Tattoo

Today, after years of planning and wavering, I finally got the tattoo I’ve been hankering after. Here it is:

My tattoo!There is a bit of a story behind it. I’ve always loved tree designs, and had vaguely considered getting a design based on Yggdrasil before, though never seriously enough to do anything about it.

I always thought if I did get a tattoo, it would be something related to my family – I’m incredibly close to my family, they’re the most important people in my life, so my family is the only thing that’s really important enough to me to get something permanently etched into my skin for.

A few years ago, when my mum was first diagnosed with terminal esophagus cancer, a family friend said something to us that’s always stuck with me. She was talking about how she knew we would get through all the pain and sorrow by sticking together as the strong family we are, and said “Your name should remind you of that: a Woods has strong roots”.

I found that really comforting at the time, and kept thinking of it when we lost Mum to the cancer, and when a year later my eldest sister died from a sudden, unexpected heart attack. We went through some pretty dark times as a family, but we always held on to and supported each other: I know I can rely on my family for anything, like the deep roots of the Woods.

So that was the inspiration for the design. I thought of it shortly after my sister died, and the idea just kept getting stronger, so I decided that this year I would finally take the plunge.

My tattoo was done by Claire Jones at Black Crown Tattoo in Leeds – a very talented lady, as well as being really friendly and reassuring about it all – I was quite nervous going in! Mainly I was scared about how much it would hurt, but it actually wasn’t that bad. I did take some painkillers before I went in, but to be honest I’m not sure I even needed those. It’s more of an annoying pain than anything else, just a sharp scratching. Claire described it as being like someone drawing on you with a sharp biro when you’ve got bad sunburn, which is pretty close I’d say. I am glad I didn’t go for anything bigger – this took about 15 minutes, which was long enough! I was pretty shaky when I came out, though I think that was from the adrenaline.

I’m so happy with the design, and really proud of myself for going through with it! It wasn’t a decision I took lightly – I’ve had this design in mind for almost three years, so I know it’s not something I’m going to regret. It’s a permanent reminder of my family, and the support we all give each other, and of my strong roots.

 

Feeling lucky

Content note: This rather long, meandering post was inspired by a Twitter conversation. It should not, however, be taken as advice to anyone who was part of that conversation, or indeed to anyone at all. I recognise that there is a big difference between grief and depression or other mental illnesses: I am discussing the former, and have little experience of the latter, so am absolutely not qualified to give advice on it! All I am aiming for with this post is an explanation of my own mental state, thought processes and coping mechanisms. If this turns out useful to someone dealing with similar circumstances, then that’s wonderful. If not, and everyone who reads this thinks my experience is totally inapplicable to anyone else, I will not be hurt.

A couple of mornings ago, @twistedwillow tweeted:

  My reply:

 

I was worried that it sounded a bit twee to put it like that, but unfortunately Twitter doesn’t lend itself well to lengthy discusses of mental and emotional states! That’s partly why I wanted to write this post, to give a bit of background and explain a bit more about what I mean.

First, the background. People who know me on Twitter or IRL, and regular readers of this blog, will know that my family has been through a very difficult couple of years. In July 2010, my Mum was diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus; in August, she was told it was inoperable. Eight months later, in April 2011, she died. A year and a month after that, in May 2012, my apparently healthy eldest sister Mandi died, suddenly and unexpectedly, from a heart attack.

Given that we were still picking up the pieces from having lost Mum a year earlier, Mandi’s death completely devastated us all. We all coped in our various ways: I can’t comment on how my sisters, brother-in-law, Dad, and Mandi’s kids have coped since, that isn’t my story to tell, but I did want to say a bit here about how I experienced the grief.

Losing Mum was heartbreaking. Losing Mandi was both heartbreaking and bewildering. How could this amazing, vital person, whom I’d spoken to just two days before, suddenly be gone? I don’t have a very clear memory of the first few weeks after her death: I do remember telling a friend who’d asked how I was that I knew from what we’d been through with Mum that that part was the easy bit. The early days after someone dies are a whirlwind: there’s so much to do, and so many new feelings to come to terms with, that it actually protects you from the truth of it. The hard part starts when real life starts again, and you discover that while your world has changed forever, everyone else’s hasn’t. At least, that has been my experience of it.

I went back home and back to work two and a half weeks after Mandi died, and spent the next few months just wading through despair. And despair is really the only word I can find for it: that feeling that there is nothing good in the world, nothing good on the horizon, and no way out of how you’re currently feeling. I slept fitfully at nights, troubled by vague, disturbing dreams, regularly sleepwalking, sleeptalking, and waking up in a panic feeling like I couldn’t breathe. I think I managed to hold things together at work, though looking back I’m not sure how I made that effort: it was a struggle to get out of bed every morning, weekday or weekend, because I just didn’t see the point in anything.

I am lucky enough never to have experienced chronic depression, so apologies to anyone who has if I’m about to say something inappropriate, but I’d imagine that what I went through was a lot like depression. The main difference, I suppose, is that I knew that the way I was feeling was a temporary reaction to a specific event. I also knew it would pass, or at least get easier with time, as I’d been through a very similar time after Mum had died.

Throughout those months, I was trying – and failing – to remember what Mum always taught us: to count our blessings. Problem was, I couldn’t see them as blessings. Yes, I was gifted with a wonderful family: but I’d now seen two of them die, and who knew who was going to be next?

The main difference between what I went through after Mum died and after Mandi died was in my fears. When Mum died, I had regular nightmares in which horrible things happened to people who I loved. Night after night, I watched each of my loved ones die, and was powerless to help them. However, I don’t think I was ever really scared of that actually happening. Yes, the dreams were awful, but we dream in metaphor: I think what I was really scared of was losing my family, losing what made them so special. The whole family dynamic changed after Mum died – it’s not necessarily worse now, just different – and it took a while for us all to work out what our family looked like. I think those dreams were just a reflection of that worry and uncertainty.

After Mandi died though, that was turned on its head. Suddenly I knew that anyone could be ripped away from me at any time, without reason or warning. Objectively of course I’d always known that was possible, as we all do, but nobody ever actually expects it to happen. I certainly didn’t. Knowing that something is possible is rather different to being presented with it as fact. I’ve written previously about my overwhelming fear that more terrible things were about to happen, so I won’t dwell on it here, just to note that that was my state of mind for several months.

I feel like I’m out of the other side of that now, hence I feel able to write this post. I know from past experience that things can and probably will get worse again, that I may well be dumped right back into that pit of despair without warning, but that the amount of time I spend in the pit each visit will gradually lessen. Nevertheless, right now I feel good. I feel like myself again. Most importantly, I feel lucky.

Because that’s what (eventually) this post is really about. Via an unneccessarily meandering path, I have arrived at last at the point I wanted to make in response to @twistedwillow’s tweets. Despite everything, I feel lucky. Scratch that, I am lucky.

Why am I lucky? Well, just look at what I’ve got. I have a wonderful Dad who loves me. I still have two sisters who are my best friends. I have a brother-in-law who I actually only refer to as an in-law here for clarity: generally I just call him my brother. He’s as close and as dear to me as any brother-by-blood could be. I have a partner who loves and supports me, and has been my rock through this entire ordeal. I have a brand new nephew who has just learned to smile. I have another brother-in-law and a potential future brother-in-law who are just wonderful, and make my sisters so happy. And I have two gorgeous, hilarious nephews who have inherited their mother’s warmth and sense of fun, and keep me endlessly entertained with silly jokes and surprisingly deep questions (sample from Spike, 5: “Does Freddie know he’s a baby?” *mind boggles* Sample from Finn, 3: “Why did the chicken cross the road? He needed a poo!!” *falls over laughing*).

That’s what I meant by focusing on what you have, and that’s what my mum meant when she taught us to count our blessings. What I’m trying to do now, and mostly succeeding at, is thinking about how much I have that most people never had. That doesn’t mean that I’m not allowed to be sad, and it doesn’t mean beating myself up for complaining that my diamond shoes are too tight (because sometimes they’re just diamante, and they really can pinch). All it is is a mental trick for when I feel myself heading back into the pit again.

I cannot stress how important it is to feel lucky, and not just for my own mental health. My second eldest sister, Katie (mother of Freddie), said something incredibly wise and insightful, as she has a habit of doing, in the first days after Mandi died. She pointed out how easy it would have been, after Mum died, for each of us to have just withdrawn into ourselves, forgetting about the wonderful family we still had and just wallowing in misery over the one we’d lost, and not taking the time to enjoy being with each other, as family. We could have done that, and we would have wasted what turned out to be our final year with Mandi. So we have to focus on what’s here, not on what’s gone, because the consequences of not doing so are too great.

One final point. Shortly after I tweeted my thoughts to @twistedwillow, I saw this tweet from her:

I don’t know if that was in response to my tweet or not, but it seems relevant, so I am going to address it here.

I said above that I feel lucky for everything that I have. I do, but I also feel lucky for what I’ve lost. I’ve lost an incredible mum, who was wise, and patient, and kind, and loving. I’ve lost a big sister who was like a second mum to me, who was generous, and giving, and had a wicked sense of humour and a massive, mad laugh that you could hear from streets away. And I’m not the only one who’s lost them: for both of their funerals/memorials, it was standing room only.

Yes, I’ve lost them. But I had them to begin with. I had these wonderful, magical people in my life. How many people were never that lucky? How many people never had a Mum like my mum? How many people never had a Mandi?

I still fear losing other loved ones, although it is not so all-encompassing as it was for a while. I might suggest that I am more conscious than most that it is a possibility. But while focusing on how much I love them does make me fear losing them, I can remind myself that if I do lose them, at least I was lucky enough to have them in my life to begin with.

So yes. I am lucky. I forgot that for a while, but I’ve got it back now and I will not let go of it easily.

Good news!

I have a brand new nephew! Please welcome to the world Freddie Evan David Jones, born 14 July 2012 at 9.34 am, weighing 9lb 11oz:

Freddie

He was 16 days overdue, but well worth the wait! I think he’s just inherited his mother’s sense of drama, and wanted to make a good entrance…

Isn’t he beautiful?! I mean, obviously I’m biased, but… seriously, isn’t he beautiful! Sadly I’ve now got to wait a week until I can get down to London and meet him in person. I shall be storing up all of my best Auntie cuddles until then 🙂

How am I?

Since this is the question I’m getting asked most often at the moment – “How are you?”, said with varying degrees of interest/concern – and since I’m giving only standard answers (usually along the lines of “not too bad” / “getting there” / “coping”), I thought I’d try to hammer out a more thorough answer here, if only to clear my head.

Problem is, I don’t really know how to answer that question. How am I? Well, mostly, numb. Tired and irritable, due to my lack of sleep and weird anxiety dreams when I do sleep. Fine one minute, fighting back tears the next – and completely unable to tell what will set me off. I can sometimes talk happily about my sister, and other times even the most offhand comment overheard from somebody talking about their own family will have me in floods.

Trying to get things done, and make an attempt to be sociable, when I have the energy to. Mostly I don’t though – so please consider this an apology to anyone who’s seen me chatting away via twitter whilst ignoring their emails or texts. I’m pretty much doing what I can when I can, and my energy levels are greatly varying.

I’ve been thinking back a lot to when we lost Mum. The fact that Mandi’s death occurred such a short time after Mum’s (the day she died was a year, almost to the day, after Mum’s memorial service) has meant that a lot of this, particularly in the early days, has had an awful kind of familiarity about it. That actually helped quite a bit early on – arranging the funeral for example felt a lot less bewildering since we’d done it before and had a better idea of what to expect. Now though, I’m starting to notice how different things are.

The main difference is, I think, in what I’m afraid of now. After Mum died, I had endless nightmares about terrible things happening to all the people I love. I haven’t had any of those dreams this time round (yet – the nightmares didn’t start until a few months after Mum died, so I suppose it’s entirely possible that I’ve got all that to look forward to). What I do have is an all-pervading sense that something terrible is just around the corner – but I’m not so much afraid of that as resigned to it. I suppose the change is this: before, I was afraid that something terrible could happen. Now, I know that something terrible will happen. I know, in my bones, that the next phone call I get will be someone telling me that someone else I love is dead.

Of course, I don’t know that, not really. I may have “known” it for the last six weeks, but in that time I haven’t actually had any more terrible news. That doesn’t change the fact that every time the phone rings, I feel physically sick. I’m just waiting for the next shoe to drop; for the next catastrophe to hit.

It’s not pleasant living like this. I want to be happy, I want to be able to look forward to things. I just can’t seem to convince myself that there is anything good ahead, even though I know, objectively, that there will be. I was talking to some family friends who are celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary this year, and they mentioned that they’d already started planning a massive party for their silver wedding. My immediate thought – which I didn’t say (I’m not completely lacking in tact!) – was how on earth can they be planning five years ahead? What makes either of them think that they’ll still be here in five years, or that their marriage will still be intact? Now, I know that’s very far from a normal reaction – they’re healthy, and happily married, and I’ve got absolutely no reason to expect they’ll be dead or divorced within five years. But still, there it is. That is how I’m thinking at the moment.

I’m probably sharing a bit too much here. I should stress that I don’t feel like this all the time: I’m having a particularly bad time this weekend, not really sure why. I just wanted to outline a bit of what’s going on in my head, as much to explain it to myself as anything. I’m going to start seeing a counsellor from a week on Monday, so I hope that’ll help me work through some of this.

Fundraising for Winston’s Wish

Since posting the news of the tragic loss of my big sister on this blog, I’ve been overwhelmed by messages of sympathy and support. I’ve been replying to some as they come in but haven’t had the time or the energy to reply to them all, so just wanted to say here thank you to everyone who’s been in touch. Although I haven’t replied to them all I am reading them all, and it’s been very comforting.

Last week, I signed up for the Winston’s Wish Sunrise Walk – a ten-mile walk to raise money for the child bereavement charity that has been an essential source of support and advice to us in explaining things to my sister’s two young sons, and in helping them to understand and express their grief. I’ve set up a JustGiving page, so if anyone would like to sponsor me I would be incredibly grateful for the support.

I posted this to Twitter when I’d first set it up and have been astonished at the generous response it’s already generated. Enormous, heartfelt thanks to everyone who has sponsored me so far: I honestly didn’t expect to raise so much so quickly. I’m really touched by how generous everyone has been, and I’m thrilled to be able to contribute in such a meaningful way to Winston’s Wish. I honestly don’t know what we’d have done without their help, especially in those first few days after Mandi died, so am really glad to be able to give something back.

Bad news

Almost two weeks ago, on Sunday 20 May, my eldest sister Mandi went out for a jog. She didn’t come home. She collapsed by the side of the road, and was taken to hospital. She was pronounced dead from a heart attack on arrival.

I was woken up with this news on Monday at about 3am, as my dad was on his way back from the hospital with my brother-in-law, Andy, to wait for Mandi and Andy’s two sons (3yo and 5yo) to wake up so they could somehow break the news to them. I went down to see them that day, and stayed until yesterday to help arrange the funeral and help Andy look after the boys.

Today I woke up in my own bed, 200 miles from the rest of my family, and the last two weeks feels like a bad dream. There’s been so much to do, and we’ve all been so focused on supporting Andy and the boys, that I don’t think I’ve really processed the fact that I’ve lost my sister. It just isn’t real: it can’t be. Mandi was nearly a teenager when I and my other two sisters were born, so our whole lives she’s been a combination of big sister, third parent, and best friend. How can she be dead?

Some of you already knew this, and have sent wonderful messages of support. I want to thank everyone who’s been in touch, and apologise for not replying – I just haven’t had the headspace.

The last couple of weeks have been incredibly difficult, but I know that in some ways they were the easy part. When someone first dies there is so much to do: it gives you plenty to keep occupied with. Now I don’t have all that to keep busy, and I’m so far away from the rest of my family, this is going to get much harder. Right now I just feel numb, but sooner or later this loss is going to hit me. I’m not quite sure what I’ll do then.

If anyone is moved by this and wants to do anything to help, there is a wonderful local charity called Winston’s Wish that provides support for bereaved children. They have been enormously helpful in the past few weeks with helping us all to work out how on earth we explain to those two boys what’s happened to their mum, and how we can be there for them and make sure they know they are loved, and safe, and supported. For the funeral we asked that, instead of floral tributes, people make donations to Winston’s Wish in memory of Mandi Jones. I’m sure any further donations would be gratefully received.

I suspect this blog is going to be a bit quiet for a while, as I try to work out what reality is again. Also, apologies in advance if I am slow to reply to comments and messages. I feel absolutely exhausted at the moment, and writing this has taken the last of the energy I had.

Update 7 June 2012:

I mentioned above the charity Winston’s Wish, that has provided our family with invaluable support and advice in recent weeks. I recently found out that they do an annual sponsored 10-mile walk to fundraise, so I will be taking part in this in September. If anyone would like to sponsor me, the easiest way to do so is via my JustGiving page. Many thanks to all those kind people who have already done so.

Books! Booze! Buns! My World Book Night

Books! Image courtesy of @becca_lou18Yesterday was the Best Day. Seriously, best day I’ve had in a long time. I don’t know how much of this impression was coloured by it coming straight after the sheer, unmitigated awfulness of last week, but still. Awesome day.

Yesterday was World Book Night, which I spent in the White Swan in Leeds, flinging copies of Good Omens at people in the company of some wonderful people I know from Leeds Book Club (including @leedsbookclub herself), and some other people who I’d never met before but who were instantly AWESOME. There were books, there was booze, and oh my gosh there were certainly buns as well (everyone baked. Everyone. I think we had more cakes than books).

In addition to the WBN books – which included, as well as Good Omens, copies of Player of Games, The Buns! (and some dubious advice...) Image courtesy of @Becca_Lou18Road, Misery, I Capture the Castle, The Time Traveller’s Wife, and Let the Right One In – there was also a book swap. Once people started arriving at the pub, it was so much fun watching it dawn on people that yes, we were really giving away all these books for free. Some people were baffled, some were delighted, and nearly all left with big grins and stacks of books.

I did manage to come away with a bit of a haul: I picked up WBN copies of Misery and Let the Right One In, plus a WBN title from last year, A Life Like Other People’s. From the book swap, I picked up Orham Pamuk’s Snow, and – this one I am most excited about – Point Horror: Twins.

Twins book cover. Oh! Point Horror!Point Horror! Oh, the nostalgia! I have @gazpachodragon to thank (profusely) for that particular treasure – she brought along a whole stack of Point Horrors to the book swap. Once I spotted them on the shelf, I started grabbing anyone nearby to point at them excitedly: “Look! There are Point Horrors! Loads of them!!” The reactions I got were a pretty even split between:

“ZOMG Point Horror??” *runs to grab handfuls*

and

*blank look* “Point… what? Is that a series or something?”

Now that I think about it, that was a pretty even gender split too… I suppose Point Horror was probably more of a teenage girl thing.

If I haven’t quite stressed this point enough: it was a brilliant night. The day had actually started amazingly well too, despite my sore back from lugging a bag full of 20 books and two tins of cake on the train with me (not a fun commute). When I got to work, a package arrived for me, containing a copy of A Wind in the Door, the second in Madeleine L’Engle’s Time Quintet. I’d mentioned this on the blog and on Twitter before, having been very excited to find out that there were actually sequels to A Wrinkle in Time (one of my all-time favourites), made a mental note to keep an eye out for cheap second hand copies, and hadn’t really thought about it since. Turns out a good friend of mine had seen a cheap copy and just decided to buy it for me. Is that not the loveliest thing you’ve ever heard?

Today has actually been fairly meh in comparison, but I’m still in the best mood I’ve been in for ages. Never underestimate the power of books, booze and buns – and lovely people – to make everything better 🙂

Photos from the night courtesy of @Becca_Lou18

Independent bookshops in Leeds

Bookshop by A30_Tsitika, on FlickrI’ve been thinking a lot lately about where I buy my books. Although I don’t very often buy new, full-price books (charity shops, market used-book stalls and readitswapit.com are my friends, and obviously any books I don’t want to own and keep come from the library), when I do buy books they tend to come from one of two places: Amazon, for the cheapness and convenience; or Waterstones, for the simple reason that they’re often the only physical bookshop on the high street.

I’ve never really given it that much thought before – those are just the easiest places for me to buy books from – but I’m starting to feel a bit guilty about spending my money with large, anonymous corporations (one of which is a shameful tax dodger), rather than supporting local independents. My excuse, such as it is, is that I’ve not lived in the area for that long (ok, 14 months… long enough really) so I didn’t know where any good local bookshops were.

Well, this week I decided: no more excuses! Knowing that there are some lovely Leeds-based people on Twitter, I asked the question of my network: are there any independent bookshops in Leeds?

Sadly, the short answer seemed to be no! I did get a few replies pointing out a few nice places around Leeds, but unfortunately none in the city. Here are the places that were recommended:

Radish, Chapel Allerton – “an indie green/radical bookshop and fair trading post”. This place sounds AWESOME. Chapel Allerton is MILES out of my way, but I am totally willing to treck out there just to visit Radish.

The Idle Hour, Horsforth – although the person who mentioned this wasn’t sure if they were still in existence or not, and as their website hasn’t been updated since 2007 this one might have gone. Anyone in Horsforth know if this still exists?

Garforth bookshop – Probably won’t find myself in Garforth any time soon (until this bookshop was recommended, I’d never heard of the place) but if I do, I shall stick my head in and check this place out.

The Bookshop Kirkstall – A second-hand and antiquarian bookshop. Again, quite far out of my way, and they keep short opening hours, but they do also sell online through AbeBooks.

Philip Howard books – Also not somewhere I’d ever be passing through, but sounds nice.

Village Bookstore – This one’s not open yet, but it promises to be an “independent art book and zine store”. Sounds fabulous!

Grove Bookshop, Ilkley – Even further out of my way, but looks just lovely. Plus, Ilkley is pretty, and as the person who recommended it to me on Twitter pointed out, I could pop to Betty’s for a brew afterwards!

Also worth a mention here is OK Comics, Leeds’ independent comic book shop. Although I don’t read that many comics/graphic novels (pictured below is my entire graphic novel collection), I have been getting more into them in recent years, and I would like to discover new series/artists to explore. And OK Comics looks great – they have a friendly Twitter account, seem very good on customer service, and offer a free graphic novel lending library.

My graphic novel collection. Screengrab from LibraryThing

All of my graphic novels - mostly Buffy and Sandman!

However, shameful though it may be to admit, I’ve not quite dared to actually go in there yet. This is not their fault, it’s mine: comic book shops scare me. I’m still scarred from venturing into Forbidden Planet in London a few years ago to buy a copy of the first issue of the Buffy comic series. It was the first comic I’d bought, and the first and last time I went into a comic book shop. Everyone there, staff included, stared at me with great big “YOU DON’T BELONG HERE” looks on their faces. The sales assistant visibly sneered when he saw what I was buying. It was horrible: I hadn’t felt so unwelcome, so completely and obviously out of place, since I was a teenager. Since then, I’ve bought all of my graphic novels online (mostly, sorry to say, from Amazon), where no one can judge me.

Now, I’m not saying I expect OK Comics to be the same. They could be really nice people who make an effort not to make anyone feel excluded. And maybe some day, I will actually pluck up the courage to go in there and find out. Not just yet, though.

Anyway, slight digression on my fear of comic book shops aside, that was the results of my investigation into Leeds-based independent bookshops. Any I’ve missed? Any more recommendations would be very gratefully received!

Many thanks to the following Twitter users who replied to or retweeted my original question: @PeopleofLeeds (under the control, at the time, of @LianneMarieB), @ladylugosi, @LuraTea, @Destructodd, @Prossian, @CultureLEEDS, @MildlyConfused, @Lindsay22w, @KarolineK, @BeeCleaver, and @KatieScarlett14.

When you’re smiling…

Are you Happy?Time for another “reasons to be happy” post! Here’s some things that have made me smile this week:

1. Fish babies!

One of the fish in our tank has had babies! There are now lots of tiny fish babies swimming about – hard to count as they’re tiny and fast, but we think there’s at least 9 of them. We were a bit worried they’d all get eaten – most of the other fish in the tank will eat fry, including the mother (a platy) – but so far we’ve not noticed a drop in numbers. We’ve got lots of plants in the tank, and they seem mostly to be hiding among the leaves, presumably to avoid being eaten. I guess that’s what they’d do in the wild. Not sure what we’re going to do when they get bigger, as there’s not really enough room in the tank for 9 extra platies – I guess we’ll probably need to take them back to the pet shop. But for now – teeny tiny surprisingly cute fish babies!

2. Snow!

Freak snowstorm on Monday night meant that we woke up to about 1-2 inches of snow, making everything white and pretty and magical. (Then I had to get up and go to work, and it was cold and wet and the wind was blowing the snow horizontally – but we’re focusing on the positive here. Snow=pretty!)

Also, I completely love that less than a week after writing that the warm, practically summer weather was making me happy, I’ve listed snow as a happiness-maker. Ah, British springtime. Never change!

3. Books!

I found out yesterday that one of my favourite books of all time, A Wrinkle in Time, had not one not two not three but FOUR sequels!! How this fact escaped my attention for so long, I have no idea. I must have read that book dozens of times as a child – I could practically recite it by heart. I re-read it last year and it’s lost none of its charm. I can’t really justify buying the extra four books just now, but I’ve added them to my wishlist and will be keeping an eagle eye out for cheap/second-hand copies.

Been a pretty good week really, all in all! Plus, I now have the long weekend to look forward to – and I will be spending it with my family, on a canal boat in Wiltshire. Bliss!

Reasons to be happy

HappinessI’m having a bit of a crappy time of it at the moment. My grandma passed away last week, only a few weeks after my grandpa (her husband) died. It’s coming up on a year since we lost Mum too, and I’m finding myself dwelling more and more on her last hours. There are also various difficult things going on with the rest of my family and in my personal life, that I won’t bore anyone reading with the details of, but that are all just stacking up and making it increasingly difficult to actually see anything good in my life right now.

I don’t like feeling like this, and I don’t like wallowing in misery when actually, my life isn’t that bad. Yes, I’ve had some difficult things to deal with over the past year or so, but I am very aware that so many people have it so much worse. My moaning about my less-than-perfect life does feel a bit along the lines of “but my diamond shoes are too tight!” sometimes, and it makes me a bit cross with myself. So, I’ve decided to start doing what my mum always told me to do: make lists of the good things. I’m going to list all of the things that have made me smile in the preceding week, however small and for whatever reason. Hopefully this will force me to stop dwelling on the negative stuff.

This may or may not end up being a regular post on this blog – I guess I’ll see how long I’m feeling this crappy and feel like I need to list the good things to cheer myself up.

So, here are the things that made me happy this week:

1. Sunshine!

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but it’s been FRIKKIN’ GORGEOUS out this week, at least in my neck of the woods. Perfect weather for me: sunny, but not too hot. I don’t cope well with extremes*, weather-wise: I’m equally likely to complain bitterly about it being too cold or too hot. This week was neither: just sunny, and warm enough for pretty dresses, and generally lovely. Good times 🙂

2. Family!

Grandma’s funeral was yesterday, which went well (as well as funerals generally go, anyway). That made it a sad day, but the silver lining was that because I live much closer to my grandparents’ former home than any of the rest of my family, my dad and two of my sisters stayed over at mine yesterday. No words for how much I love having my family here. Just being able to spend an evening with several of the people I love the most made up for what was otherwise quite a crappy week.

3. Books!

Went into town today, and despite my pledge to stop buying new books until I’ve diminished my TBR pile somewhat, I couldn’t resist having a look around the charity shops and the used book stall at the market to see if there was anything worth picking up. I was glad I had: I managed to pick up copies of Northern Lights and The Amber Spyglass for £1 each from the market – I’ve been wanting to get my own copies of those for ages, I had them years ago but they’re kind of shared, family copies so they live at home on my Mum’s old bookshelves. I just need to find a copy of The Subtle Knife now to complete the set! I also picked up almost-new copies of George RR Martin’s A Storm of Swords parts 1 and 2 from a charity shop. They’ve been on my reading list for a while: I borrowed the first two books in the Song of Ice and Fire series from a friend at the end of last year and absolutely loved them. Had been saving up Amazon vouchers to buy the next few in the series anyway, so now I’ve saved myself a bit!

4. The Hunger Games!

Went to see the Hunger Games on Tuesday with some lovely folks from the book club I go to. Loved it. So great to see a film of a book I loved that wasn’t a disappointment. I don’t think it’s as good as the book – films never are IMO – but it’s pretty close. The casting is absolutely spot on as well: I loved Katniss and Peeta, even though neither were exactly as I’d pictured them. Woody Harrelson is perfect as Haymitch, and Lenny Kravitz is beyond perfect as Cinna – I just wish he’d been in it a bit more! I loved Effie Trinket too – she was exactly as I’d pictured her. And the girl who plays Rue is just impossibly cute – she’s like a tiny angel. I defy anyone who has a heart not to be in floods of tears at *that* scene.

There. Quite a lot to smile about this week, actually. I feel in a better mood already 🙂

* “Extremes” in this case means anything deviating more than a few degrees from standard room temperature. Yes, I know, I’m a wuss.

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