Project Awesome

Making my life more awesome

A week of two halves

I’m in the middle of a strange week, bookended as it is by my wedding anniversary on Monday and Ex-Husband’s wedding on Saturday.

I’m not really bothered about either event.  I’ve moved on. I’m happy. My life is full of interesting things.  Except, kind of, I am.  The date of my wedding anniversary is burnt into my brain.  Every time I wrote the date on Monday, there was a spark of recognition followed by a little sinking regret and disappointment that things didn’t work out how I’d hoped.  And while Ex-Husband’s wedding is nothing to do with me – two people I don’t really care about entering into an ill-advised union – I realised yesterday that I hope he has a horrible day and spends it thinking about the people who aren’t at his wedding, all the friends he’s lost by behaving like a dick.

So when I say I’m not really bothered that he’s getting married, what I mean is that I’m choosing not to be interested.  I decided to forgive him, to let it go, to walk away from the hurt he caused me.  And that takes practice, and sometimes it needs a bit of patching up.  I am way past the grief I felt at the time.  But like a scab which itches, or a broken bone which heals but aches when the weather is cold and damp, sometimes I am reminded more strongly of the scars that I think will always be with me.

Still, while the girls are away being bridesmaids, I’m having a pretty good week.  Yesterday I went out with a friend for curry.  Tonight I’ve been for a run and watched West Wing.  Tomorrow I’m going to the cinema and on Friday I’m going climbing.  And on Saturday, I’m going on a mystery coach trip with my friend Karen.  We considered crashing the wedding in giant hats and offering up reasons why Ex-Husband and his girlfriend couldn’t be lawfully married, but decided an adventure would be more fun.  We’re getting a coach quite early in the morning to an unknown destination.  We’re spending the day there, going on the coach to an hotel, then on Sunday going to a second mystery destination.  It could be amazing.  But even if it’s terrible, I think it’ll be that kind of so-bad-it’s-hilarious story which can be more fun in the long run.  I am very excited and considering only ever going on mystery coach adventures for all my future holidays.

So, the juxtaposition of remembered grief and eager anticipation, the contrast between what is now and how things were, gives me a sense of hope.  I know I’ve surived this far, and grown and flourished, and that I am surrounded by good friends and I think, I’ll probably be ok.  Even if I do feel wobbly from time to time.

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So, apparently a sticker isn’t the answer to everything.

Recently I took the sides off Big Girl’s cot, partly because Ex-Husband was getting her a bed at his new house, partly because I wanted to use one of the sides to help prevent Small Girl throwing herself over the end of the new bed I bought to replace the one Ex-Husband took away.  And, probably, partly because she’s my first child and I want her to do new things.  I knew that it could be one of those decisions I’d regret, and that I would have known I’d probably regret it while actually making it, and that I made anyway despite everything because I never listen to good advice, especially not from myself.

A week or so ago, I went into Big Girl’s room to see why she wasn’t asleep.  She had taken the mattress off her bed and added it to a pile of everything else in the room in order to climb onto the windowsill.  I was impressed by the innovation, less impressed by, well, everything else.  Another night, I heard the music on her baby monitor playing.  This surprised me as the baby monitor is on a chest of drawers and out of her reach.  It turns out that it is only out of reach as long as she doesn’t empty all the clothes out of the drawers, open them and use them as a ladder.  Tonight, I thought she was doing really well at staying in bed and playing or reading quietly, as requested.  Until I heard her shouting “hello cat” and discovered she’d again climbed on the windowsill, this time without the aid of her mattress.

I may be regretting the hasty removal of the cot sides.  I am thinking about putting them back on.

I have been trying stickers.  When she goes to bed, we talk about getting a sticker, and what she needs to get one: stay in bed, go to sleep, play quietly or read, and NO MESSING.  This has worked.  Sometimes.  Sometimes she stays in bed and goes to sleep.  Other nights… well, last night she stood at the stair gate across her bedroom doorway, shouting, crying and screaming that she didn’t want to go to sleep, until she woke Small Girl up.  She also claims that she wants to use the potty, although she doesn’t.  But how can you deny a toddler the opportunity to have a wee?

She’s two-and-a-half.  I’m not worried about her behaviour.  I just don’t know what to do about it.  Stickers aren’t working. She’s not sleeping.  Should I just put the side back on her bed and leave it until she’s older?

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Ongoing Awesomeness

If my journey into single-parenting was a pregnancy, I’d be expecting a baby any day now. 9 months ago Ex-Husband left me. While it doesn’t feel that momentous, I notice the date each month – but it doesn’t make me cry any more.

And as far as single-parenting goes, I’ve got really good at managing two children, making decisions for them, living with mountains of washing up and inventing meals from 5 unrelated items in my fridge because I’ve failed to order shopping yet again.

Co-parenting is a different matter. We’ve not got the hang of that yet. Trying to make decisions about your children with someone who has a completely different idea about what they need and no longer gives a shit about what you want is, it’s fair to say, a challenge. Trying to separate out what is best for them from how I feel is really hard – but I am doing a good job.

And what about making my life more awesome? I feel like I’m falling down there. I’m existing, but my life is miserable. Well, I say it’s miserable. A couple of weeks ago I went out for my birthday – drinks and cocktails at The Cornerhouse followed by dancing at Fab Cafe. And this weekend I went to Chill Factore and threw myself down a snowy slope on various different bits of equipment, followed by food and cocktails at Hard Rock cafe. It sounds pretty miserable, I’m sure you’ll agree.

It’s just the other bits. The rest of my life. I blame the West Wing. I’ve become addicted to the passive escapism, the dream of my life being meaningful in the way that only fictional members of a US administration can hope for.

And while my original goals (writing, sewing, climbing, learning) are not some kind of Holy Grail for a satisfying existence, they were things I enjoyed doing. Climbing is on hold – I need to see how my free time will look when new contact arrangements for the children start in September – before I commit to a course to learn how to belay and mess about with ropes.

But sewing – I’m missing the satisfaction of spending a few hours creating something that I’ll then never wear or use. So I’m setting myself a goal. Here are two pairs of jeans which have worn into holes. I’m going to use them to create two new items in the next month six weeks or so – watch this space…



Coping with a toddler with a fracture

  1. Don’t.  Seriously, do whatever it takes to avoid your baby breaking their leg.  You would think this is straightforward enough – don’t leave them unattended climbing up stairs or near furniture which looks temptingly like a ladder.  However, as Little Girl broke her leg while cruising round the walls (which sounds, to me, like she’s driving down Hollywood Boulevard in a sports car), you actually need to follow them round at all times, which may be possible when you have one child and a partner who will do all the housework, but not when you have an older child and no-one to do all the stuff you can’t do because you’re hovering behind your child.  Or design some sort of semi-spherical room so that there’s nothing your child can pull themselves up on.  It’s possible this may stunt their development but it avoids fractures.
  2. If you’re not sure whether your child’s injury is serious and you decide to wait til morning and see how they are, take this opportunity to wash their hair.  No, one day won’t make that much difference, particularly when your baby likes rubbing yoghurt across their whole head, but at least you’ll feel like you’ve tried.
  3. When you do eventually get to A&E and they ask how your baby broke your leg, don’t say “I don’t really know”.  You don’t need the four-hour safeguarding enquiry.  I’m not advocating lying.  I’m just saying, tell them what you think happened like you actually think it happened.
  4. Take advice from the medical professionals.  If they say “we could put a cast on below the knee but it will almost certainly slip and then you’ll just have to come back to hospital to get an above-the-knee cast put on”, listen to them.
  5. And on that note, avoid your child breaking their leg on a Friday evening.  It means going to A&E, having a temporary cast put on, and then going back to fracture clinic during a weekday for a proper cast to be put on.
  6. And while you’re at it, don’t leave it til Friday night to notice that the stupid below-the-knee cast has slipped.  You end up back in A&E for yet another temporary cast and a further trip to Fracture Clinic.
  7. When they say “don’t let your child walk on the temporary cast” pay attention.  At least wait until it has set.
  8. It is impossible to stop your mobile toddler walking on a temporary cast unless you have a team of people to help with things like cooking, cleaning and giving your uncasted toddler a bath.  See point 1.
  9. Ignore people who say “Awww, poor baby! How did *that* happen?”  Or, more to the point, ignore the part of your brain that translates their sympathy into “what sort of a mother lets her not-even-one-year-old break her leg?”.
  10. Buy calpol.  Buy more calpol.
We’re back at Fracture Clinic on Tuesday where the cast will hopefully be removed.  I anticipate discovering that, no matter how hard it seems to be to look after a baby with a leg in a cast, it’s nothing compared to the difficulties of looking after a baby with a wobbly and sore leg from being in a plaster cast for four weeks.  Oh, and discovering quite how much food Little Girl has shoved inside her cast.
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Six months on…

It’s six months today since Ex-Husband left me.  Last week I had a bit of a wobble. But you know what?  I’m actually doing really well.  When he first left I wanted to die because it hurt so much – I did not know it was possible to be so badly hurt.  Now I am glad I didn’t die. Here are some good things that have happened over the past six months:

  1. I have bought some new crockery, decided I’m not that keen on it but not really wasted that much time worrying about it.  One day I’ll buy some more, and hopefully I’ll make a better choice.
  2. I have started going climbing.
  3. I have learnt how to love being with my two children most of the time.
  4. I’ve worked out, all by myself (oh, and with advice from most of my friends on Facebook), how to get Little Girl to sleep
  5. I have learnt to pick my battles – and to fight them.
  6. I have discovered, and been overwhelmed by, the number of people who care about me and quite how much they are willing to do to help me.
  7. I have cried while pushing a pram along the street, half way up some stairs in a church and in the kitchen at work.  I have cried as often and as loudly as I damn well pleased.  My tear ducts are impressively clean.
  8. I’ve made a sewing room.  I don’t really have time to use it but I like to know it’s there.
  9. I’ve been to a poetry reading.  I quite liked it.
  10. I’ve worked out how to replace a toilet seat, how to fix a blind and how to lower a cot base.
  11. I’ve finally decided which oven I want to buy to replace the one in my kitchen which has never worked properly in the six years I’ve owned this house.  And I have a plan (two, actually) for finding someone to fit it.
  12. I’ve had a Christmas party. Just because I wanted to
  13. I’ve lost weight.  I wouldn’t recommend this diet, but it’s definitely a benefit.
  14. I’ve dealt with juggling breastfeeding a baby and vomiting.  Twice.  Seriously, once you can get through that, you can get through anything.  I am invincible.

And there are a lot of people I want to thank: the friends who, when Ex-Husband first left and I kept telling them it was all my fault, kept arguing with me until I finally got it. It wasn’t all my fault.  The friends who listened to me talk about what happened and how I felt about it repeatedly.  The friends who looked after my children so I could sleep or go to mediation with Ex-Husband.  My Home Start volunteer.  My friends who have invited me to stay.  My friend who came and cleaned my house for me.  The friends who brought me chocolate in the early days and lasagne more recently.  The friends who talked to Ex-Husband and tried to convince him to try and make our marriage work.  The friends who got incredibly angry on my behalf. My parents.  And my best friend.  And everyone who has read this blog, commented on it, told me that they like reading it.  Thanks.  I like writing it.  It helps me to reframe things more positively, encourages me to stick to my goals; and helps me make sense of my life.

Here’s to the next six months!




This morning I am very tired. This is probably because Little Girl woke for a feed before 5am and refused to go back to sleep until about 6.30am, preferring to shriek like a seagull and make motorbike noises.  Her partner in crime started shouting “Mummy! I need my mummy” at about 7am, and after Ex-Husband’s tale of how she got up in the morning, took her nappy off and tried to take herself to the toilet, resulting in poo on the bed, the doors, the floor, the toilet (I admit, I laughed), I’m quick to respond to her.

However, I would probably be feeling a bit more human if I’d gone to bed at a sensible time last night, rather than staying up sewing.  I haven’t done any sewing for a few weeks as last time I tried the bottom thread kept tangling up and I couldn’t work out how to make it better.  Now, my sewing machine is quite old.  In fact, it was my mum’s so I reckon it’s heading towards 40.  I have memories of my mum sewing clothes for us with it when we were small (dresses with puffy sleeves which matched the skirt and which tied in a bow at the back… Yes, I’m a child of the 70s) and I love the feeling of family history, although I haven’t used it to make any clothes for my children yet. But you can still look for parts on it online.  I checked and I’ve been using the wrong bobbin.  I tried again last night with the right bobbin and it seemed to work.  I’m feeling excited again.

It’s all about perseverance at the moment.  I went climbing on Wednesday and it was dismal.  I tried a couple of new routes – Lilac 6 and 7 – and failed to conquer either of them.  Lilac 6 was at an angle away from the wall, and I don’t seem to have the arm strength to manage anything beyond vertical.  Lilac 7 was just too hard – I couldn’t get my feet in the right place. I felt disheartened and went home feeling I’d achieved less than nothing. I think maybe I was too tired and too miserable to push myself to succeed. There’s a part of me that’s tempted to give up, to say I’ve had a go and I’m not that good at it. But when I’ve tried and succeeded I’ve felt great. So I’m going to keep going.  The next opportunity I’ll have to go is one of the nights they offer free coaching so I’ll get some help and advice – yes, I’ll approach someone who’s really good at climbing and say “Hello, I can’t climb your sixth easiest route, could you spare some time from flinging yourself up overhangs at 6m in the air and tell me what I’m doing wrong?”  There’s also a 3-hour course for improving your climbing which I might do.  And maybe I’ll take Simon up on his offer of rope-holding.  What I won’t do is give up.  Yet…


Going up, coming down

Big Girl has gone with Ex-Husband to visit her Grandma. Unfortunately, Grandma lives 9 hours’ drive away so Big Girl is away for 5 nights. I’m not really sure how to deal with this as Big Girl is not actually big enough to be away from me for that long, so I’m just pretending it isn’t really happening.

So, to pass the time, Little Girl and I are having an adventure. We’ve come on the train to Glasgow to visit friends, R and C and their three-month-old, E – this is the first time I’ve met him.

Firstly, I’ve never really been to Glasgow properly. I’ve seen the outskirts and I’ve driven past Motherwell with its massive, ugly tower blocks (I know, Motherwell isn’t actually Glasgow – actually I don’t actually know this – maybe it is). In my head, Glasgow is ugly and miserable and rainy and dour and full of people with incomprehensible accents. It’s also the heart-attack capital of the UK as far as I remember. Glasgow Tourist Board, you have some work to do.

It turns out that Glasgow is lovely. It has a Hamleys with the friendliest shop assistant I’ve ever met and a £3500 stuffed toy giraffe. Actually everyone is friendly. The architecture is stunning. It’s been sunny since we’ve been here. The shops are posh. There’s culture – we went out for lunch to a pub which holds ceilidhs and street markets and shows films with lunch. There’s a comedy festival coming up. We went to a fabulous museum which hosts organ recitals. There’s even the height of gentility – a Cath Kidston shop. Why did no-one actually tell me about Glasgow?

And then, in the evening we went climbing. C does everything that involves being outdoors and is slightly dangerous, including climbing. So he takes me climbing. Where I climb, we just do bouldering – even though some of the climbs are quite high you don’t use ropes – there are massive crash mats in case you fall. C teaches me how to use ropes.

Apparently there’s a difference between rope-climbing and bouldering. To the untrained eye (mine) it’s hard to spot. First of all C teaches me how to tie myself into the rope, using some fairly non-technical knots. Then he explains how he puts the other end of the rope through a belay thing and it means I won’t fall to my death (this is despite the seriously-worded signs is climbing centres explaining that actually, you can die, or at least be seriously injured, climbing indoors. I decide to believe him). Then he explains how I get down again and then I climb up. I go up a good few metres and then decide I should perhaps try coming down. Hmm, maybe I should have tried this a bit closer to the floor. C tells me to lean back and keep my knees straight. I tell him I can’t. Clearly I can’t let go of the holds on the wall. He tells me I have to. I descend into hysteria. He points out that there’s no other way down. (I would dispute this – I reckon I could have climbed down. But it’s not really the point.

So I decide to trust him. Palms sweating, I let go of one grip. I hold onto the knot. I look at the floor. I let go of the other grip. I grab the rope and lean back. This may be the scariest thing I’ve ever done. I walk down the wall. I reach the bottom and I am not dead.

So C explains how it works, how I can lean back into the rope and harness and not fall down (physics is like magic really) and I have another go. I go a little higher, I make slightly less fuss about letting go of the wall, I am slightly more confident.

By the end of the evening I actually like coming down. I’ve improved as a climber. I’m so proud of myself for managing to get myself down rather than being rescued, and for having another go at the most bloody terrifying thing I’ve done in a long time. But I’m still not sure about letting go.


Climbing again

I’ve been climbing again.  Being a weekday, the climbing centre was pretty much empty and it’s a big cold warehouse with some walls in it with hand- and foot-holds. It felt a bit less welcoming being on my own, but I got changed and put my shoes on and went out and tried some routes (that’s what we climbers call them, apparently). I  tried the traverse wall, where you go sideways – maybe it’s just me but half the footholds seemed to be missing and I really struggled.  So I went downstairs and did some of the easy climbs, and then wandered around and did some different easy climbs, and I fell off and pulled my shoulder a little bit, and I wondered what I was doing and why it wasn’t really fun, and whether I should give up on the whole thing and go home.

Yes, I was feeling a bit despondent.  I didn’t expect to turn up and be an amazing climber and discover the world of climbing has been waiting for me my whole life, but I’d hoped it would make me feel good again.  So I decided to go and have a rest – my arms were knackered – and some cake and see how I felt.

One piece of Dandelion and Burdock cake (novel but not unpleasant) later, I was ready to try again.  I decided I needed some focus, so I decided to start with the easy-peasy routes and work up them in turn.  If I got to one I struggled with I’d try to work out how to do it rather than just trying something else – a proper challenge rather than a meander.  Lilac 1 is easy.  It’s just up then down again (getting down is the hard part…).  Lilac 2 and 3 are similar, with a bit of traversing.  Lilac 4 is tricky – the bottom bit slopes outwards.

I'm not quite up to this yet...

And then Lilac 5 – well, half-way up there’s this big box sticking out of the wall and it has a handhold on the corner of it and you have to kind of grab onto it and swing across and I have no idea how I’m going to do it.  So I set off.  Quite often the starting handholds are near the floor and you have to crouch down and your bum sticks out and you feel like an idiot.  Nevertheless, this is what I do.  And then I grab the handhold on the corner.  And then I fall off.  It step back and look at it.  And I try again.  I manage the handhold but my feet have no idea where they’re going.  At least I jump off properly.  And I try a third time – this time I work out where my feet should go before I start climbing.  And I make it to the top.  Success!  Except – shit! – I can’t work out how to get down!  I cling to the wall desperately looking for footholds.  I am reasonably accident prone and I really can’t get injured – I have two children to look after and no-one who can devote six weeks to looking after me while I recover from a broken ankle.  Eventually I work it out and gingerly descend, and I stand at the bottom with a massive smile on my face.  Having achieved something, I decide it’s time to go home.


Up, up and away

I feel… euphoric. I also feel as if my fingers have been cleaned with sandpaper. And someone appears to have pummelled my arms and legs with a hammer. Yes, today was my climbing induction.

I went to Rock Over Climbing. After filling in a form, agreeing that of course I won’t hold them responsible for sprains, breaks or other injuries – all part of climbing, apparently – I got fitted with shoes just slightly shorter than my feet, found the changing rooms, eventually found the lockers and finally found the rest of my fellow inductees.

A couple, a family and two friends, we got shown how to fall off a wall, how to go along a wall, how to go up a wall, how to go along the ceiling, how to avoid someone falling on your head and, finally, where to get a cup of tea.

It turns out that it’s harder than it looks and that I have weak and feeble fingers. I can see why it’s a fantastic team-building event as within minutes of being let loose on the walls we were chatting, joking and encouraging each other. And I suspect it’s also a little bit addictive.

I got an induction, two more visits and a year’s membership through Groupon, so I’ll definitely be going back. There’s free coaching on a Wednesday and Thursday night to help me learn how to do it and I can go every other weekend when the girls are at their dad’s house.

And I feel this huge sense of achievement: I said I’d do it and I did (now I just have to make sure I go again); I’ve been a competent social adult; and I managed to climb up things and do things I had no idea how to do. I need to be braver and less scared of falling off, but I am so proud of myself. I feel like I’m 3″ taller!

Actually, after hanging from my fingers all afternoon I may actually be taller!


Welcome to Project Awesome

In October, my husband left me.  Shit! Suddenly, unexpectedly, I found myself a single parent to a 4-month-old and a 22-month-old.  So I did what anyone else would do – I cried.  For four weeks, I cried whenever I felt like it: walking down the road pushing a pram and wailing; half way down the stairs in a church building, sobbing – fortunately I’m very good at crying and have little shame about it.

Then I stopped crying and started raging.  This felt better but it was quite tiring, particularly with a baby who liked feeding every two hours through the night, and didn’t like sleeping in her own bed.

Christmas arrived with the gift of laryngitis.  The New Year brought January and 2012 (Olympics! Woo! Yeah!) and the realisation that this wasn’t going to go away, and my husband wasn’t going to come back, and the life I thought I was going to have was probably not going to happen.

So I decided I’d have a good life anyway and after a little help from Psychologies magazine, I set some goals – thought about what I like doing; what I’d like to achieve; what I’d be doing if time and money were no object; what I’d be doing if I knew I’d be a success.

  • I want to get out of the house by myself, do some exercise, get fitter, meet new people.  Inspired by once free-climbing on the Great Orme in Doc Martens aged 17 and not falling to my death, I’d like to try climbing.
  • I want to use my brain again – I love thinking about and discussing ideas. I’m hoping to study something – and eventually finish the masters I was working towards when I found out I was pregnant.
  • I’d like to be more creative and to develop a skill, so I’m going to get out my sewing machine and make things. Probably not very well, as I’m not one for straight lines or anything requiring manual dexterity, but I’ve signed up for Pinterest and I’m collecting lots of inspiring ideas for things I’ll probably never get round to doing.
  • And I used to write. If I could do anything, I’d write a novel. A story that would make you cry and feel your life will never be the same.  If I could do anything, anything at all, I’d be Audrey Niffenegger and spend the rest of my life knowing I’ve written ‘The Time Traveller’s Wife’.  However, as that seems unlikely to happen, I’m going to settle for starting with this blog and seeing where I go from there. I’m hoping that as I get more sleep and more practice, my writing will become more interesting – so bear with me.

So that’s Project Awesome – making my life the best it can be. Feel free to drop in, see how I get on, and maybe share your own ideas about what would make your life the best it can be.  Or even suggest things you think I might like to try – suddenly I find myself with everything* open to me and I think it might be fun…

*Everything subject to the demands and constraints of a toddler and a baby, that is.