A New Page

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My new obsession!

2016. We’ll that happened.

Whether you look externally or internally, whether it was euphoric Andy Murray world number one male tennis star, or terrifying politics both sides of the pond, or tragic loss of too much talent (and about half my teen idols) it was a year to remember. And forget.

I don’t do New Year generally. Since the children started school, my fresh start and broken resolutions begin in September.

But, like many, I have dragged myself over the finish line of 2016 so very ready for a new beginning.

Not resolutions, well not like lose weight and quit wine (as I read somewhere on Facebook, no one likes a skinny sober b!tch anyway). More like kick up the bum thoughts.

I got to the end of 2016 without really knowing what happened. Personal achievements were few and hard to recall. I only wrote one book and I feel ambivalent about that one. I did help edit a memoir, and found it rewarding. And we did loads to our house. But still.

I’m a mess of anxiety and contradiction. My kids called me lazy yesterday because I keep hiding in the bedroom, often asleep for hours at a time. I did point out that their 5.30am starts might have something to do with it (although that just makes every parent I know smugly point out that their children have been trained not to wake them until at least 7am. I must have missed that section of the parenting course. Oh, wait…)

But actually I’m hiding from myself. The mess of guilt and duty and boredom of being a work/stay at home mum. I loved helping another author bring their book into the world, but working on someone else’s deadline was ‘real’ work. The kids did childcare (and hated it). The house suffered. People ran out of clean/ironed clothes. I realised however much being a SAHM sucks sometimes it’s easier than self-employed mum.

But.

I was a person, I was appreciated. I was paid.

So, 2017, my plan is for structure. Goals, achievements. The children can adapt to a working-a-bit-more-often mum, just as they adapted to karate mum. This time next year I will have written novels, plural. Perhaps edited a few for others. Maybe even sell some craft on Etsy. Exercise. Read more. Hide less.

Yesterday I took the children swimming and was able to swim away from them (while watching over my shoulder) properly for the first time. They didn’t drown. They did fine.

2017 I’m going to swim away from Mummy towards Amanda. But I’ll still be watching them. Because Mum is a job for life. Just maybe not my only one.

Happy New Year.

Life Is Like A Pile of Laundry

A white polar bear is boring

A white polar bear is boring

I spent New Year’s Day conquering the worst of my feral laundry mountain. The five loads of muddy clothes and pyjamas and the three-foot high ironing basket. It wasn’t so bad. I watched the Cinderella DVD my gorgeous daughter asked Father Christmas to bring for me (unbeknownst to me). I had an excuse not to fall asleep on the sofa or play yet another board game or strain my thumbs mining for diamonds.

We had a mooching home-based Christmas this year, full of TV, Minecraft, and colouring. Trapped in by the endless rain, it’s been unexciting, but restful.

I jokingly put on Facebook today that I was starting the year as it would go on – fighting an endless losing battle with dirty clothes. A relative said, ‘oh no,’ I should be curled on the sofa with a Bailies and a mince pie.

There have been plenty of both this holiday – I’m quite proud of my mince-pie belly. I hosted Christmas Day and made a dozen mince pies, forgetting (or not) that I’m the only one who likes them. And we won’t even mention the giant Christmas Cake I’m eating single-handed, accompanied by endless slices of apple and cheese.

Christmas colouring

Christmas colouring

It occurred to me, as I contemplated my remaining one-foot high ironing basket and the two feet of folded clothes on the tumble-dryer this evening, that laundry is a good analogy for life. I live for the day I’ll reach the bottom of the washing hamper or the ironing basket, but the only way it would happen would be if I was alone. My perfect laundry-life can’t ever exist, unless we all live naked or not at all.

We spend so much time in life waiting for the perfect – perfect job, perfect house (or even vaguely tidy kitchen table), perfect car, husband, kids. The day the kids listen or put their shoes on at first time of asking. The book deal, best seller, movie rights (that might just be me!), the perfect night’s sleep or skinny body.

This January we’ll beat ourselves up with resolutions to become the perfect us. Because then, just maybe, we’ll find perfect happiness.

But it’s a con.

We’ll never find – and keep – the perfect, just as I’ll never ever finish the laundry. Because life isn’t static. Perfection is for a moment only. To aim for anything else is to invite a life of disappointment. If we strive for the thing to make us happy, we’ll miss happy in the striving.

Still in Christmas PJs

Still in Christmas PJs

It isn’t reaching the perfect empty laundry basket that made me happy today – I didn’t get close. What made me happy was the doing. Watching a lovely movie with my kids while bringing order to chaos. Achieving something. Working hard. Getting stuck in.

It’s a cliché that life is the journey not the destination, but clichés are born in truth. Running will make you happy; striving for the perfect body probably won’t. Writing and creating will bring satisfaction;, longing to be the next J K Rowling will not.

So this year my resolution, as I approach my Zero Fs Forties, is to remember happiness is there for me to grab every day, not to strive for in a futile quest for perfection.

And there will always be ironing, but that’s okay, because it means life is moving on.

Back Again

Big Ben

Big Ben

Good morning and Happy New Year! I hope you all had lovely celebrations last night.

I saw in the new year as I’m sure many mothers of small children did: sleeping on the sofa from 9pm until 11.45pm, waking up for a glass of Baileys and a mince pie, watching the spectacular fireworks on the TV, then crawling in to bed.

Our daughter came in an hour or two later, after having a nightmare and, because it’s been a hectic week, I let her spend the night with us.

It seems appropriate that I spent the first few hours of 2014 in the position I suspect I will occupy all year: jammed between husband, children and my need to write. I lay awake thinking about what I really wanted to be doing – apart from trying to sleep in a space the size of a park bench – and I knew I wanted to be writing.

I have spent the last few days cleaning and being a (grumpy) parent. Tiredness and PMT have guaranteed the grumpy bit. It wasn’t really the best time to have extra children in the house, but my daughter was missing her friends so I duly invited some over. I tried to stay out of their way and do cleaning, which mostly worked. It’s wonderful to have a clean and tidy house, miraculous even, considering she had two friends for a four-hour playdate, almost immediately followed by another friend for a sleepover, and the rest of his family the next day for lunch. The phrase “Shovelling snow while it’s still snowing” springs to mind.

The ten-minute firework display is amazing

The ten-minute firework display is amazing

And now the new year is here. The house is clean (for now), the friends have departed, and it’s time to figure out what I want to do with the time I get in the week to ‘work’. Will that be housework or will it be writing? I suspect that, without the driving force of the daily blog and Two-Hundred Steps Home, it will be even more of a constant juggling act between want and need, duty and desire.

Last year, the blog and Claire became my duty, with a daily deadline to fulfil. That made it much easier to ignore the housework (and the family!) This year I won’t have that excuse. It will be interesting to see if I am strong enough to keep writing anyway.

So it seemed important to get up this morning and write. Even this little blog post is enough to keep the fires burning, I hope. I’m not sure what I’ll blog about. Looking at my most visited posts of 2013, it looks like book reviews and articles about self-publishing (with a little bit of kids’ craft thrown in) are what attract visitors. Not the writing and parenting posts that fill up 90% of this blog! So maybe a few more reviews and a bit less whinging. We’ll see.

What resolutions and plans do you have for 2014? How will you make them happen? I’m thinking some hard and fast commitments, written down, will help. So, I will publish two more books this year. And I will (try to) continue to blog daily, but without killing myself or neglecting my family (too much). There, it’s said. No going back now!