Recognising When Your Child Is Anxious

Recognising When Your Child Is Anxious.


I have been a parent for nearly 21 years now and throughout the many and varied seasons of child-raising, some of those years were focussed on helping some of our children through stages of anxiety.

Not that long ago, we found ourselves in a very tricky situation with our 10 year old daughter, Milly.  She became terrified of sleeping on her own at night.  She found the darkness unbearable and every single night would whip herself into such a frenzy of crying and panic, it broke our hearts.  As I write this I can feel tears welling up at the thought of her distress, night after night.

One particularly difficult night, Milly asked my husband and I, if it would be easier for her to leave us and join another family, as her tears and anxiety must be too much of a burden on us.
You can imagine how deeply affected we were by her words!  Our sweet 10 year old expressing this so tenderly, nearly completely undid us.

Then on the other side, was our son, Harry, who began first year high school and became so deeply distressed and anxious during school time, due to group bullying.  However, Harry showed his anxiety in different ways and for a long time, we were unaware of how bad things had become for him at school.

Both children experienced severe anxiety, but were poles apart in their representation of this emotion.  And even though, both children are very quiet, their anxiety was uniquely displayed, often making it hard to read as a parent.

There are key signs to look for if you suspect you have an anxious child.
Our family, have actually faced all of these and whilst this list is comprehensive, it doesn’t mean anxiety or fear can be dealt with through a textbook strategy.  All children are so different and we know that what works for one, may definitely not work for the other.


1.  Feeling unwell to the point of wanting to vomit.

This is actually a very common complaint of children who are experiencing anxiety.  The reason for the sickness, is because the body slows down so that anything that isn’t absolutely essential will be conserved for energy later.  Think the flight and fight scenario (a physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived harmful event, attack, or threat to survival).  Blood flow is directed from the organs to the brain and digestion slows.  This can feel like butterflies or nausea.  It is a very normal part of anxiety and completely safe but also completely awful to experience.

2.  Suppression of appetite.

If you notice your child is finding eating difficult, this may be an early warning sign that your little one is suffering from anxiety.  While the reasons have not been proven completely, it is thought to be a combination of a variety of factors which contribute to loss of appetite.  Some of these include the amount of stomach acid produced when anxious, can actually make the individual feel fuller for longer.

According to Calm Clinic, serotonin is also a key element to loss of appetite.  This neurotransmitter affects how full someone feels, as well as how anxious they are. If the amount of serotonin is abnormal, anxiety levels and appetite will also be abnormal.

In my experience, it isn’t wise to force your child to eat when they are in the throes of an anxious moment.  You may find it doesn’t stay where it should!

3. Worrying over seemingly minor things that shouldn’t factor at all.

Your child may begin to obsessively worrying about very small things.

For us, in Milly’s case, it was the fact that she didn’t want to be awake on her own when we all went to bed.  However, considering she was put to bed a minimum of three hours earlier than my husband and I would retire, it appeared to be a small and insignificant worry.  Except for her, it was a huge deal and meant she was unable to naturally fall to sleep at her usual time.

We dealt with this by assuring her we would check in on her every 30 minutes until she eventually fell asleep.  These small actions were a comfort to her and she was able to relax, knowing that we would be watching over her until she dropped off to sleep.

Other parents report that their child would suddenly begin to worry about things that they usually loved to do, such as playing a certain sport or going to a friend’s house.  Remember that these situations alone often aren’t the cause of the anxiety, it is the anxiety itself that manifests into the situation.


4. Not wanting to go to school.

Not wanting to go to school is a very common trait in children and anxiety isn’t always the reason behind it.  Your child may generally just take a bit longer to adapt to the school environment, so I wouldn’t automatically assume it is because your little one is anxious.  However, if your child has been enjoying school, socialising well and coming home happy in the past – and all of that seems to change overnight, it could be due to anxiety.

Talk to your child’s teacher and/or the mother’s of your child’s peers.  They may be able to shed light on the situation.  Maybe an incident occured in the playground that you were unaware of, and this has had an affect on your child.

And of course, talk to your little one.  We have found it beneficial to not directly ask our children what is concerning them because often they are unable to vocalise the problem.  Instead we have spent quality one-to-one time with our kids, engaging in the things that they enjoy, such as bike riding or swimming at the beach.  It was during those moments that our children relaxed and conversation flowed to the point of finding out what it was that was bothering them.

Quality time is often the key to listening to your child’s heart.  It gives you both space in a calm environment to connect.  We have found this to be the best course of action when our children are struggling.


5. Being extra clingy to mum or dad.

If you find your child is suddenly insecure about leaving you, again it doesn’t necessarily mean anxiety is the problem.
There are so many other factors that are very normal and common in children, such as being over-tired, over-stimulated or simply genuinely missing mum and dad, which is not a negative emotion but a sign that you have a fantastic home life!!
However, if the separation time continues to be traumatic (for both parent and child), it may be a sign of anxiety.

According to Psych4Schools, “about 4 per cent of primary school age children experience excessive separation anxiety when separated from the parent or primary care giver.  These children persistently worry about being forgotten, or the parent being harmed or not returning.

That being said, separation anxiety is part of normal childhood development.  It begins around six months of age and typically ends by the time children begin kindergarten or preschool.  A healthy level of separation anxiety indicates the development of a close bond and attachment to parents.

The warning sign is really when your child has in the past, been happy to leave you, and that suddenly changes.  Then it is time to look into what has changed in your child’s life to contribute to those emotions.

6. Wetting the bed when your child has been consistently dry at night.

This is a common complaint of parents whose child has easily been dry for years sometimes, and then suddenly wets the bed every night for no apparent reason.  Wetting the bed when sleeping has been linked to emotional problems and the toll they take on the body.  Stress can interfere with the body’s normal sleep patterns and an increase in restlessness can cause an increase in metabolism, which in turn multiplies the production of urine while sleeping.

The good news is that bed wetting is normally a short-term problem and as soon as the cause of the anxiety is discovered and passes, so does the bed-wetting.  In essence, be patient as a parent, because like all of the other symptoms above, the problem isn’t the bed-wetting in itself, rather the stress behind it.

7. Crying at the drop of a hat.

Small children will cry to express their emotions, as it is a release for stress or emotional energy.  It can serve as a communication tool to share emotions or seek comfort, as they are not able to cognitively show their parents any other way to indicate hunger, tiredness etc.

In older children, who do have the ability to convey their feelings, sudden and prolonged crying may be an indicator of stress.  If your child is crying a lot, as a parent there are a few things you can do sensitively to tackle the problem.
An article in The Star, explains it this way:

  • Talk about emotions when things are calm, such as spending quality time with your child, as described above.
    Or another option, as detailed in The Star, is instead of discussing it in the middle of a personal episode, using characters in books or movies to connect to your child’s experiences has proved successful.
    “Parents can have these conversations with kids from pre-school through high school,” she said. “Remind your child too of times they have handled difficult situations well, or times when strong emotions had been overcome.”
  • Acknowledge that tears are part of being human. “Many children have been damaged by adults who unwittingly communicate things like ‘big boys don’t cry,’ or ‘it’s never right to shed a tear,’” Let kids know that crying is a natural outcome of pain, sadness, disappointment, fear, frustration, anger and even joy.

8. Withdrawing from friends and family.

Firstly, look at your child’s personality.  Is he/she a naturally quiet person?  Your little one may be growing into themselves and find that they prefer small groups of children to play with instead of large, noisy ones.  This isn’t a sign of anxiety but a positive outcome that your child is finding out what works for them in social situations.

On the other hand, if you have an outgoing and bubbly little one, who is overnight very withdrawn and anxious, there is probably something going on that needs to be investigated.  And remember, it doesn’t have to be a big thing.  Often very small occurrences in children’s lives, create big ripples in their hearts.  It could be that their seating arrangement at school has been altered and they are not sitting with people they know well.  Or, in our case, with one of our boys, it was the arrival of a relief teacher, instead of his normal one, that caused deep distress.  Once you find out what is the cause, you can make steps to deal with it.


So how do you combat these anxiety flare-ups and what’s the good news about all of this?

First of all, the good news is that it will pass.

Worrying is a normal and natural human response, so as a parent or care-giver, don’t rush in to sort out the problem straight away.  Take the time to observe your child, their routine, their interactions in the play-ground, what they speak of.  Oftentimes, you will see the source of the problem straight away through simply watching them.

Anxiety is simply another emotion that your child will need to learn how to process.  Look at it from a positive viewpoint and not the negative way it may be affecting them.  Give your child the tools to use when anxious and they will be set-up for life!  If only as little ones, we were all taught how to deal with anxious thoughts!  I think the world would be a much calmer place.

And lastly, be patient.  This one I admit, I found difficult with Milly, as from our perspective, she took a long time to work through her night-time fears.  Often it was a case of one step forward and three back.  However, when she finally understood that there was nothing to be concerned about, the strength of her conviction was outstanding.  And the experience she has gained from that space enables her to deal with anxiety much better in the present.

As parents, we are constantly training our kid’s hearts and anxiety is just another way of showing them how to journey through this emotion.  If you look at it from that perspective, it isn’t the beast it always appears to be in the beginning!

 

 

 

 

 

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Positive Parenting Without Micro-Management

Helicopter Parenting

Positive Parenting Without
Micro-Management
Part One

The Shock of Letting your Children Go.

Today I am beginning Part One of a Five Part Series in Positive Parenting for Long Term Benefit amongst the increase of micro-managing children.

As the importance of childhood has become clearer and let’s face it, the era of children being seen and not heard, wasn’t at all beneficial and nourishing for children’s hearts, it seems that the pendulum has swung all the way over to the extreme side of ‘hands-on parenting’. Many parents find themselves very much immersed in the age of the ‘helicopter parent’.
The term ‘helicopter parent’ basically means hovering a little too close, micro-managing a child’s every move, trying to correct them before they fall or fail and hoping that they are saved from any sort of disappointment or disillusionment.

A few years ago in Australia, when our twin girls were only just toddling, I realised I needed a break, which for me at the time, was in the form of a few days away from the home.
I was fortunate enough to find employment across the road from our house, at a local private college, spending quite a lot of my hours on the Reception Desk of the primary school.
It was during this period, that I first began to experience ‘helicopter parenting’ to the absolute extreme.


Mother’s, many, many, many of them, some two or three times a day, would come into the office to “have a word” about their child.
Now, I am all for sharing legitimate reasons to ensure children are well looked after or kept an eye on, but I was soon to discover, that legitimate and micro-managing were not compatible.

Some parents wanted to tell me that their child didn’t sleep the night before, and would we go easy on their behaviour in the classroom and playground.
Other’s felt that a packed lunch of sandwiches and fruit wasn’t quite the standard that their child required and presented a hot meal each day.
Then again, it could be that their child had fallen out of a friendship group and could we please ensure that their child was monitored for signs of distress or anxiety. However, considering that there were literally hundreds of children in the school, this seemed very unlikely to achieve.
I soon realised a pattern to these parent’s actions and it made me very sad. They were fearful. Very, very scared of releasing their children and letting them go.


It became apparent that ‘helicopter parenting’ isn’t very good for kids in the long run, and even worse for the parent.
I believe, there comes a time to let go and allow their individual natures to shine.
Quite apart from the hovering shadow of a parent.

Kids need to fail and consequently learn how to deal with the feeling and emotion, because life is full of ups and downs, and yes, failure is one of them.
Please don’t misunderstand my heart, these parents were wonderfully warm and kind people, who truly wanted the best for their children, as we all do.
It’s just their best, didn’t necessarily mean constantly monitoring them. Some of the kids were crippled by the stifling nature of their parents micro-management.

A recent study on children who were recipients of ‘helicopter parenting’ at school and in their early life, through Brigham Young University, yielded concerning results. Due to the initial study showing such poor results in children’s attitude and behaviour, subsequent follow-up research was carried out. The outcome was that they were not as engaged in their senior school studies, and their feelings of self-worth were much lower.
In other words, over-involved parents had a negative effect on these children, who displayed more tendencies towards risk-behaviours, simply because they were never allowed to self regulate any risk for themselves.
Many of these parents were again, warm and incredibly loving, but were unable to let their children go and trust that they had instilled enough positive emotions and key moral aspects, within their hearts to make the right decisions.
These children said they longed to be able to work things out for themselves, but were never given the chance.


This could mean that the child whose mother brought him a hot lunch every day, felt alienated from his peers and in this situation, desired to be the same as his friends.
Being different is a wonderful gift, but not always the right choice.

Overall, stepping in and taking over the child’s own age-appropriate responses, can turn into a negative practice.


As I said, I had twin toddlers at the time of my ‘helicopter epiphany’ and for me, it was a clear indicator in the way that I didn’t want to go forward.
From that time on we implemented this manifesto, which we still use today.

Let The Children Be Free.

Encourage them always.
Let them run outside when it is raining and don’t worry about germs.
Let them remove their shoes when they find a puddle of water. Splashing is so much fun! As is mud and dirt! Everything can be washed away with good soap!
And when the grass of the meadows is wet with dew, let them run and trample on it with their bare feet. Bare is always best!
Let them rest peacefully when a tree invites them to sleep beneath its shade. Nature is a gift to be embraced as often as possible. Even better away from adult eyes.
Let them laugh and be joyful when the sun wakes them in the morning, for a new day holds immeasurable promise and the possibility of adventure should you let them find it.


When I resigned from my school job, we moved to the UK, which began a delightful new story in the lives of our family.
I noticed straight away that the ‘helicopter phenomenon’ spanned across the world, and in my new country, children as young as three were attending nursery and then full-time school.
This fed the controlled environment of micro-managing little one’s and made me all the more sad towards this trending parenting practice.
Yes, these tiny ones were dropped off within an educational space, but their every movement and reaction was documented by their caregivers. Even a small collision with their peers, or a slip-up when they were running, was recorded in triplicate, signed by three caregivers and reported to the parent for initial and waiver.

Was there any end to this?
On top of the professional micro-managing was also the markers that were required for my little ones to reach.
Did they need speech therapy because they were struggling to pronounce their ‘t’s’? Or could they possibly fine-tune their imaginations to enable learning to take place between 9 and 3, instead of incorporating both?
It seemed as though the teachers and experts in the field were applying a different sort of pressure to our children’s young and pliable minds. A sort of micro-managing of their own.

I will share more in Part Two about freeing children to learn at their own pace, whilst being led by their unique interests.
But for now, dear parent, I congratulate you because I know that all you desire for your child or children is for them to be happy, and I truly believe that happiness is the first step in the process towards raising whole and centred children.

And whether you are totally hands-off or have a bit of a propellor whirring away, well done for your heart’s desire in raising these amazing offspring that have been gifted to you.
Because, let’s face it, parenting is not always easy. We enter into a lifetime contract of moulding and shaping our children’s hearts, with zero training for the task ahead. So give yourself a huge pat on the back today, because we are all doing the very best we can for our precious children.

 

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Are you Stuck in the Sand?

Sitting in the Sand.


I found out this week that elephants like to throw sand over themselves after cooling down in the water. The sand protects them from parasites and also keeps the sun from burning their skin. When the little calves are sleeping, the adult elephants stand over their form to shield them from the harsh rays.

I feel a bit like an elephant lately. Not in size, but certainly in the area where I feel stuck in one place.
It’s frustrating, as I want to move forward into a new season but feel there is still growth to be accomplished in the sand.

The thing is, sand is uncomfortable. I can’t imagine how itchy those elephants feel after a soothing, cool wash to then be coated in gritty, scratchy dirt.

Sand is a bit like one of those friends who overstay their welcome at your house. It hangs around a lot and you find it everywhere. Under your toenails, in your armpits, up your nose. And whilst over-stayers don’t become stuck in one’s armpit, they can get up your nose and irritate you!

So here I am. Sitting in the dirt and wondering when the uncomfortable phase will end. It’s my intuition, that I will be here for a while.

The amazing thing about dirt, is that it is literally teaming with life. To look at it, it’s dry and dusty but the fact is that 20,000 pounds of living matter can be found within the top six inches of soil. And one tiny tablespoon has more organisms than there are people on earth.

In case you missed that – there is life in dirt.
Abundantly so.

And whilst I’m not enjoying digging my feet into the dirt, I can appreciate the life beneath me.
The perfect balance of nourishing goodness that naturally feeds and grows so much life in earth we can take for granted.

So – A Few Things I Have Learnt From Sand Sitting:

-1 Don’t be tempted to wash the sand off too soon.
Believe me, I’ve tried and it just means I am sand-free for a whole five or so minutes, and then right back in the middle of that dirty soil.
In other words, whatever is sticking to you in the sand, will stay stuck until you have dealt with it.

-2 Look at your sand-experience as a blessing – of sorts.
This is a hard one and I am by no means, an expert here.
What I do know though, it that there is a reason for being in the space you are in.
Yes, it’s not fair if you are there because of the actions of other people.
If your partner has called time-out or your children don’t want to listen or talk to you anymore, that can feel like a tonne of unjustified bricks have just been thrown your way. It seems really unfair and unwarranted and believe me, I totally understand those emotions.
As much as it may feel outside of your control, there is always, always an element of power that you can own.
Whether it is in time, understanding that you may have contributed to other people’s actions or you want to change how your future is shaped, take this time to deeply look within and discern what can be learnt from this space.
This also might mean admitting you have played a part and contributed to the situation.  I told you it was a difficult one.

-3 Try not to put a time-limit on dirt sitting.
If you are anything like me, I am impatient. I find it hard to sit still without jiggling my legs or wiggling my toes, so sand sitting can be torture!
I also like to plan, so telling myself that this period will last for a certain amount of days or weeks (I don’t even go there for months and years!) – helps me.
It also hinders my healing.
The reason is, because I put too much pressure on myself to recover and move forward and then when I don’t, I feel like a failure and very guilty at not being able to handle it.
Basically, see point one, and don’t try and force yourself to move on.
It just doesn’t work in the long-term.

-4 Don’t be embarrassed about the dirt.
Nobody wants to admit that they aren’t in a good place.
In this age of perfection, particularly within social media circles, we all want to show our sunny, happy sides, like the rest of the world is doing or striving to do.
However, we all know this isn’t real life.
Everybody, no matter who they are and how much money they have or don’t have, will go through dirt experiences.
Being honest and sometimes even vulnerable, can not only help your journey but also assist others who are facing similar trials.

It has often been said, that difficult roads lead to beautiful destinations.
My dirt-digging experience has shown me, that although the soil is grey and ugly, it holds hidden treasures of nourishing goodness that I would be very wise to not ignore.

So, I am going to stay here for a while and dig my toes in a little deeper, whilst spending some time with The Gardener who I suspect has a lot to tell me.

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When You Can’t Stay.

Baby Turtle You Must Go.



Hey there little baby turtle. Look’s like you have quite the journey ahead of you.
I know the path before you looks scary. So many bumps and turns, as far as you can see.

And you are so little!
It doesn’t seem fair to struggle out of your warm nest, buffeted by the security of your siblings and the earth that is your home. Your haven.

I know the future is a scary unknown.
But it is most impossible for you to consider staying.
You can’t remain, yet leaving is utterly terrifying.

What if you don’t make it, you think?
What if you are swooped upon by those huge creatures that fly above you? Their fierce talon’s and black eyes, piercing your newly born form?

I know you are frightened – but the thing is – you can’t stay here.
You need moving tides and challenging waves, currents that will push you on new sea adventures.
There are others who are a part of your story, who you are yet to meet. Who will colour and enrich your journey in ways you don’t understand right now.
But you will.

Your mama has already returned to her watery home, little one.
She had to go. It was her time. She is free now and waiting for you to take that first tentative step.

So, look for the cues little one. The signposts that will guide you. They are here to be found.
The slope of the beach, the white crests of the waves, the natural light of the ocean horizon.

You really do have to do this all on your own.
The deep scary ocean that sits before you – is also going to keep you alive.
It’s waiting just for you.

You only know this tiny portion of life now – but – oh there is so much else!
The joy of reaching your destination, the lure, the promise and the hope.
It is enough little one. Enough for you to want to try. To make that leap from your nest to forever home.
For when you do reach the sea, you will swim. Instinctively you will know how.
And swim you must!

Away from the dangerous near shore-waters and those predators that seek to destroy you.

Swim to the sweet place little one, and lose yourself in those hidden crevices.
The secret homes that are ready, waiting just for you.
Beyond the horizon that you stare at in awe each day.

Your new home. It’s there. You just have to find it.
And summon all of that courage inside you – to make that first step.
Big deep breath – and – GO!

 

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When Life’s Mountain Needs Moving

Maybe you have been assigned this mountain
to show others it can be moved.
-Unknown-

There are times in our lives, when we are looking up at life’s mountain, a bloody great big mountain, as my Aussie descendants would say.
Tall and foreboding. As wide as the ocean. Touching the sky. It’s colossal bulk leering over you. An ominous shadow that just won’t shift.
It is terrifying and can render one incapable of moving forward or back. Motionless. Stuck in the one place.

We are in that place today. We have been here before and we will be here again. Of that, I have no doubt.
Jobs come and go, friendships change, people get hurt, people get sick.
It’s life for sure, but damn – it’s a hard place to be in.


If you had asked me eight years ago, I would have said having twins was that mountain before me.
Six children under the age of 13, we had just moved across the world from the UK to re-settle once again, in Australia.
I was as sick as a dog pregnant with two humans. We were re-establishing our lives – new employment, picking up friendships, letting others sift through our hands, desperately trying to find our feet.

That was our mountain – life. Keeping it all ticking over.

I practically didn’t leave the house for six months. Instead, my new abode was our $10 second-hand Ikea couch, sourced from Gumtree late one night, when I couldn’t stand sitting on the hard wooden floor boards anymore, whilst we waited for our shipment of furniture to arrive from England.

And I provided food for two hungry babies, from my body. Well, actually one hungry baby who stole her sister’s milk, and one lazy baby who was too chilled to acquire the milk. Preferred it poured down her throat. That sort of thing.

I didn’t shower much. Felt like my skin had stretched beyond what was humanly possible. And prayed like mad my insides would somehow, all miraculously, find a way back to some semblance of normality. Hoped I could pee one day without leaking. Wondered if I would ever be able to run again without my guts feeling like they were all jiggling about in my body. Or even if I would have the energy, ever, to run again.


I look back on that mountain now, eight years later, with fondness.
Yes, fondness.
Because I realise, now, we moved that mountain.
Daily.
In fact, we conquered it. We pushed it back, bit by bit, every single day.

It wasn’t anything quantitive at the time.
It was all the minute, tiny things – like cleaning the kitchen, bathing babies, washing their clothes, picking roses from the garden, talking to a friend, sipping coffee, being kind to my husband, allowing myself to eat cake without guilt.

That mountain was survival.
And we survived. More than survived. We thrived.
We just didn’t realise it at the time.

So, now, we look up at the menacing form once again.
And predictably, I wonder how we will ever shift it, or even begin to tackle that big buggar of voluminous proportion.
I lie awake at night, looking at it from all angles and possibilities. And still, that mountain doesn’t shift.

However, here’s the thing I realised this morning, actually whilst I was out running. I remembered how I had fretted whether my body would ever move normally again.


We are moving that mountain.

We do it every day.
Just like we did eight years ago, with tiny twins solely relying on us for their survival, and four more children, who kind of got our left overs for a while.
We did it then and we are doing it now.

And I realised that we find strength and endurance in the deserts of fasting, not the deserts of feasting.

It’s called survival and before you know it, that mountain is so far ahead in the distance, it becomes blurry.
And you look at it’s form with a sort of thankfulness in your heart.
Because it’s not the mountain that is the stumbling block, it’s our perspective of it.

So, I choose to be happy for this moment, in this moment.
Because this moment is my life.

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Being Idle but Happy.

Being Idle but Happy.

 

‘Idleness’
‘Can you hear them?
The flap of a butterfly.
The sigh of an exhausted garden ghost.
A poem trapped in an empty fountain pen’.

The majority of society’s working week spans from Monday to Friday.
Weekends are for family and friends.
The working week is well, work.

What does that mean. Like really, in terms of rest and down-time?
Recuperating after a long week? Finding happiness and peace amongst the chaos of normal life?
Is it even possible to find rest squished onto the end of the week?

Its kind of absurd to think that rest and recovery from a working week can be achieved throughout two days.
I guess I am a little greedy, as I strive to cultivate rest all throughout the week.
Why be exclusive to Saturday and Sunday?
Why not focus on rest and being mindfully slow all through the week?

And don’t get me wrong here. I’m not talking about laziness. I’m talking about spending time with the people who mean the absolute world to you.
Intentional time.
Putting down the phone, the i-pad. Turning off the tv. Not answering those emails, those messages, straight away.

Instantly.

Because the quicker we do something, the more that standard is raised.
In a society of instant connection, this can have some serious effects on us personally.

The other day my favourite barista enquired as to whether I’d had a good week?
I replied, yes, thank you, I had.
His reply still has me wondering? He said, ‘well as long as the week goes fast hey’.
Why would I want my week to go fast?
To get to the weekend?
So on the weekend I can find rest?
Is that how it works?

It’s funny, because we have all heard this I’m sure, that nobody said during their last moments on this earth, that they wished so very much, that they had spent more time at work.
That in the huge majority of cases, people will want their beloved to be with them. Certainly not their work-colleagues or their clients or patients or parishioners.

Of course, we all have to work to live. That’s a given. But I think we complicate the living by setting our own internal standards of living sky high.

My 20 year old daughter and I had the privilege of spending four nights in Marakesh, Morocco, recently. It was the complete African experience, involving camel riding, visits to the colourful and vibrant markets, eating tangy lemon tagines and fluffy cous-cous and hearing the rhythmic chanting of the calls to prayer throughout the day.

We stayed in a quaint, quiet little hotel on the outskirts of the busy city. It was filled with the scents of oranges and cumin, home to sweet little finches who bathed in the coolness of the trickling water fountains. True charm and gracious hospitality abounded amongst the damp and cavernous walls.

However.

Outside of this meticulously ordered building, was utter squalor.
Shepherds who found shade during the blistering heat under hastily made palm frond tents.
Skinny and tired animals trying to find food and water in the desert.
Old cars spewing out black fumes, their tyres worn down by the roughly made concrete roads.
The elderly walking for hours in the sun with produce piled high upon their head. Sandals covering their rough and worn calloused feet.
Two little schoolgirls giggling behind their dusty and dirty hands at two very white western ladies, strolling through their neighbourhood.

But there was one glaringly obvious trait that I saw time and time again.

These people were happy.
They smiled. They visited in bunches of groups. On sandy red roads and sitting on plastic chairs outside tiny little shops.
They were ready to engage. To share. To bridge a gap. To be rested and connected.
They had time because their time was used wisely and their standards of happy seemed vastly different to ours.
They didn’t need to work so that their children could have the latest Lego creation. Their kids probably never owned a piece of Lego in their lives.
They worked to eat and live and be with their families.
Even if that meant a dusty desert floor with rugs for beds and an open flame for a cooker.

Sure, Africa is a third world country. However, I couldn’t help but think, the western world kind of have it upside down. This living and working and owning thing.
We seem to be pushing ourselves so hard in order to provide more and more and more for our families and ourselves. To serve ourselves. To earn a few days break and then do it all over again.
I think I would rather take a leaf out of my new Moroccan friend’s manifesto.

Be idle but happy.

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When Love Wanes.

‘I would not wish any companion in the world but you my darling
-William Shakespeare-

 

When my husband and I first started dating, I remember the flitter flutter of my heart beating fast against my ribs at the thought of seeing him.
Of holding his hand and being close to him.
I adored everything about him.
The smell of his skin.
The aftershave he used.
The way his eyes lit up when he saw me walk toward him.
The anticipation of spending time with him and only him.
The world literally seem brighter and exciting and the feeling of being in love was nothing short of addictive.

And addicted I was. Completely and wholly.

I would pay special attention to my hair, which was curly and very long at the time. I knew my husband adored my long hair and I would spend hours washing and carefully drying it into corkscrew perfection.
I admittedly wore way too much make-up at the time (how I shudder now!) but even though my husband preferred a more natural look and he wasn’t keen on being covered in foundation on his clothes, he always told me I look beautiful. 

Basically, I was 100% sold on pleasing him and making him happy.
I couldn’t believe that he was mine and mine forever. It felt like I had stepped into a wonderful, childhood dream that was actually coming true.
And it was happening to me!

We have been married for nearly 25 years and it is fair to say that after six children, more than 20 different house moves, three overseas postings, financial challenges, mental health struggles, life-calling crises, most definitely mid-life crises, illness and well, on my part, a whole lot of grouchy, scratchy, teary PMT episodes each month, these things have had the ability to somewhat change those young, innocent, carefree and beautiful first flushes of love.

We have often been asked how is it that we have kept our love alive and are able to confidently declare that we love each other more today than yesterday and a whole bunch more than the day we shared our vows.

The answer is both simple and complex.

It is simple because we keep our relationship simple.
We put each other first. Every time.
Our children are not the centre of our family.
Our marriage is.

Every time my husband walks through the front door from work, the kids know that we sit down and spend 20-30 mins of uninterrupted time, catching up on the day. As in, we shut the door and talk and the kids do not hinder this sacred space.

When they were little we would put them in their play pen within eye sight or a newborn, place them in their rocker. Nothing would stop this time in our day.

We share our hearts, our frustrations and our joys.
And yes, sometimes, we would bicker and disagree when tension pressed down heavily on our minds.

However, this time is gold and I can honestly say without it, our marriage would be in a vastly different place than it is today.

The complex, because it takes effort, especially for us as wives and/or mothers who are tired, pregnant, postpartum, wrangling small children or battling with older ones, work outside the home, have stressful jobs and generally try to juggle it all.

We tend to put ourselves last. Like, literally the bottom of the garbage bin.
But by doing so, we can also let ourselves go.

In terms of nurturing our own hearts, giving ourselves the space to just ‘be’, exercising and keeping fit and (I know some women will struggle with this one) but still making an effort to be attractive and beautiful for our husbands.
Because time shouldn’t be given the power to change the way we see ourselves or our beloved mate.

Pregnancy and children without a doubt alter our bodies (and our minds), but our bodies are still creations of beauty. And so very worthy of being looked after.
Time may alter our intentions and energy, but romance and desire, has to be worked at.

Remember, when you and your husband or partner were newly in love?
I bet it was all you could think of but him and to look amazing for your man.
Don’t let life wear you down to the point that you just don’t care anymore.

And believe me, there has been times when my husband has seen me at my very worst, lost in pregnancy sickness, green to the core, greasy hair, crying uncontrollably with snot pouring from my nose into my mouth.
And yes, he still loves me after this!!

Of course as we age, our bodies and faces change but I still want to look desirable for the one to whom I am devoted to and will spend my forever days with.

He is so worth it.
I am worth it.
And so are you.

Falling in love is easy, but staying in love, well that is very special indeed.

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Farther a Long Way I Will Be….

Farther a Long Way I Will Be….

My favourite tune at the moment is by Josh Garrels. Its called ‘Farther Along’ and you can listen to it here:It has a moody, contemplative feel to it, which I am loving at the moment.

Normally, I don’t listen to it whilst out running, as predictably, I find my pace slows down to a very chilled meander and instead of running, I end up swooshing autumn leaves with my feet and become distracted with chirping birds and feathered-tailed squirrels crossing the road.

In other words – it chills me out.
A lot.

In the first verse, the words are –
Farther along we’ll know all about it
Farther along we’ll understand why
So cheer up my brothers, live in the sunshine
We’ll understand this, all by and by.

I had a look at the lyrics and they struck me how true they are regarding hindsight in life.

Isn’t it always the way, that when we are in the middle of a difficult time or crisis, we truly can’t see the forrest from the trees.
It all seems a muddle and we can so easily lose perspective of our situation.
Hindsight is a gift.
Pure genius.
A reminder for us, I think, that we will understand it all, by and by.

One day.
But just not in the moment.

Because being in the moment hurts and at the end of the day, we just have to trust that even though tomorrow may not shine bright, the clouds will eventually pass and the sun will most definitely shine again.
On us.
Warming our souls.

As I was writing this, my husband came through the door with our labradoodle, Queenie.
Both of them covered in treacly, black mud and smelling quite literally of sewerage, after rescuing a tiny baby deer in the woods.
Halfway through the walk, my husband kept hearing frantic high pitched cries from the woodlands, the pitiful sounds becoming closer and closer as he walked deeper onto the forest floor.
What he found was a scared and frightened tiny baby deer, stuck quite firmly, bound in an electric fence and unable to free itself.

My husband tried his best to untangle the petrified deer, whilst the both of them were receiving numerous electric shocks from the fence.
Finally, the little deer was free from the fence.
Only to fall and sink into a dyke of quick sand.

So, again, into the dyke my husband went, also ending up at a frightening pace, knee-deep in the quicksand, whilst the panicked creature sank even further, the more it struggled.

Oh, be still little one!!
He is trying to help you.

Finally, in total desperation, for both their well beings, hubby gently took hold of the deer’s horns and pulled it out of the quicksand, pushing the little one into the safe cocoon of the forest floor.

Little one cried a few more times and then there was silence.
Then a different sound, rooted deep in maturity and power, from the bowels of the forrest. A long and loud call.
The call of a mother deer.
Who had found her baby.

This incident reminded me so much of being in the midst of trials.
Thrashing and stressing and feeling so very helpless.
Not able to keep ourselves still or be at peace and wait for the help.

The Helper.
Who always comes to rescue.
Who is always with us, despite our tears, pain and grief.
One who promises never to leave our side and whispers be still and know who I am.
One who bottles our tears and holds His ground.
Always.

We are always under His eye.

And as is so often the case, in hindsight, when we have passed through our difficulties, we look back and say,
During those times, when I felt so alone.
Actually I was carried.

The ending verse of Farther Along, says-

There’s much more to life than we’ve been told
It’s full of beauty that will unfold.
And shine like you, struck gold my wayward son.
That deadweight burden weighs a ton.
Go down to the river and let it run.
Wash away all the thing you’ve done.

Forgiveness, alright.

Hindsight should be re-named hang-in-there-sight.
Help is coming. 

The Helper is here.

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5 Steps towards a Happier Autumn.

5 Steps towards a Happier Autumn.

I think the turn of the year is never more marked and obvious than in September. 

For some it is a sad time, farewelling the long summer days and maybe even an annual summer holiday with the family, and the beauty of quality time away from the routines and stresses of everyday life.
Autumn showcases in all of its russet glory, like a fresh watercolour painting each morning, changing day by day.
Entire trees becoming more amber, copper and flaxen in shades, nearly as fast as the light draws in and shortens these days.

However, when that melancholy begins to set in and we look ahead to the many months of the temperature dropping quickly and staying low over a long period of time. Those dark mornings and early nights can play havoc on our emotions and serotonin levels.

I have lived in the northern hemisphere (from sunny Australia) for four years now.
And I have to be honest, the first two Autumn and Winters were rough. Very rough. I really felt the affects of a lack of sunshine and Vitamin D.
I was cold. All of the time. And I was pretty miserable and lonely.

But a friend of mine changed everything around for me one day when she spoke of the beauty of each new season, particularly Autumn, with its promise of fresh beginnings.
To look at September and the following months as bringing an enjoyable sense of purpose and also finality to the year.
To not dread those months but welcome their abilities to change our routines and bring us fresh joy.

These are the five things that helped me to shift my perspective on the dreaded blahs:

1.   Rug up and get outdoors. Catch those weak sun rays and marvel in the icy coldness of those wispy puffs of breaths and your moving body.    

2.  Treat yourself to pretty wellies or walking boots and go and pick all of those luscious colourful leaves.

3.  Move forward with a quieter purpose, appreciating the small things in life (a strong coffee, warm, sticky chocolate cake).

4.  Maintain a sense of mindfulness and draw your family near. Find a new board or card game to tackle on those dark nights. Enjoy the togetherness.

5.  Build community. Maybe someone who you know is having a hard time as well. Mutual support and shared experiences can make the world of difference.

These were an absolute game-changer for me.
Now for us, as a family who embrace slow living and adore the change of seasons, this particular Autumn has become one of excited anticipation.

Happy warmth, instead of dread, is now the the first feeling that invades my soul when the calendar ticks over to September.

Some of the things we now view as traditions when Autumn arrives are the warmth of pumpkin spiced lattes, foraging through fields looking for firewood to be made into little bundles of kindling, tied with pretty ribbon, and stored in a big wicker basket by the fire.
We bake gingerbread cookies just for the enticing smell of spice and a hint of Christmas promise around the corner.
We bring out the snuggly and chunky knitted rugs and a whole host of beautifully scented candles to be lit when the sun sinks behind the horizon quite early in the afternoon.
We make sure that warming suppers are ready on time so we can all sit together, eat and share.
New card games are taught and played late into the night on the weekends, whilst sharing too many cups of tea and frothy hot chocolates.
And we cuddle our sweet fluffy cats, often found curled into tight little balls of delight, languishing in a random sun trap or secret space by the open fire.

I read this inspiring quote today which says:
‘You don’t have to blow your own trumpet to be heard. You can just whisper – sometimes to yourself’ (Quercus)

Basically.
Keep is simple.
Have a quiet purpose, and
Appreciate the small things in life.

Because it’s the small things that really matter.

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