For Gerry, On Your Birthday

To my wonderful, beautiful friend.

I miss you, that’s first.

I love you, that you know.

What next?

You loved my writing,

So it became tradition that, on your birthday,

I would write you a silly ditty.

(I think you liked them.)

But, this year, on your birthday,

Now you’ve gone,

Nothing rhymes.

Words fall short.

It’s tears that fall,

As words used to,

Soaking the page so the ink won’t stick.

Instead, my vocabulary sticks in my throat,

And I can’t speak

For words unsaid,

Maybes,

Might’ve beens,

Should have saids.

I can’t hear for our last conversation,

Is on repeat in my ears.

But I don’t want it to stop,

For fear I’ll forget your voice.

Your voice as strong as your friendship,

As your love.

The love you gave us freely,

The love that drove you to be

The most incredible friend;

Who dragged me through the dark days towards the light.

And I wanted to be that light for you,

But now you’ve gone, the darkness is stifling

And I realise that you were the light;

And I realise I was stupid not to notice that before.

So I look at my tattoo,

The one we shared that says ‘sister’,

With three birds in its midst.

We didn’t know you’d fly away so soon,

Leaving two.

Now we circle, lost,

Looking for the light.

I can’t sleep, so I look to the stars,

Remembering we are all stardust.

Their light reminds me of you,

Reminds me to remember that light

And to make that your legacy:

A legacy of light, of love,

Of kindness,

Of acceptance.

But it’s hard to know what’s next.

What next, now that you’ve gone?

All I can do is finish as I began:

I miss you,

And I love you.

Hey, kids! Don’t do that, try this.

There are many things that I love about our scaled back life. Simple living is giving us more time together, making us less rushed, reducing stress, and generally making our lives a bit more ‘chilled’. We have had conversations we otherwise may not have had, and we have laughed a lot. But, there is just this one thing…

It’s tiring. Okay, so, in many ways the opposite is true, but when it comes to our decision to reduce screen time it’s a little different. I always thought that cutting back on time spent on the TV or computers would be difficult for us all and, although we are adapting, it’s taking some getting used to.

But, why is it tiring? Basically because we have three small boys! Although they are pretty good at independent play, finding things to do and making up their own games, sometimes they are just in an ‘I’m bored’ mood, and that is exhausting.

To help us all, and to save my patience and sanity, I have started collating ideas about things that they might enjoy doing instead of looking at a screen. This means that, rather than just telling them what they can’t do, I am giving them ideas of what they can do instead; and my children definitely respond better to that! These are just a few of our current firm favourites:
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- team comic book. The idea is to create a comic book together, from start to finish, working together to create characters and storylines, then drawing the pictures and putting together the captions. To be honest, in our superhero crazed house, it is no surprise that this was a hit!

- create-a-pokemon. Who knew Pokemon were even still a thing? I had no clue, until Charlie brought home some cards from school, well and truly gripped by Pokemon fever. The best thing to come out of this is the boys creating their own Pokemon, with specific skills, strengths and characteristics, drawing Pokemon cards and then battling each other with these new characters.

- shared reading. Depending on how pushed for time/energy I am, I will either do this with the boys or they will just take it in turns to read a book; generally reading a page each. We are currently working our way through Awful Auntie; I’m not sure who’s enjoying this more!
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- book reviews. As we are obsessed with books, and Charlie has started his own blog that includes book reviews, this was a natural thing for us all to try. I’ve been encouraging them all to note down some things they did, and didn’t, like in the books that they have read, and to draw pictures of their favourite moments from the book. Not only is this making them in to book reviewers, it also changes the way they interact with the text.

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- den hangs. We have been pretty fortunate with the weather lately, so have been able to take full advantage of our new garden. So, the boys have been putting their den (built by JB) to good use. They collect up games, snacks, pens and paper, and disappear down the garden, emerging some time later. Obviously, I’m not allowed to join in with this, on account of it being a secret den and all…

So, there are some examples of things that the boys have been enjoying since their mean-mama reduced their screen time. And as for me…? It’s been reading and writing all the way… And I’m loving it.

 

Sunday Secrets: Finding my happy

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A few months ago a friend of mine recommended a book called ‘A Year of Living Danishly’ to me. I forgot all about it until I was searching for something to listen to in Audible, found it there, and began listening. A Year of Living Dangerously is written by journalist Helen Russell; and follows Russell as she tries to f23282062ind out why the Danes are one of the happiest nations in the world, and what we can do to increase our own happiness – Danish Style. It’s a fascinating book and has really made me step back and ask myself just how happy I am. What would make me happier? And how do we go about getting from here to there?

Our exploration of simple living is an exercise in maximising our happiness, but how do I measure how happy we are? How will we know if living simply has made us happier? I thought about this for far too long at 2am last night, and I think there are certain non-negotiables that I need to be truly happy.

  1. Security
  2. Work-life balance
  3. Society/community connections
  4. Health – both my own and that of those I love
  5. Morality & values
  6. Doing what I love: namely reading and writing
  7. Resilience/coping strategies for when things don’t go to plan
  8. People, not things
  9. Authenticity – being true to myself in all that I do
  10. Having goals & challenges to aspire to and work towards
  11. Self-improvement
  12. Volunteering/helping others
  13. Exercise
  14. Being part of something bigger than myself
  15. Living a kind life
  16. Acknowledging gratitude
  17. Self-love
  18. Expressing love 

In reality, I am, right now, happier than I have been for years, so the list includes some of the things that I feel are behind my increasing happiness. Focusing on what needs to be done, on the changes I need to make to maximise happiness for me and my family, was a hugely beneficial eDSCN0653xercise. It’s all well and good wanting to be happier, but how can we get there if we don’t know the path we need to take? We wouldn’t set off in our car for a new destination before first finding the way to go. And so I highly encourage anyone that is looking for some extra happy in their lives to consider what it is that will make you happier – the essential, non-negotiable things – write them down and keep them safe.

I will be working through these things over the next few months, considering how I can fit them in to my life. I will, obviously, be sharing here how I’m working on each point, and letting you know if the changes are actually making me any happier; although I suspect that the process alone might in itself increase how happy I feel.

Oh, and I would currently rate myself as a 7/10 on the happiness scale, which I reckon is pretty high, but still leaves some room for improvement.

How would you rate your happiness? What do you consider as non-negotiable for your Get Happy list? I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas, so find me on Instagram, Twitter, or start a conversation in the comments below. I’m so excited about this journey, and I hope you’ll come along with me.