Dependence before Independence?

It’s 4am and the puppy just woke up. She’s crying and I know that a) she needs a wee and b) if I don’t go soon not only will I have extra laundry, but she will have woken up the kids.

That’s fine. Parenting is about getting up in the night. The problem is I also know I won’t make it back to bed. Because once she’s done her business, she won’t go back in her crate without protest. And by protest I mean yelping, crying and rattling at the gate until it sounds like armageddon.

We’re on dog two. We know the rules. Ignore them when they cry and they stop. And we did. A bit. She goes in her crate at bedtime without crying now. But the mornings are different.

Firstly, I’m not so great at 4am. I go from calm to banshee really quickly. When I threatened (in hyperbole I hasten to add) to drown or sell her, I knew it wasn’t working. That whine, man, it’s like a chainsaw to the nerves pre-dawn.

Secondly, I’m not the only one who becomes vile on too little sleep. A couple of weeks ago I left the puppy crying and took off to the outside room, where I couldn’t hear her. I slept beautifully for a couple more hours, but awoke to carnage. The whole house was up, poo everywhere, tempers frayed. It took days for husband and kids to recover.

It was the same when my youngest child was born. My eldest was a light sleeper then, and only 19 months old, so whenever the baby cried he was instantly hushed. I spent the next five years dealing with the consequences. Even now I wonder if I caused his separation anxiety by trying to protect the family’s sleep/sanity.

And there’s the rub. At 4am, when I’m taking one for the team, I’m also telling myself what a terrible parent/dog owner I am. Creating a needy, spoilt puppy whilst also creating a grumpy exhausted me.

My only salvation is something a therapist said to me once. I wasn’t there for parenting advice, but it was the only good thing about the whole experience, since they did more harm than good for the thing I was there for. Anyway, the advice was ‘Dependence before Independence’. A child has to learn to trust you before they can leave you. A child has to know you’ll be there no matter what.

That phrase has been our parenting mantra. For every 3am cuddle, for every event left early or extra five minutes spent saying goodbye. It helped me too, because nothing triggers my anxiety like having a screaming child dragged from my arms, no matter how well-intentioned. I’ve had stern words with teachers and left childcare institutions that insisted my child was crying ‘crocodile tears’. I believed in my mantra.

And it’s worked, with the kids. My timid frightened children are now pulling away, finding their wings, choosing to forge their own path, without being shoved. They go on camp and sleepovers and run happily into school without a backward glance. And my sanity has remained intact.

Time will tell if it holds true for puppies.

Clubs, Jobs and Therapigs

Phew, what a month! September is always crazy, with back to school and son’s birthday. But this year has been extra mental with the son now eligible for school clubs.

Between them they now do Zumba, Indoor Bowls, Bridge, Fitness, Basketball, Brownies, Beavers, Swimming, Karate, Flute and Cornet.

That’s a lot of cheques, emails, kits, and a whole heap of headspace.

They haven’t even started half of them yet, that begins Monday, but just processing the details, alongside birthdays and vet appointments and windy weather and packed lunches for the fussitarian has about finished me off.

And the money! Oh my days. My cheque book is weeping.

So this month I’ve been trying really hard to get proper paid work. Grrr.

I’ve re-signed up to Findaproofreader (that cost £36) and renewed my website (another £36). And I’ve applied for two typing jobs. Failed the first test process, distracted by a crying puppy that was meant to be sleeping.

Passed the second rather more rigorous process, and got through a whole heap of security checks and referees and other employment palaver, only to discover not only is it minimum wage, based on my current typing speed (which is a not-too-shabby 80wpm) but also I need liability insurance and updated virus software. Which all would be at least another £100, if not double.

I can’t do it. I know about ‘speculate to accumulate’, but this is ridiculous for a £5 an hour, no guaranteed work job.

I have degrees. I have skills. I have a damn migraine!

Seriously, what do I tell my daughter? If you want kids, don’t bother with uni, train as a plumber or a hairdresser or an Electrician, because degrees don’t mean shit if you ever take a career break to raise sprogs.

Okay, I’m whinging I know, but when unskilled labour would pay me more than knowing the difference between elicit and illicit (one of the many tests I passed) I wish I didn’t have a brain, or an education, because then I wouldn’t feel such a failure.

Anyway, onwards and upwards. There’s always checkout jobs at Waitrose, although most part time work involves people and it’s not my strong suit these days! 😂

Thank goodness for therapigs. In a world of chaos there is always a little bit of guinea pig calm.

Reviews, Glorious Reviews

DAB7B6EA-E27E-49D4-9260-B5B8C8F9A33CIt doesn’t happen very often, but it’s been a good week for reviews. Reviews are the lifeblood of the writer, especially the self-published author, but they’re not easy to come by.

I ran a free promo on The Family We Choose over the bank holiday weekend, hoping to drum up some interest. Unfortunately, the heady days of thousands of downloads during a promotion are long gone. I think I hit 31 copies over 3 days. But no matter, because I received two lovely reviews.

The one that touched me most ran under the headline “Will take you right back if you have ever been there.”

It’s always dangerous writing about difficult emotive subjects. When I wrote Baby Blues & Wedding Shoes, I had plenty of first-hand experience of postnatal depression. And while I do also have some knowledge of what it means to have a turbulant childhood and an overbearing father, it’s nothing like it is for the characters in my book. A whole heap of research filled in the blanks.

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So, to know that the story resonates true for those with more experience is unbelievably rewarding, as well as being rather daunting. Should books come with a Trigger Warning?

On a completely different note, I received this lovely review from a nine-year-old who read and enjoyed Moon Pony.

B031E24D-250E-4818-9045-B212236F448EIt’s really special to get feedback from the people I write my children’s books for. What’s nicer is the depth of thought in the review. Not just “I enjoyed it” but an awareness of the book being about the idea that sometimes people need a bit of extra love.

Perfectly timed too, as I got printed copies of Hope Glimmers through this week. A tiny bit proud of how the illustrations came out, as only the second book I have illustrated. I’m itching to write another so I can illustrate that, too. Unfortunately the summer hols are more conducive to painting than writing. Still, only a week left. 😊

 

Pixie Cuts, Hot Days and Minecraft Mania

Not a good time to have black fur

It’s been a crazy month. For those not local to the UK, we have been enjoying an unexpected heatwave for the last few weeks. Positively Mediterranean!

Usually I wilt like lettuce in anything over 20C but fortunately this sweltering weather has been accompanied by a fresh wind, meaning respite is at hand. Unfortunately it doesn’t do much for the motivation and I haven’t achieved a great deal since I finished invigilating.

I have, however, finally cut off my pesky hair. I’ve wanted to do it since I turned 40, but the kids were rather anti (my daughter said she’d never leave her room again, but that has become a rather tempting prospect recently). Anyway the heat and an impending karate exam made me take the plunge. And I love it. Although, contrary to expectations, it’s no cooler. Definitely needs to be shorter still!

Oh yes, that’s another achievement – I passed my karate exam and am now a brown belt! Still only half way to black, but an amazing feeling nonetheless.

One final achievement is that Game Girl is complete. It’s been a labour of love, as I illustrated this one myself, but definitely worth it. Turns out having a Minecraft-themed storyline has done something no other book I’ve written thus far has managed – my children are actually reading it. I know, shock right? Not just that, but their friends want to read it too, even the boys, even with a unicorn! Such a great feeling.

If you fancy a gander, the paperback is available at cost (£3.99) until tomorrow, when it will go up to £5.99 (although for some reason it’s showing an earlier cover). I hope to finalise the Kindle version today.

So that’s me. There’s been sport too, obviously, but who wants to hear about that right? Even with a certain team breaking its penalty jinx last night! How are you surviving hot days, sticky nights, and endless football and tennis? With beer and good books I hope.

Working, Anxiety and Mental Health

If I’d written that title a decade ago, I would have had only one thought: that working and anxiety are non-compatible. My life as a marketing manager was full of terrible moments of anxiety, inadequacy and much sobbing. It’s taken ten years for me to even contemplate having a ‘proper’ job, rather than freelancing, parenting and farting about writing books. And even though the job I finally got was casual shift work, I still nearly didn’t turn up on day one.

So glad I did.

Working as an Exam Invigilator has done wonders for my mental state. The body might be exhausted but (or maybe as a result) my mind is more settled than it has been in years.

Invigilating is a bit like mindfulness. You can only focus on the moment. Of course the mind wanders a bit, but then a student will need something or it will be time to collect papers, and I’m back in the present.

There is no trying to focus while a dozen other things are happening (for example I’m writing this while listening to son singing along to Harry Potter in 99 seconds and daughter’s Maths Whizz homework, and the dog wants breakfast, the guinea pigs are squeaking, and the washing machine just played it’s happy ‘I’m done!’ jingle). No wonder my head is clearer. Even when the children were at school I would have all the different things I should be doing clamouring at me. And I didn’t do any of them.

It is true what they say, if you want something doing ask a busy person. I’ve got more done in the last few weeks than in the last six months, mostly by having no time to procrastinate. Although I’m even more in awe of parents who never drop the ball. I’m only averaging 20 hours a week and still I’ve forgotten to pay for a club, left my daughter’s coat at home twice, and lord knows if they’re doing their homework.

I remember reading the Stephen Hawking quote above after he died, and seeing the absolute truth of it. “Work gives you meaning and purpose.” It sure does.

It isn’t just getting paid, although that is fabulous. I feel useful. I go into work and people are nice to me (not the students: teenagers are terrifying). I feel like I can make a tiny difference. If I can smile at an anxious student, be speedy with something they need, or notice their desk is wobbly, I can make their exam experience less horrible.

Not that work has been anxiety-free. I have had one panic attack, when a Lead was being particularly horrible to me, and it’s tough trying not to break down in a hall of 140 students who probably feel worse than you do. And I nearly quit. But I didn’t, and what doesn’t break you and all that.

Most of all I no longer feel disconnected from the world. I no longer feel invisible. I get moments of appreciation (which are rare from my own kids – in fact they’re much worse now I’m not always available). The random shifts are hard, my feet hurt, and the dog hates me. But I feel more content with life that I have in a long time.

Work! Who knew?

Update

Oh my goodness, has it really been nearly three months since my last confession? How life interferes and shreds time.

Part of why I haven’t posted is because I have too much to say. I’ve written so many posts in my head that I don’t know what to write here. And if I’m honest I’ve forgotten most of them now!

But, like exercise, the longer you leave it the harder it gets and the greater the mental block. So consider this a gentle jog around the park.

The main reason for my silence is that I got a job. I know, shocker right? It’s only casual but I’m working as an exam invigilator. And I tell you, there’s a whole heap of posts right there. Nothing makes you dwell on the state of modern education than watching a bright kid sit through multiple exams and write nothing.

I’ve also started illustrating one of my own books. I adore Annie’s illustrations for Moon Pony, and she’s working on another of my kids’ books, but I can’t afford to have them all done, so there you are. The picture above is of my snooty unicorns, they’re okay aren’t they?

Aside from that it’s the usual daily chaos of house and family, which is probably best taken at a quick pace. Although now I see the time, I must hustle some kids to school at something closer to a sprint!

So now I’ve broken the block I hope to get back to blogging (and running at some point, but that’s another post!)

Have a great day!

The Narky Nines

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I’ve just had my first week of living the narky nines and it does not bode well for the future. I thought the sarky sevens and insolent eights were bad but she’s upped it a level.

The full title is the narky narcissistic nightmare nines. If it isn’t passive-aggressive screaming sessions in her room, intended for a wide audience but just incomprehensible enough you have to engage (and further enrage) the beast to have a clue as to cause, it’s teenage-style pouting selfies wearing a ton of make up. The only spoken languages are sass and defensive sulking, and any form of gratitude is a thing of the past.

I’m exhausted, physically and mentally.

I lay upstairs today, after 24 hours of wakeover with her best mate (like a sleepover without the sleep) and realised I had nothing. No energy, no patience. No fucks to give. No idea what to cook for dinner. In the end I sent husband and hell brat off to McDonalds (with hell brat sulking all the way) so I could walk the dog in artic peace.

I know it gets worse. Don’t tell me, I haven’t bought my necessary vineyard yet. I’m going to need it!

In the meantime, hurrah for my therapigs… IMG_2721