City2Surf 2016

Yes – it has been quite a bit of time since I last posted – but I do think I have an excuse. At least it’s one I’m going with and a not very exciting one at that. Turns out I have anaemia. Nothing serious but it is one of those things that creeps up on you over a few (say six) months – and then it takes just as long to build your ferritin levels up again! What that translates to in real life is feeling pretty tired a lot of the time, but especially by about 6pm. So no motivation to do anything else except sit on the couch wondering if the kids would notice if I snuck off to bed. Which they probably would as most nights, dinner isn’t on the table by then.

And it’s one of those things you don’t really notice, especially when you have one child who is awake at various times most nights (here’s looking at you, Grayce). Or, in the case of the whole first term this year, all three of them tag-teaming each other to make sure I did not get a full night’s sleep at all during that time, with at least one of them getting up during the night.

Of course when my blood test came back with my ferritin levels having dropped even further, my GP asked,

‘Have you been feeling tired?’

He looked at me. I looked at him. Then we both rolled around the floor laughing.

Okay – I was pretty delirious by that stage so that’s what I thought was happening but what actually happened was that we both gave a rueful chuckle, and he said,

‘Silly question, really.’

and suggested that I start on some iron tablets.

Grayce is now on melatonin to get her sleep patterns back into order. It took me a few weeks to work out that she is one of the few children on whom it does not have a hypnotic effect – so giving it to her half an hour before bedtime pretty much does nothing at all! Nor did any further doses at 9:30 or 11:30pm. But if I get it into her around 6-6:30pm she will fall asleep at a normal time.

Hooray! More sleep for her. And more importantly, more sleep for me.

The only decent group photo (of about 30!) from our recent kinder fundraiser photo shoot #notthe photographersfault

The only decent group photo (of about 30) from our recent kinder fundraiser photo shoot #notthephotographersfault

Anyway, that was my long-winded preamble to what I really wanted to say, which is:

It’s on again. I’m doing the City2 Surf this Sunday in my (and our) beloved Gary’s memory.

I always struggle with the fund raising – partly because of the money aspect but mostly because of the emotional aspect. I have left it even later than usual this year. But don’t let that stop you from donating!

https://city2surf2016.everydayhero.com/au/basia

I am also taking Josh up with me so that he can see what Daddy used to do and what Mummy does now. He is very excited about his first plane trip.

I took Ben and Jess up when Ben was six to have a look and told the other two kids that their turn would come. Thank you so much to David and Cat, and Dad and Jean who bought us the plane tickets for my birthday this year. David will be running with me (and when I say with me, I mean somewhere ahead in the crowded wild blue yonder! I blame his long legs) while Cat will be looking after Josh and Keith. We haven’t told Grayce as she will be devastated when she finds out that Keith is there without her as she is so obsessed with ‘baby Keith’!

A huge thank you to Godmother Jodie and Cousin Jamie who will be looking after Ben and Grayce while we’re in Sydney. I wish you both good luck!

I’m running for the Australian Cancer Research Foundation. They used our story again recently so I thought I would include the link. It pretty much sums things up:

https://acrf.com.au/this-is-basias-story-this-is-why-we-fight/

This will be my fifth City2Surf since Gary passed away. Our world has never been the same since and I still miss him. Every single day.

Summer Somnolence

It took me until New Year’s Eve to recover from Christmas. Thankfully it was a quiet, very pleasant evening spent in good company with a cheeky bottle of champagne.

Then it was all systems go entertaining the kids (pretty much in front of the TV since our PS3 disc player had stopped playing!) on the days I wasn’t working and then preparing to go away to Inverloch for our annual beach holiday. The weather was great this year. John wasn’t able to get the usual massive beachfront house we normally share so we rented separate houses. The house that Janine had for the first week was a little way from us but we still got to see the girls. The house that John rented for his week was across the road (and three doors up) from us, which was awesome, with lots of to-ing and fro-ing.

We spent almost every day of our ten days at the beach. There was so much space there. Very freeing for the soul and from the constraints of urban life – that ability to see the whole dome of the sky and hear the waves crashing, especially at night. We were two blocks from the beach – close enough to still hear the joyful shrieking of children playing in the water when we sat out the back.

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Phillipa and Jarvis came up for the first three nights, and Bec, Ben and little Jack came up for a couple of nights too. My goodness the littlies love each other! It’s so sweet to watch. Now I know why my mum was always trying to marry us off to her friends’ children. So convenient to have people you already love as the new family by marriage. You know you’re always going to have a rip roaring time with the parents, even when the kids aren’t there!

I must remember to tell Grayce to NEVER marry Jack. That in fact he is the only other person in the whole wide world she is not allowed to marry (or partner with if she chooses not to marry), apart from Jarvis (and her brothers). I feel sure that my cunning plan to use reverse psychology is bound to succeed. I shall make judicious references to ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and ‘Bella and Edward’ and other star-crossed lovers in order to ‘foil’ their love. Now I just need to work out whom to marry the boys off to… Having two boys first means that most of their friends are boys too, for now.

I suppose there is plenty of time for that…

 

And did I mention we have a new member of the family…

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I’ve wanted another Burmese ever since Flynn was hit by a car when Ben was eight or nine months old, but just haven’t been able to face having another little life dependent on me until now.

Or perhaps it was just because I thought, “Well, I’ve been changing nappies and/or dealing with poo for the last eight and a half years straight. Let’s just keep that going…”

She is an indoor cat. With a litter tray.

At least she buries it. Mostly.

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It took ages to name her but we finally did it and can reveal that her name is Cherry Bom Bom. Cherry came from how she always uses the nearest chair to launch herself onto the kitchen bench (where she is promptly piffed off)… chair..ry. And it’s summer (cherry season) and I quite like the UK journalist Cherry Healy.

Bom bom was Grayce’s contribution to her name.

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The joys of Christmas…

Christmas was as hideous as usual since Gary died – although it does get better year by year. Each year I try to improve my best-laid plans and find easier ways to get through it. This year, a little more than other years, I did feel briefly on top of it all for oh, at least five minutes, before it all went to hell in a basket rather swiftly.

Because the kids still believe in Santa (well, Ben’s questioning it but I managed to silence him with: ‘If you don’t believe, you don’t receive!’), there’s the whole rigmarole of keeping the magic alive – which involves getting the kids to write their letters to Santa with enough time to shop for the presents, hide all the presents, remember where they are all hidden when it comes time to wrap the presents, then try to not mix up the wrapped presents when re-hiding them (which I did end up with one of them), then waiting for all the kids to go to sleep on Christmas Eve – which is a bit of an ask as my family, with our Polish background, celebrate Christmas Eve rather than Christmas Day.

We had a lovely and relaxing time at Rob & Carole’s on Christmas Eve once we got there, but didn’t get home till almost midnight, and as the kids had fallen asleep in the car on the way home, I managed to successfully transfer most of them into their beds except little Miss FOMO who didn’t fall asleep again until 1:30am. ‘Santa’ was getting very tired by then after already having a few late nights in a row wrapping, cooking and other Christmas preparation.

Possibly the kids first ever Santa photo! (Thanks Auntie Andrea!)

Possibly the kids first ever Santa photo together! (Thanks Auntie Andrea)

The boys were up by 6:45am on Christmas Day but, much to their chagrin, had to wait for their sister to wake up at 7:30am before they could unwrap their presents. I didn’t quite think it through – but since I had lots more Christmas prep to do for that day, I just left them to their devices despite pleas of ‘Mum, can you help me put this together’ and ‘Mum, how do I fix/make/break this?’ which meant that all the new pressies that had come with any extraneous pieces, (well, actually any pieces) was a sad jumbled mess by the time I made it back into the lounge room a couple of hours later – which meant all of those new pressies went into a big box to be sorted out some time in the near future, but will in reality be sorted out just prior to next Christmas.

Or never.

Christmas lunch was a delightful affair at David and Cat’s place, as anything at their place always is. (Well, it would have been if I wasn’t still shell-shocked from the morning.) So nice to spend it with the family. I did, still, however, need to duck home after lunch to finish wrapping the last of the presents before we gave them all out.

Let’s just say that when anyone asked me what my favourite thing about Christmas was in the lead up to it, I inevitably replied, ‘Boxing Day’.

Old Year/New Year

So I started my first official foray into internet dating towards the end of last year (Adam and I had ended in July). It was in equal parts exciting and terrifying with a big dose of exhausting, both physically and emotionally, thrown in. And did I mention time-consuming?!

I’ve been lucky enough to have a friend lend advice on responses – or pretty much suggest press delete on most of them.

My goodness there are a lot of generic/phishing/’I have not bothered to read your profile’ responses on there. And being circumscribed by time and kids also means I don’t have a lot of time to devote to responses – which I have flagged in my profile in an ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ type of way.

But it is definitely them!

Amidst the dross of some very shady characters, I have so far met two perfectly lovely gentlemen with whom I have formed firm friendships with.

And that is all I am saying on that topic!

Shitbox Rally 2015: May 9th-15th

shitbox rally 2015 2

shitbox rally 2015 7

John and Jeff are raising money for the Cancer Council again this year by doing the Shitbox Rally 2015: Canberra to Townsville via the Birdsville Track.

They have been assigned a trailer.

Which means they will be towing any shitboxes that falter – and as John said, hopefully towards the end of the day rather than in the first half hour in as their fuel consumption will go through the roof!

This is John’s Facebook post from two days ago:

Good morning folks,
This is the last update before we hit the Road.
I did a quick calculation and figured out that since we started Team VMAN, upon discovering just how ill Gary was in 2011, we have raised over $39,000.00. Many of you have already contributed both time and money to support our efforts and I am forever in your debt. Our fundraising is usually associated with some form of entertainment because we like to give with one hand whilst we take with the other, but this time all we’re giving is the chance to provide much needed support to Cancer Research.

If you want to see us on TV tune in to Nat Geo People on the 9th of May at 7:30 to see a feature length doco on last year’s Rally.

To make a tax deductible donation to this charity please follow the link below and look for the Donate button.

https://shitboxrally2015.everydayhero.com/au/team-vman

Thanks in advance for your generosity (Note: this is the only event I will be hitting you up for until 2016, excluding the band night which is dirt cheap and too much fun to miss) .

Against the stunning backdrop of Australia’s Outback, join the Shitbox Rally on a journey to raise money and awareness for the fight against cancer and meet the participants who have lost loved ones to the disease.
natgeotv.com.au|By Chook Digital [www.chookdigital.com]

 

shitbox rally 2015 1
We are ready to hit the road after lots of hard work by Jeff and a little bit by me! 6 new tyres, new brakes, battery, oil, work lights, head lights, light bar, new exhaust, extractors, and a bit of a face lift with the new art work on the bonnet. Oh, and a new fridge neatly placed next to the Inverter, just need to find a low power Latte maker.
For those of you who don’t use Facebook often (Colin, I’m looking at you!), I will keep you posted as the excitement occurs.

Grief is like falling in love, but backwards

Which makes falling in love, while grieving, quite challenging.

I have finally got around to reading ‘Women of Letters: reviving the lost art of correspondence’. It is curated by Marieke Hardy and Michaela McGuire and was started in 2010 when they would invite guests to pen letters to a theme and read them aloud.

It expanded much further than they imagined. And part of it was the safe space they created for the writers with the proviso that no show would be recorded, so many wrote letters that were funny, searing and honest.

However, I digress.

I have finally borrowed the book (and the subsequent two) from the library and have enjoyed the many letters penned – especially so far, the one penned by Noni Hazelhurst which, in effect, talks about what makes a good human.

But Alice Pung’s letter ‘to the moment it all fell apart’ really resonated with me in her line:

An American undertaker once wrote that grief is like falling in love, but backwards.

Which for me, really sums up my grief process – and which is why – when falling in love while grieving, I so often felt crazy-eight-bonkers.

The two processes going on simultaneously for and about two different people, when your emotional and physical reserves are quite low, are quite mind blowing and heart searing.

 * * *

I have just come out the other side of the busiest nine months of my life.

As in crazy busy.

For some reasons that I can say, but one main reason that I have not been given permission to divulge, any sense of personal time and emotional respite disappeared in a moment, not just for me but for everyone else involved.

As I think I had mentioned in an earlier post, having one child in child care, one in kinder and one at school, while being privileged enough to continue working in a flexible working environment with wonderful people, was pretty challenging in itself.

And then to have Life throw in a curve ball to really challenge the juggling of all those balls…

I’m not quite sure who I was performing for, but perhaps that’s what it’s all about.

However, this was not an ideal time to meet someone and fall in love.

Life went a bit crazy on the 10th April.

I met Adam on the 17th May. We met through mutual friends – Phillipa and Phil, who have known him for about 15 and 20 years respectively – or as we like to say about Phillipa now, the village matchmaker.

Adam had just turned 50 and had his party the weekend before.

Which made him a year younger than Gary. And was only the start of many comparisons.

Apart from not having any spare time to breathe, let alone think, I spent the best part of the year fighting my expectations, and reconciling the differences between Adam and Gary.

And the fact that Adam wasn’t Gary.

All under the watchful gaze of three children.

When you’re a sole parent there is not a lot of spare time to explore a new relationship – or to do it away from the children.

Unlike separated and divorced parents – and I’m certainly not saying that this is the case in every circumstance – but generally if the children’s best interest is at their parents heart, there is usually some form of shared care, which although excruciating at first, once some of the heartache has subsided, does eventually allow some space for the parents to get to know other potential partners.

Or just get out.

This is not the case for sole parents. The kids are around 24/7 apart from the occasional – and very gratefully received – night away with family. Which is not really an issue until you’d like to get to know someone without the kids asking if he is their stepfather five minutes later (okay I am exaggerating somewhat. It may have been at least 10 minutes).

I think I expected to meet someone like Gary.

But as Jodie pointed out, ‘There is only one Gary.’

The night before we met, Adam booked his month-long holiday to Cuba and Colombia. He left for that on the 30th June – which echoed Gary leaving for Everest for a month about a month after we met.

I thought I would be okay with that. I figured that since I had watched my husband die that this separation would be a walk in the park.

I quickly worked out that I was less resilient rather than more, and that it was going to prove to be a rather difficult month. I think it has something to do with something else I had read about quite recently – although God knows where and when – about the cascade of loss and how each loss builds upon the other and doesn’t actually make it easier to deal with subsequent losses. You just end up knowing how much more pain there can be.

It has been a huge adjustment on both our parts. Adam had pretty much hung up his boots in terms of relationships. I actually don’t think I was quite ready for a relationship but the respite from grief was a hugely welcome distraction.

Adam is an incredible human: loving, warm, sensitive, has that natural gift with kids (which is why all his friends ask him to babysit), articulate, and emotionally sensitive – but also fiercely independent, can be hurt quite easily, and initially swift to take umbrage.

On a light-hearted note he sent me this link today which made me chuckle:

http://thoughtcatalog.com/andrea-zimmerman/2015/03/13-brutally-honest-things-you-need-to-know-before-you-date-an-aries/

We are both Aries – not that we necessarily believe in that (well, I do but he doesn’t!). I can’t see anything of myself in there but plenty of him!

There have certainly been a number of ups and downs over the last nine or so months – all of them intense.

At times I questioned my sanity – because being in love does that to you.

At times I felt like I was having an affair. Which in the clear light of day is ludicrous and somewhat silly – but when you’re stretched physically and emotionally, and are staying up late most nights upheld by pheromones and phone calls, or children not sleeping, the sleep deprivation – both called and uncalled for, does take its toll.

It wasn’t until Josh started school this year and had settled in that I felt like I was able to breathe. He is soaking everything in, aided and abetted by his best friend, Liam, who is in the same class.

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Grayce started three year old kinder this year: one day per week on Tuesday from 9:30am-1:30pm and is loving it too. And I’m loving the fact that I can now work a longer day on Tuesdays as Mum can pick Grayce up at 1:30pm, the boys at 3:30pm and I am usually home by about 5:45pm.

Ben is enjoying Grade 2 and is taking his role of looking out for Josh and Liam, very seriously. As do his friends, Jarvis and Nathan.

We made it through another Christmas (and all kudos to Adam who offered to wrap presents for me and did wrap all 52 presents individually – including each packet of Pez for the kids). It did mean that I got some much-needed sleep in the nights before Christmas instead of staying up till 1 or 2am feverishly wrapping presents in a panic-induced, sleep-deprived haze.

At times I have questioned my feelings and lucidity – as has Adam. It’s been both wonderful and terrifying at the same time.

It has certainly not been an easy journey but it feels like one worth fighting for.

After all, as I’ve discovered, there are no timelines on life and love. All you can do it nurture the spark of  happiness and love when you find it, stand back or be engulfed when it flares up, lick your wounds or batten down and survive the conflagrations as they happen, and take respite and strength in the warm glow of contentment.

It’s not linear.

And so far it hasn’t been easy.

But the journey has certainly been interesting. And a lot less volatile since I consciously decided to choose happiness and life over fear and memory. But it’s been a hard decision to make, and I can never forget.

All these experiences have been seared into my soul.

But it will be nice to make some new experiences with a new beloved too.

 

 

Three years

One of our friends, Claire, came across this recently and thought of us.

And So There Must Come an End

Charlotte has blogged on The Huffington Post UK since 2013 and sadly passed away on Tuesday 16 September from bowel cancer. She wrote one final post that she wished to share with all of her readers. We are honoured to offer it to you here.

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/charlotte-kitley/bowel-cancer-charlotte-kitley_b_5836238.html?ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000037&ir=Parents

It made me desolate to read it. Well, as sad as you can get when you’re medicated up to your eyeballs. Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration but I started up on my antidepressants again just after our wedding anniversary which was three days after Father’s Day. I had a major melt down after a particularly stressful few weeks. I’d also just started counselling after putting my name down for it in March (go public health system) so that had already stirred up a number of things. On Father’s day night I wanted to show Josh some photos of him with Gary but by the time I had to reload them all into the Target Photobook editor it was an hour later and I had had to send the boys to bed.

So in a fit of frustration and the knowledge that I can’t start and stop it again, and after trying a number of times, I decided to finally finish the boys photobooks that had been three years – of mental anguish and memory –  in the making.

I stayed up till 4:30am on Father’s Day night, and till 10:30pm the next night determined to get them sorted. Each of the books is about 130 pages, and Josh’s is still missing chunks of photos from when I transferred all our photos to an external hard drive when he was about eighteen months old, and then promptly dropped it three days later. I still live in hope that one day technology will advance enough to be able to retrieve them.

The photobooks were uploaded to the online printers with enough time to be ready in time for today.

I hadn’t realised how fragile I was feeling after, in essence, reliving Gary’s and my life together, in chronological order.

Twice.

That, combined with lack of sleep and the significant stressors of the previous few weeks, was enough to catapult me into an episode of what my counsellor thought was PTSD (it took me a few moments to work that out at my counselling session the next day) for trauma actually unrelated to my grief, but certainly not helped by it either.

It took a few days to recover from the emotional bruising that caused, helped along by a visit to my GP.

I picked the finished photobooks up on Friday after we picked Jess up from Eastland (two shopping centres in one day. Quelle horreur!) and Jess showed Josh his photobook while I went through Ben’s with him. The boys were too impatient to not look at them concurrently.

I also took them with me to Colin’s birthday lunch yesterday, where I hope they brought back some memories of happier times.

So here I sit, three years on, unable to cry. That’s the problem with antidepressants (well, these ones anyway). They kind of flatline you, so that you don’t feel the sadness, and turns the tsunamis into lapping waves, but it also dampens the joy. Which is all fine and good if you are where I was at at the beginning of the year, where life was still looking bleak, and the sum total goal for the year was to get through it and hope the following year would be easier with two children at school, rather than running around like a blue-arsed fly in between childcare, kinder and school.

However some joy has entered my life, and I would like to feel it, and share it.

But today is not the day for that.

But it will be one day soon.