Back Into Gear

A carpet of wild flowers near the canal towpath

Well, we’re heading towards the end of August now, hubby’s birthday and a bank holiday looming, and the annual getting ready for a new school year ritual, which will be quite different this year. I’ll still have the battles over re-introducing a regular bedtime, cutting down tech time, and trying/buying new uniforms and shoes (an especial nightmare when one child’s sensory issues get worse each year!), so no change there! Having been out of school for 23 weeks up to press, it’s going to take a bit longer than previous years to establish new routines; it’s essentially going to be like school for the first time, but with children who are 13 and nearly 11 it could be interesting come September!

I’ve always loved the sense of new starts that September instils: as a child it was the only time of year I had a lot of new things all at once; it’s that anticipation of a new classroom and teacher at junior school, new timetables and maybe new faces at high school. As a parent, it’s been decades of seeing my own children suddenly more grown up with fresh haircuts, too-big, crisp uniforms, polished shoes (scuffed by the end of day 1!), after a summer of long hair, casual clothes, trainers or no shoes at all. Consequently, September is very often a new start for me, too. It’s been the time when I’ve had a new job, often in education to fit in with my children, or gone back to education myself. Because September is so much about new starts, these last couple of weeks in August are all about anticipation, preparation, and maybe tinged with some sadness as I realise that my littlies are another year older and wondering where the time went.

However, children do get older and go into new school years, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t also relish a bit of calm at home sometimes, when they head out for the day. It’s just those first few days, when you feel slightly abandoned and lonely at the same time. I think this September will be as hard for me as it will for my children; I’ve not had them at home with me for such a long spell since they were tiny, so I’m going to have a lot of adjusting to do, too. To help me cope with this, I’m planning some new things and changes for myself, or re-starting would be a more accurate word. I want to write much more, I have so many creative ideas for art pieces swirling around my mind, and I’m finally starting work with a graphics artist to create a proper logo for Yorkshire Wellies – watch this space! I’ll be starting on Christmas designs for cards, thinking about some bigger/more bespoke pieces, and maybe something a little more quirky.

The end of August also feels like a good time to look back a bit, to reflect on what we did over the summer months, ready to tell our friends when we go into those new settings, or as ice breakers when we nervously start that new job or college course. Obviously, this year has been markedly different: no summer holiday away from home, very few outings generally, no family get-togethers, no football (son) or running (me). So what did this spring and summer look like in the end? Well, my children are now a lot calmer overall, despite the angst generated by the X-box and so on, we’ve had some time outside for walks without having to clock-watch, and decorated my daughter’s bedroom, giving her the choices for colours and so on. I’ve read more books in this period than I have in a long time, and I’ve had time to really think about things (rather than rushing a decision or coming to the wrong conclusion because I didn’t mull it over long enough). I know my mental health has also taken a battering, I’ve had spells of being the worst I can remember for some time. Ironically, that’s when you need external help, yet there hasn’t been any due to lockdown! However, I’m still here; I’m a semi colon and not a full stop, so I’m thankful for that. Perhaps this long period without the usual rituals and rushing around has been a mixed blessing – time to relax and reflect can also bring up the less healthy stuff as well as giving you a breather, especially when you don’t have anyone to bounce off, so introspection leads you into a much more negative place without those balances often provided by friends’ perspectives. Yesterday, I went for a walk with a couple of friends; glorious sunshine and nearly 7 kilometres (just over 4 miles), really made my day, along with some great conversation!

All this greenery and space very close to the motorway on my walk yesterday!

As I began writing this morning, it was very wet and blustery, the temperature more like October, very back-endish as we say here, and feeling very much like the new term was fast approaching. I love this sort of weather as much as sunny days, though, makes it feel like a baking day, and we’ve run out of nibbles so baking it will be this afternoon! My pilates teacher, Jana, is doing a week of nourishing food ideas, helping us to work out what our bodes need as we get a little older, closer to the menopause, and needing different kinds of foods and minerals (see her Easy Summer Goddess post here). It’s helping me to re-focus on what’s good for me here and now, not just food, instead of looking inwards, backwards, or forwards too much and concentrating on what might be missing. At the other end of the fertility spectrum, my older daughter has just announced to the world that she’s expecting her second child, which is such fabulous news! It’s good to have something so positive to focus on, when the world’s been a little hard to live in for a while, and we’re all so excited for her, her partner and their son, who’s now got the important job of becoming a big brother!

Have a good week, and do let me know (via the comments) what your summer’s been like, and how you’re going to approach the end of it and the beginning of a new start in September!

One Step Forward, Two Back…

Have you ever had a period of time when you wanted/had planned to do various things, felt motivated to crack on with your plans, had the time and the resources, and then…just didn’t? You didn’t do any of those things, and even felt like you were suddenly in retreat without warning, like an army taking a huge step back from going over the trenches? Well, I’ve had one of those weeks and can only explain partly why I felt that way – terrible lack of sleep (muggy nights and too much head chatter), being busier than expected with other things, etc. – so I’m curious to find out why I sabotaged myself.

I feel like I’m at a crossroads for some reason, and that my car hasn’t just stalled but started up again and has reversed somewhat. My perfectionism and imposter syndrome have both reared their ugly heads, as has the old comparisonitis, which isn’t helping. In this frame of mind, I’ve been aimlessly wandering through Pinterest, ostensibly looking for art inspiration, and was curious to see things I hadn’t been searching for popping up – almost like little nudges to make me look at them. (Yes, I know it’ll be an algorithm, bear with me…)

These were comments along the lines of how feeling scared might be a signal that you’re subconsciously about to make a big decision, or suggesting that, out of any possible choices to make, the scariest might be the one that’s going to help you grow the most. Or the Tolkien quote (from the Lord of the Rings) that says, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us”. That last one reminded me of Mary Oliver’s poem, “The Summer Day”, which ends with this line…

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Maybe the universe has been trying its best to whisper, and it’s now starting to raise its voice as it feels I’m not paying attention? I mentioned last week that my friend, Juliet, had spoken of Oprah Winfrey’s recent podcast, where she describes exactly this. Listening to that podcast was one of the things I wanted to do, a whisper I didn’t pay attention to until yesterday (ironic, isn’t it?!). Best thing I did yesterday, hands down…

I’m going to take the time to listen to my whispers this week, to work out exactly what they’re telling me, before the whispers become the pebbles against the window (although I think that might already be happening!) or the “brick upside the head” that Oprah talks about! I know I shared the photo below last week, from my vision board, but today it feels even more apt – see, I bet these are some of the little whispers right there!

The other steps I’m going to take this week are literal ones – I’ve been very lazy regarding exercise recently so it feels like starting again. Maybe we can make a better habit from now on; aim for a daily walk instead of a half hearted one every now and then. Starting smaller, but more whole-heartedly, to regain our physical and mental health. We live on the edge of the most stunning countryside in the UK (but I am incredibly biased!), and it shames me that we’re not exploring it enough.

View from Castle Hill one frosty morning last November

We’ve several weeks before the children return to school, so plenty of time to create this good habit, and bring hubby along at the weekends. Creating a new family routine will be good for us, and walks together will give us tech-free time together. We could go to a different place each weekend of the year and still not have explored the whole of our county, so we have loads to go at! What are you doing this week? Have your plans materialised or been scuppered? What else could you do instead? Could you just sit in your stalled car, like I’ve done, enjoy the view from your open window, give the engine a break and then re-start it to continue your journey? Let me know in the comments, and get yourselves outside into the glorious weather!

Summer Breeze

Hello again, welcome to August and belated happy Yorkshire Day from my little corner of it! August weather is different from July; it feels fuller, somehow, like it’s breathing more deeply whilst there are still long days filled with light. The days can be warm and close, nights not much different unless there’s a breeze. These days instantly bring to mind Seals’ and Crofts’ song, ‘Summer Breeze‘; even if we don’t grow jasmine in Yorkshire you can close your eyes and almost smell it.

I’ve spent quite a lot of time outdoors this week with those summer breezes, which has been wonderful despite the raging hayfever that’s the payoff! A group of us from our WOW Wednesday accountability group met up at Yorkshire Sculpture Park on the day it re-opened (Wednesday, very apt!), and it was so good to see them in real life, instead of via a computer screen. I even managed to get to my 10,000 daily steps in well before tea time! I’ve really let that daily target slip a lot during lockdown, and felt quite anxious about not meeting it for a while (all the “shoulds” trying to bubble up to the surface!). I let go of that sooner than expected, a sign to me that I’m realising that some of these things that we beat ourselves up about don’t matter that much in the grand scheme of things.

WOW Wednesday on tour!

I spent a chunk of Saturday afternoon in the garden, pruning the apple tree back and other tidying jobs. I know, I know, winter’s the time for pruning fruit trees, but it had become a real liability to itself and that part of the garden, so the deed was done. We filled a large shopping bag with the apples that were worth saving (big enough and not eaten or bruised), so some good has come out of the ruthless cut. There are also some bigger twiggy branches saved for kindling next winter. I feel there’s a parallel here with the way you might choose to cut stuff out of your life that’s not serving you well, in order to make your life healthier for you; the pruning may hurt, and makes things look and feel worse for a time, but you come back stronger, bearing more fruit, and having deeper roots to weather storms, just like my apple tree. Have you noticed anything like this if you’ve made what a drastic change somewhere in your life? Let me know how it felt, and whether it led to permanent changes for you.

Before the chop…
…and after!

I’m currently reading ‘The Source’ by Dr Tara Swart as part of my ongoing revamp of my life; it’s an excellent read that sits half way between a scientific book on how the brain works and a coaching/self improvement book. As a psychologist, I find the neuroscience totally fascinating, and it’s well-blended with examples from her practice, and ways to put this knowledge into action in your own life. She talks about brain plasticity, how your brain is still capable of change at any age, it’s not just the province of babies and children. Dr Swart suggests ways to practise stretching your brain in order to effect positive change amongst its neurons which, in turn, can affect your life as a whole, thus enabling you to change any areas in which you feel you are lacking. I’m aware that I’ve previously mentioned books I’ve read and courses I’m following, and it might come across as all theory and no action. My friend, Juliet, of The Curious Creative Club, once told me it was time to do less reading and more ‘doing’ (think I’ve said that before, too, memory of a goldfish!), and I am ‘doing’ as much as I’m reading, it just takes time and I’m daring greatly in little ways for now. I’d love to hear about any books you’ve read that you found profound, meaningful, or plain helpful in any way; I’m always looking out for my next good read!

I’ve got a few hours a week delivering for a local florist (another way of being outdoors), which means I have to talk to complete strangers when I deliver their flowers, which is a big thing for me. Maybe showing up needn’t be the grand things you see your friends doing; maybe, for now, it’s getting comfortable talking to strangers, going to unfamiliar places, doing things just outside your comfort zone instead of miles outside of it, until you’re ready to up the ante. Michelle Cowan, a fellow WOW Wednesday-er and sales/growth expert, has introduced me to an up-and-coming graphic designer (another ‘stranger’ for me to talk to!) to work with on a logo for Yorkshire Wellies. This enterprise will be more than a blog before long, so I’d like a new identity for it all, and it’s exciting and scary in equal measures!

As part of improving/changing parts of my life, I had blood tests done yesterday for coeliac disease and iron deficiency – prompted by my suspicion of problems tolerating wheat-based foods and other issues. Coeliac disease runs in my family, so it’s worth doing. I’ve felt quite poorly over the last few weeks because of eating so much bread and pasta, it’s such a relief to cut it out again – roll on plenty of ‘real’ food! Summer’s a good time for me to get into the habit of eating well, when I fancy salad, fish, veg, and loads of water. I feel so much better when I eat this way – more alert, less lethargic, and generally better all round. Consequently, I feel more positive mentally, more creative, and much more open to change and new ventures. I’m also taking advice from another WOW member, Sue Salmon, a medical herbalist, on how to improve my gut health, which brings me neatly back to Tara Swart who speaks about gut instinct or that inner voice, as does Juliet in her recent blog post. I’m ready to listen to my inner whispers again, and get out my paints, find a book to write in, or finally get going with my sewing machine again – can’t wait!

What are you going to do with your August? Have you managed to book a little holiday somewhere, are you taking a break from working from home, or maybe you’re going to do a bit of life stocktaking and look ahead just into the autumn? Do let me know!!

Blue Yorkshire skies!