The kindness of children

Children can be so honestly kind in a way that I think adults struggle with because to us it all seems a bit over the top – we’ve learnt to tone it down and not show too much emotion (something I have not learnt to do very well yet!). As a teacher I have moments every day where a child says or does something with such open honesty that it knocks you back for a second while you realise that they’re not being sarcastic or manipulative or cheeky, they’re just telling you how it is from the kindness of their hearts. Examples include:

“You know how when you love someone a lot you try to show them how much you love them by making them things or writing them a card, but it’s never enough to show them just how much you love them? Well that’s how I feel about you.”

“I wish we had school at the weekends so that I could see you every day.”

“You’re like a rare, bright star – you shine brighter than the others.”

“It doesn’t matter where you are, I still love you.”

These children have so much love and kindness inside that they just want to let it out – they’re not bound by social conventions and the British stiff upper lip, they just want to tell the people that are important to them how much they love them. It makes me so happy that children are free to do that – and to hear them speaking to each other with such kindness is heart warming. I often see posts on Facebook from taken aback parents whose children have written them a kind message, done something kind or said something kind and it’s just lovely to see that it happens everywhere! There really is nothing like the kindness of a child to make you stop for a second and feel warmed by their love and compassion. I’ll leave you with one more example that put a huge smile on my face (after I had stopped crying!)

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I wore this as my ‘something blue’ for my wedding!

Zumba – Let it move you!

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Happiness landmarks are those turning points in your life where something happens that gives you a long lasting boost of happiness. A bit like drinking a double espresso, or downing a shot of Berocca, or driving in to a turbo boost on Super Mario Kart….anyway, finding Zumba has definitely been a happiness landmark for me. I can’t even remember how I first heard about Zumba, but my friend and I decided to go along to a class one evening and we instantly loved it – the music was full of energy and while the moves definitely gave us a work out, we really enjoyed dancing along to the music and had a great time together. From that first class we ended up visiting more classes with different instructors and as time went on, we came up with our own ideals for a perfect Zumba class. I couldn’t believe it when my friend then decided to turn our ideas in to a reality and trained to be an instructor herself! I loved her classes so much – the music was perfect, the moves were perfect and we built up our own Zumba family of members. Then last year another crazy thing happened…my friend had to close the class temporarily while she was on maternity leave and in a moment of madness I decided to train as an instructor myself so that I could cover for her! I had no idea then that it would snowball the way that it has – I absolutely love being an instructor, I now have my own Zumba Kids Jr. class and I’m adding a Zumba Toning class to my timetable after my training in February. Zumba makes me feel so happy, the music, the moves and the people that I get to see every week really give me a boost and put a big smile on my face. I look forward to every class and I have so much fun every time – seeing other people enjoying the class too certainly gives me an extra boost of happiness and confidence, knowing that they have chosen to come back each week is definitely a compliment! I can’t wait for my friend to come back and teach her class because we have so much fun together, but I am also grateful for the opportunity to experience the other side of Zumba because it’s opened up a huge source of happiness that will last a long time!

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My Zumba Kids + Kids Jr. training was one of the best days ever – this photo definitely shows how fun it was!

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This was taken after my first class as an instructor – that’s happiness and relief on my face right there!

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I’m a bit addicted to Zumba clothes….

Feeling proud

Feeling proud is such a funny emotion – whilst you feel an overwhelming happiness for someone, it’s almost as if internally you feel happy for yourself too, as if you are taking credit for someone’s achievements just by being associated with them, sharing their success. My friend Rosie is an INCREDIBLE artist and I am so proud of her I could just burst – I tell everyone that my friend is an artist and I’ve been to her exhibitions and one of them was in London don’t you know…. yet I am not remotely artistic and her talent has absolutely nothing to do with me. Seeing her artwork brings a smile to my face, usually because her humble nature makes her sheepishly slide her sketchbook towards me, and when my jaw drops in amazement she chuckles and looks at her lap. That’s talent right there – artwork that speaks for itself without any need for inflation from the artist. I, however, am not like that at all so I’ve included a few pieces of her work below for you to enjoy and I’ll shout from the rooftops about how good it is. She’s also been chosen as the artist of the month by Outside In – pop over and read her interview!

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Dopamine by Rosie Stevens via Outside In

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Let’s Move On by Rosie Stevens via Outside In

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Sketches by Rosie Stevens via Outside In

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Neptune by Rosie Stevens via Outside In

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Wonky Sunset by Rosie Stevens via Outside In

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Detail 1 by Rosie Stevens via Outside In

A candle in the darkness

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Image source

I’m not going to lie – these last couple of weeks have been TOUGH for so many reasons. The kind of tough where you can feel yourself starting to wallow in self pity because nothing is going right and everything feels like a constant uphill struggle (if you ask my mum I’m a bit of a pro at wallowing in self pity so read in to that what you will!). The last couple of weeks have had me concentrating on just putting one foot in front of the other, getting through the next hour, next part of the day, next part of the week. Sometimes that’s what’s needed and if that’s what gets you through the hard times then so be it. Unfortunately, while I was busy doing that I wasn’t finding the time or the inclination to write blog posts. I wasn’t noticing the happiness around me because frankly nothing felt particularly happy, I could taint anything good with a burst of negativity and that was that. But now that I am feeling more on an even keel I can definitely say that I have noticed sparks of light around me over the last couple of weeks. At work we pride ourselves on being a family and that has never stood out more to me than it has this last week or so. I’ve had so many colleagues asking how I am, listening to my worries, texting me to see if I’m ok, offering kind words of encouragement, hugs, cups of tea, tissues, and giving up their time to cover my work for a bit. Now that I look back on it, it is honestly overwhelming how wonderful they all are. When I think about them it brings a smile to my face and I hope they realise how much they have made the last couple of weeks bearable. Although I can’t say it was a happy little moment at the time, now I certainly feel a little flicker of happiness in my tummy to know that people care about me enough to offer me a candle in the darkness.

Happy new year?

 

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“New year, new me” is usually the saying that gets thrown around at this time of the year. Well it just so happens that actually, I quite like me, and I’m not sure I want a new one thank you very much. I mean, sure I have weird middle toes that bend a funny way – but that just makes me quirky right?! Surely not all of me needs to be shiny and new and perfect for me to be happy?

I totally understand that for lots of people a new year is an opportunity to push the reset button, start over and have another go at doing all of the things that they think they ought to do and “get it right”. For me though, the idea of “new year, better me” is much more appealing. When the clock struck 12 on New Year’s Eve, I definitely got the feeling of a fresh start and a renewed motivation to make 2017 a great year. But I didn’t feel like I had a gruelling list of things to do ahead of me. Instead I felt like I was ready to slowly make a few more changes so that 2017 felt happier than 2016. The first change I wanted to make was to de-clutter the flat and have a good old spring clean. We got straight to it and yesterday we were so happy to wander around our little home and feel that we had accomplished a little victory. Thanks to that little victory I am sitting at my actual desk on an actual chair, writing on my actual laptop because I can finally see them! They are no longer buried under dental check up reminders (bad girl), household bills and takeaway menus. A tidy house makes for a tidy mind and I don’t know about you but a tidy mind certainly makes me feel much happier. Other changes for this year include managing my evening and weekend workload more effectively so that I finish it earlier in the evening and therefore sleep better. I also want to go on longer walks with my dog and increase the number of Zumba classes I am teaching so that I have more opportunities to exercise. I’m sure that there will be more changes that I haven’t even thought of yet, we’ll just have to wait and see…

This certainly doesn’t mean that 2017 has been all plain sailing so far – I still stood at my front door this week trying to unlock it with the bleeper on my car key. I also tried to make a cup of tea by just pouring hot water in a cup and wondered why it was clear (seriously). This morning I nearly poured milk on the dog’s breakfast instead of mine. But that’s ok, because for me a happy new year isn’t a perfect new me, it’s a better me, and I’m getting there!

Thoughtful friends

I think I may have just missed posting this on Wednesday but as I am still up and about I’ll say it anyway – Happy Humpday! This week I have a gorgeous little mid-week pick-me-up from a beautiful friend of mine. As we haven’t seen each other since before Christmas, we delayed gift swapping until this week (read: she gave me her gift while I left mine at home on the table – useless!). Before I opened it she warned me that it might seem a bit weird. Full of intrigue I quickly pulled off the paper and was utterly shocked to see that my wonderful, thoughtful friend had made a wedding album for me! You see, in the age of digital media, everything tends to be kept on computers and memory sticks – including my wedding photos. I am ashamed to admit that I have never actually collected them in to an album and it has now become one of those jobs on the ‘maybe later’ to-do list.

This is the cover of the wedding album – it’s so beautiful!

Seeing this gorgeous photo album made me feel happy for a number of reasons. Firstly, seeing photos from my wedding brought back lots of lovely memories of the day and it put a smile on my face to see them again. Secondly, the fact that I have someone in my life who not only remembered something I briefly mentioned in conversation, but also then took so much time and care to create such a thoughtful gift makes me feel very loved indeed. And feeling loved is a very happy thing!

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Painted nails

This runs the risk of being a very long post – you see, I have been obsessed with all things nail related for what feels like forever. I love watching YouTube videos about nail painting (Christine from SimplyNailogical is my favourite), I love painting my nails, I love having my nails painted for me, I love painting other people’s nails and I love buying new nail polishes (read: anything nail related). I have loved all of these things for a very long time and it’s showing no sign of stopping!

I think painted nails and the process of painting nails makes me happy because there’s a beautiful art involved. I enjoy the challenge of painting my nails neatly and I feel really satisfied when I look at a finished set of nails and they are just perfect! Painted nails make me feel glamorous and posh (even though I’m sat here in my pyjamas looking like a scruffball), just watching my nails sparkle as they clack away on the keyboard makes me smile. I remember our primary school choir teacher’s nails clicking as she played the piano and deciding there and then that was what I wanted – to play the piano? NO! To have nails long enough to make them clack on things (such ambition). Since then I’ve had long nails, lots of short nails, acrylic nails, glued on nails, fibreglass nails, gel nails, nail extensions, and a weird hybrid gel/acrylic mix that nobody could get off my nails and nearly did some serious damage to them (but we won’t talk about that) – the lot! And it still makes me smile to think of my choir teacher every time I click my nails on the table.

At the moment I’ve been a very good girl and grown out my natural nails with the help of my Sensationail kit – home gel kits are amazing! Now I can paint my own nails with polishes that don’t chip which has saved me a fortune in going to the salon and it means I can change the colour whenever I fancy.

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My current Sensational gel collection – sooooooo pretty!

I am loving glittery polishes at the moment and have just ordered a few more in the Christmas sales*. My current set are gold glitter basically poured over my nails and fixed in place with a tangerine glitter polish. I love watching them sparkle in the light and the running joke in the family at the moment is “Have you done your nails Annie?” due to the number of times I have stopped everyone to make them look and appreciate their loveliness.

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Look at all the glitter!!

In short, I blooming love feeling pretty with my posh nails and when I catch them in the corner of my eye I feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Simple things, eh?

*They arrived as I was writing this – crazy timing!

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Introducing my latest additions: berry nice, shimmering spruce and feeling guilty.

Family gathering

Mid-week happiness was easy to find this week because today we had our Christmas family get-together with my mum’s side of the family. It has long since been tradition that we meet up every Christmas and every summer with all of my aunts, uncles and cousins. Sadly my grandparents are no longer with us but they used to come too and join in the madness. Over the years me and my brother have moaned about packing our things up and travelling to whichever relative was hosting ‘the do’, arriving at a house filled with noise and the hustle and bustle of people – usually stressing about the food, or the alcohol, or both. I remember when we ran out of booze one year and persuaded my uncle to drive us to find a shop that was open late. There was also the year we played Pass the Bomb in my parents’ living room and narrowly avoided smashing the telly… Then there was the time my uncle wrote a play for my mum and dad’s silver wedding anniversary and we all acted it out for them. The year that my grandad died was fairly horrendous – that involved a lot of wine and crying.

There have been so many memories created through our family gatherings – not all of them have been happy but I am really grateful that our parents made sure we kept to schedule and always met up because all of the memories I have are treasured. My crazy family is definitely one of a kind and I love them all very much. Today was no different than usual – lots of hustle and bustle, plenty of food and drink, and debates about who the last dead celebrity will be of 2016 (we’re a positive bunch). Pass the Bomb was swapped for the much safer and even more hilarious Game for Fame (less smashing things, more making a fool of yourself) and plenty more happy memories were added to the bank.

Scented candles

Anyone who has been in my flat knows that I blooming love scented candles. I have to say I am usually of the Yankee persuasion but I am always open to new experiences – thanks to the news of my candle addiction spreading to friends and family, I have enjoyed all sorts from the crackling sounds of Woodwick to the alcoholic notes of Harrocks gin and tonic.

I love lighting a different candle in each room and enjoying the change in scent as I wander around my little flat. I find the flicker of a candle flame really relaxing and it brings such a cosy feeling to the room.

I received so many candles for my last birthday that my husband decided the ‘new plan’ would be to burn candles as often as we could to ‘get rid of a load’. Now, while I disagree with his sentiment, I certainly wasn’t going to pass up an opportunity to freely light my candles whenever I wanted! The funny thing is he actually started to like having them lit all the time, so much so that he even bought a manly candle-lighting-clicker-thingy to light them with. I bought him a manly candle to go with it as a joke and guess what – he liked that too! Now we have candles dotted all around the flat and they’re always lit, and I feel a little wave of happiness every time I walk past them.

Cosy pyjamas

Cosy pyjamas. Oh I just love the word cosy, the sound of it makes me feel all warm and snuggly. Add that word to ‘pyjamas’ and you’re setting yourself up for a lovely evening in front of the telly. Now I know it’s not particularly (read: at all) glamorous, but in the evening I can’t wait to pull on my cosy pyjamas, my giant knitted dressing gown and my snuggly slipper socks. There’s something about it that gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling in my tummy. Maybe it’s because I feel like I can finally start to relax after a busy day, or maybe it’s because I feel safe and warm all bundled up while the cold rain drips down the window outside. Either way, for more than a moment, my cosy pyjamas bring a smile to my face and make me feel happy.

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This is my new favourite ensemble, courtesy of my husband – look at all the cute reindeer!