Note to self...

posted on: Friday, 31 January 2014

So, I was in the hairdressers having my colour done. I realised that for many years I coloured my hair for fun; streaks and red and all sorts of tones in between. Now having colour has become a six-weekly chore, all of the fun has been taken out of it! It's about restoring the status quo rather than a refreshing update. I have this new hairdresser who seems to colour it in a way that I didn't ask for, but which, when it's done, I see is better. I wonder what on earth she thinks when I say 'same as last time' as she proceeds to do something completely different, but good. As you know, hairdressers are an enigma to me.

I am now an inadvertent brunette.

Meanwhile, I am reading a lot these days. Not necessarily books, but masses of on line commentary and printed press. Frankly I get as much input and influence from bloggers as I do magazine writers; sign of the times. Every now and then I start to wonder though, just how much information I need? What is the need to know? I also read this post on the established blog 'Design Sponge' recommended by my friend Sophie, that really made me think about blogging and why people do it. I am still pondering it...but it did shine a light on some of the self-promotion that can exist and the slavish following of social media sites in the hope for more followers. I am at one with followers now. There have been many and some have stayed the distance, some have dropped by the wayside and I am OK with that.

I have, I confess, bought things I didn't need just because I read about them on a blog. I am coveted fashions that don't suit me or my life. I have considered different angles of my lifestyle and compared myself. I have felt bad/sad about my own life having read something about someone else's that made mine pale by comparison. And over the past few years I have realised that because of i) my propensity to read and devour information and ii) the immediacy of the web and all of the platforms like Instagram and Pinterest, I do this ALL THE TIME! It has, rightly or wrongly, become my norm. I accept it but have to really keep my logical head on and not get affected by the onslaught I read on line.

And, while we are sharing, can I just say that I am fascinated by Lena Dunham's nudity in 'Girls'? I read (there I go, reading again) Garance Dore's mini-essay on nudity and thought; here we get to the nub of how women feel about it. Really interesting.

I was given these cashmere bed socks as a gift (thank you Natasha!) and I have to say, they are one of the best additions to my life ever. Not often does something change my world; these have.

I had a wobble last week about the building work on our house. My husband (bless him) tolerates me in these phases as I work through my anxieties. He says I don't like change. It's not so much that, it's more that I struggle with getting through the bad times before the good times come. Isn't that natural? We have narrowed the scope and learned just how much it's all going to cost...deep breath now.

I am often surprised that things I expend time worrying about, then turn into little matters that I need not have worried about. Yet when that situation or similar arises again, I worry again. This makes no sense and is testament to the adage that once a worrier always a worrier and how the habit of worrying dies hard. I am making a concerted effort to slow down the worries; they serve no purpose. As so many less fretful readers have commented - life is too short!!

This weekend I am going to make this.

And I am going to read Bronte's 'Wuthering Heights' (again). I wonder if a love of books is something you're born with or if it comes later on when the time is right? Just the smell of a new book makes me happy. This is why I will never own a kindle.

But most of all, this:
(have a great weekend)

Professional mother...

posted on: Monday, 13 January 2014

The days since I had a profession are stretching out, as I enter month five of my retirement. Some days I miss the work I did. I don't miss working per se, but I miss having a role, using my expertise, the feeling of purpose that comes with a job. I am not saying there is no purpose now, as there is, in spades. Hardly a day goes by when I am not thankful for not working right now. I don't know whether it is the ages of my children, or the way we have chosen to live our lives but honestly, it feels like I could fill every waking hour just to keep on top of all that should be done. And 'should' is the operative word. I realise now just how much I edited our lives before, as there simply wasn't time. There's a blessing in being able to try both sides of this particular coin; each has pros and cons.

painting entitled 'now you see me' by Jessica Cooper
There is an ordinary-ness to my life at the moment that I like. However I am struck by how disdainful some people are of the ordinary. I meet mothers who make an art form of dispelling the myth of the ordinary. Mere moments of conversation are all it takes for them to spill pertinent but oh-so-relevant details on their own, or their children's achievement and status. It never fails to amaze me how competitive we can be in such vanilla surroundings; the match sideline or the school pick up. The chance meeting when buying groceries. Even in these mundane settings one would think we were all running against each other in some kind of race. Although no one really knows what the prize is. Nor the purpose of the competition! I know I am guilty of it too; I wonder if by the time you have spent ten years with children in the school system you become an expert. Accolades roll off my tongue and I think internally '...what was THAT, Lou!?' Ugh - and a chill runs down my spine and then I think too much about it, after the event.

What else do I notice about professional motherhood? There are some women who are, frankly, awesome at it. In much the same way as in the corporate world, I might have been assigned to a project where different team members would get introduced. Some would arrive with the reputation already in place: that they were 'really good'. Really good can account for a multitude of things but if someone is really good it meant on top of it, sharp, focused; they got the job done. They had the ability to net down many details into fewer details that the rest of us needed to understand. Honestly those who were 'really good' were the difference between middle management and executives. Of course, the same applies in the field of motherhood.

There are mothers who glide through school drop off and pick up, usually accompanied by a gaggle of children of all ages, carrying sports kit and musical instruments and more. Always smiling. Always on it. One might think they are fictional characters in 'chick lit' books but I say they really do exist! I am not sure what qualifications you need to become one; all I know is that when I am in the presence of one I feel slightly humbled. Even with all of the time I now have, I am still not one of those mothers! I am getting better and I am only a few months in after all...

Interestingly, if I ask my kids what it was like when I worked, they can hardly remember it. I did have a steady and slow transition into this life phase, what with sabbaticals and part time working. But still, can they not recall at all? I find this bizarre - something that was so elemental to my earlier years of motherhood is a distant memory for them now! I guess what this shows is that what children understand is the now. This conclusion pleases me as I have learnt that it is in now that they need me most.

How life goes - the January edition...

posted on: Friday, 3 January 2014

I notice that people either embrace the new year's resolution or categorically deny it; I am torn between the two. I also note that before I went away for Christmas I was getting oh-so-weary with the everyday, stuck in the middle of a long winter; life had got on top of me. This surprised me as I was of the opinion that with no job to bring me down, everything would just be up, up and up. I guess it's a life lesson that things can get dreary even if there isn't a job involved. I did just need a break from the monotony.

Can I just talk about monotony? Here I am a mere four months into my new life as a housewife and here's a confession: I was getting whiffs of boredom. It wasn't a full-on stench, more like the feeling that some days were permeated with a slightly off-feeling. I am not sure why; on paper my life is a series of lovely events and for the first time in years there are fewer worries about things like careers or money. How fortunate! But the relentlessness of the day to day started to get to me. One of the perks of being devoted full time to your children's life is that you can take on any commitment. You can say 'yes' to all the things that you said 'no' to when you were working. You can be there. Isn't the modern elixir of life, to 'be there'? Well I was so well and truly there that it was starting to suck me into a vortex of commitments that were theirs and not my own. I realised that I have to keep an eye on what I need as well as what they need.

The most perplexing bit though was knowing what I did need. A stimulating job? No longer. An active social life? Hard to achieve when you spend a fair amount of time alone. A small business? So much easier said than done. A fitness regime? It kinda felt like climbing a mountain; it's amazing to me how hard it is to maintain fitness. I train a few times a week but still, any fitness I managed would slip away so quickly the moment I skipped a session. And then I would think - ugh Lou, you're in a downward spiral and you need to step it up and sort it out and generally get a grip. And so I did.

I've learnt that this is how life goes. I must have written that twenty times in recent years, here on this blog. And the kind readers who comment and gee me on say resolutely: YES, this is how life goes!

This blog is four years old this month. Who'd have thought??!! I write it like I am talking to an old friend. I can't help myself. I do wonder what on earth I would do if the Internet stopped working? Or if all the blog posts that I have ever written disappeared into the ether? I can recognise every photo I have ever posted and by now there must be hundreds and hundreds; thousands even? Furtively, real-life friends who are in the know read this blog and get antsy when I don't update it. Blog friends text me and say 'I've been thinking about you' or 'I saw this and thought of you' and I think to myself how strange it is that we can be so connected and in such a wonderful way. Funny how it goes.

It's January and I quite like that. My resolutions? They are the same as everyone else:

Eat well.
Sleep more.
Be kind.
Think before I act.
Quiet the noise.
Take time.
Be me.
Chill out.
Grow my hair.
And all that jazz...

Oh and...stop feeling jealous of the beautiful people.
Get a decent wok.
Shop less, well, I mean buy less stuff.
Appreciate more.
Live it, don't think it.
Stop over-analysing 'Homeland'. Brody gone? Seriously?!
Get more pedicures.
It's my 40th year - go easy on myself.
Do my best.


posted on: Thursday, 2 January 2014

So. That was 2013 then! A year I will reflect on and decide: it was one of transition. I could write reams on what it all meant and am conscious that as the year closed out I was in such a contemplative mood that I had to remind myself that I am not my thoughts. Stop thinking! I am an over-thinker...

via patterson maker
We welcomed in the new year at home, slumbering after a long haul flight from Dubai where we had spent Christmas with family. A brief week of sun was wonderful; Christmas Eve spent in a bikini at the beach. We ate outside on Christmas Day - a traditional meal with all the trimmings. The weather was flawless and there is no doubt that for me, the dose of vitamin D will see me through the next phase of this British winter. Sadly as soon as Boxing Day was done, both children came down with strep throat and so were horribly unwell and miserable. Not what you want when on holiday at Christmas, far from home. But actually it passed and we were able to regroup for our final day before flying home to the wind and rain! Some friends had been without power for six days over Christmas so we decided that even with our bout of illness, we hardly had a difficult time.

Dubai was, as before when we went, an eye-opener. I have rarely been to a place of such contrasts; a dichotomy of Westernised ways in an Arabian setting. Most of all, seeing my sister in law and her husband settled there, I was struck just how many choices there are for how to live one's life. How many places and people. Sometimes when you live in the town where you grew up, it's easy to feel that the boundaries of life are narrow. But not so...

I know I need to write when I wake up in the morning thinking about discussion points I want to share here. As ever the new year heralds thoughts of 'what am I doing with my life?!' Plans turn to the home and the family and to me: what will 2014 hold? More peace and good vibes. Health and contentment. Maybe this year I will work it all out? ;-) But for now,  I have a few domestics to attend to (a notable laundry mountain) and we are still in the middle of the school holidays. I will be back with more, just wanted to say that I am back, all is good and happy new year.

via crush cul de sac