Snow Day

The snow really starting coming down today and sticking on everything. The town comes to a stand still as typically we are never prepared. I don’t think one road has been gritted. After only 2 hours at school we are asked to pick up the children if possible. I debated whether to wait or not but considered the weather actually could get worse and decided just to get it other with. I am not a fan of snow or cold at all. I’m fine if i can hide indoors but venturing out isn’t something i would class as fun.

So i wrapped up the baby and off we went. Into utter chaos at school with children and parents all over the place and actual queues to pick up the children. Lucky for me she was entertained by eating fresh snow of various things. Yet it took an hour between leaving home and getting back home and was completely exhausting.

So a snow day for the kids equals a snow day for me. This little post is the most work i will be doing today and the rest of it will be spent snuggling and cosying up with my family. We are currently awaiting the arrival of my sister who has been stuck in the snow for 3 hours in what normally is a 25 minute journey and keeping our fingers crossed that Mr.H makes it back safely from NY in the morning. Hope you are all staying safe and warm wherever you are.

Imogen x

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How to overcome energy drain

When something really drains me emotionally; (for example a confrontation, bad news, a shock) it really affects me deeply. I am particularly sensitive to these things. I wish i was more fiesty and fiery, I used to be, but alas I am not. I have turned into a sensitive flower as I have aged and perhaps just need to toughen up!

When I am completely drained after one of these situations I have to delve into my bag of tricks to make me feel better and these are they

~ Have a cup of tea, whatever your favourite kind peppermint, green, Darjeeling any will work, a cup of tea is like a bath on the inside. For me these situations call for Yorkshire tea

~ Have an actual bath, Epsom salts are great for releasing toxins and lavender oil is the classic for relaxation. If I’m desperate for a a relaxing bath baby comes in with me, still getting the benefits with her there.

~ Pin some uplifting quotes

~ Journal, this is a big one for me, if I forget to journal once a week I feel very muddled and can get quite low. It’s always therapeutic to write things down

~ Watch a favourite film, I can never watch Grease too many times quite frankly or my favourite episodes of The IT crowd actually

~ Meditation. Sometimes it’s difficult to find the time and space I know but 10 minutes will benefit your mood massively. The app Headspace is really great if you are trying to learn this skill

~ Exercise is proven to release mood enhancing hormones. For a quick fix I type dru yoga into YouTube or hula hoop for 10 minutes.

~ Listen to music. At my lowest point I realised that I hadn’t listened to music other than in the car for months!

~ Paint nails, put on lipstick or both! Oo and putting lots of jewellery so i jangle when I walk

~ Rest, get into bed early, write down what are you grateful for and sleep it off

What do you do when you’re recovering from emotional stress?

Imogen x

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6 weeks until moving day!

In 6 weeks we are moving house. We will be downsizing 😦 But! The new house has a lovely big garden! Woohoo!

This will be the 4th time we have moved house in 5 years. Thats really crazy i know but what can i say we have been looking for something we haven’t quite found yet!

I love this house. I really seriously love this house. But there is no garden just a few flag stones and actual stones. This house is a hundred+ year old weavers cottage. Its over four floors including the cellar and our magnificent bedroom is the whole of the top floor with en suite bathroom and beautiful view of the cheshire countryside. But as i poked my nose out into the world of rentals to see if we could get something with a garden i found one. Its a beautiful garden with a smaller house attached. With 2 floor and smaller rooms. But less money so hey, let look on the bright side. As i went to see it i pondered where i would put our masses of belongings and then PANIC ‘there’s a few people interested’ ‘we’re waiting for a phone call right now from a lady who wants to take it’ ‘if you want it you’ll have to do it now’. And these statements were all true. I could tell. Its a nice area and a bit of a bargain by all accounts so next thing i know i am signing, paying and mr.H hasn’t even seen it yet! But it felt like the right thing to do i went with my instinct and flowed with what was happening. So were off. And I am now 6 weeks away from a big down size. So first things first. Before we start to think about packing we need to declutter like there is no tomorrow!

So here is my lovely declutter to downsize in 6 weeks checklist (note; also works on general house clutter, space clearing, feng shui-ing you way to a clearer clutter free house and mind)

Week 1
Yard/garden, cellar, garage
Week 2
Clothes, shoes, coats
Week 3
Bedrooms/other, general bric a brac and furnishings
Week 4
The biggy for us-the kitchen

That will leave us with 2 weeks of packing fun and plenty of time for trips to charity shops, the tip and returning things to where they belong.
There will be more detail to follow on each area.
Thanks for reading!
Imogen x

Day 3 in the sick house

Well weirdly enough today has actually been, well, nice! First day since Friday with no sickness so that’s obviously a bonus. I have been pottering around with the kids again playing, making, giggling and it’s been lovely. I asked my lovely sister to take baby out to the park in the afternoon because she was ill first so recovered first and has been fine for a few days. It’s so important to have a support system that is there for you and you can ask for help. I know it’s awkward to ask and you feel like you’re putting people out by asking but you’re not. You’re looking after the best interests of your family and they can only say no. If you’re not lucky enough to live near your family, build a network of mummy friends and ask one of them, ask a neighbour you trust or find the money to pay someone. If only once a week you need that time especially if you are a single mum or like me spend time alone while daddy is away.

So while baby was out the boy watched the Lego Movie and I actually got to write for an hour. I am trying to write a novel. It’s experimental but I’m enjoying it! When I sat down I just had one of those kinds of sessions where it just seemed to flow and I got a chapter and a half written before bubs got home.
Then we did this

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And played Lego and snuggled and laughed and played games and it was special. I wasn’t rushing trying to do other things and got some sneaky unexpected quality time with the kids.
A stolen day of quality family time.
Imogen x

Sometimes things just have to stop for a while

As of Friday the Hope household has been struck down with a stomach bug. All of us. Me, the boy and the baby. Littlest started first closely followed by me then J. Lucky Mr.H is as far away as possible working in the states.
And lucky for us my mum/super grandma is around the corner and was here first thing to look after us. I spent the day in bed drifting in and out of sleep while J snoozed on the couch watching Disney films.
Vi made a pretty miraculous recovery and spent the day pottering around being her usual cheeky little self. While grandma cleaned up sick like the superstar legend that she is.
So no packing got done, no trips to the dump, no karate lessons, no tidying, no kids parties.
It doesn’t matter though. We’re all on the mend now and we are so grateful for that. This morning we are feeling brighter and keeping food down. Opening the curtains this morning and letting some light into the house was an absolutely joy.
So today it would be easy for me to run around trying to do all that needed doing over the weekend but I will remind myself constantly that I need to be kinder to myself today especially.
The agenda for today includes reading, cuddling, films, tea and toast, gentle board games and painting.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t have to do some cleaning as I’ve got a letting agent taking photos of the house first thing in the morning 😖 but bare minimum will be the motto of the day!
Imogen x

This is what brought me here

It was actually nearly a year ago when I first came up with the idea of creating a website/blog/service designed to reduce stress and overwhelm by personally helping people to fit in all the wonderful little things that they love and believe they haven’t got time for. The fact is you have got the time and it is important that you do these thing that mean so much to you.
Well I went about starting to set up my new business venture around the family commitments that come with having a 4 year old and a baby at home and running a house while my husband travelled around the world on business.
I didn’t realise there was anything wrong. I had no idea what was coming. I thought everything was as it should be. But then I couldn’t help but wonder-was I supposed to be so irritable and snappy with the children all the time? I was tired I knew that so I tried to get more sleep. But I couldn’t sleep. I lay awake flinging myself around the bed and the few hours sleep I did get wasn’t of any decent quality at all.
Then started the ‘concerns’ regarding my boys behaviour at preschool and boy, I didn’t not cope well with that. Every day I would pick him up and be told how he had been hurting the other children and he couldn’t control the impulse to lash out that most children grow out of by the time they are 3. It broke my heart on a daily basis and I cried so often in front of the preschool supervisor. I couldn’t bare to look at the other parents in case they were judging me and I was terrified about the effect all of this was having on the child I adored with all my heart. The child I had always wanted and that I believe was made for me.
My shoulders were so tense at this time that I was in 24 hour a day crippling pain. I thought that the only way this pain would go is whenever it would be that I died. So, of course, i was getting even less sleep then. I had begun fuelling myself on around 8 cups of coffee a day just to get myself through.
I got a massage for my shoulders from a friend who was studying sports psychology, she sat me up, stood behind me and said ‘right just put your shoulders down’ ‘down?’ I said, I tried but they literally would not move with all the tension!
So anyway my genius business blog idea was completely discarded at this point. I couldn’t imagine how I could help anybody in the state I was in and who would listen to somebody who couldn’t balance their own life anyway?
So i trotted off to the doctors thinking it was probably anaemia or b12 deficiency. Something that I could get a prescription to fix. After blood tests and several meetings the doctor diagnosed ‘anxiety and stress’. I left thinking she’s got that wrong I would know if I had anxiety but no. Apparently I wouldn’t. She put me on the waiting list for counselling and physiotherapy for my shoulders and sent me on my way.
Upon returning home I got straight on to google as many people would do in this situation. I spoke to my friend the mental health nurse who reassured me by saying ‘knowledge is power where this is concerned’ so I ordered a CBT workbook online and set about researching what I needed to do. One of the helpful hints I read was to try journaling. I found a notepad and wrote away not really knowing what I should write about. After a few minutes of getting into the flow I found myself pouring my heart out about how I felt like a big black cloud was following me around. Wow. I wasn’t expecting that. Ok maybe I am stressed and anxious then. Maybe the way I was feeling wasn’t right and perhaps there was something wrong after all.
Not long after the diagnosis my dear old grandad died. Which was a hard knock and for a few weeks there. All I could do was get through the days and be there for my family who all seriously adored my grandad with good reason. My family all needed me and I needed to be there for them. Somehow that was my way of dealing with it.
It was a knock yes and a very strange time. Especially for someone who, like me, was fortunate not have had much experience of death. But I dealt with it and life went on.
One thing I really felt the need to do in the midst of everything that was happening was take a trip to see my wonderful, wise auntie Jay who lived 2 hours away in Lancashire. She always somehow had the exact words that I needed to hear and I knew I would come away from her feeling enlightened. And I did. We talked about the anxiety, what I went through with preschool, grandad, childhood even and I cried and her soft gentle voice soothed me so much and I will never forget how much she helped me that day. As I drove back down the motorway the rain poured and I felt my pain wash away with it.
One of the outcomes of that meeting was that I got back in touch with my estranged father who I hadn’t spoken to or seen in 15 years. I had seen that he was on facebook and had considered how it would benefit me to ask him all the questions I had always wondered about and had probably affected my life forever. He answered all my questions with as much honesty as he could and I am grateful for that. What else will come of the situation I don’t know. I guess time will tell but at the moment we are emailing regularly.
I eventually got a counselling place on a 6 week course of group sessions in the middle of the summer. By that point I had dealt with a lot of what had happened and was beginning to feel brighter, happier and like my old self. But wiser and older. I went to the counselling and got an immense amount of help from it. Techniques and information that I will remember for the rest of my life. When I started the counselling I thought I was cured already but my curiosity took me there anyway. I’m so glad. The main thing I got from it was that i knew I had to stop it coming back I could spot it from a distance and delve into my bag of tricks to make sure I don’t get back to that same dark place. And I have used the techniques I learnt at the counselling sessions countless times already over the last 6 months and will do for the rest of my life.
Ok so here I really need to point out that if you do have symptoms of stress or anxiety tell your GP. It won’t simply go away. I also used the information on the website for the metal health charity mind http://www.mind.org.uk

At the beginning of last year one of the few people I had got round to telling about my website ideas was my beautiful little auntie Jay. When I revisited her in the midst of everything I told her I couldn’t bring myself to do it now. I wasn’t who I thought I was to be able to help anybody. She said ‘sometimes you have to experience something like this to be able to help other people’. At the time I really didn’t think it could happen ever. But as those words roll over in my mind more frequently a light beams brighter in my mind. She was right, of course, I can help people with this idea and everything I went through happened for that exact reason!
So that is the story of what led me to create this website that I hope will help other people enjoy their lives and look after themselves.
One of my counsellors many metaphors was ‘when you’re on an aeroplane and the flight attendants are reading out the safety instructions what do they say about when the oxygen masks come down?’
You put yours on before helping anybody else fit theirs because you can’t help people around you if you don’t look after yourself first!

Imogen x

Winter

And the rest…

Ok so wouldn’t it be amazing if I could spend my time doing the 6 different activities that i pin pointed in the last post. But i don’t. I have lots of other tasks that i want/have to fit into my days without over doing it and burning myself out. Which, quite frankly has to be my very top priority so i can look after my family in the best way and create a Life Balance.
So heres a wee list of all the other joys that fill my days
Washing up (doesn’t come under cleaning I’m afraid because washing up is a must do where as a lot of other cleaning isn’t to me!)
First the household thingies-
Washing/drying/ironing clothes
Baking bread (probably not necessary for most people but it is something I enjoy that actually needs doing most days)
Shopping (the bane of my life!)
Cooking
And personal care-
Meditation
Exercise
Reading
Watching films
Personal hygiene
Pampering
Sleep
Socialising
And family stuff-
Generally organising children. Actually Organising all 4 of us most of the time.
Playing together
Play dates
Visiting family
Homework (my 5 year old has homework it is insane no?!!)
Karate lessons for the big one
Date nights
Family trips

I have made myself a lovely colourful wall planner

Which basically plans out my every move. Which is great for fitting in all the lovely things i want to do. BUT we must always always remember to be a little flexible. To expect the unexpected and don’t get too stressed if you aren’t rubber gloved with your hands down the loo at precisely 9:15 am. Sometimes the baby needs cuddling, emergency milk needs buying, sun needs laying in etc and if thats the way you wanna play then that is so great and wonderful. My planner is there to keep me on track a lot of the time but i know not to worry if i can’t follow it sometimes.

This is my desk/workspace/creative station

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It’s a bit dark but it’s cosy and it’s right next to baby’s bedroom so she can play and potter about while i am at my desk.We are actually moving house in 6 weeks anyway so I will have to carve out a new space in our new house when we get there. We will finally have a proper garden though so i’m hoping there will be a lot of work done outside!

Here’s my new wall planner

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It looks pretty hectic but it’s not. It’s detailed and repetitive. You will notice there are only 5 days in this week. My weekends are kept spontaneous and free to get on with what needs doing and to go wherever our fancy takes us!

The only real thing left for this space that i want to do is a big dream board/collage to put on my goals, wishes, dreams and ideas onto so i can see them regularly and keep them in focus. Coming soon…

If you would like me to design you a wall planner to help you balance your life please use the contact form below. I will help to organise all the activities, jobs and anything else into your days by working with you to come up with a plan like this one. I want everyone to be able to fit into their lives all the wonderful things that make them happy as well as the necessary jobs that keep life ticking over nicely. I like to hand draw things because that is the best way i work. I like to make them colourful, cheery and full of love and i like to think that shows in my services. Once we have come to an agreement on a plan i will send you your hand drawn wall planner in digital format and you can print it out at home. If you don’t have printing facilities a plan can be arranged for shipping.

As an introductory price I will create your wall planner for £5 (payable through paypal) but be quick the print will go up in 2 weeks for this one of a kind, bespoke life balancing service.

Imogen x

My little Etsy shop

One of my little hobbies that i like create time for is painting. I have put some of these paintings for sale in my easy shop which is http://www.etsy.com/shop/imogenjhope. I paint because I love to create and it is important to me to express myself this way. I get some much joy from knowing a painting of mine is out there in the world giving joy to others.

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And while I was about snapping pics this little one had to get in on the action.

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Cant help but smile at that!!

Imogen x

Fitting it all in and creating Life Balance

So i have a lot of strings on my bow. And would like even more perhaps. It’s a busy life but I have to make sure that I also fit in self care and relaxation. In the past I have been known to let things get on top of me and suffered from stress and anxiety which ideally i would like to avoid returning!

So this past week I have been attempting to establish new routines as part of my goals for 2015. This started by my prioritising The different areas of my life that i need to dedicate time to. That brainstorm looked like this

IMG_4078Not the most colourful but this quick brainstorm has led me to a much more productive week already.

Monday I shut myself away and write 1 chapter of the novel I am writing. Any ideas i have had during the week are noted down or dreamt up ready to be written on Monday. This system seems to be working well so far. I have written 3 chapters and the in-between time gives me enough space to dream up what happens next.

Tuesday painting is quite straight forward. I sit down and let whatever is inside me that day come to the surface and out onto the paper. Sometimes it is something I don’t like. Sometimes i think I have produced something amazing and sometimes its just a little bit dark. Anyway the important thing is that I put the time aside to create something which is just so important to me.

Wednesday says educate. I try to use an hour or so on a Wednesday to read up on selling art, blogging, writing, scheduling and any other subjects which i feel i need to educate myself in. Then i have the rest of the days in the week to implement what i have learnt.

Thursday selling day. I pop as much as i can on etsy and try to manage my shop the best i can on this day. Maybe in the future i will also use this day to sell or display my art locally when i pluck up the courage!

Friday is blogging day. I will sit and write about whatever it is that is on my mind or has been during the week that i might have made a note of.

Weekend is spent ferrying the kiddies from parties to classes to freezing myself in the park! And if I’m lucky some special time with Mr.H.

Rain Again...(Introducing Violet and Jonah aka. Vi & J.)

You may have noticed I am also a student. I am starting a part time degree with The Open University for English Language and Creative Writing. I don’t start for another 2 weeks today and then i guess I’m  going to have to work out how to fit it in to my routine that i have already implemented. Who knows how i will fit in that 18 hours a week but, hey, we will cross that bridge when we come to it. I believe that if I’ve already set out routines for everything else it will be easier.

As i am also mother of 2 little sprouts i have to look after them before all these things AND clean and declutter and cook and play. So you see there is still a lot more to fit in here.  I will probably pop all that down in another post but i just want to give some ideas of how you can fit in ways to create, produce and even sell even if your family or working life is full and chaotic.

Thanks for reading lovelies!!

Imogen x

Welcome..to my Life Balance blog

I’m Imogen. I am a writer, painter, student, mother and wife. I hope to use this blog to practise writing and to promote whatever it may be that i am working on. Also to create a network of support and belief around myself that i, and you, can all achieve our life’s purpose and dreams.

I write with great trepidation. The same way i, in fact, do anything as i am very self conscious, self doubting and low confidence when it comes to that which i create. But i am trying. Trying to grow, trying to learn and trying to believe in myself more.

So this will be where i will publish my personal story. Maybe 1 or 2 times a week.

Thank you for reading.

Please engage in feedback it would be extremely helpful and appreciated.

Imogen J Hope

Life Balance