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Weekend meals made easy…..

As we all know the world is full of stereotypes. Ways we think things should be and we often measure ourselves based upon them. There are many examples of these and often they can be gender specific. Things like men are always strong and women need to be looked after. Women make better nurses and my personal favourite women can all cook.

Alas the last one is not me. I can cook, I can provide a meal for my family however Delia Smith I ain’t. Nigella would be disgusted at some of my recipe attempts and I always buy cakes for the school bake sales instead of making them from scratch.

It was never something that hugely bothered me and when I was growing up we often didn’t have time for baking as my mum had to care for me and my sister who had severe learning disabilities as well as working and running a home while my dad mostly worked away. It was hard and from a young age I was more bothered about listening to music and reading than anything else.

So I never really learned to cook gourmet food, I don’t knit or crochet and I struggle with sewing if I’m honest (how lucky is my hubby!) but I get by, I have the classics under my belt, spag Bol, pasta bakes, jacket potatoes, stews and roasts but that’s about as adventurous as I get. Like many families too we struggle with having the time to cook a meal from scratch when you incorporate ten hours at work, school, after school clubs and all manner of other things that need doing every day.

Recently the lovely people at Britmums sent out an email offering families the chance to try out the new Rustlers southern fried chicken burgers ……. I thought why not. They are quick, easy and all of my boys including Karl love burgers. The people at Rustlers set a challenge for you to be creative, to take photos of your families individual ways of making an exciting meal with their burgers. What did my boys want? Burger with wait for it……. chips! I couldn’t get any kind of negotiation in, that was it! Burgers, chips and salad. So that’s what we did and I have to say they were yummy.

I’ve always been a bit funny about microwave food however I do believe for a quick meal particularly at the weekends that not only are they handy they are also able to made into a totally healthy family friendly meal!

What do you eat over the weekend when the family is in a rush? Are you a cliche like us and have the normal or would you spice your burger up somehow?

This post is an entry for the britmums ‘Rustlers burger hacking challenge’ sponsored by Rustlers. Click here for more info.

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Stationary boxes, parenting and the lovely Mila and Pheebs

This week like many others has flown by and I sit here on a Saturday afternoon wondering what happened to Monday!

It was always something I heard older people say about time flying and things going in the blink of an eye but as a younger person I would snigger and think about the world before me.

Now as a mother I often want to push the pause button and have time to actually savour the days as opposed to rushing through them and wondering how I have managed.

Life for me as many of you know is a constant state of juggling balls and spinning plates. Sometimes I don’t manage and end up with smashed plates all over the place and the balls hitting me in the head and other times I actually manage to get to the end of the week with a smile on my face and a glass of wine in my hand.

I have always and will always admire fellow mums who decide to do things their way. Whether that be by championing flexible working, starting their own businesses or other approaches to parenting. This is one of the many things I love about the community of people I have met through blogging and social media.

There are mums who work in photography, life coaching, floristry, writing, law, mentoring and various other fields all of whom do this around their children and running a home. One of these mums is the very lovely Alexis who is mum to twins who inspired her stationary business Mila and Pheebs.

The boys have been receiving stationary boxes from Mila and Pheebs for sometime. They are a monthly box which has a new theme each month. They include not only stationary but craft activities and other things to keep children amused and engaged. None of the contents require a screen or electricity and they come addressed to your children so they feel very special.

I have always filmed the boys opening their boxes as I love to see their reaction and surprise as they go through the boxes contents. The most recent box was themed around food and the boys had a blast making their own menus and using the craft equipment to make ice cream cones. You can see the most recent unboxing along with all the others here.

Sadly due to my being tired, a bit ill and ever so slightly overworked I actually filmed the most recent box opening vertically as opposed to horizontally. You have my massive apologies in advance. To say I’ve been off my game is an understatement. This week I’ve fallen over, forgotten keys, forgotten my lunch, over slept and just in general been shoddy at life!

Alexis like many business owners is really keen to hear more about what her customers and potential customers want and need from her product. She has asked if I would get my readers to take part in a short survey and in return she will be running a prize draw for anyone who takes the time to fill it in. Now that can’t be a bad thing! If you would like to take part in the survey please click here. You can also find out more about the amazing products Mila and Pheebs offer at the website here.

I hope that you have had a more productive and organised week than me but if you haven’t you can rest assured that you are in great company. There are parents the world over who are sat with a glass of wine in hand wondering how on earth they made it through this week and how will they get everything ready for the commencement of the next one (Just reminded me I need to wash the school uniforms!)

Much love, Lucy xxx

A very personal post……

Last Summer I got a semicolon tattooed on my left wrist. This was something that I had considered doing in the past but never quite been brave enough to go through with. Not because of the pain but because I wasn’t sure I wanted to announce permanently my struggles and put out there that I had dealt with such dark times that I considered that my life possibly shouldn’t go on.

I imagine some of you will know what Project Semicolon is and it’s message ‘your story is not over’. We use a semicolon in a sentence where we could have chosen to end it but actually decide to carry on. This is a very simple but incredibly powerful message.

Suicide is something that we all know about, we read about it, we see it on the news, we hear people discussing how it is the biggest cause of death of males under fifty and just how prevalent it is and yet we still don’t understand why people feel pushed to the point where they can no longer continue.

Not every person will suffer with mental health issues. Some people will suffer but to a lesser degree and some will need help for years and possibly the rest of their lives. It is however a fact that one in four of us will at some point suffer with a mental health issue. That’s huge, it essentially means you are never far away from someone who is, has or may in the future suffer. So why then are people’s misconceptions still so bizarre. Why do people who acknowledge they need help get judged for doing so and why do we in a world where mental health is being addressed in every society still refuse to acknowledge it’s just as worthy of recognition as any other medical issue?

You can never know what will happen to you in the future. One day you can be fine and the next crippled by something you don’t understand, not knowing where to turn and needing help for a crisis. This affects the richest people, the poorest people and all those in between. The triggers and causes may not be the same but MH doesn’t discriminate based on race, class, gender or location.

I have met in my journey so many people who have to deal with their mental health issues in all manner of different ways. Highly functioning people in powerful jobs, positions of authority and who are valued members of their community. I have also met people who have lost everything because of the way their mental health issues have affected them. This does not mean that either group of people have suffered anymore than the other just that they are alike in their issues.

Learning about, talking about and maintaining your mental health is not a weakness but an acknowledgement of a basic need. If we are low in a certain kind of vitamin we take supplements, if we have a broken leg we have a plaster cast. In essence we care for ourselves to make ourselves feel better and no one would blink an eye at someone on crutches in fact they would offer them help wherever they needed it. So why then when someone says they are having a mental health crisis do most people look awkward and want to walk away?

I’m not criticising, it’s hard and if you have never had mental health issues you will struggle to understand and comprehend what someone is going through however, we as human beings have the power to be compassionate, kind and to listen to others. You don’t have to understand someone’s journey to listen and offer support nor do you have to agree with their thought processes and needs. You just need to be kind because do you know what one day you might find yourself in a time of crisis and need just that from someone. Never take mental well-being for granted.

It needs to be maintained like any other avenue of health and is important for the world going forward. We want people who are aware of wellbeing and mindfulness and acknowledge their existence and validity not making sufferers feel that they have no where to turn and are being labelled as ‘over sensitive’ or ‘mental’.

In the last year I have considered ending my story. That overwhelming feeling that the world would be a better place without me, that I have nothing to add and that I can’t continue to fight the demons I have been waging war against for so long. I am proud that with help and support I decided that my story needs to continue. I am proud that on my wrist there is a semicolon for the world to see and to show I like millions of others suffer.

It’s a bit of a conversation starter, people want to know about your experiences and why you’ve ended up where you have. It’s also a great way of letting others know about the work being done by mental health organisations world wide.

Don’t dismiss mental health, don’t make those with mental health issues feel like they are weak or not as whole a person as anyone who isn’t suffering. Be kind and don’t be an asshole. You never know when you might need kindness and compassion from someone. It could be next year, in ten years or tomorrow but you may need it and you will be grateful for those who help as oppose to condemn.

You can see the work done by project semicolon here and also the fab people at The Blurt Foundation here who publish regular pieces on how depression especially affects you and where to go for help.

In conclusion mental health is just as important as physical health and we all have an obligation to remember this.

Please get in touch if you need to.

Much love, Lucy xxx

My bullet journal for 2018

Earlier this week I put a post on Instagram about how I had started a bullet journal for next year and whether people would find it useful for me to write a post about how I had put it together, how it helps with mindfulness and my mental health.

So, here you go! Last year I saw many a YouTube video on setting up a bullet journal and thought it was a fab idea. I loved the idea of a mood tracker, sleep tracker, keeping up with social media followers and many other tables and graphs that I could colour in. The reality was I made the whole thing far too complicated and when I fell behind with the various trackers I had created it made me feel stressed, anxious and like a failure.

This is if course an overreaction but when you are someone suffering with anxiety and depression you really don’t need anymore pressures that could potentially make you feel even more shitty about yourself so I gave up. But as the year has gone on I’ve thought more and more about how much I like to doodle and how a much more simplified version would actually be a very good thing.

I bought a cheap as chips notepad from Home Bargains which had lined pages and dots along the top and bottom for ease of lines.

I have a pot of pens and pencils that I dig out for doodling when I can so felt that I could use those so didn’t need to buy anymore stationary than that. I mostly used Berol felt tips, some thin nibbed black gel pens, pencils and a ruler. I decided to incorporate my favourite parts of the bullet journal I had done last year without all the stress so started with a simple drawing on the front page. This could be anything but I chose to make it displaying the year and my name.

For anyone who knows me or follows my Instagram you will know I love stars so these seemed to be perfect for the front page. I wanted inspirational quotes to play a huge part in this years journal as they do in everyday life but decided that the front page was good as it was. I then went on to a simple Index, I left four pages for this so I can have room to Index the whole book. This is really important for how I’m doing the journal as it will make finding what I’m looking for so much easier throughout the year.

I love lettering so really enjoy this but was amazed by how many lettering tutorials there are on Pinterest, YouTube and Instagram so even if you are someone who isn’t too keen on lettering you can find a font that looks good and that you can master simply. I then added pages for goals and aims, blog ideas and hopes and dreams for the year. I can fill these in as I go and reflect back on them at the end of 2018. As you can see I’ve not quite finished the colouring in but it gives you an idea and is really simple. I’m not tracking anything, giving myself dates to get stuff done by but simply jotting down things as they come into my head.

In the templates I have seen many others use the pages after this for all the various trackers, favourite quotes, meal plans and all manner of other bits and pieces but again I found this hard as I wasn’t sure how many pages to leave before I started my actual diary and if I wanted to add others in it would look odd after so I’ve kept it simple again and just gone straight into the year.

For every new month I’ve used a double page spread for the month with a drawing and a notes section but this could be adapted in anyway which suits you best. That’s the thing, it needs to suit you and help you not confuse you and leave you feeling daft for not doing it in the way everyone else is. Again these aren’t all finished but these give you an idea and I have to say it’s so relaxing doing that monthly page that I am really looking forward to doing all the others.

Again the beauty of this is that you can do it however you want so January is a bit different but as I went on I found what works for me best and what I enjoyed most drawing. Then I went really controversial and used a double page spread for the month so a line for each day of the month, it’s much quicker to do, will still give me the space I need but didn’t need so much effort put into it that I ended up giving up after the 76,000th shout of ‘Mummy!’ From the boys. I managed to get the whole year marked up in less that a day and with opportunities to add on as I wanted which felt like a real achievement.

At the end of every month I put a gratitude page and a reflections page for the month and there is plenty of space to add favourite quotes, doodles and stick things in should I want to.

Then after the year I started to add on the additional pages I wanted to, no trackers as I have neither the time or the pressure of them but a page for meal ideas, a page for house ideas and I’m sure there will be others to come as the year goes on. Here I can doodle my favourite quotes and stick in pictures. All of these can be found easily by the Index and I have loads of room to add on as many pages as I want up to the end of the notebook because I’ve kept the journal so simple.

There are so many different ways for doing these bullet journals and none are right or wrong. I’ve kept it simple, functional and easy to maintain so I can make the most of the mindfulness and organisation while not pressuring myself to keep up with trackers and charts. I can write down as little or as much as I want or I can simply use it as a diary to keep up with all the things going on in my life.

I hear you say that I could just go and buy a diary but as I said the thought that I have created something totally bespoke to me and suitable for my needs is a great feeling. It also gives me somewhere to be creative and something to share with others (I’ve already had some questions about where I got the idea from) now I don’t have masses of free time and run around like a mad woman (oh the irony) most of the time but one of my biggest moans of the last year was feeling unorganised. This will assist and can always be with me only being in a small notepad.

There are lots of journals and planners already made up for this purpose and some that are fantastically aimed at those with MH issues to all degrees however because I love to draw this option suited me better. So many people have acknowledged that next year they want to live life more simply and this is one of those ways for me, doing something I want to do but in my own way in a simple manner.

I would love to hear what you think, to see if you’ve been inspired to do anything similar and how you are going into 2018. Feel free to get in touch!

Thank you for reading this year, for being there, for taking on board me and all the crap I go on about and for supporting Tired From Whitstable, both here, in the newspaper and across my social media. I am blown away and can honestly say you make a crazy woman very happy!

Happy new year you lovely people xx

A year of talking about mental health

So I’m sat in Costa, I’ve dropped the boys off for their last day at school this year and I have hot chocolate, all great things I hear you say. Yet I feel glum. I can’t get my head around it and it occurs to me that it’s possibly total brain overload processing that another year has nearly gone by and all the changes it has bought.

It has been a colossal year which has been so full of change for me that at times it has left me in a head spin. This year I decided when at the lowest I’ve ever been to stick two fingers up to depression and anxiety and to finally fight the battle I’ve been successfully avoiding all my life.

This doesn’t mean as you all know from my many posts before now that I’m ‘cured’ but that I choose now to face my demons and take them for what they are as opposed to hiding from them and letting them control me. I’m not alone, millions of people everyday are fighting battles that you know nothing about and this year has made me see this more than ever.

We see what people want us to see, we hear only some of what they have to say because that’s how we as human beings are. To tell a casual acquaintance you are on your knees and struggling to get out of bed because you feel useless and a burden on the world is simply not the done thing. Our stiff upper lip and attitudes towards mental health have stopped us being open for decades now.

The thing is though that since I have been writing about my depression and anxiety people who don’t know me, people who know me but not very well and even those closest to me have said how nice it is to get an insight into the thoughts and feelings of someone who suffers the way I do. This I imagine is largely because so many deal with friends or family who are struggling themselves and have no idea how to help them or how they are feeling.

I’m not saying that we should be telling all and sundry every thought or emotion we have but I do think a world where it is okay to say you are not okay is much better than one that tells us to keep it to ourselves and that we should all carry on regardless.

This time of year is full of joy and happiness yet for many it is tinged with sadness. Memories of those we have lost, regrets that some things haven’t ended up the way we thought they would and for some total loneliness. I’ve put myself under so much pressure this year to get it all done, to keep up with all the school letters and social events and to have a tidy home and yet I still have more than half the presents to wrap, school letters I’ve forgotten to send back and a shit tip of a house. But what I do have is worth it’s weight in gold, a family who love me, two beautiful boys who although drive me to tears at times also make me prouder with every passing day and a life full of possibility.

I feel very fortunate to have provided the tiniest voice in a world full of people now talking about mental health. I’ve always said if just one person reads what I write and takes something from it then I’m happy and if you take anything from this post let it be this. I am the woman who earlier this year had a crisis and decided to fight it, the woman who wouldn’t sit in a cafe on her own for fear of people looking at me, the woman who still wakes up everyday knowing I have the ability to be down but using the resources I have gained, the wisdom I have fought for I realise that a bad day won’t make a bad life and actually as far as lives go I really don’t have much to grumble about.

If you feel like you are ready to talk to someone particularly over this time of year please do, the Samaritans offer a 24/7 phone line on 116 123, your GP can help, someone you trust will listen and can help to keep you safe. You have the power to take on anything. You are amazing and you are worthy.

Happy Christmas xxx

The things Mums do…..

I am a mum to boys, anyone who has ever read my blog before will know this and every so often I go a little bit mad.

Today is one of those days, I have just had what I can only describe as a childlike tantrum at having to clear up wee from the floor around the toilet for what feels like the millionth time this week. They have a body part that allows them to aim and yet it’s like they go into the bathroom, stick on a blindfold and just have a laugh pissing fast and loose all over the place all the while thinking ‘it’s alright Mummy will clear it up’

Now as much as I have become an expert in cleaning up other peoples piss from the second the boys were born I have to be honest and say it really isn’t my favourite thing. It smells, it goes literally everywhere and leaves nasty stains. It is my most used sentence of every single day ‘WHO HAS WEED OVER THE SIDE OF THE TOILET AGAIN’ only for every single male (including my husband) to tell me it wasn’t them.

Perhaps I have developed some kind of urinary dementia and in fact it’s me soiling the bathroom floor hundreds of times a day but I actually think the chances of this being the case are about the same as me being elected as the next US president (I guess stranger things have happened!)

When I was getting ready to go out on Friday last week for the first night out in at least six months I needed to have a shower. I explained to both the boys that I would be using the one and only bathroom and if they needed the toilet they should go. No one did of course, in fact I don’t think either of them even answered me. Mid way through my shower as I was shaving my legs which I have to say had required shaving for some time Leo appeared dancing around and had a massive poo on the toilet. He then looked at me and said ‘who is going to wipe my bum?’ Now Leo my youngest is six and should really be able to do this for himself however as with many things when it comes to it he miraculously doesn’t remember how. He tried after I moaned and managed to get shit all over the bathroom floor. So, one leg smooth and silky the other looking like a yeti’s I had to get out of the shower and clear up him, the floor, myself and take a number of deep breaths. I then got back in the shower only for him to say ‘Mummy, why have you got only one hairy leg?’

I literally skipped out of the door when Karl got home but it seems strange that he doesn’t have these issues when he has the boys and I’m pretty sure he would say.

We then have the continuous arguments about doing things, things such as needing to wear pants, needing to change pants, needing to put pants in the washing basket, needing to not wipe bogies over the walls, needing to understand that it’s not appropriate to fart anywhere you fancy and many other basic rules of life and hygiene which both boys refuse to acknowledge or adhere to. Who cares about brushing teeth, being clean or wearing the same pants 21 days in a row anyway?

There is also this bizarre ritual I have to go through on a daily basis (when I’m not wiping up wee) where I have to find things the boys have lost. We do this not just at home but anywhere we go and we can lose literally anything at all. They come out of the doors at school wearing nothing but a shirt, trousers and shoes and daily I ask ‘ where is your bag/jumper/coat/lunch box/drinks bottle’ you get the drift. Only to be met by a vacant look of I have no idea and I then do the annoyed mum route March around the playground, town, school, house, car or any other place we have been.

I know I am moaning, I know I am so very lucky to have beautiful, healthy and happy children but some days I do feel like I’m going ever so slightly insane (well more insane than usual) Anyway must go, Nate needs a poo!

Analysing Anxiety……

As many of you know and have been bored to tears by me for the majority of this year about I suffer with depression and anxiety. Always have in some way and quite probably always will. This year so far has been the hardest journey for me out of all the previous ones. So much so that this one I feel is the one that will change the way I deal with me forever.

These changes are positive and all I believe what will make me going forward be in control more of how depression and anxiety affects me and not letting it beat me again (yes I know I’ve said this a million times before!) One of my main issues was and I realise now has always been a total lack of self esteem. My inner dialogue has always been negative to the point where I have talked myself out of doing the smallest and simplest things because I have simply felt I’m not able to, would be laughed at or that as usually I am totally and utterly useless so why bother trying.

This anxiety that came out of this inner dialogue meant that I had literally stopped myself from doing things. To give totally honest examples I would plan how I would walk into and out of the school on the school run as I didn’t want to walk a way where that many people would see me and potentially not like me, what I write, how I look or who I am. Even though of course the vast majority of those people don’t know me and even if they did probably not well enough to condemn me and ostracise me and lets be honest if people don’t like me I really can’t do much about that and  hiding myself away won’t change their feelings about me. It even got so bad that earlier this year I would park the car in a road quite away from school and would watch the clock until five to three then need to rush in knowing that the children would be coming out as I got there so I would avoid seeing lots of people. It got that bad! It sounds ridiculous and I’m even laughing at myself a bit writing it but that was what anxiety was doing to me.

I did the same with parking my car at work and even trips to the toilet where I would need to leave the office I worked in I would plan for times I felt would be quiet and I wouldn’t bump into people. I didn’t want to have to explain my issues to people or feel I was being judged so I tried to disappear. Of course no one can actually disappear, unless you have one of three Deathly Hallows and your last name is Potter! But I would have done anything to be able to. I was literally driving myself mad and even the slightest knock would turn me into a wreck and made me feel like I simply couldn’t go on.

I realise now that my anxiety goes hand in hand with my depression and the more down I am the more anxious I become. The issue of course as I have said so many times before was that I simply did not have the option of shutting down, I had to fight it for my children, my husband and the people I love but, most of all for me. I am a human being who has all manner of issues and experiences that have bought me to where I am today but what has gone before me does not take away from the fact that I have a future and that I like everyone else deserve to be happy. My own version of happy of course, it might not be what would make others happy but who cares, happiness is a personal choice and it really has nothing to do with anyone else. As long as those closest to me are okay and we are happy then that will do me.

Don’t get me wrong I don’t strut around with my head held high but I try to smile more (not in a creepy way I hope) and if I feel anxious about walking a certain way or doing a specific thing I have a little word with myself and ask what is the worst that could happen? The honest answer from my more peaceful mind is not a lot and if something did well you know what as a thirty four year old woman I would have to deal with it. I can’t go on over analysing everything and as the very wise Newt Scamander said, ‘worrying only makes you suffer twice’ and I believe lovely people that he is right.

I can’t pretend that depression and therefore anxiety won’t be a part of my life anymore but I have finally made peace with the fact that they are a part of who I am and I am their master not the other way around. I also will do myself no good whatsoever telling myself I am ugly, no good, worthless, stupid or that I need to prove my worth to others just so I feel validated. I can validate me and other than eating far too much cake and having a slightly unhealthy obsession with Keeping Up with the Kardashians I’m okay. My children are happy (albeit appallingly behaved the vast majority of the time) Karl and I are in the best place I think we have been in a long time, our home is messy but full of love and there is cider in the fridge.

This may seem like a strange post to write but I wanted to write it to emphasise how you can come through a crisis and although you will still need to handle the triggers you can give yourself the tools to do so. I was chatting to someone the other day and we talked about it like having an extra handbag. Like the one I always carry that has powder, deodorant, my phone, a notepad, my money, lego figures (mum to boys!) plasters and a variety of other delights I also have the invisible one that contains all the things I have learned in CBT and all the tools that I can use to get me through the day with a smile on my face and feeling okay about me.

As I have mentioned in the past my Pinterest account helps me massively in this respect and I see it as a form of therapy each and every day to scroll through positive and inspirational quotes that lift me and make me feel okay to be who I am.

This has been a hard one to write and I hope not terrible for you to read. I will continue to give updates as I find it helps me to hear about others journeys and if I can help or offer kind words to even one person then it makes it totally worth putting my story out there. Thanks for reading and if you feel the need to get in touch please do so via my contact page.