Do We Ever Grow Up?

Today I say goodbye to my twenties.

This is not a thing that bothers me. I mean, I’ve had the occasional ‘Oh gosh, 30 sounds like a proper grown up age. Shouldn’t I have *enter-generic-age-related-expectation-here* before they let me turn 30?’ moments, but generally I’m ok with this particular milestone.

But even though turning 30 doesn’t bother me, it’s still a little weird. It does sound like a grown up age and, although I’ve definitely ticked lots of ‘grown up’ boxes – like, say, buying a house, getting married, teaching young’uns that they can’t avoid using a capital G just because they don’t like how it looks etc. – there are many, MANY, moments (read: days, weeks, months) when I feel decidedly un-grownup. Moments when I instinctively look for an adult to take charge. Then, when I realise that’s me, I continue to look for an adult – an adultier adult. Because, in spite of my own experience and demonstrable competence in many real life situations, I do not feel like I should be left in charge of…well…myself. Or anything really.

Being an adult is HARD. There are so many shoulds and musts. So much that has to be done and then so much more that you feel your really ought to do. From little things like putting the bins out to big things like realising that when there’s water pouring into your house at 3am, if YOU don’t find an emergency plumber to fix it then eventually you’re going to need an ark.

I often miss the lack of responsibility that came with being a teenager: no bills to pay; someone else keeping my house tidy and putting food on my table (thanks parents!); lots of free time to read books and binge watch TV shows; college days that didn’t start until 10am – bliss! But, for all that, I wouldn’t be a teenager again if you paid me. Life has become better with every year and, although I’m sad to see my twenties go, I fully anticipate the trend of improvement to continue in my thirties.

I’m excited for the possibilities that lie ahead. I’m looking forward to growing up.

I’m also starting to wonder if anyone ever feels like an adult? Or is adulthood’s best kept secret that everyone is actually panicking on the inside that they are not, in fact, grown up enough to be an adult? Is everyone constantly looking for an adultier adult than them?

Do we ever really grow up?

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Whatever The Weather

The last few weeks have been a bit of a blur.

We’ve gained a family member in the shape of the most beautiful springer spaniel puppy; I’ve been more poorly than I’ve been in a very, very long time; my less than lovely anxiety beastie has been going a bit haywire, causing me all sorts of exciting issues when it comes to, you know, functioning; an work has been busy, busy, busy and I’m starting to come to know more of the challenges of my new role.

I’m not going to lie, some days have been really, really difficult. Some days it has felt like it is only my skin holding me together. I have felt lost and vulnerable and scared and wondered what on Earth I am going to do.

And then I realise: I’m already doing it.

Difficult though it can be I am doing it. I am getting up every day and, even when I feel anxious and panicky, I am living my life. Even though my proud streak makes me delay longer than I should, I am asking for help when I need it. And through all the hard, horrible, dim, grey days, there is always a little sunshine. There is my wonderful husband who knows just when to hold me quietly and just when to distract me and make me laugh; there is our gorgeous puppy who, even though she can be mischievous and is SUCH hard work, greets us every day with complete adoration and has brought even more love, fun and laughter into our lives; there my fabulous friends, who are always there with a kind word and a hug; there are my incredible colleagues, who are beyond supportive and make my job a joy even on the crappy days; and all my amazing family, whose love, support, wisdom, and understanding is abundant and invaluable.

So this half term week, as I balance rest and relaxation with puppy training and quality time with hubby, I will keep finding that sunshine. I urge you to do the same.

Even the tiniest glimmer is still a light in the dark and I’ve never known a star shine alone.

Here are just a few of my sunshiny stars:

While The Wind Howls

Outside the window, rain pummels and thunder rumbles. But in here it is warm and dry and quiet. An autumn medley of our favourite tunes plays softly through the house, and the smell of baking pies envelopes us in mouth-watering warmth. The world seems to settle. Our cosy home is filled with memories and promises; the bricks and mortar we bought have slowly taken on something of ourselves.

With the leaves turning down the street, our door closed against the storm, the tastes and smells of autumn bubbling in the oven, and the music of our happiest times playing through every room, it finally begins to go quiet behind my eyes. The comfort I’ve been missing in my busy days settles over my shoulders and across my brow. In this moment of peace, I am overwhelmed by my blessings and I see the depth of joy in my life.

For some it is adventure in the great wide somewhere that calls and lifts them. To escape to the new and the beauty of the unknown. But for me the greatest adventure has always been in this: in coming home. I cannot help but wonder that in the vastness of the universe, on this beautiful jewel of a planet, floating amongst the stars, there is a place that is so inherently me that it brings silent solace to the chaos of my busy human mind. As if, while the wind howled outside my door, the universe leaned in, wrapped a bubble of quiet warmth around me and whispered ‘this is for you’.

In This Moment…

Outside my window… the sky is grey, muting the last of the summer sun, and there is the slightest chill on the air, promising autumn. The world teeters; ready to fall. The pause between the intake of breath and the exhale.

I am thinking… that it is a strange thing to long for autumn, to  long for a season which brings endings. But I do. I love to watch the world turn slowly to flame as the nights draw in. It is the season of coming home.

I am thankful… that no matter how dark the night or how unlikely it seems that the sun will rise again, it always does.

In the kitchen… ingredients wait to be peeled and chopped and sautéd and simmered into the first pie of the season – perfect final meal of the summer holidays.

I am wearing… a Hogwarts t-shirt and sweater, jeans, and cosy fox socks.

I am creating… an illustrated collection of poetry (and maybe some short stories too).

I am going… back to work tomorrow and, unlike most at the end of a holiday, I’m looking forward to it. There are exciting things afoot and even thought I’m a little daunted by the challenges ahead I hope it is going to be a good year.

I am wondering… why we are so afraid.

I am reading… The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie, The Year of Reading Dangerously by Andy Millar, The Less Than Perfect Legend of Donna Creosote by Dan Micklethwaite.

I am praying for… calm.

I am hoping… for a restful night’s sleep and a positive start to the academic year.

I am looking forward to… a cosy evening with my love.

I am learning… that in some things I still have a long way to go. I am also learning that that is ok and that I will get there in the end.

Around the house… there are some freshly painted rooms and the sort of busy, sawdusty chaos to be found wherever shelves are being built. Our little home is looking decidedly lovely.

I am pondering… everything and nothing.

A favourite quote for today…

“As you think, so shall you be.”

 

One of my favourite things… is curling up under a blanket with a good book or a good film and forgetting the world for a bit.

A few plans for the rest of the week: Have a productive couple of days setting up for the new school year; deliver my first presentation as Whole School Literacy Co-ordinator (preferably without incident!); visit the kitchen showroom to look at potential new kitchens; contact our local vet.

A peek into my day

 

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The Power of Positive


Last week was stressful. Very stressful. And upsetting. My working week did not end well and although I then had a lovely meal out with friends, a fun Saturday in town with my beloved and my siblings-in-law, and a lazy Sunday with lots of reading, this evening I found myself with that dreaded I-can’t-believe-it’s-Monday-tomorrow-I-don’t-want-to-go-to-work-you-can’t-make-me feeling. So I turned to one of my favourite pastimes and decided to journal the blues away. I love my journal. It’s my little portable creative workshop. I write in it; I doodle in it; I keep a reading log in it; I plan in it; I daydream in it; I escape in it. I put time and care and energy into making it a work of art, because that’s what I love to do. I like to make pretty things. It’s calming and satisfying and, well…me.

Imagine my frustration then when, in the middle of my calming-me-down, make-something-lovely journaling, I managed to somehow create a huge blue splodge, right where I absolutely did NOT want a huge blue splodge.

My initial reaction contained words that shall not be repeated here for fear of them damaging sensitive eyes and turning my happy little corner of the internet into something sour.

When you put time, care, and energy into something, even a tiny mistake can be upsetting, making you angry and forcing that morose little voice in your head to pipe up with: “Well that’s just friggin fabulous what is even the point?!” This was not a little mistake. This was a BIG, blue blob. Much like the Oreo that was offered to me last week by a friend to cheer me up, which, when I reached out to take it, broke in half and fell on the floor, my big blue blob felt a little like a metaphor for life right now.

I could have cried. Or slammed my journal shut and thrown it at something. (Indulge my melodrama for a moment, would you?)

But wait…was I to be defeated by this blue blob? Was a two dimensional splodge of ink to undo my initial determination to shake off the Sunday blues? Would I let this intruder into my happy place get the better of me?

No. No I would not. For I am WOMAN. I am FIERCE. I am ME. And I control my own happiness.

So I took that big blue splodge and I bent it to my will. I turned it into something beautiful. I turned it into a flower. The one you see at the top of this page. Imperfect? Sure. But since when does beauty have to be perfect? That depressing blue blob no longer exists. Instead, there is a perpetually blooming flower. This flower symbolises the coming spring and all good things ahead. This flower symbolises the power of positive. This flower symbolises that, even though I cannot always control the things that happen to or around me, I can control my reactions to those things. 

And that, dear friends, is the story of how my Sunday blues became even bluer, but how I overcame them anyway.

A small thing can have great power. I encourage you to embrace the power of positive.

A List of Lovely Little Things


It’s been some time since I did an appreciation post for the little things in life but now seems like the perfect time. I’m currently holed up in a beautiful little cottage, just outside Oxford, for a weekend with some of my favourite women in the whole wide world. It’s a quite Saturday morning and all but the baby amongst us (and her mum, I suspect!) are sleeping soundly. I am awake and full of contentment, mulling over all the wonderful little things that make life so lovely. Here are a few that come to mind:

  • Conversations with like-minded people.
  • Laughing until you cry and your sides hurt.
  • A real log fire.
  • The quiet stillness of the countryside in the morning.
  • Baby smiles.
  • Baby laughter.
  • Baby cuddles…(there’s a lot of baby worship going on here!)
  • Good books.
  • Good food, especially nibbly finger food.
  • Climbing into a bed made with freshly laundered sheets.
  • Waking up after a good night’s sleep (especially when you don’t have to rush to get up).
  • Knowing it’s the weekend.
  • A message from someone you love.
  • Knowing you’ve done a good job.
  • Learning something new.
  • Helping someone out.
  • Knowing there is so much to look forward to.
  • The smell of fresh flowers.
  • Watching flowers open from bud to bloom.
  • Surprises from friends (or strangers).
  • Realising that you take more joy in life that you ever have before, and feel positive that joy will only increase.

And that’s just a few of the little things making my life lovely right now. 

What little things have you noticed recently that have made you smile and appreciate life just that little bit more?

Who Are We Now?


I’m in need of a brain dump so excuse me whilst I empty my chaotic thoughts right here…

Never has the wit and wisdom of Douglas Adams been more appropriate:

 “The major problem—one of the major problems, for there are several—one of the many major problems with governing people is that of whom you get to do it; or rather of who manages to get people to let them do it to them. 

To summarize: it is a well-known fact that those people who most want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it. 

To summarize the summary: anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.” 

― Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

When the Brexit ideology won out in the EU referendum, I was in shock for days. Weeks. In fact, I still can’t quite get my head around it. I was so disheartened that a campaign of lies and fear mongering had won, so afraid of what this decision might mean for our future. I was angry, upset, disillusioned, anxious, fearful. But as I started to shake off the negative torpor that followed I worked hard to not be judgemental of those who believed and had voted differently to me, and to try and live and speak in a way that was respectful and inclusive (whilst retaining the right to express my pretty pissed off self!). I spent a lot of time reminding myself that there are many, many people, of various political leanings, who truly care about the world and their fellow human beings, who live in compassion and honesty with a strong sense of social responsibility – not just for those closest to us, but for all. I reminded myself that I could still be one of those people, regardless of the outcome of the referendum.

I honestly didn’t think I’d see another political outcome that would upset me as much.

I was wrong.

Waking up this morning to the news that Donald Trump was on his way to becoming the next President of the United States I was in total disbelief. I actually felt sick at the thought. How could it be possible that a man who is so wholly offensive, to so many, who actively encourages hate and violence, who is corrupt and dismissive and ignorant and hateful, was about to be offered one of the most powerful positions in the world? It could not be true. And yet it was.

It was Brexit all over again, but somehow even worse.

I still have no words to describe exactly how this makes me feel. I’m shocked and saddened that so many choose to align themselves with, what seem to me, such abhorrent views. I honestly don’t wish to offend anyone who believes differently to myself, but the problem I’m faced with is that I just can’t understand how demonising or devaluing groups and individuals, because of their race, religion, gender, sexuality or anything else, can be seen positively. Can be used as grounds for political manoeuvring. I just can’t comprehend it. And that seems to me to be all that Trump has stood for throughout his campaign. I have seen no love or compassion or concern for humanity in any of what he has campaigned on. And without those things, who are we? What will we become?

I’m fighting once again to remind myself that there is more good than hate in the world. That it is up to us to fight the good fight, to uphold principles of love and peace and compassion. I still desperately want to believe in the inherent good of people. I want to see the world become a better place. In light of everything that is occurring I find myself asking, who are we now? What can we do to bring the best of ourselves to the fore?

I believe in humanity. We are better than the fearmongering that surrounds us. So let’s be better.

I urge you to remember Douglas Adams’ big friendly letters: DON’T PANIC. And don’t forget your towel.

Ticking Along Nicely

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November has got off to a lovely start. I was completely spoilt for my birthday, with tons of books, clothes, books, games, books, chocolate, and other goodies, but more importantly with the love and time of lots of my favourite people. We talked, we ate, we danced, we watched fireworks: it was perfect.

The first week of November has also seen the beginning of my first ever NaNoWriMo – I’m not embarking on a whole novel or even aiming for 50,000 words, I simply want to improve and increase my writing practice. So far I’ve outlined a handful of short story and poetry ideas and today I actually started writing one! It feels good to write.

With all the birthday busyness, planning/writing time, and a hectic start to the half term, I haven’t done as much reading as I normally would. I got a stack of amazing books for my birthday to add to my already humongous TBR pile and yesterday I decided to crack into one of them: My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises. I’m about a quarter of the way in and I’m completely in love with this quirky story. It’s original, funny, and moving in so many ways and I have come across some real gems to add to my ever growing list of favourite quotes. Most of them are about grandmothers. I’ve found them especially appealing because I’ve been thinking about and missing my own Gran a lot recently – I can’t quite believe how long she’s been gone – and so many of these beautiful lines reflect exactly how I feel about her or are exactly the sorts of things she would do or say. So to round off my little ‘Ticking Along Nicely’ post, I thought I’d share a few with you.

“Having a grandmother  is like having an army. This is a grandchild’s ultimate privilege: knowing that someone is on your side, always, whatever the details. Even when you are wrong. Especially then, in fact.”

“A grandmother is both a sword and a shield.”

“Only different people change the world,” Granny used to say. “No one normal has ever changed a crapping thing.”

“There’s something special about a grandmother’s house. You never forget how it smells.”

“It’s much more difficult to have conflict when there are cookies around.”

I highly recommend picking up this book, especially if you have a grandmother you love (and especially if that grandmother is a little eccentric).

I hope your November is going as well as mine.

x

 

In Love With The Season


This is absolutely my favourite time of year. The trees are aflame and their burnished colours make the world seem warm even when that autumn chill pierces the air. It’s time to snuggle up inside cosy layers: jumpers, scarves, boots, hats – it’s your time to shine. The nights close in earlier and earlier, and whilst sometimes it feels like you don’t get to see the day (especially when you’re working) it has the distinct advantage of meaning you have every excuse to pull up the draw bridge as soon as you’re through your front door. Change into those comfy clothes, light some candles or even a fire, snuggle under a blanket and enjoy the unique hush of an autumn evening. Read a book, watch a film, just enjoy being.
And then there’s the food…soups and stews and stuffed jacket potatoes! Warm crusty bread and mugs of hot chocolate! Forget about the carbs or the calorie count. Everything in moderation and don’t forget you need that energy to keep you going – since our bodies are tuned to work better in daylight, the shorter days mean we need that fuel.

All these things and so many more are the reasons I’m in love with the season.

When the leaves have turned and the nights draw in, I find it so much easier to be at peace with the world. It goes a little bit quieter in my head and it feels like home.

This year autumn seems to have got off to a particularly brilliant start. The leaves are turning more slowly and the colours are more vivid than in recent years. October was beautiful and, if this morning is anything to go by, November promises to be crisp and cool and the perfect run up to the year’s festive finale.

I was lucky enough to spend a fabulous few days in the peace and quiet of Cartmel with my hubby. We found a cosy little hideaway (complete with log burning stove), and holed up for four restful days of reading and lazing and (occasionally) exploring the village. It was perfect and made me feel incredibly blessed, not only that we have the means to take trips like that but also that I have a husband who I can just be quiet with; no pressure to talk all the time or be busy doing things, with the happy ability to just be  in each others company, reading books, listening to music: just enjoying.

We’re now back into the swing of things after our time away; he to a busy PR office and stack of writing and emails and projects to complete, but with a great, fun team to take the edge off; me to another hectic school term with resources to make, interventions to plan and meetings to attend, but also with a great, fun team to take the edge off!

November 1st saw another beginning…yep, you guessed it: NaNoWriMo! I have considered getting involved in NaNo for a few years now and never had the guts to do it (hello self doubt!), and whilst I’m still not sure I have a novel in me quite yet, I am determined that I want to improve my writing practice. So, with a little nudge from a friend, here I am. Writing. I signed up on the NaNoWriMo website and am hoping to write every day, but I’m not anticipating 50,000 words or anything like it and I’m not planning a novel. Instead, I want to use the NaNo spirit that permeates November to write anything  I can. Right now it’s a blog post. Yesterday I started outlining some short stories and even came up with some ideas for poems. Who knows what I’ll produce, or whether it will be any good, but actually it doesn’t matter: I just want to have a go.

I’m in love with the season and it has me feeling happy, hopeful, productive, and creative. You never know, maybe I’ll discover I had a novel in me after all…