The Personal Touch - Gifts and Cards
I woke up this morning to a lovely 'Happy Songkran' card from my friend Duang in Bangkok. She is also the esteemed illustrator of two of my children's books 'The Day the Wi-Fi Broke' and 'Just Five More Minutes'. (She draws under the name NokIsMe). The card featured a Happy Songkran message with the star of the book, a little girl called 'Lucy' wearing a protective face mask. It made me smile and once again, I wondered whether I should return to this series and write some more titles. (A thought for another day!) My thought for the current time was how nice it is to get personalised messages, cards, and small gifts. This took me to a podcast I'd been listening to yesterday, which emphasised how completing altruistic acts can reduce anxiety and generally make a person feel better. This is something that we could all benefit from right now!
Kind Things to Do When You're Bored
With this in mind I have come up with a few ideas of things to do that are kind, altruistic (thus anxiety reducing), fairly cheap and easy (I'm not the best crafter) and can fill the time during these strange times of self-isolation.
Right now, I seem to feel quite busy - in fact, overly busy, some of the time - the truth is that I am only busy (fulfilling my personal goals, (as designed by Annie) and being mum, daughter, etc. (sadly not wife so much at the minute, as Mick is stuck in Bangkok.). I'm making my day as full as it can be so as to stay sane. I'm not sure my kids will vouch to the fact that I'm succeeding, but ...
Looking back at my suggestions, for things to do when bored they do seem to be a bit nostalgic, leaning towards getting in touch with people we haven't seen in a while and might not see in a while. It is nice to keep in contact with people though and now is definitely the time to share good feeling and kindness.
I definitely plan to pass the time by completing one or two of these activities today. The focus of doing so will hopefully make me feel a little less stressed with life too. If you are bored and complete any of them, let me know in the comments how you get on.
Something to Make you Smile
During these turbulent, Corona Virus dominated times I need to count my blessings; my family is so much luckier than many. I am very grateful to have the girls safely with me, but I have still felt a bit gloomy about this and that over the last couple of weeks. It was, for example, super sad yesterday when my mum and dad couldn’t celebrate their 56th wedding anniversary together. Dad is still in a care home due to a broken leg. In addition, only last week we spent an anxious night in Accident and Emergency as my mum was ill (not Corona Virus related!). Thankfully, she is much better now. It also seems sad not to spend my 24th anniversary with Saint Mick of Thana tomorrow. I know it can’t be helped, but it is rubbish that he is stuck in Bangkok away from us all, with no sign of being able to return home any time soon. On the plus, Mick (by which I mean he asked the girls) did send me a lovely bouquet of Moonpig flowers through the post. They are beautiful, though should those drivers be out delivering flowers? I’m not sure.
I am very grateful that I can talk to Mick daily and complaining doesn’t help anything, so that’s enough of that. Being mindful of this I’m trying hard to stay positive and I thought I’d inject a little humour into the day. When I realised yesterday (yes, I know I’m a latecomer to that realisation) that Corona is a brand of beer, as well as the name of the virus I started to think about how drinks might typify a person’s personality. I thought it might be fun to share my thoughts with you.
The Joy of Smiling
Seven Pints Sam. Seven Pints Sam can usually be found, along with Whiskey Chaser Brian propping up the local bar several nights a week. He is known as ‘not being short of an opinion.’ Whilst not going quite as far as to denying the existence of Corona Virus, Sam feels that most things can be cured with a pat on the back. He thinks that most of what is written is ‘utter nonsense’. Sam claims to have a good immune system so therefore thinks it is fine to visit his local supermarket daily and ignore the social isolation rules. Sam tuts at any sign which mentions the ‘two metre’ rule and says that he only deals in old money. He reluctantly stands ‘six feet’ away from the next customer. Seven Pints Sam is considered by some, to not be an intelligent man, but who knows what his back story is. Reading back, he reminds me just a little bit like Fredrik Backman’s A Man Called Ove.
Black Coffee Brenda. Brenda likes nothing more than a walk round a car boot sale or a mooch through the jumble at a coffee morning. She is a pillar of the community and despite recent cancellation of bingo sessions, afternoon dances and meatboard sales she is keeping busy ensuring the elderly are catered and cared for during these difficult times.. In fact, Brenda has never been busier; this is a good thing as Brenda hates to be bored. Just this week she has been volunteering to fetch groceries for the over seventies and chatting to people from a safe two metres distance. There is no doubt that Brenda is a good sort and the eighteen cups of coffee she drinks a day keep her bright, alert and chipper. Some neighbours and friends do question her need to promote her own good deeds on facebook quite as frequently as she does. In addition, the jury is still out as to actually called the local evening telegraph to do a ‘local heroes’ interview with her. We all need a Black Coffee Brenda in our lives.
Proscecco Guzzling Petra. Petra is someone I feel really sorry for right now as she is struggling to manage her anxiety. She is terrified of catching Corona Virus, so is strictly adhering to the guidelines of self isolation. It is for this reason that Petra sent her husband Pete to Aldi to buy up the whole bottom shelf of wine. Petra was afraid to venture outside and was sensible in following the guidelines of not making unnecessary trips to the shops, but Pete has now been banished to the shed in quarantine for the next fourteen days. Petra is leaving food outside of the shed door and is being innovative in the kitchen. She has learned to make a variety of proscecco-based sorbets and breakfast smoothies. As these items are considered food she can and does eat them in large quantities, without breaking her rule of not drinking prior to ten o’clock a.m.
Two Sugars Please Tim. Tim is arguably more sensible than Proscecco Guzzling Petra. Tim knows that running out of sweeteners for his favourite drink, a cup of tea, doesn’t justify a trip to the shops. He is using sugar instead. Tim is a generous type and is willing to forgo his daily exercise slot in order that those more in need, such as Lucozade Loving Len can take exercise twice daily (Someone needs to tell Len this fact). Tim doesn’t like wearing lycra but does enjoy wearing grey sweat pants whilst eating biscuits and cake. Tim is gaining weight rapidly, but thinks in the grand scale of things it doesn’t really matter. Tim will regret this mindset if he is able to go on his eighteen/thirty holiday to Lanzarote in June. Tim is actually thirty-two and feels that the holiday may be his less chance at finding love. Tim should be aware that is unlikely that he will be able to travel so may as well enjoy eating cake.
Vodka Vera. Before the Corona Virus Crisis Vodka Vera could sometimes be found chatting to Prosccco Guzzling Petra over the garden fence. They even went to the same church and used to take it in turns to top up the communion wine. The communion wine never seemed to last long, but no one really knows why. Vera hasn’t been seen in pubilc at all since the Corona Virus outbreak. Black Coffee Brenda has been asking around though and has heard a rumour has Vodka Vera has gone to stay with her grown up children, who have grasped this opportunity to ‘dry her out’. This is likely to be confirmed later by Vera later today whose head is clear enough, for the first time in months, for her to venture onto social media without a fear of what she might write whilst ‘under the influence’. Vera has been successfully managing her anxiety by spending the days completing colouring activities with her grandchildren. As the days pass by Vodka Vera is getting much better at staying between the lines. She may soon be allowed to have a pair of child safety scissors to help her grandchildren complete their online learning tasks.
Diet Coke Dan. The truth is that Diet Coke Dan is addicted to both diet and regular coke. He can easily distinguish between Coke, Pepsi and the lesser known brands. Whilst his favourite tipple is Pepsi Max he is prepared to drink any and all of them. Diet Coke Dan is also prepared to go to any lengths to acquire supplies. Although signed up to online for shopping at Waitrose, Sainsburys, Tescos, Morrisons and Lidl he is unable to wait six weeks for the next home delivery slots so plans to to mask-up and take a tour of the supermarkets to make some essential purchases. Dan does have a social conscience and knows that this isn’t strictly adhering to the rules of Corona Virus induced shopping guidelines, so he is compensating for by adding rum to his coke during his evening tipple. This, he states, will make his wrongly procured coke supplies last longer. A responsible, conscientious and caring Dad, Dan has helped his children complete online Science learning by completing the ‘soak a tooth in coke’ experiment, thus demonstrating to them the dangers of drinking too much coke. He personally helped his young son extract a tooth for this and has put a lock on the kitchen cupboard door where the cokes are kept, so that the kids won’t be tempted to drink too much.
Lucozade Loving Len is secretly quite pleased at currently having to work from home. As an Estate Agent business is slack and he has plenty of time to focus on his passion for health and fitness. Lycra-d up to the hilts, Len can be seen indulging his hobbies of running and cycling and flexing his muscles (not necessarily in that order) as he powers around the village in his designer Adidas trainers. Although of optimum physical perfection with a six pack that would be coveted by Two Sugars Please Tim, Len isn't always as upstanding as his physique is tall. He has been known to cheat on the recently imposed once a day exercise rule, but is confident that he will escape from being caught on camera by overhead drones or passing police. Despite his running pants matching the lucozade he loves to drink, the speed at which he moves means that if you blink then you are likely to miss him.
I better stop being silly .. Me. I’m quite keen on a latte, but I identify with aspects of all of my drinkers!
The Power of a Smile
A doctor friend reminded me the other day about the positive power of laughter and the need to smile whenever we can. She was of the firm belief that humour is a great tonic whatever the situation. It is therefore, kind of with her blessing that I’m messing around on my laptop like this and decided to post my ‘silliness’. I almost didn’t for fear of seeming insensitive to everything that is happening around us. I hope that this isn’t the case as I am so thankful to all the amazing essential healthworkers, carers, retail staff, drivers and everyone else who is keeping us all afloat. I do feel a bit calmer though for having spent some time on this writing. It’s what makes me smile and serves as a stress buster. What strategies are you using to manage stress at this difficult time?
Are you Emotionally Mature?
Yesterday a good friend of mine recommended Marian Keyes new book ‘Grown Ups’ to me. I don’t really know much about Marian Keyes or her books, but I was immediately thrilled that I’d listened to the Fortunately Podcast on which Marian Keyes had been the guest, actually discussing her new book. The reason for my delight was that I could casually mention this to my friend and thus look, or so I thought, semi-intelligent and knowledgeable! Perhaps this was just a little bit emotionally immature and not the behaviour of a grown up! I was though very keen to join the Marian Keyes party and read the book, so I made one of my, (not infrequent), visits to the Waterstones’ online store and ordered the book. I was childishly delighted to happen upon on a signed first edition of ‘Grown Ups’ and couldn’t wait to tell my friend. Such showing off truly wasn’t at all grown up at all!
Things a Grown Up Would Not Do!
You would not be so childish as to have a strong desire to write naughty and cheeky words on an 82-year-old father’s plaster cast. Neither would you risk getting into trouble at his temporary respite care home by repeatedly messing about with the bed remote, sneaking in Baileys, beer and a Nintendo Wii game.
You would not be so irresponsible to have frequent crazy 2.00 a.m. online shopping sprees.
You would not be so shallow as to wait until fifty-one to become addicted to reality TV shows such as Dancing on Ice. Rather you would have far loftier pursuits.
You would not be so greedy and unhealthy as to eat Chinese Spare ribs for four days in a row because you were too lazy to cook for yourself.
You would not be so selfish as to have your own daughter tuck you up in bed with a cup of tea and a biscuit, leaving her to lock up the house, switch off the lights and empty the dishwasher.
You would not be so lazy as to fake clean the house by spraying Mr Sheen around.
You would not be so vacuous as to bewail the fact that you didn’t fit in a manicure and pedicure when your trip to Bangkok was shortened.
You would not be so ageist and closed minded that you felt the need to mock and self-parody your own increasing love of tea and scones in garden centre coffee shops!
You would not watch Cold Feet and be envious of the characters setting off travelling in their camper van and living their best lives!
Are we Ever Fully Fledged Grown Ups?
The truth is I’ve never really felt like I’ve been a fully fledged adult! In fact Betsy said to me the other day that it must have been a nightmare for me to desist from swearing whilst she and Annie were little! I explained that whilst they were still establishing their own moral codes and boundaries and were still susceptible to parental influence I had faked all manner of sensible behaviour. Thank goodness that part of my life is complete and I don’t need to fake it anymore!
I used to think that in order to be a proper ‘grown up’ you needed to have life sussed out! If that really is the case then it can be argued that I’ve missed my window of ‘grown-up-ness’ altogether and I am now regressing backwards. To be emotionally mature it certainly helps to be wise and selfless, accepting and balanced, open-minded and non-judgemental, but it isn’t always easy! I wonder if we ever leave our ‘school playground’ versions of ourselves fully behind? If we are to be fully engaged in caring relationships with family and friends there will be inevitable jealousies and miscommunications and immature responses to difficult to situations. I think that is ok. I believe sensible behaviour is over-rated and not an indication of being grown up at all. It is fun (even in your fifties) to be childish!
Kindness is the Secret of Being Grown Up
There’s been a lot in the media recently, with the coming out of Philip Schofield and the tragic death of Caroline Flack, about being kind. The importance of kindness is something we constantly teach in schools and whilst I know I’m always wittering on about the importance of reading, but I do truly believe that reading fiction helps us develop the skills of empathy and kindness. If we can master the art of ‘being kind’ and make it the basis from which we try to act both towards ourselves and others, then whatever age we are, we are, in fact, well on our ways to being ‘grown up’. Being Kind is a good value to live by.. Do you agree?
Avoidant Personality Disorder
Avoidant Personality is not a term to be used loosely, but sometimes I wonder if I might actually be suffering from it. Anyone who knows me at all will know that I am a mass of contradictions. For example, I'm not very social, but I do like to host small dinner parties for friends; I'm quite selective with whom I share personal stuff, yet I've started this blog; Some colleagues have become really good friends at school, but I'll avoid going back to see them. I know right - it doesn't make sense. I also avoid conflict if I can but will engage in it if it absolutely essential.
We all have bad days, we are all busy at work and we all sometimes would rather keep ourselves to ourselves. These are the strategies I've implemented over the years to counter these moments. They help me
Avoidance Behaviour Strategies
Sally Flint's Work Place Response to Avoidance Strategies
(Failure to adhere to these terms and conditions will result in you being known as a miserable old toad.)
Avoidance Behaviour Can Seem Rude
I can be the world's worst, or best, (depending how you look at it) avoider. Here's comes the contradiction again though - I can't stand it when I spot other avoiders avoiding me. I find avoidance behaviour very rude. It's simply not friendly,. Avoidance behaviour is frequently poorly executed and thus upsetting. So, whilst it is too little too late, I've given myself a stern talking to. From henceforth pledge to not fake a smile, but actually smile. I'm sure with a bit of practice the art of avoidance is one I will learn to avoid all together!
How you Know your Middle-Aged!
A Steady Middle-Age
I haven't had much to blog about lately as October has been a fairly steady month. and I've felt pretty ordinary and dare I say, middle-aged. I've corrected myself when using middle-aged derogatively but ... life has been pleasant but uneventful. I've been back in the UK for most of it, hanging out with my oldies, trying not to visit Betsy who is settling into university in York too often and refraining from texting her and Annie (in Spain) more than five or six times a day. The hiighlight for my middle-aged existence has been having my lovely Saint Mick of Thana here for half term. He had a great time but I think was a little perturbed at the large list of middle-aged 'jobs' that I had lined up for him. (No expat life of maids and helpers back in the UK!). He even managed to find time to get new LED lights fitted to ‘our’ old Land Rover Defender while he was here so that “you won’t have to drive home from visiting Betsy with poor lights!” Hmm.
We've been getting a kitchen makeover completed so there were trips to the local dump along with the regular grass cutting, and other 'boy jobs'. for Mick to do. Yes, I know that is sexist. but nevertheless the tasks needed completing. (It is probably fair to say that my whole family hate my lists of jobs, but it has never stopped me writng them!)
Anyway, the Howdens kitchen is finally finished and looks great. (I should thank Terry McKitten the best joiner in England, Martin Barr, a wonderful electrician (so good that I have now got him working in the bathroom!) and Ann Clement and Matteo Hilldrith for a lovely kitchen design..) As the final piece of flooring was laid and the dishwasher started its first cycle, my level of excitement at a job well done made me think the term middle-aged really did apply to me. I'm not so sure young people get as excited as I did by new splashbacks! Not to worry I'm middle-aged and proud!
Anyway, what with one thing and another I've started thinking a bit more about being middle aged and have realised there are other middle-aged give-aways too! Do they apply to you?
They are not the best pics but before and after along with the reluctant kitchen model Terry!