Monday, 31 March 2014

A Mother's Day post-mortem

So that's it for another year then. Mother's Day 2014 has been and gone. If you're lucky, the memory of being made to feel like a queen for the day will sustain you until next year.  Or then again, maybe not...
Here at Average Towers Mother's Day 2014 was a mixture of the good, the bad and the ugly.
The good consisted of the heavily hinted about breakfast in bed, some lovely home-made cards and some extremely thoughtful small gifts, which I suspect (well, I know) that hubby was responsible for.  Lunch was a failsafe M & S meal deal (I believe our local store was packed with bewildered looking men on Saturday morning) and I enjoyed the unusual but pleasant sensation of sitting throughout the entire meal while others fetched and carried.
So far we'd stuck to the script.
Then came the bad in the form of a point blank refusal from my daughter to come for a walk with me, which she'd hitherto happily agreed to.  The reason for her volte-face? Her brother was coming too. 
This was swiftly followed by the ugly - in the form of my reaction.  Why oh why, for just one day, couldn't they be nice to one another - if only for my sake? That was just the start of my rant - once I got going I trotted out every 'angry mother' cliché in the book.  I followed up my tirade with an extremely mature sulk.
If you're thinking that this was something of an overreaction to a minor everyday blip, you'd be absolutely right.  I may not be Mother of the Year but I like to think that I'd have normally handled the situation far more equably.  Instead, I made the whole thing worse and spoiled part of the day for us all.
So, what's my excuse then? While there's no justification for the way I reacted, some subsequent soul-searching led me down a fairly obvious path...
Unrealistic expectations.  I'd stupidly fallen for all the hype that surrounds this type of celebration (I think we all know which event in the calendar year is the worst for this).  The imagery and media messages that I'd been exposed to in the lead up to Mother's Day made me think that I was entitled to the perfect day, with nothing whatsoever to ruffle my maternal feathers. I'm not materialistic about Mother's Day - not in the slightest - but I had been greedy in terms of what I wanted from my children.   Because, as every parent out there knows, perfect behaviour for an entire day just doesn't happen with little ones. Stupid, stupid me.
In case you're wondering, once I'd come to my senses, the rest of Mothering Sunday was a hoot.  My personal highlight was our family game of football, played in the back garden with limited skills but huge smiles.   My day may not have been perfect, but there were some truly perfect moments.  And those left me feeling like the luckiest mother and wife in the world.
As for Mother's Day 2015 - average behaviour is just fine. Sprinkles of perfection? They're a bonus.
How was Mother's Day 2014 for you? Leave a comment and let me know.
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Tuesday, 25 March 2014

The morning rush...

This post is a bit of a departure from the norm.

First of all, it's in poetry form.

Secondly, it's written from the perspective of a child.

If you are wondering whether I've finally lost it, don't give up quite yet.   Poetry is something that I've dipped in and out of for years, usually in the form of writing some personalised verses for people who are celebrating birthdays and anniversaries. You get the idea.

The first draft of this particular poem was written some time ago but, for various reasons, it never saw the light of day. Having had one of those mornings today with my two, I recalled its lonely existence on my back-up drive. 

Those of you who are parents will, I hope, identify with one or two of the scenarios described below...

Mornings in my house are always a rush
From the moment I waken, my mum starts to fuss
She opens the curtains and lets in the light
Up until now I thought it was night

“Time to get up” I hear her say
And so begins a brand new day
If I’m honest I must confess
I’d much rather have a longer rest

First a wash and then I get dressed
And sort out my hair as it’s in a big mess
By breakfast time we’re running late
I’ve scarcely time to clean my plate

Cutlery and bowls are quickly scooped up
Before I’ve drained the last from my cup
I clean my teeth before I go
Quickly and thoroughly – not too slow

Then I hear those words - “Look at the time!
We need to leave by ten to nine!”
Mum says we have to get to school
I know that already – I’m not a fool

I go to the cupboard and grab my boots
Try to get each one on the right foot
Lunch money – where on earth did I pack it?
Then it’s time to deal with my jacket

My bag is ready, my gym kit’s there
Along with a pocket comb for my hair
Mum hunts frantically for her key
We’re not always late because of me

The front door opens and we all troop out
What on earth was all the fuss about?

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Prose for Thought

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Why running is my saviour...

Runners get a lot of stick.  Heck, even I have to confess that I poke fun at myself every now and then for my 'sad' addiction to plodding the streets in Lycra.  However during my run today, which had the added bonus of some amazing Scottish scenery, I decided it was time to strike back and defend this pursuit which has given me so much.

Here's why it works for me - and (I hope) always will...

1. It fits round everything else.  I chose running as my form of exercise when the kids were young because it could be slotted into our crazy schedules.  Between the little 'uns, hubby's erratic shift pattern plus my own self-employed commitments, signing up for a block of classes just didn't make sense - I'd miss at least half the sessions.  With running, I can just go - whenever a window of opportunity presents itself.

2. I love the great outdoors. This is not the case for everyone but I truly love to be outside.  Allegedly, I can be quite grumpy if I don't get my daily dose of fresh air.  I realise that the gym has social benefits for many - plus the attraction of not getting caught in torrential rain - but for me outdoor trails win over indoor treadmills every time.

What do you mean you can't run when it's snowing?
3. It's cheap. I write this with my tongue firmly in my cheek.  Perhaps I should write that it was cheap in the beginning. As my running has increased, so has my wardrobe of fitness clothing and accessories.  For those on a budget though, apart from an initial investment in a good pair of trainers, running can be a very cost-effective hobby.
4. It's flexible.  Running can be done with friends, or through a club.  It can also be done on your own.  It can be competitive, or it can be purely for pleasure or general fitness.  It can be done on trails, hills or roads.  It can take the form of a half-hour, high-energy outing or a three-hour test of endurance and stamina.  Think running's boring? I hasten to differ.  If you want to, there are plenty of ways that you can mix it up.
5. It's good for body and mind.  I suspect that this is the real reason I keep at it.  Running has helped me to unravel work issues, let off steam after a tetchy day with the kids and preserve my sanity during the toughest of times.  Dealing with my father's terminal illness - and recent loss - is one of the most difficult things I've had to do. Running was my therapy.  It helped me release some of the anger I felt at the terrible disease that was destroying him. It also made me feel closer to him at a time when I knew he was slipping away.  My dad was a great sportsman and a huge supporter of all my own running efforts  - from cross country at primary school through to my first 5K as a mum.  Sometimes, when I'm out there, I can still feel him cheering me on.
Running's not for everyone - and I suppose it never will be.  But for this runner, the emotional and physical benefits are more than worth the flak from the non-running community.
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Shared on Works-For-Me-Wednesday (WFMW).

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Surviving the post-holiday slump

I just love getting away.  Whether it be for a mini-break or a (sighs wistfully) fortnight's holiday, there's simply nothing better.  There's the big stuff, like the change of scenery and the chance to meet new people and, if you're really lucky, experience a new culture.  Then there's all the little stuff, like the fluffy white hotel towels, the woody aroma of the leisure suite's sauna and the fact that you don't have to think about preparing a meal for days on end.
There's just one thing that puts me off going away. Coming back.  Yes, it sounds idiotic.  And yes, I'm not daft enough to forego all of the above advantages in the interests of avoiding a post-holiday slump.  The thing is, though, that the return to reality can be tough.  And I'm not the only one who thinks so. As she was in the throes of preparing for a long-haul trip, a good friend confided in me that she was already worried about how she'd cope on her return.
So what is the average holiday-lover to do? While there is no panacea, the following small acts can make the pain of getting back to old clothes and porridge marginally more bearable...


1. Forward planning

Big fat groan.  As if there isn't enough to do when you're packing for an entire family, I hear you say. This is all about making things easier, so bear with me.  And it really doesn't involve huge swathes of time - honest.  If you're away for a lengthier break, consider asking a neighbour or relative to air the house and have a few fresh supplies in the fridge for your return.  If you shop online, see if you can squeeze in the time to place an order for delivery just after your return. That way, you can avoid the trauma of the supermarket run and focus on the laundry mountain instead. Workwise, ensure that your colleagues and/or clients know that you're out of action for the duration. There's nothing like an inbox crisis to really ruin your return.  


2. Breathing space

When you book your time off, try to avoid arriving home late on Sunday night when you're due back in the office at 0830 on Monday.  I know, I know, it's hard enough to carve out time for the actual holiday and for the self-employed time is money.  It's just that an extra 24-48 hours to catch your breath and settle back in at home can make the inevitable return to work far less painful.
Can't spare the extra time off? At the very least, save some holiday budget for a family takeaway when you stagger through the front door tired, dirty and hungry.  The prospect of preparing a meal and washing up afterwards is never going to appeal after a long journey with small people in tow.


3. Make the goodness last

We've all been there.  While you're away, you feel revitalised, energised and at one with the world.  "I'm going to hang onto this feeling," you assure yourself as you mentally hatch a plan for fulfilling all your wildest dreams.  Two seconds in the front door and the transformation back into jaded, cynical and downtrodden working mother is complete. (Or perhaps that's just me?)
The key here is a keepsake.  Whatever works for you. It could be an expensive body lotion from the hotel spa.  It could be a jar of pebbles or shells from the beach.  It could be your travel journal from your time away.  It could simply be all those snaps that are stashed away on your smartphone.
Which brings me to my final thought: Don't leave them lingering on your SIM card. Print them, frame them, enlarge them, look at them.  And whisper to yourself these three little words:
"I'll be back."
How do you cope with the post-holiday slump? Leave a comment and let me know.
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Shared on Works-For-Me-Wednesday (WFMW).

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Things that make you go GRRRRRRR!

Perhaps surprisingly, I'm not that bad in a crisis.  When there's a genuine calamity taking place, I have amazed others (and at times myself) by being reasonably clear-headed and calm.
It's the little things that get to me, you see.  The daily frustrations which, particularly when accumulated throughout the course of the day, can tip me over the edge into complete madness.
This past week I seem to have had more than my fair share of modern life's irritations. I've picked out my absolute favourites here.  You'll recognise them instantly.  Indeed I'm pretty sure that many a blogger has had an online rant about the very same things (and they've probably done so far more eloquently than I will).
That aside, I'm pretty sure I'm due a turn at ranting right about now. Let the meltdown commence....

Supermarket self-service

Yes, that old chestnut.  Surely no-one still thinks that they're going to save time by using one of these things?  Far better to queue up behind the woman with triplets and a trolley that looks as though she's doing her pre-Christmas shop.  If you're still game enough to try it, remember that the following rules of self-service shopping apply:
1. Do not attempt to use your own bag.  I don't care if you've lugged it all the way round the shop and want to be environmentally friendly. Your bag straps won't fit on the silly metal hanging handles meant for cheap and nasty supermarket bags and you will hear - not for the last time - that you have placed an 'unexpected item in the bagging area'. And that's before you've even started ringing up your shopping.
2. Do not attempt to buy anything lighter than a slab of butter.  This will confuse the machine into announcing yet again that there's an 'unexpected item in the bagging area'. Swiftly followed by 'Please wait.  The assistant is coming.'
3. Do not attempt to buy alcohol.  Well not if you're in any kind of hurry anyway.  Prepare yourself for 'Please wait. The assistant is coming.' You can't even congratulate yourself that they think you're under 25; the machine stops everyone.
4.  Do not attempt to purchase anything of a remotely personal nature.  Because that will be the next 'unexpected item in the bagging area', which you will be asked to 'please remove'.  Who's now hoving into view to inspect your wordly goods? You guessed it.  'The assistant is coming.' And the people in the rapidly growing queue behind you look quite interested too.
5. Do not expect the assistant to engage in any kind of conversation with you.  Prepare for her to swish up, flash the magic card round her neck at the machine, look at you dismissively, then leave.  She may choose to emit a laboured sigh when she returns to assist for the third time.
On the rare occasion that I have managed to complete a self-service transaction without the aid of the assistant, I have felt sorely tempted to perform a victory dance as I leave the store.  Surely this process should be easier?

On-hold messaging

It was the home insurance renewal last weekend that did it.  No less than 1 hour and 20 minutes to make one call to my new provider and another to cancel the renewal with my existing provider. 
I know, I know.  These companies are very busy dealing with calls from all those poor people whose properties and belongings have been damaged by flooding.  But if hearing 'Your call is important to us' four hundred times within forty minutes drove me to despair, what must it have done to someone whose home and lifetime's possessions were ruined?
I rest my case.

My call is important to you? Honestly?

Internet Explorer has stopped working

I could really just leave it at that, couldn't I? Five simple words that are guaranteed to ignite a tantrum in the most sanguine of people.  It always happens just when you're about to save that important report or place that carefully considered order doesn't it? Every. Single. Time.
I felt an unnatural level of empathy with Sue from Outnumbered the other week when her computer and printer (stationed side by side) were failing to communicate with one another.  It was if the director had a window into my home - or indeed my brain (or what little is left of it).
Speaking of which, now's about the time when I need to press 'save' and hope that it works. 
Otherwise, I won't be responsible for my actions....
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