The Importance of Giving

Christmas is a time that holds different meanings and importance to people.  Whether its focus is religion, family, getting drunk, having time off work, or a time to break that diet, I think there is one part of Christmas that is part of everyone’s: giving. 


Now, this can be interpreted different ways. One of my favourite parts of Christmas is buying the perfect present for friends and family.  In return, they give me (hopefully!) that amazing reaction of surprise and joy.  Of course, I’m not saying I don’t like receiving gifts (who doesn’t?) I thoroughly enjoy that part of the giving too.  Again,I hope that I give pleasure in my reaction.  The gift exchange isn’t about money spent, but that joy of giving someone something to make them happy.  

Of course Christmas isn’t all about gifts. But I believe this theme of “giving” runs throughout.  We give people happiness; we give people food (more happiness in my opinion!); we give people our time; we may give to charity; we give people our thoughts – through a Christmas card perhaps.  Additionally, we all know the art of compromise at this time off year.  So, “giving in” a little may be on the cards too. 

Naturally, no Christmas or family is perfect, so we may “give” people a piece of our mind too! Finally, it’s vital that you give to yourself.  Whether that’s peace and quiet, time with friends, time to read, or just do what you want to do.   

Have a lovely Christmas of giving!

 

Open your eyes to dining in the dark…


Sometimes you have to open your eyes to new experiences. Or, in this case, close them. Well, just not be able to see out of them. For a three-course meal. Whilst making new friends. Sound intriguing?

My friend Cleo, (blogger of soundmindtravel.com) went to Dans Le Noir (translation: In The Dark) restaurant in London a while ago and fully recommended the experience. And I do too. It’s a case of experiencing it yourself to fully understand it… but I’ll try and describe it anyway…

Strolling along to restaurant, we tried to act cool about the whole experience. Yet, seconds earlier, I had concerns that it wasn’t even open! Black-out curtains mask the windows, you see. Giving the place, a complete mysterious tone immediately. The entrance area does have light, luckily. We met the host, who explained how the evening would work and chose our food before entering the restaurant. I opted for a complete White, Blind Menu; my husband, a Red, Blind, Meat menu. So yes, not only could we not see what we were eating, but we weren’t going to know what we were eating either.

It was the small – normally insignificant – parts of the evening that were surprisingly difficult to me.  Could walking into a restaurant and sitting down be difficult? It’s something you’d do whilst chatting, laughing, turning around to your dining companion, gazing at other diners even. This time, however, I had my hand on a blind waiter’s shoulder and my husband followed, with his hand on my shoulder, and we shuffled along in a “follow the leader” fashion.

We were taken to a shared table with one other couple, and a male dining alone. As the blind waiter, guided us to our exact seats, the three individuals greeted us and started to chatter and welcome us to the meal. I felt so overwhelmed at that point. I was trying to listen to them, reply appropriately – all whilst trying to pull my seat out, sit down and locate the items on the table: cutlery, wine glass, serviette etc. In the dark, this all felt incredibly difficult.

You couldn’t see anything. Not even a faint outline of people? You may ask. No… not a single shadow. Couldn’t you use your phone as a light? Well, no – because we had locked all belongings away in the entrance area. I can’t stress enough how dark it was. It was pitch, midnight, inky black. Much darker than I had predicted… even after reading my friend’s review.

Talking to strangers and trying to get to know them without seeing them, is the oddest thing. It becomes all about their voice and their words. We played some silly truth or lie games and got each other to describe their partner’s physical appearance. We spoke to the couple for almost an hour, then they left (they were at a later stage of the meal to us). And it was shocking to think, that we could see that couple anywhere on the street and we would have no idea it was them!

The actual eating was a challenge. My starter was quite straight forward – I managed to use my knife and fork and find the food on the plate quite easily! Simply, because, being a starter, there wasn’t much of it. The main was a little trickier. I had a ‘Mickey Mouse’ plate where each food item was in a different section. This enabled me to tell the difference between each food product on the plate, but it made it harder to use the cutlery. Plus, I kept finding sections of the plate untouched! For this reason, my husband and I both resorted to using our hands like toddlers.  Yes, it was disgusting and animalistic, but it was the only way to ensure we ate everything. The plus side, of course, was no one could see!

Interestingly, the male diner on our table was a novelist writing a book about someone with heightened senses.  He told us that he ate at the restaurant regularly for research. Naturally, I was fascinated by this conversation and he was the one who initiated the ‘truth and lie’ games, as he seemed to pick up interesting ways to get to know people in the dark! Furthermore, we got to meet him at the end of the meal and had a drink with him in the bar.  I was so confident it was him, simply due to his voice.  I went over and flashed my grey-painted nails at him (a truth from the game) and we laughed about the fact that my husband didn’t have black hair (a clear lie).

The bar area was fantastic and experimented with the importance of other senses too. There was a silent disco and sign language booklets to help you order cocktails.  Plus, they gave us colour photograph menus, so we could see what we ate.  I guessed most right apart from the meat.  I want to keep the secret of the blind menu.. but my “beef”was something a little more obscure!

In all seriousness, this experience was really inspiring.  Those waiters – and all blind and visually-impaired people – have such huge obstacles to overcome every day.  And they do it.  It’s important to appreciate something that we take for granted.  I was impressed with myself that meal for pouring a glass of water! It’s nothing compared to some people’s daily life.  But they don’t want pity; they want understanding. And you can understand… even if it’s just for the time it takes you to eat a meal. The restaurant keep many blind and visually-impaired people in employment and links with many charities too.

I urge you to go and “not see” for yourself: it will truly open your eyes!

 

Written in the stars?

Can our star sign be something to believe in- like religion or ghosts? Can it help us to understand who we are? Even without hard evidence, surely, it can be an area of interest?

A typical Scorpio is described as the following:

  • Dark and mysterious
  • Complicated
  • Likes to feel in control
  • Assertive 
  • Confident
  • Emotional
  • Demanding, unreasonable, unforgiving  (when in a bad mood, may I add!)
  • Possessive and jealous
  • Loyal
  • Over-thinker 
  • Truthful
  • Passionate 
  • Honest

I am all of those things at some time or another.  All those traits fit with my personality.  So does that mean that I slot perfectly into that 1/12 of the astrological pie- between October 23rd-November 21st? Does it mean that everyone born between those dates has the same personality as myself? Of course not.  I’m not deluded enough to think that every person born in early November has the the exact same traits as me…nor would I want them too. I was actually meant to be born 3 weeks later (incidentally, my best friend was born on the date I was due… do we have some kind of cosmic link?) So I would have been a Sagittarius. But no, I’m slap bang in the middle of Scorpio. People may think I’m crazy, but I do think it means something.  I choose to believe that it was meant to be: that I was born on November 9th, resulting in being a Scorpio. 

Another question is why do I like to believe I’m a typical Scorpio? I guess we all like to think we have something daring and different about us.  Scorpios are described as the sign with a sting in their tail: people who are emotional, people who care, but also people who are confident and intimidating. All these attributes give our personality depth, which we all love to believe we have.  Notice too, from the traits at the beginning, I’ve included negative traits as well as positive.  What’s the harm in believing I’m a typical Scorpio? 

Scorpios are also described as quiet and secretive – those traits don’t fit with who I am, you’re thinking.  But in certain contexts they do.  I enjoy being quiet and alone- and there are certain things (believe it or not) that I don’t tell anyone.  “Introverts who socialise like extroverts,” is a quote, again, associated with Scorpios. (Remember my previous blog about this subject? Introverted Extrovert this Christmas.. take a look). I strongly believe that is me.  

As a teenager, I was deeply into astrology. I had all the books (shocking, I know!), read my horoscope, had a personalised horoscope etc.  You have to be careful that they don’t become didactic and influence your life too much, though.  Any horoscope- personalised or from a daily newspaper- can be manipulated to be true to you, if you choose.  Don’t fall into the blackhole trap of living your life by them.  The “predictions” could fit with anyone’s day and life, quite frankly- let alone just any Scorpio. So, for me, personally: star signs/ when we’re born/ our personality traits: fascinating.  Horoscopes: dangerous and unbelievable.

To summarise, I’m trying to say that star signs can just be an area of interest and help us to understand ourselves a little more.  Whereas, I’m not comparing them to religion and ghosts in in terms of substance and importance in people’s lives, I’m just linking them in the way that they are also areas people choose to believe in without hard, scientific evidence too. 

If an area interests us and helps us in some way, and as result, makes us happy, what’s the harm? 

                             xsxs

Reason, Season, or Lifetime…

People come into our life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime – but can we always tell which one? Why do certain people come into our lives? How can we make sure we have the right people in our circle?

I love meeting new people, making friends, and keeping and maintaining friendships. However, we can’t just keep expanding our social circle; the bigger circles get, the less manageable they are. If you are standing in a massive, wide circle, you can’t make eye contact with everyone – some people are too far away. A large circle is fragile and prone to breaking away. And do we even need it anyway? A smaller circle is tighter, more protective of you: it can wrap around you like a hug.

The trick is deciding who makes it into this special group circle.  With time being so precious in our busy, modern lives, we have to prioritise. We have no control over the people we meet of course, but we have the ability to make the effort for those we want to keep in our lives.  Common analogy, but friendship is like a plant: we water daily, feed it, trim off the horrible bits – but the plant still has to respond to this. The other person has to do their bit too – or nothing will grow. A friendship cannot survive without input on both sides. Or any kind of relationship for that matter.

I have lost some friendships and relationships with family members over the last few years. I can firmly and confidently say this is not down to me not making an effort. To start with anyway – I will make effort, until the other person doesn’t. Some of these relationships have naturally drifted apart because of changes in lives. Some have ended because they were toxic. Some people have left my life because they did something unforgivable. It’s all part of life. But one thing I have learnt – I will get in touch with people, arrange to see people, message people- –  but only for so long. If it doesn’t get returned, I back off.

Additionally, I used to get a bit upset if I couldn’t connect with someone; if we didn’t get along. I have struggled throughout life with this – if someone doesn’t like me. But I’m learning to accept that it is absolutely fine: not everyone is meant to get on. You can’t be friends with everyone (a constant mantra to myself!) You can be the reddest, juiciest apple – but some people will prefer oranges. Of course, this means the circle that I do have is all the more valuable.

So why would people come into our life for a reason? I think sometimes we meet people to teach us something. Alternatively, we are meant to teach them something. We all meet people who we dislike too – and this is again a reason. We learn something about ourselves and relationships, and we can all move on.

Furthermore, a season can be any length of time throughout our lives: childhood, University, work etc. Some people will join mid-season and can completely enrich our lives for a Spring, Summer, Autumn or Winter. They may move on  – and you will too – but they were an important part of that section of your life.

I became friendly and thoroughly enjoyed the company of a lot of people throughout the planning of my sister’s wedding.  ‘Sentimental me’ feels a little sad that I won’t see these people as often now – they are my sister’s friends or brother-in-law’s family. My husband jokes that we barely have time to see the people we already want to – but does that stop me trying to continue some of these friendships? Equally, I have some fantastic, fun colleagues at the moment  – a lot are leaving in the Summer (how it tends to happen when you work in a school, sadly) and again, I can’t imagine not seeing them again.  Not always realistic, but some of the “season” people can be upgraded to the “lifetime” circle. It’s all what’s meant to be – with effort on both parts too of course 😉

Finally, it kind of goes without saying, but those who make it to the “lifetime” circle are the ones who evolve with you, help you to become the person you need to be (and vice versa), and are there for the full journey: from seed to full growth.

Your life needs people from all these three categories though – just make sure you don’t let the really special ones go: invite them into your circle – and if they are truly special, they won’t want to leave it.

XSXS

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The Most Important Thing…

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My sister got married on Friday.  She and my brother-in-law to be had asked me to write some words for the ceremony. Naturally,  I was honoured – and also a little nervous. I’m fine with public speaking, but when you are reading aloud your own words in such an emotionally-heightened situation like a family wedding, it can be daunting. For me, it was mainly the fact that I needed to make it through without crying (too much!) and to do my words – and the bride and groom –  justice. Luckily, it went well. I got tears and laughter in the right places (always a bonus!)

The Most Important Thing…

Within this beautiful setting of a luxurious wedding of classy dress, exciting atmosphere and immaculate décor, it’s easy to forget the most important component of all: the love story underneath it. As much as the outward appearance of today will add to our experience, and will be highlighted in the photographs and videos for years to come, love is the most exceptional part of today, but it cannot be seen. However, love has an empowering feeling that will stay with us for the whole of the day – and the following days and weeks and years to come.

No matter how it is dressed up, love is the same. Love is timeless. Love is everything. Love is what we all live for – and aim for.

Life will have golden days and black, dark days, but love is the one thing that keeps us all going in each of our chapters, until we reach the end of the story. To have found a person to express that love to – and to spend your life with, is an achievement in which you should both feel very lucky.

Emily has found in Patrick, a partner for life. He is a brilliant man – loyal, supportive, understanding and funny – and most importantly, for a husband of my sister: patient!  Patrick is also incredibly lucky with his choice of wife. Emily is his best friend: caring without limits, tender, loving and oh so funny – sometimes without meaning to be! I have been blessed with her as a sister for almost 27 years now  – so I know he’ll be truly blessed to have her as a wife for his happy ever after. He just needs to keep a good stock of gin 😉

Like any good love story, there will be dramatic moments, sad parts and some interesting, lively characters. But if you focus on each other and the love and respect you have, then you will have the greatest love story and marriage of all.  

Congratulations to my sister and new brother-in-law. Our tiny family is growing!

XSXS

Friendship has no age

Tomorrow, I am attending a funeral of a special friend.  That’s what I’ve told people and they have reacted with horror and sadness….even more so because they’ve assumed it was a peer. 
No.  He was almost 85 and, of course it is still awfully sad and upsetting, but I do comprehend people’s reaction.  Of course, it’s less shocking for a man of 85 to die suddenly.  But it in terms of friendship, it is no less important. 

I’ve thought about this for a while.  Originally, when I started visiting my friend at his care home, I used to call him my “neighbour” or more specifically “my neighbor’s brother” or “a man I volunteered to visit”. Could I also call him a grandad figure? I could…but, no.  That’s not needed.  He was pure and simply someone I was close to: a friend.  

Friendship can occur between any two individuals. You can be as close to someone ten years younger than you, as you can twenty years older than you.  I’m learning this more and more as I get older.  Some of the colleagues I get on best with are in their fifties. Or, equally in their twenties. Frequently, I’ve met people who were the same year at school as I was….. we are the same age; we know similar people.  But we didn’t click.  It takes more than age to create a bond with someone…. interests, morals, sense of humour are more vital than the year you were born. Friendship has no age or barriers. 

So tomorrow, I say goodbye to a friend whom I laughed with.  A friend whom I had tea and cake with.  A friend I looked at photographs with.  

A friend.  

Are You Successful?

What makes a person a success? Why does society view success in such a limited way? What is the key to true success?

This blog topic has needed more research and a longer thought-process than most. Partly, to understand the notion of what people think success is; partly to find a way to write about people’s real-life situations in a way that highlights various examples of success. This blog post is not belittling anyone’s success or life choices, just in case you do recognise a real-life example. I’m just exploring the many options that there are to success.

Imagine a successful person. What do you envisage? You would not be alone if you pictured someone in a smart, formal business-suit rushing to catch a plane, in order to complete an important job role in their busy and high-flying career. Society teaches us to think about success in this way: career, wealth and travel. If you manage those, you are successful to the world, apparently. And in many cases, this is true. But let’s open that brief case and delve a little deeper to what makes a person truly successful at life.

I’ve noticed the term “successful” be thrown around my various family and friendship groups lately – a bit like a pass-the-parcel. People are keen to pass this term “success” on to other people, but are so reluctant to keep it to apply to themselves. When, really, we all want to open that pass-the-parcel: we all want to be successful. One example at a party recently, was a comment “she’s the most successful out of all of us,” the reason being that the girl in question was a few years younger than the rest of us, and had climbed the career ladder quite high for a tender adult age. And good for her! She clearly wanted to achieve that job role and job satisfaction by that age and has accomplished it. But when did success become just about your career or job?

Many people believe that success is the key to happiness. You need to achieve great things – get that job; bring home the money; buy the house. This helps to be happy.  But what if I said happiness is the key to success? This is what I firmly believe and I will explain why… If you are truly happy with your “lot in life” whatever that may. If you have learnt from your mistakes; got a job that makes you happy; stood by your decisions and you are truly happy as a result, then I think you’re pretty damn successful.

My Dad is another example (I hope he won’t mind me mentioning him here). As he nears retirement age, he occasionally complains that he wishes he had learnt a trade, worked for himself or simply attained more of a career. Now my Dad has always worked hard  – a true grafter. He has worked his whole life, bringing home money to support his wife and two daughters. He has now paid his mortgage off and he and my Mum can now enjoy holidays whenever they like. More importantly, he was able to be a loving, dedicated husband and father who has been around for us all. If he had learnt a trade would he be any happier? Would his family? Maybe he’s have slightly more job satisfaction , but longer hours and more stress perhaps. I think my Dad’s successful at life  – and I hope he will read this when he has his next moan!

A lot of my friends have achieved jobs and moved to various big cities – or countries – as a result. They have flown the nest and gone off to be successful in the “big city”. If that is what they choose to do and want to do, then that is fabulous. What I find interesting is that a few of them have confided that they feel they couldn’t return to our small home town, as they would feel unsuccessful as a result. To me, if you are unhappy in the big city earning the big bucks (and I am by no measure, saying they are) and you want to get a different job and return closer to friends and family – and are happy as  a result of that, then that’s true success to me. It’s not about returning with your tail between your legs, it’s about making the decision to be true to yourself and doing it. Experience things and learn from it. Again, I am not assuming that people can’t be happy in addition to a high flying job in a strange city – I know not everyone is like me 😉 I’m pointing out that it’s also a success to admit that you would rather have something else in life.

Society may view me as unsuccessful. I have a below average salary that doesn’t reflect my age or education, and I still live in my small, non-eventful hometown. However, I think I am successful. There, I’ve caught the pass-the-parcel and happy to admit that I think this. I have a job that I adore and gives me job satisfaction every day (most days!) and that has led me to have small business of my own on the side. I live in my hometown because, you know what? I like it here. It’s home. And in addition to my English degree, university taught me something more important: I am a home bird. I like to live within walking distance from my friends and family. I love to travel and go on holiday, BUT my town and roots are important to me – more important than any job or any amounts of money.

Other people may view success differently and I think that’s the point. We need to define what success means to us and put it into practice. If we are doing what makes us happy in this short life, then we are making a success of it.

XSXS

 

Everyone has baggage…

Do the things we carry with us make us who we are? Do they define us? Can physical baggage change how we feel emotionally?

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I’ve just returned from one of the best holidays I’ve ever been on: a trip to Malta for my friends’ wedding. The joy didn’t arrive on the plane with us, however. Neither did my luggage! But let’s just rewind some hours previous to this…

The journey to the airport was the most stressful I’ve ever encountered. We’d already spent hours (it seemed!) discussing a suitable departure time from home, in order to get to the airport in time. I already felt I was carrying a lot of tension as baggage – as well as my large holdall. We went quite early in the end, especially since the online check-in had said there wasn’t enough seats on the plane for our party of 8 to check-in. “It’ll just be that the website’s down!” we exclaimed. “All will be fine,” we repeated, as the British do when there is no cup of tea to soothe the situation.

Additionally to this, the 2 hour drive to the airport took 4 hours due to an accident on the motorway. We had little time to check in when we finally arrived – we were the last ones. The earlier check-in warning was correct – 2 of our party had to go on a different flight. So already, we’d lost some of our friend baggage.  A quick diversion to Brussels and 400 Euros payment sweetened this for them though! My husband and I checked in our baggage – if only I’d known that my bag wasn’t going to Malta any time soon.

After check-in, I normally get that first sigh of relief – you are physically free of luggage and just have yourselves to worry about. Not this time though. We sped to security and, although our friends got through swiftly with ease, we were ages. Firstly, I got “beeped” by the metal detectors and had to have this body scan thing. I also had to wait for my turn, due to a teenage girl having a sobbing fit. Seriously could we not catch a break? She was crying because she thought she was going to get arrested I think. Don’t wear the shiny necklace and bomb shaped shoes then love!  (Okay the shoes are a joke – and I also have no idea why I get beeped every time. I must have metal in my blood or something!) I finally walked out and realised hubby was still not done. Why you ask? Oh he’d forgotten that you can’t put liquids into your hand luggage. Even though a few moments before I’d said to him “Does my Vaseline need a plastic bag you think – is it a liquid?” This still didn’t prompt him to remember that his whole toiletry bag was in his bag. Honestly, men!

So a little lighter of baggage once again (toothpaste, sun cream and after-sun to be precise) we went to the gate. No duty free shopping today, ironically the one time we’d needed to buy sun lotion too! We rushed to the gate and our friends exclaimed that my row had been called  – so off I went to board the plane. Checking in late also meant I had to sit alone, but I think I needed it. 3 hour flight + a book + a glass of wine and some Pringles = a much more relaxed Sammy. The tension had parachuted away.

Once at baggage retrieval, I was now truly ready to start the holiday. There had only been about 200 people on the flight, so the luggage whirred around the conveyor belt quickly – people grabbing, pulling and sliding their belongings off. Then nothing. No more bags. I knew, with the theme of the trip so far that mine hadn’t made it. Turns out, it was still in Heathrow and it would be with me the next morning.

Being an organised individual, I had a bikini, two pairs of pants and a pull-on beach dress in my hand luggage. (Oh and my husband and I didn’t mix our clothes up, because we were staying in different apartments: girls and boys.) Yet, I had no deodorant, toothbrush or anything to go out in that evening. I felt a little sad – and then I felt guilt. Why did I have the right to feel sad about material objects? Some people had nothing. Yes, we were also two of our party down, but we were all alive and well. This trip was only 4 days  long and I couldn’t afford to waste one by being depressed about by lack of clothing and toiletries. My new outfit to try on was one of freedom and invigoration. Plus I didn’t have to lug my bag into the taxi or up to our 5th floor apartment! Silver linings and all that.

I’ve never thought of myself as materialistic and I also believe certain things happen to try us and test us. It was freeing to think I literally had what was on my back (and the couple of items I mentioned above). I thoroughly enjoyed my afternoon at the beach – everyone has the same baggage there don’t they? Bikini, towel and some sun lotion (borrowed by a friend!) and you’re set. I must  admit I had a little wobble just before we got ready to go out though. Reception said they didn’t have a toothbrush to give me and I didn’t have any of my essentials to get ready with: make-up, perfume, body lotion, jewelry etc. For the first time since University, I felt homesick. It was the same feeling – a yearning for home comforts. Like I said above, I am not materialistic as such. I don’t particularly have expensive brands of these things –  and I was hugely grateful for everything my friends lent me/gave me – but those things are what make you “you”. We went out, had fun and cocktails – I looked alright I had to admit, my beach dress and bra combo along with borrowed jeweled flat shoes, a friend having done my make-up, a borrowed necklace and my travel bag as a handbag – but I felt like a slightly different version of “me”. I truly appreciated friendship in that hour we got ready though. As I say, I feel it was a test and it has definitely made me appreciate things that we take for granted.

The next morning at 8am, I got straight up, bunged the same beach dress on and inquired about my case. They had said at the airport that it would arrive in Malta at 1am.  The man on reception said that with his 30 years’ experience, he had noticed that the airline normally lie about the arrival and it would more likely be that evening. I was done at playing Lord of the Flies by this point and just wanted my stuff. So, another day out in the same shorts and top and bikini. Maybe, I’d lose friends too, due to my growing stench! We also joked that I could have photos taken in various spots in the same outfit. Furthermore, I was starting to worry that I’d be going to my friends’ wedding in my beach dress at this rate!

After breakfast, we returned to the room for money so that I could go out and buy a tooth brush, some pants and my sanity… when I almost tripped over a case. First thoughts of messy, untidy room-mates popped in my mind – then I recognized the white (well not so white any more – this is also the same case that I left in Newquay 5 years ago! It has had more adventures than me!) splashed with multi-coloured patterns. My case was here! Ridiculously, we all cheered! Because it was so much earlier and unexpected, it made it even more special! I had a sudden urge to get changed every hour  – just to make each and every item of clothing truly appreciated and valued! All after brushing my teeth of course 😉

So, I think we all have baggage. We all have “stuff” that make us who we are. Whether it is clothes and shoes; mobile phones; ipads; books; cuddly toys. They aren’t what’s important of course and they don’t make life more meaningful. My holiday was still fantastic with the stressful start. But they do help us to be who we are; survive the day-to-day; be the best version of ourselves. But I do recommend going without for a bit, to make you truly appreciate them. It is true that you don’t really appreciate something until it’s gone.

I rest my case 😉 …

XSXS

 

Return of the blogger…

It’s a Saturday evening. I’m home alone…a cosy night in with myself, whilst my hubby is at a mate’s house having a lads’ night watching the footy. I love being alone at times, but there’s still that nagging feeling that it is wrong and a little sad to have no plans on a Saturday night. Part of me feels I should make plans, go and visit family or arrange to venture out and do something…anything. But there really is no need.

Firstly, Saturday is just another day like any other. My girl mates happen to be free tomorrow eve and are coming for dinner then. Plus, next Saturday I’m out for dinner with my other group of lovely girl mates. Any day is a great opportunity to connect with yourself and have some much needed “me” time.

Secondly, I think I really needed some time alone to discover the real me again. It has been a bit crazy lately. We have put our house up for sale, been viewing every suitable house in the area, whilst dealing with all the admin stuff that accompanys it.  This is in addition to my full time job, plus tutoring kids loads with the exam season starting. Additionally, there has been a lot of family issues going on and I tend to live with a daily guilt that I’m not doing enough; not seeing certain family members enough. It’s so easy to get lost in the jungle of daily life.

So I’m on my own. What do I do? I watch a drama on catch-up that I missed during my demanding week. Cooked myself a delicious curry that I particularly like. I drink my favourite wine and watch a film that I’ve watched dozens of time and still love. I shamelessly play a computer game that normally swallows up far too much of my previous time. I look up Pinterest ideas and find myself sucked into feminist posts and tattoo ideas and Buddhist quotes. Then, I remember “writing” and how I have done so little lately. The feeling of content creeps back and I have that much craved for thirst to write…in addition to the thirst for wine! Getting thoughts down soothes me and resets me. Hence, this blog.

Return of the blogger…

xsxs

 

Introverted Extrovert this Christmas

Society tries to categorise people into two personality types: extroverts and introverts. Extroverts, apparently, are loud, sociable creatures. Whereas, introverts are the shy, meek and mild ones. But then you have hobbies and interests, in addition to personality, that also determine which category. Do you like being quiet? Reading a good book? Enjoy chatting with a few select like-minded friends? Yes? You are considered to be an introvert. If sky-diving, quad-biking and skiing are more your bag, then you’re in the world of extroverts.

I’ve always been fascinated by these concepts of “introvert” and “extrovert” and was reminded of them by my latest Psychologies magazine. The article in question named ‘I’m dreaming of a quiet Xmas’ was telling extroverts to be aware of their introverted friends and relatives, who may be affected by too much socialising and extroverted focused events. Too much stimulation can overwhelm a quiet, introvert. I do understand this and it makes sense. But as someone with some introverted tendencies myself, I do not want extroverts to feel they have to behave differently around me. But being aware is always a useful thing, I guess. I found a previous quiz more helpful as it delved a little deeper. It looked at four different areas we fall into to identify our personality type. This is more realistic. But the focus on introverts struggling with the festive period bugged me a little. Firstly, Christmas isn’t all about partying. But just as much about having quite time by the Christmas tree with a great book or Christmas film. Winter nights of open fires, cosy cushions and carols – surely that is an introvert’s dream? I know it is for me. There is plenty going on at Christmas to satisfy all personality types.

Secondly, where as I obtain many introvert characteristics, I also have many extrovert features to my personality. The categories are too black and white – it needs to be more of a scale. I like to read silently; sit and reflect; take a relaxing bath. These things all stimulate me and make me happy. However, loud, alcohol-fuelled gatherings in busy, lively bars and crazy parties also stimulate me and make me happy. I’ll talk to anyone: large groups, strangers, acquaintances – plus act the fool in front of any of these! I am confident, sociable and loud (bordering on silly and annoying when I’ve had a few…) which I am aware on not usual introvert qualities, but more extrovert. Some could argue that it is the best of both worlds:  I go out and party and then have quiet time at home. Both can make me equally content.

I do have typical introvert moments when I feel over-stimulated. Sometimes, music can be on and it suddenly feels too loud and unbearable. It has to go off straight away for me to feel calm again. I also hate going out on Christmas Eve (which my very obviously “extrovert” husband cannot understand. I always have hated going out on Christmas Eve, so it isn’t an age thing. I don’t like being pushed and shoved in a busy pub and then having the punishment of a Christmas Day hangover. (Midnight Mass is also a ruled-out option… see https://samanthagray9.wordpress.com/2013/12/28/midnight-madness/)  I’m not boring – I love going out – just not on Christmas Eve. I like a quiet, chilled night sitting under my beautifully decorated tree and intricately wrapped presents, whilst  watching a Christmas film  and getting into the spirit (yes a little Baileys or vodka too!) in my own way. I look forward to crazy, excitement of Christmas Day, whilst relishing the contrast and magic of Christmas Eve.

So, I like to think of myself as an Introverted Extrovert. But after doing some more research on the subject. This included yet another personality quiz and its verdict was to place me exactly half way between an extrovert and an introvert and the new, coined term for this is Ambivert.   Makes sense, but I think I prefer my term of Introverted Extrovert , or I can switch to Extroverted Introvert, depending how far down the scale I feel I am that day!

You may start to think about whether you are an extrovert or an introvert by this point. What makes you happy; what makes you tick. You’ll find you’re a mixture in some way, I’m sure. It is definitely a scale, I think, like I said above. And we’re all on it at different points. Even though, I stated above that my husband is clearly an extrovert (He loves rowing, snowboarding, quad-biking, paintballing – whereas I love reading, writing, swimming and shopping.) But, he also enjoys quiet activities – normally computer related: design, websites, games etc. Yet, we both adore going out with friends and family; going away for the weekend (yet activities we do when we are there are usually up for debate!); fancy meals out with alcohol; entertaining large groups of friends of family. Also, my hubby isn’t as socially confident as I am – especially with strangers. He can’t do small-talk or chat easily with people unless he knows them well. Maybe a gender related reason here too, I’ll agree, but we both carry introvert and extrovert qualities.

No matter where on this scale you come, make sure you do some of what makes you happy this Christmas. Whether that involves busy, festive crowds or some alone time, do not feel guilty about doing what you need to do to be happy. We all deserve it.

 

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Riding into the sunset of my twenties…

I completed another item off my ’30 things before 30′ list. I went pony trekking! Those of you who don’t know me very well, do not realise what a great achievement that is… During my (almost) 30 years on this planet, I’ve barely been able to climb over a fence or gate – let alone climb on a horse, stay on it for an hour and then manage to get off! (Well it took 4 people and a lot of heave ho to get me off… and there is video evidence, so there is one friend who I have to be very nice to in fear of this video ending up on social media 😉 )

So I rode through the forest with the greatest of ease, my hair blowing in the wind whilst the horse’s mane swished from side to side….
OK, maybe not. In reality, I climbed up a plastic step, managed to get myself balanced on Skye – who was the loveliest, calmest horse , I’ve met (even though, to be fair, that isn’t many!) She started stepping towards the edge of the field straight away. I was moving! Argh! Turns out, whereas I was the one who could have easily pooed my pants, it was Skye who wanted to unload her waste… ahem! She has a regular spot and always does a poo before a trek apparently. I liked her organisation and preparation immediately!

Our lovely, calm ride didn’t extend to the rest of the group. The rest of my few friends were fine; the Japanese students from the local Grammar school were not. We were told that they’d been attending every week. At this point I thought, “Great, I’m bottom of the class!” But as they set off on the trek, a new horse from the field reared up at one of the horses carrying a Japanese student. His horse jumped up in reaction, consequently knocking him off! And another student next to him! I was horrified then, but there was no going back!

One thing that made me laugh in the trek, was how the instructors referred to us by the horses names. I heard one say to the other “have you been through trotting with Skye yet?” I was thinking, ” I’m pretty sure Skye knows how… It’s me who doesn’t and I don’t think I want to!” Skye was more interested in eating plants to be honest, but did have a little trot when encouraged verbally by the instructors. I then had no choice but to bounce and “trot” along too!

As I said, Skye took her gentle time. She completely backed off at one point and the instructor asked her why. She’d not seen what I’d seen: the horse in front doing a fart! Honesty, the tail wafted up and everything! That’s why Skye backed off and I didn’t blame her for a second!

I enjoyed my trek. The clippoty clop motion, the gorgeous autumnal leaves (the ones Skye didn’t eat!) and fresh air. We even saw a deer.. though I must admit my only thought there was “Oi Bambi, don’t scare the horses!” Yes, it was a great experience. Not sure I’ll become a regular rider or anything, it even go on a horse who makes it past the “trot” phase in all honesty. But I’m glad I did it.

I admire the outdoorsy people who bound about on these horses; no care in the world ; covered in mud. On the other hand, I screamed when we slightly brushed into a tree it fence. I guess I’ll always be happier tucked up with a book…or at the cinema alone 😉

But I’m a trot further to my 30s 🙂

XSXS

Learning like an intern

Recently, I’ve been ploughing my way through a hugely varied list named “30 things before 30″… And since the big 3-0 birthday is now a month away, there are still quite a few to tick off. I started the list, not because I think 30 is the age we can stop achieving our goals, but because I like to set myself challenges and I think we all, no matter what age, need to keep learning.

Now my list includes things like learning to knit, riding a roller coaster and eating caviar. I may have to admit defeat on some of these! And that’s okay. It’s my list of challenges and I’ve still learnt things about myself along the way. Like the fact that a certain Alton Towers accident has put me off even further… and what would I gain from doing this? I’m not an adrenaline junkie, so probably not much. But I could lose a limb!  I’ll also never make a knitter – after numerous attempts, I still can’t even ” cast on “. And caviar seems out of my reach to try… maybe I don’t go to the right places? I’ll add that one to my 40 list 😉

But I have been on a gondala, become a Mrs, cooked new meals from scratch, ordered a meal in Italian, baked an edible cake, done something amazing for charity, been tobogganing, had something waxed, read all of Jane Austen’s novels (almost!)… and horse riding is booked in for next weekend 🙂

Today’s challenge was to go to the cinema alone. I just feel it is important to go out on your own and have ” me” time. Today, I’ll admit was a little forced because I knew it was on the list. But in the future, if there is a film I want to see and nobody else wants to go, I’ll go alone. It felt invigorating to just turn up, buy your ticket, sit where you want… eat lots of chocolate and drink tea in my case. The only moment I felt awkward was when I had a little cry…. at the film, not because I was alone 😉 It also turns out we all need others, when you have toilet paper stuck to your boot in the toilets… Thank you to the lady who pointed that out to me!

‘The Intern’ was the perfect film to see alone. Completely coincidental too (I wanted to see Macbeth, but it wasn’t showing today). I love Anne Hathaway (still a bit of a Shakespeare link!) and Robert De Niro and it seemed like my kind of film. It was; it was brilliant.

I won’t give the plot away, but De Niro plays a 70 year old Intern. That was the first reason I loved it. It doesn’t matter what age you are, you can always take on a new challenge and learn new things. Naturally, it takes on the idea that he ends up teaching Hathaway’s character more than she teaches him.

Bringing us to the second reason I loved it. Hathaway plays a highly successful owner of an online fashion company. Trying to be the woman who has it all: a great business with happy staff; a loving marriage and family; a beautiful and functioning home. I love the themes of feminism, love and family relationships. How we’re all learning all the time. Within our relationships, in our work and learning to have the life we want.

So I will keep doing my challenges and happily be considered an Intern. 🙂 And I definitely will have another solo cinema trip. ‘Suffragette’ next maybe. But to fit with the tone of that film, maybe a group is more appropriate? 🙂

 Xsxs

Miss to Mrs!

Final Bride Blogger – the last time I’ll write as a Bride!

I’ve not written as many Bride blogs as I would have liked really. Wedmin has taken over …. but technically I have been writing. I’ve been writing my poem/speech for the big day. I’ve been writing the table plan. I’ve been writing messages to drag in those pesky RSVPs (the whole process of guests: writing your guest list to sending invites to getting in RSVPs to sorting where they’ll all sit  – is the hardest part by far! A wedding would be so simple without guests! 😉 ) I’ve also been writing jobs lists for the Wedding party and instructions for the venue.

It turns out a wedding isn’t just about marriage. Well it can be if you literally go the registry office to get that all-so-important piece of paper that boasts your status of husband and wife…. but as I’ve said on previous blogs, for me, it has always been about everyone we love in one room being there to celebrate the event. Our Best man said that the most important thing is that we are there are to say our vows. Even though I appreciate this sentiment (and of course it is true, if you pick one thing from the whole day that is the important bit!) we have chosen to spend thousands of pounds celebrating it how we wish, so the other stuff becomes important too.

The wedding is now in 2 days time (eeeeeeeek!) And it is an event. We are going to the venue the day before. We have boxes and boxes of stuff: favours, decorations, gifts, photo booth props etc etc. We have entertainment arriving.  We are throwing a social event – putting on a show if you will! I’ve been so finicky about typos on the ceremony reading…. particular about the decorations all being the same….funny about the photo collages being just right… and I then have to hand all this over to the venue and hope it all comes together.

I’m doing a speech, which I’m not nervous about at all. I figure if I can stand in front of a room of 15/16 year olds on a daily basis, then this crowd should be easy in comparison! People are there because they love us (or at least like us!) and I know I don’t have to win them over… so that’s all good. I am nervous about the walking down the aisle because I’m clumsy! Yes if I tripped over mid aisle, it would be funny…but I don’t really want the ceremony being remembered for that! I’m also nervous about the vows… at the minute I can’t listen to my entrance song without crying – how am I going to make it through saying all those vows aloud? Does it legally count if they can’t be heard through sobs and sniffles? Haha!

I’ll admit I’ve been a stress-head at times the last few weeks. But things have happened to cause this: guests not knowing the date, people being able to come/not come (oh and then come again!), different managers at the venue, family fall-outs, and I was also upset because a close family relative can now not make it because he has been called back to his submarine work (can’t be helped; just one of those things – but still sad)… things have cropped up, but we’ve dealt with them. (Hope it is all smooth from now on and I’ve not just jinxed it!) No matter what some friends and family say, I WILL be chilled on the day…. well maybe not calm and quiet, as that’s not my nature! I’ll be silly, excited and giddy. I won’t be stressed and worried. By that point, if things do go wrong, I won’t bother. I’m not daft – I do realise this day only comes once. I want to enjoy it! I do want the day to be “perfect” (whatever that means) and I know we have done (along with great friends and family) everything in our power to get us there… things may go wrong on the day, but it won’t matter. As I always say too, when things go wrong, it means I get a story out of it! 😉

Today is about visiting more family and having my nails done…maybe some honeymoon prep? Last few shades of Gray to paint 🙂 See you all when I’m a Mrs!

XSXS

Giving Notice of my Single Life

Bride Blogger Part 9

Today, we went to “give notice”. A phrase that a lot of people seem unfamiliar with, especially if they got married in a church. It’s basically the legal bit (the same as having your bands read I think) and to give people a chance to object in this notice period.

The whole idea kind of makes me laugh. The hoops you have to jump through to make sure we’re for real….I mean we’ve been together for ten years and lived together for 6! Surely the stage in our relationship we want to get to or show to society is up to us! We have to prove we are a real couple, yet people can get pregnant and become parents without so much a “you sure you’re ready to be a parent?” That’s where the real interviewing and questioning should come in my opinion. Just a thought!

Anyway, as we walked into the small, clinical registrar’s office, I felt like it was a mixture of a job interview blended with a quiz show. It was serious…but there were easy questions that I may not get right under pressure! And you can argue the prize was Kenny 😉 The job interview link is also like you are “giving notice” from a previous job. My job as a single lady is done: this is my notice.

The questions were easy… about Kenny’s full name. That one isn’t as easy for me as it is for others mind. Kenny changed his surname by deed poll when he was younger – but PING I knew the previous and new names! Ten points to me. I also knew his job title (he started a new job in Jan and I finally managed to memorise this title last night!) wahoo, ten points! I knew my Dad’s full name (two middle names – so surely I should have got extra points?!) and I kind of guessed at his job title… maybe lost ten points on that one? Then I got all ready to answer about my Mum – but didn’t need to! I was thinking “Come on, I know this  – ask me, ask me!”

We were asked if we’d lived together in our house for more than a month. I was like “yeah for almost 6 years actually!” Bonus points?! After that, I did want to get creative with my answers and have a bit of a laugh:

“Is there any chance you two could be related?”

“Well, we live in Swad, so we could be!”

But, no. I fought against this urge. It was serious and legal stuff…not a time for joke about webbed feet, incestuous Swad folk. Even though, it would have lightened the mood! She also asked me three times if I’d been married before! I knew I should have hidden that wedding ring 😉 (I’ve only ever been married to my books…and they’re starting to get fed-up of me!)

At the end of my interview, she lost the online form. It disappeared. I was thinking, “Great! If we have to do it again, I best make sure all of my answers are the same!” But, luckily she salvaged it. It then failed to print! I wanted to say, “Ah, Kenny is really good with computers, I’ll go get him! See, see, that’s something else I know about my husband-to-be!” 20 points?

Kenny’s interview went without a hitch: no repetitions, no issues. Says it all really! It now means we can get hitched!

I won the quiz…. and I got the job as a future Mrs Holmes…unless anyone contests it…shouldn’t joke really, as that’s something that would probably happen to me! Haha.

XSXS

It’ll be alright on the Wedding Day…

Bride Blogger Part 8

I’ve been absent from the Blogging world for a while. Wedmin, wedmin, wedmin! For those of you who aren’t all-consumed with wedding lingo, “Wedmin” is a very cleverly coined compound word for wedding admin, but you could probably figure that out 😉 I do wonder what I did with my time B.E (as in Before Engagement) – what did I do with those precious moments that are now spent making table confetti? Or cutting out inserts for the invitations? Or finding photographs to decorate the venue? Writing poems for nupitals? And when I get a break, I read wedding magazines in the bath!

Overall, it’s been an exciting time and I do enjoy all of the planning. We’ve had a few stressful things happen though that I’d thought I’d share with you fellow-brides or anyone else who wants a giggle:

Way back before Christmas, my Mum and I went to the florist to book flowers plus a glittery curtain back-drop for our venue. A glittery curtain? If you’d said to me years ago that we’d be forking out a small fortune to hire a glittery curtain for our wedding, I’d have laughed so hard, I would’ve spat wine in your face. But we have a massive window behind the top table in the venue room and it boasts a not so romantic looking view of the car-park. So, we need something to cover it. This one we wanted had been used at our venue loads and we thought “bugger it,” it saves anyone spending hours making something that may not look half as good. This is what weddings do to you – you spend on things you never thought you would want or need, but it is all about choosing what to spend your money on. Anyway, I digress. We went  to book this and with crossed fingers asked if the coveted curtain was available on our wedding day. She looked and said;

“Oh it’s already booked that day. At the Riverside hotel with a royal blue colour scheme!”

“What? But OUR wedding is on that date at that venue with that colour scheme!”

Wedding planning does make you a tad crazy. So after this had sunk in, I started to ponder if I had actually already booked it without remembering! But this booking had someone else’s name and they’d already picked flowers and paid their £50 deposit. I’m crazy, but not that crazy and think that even in my mad Wedmin mode, I would still remember giving a false name, choosing flowers and parting with 50 quid! So by this point, I couldn’t give a flying flip about the curtain, but was worried about our venue being double-booked! But a quick phone-call by our helpful florist solved the puzzle. It turns out this other couple had got engaged, gone straight into planning mode and ordered flowers and the curtain, paid the deposit before even booking a venue. They then hadn’t got as far as that because they broke up in the meanwhile. So the venue is ours; the curtain is ours (well for the day) and they are out £50 and don’t even have each other 😦 Sad –  but a lesson can be learnt. Don’t go booking and paying for things straight away before you even have a venue! You could break up…. or just give other future brides like myself, a heart attack!

Speaking of the venue, we still love it and are still very excited. It has caused us some stress also, however. Since booking our special day, they are now on their 3rd manager! Is it me and my incessant bridal questioning that has scared them off? Surprisingly, no! The first manager went on long-term sick – and I know this can’t be helped, but I was very disappointed because I felt like in addition to investing in the venue, we had invested in him also. I clung onto the hope he would be back in the New Year. He did get better but then left the hotel. We had dealt with a relief  manager in the meanwhile and then next time we had visited, there was another one. I know this shouldn’t matter. Our wedding will be great (the mantra I repeat with every single, piece of confetti I make!) but I just feel we have to keep going back to step one, telling the new manager everything!

Another annoying thing to bring us to the current wedding planning week, is the invitation making. I had this idealised idea that we would have a lovely evening printing off our invites to our nuptials. After the first click, the printer decided to chew up our envelopes. One by one. Turns out, in addition to our 80 guests, the printer wanted feeding too! So fingers crossed, we get those sorted this weekend! Things will go wrong, but as I say, I always get a story out of it!

As they say, it’ll be alright on the Wedding night day!

Keep posted for some Hen Do stories!

XSXS

Goodness, Actually

‘There is no such thing as a self-less good deed,’ said Joey on Friends. All good deeds are selfish because they make us feel good he believes- but so what? We need more of people feeling good. If you do a good deed and you make someone happy, it does in fact, make you happy in return – you can then spread this joy when you tell others about it. Which is what this blog post is all about.

Since starting my blog, I have done ‘A good, the bad, the ugly’ themed post at Christmas time to highlight how Christmas kind of exaggerates feelings. (links below) There are so many acts of kindness that seem even more generous during the festive period, yet people doing stupid things and selfish things becomes even worse at Christmas too.

This year – I want to forget negative stories. Not in a ‘head in the sand’ kind of way. There is no avoiding it really, especially with all the awful stories in the news. But for this post, it is going to be simple full of goodness. I’ve had a year of extreme high and lows and now, as the year draws to a close, I want to focus on the positive. And there is a lot of it in the world, even if we forget sometimes.

I was inspired when I watched Love Actually recently. Yes, its a bit cheesy (and no it wasn’t the first time I’d seen it 😉 ) but it does highlight all kinds of  ‘love’ in the world – in a variety of contexts. It ignores hate and all the bad in the world. And we need more of this… people need to focus on love and happiness. And goodness. There is always Goodness, actually 😉

As far as good deeds go, I think I have done my fair share so far this season. I was driving home from work one day and saw an elderly woman go flying – as in fallen over, not zooming in the sky!  She had another elderly woman with her, who couldn’t seem to help her up. I pulled over and attempted to help her up. When I couldn’t physically manage it, I ran for help and a man and myself helped her to her feet. She was very grateful, but insisted she was OK to walk home, after I’d offered to drive her home.

I also try to what I can for the elderly people I know. I’ve visited quite a few neighbours and friends at care homes or their houses – sometimes just a quick chat and some company is the best Christmas present they can have. I didn’t buy my friend Donald anything this year – I tend to find my gifts still wrapped in his room afterwards! So this year, I have just promised to take him out to Morrisons for lunch in the new year. He loves the place and will love that much more than a fancy box of biscuits.

Additionally, instead of giving out Christmas cards to colleagues this year, I have donated a bag of food to Hope charity food bank, which a colleague kindly organises, and also a donation of money to the charity Crisis to help the homeless this Christmas. Here are the links if you fancy doing the same:

http://www.hopecentrederby.co.uk/

http://community.crisis.org.uk/press?utm_source=insert&utm_medium=print&utm_campaign=menu

But lots of people do lovely things all the time, often unrecognised. I’m just going to blurt them all out into one big bubble of happiness – enjoy!

My friend lost her purse in town whilst shopping. Busy, festive time – she never expected to get it back. Luckily, she had no money in it and promptly cancelled her cards. She posted on Facebook and people shared it. A couple of days later, the purse had been posted through her letter box 🙂 Either the wonder or Facebook had helped this or good old-fashioned reading of the drivers licence  – but still, either way, highlighting that their are some decent people out there.

A similar story  – my Mother-in-law-to-be’s friend lost her handbag and it got handed in – fab ending once again Plus, my Mother-in-law-to-be went to a cash point recently and forgot to take her money. A lady behind her shouted after her to collect the money!

An ex-colleague of mine told me this next story via Facebook. She said that she noticed one day that her gate hinge had gone rusty and broke. The next day, she went out to the shops in order to buy a new hinge and noticed that her gate now boasted a brand-new, shiny hinge. It turns out her neighbour had done it for her – without being asked, or without want of any recognition.

Another story I read on Facebook was a lovely one (you see Facebook can be used for positivity spreading!) and made me feel very warm inside – and no, that wasn’t the wine 😉 A youth club went round to local elderly people giving them Christmas hampers. This is pure goodness in itself – but it gets better. They became very upset and disturbed by the condition one old man was living in: poor décor, messy, cold and a lack of carpets. They are now planning to do lots of activities to fund-raise money to carpet the man’s house 🙂 Wonderful.

A friend at work told me about a 26-year-old man (I think she said he was on TV about it) who chose to do a good deed every day for a year. He has managed all of the year so far and still keeping to it every single day. He does things like helping strangers when they are struggling with something, paying for someone’s lunch, doing chores for the elderly and unable. What an inspiration!  – Here’s the link if you want to read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2874858/Luke-Cameron-does-good-deed-day-12-months-people-hate-it.html

Another young lad, who is a true inspiration, is Matthew Humphreys. he completed to Rickshaw challenge this year for Children in Need. I worked with him a few years ago, which is a complete honour. It was my mate, plus then, another fantastic ex-colleague who had the daily delights of working with him one-to-one – and what an amazing job they have done to help to shape the person he has become (along with all other friends and family of course!)  With a physical disability, he found it harder than anyone else – and god knows it is a challenge anyway! I went to see him at my old school for  an awards’ ceremony last week. he also had speech difficulties, but had prepared a speech and was an absolute star of the show. It really does make you humble. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/2PkXCX63SZ1YMJ37j3xX9jS/matthew – for more info.

Please continue these stories in the comments below. There are many more to be told – in fact there are probably many more that I know, but have forgotten (especially if told to me after having wine! haha) Spread the joy. After watching It’s a Wonderful Life for the first time this Christmas, it made me realise what a profound effect each and every individual can have on another’s life. We all have a role to play and there is reason we are here.

Do what you can to help others – it will make them happy and yourself in return 🙂 To end on a quote:

‘Help others achieve their dreams and you will achieve yours.’ – but remember goodness is for life, not just for Christmas 🙂

Merry Christmas everyone – have one full of goodness!

XSXS

https://samanthagray9.wordpress.com/2013/12/22/christmas-the-generous-the-silly-and-the-damn-right-disgusting/

https://samanthagray9.wordpress.com/2012/12/23/christmas-the-good-the-bad-the-funny-and-the-damn-right-inhumane/

Bride Blogger Part 7: The One

Wahoo, I have found the one! Yes – I have found my – the – wedding dress! After discussing my wedding dress hunts in Bride Blogger part 6 (https://samanthagray9.wordpress.com/2014/08/16/hunt-for-the-perfect-wedding-dress-and-bridal-shop/), I did indeed return to the one good shop I had found. I had 3 appointments in total at Alison Evans Bridal Wear and it certainly was ‘3rd time lucky,’ as they say!

Funnily enough, the dress I chose was one of they very first dresses I tried on (possibly even the very first) and I didn’t like it! I preferred others, didn’t like the sleeves etc. But now I love it. I think I had to rule out all the others and realise that the sleeves can be altered/pinned down and can look great. So, yes the search is over.

Getting the dress home and it becoming officially mine, wasn’t the easiest of things though. I have joked to Kenny that finding ‘the one’ as in a husband was much easier than the wedding dress! He took slight offence until I explained there was no question of him being the one – but there were lots of questions involved with the dress 😉 Think I dug my way out of that one!

The dress I decided on was £875 originally and reduced to £600 when I tried it on. I knew, however, there was a sale on the week after and the lovely sales assistant informed us that the dress should go into the sale. I suggested we would be best to buy it now anyway – to ensure we got it – and still for a good price! She urged us to wait for the sale, claiming we could save another couple of hundred. Why would she say that? I hear you cry…….. well, as I said in the previous post, it seems good business and means they maintain excellent word-of-mouth. We were also told, there had been no particular interest in ‘my’ dress and most appointments were booked now leading up to the sale. So, we (yes I dragged the Mums and bridesmaids along again) decided to wait .

All week there was a nagging feeling. What if someone went in, loved it and bought it at £600? What if other people had tried it on and would be fighting for it in the sale? But there was nothing I could do. I didn’t even have control over queuing in the sale and fighting for my dress of honour! The sale began 10am on the Fri – well I was at school. So, it was all left up to my Mum and Dad to queue up, take the paperwork with dress info, hunt it down and pay. Simple?

We joked about them camping outside the shop in their camper van. I still think they should have – even if just for the comedy value. And it would have given Dad a great story for his wedding speech! We also heard about 7 women all coming in for the same,one dress. I never heard what happened with that – I never heard of a wedding dress shop scandal or fight in the newspaper, so assume it was OK! Anyway, Mum and Dad got there early enough and started queuing – whilst I was in a lesson at school going out of my mind! Mum text me at half 9 saying ( I’d just like to point out, I didn’t check my phone until I was out of lesson!):

‘There are about 8 people in front of us – but some are together. There is only one girl who looks the same size as you, but she looks a bit chavvy and won’t be after your dress! Alison just came out with chocolate biscuits!’

Lol, I love my Mum – cracks me up. She also questioned why the shop owner would give them chocolate biscuits when they were about to touch white dresses? Good point I guess! My Dad joked that they wanted to fatten people up so they would need alterations! 😉  haha. Within another ten minutes, I received another text:

‘Got it – just waiting to pay. £435!’

So that was it – wahoo! It is now hanging proudly in my old bedroom and my parents’. My dad even put up a hook for it 🙂

The one (husband-to-be and dress ticked off!)

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Dangerous Gravy

Picture this: I’m on a fast, moving train after visiting a friend from Uni; I’m checking my phone for messages every ten minutes – whilst, in between, reading a novel on my E-reader device; I have a take-away cup of Mocha; people are talking on phones; working on laptops; a Special Needs child is shouting ‘Dangerous gravy’ over and over….. is this a snapshot of crazy, modern life?

The Special Needs lad kind of made my day. He was shouting and rambling away and no one batted an eye lid. I know there are exceptions to this  – but on this train, no one cared. There was acceptance. That is one thing I love about modern life – everything is out in the open, we can do what we want – and live the life we choose. (mostly!) This is definitely true in comparison to the other time period I was thinking about on the train. You see, I was reading about the Jane Austen world. Not one of her books, or a book about her – but a modern author’s depiction of ‘what happens next’ in Pride and Prejudice.* So, this is a modern author delving into the 1800s . Some of you may groan at this idea – but it is actually very good. No, her style isn’t exactly like Austen’s, how could it be? I love the fact that that didn’t put her off writing the story she wanted to.

With the lad shouting ‘Dangerous gravy’, I started thinking of the term ‘gravy train’. Whether it was being on a train or just how my mind works I don’t know! I started thinking about how we are all on this ‘gravy train’ of life. In all honesty, I always thought the term was a synonym of the term ‘rat race’ – meaning crazy, modern life journey. That kind of idea. I’ve just looked it up, however, and it means ‘a cushy job or time’ – saying that someone can get a lot of money from very little effort. This still kind of fits with the ideas I wanted to discuss though.

Hilariously, when I told my Mum about the lad on the train, she simply said Ahh maybe he was recently burnt by hot gravy!’ That is much more realistic! How come I never think so literally?!

I’ve always joked that I belong to the 1800s – or even possibly a little earlier, like the Tudor Courts perhaps. I’d love the simple life of walking everywhere, not worrying about technology – you know, a lovely day of sewing, writing, reading and playing the piano (I’m very musical and creative with a needle in this daydream!) All I’d have to worry about is finding a husband and keeping my family happy (assuming I was in a higher class – again this is what I imagine! hehe) I wouldn’t have the day-to-day craziness like I do in Modern life – but would I be any happier?

I’d have to do what my father told me to. I wouldn’t be able to go out alone without a chaperone. I would have to get married, or be seen as some ort of leper by society. I wouldn’t even be able to blummin dance at a party without being asked by a man! All these things I get cross about now, yet I am still drawn to this time period and the idea of living in it!

In contrast, what I love about modern life is the idea of the unexpected and its freedom. Like the train freeze-frame above: totally random! In modern society, we can hop on a train or plane and go anywhere. We see people from all walks of life and have so, so many opportunities and experiences. In Jane Austen land, I’d get married and live in some big house somewhere and perhaps hardly see the rest of my family   – as it would take days to travel to them! People must have been happy then and fulfilled – but they didn’t know any different. I think the ‘dangerous’ thing here – is to compare. We need to embrace our life – as crazy as it – and appreciate the opportunities and things we get to do. I don’t have to attend a ball on Saturday night to fit into society’s ideals. I can sit in my PJs and watch X Factor; go out for dinner; pop to Paris (if money allowed!): we have the freedom to do as we choose.

As for  the lad on the train, I have no idea why he shouted ‘Dangerous Gravy’. Maybe my Mum was right – or maybe he was mourning Linda Bellingham? Bisto is being mentioned a lot lately in her honour! I just think in terms of having it ‘cushy’ and being on a gravy train, we all can really. Yes, of course we still have to work hard to attain things – but modern life has made so many things much easier for us. Life can be as simple or easy as we make it – whatever time period we live in.

Anyone else really fancy gravy now? 😉

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Georgiana Darcy’s Diary: Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice continued (Pride and Prejudice Chronicles Book 1) by Anna Elliot. There are a few in the series I think.

Hunt for the perfect wedding dress – and bridal shop!

Bride Blogger Part 6

Well, I have started trying dresses on for the big day! It is now less than a year away until I become a Mrs, so figured I should get trying on some dresses. I’ve seen it on TV where future brides try on lovely, intricate dresses surrounded by a teary, enthusiastic audience – all helped along by the most helpful, friendly member of staff, oh and the glass of champagne! Now, I live in Swad, I wasn’t expecting the champagne, but I did envisage a wonderful human-being who just wants to find a bride her perfect dress. A woman whose career was a calling not just a way to pay the bills. My standard was high.

My first shopping trip was Monday with my Maid of Honour/sister and bridesmaid/best friend. My hope for the perfect dress soon began to plummet, as the first two bridal shops we went to were closed! It seems Mondays are a popular day for Bridal shops to be closed – they have a busy Saturday and take Sunday and Monday as their weekend. Doh. But, after lunch, there was a little ray of hope. A shop that was actually in our little town called Alison Evans Bridalwear. We made an appointment over the phone and spent about an hour there. Thank you to all of you who recommended that we try there. It was brilliant and the perfect first shop to try. There were racks of gorgeous dresses to choose from and some excellent advice to accessorise the experience. I was advised to try about six dresses on to get an idea of style without overwhelming myself – and my poor bridesmaids! We were allowed to take some photographs too and I did fall in love with one dress (yet wasn’t sure about the back – so it was not the ONE!) Other little highlights of this great shop – were mirrors facing to get an all round look of the gowns, weddings shoes to be borrowed and worn and absolutely no pressure to buy. In fact, she gave me the details of the designer and model number of the dress and suggested I tried other shops to see what I thought. When you want something, set it free. And this is good business I think – because after visiting a few more places this week, I really want to return to this great shop and give them my business. So I’ll be back with the Mums in tow next time!

On the Wednesday, I went to Lincoln with my Mum. I didn’t particularly want to buy a dress from somewhere that far away, but I thought trying a few on couldn’t do any harm. And, besides, I now had lots of bridal optimism and thought I may see the ONE and just have to get it! The experience in the shop couldn’t have been more different! I was ushered into the changing room straight away. I began to wander out again whilst chatting to the woman – assuming that I was to come and look at the dresses and select a few – but NO! I was told I needed to be in the changing room and to take my clothes off. It turns out, I wasn’t to choose which dresses to try on, Miss Control-Freak was going to do that! 4 dresses got pushed onto me quickly within a twenty minute period. My mum was not allowed to take photos. I was told that if I wanted straps that would cut my choice down by 80% and as for not wanting a V neck with lace, I might as well give up now! She was very bossy about the fact that I needed to decide which style I wanted. How dare I like straight down lace ones as well as full skirted satin ones?! I quickly found out that her so called statistics and opinions were down to the fact that she didn’t really have what I wanted. She also said the word ‘appreciate’ about a million times – about the same as her dress costs – ‘You’ll appreciate that it is a busy time.’  ‘You’ll appreciate that we only stock certain sizes.’ What I do appreciate is not being treated like a moron. So, off I went to find my lacy dress with straps elsewhere!

On Friday – really getting the Craig David 7 Days song vibe now? ‘I found a dream bridal shop on Monday, took a break on Tuesday, got bossed around on Wednesday, another break on Thursday……….Well on Friday, I was insulted in another shop!

I took the Mums this time to another local bridal shop. I won’t name and shame, but if anyone does want to know more details then message me for warnings! We went in and the woman asked me what size dresses I had been trying on. I said a mixture really- some had been too big and held against me and some only partly fastened because they were too small, as I was only looking at style at the moment. I also said that I was a size 14 in normal clothing though. Now, if she was experienced at her job, she should have suggested that I try a size above or a mixture of sizes as they all vary. But, no, we picked out about 8 size 14 dresses and then she began to struggle to get the first one on me. She said, ‘Are you sure you’ve been trying on 14s?’ Well, I did say, no but that was my usual size! The next gem that followed and stood out as much as the ones on the dresses was,

‘Is losing a few pounds on the cards?’

 

Now, luckily I am not sensitive about these things. I’m happy with my weight – but she doesn’t know that. For all she knew, I could have spent the first 6 months of my engagement losing a few stone. I may lose a little before the wedding, but that is none of her business. I said through gritted teeth, ‘It may be.’ I think she then knew that she had pissed me off, as she back- tracked and said ‘Well I only said that because of this dress. If you were to lose a few pounds, this would fit perfectly.’ Well, I’m not buying a dress to then worry that I have to shrink to fit into it. I tried on other 14s and some fit, some didn’t. Some 16s – some fit and some didn’t. I tried on a 18 and it was too small. Wedding dress sizes are crazy – you think she would have known that in her line of work? She was just generally unhappy and unfriendly and I don’t get it. These people are around pretty dresses and happy people all day – if you don’t like making wedding dreams come true, then don’t do it! On the plus side (excuse the pun!), my mother-in-law to be got her outfit! She said she almost didn’t want to give her business, but I said she had found the right outfit and would be spiting herself if she didn’t get it.

So the hunt for the ideal dress is still on – but I’ve found the shop that I want to return to. (And 2 I will never set foot in again!)

Keep Calm and Carry on all you brides out there!

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A Fine Life

I have just read an article in Psychologies magazine that has inspired me to write this. I love it when that happens – when I read something and feel I have something to add. The article was about being ‘fine’. They always say that if a woman ever says she is ‘fine’ then the husband or partner is in trouble – as ‘fine’ can be a mask to hide true, inner feelings.

The article suggested that it is better to be honest when people ask if you are okay  – tell them you are feeling rubbish/down/depressed etc. I guess it depends on the person that has asked you and the situation. I studied spoken communication at university for my dissertation – and it does seem that certain phrases are asked out of politeness or to invite a deeper, more meaningful conversation. Women are always said to be a more ‘polite’ conversationalist and I found that from my research. That is politeness translates as being cooperative, formal and inviting. Women like to include others into conversations and a simple,

‘How are you?’

‘I’m fine thanks, how are you?’

can do this. It did always amuse when I studied gender differences because a male conversation of:

‘Pint?’

‘Sure!’

can so exactly the same thing! So if this ‘politeness’ is more about being honest and straight to the point, then males may have it down to a tea (or a beer!) But let’s stick with this idea of being ‘fine’ – and within both genders. The article suggested ‘fine’ to be an acronym, which I thought was quite clever. Because even if we say are fine, we are really feeling a mash-up of feelings – and you could argue that we all are, all the time.

 

F *cked up

Insecure

Neurotic

Emotional

 

Is it better to be honest and say ‘Actually, I’m feeling kind of emotional’? Like I said above, it does depend on who it is and where you are. I would want a friend or family member to tell me what they were really feeling – even if it wasn’t a convenient time or location in fact. Sometimes, though, you just want small-talk though and keeps people at that ‘acquaintance’ level – and we all need those.

Lately, I’ve had a couple of neighbours confide truths to me. I didn’t ask for it or particularly invite it  – well I didn’t think I did anyway! One neighbour on Monday, confided that she had cancer and her latest check-up was yesterday. I only went outside to get my sunglasses from my car so that I could read in the sun. Irony alert – that by the time we had finished talking, the sun had gone in! I liked the fact that she spoke to me about it though, really. I feel I know her better. If she had said she was ‘fine’ and then I heard her health news from someone else, I would have felt that I wasn’t a person she could tell. The downside is, it has now gone a few notches up from general neighbour chat and I must remember to ask her how her check-up went. The pressure is on to not feel like a bad neighbour.

Another neighbour, a few weeks previous, confided in me about his wife leaving him for another man. Again, I was just  getting out of my car  – I think I had just come from work. We had the small talk about ‘glad the day was over and I could relax now’ etc. It somehow got onto the fact that he now lived alone and his wife had left him. This may have been a time when I wished he had just said he was ‘fine’ – as I didn’t really  know what to say! I mean what do you say? ‘There are plenty more fish in the sea!’  or ‘Maybe she will come back’? Awkward. But, maybe it made him feel better to tell someone and he was sick of saying that he was just ‘fine’.

It’s okay to not be fine. I always say that talking about things is human nature and we need to do it. We are social creatures and sometimes a chat – whether it be to a close friend or stranger – is all we need.

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