Always

Image by Anna Cervova

Inspired to try to capture the extent of my feeling, I penned this for my Baby Girl:

From the moment
That you came into my life
I have been immeasurably thankful

From the moment
That I laid eyes on you
My soul has been deeply humbled

Every moment I am wakeful
Every moment that I sleep
My heart is forever hopeful

Every moment of our future
Every moment of our past
I know that I am blessed

Your happiness is my everything
My everything is you

My dear little Strawbug,
Precious and true,
Know in your heart, my love for you
Always

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Progress?

Easter Sunday is upon us and Lent is drawing to a close. So, I’ve been thinking about the promise that I made almost 40 days ago to refocus on positivity by “looking for small ways each day in which I can help others through the power of positivity”. I also remember writing that I’d keep you posted with updates on Twitter and possibly even a blog. Well, this would be that blog.

As is the norm in my apathetic life, I was extremely enthusiastic about and committed to my latest venture for the first 2 or (at a push) 3 days and then it kind of dwindled…

And so, moving swiftly on, I thought I’d also take a look at how I was doing on my longer term objectives, my New Year’s Resolutions, to see if I am faring any better.

Resolution: 1. Lose 2 stone
Current Status: I’ve lost 1 stone (nearly). So that’s a pretty positive start!

Resolution: 2. Attend a Zumba or a Dance class (something energetic to assist with #1)
Current Status:  I went to two classes. Yey! and then soon after I started back at work and now I’m too tired to go (OK, I just can’t be bothered, BUT I’m trying to find a new rythm which includes working full time AND spending time with Strawbug and my Beloved – a girl can’t do it all!! If you need any more excuses, I have a list as long as my arm. I’ve been practising this for years…)

Resolution: 3. Re-start Yoga (again)
Current Status: Hmmmm, I looked at a timetable. (For excuses, see above)

Resolution: 4. Write retrospective “diary” of pregnancy and mummyhood
Current Status: Now this one, I have been doing…. Sometimes… I’ve written approx. 4,000 words. Yey! What? That’s not a lot?

Resolution: 5. Save up for a mac (for documenting #4)
Current Status: Having recently reviewed my budget, this item has had to plummet down the priority list… On the positive side, I was given a pre-loved mac as my work machine when I returned after maternity leave. So, I’ve kind of achieved this goal, just in a way I hadn’t expected.

Resolution: 6. Try, really try, to post regular, meaningful, interesting and humorous ditty’s on my blog.
Current Status: 4 blogs in 4 months. No idea if anyone finds them meaningful, interesting or vaguely humorous… Hmmm. Could do better!

Resolution: 7. Spend as much time with my baby girl as possible (she’s growing so fast and she is so much fun to be around!)
Current Status: Well, now, this is a tricky one. If you follow my Twitter feed, you’ll know that I spend Monday to Friday distraught at being away from Strawbug and Saturday and Sunday ecstatic just to be in the same room as her! What I can say is that a) I spend all my waking and sleeping hours thinking of her, b) any time that i am not working I spend with her, c) we make the absolute most of that time as a family which consequently means that d) none of the housework, boring chores or any of the above resolutions get a look in. But, then, who in their right mind would choose vacuuming over peek-a-boo?

Nurserycam is the new Twitter

Today marks the close of week number 3 back at work. And I have never been so glad that it’s Friday!

I knew going back to work would be difficult. It’s a major gear change having a baby but you get used to it very quickly and I, for one, didn’t want to shift back into work mode.

So, I set a handful of days to go into the office and some to put Strawbug into daycare as a practice run for both of us. I’d been warned that I’d cry every day for approximately 3 weeks when I went back and had to leave her every day. I was advised to keep a big box of tissues and a make up bag in the car to clean myself up before going into the office.

The “practice” days were extremely hard. I honestly felt a dull ache in the middle of my chest as if someone had reached in and ripped my heart out. It was a physical feeling as well as a deep emotional sadness. And there was me thinking it was the baby who was supposed to suffer from separation anxiety!

The first “real” day at work was awful. I cried the minute I got in the car after dropping her off. I thought I just might throw up. I cried all the way to work and thought of nothing but Strawbug until I picked her up at 5:30pm.

I’d returned to a new, slower paced role and to get started I had some learning to do. So, I spent most of my day reading. I say reading. What I was actually doing was looking at a book with my iPhone hidden inside constantly logged into the Nursery Webcam watching my baby girl. I’d been warned to avoid this specific activity for some weeks also, for obvious reasons. But instead of making my pain worse, it strangely made me feel better. After all, I’d spent the last 6 months just looking at her constantly. Marvelling in her beauty. Amazed at her presence. Obsessive, maybe. But I didn’t care. I still don’t. And now, through the magic of the internet, I could still look at her. I could see that she was still breathing, still alive, crying but alive, so she was OK…’ish.

I started to write this blog 2 weeks into returning to work, my iPhone lay between my arms still permanently logged into the Nurserycam watching Strawbug playing around on a playmat. I’d stopped crying every morning after dropping her off. Although I was still extremely sad to say goodbye. And it hurt like hell.

This week, we’ve both been a little under the weather. I’m not sure if it’s that or if it was destined to be a bit of a rollercoaster ride, in any event. But, it’s been hell. There have been tears again most days. I’m completely shattered both physically and emotionally. To the extent that I’ve been in bed by 8pm every night this week.

I’m not the only mum in this position. Almost 30% of Mothers work full time (Office for National Statistics). Whether it’s because they want to or they need to is another blog entirely. For me, it’s definitely purely a financial need and I would stay at home with Strawbug in a heartbeat if I could.

And as I update the post now, I’m still not doing much work. And I still think of nothing but Strawbug 24/7/365.  And I can’t help thinking, which will go first… nurserycam or my job. After all, something has probably got to give!

#100factsaboutme

As usual I’m a bit late to the party. Last week on Twitter #100factsaboutme was trending. I didn’t tweet them at the time (and I’m too embarrassed by my tardiness to tweet them now). So, I thought I’d list them here in my blog… They’re not very exciting, but neither am I. It’s OK, I’m cool with that!

#100factsaboutme (in no particular order)

1. I’ve been ‘online’ for 2 and 1/2 years and have never revealed my real name on twitter or my blog.
2. My first name is Jo.
3. I can take or leave marmite and vegemite but I hate bovril!
4. I’ve lived in Scotland, England and the US.
5. As a rule – I hate feet. Most feet are gross, even my own. If yours are the exception, you are blessed!
6. I have a weird obsession with bathrooms in pubs/clubs/restaurants – they have to be nice and if they’re quirky/cool/clever then even better.
7. I will turn the loo roll around in someone elses house if it’s facing the wrong way. (The loose end should hang over the top not down the back!)
8. I’d love to have 4 kids but I don’t think I have enough time left.
9. I wore braces on my teeth when I was 13. 6 months after they came off my teeth twisted right back again. They are still crooked.
10. My favourite (alcoholic) drink is an Apple Martini, which I first tasted in the American Bar at the Savoy Hotel, London.
11. I believe that good service is everything.
12. I would love to write for a living… But I’m not good enough to make money doing it 😦
13. I love old Black & White movies. The stars of the ’30s n ’40s were trully glamorous.
14. I’m a fan of Art Deco.
15. When I was 17 I was obsessed with going to Australia. I finally got there when I was 31.
16. I wanted a tattoo since I was 16. I almost got one in LA when I was 21 but bottled out.
17. I got my 1st tattoo when I was 27 in Amsterdam.
18. I got my 2nd tattoo in LA for my 33rd birthday.
19. I’m a massive Jet Li fan and have been since my Dad introduced me to one of his movies 7 years ago.
20. I have suffered from depression and I learned a lot about myself during my recovery, not all of which was nice.
22. The first car I ever bought was an old Suzuki Alto and cost £450 in 1995. It sounded like a hairdryer 🙂
23. I broke my collarbone when I was 6. It’s the only bone I’ve ever broken.
24. I wear glasses.
25. I am baptised Catholic but don’t practice any religion.
26. I am interested in all religions, faith systems and spirituality.
27. I failed my cycling proficiency test, when I was 10, on a technicality – I had an American bike with backpedal brakes.
28. I have never been in a physical fight – thankfully, as I’m a bit of a woos and would probably lose/run away.
29. I’m pretty competitive. It’s a family trait 🙂
30. I hate housework.
31. I think my brother looks like a young Paul Newman. Everyone else disagrees.
32. I think I have good taste.
33. I have the same birthday as Robbie Williams and I admit I was more than mildly obsessed with him in my early 20s!
34. I wish I was more creative.
35. I love to dance but haven’t done in a long long time.
36. The first time I visited LA I hated it. The second time I visited LA I loved it!
37. Is how old I am now.
38. I’ve driven the Pacific Coast Highway.
39. Ive been to Vegas, once, on a budget. When I go back, I’m going with money!
40. I have a bucket list… But it changes all the time.
41. If I won the lottery, I’d give some to my family, some to charity and spend the rest travelling the world for a few years with my Beloved and my baby girl.
42. I was a vegetarian for 1 year when I was 17. I failed. Mainly because I used to hate eating vegetables.
43. I was born in the year of the tiger and so was my daughter.
44. I was married and divorced before I reached 30.
45. When I was 17 I wanted to paint my bedroom black. My parents wouldn’t allow it.
46. I have an attic full of trophies and plaques won in dancing competitions when I was a kid. I think I even have a tiny sparkly costume!
47. I still have my wedding dress. It’s in my parents attic, not for sentimental reasons, just laziness.
48. But I sold my wedding band and engagement ring to a couple of poor students on eBay.
49. I’ve never been skiing but would love to. I had a 1 hour lesson once on Mt. Hood in Oregon. “Snow Plough!”
50. Growing up my sister was into Luke Skywalker. I was more of a Han Solo kinda gal… I still am.
51. I always thought I was like my Dad. But now I see I am pretty much a carbon copy of my Mum. Either is cool with me.
52. I aspire to be as good a parent to my daughter as my parents are to me. I am very blessed in that respect.
53. I have had my heart broken twice; once from a very unhealthy kind of love and once from infatuation. My Beloved is the only person I have truly loved. He is my soulmate.
54. I’m a marketeers dream!
55. I have no particular skillset or qualification. Jack of all trades, master of none.
56. My star sign is Aquarius.
57. I’m scared of heights.
58. I would rather be a stay at home mum than go back to work. But, like most mums, there are bills to pay 😦
59. I used to smoke cigarettes.
60. My favourite colour of the moment is white. But it changes all the time.
61. 95% of the clothes in my wardrobe are black.
62. I cried on a plane for a full hour after watching Marley & Me. Bit of a damp squib for the honeymooning couple to my right!
63. When I was 10, I used to write songs with the “bad” girl at school. I found out recently that she died a few years ago of an overdose. Life can be so cruel.
64. My sister & I were brought home in a police car on our first day of school after getting lost.
65. I love sunshine.
66. I used to have a really strong fear of dogs. I’d cross the street to avoid a Yorkshire Terrier. I’m better now but still wary…
67. I’m the oldest of 4 children.
68. I like to sit in silence in empty churches. I find it very comforting.
69. I’m good at keeping secrets.
70. I painted my hall yellow because I believe it’s a happy colour. That way whenever I leave or come home I’ll be smiling. (I learned this trick from my friends mum).
71. I love to sing, but I sound like a cats choir! Doesn’t stop me 🙂
72. I make quick decisions.
73. Im really not good at sticking with things, especially yoga (& other exercise), eating healthily and writing my blog!
74. I love Opera. Last time I went, though, was 3 years ago in Verona, Italy.
75. I am one of those annoying iPhone people who has to play with her phone every couple of minutes.
76. I have a couple of A levels and a degree. But I only got into Uni thanks to the clearing system.
77. I kind of “fell” onto my career path. I never really knew what I wanted to do, i just ended up doing the job that I do.
78. I have been scuba diving twice, both times on the Great Barrier Reef. It was amazing!
79. I would love to live in a warm sunny place by a beach.
80. I live in a cold rainy place by a beach.
81. I speak minimal tourist French and Spanish and feel I should really learn one of those fully.
82. I believe it’s rude to travel to another country and not attempt to speak the language or respect the local customs/culture.
83. My favourite flowers are sunflowers (for years it was Orchids).
84. I have absolutely no patience. Zero. Nada. Zilch!
85. A few years ago I went to a Gnaoua music festival in Essaouira (Morocco). That was pretty cool.
86. I’d love to go camping. I have a 5 person tent I’ve never used and nothing to go in it.
87. I’m pretty much always late. It drives my Beloved nuts.
88. I’m really really nosy, ha!
89. My favourite book of all time is The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexander Dumas). This has never changed.
90. I love my cat.
91. I’m a bit of a snob.
92. I believe that the top pillows on the bed (the really plump ones) are not to be slept on – it’ll make the bed look messy. My Beloved thinks this is ridiculous and refers to them as the “show pillows”.
93. I also keep a set of towels for guests only – another thing my Beloved finds ridiculous!
94. I can always squeeze in a bit of ice cream no matter how full I am 🙂
95. I have no regrets.
96. I am a comfort eater.
97. I try to always be a good person but don’t always achieve this goal.
98. My favourite “pick me up” movie, guaranteed to make me laugh and smile, is ‘Some Like It Hot’.
99. My baby girl is THE most precious thing I will ever have in my life.
100. It has taken me a week to write this list!

The Prodigal Blogger Returns

Today on twitter, I pledged to resurrect my commitment to positivity on account of Lent.

I haven’t practised a particular religion for 20 years (wow! didn’t realise it was that long until I counted it up just now). Not that I’m lazy. On the contrary. I’m extremely curious about religion, spirituality and things that are seemingly “other worldly”. What I didn’t want to do was go to church every Sunday and not really believe what I was saying or doing, or worse, not go to church at all but play the religion card when I need/want to get my child into a good school.

I actually take it very seriously. Least of all because I made a promise to my father (who is a strong believer) that I would make very conscious decisions about ‘God’ and ‘The Church’ and would not belittle his faith by being flippant about it.

And I believe that some of the things I was taught by my parents and religion have contributed to my being a “good person” today. One of those things is Lent. Well kind of.

I think that it is a great idea to take time out, whether it’s once per year or once each day, to be conscious about who we are and what we do for others. Whilst during Lent we are often encouraged to give something up for the duration (in support of what ‘Jesus’ gave up for all mankind) I believe that actually it makes more sense to give something back.

So, I’ve done this a few times over the years. I’ve participated in Lent in my own way. By doing something extra.

This year, I’m refocusing on positivity (see my previous attempts here and here). So, I’ll be looking for small ways each day in which I can help others (and from time to time myself) through the power of positivity. Harder than it sounds but then, it wouldn’t be worth it if it was easy!

I’ll keep you posted. Look out for updates on Twitter. Might even pen a blog or two about it… After all I did promise to write more this year.

New Years Resolutions

Once again there has been quite a gap between my blog posts! Oh well, quality not quantity eh? (here’s hoping I have the former “down”!)

“The first three months are a bloody hard slog!” says my BFF, yogaswerve, who’s also my oracle on all things baby related. Our baby girl had colic from weeks 2 to 14, but even without that I’d probably agree. Little time for personal hobbies like blogging or fitness. Though I still managed to find time to eat chocolate and a veritable mountain of cookies and assorted biscuits. I still do.

Week 15 was Christmas and then came the New Year and here we are a couple of weeks into 2011 and still chasing the Holy Grail that is “a routine”.

So, whilst my baby girl snoozes on my lap (I’m not molly coddling her – she still has a bit of reflux and has to stay upright for 20 minutes after feeding, she also happens to have fallen asleep), I thought I’d write down my resolutions… Some are a little more realistic than others but I’ll let you work out which is which for yourself.

1. Lose 2 stone
2. Attend a Zumba or a Dance class (something energetic to assist with #1)
3. Re-start Yoga (again)
4. Write retrospective “diary” of pregnancy and mummyhood
5. Save up for a mac (for documenting #4)
6. Try, really try, to post regular, meaningful, interesting and humorous ditty’s on my blog.
7. Spend as much time with my baby girl as possible (she’s growing so fast and she is so much fun to be around!)

Apart from winning the lottery, that’s all I got… But to be honest, I’d settle for winning at nappy roulette once in a while!

Guilty Pleasures

Two things stick in my mind from when I first went on maternity leave; (1) everyone told me to rest… lots… as it would be my last chance and (2) after 2 days of daytime TV I resolved that I would be as active as possible to avoid it numbing my mind completely.

Two things are most prominent in my life now; (1) I’m permanently tired and (2) when my baby girl does sleep, I veg in front of daytime TV!!

I’m not sure which was the chicken and which was the egg, but having caved into spousal pressure some weeks ago and re-investing in Sky TV (including upgrading to HD!!) I am now addicted to E! (no, not the party drug, the Entertainment channel).

Fashion Police, Kimora, Holly’s World, Keeping up with the Kardashians and Kendra… my God! Kendra – she’s my main guilty pleasure.

Who’d have thought an intelligent, overweight, 30-something, brunette from the North end of the UK could relate to Hugh Heffners ex?! But I totally do… the series they are repeating at the moment is the one where Baby Hank is a few months old and Kendra is going through all of the highs and lows that the rest of us first time mums do. Albeit she has a nanny to help and the money to fly to Vegas for a weekend off. Still, I get it. I totally do.

You can imagine how excited I am to see the new series starting this Sunday. A chance to see how my life will turn out when my baby gets a bit older like Baby Hank. Really??? you say… NO! But I am excited. What can I say, I’m addicted to the show now and I think I’ll still get it for a little while yet – probably until I go back to work.

Back to work – what a thought 😦 ugh! dreading it. I foresee major separation anxiety and paranoia about whether my brain works again. Even pre-Kendra, I’m sure I lost a bit of my brain when I gave birth. Now post-Kendra… well, I’ll leave that to your imagination…

So there you have it – confession of a first time mum, on maternity leave in the cold rainy North of England (yes, the weather is just an excuse and no, I’m not convinced either that I wouldn’t do it if it were summertime). My guilty pleasure. Roll on Sunday… Go Kendra! Go Kendra! You’re not alone now….