have we tried turning this year off and on again?

hello, friends.

it’s been a minute, hasn’t it? i haven’t shared any of my writing for a couple of months now; i’m always jotting stuff down in notebooks but it rarely sees the light of day at this point. i don’t quite know why, i guess as i get older i get a bit more selective with what i share. even most of the memes i share on instagram are in no way related to my life; just things i think others will benefit from. of course i was meant to have finished the letters in my ‘dear…’ series by now but that hasn’t happened. i think Nick would understand… it was my tribute to him, putting some kindness out in the world. i will finish them, especially now we’re in lockdown! there’s really no reason not to. sorry, Nick! charge it to my head and not my heart…

so… how are we all doing? surviving? it’s all a bit surreal isn’t it? it’s a bit like something out of an episode of black mirror (i’ve watched about 4 episodes of it, it freaked me out too much so i stopped). we’ve almost had world war 3, brexit, BoJo got into number 10, Trump is still president, there was a month in the UK where it felt like we had storms every week and now covid-19. seriously, have we tried turning this year off and turning it back on again? fucking hell. 2020… we were all so buzzing for a new year, a new decade… then it arrived and was like, buckle up bitches.

i was one of those a month ago that was in the  “coronavirus? it’s just the flu” camp… well i soon changed my opinion on that. this virus is so much more than that. the impact it is having on the world is unprecedented. if you’d have told me at christmas that we would all be in a government enforced lockdown in March because of a global pandemic i’d have looked at you most peculiar.

one of the things that worries me the most is that there are still people who are treating this like it’s ‘just the flu’. still going out, still not practicing social distancing. what will it take for it to sink in to these people’s thick skulls? their ignorance is literally going to kill people. it breaks my heart that i can’t just run around to my sisters and give my nephew a hug. to hear him say “when will this virus be over so i can see my friends again?”… how do you tell him that there are humans out there that are longing this out? treating this like a holiday from work? it is just so selfish. add to that that people have lost their jobs as a result of this pandemic and won’t earn a wage until the country is back to normal… it just makes it even more selfish.

i am very lucky that i am one of those that are able to work from home so i still have a bit of structure to my week. more than ever i appreciate this. being able to have some sort of routine is helping me manage my anxiety at how absolutely mental this whole situation is.

there are definitely some benefits to working from home and i am coping with it much better than i thought. one good thing is the commute is great! no delays… no random men trying to talk to me or telling me to smile… i’m saving money because starbucks isn’t enticing me in with it’s sexy coffee smell errryday… i do realise we are only one week in and in 2 weeks time i might be saying the exact opposite but for now i’m ok with it.

working from home does have it’s challenges though. i’m especially finding it hard as i only started my new role 3 weeks ago. i was still in my training period when lockdown was announced. i hadn’t even met half of the team i am directly managing and now i’m managing them remotely. my boss has been really supportive so i am lucky and she keeps just reminding me that we’re all in this together… (go wildcats!)

some things that are helping me work from home and maintain a sense of structure in my week

  • getting up/ going to bed at around the same time as i did when i was commuting to work
  • ensuring i get my allotted government 1hr exercise in BEFORE i start work for the day – it’s quieter outside and it helps wake me up; gets the juices flowing.
  • it’s so tempting to stay in sweats all day, but i make sure i get dressed and ready as though i’m actually leaving the house
  • working near a window – i may not be able to leave the house but the natural light (and fresh air if i open the window) helps to keep me concentrating
  • making lists of what i need to achieve/ get done that day
  • making sure i still take my breaks and when i do take them making sure they are taken AWAY from the space i’m working in so it feels like i actually have had a break.

i know these all probably seem quite simple but in this first week these have really helped me cope and adapt to working from home; something which i always said i would/could never do.

my first weekend in lockdown has not been too bad; cabin fever is slowly starting to creep in though. i am, however, trying to be positive about being gifted all this time on my weekends. i’m using this time to reset. i am going to get to the bottom of my list that is filled with boring but necessary things – i spent my saturday night sorting out all my paperwork and my pensions. WOO. i am also using this time to try to reconnect with old hobbies that i had convinced myself i had fallen out of love with; writing for an audience and running.  maybe you could do the same? this list might change but for now these 2 things seem achievable to me. my neighbours are also being treated my daily concerts through their windows, bless them.

i have seen some people using this time to learn something completely new; languages and instruments seem to be the favourite. some people have set up social media pages to connect people in this very odd time (‘we’re all in this together 19 is one such page). i also feel like i need to say that it is absolutely ok if you do not want to do any of this stuff; if you would just rather rest and watch netflix all day then that’s ok too. you do you, boo.

i have to believe that this is all happening for a reason – i know, i know such a cliche!! – but i absolutely have to. the society we have now has left us so disconnected from what really matters in this world, we’re starting to realise how lucky we are, how good we had it. how often did i take for granted my freedom? just being able to pop out when we wanted, being able to go and visit friends whenever we wanted? go and grab a coffee? or dinner? i hope we all come out the other side with more gratitude for ‘the simple things’.

even the environment is starting to reset. you’ve all seen the reports of marine life back in the canals in venice and that some people in china are seeing the sky and sun for the first time because there is no smog. it’s actually kind of incredible.

i probably need to think about rounding this up because, story of my life, i have gone on much longer than i predicted or needed. i just want to say one last thing…

it is ok to be scared by this. it is ok to be anxious. it is ok to be upset because something you were looking forward to has been cancelled; weddings, holidays, birthdays, baby showers, graduations etc etc etc. it is ok to feel all of that and more. it doesn’t mean you don’t understand how serious this situation is. it is ok to enjoy use your sense of humour to get through this; we have to find something to smile about in this time – on the really tough days the memes are all that are getting me through!! well that and the people i am connected to virtually; we’re actually super lucky that throughout this isolation we are still able to be so connected to those we love. having said that, i really can’t wait for this to be over so i can hug my nephew and a few others real tight.

see you on the other side, lovers

stay safe and wash your feckin’ hands!!

 

xoxo M

 

 

 

• Mrs Howman •

Alright loser,

this letter was meant to be for your birthday but i’m just proper shit. So now it’s just for a random January day 😂

not sure if you’ve seen me writing these letters to people. go to letter one to find out why… I’ll wait…

back with me? ok, fantastic.

so.

what is there to say about you, Mrs Howman? as our fave Julie Andrews would say “start at the very beginning, a very good place to start…”

to be fair i don’t have the most memories of us growing up… the main ones are from the legendary xmas eve church visits – still buzzing i got to put Jesus in the manager one year.

the older we’ve got, the closer we’ve got and i’m really very pleased that it’s turned out that way. we’re both the youngest of our siblings and to be honest, the best ones. our parents knew they’d never get better hence why they stopped when they did.

in all seriousness though, what a woman.

these last few years have been so, so tough for you but yet, here you are. living and shit. i know there have been days when the pain has been unbearable. you have quite literally survived the worse thing in the world to happen to any parent and you still made it out the other side. you deserve only happiness now.

amongst your own pain you’ve still provided me with a shoulder to lean on and a couple of ears to vent to. it’s funny because i’ve never been particularly great at chatting face fo face about the bad stuff but i know with you there’s no judgement, so it becomes easier. you see behind the “yes, all good” facade that i’ve put on at family gatherings and always sought me out after to say “alright bitch, what’s really going on”. it’s important to have someone like that within your family. so thanks for being mine.

my wish for you now and forever is that you are kind to yourself and that you recognise how incredible you are. you are so much stronger than you have ever given yourself credit for. i also hope you remember you’re allowed to feel what you feel. even if others don’t understand.

the world is so much better with you in it.

you shhhllaaaagg

love you!

xoxo M

Dear Mothercare

Dear Mothercare,

 

 

Well, this is certainly a letter that I never expected to write.

 

As the doors of the final stores close this weekend I felt compelled to write a letter to thank a business, a family; that gave me so much. I’m heartbroken that this is how it ended for the best business I have ever worked for.

 

It is the most bizarre thing in the world to me that that big ‘m’ will no longer be on our high street; to some it is just another casualty of retail but to me, and anyone who ever worked there, it is so much more. It is the loss of a place that we all called home. Even after you left, it never left you. The skills and knowledge that you gained whilst working there is something that could not be gained anywhere else.

 

My journey with Mothercare started when I was just turned 17. My interview was on a Wednesday. Wednesday 30th August 2006. Don’t ask me why I remember that date so well – maybe deep down I just always knew it was going to be a big part of my life, who knows. I was just looking for a part time job for a year or two to see me through until I went and got ‘a proper job’. I remember it was a group interview, couldn’t tell you how many other people were there, I remember the people assessing the group (Diane, Nicola, Cassie, Emily and Denise) and that there was definitely almost too many assessors for the amount of people being interviewed. One of the tasks we had to do was make new uniform out of carriers and other random shit in a group. Who knows what the f they were assessing through that but apparently I passed it and got the phone call on Friday 1st September to say I had the job and could I start on Sunday 3rd. (I said yes in case you didn’t get where this was going).

 

Over the years I worked in a lot of stores, some just for the day or week, some for longer. Some as a Customer Service Advisor, some as a VM, some as a Customer Service Supervisor, Assistant Manager, Deputy Store Manager, Store Manager, Dual site Store Manager. This business shaped me into the manager I am today.

 

I worked for some amazing managers (and some not so good) over my years there. I learnt a lot from them all. Some good things and some not so good; in a way I almost feel like the lessons from the bad managers were more important than the lessons from the good ones.

 

I have to shout out the best ones.

 

Diane Dalby and Paula Trevaskis; one that got me in to the business and the other gave the CSA a shot at something bigger and didn’t let me leave even when I moved away to university.

 

My fave, Mr. Colin Keefe – the first RM to make me believe I could run bigger stores, with bigger teams and turnovers. You never doubted me, even when I was ill. Or if you did you didn’t tell me. King of the one-word text messages. Thank you for taking me back without question after I thought I was going to run away to Australia because the world had kicked my ass that year. I could write you your own letter with all the thanks I owe you.

 

And then there is Mr. Shutlar. Tom. I still miss working for you and it’s been about 18 months since I called you boss. The team in Brixton used to call you my work husband. Another one that trusted me with more. Thank you for always having my back. It was probably a good thing we left when we did because if one more person told me you’d said something nice about me I’d not have been able to get out the door. Your support through everything was always appreciated in case I never told you.

 

I covered some miles at Mothercare. I worked all over the South of England. All the stores I remember working in are

Crawley, Horsham (ELC and MC), Redhill, Brighton, Worthing, Canterbury, Watford, Guildford, Aldershot, Camberley, Canterbury, Bracknell, Brixton, Croydon (in town), Croydon (Out of town), Tunbridge Wells, Bluewater (ELC and MC), Chichester (ELC and MC), Eastbourne (MC and ELC, in town and OOT), Sutton, Maidstone, Peterborough, Hounslow, Basingstoke ELC, Poole, Southampton… there are probably more but man, you get the idea of the distance covered.

 

I worked store openings, store closures, refits, baby shows… all of it was hard work but so much bloody fun. There was so many times I would listen to my friends moan about their jobs and I would wonder if it was normal for someone to enjoy their job as much as me.

 

Now, don’t get me wrong, there were days when it was bad, days when the expectation felt too high. I remember once, when I was a CSS, we had such a bad visit with the Regional Manager I cried. The reason I always got up and dusted myself off the next day, the reason we all did, was because we felt that we were making a difference. That what we did mattered. That sense of purpose was essential and made us all give a shit about what we were doing. It gave us a reason to put a smile on our face and come to work, even when our personal lives were falling apart. Our customers needed us. To help them navigate the scariest (but most rewarding) times of their lives was an honour.

 

We did it for them.

 

The couple that was clueless but so excited to take this next step together. The couple that had an unplanned surprise but decided to go for it. The couple that had spent the cost of a small home on IVF and had finally got lucky. The single mums (and dads) that had never planned to be single parents but had had no choice but to carry on. The ones that thought they knew everything and then realised actually there was more to this than meets the eye. The dads that had to run out to get the stuff they had forgotten because baby had come early “how do I know which breast pads are best?!”. The ones celebrating their rainbow babies. Scared but hopeful. We were next to them every step of the way.

 

Watching these people grow their families was an honour, and being a part of it was so special. When they came back to show off baby and you got to have a cuddle, when they came back to see you specifically for baby number 2 because you’d been so helpful with baby number 1; “I’ve been looking for you!!!”

 

Selfishly, one of the things that makes me saddest is that I’ll never be able to shop there myself. If I’m ever lucky enough to have babies of my own I’ll never experience an Expectant Parent Event, or get to visit to choose my car seat or pick my nursery furniture. Select a ‘coming home’ outfit for baby.

 

I’m going to shut this down now because I’m rambling and most people have probably turned off. Simply put, thank you Mothercare. For absolutely everything. You gave this girl a career, you made her believe in herself. You gave her some of the best times of her life. You connected her with some of the best people ever, some of whom I’m still lucky enough to call friends.

 

There are some heartbreaks you never get over, and this is always going to be one of them for me.

 

To everyone that is still there, closing their store doors for the last time, I’m sending you virtual hugs and so much love. You all fought until the end. You should be incredibly proud of that.

 

 

Mothercare UK, 1961-2020

You’ll be missed.

 

xoxo M

dear the 10s…

with 2020 less than a week away i find myself doing that thing that we all do… looking back on what has been and looking forward to the future and where we hope to go. with that in mind…

dear the 10s,

there is so much i want to say about the last decade and the ride i’ve been on but there are simply not enough words. or maybe there are actually too many.

i can confidently say i am a totally different person going into 2020 than i was going in to the year 2010 (and thank fuck for that)

there are some lessons that i learnt along the way (in sometimes the harshest ways) that i want to share for anyone that may wish to hear them…

🌸if people want you in their life, they will make time. they will make an effort. you can waste so much time chasing people and wanting people who don’t want you. 

🌼how people behave is a reflection of how they feel about themselves, truly. even when it’s hard to believe sometimes.

🌸not everyone will like you. and that’s ok. it’s not your job to convince them you’re a good person and worth their time. let them miss out. 

🌼there is such a thing as being too kind. too gracious. too understanding. don’t be a mug. 

🌸life can’t be planned, as much as you would like to think it can be, it can’t. there will always be something that happens that you can’t plan. you can’t control what happens to you but you can control how you react to it 

🌼it should be a legal requirement for everyone to go to therapy 

🌸having emotions is ok. you’re allowed to feel how you feel. even if people don’t understand it, you’re not wrong for feeling how you do 

🌼stop trying to make yourself smaller so you don’t intimidate people or scare them off. the right ones will stay 

🌸people will generally be disappointing. they can’t always show up for you. it doesn’t mean they don’t care. even if you think it does 

🌼 when your head becomes too loud, get out. break the cycle. write. sing. dance. run. they will all help (if you’re feeling really brave you can tell someone else)  

🌸social media ; fun, but super fake 

🌼everyone has their shit going on, so try not to be too much of an asshole

🌸life can be messy but still worth living. mistakes are essential to learn and grow but a mistake can only happen once. twice makes it is a choice.

🌼 if you love someone, let them know. you can never regret putting a little more love out in the universe

🌸 there are good people out there, try to trust in them. 

🌼 if you can survive the next 10 seconds, you can survive anything

nothing particularly new or noteworthy there but things we all definitely need to be reminded of on occasion.

to my friends that came into this decade with me and have stuck around this whole time… rach, mark, jade, dalby, den, byng, amy, 504 galdem. bloody hell… ten years! we’ve had fun! thank you. for all the memories. i’ve had some of the best times of my life with you guys this last year and decade. i can’t wait to see what the next 10 bring 💓

the 10’s will be forever known as the decade the three loves of my life entered the world. 2011, 2015, 2017. they make life worth living. if i never get my own kids, these guys are the next best thing. and now i’m thinking about them i just want to squeeze them. oooh.

we lost some of the greatest this decade too and even now i find it hard to comprehend that they’re not here 🌈🐯🐘 ☘️ we have remembered them in the best ways and will continue to do so in the 20’s because, as we all know, the ones we love never truly leave us.

i’m going into 2020 trying to be grateful for the confusion that this last month or so has brought. i’ve honestly been so sad at my core these last few weeks. even if people haven’t seen it. on more than one occasion i have cried myself to sleep. not ideal really. god bless byng and amy for putting up with my teary voice notes; i promise you won’t always have to put up with them.

the me at the beginning of this decade would never have pictured me ending the it where i am. id honestly be most disappointed in myself. i definitely thought i’d have it all figured out by now… maybe that’s the biggest lesson of all… none of us have a clue what we’re doing and just making it up as we go…

i don’t have a clue what the next ten years are going to bring… it’s scary and exciting all at the same time. i guess that’s life. i know for certain – possibly for the first time ever – what i want though. and that makes taking the first step a little easier.

wishing you all nothing but goodness for 2020 and beyond

M xo

dear my big bro

hey you,

it’s weird writing this letter because i know for a fact you’ll never see it.
today would have been your 35th birthday.
every year it hits me differently.
some years i’ve been ok, other days there have been moments of sadness. this year though, i’ve been thinking of this day for the last month and now as it is here i just feel an overwhelming sadness that you aren’t here. 
you know i’m not one that gets particularly angry at things, annoyed sure, but not angry. 
the older i get though, the more i feel it and the angrier i get. 
WHY. WHAT WAS THE REASON. i know we have a medical reason for you not being here but i still can’t help but think those things to myself. it just seems unnecessarily unfair and cruel. 
how different would life have been? i’d have so loved to have an older brother here. i often wonder how the dynamic would have differed. Especially as Mel wouldn’t be the oldest (coughbossiestcough). i know Dad would have loved another bloke… forever outnumbered with 4 women around him. 
would you have been more like Mum and Mel?  a bit loud, not really scared to say whatever you’re thinking. quieter like Dad and Melissa? the two homebodies of the bunch. 
or more free spirited like me? just kind of stumbling through life, hoping to laugh and love a bit on the way through. 
i know we’ll never know the answers. for the most part i know i’ve made my peace with that but on days like today it just is harder.
i just hope that when i get to those big pearly gates, you’re one of the first to greet me. with the kind of hug that only a big brother can give.
oh and if you haven’t already, go find nick and have a beer together. he can prepare you for annoying little sisters. and if you’re not taking care of teddy when i see you i’ll kick you. 
love u! 

dear me

hello me,

we’ve been writing letters to everyone else, i think it’s time we write one to ourselves.
there is so much to say and yet there is so much that can’t be put into words.
what a life.
life is wonderful, but it’s also not fair. you’ll learn that in some of the worst ways. your heart will be broken. you will feel like you won’t survive; you will because you have no choice. 
you grew up singing and believing in fairytales. life is not a fairytale. you always lost yourself in your imagination and in music because it was safe there. it is, but don’t believe the daydreams you create. that’s not the real world. 
you will change so much over the years; you’ll become someone that you actually quite like. you’ll realise that you have a good heart which is both your greatest strength and biggest weakness. people will take advantage of it. it will hurt. a lot. you’ll put time and effort into people who deserve neither. you’ll do it anyway because you choose to see the good in people. you’ll then forgive these people for hurting you and taking advantage. yes, you’ll feel like a mug but don’t regret being kind. just be sure to walk away, soon if possible, save yourself some pain.
you will travel so much… your passport will lead you to so many adventures. you’ll always be searching for somewhere to settle. nowhere, no one has felt like home yet. maybe you’ll never know quite where you’re meant to be.
you will see so much in the journey to find home… you’ll do so many things – please take more pictures!! 
you’ll be faced with your share of demons. each time you think and feel that they’ve won you’ll find something inside you that tells you to keep fighting. hope is out there, you just have to choose to see it. there will be days when you hurt so much, you’ll cry yourself to sleep. on these days especially try to remember, hope is a choice everyday. like love. hope is a choice. 
you will find your tribe. it will take a minute but the universe will bring them to you. they’ll understand you better than you do some days. you have always naturally shut people out for fear that they’ll use your emotions and weaknesses against you; the right people won’t do that. trust them. there will be people who do but that says more about them than you. 
you will see your tribe have babies and get married and find the life and love that you dream about. make peace with the fact you may never find it. it will be hard – your biggest fear is that you’ll get to the end and have it confirmed what you’ve thought all along; that you are not worthy of being loved. of that kind of love. like i said earlier, fairytales are not real. 
you feel too much. you think too much. when you think too much, you get unhappy.
the loneliness can be crippling. on the days it is, it’s ok to cry. it’s ok to just lie in bed. just try to remember what J (your therapist, he’ll be great for you) tells you – be kind to yourself. on the days you feel lost (they’ll be lots), be kind to yourself. on the days you hate yourself – be kind to yourself.
you might never know what the ‘point’ of all this is. you might never know why you’re here. you’ll have to try to make peace with that. 
just try to laugh at least once a day and spread a bit of kindness. that way when you do go, you’ll go with a clear conscience. 

xoxo M

Oscar and Arlo

Oscar and Arlo, 
Light of my lives… 
I hope you know how much I love you. You’re not mine, but I love you like you are. You’re not my niece or nephew by blood, but you are by choice…and that pretty much means you’re stuck with me forever (suckers!). You are my chosen sister’s babies and that means you have me forever.
I think you are the greatest people to ever have walked the earth. I am watching you grow – it’s the best show I’ve ever seen. I have loved every minute of watching the person you’re becoming and I cannot WAIT to see what and who you become in the future. You are a credit to your mum… you have all the best bits of her in you. You are so much her and you are so much YOU at the same time. 
Oscar… from the first time I held you, you gripped my finger made that little ‘o’ face at me and I knew then you had a peice of my heart and I’d never get it back (I’m totally ok with that though). There is so much about you that I love that I couldn’t list it all… however your laugh makes my heart smile. I know you hate me tickling you but it’s just such a quick win to hear it!! I love how much you love to learn and ask questions, I love that you not only love Harry Potter like me but that you’re also a Ravenclaw (we are the best ones) You are going to change the world and I will be cheering you on each step of the way. 
Someone once said that aunts are like ‘bonus mums’. If I ever have children of my own they will have your mum, and you have me. Always and forever, Amen. I will trust her to love my kids like her own, and she trusts me to do the same. I really hope that I get to give you a bonus cousin some day.
Arlo… the entertainer of the family, the clown. The one that does things to get the laugh… you actually crack me up. Just looking at your face I remember the goodness in the world. Another piece of my heart is forever yours. I love that you’re now saying my name (or a version of it 😂) I can’t wait to see how your personality develops but I’d put money on the fact that you’re gonna have me laughing until my stomach hurts for the rest of my life.
When life gets hard or complicated, I’m always a text or call away. For both of you. If you’re ever butting heads with your mum, I don’t want to call myself an expert…but I am an expert, and she’s an expert on me. Full disclaimer though: your mum is probably right. I’m just saying.
I will be watching your back when you get to those tricky teenage years. Need a place to get away to? You can have the key to my home. You need to vent because life is completely unfair and complicated? I’ll put the kettle on. You need to raid my fridge? My fridge is your fridge, my chocolate is your chocolate (and I don’t share that stuff with anyone!) I will always have your back. I mean it.
You better believe I’m going to cry my eyes out when you leave school and university (if you decide to go). I’ll be the one next to your mum dancing and cheering in the aisles. You will be so embarrassed and it will be so GREAT. Don’t even get me started on the day you get married or when you hold your own baby in your arms.
I’m so proud of you. No matter what you do or how old you grow I’ll always remember the day your mum told me she was pregnant with both of you. I still have the scan photos. I still have the first pictures of both of you that I was sent. They are two of my most treasured possessions. I remember the way your mum looked at you when she held you in her arms. The love that radiates from her to you. I’ve changed your nappies, I’ve held you when you cried, I’ve given you the food off my plate (your stomach being full is more important than mine being full) and I promise I will share your embarrassing stories with your future partners… I’m not even sorry. Bonus mum privileges 😘 I am invested.  I was invested then, I’m invested now, and I’m here for the long haul.
Your mum is stuck with me, and so are you.
Oscar, one more thing. I know you hate cuddles now but please just entertain me every once in a while. It’ll make Auntie Michaela’s heart lighter 💓 
I love you.