Autumn Falling…

I don’t know about the weather where you are, but here in London, it’s taken a decidedly autumnal turn early. Waaaaay early. So early I wasn’t ready. And I’m ALWAYS ready. Maybe this was the trigger to feeling totally off-kilter this last week.

I spent the week at work plugged into my headphones and working away, working through the blahs (or just ignoring them). It was enough to concern a few colleagues. I’ve earned the reputation of being somewhat of a cheerful soul (say what?) and they sensed I was not myself. Friday, I had the office all to myself and when you’re in a small open-plan office, this is a real luxury. So I revelled in my aloneness and decided I was not going to push it over the weekend. I was going to just relax, and read, and remember all the reasons why I love autumn so much.

IMAG0026

Jumpers. The colour orange. New boots. Mulled drinks. Stews. The smell of wood fires. Toffee apples. Pumpkin anything. Onion soup. Braised red cabbage & apple. Knitting projects. Crunchy leaves.

(My favourite memory of crunchy leaves is the boxful I was sent from a friend at Smith College in Massachusetts. It was my first autumn in New Orleans and let me tell ya, autumn really isn’t a season there. There are lots of things I love about NOLA but autumn isn’t one of them, so that boxful of leaves was the best care package this freshman could have received.)

I spent the weekend reading recipes, spiking my coffee with nutmeg, and mulling over what I should knit next. I’ve got a full-blown case of the warm and fuzzies now. The niggling grayness is hovering at the edges of my vision, but for now, I’m going to smother it in pumpkin spice.

How do you welcome autumn? What are your family traditions?

Re-Adjusting Focus

Yesterday, I wrote about meeting potential after-school carers/nannies, and throwing my worries to the wind (or putting my trust in the Lord, if we go with ma-in-law). Today, it’s back to the drawing board. So what went wrong?

Weeeeellllll…..the first candidate was OK: pleasant, educated, not the most fluent English speaker, but seemed competent. I ranked her a 15/20. The second gave me serious cause for concern. She seemed tired, confused and I had to repeat myself every second sentence. Also, she had a very wet, limp handshake. One of my pet peeves is a wet, limp handshake. Shudder. If the option was her or nothing, well, as I told husband on Skype, let’s just say I’d trust DD on her own.

Instead of this experience truly throwing me, and sending me into a panic spiral, I was just annoyed that they didn’t work out. Breton Bestie and the neighbour have reminded me they can help in a pinch. My old assistant who’s in between jobs has agreed to cover all next week, and another nanny emailed this morning, asking if I still needed help. So maybe this whole ‘worries to the wind’ thing works! I wrote about the compounded effect of a thousand small adjustments and corrections, and the power of small wins and slow gains in a PTSD-recovery post in February. Today, I feel like I’m reaping the benefits of CBT: I think I’ve finally had a ‘normal’ reaction to a setback.

Disclaimer: I still wanted to resort to baking this morning (I went up 4 sizes due to PTSD-related baking after DD was born), but I opted to make one batch of aubergine dip and one batch of chicken liver pate to nourish, rather than numb, myself. Tomorrow, I will experiment with a gooey, gluten-free chocolate something, ready for the #FoodPornThursdays link-up. 

How are you doing? Have you made any small adjustments which have resulted in huge gains? How do you get yourself out of a panic spiral?

Invictus (William Ernest Henley)

Out of the night that covers me,

Black as the pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be

For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance

I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeonings of chance

My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears

Looms but the horror of the shade,

And yet the menace of the years

Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how straight the gate,

How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate:

I am the captain of my soul.

A wonderful reminder for all the bloggers, photographers, bakers, quilters and creators out there:

“Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures”

Henry Ward Beecher

Rotate Your View & Rewire Your Brain

I was reading this incredible article, Neuroplasticity: You Can Teach An Old Brain New Tricks, this morning, and I thought how apt it was for our photo assignment today.

Rotating our thoughts by being mindful of them can lead to new neural pathways and connections in our brain, which can hardwire us to react with happiness, peace & gratitude. Watching my daughter’s near-miraculous recovery has convinced me of what scientists have been saying for 20 years now: the brain is dynamic and can be re-coded, hence the term ‘neuroplasticity’. 

Today is my daughter’s birthday, and instead of wallowing and remembering the trauma of the day she was born, I chose to wallow in her happiness, her delight, her excitement at being 9! I’m anticipating her face when she sees that a long-wished-for book has just arrived. And you know what? I haven’t cried once today. It’s grey & raining and I’m feeling happy. How about that, elastic brain?

Rotate Collage

Original photo was from the Mystery & Light assignment from 2 weeks ago.

Living on the Edge

So, I’ve had two songs running through my head today: Living on the Edge and The Edge of Glory – I really can’t help myself!

Other thoughts this morning:

  • The knife-edge of pain in my hips is gone, which means I can roll over, sleep on my stomach and start running again with two whole hip flexors! Psoas major, I’m glad we’re friends again ❤
  • Nine years ago today, I was on the knife-edge of motherhood, chugging through labour with pizza, an exercise ball and the Friends boxset
  • The terrifying anxiety about working with another bad set of people has faded, and I am excited about putting myself ‘out there’ again. I love being my own boss and I am good at what I do, and I need to get back on the horse.

Edge Collage

Pops of Colour

Red Shoes

AM I STEPPING OFF A CLIFF, ONE KICKY RED PATENT PUMP AT A TIME?

I had a pretty bad setback on Saturday night (Sunday morning?) with a traumatic memory, but I got a handle on it yesterday afternoon and it fuelled my piece for Stigma Fighters last night. I will not share it here as it could be a graphic trigger for someone else, but writing it out eviscerated its power over me. Writing my bio for the piece led me to wonder if what I ‘know’ about my personality, such as the traits I think of as defining, or fixed, are really not, but just reactions and defence mechanisms from embedded memories and traumas?

Thinking about it today hasn’t triggered the same flood of tears, but I’m still feeling hollow. From experience, this will pass in a day or two. I’m celebrating the small wins & realisations that seem to come at me every day. I’m practising new habits, not sweating the small stuff, and generally trying to focus on the good. Eating macarons helps, too!

Raspberry Macaron

Blogger Love!

I got a very lovely notification from Sarah at Just Another Snowflake to let me know I was nominated for a Liebster Award. If you click the link to her blog, it explains that the award is for new bloggers and the idea is to generate more exposure for them, which is brilliant. However, me being me, I’m going to mix things up a little. I’m going to answer the questions and point you in the direction of the great blogs I’ve discovered recently. If you happen to be one of the bloggers I’ve mentioned, please feel free to carry on with the Liebster award, and post it to your blog, or not.

my questions from Sarah:

What is your ultimate blogging goal? I honestly don’t know. It’s the first time in my life I haven’t had a plan, and things seem to be growing very organically. I’m just letting things flow. 

Where is your most favourite place in the world? This is like Sophie’s choice, but I’d probably have to say Reykjavik.

Who is your hero? My husband. No, my daughter. No, my husband. I can’t decide. Me.

Where do you hope to be in 5 years time? Somewhere warmer? Nah, I’m quite content to be back in London for the time being, and 5 years is just too far down the road.

What is your oldest memory? Climbing scaffolding far higher than I should have climbed, and being at the hospital a few hours before my brother was born.

If you had to choose, would you choose TV or internet? Internet. Internet. Internet.

What makes you happy above all else? My daughter. She is everything good, bottled in human form.

Town or country? Town, 95% of the time. Unless we’re in Scotland or Iceland, then I make exceptions.

Has blogging made you more inspired and confident in yourself or your writing? Absolutely. I used to read comments where people went on about the ‘lovely feedback and great support’, and I’d think, “Are you for realsies?” I have now discovered, to my delight, that it’s all true! I’ve found my voice again, which is very affirming.

What is the one fact that you know which no one else does that always sounds really cool? Uhhhhhhhh……………………………ummmmmmm………..

My recent blog-coveries

Amazing images: Angela Seager Images, A Ma Vie De Coeur Entier, BCL Photo

Refreshing writing: Analysis Paralysis, The Belle Jar, Rachel’s Whims

Laugh & cry about the expat life: thesmult, The Expat Partner’s Survival Guide, Waking the Wombat

The gritty honest rebirth chronicles: Shirley’s Heaven, Imperfection is Sexy, The Pickled Pastor

General Deliciousness: Butter Baking, Le Zoe Musings, Architectural Wanderlust

Friday Inspiration

I ❤ TED talks, there’s always something I find to inspire me or make me think. I’m having an up-week (thanks for all the fantastic feedback & welcome to my new followers), so I’ve chosen to share game designer Jane McGonigal’s talk from 2012. Listen closely to what she says about regrets, and post-traumatic growth.

Reality is broken and we need to make it work more like a game. 

~Jane McGonigal

When she found herself bedridden and suicidal following a severe concussion, she had a fascinating idea for how to get better. She dove into the scientific research and created the healing game, SuperBetter. In this moving talk, McGonigal explains how a game can boost resilience — and promises to add 7.5 minutes to your life. Happy Friday!

I blogged about another great TED talk earlier this month; watch it here (Wholehearted: The Power to be Imperfect)