Best laid plans

To read the other posts in this Blog Hop click on the badge and follow the links.
Perfection Pending

In case anyone missed it, yesterday was Saint Patrick’s Day. As an Irish girl living in a foreign land I am, of course, enthusiastic in my support of my home country. I mean, I wouldn’t want to live there again, but I am more than happy to lay claim to my Irishness from a distance at every opportunity that presents itself.

Over the weekend the boys in green did us proud by winning the Six Nations rugby championship after a hard fought game against France in Paris. Yesterday, another slightly less illustrious rugby match was played, one that I used to support from the freezing cold stands at Ravenhill in Belfast and which fostered my continuing mild interest in the sport. The school that my niece now attends came up trumps winning the Schools’ Cup final. My understanding is that they were worthy victors in another close fought match.

I wanted to wish my friends and followers a Happy Saint Patrick’s Day so, with my love of Teddy Bears, was delighted to find this little video which I spread around my social media sites: Irish Dancing Bears. After a wobbly start to the day, by evening I was feeling good, ready to celebrate, looking forward to continuing with my many and varied plans for the week ahead.

Except this morning I woke up feeling dreadful. Not mentally dreadful this time but physically, so now my plans are in disarray. I had to cancel the appointment I had made with my gym coach as I could barely make it downstairs for a cup of much needed tea, let alone think of attempting a workout. The swim I had planned is not going to happen this afternoon, and it remains to be seen if I can summon the energy to craft a story I hoped to submit to a challenge later.

In the grand scheme of things me being ill is not the disaster that it once was. I no longer have young children who need my time and attention; as co owner of our business I can grant myself time off work when needed, I have not been required on a client site in years. Being ill has simply messed up my own schedule and fuddled my brain. It is frustrating that my determination to make this week count has been scuppered so unexpectedly. I do not like surprises, especially ones that demand I do not stray more than a few feet from a bathroom.

At times like this I am grateful for machines. When I struggle downstairs to fetch myself another drink I can load and switch on the dishwasher, sort a pile of washing, then escape back to my bed to rest my aching head. I am also grateful for the home delivery service that will ensure my groceries arrive as planned. By the time my family return home this evening the worst of their detritus will have been sorted and the cupboards restocked. The house may not be as clean and tidy as I would like, I may not manage to achieve much for myself, but my little family should not be inconvenienced.

Why am I so concerned about not inconveniencing my family? A part of me thinks that I should just lie here until someone comes home and then wail about how awful I feel, try to drum up a bit of sympathy or appreciation for the efforts I go to making sure their lives run so smoothly. Of course, I will not do this. Mums are expected to cope, not to make a fuss. It would be an interesting experiment to see how they reacted if I suddenly demanded some attention, but I will not be putting them to the test.

I have walks with friends planned for later in the week as well as an important meeting at my children’s school, so I hope that this illness is short lived. I am impatient with incapacity; I do not show enough appreciation for my normally healthy body. Days such as today when I feel so dreadful remind me that I take it too much for granted.

Even assuming that I recover quickly I will now be playing catch up for the rest of the week; perhaps next week will be better. I would feel more positive about that thought if it did not recur on an almost weekly basis.

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Using time and words wisely

When they were younger I used to love having my kids off school for the holidays. Their organised activities would take a break alongside the demands of academia meaning that we could do whatever we wished whenever we wished. It was a chance to visit museums, play in the park, climb a mountain, go for long cycle rides and picnics. It was a time to do new, fun stuff all together.

These days my kids each have their own ideas of what constitutes fun and it rarely involves me. I have found my own ways to enjoy myself, but having them off school impacts my day in ways that they seem unable to comprehend. They assure me that they do not need me, get annoyed with me if I am perceived to interfere with their plans, yet expect me to respond to their whims when it suits them. Their demands for food seem never ending, and if I am here then I am expected to provide.

This week, the February half term break, has always been a challenging holiday to make best use of. The lingering, winter weather is unpredictable and many places of interest have yet to open their doors to the public for the season. We plan a trip to the seaside later in the week but may struggle to spend much time outside without risking being blown or washed away in the current stormy conditions.

When my husband takes time off work he likes to be active. Not for him a lazy afternoon, curled up on a sofa with a good book. He will not take a computer away with him so is without the sudoku puzzles that occupy his down time at weekends. Having paid to go away he will want to be up and out and doing. He will be cross if our boys spend too much of their time on line, for that they could stay at home. He wishes us all to make the most of our time away.

When I think of an ideal short break I picture books, writing, long walks and good food. I enjoy people watching, experiencing new places, idly chatting about the minutiae of all that I observe. I want to store it all up and then savour the sights, sounds and experiences that I have absorbed at my leisure.

We had a still and sunny day on Sunday after a long period of wild, wet weather. I suggested that we take a walk and two members of my family opted to join me. It took us over an hour simply to get out of the house, worse than when I had toddlers to organise. The walk was well worth doing, enjoyable and relaxing, but I question why such a simple activity seems to require so much effort to make happen.

Yesterday, for reasons that I can no longer remember, I had organised dental check ups for myself and my boys. Why I thought this a good way to spend a morning off school I do not know. Once more, getting everyone out of the house was the challenge, mainly because I have a pathological dislike of being late. I would hate anyone to think that I consider my time more valuable than theirs and therefore that they should be willing to wait for me. I managed to get us to the appointment on time but arrived stressed. It was not a good start to the day.

This morning I am grateful to have the chance to relax. My husband is at work so, until my children emerge from their slumbers, I have a peaceful house. I can settle to write.

My writing has taken a short hiatus after a busy few weeks. Much as I have enjoyed entering the various challenges that I have chosen to take part in, these have not always fulfilled their initial promise. A story I wrote last week was read only a few of dozen times in a field that attracted a couple of hundred votes. My effort was not even considered by most. When the numbers start to matter it is time to step back, I see little point in me writing if it is not purely for my own pleasure.

I have new ideas though, for stories and for how I wish to present them. I also have new ideas about how I will manage the evolving dynamics of my family. It is good that we have a few days away to look forward to. I will have a room with a balcony view of the coastline and no requirements to cook for a couple of days. I may not be able to devote as many hours to my books and my writing as I would wish for, but I will have the opportunity to feed my imagination and replenish my soul with the beauty and power of the sea.

I will also have the opportunity to talk to my family about how they treat me. I find it so much harder to find those sorts of words than the ones that I write down.

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Being a mum to teens

I am taking part in Perfection Pending‘s weekly Blog Hop

Perfection Pending

It is said that we humans are creatures of habit. I tend to have a daily routine, but only when my day works out as I would wish. This happens more often now that I am mother to teens rather than having to deal with the varied needs of young children. These days I am less in demand so have the luxury of organising my day with a reasonable certainty that things will go to plan. At least that is how it would be if I was less of a pushover.

There are still simple tasks that I complete for my children because I am an awesome mummy if I didn’t do them then they wouldn’t get done. I suspect that this would bother nobody except me. For example, I prefer lights to be switched off during the day, curtains to be opened, beds to be made, pyjamas shaken out and rooms aired. I am not convinced that the three teen caves in our house would be habitable if I did not open the windows from time to time.

Whilst tiptoeing carefully through the detritus of their teenage lives, most of which seems to reside on their bedroom floors, I come across the used mugs, plates, bowls and wrappers that suggest I do not feed them. Funny that. If I piled their plates higher at mealtimes their food would spill over onto the table. Perhaps this is the answer; perhaps I need a large, table sized trough permanently topped up with pasta, noodles or other salt laden delights for them to forage in when they feel the need. My insistence on cutlery, crockery, healthy food and sociable eating times is just so last year.

Each weekday morning, having made sure that all three children have set off for school, I return the house to some semblance of order and then start my own day. Unless of course somebody has forgotten something. Today, for example, younger son remembered to pack his PE kit, he even remembered to take it with him when he left the house. It did not, however, make it into school with him but was instead abandoned in the hallway of a friend’s house as they waited for their lift. This is an improvement on the number of times PE kits have been left at bus stops, but still meant that my first task today was to carry out a delivery that had not been a part of my planned agenda.

Some mums that I talk to can relate to my willingness to indulge these cries for help, despite my frustration. Others suggest that I should just make my kids go without forgotten items. Coping with the trouble that this would cause is supposed to teach them not to do it again, a bit like letting them go to school on a wet and windy day without a coat is supposed to teach them something. This has never worked with my kids. Elder son does not wish to carry a coat around with him all day so leaves it at home whatever the weather. It reminds me of my mother’s insistence that I always carry an umbrella, just in case. I still prefer to go out in the rain bareheaded and cope. I remember my mother’s caring concern as nagging that irritated me intensely. Children do not always hear the intended message.

My kids have their own house keys so I do not need to be home when they return from school in the afternoon. It is rare indeed for this to happen. I enjoy sitting down with them for a cup of tea and a chat, it is one of my favourite parts of the day. When I am caught up in some other task and miss out on their daily banter it can be hard to catch up. Once they are ensconced in their rooms, chatting to their friends on social media, my company becomes an unwelcome diversion.

I have recently written about what I do all day when not dealing with my house and my kids. The days are too short to fit in all the things that I wish to achieve. Perhaps the true reason why I continue to indulge my teens when they are easily capable of sorting themselves out is because this is the easiest way of staying involved in their lives. Their mess and lack of appreciation may get me down at times, but they do still find me useful. I like that.

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On fault and appreciation

I cannot remember a time when I did not gain pleasure and inspiration from reading books. As a child I would drink up the adventures of Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven and Famous Five before riding my bike to the fields and glens close to my parent’s house to re-enact their exploits in my solitary play. When I was feeling down and friendless I would imagine myself to be a suffering heroine from a Frances Hodgson Burnett story, or find some aspect of my life to be glad over aka Eleanor H. Porter’s Pollyanna.

As a teenager I read Arthur Conan Doyle, C.S. Forester and Tolkien, imagining myself to have the courage, stamina, intelligence and power of their famous protagonists. Although I went through a short lived stage of reading trashy romances I could not relate to these books, comforting my oft hungry heart with music rather than literature. The books that I savoured took me to worlds that I knew I could never experience, they were the stuff of dreams.

As I have grown older I have become more picky about the books I will read. I fear that I have become something of a literary snob, not an attribute to be proud of. There is a fine line between choosing wisely from the plethora of available titles and condemning an entire genre. Who am I to say what constitutes a good book?

This question has reared it’s head recently. Having carefully researched many review sites I decided that I wished to read ‘Infinite Jest’ by David Foster Wallace. I was aware that it was long and complex but felt comfortable with the idea of tackling such a tome. The literary snob in me believed that I could cope and benefit from such a read.

Can a book be described as good if it is not enjoyed? In a little over a month I have struggled through a mere hundred pages of this novel. As an avid reader I am feeling starved, yet I cannot bring myself to spend long in the company of this book’s unpleasant characters. I recognise that this is rather the point of the plot, but to me that point is questionable when it becomes so hard to enter the world described.

I am a monogamous reader by habit. I will plough through a Great Work of Literature for the personal satisfaction of having read it. ‘Infinite Jest’ is, however, making me question my usual resolve. I am hungry for the escape that books give me, for the feeling of satisfaction that a good story provides.

This weekend I finally succumbed to temptation and allowed myself to stray. I picked up a book recommended by my daughter, John Green’s ‘The Fault in Our Stars’. Oh my. I was thirsty for a good book and I found an oasis. I read it cover to cover in two sittings. I cannot remember the last time, if ever, that a book has made me cry.

It is a love story, which is not my usual choice of genre. It is about two young ‘cancer survivors’ but does not seek out sympathy, nor dwell unnecessarily on the pathos of their situation. It’s use of language is magnificent.

I love the lead female, her honesty and ability to put into words what she is thinking without glossing over the truth. I love the lead male for appearing real, with his love of computer games, bad driving, and for appreciating the girl’s attributes. What really sets the book apart for me though is how easy it is to read whilst relinquishing none of the depth of feeling, time or place. I was there with them, rooting for them, despite knowing how hopeless the outcome had to be.

“There are infinite numbers between 0 and 1. There’s 0.1 and 0.12 and 0.112 and an infinite collection of others. Of course, there is a bigger set of numbers between 0 and 2, or between 0 and a million. Some infinities are bigger than other infinities […] I am grateful for our little infinity. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I’m grateful.”

This was a book where every word deserved to be there, was needed and served a purpose. There was nothing gratuitous, voyeuristic or pretentious. The author was not trying to show how clever, astute or sagacious he could be. His story climbed inside me and made me care. The use of language was sublime.

And all of this is, of course, just my opinion. To gain the reviews that it did, ‘Infinite Jest’ must have impressed many readers. Perhaps I am just not intelligent enough for it; perhaps it is simply not a book for me. There may be satisfaction in ploughing through to the end of a worthy work of esteemed literature. I am stubborn and am likely to keep trying to work my way through simply because I do not like to admit defeat.

In terms of recommendations though, ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ has blown me away. I wish to savour this intimacy before I move on. Perhaps if you have read it you will understand.

“Okay?”

InfiniteJest     The_Fault_in_Our_Stars

An introduction to wine

This week’s Remember the Time Blog Hop has the theme: Alcohol

Remember the Time Blog Hop

Those who know me will probably not believe that I used to dislike the taste of wine. No really, listen. Will you stop doing that? Will you please stop laughing? Oh never mind…

Back in the day wine was not an everyday sort of drink as it is now (or is that just me?). My parents went to dinner parties and dances where my mum might choose a spirit and a mixer, my dad a beer or a stout, maybe rounding off the evening with a good, straight Irish whiskey. Wine was something that might be drunk occasionally, with a meal, a bottle being easily enough for four people. It was bought in specially for an occasion and finished on the night.

Then my father discovered the home wine making kit. He would sit in our cold kitchen (no central heating in those days) and work his way, step by step, through the instruction booklet. Sachets were opened, liquids mixed and drawn through flexible pipe to sit in enormous glass jars. These were then sealed and carefully carried upstairs to the airing cupboard to sit amongst the towels and sheets in the only space in the house that was always warm.

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My mother was not impressed when one of the jars, previously filled with a red liquid, erupted all over her clean laundry.

Undaunted my father continued. When the required time had elapsed the bottling commenced, and then we waited. The opening of a batch was an occasion, so my sister and I were permitted a taste of this strictly adult drink. I was not impressed. Over the years I would accept an occasional half glass to appear grown up, but I did not derive enjoyment from the beverage.

Jump forward a few years to when I was old enough to drink alcohol and did. I was taken out to dinner on a date and my young suitor, presumably in an attempt to impress, purchased a bottle of white wine to go with our meal. Tentatively I tried it and was amazed to discover that the taste pleased me. I decided that Liebfraumilch must be quality stuff and confidently recommended Blue Nun and Black Tower to anyone who asked.

And then one summer, at the end of my first year at university, I was invited to a house party and instructed to bring a bottle. As an impoverished student I could not afford the purchase, so my father kindly stepped in with a selection from his recent home made. I gratefully accepted, idly wondering how it would be received.

On arrival I set the bottles in the kitchen and left them there until the party was in full swing. When opened and shared there were no complaints. On the contrary, several imbibers seemed pleased with the effects produced. Even I, still not a regular wine drinker at that stage, could see that it beat the sweet wines from my recent past hands down.

Perhaps my father had improved with practice, perhaps I had been too young to appreciate his original efforts. Whatever the truth of the matter, he no longer makes his own wine so I cannot compare his creations with those I enjoy today. All I know is that, in the early eighties, his wine was fully appreciated by the student drinkers who were lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. And we all had the hangovers to prove it.

To read the other posts in this Blog Hop, click on the linky below.

Le Failfish turns seventeen

My daughter has a nickname, Failfish. It came into being several years ago during one of the convoluted conversations that teenagers have with their friends, where they all end up thinking something is the funniest thing ever and afterwards cannot explain why. Or that is how it was sort of explained to me. I can’t say I that I really understand either how it came about or why it stuck, why she wanted it to stick. As they get older there is more and more going on in her life that I am not party to or do not understand. I think this is what happens as kids grow up.

It is not totally accurate to describe it as a nickname as I have not heard her friends call her by it, but she does sometimes use the name to refer to herself. I am puzzled because I cannot see how it can suit her. My daughter does not fail. She is one of the most driven people that I know.

Today is her birthday. In the wee small hours of the morning, seventeen years ago, my husband drove me to our local community hospital where we expected to welcome our first child into the world. On arrival the friendly midwife examined me, called an ambulance, and I was whisked off to a large city hospital some miles away. My husband was not allowed to travel with me. It was the most upsetting part of the birth process.

He caught up with us in the delivery suite and was present for our daughter’s birth, just before sunrise. The look on his face as he held his first child in his arms for the first time is one of my most precious memories. There couldn’t have been a more proud daddy. He has been a wonderful daddy to all three of our children.

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That tiny baby, who had to be monitored through her first thirty-six hours due to temperature and breathing difficulties, is now healthy, active and taller than me. Apparently we look alike but she has my husband’s willowy frame rather than my dumpy one. She also has his brains but my determination. It is quite a combination.

I like to think that we are reasonably close as mother and daughter. Being the eldest, she has always been the child to lead and her brothers have willingly followed. It has made my life a lot easier bringing them up that she could generally be reasoned with even if we did not always agree over the best course of action.

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Motherhood defined me for so many years, yet it is only one stage of the life I have lead. My daughter is starting to get this, to recognise that there is a person underneath the being who always has and always will care for her. I value her empathy and willingness to offer support and encouragement when our beloved boys find my foibles frustrating.

It is not just the well being of her mother that she looks out for though. As the eldest child she has always been the leader, the explorer. She has the ability to calm and bring under control the family storms that brew from time to time.

It is fascinating, as a parent, to watch a child develop and grow. My daughter has never been a follower, choosing her friends wisely but forging her own path. As her taste in clothes and music have developed, as she has chosen how she wishes to present herself to the world, it has been noticeable that she has not copied those around her. The look may not be unique to her but it is unusual amongst those she chooses to be with. She has never been a clone.

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And all of this delights me. The scientist who wishes to be a doctor also writes prolifically. Her penchant for rock and metal music, for Dr Martin boots and black eyeliner, does not preclude her from donning khaki’s and walking boots and heading into the hills with her tent and a few friends. She has never limited herself by the ideas that others may have of her.

I am immensely proud of all three of my children. Today though, on her birthday, I am thinking in particular of the child who turned me into a mother. I have always encouraged my children to think for themselves, to be themselves (everyone else is already taken), to ask questions and to stand up for what is right. My daughter is also loyal, loving and caring.

As for that nickname? I must ask her why she put the male article before it. Perhaps it is just another way in which she refuses to be defined by convention. Perhaps she uses it in an ironic way, against the hipsters who once used it and moved on.

For all her independence my daughter is not a rebel. She understands the need to conform in certain situations, to be community minded and a giving member of society. What defines her though is her determination to be the best that she can possibly be in whatever interest she chooses to pursue. For all her teenage procrastination she gets things done. This mother could not ask for a better daughter.

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Another award

Thank you to Gretchen over at Drifting Through My Open Mind for nominating me for the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award.

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These awards are a way of showing a little extra love towards other bloggers whose posts we particularly enjoy. 

In choosing to accept the award I need to tell you a few random things about myself, so here goes.

  1. In my youth I learned to play the piano, cornet, oboe and guitar, although the only instrument I took to any standard was the oboe.
  2. I worked as a volunteer on a kibbutz one summer when I was a student.
  3. I attended a U2 concert at a leisure centre in Belfast when I was 18 years old and the band were still relatively unknown. This concert included their first performance of ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ in Northern Ireland.
  4. My teenage daughter has had one of her short stories published in a book, something that I can only dream about.
  5. Over the past three years I have lost 40 pounds in weight and put 25 pounds back on. My wardrobe contains very few smart clothes that actually fit.
  6. I have yet to read a book by Margaret Atwood that I have not enjoyed.
  7. I can perform a raggedy three ball juggle but have yet to learn how to ride the unicycle we have in our shed.

I am now supposed to nominate half a dozen or so of the blogs that I enjoy reading for this award. In my opinion, these are all worth checking out.

From Casinos To Castles

Tales from the Motherland

Stay at Home Trauma

Rattle and Pen

Banjos and Bordeaux

Glimpses of Grace

I can now display the award badge on my sidebar, a little reminder that one of my readers was kind enough to send me this virtual hug.

10 Common Misconceptions About Teddy Bears

 

1. Teddy Bears are inanimate objects.

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I cannot believe how many people seem to think that teddy bears do not have feelings. Have you ever looked into the face of a teddy bear? Your furry friend will be as alive as you need him to be. Just like magic and dragons, if you believe then it will happen.

2. Teddy Bears are just for children.

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Of course, a child will benefit greatly from having his or her own bear, but so will an adult. Teddy bears listen to your problems and do not judge; they are always there to offer a hug; they do not get huffy when ignored for long periods of time. Basically? They are the ideal companion at any age.

3. Taking a Teddy Bear out in public is embarrassing.

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No. Children are embarrassing. They say what they think to total strangers, throw up wherever they happen to be without even attempting to get to a place where their mess can be easily cleaned up. Children spill food and drink, throw things, including tantrums, wet their pants when a public convenience is just across the way. Compare this to your quiet, clean bear and tell me which is behaving better. If you must take children out in public then take a teddy bear along too so that the children can observe desirable behaviour.

4. Taking a Teddy Bear out in public is embarrassing if you have no children.

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I don’t understand this one at all. I have taken my teddy bear to lots of different places: teashops, restaurants, museums; on bicycle rides, boats and aeroplanes. I find that, when he is around, people smile at us. Isn’t that a good thing?

5. Teddy Bears can be cleared out along with other toys

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This just makes me sad. I have given a new, forever home to several rejected bears. Although it takes a while to gain their trust and convince them that they are here to stay these bears tend to be particularly loving, as if they feel they may be thrown out again if they do not do their job well. Old bears in particular just emanate wisdom and show so much gratitude that they have been accepted as a valued addition to my sleuth.

6. Teddy Bears are not fun to play with.

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Anyone who thinks this has obviously never played with a teddy bear. The games that they enjoy are endless, and they do not complain if they are always  the one chosen to die, lose or get hurt. How many other friends are always available, will do exactly as asked and put up with whatever role they are assigned without complaint?

7. A dirty or worn Teddy Bear is a health hazard.

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No. Just like a person, all he needs is a gentle wash. You would not put even the dirtiest, smelliest child in a washing machine; don’t do this to your bear either. Too much water plays havoc with delicate joints. Offer a careful sponge wash and respect the scars and lost fur; these offer a reminder of good times gone by. Old teddies are to be treasured. They may, however, appreciate the added protection of a warm cardigan.

8. Teddy Bears serve no useful purpose.

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Have you any idea how many bad dreams they chase away? Who do you think got rid of the monsters under the bed? Just because you cannot see how useful a bear is doesn’t mean that he has no use. Teddy Bears are so under appreciated, yet still they love and protect us unconditionally.

9. My friends will think I am childish for sleeping with a Teddy Bear.

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I do not know anyone who does not appreciate a softer side in a friend. You may be surprised at how many thoroughly mature, well-adjusted grown-ups harbour a teddy bear. Perhaps this is why they are thoroughly mature and well-adjusted. A teddy bear can teach you what love really means: being there when you’re needed.

10. A Teddy Bear is just a lump of fur and stuffing.

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And you are just a lump of skin, bone, hair and yucky stuff. You are still amazing though, beautiful and valued. Do not reject what you do not understand, do not mock what others value and find solace in. As with any friend, you may choose whether to grant a bear space in your life or not. A teddy bear, properly respected, can be the best companion that there is.

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One last thing, if you do have a bear? Go give him a hug. And some cake. I have yet to meet any bear who does not feel that his life is that little bit better when he is allowed to share a slice of cake with his best friend.

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The very fine bear who accompanies me on all my best adventures, and who kindly agreed to allow his photograph album to be opened for this post, chronicles some of his escapades and offers words of advice on Facebook. If you would like to get to know him better, you may find him here Edward Gainsborough – Teddy Bear).

xx

So I said I wouldn’t talk about this

I’m on a diet. I wrote about this earlier in the week and promised that I wouldn’t go on about it too much. Day 5 and here I am going back on my word. Oh well.

The cutting back on food has actually been going fine. Not so the exercise. I have only managed to get to the gym on one day this week. A mixture of me trying to be an awesome mom and my kids conspiring to prove what a waste of time this is has resulted in much of my week being wasted. Plus I have been trying to succeed in one of my other determinations for this year, to keep my house in better order. I have had a little more success with this.

That one day at the gym though? The muscles in my arms have yet to forgive me for making them push, pull and lift those weights. Funny how I can feel so good after a workout and then suffer for days afterwards. Not funny at all really. When I mention it to the family they smirk and tell me it is because I am old. Thanks guys.

Yesterday was not a good day. Yesterday I woke up feeling ill, really ill. Sweats, shakes, nausea and dizzy ill. And all I could think was, is this because I have been eating too little and trying to do too much? I’m trying to improve my health here, not get ill.

So I gave myself an easy day to rest up and allowed myself to eat a normal dinner. I also eschewed the wine, almost unheard of for a Friday night. I still feel a bit ropey this morning and have no idea if my change of diet was anything to do with how I felt. And my arms still ache.

With a bit more free time than expected yesterday I inevitably went on line and, thanks to a friend, came across this http://100happydays.com/. Wavering between ‘Is this really cheesey?’ and ‘What a fun idea’ I decided to sign up. Assuming that I manage to stick with it my twitter feed is going to contain some random photos over the next few months as I find something that makes me happy each day. Today I am happy because I have time to write.

Living with three teenagers my weekend mornings do tend to be quiet. Given the chance my not so little darlings sleep until close to midday. Even when they wake earlier they stay sequestered in their rooms. It is the perfect opportunity for me to retire to my writing space. I tell myself that I am doing them a favour by choosing such a quiet pastime. I suspect that my motives are less altruistic.

I should also make some time for reading. When I was away last weekend I started a book that my daughter bought me for Christmas, ‘Infinite Jest’ by David Foster Wallace. So far I am enjoying it but it takes a lot of concentration. It is not a book that I can just pick up and set down quickly, or read large chunks of at a time. I am hopeful that, if I can persevere, it will be worth the effort. It is taking some effort to read though.

I like having a mix of books, some easy and some more challenging. I want to stretch my mind and explore new styles. Sometimes, however, I just want to curl up and escape. Perhaps I should try reading two books at a time so that I can pick up whichever I feel able to cope with. I wonder if I would be able to make this work.

I had hoped to watch a film with my little family yesterday evening but my elder son was out at the gym. He is much more disciplined about working out regularly than I seem to manage these days, he tells me off for not managing my time better which I find quite ironic given how he is with other aspects of his life. He and I often have great discussions about the films we watch so I did not want him to miss out. Perhaps tonight we will all manage to keep the evening free.

Meanwhile it has finally stopped raining here in soggy England. As news of the polar vortex has drifted across the pond I have felt rather guilty about mentioning our weather. There are always others having a harder time.

Today looks like being a good day. The sun is out, I am feeling much improved and husband is in the kitchen preparing what will be our dinner later. I will have to allow myself to eat that. Well, it would be ungrateful not to.

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Reflections on 2013

However much I may like or loath the various traditions and expectations that the festive season throws up, it is hard not to reflect on the year just gone as it draws to a close. Mine has been nothing if not turbulent, even if only in my own head. As this is the only place where I can experience my life, the impact has been significant to me. In the words of the Bring Me The Horizon song, ‘I can’t drown my demons, they know how to swim’. I have therefore been trying to learn to manage my vexations and learn to swim with them.

We all change over time as events and experiences offer us new ways to see things. I believe that I am in a much better place now than I was a year ago, even if the journey has been challenging. This coming year I wish to build on the good  things that I have discovered. I want to write more and better, I want to find a way to share the pleasure that this gives me with my family, even if it is only that they may benefit from my more positive outlook. They have been the ones to suffer most from my moods, which have been all over the place in the last twelve months.

One of the highlights of my year was undoubtedly my trip to Berlin with my elder two children in late summer. We stayed with a very dear friend of mine and he made the trip just unbelievably fabulous for us. The city itself exceeded all my expectations, but those few days were precious for the company and the conversation as much as the location. After what had been a difficult summer for me it was just the pick me up that I needed. I cherish the memories that we made.

Other than that there were highlights, such as a night away in a lovely hotel by the seaside with my husband for his birthday in the spring; and lowlights, mainly triggered by the struggle I had coping with my adored children no longer needing nor wanting the interaction that has dominated my life for the last seventeen years. I still worry that I should be encouraging them to behave differently at times, but recognise that my sphere of influence has diminished. If we are to continue to get on then I need to grant them the freedom that they demand.

My husband has continued to support my eccentricities, it amazes me how good he is to me. Thanks to his generosity I was able to design and have built a little library in the heart of our home where I can curl up to read, write and tinker on our piano (my skill on this beautiful instrument has not, alas, improved). Surrounded by my books this is the perfect space for me to relax and create. I do a lot less housework and a lot more dreaming than I once did. Having me happy benefits my family more than having a dust free home, at least that is what I tell myself.

I am grateful that a core group of friends have stuck by me this year, even though I have not made the effort that I should to get together more often. I have actively avoided socialising in what would be regarded as normal venues, preferring to meet up for walks in the beautiful countryside around our home. Despite my inability to offer these friends comprehensible reasons why my moods have been so volatile they have offered me valued company and support.

And then there have been my growing number of on line friends who have offered encouragement, empathy and virtual hugs. This community has provided validation when I have felt that I have been losing my reason. I am grateful to my outernet friends for accepting me despite not understanding why I am upset; I am grateful to my internet friends for their comprehension, and for making me feel welcome anyway.

After the reflection comes the anticipation. A whole, shiny, bright, new year awaits just the other side of midnight. I wish to improve my health and fitness, both of which I have neglected over the past twelve months. I wish to manage my time better that I may see more of my friends, keep my house a little neater and still allow myself time to dream. I have books to read, stories to write and countryside to explore and appreciate.

Most of all though I wish to hug my husband more. He has not understood either my erratic moods or my desire to devote so much time to my writing, but has supported me anyway. My life can only be managed by me but, with him by my side, it is all so much more enjoyable.

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