Be happy now

I saw one of those annoying pictures on Instagram or similar recently, one of those ones with a summery beach background and the words in italics across it “be happy now”. I normally scroll on past those pictures, because they are everywhere you look and they can be a touch saccharine, especially if you’re having a bad day.

But this one made me stop for a moment, because it tied in with an article I read a few weeks ago, about the pressure to be happy all the time. All the time! That’s just not realistic is it? I did the 100 Happy Days challenge when I first started this blog, in fact it was the reason I started it, and I enjoyed it immensely – so much so that I repeated the exercise several times – because it made me think about one thing each day that had made me happy, even if only momentarily. But, it didn’t make me feel I had to be happy ALL THE TIME. Small moments are great, and should be acknowledged, but if they happened all the time then they would not be worth noting. However, it would be nice not to go through each stage of life thinking “when X happens I will be happier”. For example, when I was little I thought it must be so much nicer being an adult – you get to choose what food you eat, you get to choose your own clothes, you have your own money, etc etc. But, as we all know when we grow up, choosing your own food invariably means shopping for the ingredients and cooking it for yourself (and probably others) too; don’t get me started on buying clothes; and yes having your own money is great but no-one mentioned mortgages when I was seven.

When I was in my twenties, I thought that when I lost another half a stone I would be happier (we’re back to the clothes thing again) and when I met the man of my dreams and had a family I would be laughing every day. It took a while to meet K and although I quickly realised he was the one for me, it took us a while to get sorted (mainly due to the logistics of living 90 miles apart) and then it wasn’t always a laugh a minute. When we had T and he was colicky and then the reflux kicked in we were told “things will be better when he is walking”. When he wouldn’t sleep we were convinced life would be better when he eventually slept in his own bed. By then we had A and we started all over again with the “when she is 3 she won’t have tantrums anymore” (still waiting on that one). Life always seemed like it would be so much better when……

As it turns out this mentality is hard to shift. I said only yesterday as I was darting back out to the garden office in the pouring rain “it will be so much better if we get that extension built!”

Be happy now, eh? Hmm, well perhaps I need to repeat the 100 Happy Days because there are so many things to be happy about and all this wishing time to pass, because life will be better then, is just a waste of time. Time is passing all the time. That little colicky baby sat his first GCSE yesterday (short course PRE – not full fledged GCSE’s yet but nonetheless we are on that train and it seems to be a high-speed one) and the little tantrummy madam was dressed up and going to her first proper gig on Saturday night. And yes, life is easier in some ways now, but it was good then too and we were happy, I just didn’t always realise it.

Sitting in my garden office I can see fields and farmland and trees and open countryside stretching out. It’s beautiful. I didn’t have to sit on a train to get here or in my car for hours on the motorway. But, the sun is shining today and I didn’t get soaked just walking across the patio. It will be so much better when…….

 

A sigh of relief

Dad is home. After 3 nights in hospital (2 more than expected) he came home yesterday afternoon and we all breathed a collective sigh of relief. He has to keep a catheter in for another 2 weeks but at least he was able to be discharged, finally. I’ve been to see him today and he seems happy to be home. I think he was a bit anxious to be leaving the safety of having trained medical professionals at hand 24/7 but there’s no place like home and no bed as comfy as your own. It’s that old classic case of “firsts” again – it’s nerve-wracking to be left to your own devices but he’s had a shower and now that he’s done it once it won’t be such an issue next time; he’s managed to sleep OK with his bag, so tonight it won’t seem such an issue. It’s good to get the first time out the way so you know you can do it and you know you can cope. And of course mum is there to support him. It’s all good. From my perspective, it means that he is where he is when I picture him: at our house (their house, but it will always be our house), in his armchair, with the newspaper and his iPad close to hand, with a smile on his face. Perfect. He just needs to get through the next 2 weeks, to start to feel back to normal again and to know that it’s all done and dusted. Then we can all relax properly again.

I mentioned in The waiting game that Dad hasn’t been in hospital for about 50 years other than as a visitor or outpatient, so the whole experience was a bit alien and unsettling for him. He found it all fine, it wasn’t a bad experience in any way, but it’s not one he is keen to repeat. He struggles with his hearing and so I think he sometimes missed what the staff were saying to him or he had to get them to repeat themselves. We’re used to it, and we can tell when he hasn’t heard (not just because he ignores us – you just know from the look on his face that he is trying to piece it together) but as patient as they were, they didn’t have the knack that we do. He doesn’t like to make a big deal out of his loss of hearing (he uses hearing aids but they are not brilliant and definitely need updating) and I think he worries that people will think he is stupid or not on the ball (he is neither) and he hates having to have things repeated to him. His ears are next on his list of things to get sorted once he is back to full health again. He joked that he felt perfectly fine before his op and that it’s like taking your car in for a service thinking it’s fine and it coming out with a really annoying rattle that it didn’t have before! Luckily, with his ears, he can’t hear the rattling.

 

The waiting game

I’m not patient. I always arrive on time, if not early; if someone tells me something will take 5 minutes and it takes 10, I reserve the right to be irritated; I hate it when someone says “I’ll be there sometime in the afternoon – no! I need to know a time. Quite a precise time would be good.  Get it? I’m not patient. 

My lovely dad had his operation yesterday. He had to be at the hospital for 7am and then wait until it was his turn to go into theatre. I watch enough hospital documentaries to know that this could be a long time and that it might not even happen depending on beds, emergencies, etc. I know it was far worse for him (and mum) to be waiting around in a stuffy hospital in a hospital gown. But I swear to you that yesterday was one of the longest days of my life. I picked mum up at ten when dad got taken along to theatre (where he had another hours wait on his own – he must have been pretty nervous) and she had been told to call at 2pm to see if he was back in recovery. We managed to hold out until 1.30pm and thankfully were given the great news that he was indeed back in recovery and coming round well from the anaesthetic. However, they were unsure how long it would be before a bed became available and so to call back in another hour. By this point I couldn’t sit still any longer so cleared the bird feeders of nuts (no good this time of year – baby birds might choke) and cleared the bird poo off the deck. I literally had nothing else to do and clock watching was driving me mad. The hour eventually passed and the call was made. A bed was now free but wouldn’t be ready for another hour and half. Call back then. Argh! 

Please understand I am not complaining about the NHS. I have written before about my admiration of anyone who works in public services, and how lucky we are to have such amazing people looking after us.  I just hate waiting. Especially when it’s for news about someone I care about so much and who I was just desperate to see for myself so that I would know for certain he was fine. 

We finally got to see him around 5pm after battling the crappy traffic. He was fine. He looked older, but hospital gowns, beds and tubes will do that to a man. He was a bit pale and looked knackered but he was fine. He was pleased to see us, he managed a few jokes and he still had a twinkle about him. My dad may not be the life and soul of a party – he’s an easygoing, friendly bloke and he is happy to chat (his hearing gives him a bit of grief and makes it tricky for him these days but he just about manages ok) – but he has a definite twinkle about him. He plays things down, he doesn’t like a fuss, but he’s a bit of a wuss when it comes to medical things and he’s really not a fan of hospitals. We’ve all been a bit worried how he’d cope with it all – he’s only ever had an operation once before and that was in his early twenties (motorbike accident), and stitches to close a huge gash on his forehead (he walked through a patio door) in his forties – but he seemed pretty chilled and was taking it all in his stride. 

We knew he’d be in overnight and were expecting him home today at some point. Unfortunately, when he tried to get out of bed (with help) this morning he fainted and was unresponsive for a few moments (woke up to a crowd of about 15 medical professionals around him) so they’re keeping him in another night to keep an eye on him. Reassuring really but unsurprisingly he’s a bit fed up to not be coming home yet. 

So we carry on playing the waiting game. (Far worse for him, stuck in a hospital bed and being woken up every hour for obs.) We just want him home and recovering and being his usual funny, twinkly self. 

It’s his fault I’m so impatient, by the way. I get it from him, like the punctuality. He was at the hospital at 6.40am yesterday as he didn’t want to be late. Some might see it as a flaw and it can be annoying being so irritable about other people’s timekeeping but I like that we’re so alike. Because he’s fab. 

Normal service is resumed

K is home and life is back to normal (whatever “normal” is). He can look back on the trip now and say it wasn’t too bad. A bit like a woman 12 years after giving birth, but not really because that’s painful as hell.

He arrived home late Friday night and as much as A had tried hard to stay awake she had given in and fallen asleep about 20 minutes before he came in. I had promised to get him to go and see her anyway which he did and it gave me leaky eyes to see how happy she was to see him. She’s a bit prickly at times and not always one for hugs and cuddles (a lot like her mother) but she missed him a lot and was so pleased to see him. Lovely. T was pleased to see him too but in a more “ooh you bought us chocolates” kind of way. It’s all about the food.

It doesn’t take long to get back into the old routine and K was soon annoying everyone with his awful singing and silly jokes. But, we have spent a lot of the weekend saying “it’s so nice to have you home” (or “it’s so nice to be home” in his case) and we rolled our eyes more affectionately than usual.

Luckily, in case we started to get too sentimental and gushy, things like washing, food shopping, shoe cleaning and kids bickering came along and smacked us around the face and before we knew it, it’s Tuesday and we are both back at our respective jobs and dealing with the same old crap.

Hurrah for normal life.

 

Two down, three to go

We’re two days and nights in and it’s undoubtedly been easier for us than it has for K. His journey was fine, the hotel is fine, he is fine. But, he’s struggled massively with the language barrier and had a pretty crappy first day. The only upside of the whole day was that he was not invited to anyone’s house for dinner. He had a lovely meal in the hotel (feeling a bit Billy No-Mates but better that than the scenario we had imagined with Helga) and was presented with a complimentary starter which pleased him no end – he likes a freebie. As this meal was the only food he had all day I am sure it was all the more enjoyable (picked up too early for breakfast in the hotel and no sign of anyone having lunch so he was starving by dinner!).

Today has been a better day, as he has spent it with someone with good English skills (no reason why they should defer to us in this way, but K had expected that as his bosses had arranged this they would have established if he would be able to communicate, as he has zero German skills) and he has managed to get answers to questions and compare their way of working to the UK setup. He has just FaceTimed us and seems much more upbeat and positive about the whole trip.

As he was going to be en route while Line of Duty was being aired on Sunday night, I had set him up with iPlayer on his iPad so he could watch it on catch up. What I hadn’t factored in was that the iPad would know it wasn’t in the UK (how? it’s all too technical for me) and iPlayer wouldn’t, well, play. T came to the rescue and talked him through downloading a bit of software that would trick the iPad into thinking it was on home turf and he was able to watch. Thank god, we can talk about Balaclava Man and he doesn’t have to avoid social media for the next 3 days.

As expected I haven’t slept well at all. I don’t sleep brilliantly when he is here and normally blame it on his snoring (not actual snoring, just annoying noises from his nose) but I have been far, far worse without him here. I doze a bit and dream weird dreams – last night I was queuing up at a supermarket checkout with my weekly shopping and remembered I needed rocket (?), left my shopping with a little old man to look after (?) and proceeded to wander for hours and hours around the supermarket looking for a bag of rocket, getting more and more hysterical. The night before, I was trying to get through to the school absence line to report T having an orthodontic appointment and couldn’t get the number to work. I am literally the most boring dreamer in the world. It could be worse, I suppose – no-one wants nightmares and at least if I am dreaming I must be getting some sleep! And stuff I need to do is at the forefront of my mind the next morning meaning I am less likely to forget to do it. Not sure I needed any rocket but I have bought some today just in case there is a sudden shortage.

Three days to go. Nearly half way.

 

A lump in my throat

I’ve just waved K off as he heads off to Germany for a week. Well, 5 days and 6 nights to be precise, he will be back next Friday, but it feels like a week. Since we moved in together 17 years ago, we have never spent more than 2 nights apart. Neither of us has ever been inclined towards holidays away with friends without each other, even if we had the means. We’ve always wanted to go away together, and since having the children this has been a given. I’ve had weekends away, he’s had work trips away, so this trip has made us both a tad unsettled.

I need to explain. We’re not a lovey-dovey couple who can’t bear to be apart. We don’t shower each other with overt displays of affection. We just like being together. We like being at home in the evenings watching a bit of TV and chatting about stuff. We like spending time with the kids (why else have them?). We just like it that way. Of course we have time apart, we both have friends that we see (me more than  K as his friends are dispersed far and wide) and we do go out separately, but more often than not we are together. I often joke with friends that I would only miss him if he wasn’t here because I would have to put the bins out (in fairness it was one of the things I thought of when I knew he was leaving on a Sunday – “but it’s bin night!”) but in reality he does far more than that. He makes me feel grounded and he stops me worrying so much about stupid stuff and he makes me laugh. When he’s not here it just doesn’t feel right. And I can pretty much forget about sleeping.

K is nervous about the trip for different reasons to me. He hasn’t been abroad with work before. He hasn’t flown alone before. I usually organise trips (apart from last summer holiday) and take the blame when it all goes wrong. This makes him sound useless and a bit pathetic – he’s not, he is more than able to sort this and he has made all the arrangements necessary. He’s just not confident that it will all work out. He’s a bit apprehensive about the itinerary while he is away – mainly because he doesn’t have one. He is unsure what format the trip will take and he doesn’t know if there will be any communication issues, as he doesn’t speak any German. I’ve assured him that their spoken English will probably be better than his (let’s face it, he’s a brummie) and for him not to worry. A has given him the phrase “My name is K…” in German as a little bit of help. I suggested a name badge.

Making stupid jokes is the way we (in our family) seem to deal with nervous moments. I think it’s so that the subject matter seems less ominous. It doesn’t mean we don’t care, it’s just our way of saying “hey don’t worry it will all be OK” without actually saying it (because we are not American).  Here’s a case in point: K developed a rather unfortunate lump on his neck a few days ago and has had to get it seen to by the doctor. She diagnosed a boil (sounds very 1950’s) and prescribed a steroid cream. T’s immediate response was to refer to it as Susan. This has now stuck firmly in all our minds and we now say “Susan’s looking better” rather than “your boil is not too bad”. It’s mainly due to relief that the lump was nothing more sinister and therefore we can be silly about it. I was rather disappointed that my comment of it being where his bolts had been removed was overtaken by the Susan comment, but you can’t win them all.

An email K received from his German colleague last week confirmed the hotel booking and the plans for collecting him from the airport. It was signed off with “we look forward to welcoming you to our house”. Of course, we said this was surely due to a Google Translate issue and that they meant “to our company offices/our place/our town”. Then, we saw the hotel booking was for bed and breakfast. Still no big deal, as no doubt they will be taking him out for food each night rather than expect him to sit alone in a hotel restaurant (for K this would be almost preferable to having to be sociable). And then, it hit me. “Welcoming you to our house” might mean exactly that and he could be dining “chez nous” as the French would say (I have no idea what the German equivalent is). Unfortunately, the kids overheard our conversation and we now have an ongoing joke that he is going to be having selfies with Helga and Wilhelm, the directors lovely kinder, while eating home-cooked bratwurst and sauerkraut. Even his Auntie S joined in when we saw them last weekend. I was slightly perturbed by his Uncle D’s comment of “watch out for the lady-boys”. K reiterated that it was Germany he was going to not Thailand, and we have since put it down to a slip of the tongue; we think he meant to say “lederhosen”.

Joking aside, we will all miss him massively while he is away. A has sneaked a letter and cuddly Panda toy (his nickname) into his suitcase, T has been giving him way more hugs (i.e. more than one) than usual and I have found myself looking at him a bit longer than I normally would (i.e. more than a few milliseconds). He has promised to FaceTime and asked if I would like him to bring back a bottle of Gin from duty-free (did he even need to ask?) so it’s not all bad. The week will soon be over and he will be back with us: annoying us with his singing, farting and general nonsense. And it will be fab.

 

 

Re: the title of the blog piece. Whenever I am a bit stressed, I get the sensation of having a lump in my throat. I first had it when we were planning our wedding and after weeks and weeks of being convinced I had throat cancer and would not make it to the wedding day, I finally plucked up the courage to see the doctor (funnily enough, the very same one that diagnosed Susan) and she gently asked me if there was anything big going on in my life, with a quick diagnosis of a stress-related phantom ‘lump’. It comes and goes at certain times but is never more apt than when waving K off this lunchtime. A true lump in the throat moment.

Uphill battle

On Wednesday the Beddoe Four went for a walk around the nearby Ashridge Estate taking in Pitstone Windmill. It’s a walk that I’ve done recently with Mrs F and I thought the others might like it. That might be a slight porkie pie – I wanted to go on the walk and I wanted them to come with me. And I wanted them to enjoy it. I’m not sure they loved it as much as I did but it was a lovely day, the scenery was beautiful and I was with all of my family so I was happy! It was a 7 mile walk and we managed it in just over 2 hours so I was pretty chuffed and decided we all deserved a cup of something hot and a cake at the cafe afterwards.  

Spurred on by our successful walk, we decided that on Thursday we’d get out on our bikes. We’d initially toyed with the idea of a trip to the coast but the tides weren’t in our favour and so we decided to stay at home. T goes on bike rides regularly with his friends and wanted to show us the route that they’ve recently discovered through two local villages. I was quite nervous about getting back on my bike after a long break – it must be nearly ten months since I last went out – but decided that all the walking I’ve been doing recently would stand me in good stead and I’d be fine. How wrong I was. After a very short time and just one small hill later I was struggling – a lot. I persevered and managed the 6 miles to our pit stop of the pub (not part of T’s usual routine I hasten to add!) and glugged back a very welcome cold half of lager shandy! The three miles home were less arduous but it was a huge disappointment to me that I had lost all of the fitness that I’d gained before last summer. I wasn’t Olympic fit by any stretch of the imagination but I could cycle up some pretty fierce hills without too much trouble. Now I can barely push my bike up them on foot. But as K rightly pointed out, I’ve just got to keep at it and I’ll soon find it easier. 

Yesterday, as per every Good Friday for quite some years now, we had fish and chips with G&G for dinner and I enjoyed them, but in the back of my mind was the niggling voice that this would not be helping my crusade to get fitter! A walk today should ease my conscience a little – we’re meeting my brother and his family and G&G for a “bluebell walk” which doesn’t sound as taxing as the 7-miler but it’s better than nothing and is really all that my poor blistered feet will currently allow!