The Lowdown on Lockdown (a little late)

This is one of those posts that’s been sitting in my drafts folder for yonks! I originally planned to give people ideas of things to do when stuck at home but clearly it’s a bit late for that now that most of the world is well on the way back to normality (of sorts) 😂 or the ‘new normal’ as we seem to be calling it. Instead I’m going to tell you some of the stuff I’ve been up to over the last few months to keep myself entertained while we were ‘robbed of our freedom’ due to the Covid-19 pandemic. As much as anything this will be a wee reminder to me sometime in the future when this has (hopefully) all blown over of what it was like.

I’ll start with the most obvious ones. Like everyone else on the planet I’ve entertained myself with movies, TV shows and books. There are far too many to mention here so I’ll just mention a couple that I enjoyed. The movie Knives Out was pretty good, we had a laugh watching Blended and of course I watched Frozen 2 (despite having no children in the house). In TV shows I’ve been watching The Sinner and The Chosen – kind of opposites really. My go to show when I’m ironing is The A Word, although ironing seemed pretty unnecessary for a while. We’re also watching Hanna which is pretty good so far. I’ve read and am still reading loads of books. I never only have one on the go – right now I have 5 that I’m dipping in and out of. One of my favourite books recently has been ‘Untamed’ by Glennon Doyle. I’m getting so much out of her story.

Like lots of families we got some jigsaw puzzles out although it became trickier to get hold of them during lockdown. I actually ended up buying a brand new, full price Moomins (if you’re not familiar with the Moomins you’ll find them on YouTube – I loved watching them as a child) one online 😝! Usually I buy them from the charity shop and do them once before taking them back there. We also discovered online crosswords and quizzes as well as playing regular board games and card games. For a while we got into playing online games with friends and family on Zoom too. I wonder how many people wish they’d bought shares in Zoom a few months back?

The Moomins Jigsaw Puzzle

I’ve gone through phases with exercise over lockdown. We had great weather in the spring so I did lots of long walks in the countryside (partly because it was one of the few reasons we were allowed to be outside of our houses). As a family we did circuits in the back garden 5 mornings a week for 3 weeks before giving that up. I’ve kept up with my exercise classes on Zoom as much as possible and done a few home workouts as well as a few of Joe Wicks PE sessions. I’ve even started running with the Couch to 5K app – I’m partly telling you this to try to make myself keep it up. I’ve always wanted to be able to run but since becoming a mum I was worried that my bladder wouldn’t allow it 😆 (TMI? Sorry!) Anyway I downloaded the app and decided to give it a go. It’s going okay so far (I’m on Week 6 now) and it would be cool if I could get the bug (the running one – not the Coronavirus). On the down side I’ve eaten and drank way too much over the last few months so the exercise has probably only served to prevent a bad situation from getting totally out of hand. Some serious sensible eating needs to start soon!

While everyone was working from home, home started to feel like it wasn’t working for us. There weren’t enough spaces for everyone to work in peace and I was trying to work from bed (sometimes on it and sometimes in it 😝). After a couple of months of that it got too much so we did some rearranging and I’ve painted what was the dining room and built some flat packed furniture to create new multi-use spaces in the house. What used to be the guest bedroom has now become my little office/study and I’m loving having a space set up with everything I need for work or study to hand.

Since I like to keep myself busy and enjoy self-development I took on a couple of online courses; another new one with church and a Counselling Skills Certificate. The church one is finished now and the counselling one finishes today. As a result of doing that I’m now going on to do a counselling diploma starting next month. That clearly wasn’t enough new learning though so I also started learning my native language (Scottish Gaelic) on the Duolingo app. I’m making slow progress with that but it’s fun to learn and I can now recognise and actually understand some of the words that I’ve seen around (house names and such like) since I was a child. I’ve grown a few things too – some flowers that I was given and planted out in pots. I grew an avocado plant from a stone and tried growing carrot tops too for a while. I’ve not always been the best at looking after plants but so far the avocado tree is surviving.

What else changed over lockdown? My daughter and I did quite a few home beauty treatments and she even dyed my hair for me before the hairdressers went back to work. All church services have been on Facebook live or on Zoom. There have been no music gigs in months, no visits to the cinema or places of interest (indoors). No meals/drinks out until very recently. This weird situation where (even now) hugging friends when you see them is no longer something you take for granted. Of course it goes without saying that it is now totally normal to see people wearing face masks every time you’re out and about (making face masks was another project I tried my hand at). I’m sure I’ve missed out loads of things that have happened but at least now I’ll have something to remind me of this weird time. It would be nice if it was all in the past now but I guess there may be more posts to come that have some reference to Covid-19 since it looks like it could be around for a while. I’m just glad that now at least we can see friends and family in person – I think that’s what I missed most during lockdown.

What did you miss most during lockdown? What have you done to keep yourself occupied over the last few months?

The best and worst of my job so far

I have to say that becoming self employed has been a really good move for me. I was nervous about it at first because I knew there were no guarantees that it would work out. I mean my business is not exactly thriving yet but I feel good about how it’s going.

I work with several children who are really struggling. They so need love and security and connection in their lives and it feels great to be able to give them that. One little boy told me recently that I was his safe place. That just melts my heart. I love being able to make a difference to these little ones.

It’s tough sometimes when I’m alone in the house catching up on admin stuff. I’m not great at being alone. Sometimes I can just stick my music on and I’m fine but other times I struggle emotionally when I don’t have people to distract me. My boss is pretty understanding though 😉 so that’s another positive. She totally gets the importance of self-care. 😊

It’s really cool being able to mix work up with the rest of life too. I like that I can go to an exercise class or for a swim in the morning when I don’t have work scheduled or read a chapter of a book or watch some TV in my lunch break. It’s good to be able to put a washing in the machine between emails and catch up with friends between classes. It also means I can fit in brief trips to the supermarket like the one I made yesterday to return the stickers I accidentally stole last week. (If you haven’t heard that story read my post Mini Moral Dilemas.)

Money has the potential to be a hassle. I’m not worried as such (I guess I’ve learned not to worry about money – that’s another story) but I’m not making (anything like) as much as I did in teaching. Hopefully the gap will close a bit in time. I really dislike doing all the money stuff – doing my accounts and thinking about pensions and tax stuff. I also dislike chasing people up when they say they’re interested and then don’t get back to you again or when they haven’t paid since May and it’s now October.

Last minute cancellations is kinda a negative (at least work wise) but I just turned one that came in today into a positive by arranging a wee night out with a friend to see my niece’s band play tomorrow night. It’s nice to be able to be that flexible.

On the whole I’m enjoying being self employed right now. There are probably lots of good business ideas I could employ to make the business more successful but I’m also aware that I need to look after my health and not get too stressed about it. One day at a time. It’s getting there. 😊

New Routines

I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with routines. We all have them, even if they’re as simple as going to sleep at night or brushing our teeth in the morning. I love them because I feel more productive if I follow a routine but I hate being tied down to them and feeling like I can’t do what I want to do because of BORING routines! There have been times I’ve got so bogged down in them I’ve felt like I HAD to follow them and that just made me feel caged.

One of my good routines has been exercise. Exercise is not something I’ve always found easy (See this post for more) but I got into a good habit with it. Then when I was at my lowest point with depression I wasn’t doing as well with that routine although I’ve mostly managed at least a couple of times a week. I’m getting myself into a new routine with exercise now just to change things up a bit. The last couple of weeks I’ve gone to a class with my friend A on Tuesday mornings and gone swimming on Thursday mornings and I’m still trying to do some weights in the house too on other days. I’m not as consistent with that as I was though.

I used to be pretty good with my housework routines too. When my kids were little I discovered the Flylady (www.flylady.net). She has great suggestions about how to work short routines into your life to keep on top of everything. I never did follow all of her routines but I did try to do an evening and a morning one and did certain housework tasks on certain days of the week (like cleaning toilets on Thursdays 😂). I did struggle a bit with resentment at times when I felt like I was doing everything in the house and the rest of the family weren’t pulling their weight. In reality I put it on myself though. No one asked me to do it or expected me to do everything. Anyway my housework routines have gone to pot. I still try to keep the house tidy when I have the energy and the motivation but the routines are out the window on the whole. Maybe I need to try to work up to doing better with those again? While I’m on this subject I’d love to know your thoughts on this. What works best for you – cleaning a whole room at once or doing one job, like dusting for example, in all the rooms and then vacuuming all the rooms at another time?

The Flylady 😊

My work routine used to be pretty easy. Mondays, Tuesdays and alternate Wednesdays I was in school. On Thursday afternoons and Friday mornings I took relaxation classes. Now that I’m totally self employed that routine is less defined at the moment too. I do have some classes booked in on regular days but quite a few are still up in the air. I think routine is helpful in my work life so that I feel like I’m being useful and productive. I’m getting there with this one though. My latest decision is that Fridays will probably be my day off. 😁

The other really helpful routine I had was my devotional time. I used to be so good at getting up early and spending time reading the Bible and praying and listening to God. I’m not so good at getting up early now. I’m still reading every day and praying but it’s not like it was before. I miss those times. I know I benefited from spending that time alone with Papa God. I need to get back to this routine. This was highlighted for me at church today too. The pastor said ‘sometimes we get frustrated and disappointed rather than hungry.’ I think I’ve done that. I need to get hungry for God again. I know He satisfies.

Anyway enough of my random patter for now. I’d love to know what routines you find helpful? Maybe I could incorporate some of them into my week? Do you struggle with routines sometimes? What helps? I could use some assistance with this. 🙂

Fitter at 45!

If you’d told me on this date last year that I’d start this morning off in the gym I’d probably have laughed at you.  I don’t know about you but I’ve never really been the sporty type.  Neither have I ever been particularly unfit or too much overweight.  I enjoy walking and am always active just in my day to day activities.

At school I was one of those kids that’s among the last to be chosen for games.  Looking back now I don’t think I believed in myself when it came to sports.  My parents didn’t have much time for them and I’m pretty sure my teachers didn’t know about Growth Mindsets.  It wasn’t all bad – at high school I played right wing in the hockey team ’cause I was fairly fast.  I was pretty good at some random stuff too like archery, shot put and javelin.  I never learned to do a cartwheel though and you wouldn’t have got me doing any sort of flips over a box in gymnastics – I just didn’t believe I could.

Anyway at the beginning of this year I made a decision.  It wasn’t a New Year’s Resolution as such – I don’t bother with those ’cause I know that like 92% of the population I won’t keep them.  It was just a decision to make a change in my life.  I decided that by the time I reached my 45th birthday I was going to be fitter than I was at 44.

Over the years I’ve tried to make myself exercise (I’ve also tried and failed at countless diets 😝).  I’ve never been particularly successful at sticking with anything.  The closest I ever got was swimming 40 lengths once a week (‘Granny breaststroke’ – ’cause that’s all I can do 😂) which I probably kept up for about a year before quitting.  Partly I was busy and didn’t prioritise it and partly I just didn’t enjoy it enough.

So my strategy this year was different – maybe it might even help someone else struggling to start exercising?  I decided that I was going to get into the habit of exercising and I was going to start with something that was really easy for me to achieve.  I’m pretty fortunate that my son is really into his fitness so we have a couple of machines and a bunch of weights already in the house which meant I didn’t even have to go anywhere.  On the first week my plan was just to walk on the treadmill for 5 minutes and do 10 bicep curls every morning (weekdays only).  I knew I could manage that easily before work and it wouldn’t put me off.  The next week I added a second set of bicep curls and over time I built up to about a half hour routine each morning.  Each week I either added a set or a new exercise or increased the weight or difficulty.  Then I started to diversify and do different exercises on different days as I don’t have time to do more than half an hour if I’m gonna get ready and out to work in time.

Now I’m doing a couple of different routines on alternate days.  I’m a little bit limited with the weights I have available but I think I’ve still achieved my goal.  Here’s what I’m doing in case you’re interested:

Day 1
8 minutes on rowing machine
3×10 bicep curls (6kg each arm)
3×10 bent over row (10kg)
3×10 lunges (R&L)
3×15 sit ups
12 press ups

Day 2
8 minutes on rowing machine (occasionally on the treadmill)
3×10 tricep extensions (6kg each arm)
3×10 lateral raises (4kg each arm)
2×10 squats (with 40kg on bar)
3×15 sit ups
A plank (for as long as I can – usually that’s around 2.5 mins but my record is 4.5 mins)

Well today is my 45th birthday and I think I’ve achieved my goal.  Considering this time last year I didn’t do any regular exercise and couldn’t do one proper press up I think I can safely say I’m fitter at 45!  Don’t get me wrong I’m no fitness freak either – I won’t be posting any pics of my abs on Instagram 😂  (maybe I will when I’m 65 😉 if I’m still exercising) but I’m happy with what I’ve achieved so far.  I actually enjoy exercising now and believe I can get better.  My muscles are a bit more toned and I have less body fat.  A few weeks ago I also started trying a new diet (for health not weight loss).  If I keep it up I’ll let you know how I benefit.  So if you’re like I was give it a go – start small and build up.  It’s never too late to start exercising and you will feel better for it.