Life Lately #6

It was as if I’d been waiting for a perfect time. There wasn’t going to be another Life Lately update until a few things had happened, the planets had aligned.

It’s been taking more than a while for the planets to align. It still hasn’t happened.

And so many times I have wanted to write stuff, but have been put off, “you could, but wait for that one more thing first.” – until you just have to stop.

Because in the last month things are back on course.

The last few weeks I have hated my job with a passion. 

And oddly, I have come to appreciate that this in itself is good.Life LatelyEarlier this year I made a list. I made a list of everything I wanted in a job, realistically. And it turned out the job most closely aligned to it was the one I was doing.

What a wally.

After telling everyone I was taking redundancy, after more than three months of conviction that I was leaving, I had to admit to my boss that actually, if it’s ok really, I’d like to apply for my job.

And it was odd, because the job I then had to apply for was the job I had spent the last six months doing, but not the job from which I was being made redundant.

I placated myself that no-one had got the job in the first round of interviews, no-one who wanted it had been offered it, so I wasn’t taking it from anyone. But how odd would it be that after six months of doing a job that it would come to be that I wasn’t considered able to do the role permanently. Thankfully it turned out ok.

And I truly don’t regret staying.

My job offers so much: personally, professionally, financially.

It offers a work-life balance, and allows one of us to be a stay-at-home parent.

It allows me to be the person I want to be, to not compromise on ethics and values.

But I’ve spent so long hoping that I wouldn’t come to regret my decision, not wanting to admit I had made it,

That I was completely floored a fortnight ago when I became despondent about my job.

I can cope with resistance and negativity, within the organisation or outside the organisation. In fact, I sort of thrive on it, for the best conversations about why and how what we do will make a difference.

It turns out I can only handle one at a time.

And so when faced with both I hibernated.

I began to question things, including my decision.

Opening my daily ‘Guardian Jobs’ emails again.

And then it occurred to me.

I love my job.

But really?

What kind of job exists that you didn’t hate it every now and again?

What kind of perfect was I building myself up to?

How do you build up resistance if your job doesn’t challenge you?

And the truth of it is, in the face of challenge,

My work-life balance has been restored.

We’ve managed to get back to Church.

I look at my lounge and love it again, for it is tidy.

I’ve finally managed to box up all the baby clothes to go up to the attic.

And I’ve spent time with my children.

Life is as is, and we’re living it, with little steps, that sometimes, every now and again, has rhythm. 

For the love of blogging

This week I nearly thought it was a good idea to stop blogging. Later this year I am hoping to start something new. A commitment on top of work, on top of my blog, and on top of the pursuit of being the best mum ever. This week I got an email saying I wasn’t being considered for an opportunity because my page views and follower numbers were too low. It really hurt. But it wasn’t news. I started blogging to record memories. I carry on, well, for the love of blogging. But the email made me think about stopping.

Rejection is a really weird thing. Because there was nothing incorrect about the email. It’s just usually I avoid opportunities where someone’s looking for x of this or x of that. I am fortunate that a lot of opportunities which suit my blog come via email, because my blog fits. This one was just a ‘drop this person an email’ sort, and I just felt a bit unhappy as a result.

But when I came to reflect on whether September should realistically see me stop blogging, that hurt too. I live in my perfect world, that like when you have another child and your heart grows a bit bigger, that taking on a commitment that I have aspired to will simply mean my day grows a bit longer. Aaaaahhhh. Delusional.

The thing about blogging is this. Yes, my family have been afforded some of the most wonderful opportunities. My previous blog saw us working with Butlins as an Ambassador for two consecutive years, with Graco and Quinny on opportunities which helped us with ‘stuff’ for the boys. This new, more me, blog has seen us work with Chessington, and our favourite theatres, and so many opportunities we have loved.

But more so, so much more. I have met the most wonderful people.

And when I think about what I would give up if I gave up blogging, it’s the opportunity to meet inspiring people, and to be fortunate to call some friends.

I know there’s so many more than the few I’ll mention.BloggingBut there’s Sarah. I met Sarah because of the Graco thing. But that was just the start. Since then Sarah has been a rock. Always there when there’s a bad moment. Always there to share. Sarah’s kindness of spirit astounds me. Especially as a new mum of three- she did the whole pregnancy thing THREE times! And she still was better at keeping in touch with me than I am with friends.BloggingThen there’s Sara-Jayne. Sara-Jayne and I met as randoms, only missing the red carnation. Sara-Jayne has effortless style. And she’s generous with it. She has instinctive style. I can aspire but it will never be anything other than learned. Sara-Jayne has patience beyond mine, perhaps that’s the ex-teacher thing, but it feels like nothing is rushed, everything is as is, and everything is wonderful. One day I tell you, that will be me. But just to be in her company, well I’m sure the fairy dust will eventually rub off.BloggingAnd there’s Sian. Sian is wiser than her years but so much cooler than half her years. I met Sian at Cybher. And Sian has such generosity that she overlooks my neediness and lets me be nearly as cool as her. Sian amazes me with her past, the strength which is so intrinsic to her. And I hope she might ask of me as easily as I ask of her. 

I know a good friend as someone who doesn’t judge my driving. I once reversed into a parking space to which one of my passengers asked if I had recently passed my driving test. Yes. About. Twenty. Years. Ago. Oddly I had know the person since I was 16. Subtle.
Conversely, Alina coped with me driving to Hereford and back. And didn’t react when I missed the turn she advised me to take. I love Alina because even after that incident she recently suggested car-sharing.Blogging Photography with Sara-Jayne JonesI’m not really sure how I met Alina, other than me being her stalker. I think it’s between Blog Camp and our mutual love of the Sherman. Alina has the belief and inspiration to make you know she can achieve anything she puts her mind to. And if you want to see what belief can achieve just check out what she’s doing to her home.

And this is what blogging does.

When you’re like me and have a job which doesn’t have an office. When you don’t get to see people regularly and converse about life and the universe. Blogging just works. You get to meet the most wonderful people.
And hope that one day you might get to call one of them a friend.

Disclosure: I’ve only just realised this, but all four of these amazing women have had to put up with sharing a room with me. That must really make them the best women the world has on offer.

Life Lately #5

I’ve been putting off this post in the hope I’ll have something definitive to write.
I haven’t.
But in the mean time life hurtles on at a million miles an hour.

It seems there’s something about a flight to Edinburgh though which gets my fingers tapping.Life LatelyWe’re about to celebrate Easter.
And as seems the norm, I’ve no idea where the year’s gone.

We’re sticking to our promise of getting to Todmorden more often.
After spending the New Year there, Mr J and CM went back over half term. We’re all going back for a week over the Easter holidays, and I can’t wait, right now I need some time away.

I also need some time at home. I am desperate to get the house into some form of order instead of tinkering around the edges. It seems a real luxury to take time off work for no other reason than tidying. In my mind annual leave is to be used for time with family. But right now, I think the peace of mind which comes from a trip to Ikea and an organised home may justify it.
I am desperate to sort my office out (again!). I am a hoarder and have so much ‘stuff’. I think it’s time I admitted defeat and start to move things into the attic. But attic space defeats me, it’s surely the same as admitting you’re never going to use things again… so should I really get rid? So of course, to date, I’ve avoided that thought process.

But I am instead dreaming of wooden floors in my uncluttered office. Dreaming of a work surface which stretches across the wall rather than a desk. There may need to be the small matter of saving up involved.

On the children front, well, they are awesome. I know they’re mine and I’m completely biased.
Some things aren’t as straightforward. I think there’s a difficult decision on the horizon, which has been made more difficult than it should have been.

We’ve decided to reclaim our weekends. The odd need to get the children involved in after school activities suddenly became disproportionate to the time we have as a family. And when the children started to get a bit reticent about going to classes I couldn’t be bothered to convince them it was a good idea when I realised we’d be able to spend time together as a family of five as a result.

I’m not sure where I’m now at with after school stuff.
CM has Beavers, which she loves and we’ve never had any problems with her motivation for, and she also has Squash on one evening and one morning of the weekend. The boys now just have swimming lessons.
There is something which makes me think they should be doing more. But I’m not sure anymore, I think their interests need to emerge more. And I think for now I’d much rather keep hold of any semblance of our time, especially as they are all jostling for their role in our family.
And that said, life is so much easier now they are jostling for position. They play so well together and it fills me with love to hear them playing with the Sylvanian families, Playmobil or whatever else is flavour of the day.

And so what next, I guess it’s just more of the same- trying to find our normal.
Making sure the boys first year at school sets them up in a learning environment of which they want to be a part.
For CM it’s finding out more about her, as she grapples with her place at home and in friendship circles.
And for me and him, well a bit of stability would be good. To figure out what we want, to regain and retain a bit of us.

Life Lately #4

I’m not doing any better with my blog. I have grand plans, then life gets in the way.

I started writing this yesterday morning, on a plane. We’ve been running workshops at work, and it seems it’s most convenient for me to cover Scotland as my flight allows me to spend the day there. And it’s more reasonably priced than the train.
I’ve got into a bit of a routine with it.  I have the same taxi driver every time (I’m guessing very few like a 0530 start), pick up a coffee, board, put phone in flight safe mode and start writing a blog post.
On the flight yesterday we were still high up when the plane was due to land, it seems the ‘blustery’ weather described in Edinburgh when we took off was slightly underestimated. 

Worst. Flight. Ever.

I only found out after landing about Storm Gertrude which hit Scotland, I wouldn’t like to say what the wind speeds were as we were trying to land, I think 90mph was cited up in the Shetlands. 
Not knowing this, I questioned why I was feeling so ill on the flight- I still think they had the temperature quite high. But after they announced that, unable to make a decision by circling, we were going to go down to investigate further, and maybe this would result in a diversion, I realised it wasn’t me.
From that point onward I mainly had my eyes shut, and focused on my breathing.
It turned out the rustling paper wasn’t a sound in mind, people felt it a lot worse than me.

I felt exhausted before the day had even begun.
And half way into the workshop, not only did everything go wrong with the content of my presentation, but I started sneezing.
Back at the airport I knew a full cold had taken hold.

And so today I’ve spent the day in pjs, sleeping, watching movies with the little people. Probably reinforcing everything I wrote on the plane. We need to find a slower pace:Life LatelyI shouldn’t be surprised anymore.
I’m not really sure I can remember the last time our life had any sense of a relaxed pace, or routine, so I think it’s time to stop thinking life should be anything other than what it is, and learn to embrace it.

I think it’s because if feels like we’ve lost our weekends. The little people do activities on a Saturday morning, CM also has something on a Sunday afternoon; and between chores and exhaustion it just feels like the weekends are passing us by.
I beat myself up that the children are missing out on all the activities we should be going out to do.
But then I have to keep myself in check. Thanks to some more treats for the boys from their birthday I spent last Sunday building Lego with them, CM had her first sleepover at Grandma’s and they had all gone to a party on Saturday afternoon. It was a jam-packed weekend, but it still grinds at me that we should be doing more.

On the plus side, we’re sticking to our plan to get back to Todmorden more regularly. Mr J and CM are going back in half term. We couldn’t find anywhere to stay as a family, but I think this will be a good adventure for all of us, and I’ll see what fun I can create for the boys and then they’ll stay at my parents for their treat.
And then we’re booked to go back over Easter. And already I am so looking forward to a week away from it all with nothing but family.

Work wise, I’m trying to find my way through stuff. As the New Year dawned I found myself in an odd place, after three months of certainty that I would take redundancy I started to question, and be questioned by friends and family, why I was leaving.
Work have been great, they have been urging me throughout the process to stay, and when I stuck to my convictions we agreed I’d stay either until I found something else or they were ready for me to go.
And I realised there was no sense of urgency on either part. Because with that security blanket I lost any motivation to look for work. And the jobs I did find I weighed up against the one I am doing, and it transpires my job is a good one.

Throughout the process there have been things keeping me going:
They were making me redundant.
They moved me from a job I loved into a new role.
Eight weeks later my substantive role was made redundant.
In my mind I was half way out the door already having given up a job I loved and still finding my feet in the new role.
I had always said if they chose to make me redundant I would respect that view and leave.
And then, yes, there was the redundancy pay. Which, matched with other money, would pay off our mortgage.

And now.
Six months later, I love my job.
It’s exciting, challenging, fast paced, and we’re building a team.
I still work compressed hours and get a day of week to do stuff. I’ve been volunteering at the school on my afternoon off, and yep, it does feel good to give back for all the other times I’ve been working away and reliant on other parents to help out.
I get to meet with mum or friends for coffee and not feel guilt because it’s not time I can be with the children.
I get to manage my diary to some extent. Which means I now make the most of my time in London, meeting friends or going to the theatre.
I get to nip off the train on the way home and catch up with friends for drinks.

Basically I have semblance of a work life balance which I cherish.

I work for a charity which pays well.
I think this is the one thing I never really thought about.
I need to be able to justify to myself why I go to work, why I’m not at home for my children. Knowing, however far removed I am, that we’re working to improve someone’s prospects, help young people in making informed decisions, improve working conditions for all; well, that sort of puts things in a perspective I can rationalise.
Looking around, it’s difficult to find something comparable locally.
And then it’s figuring out whether work-life balance or values is the greater priority.
When there’s a job which fits the bill already.
And I’m doing it.
But if I stay, we won’t be paying off the mortgage.
More reflection needed!

But, before all of this, there’s a little girl who’s going to be 7 soon.
And wants a making Monster High party.
And something tells me I’m going to get very distracted planning this one!

Reflections on 2015

I don’t think I could have predicted how 2015 would have panned out. I don’t think anyone could have.
It’s been a really difficult year for us as a family. How the year started, the challenges we thought we were facing all paled into insignificance.

We are out the other side. No doubt stronger, but quite a bit altered.

And now, there’s no way I’d even dream of predicting what 2016 has in store.
I know, to some extent, what I’d like to happen.

I’d like to find a new challenge, to accompany the new job I need to find.
2016 will be the year I was made redundant.
I’d very much like to finish my employment and go straight into a new role. This is a huge ask, but the difference that using my redundancy to help pay off the mortgage would be my ultimate goal.

Because this is my ultimate hope for 2016. That we will end the year having paid off our mortgage. Words I’d never thought I’d type.
Because, with the downs of 2015 came the unexpected achievement of becoming debt free, unexpectedly. A series of upturns meant I finally paid off all the debts I have accumulated over the years. And so redundancy, alongside money Tony would rather have not received, should allow us to become mortgage free.

So, we also need to get better in 2016, better at financial management, better at saving, and better at deciding what our priorities are, as individuals, as a couple, and as a family.
West Yorkshire Pennine Way Signpost2015 saw us ending the year deciding whether a move back to West Yorkshire is in our plans. It was definitely not in my plans, but that’s the difference when you’ve moved back to your hometown, the shoe is on the other foot, and we’re no longer in his hometown, and after the year he’s had, that’s been tough.
The reality is it doesn’t meet our needs as a family to move back, and that’s a real difficult truth, because it’s trampling over someone’s individual needs, and it’s all well and good dismissing those needs for the sake of family, but it’s not that easy.
So, we need to decide how West Yorkshire becomes a bigger part of our life moving forward – the children were all born in Halifax, and despite their growing Welsh accents, they are (probably) technically English. And their heritage does need to be nurtured.

And for all the unknowns 2016 will have in store, we have plans, hopes, and a few dreams.

Merry Christmas – I hope you have a wonderful 2016!

So, first and foremost, I hope you’ve had a fantastic Christmas!

And, depending on when I publish this, and you read it, I hope you saw the New Year in with good spirits, and 2016 has started well.

Secondly, an apology, my blog hasn’t been what I’ve wanted it to be of late, I’ve been doing the minimal to keep it going, whilst every bit of technology I own has had other plans. I’m not sure what happened first, I think my laptop crashed and went to be repaired. Then my phone crashed, and needed to be replaced. Then my work laptop which I was using as a bit of a stop-gap died. Then my laptop needed to go back as it wasn’t fixed properly.
I finally got back on my feet on Christmas Eve, and then after the Christmas festivities we ran away to Todmorden and found ourselves in a cottage with no mobile data coverage- let alone wi-fi.

And so, my blog has taken the brunt.

But, in a positive light, it’s allowed me to make some resolutions, to assess what I love most about blogging, and what I need to reconsider.An Organised MessIt’s been a year since I launched this blog for that purpose, to stop tying myself up in the knots my old blog had me in from time to time.
And I’ve loved this new me. I’ve loved being more simplified, more me. But there have been times I’ve swayed, because stats are a lovely thing to be swayed by.

2016, my hope is to stay on the clean blogging path. To do the things which mean most to me.

I hope to get to the theatre as much as I can, with finite time left travelling to London with work I’d like to carry on making the most of it- and I hope a trip to the National to see Iphigenia in Splott is in this future, and I would love to see a fantastic production from Cardiff on the stage of another capital city.

I’d like to get back to baking, attempting to lose weight has taken me out of the kitchen, but all those delicious treats I buy as pick me ups , I’d like to start recreating, I’ve realised the common element is fruit so I figure it’s not entirely unhealthy.

And I want to get better at vlogging. I’ve loved starting this way of recording our lives. I think partly because I’m lazy and I can talk forever. But also, not so selfishly, because I love watching my children. I’ve always said one of the best parts of taking the children to the theatre is watching them mesmerised. Vlogging is letting me capture all of their emotions and I absolutely love their enjoyment as part of this.

Here’s a little of our Christmas for good measure:

So, waffle over, if you’ve wondered on the lack of content of late, I do hope you’ll bear with me. 2016, it’s going to be a good year!

And, P.S. if posts which follow look out-of-place, please forgive me, I’m catching up with all the content I’ve had on my laptop but not been able to publish.                                                     

Life Lately #3

I’m writing this as a complete cop-out, life keeps getting in the way of my cherished space.Life LatelyNot only have I been a little unmotivated of late but I’m hiding behind the excuse I’m without my laptop for a lack of posts. And am hoping writing this will reinvigorate me.

Everything which could support my lack of motivation is. 

I did have a small moment of being reunited with the thing that holds all my secrets, but then it turned out the repair shop had fixed the cosmetic appearance of my laptop but not the actual fault. My laptop has been back with them for the past two weeks and seems to have fallen into a customer service black hole.

In the interim I had been using my work laptop, but then it had the melt down of all previous melt downs, and went to laptop heaven. Trying to find my replacement laptop in Bridgend after getting to bed at 5am in London was a sight to behold. Trying to explain to the IS team that I’d really appreciate them backing up my personal files (me trying to do some vlogs) seems to have fallen on deaf ears (fortunately). And now my new laptop seems to have a minimum data capacity.

And of course, in a host of technology fails, my phone also packed in. And whilst I have been lucky enough to get an upgraded phone, I am getting to terms with it, and coping with what I have lost.

So here I am, seemingly I have written a lot on my blog, but as always it feels like so little.

Life is bolting on at a zillion miles per hour, I am struggling to hold on, and the reins are definitely out of my grasp, it is enough to stay upright.

I genuinely don’t think I’ve ever been this unprepared for Christmas, to the extent we’ve decided not to have a birthday party for the boys this year- to be honest, the idea of them having a trip to Toys ‘r’ Us has more than pacified this- and will probably cost considerably less.

I am formally on three months notice. Or should that be 12 weeks, and I can be Sandra Bullock. Probably not.

In work everything is a poorly planned priority. I am feeling so much more confident about life beyond my employment. However life in employment continues to be stressful. The organisation intended to make 20 odd people redundant, and has ended the consultation period with almost 60 people leaving- out of choice in some cases, and not being selected for jobs in others. It makes for an interesting time when I had thought I’d spend three months surplus to requirements, to find we’ll be working on far less resource than anticipated.

Life outside of work and technology has been great.

The build up to Christmas is always exciting for little people, and there’s also been a little bit of Christmas magic for us.

All three have been in a wonderful Christmas performance as part of a class they started in September. I still can’t believe how proud I am, how in awe I am of them, for performing at a theatre in front of so many people.

Then we had their school Christmas shows- so much excitement as CM gets to be in the whole school performances- this year it was Grease- and woe-betide the mum who suggests she won’t be home from London in time to see a performance. And then the boys were in their Reception class Nativity, one as Joseph the other as a Shepherd- just a little bit of a proud mum I promise!

Mr J has been in hospital this week for surgery on his hand, a repeat of what he had done just over two years ago. It has been a blessing as he only had a week’s notice, so no time for nerves to kick in. And it seems a little more straightforward this time around- he had to be in at 7.30 in the morning, and before lunch I was able to pick him up, I’m sure last time I spent the best part of a day in Starbucks waiting for him. He’s not meant to do too much for a fortnight so it couldn’t have come at better timing over the Christmas break.

And in a fit of positivity, Father Christmas brought me an early present, a new (to us) car.  All those vlogs which haven’t made their way anywhere have mentioned us trying to cope with one car after I seemingly accidentally sold mine in August. I need a car for work, although I don’t use a car for work. And the reality has been the only time having one car  causes conflict is on the weekend and evenings. 

Mr J has been doing a whole heap of research and has bought a car, we’re hoping for a decent price, so when I do find new employment, the resale will not leave us out of pocket- given we have no idea what kind of mileage I’ll be doing in this new (much sought after) job.

So, I’m now learning to drive an automatic. I keep slamming the brakes down when in my head I’m pressing the clutch to change down gears to a gradual stop. Loosing my left foot seems a realistic option to avoid a crash.

So, I have seven days to get Christmas under control, two and a half days to get on top of my to-do list at work…. and then…
A holiday.

Or home from home.

And hopefully 2016 will see everything sorted, and a more consistent approach to blogging…. and vlogging.

Fingers crossed!