Category Archives: Features

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

Adult Son Moving Out Of Parent's Home

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.

 

a life less fulfilled

A Life Less Fulfilled

It is the last day before the boys go back to school following the easter break. The sun is streaming through the bathroom window and I can feel the warmth on the back of my legs.a life less fulfilled

If only everyday presented itself with sunshine then maybe we would start the day feeling happy and contented.

School holidays find me in a reflective mood because I am off the school and work treadmill if I want to start work at 11am and finish at 8pm I can, working for yourself has its pluses.

I am in a constant state of self analysis. I must/should work, I must read that book, I must try meditation. It’s exhausting because as soon as you come off that ‘dreadmill’ just for a second guilt strikes.

We put so much pressure on ourselves to seek ‘happiness’ when maybe we should be focussing on finding fulfilment.

Happiness is not long lasting and comes out of something pleasurable but short lived like sex, or that new pair of shoes you bought, that moment of happiness fills us with joy and excitement but it doesn’t last long.

The fact that we aren’t happy all the time makes us dissatisfied and I wonder if I have confused my pursuit of happiness over what is really important, human fulfilment and abundance.

‘If only’ are two words that seem to be synonymous with the way many of us live. If only I could afford that car, if only I could have that job, if only my boss was..

I, we, live in a perpetual state of wanting or needing something to satisfy the need for happiness. Is it happiness, contentment or fulfilment?

A life less fulfilled

Whatever it is, it feels like something is missing.

We are brought up by societal held beliefs that if we work hard we will achieve happiness and satisfaction by owning that home, a car, have nice holidays and clothes all of which are a means to achieving security and contentment.

In stead we suffer with anxiety about loss of income and job insecurity with many of our fears really about the feeling of not having enough.

But enough of what?iStock_000072924745_Small

We feel guilty because we believe or think we should or could have achieved so much more a successful career with great prospects, improved personal circumstances instead many of us have unused or unrecognised talents.

What we should really be asking ourselves is ‘what is important to me, what makes me fulfilled and what do I really want to do with my life?’

Anthony Robins writes “Many people are passionate, but because of their limiting beliefs about who they are and what they can do, they never take the actions that could make their dream a reality”.

If we had a few million tucked away many of us would not bother showing up for work and we would do that thing we’ve always wanted to do.

But in reality, we have to work to sustain an income, a home and put food on the table.

Family Walking on BeachI love those life changing quotes like live for today for tomorrow may never come, live a life full of meaning, take risks and live your dreams.

If there were more hours in the day we could do more but life isn’t that straightforward and the reason why anxiety and mental health is dominating our news is that many of us feel  under pressure to fulfil societal expectations that frankly are impossible to attain.

Because we are not happy all of the time this makes us feel dissatisfied and unfulfilled which can lead to depression and a sense of resignation, I can’t change anything so why bother, leading to a life less fulfilled.

When I woke up on 1st January I asked myself do I want another year like the last ten?

I carry a rather grandiose expectation of where I thought my life should be but it hasn’t quite materialised.

Pensive girl thinking in winterWhat have I been searching for?

What do I want? If I change nothing then this year will be the same as all the others but the thing is what should I change?

What is this life thing all about?

So many people appear to have figured out the meaning of life but I’m still confused.

I need order and routine so the idea of living life spontaneously doesn’t quite fit with a woman who is a chronic over thinker over analyser and persistent worrier who needs to know where she lays her hat each night.

In my search of wanting less and making the most of what I have around me I have been hoarding clothes, bags and shoes that haven’t been worn in a lifetime and I don’t need.

I looked at the pile of clothing and rolled my eyes, ‘when was I ever going to wear ‘that’, ashamed that I have wasted so much money for the pursuit of my own personal happiness and pleasure and that gut feeling of short lived excitement when you buy something new.

I have a life full of abundance and I am admittedly partly fulfilled.

I have misplaced my love for life and forgotten just how wonderful it is to have my health, a job, children and a loving husband, a roof over my head with hot and cold running water.

I have forgotten to be appreciative of what is around me and, by not living in the moment life has passed too quickly for me to enjoy it and so this year is in danger of becoming like all the other years.

No matter how far you travel or how many changes you make in life happiness is not given it has to come from within and I am working on making the most of now and leaving tomorrow exactly where it is.

Further Reading

Living life in the slow lane

How life has changed since I reached my 50’s

The sweet smells of childhood

group of smiling girls chilling on the beach

Has selfishness replaced happiness

This week I’ve been scratching my head over whether we should focus on happiness or selfishness. Girlfriends Friendship Party Happiness Summer Concept

Is being happy the key to a rewarding, fantastic life or, should we be more selfish when it comes to thinking of ourselves?

My inbox this week contained some interested subject lines: –

Mindful dailiness

Live a balanced life

Life changing ways to increase your longevity?

5 ways to increase your happiness

How to get the ying and the yang back into your life

What made me think about this was a series of emails from an american lady, extolling the virtues of how to be mindful, live in the now, be aware of what is around you.

Hasn’t all this been done?

I had to look up ‘mindfulness’ to understand its real meaning; the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.

I am mindful, aren’t I?

Has selfishness replaced happiness?I do look and observe what’s around me but being mindful is more than that.

We have become obsessed with this ideal of being happy, living in the moment and with so much written about it in the media, is it really selfish to think about ourselves and have some me time.

I am fed up being told that to have a perfect life I must follow a certain doctrine for a better way of life, there isn’t such a thing as a perfect life I am an ordinary mother who works, has two children and a husband.

My life is good in comparison to many and to others not so good.

Social media has changed our lives and many succumb to the negative effects of life comparisons.

I have to admit that when I read someone’s current status I feel envious to the point of being jealous, why aren’t I doing that, why hasn’t that happened to me and I have to kick myself to remember that most of what I read is embellished without all the facts, perhaps their status may not be as wonderful as it seems.

Being nosy and peering through the curtains is a human trait we are fascinated by other people’s lives we can’t help it we like to know what someone else is doing and if they are having more fun than us.

I have fallen foul of ‘what is your current status’ and that’s not good.

“We – a manifesto for women everywhere” arrived on my desk, the latest offering from actress Gillian Anderson and journalistic friend Jennifer Nadal.Death_to_stock_photography_wild_5

In the book the authors’ address the issues women face, and, how we should support each other both professionally and personally, and, face up to the ‘having it all culture’ that we are inextricably linked to.

I confess that I am self-centered and altruistic, because my industry is largely dominated by men.

I recently helped a young woman in her early twenties who had tripped and fallen and, was clearly in pain, I was told to f**k off when I tried to help.

No good deed goes unpunished I thought no wonder we don’t give a shit about anyone but ourselves forget about happiness it’s selfishness.

I find it very difficult to ask for help when things go awry, somewhere in my childhood I was taught self sufficiency and to rely on myself.

In hindsight this is not a good attribute, after all when you offer help or advice by request, we feel good when our endeavours are recognised no matter how small.

Is there more to life than being happy? Should happiness be our sole intent? Is it selfish to focus on ‘me’?

Anxiety and stress are common workplace diseases, I use that word because it affects so many from shopfloor to boardroom level we’ve almost forgotten the experience of fun and happiness, when most of our lives are consumed by a culture that is ‘live to work’ rather than ‘work to live’.

Our culture compares not just our lifestyle but our whole life, the way we live, work and play. It is wholly unrealistic because we are comparing ourselves with an ideal, something that doesn’t exist but we feel under pressure to comment or post statuses that are a fabrication of how we really feel.

Fear prevents you from sharing and vocalising your innermost feelings, fear of being ridiculed, made fun of, the flip side of that is any true expression about how you feel over an event or situation means you are exposing your beliefs and principles which makes us vulnerable to cruel reactions. 

How many times do you read someone’s status only to roll your eyes and shake your head with embarrassment or cringe at the depths to which people are willing to share their issues, it is the cringe factor.

We are competing on unequal terms, all of which is manifested by our imagination.iStock_000016673127Small

You compare someone’s instagram’s status with your own, do they have a better life than you, they seem to be having so much fun.

There is pressure on the pursuit of happiness, we want instant gratification think Amazon, place an order and you can get same day delivery, what we want we get.

We want more possessions to make us feel better and I am guilty of this, a box of stationery delivered at the office sends me into a quiet but frenzied moment of excitement and gratification, invariably, it doesn’t last long and I am left wanting or needing the next thing.

We are not happy with what we have, I am not happy with what I have, but this is a paradox I am happy or rather content.

Happy is a state of the moment, short lived, contentment is long term and gives you that warm huggy feeling that all is well in you and your world.

As Gretchen Rubin wrote; ‘there is the belief that unhappiness is selfless and happiness is misguided. It’s more selfless to act happy’ (The Happiness Project)

When I feel happy I am inclined to want to help, to advise to do what I can it’s in my nature and when I went to help that young girl who had fallen it was my maternal instinct wanting to make sure she was okay but my actions were rebuked rather than seen as help.

Society tells us that happiness is key to living a fulfilling life, that has to be earned by having a fantastic car, living in a big house, you deserve it only when you’ve contributed or achieved something.

It is our god given right to be happy.

Many of us work longer hours, have less quality time, are insecure in employment is it any wonder that the path to happiness is eluding us and has been replaced with selfishness?

If we are tired, insecure and worried we are more likely to put ourselves first?

We are too busy looking out for ourselves we can’t live in the moment let alone be mindful of our beautiful world we are too knackered living it.

Self help books, self-prioritising, we have become the centre of our own universe social media tells us so.

We live in a world that offers more places, more choices and, more often.

I’m reminded of Pharrell Williams’ Happy song

Clap along if you feel that happiness is the truth

Clap along if you know what happiness means to you

Focussing on ourselves and making sure we are happy not only makes us feel better but will ensure our good vibrations are felt by all around us.

If only we could guarantee sunshine…

Group of friends playing digital games at home.

The Impetuousness of Youth

The kids of today, want things straight away.

As they rush around, like headless chickens.

Never listening, nor pausing,

To soak in the view.

Decisions, decisive

Yet seemingly

Random.

No knowledge of history, or geography.

Anything in books, or owt that’s old.

Preoccupied only,  by the very, very new.

Like me, when I was young;

Yet was I really All

That bad?

©Paul Butters

Multitasking millennial concept

When I decided on this headline,  I typed into google the

‘Impetuousness of Youth’ and up popped this poem.

I couldn’t help think it summed up some of the youth of today and I include my soon to be 18 year old in this group of selfish, spoiled, ambivalent of what is happening around them generation.

A sweeping generalisation? Maybe

There can be no doubting that young people are growing up less prepared for the real world and I can testify to that when, back in October my son and I were doing the University rounds, a father put his arm around his son to comfort him and said, “are you ok son, it’s a lot to take in isn’t it, too much in one day”.

We looked at each other and fell about laughing whilst the hug didn’t go unnoticed to speak to a 17 year old like a child is surely making the path ahead tougher than it needs to be.

It is the parents who need to educate teenagers to life’s ups and downs, teach them resilience with tough love thrown in for good measure, steady the ship when waters are choppy and make sure they can take care of themselves when they leave home, being able to cook, wash, iron and ensure they know how to take care of their own personal hygiene.

My son’s school has decided to give boys in the U6th lessons on the basics of cooking, because many of them simply have no idea how to cook.

Compare that to my generation, by thirteen I was able to cook a sunday lunch, macaroni cheese, casserole, and cakes.

My local state school had home economics in the timetable and girls had a double lesson once a week from the age of 12 – 14 years thereafter you could continue with it to O-level (now GCSE) and the boys got to choose woodwork or metalwork.

We learnt how to sew on buttons and mend basic items of clothing, we even learnt to knit.

Subjects clearly defined by gender.

Why has this generation created more controversy than any other?

They are portrayed as selfish, narcissistic, self absorbed, have an attention span of three minutes and a smartphone permanently affixed to their left hand?

The answer is ‘I don’t know’.

My generation of ‘baby boomers’ have been accused of taking away their future, their access to housing and jobs. But I think it runs deeper than that.

Parents are bringing up young people unprepared for the realities of adulthood, parents, teachers and police lack the discipline and respect once afforded them.

The american author, Rick Johnson in his book; ‘That’s my teenage son’ believes that with more single mothers raising sons, boys are being feminised and are not developing into capable strong male role models.

The absence of a father figure in the household cannot be underestimated, a father who is absent or abandons the family is more likely to produce a son who, will do the same thing.

In the same way a husband who abuses his wife passes on the same legacy to his son, who thinks that that behaviour is the norm.Group of friends playing digital games at home.

Mothers face the perennial dilemma of ‘letting go’ of their children and I am dumbfounded by stories from well meaning mothers who drive up to university with a month’s supply of food to help their ‘little darlings’ who, are so far from home.

How does this help our children stand up and become adults. I am sure that at some point I, will, do the same thing, I see it as part of the ‘letting go’ process, the part where they are no longer ‘yours’.

They meet new friends and peers, mum has limited influence and is no longer the most important person in her child’s life, a bitter pill especially when you have nurtured them from birth.

It is alright to accept advice from the new found girlfriend or boyfriend but you give them the same advice and are accused of not knowing what you’re talking about.

Has this generation lost its sense of direction? Because parents have done or, are doing too much for them?

With both parents often working long hours to maintain a reasonable level of income it is understandable if when both get in the last thing they want to do is spend quality time with the kids, engaging in conversation when either offspring are in front of the T.V or on their smartphone.

Parents feel guilty for not being able to invest more time with their children and placate them by buying the latest phone or letting them go to that concert they’ve been nagging you about for the last two months.

Children are having their demands met because parents, due to a lack of time and work pressures, give in to keep the peace.

They want it now and they won’t wait for it.

Contrast that to my generation who worked university holidays had saturday jobs and saved to buy their first car.

I bought my first car at 22 it was my brother’s ford fiesta.

My eldest son got his first car at 17, we bought him his car and he has agreed to pay for it when he is working.

There were no such expectations when I was 17 and, I never expected my parents to buy a car for me.  

My father got a good deal with the local Ford garage, a customer of his at the time, he helped me get the best option for a small loan to buy the car, but financial help, no way, and, I wouldn’t have even thought to ask.

This generation almost believe they have a sense of entitlement, in a way we never did.

School teachers, priests, the police force and other authoritative figures were revered and respected they had the power to discipline but this has all but been removed.

Children no longer respect authority or rules and this in turn makes them completely unprepared for the realities of adulthood with its boundaries and rules particularly in the workplace. 

Children have more rights than I ever had at school and this leaves adults feeling helpless and unable to discipline their own and other people’s children without fear of reprisal.

Children should be looking forward to a future that holds some certainty and security.

Whilst I use to hate being told, “there’s a time and a place” by my parents that statement holds true. I fully commit to allowing my children to express themselves but with common decency and courtesy.

Children should be able to say what and how they feel, I believe that any government must address this issue of who holds the balance of power in the classroom, teacher or pupil?

Has the balance of power shifted?

What is the answer?

On balance this generation in my view are laid back, technology addicted  and a confident generation.Networking

They are audacious and have more confidence than we ever did, we would stick out a job for at least 18 months because we were ‘told’ leaving sooner didn’t look good on the C.V yet this generation are bold and brassy.

If they don’t like it they say so and they aren’t scared of ditching the job if it doesn’t work out.

I worked with some awful managers and because I was scared of taking a risk and being out of work I stuck it out.

This generation are the opposite they are probably the most educated and diverse generation, they are open to new technologies, ideas and openly express their opinions in ways I never did.

They are the true digital generation, they have grown up with the internet, mobile phones, social media and apps. They can work out a new smartphone in less than the time it takes for you or me to make a cup of tea and they are always seeking answers to questions.

Their experience of the world has been shaped by a digital landscape.

They are not afraid.

Are we missing a trick?

Whilst I read almost daily about this much misunderstood, maligned generation I can’t help think we are missing a trick here?

They are overtly confident bordering on arrogance, they are the sharing generation, they are the forward thinking generation, aspirational beyond what they are probably capable of but they want to contribute now; they want to be seen and heard, they don’t want to wait until they are three rungs up the corporate ladder before their opinion is valued.

They want to share ideas and innovations and they don’t appear to be scared even at the expense of ridiculing themselves.

Should we and employers change how we view them?

UK businesses should be harnessing this mass potential, give them a shot at the big time, allow them to unleash the technology that is second nature to them whilst we are still coming to terms with the power social media, apps and digitisation can have in the business workplace.

BYOD (bring your own device) has largely been promoted by this generation they want the device of their choosing and not one that is provided and because they are mobile they are used to working from anywhere and at anytime, from coffee shop to corporate office.

To dismiss this generation would be foolhardy because they are undoubtedly redefining this century.

We should embrace their knowledge, their attributes and their commitment in expressing ideas and, whilst I roll my eyes when I say this, they will be the future business and government leaders of tomorrow, just maybe, we should be prepared to respect and acknowledge them.

Further Reading

Do our children ever stop needing us?

What no role model? Do children need role models?

What’s your flava? Child favouritism, who do you love more?

Diary of a sugar addict

Diary of a sugar addict – one year on

I am alive and kicking. Diary of a sugar addict

This time last year I was diagnosed with candida albicans a yeast infection of the gut.

Long term side effects were just that, long term. I was always tired and lethargic. It didn’t matter whether I had ten or six hours of sleep a night, I would wake up feeling like I had ran a marathon.

I would literally drag myself to the bathroom such was the exhaustion I felt. I put it down to the menopause, hormone imbalances, mood swings, nausea, sickness, fuzzy head, a feeling that all I ever wanted to do was lie down and sleep for a week.

It was awful and the final straw was mid January 2016 when my husband and I took a day off from work to meet with some friends from Spain who were celebrating their wedding anniversary with a trip to the UK.

A lunch and two prosecco later I felt grim my face went a darker shade of puce, I vomited and my heart felt like it was about to explode, without exaggeration I sat in the toilet of the restaurant downstairs thinking what the heck could I be allergic too that could cause such a severe reaction?

Having eaten I assumed it must be food related and although I had been keeping a food diary for the last year I could not see anything in my diet that cause such a violent reaction.

Fortunately Rocio our friend happens to be an ER nurse she was concerned for me and tried to ascertain what the problem was. By the time we came to leave my heart rate had slowed and my stomach felt a bit better. But I still felt awful.

We travelled back from Cambridge and I was able to get a Dr’s appointment the following morning.

By the time I went to bed I was wasted, the nausea had lessened but I had a headache and felt like it was the morning after the night before.

The visit to the Dr didn’t highlight any abnormality either she felt around my abdomen explaining that she wanted to feel if my liver was swollen.

I had the proprietary blood test and after an explanation of my symptoms my Dr was none the wiser.

Diary of a sugar addict

It was my six weekly maintenance check at my osteopath and a quiet mention of what had happened prompted her to recommend seeing an allergy specialist.

Two days later there I was right palm turned upwards with a strange looking copper probe attached to a machine, a type of acupuncture, non invasive and totally pain free.

Having been asked a whole host of questions and being grilled about my lifestyle, when was the last time I had taken antibiotics, had food poisoning, was I on HRT and so forth. I was convinced I was allergic to something, but what, I had no idea.

I hinted maybe it might be shellfish? Did you have that at lunchtime when you started to be ill, no I said.

She set her pen down gave me a wry smile and said I know exactly what it is but, I am going to do the proprietary tests to confirm my diagnosis.

Almost forty minutes later Sam sat back in her chair and said ‘you have candida albicans.’

In its basic form it is like having thrush in the gut, ‘that sounds nasty’, I said.

It is, ‘and if we don’t get a grip of it now the long term side effects are awful.’

I am severely allergic to sugar and yeast and the change I had made in my diet in the middle of 2015 going vegetarian eating bran and oat based products were full of sugar.

Those two prosecco I had had were the last straw on my body, finally it had had enough and that was why the reaction was so bad.

Was I really a sugar addict?

Sam explained that even though I had been keeping a food diary, I couldn’t see the correlation between any of the foods because what I was looking for is invisible.

It is hidden in all the foods we eat, SUGAR. Over time I had unwittingly increased the amount I was consuming not by fault but because the healthier food alternatives I had substituted into my diet were full of sugar.

In fact the more I studied the ingredients the more I found that these so called healthier foods contained more sugar than the standard food items.

Diary of a sugar addict

Yeast wasn’t so much of a problem it meant replacing bread with sourdough bread, gravy, mushrooms, cheese, but I was allowed the creamy cheeses, nuts had to go and I needed to make sure I didn’t over do it on the carbohydrates which if you remember in biology, convert to sugar.

Trying to find food products without sugar that turned out to be another story.

Pretty much everything I had in my cupboard contained sugar in some shape or form, even my organic pasta, rice, soups, pasta sauces. I couldn’t believe it sugar was in all the food groups I presumed to be good for you.

Take Kellog’s cereal it boasts that it has niacin, vitamin C and D and yet sugar lurks there the same with babies’ follow on milk.

That was the biggest shock as I picked up the milk I used to feed my two boys after I finished breastfeeding and there it was again, sugar, easy to miss and why would you examine the ingredients in such detail you assume that these brands have your babies’ welfare at heart.

Think again.

We are a nation of obese people, we are addicted to the white stuff and yet half of us don’t even know it. Sugar is introduced into our diet at birth and we have no control over it.

In spite of the various campaigns to highlight how bad sugar is, brands are still incorporating it into all their foodstuffs.

I’m not advocating complete elimination a little bit of what you like does you good my mother’s saying goes but we cannot get on top of the obesity or diabetes crisis unless we do something about how brands communicate exactly how much sugar is in the product.

Running outsideOne year on and the brain fuzz has gone I am fitter and leaner than ever, my diet consists of three meals a day and no snacking in between.

When I was tested in January, Sam gave me a clean bill of health I had nuked the candida.

This wasn’t a sign for me to get back on the wagon but the occasional glass of red wine which I had sorely missed and the odd bit of chocolate was allowed.

I am in this habit now and old habits die hard, a subtle reminder of nausea tells me that I shouldn’t have had that hot cross bun, a reality check that sugar can’t ever be in my diet.

Diabetes and obesity is costing the NHS billions which is great news for the pharmaceutical companies, they sell their drugs needed to help people with diabetes and health related problems, therefore they have a vested interest in ensuring sugar stays well and truly in our diets.

I am reminded of the that wonderful film Wall-E when the human race has left earth because of the huge garbage pile up, we are there except it is obesity and not garbage.

A worrying thought for the future of the human race?

We are on a self destruct button without even knowing it.

And unless the food giants start taking responsibility and take the necessary action to support our well being and health then I fear that candida will be just the tip of a very long and deep iceberg.

Further Reading

Diary of a sugar addict

My six weeks of digital detox