Category Archives: Living

Christmas background

Christmas done and dusted!

Well that was it. Christmas 2015 done and dusted. Christmas background

Crept up from behind with no warning, then bam, there I was in December and christmas cards still hadn’t been written let alone mailed.

I’m anti-christmas not on religious grounds, quite the opposite in fact.

As a working mother I never seem to get enough time to actually plan, analyse and execute my christmas master plan.

Oh yes, I had mine all mapped out in September but guess what I didn’t stick to the plan.

The christmas puds were done and put to rest in a quiet and cool place ready to be called upon on christmas day but aside of that NOTHING!

I got some of the christmas presents done when I passed through The best things in life are freeBicester village on my way back from a business trip in November and very proud of myself I was too.

And we had such a nice christmas 2015, it went so smoothly, parents well behaved, family all got on well with no in fights and for once in god knows how many years I had the most relaxing christmas ever.

No inbox full of emails, no customers screaming at me having left something to the last minute. It was a surprisingly quiet and wonderful christmas with normal, well behaved children and husband.

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Then without a bye or leave, christmas and new year over, you had your chance my left brain said to me, whilst the right is still reeling with where did three weeks go?

First week back on the familiar treadmill and I’m scratching my head, did I miss something or was that christmas 2015 over and done with?

Christmas late busy business woman running against timeFast forward one week and we are head long into 2016.

‘Can we get into some good habits this year boys’, I proclaim on the first day back to school. ‘What’s that they both say in unison’.

‘No earphones in ears or playing games on phones just good conversation on the way to school, let’s talk’, I say.

‘What is the point in that they retort’, er, ‘wouldn’t it be nice to talk rather than stare at a small screen’ I say.

Can we leave the house and by that I mean get into the car and depart at 7:20am each day rather than me constantly screaming reminder time checks and to get a move on.

We always leave on time Mum, er, no we don’t not once last year did we ever, ever leave on time we managed 7:22, 7:25, 7:35 but never ever 7:20.

Well what’s wrong with a few minutes either way says my eldest son.

I sigh, because my dear when you get to university or the big world of work and boss says I need that done by 10am tomorrow morning, 10:02, 10:22 won’t cut it, unless you can start to manage your time now, you will never manage it.

You can find bags of time to  play on your playstation in your weekend schedule but can’t seem to find time to write a book review that you’ve had three weeks to read and write ready for the start of school.

to do listsAnd so the usual treadmill of work, school runs, extra-curricular after school activities, nagging, reminding, shouting starts all over and I’m left breathless.

Saturday afternoon is spent aimlessly, whilst my youngest is cricket training, followed by an equally mind numbing Sunday with my eldest at school play rehearsals.

No rest for the wicked they say, they are right.

No weekend to speak of and a blinding row with Mr M on Sunday morning is not a good sign for the rest of what remains of Sunday or the start of a new week.

Finally Sunday evening and I’m tired already,

Still I am refusing to get down or sucked into the January misery even though my birthday was last Sunday I am remaining upbeat and confident 2016 will be a damn good year.

I rely on Pinterest for my quotes of inspiration to get me through like “the best is yet to come”, the past is a place of reference, not a place of residence” and my favourite “it is what it is and it was what it was. Fuck the past. Life is in front of you. Fucking own it”

“There are better things ahead than any we leave behind.” ~ C.S. Lewis

And on that note Happy New Year.

Happy New Year Hanging Baubles Blue Bokeh Beautiful 3D

 

childhood: stack of old photos

What does nostalgia mean to you?

Nostalgia now there’s a word to conjure with.

A combination of feeling homesick and a desire to be back home with family.Death_to_stock_above_10

Nostalgia the bittersweet memories of long lost loves and long gone happy memories, reminding you of a time or period in life when things seemed simpler, easier – school days, holidays, playing, before real life got in the way.

I visited a long term supplier of the company last week and decided to take the opportunity to stay overnight, free from kids and husband.

I couldn’t have asked for a better journey down to Bath and when I reached my destination I was warmly welcomed by my wonderful colleagues and friends.

People who helped shaped the business to what it has become today.

After the initial catch up and tour of the facilities, so I could be reminded of new technology and equipment we spent a rather leisurely afternoon over lunch talking about the good old days.

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We talked about when I was pregnant with not my first but also my second boy and we laughed and shared jokes about being working mums and dads, some of whom are now grand-parents.

There was something wistful about that day, a time to reflect on just how good things were with all of us and that we were at one with the world.

Since then there have been divorces, separations, children off to university and laughter at the fact that we ‘just ain’t getting any younger’.

My dear friend used the word nostalgia to describe what we inevitably talked about a sentimental reflection of the past and better days.

childhood: stack of old photosI spent the evening recalling fond memories of childhood, work, setting up the business, my babies and so forth.

But it’s more than just remembering a better time or moment it is a feeling, a place where you completely lose yourself, it might only be for a fleeting moment but it is enough to provide comfort, happiness yet tinged with a bittersweet sense of sadness for something that is lost and can’t be replayed again.

When I’m faced with nostalgic memories I feel a sense of sadness and want that time back again?

I want the joy and pleasure of sitting down with my children every Sunday at lunch or when we chill out to watch a movie and I want to make it last forever, living in the present moment, but I know it can’t last forever.

Nothing stays the same and we move on.

And whilst I was driving down to Bath I was reminiscing on the past, I’m not sure what prompted me to do so, maybe the music I was playing or just the journey, which I hadn’t done in over five years made me think back to the past.

There’s no doubt that reminiscing makes us feel more connected to the past, often prompted by a familiar smell, song, or photo.

We relate our past experiences to our present lives and whilst there maybe sadness there is also a feeling of emotional well being and happiness.  Nostalgia helps us to make greater meaning of our lives as it is now.

From experience those 24 hours on my own made me feel happy, relaxed and I felt closer to loved ones even though my present circumstances are the very opposite.

But it made me reflect on a time in life when it definitely was easy Memories-Drawer-000038010040_Smalland simple and that made me warm and fuzzy inside which in turn made me feel optimistic for the future. 

There is no harm looking back on happy memories and reminding ourselves that, that is what life really should be about.

What are you nostalgic about?

Do you feel sad when you think about past joys?

How do your memories make you feel?

 

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Holiday madness, exhaustion and long summer holidays

The fact that I am calling this blog post holiday madness is indicative of the crazy world we live. Holidays should be a time for rest, relaxation and fun.holiday madness

I’m in the exhaustion zone you know the one I mean.

That bit between the school finishing line and all the things that need to be done before holiday starts.

Prize giving, a de-stressing evening for mums who’ve just been through GCSEs (with their kids of course) sports days, kids reviews with teachers.

Another school year and the overwhelming feeling of relief, anxiety, fear and then what follows is the post school analysis.

Was it a good year or bad year? Wait for the end of term reports…

As working mums we juggle two calendars – January to December and the school year September to July. Managing the two can be quite frenetic.

Stress - business woman running lateI’m done using my filofax and an academic diary, it got way too confusing plus how many diaries do you really need to carry in your handbag and I use google calendar as well!

I use my good old filofax with everything in it and my google calendar.

As I write this I have no time for reflection yet on the school year too tired for that but I am left wanting.

What I mean is a side of the fact I lost the first two months of this year following a heel operation which resulted in a cast and then ski boot, which meant I couldn’t get around.

DeathtoStock_EnergyandSerenity4As a result this school year by anyone’s standards didn’t just vanish it has vaporised.

At a recent customer meeting we were talking about a job that we were both convinced had been done in 2014, thumbing through my iPad it turned out to be 2013.

‘Huh’ we both said at once because it felt only yesterday that we had been discussing that very print job.

How quickly time passes.

Another summer holiday and it is the one holiday period where I Escape and be freelike to think I can come up for air, look around me and appreciate there is another world that does not solely revolve around children’s’ school runs and activities.

It is also a time of the year where I aim to slow down be more reflective and consider where I am and what I’ve accomplished.

You might be thinking isn’t that something you would do at the end or start of a new year?

Maybe, but as the summer holidays stretch before me I like to take that time to really watch my children, sit down and join in with their conversation, listen to their laughter, play and have some fun with them.

I remember my childhood, a holiday was simple, uncomplicated with no fuss. No school, more play which meant more fun.

DeathtoStock_Medium10The problem with the summer holiday is that it can end up being a one big to do list, something I’m very good at writing down and then being bitterly disappointed when I achieve zero.

Here’s the list I have planned for when we are away:-

  • Aim to read three books in 3 weeks (that’s the duration of the time we are away) I’m almost at the end of week 2 and how many of those books do you think I’ve read?
  • I must make sure I get up early every day and train in the gym, walk or swim – I’ve been pretty good about this one I must say
  • Early nights – only one so far when the weather is sunny and hot how can you go to bed early?
  • Aim to do a sketch each day – I’m trying to follow Danny Gregory’s book –  a sketch before breakfast – I’ve achieved two so far

I know some parents dread the long summer holidays but I must be the exception to the rule.

I look forward to them firstly because it means getting off the treadmill of the everyday routine but more importantly it is time to be quiet and reflective and allow children to be ‘bored’ and relaxed because they too have had a busy school year and need to rest.

I set too high expectations for myself and then if this isn’t painful enough I add the following to my list of holiday expectations:-

Relaxation VS Stress

  1. I must enjoy, relax and make the best of the summer holiday
  2. I must aim to make sure that the summer holidays are special for my husband and boys
  3. I must enjoy the holidays at all costs

With all these expectations and ideals ‘holiday madness’ is becoming a reality.

The idea of a holiday is just that a ‘holiday’ not a time to be setting a load of aims and objectives which then become a set of obligations that you feel compelled to fulfil only to be bitterly disappointed when you fail.

The prospect of giving up holidays and working seems a far more rewarding prospect than the thought of physically taking yourself on holiday.

Will the world really stop turning if I don’t meet my expectations?

The most important thing is to make time for yourself and to do more of what you want to do instead of trying to meet a handful of obligations which turn out to be stressful.

So what if books don’t get read or you don’t send postcards which end up arriving two weeks after you are back in the UK.

I’m going to keep things simple by avoiding holiday madness, I will try and enjoy myself by spending time with my family and not feel guilty just because I failed to read three books!

 

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Mollycoddling parents. Are we really too protective of our kids?

Bang, I was hit over the head metaphorically speaking when I realised that I am simply doing too much for my kids.

Mollycoddling parents, I believe that is what we are referred to as. Group Of Elementary School Pupils Running In Playground

Am I really molly-coddling my children, am I stifling their childhood?

Or, am I an ordinary working mother who cares about how her children end up?

I am sick to death of the media  bombarding us with images of our children growing up in an unsafe country.

At every corner there is a peadophile or some extremist waiting to prey on our children and hurt them.

What has happened to good old fashioned parenting skills and mother instincts.

why I fear for my children's future

I remember as a child going off after breakfast with my friends to the park, this involved crossing a seriously busy road on my bike, then riding what probably seemed like five miles but what was probably only two and half miles to play in the park.

There was no rubber matting under the climbing frames, swings at best were marginally safe and as for stranger danger, yes we knew not to talk to strangers or take sweets, because it was on the television and it was the last thing our parents would remind us of as we left the house.

My mother particularly taught me to use my instincts, if it doesn’t look or feel right it probably isn’t.

I remember walking through the park to get into town, catching two

role models for teenagers

buses to get to the gym club on a friday night and cycle to the recreation centre to meet with friends on Disco night.

It is the 21st century and my children have less independence than I had and yet they have more than I ever had at their age and I find myself asking what is different, what has changed?

I drive my children to school, simple really I work in the same town as the school they attend, if I sent them on the bus which would make for a less stressful start to the day but it will cost me twice as much as it does now.

DeathtoStock_NotStock6When my eldest son now fifteen asks if he can go into town with his friends, it becomes an interrogation about where is he going, who he is going with, how long will he be there for.

He understands and respects our need to know that he will be safe and yet it feels like we are taking away his freedom.

The only thing that is driving that concern is the fear that he might be stabbed or mugged all for an iPhone.

Is the media to blame for this shift in the way we are so protective of our children or is it simply that we know more because of the news and the power of social media.

I do feel that they don’t have the childhood that I had, we had.

The school day is long, there are extra curricular activities that they want to do, then homework with little or no time for play.

When holidays arrive understandably they want to be on the playstation or watch films on the television and relax.

When I was fifteen I spent two evenings a week at my gymnastics club, every saturday afternoon and alternate sunday mornings and I still had time to watch television in the evenings after homework and I remember after training on saturday getting home for 6PM to watch the Bionic Man and the inevitable Bionic Woman.

We seemed to have endless amounts of time.

I watch two young children endlessly busy with homework, coursework and GCSE’s and wonder was it like this when I was their age?

Parenting is not rocket science and often it is a mixture of making it up as you go along with good old fashioned inner instincts.

Do I then fit into the category of being over-protective or is this the treadmill of life?

I know I don’t overprotect or smother my children, they simply have no choice but to rely on me to get them to and from school.

And as our town centre requires a fourteen mile journey to get there they rely on us to take and collect them when they meet up with friends.

As a parent we are dominated by the fear factor.

Are they ok, is it safe.

These weren’t the questions that my parents asked when I travelled on public transport.

Does this lack of independence mean that not just my children but ‘our children’ will be unable to cope when they are older, unable to buy a train ticket, understand a bus timetable, book a taxi on the phone?

Whilst I freely admit that I encourage my children to play the sports or do the hobbies they love I haven’t orchestrated this for my benefit.

I want them to be busy, it keeps them interested, gives them some independence, they learn new things and hopefully they have fun.

A good friend of ours related the tales of his eldest daughter who went off to University in September. For the first two-three weeks, his wife was making twice weekly trips with food and clean laundry.

‘You’ve spoiled her’, yes, he said. We’ve done nothing to promote independence, Julie has done everything for her, made her bed, cooked, ironed, given her lifts to friends.

When she left she was ill equipped for what university life had to throw at her, sharing with people she’d never met, unable to cook proper food, no organisation in her daily life, plan the food shopping list, when to change the bed, wash clothes and so on.

Initially she felt bereft and insecure and at one point considered moving to a University closer to home.

All because she had not been disciplined or had prepared for entry into the world.

When I mentioned that over the last few months we’ve been making an effort to teach the boys basic cooking like pasta with meat sauce, how to cook and english breakfast and prepare simple meals, how to iron a shirt or pair of jeans it was met with ‘I wish we’d done that’.

It was a decision my husband came to when he said I was cosseting them too much, but that’s ‘what mothers do’, I said.

You are are a mollycoddling parent, how I hate that word. In my view I thought I was doing the right thing but I thought about what I did when I was eleven and fifteen respectively and the realisation dawned on me.

At the time I wasn’t pleased to be accused of being a mollycoddling parent but deep down I knew that if continued I would not be helping them prepare for entry into adulthood.

Good parenting isn’t just about making sure they come top in english it’s about teaching them the mundane, everyday life skills. If we don’t show them or teach them how are they going to be ready for the real world.

Many young people just expect success will be easy, only to crumble and fall apart when they crash at the first obstacle?

How do we encourage independence when the world appears so unsafe and unwieldy?

Fear is the dominant emotion – the fear of something happening to them and consequently children are being denied the chance to learn on their own, to work things out and to take responsibility for their own actions.

I don’t have the answers but I do know that we have lost the confidence to trust ourselves as parents and to trust our children that they are actually more aware than we probably give them credit for.

 

 

 

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

 

 

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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

Christmas bah humbug it’s a new year.

Christmas bah humbug. It’s another new year.

2014, snuck up so fast I must have been sleeping or running on the never-ending treadmill I call life.

The treadmill of life
It’s a never ending treadmill, called LIFE

Another round of christmas and new year celebrations, each year seems to roll into the next and and then we will be stressed out planning for next christmas.

I am one of the leave everything until the last minute.com brigade.

My planning for christmas began in September as you can see I’m not a christmas bah humbug.

Oh yes, I had it all mapped out.

The cards would be written and stamped ready to be posted in the week of the 9th December, christmas presents would be bought and wrapped by the end of October, christmas puddings were made in October so I was ahead there.

The 13th December came and I just about managed to get my christmas cards written and posted out then it was the usual what do I buy for family and relatives?

Scratch head, seek here and there for ideas ask people, do a ‘what to buy for your husband/partner for christmas look up on google’.

What do you buy for someone who has everything?

Where did my christmas mojo go?
Where did my christmas mojo go?

We are now at the age where we buy what we want when we want it within reason of course.

I’m not talking about a holiday in Barbados or a new BMW no, not that level of christmas present expense reserved for a lottery win, no I’m talking about the everyday family member who with the exception of birthday buys what they want as and when they need it.

Leaving very little left for the imagination when it comes to buying christmas presents.

No more socks, jumpers, gadgets, although I am a self-confessed gadget freak who must have at least one gadget at christmas and this must not include anything for the house or kitchen, otherwise it gets thrown back at the buyer.

But seriously what is it about christmas that makes us so stressed and me go bonkers?

Every year it’s the same old crap although I was pleased to report that christmas consumerism didn’t kick in until the second week of November. Usually Christmas starts in August so someone somewhere has had the sense to decree that christmas will start early to mid November.

Radio 2 (yes I do listen) DJ’s declared they weren’t allowed to play any christmas music until the first week of December.

Hallelujah I shouted when the great Simon Mayo on his drive-time show decreed this statute.

Now I can really start to get into christmas at the right time and not be bored by the whole thing mid December.

But guess what it didn’t happen. Does that make me a christmas bah humbug?

In spite of a wonderful pre-christmas trip to see family in Hamburg, christmas markets, gluhwein and german donuts I had to admit I’d somehow misplaced my Christmas mojo.

Where had it gone? I looked everywhere. I went shopping in Selfridges, their christmas market left me faltering, that didn’t help.

I went to my children’s christmas carol service and shed a tear when I tried to sing ‘O come all ye faithful” still no christmas mojo.

I hunted for it here there and everywhere and even down there alas it was gone!

What was I going to do now?

Monday 22nd crept up on me and there I was in the kitchen cooking my heart out bless ‘Nigella’.

Finally when I flopped into the armchair, glass of red wine in tow, feet up and watching a re-run of “The Professionals” feeling smug that I had prepared a great meal for Monday, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day taken care of and Boxing day all sorted, my planning was indeed going to plan. I still wasn’t in the least bit christmassy.

What is going on I asked myself, why am I feeling this way and why oh why can’t I switch into christmas mode?

I think it’s called anti-christmas syndrome. Somewhere deep inside over the years I managed to talk myself out of enjoying christmas just in case it turned out to be a big disappointment.

To be perfectly honest, now that the credit card bills have arrived, christmas has become more of a consumer driven event and its meaning has almost disappeared.

The real reason I lost my christmas mojo is psychological. You look forward to this big event and before you know it, it’s done, one day with all the hype and expectations, the joy of seeing your children open up gifts irrespective of age, secretly believing in the magic of christmas that when it’s over it’s such a big anti-climax.

A bit like taking that first bite into a cream cake that looks delicious only to be disappointed.

All cream and no jam! You get the picture. 

You want the moment to last forever and then it’s over and by bed time the kids are sad they want the day again, you want the day again and even taking photos just isn’t the same.

Can I have re-run please?

Sorry, kid it’s done, it’s finished!

P-l-e-a-s-e can I have it over again?

NO.

Only another 364 days left to the next one.

Bugger, bugger, bugger.

Still, we will be there before you know it!

Happy new year it's 2014

Happy New Year to you all.

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Back to sckool. How to survive the next school year.

Back to schoolMost children in the UK went back to school earlier this week and if you are a working mum there was a sense of relief tinged with sadness when you dropped them off at the school gates.

As much as we love our kids there is only so much holiday time one can bear before fights break out and the arguments ensue.

I’ve enjoyed a great summer with my family as I hope you have too.

Summer 2013 will probably go down as one to be remembered and to reflect with affection, in future years.

As the start of the new school term gets underway I am feeling reflective.

I know that you should always look forward, focus on the next good thing you might have planned and don’t look back but it’s hard when eight weeks have passed so quickly.

Dropping the kids off on their first school morning in new school uniforms, new blazer with sleeves longer than they are and trousers that are so baggy they hang over their shoes its difficult not to have a heavy heart and that sick feeling in your stomach.

You also know they are feeling the same way. At least mine were this morning, quiet and contemplative staring out of the car window.

It’s all new.

New school uniform, new friends, new teachers, new timetable and for my 14 year old the start of the GCSE program.

school's inThe school year will fly by and in an instant it’ll be July again bang and another school vacation.

Our children grow up so fast and each year merges into the next.

As mums we hit the ground running. No let up for us.

Back to the school routine, after-school activities and taxi servicing on demand.

Looking back brings a sense of sadness and quiet reflection on what was and what might be.

Working mums have two calendar years, the academic one and the year calendar (Jan-Dec).

It is a fine balancing act managing work and children.

By the way this isn’t a tirade on the virtues of working women stay at home mums contribute and add just as much to the welfare of their families and the economy as working women.

But as I am not a stay at home mum I can only share with you my thoughts and feelings.

So in an effort to provide how to get through the next term unscathed, or for that matter school year, I came up with my top tips for managing the fine art of being a working mum or dad.

time management
My ode to keeping sane this new school year

I call it ode to keeping sane

1. Balance work with being mum/dad – if I had a pound for every time I get asked that I’d be a millionaire and wouldn’t have to work. Last night over dinner with my boys and husband we made a pact and that is if any one of us gets too involved in school, too involved with work and our jobs, any one of us has the right to say hang on mum/dad we are more important than your job, spend some time with us. In short, knock knock are you really there mum and dad.

It’s all too easy to let work spill over to evening and weekends.

2. Don’t feel guilty – ask any working mum or dad who are the primary care givers and I doubt you will find one that doesn’t at least once a week harbour a feeling of guilt and a what if… There are many dual income families that have to work, it is what it is. Get your head down and get on with it and let your children know that you will be there for them whenever you can.

3. Plan the night before – this has saved me so many times. Kids have school uniforms so it’s not a case of making sure  which clothes they are going to wear. I do a quick check to make sure they have everything ready for the morning this should include sports bags and kit, the right school books packed in their bags and and snack boxes made up the night before. By having their school timetables pinned on my fridge I can shout out to them when I’m cooking and make sure they’ve got what they need ready.

I also decide on what I’m wearing in the morning so I am ready to go and don’t get struck with the dreaded ”I don’t know what to wear today syndrome’. If you are anything like me and I forget to do this my morning fashion statement is a walking disaster and I hate having a hand-bag that doesn’t match my shoes.

4. Plan meals a week in advance –  this not only cuts down on buying voluminous amounts of unnecessary food but cuts down on your shopping bill. I literally map out a Monday-Friday plan of what I am cooking this also has to fit around after school activities and then I buy what I need for the weeks meals.

If I can get ahead start for the following evening’s meal I do. For example last night I made a shepherd’s pie ready for tonight. All I need to do when I get in is pop it in the oven and prepare some veggies. Job done.

5. Get a head start – which brings me very nicely to plan meals in advance so if you are making lasagne make an extra big one so you can freeze half of it and then you’ve got ready made meals for when you forget to do your meal planning or when there is some extra school activity that hasn’t been factored in to the diary. The same applies to cakes. I’ve rediscovered scone making so have made two batches of scones, frozen a set and kept the rest for the kids this week for their snack boxes.

6. Family calendar – if you don’t use one get one. I have one in my kitchen and our names each have a column for what is happening and when. I do have my own diary as I am the sole manager of who needs to be where and when. But in the event of death (mine) at least my husband can find out who needs to be where, when and with what!

6a. A wipe clean easy peel every day planner with the days of the week is a great way to add those impromptu dates or to do’s. I got mine from staples, it sticks to the fridge door and is great for reminders and for writing down each days activities which usually change week on week.

7. Stay connected – during the working day it’s difficult to find time to think let alone contact your kids but I text or email them once a day to ask how are they are getting on, how’s the day going and that I love them. I don’t often get a response until I collect them from school but my elder boy will often call me at lunchtime to say hello.

8. Any work related stuff that’s not important but takes time at work to do like reading emails or catching up on memos read after the kids are in bed or on your commute. Use this time to pay bills, follow up important but not urgent emails and set yourself a time limit.

9. Plan family weekend activities and diarise them- it’s so easy for one week to roll over to the next so I try and plan one or two outings in a month where we go out just the four of us it might be to the cinema, a long walk, or trip in to London. Once it’s diarised it’s immovable.

The most important thing is that time as a family is scheduled in to the diary when everyone knows they can get their whinging and whining out of the way before the event.

10. Spend time with your partner – sounds easy yet two people living in the same house can pass each other like ships in the night especially after a summer holiday when you’ve been together 24/7. Make time to talk with no TV or distractions.

11. Book a moment for yourself – so far it’s been about everyone else but looking after YOU is key because without you it all falls a part. Diarise a facial, massage, pedicure or a long walk in a place you haven’t seen before try and do this at least once a month. If you can manage to do this once a week let me know how you do it!

12. Make a list of priorities – isn’t it amazing how we seem to make lists and lists which keep growing and getting longer and when you finally tick them off there’s more to do but in reality they are tasks that are important but not urgent. So create a list for what really needs to be done and by when then you will see that it’s not as bad you first thought. If you are into apps and gizmoes like me then I can recommend Nozbe there is a free and a paid version.

I use the paid version. It’s taken me 20+ years, 10 filofaxes give or take, god knows how many free and paying apps to find something that works for me and this one does.

13. Manage a chore a day – if your not in the enviable position of being able to afford a ‘domestic goddess’ then do a chore an evening. How long does it take to dust the upstairs unless you live in a 20 bedroom mansion or clean a bathroom? By the weekend you wont have a mountain of cleaning to do.

14. Set your alarm clock 30 minutes before the kids are up so you can shower/wash and get ready before the rush starts.

15. If you commute to work use this time to catch up on email chasing, reading, planning see No. 8.

16. Get a dictaphone or use your smartphone to dictate reminders, lists, things that need doing so you don’t forget.

17. Shop once a week – if you follow point No. 4 you will get a great head start.

18. Plan, plan, plan – if you don’t plan, you won’t know what’s coming up and it will quickly fall apart causing you more stress and frustration which ultimately leads to more alcohol consumption.

19. Remember what matters most – this relates to point No. 1 getting the balance right and taking time out or being reminded that there is more to life than WORK.

20. and finally… outsource your ironing who the heck wants to iron every night or do a big load at the weekend. I’ll iron the kids school wear and my own but draw the line at anything else. There’s more to life than ironing.

I hope you make use of some or all of the above.

It works for me but it took a bit of time making it a habit but now I do it automatically just about until one of the boys comes in to the kitchen and says mum I need a cake for the cake stall tomorrow, I forgot to tell you, it’s our class’ turn… and it’s now 9:10PM graaa….

Let me know what you do to manage it all?

How has your first day gone with the kids back at school?

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Just because I’m 50 doesn’t mean I’m dead YET. How to stay young at 50

Divorce
50 represents a milestone for men and women alike often resulting in a desire to unleash the ‘inner you’

I’ve never been a big worrier when it comes to my height, size of my boobs and the size of my feet.

Recently as I edge ever closer to the big ‘5 0′ I am feeling overwhelmed about the enormity of the age.

I know it’s only a number and the old adage you’re only as old or young as you feel’ rings true but there is a sense of finality about 50. As one good friend recently said to me it’s the gateway to old age, gateway to hell more like!

Cheers, thanks for that I hadn’t quite looked at 50 as my gateway to hell, I hope it will be the pearly gates of heaven.

After all, isn’t the sixth decade when ‘we’ come into our own, prioritising the needs of the family and husband is finally behind us. Hopefully we are calmer, more relaxed and at peace with the inner-self.

The challenges of teenagers, school runs and the provision of late night taxi services are all but over and the prospect of looking forward to quality time with a husband looms large and wide.

Fay Weldon accomplished author says’ women in their 50’s instigate divorce because they are bored and want to be single again.’ Divorce statistics show women in the 50-plus age group are ditching marriages to remarry, travel, set up home independently or start new careers.

What bought this in to stark reality was the article I read recently in the Daily Mail.

Kristen Scott Thomas one of the UK’s most treasured actresses admitted that she felt ‘invisible’ when surrounded by young actresses and that some people ‘just don’t notice’ women of a certain age.

Admittedly she was comparing herself to young actresses in the Hollywood back drop, an unhealthy environment that perpetuates ageless beauty, a life so far from reality.

She then went onto say that she will ‘just disappear’ now that she has reached middle age.

Ironically it would seem that men age gracefully whilst women appear to ‘just disappear’.

I have empathy for Ms Scott-Thomas and I find myself in unknown territory. I couldn’t help notice that perhaps there is credence in what she says.

She’s right, people do walk into you. I became more aware of this on a recent business trip to London. Men as well as women not holding the door open for me as I walked through it or bumping into me as though I was invisible.

In fact by the time I got into my car to drive home I really felt incensed.

Invisible that’s me, or was it just one of those days when you or everyone else seemingly get in the way.Holidays and families = frustration

Is 50 all that it’s cracked up to be?

Many women want more out of life, personal fulfilment, a new career, a new partner even if it means a complete disregard for personal security, marriage and family.

Two friends have recently hit the 5 0 one is having a meltdown as we speak the other is taking it in her stride.

What makes 50 such an important age defining moment?

Shoot me now I’m 50.

The challenges we faced as young women are in some respects even greater in our 50’s.

50 is synonymous with the ‘menopause’, another life changing moment for the female psyche. Empty nest syndrome, worries about securing pensions and planning for retirement are well on the list of things to be ticked off.

Why should 50 be any different from any other decade or age?

An empty home and only the 2 of you there is the sudden realisation that you’ve got more time than you had LBK [life before kids].

What the heck are you going to talk about the weather or the performance of the FTSE 100 index?

Suddenly you are faced with the prospect of having to go to bed with the same person you’ve been with for however many years and for some women and men this is when the thunder bolt strikes.

Time for new experiences, challenges and maybe a change in partner.

By 50 we have amassed a great deal of knowledge, life experiences and are able to do what we want to do.

There is a conflict for many men and women as there is the desire to abandon all that was once held true to embark on new challenges

Do I really want to spend the rest of my life with him or her?

Nothing has changed has it?

Slide1

Earlier this year Relate conducted a survey via Ipsos MORI of people aged 50 and over in Britain. 91% said the key factor in determining how happy our later years will be is our personal relationships and is very important to happiness in retirement.

DivorceInterestingly 1 in 5 over 50 [4 million] said they lacked confidence in forming new relationships which contradicts the trend of the 50 something to up sticks and try new things.

One of the joys of this decade is that you don’t have to give a damn about what people think of you anymore.

Ageing is a more prevalent issue but as children have grown and left the parental home our parents are still able to be independent of us making time to take on new challenges and make life changing decisions.

 

Age is just a number and life begins when you want it to and the media seem to be obsessed with age. Does it really matter if so and so did such and such and is 35 years?

Ageism has become an obsession both on a conscious and unconscious level.

The only way to stop this occupation with age is to stop referring to it in newspapers and magazines and to stop ‘labelling’ the 50 something brigade and get on out there and get on down.

This woman is not ready to quit yet and exchange her Louboutin’s for a pair of sensible boring M & S shoes.

Which is why M & S are failing miserably they seem to think we want to wear sensible clothes and shoes from the classic women range WRONG.

We are not dead yet, we want sensible clothes that befit our age that show our zest for life and not funereal wear.

I get that we need to dress our age within reason [that’s coming in my next blog How not to be your daughter]

Seven out of ten women feel overlooked by the fashion industry and three quarters of women believe they have gained an identity solely as ‘mum’.

This goes against the grain of the current ‘A-list’ 50 something beauties notably Sharon Stone, Michelle Pfeiffer and Kim Basinger who seem to only get better the older they get.

 As far as I’m concerned 50 doesn’t mean you are DEAD it offers greater opportunities for men and women to forge more independence. Dr Pam Spurr says ‘after years of prioritising husbands and families, many women want more out of life as they approach 50. The urge to find personal fulfilment is overwhelming even if it means ditching security and marriage along the way’.
Whilst I don’t intend to leave my beloved YET I definitely intend to embark on new challenges.
50 represents the gateway to more fun and happiness. Moreover we only pass this way once so why shouldn’t we have fun, enjoy life and stop worrying about how old we really are.
After all we are all young at heart.

Let me know what you think about being 50? Has it stopped you from doing what you want to do?

How do you stay young at 50?

Have you completely changed your life or done something crazy?

Please share with us.

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Relaxation

Sit back and relax. Coping with stress at work?

Relaxation VS Stress
20 minutes in your working day to de-clutter your mind.

Relaxation life’s illusive elixir.

Coping with stress at work is the one aspect of life that seems to elude us particularly in the current economic climate.

In my last blog aiming to get the balance between work, family and life is practically impossible.

The demands placed on us daily are often insurmountable and impossibly difficult to accomplish.

Yet the more we put pressure on ourselves to relax the more the state of relaxation becomes a self-defeating prophecy.

Everyday our inboxes are inundated with new ways to manage stress headlines that titillate like how to de-stress naturally, 10 easy ways to relax, how to make time to relax.

Making us even more fraught and anxious as the need to relax adds more pressure on the way we live because we know that relaxation is key to managing stress. To thrive  and perform well at work we need to be able to switch off.

According to the UK Commission for Employment and Skills UK workers are under more pressure than ever before. The latest findings from the 2012 report show that 40% of workers are required to work at high-speed and 60% work under the pressure of tight deadlines.

The lines between work and home have become increasingly blurred.

Relaxation
Workers can be contacted any time, night or day making it difficult to make time for relaxation. (Image courtesy of Veria.com)

Technology means that people can work from home, mobile offices, during their commute.

Workers can be contacted on holiday at weekends even when they are asleep and with the added fear of losing their jobs never has there been a time when employees feel so insecure in the work place.

Fear of losing jobs is at the forefront of employees minds with one in four expressing worry about being unemployed.

The report also found that technology has had a significant impact on workers lives increàsed accessibility to employees via technological devices because of increased competitiveness due to the recession and rising levels of unemployment have all had an impact on the balance of power between employees and employers.

In a recent survey conducted by Mother and Baby Magazine, six out of 10 working mothers felt guilty about leaving their children. Over a 1,000 women in the survey from CEO to retail assistant wanted to spend more time with their children.

94% said that going to work provided them with financial and emotional independence and they felt they were setting a good example to children but the trade off meant they missed out watching their offspring develop.

The impetus for women to return to work is the increased financial pressure as a result of the recession the UK is in despite rising costs in childcare.

The partners of the women respondents interviewed in the survey also felt they were missing out and wanted to participate in assisting with the upbringing of their  children by staying at home too but this is not financially viable as men still earn more than women on average.

The government’s child benefit changes which came into effect earlier this year have meant that the number of stay at home mothers has also fallen to its lowest level in 20 years.

If one or both parents have a joint income of over £50,000 a year no child benefit worth £1,752 for two children is available. Even if one of the partners earns nothing the entitlement is no longer paid out.

With the rising fear of job losses, decline in job satisfaction due to the constant high-speed pressures, loss of status in the work place and the added financial pressures on men and women alike to provide a joint house-hold income how do any of us make the time to relax in the face of such stark realities.

There are many well meaning articles on the importance of de-stressing from taking up yoga, SPA holidays, a lavender bath before bed-time, switching off all technology before retiring to bed. The list is endless.

As a working mother relaxation for me doesn’t come easy. I can’t sit still for too long as I fidget being an active person I’m always on the go so I find it difficult to switch off.

At the start of 2013 I decided that I needed to find some time in my working day to relax and de-clutter my mind so let me share with you what I do.

It works for me and I hope it might help you.

Schedule 20 minutes in to your working day at whatever time suits you.

Firstly, switch off all means of communication – mobiles, PC’s, laptops, take yourself off line. If you are a social media addict coming in my next blog then stay off it.

The world will not not end if no-one hears from you for twenty minutes.

Set an alarm on your watch, phone or clock. Stare out of the window, lie down, sit in the back of your chair, relax your head and neck, stare at the ceiling, stare out of the window, do not do anything work related and do not think about ANYTHING.

The kick is you must empty your mind.
Don’t read, write, make notes, listen to music. Do absolutely nothing, don’t plan, don’t visualise, don’t worry about the meeting with a client or a presentation that is looming.

Empty your mind of all the clutter. EMPTY IT.

I am sharing this with you as I speak from experience. It took me the best part of 20+ years to get deep into time/relax management and I now plan my week to allow for 20 minutes during my work day to do just what I have described.

Boy it took some discipline but unless it’s planned in to the diary then guess what I don’t do it.

At the end of my 20 minutes which I usually substitute as my lunch period I look out of my window and in the distance I can see the hills, blue or grey skies, trees.

I’ve learn’t to really see the world differently, notice shapes and colours more. Sometimes I close my eyes and I feel myself drifting which is why the alarm is important.

Your twenty minutes can be in your work day, or after you leave the office sit in the car put your seat back and relax for 20 minutes before you drive home, you’ll be surprised how much more attentive you’ll be when you walk through the front door.

It should be at anytime of your choosing away from distractions or from anyone who is likely to barge in on your 20 minutes but should be within your working day.

Although I’m a runner and exercise a lot sometimes I take a brisk walk out of the office watch the cars as they pass by and clear my mind I don’t use this time to think about work as it is defeating the purpose.

How has my work pattern changed?

I can see solutions to problems more clearly because I’ve completely switched off my mind and not allowed it to think of anything in those 20 minutes or so I come back to my desk with a clear mind and I feel calmer.

My breathing is deeper rather than the usual shallow breathing associated with stress.

But what has surprised me the most is having better clarity over things which at the time I thought were impossible but in reality were only small blots on the landscape.

It takes discipline. Discipline to make the time and ‘pen’ or program it into your diary and discipline to follow through.

The 20 minute mind rest plan should not be confused with leaving work and relaxing in the evening.

This is finding time in your work day to have a brief respite to clear and free your mind from worry and stress and when you come back to your work/desk you’ll realise that nothing is insurmountable.

After all what’s the worst that can happen ‘ýou lose your job’, you’re unemployed, it may sound awful and you maybe be fearful, but no-one has died have they, you still have a family, a home to go back too and the likelihood of it happening is remote.

Worrying at work to such a degree will impact your work and home life so severely that stress impedes your thinking, you lose sight of reality and what’s really important to you.

Twenty minutes helps you to switch off your mind, re-focus and then you come back to the desk and see problems in a different context.

Here’s a screenshot of one of my days.

Relax mind time
Make time to re-set your mind

It may not be the answer to all your problems and it is no magic wand but try it for a month and let me know what you feel at the end of it.

Remember you must make it a part of your daily routine like brushing your teeth or showering, it must become integral to you so much so that if you miss a day you’ll know you’ve really missed it.

What do you do to relax?

Share your comments with me by leaving a note in the box below.

Until next time.

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