Observing life...

posted on: Monday, 31 March 2014

What to say? I have ahead a week of being in my son's company as he has broken up from school before his sister. I love these times as frankly, there is very little in life more endearing than an eight (nearly nine) year old boy who chats about everything from dinosaurs to becoming a chef when he is older. That or a professional rugby player. His take on the world is a tonic and I enjoy this one-on-one time so much for that reason. Absolutely precious.

via dust jacket
And then my daughter...there's nothing like having a near-teen daughter to remind me of the passing of time. It's like when a song is played on the radio from ten years ago and you feel like it was yesterday that you last heard it. There are subtleties; I see myself in her. She has the same physique that I did, although she's stronger and more confident in her body than I ever was. I write about her less here than I used to as I am conscious that she could read this - although I doubt she does. One day she might...

My observation at the moment is that she is so full of the promise of youth; that unique time when the whole world stands before her and it's almost overwhelming to know where to take it. I have to say that in the years of parenting that I have experienced (and I am a novice compared to some, I know) the pride I feel for her just grows. There can be confusion though as her actions now don't always invoke unequivocal pride, whereas when she was younger they did. I guess the point is: I feel pride despite her actions and maybe that is what unconditional mother love is all about.

It's funny how reaching a school holiday would normally prompt logistical planning to rival the military - but now it's more like a lovely free fall from the rigour of term time. I used to fret and schedule and generally 'get through' the holidays whereas now, significantly less so. They will have nearly a month off so I am sure by the end I will be longing for some time alone (without dinosaur questions) but for now it feels like a treat to have their company. I guess as my children get older the time they spend alone with me will dwindle. We now rarely go away on holiday without a pack of friends as it works better that way. We are skiing next week with three other families, for example.

I am reading this book of short stories 'Dear Life' by Alice Munro, who at the ripe age of eighty-something was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature last year. The book is so achingly good in a truly subtle way; she writes what she knows and there is a lot of autobiographical detail about Canada that I really enjoyed. What I love the most about her work though is that it's not always jazzy; it's gripping and human and real. It doesn't always have spark and that is exactly the kind of honest writing I aspire to. Sometimes life is quiet and sometimes it is loud and I am fine with either. I hope my readers are too.

Meanwhile I saw this quote and thought I should take a leaf out of that particular book. I admit I have devoted way too much time lately pondering my age and what it all means; milestone birthdays do that to you. I am going to stop now and just get on with things.

One enduring point of age-frustration remains however and that is what to wear! I still spend a disproportionate amount of time considering if I am the 'right' age for something or other and fervently wishing that I had made more daring fashion choices in my younger years. Was it that the 1990s/2000s were a dry old time for fashion? I look back now and think what a missed opportunity; my college wardrobe consisted largely of Levi 501's, a shirt and Chelsea boots. I'd wear the same now (except that skinnies rule my jean world). I never embraced the bohemian surfer chick. Or the preppy New England girl. Or really anything. Maybe this is why I love the 1980's? Madonna's like a virgin phase was my one sartorial rebellion. Ah well, I can now try and perfect the elegant 40 year old; no mean feat but I am endeavouring.

One thing I know...

posted on: Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Writer's block. Although I am not a writer. It's as if all the thoughts in my head have been sieved and what's left are the basic put-one-foot-in-front-of-the-other thoughts. I do wonder whether this is to do with it being month nine of not working and finally, maybe I have found my groove? Only thing is: it's a slow groove. I am thinking: is this passivity in me what I am really like and have I been living a 'busy' lie for all these years?! Or is it that it takes nine months to wind down? (much like that's how long it takes to wind up a pregnancy?!) The days seep by and I am not bothered although the housewife 'to do' list just keeps growing. One thing to note about the housewife to do list: there is ALOT of repetition.

1. Do the laundry.
2. Do the laundry again.

Somehow when life was interspersed by corporate meetings and coffee breaks at the office (never drank so much latte as in that job) the everyday things didn't seem so everyday. But I have to say that I am definitely not unhappy with this monotony; I just note it along with everything else I note. Brain still in overdrive (or else I wouldn't be me) but on different (smaller?) things. I am OK with that.

There is time for 8.30am yoga classes and to prepare myself an Ottolenghi salad for lunch (yes, lunch!). But somehow not time to call a plumber for a broken cistern. I see that I make time for what I like and have what borders on a complete mental block for things I like less. This is odd to me as before I just did everything without question. Now - when there is time for it to be done tomorrow if it's not done today - I find that some things just don't get done at all. They say if you want something done give it to a busy person, and never has that statement seemed more true to me. Interesting though; not bad.

Things I know, for sure:

1. You can never have too many lip balms.
2. I would like one of these Carolina Bucci bracelets in every colour.
3. It's worth the effort to take the physical exercise.
4. Do what you think is important.
5. Happiness has found me.
6. There are never enough shoes.

This is 40...

posted on: Thursday, 13 March 2014

I turned 40 yesterday! Despite all of my well-documented thoughts and worries about this milestone (thanks for bearing with me for the last few months!) I feel pretty good about it all now. As in: let's do this! I had the most lovely day; the sun shone, I saw friends and family. I was spoiled and given beautiful gifts. My best friend gave me a vintage leather-bound set of the entire works of Jane Austen, which is also 40 years old. Honestly I cried when I opened it - it was the most thoughtful, 'me' gift ever. I knew there was a reason why I made her my children's Godmother. There were flowers and surprises and kindnesses that are still making me smile today. And by the way, I don't look any different! Thank you too for all of your kind messages...blog friends are cool.

From the vantage point of my 40's I can say:

Things that used to worry me about my appearance no longer do.

I would not consider plastic surgery. This is an important decision as at this stage in life you either commit to the ageing process or try to allude it. The last few years of medical ailments has taught me that health does not equal beauty. You may have beauty but you may not have health. In all matters: health can trump beauty every day of the week and twice on Sundays.

The best thing I ever did was to marry someone who made me laugh and who I find, despite over twenty years of waking up with him, is still my love. This is no mean feat.

I worry way too much. I regret worrying as much as I do, but find I can't stop. I worry that I worry.

The last few years have been a path of discovery for me. I thought I knew myself at 35; not so. May the same apply over the next five or ten years. There is so much to learn and appreciate, I hope there's time enough.

When it comes to knitwear, I like grey the best.

I won't leave the house without foundation and concealer on; good skin is all.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: motherhood is a marathon and not a sprint.

My Mum is the coolest, most necessary grounding influence in my life. I know no one like her. She is utterly unique and has been the an incredible bedrock of support to me for my entire life. Even now, I rarely make a decision without her.

I may flirt with being a blonde, but I am a brunette at heart.

A combination of yoga and running gives the best fitness.

I should read more. Writers inspire me.

I spend too much money on clothes and shoes.

My daughter is a funnier version of me.

My son has a gentle heart and one day, I hope I'll have done a good enough job in teaching him how to be a man.

If in doubt, paint it white.

There is a book in me.

If it's wrapped in brown paper and string, I'll probably buy it.

Cherish friends.

Above all else, be kind.

Do as I say not as I do...

posted on: Tuesday, 11 March 2014

I attended a lecture last night at my daughter's school by a psychologist  who has studied, amongst other things, body image and the link to screen time. These two things are front and centre at the moment with a near-teen girl in our midst. A lot of what he said wasn't new-news - although the research to back up his points was staggering and I came away wondering just how delusional we have all become about media images and their effect on body image and self esteem. His view was that this issue has mushroomed as screen use has increased in the last fifteen years and that now, children will absorb a mind-numbing volume of screen images before they are adult. Of course in a room full of self-assured, educated mothers (and some fathers) we all mentally checked off the fact that we weren't guilty of exacerbating this fact. But then as I drove home I thought again...

via silver blonde

I use the computer a lot; for my down time and for any admin I have to do. I'd rather text or email than speak to someone. I am on Pinterest constantly. Less so for Twitter, but definitely Instagram and Facebook. And then there is the blog, littered with beautiful images. I have images in front of me all the time. The thing is: these social media things are fun. But what does my daughter take from seeing me do this? Whilst I am trying to set rules for her to use her phone less, and get off-line (and failing), I find myself inadvertently doing the same thing I am asking her not to.

Last night many thought-provoking points were made about how teenagers see their parents behave and how closely linked that is to body image and self esteem. A daughter for example, will benefit from seeing her father be amorous with and attracted to her mother. A daughter will pick up on whether her father finds her mother (post-childbirth, with wrinkles) attractive and sexy. A son will covet the 'six-pack' referred to all the time on TV and in the press when he is as young as 7 or 8. Ultimately theirs is a generation raised with the expectation that if you look like a model, life will be perfect and that attainment of that goal is everything. Even though so many physical characteristics are genetic, they (and we) are led to believe that it's something that can be controlled and somehow conquered (eat less, move more).

I started thinking that in recent months I have become more down on myself than I used to be, when it comes to my appearance. I attributed this to the fact that 40 was looming, but after hearing the points made in the lecture, I wonder whether I too have been effected by the conspiracy in the media to portray perfect women, airbrushed and flawless. Even the more 'mature' women have the distinction of 'looking amazing for their age'. It's the 'for their age' part that is relevant. It stands to reason that if you spend all day looking at the perfect, real life/body/hair/face can pale in comparison.

I feel like there is a perfect storm right now that will specifically impact how my children grown up. I suspect that in ten or twenty years' time there will be better research and regulation on the impact of media imagery. The concepts will have been blown open and maybe we will all accept that what is presented on-line (and I am guilty of it here) is not real! And maybe girls can grow up feeling less concerned about their next 'selfie' and more concerned about real stuff that matters.

And after...

posted on: Tuesday, 4 March 2014

To say that I am not inclined to write here is a falsehood; I am inclined, I just can't seem to find the moment. People, friends often ask me if I toil over this blog or if the words I write flow out. I can say with certainty they do flow, I don't think I have ever taken more than twenty minutes writing here, what takes the time is the pictures! It's a curious thing that I come to spill out my thoughts a couple of times a week. There is this rather strange sense of duty to do so, as if someone will notice if I don't. But most often it is because I need it; I need to share something or get something out of my head. I have thought a lot about writing lately as realise how much harder it is to write a book than it is to jot some pithy life observations in a blog. I had the idea for a book, I just didn't have a beginning, a middle or an end, hence why it's so hard to write!

via with grace and guts
At the weekend I met up with my University friends (bar one who couldn't make the journey). It is the year of our 40th birthdays and so we met in Soho in London and drank wine and talked like there was no end to that particular day. I could barely sleep that night - ensconced again in my old, falling down farmhouse, feeling as far from Soho as possible. There were so many updates and thoughts to ponder. Of the group of us, I had children first, so to some degree have pioneered ahead of them as they have younger ones. I felt that my words of observation and wisdom on the teenage years - which haven't even landed yet but which have settled like some sort of hormonal cloud over our said farmhouse - were well and truly heard. But even though they are my dearest, oldest friends I came away wondering how I came across to them? A sprinkle of self-doubt mixed up with a lot of love. Seeing them was like a tonic and I concluded: they KNOW me, so whatever I said, it's probably OK.

And so what else? I ordered a tuxedo jacket as I felt that by my age I should own a proper, serious, grown-up, smart jacket. I explained the situation in Kiev to my children in the car to school. We discussed the differences between a King, a President and a Prime Minister; Democracy before 7.30am. Get me. I did yoga and went for a run. I ordered this book - everyone likes a list of things to do. I fretted about a gazilion things that are beyond my control.

I talked to my Mum, as I do most days. I love my Mum. I wrote more letters to my nieces; these about the merits of studying abroad. I didn't study abroad but always thought it sounded nice and what better thing than living vicariously through one's nieces? Less complicated than one's children.

I marvelled at the design of my favourite jewellery designer Georg Jensen as I was able to choose what I might like for my birthday. I took a new dress to be altered; there's something rather special about a proper dress-maker who bites pins in her mouth as she made it fit me like a glove. I did this and that...I felt grateful that I have time to do this and that. I did not miss corporate life. I smelled a mown lawn and it almost...almost...smelled like summer :-)

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