What's really going on...

posted on: Saturday, 30 May 2015

Singing in the car to One Direction's entire back catalogue. Feeling wistful at the Zayn parts.

Cindy Crawford in the Taylor Swift video. She rocks; Cindy as well as Taylor.

Friday night curry - our mainstay.

More driving around than I know what to do with. Crossing the border between British counties two times a day whilst repatriating my children from friends. I haven't seen any of MY friends! Half term week is the pinnacle of the drop off/pick up.

Embracing growing up. Theirs, not mine.

Watching 'The Affair'. Thinking about it afterwards.

Book club with the mothers. Always an education.

Skim-reading for aforementioned book club; a skill I learnt at University and one that has stayed with me.

Buying plain tops that will get me through the summer from Me and Em - wardrobe staples?

Absolute trepidation about the building work. Abrupt change of builders. Worry and more worry.

Deciding to be a grown up. Then wishing I was 20 again.

Reading about 'Generation Z' - oh-so-scary.

Missing 'Generation X' - Ethan Hawke and Winona Ryder in 'Reality bites'. Hello, you've reached the winter of our discontent. Secretly wishing I had worked in Gap and could fold clothes professionally. Singing 'My Sharona' at full volume in public places. Oh how I didn't recognise the importance of the my late teens/early 20's when they were happening.

Assessing whether the change that occurred in me at 40 was profound. I think, yes, it was. I can't think of another life milestone (except possibly bringing my first newborn baby home, circa 2001) when I felt the tectonic plates shift beneath my feet. I have to say, it made me THINK completely differently about EVERYTHING! My whole perception changed. Still acclimatising to the change. Do I like the change?! The point is - you have to BE the change. Excuse the CAPITALS.

Relapse of jaw pain; trying to be brave. Feeling like my body is failing me. Wondering if there is link between previously mentioned 40 year old mind and this affliction. Can't imagine I would have had muscle tension in 1995.

Wondering whether I need a new dress.

Cricket whites that are no longer white.


Flowering wisterias that hug the house.

Always earl grey tea.

Pondering whether mineral and vitamin supplements really work?

Thinking I should eat more healthily? But still loving white, buttered toast.

A return to running - then realising that running is not that great for me physically. Sticking to yoga. Sign of the times!

Happy Saturday.

And the women say...

posted on: Saturday, 23 May 2015

Every now and then I get a jolt of feminism. Here's the background: I grew up the second child to a single mother. She was a bastion of strength and dignity. She worked full time and I saw her balance a BIG job (the intelligent, competitive kind of job in a very male dominated industry) with our home life. She did it with grace and tenacity and frankly, her toil then set her up for a very good retirement now. The things that I recognised - sometimes she was late to collect me from school events. I was the only one with divorced parents. Sometimes she spent her money on power suits (it was the 1980's). Sometimes she was so tired we had the same meal for dinner three nights running. Sometimes, looking back, I wondered how she did it all. I had a normal, happy, secure upbringing interspersed by visits to Copenhagen to see our extended family. I lacked nothing. My Mum is Danish, so she was and is liberal, forgiving, calm, empowered. People should so emulate the Danes. They are the coolest society. But I digress...

I suppose what I see now is that I was, one way or another, raised as a feminist by a feminist. But not the rant-y kind. The assertive kind. Anything a man could do I could do. And I lost count of the times she advised me not to be financially dependant on a man. Get educated, make your own money.

So it's interesting as we fast forward twenty years and here I am; a housewife. It's an endless source of conflict for me.

I am raising a daughter, I ask her if is she is a feminist. She thinks I am nut; I am not sure many mothers ask that question? Or at least not of her peers. Not much of her current situation requires that she understands feminism. I guess it's one of those things that doesn't become a requirement until you realise it's a requirement. But yes - she says in reply; she is a feminist. She says I have brought her up to understand that she can do anything she likes, regardless of her gender. She doesn't see her brother being afforded different privileges because he is a boy. We raise them the same way.

I think this issue is no less important when raising a son. Can I just say that when his time comes and he is getting to know his future girlfriends, I be will labouring the point about how to treat women. I am facing the thorny topics now; saying what needs to be said. It really matters to me. Raising a good man is a feat in itself.

But here we go again - overzealous parenting? Why can't I just let it be?!

One thing my lovely Mum infers now...as she observes me parent my kids...is that she never worried about all this sh*t. She just got on with it as best she could. Worry was for the people who had time to worry. I do sense there is a self-conscious degree of anxiety about parenting that is so overdone in my generation. Awareness can be a thing that works against you. Did she escape the worry because she wasn't aware that there was so much to worry about?! Or was it enviable Danish sensibility - ever balanced and easy-going? A bit of both.

How do you find the happy medium?

Lovely things...

posted on: Thursday, 21 May 2015

Things that are lovely:

Comments from strangers that say: thank you for writing what you write and the inherent comfort of the words: 'me too'.

English prettiness at its best. My friend Alison's Cowparsley at Home range that is just heart-swimmingly lovely. The bees are my favourite. Until my house is finished I have to console myself with the accessories range; I choose a keepsake box which arrived this week to brighten my day.

Wearing yoga clothes all day. Comfort is all.

Conversations with my ten year old son about how long goldfish live for. Apparently 45 years, it has been known! I see that come half term next week we will be visiting the fish (pet) shop. When my daughter was ten we got the much loved puppy. My son will have to make do with a goldfish! But getting a new pet is something rather special, isn't it?

Knowing that even when I am wracked with self-doubt, somewhere deep in me gumption arrives and saves the day. 'I think I can'.

Penning the book plot in my mind...all the time...like...all the time. It's in my thoughts as a constant companion and I like that.

Listening to 'Women's Hour' as a podcast; as I rarely catch the live transmission on the radio. I absolutely adore Women's Hour. I learn something new every time I listen. It really is an institution.

Evening walks with old friends. English hedgerows and dog walkers who say 'good evening' as if we live in Hardy's time and we tip our cap to each other.

Coffee with old colleagues; talking about the good days. I went back to IBM today and was among the people who work. Get up each morning, put on a suit, go to work. I did this for so many years, it's strange but fitting to be a visitor in that land of the corporate. I am no longer one of them.

Palm trees.

In my efforts to get offline, I have seen an immediate positive affect. It takes discipline but honestly, a lot of what I was spending my time looking at was not a need-to-know. Instagram; you'll have to do without me for a bit. Pinterest; you're harder to quit but reading this article (suggested here) did make me smile! How silly we have become.

I am getting ready for the house build phase two...it will be lovely when it's done...when it's done!

If ever there were a glass half empty, it's mine. This is something I rue daily and as you'll know, certainly forms the ebb and flow of what I write about here. I sometimes look back on posts and think: my goodness I say the same thing in lots of different ways! I should think I will look back on these couple of years of my life as ones of discovery. But it's been a slow burn and often the level of self-discovery becomes hard to take. Introspection run amok. It comes from taking the choice to stop. I stopped doing what I used to do and now I do different stuff. I look at friends and see that a tactic amongst women my age is to keep so busy, pushing and pulling from all sides. The home, the husband, the children, the parents, the siblings, the career, the ageing, the making sense of it all. There's a whole lot going on there and sometimes I think back wistfully to my 20's when frankly, inexperience deemed life a whole lot easier! You have to roll with it...

images on this page from crush cul de sac

Do what you do...

posted on: Tuesday, 19 May 2015

It the most authentic sense, I am true to form. There are elements of me that my husband, who let's not forget is 22 years into this endeavour, describes as 'Completely Lou'. He knows me. I say I won't shop, and then I do. I say I get it, then I don't. I defend a point to the end of the earth and then change my mind the next day. I say I can do it, then I get a crisis of confidence. I am, if nothing else, predictable.

I have a habit where I am utterly and completely affected by my surroundings. I feel the clutter. I hate the clutter. It produces a fog in me. Yet my ability to actually deal with the clutter is somehow compromised. Today, I spent about six hours doing admin. The worst kind of the admin; piles of paper and that necessary exercise where you have to look at and understand every morsel. My back aching with sitting cross-legged on the floor, surrounded. File it. I file away the kid's school reports and think: when will I next need these? When Boo gets married and we need a witty historical reference about her personality. But on the most part with paper...I make a decision about it. Relegate it to the recycling. I am pathological about recycling. Where does it end up? In a conversation last week I lamented my worry that thrown away clothes end up as landfill. The person I was talking to rolled their eyes. Live more. Worry less.

I decided on Sunday that I should get offline. I haven't really entertained this prospect before, despite it being the mainstay of much commentary about modern times. I always felt that whatever lives on line, I could handle. Well I am not so sure. I think we must recognise this and certainly others share the sentiment. I can get consumed with the phone swipe.

My photographic memory tested every time I swipe my phone. Those go-to apps that keep the day rolling; the wait in the traffic bearable. Yes, I confess I have swiped my phone in traffic. Is this the big modern taboo? How many lines of traffic have you sat in to find that fellow car drivers are face-down. Illuminated. It's shameful. I realised that I was on line too much. And this is particularly relevant when it comes to having a teenage child. (Is the term 'teenage child' an oxymoron?) One way to navigate the chasm of parenting is to inhabit the on line world. Instagram and Snapchat and Facebook. So I think I overdid it and now I am going cold turkey. I can't be in that world, no matter how tempting, as frankly the only time I belonged in a teenage place was circa 1988 when I was my daughter's age. I am a grown up now. Didn't you notice?

Meanwhile, whilst we are sharing, the other thing I do is buy food that isn't eaten. There, I said it. Confessional: it seems like such a good idea to plan an elaborate meal midweek and purchase the ingredients, as if I am in fact Nigella the Domestic Goddess. Then the time comes and the inclination fades and frankly, we would all rather have pasta. I have a love/hate relationship with pasta. Oh so simple. Oh so same-y. I am now using different pasta shapes to shake things up; oricchiette anyone?

We are facing the imminent start of building work, which in short means we have ship out of the main part of our house. This is what is prompting the admin purge. I consider the need to clear out of drinks cabinet. Who has a drinks cabinet??! And frankly, am I deluding myself that we live on the set of 'Madmen' and need to pour a swift whiskey at the end of the day? I am wine girl. Spirits rarely feature and honestly, when they do, it's not pretty. I am now facing the prospect of pouring away the obscure contents of out-of-date Tia Maria bottles. And can I just say...Amaretto is never a good idea.

And so it goes. You do what you do, don't you?

Be the good...

posted on: Tuesday, 12 May 2015

I am wondering why there is this flawed human trait; the one where you forget to be good. Why must I always forget to appreciate things and forget to see the good in things?! Why must I be the one who sees the bad? I do well for a while, but then I slip back. In the past I have written about being an introvert and being a pessimist and now on top of these things I note that I am also an atheist. Do we want to get into this on a Tuesday afternoon? I guess so...

I feel like talking religion here is a bit like talking politics. I feel like I shouldn't reveal too much, as if I have inadvertently shown you my underwear. I voted last week in the General Election and found it a bizarrely moving and thought-provoking exercise. The polling station where I live was awash with little old ladies who'd put on their best suit to come and vote. There is something profound about it as an action, as a thing one must do. The school run that week was peppered with observations about the suffragettes and why we must vote, no matter what.

And then to religion; here I will say it: I lack faith. I suspect this is why my pessimism can become a little too much to bear at times; there is no alternative story. No outcome on which I can pin my beliefs. I look with envy at those who have religious faith, who have a place to turn to, who believe that they will be looked after. Who make that deal with themselves (or with God) that if they follow x, y, z doctrine, then they will go to heaven. The absence of heaven troubles me enormously. One of my mum's best friends lost her husband this week. He was in his eighties and had had 'a good innings', but still it feels wrong. She kept saying ' he was such a gentleman; such a good man' and I thought back to times as a child, where I was aware of his presence as a sincere and kind man, to whom I paid little real attention.

I find that the older I get, these things are more on my mind and frankly, that's a shame. I would rather be as oblivious as I was in my 20's! With age comes wisdom and with wisdom comes responsibility. I would rather like to have less of that. And so I spend my days keeping appointments and browsing the web and tidying up and trying to notice how beautiful it is here in this corner of the world. I try not to look at my phone too much. I try not to worry about all manner of things, from health to logistics to food to the future. And whether I need my roots done (yes). Most of all though I mentally tell myself to 'man up'. Strength and resilience is all!

This, I realise now, is why women my age take up yoga or triathlons. It's about distraction.

Meanwhile I long for some rhythm of life that is not dictated by their school term. How ironic that I should be looking forward to September where my life will take on an academic pace again and I will be tied by my own termly schedule. And ironic that whilst I ponder the meaning of life most days, I also fritter away time searching for the perfect pair of new kicks. And ironic that little old me, the one who thinks all the time, is married to someone who barely thinks about anything weighty at all. As in never. I have never known anyone so carefree. It's all about positive attitude! Hah!

A few months ago I downloaded a gratitude app - and I kept it for about a month - until I realised that the things I was grateful for were the same day in, day out. It started to loose its clout. I now go back and remind myself; health, love, family, comfort, security, beauty.

Ahh yes, that was it. Remember the good. Be the good. Good.

White-knuckled ride...

posted on: Friday, 8 May 2015

I go through a series of life phases which take up residence and then last a few months. Lather, rinse, repeat. At the moment things feel...how can I say?...tiring. Tricky. In fact as I write that I wonder whether they are in fact tricky or whether it is me who finds this to be the case? I wonder about my tenacity. I wish I were stronger. Then I wish I could be kinder to myself because I know deep down I can be strong enough.

I knew that this Spring would represent a bit of a strange time. We have a house to finish, I have time to kill before I start my Masters, my children are growing and changing every day. I am still locked into the daily life of a housewife and not getting any better at it! It feels like I have been the parent of a teenager for the longest time and I remind myself that it has ONLY been a year! Teenage parenting is a bit like childbirth; when you are in it, you just get your head down and hope to come out the other side! And when I do I suspect I will block out the truth of it and forget just how challenging a time it was!

I don't want to do my beautiful teenage daughter a disservice; I am sure one day she will read this and think: wtf? Actually, she is doing fine. It's me and my reactions that are not. There are some people who breeze through life - the glass-half-full people - my husband is one, I can attest to their existence. But being a glass-half-empty person? Yep, it's a white knuckle ride.

In amongst this there's other baggage about keeping my cool and actually being the grown up. I can still listen to music from the 1980's and literally feel my heart clench with nostalgia for my youth. I wonder, on a daily basis, how did I get to be a 41 year old?! Much as I am 'owning' being in my 40's and like many of the good things that come with it, it is still a shock to me that I am this age. And the biggest observation I would make about all of this is that the more time you have to think about it, the fewer answers present themselves. Funny how that goes.

Meanwhile, I long for sun and heat (no change), I found the perfect white blazer (still shopping, still having the guilt-sweats), I am thinking of upping my yoga classes to three a week. I found these very achingly stylish kicks when in Brighton with a friend. I didn't purchase them though!

There are rooms in my house so in need of renovation that I can barely bring myself to walk into them! There is an inevitability about the building work that is to come; we can't not do it, we are neck deep and must complete. But the prospect of it makes me need to take a deep inward breath. No one likes living like that. I concentrate on the end point and the styling and how it will all be worth it. I try to imagine the farmhouse we currently have and what it will look like when the entire back wall of the house is taken off and replaced with glass. I idle away hours looking for the perfect image of the interplay between old and new. I fret about whether my slightly strange, Danish, quirky interior style will translate. Let's see...

But most of all I try to remind myself that all of these things - these so-called 'First World Problems' pale into insignificance really. I have a healthy, happy family and we have a roof over our heads. That should be enough shouldn't it?!

Oh and I started writing. Like properly writing. A password protected document on my computer with the title 'book'.

Have a great weekend!

Yes, no, yes...

posted on: Saturday, 2 May 2015

These things interest me: time and influence and thoughts. I have a lot of time, people influence me enormously and I think all the time. Like, all the time. Exhausting? Yes. Interesting? Yes.

I have spent the week doing all sorts of nothing much; yoga, bike rides, dog walks, coffee mornings, school mum lunches, clean, cook, clean. Arranging and sorting and day dreaming. I long for holidays, especially exotic ones (I am back into Florida now having watched (obsessed over) the Netflix show Bloodline. OMG so gripping!). But actually when it comes down to it, it's the day-to-day at home ordinary that works best for me. I am just made that way.

I think a lot of what my book will be about. The certainty with which I can state that is lovely; a certainty bolstered by the fact that come September, I am going to do a Masters degree in writing that will necessitate me to write a book. I love this. No more procrastination, which is my best ever skill. There is now an actuality to it. Unless I fail. Of course I can't entertain that thought; I won't. The thing I like the most right now is the transition from corporate employee to housewife to writer. It's a journey. A fresh story to emerge daily in my mind. There are so many things I want to write about, I can barely hold them in, let alone formulate a cohesive plot.

And I think to myself, what happened to going out dancing for the night? I miss dancing.

And during the in-between I am doing some consulting work in my old profession. It takes a bit to muster up the enthusiasm. Although when I really stop and think about it, I do miss the cut and thrust of the corporate world. That feeling of walking into a meeting, knowing my stuff, imparting wisdom and then leaving, feeling like I did a good job.

Meanwhile I decide I won't buy stuff (clothes). Then I buy stuff (clothes). Then I feel bad about it. Yet the pattern remains. Nothing haunts us like the things we didn't buy, right?!

I am trying to galvanise myself for the next phase of building work on our house. We presently live in a no-man's land of the half-done. The view from my window of semi-built foundations and gravel. No neat landscaped gardens here. One day it will all be done ;-)

We have entered the summer term and so it's my son's cricket season. This means hours spent watching this curious game, so quintessentially British; picnics and cricket whites and pausing for tea and sandwiches that have been cut into triangles.

Time marches on, Boo is 14 in a week. I took her today to have her ears pierced (again) and observed the self-assured girl in front of me, compared to that last time, when she was 12 and she was petrified. Time marches on in the world of a teenager and she grows up so fast, it takes my breath away. But she is a good girl and life is good right now. Please let it last!!

via here