A Childless Mother’s Mothering Sunday

It’s Mothering Sunday in the UK today…
So I’m celebrating motherhood.
Even though I don’t have womb babies,
and my own mother died a decade ago.

Yet despite all that, my mothership is still coming in…

I’ve got my first ever Mother’s Day card, from a gorgeous god child…
I’m dining out today with my partner, his mother and his son…
And this week I’ve met someone who connects me back to my own mum in the most natural and miraculous of ways…

Yes, regardless of any Hallmark calendar event, today I remember that I had a mother, who was who she was and partly made me who I am.

I know too, that in many ways, despite DNA, there are still many mothers in me.
And whilst that lone voice in my head might try to tell me that I’m the barren buck who stops here, with no children of ‘my own’, well I own ALL of my children – my god daughters, my many honorary nieces and nephews, my step children, the family I work with and even my cats…

So, here’s to Mothering Sunday for you and me, who ever and what ever we are… for we are all the children of many mothers and many mothers, woman or man, we may be.

A blurry memory of my mother

A Love Letter to a Wedding

For Niza, Liz & Hazel.

Here follows the speech which I gave at my eldest God Daughter’s wedding ceremony yesterday, held near Lusaka, in the African country of Zambia, which she has graciously allowed me to publish and share…

Greetings to you all.

As the pastor says, my name is Sandra, and I’m here as God Mother of the bride Elizabeth, and together with the bride’s mother, have travelled from England to Zambia, with other cherished family and friends: to stand, sit and celebrate with you all today, for the most precious of reasons. That being the joining of a man and a woman in marriage – cementing their family ties, with the coming together of their clans from across the globe, not forgetting of course, one very special little lady – Hazel Yande.

My speech

And Hazel here, is made of Niza and Elizabeth, so let me tell you a little of what that means….

I’ll start with Liz, for Liz I’ve known the longest, since before she was born in fact. Now the name Elizabeth has a biblical beginning, from the Hebrew, Elisheva (אֱלִישֶׁבַע), meaning “Gift of God.” And Liz really is a gift in so many ways, to those that know and love her, and in the work that she does, across the world and for the world, from Zambia, to Geneva. And, I truly have to say Liz, not just today, as the beautiful bride, but that every single day, you make us all so very proud.

Now as for Niza, his name means “I have arrived” in the Bemba tongue, a name of bounty, goodness and quiet strength. Now I don’t know this man as well as this woman, as yet… But what I do know I like a lot, not that this really signifies, for Liz and Niza have chosen each other and that the only really important thing.

So now to their daughter, Hazel, which is a nature name, literally ‘belonging to the place of the Hazelnut tree’. It derives from the Old English word, hæsel and is also a colour, which is a beautiful blend of green, gold and brown.

For me, today, Hazel doesn’t belong to that tree, she IS the tree, growing towards the sun, sheltered by her family and giving the grace of her shade and fruit, in so very many ways. And did you know that her middle name Yande means “Joy”? Well of course it does, for so she is!

Hazel Yande

So that’s what their names signify, telling some of the story of who they are, where they come from and so naturally, where they’re going to.

And today we all come together to formalise, legalise and rejoice in this union; this joining of man and woman, born of two different continents.

So often in history and geology we’ve been told that when continents collide, wars and earthquakes happen. And we know the way of the world. Yet isn’t it also a truth that when continents collude, that most divine of occurrences, a Hazel will happen…

And this most cherished child here, born of 2 continents, she isn’t a bridge between 2 wonderful people, their cultures and families. No – she is a strong, living tree with roots running down into the soil of two lands, anchoring the world firmly and holding us all in the branches of that tree, with her love, joy and infectious laughter.

The ceremony

Have you HEARD Hazel laugh? To hear this gorgeous girl giggle, well it feels like freedom – the sweetest weightlessness, as time stops and you share in that gorgeous moment of total happy abandon to the joy she feels and expresses, so delightfully and completely.

And here today, as we are all part of this tree, along it’s different yet united branches, we’re all held in the sunshine and storms of life, yet we’ll all continue to grow, together.

And these 3 have pledged to grow together as a family, to share their destiny and shine a light on the future.

And I can see many wonderful futures, for them all, yet for today I say: to Niza, Liz and Hazel I wish you a long, blessed and happy marriage, full of tolerance, harmony and an abundance of love.

To the new Lupambo family!

Time to Respair…

Thanks to Lexicographer Susie Dent, I’ve just discovered the word “respair”, which the Oxford English Dictionary describes as “the return of hope after a period of despair”

How gorgeously apt: For a new year after the strange sequences of the last 2 years… And for me, still in the grip of anxiety, yet optimistic that I now have good periods, sometimes whole days, when the coil inside me unwinds… And then calmness and clarity soften my thoughts and emotions.

Over the quiet days of Christmas and New Year, after so, so, long, I finally started to really relax and even had the luxury of boredom…

But then January wore on and the calls of duty and guilt started to spike into my brain. “I have RESPONSIBILITIES, things I MUST do, my absence is impacting negatively on others”, the script in my head screamed… Then my brain would freeze… And I would turn to the wall to cry, scream and rant. And then Cortisol (the stress hormone) was in my blood stream, and I was back in an animal fight or flight feeling, the coil of anxiety quickly wound tightly, again…

The truth is, that I have a short emotional fuse at the moment and things that may have simply irritated me just a wee while ago, now bundle up into a huge ball of stress in my psyche. I’m also experiencing Rhinitis, which means I have constant headaches and exhaustion… oh blah, blah, flipping blah…

But this is NOT a pity post. I’m proud that after my third such meltdown this week, I said to myself: “Stop this! This isn’t a resourceful state to be in. If you stop now, the Cortisol will dissipate more quickly from your system and you can manage this in hours, rather than days.” Then I stopped crying, wiped the tears off my face, sniffed the snot away and thought about what I needed to do next.

But the ‘Stop it Now’ thought came after a session with my life coach, who got me to re-evaluate some of my most negative current thought patterns. And I had a week where I finally made progress and appointments and appraisals for MYSELF and for my health. Not for my work or other people, but for my own SELF CARE. Care that I am now prioritising, because in order to ‘do’ and to give, I need to ‘be’ and receive.

It irritates me in one sense that as a coach, I had to go to another coach to get positive, inciteful questions that gave me the insights which made a massive difference to my healing. This included making the decision about needing to take more time ‘off’, which quite frankly, I was bricking… But it is what it is and so I decided that the responsibility was ultimately for myself. For this I have wanted support and I have certainly found coaching to be far more effective than counselling during this time. So it has to be said that my appreciation for this process is far greater than my irritation.

But also, my life isn’t ALL about anxiety – there are so many things to celebrate… I lay on my sanitised mat in a yoga class, relaxing every part of my body and releasing my mind. I finally remembered to meditate. Last night I cooked the most delicious meal for myself and relished every single bite of it. A friend called me in the week, because she was “worried” about me. I got some intriguing news that put a smile on my face. Watching TV, I often nestled into my boyfriend’s shoulder and every now and again he squeezed my hand… And life happens to other people and I get to worry about and / or support them, too.

Then, as the bountiful icing on the beautiful cupcake of life, I got a gorgeous word dropped into my consciousness and it chimed a truth to me…

So it’s time to respair my body and soul, by a myriad of methods. This includes giving myself the gift of time and not hiding away from anything that may trigger me, but instead to choose acceptance and consider the alternatives. And to think about how to strike the right balance in my life, instead of falling off the scales.

And maybe, you and I both, will feel ‘confelicity’, (another archaic word lost to our everyday ways) – which means the ‘joy in another person’s happiness’???

PS: For more about Susie Dent and her talent for words, follow this link to a recent article in The Guardian newspaper…

2021 Out, 2022 In…

Another year in this life has been lived…

A year of love, tears, trials and triumphs.
With Covid still here, hovering, attacking, omnipresent…
And anxiety alighted, to tell me that there is danger, physically and mentally… but of what, I’m still not sure…
And yet there was also, so often, laughter, enlightenment, chatter, family, friends, sunshine, sweetness and serenity.

This previous spinster of the parish, now gained significant others – a partner and his family, as we weaved our way through new chaos and connection.
In this year there have been holidays and hell; confusion and clarity… all of life’s mixed bag and more…

And now 2022 is coming to an end, whilst another awaits…
So… for 2022 I have no demands or resolutions, but I WILL ask questions…
How should I be? How can I help me, to help you, to the greater good?

As we meet another year, I wish you faith, fearlessness and fun;
that all your positive plans come to fruition;
that you listen, to what ever your speaking soul tells you.


Choosing Your Christmas

Despite my anxiety of late, I went to bed last night, content. And I lay there counting my blessings, reciting all the people, things and phenomena I was grateful for. In my head I said I was grateful for a warm bed on a cold night, for a full belly, for the people that are close to me, for my car, my cat and so many other things.

I woke up again today with a smile and a stretch, pulling open the curtains on a grey day and greeted the world outside my window.

Slowly I came to, until my cat yelled outside my door that she wanted fuss and breakfast.

I followed her downstairs, feeling the knot of anxiety in my stomach slowly tightening with each step down, as I went to face the day.

It would have been too harsh to my senses to flick on the switches of my workaday lights, so I wandered round and turned on my Christmas lights instead, to feed off their soft glow and to slowly absorb what is next today…

I have some dread about what’s ahead, but I shall tread carefully and take one small step at a time.

I know now I am having some times of calm, times when the tight knot of anxiety unravels within me. I know too that it comes back – flexes and fluxes, trying to take me over. I accept that and yet I ask my fear to teach me, not to diminish me. Humbly, I know there are lessons still to be learnt and choices to be made.

But for now I simply choose to breath… out and in…

I trust implicitly that the rest of what ever needs to happen, as the day unfurls, will just BE…

Right now, I need to keep it simple. Sit with the soft light and listen to my cat purr.

Christmas has crept up on me, softly, and I am quietly embracing it.

And that is me right now. But know that for YOU, what ever the week ahead or the year or minute may or may not have in store for you, that this is YOUR Christmas, to do with what you will or no, in your heart or head.

Maybe you will celebrate, maybe be alone, maybe you don’t or won’t celebrate Christmas – but that’s OK, it’s still YOURS, whatever shape or sense it has. So whatever that is, I wish you well. I wish you inner truth, peace and clarity, but mostly I wish you CHOICE.

When The Solstice is Telling Me to Stop

Dwindling daylight has shrunk to shortest day.
And tomorrow light lengthens again, as the sunshine starts to shine for a little longer – partnering in its’ ever transitioning cycles with the moon.
It’s time to turn towards sunlight and Spring again, as well as to turn over the fallen leaves of autumn, and sweep them away from my dim winter doorstep.
MY Winter though, actually began some months ago…
And whilst I wanted to keep the darkness quiet and work through it, that meant that I was feeling it, but not admitting to it.
One day in the early hours of a May morning, I woke up in panic, breathing hard and feeling terrified. My thoughts were spinning and tumbling, but I rationalised that it was a simple nightmare and the feelings would dissipate with the dawn.
But when I woke again, I felt a knot of anxiety at my core. My body felt flooded with Cortisol. And this stayed with me, over days and weeks – always, always that tight knot of anxiety, the feeling of being in fight or flight mode inside, no matter what I was doing on the outside.
Thinking I was simply stressed and needed a rest, I booked myself a spa break, thinking I either needed to be there or in a padded cell… But to my puzzlement, rest and pampering were not the cure – I still felt that anxiety at my core.
So I sought support. Talked to my GP, and saw a gynaecologist – as I believed menopause might be the cause and he tested me and agreed.
To me you see, it felt like a physical, rather than mental health issue, but still I did what the medicos said and sat with a counsellor, on the phone, talking it out. Whilst it felt good to vent, I found the process unfulfilling… It just wasn’t getting to the heart of what ever the matter was, or revealing anything I didn’t already know about myself and my life.
Yet things improved, time moved on, and the knot unraveled.
Then life started to happen… bereavement, trauma, stress, crisis, pain, surgery, illness…
Then to compound it all, my car broke down, and so did I. Driving home one evening, I stopped at traffic lights and my car stopped too. So I turned on the Hazard lights and started to sob with self pity and roar with indignant anger that this had happened to me. Passers by and police asked me if I was alright as they pushed my car to a side street, then left me to call for help, as the tears eventually subsided.
Well, help came, eventually. I called breakdown assistance, and waited 3 hours for them to cart my car away to a garage. And then my boyfriend turned up with a hat and mince-pies, to warm me up, cheer me up and drive me home.
And whilst all ended well, the knot of anxiety had returned, wound tightly within and this time I just could NOT unravel it.
Still though, I carried on with my life, as it was. I felt anxious and stressed, but this wasn’t ALL I was, I worked, loved, laughed, supported and smiled, too.
I talked to my loved ones, I went back to the doctor. I found a new life coach.
Yet life kept happening, there was more stress, and more to do, in every part of my life, with deadlines looming and decisions to be made.
But then you know, I’m ‘self aware’, a life coach, so I knew what was going on and what to do about it. Only I DIDN’T do it… Instead of facing up to it, I backed away from it, switching from thinking to doing, to block out the feeling. My survival it seemed, depended on hard work and getting things done – despite anxiety, illness and exhaustion. In response my brain shut down it’s consciousness, so I worked like an automaton. But I also stopped exercising, eating well, and writing – and so many of other things that fill me up, nurture me, and engender a sense of contentment. Instead, I continued to toil, as I was wading through mental treacle, feeling indecisive, slow and ineffective…
And Christmas was around the corner, or rather Chris-STRESS, with a 1001 ‘to does’ needing to be ticked off a long list, on top of everything else I was not doing or doing badly…

Until I just HAD to stop.

Because the panic attacks had come back and the anxiety was now a constant screaming pain in my gut.

So I started to confess my dirty, not so little secret – that the ditzy, positive, capable person that so many relied upon, had crashed and burnt.
And whilst I believe in openness and honesty, when people asked me how I was, I lied and said “I’m good”, fearing the consequences of revealing my ‘weaknesses’ and being a failure. It was a way in which I could exert some control over the chaos I found myself in, when in fact, it was actually covering up a LACK of control…
But then my doctor said ‘enough’. I had tried to keep all the plates in my life spinning, but instead they were crashing to the floor. But now someone had validated that I HAD to stop. And I’d known that for some time, but filed it away under ‘want’ rather than necessity, at the back of my brain. Looking back, I realise, that I wouldn’t actually stop, until someone else had given me permission…
So now, a few days later, I’ve slowed right down now, but not stopped as yet… I’m winding down to that and to Christmas. Instead of going cold (Christmas) turkey, I have been easing myself in, making changes, asking for help and having faith that all will work out as it should.
And as for Christmas, it will still happen – even if I only had the energy to put up one tree this year, the presents aren’t perfect and fewer cards have been sent. My health and happiness is far more important than any of these things. My gift to myself is the choice of a sweet and slow Christmas, with those I love, taking care of myself first and foremost, so I can be at my best for all the rest…
And whilst the doctor rubber stamped the stopping, it’s down to me now – to put myself first. To love who I am, instead of hating what I think and do. To give myself permission to do less, so that I get more (out of life). Deciding to let the world take care of ITself, whilst I take care of MYself. And not least, asking those around me for understanding and support.
The irony is that I have preached self care and self love for a long time now, exhorting others to ‘put the oxygen mask’ on themselves first, but still… here I am… So, as the bible says, ‘physician heal thyself.’ Be this physical or mental, unhealed trauma, hormonal or causal, I need to stop doing now and start BEING.
I write this not for sympathy or pity, because I know that I have so much to be thankful for in my life. This life is a gift and I want to make the most of every precious moment of it.
And to do that, I wanted to confess, to stop pretending to everyone and anyone about what is going on for me. And by being beautifully selfish about that, I want anyone going through anything similar at this moment in time, to give them self the permission to stop, too.
Please know that you CAN pause, rest and re-evaluate. What ever is going on for you, or your brain, sense of duty or someone else is trying to tell you.
Know that this is the way of life – Winter Solstice is giving way, slowly, to Spring. Nature is following its course, so that after all the darkness and cold, all is ready to be reborn and grow upwards, towards the sun. And as a creature who lives under that sun, it is now your time to do that too.
And where ever life finds you right now, may sweet solstice blessings be upon you, xx

December is here, but I’m not ‘there’

Well, December is here…

I’ve been compiling lists and making arrangements.

Suddenly, Christmas music is blaring out of my radio.

But I’m not ‘there’ yet – the music flows pass me, hitting some other random target.

It feels like a faux, forced party of excess and expectation is suddenly being shoved at me.

Since like last weeks snow, I’m melted.

Feeling wilted and tired, but still Noel is near…

And then I hear a snug song, that somehow chimes to the rhythm of my hesitant heart.

And I smile, softly inside.

And I feel festive, in my own, weird way.

And then I’m ‘there’…

And ‘December will be magic again’…

Sparked by the unique inspiration of the wonderful ~Kate Bush~

Good Bye to Vi

So, we came together today, to celebrate a life, from birth to beyond…

And we said good bye to that earthly part of Vi – or maybe Violet, Miss Round, or Mrs Barker, to you…

We chronicled her courtship, her work and her motherhood; transitioning on to Nanna, then again to Great Granny.

And today we all had our own memories, and smiled with recognition at the ones we shared about her, too, as we shared some of her 91 years’ long, life.

‘My’ Vi was feisty, fearless and sometimes scary. As a child I held her awe, watching as she blazed her own trail – teaching herself to play the guitar, going to night school and leading Keep Fit classes.

She was the mother of my best friend, so I received countless kindnesses from her and her husband George: spending endless Sundays in the back of the family car on trips to the country; or sitting at the dinner table, eating freshly buttered bloomer from a side plate, nestled next to a larger plate with a neat ham salad.

As time moved on, she mellowed more and whilst we had all grown up and left our parental homes, still we gravitated back to Vi’s living room – to laugh, chatter, drink tea and chomp on sausage sandwiches.

Vi would fix you with an eagle eye and speak her mind. So I remember treading on eggshells around her as a child and then turning the tables on her, by teasing her lovingly and remorselessly, as an adult, which she always took in good stead, with a knowing smile.

Along with that, her humour was as dry as a snapped winter twig, and her laughter loud – filling an entire room with its deep chuckles, surrounding you with its vibration, leaving you helpless to do anything other than guffaw along with her.

Her legacies are legion. For me I have the greatest gratitude of the gift of her daughter Susan – my friend since we were five years old. A friend who became kin, now the beating heart of her own growing family.

So Vi is part of the landscape of my life, held in a myriad of remembrances and smiles. She’s gone in one, 1 dimensional way, but here for ever in many more, held as she is, in so countless hearts – not just on our lips, as she was today…

So good bye Vi.

Give em hell in heaven, you 😉 xx

This photo is just so ‘Vi’ 🙂

Sensitivity is my Super Power & My Curse

Whilst sensitivity is my super power,

It can also feel like a curse…

Harsh words grate and are hurtful.

Others taking sides and making judgements,

is blind siding.

Venting coarse bile is wasteful and vengeful.

It cuts the person who wields the knife,

as well as the person they slice into.

Only when you stand at a distance, can you know.

Then listen and let go.

Not spit nonsense.

Not grow horns.

Not take your bad day out on another.

Think before you throw your poison darts. They’ve landed in my heart.

Lodged and bleeding.

My heads says it’s OK, and I will rationalise.

But my soul is sore.

My core is sensitive,

despite my hard shell.

I bruise like a fully ripened peach,

since I don’t understand your priority.

But I’ll just let it be.

Heal gradually.

Not give a fig, in a week or a decade’s time.

Use my sensitivity to divine and investigate and feel my way in to someone else’s receptive psyche;

in another moment, on the wind of another day.

Because sensitivity is my super power.

Hormones in the Time of Corona

I’ve lived with menopause for a decade. It’s been a bumpy journey. With mood swings, brain fog and anxiety, quite apart from the hot & sweaty sleepless nights.

I lost a lot… of friends, work, confidence as a direct result of it.

Then there were the tears – of confusion, rage and self pity and the gallons I shed when I realised I never would have the child/ren I always wanted…

Sometimes I’ve been silent about what I’ve been through, but so often I have spoken about it – to men, women, anyone… And I always felt listened to, even when I was lost.

And I WAS lost… dazed, indecisive and exhausted, living with it and getting on with my life. Managing it around moon cycles and hormone spikes. All the time with those hormones darkening and sharpening my thoughts. So at those times I avoided the daily commute in motorway traffic, undue stress and processed food. Instead meditating, breathing deep and educating myself.
13 million women are going through this in the UK alone, and it’s still such an unknown quantity.
I visited my GP for years, but traditional HRT would only ever temporarily manage my excessive symptoms. I wasn’t even aware until today that there are NHS Menopause clinics. Now I’m genuinely shocked I wasn’t referred to one; although looking at the map there is only one in my part of the country. Instead, eventually I went to a private Menopause clinic – this as far as I was concerned, was a necessity, not a luxury, and it made a major difference to my quality of life.
This isn’t a pity post. I’m finding my way through, taking action with mind, body and soul. And, I’m delighted to say, I feel no less of a woman right now or more over the hill, than at any point in my life.

Today, menopause is a fact of my life, and it’s an element of how I live it, but it doesn’t define me. It’s a transition, not a catastrophe; and I’ve decided how to handle it and go with it, as I move on through my life.

And I can still learn – that includes watching this programme this evening. For me, it was compelling and educational, even though I felt I knew a lot about the subject on many levels already (and the private doctor Davina speaks with, is the one I consulted with too).

There is still so much to learn… #davinamenopause https://www.channel4.com/programmes/davina-mccall-sex-myths-and-the-menopause?fbclid=IwAR1mVdJ5-CEO8yqDWIc-ErjlnYJ2z8JTOufNmgG-OJIRY_hMdV163O3PT7Q