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?

 

You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby

 

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The last time I took a picture like this it was a very different situation. I was 27 and off to visit my best friend in New York because my marriage had ended. Just like here I snapped my suitcase and handbag on my bed all ready for me to drive down to Heathrow, full of excitement, trepidation and shoes.

I didn’t write much about what was going on then because really… what do you say? I didn’t quite believe myself that a 9 year relationship was coming to an end and even if I tried couldn’t tell you what I was feeling. My whole adult life had been spent with one man; we’d grown up together, had two children together, built a life together yet had become increasingly unhappy together. It wasn’t supposed to happen like that – I was distraught, confused, heartbroken, scared. I needed head space so I made a last-minute decision to visit one of my oldest friends in the states.

Boarding that plane felt strange. I’d been tied to someone for such a long time – emotionally and legally – and I didn’t know if we would still be bound in this way once I got back to England. It was the first time I’d been on a plane alone or travelled alone and it felt like it was the beginning of me getting to know myself.

As it turned out that trip was the making of me. I arrived scared and wary of what might lie ahead but somewhere in the steam and skyscrapers of New York I found who I’d grown up to be in that past decade. My joie de vivre and sparkle returned and I came home knowing what was about to happen. Not just knowing; at peace with the decision. I knew our story would end in divorce.

It’s been two and a half years since that trip and it hasn’t been easy. It’s been overwhelmingly surprising to discover how difficult divorce is. Who knew, right? Divorce isn’t one long Caribbean holiday!! What an awakening.

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I expected the devastation to ease off over time but that’s not how it works. In a situation like mine that was so amicable it can seem quite senseless and take a long time to get your head round why this is happening to you. Don’t get me wrong – we did the right thing and having my time again I would always choose the path of divorce – but the lack of having someone to blame in the situation has been harder than you might think. There’s been foot stamping, crying, happy days, sad days. I might have uttered the phrase “it’s not fair” once or twice. It gets better, it does.

And so a week ago I boarded another plane. It felt only right that for the occasion of turning 30, another seminal life event, I did it in the place that was previously so important in helping steer my destiny. But I didn’t buckle up feeling lost, wounded or unsure this time. This was a whole new (American) ball game.

Divorce leaves many things in its wake and I can truly say now, two and a half years on, that over here contentment and happiness is one of them. Because of what I have been through I work harder, am less selfish, love more, sleep less (sad face), am braver, more thoughtful. It really is all good. It’s a pain in the arse situation to have to go through – love is supposed to be for life, not just a decade – and the paperwork is insane ;) I will forever be heartbroken that my children will grow up without their father living in the same house as them but nobody plans for this to happen. This time travelling to New York I knew exactly who I was going out there and who I was going to be coming back (horrendously jetlagged for a start…).

You’re not getting off with me turning 30 this easy – there will be many more reflections coming your way in the next few days. But for now just be proud that I’ve written 700 words about divorce and growth that began with a photo of a suitcase and haven’t once referred to my emotional baggage.

I thank you.

Blogging Is Weird (But We Love It)

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The blogging world is a weird one.

It’s like school. It’s a bit cliquey sometimes, we all have the groups that we seem to slot in to and if you’re a new arrival it might take you a while to fit in. Sometime there are fallings out – you say something that upsets a friend, or a friend of a friend of a friend, and things get a bit odd (which to be honest is how I have felt after writing this). There are the bloggers who have been there for a long time – they’re the ones on the back seat of the bus who you go to when you need to ask an advanced question about WordPress (who am I kidding? Most of these back-seat-bus bloggers are on SquareSpace now). There are also the cool bloggers, the smoking behind the bike shed bloggers.

Sometimes I don’t know where I fit in.

I have been blogging for a loooooong 15 years and have never seen such a saturated blogging community as we have now. Sometimes it feels like we’re all in a crowded room at a party, trying to shout, make our voices heard above the rest. It sometimes feels difficult to find your space, find your voice.

I’ve always said that the main reason I blog is because I enjoy it and I never want to forget that – I want to stay true to why I began; to record my family’s life and to give myself a voice. Not for the money or the notoriety or the freebies. For the love. And sometimes the shouting gets tiring. I shout enough at home.

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Having not blogged for the last few weeks has been weird; I’ve truly missed it, missed you, the people who read my blog, missed everything about it. I’ll be back soon to tell you the story of how I’m becoming the next Sheryl Sandberg in the time I used to use for blogging (if SS was a Single Mother Marketing Director from Milton Keynes innit) but in the meantime I’m still here – figuring out my place, working like an animal, mothering like Maria Von Trapp.

I’m off to BritMums with the lovely Boots lot tomorrow and I’m excited to feel inspired again, see some of my favourites in this lovely shouty blogging world who will give me the kick up the bum to remember why I love it so much.

See you on the other side!

A Catch-Up Mind Dump. You’re Welcome.

The thing about sharing your life a couple of times a week through your computer is that if something happens and you’re unable to do it for a while it just becomes harder and harder to get back on to it. Your list of ‘things I want to tell that bunch of virtual strangers’ becomes almost insurmountable as you try to prioritise exactly which recent life event you want to broadcast first. Cos I’m sure you’ve all been waiting with baited breath for the next update… ;)

You can blame my radio silence on EE for thoroughly ballsing up the transfer of my broadband service to them (four and a half weeks I’ve been without my lifeline, FOUR AND A HALF WEEKS), my new job for being amazing but for making me so tired I have no words left in my head come 7pm and the children for being children and demanding things like food and attention from me, the little life suckers.

Shall we do a quick life update so I can pick up where I left off? Yes, let’s.

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So the work is great, and even though I’m doing five days a week I’m no more tired/stressed/mental than when I was working four. I don’t miss the commute into London but still get to go in to the big city a couple of times a week so it’s all-round perfect, really. The environment of the ad agency is just wonderful – full of creative and inspirational people – and I genuinely look forward to going to work every day. I get to drop the kids off at school and there’s nothing like knowing I’m only down the road from them. Oh, and FREE BREAKFAST. I basically have it all. Along with a new addiction to coffee.

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Elfie is loving school, loving it. Every day (usually when I’m tottering up the driveway to her classroom clutching book bags and water bottles 5 mins late as per) I feel thankful for choosing such a wonderful place for her to learn. She’s becoming a very opinionated assertive little thing (definite future CEO) and I’d say Reception Year is doing a great job of bringing out the best in her.

Hux is Hux and is adorable. He’s a little monkey, obsessed with his Woody toy and any time he has an item of new clothing (“MUMMY BUY NEW JUMPER FROM THE SHOP!! NEW DINOSAUR PANTS!!” repeat ad infinitum). In a nutshell they are the perfect children, the odd tantrum in Waitrose excluded (thanks Hux, that was well embarrassing).

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It’s most definitely not summer anymore. I’m pretty crushed about that. I’ve been putting the colder weather to good use though and have been to IKEA twice. And I bought a Christmas present!! In October!!

I was dating someone and then I wasn’t. Joined Tinder for 24 hours for the self-esteem boost and got thoroughly depressed at the state of people on Tinder. Swore off relationships for a while to focus on work and writing but as you may have noticed I haven’t been writing, so make of that what you will… ;) I tell you what though, whoever said that the best things happen when you aren’t looking for them was absolutely right.

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This winter I really want to get more done, you know? Better myself a little – do things I’m proud of. Cook more, read more, drink less, work hard, save up, enjoy my friends, laugh a lot. 2012 was tough, 2013 was better, 2014 has been a vast improvement and I’m SO. EXCITED for what’s in store; everyone in my house is happy and we all have so much to look forward to. I’ve been feeling like I should do something to mark it, like get a tattoo, but because I’m terrified of tattoos I’ll probably just buy a new pair of shoes and write about it. LIVING THE DREAM.

Let’s not leave it so long next time, eh? I have so much I want to write about – becoming a feminist (yeah, I think that happened…), getting back into the workplace as a mum, these great new mugs I bought, my new utility cupboard, solo parenting 2 years in, my new role models (Sheryl Sandberg! Bryony Gordon! Lena Dunham! Girl Power!). Oh what did I say? Yeah, living the dream.

The Life And Times Of A Working Mum

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6am: alarm goes off. I swear like a sailor because really this is way too early for any human to be awake. Hi, I am not a morning person, nice to meet you.

6.15am: the latest possible time I can drag myself up out of bed. Get in the shower before the kids stir which usually wakes Elfie up. Make a cup of tea while I’m heating up milk for them (obviously never have time to drink it). Wake Hux up with milk and have a cuddle. Start the daily debate over exactly which dress Elfie will wear. This can take a while and usually involves a drawn-out debate touching on the finer points of how Queen Elsa dresses.

6.45am: get myself dressed while Elfie and Hux either argue (and sneeze) over the iPad or perform an impromptu stage show in their bedroom. I have never been allowed to watch the show; Elfie says it’s not for mummy, it’s for ‘the people’. I have to step over ‘the people’ to get into their room. Get the kids dressed and downstairs because then we have a small hope of grabbing breakfast before we leave. Attempt some make-up, check the kids’ nursery bags have everything they need (sun hats, coats, spare clothes, baby wipes, sun cream, nappies, kitchen sinks…) and my work bag has everything I need (Oyster card, notebook, phone charger, train entertainment, purse).

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7.30am: leave the house for the 15 min drive to nursery. Depending on whether or not we’ve had time for a ‘proper’ breakfast the kids munch on bananas, breadsticks and shreddies. Try not to feel so guilty as at nursery they’ll have toast and fruit at 9.30. Hux never too excited for his mum to leave him with his teachers though I know as soon as I go he enjoys playing with his friends. Elfie slightly more excited but not as much as at term-time which is when she gets to spend an hour or so at Gagi and Papa’s: they give her bacon and egg for breakfast. Bacon and eggs > playing in a sandbox. Fair enough.

8.22am: I board my train to London having had a chat with my favourite car parking money man. Sometimes I buy a cup of tea but I’ve spilt boiling hot liquids on two different commuters in the last three months so… yeah. Depending on how tired I am I either work, sleep, read or watch Mock The Week on my iPad. I enjoy how the LOLing at the comedy disconcerts the other commuters.

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9.10am: pull into London. It’s crazy how you position yourself on the train affects your ongoing journey; I always sit at the front of the train so I can beat the crowd, otherwise you can be stuck on the platform for five minutes. The escalator down to the Northern Line at Euston isn’t working at the moment which is a big fat pain in my arse and adds an extra three minutes onto my precious short journey.

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9.30am: Old Street. Power walk to the office in Shoreditch and catch up on overnight blog posts from the world of interiors. Check Twitter and Facebook feeds (for IKEA, not for me, duh I already did that on the train ;). Make sure there’s great content lined up that day to share on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. I don’t have time to eat breakfast at home so I either have a green juice from POD, porridge from Pret or some Kale and Apple juice from Waitrose. This is me trying to cling on to some sense of healthy diet in the face of a million croissants.

10am: department heads meeting, catching up with what’s going on with the production of the magazine and how the Social Media activity can support it. Earlier on this month I helped Homes Editor Jo co-ordinate a storage makeover and shoot at the home of one of my favourite New York bloggers which was really exciting.

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10.30am: catch up on emails, have a bit of a chat with followers on Twitter. Check on how my targets are looking for the month and compare with my strategy.

1pm: I try not to eat lunch at 11.30 but it’s a challenge. I either walk to either Itsu or Pret and return to eat at my desk while perusing blog posts. If it’s a nice day I go to sit in the park and on Fridays visit Whitecross Street Market – YUM. I like lunch.

2pm: more meetings. I’m working on a couple of really fun projects at the moment – one is monitoring how the rest of the 31 countries in Europe are using our content – so it’s time to catch everyone up on where I’m at with them. Elfie and Hux’s nursery send little videos of what they did that day and they’re with my mum at that point so we have a lovely chat. Apart from that one time I discovered they had Hand, Foot and Mouth disease… that wasn’t so lovely.

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4pm: review how the Social Media posts have been received that day and have a peruse of IKEA’s Pinterest account.

5.20pm: tie up any last-minute emails or issues before hometime. On Wednesdays the kids’ dad comes to put them to bed so I’ll pop for a burger and a glass of wine with a friend or Mr Alice, otherwise it’s straight back to Eustom for the 6.13 train.

7pm: arrive back into Milton Keynes station. It’s a 15 minute drive to pick up the kids from my parents’, then back home for bedtime. Once a week I’ll hang around with them for a chat and a glass of wine while Elfie and Hux run riot in the garden. When we get home it’s milk and stories; they’re never in bed before 8pm but I don’t mind anymore (I used to be a 7pm bedtime Nazi). That time in the evenings with them is so precious.

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8.30pm: decide I’d better have dinner. Shamefully my diet is no-where good as it used to be but I really struggle with the time and energy to cook solid Paleo meals. Consider it a success if I don’t eat a jar of salsa and tortilla chips (oops).

9pm: answer any essential emails, write blog posts. My email account is one thing that has suffered over the past few months and I’m kind of scared to look at it. Put a load of washing in the machine, stick the dishwasher on. I love my box sets and I usually tidy the kitchen or cook a big Spag Bol to the tune of Grey’s Anatomy.

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11.30pm: fall into bed, realising I should have done this an hour earlier. I like to try and read before I go to bed – my gorgeous friend Neva bought me a book subscription for my birthday and I have Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg burning a hole in my nightstand – but I normally fall asleep before I’ve had time to read a page. FAIL.

11.45pm: suddenly remember to set my alarm. I haven’t forgotten this part… yet.

BritMums Live 2014: The Emotional Aftermath

10449147_1431191563820666_523169491_nBlogger dining: with Katie, Becky and Charlotte. Photo by Becky.

Every time Monday morning comes around I want to kick myself. I swear I could be a kick-arse lifestyle blogger if only I had the wherewithal to take my camera out on my funtime weekend jaunts, or even record half of it on my iPhone. But I always forget to record the day for prosperity – through living in the moment (my musings on mindfulness to come in a couple of weeks, prepare yourselves) or through focussing too much on craft beers and prosecco.

So you’ll just have to use my lovingly written words to imagine your own version of my weekend, which I promise you was as kick-arse as it sounds.

If you’re living under a rock, or you know, you’re not a blogger, you might not have realised that this weekend was BritMums Live 2014. The biggest blogging conference in the UK, this weekend London played host to 700 of the country’s finest parent bloggers and boy, were we all excited to see each other.

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Morgana and Jenny… the angels of the north

There’s something about the relationships we form online in this community we’ve created that’s difficult to explain to the outside world. Unless you’re a part of it is really difficult to describe the bonds, the emotions, the lives we share with one another. It’s such a powerful thing and it’s never more palpable than at the times you get all those bloggers in a room with each other.

I’ve never been to a blogging conference without it being a thoroughly emotional experience for me and this year was no different. It started with Karin, who I’ve watched go on a difficult journey these past couple of years, and being able to give her a hug just got me in the gut (or the tear ducts) and that was when the weeping began. Then there was the fact I was able to sit next to Charlotte at dinner, hold her hands and truly speak honestly and candidly about the last couple of years to someone who had lived it with me. That was so very special.

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Baby Charlotte

Then there was the love, support and friendship from those I hadn’t seen in a little while: Steph and Bryony as always, lovely Katie, Fritha, my northern soulsisters Morgana and Jenny who are total sunshines, Alison, new friends like Becky, Lizzie and Emma, and ones I wish I’d seen more of: Chloe, Sarah, Alice and Alice, Emma (I did get a gorgeous cuddle with baby Charlotte though! And got to give her back when she cried ;), Vicki and many more…

These people are some of the most important in my life and I hold very dear to my heart the fact I would never have met them if it wasn’t for my blog. Thank-you, wonderful ladies, for inspiring me every day and for your friendship, acceptance and love. I am lucky to have you all in my life!

Emo bit over.

I didn’t over-stretch myself this year by making mad plans to go to all the sessions and events. I know I’d have a tough week at work, so I booked a couple of meetings with some fantastic ladies to talk all things IKEA (holla B, Emma and Fritha), confirmed my attendance at a dinner that evening, sat back and waited for the fun to happen. And happen it did! From a lunch at the Hoxton to drinks at All Bar One and a wonderful dinner at Pizza East… it was a great evening with some great women.

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Look! Lizzie took a photo of me that I don’t hate!

Saturday was much the same in that I was totally laid-back about the day. I sacked off the sessions in favour of socialising with my favourite ladies, and you know what? I had a ball. I probably could have done with learning a bit (can’t we all do with learning sometimes?) but this weekend it was all about the sisterhood.

I trotted off early to get ready for my friend Caoimhe’s BBQ (remember her?). In the most grown-up step ever taken she has just bought her first (BEAUTIFUL) apartment and I was very excited to help Christen her balcony. Though it was more a terrace than a balcony, an amazing space that you’d never expect to find in central London. We had a fun-filled evening toasting her mortgage over chicken wings and organic burgers.

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Sunday was the perfect tonic to a busy weekend: a walk down to Spitalfields (the quest for the perfect leather jacket continues and there are some contenders in All Saints), a burger, a nap and a lazy afternoon at the park. And a reunion with my babies! Perfection.

It’s ironic that I’ve never had less time on my hands than I do right now but I feel I have so much to say. I feel like I’ve learned so much about life in these last six months and spending the weekend talking about anything and everything made me realise that. For the first time I am enjoying taking life by the balls and sharing it with this fabulous group of people… it’s going to be quite the ride, ladies.

PS: Cybermummy 2011 (glad to see I was sneaking off to All Bar One even then), Britmums Live 2012, Britmums Live 2013.