Valentines work

by Hilla Duka - View comments

fifties chair after restoration

You know someone truly loves you when they're prepared to spend Saturday refurbishing an old chair, just to make you happy.fifties chair before renovation

A while back, I bought this little fifties chair, that had definitely seen better days, with the plan to salvage what I could and give it new life. I love refurbishing old furniture, I feel like a detective peeling layer after layer off to see what's revealed underneath, then like a miracle doctor giving new life to a patient. Ilir however, does not share my fascination (obsession as he calls it), so for him to announce on Saturday morning "Right, lets get started then!" meant more to me than any amount of flowers. 

fifties chair legs during restoration

It took us most of the day, the front legs where lose, so we wriggled them out, applied new glue and tied together. 

painting the chair legs black

We scraped layer off of layer of crumbling paint, revealing water stained teak legs, that were then painted a matte black.

removing the fabric and padding from the old chair

Anyway, apart from the ickiness at times, it is now completely refurbished, and will see many more days in our living room! Way better than flowers and a card, right? 

our cat Dee looking suspicious

Our cats haven't really warmed to it yet, but I'm guessing it's just a matter of time before they scratch the new fabric off and find inventive new sleeping positions in/on it. And who knows, next time it might be one of my sons who refurbish it, shaking their heads and wondering what I was thinking...

Big events for a little man

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Jacob wearing glasses

Choosing frames, getting your eyesight checked, waiting for your new glasses to arrive... These are big events when you're eight years old. Last week we went to the optician, and the time since has been anxious waiting for Jacob.


Today his new specs arrived, and it was a very excited little man who skip hopped through puddles and over slippery ice all the way there. Unfortunately there was a small mishap with the woman in the shop, to whom it was apparently impossible to imagine that the child with long hair in front of her would indeed be Jacob - a boy. After I assured her, repeatedly, that this really was my son, she gave him the glasses, and off we went. 

Jacob wearing his new glasses

More pics from the kids room

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bunk bed for three - how we solved having three kids in one room

Ok, complete image bonanza ahead - unless your interested in the eternal questions like How do you fit three kids into one room? you should completely ignore this. 

I get loads of really sweet feedback and questions on how we fixed the kids room so that it would sleep three kids and still have space to play, read, do homework or or just exist. Since I actually cleaned the flat AND had some sunlight, I thought I'd take a few pictures. Who knows, maybe they can inspire someone else to live a bit longer in a smaller place? 


closeup bunk bed for three - kids room

Milos corner, at the bottom of the bunk bed. His mattress is currently placed right on the floor, it's on our to-do list to get a proper slatted bed base for him as well. You know, we'll get to it eventually... it's a Someday-project.

The triple bunk bed is made of two IKEA Kura beds, one of which has had one half of its legs cut of, and the other half replaced with longer ones. We also added a few steps on the ladder, then painted the whole thing white. 


Bunk bed for three

Jonathan, on the top bed, has one long shelf, and then some extra storage on top of the shelves, which are secured against the bottom part of his bed. Jacob has a String shelf for personal storage, one filled with little boxes as he loves collecting things.

Shelf detail - london bus box

This little box I bought the first time I went to London, about twenty three years ago, and it was filled with sweets at the time. Jacob was wonderfully pleased when I gave it to him - so much so that he will now keep it just as it is, as a decoration rather than for actual storage. 

Shelf detail kids room teddy bear

Each of the boys has a teddy from Build A Bear, with my voice that tells them I love them very much (it's a bit of a cringe, but that's ok, sometimes). Though Jonathan thinks himself too old to actually have his teddy in bed, and instead keeps it on his shelf. 

reading nook in bottom part of the bunk bed

The reading nook next to Milos bed, where I will read bedtime stories and listen for the sound of them sleeping. The black wall is a piece of fabric I've stretched over the back of the two IKEA Hemnes shelves that are attached to the bed. Once or twice I've caught one of the boys curled up in the armchair with a book, so I will consider it a success. 


Now, if I only get around to cleaning their desk and shelves on the other side of the room, I can show some pictures of that as well. Oh well, another time.


by Hilla Duka - View comments

white berries on a winter branch

If you get diagnosed with breast cancer, most likely at first your life will fall apart. It’s the nightmare news that no one wants, and all of a sudden you’re living your own and everyone elses worst nightmare. On top of that, you get scheduled for surgery, and one of your breasts will be removed. Except, if you’re a stage four, there is no removal, no radiation. I understand going through surgery must be very hard, and then you might want to have a reconstruction, and a whole new mess unfolds. But when you’re a stage four, the tumour in your breast is not the problem - at least in the doctors eyes. It’s the spread that is.


So you’re stuck with the breast that’s trying to kill you, not really knowing how to feel about this body part. Even within the hospital environment, breastcancer equals a removed breast, so you constantly have to point out to doctors, nurses et al, that you haven’t had surgery, that you’re terminal. Or chronic, as I prefer to think about it. And every time you have to say those words, because someone didn’t read your file properly, it chips away a little at your soul. Your cheeriness sort of slides off a bit, something raw and wounded becomes uncovered.


I still have my breast, though for the longest time I didn’t know how to feel about it. Inside of it was a tumour, one that had spread and was trying to kill me. This part of my body - one that had nursed my children, that I had highlighted in deep v-necks and push-up bras - was still there, only it was doing a very good job of getting rid of me. I wanted it gone, I wanted it removed, but was stuck with it. Today, the tumour is gone, but the effects of the cancer will never leave me.


And in some ways, still having my breast intact has made me feel as if I’m not really a breast cancer patient. I still have my breast, I’m not to go to any mammograms. On the outside, I could have any cancer.


I don’t think of the breast as being there. In my mind, it’s gone. If the tumour is gone then the breast is gone. Only it’s still there. Kind of the same as my right arm, that has been rendered useless by lymphedema, after so many rounds of chemo. It’s in many ways as if the arm is gone - I have to learn to write with my left hand, can’t carry anything with it, the list can go on and on. Only it’s still attached to my body, painful, covered by a compression glove and sleeve, making me look a bit like Darth Vader, and much improving my Cyborg transformation. My arm and my breast are still there, but it’s as if they’re gone. It’s like a phantom breast and a phantom arm, to go with my phantom fears.

wheel tracks in the snow

Six months or fourteen years

by Hilla Duka - View comments


A lifetime ago, or at least fourteen years ago, in a desperate attempt to save a failing relationship, I planned a trip to London for valentines day, and for the occasion I wanted to book a table at my favourite restaurant. So I picked up the phone, and a man working there answered. He had an accent I couldn’t place and a deep softness to his voice, and I hung up feeling strangely overcome with emotions, only I couldn’t place them.


Anyway, I went on that trip, eventually broke up with my then-partner, cried my heart out and thought I would never find happiness or togetherness (in my head they were so intertwined they were practically synonyms), stayed single and learned how to do everything by myself, and it was a long time until I actually met him in real life.


And if someone would have told me that day when I spoke to him on phone, that years later I would marry that man, that he would be the father of my children, that he would end up taking care of me as I have gone through the hardest, most unexpected challenges of my life, that he would be the one who’s always there for me, I would have thought them mad. Sometimes he drives me crazy, but when push comes to shove, he’s home to me. Today we’ve been married for six months.


Life takes unexpected turns.


Remembering and forgetting

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raindrops on a branch

It comes and goes, this dealing with cancer thing. Well, I mean, I obviously deal with it all the time, but sometimes I deal with it better than other times.


Sometimes I forget that I'm going to LIVE with cancer, that I won't die from it, that I'm supposed to become a bloody miracle patient. I feel sorry for myself and for my kids and Ilir and my parents and my brother. I wallow in self pity. I absolutely engross myself in sadness and death, doom and gloom, to the point where it becomes almost impossible to stop, to see another way.


And then something happens and it can be the smallest thing, but it just makes me realise how selfish and dramatic and destructive I'm being, and I will just stop, turn it around. I've had a bad couple of days, with my head trapped in unforgiving and unwanted futures, but I'm back now. I'm alive now, and I will stay here and now and not go dallying off to unforeseeable futures. That is, I will until the next time I forget.

Ups and downs, highs and lows. Life is a rollercoaster, and even more so with cancer.

Birthday celebrations

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jacob birthday morning

Yesterday we celebrated my clever, strong willed, highly opinionated and very charming son Jacob turning eight. As I constantly overestimate the time I have at hand compared to the time it will take me to do anything, I first went into town for a meeting, and a lunch date with two lovely friends from work. 

decorations for jacobs birthday party

When I finally got home I was exhausted, and still had to decorate and clean and make a cake (planning ahead aparently doesn't work for me), thankfully I had lots of help from Jonathan, but by the time the guests arrived I was knackered and lay panting on the sofa - charming...

baloons birthday party

Balloons for my lovely boys.

Jacob opening presents

Still, decorations and preparation matter little to birthday boys - presents and cake are way more important. Ever since Jonathan got a phone for his eighth birthday, Jacob's been impatiently awaiting his own eighth birthday, hoping for a phone of his very own. He was thrilled to unwrap his present and find an iPhone 4.

Aidan our cat watching over the birthday celebrations

One of our more special cats, Aidan (the one who thinks he's a dog and has no tail), helped with the wrapping paper. The rest of us are a bit unsure as to what he was helping with, but he was most happy to do it.

jacobs birthday cake

And then, presents had and dinner gulped down, came time for cake. Dark chocolate with strawberries had been ordered, so I didn't really have to get creative at all.

And then the party was over, the guests leaving and the kids climbing happily into their beds. And despite stressing out and feeling inadequate most of the afternoon, I sat down and looked at the mess around me, and felt so happy and grateful. Another birthday when we're all together.