Change is necessary for progress…

Dear friends

It’s been more than 10 weeks since my last post and much has happened, in your lives as well as mine.  Change is necessary for progress is my personal motto, it has been for a very long time.  In modern speak, I suppose that would show I have a growth mindset.  Anyhow here’s a synopsis of what I’ve been experiencing these past weeks 🙂 

1. Children grow – when our eldest was about 9 months old, a friend gave me some advice which I believe she had received from another friend who is a mother of 10 children.  That advice was, remember it’s a phase.  Whatever seemingly difficult stage you or your child is at, view it as a phase.  This advice has served me well and has certainly helped me to remain sane! I strive to apply it to other aspects of my life, other relationships.  I think one day we will realise how brief mortality is and we’ll see all things clearly (see 1 Corinthians chapter 13 verse 12) For now, when I had to buy yet another pair of school shoes for our youngest, Son2 (approaching 10 years old) and discovered he’s now in the smaller men’s shoe size, I thought, it’s a phase… what size feet will he reach as a grown man!?

2. I’ve decided to look up more, seize the moment, capture now, be a little more impulsive and take more photos of life as it happens – like this photo (no filter) of our yellow sky, pink sun, as a result of Saharan sands a few weeks ago.  Related to this, I’m going to post more photos, probably of trees and skies as this reminds me to see the beauty all around.  We live on a beautiful planet which serves life well.  We, humans, need to serve life well too. 

3. The long awaited restructure began at work and some of my older colleagues have been taking stock of what their pensions look like and is it worth retiring a few years early.  I’m in the generation that’ll work till 67 years so it’s not something I’ve paid too much attention to (I probably should but I’ve not…)  So I was traveling to a meeting with two older colleagues, both male, and one mentioned his wife retired several years ago, she earned quite highly so they were OK.  The other chuckled, commenting his wife never earned much and “my wife retired at 23!” I impulsively stood up for his wife and said, “I don’t think she would call it retirement, I’m sure she did a great job raising your sons!”  He did accept this but I realised how many people out there devalue their own family, because they are making a different contribution.  I’m so glad that as a working mum I could still stand up for my sisters.

4. Glass an hour – this is a little mantra I’ve been telling myself in relation to drinking water.  It’s like the fruit & veg, 5 a day, here in the UK.  I’m blessed to live where I can turn on a tap at home and work and drink safe water.  I know many in the world can’t do that and I, sadly, remember a time when living at my dear mother’s home and she’d been unable to pay the water bill and it was cut off (I don’t think they are allowed to do that now).  I walked a couple of miles each day to public toilets to fill bottles of water to bring back home.  So I appreciate water and what it means for our health.  I don’t think we can ever drink too much but we can certainly have too little, so, as I’ve noticed myself feeling thirsty more often, I’ve tried to drink a glass of water each hour.  I always feel much better and less tummy aches when I do this.

5. I mentioned the long awaited restructure at work began.   I’m one of the few whose salary will increase, quite significantly, as a result of this due to the grading of my job.  Our jobs have now been aligned to public sector gradings and although people many are grumbling that it’s less than private sector pay, I say, well, go and work in the private sector if you want to earn that kind of money; don’t expect public taxes to pay ridiculous amounts for you not to deliver!  And around the time the restructuring consultation began, I was approached by the local school of architecture to see if I’d be interested in studio tutoring 🙂  Of course!!! 

6. The world wide General Conference #LDSconf was, in my humble opinion, absolutely sublime. I am steadily working my way through all the talks, starting with those given by the apostles.  I can only suggest you listen to it – check it out on LDS.org or on YouTube.  I don’t have a favourite but memorable messages for me are: am I Sad, Mad or Glad?; women in these last days; the need for humility.  

7. Finally, the changing world.  The past 10-12 weeks have seen human tragedies on an increasing scale of horrific-ness (i.e shootings, terrorism acts) plus natural incidents, fires, hurricanes, earthquakes.  And then political incidents across the globe affecting whole countries and regions.  For comfort in these difficult times, I gain comfort from the words of prophets reminding us Who wins in the end and I am striving to be on that team. Elder Dallin H Oaks reminded us of these words from 20 years ago in his talk at conference:

I see a wonderful future in a very uncertain world.  If we will cling to our values, if we will build on our inheritance, if we will walk in obedience before the Lord, if we will simply live the gospel, we will be blessed in a magnificent and wonderful way.  We will be looked upon as a peculiar people who have found the key to a peculiar happiness.

President Gordon B Hinckley, November 1997.

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compliments…

Dear friends

I’ve heard it said that women are not great at accepting compliments.  I don’t know what research has been done on this but no doubt an internet search would reveal plenty.  For me, the giving of compliments and the receiving of them – both have a feel good factor. 
In my teens, …, well, far too hormonal, but given and received, in support of each other as we grew together, becoming solid in our own selves.

In my 20’s, they were given and received; a consistent, consolidated support network. For me, I discovered lipstick!  And solid friendships based on trust.

In my 30’s, a changing decade with young children, new friends, and it took effort to feel… I need to choose my words… It took effort to ‘look good’… I don’t think I looked bad, rather, I perfected a minimalist approach to dressing and grooming. It worked. I gave lots of compliments as I genuinely felt that anyone who managed to groom themselves with more than one child to take care of deserves a compliment.  I’m not sure if people who have not been in that situation realise the logistics involved with being responsible for little people and yourself.

In my 40’s, current decade, I try to give lots of compliments,… ties, cardigans, hair… And it’s always a great way to start a conversation, look for something that you like about another person.  Most people will respond with a smile and a “thank you.”  I’ve rediscovered lipstick and newly discovered eye liner!  I usually do the same when I receive a compliment.

The other day, I received a genuine compliment from a taxi driver.  The taxi, to take me to the train station arrived early, as Son2 was off to school.  As we headed to the station the driver asked who would pick up my son since I would be in London for the day (work). I briefly stated our eldest Son1 and the driver asked how old is he. I wasn’t sure where the conversation was heading, and not wanting to give too much away, I replied with a vague, “oh he’s nearly 18.” Immediately the driver said:

You don’t look old enough to have a child that age!

Wow! I thought and said, “uh, thank you, but I definitely am!”

The driver continued on about how he saw children left to go home alone, or stay with neighbours. He asked how I managed with teenage children today. I found myself sharing how my husband and I are Latter Day Saints, attended church & activities together with the children and I felt that as long as families could do things together with strong family values, regardless of religion, then that helps.  He understood and shared an example of where parents did one thing but expected the children to behave differently – the children didn’t and behaved the way the parents did!  By then we had reached the station and I was grateful to have the opportunity to share the importance of family values with another child of God through what started as a compliment. 

out of touch… today’s music

Dear friends

While preparing lunch yesterday, I heard Daur2 humming/ singing:

La, la, da, da,…
Father, Father, Father help us
La, la,… guidance from above
La, la, la, la…
Where is the love…

Me: Is that a church song?  There are lots of LDS youth music tracks produced each year.
Daur2: (laughing) No! It’s Black Eyed Peas, Where is the love – but I don’t know all the words.  I’ll find the lyrics for you.
Later… in the evening…
Me: What was that song by Red Hot Chili Peppers?
Daur2: (laughing even harder) Black Eyed Peas!!

Having read the full lyrics,  I’m looking forward to hearing the song!!  🙂

dressing

Dear friends
A conversation from earlier this week…
Me: (excitedly) I almost bought a new work dress today!
Daur1: Really? What was it like?
Me: Black; straight, sort of bodycon style, kind of thick fabric, but not tight, short sleeves, down to my knees, fit really well…
Daur1: So (raising eyebrows) like the other dresses you have?…
Me: No!! My other black dress swings, skater style!
Daur1: And the other one?
Me: (thinking) oh yeah, black, bodycon, but it’s longer…
Daur1: (walking away with a sigh) Same dress!!

So why is it that I almost bought a new dress that looks like two other dresses in my wardrobe?  I think it must be that I’ve reached that age when I know what looks good on me – black, slimming, dresses – and what doesn’t.  The reason I didn’t buy it?

Well, my problem with clothes shopping is that I need to know I have found the best buy – not necessarily cheapest – the best for me. I am not an impulsive shopper – unlike my dear husband – so I am happy to go to several shops before coming back to the first to make my purchase.  I’ve always been like this, I think it stems from growing up with little money… though even my dear mother is impulsive.  Back in the summer I took her grocery shopping and we left the shop with summer dresses for her granddaughters plus all the shoppings!

The dress was a lunch time trip, so I’ll take another look around another shop or two, do some more mulling over in my mind. And then make the buy.  Mmm… I think it came in pillar box red… do you think that would look good for work? 

PS – I’m going to try a few more photos with my posts… so here’s the dresses… with my blue Aztec skirt and green jumper – I do wear items of colour, and I think blue and green can go well!!

image

an observation on phones

It’s hard to remember the good ole days, last century, before ubiquitous mobile telephones. 

When you had to find a coin and a  call box to phone if you were out.
When you could ride a bus, or a train, without feeling obliged to say where you are or how long you’ll be.
When you didn’t expect to be contacted at work, unless in the case of an emergency.

It seemed time was a little kinder back then, less intense.  We still lived; life was full; life was fun.

There was time for yourself, rather than being obliged or expected to be contactable at all times, by voice or by the written note, aka txt msg.
There was no anguish of missed calls, cracked screens, low battery, lost contacts, ringtones drifting through the air, and that’s before the smartphone features are considered.

Oh, 1990s!! Come back!!!

welcome to the I generation!

Dear friends

First there was the modem. Remember the dial up, the fuzzy line sound, the ‘bings’ as it connected… brings back fond memories…  Phone or email? Browsing, what was that?

Then there was the broadband cable connection – the direct link between a computer and the world.  It was all so simple. Email, Skype, browsing but oh, the size of the phone bill!!

Then the dongle – who invented that name? – great but we needed more

Then, the mifi, our own mini WiFi, 15GB per month, surely that would do? And it did suffice for 5 years or so until 2.5 teenagers and 3 tablets later, it kept running out after just 10 days.

So now, the fibre optics, the wireless, tablets, phones, laptops, security, parental controls, it’s come, it’s here, it’s working, it is the unlimited home wireless broadband network with speeds that mean no buffering!

I’m aware that the next big thing in terms of technology is already in use by the military, somewhere. But right now, our family is very excited and grateful for unlimited home Internet access!! Yeah!! 🙂 🙂

a story of weight

Dear friends,

Time for a flash back story.  The last time I was into regular exercise (not physical education at school!) was back in 1991. And that was sea swimming!  As a teen and into my university student days, I never really paid attention to my weight or fitness – I could run for a bus, I walked or cycled all the time, buy clothes in a medium size and I ate what I wanted – reasonably healthy. But then I had to do 12 months work experience and that’s when it all changed.

I was blessed to find work in the Caribbean, my mother’s home land of Barbados was my home for a year. It was the first time that I had been to her island home (and I’ve not been back since, but one day… maybe our 20th wedding anniversary… ). My dear mother persuaded me to grow up and wear a dress for the flight out – I bought a long cotton peach colour dress, flowy, quite country style, worn with heeled sandals – that was a big deal for me since as a student I constantly wore Doc Marten’s shoes!  I felt quite grown up as I boarded the British Airways flight.
I met two of my aunts, who still live on the island but as they met me at the airport one of their first comments was that I was all “skin ‘n’ bone.” Within a few weeks, making new friends through work and church I realised, well, I was told, that I really didn’t look Caribbean (despite my skin colour) or my age, my physique lacking curves. This didn’t bother but what did bother me was that after a few months of Bajan food (yummy!!), not walking anywhere (too warm) and sedentary work (at a drawing desk), my clothes were getting tight!! Something had to be done – I was no longer comfortable with my body 😦

So, the Atlantic Coast was on my doorstep, literally, and I’d always loved swimming so that was it. Before work and on Saturdays I would head down to the beach, swim to the next one and back again, usually back stroke, even in rain.  Looking back I was truly protected.  It was as if even the rougher locals who walked around with cutlasses  (cutting coconuts) never bothered me. My stuff was never stolen and even though the beach was through a small ‘gap’, I was never hassled.

Back in the UK, late in 1991 and I reverted back to my student lifestyle and was around 65kg when we married six years later.

We all go through phases and I accepted my increasing dress sizes as the children were born and tipped the scales at about 90kg. I’m taller than your average woman so felt (and was told) I could get away with this… but I knew. After our youngest was born and returning gradually to full time work I made some small decisions about my health that I could readily manage: always eat vegetarian when not at home, always use stairs at work (we’re on the third floor), and regularly take the bus. 78kg has been my stable weight for a few years now.

My dear husband has encouraged me to go back to swimming. I tried lunch time swims when my hair was in braids. It is definitely my thing but the costs, pool opening times and the chlorine affect on my hair (yes, I know that sounds pathetic, but I’m being honest) are all factors I need to consider.

What finally motivated me was a candid talk during October 2014 (#LDSconf) General Conference by a man I’d never heard of, will probably never meet and whose name I can’t pronounce. Jörg Klebingat of the Seventy said (listen to or read full talk here), in the context of increasing our spiritual confidence before God:

Take responsibility for your own physical well-being. Your soul consists of your body and spirit (see D&C 88:15). Feeding the spirit while neglecting the body, which is a temple, usually leads to spiritual dissonance and lowered self-esteem. If you are out of shape, if you are uncomfortable in your own body and can do something about it, then do it! …
President Boyd K. Packer has taught “that our spirit and our body are combined in such a way that our body becomes an instrument of our mind and the foundation of our character” … If you are physically able, decide today to be the master of your own house and begin a regular, long-term exercise program, suited to your abilities, combined with a healthier diet. Spiritual confidence increases when your spirit, with the help of the Saviour, is truly in charge of your natural man or woman.

There were other aspects of the talk that touched my spirit but this section caused me to think that maybe I had been making excuses for too long and my physical body needed some nurturing, with effort. When our daughter expressed she really wanted to do more exercise my husband began jogging with her but his own commitments disrupted establishing a routine. I knew I had to be the one to support her. We enjoy similar activities, are similar stature, enjoy starting the day early (at dawn). We’ve agreed a simple route, round the big block, jogging and, on occasion, we’ll take the bikes.

So that is my story of where I am now. We do not have a scale at home but we’re using dress sizes – 2 sizes down is my target – that will get me to my marriage size. I know everyone will have a different story and reasons which I respect – I hope you can respect mine.

I’ve never really run before – not since coming last in the 1500m at sports day during my first year at secondary school! – but I’ve always loved how joggers,  runners,  seem to enjoy a total freedom.  Time for themselves, within the world, but not quite part of it, doing their own thing.  I started doing this for my dear daughter but now I’m genuinely enjoying it for me.  It suits my budget, my time availability, and my hair 😉

“Uptown Funk”

Dear friends,
What is this music phenomenon?
This evening my dear husband called me from the kitchen to hear our dear children “serenade” him with this song (Mark Robson ft. Bruno Mars)!! I still can’t work out how our youngest (son), at seven years old knows the lyrics – they play it at school in dance club!
I first heard this song on the radio a few months back when our eldest son stated:

It’s from this century!

or words to that effect, to which I thought, oh, very clever!  I have no idea what the lyrics are, I can only pick up some words when I hear the children sing them.  I’m sure there’s something not good about it and our eldest son has said there’s at least one swear word and he didn’t think it would be played at the dance at the church youth convention in the summer.  Mmmm…

And it continues on, both Obama’s on YT singing, dancing, and then our youngest daughter found this… Alex Boye cover version. Alex used to be in London when we first got married so we know him a little – he’s LDS, so we noted how ‘liquor’ became ‘cool aid’ (forgive me if I’ve spelt that wrong).  So, I expect that this piece of music will continue for a long time.

We’re now wondering how many of the wards (church units) will use it in the road shows later this year!!  And this is where we need to make good, better and best choices! I’m not going to say to behave all self righteous and say I won’t listen to it because I like the tune, I like to dance, I’ve not heard the Lord’s name in vain, and, quite frankly, I have no idea what the lyrics mean.  However, I’m not silly – I’ve never been able to listen to Ricky Martin’s La Vida Loca once our Primary Music Leader picked apart the lyrics for the children to see and learn one Sunday in music time many years ago! – so I will endeavour to discover the meaning of the lyrics, if there’s any, and if I discover it’s all about dodgy stuff – drugs, being unchaste etc – then I will have to explain to the children why they shouldn’t really embrace it!! I’ve got to do it!!

reflections

Dear friends
It has been a busy few days getting ready for school starting – exams and tests this term.  I’ve spent time with our children – cutting hair, laughing, exercising and shopping. The following has been on my mind.

When I look in the mirror, I see my four children in front of me 🙂 Does that make sense?

When I was much younger, I saw a girl with desires and dreams – do I look like one of my grandmothers, I often wondered?  I remember this one time seeing much more, I was about 11 years old; I saw that what was me, was more than the body reflected in the mirror, there was something deeper inside, behind my eyes.  I admit this freaked me out somewhat and I started crying, not quite understanding what I was feeling; I was almost inconsolable as I cried I don’t want to die! !   Somehow, my dear mother calmed me and I went to school late that day.

As I’ve grown, I’ve come to learn and understand that we do have our own spirit and body – me, I’ve always been me, regardless of my physical body, it’s age or condition.  I suppose that’s why we feel younger (or older) than our physical age! 

But now when I look in the mirror, I see our eldest son, his pioneering spirit; our eldest daughter, her wit; our youngest daughter, her creativity; our youngest son, his passion 🙂 Plus all the physical similarities though everyone sees the children’s resemblance to their father. 

This fills me with peace and joy, knowing that we are a part of each other.  As we’re all part of our loved ones.

What do you see when you look in the mirror?