A full week hangover

Last week was full on, and writing this took a back seat. As did running and yoga. So this morning is a reassessment of what is important in the week ahead. But I am trying to be gentle with myself rather than looking at the yoga and run records for the month so far and beating myself up. Or looking back and realising it is five days since I wrote my ‘daily’ blog.

I have got into the bad habit of noticing what I have NOT done, but last week was hugely productive. I made contact with various people in Scouts and ended up having some very productive conversations. It is good to be back in touch with some really inspiring and dedicated people.

The Birmingham Children’s Book Group were at Bournville BookFest on Saturday and I spent the day in a rather chilly marquee, chatting to interesting, lovely people about children’s books and reading in families and schools. And publicising our monthly Book Swap (second Saturday of every month at Bournville Community Hub, 9.30 to 10.30).

Sunday morning was spent at church, collecting donations to CAFOD’s Fast Day and showing the film of Mahinur’s story . I met new volunteers to our Children’s Liturgy team and started their training. I caught up with some other friends at coffee after mass. A very sociable morning which felt useful.

Sunday afternoon included cooking lunch for the extended family, who we have not seen for an age. Time was spent reading and watching TV as a family. We had an evening dog walk to the pub to catch up with good friends.

Writing it all down helps me realise that it’s not that I have done nothing, I just chose to prioritise volunteering over exercise and blogging for a couple of days. And by blogging the list I get to start this week with a tick in the blog box on this week’s to do list. Two birds with one blog. Have a good week.

Choosing how to fill the hours

Obviously, I have the same 24 hours a day that everyone else has.  I make choices on how to spend those 24 hours.  We all make choices, just not the same choices.  Recently I have been doing a lot of things outside the family bubble – more work, more socialising, more Scouting, more volunteering for LiveSimply and for CAFOD and for the Birmingham Children’s Book Group.

Right now I am choosing to focus back in on the family.  This is GCSE year with all the stress that entails just in terms of keeping morale up whilst facing mocks and reports and a feeling of impending doom that official exams tend to induce.  

The offspring’s situation is made more complicated in that he is being counter-cultural and not staying on at school or college.  I say counter-cultural, because the school system does not support young people in choosing a non-academic route.  The difference between the support offered in the apprenticeship path and that we experienced in the funding-driven university route is frankly astounding. I understand why – schools are judged on how many children go into university, so have a vested interest in keeping their pupil on to sixth form.  Sixth form colleges gain funding depending on the students they attract.  Where is the motivation to explore other paths with young people?

At home.  That is where the motivation and the time must come. It is a long, complicated and, this week at least, traumatic experience.  We have so far failed the offspring enormously by offering the wrong advice, but we have also gathered all our skills in mentoring and coaching and he is learning so much and gaining a huge amount.

We are thrilled to see some of his choices in how to spend his hours having an impact.  Applying for a job is hard work, but he had practice in applying for a place on the Scout World Jamboree (he failed to get a place, so rejection will not be new).  All his skills and training as a Young Leader in Scouts and the church youth group are being mentioned in applications, as are his experiences in Scouts of working in a team and being held responsible for activities with the Cubs. His Bivouac and Duke of Edinburgh awards are interesting and influential experiences.

Importantly this week he is learning to deal with things going wrong, with trying to schedule a lot of extra time to fill out 10-page applications in a packed pre-Christmas schedule in the middle of his mock exams.  It’s a week of growing up, of stress, but also of precious time of us supporting each other, offering advice, a shoulder to cry on and a ton of tea (me) and hot chocolate (him) and the occasional mince pie.

I have been criticised this week for having a dirty house – an example of what I choose not to do – but right now, I am happy with the example I have set of building my tribe, getting out of the house and meeting people and learning new skills and gaining life skills wherever and whenever I can.  And most of all I am proud of our ability to re-focus back on each other as a family when we need to. 

Always something better to do

I am struggling with making myself write in the mornings.  Yesterday was a good lesson in why I should though.  There is always a list of things I should be doing in the mornings; various parts of my volunteering roles are very much email or computer based, so this precious 15 minutes could definitely be used for the greater good.

This morning is no different.  I need to write a report, it should have been done a few days ago, so I need to crack on. Yesterday I got the laptop out deciding I would check my diary for the week and then do my account reconciliations – also overdue.  I wrote this blog instead.

The result surprised me. It gave me a bit more energy than crossing things off the list would have done.  I had forgotten that this exercise of putting thoughts onto paper first thing seems to straighten out my thinking for the morning and enables me to just get on with things a little bit faster.

I still didn’t get the report written, but I did get lots of other bits and bobs done yesterday, which I suspect I would not have had I not taken this bit of time to do something fun first.  To get my own thoughts sorted and out there before I start writing for everyone else and doing the chores that enable everyone to flourish together.

This is my version of putting on my oxygen mask before helping others.  I still need to plan what I am going to write though, eventually this is going to descend into sheer babbling if I don’t.  Some may say it already has!

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Photo by Mircea Iancu on Pexels.com

Process versus people

I am an organised person, I like lists, I like thinking through processes.  But the more I think about it, the more I realise that I don’t get any energy from that part of my work and play.  It’s the people part that I love.

Last week was a combination of work meetings and evening meetings for various volunteer roles and little time in between.  I was filled with a rising sense of panic that all the many meetings I have attended this month have needed some process before and afterwards, but  I couldn’t find the time for the process.

I possibly don’t plan for the process, but will always say yes to a meeting.  Why?  Someone said on Thursday “it’s all about just sitting down for a chat and listening to each other”.  It really is, isn’t it?  I have met so many genuinely interesting people, with interests, skills and expertise so far removed from mine.  I find it fascinating and energising and I am a bit addicted to “just having a chat”.

The week culminated in a lovely day of “Just chats”, one with a colleague in an informal meeting, just chatting about stuff at work.  It was potentially the most productive meeting of the week.  Swiftly followed by just chatting with offspring about how the week had gone, which led to a bit of a light bulb moment for me. Then a bottle of wine and a chat led to some other ideas of future projects.  And culminating with a meal and chat with the husband I have barely seen this weekend, which prompted some other plans.

So many thoughts and ideas and plans.  Now I just need to focus on the process to make them happen.  If you are waiting for an email from me, I am spending the weekend catching up, but do feel free to nudge me.  Plenty of good intentions here, but you know what they say about good intentions.  And if anyone suggests a meeting, you know I’d much prefer that to an email.

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None of my meetings looked quite this hip.  But that should be a goal?

 

Inspired by Scouting

Not quite half way through a meetingtastic week and my brain is beginning to fail.  So instead of waking up and trying to write a blog, I decided to do some volunteering this morning.  This is totally possible because I am mainly volunteer in a sort of busman’s holiday style in a few realms.

I am a Scout – not a Scout Leader, I never go anywhere near a campfire (which makes me more sad than I had expected), but instead I am a Trustee of a Scout District.  A large part of that role involves emails and phone calls and meetings.  It’s about overseeing budget, checking that plans fit the aims of Scouting and everyone has the resources they need to create the amazing opportunities that the Scout movement gives to young people. Opportunities to have new experiences, to have fun and to challenge themselves with a ton of support from a group of volunteers dedicated to making sure they are safe and generally having a ball.    I have the absolute luxury of feeling a small part of it whilst sipping coffee and writing emails.  I am humbled by those who are much more active in their volunteering.

Scouts has an interesting image in the wider community, some still think it is a boys’ organisation – it is not and has not been for years.   Some think its old fashioned in its activities.  It’s not, but sometimes it is traditional, but I am not sure that is ever a bad thing.  Surely a bit of a mix of activity is a really good thing?  I have a general concern that we tend to encourage our children to focus on one activity far too early in life, Scouting offers the opportunity to try lots of things, some active, some less so.  Some modern activities, some much more traditional, but not less interesting or useful.  Tying knots stood my offspring in good stead when they did a course of technical theatre, the course tutors were amazed as the offspring capably tied the ropes for the pieces of set.

That said, they have also learnt a huge amount about team working, leadership and how to cope with challenge, as well as so many activities I cannot list them all here.  My mantra for years has been “no, not paying for that, you can do it through Scouts, it will be SO much better”.

And all of this through the dedication of volunteers to the cause of making the world a safer, more enjoyable place for children.  And looking at the leaders – young people who grow into enthusiastic citizens, keen to be an active part of their local community.

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The mystery of a busy week

 

It is one of those weeks where I am doing consecutive travel days, it doesn’t happen too often thankfully, because working in London when I don’t live in the south east of the country feels like hard work.  I am always comforted by the fact my commute is possibly easier than for many who do live in the south east though.

However, as well as extra travel, there seems to be a bit of extra everything.  Why does that happen? A few years ago I came across Laura Vanderkam and her book I Know How She Does It which is a fascinating study of the time of high earning women who happen to have children.  Vanderkam’s premise is that we do all have more time than we think – each of us has 168 hours per week and a few things are true of us all.  Apparently,  we spend more time with our children than we tend to think – we tend to discount mornings for example, or the time spent in cars taking them places.  And we generally sleep more than we tell ourselves we do. And, this is fascinating, we tend to work much less than we think we do.  The key to her work is asking people to track their time for at least a week, but preferably more.  It’s something I have tried to do and am tempted to for the next month or so.

Does this week just feel busy, or is it busier than usual?  Do I just notice it because the travel saps energy, possibly more so than usual because I am struggling with the tail end of a virus?  Or is it because I am getting stuff done, but less time means I am not getting it done perfectly?  My email inbox this morning contains various correction to the notes of Monday’s meeting  – not even close to perfect apparently.

So in an attempt to discover whether this is sod’s law at work actually piling everything into one week when my offspring are lounging around on holiday, or whether it just feels like that, I think I need to write it all down for a few weeks.

Meanwhile – need more coffee.

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