• My very favourite people in the world, part one

    I am travelling a lot in January and it starts tomorrow. I haven’t had a long drive in a while, somehow managed to avoid in this time of train strikes, but tomorrow I have no choice – it is my girl Inge Hunter’s launch party for her new company Clue Content and I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

    Inge and I have a funny friendship. Funny as in we have spent approximately 15 days or snippets of days physically together in 4 years, but hours and hours on FaceTime, Zoom and Instagram. She is one of my very favourite people. And I don’t have many favourite people.

    When the time is right I’ll write about some of my other favourite people because they all deserve their spot. But as we are here, at the eve of Inge’s big night (I’ve heard a rumour that there will be COCKTAILS with her FACE on) and I felt like writing an ode to my friend,

    When I first met Inge, she was so effortlessly cool I could hardly bear it. This isn’t one of those “I didn’t like you when I first met you but now I love you” stories. This is a “I was obsessed from the moment I met you” story. Don’t worry, she knows. This isn’t some secret declaration I am fully open with my obsession. But back to the beginning.

    We met as part of an online course, the modern day tale of how people meet. I can’t remember the whys and whats but it is likely I followed her on Instagram and bombarded her with messages. No sooner had we connected, she left the course! Nothing to do with the course, she just transferred onto another from the same provider. My connection with her was gone – but I kept on bothering her and through the membership we were in we ended up being “accountability partners”.

    We were meant to chat every week about what we wanted to do in the coming week, then check we were doing it. We actually ended up coaching each other through life, through woes and wins and everything in between. Inge was the person who told me I was wasting my talent in my niche, then was my first consulting client in my fledgling systems business.

    When I wanted to start a podcast, Inge was my first guest and when I got offered my job she is the one I hashed out the pros and cons with. When I had an idea for a two hander podcast, she was the obvious choice, and Now I’m Worried was born. When we get on a call and she sees my face she is the only one who knows there is something wrong, and gets it out of me no matter how much I vow the call won’t be about my problems she is always there.

    It hasn’t been a friendship without rocks; both of us suffer from overthinking and anxious friendship issues, thinking the other is pissed off when we aren’t. There’s been weeks when we haven’t spoken, thinking the other is mad. They never are, life gets busy and intense and sometimes we fall by the wayside.

    It’s funny, making friends as a grownup. It almost shouldn’t work, you don’t have a history or jokes and nostalgia to fall back on. On the flip side, these friends know you as your fully formed self. There’s no pretence or veil to hold up, you don’t have to pretend to like the same things – you are you, they are them and you can happily muddle along together.

    And I think that’s why our friendship works. Even though we have a shorter history, it’s free from problems and memories. It’s just Inge and Zoë. Not wives, or mums, or employees. Just two women, who found each other by chance when they needed each other, and will always have this connection.

    It’s hard to explain. I have friends who I’ve been friends with for 15-20 years that I love, and have this enduring need for in my life. It makes my life comfortable and cosy. But Inge makes it exciting (along with others who I have met in the same way) and I need both to make life interesting.

    I am so excited to celebrate tomorrow, both the company and Inge. If you don’t follow her you should >>@inge.hunter<< and >>@clue.content<<

    I described it to someone once as “I love Ben, sure. But I LOVE Inge”. And there’s not much more I can say about it really.

  • I have developed a two pronged attack

    [this post contains affiliate links which are marked with a ^. If you choose to buy through this link I get a tiny kickback to fund the habit I speak about]

    I have a book buying addiction. This is fine, it’s a more healthy addiction than some other things like crack cocaine or the gee gees..

    There is a slight problem though. I don’t have a reading addiction. I used to. When I was in primary school I got my bronze, silver and gold reading badges from the library and I would take pages and pages on holiday in the caravan – and when mum and I read the same trash that doubled!

    But somewhere between the advent of Netflix, the tablet and now TikTok the worlds that my head can create are no longer riveting enough to hold my attention. That sweet sweet hit of dopamine I get from swiping on social media just isn’t hit by a book anymore.

    So, in 2023 I have developed a two pronged attack.

    One. I will go to bed every night, put my phone on charge and no social media in the bedroom. The only reason to look at my phone is to pop on my beloved pink noise playlist to help me get to sleep with my ever faithful sleep headphones.

    Two. I commit to reading 80 pages a night. Yes, it seems a lot, but if I do this it means I will read at least one book per week, with 2 days to spare. I have started a list which I will add to overtime – you can see it here on my recommendations page or here on my Amazon ideas page. It’s a bit sparse at the moment but it will grow!

    I am nearly at the end of my first book of 2023. It’s The Shelf by Helly Acton.

    I’m enjoying it but I am not sure about the premise.

    Everyone in Amy’s life seems to be getting married, having children and settling down (or so Instagram tells her), and she feels like she’s falling behind. So, when her long-term boyfriend surprises her with a dream holiday, she thinks he’s going to finally pop the Big Question. But the dream turns into a nightmare when, instead, she finds herself on the set of a Big Brother-style reality television show, The Shelf.

    Along with five other women, Amy is heartlessly dumped live on TV and must compete in a series of humiliating and obnoxious tasks in the hope of being crowned ‘The Keeper’.

    The language and views expressed by the men in this book are as horrific as you might imagine – a woman’s place is in the home and all that. But 100 pages from the end it has definitely been a book to kick me into a year of easy reading,

    What else should I add to my reading list?

  • Beware venturing into the land of tinfoil.

    For some explicable reason, my loft is not as big as the foot print of my house. I cannot work out why. I went up again today and it just doesn’t add up.

    FB led me to believe that we had two lofts and that is why it was smaller. However I proved today that this isn’t the case. More on that later.

    My reason for venturing into the dark, dusty, tinfoil lined black hole of a storage space? Putting the Chrissy Decs ™️ up there of course. FB could have done this but I was feeling brave, so off I trotted up the steel staircase to dusty heaven. I was in the loft for about thirty minutes which was 25 minutes longer than I wanted to be up there if I am completely honest.

    I actually got the CDs put away pretty quickly. My method was foolproof, I pulled the boxes the few inches from Ben and pulled them *just* away far enough from the hatch so that we can climb in to retrieve them next year. Isn’t that what everyone does? And then, over the years, the things you don’t need get pushed farther and farther away, and more and more distant in our memories.

    No, the reason for being up there much longer than I had hoped was threefold. Something that you should know about me is that I am fuelled by nostalgia and memories. When I was younger, in the days of MySpace, I was the cool cat with the camera, insisting on quirkily named Facebook albums (eg: It Was A Graveyard Smash [Halloween 2009], Fizz Whizz Schwing [Summer 2010] – you get the jist). I also insisted on printing out all photos to painstakingly blue tac on my wall in some sort of orderly grid, This was on the cusp of digital, there had to be a place for the photos to go once the memory card was full and for me, that was printed and put in a curver box.

    You can see where this was going, yes?

    A curver box with approx 700 photos had somehow been upended in the loft, and they were perilously beneath out ancient water tank that at the moment we are having to rely on (another story for another day). Years and years of memories such as a school ski trip, a birthday tea without parents at Tiggis and the last day of high school were all bundled together and mixed up and I could see what was going to happen.

    I asked Ben to grab me a bag for life and I shoved them all in there to deal with them another day (when I have replaced the strip light in the loft essentially). I am so grateful to my past self for writing names and dates on the photos too so I can remember who was so important that I used a film camera on them!

    The next thing to share was actually the last thing that happened but it makes more sense to share it now. Ben could see that I was getting into these photos and he went off to finish the Christmas clear up. I was very restrained and as I mentioned wanted to look when I had light and something warmer than pyjamas on.

    Problem with pyjamas is that they don’t often have pockets, so I didn’t have my phone on me. And FB was down in the kitchen, diagonally 2 floors beneath me. I tried to phone him using my Apple watch but that didn’t work. So I had to hook my feet around a support, lean out and scream as loud as I could.

    Up Ben came running with as much haste as he could muster. Of course I was fine, but he didn’t know that. I wanted him to be out of breath for the audacity of leaving me in the land of tinfoil where the stability of the floor is questionable at best! Did I need him to get out? No. However did I trust that the ladders would hold me? Also no. So it was a necessity that I was in true Zoë fashion far to dramatic about.

    Ben told me before I wiggled my bum down the ladder that he needed a wee. So off he trotted. I looked around the attic and saw a chink of light.

    That whole thing about Ben telling me we had two loft spaces? That was because when it gets really cold we have to open the hatch in the bathroom. The hatch where this chink of light was coming from.

    I got down on my stomach and slithered over to the hatch like the snake that I really am if I am honest. I waited, and when Ben was mid stream I lifted up the hatch and in my best Ainsley Harriott voice I shouted WHY HELLOOOO JILL!! Then collapsed in giggles (as far as you can collapse when you’re already lying on your stomach).

    Ben? Didn’t even flinch. That’s how non plussed he is by my shit antics.

    I WILL find out where the rest of my loft is though. It’s very very confusing.

  • Happy New Year? My 2023 Words and Intentions

    Welcome to 2023..looks a lot like 2022 right now (leggings, sweashirt, duvet on the sofa etc etc etc). My new year’s eve was a bit weird really, my husband (F**king Ben, I’ll explain another time) for approximately the third time in the 10 years that we have been together was sick…so I went out for a meal with me parents – which was a bit weird. Speaking to my dad today he thinks it is 34 years since we last did that – it can’t be right but maybe it is? 

    It’s four years since 2019 and to be honest I am finding that completely unfathomable. How long will this weird timey wimey feeling last? Three years ago we knew nothing of what was to come, I was still self employed, I only had one niece, we lived in a different house…all very strange. 

    I have done the wanky thing and chosen a word for the year, but thought I could keep a record of previous words as I always forget.

    2021 – Connection. I think this was achieved somewhat – but it was better realised in 2022 for sure.

    2022 – Selfish. I succeeded in being more selfish but I still think I could do better, so again I will carry that into 2023 with me. 

    My word for 2023? INTENT. I want to care more. I want to have more passion, more interest and more intention. So any action I take, I want to approach it with the intention of growth, love or passion, and things that stunt me energetically I want to leave in 2022. That includes people, places, companies that make me feel less. I always want to be more, and 2023 is a great place to start. 

    I’ve also made some promises to myself for this year. FB and I sat down on Thursday and did the Year Compass, and whilst I wont share most of it I committed to the following: 
    🦄 my health
    🦄 our wealth
    🦄 to live life creatively. 

    My health has to start taking a front seat, and that starts from within. Fill me up with veggies and water hopefully? Just got to take it one step at a time. 

    Our wealth is trickier as we currently own 2 houses, and need one to go! It’s in the final throws of being sold, so I hope that will be a quick one to change. 

    To live life creatively starts with this post! I feel there there is a lot of writing in me, so I have slightly changed my thinking around emailing every day. I am going to write every day, but not every day will be an email. I have revived my blog, and will be sharing snippets when I do write every day and it’ll be a Smörgåsbord of things – recipes, sewing, stories and creative writing. 

    I’m doing this for me, but I know from experience it has to be public because otherwise I don’t have that accountability piece to keep me going when the dopamine runs out!

    If you follow me on Instagram, think that – but in longer form content.

    Anyway. That’s it really for today. Oh! Why notes from the village? Because I think this is where my novel will be set, and there are som weird things that happen here – what better place to document in these emails? 

    Did you pick a word? Or is it totally wanky? 

  • Start lying like a cis, het, white man

    Everything is so successful

    My brother said to me about six months ago “You must be so happy with how things are going, everything is so successful”. I remember it quite vividly, we were in a car and I was sat in the back and my eyes started welling up. I struggle with speaking when I want to cry, and that’s exactly what happened. I started to bawl my eyes out. 

    I act as a sounding board to my brother a lot of the time (want to know about him? Head here). I’m not really sure why, he’s had his own business for eight years and is wildly successful in a field that I don’t know about, but I think that it’s because I don’t know anything about his industry that he likes to talk to me. He second guesses his ideas and sometimes just needs telling that it’s too complicated and he needs to rein it in!

    Usually it’s because of his passion, but it’s often because of his penchant for sticking his head above the parapet and looking at what the competition is doing. And of course, when you do that, you’re seeing their highlight reel compared to your raw footage (nice little video reference there. Seriously check Garth out). 

    Thing is, he isn’t alone.

    The traits that I see in him are so similar to those I see in the clients for the business I work for, and there is something that I want you to know; whether you’re self employed or not, it’s the secret that you have been looking for for most of your life. 

    The big difference between those who make it and those who get by. 

    Why some people catapult into notoriety and others have a following that is small but perfect. 

    The reason that some are able to get promoted time and again whilst others stay where they have been for five years. 

    The difference is…confidence. 

    I know, what a cop out!

    But I promise you it is true.

    Confidence is what can take you through any challenge – and trust me you can definitely fake it until you make it. 

    I have seen behind the doors of some big businesses in the years since I started my own business and in my role since going back to employment. Whilst I do not take away any of the dedication, hard work and creativity that has gone on in those businesses, I also think that is is the confidence that those businesses owners have had in their capability, their ideas and their business itself. 

    And that is the thing that sets them apart. 

    Think about it – when we are confident in ourselves, we are more likely to take risks and try new things. We believe in our abilities and are willing to put ourselves out there. This can lead to great success, both personally and professionally. On the other hand, a lack of confidence can hold us back and prevent us from reaching our full potential.

    I know firsthand how difficult it can be to build and maintain confidence. I question my decisions all the time and I have also trusted the wrong people (hello combination of oversharing and misunderstanding of social cues) which has meant my head gets mashed with my lack of self worth. 

    So back to that car earlier in the year.

    I squeaked out that my self worth was in the toilet because of the mental gymnastics I was having to do in my personal life. My work was suffering, which meant that the confidence others had in me was also waning. 

    It felt like I was in one of those donation buckets they have at shopping centres where the coin goes in the top and rolls around and around until it drops – I was circling and getting nowhere fast. 

    My brother became the sounding board for me. 

    And reminded me that I have a great life. A great job. Friends, family, pets. Love pouring at me from all sides. Did my job afford me the life I wanted? Yes. So really, did any of the tiny things matter? 

    Confidence. Do whatever you can to work on it, and lie like you’re a white cis het man trying to get laid. ✌️


  • Lessons From My Niece – Part One

    “I want to go home”

    “Why do you want to go home?”

    “I don’t know, I just do”.

    At what age do we lose the ability to communicate exactly what we want? We have to relearn it when we are in our thirties.

    In taking my niece to the cinema, I realised that children communicate far more succinctly than we do as adults. Too often, we are afraid to upset anyone and put everyone else’s feelings before our own, but why is that?

    Admittedly, the cinema hadn’t been our first choice. We had planned to head to this Americana-esque indoor play school thing (I have no kids, can you tell) with my friend and her son, but a virus had struck down the household meaning that we were a happy duo out for the day. 

    Mum suggested that going to the cinema was good – we’d be warm, and dry. I could get snacks, a drink – it is an excellent way to entertain a small person. But she is five – a 90 minute film wasn’t going to hold her attention.

    We shuffled into the cinema, battling the north west’s FAMED awful weather – sideways rain anyone? She proudly told me her Pabby had helped build the cinema [note to self: must fact check this] and we headed in to get comfy.

    And her attention stayed for the whole film, plus the adverts. How much had I underestimated her? Sure she was a little wriggly, who isn’t, but she was engaged and enjoyed and was making jokes throughout.

    So imagine my surprise when we walked out that her little face went downwards and she mumbled “I want to go home”. 

    I questioned her, asking why. 

    “I don’t know, I just do”.

    And I could tell that something somewhere deep inside her was anxious about what was going to happen next – she knew we were going to the cinema and I knew we were going to Pets at Home for pet presents and we were going for lunch, and to my parents – but had anyone actually told her that?

    I got her to the car and asked if we could do a whole body check in, making her laugh asking if her tummy button and armpits were ok. But I recognised that anxious worry of the unknown that I feel all too often because I havent been communicated to clearly about expectations, plans or decisions. 

    I am awful for not communicating properly to those around me a) how I feel and b) what I expect.

    So much so that often I will hide away from social situations that are out of my control rather than speak up and say “Actually I’m uncomfortable with that, can we try it this way instead?” Or trying to embody “Be More Chill” when in fact I am the opposite of Chill always, no matter what is going on.

    The Be More Chill thing has grown in the wake of people telling me that my thoughts are solely my own; I don’t have anyone who thinks the same as me, I’m overreacting, I am going to become a caricature of the paranoia that I am describing. I know this isnt the case, and I am getting better at quietening those who try to control me and speak for me in this way – but it all starts with one thing. 

    Saying whatever it is that I want – even if I don’t get it, at least I am verbalising that actually I’d rather lie on my bed for four hours than head to the shops because I am done with people today. 

    And all of this I learnt from my beautiful five year old niece. 

    Promise I’ll be funny some times…

  • Seven Words – My Emotional and Weird Coincidences

    Seven words. The journey to where I am now can be summed up in seven word bursts. I am the happiest I have ever been, despite my last five years being a rollercoaster that would have broken some people. It definitely would have broken me if it weren’t for the strength I have gained from the wonderful women I have had contact with in the four years; most of whom I have never even met.

    “What do you want from your life?”

    I am part of a generation that was brought up under the following belief system:

    • Achieve at least 10 GCSEs ( grades A-C only are acceptable), 
    • Achieve at least 4 A Levels (whatever you need to get into the university you want to attend), 
    • Get a degree (2.1 is ok, a first is better), 
    • Get a job immediately, preferably before graduation (something with progression opportunities until you meet someone to marry when you must lose all interest in a career in favour of a family)
    • Get married (someone with prospects, who can support you when you have a family because why would you want a career), 
    • Have kids (and maybe a dog), 
    • Work till 65 (probably something part time though as you’ll want to be with the kids) 
    • Retire (if you’re lucky). 

    That’s it, your lifetime spanning out ahead of you from the age of 14 when you have to make your choices for GCSEs. 

    “We’d like to offer you the job”

    Along with this blueprint, kids born in the mid-eighties were instilled with a belief that You Can Do Whatever You Want. Go, be a pilot! Travel the world! Or don’t! Be an artist! Be a midwife! It will all be ok. I chose events, and carved myself a career and respect in the cutthroat world of weddings.

    I have stumbled a few times on my journey, but at the age of 31 I found myself in the position of a great job offer in my field of expertise, paying more than I ever dreamed I could earn in the events industry in Lancashire. An up and coming company, primed for expansion, with loads of opportunity. I would be set for life.

    “I have an opportunity I can’t refuse”

    Sobbing, I handed in my notice to my general manager, a wonderfully strong and passionate woman who I still view as an excellent example of how to lead and achieve, and was such a cheerleader for me. “I dont want to leave,” I told her, “but it’s closer to home, better money, more progression..”. She said she understood, and my job was advertised within the hour. I was a commodity, and in the words of the operations director (a brilliant if slightly scary woman, with a hugely sharp business mind who suffered no fools) “everyone wants to work in events!” 

    “Oh, this doesn’t apply to you guys”

    I sat through a day’s worth of induction at the new company that in the most part had no relevance to me in the slightest and every fabric of my being was screaming GET OUT! GET OUT! IT’S NOT TOO LATE! My first day on site in the new sales role that I had gladly accepted was serving tea and coffee to aerospace engineers, following the manager around polishing mirrors and trying to get the underpaid 18 year olds working with me motivated. Surely it gets better?

    “That’s not how we do things here”

    The culture of the company was so negative that I found myself getting sucked in. My motivation slowly started to melt away. “If they want to pay me this much to be a waitress, then they can crack on!”. Within a week I was doing the interview rounds again, all unsuccessful for varying reasons.

    My sleep started to be affected, my weight crept up and up from eating chips every day. My skin was awful, I hated discussing work with my fiance as I had nothing to tell him. My days were spent planning my wedding, doing no work, as I had no parameters to work in, and any suggestion I came up with to improve things was met with a strong No. But, the money was amazing. Where is the line?

    “I’m really struggling to sleep each night”

    It took me a while to admit this to anyone. I opened up to my mum, my rock, and she didnt quite get it. Everyone struggles darling, it’s the way life is. Or suck it up buttercup. I realised that my mental health was deteriorating slowly but surely. I was such a go getter, but had lost all my joie de vivre. What really solidified my struggle was the fact that I was lying awake each night until 2am or later, turning things over in my head, what I hadn’t done, how was I going to get out of this situation?

    “I think it’s time we part company”

    A new general manager started. He wanted to see how I worked. He asked me to do some tasks, which I did. At the end of his first week, he let me go. Simple clean, thanks but no thanks, please leave everything on your desk and see you later. I was the 6th person out of an induction group of 8 to leave the company. The 69th person to part ways in the 6 months that I had been there. People are a commodity it would seem. “Everyone wants to work in events”. 

    “We will be ok; we always are”

    The liberation I felt was exhilarating. I had been so terrified of not being in a job, not bringing in money, I wouldn’t have ever left any job no matter how unhappy I was. My now husband’s response was one of relief that I would be happier, and that we would make it work “we always do”. My friends immediately saw the difference in my demeanour. They saw how I was a different person without this weight pressing down on my chest. My mantra, “Actually, I Can” is a phrase I used daily, and at 33 I sat there, without an official job title, happier than I had ever been.

    “Do you want to close your business?”

    A new fork in the road. Two and a half years later, faced with a tempting choice and the knowledge that if I didnt take the leap, I’d always wonder “what if”. I had set up by myself before and if it went wrong or it was mutually decided that this wasn’t working anymore, I’d be able to do it again. However…

    “Stay home, save lives, protect the NHS”

    An unprecedented event. We are forever changed. A missed trip to Italy, many skipped birthdays, goodbyes without a goodbye, alone in a hospital. The loss both of loved ones physically and emotionally, something I hope no one has to go through again in living memory.

    Lockdown had a significant emotional impact on so many and honestly I don’t think I will come to terms with everything we went through for many many years. The isolation and restrictions on daily life made me very introspective, paranoid even. I folded in on myself, questioning everything. I lost friends through neglect on my part and I dont know if the friendships will ever recover. That’s something I need to work on into my 38th year. 

    “I think we should start a family”

    And that’s where we are now. And how that will look…well I’m just not sure. Am I selfless enough to have children in my life? What about B & I, will we be ok? Will we be forever changed? Does he want this? Do I want this? My brain is fried from the possibilities and opportunities but also at the lack of them. Time is not on my side but surely this shouldn’t be a “maybe” decision…

    I have so many things I want to do in my life. I am so liberated, and with the support of my husband I am being given the opportunity to achieve greatness. My mindset is one of hope, belief and gratitude, I am kinder, I am happier, I am being the best person I can be, and all because someone decided I wasn’t worth the wage they were paying me. 

    If you are reading this, and it sounds familiar, make it work. Be happy. Money will always come and go and you will always make it work no matter how much is coming in. Please don’t wake up and suddenly your 65 and you have no idea how you got there. 

    Carry on the conversation – DM me @zoerdew

    Keep going.

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    Sugar plum pastry wypas sugar plum carrot cake sesame snaps. Bonbon cotton candy soufflé. Chupa chups biscuit dessert macaroon. Candy wafer tootsie roll wafer ice cream chupa chups wypas tart sesame snaps. Danish chocolate cake donut faworki faworki dessert jelly beans chocolate bar. Tart sweet roll tiramisu. Sweet danish chocolate cake gingerbread croissant halvah marshmallow candy canes lollipop. Brownie jelly-o chocolate bar biscuit toffee soufflé pie tart. Soufflé faworki gummies chocolate donut tart. Dessert fruitcake gingerbread. Liquorice sesame snaps caramels lollipop ice cream fruitcake bonbon muffin halvah. Cookie dragée marshmallow soufflé.