Wool, Wiltshire and All Manner of Wonderful Things!

Balance- November

Nearly the end of the year, and nearly the end of my one word posts on the theme of Balance. I had a huge wobble this month. I tried to do too many wonderful things every day. Needlefelting the hare was terrific, but it really tired me. Later that week I realised I had to stop and rest. I sent my apologies to three groups, and stayed home, read a bit and slept a lot. It worked and on the Saturday thoroughly enjoyed spending time at Blenheim Palace with all my family, attending the Christmas market (cinnamon pancakes and mulled wine) and visiting the Christmas decorations on the theme of the Snow Queen. It was a special day.

So the lesson from all that? Well maybe I just have to accept that as one gets older, and even though I am in reasonable health, I do not have the energy and stamina I once had. Maybe instead of trying to do all the things, I become a bit more discriminating , not give up exciting things, but plan for the fact that I will need built in rest time.

The wobble was about ten days ago. I have pulled out of one more event in December. I will still try to do wonderful things each week, but these will be interspersed with days at home, and days when if I do go out , I go by myself and at my own pace. I love trying new things, meeting new people, and friends and of course my own rather wonderful chaotic family. I plan on saying Yes to lots of things, but will also spend time by myself. Is this what I meant by balance all along?

I started a new way to organise my time to help me achieve this. Sometime over the weekend I will plan my week. I have to use paper and pen being a tad old fashioned. I start with listing all the nice things for the week. Then I add in the chores, this morning changing the bed clothes and sweeping up leaves. I plan meals, and plan the downtime, which isn’t inactive time, I may go for a walk, or knit, read, cross stitch. I have also found if I work out what time I need to start to prepare meals I am less likely to change my mind on the food front, very guilty of saying I can’t be bothered to make that tasty casserole or whatever. And so far it’s worked. Only ten days I know, but I feel heaps better, more contented, less frenetic….I am enjoying cooking again.

And that takes me to next month. Christmas. I loved Christmas as a child and as a parent. Absolutely all of it. But.. and here’s the rub. I am the older generation now. My role has changed, and I want to enjoy my time as grandparent at Christmas, and the role is different. Mum and Dad are central to a happy family Christmas, and the last thing they need is an awkward older family member trying to muscle in. I can actually step back from all that shopping, cooking, decorating, wrapping, organising etc. So what I wonder is the secret of being the grandparent in the corner? I am lucky enough to have been invited by a son to spend Christmas Day with them. My Dad always donated a box of crackers to proceedings, so I have begun with that. I have made a Christmas cake, a small one, because I like Christmas cake , and I shall give half to the son who also likes it but whose wife doesn’t and makes a chocolate log instead. I’ll arrange to see family over the week before New Year, but for the rest I shall recharge my batteries with knitting, a huge pile of books and stay warm.

I’d love to know your thoughts on any of this. What to your mind makes the ideal grandparent? My sons loved my Dad and his skill was that he let them be, they went to him for his calmness, humour and lack of fuss. It sometimes felt unfair that he was favourite grandparent, as the others put in a lot more effort to entertain. I find your comments so helpful, so do please say what you think.

Joining as always with Carolyn and others who use a one word prompt to reflect on life. Link here-https://youronewordblog.wordpress.com/

Have a fabulous week.

Cathy x

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Comments on: "Balance- November" (37)

  1. Sorry you got overcommitted, awesome you tried to do all those fun things and awesome you figured out your cannot and must balance what you can do! 🙂

  2. I think you are doing very well on finding ways to bring balance to your life. I make a list every morning of what needs to be done today and what I’d like to get done today. I have 3 social times a week here. 2 of which are craft related and one is just coffee and donuts. I bring my own coffee because I like mine weak and half decaf. Jittery hands won’t help me through the day. I rarely go out anywhere anymore as I do not drive and the weather is getting cold. Neighbors drop by for a chat on occasion and each day we get a free communal lunch. If I like what is being served, I go. Otherwise I stay in and try to get some work done. Life is VERY different now. We go to my son’s FIL for holiday meals. I bring a dish to add to the collective and a six pack of Italian beer for the FIL. I don’t offer to cook or clean anymore because my oxygen tank just gets in the way but I try to carry on happy conversations to keep the workers semi entertained while in the kitchen. The FIL has about 10 years on me so he should be sitting but he likes to control his space so I stay out of it. As for being a good grand parent, I wouldn’t have a clue. Did not get to spend time with my own much and I have no grandchildren. I vote to sit and observe hoping they are taught to come to you. Maybe for a story from a book or about their parent. I’m all for asking children questions an their opinions. Very few ever really listen to them. You could fill in that blank space with great care. I have no energy for Christmas this year and I had none last year as we were traveling. It’s just not as much fun without children around. I’m trying hard to just decorate the tiny tree. Enthusiasm just slipped out the door.

  3. Your journal on balance and your year of adjusting has been enlightening and honest. I have laughed and cried over your words; they have been a true blessing to me, and I believe to many others dealing with grief. You are a rock star in my book, Cathy!

    As for the ideal grandparent…I had very little time with my grandparents, as they lived far away, but we had adopted grannies that were around regularly to help my mom. (She had arthritis in her spine from age 30, so lifting anything was really difficult.) My adopted Grandma Carlson was usually busy in the kitchen but we would be with her and “helping” and she would also encourage our music, sometimes playing a very old Christmas song (Star of the East) that I’ve only heard once or twice since. I was enthralled by the arpeggiated chords!
    I watched my mom and MIL over the years, and I most appreciated that my mom would just be and play with the girls when they were tiny. She loved them so much and it still makes me teary thinking of how she interacted with them when they were small. She would snap photos of them and then send them in letters, saying, “Remember when we did this?” It usually involved a box that became any number of things during the visit. She also kept a small supply of hats for dress up, and I believe there were some tea parties too. She had a knack for selecting books, there was a star book when Em graduated from Twinkle class on her violin, Spider Sisters when they were older and not always getting along…She was able to shop books until they were about 9 and 11, so there is quite a treasure trove from her.

    My MIL was more of a “show” grandmother, and the contrast was stark. She wanted to be with the girls on her terms, and while they loved her because she was their grandma, there was really no real relationship. My advice is just be with them, and tell them short stories about your growing up at that age when they are interested, and as they get older, ask them to share their lives. It will help them engage, and they will talk, but they may need a longer warm up than we adults would assume. Interview them, and ask unusual questions.

  4. You are really inspiring! Very sensible thoughts on finding your balance of social and solitary activities, and great plan for making sure you take care of your nutrition and rest time.

  5. Going Batty in Wales said:

    I have really enjoyed reading all your posts on this topic – not least because I struggle with balance too! I like the idea of planning the week including meals because like you I often find myself making something quick because I have left it all to the last minute and am too hungry to wait and cook properly.

    I can offer no help on the grandparent question. All my grandparents died when I was tiny so no help there! My son is Muslim and so does not celebrate Christmas. When my daughter was with her husband he insisted they went to his parents for Christmas every year. Since she left him it has been easier for her to manage all the emotional fall-out by not inviting anyone to share the day with her and her children. After all the frenetic years of organising, present wrapping and cooking when they were at home I have actually enjoyed having a time of complete self-indulgence. I decline all invitations to join friends until well after the main event, make sure I have a good stock of books, craft projects and indulgent food and drink, stoke up the fire and hibernate.

    • Thank you so much for your comment, as always really appreciated. I have the books and the craft projects, so that just leaves choosing some really lovely food and going for quality not quantity.

  6. You’ve had such good, experienced advice here already, and I have come late to the party. It’s difficult for me to offer advice. Not since I was 23 have I had a Christmas I loved; it has always been at the homes of others, in the way others preferred, and even now, when I have my own home, the others coming to it are bringing their preferences and family traditions to me. Perhaps I should stick up for what I want more, but it’s me against an entire clan’s wishes, and I don’t want to muck up their Christmas. Gosh, reading back this sounds awfully whingey and entitled, and I don’t mean it to be that way. I suppose what I’m saying is that we are always going to be making allowances for the preferences and traditions of others unless we are self-appointed matriarchs. I think for you, it’s time to relax, bring a book you’ve been wanting to read, have a glass or two of something nice, and let others do their thing. Avert your eyes from snotty noses, unmopped spills and crusty dishes. They are no longer your problem. Work that granny vibe for all you’re worth. It’s your time!

    • Thanks for that encouragement to be on the sideline with enjoyment. It’s sad that you don’t have the Christmas you’d like, maybe think of one thing you could insert into proceedings. I recall one year when the family followed one of the boy’s girlfriends preferences for Boxing Day, eating food we would never have chosen. Two days later she dumped him!
      I’m actually busy trying to work out how I spend the week between Christmas and the January return to work, it’s feeling like a real luxary to have that time, which then tells me, I really do need to sort myself out!

      • I think you should revert to your To Do list, only add self-indulgent and pleasurable things rather than chores. Buy yourself some lavish books, a box of chocolate, a bottle of wine. Whatever makes you feel you’re spoiling yourself, and do it without guilt and with gusto!

  7. I feel like the best way to respond to this post would be to go for a long walk + talk together! But since we can’t–I will reply to one of the many things that struck me here, as well as offer my perspective on your question:
    First…I almost always avoided preparing a ‘real meal’ when I was cooking for myself, as I did for about 7 years. (And I’m still happy with popcorn + a glass of red wine for dinner!) So I find your advance planning inspiring and wise. (And so important for your own health + nourishment + good care!)
    As for the grandparenting question–a perspective from my parent-self: we now live near all 4 grandparents, for the first time in our kids’ lives. I was worried that it would be stressful, trying to meet everyone’s expectations and be in 3 homes on each holiday. (my in-laws are divorced + not friendly toward one another.) My mom made the biggest difference when she told me it doesn’t matter when we celebrate; she’d never expect us to eat 2 holiday dinners in one day; and she also opened her home to my father-in-law any time she hosts a holiday event so we didn’t have to stress/feel bad about him being left out. She took all the pressure off by saying ‘no expectations, whatever works will work!’
    And I guess it all comes down to expectations with me! My maternal grandma was my best friend, until she passed away 6 weeks before my wedding. What I loved about my grandparents–vs parents–was there were NEVER any expectations. Who I was was ALWAYS just right. Always enough. Being with them was easy, relaxing, comforting, delightful. It was never about stuff. Just about acceptance. (And my daughter feels the same way about my mother!)
    Whoa. Pardon the length… (That could have been a long walk + talk!!)

    • Wouldn’t a long walk be absolutely marvellous. Thank you for such a thoughtful reply. I really do appreciate it. What you have said about grandparenting is echoed in the comments from everyone, and is really what I observed with my Dad. He would walk the dogs, potch about his garden , and the Boys just went to him. Mum and the inlaws would have them to stay without me, take them on trips, and who did they love most…my Dad. Wise words everyone.
      Cooking for one is hard, but planning properly has really helped.Hopefully I can keep going now.

  8. I am very miserly with my time, and I don’t feel a moments guilt over it. When I first moved to Pittsburgh, I joined in the local “coffee klatch” at the neighbors house but soon learned it was simply the gossip hour. I bowed out quickly. I am a bit of an introvert, so solo time is crucial to my mental well being.

    I think the hardest thing about being a grandparent is keeping your mouth shut and allowing your children to be parents. It sounds like you are managing that quite perfectly!

    • Oh Kat! I relate to so much of what you say. ‘solo time is crucial’ YES!
      And a big YES to keeping one’s mouth shut – but it is OH SO DIFFICULT from the perspective of knowledge, wisdom and having made the same mistakes oneself. Errgghh! ❤

      • It is so hard, I agree. But I have found that keeping my mouth shut opens the door to more interactions… ones where the even sometimes ask for my opinion! Haha! 🙂

    • Oh gosh I am ok until someone asks my opinion. They will get it, even when I try really hard to be diplomatic. I do tell them not to ask unless they really want to know. The hardest thing I’m finding at the moment is not wanting to wipe a snotty nose when I see it. Not my place!

  9. I love how you invite us all to sit down and have a natter with you and your followers.
    As you know (due to very difficult festive times in my past) I only ‘do’ Christmas every other year. This started about 18 years ago.
    On my years off, my kids go to their in-laws. I find that releases them and me from all the commitments and responsibilities that seem to mount up if one is not careful.
    I am lucky enough to see my grandchildren all year round so I don’t feel the need to see them at Christmas.
    Love is all grandchildren need, and that can be in a look, or a hand on the shoulder as you walk past, or showing an interest in what they are doing, and being available for a chat about whatever they have to say however mystifying.
    That’s how my Grandad was with me and he is still my all time hero!

    • We can all learn from each other’s experiences and I love providing a space for this. What you say about grandparents really sums up how my Dad was with the Boys. Mystifying really does describe the children’s computer games to me! I try to make interested noises and look intelligent. I don’t think I fool them!

      • I agree with you about the computer games. I realise that all my grandchildren know my dislike of them spending too much time on screens, and they know that Granny never buys sweets! They also find my insistance (when they are with me, and no parents around) on good table manners baffling – what happened to table manners?

        • I’m not into sweet buying with them, I may take the occasional treat for them. And yes table manners are important, well good manners in general are.

  10. I think there are a lot of us who could benefit from scheduling down time and I love the strategy you’ve taken up since your wobble. And I’m amazed by going out for workshops even once a MONTH, much less as often as you manage it.

    I don’t have a lot of ideas about the ideal grandparent at the holidays. My grandparents were never involved in any of our holidays because they all died when I was very young. My own parents are never involved, other than sending gifts, because they live so far away. And I have a very difficult relationship with my in-laws, so it’s difficult for me to know what I want/expect out of them. But I can say that I’m most comfortable when my children’s grandparents seem relaxed, genuine, and bring no extra stress to the situation. I appreciate it when I’m asked ONCE: “is there anything I can do or bring to make the day easier?” I get overwhelmed when my mother-in-law asks over and over again and then seems worried about doing something wrong. I say: do what feels natural and easy for you and leave it at that! (sorry that I rambled)

    • Thank you for your excellent advice. I loved my Granny but have no recollection of how she was with my parents. My Mum was over the top in the help department, always wanting a job when I just wanted to get on with things myself. Mother in law sat mostly, but she was in early stages of dementia.

  11. I love this post as I have done all your balance posts… I’m already putting thought into adopting your weekly planning methodology… I jot down tasks in a diary but it gets messy when I inevitably shuffle them… lists sound better.
    Grandparent in the corner sounds lovely…such scope and space to watch, listen and adopt the role of wise woman.

    • Thank you so much for your kind comment. The best part about a list is I get to tear it up each week and don’t have to see the things that didn’t happen! I always loved the image of a grandmother in a rocking chair tucked away with family life going on around her, and not her responsibility!

  12. The grand parenting role is a tricky one. We are fortunate to have regular time with out grandsons and I try to follow their lead a lot more than I did as a parent. I try to listen and pay attention to their parents so I am not overstepping or contradicting. And I love that when things get too chaotic, I can say enough and off they go to their own home!

  13. I think it’s very sensible to take some quiet time in amongst all the social life. The husband and I are enjoying a quiet life again, after having Mr & Mrs Tattoo living with us for 6 months and two other family visits this year. It’s lovely having silence, and while it’s nice to have a few dates on the diary, it’s also nice to have days where nothing is planned.
    I don’t have much experience being a grandma since we’ve only enjoyed the pleasure of seeing Little Miss Viking for a grand total of 3 weeks since she was born (and she’s getting on for 4 and a half already!). However, during their visit last month, we throughly enjoyed being grandparents. Just doing ordinary every day things with her: letting her help in the kitchen, going to see the hens, helping grandad in his veggie garden. Just little things she doesn’t do at home with her parents. And, of course, we were very in demand for games, bedtime stories etc.

    • Sounds like you had a marvellous time with your granddaughter. I must admit I am loving being closer to Toddler P than I had the chance with the others. I really need my quiet times, didn’t appreciate that before.

  14. Very sensible: too much activity is as bad as too little. I agree, cooking interesting meals is important too.

  15. Karen Dodgson said:

    I think you’ve got the balance just right. When we turn over the calender, if it’s full my husband gets really excited and I just want to hibernate! I much prefer occasional highlights with time in between to actually look forward to them. This year I was in danger of doing too little, so I’ve volunteered for a few local groups and set up a sketching group. In between I will relish time alone to walk, read and crochet.
    As for grandparents, we are seeing our two grandsons this Christmas and I find the best thing for everyone is to put your phone down and play with them if they’re young enough…..they love a captive audience and their parents love the chance to unwind!

    • I couldn’t agree more on the phone front. I’m lucky that Toddler P likes playing with me, too Young for her own screen. I’m straight down on the floor with the toys.

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