Saturday, 3 September 2016

How I survived my darkest days - an ode to Marian Keyes

Today I needed to remind myself of why I write. My writing feels uninspired and meaningless and there are far better uses of my time.

Marian Keyes' books always remind me of the gift, wonder and power of books. In my darkest days of post natal depression I relied on Marian Keyes to drag me through the days. I looked forward to the evening so I could curl up with Marian, read myself to sleep and hope the next day was less torturous.

I love all of Marian's books (first name basis here!) but two books really stuck with me during that period. Every afternoon I forced myself to go for a run with the dog so the endorphins would kick in and drag me through the hell that surrounded me. As I ran, I focussed on the snippets below to reassure myself that I was not alone and that I would eventually emerge from the other side of depression, perhaps battered and bruised but not broken.

From the Mystery of Mercy Close (Keyes, M 2012), Marian's words hit the mark on how I was feeling:

  • Blackness was rising inside me, rolling up from my gut like oily poison, and a heavier outside blackness was compressing me, like I was descending in a lift (p107)
  • I felt so odd in myself, so disconnected from the world, that perhaps it wasn't a good idea to try talking to him. I didn't know how normal I'd be able to be and I didn't want to freak him out (p109)
  • I'm finding it hard to talk to people. I don't really want to be with anyone. But I don't want to be on my own either. I feel weird. Scared weird. The world looks... weird. I don't want to have a shower; I don't care what I wear. Everything feel ominous, like something terrible is going to happen. Sometimes I feel like it already has. (p127)
  • For a moment I was seized with a powerful wish that I'd fall off and bang my head and get bleeding in the brain and be dead before anyone noticed I was missing. (p146)
From The Woman who Stole my Life  (Keyes, M 2014) her words gave me the motivation to keep putting one foot in front of the other until I'd made it out the other side:

  • When you're going through hell, keep going. (p56)
  • Stay alive. Sometimes there's nothing else you can do, but you must do it. (p91)

There were days when I needed these words to find the courage to keep going. 

Revisiting the courage and comfort that I found in these books reminds me of why I write. 

I am not Marian Keyes. I don't delude myself that I have her gift with words. However, by sharing my story and the stories of other strong women, I hope to reach even just one woman and assure her she is not alone.

If you have a way to reach people, do it. You don't know the gift that you might be giving someone tucked away on the other side of the world, just trying to get through the day.

If you by chance are reading the words from the Mystery of Mercy Close and thinking - that's me, that is how I feel, please see a doctor. Please reach out for help. You are not alone.

My sincerest thanks to Marian Keyes for putting her words out into the world, dragging me through my darkest days and giving me the courage to put my own words out into the world.

If you have a book or a hobby that helped you survive depression, please share it with me by leaving a comment below.

Monday, 29 August 2016

Innovation comes from desperation

Innovation comes from desperation

I love that saying. I mentioned it to someone at work and she fell in love with it to. It’s thought provoking.
The more I thought about it, the more I realised its exactly why I started this blog.
I know that by all appearances I have it all. I’m healthy, I have a lovely supportive husband, two delightful and beautiful children and a job that I quite like. By a job that I quite like, I mean I love the people that I work with and I feel that the work I do makes the world a better place, even though sometimes its a difficult and thankless job.
I have all the things that matter to me so why aren’t I walking on little rays of sunshine?
Here’s the answer – none of those things are all about me. I love my kids, but they are at an age where I keep giving. I love my husband, but it feels like having a conversation that isn’t shouted over the top of kids just doesn’t happen all that often (we are working on that). My job is pretty good is far as jobs go, but its definitely not all about me and the weekly pay is sucked up by living expenses. 
I reached desperation point. 
I decided that I had to do something for myself. I love to write. I tried to write a book – I did NANOWRIMO last year and scraped in the 50,000 words (look it up – you write a 50,000 word novel in a month, quantity over quality) but haven’t even read the manuscript I wrote. Big projects aren’t working for me right now.
Writing this blog gives me the chance to give something back to myself. It doesn’t feel like hard work to me, because I’m loving it. I love writing, I love talking about better ways to live, I love researching all things related to living better and I love the marketing side of getting my blog out there. 
A few years ago I finished my Masters in Business Administration, which I really enjoyed (sad I know), but its not something that I use in my day job. Doing this blog  gives me the chance to play around with marketing strategies in social media – something I’ve never done before and I feel great. Sometimes it overwhelms me, but I just dust myself off, adjust my perspective and remember that this is all about me and if this blog goes nowhere that’s ok, its all about fun.
Coincidentally, I've got more energy at the moment than I've had for a long time - even though I get less sleep. Perhaps there's something to the old mantra of filling up your own cup?
I’ve had so much fun with this blog that I’m getting serious. I’ve ordered a domain name and the Busy Bee will be undergoing a transformation. I’ve spent the money now so I’ll be sticking with the blog and you’ll be seeing more of me (although things may be quiet whilst I prepare to launch).
So I am living proof that desperation begets innovation. Add it to your list of favourite sayings too. 
In the meantime, if you want to be kept in the loop about the Busy Bee’s upcoming adventures, follow me on social media or better still sign up to follow me (look on the right hand side of your screen).

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Balance? What Balance? Where did my life go?

I’ve started Facebook group for busy mums that are looking for balance. A place where people can go to be supported and support others. You need to get your booty over there.

Let's face it - mumming is a tough gig. We’re all doing our best and most of us feel like we are stretched pretty thin. This is certainly the case for me, most of my girlfriends and seemingly for a lot of the wonderful ladies I’m talking with on social media. There is no shame in saying we are tired, we are worn out and we aren’t feeling particularly satisfied.

The other thing I’ve noticed is that a lot of the women I’ve met who take a gamble and back themselves are women who reached the point of no return. Their lives could not or would not continue as they were. Often the trigger for life change is relationship breakdown, job loss or mental health. It's hard to see it at the time, but sometimes these horrible things end up being a great gift. We are pushed so far that continuing on in mediocrity is no longer an option. We realise that we have to put ourselves first in order to care for others and be the best person we can be.

For me, the real trigger to change my life was a very severe bout of post natal depression. Believe me post natal depression is the pits. I will talk more about it another day, but the short version is that I did a LOT of counselling and for the first time in my life I examined my values were and whether I was living my life in a way that aligned with those values or just doing the things I thought I “should” do.

I was doing all the things I thought I should do to appear like I had it all together and be "successful". But I didn’t have it all together. I don’t think many (if any!) of us do.

My favourite thing to do is catch up with a gal pal and debate the meaning of life, whether parenting is really meant to be this hard and where the hell did our lives go. Seriously, some days it seems hard to even remember the woman I was before I had kids.

Hanging out with my gal pals and chatting about these things reminds me of the woman I used to be. When I’m with my gal pals I swear, I snort with laughter and I laugh. I love it. It re-energises me and I usually come out the other side with a new perspective on whatever is troubling me at the time.

So I’ve created a Facebook group that is for these very things. You want to know how to get more balance in your life, buzz on over and let us know what your struggling with. Chances are someone else has already been there, done that and come out the other side a better, braver and happier person person. 

I hope to see you there. Check out the Facebook page here: Balance? What Balance? Busy mums seeking balance

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Versatile Blogger Awards

Last week I celebrated my nomination for a Versatile Blogger Award from 200 Saturdays until Paris. I was completely rapped because I love her blog. She loves Paris and has a kind soul - I can tell from her writing!! Please check it out.

The Versatile Blogger Award is for newer or smaller blogs.  It was created to encourage engagement with fellow bloggers – to lift each other up and support each others’ hard work.   Please join me in supporting my fabulous nominees!!

Hands on Working Mum
I love this Blog. Karla and I share an outlook on life and have collaborated on the challenges of anxiety. She has a mixture of quirky posts and lovely perspective.

All Things Mum Sydney
Michal is a South African cum Australian. Her blog is a mixed bag of humour and practical tips on places to go in Sydney, amongst other things. We have a shared sense of humour.

Just a Mum who writes
So much more than just a mum who writes! This website how a mix of parenting blog posts and short fiction. Everything is beautifully written. Jewel Eliese is a very talented writer and well worth the visit.

Blazing Voice
You should really check this page out. It's like my quest for self discovery and authenticity has been put on a page. Debbie talks about things like conquering that evil, evil demon called fear. It's a really motivating and challenging page.

And now for 7 things about me:
1. I'm planning a new blog and I'm SO excited
2. My dog is named after a chocolate bar
3. I am terrible at drawing (see the bee with no wings!!)
4. I live for my morning coffee
5. I love eating breakfast cereal - any time of the day
6. One day I will write a brilliant novel that will blow everyone's socks off
7. It's possible that I live in a fantasy world (see point 6)

Thanks again to 200 Saturdays until Paris for nominating me and congratulations to these wonderful blogs. Be sure to take a look!

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Own your story - Hands on working mum talks anxiety

Last week I mentioned my collaboration with Hands on working Mum on anxiety. I’ve had a big week with family and work commitments, but better late than never - so here’s my interview with Karla.

I’m so glad I’ve had the opportunity to do this and I hope it brings some comfort to fellow anxiety sufferers because anxiety can be isolating. 

The really interesting thing for me is the physical symptoms, which seem to be different for everyone. For me the big ones are nausea, dry mouth, tension in my jaw and a ball in my chest/throat. I also find it hard to focus.

What tends to be your physical symptoms for anxiety?

The physical symptoms were what caused me to seek some help.  My palms would sweat.  But the worst was the shakiness.  My adrenaline would kick in as if I was in serious danger, but I was simply attending a meeting.  This probably sounds pretty weird, but my head would shake!  It was mortifying.  I was in a fairly high profile position, and had this need to portray the image of having my stuff together.  After it happened a couple times, my fear of it happening again actually caused it.  It was a terrible snowball effect.  

What self-care do you practice to manage your anxiety?

I learned a lot from the Midwest Centers for Stress and Anxiety.  If you look online, many people say it’s a scam, but it helped me.  I had to change the way I thought.  I was constantly beating myself up.  My self-talk was quite cruel.  I’ve learned to love myself and stop ruminating about everything (and I do mean everything).  When I begin to feel myself getting anxious, changing my breathing is very effective:  Breathe in for 4 counts, hold it for 4 counts, and exhale for 4 counts.  I do that several times until I feel myself calm down physically.

I also went to counseling for a while, and the most important thing I learned there is to take my thoughts off of myself.  Let’s say, as a manager, I had to give bad news to someone about their employment.  My old habit was to be concerned about what the person would think of me.  I started to take the focus off of myself, and instead sincerely look at how I could help the person.

Do you find it difficult to talk about your anxiety? Is it something that you share with people?

The only thing I still find a little embarrassing is talking about the head-shaking!  But, in general, I talk about I pretty often.  It usually comes up because I see someone else suffering from anxious feelings or negative thinking.  I share with them what I have learned.  It’s generally received positively.  

How do you find that people respond when you tell them about your anxiety?

I think everyone feels anxious sometimes.  In our current society, the problem has become more of an issue.  I tend to think this may be true more for women, as we are expected to fulfill so many roles.  I believe people who struggle with more serious anxiety are generally very sensitive. This is a good quality in many ways, but you have to recognize it in yourself and use good judgment about when you may be taking things too personally.  I’ve been surprised at how many people have some sort of anxiety, whether it be large crowds, being alone, or even a fear of heights.  Because most people can relate, somewhat, they don’t seem to be too judgmental about it.  

What tip or advice would you share with other anxiety sufferers?

The root of anxiety is the desire to control everything.  In reality, we have control over very little.  I’ve said before, the only thing we can really control is our own behavior, and sometimes we aren’t even very good at that.  

Through my journey, my faith grew and I learned to turn things over to God.  I learned to treat myself with the same compassion I extend to others.  Taking care of yourself physically can go a long way in reducing the symptoms, too.  You think more clearly and realistically when you have had enough sleep.  Reducing alcohol is important; I used alcohol in social situations to reduce my anxiousness, but that can backfire in a number of ways.  I’m a big coffee drinker, but when my symptoms were bad, I found that reducing my caffeine helped keep them at bay to a degree.

My first step, that was really life-changing, was to recognize how many negative thoughts I had.  Once I started paying attention to them, I was shocked at how negative I was!  Replacing those thoughts with positive, but realistic ideas changed my outlook.

My enormous thanks to Karla for her time and for being so open and honest. If any readers also suffer from anxiety I’d love to hear from you.

I share a lot of pages on twitter about mental health, so follow me on twitter if you’d like to follow the pages I’m sharing over there: Busy Bee Twitter

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Celebrate the small stuff

As you may by now have realised I have a tendency to aim high. I'm a recovering perfectionist and over-achiever.

Once upon a time I would have thought that anything short of going viral equated my blog to failure. But that would be so, so wrong.

Firstly - I'm learning A LOT. 5 lessons from my first week in blogging talks about what I learned in my first and I'm continuing to learn everyday - winning.

This week, I did a collaboration with Working Mum Karla regarding anxiety. You can find her article about my anxiety on her webpage, and I'll be posting mine with Karla in an upcoming post. This is something I'm really proud of - anxiety can be overwhelming and isolating and it happens to strong people. Let's bring it out of the darkness.

I was also nominated by 200 Saturdays until Paris for the versatile blogger award. Be sure to stop by her blog and take a look around, I think we are kindred spirits so if you like my blog, I think you will like hers too. I feel honoured to be nominated because there are some fabulous blogs out there. Stay tuned to my blog because I'll be nominating some of those fabulous blogs next week.

Finally, I'm having so much fun with this blog. It definitely hasn't gone viral, it definitely hasn't taken the world by storm, but its honest and its fun and I'm proud of myself for putting myself out there. I love the saying "feel the fear, then do it anyway". I felt the fear, I did it anyway and now I'm reaping the rewards.

Celebrate the small stuff, it feels good.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

All the reason you ever need to not tidy your kids' bedrooms

On the weekend Princess Sparkle thanked me for cleaning her room. Yes! Parenting award for me! My 4 year old actually came looking for me to say thanks for making her room look so lovely.

To be fair, Princess Sparkle is a pretty good kid and she loves having a clean room. She often asks me to come in and help her tidy it and she cries when Captain Destroyer then goes and destroys all her (my!) hard work. The two kids share a pretty small room so it gets a bit wild in there (we actually have a bigger room, but I haven't quite gotten around to swapping them into the bigger room. It feels like a lot of work.)

I'm always nagging at the kids to tidy their room. I don't expect them to do the big stuff, but I do expect them to put the teddies back in their teddy bin and the duplo back in the duple box etc. Usually we all do it together (cough cough - either Mr Busy Bee or myself do it and the kids throw the odd thing in the right direction) before bed.

This weekend I went all out. I stripped the beds, sprayed for dust mites (Aren't I marvellous??!! That or its because of Captain Destroyer's eczema, but let's stick with marvellous), put the various containers of toys back where they belong, tidied the bookshelf, vacuumed and mopped. Phew - I'm exhausted just thinking about it. I must admit, it looked pretty good. Clean and sparkly, as Princess Sparkle would say.

When my delightful daughter hugged and thanked me for my hard work, I was awash with gratitude and pride. Yeah sure, I was proud of her but LOOK AT ME I created this wonderful little girl who says thank you. Definitely getting that parenting award.

Then reality knocked on my door. Fair play, Princess Sparkle, you are a good kid and I am proud of you for noticing my hard work and saying thank you. But I started to ask myself, is it really so noteworthy that I cleaned her room? Is she just grateful because I'm actually a pretty crappy parent who doesn't go in and clean their room every day?

These thoughts bothered me for a little while until I stumbled across a idea that I liked.

If you give something away too easily people stop noticing it and they no longer have the capacity to appreciate it. Inattentional blindness - you don't notice it if its always there. If I was the kind of parent who took ten minutes every morning to tidy the kids' room before I went to work, noone would notice that I was doing it and my daughter wouldn't be grateful for it. By being a less than perfect housekeeper, I'm teaching my children to value and appreciate the things I do for them. Princess Sparkle saw the time that I put into making her room nice and she appreciated it, because its not something just "happens" every day.

So next time you sigh at the state of your kids' bedroom, close the door and walk away pretending you didn't notice (everyone does that right? right???) just give yourself a pat on the back for giving your kids the chance to appreciate your hard work when you eventually go back and sort it out.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

This is my story - Own your story

I started writing a post about how much being open and honest has enriched my life and relationships (I will share this post, but just not today).
This is not the kind of blog where I give you all the answers. It's a place to share a journey and hopefully let you know that we don't have to be stuck on the hamster wheel. So maybe I need to get really real. If I can change my life, so can you.
I have suffered from depression and anxiety a number of times. I've come to accept that the rest of my life may be peppered with these afflications. I can’t change that, but I can set my life up in a way that helps to minimise these occurrences and helps me to survive them in the best way I can when they do arise.
My father was a domestic violence perpetrator and I witnessed things that I hope with every fibre of my being my children will never endure. I know that the violence I’ve witnessed is nothing in comparison to others’ stories of horror, but it shaped who I am today.  I think parenting is more difficult for me than most (and I know its hard for everyone) because I worry so much about every aspect of my parenting and every time I lose my temper I worry about the mental scars I’m leaving on my children.
I don’t smack my children and I do everything in my power to not have my kids be afraid of me, because I felt so much fear as a child. Sometimes my kids are disobedient (as they all are!) and I wish they were afraid of me but then I tell myself I’m glad they disobey me, because it means they aren’t afraid of me and it means they have spirit. I’m proud of that and I hope that my children live their entire lives with the spirit they have today and they never feel the fear that has dogged me my entire life.
In this blog I will probably talk a lot about my difficulties in overcoming my perfectionism and inability to stay in the moment. I spent my life fearing failure and rejection and those fears kept me prisoner. 
I spent a long time covering up my emotional scars, but not anymore. These scars have given me strength of character, resilience and compassion. As I write this, I am incredibly proud of the woman I have become and the woman I want to be.
In the last couple years I have changed my life a lot and I’m continuing on the journey. I hope you will share this journey with me and my honesty helps you with your journey.
By all accounts my life has been a "success" if you define success in terms of money and outward achievements. I had a successful career in the corporate world and was earning a six figure salary in my late twenties. I have two highly regarded degrees. I worked myself to burnout.
To me my real successes have been in the years since I left the corporate world and my determination to live a more meaningful life that is not defined by shiny things.
My final point is this: My stories used to own me and I lived a life of fear. Now I own my stories and I’m no longer afraid of them. My stories can no longer hurt me.

Monday, 1 August 2016

My sanity was scattered amongst the toys that littered the floor

Let it go, let it go...

Come on, you know the words!

My son could sing the words “let it go” before he could even talk… not kidding. Yes, his big sister was obsessed with frozen as all girls her age are, but more likely it was because we would sing those words (with just a touch of cruel sarcasm) whenever one of the kids had a tantrum about not being allowed to do/have something.

Last weekend I did an Elsa and just let it go.

I’ve been sick for weeks and SO SO tired. Post viral fatigue apparently.

Having done a stint of working full time whilst suffering a bout of tonsillitis followed by a horrible cough, my house was in a state. My lounge room was dotted with little piles of clothes every where - I summoned the energy to fold them, but not to actually carry them to the bedrooms. The floor had almost reached the point where our feet were leaving footprints in the dust (yes that has happened before… but in fairness we were getting renovations done…).

Suffice to say, I should have been doing house work.

Mr Busy wanted to take a road trip with the kids. I very nearly stayed home, but with a view to cleaning the house, rather than taking it easy. My sanity was scattered among the toys that littered the hallway.

However, at the last minute, I decided to let it go. After all, I’m pretty sure I became a parent to spend time with my kids rather than to be a cleaner. I bought a new car (and by new I mean old) several months ago and haven’t taken it for a good drive since. Scary - that means I haven’t been more than half an hour from my house (other than for work) for several months.

So, I slapped on my leaving the house face, and squished myself in the back of the car between the kids, because my mother in law joined us and I let her have the front seat (I'm so kind! But also the only one skinny enough to be jammed between the two kids' carseats).

I'll just put it out there that driving up the Gillies Range to the Atherton Tablelands (beautiful spot by the way!) jammed in a tiny gap between to car seats is not good for someone who gets car sick.

At that time I can assure you, I really wished that I had stayed home and done the housework. I wouldn’t be trying to keep my stomach in its correct spot and I’d actually be achieving something. 

I can say though, the once we reached our destination and my stomach stopped churning I knew that I’d made the right choice. It was a really beautiful day and the air up the tablelands was crisp. We took the kids to see the animal nursery and I loved seeing how proud and excited they were for patting the cows. I think we can learn a lot from kids. My daughter, Princess Sparkle, could not stop talking about how brave she was for patting the cow and happy she was that she’d been so brave. She didn’t hold it back, she wasn’t hard on herself for being worried about it, she was just happy that she did it. What a great way to approach life. If only we could look at those small brave things we do and say “hell yeah, that was scary and I did it and I’m super brave.”

The Gallo dairy has gorgeous food! Delicious lunch and really beautiful scenery. 

The cheeses and chocolate - I kid you not: divine!! I love high quality, handmade rocky road and there's was divine. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. I'd do the vow-worthy squishy trip just for the chocolate. But I digress...

Here’s the best bit about the day: I came home with an outlook on life that was as fresh as the tablelands air. My house was just as grubby as it was before we left, but I stopped stressing out about it. The weekend isn't over yet and we had a great day. What could be more important than that?

So there you go. Sometimes, you need to just let it go and do something fun to remind yourself of why we are actually doing this and come back to your problems with a fresh outlook that makes them look far less problematic.

Saturday, 30 July 2016

5 lessons from my first week in blogging

Wow! I think I've learned a lot in the last week. It's been a pretty amazing experience.

Here is a bit of rundown on what I've learned:

  1. In order to start a blog you need to just start the damn thing. This is not a joke. As I say in About the Busy Bee - I'm a procrastinator. I started thinking about a blog, then I started reading blogs, then blogs about starting a blog etc. I would probably have continued on researching and planning until I completely abandoned the idea had Mr Busy Bee not said to me, "Shouldn't you just start a blog and see if you enjoy it? You'll work it out if you experiment with it." Brilliant!! So just get out there and experiment.
  2. All the websites told me how easy it is to start a blog - it only takes five minutes. Yes, that's true, but it took me a little while to work out how to tinker with the layout. Don't let it get you down if you don't pick it up straight away. I've certainly got a lot to learn, but I'm really enjoying the learning process.
  3. Social media helps to get your blog out there, but it also incredibly distracting! I'm not one for social media ordinarily, but it has taken up a lot of my time (as discussed in the blog post: How social media made me anti-social). Keep your eye on the prize. If you want anyone to read your blog, you do have to get it out there, but can you can lose HOURS playing on Facebook and Twitter.
  4. Reach out. I reached out to a couple of people whose work I admire, beginner bloggers like myself and professionals. All were exceptionally kind to me and I was flattered that they took the time to give such genuine responses. If you genuinely love someone's work, let them know. I guess we all need a pat on the back occasionally.
  5. Blogging is fun! I've had a great time planning my blogposts, playing with pictures and finding like-minded bloggers. I've been pleasantly surprised by the number of people reading my blog (some don't even know me) and that's giving me the courage and inspiration to continue on into the second week. 
So there you go. By no means do I think I've got this thing worked out and no doubt one day I'll look back at these early posts and think they are terrible, but for now I will settle for being incredibly happy that I'm having fun and learning. Surely that is the very best reason to do something.

Friday, 29 July 2016

Bee a role model

Ahh... a word play... well done me!

Today I'm pondering whether we have an obligation to prioritise our health, wellbeing and balance for the sake of our kids and future generations.

As I've indicated previously, I'm a chronic multi-tasker and I run around like a bunny on too much caffeine. That might be because I consume too much caffeine of course, but I think its just me.

I bounce around from one thing to the next doing a lot, but seemingly achieving little, and constantly focussing on "getting things done".

Mr Busy Bee is a keen sportsman, so two nights a week he plays his sport. I don't begrudge it - I admire it. We all know how good sport is for you and as a parent, a bit of time out is invaluable. Certainly, he's a much more balanced person when he gets a bit of exercise.

The problem is, whilst I'm happy to take on a few extra duties so that Mr Busy Bee can play sport and I know he would do likewise for me, I can't seem to prioritise myself enough to do the same. I always find an excuse not to take care of myself - there's no time, I'm too tired, who will do x, y and z?

I focus so much on looking after others, that I don't look after myself.

The result is that I'm often short tempered and grouchy and sometimes I snap at the kids for no good reason (what - me? never!). More regularly than I care to admit, I resent others for the fact that I don't make time for myself.

This seems to be a pretty common theme amongst my friends. I've discussed this at length with my friends - do we do this because our own mums did it? I know certainly my mum was the same, as were many of my friends' mums.

Am I condemning my daughter to do the same thing? Am I showing my son that its more important to his partner to look after him than herself (or himself if the case may be)?

That being the case is it not an obligation to my children to prioritise myself and actively self care? And if I don't maintain some interests of my own, who will I be by the time my children grow up? Already I wonder where my old self went - the fun one that I was before I had kids. The one who loved going out on Saturday nights for dinner and trying new restaurants and wine.

I'm proud of myself for starting this blog because its all about me. It's about me actually pursuing my love of writing, rather than something that has to be done.

So thanks to everyone for reading and giving me the motivation to keep going.

Please share with me how you approach balance and self care. I'd love to hear.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

When did we get so wanky?

This blog is not intended to be ranty kind of blog, more of a ponderous kind of blog. Having said that:

WARNING: This post could get ranty

Right. Now I have that out of the way, let's begin.

I took myself off to the shops to buy some groceries. Nothing special about that - 500 litres of milk, 20 loaves of bread, the usual.

Usually I have the kids with me when I shop, so I just throw random things in the direction of my trolley and hope something useful lands in there. Today though, I went on my own. It was BLISS. I didn't yell at a single person. I didn't have to apologise to any complete strangers. Lovely stuff.

However, I actually had time to notice some of the products on the shelf.

The thing that really made me raise my eyebrows was a particularly expensive packet of baby wipes. I could just about buy the aforesaid 500 litres of milk and 20 loaves of bread for the same price as a couple of packets of these wipes. 

These wipes claimed to be 99.9% water and .1% fruit extract. I'm not kidding. 

Firstly - would this not make the wipes a liquid? According to me 99.9% + .1% = 100% liquid. Which, clever marketing genius of scammy wipes, means they aren't actually wipes at all. They are just water with a drop of juice in them.

Secondly - are people falling for the crap? If so, why? I'm not sure that I understand why you would spend a week's groceries on a packet of wipes when you can just buy ordinary priced ordinary ones. 

I get that there are kids with sensitive skin - I have one of those. I spend way too much money on wanky sensitive skinned soap free organic soaps etc for Captain Destroyer (it appears that ordinary soaps etc are his kryptonite). I stick to soap free, extra moisturising wanky products in his case, but have never had to resort to 100% liquid solid products.

For those people whose kids who have even more sensitive skin than my boy. You have my sympathy - spend away on natural products.

But I can't help wondering whether we've gone so far in favour of natural and organic that we've actually just gone a little bit too far. 

In my mum's generation, they weren't even using wipes. If they existed, they were restricted to rich people. My mum used cotton balls and a bit of water. If she was feeling out there - maybe a damp face washer. Get out!! You mean she actually put the water on the cotton balls herself?!! Because if we're paying all that money to essentially put a bit of water on a tissue, could we not just damp a tissue ourselves?

I don't limit this disbelief to parents. I just think we might have gone a bit overboard with the consumerism thing.

If we could just damp some cotton balls (thanks for the tip Mum), we could save a bit of cash, borrow less from the bank, pay less interest and put less in the pockets of the big nasty evil minds behind big banks and "natural" products.

Well now. I think it might have gotten ranty. Sorry about that.

Monday, 25 July 2016

Empty rewards from little sugar coated tasks

I've been reading Daniel Levitan's "The Organized Mind" (2014). I say reading, but that's probably very generous and makes me sound more intellectual than I actually am. It's probably more correct to say that I jump through the book like a bunny that's had too much caffiene - which is probably how I go about most things in my life!

Ordinarily, I'm more of a Marian Keyes or Mhairi McFarlane kind of girl, but I'm trying to shake things up as a better life investigator - expand the mind you might say.

But, I've gone off topic like the caffeine bunny that I am.

I'm a multi-tasker from way back. I've gotten worse as I've gotten older and jammed more things into the limited minutes in my day. When Princess Sparkles was 6 months old I went back to work a couple of days a week and I was still doing my Masters in Business Administration (don't judge me - I'm the main income earner in the family and I was SO close to finishing that damn masters that I don't actually use in my corporate escapee job). There are only so many hours in the day and I had to multi-task like a demon.

Daniel Levitan (The Organized Mind, 2014, p 170) says:
"In multi-tasking, we unknowingly enter an addiction loop, as the brain's novelty centers become rewarded for processing shy new stimuli, to the detriment of our prefrontal cortex, which wants to stay on task and gain the rewards of sustained effort and attention. We need to train ourselves to go for the long reward, and forgo the short one."

That's me!! I'm so addicted to achieving things that I definitely forego the long reward in order to get the kick of "achieving" something. I took the day off work today so that I could write an essay for a competition. It's quite an intellectual thing about addressing gender parity and there is REALLY good prize money. But here I am writing my blog because:

  • It will take me most of the day to even get a draft of that essay done, so no immediate reward there
  • Most likely thousands of people will enter the competition, so I won't win it anyway (one day we might talk about my self esteem issues, but that's for another day)
  • It's intellectual so I have to turn my brain into serious mode and it just doesn't like being there.
So here I am foregoing the reward of actually writing something important that I'm passionate about because I'd addicted to shiny new stimuli and "empty rewards from little sugar coasted tasks" (a great phrase that I'm pretty sure I nicked from Levitan, D, The Organized Mind 2014).

Is anyone else out there out there addicted to "achieving" (ahem... just a little sarcasm there on my part) and multi-tasking? How far do you go with your multi-tasking and what do you do to try and manage it?

Sunday, 24 July 2016

How social media made me anti-social this weekend

All I can say is it's a good thing it was a long weekend at my house this weekend!

I'm not a social media person and I don't even surf the web that much. So this weekend has been a bit different for me...

In order to set up a blog I had to do a lot of research on how to set one up and how to actually get people to see it.

That's not too bad in itself, but I'm very distractable! I don't want to think about how many times I've snuck off this weekend to quickly google something (really basic stuff like - how does twitter work?), or to set up an account of some sort.

So I've done my crash course:

  • Blog created - CHECK
  • Facebook page created - CHECK
  • Twitter account created - CHECK
  • Worked out how to use all of the above - CHECK (I think!)

Here is the downside - I've been pretty anti-social. Like I said, I kept sneaking off to do these things.

If the aim of this blog is to investigate better living, I'm probably getting off on the wrong foot.

Note to self: Don't let better life investigator blog on how not to be so busy just make me even busier.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

How about that junk bench?

Does your house have a junk bench?

My junk bench is right beside the back door, where I enter the house. It's a big bench right there in the kitchen. There used to be a wall where the bench is now - so like I say, its a big bench.

"The bench" is so handy for dumping things on. I come home from a long day at work with 2 cranky kids that haven't been picked up from daycare until pretty much dinner time, so they are begging for food and what could be easier than throwing the backpacks and handbag on "the bench"?

I think that would be ok if I ever went back and sort the things that I dumped there for "just a few minutes" while I get the kids sorted. The problem is of course that I don't go back and sort it. It makes Mr Busy Bee very, very annoyed. He is a very tidy sort of man - not one for throwing things on a junk bench. He's also very relaxed and patient, but even his patience is tested by "the bench".

I also collect an assortment of confiscated items on "the bench". It is often hidden beneath piles of confiscated toys that have been thrown there from the dinner table because Princess Sparkle or Captain Destroyer would rather play than eat (usually they are Captain Destroyer's toys, because they are loud and make me just a little bit crazy!! As an aside why do little boys like loud toys so much?)

This week, I've been making it a mission to keep things under control on the "the bench". Firstly let me say - it's hard frikking work. I just can't bring myself to stop dumping things there, so every night I have to go back and clean it up. I'm not kidding when I say sometimes I go back to "the bench" not two hours after last tidying it, and I can barely see it again.

Today I made my kids' lunches then walked away leaving the butter knife and the bread on the bench. After breakfast I left three types of cereal there and the sugar for my coffee on that stupid bench.

What is the deal with that??

I've gotten a couple of trays and the like to see if that helps with the chaos, but Mr Busy Bee assures me that no amount of gadgets will solve the problem unless I actually use them.

Does anyone else suffer from a junk bench compulsion? How do you deal it? Better yet - has anyone overcome a junk bench compulsion? Please share your tips.

Chaos in a bag

On a show that I watched recently, a woman turned to minimising her possessions to take control of her life. Post natal depression and left her feeling as though she didn't control her life. I can relate to that - I feel like my life controls me and drags me along for the ride. I try so hard to keep up with my life that I can’t stop to take a breath. 

This lady started her minimalist lifestyle by cleaning out her handbag. It was a small job that gave her a sense of accomplishment and by doing it, she felt like she achieved something. Eventually she did the whole house. They showed a picture of her house and it was amazing. She had young kids (as I do) and yet her house was tidy!

My house is not huge to say the least. It’s a 3 bedroom house and its pretty snug. Most of our cupboards are full to the point of overflowing and if you sneeze doors spring out and the cupboards overflow (Ok so that’s an exaggeration, but you get the point). The thing is, most of this stuff is just STUFF. They aren’t things we need. Do I seriously still need my high school graduation jersey?? That was almost twenty years ago! Do I need to keep those ugly retro wedge shoes in case they are useful for a costume party? Whilst costume parties were pretty regular for our group of friends in the past, I don’t think anyone has had one for a good five years now and we all have kids so noone is likely to have any raging parties worth dressing up for in the next fifteen years. Will I still have those damn shoes in fifteen years? Possibly - I mean they’ve been there for fifteen years or so already, what’s another fifteen?

So the next day i cleaned out my handbag. I found about 50 pens, multiple empty mini sultana boxes (kids!) and lots of crumbs (also kids???) a lot of napkins and an empty container that I use to transport crackers. Seriously gross stuff. 

Here’s the amazing thing. My handbag was literally lighter so I was carrying lighter baggage with me all day - literally and metaphorically.

The ultimate question though is can I keep it up?

What decluttering tips do you have? More importantly, how do you maintain the clutter once you have it under control?