Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Running the wall. | #TransatlanticTuesdays

#TransatlanticTuesdays is a collaboration between me (in the UK) and Kera who blogs at The Special Reds (in the US) - sharing our journeys in the form of letters to one another.

Links to play catch up are at the end of this post.


Dear Kera

The irony of your last letter about walking on eggshells has not been lost on me - by missing out a week you've hit Easter right on the noggin. Impressively timed, my friend!

But hang on - those eggshells you're talking about aren't exactly of the colorful hide-and-go-seek variety, are they? No. These block your path and scratch and poke and draw blood. They crackle underfoot and awaken the monster in the cave. I feel you. It's a jagged old pitted road some days and all the head shaking and tutting outsiders throw at you neither stops the issues that cause it, nor helps you around the difficult situation. Sometimes humankind leaves out the 'kind' part and I wonder how much 'human' is left in its absence.

Despite that stranger shade coming your way, I have never seen you in action but from what I can tell I expect that you handle those situations with grace and serenity, even when your insides are churning round like a tsunami. And on occasion, if you're like me, you get home and bawl your eyes out. And that's ok too. Tears cleanse.

Anyway, not only are those eggshells causing us a bit of bother but so too are the walls we hit. You've laid out a great question for me: "I talked about how I hit a wall last year. Have you hit your wall? Have you ever felt spent as a mother? What helps, (or helped) you overcome this?"

Because I'm training for a marathon, the first wall I thought of on reading that question is that which you hit as a runner when your body is empty of fuel. I recently had such a ridiculously difficult run that I'd felt as if I hadn't just hit that proverbial wall, but that I'd actually been running along it. And that leads me back to your question - I think I can say the same holds true in my life and role as a mom - I haven't run into a wall, I run along the wall.

Man, even typing the phrase 'my role as a mom' - well, I've just paused and looked hard, and thought 'really? I'm someone's mother?' Because in the same vein in which I used to feel like a great pretender when it comes to running, I often feel pretty substantially crap as a parent. I question if I'm getting it right, more often than not feel as if I could have done something better than I have. Did I miss an opportunity? Should I have involved other people in Rukai's development? Would he be farther along than he is?


We cannot go back and change our decisions, but some days after clinging to the positive and holding it all together for the outside world to see, I lie in my bed and unravel. And still there are knots that just don't go. In sleep I gather all the threads and begin to weave tomorrow's leg of the journey. Sometimes I need to tie a grappling hook to that rope and hoist myself back on the wall, but I run it, I run it, I run it.

I try not to look down.

I run along that wall every day, and the only thing that determines which side of that wall I come down on each night is the progress I've seen. I need to know Rukai is moving. I need to know he's learned something, he's registered growth. That is my job as a mother, and nothing else I do matters more.

Like you, the writing helps me work through it but it works in tandem with all the running. The stronger I feel mentally and physically the better I am for my son. I have to be my best me so I can help him succeed. Is this not why we have kids in the first place? The commitment to ensure they dream big and live life to the full. Their personal full, not someone else's.

I run along that wall but there's a hell of a view from up here.

Now it's your turn again. In one week, two, three, down to you - still no pressure!

Because he's presently nonverbal, we don't have a full picture of Rukai's knowledge and comprehension but time after time he blows us away and does something we had no idea he understood how to do (such as changing the DVD and getting it running - chins on floor all around, let me tell you!)

I'm curious to know what was the one success any of your kids has had which has surprised you the most? Is there anything you didn't expect from any of them and then they've gone and done it and you thought 'whoa, wasn't expecting that!'

I look forward to hearing from you, friend. Until then, it's time to get a portable leaf blower and blast those eggshells out of your path. Cos 'ain't nobody got time for THAT!'

Best to you all and hope you had a wonderful break.

Maxine x

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Life at the speed of Rukai | #TransatlanticTuesdays

#TransatlanticTuesdays is a collaboration between me (in the UK) and Kera who blogs at The Special Reds (in the US) - sharing our journeys in the form of letters to one another.

Links to play catch up are at the end of this post.

Dear Kera

Has it been a week? Tuesday to Tuesday doesn't seem so close until it is upon me and suddenly I think, my word, if I don't get cracking our Transatlantic Tuesday will soon become Waterlogged Wednesday and you may wonder was it something you said? Ah, not hardly, but this life does run and race and jet and duck and dive and we chase it like kids on a farm racing after the chickens. Time slips and we dance along best we can to keep up with it.

Your letter last week really grabbed my heart. The friends thing. Friends are the truest family in my life to date, aside from a select few. The strongest of shoulders, the hanky in hand to swab the tears, they are present, they are permanent, they are ALWAYS. I could not do without my true friends. I lost many of the dearest of them for a while and ever so glad to have them back now but this is for another time. Another Tuesday.

Today belongs to your last question which despite the hectic pace of the week, those long drives into work give me plenty of time to ponder: What have you learned from being Rukai's mom that you didn't know before? How have you changed?

Perhaps the most important thing I've learned from being Rukai's mom is this - most people don't really give two monkeys about something if it doesn't directly affect them. It's a bit out there and a bit beyond Rukai but I think in terms of the reality of life trying to do your best by a kid with alternate needs from 'The Norm' that this is probably the most significant thing. It is a block and a hurdle and a mountain and a pit all the same. I have realized that you can halve humanity into 'those who care about other people' and 'those who care about themselves'. Take that horrible 'reality star' (yeah right) who keeps on taking selfies of her naked backside for instance, versus the charities who support our kids. People who work day in and day out to better OTHERS. 

The Self.

What matters most? On what should we focus to provide the right framework of the world in which we live for our children? 

Since Rukai has come into our world, the big has got smaller and the small has got bigger and everything meets in the middle in a place called 'What Rukai Needs.' I have found a new ability to not care much about what others think, especially people who have no serious impact on 'What Rukai Needs'. Because he really IS my world, like I wrote a while ago. He is. There is nothing else that actually matters but earning a crust. For him.

Always for him.

So as life tumbles past us like a dust storm I have also sharpened my focus on watching where his lead takes us and just going at whatever pace that may be. Because he has delayed learning this is usually a much slower pace. And the damnedest thing of all (which is something that I realized on one of those long drives home) is about all this marathon training I've been doing. I was wondering why on earth I actually like long distance running, never having been a runner, when some people find the long slow distance so utterly mind-numbingly boring they'd rather have their teeth drilled than negotiate another two mile incline.

The fact is, I live my LIFE in marathon. I like to take the long road, to stop and examine the wildflowers, to wait for the last car to pass before crossing the street. I enjoy the countryside and loathe the city noise. I wait for everyone to board the train and then get on. If it's too crowded I will sit out till an empty one comes along. I adore the mental space of a slower pace. To go out to explore with the sole purpose of just exploring. When Rukai came along we were told it'd be a slower pace. 

And this is a problem, how?

I have taken that as the truest blessing of all. In this day and age of bigger, better, faster, more, I've got a boy after my own heart. One who lives in the now. Taking the long road. Looking around more. Finding joy in the miniscule. Finding greater joy in the HUGE. The scope of his interest, the bounds of his imagination, why these are beyond anything I may have had with a 'typical' child. So this is the Tiger Mom dilemma on the point of the needle: how many times have we been steered to find a problem in his journey, his pace, his existence, when here as his mom I am entirely comfortable at his pace!

Talk about being in the right place at the right time, with the right boy for the right mom. 

What have I learned and how have I changed? I've learned that we are all 'normal'. I've stopped worrying about what everyone else thinks (well and truly stopped) and I love - more than there are words to explain - living life at the speed of Rukai.

So sayeth Simon and Garfunkel back in that slower time...

'Slow down, you move too fast
Got to make the morning last
Just kicking down the cobblestones
Looking for fun and feeling groovy.'

That's what I've learned.
That's how I've changed.

Thank heavens.

So now it's time to hand that baton back to you, and I know you are by day growing busier than ever but here should be an easy one...

Hints of spring are scooting around these shores and I know there's been a shortage of the white stuff on the ground over there as the weather settles. With the warmer weather on the horizon I'd ask what your biggest concerns or worries are when you get out and about, outside the confines of the safe space of 'Home'. I'm always worried I'll bump into some horrible person who says something for which I'm unprepared and I won't stand up for my son as well as I should. I don't want to be caught off guard. What are those worries for you? How do you prepare to face them?

Until we type again, I'm off to bed for a 6 am start and a quick few miles before hubby goes to work and I'm on my off day with my best boy. Have a great week and look forward to hearing from you.

Signing off from (as my Dad used to say 'Jolly old Englannnnnnnnd!')
Maxine x

With great power comes great responsibility.

It all begins exactly the same, and I'm not sure whether that makes me want to laugh or to gnash my teeth to cracking point. To snicker or curse, thrust two fingers in the air with vigor or shake my head in disbelief.

All. Exactly. The. Same.

It's that magic two lines on a plastic stick, or - hey! better! - real words like '3 weeks'. And it is then that you KNOW. Just like everyone else since Proctor & Gamble or Asda or Bob's Testing Kitz developed a means to identify it, you know there is someone growing in THERE. It is precisely the same bliss, an identical uplift, an equivalent joy - when you are about to burst from every pore with every imaginable emotion at once. You are about to become a parent! You're having a baby!

The very same.

That someone in THERE, for the most part, he grows the same. He affects you the same as any other. You wake up one day and feel so knackered you cannot see straight. You cannot eat anything that doesn't contain ginger, or peanut butter, or chili sauce or jellybeans or whatever your slowly bloating stomach demands. Your nose becomes bionic. Your muscles pudding. You find yourself walking to the tube after work with your eyes closed, shuffling down the side of an A road to the station, visionless because you know the route and you know the number of steps and you know that once you finally get to that platform you can pretty much fall straight into a seat, whack on your headphones and keep those eyes closed still for a solid hour. If you sleep, you're magically out cold until the stop right before yours - it seems the mommy intuition begins at the same time as well. Because precisely at your very own stop, like magic, you awaken but still only partially, because you cannot function properly - there is a new life in there, for whom your body weakens because you must sacrifice your entire strength for 'it' to become 'him'.

The same.

The first few months of this whosebodyisthiscosIcannotpossiblybethisknackered gig and and one day you wake up and lo and behold you find you're feeling better until you actually try on your jeans. Then you feel like utter shite. You won't be able to wear them again until much later, so get to the shops and you'll feel even better. Everyone does. I promise.

But really the main reason you feel good is because you're not in those early days anymore, you're in a place where 'new baby' is no longer settling in and sucking every last ounce of strength from you, because you have hereafter made an unspoken mutual agreement. This one says 'hey kid, I will love you and nurture you and cherish you and treasure you until both our dying days so ease up already, hey?' And you already 'get' him, because he is your SON. Already your son. That love, too, is the same.

Precisely the same.

Then you go on vacation - that last one before he formally comes into life, because you know there will soon be a time when your adventurous his'n'hers explorations are no more, that you are now three-to-be and when you have a kid to look after your time will never again be your own. And you will have to babyproof shit. Like EVERYTHING. Right down to the rental car. Bungee jumping and hang gliding are to stay on the bucket list. Hell, you even feel a bit soggy on the Roger Rabbit ride in Disneyland. You're pregnant. It's the same.

But just before you left, it all went tits up.

They ran some tests. They found something that made you and your experience suddenly become 'different'.

And they took it all away.
Until recently, this life, this progression, this expectation, well these things were all identical to every other pregnancy. The ones that become routine.


There came some tests.
There came some results.
Some frowns.
Some statistics.
Some numbers.
Some labels.
Some things which made this pregnancy, YOUR baby, no longer routine.

And they took something from you. They took your Joy and replaced it with Fear.
Like a home invasion.
Ripped from you like a gold chain from your neck.
Broke into the safe and crept off with everything you had locked away and protected.

They took something you can never retrieve. They took it robotically, from behind spectacles made of Whatif. Charts, and graphs and measurements that said 'femur x, nasal bone y'.

And from that point, that very minute, that phone call where she says 'oh lots of people have that 'risk' figure, I'm sure there's nothing to worry about'.

Are you?
Are you really?
Care to join me in my bed til 3 am from here to eternity?
And please tell me when did 'son', 'child', 'baby' turn to 'risk'?

Stole it. Snap.

Then everything you were feeling, wanting, hoping, expecting, is speared through with negativity. Perhaps not with their direct intent but as luck would have it, the science got in the way of the humanity and then suddenly your baby, your child, your SON, became a 'problem', a 'risk'. Pregnancy, parenthood, joy, became faint memories. And you stopped taking bump selfies but only wanted it over. You wanted nothing more than to have your child and to get the hell away from the thieves of your happiness. You continued to value him despite what you were told. You grew fangs. Tiger mom was born long before your son joined her.

You were ripped from your plans so severely that the letter you began writing to your unborn son would never be completed.
You were put off all the home redecoration until the bitter end because you would never again believe that there would even BE a child, let alone a healthy child. There was 'risk'. Surely there would be 'disaster'.

(There wasn't.)

The nursery would remain half decorated and slightly cluttered until that child, that son, was here and was home and was yours. You could not rewind the time. You would never get that back. Like throwing a stone into an abyss, it wouldn't even give you the satisfaction of echo.

(And that nursery would not be 'right' until you moved home and your son had lived a full three years.)

But then he was born and he was amazing.


Then he has grown and thrived and been such a complete opposite to the predictions.


Then he has returned to you what they took - not because he had taken it back from them per se, but because they could not take what was IN him, and who he actually is.

Yes. Yes. Yes.

They never did know who he actually is. Perhaps that is the greatest tragedy of all. Perhaps more so that they never will.

(Here it is. Learn. Please.)

Four years later, these memories still burn.
Like a stick jammed into a hornet's nest. A magnifying glass on an ant hill. They scar and they fester and they do not go.
Because they have taken a moment we cannot have back.
They have stolen an experience we are never going to be able to re-live. Our first. Our only. Stolen.

Doctor, why did you take our joy and tar it with sorrow, based on 'maybe'?
Doctor, why did you determine that a genetic difference completely negated the pleasure and the essence of our entire journey?
Doctor, why did you turn our expected new child from some ONE into something to fear?
Doctor, why did you ask whether we would rather risk losing him to an invasive test than to continue knowing he may be (in your opinion, not ours) 'flawed'?

Different, yes. Flawed, not on your life.

Do you know, doctor, the damage you can cause with the weight of your words?
Do you know, doctor, that despite your budgetary constraints and your paper trails and your revolving door of 'normal' pregnancies to look after, we remained human, we remained feeling, we remained in love with our unborn son?
Do you know, doctor, that your heavy words crushed a piece of our hearts?

Do you care?

It is said that with great power comes great responsibility. And there you had the greatest of power. In a place where we as prospective parents were feeling vulnerable and weak, nervous and excited all the same. Desperately lucky to have finally conceived a child after trying for so long. There you had a chance to find and present positivity in this strange new world we were facing.

But you blew it. Doctor, you really screwed up.

You had an opportunity to help us rejoice in this new life. We were doing that already but you took it away from us with your frown and your supposition. You stole it. You blew it.

You should have started by asking us how we were feeling.
You should have looked at us and seen the glow in our eyes.
You should have asked us what we would name him.

Rukai. Rukai. Rukai.
He is Rukai. He will be Rukai. Know him.

He is Rukai.
He is four now.
He is mighty. He is not Fear. He is not Problem. He is not Worry.

He is Rukai.

In the very same way as was for us, as long as you practice medicine you will meet other expectant parents for whom you can either be a guiding light or the memory of darkness. There is no second chance at welcoming new life.

With great power comes great responsibility. Own it. Earn it.

He is Rukai.


Friday, 4 March 2016

And let slip the dogs of war!


I had a battle cry raging in my head this morning. After four weeks of coughing and illness and weakness and inability to do much more than sit on my dead arse on the sofa and feel sorry for myself, there were a first three 'return' tentative miles on Tuesday followed by an amazing mind blowing few days in between (seriously bonkers) and then today I got to lacing up again.

"Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war!" It sang and sang and sang.

A battle cry if ever I heard one, time is in such short supply and some completely annoying part of my psyche wants to feel weakened. But no. Sorry, no. I'm not having it. That mantra singing in my head, it was all I could hear, all I would ALLOW myself to hear, and considering there still is a cough (albeit of the 'headcold' variety thankeverythingthatisanything) I am toeing the line between going hell for leather and tiptoeing through the tulips. But JHC, I'm finally GOING. Phoooooooo.

So in the training log and the brain and the shoes and the joints were the four miles I'd promised myself would happen today. But rewind to Tuesday. On Tuesday I'd got back into the shoes, back round the route, back over a 5k strapped with heavy breathing and careful foot placement and weakened load bearing but damn it all if I didn't get through it and with aplomb. I had feared that 5k as much as I feared an intercontinental life move 15 years ago, packing all my worldly possessions into boxes and shipping it off to an unfamiliar country, begging for love to conquer all. Go LEFT, RIGHT, LEFT.

3. Lousy. Miles. But my word, I ran it. And I'll be damned if I hadn't run it well. I only coughed a little at home on the return. And then I ate healthy things like nuts and seeds and blueberries and yogurt and oily fish. I delivered this body nutrition and sleep and promised I'd do right by it if it would only stick with me. I bargained with my iron arse. Seriously, who DOES this.

I do. When it matters, me.

And then a rousing cry of havoc this morning. This unbelievably sunny morning, denying that worried forecast of snow and wind and winter and here in actuality we had hints of spring and That Friday Feeling and cyclistskeepingtotheleft and everything else that's been happening in my absence from the road. The unexpected has come. Once again it's come. And with it, I roll.


Still, Tuesday. Man it was hard. Today would be four, on top of that Tuesday Three, when my knee had reminded me I'd let it rest these weeks, I'd let it go slack and I'd let it remember couch potato and DVD rentals and cheese pizza and all those old times long long ago when I was a lazy sod. But I ran and I finished that three. My chest was screaming at the end (having checked that which is Garmin I see there were segments of 10 minute miles which is UNHEARD of when your chest has been revolting for a month) but wot hey, we did those three. Me and my creaking respiratory system.


We did those three and it drained me a bit - but only right at the end - still, I felt concern which was a bit jarring. But I ran. I rested. I reset. I slept and ate more seeds and beans and salad and healthy stuff that wasn't a curry or a friedsomethingmygrannyusedtocook. Or chocolate. Well, maybe one, but only the one.

And let slip.

So then came today's pre-run catch up date with my foam roller. I addressed it as if I hadn't seen it in weeks. Oh, that's right, I hadn't. Hello darling, where have you BEEN all my life. And I rolled. I rolled that Transport for London muscle and it screamed like an air raid siren or Medusa or someone who may well have been set on fire. It screamed and I rolled it and all the other bits that felt as if they'd want to cause me difficulty on today's venture and as I was thinking very seriously about releasing the tension I got a vision of the film 'Independence Day' which we watched just last night, where the scientist in Area 51 is in a chokehold delivered by Bad ET and he's going 'Releassssssssssssssssse meeeeeeeeeeee'. And I completely lost my shit.

I started laughing so hard there returned the cough with a vengeance and I nearly expelled a lung. Because that's what it's all felt like. You'd cry if you didn't laugh. I'd trained so smart and so hard and was swanning around under the 'trust in the training' mantra and there on the third of February in this year of our lord 2016 entered the unexpected thing that smacked me across the face like a fish in that Monty Python sketch. The deliverer dancing and taunting on the edge of that pier, ta ta ta SMACK, ta tatata ta SMACK! Sploosh!

Releassssssssssssssse meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

The dogs of war.

And then I pulled myself together and wiped the joyful tears off my face and stood up and set up the Garmin (and danced around while it searched for that elusive satellite) and stepped outside. And the dogs of war, they howled. They howled and reminded everyone around that there is a mission and a vision and a belief and by God I'm not going to let it go. And just over four miles later I was home again. Grinning like I'd just won the lottery. But I actually had - the one where the prize is your goal. Because as I finished I was clapping my hands and shouting 'f*** yeah!' And the pride overspilled. And there may have been neighbors peeking through their curtains with a finger ready to smash down the 9 button till that padded car stole me away from these otherwise peaceful confines.

I'm back.
I'm back.

Cough on the wane, easing into the load bearing again. Eating my seeds and nuts and anythingelsehealthyIcanfind. Daily quota of immunity boosting food, supplements, I am on a mission.

And I will not fail.

Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war.

Run girl, run.