Being organised

The more posts I write for this blog, the more aware I am becoming of how happy I feel when I am organised. All aspects of organisation make me feel better, whether I have cleaned and tidied the flat, made a list, sorted through the post or made a phone-call, it all brings me a feeling of happiness. Thinking about it more carefully, I think the happiness comes from a sense of pride, a sense of accomplishment that I have achieved something positive and a sense of relief that I don’t need to worry about it anymore. I also get to enjoy the results of being organised, whether that’s living in a tidy space or knowing that I have made the necessary arrangements for something good to happen.

The reduction in mental stress is huge – I think everyone knows the feeling of brain-ache, when you are using so much energy to simultaneously remember, organise and arrange 101 things and you are worried that you might forget something. I often describe this as having 72 tabs open on Google and trying to work on them all at the same time. I’m sure you can relate to that!

To help me be more organised I have many resources and routines in place:

  • Every morning I check all of the places that I receive messages – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, email, texts and WhatsApp and make sure that I have replied to anything I have received (and even then I miss some – as Karen will be able to tell you!).
  • I have a calendar on my phone that is automatically set to give me reminders of events. I am also able to use it to set myself reminders for jobs that need doing on specific days.
  • I have a magnetic whiteboard on the fridge to write down my shopping list – I can add items as I go so that I don’t have to remember them and I can wipe items off as I buy them.
  • I have a calendar on the wall so that my husband and I can write down any major events we’re attending so that we don’t double book ourselves (it has happened many, many times in the past…).
  • I keep pens and post-its near the calendar so that I can write myself any reminders and stick them in an appropriate place.
  • I keep a toast rack in the kitchen to store any unopened post from the letter box – this stops any post being missed and reminds me to open it!
  • I have pretty bulldog clips hanging on the wall in my office to hold any paperwork I am currently using – this stops it getting lost and stops my desk getting cluttered (they also look very cute!).
  • I have a book (yes, a book) of to-do lists. I have different lists for different areas of my life (such as home, work, Guides, Zumba) and when I have time, I work through the lists as much as I can. This helps me to allocate my time more effectively so that jobs don’t get forgotten or left languishing too long. It also stops my lists getting lost!
  • Everything has a home – nothing is allowed to live in the flat without having a place to belong. This stops the place being constantly untidy because of random items that have nowhere to go.

I could probably think of more things that I do, but we’ll leave it there for now! What do you do to help yourself be organised? How does it make you feel?

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!

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.

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.

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.