Sleep, child of mine

The featured image is my spirit picture.

It’s The Scream by Edvard Munch. Ed is quoted as saying that The Scream series was inspired by witnessing a fiery sunset and feeling that nature itself was screaming.

I think we all know that what really happened was that his wife returned from putting their kid back to bed for the tenth time in 30 minutes because they “just wanted to tell you something/needed a drink/needed the big girl toilet/need to give you a hug”. And old Ed was like, “Your face is so funny right now. Two secs, let me show you your face.” And so a masterpiece was born.*

Here are some fun facts:

  • One in four married couples sleep in different beds. I bet if they dug into that a little, 99% of that one-in-four would quite like to sleep in the same bed as their significant other. They just don’t get the chance much.
  • Sleep deprivation will kill you more quickly than food deprivation. I have no doubts about that. I may already be dead while I type this. I’m not sure.

You’ve probably figured that we’re having trouble with BC sleeping.

Actually, that’s not strictly true. She’s sleeping fine. She sleeps marvellously if her dad or I am sleeping next to her in her bed. She sleeps like a pro if she’s in our bed.

But she wakes up every night at 3am. And every night at 3am, I have the same internal monologue with myself: Why me? What did I do to deserve this? Was I such a terrible person in a past life that this torture has been heaped upon me? Was it my husband? It was my husband, wasn’t it? What did he do? Punish him. (Said husband is pretending to be asleep so that he doesn’t have to get out of bed. Or respond to the person standing next to him.)

By the way, while I’m on it, why do toddlers insist on creeping around like little murderers? I swear that, when I do get to sleep, I’m only actually half asleep, because the sound of tiny feet padding across my bedroom floor quite frankly scares the shit out of me. She appears. From nowhere. When I’m working, I sit with my back to the door, and she’ll suddenly materialize at my elbow.  I’ve had to angle my laptop and chair to sit at 45 degrees to the door so that I can see the little psycho. And if I do manage to sleep through the sinister padding, I wake to find her face two inches from mine whispering “wake up, wake up, wake up”.

I fell asleep yesterday. At my desk. Watching a training video. I was like some stereotypical college student except I hadn’t been out partying all night.

I used to party all night. A cab ride at sunrise was a frequent occurrence. In fact, I even used to make stupid smug twat comments like, “having a child will be easy, I’m used to pulling all-nighters”. So, why is it so devastating not to get sleep now?

I think it’s because I kind of feel like I deserve sleep now. I spent my youth partying and not sleeping, because “you have a lifetime to sleep” (stupid smug twat). I spent my twenties accruing a massive sleep debt that I was confident would be repaid across the rest of my life… and now I’m faced with this. I am so maxed out. If I were a credit card, there would be a sharply-dressed waiter cutting me up right now in front of a snooty crowd of nosy onlookers, discreetly explaining that the bank has refused to authorise any more payments until the massive six-figure debt has been paid. It will never get paid, Garcon.

And you know what people say when you talk about not getting enough sleep?

“Ah. But do you have a lot of caffeine in the day? Do you drink a lot of coffee?”

Ohhhh, yeah, yeah, you could be righ…HELLO?!!? I JUST TOLD YOU I GOT 3.5 HOURS SLEEP LAST NIGHT! COFFEE IS THE ONLY LEGAL SUBSTANCE KEEPING ME UP RIGHT NOW!**

When we grab a coffee out here, my husband asks for extra shots in his cup. Now, this is New York, so already they run on a gazillion shots in a normal, regular-joe coffee. I think that if you can make a New Yorker say, “you want how many shots of espresso?!”, then you’ve succeeded in life. That was when I knew I had a keeper.

I’ve stopped wearing my Fitbit. It felt like it was taunting me. If you have a Fitbit Blaze, you get sleep insights: little nuggets of information like how many hours sleep you get, what sleep zone you’re in (deep sleep, light sleep, REM) and how long you’re in it for—that kind of thing.

And Fitbit is also super helpful at giving you tips on improvements you can make to get a better night’s sleep.

For example, “Did you know that the average adult gets seven hours sleep each night? You are currently getting less sleep than the average adult needs. Try getting more sleep each night. You’ll be amazed at the difference it will make to your energy. Did you find this tip helpful?”

No. I didn’t. F*#k you, Fitbit.

Several times, at 3.04am, when I’m lying in my daughter’s bed hoping that she falls asleep before I do so that she hasn’t (once again) won this night-time battle, I have looked up whether it’s possible to die from lack of sleep. Short story. You can. Anyway, from the powers of WebMD, I also found out that there are some delightful side-effects to sleep deprivation. These include

  • Reduced pain tolerance
  • Sleep loss dumbs you down.
  • An increase in serious health problems: heart failure, diabetes, the like.
  • Sleepiness is depressing
  • Lack of sleep ages your skin.
  • Sleepiness makes you forgetful.
  • Losing sleep makes you gain weight.
  • And—(Here’s my favourite)—lack of sleep may increase risk of death

So now not only am I tired, but I’m also fat, look older, more likely to die, more prone to serious health problems, have zilch judgment. I’m depressed, forgetful, accident-prone, and stupid.

This is definitely my husband’s fault.

**Update**

I kid you not; I think we’ve made a breakthrough. So, I started writing this post last week. On Wednesday, I gave up on life. I read B a bedtime story and then left her room. I bid her a good night and walked out, told her she could do what she likes and when she feels tired, she can take herself to bed.

She didn’t know what to do with herself. She sat on the floor for about 15 minutes, not daring to move in case this was some elaborate prank. I promise you; I’m not in the habit of pranking my child. But it did make me chuckle that she has such little faith in my character that she thought I might. Mum of the Year. Right here.

Anyway, I was in my office, and I could hear her playing. Every now and then she’d call me to ask me something important (“On my next birthday, can I have an Elsa party?”), or she’d stalk past my office door announcing that she was going to the big girl toilet, but “I don’t need you. I’m just telling you”. We had a couple of tears when she realised I meant business. And then silence. She was fast asleep.

Now this wasn’t as smooth sailing as it sounds here: her normal bedtime was 7pm. By the time she went to sleep it was 10pm. However! We had no 3am wake-up. We had a 5am wake-up, but that is like winning the lottery to me. And last night she was asleep by 8pm. And she appeared at 6am.

6am!!!!

That’s a normal time. For normal people. Human people. Who function in a human people way.

I have no idea what happened to make her take this so seriously.

Maybe Father Christmas has some influence. (If you don’t sleep in your own bed, he will think you don’t live here. And he won’t come in if mummy or daddy are in your room because he doesn’t like grown-ups.) But hey, I have no qualms about lying squarely to BC’s face. It’s a tactic I have used many times—the car won’t start if you haven’t got a seatbelt on; the dummy bunny came and took your dummies away; I have no idea what happened to your sweets—and I’m sure I will continue to use it for many years to come.

Maybe it was that we showed her that she was old enough to take herself to bed, and therefore old enough to stay there?

Maybe I had been optimistically taking her to bed too early in the vain hope of having an evening.

Whatever it was, this week, we’re winning the battle. And we’ve popped several bottles of wine in our new-found freedom to celebrate. True, we haven’t yet adjusted to having a bed to ourselves, and we’re still sleeping on opposite edges, but hey. We’ll get there.

 

*Probably not true.

** I realise that this sounds like other substances are keeping me up that aren’t legal. This is also probably not true.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Oh, balls!

Hi.

It’s been a while.

So, I loved writing my little blog. Mostly because I love writing. Period.

Interesting fact–and by interesting, read “boring thing about myself that I’m going to tell you whether you want to hear it or not”. Since my last post, I have gone back to school. I am currently taking a course at UCSD (Go Tritons! Wooo!) in copy editing, and one of my modules was Grammar Lab. American grammar is different to English grammar. Commas and quotation marks seem to hop all over the place, and I’m constantly getting told to stick Zs in places I’d rather not. Anyway. Reason for the digression is that nearly every American I have met calls a full stop a period. And I think I must be massively stupid because I never knew that that was why people said “period” after stating something. So, there you go. Now I know.

Moving on.

Learning things is part of the reason why I haven’t written in a while.

I got far too busy. Work got busy. My brain got busy. Stuff around the house got busy.

When people asked me why I didn’t write my blog anymore, I used that classic phrase that all of us use when we get busy: life got in the way.

Why didn’t you go travelling?

Oh you know, I meant to, but then life got in the way.

 

Hey, how is that course going?

Ohhh, well it was really great, but, you know, life got in the way. I just got so busy. And life, you know?

 

Why don’t you do that thing that you love at the place that you like?

Life.

 

And everyone will always nod. And wryly smile. Do that little eye roll and head flick. Oh yeah. Life. Getting in the way of stuff again.

Like a commuter that insists on dragging their stupid little wheely trolley suitcase everywhere: getting under your feet, tripping you up. Life. Tut!

So yeah. Life got in my way. And that’s why I stopped writing here.

And then the Significant Other tagged me in something on LinkedIn. (By the way, is it called tagging when you’re on LinkedIn? That feels a little too Facebook for my liking. I’m going to say bookmarked. That feels more pretentious appropriate.) He bookmarked an article on LinkedIn for me.

Anyway. I read it. Because this man never reads, and so I figured that I’d better find out what had rocked his boat seeing that this was the first thing he has ever tagged me in that wasn’t

a) a cheesecake recipe

b) some kind of meat recipe

c) a picture of a holiday destination we’ll never go to

d) something witty about raising toddlers that makes us feel slightly better about life

And what he bookmarked me in (see, how intelligent does that sound?), was a speech given by Brian Dyson, the former CEO of Coca-Cola. (By the way, I’m not even going to go into whether Brian Dyson actually said this or not; LinkedIn told me he did, so I believe it). If you haven’t already heard it, I’m going to give it to you now in its entirety. Are you sitting comfortably? Here goes.

Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air.  You name them—Work, Family, Health, Friends, and Spirit—and you’re keeping all of these in the air.

You will soon understand that Work is a rubber ball.  If you drop it, it will bounce back.  But the other four balls—Family, Health, Friends, and Spirit—are made of glass.  If you drop one of these they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered.  They will never be the same.  You must understand that and strive for it.

Work efficiently during office hours and leave on time.  Give the required time to your family, friends and have proper rest. Value has a value only if its value is valued.

How?

Don’t undermine your worth by comparing yourself with others. It is because we are different that each of us is special.

Don’t set your goals by what other people deem important. Only you know what is best for you.

Don’t take for granted the things closest to your heart. Cling to them as you would your life, for, without them, life is meaningless.

Don’t let your life slip through your fingers by living in the past or for the future. By living your life one day at a time, you live all the days of your life.

Don’t give up when you still have something to give. Nothing is really over until the moment you stop trying.

Don’t be afraid to admit that you are less than perfect. It is this fragile thread that binds us to each together.

Don’t be afraid to encounter risks. It is by taking chances that we learn how to be brave.

Don’t shut love out of your life by saying it’s impossible to find time. The quickest way to receive love is to give; the fastest way to lose love is to hold it too tightly, and the best way to keep love is to give it wings!

Don’t run through life so fast that you forget not only where you’ve been, but also where you are going.

Don’t forget, a person’s greatest emotional need is to feel appreciated. Don’t be afraid to learn. Knowledge is weightless, a treasure you can always carry easily.

Don’t use time or words carelessly. Neither can be retrieved. Life is not a race, but a journey to be savoured each step of the way.

That’s it.

I read it, and then I reread it. And then I shared it on Facebook because I figured that everyone I knew (who was on Facebook) needed to see this. In fact, I started to just ping it to people because I so thoroughly enjoyed it.

And then I sat there and thought about those four areas: family, health, friends, and spirit.

Family and friends—well, I live 3,500 miles from them, so it’s trickier than it used to be. But they’re still there. We talk. We stay in touch. We tag each other in stupid shit. (Tag; not bookmark. It’s Instagram. Nothing high-brow, just eyebrows.) Anyway, I’m as happy with those balls as I can be.

Health—yeah, I’m pretty healthy. Made a couple of diet changes. Feel better for it. Got some new glasses the other day, so now I can see again. Haven’t been ill in a while. That ball’s pretty good.

Then I got to Spirit. Holy crap. If by Spirit they mean “a bottle of cheap, nasty, Tesco own-brand vodka”, then, yes. Yes, I have spirit by the bucket-load. But call me crazy: I don’t think that’s what they meant.

I realised that with all this life stuff getting in the way, being all busy and that, I couldn’t remember when I had last felt like me. I wake up in the morning, and before I even open my eyes, I’m already balls deep in my to-do list: Work balls and Family balls, to be precise.

I go from one task to the next and complete another en-route. And I’m not playing a martyr here, because guess what kids? That’s called being a parent.

But in between all this life stuff, I had dropped the “me” stuff.

The one thing that had always made me happy was writing. And I had dropped it because I was now being paid to write, so I figured why do I need to do it as a hobby? That’s like being an estate agent, and then coming home and playing Monopoly. But funnily enough, writing about avocado oil, mobile phone tariffs, and archery wasn’t hitting my mark. It wasn’t touching my soul. My Spirit ball was sad. My ball was blue.

Do you know what the most ironic thing was? I acknowledged all that, and then STILL did nothing! Mr M showed me that article nearly two months ago! Hey, I got busy. You know. Life.

But today, on World Mental Health Day, seeing all the posts and encouraging words of support for us all to look after ourselves and each other better, and the brave comments from those who suffer and just want to feel like themselves once more, I felt a bit of an idiot for letting life get in the way again.

And so, here I am—back on my blog trail; because this type of writing means so much more to me than just a light-hearted reflection on being a foreigner in another country. You may read about pumpkin patches and weird obsessions with broccoli, but that’s therapy to me. Anecdotes about no one understanding mince pie mix (No, it’s not beef. Yes, it’s mince. No, it’s not pork. Yes, I’m sure. No, look just stop trying to sell me meat), and laundry rooms are my chicken soup. My duvet day.

I’m working on my balls. Even just writing this has raised my Spirit. I’d even go so far as to say I’ve graduated to a Smirnoff.

So, now ask yourself: do you need to show your balls some love?

And if the answer is yes, you know what to do.

PS. when I say “you know what to do”, you know I’m not telling you to crack open a bottle of vodka, right?—that wasn’t the message I was trying to give. At all. So… you know. Just don’t.

PPS. Or if you do, at least mix it with some tomato juice and make a bloody good Bloody Mary with it.

 

Me and my shadow: life at three

BC turned three last week, which means I’ve been a mum/mom for three years now. If this was a university course I would have graduated – and I reckon with a very credible 2:2.

Life with kids is weird, isn’t it? Especially when they’re younger. Depending on their age, they get split into groups; you have babies – and they kind of stay babies until they’re two. Because at that point you have to admit to yourself that you *gulp* nolongerhaveababy. You have a toddler.

I think that this is why we give a name to this age – it’s a coping mechanism. The terrible two’s. This child is no longer doing squidgy baby things. Sometimes, they’re an absolute arsehole – through choice, I hasten to add – and it’s hard to accept that this tiny, weeny thing that you cherished and cradled for hours on end would deliberately want to throw their Pinkie Pie at your head. Or lie on the floor screaming noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo….until they’re are sick. Or blue. Or throw up blue sick (it’s happened – thanks Play-doh)

So, you tell yourself, this isn’t my baby. This is THE TERRIBLE TWO’S.

It used to be that the TT’s was the only pseudonym for an age group – I think that back in the day we were more accepting of our children’s faults. When they were still being a little shit at three and beyond, we resigned ourselves to the fact that they were, indeed, just a little shit at times.

Well, not anymore! Not in this enlightened age of trying to understand these precious little darlings. When they are still being a little bitch at three years old, we now have a reason for this: ladies and gentlemen, I give you the “threenager”.

This is a thing. You can buy t-shirts saying ‘I can’t keep calm, I’m living with a threenager‘,

And you know what, it’s the bloody truth.

Let me explain what a year of ‘two turning three’ looks like.

You start the year with a small, frustrated being. Depending on where they are in their development, they may or may not be walking, they may or may not be talking. Either way, whatever they can or can’t do, you can bet your bottom dollar that they’re pissed off that they can’t do it better. They are angry.

The good news is that during this year, they become less… no, strike that… they become different angry. You get times of reprieve when they can suddenly stand up and walk to something for themselves, and their little self is over the moon. Or, you ask them something and they actually respond (“Where’s your bottle?”, “There.”, “Where?”, “There.”, “….. upside down, spilling juice in my-very-expensive-mummy-needed-to-treat-herself-and-saved-up-forever-for-this handbag?”, “Yes. Jooooooce. In bag.”)

As the year goes on, you find that you get less frustrated rage as they become stronger and more sure on their feet, or their speech comes on and you can understand more and more of what they say – no one else does, mind, but you do. And that’s what counts. Come the end of the year of ‘two’ and you have a small someone who is dramatically different to what you started off with.

What you get, instead, is someone who suddenly realises that they are just like you, and that’s where the fun* starts.

You see, when they realise that they are a mini version of you, they believe that this means they can now act like you.

– They start forming opinions;
“No, not that dress. I want wear this. I WANT WEAR THIS DRESS. I WANT WEAR THIS DRESS”
*holding up Elsa dress*
Well, it is -17 outside and snowing, so I guess that’s pretty apt. Thank you, Disney.

– They like to be a conduit of information;
“Daddy, I want chocolate please”,
“You can’t have chocolate until after lunch”,
“Mummy always gives me chocolate when I’m a good girl”
*Mummy slinks upstairs and pretends that she doesn’t use food as bribery*

– They start to become more aware of their own actions;
[in very full, but deathly quiet public toilet]
“Mummy, I did a poo-poo”,
“Yes, darling.”,
“Do you need go poo-poo?”,
“No, darling. I’m fine”,
“You going wee-wee, mummy?”,
“Darling, just shush now please.”,
“YOU GOING WEE-WEE MUMMY. NOT POO-POO. JUST WEE-WEE.”
*sits inside toilet cubicle for 30 mins to make sure everyone has gone.

This isn’t always a bad (or deeply humiliating) thing – most of the time it’s pretty darn wonderful to see someone grow into their future self; to see them try new things and understand more; to see them learn how to make friends and start to care about people outside of their family.

When it can become uncomfortable (in a different way to when they’re bellowing about your toilet habits), is the simple fact that everything they know, they learnt from you. How they treat things – you. How they talk to people – you. Their manners – you. But these things are just the top of the surface, because I also know people who never say please or thank you, but their kids do. And I have friends who are the kindest, most gentle people I know, yet they have a bulldozer for a child.

Where it really becomes telling and puts you under the spotlight as a parent is when you watch them play – especially when they play Mummy’s or Daddy’s. Because, however they ‘are’ when they are in the Mummy or Daddy role, really is you.

BC was in the bath the other day and we were playing with the obligatory bath toys – as generally happens, the game switched from playing ‘Princesses and Bad Guys’ into ‘Mummy and Daddy’ (not sure if there is something subliminal there – a psychologist could probably read a bucket load of things. I choose to believe it’s because there are only so many ways that a bad guy can steal a Princess before it gets boring).

Anyway, BC doesn’t normally give warning when we switch. The first I’m usually aware of it is because she will say something that makes me realise I am no longer Princess Cinnyella and am, in fact, Mummy Penguin.

How I realised in this game was the following conversation:

[BC is currently bad guy and Princess Sleepy Booty. I am Princess Cinnyella]

BC: “Arghhhh bad guys. Don’t chase me!”
BC: “Come here Princess Sleepy Booty. I catch you”.
Me: “Don’t worry Princess, I’ll save you”.
BC: [waves bad guy at me] I got go work now. My back hurts. Bye
Me: “…. Erm…. Bye(?) bad guy.
BC: “I not bad guy. I Daddy.
Me: “Oh. Okay, bye Daddy. See you later”.
BC: See you later. I go work, you go gym. My back hurts. Bye.

Most of the time Mr M and I find it pretty funny when we see ‘ourselves’ being played out by a three-year old. We’ve come to the conclusion that Mr M’s back hurts a lot and he is often at work, whereas I get asked to make food a lot and wear lipstick.

But every now and then, we hear something that cuts a little close to the heart.

I’ve seen her big Minnie Mouse roll her eyes at her little Minnie Mouse and say with a big sigh “Alright! Fine then.”

I’ve heard BC say “No, I can’t come and play, I go work now”

And these little things are more than enough to put a huge mirror in front of you and show you how your behaviour is being absorbed and translated more than you realise.

Suffice to say that, so far, three has been illuminating. And, in some cases, behaviour-changing.

It’s also been a little claustrophobic. Now that BC is a mini me, she wants to go everywhere I go. And I mean everywhere. I thought I lacked personal space before, but what I had previously was positively cavernous to what I have now.

As I type this, BC is sat on my lap. She has had some part of her body touching some part of mine for pretty much 83% of today. If I say something, she repeats it; word for word; inflection for inflection.

And it doesn’t stop there.

Heaven forbid I kiss or hug my husband because, within seconds, we have little arms wrapped around our knees. And a nights sleep wouldn’t be the same without rolling over and getting a small, three-year-old sized elbow jabbed into your ribs at some point between 3-5am.

But, you know what? Whilst it’s very frustrating at times (and bloody mucky if she’s just eaten some chocolate bribery… which I can neither confirm nor deny may happen sometimes), I have loved every minute of ‘three’ so far – all 5,760 minutes of it.

Because to have someone love you so, so much that they can’t bear to not be within touching distance of you is the most wonderful thing in the world. Truly, the best thing ever about having a three year old is that they are now at an age where they can articulate love.

And it really doesn’t get much better than when you hear a sleepy little voice tell you they love you.

Even if they have just thrown their previously favourite meal on the floor screaming that they don’t like it, and smeared your brand new red lipstick across their white bedspread.

*Definition of fun*

FUN1
1.
having a threenager
“that’s where the fun starts”
synonyms: enjoyable, entertaining, amusing, diverting, pleasurable, pleasing, agreeable, interesting

FUN2
1.
having a threenager
“that’s where the fun starts”
synonyms: not fun, unenjoyable, heartbreaking, wine-inducing, silent screaming

I wish someone had told me this before I immigrated to the US – 13 things that are useful to know if you’re thinking of emigrating in 2017

HAPPY NEW YEAR! *woohoo pop bubble clink*

I haven’t done a classic ‘new year, new me’ post. Or a reflective post looking back at the ups and downs of the year before.

My 2016 had three huge standouts; I got married, I emigrated, and I lost my beautiful Nan.

I’ve already done a post about my Nan. At some point I may well do a post on how to plan a wedding… in six weeks. So that leaves emigration – which is where this whole blog started from.

Across my posts, I’ve touched across various aspects of what it means to immigrate to America – whether that be housing or getting social security numbers; finding a doctor or the nuances of supermarkets. True, they aren’t a Dummies Guide to Emigration but to be honest there are only so many words that can be used to describe ‘I signed a form. And then I signed 10 more’ before it gets dull. Instead, I’ve tried to bring to life the whole process by showing what it actually means to a family with toddler going through this life-changing experience.

So, I am going to write a reflective post, but it’s more of a ‘Damn I wish someone had told me that’ type reflection – and if this post serves to reassure someone who is about to embark on the same feat of insanity that we did last year and help them plan, or just help someone decide whether a move abroad is for them, then I will consider my good deed for the year done! (So if it does, please let me know, otherwise I’ll spend the first part of the year devising back-up good deed plans).

paperwork1. Paperwork

The first thing to know is that this post will not go into detail about all of the paperwork involved in getting over here. And there is a LOT! So much, in fact, that at one point I used it to raise my laptop up a good five inches as the desktop height it was at was hurting my neck! The reason why I’m not going to talk to you about paperwork is because, in all honesty, I know very little about what paperwork you actually need to fill in.

America’s immigration policy means that you can’t wake up one day and be like ‘I’m going to move to America’. You get to move over here for two reasons; 1) you are married to, or are the child of, an American or 2) you move over here for work. I can’t speak about whether you have a ‘family pass’ as I imagine the process is very different, however the great thing about coming over here with work is that the whole paperwork process is handled by your HR department and they will use an attorney who specialises in emigration law. You just get issued with a series of instructions to follow – things like sign here, read this, get married – and they take care of the rest

download-3

2. Oh yeah, you need to be married

We had an incredibly fun wedding booked in Vegas for this June 2017, with a beautiful party to be held when we came back. The thing is, if you (as the person who isn’t going over for a job) wishes to join your partner and move too, you have to be married to said partner at the time of the visa application – the process can’t start until you are. And so, we had to pull our wedding forward several months. The earliest we could get married after finding this out was six weeks later – therefore, six weeks later we were married (it was epic by the way and I highly recommend giving yourself no time whatsoever to think… about anything)

3. The whole American embassy getting a visa process is nothing to be worried about

It really isn’t – your dream team of HR + attorney will tell you exactly what you need to take and you just turn up with the goods. Just remember to take a bank card with you as we had a £110 fee to pay for processing, and me trying to be clever and speed through security, had left my handbag outside with Mr M. Also, if you are sorting out a visa for a child at the same time and they are under three years old, they don’t have to come into the embassy with you – thank god!

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4. Know where you want to live well in advance of arriving and get yourself a realtor before you get there

Do. Your. Research. Know exactly where you want to live – check out the towns, their crime stats, their schools (if relevant), if you will be commuting how long will it take you to get to the city you’re working in – basically if it is important to you, find out. Believe it or not, we found our town by the incredibly inventive long tail search term ‘Towns that are less than an hours commute from downtown New York and that are great for families‘ and lo and behold, there was an article online called ‘Top 20 New Jersey commuter towns for families‘ on a website called NJFamily.com. Job done.

We then used an American version of Rightmove called Zillow, found some properties we liked and contacted the realtor explaining our situation. John from Sotheby’s was blimming amazing; he spent the next couple of months sending us over properties so that we could get an idea of what was available, and the day after we landed we viewed three properties with him and ended up taking the first one we saw.

This was a godsend. I’m sure companies differ, but a pretty standard support seems to be that they will ‘put you up’ for 30 days whilst you look for somewhere to live. And 30 days is a good amount of time, right? WRONG! 30 days is the shortest amount of time ever known to man if you must have somewhere for your furniture (which has been in transit for the last 10 weeks) to be delivered to. And bear in mind that you will need to have credit checks done on you before you get accepted for a rental, and the house you want may not always be available immediately. Do your work upfront for this.

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5. Banking is a b*&ch!

Jeez! Okay, to be fair, it turns out that we had an absolute muppet looking after us when we set up our bank account out here and hence why we had so many problems (he’s since been fired – not because of us, I hasten to add… or at least, I don’t think so), but it was doubly compounded by the fact that the same bank in England had also given us entirely incorrect information about setting up an account in advance of moving. I won’t name the bank except to say that there aren’t that many international banks to choose from. With four letters. So, if you are dealing with said bank – or any bank, to be fair – double-triple-quadruple check that they have given you the right information. And again, research as much in advance as you can. Most banks need you to have had an account open for a minimum amount of time before you can use their international services. Also, beware of hidden caveats – often you can only benefit from the good stuff ie free international transfers, if you pay in over a certain amount annually.

However! Don’t despair – there is a great service called TransferWise and these guys offer a better exchange rate and substantially cheaper transfer fee (think £3 versus £25 with a bank) so if you do still have money in a UK account that you need to regularly access, I would recommend not fretting about finding an international bank and instead find the best bank for you, and use TransferWise for the rest.

6. You are, in effect, 18 again

Yes, you have zero credit whatsoever when you emigrate. I can’t talk about how it works elsewhere in the world, but certainly in America your credit rating is zero when you arrive, regardless of what your credit rating was in the UK. If you have racked up years of bad credit and unpaid student loans, you’re pretty much laughing. If you’ve done your best to build credit and behave impeccably it’s incredibly galling but you just have to suck that up and get over it *takes a deep breath, counts to 10*.

It’s not doom and gloom, though – they seem to be used to expats being over here, so many of the car sales garages and real estate companies will offer credit in exchange of your company coming forward as a guarantor, so make sure you ask them about this.

What this does mean, of course, is that everything costs a small fortune. Need car insurance? Sure thing – that’ll be $2,500 a year please because you have no credit history. Need a phone contract? You can’t have that, but you can do pay as you go. You’re not entitled to this interest rate, you haven’t been here long enough. You’re not entitled to this offer, you haven’t been here long enough.

The good thing is that they re-evaluate credit every six months out here, and so we are coming up to hopefully paying slightly less per month than a 17-year old who has just passed their driving test…. and had three crashes already.

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7. It costs a lot of money – your disposable cash flow takes a serious dent

It is not cheap to emigrate. You may be lucky and your company may stump up some contribution to it, but that still doesn’t take into account general ‘stuff’ you’ll want to buy; Christmas decorations; decking out your cupboards with cutlery and crockery; stupid things like clocks and rugs and photo frames – stuff that you left behind because shipping costs are expensive; all new electricals because you can’t run your whole home off travel adaptors. I know, I’ve tried.

Then there are taxes. And tipping. And random things that cost a lot more; like shampoo and deodorants. Plus, the fact that you have no family over here so all of a sudden you are paying for babysitters any time you do go out, which is an instant $80-$100 straight onto your bill that night. Add to that your credit (or lack of) and you very quickly get used to spending a lot of time together in parks and other free stuff.

I can’t even moan about this – I know that Mr M has plenty of WTF moments when we can’t do some of the stuff that we used to do, but I think that this is actually very good for us. I like it.

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8. Talking of shipping….

If you are going to spend money on anything, spend it on this. Get yourself a great shipping company. We had the bloody best – they’re called Green Worldwide and I can’t recommend them enough. Look for a company who will do an evaluation beforehand (these guys did it by Skype so it didn’t even inconvenience us) so that you have an accurate expectation of cost. Look for a company with a slick process – on leaving day, ours came around and they packed everything. EVERYTHING. In about 2 hours. You obviously have to do the things that you want in boxes like the smaller items and your clothes etc but they packed up our sofas, our huge 6ft mirror, and our glass-topped dining table (just to name our most delicate things).

Look for someone who will keep you updated on where your ship is and what’s going on – we used to get regular email updates on whereabouts our belongings were and how long they should be expected to take. This not only reassured you that your belongings aren’t at the bottom of the sea, but also is rather exciting – like a countdown to Christmas… if one of the risks of Christmas was that the day might never turn up.

Finally, on D-Day (delivery day) not only did they unpack everything (which was all intact – mirror and glass table and all), they also took any rubbish away that they could. But that’s not all – and this is the clincher – they helped us build our bed. Which would have taken forever just us two, and took about 20 minutes with four strong men + power tools. And when you’ve been sleeping on a mattress on a floor for three weeks, words can not describe how wonderful this is.

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9. Social security numbers and the myths around this

In America, you can’t do anything without your social security number (SSN). And when you’re preparing to move out here, a lot of sources say you have to go and apply for this literally the moment you get off the plane.

RELAX

You don’t. In fact, there’s no point applying until 10 days after you arrive as it takes that long for your details to get passed through to the ‘database’ from your arrival. So, again, relax. Don’t fret. Just find your local social security office so that you know where it is, and then spend the next 10 days doing other stuff…. like looking for houses. When you do go to apply, make sure you check the Social Security website for what documents you need to take with you, and always make sure that you have originals. Or else one of you will have to take a long cab back to your hotel just to get the wedding certificate that you thought your husband had brought along, when in fact it was a copy…. hypothetically, speaking.

10. Sign up with Uber. Or Lyft.

Doesn’t matter which. But until you get a car you are screwed for transport and trust me, you’ll need transport. This by far the most convenient and simple way of getting around, and if you need anything at this point, its convenience and simplicity. And maybe a large glass of wine.

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11. Schools – where on earth do you start?

My advice – and please note that I can only speak from the viewpoint of a mum to a two-year old, so I don’t know what the process is for older children yet – would be to wait until you’re there to make the call on this one. You would probably rather get a feel for the school, the teaching staff, the other pupils. You would probably rather drive through the neighbourhood that the school is in. You would probably rather see your child in the environment to see how comfortable they feel.

Something to note is that, unlike in England when children start Reception at age four, kids over here don’t start Kindergarten until they’re five years old – or even Grade One when they’re six years old. Before that it’s pre-school and Pre-K and these are paid for by the parents – none of it is subsidised. It’s also really unusual to find anywhere that takes kids from younger than two-years old.

Finally, from what I can gather, it’s similar to England in that it’s a bit of a postcode lottery and where you go to school depends on where you live, so this is another thing to bear in mind when speaking to your realtor.

 

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12. Driving driving

I haven’t yet taken my driving theory test, so this section is going to be short and sweet, suffice to say this:

You will need to take a theory test – if you have a British driving license you won’t have to take an actual ‘driving’ test (in a car park and all), but you do need to take a theory test to demonstrate that you know the rules of the road. And the rules of the road varies from state-to-state.

You have three months to apply for an American driving license and then a further 90 days to take your actual test

One thing to note – if you are the dependant on the visa (ie your other half is the reason you have a visa) you will not be able to take your test without them being there in person. I know. It’s ludicrous. You’re not ten years old. But apparently you are when it comes to driving.

Incidentally, I love, love, love the people here but, dear god, it seems like hardly anyone in NJ can drive. Across one weekend in December I saw three car crashes and what felt like 300 very near crashes. Be careful and stay safe.

 

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13. Finally, something really important! I mean, super important!

Learn how to take a compliment.

Americans are the most complimentary nation I have ever come across. They like your shoes? They’ll stop you in the mall and tell you. They like your gym pants? They’ll pause you mid barre class and tell you. Your hair. Your lipstick. Your child. If they like it, they’ll tell you. It’s wonderful. Or at least it would be if I wasn’t British and completely inept at taking a compliment.

But Americans don’t get that. A ‘god no, I look a state’ is met with confused bewilderment. They clearly don’t think so, they wouldn’t have said it if they didn’t mean it. So they just think you’re a bit of a weirdo if you say anything other than ‘thank you’. So, just say thank you.

 

And that’s it, really. I mean, clearly this isn’t the be all and end all of moving abroad, but it’s what I’ve learnt in the last few months and it would have made a deal of difference to me if someone had told me this stuff.

One thing that I can say is that this has been the most scary-amazing thing I have ever done. And I would do it again and again. I love it for its weirdness, its unpredictability, its adventure, and its newness.

I love it for helping me to see how amazing my family and friends are for understanding and supporting this move – obviously, I knew they were wonderful, but nothing separates your mates from your true mates like a 3,000+ mile move.

I love it for how lucky I am to have this opportunity. And if you have this opportunity and it sounds right up your street, go for it! Do it! You won’t regret it.

Peace and love and have a happy, healthy 2017.

It’s Christmaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaas! 26 reasons why an English Christmas is the best Christmas.

This is my first ever Christmas away from ‘home’. Except that’s not strictly true, because I am celebrating it in my home – it’s just a new home several thousands of miles away from our old one.

Less than 48 hours off of the big day and already I’ve run up a list as long as my arm of things that are very different – and maybe that’s a good thing. It makes an English Christmas extra special because these are things that I can only get back there. In the other ‘home’.

I’m not bashing an American Christmas – far from. The spirit that everyone gets into over here is amazing – the effort that people put into their house lights and decorations are straight out of National Lampoon. And everyone, everywhere, wishes you a happy holidays. But there is just something about a Brit Crimbo that you can’t get anywhere else.

So, in the age old style of end-of-yearness, I’m going to do my countdown of why an English Christmas truly is the best Christmas:

26. The Christmas number 1, who will it be? A school choir? A Craig David puppet with his own kestrel? The song about the futility of existence – thanks Mad World for that cheerful contribution? Who knows.

25. Proper stuffing – I have no words to explain what is considered stuffing out here. Thank goodness a friend sent a pack over in a care package. It might not be the posh stuff I normally treat myself to at Christmas, but Paxo, you have just saved Christmas dinner.

24. Harry Potter on Christmas day – I never watch the Christmas Day film. I’m usually cooking, eating, or drinking. But just knowing that it’s there is somewhat comforting.

23. The Queen’s speech – See Harry Potter on Christmas Day

22. Mince pies – there are none anywhere and you can’t even make your own. Mincemeat doesn’t exist out here. To be honest, trying to explain mincemeat to someone who has never heard of it is the most impossible thing in the world – no wonder they’re confused.
‘So what meat is in a mince pie? Beef?’
‘No, it’s not mince. It’s mincemeat
‘…..?’
‘It’s fruit’
‘Mincemeat is fruit…..?’
‘Yes’

21. Christmas cake and

20. Christmas pudding – both of these fall into the same category as above. Fruit soaked in booze and baked into a cake doesn’t seem to be a thing out here. And if I’m wrong, please, please someone let me know. And yes, I know I can bake one but I didn’t know three months ago that I would need to.

19. Boxing Day – doesn’t exist out here. So no Boxing Day means no…

18. Boxing Day leftovers, which you eat whilst watching…

17. Boxing Day films. I mean, there are leftovers. And films. But without a Boxing Day, they are just that – leftovers and films. Which is pretty much just a standard Sunday morning for me.

16. Trifle – I LOVE trifle. Refer back to the boozy fruits question.

15. Brandy cream – You can get brandy cream out here. Except it’s called Eggnog. And you drink it. I can see how this went down. Once upon a time, an American came to England one Christmas and was given a slice of Christmas pudding with brandy cream. The American was won over – this was the best thing he’d ever tasted. When he got back to America he realised that actually no one really likes boozy fruitcakes and also, they have to be made three months before and he is way too busy preparing for Halloween in September. So he thinks screw the pudding, I’ll just have the brandy cream. He ponders as to what he can pour his brandy cream over – he tries candied yams (see number 11) but it doesn’t really work. So in the end he thinks f*ck it, sticks it in a cup, adds some bourbon and lives happily ever after. And that’s how eggnog came to America*

14. Tesco finest gravy – at Christmas the granules are out and ‘proper’ gravy stock is in. And Tesco always seemed to be pretty good at it.

13. Saint Agur cheese – I’m being picky now. I’m not a cheese person. I couldn’t even tell you what type of cheese Saint Agur is. But all I know is that someone always whips it out at Christmas, and I always eat it.

12. Yorkshire puddings – I wouldn’t really expect them to be available out here, which is fine, the clue is in the name. Plus, Mr M is probably the best Yorkshire pudding maker I know, so we have that covered. However, trying to find a large enough muffin tray is proving problematic.

11. Sausage rolls – I always make these myself and until I moved out here I didn’t appreciate just how amazing British sausages are: pork and sundried tomato; pork, cheddar and onion chutney; Sicilian pork, chilli and fennel. I miss sausage rolls. A lot.

The top 10, starting with
10. Streaky bacon – I can’t find streaky bacon. I can find uncured honey-maple glazed, but I can’t find streaky. And everyone knows you need streaky bacon for…

9. Pigs in blankets – if these aren’t on my Christmas table then it is NOT Christmas.

8. Roast potatoes – our good friends in Washington illustrated America’s familiarity with roast potatoes better than I ever could. At Thanksgiving, we told them we were bringing roast potatoes, and when they relayed this back to a fellow Brit, they described it as ‘they’re bringing some sort of roasted potatoes? I’m not sure what they are’. To which his reply was standard Brit. ‘They’re potatoes. Roasted’. Nope, the equivalent of roast tatties over here are candied yams. Sweet potatoes. Sprinkled with sugar. I’m not even sure I have this right, but that’s all I’ve been able to find.

7. London Christmas lights – sorry New York but London wins the Christmas lights stakes hands down. New York has amazing individual displays (Saks 5th Ave love, love, love), but for an overall ‘Oh wow!’ moment, nothing can beat Oxford Street, Regent Street and Carnaby Street.

6. Harrods – Everything. About. This. Place. The light display, the singer that stands on the little balcony overlooking the escalators, the Christmas tree decoration I buy every year… Harrods = Christmas.

5. Christmas versions of everything – every single supermarket wheels out their Christmas editions. Christmas orange juice, Festive Percy Pig (and friends), Yuletide tiger bread, Mistletoe Marmite. You name it, we festive-ise it in the UK. We kind of do the same thing out here in the states – except everything is candy cane flavour. Or eggnog flavour. Or candy cane spiced eggnog flavour.

4. Roses chocolates – Oh how I miss my tin of Roses. Someone, please send me one. I’ll even settle for Quality Street.

In at number three…. Pubs. Dear god I miss pubs. It is the strangest thing to have a beautiful winters day and not have somewhere to walk to just to have a glass of wine. With a fire. I miss pubs!!!!!!!!!! *waaaaa emoji face*

And then, of course, numbers 1 and 2; our family and friends. Skype, Facetime, WhatsApp – however you stay in touch – never can or will beat a good old face-to-face and hug with the people you love most. But it does help, and I’ll take seeing someone through a screen over not seeing them at all any day.

So, that’s a ‘wrap’ (sorry – Christmas cracker joke… come to think of it, I haven’t seen any Christmas crackers out here either). Wish us luck at getting through our first foreign Christmas. There is one thing that we are knocking out the ballpark over here – we are having Turducken. Turkey, duck, and chicken. All rolled together. I don’t know how, but this will be epic, I’m sure.

All that remains is to wish you all a healthy, happy Christmas. I hope you get to spend it with your favourite people and have lots of love and laughter – because that really is the best thing about Christmas.

And, thankfully, that’s not just a Brit thing.

*This story has no factual evidence whatsoever.

Service and (s)miles

This week, Christmas came early in my household.

A town about 10 minutes from my house has recently opened a new shopping precinct, so we went to take a look whilst we were driving past.

As we drove in, we see a Target and a Whole Foods NEXT TO EACH OTHER *cue beam of light and angel singing music*. And I’m done – this is where I shall do my shopping between now and eternity.

There is a lot of flack given over here to people who shop at Whole Foods – similar to the kind given to people who shop at Waitrose in England. I happened to be a Waitrose shopper. I used to follow up every time I said I shopped at Waitrose with an almost apologetic ‘there’s one in my town – it’s easy to get to’.

I can’t make that apologetic statement over here because everything is car distance away, and so now I have to actually tell the truth about why I shop at Whole Foods (and previously Waitrose)…. I just plain darn like the experience more.

I’m not talking about the other people shopping there – I know for a fact that regardless of whether you’re in WF or Walmart you will see mums having that moment where they snap at their toddlers tantrumming in the aisles; a bellowing mum is no indication of how posh or not a shop is. It’s the service. The service simply appears to be better when you ‘pay’ for it. And if that means an extra 50 cents for my eggs, or dollar for my sausages – heck, I’ll pay. I don’t care.

American service is a funny old thing. In England, America is heralded as the holy grail of service delivery. Having lived out here for 5 months now, I can tell you, it ain’t!

And it also is.

Let me explain.

These are the types of experiences I’ve had out here:

  • Incredible people skills, pretty rubbish at other stuff – Wonderful, smiley, friendly people who welcome me into store, have a chat about what I’m doing that day, where I’m from etc. Then they completely f**k up my order, haven’t actually listened to what I was there for, deliver a broken television that had been previously used, deliver the wrong television, and who fail to even say sorry when we call to try to sort it…. as an example.
  • Terrible people skills, incredibly helpful – or the American-Brits as I think of them in my head. These guys don’t smile all that much, are polite albeit not friendly – sometimes they even act like I (the customer) am in their way and pretty much ruining their day. But they are damn efficient and if you need anything, they are on it and they get sh*t done. This is how I feel English service is – I’ll be honest, being the anti-social person that I am, I’m not one for small talk but I do like to walk out of a shop with what I went in for and without wanting to kill anyone come the end of it. I like grumpy helpful people.
  • Then you have the mecca – people who are friendly, helpful, and who actually can do their job well.

And this what I pay for when I shop in WF. Food is food, I’m not going to pretend that I shop there because the produce is more organic than anywhere else, or that they only carry a certain brand that I like (which, incidentally, they do – hello Teapigs!) I shop there because I like people who treat me, and more importantly my daughter, nicely.

Doing anything in public with a toddler evokes many reactions.

If you’re in a shopping centre, the people who man the stalls in the middle of the walkways instantly target you as the person who most likely wants to buy the face cream, hair serum, or glow-in-the-dark laces that they are selling – despite the fact that you have a screaming child and twenty shopping bags hanging off a flimsy stroller.

If you’re in a busy walkway and you have a pushchair, you are a nuisance. I’ve had people actually step over BC whilst she has been sat there. I’m trying to train her to grab their foot when they do this, but so far success has been slim to middling.

Depending on whether your child is smiling or crying you either have people beaming or scowling at you.

Planes are the best; on planes, people visibly roll their eyes at you when they see they are sat next to you. Incidentally, there’s no need with BC – she may be a child of satanic behaviour when I’m trying to get her in the car in the morning, but she actually really enjoys airports and flying. And to their credit, I have had eye-rollers admit post-flight how much they were dreading her company but that she had proved them wrong. And I smile wryly knowing that 11 hours of good behaviour for them equals a toddler full of pent up naughtiness for me.

So, what I’m getting at is that you become sensitive to your surroundings when you have a small person in tow. You may not give a flying about what people think, but you become aware that people do think. And this in turn reflects on how they behave.

Call me crazy, but someone who doesn’t snarl at me or my child is always going to be more preferable than someone who does. And anyone that smiles at BC is always going to be onto a winner with me. Couple that with someone who helps me get my shopping done with a) no tears – from me or BC, b) everything intact, and c) in less than five hours, and I will be your customer for life.

And you know what? It also makes me more pleasant. When I have been anywhere and have experienced the other shoppers being less than nice, I would hazard a guess that 9/10 times this is because they are in an environment where they are made to feel less than nice – not because they are not nice people.

So, in the run up to Christmas-time, where shop assistants are pushed to their limits – as someone who used to work in Marks and Spencer*, I get that. I do – and where customers are also pushed to their limits – as a mum of a two-year old, I get that. I do – let’s all spread a little bit of festive spirit and cut everyone a bit of slack.

Let’s smile at the parents who are on the edge of wrapping their child up and leaving it in the store under the tree full of fake presents. Let’s not huff and puff at the person in front of us who has got to the till and remembered that they need something that the shop assistant has to go and get. Let’s be kind to the shop assistant that has just had to go and get whatever said item was, fully aware that there was a queue full of huffing and puffing people eyeballing them.

Because despite the 3,000+ miles that separate us – whether we’re Brits or Yanks (or Australian, my brother lives in Australia so should probably shout out to him, too) – we’re all in the same onslaught that is the festive season. And no-one wants a blue Christmas.

*For my American friends, I have no American equivalent for M&S except that it’s kind of like Macy’s but sells only own brand stuff, and kind of like Target but a bit posher.

BFFs IDST*

How do you make friends as a grown up?

Do you ever stop to think about how you first became friends with someone?

The kids you knew from childhood are pretty easy – you probably had to sit next to them on the carpet. Or their surname was before or after yours in the alphabet. You walked the same way to or from school. You played in the same weekend sports team. Or you were just at that age where it was perfectly acceptable to say to someone ‘will you be my friend?’.

And your work friends are probably even simpler. When you spend eight hours a day in the company of someone, it’s pretty hard to entirely dislike them – not impossible, mind – but they do have to be a massive douche bag for you to be able to spend so much time around someone and STILL want to poke them in the eyeballs with something sharp.

I’m talking about friends that you make outside of school and work – friends that you do stuff with. Through choice. These are what me and my best friend group affectionately call ‘WTF you have OTHER friends?’.

I ask this because I’ve just come back from a bit of a whirlwind two weeks – hence the stone cold silence on the posting front.

We spent three days in Washington DC over Thanksgiving with – you guessed it – friends. And actually we were incredibly creative and called it Friendsgiving.

Our friends who live in DC are our American very BFFs, and I remember exactly how we met them as it was only in June this year. Mr M and I were in Barcelona for the grand total of 32 hours. We started chatting to these guys at our hotel bar and proceeded to spend 15 of those 32 hours getting pretty plastered with them. When we moved to NJ, they came into NYC for a work trip and so we met them in the city and proceeded to spend another 12 hours getting plastered with them. Which clearly lays the foundations of a blimming fantastic friendship as they invited us to spend Friendsgiving with them and we now couldn’t imagine not knowing them.

To caveat the above, my husband and I hate making friends – we’re incredibly anti-social and would rather set fire to ourselves then have to be nice to people we don’t know. Apparently, so do our DC friends. So how come we clicked?

*Cue eye-rolling/gagging/shaking of heads*

I massively believe in soulmates.

This is one of those beliefs that truly makes me happy when I think about it. I am head over heels in love with the idea that in this big old world of people, somewhere there is someone (or two, or three, or fifty) that you are destined to meet and become friends with. And that no matter where you are, where you live, how old you are, what your family make up is; you will meet this someone (or two, or three, or fifty). And that you may even have met them in passing, and not known that someday this person will know every last thing about you.

In my oldest best friend group (five of us – like the Spice Girls) we have been friends as a group for about 20 years. We’ve been best friends since the day we were born.

Joke.

Since the day after.

I wish.

We became best friends some time after being born.

Anyway.

It quite simply astounds me that I have known someone, other than my mum, for 20 years – most likely because I still consider myself to be somewhere in the 21 years old region. Joke. I wish. Anyway. We all met through school – obviously – and became friends in that way you do just because you have the same taste in music, you’re equally crap at sports, you all hate the same person – you get my gist. A solid basis for a 20 year friendship.

My other two best friends are newer and I met both through boyfriends. And what I love most about this is that when you first meet one of the ‘girlfriends’, you instantly check them out, but you don’t really sit there and think ‘I’m going to be your very best friend’. Well. Maybe if you’re a crazy chick you do. But, you know, crazy chicks are fun.

The reason I bring my best friends up is because straight after Friendsgiving, I flew back England-way for the first time since become an alien.

We did that cliche thing of seeing each other, squealing, hugging, saying ‘how have you beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeen?’, and five minutes later saying ‘it’s like you’ve never been away’.

And this is why I love them so much – because, as naff as it sounds, these are the people in your life who aren’t your family (except they are) and it can be 10 minutes or 10 years between seeing each other yet nothing changes.

Which takes me back to the first line of this post – how do you make friends as a grown up?

Let me add to that. How do you make friends as a grown up…. when you move 3,000 miles away and don’t know a soul?

Before I moved here, I gave myself a good talking to. I decided that I was going to be ‘not me’. I was going to be nice and friendly and sociable. I would go to the children’s groups, and make small talk with the people in the gym. I wouldn’t even go to the gym – I would do the classes so that I could make gym-class friends.

It took me about a week to accept that I’m a miserable sod who doesn’t really like people. I’m shit at small talk, and there is possibly nothing in this world less sincere than my voice when it says ‘we should do coffee sometime’.

I started to think I had a problem – why don’t I want to make friends? I think other people started to think I had a problem, too. I got asked things like ‘but aren’t you lonely?’, ‘what do you do with your time, though?’, ‘who do you hang out with?’, ‘don’t you miss having friends?’

Well, the last two weeks have helped me answer that without coming to the conclusion that I’m a social mess.

I haven’t mentioned two people yet. Mr M and BC. I know some people think it’s incredibly sad to consider your child your friend. But you can eff off, because I do. And I think it’s generally accepted that the person that you choose to spend the rest of your life with is a bestie. When we lived in the UK we rarely spent much time together as a unit – it was usually two of the three of us, in any combo you like. Here, where we barely know anyone, we actually get to spend time together. We do things all three of us. We like each other a lot more than we did (and that was a lot). And it’s the best thing ever,

And I don’t ‘miss having friends’ because the girls are still there – albeit a little further away and five hours ahead in time zones. But they’re exactly as they’ve always been. So I don’t really feel like I need to find any more friends – I’m incredibly blessed with the ones I have.

I figure, if I make any more, that’s a bonus. Bonus friends. Briends.

Incidentally, this is also a reason why I don’t have too many – because anyone that merges two words into one is probably a bit of a twat, and therefore only fellow twats would tolerate this… This is probably a good time to tell my best friends how much I love them – you beautiful twats.

Or bwats.

*Best friends forever. If destroyed still true.

Reflections of a preemie mum: three years on

Today is National Prematurity Awareness Day.

Three years ago I had no idea that this day even existed. Fast forward six weeks later, and my daughter was born, just under 12 weeks early – and the words ‘prem’, ‘preemie’, and ‘premature’ became my world.

When BC was born, I ended up reading so, so much – I had a gazillion questions that I needed answering and as I was sat next to an incubator for 12 hours a day, I had plenty of time on my hands! I needed to understand how this could happen; I needed to know what the implications were from being born so early; I needed to understand what had happened to other babies born at 28 weeks.

At the time, if I’m honest, I didn’t really care when I heard about parents whose prem babies were now 10 years old – I couldn’t even get my head around looking that far ahead.

And if I’m really, really honest I did think a little to myself “so what, get over it – they’re clearly fine if they’re 10”. What it never occurred to me was that the child may be completely fine, but maybe the parent wasn’t – something which has now hit more painfully close to home.

In the weeks and months after a prem birth you go on auto pilot.

She became my new job. My vigil by her bedside kept me sane and gave me something to do in a situation where there was barely anything that I could be useful for. I made it my mission to live each day by little wins; how many desats, oxygen volume levels, heart rates, weight gained – any of these numbers could make or break a day and I monitored them all as intensely as any of the nurses or doctors on the ward did – yep, I was THAT pain in the arse. I wasn’t allowed to hold her for the first week, and for the next 3-4 weeks after that we could only hold her maybe twice a day tops, and then for only 20 minutes at most, so this really did become all-consuming. Hence, all the reading, I guess.

You feel very aware that you constantly have to keep friends and family updated on what’s going on – even if you don’t know yourself. And, really, no one wants to hear bad news – obviously – and so you spend your time either trying to make someone understand that a day with no change is just as much of a win as a day when the oxygen volume can come down, or else working out whether you should say that BC was having a blood transfusion later that afternoon or not. You become the comforter for people who are as bemused as you are by what has happened.

And you have to deal with A LOT of stupid things being said to you. Things like ‘well she was so tiny she must have just popped out’ or ‘at least you didn’t get fat – you’re lucky’ – both things that were actually said to me, word for word. I am truly at a loss for words to describe what I think of these comments – and not even the C-word is strong enough (plus my mum reads these and I would get so told off for using it!) – suffice to say, for the record, NEVER EVER EVER say these things to a mum that has just given birth prematurely. Never. Ever.

All of these things keep your head and your body busy whilst you’re in the hospital and then when you come home, you’re just desperate to experience ‘normal’.

You push aside the last few weeks. It feels too dramatic – and also very selfish – to think about how traumatic what you have just gone through has been on you. After all, you’re one of the very, very lucky ones because you were able to walk out of that hospital – however many weeks later – carrying a baby, and not everyone is so fortunate.

I read so much literature about the grieving process when you give birth early – and it’s so, so true. It’s the weirdest feeling – if you’re lucky enough that your baby is crazy strong and survives being born so early, how dare you grieve? But you do.

You miss the kicks that used to come at the same time every day – I was sent home the day after giving birth and I remember lying there in bed with my hand on my tummy, and I had forgotten that I had given birth – true story – and I genuinely expected to feel her kick. Incidentally, I kept forgetting that I had given birth the whole day that BC was born – this may sound beyond ridiculous, but I had had a very straightforward birth except for the fact that she was so early. We arrived at the hospital and 26 minutes later she was here, and then I was wheeled into a room and we just had to wait – we weren’t allowed to see her for about 6 hours – so we’d get chatting and then all of a sudden it would hit me that I had a baby. And then we’d get chatting. And then it would hit me again.

You miss the classes that you never got around to taking. I remember meeting the group of parents who had babies all due the same day that I was; I saw them on the day when I was supposed to be with them, all of us being shown the ward and whatnot. They were being shown the special care baby unit ‘doors’ as I was going inside – they weren’t allowed actually in there, you see. BC was 6 weeks old at this point and it blew my mind that I knew exactly what their babies looked like the other side of their tummy, because mine was on the other side of that door.

You miss the stupid things – what it would feel like to be so huge that you just wanted to get this baby out. Getting a nursery ready. Having people tell you you’re getting big.

What I read a little about, but didn’t pay too much attention to, was PTSD – post traumatic stress disorder. I didn’t understand this – I’d given birth, not gone to war. I hadn’t been in a horrendous accident. I hadn’t witnessed anything horrific. And actually I was doing just fine – I think I cried twice the 9 weeks that BC was in hospital, and I don’t remember crying at all when she came home.

Once, I went to a baby group for mums who had had prem babies and I couldn’t bring myself to go back again. It made me mad that two, five, seven years on they were STILL talking about it, and were visibly moved and damaged by what had happened. I was so angry at them – they were the lucky ones, they got to bring their baby home and their baby was now a full grown child. How on earth can they be so ungrateful that they cling on to the past – it’s not fair on their child, not fair on their families. These people, I thought to myself, are the people who claim that they suffer PTSD. Well, no thank you. I want to surround myself with positive people like me.

Fast forward 3 years and I’m there. I so get where they were coming from. And, although I never in a million years said what I thought out loud to them, I apologise from the bottom of my heart for being such a douche-bag.

You see, your body and mind have a way of dealing with things and getting the job done. When you’re looking after a little baby, you need to be present. You have a job to do. So, your body has a clever way of delaying all the shit that you need to deal with for a time when you can.

And for me, that was when BC became a toddler.

I think she’s bloody amazing – and please don’t get me wrong, I certainly don’t look at her and think, ‘wow, you can do all this despite being born so early’.

In fact, this is one thing I have never done. I have never looked to justify how she measures up and what she can or can’t do as her actual age (ie being born on her birth date) versus her ‘corrected’ age (which means how old she would be if she was born on her due date). I’ve always been of the mindset that kids just do stuff at different ages – regardless of when they’re born. I just think that all toddlers are amazing in how independent they become, the things they are learning every day; it’s a true joy to watch.

But I think it is this independence that has released something inside me. Whereas before I would look at pictures of her when she was in hospital and just be full of awe and wonder at how something so small could do such great things; now I start to cry pretty much the moment I look at a picture of her. Jeez – selecting the image for this blog and I was virtually hyperventilating sobbing! It’s ridiculous. And it’s not just pictures of BC – any image of a baby in an incubator, or on oxygen, elicits the same response.

I can no longer bring myself to talk about her birth – I used to wax lyrical about it all the time. Now I just can’t take myself there.

I am ridiculously, insanely jealous of all the (what feels like) millions of mums I see in the parks sporting their baby bumps. I feel physical pain. My heart feels like a lump in my chest. I actually hate them a little bit. Hate their lovely maternity clothes. Hate the way they rest their hands on their bump. Hate how nice they are – the bastards! Funnily enough, I don’t feel this way if I actually know the person – I suppose the joy you feel for someone you love who is giving birth conquers all else, thank goodness. Bloody hell, I couldn’t imagine sitting next to a friend silently seething at them. Yet I do it to the poor, random lady who is sat next to me on the bench at the zoo.

I feel hulk-like rage at anybody who even dares mutter something about being ‘tired of being pregnant’. My sister and I had a very candid conversation after she gave birth to my niece – my niece was born 6 months after BC. And it was only after my niece was born, that I was able to tell my sister how much I wanted to punch her – hard – when, from about 32 weeks, she was moaning about how big she had become and how she was just ‘done with pregnancy’.

And I get irrationally mad when people slate the hospital BC was born in. I have  lost count of the amount of times that someone has said to me ‘Oh my experience there was terrible, we had to wait for ages to be seen and they could have sent me home before the next shift started and didn’t, so I had to wait for hours for the shift nurses to see me and sign me out’. Chances are, it was someone like me who had caused the delay. You see, when we were rushed in, every doctor and nurse on that shift were pulled in to help save my daughter’s life. We came in at the end of the shift – shift finishes at 8am and we came in at 7.40am – and therefore interrupted all of the end of shift checks; which means that everyone who was hoping to be sent home before the next shift started didn’t get seen. So, on behalf of me and BC, I apologise to anyone who had to wait a while to see a nurse or doctor.

And these are just some of the loony things that bother me now, long after the actual event. But you keep them under wraps, and you hope that at some point you stop feeling so goddamn emotional about it all. You look forward to the day when you can genuinely laugh when the heavily pregnant mum from the gym whose name you don’t know makes a comment about getting fat. And you can look at pictures of babies in SCBU wards, and once again cheer them on for being so freakishly strong.

But if you know anyone who has given birth prematurely and it’s several years after the fact, please don’t just assume that they’re over it. Instead, assume that deep inside, they probably have moments when they’re raging psychos.

And for your own safety NEVER EVER EVER tell them that they’re lucky they didn’t get fat, and that small babies just pop out.

So, every 17th November I give cheers to the little heroes, but do you know what? Here’s a bloody massive cheer for the prem parents who get through it… without killing anyone who makes stupid comments.

Peace and love x

Why Trump becoming president could be the best thing to ever happen to the world.

I wrote this title with a deadly straight face.

Here we are, in the aftermath of what is being heralded as ‘a shocking result’ and ‘completely unforeseeable’. The world is reeling – and by the way, that is such a dramatic four words to type that my literary self is literally getting thrills from it.

Why the outrage? The bad guy won. He actually won. The sheriff of Nottingham beat Robin Hood. Maleficent beat the fairies. Jafar beat Aladdin. Scar became King.

But this isn’t what is meant to happen. You’re meant to think he’ll win – in fact, the whole way along you’re meant to think he’ll win. But at the last minute Florida and Ohio are meant to vote Clinton. And that just didn’t happen.

And so the world stopped.

This didn’t just affect America. My FB feed the next day was full of my English friends and family feeling devastated about what had just happened – this wasn’t just ruinous for America, this changed everything for everyone. After the humour that Brexit had nothing on this, the tone became remarkably sombre.

But I feel something else – maybe it’s the eternal optimist in me. For the record, I also had a good feeling that the slipper would fit Cinderella’s foot.

Anyway….

There has been a fundamental shift in how we are all behaving.

I now have conversations with my friends about politics. It’s not that we were total ignoramuses before – we are all intelligent young women – but when lives are so busy, there are only so many hours in the day; quoting films, or tagging each other in memes takes time. Back in 2015, we had bigger priorities. But in 2016 things changed. And we didn’t just talk about politics in a cursory way (Have you voted? No, when is it? Today. Oh… woops, no then). We actually debated – sometimes quite fiercely (obviously not about Trump – none of us wanted him to win). We found we had opinions and that here was something that meant something to us.

And today Mr M and I had a conversation about the Attorney General. We spoke about the nominees. We knew who they were. We spoke about mayors of both NYC and London. We discussed the merits of the candidates. We actually did this.

And this isn’t isolated. I’m hearing a new dialogue. Everybody is listening, learning, and becoming more intelligent and informed about what is happening in the world. And I think this is bloody fantastic.

The problem up until now has been lethargy.

How’s this for figures – 47% of all US citizens eligible to vote DIDN’T VOTE. Nearly half the country DIDN’T VOTE. That’s over 231 million people!!!!!

25.6% of those who did vote, voted for Clinton, and 25.5% voted for Trump. Yes, it’s being heralded that Clinton won the ‘popular vote’, but this was by a teeny tiny fraction. The problem isn’t that she lost, the problem is that half the country couldn’t be arsed to get off their bums, walk to the local polling station and actually give a shit.

English friends – potted explanation for how US elections work in case you didn’t know, because I sure as hell didn’t. Presidents aren’t elected by how many people vote for them; there’s some archaic rule around an electoral college(?!) that means that different states have a different number of ‘votes’ attached to them. A state like Florida holds 29 votes (winning!), whereas Delaware has 3 (erm… thanks?). So I know that many of you were confused about this, but although Hills had more individual people vote for her, she didn’t get the states that made it rain.

So. Back to lethargy. Normally it’s okay to be a lazy buggar because a) the good guys win, right and b) you really don’t care all that much who does win.

Except this time, the bad guy won. And in this game, the bad guy can push a button that triggers nuclear war heads. So this time, it’s real.

And guess what? I bet in four years time, that turnout will look considerably different. Because now we care. And I think this is bloody fantastic.

I have a theory behind the CBAS (can’t be arsed syndrome) – I think that everyone thought ‘the other guys’ will vote. And by the other guys, I mean all of the groups that Trump offended. Everyone was quoting that the Mexican vote would be record figures, and that of course they would vote for Hillary because Trump had branded them rapists and was planning on building his wall. And that of course the women would vote for Hillary because Trump was a molesting creep (I was going to say ‘nasty’ but to be fair, I now consider that a raging compliment – he doesn’t get to be nasty. He wishes he was nasty). And that Muslims would vote for Hillary because Trump had branded them all terrorists.

But it’s like when an email goes to a big group of people, and all the person who sent the email wants is for one goddamn person to reply. And none of the f****ers do, because they all think that one of the other people in on the email will. Well, great job, guys. No one replied to the bloody email!

However, now take a look at the picture. For the first time ever, there is a whole population of people who have something in common; something that they never had before. And this thing we all have in common isn’t based around party policies, religious beliefs, sex or race. What we all have in common is genuine fear. These are the groups that have been vilified and intimidated by the guy that is now one of the most powerful people on the planet. This trashcan can make every one of our lives infinitely more difficult if he wishes. This, we have in common.

And I think this is bloody fantastic.

Because I haven’t seen any words of hate. There have been a few choice words around Trump, true, but my Instagram and FB feeds have been full of words of hope. Words of encouragement that we don’t have to let this be the end. That we decide how it plays out now. That we can choose to change our behaviour so that he doesn’t win. And if we do that, what an amazing movement that will be.

Many people have said that they are now scared of the world that they are bringing their children up in. Van Jones said a most beautiful piece questioning how can we tell our children to be decent human beings, to behave well, to not bully if we then elect a President who is the antithesis to all that is ‘right’.

Well, this is how.

We start treating each other with more respect, more kindness, more thoughtfulness; we show our children that these are values that stand true DESPITE of who is in charge; that NOBODY can take these values away, no matter what their job title is. If we behave like that, then that’s not a world that I’m afraid to bring my daughter up in – that’s a world that I’ll be darn proud to bring her up in. And I think that this would be bloody fantastic.

And finally, I couldn’t write a piece about what how great it is that Trump has won without mentioning all the good that he has done for females – he has created a global movement of nasty women. He has inspired millions and millions of young females to not just break, but annihilate any glass ceilings in their way.

This isn’t about a female President – everyone got quite caught up in the whole ‘Holy crap, a woman is running for President. An actual woman. With lady parts and everything’. This shouldn’t have been the focus. Why the hell shouldn’t a woman be up there running for centre stage? If we believe in girl power, why the heck was everyone so surprised? I felt that at times it became more about Hillary being a woman than it did about what she stood for – and that was another downfall.

I bloody love Hills, don’t get me wrong. But if i’m reeeeeeeeeeeeeeally honest, I think that there are many other strong, powerful women who would have inspired more confidence in their abilities to rule the nation. After all we want a leader who will go in there and grab a situation by the balls – be that a male or a female leader. And, for me, Hillary didn’t have that edge to her. Not because she was a woman, but because that’s just her.

But, anyway, that’s irrelevant. This isn’t about her winning a presidency. This is about her winning hearts and minds. When I heard her concession speech, I just knew that there will now be many parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents of little girls who will  start to see that little girl in a different light – they will see a possible world-changer. And we would have never heard that speech if she had won. And so I think that this is bloody fantastic.

So let’s raise a glass to Trump and thank him for putting us in such a terrible situation that we have become more united, better informed, and more inspired than ever before. There is a buzz of resolve and determination. And I think this is bloody fantastic.

So let’s get through the next four years together, and remember – stay nasty!

Nip, tuck… wtf

When I first moved over here, the plan was that I was going to continue to work  for 10 hours per week – 15 hours at a push. The last three weeks I have been doing nearly 40 hours a week!! And given that BC is only at nursery for three days a week, five hours a day you can imagine that the mornings are early, the nights are very, very long and the bags under my eyes are as black as the  coffee I need to function each day.

Anyway, my 40 hours per week serve a purpose. A greater good. I’m doing it for the family. I’m doing it to build a life out here. I’m doing it for Botox. And nails. And good hair. You think I joke – I don’t.

I have moved to the land of the beautiful and if you’re not naturally blessed, it doesn’t really matter – there are plenty of people to help you get there.

I’ve always tried to make a little effort in my appearance – usually in ways that mean I can make less effort. Get my eyelashes done so that I save 2 minutes every morning putting on mascara and the 20 minutes it takes me to sort out the mess where I smudge it and ruin everything. Get gels on my nails to save the 10 minutes application time and 10 hours drying time that I have to do on average every other day because I smudge or chip it. Get my eyebrows done to save the 5 minutes it takes to shade them with a pencil. You know what I mean.

I’ve had to learn to watch what I say about appearances – and when I say appearances I  mean when I’m being all judgy about myself. Whilst I’m certainly not happy with every bump and lump, when my niece was born (and now that I have a daughter of my own), I became very conscious that it’s not okay to fat-bash, hair-bash, skin-bash, face-bash yourself; that every little thing I now say or do with regards to personal appearance will be scrutinised and emulated, and it would break my heart into smithereens if I heard any of the small ladies in my world feel less in themselves simply because they don’t feel like they look ‘right’.

But out here, it’s a different game, everyone is immaculate – from doing the school-run to going to the gym – these are social experiences that you need to make some effort for. And every TV programme, film, and advert shows beautiful, shiny people.

In an effort to remind myself that the real world isn’t actually this smooth, bouncy, and glossy, I decided to catch up on the latest news (Mail Online – obvs), and I realised that therein the issue lies. Being out here hasn’t addled my brain all of a sudden, it goes much further back than that; over the years I have been slowly fed a diet (the only diet I’ve ever stuck to, I might add) of articles pretty much telling me that I’m not good enough and what I can do to make myself better. Not just me, but every female. From the age when you started reading seventeen magazine (never at 17 – usually 11), you were, quite frankly, screwed.

To illustrate, on the day when I started thinking about this, these were the headlines of the articles that had been published that day in the Mail Online:

Confessional: What your hairdresser REALLY thinks about you – oh good lord, don’t tell me they judge me too!

Secrets of an A-list body: How to get Eva Green’s slender waist – for those of you who don’t know, Eva Green plays Vespa in the James Bond film; Casino Royal – and she is a lady who is naturally very slender.

Getting mad or doing exercise can double heart attack – oh wait, so I shouldn’t exercise?

Atkins diet may help weight loss but doesn’t protect against diabetes – And I shouldn’t diet either?

Rich girls are more likely to be obese than rich boys – well I’m safe there then…. hence the 40 hour weeks.

The unhealthiest high street coffee chain pastries revealed – Thank you for making it so that I can no longer pretend that a muffin with the word ‘skinny’ in front of it is actually good for me

Why diet soda is NOT better than regular soda – WTF? Do NOT tell me this! The only way I have stayed off the Haribo is because of Lilt Zero

Struggling to lose weight? The 8 reasons your diet could be failing – Erm…. maybe because I thought diet drinks were okay?!?!?!

Why this picture is proof that Gwynnie’s bonkers regime works – she’s a Hollywood A-lister . She has a whole team of people around her making sure it works. Plus, she runs her regime as a business – she needs it to work to make money from it. Plus, she’s a Hollywood A-lister.

Woman who has spent £15,000 on plastic surgery says she wants MORE (their capitalisation – not mine) – how about woah now with the judginess.

Fussy eaters may have their genetics to blame for food habits – Really? Really? Nothing to do with, oh i dunno, maybe magazines and newspapers?

Want to live longer – eat Japanese. …. that’s not fussy. That’s not fussy at all.

Rejoice! Chocolate is good for your heart – okay, here’s something I’m very happy to be fussy about

Why lack of sleep makes us depressed – I think it’s a little more than lack of sleep that is making us depressed right now.

Why you get fat when your partner is stressed out – Thanks mate

Proof women fret more than men about their weight – No shit, Sherlock. You just told us they make us fat!

All of these – every single one – showed up in just one scrolling session. We’re screwed. We have no chance. Because amongst these articles I am sure that there was at least one moment for each of you when you thought ‘bollocks, bollocks, bollocks, oh wait…. I’ll read that one’

As a mum, and before that an aunty, you become very conscious of the messages that little ears and eyes get every day. My niece turned seven last week and I have loved every minute of watching her grow up to become the young lady she is now. But one thing that has made me so sad as she gets older is her awareness of fitting in, of looking the part. She gets anxious on fancy dress days in case no one else dresses up or else she’s dressed differently to everyone else. When I compare that to the adorable innocence of my two-year old who doesn’t give a flying f*#k what she wears, or what other people are wearing, or what anyone thinks of what she’s wearing, I wonder where it all changes.

Hey, I can’t be judgy – those who know me know that I’m hardly growing older gracefully. Because where does the line get drawn in these things? I’m here saying that it makes me sad that young girls grow up disliking parts of themselves and that they should love themselves for themselves, but what if what they dislike about themselves has such an impact on them growing up that it has a detrimental effect?

I’ve had boobs and teeth done. Both of which I have been saying since I wanted done since I was in my late teens. Both of which I didn’t get done until I was past 30.

The difference psychologically that getting these two areas of my body made ‘right’ (in my eyes) was astronomical. When I look back at pictures of me from before, my smile looked like I was in pain – it was the most awkward grimace in an attempt to not show any teeth. And I knew that. The boob thing, though? Blew me away. I’m not tall – I’m 5ft 0.5 inches (yes… 5ft and half an inch) yet I used to stand with my shoulders rounded, my back hunched to try to disguise an unconscious internalisation that on some level I didn’t think very much of myself. And I had no idea that I was doing this.

Please, please don’t get me wrong – I, in no way, think particular body shapes are more beautiful than others. And I certainly don’t believe that looks are more important than ideas, imagination, hard work or a kind heart. But there is a huge amount to be said for feeling good about yourself  –  we have all had those days where we put on the same old jeans that we always wear, but today you look pretty darn good in them. Or your hair does that thing where it goes where you want it to go and stays there.

I didn’t feel good. And, although I wasn’t consciously aware of this, my body language told the world that I didn’t believe in myself – and how can you instil confidence in you from others, when you can’t even see it yourself?

So was it a bad thing that I changed my appearance – judged myself, and decided that by making changes I would be happier? I don’t think so. You wouldn’t know I have had my boobs done – they just look like they fit me quite nicely. And my teeth aren’t glistening white and poker straight – but you can see them when I smile now. And I do smile now. I’m not ‘picture perfect’ and yet I am – because I smile now. And isn’t that the important thing?

This post doesn’t really have a long wrap up. I’ll be honest, it’s actually quite a messy piece, really – but I’m riding on a wave of non-judginess this time around, so you can have it as it is without too much nipping and tucking.

It’s more of a jumble of thoughts that recognises that we as the ‘grown ups’ have a responsibility. We need to make sure that – despite the multitude of messages and images that they receive – the smaller people in our lives know that the most important thing is always (and will only ever be) that they can wake up and smile. That they feel happy and confident in themselves.

And if they choose to go about it with a little help? Well…. hairdressing has been a profession since Greek times, so don’t tell me we haven’t always wanted a metaphorical ‘hair flick’ moment.