New Year’s Eve has only ever really meant one thing in our house.  It is the day my mum was born at 3 minutes to midnight in 1926.  I imagine her entering the word and crying and then the fireworks going off.

My mom adopted me and Mum died in 2009 and I miss her.

The idea of me blogging came from her and my whole social media journey is a powerful legacy from her to me.

This week I want to introduce you to my Mum.  She was an amazing woman and anyone who knew her was very lucky indeed.  She had a long and fascinating life.  For today, I will focus on her relationship with myself because my mom adopted me and changed my life.

It all started in 1969 when she took me home on Bonfire Night.  I was eleven months old and as you can see, she must have had to have a very good heart to want to adopt something like this.

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She put me at the heart of the family and brought joy into my life.  Check out her amazing legs by the way.

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We became a bit of a double act.

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She made me feel safe and warm.

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She ensured I had toys and pets.

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Sometimes I surprised her.

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Sometimes I swam.

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Sometimes I got into very deep water.

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She encouraged a love of travel.

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and music!

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and fashion!!!

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She kept her promise to my birth mother that she would bring me up to be a good Catholic girl!

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She kept going giving me good experiences even when she was struggling emotionally or was in pain.

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She accepted that sometimes I would feel closer to my Dad.

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She taught me how to hold my own in an argument.

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She would take me to see Santa even when I was a bit old for it.

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She encouraged my education and lived to see me graduate with a degree in Law from Cambridge University.  I would love to know what she thought that day.  This is a woman who was brought up by a alcoholic and violent father, who was poor as a child and later, who was spat at in the street for being Irish.  A woman who taught herself words by reading the Reader’s Digest and who never stopped learning.  A woman who passed for Grammar School but was not allowed to go through poverty and ended up as a factory worker aged 12 years of age.

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When I think of Mum, the overwhelming memory is of laughter and a fabulous sense of fun.

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Happy New Year from the two founders of this blog – Irene Holmes and her daughter Catherine. My mum adopted me and I am proud of her.

The Pramshed

Here is something I do on the blog every year.  It is good to look back and reflect on a whole year.  It helps to put things in perspective.  I always tag people to do a post using the same questions but anyone should feel free to join in.  Just take the questions and answer them in a way that makes sense to you and preferably although it is not a rule say that the idea for the post came from this blog.

Here is my 2013

1. What was your happiest event?

My happiest event was my trip to Orlando.  It came out of the blue and was something I had never really dared to dream about.  I do remember wanting to go when I was a child.  I never mentioned it as it was not viable.  So to find myself in my forties invited as a VIP guest and to be told I could take one of my children along for the adventure was amazing.  I miss my one-on-one time that used to apply all the time really with my oldest son so it was fabulous to have that all over again on this trip.  It was good to be taken at least semi-seriously by some talented journalists and to learn that there are real opportunities out there for the taking if and when I get my act together.  Most importantly, this trip saw my son’s mental health become stable again after the death of his grandfather.

2. What was the saddest thing to happen?

I think my husband losing his job was sad in the way it has affected the family.  A lot of what we had built up over years has gone.  It was awful to feel like Remembrance had been taken away from us too.  The reality is the Royal British Legion cannot take certain things from us unless we let them.  They can take the job, the income and the security.  They cannot take away our family unit or our values.  We will remember veterans and current service personnel and we hope that one day the Poppy Appeal will not be a Legion thing but as is fair, shared across all the service charities.

3. What was the most unlikely thing to happen that actually went ahead and did?

Quite a few things this year.  Crossing the Atlantic.  Going on a rollercoaster.  Annoying a Baroness.  Meeting Katie Piper.  I think the most unlikely of these was probably going on a rollercoaster.  I can’t say I enjoyed it but I did it.  This gave my son the confidence to go on quite a few so it was worth it.

4. Who let you down?

I will refer you to question 2.

Also the person who allowed me contact with a baby and then severed that contact almost immediately.  That was painful and I have learned that  some people will hurt me whether by design or lack of concern for my feelings continuously. Such people are best left to their own devices.  This year I made that decision and am a lot healthier for it.

5. Who supported you?

My husband in looking after two of the children for a week on his own whilst I went to America.  Since he was made redundant, he has struggled to cope himself so I suppose I have felt some of that back-up that usually comes from him to be missing.  It will come back strongly once we get sorted.  He is fundamentally a good man.

Auntie S.

Bloggers.  So many do this throughout the year.  I look back and remember so many encouraging tweets, offers of telephone numbers, emails and comments.  I appreciate them all.  They sustain me.

The Professor – a steady reminder that someone watches from afar and wishes me well.

Facebook friends from school and from my time in Leeds.

My half-sisters.  I must try and make meeting them one day a reality.

My children – three amazing souls who take me as I am and love me all the same.

 

6. Tell us what you learned

That truly incredible and wonderful things can happen.

That security is an illusion.

That I am sometimes more capable of things than I think.

That it is important to be clear with people on what you want and need.  It is also important to be honest about what you won’t accept.

 

7. Tell us what made you laugh

Lauren regaling me with Ann Summers stories in a London hotel room.

Kimberley’s daughter stealing my son’s shoe and running rings round him.

My son telling a film crew that his Dad was a couch potato.

My son acting the fool with another film crew to great effect.

My other son – so quick with word play and growing up fast.

My daughter – through singing with such enthusiasm and really believing she has a voice when the rest of us could tell her she really doesn’t.

Memories.

8. Tell us the things that made you cry

Insecurity and not knowing quite which way to turn

Realising a relationship was not going to happen with a new extended family member

Fears when I found a breast lump

 

9. Tell us three things your child or children did to make you feel proud.

My oldest son putting himself back together again as time started to heal his grief.   How he offered to give up his place on the Orlando trip to one of the other children.  How he looked after me on the America trip.   How he has forged good friendships. He started to excel at school again after his grades had crashed following my Dad’s death.

My youngest son finding he had a talent in front of the camera.  He took part in two filming events with such composure, humour and aplomb.

My daughter facing her fears and going on her first residential trip.  She took part in some very physical activities which like me is not her natural forte.  She came back changed and with a greater sense of independence.

 

 

10. Tell us the things that made you proud of yourself.

Saying yes to the America trip and going on a rollercoaster.

Tackling two major projects and pulling them off successfully.

Going to the GP and breast clinic when I found a lump rather than pretending it was not there.

Committing to doing all I can to help move my husband and the family forward.

Saying when things really are not good enough.

Digging deep and letting my daughter be away from home without her parents.

 

11. Tell the challenges you overcame

This may be a work in progress.

I will claim rollercoasters and the breast lump as scary things that I faced up to and lived to tell the tale.

12. Tell us the things you would like to change about your life in 2014,

1. To become more financially independent and to see my husband back in work.

2. To lose weight and get fitter.

3. To be more organised in the house and to introduce some good systems.

4. To do better at blogging and also to actively seek other writing and social media opportunities.

5. To write that novel and get it finished.

6. To see people more often and to build on friendships.

Over to you. Any blogger can have a go at this one if they fancy reflecting back on the year that was 2013.

Tagging some lovely bloggers

@NewMumOnline @usthreebythesea @dragonsflypoppy @knackeredhwife @AutismMumma @PollyBurns2 @ LJB41 @CupcakeMumma11 @crazywithtwins @darling_steph @Tamsin_Tweets @InstinctiveMum @Glasgow_Mummy @ goriami @redpeffer @soundinglike @smilesandphotos @gertieandginger @mrsshortiesmind @mummy_plum @mummytries @ugglymuggly @needaphone @ojosworld @oliversmadhouse @mummyglitzer @RP4ges @kimberleyjtyler

More to follow

 

Amazingly, not everyone blogs!

So for those who don’t and matter, here is a Christmas hello.

To the long-suffering Him Indoors.  We have not had the easiest of years which means I have ranted quite a lot, being quite illogical on many occasions and given you a hard time when others were doing the same.  We have also laughed and loved a lot as we do.  I do appreciate you travelling thousands of miles to try and find work.  I admire you for seeing the GP.    Remember that Mum said there was a Jack for every Jill and God made kippers and he paired them.  I rest my case.  Have a lovely Christmas and we will overcome in the New Year.

To my oldest son.  I know the year started badly for you.  I worried so much that you would not come back you felt when your Granddad passed away.  It was a shock to me to see you struggling and acting up at school.  Our highlight has to be our trip to America.  I don’t think you believed you were really going until you saw your passport arrive.    I remember how you said you would let your brother or sister take your place.  That takes some doing when Disneyland and the other theme parks are on offer.  We did America together and overcame a lot of fears.  I think this experience strengthened both of us.  It was lovely to have one-on-one time with you.  America somehow put you back together again and you returned to excel again at school.  You remain my sweet and sensitive soul with the odd teenage strop thrown in for good measure which is as it should be as you cut the apron strings.  By the way Santa does exist and don’t you forget it!  Christmas magic made you seize mistletoe and kiss me right in the high street – how blessed am I to have a teenage son who does that?!

To my beautiful daughter with a style all of her own.  This was the year where you faced your fears on your first trip away from home.  It terrified me seeing you walk away and I know you came back a very changed girl.  I am so proud how you tackled the challenges.  You are growing up but you still have that belief in magic so Christmas is a lovely time for you.  You are very much your grandma’s legacy with your feisty spirit and ability to make a party out of nothing.  You don’t believe in God so no doubt you have caused your grandma to spin quite a bit.  I got a shock this year when I saw you and a boy together.  You were only talking but flirting might fit better.    Seems you are growing up and the boys are starting to notice.  Just remember what I told you from birth my dear but I will always be here if you hit a crisis.

To my youngest son who remains my full on bright and comic character.  As you get older, your sweet side is coming out more and more.  You seem to understand things far beyond your years.  I guess the big highlight of the year for you was being filmed in promotional videos for two big companies.  You tacked it without nerves and did an amazing job.  I will never forget those days.  How I wish I had your innate self-belief.  Your morning cuddles keep me going every day.  I know you will be fine.  You are a survivor.

To my brother who has given amazing emotional and financial support in our current predicament.  It has kept us going.  Not many people dig into their own pockets to lend support and we really appreciate it.  Here’s to Boxing Day together.  Continuing Mum’s family tradition of a big spread the day after the Big Day.

To that woman in Dewsbury who remains one of the most inspirational people I have ever met.  One of those who does not quite feel how special she is.  Those around her know it.  Hope to meet again in 2014.  You are the very type of woman who should get an award but probably never will.

To someone who I felt I lost at 11 but is back in my life via Facebook.  I love seeing how your life turned out and the family you have built.

To the lady in France who I sense could have been a great friend if only we had given each other a chance back in the day.  We connect now and I value that.

To an amazing lady who does such good work every day and who offered to babysit my children when I went to be breast clinic.  We have not seen each other since school days and were not close then.  That offer was amazingly generous.  Thanks for your support and gentle guidance via Facebook.  We may get to meet again one day.

To the good guy in Australia who recently convinced me that it is always worth giving people a second chance even if they have hurt you.  You are a better soul than me and I have learned from you and taken action as a result.

To H who will know why.  Wishing you and that amazingly close-knit family of yours a very Happy Christmas.

To the Professor.  I am calling you that to impress my readers of course.  You are always there when it matters.  I value a friendship that seems to have developed long after we didn’t say goodbye to each other.  If we ever meet, I will of course run away but you matter and on occasion get me through the day.

To Paula, my old mate from college days.  I know I don’t write enough.  I will.  After all, you are the only nun friend I have and if a time was needed for prayers, this is probably it.  You took a course that I could not fully understand.  I miss our nights of chocolate digestives, Peak Practice and magazine quizzes.  You are happy.  That makes me content.

To Glenys who I worked with in my first full-time job.  I love how you don’t coax me or pussy-foot around me.  A lot do but those who are firm with me always do me so much good.  You are amazing in so many ways.  Carlisle seems like another life-time.

To H who has to face life as a young woman without her husband.  I hate the injustice of that.  I love how you acknowledge your bond so often in a public way.  I take my hat off to you for keeping going and giving that little girl a wonderful life.  You were so kind to me, one of the good guys and that makes what happened to you even more rotten.

To M who is having a hard time.  I don’t know the details.   I hope you know people care and that I am only ever an email or message away.  I knew you were special and talented very soon after we met.  Dig deep, seek support and overcome whatever poo-poo type stuff is in your life right now.

To C who I think could have been a very good friend had I stuck round a bit longer.  You say the right things at the right times.  You remind me I am OK and sometimes quite wonderful.   I remember you saying I was already a writer when I did not see that clearly. That is so generous of you and wish you and yours well.

To all the people I would love to have back in my life – A, C, R and J from college amongst others   You never know – life is strange with its twist and turns.

To old school-friends who I have accepted as Facebook friends with a degree of caution – we will see how that turns out.  Very pleased to have Sammy back in my world.

I will, almost inevitably, have forgotten someone who is amazing and very important.

It is good to remember how blessed I am with the people I know or have known.

To my half-siblings who I have never met.  The breast lump made me think we should really meet.  2014 could be that special year.

To my birth mum – you have made what looks like an amazing family.  Happy Christmas!

Special mention for Mum and Dad who made me Christmases so very special.  I miss you so much.  I do daft stuff like buying stuff that reminds me of something of the essence of you.  Little ornaments of sailors and a plastic tub with a blue lid and baking stuff.  Christmas will never be the same but you taught me the true meaning of it and to make special memories.  Wish you would tumble in with too many gifts and bags of sweets.  Wish Mum would order Dad back to the car boot to get yet more stuff.   Thanks Mum for ensuring I cooked for you on your very last Christmas and for telling me at that time that I must write.  It has been such a journey and it hurts that you did not live to see it.  Dad – I miss you every day.  I remember how much you loved Christmas particularly the eating bit and the sorting everything out bit.    You loved me, you believed in me and one day I will make you so proud.  That’s a Christmas promise with love from me to you.

Merry Christmas to all those I love or have loved.  You are all very special.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Royal British Legion

Where do I begin?

We are an ex-forces family having a tiny Christmas this year and worrying about where we will live and how we will pay bills in the New Year.  This is as a result of what you would call restructuring and I would call heartlessness.

I still find it hard to stomach that you could recruit to advice and welfare-related posts whilst at the same time throwing numerous loyal and long-serving staff out of work telling them they were redundant.

As an organisation you claim to be there for Forces and ex-forces families and yet since September when my husband became unemployed at your hands we have not had a single enquiry from your charity about how we are coping and if any help can be given.  Not even at this special time of year.

If you can’t care for former loyal employees who are also ex-services, it does make me question how genuine your interest in service personnel really is.  Why should they pay the price of your mismanagement of funds raised through the Poppy Appeal?

I know you don’t care but should you happen to come across this letter, here is our story since you told my husband he was to be made redundant.

My husband tried to look for work and your management made this very difficult to do resenting every interview he went to and trying to block him going to them against your own written policies on occasion.

Apparently the only reference you will provide is confirmation of dates of employment which immediately signals to a potential employer that there was misconduct.  The only misconduct in my view in this situation is from your organisation in letting so many people down.

My children have worried about having to leave their schools and friends for my husband to find work.

There have been many tears.

I have actually thanked my lucky stars that my war veteran Dad who lived with us died before all this happened or his welfare would be at such risk and I know he would be appalled by your actions.  He would have cancelled his membership.  Of that you can be sure.

Family members and friends chose not to buy poppies this year knowing our story.  I did not ask them to do this.  It was their choice.

I have turned to comfort-eating and put on weight just when I was having real success with weight loss.  My fault, a minor thing in the grand scheme of things and yet one of the effects of my husband’s redundancy and the stress placed on our family as a result of it.

A marriage has been tested as financial pressures have increased.

Since leaving your employ, my husband has travelled thousands of miles in search of work and has laid out such a lot of money on travel to interviews where potential employers would not cover travel expenses.

He remains without work.

I have resolved that this is the last time I will mention you on my blog.  You may rob of us of our security but I will not give you the power to reduce us to nothing.

My husband has a lot of experience and skills.  I fully expect these to be recognised with a new job in 2014.  I think the fact that he felt so down and abused by your actions has had an adverse impact on his interviews.

As you can see, I have communication skills and will put these to good use in 2014 to move our family forward.

We will have a Christmas filled with the important things – life, laughter and love.

I feel sorry for those who support you not knowing the full story and the cuts you are making to welfare support for service and ex-service personnel.

Your website claims you provide practical care, advice and support to the Armed Forces family all year round.  Is that with the exception of ex-forces staff who have served you well?  I remember the long hours my husband worked including evenings and weekends on occasion.  I remember Christmas Eves sitting waiting for him to come home because he was putting your organisation and its clients first.  Shame on you for treating him and others so badly.

You may be able to silence traditional media outlets but you will not silence me.

 

 

 

 

 

Looking for a last minute present for a little girl?                                                  

Like many mums, little girls love new shoes.  It is lovely to have a new pair for Christmas Day and all the festive parties.

It always winds me up about things that are small so hence use less materials can prove as or more expensive than larger items. However, I don’t want to deny my daughter her love of sparkles.

Back by popular demand, Aldi is stocking its coveted Girls Fashion Shoes just in time for celebrations.

Available in sizes 6 – 12 and two colours; pink and black, each pair is beautifully encrusted with gems and beads and features easy-to-fasten Velcro straps, giving the £49.99 high street equivalents a run for their money at just £8.99 per pair.

We were sent a pair to enable this post.  They look really good and were comfy to wear too.

Aldi shoes

 

In store on 19th December, these fashionable pumps are perfect as a last minute Christmas stocking filler, but be quick as they’re part of Aldi’s Specialbuys range – once they’re gone, they’re gone.

Do check out Aldi this Christmas – they have a far wider range of things available than I previously thought and it could well prove to be the best last minute shopping store of all with very affordable prices.