner's cottages. I suspect some of them are still occupied by retired miners, or those who lost their jobs in the controversial years when the mines were being closed down. People around here have never forgotten those times and there is still an atmosphere of bitterness whenever you mention the 1980's miner's strikes. I was a teenager in the 1980s and I didn't take much notice of the way our country's coal industry was almost destroyed. I was like my teenager back then: wanting to spend quality time with my mum but afraid to do so in case it ruined my reputation. I remember looking at nice houses and thinking, "this is what I want when I'm a grown up." Then I look at my teenager and remember I am a grown up. She reminds me that what we once craved in our youth, may not be the same as we desire in our adult life.