Thursday, 31 December 2015

The New Year

Reflections on 2015

Two thousand and fifteen feels like it has been a stressful year, I feel stressed and unable to relax and I'm not too sure why. Yes I have a lot of responsibility in my new job but that it what I have spent the last three years at university working towards. Sometimes I wonder if it is the right job for me but I continue to stick with it because I do not like to give up and it has only been six months. My contract is only for twelve months so we will see what happens and where I go in July 2016.

Aside from the negativity around my job (which apart from the stress and perhaps anxiety, I mostly enjoy when I'm there doing it), two thousand and fifteen has been a pretty good year.

The moments I am most proud of are; actually planning and going on my solo road trip in June and graduating from university.



The things I am most grateful for are; the health of my family and friends, being asked by a close friend to be one of her bridesmaids, the opportunity to go to and graduate from university and getting a job straight out of university.



Looking ahead to 2016

Since Christmas my thoughts have wandered ahead to the New Year and my wishes for two thousand and sixteen. I already have a few things to look forward to; a family holiday for my Sisters 21st birthday in April and my friends wedding in July. There is also the possibility of me finding a new job, which I could consider as an exciting opportunity (instead of feeling extremely nervous about - a bit of positive thinking!).

I do not usually make New Year's resolutions because I rarely see them through. So this New Year I have three wishes; to be happy, to be healthy and to tick some things off my 30 before 30 list which I wrote here.

Image from Pinterest

What were your favourite moments from 2015 and do you have any wishes for 2016?

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Twelve Days of Christmas

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas, here is my Twelve Days of Christmas (with a few more squeezed in)

Image from Pinterest
1. Back in late October I began to think about my Christmas shoebox. The items were bought, my shoebox wrapped and delivered by the 18th of November. I have written more about it here.

2. In November I began recording and watching the tv Christmas films. I love that many of them are about the Christmas spirit, family and giving to others.

3. I began my Christmas shopping on the 28th of November. I took a leisurely walk into town and spent the day browsing the shops for items that stood out as being just right for my family and friends. Buying gifts for my loved ones is one of my favourite parts of Christmas.

4. On the second of December a documentary series started on Channel 5 called Homeless at Christmas which I recorded and have watched two episodes so far. The second was about loneliness during the festive season and included; single parents who don't have, or share their children, elderly and young people who have left care (care leavers).

5. The first weekend of December I decided to write Christmas cards. I don't send many, this year I sent them to my family as I knew that we were not going to all be together on Christmas Day. I also asked if they wanted to donate items to the food bank again this year. The message I sent them in my cards went like this;

This Christmas we will have love in our hearts,
and food in our belly.
We will be surrounded by friends and family.
 
I ask that you spare a thought,
For those who are not as fortunate.
 


6. On Saturday the 5th of December, my friend and I took his niece out for the day. She is a lovely little girl who is growing up so fast. We took her out for lunch and Frankie and Benny's and then drove to Lavenham Christmas Market. We often take her to Frankie and Benny's because of the children's menu and the activity packs they give out to entertain whilst they wait for their food. At the Christmas market, there were beautiful lights strung along buildings and the scent of mulled wine in the air. The market stalls themselves I found quite disappointing, there was not much of a variety of items on sale to browse and choose from and I didn't feel they were all very Christmassy. In the end we queued up to see Father Christmas, went on a carrousel ride and drove back to mine for hot chocolate, some nibbles and to snuggle up and watch The Grinch. Earlier in the day, before my friend arrived at mine, I posted a little package to the little girl I sponsor through SOS Children's Villages. Once a year I send her a little letter about my year, a Christmas card and a small gift, often a headband or something similar.

7. Saturday the 12th of December I took Nan Christmas shopping and then went out for a meal with my friends, which I talked about here.

8. Sunday the 13th of December was my first shift at the Winter Night Shelter this year. The first shift was vey quiet, not one guest turned up. However, I also volunteered at the afternoon shift yesterday, Boxing Day, and possibly because there were no other services open due to it being the holidays, it was a little busier. The afternoon shift provides drinks and nibbles, yesterday there was a tin of Roses, some cake and cheesy snacks. Usually there is soup and rolls. We spent time talking with the guests and playing games such as Draughts, Scrabble and card games.

9. Saturday the 19th of December I went to the cinema with my Mum to watch Christmas with the Coopers whilst sipping a festive toffee nut latte from Starbucks. I think this film has become one of my favourites, I loved it! I then spent the evening wrapping Christmas presents while watching Love Actually and sipping mulled wine.

10. Sunday 20th of December my family and I went to Snape Maltings to listen and sing along to a show of Christmas songs. The concert hall and stage was beautifully decorated with a huge Christmas tree, visual effects and lighting. The show featured different choirs that have links to Aldeburgh Music. Grandad had a great time singing along whenever he recognised the song, not necessarily when it was the audiences turn to sing along.


11. My last day at work before having some time off over Christmas was Wednesday the 23rd of December. Driving home from my last visit I could finally put work in a box, breathe and begin to relax. Christmas Eve I spent with my Mum and Grandad. Mum was preparing the house for Christmas Day and I was baking some festive cupcakes for my Sister. I was invited to a friends in the evening where we chatted, drank some mulled wine and watch a few films.


I woke up Christmas morning at my house, just me and the cats. I opened the two presents I had waiting, fed the cats with a few added treats and packed my overnight bag. Before heading to my parents, I went to visit an elderly neighbour for a cup of coffee. My neighbour has no family that live nearby and I have called in on Christmas day for the last two or three years as well as other times during the year. I arrived at my parents house about half 11 and sipped a snowball cocktail while I waited for my Sister to return from her boyfriends. We then spent time, taking it in turns to open our gifts. My parents then went to pick up my Nan and we spent the rest of the day sat around the kitchen table eating, talking and playing quiz games.

I decided to sleep at my parents' home so I could wake up there on Boxing Day morning. My sister and her boyfriend came over for brunch, I then got dressed and headed out to do my shift at the Night Shelter. I returned to my parents' afterwards and we sat down to watch one of the films I had bought them before heading home to spend some time with my cats and sleep in my own bed. In case you were wondering I did pop home over the two days so my cats were not left starving, they just didn't se that much of me.

12. Tomorrow my family will get together, this time with my aunts and uncles. We will sit around the table and eat, laugh and enjoy each others company. I will also collect the food that they have kindly collected to donate to the local food bank.  

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas and I would love to hear all about it

Sunday, 20 December 2015

A Christmas Countdown

I didn't write a post last week, purposely because it would have been an outpouring of my frustrations. My work life balance, which was something I felt needed to change, has not. Perhaps in the few weeks leading up to last weekend it had gotten worse. I really notice the difference in the way I feel when I've not eaten healthily and recently I have not prioritised food shopping and cooking balanced meals. This along with having trouble switching off at night and sleeping led me to feel as if I was walking around in a haze, functioning on auto pilot without much thought. I was exhausted. Not good at any time of the year but definitely not how I want to be feeling in the run up to Christmas, a season I usually look forward to, one that fills me with excitement.

Last Saturday I took my Nan into town to do a bit of Christmas shopping. As with doing our shop for the Christmas shoebox, going out Christmas shopping has become something we do together. It gives Nan and I some time together and also allows her to pick some gifts for the family instead of giving money because she does not always feel confident going out alone. Our first stop was of course Greggs for some coffee and cake.


After our afternoon shopping I dropped Nan at home and headed to my friends for the evening. It has become a tradition for the three of us to go out to dinner instead of swapping gifts at Christmas. We decided to go to a local Indian restaurant. This was for two reasons, it tastes yummy and is really good value for money. We always leave stuffed and satisfied. Earlier in the afternoon I was telling Nan about our dinner plans and began to feel a little guilty, knowing my Nan really enjoys a curry. I ended up offering to order, collect and deliver a take away for her which she really appreciated and hopefully enjoyed.

We headed back to my friends and we made ourselves comfortable on her bed. It reminded me of when we lived with our parents and used to do the same in each others bedrooms when we used to meet up. The conversation turned to my love life, or lack of it and continued with discussions about online dating. We had some fun and laughs composing a profile and considering possible matches. However, the next day things did not seem quite so funny. Usually being single doesn't really bother me, I have had been busy with university, friends and family and been quite content on my own. Perhaps it is the time of year and the number of festive films that feature love, romance, relationships and happy endings.

Image from Pinterest
Last Sunday was my first shift this year at the Winter Night Shelter. It is organised in partnership with local churches and opens its doors from December through to March, the coldest months of the year. The night shelter has previously had three shifts; the morning, evening and night shift. This year they have decided to offer an extra Sunday afternoon shift and some additional afternoon shifts over the festive period. Due to work commitments this year I have volunteered to help out during the Sunday afternoon shifts once a fortnight. I was careful not to take on too much as I can sometimes struggle balancing work and my life outside of it. I turned up at the hosting church ready for my shift to begin at 1.30 and stayed until 4.30. In that time not one guest turned up. On the one hand that could be really positive, that they feel they do not need to come to the shelter because they have other places to go, I know that the library is a popular place due to it being warm, having free books to read and the internet to surf. However, what is not offered at the library is food and drinks free of charge. On the other hand, I am now a little hesitant to possibly give up time with my family on Boxing Day to help out at the shelter. I struggle with my negativity around this and wonder if I am being too selfish and focused on my own needs and wants rather than those of others. Perhaps, there is a little of my Nan's need to feel needed in me.

This week I have attempted to be kinder to myself, I have made a real effort to leave work on time, although there were a few late visits that needed to be made. I made a more conscious effort to have one hot meal a day, even if Thursday it was a jacket potato with cheese and baked beans. I felt better by Friday but I think having supervision with my supervisor and arranging to use my TOIL (time off in lieu) on Christmas Eve helped quite a lot. Now I have five days off to look forward to!

Image from Google

Sunday, 6 December 2015

The Christmas Tag 2015


1. What are your favourite thing about this time of year?

Scented candles
Blankets
Festive flavoured coffee

2. What's your favourite festive drink?

Costa's toffee nut latte
A cinnamon latte
A snowball cocktail

3. What are your favourite Christmas songs?

Do They Know It's Christmas, Band Aid
Merry Christmas Everyone, Shakin Stevens

4. What is your favourite Christmas movie

Miracle on 34th Street. Love to watch this on Christmas Eve or the weekend before Christmas with my family accompanied by some festive nibbles. Unfortunately, some family members are voting for a different film this year.

5. What are your favourite Christmas dishes?

Christmas Turkey dinner
My Dad's homemade yule log

6. Giving or receiving gifts?

Both. I love hitting the bustling streets in the run up to Christmas, to see the decorations and browse the shelves for those perfect presents. I like giving at Christmas but I don't like to give for the sake of it, I like to give meaningful, thoughtful gifts.

I also like receive thoughtful gifts from friends and family, definitely, thoughtful over expensive. Gifts I often receive are little things that others know that I wouldn't buy for myself, a few little treats for myself.

7. What does Christmas mean to you?

I really like the term Christmas Spirit. To me is means spending time with friends and family as well as thinking of and giving to those less fortunate than myself. I like to treat my family with gifts and others through charitable work.

8. When was your most meaningful Christmas?

When my family put Christmas on hold for a day two years running so I could work on Christmas Day and then celebrate Christmas as a family on Boxing Day.

9. What are your Christmas traditions?

I shared my Christmas traditions in my previous post if you want to take another look

10. What are your New Years resolutions?

To tick some things off my 30 Before 30 list here

 
Images from Pinterest

Please share your answers, I would love to hear about your Christmases

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Holiday Traditions

I have recently read a few blog posts about Christmas traditions and it got me thinking about the holidays that my family celebrate. When I think about it we don't celebrate many at all. Pancake day (proper name Shrove Tuesday) often brings my immediate family together to share a few pancakes after an evening meal. I think on a few occasions I have driven to my Mum's after a Zumba class to scoff pancakes! I understand that Shrove Tuesday is a religious day but as I do not have a faith many holidays have become about bringing my family together. We may also share a meal for Easter and swap Easter eggs, or in my Sisters case Easter themed cupcakes due to her dislike of chocolate.

And then comes Christmas!


This is my favourite holiday and again is all about family and loved ones. Even though my parents, my sister and I all live in different places we come together Christmas morning, although it gets closer to midday each year, to open our presents. Presents are handed around one at a time from under the tree and we watch each other open the gifts that have been thoughtfully purchased and not always as thoughtfully wrapped if they are mine. We take the time to appreciate each gift and thank the person who gave it. This is accompanied by a cd of Christmas songs playing softly in the background and in recent years my parents log burner glowing away. Although we travel back to my parents home to open our presents we always do so in our pyjamas and I have been known to start the day with a festive snowball cocktail. There is then a little bit of time for each of us to get ready for the family meal. We try to alternate between my parents home and m Auntie's for Christmas dinner and try to get as many family members together as possible, this year it will be a little quieter than usual. We spend the rest of the afternoon and evening eating and spending time together around the table.

It would seem, like possibly many other families, food brings mine together.

In the last few years I have begun some new traditions of my own, which are mostly centred around Christmas and New Year as I think of it as a special time of year and a time to share some Christmas Spirit;
 

Images from Pinterest

  • Send a Christmas Shoebox
    (you can read my post about them here)
  • Volunteer at the night shelter
  • Give donations to the local food bank
  • Put together a little package for the little girl I sponsor through SOS Children's Villages
I would also love to adopt and celebrate Thanksgiving. As with other holidays I may not celebrate as intended but in my own way. I think dedicating a day to being thankful is a positive idea that should be acknowledged. Some may say that we should be thankful as we go about our daily lies but I do not think it is always as easy as that with other stressors that can sometimes act as a distraction.

What holiday traditions do you celebrate? Are there any new ones that you would like to start?

Sunday, 22 November 2015

What I'm Reading: Elizabeth is Missing

Image from Google
I was searching for books to read and decided to follow a friends advice and search the top books of 2014. Before this I had been working my way through Patricia Cornwall's Scarpetta crime novels and James Patterson's Women's Murder Club series of crime novels. Can you spot a theme? A favourite genre of mine? While awaiting the release of new books from these series I decided to see what else was out there. I was intrigued by Elizabeth is Missing after reading a comment on The Guardian's website, 'Emma Healey's dementia detective story.'

I have worked with individuals with Dementia as well as attending training on the condition through my work as a home care assistant. In recent years my Grandad has experienced significant issues with his memory. I am interested in the disease and how best to work with individuals who have it to enable them to live as well and independently as possible. I feel the same way about any disability.

I went on to read the blurb, to find out a little bit more about the story I was going to become part of. The story is centred about the central character, Maud. Maud is in her eighties and has vascular dementia. Maud narrates her quest to unravel and solve two tales, one is the disappearance of her friend Elizabeth, the second, interwoven through flashbacks, is the mystery of Maud's sister's disappearance seventy years earlier. This is alongside Maud using handwritten notes to herself, not always successfully, to keep track of her day to day life and discoveries.

I thought I had a reasonable understanding of Dementia and how to work with individuals who have it, however, what this book did for me was to give me an insight into what it was like for the individual, how it made them feel when they could see in others reactions that they had forgotten or irritated, the uncertainty and fear felt at times. Some of Maud's mannerisms also made me smile to myself because in them I recognised Grandad, asking the same questions repetitively, reading aloud and following instructions even if it is not the right time to do so. An example of this is when Grandad reads PUSH on the belt clasp of his wheelchair. He will push it and undo his belt even when he needs it to stay done up. After it is secured again, now he has seen it, he cannot leave it alone and every time he sees the instruction, what does he do? Pushes it and around again we go.

I thought that Elizabeth is Missing was a great book, I loved the aspect that touched me personally but also following the unravelling of the two mysteries.

Have you read the book, what are your thoughts?

Sunday, 8 November 2015

A Weekend with Grandad

On Friday afternoon, I left work at 5pm, I stepped out of my work role and into one as a family carer. As I have discussed in a previous post, I lost my Nan last year. She was my Grandad's carer, when she became unwell my Mum took on the role. This was not an easy transition nor a quick one but one that our family felt necessary. I feel very grateful to be part of a family that has been willing and able to come together to support each other and Grandad during the past year and a half.

Image from Pinterest
A family carer is defined as; someone who provides unpaid care for a family member or a friend due to an illness, disability, mental health problem or an addition and cannot cope without the support. I have previously worked as a home care assistant so have experience of providing personal care and using equipment such as hoists to move people who cannot move themselves. This knowledge and experience helped to an extent but when I began supporting Grandad I had to get over feelings of embarrassment at helping him with such personal tasks.

It was Mum's birthday last week so about a month ago I offered to stay with Grandad for the weekend so that Dad could take her away. I think it's important for them both to be able to have some quality time together and for Mum to have a proper break from her caring role once in a while.

Grandad is and has always been a kind, gentle man and he has had to learn to be a patient one as well. As long as I have known him he has had a physical disability, losing his leg in a motorcycle accident when he was much younger and being diagnosed with MS (Multiple Sclerosis). In recent years Grandad's physical ability has deteriorated as well as his memory, however, his humour and personality are still very much in tact. He still takes pleasure from life and experiences even if he can't always remember what he has done. He is a definition of living in the moment.

Friday evening was spent in front of the telly catching up on Doctor Foster while Grandad snoozed beside me. He woke long enough to ask for cheese on toast for tea and to take his medication before saying that he would like to go back to sleep, a favourite activity of his. I was worried that he would be up in the night but he slept straight through. In the end I was the one that had trouble sleeping because I forgot my eye mask.

Luckily for me Grandad often enjoys a lay in as much as me. He was still sleeping when I woke at half 9. I sat and had a coffee and watched another episode of Doctor Foster before waking him. He decided that he would like eggs for breakfast so that's what he got alongside his orange juice and morning medication. After another snooze, it was time to have a wash, get dressed and go out.


Grandad now uses a hoist to lift him out of his bed into his adapted wheelchair. We have also been able to purchase an adapted van. This allows us to lower the suspension, push the wheelchair up the ramp and strap him in. Being able to do this gives him and us some much needed freedom. He can come with us to most places, as long as they are wheelchair friendly.

Although we have a lot of equipment to help, it is still physically tiring moving Grandad around, the wheelchair is heavy enough without him in it for a start! I look at it as good exercise though, which makes me feel a lot less guilty about tucking into the Chinese take away and chocolates Grandad and I shared Saturday night. To balance being out and about Saturday afternoon, we enjoyed a lazy day in today watching Christmas films until my parents returned. We then cooked and ate a roast dinner together while watching the Theory of Everything before I packed up my things and headed home.

Image from Pinterest

Sunday, 1 November 2015

A Weeked with Friends

Saturday

Quite often when my friends and I meet up either food or coffee are involved. On the Saturday, a few weeks ago now, I drove to Lakeside with some friends to go bridesmaid shopping. I was truly excited when I received a message and photograph, whilst I was away on my road trip earlier this year, telling me that she was engaged! I felt honoured when I returned home, around two weeks later, to find a hand written envelope waiting for me, inside was a simple, yet beautiful gift and a special question.

We had an appointment at a bridal shop to start the day and to hopefully find some inspiration. My friend and I had had a sneaky peak at some dresses a few weeks before when I had gone with her to try on some wedding dresses. The previous bridal shop we visited had a whole floor dedicated to bridesmaid dresses. The shop we visited in Lakeside had far fewer to browse through. Having said that, we managed to find a few to try on. When we had looked before I got the idea that we may get short dresses, however, on this occasion the longer dresses were a lot nicer and there was slightly more choice so we ended up dragging a few through to the dressing room. We found one dress that we each tried on and all liked the way that it looked (once the helpful assistant had pinned it anyway). I haven't had a good reason to wear a pretty dress since my high school prom nine years ago.

Then it was time for food! I didn't realise there was a restaurant on a boat at Lakeside, last time I visited I went for the standard Nandos. I love something a little different though so was pleased the decision was made to go aboard. A bottle of Prosecco was ordered to share and add a little sparkle to the afternoon. The restaurant is a Miller & Carter and was dark and sleek inside. There is a very reasonably priced lunch menu that is even served on a Saturday which I was surprised by. I was tempted by the burger, but typically I go for a burger, so thought I would try something a little different. As the restaurant is a steakhouse, I decided I would order steak in a toasted onion ciabatta served with seasoned fries. The meal was finished off nicely with a sweet caramel apple crumble tart. A continued wander around the shops was welcomed after the large lunch.




Sunday

My friend picked me up from mine about 11am and we drove to Norwich to meet our friend who moved their with her other half last year. A journey that should only take an hour took more like two thanks to road works so we were definitely ready to go into the city centre and eat when we finally arrived. We ended up going to Bill's. As soon as we walked through the door I loved it! The d├ęcor is rustic and quirky. There is exposed plaster, brick, metal and wood.

Image from Pinterest
We all ended up ordering the same, Bill's pink lemonade and burger with various toppings followed by cinnamon doughnuts. I enjoyed the food as much as my surroundings and the atmosphere. After our long lunch, we did a little shopping before heading home.

 

Have you eaten anywhere you really liked recently?

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Supporting a Cause: A Christmas Shoe Box

A few years ago I was searching for ways I could spread a little joy around the festive season and remembered the fun I had filling a shoebox when I was younger, whether it was through school or Brownies I can't quite remember. I am not sure if there are other organisations that also pack and send shoeboxes but I have given mine through Operation Christmas Child.


2014

Operation Christmas Child is part of Samaritans Purse International Relief UK and is a Christian organisation. I do not practice any religion but I like to participate in giving a child a gift at Christmas. I think that it's something easy and fun to do but something that can have such a big impact. It doesn't even have to cost very much, yet will remain just as precious to a child.

All you need is a medium sized shoebox, I like to wrap mine in some Christmas paper, £3 donation towards the shipping costs and some goodies. The website provides a guide of what items to pack into your shoebox. This is the third year that I have sent a shoebox and it has become a lovely thing that my nan and I do together.

2013

This afternoon I treated myself to a new pair of slippers and asked the lady at the till if there were any spare shoeboxes I could have. The lovely lady very kindly went out the back to check and brought one out. We then went off to Poundland to fill it.

When filling your shoebox you are asked to choose who you are aiming the box at, girl or boy and an age range. As you will be able to see from my photos, I have previously bought for younger children, this year I decided to buy for an older girl in the 12-14 age group. Now I need to make sure it is wrapped, paid for and dropped off at a collection point by the 18th of November.

2015
Have you ever sent a Christmas shoebox, what sorts of things have you put in yours?

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Meeting a Milestone: Graduation


I begin to write as I am getting into bed. I don't want to wipe off my make up and the day with it. I don't want to go to sleep and begin a new day tomorrow. I don't want today to end. Today is the day graduated, an achievement I always wanted to accomplish but was not sure that I would.

I graduated on Tuesday. The excitement had been building in the run up to the day itself, receiving tickets, shopping for new outfits and party planning. The day really began when I stepped out of the shower at 10.30 and started to get ready. I had bought my outfit from River Island a few weeks before, the high waisted leather skirt and black top. I was a little worried that I may get a bit chilly throughout the day as it is now autumn so the Sunday before I happened to buy a slouchy green jumper from H&M which I thought would go really well to slip on before and after the ceremony. I finished my outfit off with a gold necklace my friends bought me for my birthday, although you couldn't really see it with my gown on, and an old pair of black shoe boots.

My parents and sister arrived at mine just before midday. We drove to the quayside for an al fresco lunch. My parents and I tucked into chicken, bacon and pesto wraps and my sister a bacon sarnie. I was extremely lucky with the weather, it was a bright, sunny and reasonably warm day for this time of year. We sat looking out at the water and boats in the marina, beautiful. My sister also gave me a small wrapped box. Peeling away the paper revealed a box labelled Class of 2015 and inside the cutest charm for my bracelet!


After lunch we headed to the Town Hall for the ceremony. I made plans to meet my friend outside, we greeted each other with smiles filled with excitement and nerves and headed inside to collect our hired cap and gown. We were dressed and guided through to have our official photographs taken. After all of this there was still some time to take some photo's outside with friends and family before the ceremony began at 3pm.

The ceremony began with a formal procession of the university faculty members dressed in their ceremonial outfits. There was then some short speeches and the introduction of the honourary fellow, Maureen Reynel MBE. Maureen founded and continues to run a local charity, FIND, supporting homeless individuals and those living on a low income. The charity is well known for providing food parcels but also offers other types of emergency aid such as; household and nursery items.

Having worked alongside Maureen in the summer of 2013, I found her presence and speech very meaningful and moving. She spoke about her work but also the responsibility we have to consider the lives of others and our contribution to society. That we should be mindful of our judgements of others, we cannot know what has led them down that particular path and there is no reason why we should not treat everyone with respect.

Maureen has achieved a lot in her lifetime, although perhaps not in a way that others would judge as so. Her achievement has been based in helping others through fostering and her charity work. Maureen is someone I admire and aspire to be like, her caring nature, motivation, dedication and passion.

Graduates were then asked stand, row by row and line up by the stage, wait for their name to called, walk across the stage and receive their degree. This is the part of the ceremony I have been dreading and was extremely nervous about. I am not someone who likes to be up on stage or pulled out from a crowd. I was also very anxious about walking across the stage without tripping in my heels.

I managed the walk without tripping! After the walk my nervousness dissolved and I was free to enjoy the rest of the day. When the ceremony concluded the graduates were asked to file out onto the front steps of the Town Hall for our official class photo. Walking out through the wide open doors I saw the rest of my family ready and waiting. My parents and sister had guest tickets so were present during the ceremony.

Seeing the faces of my family members light up filled me with happiness and pride. The day was made special for me by the presence of my family. Without them it would not have been the same. I am aware how lucky I am that so many family members could make my special day and for that I am grateful.

After a few more photographs we headed to a local restaurant for a family meal and cake!

 
Have you graduated?
How did you celebrate?
If you haven't reached graduation yet, keep going it's worth all the hard work and it's never too late!

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Making The Effort: Promises to Myself

This week has been a tough one. Usually making the effort to maintain relationships with family and friends is something I am quite good at. Making the effort to do things that will enhance my wellbeing is an area of weakness. The impact of this has been very clear this week. I have felt tired and run down and have had  sore throat and head cold that has not only made me feel pretty rubbish and sorry for myself it has also had an impact on my enthusiasm and communication with my friends. I have sometimes left messages unanswered for days and have retreated into myself. I feel that I have allowed myself to slip into a viscous cycle of being unhealthy, feeling lethargic and needing to rest. I then don't feel as though I have the energy to do the healthy things that will help me to feel better.

Image from Pinterest
Lets start small. I do not think that I can change how much time I spend at work, as things need to get done. I did make myself a promise when I started that if I needed to work late, it would only be on a certain day so that it was contained. This has not happened, often I find I am still at my desk at 6pm, sometimes I will get home and think 'oh I'll just write and send that email', or 'I'll just write up that visit'.

Promise 1: to leave work on time at 5.30 between 3-4 times a week

Sometimes I get home and feel the need to reflect on the day or a visit. I often use my reflective log as a therapeutic tool, to write down and sort through my worries. It can also aid my development by thinking about how I could do differently in the future and how I could move forward with an issue. This I feel is a positive use of my time, although preferably there would be enough time to do this at the end of my work day before arriving home.

Sometimes my reflective log helps but I still can't completely switch off from work, thinking about things I haven't managed to complete that day and my ever expanding to do list for the next day.

Promise 2: to listen to a short mindfulness meditation video as soon as possible after arriving home or after some reflection and be grateful (write a gratitude list)

Healthy eating and nutrition is another area where I lack considerably. Again, I started to do a regular weekly food shop and planned my meals for the week, meat, veg and pasta. This was not only for my evening meals but my packed lunches as well. The main reason why I slip up with my food shopping and meal preparation is due to leaving work late and wanting time to relax instead of doing chores.

Promise 3: take daily multi-vitamins, do a weekly meal plan and food shop

Using my time effectively is important when there isn't much of it spare. During the 30 minutes or so that my dinner is cooking I can study; read articles or books that relating to my job or listen to inspiring and informative podcasts or TED talks. I could also use this time to exercise, I have a cross trainer residing in my spare bedroom, a dusty workout dvd or a wide range of videos I can access through YouTube. I have no good excuses not to do something.

Promise 4: to use my time wisely; read, listen, exercise

Promise 5: do something fun once in a while

One a day to day basis I enjoy some time to slob on the sofa and watch crime dramas having cuddles with my two cats and reading before bed. In recent weeks a friend and I have also been trying our very best to get to a local Zumba class on a Tuesday evening (if work permits). Sometimes I actually enjoy the class more if we have missed a week because I generally forget how much fun a class can be. The music is often upbeat and energetic and going with a friend allows me to feel comfortable to let go and have some fun.

While browsing Pinterest for some images to accompany this post I came across a self care 30 day challenge. I love this idea and am going to incorporate some of the ideas suggested alongside my own promises for 30 days and see how I feel at the end of it. The hashtag associated with the challenge is #loveyourself

How do you practice self care and self love?
If you want to join me or have taken part in the 30 day challenge before I would really like to know how you found it

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Dilemma: How do I do it all?

I managed to catch a glimpse of a blogger chat, I think it was during the week but could have been the week before, about the types of posts people enjoy reading. One of my favourites is lifestyle posts sharing exercise routines, clean living and TED talks. These posts inspire me to live better, healthier. I definitely think this is something I need to work harder on, especially in the area I have decided to work with its high rate of burnout.

I am currently working on my home/work balance because currently it is pretty unbalanced, with me spending too much time at work, thinking or worrying about it. There are a number of reasons for this; I am reasonably new to the role (coming up to 4 months already!), I am still learning and finding my feet, although my workload is protected it still feels pretty busy with deadlines that need to met and the biggest issues of them all are that I always want to do well and make a good impression as well as being a worrier. Being a worrier does not help when it comes to leaving work at work at the end of every day. In recent weeks, I have also struggled to leave work at work over the weekend which has meant that I haven't really given myself any time off to unwind and relax.

I have been thinking about things that could improve the quality of my home life;

  • eating healthy meals 
  • exercise 
  • mindfulness and meditation
  • doing things I enjoy (watching tv, reading, drinking coffee, taking photographs, blog reading and writing, going to the cinema, volunteering)
  • having time to myself 
  • spending time with friends and family 
  • keeping my home clean and tidy 
  • working on diy projects (at the moment my stairs and upstairs landing
This is the bit I have yet to figure out, how do I do it all? 

I am usually quite an organised person and like everything to be planned. But I have found that as I need to be so organised while at work (well I try my best to be) that I now feel that I need some unplanned time in my home life. I don't want a to do list when I get home, it seems that this even applies to things that I like doing as well as those I'm not as keen on such as cleaning. 

Image from Pinterest
I would be grateful for any ideas on how I can create a healthier work/home life balance 

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Autumn

I have seen quite a lot of posts about the arrival of Autumn. There is something I love about each of the seasons however, I do not think any are as pretty as this one. I often visit people as part of my job and to get to many of them I drive along roads that wind in and around a forest. This time of year the leaves on the trees are turning, or have turned, from green to the beautiful warm colours of a burning fire, yellows, oranges and reds. 


Other signs that Autumn has arrived 

The duvet is back on my bed and the blankets that are thrown over the arms of my sofa have been used to snuggle up in 


Candles are lit quite often in my house but I love darker evenings when you can see their glow 

There is now a Starbucks in my local cinema, I went with a friend Friday nigh to see Miss You Already (so sad!) and love the themed take away cups. 

I have been stocking up on pies and soups on my weekly food shops 



Other reasons I love Autumn 

Chunky scarves 

Thick, cosy jumpers 

Being able to hibernate in the evenings and weekends 

Firework displays 


I can continue to enjoy flavoured coffee, do I risk trying the Spiced Pumpkin latte? I don't want to purchase a coffee and then be disappointed because I don't like it. 

I have also decided to start a new diy project, re-decorating my stairs and landing. The time of year means that it isn't too hot and not too cold to make some changes. Yesterday I ripped up my old carpet and now have to sand the wooden floor and hopefully re-paint it. 

Images from Pinterest


Sunday, 27 September 2015

Searching for a Cause to Support: The Reasons Why


As I like to plan and have something to work on I thought I would take a look through my 30 before 30 list and see what I could make a start on. Something I enjoy and that is important to me is supporting charitable work. This has taken a bit of a back seat in the last few years as other things have had to be a priority. Things such as supporting my Mum to care for my Grandad, university work and my student placements.

Now that I have finished university and am beginning to settle into my new job (although I still have moments of panic and feeling that I don't know what I'm doing), I am thinking about my time outside of work and how I want to fill it. I still help support my Mum and Grandad but this is now more likely to be over the weekend so that my parents can have some time together away from their caring responsibilities. I have noticed that if I don't have plans for my evenings I am not strict with myself about leaving work on time and can stay until 6pm or later, by the time I get home my evening appears to disappear in a blur of tv.

In my 30 before 30 list I have said that I would like to do some volunteering and support a cause. I think these two things can be the same as well as being different. Obviously by volunteering for an organisation you are supporting their cause but I would also like to be involved in campaigning for a cause and support change in policy and legislation. I enjoy volunteering because I see this more as working with the individuals you are supporting, although this does not always have to be the case.

Some people ask me why I give to charity, either financially or through volunteering.

The simple answer is that I want to make a difference.

However, is it really that simple?

Volunteering as well as my paid job gives purpose to my life, what I do is part of my identity, part of who I am. The part of me that is the type of person I want to be (there are other areas of myself that I want to work on). It  makes me feel worthwhile.

Being involved in supporting charitable work has also given me a lot of other things too. It helps and reminds me to be appreciative of my life, to value what and who I have rather than focusing on what I don't. Volunteering has aided my understanding and challenged my perspective on a number of issues such as addiction and homelessness and allowed me to grow as a person. My 30 before 30 also included meeting new people and making more friends, volunteering is a good opportunity for this.

Other reasons to volunteer

Health benefits: a study by United Healthcare found that 94% of people who volunteered in the last 12 months say that volunteering improves their mood, 96% says volunteering enriches their sense of purpose in life, 78% says that volunteering lowers their stress levels*

Employment: the study above also found that 49% of people said that volunteering has helped with their career in the paid job market and 87% felt that it had developed their people and teamwork skills. I think that you can also learn about an area of work through volunteering and gain valuable experience and understanding before applying for a paid position. It can also allow you the time to see whether the role is for you or not.

Have you volunteered before? What were your experiences?

Images from Pinterest

*study included in picture found on Pinterest. Full study at unitedhealthgroup.com/SR

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Turning Twenty Five

As you can probably guess from the post title, I turned twenty five this week. For some reason I feel that twenty five is an important birthday, much the same as a persons eighteenth, twenty first or thirtieth. Is it because it's half way to fifty? That to me is a scary thought because these twenty five years have past so quickly.

Images from Pinterest
I also think it's a great time to reflect, now mid twenties, if there is something you are not happy with or somewhere else you would like to be by the time you are thirty, you can start making changes now. I recently watched a TED talk by Meg Jay, she spoke about using your twenties wisely, to experiment and learn in a productive way, to gain valuable experiences. When I was watching and listening I thought that I had done quite well, I have gained different experiences through paid and voluntary work, university and travel (holidays with friends and family any my little solo road trip not a few months or years travelling around the world). Then I stopped and thought, I'm only twenty five what now? I still have another five years of being in my twenties and as we are always told, we are always learning.

I decided to have a look at a few 'what you should know by the time you're 25', '25 things to do before you turn 25' and '30 before 30' posts to help me reflect on what I had achieved and give me some inspiration on what I could still work on.


So here's my Thirty Before Thirty

1. Study, get a degree and graduate
2. Find a hobby, one that I will enjoy and stick with
3. Make new friends
4. Be healthier
5. Do some charity/volunteer work

6. Do something that scares me
7. Travel to Africa
8. Take a trip to Budapest
9. Take a trip to Scotland
10. Live in a different county or county for a year

11. Travel alone
12. Travel with friends
13. Travel with a group of people I do not know
14. Watch more documentaries, learn more about people and places
15. Get involved and be part of a campaign. Support a cause

16. Learn how to take good photographs
17. Make a short video
18. Be more creative
19. Do a piece of research
20. Read a 'classic' novel

21. Find a faith
22. Meditate
23. Practice yoga
24. Be kinder to myself
25. Be kinder to others

26. Be more spontaneous
27. Be aware of and value the little every day moments
28. Enjoy life's simple pleasures
29. Sleep under the stars
30. Go on a retreat

Sunday, 6 September 2015

A Birthday Treat: Afternoon Tea in Aldeburgh

I spent this afternoon with two of my closest friends celebrating my birthday. My birthday isn't for another week but due to my friends shift patterns this was closest date we could find. We arranged to meet in Aldeburgh at 1pm in the car park near the Scallop sculpture.

Image from Google
We were really lucky with the weather, the sun was out and I felt it was warm enough to wear jeans and a floral shirt. We arranged to meet an hour and a half before our afternoon tea was booked to have time to wander around. We walked along the promenade to the other side of the town, the beach is scattered with wooden huts selling freshly caught fish and boats. The beach was also populated with individuals savouring the popular fish and chips.


On our way back towards the White Lion, where we were to sit and enjoy our afternoon tea, we chose to walk through the town and do a little window shopping. Aldeburgh has a mix of branded and independent shops, cafes and restaurants and the cutest buildings! It's a place that I would love to go back to and take lots of photos.

When we arrived at the White Lion, we were greeted at the door and asked whether we would prefer to sit on the sofas or in the main restaurant. We initially chose the sofas but soon realised that they would not be very easy to eat at. The staff were very friendly and accommodating and allowed us to change our minds and find a new place to sit. We were served tea and coffee a short while before the food. After the drinks were poured it was time to open presents. I really value the gifts I receive from friends and family, especially the thought that has gone into what they choose. This year was no different.

And then the food was served...


Photo borrowed from C
The sandwich fillings included; tuna, egg, cheese and pickle and ham. They could be described as simple fillings but that's fine by me and I like them all.

The sweet treats included; fruit scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam, chocolate and nut brownies, cookies, meringue and rose flavoured marshmallows.

It was a lovely afternoon catching up with my friends, eating good food and drinking too much tea and coffee. We all left feeling very full! The short walk back to the car was needed before we all headed home