Tuesday, November 25, 2014

I Wasn't Ready For This

I have said a number of times that age 5 was the most exciting year so far. Actually every year gets better than the last as I'm not one of those mothers who would like her baby to stay a baby for longer. Probably because I'm an older mother whose friends are all making weddings for their children and becoming grandparents, I am happy to embrace each new stage of intelligence and independence (hers and mine).

I love it when DD (occasionally) chooses what to wear and dresses herself. I swell with pride when she reads words in English that I didn't know she could read. I enjoy hearing her start to read in Hebrew. I'm bowled over by the connections she makes when doing number work. It's only numbers to 20 but when she says, "Of course 6 and 5 make 11 because we know 5 and 5 make 10 so if we add one more to one of the 5s to get 6, that makes one more than 10," I am amazed and in awe that she thinks like that.

I  get excited when DD has a play date and I know they will disappear into her bedroom and entertain themselves. Even better is when she goes to a friend's house. I'm fascinated by the fact that she has her own social life independent of me.

DD tells me (also occasionally as I don't get much information from school) something funny or good, or not fair, that happened at school and though it's 6 year old's gossip, it's getting more and more interesting. I can't wait till 10th Grade!

However, yesterday, two weeks before her 6th birthday, DD came home and showed me that she'd lost her first tooth. Reader I wasn't ready for this.

We bought her real jeans from Primark back in April. Put a child in jeans and they instantly look like a teenager (even if they are only 2 1/2). My little girl has been looking like a (small) teenager recently and I think it's cute. But she still has her milk teeth so she's still a very little girlie and I do love that.

Part of the shock was that we didn't even know the tooth was loose. It just came out with no warning. You should get some warning, right?

Then my 'big' girl got worried that the tooth fairy wouldn't know to come because she lost the tooth at school. (I was a bit upset too - I sort of wanted to see it and maybe keep it for a while.) I told her we'd write a letter and put it under her pillow. "Can't you just send her an email?" asked my child of the computer generation.

I could have made her write more but we were both tired after homework and everything else. DD wrote her name and drew a picture. "Can the tooth fairy read pictures?"
"Of course she can, she's magic."

This morning under the pillow was a new sticker book from the tooth fairy. "Oh, not a coin?" But she was thrilled and in awe about the sticker book (thanks to Grandma for sending it from London).

I wasn't ready for new teeth. It marks the beginning of the real end to that adorable baby face. I  know another adorable young girl face will take its place - one that comes with a reader, a backgammon player, a shopping pal, an independent little miss. But I wasn't quite ready for this.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Silliest, Most Unhelpful Response To Diets

As you know if you've been reading this blog recently, I'm doing Herbalife. With mixed results and another two weeks to go, I'm not making any final judgments until the end. You can read my Herbalife posts here.

However, I have to comment on what to me seems like the silliest response to anyone who announces they're on a diet. What overweight person hasn't heard it? As soon as you say, "not for me thanks I'm doing Atkins (or any of the other diet plan)," someone is going to respond with, "diets are all rubbish, all you need is to eat smaller amounts of healthy food." This is usually said by a slim person.

Whether it's Herbalife, The Cambridge Plan, Atkins, South Beach, Slimming World, Weight Watchers, Billy Connolly (it's not Billy Connolly - what's that woman's name who sells whole pre-packed meals and exercise dvds?), etc... I agree that all of them have a way of eating that you would not want to keep up for the rest of your life. Some are faddy and unhealthy for a long period, some too expensive, and some just too complicated to think about for more than a few months.

But how does it help to tell a fatty that all they need to do is eat smaller amounts of healthy food? Do you think they don't know that it wasn't a healthy diet that made them fat in the first place? Do you not think that if they were able to sustain a diet of smaller amounts of healthy food they would have been doing it for a while and not be fat?

It's not just a matter of willpower. I know fat Jewish women who, if you presented them with a sumptuous buffet and said, "by the way it's not kosher, everything's made with ham or cooked in lard," they would not touch a morsel. However hungry they were and however delicious the food looked, they would not even be tempted. It's not kosher so it's not for them any more than if you'd served a wonderfully presented dish of dog food. Yet they cannot restrain themselves from overeating in any other [kosher] setting.

Nor is it ignorance. Fat people often know more about nutrition than anyone due to years, lifetimes sometimes, of researching the solution to being overweight. They are not fat because they don't know that too many carbs result in too many kilos of fat. They don't eat those excess carbs because they think it's healthy. Fat people eat as compensation for something else in the way that an alcoholic or drug addict is tempted by their own particular poison when certain stress buttons are pushed.

If I'm upset, frustrated, angry (or even just a bit cross), nervous or agitated in any way, I find myself heading to the fridge for comfort. Under stress for long periods of time I've not had a heart attack, migraines, stomach problems, skin eruptions, a stroke, or a nervous breakdown. I've got fat.

The best antidote is to get into the right mindset and cure oneself by eating smaller amounts of healthy food. No Nobel prize for stating the obvious here. However, I bet a Nobel prize would be awarded to the billionaire (and they would become billionaires if they cracked this one) who discovered a sure way to get yourself into that mindset. I've done it a few times in my life and ended up slim and feeling great. In every instance I kept off the weight until I was sabotaged by extreme stress or upset. And every time it took me years to achieve the same mindset that enabled me to lose the weight in the first place. If I could only pinpoint the trigger I'd be writing the book as we speak.

In fact I did manage to lose a stone (14lbs) in the four weeks before I started a month of Hebalife. In my case it was desperation followed by ten days of a urine/kidney infection that left me without any appetite. Experience has taught me that a few weeks of eating smaller amounts of healthy food is not enough to keep me on the straight and narrow for the long haul.

I chose to do Herbalife because it would give me a strict programme to follow, without being complicated (involving too many choices or loads of preparation), for another month. Never mind how effective Herbalife is as a nutritional product, for me the success would come from knowing I'd paid quite a lot of money for it so I jolly well wasn't going to waste that, and from adding to my 14lbs of weight already lost as extra motivation to continue losing afterwards.

For those who cannot get themselves into the right mindset, diets like these (choose any of them, they all work if you stick to it) get you to the starting post without all the excess baggage. In the end if you want to stay slim and healthy, of course you must eat smaller amounts of healthy food. Nothing will take the place of changing your eating habits for life. But how much easier it is to do this from the starting line of being fit and healthy. How much easier it is to eat healthily without the added burdens of depression, low self esteem, ill health, restricted mobility and general sluggishness of being overweight.

So no we haven't been conned into paying for rubbish (rubbish is all the processed and fast food we might have been buying beforehand) or even wasting money on something we can do ourselves without paying for it (I clean my own home but I wouldn't ridicule those who employ a cleaner and don't do it themselves). Sometimes you need a little help to get started and you pay whatever takes. For me it's three weeks of guaranteed not falling off the diet wagon. And when I've reached my target weight, then it might be useful and helpful to remind me to eat smaller amounts of healthy food.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Single Motherhood, Should You Or Shouldn't You?

There's a meme going around whereby you answer questions set by the person who tagged you. I was tagged by Candi at Looking for Blue Sky but, as luck would have it, the same week a friend asked me to answer some questions about being a single mother for a presentation she's giving next month. So I'm answering these questions instead but thank you Candi for the tag.

What is your name? Rachel, blogging about this very subject at http://midlifesinglemum.blogspot.com

What is your child's name? Adiele
How old are they? 6
How old were you when you had them? 46

What are your hopes and dreams for your kids? The same as every parent I imagine - that she should be happy, healthy, fulfilled, and surrounded by loving family and good friends her entire life.

Why did you decide to take this route? I was entering my 40s, single, and facing the possibility that I would never be a Mummy. This was unacceptable to me and more than a bit scary.

How did people react to your decision? Most people understood me completely and were very positive and supportive. A couple of single women just a few years older than me said they'd wished they'd done it themselves but it hadn't been as accepted, available, or as successful even 10 years before. Interestingly it was the most religious women who were the happiest for me that I was pursuing this option as they totally got it about being a mother. Actually that's perhaps not so surprising on reflection. A few single men expressed regret that they didn't have the same option.

Others, also interestingly all of them women who already had children of their own and therefore never faced the prospect of being childless, were anti: it's selfish (not sure why it's any more selfish than two adults wanting a baby), it's irresponsible, you won't be able to cope, it's not fair on the child, you don't understand how hard it will be, etc... I had a very simple response to this. These people were dropped from my life at least until after Adiele was born. Then some of them came back but tbh, it was never the same relationship.

Who and how have people surprised you along your single mother by choice journey? The only surprise was how many other people were going this route or already had. Even more surprising were the women who'd done it 20 or 30 years ago (mostly without the IVF).

What have you learned along this journey? Getting pregnant and staying pregnant isn't so easy this side of 40 - I though it would be easier. You can't control everything so it's best to be laid back and fit in the 'procedures' around your regular life whilst just going with the flow (no pun intended). It took me four years from my initial meeting at the IVF clinic to bringing home my daughter. And when you have your baby you realize that the end goal of IVF and everything before the birth was nothing. Motherhood is where it all begins.

What would you advise someone thinking about it today? The best piece of advice I got was from my family doctor who said just do it. Don't think about it too much or you'll scare yourself out of it.

From the other side and six years on, I admit that there were difficult times - scarily low finances, day after day of baby/toddler routine with no promise of adult company at the end of the day (thank goodness for facebook), being torn three ways between needing to work for money, do household tasks and entertain your child, and putting your own social life almost completely on hold until you can afford babysitters or your child is old enough for sleepovers. But it all passes. Now we are 6 everything is a lot easier and, for me, a lot more fun.

For those with modest careers and no trust fund, the biggest fear seems to be one of finances, and rightly so. However, I believe that there is no such thing as not being able to afford one child if you want to be a mother. The question is how much you want it. Do you want it enough to move to a cheaper area, live a much more frugal life, change your career rather than be bankrupt by childcare fees, give up your car, etc, etc. I wanted to be a mother above all else so the choice for me was an easy one.

Do you have any regrets? No

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Are You A Driver Or A Passenger In Your Life?

I told you I took tea with my friend and neighbour Aviva Belfer. Aviva is a life enhancer - both the outer (manicures, pedicures, and waxing) and the inner (Reiki, Journey Therapy, and Access Consciousness - she is a certified practitioner of all three).

I was interested in The Journey. I could link to The Journey official website but I don't want to as I'm not intending to be a Journey Practitioner myself I have no interest in promoting a new-age guru, making her into some sort of Goddess, and adding to her billion dollar industry. The Journey as a technique uses much of the same empowering devices as Neuro-Linguistic Programing (NLP) and many other systems found on the self-help/new-age shelf of the library.

What I am interested in is the bottom line. Why do some people seem to have enchanted lives while others struggle and yet others have downright tragic existences? Why can some people cure themselves of life-threatening illnesses while others succumb to the medical prognosis. Why do some people succeed at everything while others fail at everything? Is luck just luck or do we make our own luck? Why are some people the drivers of their own lives while others are passengers?

Aviva uses Journey methods which she learned at Journey seminars and courses. I believe in it because I cannot accept that all those people I alluded to in the paragraph above have to be the victims of chaos, coincidence and luck for their whole lives. Something must make the universe work with some people and against others. Unless you believe that the universe (insert your God here if that works for you better) is vindictive and has favourites, the answer has to come from within ourselves.

I also believe that, without hero worship or creating new-age gods (and billionaires), you can find someone to help you unlock whatever is holding you back from realizing your potential and achieving your dreams. My visit with Aviva gave me a taste of how this can work.

A big part of The Journey is about letting go of past 'issues'. This can mean hurts, humiliations, anger, fear, regrets, guilt, and/or injustices. The premise is that these emotions are held in the very cells of our bodies and they hold us back or, even worse, can make us sick. We all know the effects of stress for example, can be physically debilitating so there is some truth in this we can all agree on. In my mind it doesn't matter if it's the whole truth or not and whether the same results could be achieved with e.g NLP or The Secret. The important thing is the result and the person who can help you get there. Any talk therapy that works is good.

I didn't go in with a particular problem. In order to discuss The Journey I remembered something I did in my youth that I regret bitterly. Interestingly, Aviva wasn't interested in the story. What happened happened and we can't change it after all. Aviva was only interested in exploring how this event was blocking me and limiting my life. I admit that I sort of wanted to unburden myself by telling the story but though she was willing to listen if I needed to tell it, it wasn't relevant to the process. I didn't share the story. I'm not sure what happened to that thread because as we delved deeper into the emotions and impulses involved, we uncovered a much bigger issue in my childhood and went off on a tangent.

Using guided imagery techniques, Aviva asked me to invite all the players to a campfire and ask them all in turn to explain their side of the events. I reached a point where I could understand why everyone behaved as they did and I could let go of some of the injustice I felt. I could not go as far as forgiving the person I felt should have helped me at the time. I know I was supposed to be able to say, "I forgive you," but I don't. I understand them but I think the wrong choices were made by grown-ups even though they didn't know any better and thought they were doing the best for me. (So I probably won't be retiring to my villa in the South of France just yet. :~P) Maybe it takes longer or maybe understanding is enough. What is forgiveness anyway?

On the other hand, I no longer feel like a failure in this instance. I now realize that I was failed (without hating anyone for it but not exactly forgiving them either). Before you start getting the wrong idea, it's not about shifting all the blame for everything onto others but about absolving the guilt. If you mess up there is usually a reason. You can make bad choices and wrong decisions and even though you made them yourself, they didn't come from nowhere. Something even further back led to you not being able to take the better path. This is The Journey - going back to find the point of destruction and changing the points of creation (or is it the other way around?).

The next day I had a meeting about working on a project that I could call my dream job. Not being sure exactly how many hours work it will entail, the 'boss' suggested he advance me X amount of money and we'd see how far it goes. The X represents exactly the amount I needed to get me through to the next payout for another project without going into overdraft. I also have not indulged in any comfort eating since my session with Aviva and I've organised my two college courses so they should run smoothly through the semester without any hitches or last minute planning panics - something I was putting off for no apparent reason. It's not a villa in Provence but it's a start.

Aviva Belfer can be contacted through her website.