Slipping

It’s 08:40. This morning, I’m supposed to be delivering product to a client. I should have left already but I wanted to start this post, so that when I get back from making the delivery and stopping in at the shops on my way back, I’ll see it and keep writing.

See, I’m already slipping back into my corner, not writing, not sharing the thoughts in my head and I don’t want to go back to being in that cage again.

12:43. I made my delivery at 09:04 – perfect timing. Then I stopped by the place where I buy breakfast cereals in bulk, at a massively discounted rate because the cardboard boxes they are packaged in are damaged. Then I met my husband for coffee before heading off to the nearest Woolies to spoil myself with some pretty new panties. Because if I were to be in an accident in any of the pairs I currently own, my mom would die of shame if she came to identify/collect my remains.

This afternoon, my three primary school kids have Chess and Orienteering, which means I have an extra hour or two in which to be productive.

I was going to run this morning. It was supposed to be a run day. But we stayed up far too late last night, watching movies and eating stuff I’m not supposed to eat. So I didn’t even bother setting my alarm for run time, knowing that I would hit the snooze button if I did.  I’m running a half marathon in a month’s time. I should be hitting the road, hard, almost every day.

I was going to go to the fresh produce market in town this morning, after the delivery and the shops. Now, it’ll have to wait for tomorrow because the boys finish Chess in an hour and a half and I’ll never make it there and back through lunchtime traffic. Best to go first thing in the morning, I think, and get it done.

I was going to blog this weekend. Instead, I read Nicholas Sparks’ Message in a Bottle, took the kids out for waffles (and ate one myself, knowing it would put me in a gluten semi-coma with a swollen belly for the rest of the day!) and waited out the power outage while David worked, again.  Then we made paint on Sunday so that I could deliver it today.  So that’s at least some time productively spent, before we sank into our armchairs and vegged all afternoon and evening, right?

This week, I’m supposed to get my accounting up to date, so that we can send it off to our tax consultant and file our taxes, pay our penalties and promise ourselves again that this year, we’re going to stay on top of it. And we will, because I’m getting better at making lists and remembering to do the stuff that needs to be done.

Even if it feels like I’m always messing it up. Even if it feels like it’s always slipping away from me.

 

Twelve

On Sunday, David and I celebrated our twelfth wedding anniversary.

It was a good day, nothing like anything I would have planned for us. We spent it with the kids at Dikhololo, courtesy of David’s folks, who had booked us the weekend there months ago.

I was pretty miffed at first because I felt that our anniversary plans should have been our own to make and that, by booking us the 6-sleeper chalet, which was obviously so that we could take the kids with us, our special day had kind of been hijacked.  But the weekend rolled around and I started packing and by the time we were on the road, I was fine.

We spent a lot of time swimming at the resort. There was no shortage of swimming pools and, given the current heat wave blistering across the country, even I was not averse to being in the water. And anyone who knows me knows that I am NOT known for my love of swimming…

We also spent a lot of time eating ice cream and sleeping while the kids glued themselves to Cartoon Network – something we are adamant will not become a fixture in our home.  And David and I sipped a few Original Iced Mojitos and enjoyed a bottle of wine out on our little verandah in the evenings, gazing at the sky and listening to the quiet of the bush around us.

We didn’t really do much thinking about things or talking about work or making grand, romantic gestures. We really just took the time out and enjoyed it for what it was – a weekend away from everything. So much so that I didn’t even bother taking any photos, except for this one, hastily snapped selfie, with my finger in the shot, taken on Sunday. ( If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve already seen it.)

Us, on our 12th anniversary
Us, on our 12th anniversary

We’ve weathered some storms in our years together and for much of it, life has seemed a bit of a slog. Not in terms of *us* but rather, us against the world or in the world and all its chaos and with all its curve balls.

But we’ve also had some amazing adventures, travels, experiences and good times. And it seems to me that this year, we are on our way to bigger, better things.

 

 

What’s Up?

I’m kind of vague when I talk about what it is that I’m so busy doing, that keeps me from blogging or being present in my interwebs circles in general.

Generally, it’s because getting into the details would probably bore you to death but largely it’s because I’m lazy.

But I was thinking about it this morning – about what’s happening in my life and why I feel so exhausted at the moment – and I realised that my life is actually pretty hectic right now!

Jack going to big school this year is a major catalyst for changes to the way my day runs and, frankly, I don’t think I would stand the slightest chance if I hadn’t removed myself from social media. (Yes, the fact that I mention this in every single post so far has not escaped my attention – clearly, it’s a big deal for me.) Even so, it seems to me I’m not nearly organised enough at this point. I’m trying, though, and we generally seem to get through each day with everyone having gotten to where they needed to be with what  they needed to have. I’m still struggling in a big way to find a routine that we can groove into.

Jack’s school day finishes earlier than Megan and Michael’s, so I’ve been doing 2 school runs in the afternoons. While we wait for the older kids to finish, I do homework with Jack. This week, though, I’ve decided to let them each pick an after school activity to attend. Michael has chosen chess, which happens on Monday and Wednesday afternoons. Megan has chosen Tennis, which happens to be at the same times on the same days. Jack signed himself up for cricket last week – I arrived to pick them all up from school on Friday to find Jack on the field, doing his thing. This is fine – I think I’m going to enjoy spending an hour or so outdoors every Friday afternoon while he gets to run off some excess energy. Also, the school offers “story time” in the library on the days that the older kids finish later, so Jack will be going to the library on those days from this week and he’s also keen to try chess, which means I don’t have to keep doing 2 school runs! Then I’ll just have to figure out how to keep helping Jack with his homework. Thankfully, he’s enjoying school and loves doing his homework!

Now, I’ve been a mom of 4 for almost 5 years and pretty much everyone I meet asks me how I manage. The truth is, until now, I’ve only really had to manage 2 of the 4 kids most of the time, because  the younger two were both at a pre-primary near David’s office and he would drop them off in the morning and pick them up on his way home in the afternoons. Plus, I wasn’t bothered with the older two doing extra murals, so I really only had to pick them up after school and bring them home.

Now, that’s all changed and I’m in awe of moms like Laura, who have been doing the soccer/cricket/swimming/dancing, 3 different schools madness for ages and still find time to blog, Facebook, tweet and run a household.

That said, I also have a business to run, one that has undergone a number of growing pains and identity changes over the past three years or so. I’ve gone from promoting someone else’s company and product to participating in research and development of an entirely new product, starting up a company with partners and finally breaking away from the partners to set up on my own in a very much male-dominated industry.

We have the basics down – company name, production setup in place, product labels and a large order, which we are producing and delivering in smaller quantities over a period of time. We manufacture in the evenings and over weekends, meaning David and I mix the paint ourselves outside of normal working hours. I take care of all the logistics behind this – sourcing and collecting raw materials, delivering product to clients, handling sales and enquiries, etc.

In the meantime, I have to get stuck into market research and marketing campaigns and get on top of the accounting admin.

Then, there’s the household. We now have a domestic who comes in twice a week and I LOVE her! She is a fantastically hardworking lady with the sunniest personality and impeccable integrity. I wish I could employ her full time because then my house would always be spotless.

Outside of keeping the house clean, there’s also the cooking and feeding 8 people daily is interesting!

My mom and sister live with us and my mom is a diabetic plus she and I both have Hashimoto’s, which means special dietary needs. We also have 4 kids in the house, some of who are extremely fussy eaters *cough, cough, JACK cough*.

I started trying to eat and cook gluten free when I was first diagnosed with Hashimoto’s almost 2 years ago now. It is still a struggle. Eating completely gluten free means that I have to bake my own bread, cakes, biscuits, etc. Yes, there are more and more gluten free products available on supermarket shelves but buying them in sufficient quantities to feed 8 people is simply not economically viable. My family eats 2 standard size loaves of bread daily. A ready made gluten free loaf costs 3 times as much and is half the size, meaning I would need to buy 4 loaves daily. At R36 per loaf, it would cost me R3168 on an average month with 22 working days just to buy bread. Not going to happen.

Also, if I were my kids, I would be so utterly sick of bread by now. Obviously, I don’t eat much bread because baking it takes too much time. So I’ve started looking into Paleo. Not because I want to lose weight or whatever but because if it’s Paleo, you know it’s good for you.  Lots of protein, lots of fresh veggies, everything is low GI for my diabetic mom and it’s perfect for those of us in the house who could do with dropping a few kg. Also, it eliminates the issue of having to bake completely because Paleo is totally grain free.

The thing with Paleo, though, is that it requires planning and learning a new cooking style, which also takes time. And since I’m the only one who actually is serious about really eating healthy, I’m the one who does most of the cooking. Which means researching, finding recipes, finding time to get to the shops and buying ingredients we don’t usually have in the house, etc. Also, no grains means no cakes, biscuits, etc. Which doesn’t help to get the family on board.

Our diet is one of my biggest challenges at the moment. Without buy-in and support from the rest of the family, I fall off the wagon a LOT. And I pay the price every time, too. Eating gluten drains me of energy, bloats me, leaves me sluggish and foggy-headed, sometimes for several days afterward. Which doesn’t help when I need to get up early in the morning to run.

And getting up early in the morning to run is the only option, if I am going to keep at it. Which means getting to bed no later than 10PM. Running is how I relieve stress and spend time on my own, doing something just for myself, so it’s a non-negotiable. It’s also how I challenge myself and build self-discipline. I signed up for the Old Mutual Om Die Dam half marathon this week, which leaves me just under 7 weeks to train. So, eating right and getting enough sleep is a big deal right now.

Reading over this post so far, I really don’t have more on my plate than any other working mom does but it feels messy and overwhelming because I’m so disorganised. I’m working on planning things better and being more efficient in getting things done. I think one of the most useful things I’ve started doing is making lists. I’ve done this in the past but it never lasts and, if I’m honest, it’s because I haven’t been using lists these past few days that I woke up today feeling like everything is out of control. That and because I forgot to take my thyroid stuff yesterday, ate two (wheat flour) cupcakes on Monday and haven’t gotten around to finishing some of the things I was supposed to do over the weekend.

So, starting now, I’m picking up my pretty Graphic diary from MillaMae again today and noting down all the things I have to get done, and starting over.  Also, David brought me a diary from work – a corporate gift from one of his suppliers – which I’ve decided is going to be used for managing the kids’ schedules, homework and activities.

This year, I’m going to win at life!

How are you doing in 2015 so far?

 

 

In Retrospect

I’m only about a month late, so I figure I can still get away with a “Looking Back on 2014” type post, right?

The short version is that 2014 was a mixed bag for me. I grew in a number of ways I had never imagined possible but also took a couple of hard knocks. Basically, 2014 kicked my ass.

Some of the highlights (and lows) for me were:

Starting off the year on a high, having closed a massive deal in late 2013. There is a lot to be said for a running start to the year. It’s a fantastic motivator and driving force. Sadly, the running start was short lived, as it became increasingly evident as the year progressed, that the people I was in business with and I were nowhere near on the same page. I took some serious losses from this, both monetary and mental. And in the end, I had to write it all off as school fees paid. Which is a lot easier said than done.

It does something to you when, even though you’ve put hours of time and effort into something, you have nothing to show for it at the end. It messes with your head and your sense of the value that you add, of your contribution to your group.

With things set up the way they were between us and the business partners, I began to question my value to my family , my worth in the workplace and my ability to deliver and/or contribute anything of any use.

The tide turned when, later in the year, David and I took a hard look at where things were headed and looked into some of the possible reasons why we weren’t seeing the returns we’d been expecting. We enrolled on a couple of financial and administration management courses, recognised where we were going wrong and started taking steps to correct those areas. This led to us taking the plunge, separating from our business partners and opening up shop on our own. Together, we have now established a far more realistic and workable business model and we are  beginning to see the results.

On a more personal level, the year 2014 was one of self-discovery and self-enhancement for me. Running – actual running – became a part of my life and forced me to challenge myself in ways I hadn’t considered for many years. And it taught me that I am capable of high levels of perseverance and self-discipline.

Then, Winter saw my running die a sudden death and my self-worth plummet every time I hit that snooze button instead of lacing up and heading out the door.

And then I read this post on Tanya Kovarsky’s blog, and had to comment as follows:

“I moan a lot about not having run at all this winter, especially when I have no-one to run with, to keep me motivated. But in all likelihood, once I find it in me to brave the (admittedly slightly warmer) cold mornings again, I’m not sure I’m going to want that running buddy anymore. I love plugging in my earphones and setting off, up the first hill of my local route. I love how my breath and steps syncronise with the music tempo and the sting of the cold on my face and shoulders becomes a soothing coolness. I love how the voices and the things in my head start lining up and stop bickering amongst each other for space. This is how I know I’ll run again, even if I haven’t gone in weeks.

I loved seeing your tweets on this race. They reminded me that I love running, too.”

And I did run again.  I signed up for the Soweto half marathon which took place on 2 November and finished it in 2:26:58. I met some beautiful people along the way and was thrilled to run into Jenty there, too. It was a wonderful, humbling and empowering experience.

There were a lot of Twitter, Facebook and blogging folk running Soweto and I saw many of them post about their training, their sports watches, their running buddies and so on. Often, seeing these posts deepened the chip on my shoulder, that feeling of disconnectedness, of not having made the cut, (still) not being cool enough to sit with the popular girls.

What the hell did I know about training for a race? How the hell would I justify blowing a couple of K on a sports watch? How could I go running with other people in my 9 year old running shoes and only one set of running clothes to wear, when all of them have the latest gadgets and gear and they all run faster than I do, too?

So I started filtering what I looked at and engaged with online. I spent more time entering competitions and less time participating in conversations. I fell (hard) back into the habit of wasting time on Facebook instead of working. I hated myself a little bit more every day. I spent less time with my husband and kids and more time with my face stuck in my phone.

And then the year came to an end. We went away on holiday, despite my misgivings. We spent a lot of time on the beach and I left my phone behind a lot of the time. It dawned on me that I was exhausted and depressed and I needed to disengage from the  world outside of my family for a bit. So I did. And while I was doing it, I realised that I needed to check out of the social media space for real, because it was creating expectations in me that could not possibly be realistically met, and just find myself again. So I am.

I deleted my Facebook profile shortly after retuning to Johannesburg from our holiday at the coast. And the next day, I killed my Twitter profile too.  Like any addict, I have the occasional twinge of longing. I see a “WIN” in big, bold letters in one of the hundreds of newsletters I’m subscribed to (yes, I’m slowly purging those, too), and have to stop myself from clicking on it and letting myself go down that rabbit hole again. But then I look around my newly de-cluttered office space and remember that I’m working toward something bigger. That I’ve set off on a different path, of my own making. One that I’ve had to overcome so many odds and learn so many lessons and make so many changes in order to find.

And I love that 2014 kicked my ass.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mama’s Back!

So, here I am. One year, three months and twelve days since I said goodbye to Blogger and deleted my blog from that platform.

And while I am on the subject of Blogger, let me state, for the record, that I hope that the person who thought it was a good idea to make it possible for someone else to claim your blog’s old name once you delete your Blogger blog, gets hit by an overfull bus. And lives. Because what I am left with now is a Gmail address, linked to all my other Google services, while some foreign fuck someplace far east from here is sitting on the mamameea.blogspot.com domain. A DUDE foreign fuck, who has NO business trying to claim the name “MamaMeeA” at all.  And that’s all I have to say about that.

And moving on….

I’m guessing that few of the people who knew MamaMeeA in its previous life will see this anytime soon, since I have deleted both my Facebook and Twitter profiles. Facebook to some extent because I’m not sure I want to bother with all the data mining and privacy bullshit but both, mostly because it dawned on me, sometime in the last few months, just how much time I was spending on social media. It was great fun, of course, and I miss being in touch with various friends in my phone and computer just about any time of the day or night.

But the fact is that none of the friends in my phone or computer are more important than my family. And no amount of being connected to people online is going to get the nuts and bolts of my business established and functioning smoothly. And if that doesn’t happen, then no amount of competition entering, tweeting or Pinning of beautiful things is ultimately going to translate into the real world home and lifestyle that I want to achieve. There. I said it. I’ve joined the “other side” of the Social Media Drains Productivity debate. And I’m not even sorry.

I have been more productive in the couple of weeks since 2015 started than I was for the entirety of the last quarter of 2014. Fact.

I have generated more business, too. And delivered orders faster.  And, generally, been more organised, if you’re not looking at the Back to School fiasco of the past two weeks. (Hey, I didn’t say I’d turned into Martha Stewart.)

When I look at it that way, I’m almost afraid to jump into blogging again because if I do and I keep up the momentum and keep at it, how do I know it’s not going to take away from my productivity at work?

And yet, reviving my blog has been on my mind and in the works for quite some time now. I miss having the words come tumbling out and my fingers flying across the keys. I miss feeling like I have a voice and my opinions are worth something, somewhere. Even if that somewhere is just my own little dot in cyberspace.

So, here I am. One year, three months and twelve days since I said goodbye to Blogger…