Couch to OK…

Let me begin with a disclaimer.

I’m not what you would call a slouch. I like exercise. I’ve grown up around it and I’m vocal about the benefits of maintaining health and wellbeing through exercise. Recently, I have been a bit of a slouch.

In a way, I forgot the golden rule that exercise serves to callous an individual against most of life’s stresses and strains. Instead, I gave in to those stresses and strains. Both exercise and diet suffered.

One of the [many] positive outcomes of finding out I’m not yet on my final path, was that my cholesterol level was quite high. Not wanting to bring on what I had feared was ailing me, I decided to buck my ideas up and get back on track.

Running

I’m on week two of the ‘Couch to 5K’ training program. I began while I was still under the perceived heart scare as in my head, 5k wasn’t a massive distance as I’d happily run 12 miles before; admittedly, it was a few years ago. I figured that it could only do me good and if I did have a heart condition, that distance wouldn’t tax me too much.

The program is an app that you download to your phone. It’s backed by the BBC Sport as part of their ‘Get Inspired’ initiative, aimed at getting Brits to take regular exercise. You get a choice of coaches, who happen to be personalities from the broadcasting world. They tell you when to run, how to run and how often. The only thing not provided is will power.

It seems to be working and more importantly, I’m enjoying being out on my feet. They do a ‘Couch to 10k’ too, for those without perceived heart conditions..

Follow me

Leading by example is important to me so I’m also sourcing Park Runs for me and the cubs. School has notified us with mild concern about their body mass index (BMI) and whilst I’ve never held much truck for the system I have noticed that both of my darlings are a little on the big side.

Rather than beginning to stigmatise and label them at such a young age I intend to just make them more active when we are together. This weekend they are coming to a Kung Fu session with me. I can’t wait.

Killing me softly

This Christmas just past a friend, work colleague and neighbour of mine invited me to his house for dinner with his family on the 27th. He has three children of comparable age to mine and we occasionally have play dates.

For the meal, we were accompanied by his partner’s family; her sister, her mother and her father. Her father was doing the majority of the cooking so we sat in the kitchen keeping him company. He looked in his late 70’s and had noticeable poor posture. He revealed the reason in a conversation.

’40 years of sitting at a desk has rendered my abdominal muscles useless’

That scared me. My job used to be more practical, but promotions have meant that I’ve been more managerial for the last decade or so. Work does give us the option of using ‘standing desks’ but I’d always declined, favouring getting up and moving around every hour or so. The only problem with this approach is that I tended to get stuck into a task and by the time I lifted my head, two hours had passed.

close up photography of wristwatch
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I set my watch alarm to the hourly alert. The annoying function that I had disabled many moons ago. Now, every time the double beep sounds, I get up from my seat, perform 30 star jumps followed by 30 squats. In time, I hope this will become a Pavlovian response that will pay dividends in later life.

If anything good has come of my near miss, it was highlighting the fact that I had been taking my health and welfare for granted.

I owe myself and the cubs so much more than that.

BSD

All in good time

It hasn’t been plain sailing in the BSD household recently, and I’m squarely to blame.

Youngest cub has made the quantum leap to being potty trained. A real milestone in the transition from toddler to child. I’m ever so proud of him; he even goes to the bathroom standing up, after observing daddy in some uncomfortably candid moments.

I was conscious of this milestone as he entered the schooling system last September. His birthday is in late August and he had only just turned 4. Personally, I think that this is too young to enter full-time education, but such is life. I wanted him to be dry by the time he entered the system.

There is no shortage of reading out there with useful hints and tips. I knew what I wanted to achieve and set about doing it. I had the appropriate discussions with him and we spoke about what we would do to achieve it. We were both quite excited.

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At first, things went quite well. He would excitedly run up to my room in the morning to proclaim his dry night. Great success!

He then had a couple of slip ups, but this was fine; the road to success is rarely a straight one. We could handle it. Bed changed, cub washed, no harm done; on with our day.

We then had a frequency shift; the dry days were beginning to lose out to the wet days. As we awoke in the morning, the disappointment in his voice was heartbreaking. More cuddles and reassurances that this was okay and that he would get it in time were administered.

I changed tactics slightly. Both cubs usually bedded down with a bottle of water to combat nighttime thirst. This stopped. We also watched the volumes of drink that we consumed in the pre-bedtime hour. This was restricted too.

It didn’t help.

We then tried a reward system. The star system that was already established was utilised. A star would be rewarded for more dry nights than wet nights.

This was wrong.

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Things seemed to be getting worse.

Not only were we experiencing more wet nights but his skin also began to suffer. He’d clearly been peeing early in the night and then sleeping in it. The damage was visible.

He was also getting damaged inside with feelings of regret and shame of not doing as was expected of him.

I had a paradigm shift.

It  followed some soul-searching on my part and answering a few questions.

  • Why were we doing this?
  • Who would benefit?
  • How was it making him feel?
  • How was it making me feel?

The answers, were quite damming.

  • We were doing this because I had decided that we should do it.
  • Whilst we would both benefit, primarily I would.
  • It was clearly making him feel bad; he was neither dry nor earning rewards.
  • This made me feel bad.

Time for a change.

worm s eye view photography of stop signage
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We stopped. We had another chat and more importantly we re-bonded.

This took the form of a huge cuddle whilst watching his favourite film and eating popcorn. Eldest wasn’t left out; she got under one arm (and near the popcorn). I could, quite literally feel us all renergising in each other’s company.

There were some big learning points here and they were all for me.

I realised that I had let outside influences decide on what was best for my cub, rather than let him tell me.

Please understand, I don’t mean that I expected a 4-year-old to vocalise what he wanted; our children tell us things in so many other ways. We, as adults have to shut out the external noise and truly listen to what they are ‘saying’.

I was guilty of comparing him to his sister, to his classmates, to books e.t.c and in doing so, I ignored the only one I should’ve really listened to; him.

Attaching desired behaviour to a reward system is an age-old methodology but I applied it incorrectly. I’m still not sure I should have applied it at all.

He’s fine now. His skin shows no traces and he’s his usual, cheeky self. He’s back in the training pants for bed as the realisation that he is a deep sleeper will most likely mean that he takes a little longer to get dry.

I have every confidence that he will be; all in good time.

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BSD

And I’m stuck. Again. x 2

I’ve been quiet. I’m sorry.

The rules have changed and I’m in the process of seeking legal help.

Whilst there’s no good time to do this, now is a really bad time.

It’s also necessary.

When I have the energy I’ll write about it as objectively as I can.

Whilst I’m emoted and have a taste of fire in my mouth, the keyboard stays silent.

Every day, find a reason to smile; counting your blessings is the best way.

BSD

On the way home..

I haven’t done one of these for a while, but eldest was on form again.

It’s a thursday catchup as we haven’t seen each other in a few days. The darker nights and the motion of the car tend to be the gentlest lullaby for youngest cub, who is asleep before we hit the main roads. His sister is in full flow.

‘So dad…’ she begins

‘I’ve been thinking about Egypt a lot as we’ve been studying it in school. We talked about the great pyramids of Giza and the curse of the mummy’s tomb. Do you believe in the curse?’

No; I tend to…

‘I don’t believe in the curse. I think it was, wait for this, you’ll like this one; bacteria!’

I’m impressed. Do continue..

‘Well; my friend and I are now scientists who don’t believe in God’

Wait a minute; you go to a Church of England School. You pray every day.

‘I don’t really pray any more; I just think’

Ah so you reflect?

‘No; I just think about things that have happened recently….’

Well it’s fine to challenge beliefs darling; I encourage you to take nothing at face value but, be prepared to come up with an argument, both for and against. And be prepared to respect the views of others, without being dogmatic.

‘That sounds like a lot; I’m only 8. Anyway, a dead body locked in an almost air tight building is bound to generate some bacteria. Either that, or the bodies were coated in something that we can’t detect, that became airborne during the course of decomposition. Once the tomb was disturbed, the entrance of new air caused a reaction and the bacteria was breathed in. Boom’

Are you sure you’re only 8?

‘I told you; I’m a scientist.’


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‘What would happen if the Universe shrunk?’

It depends on how quickly it happened; we probably wouldn’t notice. It could be shrinking now.

‘I don’t believe in aliens. Little things running around out there’

Well it’s hard to discount other life forms. The Universe is infinite, and expanding.

‘Not shrinking?’

Definitely not shrinking. It’s still expanding from the big bang.

‘How many other galaxies do you know?’

Just Andromeda.  I think. I’ll have to check when we get home. Think about this; each star that you can see in the night sky is probably a sun. Each of those suns could, potentially have planets orbiting around them. Any one of those planets in the Goldilocks zone, could support life similar to ours. Now imagine this; all the stars that we can see, in the expanse of the sky above us, are a fraction of the stars out there. For scale, it’s not even equivalent to me placing a pea in our garden, but we can only see one-quarter of the pea. To travel to the other side of that pea, would take millions of light years; do you know what a light year is? It sounds like a measurement of time but it’s actually a measure of distance. It’s the distance that light can travel in a year. Light travels at 186,000 miles, per second. PER SECOND. Times that by the number of seconds in a year.

What do you think of that?

‘My friend at school said he rode his dad’s motorbike down the road one night. I don’t think that’s true’


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‘Do you believe in mythical creatures?’

I’m a fan of cryptozoology, which is the study of mythical creatures. My favourite was Bigfoot, but you have the Loch Ness monster amongst others.

‘What others?’

I’m stumped.

‘A unicorn?’

Yeah; why not.

‘What was so good about Bigfoot?’

Strangely, it was the most plausible of all of the stories, and there was video footage.

‘I’ve seen it; do you believe it?’

No; not really. There’s not enough strong evidence. Where are the bones of the deceased? hair samples? scat?

‘What?’

Scat. Poo. It’s what you look for as evidence of existence. It can tell you loads.

‘I don’t like the sound of that. Maybe it poos out of the other end?’

Which other end?? It’s head?

‘Yes. It could all build up inside and then come out later’

I’m not sure you’ve thought that one through. It would still have to come down and hit the floor.

‘Not for a while though. That’s probably their secret’

dadplusone

BSD

I did this..

I’d heard about people doing this before and had cringed at the mere thought.

I saw it happen in a tv show; it was awful; truly, truly awful.

Now I’ve done it, I can confirm that the reality is just as bad.

Yesterday I was at a Christening of a long-time friend. His daughter has had her first child, and has asked me to be Godfather. I’m so pleased and honoured that I’m writing about it soon.

At the after celebration, it was a chance to catchup with friends I hadn’t seen in a while.

The wife of a guy I used to work with was standing to one side, wearing a gorgeous maxi dress and enjoying the unseasonably warm weather. I smiled at her, she smiled back. I then tilted me head, and adopted a curious look.

I made my way over, expression fixed.

Oooh I say, something I should know? I asked.. she looked puzzled.

Are congratulations in order? I asked.

‘Oh right!’ she said, catching on…

‘No; just too much pizza and pie over the summer’

Now I’m on Ebay looking for a time machine.

BSD

And, I’m stuck.

It’s been a busy year so far. I’ve taken a lot on and although it feels good, I’ve become stuck.

Two things have struck me recently;

Firstly, it’s nearly Christmas. I’ve got to prepare and this year has flown.

Secondly, in 15 years, I’ll be 60. This thought was bought on by a tweet about Angela Bassett (60) at an award ceremony.

That’s just the way my mind works.

The first 8 years of my eldest cub’s life have shot by which brings my mind to the passage of time, and how I could be wasting it.

Or at least not making ‘enough’ progress.

That voice is back.

‘Surely I should be there now, rather than where I actually am, here’

The internal coach. Eternal critic.

This time, I have an answer. Where I am now, is exactly where I’m supposed to be.

It’s easy to listen to this critic who will make you forget just how far you’ve come, both personally and professionally.

I’m learning two new skills. They’re big skills that can’t be rushed, but at the grand age of 45, I’m restless. Both skills have ground to a halt; one financially, one technically.

Again, the critic inside thinks I should be further forward.

That is, until I look back 12 months and see that then me, and now me, are strangers. If now me had told then me where I’d be now, it would appear a tale of pure fallacy.

So I take a breath and a break, and relax.

I’m writing this on a windy hilltop, enjoying the sunset. And smiling.

Push

Angela Bassett looked amazing, by the way.

BSD

Written in the Stars

I’ve hit upon an idea, and it’s a good one.

Okay, okay, total honesty time, my daughter has hit on an idea which was actually a re-hash of how we used to do things before the split.

With her being 8 and he being 4, the usual rivalries etc. rear their heads from time to time. A household can descend into a lawless wasteland if behaviour is left unchallenged.

We’ve been going through the normal challenges that children pass through, where they exercise the human condition of testing boundaries. I am a disciplinarian, but also a humanitarian. Being brought up by a strict father (including corporal punishment) I decided way before I had the cubs that I wouldn’t be that kind of guy. After all, what does beating a child ever teach them, that the bigger and stronger person is always right?

Wrong.

I could never hit my cubs. Such outbursts smack of frustration, a lack of control and revenge for not being obeyed.

In a technique honed with my daughter, I prefer to reason things out in conversation, with age appropriate language. Tone of voice and cadence also came in to play, supported by changing facial expressions. It seemed to work. She’s well-adjusted and appears to be quite rational.

He’s a little different. He gets frustrated quickly which I suspect is linked with his rough start in life and the fact that his diction isn’t quite where it could be for a child his age; he struggles to be understood at times.

His sister can also press his buttons pretty easily and she does so often.

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We had just emerged from a period of them sniping at each other, where my techniques weren’t working. I resorted to separating them and temporary banishment to respective bedrooms.

She broke the embargo to come and talk to me.

‘You know dad you should maybe bring back the star system. Every time we do something good, we get a star. When we’re not so good, you take one away.’

This was something we used to do regularly and it worked particularly well. Great idea, I told her, and gave her a hug. I also asked her why she winds her brother up all the time.

‘Because he reacts!’ she states, before heading back to her confines.

The notice board in the kitchen now has two sections. One for her and one for him. Stars are drawn for good behaviour and removed for violations. I’m not too specific as what constitutes what, as I don’t want them to escape on a technicality.

It’s been in force about a week now and seems to be working. I added the further incentive that if either got to 10 stars, I would convert those stars into pounds, or an equivalently valued treat.

If only my dad had been as inventive.

black-and-white-sport-fight-boxer

BSD

 

 

3 years on; I’ve figured it out

Why single parents are so tired.

Questions!

They come thick and fast and at any time. Now I’m a great believer in educational opportunity so I aim to inform as much as possible.

When I’m tired though….

Questions asked

What I  should have said What I actually said
What’s your favourite colour Adults don’t tend to have favourite colours Blue
Who’s that? (TV weatherman) I’m not sure; his name will come up shortly Alan
Who’s your favourite Power Ranger I don’t really have a favourite, as I’m an adult Alan, the Purple one. You may not know him as he only fights crime on a Saturday
Where are they going (car driving the opposite way) I couldn’t possibly know that Primark
How fast can you run (after watching Usain Bolt) Fast humans can do about 20 mph Just a little slower than him
Where’s that sheep’s mum Not too far away Driving that tractor
Why’s Saturday It just is ?????
Why are those birds on the roof It’s a safe perch away from predators They’re keeping an eye on you
What keep the planet spinning Interactional forces of the magnetic poles Children eating their vegetables
Why can you see the moon during the day It’s a satellite of earth that orbits independently to our rotation It’s keeping an eye on you

I’ll set them straight before they do any exams.

BSD

It shouldn’t take this long..

The cubs are with me for this week; I’ve managed to score some time off work. Early crossed wires means that the ex and I cross paths at 60 mph in the countryside. A quick phone call and we make the switch in a near lay by

It feels a little like espionage, but we haven’t seen each other in what seems like an age, so its fine. Off we pop home, with a brief stop to get some groceries first.

I think that it’s important for the cubs to understand the shopping process, so away we go.

I never learn

First things first, back to the car for my bags for life. I pat myself on the back as I usually remember them at the checkout.

The first squabble begins; they both want to push the trolley. Last time I allowed it, one was involved in a near fatal collision with a pensioner. Unfortunately I couldn’t remember which one of them it was.

He gets first go. She wants a cuddle and to hold hands anyway. He can’t really see over the top of the cart but this does nothing to curb his enthusiasm. Or pace.

Most collisions are averted by gentle nudging and one, timely kick. He loses interest as we get to the escalator and abandons it at the bottom.

Clothes

She needs a couple more tops. I acquiesce, as everything I buy seems to disappear but hey, you already know my thoughts on that one. He attempts to get me to buy him a bra, and breaks down in tears when I tell him not right now. A kind assistant places it back on the rack for me.

Food

He’s in flight of freedom mode and stays at least half an aisle ahead. The store isn’t busy so I allow it. Now she wants to push the trolley.

Being a toddler, this immediately reignites his interest in the trolley so squabbles begin again.

“DAD! HE’S GRABBING THE SIDE OF THE TROLLEY AND THROWING THE HANDLING  OFF!”

Welcome to my world.

Be good or no-one will push.

“Then how will it move?”

She’ll go far that one.

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Attrition

Weariness finds me quickly. We’ve only reached the bread aisle.

Croissants or Pain au Chocolat? I ask. Not the most challenging of questions.

No answer. I ask again.

‘Can we have kippers? we haven’t had kippers in ages!’

When was that an option??

Would you like croissants or pain au chocolat???

‘Yes’

Christ.

As it transpired, he wanted one, she wanted the other, so we ended up with both. She was quick to point this out. We also got kippers.

Amnesia

I’m starting to forget stuff; I haven’t made a list. I end up backtracking down an aisle. As all men know, this is just wrong. We shop like snipers. This is a tell-tale sign that I’m worn..

I then accidentally turned down the crisp and biscuits aisle.. big mistake…

I tried to reverse before they noticed. I didn’t make it..

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They’re off like locust; scattering innocent bystanders as they go.

“CAN WE HAVE THESE DADDY?” times one million

My kung fu skills kick in and I’m throwing sugar out of the trolley faster than they can put it in.

I’m done; they’re giggling like crazy and I’m trying hard not to show that I’m done. A nearby couple are chuckling. Their children are probably grown up.

I’m bent over my trolley, contemplating how lucky I am.

“What are you doing daddy?”

Contemplating life darling.

“Constipating life?”

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BSD

I needed that…

The break. I needed the break.

I lost my writing mojo for a little while, then I diverted my energy into getting some big projects off the ground; more about those later.

I’ve been thinking and evaluating.

Summing up what it is that is most important to me. I don’t think that this is a new thing, but more a change that has been slowly occurring over a number of months/years.

Mike on Cliff light sky

Renaissance

What do I feel like. I’m still not sure; the process is ongoing. What is certain, is that I’ve made significant progress. It’s so important to recognise progress because if you don’t, when you hit those inevitable walls, you’ll get stuck.

Walls are fine. I expect them. I accept how I’ll respond to them and that’s fine.

Walls are an opportunity to rest, place my back against them, and take time to  appreciate how far I’ve come.

Once I catch my breath… push. up and over.

Ownership

I also recognise my weaknesses and I own them. They’re mine! and so is the decision to overcome or succumb to them at any given time.

Even though I hate to admit it, I have a finite amount of energy. Being middle-aged, I recognise when it’s flagging. I spread myself too thin recently; something had to give.

My saving grace, was looking back at how far I’ve come.

climb

While you were gone

I stopped the race to zero. The reason being, I made a life changing decision that threw it all askew.  I cleared all my debt, then added to it, but in a good way. A necessary way. It feels good and not at all the heavy kind of debt.

It feels good because it is part of a plan that has an end date, which is so very, very different from the creeping debt that accumulates over time.

It’s part of a plan that took time in the forming, and whilst it was hard to see how the pieces fit together initially, I had it mapped out. It’s coming together.

If you’re unhappy with a situation, you have two choices; change it or change the way you think about it.

Stay focused, expect the knocks and roll with them; learn from them then push forwards stronger than ever before.

You only ever lose when you stop.

XperiaZ3 722

BSD

PS, thanks for sticking with me! x