Friday, 30 December 2011

Why wait until New Year?

At this time of year everyone is fretting about what to do about "NYE". Don't you just hate acronyms like that! What should I wear? Hair up or down? But I wore that last time... Does my bum look big in this?" Sound familiar? Have you ever received an invitation like this one?

New Years Eve Party
Your best red dress is invited
(But obviously a new one)
Bring a human with a small bottom

No, me neither. It took me far too long to realise that people invited me because they felt my presence would add something to the party, in short they invited me because they wanted me to be there. You have been invited because people want you to be there.

Out at sea you can, apparently see for five miles on a clear day. Here on land we can't see as far, too much in the way, with tall buildings, trees, people etc. We often set off with good intentions of attaining our goal but get distracted on the way (I once went to buy some shoes to go with a silk dress and came back with a pet rabbit and some cowboy boots). 

At New Year we often make resolutions because we feel we ought. Lose weight, stop smoking, get in shape, spend less.... Sometimes it is the intent that is lacking, are you ready to take that first step on the journey yet? Sometimes it is the timing that is wrong, wait until you are ready to commit to yourself, rather than half heartedly making a commitment because the calender says you should! Also what about the "Do less" resolutions? You know, doing less of the things that you feel you "ought to do" but which actually sap your energy and crush your spirit..... Work smarter, not harder, and see what you can do a little less of..... dusting is a good place to start!

And what about the kissing? As the Chimes of New Year sound out people kiss each other! People you would normally shake hands with get all jolly and snoggy...I once got kissed by a binman....!

Why wait until New Year?

If you want to kiss....kiss! Dance in the rain, wear comfy shoes... take a risk!

In the darkness of my dark days five years ago, just as the New Year sounded I received a text. 

"This year life is short, Break the rules, Forgive quickly, Kiss slowly, Love truly, Laugh uncontrollably, And never regret anything that made you smile."

I decided to take charge, to take risks, and to learn to smile again. I now have a blue bird of happiness and "Never regret anything that makes you smile" tattooed on my left arm. Believe me, I have done a whoooooooole lot of smiling!

So, your homework:

As the chimes of New Year sound, do exactly what you want to! Make a resolution if you want, when you want, why you want! In 2012 make time for yourself, and find your smile.

New Years Eve Party
You are invited
(Because we want you there)
Bring a smile

Happy New Year x

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Peace on earth

... and goodwill to all you stressed people!

Santa is on his way. My wish for you is that you find peace, love and happiness x

Be kind to you, and keep on swimming out to meet it x

Friday, 23 December 2011

Slow down and enjoy the ride

I went to the panto yesterday, resplendent in a tiara and wand combo! I really enjoyed the evening, shouting, booing, hissing, and holding Boots' hand in the scary bits (the dragon was 10m long and flew out over the audience...)!

I had spent the day driving hither and yon, ferrying various combinations of people around, and had just arrived home in time to change my tiara from my small pink one to my sparkly silver one, and it was time to set off again! Boots was driving, he is a good, steady driver,and claims he only likes my driving when he is asleep, as, he claims, I drive too close and too fast (I actually drive like an old man, unfortunately that old man is Stirling Moss).

As we turned towards the main road Boots began to cuss, and fret, as the traffic was backed up. He then began to seek an alternate route, all the while cussing and stressing! I pointed out that he was driving the way he criticised me for driving, and the bast thing to do was to slow down, think and plan an alternate route.

Don't you think this time of year, Christmas eve eve, can be a bit like that journey? We set off in enough time, then suddenly something throws our plans awry, be it an extra guest for dinner, sudden illness, exhaustion, or getting stuck in traffic.....The delays and frustrations can be enough to trigger a rage, an unthinking response, a knee jerk response, and arguments follow, or money we don't have gets spent on people we don't really like on things they don't really want!

We eat and drink too much, because that's what we "ought" to do. We fret about what to wear, what to say, what to drink....

Whoa! Slow down a bit!

What is Christmas really all about?

Peace, Love and understanding.

So slow down, think, plan.

Find a peaceful moment in the whirl of it all (you need to plan this in). Love the little things: you, your loved ones, the stars in the sky..... Understand that the only "perfect" thing is you.

Slow down and enjoy the ride, and look at the scenery on the way x

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Twinkle Twinkle, you're a star!

I had a lovely day yesterday! Me, Boots and Pepper the spoiled whippet set off in our lovely van to spend the day with three very good friends. There is a great view out of the van, as it is high up, and I enjoyed looking at the scenery with a new perspective, seeing things I had never noticed before. We drove through hail, rain and thick flurries of snow, chatting at times, but often sitting happily in the silence, totally at ease in each other's company.

Whilst at our destination we spent the day in the toasty warm glow of friendship, good food, good company, and happy memories. We shared a few tears too, some of sadness at the memories of friends and companions passed, and some of joy at the thoughtfulness and love of our friends.

Pepper had a lovely day playing with a cheeky-faced little terrier who, like her new mummy, has a heart full of love to give, with a sad space that needs help to heal.The two of them ran round together happily like dervishes, until they were both exhausted, and they settled down for a sleep nose to nose. Whilst they slept we enjoyed discussing Christmas with a clever three year old. Did you know that Santa wears his Santa suit all year round, apart from on his Birthday when he wears his birthday suit? or that you have to leave three currents out next to a glass of whisky? The whisky is for Santa, and the currents are for his frogs. We shared such a lot of laughter!

I am aware that Christmas can be a difficult and sad time, especially for those of us who have experienced loss. To love and be loved is one of the greatest gifts one could wish for, and to be sad is ok. This blog is dedicated to Yvonne, to Havoc and to you.

Your homework tonight: On a clear night wrap up well and go and look at the stars. Look how they twinkle, unaware of your presence, but the sight of them filling you now, as they did as a child with a sense of wonder. You are that star, and your presence inspires others. Twinkle twinkle x

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Sweet success

Today has been a good day. I got to the docs and got some medication for my chest infection, new supplier of inhalers, good day at work, saw my lovely daughter (who thinks my blog is rubbish and for boring old ladies and old men!) then came home and made Christmas gifts for my team at work.

I am now pretty tired, but happy.

I decided to make them a little selection box of handmade chocolates: Chocolate coated cherry marzipan; Orange and lavender truffles; mini marzipan battenburgs and Cherry and coconut truffles, all presented in a pretty little box.

Whilst I made them I thought about all the successes and  challenges we have faced this term, and about how each member of the team brings their own skills and expertise to the team. The balance of different skills, and a recognition of that as a real strength is what makes us strong.

Making the chocolates this evening I had a helper. My husband helped, carefully shaping and forming, chopping and coating, with real attention to detail. I really enjoyed spending time with him doing this. My other little helper was curled up on the sofa wrapped up in his Christmas duvet with his legs in the air! I let him have it early as I don't think Whippets really understand Christmas!

So your challenge is this: Think about the different teams you are in: family; relationship; work; social teams. Consider your personal skills: what is it that makes you such a valuable member of the team? You are pretty darn special x

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

50p very nice!

When my daughter was little, probably two or three we were browsing in a charity shop in York. She spotted something and asked how much it was. Once I told her she replied "50p very nice"! This has since become a watchword for a bargain!

I spent 50p today on one of the best bargains of my life.

I nipped into Wilkinsons on the way home from work to get some dog food. Whilst queuing at the till I smiled to see a young girl, probably seven or eight years old, at the next till, paying for a very careful selection of gifts. There were some craft kits, felt tips, and the kind of things I used to love playing with to do sticking and gluing. The cashier scanned them all, and the total was £5. The girl looked a bit confused and worried, and called over to her mum to ask if she had another 50p. Mum replied, in that way that suggested she really didn't have 50p, that she didn't have her purse. As they negotiated with the cashier to leave something behind I simply gave the mum a pound I had in my pocket, as a gift from one mum to another.

Mum thanked me, and then said to her little girl, say thank you to the lady, and then sent her after me with the 50p change.

It truly made my heart sing. I am sure, like me, you have at times been down to an empty purse, and a chance finding of loose change in a forgotten place, or a fiver in an old handbag has made all the difference.

I am sure at times, like me, you have also felt like the thing left behind.

So your challenge tomorrow, if you can, is to take a 50p piece and spread a little happiness. Happiness for you, but also for someone else. Pay someone's toll, put it in a collection box, leave it for someone to find... you get the idea. Spread a little happiness, and save some for yourself on the way x

Monday, 12 December 2011

Things to do when you are stuck in traffic...

Crikey! I thought I would attempt the M62 route to work this morning, BIG mistake. I had to queue to get ON for about 15 minutes. Of course whilst you are on the slip road on there is nothing you can do, apart from sit there and wait for the traffic to slowly creep forward.

This got me thinking about the types of activities you can do whilst stuck in traffic. I ought to say at this point that these suggestions are just for the passenger, as the driver will of course be keeping both hands on the wheel, and paying full attention to the road ahead.

  1. Sing! Turn the radio up, and sing your heart out! When my daughter was little we used to take turns in being the male or female lead whilst listening to the Grease tape! Sing like no one is listening, and if anyone looks askance at you simply smile!
  2. Spot triangles! Signs, car badges, shapes on posters, funny shape fields...
  3. Play "Oss". If you see a horse in a field you shout "Oss" and score one point. If it is two horses in a field you still only score one point: It is one horse (or "Oss") per field.
  4. Listen to a speaking book, or tune to radio 4! You never know you might find something interesting.
  5. Spot red front doors (for multi player have a different colour each, but not white cos that would be cheating!)
Or, you could play the game I play every day: "Ooooh I never noticed that before!". This is a brilliant game and is all about finding the unfamiliar in the over familiar, and looking at things fresh and new each day. All you have to do is whilst you are out and about actively look for something you have never noticed before. It could be you see a building, or a window you have never seen before, or a little lane leading to a row of cottages, or as I did this evening notice a postbox I have passed hundreds of times, but never seen.

Life can be like that sometimes, we keep plodding along on the same, very familiar track, and may never see the beauty around us. We miss opportunities for change, and chances for positive choice. Why? Because we are too focused on the destination, rather than enjoying the journey. We are so fixed in our habits and routines we miss seeing things fresh and new.

Your homework for tonight: Whilst on a journey change it up. Play "Ooooh I never saw that before" or try taking a chance on a new route. You never know what you will see, where you will go, or who you will meet.Smile, and enjoy the journey x

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Healing the harm

A couple of days ago I mentioned that my blummin' dog had "killed" my sheepskin boots, causing a great rip down the side. Whilst I knew he had deliberately got hold and ragged them, I did not believe he intentionally set out to damage them, but the damage was done nonetheless.
This evening I set out to mend them. The weather is turning cold and wet, and the boots are so warm I felt it would be a shame not to. Having asked the advice of a leather worker I know I set out to stitch them together. I surveyed the damage, trimmed the raw edges neatly, and whipped them together carefully with a stout needle and thread. I had carefully waxed the thread to make it easier to pull through the leather, and also to improve the longevity of the resulting mend.

Once I had completed them I surveyed the result and commented that they had a pretty impressive scar now, and were a bit lopsided  yet were functional, a bit like me!

Some scars are the result of harm done intentionally, others accidental, but the reminder is there for all to see.

Scars are a visual reminder of our triumphs against difficult times, a sign that we have survived and lived to tell the tale. Some scars remind us of minor injuries: being run over with an ice skate; falling off a bicycle or slipping when cutting carrots. Others show surgical intervention where our outer shell has been cut to mend an inner malfunction. Some of mine are pretty massive, but they are part of who I am.

The more difficult scars to deal with are the internal ones, where the pain of loss and trauma leaves scars on our very being. You know what? It is OK to feel like this. It is OK to sit and cry. It is OK to look in a mirror and see only emptiness. Feeling like this shows you are still alive.

These internal scars take much longer to heal than the external ones, but just like those more visible ones need care and a bit of TLC to heal. They will never heal if you keep picking at them! Just as you sometimes need help to heal an external scar, by use of plasters, bandages, or sometimes surgical help, you may also need help for the internal ones to heal. It is OK to ask for and accept that help.

Be kind to yourself and allow yourself to heal. My boots will never be "perfect" again, but when I look at them I will think of my naughty whuppy, and smile.

Your homework tonight: Be kind to yourself, and do one tiny thing to make you smile x

Friday, 9 December 2011

It's snow joke! (Sorry!)

On my way to work today and the first bad driving conditions of the season. Bradford roads were quite literally like a skating rink. It had obviously snowed, partially thawed, and then frozen again. A couple of cycles of this and the roads were treacherous. Despite this people still drove in the way they do on a normal day, revving the engines to try and get a grip....

Sometimes to get a real grip on life we need to slow down. Slow down, step back, look at the situation in a detached manner, and then slooooooooooooowly move forwards.

I learned a good lesson in patience today from one of my "lovely boys" who taught me the rudiments of table tennis, he very patiently explained to me how to serve, how to score, and when I made a mess of my serve he very kindly said "take that again". He treated me with the utmost of respect, and it was lovely to see his little stubby wings unfurling.

I learned a lot today. I learned about patience, kindness and respect for others.

Your homework for tonight: What did you learn today? What did you learn about others, and what lesson did you take from it? Mistakes are great: we can learn from them and make a concious decision to change things. So tonight have sweet dreams. Think about what you have learned, learn from it, and move on. x

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Flying without wings....

Thank you for all the lovely messages telling me about your baubles! I am glad I am helping some of you find your smile.

I found my smile in a very unexpected place today. I met two real reindeer today, and what really surprised me was the size of their feet. Rather than being the little delicate hooves I thought they would have, they had  great big flat feet! That in itself made me smile as I realised that natural selection, or the big guy upstairs depending on your view point, had developed the feet to the perfect shape for running and grazing on snow.

The next smile came today at work, when I was showing one of my "lovely boys", a lad of 14, a photo of the reindeer, explaining how the antlers were covered with a soft fur which looked like velvet, and I then pointed to the feet, and asked him why he thought they were that large, flat shape. He replied, quite sure of his answer: "So they can fly".

Funny, yes, but actually it goes deeper. It shows a belief in magic, the magic that if you wish hard enough, work hard enough and try hard enough that the impossible can become possible.

Your homework for today: Go and smile at your baubles, or yourself in a mirror, or a stranger or loved one. Look at your twinkles and remember what you have achieved so far in your life. Reflect on the steps you took to get yourself there, or the steps you wished you had taken. Make a wish, and work out that one little thing you can do to make that wish come true. Work out how many tiny steps you need to get there, and take that first step, That is the hardest one of all. Before you know it you will have big, flat, hairy feet, just right for running on snow and flying !!!! x

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Camel toes and Santa

Well what a funny day I have had!

I got up early and rather than having my usual breakfast which I share with the dog I had a quick snack in the kitchen, whilst he played in the living room. When I went to get him to put him in the kitchen when I went out I discovered that he had "killed" my sheepskin boots, pulling out the insole and ripping the side of them. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr! Not a good start to the day!

This evening I revisited something from my childhood. When I was about 8 we lived next to a Swedish Mission for Seamen, and they used to celebrate the Festival of Light, singing a beautiful song, sharing gingerbread and a beautiful girl led a procession bearing a  wreath on her head lit with candles. Today was the Ikea modern version, somewhat sanitised with a  wreath made of tinsel and pipe cleaner candles on the head of a ten year old. Still sweet, but not quite the memory I was looking for.

As we went into Ikea there were two real reindeer in a paddock. What surprised me most was that their feet were very like camel feet with the very wide pads. Their coats were long and shaggy, but their antlers appeared to be covered in a soft  velvet like fur. Santa was there too, he said he had me in his little black book (He obviously knows me so well)!

What struck me most about the evening is that whilst the evening did not match the magic of the enchantment I remember as a child the real magic was spending the evening in good company, with great food, and I shall remember how the Santa (who had a real beard) managed to make my 18 yr old daughter blush!

Memories are what we make them, and there is always room for new ones.

Your homework tonight: Think of something you can do, however tiny, to create a lovely happy memory to make you smile! It may be googling reindeer feet, it may be looking out the old Christmas baubles, or buying a new one for someone you love. Buy yourself one, you know you deserve one x

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Eating the elephent

It took me an hour and a quarter to get to work (about 16 miles) and an hour and half to get home. In between I was abused verbally, as were my staff, run off my feet, and finally got my lunch break when I got home towards seven pm.

Sounds pants doesn't it! It was really! Some days are just like that, and the tendency can be to just focus on all the things that went wrong that day, rather than trying to find something positive.

I am finding tonight's blog difficult to write as my mind is such a blur, and I am physically and emotionally exhausted. Some days are definitely uphill, and it seems a hard task to climb to the top of the heap and find the needle in the dung heap, never mind the haystack!

If you are looking for the needle maybe you are looking for the wrong thing. Someone I used to work with had a good saying: "When you are up against an elephant all you can see is grey". It is really true! If you step back a bit you can make out the hairs, the toenails, the legs, the tail, then suddenly you can see the whole picture!

If I step back from my day I can see the positives, I see the systems in place work, I see what I can do to fine tune the situation further, and I can see that on balance we did a good job. I see that after being brave enough to say "I have had a crappy day, I need some time on my own", then giving myself time to unwind, to relax, to step back and see the rainbow I know I will be, and am OK.

So your homework for today: work out what your elephant is: house/home/relationship/diet/work etc. Step back from it, allow yourself to relax and unwind, then come back to the elephant, step back, and look at the bigger picture. That elephant holds part of the solution, as well as the problem. Walk with your head up, keep your chin up, otherwise you will never see the rainbows x

Monday, 5 December 2011

I never thought I'd ever sleep with superman...

So how have you done so far? Did you mange to take the plunge and take one tiny step towards your goal? I had a smaller portion for my tea tonight, so that should help. Did you look in the mirror and see your twinkles, or another part that you know to be beautiful and special? Have you listened to the little voice saying "what about me?" Have you let it sound a little bit louder? My voice today in the middle of all the stress and shouting at work said "take time for me", so I did. I had a nice cup of tea in a quiet moment and felt much better for it.

Last night I was in bed with my lovely hubby, sat sipping  a nip of whisky, and having a natter about the day. When he got into bed he kept his vest on, as we are a bit "old school" and put on a layer rather than the heating! It was his favourite vest emblazoned with a cartoon motif. He looked over, winked, and said "I bet you never thought you'd go to bed with Superman"!

Laughing away I remarked we just seemed to "fit" together, like a jigsaw. "A jigsaw without a picture" he remarked, and went on to explain how we fit together and let life take us where we will, rather than following a fixed pattern, a fixed image of how it should be.

Do you think we sometimes try to shape ourselves into what we believe other people think we ought to be, rather than being happy in our own skin, or happy on our feet? We pay too much regard to "whatever will people think" or "but they may not like me" rather than thinking about what is best for ourselves. I am not suggesting for one moment that we should disregard others, quite the opposite. We should merely shift the balance so that we are taking more care and consideration for ourselves.

Superman had amazing powers, he could jump tall buildings, fly, and use his x-ray vision to avert problems. Life isn't like that though is it? No one is going to come along and rescue you from your problems, no one other than yourself. So lighten up a little, stop beating yourself up with your problems, and let yourself fly. You might need to grow a few more feathers yet, but ruffle those wings, and soar.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Thanks, Percy Shaw!

I work in Halifax, which is a pretty Northern town. The Town Hall was designed by Charles Barry who designed the Houses of Parliament, and boasts a very beautiful blue glass ceiling. Another of Halifax's famous sons in Percy Shaw. Not heard of him either?

Sometimes we drift through life, bumbling along, sort of half noticing people we pass, but not really taking much notice. Sometimes we feel as if life drifts past us, that we don't get noticed and the inner voice saying "what about me?" gets lost.

So who is Percy? Born in 1890 to a working family Percy was a road contractor, who, so one versionof the legend has it, was coming home down a difficult road in the dark when he saw the light from his car reflected back at him from a cat. Percy then went back to work, and to cut a long story short, invented the "cats-eye" we take for granted in teh middle of the road.

The cats eyes sit there, we take no notice of them most of the time, we drive over them, we notice the bump, but think nothing of it.

This is the clever bit: The glass cats eyes are mounted in a resilient rubber block, and when we dive over them this very action pushes the glass down, cleaning and keeping it shiny.

Do you feel like that? I know i have sometimes. I have felt that I have been ridden rough-shod over, ignored, but I am resilient and my inner voice still sounds out: "What about me"

Today's homework: Next time you are out in the dark look at the cats eyes, and how, despite all the bashing that take, they still shine out. Consider your inner voice, how quiet is it? Listen to it, what is it trying to say? Let it sound, and let yourself shine.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Happy Van day!

Well today is a special day! Today is the day we see the new shiny green van in the light for the first time! We have had the van nearly a week now but as the days are closing in we get up in the dark, and come home in the dark, and so far have not seen it in daylight, not even for the test drive.

Life is a bit like that sometimes. We have to take a stab in the dark and trust our instincts not to let us down. In the light we can see all the little scratches and dinks, the scuffs on the dash board and the grubby mark left by a discarded carton in the back. In the dark however everything looks shiny and bright. We could be irritated by the defects, but actually it is a reflection of a job well done, the van is carrying the marks of a life lived, and the happy times inside of it.

We could all look in the mirror and see lines, wrinkles and imperfections, but maybe we are seing the wrong things because we are looking for the wrong things. I call my laughter lines (don't you just hate that expression) "twinkles" because they are a visual record of all the love and laughs I am having in my new life. I look forward to getting more! Grey hairs: a sign of all the fun I have been having! (I have not got many, so I had better step up the fun). My scars, and they are pretty hideous, are a reminder that I am still here.

There are worse things in life than a few bumps and scrapes, as these are the very things that shape and define us. It is not the looking that defines us, but the eyes we are looking out of, and into!

Today's homework: Go and look in a mirror. It is hard I know! Look in that mirror and find one tiny thing that you like, one freckle that you got on a beach in the summer.. one scar where you fell on something in a field with your mates.. one pair of eyes that look out onto a bright shiny world, shiny with that pot of gold you are carrying.

Find that tiny thing, and nurture it. You will find that by nurturing and recognising the positive memories attached to that precious thing, that the positivity will spread, and you will a tiny bit at a time start feeling brighter. The best bit of all is that it is catching: Spread a little joy: find one thing x

Friday, 2 December 2011

Just keep swimming...

You know what, sometimes my life has been really really really shit.

I had many years where, apart from my daughter, everything was truely shit, it is a wonder I was not brown with flies buzzing around me.

Anyhow something changed, a long story, but it involved being a Virgin (the make-up sort), turning 40 and realising how much I had missed life, thanks to some people I knew who gave me the best birthday gift I could wish for: a night out and a realisation I was still alive!

Anyhow, enough about the bad times. Sometimes having the bad times makes you value the good times even more, even if the good times are simple like seeing a star twinkle, or finding a fiver in an old handbag, or looking up and realising there is a rainbow.

Rainbows are traditionally signs of hope. Ethereal things, they are not tangible, but always make us smile, because we always think that at the end of the rainbow there is a pot of gold. The trouble is that the rainbow always keeps moving, no matter how hard we try to reach it. That elusive pot of gold is always j----uuuu---sss----tttttttt out of reach.

The truth is simple: there is always a rainbow. The important bit is this: The pot of gold is always there. It is under your feet. You have the power to find it and use it. One of my tattoos is a compass sign on my left foot (so I can always find my way home). It is just above a quote from Samuel Clemens "Explore, dream, discover" which is part of a larger quote:

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do.
So throw off the bowlines.
Sail away from the safe harbour.
Catch the trade winds in your sails.

Explore.  Dream.  Discover."

So: Why "Swim out to meet it"? Because sometimes to quote Dory you have to just keep swimming. Sometimes you have to take charge and DO SOMETHING to take you one step nearer to your goal. Don't wait for your ship to come in, get your knife between your teeth and swim out to meet the fooker!

So: Your homework for today. Identify one tiny thing you can do to take you nearer to your goal: put the biscuit down, go for a walk, go to bed earlier, make that call, say sorry, ask that person out for a drink.... Remember you have that pot of gold in your possesion: it is the most precious thing on earth: It is you.

I am proud you are my freind, so get your water wings on and get swimming!