Monday, 18 December 2017

Life On Steroids

This week my blood crashed. I ran out of platelets, which means I basically stopped clotting - quite a whoopsie, medically speaking. After a day of hanging around hospital trying to study while my wonderful friends and family cared for my children, I was put on an 'astronomical' (my GP's term) dose of steroids to sort me out. Which has worked, pretty much. I need to stay on them for a while, which is not a fun prospect, but I am learning a lot about myself in the process.

For a start, I am not - and never have been - lazy. Sometimes I look at other people's lives and wonder why I can't summon what it takes to achieve what they do. I can really blame myself for that, especially if I imagine my girls are missing out on something. But it turns out that as soon as I have energy I use it to do all those jobs I have been planning to do 'when I have a minute'. When you can't sleep, you have a lot of minutes. So once I am off these drugs, I will endeavour to be kinder to myself. My autoimmune stuff comes with fatigue and that is not a moral failing - just a fact.

Right now, for example, it's 11:45. Downstairs is a wonderfully enormous spread of presents I am giving this year, in the process of final organistaion - last wrapping, checking siblings have a similar pile, double-checking everything I ordered has arrived...but I am not downstairs. I am upstairs with Manna who has woken as her chicken alter ego and is lying in her cot, requesting "book, book, book". Normally I would stand by her until she slept again, or sit on the bed and read if it took ages, but tonight I have seized this chance to write the thoughts I couldn't capture earlier. The difference between being glad I can get something done rather than relieved I can do nothing for a few minutes has an enormous cumulative impact. I wonder if I can teach myself to be more productive after this.

I am also less careful, less particular, less afraid on steroids. If I haven't got time to clean something properly I will give it a quick wipe - much more effective than my usual perfectionist ploy of leaving it until I have time to be thorough...which can take a long time. Bish bash bosh is the way forward.
And the fear: I had a spider encounter which would usually have put me into a phobic state, but I barely flinched. I still needed it out the house, but I could put it out gently and pragmatically. I have since learned that my cortisol is suppressed by these drugs, which makes perfect sense.

And I am not sleeping enough. I have a body knowledge of a deep exhaustion, but I am restless. I cannot stop or sleep like I need to. It is 1:15 now. Manna is silent and wide-eyed. I am much the same. I understand why they wean you off these so slowly - a crash now would be from a dangerous height.

So it is good to be achieving things - I don't know how else I would have got ready for Christmas - but this is not sustainable. The biggest loss is being unable to match Manna's pace. She wants me to read the same book over and over, but not even read it - just point at the pictures and repeat the names and noises of things and play Boo with the flaps and then do it all again. This is how I spend hours of every day. This is how I don't vacuum much. Now my whole house has been thoroughly vacuumed, but I don't feel I have spent enough time just being with my daughters. I built one Megablocks tower, but then I'd finished so I moved on and left Manna to crash it by herself. These days are precious; I can vacuum for the rest of my life but I don't have many years left of children young enough to sit on me and sing action rhymes.

And I can't cry! I keep wanting to. I feel a pain in my throat and face and heart, but I cannot release the tears. It reminds me of the first phases of grief - at times I could not stop crying and at times I could not start.

I have been thinking of those times a lot over the last couple of months because the other big thing happening in my internal world is a dire countdown to the day Manna is as old as Ember was when Thomas died. Their birthdays being only four days apart, it is all too easy to flashback to when this bright and plumptious child in my arms, full of delight and secure in her world, was Ember. It is all too easy to flashback to how that security quaked terrifyingly; how she would freeze, motionless, at a sudden noise or unexpected touch. Only breastfeeding could reassure her on a deep enough level then, and let her howl like she needed to. I felt I was literally giving love into the centre of her body.

And now I still sometimes see that scared little girl in my eight-year-old Ember. I get heart-tearing flashes of how that deep peace and unshaken confidence in the world will never return for her. It is hell to be unable to give her that and all I can do is just keep loving her - when she's screaming while I brush her hair, when she won't get ready in the morning, when I find her still reading at 9:30 after she's been weeping with tiredness all day...just love, as much as I can manage, all the time.

So this Christmas is going to be mixed. It will be the first year Manna will really participate and I will love her enjoyment, as I always love Ember's. I will be with my family and I am looking forward to giving out presents. But in my mind will be a photo my sister took at Christmas six years ago:
Ember, holding a card, looking healthy and happy, meeting the eye of the camera;
Thomas, horribly pale, visibly exhausted, watching her with huge love;
and me, also pale, watching Thomas and looking very worried.

We didn't know. We were assured he would be okay until he was in his fifties. We didn't know...but there is no denying the fear in my face that last Christmas together.




Thursday, 4 May 2017

Make Me a Match

Walking home from school drop-off this morning, one eye on Manna's remaining shoe, idly planning tea, I suddenly realised I could quite comfortably spend the rest of my life in romantic solitude and celibacy simply because I hadn't explored the other option of dating someone. That doesn't seem a good enough reason. If I'm going to be alone I want it to be an active choice.

Next I realised how terrifying the prospect of a date feels. I haven't been on a date for...takes off socks...fourteen years! I mean, within that time has been a whole start-to-finish marriage, but we had already been mates for years, so we skipped the dating bit. And there's been no-one since Thomas died, which is much longer ago than it sometimes feels.

Then I realised I would have to try this anyway or I would always be wondering and feeling a bit cowardly. Damn.

I have no idea how this can possibly work. In fact, I have lots of ideas about why it can't work:

- I have so much emotional baggage I may have to bring a Sherpa to each date. I just still love Thomas and I think I always will. I'm not very good at falling out of love.

- Like I said, deeply out of practise. I can't imagine myself being anything other than shy, awkward, flustered, garrulous/struck dumb, sweaty, embarrassed, hysterical and generally weird should a date ever actually happen.

-I'm all about my girls. Just running my parenting, home-making, tiny business life leaves no spare time, energy or emotion. How could I possibly fit a partner in?

-I still can't drive (sore subject), and who wants to come all the way to my tiny town every time they want to see me?

- Childcare. This should have been at the top of the list. I do attachment parenting as if anything else would result in the immediate death of my children (because a small, traumatised part of me believes it would). So I find it hard when I am not with my children, particularly Manna because she's still just a plumpet. I can leave them with other people (and will have to regularly for the flippin' driving lessons), but it gives me a background anxiety which will not aid the trying-to-look-sane-on-a-date mission.

- I can't remember how to do sex. The whole idea is quite horrifying, although I definitely remember it seeming like a good idea in the past.

- And even if I did remember what goes where, I can't possibly make babies now I don't have ovaries, so I need someone who's happy I have kids but doesn't want any (more) of their own...but I think I'm getting a bit ahead of myself there.

- Oh, and I forgot that I don't have breasts either! So we're looking for a straight man or gay woman who is somehow not particularly into breasts! My Flat & Fabulous sorority report that they're out there, but it does seem like a big ask.

Gosh, all that doesn't look good, does it? Ho hum. On the plus side:

- I'm awesome! I am kind, clever, honest, loving, fun, creative, witty, courageous, confident, loyal, interesting, strong and bold.

- I look fine, if you can get past the no-breasts thing. My body does its job beautifully and my face suits me - it really refelcts who I am - so that's good too.

- I'm not picky because I don't have a clear idea of a 'type' I'm looking for. I can't even specify a gender. I would just like to meet someone who is kind and clever and fun, not too short and has a respect for my family and my work. There must be some of those, surely.

So, that was today's big thought. Now I need you good people to scour the land on my behalf and send me hoards of admirable suitors, or, even better, just the one who will make this seem like a really good idea. It'll be fun...I hope.

I'm scared of putting this out into the world. I'm scared that nothing will happen and much more scared that something will. I'm scared, but I'm doing it...

Two sides of me:





 


Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Happy Mummyversary!

Four days! What with Manna being a magic science IVF baby, you would think I could have planned things better, but that is the magic in the science: actually it is just as impossible to know when you might become pregnant via a petri dish as it is when making a baby in the traditional manner. So, I became a mum for the second time four calendar days (and six life years) after the first time. Having done the double birthday week once I can see pros and cons. All the stress, planning, expense, shopping, wrapping, inviting, cooking for both celebrations all in one week - but also all the fun and memories and opportunities to celebrate these gorgeous girls I get to live with. I felt a bit harrassed and very proud. I thought of my mum and wondered if my birthday is still a source of pride for her. Does she still take a moment to think, I made that person. Blimey, I must be awesome! I hope she does, because she is. 

To raise a child is the most ridiculous and magnificent adventure. The first moment you really feel like a parent - at the birth, as soon as you know you're pregnant, the day you bring your birth or adopted child home, whenever it is - that day needs celebrating. I have made a card full of forever flowers to honour the day a normal, muddling-along woman became a superhero. Hooray for us! We may still be muddling along, but now we are doing it with so much love for another person. We mums are truly heroic.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

#peoplearegood - Patreon

I use the #peoplearegood hashtag often on my Facebook page and Twitter. It is something I passionately believe. I am convinced that, if we all had more faith in the essential goodness of ourselves and each other (we are, after all, a natural animal, a product of the Earth the same as all others), we would live up to that more and create a better world. But sometimes people doubt my claim. It's easy to despair of humanity after watching the news. So it's good to have some examples up my sleeve. Here are three:

The first, and most exciting for me, is the existence of Patreon and, in particular, the existence of real, live people who have decided to support my work like arts patrons did in the good old days. Sadly I don't have a billionaire philanthropist extravagantly funding my life (although I am open to the idea), so instead Patreon offers people a way to give whatever they can or want to give and those collective coins in the hat add up to a few more supplies, or go towards hiring an exhibition space, or just buy another jar of coffee, which certainly couts as 'basic equipment'. But it isn't just about the money. It feels like such a brilliant way of saying, Yes! I love what you do! Please do more of it. The world needs you to keep going, so I will help you do that. Patreon is one of those ideas so good it now seems ridiculous that we haven't always had it. It is fun to click about and see what people are doing and why, but to start you off, here is my page: Lunar Hine and two pages I support, due to excessive awesomeness: Abi Nielsen makes wonderful craftivist art and Hedgespoken travel the land in their beautiful truck, scattering stories and theatre at the feet of communities as they go.

My second example of the very goodness of us is a comment left on a previous blog post:

Dear Lunar - We just want you to know that another little bit of Thomas lives on in an unlikely place here in Scotland. My husband is a conservation forest ranger, and after reading all about Thomas here having flown from Rima's blog, some time ago he decided that a very good way to honour this man that he has never met but would have loved to share a pint and music with is to help the children who visit the forest to make elf doors, so that they can peer into the kingdom where Thomas's spirit and imagination still live. Please know that there are little portals in the forest in the West of Scotland that open children's dreams, and that Thomas the Elf has guided them - a very special elf with an upside down heart.

How wonderful - and how exactly right - to celebrate my Captain by offering dreams to children. I would like to meet these people and peer through one of their doorways myself one day.

My third example is a video. It is three minutes long and it is such a simple idea. I would love it to be used in assembly in every school, every year. If we can learn this as children, so much more is possible for us.


Good, yes?

Friday, 3 February 2017

Love in Various Forms

Well, we all need a bit of cheering up after my last post, don't we? So here is some love for you, in various forms.


When I am making art, or writing, or wrangling a riverdancing baby into a highchair, love is generally what I am musing on, at some level. It's an important subject and also more interesting than wondering what I'll make for tea. Plus, if you have emerged into 2017 for even five minutes, you will have noticed that, not only has it been nearly Easter since Boxing Day, it also has been almost Valentine's Day all year. So here are some works of love and ink:



These have gone all over the world :)

Saying it with flowers :)

Good. Wares duly flaunted; now for an update on the people who benefit from and inspire my work. Currently, they are going by the names of Trumpet and Plumpet.

They are really enjoying each other, which is mostly down to Trumpet being very tolerant of Plumpet's new ability to be a danger to herself and others all of the time:


I am very proud of them both:


Trumpet has been taking lots of Thomasesque photos of stones and shadows and herself:


Having bought Trumpet a marvellous witch's hat to go with her lovely dress, she announced, with less than an hour before her school Hallowe'en disco, that she wanted to dress as a spider. We agreed on a Spider Witch, hence the eight eyes:

(Do you see that little desk all covered in books and boxes and a tangle of wires? That's my 'studio'; that's where I hunch right now.)

She has had some spectacularly bonkers moments. One night I found her sleeping tied to a balloon:


She can't do that any more, because I did this:



The mornings are so much easier :).

Following on from our potato-balancing fun, we have all enjoyed Plumpet playing Where's My Wafer?:


Trumpet has been spreading the love too. She made some beautiful cards with endangered animal designs and sold them at our local cafe. She raised enough money to adopt a snow leopard for her class and a mountain gorilla for herself with the WWF. They send a toy version and now she wants to wear her dressing gown all the time:


So, all good here. Art is actually happening, depending on how long Plumpet sleeps for (this post has taken four days worth of nap!) and other things are afoot (apen?) which I will share with you soon.

Thank you for all the love after my last post. Spring is coming!

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

It Is The Day

Dear Thomas,
It is the day. I hate this day. I would redact it from the world if I could, the way I once had to redact you from the electoral roll, as if you had never lived.
It feels like a bomb has exploded inside me and all my hard-won resilience has particulated into the air. It is lost in this shockingly beautiful day, and I am stripped to my devastated core.
I am glad you cannot read this. Much as I am desperate to tell you, I do not want you to know how it really feels to be your widow. I want you to think I am missing you in a wistful, romantic way, taking long walks alone to think of you and fondly wrapping myself in your oversized jumper.
Well, I am wearing your jumper, but the sleeves are annoyingly long. They unroll into the washing up water and I don't have time to keep rolling them up again. I have children to care for!  have a house to run! I need to make art and earn and keep finding a way to live without your help and I'm cross with you and your jumper's stupid.
I was always so far from the cheerful pixie bride I imagined would suit you best - some smiley, fey woman who could play the fiddle or at least honestly enjoy you practising. But you chose me. I still don't really understand why and it still feels like the biggest compliment. I was stompy, snarky, a smoker, a meat-eater. I wanted to dance, but only by myself. I wanted to listen to music, but not more of your twiddly folk albums. Somehow you loved my Johnny Rotten T-shirt and my bad cooking, the way I would laugh and laugh at slapstick while you worried someone had got hurt. Somehow you loved me.
This fantasy (my fantasy, not yours) fey bride would now be weeping prettily and looking at photos of you. I want to take the photos down - they make me sad - but Ember wants them up, so they stay. And I'm not crying - not right now. In a minute I will read and eat crisps until the baby wakes, then I will do my best not to be miserable and grumpy with her all day. And all the long night.
Nothing is as good without you, my Captain. I had no idea it would be this hard for this long. I feel the scar tissue on my heart thickening every year, just as it did on yours. I can only hope that, unlike you, I will survive.







More twiddly folk music


Friday, 15 July 2016

Manna Manuka

Several times I have stalled a post because I still haven't told you about this:


Manna Manuka is out in the world! The labour was fast and wonderful. Ember (Pickle has decided I should use her real name too) was my birth partner for the first three hours, copying my 'funny movements' while I managed back-to-back contractions, fetching clean pants every time my waters broke (there was an ocean in there) and phoning Granny to let her know. Regardless of age, I couldn't have asked for a better person to be with me. She was calm but excited, did everything I asked and even made me laugh. With a big grinding crunch (yes, ouch), Manna spun round to the perfect position and the contractions got much faster, but also much easier for me. Gappy came to play with Ember and my excellent friend and neighbour Miriam came to take over as birth partner and get me to the hospital. Her husband drove us and we spent a looooong time in a traffic jam (tip: don't go into labour on a Saturday morning) while I tried not to groan too alarmingly, but we got there in time and Manna was born an hour later, weighing 8' 6". She was grey and floppy in a way which makes my heart tremble as I write. The midwife couldn't get her breathing, so the neonatal superheroes flooded in and after just a few puffs of the oxygen mask she was breathing fine. I lost a very messy amount of blood, which is why I can never have a homebirth - way too much cleaning to do afterwards, but I didn't need a tranfusion.

Once I had been stitched and had a cursory bath (why do my daughters feel the need to cover me in meconium at first sight?), I fed Manna her first bottle. I was sad I didn't have a breast to offer her, but the way she guzzled it down then looked so content afterwards reassured me this was good enough. And I knew I had milk from some wonderful women in the freezer at home. Ember wanted to be the first to know Manna's name, so I told her over the phone and she announced it to Gappy and my parents. This is the sisters' first meeting:


Ember has been such an amazing big sister. I didn't imagine she would be so unfailingly tender and understanding. I feel I am falling in love with Ember in a new way, as I fell in love with Thomas in a new way seeing him with Ember.


Manna herself is awesomely contented and smiley. She even sleeps! In the night! She had bad reflux and took a while to get her birthweight back and she struggles with colic still, but generallly she looks like this:


She is cute in both ways, always watching, learning; now grabbing whatever she can.


When she was three months I had my final surgery - ovaries and fallopian tubes out. It is a big relief to feel safer, although it has been tricky getting the HRT balanced, but I think I'm there now. I didn't have to stay in hospital overnight, so Gappy had a day with Manna. It was very painful to leave her for so long, but of course she was quite happy:





So now she is splendidly plump and already very keen to be up at the table with the big girls. She is so pleased with herself and merrily teeths on bell pepper or carrot, grinning all the while.


I am so happy with both my daughters. Of course it isn't always easy being a single mum with two children and there have been times of deep grief for the loss of Thomas too, but we feel like a complete and loving family, which is all I ever wanted. Our next adventure is to find a new home, but we'll stay in Chagford and maybe it will be a strengthening thing, in the end, to get some distance from the memories which overlay this house and garden for me. There are so many more memories to be made and I will do everything I can to make them very, very happy.

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