Sloane Peterson...

posted on: Saturday, 30 August 2014

Oh Sloane Peterson, how I adored you from afar in 1986 suburban England; you were everything 80's cool to me. That fringed jacket, those boots, that hair. The cool boyfriend who bust you out of school to go out for lunch in the city. The epitome. I would watch these movies on a loop on my VHS player, whilst 'Raspberry Beret' played on the radio in the background. I look back now and see just how much I immersed myself in John Hughes' world in my teen years. He penned the thoughts of the generation. The age my daughter is now is the age I was when I poured over 'Ferris Bueller' and  'Pretty in Pink' and 'The Breakfast Club'.

I have read that the older you get, the more you spend time thinking about the past. I am not sure if this is true (seems it might be), but have noticed lately that the echoes of my past are louder as I observe Boo growing up in the same town that I did. Having a teenage daughter makes me revisit thoughts I had twenty five years ago and consider what I would have done then, if I had access to what she has now? Would I spend all day stalking on Instagram? Probably. Would I chat to my friends endlessly, about nothing, on Snapchat? Probably. Would I have absolutely no concept of what is going on in the wider world? Yep.

Meanwhile, back to now. The 1980's seem like a very distant time. Currently immersed in a whole different set of things like post-holiday unpacking, house build woes, keeping my son entertained during the last throes of the summer holidays.

I have that near-September feeling, the start of Autumn which here means stolen warm days, cooler nights, the start of the apple glut on our trees in the garden. I don't mind this time of year; winter seems quirky and interesting rather than how it seems by February, when it's like a house guest who has stayed too long. This proves to me again that what makes life good are the gentle transitions from this to that. If things stay the same too long, I find my tolerance of them is lower than it used to be. This is a 'not working' side effect (when I say not working, I mean not being paid to work!). When I was working I was just too damn busy to notice anything really. Now I notice a whole lot more. I'm thinking this a good thing. Life moves pretty fast; if you don't stop and look around every once in a while, you could miss it. ;-)

via this awesome 80's collection here

Oh my...

posted on: Thursday, 28 August 2014

It feels like ages since I wrote anything here; Portugal represents an opt-out of many things I normally do, like drive or write or think too much. We got back late last night so my house is now resplendent with laundry that won't dry because it's cold and rainy outside. Oh you British weather - why must you be so grey?! I am developing (have developed?) a major preoccupation with the weather, after spending 10 days in the hottest sun. The heat in Portugal is dry and arid and smells like liquorice. In Florida it was humid and heavy and smelled like blossom. Still working out which I prefer, but any heat at all is a luxury. Sun baked...

via here
We had a lovely time (again); a complete go-slow of family time. Holidays are the purest form of family for us. The four of us slip into it and spend our time chatting about shared memories and stuff we have done and things we want to do. I realise afresh that so much of what I dreamt about in my formative years is happening right NOW. I have arrived. It's so strange to reach that point! Lovely but strange. Dreams always seem to be dreams because they are in the future. Does that make any sense?!

Holidays make us all remember that we like each other still, after all. We listen to music and mooch and share funny stories and it's all so good that actually, at times, it makes my heart ache. We have been away to the same place so many times and to return is the most comfortable feeling of surety. It is what makes

I have been thinking a lot about choices and family and how you end up with what you end up with. My sister in law lives in Dubai and now my other sister in law is moving there too with her husband and their small children. This is all good for them; it's the right choice and of course we will visit like we have before. It has made me reflect on the choices we made when our children were younger, how we stayed put for the greater good and because, in short, I was not brave enough to leave. I have reconciled that now and see that our family life is so established and so strong, we choose to invest in it here. But at the same time, I suspect we left adventure at the door. We had an inkling but we didn't know for sure.

Isn't that what family life is so often about? Sometimes I hear friends lament the loss of freedom they experience when they have kids, or I myself write here of feeling frustrated or bored. Adventure (especially in the form of travel) doesn't heavily feature. However, we did make that choice and I think this summer we have realised that our time is coming again. Our children are absolutely the right age for adventure and travel, albeit in short bursts of holidays away. So that is the new plan. Travelling with them as often as we can.

Where to go?!

Good habits...

posted on: Sunday, 17 August 2014

As an old, favourite colleague of mine once commented, when he admitted he had read my blog: 'it doesn't seem to be written with mass consumption in mind'. I suspect he was trying to match the 'me' he knew of the corporate world (high heels and the career-limiting but interesting questions I posed to company executives when they visited) to the deeply personal summaries I post here. And let me just say that what I post here is a watered down version of what is really going on in my head. I have no explanation. The blog remains a secret to most who know me; I don't advertise it. I do get occasional pangs when I meet, say, a new, cool mother at school, and I imagine her scrolling through my ramblings and wondering: 'who IS this strange woman?'. I imagine my daughter's friends idly stalking my posts - in much the same way as they swipe through Instagram feeds and think that I am not like other mothers.

I write here according to my mood. And I am coming to the conclusion that my life is governed by my moods; completely and utterly. Never were words more lost on me than; 'snap out of it.' Impossible. Incapable of that. But I do listen and when the darker moods pass I go back and analyse them and see that everyone around me was saying snap out of it, unfailingly. That is all anyone knows to say. Anecdotally there is a period of quiet allowed (even for the gross, sad, dreadful things in life like betrayal or grief) but then the human spirit is expecting that we move on.

I am dubious about those who seem to have no down moods. I spoke once with a counsellor who told me that life is like radio waves; there is static and it's wavy. No one has a straight line.

But I am lucky that any dark mood passes and I regard life with enthusiasm and interest again. I live everything in a short-term fashion; rarely do I plan for anything more than six month's ahead, but there is generally a keenness in me to do the next thing.

There is much written at the moment about how we should understand low mood better and when it is prolonged and awful it gets a label like 'depression' that we should see it as a disease; an affliction that the sufferer can (or can't) be cured of.  I don't know about that (thankfully); all I know is that my biggest life lesson right now is that time passes and I feel different. The mood changes. And most often for the good. Happiness prevails.

From writing this blog I have made a study of being grateful for the good in life. How many blogs do I read that revere the little things, the small things, the everyday ordinary-ness that is life?! And how, if we look closely enough at what we have, we can dampen down all doubting thoughts till there is only happiness and light. Being grateful is great. But...what I notice is that sometimes it becomes such an effort to be grateful that it gets old. Like anything else, monotony breeds discontent.

I like to look at it in this way. Gratefulness should be a habit. Getting on with things should be a habit. Seeing the good. Taking exercise often, keeping active. Seeing friends should be a habit. Laughing. Laughing at oneself. Making a delicious meal with fresh ingredients and knowing it is good for you. Keeping busy. Embracing the quiet when it comes. Not thinking too much. Not fretting about the future. Having faith. All these things should be habits. And if I cultivate them enough they may become second nature.

We are returning to old habits tomorrow and going back to Portugal, where we have been so many times before. So lucky to have a bolt hole. There I go with gratefulness again ;-) it's the way forward.

See you in a week or so... xxx

via dust jacket attic

Here we are...

posted on: Tuesday, 12 August 2014

I am positive that I like the lie-ins of school holidays better than the get-up-and-out starts of the school term, but still, the lack of order and routine in our house is having an effect. My son, who is normally so structured in his little life, has gone into the free fall of the summer holidays and veers from happy to frustrated in a mere half hour. Is this a boy thing? It seems unless he is totally occupied he is miserable and trailing me around, much like the puppy does. Both of them looking up at me imploringly; what shall we doooo?! Sometimes they just have to be bored.

Meanwhile Boo is braving the Hurricane Bertha waves and doing a teen surf course with a friend. We have a houseful.

The house descends yet further into building rubble; all of our possessions stacked up to make way for electrical rewiring. It will be over one day. It will be over one day.

And to the lightness of life - shopping. This week alone (and it's only Tuesday) I went through an 'I need a retro high-waisted bikini' stage, and then got over it. Googled every conceivable version then decided that they look really cute on hip, young girls and maybe not on 40-year-old mothers. The exception to this age-related rule is Rene Russo in 'The Thomas Crown Affair'. Her wardrobe in that film is divine. I then found the latest Zara leather jacket - which I have gone on about before but have never yet purchased. Literally half the price of anything else out there. I got it and it is lovely. Very pleased.

I am numbed and sad about the death of Robin Williams, in that obscure, helpless way that the demise of anyone who has enriched the lives of many affects us. Near yet far. It is written about far more eloquently and beautifully here and I share the sentiment and the sadness.

In order to escape the building work, we have decided to get away to Portugal to the home-from-home that is my in law's place. So I am counting down to the last bit of the summer, spent in familiar surroundings. We had asserted that we would not go this year, having been every year I can recall since our children were born. But it seems that place is so enmeshed in the fabric of our summers that we couldn't resist. I have written about it many, many times before. In a week's time we will be there...

Otherwise, what else? Life is a series of activities right now, punctuated by the noise of the builders from dawn (it seems) to the late afternoon. Never known a builder work past 5pm.

Sometimes there is no real wisdom to impart, everything peppered by the small or the mundane. But I am OK with that. I bought geraniums for my porch as even though the place looks like a bomb hit, you always need flowers to brighten things don't you? :-)

via here

Time and perspective...

posted on: Saturday, 9 August 2014

In the mind of me, it has been a tumultuous place. Calming now and as per usual after one has had a short illness or a pitfall, I look back and think: 'what the hell was that?!' Incredible how it takes me away with it, like a tide, and then I feel blue and skirt around it on the blog and readers comments saying 'don't be hard on yourself' and leave book recommendations. I love them for that. Thankfully feeling better now, after the intervention of Florida sunshine and some common sense from all those around me. This damn mid life crisis is really 'kicking butt' to coin an Americanism.

For all the brooding, life is good. I simply must be grateful. There has been so far a proper summer, with a long spell of uninterrupted warm days and the ease of daily dressing; top and bottoms, flip-flops, messy hair, tanned face. For all that I love the seasons, summer is the best. This is all tied up with my palm tree theory that I have recently alluded to.

My daughter, Boo, continues to amaze me with her teenage mind. Increasingly after the perils of the last year, I feel like I have got her back this summer. I reacted very strongly to her growing up, in a way that I hadn't encountered before, and now I see that actually it was me who needed to change and not her. I am a self-confessed change-hater, so this was always going to be hard. But over this summer her and I have chilled. The house with teenagers in it is a richer place and for all of the rueful sighs in society about their reliance on social media and the demons that come with it, deep down they are good eggs. She has morals and I hear her outline principles to her nine year old brother and my heart swells as her measure of right and wrong is where it should be. A little South of mine, but still, on the right side of the dividing line. I know that by nature, teenage years are not stable and I am sure I will lament again in future. But for now, we are good.

Surrounded by chaos, the building work continues. In fact it goes on and on and doesn't seem to reach any sort of conclusion. Problem after problem, there is a lot of chin-stroking and sucking of teeth. There have been times where I wonder why on earth we ever embarked on such a big project and laugh at my foolishness of thinking that making a Pinterest board on interiors would actually be useful! I can see now that the styling stage is so far off and frankly, what I am living with is dust, rubble and builders arriving at 7am every morning (or even worse not arriving for three days and there being no progress whatsoever). As ever it's all about how you look at things. My husband has an unfailingly happy approach to all of this, finding a new wall outside a great, new development. I am interested in the inside. Until my house is restored to some order, the outside is peripheral. All of our belongings have been moved and we are shrinking into a smaller and smaller living space. I feel like I should be on one of those home TV programmes where the presenter infers that the 'owners are loosing it'! Really trying not to loose it but clearly my recent penchant for tropical escapism is hardly surprising. Anywhere but here...!

Meanwhile the days are a whirl of summer holiday clubs (last week tennis, next week surfing), dog walks, stolen moments of yoga or running, and trying to get a handle on what the future might hold. I think possibly a part time job or a serious return to my consulting work. I re-read old blog posts (one fabulous side product of writing a blog is this activity; I am staggered by some of the things I have written but never go back and edit: it is what it is). It's good to be reminded of the loveliness that was giving up work. But I can see that it may well be time for me to do something for me again. After all, 40 is no age to retire completely, is it?! ;-)

What now?

posted on: Wednesday, 6 August 2014

A curious thing has developed with me; it took hold a few months ago and hasn't fully abated. I am ashamed to say that it coincided exactly with my 40th birthday so can only really be claimed as an old fashioned mid-life crisis. Oh, I am that cliche! It is curious for a number of reasons - but mainly because for the first time in my life I have more choice than ever. I quit my job a year ago and honestly it felt like the world was at my feet. I look back on those heady, early days of freedom and see how very good for me it was to escape the confines of the corporate world. There seemed to be so much possibility ahead.

Over the course of the year, normalcy has set in and after years of observing the stay-at-home-mother from across the fence, I found myself neck-deep in all things to do with children and home. The combination of teenage daughter, house build, busy husband, inquisitive, active son left little room for many of the pursuits I had imagined. Not due to lack of time necessarily, but what I found was that all of the things that I longed to do when I was working; have a super-organised house, cook delightful meals, attend every recital and sports match, keep up with friends, be groomed and have painted toenails, they became strangely 'normal' in a fairly short time. This is no bad thing but what I realised is that when you are working and you long for an extended holiday, it's all the sweeter because of the contrast. If there is no contrast in life, the straight-line sameness of it can become cloying.

With our friends on holiday, we had one of those defining, red wine-enhanced conversations. Do you ever find that you can get more of an insight on what your spouse is thinking from hearing him in conversation with others? I think this is a symptom of having been together for over 20 years (yes, really!) where you no longer spend hours and hours discussing your feelings. When you have a life and kids and a house and a million things that need doing, discussions are short-lived and interspersed with other stuff like logistics and cooking and in laws dropping in. So anyway, we got talking about retirement and what it meant. Now to be clear what we meant by 'retirement' was the point at which we will no longer need to work. And I accept that the day we decide we no longer need an income might be a long, long, long way away but nevertheless, we starting discussing what we might do and where we might live.

Of course my first statement was that I wanted to live somewhere with palm trees (see previous post). This is the single biggest requirement for me. And a beach. But beyond that, what I hadn't considered is what I will actually be doing with my time. All of the frantic scheduling and dropping off/picking up of the now will fade away over time. What a thought?! I am not sure what to make of that! Family life becomes so very in-the-moment that it's near impossible to imagine a day without putting the needs of others before mine.

Increasingly since the mid life crisis set up home in my head, I have thought about where we will go when we no longer have to stay at home. Now home is all; it's the hub around which the children's lives whirl and in that spin I am the key facilitator. I make it all happen. But the idea of free-form days somewhere else, with no real agenda is tantalising but also terrifying!

What I do know from my current status is that two things are becoming increasingly important; one is to have company and the other is to have occupation. That may or may not be paid occupation but having something to do is starting to be a requirement. I look around at my peers and see women who have spent years in this state I am in now. They revel in it and to some extent I do too; there is nothing as liberating as knowing you have time tomorrow if it doesn't happen today. But increasingly I consider the possibility of another forty years of this and feel that I have more in me to give.

The big question is: what shall I do??!!