February has been weird. It’s usually my least favourite month as it’s the time of year I associate most with my Dad – his birthday plus the anniversaries of his death and his funeral all take place in February. I usually find it incredibly difficult. This year has been better though: I’ve been consciously choosing to focus on all the happy memories I have of him rather than the sad ones; and whilst of course I have been thinking about him a lot, it hasn’t been all-consuming like it has been in past years. It’s felt…lighter.
Mid-month, right at the start of half term, we had a rather scary incident happen – a fire in our kitchen. Thankfully we are all safe and no-one got hurt, though my kitchen is a mess and it’s going to be weeks before we’re back to being anywhere close to resembling normal life.
Despite these tricky things going on, there have been lots of things to love in February too: the early appearance of gorgeous sunshine and warmer temperatures at the latter end of the month has been an absolute joy and has made an enormous difference to my mood; snowdrops and crocuses and daffodils bursting into life; half term adventures with my girls; and the promise of Spring just around the corner.
Here are all the little things I’ve been loving lately throughout February…
So far I’m doing well with my target of reading at least a book a month in 2019. February has been a good month for reading, starting off with ‘Tiny Beautiful Things’ by Cheryl Strayed.
I’ve been a fan of Cheryl Strayed ever since I read her memoir, ‘Wild’, a few years ago. I also love the film adaptation (starring Reese Witherspoon): it really helped me to untangle my thoughts and feelings after my Dad died and I felt like I was on the journey with her. I saw Cheryl speak live on stage a couple of years ago and she signed my copy of the book for me. I bought a copy of ‘Tiny Beautiful Things’ on impulse (without knowing anything about it) whilst I was at the event too and it’s been sat on my bookshelf waiting to be read ever since. It’s just never seemed like the right time to pick it up until now. I have no idea why now was the right time, it just was. I definitely choose which book to read next based on my instincts and what feels right.
I devoured ‘Tiny Beautiful Things’ in just a few days. Cheryl used to write as an online agony aunt: people would email her with some emotional challenge or difficult situation they were struggling with and she would respond with her honest advice. The book is a collection of some of the emails she got sent and her responses to them – not the usual sort of thing I would read but it was utterly brilliant. The honesty and tenderness with which she delivers the words those suffering souls needed to hear is exquisite – her writing is phenomenal. The no-holds-barred language she uses only enhances it (though I appreciate it’s not for everyone). I really felt like I was sat on the sofa having a deep and meaningful chat with a much loved and straight-talking friend rather than curled up with a book.
The personal experiences she draws on and shares in her answers are both heartbreakingly painful and unwaveringly moving and emotional. Her ability to really ‘see’ people and give them the answers that they probably already knew deep down had me laughing and crying in equal measure. So much of the advice and guidance she offers could apply to many people (including me). I underlined words, sentences and entire paragraphs that reached right into my core and stayed there as a reminder to live – to be brave in the choices I make, to do the hard things, to make as most of this one life we get in every single way that I can.
It was both easy to read and challenging. Easy because each chapter was comprised of a letter and Cheryl’s response, so it was quite simple to dip in and out of – I could read a letter at a time and put it down without losing track of the story. And challenging because of the topics covered – people wrote to her about all sorts of truly awful things, sending in haunting stories of despairing angst and tragedy. Some of Cheryl’s responses were equally as challenging to read – she has the kind of wisdom that you can only obtain from having been through such struggles and difficulties yourself… and survived.
I’m now on a mission to get hold of a copy of her novel, ‘Torch’, to add to my collection.
I had a few ‘days off’ from reading after finishing that in order to give my brain a break. Does anyone else do that? Sometimes I find that a book affects me so deeply it takes me a while to recover and return to the real world before I feel able to dive into something else. I wanted the next book I read to be something completely different and so I picked up ‘Neither Here Nor There’ by Bill Bryson (one of my Christmas presents). I LOVE Bill Bryson. He was a loyal companion during my adventures around Australia and New Zealand many moons ago and it has been years since I read one of his books. This is one I’ve not read before and I’m enjoying it immensely so far.
I also finally got hold of a copy of my friend’s brand new book ‘Happier, Healthier‘ and I couldn’t be more proud of her. I met Claire at exactly the right time in my life when I attended one of her yoga classes feeling very lost and disconnected six months after my Dad died. I was a mess, she’d just started up her business and truthfully, my weekly yoga session saved me. It still does. In return I’ve championed her business as much as possible; photographed her family several times (a three-generation family shoot, a maternity shoot and a newborn session) and we’ve been firm friends ever since.
‘Happier, Healthier’ draws on all of Claire’s in-depth knowledge and personal experiences to provide a comprehensive guide to mindful wellbeing, covering aspects such as yoga, nutrition, sleep, positive affirmations, setting intentions, positivity, mindfulness and journalling. I’m absolutely thrilled that a couple of my images from the photoshoots I did with Claire got used in the book too – it’s the very first time I’ve ever seen my photographs properly in print!
The husband and I finally finished watching ‘You’ on Netflix and it had us gripped to the end. I thought the acting was superb and really enjoyed the whole series. We’re looking forward to Season 2 already.
We also managed to sneak in a half term family trip to the cinema to see Lego Movie 2. It provided some much-needed light relief and I liked the message it shared: that everything isn’t awesome all of the time but that if you come back to what really matters (love and family and friendship) you can overcome any challenge. It was pretty funny and yes, there is another catchy song that I haven’t been able to get out of my head for the last week. The girls loved it!
I heard the news that I’d won a competition, the prize for which is a year-long membership to ClickinMoms – an online photographic community full of incredibly inspiring and talented photographers, many of whom I already follow on Instagram and am wowed by their work every single day. To say I am thrilled is an understatement. I’ve had a little explore of the resources available and am excited to dive into the forums, start connecting with people and soak up as much learning as I can. I’m determined to get my photography business off the ground properly this year and it feels like this is a good (and significant) nudge in the right direction.
For her birthday last month, Lola got given a ‘unicorn cupcake’ kit, so we spent a happy weekend afternoon baking, decorating and eating them.
I’ve also made several batches of banana cake. It’s going to be a while before we can bake anything (thanks to the aforementioned fire destroying my oven) so I’m glad I documented these!
My standard Mum uniform of jeans, jumpers and boots. Although this recent warmer weather means I don’t need quite so many layers – dare I ditch the boots and bring out the ballet pumps or is that just tempting the weather gods to change their plans and hit us with a snowstorm?!
After barely leaving the house in January I’ve been making sure we get outside so much more this month (even if it is a fight to get the girls out of the front door). I don’t want to waste a moment of this beautiful weather.
We had a chilly walk on Cannock Chase at the start of the month where we explored a new path, found nature’s very own adventure playground and got numb fingers and toes (which were definitely worth it for all the laughing we did together):
The following weekend we chased the winter sun through the trees on a different part of Cannock Chase – the light was just stunning:
We paid a visit to Shugborough, our local National Trust property, in search of snowdrops:
We played amongst the trees at Birches Valley one afternoon in half term:
And we walked along the canal in Great Haywood when my parents came to visit for the day:
All in all February has been a bit odd: it’s been full of some really lovely things that have made my heart happy and there has been some less good stuff thrown in too. I’m very much looking forward to welcoming in the new month and the new season. March brings a multitude of sporting events for Mimi (four cross country races, a handball tournament, a netball tournament and a football competition) plus we find out which high school placement she’s been offered. I still can’t believe I’ll have two out of three girls at high school in September.
Hopefully the glorious weather will continue and we’ll be able to have some more outdoor adventures too – sunshine really is good for the soul. And March means that we’re one step closer to the Easter holidays and our annual trip to Cornwall in April, which we’re all very much looking forward to as we have plenty of fun things planned. I can’t wait!
Joining in with Mummy Hearts You and Little Loves