The Golden Girl

While the twins were at my place on Sunday Ellie decided to do her homework!

Its theme was ‘mythology’. She didn’t know what that meant so she asked me and I explained as best as I could.

King MidasShe then went onto google on my PC (under my supervision of course!) and came up with the story of King Midas. I showed her how to click on the link she wanted and before too long she had written 2 sides of an A4 page with the story of King Midas & his ‘golden touch’. It was in her own words too, and not just copied, showing that she had understood the story. I’m a proud Dad!

She needed some help with some of the pronunciation and spelling – I mean how the heck do you pronounce ‘Phrygia’ or ‘Dionyssus’ anyway? I don’t know! It’s all Greek to me!* –  but her comprehension and written account of the story was excellent

    * sorry, couldn’t resist

Yes, it does seems a little strange her choosing to do her homework during the limited time that she has with me. She does love spending time here with her Daddy – that’s what she tells me anyway – but I think I understand. We were still doing something together, which I was enjoying & I which I think she was too. She & Jake however often don’t enjoy the same things, and even when we do all do something together they more often than not compete with each other rather than play together cooperatively. I often find myself having to break up a fight. I imagine that’s not unusual for young boy-girl twins!

When they’re with me they each mostly just want to do something with me and so are competing for my attention. I only see them part of a day on a weekend and one evening after school so we all try to make the most of our time together. It isn’t easy!

Minecraft warriorAnd to be honest Jake and I were engrossed in a series of intense one-on-one Minecraft battles that day, which he’d been preparing and planning for and looking forward to for some time. I said to both of them before they left that next time I was going to spend much more time with Ellie to compensate.

So Ellie was being ‘a good girl’, and she is that, in doing her homework here – but she had also put some thought into her reasons for doing so, which actually makes me think even more highly of her. She explained it to me:

When she’s at ‘home’ (or as I prefer to call it “her other home”) with Mummy she likes to play on the green outside with nearby friends of around her own age. More often than not, she explained, she gets called in from playing to do her homework, which obviously doesn’t usually go down too well in Ellie land! She thought then she’d take advantage of my little home office set-up to do her homework at my place, and then she’d have more time to play with her friends.

Smart girl!

Oh, and my Minecraft battle with Jake? 2-2. We are planning a rematch!

Now there is of course only one way to end this post:

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A Design For Life

“I was not; I have been; I am not; I do not mind.”

The ‘Epicurean Epitaph’, a quote attributed to the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus, often now used at humanist funerals.epicurus-3

I found myself thinking about this yesterday, prompted by a Facebook meme.

It doesn’t just apply to a way of looking at death. It can also be a way of looking at life.

The basis of Epicurus’ philosophy after all, his lifestyle and that of his friends and followers, was looking for the things that make us happy and then as much as possible having those things in our lives.

Not in Hedonism: self-indulgent and unrestrained behaviour – a common misunderstanding of his ideas – but more in a satisfaction with life: involving moderation, respect for others and friendship.

“I was not; I have been; I am not; I do not mind.”

This could just as much be about happiness as it is a way of coping with the concept of our mortality. We all have peaks and troughs in our lives. There are times when things seem to be going well, when we’re making progress, when we’ve achieved some of our goals and are looking to continue onwards.

There are other times when life seems bleak, when nothing seems to work, where everything is going wrong – even to the extent that we give up hope.

Basic needs like food & water, shelter, safety, health, relationships. Simply said – not so simply achieved! Certainly not all at once. Sometimes we seem to have them all; other times none of it!

“I was not; I have been; I am not; I do not mind.”

‘A while back’ – I’m shocked sometimes when I think about just how long ago it was! – I was living and working in and around London, working in Finance.  I was “doing OK”, not great, but “OK”.

I met a girl, we moved in together. She was also “doing OK”. We went to restaurants, pubs and gigs: together and with friends. We travelled a lot. We moved to Brighton, then to Sutton Coldfield. We got married, then had children. Twins: Jake and Ellie. Great kids! Having been made redundant earlier I became their full time stay-at-home Dad: for 3 years, until they started pre-school in preparation for school proper. By this time we were here in Wales.

Now, 5 years later, we’re separated. I live alone, in a small house: fine just for me but nothing like our old family home. The children who were my life I see now just 2 days a week: most of 1 day on the weekend and 1 evening after school.  And to be honest I’ve struggled to pick up with my career where I left off. The industry is very tech-driven and seems to have moved on, irrespective of all my experience. My age counts against me too I think; having to start again as it were a lot of the jobs I am qualified for I think are taken by young people.

We had a big house, and a good lifestyle: travel, good food, fun. Now I sometimes struggle even with the basics. Then I spent nearly all my time with my beloved Jake & Ellie; now I often feel like I hardly know them, like they’re growing up without me.

It’s very easy to look back and think things were perfect though isn’t it? I know they weren’t, even then.

Further back –  in New Zealand, for instance, before I found my feet career-wise here – I sometimes struggled, financially and socially. Even after I moved to the U.K. there were difficult times: I got caught up in the mortgage interest rate crisis of the ‘90s, and leaving the somewhat extreme religious group I got mixed up in was necessary, but still difficult, not least as it meant cutting myself off from all my ‘friends’ & having to start again socially.

“I was not; I have been; I am not; I do not mind.”

I had tough times before, some good times, and now difficult times again. Life has its ups and downs. It’s just a question of perspective isn’t it? I’m trying to be grateful for what I do have. Great children who love me, food & shelter, safety, reasonably good health, friendships.

That’s more than millions of people all over the world can say. In many ways I’m lucky, despite what the reality of my life seems to be a lot of the time.

“I had not; I did have; I do not have; I do not mind”

I’m trying very hard to improve the things I can, while learning to accept and make the most of life as it is.

Thank you Epicurus: those are indeed wise words.

I am Resolved

New Year’s Resolutions. I don’t make ’em, as I don’t keep ’em.

I only made 1 last year:  to make no New Year’s Resolutions. Which I immediately failed, obviously.

This time of year there are inevitably lots of blog posts of New Year’s Resolutions, & I’ve read quite a few good ones.

This one though, ‘My Online Resolutions‘,  from the excellent Him Up North’s blog made me realise something: I seem to be carrying out my New Year’s Resolutions without actually having made any.

“Huh?!” I hear you say. It’s OK: I get that a lot.

Well, I’m doing things differently this year. And it’s because I’ve decided to do so. I guess you could say I’ve resolved to do so.

I haven’t actually sat down, as I have done in the past, & said to myself: “Right: this is what I must do with my life this year”. That does, however, seem to be what is happening in practice.

So here’s what I’m doing differently this year, at least in my online life:

1) Twitter. I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with Twitter.  “I love it; it hates me”? Maybe! When you have responsibilities though you can have too much of a good thing. Twitter is fabulous fun. I’ve met so many fantastic people there, we’ve shared jokes, sad stories, music, films, I’ve laughed, I’ve cried,  participated in & even started hashtag memes, & generally had a great time.

‘Time’. There’s the rub, as my mate Bill once said. Working from home, & at present being pretty much a SAHD, (someone really should come up with a better acronym for stay-at-home Dads…), Twitter is always there, always available, on my office PC, on the laptop, on my iPod Touch. And there’s always something happening. It is a constant distraction; & I’m easily distracted. With baby-care taking up so much of my time I have to make the most of it to do what must be done. So often Twitter has eaten up too much time. I’ve tried just lurking during the day, the ‘no-typing’ rule, but that only had limited success.

I believe it’s known as ‘Twittaddiction’.

In the evenings I also found that a lot of the really fun messing about also resulted in my not getting on with other interests I’d had lined up for whatever spare time I’ve had.  It’s very easy to get carried away, especially after dark. All work & no play may make Jack a dull boy, but all play & no work can make Jack a bit over-excited 😉

So I’ve had to re-evaluate where my priorities lie, & as a result I’m taking a break from twitter.

I’ll still be sending tweets from my blogs when I’ve made new posts, auto-tweeting music links from my iPod, & my automatically-produced newspaper is still about. But that’s it.

Will I go back? How long will I be away? I don’t know.

Will I miss it? Yes: everything about it. What I’ll especially miss though is the daily contact with the so many terrific people I’ve met there.  So to all of my friends there: Thank You. For Everything.

I am still about online though, which brings me to:

2) Blogging. I’m doing more of it. I’ve been looking for & have found some great blogs, especially ones similar to mine: Dad blogs, parents of twins blogs, & have linked to them in my ‘Blogroll’.  I’ve subscribed to more blogs, I’m commenting more. On my own blogs I’m posting more, & linking up with other blogs & blogging resources.

And you know what? It’s great fun. It’s sociable, it’s a creative outlet, it’s therapeutic, I’m learning about other peoples’ lives & loves – some similar to mine & others very different  – & in more depth. In short, it’s enhancing my life. And that can only be a good thing.

3) Facebook. Yes I use it. I’ve never enjoyed it as much as Twitter. I have a much smaller circle of friends there, & I want to keep it that way: quality not quantity. So I’m using it more. And that leads to:

4) Family. I want to keep in touch with my family more; not easy when most of them live so far away. Many of them use Facebook. I have noticed that some of them even have telephones. And houses, with addresses attached. And emails. All of which I want to use more.

Ultimately that’s what this is about: doing the right thing by my family, especially for the sake of my beautiful twin babies. And of course being nice to my wife. I’m sure she must read this sometimes… 😉

So: keeping my New Year’s Resolutions without making any? I reckon I could be on to something here!