Being A Sport's Widow Means I Get 'Me Time'

As I write this, I am sat in an empty house. This is my 'me time'. 

Over the past few (*cough* 20 or so *cough*) years you can bet I have done my fair share of weekend ferrying around to many football clubs, dance classes and gymnastic tournaments however, as the adults in the house we were never really the sporty types... until recently.

It is now just after Saturday lunch time, I joined my running group early this morning for a gentle five kilometre run then I came home and did the usual chores around the house and made lunch for everyone.  

The reason the house is empty is because my husband and son have driven to their shooting club in the next town. After seeing the rifle competitions at the Olympics in 2012, my youngest became really interested in the sport.  And yes, shooting IS a sport. The club teaches about conentration, discipline and respect in such a dangerous sport plus the boys can go and do their father/son bonding whilst being all manly and talking about different types of rifles and other stuff that bores me to tears.  
Having these few hours to myself means that I can tie up all those loose ends that seem to straggle themselves across the week.  Jobs that are tedious or just got forgotten about, blog posts that can be written or planned, watching a few YouTube videos and maybe even filming a couple of my own and - the ultimate in 'me time' - having a bath with NO interruptions.  I light a fragranced candle, gather my Kindle and a luxurious bubble bath and just soak until all my skin goes wrinkly.  Then I top up the hot water and chill out for another half an hour. 

I look forward to this time each week, as I know they do. Having our own interests is just as important to us as it is to do activities together as a family.  

This is a featured post. Please see my disclosure policy for more details. 

#StationeryWednesday - Does Your Stationery Have A Theme?

#StationeryWednesday - Does Your Stationery Have A Theme?
The world is definitely split into those that understand the pull of stationery and those that only use it in a practical sense.  At the start of the year, I realised that I was leaning more to a green theme with my stationery for 2015; green ink in my pen, a turquoise Leuchtturm notebook, a green desk diary...

Unintentionally, I've turned into a bit of a Paperways fangirl and appear to be working my way through their stock on the Bureau Direct website.  To date, I own the London themed mini-notebooks, the Parisian post-it notes, the A5 hexagon notepad and the hexagon keyboard pad and I have my eye on a few other pieces.

This brand - which originates from South Korea - totally fits in with my theory that stationery should be fun, functional and affordable (almost total alliteration there).  But it was only during a Google Hangout with Penny that I realised I had so many of their products - and so did she - but just look how fantastic they all are. The Far East definitely has the market cornered when it comes to stationery.

I've been using the keyboard jotpad in my home office for scribbling reminders on and with 50 pages in the pad, it's going to last the full year (everyone's entitled to two weeks holiday...). When you've finished one week you just rip off the top sheet and start again on the next week.  As I mentioned in the chat with Penny, though, I would like each "day" to be perforated so that I could tear it off and use the notes as reminders in my diary or journal.  So useful though!

#StationeryWednesday - Does Your Stationery Have A Theme?

Also, if you're coming to The BlogOn conference in Manchester in May, look out for me carrying my presentation notes in one of the gorgeous document folders from SemiKolon. I have the lime coloured one, again to go with my green theme for the year.  I also have stashed my Mark's Storage It notebook (as seen in the video above) to take with me so that I can scribble notes from the other speaker presentations.  

#stationerywednesday - SemiKolon storage from Bureau Direct

Because this is a blogger/brand relationship with Bureau Direct, here's a link to my disclosure policy. You can also sign up for the Bureau Direct #StationeryWednesday newsletter which is delivered each week with an exclusive 10% discount code at the beginning of each month.

My Application To Run Prince Charles' Twitter Account

Dear Sir,

I write with reference to your advertised post of employment for Digital Engagement Officer at Clarence House. I enclose my current CV for your consideration and propose the following digital activities. 

On Twitter, one will not only broadcast engagements as they happen in a live-feed situation but one will also respond to one's followers.  One will include content from other platforms (noted below) that will enable one to connect further with one's subjects.  We will create a parody account for 'all the LOLz' and allow occasional photoshopped images, Royally-related memes and WTF style updates to be presented alongside 'that may actually be true' style extreme tweets.

One should be considering using Vine to broadcast for six seconds as, in the modern digital world, your subjects are short on time. One will use these short video updates as teasers for bigger and better content on Twitter and YouTube but they will not be six seconds of your (in)famous "Err" as these are now notoriously clipped out of video content.

I suggest that one creates a presence on YouTube with the concentration on creating a lifestyle feel to the channel.  Monday would see your "Haul From Harrods" in which the Royal Household staff lay out one's weekly shop on the kitchen work surfaces explain each item individually with the reason for the purchase. We could even incorporate some Recipe Of The Day content for Pinterest and one's website.  Wednesday would feature an OOTD (Outfit Of The Day) from Camilla; this would be backed up by exclusive shots on Instagram.  A quarterly fashion 'Look Book' at the beginning of each season would be filmed with a small digital camera, arty angle shots and an occasional camera flip-round to show one's self to prove that you are indeed the film-maker.  Friday's broadcast would also produce a vlog from Camilla which covers health and beauty Tips From The Top. I envisage a partnership with Eggleston Hall Finishing School and occasional guest appearances from Gill Harbord and Rosemary Shrager.

One may be wondering why I have not, as yet, mentioned Facebook or Google Plus? These platforms will become a 'dumping ground' for content produced on faster moving platforms. Clever use of phrases and keywords will ensure that one's presence is still felt on these channels with very little need for engagement. Shoot-off pages on both of these platforms for interesting personal activities would be created; these may include one's book writing and one's theory on plant well-being through conversation. 

At some point in the future, and as ones social popularity wanes, it will be necessary to create secondary accounts for all the above mentioned digital platforms.  'Official' content will remain on the original channels and we will create a campaign to show more relaxed and personal content on the new channels. This may include showing one babysitting the grandchildren, duckface and 'head together' selfie shots with family members and teaser presentations of a new pocket handkerchief from yourself or a handbag from Camilla. At this point, and also to show how normal life behind Palace doors is, it would be advisable to arrange an audition to become the new Gogglebox family. This would give one's all-round media presence a boost without any financial investment.

The most important aspect of my employment is to ensure that we collectively create shareable content and one connects with ones subjects to bring the esteemed Royal Household into 2015 and to ensure that your future ascension to the British throne will provide a modern and engaged King.  

Sincerely your subject
Nickie O'Hara

How A 15-Year Old Uses Social Media

I have gotten into a habit of sitting in front of the television, laptop on my knee, sharing my opinions on television programmes through the medium of social media then reading other people's opinions, agreeing or disagreeing as everything happens. It's a sort of online kangaroo court.

However, Cyberbully (Channel 4, Thursday 15th January) was different. I never took my eyes off the screen. Based on real-life cases and told in real time, I was transfixed.  Such an ingenious way to tell a story and highlight the way in which people use and abuse the privilege of online media. It left me with a lot to think about, especially as it was based around children of a similar age to my youngest. 

How a 15 year old uses social media
Prior to watching Cyberbully, I read Tanya's post about how her teens view social media. It's a honest and surprising post to read, mainly because of the way in which our digital world has developed I thought the next generation would have been more invested in certain aspects of it at least - even more so when they are the children of bloggers.  

Now, I've always been fairly relaxed about the way in which my own children have access to online media as I mentioned in this post - 'Parenting 101' - about four years ago.  There's a trust that has been built up where they know that I know how to check their online activity at any point, but we have honest and open relationships so there's very little need.  I asked my own 15 year old about his use of social media, thinking about the accounts noted in Cyberbully and then expanded on the conversation. Here are his answers:

Jake: I use Facebook a lot to see what people are up to. I contact my friends on there using Messenger and I ring them for free through Messenger too.  I play some games - mainly Texas Poker - and tell people what I got in 'packs' on Fifa15 by taking a picture and uploading it with a status.
Me: How often do you update your status?
Jake: I don't really. Not a lot, anyway. Lots of friends tag me in statuses or photos.

Jake: I've got an account but I don't really use it. I went on Twitter the other day to see what cards people have got in packs from Fifa15.
Me: Do you know how to use the search facility on Twitter?
Jake: Nope.

Google Plus
Jake: Never heard of it!
Me: [falls over]
Jake: Is that like where you can ask Google a question and find an answer?
Me:  No, that's Google search.
Jake: Oh. 

Jake:  [confused face] Is that like a dating site?
Me: No, that's Tinder!
*we both laugh*
Jake: I've heard of it but I don't know what it is.

Jake: I use Snapchat a lot to contact people.  It's only my friends though because you have to add people to your contact list. This is the one where pictures disappear after a set amount of seconds. 

Jake: No account, never used it. A few of my friends have it though and they send their pictures to Facebook.

Jake: I use it all the time. I'm always watching Fifa videos and like watching people who have recorded themselves playing or when they open their player packs.  I search for funny videos or fail compilations (they are hilarious) or stunts that people have done on mopeds or skateboards.  I like finding Parkour videos too.
Me: Have you heard of Alfie Deyes or Joe Suggs or Zoella?
Jake: No.  Who are they?
Me: It doesn't matter. What about music videos? Do you listen to music on YouTube?
Jake: Yes, I have it on in the background sometimes.

Jake: I've got an account but I don't use it often - just every now and again for talking to friends. 

Jake: Never used it.

Jake: Never heard of it.

Jake: Never used it but I know what it is.
*this is where we had a bit of a disagreement about how long a Vine video is. I said six seconds, he said seven seconds so we looked it up.  It's actually 6.5 seconds*

Jake: Never used it.

Me: What other social media apps do you use that I might not have mentioned?
Jake: [checks phone]

Jake: It's a live  streaming website where you can watch anyone in the world playing an online game on their XBox, Playstation or PC. It's not hacking, they have to 'broadcast' their game through the website. You can only watch on the phone app though. 

Jake: Me and my friends sometimes upload raps we've made up and we listen to and comment on other people's original music or raps that they've uploaded.

I think that's a fairly even mix of social media use and nothing that makes alarm bells ring. He uses less than I thought he did but he does see his friends a lot outside of the house so there's little need for them to be online all the time.  He doesn't seem to use social media to 'brag' or to share every single aspect of his life because he's already engaging face-to-face with the people who he interacts with.

Reading the responses from Tanya's teens and the conclusion that there is a generation of online users (the first tranche?) that over-share or are over-engaged or that are super-invested in their digital world seems more apparent when I talk to my own teenager about it. My generation has been part of the development of easy access to this amazing world where you can contact anyone at any time whereas the next generation are growing up in a world where that's always been the case. So is that the reason for their lack of enthusiasm about it?

Both the television thriller, Cyberbully, and this conversation with Jake has let me with lots to mull over.  What about you?

Edited to add: there's some amazing comments on here already but there's also some on my Facebook page. Click here or here to read them.  You can even talk to me on Twitter about this too - I'm @nickieohara

Moody Bitch

I have been in such a bad mood today.  It's been one big trough of gloom and doom with a couple of peaks. However, those peaks only seem to plunge me deeper into the next moody moment.  It's not often I feel like this but, when I do, every little thing seems huge!  I should recognise the signs having lived with someone who suffers from severe depression for many years but I always hope that I can shrug it off.  Do you want to know what has made me moody today?  Here goes...

DOWN.  We had a hospital appointment this morning at 8.55am at the fracture clinic to get Jake's leg brace re positioned and to hear the prognosis of his recovery.  It normally takes 10 minutes to drive to the hospital from home but it had been snowing both last night and this morning so I needed extra time.  At 8.20am, Jake was still in bed after me going into his room four times.  I yelled at him at that point. 

DOWN.  The roads were icy, but far worse than I could have imagined. The gritters hadn't been out and the side roads were treacherous so I stuck to the main roads.  Cars were sliding all over the place, wheels were spinning, the hills were almost impossible to get up, I got stuck at one point and cried in the car.  Fucking cried because I couldn't drive on ice. 

DOWN.  The dog is shedding his winter coat (he's an Akita) and no matter how much you hoover, pick up the fur or brush him, the house still looks trampy and like I don't give a shit.  It feels like a never-ending cycle of looking like you don't care about cleanliness. And, because of the way he sheds his fur, he looks like he's got mange. 

UP.  The post came.  No bills (yay!), a preview copy of a friend's book (double yay!) and a gift from another friend (triple yay!).

DOWN.  I did some work, planned what we were having for tea and left for my meeting only to find out that I have to go back again tomorrow. Waste of fucking time... and car park money!

DOWN.  Every time someone speaks to me, I'm sarcastic in return. It has been commented on a few times. Everyone else is allowed to be in a bad mood whenever they fucking feel like it but not me. Oh no.  

UP.  I made tea and we had steak pudding and real chips.  I loved every single mouthful.

DOWN.  I've completely screwed the diet today. I did think I could go for a good walk but the weather is wet and wild tonight.  The steps I've walked today are hardly worth counting and I can't go for a run until tomorrow night. 

LEVEL.  It's evening.  The time for thinking about things is over.  Friends are sending me video clips that I enjoy watching. They don't even know it but they are cheering me up.  Bedtime is nearer and even though I don't sleep well at the moment I know I can snuggle down and listen to a podcast.

Keep breathing, Nicola.  In and out.  In and out...