I am grateful


I’m in the car at the moment, being driven home (by our unbelievably lovely driver – who goes above and beyond, particularly in relation to the three little ones) from an extravagant M&S shopping excursion. I have much to be grateful for.

Thanksgiving is, without any doubt, my favorite adopted holiday. Food, friends, no need to buy presents. I have loved it from my first one in New York, and even if only with a nod, we acknowledge it each year as a family.

This year we took the little people out for a treat family dinner – and I’ll be honest and say that the meal was close to an abject failure. The littlest ate sweet potato fries and wailed. The middlest wouldn’t sit still and just ran around singing – badly and loudly. And the eldest decided she didn’t really like Thanksgiving dinner after all.

Family dinners out are rarely smooth, quiet, enjoyable minutes – but this one hit a low point.

However, the one thing that kept the 2 oldest ones happiest for longest – drawing pictures of what they were grateful for.

The eldest surpassed herself and actually chose to draw the family at dinner – her image being a little more ‘last supper’ in style than she might have meant (although, that was kind of how we were feeling…) and the middlest chose ‘chicken strips’ (quite possibly to annoy his elder sis, as she had decided to be a grown up and not order off the kids menu) – but they enjoyed the task.

It’s something I’ve taken to asking them each evening at dinner time. What are you grateful for today? The answers often revolve around food or the latest ‘thing’ that has been bought, but sometimes they surprise me. ‘I am thankful for a day just at home with all of us…’ ‘I am thankful for kisses and cuddles.’

I forgot yesterday. I was tired and grumpy after an afternoon of solo parenting and yet another IKEA mishap… And they reminded me. Mummy – what are you grateful for?

And so, to remind me how lucky I am, I will post my current gratitude list here.

I am grateful for:

  • The blue sky and sunshine that Shanghai has today. Yes it is cold. Yes the air quality is not great. But it is sunny and I am cheerful.
  • My family – they might well all drive my crazy on a regular basis, but each one of them amazes me – on a daily basis.
  • M&S – while it’s still here. I’ve got mince pies and choccie biccies for the office tree decorating party on Thursday and that will make hard working, tired people just a little bit happier (I hope)
  • Internet access – courtesy of a tireless (but tired) hubby who kept going and got it sorted.
  • Christmas music. I love it. Lots. I am singing lots (& badly)
  • The adventure I am on. There are good days and not so good days – and where to find tasty cheese features far too often on my worry list – but I am well aware how privileged I am to be on this adventure.

For all of the above, and so much more, I am truly grateful

I need to add one in, at the end of the day.

  • I am grateful for my bicycle.  On the days when I’m not ‘working’ (& by that I mean the days that I’m not going in to the office to do paid work, which actually feels surprisingly less like ‘work’ than looking after 3 small people for free does) I cycle the 3 minutes it take to get to school with the kids – and I love it.  Not getting mown down by a scooter, a car turning at the lights, or another child cyclist starts the day off with a huge sense of accomplishment that never fails to impress me. I then get to take littlest one (in her child seat on the back – and she always reminds me to put her helmet on before we go anywhere) to nursery, through a lovely green compound, where she merrily sings and says Ni Hao to everyone she sees. And then I get to head home.  It’s a 20 minute round trip max, and I love it. And I love the end of day return – when the eldest races off ahead, to be the first home, calling the rest of us slow coaches.  It’s a small thing. But it makes me smile. Every time.

Love Letters


Love letters straight from the heart…

Love Letters

I have no idea why this particular Alison Moyet song has been going round in my head this week, but it has.  And it got me thinking about the joy I used to feel, back in the days when I did write love letters.

I was always a letter writer, from an early age. When I’d right royally done something hideous as a child, I’d pen an apology to my mum and somehow that extra effort (as it was seen) would melt her heart, and all would be forgiven (until the next time…)

Some of my best learning (& epic fails) in Spanish came from the writing of truly awful (love) letters to a wholly inappropriate holiday romance – I laugh and cringe in equal measures when I look back and think about it now, but I remember my Spanish teacher being amazed at some of my ‘colloquial vocabulary’!

When I went traveling at the end of my first year of uni – and promptly went completely doolally on Larium (NEVER take this medicine, EVER!) one of the things that I remember pulling me through was receiving a carefully and lovingly written aerogramme from my Dad.

Love Letters
anyone else remember these?

He’d sent it care of the airline I was flying with to Burma (as it was then) – to the airport, quoting my flight number – and it was handed to me as I checked in. I was amazed and brought to tears – as I realised that even though I was miles away, I was loved.

But nowadays, no one really writes letters any more. Love letters or otherwise. Sometimes that really does make me sad. Other times, I’m grateful that communication can be so much quicker, so much more direct…

But the magic of having words crafted into elaborate sentences, of taking the time to really express how you feel – I think it’s probably the effort I miss more than anything. And I miss the doing part of it, as well as the receiving part of it.

So for now, a few small letters of my own – in the hope of the recipients knowing that they are loved.

To the traveling hubby

Come home. You are missed. Really missed. We are making our way through this huge adventure and without a doubt this (big) city and (overly large) home just feels emptier without you. Come home and let me grumble about what you have missed while you have been traveling. It somehow always feels funnier when I share it with you.

To the little ones

Thank you, for your hunting me out eyes and huge smiles when I pick you up every day. Thank you for taking every part of this adventure in your stride, even when it completely overwhelms me. And Big Pickle, thank you this week in particular for the shopping list you wrote me. That journey of yours around the kitchen, checking and asking and writing – well, to me, that was quite a love letter of its own – it meant I had one less thing to think about doing at the end of the day. And it meant you got what you wanted. Both happy. Result!

To my dear bestie

I owe you a million (love) letters of thanks for all you have sat with me through from uni to here. 20 years is a long time. More than many a marriage. More than a served sentence ‘for life’. I’m not sure I’d have enough paper and ink, so for now, FaceTime will have to do.

To my old / new / who’d have thought I’d be in Shanghai with you friend

I am so happy to have you here and so grateful for all you have done to ease our entry into this world of chaos. It’s been so lovely and so easy to pick up the conversation again.  And so comforting to hear you having the same conversations with your tribe that I have with mine! (Sorry for whatever bumps and bruises were incurred at the play date / war zone this afternoon!)

To my old team in London

You have no idea how much I miss each and everyone of you! Go rock Cologne – and share your stories of glory with me post event!

And to my new team here in Shanghai

Thank you for welcoming me. I have so much to learn here, and you are an amazingly talented, gracious, patient bunch of teachers. Countdown is on – go show everyone what the team is made of and then, maybe we could all sit down, take a breath, and have a laugh together… Whilst listening to some bad Christmas music… (Last Christmas here we come…)

Not a full house of love letters by any means… But a starting point. Because sometimes it’s just nice to actually put down in words how wonderful life is when certain people are in your world… (And I know a song about that, too…)

(It’s ended up more musical than I ever would have thought… And none of it makes me look good… Think it’s about time we got AppleMusic  sorted… It appears I’m a good couple of decades out of kilter…)


Okay, so we’re here now (wherever ‘here’ might actually turn out being…)

The glass ceiling of Javits is still in tact (more’s the pity, I hear plenty of people say…) and my little girl could still become the first female President of the United States.

So, what’s next? There’s a very clear (but not very long, in reality) 4 year window here to find the next Gamechanger, to find the next person who can restore our faith in humanity, in opportunity.

4yrs to fashion a response to this insane acceptance of gross misogyny, racism, fear & hatred.  Because whilst I’m #Stillwither, her defeat cannot be the end.  There has to be the next candidate lining up to take on the fight. There needs to be a succession plan.  And probably more importantly than ever, we each need to realise that we are all, individually, responsible for the change we want to see in the world.


So, I choose to be a Gamechanger from now on.  For myself. For my family. And for every damned thing that I say I really care about.  It’s up to me. (And you.) Because, let’s be honest, the global collection of ‘People in Charge’ right now aren’t really likely to do it for us, are they?

The Choices We Make


I try and make active choices each week as to what to write about. Rather than it just being my end of week ramblings.  This week, it’s a ‘hubby away, let’s revisit the midlife crisis’ inspired post. And it’s a books inspired post as well (no surprise there really… but it’s ok – we’re got a change from Brené this time… although… to be honest they are linked…). It’s got flavours of the election going on, with some day to day Shanghai-nese texture too… Let’s hope it mixes well.

So, with the election in mind, and to feed our ‘America hungry’ little girl’s soul something good, we sat at the weekend and read Barack Obama’s ‘Of Thee I Sing’ book with her – which I got for her not long after she was born. It sang to her, she lapped it up – and I’m not sure I’ve ever enjoyed more, explaining to someone about who wrote the book, and what the importance of the message was.  POTUS made a choice to write a children’s book. To inspire. To move his daughter’s towards the possibility of greatness.  Well, it’s not like I didn’t love him anyway – and the equally inspiring FLOTUS – but as I head to bed tonight, I think of the choices being made across the US today, and I hope people make the right one. Because I know who I want inspiring my little American, and… I’m with her


Personal Choices

So, a large part of my mid-life crisis has been about me making active choices in what I do and don’t want to do, and be, anymore. And the biggest thing I don’t want to be anymore is tired. But, everyone’s tired, right? Well, after much reading (too late into the night) and thinking, I’ve come to the earth shattering conclusion that I should just go to bed earlier.  And so, you will note (of course, as you are regular readers of this… and I know you just sit around waiting for it to pop up…) that this week’s blog is ‘late’. Well, hell, yes it is.  As this week, with hubby away, I have made the choice to go to bed. To give myself the best chance of not being a tired, grumpy solo parent each morning.  This way, I just get to be plain old grumpy…

Shanghai Choices

Shanghai is a big city.  And getting across it can take a long time, so there usually has to be a pretty good reason to go somewhere out of the ordinary, late on a weekend evening, keeping the kids up etc… Well, fireworks night provided the opportunity for one of those choices to be made, and I am so glad we did.  Yes, it too AGES to get across the city to one of the other International Schools that was hosting a Fireworks display (and the journey and location completely validated our ‘non-choice’ choice of Dulwich– but it was SO worth it for the 15 minutes of pure joy, standing there, eating waffles with Nutella, with the kids, and the hubby, and a great random bunch of Dulwich Fireworks Hunters – oohing and ahhing at the bright lights… (In 18 degrees heat!) The right choice made.  Everyone happy & smiling – and a great tradition to hold on to for the family.   See you again next year NAIS…(Fireworks Night & Pancake Day – my two fav British traditions ever…)

The other big Shanghai choices all form around food… And tonight my choice was to eat a small amount of ‘even more ridiculously overpriced than in the UK‘ Willies Cacao as a treat.  My rationale for the huge overspend on chocolate? Well, I’m not spending the money on crap alcohol anymore so…

(Ocado, please know that I miss you, desperately, and I will return to fill a basket / a trolley / a lemon van,  come December…)

Book Choices


So, a good friend (& Motherhood coach) posted a picture of two new books on Instagram – and both knowing her, and falling in love with the cover photo of one of them, meant that I ordered it straight away for my Kindle.  Well, I tried to.  But Amazon had clearly done something wrong on Wednesday last week, as I was allowed to pay for the book, but not download it (very irritating…).  But it’s ok, everyone had kissed and made up by Thursday… so book landed and then I started in…

Shauna Niequist’s Present Over Perfect has hit me over the head and stopped me dead in my tracks.  This is my mid life crisis written down by someone else (if you can just ignore some of the godly bits – which amazingly, I have managed to do…)  It has made me rethink and review everything to do with how I got here (here being the midlife crisis) and given me such hope for the future,

There are a couple of chapters in particular that I would reprint here if I could (Agency & Legacy) , but instead I will paraphrase the bits that really got me:

We dive into work because it feels good to be good at something, to master something, to control something…I can master an excel sheet in a way that I cannot master parenting. I can control a project schedule in a way that I cannot control my marriage.. It’s easier to be charming in a client meeting than with the kids at witching hour & it’s nice to feel competent at something when family life can feel difficult at best – and by ‘nice’ I mean addictive..

And the inspiring part? (Rather than the knowing… ‘oh my god, that was my life’ part…)


…A new understanding that we get to decide how we want to live… I can live in …Claygate, or Shanghai…  I can work from …my sofa, in peace and quiet, or from the bustling office downtown…  Isn’t that beautiful? & exciting? & so full of freedom?  You get to make your own life. In fact you have to. And not only that, but you can remake it too...’

So, I’m taking these choices – and I’m remaking my life.  One election day at a time…