What Chinese New Year has taught me about life in Shanghai

life in Shanghai

Life in Shanghai is going pretty well.

We’re almost 6 months in to the adventure / life leap, and we’re all still smiling. That feels like a pretty great achievement.

We’re a few days in to the Chinese New Year holiday and I just keep on learning stuff in this amazing city.

Firstly, I had assumed (& hadn’t really bothered to ask around in any detail) that EVERYTHING would be shut for the 2 – 3 main days of the holidays.  Now that feels like a very long time with three small people to feed and entertain, so I had somewhat gone into disaster planning mode in advance.

Did we have enough supplies in the cupboards and freezer? (Supplies meaning mainly M&S food stuffs – teabags and breaded fish products being key…) Emergency M&S trip completed, and things felt a little better.

Muffins and bread were bought in bulk and the ever disappearing Australian Semi-Skimmed UHT milk that we like (see our hardships here!) had been stock piled.

Craft activities (of which I am no fan – OCD issue – too much mess) and DVD’s had been prepped.

Well, it appears I needn’t have worried.

Starbucks – open.  Carrefour – open (& still filled with FAR too many people with handheld mic’s shouting at me to do god only knows what.) Pizza Hut – open, and surprisingly busy! Though with less pizza options to eat that you might have thought.

Yes, it would appear that shopping options remain open here in just the same way as they do everywhere else I’ve ever called home.  And so far, we haven’t eaten a single one of the M&S fish options.  (But it’s good to know they are there…)

Secondly, everyone loves a child who can say Happy New Year in Chinese.  And if you have three of them, you might well stop pedestrian traffic should they break it out – which they do like to do, in song.  The amount of times I have heard people counting our kids (yi, er, san… 1,2,3…) as we walk anywhere – means that at least I can now count to three reliably.  Small blessings.

Thirdly, the official holiday days were rearranged round these parts a while ago – giving everyone an official 7 day holiday (a Golden Week), but making them work weekends either side of this as normal working days.  It was done to encourage tourism, to get local people to travel around China (& spend money).  It works.

We were going to go up the Oriental Pearl TV Tower today.  We didn’t.

The queues for the (much less space age) Aquarium next door were 4 lines deep and then snaked around the corner of the building. (When we had gone last week, we had just strolled in. And it had still felt pretty chocker inside.)

I have no idea where the lines started or ended for the Pearl Tower, but I know that the surrounding pavements were filled with more Tour Guides waving flags than I had even seen before.  They were mostly China flags.  I’m not sure how helpful they really were to any individual groups, but hey ho…

So, instead, we took the Hubby on the under river Sightseeing Tunnel, and the little people managed to convince him to allow them to go into the neighbouring Submarine Exhibition.  There was no queue here. None.

And the kids loved it. As they did the ferry ride back over from the Bund that we did.

So what did I learn here?

That life in Shanghai, just in itself, is enough for the kids.

In the same way that life back ‘at home‘ was.  We don’t need to constantly play tourist with them.  They’ll come and do what we take them to do, but if the plan changes, they’ll cope. They’ll moan the same amount. They’ll be fine as long as they get fed. And should you find a shopping centre that happens to have a pirate themed soft play, well you’ve hit the jackpot.

I’ve learnt that however big and odd the move out here might have seemed, it’s mostly just a case of same-same but different.

And that’s a good thing.

The Gift of the Rooster

Rooster

So, it’s almost the Year of the Rooster. And whilst this little bird is known for his punctuality, his arrival, so soon into the calendar new year, has caused a bit of a stop / start for me.

The little people have managed two whole weeks at school, and now have a two week ‘half-term’.  I was just getting back into work, and now I’m on a stop again.

But actually, this little hiatus is pretty welcome.

By all accounts, the Rooster is also known for his ability to exorcise evil spirits.  Now I’m not saying that I need an exorcist but, with all the running about over the Christmas and 2017 New Year break, I didn’t really have much time to sit and plan properly, and work out what really needed to change from last year.  I had a good idea of what I wanted going forward, but I hadn’t had a chance to really flesh it out – either for me personally or work wise.

So I have used these couple of weeks to put some plans and actions into place for what needs to happen next. And you know what? It’s been a great time.

I’ve made some amazing progress with my writing (& bravery) and I’ve had the chance to plan some great Shanghai based adventures with the family during these couple of weeks off.

We’ve seen panda bears – even a baby one, sleeping in a crib not dissimilar to the one littlest still occupies – lions, tigers, giraffes and flamingos. And yes, we probably counted as an exhibit as well. People are wildly keen on trying to take selfies with the little people in.  Me? Not so keen on it, but…

We’ve been on the longest underwater travelator, moving (very slowly) as sharks and rays and schools of silver fish swam overhead at the Aquarium. Fun. And busy. Very busy.

And we took a return trip on the very psychedelic (and not entirely sure why it is quite like it is but, why not?) Shanghai Bund Sightseeing Tunnel (you can see NO sights, just so we’re clear) – which was a real highlight.

And when I asked the littlest one what she was most grateful for at dinner time?

…’dvneture mamma’…” which I’m taking as success on the family front!

So thank you Mr. Rooster.  Lunar New Year is a tradition I’m going to add to my collection of stolen holidays to mark in the calendar.  The gift of thinking and planning time has been much appreciated.

Resting up – not falling over

 

resting
photo credit: Hernan Sanchez

I’ve lost my voice. So I’m resting up.

It started with a huskier than normal conversation on Saturday afternoon – while accosting a family in our local coffee shop.  (See, I’m so much braver and more social than I ever was before. Shanghai has done this to me…) I had seen the woman at school and recognised her photo from one of the WeChat groups out here – so, in the spirit of being welcoming to another newcomer, I inserted myself into her family conversation and introduced us lot… Within 15 seconds a connection was found (courtesy of hubby’s company branded jacket) – her hubby’s brother used to work for my hubby back in London.  We might be in the biggest city in the world, but it’s a small world after all.

By the time we got home, the Mariela Frostrup huskiness had some added squeaks and by the time I woke up on Sunday morning, I was little more than a whisper…

The world is clearly sending me a message. Or, in fact, a couple of messages.

Be Quieter

The little people have taken on, mostly with good grace, all that we have thrown at them in the past 6 months.  The move across the world. The lack of CBeebies. The lack of decent fish fingers (though they are voicing concern that they may in fact starve when M&S finally leaves Shanghai).  And then there are my daily questions.

I’m a big fan of The School of Life back in London Village.  And, as I’ve mentioned before, I love their boxes of questions – including this new Family version which I asked Santa for at Christmas (good lad, he duly obliged!)

So, as they finish up their dinner each night, we pull a question or two from the pack and see what everyone’s answers are… And do you know what, 5 & 6 year olds can have more interesting answers than you might give them credit for. (Littlest Pickle is usually a little quieter… but I know she’s storing up her opinions… God help us all.)

When asked if they would have rather been only children, they decided that whilst having no one to fight with would be a good thing, they would also have no one else their age to talk and play with, and so on balance… there was a benefit to having siblings.  So much so that, could they please have 3 or 4 more – to spread the love / fun / fighting…? (Um, NO.)

And then the question was: “What habit of your parents will you definitely avoid when you are older?”

And the answer?

Shouting.

They will not shout at their children when they are older. (I will remind them of this!)

Of all the things they could have said, that one struck home.  Yes, much like my mother before me (and much as too I swore that I WOULD NOT SHOUT)  I am a shouter.  And with three stories to the house, that’s a lot of shouting.

But today, there is to be no shouting. I must be quieter. I am quieter – with no option. There is karma here, I know it.

I know that shouting does not work. I know that it just makes them shout back. Louder. It just makes me feel like I am trying to communicate with a brick wall.

I have been trying not to shout for a long time. So, here it is. My enforced period of not shouting.  Can I do something with this? Can I make it work to my advantage? Can I learn something new? I hope so, I really do.

And if nothing else, my fitness levels should improve, as there are a lot of stairs between the kitchen and their bedrooms at the top of the house!

Acceptance – I am resting

I hate being ill.  As far as I was concerned, I don’t DO ill.

It’s tied in to the whole perfectionism / productivity / guilt thing and so I have mostly always just blustered on. I resist it for as long as humanly possible, self-medicate with cups of tea (& red wine and chocolate – very soothing to a sore throat…) and grumpily wait for whatever it is to pass.

I tried that on Sunday.  I did admit to being a little ‘sub-standard’.  I did stay home and watch Paw Patrol with the kids rather than head out to catch up with a friend. But… Hubby just laughed and asked whether ‘sub-standard’ could just be read as ‘ill’. Nope. No way. Not at all.

Except, maybe…

I’m continuing on my daily Headspace journey and on Saturday I got to choose a new series of meditation practice to focus on. I went for Acceptance.

And the question I got asked this morning to meditate & reflect on? “What are you resisting in the world right now?”

Hmmm… It feels like the universe is talking to me.

What if I was resisting being ill. What if I was just failing to accept that actually, I am ill. Just a little bit. Nothing major. But… what would it feel like to accept that? Rather than just resist it as always?

Well, after a couple of delicious cups of tea, a return to bed for a little work (but more importantly, a snooze) and a seriously tasty toasted English muffin (small treat – HUGE pleasure out here) I can say very happily and honestly, that resting up and accepting that I am ill – and therefore might just need to be a little kinder to myself right now – has been a blooming lovely way to spend a morning.

And maybe, just maybe, this resting up will stop a falling over later.  Which has got to be a good thing.

A Fresh Start – start deciding and start doing

Fresh Start
Photo credit: Nicolas Preito

So, that was the year that was. And this is a Fresh Start. Back in Shanghai after what felt like an amazingly long break back in Europe and today, the sun is shining. It’s a good day.

And it has started with small steps, but good ones. Actions, rather than just thoughts.

I have cycled the small people to school and nursery, and it seems that the cycling helped the skiing legs. And the skiing has helped the cycling. I’m not quite as unfit as I give myself credit for. On the days that I don’t work, this is how we get to school. Decision made.

I actually sat and did Headspace. I have found the small amount of time every day (bar one – hubby’s birthday) since we got back from hols. And today it felt especially good. Something clicked and those 10 minutes really gave me what I wanted – some peace, some quiet, some clear space.

I have done yoga. And yes, it nearly made me cry again, but it stretched my legs and my back and my ability to apply effort SO much. And it would have been so easy for me to wuss out. To think that I could just leave it until after Chinese New Year. To some other day. I could have sat and thought and weighed up the pros and cons of going. But instead I just went – and am all the better for going to it. Monday mornings – I do yoga. Decision made.

What other decisions have I made?

Well, from the wealth of year end / new year posts and blogs that I read (including my ever favourite, Brené Brown) I took on the idea of having a ‘theme’ or ‘intention’ for my year ahead. Rather than a smattering of new year’s resolutions, I would try and come up with something that would help define everything I want to do in the year ahead. And so my theme is ‘start deciding and take action.

With all the changes last year, I ended up doing a lot of thinking. Well, now it’s a fresh start. It’s time to put some of that thinking into action and start doing some stuff, rather than just waxing lyrical about it.

What do I want more of in my life?

I want more laughter.

More real connection with those that matter to me (less WhatsApp short sharp messages, more FaceTime really catching up with people.)

More writing.  More reading.

And more challenges to myself to do the stuff that makes me feel ever so slightly uncomfortable / shit scared – even though I know it’s what I really want (and this mainly focuses on me actually developing my own business as a coach.)

How do I let go of what no longer serves me?

Well, back to my theme.

This is my fresh start. I need to stand up, speak out and be brave.

Fear, judgement and exhaustion no longer serve me. I get to decide what I want to do. And then I get to get on and do it. I’ll say sorry afterwards as needed to all those I upset or offend.

And I’ll go slowly. Because I have no need to rush.

What will make me feel more alive?

Being brave!

Completing my Co-Active coach training.

Writing more & hopefully getting published more – see here for my ‘proud’ moment of 2016.

(My other proud moment was going down the Suisses black run for the first time ever.  In this case, pride did indeed come before a fall – as on 2nd attempt, I wiped out HUGELY – wondering quite where I might stop on the mountain side and hoping that it wouldn’t be in the face of the snow blower. And whether my ski would ever be reunited with me. I was lucky on both counts – but it reminded me that I am, in essence, a novice on skis and should not kid myself otherwise.)

Running the Electric Woman workshops, here in Shanghai,  that I’ve been planning for ages now with the wonderful Nikki and the tribe. (This is going to require LARGE amounts of bravery…)

Have I contributed more than I criticised?

Hmmm. This is a big one. And I need to think on.  But as an idea it really got me.

As I look back on last year, can I claim that I had a positive impact? Did I do more good than I moaned about bad?

The jury is out. But I’m still working on the closure and completion of all that last year offered up. So more on that one to come…

But right now? Right now, it’s a fresh start. And I can certainly try to make sure that at the end of 2017, my response to that one will be resoundingly positive.

Happy new year everyone. Here’s to a great one. x

Hope in your Heart

Hope
photo credit:https://unsplash.com/collections/396451/lightnesshope?photo=NzQknDofRpc

Hope in my heart

As the year comes to a close and I’m about to start packing bags to leave Shanghai and head back to Europe (to clarify: for a break, not forever – it’s not like we don’t have a track record of that sort of thing…), there is hope in my heart that next year will be better than this year – and that’s a pretty high bar to set, as on a personal level, I’ve had a corker of a year.

But it’s been a crazy year – where things that would ‘never happen’ have happened, across the globe. And I’ve felt so thrown, so flummoxed by humanity – or the apparent lack of it – that I had begun to wonder whether any single voice was ever loud enough to do any good.

But then music set me straight again – and I had such a great sing along to this song, that I had to include it, and some of the lyrics below – as it just summed up so much for me.

“So tell everyone that there’s hope in your heart
Tell everyone or it will tear you apart
The end of Christmas day, when there’s nothing left to say
The years go by so fast, let’s hope the next beats the last”

So, I’m going to head into 2017 with hope in my heart – and I am going to start talking, quite possibly even shouting, about what matters to me.

Because if I do, maybe someone else will too.

And someone else.

Because being silent provides no forward action. No chance for change, for improvement.

But together, maybe – just maybe, the better side of our humanity can be heard – and hope can prevail.

Happy Holidays!

Hope
Image credit:https://unsplash.com/collections/396451/lightnesshope?photo=gGbGPfbjbgY

The Hardest Part

Hardest Part

So, it’s coming to the end of the year and all sorts of things are drawing to a close.  In a good way.  Getting ready for the fresh start.

I’ve been in Shanghai for 4 months now, and it feels like home – for which I am truly grateful. The first Chinese move, all those years ago, did not end up feeling like home. So this is progress.

It has been an odd week for me though and I couldn’t quite put my finger on why, until I started singing along to the Coldplay track that provides the title to this week’s ramblings… And then it hit me…

“And the hardest part was letting go not taking part…” 

(amazing video as well, you have to wonder who sold the idea into them…)

I left London, and ‘my team’, mid project and this week they delivered the project, with huge success (and great fanfare I am sure) – and I was sat here, in Shanghai, watching the replay of the event on YouTube. (The most amazing part? It looked like the renders that had been drawn up of it all those months ago before I left – and that NEVER happens.)

And I realised that I had kind of being holding my breath out here.  Waiting for this event to come, and pass… so that now I can move on – and let go of some of the guilt (& yes, in all honesty, envy…) that I have been carrying around since I left.

That type of event, occasion, workload, stress, exhaustion, exhilaration – that was my bread and butter for years. Gathering the awesome team, pulling together a million strands, laughter (and tears), aiming to make it ever more engaging, ever more ‘perfect’ than last time – that was what I did. That was who I was.

But I am not that person anymore.

I walked away – made a conscious choice to leave it all behind. The project. The people. (The applause and the post-event thank yous.)

For good reasons. For the opportunity of a family adventure. The chance to redefine who I am and what I do.  (The fact that I even had the chance to make such a choice amazes me.)

But not taking part was indeed the hardest part.

The post event high-fives and slaps on the back, I can happily leave behind (although I did still hunt out, and then love reading, the thank you email of emails from one particularly wonderful client! – Team: remember the real pride in those words).

But the teamwork, the connections made, the emotions felt, the impossibles delivered – not being a part of that was the hardest part.

But now, I can file it away. Know that my loose ends are tied up.  Take a small level of pride from the job well done.

I can move on. Start in on working out what I want to come from 2017 (I will be writing one of these letters) and hope that the the old ‘my team’ are now getting some much needed rest and recuperation – and planning their own amazing futures!

 

 

I am grateful

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…)

Gamechanger

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.

Gamechanger
#StillWithHer

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

Choices

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

Choices

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

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…)

Choices!

…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…