Charlotte’s Journal

Thursday 7th September

And just like that …

Summer was over, the kid turned four, started school and now I’m sat back at my desk.

Bam.

How do you like them apples?

It’s very quiet all of a sudden and I’m evaluating how to use my time now there’s a bit more if it.

I’ve had a few daydreams about sitting down with bowls of sugar filled contraband and watching back-to-back Game of Thrones. Or maybe now might be the time to take some of those ‘nap while they nap’ naps I never took?

As I begin to crank myself back up to full speed (that is when I finally stop looking at her baby pictures and asking ‘why we can’t be more like Sweden and let them start school aged 7?’) I’ll soon be throwing my time into Letters To Loved and see what the future might hold.

Whilst I haven’t been totally AWOL over the summer period I have been a lot less involved than I thought I was going to be. I think I had some cockamamy idea that I would be able to keep everything going, entertain a small child every day and get some down time for myself.

Fool.

But I have learnt a valuable lesson taking my foot off the gas.

Nobody really gives a shit.

It doesn’t matter. You don’t blog, you don’t post on Instagram and everything is still fine. It made me realise this self imposed regime of posting regularly and then the need to tell people when you need to take a break from life online or apologising for your absence is actually a bit bloody strange and unnecessary. Whilst I’m aware the moment anybody gives their opinion on sharing stuff on Instagram you run the risk of polar opposites feeling the need to defend why they do what they do, I think whatever your choice it’s simply worth checking that what you say about why you do what you do online, is actually reflective of what your heart and soul feels. And most importantly what that commitment to sharing means to your wellbeing.

A Summer to get stuff done

So whilst the summer holiday wasn’t a particularly productive time online for me or Letters To Loved, it was however, a summer full of getting stuff done. First on our list was to landscape the garden and reclaim our territory back from a family of aggressive ASBO squirrels we seem to be in a turf war with. We’d left the work for summer but inevitably the Great British weather stuck a spanner in the works and after being pummelled with rain for a good couple of weeks we were left living in the centre of a quagmire. The neighbours thought we were digging a moat. But through determination and some really hard graft on the gardeners part, it was finally finished and all the effort, mud and dust was absolutely worth it. This summer we finished the final piece of the puzzle that has been a complete renovation of our family home. It’s taken us 5 years (and like The Forth Bridge the first bits already need re-painting) but for now we’re calling it DONE.

*There were no squirrels harmed in the making of our garden.

A Summer of adventures

Now when I say ‘adventure’ … I may be using the term loosely. What I mean is that in the absence of an actual holiday, we hyped up all our days out to the cinema/museum/park/summer market/country fair by taking pictures, creating maps and taking ‘treasures’ we’d found home with us. We then reclassified these into ‘adventures’ worthy of her then spending at least and hour cutting and sticking her memories and photos in her scrapbook. The great thing is when we actually take her somewhere good now it’s going to blow her mind.

In the beginning I felt a bit guilty that we weren’t doing something more exciting. But I realised that the most important thing was that I was fully present when spending time with her. I stopped and did one thing at a time. If I was with my daughter I was with my daughter. Not one hand on my laptop or an eye on my iPhone. It may have only been the hyped up days out, but we had fun together and I know that she felt the difference.

My Summer experiment

I started journaling over the summer which I’ve written a more in-depth post on here. Not to wax lyrical about it again but it has been such an eye-opening exercise and something I will absolutely be keeping up.

Summer snaps

We ended our rainy summer holiday on another rainy day with Leeds based photographer Tim Dunk. I’d bid for a session with him in Ned In The Cloud’s AUT:CTION earlier in the year in aid of The National Autistic Society. I’ve loved seeing Tim’s photos of other families and as someone who is always taking the pictures rather than being in them, I was really looking forward to having some pictures of me with my little gang.

Photography: Tim Dunk

 

So it wasn’t really the summer I’d imagined. It was actually much better. I guess come rain or shine your summer holiday is always going to be what you make it?

What’s next for Letters To Loved

Up to now Letters To Loved has been a part time, small income earning, passion for me and something I work on around being a mum. Now my daughter is at school things will change and I’m looking forward to seeing how the shift affects the site. I’ve got lots of letters that people have shared over the summer as well as a few interesting collaborations and projects planned. What I know for sure is that I will always keep everything as close to my original reason for starting the site and hope that it will continue to be a place for parents to share words of love and wisdom to their children in the hope that it will inspire and help others parents to do the same.

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In Depth: Journaling

I’ve been writing all my letters to my daughter in the ‘traditional’ paper and envelope way for some time now and fancied trying something a bit different. I’d seen a few articles on journaling and the benefits of it as a therapy tool and thought it would also be a great way of logging memories for her. I thought it might also be somewhere to share some of the many, MANY photographs I take, rather than just storing them digitally, where they rarely see the light of day.

I thought I’d feel like a 14-year-old girl bitching about mean girls in my class and declaring undying love for my latest crush. But keeping a journal was so much more and now I’m hooked.

Types of journal I’ve tried

 Daily Journal

This is probably closest to the classic style of journal. It’s part diary, part journal, with a few little details of our day as well as my thoughts and feelings. My versions have also become quite image heavy too as a way of showcasing my photographs of us.

Our Weekends Journal

 

One of the things we looked forward to the most before our daughter was born was our weekends together. We daydreamed about cosy days at home as well as all the exciting adventures we could have with our little girl. This journal is an opportunity for me to create a celebration and a record of some of those for her.

A Photo A Day

This continues to be one of my favourite journals and something I wish I’d started doing sooner. It’s so easy as all I need to do is make sure I take a picture of my daughter everyday then I can add them in as and when I have the time.

As well as keeping my journals I’ve also started encouraging Sophie to try scrapbooking too. Start ’em young right?

My School Scrapbook

When Sophie started nursery she went through the inevitable phase of not wanting to go and crying for Mummy to stay with her. I started a scrapbook with her where we could highlight all the exciting new things she was getting to do. It helped give her a positive feeling about nursery and even though she loves going to school now, we still use it to keep a record of her journey there.

 

My Adventures

In a similar way to the school scrapbook, this is a way of us remembering her ‘adventures’.  And by adventures it doesn’t even need to be anything that exciting! We just try to look for little ‘adventures’ in some of the days out that we have. For example, above is her first trip to the cinema. I give her a little instax camera to carry with her, she takes her own pictures and then we come home and it gives us a little activity to do.

  ‘Q & A’ A Day For Kids

This journal is by Betsy Franco and Penguin Random House and features a question everyday for your child to answer for 3 years. I think that we may have started it a little early (she was just about to turn 4 when we started it ) but it does mean we have some rather unusual answers to keep us entertained!

Things I’ve Learned

  • I’m more conscious of how I spend time with my daughter. Having a record of our life has allowed me to focus more on our wellbeing and question what we spend our time and money doing. Having your day reflected back allows you to see the value in how you’re sending your time.

 

  • It helps me to focus on something positive everyday. These journals are for my daughter so that she can look back on her childhood. I’m not trying to re-write history or gloss over any bad parts, but I really don’t need to take a polaroid of the crappy bits and stick them in with washi tape. It’s been so refreshing to find a little bit of good, even on a bad day and as a mother, it’s a great way to balance out that familiar feeling of guilt that can creep in wondering if you’ve done enough.

 

  • Creativity is like an antacid for my anxiety. Keeping a journal is a mindful activity and I find that when I’m engaged in it I’m calm and centred and that feeling can stay with me for some time afterwards. It’s become part of my evening routine now and I don’t have to spend long doing it to feel the benefit.

 

  • I care far less about what other people are doing. I pick up my phone far less – I check instagram and emails at a more ‘normal’ level. I don’t feel a slave to keeping up with what other people are doing with their lives because I’m savouring our own.

 

My tips for starting

  • Stay old school. There’s an app for everything and journaling is no exception. But for me, there’s still nothing better than the weight of a full journal in your hands. Besides, an app doesn’t help you indulge in any stationary obsessions you might have!

 

  • It may be precious but don’t you be precious.The hardest page to fill is the first one. You deliberate on where to stick what, but once you gain momentum you start to fill the pages without thinking too much at all. Always write like you would speak too. Don’t get wrapped up in grammar and spelling and instead just be yourself.

 

  • Get something down regardless. If you have a busy few days or a period ahead of you where you know you can’t give it the time you’d like or at the end of the day you simply want to go to bed, the important thing is to keep taking pictures (they will jog your memory and you can always edit them later on) and jot something down. Even a few words or a couple of lines. In your iPhone notes, on the back of a train ticket whatever – just get something down as you can transfer it into your journal later on. It’s amazing how quickly something you think you’ll remember to write later on completely slips your mind.

 

  • Don’t try to fit everything in. Just go for the highlights. You don’t want the task to feel too overwhelming or you’ll simply lose interest and see it as a chore.

 

The whole experiment for me has been thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding. I think I’m going to consolidate the daily journal and the photo-a-day journals into one so that I don’t have too much going on at once, but I intend to keep going with them as long as possible. The creative outlet and the time spent reflecting seems to have great benefits for me now and I hope that she will also get to enjoy reading them in years to come.

I’d love to hear from you if you keep a journal and have any ideas to share in the comments below.

 

 

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Where are you the most beautiful?

Artwork: Laxmi Hussain (details below)

Dear Little One,

As I write this, I’m sitting in the makeup aisle of our local Target store. A friend recently texted me from a different makeup aisle and told me it felt like one of the most oppressive places in the world. I wanted to find out what he meant. And now that I’m sitting here, I’m beginning to agree with him. Words have power, and the words on display in this aisle have a deep power. Words and phrases like:

Affordably gorgeous,

Infallible,

Flawless finish,

Brilliant strength,

Liquid power,

Go nude,

Age defying,

Instant age rewind,

Choose your dream,

Nearly naked, and

Natural beauty.

When you have a daughter you start to realize she’s just as strong as everyone else in the house—a force to be reckoned with, a soul on fire with the same life and gifts and passions as any man. But sitting in this store aisle, you also begin to realize most people won’t see her that way. They’ll see her as a pretty face and a body to enjoy. And they’ll tell her she has to look a certain way to have any worth or influence.

But words do have power and maybe, just maybe, the words of a father can begin to compete with the words of the world. Maybe a father’s words can deliver his daughter through this gauntlet of institutionalized shame and into a deep, unshakeable sense of her own worthiness and beauty.

A father’s words aren’t different words, but they are words with a radically different meaning:

Brilliant strength. May your strength be not in your fingernails but in your heart. May you discern in your center who you are, and then may you fearfully but tenaciously live it out in the world.

Choose your dream. But not from a department store shelf. Find the still-quiet place within you. A real dream has been planted there. Discover what you want to do in the world. And when you have chosen, may you faithfully pursue it, with integrity and with hope.

Naked. The world wants you to take your clothes off. Please keep them on. But take your gloves off. Pull no punches. Say what is in your heart. Be vulnerable. Embrace risk. Love a world that barely knows what it means to love itself. Do so nakedly. Openly. With abandon.

Infallible. May you be constantly, infallibly aware that infallibility doesn’t exist. It’s an illusion created by people interested in your wallet. If you choose to seek perfection, may it be in an infallible grace—for yourself, and for everyone around you.

Age defying. Your skin will wrinkle and your youth will fade, but your soul is ageless. It will always know how to play and how to enjoy and how to revel in this one-chance life. May you always defiantly resist the aging of your spirit.

Flawless finish. Your finish has nothing to do with how your face looks today and everything to do with how your life looks on your last day. May your years be a preparation for that day. May you be aged by grace, may you grow in wisdom, and may your love become big enough to embrace all people. May your flawless finish be a peaceful embrace of the end and the unknown that follows, and may it thus be a gift to everyone who cherishes you.

Little One, you love everything pink and frilly and I will surely understand if someday makeup is important to you. But I pray three words will remain more important to you—the last three words you say every night, when I ask the question: “Where are you the most beautiful?” Three words so bright no concealer can cover them.

Where are you the most beautiful?

On the inside.

From my heart to yours,

Daddy

Photo: Dr Kelly Flanagan

 

Written by clinical psychologist and writer Dr. Kelly Flanagan for his daughter. This letter originally appeared on his blog at drkellyflanagan.com and will be included in his book, Loveable: Embracing What Is Truest About You, So You Can Truly Embrace Your Life. You can find out more about the book by clicking here.

 

Laxmi Hussain

Featured artwork by Laxmi Hussain is available to buy through her website.

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‘Hold on little one,’ I whispered, ‘we’re almost there.’

Photo Credit: Louise Manning

 

Photo Credit: Louise Manning

The following letter was written by Laura for her little boy Leo. In her blog Postcards for Findlay, Laura writes about parenthood and surviving the loss of their first son Findlay. Her postcards to Findlay are her way of including him in everything that they do.

 

 

 

Dear Leo,

One year ago today, we anxiously packed our bags and made our way to the hospital for induction.

We stood for a moment in the hallway, deliberating over whether or not to take the car seat. Did we dare? Was it tempting fate? .

As I sat in the passenger seat, watching Daddy lock up, I looked at the front door and wondered what life would be like when I next saw it. .

I knew I wouldn’t be pregnant by the time I came home; but would you, the baby nestled my belly, be crossing the threshold with us? Or would we leave the labour ward once again with shattered hearts, cradling only a memory box? .

The drive to the hospital, a route we knew only too well after numerous (terrifying) admissions, took an eternity, and I must’ve held my breath the whole way. I could feel you wriggling around, prodding my hand with reassuring kicks, letting me know that you were with us.

We were in touching distance of meeting you, and for the first time I let myself believe that you would see my face too…

‘Hold on little one,’ I whispered, ‘we’re almost there.’

You can read more of Laura’s work on her blog Postcards for Findlay and follow them on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

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If you are in love – that’s a good thing – John Steinbeck

Artwork: Charlotte Peach

Dear Thom

We had your letter this morning. I will answer it from my point of view and of course Elaine will from hers.

First—if you are in love—that’s a good thing—that’s about the best thing that can happen to anyone. Don’t let anyone make it small or light to you.

Second—There are several kinds of love. One is a selfish, mean, grasping, egotistical thing which uses love for self-importance. This is the ugly and crippling kind. The other is an outpouring of everything good in you—of kindness and consideration and respect—not only the social respect of manners but the greater respect which is recognition of another person as unique and valuable. The first kind can make you sick and small and weak but the second can release in you strength, and courage and goodness and even wisdom you didn’t know you had.

You say this is not puppy love. If you feel so deeply—of course it isn’t puppy love.

But I don’t think you were asking me what you feel. You know better than anyone. What you wanted me to help you with is what to do about it—and that I can tell you.

Glory in it for one thing and be very glad and grateful for it.

The object of love is the best and most beautiful. Try to live up to it.

If you love someone—there is no possible harm in saying so—only you must remember that some people are very shy and sometimes the saying must take that shyness into consideration.

Girls have a way of knowing or feeling what you feel, but they usually like to hear it also.

It sometimes happens that what you feel is not returned for one reason or another—but that does not make your feeling less valuable and good.

Lastly, I know your feeling because I have it and I’m glad you have it.

We will be glad to meet Susan. She will be very welcome. But Elaine will make all such arrangements because that is her province and she will be very glad to. She knows about love too and maybe she can give you more help than I can.

And don’t worry about losing. If it is right, it happens—The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.

Love,

Fa

 

(Letter Source: Letters of Note)

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