School holidays…the struggle is real

I have a kind of love hate relationship with school holidays.  Any working parent will tell you about the additional angst that comes with the juggle of school holidays;  vacation care, holiday programs,  day swapping with friends, taking time off work, the boredom, the complaining and the lack of structure.

The lead up to holidays always has me in a bit of a head spin…

I am very fortunate that my work has the option to “self fund” additional leave, so when I went back to work full time this year,  I also purchased additional leave to help us manage school holidays.    After all,  the kids are off school for 12 weeks in a year! so juggling all that time can be part of the working parents minefield.

So now I have bought this additional leave,  my holidays will be different.  Right?    Relaxing quality time, bonding with the children,  cafe trips and laughter over hot chocolate,  lazing around the house with my feet up,  catching up on the kids lives and reducing my motherly guilt about working full time.

As the first set of holidays approach,  I’m thinking….here we go, quality Mum time ahead.  I even made a deal with my husband.  You take a week,  I take a week.   Awesome,  this should be a cinch.

But I found myself in mounting chaos before the holidays even started.

Work, for example,  might be officially letting me go on leave,  but that doesn’t mean the work goes away.  So I find myself working frantically in the week before I am due to be away,  trying to get double the work done in order to not leave a massive gap while I am gone.  I’m stressed and frustrated,  this is starting to look like a bad idea.

On the first day of the “holidays”, I am still wired.   The kids are running around like lunatics and my patience is already running thin.   I spend the day doing chores around the house and everything I pick up seems to be back on the floor before I even turn around.

I decide I need a project.

Now might be a good time to redecorate my sons room,  the car bed we got when he was three isn’t really cutting it anymore…and it will be a great bonding project for us to do together I think.

I drop my daughter at a friends house and head to IKEA.   Within 30min my son is complaining he wants to go home.  He has chosen a bed,  job done in his eyes.  He wants icecream.  I am wandering the self service aisles trying to find the right flat packs for the bed and chest of drawers we chose.   They are not there.   We have to find someone to help. They get a forklift.   My son is now WAY over it and pulling at my arms.   I struggle to get the huge flatpacks on to the trolley with “help” from my son.  Somehow manage the get through checkouts and then we are finally free (3 hrs later) and I spend 30min struggling to get everything we have purchased into my trailer.

Pick up my daughter and we are home again.  My son has no interest in constructed the bed.  And before we even start his whole room needs cleaning out.  He moans that he just wants to play computer games.   Has a fight with my daughter.

I look around me at the chaos and I think…this is NOT what I had imagined.  I feel overwhelmed, defeated and exhausted.   I am not enjoying any quality time with the kids.  All they want to do is stare at screens and eat junk food.  Bloody school holidays.

But then I stop myself and I realise that my expectations have gotten the better of me, yet again.   That the picture of “ideal” holidays that I have in my head is unrealistic.   Hopefully being off work and spending all day with the kids means that there will be some pockets of quality time together,  but that doesn’t mean that the WHOLE time is going to be quality time…infact, likely not at all.

So…I shake myself off and reset the expectations button.   Send the kids off to play computer games and watch TV (they think this is awesome), make a cup of tea, put on some music and get stuck into the bedroom.

Over the course of the week,  we had some ups and downs.   Inevitably some days were hard work,  I was not relaxing with my feet on the table having deep and meaningful conversations with the kids…let me tell you now!

But by the end of the week, I was feeling in a much different space.   It was nice to spend some time just juggling one component of my life, not all of them at once like usual.  I did manage to spend some quality time with the kids,  we did go for walks together,  we did chat about what is going on with them.  They also spent a lot of time doing the things that they love on their own and time with their friends.  And, yes,  they also spent time lazying around the house watching screens in their pjyamas….and guess what,  one day I did that too! (after the redecorating project was complete of course).

Sure…coming back to work this week was another big shock.  Clawing my way back on top of the all the work projects.

And now I’m looking at the pictures of my husband eating ice cream with the kids after a walk around the lake (and getting his text messages saying that they are driving him insane)…and wishing I was there too.

School holidays are a struggle,  but maybe the forced time away from the usual routine is as good for me as it is for the kids.

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Sometimes you just have to laugh…

Saw these pjyama's at Kmart and couldn't resist!
Saw these pjyama’s at Kmart and couldn’t resist!

You know those moments when everything seems to be going a little (ok a lot) pear shaped,  and you find yourself doing this kinda crazy half laughing thing because you think if I don’t laugh right now I’m going to fall into a heap and never get up again?   Yeah?  I have those moments quite a lot…

And I was thinking about this the other day and realised that humour can be a really important coping mechanism.    I think the key is being able to look at yourself from an external perspective (sometimes I imagine that I’m in some sort of dodgy sitcom on TV),  and take some of the personal emotion out of what is happening.   Because most of the time, what is happening is not actually that bad and would make a pretty funny scene in a movie…

OK..so here’s an example that got me thinking about this.   It was morning time in our household and I was super excited that the husband was home to help because he is normally long gone before morning chaos hits.  I’m running around like a nut bag,  trying to get myself ready for work whilst simultaneously making kids lunches,  packing bags,  getting kids dressed and all the typical morning stuff…you know the drill.   Anyway,  at some point my husband yells “shall I get the kids breakfast?” and I say “yes”  and I think ….great…he’s getting the breakfast sorted.  So I jump in the shower , finally get myself ready in record speed,  gather up the children and just as we are about to walk out the door my son says “but I haven’t eaten anything?” .  What?  how has this happened?   I look at my husband, who looks accusingly at me.  “Err…you said you were getting them breakfast?”, I say.   “No??”  he says “I asked you, if you had already given them breakfast and you said “Yes”. Ahhh… right.

Lets face it,  it was actually a pretty funny moment.   Us standing in the doorway,  looking at each other as it dawns on us that we both thought the other person had done it and no one has given the kids anything to eat.   But did we laugh?  No…no…we did not.

I got cross.   I believe “ARE YOU KIDDING ME!” was yelled at some great decible.   I stomped into the house and started opening and slamming cupboards trying to find a suitable food item that could be consumed whilst walking to school.    I stared my husband down with my best evil glare,  hoping he might feel the burning rath of my fury and remember never to cross my path in such a failing way in the future.   I got cross with the kids for not reminding us that they hadn’t eaten…I mean, seriously…who forgets to eat?  it’s not like they don’t do it EVERY morning.  Take some responsibility people!!!   Needless to say, the kids got upset and everyone left for the day in a bad mood.

Wouldn’t it have been better,  to take a big sigh and then, maybe,  laugh about our misunderstanding?  Quickly run into the house and make a joke about the lame breakfast they were having and everyone would have gone on with their day in a much better mood??  Oh…if only….

Luckily…later in the week, I had another chance to handle things a bit better… we were on an adventure to go chop down a real Christmas tree.  It seemed like the perfect family outing, and everyone is a little bit excited.   We jump out of the car to choose our tree,  and things start going wrong.   The kids split up and decide that different trees are perfect.  I wander around aimlessly trying to find the tree with the perfect shape.  And my husband just wants to chop down the one nearest to the car and get the job done.   Finally we choose a tree (my selection of course), and my daughter cries all the way home because we didn’t choose her one, while my son yells at her to just shut up.

We get home to put the tree up and my son immediately says “can I just go play computer games?” before we have even managed to push the tree through the door.   As we battle to get the tree into the stand,  it becomes clear that the tree WE have chosen actually has an incredibly wonky trunk which means every time we stand it up, it falls over.   My husband starts cursing, and we start debating about whose fault it was that the tree was falling over (clearly his because he cut it down,  although he thought it was mine because I chose it …I guess that bit is true…and because I was “holding it funny” when we put the stand in..sooo wasn’t).   We decide to cut down the trunk some more, so next thing we know, the tree is shoved half in and half out of the house through the balcony door, so my husband can saw off the end of the end of the trunk (but he’s having a bit of trouble). He is getting REALLY cranky.  There is swearing involved.  I’m inside the house trying to hold the tree still.  Pine needles are going all over the floor (what the hell is he doing???) and I can feel my blood starting to boil….this was not turning out to be the lovely family day I had imagined.

Then I stop.  I take a look around.  I see my daughter standing there with three of our ugliest baubles patiently waiting for the tree to be upright so she can put them on, my son completely oblivious to what is going on staring at a screen in the corner,  my husband trapped in the corner of the balcony having a battle royale with a Christmas Tree, me with pine needles stuck up my nose and a rash starting to appear on my arms from holding the tree…and I think…you’ve got to laugh.  This is pretty funny.  I mean, seriously,  this could totally be a scene from a Chevy Chase movie ( those movies were a family staple in our household).   My blood pressure drops and I manage to stay calm enough to keep my husband from jumping off the balcony in frustration.    Finally the end of the trunk was cut and we somehow manage to get the tree standing with a the help of a brick on one side of the stand.   My husband went and had a strong coffee,  while my daughter and I put on the Christmas music and decorated the tree.  And when we were finished,  there were smiles all around.  Our first Real family Christmas tree.   We DID IT!

It’s easy to take life way too seriously sometimes.   And it is REALLY hard to catch yourself in the moment and stop the rage from appearing.   But, sometimes…well, really…what else can you do but laugh?

Hope you are having lots of holiday fun at your houses too and just remember ‘life is better when you are laughing”.

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Sorry I missed you last week…

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You may (or probably not) have noticed that I missed my blog last week.   Since I started this blog I’ve tried to consistently blog once per week.   Last week it all felt a little more crazy than usual.  My husband was away traveling for work for the week,  the home phone and internet stopped working (which is a pretty big deal when you were planning to work from home!) and one morning I whipped out my inner domestic goddess to make pancakes for the kids (on a school day no less), poured maple syrup all over them…only to be informed by my son that there were chunks of mould all through the syrup.   I caught myself trying to wipe the mould off with papertowel before finally conceding defeat and throwing them in the bin (and trying not to vomit).

Something had to give and sadly, it was this.  And quite frankly,  the inspiration wasn’t there either.  I didn’t want to cram this in as another thing on my never ending list of things to do.  It was the right thing to do.

But today…today is different.   Today, it is early in the morning.  I am sitting on our deck.   I’ve cleared a space on the table (between the possum trap …long story… kids toys, dog lead and potting mix which are currently adorning the outdoor table) and set up my laptop.   I’m still wearing my pyjamas and I’ve got my ugg boots on.  I have a cup of green steam steaming beside me and the sun warming my back.

I spent a while this morning thinking of the myriad of things that needed to be done this morning.   The different ways I could have maximised the time I had this morning (while my daughter is at a sleep over and my son is happily playing computer games).   I should have gone for a run (I could have dragged my son away from the computer and made him ride with me), I probably should at least be walking the dog,   the kitchen needs tidying up, infact, the whole house needs a clean up.  There is a shopping list that needs writing, so I can get the food shopping done before the shops get busy and we head over to a friends for lunch.  I also need to cook some food to take to a dinner we are having this afternoon.   I thought about watering the garden (poor garden,  those thoughts often come but are not often actioned) and, that reminds me,  we were going to go to the shops to get some more plants to replace the ones that died last week.

But in the end,  I decided to do this instead.  Because of all the things that I probably should be doing,  this felt like the thing that I wanted to be doing.  I missed it last week.  So it was time.   And right now, in this moment,  I’m so glad that I did.

What choices are you making about the things you should or could be doing with your time?

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Are you enough?

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I’ve been listening to a Brene Brown audio book (yes…I am a little obsessed with Brene Brown right now and yes…I am also a little bit obsessed with audio books and podcasts) and Brene talks about the concept of feeling like you are “not enough” (it is one of the things that “shame” makes us think).   When I first heard this,  I was thinking….nah…I don’t struggle with that.  I am totally enough.  I am awesome.  Sure,  I’m not perfect but I’ve dealt with that demon and I accept who I am.  Overall,  I got this.

But as I progressed through the last week,  I was a little bit amazed…and scared…at the amount of times I realised that the voice in my head was telling me “not enough”.  Not so much that I, as a whole person,  am not enough….but that in all the things I do, the tasks I take on, I always have the sense that I should and could be doing more.  More more more more…

At work,  I catch myself scrolling through Facebook and I admit, it’s a little bit of procrastination…and my inner voice is saying “you should be doing more,  what are you just scrolling through this for,  you’re wasting your time,  I know you have been working productively for the last 4 hours…but that is NOT ENOUGH…you cannot afford to take this time”

At home, I catch myself watching the children playing handball, while I wash the dishes, and I’m thinking “you should be out there playing with them,  you haven’t done their homework with them yet…it is NOT ENOUGH…you need to do more with the kids”

My husband comes home and I’m feeling a little tired and irritable (because I’ve been at work until 6pm and only just come home after picking up the kids from afterschool care)…but my inner dialogue is saying “when was the last time we went out to dinner together, we need more quality time together…it is NOT ENOUGH…you should be planning something..”

With my friends,  I realise we haven’t caught up for a week and I’m thinking “you really should be a better friend.  Better friends ring each other every day, what if something bad was going on with your friends and you didn’t know about it because you are not connecting enough.  If you want to have true deep friendships, what you are doing is NOT ENOUGH”.

With my family,  I attend our monthly family dinners,  really enjoy catching up with everyone and getting all the lovely little cousins together…but my inner voice says “we should be doing this more often.  You haven’t made enough time for the family this month,  the cousins should see each other more so they can be awesome friends.  Once a month is NOT ENOUGH.

When I go for a run, but I’m feeling a little tired so I run 5Km instead of the 10Km I was hoping to do.  I’m still feeling great, breathing in the fresh air, the sun is shining but the voice is still there and it tells me that I should have done the 10km,  that 5km was NOT ENOUGH.

I write this blog every week, consistently, but I haven’t posted on Facebook every day like I thought I would…it is NOT ENOUGH…

I think you get the picture.  Whatever I do,  no matter what I give…my inner voice always tells me that I could have done more.  There is ALWAYS more that I could do.   So, even though in my heart of hearts I know that I AM enough,  that I am doing the best that I can,  that it would be unrealistic to strive for more.  That voice still mocks me at every turn.

Does your inner voice tell you that you are not enough?

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What are your super powers?

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Yep..being a special Mum is one of my super powers!

I’ve been reflecting this week on my strengths,  because I know that if I don’t feed my strengths on a regular basis, it is very easy to start getting flat and frustrated.

In my ten steps to work life awesomeness… step #4 is Knowing Your Strengths….and it is easier said than done.

I’m pretty good at identifying my weaknesses, most of us are.    But knowing your strengths takes a bit more reflection.   I always find it a bit of fun to do personality tests, or there is the VIA Strengths test which I also love.   These tools can help you to put into perspective which things make you feel great, put you in your ultimate flow.   But you don’t really have to do any special tests,  if you sit down and write a list of all the things that you enjoy, or think about what your favourite project/role at work has been so far,  what were the elements that you have enjoyed?  that will give you a good guiding sense of things that are your strengths.    Or, you could ask your friends and family  (I’ve done this recently and was surprised how uncomfortable it was to ask, I was so embarrassed but boy was it interesting getting perspectives from people who really know me).  There may be things that you don’t consider yourself to be “good at”  (possibly because you are super hard on yourself),  but they can still be your strengths if you enjoy doing them or wish you could do more of it.

Knowing my own strengths was a massive turning point for me.   I spent a lot of time at work focusing on trying to “fix” the things I wasn’t very good at,  like talking too much in meetings, instead of thinking about how I could do more of the things I was good at.

I know that one of my strengths is being very much a people person.  I love having fun, laughter and friends.  Yes, I love talking!   Which also means I love being part of a team at work,  I especially like leading a team (that is two of my strengths merged into one…leadership and team work…BONUS!).

Which means working remotely is actually quite hard for me.   The flexibility of my job role is awesome,  and I love that it means the focus is all on the work that I do, not the fact that I am sitting at a desk 9-5pm.   But sitting home alone drains my energy like a car battery when you leave the light on.

So, being conscious of this, and knowing that being a “people person” is one of my strengths but it isn’t naturally in my day to day role…I have to make a conscious effort each day to ensure I get my teaming fix…to plug in, and charge up!   I volunteer for projects that require me to connect with others, even if it is just on the phone.   I made my weekly teleconference with my team into a video conference on Google Hangouts, so I can see their gorgeous faces.    I joined the running club in the office, so I would be “forced” into the office once a week to take a run with some colleagues.   I organised to pop over to my parents house for an afternoon cuppa between meetings.    And all those things help to keep the fire in my belly,  despite my role perhaps not being the perfect role for a “people” person like me.

Which is why it is so important to know what your strengths are.  And to realise that just because you love to cook, or you love to nurture people…doesn’t mean you should throw in the towel on whatever job you are doing now, and run away to be a Chef or work in a nursing home.   But to be able to think about how you can bring your strengths to the table today, how you can squeeze more of them into your everyday. And you’ll be surprised how many opportunities you will find.

Do you know what your super powers are and do you practice them every day?

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Slow down or lean in?…I’m so confused

IMG_0888As you know, I’m a little bit addicted to personal and career development stuff at the moment,  I’m inhaling books, blogs and articles like oxygen.  I’ve become incredibly curious and interested.  I think it stems from trying to work out my own mind, which is always searching for answers  (not that I am entirely sure what the question is…which is why I keep on looking).

OK…so there are two pretty significant pieces of advice that have really hit home for me recently,  which I think I ought to be applying in my life… but the problem is, they seem to often be conflicting with each other and I can’t work out when to do which?

Firstly… there is the whole idea of sllloooowwing dooown (imagine me saying this in slow motion, not quite sure how to get that effect in writing..,..but you get the idea).  I totally believe that this hectic crazy world has us all hyped up to the max.  Social Media and internet bring everything to us at break neck speed and people expect responses immediately.   “Busy” has become the standard catch cry, and not only is it boring, but when was being busy in anyway cool?!  yet, time and time again I catch myself inadvertently busy boasting.  So hard not to be in a work meeting and comment on how busy things are, or to be the standard response when friends say “what’s happening?”… So I know this needs to change.  I need to cut out some commitments,  consider my priorities, learn to say NO thank you, No, No and No again…

Which brings me to my dilemma,  because ideal number 2,  is the whole concept of Leaning In.  As I mentioned before in my post about being curious… I have spent a large part of my life being fearful and hiding in my comfort zone  (for the record, my comfort zone is totally warm and cosy.  I have a lovely cup of tea in my hand, perhaps some chocolate caramel slice and sometimes my comfort zone even offers free massages…it’s a nice place and I really love staying there).    But I know that not pushing out of my comfort zone, means missing out on lots of life experiences.  That being curious and interested in the world ignites my passion and fire.    And when I get my whole feminist zing on…I’m all about leaning in baby…   no hiding at home living a quiet and small life.    I need to take my awesomeness to the world.   Promotion at work? more responsibilities?  Bring it on baby,  because it will open me up to new experiences and I’ll learn more.

But hold on a minute here.   How the hell I am supposed to slow down, at the same time as leaning in? I’m so excited and interested, and I’m on the look out for new challenges that light the fire in my belly…but I also have this niggling feeling in my belly that taking on more is simply going to overload me so I collapse in a heap on the floor.  That far from helping me to slow down and focus,  it will simply wind me up like an energizer bunny.

How can these two things work together?

OK…so I’m hearing the voices of all those guru’s out there that I keep reading..and I’m thinking their telling me that I need to search deep inside for my inner purpose and values.  These things will help guide me to make the decisions about where to lean in and where to lean out.   But there is so much more complexity in the realities of the every day. I’m started to get confused about the voices in my head,  I know what my goals and priorities are, but sometimes they overlap with each other.  I can’t tell the different between the voice that tells me to stay in my comfort zone through fear and the voice that is telling me to stay in my comfort zone because I need to give myself some space, to say “no” because it is ultimately what is best for me.

One recent example is when I thought I may need to go to New York for work, be inspired so I can then go on to inspire others…which is something I’ve been wanting for so long (totally on my vision board peeps)  but it was at a time when my husband was also away with his work which means it was possible…but going to require a lot of outside help and be exhausting for all of us.  So if I “lean in” and just make it happen..it clashes with my family values, wanting to spend more quiet afternoons at home with my family,  baking anzac biscuits and sitting in the sunshine with my tea.  I don’t want to palm the children off to friends, family and random others and  I don’t want to come home and be jet lagged and grumpy.

So who should I listen to?  Is that the voice of reason helping me to make wise choices that are going to keep me calm and grounded,   or is it fear keeping me in my little happy comfort zone?  Fear that my friends/family will think I’ve asked too much, fear that my kids will be upset with me, fear that my husband will be annoyed?  Or on the flip slide,  am I just being driven by fear that I will lose my status at work if I say I can’t go at this time?

I know there is no silver bullet easy answer here.   It is going to take trial and error,  wrong decisions and u-turns.   It reminds me very much of all the diet and exercise information there is out there.   Do I eat sugar or fat? carbs or no carbs?  It can be really confusing.  But at the end of the day,  if you spend enough time listening to your own body, continually reading and learning then experimenting…you’ll figure out what works best for you…and just for you.

So I have to patient with myself on this stuff too.   Nothing is ever that cut and dry.  The idea is just to keep practicing.  To make conscious decisions (even if they turn out to be the “wrong” ones),  rather than just floating through life like a stick in a stream…not even noticing when you get stuck on a rock.

I don’t think that is possible for a serial over thinker like me…although… right now, when my brain is about to explode with too much thinking, floating like a stick in a stream is perhaps exactly what I should be doing.

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Making eating lunch special…

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My awesome Tupperware lunch bag…no, they don’t sponsor me… if only…maybe I would get my dream pantry #organisationbliss

Earlier this week I had such a lovely lunchbreak at work…

Hmm…doesn’t seem like something worthy of writing a blog post about does it.  But it really struck me today,  how important that little mini break in the middle of my day was.

It reminded me,  that back in the good old days…BC (before children)… a lunchbreak was something I did quite regularly.  Sure, I still spent many days shuffling food into my mouth whilst multi-tasking out an email or typing up a presentation.  But often I would also go and sit outside in our office garden,  or it would be someone or others birthday/farewell and we’d all be heading down to one of the local restaurants for a quick bite.   I even just had a flash back to taking walks in the forest behind our office…ahh, those were the days.

Yet, since I have had kids, those midday mini breaks have kind of gone out the window.

For me, I think partially the issue is working remotely.  No one to badger me away from my desk or to take on a little wander.

But more, I think it is because I have become a highly productive and streamlined machine since having children.   Taking time out of my day to simple eat, feels like time that has been wasted.  That could have been used to load the dishwasher,  watch a training video for work,  read my email.  Every minute, every hour counts.   Quite regularly I do walk the dog during the day (usually whilst listening to somekind of podcast…still loving my podcasts), which is a good little break from work…but it is still ticking off boxes on my never ending “to do” list.

So…earlier this week, I had arranged to meet a friend for lunch…god forbid…during my work day.  Not going to a restaurant, but just to eat our “packed lunch” together.   I headed out of the office on a beautiful sunny spring day.  The blue sky and sunshine instantly relaxed me.   I heard birds chirping (literally, where are these birds hanging, how come I never heard them before?) and start walking to our meeting spot.   I notice that there are a whole lot of people doing the same thing.  Released from the dark confines of their offices, they are spread out…soaking up sun, reading papers,  eating sandwiches.  There are even people playing a game of touch footy on the grass outside one building.  There is a great relaxed vibe in the air.

And we sat on a bench, chatting, laughing…eating… and by the time I headed back to the office, there was a lightness in my step.  I was truly refreshed and ready for my afternoon.

It is one of those things you hear all the time,  the importance of taking your breaks.  In some ways, it is hard to believe that such a simple step, can have such a big impact.  So it is easy to push it aside.

I feel like I’m always trying to make big changes in my life.  Learning and exploring new things,  looking for the “silver bullet” that is going to revolutionise who I am and what I achieve.   My mind is constantly buzzing (you’ve heard about my fun and games trying to meditate).

And yet usually, it is the little tiny, simple things that can have the biggest impact.   Like sitting in the sunshine and eating my lunch.   Which really isn’t that hard to do at all,  making me wonder why it has taken me so long to remember it.

When was the last time you had a lovely little lunch break?

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