Category Archives: Stuff about me

Bad blogger… bad bad blogger…

I am so sorry to my loyal readers… I have been having a fortnight from hell and I have not been able to get onto my computer to crank out a blog post.  I do apologise… however, there are good reasons for the lack of communication.

gardening fun

First of all, it is the time of year when there needs to be a lot of work done in the garden.  This year, being our second growing season in this garden, we have more work to do than usual!  I have been planting up a storm since January and I am now taking care of the baby plants the best way I can.  There are some which are already out in our little lean to green house, hardening off before they get put out into the soil, and then there are the ones I am trying to germinate.  They are currently in the conservatory, and they seem to be doing okay in there, soaking up whatever sun there is!

veg patch

We have taken out an old box hedge, we have painted the shed and the big greenhouse, we have taken possession of the big greenhouse and are planning what we are going to grow in it and we have begun to dig what will be the vegetable patch.  We have raised beds to paint, we have dwarf fruit trees to plant, we have strawberries to revive and plant, we have raspberries and other soft fruit to fertilise and weed around.  We have a compost heap to sort out as well and the flower beds all need weeding and getting sorted for the annuals and bulbs to show off later on.

frazzled owl

Are you tired yet?!

Well, add into the mix of this,  that the Adoption is beginning to get tricky as well.  Not with the actual process… that is meandering about the way it does.  But my patience is wearing very thin indeed.  I needed to think very carefully about whether I wanted to continue with the process and what was I going to do if it didn’t work.  Although everyone thinks that there is always a payoff of a baby when you go through the Adoption process, the facts are somewhat different and it is in no way guaranteed.  Our process has already been so long and so difficult (and out of the ordinary – of course… I never do anything the easy or the ordinary way!) I am not sure how much more I am going to be able to take.  It has been quite stressful and difficult as I am sure you can all imagine.  There wasn’t much other head space for anything else, let alone sorting out blog posts.

All I can promise is that I will try and do better after Easter.  I will even try and sort out some blog themes and interesting things to post about… and I need to get back to my studying.  I haven’t done any lessons for weeks.

Happy Easter

Happy Easter to everyone, and see you on the other side!

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Emotional First Aid…

One way or another, this past 7 days has been one hell of a roller coaster.  There have been some highs, and corresponding lows and frankly, I am feeling a little travel sick with the change from one to the other.  I feel like I have been run over by a steam roller, both physically and emotionally.

roller coaster

Some days I have coped better than others, but as I progressed through the week, a few things became very apparent.  I am a very emotional person.  I deal with stuff with my emotions leading first, and then I can process the emotion and keep going.  Some people might feel (and clearly, from their reactions, some people do feel) that this is a disadvantage.  I don’t.  I think it is a strength, which I hope will serve me well come the point when I have children to look after.  If I can express my emotion and deal with it, then hopefully I can help a damaged child do the same.

Another thing which became apparent, the adoption process is emotionally one of the most bruising things you can ever undertake.  I am not about to give up now… but on several occasions this week I was really close to throwing in the towel and going to adopt another dog and some chickens.  If it wasn’t for the people close to us who have been so invested in the process with us, I would have resigned myself to being childless forever and got on with being an urban homesteader and craftaholic.

1st aid

With these two things at the forefront of my mind… it became clear that an essential in the toolkit of survival is to have an emotional first aid kit to hand.  You might be thinking “What on earth is she wittering on about?” but bear with me.

Do you remember when we were little, we all wanted to be grown ups?  Yeah… that was really dumb, wasn’t it!  Adult life comes with stress, hurt and more stress on top.  Some people can totally cope with that and keep on gliding through life unaffected.  But some of us really can’t.  Each bump and scrape we suffer emotionally and mentally leaves a scar.  If you did something to yourself physically, you wouldn’t hesitate to reach for a first aid kit to get a band aid… so why don’t we do the same thing for our mental health?  I think it is too important for people to ignore.  You must look after your mental strength in equal proportion to your physical well being.  Or else bits of psyche will fall off and make a mess.

feel

The first thing you need in this first aid kit is to pay attention to the emotional pain that you feel.  Recognise it when it happens and work to treat it before it feels like it is all encompassing and you get that drowning feeling.  For example, on Saturday, at the Adoption Activity Day we attended, we fell in love with a pair of children.  They were delightful and we could have happily become their Mummy and Daddy.  Unfortunately… it wasn’t possible due to geographical constraints on their adoption.  I was heartbroken.  It would have been easier to shrug off and say “Oh well.  I only met them for a little time, it isn’t right, move on”.  15 years ago, that is exactly what I would have done.  But instead, I acknowledged the raw, painful realisation that it was a loss, an actual emotional wrench for them to say no (again) to us becoming parents, and I dealt with it.  It felt overwhelming for the first few days after… but I am still standing now.

change your perspective

The second skill for your emotional first aid kit is the ability to redirect your gut feeling when you fail.  This is something I am really, really bad at.  I set myself really, really high standards, and if I do not reach them, I will beat myself up something awful.  Of course, when you set your standard at perfection, and perfection doesn’t exist, then you will always be disappointed, won’t you?  So, I learnt a lesson from the wonderful FlyLady (www.flylady.net) – It doesn’t need to be perfect, it just needs to be done.  I tell you, that phrase has revolutionised my life.  When I am cleaning the house, when I am gardening, when I am doing a craft project – it doesn’t need to be perfect.  It can have faults lying about.  That is okay.  That is normal.  That is life.  Redirecting the guilt I feel at not being perfect, means I actually give myself permission to be a normal human being.  That is really quite freeing.

inner critic

Of course, if you are a recovering perfectionist, you will often find your inner critic doing a good job of making your life miserable.  In order to tell my inner critic to sit down and shut up, I find myself thinking about what I would say to a friend who was dissing her/himself.  I would tell them to stop it and be compassionate to themselves.  Cut themselves some slack. It is important that you monitor and protect your self esteem and don’t let your own inner gremlins get you thinking that you are not worthy.  This is the next little trick to have in your arsenal.  Of course, that compassion needs to take a positive form – unfortunately, I seem to have developed a bit of “self medicate with junk food” habit, so I am trying to break that by giving myself the chance to knit, sew and cross stitch when I need to.

negative to positive

How many of us have a negative thought soundtrack going around in their head?  I do.  It is only in the past few years that I have made a conscious effort to stop being a negative Nelly and look at the positive of life.  I posted something on my personal facebook timeline the other day about how God only gives you what you can cope with, and that apparently God thinks I am a bad ass.  That was my way of taking the positive out of a really bad day on Wednesday.  It doesn’t matter how you do it… but finding the silver lining in every cloud is a fabulous way to cope.

loss

Sometimes, we have to make a really hard decision and you need to come to terms with loss.  I am doing this all the time with the children we have been enquiring about re potential matches (25+ now) and it does not get easier.  So, I have started to try and find a meaning in the losses.  It is easier on some occasions than it is on others.  I have a lot of internal conversations with myself about the needs of the children that we have not pursued and how it is probably the right thing that we have stepped away from the match.  Sometimes I even manage to convince myself!!  Sometimes, I really don’t.  On the latter occasions, I fall back on my faith.  God has a plan.  There is a reason why we haven’t found our match yet.  We just don’t know what it is.

confessional

The next emotional first aid skill is something that, as a cradle Catholic, I totally SUCK at.  That is to not let excessive guilt linger.  Now, if I were a better Catholic I would go to confession a lot more regularly than I do, and actually I suspect if I did, I would have a convenient valve to allow the guilt to escape.  Hmmm.  Easter is coming up.  I need to make some time to head to the confessional and unburden myself.  I hope the priest has an armchair and some popcorn!

emotional wounds

The final item in our emotional first aid kit is personal knowledge.  Learn what treatments for emotional wounds work for you.  This is as individual as you are.  Although my go-to treatment is junk food, that has some seriously negative consequences, so I need to think of better ways to make myself feel better.  Naps have often helped me, so does being creative in some way.  I like to sit in a room with some classical music and a really good book. Sitting on the garden bench and looking at the garden, being out in the garden doing some work, a decent old movie and a cup of hot tea also works.  Whatever it is… make sure you know what work for you and do it regularly.

You really are worth taking care of.

What I learned today while I was doing the Ironing…

I hate ironing.  I leave it until there is an enormous pile of it or my husband is muttering about having nothing to wear to work.  I really, really dislike it.

ironing

In the past couple of months I have tried to keep on top of Mount Ironmore by making the occasion something to look forward to.  I have been catching up on the TV that I never seem to have time to watch, or those programmes that I fancy watching, and my husband really doesn’t.  Today, technology did not make my life easy.   Something crashed and it wouldn’t let me stream the TV show I wanted to watch on my laptop while getting hot over the steam iron.

I tried to listen to the radio, but that wasn’t going to cut it today.  Then… I had the idea… what about watching a couple of TED Talks?  Okay.., more than a couple of them… the ironing pile was HUGE.

TED talks

Do you know about TED Talks?  Basically they are lectures given by inspirational people which teach you something… What is not to like?  I get to take my mind off the fact I am doing the worst chore in the house and I learn stuff.  Great deal.  Plus, I actually know someone who did a TED talk (Mortgage Free in Three) and it was AWESOME.

So, the first thing I learnt was about how your frame of mind and your perspective can actually make exercise easier and better.  That talk was 14 minutes and some seconds long.

biodiversity

The second thing  I learned was why keeping biodiverse habitats is so important, and actually really clarified why I am so passionate about herbalism.  This is the talk I want to share with you.  This is about 14 minutes long as well.

Humble Plants that hide surprising secrets

The third talk was about emotion and how it motivates people.  It was one of TED’s top 20 best talks ever and it was amazing.  Goosebumpy in fact.  I need to process it before I tell you all about it… but I am sure I will.  What a fabulous talk.

completed ironing

And even better – in just over 1 hour… I have ironed 9 work shirts, 2 French cuff shirts, 2 dresses, 1 skirt and a pair of trousers.  Oh and a short sleeved shirt.  Yay!  Mount Ironmore is no more… Hubby will have work shirts for the next couple of weeks… and I got topped up on motivation and inspiration.  Fabulous, fabulous mornings work.

Healing traditions and where I want to be …

While I was doing some reading at the weekend as research for my blog posts (oh, yeah, I do research!  This blog isn’t just thrown together you know!) I came across an article which began by listing the three healing traditions in the world.  I thought it was an interesting topic for the blog, and a nice way to start the week.

healing

The three traditions are the Scientific, the Heroic and the Wise Woman.  I am okay with the first one, but the other two names seem a little “hippy dippy” to me, but I will use them for ease.  Effectively, these three names are the filters through which herbal medicine can be seen and used.

scientific

So, the scientific tradition sees herbs and other plants as the source of drugs.  In this day and age, they are generally whipped into a laboratory and synthesised into usable medicines, usually with unpronounceable names, and then patented so that the Chemical company can make a heap of money from them.  Seeing as you can’t patent a naturally occurring substance, synthesis is paramount.  I would like to point out that I am not trying to wag a finger at the Capitalist economic model and nor do I think that chemical medicines inspired by herbs and naturally occurring substances are a bad thing.  Capitalism may not be perfect, but it is the best we have at the moment, and as for chemical medicines, I am all for them in the right place.  I am on strong antibiotics myself at the moment, and they are dealing with the issue I had.  Herbal cures just weren’t cutting it.  They reduced the issue, but I needed the chemical help to really kick it into touch.

herbal hero

Next category is Heroic.  This type of healer believes that herbs are safe drugs and generally these people are highly trained therapists who know how to use combinations of herbs, usually in the forms of pills or capsules and who make little distinction between herbal supplements and synthetic nutrient supplements.  These therapists tend to have really strict rules about eating with a focus on balance and being clean.  I suspect it is this type of healer that the course I am following is trying to create.  Personally speaking, I think eating clean is a great idea – but practically impossible to do correctly, all the time.  I am also happy to use herbal supplements, but I feel a bit uncomfortable about the synthetic nutrition supplements.  I like to make sure my food gives me the nutrients I need, without using supplements if I can avoid it.

granny weatherwax

The final category, and the one that feels like a good fit to me, is the Wise Woman one.  You can think Shaman, or Old Crone living on her own in a cottage in a wood with a cat.  In Scotland, they call them a Spey Wife.  In Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, they are Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg.  They might have been called witches in the past.  I am happy with Herbalist.  (Actually, when I am old and grey, if I get called Granny Weatherwax, I will have achieved everything I have ever wanted to!  She is AWESOME!)  These types of healers, use the natural herbs – fresh or dried – to support and nourish well being.

If I was going to get all hippy and crunchy I would mutter something about all living things being connected and supporting each other through the cycle of life, but that is just waffle.  I prefer to use the herbs I grow or can obtain fresh.  Just because I know they haven’t been monkeyed about with. One of my aims this year is to grow my own herbs and make some of my own remedies from the stuff that comes from my garden.  I can’t tell you how cool that is going to be!

Lent has begun…

I don’t know if you know, but Lent has begun.

Lent

In Christianity, Lent is the 40 days before Easter and tradition has it that you should make a sacrifice during this time as a reflection of the sacrifice that Jesus made for us all on Good Friday.  Thankfully, nothing as major as getting crucified is required, but I do try and do something challenging over Lent.  It seems only right to do that, given what He did for us.  Giving up chocolate doesn’t seem appropriate when I can take or leave it generally and rarely eat it anyway.

In years past I have given up caffeine.  That was really, really hard; not just on me but on anyone within ear shot of me.  I get really grumpy without caffeine.  So, in the spirit of being kind to my husband, I decided to give up sugar instead.

no sugar

Now, if I was being all medieval and hardass about it, I would give up all refined carbohydrates for Lent and just eat meat and fruit and vegetables.  However, having done the Atkins diet years ago, I know that style of eating is not as easy as it sounds.  I also learned that my body needs carbohydrates to work properly, and I do not want to go through the kind of pain my digestive tract put me through last time.

So, instead, I am giving up all the fake sugar and the added sugar that I seem rather adept at keeping in my diet, despite being careful about what I eat.  I am not going to drink diet or “full fat” sodas.  I am not going treat myself to candy or sweets.  I am not going to have pudding, dessert or fake sugared anything.  I am allowing myself to continue to eat fruit and vegetables though, so I won’t come down with scurvy or kill my nearest and dearest when I am jonesing for sugar.  Who knows, maybe I will be able to re-educate myself into craving an Orange rather than Fizzy Cola Bottles or Jelly Beans.  Yeah… I am not going to hold my breath on that one either!

candy

So why sugar?  Well, I know I am addicted to it.  As a pre-diabetic (and I have been for nearly 20 years, which is allegedly impossible according to the medical textbooks, but I have managed it…!) I should avoid sugar anyway.  It is also not great for the eating plan I am following and having success with at the moment, and also, I have often had issues with candida infestations, so starving it of sugar is a really, really good idea.

Lent is going to be tough this year, no question, but I am hoping to come out of it with better habits than I went into it.  What are you giving up for Lent?

Happiness and how to get it…

I have been thinking a lot about happiness recently.  It has been on my mind for a while and combined with the wedding of a friend of mine on Friday, Valentine’s Day on Saturday and an excellent weekend all round, I want to be able to recreate this recipe whenever I want it.  So, what are it’s ingredients?  How can I give all of my readers, friends and family the prescription?

happiness 2

Considering that happiness is one of those things that a lot of people quest after for most of their lives, there is surprisingly small amounts of scientific data about what happiness actually is.  Generally it is considered a warm fuzzy sort of feeling and when you experience it, then you know it. That is not very helpful if we want to repeat the feeling.   From my research though the area of psychology and philosophy are fruitful sources of definitions.  I could go through each and every one I have ever read about, but to be honest, I am just going to take you through the theory of happiness that I like best.  Hey, it’s my blog.  I can do what I want!

positivity

Attitude of mind is essential when it comes to being happy.  If you are in a negative thought pattern, or indeed have a negative outlook on life, you are not going to be happy.  Take it from me.  I used to be that negative person.  Life is tough when you are convinced that the light at the end of the tunnel is the train that will eventually squish you on the tracks.  Or worse, you are sure that at any moment the light at the end of the tunnel will be turned off!

But being positive, changing the way you think about things can revolutionise how you feel.  When I began to change my thought patterns I began to notice the little things.  The flowers springing from the dormant winter ground, the blackbirds chattering in the trees, a bullfinch coming to roost on the hedge in the back garden and using a roosting pocket I had put out there last year,  a robin sitting on the holly tree and telling me off for being in his territory, the dog and the cat getting on famously together, the recipe that I tried which came together with absolute ease and tasted fabulous.  These things made me smile.  Smiling can actually have  huge impact on your own physical and mental health.  It boosts your mood, it boosts your immune system, the act of smiling actually relieves stress, smiles are contagious and they need to be passed on to people, and smiling is actually an instinct we are born with.  So smile, dammit.  Smile!!

smile

Psychologist Martin Seligman thinks that happiness is not just about momentary external pleasures.  He uses the acronym PERMA to provide a list of things which he thinks creates happiness.

P stands for Pleasure.  Things that give you pleasure will make you happy.  Makes sense.  I like to throw the ball for my dog and she loves to chase it.  Watching her frolic in the garden and act like a puppy makes me happy.  E stands for Engagement.  Seligman thinks that you need to be engaged with someone or something else to be truly happy.  I can see his point; with the above example, I would be engaging with the dog… but what about those of us who are true introverts?  Sometimes the total lack of engagement with anyone else is what is the best thing!  R is for relationships.  Seligman reckons you need them, and okay, yes, I can see his point.  I like being married and I like having friends and being adored by the dog and tolerated by the cats, but I am still in the corner rooting for introverts though.  M stands for meaning.  If you are doing something and that something has a reason for being done, that can be very satisfying.  I can testify to the satisfaction of reconciling a financial account right to the penny.  (I am a recovering accountant… sometimes it still sneaks out there occasionally!)  And then the A in PERMA is for Accomplishment.  I can completely testify to that… and it is more than half of the reason I am a listaholic!!

gardening fun

So, looking back on my weekend, did it stack up to the PERMA test?  Yes, it did actually.  My husband and I tackled a few jobs in the garden together.  We really made a start in changing things around and making the space work for us.  We spent 3 or 4 hours together in the garden, helping each other weed, dig things up, replant stuff.  We are putting the hard and heavy work in at this end of the year so that we can appreciate it during the summer.  We managed to achieve all of the jobs we set out to complete as well.  Yup.  All the areas of PERMA ticked off.

I am still going to keep to my positive mental attitude and smiling often as well though.  Happiness is as contagious as smiles are.

The fine art of motivation…

I could do with a firm kick up the bahookie today.  Despite going to bed at a reasonable hour and sleeping the whole night through, I woke up feeling sleepy and with absolutely no motivation whatsoever.  To do anything.  Sadly, my to do list has other ideas and I have absolutely masses that I should be getting on with.  Including writing this blog.

motivation

Therefore, my research and blog writing today will all have to do with finding motivation when you have absolutely no reserves left.  Shamelessly self serving, but as I look at it, killing two birds with one stone.

My starting point is usually why I need to do something.  I personally find that if the reason for doing something is not one I can argue with or pick holes in, then my highly developed sense of guilt will get me going and I will do it.  This is useful for cooking the evening meal and doing the laundry (especially if we are at risk of having to go naked into the community!) but not so much for pushing the vacuum around the house.  I can justify procrastination of that for a long, long time!!

why you started

So, my next step is to decide to prioritise the list.  For example, I have already decided that thoroughly cleaning upstairs and down is not going to happen today.  But the downstairs is the bit that gets seen most, so I probably need to do that.  Just in case we have anyone dropping by unannounced or something over the weekend.  Okay… motivation levels rising.

15 minutes

If that still hasn’t worked then I crack open my old favourite.  I am a huge devotee of Flylady (can be found at http://www.Flylady.net) and all she has to say about how to clean your house.  One of her watchwords is that you can do anything for 15 minutes.  Anything at all.  And she is right.  When I was working in an office, I would often say to myself “Right Clare… just work 15 minutes on this reconciliation, or this accrual journal, or this budget report” and 1 hour later (because I had got into the job and it was going well) I had finished the whole job.  Sometimes you can blow the job out of proportion in your own mind and it becomes a terrifying chore when really it will be done in 15 minutes or less.  I find this works particularly with the dishes.  No, really.  It never takes as long as you think it will.

routines

My research has turned up some other strategies.  Including one which has made a lightbulb go off in my head.  Routine.  This website I found is written by a former professional sportsman and he said in order to be motivated to perform well, even if he was feeling a bit off, he relied on a pre-event routine.  Looking at my cleaning rota, I realise that because of other things going on in our life at the moment, the routine that had this house shining has gone by the wayside.

Time to get it back on track and fast!  Our lives are hopefully going to change dramatically in the not too distant future and I don’t want to be stressing out about the state of the house, when if I had stuck to my tried and tested routines, I would be right on top of everything still.  So, it is time to get my backside off this chair and get on with the house chores.  No matter how pointless it currently seems to be!

weekend 2

Hope this has helped you get motivated to do the one thing you are avoiding doing – imagine the great feeling you are going to have over the weekend if you have scratched the horrible job off your to do list?  There… that is another motivator!  Off to grab the vacuum and chase the dog around the house with it!

Have a great weekend everyone!