Time for Celebrations

Sometimes when I look back at what the world has gone through this past two years, I must admire the resilience of humanity. Never in our lifetimes would we have imagined the world almost coming to a standstill with a global pandemic.

Businesses have had to stop and close; airlines have been grounded; schools closed; sports events cancelled; imports and exports have been restricted; friends and family have been kept at a distance; and worse, we have seen a catastrophic loss of too many lives all around the world.  Hollywood has written about this in many blockbuster movies; and yet we could never have imagined that it would become our reality. 

And yet we keep moving forward.

We have homeschooled children; adapted our homes to become our workplace; we have increased our technology intelligence to stay connected; online shopping has replaced the high street, and safety has become our priority when travelling or socialising or doing anything that involves interaction with others.

This is our new normal.

Most importantly the spirit of Christmas is still all around us. Our family reunions may be a little smaller this year, but we will still celebrate.  We must have hope for a healthy and more positive year ahead, and so we continue forward with our meals, our carols, our lights, our decorations and of course the gift of giving. Distance and safety measures cannot stop this. In many ways it brings a new meaning to Christmas, being thankful for the small things and the people who really matter.

Let’s hope for new beginnings.

Merry Christmas.  Happy Holidays.  Whatever you are celebrating, make it a wonderful time this year!

A Jolly Safety Christmas

As we watch the daily news with headlines talking about cases rising, this new variant sparking the likelihood of another pending lockdown and tighter restrictions, I feel like a sitting duck waiting for Covid to strike our family.

Another Christmas and New Year’s impacted by this pandemic feels inevitable. I had made some lovely plans leading up to the big day. This is my favourite time of the year, and one where I feel that my inner child really comes out to play. After last year’s uncertainty, we were assured that Christmas would be as normal as possible this year, and I wanted to make the most of it. And then we hit a new variant which throws a complete curve ball on all those plans!

In the UK there are rumours growing of a ‘circuit breaker lockdown’ as the new variant has seen cases triple day on day; but the government haven’t made any moves or given any clear direction. And so we wait and carry on with our plans. I am fully aware that the the risk is real. This variant is spreading like wildfire and yet I am not keen to stay home and hide away. Not right now. Not if I don’t have to.

Why? Well first I am triple vaccinated having just received the booster. Second, I wear a mask, keep my anti-bacterial gel in my pocket at all times, and I am continually practicing social distancing. Third, I regularly conduct lateral flow tests, and especially after days outs or events, to ensure that I don’t have covid (as sometimes the symptoms are not obvious). Fourth, I want to continue to support those many businesses who have been and continue to feel the impacts of this pandemic, and by cancelling my plans now they are suffering the consequences.

I have to believe that the combination of these factors will give me some security – but then again nothing is certain right now. For me it is about doing my best to protect myself, my family and anyone I come into contact with.

The fun doesn’t stop here – it maybe just looks a little different right now. Maybe the fun has a darkening cloud covering it, but when I do consider cancelling all these plans, I’m therefore letting this panic set in. So I’m committed to having the fun while it lasts but doing it in the safest possible way I can. Life doesn’t stop, but we can also protect life by being sensible and doing our part right?

So in doing this I’m wishing you all a very fun and festive season, whatever your fun looks like right now. Let’s be hopeful we can see a way through this darkening cloud to a brighter and more colourful 2022!

Keep Calm and Stay Safe

Here we go again. Another variant and cases rising.  But let’s be honest we’ve been there before; we know the drill.  

So, what’s different this time?  We have more people vaccinated, we have more science and knowledge, and we are now well accustomed to social distancing and other safety measures.

All we need is an iPad and connection

For many of us we miss our families and friends whom we have not seen for over two years. However, can you imagine if this had happened even three to four decades ago? I keep thinking if this had happened in my early twenties how difficult it could have been for all those families separated all over the world. I’m reminded daily that our technology and connectivity today have been such a blessing through all this uncertainty and distance.  In any moment I can jump on a call, send a text message or FaceTime, Zoom or Video call anyone around the world.

What I’m mostly grateful for is the availability and ease at which we can do this. Internet connectivity means that most of these calls don’t charge us the earth as we connect over Wi-Fi or our data plans. Even in my early teens when I moved states in Australia, I remember the phone calls alone costing me by the minute and second, and me literally counting down until I couldn’t afford to stay on the line any longer.  I remember tallying my bill each month and sometimes gasping at how I would make each month’s payment. I had email on dial-up (yes I’m that old) and there was no such thing as video calls.  When I lived two states away, I would see my parents and family in person about three times a year (and to be fair it was only a two hour flight home, not a 24+ hour journey)! 

Now I’m on the other side of the world and I can ‘see’ my family anytime I want. I can enjoy their living space through my screen, and they can enjoy mine. I can invite them into our experiences in the moment, and I can be a part of the life events like birthdays and Christmas celebrations momentarily. 

My five-year-old has missed out on real hugs but he hasn’t missed out on the love and connection from his family all around the world.  He reads his stories to his nana and tells her his ‘made-up’ jokes.  And when we aren’t connected, he talks about Australia and his family there, like they are just down the road.

I guess what I’m saying is that whilst this new variant is causing a lot of confusion and concern, I’m staying the path. I’m doing my bit with my mask on and taking the precautions I need to, so that we can get through this dark winter.  I’m still hopeful that in 2022 with more booster vaccines, and more knowledge we will learn to live with Covid-19 and we can then travel home to be with family for real.  In the meantime I’m virtually happy enough.

When does this all end?

I’m frustrated. I’m exhausted. I’m done!

Anyone else? It can’t be just me??

I still often wonder how we have got to this place? How are we still here? Why can’t we make this all stop? It feels like a bad dream that we just can’t wake up from.

My sensible side, however, tells me that it is not that easy. This is not going away. A pandemic like this can’t simply disappear. So now we need to somehow find a way to live with it, live through it, protect ourselves, and as the English say, ‘carry-on’.

Is it that easy? Well I’m not a scientist, but I would do anything at this point (I mean anything) to find a way to live without worries of lockdowns, restrictions, testing, masks, border controls and more. I’m sure most of us, all around the world are feeling this exact same way.

What I worry about most right now, is how this is all impacting our younger generations. My son is only five years old, and yet he already lectures me on hand-washing protocol, use of anti-bac and social distancing. He worries about contact with his friends, and he continually talks about the fact that he cannot get on a plane to see his Nana in Australia.

My son tells me it is all because of the ‘big germ’ and he gives me these wild explanations and imaginations of different ways we could kill the germ. My absolute favourite was his idea to ‘poo on the germ’. He told me that his poo was so stinky it could kill anything. This could be true! Though, as I try to tell him (through my muffled giggles) that this can’t happen, and while it is a great idea, it is not realistically possible, it makes me quite sad. I want to fix this (all of it) for my imaginative five year old. I want to find the solution that makes sense for a child who wildly brings up new and creative ways to fix the world’s problems. If only it was this easy right?

Imagine if we adults were all five year olds? I would love to rewind time, to just over two years ago, to a world where our five year olds ruled. Perhaps, just perhaps, their creative imagination would have seen a different today. We can only dream of course.

Regardless, in my son’s world, the germ is something we live with now. It doesn’t bother him. He wears his mask when he needs to, and he follows the rules. Maybe that’s something we can all learn as adults?

To end off the title of this blog. When will this all end? It won’t. But we need to find our ‘five year old’ inside to keep moving forward. We need to follow the rules, and hope that together we can protect ourselves and each other.

We will conquer tomorrow together.

Virtually Starting a New Job

Yes I did! I started a brand new job with a brand new company just over six months ago (in the midst of this pandemic and lockdowns and restrictions).

I interviewed virtually. Completely over zoom meetings. No face to face. And, my interviews were always in smart but casual clothes sitting in my home office.

Working through lockdowns and balancing homeschooling

My first day and onboarding was virtual, my laptop was sent to my home address, and I remotely set up my profiles and logins with the IT team over the phone.

It was at least six months in before I even stepped foot into the office, and it was only then that I finally met a real life person in my new company.

Having said that, I don’t regret anything. I love my job, I am so glad I made the change, and I feel lucky to have found something that puts fire in my belly every morning.

My first time in our office headquarters (only 8 months into the new job!)

Starting to look for new opportunities I was scared. I felt like I should be grateful to be gainfully employed in the midst of this pandemic. But at the same time I was getting increasingly frustrated and I knew it was affecting me personally. There was this increasing expectation to be available around the clock, and I believe it was partly due to an assumption that when you work from home you can be 24/7. Wrong! I wasn’t sleeping and I was constantly on! I also felt like I needed a new challenge. To be pushed out of my comfort zone. And so I made the decision to take the plunge, after many years with the same company.

It was time for a real change. To focus on what was right for me!

What I’ve realised since moving companies and jobs, is that whilst the effects of the pandemic has changed the way we work, that we are still human, and we need to find a good balance between career and ambition, as well as health, family and wellbeing. That people should always come first. If a company puts profit and performance over its people, it loses. I have realised that technology is both a gift and a burden, and that you need to find a way to ensure that it doesn’t rule your existence. And I’ve learned that being happy at work is the best motivator.

My biggest learning of all… the pandemic should not be our excuse to finding that happiness. It may present hurdles and challenges but ultimately we own our decisions and life choices.

Covid Time Warp

It’s been a while I know. I’m sorry for that. I’m sure like many of you the events of the last two years have created many ups and downs.

More lockdowns, restrictions everywhere, constantly being updated on case numbers and death rates, feeling helpless to support those experiencing the fallout of the pandemic and the inabilIty to be with family and friends with travel and border controls.

Is anyone like me? I still question how we got here? its all too real I know but honestly if someone had have said to me two years ago this would happen, and on a global scale, I would have struggled to believe them. But here we are!

When I started this blog I truly thought Covid was a moment in time. Something we would endure and move on, and hopefully learn a lesson or two for the future of humanity. Well we are still living it and I hope we are taking learnings from it, but it’s not going away anytime soon. In fact, we know Covid is here for good, whether we like it or not, and now we have to find a way to keep moving forward to a new normal.

For a few months I kept coming back to this blog with the intention to write again. Don’t get me wrong a lot has happened since we last connected but there was something missing in my motivation or maybe creativity to get back on blog train!

I cannot believe we are mid way through October already and we are about to see another year close out in a few months. Time seems to have flown, and yet in many ways I don’t feel we are moving forward fast enough to get back to some kind of normality. Covid still looms over us, threatening to send us backwards, and just this week the UK news is throwing out fears of cases rising and additional restrictions through winter. De ja vu anyone?

A lot has happened for me this year and I have lots to share:

  • I started a brand new job with a new company – completely virtually
  • I finally got back on a plane and across international borders, navigating the covid travel procedures
  • I travelled for work again for the first time in over 18 months
  • I recycled all my ‘corporate clothes’ – after all the office is forever changed
  • I started the couch to 5k – not complete yet – but it is my new fitness challenge
  • And more …

What I’ve learned is to celebrate the milestones and find ways to challenge and stimulate my health and well-being – this is what keeps me moving forward with positivity.

Big Hopes for 2021

I see so many posts and blogs about farewelling 2020, and celebrating the back of a year that many would prefer to forget. Many have struggled through the past several months, being separated from loved ones, fearing this virus and all that it brings, job losses, business downturns, plans cancelled…. I could go on!

But I don’t want to forget. I don’t think we should. Human life is so precious and the little luxuries we have around us are often taken for granted. We should look back and learn. We should take heed of what has happened and hope that we can rebuild and find new and different ways to move forward.

All throughout history there have been natural disasters and plagues that have destroyed mankind and resulted in the mass loss of human lives. This one is no different. The spread of Covid-19 has moved quickly on a global scale, and this has been due to our inability to stop, follow rules and simply stay patient.

I’m writing this blog post because quite frankly I’m bored of it now. I’m sure we all are. We just want it over with, cut loose, get away, and live a normal life again. Yet that is just not possible right now. Even despite the recent vaccine approvals, life won’t be what we knew as ‘normal’ for quite a long time.

The after effects of this pandemic will likely last for years for many. So many have lost loved ones, and many have missed out on those final moments holding each other because of the risk of spreading Covid-19. Many businesses will never reopen, and let’s not forget the social and mental health impacts that isolation, fear, anxiety and loss has caused.

So will 2021 offer us a bright new shiny beginning?

The reality is, no! But with time, the roll out of vaccines, and an increased awareness and diligence from the general public we can hope for a slow return to a lifestyle that offers more freedom to move about and socialise with loved ones, friends and colleagues. We may even get comfortable giving those we care about a big hug again.

This past Christmas and New Years, has been the most minimalist celebration I’ve ever experienced. I am of course grateful for my small family and our quiet festivities. At the same time I have really missed spending time with our wider family, friends and purely enjoying that lead up to the festivities and celebrations, the events and the fun you have through the silly season. This year it didn’t feel so joyous.

So my New Year’s wish is for a hopeful year ahead. A year where things can change for the better, and we can all recover in our own ways. My four-year old son keeps asking me when the big germ will go away, so he can see his family in Australia and Ireland. I look forward to the day where I can tell him we have fought and won against the big germ and the planes are working again.

Happy new year 2021 – we have a lot banking on you!

The most wonderful time of the year…

With this year being what it’s been why should we follow tradition when it comes to Christmas?

I say let’s just throw all caution to the wind and start the festive season now! Why not? Positivity breeds positivity. Perhaps a little festive cheer and Christmas spirit is exactly what we all need right now to get us through the anxieties, set backs and worries that we have faced through this year. After all, a little Christmas spirit never hurt anyone.

So this past weekend was wet, cold and plain miserable for the majority of the time. With our current lockdown preventing us from doing much else but stay dry and warm indoors, I decided it was time to get out the Christmas tree.

My son and I spent the afternoon building our tree (a real one would never last through to Christmas), unraveling all of our decorations and baubles to carefully decorate its branches, and we even enjoyed some Christmas music to get the atmosphere going.

Our local garden center remains open through lockdown, so we also ventured into their new Christmas section and found some fun and quirky decorations for both inside and outside.

My son was so proud of his efforts, and looking at the tree with all its colours and lights after it was done made us all smile. This is truly the most wonderful time of the year, so why not start the feeling now. It’s time to look forward with hope, and if any time of the year brings hope, its Christmas!

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Lockdown Tip – Alphabet Hunt

My son is almost four and a half and an only child. So keeping him entertained, indoors, during a lockdown can be sometimes a little challenging.

He is at that age where he is curious and needs continual entertainment and company. During non-lockdown times we would generally mix up the weekends with some home activities, a play-date with one of his friends, and then a trip to a farm park, a zoo or some other activity.

However, with the closure of zoos, farm parks, activity centers, restaurants, and more, we are have to find other ways to keep him entertained and stimulated through the day. When the weather is grey and wet, there is always a temptation to just revert to screen time. Of course, some screen time if fine; but for me, personally, part of the fun of being a parent is enjoying learning and play with my son!

Today we made up a little game. I called it the Alphabet Hunt.

As my son is now in reception, he is learning phonics and letters. He is finding such joy in looking at new words and trying to sound them out. So we made a little game of it. I asked him to find different objects around the house that started with each of the letters, and then we worked together to sound them out so he could write the word next to each letter.

It kept him entertained for over an hour, and we had a lot of laughs as he would find very strange objects and played with their sound and spelling.

This was such an easy exercise to put together, and whether your child is spelling or just finding objects, it makes everything in the house a little fun as they go exploring through each room. There are so many ways you could play this type of game too, depending on your child’s age groups, and I could imagine the fun of a little competition between siblings.

I’ll keep sharing my ideas as they come to me, but I’d love to hear from others too! The more ideas and creativity the more we can conquer this lockdown and come out with a little less anxiety as parents!

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Locking down again…

England announced this week a second ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown for a month (maybe more). It didn’t come as a surprise with Covid cases increasing and our R number going up and up…

In some ways I feel like this should have happened earlier, but as I keep saying, we are where we are, and there is nothing we can do except comply with the rules and focus on staying safe and healthy.

This lockdown is a little different. The weather is much colder, the air feels damp, and so motivation to get outside and find things to do feels a lot harder. Plus, with Christmas only a handful of weeks away, it feels as though we are pinning our hopes on a ‘normal celebration’. But what is that really amidst this virus and the restrictions we face. Can we really expect to have a traditional Christmas this year? In the bigger scheme of things, the focus should really be on getting through this pandemic right?

So today was the first weekend of our new lockdown, and whilst it was cold outside, we were blessed with blue skies and more importantly, no rain!

The garden had taken quite a bad beating over the past few weeks in the wet windy rainstorms. It prompted us to take time as a family to do a small clean up, getting the garden clean and tidy for the winter frost that was surely arriving in the coming weeks.

More than anything, it was a bit of fun, quite a bit messy but most of all it was some much needed fresh air to get us out of the house enjoying the outdoors. Our son loves to be a helper, so we tasked him with removing some of the ‘badly planted’ carrots I had sowed over summer. He had to sort out the ones that had mutated together apart from the ones that were still edible. We made it a challenge to see how many ‘good’ carrots he could find.

What I’m learning is that children love activities that keep them entertained, and that offer them variety and where they can get involved and excited. Through the next four weeks I am challenging myself to seek out more activities like this – both indoor and outdoor. Locking down again reminds me that without the aid of farm parks, zoos or activity centers, we have to use our own creativity to look at different ways to help our little ones learn, grow and explore the world. But this makes it a little bit of fun! Today I enjoyed being a child again and spending quality time with my son in the fresh cool outdoors.

Sometimes it is just about finding the positive in a tough situation. Lockdown 2.0 we can do this!

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