Time ticks on

A couple of weekends ago Mum and I went to watch a live link up to the Metroplitan in New York. We went to see a performance of The Tempest by Thomas Ad├Ęs. It's an amazing thing to see opera being performed live from half-way across the world. It's not as good as being there, but it's the next best thing.

During the interval we perused the up-coming performance schedule ... decided to book tickets for Les Troyens (Berlioz) in January. Then I spotted the fact that they are showing Handel's Giulio Cesare towards the end of April. "Shall I get us tickets" I said. "Oh I don't think so, do you?" said Mum.

Sometimes I allow myself to forget that time is ticking on, and that for Mum time has a different kind of meaning these days. Her health is crumbling in that seemingly unstoppable way that is the way with cancer. Her liver function is on the slide as the cancer progresses. She sleeps up to 18 hours some days and is tired all the time. Oh and soooo sick and weak, poor thing.

I remember Renee saying F.U.C.K.  cancer and I can only echo those words. I hate seeing what it does, and I hate the fact that in some ways the treatment is worse than nothing being done. Several times recently Mum has talked of ceasing treatment altogether and I can see her point. I respect her right to choose but I can't help but to selfishly wish that she will choose to stay with us for as long as possible.

I wonder how I will cope as time marches on. I try not to dwell on what is to come but not altogether successfully. In the meantime I try to focus on the present. We are talking more and chatting less. Even though I cried in front of her the other day (still a HUGE no-no in our relationship), we are mending what can be mended. This is not a race against time. I refuse to see it that way. No, not as a way of denying what is going on, but I don't want to act with fear as my main source of motivation. This is just me and mum finding new ways to express our love for one another.

The end of October rolled around recently and so I celebrated my second year of sobriety. Sometimes I feel like I am not me any more. And then I remember what being me was like when I was trapped in my drinking days. Even the toughest days now are better than those dark times. I am still plagued by deep deep feelings of shame and remorse about the past and I think that is how it should be. Not because I enjoy feeling that way but because my moral compass is just functioning as it should.  I cannot change what is done but I am working on making my amends. I am so grateful to be here NOW.

Note to self

Small steps are not necessarily baby steps

they are in some ways a measure of wisdom

an acknowledgement that needs need balance

and patience is not the same as doing nothing

Ah but waiting is just so hard don't you find?

it grates and creates such inner tension

why Why WHY ... oh why can't I just ...?

Patience is thus my deliberate act

an allowing for time and space

a letting in of the light of understanding

underpinned by my reluctant acceptance

that fate will unfurl it's flags of meaning

if I care to learn this new form of semaphore

a task in itself to be going on with I suppose.

Update from Jos-Land

As always time has gotten away from me. Suddenly it feels autumnal and we have had our first frost of the season already. I am well. It's funny how when the chips are down and I don't have time for introspection I feel mentally quite well, even whilst feeling emotionally and physically exhausted.

Mum's chemo has been suspended as her liver function is not good enough just now to continue. So whilst she actually feels better through not having the chemo, the outlook is less positive. We are enjoying some family time as my oldest brother is visiting from Canada along with his eldest daughter who is here for an exchange year as part of her graduate programme. It is good to spend time together although the tinge of sadness is an ever present back-drop.

We will be harvesting 4 frames worth of honey after all which is quite exciting news. As a novice bee-keeper I have never harvested honey but we have already done the hardest bit which is separating the bees from their cache! It is an absorbing and interesting hobby. I am so thankful to have Johns many decades of experience to call upon. He looks very jaunty at the moment having just celebrated his 82nd birthday. I bought him a rather dashing bow-tie which he has taken to wearing with some alacrity. Mum is not so impressed but we are secretly very pleased with ourselves nonetheless. T'is important to keep some small measure of positivity going despite going through difficult times.

Trev is going back into hospital this coming week for further tests. All in all though I think he is doing OK although naturally enough we are both feeling the strain of waiting for tests and test results in roughly equal measure. Nothing moves as quickly as we'd like in these circumstances.

I am learning a beautiful song on my battered old guitar at the moment. Dar Williams - If I Wrote You it's called.

Have a listen. The guitar in this is just lovely isn't it?   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jRWFXQssS-M

Four legged friends

There was a time when I knew diddly-squat. As I recall though I felt super smart ... pretty much as far back as I remember I've felt reasonably smart ... well if you discount knowing diddly-squat that is. This is a picture of me as a girl. I look kind of happy don't I? My trousers are patched and too short ... as is my shirt by the looks of things. Funny ... I didn't think we were badly off when I was little. And obviously there was a time when I was NOT scared of dogs. I look kind of relaxed here.

I don't remember much from my childhood. The bits I do remember are not of happy times. I think I spent a fair amount of the time "absent" ... there physically but elsewhere in my head. I look at photos of me back then and I don't connect at all. She looks so much more sure of herself than I ever remember feeling.

This week I have been dog sitting. Yes me!!!!!! My sister was desperate and I am a softie and no mistake. So I have been looking after Sasha and it has been a total delight.  I think I might be becoming a doggie lover after all.

Life here is OK. Mums hair is falling out which has made her sad ... and scared. Even so she is readying herself for the inevitable and has bought a rather splendid looking wig. Her pic line is giving her some jip and she has feeling unwell much of this last week.  On the up-side she is starting to re-gain a little weight despite her appetite continuing to be poor. We are trying new and interesting foods ... and lots of deserts ... this is no time to be shy with the ice-cream!!!

Hmmm bit of a hodge podge post. I have less and less time it seems and perhaps that is a good thing but I miss blogging that's for sure. xx Jos


Can cancer that has spread not only into her liver but also into the cavity behind her breastbone ever be considered good news? Well it seems so ... when what she has been dreading more than anything is that the cancer had spread into the bones themselves.

I love my mother. For all the complexities and difficulties in our relationship, still ... I love her. And I love the fact that she tried to cheer me up in the face of the news this week. I've always admired her strength. I know that there will come a time when the need to show strength when feeling anything but strong will come. And I know that I want to be there to offer whatever strength I can muster.

Gratitude is a strange word to use today. I will have to follow my mothers' example in this regard. You know, I don't talk much about AA on here or anywhere else really. Which is kind of odd given how instrumental it continues to be in my journey towards wellness. One thing I've learnt from listening and sharing with others dealing with lifes curve balls is that there are times when "keeping it in the day" can really help.

5 things I am grateful for today;

That the cancer is not in my mums bones.
20 months sobriety.
That the sun will rise tomorrow.
That mum and I are very likely to see the sunrise of another day.
That there is life beyond diagnosis.

This time of year

I am not the worlds best photographer that's for sure but even I can spot that there is something rather special about roses. Not only do they remind me of a rather special blogger friend, but they fill the whole area at the front of our home with a heady fragrance at this time of year. It's almost overwhelming and is just so so lovely.

I know nothing about flowers. I know they are beautiful though. And I know that looking at them reminds me of important things. Pausing to appreciate the delicacy of a flower petal ... watching as the days pass ... seeing the inexorable transformation from almost bare twigs, to leaved plant through buds all the way through to full blooms. How amazing nature is. Truly it is just breathtaking.

Take a look at these beauties ...

My mothers health has taken a turn for the worse. She goes back into hospital on Thursday for tests on a mass that showed up on her scan last week. A few months ago she started feeling increasingly unwell but this last month or so the affects have started to become all too obvious ... very marked weight loss, low energy, loss of interest in things, lack of appetite, general listlessness, more than usual confusion etc etc. Hence tests and more tests. Mum tells me that she believes the cancer has spread into her liver (the area in which the mass has appeared). She may be right but we shall wait and see.

Some days it is particularly important that we take time to pause ... to look in wonder at the beauty all around us in the world.

A Bit Of A Blow

Well we have come home from our camping trip unexpectedly early due to some inclement weather that played havoc with us ... and with our tent ...

... quite a "difficult" night was had with winds gusting up to force 9 but we came through relatively unscathed for which I am very thankful indeed. Trev was a total superstar and despite being soaked to the skin remained cheerful whilst we salvaged almost everything from the tent in the morning. We had had about an hours sleep all told. Normally this would precipitate loads of sniping and griping as we'd try to hold one another responsible for each of us feeling below par, I think we were both a bit subdued by the experience of sitting out gale force winds under a flimsy bit of cloth tied down with some rope and held up by a few fibre-glass poles.

Anyway it wasn't all gloom and doom by any means! There were some fantastic days on the beach with my two best surfer boy buddies ....

Oliver looking every inch of his newly 9 years of age ....

... and William looking so pleased with himself that just looking at him makes me feel warm inside. He is such a surfer boy you wouldn't believe the waves he wanted to try for!

Unfortunately my surfing days are behind me since my ear problems have affected my balance but not to worry as body boarding is a "no skill required" sport ... blimey I mustn't tell William that as he thinks himself highly skilled and who am I to argue with the flawless logic of a 6 year old?

All in all a jolly good time. I am glad to be home in one piece that's for sure.

Busy bee ... or rather bees

I realise that I am hardly ever here any more. It seems utterly ungrateful given how instrumental blogging has been in helping me to discover a sense of self I hardly knew existed before. Life is such a journey ... as they say.

We have recently received our new colony of bees at home. I can hardly wait to show you ... and don't you dare laugh at how silly I look in my bee suit! Pretty much everyone looks a bit silly in a bee suit though I guess.

OK, so now we've got over the laughing at Jos bit lets move on to the actual stars of the show ... the bees!

So there we are ... our bees look amazing don't they? They are so busy at this time of year, it's like Piccadilly Circus inside the hive, and with all the comings and goings it can be a bit scary just approaching the hive to take a peek to make sure all is well. It's so exciting being a beekeeper, and John my stepdad is like a man with a new lease of life since we re-established our beekeeping activities.

I hope all is well with you in your world. 19 months sober today and I believe I am making some progress after all. Warmest hugs xx Jos

Happy Easter

I live very near Roche Court Sculpture Park. It's free to get in, can you believe that? Not only is it free but sometimes in the autumn there are so many apples gathered in from their orchard that they leave a wheelbarrow of "help yourselves" by the entrance.

I love going there and walking. Thinking. Looking. Breathing. I love going there because it's something I do for me. I don't pretend to know a lot about art, but I appreciate that there are people who enrich our lives by making things for us to look at. There are times when the emotional impact of such works takes a while to filter through the noise caused by the everyday business of living, so I like to take my time and wander at a leisurely pace.

Sometimes I take my nephews there to run. I don't think there is any better way to get children to understand how important art is than to make it the backdrop against which their memories can play out. Art does not need to force it's way into our focus. It does not need a fanfare announcing it's worth, instead it can catch you unawares in a moment of wonderment. To me that is the essence of appreciation.

I like Barry Flannigan because of his sense of fun. His series of hare sculptures have all got that light sense of the joy there is in just being. I like that. I really like the works of Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore too but sometimes I can't tell which is which because there seems to be a crossover somewhere along the line in their individual styles. Maybe I'm being dense though because side by side they do look very distinctive.

Antony Gormley does all the bronze men that from a distance look so real. It is their stillness that gives them away. As you approach you see how ridiculous it was to ever be fooled into thinking they're real. Sometimes I think the joke of that is so funny that I laugh out loud. As I said, I don't pretend to understand art I just enjoy it.

I just popped by to wish you all a Happy Easter and then I thought of the sculpture park and how I'd like to visit there again soon. Lucky I have tomorrow off work. I hope you are having a restful or happily busy weekend.

April Fool

I made my own April Fools joke this year. I woke up thinking it's a work day and it's Sunday instead. Hurrah!!! I get to play outside today as I'm off to my sisters for a barbeque lunch. It is sunny and expected to be about 12 degrees today so perfect conditions for running the boys ragged (and myself too).

Kath and her husband have just bought a caravan so of course I am required to go and admire it which I am happy to do. Which reminds me, I must check Trev's car to see if "we" have a tow bar. One of the great things about me and my sister is that we share. I mean really share. What's mine is hers, and even though she has lots more useful stuff than I do, I seem to hold my own in the balance of things by spending time with the boys which frees her up to do all those things that are impossible to do with kids in tow. Tonight for example I am very likely to be seconded into the "sleeping in the caravan expedition team" with the boys. This means that she and her husband can slip out and go for dinner somewhere nice. Double Hurrah!!! I hope it isn't tooo cold brrrrr.

I was going to post about other more serious stuff but I think I'll just get on with doing things instead. Every lunchtime at work I try to slip out for a 20 minute walk. I walk past the most beautiful quince tree which is in blossom right now. It's stunning but every photo I've taken just doesn't do it justice (I am an inept photographer for sure). I found this image on google and it's pretty darn near perfect.

Happy April Fools Day to you. xx Jos

Thoughts from the Quietude

We build such strong fortifications within us
little knowing that efforts thus expended
must be paid for in perpetuity
or that the walls
however thick and well made will crumble
built as they are on the sands of time

What price would you be willing to pay
in order never to have to experience pain
can your imagination even begin to fathom
a lifeless life such as this
is it not pain that teaches me joy
or loss that reminds me to love

I travelled to an island paradise
far from the humdrum worries of my life
I awoke with the dawn and cried to see the sun
such exquisite beauty there is in the world
I watched as the sky flamed at sunset
and wept to see the moon rise in its serenity

Each day I inched nearer to an unspoken wisdom
the nature of which I could not even guess
but I awoke, I awoke
and in doing so I became even more acutely aware
of the yearning within me to understand
that which is hidden in plain view

Always I strive to see what cannot be seen
are we alone amongst the universe and beyond
in seeking meaning and purpose
surely no such efforts are expended by inanimates
nor in the beings that share this mortal plane
I seem uniquely ill equipped for such wonderment

It got me thinking of the fortifications within
and the Law of Unintended Consequences
what if these are the source of the problem
the cause of an emotionally induced blindness
despite my best intentions to do otherwise
I have not yet dismantled my earlier handiwork

I travelled home from my trip to the island
trying in vain to carry this knowledge
but as with the quietude it swiftly deserted me
and with it flew my uncertain certainty
sense seemed senseless in my everydayness
a solitary splash of colour amongst the greyness

But in my mind ...
I sometimes walk the beaches of that island
and know peace

How I Am Rescuing Myself

I've decided to continue along this path.
This year my resolutions are to;

Dwell in the present moment
Act with kindness
Practise acceptance
Exercise compassion
Be honest and gentle with myself
Embrace uncertainty
Befriend my sacred self

These are my resolutions for 2012 and quite possibly beyond.
Happy New Year Everyone.