Divorce, family and the future

‘He never hit me.’ I said that a lot the first few months after I left my husband. I had counselling with a domestic abuse charity; the CMS labelled our marriage breakdown as being due to emotional abuse. It had honestly never occurred to me until the day I left him that I was suffering from emotional abuse. I knew my marriage wasn’t ‘normal’. I knew I wasn’t happy, but I did not realise I was being abused.

In the early hours of that morning, I sent a text to my friend in desperation: ‘These are things that he does, and says, and thinks about me. He admits all of them but refuses to change, I don’t know what to do.’ The reply was almost immediate: I made the decision to go, our marriage was irretrievable at that point, but the words were a shock. I simply did not realise what had been happening to me for almost eight years.We met on a dating site when I was twenty-six years old, back in the distant past when you had to log on to a laptop to message potential partners. I had moved to a town in the South, far away from my friends and family. I felt I was being proactive, meeting people rather than staying in on my own. He was charismatic, reckless and a bit of a risk-taker; everything I had always shied away from in the past when looking for a boyfriend; but I was breathless with the attention and his impetuous nature.

We met on a dating site when I was twenty-six years old, back in the distant past when you had to log on to a laptop to message potential partners. I had moved to a town in the South, far away from my friends and family. I felt I was being proactive, meeting people rather than staying in on my own. He was charismatic, reckless and a bit of a risk-taker; everything I had always shied away from in the past when looking for a boyfriend; but I was breathless with the attention and his impetuous nature.

DivorceWithin two months we had rented a flat; within three we had bought a house. Within six I was pregnant. I had noticed he was a big drinker, we had already had many an argument over it, but I was always told that the problem with his drinking was my issue and not the drinking itself. Think about it: if you’re told something often enough you eventually start to believe it. When I was close to my due date, I asked him to stop drinking so that he could drive me to the hospital if I went into labour at night. He said he was drinking for two and we would call a taxi.There were much more issues over the years. He called me names,

There were many more issues over the years. He called me names, ‘Sexless Being’ was a particular favourite of his. He created false Facebook accounts so he could chat with other women, he ran up debts for online porn. He took out a loan in my name without my consent that years later, I still don’t know what it paid for. He once emailed me a list of ‘32 acts’ he wanted me to perform for him. He refused to make any effort, it was all down to me to please him.

I used to look at other marriages with envy. I’m not naïve enough to think that all other marriages are perfect, but I realised mine was definitely lacking. I was once at a friend’s house having cuddles with her newborn. It was a Friday and her husband came home early from work. He came in, kissed his family, made us all a cuppa and held the baby whilst he had his coffee. Then he went outside, washed both their cars – and mine too as it was there – and then washed the windows too. I was almost speechless. If my husband had finished work early on a Friday, he would head to the pub. He’d drive home drunk hours after we’d had tea, and I’d dealt with homework and bedtime stories.

We bought our own house, stupidly I thought it might bring us together. It didn’t. If I wasn’t back from the school run in time to get him up for work and present him with a cup of coffee, I was in trouble. If I sat downstairs reading on my day off rather than doing housework, I was in trouble. If I chopped the peppers or the bacon incorrectly, I was in trouble. I remember walking back from the school run one morning. I’d been chatting to a friend and was late, I knew he’d be angry with me, especially if work had already tried putting through calls and I’d not got him up in time. So, I daydreamed that he would die young, maybe in his fifties, and I could hopefully have a nice life after that. I was 34 and he was 35 at the time.

I know what people will be thinking as they read this: why on earth didn’t I leave him? I look back now and I ask myself the same thing. The answer is that quite often he was nice. Things would be fine for months. He’d be the model husband and Dad. We’d have fun and go on dates and go on camping holidays and I’d think: ‘Yes. This is it. We’ve sorted it. He’s realised what’s important’. But before long, I would sense a change in atmosphere, and I knew the storm was coming, I just didn’t know when. I’d live in fear until it happened. The drunkenness, the intimidation, the blame.

Since the separation I’ve created this handy image, to try and explain what being married to my then-husband was like. Picture a wide river. The current is choppy, and hard to swim in. I’m at one side and he’s at the other. The river is the disagreement, the gulf to cross. I immediately jump in. I want to get to the other side and sort it, put the issue to bed. He doesn’t, he wants to make things worse and make me suffer. So instead of jumping in the river to help me, or at least helping me out the other side, he starts throwing things at me to make it harder to make it across; old tyres, shopping trolleys and sacks of rubbish. These are labelled: Lazy, Bad Mother, Doesn’t earn enough, Doesn’t try to be sexy. I’d always strive to solve the argument, but he delighted in muddying the waters. You can’t mend a marriage like that, not on your own. It just took me eight years to see it.

So one day, five days before Christmas 2014, I took the leap. I put my clothes and our daughter’s into two suitcases, and I moved back to my parent’s house, and within a month, we moved into our own small house. I went for a promotion and got it. Bits of the last two and a half years have been fantastic, bits of it, worse than I ever could have imagined.

Last week the courts signed off on our financial agreement, meaning we are no longer connected financially and can have no claim in the future. The divorce had been finalised in 2015, but I needed the divorce to be done, as I knew how long and complicated financial arrangements can be. I also reclaimed my maiden name. My Dad says, one by one we have disentangled every tentacle he had around me – my family clearly love a good metaphor. It’s been hard, harder than I ever could have considered it would be. There were times I felt broken, that he’d beaten me; there were also times that I thought I’d never stop crying. There have been times that I had to fight, and fight really hard. Those times mainly concerned issues with our daughter, who more than anything else I have done my best to protect. I’ve had help from mediators, family support workers, social workers, school mentors, counsellors and the CMS on how to best support my daughter. I’m now fluent in a language that previously I didn’t know existed, let alone knew how to speak.

Amongst all of this I’ve done my best to be a good Mum and to give my daughter a more calm and stable home life than she had before. She remembers the arguments and accepts that we are happier apart. Naturally, I’ve shielded her from most of the reasons why we split up. However, she is almost nine now and has a very mature and sensible head on her shoulders – she loves her Dad and visits him, but I’m pretty sure she knows more than I have told her. My family and I have a strong sense of togetherness; she is not short of love and support and is such a happy and balanced young girl, and I’m so proud of her. When she first started to visit her Dad, after the separation, I told her that her heart and mine lay next to each other for nine months, and that hasn’t changed. I told her, my heart will always be next to hers – she likes that a lot, and I’m making the most of the affection between us before the teenage years arrive!

I love my job; I’m lucky that I have a passion and I’m able to get paid for it and I strive to do it well. I want my daughter to know that I worked hard and I stood on my own two feet. I feel proud that I got promoted only 3 months after the separation – I wondered at the time if I’d gone a little mad to even consider going for it, and once I’d got it, I wondered how the hell I was going to make it work! Fortunately, as always, my amazing parents were there for support, both practically and emotionally.

My Mum had a stroke last June. That was, without a doubt, the worst time of all our lives. We nearly lost her, but she fought with all her strength and is doing well now and continuing to make improvements in both her speech and mobility. When she was in the hospital my brother and I would talk about my ex-husband in order to encourage her to swear – our argument was that it was part of her speech therapy and therefore helpful. My Dad continues to be my rock too, in spite of the changes that have taken place in his life too; he cares for Mum full time.

I’ve also carved a new life for myself. I have a lovely, caring, kind and considerate boyfriend who has taught me what it is to be partners and he is the kind of man that my daughter stands at the window for, to watch for his arrival. I could not feel more loved and respected; he is endlessly patient with me and my constant need to apologise. I’m getting there; when he reminds me not to say ‘sorry’. I have learned not to immediately say it again – one day at a time! He’s also helped me to see that there may be a day in the future when I might walk down the aisle once more.

Counselling helped me immensely, I didn’t know how much I needed it until I’d had it, but I know that I couldn’t have started a new relationship until I’d exorcised the demons of my marriage.

I’m currently off sick. The completion of our financial agreement was the final thing I’d been fighting him for, and my body sort of crumpled into a heap after it’s conclusion; I am one very snotty Emma right now! I’m having a rest from all that ‘strong’, but I know something that I didn’t before; how much of it I have inside me when it’s required. I’m looking forward to the next chapter, hopefully without any choppy rivers in it.

Emma xxx

My Life – Michaela Strivens

This is my first article after taking a mini break from blogging. I am so excited to be back. My first interview is with the amazing Michaela Strivens, a photographer and a mum of two based in Carshalton- Surrey.  Her amazing photographs caught my eye many times on her Facebook page and Instagram. When  Michaela emailed to say we should collaborate on some pictures I could not resist her offer. What I love  most about Michaela’s photography style is that there are no props or posing – she catches yu on unaware . I totally love these portraits she took on our stroll at a Carshalton  Park. Her details are at the end of this interview, you can follow her work there.

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When was Michaela Strivens Photography set up?  I started my professional Facebook page at the beginning of Summer and went live with my professional website at the beginning of Autumn this year.

Why did you set up Michaela Strivens Photography? After my second daughter was born, I decided not to return to my marketing job. The cost of childcare for two children would have wiped out most of my salary and I wasn’t feeling particularly motivated in my job anyway. Adjusting to life as a stay-at-home mum wasn’t easy for me at first. I often felt quite lonely and, dare I say it, bored! There’s only so many times you can play doctors and patients without wondering whether an actual trip to the hospital might actually be quite fun! I found that meeting up with other local mums and volunteering really helped but I needed something more…

I’ve always loved photography but never took it that seriously. It was my husband who suggested I take it further and so I enrolled in a photography course designed for parents, and from then on I’ve been totally hooked. Photography has ignited a passion in me that I always knew was there but just wasn’t sure of how to access. I feel incredibly grateful every single day that I’ve found this path.

Setting up a photography business wasn’t necessarily something that I’d planned to do but more of a natural progression. After seeing my work, friends and family started asking me to take photos of their kids, and then their friends asked and so it got to the stage where I thought I’d better start doing things properly! It was a little daunting at first, but with the encouragement of friends and family, and lots of photo sessions and later, Michaela Strivens Photography was born.

What makes your photography stand out from the saturated world of photography?  I’m a lifestyle portrait photographer, which means I use natural light, shoot on locations that mean something to my clients (either out and about or at home) and steer away from using props or rigidly posing my subjects. I don’t do cake smashes (unless you invite me to the party itself) or put babies in vegetable crates, but I respect that there’s a market for that style of photography and it’s already being very well catered for. I’d say that what makes me unique as a photographer, is the approach that I bring to the shoots; from the relationship that I build with the people I am photographing to the way that I and portray them. I am passionate about capturing authentic moments and expressions, which I hope translates into the photographs themselves. Most importantly, photography is not just a job for me, but a way of life and something I’m deeply passionate about. My hope is that this is reflected in photographs that my clients will love too and will look back on fondly in years to come.

Photography business

You are a mum of two very young kids, how has motherhood changed you? I think motherhood has in the most part changed me for the better. I used to be a lot more obliging with people I didn’t agree with but these days I will stand up for what I believe is best for me and my family without hesitation. I also used to spend a great deal of time worrying about my appearance but now I don’t have time for vanity and so I’m much more comfortable in my own skin! Being a mother has meant that my focus is much more ‘outward’ which for me, has been a positive development. I’m much more involved in my local community than I was before – whether it be through helping to run a local mums and toddler’s group, or just reading with the children at my daughter’s school.

How do you maintain a work and life balance? As my photography business is still in its early stages so I’m still finding my way on that front. The next couple of months will be a real test for me as fortunately, I’m working almost every weekend! At the moment, I’m doing photo sessions when my husband can take care of the girls and I spend a lot of evenings editing photos, emailing, updating social media and the like. I sometimes feel guilty when the girls are plugged into the TV and I’m doing something work related on the computer but then I remember that if I had gone back to my old job they’d most likely be in after school care or similar and so don’t feel so bad! I’m always there for them when they need me but I also remind them on occasion that I have needs too and that they need to respect that. When I’m feeling a bit worn out I explain this to them and suggest that we do a less demanding activity. I think it’s important, especially in this day and age when mums are under so much pressure to be everything to everyone, to be honest with your kids. If you’re not up for another round of hide and seek then you have to speak up. I’ve had to relax my standards of neat and tidiness around the house quite a bit but I’m my own worst enemy on that front – no one else in the family cares if the house hasn’t been dusted for ages! My husband works long hours and travels quite a bit so he’s not around to help out with domestic stuff but he’s behind what I’m doing 100% and a great emotional and intellectual support. I’m very grateful for that.

What is the movie that made you cry the hardest? Dumbo.

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If you ran the world, what law would you introduce?You have to have volunteered and worked with the most disadvantaged people in your local community before you become a politician.

How do you chill out? I love a good Scandinavian crime drama or movie along with a tall glass of something yummy.

What skills would you like to pass on to your daughters? The ability to empathise, to know and understand the rules before you go breaking them and how to make pancakes (everyone loves a pancake).

What is your favourite food? I couldn’t live without cheese – the smellier the better!

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Freewill or destiny? A mix of both I think. Everyone has the power to change the path they’re on, even if it’s just a little bit. It’s good to have an understanding of how your upbringing and experiences have influenced the choices you’ve made in life but at the end of the day, they’re your choices and you’re responsible for them.

In three sentences, tell us what we don’t know about you.I’m Australian and have lived in four countries – Australia (obviously), Hong Kong, Japan and England. I spent my teenage years studying dance instead of going to high school. I have a metal rod and five nuts and bolts in my left arm – the result of an unfortunate snowboarding accident!

You can contact Michaela using any of the details below.

Website: www.michaelastrivensphotography.com

Email: michaelastrivensphotography@gmail.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/michaelastrivensphotography

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/michaela.strivens

Who are family?

Do you have a dysfunctional family? If you don’t, then, you are one of the lucky few in this big wide world of ours. A few of us have dysfunctional families that we tend to hide (and don’t talk about) from you. We feel ashamed. We feel judged. We feel sad. Our family is dysfunctional because we have that family member who just doesn’t know how to behave – their values are out of whack with ours. Most of us resort to avoiding family gatherings except at Christmas when all family members are expected to come together. In the dysfunctional family, at Christmas, there is always a row or a fight.

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Like you, I have a dysfunctional family but I don’t feel ashamed about it. There is absolutely no need to be ashamed. I have come to understand that my family’s dysfunction does not define me or you. It is what it is – a dysfunction. Having family problems is what life throws at us; we did not go looking for family problems. Family problems also did not come looking for us, however, some bad choices along the way by some family members invited the problems which may ( or may not) lead to a dysfunction.

Sometimes, family problems are just what life throws at you. As an adult I am sure you know, life throws different balls at us, some can be juggled properly and some. we can’t.

Life is also very clever. It recompenses the people with dysfunctional families. It surrounds us with solid friends, husbands, wives, etc. I have solid people in my life. My husband is the most solid of them all. I have friends who are solidly unshakeable… people who have my back. People, who are not related to me by blood, but through life. These people will do for me what blood family members won’t do. They care for me the way blood family members won’t care. You know what I am talking about, don’t you? Those people are the people I call family.

Who are the people you call family?

Yvonne

“Don’t get suckered into pity-sex!”

When I received this piece from Laura (a regular contributor to KemiKids) I smiled and laughed. Laura’s fabulous and sparkling personality shines through in her writing. “Don’t get suckered into pity-sex!” is hilarious and beautiful. I hope it has the same effect on you as it did me –  Laura tells us what she really wants as a present on Valentine’s Day.
Yvonne xxx

Laura talks Valentine’s Day present

The start of this year has been challenging, to say the least. At the very centre of our Venn diagram of love and family, we’ve had a death and a cancer diagnosis.

So, our ordinary lives have been rocked on a seismic scale. Thanks to our awesome friends, we’re rolling our sleeves up, knocking back a few drinks and once again, finding the joy that is most definitely out there!

Everyone has offered their condolences to comfort us, shoulders to cry on and arms to hug. All these have helped to carry the weight. But one very astute and clever mamma gave me the best advice any girl could get, ‘No grief-baby!’

Pardon”, I replied, not being familiar with the term. So she said, “Laura If you think you feel bad now, imagine how you’ll feel in nine months’ time when you turn 40 – with a newborn baby.” My face dropped, the impact of her advice sinking in. “Don’t get suckered into pity-sex!”

I howled with laughter and thought, “Yes… this is my kind of friend!” In the midst of all of my grief, she’s still got my back and thinking of my future.

Let me be clear, I have no issue with anyone having a new born baby as they depart their 30s. In fact, I think it’s great. I love babies – other people’s. But this friend knows me well and tapped directly into my core. She knows how much I have struggled with the lack of sleep, lack of privacy and my identity as a mum.

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So this Valentine’s Day, I have decided to resurrect the topic of having a vasectomy with my dear husband. No flowers, handbags or diamonds are necessary – always welcome but not necessary. What I’d love to receive more than anything is a little itty-bitty appointment card for him with the GP.

Funnily enough, he was the one to suggest it after the birth of our son – but that was four years ago.

Over the last 10 years, we have created a family. We’ve gone into labour three times… been on the pill, been off the pill, recoiled at the coil, ripped my lady parts apart, stitched them back up, and gone under the knife to fix a leaky bladder caused by all this child-bearing malarkey.

I say ‘we’ but really I mean ‘me’. I regret none of it. My husband has always been a rock – taken any abuse (or mobile phones) thrown at him and I love him for it.

But now I really need to pass the buck. As we both approach the big 4-0 this year, it’s his turn to take one for the team.

Laura.

 

TRADITIONS

Celebrating traditions old and new

Because it’s nearly Christmas … and Christmas is all about celebrating traditions, we asked one of our favourite contributors, Monika Buglear to tell us how she celebrates traditions old and new.

Photos by Monika

I love traditions. For me, its part of life and childhood … especially cooking and baking. When I was a child – around Christmas time – I still clearly remember going back home after hours of sledging with my friends, taking off my snow boots and the amazing smell of my mum’s cakes running through the house.

My mum made sure that every birthday, every Christmas, every Easter, every family celebration and every Sunday was filled with the yummiest food. And the smell of her gorgeous cakes was just unmissable.

I am also very keen to pass on this tradition to my children, hoping that one day, they will have the same fuzzy and warm feeling when they cook or bake cookies with their own babies. I love how they know that every Sunday is our family day and how they expect us to cook a roast dinner with all the trimmings then followed by board games or a snuggle on the sofa.

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Traditions give me comfort, reassurance and happiness. It’s like the scent of a freshly brewed coffee smell in the morning. I can still remember my mama brewing herself fresh coffee every morning, and the smell of her coffee sneaking from the kitchen and finding its way through my bedroom door greeting me with a good morning smile.

About a year ago I started using the same coffee maker as my mum; I love how especially in the mornings, my own home is now filled with the same fresh coffee aroma as that of my childhood. I hope my children get the same comfort that I got from that.
Pancakes are also part of our family tradition; every Sunday we make pancakes. My son even came up with the term “the pancakers” to describe us. He can now easily crack the eggs and mix all the ingredients together. He loves helping out with all the cooking just as much as my daughter.

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We also do Pizza Fridays. I make the dough and from the age of three, my son has been spreading the tomato purée and putting all the ingredients on top before we put it in the oven and waving it good bye while saying “be delicious”!
Cooking is great fun for us. Spending all this time together is so precious and important.

Here is one of our favourite recipes that we make a lot – Raspberry scones:

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What you’ll need:
2 cups of all-purpose plain flour
1/4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup of cold butter cut into small squares
1/4 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup of milk and some extra for brushing
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg

Glaze:
2 tablespoon butter melted
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3-5 tablespoon milk

What to do:

  1. Put all the scone ingredients together to make the dough.
  2. Roll it out and spread raspberries evenly on it (we often use frozen raspberries especially at this time of the year but fresh even better)
  3. Roll it up and slice it.
  4. Put it on a tray
  5. Brush it with a little milk.
  6. Bake the scones for 20 minutes.
  7. Once the scones cooled, drizzle with the glaze.

It’s so scrumptious and quick.  Enjoy x

Monika is on Instagram https://instagram.com/mbuglear/.  She is also on Facebook 

Celebrating kids' achievements

Celebrating achievements in our house

Celebrating kids' achievements

Friday is my favourite day of the week. Not just because it is the start of the weekend, but because of the celebration ceremony that we have during our family dinner. Our celebration ceremony is a time when we celebrate each other’s achievements for that week.

Before dinner, John has a tête-à-tête with each of our daughters, separately asking what they think each member of the family has done well that week. During dinner, John tells us what has been said.

Our kids get excited about this celebration – especially if it is a week when they have done well. Say for example Lore moved from ‘lime’ to ‘black’ reading level – we’ll celebrate that, or Ola gave her sister a cuddle when she was feeling sad – we’ll celebrate that also.

With John and me, the children tend to repeat the same thing to us every week… it is always, Mama cooked a nice meal, Mama did well with her blog, Papa went to work to bring in some money, Papa took us to the park, etc., etc. It does not matter that our daughters repeat the same achievements  for John and me, what matters is that the children can see and appreciate what we do to keep them safe, fed and watered.

Our Friday celebration is basically our way (John and me) of letting our children know that we recognise their hard work at home and at school. It is a way of letting them know that we know how hard they have worked to achieve whatever it is they have achieved. It is also our way of encouraging them to try harder where they have not done so well.

Ideally, this celebration should happen every Friday but it doesn’t. It did not happen last week Friday because we dined out and did not get back home ‘till late.

Do you have a weekly or a monthly routine that you do in your house to encourage each other? I am always willing to learn and incorporate such ideas into our house, please leave a comment for me.

Yvonne xxx

Fish wellington

How to make a salmon wellington with your leftover

Fish Wellington recipe

For dinner on Saturday night, I baked a whole salmon for the family. And yes, its bones, skin, head and tail were still intact. I did not realise how big the fish was until I  was cleaning it. So, the plan for the leftover was to use in a sandwich or salad.

On Sunday morning, feeling a bit overwhelmed by my To-Do list, I decided not to make an elaborate Sunday Lunch but instead use the leftover salmon sitting in the fridge. I wanted something simple to make but rich and tasty. Looking through my many cookbooks, I settled on a Salmon Wellington -Yvonne’s style.

The result was very yummy, we all had seconds! Since it was very good, I thought I’d share the recipe with you.

PS. If you do not have leftover fish, you can use fresh fish but just cook for longer.

All you need

2 tbsp olive oil

Chopped Onions,

Spinach

Leftover salmon

3 tbsp Dijon mustard

2 tbsp clear honey

1 tbsp white wine vinegar

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 x 380g/13oz ready-made puff pastry sheet

Plain flour, for dusting

1 beaten egg

How to cook it

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Line a large baking tray with baking parchment
  2. Fry the onions for 7-10 minutes in the olive oil.
  3. Add the spinach to the pan until wilted
  4. Season with salt and pepper
  5. In a separate bowl, Mix the Dijon mustard, honey and white wine vinegar. Add the cooled spinach mixture.
  6. Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured surface. Lay on the lined baking tray.
  7. Lay the cooked leftover salmon in the centre of the pastry pile the spinach on top of the salmon.
  8. Brush the edges of the pastry with the beaten egg.
  9. Fold the pastry over the fish, sealing the edges by pressing them together, leaving a gap in the centre, so that you can see inside.
  10. Brush the pastry with more beaten egg and bake for 25 minutes.

Serve with any green salad

Yvonne xxx