All posts by Caroline

tips for well being on napkin

I want a bit of self care and mindfulness, do you?

I’ve been keeping busy and adjusting to life with just the three of us.Pensive girl thinking in winter

Menopausal or not, I have been analysing life for what it is rather than what I think it should be.

Have you noticed the the number of self-help books, meditation, mindfulness apps and specialists claiming that practising self awareness will help us find personal happiness, calmness and meditation?

Phrased as ‘mindfulness’, feeling good, how to be happy, much has been written on the subject.

We know and understand the importance of making time for ourselves but have forgotten how to practice the art of being happy because we are so consumed with our busy lives.

Most of it is common sense with occasional wisdom and guidance thrown in designed to help our inner selves and to make us more centered, calm and productive.

But hang on a minute isn’t happiness largely down to us?

Aren’t we responsible for our own destiny and happiness?

Shouldn’t we be the ones capable of managing our own lives rather than reading it from a manual or worse, being dictated how we should live our lives by work bosses and organisations with poor managers?

We are blaming the internet, work, jobs and life for how we feel and, rightly so, but I also believe we’ve forgotten how to really live.

Mindfulness being centered and calm is about living in the moment, it is self awareness and is designed to help us alleviate the stress and anxiety, now a by product of 21st century living.

Christmas late busy business woman running against timeGiven our hectic lifestyles which in turn have only served to increase our stress and anxiety levels is it any wonder living in the moment is beyond many of us?

With deadlines looming ever larger, people doing the work of 2 or 3 people and every spare minute filled with work tasks, we don’t have time for ourselves, time to think or reflect on what and who we are, life for many has become an exhausting routine of mundaneness and familiarity.

Technology bares the brunt of our angst as it has undoubtedly increased anxiety and  working hours.

Designed to promote speed and productivity and to help identify and solve problems by making light work of tasks.

Instead, we have become servants to technology and are compliant because we rely on its very existence.

This technology age has hard coded our brains to ‘always being on’.

We are overloaded with too much information to the point that we can no longer process it.

What then happens is panic, anxiety and fear because life has become one long roller coaster.

It is like being in a relationship where you’re the only one that is giving.

We spend vast amounts of time in front of a screen whether it is a smartphone or computer screen, we seek answers to questions, we check social media to reassure ourselves that our lives are valuable and worthy. Mobile devices

The busier we become the less time there is for meeting and talking with people.

Our smartphones are our link and lifeline to the outside world.

What is the answer?

I have no idea!

I have read a good few books on the subject because I am at the age where I feel that if I make one small perceptible change to my life that shift could potentially have an impact on me and others around me.

Most of what has been written is common sense the reality is that we know what we need to do we’ve just forgotten how to.

Making the time for ourselves and family, taking that long walk or having brunch.

tips for well being on napkin

It all boils down to time and we have less spare time than we did ten years ago.

There are still the same number of hours each day but somehow it is squandered by the ties that hold us down.

The media and by that I mean books, social media, blogs and channels all try to perpetuate a myth that if we just make time and be ‘mindful’, everything will be alright.

Making the most of our life, reminders to be more self aware and to live in the moment add more pressure to our already pressured life.

Low job security and long working hours make it difficult to think about finding time to press the pause button.

The narcissistic nature of social media where many ‘big’ themselves up makes us even more  insecure and worthless.

I don’t see mindfulness as the antidote to all of society’s ill.

Until the work place changes and offers more flexibility regarding working hours and organisations empower their employees to make decisions that are right for the company they work for, nothing will change.

Stress and anxiety will remain commonplace in our lives and this will manifest itself in our children.

And so the myth that is the perfect work-life balance alludes us even more.

Businesswoman relaxing doing yoga at officeFinding happiness is about being at one with yourself finding your place in the world and being comfortable with where you are at.

I am certain that we are mindful; we’ve forgotten how to look meaningfully and really take in what is around us.

The old woman with her shopping bags wearing a colourful hat, the young couple kissing lovingly, the cloud formation in the sky.

Mindfulness is about making the time to be more in tune with our lives and those around us.

But, talking about it and actually doing it requires a massive shift.

Even if we find ten minutes a day to stare out of the office window or walk around the park with a sandwich in hand and take in the beauty of what is around us surely that’s good enough.

 

role models for teenagers

I can let go now

Here I am, picking up the emotional debris strewn before me when we dropped off our eldest son at Warwick University last Saturday.empty nest syndrome

I have read about this so called ‘loss syndrome’, I have even written about it, but absolutely nothing prepared me for the emotional upheaval I felt as we said our goodbyes last Saturday to our beloved son.

I was warned by friends, each of whom have experienced what has become known as the empty nest syndrome.

I even laughed when one of them in the first few weeks made weekly trips up to the University to drop off supplies and much needed food, ‘you need to let them go’, I rebuked.

I regret even suggesting let alone saying those words, now that I understand the pain and feelings of loss she was going through, and that was over three years ago.

The eldest has now graduated and is working in London the younger daughter headed off to Bristol and she is experiencing the same bitter sweet pain of loss.

‘I now have two empty bedrooms’, she told me.

empty nest syndromeI was not prepared for the visceral wrench the ripping out of the heart and stamp on it feeling.

The wave of complete and utter loss and desolation, I am bereft as the leaves that whisk past me as I walk through the car park.

The feelings I am experiencing of pain and sorrow are akin to grief.

If this is what grief feels like then I am ill prepared to face it.

The past three weeks have been a mixture of frustration, anxiety and ‘can’t wait for him to leave’ such was the buildup of tension, excitement and emotional turmoil.

It felt like there was so much more time to spend with him and yet I find myself wondering did I really do enough?

We should have gone to London like we talked about, and, taken a walk together, mother and son.

And I can’t have that time back again.

He wants independence and the freedom to move on and learn new things. It is not my son’s problem to cope with what I am feeling.

Whilst we unpacked and I sorted the food cupboard and bathroom, my younger son and my husband set about doing the practical stuff.

All the while I was slowly losing a bit of him to his new found independence.

I find it difficult to reconcile that I won’t get a call from him when he’s leaving the athletics track on Tuesday’s and Thursday’s, ‘Hi Mum just ringing to let you know I’m leaving for home now’.Mother With Teenage Son Sitting On Sofa At Home

I miss the banter in the car when I pick up the boys from school and how he would tell me about his day.

I don’t know the details of when he goes out, whom he is going with and where he is going.

We have grown use to him sharing with us what he is doing, where he is going and who he is with but now that will change.

He is independent, it is his time, he has no need to tell us his every move unless he wants too and we are of course excited to know what he has been up to.

But I know I have to let go of him.

empty nest syndromeThe letting go is like someone taking a knife and pushing it right through the very heart and soul of me.

I am left bare and at a complete loss.

I am emotional when I wash his remaining clothes, I cry when I put his freshly ironed jeans and sweatshirts in his wardrobe.

lie down on his bed when the feelings of loss sweep over me and clutch his PJ’s to my chest, burying my head the smell of him still lingers.

It is a feeling of indescribable wretchedness that envelopes me bringing a lump to my throat and as I write this; if feels like utter dejection, loss and sadness rolled into one.

Like being ‘chucked’ by your first love, that one pain free milli-second  when you stir in the morning with no thoughts then suddenly it surfaces and you feel nothing but heartache.

As the week draws to a close, the feeling of pain has eased.

I was fortunate enough to have a meeting on Monday within half an hour’s drive of the University which allowed me to drop a box of things he still needed.

I wondered with trepidation if this was the right thing to do?

Seeing him again after only two days, how would I react?

Would it set me back, would the angst resurface like a gnawing toothache felt in the pit of my stomach.

But, as it turned out it was wonderful, we chatted and he showed me his reorganised room, he told me about the various clubs and societies he is thinking of joining and the new friends he has met.

As he walked me to the car my spirit lifted, I knew he was safe and well and most importantly taking care of himself.

We hugged and said our goodbyes as I drew out of the car park I waved back and my heart and stomach lurched again but, I am grateful for seeing him, it has reassured me that he is going to be okay.

As I drove out of the car park, I realised that the last eighteen years have been about this very moment, letting go of my first born as he asserts his independence.

But the loss a parent feels, I feel, is so overwhelming.

It is akin to being suffocated.

A mother’s love is wide as it is deep, it never errs or falters and it can never be diminished or demeaned, it is an never ending love and one that is not easily put into words.

Just being a mum is a joy and a privilege and the only thing I need to know is that he is happy and safe.

He is a much loved son and I know that with time I can let go.

More Reading

When 4 becomes 3. The empty nest syndrome

That thing you do called ‘motherhood’

Just being Mum

Beauty woman is showing middle finger

No teenagers welcomed here

The final countdown to my son’s departure to University and my menopausal symptoms have a real hold of me.

I’m not sure if it’s depression, or the fact it’s September blues or hormones, either way coping with two rebellious teenagers and one stroppy mother (aka me) is making the house a war zone.Mother With Teenage Son Sitting On Sofa At Home

I would probably have more success negotiating my way out of an Al Qaeda cell than trying to get my two to do ANYTHING.

Three weeks into the new school term and I have my fourteen year old telling me how busy he is with homework now he is in the upper school.

‘So much homework mum, can’t possibly help’, when I asked him to clean the oven hob.

He is grumpy and monosyllabic first thing in the morning and woe betide you touch his crown, that’s his hair to you and me.

My 18 year old finds it almost impossible to stir much before 10:30am, preferring the comfort of his room until the house is empty.

Apparently he IS STILL ON HOLIDAY and so doesn’t think staying in bed until mid-day is unreasonable, after all, ‘Mum when I’m at University…’

p.

Mr M and I actually wonder if he will ever see daylight again and I have it on very good authority that when they go to University they become nocturnal creatures.

In the midst of all of this maelstrom I call my middle age, it dawned on me that whilst my two teens are stuck in puberty I’m spiralling through the menopause.

Two of the worst stages of life for a woman.

After all, she is the one that has to endure pubescent teens coupled with the onset of the menopause.

The hormonal swings are as radical as Corbyn’s policies with each teen managing stress, sex and growth hormones and one woman who is sadly lacking in every area with the exception of stress, that I have in abundance!

While testosterone levels in all of us are as high as the UK debt, this hormonal often volatile mix means we are all angry, h-angry and impatient.

They have too many hormones and mine are all but in the toilet.

I am reassured by well meaning friends who intimate that their ‘niceness’ will come back E-V-E-N-T-U-A-L-L-Y.

I remain unconvinced.

Teenagers work on remote control they don’t think before they speak nor do menopausal women and I often find myself saying things out loud which should really be confined to the comfort of my brain.

I did wonder if you can develop Tourette syndrome during the menopause, after all I seem to share all the symptoms, motor and vocal tic.

I understand why middle aged ladies are depicted as miserable and feisty, it’s because we’ve had to endure the menopause and it leaves us irritable, tired and anxious.

I did not appreciate that I would have to navigate my way through this menopausal maze and cope with teenage mood swings.

I wonder how Mr M has stuck it out all this time?

He deserves a medal.

In truth, he has been very understanding he tells me it is because I have explained every nuance of the menopause, what it feels like, the highs and lows, the fixation with it being too hot or too cold.

The menopause is a bit like puberty in reverse so we women get it at both ends of the ageing cycle.

What I've learnt since reaching my 50sIf we are fortunate, we get thirty years where we are at our peak from fifteen to about forty-five, then it’s all downhill when our oestrogen finally checks out.

The other disadvantage of the menopause is the lapse in memory.

When I am told ‘Mum, I’m out tonight with the lads’, the response is immediate, ‘you never asked me or told me’.

The perfect excuse for my son and I to go to war.

I lose my temper because I swear he didn’t tell me and my son loses his cool and accuses me of having a go at him.

My voice goes up five octaves and he rants at me with the coolness that befits a skilled negotiator both of us throwing tantrums that most three year olds would be proud of.

The smallest thing sends me vitriolic; the landing gear from the planes that fly overhead could fall through the roof and I would shrug my shoulders and say s**t.

On the other hand, my sons can send me off the richter scale just by breathing and leaving their dirty pants strewn on the landing.concept of aging and skin care

It is bad luck that timing has caused this catastrophic situation for the household.

Whilst I am deemed an older mother, I was pregnant with my second child at 39, late by the British Medical Journal standards.

Raising children at any age is hard but as I approach my mid fifties, I am facing the reality of being an older mother with my teenagers and me going in different hormonal directions.

My boys are strong and athletic, lean and muscular and I‘m jealous because their bodies are peaking to optimum hotness.

Mine is beginning to sag and in spite of exercise and good eating you can’t halt the onset of middle age and you certainly can’t stop it marching across your face.

I am overwhelmed with surges of hot flushes, they arrive like a tidal wave and I literally have to strip off which doesn’t bode well when one of Mr M’s employees happens to come through the back door to drop something off and I’m standing there in bra and jeans.

‘Hot flush’ he says, like he’s talking about the weather, ‘yes’, I say as I fumble with putting my top back on, face flushed and even redder than it was five minutes earlier.

I managed a wolf whistle from a nearby workman on my run this morning, until I turned around and glared at the man, who apologised, ‘sorry love, didn’t realise…’ didn’t realise what that I’m old, older?

Beauty woman is showing middle fingerIn spite of the riots, the stroppiness and the mood swings, there are moments of tenderness when the boys give me a hug and the home, usually a war zone, becomes Switzerland, for the next ten minutes if I’m lucky.

 

Group Of Elementary School Pupils Running In Playground

My autumn reboot and hello September

 

I spent the last few days finalising my month and year end, what fun, when all I wanted to do was bury my head and pray that the clock could be turned back a week.

The summer holiday disappeared into a vacuum and I loved being able to fit my life around work rather than the other way round, working when I’ve needed too rather than having too.

That is the one advantage of having your own business but the Family happiness! Happy mother tenderly embracing his two sons idownside is you are “always on” and never really switch off.

And now the long hazy days of summer are drawing to a close and I feel the distinct coolness of autumn in the air.

Whilst many consider January to be the start of the new year, September represents “a new year” too.

It heralds the end of summer and the transition into Autumn, it symbolises change, a new beginning and I love seeing school children turn out in new school uniforms and lovely shiny shoes.

September is a symbolic month representing a new start.

Your five year old is starting school for the very first time, your eldest leaving home for University, maybe your thirteen year old is moving up to the middle or upper school.

It’s that shrug your shoulders with a sense of resignation or that feeling you get when you know you’ve got to go home at the end of the holiday, that sinking sensation in the pit of your stomach that leaves you wanting yet you are unable to put your finger on it.

September leaves you with that sense of finality, it’s done and Parents Helping Children With Homework At Kitchen Tabledusted, finished, another school year over and a new one beginning.

Christmas is lurking around the corner but it only seemed like yesterday you were walking around in shorts and T-shirt.

September is a long and slow trudge, it goes on forever.

We long for an Indian summer, a warm September that maintains our well being and hopefulness before the long dark days.

For those students off to University or work, it will be the first time they won’t have to put on a school uniform and conform to school rules.

It will be the start of a new world full of hopefulness and optimism.

For others, the start of school means back to old routines and timetables, the same drudgery but with different teachers.

It also means that working mothers start the same routine again for another year; the day starts by screaming at your children to get washed, dressed have breakfast and be out of the door in time for the school bus or car.

It’s exhausting just thinking it let alone writing it.

Whilst the summer meant we allowed our little ones to get away with late nights and late mornings, the start of school means homework, going to bed earlier and staying off the X-Box and PS4 until the weekends.

The ‘but you let us stay up late in the summer’ backlash repeats itself as you try to explain to your children the importance of going to bed earlier so that the brain can rest and recuperate; instead they give you that look.

The arguments that you ended on with the start of the summer holidays begin again and you want to bang your head against the kitchen wall when you have to keep repeating everything five times.

A pressure cooker simmering waiting to boil over with frustration, yet all you want is peace and calmness. 

Although there was  constant in-fighting and bickering, it seemed to blow over you registering little or no response.

Back to school and your pain threshold for any whining, arguing or shouting is zero tolerance.

I barely survive the month of September, I drag myself out of bed and try to start the day with a sense of purpose in my step.

By the time I get to the kitchen I am grimacing at the dishwasher, why is it so difficult for the last person to turn it on?

The thing is you know it’s coming but you’re never quite ready for the s**t storm of September.

School timetables, and after school activities, there goes your free time. Boom up in smoke.

The beauty of a long summer holiday is you can switch your brain off, no mental checklists of what items do they need today, no meal planning, just fly by the seat of your pants days.

Come September our brains have to be activated to think again, have they got everything they need –  trainers, swim kit, what after school clubs on what days, the right books for lessons, shirt, tie and shoes on the right feet.

Mothers are the thinking woman’s’ walking almanac, encyclopedia and wikipedia rolled into one.Cross Country Team Runners

We need to know what our darlings are doing at any given time, because this has to fit in with doing the supermarket order, our work-life schedules and prevents us from becoming insane.

I said to my thirteen year old, ‘misplaced your brain have you, forgotten how to use it or do I have to remember everything for you?’

Much to the smirking from the eldest who conveniently forgot how bad he use to be until I reminded him about the time when we were two miles into the school run and he piped up Mum, I’ve only got one shoe on, the other is in the driveway!

Roll on Christmas holidays.

Christmas background

 

happy family jumping together on the beach

Have I been a good enough Mum?

What does it take to be a good mum? Mother With Teenage Son Sitting On Sofa At Home

Who decides if you are a good or bad mother?

Am I doing a good enough job raising my boys and how will I know if I succeed?

All the above and more have been hurriedly circling my brain since last Thursday when we got the great news that our eldest secured his place at Warwick University.

From the moment he walked into our room at a little after 6:15 in the morning with a mooted expression I got 2 A* and a B. Great yes but!

He needed an A in German as part of the condition of entry, would these results be good enough? Surely yes, said my inner me but the vocal me couldn’t help but say why the hell do you have to make it complicated.

We waited for what seemed like an eternity for UCAS to confirm his offer of acceptance and in that time I went through every single conceivable emotion, elation, worry, anxiety and relief.

When I heard shouting, ‘yes, get in there’ I didn’t register what this meant.

happy family jumping together on the beachI ran up the stairs, two at a time into the bathroom, where my son sat proudly on the throne he showed me his phone and there was the offer of acceptance.

How I wept with joy I ran up and down the stairs, hyperventilating with excitement and sheer bloody relief.

It was at that moment I realised that I had been carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders for the last six months probably longer.

Worrying, supporting, caring, managing my eldest to ensure that everything was right for him for these most important exams.

Why worry so much?

It is hardly the end of the world if a kid misses the mark, they can re-sit, re-do, take a year out, no one ever died because they didn’t get the grades.

And yet here I was relieved that all had come to pass. That the last two years were all about this moment, this one moment that can change the path of a person’s future.

After deep breaths and a quiet moment later I reflected on the last eighteen years and asked myself have I been good enough?

A huge A+ with a red circle on a paper

Did I get it right?

Often critical and tough, very much the way I was brought up I hope that my children have learnt the important lessons of life.

For each parent they may well be different ideals but for me it has always been:

  • Never giving up
  • Listening and understanding
  • Be gracious even when you believe it should have been you
  • Thankfulness and politeness
  • Be steadfast in your decisions

Being a mother has been a job and challenge borne out of love and tenderness. Just when you think you’ve nailed it the tide shifts and you feel out of control with only the prevailing wind keeping you on course.

Parents Helping Children With Homework At Kitchen TableBut parenting skills are not learn’t overnight, it takes time and experience and gut instinct to ensure you are getting it right and even the most hardy of mothers can find her teen very testy to say the least.

 

His idea of timekeeping is usually at least 40 minutes after the designated time. He spends more time in the bathroom than I do and he has an answer for ‘everything’. 

Am I describing anything new?

No, of course not, because all teens go through this phase.

I call it the proving to the world I’m here and I want to be seen and heard phase.

My eldest has become the best ‘how to get out of doing something’ expert, he could right a book on listing excuses on how to get out of doing jobs around the house.

But deep down I know he cares and this is his way of forging his own views and developing independence.

His forthrightness and his ability to stand up for himself are proof that he has strength of character.

Like most teenagers who are solely into themselves, I wondered whether he really cares about anything at all?

Does he love his parents, his brother, will he miss any of us when he goes off to University?

When we left school on Thursday morning, A level results day, congratulatory celebrations in the air, we walked to the car.

He took my hand and said thank you for everything mum, for your love, support, I do love you, you know.

And with tears in my eyes I looked at him, a young man in his prime, a new chapter about to begin, pride and love swelled in my heart, tears in my eyes.

“Yes, I do believe I have done a good job”.

Enough said.

 

What I've learnt since reaching my 50s

The menopause

Funny thing reaching your fifties it creeps up on you whilst you’re way too busy bringing up children, working, being a mother, parent and guardian for ailing parents.concept of aging and skin care

The last month has been strange to say the least.

With my younger son’s prize giving done and dusted and my eldest son’s speech day and prize giving all but a few hours old I watched them both proudly as they spoke to their teachers and thanked them for their help and guidance.

I danced with my eighteen year old son at his 18th party, spent the best part of his prize giving in floods of tears and feeling bereft, unsure and uncertain as to what the future holds for him and for us without him.

It has been particularly poignant for me as my younger son will be joining the Upper school and my eighteen year old hopefully going off to University in October.

Family happiness! Happy mother tenderly embracing his two sons iI am reflecting on my life in a calm and tranquil way and asking myself where I am at, and, what lies ahead?

Women put their lives on hold for their children, we may not think that we do but speaking from personal experience I had not realised just how much.

I have put things to one side and have not being able to do the things I want to do, to make sure my children get what they want and need.

“Stop the world I want to get off now”

My mother gave me some very sound advice when my first born was but a few days old.

Remember this, you were here first, your baby second.

What she meant was to not constantly hover over my newborn but to ensure he was fed, safe and secure and in his cot or in his bouncy chair whilst I got on with life.

And it worked, my baby would sit in his chair whilst I did the cleaning, ironing, cooking or working and I would talk to him whilst working.

It was the best advice because it ensured I actually got on with my life without pandering to a baby’s constant needs every five seconds and being what has now been phrased a ‘helicopter parent’.

But that was some eighteen years ago and in the time since my first child was born I barely recognise the person I was then.

I am older, wiser, experienced and definitely have more lines.What I've learnt since reaching my 50s

My hair is longer and greying although the wonders of hair tinting defy the onset of middle age.

Middle age, past ripe, past prime whatever you wish to call it,  although the media would have you believe that a woman entering her fifties is the prime of her life I beg to differ.

How I wish I was the age of 33 but with the maturity and knowledge of the 53 that I am.

My body shows signs of ageing and yet I am more athletic and fitter than I was twenty years ago but the day after tells the tale of physical exertion and tiredness.

I no longer have the stamina I used to have and I am more excited about going to bed with a good book.

Sex no longer offers any excitement for me it has become a chore akin to ironing; the hormones that have depleted my sex drive have ravaged my body leaving me less than the woman I was.

My mind tells me that I am still that thirty something woman who has the ‘joie de vivre’ and wants to have lots of fun.

The seasons are a reminder of time’s insistence not to stand still and that I am heading into my twilight years.

There is a sense of need, urgency almost for things still yet to be accomplished and I am worried that time will run out and I will look back on a life more ordinary than extraordinary.

And I wonder if my peak has been and gone without anyone noticing my full potential yet to be realised and acknowledged.

I’ve reached middle age with all the physiology it entails, mood swings, depressions, hot sweats, cold seats.

Stuck in a time warpI am out of synchronicity with nature and time, my body is in the slipstream of reality but my mind is displaced and whilst I am an excited step grandmother in the waiting, seeing my step daughter-in-law’s bump is a constant reminder that I am no longer in the prime of my youth.

My birthing years are over my natural biorhythms are no longer in tune and I am as unpredictable as the english weather.

But I am coping with the menopause, I haven’t got a choice I’ve been given this body and I am adapting with it as it changes.

I have never tried to pretend it doesn’t exist nor act younger than I am.

But in the solitude that is my own, I brood about the time travel from 35 to 53 the years seem to have rolled around so fast.

And how the passage of time transforms each and every woman into a different catalogue of their former younger selves.

Every woman experiences the menopause differently no stories are the same and my body is but one account of a woman’s ageing inflicted upon us in a society that does everything to disown, ignore, stigmatise the ageing process along with the menopause.

Ideally the transition from youth through to the menopause should be slow and mellow like a fine wine that ages gracefully in the bottle, a slow and gradual imperceptible shift.

Further Reading

A funny thing happened on the way to the menopause

Just because I’m 50 doesn’t mean I’m dead yet.

Is the menopause a taboo subject?

How my life has changed since reaching my 50’s

Just being mum

A life less fulfilled

Anger

Business jargon and buzzwords. Are they driving you mad?

Amazing that we have become a society driven by social media and buzzwords, all of which have reached epidemic proportions.Social media concept

So, I’m” reaching out to you” to share my point of view about digital transformation, big data and google algorithms.

You lost me at jargon.

Are there any current business phrases or jargon that just makes you cringe?

I’m reaching out to you sends me to near anaphylaxis I detest the phrase.

Three times in one day, firstly by B.T. an insurance company and finally a comms company  “reaching out to us” to sell a product or service.

Touch base another perennial favourite; that phrase has been around since my days in recruitment over twenty five years ago.

I’d like to touch base with you offline? Why not say let’s meet up and have a chat?

a life less fulfilledBlue sky thinking? When let’s sit down and have a creative brainstorming session makes more sense.

Let’s be proactive? Isn’t that the point?

Thinking outside the box – an extension of the above thinking creatively without the constraints of an agenda allowing the free flow of ideas.

Thought shower – when let’s make time to have a half hour session and come up with some ideas sounds so much better.

It’s on my radar – err this one means yes I know about it and I will get to it.

Close of play or COB (close of business) err not cricket, by the end of the business working day

It will definitely wash its own face – isn’t easier to say the benefits far outweigh the costs, in other words, it will pay for itself.

 

Companies need to embrace big data and A.I. (Artificial Intelligence) sooner rather than later. iStock_000034282008Small

Businesses face digital transformation on an unprecedented scale how should we leverage the cloud to its full potential?

Personalisation, personalised segmenting and profiling are sure fire ways to get closer to your customer.

We must schedule a meeting to discuss the technological implications of compliance and governance and ensure that we have the right people ready for blue sky thinking.

Jargon all of it.

What has happened to familiar words in sentences that actually make sense?

Suffice to say I have banned all such business profanities from the office and home.

Let’s speak like normal human beings please for the sake for my sanity.

In the meantime, I’ll reach out and maybe touch base online with you again soon!

First published on Linkedin May 2017

 

empty nest syndrome

Letter to my eighteen year old son

My darling son

So, here we are, another year, another birthday except this time it is the big 1 8.

It only seemed like yesterday that you came into our world like a ray of sunshine, yet cold and blue having left the warmth and cosiness of the womb in which you grew.

Mom and baby lying in the bed home

For those first few hours I could not keep my eyes off you, a gorgeous bundle of love and fun.

I held you close and vowed that no one or anything would ever hurt you.

The enormity of what I had created, a new life a living breathing person wasn’t lost on me and I knew that becoming a mother is the greatest gift that can be bestowed upon a woman.

On the second day you gave me your first smile I looked lovingly into your brown eyes and I knew there and then there was a connection, you knew I was your mummy and that I was here to love and cherish you.

I loved you beyond the realms of explanation, it was a love that I had never felt for anyone else, completely different to the love and feelings I have for your dad.

From that day forth, my love like a carefully tendered flower has bloomed for you.

As a toddler you delighted in trying out different things and like your mum, you always needed plenty of sleep. You loved your food especially cake and there wasn’t anything you wouldn’t try.

From toddler to young boy you were reserved, shy and reluctant to push yourself forward.

Getting your kids to readYour shyness often held you back from doing the things you wanted to do and it wasn’t until you became a teenager that you began to show your true colours.

There have been difficult times for you and that is part of growing up,  often overlooked and without the recognition you deserve your frustrations would sometimes spill over.

For the past two years you have achieved many successes and proved to the onlookers who doubted you just how good you truly are and that is down to your hard work and commitment.

Despite setbacks, you continued to work hard; to be resilient, and, as a result you have grown into a fine young man, one that I am proud to say is my son.

Intelligent, articulate, strong and feisty, you always want to have the last word and like every teenager you are of course, never wrong!

I have always known that there was a superstar waiting to burst out and you haven’t proved me wrong.

Every parent thinks their kids are the best and I have been guilty of believing that you were better at things than perhaps you really were.

Family happiness! Happy mother tenderly embracing his two sons iBut, because I pushed and encouraged you, you are now strong and more resilient ready to face life’s ups and downs.

You are beginning to find your place in life’s rich tapestry and, as you learn and acquire knowledge coupled with life experience, you will learn to cope with life’s ups and downs because you are ready.

It is important to live by the values, morals and discipline that dad and I have taught you.

That you don’t forget the importance of family, friends and especially your brothers.

Be considerate and always respectful of others, even in the face of hostility, aggression and rejection. To be patient, kind and be civil are important human virtues.

Be mindful of others, always listen and be respectful when someone asks about you.African-American single-parent family

Learn to step back and breathe once in awhile and remember that you only pass this way once.

Make the most of your life by having fun and joy with loved ones and is more important than valueless items.

There will be many temptations along the road, be careful and earnest about the life choices you make.

And so it is my darling son that my job as a mother is almost done.

My heart is slowly breaking as I know that we have reached the end of our journey together for it is hard being a mother and a parent.

We will always be here for you and support you whenever you need us.

But you are a young man and it is time for you to make decisions and choose your own way.

Being a mother is emotionally tough as you watch your son grow and leave the family to form new friendships and relationships and there is the realisation that you are no longer the “one”.

It is incredibly hard to let go because I can see that little blonde haired and brown eyed one year old giggling as he puts a fistful of donald duck cake into his mouth.

The love of a mother runs deep and wide and I would sacrifice my life for you in whatever the circumstances.

One day when you become a father you will understand those words, loving a child is an act of selflessness, our love is infinite.

When all is said and done we can look back with satisfaction, share wonderful and beautiful memories of great times spent together.

We must look forward now with excitement and opportunity, what will your next stage of life look like and what path will you travel along?

I have tried to teach you all that I can to prepare you for this world.

You are a young man, an adult and with that comes great responsibility.

It is your job to set a good example to your brother and to others around you, to prove what we’ve always believed, a strong, caring and wonderful human being.

At times you will feel like the world is enormous and that you’ll never find your own way you will be knocked down, but, you will find the effort to get up and try again, don’t give up even when every sinew in your body screams at you to do so.

Adult Son Moving Out Of Parent's HomeBelieve in yourself as dad and I do, when the world appears dark and lonely and you think you can’t do it have faith, believe, succeed.

That is the wonderful thing about being human, our frailty and fragility also makes us strong and steadfast.

Never be afraid to stand up up for what you believe in and never, ever sacrifice your beliefs and what you hold dear to your heart.

I will always be your most trusted friend, your confidant, the person that will cuddle and love you no matter what age, but mostly I’ll always be your mum.

It has been a privilege raising you, loving you, nurturing you and I’ve loved every single second of every single minute, I am proud to be a mum to such a wonderful and beautiful person as you are.

With much love and honesty, always and forever.

Mum

xxxx

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I've learnt since reaching my 50s

Just being Mum

It is another school week and the start of the final school term as we begin the countdown to the summer holidays.A life less fulfilled

Time appears to be the common thread that runs through the blogs I write.

My eldest, shortly to be eighteen will, with everything crossed, head to University in October.

My eldest step son and his wife are expecting their first baby in October.

It is ironic that as one leaves to start a new chapter as a grown up a new life will be born into the world and the growing up process starts over.

The time we get to spend with our children seems so short.

Zero to eighteen gone in an instant, a flash before your eyes, from baby onesies to torn and skinny jeans.

Good old days, nostalgia what does it mean to you?I am anxious and excited at the anticipated arrival of a newborn into our family.

As a fifty plus parent I feel like I’m starting over, but this time, it isn’t my baby and I can hand him or her back at the end of the day.

I am older, wiser and have had greater life experiences.

The lessons I’ve learnt are plentiful and I have much to pass on and share with my step daughter but I will not give out advice unless asked.

I have learnt that as a woman and a mother shelling out advice whether asked for or not is destined to failure.

Celia, a very good friend of mine told me this; ‘the best advice I can give you, is don’t give any advice, that way you can’t be blamed for the fall out if it goes wrong’.

But what if your children ask for help or advice, that is different she says,’ because if they are asking it’s because they either need genuine help and are prepared to listen, if they then choose not to follow it then it can’t come back and bite you’.

Wise words that I have followed except when it comes to my own children whom I can’t help but tell rather than advise what they should do.

I do tell my boys is to listen to their Mother embracing her little girl before leaving to workinstincts; that gut feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when they are pondering over a decision.

As a mum you learn as you go along not really registering the importance of what you are learning until out pops this information when you least expect it.

You become very good at talking to yourself; you can often find me in a store toilet muttering to myself reminders not to forget certain things. Other fellow mothers nod their heads and empathise, we are comrade in arms.

Motherhood definitely has some kind of biological effect on our brains, you can remember all the school activities for the week or term for that matter but as soon as you step into Tesco you forget the very thing you came in for.

It is a fact of life that being an experienced and older mother means you end up sitting on a plane with an infant screaming its face off only for the poor twenty plus mother to look at you beseechingly to take her child and have it sat on your lap for the rest of flight.

Am I really the holy baby shrine capable of soothing this crying baby?

Miraculously the wailing stops and everyone on the plane sighs with relief, the poor mother orders another gin and tonic, thank you, she says relieved.

Motherhood miraculously gives you a handful of wisdom way beyond your years, capable of solving all problems it seems, including climate change.

In reality we are all making it up as we go along and who determines what makes a great mother?

What I've learnt since reaching my 50s

With books, websites and online forums depicting the perfect family, career and children, we can easily feel that we must be bad mothers because we don’t have a glamorous hair do or primed manicured nails, ‘super mom’ more like ‘poor mom’.

And because you failed to to make it to that football match because the train got stuck at Watford or you missed the school play at 4:30pm due to your meeting running overtime, you’re in big trouble.

Any missed event goes down in the book of no shows, and children very rarely forget it.

Parental judgement is one of the worst afflictions of being a parent, what to wear on your feet let alone body can mean the difference between being seen as cool and relevant by your thirteen year old or a fuddy duddy boring mother.

So, not a lot of pressure being a mother then?

Accepting the fact that as mothers we can’t in actual fact have it all, home, career and children, some things have gotta give and perfect parenting and motherhood is one of them.

There are always the reminders of the failures of being a mum even though you do your best to give your children time, love and your all.

Sometimes you just have to accept that perfection is unachievable but being a loving, caring and giving mum is more important than anything else.

And when my thirteen year old old tells me he loves me because, “well, you’re just mum” it is  the most wonderful feeling in the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

the internet of things

The internet of things

Last week I had lunch with one of my long term supplier’s we’ve known and worked with each other for over 20 years and we thought it would be nice to have a catch up. 

During our lunch we ruminated over how technology is impacting our business, which is the business of print? Online print

Strange thing technology?

In less than ten years we have gone from mobiles to smartphones capable of delivering complex tasks at a touch or a swipe.

Digital technology has reshaped our lives forever.

We laughed at how we use to do things.

Faxes were used to proof text and positioning, but mostly, proofs would be run out in colour and sent via mail to the customer.

Quotes were typed using electronic typewriters and then faxed or sent by post, the biggest change was the introduction of the PC which changed everything when it came to the form design process.

cellphonesThere were no emails for communication it was either fax or, you would make a call which was invariably quicker.

The phone call would inevitably lead to more work, an appointment or lunch.

In fact the business of print was largely transacted in the pub over a pie and a pint.


Who does lunch anymore?

Mobile phones offered a major breakthrough in communications for sales reps.

There was no need to find a phone box or ask the receptionist at the company you were visiting if you could quickly make a call.

Life was simple and less fraught.Memory Lane in Sepia

Digital technology has done more than affect the gadgets we now take for granted, it has changed the way we work.

BYOD (Bring your own device) is a great example how we now interact with the world.

Sharing information has never been easier from social media, print, cloud and multi-channel we live on the super fast highway overflowing with content, ideas, and innovations.

You can look up anything on google and the search will return any number of suggestions.

If you want or need to find out something, or want to understand how a component works, google it and up pops the answer.

We have become intolerant of anything analogue a slow PC or laptop, poor broadband or a 4G connection is enough to make me want to throw my laptop against a wall such is my limited patience in this fast paced world of ours.

I demand speed and access and I want it now.

Compare the speed with which emails can be pinged to the time when we sent faxes or compare SD to HD television?

Mobile devicesThe impact of these technological changes cannot be underestimated and we take it for granted that ‘it just works’.

Our smartphones now have more processing power than the average PC giving us more speed so we can get things done quicker.

Remember when estimated delivery dates were just that ‘estimated’ in the pre-digital world customers were happy to accept an approximate delivery.

In our digital world we order online and we demand definitive delivery schedules.

Speed and technological progress for consumers has resulted in our demands and expectations being higher and as companies have offered an even better level of service so our expectations have risen accordingly.

Digital media, online accessibility has had a huge impact on our lives making content, ordering online and searching easy.

Imagine the perversity of not actually being chained to our gadgets?

My supplier colleague said she isn’t on Facebook refuses to chatter on Twitter and uses her mobile phone for just that, making calls.

I marvelled at how she didn’t feel in the least bit FOMO, (fear of missing out) after all bad news does have a tendency to get to you quicker as indeed good news, ‘so why do I need to be chained to my phone’, she exclaimed.

The internet probably took ten years to become an essential and basic tool for our everyday life and I wonder how the world would look without its existence.

No cloud storage for data, photos and music on the go.

Future technological innovations will happen a lot faster and whilst Facebook is now considered prehistoric with Snapchat and Instagram taking over what will be the next app that we can’t live without?

By 2020, it is estimated that there will be 50bn internet enabled devices (Ericsson, Vision 2020, 50 billion connected devices, Feb. 2011) Those devices will become interconnected into a web of the ‘internet of things’.

A future where an ‘intelligent fridge’ can self replenish by ordering online.

The rise in digital channels has generation Y permanently plugged in to their online world.

They are already part of the acceleration of the new digital world.

Social media conceptThey are influencing the development of technologies around them they are changing their lifestyles to fit around the ever advancing world of technology and they will not accept any brand, social media channel or organisation they work for who don’t do the same.

If a social media platform or web site doesn’t satisfy their needs they will quickly explore and exploit another.

They are a generation that understand what it is to collaborate online, how to interact on social media, they are digitally and globally aware and understand the power of being connected.

Because of them they are dictating the speed of future digital communications and are developing different social behaviours that will be transmitted to future generations.

I love new technology and, I can’t live without it. I’m always looking at the latest gadget trying to justify why I should buy it and, if I can use it.

There is downside to digitisation.

I was saddened to hear my elder son talk about his dislike of reading books. Why I asked; ‘because I lose interest after a few chapters’.

He has a lot of contextual reading for A level study part of the process of acquiring the knowledge needed for the subjects.

One night he said he was going to bed early, a first in my lifetime, and I suggested he read a book rather than listen to music.

‘Why do I want to read’ he said, my eyes furrowed, ‘because you get lost in a book, it helps you relax makes your fall asleep before bed and it is one of the greatest forms of relaxation’.

I am lost in books and I try to imagine how the ending will turn out, tempting as it is to read the end.  

But I hold out to find out how the story unfolds. I love the use of language and words and, when the world is collapsing around me I find my escape in reading.

One of my resolutions this year was to read more books and so far I am doing well I’m on my fifth I am aiming to read one a month, often I have two or three on the go.

It is almost perverse owning a book while online is accepted as the norm.

I am disappointed that I have been unable to pass on my love of reading to my children but, it is a changing world and I am reminded of one of my favourite all time sci-fi movie franchises ‘The Terminator’.

A stark reminder that if technology continues gathering pace at the speed it is, enjoying the simple things in life like reading may well be confined to the annals of history.

As our world becomes solely reliant on new technologies, we could forget that the simple things in life are often the sweetest.