Meditation has a significant effect on stress management. It can build resilience over time but it can also help you feel more centred in minutes. 5 minutes a day will do the trick. It’s all I have and it works. Of course 45 minutes woudld be better. An hour in a spa woud be ideal but what’s a bust mum to do?
Regular practice is important. If you want to develop a regular habit it’s easier to hang it onto something you do already. Trust me on this one – it’s psychologically proven. My students are probably sick of me telling them that they shouls learn quotes while brushing their teeth.
One of my regular early morning habits is making coffee. I do it every day, rain or shine. So I bought myself one of these stove-top coffee pots and while the coffee’s brewing – and it helpfully makes a gentle percolating sound – I meditate.
5 minutes to get centred before the day kicks off and a delicious cup of coffee at the end of it.
Tonight is the Wolf Moon – January’s full moon named because of the lupine howling which traditionally haunted the midwinter. If we’re lucky, it will look like this.
When my children were younger and bedtime stories were stiil popular, I remember reading them ‘The Wolves of Willoughby Chase’ whilst gazing up at the moon. For parents of primary school aged children it comes highly recommended from Country Gate HQ. It was my favourite time of day. I miss it more than anything else about daily parenting tasks that are now a memory.
A wolf moon is said to symbolize a time to look to your community for creative solutions and to communicate with inspiring individuals to overcome challenges.
We need that right now, don’t we? There is a great comfort and power in getting to know your community well and working together to make it an inspiring and vibrant place for everyone.
What better way to start off the new decade than by immersing yourself in your local community?
All the teens are stiil at home after the Christmas break. Maybe we’ll share some family time tonight while gazing up at the moon.
It’s the start of January and I drove to work in the dark and home in the drizzle. My timeline is full of comments from those suffering post-Christmas blues. For many deep Winter is a challenging time. Many of the labels we attach to Winter are negative ones – depressing, lifeless, cold, miserable – and yet there is beauty in every season if you look for it.
The moon poking through the clouds; a deer darting across a field; candlelight; firelight; snowdrops poking up through the brown soil, the glimmer of occasional low sun in the late afternoon and the pattern of moss on a tree.
Practice mindfulness and January has its beauties.
I’m clinging on to the remnants of the slower pace of the school holidays. I have lessons to prepare, a presentation to write and a research project to work on but today is not the day. Instead I cooked a roast dinner for the family and read a Margery Allingham detective novel I received as a Christmas present.
There have been no grand resolutions, trips to the gym, gatherings on the beach with friends, walks in the countryside or frantic taking down of decorations and deep cleaning the house. Just a quiet determination to live in the moment and find the good things in every day. In truth, I’ve always found January 1st something of an anticlimax. I’m not ready to embrace the new challenges, new opportunities and new adventures of a new year. They’ll keep until tomorrow.
Change is in the air on New Year’s Eve. It’s always been a time to reflect over the past year – what’s been good and not so good – and to get to grips with how you want to move forward into the new year, or in this case the next decade. Deep winter is a good time to look closely at the structures in the garden, prune away the dead, overgrown and ugly and open up areas for new growth in the spring. With that in mind we’ve been doing a spot of pruning of the hazel at the bottom of the garden. The same is true of life in general. A spot of pruning does you good.
Twenty years ago today, on our wedding anniversary we took a trip into the Cotswolds for lunch and returned home to discover that we two would become three, some months into the new decade. Eleven years of being a couple were over and it was time to let go of old ways of being and embrace a different kind of life. In fact we became five within a couple of years. As we face the next decade we’re contemplating changes as gradually the children fly the nest and make their own way in the world.
Change is in the air.
In my classroom too it’s time for reflection about how to better inspire and support my students. The best teachers are always looking for ways to make the classroom experience better for themselves and their students. I’m focussing a lot on supporting independent learning strategies in the students I teach, letting go of resources and ways of working that have served their purpose, learning a few new tricks myself and making an impact beyond my own classroom.
In any other year the prospect of having no working oven, no ideas for presents and a pot cupboard which is only half full of home-made goodies would have caused me some stress but not this year.
At the start of November my mother-in-law, who had been holding her own in the final stages of dementia for some time went into decline and passed away. My father-in-law who had been caring for her took a tumble when visiting her in hospital and broke his leg. What followed was a few weeks of craziness – during which time the oven packed up and four different replacements couldn’t be fitted because of a redesign which didn’t accommodate the gas pipe, my daughter sat her mock GCSEs, my son worked on his university application, my husband spent most of the time away from home supporting his parents and I marked GCSE mock exams and wrote reports – dozens and dozens of them.
Now the storm rages no more, there’s time to reflect, take stock and appreciate what’s important about Christmas. My mother-in-law’s death has unlocked the door to happy memories of when she was healthy, which I found hard to bring to mind in the last few years during the worst parts of her illness. My father-in-law needs kindness, companionship and a new sense of purpose. Above all he needs our time.
I’ve always been a fan of homemade goodies or experiences rather than ‘stuff’ as gifts but the real gift of Christmas is time.
Take some for yourself and give some to those you love this Christmas. It’s the perfect Christmas gift.
Ritual plays a big part in our home. October Half Term is THE time for making the Christmas cake. Recipes come and go but the ritual of buying ingredients, soaking the fruit and mixing the cake two months before Christmas remains the same. Mary Berry’s version (above) with the odd twist from me is this year’s cake of choice. (I used homemade cherry brandy and a slightly different combination of dried fruit.)
There was a time when I had three little helpers in the kitchen. This year I have one away preparing for a university cycling competition, one upstairs doing his A Level coursework and one relaxing with friends before the next spurt of GCSE mock revision. They’ve all ‘checked in’ that the Christmas cake is in hand.
Being a Celt and a mother it’s not surprising that food plays a big part in our family life and that I share kitchen rituals from my own mother and grandmother with my own children and, one day perhaps, they’ll share the same ones with their own children. Of course they’ll change some; they’ll adapt some; they may even abandon some but that connection and routine is important to our well-being and sense of identity. If you want to read more about the importance of ritual and routine try this as a starting point.
Schools are frantically busy places in the Autumn. Much of the teaching takes place in the Michaelmas Term at my current school where we teach on Saturdays and finish at the end of June. Consequently there is little time to do much else between the end of August and half term in October. Frantic bursts of work followed by short periods of creativity and slow living work for me.
October Half Term is a golden time of Autumn walks, putting the garden to bed for the winter, planting bulbs, and finding sheltered places for the tender plants, preserving our harvest bounty, baking the Christmas cake and spending time with my own family beside a log fire with a steaming cup of something good in my hand. Spicy apple cake, squash and sage risotto and ginger Parkin will feature In the kitchen. I guess I have a deep-rooted urge to be creative away from the classroom.
This year I am the happy recipient of one of my teaching colleague’s crab apple largesse. There’s quite a creative kitchen community among the staff – I’ll be sharing round the quince after the holidays. After Wales narrow rugby victory yesterday I celebrated by boiling up the 1kg stash of beauties with 1200ml water, a couple of cinnamon sticks and a small handful of whole cloves until they were mushy; then left the whole lot to drip through a jelly bag overnight. This morning I added preserving sugar to the luscious ruby red liquid after I’d boiled it up, stirred to dissolve and then put it on a rolling boil for 9-10 minutes, until it reached setting point. Poured into small sterilised jars, I have another beautiful item for the Christmas hampers.
I’m back to school at the end of this week after a summer when, as ever, I completed about half of the tasks on my list. Note the use of the word ‘completed’. The garden is in better shape than it was at the beginning of July, some decorating has been finished, books have been read and chutney made with produce as it comes into season. It’s a bumper year for. Apples. They’ve been falling from the trees for weeks. I spent a happy half hour in Grandad’s London garden sorting the good from the bad with the aid of a ‘sorter’ fashioned from an old brush handle and a plank of wood. (You can never retire from engineering!)
This year we have a phased back to school and work routine. Next week one of the bright young things returns to school, the middle one returns a few days later (after a week of work experience) and the eldest starts at University after that. Ample opportunity to indulge the family stationery fetish! I’m sure all teachers have one.
One of the great joys of life is the pleasure you can take from the changing seasons – not just the way nature, the garden, the weather, the light changes but all those rituals associated with different times of year. I have a sizeable bulb order arriving within the next few weeks. That will take up a few evenings after school in the new term. There is apple chutney to make, quince jelly to create, the chimney to be swept, logs to order, a Christmas cake to prep in October. The list goes on.
Whilst I’ll miss the not so lazy days of summer there are pleasures aplenty to come in every season. They give a shape and familiarity to the year which energises the body and quietens the soul. Modern society can leave us cocooned from seasonality. Centrally heated houses can feel the same all year round, you can put fresh strawberries on a pavlova in February and keep your Christmas lights up all year round. That’s not for me.