Wednesday, 14 September 2011

This is why

I scrapbook. For the uninitiated among you, you may be wondering what on earth that is. It's a mix of diary, photo album and art/design. It's a way of capturing everyday and high day moments and memories so that you, and your family and friends, can look back at them, laugh and remember. And for those generations yet to come, it's providing a legacy for them, so they understand where they come from and get a peek into what life was like 'in the old days'.

I didn't scrapbook until Chloe was born. When she came into my life, I knew I wanted to to be able to remember all her quirks and the moments in her journey to adulthood. Photos are all very well, but they have a difficult time telling the full story. As I've been scrapbooking our lives, it's made me more curious about the lives of my parents and grandparents and great grandparents. Most of my grandparents died when I was a child, so they're not around to ask now. None of them were very good at keeping photo albums and in some cases they took very few photographs. My mum and aunts have given me their boxes of photos, some of their own and some that had been passed down. And I've really enjoyed rifling through those (the scanning into the pc was a labour-intensive but so worthwhile exercise) and catching a glimpse of what their lives were like.

But it's been sad too. I recognise some of the people and places in the photos, as do my mum and aunts, but we don't know them all. It's like a jigsaw with pieces missing - I can't see the full picture. Hardly anyone wrote on the back of the photos who was in them, where it was, when it was, so it's not easy to make sense of some of them. It would have been so much richer a story and so much more fascinating to have had all this info.

So this is why I scrapbook. Whether it's full on page design, or just jotting the essential details and quotes from an occasion into the notes section of a photo album, I'm making sure that the memory is captured along with the photo. So when Chloe, or her children or grandchildren, look at these books and albums, they will be able to get the full picture.

Some of my fave pictures from the boxes I've scanned in so far....

My grandfather (in the middle of the back row) and extended family. The two girls sitting on the ground at the front - the one on the left is my Aunt Jeanette and the one on the right is my Mum.

This is a great picture with the old style tv etc but I have no idea who these people are...

My mum and dad in their courting days.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Flowers, friends and freedom

It's taken me a few days to get round to writing this blog after the event. I think I was waiting for reality to sink in, but it seems that's going to take longer than a few days.

I've left work. And not for a holiday; for good. After 13 years (minus those lost 6 weeks back in the day), several changes of role, so many friends and countless moments of hysteria, chaos and crises; it somehow seemed, to both me and those around me, that I was part of the furniture and that I'd never leave. In many ways, I was quite happy with that. Having spent so much of my life there, it felt like home, and I was comfortable there. It made me so emotional saying goodbye to people that have meant so much to me, and knowing I will no longer be seeing them every day, and I was even more emotional when I got the flowers, gifts and especially the cards with lovely messages. (Hurrah for the joined up world of social media, which means goodbye doesn't mean losing touch.) But things change. Things have to change. I had to change.

This is my new beginning. And it's amazing.There is a whole world of possibility out there. I can do anything that makes me happy and that challenges and inspires me. I'm excited to find out what I can be and what I can offer to the world. But before I start that search for my new life, a break. I'm taking some time out to unwind, let go of the old life and remember who I am.  Oh and go to New York of course.

So, for now, I'm saying a huge thank you to everyone who has supported me and laughed with me over the past 13 years - it wouldn't have been the same without you. You may no longer be colleagues, but you're still friends, and I'm looking forward to sharing my new adventures with you.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Beauty, discovered

Be warned. Some people might find this all too corny for their taste. And it might be. But I think we often say something is corny because we're a little scared of the emotions it brings out in us, and that it cuts a little too close to the truth we only admit to ourselves.

I am beautiful. Those are words I never thought I would ever say. I'm so far from the world's prescribed ideal of beauty. I am too ginger. Too big. Too short. Too pale. Too plain. I've spent my life being the clever one the funny one, sometimes ,at a push, the cute one. I've avoided being in photographs for as long as I can remember, and when I have to be in them, I pile on the make up and ensure I'm hidden behind someone else. But bringing up a teenage daughter and in trying to ensure she understands and embraces her own self worth, I'm learning my own value too.

I am beautiful. In all the ways that really matter, I am beautiful. I love and I am loved. I brought a wonderful amazing human being into this world, and I am helping her become the best version of her she can be. I care about those around me, and I care about those I have yet to meet. I have learned much and I learn more every day. I help people. I make a difference. I am clever. I ask questions.I understand the power I possess and how to use it wisely. I appreciate the small things and am not frightened of the big things. I am me.

This shot of me- no make up, no hiding, no fake smile - just me, is a victory. I would never have posted this before. It's taken me a long time to get here, but I have discovered my own beauty. And it was there all along.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Finding balance

This Bank Holiday weekend has been amazing. Not that I flew off to the South Coast of France, or ate at any five star restaurants or even that I did anything that anyone else would be jealous of. But what was so amazing to me was the difference those extra few days have made. I have had the time to stop, think and enjoy my life.

My weekends are normally spent trying to catch up on the work at home that I haven't had the chance to do during the busy week, as well as grocery shopping and laundry. Spending time with Chloe is important to me too, even if that is just watching Saturday night television together or going out for lunch. And where possible, I like to fit in a bit of writing or crafting or photography too - anything to exercise those creative muscles.

However, it is a struggle, and I do find myself fighting to make everything fit in. I often wonder if it's just me that feels like this, whether I am the only one who finds themselves spending the majority of the time doing what I think I have to do, and spending the least amount of time doing what I actually want to do? We all have to earn a living, and so work necessarily has to take up most of the time. Surely though, there's a better way? There must be a way to balance this better, so I can feel like my life is productive and happy and fulfilling.  Actively deciding to find that balance is the first step. I'm going to find time to make a life, not just to make a living.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

For the love of concealer

Today I am sending a note of eternal gratitude to whoever invented concealer : loving your work! Pre-concealer this morning I looked like the shinier redder-nosed sister of Rudolph. Or some freaky big-nosed circus clown. Or someone who has an even closer relationship with alcohol than I actually do. Whichever way, so not a good look. Post-concealer, I still couldn't be mistaken for a super-model, but I could at least pass muster as a human being with a normal-coloured nose.

So it's just a cold. An energy-zapping, nose-blocking, hanky-eating cold. But I will be glad when it's over.

Today's make-up mania made me think though. I've always reckoned on myself as not being too hung-up on looks; happy to go out with just moisturiser, sunscreen and brushed hair, and I turned up my nose at those who went what I saw as too far to preserve their looks. Today though, I really felt I couldn't go out looking like I did without artificial intervention to hide the red nose, otherwise I would be conscious of it all day. I'm perhaps vainer than I thought. But you know, I'm now ok with saying that's not a bad thing. It's not a crime to want to make the best of yourself, even with a little artifice. And that's especially true if there's something that you really hate about yourself, that makes you feel self-conscious constantly. But a little help goes a long way. Heidi Montag-style transformation? Well, that's a different matter!

Thursday, 24 March 2011

And I said "No, no, no"...

This afternoon I had to do some things which don't come easily to me. I had to say "no", I had to tell someone I didn't like them (though I did like their top) and I had to walk away from someone. No, I didn't have a bad day at the office. Quite the contrary. A great day - thanks in no small part to the seminar which I took part in this afternoon - which these exercises were part of. Along with learning to channel our Inner Bond Girls of course.

Designed to help the participants become more charismatic, the seminar gave me real insight into how our behaviours can really impact those around us. I found it strangely liberating to say "no" and not feel bad about it; I rather relished being able to apologise and not cringe in shame, and there was even a strange pleasure in being able to practice not caring if people liked me. More importantly, I learned real and usable techniques to re-train my brain and change my behaviours. Even more importantly, I had fun while doing it. Enjoyable and real learning. Now that's powerful stuff.

So if you  hear the word "no" pass my lips more often, or you see me walking away and not looking back; well, that will just be me getting my charisma on.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Seeing the stepping stones

So here's the thing. Most days I muddle on through, using only the part of my brain I need to get through the particular task on hand, whether that's putting together a paper at work, doing the ironing, or even updating facebook. I'm ashamed to admit it, but what I don't do enough of, is think. Really think. In the deep and meaningful life-examining sense, not the hmm wonder what I can make for dinner sense.

Today was an exception. Eye-openingly thought-provoking. And no, no-one was waving a big sign saying "Erm life to Jules, time to think!" But they might as well have been. So many things are happening to so many of my friends, and I didn't really put it all together in my mind until today.. one of my favourite people in the world ever leaving my team to take up a new fabulous opportunity another of my PressGang gang going off to have an adventure in far flung exotic location a close friend soon to go off on maternity leave
...and another who's starting her own business soon...

You get the picture. Everyone is doing big stuff. They're all moving on to the next stepping stone. And I'm not. Not yet anyway. But that's probably because I've been waiting for someone else to do something that impacts me, something to happen that will make a change, just waiting. No more waiting for a passing tide to carry me on. Time to jump onto the next stepping stone all by myself.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Pancakes, pain, poshness and pjs

Today is a day of celebration - in many ways. In no particular order, it's the birthday of a few of my friends, it's Shrove Tuesday, and it's International Women's Day - so Happy Birthday, Happy Pnacake Eating, and - and- what is the appropriate greeting for IWD, exactly?!

But for me, the celebration came in the form of a much smaller, unnoticeable to others, but so meaningful to me event. Having had the worst run of luck health/accident -wise since just before Christmas, I've pretty much woken up in pain every morning. Thankfully of late, that pain was more of an annoying twinge than the agony of a few months ago. However, this morning I woke up, and no pain. Looks like the recovery predicted as end of March by the Docs, is on track. Love that.

The pain-free day wasn't all that made me smile today. On train home, I was speaking on phone to a work colleague, and as I was putting the phone away in my bag, the young girl sitting across from me looked up and said, "Ah hope ye don't mind me sayin, bit you're dead posh bit, in't ye?"  Erm, no? Surely the fact I'm from Larkhall automatically means I couldn't ever be posh?! Anyway, it turns out she'd been for an interview and her broad Larkhall accent had proved a hindrance as far as the would-be employers were concerned. It worries me that these kids are not being taught in school that they need to learn to adjust their speech to the situation. No one is saying they have to pretend to be what they're not, but they should be able to articulate more clearly and adopt a more neutral tone when it's needed. So they can text, IM, tweet, email and facebook all they like but they're soon not going to be able to speak at all. Ok,rant over and teacher Jules put back in her box now.

Last thing to celebrate today - pjs. For this girl, there is little that compares to the feeling of getting in from a long day, out of horrid dark cold weather, to get into cosy pjs. To me, they represent home and freedom from worries. All praise for the pjs.

Monday, 28 February 2011

The smile factor, or why I have laughter lines

Going against the Monday grain, I'm not going to list the things that make me mad/sad/bad, but rather, here's a list of things that make me smile. It's in no way comprehensive, and in absolutely no order, but everything on this list makes me giggle, smile or give out a hearty chuckle. So, thanks to...

1. Opening a new book...oh the possibilities for getting lost in another world.
2. The smell of freshly made bread - mmm.
3. Chloe - in all ways, but especially her witty words. The girl can totally rock a funny comeback.
4. Old Mr Ben cartoons. Classic.
5. My friends. They are the best.
6. Billy Connolly. Gerard Kelly. Enough said.
7. Cornflour - have you tried this? Hours of endless amusement!
8. Turning on the tv to unexpectedly find one of my favourite films on.
9. Looking through old and no-so-old photos.
10. Karaoke/Singstar with Irene and/or Chloe.
11. Illicitly sneaking a swing on the supposedly for kids swing parks.
12. Picnics. Even the word makes me smile.
13. New craft stash.
14. Getting parcels in the post - even when it's items you've ordered and paid for, it feels like presents every time.
15. Getting into a newly made bed - ahhhhh.
16. Jelly - just because.
17. Songs by Deacon Blue/Hue & Cry/ The Big Dish/Love & Money/ Wolfstone - music from my youth.
18. Painting my nails.
19. Glee.
20. Texts!

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Sunday feeling

Unlike that old song, Sundays mornings never feel easy to me. Sunday afternoons are far from simple. And don't even talk to me about Sunday evenings.

Why is it no matter how old I get, every minute of Sunday that passes still feels like one moment closer to a loss of freedom? Somehow, Sundays still equal impending doom. I loved school (yes, I was that girl) and I hated Sundays then. I like what I do now and still Sundays herald a feeling of dread.

I am hereby vowing to get over my Sunday-itis. Today I tried to distract myself with housework and cleaning. My house is shiny now. However, no shine on me. That option didn't work. I will find the cure!