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

Good friends

IMG_1321When I was growing up I was never in the popular group. I did have friends but they weren’t in my class or year at school. My friends were at the stables, at guides and in my street. At school I was often lonely. I was the child who was always picked last for teams and who never had a partner or group to work with. I used to dread the moment the teacher would say “Now get into groups” knowing that I would be an outsider and that no one ever actually wanted to work with me.

Depression also robs you of your friends, you desperately need and want them but end up pushing them away because you don’t believe that you are worth liking.

Its hard to pinpoint when things started to change in the friendship department. For years having a crippling social anxiety meant I hardly went out and although I desperately wanted to take up invitations I just couldn’t do it.

I think things started to change when I was around 30. A chance meeting through a mutual friend (interestingly who I am no longer in contact with!) meant that I met my best friend- my first best friend since I was 8. Someone who liked me for who I was and actually chose to spend time with me. She also stayed by my side when I was in some of my darkest paces and for that I will always be truly grateful. It still surprises me now when she says she looks forward to seeing me! But now I am lucky enough to not have just one best friend but to have lots, more than I can count on one hand unbelievably. And not only do I have best friends, I also have other close friends and lots of people who love me for who I am. It’s taken me a long time to realise that they are not going anywhere too.

One of those friends said to me the other day “you are so good at keeping in contact with people and that’s such a great quality”. Yes I suppose I am, because the one thing I will never, ever do is take my friends for granted. I know how it feels to not have friends. I love each and every one of my friends and if you know you are one of my friends please know that you mean the world to me. And just like the picture, many of my friends I don’t get to see anywhere near as often as I’d like but it’s ok as, finally, I can believe that they will always be there.

A strange feeling …

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Since my last blog post and everyone’s amazing positivity and support something strange has happened. I have felt an overwhelming lightness and happiness that I’ve never really felt before. I feel free and as if nothing in the world can bring me down. I literally feel like you could throw anything at me and I’d be like “oh right, ok”, which is so not how I usually am! Usually I am little miss stressy and everything bothers me but not the last couple of weeks!

I tried to put my feelings into words and although it’s not really a poem here are my thoughts :

Happiness is the arms of friendship wrapped around me

It’s a grin so wide your face hurts

Happiness is confidence and laughter

It is a carnival of noise and colour

Happiness walks taller with a spring in its step

It is a celebration of fireworks

Happiness wants to shout from the rooftops

It is sparkly, loud and comfortable

Happiness is a riot of vivid colours.

It is right up in the clouds and carefree

Long may Happiness last;

 

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.

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.

Lazy Sundays

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Today was one of those Sundays! Me and my best friend, pjs, the sofa, our duvets and the tv. Lazy I know but the perfect end to what has turned out to be a very busy half term week. I love that I have the freedom to choose to have a lazy Sunday. Being an adult does have its advantages! Hope you’ve all had a good Sunday too 🙂

Memories

Today’s hump day happiness is unashamedly a day late! It was just too tired to post it yesterday! Yesterday I spent the day with my parents and we spent most of the day looking over old photographs and talking about memories. This was prompted by the death of my Granny recently – a sad event yes but one that has also led to happy reminiscing. These are three of my favourite photos from my early childhood.The first is me sat on the swings in my local park. It was about a twenty minute walk from my childhood home and i spent hours and hours there growing up. Playing on the swings and the enormous slide – well enormous when I was that age! Racing across the wide expanse of grass whilst playing with our dogs. Paddling in the river, fishing for minnows and crayfish and playing poohsticks over the wobbly footbridge. Walking in the cool shade of the trees and carefully jumping across the stepping stones in the river. I can remember the park in all seasons from catkins and daffodils in the spring to bare trees and snow in the winter.

The second picture is part of a series taken by my dad when I was about a year old. The Easter Egg. The pictures show my delight and puzzlement with this strange brightly coloured box. I shook it, I bit it, I stared at it. And finally I managed to get into it (with some help I suspect!) Then there is this picture of my gleefully grasping my prize. The last picture shows me basically wearing the chocolate!

The final picture is taken on Hove seafront and I am about 2. I am gripping tight to Dad’s camera case and I’m not really sure what it is that makes me love this picture but it’s always been one of my favourites.

So today’s happy is happy memories. Far too many to write about but I am glad that I have that dilemma!

Happy Hump Day Hugs

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Hugs are fab. I love hugs! I love the spontaneity of someone rushing up and throwing their arms around you. Or the ones you ask for. And the ones where someone just scoops up your sadness and turns it into laughter. Hugs are warm, comforting, familiar, and safe. I’m lucky, I work with children and get dozens of hugs a day. What the children don’t realise is that when they come and ask for a hug and I give one, they are also doing me a favour too! However, I’m also lucky enough to work with colleagues who understand my hugging needs! And this morning I was greeted with many Happy Hump Day Hugs. So here I am passing them on. If you are in need of a hug, here is one for you … catch!

My Best Friend

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My best friend is amazing. She is one of the few people in the world who truly “gets” me. And she always seems to know exactly what to say. We laugh, at the stupidest things – and go on laughing way after it’s funny. We go on road trips and sing, badly and loudly, to the cheesiest music. We gossip over pizza. We cuddle up under a blanket and watch property shows – planning our houses for when we have money… We shop and spend more money than we have. But it’s more than that. Without my best friend I probably wouldn’t be here today. She is my absolute rock. She has seen me at my lowest of low points and still stayed by my side. She has held my hand and let me cry and patiently reassured me when my anxious paranoia kicks in. She has firmly told me that “giving up is not an option”. And I listen to her when I can’t listen to myself. She always seems to know the right words to say, when to be serious and when to have a joke. She hugs me and reassures me and loves me unconditionally. And I can never fully put into words how much she means to me. Happiness comes from spending time with people who truly love you for who you are – just like she does for me.