Category Archives: Lifestyle

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.

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!

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!

Life Begins At 40!

This is 40.

Highly Recommend this.

Or so I am told! Having only passed that milestone by 3 days, time will tell. As usual it was the anticipation of changing decades that proved far worse than the actual event itself. Yes there are things I lament. Why didn’t I go clubbing more, or wear that short top, with the belt width skirt and towering heels when I was in my 20s? Why didn’t I go travelling and see the world and its many cultures and geographical wonders? Essentially, why didn’t I do the things that I look at those younger than me doing now?

Simple really, I am not them. My 20s consisted of searching for a career and decent boyfriend – yes in that order. I was also trying to find somewhere that I felt at home. Needless to say, such endeavours can, and in my case did, take a decade and with so much resulting change, quite frankly I was thoroughly glad to see the back of my twenties!

By now having a new career that took up twice the time of most other jobs, having also met my future husband with a wedding to plan, all followed relatively swiftly by 2 children, that pretty much took care of my 30s. I never had the time or money for the travelling and completely lacked the confidence re the clothing.

On reflection though, I enjoyed my time and although there are things I wish I had done – think Ibiza, sleeping till noon, having a full English breakfast for lunch, sunbathing all afternoon and then partying until the early hours – I wouldn’t go back and I wouldn’t change the past. Not the things within my control though that were not causing hurt to myself or others. Those experiences, good and bad, are what have formed me. Far from being perfect, whilst I have life I can set about becoming all I am capable of, visit the places of my dreams and improve, if not remedy, the relationships I still have in my life.

So whatever age you are today, celebrate because you still have life. And because of all that, and all  you can do with it, you and your age are pretty priceless. Happy Birthday to Me!

A Lack Of Clothes Maketh The Man.

nelson mandelaMy first, full-time permanent job was as a customer service assistant for a bank and involved wearing a uniform. I remember it well, 5 blouses, 3 skirts and 1 blazer for which I would have to pay £100 pounds if I returned the uniform (read left the job) within a year. Hence I stuck that job out  for a whole year!

I almost wish that this job that I am doing came with a uniform too, as my finances are no better now, marriage, children and mortgage down the line, than they were all those years ago when starting out with student debt and the remnants of my last social security cheque! Everything needs replacing, updating or repairing and having been at home for as a stay at home Mum for 3 years I barely even have work wear! The replacing etc. I spoke of were my casual clothes!

What I take comfort from though, besides the knowledge that with each paycheque I can start to purchase appropriate attire, is that Nelson Mandela went to work in the one, same suit he had for FIVE YEARS! Enough said really. I am not down to one outfit and I shall not need to wear it for 5 years before I am able to purchase another one.

Like Mandela, sometimes rather than feeling beaten down by what you lack, you have to know you are strong for getting out there and doing what needs to be done, using whatever resources you have, no matter how few they may be.

Work To Your Strengths.

Ideal home show

We visited the Ideal Home Exhibition yesterday. I love anything to do with houses, interior and exterior so we tend to visit the show along with several stately homes, castles, palaces or gardens every year.

Having visited a friend over the Easter weekend for lunch, whose home is beautiful and tidy beyond belief, I saw the show differently this year. It finally dawned on me, that you can have the tidy, immaculate, wonderful home, but you had better be prepared to spend a lot of time and money on making it so. Picking up the sheets that accompany the show rooms, you realise how many stores and products have had to have been researched, how carefully the look has been put together and how much money it would take to recreate said look in our house.

My friend was absolutely focused in pulling the look of her house together and is merciless in keeping it that way. To quote my other half when she shared her tips,( e.g. spending hours de-cluttering each week!) he turned to me and said, “Chalk meet cheese, cheese meet chalk”. The cheek!

Of course Other Half is right though. Yes I have a dream of how I would like our house to be. Walled rather than open plan, 2 reception rooms, a properly fitted kitchen and all fitted wardrobes to be gone, gone, gone! Add in newly decorated, newly carpeted and tidy and I am pretty much done. Anything over and above that I shall leave to the experts. Work to your strengths I say. Now Hever Castle or Hampton Court this year? Decisions, decisions – and I don’t mean about choice of wall paper!

I Now Get Facebook!

Despite having had a Facebook account for sometime, I didn’t really get it and still don’t use it very much. Not having a Smartphone (yes I know I am a Luddite) it is really difficult to keep abreast of everyone’s news. Besides, why would I want to? I only have about 60 people that I am friends with on Facebook, which I realise will seem a miniscule number to the technological of you. The volume of information that such a number of friends generates makes me ask those of you with 10x or 100x as many friends, how do you cope?

The point is, these people did not seem real to me. I knew most of them at school, hadn’t spoken to many in years and may never see some of them again. That’s not real. No phone calls, no meetings, no Christmas or birthday cards. And where do people find the time to write on there every day about what little Johnny said or did today, or what they are making for dinner that night?

What did I know? When I posted about my friend dying, the condolences from my friends on Facebook were heartfelt and immediate. Their content was also open, genuine and mirrored my horror at the suddenness of it all. One friend spoke about how she hugged her children a little longer that night as she thought of me, my friend and my friend’s daughter. Perhaps the loveliest thing of all though, was the sheer volume of replies. Yes, you can ring one person and have a chat with them, which can make you feel better,  but you can’t ring 10,20, 40 people all at once and get a connection with them. Now that will make you feel even better still!

There is still nothing like having coffee with a friend, catching up on the telephone or receiving mail through the post. Facebook has its place in keeping us in contact too though. I’m glad now that it’s there.

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