My Ink

Until I was 30 I was adamant I was never having any tattoos. Then I got my first one and I can safely say I love them and they are very addictive! Yes they hurt at the time, yes they can be expensive, no they are not to everyone’s taste but to me it’s like personalising my body. To be they are my art. All my tattoos mean something to me and were chosen for a reason so here is my explanation.

My first tattoo was three small stars on my foot. They are to represent the stars in heaven of my Grandad, my Auntie Doris and my Uncle Norman who were like grandparents to me. My next one was my butterfly on my wrist. This is for Olivia, a fabulous girl who was a brownie who sadly lost her battle with cancer. It’s a butterfly as we released butterflies at her memorial and they always remind me of her when I see one. They are also a reminder of the fragility of life. The placing is not insignificant as when I make my brownie promise salute the butterfly looks out my current girls.

My next ink was my ladybird which is for my gorgeous niece Ruby. When she was little everyone bought her ladybird things and they came to be associated with her.

My fifth inking was my owl on my side. Partly because I love owls and partly because of the Guiding and Brownie connection. And obviously I am Brown Owl! Somewhere around there are some photos taken by my co-blogger of me grimacing having that’s one done!!

Number six is a Japanese kanji which means friendship. This represents my best friend. Enough said.

And then we come to the most recent three. The hands is an original drawing by another of my best friends which she gave me on a card when Granny died earlier this year. The detail on it is amazing and she is one talented artist. The hands are significant to me because when I was little she always held my hand and guided me and as she got older and frailer, I held her hand to guide her. And now she will be with me forever. On a side note, she always loved my tattoos and coloured hair- I think she had a secret inner rebel! Well Granny now you have your own ink!

The rainbow heart represents the year I came out properly and you lovely blog followers made me happier than I’ve been ever with your total acceptance of everything that is me. Love is love, whatever and whoever.

And finally my smallest (and ironically the most painful!) is a semi-colon on my little finger. This represents the fact that 2017 was a turning point in my life. A fresh start, one where I can be me and will be me and am happy. And one to raise awareness of mental health. A subject which will always be close to my heart.

Whether you love them or hate them they are part of me and more importantly I love them!

H.A.P.P.Y.

Happy. A small word to describe a big feeling. Today I feel happy. In fact I have felt happy basically every day since June 12th. You may wonder why I know the date. Well it was the date that I took a deep breath, felt the fear and did it anyway. June 12th was when I finally came out via this blog and the post called ‘This is me.’ And you all reacted in such an amazingly positive way. You have no idea how you have changed my life.

I never realised that a blog post could have such a massive effect on my whole life. Since then it’s as if a weight has lifted. A weight that I didn’t even realise I was carrying. I feel different. I haven’t had a single anxious day since then. Not one. And I’ve struggled with anxiety since I was a teenager. That’s a whole month with no anxiety.

Several people have commented that I’m like a different person, especially at work. I went out with my work friends and danced til the early hours (took me a couple of day s to recover lol but hey) and I loved it. I chat to people at lunchtime. I no longer feel grumpy and want to snap at people in the morning. I want to be sociable. I actively seek out people to chat to at lunch time. I chat to my friends about crushes, make up, tv etc. all normal things I know but not for me til now. I even message them out of work – something I would never have previously done. I used to keep myself separate. I went to the pub with them after work and felt accepted and included. So much love for my work friends right now.

I crack jokes, sure I’ve had frustrating times too but nothing really seems to bother me too much or for too long. And I’ve been sleeping – not perfectly but a damn sight better than before. I even ordered myself some make-up. I will confess I’ve rarely bought myself make-up before. Most of what I have has been presents.

And the biggest thing of all for me. I don’t dislike myself anymore. Sure I could do with losing some weight but hey so can most of us! I went out and felt good about how I looked. I feel comfortable with who I am and what I am. I’m happy. IMG_1345

New Hobbies

My latest happy thing is my photography. I’ve slowly been taking more and more photos over the past few years. And I have plenty of subjects with all the Brownies and Rainbows! I’ve recently graduated from my bridging camera to a DSLR with different lenses and I’m loving it!

I love the challenge of taking really good photographs and capturing moments and expressions. At the moment I’m really into the wildlife, flowers and animals and nature photography and I’m really just experimenting with different effects etc. It makes me proud as I’ve found something that I truly believe that I’m good at – and that doesn’t happen very often.

I also love the pleasure that other people get from seeing my photos – I’m basically a people pleaser! I’m intending to keep improving and getting better until I get to a standard where I might even be able to use my hobby as a job!

Here are a few of my favourites from my day out today.

Nights are for sleeping?

Night time is for sleeping right? Wrong! At least for my body clock. You are probably thinking why on earth does insomnia make it on to a blog about happiness! Let me explain. I would prefer not to have insomnia but it does also bring me some happiness. I am actually pretty productive around 4am I have discovered! I reply to emails, do Guiding admin and sometimes even the housework!

But by far the best bit of insomnia is that grey time just before dawn when the whole world feels still and silent. You feel like the only person in the whole world. I’ve seen hundreds more amazing sunrises than most people. I’ve listened to the dawn chorus trying to identify which bird is which and listened to the world waking up. I’ve watched the mist lift to reveal a dew-covered world and seen the pair of Robins dancing on my bird feeder. Mrs Blackbird often pops in to say hello and sometimes Mr Hedgehog too.

Insomnia is definitely not all bad.

Simple Pleasures

Today I had coffee with a friend. Well to be exact several coffees and some slightly crispy pizza which the kids didn’t finish! But I feel happier than I have for a few days. We talked, we talked, we laughed, we talked some more and laughed a bit more. We weren’t in some fancy coffee shop we were in her kitchen with the children running in and out of the garden and interrupting every few minutes as children do! Our conversation was most definitely not about all happy topics in fact we both had our turns to moan and set the world to rights. But it was just a perfect happy moment. And before we knew it four and a half hours had passed!

Coffee with friends- a simple but very happy pleasure

Fire!

I have loved camp fires for as long as I can remember. I love the challenge of laying a superb fire, of finding just the right wood to make it perfect, of making it symmetrical, of deciding whether to go for a square or a pyramid. Then there’s the challenge of getting it to light with as few matches as possible. And yes I have done one with no ‘artificial kindling’ just dried grass which was lit with only one match! I love the tending of the fire, adding just the right amount of wood to make the fire as hot as is needed, the raking it out to form embers. And then there’s cooking on the fire. I am proud to say that I have, on many occasions, cooked an entire meal on fire. Not just the obvious things like marshmallows but camp pizzas, jacket potatoes, chips, eggy bread, chocolate cake, stuffed bananas, sausages, bacon, full English, stews, soups and dampers(which are delicious eaten with jam!)

But nothing beats a toasted marshmallow. I like them once they have ignited and sizzled for a bit so the outside is crunchy and the inside is oozy and sticky and coats your entire face and fingers! I love that I have introduced literally hundreds of children to this delight (often sandwiched between two chocolate digestives for them) However, I am ashamed to admit that my own niece does not like marshmallows! Hey ho, all the more for Auntie Karen – and Ruby is a champion toaster now as although she does not eat them she always takes her turn toasting one for me!

Then comes the camp fire songs. They come in phases just like any craze but many a child I have babysat for has been regaled with my full repertoire. The words are never written down, just passed on as children learn them. Old favourites such as ‘camp fire’s burning’ never go out of fashion. And then there are regional variations! My guiding family come from all parts of the country, it has been known that there are four versions of the same song all being sung at the same time around the fire. Each one of us sticking to the words we’ve grown up with, all blending together. The great thing about camp fire singing is that is does not matter if you cannot hold a tune (just as well in my case!) enthusiasm and volume are all that are required!

And then after the songs have been sung and the marshmallows toasted you can sit around the embers watching the sun go down from underneath your blanket and just chat and laugh. Before you know it, it’s too dark to see and you’re wishing that you’d brought a torch with you ( thank goodness for smart phones!).

And the camp fire doesn’t just last that night, that beautiful woodsmoke smell lingers, sometimes for days. Personally I do not mind that at all!

Ive lost count of the number of camp fires I’ve done. There’ve been daytime ones, nighttime ones, evening ones, ones that started out as a barbecue but then we decided wood cooks better ones I could go on. But some stick out in my memory more than others.

There was the one at guide camp where we ended up cooking frozen chips over a very dodgy fire in the rain! The one where it was so hot the marshmallows melted in the car before we even got to the fire. Several where brownies, and leaders have made their promise to me and many more where they’ve said goodbye. But the one that stands out for me is my last night at guides. I was fifteen, I had been presented, along with three of my best friends, with my Baden-Powell award. And, as was my unit’s tradition, we left the fire while the others sang. The song ‘Go well and safely’. It still brings a lump to my throat now.

Camp fires are definitely one of life’s happy little moments – thnaks to everyone who has shared them with me.

Daffodils

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I love daffodils. To me they are the sign that spring is really here. I love that daffodils can come in so many varieties but their vivid yellow stands out amongst the greens and browns of the winter. Daffodils are also one of the few flowers that don’t make me get hayfever! They look amazing when there are hundreds together, like a yellow carpet under the bare trees. But equally they are stunning in a small group or as a single bloom. Daffodils always make me smile 🙂 These photos are some I took last weekend when mum and I went for a Mother’s Day walk in the sunshine.

Today I feel happy

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Today I feel happy. I don’t know why and to be honest I don’t care why. Despite having lots of reasons to not be happy, I am. I woke up feeling contented and full of energy. I’ve already crossed three things off my to-do list. I’m about to get ready to go and meet one of my best friends. Life is good today and I will savour it .

New friends

IMG_0892One unexpected, but really positive,  consequenceof this blog is the new friends I have made. It’s funny how you can work with someone for years and not really ever get to know them but then something like this brings us together. Since January we have shared much laughter and chats, and I really appreciate her.  Definitely a happy little moment 🙂

A happy goodbye?

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On Wednesday we said our final goodbyes to Granny. Not very happy I can hear you saying but surprisingly there was happiness to be found, even at such an occasion. In the car on the way to the crematorium we sat and chatted about our memories of Granny. My cousin and I remembered ‘pink rabbit’ which was our favourite, and always requested, pudding. It’s  actually pink blancmange done in Granny’s infamous rabbit mould. We loved it! We talked about baking with Granny, standing precariously on a stool by the work top wearing and oversize apron. She taught me how to make pastry for micne pies and jam tarts and I still use her recipe. I remember lying on the rug in front of the fire doing jigsaws. And all the clothes she used to knit for my dolls. We talked about her garden and how she loved it. And then, just as we turned into the crematorium we were silenced. Not in grief as you might imagine but by the beauty. The driveway is surrounded by woodland and graves and the whole place was like a carpet of snowdrops and early crocuses. Granny would have loved it. She loved all plant she but especially spring flowers.

During the service of course there were tears, but there was laughter too. We laughed as Gareth talked about Granny going for a walk with Joshua (her great grandson) on Boxing Day to ‘test their new wheels’. He on his new scooter, she with her first walking frame – aged 99 and three quarters.

We returned to her care home to toast her wonderful life. All 100 years and 10 days of it. And right at the end, one of her carers was looking through the family photos with us and said she had something to show us. She produced a short video clip taken only a few short weeks ago on one of the home’s regular outings. Granny was at the garden centre and there she was bright as a button, walking stick in hand, dancing along and laughing out loud to a giant musical, swaying Christmas tree! Not bad for almost a hundred!

And so, despite the occasion, we left with smiles on our faces.