• Karen McConnell

40 Things To Do Before 40

In exactly 40 weeks, I’m going to turn 40 which is, quite frankly, terrifying. I remember both my parent’s 40th birthdays and they seemed so much more grown-up then than I feel now. You’re really meant to have your shit together by the time you’re 40 aren’t you?

I’ve eluded to it before, but during the last few years of my life I really have been going through some sort of mid-life crisis - reassessing the choices I’ve made, what I want my future to look like and essentially, who I’ve become. I think it’s quite normal to go through a period of reflection at this stage in your life, but it’s been hugely unsettling and not nearly as much fun as they look in the movies!

I can’t pretend that I’ve got it all figured out but I have spent an awful lot of time considering the kinds of things I’d like to have achieved before the big 4 ‘oh’ milestone. I’ve thought about the kind of lifestyle I want to lead, how I want to feel in myself, the things I’d like to achieve and the silly things that I’d like to have tried. This is not the kind of bucket list where you’ll find sky-diving or swimming with sharks - a lot of this is just about laying down the routines that I know will make me feel better in myself and help me life the kind of life I want for myself and my family.

1. Get in the best shape of my life - O.M.G. I need to get my finger out and get on with this. I know I’m not in bad shape but when I look at pictures of myself as few years ago I was definitely far more athletic looking and healthy and it was never something I had to think about. I don’t like being a bit softer round the edges - clothes don’t look as good and I don’t feel as good. I think it’s a truth that the older you get the harder you have to work to stay in shape BUT I know I could eat better consistently and now that I’m not riding 8 horses a day, I have to find a way to burn off the calories I consume. For me, it’s about routine and protecting time for working out and that’s the bit I eventually struggle with as the initial rush of motivation and doing something new wears off pretty quickly and I’ll always find something else that needs done instead of working out. I think if I could get past that bit, I’d be sorted ... I just need to make that happen.

2. Cook from scratch - healthy, nourishing foods. I can do this bit and do actually quite enjoy it. I know that fresh seasonal organic ingredients from the garden are bursting with taste and nutrition that those on the supermarket shelf can never be BUT so often I end up driving out to the shops to pick up something processed (and wrapped in unnecessary plastic) because I’ve left it too late to rustle something up myself. I could definitely expand my repertoire of recipes but mostly it’s down to me being organised enough to prepare a lot of these meals in advance and not leave it until the kids are telling me they’re hungry to think of something. An easy on to change and will make a massive difference.

3. Look after my skin in the way I know I should - I’m the girl who can’t be bothered to take her make up off at the end of the day and I know that’s not good for my skin ... or my pillow cases. My skin can get pretty dehydrated and I know if I just took 10 mins at the end of the day to cleanse and nourish my skin, it would thank me me for it.

4. Put time and effort into being a better wife - I’m far from the perfect wife and there’s definitely room for improvement. Chris and I have been together for 11 and a half years and it’s been a full on whirlwind of children, businesses and house moves and along the way, everything else began to be prioritised over “us”. We’ve recently had a chat about how we want our relationship to be going forward and I have some plans about how I can be a better wife.

5. Spend quality one on one time with each of the children every day - I spend a lot of time with the kids, they come with me wherever I go and we’re rarely further than a few meters apart BUT they tend to come as a package and a lot of the time we’re just doing day to day stuff. I heard that just 15 minutes a day totally focussed on your child, no phones, no distractions makes a massive difference to them emotionally so that’s what I’m doing more of. It could be reading a book together, doing some colouring in or just having a conversation but the important thing is that it’s uninterrupted time that’s led by them.

6. Learn to play the piano properly - I’ve been meaning to do this for years and it’s one of the things I wish I’d taken seriously as a child. I can play a little bit and I can read music (slowly) but I’d love to be able to sit down and competently tinkle away.

7. Get better at saying no - Oh goodness, this is one that I need to get better at, like, yesterday! I do this in two ways - the first is that I get excited about things all the time and commit myself readily when I’m in the excitement phase. Most of the things I get excited about on a daily basis are short-term excitements and once they’ve worn off, I’m left over-committed to things that really don’t mean a lot to me. So I need to work to regulate that impulse better and pause before saying yes to whatever it is that’s been proposed. The second thing is I tend to say yes to things just to keep the peace then get angry for myself for doing that. I beat myself up a bit for not being string enough to not just say “that’s not going to work for me” then do it anyway because I said I would but feel resentful that I’m doing that instead of what I want to be doing. Those things I need to get better at saying no to, and not worry about upsetting people because of it.

8. Learn to bake ... well! - I really love the idea of having fresh home-baking in the cake stand at all times - for us to nibble on but also offer to visitors when they pop in. It’s a lovely idea but I’m not very good at it - yet! So I’m vowing to learn to be better which I’m told is just a case of practicing but a few lessons wouldn’t go amiss!

9. Volunteer as a family to support an important cause - I’m really conscious that our kids have a very privileged life and as lovely as it is to give them that, it’s importantly that we also give them an understanding of the hand other people are dealt and how we can help. I’m currently looking into various causes and opportunities different organisations offer to families to get involved and help but I’m really excited to add this element into our lives.

10. See all of Scotland - Ok, I’m unlikely to see the whole of Scotland in 40 weeks but I’ve lived here most of my life and there are still so many parts I haven’t seen. I’m really keen to explore a little more and tick a few of the places off the list!

11. Learn to ski - How have I not learned to do this already? I’m not sure how I feel about hours out in the cold but I do like the idea of cool ski clothes, a wee shot down the slopes and log chalets, warming fire places and all the apres ski! Who’s coming with me?

12. Take a more active role in our family charity - My parents and my brother and I are trustees of The Acorn Charitable Trust - a trust set up to support people through education. It was set up for mum and dad to invest some money in helping people access education who otherwise couldn’t afford to and I love this concept. I’ve been really lucky to have access to so many amazing educational opportunities and I’m excited to help the charity grow and help more people.

13. Build our businesses to be successful and do good - It would be lovely for our businesses to be successful and do well financially to support the lifestyle we want to continue to live but equally as important to us is that they do good. These are the two things that are our top business goals for the businesses we have and are developing.

14. Kiss a pig on the nose - You must be thinking I’ve just run out of things to write, am I right? But seriously, I love their wee noses and the snorty noises they make. Every time I see a video of one I just feel compelled to kiss them! This must happen. Who has a pig I can come and love and kiss??

15. Climb Ben Nevis - Mountain climbing isn’t my thing but Ben Nevis is only a couple of hours away from me and it seems daft not to try it!

16. Read a book a month - I go through phases of reading a lot and then not at all but I would like to try and do it more consistently. I’m not one for fiction and I listen to a lot of podcasts about a wide variety of topics but there’s something about reading where you can get really lost in it. I need more of that in my life.

17. Take time to just sit - I’m a bit of a busy bee, always doing something, and I always feel a bit guilty when I take the time just to sit and do nothing. I know better though and know that it’s important to do but I have to find a way not not feel guilty when I do it.

18. Make sure people know how much they mean to me - People tell me that I can keep a bit of a wall up around myself and, as much as I’m often the one people turn to for support, I do struggle to share my own worries with others. It’s not because I’m cold or don’t trust them or value their opinion or care about them - on the contrary I’m overly empathetic and feel others’ pain as my own a lot of the time, I just don’t feel comfortable being vulnerable with other people. I’m getting better at it and have a few people in my life that I’m (almost) comfortable sharing things with but when I have done it, and don’t get the non-judgemental support that I think I offer others back, I remind myself never to do it again. I don’t really want to have to share my own fears and flaws with other people in order to prove to them that they mean something to me so instead I want to find other ways to tell and prove to them that they do.

19. Take a ride in a hot air balloon - I’ve never done it, it looks fun so why not!

20. Learn to do the splits - I’ve never been able to do them and to be honest I’m not even sure that it’s possible at my age but it would be kind of cool wouldn’t it?!

21. FaceTime my brother once a week - My brother lives in America with his wife and their kids and I so wish they lived closer. The kids often FaceTime each other but I’ve gotten out of the habit of it. I’m going to change that, otherwise all we’ll become are siblings who see each other once a year and that makes me sad.

22. Help KR get over his anxiety - KR is a funny wee dog. He’s hugely arrogant and tough and seems as though he could take on the world but in reality he’s a bit of a nervous wreck. He used to really struggle with separation anxiety but seems to be a bit better at that now that I’m travelling away from home a bit more boy he still gets really worried when the wind is strong or in heavy rain (I think it’s an air pressure thing) and he’s beside himself when there’s a shoot nearby or fireworks. Makes me so sad to see him struggle and I really want to help him get over it.

23. Save every £5 note - I did this for a while a few years back and it was amazing how much I ended up saving without noticing. I can’t remember what I ended up spending it on the last time but if I start now, I might treat myself to something nice for my birthday.

24. Start ‘social media free Sundays’ - I’m quite good at giving myself breaks from social media when I feel I need it. I really love being on social media and connecting with all the people I get to ‘meet’ on there. It’s a creative space for me as well as somewhere to hang out and it’s opened up all sorts of opportunities that I wouldn’t have even known about otherwise. There’s no doubting however that it can take it’s toll on family life and indeed your connection to the real world. I feel it’s important to have balance so from today, I’m now taking Sundays off to focus solely on life in the real world.

25. Start the process for getting organic status here at Fossoway - this isn’t a straight forward process for us for a variety of reasons. I’ve started the conversation with The Soil Association but there’s a fair bit of work to do and a fairly long timescale involved so sadly not one I can complete before turning 40. It is something I’m passionate about though and committed to making it happen so watch this space!

26. Finish decorating the house - We’re about half way through at the moment but I’d like it all done before I turn 40 (and I host the big party!!)

27. Find my green fingers and sort out the garden - maybe I’ll suddenly get into gardening when I turn 40?? That’s the kind of thing 40-somethings like to do right? Ours is a mess and I don’t like it. So between now and next Summer I want ours sorted... hopefully I can find a way to enjoy the process!

28. Find my new style - I’m talking clothes, hair, make-up here. The last few years I’ve been going through a bit of a style evolution and becoming increasingly unsure about some of the choices I make that absolutely work for 20 and 30 somethings but maybe not so appropriate for someone in their 40s. I believe anyone should be able to wear whatever they like and that they should wear clothing that reflects them and I think that’s what’s been changing for me - I’ve been changing and so my old style no longer feels comfortable. I’m not talking a major style shift here, but I’ve been experimenting a bit lately and making little changes and I’m working on perfecting my capsule wardrobe that will take me into my 40s with a bit of class and style.

29. Go to a drive-in movie. Never done it and it looks fun!

30. Visit Alpacaly Ever After and take an Alpaca for a walk. I’m obsessed with this instagram account and I’m desperate to go and spend an afternoon with the alpacas! Honestly, go and check them out!

31. Do a Segway tour - they just look like fun!

32. Go to Chelsea Flower Show - It’s been on my radar for about a decade but May always turns into a busy month and I’ve never been. Next year I’m going... will pop it in the diary now!

33. Try a floatation tank - I’ve been told this is one of the most incredible experiences you can have. I’m a little nervous about feeling claustrophobic but if you really can relax completely then I’m up for experiencing that. Apparently it can be quite addictive though!

34. Take a spa break - I’m not unfamiliar with the spa BUT I do fancy a weekend spa break where I can completely chill out and be pampered. I think I’m going to need it after completing all these other tasks!

35. Complete a detox - I have a bit of research to do on which one will work best for me but I’ve eaten too much this year, drank too much this year and I could really do with a proper cleanse and detox before starting my new eating plan.

36. Take the kids to Lego Land - They’ve been asking to go for a while so I’m going to get it booked. I’ll tie it in with a trip to London. They’ve not been in years and Callan particularly has a list of what he wants to see - Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and Harrods!

37. Send thank you notes to everyone in my life who has made a difference in my life - I think it’s a lovely thing to do and I like the idea of actually sending a hand written note rather than a WhatsApp!

38. Design and bring a product to market - Ok, so this one might already be in the works and I can’t tell you anything about it yet BUT it’s a good one, and I’m excited to share the journey with you!

39. Do Veganuary! - I was vegan for 6 months a few years ago and have never felt better. A month at the start of the year dairy-free will be just what I need to kick-start 2020!

40. Throw a 40th birthday party to remember! - You’re only 40 once right? Who wants an invite??

So that’s my list! What are your thoughts? Which of these would you have included and which would you have left out?

The good news is that I’m going to be documenting me attempting to complete all 40 of these things to do before I’m 40, within the next 40 weeks! Wish me luck!!!!

Karen xx


Karen & Clan 2019

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