Odds & Ends

CW: suicide

It’s almost midnight on Monday 18th March 2019, and I’ve just watched this week’s episode of Criminal Minds. Nothing odd or unusual about either of those things, at least on the surface.

Tonight’s episode had a special guest star who I’ve not seen on TV in many years, the talented singer Johnny Mathis. Very famous in the 70s for any younger readers who are thinking who?! He had/has a beautiful and very distinctive voice which even as children my sister and I loved, probably mostly because my Dad had his cassette in the car 🙂

About fourteen years ago my sister’s partner, Andy, emailed to me (if my memory serves) a link to an mp3 of a song he’d been begged to find by Mary. She’d had no idea of artist or title, just remembered a snatch of lyrics about an “empty tube of toothpaste”. Well, bless him, he finally found it on a Russian music site (this was before YouTube got useful) and voila, here it was – Odds and Ends by Johhny Mathis for the first time since we were children.

Talking about it after we could both clearly remember listening to the song over & over in the car outside a local pub while Mum & Dad popped in for a drink*.

*Important historical note – in the late seventies children were as welcome in most pubs as the bubonic plague, and about as likely to happen. Crisps & lemonade in the car park in the summer were a treat 😉

I digress – so OK, it’s nice that I saw this singer on TV tonight after all this time, and it sent me on a little trip down memory lane, but that’s still not odd or unusual.

Until you factor in the date.

As I’m writing these very words it’s almost midnight, by the time this has posted it’ll be the 19th March.

Which is exactly 12 years to the day since Mel died. I had no plan to post or blog, in fact the date wasn’t something I was conscious of, until Mr Mathis appeared in my living room this evening, looking older but still with his beautiful twinkly eyes.

So I’ve played the song through a few times, it’s made me remember happy days and laughter, and it’s made me smile, as well as cry.

Although written about the end of a love affair, in light of my sister’s suicide one part of the second verse feels particularly poignant;

“At least you could have said goodbye
You shouldn’t have run away
Were you afraid that I would cry?
My tears might have made you stay”

But – feeling sad is OK, grief is the price we pay for love, and I pay it gladly, because my heart would be so much less without her in it.

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before I’m not religious, but I am spiritual, and I know in my soul that in some form or other we continue, energy does not die. To quote the writer Aaron Freeman;

“You want the physicist to talk to your grieving family about the conservation of energy, so they will understand that your energy has not died. You want the physicist to remind your sobbing mother about the first law of thermodynamics; that no energy gets created in the universe, and none is destroyed. You want your mother to know that all your energy, every vibration, every bit of heat, every wave of every particle that was her beloved child remains with her in this world.”

And whether you believe in gods, goddesses, divine beings, angels, a guiding light in the universe or the principles of science alone, whether you believe it was serendipity, fate, the angels or the stars that brought Johnny Mathis back into my life in this particular moment, on this day, I call that magic.

I feel blessed. 🙏💙

Support:
For anyone in need of emotional and/or mental health support for low mood or suicidal feelings please, please, reach out. Call a friend, a stranger, me, a doctor, therapist, whoever but ask, help is out there for you. The Samaritans are available 24/7 in the UK & ROI for free, confidential support

My Autumn Soup…

I’ve been asked a number of times to share #spoonie friendly recipes. I’m pretty sure this is my first. But what a great one to start with!

For me there is nothing that says Autumn more than a gently spiced root vegetable soup. It’s comfort food, a cuddle in a bowl. It’s healthy & warming. And so incredibly easy to make! I’ll give rough guides to quantity, but I rarely weigh or measure anything, most of my cooking is about being creative, and using what I have in the fridge/pantry.

It’s also about ability on any given day, & using short cuts where possible. For example I can’t chop hard veg anymore, my hands won’t allow, so my basic food processor is an essential kitchen tool. I sometimes buy pre chopped veg & other prepped foods – it’s often the difference between me having a meal of some sort or eating toast!

(I will try to remember to do a follow up post about some fab kitchen shortcuts if you’re disabled &/or low on energy).

So…. My Autumn Soup

  • 4 parsnips
  • 5 carrots
  • 1 onion
  • 4 pieces frozen spinach
  • 1 tsp garlic
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 good pinch of cinnamon
  • 1 good pinch of black pepper
  • 1.5 pints hot chicken stock (veg is fine too)
  • 1/3 cup of split red lentils
  • 1/4 to 1/2 pint of skimmed milk
  1. Use the food processor to chop or slice veg, (except spinach) it doesn’t matter which, we’ll be blending at the end
  2. Warm the oil in a large saucepan, stir & gently fry off veg & onions for a few minutes. Add in the spices, stir through well then add in the hot stock, and the frozen spinach (it defrosts in the pan).
  3. Bring to a simmering boil, throw in the lentils, stir then cover & reduce heat. Simmer gently for approx 25 minutes. Stir in the milk then remove from heat.
  4. Allow to cool, then use food processor to blitz to a thick soup. That’s it. All done! Easy right?

Today this has made me five portions, at approx 147 kcals each. It freezes beautifully, meaning on low energy days I can have homemade soup in a few minutes using the microwave, and that’s a definite win.

Changing it up

Any combo of root veg &/or squash works brilliantly, I don’t think I’ve ever had one fail me and I’ve been cooking variations of this soup for years.

I love lentils, & they’re a great source of protein, fibre & potassium. If you don’t like them I promise you won’t know they’re there, but for me they add a lovely thickness to the soup. If you really don’t like them you could add a couple of potatoes instead, they thicken well too.

Spices are fun to play with, I love the North African flavour of cumin, turmeric & cinnamon. It just adds a little kick without being ‘hot’. But you could easily swap for ground ginger, smoked paprika or chilli, don’t be afraid to experiment a little.

I like to keep this pretty healthy hence the skimmed milk, you could use full fat or even cream & croutons if you’re feeling decadent!

This easily changes to vegan by changing the stock to veg & leaving out the milk. I’ve heard coconut milk is a nice addition but I’ve not tried it yet.

Comments welcome as always, let me know if you try making this 😊

The Mercurial Whirlwind..

*Content warning – suicide

On Monday 19th February it was eleven years since my Dad phoned me early one evening to tell me that my younger sister Mary had died. She was 35.

You hear people say things like “I knew it was bad news when the phone rang” but I genuinely went cold on the first ring – I’ve no idea how to explain it, but I swear I somehow knew it was really bad news about Mel.
Unfortunately she had ended her own life. I could speculate for hours (and did initially) on exactly why, but it serves no purpose. The simple truth is that at that moment in time she needed to stop. Undiagnosed depression certainly impacted her actions.
But that was how she ended, it wasn’t who she was. I’m not sure I have the words to capture the mercurial whirlwind that was my little sister. No one else has ever made me laugh (or cry) so hard. She was beautiful, funny, kind, generous, quixotic. She was also stubborn, defensive, argumentative and had a flash temper that raged white hot then just as quickly was gone.

She’d unexpectedly turn that megawatt smile on you and you had no choice but to grin back.

As kids we fought so much, but had each others back, always. I have loads of fabulous memories, good and bad, and that’s how it should be, saintly she wasn’t!

I remember at the time she died being unexpectedly angry with her, simply because we were supposed to grow old together. Losing her was hard, but it was almost as tough dealing with the loss of both past and future memories.

There is no-one else who remembers how to play “mummies, daddies & little darlings”, who knows how you had to step over the second floorboard from the bathroom door because it creaked so loudly, who swears she saw a ghost in our kitchen, who could play connect four for hours, who can remind me how I taught her all the basic swear words after she begged me to! Who was my partner in crime on teenage hair and makeup, and my best friend even when we ‘hated’ each other.

It’s like I lost some of the vibrancy from my past memories when she died, they’re still there, but without her to help me take them out and polish them or argue over them they’ve faded.

Of course we should also already have another eleven years of adult sisterhood to mull over. But she’ll never make a new memory in this life, as much as I carry her with me always.

There’s simply a Mel shaped hole missing from the second half of my life.

So I want to use this post to let anyone who is feeling like they want to stop know they are not alone. You are worthwhile, you are seen, you are loved. This really will pass, so please reach out for support in whatever form feels comfortable. I promise help is out there.

UK & ROI Samaritans – 116 123

USA – Lifeline Chat – 1-800-273-8255.

Australia – Lifeline – 13-11-14

Canada – The Canada Suicide Prevention Service – 1-833-456-4566

Healing begins with Love 💙

I’ve been pondering for a few weeks where to start with this blog post.  I know what I want to say, I’m just hopeful it comes across as I mean it to!

In March this year, following 18 months of chronic illness with RD, Fibromyalgia & degenerative disc disease all playing together, plus the recent death of my Mother I kind of reached a tipping point.  I’m deliberately not using the word breaking! But I’d had month after month of pain, depression, anxiety, aching, medications,  fatigue, painsomnia and nothing was really changing – I wasn’t feeling ‘better’.

It was a sink or swim moment.  I could either drift along as I was, feeling pretty miserable most days, or I could look for help.  But what? Who? Where? So I hit trusty Google and followed where it led.  And boy was the universe ready for me to reach out! I started looking at mindfulness retreats, found lots of very out there options which included raw foods and tents, which aren’t necessarily my scene!  But whilst stumbling from link to link I came across the wonderful lady who was to change my life.  There is no other way to put that, and I truly believe we were drawn together.

Demi Schneider is simply one of life’s good ‘uns, and an insightful, generous and empowering lady.  A Clinical Hypnotherapist & Psychotherapist, Metaphysical Life Coach & Author of “Beat Your Depression For Good” – she powerfully challenges and guides us to look within for our own joy. To care for and love ourselves.  To be happy!

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In simple terms what we think is all powerful. And it’s our choice! And that choice dictates how we feel, emotionally and physically.

It’s easy, rational and possible, but it takes learning, acceptance, meditation and work.  We have years of learned negative thinking patterns to turn around before we are able to allow ourselves to truly be open and actively listen to what our body is telling us. 

It’s known that the subconscious mind can’t tell the difference between imagination and reality.  So by changing our thought patterns to positive (for example repeating ‘I am calm and in control’ when feeling anxious), we physically change the chemicals our brain releases – increasing serotonin.  And when you feel better, you feel less pain. 

Does it relieve pain? A little, yes, and I’m in my early days.  Is it worth it? Absolutely, allowing peace and acceptance into our lives brings joy and happiness to our minds and our hearts, regardless of circumstances.  Loving ourselves rocks!

It’s not a magic cure, but it is a much nicer way to live, especially with chronic illness when things can seem very bleak.

Namaste 💙