That kind of woman...

posted on: Friday, 29 January 2016

Some weeks, it goes this way. I walked on the beach one morning with an old friend, arrived home and had the day stretching out ahead like a runway. This is where housewifery bites. I knew there were a million things I could do, I just didn't really want to do any of them. The weather was blustery and raining (I am sure the media over-hype the weather; we live in a constant state of tension about it). I made a chia seed breakfast that I soaked over night a la 'Deliciously Ella' and was feeling rather pious about it.

I spoke with my friend Dawn; two hours on Whats app that required (due to the crap wifi signal in my house) to stand in one place, virtually on one leg, to maintain contact. We talked; it was lovely and made me miss her all the more; she lives in Holland. She knows me and she gets me.

Ditto my other long distance friend Emma, who I also never see but with whom I have torrid text exchanges about the state of our lives. I realise that characters in my writing are inspired by these two women; it all comes from somewhere deep in my psyche.

Then there is my Mum. I have written before about what an amazing person my Mum is. Everyone who meets her says: 'your Mum is so lovely,' and I say in response: 'I love my Mum.' I really do. I have such love for her and such recognition that she is the single most important woman in my life. Rarely do I make a decision without her input; real or imagined.

Boo has been off sick for a few days with a cold, so we've hung out and chatted and she says things that make my heart swell with pride because she is becoming such a grown up thinker.

Then there is my friend Paula, who was also my business partner once, she's a science geek and wears a lab coat to work and is about the cleverest woman I know. She's coming for tea later.

And my other friend Sarah, who runs a multi-million pound company and is just the most decisive person I have ever met. If ever I procrastinate; I turn to her. We share endless emails most weeks which analyse all sorts of matters, important and banal.

There's the sister in laws - nearby and far away, they are the glue and the shared history that hold family together, at times.

Then I have my blog friends; the ones I read day to day and whose lives I think about, even though we may not have met or only meet rarely. Simone and Robin and Mary and Amanda and Sophie.

Without all of these friends I would not be me. I would be a lone boat sailing on a choppy sea. The harbour would be out of sight. The navigation broken. I would only have the stars to guide me and on a cloudy night that gets really hard. I could extend the metaphor but you know what I mean...

(Spot the girl who is splat-bang in the middle of writing a novel - 34,000 words and counting.)

Friendship is something that, it occurs to me, I take for granted. I sometimes feel that because many of my friends don't live on the doorstep, I don't have them in my life enough. But then I stop and think and realise that they're still with me, maybe just not in person. In spirit. Like kindred spirits - Anne of Green Gable style. Bosom pals. Anyway, I am lucky.

So it's Friday, I have made a smoothie that contains beetroot (it's very January) and I am trying not to look at the Internet for shopping purposes (willpower). The wind persists, I am turning to a book for solace. Happy weekend.

Compadres in blogging and life in general...

posted on: Wednesday, 6 January 2016

I love all the new year posts right now; everyone in blogland is thinking about what the new year brings. A few of my favourites from here from Sophie, Robin and Amanda. There is a freshness about this time of year that I am liking, even though when the alarm went off at 6.30am this morning I could have sworn I only just closed my eyes to sleep and these short winter days are just no fun whatsoever. I again regret that we live in this shitty climate - there's nothing like ten days in Florida to illustrate what people do with their time when the sun shines and there are palm trees everywhere. Hmmm.

But, what happens this time of year is that I make lots of plans - many of which involve travelling and seeing new things with my little family. We are thinking about going to Amsterdam in February to see my best friend/my children's Godmother Dawn. We are skiing at Easter - the annual trip that my husband insists on and to be fair, after all of these years, my children are now great skiers so I feel like we gave them that gift. Regardless, I tolerate skiing at the best of times and still can not do it proficiently no matter how hard I try! Then I am looking at summer and maybe going back to America but the East Coast this time - I might fulfil my lifelong wish to see Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard. We are lucky. The way our life falls together, I notice, is that we all work really bloody hard during the term time and then survive and hold it together as a family by going on trips in the holidays.

We have got used to being us four now when we go away. For many years we travelled with friends, especially where the kids were 'man-matched' with a buddy. But increasingly it got hard to coordinate everyone's needs and now, we have done a few trips just us and honestly it's working really well. The realisation that once children grow up and are teenagers, the days are numbered for family holidays and there will come a time when (heaven forbid) Boo will want to go somewhere with her friends!! Yep, so I am sticking in as many cool travel experiences as I can between now and that time.

More generally though, I get this feeling this year is going to be good. I have thought a lot about the writing that I am doing and whether, by virtue of my studies, I am now 'a writer'. There seems to be something terribly self conscious about this profession that I am not that keen on. It makes me want to rebel, I don't find that I long to be published and unlike many of my fellow writers, I am not obsessing over Amazon genre definitions and wondering whether I am writing a book that others will want to buy. I hope someone wants to read it, when it is done, but for now, it is an exercise in what I can do, what I can create, rather than being a commercial venture. I notice that when there is a commercial angle to what I write (and I have experienced this before on this blog when I did the oils business) my 'voice' completely changes. I don't want that to happen again so I am trying to just stick with what I have to say and not try to sell an idea or a concept. If you are along for the ride, then great...welcome.

Another factor that I continue to grapple with is the on line world. I see my children live in this second world so much and notice that my husband and I increasingly turn to our phones to check email or whatever. Although I know it sets a precedent, I still do it. Although I know that it is an addictive past time to continually refresh the view of Instagram or Facebook I still do it. It really is a curious human behaviour. And I don't think I am alone. In fact I know I am not; so many people write and discuss this modern issue. How much is too much? I have these embedded habits which all seem to revolve around checking status, of getting a fresh view - do I really need to be so up to date??!! The one exception to this is Pinterest, which still, as I am such a visual person, manages to enhance my days. But the rest...not so much.

Time to take stock.

A funny old year...

posted on: Sunday, 3 January 2016

This year, of all years, I love a new year. Nothing like a fresh start and although I am determinedly and outrageously addicted to things staying the same (my husband says: 'you don't DO change') I am keen to get going on 2016. That last year was, well, a bit...meh. It's not that I didn't have good bits but overall I will recall 2015 as a year where stuff had to come together. It felt like a lot of tread water-ing and frankly, I am done with that now. I wanna swim. Forwards.

Firstly, it saw another year of pushing headlong into teenage-dom; my daughter is 14 and although my son is only 10, those manifestations of growing up are already starting to assert themselves in him. We took a deep breath. As I have written about before here and here, raising a teenage girl is not for the faint-hearted, there are challenges at every corner. So the year threw in some of those just for good measure. But on the whole, we were good. They are a gift.

We did the house. Correction: we are still doing the house. BUT, 2015 involved the really mucky, grubby business of knocking down about seven walls, ripping out the kitchen, extending it, putting up a new steel structure that would support it all. Without getting into technical speak, we took on a massive project, turning a 16th Century farmhouse into something that was completely updated and worked for our family and our lifestyle. Space, height and light. Despite having lived here for over ten years, the house still brought surprises; things that it revealed boldly whenever we scratched under the surface.

We moved out for four months and I did daily pilgrimages (x 3) home to check progress. I can honestly say that for about three and a half of those four months I felt like we had made an enormous mistake! They ripped apart this house, lifted it on its foundations, shoved and wrecked and generally man-handled it and made it look oh-so-ugly, it was hard to imagine I would ever want to be in it again. But then - suddenly - as the kitchen went in and we started seeing it take shape, the floors and the walls, it gradually became a home again. Overall the project has taken over two years from the point that we made two houses into one. That's a long time to be living in chaos.

My conclusion on this building project:

Way, way harder than I ever imagined; more marital disharmony, more money, more stress, more sleepless nights. The outcome? Way, way better than I imagined; family life enhanced, happiness all round, calm Sunday afternoons spent enjoying the new space and feeling pretty pleased with ourselves. And yes, it's white and yes part of it looks like an art installation rather than a farm cottage, but I am good with that. It's all part of the trajectory of the house and of our family. A long-awaited treat.

Professionally for me, the year meant some dabbling in various things. I feel like the moment I got my head around the idea of taking on a new path - that of doing a Masters Degree - something calmed inside me. I was a mess before. I have never before looped around the topic of 'what am I doing with my life?' so relentlessly. I had never felt so lost as I did as a full time housewife with no prospect of anything else. And as I have said before, that is not to do with the worthy work of housewives, it's just that for me it was not so good. I was trapped. No amount of cleaning and organising would fix the everlasting issue of what to occupy my brain with. I didn't want to return to the corporate world that I left and honestly I couldn't; there was so much involved in keeping things running and happy at home. I had missed the whole point. I needed to do something that kept my mind busy.

A very good friend suggested the Masters (repeatedly) and I kept dismissing it, thinking that I had already done a degree, why did I need another? That if I wanted to write a book, I would just sit down and write one (how hard can it be?! ha ha). That I wasn't cut out for academic study anymore. That I needed to earn my own money. That it was indulgent. And on and on. Then I thought: f*ck it, just go see what this is all about...

And then, as of September, I became a student again. A part time one, but one nevertheless.

It rocks.

I am replete.

Books are my friend.

And just like that, the inner monologue quietened. Thank goodness.

And can I just say, the degree is actually really hard. It's challenging and it sucks time and I spend a lot of days thinking I am not good enough. I worry about finishing the book. I worry that it will be no good. I walk around with a fairly predictable case of writer's angst much of the time. BUT, I would note that I am happier now than I have been in a long time.

Happy 2016.

all images via crush cul de sac