After a day of running around like a headless chicken, I finally make the bold decision to stop what I am doing  and return to the blog I’ve been promising/threatening to deliver since April.

Time has literally flown- not so much as a rolling flow of a river, but more like a supersonic jet and, in a blink, another few months have gone by and the list of things that I “should get to but really don’t have the time” continues to grow.

Our household may appear to be running smoothly but I can assure you the to do list is shocking. I haven’t had a working oven or grill for almost a year.  The vacuum is broken and my husband is wearing a very old pair and unfashionable glasses, as his new ones were broken by a set of chubby and grubby fingers, the new ones secured in place by sad piece of tape. I haven’t brushed my hair in a while, I have a missing tooth filling and a bulging disc in my neck and approximately 12 piles of loosely classified “stuff” strategically placed in corners of the house as to showcase the other “clean” parts of the house.  I need another few hours in the day to get to the hair brushing and blog writing. I need more time.

Having no time is common complaint and I am sure that everyone who still listens to me (all two of them) is sick and tired of hearing me say that same thing over and over again and not really doing anything about it.

Some advice I’ve been given over the last few months which has been valuable in one way or another:

“You have to make time”

“You do too much” (at this point, I feel guilty because I can’t control how much I have to do- I am obviously either doing something inefficiently or thinking about things wrongly).

” I know how you feel. I was in the same position and I managed to do it, but it was hard”

” Get rid of 50% of your possessions” ( I am really really tempted by this one)

” Upturn your desk and leave”

“Get a cleaner, I’ve got one, almost everyone I know has one- even the ones who don’t work”

“Make the time. No one else will” (this is one I tell myself a lot, I know it to be true, but I don’t know how to do it)

Balancing this life with three young children, a full time job, keeping up a house and a modicum of social/enriching activity is really really f*cking hard for me at the moment and I am not sure If I’ll every have the luxury of writing this blog about anything other than how little time I’ve got to write it.  Besides, how boring is my constant complaining!? It’s hardly riveting stuff.

So, I did a quick internet search and oddly found so many sites about how to make time go faster (really?) but only a few about how to “make time” . One was from Saga and aimed at getting older folk into online banking and using NHS direct and the other is a gem of a list from Wiki.

Here you go- in case you, too, are finding it hard to make time, here’s some sage advice from the Wiki crew:

How to Make Time by Prioritizing and Scheduling: 6 Steps

(courtesy of Wiki How)

# 1 Identify your priorities. Select four or five things that you absolutely must do or are important to you. This may include work, school, a significant other, your family, anything that you feel you should devote a good amount of time to.

# 2 -Write out every hour of the day on a piece of paper starting with the hour you wake up. If you wake up at 6:30 a.m., start with 6:00 a.m. Then make a list going to 7:00 a.m., 8:00 a.m., etc. until you’re back to the beginning. You’ve just made a schedule

# 3- Determine what you need the most. A lot of people feel that their job is the most important – we have to earn money after all – so getting to work on time and leaving on time would be a high priority. Block out this time on your schedule

#4Determine the other priorities, ranking the most important to the least important. Place these in your schedule where they fit.

# 5 Identify when you should go to sleep. Adults should get 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Teenagers should get about 8-10 hours of sleep, often in the form of a nap and 6-7 hours sleep. Children should get about 8-9 hours of sleep and a 1-2 hour nap.

#6 Get into a regular sleeping rhythm, waking up at the same time in the morning and going to bed at the same time each night. This should coincide with your morning and evening priorities. Weekends should be no different than weekdays. Wake up at the same time all the time.

If you have any other resources or tips that you’d like to share, please do- and be kind!

I’ve gotta go. I need to make a list and get to bed within a hour to get my sleep in. That hair brushing and blog writing will have to wait another day…

Ma Fratelli.



Making Time

Oi, Grief, you stubborn little…

Two years ago today, we lost my sister in law, who was 39 at the time, after a long battle with cancer. It was a Thursday night and I had been working late. When I tiptoed into a quiet house where everyone was sleeping, I sensed immediately something had changed. He came down to tell me the news. I was calm. I was serene. Grief was a long way off.

We knew the end was very near. Seven years earlier, they found a brain tumour the size of a plum inside her brain. Miraculously, with the help of medicine and good luck and she survived unscathed from quite a significant surgery. Her life was never to be the same again. They told her quite openly the cancer would someday return. We never believed it though. She went on to open a business, travel the world and, even after consistent chemo and radiotheapy, fall pregnant and have a lovely little girl in 2011.

The cancer returned in 2013. There was something on the scan this time. The scans which they had done time in and time out; each time with an sharp intake on breath, to be held over an agonizing wait for the results. Each time there was a collective sigh of relief when the results came back negative.

For two years, my sister in law underwent treatment and bravely faced one battle after the next. She went on to lead what to the outside world appeared to be a normal and full life, continuing to travel and study for a masters degree- all while undergoing treatments. It seemed the treatments were stemming the cancer, though we’d always been told it, the cancer, would never not be there.  The health officials, in their eloquence, explained the cancer as a “weed” and the treatment was like “weed killer”- we just had to keep on top of it and not let it grow out of control. Easy enough.

The final months of deterioration went by quickly, while simultaneously, dragging heavily. Grief hit me very hard. She was younger than me, a mother, someone I was close to and she was dying. It could easily be any one of us. I knew It was a matter of chance it wasn’t. I was pregnant with my third child and the thought of leaving any of them in the world without a mother tore me apart. We couldn’t even take solace in a long life well lived. Here was a 39 year old woman who was soon to leave her husband and 4 year old daughter behind.

At the end, when hardly waking at all and taking no food or water, there were a few moments of lucidity. At these points, I felt both grateful and guilty and scared. We were given a glimpse into what our own deaths might be like. Where some people might find comfort in this, I found nothing but fear and guilt and a greater sense of grief mounting.

I feel that grief has been a constant in our lives since and still very present two years on. I find it hard to separate what is just normal stress, anger and unhappiness that often comes with life and what is a result of the long winded grieving period.  Grief seems to be my explanation for a lot- the fallback position when emotions are running high.  Still, I  am not sure.

So, who is this Grief? I’ve even taken to anthropomorphizing it/him, as if I can better define him, understand his intentions and behaviour, I can somehow deal with him more effectively.  Here’s some things I think that I  know:

  1. Grief is a stubborn and tenacious– Just when you think you’ve incapacitated him, he keeps comes back.
  2. Grief loves a the element of surprise to keep you on your toes- he does a great line in appearing at an unexpected time and place and unannounced.
  3. Grief is good mates with Depression– The two are often seen out and about hand in hand- messing shit up!
  4. Grief is duplicitous – He often disguises himself for Anger, Hopelessness,, Embarassment, Addiction or sometimes even, Understanding, Determination and Humanity.
  5. Grief is erratic. He seems to have no rhyme or reason. He doesn’t seem to have any plan- he just goes around… existing
  6. Grief is extroverted– He craves being out in the open and does not respond well to being hidden or swept away.
  7. Grief has an ego that likes to be stroked. He likes it when you talk about him, he’s often much more forgiving when you do.
  8. Grief, like an adopted pet, can  be a bit weird around children and often does not mix well with little ones. He can really go off on one when in the company of children- resulting in unwanted side effects like sudden crying, tantrums, food issues, bed-wetting, strange thoughts and admissions.
  9. Grief is like a chameleon or a like a politician on the campaign trail- he can be lots of different things to different people
  10. Grief is multifaceted– not only can he  wreak havoc on you physically and mentally, but also can cause you real issues in your social and spiritual life.
  11. Grief ages (!?), but perhaps not at the same rate. I still don’t know if he ever dies, though. I’ll get back to you on that

I ‘m sure you’ve all had to face grief in one way or another throughout the years. What was he like when you met him? Is he still hanging around?

Blog Bubbling Under

I’ve always wanted to be writer.  I had a penchant for passing notes (some of you will remember?!)  in elementary/primary school and, also as an only child (my brother came along when I was 12) I consumed books and my circle of friends increased significantly with my pals Harriet the Spy, Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield, to name a few.

I loved English, History and Creative Writing at my the inner city high school I attended. I was very lucky to go to a good school with dedicated teachers. This love of the written word and the encouragement from my peers and mentors continued with me into college and then onto University of Michigan, where I took a few journalism courses and creative writing courses, in hopes I could someday pursue career doing what I loved- writing.

I was sure that I wanted to be a writer/journalist.  When I was 19, I took a break from University and moved to Hamburg and got a job working at a large publishing house who produced a variety of titles- everything from tabloid fodder to “serious” political commentary magazines.  I had found my calling.  I wanted to be a  journalist like the people I observed.  These people were cool.  They were smart.  They talked and wrote about ideas, culture, politics, entertaining, fashion, gossip and much more- all with humour, conviction and eloquence.  I was lucky enough at that time to also write and edit for one of their titles, a magazine called Oskar’s, which was a bilingual magazine aimed at high school exchange students in Germany and the USA.  I remember writing about how to survive the year abroad, compiling a list of language “do’s and dont’s” and writing about curious trends from far away exotic lands: I am talking about silver shoes, green jeans (never not fashionable in Euroland) and techno music. Writing and becoming published made be feel accomplished.  I felt grown up and I felt I was making a connection, even if in a small way, with a larger group of people across the world through writing.

Fast forward 20+ years and, perhaps expectedly, I never did become a writer.  I do write a lot for work, but rarely do I get to write for pleasure.  I am now a 42 year-old American woman from West Michigan living in the UK.  I work in a vibrant, fast-moving and imperfect city and am lucky, but also often exasperated, to be working in the arts and culture sector.  I have three young children. I am Chair of a small gallery dedicated to supporting artists in the region and I try to stay involved in my community as much as possible.  This all means there is little time to do much else than the aforementioned.   There is little time to reflect or to write.

So, of course, I am starting a blog!  I am taking back some time for me and starting to write- something I once very much loved to do.

Who knows where it may take me?  This blog has been bubbling under for while.  Expect rants/raves, wonderment/exasperation, plaudits/complaints.  Expect philosophical questions coupled with recipes for food and disaster. Expect odes to music, booze, Netflix, books, podcasts and films. Expect tales of parenting highs and lows. Expect an exploration of love, friendship and marriage and relationship complexities. Expect discussion around our weight loss/confidence battles, depression/grief, agony/ecstasy, goals/achievements, boxers/brief, etc. etc.

I hereby announce Ma Fratelli- These Years.  This is my blog for me and I hope you like it, but I won’t be offended if you don’t.  The past 20+ years have gone by so quickly and I know the next 20 will too.  “These Years” are important and often they can pass by without note. Here’s my record. I’m writing again, if only for me.