This post was supposed to be written on Halloween but ill health kept me away from creative blogging. Better late than never and if anything, the whole Striking Mums concept says it is OK to take a break when we need to and to forgive ourselves if things don’t go entirely to plan.

So do you fancy playing Trick or Treat for Mums with me?

Here are this week’s questions to inspire you. You can answer one of them, all of them or none at all. The trick of Striking Mums is that it is your very flexible linky friend. So let’s first consider tricks for mums.

trick

Tricks

1. How do you outwit people or circumstances who prevent you getting the life you want?

2. What clever parenting tricks do you pull off regularly?

3. What is your top time-saving trick?

4. What is your top housework trick?

5. Have you ever carried out a practical joke? How did it go?

6. If there was a trick of the light what would you like to see?

7. Have you ever been tricked and how did that feel?

8. If you designed your own coat or arms what colours, images and words would you include in it?

Actually that is quite a lot of questions so I will post about treats next week but this week, I will pick my favourite post that is linked up and a little mystery treat will sent to you.

I would love to have your comments and if you blog in any way about yourself and how you are taking steps tiny or otherwise to change your life, please link up below. I will comment on every post, promote them on my social networks and include links in a round-up post next week.

Please use the hashtag #strikingmums on social networks.

Please grab the rather attractive Striking Mums badge in the sidebar and display on your blog.

Most of all, please visit the other people linking up to lend them your support.

I have set up a Facebook group for Striking Mums – you don’t have to be a blogger to join this. You do have to be a mum.

I have also set up a Pinterest board for Striking Mums

Have a lovely week and I look forward to hearing about your mums and your tricks.

They say in life you should get the answers right. It is more of an issue when you get the questions wrong! So take two of questions and answers set by the marvellous Sonya.What was the first record you ever bought?

I loved Ken Dodd and the Diddy Men’s album and the Wombles too when I was little. My first pop star crush was Orinoco!

The first tape I bought was Bob Marley. I got it in London from Our Price I think for £4.99. My mum always said it was actually hers and had similar habits about any records I had by Simply Red or Tina Turner.

What is your favourite biscuit?

There is no greater pleasure in life than licking the creamy bit in a bourbon.

Who would you most like to go out on the lash with and why?

That’s a difficult question. As we never have a babysitter, it would be nice to go to a pub and let my hair down with Him Indoors. I would love to walk into a pub and see all my old college friends there. There are bloggers I would like to see outside blogging conference territory.

Who is your blog crush?

I can’t pick just one so am leaving this one.

When are you happiest?

I like to be by the sea. Ideally I would like to live by the sea and also spend my dying moments looking out to sea.

I love it when snuggling up with my children learning and/or debating ideas.

I like the simplest of tea parties to celebrate whatever occasion is happening or I can invent.

I am happy when baking – there is something spiritual about it.

I am always happy when looking around charity shops spying quirky items.

I have happy times every time I am at the theatre which happens far too rarely.

I am happiest when I feel loved or accepted as I am. That is one of the reasons I miss my Dad so much.

What is your favourite word?

Passionate

Do you have a secret talent?

I asked Him Indoors and he said quickly and very deeply that I have the ability to say the right thing at the right time. I find that lovely so will go with that.

What book would you recommend to me?

My first best-selling novel

Now to tag some lovely bloggers with the following questions …

1. What work pattern suits you best – stay at home parent, part-time employee, full-time employee, freelancing/own business? And why?

2. What do you have on your bedside cabinet?

3. What do you collect?

4. Name a fictional character that you think you are like? From soap operas, books or plays.

5. What is your top housework tip?

6. If I paid for you to go to the theatre, what would you see?

7. Do you have a signature dish? What is it?

8. If you wrote a book, what would it be about?

9. Name the treat you would buy with each of these prize amounts

£1

£100

£1000

10. What is the thing you have great faith in?

Tagging

@AutismMumma

@usthreebythesea

@CupcakeMumma11

@LakesSingleMum

@TheBeezleyBuzz

@Dragonflypoppy

@mamayoutalk

@KimberleyJTyler

@PNDandMe

@Lookng4BlueSky

The phenomenal woman and blogger Sonya has tagged me to answer some questions.

I have been poorly sick over Half Term so decided to take this tag to get my blogging mojo back a little.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I did used to enjoy dressing up as a nurse and injecting people.
Any ambitions to join the medical profession changed when I started watching Crown Court on the telly. At that point, I liked the idea of dressing up weirdly and mouthing off with everyone instructed to listen to me. A barrister was the life for me or so I thought and I intended to specialise in defending criminal cases overturning injustices.

At university, I obtained my law degree but got cynical that it all seemed to be about making rich people richer and powerful people even more powerful. That and the treatment of women by the legal system made me leave ideas of joining the legal profession behind.

I have made very few grown-up choices and my life shows that really so now I am hoping to become a published writer when I grow up. I would also like to work in a shop and have a fantasy of owning a floristry business.

How many children did you imagine you would have – and how many have you got?

I used to have a clear image of myself with three tall boys and a willowy girl. I ended up with two sons and a daughter called Willow. I keep expecting the other tall guy to turn up at some point to make sense of it all.

A palm reader also told me I would have 3 children.

Who or what inspired you to start blogging?

I think most people know this story. As I went slowly insane and miserable with the demands of parenting and the blight of post-natal depression, my Mum suggested that I should write even if I just kept a diary. She said this at about 4am on Boxing Day fuelled by Bell’s whisky. A few weeks later she told me she was terminally ill so for me blogging is the greatest gift she gave me and is in a way her legacy.

What’s your favourite blog post you’ve written?

It is impossible to pick one. My best in my view are those where I share openly and honesty, showing the warts off to good effect. I also like the ones where I analyse things and show that I do have quite a fierce brain still. I also love trying to remind people that we have so far to go in women getting a fair deal still.

What is your greatest achievement?

Being the first person from my school to ever get into Oxbridge.

Choosing the harder life option of charity work over the Law. I did make a difference to people along the way.

Putting myself back together after a relationship breakdown where I became aware that I too could be fooled and get things very wrong.

Keeping on keeping on through relocations, redundancies, infidelities, depression and isolation.

Reaching out to help others.

Surprising myself sometimes by walking on fire and travelling overseas on my own.

I am despite being fat and it seems quite possibly diabetic hoping the best is yet to come.

What is your biggest regret?

Allowing fear of rejection to hold me back way too much leading to me not taking risks in personal relationships and therefore ending up at 45 fundamentally friendless at least in the real world.

Not looking after myself physically or emotionally.

What makes you laugh?

Lots of things – word play, ancedotes, some comedians and I also have quite a ribald and black comedy all of my own. My children saying funny things and pulling funny faces.

What makes you angry?

How we are not on the streets saying it is wrong that so many women are battered in their own homes, attacked when they have the audacity to go out and generally treated like the proverbial.

In my home, I get angry that some power that be has decided it is my role to do most of the housework however rough I might be feeling and that I am too often silenced leading to me disappearing a little.

Do you ever break the rules and which ones do you break?

I break rules that Him Indoors sets because I think some of them make no sense and also that I should get a choice in things. Things like me having a blanket downstairs or a duvet if I am feeling in need of extra comfort.

I once submitted a funding bid when a boss said not to. Noticeably when the bid succeeded he accepted the money and the credit!

I question authority naturally so there will be more examples I am sure.

What are your top three books?

I don’t read as much as I would like.

The Hobbit has a special place in my heart always.

A book about New Zealand and a lighthouse by Keri Hulme called The Bone People because it was such a one-off and because I half-imagined the main character was myself and because it was a gift from someone special.

There are lots of others and I will go for gold and say the Bible as I find it times of crisis, it usually has something good to say.

It turns out I have done this all wrong and answered the wrong questions so I guess that goes to show that I break the rules often inadvertently.

I will now write a post based on the questions I was really asked.

Cuddle Fairy

Last week’s Striking Mums post was about style but when I talk about labels this week I am not talking about designer ones. I am talking about the labels used about us by ourselves and others, the things that I said to identify us.

Like other mums, I carry the labels of woman, daughter and mum. For me sister is a bit complicated because officially I don’t have any but blood-wise I have at least three sisters. I guess that goes to show that adopted was always a big label for me marking me out as different from people at school and so on. Mum used to do her best to say it actually meant chosen but then and now I tended to focus on the fact that it must also mean rejected. Identity matters and I think adopted people often feel that keenly because by the time they become aware, one of their identities has already disappeared. Is that why I insisted on keeping my maiden name as part of my married name I wonder?

Perhaps you have a religious label. I am a Roman Catholic and have heard a few negative labels about that one in my time.

You become a pupil at some point carrying some sort of loyalty to your school and perhaps like me you go on to become a student. I went to Cambridge and there are huge assumptions made about people who carry the “Oxbridge” label. Apparently I should be highly intelligent, posh and rich – really?! At university, the label of our subject area was huge so that “lawyers” tended to stick together and one subject area’s student may well look down at students from another group. As a collegiate university, there were also labels attached according to which college you attended.

Entering the workplace, I joined the charity world so inevitably the do gooder label made its way into my world along with expectations of amateur work performance. Wrong again. Yes I did good and sometimes got paid for it too but I took pride in my wrk and delivered often with very limited human and financial resources.

You become a mum and the media will do its utmost to convince you that you are inadequate in some way or to set you up against other mums that are not exactly like you.

I remember my Mum defined people as well-to-do, rough or like us. I guess labels act as shorthand way of describing and assessing people at best. On the other hand, shouldn’t we be seizing the power and selecting our own labels?

In a lifetime, people will give you labels and some of them will change a lot.

I once was told I must be a vegetarian as I was so skinny. That was clearly a very long time ago and now I carry the fat or obese label and hate it.

People who get close to me will comment on how much I talk but if you don’t know me well that might surprise you as I will be the quiet one in a social setting if I am feeling unsure.

My mum’s friend always used to say how beautiful I was but nobody else has ever really thought so perhaps with the exception of my own children.

Other labels folks have used about me over the years include:

Sensitive
Moody
Cute
Uncivilized
Broad
Inspirational
Sweet
Sulky
Bright
Kind-hearted
Hard-working
Smelly

1. If I gave you a label and pinned it to you and you were allowed to put just 3 words on it, which would you choose?

2. What labels that others have used about you do you think are spot on?

3. Has having a particular label ever got you into trouble or held you back?

4. Does or did one of your labels mark you out as very different from others in your circles?

5. Which label are you particularly proud of?

labels

In the blogging world, I think labels can be dangerous too. On either a monthly or yearly basis, I see bloggers allowing their self-belief to be defined by a score, a nomination or an award. We are more than our blogs and we are more than any commendation for our blog that happens to come our way through whatever reason (sometimes hard work, sometimes a stroke of good luck and sometimes through a whole lot of self-promotion) Our blog labels like other ones may change over time. One day we may be a granny blogger and not a mummy blogger. I might suddenly develop a new interest, blog about it and become known for that instead of whatever I am known for today.

I guess that is a good way to conclude. If we don’t like our labels, we can change most of them. If we do like our labels, we should celebrate them.

I have more to say on this I think but for now I am going to close or this post will be too long.

64 years ago my Mum and Dad got married.

IMG_0540

They met two years previous to that when my Dad was on home on his last leave from the Royal Navy. Mum had reluctantly agreed to attend a New Year’s Eve party with her friend. She recalls trudging across farmer’s fields to get there. She was with her friend, another Irene, and they met my Dad and his best mate, Colin.

Dad always said he knew he would marry my Mum as soon as he met her. He nearly blew it altogether by standing her up on their first arranged date because his Mum disapproved of him going out with a Roman Catholic.

That hiccup got resolved when they met at a dance hall and they started courting. The other Irene and Colin were going out together two so it was quite the foursome. Colin and Irene married and I suppose it was inevitable that Mum and Dad would follow suit.

The photos of their wedding are lovely – two innocent young adults starting out on life together. They had a weekend in Blackpool prior to this happy day and both have reassured me and I believe them that they had single rooms and there was no what my son would refer to as funny business.

Mum did not choose a white dress and had her own individual style in a blue suit. Dad looks smart as he always did. Both were incredibly good-looking.

Like with most weddings, there was a little drama. Mum fell out with one of her sisters before the wedding so she did not attend. Most of my Dad’s family did not attend due to Mum being a Catholic. Mum used to recall walking into the church and seeing one side almost empty. They had to stay outside the altar rails and various other sanctions for being a mixed marriage.

Their honeymoon was in a borrowed caravan at Cayton Bay on the East coast. Mum said she knew she had made a good choice when Dad warmed her nightie for her before bedtime. That story has always touched me.

They started married life in a tiny house and were thrilled when they go a police house with Dad’s new job.

Almost 2 years after getting married, they had one son and another followed 14 months later.

Dad kept his faith and my mum hers for 10 years. Dad always attended Mass with her on Sundays and converted to the faith after a decade of learning all about it.

They were very involved in church and community work. Their social life revolved around the church hall and the Irish National Club with the occasional Police Ball where Mum tended to turn up looking like a film star.

Mum had a gall bladder operation which left her unable to have other children. She longed for a daughter and in 1969, they fostered me and the next year made it all official with my adoption.

What were the strong points of their marriage?

They loved each other.

They really did the bit about being there for each other in sickness in health, for richer for poorer and all that.

They both were rebels – I knew this about my Mum but it took me years to work out that Dad was rebellious too.

She was talkative and he was taciturn unless there was something worth saying. They were both great story-tellers.

She has a ribald sense of humour whereas he tended to be more strait-laced about things.

They put each other’s mental wellbeing. When Dad was being bullied in the police force, Mum told him to leave despite not having a back-up plan financially. When Mum was ill with her nerves, Dad for a period was Mum and Dad to me,

They cared for the other one’s family. Mum cared for Dad’s grandma and parents. Dad helped her when my Uncle attempted suicide and when my other uncle was diagnosed with terminal cancer taking him into the family home.

They prepared for death by teaching each other the roles the other had carried in the marriage. So Dad learned how to cook and clean. Mum learned about finances and DIY or at least Dad tried to teach her but she soon lost interest.

Dad would do anything for Mum. If she wanted something, she got it. If she wanted to go anywhere, he would get her there. If she wanted to try something new, she would have his backing.

I did not really see how much Mum was totally behind Dad too until after she became ill with cancer. She was so concerned he would not manage without her. After she died, Dad told me how she forgave him for silly misdemeanours like leaving her at home with two young boys after work whilst he went to the pub with colleagues. He got a shop after leaving the police force and when he got a new job, she kept the shop running for 11 years with young sons around her legs. When the stress of a case he handled late in his insurance career got to him, she supported him when he took early retirement.

When I think about Mum and Dad I think about home and always feeling secure there. I think of great conversation and lots of laughter. I think of explorations and travel.

Sadly, they did not quite make their 60th wedding anniversary missing it by just over a year.

They are reunited now and doubtless saying “Isn’t it about time you got yourself to bed, lass?”

Kenneth and Irene, Irene and Kenneth – it just worked.

marv

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Lucy At Home UK parenting blogger