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City of Girls

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city of girls

In one of the most anticipated books of the year, Elizabeth Gilbert turns to fiction again and in doing so demonstrates once more her impressive versatility in terms of style, theme and setting.

With the assertion ‘you don’t have to be a “good girl” to be a good person’ made on the cover, Gilbert leaves ambiguity at the door (where we find her characters are often wont to leave their inhibitions). Setting out her intentions towards her readers in a letter at the front, Gilbert takes on hundreds of stories throughout history in which women, acting on or even displaying wanton sensuality is an inevitable precursor to shame, devastation and downfall.

To tackle such a behemoth might have resulted in an unbridled feminist shriek without any real heft but with deftness of touch Gilbert generously imbues her characters with depth and a certain grace alongside their passions.

The 1940’s New York of the novel offers twenty year old Vivian Morris a dramatic alternative to her small-town upbringing when, having dropped out of college, she is packed off to stay with her eccentric Aunt Peg in her tumbledown theatre in midtown Manhattan. Thrown among a cast of bohemians, showgirls and artists (or degenerates depending on your standpoint), Vivvie unequivocally embraces her new home and lifestyle, opening her heart (among other things) with a joyful disregard for consequences.

Consequences will not be pushed aside however. Scandal on a scale which would doubtless have been the denouement of the story told from a different angle in another time, sees Vivian cowed but not broken. There is retreat but only for a time. The phoenix-like Vivian is more vibrant and deeper in spirit for having had to put herself back together and through this Gilbert provides ever deeper engagement between reader and character.

Gilbert’s determination to pull off a story championing the right of women to go after happiness however they see fit is a triumph. Vivian’s charming temerity and effusive belief in herself alongside her sense of duty when times demand might somehow render her familiar to ourselves.

She relates the twists and turns of life to Angela, whose father is something to Vivian though we know not what until Angela herself does at the end of the story.  The subtleties and elegant quality  of the relationships towards the end of the book are a stark contrast to those of the earlier chapters  seeming to demonstrate the joy to be found in passion restrained as well as unbridled.

The cast Gilbert has built around Vivian brings great strength to the overall story while allowing the individuals to shine or sometimes glitter darkly, in their own chaotic, challenging ways. The idea of life imitating art is never far away as life hurls about more drama than the play they are working on. The star of the show is always Vivvie and how wonderfully satisfying it is for us as readers to stay the course with her and how dull life momentarily feels once her story is complete.

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The Island Of Sea Women by Lisa See

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If you love stories of strong, fearless women, their relationships to each other and family, the depiction of their path, stumbling blocks and successes, you will love this book. Lisa See gives us wonderful characters living amid a terrible yet fascinating history.

The Island of Sea Women is as exquisite in its rendering as it is heartbreaking in its storyline. Set over the course of seven decades it follows the lives of Young-sook and Mi-ja, best friends from Jeju, an island province of South Korea. Young-sook’s future as a haenyeo, a member of her area’s diving collective is guaranteed by her lineage. Mi-ja on the other hand is the orphaned daughter of a Japanese collaborator (Jeju was occupied by Japan for much of the beginning of the Twentieth Century) and as such tainted by default and ostracised by the village.

They meet as children when of course neither status nor heritage matters. Thanks to Young-sook’s mother being chief of their collective Mi-ja is granted an opportunity to dive and the other haenyeo have no choice but to accept it. Jeju’s matrifocal culture is steeped in traditions and beliefs. The depiction of customs and ceremonies utterly enthralled me and led me to marvel at the massive differences in cultures and yet also think about the common thread linking so many women – that of family and motherhood.

I quickly became attached to both Young-sook and Mi-ja, so different but so incredibly dedicated to one another. The girls live in a time of colossal change, they are fated to navigate life against the backdrop of horrifying events as the Second World War and its aftermath rages close by and rends the region apart. The milestones of life – marriage, babies, work, death of loved ones take place in spite of the upheavals but are by no means unaffected.

You will cry and feel heartsore. You will grit your teeth and knit your brows as you keep pace with Young-sook and Mi-ja. You will will them on. You will find yourself researching the history, in awe of the facts and of your ignorance. You will put a visit to Jeju on your bucket list. You will miss the book once you read the final page.

 

 

The ‘I did…’ list.

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Are you a ‘to do’ list person?

I set myself reminders on my phone and make lists in the notes app. I write bullet points in a notebook, stick neon notes on walls and chalk up chores on the blackboard.

The determination is always there to get through it, to enjoy ticking things off. But frequently I find I am frustrated with myself about the things that have gone unticked as I get distracted from the plan. I include things I’ve already completed, or ridiculous items like ‘get the boys to school’ in order to redress the balance. But then I just feel bad about cheating – unlike Pastor Shep!

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Today I had a couple of reminders hanging over from yesterday and I woke up in a super energetic and upbeat mood. Half an hour after the boys had gone to school I had aced my list. So I kept going with no list. The chores are mainly (all) really boring. But somehow having the peace and space to do everything in its own time made it weirdly relaxing.

So rather than beating myself about the head with reminders and ‘to-do’s I’m going to write an ‘I did…’ list from time to time and remind myself how much I achieve, however small and whether for others (much much washing in my life) or for me when I acknowledge the importance of taking time out for me and being glad of that.

So, today I did…

…begin the day watching the sunrise on the beach. I meditated (badly) and swam (not very far).

…make a green juice that all the boys drank – mum win!

…reply to the emails I’d been putting off.

…listen to a live lecture of the course I’m taking (usually I manage a recording if I’m lucky).

…stew the plums that looked like they’d been forgotten at the back of the fridge.

…prep supper during the day – something I always mean to do but never manage.

…four loads of washing. And dried, folded and put them away. Felt great!

…tidy my desk.

…apply liberal amounts of aftersun to my poor sunburnt body!

…not get to yoga because of the sunburn, silly me.

…make a phone-call I’ve been putting off.

…sit and enjoy a coffee while reading a new book at my fave cafe.

…take a book back to library on time.

…send out four pitches to editors (fingers crossed!).

…not drink any of the wine I was putting in the risotto.

…not make up an excuse about missing an ingredient in order to buy wine.

…sit and eat supper with my beautiful sons.

…read with all of them before bed.

…have a really early night.

…write this blogpost.

…thank the universe for having my back today.

I do…feel great satisfaction.

Let me know how and if you write lists. Share your ‘I did’ list!

Julia x

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Sorry, you’ll now have that in your head all day!

 

Allowing the apron strings to fray.

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Like many mums, the apron strings between myself and my kids have always been tightly bound and double knotted. They are growing up far too fast and every day I wish I could stop time, preserve them as my – mostly – delightful little boys. My eldest would definitely take umbrage at being called little but in my eyes he and his brothers will always display that kernel of babyhood, however tall and hairy they become. For years they are our shadows, having no choice but to be wherever we are, in the trolly while we shop, playing in the corner of the doctor’s room on the rare occasion we’re there for ourselves, in the creche at the gym while we claw back some ‘me’ time, even squashed into the cubicle of a public loo.

Of course we know from the moment they are born that the day will come when their reliance on us will be at an end, the hope being that our efforts are rewarded with the emergence of a thoughtful, articulate, well rounded and capable individual. Knowing this makes the stark truth no less horrifying: ultimately I will no longer be needed. So I have decided to put myself into training. Independence will not be an overnight severing of the apron strings, more of a gradual fraying as the boys slowly start forging their own path in a organic way.

I have always been guilty of doing things for them that they should probably be doing themselves since doing it myself is quicker and easier. Uniforms are put out the night before, I make their lunches, pack their bags. I’m sure it would teach them all sorts of life lessons were I to ask them to do these and many other pesky tasks of daily living but I know my stress levels would go through the roof. They are so easily distracted that it’s a battle just persuading them to put the damn clothes on most of the time.  With a little planning I am changing things up. Before they go to bed their uniform has to be looked out, before the tv goes on in the afternoon their bag must be unpacked. I deliver a pile of clothes to their room and ask them to put it away. Baby steps.

I used to walk them to school, delivering them to the gate with reminders and hugs. When I went back to work last year I began sometimes only taking them halfway, peeling off towards the bus stop. They were, of course absolutely fine. They stayed together, adhered to road rules, my eldest making sure the younger two stayed safe. It turned out he relished the responsibility and it wasn’t long before he suggested they could go all the way by themselves. The first time I followed them. Yup, I felt utterly foolish but somehow compelled to shadow them back as they had me for so long. These days none of us thinks twice about it and they are always raring to get to school for half an hour of playtime.  The only stipulation is that they have to give me a hug first, something my twelve year old is unsurprisingly much more comfortable doing away from his mates –  wins all round.

The boys recently upped the ante when they suggested they could go and buy the milk we needed to save me a trip. That they also took their own money and added chocolate to their shopping made the experience all the sweeter! I came home from work one day to find they had decided to bake their own afternoon tea (my husband was working at home). Muffins and pancakes had been made and half the fruit in the house cut up. Hot ovens, open flames and knives, OMG what was my husband thinking? However there were no burns or cuts, just three very self-satisfied boys and a kitchen on which a flour bomb had dropped.

With my eldest moving from primary to high school next year there is no doubt the time is absolutely right for him to be emerging from beneath my wings, his brothers following in his wake. The knots are still holding for now, just fraying ever so slowly. And at the end of the day they all still ask to be tucked in and once they’re asleep are still my delightful little boys.

The exhilaration of relief

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The exhilaration of relief

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Relief usually feels like a settling, a breathing out after worry and stress. I hadn’t thought of it having such energy, and for me, by extension such ludicrous happiness. Sometimes I wage war against a relentless craving of such strength it renders me incapable of rational thought. I have, in the past had to relinquish car keys and purse lest I find we suddenly need milk or the boys deserve ice cream. I am usually a snotty mess, anxiety clenching my gut, brain rejecting in turn every other means of relaxation. All the tools I  have at my disposal count for nought. There is only one possible solution to the problem – whatever the problem is. CBT for recovery talks about ‘riding the wave’. I feel like I am being dumped over and over and over again.

I know people who have just stopped drinking. Changed their mindsets. Decided it wasn’t doing anything for them and just wasn’t worth it.  I applaud them and celebrate for them. I also feel a furious envy that I can’t be like them. I envy them getting in there before the claws were well and truly sunk. Or perhaps they would never have become so, perhaps they are take it or leave it people. I am not. The claws are deep, extraction excruciatingly hard.

But I can recognise it. I am accepting of the work that must be done. I have realised that this alone represents change, progression of a kind.

And so I will rejoice in the exhilaration that I feel the morning after I win a small battle. A friend who is almost one year sober reminds me this is how we change our neural pathways, repeating the positive pattern until it comes to outweigh the bad.

I told Andrew the other morning that if I could bottle the feeling I was experiencing I could sell it as a true life changing drug. Such was the energy, the joy and actual excitement of the relief it was written on my face, in my whole energy.   

In his book Recovery, Russell Brand describes people who take on their demons as lucky, gifting themselves the opportunity of true happiness. And the hashtag #wearetheluckiest is oftentimes associated with sobriety thanks to Holly Whitaker’s Hip Sobriety (these schools are the bedrock of my toolkit). It’ll take a while until I feel lucky, but in the meantime I plan to revel in every win, every sunrise I watch, every morning I race my kids along the beach or say yes to playing a game with them. One day there will be no relief because I will not have had to fight demons. I long for that day but god, I hope I never forget the deep and emphatic joy of triumphing over that which I myself created.

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Retreat

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All of us have a default position when it comes to the fight or flight defence mechanism.  There must be some occasions which call for a particular response but generally we tend to have a similar reaction to times of stress. Mine is flight. In fact more than that, it could be described as run and hide.

Despite ideas to the contrary though, retreat is not the same as surrender. Surrendering has a finality about it. A giving in. Retreating can be simply a way of gathering strength, of marshalling reserves in order to get up again. There are many ways to retreat, both healthy and unhealthy, all demanding varying levels of effort. The unhealthy are often the easiest, most accessible option. Diving into the rabbit hole of your phone, suddenly cutting off social contact with no plan, hitting the bottle to drown out worries.

When I was young I had a natural way of retreating, going into what is called in Scotland, a ‘dwam’.   Described as ‘a state of semi-consciousness or reverie’, it was my unconscious way of taking myself out of a uncomfortable or unwanted situation. A quietening of the outside world, a refusal to let the pressure in. It wasn’t a learned or practiced response, more of an extended lapse in concentration. Work, children, life chores all mean, that as an adult this has diminished, Other things have taken its place.

As an adult the demands on us are many. In today’s world especially it is practically impossible to retreat, to switch off, excepting perhaps remote travel, and even then there are pockets of connectivity. The beck and call has us by the neck and our defences are not yet honed fully to deal with this endlessly intrusive world. The epidemic of stress, anxiety, depression is an insidious problem affecting roughly one in five of us. Healthy retreat shouldn’t be an optional extra, but a conscious decision we all make from time to time.

It does require effort to fight off mental health demons, or prevent them from forming. Few of us feel we have the time. Which is why we turn to methods outside of ourselves to find solace.

Using alcohol serves this purpose for many. With every glass of wine the tumult inside the head gets quieter. Worries that weighed heavy all day recede. The result of course, is that the stress, temporarily diminished, has merely been turned down, sotto voce. Come the morning, or the later, the volume increases again and the crescendo is often very much worse than the initial stress ever was.

Conscious disconnection, meaningful quiet, even from friends for a time, is the better, though seemingly more effortful way to retreat. Making a decision rather than falling into it, means we have directed the path rather than being led. Reading, meditation, yoga, morning walks, time in the bush, sitting on a beach, watching the sunrise, time with animals, going to the cinema on your own during the day, buying a magazine and sitting in your favourite cafe. These are all such brilliant, healthy and genuinely useful ways to retreat and recharge. They don’t require chatter, expectations or demands. They provide solace, a renewed appreciation of what we have and allow us to gather strength for when it is time to re-emerge.

Since hiding out in a cave sadly isn’t an option it’s important that we find a way to retreat and recharge without turning to booze or other damaging methods.

Since hiding out in a cave sadly isn’t an option it is important that we find healthy ways of retreating and recharging rather than turning to booze or other damaging methods.

Working Girl

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Working Girl

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Sadly I’ve missed the 80’s boat – even the second time around – so don’t have the chance to take on the best back to work look ever. But in terms of that feeling of empowerment and desire to succeed, I’m giving it my best shot.

And seriously, oh my god, everything a lot of people say is true! Going back to work after taking time off to concentrate on motherhood is the best bloody feeling in the world! The fact that I am working in my first regular paid job in sixteen years may have some bearing on my ridiculous sense of excitement as might the fact that I have landed my absolute dream job but the changes it has brought me, and by definition, the whole family are massive and nearly all positive.

After over a month the novelty has yet to wear off. A regular income of my own, getting dressed in an outfit I’ve thought through instead of chucking on active wear (and sometimes actually doing something active) or scruffy jeans and a tee because all I have planned is time with a reading group at school followed chores. There are so many reasons for the whole change in my mindset. Following are a few.

Being seen as something other than the mother, the shopper, the coffee drinker, the wife, the referee, the chef, the nurse, the cleaner, the party pooper…

Being seen as a person who knows about something other than earaches, kids suppers, the place to find the best value organic bloody meat.

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Being able to direct and advise people on what to buy for their seven year old grandchild (boys at least – I’m still getting to grips with girl reading past the Worst Witch – all suggestions gratefully received).

Being in on book news, reading reviews in the paper having seen the book already.

Being part of a team that doesn’t include anything else my life – that is mine.

Being appreciated by my boys, who when I first started threw their arms around me at the end of the day like I’d been away a week (this has somewhat worn off).

Being challenged to plan and organise more. Coordinating diaries with Andrew around school pick up and after school sports.

Being able to buy myself flowers (I actually often did this but felt like I was taking the food from my children’s mouths – or at least putting fish fingers instead of flathead in).

Being part of the workforce, a woman who feels empowered and knows her worth rather than telling her family they have no idea of it.

Being really bloody grateful of my decades old make up regime. Seriously, I still have the same eyebrow compact I bought at uni – think this simply shows how seldom I used to bother with my appearance.

Being able to buy myself a pair of earrings that I never would have done before – it took three times in and out of the shop before I committed. Also the savvy saleswoman going from telling me that the 30% off deal would be finishing soon to finishing in about five minutes in order just to get me the hell out.

Being able to share bus chat with my husband. Honestly. We swap stories about the most irritating of irritating passengers flirting excruciatingly with his paramour (describing what he was wearing was the least of it), to sharing our incredulity at other passengers rudeness, or the fact that they are bold enough to apply their full face of make up in public.

Being able, on my days off, to read and read, when previously if I sat down and opened a book the dark cloud of ‘should be doing x, y and z’ would look large bringing on a massive sense of guilt and probably a bout of really bad baking.

Being able to be around books all day, obvs! Seriously, I walk through the door at the beginning of my shift, inhale deeply and feel happy.

Being unable of containing my the small kernel of smugness when people tell me that working in a bookshop is their absolute dream and I do a little happy dance inside thinking ‘I know, but I”m doing it!’

I’ve said to friends I wished I’d known this sooner, that the satisfaction I am getting from being both mum and worker is a feeling I could have done with ages ago. I wrote, I know, and that did bring me happiness when it was going well. But I didn’t cope well with the insecurity, the rejections, the having to pick myself up after a disappointment. However, I do believe life is all about timing and opportunities and that while we make many of them ourselves, often our paths have to cross with another’s at an auspicious moment.

It is an amazing and lucky feeling – I just wish I could pull off Melanie’s hair.

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Try a few years…

The unexpected benefits of (mildly) sick kids

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off schoolI remember when my youngest started school, “you won’t know yourself” was the common refrain. Of course rather than the inferred endless time to myself, I instead managed to fill my time with chores, as much writing as I could find motivation for and, I’ll admit, quite a lot of faffing about.

It is a well-documented curse of our age that we all feel permanently run off our feet, pulled in different directions by myriad demands. This can then lead to a complete lack of appreciation for the things we are able to do once our children are out of the house for six hours a day. Like go to a yoga class, eat a sandwich while reading the paper, grab a coffee with a friend for an hour, make a phone call involving a call centre (have you ever tried this with children anywhere near you? It’s as though they have a radar alerting them to the most rewarding time to bug you).

Last week I had one or more children at home Every. Single.Day. I had to make the call to school daily, sounding no doubt more and more unhinged as I laughed manically, “Me, again, you’ll never guess what….”. A friend tried to bolster me midweek when I described the week as a write off – “it’s only Wednesday!” she reminded me – yeah, you don’t have the parental power of insight that somehow lets you know optimism will be wasted here, you just need to give up, focus on next Monday and breath deeply.

However, it had its surprises too. On Tuesday my son felt well enough to play so we made a train track, played Jenga, hide and seek, eye spy over lunch, had a teddy party and to top it off I taught him patience, a game I haven’t played for years and which reminds me of being little and poorly. We connected in a way that we never really do at the weekends when the rest of the family is around. We enjoyed each other’s company. Once I had come to terms with not getting a thing done, (and I mean not a thing of use – we all had fish fingers for supper) – it really was quite relaxing.

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After three days of course the playing vibe was threadbare. Money was chucked at the problem – a new comic, a jigsaw puzzle, and the latest Weird Oh book were grimly chucked into the shopping basket in an attempt to claw back some quiet time at my desk. And when the novelty of those wore off I turned on the TV.

When I found him watching the ABC educational channel – about women’s working conditions in 1950’s Britain I almost frogmarched him to school. Clearly his mind was in dire need of sustenance. But then his brother was off the next day and the whole cycle began again.

At least on Friday they were both off and managed, thank you universe, to play harmoniously – with the new toy monkey and another jigsaw. At least the local shops will be happy with me.

So, unexpected though it was, the week wasn’t wasted as it both helped me have fun with my kids in a way I haven’t for ages and most definitely made me appreciate those precious few hours I have without them most days. In the week to come I imagine I won’t know myself.

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*While I wrote this very lightheartedly I do want to acknowledge that my kids simply had a virus. I can’t imagine what it must be like to care for and worry about a chronically or seriously ill child and honour and admire those parents who do.

Bruised not broken

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We all start diets on a Monday right? The prospect of impending self-imposed restraint necessitates some lead in time, some memories created to serve as reminders that life was fun, once.

This is the way I used to think about trying to control drinking. A couple of great nights would mean I was fully ready on Monday morning to become an organised, disciplined – normal – person.

Taking on major personality shifts such as this tends to require rather more work than writing a ‘to do’ list and meal plan in order to kid yourself that your life is not in fact, an alcohol induced accident waiting to happen. Not having systems and goals in place is why it fails. Again, and again, and again. Addicts who have woken up one day and decided to quit and have managed it in one go are few and far between. I applaud them while being utterly bamboozled (I wrote that accidentally I promise!) at how they do it.

I’m pretty sure that anyone who has successfully addressed a harmful habit, be it alcohol, drugs, chocolate, shopping, has at least thought about it for a significant period of time and usually will have a fair few failed attempts under their belt before things really change for the better.

In my case, this time last year I joined the ‘Dry July’ challenge. It was a really easy way of explaining to people why all of a sudden I wasn’t drinking – though those close to me of course knew the battles I had been fighting for a while. There is great approval and celebration when you are seen to undertake something that most people would apparently find difficult. The most frequent question I was asked was how I was feeling, so much better? As though we all expect, being drinkers, that we must feel constantly sub-optimal. Otherwise why the expectation of wellness? And this was mainly from people who probably drank very little and had no idea of the extreme from which I had come.

Physically I had become slow, tired, functioning like a distracted sloth, eye always looking to the bottle on the horizon, the crippling chores of the day in between. Mentally I was much worse. Mood fluctuation in the extreme, despondent that I would ever, could ever, change. My mental capacity for much other than planning the next social engagement (read excuse) or obsessing on how I was going to change my life – without doing anything about it, was non existent. My work had pretty much gone out of the window, my writing had dried up. (How Hemingway did it I just can’t fathom – I can barely type my name if I’ve had a drink.)

The month was surprisingly easy – I think – it’s actually hard to remember now just how awful I felt (despite knowing it) and how desperate I was to manage to see the month through. That there was an end point wasn’t what made the difference, though for many that is the thing that gets them through. I had no intention of going back to where I had been and was seeing this month as a jumping off point for a much longer period of sobriety. I owned up to this in this post on August 6th 2016. How far everything has come.

I got to five and a half months before I drank again. During that time there were gatherings and nights out. I didn’t feel able to go to some, and allowed myself to bail out, to feel the guilt and live with it, making my apologies in the knowledge it was the only option. I went back home for three weeks and loved it more than any other trip we’ve done. The clarity and determination with which I was seeing life was addictive!

This time last year I thought I was making a lifelong change. I believed that for five and a half months, had a relapse, then got up and kept going via an online course called Hip sobriety. This has been one of the most important elements to managing my cravings, to understanding the driving factors and acknowledging that any change for the better is a success. The cohort from the course is consistently engaged and endlessly supportive. There is a reciprocity that makes it feel ok to have a (nother) whinge, a huge rant or a tearful confession.

It is a lifetime’s work. But it is worthwhile, whether on top of the mountain or deep in the mire. Connection is what keeps us all going; it is what gives life purpose and meaning. Connection to others is infinitely more possible – and more pleasurable for all concerned – if the connection to our true selves can first be established.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all of you who have read my (often very long) posts, got in touch with me and shown your support. Here’s to the next year, being brave and showing up.

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Scraps off the plate

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Every time I read ‘My Day on a Plate’ in Sunday Life it makes me wonder what Joanna McMillan would make of my daily diet. Try as I might, I cannot, amid the chaotic existence of life with three smallish boys, maintain any sort of regular, reliable food intake. It’s not that I don’t know what I’m doing when it comes to cooking or nutrition. And the boys have always been adventurous eaters on the whole (now they often go back for a second, third even fourth mouthful). We eat fish, I hide vegetables, limit (or at least try) sweeties and treats. I even bake.

So my problem is not the variety of food in our house. It is time. I spend so much time making sure that their little bodies are nourished – and a fair bit of time lecturing them about rickets, scurvy, starving children elsewhere around the world – that by the time they are skeltering from the table, I am exhausted and can only face a cup of restorative peppermint tea amid the crusty bits of porridge, mash, kale pesto and the like (not strictly true – kale has apparently been put on the boys’ ‘dangerous foods that are likely to kill you’ list).

So in essence, my day on a plate looks something like this:

7.30am – Green juice – an entire blender-full or a measly cup depending on how generous I’ve been with the proportions of fruit/veg that morning – see above re kale. Its inclusion ensures a healthy serving for me.

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8.00am – Two chunks of pineapple as I prepared morning tea – otherwise the numbers of chunks per child would have been uneven – they check, believe me.

8.05am – The middle of a roll with a generous knifeful of butter – making more room for the filling. I made myself chuck the other two pieces in the bin.

8.15am – Two spoonfuls of cold porridge with chopped apple and vanilla yoghurt – I would have had more but my tastebuds couldn’t handle the amount of maple syrup with which it had been liberally doused.

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8.20 – A couple of toast crusts with peanut butter.

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10.00 – Two skimmed mochas from the Source (best coffee in Mosman in my opinion).

12.45 – A few teaspoons of pie filling – to test seasoning.

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12.50 – One piece of chewing gum (in order to make sure my family didn’t end up with plain pastry for supper).

1.15 – Scrambled egg (made with leftover eggwash).

1.30 – Some crumbs* of chocolate while making biscuits.

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2.30 – A bowl of Carmen’s maple, almond and apple toasted muesli with blueberries and full cream milk (I am diligent when it comes to bone health).

4.00 – Cup of peppermint tea and one or two choc chip biscuits (too late in the day to count).

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5.25 – Secret binge of Haribo tangfastics while waiting for the boys in the car – but not the cola bottles, I hate cola bottles.

7.00pm – A few floppy grey beans, pastry crumbs and a handful of dried out raw carrots – all that is left of supper when I get back from yoga.

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9.00 – A bowl of muesli – I could be a student really, only then it would be cornflakes.

9.30 – Cup of peppermint tea and a raid on the choccie tin as we call it. The rule here is that it comes out if we have a family supper – I believe I always have a case to make here.

So Joanna McMillan, over to you. At a guess I’d say my bones are safe but the rest of me might be buggered. But note, no alcohol! No wine required, must be all those hairibos…

*ok yes, a few chunks