Kneeling at the altar of Mammon

They say sitting is the new smoking. Mostly, that’s about general inactivity and how we should all move more (I read an article recently which I would link to if I could remember where I saw it which asked the question of whether it was particularly SITTING or whether it was inactivity and the answer in that article was that it was the inactivity that was the issue, so lying down was just as bad for you unless you are actually sleeping). However, for me, today, it is actually about sitting.

I am reasonably active (I don’t do any formal exercise but I run a house for five people and go for a walk every day as well as walking the kids to and from school, and usually clock up 15,000 steps a day on my FitBit) but I do sit down for work.

Currently, I have a pain in my butt. Which is radiating down my leg. Which is fine when I am up and walking around, but if I sit it really starts to hurt.

I went to see my chiropractor this morning, who showed me a model skeleton and explained to me that one of my muscles (wasn’t paying attention to the name of it) is pressing down on my sciatic nerve — and when I am sitting down, it presses harder on the nerve.

His advice is to sit as little as possible and to do various stretches over the next couple of weeks to try to ease the situation.

The thing is, not sitting is actually quite hard when you have a desk job. Today I have to get six hours work done — at my desk — and I really can’t sit down comfortably for that long even if I hadn’t just been told I shouldn’t.

So I am kneeling. I have a thick blanket under my knees, and because I have the good fortune to work from home, no-one can see me so I don’t feel too much of a pillock.

But it’s interesting. The phrase “kneeling at the altar of Mammon” won’t get out of my head; and it’s true, it’s exactly what I am doing. They say that your body and what you do with it impacts on what you think and feel — and your general perspective — and here I am finding that is so, in ways I wasn’t expecting.

It’s also true that I am (when I get a fraction of time to think about it in) re-evaluating what I do for a living. My work is something I do mostly for the money (there are other, independence and feminist things folded in there too)– so this feels pretty much like an in my face reminder that it is something I need to think about.

I am — literally and figuratively — kneeling at the altar of Mammon.

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The power of the written word

So today is the first day of lent, and I suppose I should be thinking about my “no chocolate and no alcohol” thing, but — let’s be honest here — the first day of something is hardly the challenging one.

Instead, I am marvelling slightly at the change in my children since I instigated their household chores. Yesterday was hectic (what day isn’t?!). But, unprompted, Meerkat cleaned all the bathrooms BY HERSELF (she needed help with opening the toilet cleaner but otherwise truly by herself); Frog and Mouse made their packed lunches (Meerkat isn’t having a packed lunch today) and tidied up after themselves, and although Frog needed a lot of chivvying, he did all of his kitchen duties unaided.

My children do not usually seem so biddable; but we currently have lists stuck to the walls all over the house, listing what needs to happen (what is involved in kitchen duty, cleaning the bathroom, what needs to go in a lunchbox, what needs to happen every day (putting PJs in the wash etc)). I do feel somewhat of an idiot when other people come to the house with lists of everything all over the wall but — people, take note — this has made a HUGE difference to my kids. They just look at the list, ask what’s next, and get on with it.

list

I’m not sure how long this is going to last, to be honest, but I’m enjoying it while I can. I have noticed before that Frog, in particular, is much more likely to abide by a rule / do a chore if it is written down.

I need to consider what else I should be writing on lists and pinning to the wall …!

Eating Real Food takes work

foodSo this morning was food sorting day. I mostly eat Whole-30 stylee (though am not doing a W30 at the moment) which brings its challenges.

Eating real food. We all know we should do it, but blimey it’s hard to deliver that, especially on top of everything else we need to do. I quite often read stuff about how to do things and then wonder “yes, but how do you REALLY do it?” (particularly when you take into account having to work for a living, look after children, keep up with your family etc.)

So, here’s a small part of how I do it at the moment. I am very lucky in that my work is flexible and I can organise my days pretty much how I like. I have noticed that if I don’t get my food stuff done early in the day then I have lost the will to live by lunchtime and it’s a real uphill battle to eat healthily at all, let alone prepare food. I have energy and drive first thing in the morning, so I try to organise what I need to do and when I need to do it around that. (My work requires sitting and thinking, and sometimes writing — which I can do until I get too tired to function.) I do try to eat well, and I need to make it as easy and as convenient as possible for myself — within the context of I don’t eat anything processed if I can help it. (Which isn’t really starting with convenience in mind, so I need to work round that!)

I dropped the kids off at school this morning and then went for my walk (so windy today I needed to put my sunglasses on to stop my eyeballs getting cold). Got back in and then set to work.

Today I decided to:

  • decant the stock I made from yesterday’s chicken carcass (I made it overnight in the slow cooker) into smaller containers so I can freeze them
  • Make carrot soup which will serve me 4 days or so for lunch (a REALLY delicious recipe involving carrots, cardamom and coconut — oh, and the stock I just made)
  • Roast some tomatoes and cauliflower (which I find palatable enough to eat for breakfast with eggs — but can’t face making them in the morning.)
  • Make a mushroom, leek and chicken hot pot, using yesterday’s leftover chicken, and a leek/mushroom mix I had in the freezer from an earlier cook-a-thon, and par- boiling some potatoes to go on the top. This will be our dinner tonight requiring no more effort than turning the oven on and putting it in for 45 minutes.
  • Cook some chicken breasts so I have some easy protein in the fridge which I can turn into salads (with the home-made mayo that is already in the fridge) or eat with the soup for lunch. I made enough for two days.
  • Make up some “smoothie packs” which I do when I have the energy and fill the freezer with them. (I can then take them out of the freezer, fill with boiling water, and blend.) I normally start with spinach and carrot, but I had used all the carrots I had making soup, so today I just bulked them out with more spinach than usual. I also normally throw in any fruit I have lying around that the children are likely to reject, but I didn’t have any of that today so I had to forage in the freezer for frozen fruit to add to the packs.

food2

Now I am ready to start the week and eat healthily. However, it took nearly all morning (along with tidying the kitchen after myself, finding the children’s swimming stuff for this afternoon, folding a load of washing and balancing the household books).

I often wonder how other people with less flexibility in their days than I have come anywhere near eating real food. How do you manage it?

Walking in the rain

It’s raining here. And blowing a hoolie. Mr P has taken the children out shopping (milk, fruit, curtain poles) and left me to do whatever I like, which was, this morning, to go for a walk in this crazy weather. Walking is a revelation to me: I have always liked it, but never tried to fold it in as habit, until I realised it was the most realistic and sustainable way I could find to get moving on a regular basis. I now go nearly every day, rain or shine. I have a circular route from my house which, on school days, is useful because it takes in the school. It takes me just over 30 minutes, so I get my “activity” green badge on my FitBit which makes me childishly happy (I have not grown out of reward stickers, it seems, and I am not alone …) and means that I can get my 10,000 steps with ease by the end of the day. 30 minutes is achievable on most days, and unlike other exercise means I don’t have to change afterwards or allow travel time, and I am unlikely to injure myself (running, I’m talking about you). Best of all, though, is that it clears my head and gives me time to think about stuff. (Mostly really dull stuff, but, you know, you need to think through that stuff too.)

So one of my thought topics for this morning’s walk was what image I should use on this blog. I have chosen the snowdrop: a photo I took almost exactly a year ago when I was thinking about setting up a small business (which I didn’t — correct decision for me, at the time). But in that way that things come around and find their place I think it is a good one for this blog: Minute Particulars (from William Blake) — recognizing the importance of the small things. What do you think?

They think it’s a hard knock life

In January, I read a fab book called Children Who Do Too Little. It was, and here I am using Gru’s voice, a “lightbulb” moment. Since my brain started to recover from having children (Frog, now 8; Meerkat, now 6 and Mouse, also 6) I have been battling with the issue of Wifework and how that sits with my beliefs about the world and feminism. (I still haven’t read the book. It’s on my list.) I had NO IDEA before I had children. I thought that feminism was something that was important 20 years ago (or more) but that in today’s society it was no longer relevant. Ha ha. If only I’d known. Then I had three children in quick succession, gave up work (because I wanted to and was able to) and took on the mantle of being a full time mother and running a house for five of us. Wow. I felt like I’d died. I remember distinctly going out to lunch en famille when the girls were still in high chairs (we were on holiday) and looking at other women, particularly mothers, trying to work out if they still actually existed as people. I concluded that a few of them — and all of those had only one child — probably still had remnants of themselves, but most of the others just didn’t. They ceased to exist and became a human-shaped long to-do list in order to keep body and soul together. You could see it in their faces. In my face. When people asked me how I was, I felt I couldn’t answer that question because I didn’t know who “I” was anymore.

Time passes, routines settle in, and you live your own new normal. I my case, I did everything because I felt I had to do everything (my partner was working more than full-time hours; my children couldn’t do anything because they were, at that stage, just blobs).

And I read stuff. At this stage, books were too difficult, so I was reading blogs and bits and bobs I found in my precious moments of internet surfing. And it struck me that mothers have such a different life experience from other people. Politics and politicians were all irrelevant to me: people making decisions about this country and my life were so far removed from my life experience that they did not represent me in any way at all (even women politicians — how many of those are mothers? I know why, of course.) I was, very much, down among the women. And it also struck me how universal my daily battles were: the glass left on top of the dishwasher; laundry on the floor not in the basket; being asked what was for dinner; feeling like no-one knew (other than other people doing the same thing) just how HARD this all was. Running a house for five people and feeding five people and keeping all the balls in the air is HARD. The work required has a kind of relentless, unforgiving, suffocating quality. Then, two years ago, I started working (=paid / professional work) again (not full time). I loved it. Work was EASY compared to running a house. (And allegedly, what I do is not all that easy.) It put what I was doing at home into a new context.

Then, last month, I read Children Who Do Too Little. Amazing. Her basic premise is that everyone in the house should equally share the work that needs doing. (There’s a lot more in there that is useful and thought provoking, particularly about what work children can and should be doing.) It’s so bloody simple that I felt like slapping myself for not working it out toute seule. So, because there is no time like the present, and my work was unusually quiet at the end of January, I sat down and worked out the work I would like to share out, and that I felt my children were able to do. (They had been doing some, but I wanted to ramp it up.) Everyone in the family will do one day of “kitchen” duty, which required cleaning up after every meal; everyone would do one day of “bathroom” duty which required giving each bathroom a once-over (we have three). Then there were laundry duties, bin duties etc. Mr Particular and I are also in the rota. Surprisingly, everyone was quite up for it, and off we went. It felt right. I felt virtuous.

Mr Particular has been working away from home this week (WHY DID I START THIS ON A WEEK HE WAS AWAY?!). Last night I finished work at 6pm and then walked into a long list of things that still needed doing; and needed doing with my help. I felt like crying. I took remedial action: we decided bathrooms didn’t need doing after all and Frog could switch that to Sunday, because he still needed to tidy up the family room (which looked like the children had taken all of our board games (we have hundreds) and emptied all of them all over the floor and then built towers with the boxes); I needed to clear the kitchen (I was on kitchen duty); I needed to wash Meerkat’s hair with special shampoo (she has skin issues and we are trying something new so can’t do it on her own, even though caring for her own hair is her (new) job); the children all needed to make their own packed lunches (new job); I hadn’t prepared anything for my own dinner … and so last night I was wondering what on earth I had done to myself. The children were all tired and not in the mood; I was tired and not in the mood. By the time they were in bed (later than normal) I reflected perhaps I had bitten off more than I can chew.

This morning, I still think it’s the right thing to do; and we will battle on. It hurts, but it’s right. It takes up more time and energy and effort than I think I have, but it’s still the right thing to do — and it will (please) get easier. Frog does make his packed lunch with little input from me, and that’s a good thing, even if it does take him half an hour. I need to work out the schedule a bit better: on the days I work til 6pm, we need to do it differently. If Mr Particular is away, until the children really can do it all without supervision or chivvying (ha ha see what I did there? I’m such an optimist), I need to take that into account on the rota.

And so we’ll see. I’m still pretty convinced this is the answer, though.

Well. Begin at the beginning.

So. I’ve started a blog. Hallebloodyluia. About time.

What has prompted me to do this TODAY is that I am realising that the time is, indeed, now. I’m not ready. I haven’t mapped out where I am going with this. But it’s something I’ve been tinkering with for years and years and other things got in the way; and if I let it, it will be that way forever.

I do have a sense of embarkation: I am starting on a new journey by starting this long-overdue blog, and I need to do it now because I want to document an extreme (to me) Lent (despite being an atheist).

I’m going to give up alcohol. And chocolate. Ideally forever, but I am framing it round Lent because I think it will stop people challenging me too hard before I am ready to be challenged.

Generally I am good with food: I tend to follow Whole-30 ish guidelines and do really well with it. But. Chocolate. Wine. So I’ve spent some money on some books (I’ve decided I really like books again — so much better than screens) on how to kick chocolate and alcohol and, once they have arrived, I shall dig in and will be my own experiment of one to see if I can do it as easily as the blurbs claim.

It’s not about weight loss. Don’t get me wrong, some weight loss would be great. But my motivators are more about energy levels, sleep and heart rate than weight. (Yes, heart rate. Since owning a FitBit HR which I LOVE I have discovered that drinking alcohol affects my heart rate — which I then Googled and discovered is not some individual peculiarity of mine but is a documented THING.)

One of my aims for 2016 is to get back into books: children have pulled me away, along with the difficulty of keeping a house and some semblance of a life going. My kids are a little older now (starting to be more self-sufficient) and I want to read read read. So my fiction book that is on the go at the moment is The Taxidermist’s Daughter; and I have just finished Better Than Before (see the link?). Gretchen Rubin, though, is a whole nother post.