As if we’d never been gone

It’s all back to normal around her now… cooking for myself again. I love cooking but could quite get used to having someone else prepare all of my meals. I get how Oprah managed to lose weight and keep it off when she said she hired in a personal chef and handed over full responsibility for what she ate to him.

I’ve done so much walking this week, I’ve found muscles for climbing hills that haven’t been used in years. It’s so flat where we live that a hill is something of a rarity so I must remember to put some steep incline on the treadmill when I do my lazy jog every day to keep those muscles in use.

So the daughter is back to work and the son has just left in a whirlwind of racquets, sports bags, tins of balls and polo shirts to go to tennis practice for the first real time this season. The French Open is in progress which heralds the approach of Wimbledon and so begins a frenzied few weeks where English (rather British, mustn’t forget Andy Murray and all that) tennis courts see a serious upswing in visitors… weather permitting of course.

My son spends most of the summer playing tennis, he often leaves the house at 8 or 9 am and heads off with a bag full of frozen water bottles and a couple of pounds for lunch at the tennis club snack bar and comes home again at 7 or 8pm, a shade darker from the sun, sweaty and glowing with the vibrancy of a combination of youth and good honest outdoor slog type exercise, giggling as he recounts tales of the day.

Teenage boys seem to have it right, if I could come back as anything it would be a teenage boy. They just find life so easy and so much fun… everything is a source of amusement and wonder and they don’t seem to be aware of drama or fuss.

I wonder if that’s why my daughter spent her teen years in astonished bewilderment and with a deep sense of being an alien. She too had the mind of a teenage boy, she was a very simple teen, no drama, no conflict, no fuss, saw fun in everything and anything, was never bored, always content and happy in her own skin yet surrounded by pressures from society to be ‘a girl’. She is a girl in every sense of the word, but she was pressured to want to spend hours each day adorning herself with all manner of fakery and to be dramatic and full of angst and bitch and cry and be misunderstood and she really didn’t want any of that. She would recoil from involvement in the nastiness of teenage girlhood and was known as something of a saviour and spokesperson for the underdog at her school. Striding in to ball out bullies and to support kids who didn’t ‘fit in’, calmly reassuring them that they didn’t have to ‘fit in’ they should be happy being themselves, fitting in their own skins.

Ultimately then she built her strongest friendships with boys who she had a greater affinity with. To this day her very best friend in the world is her school friend from 10 years ago when they met in a maths class, both with a rep for being the maths genius from their respective primary schools and formed a strong bond which is just one of those that you know will endure for life.

I describe my daughter sometimes and realise that I was exactly the same… ditto all of the above for myself except I wasn’t a maths genius and met my enduring male friend in a cookery class… now ain’t that a surprise!

So I have a pile of marking to do, it seems my students have been working overtime this break and have been submitting work like their lives depended on it. I think they have finally realised that time is running out and coursework needs to be in if they are to actually pass anything. My pep talk just before the break worked then. I was aware of a few slackers and a little concerned that they didn’t appreciate what they were doing so gave them a rousing speech about being something or being nothing, about  making choices, putting in the effort and giving yourself options. They were taken aback by my sudden change of approach from humanist to dictator in one breath… but then teaching is 80% acting and I’m good at that.

It’s life exactly as we know it then… all back to normal.

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Home Again Home Again Jiggety Jig

Ahhhh, it’s good to be home.

Had a fabulous break, made some wonderful memories with my off spring who are growing up so fast! They’re a young man and a young lady now and it didn’t escape my notice that they have this habit now of ganging up on me and whispering little pokes at me and having a behind the hand giggle at my eccentricities and me? Well I absolutely LOVE IT!!

If I could ask to achieve one thing, to just get one thing right in my life it would be bringing up these two beauties to be decent human beings, well rounded, confident, happy. But then I’m greedy aren’t I? Yes, I am and so I would ask for another thing… to make sure they loved each other and that they had a bond so strong that I could count on them taking care of one another, looking out for one another, not being jealous or cautious and  never being afraid to ask each other for help, advice, a hug, a fiver whatever they need, to be honest with each other and to feel connected as parts of me and of each other. They will never come across another human being who is as genetically similar to them as each other, not even their own children, they are bound organically through no choice of their own and I want them to extend that bond through choice into a fantastic relationship and it’s there… it’s strong and I couldn’t be happier. I saw that evidenced at every turn over this break more than ever.

I’ve been so good food wise… oh well let’s be honest, there was the odd cocktail and a small matter of a final night lemon meringue sundae but I did leave a little bit… OK so I left a smear of lemon sauce in that tight spot at the bottom of a sundae glass which is just there to serve the sole purpose of teasing a glutton like me into not being able to totally clear the plate/dish/glass/whatever.

Feeling refreshed and like I’ve been on a physical and emotional journey which has made me a better, stronger person and which has undoubtedly bound my little family together ever tighter. Even though those bonds are shifting now and I’m not as much the centre point or lynch pin that I once was I’m happy that they are shifting in the right way.

We did so much but one of our favourite activities was the shadow puppetry on the hotel room wall at 4am day one, how much fun can three people have with a torch and a blacked out room? Tons of it! We giggled until well after dawn and it saved me as it made sure I missed the massive cooked breakfast the hotel staff kept on trying to tempt us with.

Happy weekend everyone!

And Then Like My Dreams

One amazing thing which has come from this little (now extended) break has been an opportunity to read my fellow blogger M-R’s (http://margaretrosestringer.com) book And Then Like My Dreams (http://www.amazon.co.uk/And-Then-Like-My-Dreams/dp/1922089028/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1401407560&sr=8-1&keywords=and+then+like+my+dreams)

pres4I’m still feeling the pull in my chest from sobbing but I wanted to write a review now, I didn’t want to wait until morning.

“When I read I like to give the author my undivided attention, I like to immerse myself in the world that has been created and if that means holding back on something I’m eager to feast upon then so be it, the rewards are immense… if only I could be so disciplined when it comes to food.

If ever I was justified in waiting for the right moment it was when I resisted the temptation to dip just one toe into the life of Charles ‘Chic’ Stringer (The Stillsman) and his simply unique wife Margaret Rose.  To have missed out on the invitation to fully be a part of their life would have been a travesty.

And Then Like My Dreams [a memoir] is not a book, it’s not a story it’s a letter from a friend who has never been able to open up to you before. It’s an offer you don’t get very often in life to share someone else’s amazingly gracious, loving, unassuming, talented, intelligent, calm, reassuring and totally devoted husband.

I know Margaret Rose will not feel an iota of jealousy hearing that I fell in love with her man, I think she would positively love to hear that and then to taunt me reminding me that he only ever loved her so I can bugger off. Well Margaret Rose Stringer I fell in love with your husband so there 😛

M-R wants the reader to love Chic, because she wants him to never be forgotten. It’s as simple as that. She’s sowing Stringer seeds and growing a Chic crop and she is doing it so well. Her writing style is so simple, so honest and so unassuming and so humorous and yet so deeply moving, you just can’t help but fall into her world, her heart, her life and love. Oh and don’t doubt her intelligence, the cleverness seeps out at the turn of every page. M-R Stringer is a gifted writer be sure of that.

I have laughed with Mr and Mrs Stringer,  I realised I was tensed up with excitement and anticipation for them at times, I marvelled at their love of Italy and France my travelling spirit sated by the delightful feast of descriptions and accompanying colour images. I wept silent tears when she lost him. I sobbed as I felt her trying to cope without him. I felt an ‘nth’ of her pain and that was unbearable… but Chic chose a strong lady, the perfect lady, the love of his life and she’s doing him proud, there is no wonder that he loved her so completely.

This isn’t just a love story, this isn’t just a memoir, it’s an education in life, it’s rare and it will become important to anyone who reads it. There are lessons to be learned, tons of them. It’s a travelogue, a history, it’s a journey, it’s a privileged invitation into their world. It’s about as big an honour as getting to have dinner with your idol and you even get invited to one of those too!

Margaret Rose and Chic loved each other to the point of absorption, they were all things to each other, they were a sealed unit, there were no cracks, no gaps, there was no seepage and now it’s time for them to let others into their space, to sit and watch them have fun, tease one another, play, laugh, cook, plan, build, work, relax, travel and eat… let’s not forget the eating. 

Every now and then a book comes along which changes you, this is such a book. Take that invitation to experience true love. It will not only leave you a better person but it will also deliver you two fabulous new friends, Margaret Rose and Chic ‘The Stillsman’ Stringer, once you’ve let them into your life you will never forget them. I promise you. What is more, you will see exactly why he loved her.”

Thank you M-R, from the bottom of my heart. I have so much more to say my review could run into volumes and I will share more of my thoughts but this seemed a good place to leave it for tonight. I’m sorry my links aren’t working properly it must be due to poor connectivity out where I am right now, I didn’t want to leave it before writing this. I’m on to your website now reading about your travels and then to look up Chic via the links you provided to his professional works.

Mich x

Lunch

The best bbq chick ever! followed by more cocktails and lots of relaxing reading. Exhausted kids snoozing before dinner, grabbing some me time and totally loving doing nothing. Take breaks they are the foundation for the times when you are not on a break.

Fabulous Break

So here’s the thing. We come away to have new experiences and to spend quality family time. To get us away from computers and screens (we still had to bring one as my daughter had some work to do) and what happens? I exhaust the kids so much on day 1 that I can’t wake them up on day 2 and end up sitting staring at a screen anyway!

Not for long, they will be raised from their slumbering states for breakfast soon my stomach is growling (says she who never used to eat breakfast… see what good habits can do?).

Admission of guilt: I had THE most amazing frozen passion fruit daiquiri in the world last night. I don’t usually drink alcohol but crikey that was some kind of wonderful. Low fat but not too sure it was low sugar and definitely lots of alcohol. Note to self: must not get used to them

Short break

It’s half term over here in the UK so we’re on holidays from school/teaching. My daughter has a couple of days off too and so we’re taking a little staycation within the shores of the UK.

I’m excited to be getting away, I love the feeling of leaving where I spend most of my time, it’s like the feeling of leaving work on a Friday but on a grander scale it’s so liberating and exciting even if you are not going far or for long.

Of course the only problem it throws up is that we’re going to be eating out at every meal. I’ve checked that the hotel where we’re staying has granola on the breakfast menu and I’m taking some flax with me to sprinkle on top. I’m going to miss Kombucha and Kefir though, that stuff won’t travel well and I’ve made arrangements to see my cultures through my period of absence (seriously it’s like taking care of pets, these live cultures need to be thought about).

The hotel also has a good range of healthy options for lunch and dinner so we’ll probably stick to the hotel for most of our meals and hopefully find it easy to keep it real and not go crazy. I’m going to buy in lots of water and fruit for hotel room snacking too and I’ve planned lots of walking and activity to keep us moving rain or shine.

This is a bit of a mini run as myself and my daughter are planning on a week away somewhere hot and sunny when we both graduate this year so we’ll see if we can get through this with no hiccups and then we’ll be ready to face the longer challenge.

I need to pack some clothes and toiletries and do my final travel and reservations checks and then it will be time for sleep and an early start tomorrow. 

I’m a little bit apprehensive about going anywhere considering that it’s not long since we were broken in to but if I let other people scare me and keep me prisoner in my own home I’m letting them win and I’m not in that business really so I’m going. Things are things, I’ve done my best to protect our home and I have friends dropping in so I’m going to forget about it all and just go have fun, I will have the most precious things in my life with me after all 😀

It’s shifting!

Weigh in today, almost forgot with it being a bank holiday and it feeling like another Sunday. Not only that I’m really not thinking about weight these days, it’s definitely about feeling better for me right now but I still think a charting of the size journey is interesting to take note of now and then.

I lost 4lbs this week which I am happy about. 22 lbs in total now which means I get to shed another lump of Tracey! (For those who haven’t followed me Tracey is my 10 stone, 140lbs extra person I carry around with me who I’m trying to shake off, she’s captured in an illustration at the top right of my blog and she disappears in 7lb chunks, when Tracey’s gone I’m replacing her with a photos of my shrinking self).

So this is all great, it’s slower than I’m used to but I don’t care this is healthier than I’m used to. I feel about 20 years younger, I have such a spring in my step and such a light uncluttered feeling in my head and I’m so much happier and stronger mentally.

I’m taking my kids away for a couple of days for a little holiday as we’re all on half term and we have so many activities planned, all of which involve moving and getting out there and LIVING! We’re going to have so much fun, rain or shine and if my kids were writing this I know they’d be saying that the greatest thing this trip to health has brought us as a family is that they have their former, happy, energetic, excited about being alive mum back, BIG TIME!  Not only that but they are without a doubt healthier too.

I’m not ramming weight loss down their throats and they both exercise lots, my daughter loves going to the gym every day and walks miles and my son is almost 15 so he plays any and every sport known to man besides his daily PE lessons at school and his LONG walk to and from the school from his bus stop. BUT there are things which they have reluctantly (Kombucha and Kefir) or happily (flax seed and home made granola) accepted into their diet and their meal patterns have been regulated too. We all eat breakfast now and that bad habit of skipping it has been done away with and we have never gotten through so much fruit and vegetables.

The results for them: beautifully clear skin, my son was at the age where he may get a pimple or two or even succumb to acne but not a sign, my daughter reports stronger, silky nails (something I must say I’ve also noticed it’s like I’m wearing a clear varnish all of the time so I’m not sure what has caused that), healthier hair (they both have curly hair which can be dry but not any more), more energy, better quality sleep and both report that they have more enthusiasm for their study – I’m attributing this on brain hydration and brain nourishment as well as better sleep. My son who is exam cramming said that things just seem to sink in better lately.

Besides that my son is growing taller by the minute and he is getting slimmer too, whether that is a natural process as his remaining childhood fat reserves are being eaten up to fuel the upward growth or not, but his waist size has decreased by 4 inches since I started my health eating and is now at a very healthy lower end of ‘average’ size rather than at the upper end.

My daughter is going to be a bridesmaid for her best friend later in August and she tried on her beautiful dress back at the end of March and they had another fitting two days ago and good job they did as her dress hangs on her now and has to be adjusted considerably to fit her like a glove again.

So we are all benefiting from the healthy approach I’ve taken. Even though as I say the kids don’t really need to actively pursue weight loss this is getting them into good habits, encouraging them to think about their health and fitness and their mental and physical well being. It is having impacts on them which will hopefully ensure they never have to go through the hell I’ve been through in my life all without any pressure, just example and subtle introductions and changes to the way we do food and exercise.

I really can not emphasise enough how much this has to be about health, physical and mental, it has to be all about well being not about weight loss or at least not JUST about weight loss. If you live healthy and happy your weight will come down but if you focus on just that you miss all of the other great stuff that living healthy and happy brings you. I really believe that it is those things which sustain you in the weeks when you don’t lose as much as you would like, or you don’t hit your target or you stay the same or have a slight gain. If you are living healthier you will always see a positive result to balance out a negative feeling about weight loss. I promise you will.

This isn’t how I set out, this was to lose weight and save my life but I have gained so much more from these past few weeks. I have already saved my life in so many ways, I’m enjoying living now instead of waiting to die, my kids are happy to have mum back, I even love my job more than ever, my grades have gone up on my last assignments too!

Obsess about your food and health in a positive way and don’t let it define you, don’t spend so much time obsessing that you miss out on everything else, do the things you enjoy and enjoy doing again the things you’d allowed yourself to stop doing or enjoying, try out new things, experiment with clothes, hair, make up, start getting your nails done, a tan, a facial, mani and pedi’s… just start living again and doing as much as you can to feel good about you. It strengthens you mentally and it helps you to feel wonderful about being you and it helps you bat off insults and not care about stares.

If you are hugely overweight like me and feel you have an insurmountable mountain to climb and that puts you off starting, please don’t be put off any more, just start on the road, slowly and steadily changing one thing at a time. Seriously I couldn’t walk more than 2 minutes 8 weeks ago without aching and being out of breath and sweating and yesterday I jogged (a slow jog granted) but I JOGGED on the treadmill for 30 minutes! What a huge transformation in such a short time. If you stand at the bottom of a hill looking up, the top never gets any nearer but the minute you step a foot on the path up, the top becomes closer to you.

I know how much it hurts to live in a fat unhealthy body, I know and I know that you don’t have to shed all of the fat to start feeling better and the better you feel the more strength you will have to shed more of the fat. It was a vicious circle that brought us to these obese bodies and it is a slow spiraling upward stair case that will lift us out of them. There are no miracles, there are no quick fixes which heal our minds and bodies, just step by step upwards, learning about ourselves and considering what made us fat in the first place and dealing with those issues.