Holiday Stress

Is there anything more stressful than going on a family holiday? Probably, but right now it doesn’t feel that way. Sunday morning we’re flying off to the Canary Islands for a much-needed vacation in the sun, and I do look forward to ten days of not having to do much other than swim, read, eat and sleep.

It’s the week leading up to our sunshine holiday that is stressing me out.

My to-do list seems to grow longer for every item I check off and I feel as if I am racing against time…and losing.stress-1837384_640

Admittedly, some of the items on my list are minor and hardly deserving of any stress; others are slightly more important, such as making sure my GP prescribes me a pack of Heparin-filled syringes, which I need to inject myself with before flying. It’s a necessary precaution since having an unexplained pulmonary embolism a couple of years ago.

“Shoes! The kids need new shoes!” The realisation hit me in the middle of the night as I lay sleepless in bed. I’d completely forgotten to check whether last year’s summer shoes still fit them, which on inspection they did not since my precious offspring have exceedingly fast-growing feet.

Then there’s the matter of our 10-year old daughter’s exam revision. On the last day of the term, she came home with her school bag filled with exercise books and revision lists and with strict instructions from her teachers to spend at least half an hour a day doing revision during the spring holiday. Half an hour isn’t much, but that means it’s even more important to be organised and to have an effective method of revising.

books-927394_640“I’ll make revision cards for her,” I thought and bought a pile of index cards to write on. But it takes a very long time to copy all the important stuff onto cards that are easily readable to a child who also happens to have dyslexia. And two nights on, I’m nowhere near finished. I have, on the other hand, learned (or re-learned, I should say) a lot about the circulatory system, solar system, English grammar, and French verbs.


“As long as you have your passports, tickets and money” you’re ok, someone said cheerfully to me. “The rest you can buy there, should you forget to pack something.”

“Money!” We need some local currency, of course, Euros in this case, so yesterday I rushed to the post office, hoping that Mrs May’s triggering of Article 50 a few hours earlier wouldn’t affect the exchange rate too badly.

Speaking of pounds and euros, aside from the leisurely hotel stay, what I am really looking forward to, is some time away from the craziness of Brexit. During the past months, I’ve lost far too much sleep over Brexit and its implications for me, an EU citizen living in Britain. Will I get deported? Should I apply for permanent residence status? Or even British citizenship?

Never mind that, I’m going to sunny Tenerife in a few days’ time, and I won’t let Brexit ruin my holiday.

Now where the hell are our passports?


Rubbish or Treasure? Two ways of looking at an empty box

Shortly after the girls and I return home from school, I hear a piercing cry emanating from my 6-year old’s room. I climb the stairs to find out what’s happening.

“Who’s been in my room?!” she thunders as I enter.

“I just tidied up a little while you were at school, sweetheart,” I say apologetically.

“But you threw my pictures in the bin!” she yells, her eyes ablaze with fury.

“No, just some small scraps of paper lying on the floor,” I plead defensively.

“But those were precious to me! How COULD you?”

Here’s the thing. A torn piece of paper lying on the floor, an empty toilet roll hiding in a corner, or a crinkled piece of old gift wrap, are all rubbish to me, but to my daughter, they are precious materials to be harnessed for creative endeavours.

My family call me “TAJ” – Throw-Away-Jenny – because I have a habit of throwing away anything I find useless, even things belonging to my husband and children.

IMG_4147But while I believe that old Amazon boxes belong in the recycling bin outside, my daughters can’t get enough of empty boxes because they love making things out of them. And I am beginning to see their point.

For my birthday last week, my 6-year old made me just such a box, adorned with pictures, stickers, photos and messages she’d scribbled herself.

Meanwhile, her older sister gave me a bag she’d sewn herself, presented in one of the few empty boxes still lying around, and neatly wrapped in old tissue paper.

IMG_4130My kids love making things, and the last thing I want to do is stifle their creative urge, even if I’m not able to recognise the potential in every little scrap of paper and cloth littering our house.

Truth be told, I sometimes look at my daughters in awe, and with a twinge of jealousy, for I wish I had some of their creative ability. And perhaps I did, a long time ago, before I absorbed the mistaken belief that academic excellence matter more than creative play.

From my children, and their father whose creativity is deliciously expressed in his cooking, I am learning that knowledge isn’t enough. For as Albert Einstein famously said,

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”


Not Your Inspiration

The other day someone very dear to me shared a short video clip on Facebook, featuring a young girl auditioning for a Romanian talent show.

“Girl with no hands playing piano and singing,” the title said, followed by, “A wonderful life lesson.”

The girl in question vowed the audience with her lovely voice, and rightly so, but I couldn’t help feeling she was being patronised because of her disability. To me, the clip came awfully close to being an example of ‘inspiration objectification,’ which implies that disabled people are seen as exceptional because of their disability and as objects of inspiration.

To really appreciate what inspiration objectification is (or ‘inspiration porn’ as some call it), watch this TED talk by the late Stella Young, comedian and disability rights advocate.

Young argues that disabled people are often not seen as real people but as exceptional on account of their disability and as objects of inspiration for the benefit of non-disabled people. But the truth is that disabled people are no more exceptional than non-disabled people; they’re normal.

Another comedian and disability rights advocate, Francesca Martinez, begins her laugh-out-loud memoir, What the **** is Normal?! with a hilarious take-down of the disability-as-inspiration nonsense:

‘Oh my God! You’re disabled and you don’t want to kill yourself? Inspire me now!’ Yep, most folk think that if a disabled person manages to achieve pretty much anything in their life beyond putting their own clothes on, taking a shower without the use of a pulley system, and undressing themselves before bedtime at 7 p.m., then they are…An Inspiration. And if this plucky individual can combine one or more of these awe-inducing accomplishments (brushing their teeth, flushing the big loo handle, etc.) with a smile or – dare I say it – A Positive Attitude, then they’re in imminent danger of being hailed as An Example To Us All.

As for the girl on the Romanian talent show, and as I pointed out to my Facebook friends, the fact that she has no arms and therefore uses her feet the way non-disabled people use their hands, has no bearing whatsoever on her ability to carry a tune. If she’s an inspiration, then it’s not because she lacks arms, but because she sings beautifully.









Four Shiny Pound Coins

Glue ear (and flat feet) runs in our family and my 10-year old daughter has had four operations to date to insert grommets (tiny ventilation tubes) and remove her adenoids.

Her 6-year old sister seemed to be having less of a problem at first, having had only one operation four years ago, but this week, following months of persistent glue ear and a steadily increasing hearing loss, we couldn’t wait any longer. Continue reading

Fight or Flight

I spent the first four months of my life in hospital, having undergone life-saving surgery on the day I was born. It was the early 1970s, and my mother was not allowed to stay with me but had to get the head nurse’s approval to visit.

My first home, therefore, was not my parents’ house but a Red Cross clinic specially designed for cleft babies like me.

I can only imagine how stressful this period must have been for my mother.  Not only did she have a newborn in hospital and a three-year-old son at home, but she was also separated from my father who’d left Sweden and his family to pursue a career in the United States. Continue reading