Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Five Reasons To Take The Ice Bucket Challenge

You can hear the trademark noises everywhere. From suburban gardens to Facebook news feeds. 

The splashes. The shrieks. The howls of laughter.  (Usually in that order.)

I'm guessing that most people who read this post will be familiar with the ice bucket challenge for charity. Some of you may have subjected yourself to a soaking, others may have paid out a bit more to avoid the experience.  Others still may be choosing to completely avoid social media in a bid to side-swerve a nomination.

As with any trend that catches on, the ice bucket challenge has attracted some controversy.  It seems possible that, in a tiny percentage of cases, things may have gone horribly and tragically wrong.  There has also been a significant backlash against some charities for piggy-backing on someone else's idea.

I'm not going to explore these issues any further in this post.  I simply don't feel that I have the requisite background knowledge or analytical writing skills to do so.  What's more, this is a very peaceful little blog and I'd love to keep it that way.  

Instead, I'm going to write about my own average 'take' on the ice bucket challenge and why I think it's been an overwhelmingly positive thing.

1. Laughter
There are many days that I feel we simply don't laugh enough.  This challenge has a fun element to it. Yes, we're laughing at our friends' and relatives' expense but not in a cruel way. You can actually hear people guffawing at their laptops as they check out the latest drenchings during their lunch hour.

2. Novelty
In my last post 'Back to School...But What About The Parents?', I touched on the subject of comfort zones. I'm guessing that getting a bucket of ice cold water tipped over you isn't top of anyone's list of new things to try. And yet...Having been through the experience, there's something strangely exhilarating about gritting your teeth and doing something that you're dreading.  Particularly when it's for the greater good.

3. Bonding
Siblings throughout the land have bonded as they've teamed up to gleefully hunt down the largest possible receptacles to fill with icy water for their long-suffering parents.  My son was desolate when he realised that, having emptied his largest Lego box, there were two small holes in the bottom rendering it obsolete for ice bucket purposes.  No prizes for guessing who his lucky victim was.

4. Kudos
Mums and dads have gained new respect in their kids' eyes for doing something fun and, let's face it, something that's completely irrational and ridiculous.  Just because you're a parent doesn't mean you have to be sensible 100% of the time.

5. Charity
Don't worry, I've saved the best until last. By the time you read this, the challenge may well have peaked but it's safe to bet that millions have been raised for worthy causes. It will be a huge bonus if awareness levels receive a boost too.  Because in among the splashes, shrieks and laughter, we all need to take a moment to remember those who are less healthy and happy than ourselves.

Have you participated in the ice bucket challenge yet? Why not post a comment and let me know?

Enjoyed this article? Why not like Average and Proud on facebook or follow me on Twitter?

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Back to school...but what about the parents?

The emboldened threat in the shop window displays of the past six weeks has finally come true.  As of yesterday, we are indeed 'Back to school'.

One of my little 'uns couldn't wait to get back; the other was somewhat cautious.  As for me?  I always feel slightly bereft at the end of summer, however I've come to the conclusion that a new academic year represents a great time to make a fresh start for both children and parents.

Many parents take up new work opportunities that coincide with their offspring starting school, or perhaps with them reaching a milestone where all parties are happy with mum (or dad) being away from home more.  

In that sense, it's down to timing.  As children spread their wings, so can parents - and lots do.  New endeavours need not be confined to work-related activities.  Over the last 24 hours, I've lost count of the face-to-face conversations and Facebook posts surrounding new courses, fitness classes and events that parents are planning to undertake. Good on 'em I say! I reckon that late summer is a far better time for fresh challenges than New Year, when all we really want to do is climb under the duvet rather than make resolutions. (Or perhaps that's just me?)

In my average little household, the start of a new term usually features some form of family discussion about the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for the kiddos.  I'm not sure if my advice reflects that of approved parenting manuals but it tends to run along the following lines:  'Seize all the new experiences that you can. It doesn't matter one jot whether you are the best or worst in the class. Just do your best and - most importantly - have fun in the process.'

As happens so often nowadays, the attitude I expected my children to adopt made me take a long, hard look at my own.  When was the last time I tried something new? Something that was a little outwith my comfort zone? Something that I was doing purely for the experience of trying something different rather than for immediate gratification, like taking on a project to earn extra money or cooking a dish to be devoured that evening?

Awkward pause.

At the end of our holidays, we were lucky enough to enjoy some of Edinburgh's festival activities.  One of my personal highlights was a family event as part of the Book Festival, which was led by Horrible Histories' illustrator, Martin Brown.  He started his very entertaining session by making us a promise:  By the time we left we would either feel that we could draw better, or we'd feel better about our perceived lack of drawing skills.  And do you know what? I reckon he achieved his aim.  My two immediately picked up sketchpads and pencils after grabbing themselves a bench in Charlotte Square gardens.  Me, I was left pondering some of his more challenging questions: Why do we stop doing things that we enjoy just because we think we're not "doing it right?"  Who decides what is wrong or right or good or bad anyway?

On our way home from Edinburgh, with less than 24 hours to go until the first bell rang to mark the new school year, we stopped at IKEA.  I bought myself a sewing machine. (Not very rock 'n' roll but bear with me.) I've always been convinced that I can't sew since my first disastrous tuition in primary school. But I've always secretly wanted to.

And do you know what? This year I'm ruddy well going to learn...

Have you got any exciting plans of your own for the new academic year? Leave a comment and let me know.

Enjoyed this article? Why not like Average and Proud on facebook or follow me on Twitter?

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Learning to dance in the rain...

It had been one of those weeks.  

All was not particularly happy at Average Towers.  A couple of bad parenting judgements.  A difficult anniversary to get through. Loved ones grappling with thorny issues that I was unable to help with but persisted in fretting over.

Too many days had been spent sitting indoors hunched over a laptop.  Both brain and body had become sluggish. My relaxed skinny jeans felt anything but.

As the week plodded on, the Scottish weather decided to come out in sympathy.  It was early evening as the four of us drove through the city and, in the words of Winnie the Pooh, the rain rain rain came down down down.

I looked out of the car window bleakly, wondering if I might muster up some negative remark about the conditions.  And then I noticed two things that stopped me in my tracks.  A female runner on the pavement was striding out at full pace, soaked to the skin and beaming.  A bike with a wicker basket was propped up against the gate of a cottage at the road side.  These seemingly everyday sights oozed optimism. There were at least two people in this city who weren't letting the weather get them down.

Which brings me slowly to my point.  We all have to deal with blips and upsets - and not just in terms of the weather.  No matter how idyllic others' lifestyles might seem on social media, everyone has their crosses to bear and their rough patches to cope with.

And so I reached a bit of a crossroads.  It had been a pants week but I could feel sorry for myself and hope for a miracle, or get a grip and deal with it.  And so I did (and I still am).  I found the strength to have some important conversations; I knuckled down and cleared out some of the physical and emotional clutter. And I forced myself out into the fresh air because exercise and the great outdoors are fantastic weapons against malaise.  I also reminded myself to look outward rather than inward.  Compared to those suffering in war-torn countries my life is a dream come true.

The whole scenario - and the onset of our traditional Scottish summertime weather - brought to mind one of my favourite sayings.  (I'm sure you'll have heard it before as it's plastered over many a canvas and pinterest board.)

"Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass.  It's about learning to dance in the rain."

I still consider myself a novice but the rain dancing lessons are well underway.

Enjoyed this article? Why not like Average and Proud on facebook or follow me on Twitter?