I was back at work as per usual on Tuesday this week.  There seemed to be something surreal about being back in my normal routine.  I had my annual appraisal at work where they acknowledged how wonderful I am.  How could they not?  I’m hoping that my good scores will lead to a pay rise.  I can hope!

I went to my counsellor on Thursday.  The loss of my father-in-law has left me feeling as though there’s another grey cloud around my heart.  In talking to her I remembered my father-in-law, a gentleman with a kind heart, and how happy he always appeared.  Remembering that I didn’t attend my own father’s funeral, I felt I wanted to do all I could for this one.   OK, it won’t make up for missing my dad’s funeral but, considering the circumstance, I have to believe that Dad wouldn’t have wanted me to travel 4000 miles and six time zones away in order to attend a funeral only to quickly hop a flight back home so that I could get back to work in good time.  It would have cost me thousands and I would have ended up struggling with jetlag as well as grief.

In my mind I thought if I brought the family together by being at this funeral, that my karma would go some way towards making up for missing my dad’s funeral.  I’m not saying that my English family aren’t close, but step families can be difficult.  I’m hoping that by being kind, I can keep lines of communication open.

I’m finding my counselling sessions to be a help.  I am remembering that I’m only human.  I’m remembering not to be too hard on myself.  When I feel bad, I send gifts and make people laugh in order to make me feel better.  I’m a good person, I just need to remember it.




I was full of dread going to the South West.  For ease of travel, we decided to go by train.  I wanted to be able to chat in comfort rather than wade through traffic for four/five hours.  Also, I am getting to the great part in my book and I wanted to try to finish.  It was a lovely journey.  At one point we were on the coast and I took a number of photos.


We had some fish and chips for tea with Helios’s mum that first night.  I had a heart to heart with his mum.  The trouble between Apollo and his grandmother is that he doesn’t get in touch enough.  I gently reminded her that there is a certain loyalty that children have for their parents – especially children raised by single parents.  Helios’s children are only now beginning to have the emotional maturity to question what they used to take as truth without question.  They are only beginning to realise that truth can have several sides.

The next morning we got up and got ready for the funeral.  I wore my black dress, black tights and black boots.  I swept my dark multi-coloured scarf around my neck.  Helios’s sister and I had a hug when the hearse arrived.  Flowers in the shape of DAD were at the foot of the coffin.  We set off in a limo behind Helios’s dad.  I was in the back seat with Helios’s mum and she and I held hands to the service.

Apollo was there when we arrived and I threw my arms around him.  I wanted to be sure he sat with the immediate family – including me.  People from the funeral home carried the coffin into the service.  Immediate family went in first followed by other family and friends.  I sat with my brother-in-law on one side and Apollo on the other.  Helios and his sister were on both sides of his mother.

I managed to keep from crying until the vicar said the following words from First Corinthians 13:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

4Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;  6it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

13So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

I sobbed and grabbed Apollo’s hand.  We held hands throughout the rest of the service and, when we were directed to leave the church first, we remained holding hands until we got outside and began to meet friends and family so that they could offer their condolences.

Initially we stood together.  I confessed that I only knew a few people there – I knew Apollo would have the same problem so I introduced him to the few people I knew.  I tried to ensure he was comfortable.  I think he’s rather shy.  He has always been good with me but, having been shy as a youngster, I know how uncomfortable being in big crowds can be – especially if the crowd has a particular expectation of you.

All of us piled into the limo and headed for the pub.  I told Helios’s sister that every time I saw her father, he was had a smile on his face.  My father-in-law was a lovely man.

After the service we went to the pub for catered sandwiches and drinks.  Apollo and I again sat side by side for a bit.  I didn’t want to monopolise his time so I wandered off from time to time.  I figured he needs to know these people – most of whom are family – a bit better.  He didn’t move much and only drank a soft drink for the hours that we were there.  I know the feeling – if you don’t have much money you don’t want to accept drinks because you’d end up owing people an expensive round.  However, at this kind of occasion he could have let us treat him.

I learned that Apollo wasn’t always so shy.  When he was very young (about 4) he used to walk up to complete strangers, clamp himself to their legs and say “I love you!”  Helios’s mum said “You had to watch him!  Before you knew it he’d be off again and around someone else’s legs!”  Apollo grew red with embarrassment when he remembered.

There was more than enough food but we had only hired the pub until 3pm so we each headed for home.  Apollo went home and we did the same.  I gave Apollo a hug before we sent him on his way.

The next morning we went back to the funeral home and I took some photos of the family flowers.  I managed to take the photos without crying.



It was the next morning when we realised Apollo had sent flowers for the funeral.  What a thoughtful boy.

The rest of our time in the South West was spent going through my father-in-laws items with my mother-in-law.  She gave Helios a number of small items.  My concern is, as always, for them.



Goodbye 2011

Goodbye 2011

Like the Dextrous Diva and Layla I’ve had a year of ups and downs.

The Ups

In April I turned 40 and had a great birthday.  Helios and I went to visit some old friends who live inFrance.  For a closet Francophile, it was a wonderful time!  I love being able to speak French, think in French.  I’ve always loved the sound of French – the way it rolls off the tongue, hangs in the air as if perfumed and then comes back at you – lavender, sandlewood and vanilla.

Of course I’m grateful for any opportunity to see our friends.  I attended their wedding more than 15 years ago.  We happened to be at their house us when Helios proposed.  They attended nuptials at a castle in 2008 – the men wore kilts and spent the day quoting Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  It was madly appropriate considering they are American and French.  It’s great to see friends who never let you feel like any time has gone by since you’ve seen them!

In August Apollo came to visit us for the first time since Helios and I got married.  I’m delighted to have had the opportunity to get to know him better.  He’s a lovely kid – but I’m not allowed to call him that.  At 20 I think he’d be mortified to know that every time I see him I want to pinch his little cheek!  If it didn’t cost so much I might suggest Helios and I get a slightly larger place so that his kids could come to visit.  Perhaps that’s something we can consider in the future.  For now, it’s just wonderful to be friends with my stepson.

The Downs

Due to my endometriosis pain, I’ve organised to have my fourth laparoscopy but won’t have it until 2012.  The prolonging of agony is never a happy prospect but it’s to be expected.

In December, I was hit by a car.  While my nightmares have almost totally cleared and my bruising has all but disappeared, I am mostly grateful for the fact that my injuries weren’t severe.  I am still perfectly capable of getting to and from the office and carry on with life in general.  It could have been so much worse!

In August, my father died in the US; I was unable to go to the funeral.  I’ve had more sleepless nights from this than from the car accident.  The only bright side was that, even though Dad was a ward of the state, he did leave me a little money – enough to visit my family in the US again in 2012.

So while I’m delighted to see the back of 2011 (and don’t come back!) I’ve good reason to hope that 2012 will be an even better year.

Peace and pain-free days to you.


The rest of Apollo’s visit

Yesterday we went to the city where I work and we did a bit of shopping.  We had to dodge the rain so shopping was the best option.  We got Apollo a couple of DVDs as his 20th birthday present.  Then we came back home and watched Shrek 4 and a couple of other films.

This morning we walked down the hill and into the village.  We got some bread and fed the ducks by the river, wandered up and down the High Street before arriving at the Friday market for a lunchtime burger.

Apollo has left and is now safely on the coach to the South West.  Although I warned Apollo that I may cry, I managed not to get too emotional at the train station.  Helios and I gave him a big hug before he hopped onto the train.  Apollo has kindly texted to keep us updated as to his travel progress.  We’re now waiting for his confirmation he’s made it home safely.

Some things I’ve learned about my gorgeous step-son: he talks almost incessantly.  No offence Mom, but Apollo rivals you for words per minute!  He told me that he talks when he gets excited – so I was delighted when he drew breath and relaxed a bit.  I want him to feel comfortable with us.

He is intelligent but lacks confidence.  He talks about wanting to go places and do things – learning languages, see the world, etc.  However, doesn’t seem to want to try to plan a way to go and see the world.  I received a voucher for a Teaching English as a Foreign Language course/qualification and suggested that this might be the way to see the world.  Apollo totally shot down the idea; he said he didn’t have the patience to teach.  I said that the voucher covered teaching adults as well as children but he still wasn’t interested.  There are a number of ways to achieve your lifelong goals and I know that travelling is so much easier when you are young and aren’t tied down with a relationship and a mortgage.  I’d probably have bought him the course (as the discount was that significant) just to get him started…

He has a negative outlook.  I can’t help but wonder if it’s tied with his lack of confidence.  He moans about working but he’s not working full-time.  He complained about the swing shift – even though he’s not working through the night.  The latest hour his shift ends is2am.  Considering my dad worked nights in a factory (If memory serves, it was from midnight to 6am.) I wasn’t impressed that he groaned about going home at 2am.  Then when Apollo’s work contacted him to give him more hours, he was negative about that.  I said that he must be good at what he does if they’re giving him more hours but he didn’t seem convinced.

He sees things in black and white.  While he did try blackberries for the first time with us, he is very particular about his food.  He’s a trained chef who doesn’t like nuts, celery, plain yogurt, salmon, risotto, or honey cooked ham.  That’s just what I remember off the top of my head.  It seemed like any time I turned around he’d say “I don’t like that.”  As much as I don’t mind catering for someone who is a bit picky, I find it truly odd that he’s a trained chef and seems to not like food.

At one point I suggested that I take him food shopping and he could choose what to buy and he could cook it.  I was a little disappointed that he didn’t take me up on my offer but, bearing in mind his confidence, I didn’t make a big deal of it.  Instead we had leftover chicken stroganoff and another nice chat.

It’s not just food that he’s black and white with.  He is like this with a lot of things: he’s atheist and won’t consider any religion to have merit; he has no interest in seeing some films even if they come highly recommended; and he only seems to read one genre of book – nothing else is good enough.

Bearing in mind one of the main goals for the visit was just to get to know him, I think we achieved it.  For the record, some of this post may sound negative but I’m not judging him harshly.  A lack of confidence isn’t insurmountable.  He just needs to appreciate what good qualities he has.  Getting to know someone requires time and patience.  He’s a great house-guest (or should I say tent-guest?) and I’m looking forward to seeing him again.


Five things Friday

  1. Helios and I love watching movies.  We regularly go to the cinema – mainly because Helios is the head of his “film club” at his office and they buy cinema tickets in bulk as part of their Social Club.  Otherwise we wouldn’t be able to afford tickets.  Helios likes to listen to Mark Kermode’s radio show.  Hello Jason Isaacs!
  2. Generally speaking, there are Friday Markets in villages and towns all across the country.  In the village, Helios, Apollo and I had lunch at the local burger van at the market.  We had a bit of a wander in the village before heading home.
  3. These elite food programmes always have an obligatory artistic smear of a sauce on a plate.  I hate that!!  How pretentious!
  4. Apollo is currently travelling home.  Although I’d planned the trip down to (nearly) the last detail, some idiot at Waterloo Station thought it would be a good idea to pull the fire alarm.  Luckily we’d planned that Apollo leave so early that he’ll still make his connection to the South West in London.
  5. I regularly need a pee in the night.  Unfortunately the flat is so small that I have to crawl over Helios to get to the toilet.  With Apollo only in the garden, I also had to ensure that I had a dressing gown on over my pyjamas before leaving the bedroom.  I didn’t encounter Apollo at all but didn’t feel comfortable without all my extra accoutrements in the night!

Apollo at Natural History Museum

Initially we thought we’d go to Greenwich  for the Natural Maritime Museum’s sword collection before heading to the Natural History Museum in South Kensington.  However, the significant gap between them made me re-think the day trip.  When forced to choose it was unanimous – we went to the Natural History Museum yesterday.  I am so glad we did!

What a great day!  We got there not long after it opened and still had to queue for about half an hour.  However, it didn’t seem terribly long at all and soon we were inside and pouring through the exhibits.  Currently there’s an “animal sexuality” exhibit which we avoided, but otherwise we saw everything.  We had a surprisingly tasty lunch there and after an information-packed few hours, we decided to head for home.

In particular, I enjoyed it because I managed to get some great photos of Apollo while he wasn’t looking.  OK, it’s not perfect because I didn’t get a great full-face shot, but bearing in mind he hates having his photo taken, I tried to get a few by stealth and managed reasonably well!

As a house guest Apollo is at the top.  When he finishes his food or drink he takes his dirty dishes through to the kitchen and runs water over them.  Although he seems terribly picky, so far he’s been very relaxed about the meals my kitchen has produced.  OK, I do worry that he’s doing himself harm by not eating breakfast and Helios griped when Apollo put his feet on the couch but these are minor issues.  Apollo will decide to eat breakfast when he fancies it and the sofa will survive all our smelly feet.

I love the fact that Apollo hasn’t complained about sleeping in a tent in the garden.  I love the fact that he’s willing to try anything he’s never eaten before – he tried a blackberry and pronounced it “SOUR!”  I love pottering in the kitchen while listening to Apollo and Helios chattering away.  I was keen that they get to know each other well while Apollo was here and it’s nice for me to see the process as it is happening.

Of course I enjoy Apollo’s company as well.  He’s polite, personable and funny.  He was even comfortable enough to ask why I had surgery.  I told him that (during my first marriage) I had three miscarriages and terrible pain so I had surgery and was diagnosed with endometriosis.  I saw him flinch – I suppose people do that when I just come out with such personal information so I didn’t go into detail.  I figure he’ll ask more questions if and when he’s interested in women’s health.

Today we’re planning to go shopping and dodge the rain that’s falling.


Step Son, Apollo

As you know I’ve been looking forward to seeing Apollo for some time now!

We collected him yesterday and drove back home.  We didn’t really stop chatting the whole journey.  About half way, Apollo finally fell into stereotype and cheekily asked “Are we there yet?”  Although we sat in the usual queue near Stonehenge, it didn’t change the ultimate journey time much.

When we got home I took Apollo grocery shopping.  I wanted to make a meal that I knew he would eat.  He said more than once that he wasn’t that fussy an eater but the more I asked, the more I worried that I didn’t have anything in the house for him.  In the end we decided on a chilli con veggie (which he seems to like) and dip in tortilla chips.

We borrowed the tent from the neighbours and managed to put it up, eventually.  I couldn’t help but like the fact that we had a group activity to bond.

After putting up the tent and having dinner, we all curled up on the couch and watched a bit of TV.  Helios and I were tired after the long drive so we went to bed.  Apollo went to the tent and crashed.  We gave him a key to the flat in case he needed to get in overnight.

I don’t know yet how he slept but I hope he slept well.  He has a yoga mat under his sleeping bag and a pillow.  I had to fight to not fuss over him – “Make yourself at home, come back in and grab an extra blanket if you get cold.”  I gave him a hug and said “Thanks for coming.”

Today we’re planning going on the walk we used to do when Helios and I were dating.  Pub lunch and then another long walk on the way back.