All posts by caroline

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Why I’m thankful for…

The last three weeks have been undefinable actually I can sum them up in one word ‘crap’. iStock_000012625418Small

Why you might ask?

On 29th December I had an operation on my left heel for insertional achilles tendinopathy, bursitis and hagland’s deformity in english that means I’ve had a bit of extra bone removed from the back of my heel along with some work on my achilles.

Sentenced to a cast for two weeks and unable to place my left foot down not even to balance.

iStock_000023320625SmallExercise has been put to one side at least for another four weeks, only then some light workouts that don’t involve my left heel on the floor, running or power walking is out of the question at least until June-July time, that is, if I haven’t gone stark raving mad by then.

Now the cast has been removed I’m left with one thin leg with no muscle definition and skin that looks like it belongs to a turtle; the other leg looks like its had an amazonian work out.

The cast has been replaced with a rather groovy looking ski boot to make sure the heel doesn’t move.

In almost three weeks my patience has plummeted to an all time low and my frustration levels have gone skywards. Anger

And just to make matters worse I’m  constipated through lack of mobility, if I ever see another prune again I think I might scream.

The simplest of tasks have become a mammoth expedition being immobile means that you are unable to do the simplest of things like a make cup of tea.

Ah, yes I hear you say, surely it can’t be that hard but you try balancing on one leg with crutches whilst trying to fill a kettle.

Now the tea is made most people like to sit down but how do you carry a cup of tea whilst negotiating a set of crutches?

Making the bed has become a bit like climbing mount everest it takes that long and as for my OCD I’ve taken to examining my floors in infinite detail where I find various bits of dust, food and any other tasty morsel. I can’t sweep the floor and trying to use the mini hoover to vac  things up is nigh on impossible.

Walking or hobbling from one room to the next is like completing a marathon. I need help to do the smallest of things but on the upside I am getting things done slowly by improvising.

The office chair has become a makeshift wheelchair, I can scurry around using doors and walls to push myself around this means I can carry my rucksack with stuff I need to go from one room to another. I never thought my tried and trusted rucksack would be so useful.

modern green office chair isolated on white backgroundTry answering the mobile phone with two crutches or hanging up the washing whilst trying to balance.

I can’t exercise obviously as the heel is painful and now I have more time in my day, more day at the end to get things done. I’ve questioned my exercise religion, is it all that it’s cracked up to be?

Does it really matter if my perfectly honed set of abs become saggier. I am after all at that age where I should stop worrying about fitness after all does anyone really care anyway? Happy fitness woman lifting dumbbells

So why am I thankful?

When I was in hospital I saw an elderly lady who had two stumps for legs she was sitting in her wheelchair and laughed when she saw me bumbling around on crutches.

I suggested a straight swap, her wheel chair for my crutches.

She told me that her husband calls her stumpy I said ‘that’s funny so does mine’.

I was thinking how lucky I am because in 6-8 weeks I will be walking again whereas she will never be able too. The elderly lady joked ‘they’ve taken my legs but they can’t take my sense of humour’.

We both laughed and chatted for quite sometime she was a lovely lady, a wife and mother and I realised that as frustrating as it is right here and now, I had no right to feel sorry for myself after all I’ve got two legs this kind old lady will never be able to stand or walk or feel the sand under her feet or the waves skimming her toes.

I’m more aware of how restricted you are by being immobile because of illness or disability and have never taken this for granted probably because every other month I hear or read about a cyclist or runner getting knocked over and either paralyzed or worse, killed.

As we parted company the elderly lady said to me ‘I’ve done all my running, now it is time for me to hang up my shoes and rest, I think I deserve it’.

I hobbled away on my crutches with a wry smile and and tear in my eye and that’s why I’m thankful for.

Because there is always someone worse off than you.

 

 

Happy New Year Hanging Baubles Blue Bokeh Beautiful 3D

Another new years eve, not AGAIN

I’m just getting into 2014, finally getting to the bottom of the so called task list and then I’m reminded that it’s new years eve and drawing to a close.

What happened to 2014? iStock_000027032354Small

No sooner had christmas come to pass, new years eve crept up on me and said boo from behind.

Granted, I’m not firing on all cylinders having had an operation on my heel bone and achilles tendon which shall we say has left me worse for wear, in pain and on crutches something that I don’t recommend for an OCD control nut like me.

It’s only been 24 hours since returning home from the hospital and I still can’t get big M to load the washing machine the right way and use the correct wash setting.

What am I going to be like in another 2 weeks time?

Back to christmas, well yes where was I?

Once again I missed out on the festivities oh, don’t get me wrong I was THERE all the time big M and I cooked dinner but I find with christmas comes this big anticipated manic anti-climatic rush and then nothing.

That’s N-O-T-H-I-N-G.

I’m not talking about a five gun salute or fireworks going off, this has nothing to do with presents or who you spend christmas with, it’s the whole christmas thing. iStock_000016947992Small

Honestly I get so excited about christmas and then I’m nearly always disappointed when the day arrives.

Too soon it’s over and then I’m left feeling if only, or I wish.

One day, one whole day what am I expecting too happen?

I lie awake in anticipation of the magic of christmas, I love to see the boys get excited. I know they know father christmas is but a figment of the imagination but we love the whole magic of christmas.

Yet at the end of it I’m left feeling disappointed and dejected but I can’t quite put my finger on it.

Is it because I don’t want to ‘enjoy’ christmas too much for that very reason I’ve stated above it’s over so quickly so allowing yourself to get over excited ultimately leads to that feeling of disappointment.

I wonder if my enthusiasm for christmas was quelled by my upbringing as a child, excitement wasn’t a big thing in our house at christmas time.

And every year I swear that I’m going to immerse myself in the whole feeling of christmas, cinnamon, ginger, christmas cake but it never quite happens.

So, here we are again, new years eve, the last day or should I say evening of 2014.

We will shortly be hurtling toward 2015 and another new year.

Each new year brings resolutions, goals, a sense of trepidation and a long list of all the things that you plan to do but inevitably never get around to doing let alone ticking off.

I have two weeks where I can’t drive so that means no school runs and none of the usual running around associated with being a working mum.

Time to rest my dodgy leg, rely on others and big M to do things for me, which will be a real test of my character, undoubtedly my tolerance and patience levels will reach new depths.

But hopefully this ‘down-time’ will allow me to collect my thoughts and decide if 2015 really is going to be ‘my year’ or not.

What will your 2015 look like? Let me know and share what you want to do this year.

Finally A very BIG HAPPY NEW YEAR to those of you who take the time to drop by and read my posts.

Happy New Year Hanging Baubles Blue Bokeh Beautiful 3D

 

 

chocolate cake

The sweet smells of childhood.

Last weekend, Mr M, my two boys and me spent the weekend with my parents for the first time in a very long time.

I could bore you with my tirade on the journey taking 3 hours and 10 minutes, a time that would make Mo Farrah proud of, travelling from Bedford to Walsall a distance of some 95 miles and a usual travel time of around 1 hr and 20 minutes.

We hadn’t spent a whole weekend up there since 2011 and I couldn’t contain my excitement.

You’d think I had won tickets to see Take That with Robbie.

I was so looking forward to going up there for the whole weekend rather than the customary quick visit on saturday when time afforded us or my parents two or three trips a year down to visit us.

For me there is nothing like home, ‘home is where mum is’.

I have many fond memories of childhood and it never ceases to amaze me how we remember only the good times and not the bad ones.

Spending the weekend with my parents allowed me to indulge those chocolate cakememories and with the smell of home all those memories came flooding back.

Why do smells evoke such memories?

The same can be said of a song or a piece of music but there is something unique and special about particular smells.

And what one smell might mean to me might be vile to you.

When we finally arrived, my mum was busy getting dinner ready but the smell took me back to when I was young. Even when I smell a fruit cake baking in the oven or the smell of ginger I am transported back in time.

Group Of Elementary School Pupils Running In Playground

 

My childhood like many of us, had its ups and downs. The best way to describe the  relationship I had with my parents was ‘war and peace’.

But with age comes a sense of self reflection and awareness and in spite of those ups and downs my family home still instills a sense of peace and safety.

As I grew up home was ‘safe’ as I ventured into adulthood and at times depressing jobs, terrible bosses and relationships that made my head spin, home was where I felt safe and warm.

Just being in the comfort of my family home with my parents and its homely smell was all I needed to know that the world wasn’t that bad a place.

What is it about ‘smells’ that whisks you back down memory lane?

When I smell cresote I am literally transported back to the first family home in Walsall, it reminds me of school holidays and how we use to race around the block on our bikes.

After tea when we had our fill of the day we’d lie on this long patch of grass that snaked up the side of a neighbour’s house and the smell of cresote lingered in the air, it was comforting.

I smell pine needles and I’m instantly transported back to a lovely place, Grado Pineta, Italy. Pineta literally means pine forests and it was a place where my grand-mother would loan an apartment from a friend where we would stay during the summer holidays.

Bouquet of lavender in a rustic setting

Lavender is a smell I associate with my baby boy Michael now 11 years old. He called the lavender bush outside our back door the bee bush and when I smell lavender I think of that cute little bundle toddling around pointing at his bee bush.

Smells evoke powerful and emotional happy memories and now I am older certain smells are a reminder of a lost childhood, laughter and fun, moments that transport you back to a time of innocence and ease, where life didn’t seem quite so complicated as it is now.

 

 

Baby butt

The confessions of a naked mum

I had an interesting conversation recently with a friend.Chest of a young woman

We were talking about how quickly the kids are growing up and how we both wished we could hold those tiny bundles in our arms again.

Then, the subject turned to puberty and she happened to say;

‘I haven’t seen my son naked since he was 7 years old.’

Aghast, I looked at her and said but how do you know if everything is all ok ‘down there?’

I see both my sons naked all the time, coming out of the shower, on the loo, sneaking  downstairs both hands in the biscuit tin and getting dressed in the morning.

There is nothing more natural than them seeing me naked too, granted I am not an exhibionist nor will you see me parading in front of the car cleaner or stripping off running free spirited into the sea.

I’m not ashamed to say that ‘nakedness rules in our house.’

Following that conversation with my friend, I asked my 15 year old son what he thought about seeing me naked and how he felt about me seeing him.

He was quick to retort: “Mum it just doesn’t bother me, so what if I see you butt naked it doesn’t really register that my mum’s naked. I dont see what the big deal is.”

Baby butt

I thought about my childhood, shared with a younger brother and I wondered if ‘nakedness’ has anything to do with mixed siblings in the household?

I do remember that from about 13-14 years I wanted privacy and I didn’t walk around in the nude especially not in front of my father.

Likewise, he extended the same courtesy to me. He would never barge into my bedroom or bathroom without knocking first.

There was seemingly an unwritten rule that said you are a teenager so going naked is probably not the right thing to do.

I freely admit that whilst I can sunbathe topless in front of strangers and friends I could never show my  top half to my own father, even though he is one half of me.

Do you go naked in front of your children?

My upbringing has fostered a good sense of self worth and yet this is a contradiction because when I look at my body it is with a reluctant acceptance of ageing.

I do not recall my mother promoting a good or bad body image, a body is a body and that was it.

As a gymnast I trained as hard as I could and my body was fit and strong but there were constant reminders from coaches about the importance of weight.

I remember on one occasion a coach saying to me how strong I was and that I was short and stumpy, a perfect gymnastic physique.

In my head I wanted to be tall, lean and skinny and so his comments cut me like a knife.

Not only were they way off base but he single handedly made me foster an unrealistic body image of myself that has stayed with me.

All I could see was a blob in front of the mirror.

In reality I had a fantastic physique and recently when my god-mother showed photos of me when I was 14, it came as a surprise that I wasn’t the blob I had become so familiar with in the mirror.

But I had spent the last 30+ years of my life convinced that I was.

How a few inapproriate words can change the perception of your own body image!

I believe that might be why I’ve never made any rules about the boys being naked or made them feel uncomfortable.

Nudity is healthy and very natural and growing up unashamed of being seen naked with all your bodily imperfections raises uninhibited children who have a realistic body image.

When I researched the idea for this post opinions made by people, posted on forums, blogs and articles all had a view on nudity ranging from it being perverted to being ‘au naturale’.

I am sure that at some point my sons will cover up and will lock the bathroom door for feeling uncomfortable or embarrassed.

Likewise, they may ask me to do the same, but until then I see no need to close the door whilst I undress or cover up when I walk along the upstairs landing to put my clothes in the linen basket.

As far as I’m concerned they will make that decision, not me.

What do you think?

loneliness

The age of loneliness

If you meet a loner, no matter what they tell you, it’s not because they enjoy solitude. It’s because they have tried to blend into the world before and people continue to disappoint them. Jodie Piccoult, My Sister’s Keeper.

I met with some friends recently for afternoon tea, a rare occasion where I forgave myself for leaving the office for a couple of hours to catch up with gossip and have a laugh. loneliness

After we said our goodbyes I experienced a real ‘low’ as I walked back to the car I couldn’t understand how after a couple of hours talking about kids, work, life and husbands and having a good old laugh, why I had a pit in the bottom of my stomach.

Then by sheer coincidence I stumbled upon an interesting article about a woman of 48 years married with two young children who described her feelings of loneliness.

I could relate to this woman entirely. They had recently moved house to a new location, had left old friends behind and this was clearly affecting her well being.

And that is when I realised that what I was experiencing were symptoms of loneliness.

As a working mother of two boys, the extra school activities and everything else in between, there is little time for socialising with friends, conversations are online using Facebook or Whatsapp and not much face to face time.

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How can you be lonely in a society that is 24/7, always  connected, always on.

You are only three steps away from someone you know.

Are these relationships just acquaintances rather than real friends?

If you have a best friend are you more likely to share personal stuff with them face to face rather than on facebook?

The more I thought about this the more I became aware of the difference between being lonely and being alone.

I hardly consider myself alone, I have a family, husband and friends but I do admit to experiencing feelings of loneliness.

Married with a family doesn’t make you immune to loneliness.

Conversation with your partner usually takes the form of how the working day was, money issues, holiday planning, kids well-being, schooling, ideas, dreams.

This type of conversation is mostly transactional that is a series of daily conversational transactions. For example, can you pick up some milk, I’m doing the shopping thursday night, John has a dental appointment on friday.

Or, focused exclusively on parenting leaving little time for talking about how you are feeling. Drought

Many of us are connected socially in the online world but five million of us don’t have close friends according to Relate.

In a study by YouGov commissioned by Relate, 1 in 10 said they had no close friendships, 64% of those with children had daily contact with their sons and daughters, only a quarter kept in daily contact with a parent.

The study found that there was more contact with the boss and work colleagues than friends and family and in spite of an increase in the use of email and mobile phones, 1 in 4 said they had no real friends at work.

Loneliness affects many of us at one time or another and the “Lonely Society” survey by the mental health foundation in 2010 found that 22% of those surveyed (2,256) never feel lonely with 11% or 1 in 10 said they felt lonely often.

Four in ten or 42% felt depressed because they felt alone. Over 48% of those people surveyed felt that society is getting lonelier

When I was a fourteen year old, I can recall befriending a new girl who had recently moved along way from her former Yorkshire home.

I was given the job of looking after her as she became acquainted with her new school and we got on right from the outset.

I was protective of her when she was mocked by others for her strong Yorkshire accent and generally made sure she settled in okay.

We had the same interests – boys, music and sport and went everywhere together and were almost inseparable.

Saturdays were spent at her mum’s flat where we would talk and share our hopes for the future; we would listen to the bee gees and declared that we would be best friends forever.

Then after a year or so, something changed and another school friend started to muscle in on our friendship. It wasn’t done in a malicious or nasty way but I started to feel left out like an equation without the + sign.

Suddenly my best friend and our mutual friend were together and I was cast aside like an old shoe.

I can still recall a history lesson when the ‘other friend’ said to me I hope you don’t mind me being friends with Andrea we’ve become good mates, you can still be our friend.

At that moment I felt slighted, hurt, dumbfounded. I wasn’t aware that I had done anything to upset my best friend. I did ask her if I had done something wrong but she responded with ‘not a thing’.

She went onto say that she had become good friends with Rita.

There was no animosity or hate at all and I was told that ‘two could be three.’

But it didn’t feel the same and then I found out that Rita would often be invited somewhere without an invitation extended to me so I left feeling hurt and dejected.

I can remember that hurt and sharing my feelings with my mum that Andrea and I were no longer best friends.

At that age friendships are transient, they come and go, this week you are top of the pile the next cast out like a leper until the next amazing thing you are seen doing and then you are cool again.

That’s growing up.

But I didn’t realise until I walked out of the coffee shop just how much I missed real friendships.

I’m talking about deep down tell all, through ‘sick and sin’ admit all best friend relationships.

I suspect that my experience of loss, insecurity and aloofness is the fallout from that lost friendship.

I have met many different people, in life and work, made many friends and acquaintances some have come and gone.

My Italian grandmother told me that in life you can count the number of friends you have on one hand, the people who stick by you through thick and thin, those you can turn to in the hour of need and who will not be angry if you don’t speak with them from one week to the next.

Research shows that lonely people share certain characteristics like loss, trauma, negative or critical parenting.

Loneliness brings feelings of anger, sadness, depression, worthlessness all of which have a negative impact on our health.

As we navigate through life we lose friends and make new ones, sometimes we choose to or want to be alone, few of us have escaped the pain of loneliness but, it is part of the experience of growing up.

Our relationships begin, change and end from being an infant to a toddler who experiences separation anxiety.

As children we try to be part of the ‘in crowd’ by making many friends and trying to get acceptance amongst our peers.

Then, as teenagers and the prospect of first love, good or bad and finally into adulthood our social relationships change and shift.

Relationships ebb and flow like the tide and so does loneliness but true friendship endures like a fine wine.

 

 

 

 

female face with wrinkles on her forehead

Growing old ever so gracefully.

On a family trip to Paris in February this year tiredness had crept over me like a blanket.

I certainly looked my age. 
Wrinkles caused by ageing and anxiety clearly to be seen marching across my face.

To make me feel even worse, my beloved happened to remark ‘you look really old’.

I had the chance to leave the boys sightseeing one morning and decided to spend the time doing a spot of window-shopping.

There is only one place a woman must go when visiting Paris and that is the Galeries Lafeyette.

This was the first time I had ever been into such a beautiful department store and I have to be honest my intention was to go shopping for something affordable and under €250.00, I didn’t want to leave empty handed and without a designer carrier bag. I browsed the designer stores even though prices made me draw breath.

I looked at the various cosmetic counters and the array of beauty products as I searched in vain for the elixir of life – anything to halt the ageing process or at least slow it down a bit. I admit that I would have facial enhancements if there weren’t other financial priorities.

The nearest I come to corrective facial surgery is the cucumber face pack I apply on my face when I can remember to find time or the occasional standing on my head, apparently gravity helps with the wrinkles.

I am finding the ageing process challenging and seeing the changes to my face even harder to ‘face’ up to.

Classified ‘as middle-aged’ but really 38 years young, in mind, body and soul, I do wonder what there is too look forward too?

As one friend said to me ‘you look great from behind, you might even get a wolf whistle, just don’t turn around without wearing your sunglasses’.

Thank you G-I-R-L-F-R-I-E-N-D.

In the film, Steel Magnolia’s, Dolly Parton’s character says ‘these thighs haven’t left this house without lycra on them since I was 14’. My face hasn’t left my house without something on it since I was 14.

My personal trainer is working on the body beautiful honing and toning me to near perfection in order that I don’t end up with thighs that look like they’ve been hit by a meteor shower.

The ageing process is a dire business for a woman like a tooth extraction, it is prolonged agony.

I am beginning to see my body parts move at different times despite my protestations. My belly has a definite mound and I can no longer see my sagging vagina, which I hasten to add is definitely heading south.

I have been assured by my personal trainer that I look damn good for my age but I think she might be lying.

I’ve noticed that the inside of my thighs aren’t quite so tight and although I do my best to exercise them I can stand in front of the mirror and shake my inner thighs and my chicken wings to Michael Jackson’s ‘Billie-Jean’.

The heart palpitations are the killer though suddenly creeping up on you like a horror movie that makes you jump right out of your skin. As a friend remarked recently it’s the menopause.

I hate the word menopause almost as much as the word ‘v-a-g-i-n-a’.

Why can’t we call it something else like sometimes, but not always cessation of period, or end of life as we know it.

Getting old isn’t just about age and wrinkles. 

Attitude toward IRSI know I am suppose to be well behaved and set an example but that’s impossible how can I do that when I swear at one of the mothers blocking the school car park entrance with her spangly X5.

Move out the f**k**g way I shout as she looks at me horrified but my professional work appearance doesn’t match what comes out of my mouth.

I wear boyfriend jeans with holes and VANS shoes and I love those t-shirts with ridiculous writing on them my recent acquisition being ‘I hate Mondays’ and my favourite ‘I’m famous but nobody knows it’.

I wear my Nike air max with my pencil skirt or a suit when my heels and feet ache. I listen to loud music when I collect my boys from school and deliberately open the window in order to try and look cool. I occasionally let off bum wind, I can’t always control what my bottom does, much to the disgust of my children.

Don’t misunderstand me I am uncomfortable performing this bodily function openly it just so happens that my children are often in ear shot when I do.

please keep off the grass sign taken in england july 2007 I can’t follow rules or stay off the grass, quite the opposite, I jump on it. If it says ‘don’t touch’, I have to touch it. I pick a fight with traffic wardens because they deserve it and I argue and disagree with anyone who thinks they know it all.

I tell people what I think when asked and don’t always think of the implications of what I say. I love the idea of a book club but can’t stand the women who go to them, they are old before their time.

I am more aware of death and am acquainted with it because at least twice a year an elderly friend or distant relative bites the dust. Death happens, it’s not nice but do we really think we can live forever?

With age I’ve found a different level of confidence it ebbs and flows depending on the company I find myself in. A room full of women scares the heck out of me, yet networking with business professionals whom I’ve never met holds no fear.

I find myself saying hello and smiling to complete strangers in the high street even if I get the two fingered salute. There is not enough smiling in this country no matter what is happening around us a smile costs nothing.

And I complain. I’m not afraid to complain about food in a restaurant and send it back. I am more than happy to argue with a retail assistant about an unsatisfactory purchase and ask for a refund.

I love technology and laugh when my kids say mum we’ve got to get this. Unsurprisingly I am ahead of them. If new technology means it speeds jobs up or makes me more productive I’m all for it.

I’m waiting for the humanoid robot that can clean the house, cook dinner, hang out the washing, give me a foot rub when required and then my husband and kids will be obsolete.

I hate it when someone I know deliberately lies to me about their age. What is the big deal about admitting your age. It’s on your driving licence, birth and death certificate so why not say your age and be proud of it.

Middle age does have it’s downside. I regularly forget where I put things, I go upstairs and forget what I went up for. I suffer with C-R-A-F-T (can’t remember a f*****g thing).

I can be in a business meeting and trail off during a sentence because I’ve forgotten what I was talking about and have to be reminded by those present.

I laugh when I am with friends who are in their thirties or early forties and they are chatting quite merrily only to say something like, ‘middle age is when you are old’. They refer to the 50+ brigade like it really is old age.

Talking to young people is a laugh. I remember exactly what I was like when I was their age and no matter how cool you try to be you know you just aren’t.

In spite of this I find myself using their slang when I talk with their friends, ‘that’s well sick’ I say or ‘that’s safe’. I never use this language and I scratch my head afterwards, what am I thinking? They look at me quizzically has she gone mad, is she taking the p*ss?

ageI can almost hear them thinking does she really know what she’s talking about?

If Mick Jagger and Courtney Love can grow old disgracefully and have fun why can’t I? I may not be an ex-rocker wife but I do admit to a wild, mischievous and rebellious streak.

I act my age when the occasion demands but until then bugga bugga bugga.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Family Walking on Beach

When 4 becomes 3. The empty nest syndrome

I say goodbye to my husband and boys as I leave the beach an hour earlier to get a head start on the packing.
It’s our final few hours of our summer holiday and as I head off on my bike I watch my two boys playing in the sea their shadows silhouetted against the setting sun.

I am choked by the emotion I feel and my tears start to flow, feelings of love, tenderness, loss, at the same time a vice like pain in my chest and a sense of overwhelming inevitability.

What on earth has made me feel like this?

Another school year raced by so quickly it almost left Lewis Hamilton in it’s wake and with a summer holiday over it means another step toward my eldest son leaving home. Group Of Elementary School Pupils Running In Playground

I can’t wait for them to go back to school’, breathed one friend recently and I have to admit there were many times this summer when I uttered the same words.

‘Why is the summer holiday so long?’ another friend remarked, tired with her children always being bored.

I am grateful for the summer holidays, although I still have to work I get time to spend time with the boys without the busy school schedule, school runs and after school activities.

GCSE and A level results are out and many parents including my friends are facing up to the prospect that their 18 year olds will be leaving home.

They are on the precipice of adulthood and it’s the moment every mother dreads, your first born taking the first real adult steps into the world and then they stop needing you.

That long and lingering final hug, the tears and the fears, all the emotions welling up inside.

Last year I wrote about the empty nest syndrome whilst I am three years away from facing that emotional roller coaster ride, I can’t help but feel empathy for parents who are facing up to the reality that their eldest are leaving home.

chipiona beachAs I watch my children play in the sea on the final day of our summer holiday I am sad that their childhood has been stolen from me because the years have passed so quickly.

September sees the start of the GCSE challenge and I am worried that in this important academic year, a year that could change his destiny, it will be my anxiety that will dominate the relationship I have with my son.

All the conversations are likely to focus on what he should be doing, has the homework been done, will the coursework be finished and submitted on time, will the revision and planning be enough, what grades will he eventually get?

I am under no illusion that the year will focus on the end goal, the final results. There will be much to discuss and organise and I fear little time to spend as mother and son.

There are still things left to do that I desperately want my son to see and enjoy; like plan a trip to New York, go to Disneyland in Florida, see a band in concert all before he departs and leaves for good.

All of which cost a small fortune but they are things on my to do list, trips I want to do as a family of four and when I’ve done

it I will feel that I have given my kids a rounded education.

My younger son knows the importance of this year and when I mentioned that his big brother has only three years of school before leaving and then four will become three, I noticed how he bit his lower lip as he fought back tears.

In spite of their arguments I know they do love each other and the dynamic of the whole family will change when the other leaves. It has to and it can’t and won’t feel the same.

This raises a new issue when it comes to holidays. Will my younger son want a friend to come on holiday? How will he feel being on his own when we go away?

There will be an empty chair at the dinner table and an unbearable silence in the house.

This year is important not just because it’s exam year but it is likely to be the last year we spend as a family unit, just the four of us.

When the exams are over he will want to go out with his friends, girlfriends and party and will spend less time with his family. The transition from a teenager to young man will be complete.

Having quality time as a family, sitting down and having meals together will be the special moments to cherish. Family Walking on Beach

I still have things I need to share with him, experiences that might help him later in life like the adult sex talk, the one I remember having countless times with my mum.

And whilst I talk openly about ‘things’ he giggles and says ‘Mum, I’m busy, I know all about it mum’.

I worry that the time will ebb away before we say the things we should have said but didn’t. Will he be ready for his entry into the world as a man to take on life’s challenges?

All of this I see as my job as a parent and mother to impart wisdom and knowledge.

At the same time I’m reassured by friends who tell me ‘they know, you don’t need to worry, they know a lot more than we ever did, and we managed’.

I see our roles changing. I will become less significant in his life, whilst his life and what he does will be even more important to me.

I will still be Mum but, I also want to be his friend, counsellor and confidante. Do I ask him each night how school is and how he feels, does he need help with anything or do I wait for him to come to me?

Should I ask where he is going, what he gets up to, who are his friends and girlfriends and is he really okay? Just so he knows we all care and love him.

As heart breaking as it is, parents raise their children and prepare them to leave the family home. They have to assert their independence and make a life for themselves it is part of growing up.

A baby chick is encouraged to fly by it’s mother and as parents we have to do the same with our children, encourage them to spread their wings and learn to fly and stand on their own two feet.

Although I have three years before my eldest son leaves, I am already experiencing the feelings of the pain and loss associated with empty nest syndrome.

As a mother I never thought it would be so hard and hurt so much as this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Help. I’m a workaholic get me out of here.

It’s the school holiday’s and I’m spending time working from home with my children.

Five weeks in and I’m like a fish out of water. I didn’t realise what a creature of habit I’ve become.

My husband happened to mention recently whilst I was working at my desk that I am work obsessed in fact he actually said ‘you are a workaholic’. The treadmill of life

I considered that there might be a faint possibility that I am work obsessed given that I do have a touch of OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) and like to get things finished and perfected but I was slighted by being labelled a ‘workaholic.’

Then I researched the meaning of workaholic and unsurprisingly I found myself ticking most of the boxes.

“A workaholic is someone who is addicted to work. While the term implies that the person enjoys their work it can also imply that they simply feel compelled to do it. There is no generally accepted medical definition of such a condition, although some forms of stress, impulse control disorder, obsessive-compulsive personality disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder can be work-related.” (Wikipedia)

i love my jobWorkaholism is not the same as working hard.

Loving what you do or job engagement is not the same as being a workaholic.

I was relieved to find that whilst I don’t fit into the category of workaholic I definitely classify myself as being work obsessed.

I was bought up by the work ethic; work hard now and you’ll reap dividends later.

Workaholism is not defined by the number of hours you work but rather the relationship you have with work.

By that definition my relationship with work is based on the fact I enjoy it.

When you work based on fear like losing your job or feeling compelled to show your boss how committed you are, you are working with the adrenaline in full flow.

This type of work pressure will lead to chronic fatigue, stress and ultimately burn-out none of which are conducive for a long life.

Getting satisfaction from work is a good thing but I’m not sure that many of us derive work satisfaction.

Are we working to live or living to work?

Long hours are a sign of dedication and commitment but for many workaholics it is an indication that they need to escape from problems. In doing so this can lead to neglecting personal relationships and responsibilities.

Although I don’t fit in with the need to work to escape problems I do admit to my wondering task list in my head that goes something like this:- iStock_000010266186Small

  • Finish this blog
  • Work on my college assignment
  • Plan meetings next week
  • Shopping
  • Pick up kids school uniforms
  • Provide proposal for customer

And so the list goes on.

I have trouble switching off and I don’t find it easy to sit still and relax. I am always doing “stuff”.

It must be my psyche and personality that makes me this way but I do know of others who are the same as me.

Give me a desk and chair and I’ll find something to do. I’m relieved when my family leave to go out so I can have peace and quiet.

When I’m on holiday all I want to do is work, draw, write or answer emails I like to fill my day which would imply that there is something missing in my life?

Do I really need to fill every endless hour or void with something to do?

I don’t want to fall behind and leaving things for a few days means that things get forgotten this leads to more work, hassle and pressure to get things done.

Working over 50 hours a week seems to be the threshold that differentiates the ‘workacoholics’ from everyone else.

  1. Do you feel a constant need to be busy?
  2. Do you find it difficult to relax or sit still?
  3. Do you find it difficult to delegate work to others?
  4. Do you have an endless to do list which feels like it is never completed?
  5. Does your spouse or children complain or moan that you “always seem to be working?
  6. Do you forget things, events, conversations because you are forever preoccupied?

Some of the above I can say yes to but given the modern society we live in, we are all under pressure to stay on top of things.

Using a bench mark of fifty plus hours a week to work out if you are a workaholic seems unfair given many Doctors, Nurses, Solicitors and endless other professions work long hours and probably don’t consider themselves as workaholics.

Wayne Oates coined the phrase “workaholic” back in 1968 but there are many jobs that require us to work long hours that provide a huge sense of satisfaction and meaningfulness.

If we see our jobs as satisfying and worthwhile and we have choice and control over our work then work contributes to our lives in a meaningful and purposeful way.

No control and no choice over work results in misery, depression and stress.

Finding the work-life balance is still a utopian ideal.

Mostly I love what I do, the day job helps keep me focussed and pays the bills and I love to write.

Half Asleep Woman With First Cup of CoffeeBut toward the end of a school term I suffer with chronic fatigue from the endless school activities and work having to fit in an otherwise impossible schedule.

A few days out of the routine and I feel less tired and clear headed again.

Researchers from Norway and the UK developed the Bergen work addiction scale.

Read each of the following statements and rank yourself on each one according to the following:-

1= never

2= rarely

3= sometimes

4= often

5= always

If you score 4 (often) or 5 (always) on four or more of these statements it may suggest that work is all consuming for your.

1. You think of ways to free up more time to work

2. You end up by spending more time working than you had initially intended

3. You work to reduce feelings of guilt, anxiety, helplessness and depression

4. You have been told to cut back on work but haven’t listened

5. You become stressed and anxious if you can’t work

6. You prioritise work over hobbies and exercise

7. You work so much that you’ve noticed a decline in your health and well-being.

You can be a highly effective workaholic as long as you recognise the signs and symptoms of over work.

Finding the WLB (work-life balance) is like a pendulum, it moves in different directions according to our status.

L'arc en ciel

The downside of work overtaking your life is that you are likely to miss out on fun, laughter and the richness that life has to offer.

Advice I would do well to heed!

 

 

 

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Is it time to cut back on social media?

Our social media world has become so inextricably linked to our personal lives that we may well be in danger of losing our identity.Is it time to cut back on social media?

We have never shared so much information – tweeting, instagramming, facebooking but are we sharing the truth? We embellish our lives carefully editing what’s important and in some way making it sound more exciting than it really is because we want our lives to be seen as fun and successful.

We don’t admit to boredom and unhappiness in jobs or relationships or the stress and anxieties we feel and yet we believe that everyone else’s updates are more exciting than our own.

When was the last time you read a really negative status update?

It can come as a relief when we find that the lives of others aren’t as great as we first thought and in spite of us overestimating the fantastic lives of the celebs we follow, when revelations unfold that their life may not be all that it’s cracked up to be it actually makes us feel better.

We can relate to that famous person because they have the same problems you and I have therefore it makes it more real.

Studies have shown that endless exposure to the success of others means that facebook users tend to be prone to isolation, jealousy and depression.

Sherry Turkle in her book “Alone Together” describes ‘a virtual world where you get to build an avatar, a house a family and a social life, a place to love your body, love your friends and love your life.

Is it time to cut back on social media?Technology is seductive when what it offers meets our human vulnerabilities. We are lonely but fearful of intimacy. Digital connections may offer the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship.’

We’ve become dependent on a virtual world that makes us seemingly perfect to those who connect with us but in reality we have all the human foibles and insecurities as the next person.

Last year I wrote about social media addiction but I do wonder if we have reached the saturation point or social media overload. I’ve been active on social media for four years. I was late to the party but I come from a generation that held conversations either face to face or on the telephone and not in an online digital world.

Social media is used primarily for business to promote our brand and get our content messages out to a wider audience.

I admit that I cannot post status updates on my personal life and am rather coy at lambasting my plain and rather unexciting life on the social media platforms but I am a great sharer when it comes to business.

I feel uncomfortable about posting what I’m doing every hour of the day or what exciting or horrible thing has happened to me.

When I was feeling really ill recently and languishing at home all I wanted was some ‘tea and sympathy’ I could have easily posted my status update as ‘ill, in need of sympathy and kind words’ and no doubt I would have had a favourable response but I guess it just isn’t me.

Forget FOMO (fear of missing out), its FOBLA – fear of being laughed at.Is it time to cut back on social media?

Why do I want to disclose what I’ve eaten for breakfast, which coffee I prefer and what fashion high heels I’m wearing today?

Who really cares or is bothered about my status updates or anyone elses for that matter? True friends maybe, but the rest of the world couldn’t care less about what I’m wearing today or how wonderful my holiday is.

Social media platforms afford a great way to vocalise your thoughts and opinions. It’s searchability means you can find information on any subject you can think of from actors, celebrities, books, and music.

You can follow, like, pin your favourites in the comfort of your armchair.

No one needs to know that you like to bungee jump without any knickers on or that your passion is collecting stamps.

Social media has its purpose and gives us a whole new way of connecting and communicating in this modern world and while it has outlasted it’s fad stage it has become integrated into our personal and business lives.

Smartphones, tablets, laptops and the internet are not going away anytime soon, in turn this will fuel our need for connecting, for staying in touch and for always being on.

Our society and way of life makes great demands on us and social media makes it easier to stay connected to the world.

I admit that the need to post updates to promote messages, blogs and schedule tweets is at times so pressure laden that I wonder what we use to do before social media.

I find it over-stimulating and am easily distracted when I follow a stream or click on a link to something else that I never really engage with the article because there is too much information.

I’ve learnt the art of skimming an article to see if it’s worth staying the course.

Social media has made me impatient I’m rushing to get things done to respond to retweets, mentions, post updates, like, follow and add to a circle it becomes another never ending task I have to do in an otherwise hectic working day.Is it time to cut back on social media?

I’ve become more impatient at the recent changes on the various platforms notably facebook, twitter and linkedin and the time consuming redesigns required to make sure the various sites are professional.

Has social media stopped us being creative, less analytical?

Type in a keyword and up comes a whole host of information without really having to think about it. If I’m sketching out an idea or drawing a mind map rather than thinking about it and being creative I google the idea and hundreds of images pop up.

I can search on tumblr and find great creativity and then I’m distracted and forget what I went there for in the first place.

But these ideas aren’t coming from me. I have no time to sit down and be creative when there are too many other important things to get done.

We don’t know how to be on our own, still and silent without the intrusion of our smartphones going ping.

We’ve become a society that lives on fast food, with less sleep, pressured from aggressive marketing from brands that have too much influence over us, a multi-media digital world where reality and fiction have merged that it has become impossible to recognise what is real and what isn’t.

A possible future? A desensitized and depraved generation of youngsters with an attention span of less than a minute and a desire to be more twitter or facebook famous than their X-Factor counterparts or a silent, quieter world where real conversations with real people take place.

Seriously what do you think?

How do you manage your time on facebook or twitter or any other platform?

Does it help you to stay in touch or connected?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I want to leave my family… just for a week

I want to leave my family just for a week.It may sound selfish and probably insane but fifteen years since the birth of my first child and the arrival of my second almost eleven years ago I’m in urgent need of some well-earned ‘me’ time. 

I’ve always been there for my family through thick and thin, good times and bad and I am at the point where I need to re-discover who I am.

I have morfed into a cross between a young looking XX year old mum who is fashion conscious but wondering if she’s beginning to dress like her own mother, to a teenager in Vans and Skinny’s.

I’m not even sure what look I’m trying to cultivate for myself. I’m stuck in no womans land, who am I, what am I, who do I want to be.

It is that feeling you get when you take a deep sigh and harrumph!

What do I mean?

I’ve put my life on hold for my kids and to some extent my husband, for sure I run a business and I contribute to our financial sure footing so it’s not like my whole life revolves around them.

Who am I kidding of course it does. I run errands for them, I take them into school most mornings and I collect them from school (too far to walk and the bus doesn’t go all the way.) And I work in the same town.

You can find me lurking in the school grounds long after parents and children have gone home for a drama rehearsal that is running beyond the finish time of 8:00PM or a swimming competition that is in another town and has overrun by an hour making it 7:30PM before they get back to school.

I rush to school at lunchtime because one of my adolescent’s has left their PE bags in the boot of the car. I spend more time in that school car park than I do in bed with my husband.

Escape and be freeI’m there through sickness and health, tears, tantrums, happiness and laughter. I provide the emotional and physical support, I am the proverbial tower-block for them.

Why do I have this inherent desire to leave, to flee the ship to abscond to escape like a prisoner desperate to see blue skies?

Simple I need to discover me.

You see it got lost somewhere between M for Mummy and CS for cervical smear.

I’ve forgotten what it feels like to be me. I lost my identity and myself sometime back in 2003 after my second child. I feel more like a Mum and less of a woman

I love motherhood every moment has been precious to me. I love its daily challenges; why can’t I play with my ipad in bed or why do I need to go to bed so early, my friends are allowed to stay up later on school nights.

The overwhelming feelings of love are inexplicable as is the dislike of their bad behaviour and answering back which at times force me to the whisky bottle.

Yet I absolutely cannot justify booking a week at a spa retreat or on a ‘singleton’ type holiday and leave them just because I’m going through what might seem to be a mid-life crisis.

Certainly doesn’t feel like it to me.

I had a birthday gift given to me in January, one night at a spa retreat, one whole day and night being pampered but I am hesitant to go.

Am I completely insane?

I have guilty feelings for even thinking of leaving our home for one day let alone seven nights.goldfish jumping out of the water

Why?

Because it feels like I am abandoning them. For so long I’ve always put them first, their well being is far more important than mine.

At the same time, I need to get back in touch with the person that is me, the person I was before I got married.

The occasional flirtatious, sexy (my husband’s view), very funny chick that would laugh at the most outrageous things and behave occasionally very badly.

What am I scared of?

That my husband wouldn’t love the real me, the person I use to be when I was his girlfriend, the woman he proposed to?

I can’t have changed that much surely.

Maybe I have. Too many years being a mummy and fitting comfortably into the genre is enough to make anyone question their identity.

Am I having an identity crisis? 

Do I need solitude from the ‘noise’, kids noise, school noise, work noise, world noise?

The idea of decamping from house and home and seeking solace in a place that requires me to be calm and tranquil sounds fabulous.

Away from the daily tasks that have become automated like loading the washing machine, planning dinner for next week, shopping lists, school runs, extra curricular activities that are dropped on me at a moment’s notice and are in my head not in my Filofax.

It’s endless.

familyAm I just tired like every other weary working woman who never gets their allotted amount of sleep and because I yearn for solitude and quiet and not the sound of my brain whirring?

I had no idea that having children and a husband would be so unrelenting and exhausting.

What if they left me instead?

I’ve suggested the idea on numerous occasions ‘go and have a male bonding week’ but it fell on deaf ears. No Mum, we can’t go without you, we can’t leave you, we’re not a family without you were their exclamations.

I’m not convinced their responses were indeed virtuous. Very sweet yes, but more like who is going to cook, wash, make the beds and be the general tidy up person rather than have mum around for the sake of mum.

The idea of being gloriously self-absorbed for a week sounds so delicious.

What would I do with this me time?

Would I do the things I want to do or would I end up by sorting my wardrobes, getting rid of piles of stuff, resolve to tidy the garage.

When really what I should be doing is sitting in a café in London watching the world pass by or sketch and paint, pamper myself at a day spa, sleep or simply lie on crisp white linen sheets looking at the ceiling and thinking of nothing.

There’s the thought of laying in bed all day watching TV or wallow in the bath with a bottle of champagne until I shrivel up.

The thought of not having to justify my actions or explain why I do the things I do would feel great.

Would one week of unadulterated bliss make me truly appreciate what I have the other 51 weeks of the year?

Until next time