Going Retro at the Drive-In

I’m most certainly revealing my age with this post. One of my fond, family memories that always makes me smile are the nights we spent at the local Drive-In theatre. As a little girl with my parents and my younger brother, we would make a night of it. We had a family van, which was perfect for this kind of entertainment: we would comfortably pile into the back, open the doors, and enjoy the movie experience under a blanket, in the open night air with the wired movie speaker hooked to our window.

There was no radio wave or WiFi, and at intermission we would race to the cafeteria at the back of the drive-in to purchase a milk shake, chips and popcorn. The drive-ins didn’t last too long and most were shut by my teens, as multi-cinema complexes offered several movie choices, surround sound and comfortable chairs. On top of this, I guess the temperamental weather conditions could make or break your in car experience at the local drive-in.

Well today I went back in time.

I took my son to his first ever drive-in, albeit the performance was scheduled for 11.00am so there were no stars. Nonetheless, it was really enjoyable all the same. We went to see Dinosaur World Live at The Drive Inn, London. At first he wasn’t sure about this movie experience from a car. But as we tuned in the audio to our digital car radio, he was suddenly mesmerized by the live action, the big screen and the child-like interaction the performance held (including having us beep our horns several times to scare off the dinosaurs)!

What I also loved, was that with the joys of modern connectivity, we could order our snacks from the comfort of our car on their online ordering system. Within five minutes of clicking the order now button, I had someone deliver us fries, drinks and popcorn to our car window!

Another bonus to the drive-in during the current pandemic and with Covid cases on the rise again, we could sit in our car, mask free, with no concerns about social distancing. My son was able to sit in the front seat next to me for the performance, and we happily enjoyed our snacks and the performance in our own car bubble.

It was a little bit of a drive from our house, but definitely worth the experience, and I’d love to do this again, relive my youth, with a night time movie, hopefully with stars included!

It does make me wonder what else will come back in fashion as we look at different entertainment options throughout the pandemic. Dust off your roller-skates people, I’m taking mine to the street!

Covid makes the distance feel real…

When I moved to the United Kingdom from Australia it was on a whim. One moment it was an idea, and the next it was happening.

I was single, a little lost, and looking for some adventure. I didn’t think it would be long term.

Thirteen years later I’m still here, but now married with a gorgeous son, pets and a mortgage. My life is here… my love, my lifestyle, my career and my friends.

The distance back home to Australia has always been present but never a barrier. When I’ve needed to, I’ve flown home, even at short notice. I’ve maintained regular vists to my family and friends, and I’ve had my mum here every year. My brother, his wife and my amazing nephews were actually here with us in the UK until December last year. They beat the pandemic and moved back to Queensland in December.

Now that distance feels real. Now I feel more lost than ever as I cannot get home and cannot just ‘hug’ my Mum, my brothers and my family right now. It is now two years since I’ve been home to Brisbane. The longest I’ve ever been away from my hometown. 

On my husband’s family side, we had one small trip to Northern Ireland in February (just before lockdown). My son has no grandparents or aunts, uncles and cousins close by. I feel this. It is hard. Not just for us as parents, but for his family relationships.

Covid has taken so much from many of us this year, and I know I’m fortunate to have my health and well-being, but I also want the comfort of family. Family is everything for me. My brothers and my sister-in-law I consider among my closest friends; my nephews are so special to me I cannot explain; and my Mum has been my constant and my rock through so much. I need to hug them, hold them, and just be around them.

This week I cancelled our flights to Australia in December. This was hard. So hard.

I’d already had our April flights cancelled, and my Mum’s trip in July was impacted too. Brisbane felt like it was a certainty. Surely this pandemic couldn’t last a whole year?

Well, here we are. It’s the end of August and there is no vaccine, cases are rising again, and the quarantine restrictions in Australia don’t seem to be easing at all. My reality check finally set in, and we made a call. A difficult call, but for the safety, well-being and sanity of all of my little family we decided to cancel our plans and stay in the UK this Christmas.

Right now, I’m truly sad. I’m a bit lost. I have to hope that there will be advancements in early 2021 that will finally allow us to start getting back to some kind of normality. I need this to happen. Many of us need this to happen.

We can only hope for a better 2021…

Housework Humdrum?

Having worked at home since February this year (yes over 6 months) everything now centres around our home. Work, study, childcare, family – and these worlds are colliding. Thanks Covid!

Keeping up with housework is now just one more thing to add to that list.

I’ll be honest. I don’t like housework. I dislike cleaning. I especially don’t enjoy washing sheets or re-making beds. To add to that, I do not iron.  In fact, I deliberately buy clothes that don’t need ironing. My son’s school shirts need to be iron-free for sure!

Nowadays, my son (who is just turned four) is in the house most of the day, and he’s not exactly into cleaning up after himself. Thankfully the weather has been generally alright, although the odd wet weather means we have wet shoes and paw prints tracking through our house. There is also a delightful trail of crumbs around the kitchen table after each meal.  You would think our dog would delight in lapping up the fallen food items, but sadly he is quite fussy and prefers his meals to be intact.

I like order and tidy, but lately I feel less inclined to ‘find time’ to ensure that everything is immaculate.

We do have less house guests so perhaps it is the fact that we are not entertaining as much anymore.

Truthfully, at the end of each day I’m kind of tired of being in the same four walls. It’s become too much, and I love my house, but I don’t love being in it almost 24/7!

I’d rather use that valuable cleaning time to get out, go for a walk, breathe fresh air, or just be away from the house full stop. The washing will be there for me when I’m back, and it’s not like I’m heading out and I need to ensure that my best outfit is cleaned and ready to wear.  Clothes folded? Nope they are in the basket and I can grab what I need as and when I feel like it. The dishwasher does need emptying, but that can wait until after dinner, when I have more motivation to re-stack it. Those toys strewn all over our living room floor will just be pulled out again tomorrow, so why pack them up all neatly each night?

Excuses, excuses… but I’m sure there are many others who can relate.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not living in a pig sty. Far from it. I’m just not keeping up with everything as I should or normally would.

The real question is does it matter right now? We have so much going on in our heads. This year really has been like nothing we ever imagined. It’s almost like we are living one of those Hollywood movies.  Except there is no popcorn and we don’t get to go home after 90 minutes and get back to our real lives. So clean house, washing folded… as I put everything into perspective, it is one of the graces I give myself.

What about you? Where are you giving yourself some space right now?

Covid – Indulgences

Our lifestyles have changed significantly. At least for most of us.

My social calendar is less active, I’m not travelling so much, and I’m not filling up my weekends with many different social activities. I’m spending a lot more time at home.

AND… I’m giving myself more permission to make up for the lack of activities with more indulgences… why? 

Ok so here’s my self-assessment or perhaps it is a self-diagnosis. Regardless, I’d love to hear from anyone else, and maybe hear other’s opinions on my own evaluation.

Snacks and Treats

Excuse number one, I have a four-year-old boy. He is always hungry. He wants to snack all day long. When I pull out the biscuit tin, I have to try one myself (for his well-being of course). 

Then, as one of my video conference calls finishes a smidge early, I could go back to my exploding inbox, or I could grab a biscuit? The dilemma is real!

Coffee … Coffee … Coffee

My sleep these days is seriously disrupted. I’m often still online trying to finish my day’s work into the evening. Then I need wind down time (blogging, movies, reading, cleaning…) and so I’m not getting to bed until late. Still sleep evades me, and when I do finally get into that wonderful slumber, my wonderful four year old wakes and wants a cuddle. It’s a no win.

We have a ‘Nespresso’ machine at home that froths the milk. It is wonderful! It is convenient! And unlike the café near work, it is easy to access, and I can go back for more multiple times without a straight-up cost and the inconvenience of trying to rush back for my next meeting.

Wine 

Work and home feel like a big blur right now. Sometimes the one thing that signifies the end of my workday, is just pouring a simple glass of wine. It’s that simple. It’s refreshing, and it feels like the evening can finally begin – I can relax, sit back and unwind.

Previously, that separation from work came from the commute or drive home from the office, or the school pick up.  Our brains need to mentally disconnect, and right now it’s hard. My work laptop is just in the other room. My emails come through my phone. It is too easy just to make that excuse …’It’s just one more email right?’ Wrong. 

Online spending

I’m a sucker for shopping most of the time, but right now I’m the prime candidate. Offer me a discount, a deal where I can return for free? Ok I’m in, where do I put my credit card details? 

I’m actually not missing the high street shops at all. I love the convenience of shopping on my iPad and the convenience of clicking through catalogues in my spare time. But it is dangerous for sure. Checking my bank statements and credit card bills of late, someone needs to remove my Wi-Fi access! 

It’s not all bad, but it has certainly been a change of lifestyle and focus for me.  I’m sure many others can understand. Is it sustainable? Probably not. But for now this is my new reality.

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Experiences I Want Post Lockdown — Lifesfinewhine

Life During Lockdown A few months ago everything seemed to change for almost everyone. Our regular lifestyle, schedules and lives in general were changed as we went into lockdown. Although the changes have been made for safety reasons there are still things that we really miss that we wish we could still experience. Naveesha, a […]

Experiences I Want Post Lockdown — Lifesfinewhine

Remote Working: Is it working for you?

I returned from annual leave this week, and to be honest, I’m not sure how I feel right now. I feel like I’m in a half-way house, a kind of blur. I’m back but it’s not the same. I don’t feel the energy I would normally feel on that first day back from work. There is something missing.

It is strange to me not coming back to a physical office after a week out. For me, getting dress for work and driving to the office on that first day back kind of signified the end of a holiday and a real kickstart back into work. I loved walking in, having the team around me ask me about the time away, perhaps comment on my tan, and tell me how refreshed I felt. It was energising and motivating, and I felt ready to get back to it.

This week that didn’t happen. I simply walked down the stairs of our house and into our study. Oh, I did stop to make myself a latte before sitting down to my computer, readying myself to weed through the myriad of emails and calendar requests for this week.

This week there was no banter from my colleagues. In fact, my first meeting was at 9.00am on the Monday morning (first day back), and it was a client/supplier call.  We briefly mentioned in our introductions that this was my first day back from annual leave, but we then quickly carried on to the task at hand. The meeting was scheduled only for thirty minutes and this wasn’t the type of call to get into all the fantastic details of my week away on the Cornish coast.

I’m not complaining about remote working. In fact, working from home isn’t all that bad. I do get a lot more time back from not having to commute, and I am able to flex my hours a little more to meet the demands of being in a global role and being available to all regions. Meaning I’m not sitting in traffic from 7.00 am and therefore I can take that call with my colleagues from Asia without trying to rush into the office.  On top of this, there are less distractions. No longer do I get involved in the ad-hoc conversations with other colleagues in the office, varying from workload, weekend plans or holiday ideas. Nowadays there is no real opportunity to just bump into random colleagues on the way to a meeting, which then turns into a five or ten-minute conversation that in turn makes me late for my next scheduled meeting.  

But this week, I’ve really missed these distractions. It has made me reflect on what we are potentially missing out on by working from home every single day, with no physical interaction. I miss the general banter, the noise and laughter from the teams around me. I have missed having people walking by, having conversations and just the presence of a workplace community. One of the big benefits of being in an office environment is meeting new people, building connections, running into random colleagues you’ve not seen for a while, and even reconnecting with someone who is maybe travelling through the office, and just having an unscheduled opportunity to catch up on what is happening in each other’s world.

It’s the simple and unplanned connections that I guess we have taken for granted. These are the connections that build our network of support who help us every day in our jobs: through the triumphs and troughs. It’s the friendships we build in the workplace that become incredibly important in our lives. Some of my closest friends have been past colleagues or team members or even clients. Now they are life-long friends who are a part of my life and our friendship goes beyond the workplace.

We spend most of our waking hours at work (this is true if we work full time). I solemnly believe that we need to enjoy the workplace culture and feel a connection to the people we work with. My question is, how do we do that now when we are working remotely, or virtually?

How do we build a network, friendships, and create that fun and light-hearted banter that the office environment offered?  Does this now just go away as remote working becomes more popular as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic?

More importantly, are we ok with this, or do we have reservations about the future of work?

COVID Etiquette

Last week we had someone come to our house to quote on some work. When I answered the door, this man outreached to shake my hand. I awkwardly avoided his gesture. I felt rude and it’s played on my mind ever since.

A few weeks back I was in our garden centre. A lady touched my elbow in a gesture to enquire on where I’d purchased my outfit. I truly believe she didn’t intend anything sinister (she simply didn’t think), but I jumped back in shock at the touch of her hand. It felt so foreign after weeks of lockdown. I still think about my reaction and her face when I reeled away from her.

Today I was leaving the post office, and a gentleman opened the door for me. I smiled, but I was wearing a mask. Did he even know I smiled at him?

The thing is, I’m a tactile person. I love a big squishy hug; I like to connect and feel close to people, it is my normal reaction to reach out and touch an arm or a cheek as a gesture of friendship, compassion and love. 

It’s now been five months since we have really been able to hug anyone outside immediate family. I’ve not been in the office since February this year (over six months). As such I’ve not been in a position where I have had the opportunity to consider shaking hands with a colleague. I’ve missed the connections we had through loved ones, friends and colleagues. The simple gestures we perhaps took for granted. 

So my question is, where does this leave us moving forward? And more importantly… How comfortable will we feel going back to those tactile interactions (if and when that happens). Will we really want to shake hands with my colleagues, or kiss and hug friends and acquaintances when we see them? What are the other ways we show the same connection, without any physical interaction?

I’m also a non-verbal person.  I like to smile. My smile is a communication tool, and I use it to show others that I’m thankful, welcoming or simply as a greeting. No words, just a smile. So how does this happen now when we are wearing a mask? I feel as though one of my core communication methods has been taken away from me.

I am not questioning why we wear a mask. The mask is a necessity and I’m fully compliant with the requirements to wear one. We need to wear one for our own safety and well-being.

However, I’ll be honest right here. I hate wearing them. They are uncomfortable, and hot, and I feel like I can’t communicate well in them, and most of all, I cannot read other’s expression and people cannot read mine. 

They say habits and behaviours can be changed within a month of conditioning. We have had over five months of restrictions with social distancing, and now with masks being normalised, I have to wonder how this will affect our social behaviours from now and beyond Covid-19. 

Will it all change? How will children and young adults be impacted by this current situation? Will it impact their behaviours for the future? Will our way of interacting and socialising now change for good?

Hopefully when the time is right, when our safety and well-being can be assured, we can retrain ourselves to be comfortable to become more tactile once again. Or perhaps we will always retain that fear that a virus like COVID-19 (or worse) will rise again, and so it is better to be safe than sorry. Maybe this is now life as we now it, and this is our new normal.

Only time will tell…

Blogging through COVID…

So, until just a few weeks ago, I had not written anything publicly for almost three years! Perhaps it was a little bit of writer’s block? Mostly it was time and motivation. Suddenly work, parenting and life in general got in the way.

So… why start a new blog right now? 

Writing has always been a little bit of an escape for me. It’s also incredibly cathartic when I need to express myself. I felt that this year has thrown to me (to everyone) a curve ball. We really are navigating an unknown right now. Writing about my thoughts, feelings and experiences is helpful for me, it enables me to reflect and sometimes calm my own anxiety by putting it down on paper (or on a blog).

It’s strange how a crisis or uncertainty seems to send me straight to my writing. I’ve always enjoyed creating stories or just even writing a diary or a journal. The last real catalyst for me was around six years ago, where I faced the early loss of four pregnancies and other fertility challenges.  A journal that kept me almost sane during a tumultuous time ended up being my first published memoir: Finding the Rainbow. From there I felt inspired to continue writing stories, both fiction and non-fiction, and for almost three years writing became my outlet and focus outside of my professional career. 

2015 – The Launch of my first published work – Finding the Rainbow

I also started my first blog, same name as my first memoir, Findingtherainbow.net.  The blog allowed me to give updates to my followers, give my perspective on fertility, trying to get pregnant and the many things that I felt created anxiety, concern, or just discussion when dealing with the highs and lows of trying to get pregnant (or staying pregnant) when Mother Nature has a different plan.

Right or wrong, I didn’t seek personal counselling during that time. My mindset was calmed through the pure connection I had with my online audience, and that was what helped me through one of the most difficult times in my life.

And so this blog, EmbracingthisStorm.com, has been created in the same vein as my prior blog. You’ll see I have a theme of rainbows and storms. My theory is that every storm leaves damage behind it, and there is always a rainbow to look forward to, as a sign of hope.

With COVID-19, we are all in the same storm. It is just that perhaps we are travelling through this storm in different boats. Each of us is riding out the turmoil in the best ways that we can (and we have our own ways of coping with bad weather). 

So, I’m back on the wagon – the writing wagon! This time is slightly different. I’m trying something new. My previous blog was such a new experience, and on reflection, I guess I was still a little gun-shy. I sometimes avoided sharing too much ‘personal’ information about myself and I was very nervous about sharing any photos of me or my family.  This time you get me, the whole me. The good, the bad and the ugly. If I want to blog, I need to be me, the real me. So let’s see where this takes us… 

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Studying Despite Covid-19

With less time commuting to an office, and the restrictions cancelling most of our social activities and events, you would have thought I had much more time on my hands. 

Late in 2019 I started an online Executive MBA with the Quantic School of Business and Technology. The course was something that would support my career ambitions, broadening my broader business acumen. When I signed up for the course, I had no idea what was coming in 2020, and had I known then, I’m not sure I would have been so keen to jump in feet first into such a heavy weight study schedule.

When I first began the MBA modules, I was completely motivated. Despite a busy work schedule and trying to juggle my son’s schooling commitments, travel for both work and social purposes and a busy activities calendar, I managed to fit the weekly study commitment into my schedule quite easily.

Now, after months of lockdown and now even with the loosened restrictions, my study mojo seems to have evaporated. It doesn’t make sense!

Work is still busy, and it eats up a lot of my week. But that was no different from before. The big difference now is that my social calendar is far less active. Also, any other activities that would normally fill my week, as well as any work travel and commuting commitments have significantly declined. So theoretically, I should have more time back and therefore more time back to commit to my study schedule. The problem is I seem to reach the end of each week without even having put an hour into my studies. I feel like I’m constantly in catch up mode and I’m chasing my tail to catch up on each module before the due date or scheduled exams.

The course itself is so easy to schedule into a weekly timetable. There are no set classes, and it’s accessible from a PC, iPad or even a smart phone. With each module it is easy to catch up when you have some spare time, or move ahead from the schedule, and the exams can be done in the comfort of your own home. It is the perfectly flexible study solution for anyone who has a busy lifestyle.

Balancing work, study and childcare!

The problem is that none of this matters right now. I am continually finding different excuses not to study right now, and I feel like I’m falling behind as each week progresses.

I keep telling myself it is the sudden summery weather that is calling me away from my studies.  Or that perhaps I feel a little lost and unsure of what we are really facing through this pandemic, and therefore my headspace cannot cope with much more right now. The truth is that this is all excuses. I’ve lost my motivation right now. I need to get it back.  

Perhaps I just need to give myself a little space, and a little freedom?

I would love to hear from anyone else who is successfully (or even half-successfully) balancing studies, a hobby or perhaps learning something new right now amongst other daily commitments. How do you do it? What do you do to keep yourself from distraction? How do you keep your head above water and get a good night’s sleep?

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