Disordered Eating

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Always clear your plate
Here , have some more
Always say thank you
Don’t you know the trouble I went to?

Eat up, eat up
Otherwise you won’t grow big and strong
There’s children in Africa starving
Or there was once a war, you know
Are you spoilt or ungrateful?

Never waste food
It’s so expensive
Never say no, thank you
What do you mean you don’t like it?

If you’re sad or lonely
Food is medicine for the soul
Or even when you’re ill
Then food will be your cure

Make as big a dish as possible
Well, won’t everyone want seconds?
Ladle it out by the bucket
Well, aren’t you hungry?

Serve up a huge ole slab
Blow everyone away
Is it talent or just impressions?
Never mind, there’s supposedly love in every bite

Love is food-shaped
It is smothering, choked upon
Aren’t we fortunate?
Here have some more

Food brings us together
The backdrop to all the fights
The solution to all the problems
Food solves everything

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In My Defence

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Yellow Yarn

Once upon a time I learnt to knit.

Or I tried to, anyway.

I’m not sure why I decided to ask a friend to show me how it worked.  Perhaps I was just taking an interest in her hobby, which sounds a little shallow or something, but I long ago learnt that most people have something that they’re prepared to talk about and that makes it so much easier for little ole me who hates talking and social situations.  Perhaps I really wanted to learn.  Although I’m not sure why.

There has long been knitting in my life.  I wore a lot of hand-knit jumpers in my childhood.  (I still have one of them now).  I knew a lot of people who knitted.  But I don’t think that I ever saw someone actually knitting.

My mother was always trying to get us involved in various handicrafts as children; maybe it was an attempt to introduce a level of refinement but I never found it particularly entertaining.  If you gave me a special kit of crafty things, I’d just want to save it.  Just in case.  Just in case of what?  In case I ruined it.  In case I needed it later, at a more important time.  There were a few that I had a go at.  Probably because they were given at moments of severe boredom.

There was a lot of needlework.  I don’t do needlework.  I still don’t.  My brother was better at the dutifully sitting and working something cute for praise than I ever was.  Or will be.  I couldn’t see the point.  It was boring.  It was fiddly.  It served absolutely no purpose whatsoever.  Did it really matter to the grand scheme of things whether or not I had just spent a two week holiday cross-stitching some circus-related square?  (That was the best one.  The others were far too twee for my tastes, even then).

I don’t remember having a knitting kit.  I remember my brother having a knitting kit.  I remember the little gold coloured needles hanging around in the drawer with the videos (remember those?) for years.  I’m not sure what he made, if anything.  A short, fat toy scarf or was it bookmark?  Did it get finished?  Did it ever do anything?  Yarn seemed more often related to needlework, winding it somehow through little scratchy plastic meshes to make, well, something.

So why did I want to knit?

I have no idea.

But after that first, brief lesson, I dutifully took myself to the department shop to buy ‘wool‘ and needles and to thus embark on that quintessential debut project: the garter stitch scarf.

I do not know what idiot decided that every wannabe knitter would have to go through the rite of passage known as the garter stitch scarf.  I do not think highly of them.  I feel even more sorry for the folk who, apparently, only ever knit the curséd things.

At least the Americans seem to prefer dishcloths.  A dishcloth would be infinitely more preferable, trust me.  It’s small enough to have some hope of ever being done with it and it would actually be of some use.  And people would be actually interested in the finished project.

Anyway, I made that scarf.

No one thought particularly highly of my scarf.  Apparently, I was the first ever learner knitter who had trouble maintaining stitch count.  Everyone else, apparently, had never, ever had this problem.

(I think this a lie.  I’ve seen beginner knitters at work since and I’ve even taught a few.  They all wobble).

My confidence was a little shaken by this feedback but I wasn’t to be daunted.  I had decided that I was going to knit and knit I would.

I wanted to be like all the other knitters.

This could never be a good thing.

So I decided that I would get on with some proper knitting, just like they all did.  (Because everyone else found it oh so easy!)  A jumper.

These days, learners have the internet.  I didn’t even cross my mind to turn to the internet for such things.  (Again, I don’t know why.  Perhaps it was the state of the knitting culture around me: old-fashioned at best if not plain backwards at times).  And with the world of internet knitting to tempt them, they take on all sorts of amazing, crazy stuff for their first project.  Because there’s nobody to tell them that they can’t or that they shouldn’t.

But I listened to the voices.  Voices have always been my authority, sadly.  Although I am perpetually accused of having a disrespectful attitude, I do listen to those ‘experts’, those who, apparently, know better around me.  Sadly, it hasn’t always done me much good.

So, the jumper.

Well, in my defence…

… nobody introduced me to the idea of tension.

(Other than to tell me that the lone bootee that I made between said scarf and said jumper was big enough to fit a four year old.  (I measured it recently, it wouldn’t.  But those words have followed me ever since)).

And in my defence…

… when faced with a limited and pitiful selection of yarns, I chose one I liked.  Which was a different weight to one indicated in the pattern.  But, let’s face it, there isn’t the greatest difference, to the eye or to the hand, between a DK and an aran.  In the English weight/ply system, one’s an eight and one’s a ten.  As opposed to 4-ply.

And in my defence…

… I know a lot of knitters of that generation now.  They never knit a tension square.  They read the pattern notes, they read the ball band, they cast on.  Sometimes they have to rip back an entire jumper.  Hey, it happens!  So, why was I suppose to know about tension and tension squares?

And in my defence…

… there’s also the belief that new knitters knit tight.  I don’t.  There’s also the belief that the stressed out and uptight knit tight.  I don’t.  But knitting loose is not a crime either.  Some people just do.  I am one of them.

And in my defence…

… I’ve found it difficult over the years to find reliable instructions for ribbing, a ridiculously basic stitch.  A lot of time if I followed said instructions, I would end up with seed stitch.  Or something just plain weird.

And in my defence…

… there was nothing in my instructions that explained where to hold the yarn when switching between knit and purl stitches on the same row.

Yeah, that jumper didn’t exactly have a lot going for it.  But I was determined and I stuck the abuse and kept on knitting.

It took me longer than I was expecting.  So when it came time for me to gift it to the lucky recipient, I had to present it missing at least one sleeve and a neck.  But hey.

But in my defence…

… all those perfect knitters who were giving me grief don’t knock out jumpers as fast as they were claiming.  A lot of them don’t even finish things.  I know this now.

It was eventually finished.

One knitter, despairing of my ribbing technique, started at least one of the sleeves.

And another, who felt that I had no hope of doing so myself, picked up the stitches and knit the neckband.

In my defence…

… I’m not sure which one of us actually cast off.  I think I did.  According to the instructions that I was given.  (The experts tend to disappear when you need them at key moments).  It has unravelled slightly.  But there’s something that I learnt much, much later which probably had more effect on this then my actual cast off technique.  Tying knots.  And weaving ends.  One of those you shouldn’t.  And one of those you should.

In my defence…

… no one showed me any finishing techniques.  I don’t think that I have even seen such things in print.  And those experts who criticised my work don’t seem to do things any better either.  And I only just learnt how to seam properly this year.  But at least I sewed it together immediately; some people have projects languishing for years just because of the making up.

In my defence…

… there is not a single hole in said jumper.  I have inspected it recently.  (Shortly after I bumped into one of those experts who was with my mother when I gave her her shawl and wanted to know whether there were holes in that too).  There are no holes.

In my defence…

… I twigged that I needed to go down at least a size or so to accommodate my yarn.  That’s quite advanced thinking, given all of the above.  It still came out pretty big.  As in down to the recipient’s knees.

In my defence…

… I knitted a jumper and it looks like a jumper should be.

What’s so bad about that?

In my defence…

… I am still knitting and I am still willing to learn.

What’s so bad about that?

(The lucky recipient kindly put it in on as soon as it was gifted but later laid it aside in a drawer because it was ‘too special’ to wear.  Now that’s a good father. 

Miss you Dad).

Domestic Loss

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Abandoned Cottage with Roses

Home is such an important thing.  There are those who try to confine its definition within four walls or a place on a birth certificate yet home is much more than just those simple, physical concepts.  Home is a sentiment.  Those who feel it find something very precious indeed, a sense of belonging, of safety and security, of love and peace.  There are those who have never experienced such a privileged and lofty feeling before, they may have a ‘home’ of four walls but whether they are the world’s richest or the world’s poorest, it remains just that.  Four walls.  Somewhere to sleep, somewhere to address envelopes to.  Home is much more than that.

Home inspires more than pride, more than the pride that comes with having the right postcode or the most bedrooms, it is something that calls to you when you are away and soothes your soul when you are there.  Home is where you belong, where your love is.  It might seem trite but home is where the heart is.  Home doesn’t have to limited to four walls or just one place, in the secure love it can be nomadic.

Home can be powerfully tied to one’s roots but it isn’t limited to that. Home can be a place that you’ve never been or it can be place where you’ve just arrived.

We all need to have ‘home’ in our hearts and our souls, without we are lost and adrift and the world is a lonely, isolated place.  It’s horrible to think that some have never known it yet perhaps in some ways, having it and losing it is even worse.  You fully appreciate just what you have lost whereas those who have never had it, whilst they may dream of it, cannot fully understand the impact that it will have in their lives.

There are those whose home is destroyed by others, the betrayal usually comes from those who are closest.  If home is a sentiment then domestic abuse is a bulldozer and wrecking ball.  To not feel at home, to not feel safe or secure, loved or at a peace within the home, well that is a the greatest tragedy.

Loss come through other means too.  Home can be abruptly taken away from us by a change in financial situation.  Many have known this painful grief in recent years.  It’s not just that loss of home which has to be dealt with in those circumstances but a myriad of psychological questions that bubble forth.  Having your home taken away brands you a failure, a failure whose life is out of control and who is unable to provide on every level for those who they love the most.  Four walls represent so much more than just a building.

Sometimes the physical home is what is violated but the impact on the psychological home is what pains and grieves the most.  The loss of any item in a burglary hurts but what is hardest to deal with is that you can no longer protect your home and the ones that you love the most, that anyone can just trample all over your space, your belongings, your feelings and devastate it.  You walk through tossed rooms but it’s the footsteps that echo in your mind that disturb the most.

Other times it isn’t actually what is recognized as crime that causes the devastation.  A tradesman, an expert, can violate that space, tearing holes in the physical and psychological.  Again, you’re left questioning yourself, whether you should have known better, whether you’ve let your family down, whether you’re a failure, whether you could have protected your space and your loved ones better.  In this case, it can be harder to restore the damage on all levels.  A robbed home is quickly defended by the police and insurance agencies, the pieces righted, repaired or renewed.  When the damage is from a professional in another field long years may slowly pass as the family lives with the consequences, in a broken shell that no longer feels like home.

Home can be damaged by its surroundings.  Home can be a moment frozen in time, before some catastrophe hit or some new development obliterated its surrounding countryside.  Home is never quite the same after that.  A childhood place of home can change hands without your say so, can be transformed into something unrecognisable by the passage of time.  You grieve for something that was, even if it was only ever an illusion, because the psychological pull of home is so great.  It is a sentiment not just a physical space.  As times erodes and neglect ruins, the heart is pained because of what is lost is so much more than just the physical reality.  The loss, sometimes abrupt, eats away at the core of who we think we are and where we feel that we belong.

Home is so important.  My heart goes out to anyone who has lost such a powerful piece of themselves, whatever the circumstances.  We are lost when we do not belong, we are broken when we know no love or peace, we are threatened when we have no safety or security.  There is no relief from the outside world without a home.  We all need somewhere that we can call home.  Not just four walls around us.

 

 

 

I Dream

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Do I dream?  There are the terrifyingly real nightmares that drag me down into an abyss of muddled darkness where the images and thoughts of my mind labour through an Escher-like treacle, flashbacks and subtle reminders from the subconscious attempting to make sense of the crazy, messed up world that I live in.  I skip through no fields of daisies.  I dream lucidly sometimes too, most often conscious only that I am dreaming and that I’m desperate to wake, to be free and to shake off the cold fingers of the night still grasping at me and trying to pull me back down.

There are other dreams too, a blend of the practical and the wishful.  I dream of paying the bills on time.  I dream of doing the things that need doing.  Quite often it just remains fantasy.


To accomplish great things, you must not only act but also dream, not only dream but also believe.

– Anatole France


Wise words, I wish I could carry them out but I dream of no future and I believe in little.

A few weeks ago, Just Be Enough prompted us to share our dream day.  I couldn’t think of anything, find an answer within myself so I left it and got on with not doing very much, as I do of late.  But the prompt stayed with me and I found myself reflecting on the subject regularly.

When we speak of dream days, perhaps it is of trips to mouse-eared theme parks that our minds turn to.  Some elusive, magical destination.  Something out of the ordinary.  (Mouse-eared theme parks hold no appeal for me, I’m not a fan of plastic commercialism or of rides that torture and terrify me and keep counsellors and osteopaths in business).

But the posts that came in from other readers were revealing.  Time and again, the same theme appeared.  And it wasn’t mouse-eared and there was no park attached to ‘theme’.  It was heart-warming and it got me thinking some more.

It was about people, often the people who are most precious to you, that everyone wanted to spend time with, to reconnect, to appreciate and to be with.

Isn’t that a beautiful thing?

The furthest I can dream is of having a day off, a day away somewhere in the sunshine, somewhere warm where I can sit, probably with my tent nearby on a campsite field, and knit or read or spend a little time just being me, just being in the moment with no pressures.

But if this was a magical dream day then I’d like a little more.  I want some other people to be there.  I want some good food to share with them.  And I don’t want to be the one making it.  I want sit down with those people and talk.

These people are nearly all dead now, there are one or two who are still alive, there are some that I have never met.  I want to sit them down and around my table, to talk with them and hear their stories.  There are some women in my family (whichever side or line) who have been incredibly strong and taken amazing journeys out of the ordinary, not just in place or distance.  I want to ask them about it.  I want to find out how they felt.  Some of those people I will expect them to leave their innate prejudice of me behind.  We will talk on my own terms, equal.  Others will, with me, have to break down walls of cultural and linguistic difference.  I have been separated from a family culture by the generation above me, by someone who was perhaps trying to better than their roots.  I appreciate roots.  I love stories.  I want to hear.  I want to connect.  I want my father to be there too.  I want to say goodbye.  And I want to hear his stories too.  Because I’m afraid of forgetting them and I always promised myself that I would write them down for him.

We will pass dishes and there will be meaningful, easy flowing conversation.  I will find the right words to break down barriers, I will find my place amongst these people and I will belong.

I dream.

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Black Clouds Gathering

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~ Trigger Alert! ~

For some it seems incomprehensible that a young girl, a child, in a white cotton socks, an unfurrowed brow and pigtails could ever be Depressed.  Depression is earned by the deserving, those who have traversed a difficult lifetime of tragedies.  But even then our sympathy does tend to be limited, after all if the poor person has already got through so much then surely they just need to pull their socks up, stop moping and get on with life.  But Young Depression?  What do you say or do?  Do you even believe it’s possible?

Childhood is meant to be innocent idyll.  There are some that believe that view is only a myth created by fantasising Victorians, perpetuated by children’s story writers in the 1930s and hauntingly reprieved in the post war 1950s.  Childhood hasn’t always been an easy rite of passage, it wasn’t ever easy to survive and for most, it was hard work, poverty, misery and sickness all the way.  But it’s also a time of youth, of make belief and fairy tales, of play.  It always has been so too.  Otherwise how would children learn to be adults?

Then there is a further idyll that we fantasise about, the perfect family.  Young Depression destroys that fantasy, tearing through it like a freight train.  Beyond the stigma of Depression, we seek to find a fault, a blame.  Depression has to be caused by something.  If your child is Depressed then we simple-mindedly conclude that the family structure is to blame.  Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t.  But that attitude doesn’t exactly encourage parents to seek help for their child.  And without appropriate help and support, the consequences can be devastating.

Even though we struggle to comprehend Young Depression, we also react to these child victims in the same way as we do to adults battling mental health.  What did they do wrong, why are they so weak?  Depression is easily, too easily, blamed on some inherent personality weakness.  In children and teenagers we go further.  They’re acting out or up.  We use words like melodramatic and attention seeker, we just see the behaviours and laugh them off.  As they grow into teenagers, the symptoms of Depression merge with those of adolescence: bolshy, withdrawn, sleeping too much, eating too much, flying off the handle.  It’s quicker and easier to put the behaviour down to their age but sometimes it’s worth looking a little deeper and asking a few more questions.

If we don’t do that then too many children and teenagers fall through the net.  When I was little, there was no so thing as Young Depression.  There was no such concept.  It was bad behaviour if there was ever a label to be stuck on my head, I was weird, I was a freak.  It was the world against me.  Literally, sometimes.

But it does happen.  10% of children will suffer a mental health problem.  In their childhood.  That’s one in ten.  You probably know someone who’s fifteen, someone who’s ten, someone who’s six.  Now picture them in their classroom, there’s probably going to be about thirty pupils there.  Three of those children are likely to be suffering, right then and there, on average.  Scary?

Childhood trauma has always caused Depression, or perhaps more accurately increased the risk of a person suffering.  But the onset was often delayed, children don’t always appreciate the seriousness of a situation straightaway and also often accept their situation as the norm.  Nowadays with children being constantly bombarded with media images of perfect families and hunky-dory, ticketyboo situations, the pressure also falls to them and they consciously weigh their family circumstances against the models they are presented with.  Experts also agree that stress is increasing with each new generation and with it the increased risk of developing a depression.

I was the most innocent, sheltered, naïve child that you can imagine.  The argument that the Internet is making self-harm and suicide accessible and even fashionable to a younger audience than ever wasn’t relevant to my generation.  The Internet hadn’t even been invented (or technically, maybe not publicised).  I knew nothing of suicide.  I wasn’t even allowed to watch the evening news because of the risk of nightmares (I have a low scare threshold, remember?).

I remember the pain rising within me.  It was unbelievably raw.  I didn’t know what it was or where it came from.  I would scratch at my arms and twist holes in the lacework of my socks, hoping to find some relief, trying to lessen the pain.  The pain was so bad that I wanted to die.  I was nine maybe.  That pain has continued to follow me and it was nearly a decade later that I realised that this pain had a name.  Depression.

Sometimes I wonder how I survived my teenage years but more importantly, sometimes I wonder if earlier intervention, better support, more understanding would have made a difference.  That’s why I’m begging all of you to look out for the young ones in your lives, to dare to ask the questions that you may not want the answers and to be there for them through everything.  Acknowledging that it may be a possibility doesn’t make it the possibility, you know?  Just keep a watchful eye on them so that more can be spared the pain.  Please?

The ‘S’ Word

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I said yesterday that my husband has a stew phobia.  Yes, that it the dreaded ‘s’ word in the house.  The word will bring him out in a rash sooner than the threat of half a dozen other scary ingredients going into a dish.  Stew.  The problem is that stews are actually quite a handy concoction midwinter; they’re an economic, easy, warming and nutritious dish to serve up and unfortunately cover quite a few styles and cuisines.  Casserole, goulash, chili, one pot, hot pot, pizzaiola, braised whatever – all stews.  The trick is not to use the ‘s’ word without due caution or at least some kind of preamble of how this stew isn’t actually a ‘stew’.

The husband explains that this stew phobia comes from having an Irish father for whom the dish is both an integral part of their cultural heritage and their cooking repertoire.  Stew was a guaranteed regular visitor on their dinner table growing up, recalled with minimal affection and hereby described as ‘brown and boring’.   The most interesting part is the meat and gravy apparently but the vegetables that accompany the soft, sludgy browness were the definite downside.  Peas, carrots, swede – still not on the other half’s list of edible foods.  Potatoes – bearable.  His face wrinkles up recalling the offending, repellant article.

No offence to his Dad’s cooking, of course, because he hates everybody’s stews.  Similar dishes appear at my side of the family’s dinner table but they’re no longer on offer when he’s around.  Everyone knows to avoid the ‘s’ word.  The peas and carrots may be acceptable with a roast drowned under an ocean of gravy, no lumps please, but not in a stew.

But you see that’s what I don’t get.  Meat is probably the only ingredient that hasn’t featured in one of my whatever-you-care-to-call-it-but-just-don’t-use-the-‘s’-word dishes.  I don’t eat it.  Barring vegetarian mince of course in chilis.  We rarely have in the house what we’ve come to call the ‘English vegetables’ – things like the loathsome peas, carrots, swede.  All of mine involve some spice or chili pepper, never mind any other seasoning.  Most of them probably include tomato.  And pulses are a regular visitor.  Not exactly the ‘stew’ of his childhood.

But no, we go on tiptoeing around the issue and now the slow cooker is here, and here to stay, I’m going to dig out the thesaurus and get inventive about just what exactly is going to come out of it.  Because it won’t involve the ‘s’ word.  Or rather, can’t, for the sake of domestic bliss.  Although reading through this post has caused hubby to reflect that chili is rather stew-like.  Hopefully this is progress rather than a new limitation.  We will see.

How do Cousins Work?

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I’ve been involved in a few debates in recent times for the correct terms for cousins once you go beyond the simple ‘cousin’ as in daughter/son of an uncle/aunt stage.  What do you call the daughter/son of a cousin?  Or a cousin of a cousin?  There’s all sorts of numbers involved (always guaranteed to get me confused) in the names bandied about by knowledgable genealogists and don’t even get me started on the term ‘removed’, who removed them?!

I’ve finally got around to looking up the whole messy mess and it seems like I’m not the only one and so I’m going to post this funky chart that hopefully is both correct and enlightening:

A Chart of Cousins

Now I just have to spend some time considering, inwardly digesting and hopefully ‘learning’.  Oh and if you’re one of those very knowledgable folks, any more ‘light’ would be gratefully received!