'Did I miss 60B...?'

posted on: Tuesday, 29 April 2014

There I was going along, thinking I was doing pretty well, I had even started to get that smug feeling that I had life under control...and then: stuff happened and I realised, not so much. A return to the school term after a lesson-learning Easter holiday. Keep them busy, but ideally not to extent that I run myself ragged trying to do it all. Sound familiar? Oh to be young and carefree...

It transpires, when it comes to motherhood, there is no right or wrong way and no matter how hard you try at it, that little person you created will do what they do and you can't stop it. This is a hard concept for me; I like to have some control and the full knowledge that I have lost it (did I ever have it?!) is challenging. My daughter - well - I have to let her make her mistakes and I can't undo them for her. It sounds so easy - such a sage piece of life advice, but the reality is proving so hard, I can't even tell you. The (many) fears I have for her need to stay under wraps and she must learn that life is a wild and precious thing, the answers to which will not be found on her phone. I wonder if I missed something along the way - some important step that I should have taken - to make sure that she was better equipped? The thing is, I can't prevent life happening to her in all it's mess and beauty so I just have to stand by. And it's kinda killing me. Slowly.

So I turn back to the things that feature in my day to day. The building work at our house, diggers arriving every day at 7am. Word of advice: getting new drains fitted to an old, old house is one of those soul-sucking endeavours. Lots of mess, lots of mud - very few visible results!

I missed three weeks of yoga and running so this week I went back. I ache like I have been hit by a steam-train - how can the fitness dissipate so fast??! But it's good to be back.

The weather hinted at Spring and then got coy again. If it stays cold I want some of these fairly keenly.

More laundry than I know what to do with. Again.

High hopes for summer. Beach-time. Always.

Plans, plans and more plans. Many of which are for them and not me.

Mental note: need to make some plans for myself...

For those who are wondering about the title, it's an 'Elizabethtown' reference.

Happy Tuesday.

Green shoots...

posted on: Saturday, 19 April 2014

As Easter is so late this year it feels like we are headlong into Spring already. I can recall Easter weekends where we wore ski coats on our country walk. Yesterday we wore t-shirts. Good Friday was spent with good friends, a pub lunch by the water and an idle walk home, with the dogs along the canal.

via elsa may
I wanted to say thank you to all the kind people who commented in response to my last post. It's always slightly awkward to bring attention to a negative comment; we should learn to take criticism with stoicism. However speaking up and the support I got made me feel better.

I have watched this video 'A Portrait of Lotte' a few times now (along with nearly 9 million other people at time of writing) and each time the part where she goes from child to young woman makes me cry. Same effect on my husband when he watched it. We couldn't figure out why, but put it down to the poignancy of having a daughter who is growing up and how simultaneously proud and nostalgic it makes you feel as you see the passing of time. Just lovely. And her brother's one is here.

I am still wearing my fit bit - over six months now. It has become part of my daily life. I just changed the wrist band to tangerine for summer! Hah. Knowing how many steps you take a day is the best way I have ever encountered of driving active behaviour. If I only walk 5000 steps (half a daily target) I feel like I need to get out of my seat and go somewhere. That's got to be good.

Our building work has gathered pace and the outside of our house is now completely dug up. No pretty Easter garden of daffodils for us! We are getting much-needed new drains and flood protection. Necessary but dull work as far as I am concerned. I am wanting the 'styling' phase...but that is a long way off!

Last night we had a young guy come to our door, late, which is unusual where we live (rural and generally accessed by car). He was trying to get to a girl's house about 8/9 miles away and was walking. He didn't know the way and was asking if he was going in the right direction. My husband talked to him outside for about ten minutes and invited him in, we charged his phone for him, ordered a taxi and paid for him to get to the destination. He was uncomfortable and clearly a little rattled and upset. So - we reassured him it was fine, sent him on his way and hoped that our the random act of kindness was the right thing to do. I've thought about it and how if my kids, when they are grown up, got themselves in a predicament where they had no money and no phone, would a stranger help them out? I get it's a double-edged sword and to some degree I was unsure how much we should have helped him. Is that a comment on my attitudes or is that a product of modern society where distrust and scepticism rule? Who knows?! But I hope he's OK.

Have a great Easter weekend...

via french vouguettes

Blogging, comments, photos...and a rant ensues.

posted on: Thursday, 17 April 2014

We've been together for four and a half years now, my blog and I. When we started I was full of ideas about where the relationship would take me, what I would gain from it, what I could mould it into. At the start I was competitive and entered blog contests and responded to blog challenges. I trawled other blogs and commented, 'making friends'. If I went away on holiday I arranged guest posts and made sure that the blog was never unattended for a moment. I posted all the time, tracking my stats - I sometimes look back on my archive and think, frankly, how did I have the time to post 31 times in a month in 2010?! I still had a big job at that time and a younger family! Like any relationship though, I put in what I wanted to. Now the blog and I are trusted bed-fellows and we rub along. Sometimes I post more often, sometimes not. They say take only what you need from life - so from the blog, this is what I take:

It's a place to write. To express what's going on with me. To catch up with friends. I have spent many an hour wondering why I write it and what it all means (often documented). But I carry on. I consider myself to be a blog veteran now. But it remains that I have never monetised the blog. There are no adverts. There are no collaborations or reviews. The only self-serving things I ever wanted from it was to promote my small business and furtively, that maybe a book editor would stumble by and offer me a book deal ;-) Hah.

I understand that there are some blogs which are much more than just a convivial relationship between blog and blog writer. They are a job or a role or a pathway to greatness. I have seen blog friends take the germ of an idea on a blog and make it a mainstream business, a full-on lifestyle, and I applaud them.

So when I get an anon comment like I did yesterday, despite myself, I react. I have rarely had comments that smart; overall the readers are kind and thought-provoking. Because I am not 'out there' trying to be anything, I have always figured I go below the radar for the kind of vitriol that exists on the web. But the issue of photo crediting has raised its head again and so I'm going to respond.

Anyone can see that the Internet has proliferated the use of photos in a way that a few short years ago we could not even imagine. Whilst this has been a gift to many (countless happy hours spent on Pinterest) it must have led to confusion and frustration amongst photographers, models, stylists, brands etc whose work can be seen ANYWHERE without credit.  This poster, for example, by the prominent blog Design Sponge started a whole furore of debate about the topic a few years back.

There has been the blurring of international boundaries on the web, the application of copyright laws between countries, a reliance on good practice that has, in all honestly, seeped away over time. I have observed all of this. And to some degree - in response to the claim that I don't credit photos accordingly, I agree, I put my hands up and say 'yes, guilty'. But equally I accept that the arena in which we work is a changeable one; that the shifting sand of the Internet is virtually impossible to stand still on. And as such, what pervades is this.

I blog because I love it. Am I going to consult a copyright lawyer each time I want to post a picture that I didn't photograph myself? No. Is that wrong? Maybe, yes. Do I live in the real world and have an understanding of the principles of legal risk? Yes. Do I think what I do is ethically wrong? Unsure, now you mention it. Am I like everyman (or woman) who blogs? Yes, I would say so. Am I going to stop blogging? No.

Here is what I wish: that people who want to outline the wrongs of society do so on things that really matter. Like how on Instagram or Tumblr, just a few short clicks can lead you to such vile photographs of harm and suicide or pornography and exploitation that honestly, they make your stomach recoil. That young people will see and act on these, who perhaps have not had the life experience that I have had to know that the staged, styled photographs are not real and are designed to make you feel something - good or bad. That there are images lurking on the web that we should all be in disgust about.

So is the real issue whether the photographer or the stylist or the magazine who printed it gets the credit? Are generally well-meaning bloggers really the culprit for publishing photos that may not always be credited? Do they try their hardest to locate the source of the image but as time has gone on the trail has been eroded? Is there a whole lot more wrong with the Internet than what I post here?

We have to all make our minds up about what we see and read. But my view, for what it's worth, is that gentle words and beautiful images do not harm and if a photographer ever contacted me (as they have once or twice, but rarely in my blog career) and asked me to credit their image I would do it gladly and with apologies for not having done so sooner. This may well be one of those posts I regret pressing 'publish' to and I am inclined to pause for a day and think about it. But on the other hand, the most often stated sentiment I receive in comments is that I write with honesty, so this is my honest opinion.

Back and go-slow...

posted on: Wednesday, 16 April 2014

I am returned from the mountains. I had the best time; we all did - it was one of those glorious family/friends holidays where everyone got on and everyone had fun and it all went really well. The weather was unseasonably warm so we skied in t-shirts and enjoyed lunches in the sun and my face is tanned like I have been to the Caribbean, but the rest of my body is post winter-appropriate pale. I have a love/hate relationship with skiing, having learnt as an adult I will never get that perfect shoop-shoop that others seem to have (those who learnt as children). But this time, with the fantastic visibility and wide open pistes and not too many people I finally got it. I got that lovely rhythmic feeling of the shoop-shoop. It rocked.

via inspiration lane
It was made all the sweeter by the inclusion of the chalet girl. What a treat to not have to lift a finger or cook or clean. I observed these girls with interest; their days not dissimilar to my normal housewifery activities. A whirl of bed making, wiping, preparing, clearing for the next onslaught. I have to say I basked in not doing anything.

We watched the film 'About Time' when we were away. If you want to feel love and be reminded to love - watch it.

Back and it's Easter holidays and my son turns nine today! I am so in love with my kids at the moment, we have had a good time lately altogether. The thing he wanted the most for his birthday? A digital watch, night-vision goggles and a football. What more does one need?!

The hint of spring is filling me with happiness and that bottled hope for a good summer. No sooner was the ski wear packed away did I start planning summer wardrobe items and dusting off sandals to be worn when it warms up.

Following inspiration from my friend Simone, I have started printing out life quotes and sticking them on mirrors and on walls around our house. Interesting response. Immediate one from my son about this one was: 'this means get off your gadgets and use your imagination doesn't it?' Hah. So maybe what I say (on repeat) does filter in?!

And so, post-holiday everything goes on. The bags get unpacked slowly and thoughts turn to what is ahead when the children return to school in a few weeks. I like the summer term, in fact I like everything about summer. We now have a countdown (as Boo keeps reminding me) to her getting braces on her teeth (14 days), to when we go to see One Direction again (51 days) and when we go to Florida (82 days)...yay for that.

Wants, reads and notices...

posted on: Friday, 4 April 2014

Isn't it lovely that Spring is here? Is it here or is it approaching? I think it's here. Daffodils especially make me smile when I see them. So deprived are we of flora over the winter months. I do this every year, I emerge from Winter as if I have been in hibernation.

I have one of these friendship bracelets and now I want to give one to everyone I know. They are so delicate and sweet.

Can we talk about lingerie? For years I was a Marks and Spencer girl; Brits will understand this, a gazillion British women have grown up wearing M&S bras and it's been great. A few years ago a wise friend directed me to Marie Jo lingerie; absolutely exquisite items that are spookily comfortable and well-fitted. The outlay was high but I did invest and my 'habit' has grown from there. The prices make me wince but there is the view that we spend so much money on what we wear on the outside, why do we not lavish money on what is on the inside?! Comfort is all and the beauty of them in an added bonus.

After twenty years together I have finally accepted that my husband and I need a bigger bed! Lingerie? Beds? What more shall I share? We are having a 6 foot bed delivered tomorrow as frankly I need as much space as possible when I sleep. And there's the prospect of brand new linen to match. Heavenly.

We are going skiing to France next week with friends...this provokes the annual love/hate relationship I have with this pursuit. Love the mountains, fresh air, scenery, food; hate the black runs, the silly boots, the schlepping up the mountain. A break will do us good though...looking forward to it.

Some thought provoking blogging this week by my friend Alison at Cowparsley; a point well made. As often referred to here, one thing I notice about leaving my thirties behind is the creeping consideration that clothes must be appropriate for my age. Whenever I feel down about this I turn to the Nora Ephron book 'I Feel Bad About My Neck'. The ultimate in witty straight-talk. The final chapter in that book gets me every time; if ever you were hesitating in telling your best friend you love them, read this and do it now. My other go-to book when I want to feel better is 'Living Beauty' by Bobbi Brown. Almost guaranteed to make me see the good in my advancing years.

Another Alexander Technique lesson has revealed it's all about a pelvic tilt for me. Bizarre. But actually true. When my pelvis is in the right place, my shoulder stops hurting.

OK and on the topic of sex - I follow Joanna Goddard's blog and am often impressed by the range of topics she covers. Like this post about sex and this one. I like the honesty and I wonder: is this her or does she have an editorial staff thinking this stuff up? It's been well-documented that bigger blogs now have a team working behind the scenes and this makes me think how blogging has become so much more like reading a magazine article than understanding one individual's point of view. I like the latter; shouldn't a blog exactly be that: a 'web-log' - a diary?

And at the end of the day, I do still want to own an Equipment silk shirt. I keep coming back to it. I bought an imitation last year but it went back...sometimes you have to go with the cult item because it is the cult item. There is a reason an item has become a cult.

And it's the weekend, which is all good! Have a good one.

Building my empire...

posted on: Wednesday, 2 April 2014

On a normal morning (for my mornings are all normal these days) I will drink a cuppa earl grey tea and look at Pinterest before every one else is up. There is always beauty and there are always quotes and really, there is all I need to start my day with thoughts of loveliness. BUT it can also feed the need to reconsider my empire. I look and I think: what am I doing today? What clothes should I wear? What will I achieve? (laundry) What is in my empire? And so on and so forth, dangerously close to the existential panic that is comparing ones life to others. The irony with Pinterest is that very few images are real, they are styled and beautified; and even though we all know this, we still covet relentlessly. Or at least I do. I don't think I am alone in that...

It strikes me that much of what has driven my behaviour in recent years has been fuelled by the need to build an empire. To make a life. Education followed by work, followed by home-buying, followed by marriage, followed by children. Archetypal modern woman? I even started my own small business when I had a creative urge. I blog and I think and I think and I blog. Round and round!

An example: I look at how I am parenting my daughter right now - as she pushes every boundary that exists in her near-teenage world and I really have to stop and reconsider on a daily basis. I even notify other fellow-mothers to do the same and then find myself not heeding my own advice. You see, part of building my empire is that it has all the necessary components and includes (and I can be honest here) beautiful, healthy, successful children. Are we deluding ourselves if we say that these things haven't crossed our minds? I (not so) secretly want life to look like a Pinterest board. I want her to do stuff and behave a certain way because it is somehow preordained in me that she should. And if she doesn't, I get frustrated. And then my so-called clever, cohesive parenting style goes out the window!

Real life gets in the way and the self-questioning starts! I jest; for we all know that when push comes to shove, the trappings of the beautiful and successful are not important. But somehow it's more human to disregard that key bit of knowledge about life and blithely wish for the perfect. Surely we all do it? Please say 'yes'...

Whilst we are sharing can I also say that my house, whilst on paper sounds like a rural idyll is in fact a complete mess??! Sadly my neat-freak tendencies have not rubbed off on any other member of my family and so I spend my days like some sort of Wile E Coyote spin trying to make everything look more lovely. I'd settle for just a little bit lovely - you know, clear floors not strewn with mismatched muddy shoes, counter tops not smeared with spilt sauce. Rogue, dried up baked beans under the cupboards. I can even admit: mouse droppings in my utility. Old farm houses are rife with problems and mice seem to be one of them. I hear them at night in my attic...tippy tap tap dancing like there's a party up there. At least someone in the house is partying ;-)

from Christina Strutt's book 'Living Life Beautifully'
What I also notice about these First World problems is that they come back perennially, even though we try to put them to one side and refocus on other more important matters.

Is there a way to keep focus on what is important? Is there a trick I need to learn? I am sure that being less serious in life may be one approach. Looking on the bright side? Chilling out? Not thinking too much? I seems to me that to live your life with any ambition, in whatever form it comes, leads to priority-confusion. I mistook career ambition as the most compelling kind, but I see that mother-and-child-ambition is in the mix as well. Not to mention ambition for status or beauty or wealth.

Time to take stock and decide one way or another what it all means. Ultimately I have to revert to what is important to me and try to keep hold of that day to day. Good luck!