The Flossie Returns!

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Hurrah! I am back!! This is my first post in a long time but I’m determined to get back into my blogging!  I’m conducting a social networking experiment at the moment, which I hope will allow me to blog more and I will post about that at the end of January but for now it’s just….

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!

God, it’s been so long I’ve even forgotten how to change the font and colour!!!

nb. Facebook friends.  This posts to my PAGE on Facebook so it doesn’t count!!! ;-)

Twirling……

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Last week I went to see my consultant for a discussion about what is happening with my boob.  To give those of you the background to this post – I had breast cancer 14 years ago.  I had a lumpectomy (some of the tissue removed but not all) and radiotherapy.  Five years later I had the other breast reduced to try and match the two up (BIG mistake in my opinion, looking back, but I was guided by the surgeon obviously).  This was still not successful due to the tissue on my right breast being taken from above the nipple, thus inducing a ‘dent’.  Making the other smaller didn’t really make much difference.

I then had an implant put in, which failed to ‘drop’ into position and had to walk around with a most peculiar shaped breast, which I fondly referred to as my ‘third tit’ or ‘the tit on my shoulder’.  It took me two years to get this rectified, and a complaint to my local trust who had led me to believe I would get some new treatment which wasn’t actually available to them.  Eventually I was referred elsewhere to a proper plastic surgeon who promised he would be able to give me back a matching pair.  This involved a big operation, taking tissue from the stomach and transplanting it into the breast, along with micro surgery to establish a whole new blood supply to this tissue.  The bonus was that I got a tummy tuck so, it all sounded like the perfect solution.   The dodgy implant was removed and I had that surgery.  Still, the stubborn scar on that breast refused to allow anything to lift it.  I now had an elipse shaped skin graft which had been taken from my tummy and didn’t match my breast skin tone, and completely scarred up and unmatching breasts.  They said they could fix it.  They inserted another implant.  This helped a little but they still couldn’t fill the gap, as it were.  More surgery, they said. This time, just a little fat injection from my thigh tissue into the breast, day surgery, so nothing major.  I was put on the waiting list.

I’m still on that list, ten months later.  I started reconstructive surgery in 2005.

So I went to see the consultant to see what he had to say, since I had been seen only by his team since the big surgery. He is one of the top ten in his field apparently, so I knew he’d be able to help.

What he told me was not what I wanted to hear.  He said that there is nothing else they can do.  Radiotherapy has altered the cells and each time I am operated on I run the risk of infection, more so than normal.  He said that all the surgery I can have I have had.  He said they can still do the minor op but it isn’t realistically going to make my right boob look like my left one.

And then he said something that hurt a lot.  He told me I have become fixated on this boob and that I need to accept it for how it looks and get on with my life.

Tears pricked me as he said that. I felt like I was being told off. I felt like a time waster, a malingerer and someone who was just being vain.

Driving away from the hospital, his words sank in.

I HAVE become fixated.  I AM obsessed with getting it to look right.  And I AM running my life around surgery dates.

So I reframed what he had said.  I thought about it. My breasts aren’t the same.  They look different to each other. But so do a lot of other women’s who haven’t even had surgery.  They are healthy. They are a nice handful. They look fine when  I have clothes on. I have two.  They are mine.  I will love them. Both of them. I might love the left one a little bit more, a favourite, so to speak.  But I will LIKE the right one and treat it with respect.

Earlier this year, I performed on stage on my own, dancing burlesque to a crowd of people, some I knew, a lot I didn’t.  This was my challenge to myself, not to stand on stage, but to SHOW my breasts.  I wanted to LIKE them but I thought I was still able to have more cosmetic surgery at that point.

However, it was very therapeutic to do this

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Yes, I stripped to my tassels and I twirled.

Now, who needs a matching pair when you can do THAT?!!

Oscar la Boska – an obituary

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One day, in 1999, my then 14 year old son came home from school and told me his friend’s dog had had puppies and I simply HAD to see them…..they were too cute.

My daughter, 16 at the time, had been pestering us to get a dog for as long as I could remember.  We had tried to placate her with numerous hamsters, rats and even cats but she still wanted a dog with all her heart.

At that time, I was off work recovering from breast cancer and I was expected to be off for several months.  My husband and I discussed it and decided that, between us all, we could be there for a puppy more or less every minute of the day, even when I returned to work.  He worked odd hours, often not starting until afternoon and then working evenings, I worked part time, so I was home early and both children came home from school in the afternoon so we figured we could work it out.

We decided not to tell my daughter so, when the puppies were ready to go, my son and I went to pick up Oscar, a strange looking little terrier, a mix of pure white Staffie and a cross Jack Russell/Yorkshire terrier. A little hairy staffie with big ears….

We put Oscar in a box and I asked my daughter to hold the box when I got in, saying I had something in my shoe.  She seemed confused but took the box.  At that point, Oscar popped out.  Her face was a picture.  A mixture of puzzlement, surprise and pure disbelief.  She didn’t believe me when I said he was ours……there were tears of joy when she realised he was!

Oscar initially became my dog, since I was the one at home all the time and I house-trained him and generally taught him the rules.  He was to become everyone’s dog of course but I was his mummy at that time and he was a very good little boy.  All the while I was recovering from breast surgery and the subsequent radiotherapy, my little puppy was there, wagging his tail and being adorable.

Oscar grew, my children grew, we all got on with our lives……he was a funny little dog, full of character and everyone loved him.  He had a feisty streak too and a particular ‘attitude’ towards big dogs!  My husband called him an ‘Essex Terrier’ as Oscar thought he was as tough as all the big dogs.

Oscar was there whenever one of us was upset, wagging his tail or simply lying down with us.  He comforted me when I lost my beloved dad and saw us all through many family ups and downs.

In 2004 my husband passed away after a short battle with cancer.  Yet again, Oscar was our little tower of strength, comforting us all and staying with his dad through his illness.  He knew  there was something very wrong but he carried on being Oscar and making us smile, even when there didn’t seem as if there was anything to smile about.

Since then, I’m happy to say, life has been a little less stressful and Oscar found a new dad when KD came to live with me five years ago.  As Oscar grew older, KD looked after him, taking him for walks, talking to him and generally being a wonderful dad to my beloved dog.  He became KD’s dog too and the two of them were inseperable.  

Oscar started to become ill earlier this year and we had to go back and forth to the vet’s with him.  Everyone in the vet knew him well and always loved it when he had an overnight stay.  They all said what a darling little dog he was, such a character.  We knew he was not getting any younger.

Oscar started to have problems breathing.  We knew things had got much worse but we had a holiday booked and didn’t know what we would do.  He needed a lot of care by now.  My son changed his work rota around and stayed with him so we could still go.  He barely left the house and made sure Oscar had his tablets, as well as feeding him fillet steak and sausages because, by now, Oscar wasn’t eating properly.  He was not a well dog but he enjoyed the week with my son.  His little tail wagged and he tried to follow him around the house, although his breathing didn’t always let him.

The day after we returned from Italy we made the very difficult decision to put Oscar out of his pain.  We knew he would only get worse and he was struggling more and more each day.  It was the most difficult decision I have ever made.  He was still wagging his tail and making an effort to follow us around but, in his eyes, he was saying, ‘please help me mummy’.

On Friday 14th June, we took Oscar to the vet and we said goodbye to him.  We stayed with him while they put him to sleep and I cuddled him as he left this world.

We brought him home the next morning and buried him in our garden, with some beautiful rose bushes to mark the spot.  It is Oscar’s memorial garden.

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The pain of losing your dog is indescribable.  If you are not a dog lover/owner you probably wouldn’t understand but anyone who is will know exactly how we feel.  There is a huge empty space in our lives now.  No more ‘tap tap’ of his claws on the stone floor, no snoring in the night, no waggy tail, no little friend.

But the pain of losing Oscar was worth going through for the 14 years of absolute joy we had with him.

RIP Oscar la Boska

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Old Kefalonia

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We went to visit a place called Assos yesterday.  Most of Kefalonia was destroyed by the 1953 earthquake but there are ruins dotted about.  This was the stairs to a building that fascinated me and, consequently I took a lot of photos.  There was something eery and sad about it but also something incredibly beautiful.

First ever CABARET NIGHT!!!!

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Last Saturday night approximately fifty women, all shapes and sizes and ranging in age from early twenties to mid sixties, took to the stage to perform in the first ever Burlesque Jems student showcase, at the Triangle Club in Chelmsford, Essex.
The event was organised to raise funds for Chelmsford Women’s Aid but it was also an opportunity for the women who attend the four classes across Hertfordshire and Essex to perform together for the first time.
The evening was expertly compered by the lovely Sonia Cakebread and the dancing kicked off with a wonderful solo performance by Jem Ayres, or ‘Mama Burlesque’ as she is known to her ladies.  Following on from this, there were performances from each of the different classes as well as from the strip club, who meet once a month, and some of the ladies who attended a weekend residential earlier in the year.  A duet was performed by Faye Wade and Lindsey Barrell Dixon and there was a wonderfully entertaining solo by Jo Lawrence.
Each performance was very different to the last. The opening number was Good Girl, a feel good dance that some of the women had only learned the previous week, in a special one-off workshop.  This was followed by Harlow’s Lola, which changed the mood to sultry and sexy.  Candyman, performed by Bishops Stortford, was sassy and fun and Big Spender, by the Ware ladies, was bold and brassy.   The Chelmsford ladies performed Wanna Make Love to You with their usual confidence and the residential class had the audience spellbound with a powerful performance of Feeling Good. Some ladies just performed one number, others were in almost every one, depending on how many classes they are involved with.
As a performer myself last night, I thought the evening was spectacular. I have got to know women from all the classes over the nine months I have been attending my local class, some just online via the Facebook page but others by going along to support various performances at local events.  Saturday night was the first time we had all been together and the atmosphere was amazing.
Women who never dreamed they would be on stage dancing in front of an audience (me included!), were strutting their stuff with confidence and shimmying as if they were professional dancers.  Everyone supported each other with hugs and kisses and words of encouragement and congratulations.  It was a beautiful sight, all these women, dressed in their corsets and bustles, sparkles and feathers, both on stage and off, mingling with the audience and dancing to the disco in between performances.  The emphasis was not on technique, it was all about fun.  And fun it was!
The Burlesque Jems is a unique community of women, brought together by Jem over the last year or so and held together by each other. Most of the women have never performed before and many have felt uncomfortable about their bodies for all sorts of reasons. Burlesque Jems enables women to confront their demons and to overcome their inhibitions to allow them to feel confident and self assured.  Some women attend just because they love the whole vibe that goes with burlesque but, whatever the motivation to come, everyone loves our burlesque community!
The evening was a resounding success and raised over £900 for Women’s Aid, selling 130 tickets in all.  However, as well as the success of the show as a fundraising event, the evening was hailed as a major achievement for the organiser, Jem Ayres.  Little over a year ago, Jem started the first burlesque class in Chelmsford.  Shortly after, the second class in Bishops Stortford started running, followed by a class in Harlow and one in Ware.  There has been a very successful Glamourpuss residential weekend, with another planned next year, and regular boudoir photo shoots and vintage hair and make up sessions, as well as nipple tassel workshops.
Last night’s cabaret was the first of what will hopefully become an annual event. I certainly hope so!
For more information or if you want to get involved contact Jem on 07903 188 404 or jemayres@yahoo.co.uk
I think the expression on my face says it all!!! Such fun!

Winging it…..

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Today I was very organised.  For me.  

I got up early to switch on my laptop and check that the Powerpoint presentation I had carefully prepared last week looked as good as when I switched off on Friday, in readiness for a two-hour talk to professionals and foster carers about drug use and young people.  To my utter horror, I couldn’t open it.  I had saved it to the wrong drive and the only way I could access it was if I docked the laptop in at work.  No time to go into the office as I had to be in another part of the county in 45 minutes time!!

Fortunately, I had printed off a copy of the slides with the idea that I would jot down some notes over the weekend.  That didn’t happen, obviously, but I did at least have the text I had carefully prepared before me, so I hurriedly typed out another set of slides, jumped into the car and arrived with seconds to spare.  The new Powerpoint presentation lacked the pretty patterns and font that the original had sported but it saw me through the two-hour talk I had to give. Nobody was any the wiser and I managed to appear knowledgeable, professional and confident to all those present.

I thought I had stopped doing that.  Leaving it to the last minute, I mean.  I have got much better in recent years at preparing myself for things.  (I think that comes from living with Mr OCD actually!!) but it has certainly taught me that life is so much easier if you plan ahead.

On the other hand, I actually think I perform better when I leave it all to the last minute.  I get an adrenalin rush from the panic that, I believe, fuels my creativity.  I could be called (and indeed have been called) a procrastinator. I leave things and leave things, choosing to do anything and everything rather than the task at hand until there really isn’t any other option but to do it.  But is this procrastination?  Or is it simply ‘doing other things’?  I prefer to think of it as the latter.  I still manage to pull it out of the bag and it must work for me as I have successfully completed a degree and a masters using this technique….

A tutor on a management course I attended told us there are two types of people – ‘steppers’ and ‘squigglers’.  The steppers follow a set pattern to achieve a deadline, whereas the ‘squigglers’ appear to be all over the place in the process of getting there.  Both arrive in the end.  The steppers find it harder to deal with a setback in their well laid plans whereas the squigglers never had a plan in the first place so can carry on regardless.  That’s not to say it’s plain sailing for the squigglers.  Leaving things to the last minute leaves no room for error.  But that’s quite exciting, really.  Isn’t it?

Isn’t it??

 

 

A bygone age…..

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It was my birthday on Wednesday.    Not a particularly special birthday, although I believe all birthdays are special.  I took the day off work as I was told we were going for dinner somewhere in London.  Since we were going into town, I decided to make a day of it and booked two tickets to the first day of the Pre-Raphaelite exhibition at the Tate.

The exhibition was breath-taking.  So many beautiful paintings, all in one place.  Some I knew well and some I had never seen before.  Some artists totally unknown to me too.  We spent a couple of hours there, entranced and transported by the ethereal quality of the colours and the beauty of the compositions.

I did know by now where dinner was to be – we were dining at The Ritz!  

Wow!

And WOW it was!  Stepping through the doors was like stepping back in time.  There is an elegance, a serenity, an atmosphere that cannot be described in words.  The lighting, the mirrors, the high ceilings – it felt as if we had walked straight back into the 1920s.

Dinner was fabulous.  Seated in the most beautiful room, with a quartet playing gently in the corner, we were served by waiters in lovely waistcoats who made us feel as if we were the only guests.  The meal was delicious, I had salmon, and it was mouth-wateringly beautiful, both to eat and to look at.  A sommelier served us the wine of his choice to compliment the food and that was the icing on the cake for me.  Everything just felt so ‘right’.

I imagined my great-aunt and uncle visiting the Ritz in the thirties, socialites that they were, and I saw a room full of ladies in beautiful long dresses and men in tuxedos with live music playing gently in the background.  On Wednesday, there was no such splendour but, in it’s hey day, the Ritz must have been dazzling.

We finished with a glass of Calvados and walked back through the building to the reception area and then back out onto the busy street again, back to reality and 2012.

The whole day was like a time travel experience to me.  I won’t forget this birthday.  

Like I said, all birthdays are special but this one was just that little bit more special to me.  Thank you, KD x

 

 

It’s enough to turn your hair grey!!!

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I have grey hair.  Well, some of it.  It’s been at that awkward ‘salt and pepper’ stage for years.  I only know this because I decided to grow out my colour a while ago in the vague hope that it would suit me to be grey.  To my dismay, it was just a mish-mash of grey and brown in very uneven patches and it looked ridiculous so I went back to dying it.

I dye it myself and I use two colours.  A pinky purple sort of colour for the fringe and black for the rest of it.  I do it myself because it needs doing quite frequently, due to the stupid grey, and it would cost a fortune at the hairdressers.  I’m not too bad at doing it now, I usually do it in two stages and it looks ok.

However, I HATE doing it (that was the main reason for growing it out last year) and it is always a messy business, even though I try very hard not to let it splash…..

So, I was thrilled to discover that the product I use now comes as a ‘non drip foam’.  It is advertised as very easy to use and sounded like the answer for me.

Non drip???  Non drip my arse!!!  It’s EVERYWHERE!!!  I have a permanently dyed black fingernail (despite wearing the gloves!), black ears and shoulders, one black boob and a big  black blob on one foot.  I have tried to wipe every spot I found in the bathroom but I am dreading going back up there in half an hour.  I’m bound to have missed a bit.

And I still have the pink to do…..

My bathroom will look like a Jackson Pollock painting by the time I’ve finished!!!

 

Performance legs at the ready!!!

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Tonight at our burlesque class we had someone videoing us to promote the classes.  Everyone made a big effort to dress up and I thought we all looked fabulous!  It was also a lot of fun, as usual, with long black gloves being flung around and general silliness, amongst the serious business of learning the dance.  Pretty much how it is every week!

It is getting pretty exciting at class too – in just under six weeks we will be performing in our first ever ‘student showcase’ night.  I love the classes so much I now attend two a week – so I’m learning two routines!  Some of the ladies have also been on a residential weekend and they have another dance to perform and we have the strip club performing as well!  Now, when I say ‘strip club’ please don’t jump to conclusions.  I don’t go to these classes but they are all about feeling good about yourself, not getting your kit off (although that is obviously involved!).  I asked some of the ladies to explain to me just what it is that goes on in these classes:

First of all, it’s about the tease.  Apparently the clothes stay on for most of the time – the emphasis is on ‘hinting’ that they might come off.  However, much more than this, it is about becoming confident in your own skin.  One woman told me it is about facing your demons.  The women explore the thoughts and feelings that hold them back and it is a journey of self discovery as much as anything.

Like I said, I don’t attend these classes but I can see how amazing they must be for the women who do.

So, anyway, we have our cabaret coming up…..imagine dancing on stage in your frillies??  No, neither could I before I joined the classes!!!  I am not, and never have been a dancer.  But, I’ll be up there, strutting my stuff, with a whole bunch of other women who probably feel exactly the same.   And, we will be amazing because we have found our inner divas!

It just goes to prove how bloody wonderful Burlesque is……

 

 

(that’s not ME in the gloves, I hasten to add!!!!)

Why you should learn how to shimmy….continued!

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Last night I went to the flat of one of the ladies who goes to the same class as me. As there was no class this week a few of us decided to get together for a practise. Along with myself, there was my daughter and one other lady. Age range, 29-50+.

Our practise session went well, it helps to go over some of the more difficult moves with others and we all felt quite pleased with ourselves.

In between practising, we chatted.

We all agreed that we have to be ‘selective’ with whom we share our burlesque. All of us know people who are a little bit ‘surprised’ that we do this dancing. Why is this?

Burlesque is associated with something rather seedy, it seems. Nice girls don’t do burlesque! However, our classes are full of lovely ladies! They are certainly not seedy or hookers!

Burlesque in its true form is art.  Yes, the dances can be seductive and a bit naughty but there is nothing distasteful about Burlesque.  It is glamorous and it is sexy.  It isn’t degrading or shameful.

Our classes are fun, they are uplifting and they help women to feel good about themselves, in all sorts of ways. Many of the women who join the class have had terrible experiences and have low self-esteem or lack self-confidence. Burlesque empowers these women by helping them to make positive life changes through their new-found confidence. I, for one, have seen women blossom as the classes have progressed.

How is this seedy? Or something to hide?

Those people who find it distasteful either don’t know what burlesque is or they have very narrow views.

I, for one, am proud to be part of it and I know my class mates are too. We aren’t call girls, or strippers and we aren’t degrading women.

We are a group of women who love to dance.

In frillies.

Got a problem with that?