Category Archives: Life

What does being kind to yourself look like?

When my Dad died (a year ago today) everyone said I needed to be kind to myself. I don’t really know what being kind to yourself looks like. I guess self kindness is a form a self care. Doing things you like doing and which make you feel good, cutting yourself some slack and giving yourself time to come to terms with things and to heal.

For the last year I’ve been in a bit of a fug. I feel a bit like I’m in a plastic box and I can see and hear the real world going on around me, but it’s all muffled and I feel slightly apart from everything. It would be easy for me to just let the loss of my Dad overwhelm me, but I have my son and I don’t have the time or the space to indulge in intense grief. I just take it in small bite sized chucks, I nibble at it every day, like a giant cake of grief. Eating a few crumbs at a time, this grief cake will take a lifetime to consume.

Last night as I lay sleepless in my bed, I was thinking, when I’ve lost other family members I was broken hearted. I grieved for them and I still miss them and probably always will, but losing my Dad has really felt like losing a limb. He was such a big, important part of my life, not in an unhealthy way, we just really got each other and he was one of my best friends.

“Be kind to yourself Jane”

What does being kind to me look like? I’ve worked a little bit less, I’ve turned some things down I knew would stress me out or I wouldn’t enjoy. I have made more of an effort, not just to spend time with my son, but to spend quality time with him. I’ve just booked a holiday for the two of us in August. We are going on a family holiday with my husband too, but he can’t get the extra time off work and I just want to spend time with and have fun with my boy.

We got a dog to distract us from the grief. She’s here to keep me company at home when I’m working and to give me an excuse to stop working and go out for a walk with her. She’s also a pretty good listener and gives great cuddles.

Going away seems to feature quite strongly in my being kind to myself plan. Before Christmas I went on a spa weekend with some friends and we enjoyed it so much we are going again this weekend. I’ve a few other breaks booked in for the rest of the year, having something to look forward to seems to help me get through the difficult days.

Despite my frequent weekends away and other holidays I’ve got booked, I feel like I hardly go out. My social life has almost ground to a halt and I hardly see friends or go out and have fun. This is partly because a lot of my friends don’t live locally, and those that do are busy people with busy lives. I’m also finding it hard to climb out of my shell and I’m slightly worried about how infrequently I see and speak to people in the real world.

I don’t know how I feel about my lack of a social life, it’s probably one of the reasons why I feel less like me than I have done in a while. Life is fairly humdrum. I’m busy being a wife and a mother. I hardly ever leave the house, I hardly see my friends and if I think about it a bit too hard I realise that I’m losing some of the colour and vitality from my everyday life.

I’m not sure where that all fits with the being kind to myself thing. I know at some point I need to start going out again and having a good time. Maybe I’ve only just got enough emotional energy to get me through the day and not enough to power me through the evenings too. Is hibernating being kind or cruel to myself? I’m not sure.

A year on I’m more determined than ever to be kind to myself. I need to find whatever makes me happy and to do more of that. I think we all need to learn how to be kinder and more considerate of ourselves.

How can you be kind to yourself?

How can you be kind to yourself? What does being kind to yourself look like today and what will that kindness look like tomorrow? Why does it take a death or something seriously life changing for us to stop and be kind to ourselves? Do me a favour, do something nice for yourself today. Treat yourself to whatever feeds your soul and makes your heart glad. You deserve it.

What does being kind to yourself look like?

My first Father’s Day without a Father

Father’s Day 2016 was a pretty special one. We had a pretty chilled out afternoon, all the family came round for tea and cake and the sun shone. We all tumbled out into the garden and I took a hundred photos of us all having a nice time. One week later I got a phone call to say my Dad had died and everything fell apart.

It’s been a tough twelve months, there’s no denying that. I’ve cried every day. Our family has laughed, cried and remembered all the good and great things about him. But there’s a massive Dad sized hole in my life which can never be filled.

Father’s Day is coming. It’s not a date which can be ignored, we still have a Dad in the house so he needs cards, presents and cake. He will need a bit of fuss and some thank yous for being the “World’s Greatest Dad” or whatever. As much as I’d like to sweep Father’s Day under the carpet and erase this annual celebration of masculine parenthood from existence, I can’t. It doesn’t work like that.

I don’t resent anyone having a Dad. I don’t resent anyone celebrating Father’s Day. I will celebrate as much as I can along with them, but always with a knot in the back of my throat holding my grief inside for just one more day. 

I can’t pretend it isn’t hard. Walking past card shops filled with cards and gifts makes me hold my breath until they’re out of sight. Actually going into one a couple of weeks ago and having to buy a Father’s Day card and a gift for my husband was ridiculously hard. Is this one of those things which is supposed to get easier with time?

As social media fill with gift ideas and Father’s Day memes it becomes harder not to look it all in the eye. Most days of the year I wake up, hug my son, talk to my husband and remember that my Dad is dead. His absence is always there. Each day the place where he once sat in my life just yawns a little wider as I realise even more what I’m missing.

This Sunday, this Father’s Day I’m going to have to stick a very brave face on and swallow down my grief for another day. I’ve no idea how I will actually get through the day without crumbling completely. My first Father’s Day without a Father will probably break my heart all over again. Maybe I’ll use the day to remember him, just like I remember him every day.

It sucks.

My first Father's Day without a Father

7 Days: All the nice things which have happened this week

A few weeks ago, after an especially horrid week I wrote a blog post listing the things I was thankful for. It felt good to think about all the good things and helped me focus a little less on the bad stuff.

In a similar vein, I’ve had a run of a good few days where I’ve done nice things with nice people. I thought it would be good to note them down for me to look back on when I’m not having a nice time.

On Tuesday I went to The Lowry Theatre in Salford Quays to watch Michael Morpurgo’s Running Wild. I had an interesting and thought provoking evening, but one thing puzzled me. Why was this seat the only one in the theatre with a plaque on it and why does it bear the name of comedian Stewart Lee? Answers on a postcard to the usual address please.

All the nice things which have happened this week

On Thursday I had a night out with my friend Lucy. We were invited to The Stokers Arms in Didsbury. It was their 3rd birthday and they were launching their new menu. I am a regular at Stokers, they’re incredibly dog friendly and we often pop in for a pint and some dog treats when we go for evening walkies. 

All the nice things which have happened this week

It was really good to sit down and have a proper catch up and natter with Lucy. I don’t go out with her as often as I’d like really. We had a couple of bottles of wine, sampled some beer from the Bluepoint Brewery and tried out some of their new menu.

We were hungry, so we tucked into this sharing board – known as the “Hipster”. It was piled high with good stuff. Halloumi and chorizo kebabs, chicken lollipops, breaded chicken with a delicious katsu dipping sauce and a pile of nachos. The board came with a huge portion of tobacco onions (finely cut and deep fried so the looked like rolling tobacco) which were spicy and hard to stop picking at.

All the nice things which have happened this week

The menu at The Stokers is excellent for soaking up beer and designed for sharing. We had such a good night out, we won’t leave it so long next time.

The weekend was a lovely sunny one. I was mindful that the fine weather wouldn’t last. So while I was at work on Saturday the boys got the paddling pool out. They had a splash and a water fight and made the most of the sunshine. I was a bit jealous when I got home, but I was glad they’d had fun together.

All the nice things which have happened this week

The road we live on is lined with trees. April is the very best time to walk up and down the road. The cherry trees are covered in blousy blossom. I wanted to take some pictures before the delicate blossoms disappeared. On Sunday, St George’s Day we went out in search of pink petals with my little knight of the realm. 

All the nice things which have happened this week

We were not disappointed. The pavement was awash with soft pink petals, it was quite a lovely sight and a lovely end to our week. 

I’ve had a lovely fun few days. It’s nice to feel the warm sun again, to spend time with friends, to laugh and do nice things. Nice things are underrated. Go on, go forth and do nice things.

I’m kicking ass and taking names, so don’t pity me

Thank you for your pity today. It made me see through clearer eyes how much stronger I am now and how far I have come in the nine months since my Dad’s death.

To you my life may appear to be spiralling, spinning, shifting and twisting out of control, but it’s all part of the process of finding a new kind of normal in my life. This chaos you see swirling around me, that’s part of the beauty and richness of my life.

Where you see a flailing, angry person, I see a girl pulling at the threads at the edges of her life, grasping at the bits of grief and anger and happiness and joy and love and pulling them together, twisting them into a more pleasing shape.

A wise person once said that the night is always darkest before the dawn. Or that you’ve got to break some eggs to make an omelette. I’m breaking eggs, I’m making omelettes. I am switching the light on before the dawn. I’m finding my feet again. So don’t pity me, don’t judge me. I am doing just fine. Finer than fine. I am at my very finest when I’m under pressure. I’m kicking ass and taking names right now, shall I take yours?

Do not look at me with pity in your eyes as you watch and judge me as tears spring to mine, or when I struggle to swallow my rage down. I’m busy feeling. What I’m feeling is real and it’s valid. I am absolutely normal with everyone, maybe my smile has a hint of rictus about it, but I’m fine.

No one feels the wrath which bubbles inside me. No one but me suffers because of the impotent rage throbbing in my chest. I know I need to find a safe outlet for my anger, but thankfully you came along with your inane comments and judgemental glances and became the target I was looking for.

I’d rather feel all of this anger and all of this pain than live for one single minute like you, in your emotionally homogeneous vacuum you call life. I would rather feel and live. I’d rather enjoy life and feel the lowest of the lows and taste the sweetest and highest of the highs.

I am living, I am blossoming. I am loving the people I love with every fibre of my being and every part of my heart. And I miss one of the people who lived and still lives in my heart. I always will. But don’t pity me my anger and my grief, because they are all the evidence I need that I was loved and I am still loved.

I know that the pity in your eyes is just jealousy. What a gift I have to be able to see the beauty in my grief and to be able to see that my anger is a gift born from love. My anger is a beautiful, creative gift, and your pity is your curse.

I'm kicking ass and taking names, so don't pity me

This week: Things to be thankful for

So far 2017 has been a bit like wading through custard. I’m still firmly in the grief stage and it’s showing no signs of shifting. I’m trying my best to shake it off and move forward by being kind to myself and focusing on being a good mum and a good wife. The last week, for various reasons has been especially hard. 

When you’re not feeling great it is often a good excuse to make a list of the people you love and who love you, or the good things in your life. In that spirit, I’ve decided to list the things to be thankful for from the last seven days. Because although it’s been hard, there have been an awful lot of good things and positive things in our lives.

Old Friends. When my husband found himself in a sticky situation this week, some of his oldest and best friends stepped up to help him. I am thankful for their care and compassion when he needed it.

Internet Friends. I have a small group of exceptionally wonderful friends who I met online but who have turned into the best friends a girl could have. This week they all noticed my dark mood and came to the rescue with love, laughter and a listening ear.

My son. He’s not feeling very well, but despite having an excellent excuse to be a grump, he has been full of smiles and love. He’s played, he’s snuggled, we’ve read together and he’s reminded me that the most important things in life are the people close to you who love you. He is my biggest fan and I am his.

This week: things to be thankful for

My husband. Despite having a horrendous week himself, he made the effort to take me out on a date even though he wasn’t in the mood to go out. We went to see Logan, not the most cheerful film ever, but we enjoyed escaping reality for a few hours and a bit of Hugh Jackman in a vest did nothing to hurt my mood.

Facebook. I have fallen out of love with Facebook for the time being. I’m just not feeling it, but I popped on this morning and the first thing I saw was a four year old video of my son cooing and dribbling and being adorable. It was very, very nice to be reminded of our little chubby cheeked baby who is now a strapping six year old.

New Phone! Yesterday my new phone arrived. I’ve been struggling for two years with a phone which wouldn’t support Facebook or Instagram. It was so bad it didn’t have a camera you could take a selfie with. My new phone is not top of the range, it’s a Samsung J5 2016 but it works and I can access and use the things I need to do my job as a blogger. It’s a really, really big deal to me. My friends are delighted they can now communicate with me in more than one way.

Seaside and Fresh Air. Last weekend I went to the Gin Festival in Blackpool with my best friend. We sat and ate those hot sugary doughnuts you can only get at the seaside. We talked a lot and knocked back a respectable amount of good gin. The next day he sent me an MP3 of a song he’d written about our trip to Blackpool. So I uploaded it to YouTube. You have to listen carefully as his voice is a bit quiet, but I think it’s hilarious. Bob is one of the best people I’ve ever known.

Hope. I’m thankful for hope. I’ve got good things to look forward to with fun people. I’ve got a holiday, a flying visit to Cornwall, I’ve got the Just So Festival to get excited about. I’m going for a spa weekend with some good friends. Plus we’ve got lots of family adventures to plot and scheme.

It’s not all darkness. It can sometimes feel that way but it isn’t. Writing down a list of things to be thankful for every so often can help bring the light and the good into focus, and that’s never a bad thing.

What are your things to be thankful for?

Need to improve your credit score? There’s an app for that!

Being an adult means worrying about all kinds of things you never dreamed you might need to worry about. Bin night, indigestion and the state of your credit score are just part of an endless list of things to fret about. In 2016 a Which? survey of more than a thousand households found that 53%  had never checked their credit score or obtained a credit report.

Whether you’re buying a house, getting a loan, applying for a credit card, or buying a mobile phone, your credit score and credit history will be checked by the lender. Your credit score is based on your financial history, particularly around credit and debt management. 

How to improve your credit score - there's an app for that!

If it’s not a good score, then you could be refused credit; however, all is not lost if you are. Once you know your credit score you can take steps to improve it. ClearScore have just launched their new coaching platform. It’s a cutting edge chatbot style programme which coaches people to better manage their finances. Using artificial intelligence and information from your credit report, the tool can help you either ‘build’, ‘shape-up’ or ‘repair’ your finances depending on your status.

I’ve never personally checked my credit score, so I was really curious what it might be. I downloaded the free ClearScore app and signed up with a few details. Within a few seconds I’d discovered my credit score. It was much better than I expected, but there was still room for improvement.

How to improve your credit score - there's an app for that!

The app includes a coaching section which gives tailored advice on how to improve your credit score. If you need to improve your score, spending an hour going through the coaching section and acting on the advice the chatbot gives you could really pay dividends. 

How to improve your credit score - there's an app for that!

I found the app and the coaching section really easy to use. I liked that the information was presented to me in small text message sized chunks. I often find little bites of information at a time are easier for my brain to digest than pages and pages of text. I had a notepad next to me to jot down some notes and action points, but you can always go back if you need to.

How to improve your credit score - there's an app for that!

In the coaching section you can find out more about certain aspects of your credit score. It was all easy to understand and there were lots of suggestions on how to improve your score. It won’t necessarily happen overnight, but chipping away at it sooner rather than later is always a good start. You can find more advice from ClearScore on how to improve your credit score here.

I’ve got a few action points to improve on, and now I’ve got the ClearScore app I can keep track of my score and take action if my score dips any further. Hopefully it can only improve from now on. 

This is a collaborative post.

Finding Smiles: Half term & finding my words at last

I’m struggling at the moment. A few close friends have spotted that I’m not my normal self and they’re not wrong. There are a few things going on, nothing significant, but I suspect how I’m feeling right now is part of the grieving process.

It would be easy to say I’m depressed but I don’t think I am. I can still find joy in most things, it just that every time I think about my Dad I burst into tears. Missing him is causing me significant pain, but I guess it will for a while. I’m fine, really I’m fine, I just need more time to come to terms with being without him.

This year I’ve done some brave big step things with my family. We scattered my Dad’s ashes and we’ve cleared his house ready for it to be sold. We talk about him every day to try and make the gap feel more normal, but we all miss him. How could we not?

2017 has brought with it some big, interesting things which have been keeping me busy, which is great. But really when it comes to every day things I’m really struggling to focus and be especially productive.

If you read my blog much you may have noticed that I’m not blogging as often, and when I do I’m not really writing about personal things. I’ve tried a thousand times to write something, but I couldn’t manage anything beyond a paragraph. I’m looking at the 250 words I’ve written so far for this blog post and wondering where they have come from, because so far 2017 has given me no words.

I sat down to put together a blog post, mainly based on photos of what we’ve done over half term, and I’ve found some words at last. At least I know I’ve got some in me now, I hope this has broken my block. Fingers crossed. Anyway, here are a few nice things we did over half term. Thanks for sticking with me and reading my little Sunday night brain dump. 

Finding Smiles: Half term & finding my words at last

We embraced a bit of half term Hygge, baked some biscuits and built a den.

Finding Smiles: Half term & finding my words at last

We went to The Lowry and watched The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show. Thanks to Colette for snapping this lovely picture of me and the boy.

Finding Smiles: Half term & finding my words at last

We did some crafting.

Finding Smiles: Half term & finding my words at last

We just chilled out at home, sheltering from Storm Doris and eating spaghetti.

Finding Smiles: Half term & finding my words at last

And on Saturday we met the Smurfs. We are now quite obsessed with these little blue chaps and we’re looking forward to seeing the film when it’s released in March.

We had a pretty laid back week, but I think it did us all a bit of good and helped us find some of our smiles. What did you do over half term?

If not now, when? Protesting the Muslim ban

As a parent, I strive to instil certain values in my child which should see him right and hopefully make him a not terrible adult. Kindness is the main one, tolerance, understanding, empathy, good manners, elbows off the table, don’t eat with your mouth open, don’t use my sofa as a trampoline etc etc.

Kindness is at the heart of almost every life lesson we share with him. Having had people be unkind to me all of my life, I completely understand how simple acts of kindness can make a big difference and I am kind, almost to a fault. It doesn’t make me a pushover, and when I see unkindness or injustice I try and speak up, or do something to help. Often quietly, because the best acts of kindness are often the quiet ones.

Tonight we sat around the dinner table and I thought I’d talk to my six year old son about Donald Trump’s Muslim ban. It wasn’t an easy conversation, but as he’d been asking about Syria last week, it felt like a good time to have that discussion. I know some of his friends at school will talk about it, so it’s best he has a little grasp of the situation.

We talked in very simple terms about families escaping from the Syrian bombs and trying to find somewhere safe to live. We talked about what if it were us and how we might feel. We talked about how kind people might offer to help these people, who just want somewhere safe to live and go to school. And we talked about some of the families who had found a safe place, but when they arrived they were detained or sent back.

Then I told him I would be going on a protest, to show that I disagreed with the Muslim ban, that it was an unkind thing to do. I told my husband I’d had enough and he nodded his head in agreement. And I said “if not now, when?” and he squeezed my hand.

If not now, when? Protesting the Muslim ban

There are protests up and down the country against Donald Trump and the Muslim ban. I’ll be going to this one in Manchester, but you can find more events on Facebook. If you feel moved to stand up in support of this issue, please do. If not now, when?

Ten of the best pieces of advice about life you’ll ever need

The last six or seven years feel like they have been the most eventful years of my life. There have been terrific lows and amazing highs. I’ve learnt a huge amount about who I am, what motivates me and what makes me truly happy. I’ve met some wonderful people and some not so wonderful people. Friends who have built me up and given me strength and other people who have given me painful lessons in life. 

As the year turns from one to another, here are ten of the best pieces of advice about life I’ve learnt over the years. I first wrote these lessons down in 2014 and they are as true today as they ever were.

Ten of the best pieces of advice about life you’ll ever need –

1. The reliable things in your life are reliable until you take them for granted, then your whole life can shift. Don’t take people for granted.

2. Small people grow, they continue to be adorable in different ways, but cherish each moment, because each day they’ll be a little bit older and a little bit different.

3. Work and money can be scarce, but when you really need it, the universe somehow provides it, be thankful and don’t say no, you never know what it will lead to.

4. Good friends are awesome and can be relied upon to buy you a brew and cheer you up with a natter, or an impromptu delivery of Milk Tray in TGI Fridays on your birthday.

5. Don’t bore your good friends to tears with the same old story. Recognise that you’re a stuck record and change it. Only you can change the tune you play.

6. People you love go away, but they will always be part of your story.

7. Say yes to things you would have previously have said no to. It can open new doors for you, or teach you new lessons or be a mistake you can learn from. Mistakes are ok.

8. Drink less, stay in, cuddle the people you love, tuck the small ones in and read them a bedtime story. Watch them sleep, hold that memory to your heart.

9. Look after your back. Keep moving, keep exercising, take your pills, power through. You’ll never be as good as you are now, so don’t let pain stop you.

10. Stop. Look at what you’ve got. Hold hands, smell the flowers, listen to the birds in the trees, admire the sky, put your head on his shoulder. Tell him you love him and mean it.

Ten of the best pieces of advice about life you'll ever need

Looking back at 2016 – a year to forget

Most people will look back on 2016 and remember it for the sheer number of notable celebrity deaths. The year began with Bowie and Alan Rickman fans in bits, and went out with us saying a sad goodbye to Carrie Fisher and George Michael. For some of us, for me, we’ve lost someone incredibly important in our own lives. In my case it was my Dad.

For me 2016 began with a high. I was determined to make this whole blogging thing a success and to build on the previous few years of hard work. January began well with a blog post in the style of a school newsletter going a little bit viral. So I rolled my sleeves up and prepared to get cracking with life. Life however had different plans.

It’s hard to write a retrospective of a year like 2016. My Dad died at the end of June and my brain has almost completely deleted everything before that date, and everything after just feels a bit funny.

I’ve just scrolled back through my Instagram feed to refresh my memory and it looks like the first half of 2016 was lovely and lively. I took up crafting in earnest, attended a gin festival, won a holiday to Majorca, went to Blog Camp with a heavily pregnant friend (I binge watched Call the Midwife beforehand just in case). We had a holiday in Devon, trips to festivals, I ate and made a lot of good food and I bought a fancy camera.  

Then my Dad died. 

Looking back at 2016 - a year to forget (Peter Woolley)

And I wrote a bunch of posts about grief and how I was coping. I don’t know how I coped, but I had to. I went into myself for a good few months, my Instagram feed definitely reflects that, just the occasional photo of something I baked or something we did.

My blogging was the same. For all the reviews and write ups I do, I try (and will try harder) to make my blog a reflection of my life. The fact that there were no truly personal blog posts for months is only because I really couldn’t face opening the box inside me which contained my thoughts and feelings. Because if I did that then I’d need to acknowledge them and I didn’t have the strength to do that.

Every so often I do open my box of grief and feelings and it all pours out. I quickly slam the lid shut and turn the key in the lock. But I do feel myself wanting to write again and wanting to talk about those feelings inside me. Feelings most of us will experience at some time in our lives.

The last six months of 2016 have been busy, we did a lot of healing at the Just So Festival and we had our much needed holiday to Majorca in October. I had a jaunt to River Cottage with some blogger chums, and we went to Lapland UK in December. We’ve done a hundred wonderful things as a family and as a result our little unit of three has grown much closer. Then we three became four.

Looking back at 2016 - a year to forget / Our dog is for life, not just for Christmas

We welcomed this monkey into our home. She’s a joy, she’s a distraction, she’s a menace, but we love her. She’s the four-legged piece of the puzzle we needed to complete our family jigsaw. 

2016 will not be remembered with much fondness or joy by me. It’s a year which has completely changed my life forever. Some of it for the good I’ll admit, but a bit of my heart broke in June and it will never heal.

As for 2017, my hopes and ambitions for the next 12 months are modest. I’d like for me and the people I care about to survive the year unscathed. I really hope that isn’t too much to ask for.

Happy New Year, let’s hope 2017 gives us a better run of luck!

Looking back at 2016 - a year to forget