How’s The Content of Your Character?

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-oxfordshire-25793358

On Saturday we went to say Au Revoir to a friend and work colleague of Other Half who will very soon be moving to New York to get married to his boyfriend. As a little bit of history, I have known this man since before Other Half and I married as we used to go and watch him act  in amateur dramatic productions. At the time he lived with his then girlfriend and everything seemed very conventional. Obviously changes have since taken place, but the one thing that has never changed is just how lovely this man is. We are the lucky ones to count him as a friend. It comes as no surprise that the person he has chosen to marry and spend the rest of his life with is equally lovely, and as a family, we can’t wait to go and visit them in New York!

What did surprise me, was that at this party was someone else that Other Half has long since told me about, another friend and work colleague, who used to be male and is now female. Again, they are really happy with their new status and I think them fabulous with a wonderful sense of humour. That’s before I mention the figure hugging dress and shapely legs. I am not jealous honestly! They couldn’t belong to a nicer person, especially because she shared shopping tips with me (we both take size 9 shoes). She has an open invite for lunch or dinner and I hope she comes really soon.

When I went to the toilet, Other Half later shared with me that, Newly Female friend shared with him, that she thought I was lovely and was so pleased as she had been so worried about meeting me. Why? Most days , think when not screaming at the kids because we are going to be late for school, I am lovely. Why would someone be genuinely scared that I wouldn’t be, or wouldn’t like them and even worse, would judge them?

Because I’m a Christian! So is Newly Female Friend by the way, so we had fun comparing churches, but it seems that some who call themselves by that name have not been kind to our friend, offering ways by which she should change, rather than loving her as she is and being thoroughly grateful for her company. Thankfully that wasn’t me and I hope that I began that night to restore some trust again in Newly Female Friend.

Then I heard about the above article on the radio the next morning and my heart sank! Saying you would like the definition of marriage to be between men and women is one thing, after all, opinion is just that. This article takes it to a whole different level. All it made me think was that this man didn’t know anybody gay.

I’m not saying we know lots of gay people or have lots of gay friends, but people we do know include teachers, doctors, nurses, vicars, actors, singers and so on. They are also someone’s son or daughter and someone’s friend. If you have someone in your life that you like, love, or care about who happens to be gay, all you really want is for them to be happy and safe. Exactly what you would want for someone heterosexual. Happy and Safe.

It reminds me of what Martin Luther King said about having a dream that one day his children will be judged not by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character. May the day soon come when we judge everyone, solely by the content of their character.

Wonder Women: Sex, Power and the Quest for Perfection.

wonder women 1

[When asked to solve the Women’s problem at Harvard}  I didn’t solve the problem. But I did realize that there was one. Or, more precisely, that women across even the top tiers of American society were struggling, continuously and consistently, to make it in a world that remained predominantly male, a world that, despite decades of scrutiny and attention, was still stacked against them.

Many of the women who operated in this world were phenomenally successful. They ran universities and hedge funds, hospitals and museums, investment banking divisions and legal practices. Very few of them complained of gender bias or described themselves as feminists. But outside the boardroom, in bathrooms and book clubs across the country, even the most successful of these women were railing quietly against the “women’s problem.” They were acknowledging that even if they “had it all,” they still had lives that were fundamentally different from and more difficult than men’s. They were still, almost always, in the minority. They were still dodging comments and innuendoes that took them aback. They were juggling playdates and dental appointments and flute recitals, all of which were somehow absent from the to-do lists of their male partners. And they were still worrying about how they looked. (Debora L Spar, Wonder Women: Sex, Power and the Quest for Perfection).

I had a lovely email from Jamie, the above author’s Special Assistant, asking me to tell you about Debora L. Spar’s new book. This was because of previous posts on feminist books and the issues they raise, such as Lean In and Wifework. After being thrilled to hear from him and that he liked some of my post,s I then had to decide what to do. I haven’t read the book, unfortunately Jamie wasn’t asking for my home address so that he could send me a free copy and there was always the chance I would hate it!

Hence began my research, and although I have only read a little bit (thank you Amazon) I love what I read and look forward to reading more. As far as I can make out Debora Spar’s argument is that we can’t do it all and that we shouldn’t try to! No man tries to do it all. My Sister was quick to point out that even if a Dad has his children, long-term or short-term, in her experience, he parents very differently to a woman. So he should we say, he’s a Man, we don’t want him to be like a woman. Yet if honest, how many of us women are trying to be like both?

I love that Michelle Obama coined the term Mom-In-Chief which no one can deny is as important a role within their family as her husband’s role is outside of it. And of course she does a lot more besides and is a highly educated, wealthy, successful and powerful woman in her own right. As a role model of mine, I can only hope that she is able to achieve all of these things on her own terms and within her own comfort zone. In that way she can help me one day to do the same!

Can’t wait to read the book!

Do You Say Please?

What a stupid question I hear you say. Of course I say please because I was brought up properly, to have good manners! Calm down, of course you were, as was I, but that is not the sort of please that I mean.

I have realised that I don’t say please. Or rather I don’t mean please. When Mum says she can’t make Little Lady’s birthday because her leg is hurting (she walked into town to buy some items even though she needs a hip replaced and has already had the other one done) I say fine and am fully prepared to do without her attendance even though 10 other family members will be here. Other Half’s response is to flatter, cajole, plead and tell me to get in the car and go to pick her up!

When someone isn’t on the same side as me in a decision to be made, I turn into a lawyer giving every reason under the sun as to why I am right and the decision has to go my way! At no point though do I ask, or plead, giving the true decision making over to the other person. No way! That would involve me becoming vulnerable and possibly receiving an answer that I didn’t want and wouldn’t like! Essentially that could lead to me being hurt.

I’d like to be able to say how not to do this. After all the blog is called How Do You Think It’s Done and is about making your journey easier. Maybe this post though is to ask whether you are doing the same thing? Are you avoiding heartfelt requests in order to protect yourself? In doing so though, do you realise what you are missing out on, the relationships, the events, the experiences? I’m beginning to, which is why next time around I will try to say PLEASE…? If I don’t get my way, at least I tried and as importantly, I felt. Walls stop you feeling. Feeling love, kindness, generosity and so many other emotions. Walls stop you being in receipt of them too. I don’t want that. What about you?

Charitable giving.

As you all know, our house needed de-cluttering before Christmas, so you can imagine the state it is in since then! Being the youngest of two pretty big and generous families, Little Lady and Little Man are spoilt!

I think it was William Morris who said that what you had in your house needed to be either useful or beautiful, otherwise it had no place being there! (Do let me know if I am wrong in this). Item by item throughout the house, I am easily able to identify what we use and what is beautiful to look at. Everything else needs to go!

But here is the rub… it is really hard to let go of things when you know how much they cost you. Surely you should be putting them up for sale on EBay! Yet for me, the faff involved in taking a picture, writing up the listing, paying for the listing, working out the packaging price, hoping it will sell for something that makes it all worth my while and then packaging said product and traipsing to the post office to send it is all too much. And that’s just for ONE item!

The lesser amount of stress involved in putting said items into a bag and dropping them off at a charity shop, job done, is a win-win situation all round. So why the reluctance to do it?

Yes we could do with the money, but what would we spend it on? More items probably. The money would never be worth all the hassle as we would never get anything close to what we paid for the items. They lose their value the second you take them out of the shop! Besides, shopping for them was a pleasure, the EBay process mentioned above, for me, is anything but!

So no, we are not getting back the worth of the goods and the money we would get involves time and trouble that I don’t have to give. More importantly, there are other people and charities who could benefit from what I hand over.

And there is the key. Make a gift of what you have. Whether it be to an individual you know who could benefit, a advertisement on freecycle  to anyone in need of it, or to a charity of your choice. My Big Sister just takes her stuff to the charity shop where she is able to park! Fair enough. I wanted more. So I have chosen Save The Children and later today will deposit many bags of items at my not so local shop. No angst, no stress, less clutter and ultimately money to those far more in need of it that I am. As I said, a win-win situation all over!

The Gift Of Encouragement.

When was the list time you were someone’s cheerleader? That’s essentially what you are every time you say well done or thank you for something. Not the thank you for passing me the salad variety, but the thank you for making a difference in my life version.

A dear school friend of mine thanked me for something in a message. Not only did it make my day or even week, but it made me feel special and valued. She mentioned too, how someone had complemented her on how her children treat their children. I hope she felt as proud of her children and herself as I did when she praised me.

The gift of encouragement is free to give, but priceless to the one in receipt of it. Is there anyone that you could give such a gift to today?

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year Everyone!

Christmas was pretty mad for us, think still shopping for presents on Christmas Eve, lots of unplanned visitors putting any scheduled plans out by hours, a 12 hour Christmas Day with in-laws, followed by a drive up north for an overnight stay to visit my side of the family. Then, as Little Lady had a New Year’s birthday, there was more shopping to do, as well as clean the house and sort the food for the birthday congregation at ours.

I don’t think I actually relaxed until we got to my in-laws, who put on a wonderful spread and always look after me. The same can be said with visiting Big Sis, and the fantastic birthday meal was cooked for Little Lady by Other Half.

Pre-Christmas you will have actually heard me say that I don’t like Christmas anymore! Stress, tiredness, worry, shopping for everyone including teachers, neighbours, friends and family as well as food for ourselves is understandably enough to put anyone off, and I didn’t even have to cook a Christmas Dinner!

It didn’t take long for the traditions to take hold though – including church services, gift wrapping and giving, the goodwill to all and most importantly time spent with those we love and care about. Despite all the madness I have had a wonderful and restful time and as I enter a different sort of craziness – think ironing of school uniforms, preparing for work and de-cluttering after the Santa’s grotto that our house has become – I’m truly grateful for all the wonderful things that Christmas affords us. I just need to remember this lesson next year!

A Fullproof Way To Save.

I have saved a small fortune recently. Note that I didn’t say that I had won the lottery, just that I had managed to SAVE some money.

Unusual doesn’t begin to describe this event, unheard of would be more like it. You know what though, it really hasn’t been hard but it has been 100% effective! What’s my secret? I don’t take out my purse anymore unless I have a planned spend!

I always used to take my handbag with me everywhere, which meant anything I suddenly fancied was readily available to me. Chocolate, croissants, bagels, magazines, sweets, lunches and so on. Not one to usually have any cash, that stopped being a problem the day the Tesco Express moved in. Cards were now a good as money!

But if I carry neither cards, nor money, short of offering some other service (think of washing up rather than the second oldest profession – does anyone actually know what the oldest profession is, please advise if you do) then I can’t spend. End of!

Now I just need to be super good and transfer all of the saved money into a savings account rather than using it for one of those even bigger shopping mall purchases!

Nelson Mandela.

MadelaI expected to feel resigned on Madiba’s passing. After all, he was old, he was in poor health, so we had been given due warning, and what an amazing legacy! To be loved by the world and surrounded by family and friends, probably passing away in your sleep, who wouldn’t want that. And who of us should be sad about such a death?

Yet sad I am. I may never have known him, yet he felt like my father too, as well as the father of South Africa. I am pretty sure that there is nothing for which I will ever be giving up 27 years of my life. Let alone have a belief for which I am prepared to die. That is before you throw in wanting all to be equal rather than turning the table on previous oppressors and turning them into the oppressed. Not even to just withhold revenge, but to extend the hand of forgiveness and peace. To call Nelson Mandela and his legacy ‘special’ seems positively lame. He was a legend and will now be an icon.

Barak Obama is right. How can we apply Mandela’s teaching by example in our own lives? Do we have to have a cause to believe in as much as he did? Do we need to be the humble yet clear leader and statesman that he was? Or do we need to turn our back on revenge and hurt, and reach out for forgiveness and love when others hurt us? Or do we need to turn the circumstances in which we find ourselves into the best situation that we can, if need be, making prison walls our home and our jailers our friends? When our relationships and even marriages break down, do we need to find a way to remain in a positive relationship, for the sake of what we had our future peace and the children we bore?

The questions could go on and on. From the global, to the spiritual to the one to one and the anecdotes of all who knew him saying how special He made Them feel, when they were the ones who felt honoured to be meeting him. Feel free to choose your own questions and your own answers but whatever you do, identify what it is you take from his life and keep applying it to your own.

I never met you Madiba, although I so desperately wanted to. Thank you for all that you meant to me and thank you for all that you did for South Africa. I will tell my children and my children’s children of you and your legacy. And may your story continue always. Rest in peace.

Defy Your Age!

How’s your music mentality? My what? you ask. Music mentality I said. Your emotional age when you listen to certain pieces or types of music. This is a completely made up term which came to me as I watched Ellie Goulding in the music video above. Not only do I completely love the song and despite my sofa bound state (unwell at present, see previous post) was dancing to the best of my limited abilities, but I adored the hoody, mini-skirt and boots she wore as an outfit too. Excellent. I could see myself in the same outfit, in the same location, dancing and singing my heart out to the very same song. And there you have it, I was 20 again.

Those of you reading this blog for long enough, know that my 20s were no party and I certainly didn’t have the confidence to pull off any of the above. Now of course I do, but with having had a special birthday and 2 kids under my belt, minus Victoria Beckham’s figure, people would call such a change in my wardrobe a midlife crisis.

Who cares! In my mind I was a kicking it 20-something, in the same way that people with dementia when taken back to music and surroundings from their formative eras seem to lose their dementia.

By all means splash out on new war paint (make-up) or if you really want and can afford it the surgery (I bet you don’t need it though), but for me I’ll take the hoody, boots, mini and soundtrack anytime. Midlife crisis indeed!

Lean In.

lean inIf I haven’t mentioned this before it is a fabulous book. One for all women to go out and purchase a copy, read it then lend it to their husbands and then pass it on as a legacy to their daughters. So far I have only borrowed mine from a library, but when funds permit, the book will be mine!

I was thinking about it today as I helped put up adverts for the Christmas Fayre on Saturday, for the PTA. I was alongside a very interesting woman, who in a past life, as she put it, had worked in film promotions for 20th century fox. According to her what she used to do wasn’t very glamorous, but I stopped believing her when she mentioned doing work for Tom Cruise! Name dropping aside, the job she had been in carried more money, glamour, status and interest than what she did now – book-keeping for a family relative, but had to be given up when she had children!

Why? Why is it always us women who make the career sacrifices if we don’t want our children to be in childcare more than they are with family? Why can’t we all agree that Mum can be off a year to breastfeed baby (if she is breastfeeding for a year, if not shorten this time accordingly) and then maybe Mum and Dad work 4 days so children are only in childcare for 3?

Why is it that so often Dad goes back to work full-time and continues to grow his career, salary and status, whilst Mum drops to 3 days and is barely noticed in what she does any more, essentially plugging the gaps that those more important in the workplace don’t wish to fill!

Like the book says, I am going to lean in when I find something I want to do, and regarding Little Lady I shall teach her all of this from the outset so that she doesn’t get blindsided and bored to tears like so many of her female elders have!

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