Getting organised: on blog planning and brain-dumping

Friday, 30 September 2016

I feel like I've got a million different threads going on in my brain at the moment: obviously I am mostly preoccupied with the baby coming, which in itself has made most of my common sense leave the building. As well as that mad nesting urge that has me obsessively arranging sock drawers, I'm also thinking about multiple creative-type projects. Which is good, and exciting, but all at once feels a bit overwhelming.

Over the summer I lost control of the blog a bit, as I was busy doing Camp Nanowrimo. I am now attempting to get the blog back on track, as well as pre-writing posts for the upcoming 'I can't keep my eyes open' stage of life. I'm also trying to edit the novel before the baby arrives and, today, I started writing something else (and have two other things I'd like to do in the future floating around in my head, too).

What to do with all this? That is the question. I feel like a clumsy waitress trying to balance fifty plates on my arms whilst spinning around in circles.

I find the easiest thing to do to stop me from losing my mind is to write things down: or brain dumping as I like to call it. Every day during July, before I started writing, I opened up a blank document and waffled on about all the stupid things that were on my mind: therefore removing them from my brain and leaving space for other things.

That is what I am trying to do. With everything else.

Ages ago, my lovely blogging friend Shaz sent me a free copy of her blog planner to print. I've finally managed to sit down and get stuck into it. 

Listen: I feel happier when I sit down to do boring things on pretty-looking stationary. The Butterfly Dawn blog planner fulfils my aesthetic needs for sure.

It's also going to help me keep track of things that I am rubbish at keeping track of:

It covers everything: social media tracking, blog goals, posts to be written, statistics, contacts, lists of linkies, giveaways (of which I hope to start soon!) ... basically, it will fulfil all your blog-organisation-needs. Of which I have many. I didn't print the whole thing, preferring to stick to the sheets I know I'm definitely going to use for now. It also comes with a handy user guide to help you get the most out of it.

You can buy the Butterfly Dawn Blog Planner here for £4.00 here. You can also grab a couple of freebie sheets to print.

I've also invested in this:

This is an 18-month planner that I bought from TK Maxx, that basically contains my entire brain. It has a week-to-view layout with lots of space for to-do lists and stuff. I write down everything in here: people I have to message back, emails to reply to, things I need to buy from the shops, housey jobs I need to do. It all goes in there. I also write down when Chris is working so I don't have to keep saying 'when do you finish work again so I can have a break?' every five minutes.

It has lots of motivational, inspiring, helpful phrases, too. Like this:

Er ... yes.

But I seriously love it. I keep it propped open, on my kitchen counter, constantly. I'm training myself to look at it several times a day so I literally cannot forget to do all the things.

I highly recommend it. It's by Eccolo Ltd. It's worth checking out their website, because as well as stationary, they do lovely gifts and homeware, and they also make Christian journals/stationary as well.

That's it for today! I'd be interested to hear how you keep your minds tidy and organised!

Pick N Mix Fridays

Brilliant blog posts on

'Young people nowadays'

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

I've heard a variation of this phrase a lot recently:

'Young people nowadays are so arrogant/entitled/spoilt/pampered/disrespectful' (delete as appropriate).

Spoken by people my age, and older.

And it makes me SO cross.

Firstly: ageism is ageism no matter what the age you are moaning about. I also think its particularly unfair that older people have a go at younger people. Because we're not supposed to disrespect our elders, right? Yet respect, the last time I checked, respect can work both ways. In fact, it needs to work both ways, really. Otherwise it's an imbalance of power. According to some, its absolutely fine for an older person to tar all younger people with the same brush, but NEVER the other way round.

Which you know, isn't that fair.

Secondly: throughout history, every generation has thought better of their own age group than the age group following them. Take this quote:

“The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.”

If you are nodding to this and thinking 'yep, that EXACTLY describes young people nowadays, it wasn't like THIS back in my day' then let me tell you that the person behind that quote was Socrates, and he died in 339 B.C.

I distinctly remember older people moaning about my generation when I was a teenager. I remember reading articles about it. I remember hearing people of my parents' age and older, casually, in front of me, going on an epic rant about how awful and spoilt and terribly behaved teenagers were.

It upset me and my friends. It caused division and bitterness between us and older people. Older people didn't understand us; we hadn't done a thing to them, and yet apparently we were fair game for them to speak awful words over? In a time of life where you feel pretty powerless, it was an exercise in feeling even worse. Because, you know, you mustn't argue with your elders.

Thirdly: young people are having a pretty awful time of it nowadays. 2.7 million young people in the UK are currently living in poverty (aged 14-24). That is 30% of the population of young people - higher than any other age group. 11.5% of young people in the UK (aged 11-16) have a mental disorder. Incidents of hospital admissions of children and young people suffering after effects of self-harm have increased in the last ten years by 68%. And yet, 70% of these children and young people cannot access appropriate interventions.

And, to top it all off, this government seem to have it in for younger people, if the increase in university tuition fees, scrapping of housing benefit for under-25s, and cuts to children's mental health services are anything to go by. Plus, they have the immense pressure of social media to contend with.

I wouldn't go back to being a teenager nowadays for all the money in the world.

Truth is, I used to think it was fine to say these sweeping generalisations about teenagers almost as soon as I became an adult. I think differently now. Do I think we should respect our elders, and appreciate them for the wisdom they've gleaned? Absolutely, I do. Do I think teenagers are perfect? Er, no. They're still developing into adults - they haven't physically or mentally gained every skill they need to act perfectly in society.

Frankly, though, I know some adults who behave in a far worse way than a lot of young people.

And, also frankly, I think that no matter how many years you have under your belt, you don't have the automatic right to be disrespectful to other people.

At the end of the day, young people are people: with all the good and bad bits that come with being human.

I'd love to see respect going both ways. Younger people respecting the wisdom of people who have gone before. And older people (again - including my generation!) taking younger peoples' opinions into account, too.

Linking up with:

Pink Pear Bear


Sometimes, the bad guys win.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

I've been reading a lot about the kind of skills that are essential for a well-balanced life. They are not the kind of skills that you would expect to be able to teach children - like phonics or number recognition - and they are not to do with how we treat others, like kindness and respect. They are a different set of qualities - self-control, grit, resilience, curiosity.

In the book How Children Succeed, Paul Tough looks into the gap between kids from rich and poor families, and whether there are things that educators can do to help overcome that gap. It looks at the impact of stress on a child's developing brain through to adulthood.

It's pretty interesting.

Anyway, the book got me thinking about the kind of lessons that my kids will learn naturally as they grow up, almost subconsciously. Lessons like I don't always get to win stuff. And I can't always get what I want. And sometimes I have to wait for things. And no-one can be good at everything. 

As well as more unfortunate ones that I think we start learning in school, like if you look the right way you are more likely to be popular. That sort of sucky life lesson that is unavoidably true.

But one of the most uncomfortable life lessons I will have to watch my kids learn as they grow up is this:

Sometimes the bad guys win.


Do you ever have those days where you read the news and just feel totally despondent about the world? I'm starting to wonder if there's a correlation between happiness and news consumption, actually.

I want to teach my kids that they should strive to do the right thing. Not necessarily the easiest thing or the thing that gives them the most success, but the right thing. That sounds kind of wooly, but I think that's the thing that most people try to do (or at least the people I hang out with). The right thing. I want to teach them that even when doing the right thing is detrimental to you, that it's still better than doing a kind of sneaky, slightly naughty thing and getting instant rewards for it.

But then I have days where I think 'is it worth it though? Really?'

When I was a teenager, I watched as the popular, confident kids piggy-backed off the geeky kids in order to gain more popularity and respect. I watched as the stronger kids gained even more strength and power from sapping the confidence of the weaker ones, through bullying, teasing, and social manipulation.

And then as an adult, you realise how everything in our society hinges on the same principle - the strong getting stronger off the backs of the weak. Rich people get richer, and poor people get poorer. It's exemplified in multi-millionaires who relax on their luxury yachts whilst at the same time laying off thousands of minimum-wage employees, but it translates to lots of different situations. It's more lucrative, most of the time, to be bad than to be good.

Obviously there's rules to this. Society doesn't look kindly upon murderers, for instance. But low-level corruption is generally accepted. Even encouraged by the systems that allow countries to run.

It is an absolutely awful life lesson to learn, because you never stop learning it. The more you engage in politics and society, the more the lesson hits home. Sometimes the bad guys win. Or, to be less black-and-white about it, sometimes it's better to do bad things than good things.


This is one of the many instances where, for all its (excellent) qualities, being a Christian is actually harder than not being one. Because I don't have the freedom to hate people like I want to. Everything in my life hinges upon grace given to me, so I have to extend that grace to other people, even people that really don't deserve it, even people who trample all over others and get what they want all the time.

Even those people.

Sometimes, frankly, I want to give up dishing out grace. I want to say 'do you know what? If you're going to spend a lifetime being a total jerk, then frankly, you deserve what you get.'

But I can't be anything other than forgiving of people, because I do bad things all the time. In fact, just by being alive and consuming things in England, I am probably ripping off hundreds of people around the world who are trapped in slavery or poverty (whilst whinging about how expensive things are). I contribute to inequality - everyone does, whether you are stuck in it, or you are the one sticking other people in it.

But grace is the better option in the long run. Right? Extending grace and forgiveness and understanding is definitely more difficult, but it benefits everyone. In extending grace to someone who doesn't deserve it, I get to learn how to admit defeat. How to let things go instead of having to be proven right all the time.

There are limits to this. Obviously. I think as a society we have a responsibility to keep our leaders in line and to question what they do and to try and stop the vulnerable from being mistreated. But on a personal level?

My kids will learn that bullies get away with it a lot of the time.

They will learn that having money and good looks will give you a huge advantage.

They will learn that life is sometimes drastically, ridiculously, depressingly unfair.

They will learn that sometimes, the bad guys win.

But ... they will learn to cope with that.

They will learn that life is about more than instant success.

They will learn that actual deep-down life satisfaction cannot come from using other people.

They will learn that to do the right thing is better than doing the easier thing.

They will learn to be resilient in the face of injustice.

Frankly, there's not much I can do to teach them about this either way. I'm prepared to sit back and let them learn, make their own decisions and mistakes, and see the outcome ... whilst trying to model doing the right thing instead of the easier thing.

And extending grace, even to the bad guys.

Linking up with:


Pink Pear Bear

Tomorrow will be better: on pain and weakness

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

I am just so terrible at keeping up with blogging at the moment.

I feel terrible at lots of things.

This isn't a pity post. The last thing I want is pity. We took Jellybean to the zoo for her birthday, and Chris had to push me around in a wheelchair. The pitying looks (and outright nosy, mouth-hanging-open gawping from adults and children alike) were enough to make me want to sink into the ground and disappear.

Although admittedly it was quite fun racing my toddler down hills.

I can't stand pity, is what I'm trying to say. I just like to be honest when I write stuff, particularly about pain-related things, because I hate sticking a 'la-la-la everything's fine' plaster over everything. This is honest:

Pelvic joint pain absolutely sucks.

It sucks because it impacts every moment of every day.

It sucks because it gives me terrible mother guilt. I feel awful for being snappy and grumpy and miserable when I can't walk, and having to say no when she asks for something that would have been perfectly reasonable but is now impossible for me.

The only thing that keeps me going is the fact that it is temporary. That I will have a baby at the end of it. And that, after this, I can get my wonky pelvis realigned and not feel this pain again.

At least I flipping hope so.

It is also teaching me things: I am having to deal with issues surrounding my own stupid stubbornness and lack of ability to ask for help. I am having to learn to let the little things go. I have a limited amount of energy to expend each day before I start limping around like a self-concious, teenaged hip-hop enthusiast. So, I have to scrap a lot of things that I would normally do. I also have to tune out what other pregnant people manage to do (walk in heels, redecorate whole houses, run their own businesses, climb freaking mountains, whatever) and learn to use tunnel vision. This is what I can do today and no more.

It's also made me both grateful for the NHS and very worried for its future. It also makes me cross because I get a lot of support (free physio sessions, crutches, etc) whereas people I know who are close to us who struggle with pain related issues (one person I am thinking of in particular) are getting written off and shoved aside by doctors, seemingly because they are too old to be worth offering help to.

It is also teaching me something about my own weaknesses as a parent, and how I can't be super-mum all the time. Jellybean is learning something crucial about her mother that some people don't learn until they are a bit older: that her parents aren't invincible. I'm hoping that this teaches her how to be caring and helpful. I'm hoping it's teaching me that it's okay to let your children see your weaknesses.

That it's okay to have them. Weaknesses.

That you can paradoxically be strong in your weakness.

That sometimes you have to just focus on getting through the best you can and forget what everyone else is doing.

This is why I'm not blogging much: I get to the end of each day so physically and mentally exhausted that I just want to curl up in a ball and watch Gotham. Frankly, though, my brain is starting to melt away, so I will need to rectify that soon.

(That is in no way a criticism of Gotham. You should all watch it immediately).

But at the end of each day I remind myself tomorrow is a new day. I tell myself tomorrow will be better. I try and forget all the ways I have been crap and resolve to both do better and go easier on myself.

Which is just about all I can do.

For the next three months anyway.

Linking up with:

Mummy Fever - Share With Me

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