Dear Self: Start Living The Dream.

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It’s 2am as I write this, which means you can make the safe assumption that Jet Lag is still making me her bitch. Recent Google searches this past 24 hours have included; ‘can jet lag kill you?’ ‘jet lag feel terrible’ ‘how to make jet lag go away’.

It hasn’t helped.

The thing about jet lag is that I’ve had stacks of time to think (and play on Tinder, but that’s another story). What I haven’t had stacks of time to do is absolutely anything productive whatsoever because my brain is mush and I’ve been busy burying my face in my childrens’ necks after being apart from them for a week. Even on occasion at 2am which I’ll admit is kind of creepy, but then again there’s nothing like the smell of your kid’s neck. Sorry/not sorry.

So I’ve been thinking about next steps. It’s all well and good making big declarations as I have – sticking it to The Man to follow my dreams of independence, travel, and happiness. But as I was handing in notice, preparing to go to New York and thinking about turning 30 I didn’t really anticipate what would happen on my return home. When real life hit. And now I’m back I guess I really have to start doing that. But exactly how do you turn your dreams into reality?

Jet lag has been providing me with answers. Kind of…

I’ve worked out that my first step should be to define exactly what your dreams are. Great! So this is the bit I bore you with mine ;)

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BUSINESS! So, one of my dreams is to expand my business and to build on what’s already there to create a successful, knowledgeable marketing consulting machine. Fine. I’ve had a Brooklyn fried chicken-induced brainstorm over a company name and mission statement so we’re well on our way there (though none of them were approved by Kirsty, my business advisor extraordinaire…).

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WRITING! But I want the sum of what I do to be more than a Marketing Consultancy. Blogging has been such a huge part of my life for so long and I feel like by going corporate work-wise a year ago I lost my way a bit. You can’t really blog the intimacies of your divorce or vagina while you’re working for a global corporation now, can you?

No more! I am finding myself again in these pages and on your screen. I’m going to re-discover my mojo and write, write, write about finding love (haven’t yet, don’t get your hopes up) and being brave and what motherhood is all about and everything that interests me in between. I’m going to treat my website like one of my clients’ and look at it critically, making it the best it can be. And I’m really excited about that.

Cool, so that’s the work life sorted.

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CHILLING! I’m going to slow down. So much of my life is run at 100mph – I’m always finding myself getting cross with slow drivers, slow walkers, slow check out cashiers. I need to chill the fuck out, calm myself down and realise that a life led at a slower speed is much more enjoyable. And healthy!

Speaking of healthy I want to be well, in mind, body and spirit. Which means gym, yoga, meditation, green juices. In my 30s I’m turning into an organic spirulina-swilling meditating health fan and I am really happy about it so there.

I’ll still drink wine, though.

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MY BABIES! I’m going to make more time for my children. This whole life-changing exercise is about them, really. I want them to know I am around to be whatever they need me to be, at any time they need me to be it. In our house a happy stress-free mummy = happy kids and the effect on them when I’m spending time at home without a work-panicked, stressed and furrowed brow is palpable. I’m going to be present for them as much as I can and do everything for their happiness.

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INSPIRATION! I’m going to read. Not just the unread stack of books under my bead but blogs, papers, twitter feeds. It is so good for the soul and I miss the feel of beautiful words on my eyeballs, I really do. I miss being inspired and I am going to look especially to my fellow women (Laura! Emma! Lena Dunham!) to do that for me.

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TRAVEL! I want to spend my child-free time experiencing the other side of the world. Or Europe. Or the country. Whatever, I just want to push myself outside of my geographical comfort zone and explore new places. And even sometimes do this with the children.

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In one of my favourite quotes from Girls – which I have been watching a lot of in my dozy sleepless haze – Hannah Horvath says that she may be the voice of a generation. Or at least a voice. Of a generation. Is this not true for everyone? I think we all have voices, even if we’re not quite sure what we’re meant to use them for.

My voice may have got told to SHHHHHHHHH last week by a gobby New Yorker who then gave me the finger in a Mexican restaurant (she had a point. I was loud and obnoxiously singing The Smiths), but it is metaphorically going to be speaking up way more from now on.

Let’s speak up and live our dreams, yeah?

 

Who Wants To Be a (Boots Points) Millionaire?

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I must go in a Boots store at least once a week. I remember it from when I was spending my very first wages from my very first job as a pot washer in the pub in the next village. I earned the princely sum of £3.00 an hour – I can still see the orange eyeshadow palette I bought from No7 that autumn. It ROCKED.

My tastes have moved on a bit since then but my Boots loyalty has not. It’s one of those safe places on the high street where you know exactly what you’re going to get and what it’s going to cost – like John Lewis or Pizza Express. When I was in New York last week (did I mention I’d been to New York? I feel like I’ve hardly discussed it ;) I felt comforted to find a Boots aisle right in the middle of a Duane Reed pharmacy… a little bit of unexpected England slap-bang in the centre of Williamsburg.

One of my favourite things to do at Boots is to save up my Advantage Card points until I have ridonkulous amounts and then splash out on something I wouldn’t usually buy myself. I’m one of those people who closely monitors the advantage card points offers, pouncing when there’s a 500 bonus for a high spend or 100 extra points for toothpaste Today I received 350 extra points for buying a St Tropez product that had been already reduced from £14.50 to £9: I felt like I’d won the lottery!

Boots are currently running the chance of a treat of a lifetime for Advantage Card holders; one lucky user of the Advantage card app is going to become a Boots millionaire, winning 1,000,000 Boots points, worth £10,000! To celebrate this they’ve asked me to have a think about what I’d spend a million Boots points on.

This was not a difficult task.

The last time I splashed out using my points I bought a really fancy Kent hairbrush. I love the fact you can do this – it feels like guilt-free splurging. Carrying on the hair theme, if I was a Boots millionaire I’d look at buying new curling tongs and a lifetime supply of Moroccan Oil.

I love the range of brands Boots stock and my favourites run from Essie to Clinique, Soap and Glory to Clarins. Clinique’s bonus time is a double whammy for me as you can get points AND freebies, and I’d use my million points to purchase every single one of their chubby sticks. I’d also head to Molton Brown for hand soap and cream, followed by Essie for thousands of nail polishes.

I’d treat the kids too, of course (probably) – I love the clothes in Boots’ Mini Club range and then I’d buy a lifetime supply of nighttime nappies because those things are expensive.

If you want to take part all you have to do is download the Boots App then go to ‘my offers’ before 4th August – check back on 19th August to see what you’ve been treated to!

What would you buy if you became a Boots points millionaire?

The Vagisil Blush Index #endembarrassment

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Not my vagina but the closest you’ll ever get to it

I’m going to start this post off by saying that I have literally no problem in talking about intimate things with my friends. And sometimes not even my friends. When meeting some rather nice men in a rooftop bar in Brooklyn last week my buddy and I were told that we probably don’t have boyfriends because we were too open. How can you be too open?! Ok, yes, we were probably too open for Americans. But that’s British gals for you.

I wasn’t always this way. I used to be a proper get-changed-under-my-swim-towel kind of woman. But now I happily get it all out at the gym, the doctors, wherever they let me, really. Smear test? Let’s go! Topless beach? No problem!

I think I first became comfortable-ish with my body when Elfie was born and I realised just how many people have to see your hoo-hah before a baby can come out of it. One of my lasting memories from that birth was a midwife telling me while I was still in theatre that they would have to pop a little tablet up my bum for one reason or another; I said “ooh actually, I’d rather you didn’t “ and she was like, yeah, too late missy. That was the moment I realised that embarrassment when it comes to my intimate areas is pretty much an outdated and irrelevant concept.

Vagisil recently spoke to 2,000 British women about their attitudes and embarrassment towards the subject of intimate health and I have to say that, even for someone who was too shy to get a pants-off bikini wax until after her first child was born, I was quite surprised. Nearly half (47%) of British women Vagisil spoke to felt embarrassed when the word ‘vagina’ came up in conversation) and nearly one third admitted to never speaking to their GP about an intimate health problem.

I get this – it can be really difficult to speak to people about what’s going on in your pants. But how can we move to being embarrassed about our intimate health to feeling happy WhatsApping our friends to ask “do you think this is cystitis or thrush?” (sidenote: if you’re my friends, you’ll know).

It’s really sad that 70% of the women surveyed blamed the media for the way we feel about our bodies. We’re expected to be these smooth Barbie doll models of perfection and really, who hasn’t felt slightly wistful when watching the hairless and seemingly vagina-less gazelles that masquerade as Victorias Secret models? I know I have. I bet Karlie Kloss has never texted Taylor Swift to check is she has cystitis or thrush (OR HAS SHE?!).

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Vagisil is on a mission to end the embarrassment that exists around intimate health, and do something about the issue – something I’m all for.

Dr Becky Spelman, Registered Psychologist at Private Therapy Clinic, advises: “Look at it rationally – accept that everybody is fallible and nobody is perfect no matter how they might appear on the surface. Every woman has her own genitals and this is natural.”

I challenge you to not look at the next woman you come across without thinking about the fact they have genitals ;)

If you’re finding it hard to address an intimate issue with a health professional and need some advice, see the below from Dr Spelman:

“You could ask yourself ‘what’s the worst thing that could happen?’ Then sit with that feeling, if it seems too much try breathing in through the nose for 3 seconds and then slowly out through the mouth, focusing on the feeling of the breath. This should give the feeling of embarrassment a chance to subside.”

We’re all human beings; Gisele’s had two kids so I’d fully expect her to have her own pelvic floor issues.

Let’s #endembarrassment and talk about vaginas!

Big thanks to Vagisil for sponsoring me to write about my vagina when I probably would have done it for free ;) 

Slowing Down For Summer Good Times

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Today is the first day of my summer. I write this at home, at my work desk, looking into the garden. Which is something I can do now I am no longer tied to an office; I can write from my kitchen table or sofa or the coffee shop round the corner. In pants or PJs or belly tops, not dry clean-only dresses and heels that pinch. Freedom!

School isn’t over for another couple of days so I’ve been feeling like I should take stock. My life has been so busy and completely exhausting these last few months and I know I always say that. But this time I have intentions to change. I think it’s good to be busy and active, feel accomplished and get things done, but I’d quite like to stop for a little while. Slow down, be more of a mother, write more. Remember what I want to do, not what I feel obligated to do.

That’s what our summer is going to be about. Mothering and fun. With a bit of travel and friends and food and drink and experiences. And work, because those school shoes don’t buy themselves, but work on my terms rather than anyone else’s.

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Do you remember what your first memory was? I do. It was my fifth birthday party and I remember the cat cake, the bouncy castle and the magician. It was Elfie’s fifth birthday last week and I want her to have happy memories from now onwards – I don’t want her to remember her mum being rushed and stressed, not being able to read to her because she was taking work phone calls late into the evening. So the brakes are going on, I’m officially slowing down.

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SUMMER. Summer is my favourite, it always has been. As a child summer meant sandy trips to Bournemouth, the paddling pool, our Ragley Hall season ticket, garden football matches. Summer meant outdoors and fresh air and long evenings playing with friends until the sun went down. (Summer also means my birthday. Hooray, birthdays!)

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A few weeks ago pre-Britmums I went for breakfast with the team behind summer at Boots. That sounds pretty grand, but yep, there really is a whole army of people there whose job it is to make summer safe and fun for us all! I always think Boots is a really special place. Like my old friend John Lewis it’s a British institution; I used to live and work down the road from them in their village-sized Nottingham head office and they are one of those brands I completely trust. Boots are all about families and making sure we have maximum fun – safely.

Our meeting wasn’t just about croissants and granola – we were there to learn more about how to stay happy this summer and it truly was an informative session. For example, did you know that the sweat glands on your feet can produce up to half a pint of fluid a day in hot conditions?! We got a chance to speak to the experts on some summer issues that affected us and our families and it was really really interesting and informative. Here were my important takeaways:

Hayfever

As a hayfever sufferer I’ve been feeling the effects of the pollen up til now which is something I take one-a-day tablets for, but I’d never thought to ask the advice of a pharmacist on what more I could do to help myself. When I say I suffer I mean I really suffer, there are days when my hayfever is just completely unbearable: snotty, sneezy, itchy ears and throat, blocked up head, lethargic. Up until now I’d just been getting on with it but the Boots pharmacist advised me that a nasal spray would be my best first defence against the pollen. This advice was literally life-changing, I’ve been using a nasal spray ever since and my discomfort is almost all gone.

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Sun protection

We all know how important it is to protect ourselves from the sun, but did you also know you can be exposed to UV rays when the weather is overcast? I didn’t! 40% of UV exposure occurs when you aren’t in direct sunlight so it’s mega important to wear sun cream throughout the season, even when you can’t see the sun.

I think it’s risky to wear anything less than factor 50 (overprotective mum alert) but if, like me, you still want a bit of colour then I’d recommend Boots Soltan Tan Prolonger aftersun. I use this every summer and it will give you a gorgeous natural glow.

Your eyes

Eyes are ten times more sensitive to UV damage than skin, so protecting them both is really important. Luckily my two love to wear sunglasses and getting them in shades as often as possible is vital – we keep a pair in the house for the garden and one in the car for when we’re out and about, too. At least this seems to be my excuse to pick up a new pair of Ray Bans for myself every time I’m within shopping distance of an airport…

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To celebrate #SummerGoodTimes Boots are helping us have an unforgettable family Summer experience in August. I’ve decided to re-create one of my favourite summertime activities; Bournemouth beach with my favourite people. Buckets and spades, the land train, Mr Whippy ice creams… I can’t wait to show my two how it’s done, British summer-style ;)

What are your summer tips?

 

Going Balls To The Wall, Learning How To Fail and Other Life Lessons From Thailand

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I’m going to start this story with another story, which is surely how all the best stories begin.

When I went to Thailand a couple of months ago I had the absolute pleasure of crossing paths with Laura, someone I’d known on Twitter for yonks and yonks. We’d be in Bangkok for 24 hours at the same time and had never managed to meet up in London so we agreed to hang out on the other side of the world. Casual.

Now, Laura’s blog is one of a few that I love. She lays bare her heart and her head in stories of raw, true human emotional experience and emotion. Some of it resonates and ALL of it prompts me to think and for that I adore her words. So I was looking forward to meeting her, sharing the life experiences I know we’d had in common and getting to know each other better.

I’m sure Laura won’t mind that I describe her as a force of nature. She is HERE, she is PROUD, she know what she wants and she ain’t afraid to get it. As soon as I met Laura we got into one of those conversations that is just so intensely interesting that I remember wishing more than once that I had a pen and paper to write down the golden nuggets of truth she was telling me (over pints of £1 Thai beers, natch).

In the last year I’ve had a personal motto, and that is JFDI. Just fucking do it. Because if you want to do something you should – life is too short and uncertain not to. Laura embodies this motto, she goes where her heart takes her, falls in love with abandon, tries new things, puts herself in uncertain situations… because what is life about if not that?

I walked away from my 5 hours with Laura feeling indestructible (and more than a little pissed, it has to be said). I’m so sure of what I want out of life but I have to admit that I’m still a little wobbly on how to get there, but Laura made me focus on what I want: cut the crap, balls to the wall, just fucking do it.

I want to travel, I want to meet new people, I want to write, I want to make people happy with my cooking, I want to be the healthiest I can be, I want to train, I want to work hard, I want security for my family. That’s what I want, and I will always love Laura for giving me the courage to  be proud of that. In the hours I spent with Laura she allowed me to summarise and process the changes I went through experiencing rural N.E. Thailand and converted that into ways I could live my life moving forward.

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On to the story part of my story.

Six weeks ago I was offered a promotion that was so very unexpected. I’d been working freelance as an Account Director at a Marketing agency and they asked me to come on permanently to take on their Head of Marketing role. I was stoked. I’d have a team, lots of great clients, autonomy, fiscal responsibility… it was a huge deal. I basked in the glory of my new job for a while – I’d worked so hard for the last few years, why not? – and got on with the job in hand.

Full-on is not the word. This was the challenge of all challenges. The Marketing team at the agency had gone through many recent personnel changes, there were difficult and time-consuming situations that needed resolving and I was leading projects that I had little experience in. Having worked in digital almost since I designed my first website 15 years ago it was odd to look at physical flyers with print lead times, traditional marketing plans, campaigns that didn’t have websites or Twitter or Facebook at their core. I felt out of my depth which is something I haven’t experienced in years. I was working my arse off, 70 hours a week at one point, but the job was never done. When I worked for myself I was always confident that I’d done the best job possible but working in a business when you’re responsible not only for your own actions but those of a team was hard – I was answerable for everyone’s work, not just my own.

I really loved the job. It was challenging, exciting, all-encompassing. But tough, TOUGH. I started feeling more stressed than I think I ever have, didn’t sleep well, was unconsciously grinding my teeth, developed palpitations. I was rushing around from pillar to post, neglecting my friends and becoming snappy with the children. Our house was a state because I just didn’t have time to clean and one week I ate cucumber for breakfast four days in a row because I hadn’t visited a supermarket in weeks. I was so tired that I became reliant on an afternoon pickup from those tubs of M&S Caramel Crispy Bites (I don’t do coffee). I’d be at work all day, pick up the children, put them to bed then get back to work until bedtime. It was relentless. Enjoyable but relentless.

And so I had one moment last Wednesday at about 11.30pm when I received an email I didn’t really want to receive and I burst into tears. My first thought was, “I really don’t want to do this anymore” and then my second thought was “so don’t do it anymore, idiot”.

Doh.

I’ll admit my pride was a bit hurt at the thought I’d tried really bloody hard at this job and just didn’t have the mental, emotional or physical capacity to see it through but in the end logic won. It would have been easier to keep trucking on with my lovely big reliable salary and impressive job title as I slowly descended into a pool of my own stress-related mentalness but I thought back to my time with Laura and realised this is not what I want. This is not something that makes me want to go balls to the wall. I want to do what I’m good at, be in charge of my own destiny, work in an area I feel real passion and a connection for (that’s you, internet).

Plus, come on. I’m a single mother of a 3 and 4 year old, it’s hardly realistic to be working 70 hours a week now, is it?

So this is me stepping outside the box, apologising for following my head and not my heart, for choosing money and security over what I truly love. I feel like I’m back in control of my own destiny and making that decision on my own feels really wonderful.

And I share this story because I want to say thank-you. Thank-you to Laura who puts her own self out there to help other people see they can do it (and you can read her own personal story about why it’s OK to quit here). Thank-you to the Universe for the series of events that led me to feel empowered enough to make this decision (that’s the biggest fucking hippie sentence I’ve ever written, right there). Thank-you to my mum who has held my own personal fort down and looked after my children while I’ve been living the stressed-out corporate dream. Thank-you to my friends who haven’t forgotten about me while I’ve drifted off into this period of craziness.

I also share this because I think it’s important to realise we don’t have to do what others expect us to do. We can take the road less travelled and discover that path is much happier. As Laura says, go balls to the wall… it’s a great way to take steps towards finding your happiness.

Internet, I am back. And by god have I missed you.

How To Become A Morning Person

How to become a morning person

There aren’t many things I would change about myself A slightly smaller nose, maybe? A speedier metabolism, or hair that isn’t quite so unruly, perhaps?

NO.

One thing I have always been unhappy with is the struggle I face each and every morning to get out of bed. I am not, nor have I ever been, a morning person. Waking up is literally the worst part of my day and I’d do anything to make it easier to get up and at ’em in the mornings. And as the mother of an early riser (5.50am today, WOOHOOH) this does NOT work at all.

I’ve been trying to think of how to describe just how excruciating it feels to wake up: OK so that might be over-egging it a bit, but it really is tough. My brain feels like it’s stuck in syrup, I can’t open my eyes and the only thought I have revolves around going back to sleep. SLEEP, lovely sleep. It literally seems to take me at least half an hour to get over this feeling and it just feels horrible. Is it like this for everyone, or just me?

After 29 years of being me I know my body clock. I’m a night owl and if left to its own devices my body would sleep at midnight and wake up about 8am. This is what happens when the children stay with their Dad, but when they’re at home I revert to going to sleep at midnight and rising at god-knows-what-hour. So I usually get six hours of sleep (usually interrupted) – not enough.

After four years of being fairly sleep deprived (I know I know, I never mention it, you’d never know) I’ve decided to take charge a bit more and work on getting a better quality sleep in each night – and more of it. I’ve done extensive research (i.e. Googled the hell out of this) and have come up with some guidelines to follow over the next week or so to really try and feel more human in the mornings. An experiment, if you like.

I’d love to know how your nights and mornings go: do you feel like you get enough good-quality sleep? Let me know if you have any help on this journey of sleep discovery…

How To Become A Morning Person

Switch off devices

On a usual evening I will be on my iMac, my MacBook, my iPad, Apple TV and one or both of my iPhones (work/home), right up until I go to sleep. It’s a terrible thing but the sidebar of shame really seems to help me drift off. I work a lot in the evenings and need to start limiting screen time so I can switch off and get my brain ready to sleep. I’m making 10pm the device curfew and will turn off everything at this time.

Go to bed (doh)

Do you have a bedtime? I need a bedtime. 10pm is going to be the nominated time I’ll turn the house off and go upstairs to get ready for bed. And no dawdling, either: teeth, face, pjs.

Read

Pre-kids I’d get through three books a week, easy. I loved reading and I miss the way a good book makes you feel – I’ve forgotten how a good book makes you feel! I’m going to make every effort when I get into bed at just-past-10pm to spend at least 20 minutes reading a book in the hopes it’ll help me relax. I even bought a new reading light to help!! So I’m obviously destined for success.

Tidy up

I pretty much do this anyway, but I really don’t like getting up to an untidy house. I’ll make sure the house is sparkling before I go to bed, the thought of which will entice me up out of bed.

Prepare, prepare, prepare

It’s really hectic when you have to fill school bags, make lunch, sponge-clean school clothes (we’ve all been there, sodding stealth yoghurt stains) and hunt for water bottles before you get in the car in the morning. I will do all this the night before.

GET UP

When Elfie wakes me up pre-6am I send her back to bed to read books (hoping this will train her to just stay in bed one day. I am very optimistic). I then lie in bed, not going back to sleep, just waiting to get up. Meditating (well, you know, not meditating). Thinking about how good sleep feels. It’s kind of a waste of time and I really should just get the hell up and start the day rather than just prolong the agony.

And that’s when my inspiration ended and I Googled ‘how to get up in the morning’. I found this article which was almost completely useless because 50% of the points revolve around an alarm clock and my alarm clock has arms, legs and answers to the name of Elfie. She does not respond well to being placed on the other side of the room.  

So come on, give me some inspo! How can I be better in the mornings? Blog world, you are my last hope.