December Reflections: Biggest Change in 2017

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I've been sitting for days trying to decide what to write for this prompt and nothing was coming to me. 

Last year there were so many changes in my life, many of which were not welcomed, that I struggled to keep up. At times everything seemed so overwhelming, but I had (and still have) an amazing support network around me that I found my way through and felt that I was going into 2017 stronger than ever.

On the contrary this year I feel as if everything come to a halt like I'm sitting in a traffic jam. Part of me has been becoming increasingly frustrated that I'm not reaching my desired destination, while the other part is enjoying the rest that comes with falling into a new routine. 2017, it seems, is a year of contradictions.

I am loving being back at home and enjoy spending much of my free time with mum. I no longer feel that I have lost my independence by moving back into my childhood home and I have accepted that it is highly unlikely that I will be able to afford my own home. Yet I am still plagued with thoughts of my dream home and how I would decorate and furnish it. To placate this feeling I have been working on making my own space as 'me' as possible. 

Work is still a pleasant distraction for me. I enjoy the variety that my role provides. I can hardly believe I've been there over two years and being part of a small team again reminds me of how I felt when I first started at Tropical ten years ago. I feel at home and the team are my work family. I still have much to learn and the thought of a new challenge keeps me enthusiastic on the days when pouring over spreadsheets numbs my soul.

The other aspect of my life that has always been a constant is my guiding. That is probably the biggest change of the year when I think about it. For the first time since becoming a volunteer, I am not attached to a unit. It is both liberating and saddening at the same time. I feel guilty for saying this, but I don't miss it. I do yoga on Mondays and in the New Year I'll be at running club on Tuesdays and choir on Wednesdays. Saying no to being with a unit has meant that I can say yes to giving myself an evening to rest once a week. I am currently feeling very conflicted about whether I am giving enough of myself to Girlguiding at the moment and it's new territory for me. It's something I know I need to explore further and discuss with fellow volunteers. 

Overall I guess you could say that the biggest change for me this year is my new-found acceptance of the turn I have taken on life's path. I am sure my counselling sessions have had a lot to do with this. Now it is the change for 2018 that I am excited for and as I feel increasingly more in control of the things that are to come, I can continue to accept what has already happened. No one knows what the future hold and for the most part our destiny is ours to shape. That is where the fun lies and I looking forward to moulding a future that may not be what I originally planned, but is certainly one that I want and love.
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December Reflections: Green

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Back in May I went on a weekend retreat and totally forgot to write about it at the time. With day eight's theme for December Reflections, being 'Green', I thought now would be the perfect time to tell you all about the wonder that is Green Farm Fitness.

I first found out about Green Farm Fitness while reading Psychologies. Not long after I was out for breakfast with my friends and we happened to start talking about retreats and what we had planned for the following year. I can't remember who mentioned Green Farm first, but it turned out Claire had been before and loved it. She was planning to go again so she said she'd dend me the details so that I could join her. I didn't need to be asked twice!

What seemed like many months later we arrived at Green Farm one lovely Friday afternoon and Claire introduced me to Maryann and Kathryn who would be looking after us for the weekend. We were shown to our room at the very top of the house where we relaxed while waiting for everyone else to arrive before.
  
 
Dinner was amazing (every meal was home cooked and freshly prepared) and it was lovely to be able to chat to and get to know everyone that first evening. We all had a right laugh and went to bed (way past my bedtime) in good spirits ready for an energetic weekend.
Saturday morning we were all up bright and early for breakfast and then into the forest for cardio and strength circuits. It started off well and despite my level of fitness I was quite impressed with how well I was keeping up. But then came the step ups on, what I now attectionally call, the log of doom. I was just getting into a rhythm when I stepped up, slipped on the log, felt my ankle twist and fell on my arse.

Kathryn made me stick it up in the air few a few minutes so I just lied down on the ground feeling mightily embarrassed that I'd fallen not far from the first hurdle. I took it easy on the rest of the circuits and was happy when I noticed that it had started to feel better.

Once our circuits were complete we had free time so Claire and I went on a mission to find somewhere that sold magnesium sulphate for a nasty insect bite that I got on holiday. Nowhere seemed to have it so I ended up settling for antihistamines and hoping they would do the trick. When we got back I was under orders by Kathryn to keep 'log foot' elevated and for good measure I decided to do the same with 'bite foot' as well.
 
I was famished by the time we sat down for lunch and the soup and freshly baked bread that we had was exactly what the doctor ordered. After lunch we were all due to go for a walk in the woods, but while we were eating my ankle really began to throb. The adrenaline that has been pumping through my body during the morning session was wearing off and it was becoming obvious that my ankle was not OK as I first thought.

The walk through the woods was the part of the weekend that I had been looking forward to the most so I stupidly decided to ignore the increasing pain and go for the walk. Bad idea! We'd barely been out for five minutes and I was at the back of the group when normally I'd be holding my own pretty well. It hurt so much that I was fighting back tears and I was so annoyed because I thought I'd ruined my chance of doing anything else for the rest of the weekend. Looking back I'm still glad I went though as I got to feed the lambies!
 
 
 
 
Once we got back we had a short break before our core, yoga and pilates session. I really wanted to do it, but by now my ankle was throbbing so much that I felt physically sick. I took some painkillers and went up to bed so that I could stick it up on a few pillows. I tried to keep it elevated as long as possible, but the pain was so bad that I went on to plan B and decided to sleep through it. Needless to say I missed the afternoon session.

Claire woke me up when she got back, for which I was very grateful as I had booked a massage and there was no way I was missing that. Never had one before and now I have, I don't know why I didn't before. It was amazing and just what I needed to help relax.

Walking was a serious issue now and I tried to stay off it as much as possible, but the sessions for the day were now over and I just had to hope that a good night's sleep would sort it out.

The next day was much the same minus the woodland walk and the massage. After breakfast we ventured back into the forest for circuits where I point blank refused to do step ups on the logs. Nope! No way! Not doing it! I was glad that I was feeling up to doing the yoga session though. Love a bit of yoga, I do. Kathryn was absolutely amazing advising would I should and shouldn't do and giving me suggestions of alternatives. This woman knows her stuff!

As well as the circuits, core sessions, walk and spa treatments that were available, we also had the opportunity to book a review session with Kathryn to look at our fitness and nutrition once the weekend was over. The weekend really was tailored to suit everyone's level and goals.

Despite my mishap, my weekend at Green Farm Farm was absolutely amazing and I would love to go again next year. And even if I don't get back to a fitness retreat as soon as I would like, I'll definitely be heading back to the spa for a massage!
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December Reflections: Favourite Photo of 2017

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When I was looking back through my photos from this year (which didn't take long - sadly I don't take as many photos as I used to), there was a recurring theme as I picked out my short list of favourites. They all contained my little pickles, Benjamin and Scarlett. 

I have been very lucky to have spent more time with them this year than I have in previous years and have enjoyed babysitting them when my brother and sister-in-law have been off shooting weddings or Mayor's dinners (they're photographers, not Bonnie and Clyde, by the way). 

I love driving down to Bexhill after work on a Friday evening, giving the little rascals a big squish before they go off to bed, and then spending the evening with my big bro and his lovely missus. We usually just have dinner and watch a film, but as I didn't get to grow up with either of my brothers, any time I get to spend with them now is cherished greatly. Plus by brother has amazing taste in films!

Once the adults are out at work (I still can't quite grasp the idea that I, myself, am an adult), our day of fun begins! This year we've had lots of fun this year celebrating Chinese New Year, going out for pizza, snuggling up in the cinema to see Despicable Me 3 and getting Alexa to fart (sad, but true!) and then I got to spend a week with them in August too.

The photo I have chosen though is not from one of my babysitting escapades or even from our summer holiday in Spain. It is from a day out at Blackberry Farm in Sussex. Gigi and Grandad (aka Caroline and Dad) had been looking after the kids for the weekend and we all decided we wanted to get out of the house as it was a beautiful spring day.

When my brother found out we were taking them to the farm, he made us swear that we would cover them in antibac gel so that they wouldn't pick up any bugs. When we arrived at our destination, I couldn't resist setting up a photo to send to Simon and Abi so show that we had taken their request seriously. It didn't come out quite as well as I'd hoped, but we got a few laughs out of it and it's a reminder of a wonderful day spent in the sunshine having fun.
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December Reflections: I Was Challenged By...

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18 months ago my mum and I joined Slimming World. I had been unhappy with my weight for a while and I decided that enough was enough and it was time to do something about it. We went along to our first meeting at the end of June last year, sat through the talk, picked up our books and left ready to commit to our new, healthy lifestyle.

One week later I stepped on the scales to discover that I had lost 5lbs. I was thrilled and it spurred me on for the next week where I lost another 3lb and was awarded Slimmer of the Week. At the end of our first month I was awarded Slimmer of the Month and I was well on the way to losing a stone.

The feeling was absolutely amazing and I felt confident that it would not be long before I reached my target weight and fit back into my favourite dresses.

However it wasn't long before I plauteaued and began to alternate between losses and gains each week. Then Christmas arrived with its advent calendars, mince pies, tins of biscuits and chocolates, roast dinners and alcohol consumption at any time of the day. There was no way I would be counting syns during my favourite time of year. I was going to enjoy all aspects of the festive season. I would renew my efforts in the New Year.

My plateau continued into 2017 with the additional inconvenience of the Christmas weight gain. Up and down each week and then up, up, up...

Then in July I went to see a documentary called Embrace and it changed my perspective on everything with regards to the way I viewed my body. It made me realise that I didn't miss the way my old body looked; I missed what my body was once able to do.

If I'm being honest I've never been totally happy with my body even when it looked amazing (even if I do say so myself). When I look at photos of me at my slimmest, I am also reminded that they were often the times when I was at my unhappiest. Weight loss caused by heartbreak, stress, depression and anxiety made me look great, but inside I was feeling crap. 

I was also a very fussy eater when I was younger. Over the past few years, I have actually started to enjoy eating things I would never have dreamt of even trying in the past. This has been great in the sense that I now eat a much more varied and therefore healthier diet. It also means that I began to put on weight as my body was finally receiving the nourishment I'd never allowed it to have. Combining this with the fact I still love my pizza and have quite a sweet tooth and you can see how I ended up the heaviest I've ever been.

Watching Embrace helped me to understand that I should be grateful for everything that my body allows me to do and to treat it accordingly. This doesn't mean starving it of the things that I enjoy, but to help it to grow in strength. Exercise is what I was missing.

I never thought of myself as particularly active when I was younger, but looking back I walked everywhere because I couldn't drive, I'd dive right into a gym session and I loved my nights out dancing. 

I started to think about back at my recent peaks of activity. In 2015 I spent nearly every day during the summer walking the three miles into work each day. I didn't seem to lose any weight, but when I went back to Rainbows after the break, I noticed that I was finding it easier to join in with the girls.

Then I thought about last summer when I challenged myself to walk at least 10,000 steps a day for a month. I felt fricking awesome and I think it was that feeling that actually made me feel like I could accomplish my goal at Slimming World. I was still walk fairly regularly when I started. Were my achievements in those first few weeks actually down to my fitness regime as opposed to the food optimisation that I spent ages planning each day of each week?

Last month I went to my last Slimming World meeting. Rather ironically my last weigh in revealed that I was back at the same weight that I had been at my first meeting all those months ago. In the end it had been a waste of time and money.

And I think that right there is one of my main issues with programmes like Slimming World and Weight Watchers. You have to pay week after week to stand on the scales and be told what you weigh. It gets shared with the group and if you haven't had the best week, that can make you feel like absolute shit, like a failure. If you aren't able to go one week, then the next time you have to pay not only for that week, but also the week(s) you have missed.

I went to a Prosecco and Positivity evening that my friend held a few weeks back and she explained that everyone has their own set point when it comes to weight. This is why when we diet, we may lose in the first few weeks, but it will nearly always go back on. And this is how companies like Slimming World make their money as many of their customers end up in a continuous cycle of losing, maintaining and then gaining weight. 

Don't get me wrong, I realise that programmes like this do work for some people and that is amazing, but I need a new approach and that has to start with me embracing the body I have, loving it and thanking it for what it can do and then encouraging it to acheive even more.

In 2017 I was challenged by my desire to lose weight and my reason behind that desire. In 2018 I will challenge myself to embrace every part of me. I am who I am and I don't want to go back to being the fussy eater who wouldn't touch a single vegetable on her plate. I want to continue trying new foods and not have to worry about what that might do to the number on the scales. Instead I will work on my fitness and making it a daily part of my life so that I can make my body stronger and more capable.
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December Reflections: Best Book of 2017

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I'm going to come straight out and say it. I can't pick just one 'best' book from 2017. It's impossible. There have been so many that I have enjoyed reading. I nearly ended up picking three, but as I wrote about the princess saves herself in this one back in January, I decided I'd keep it to just two books, one fiction and one non-fiction. But that's great, right? You're getting two for the price of one. Bargain!


I'd had the book Running Like a Girl by Alexandra Heminsley for quite a while, but hadn't got around to reading in. In the end I actually downloaded the audio version using one of my Audible credits so that I could listen to it on my daily commute and I'm so glad I did. I think it can be so powerful to hear an author tell the story that they have written, especially when that story is real and not fiction.

Listening to Alexandra tell the story of how she became a runner made me realise that I could actually do it myself despite the fact I've believed since primary school that I'm 'not a runner'. I've always associated running with coming last in every single race I've ever been in, whether it was the egg and spoon race at Sports Day or the 800m in PE at secondary school.  

As an adult I now see it as an opportunity. While I am not yet a runner, I love nothing more than sticking my earphones in, blasting some music, an audio book or podcast and setting off on a long walk. When I'm walking I forget about all my worries and, despite the ache in my legs, it stands me in good stead for the rest of the day. I can only imagine that running gives you a similar, maybe even more intense, feeling. When you are on your own and it is no longer a race; exercise can be a tool to improve your mentality instead of destroy your confidence.

Alexandra's story goes through all of her ups and downs in her journey to become a fully-fledged runner. Her initial belief that she would never be able to do, her growing confidence, self-doubt in the middle of a marathon, injury and even things you wouldn't initially think of like the trauma of shopping for trainers.

Whether you are a runner or not, I think everyone can gain something from Alexandra's enthusiasm and  determination and I would recommend picking up a copy or even downloading the audio like I did. 


Anyone who knows me, knows that I'm a fan of Giovanna Fletcher (I've now met her five times in case you're keeping count) and I have to say I think this is my favourite of her novels so far. 

Some Kind of Wonderful tells the story of Lizzy who embarks on a mission to find herself after her boyfriend of ten years ditches her in the very same moment that he proposes to her. Harsh, right? It's a thought-provoking tale about how much of ourselves we sacrifice in our relationships (not just the romantic ones) and how the people that come into our lives change us.

I'm not ashamed to admit that I cried buckets for the first few chapters as it brought back memories that I had intended to keep well and truly buried, but as the story moved on I found myself cheering Lizzy on and realised that I have been on a similar journey myself the past two years. 

Without giving too much away, I love the way that Giovanna brings characters from her other novels in so seamlessly. You know those moments when you find out that you and someone you've just met have a mutual friend and you realise that the phrase 'It's a small world' is actually very accurate at times. It feels very much like that.

Having said what I have about characters from her other novels, this story is a stand alone one and can be read without have read any of her other ones. I hope Giovanna decides to continue Lizzy's story in the future, but regardless of who the characters are in her next story, I can't wait!
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December Reflections: Circles

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Inspired by my December Reflections photo on Instagram for day 4, I have decided to write about my love for card games today. 

"What do card games have to do with circles?!" I hear you ask.

Not a lot, I'll admit. The best I could come up with is that you tend to sit in a circle if you are playing a game with more than one person than yourself, but I'm going to run with it and see where it takes us because, quite frankly, I can't think of anything else to write about.

I've had a love of card games from an early age. I'm sure it started with Snap and memory games, but I remember my nan and grandad teaching me some of their favourites too. Nan was a fan of Patience, both normal and the clock version. I used to loved playing it and it kept me amused while she was getting on with housework. Then Grandad taught me how to play Go Fish together and sometimes Nan would join us for a game too. 

Grandad was also one for card tricks and taught me how to do one once. I can't remember it anymore, but I loved the fact that I was able to do even one piece of 'magic'.

As time went on I played card games less and less, especially when I got a computer and realised I could play all my favourites and more on there. Over time I discovered new card games that would take the place of those played with traditional playing cards. 

Around the time I got into Harry Potter, I discovered Top Trumps, mainly because they released Harry Potter editions with every film that came out. I became quite competitive at this and loved the fact that the categories in each set were the same so you could play a really long game with several packs at the same time.

In fact I've got a feeling that writing this post is going to begin a whole new addiction for me because, while looking for pictures of Harry Potter Top Trump sets, I've discovered that you now make your very own Personalised Top Trumps game. How long has this been a thing? Why did no one tell me about it?! What games can I create? Oh, this could keep me entertained for a while...

Then there's perhaps my favourite card game of all. UNO! We started playing this at uni and I only realised maybe last year that we have never played it the correct way. Apparently you score points for playing certain cards and then the first person to get rid of all their cards gets 500 points. We never played it that way. We just kept playing until everyone got rid of their cards. First person was first place, last person was last place. 

Then there were extra rules that some of us would start adding like jumping in if you have the exact same card that is on top of the discard pile. I think another was passing your cards to another player if a certain card came up. Man, that was infuriating if you only had one left and you ended up with a whole stack to get rid of again!

I think it was probably these extra 'rules' that caused our games to get a little scary at times. I can remember one trip to Centre Parcs where we were all playing around the dining room table. It was the least civilised game of anything that I have ever been involved in. During one particularly competitive round one of us, naming no names (Rebecca!), laid down a bunch of Draw Two and Wild Draw Four cards (I'm sure you can't put those all down at the same same and this was another one of our 'rules') and declared loudly, "EAT SHIT!" to poor Will who had been very close to winning. I honestly don't know how we're all still friends.

Card games seem to be making a come back now, or maybe they never really went away. Whether you like them or not, games like Cards Against Humanity are becoming increasingly popular and it's not hard to see why. Even some of our favourite board games are now available in card form (Monopoly Deal, anyone?) so that you can whip them out at a moment's notice and play virtually anywhere. They are convenient and fun and allow you all to sit in a group together facing each other and conversing while you play.

In a time when we spend the majority of the time glued to a screen, I think it's wonderful that card games are still going strong and I really believe that they are great for bringing people together. With Christmas fast approaching, I'm hoping I can convince my family to play a few classics (maybe not Uno and definitely not Cards Against Humanity) and also discover some new ones that we can enjoy.

I'd love to know what cards game you love, whether it's with a normal set of playing cards or specialist cards like Uno or Monopoly Deal.
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December Reflections: Best Day of 2017

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2017 has gone by in a total blur. When I was thinking about days I could write about for today's (OK, yesterday's) prompt, I would look back on Facebook to check the date and find that they were from last year. I have managed to narrow down a best day of 2017 though. 

Back in the summer my friend Oli invited me along to his college graduation ceremony, an invitation which I gladly accepted. Any excuse for a day off work to be honest. JOKE! I love and support you in everything that you do crap bag.

My day started off with a mammoth road trip with a journey that should have taken an hour and a half taking more than three hours. It was one of the hottest days of the year so far and by the time I arrived I was hot, sweaty, stressed and bouncing off the walls from all the sugar that I'd consumed during the journey.

It didn't end there because I then had to drive for another hour to get to Reading. I don't like driving to places that I don't know, particularly if they are busy town centres with scary ring roads, so I wasn't the best company considering I'd been invited to such a special occasion.

Then Oli realised that he'd forgotten the tickets.
I know what you're thinking. So far this doesn't seem like the formula for 'Best Day of 2017'. And you would be right, but it does get better and I can at least look back on it and laugh now.

By now we're really running quite late to meet up with Oli's friends before the ceremony so while he ran off to the college to try and rectify the ticket situation, I began to relax and finally enjoy the day by having a shower and putting on my make up and pretty dress. I don't go on nights out much anymore so I was well and truly making the most of it.

Oli came back both exasperated and relieved with the news that we didn't need the tickets after all and started to get ready himself. Once we were both suited and booted we headed into town for the poshest of dinners... Pizza Hut. Come on, everyone knows that if you're planning a drunken night out then pizza is the best option for soaking it up!

I'm glad I opted against heels on this particular occasion (I'm glad I opt out on most occasions to be honest) because we had a lot of walking to do. We walked as quickly as we could to Oli's friend's house for drinkies and then grabbed a taxi to the university where the ceremony and after party would be taking place. We all piled into the hall and grabbed seats right at the back like naughty school kids. It was finally happening - the class of 2017 were graduating.

It was so inspiring watching everyone go up to collect their certificates. These were people of all ages who had decided to take the leap and change the path that their lives are on. I was silently cheering them on all for having the guts and determination to follow their dreams. It really made me take a look at my own life and begin to evaluate what I want to do myself. I can't even describe how proud I felt when Oli went up on stage, clapping so hard that my hands hurt.

After the very loooooong ceremony, we walked around to the party venue discussing how Oli was going to sneak me in (we had discovered that while the ceremony was for friends and family of students, the party was for students only - cue Patrick Stewart again).

We needn't have worried. There was no one on the door checking credentials and so I walked straight in and up to the bar like the cocky student that I longed to be once again. And once I ordered the first round, I felt like I had reason to feel cocky. Two Jagerbombs, a pint of Heineken and a double Archers and lemonade all for £10.40. Man, I miss uni!
 
We spent most of the evening chilling outside and partying with one of Oli's teachers who has to be perhaps the coolest teacher I've ever met! As the night went on there were lots more drinks, plus lots of singing and dancing. It was like the DJ had taken my CD collection and selected the cheesiest songs that he could find. I felt like I was 19 again! It was less than two weeks until my birthday and I was making the most of being able to let my hair down and enjoy myself.
Speaking of which, the other reason that this was the best day of 2017 for me. I made a friend. I spent a lot of the evening chatting to one of Oli's friends Sophie (Oli ditched me to chat all things History with Richard the cool teacher) and she mentioned that her birthday was in 13 days. I did some very quick and drunken mental arithemtic before announcing very loudly and high-pitched, "Your birthday's 20th July? SO'S MINE!!!" The ensuing screeching led to Oli muttering something along the lines of, "Women!" while attempting to protect his hearing.

Despite the start of the day, it really did end up being one of the best days that I've had in a long time. Maybe it helped that I didn't really know anyone so I could just totally let go and regress to being the party queen that I was at uni. It's definitely not something I could do every week (or several times a week) like I could back then, but it was certainly great to spend a beautiful summer's day and night with friends old and new.
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December Reflections: Red

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In December we seem to be surrounded by a sea of red. Whether it's holly berries, sparkling tinsel on a tree, a Yankee candle with that smell that reminds you of Christmas, a Strawberry Delight from a tin of Quality Street or Santa in his familiar red suit (thanks Coca Cola), you can't go far without seeing that vivid shade. Even the festive Mickey and Minnie that sit on my bed are wearing red! 

At any other time of the year red is a colour of extremes. We relate it to emotions such as love and passion, but it is also associated with anger and danger. In January I am hoping the colour red will also make me think of determination and strength.

Last month an email dropped into my inbox announcing that R.E.D January was on the way. Run Every Day Janaury challenges you to do exactly what it says on the tin and for 2018 they have partnered with Mind so, of course, I had to sign up.
Luckily for me Run Every Day January is a little deceptive as you can run or walk anything from 5 minutes a day to 5 or 10km. The main aim is to be active for 31 consecutive days to kick-start the year in a really positive and energetic way.

Anyone who knows me that I'm not a runner... yet! I've wanted to take up running for a while now having heard so many wonderful things about how freeing it is and how much it reduces stress. Then when I read Running Like a Girl by Alexandra Heminsley earlier this year I decided that I really should give it a go. A proper go, not breaking into a jog for a few sections of parkrun on a Saturday morning.

I downloaded Couch to 5k on my phone, got an armband for my phone, got some running gloves to prepare for the impending cold weather and... that was about it. Truly appalling, I know. 

I decided that this email was a sign that I should make solid effort to become a runner. I will not be running every day, but my aim is to run at least three times a week and walk the other days. I'll definitely be walking on Sunday 14th January when I do the 20km Winter Walk around London though.

So less than a month until the start of what is looking to be a very active 2018. I'm only a little bit scared. If you want to beat the January blues, then join me and get R.E.D.
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December Reflections: Early

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As a rule I've always been an early riser. In fact if I have to be somewhere at a particular time then I tend to be early as I'm paranoid about arriving late. I think it's probably got something to do with the fact that I was two weeks overdue when I was born. Even being induced could not convince me to leave my cosy home and so I was forcibly evicted by c-section. I'm certain that my compulsion to be early for everything is some form of repentance for my initial tardiness.

Being up early has always been a part of my life. When my mum went back to work, my nan and grandad would look after me before and after school. I remember getting up and climbing bleary-eyed into the car still wearing my pyjamas, then getting dressed for school at their flat. Come to think of it, that might also explain my penchant for travelling in my pyjamas, but that's beside the point.

When I started secondary school I would get the bus, but after a while it became too expensive so my mum would drop me off at school before going to work. I loved it! I loved the peace and quiet and would use the time by myself to finish off any homework that I hadn't already completed. Yes, I know I should have done it at home, but my mind has always been more alert and productive in the morning. Plus being in the school environment put me in the right mindset to get it done.

Even as little as four years ago I would easily get up at 4.30am and get to work for 6am when the factory guys would open up (*shudders at the thought of doing that now*). It was the same as school. I loved the couple of hours that I had of being able to work uninterrupted. For me it wasn't about the overtime, it was simply about knowing when my brain worked at its best.
In more recent years I've not found it so easy to get up like I used to. I still tend to wake up around 6am regardless of whether my alarm is set or not. However the warmth and cosiness of my bed often stops me from jumping out from under the duvet raring to go. 

It's not so bad in the summer months when I have been known to set my alarm so I'd have enough time to walk the three miles to work instead of getting the bus or, since I changed jobs, drive to work and find a route that appealed to me on any given day. By the time I sat down at my desk, my lungs would be full of fresh air, I would feel wide awake and I would, more often than not, have a smile on my face.

The truth is I'd love to rediscover my enthusiasm for being up before the sun. I'm currently reading The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod. Described as 'the six habits that will change your life before 8am,' The Miracle Morning encourages the reader to start setting their alarm earlier each day in order to create enough time to practise each of Hal's Life S.A.V.E.R.S. 
When Hal began to develop The Miracle Morning, he started by setting his alarm an hour earlier each day and devoting ten minutes doing each one, but he assures the reader that spending as little as a minute on each to begin with can be beneficial. I decided to go for the whole hour! I changed the alarm on my Fitbit to go off at 5am every day. I then read two more chapters of the book before going to sleep.

I'm glad I did because if I hadn't I would have missed the 'five-step- snooze-proof wake-up strategy'. This includes setting your intentions the night before (if you tell yourself you're going to wake up tired then that's how you'll wake up, so flip it around!), keeping your alarm clock across the room so you have to get up to switch it off (mine is on my wrist so that isn't going to work), brushing your teeth as soon as you get up (I do this anyway), drinking a full glass or water to rehydrate (well, I drink whatever's left from what I've had in the night so that's a start) and getting into your workout clothes (not going to happen).

I woke up with my alarm feeling rested and surprisingly awake, but I'm not going to lie, I stayed in bed for about 20 minutes appreciating the warmth. I guess that what you get for living in a house with no central heating! I also broke Hal's rule about leaving my shower as a reward for my workout. Showers are the easiest way to wake me up and, on a day like today, thaw me out too.

Once I was dressed I went downstairs and set myself up in front of the fire to meditate. I rather cheekily combined the Silence and Affirmation activities because I usually repeat a mantra when I meditate so it made sense for me to carry on as I already do. Today I also started a 21-Day Positive Affirmation Challenge so for the next three weeks I'll be using the daily affirmation as my mantra. After that I might do the two activities separately, but for now this is working for me.

It was then that I started to falter. I didn't even attempt the Visualisation this morning. I've never really got to grips with the concept so I made the decision to wait until I've read that chapter to incorporate it into my routine. It's the next chapter so I won't have any excuses tomorrow. Exercise was delayed until after I got to work as I already had a walk penciled in so I'm not counting that as a failure. The majority of my exercise is in the form of walking and as I love the routes I have found around work I won't always be able to make it part of this power hour.

Reading did happen though. I started the next chapter of The Miracle Morning. Not much more to say on that, is there? 

And here I am Scribing. Yes, I know it's should technically to be in my journal, but these posts are my December Reflections and so I'm taking that as a win. Plus I go into free-flow when I'm typing and the words don't always come so easily when I physically write.

I'm really looking forward to incorporating The Miracle Morning into my life and using the extra time to do the stuff that matters to me and will help me to build a future for myself. Perhaps more importantly though, I am looking forward to rediscovering the peaceful feeling that comes with being up while everyone else is still asleep.

I'll be back for tomorrow for Day 2 which is Red. Don't ask me what I'll be writing about because I haven't the foggiest yet!
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December Reflections

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Here I am sitting down to write on the last Monday in November. By the end of the week it will be December. How did that even happen?! I mean, I know how it happened, but... actually, no, I don't know it happened! I say it every year but, seriously, where has this year gone?!

On Friday I was delighted to see an email from Susannah Conway drop into my inbox. It was titled 'December Reflections is back!' and being in the reflective mood that I seem to be in lately, I decided to take a closer look.

What originally started as a photo challenge to take a photo every day in December, has evolved into something much more with the prompts providing a creative way to reflect on a year that is coming to an end. 
After blogging fairly regularly during 2016, I vowed to blog weekly during 2017. That clearly didn't happen! But in a burst of enthusiasm that tends to come to me in the run up to Christmas, I have decided that as well as posting a photo on Instagram, I will write about each prompt on here. Every day. 

I realise that may seem quite unbelievable considering that I haven't even managed to consistently write even one blog a month, but I committed to the 12 Days of Christmas blogs last year and, well, this is just a little bit more than that. Just a teeny bit!

Susannah's wonderful community will be sharing photos on Instagram, in the Facebook group or on their own blogs using the hashtag #DecemberReflections2017, so if you'd like to join them and me on a look back on 2017 then check out Susannah's website for more info.

See you on Friday for Day 1...

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Driving Miss Crazy

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I get in the car and switch the SatNav on. Navigate to... Home. 

Oh no, not via the M3. I can’t be dealing with that this afternoon. 

Find alternative. Avoid part of route. M3. 

All of it, please!

I’m pleasantly surprised to see that my detour only adds two miles and about ten minutes to my journey. I get my ‘Defying Gravity’ playlist going, put on my sunglasses and set off to home sweet home.

I drive through the villlage of Lyndhurst thinking to myself that I really must take the time to explore it the next time I’m down at Foxlease. It doesn’t take long before I’m on a lovely, long, straight road lined by trees whose leaves appear to be dancing in varying shades of green, yellow and orange. I feel a sense of calm sweep over me and in all one moment I feel both stupid and relieved that something so simple can make me feel so much better. Maybe this practising mindfulness marlarkey is starting to pay off. 

A quick glance at the SatNav tells me that I’m heading towards to the M3 again.

Now, now, Mister TomTom. When I ask you to miss the M3, I meant all of it and not just the first junction or two. 

I debate whether to try and make it find an alternative route again or just follow my gut. I decide the first option is probably for the best since my sense of direction has often failed me in the past. I don’t want my ten extra minutes to turn into twenty, thirty or even more! 

A quick recalculation later and I notice that although my journey has increased by a few minutes, the amount of miles I have to travel has actually decreased. 

Ha! Screw you M3!

I drive through places I’ve never visited before, but they look interesting. I make a mental note of their names with the intention of planning a mini-break with Mum at some point. I even take in the details of a seemingly ordinary, yet beautiful (to me at any rate) railway bridge. Who would choose to go on a soul-destroyingly dull motorway, when you can have views like this to keep you company? Suddenly I spy a sign for Winchester and know that’s on the A31. I know the A31 well and reach to turn off the SatNav catching a glimpse of the screen as I do so.

Why am I not due to get home until 16:30? I left at 13:10!

It dawns on me that the clocks went back last night and I just haven’t noticed it until now. Now it’s all that I can see! Should I pull over and change it now? I’m making really good time and home is so appealing right now that I decide that’s an overreaction. I decide to just do it when I get home, but knowing I’ll forget if I switch it off, I decide to keep it on and have a game of Beat the SatNav.

As I continue on my journey, tears start to fill my eyes as I go over all my mistakes of the weekend and that voice that sounds like mine fills my head again.

I’ve told you. You should just quit. You’re a rubbish Trainer! 

I remind myself of my chat with Sam this morning. I always find it easier to confide in people I don’t know and my instinct was correct that she would give me a constructive yet helpful perspective. I let our conversation run through my mind and the tears subside. I think about the kind words that the Leaders from the weekend gave to me before I left. My mistakes weren’t big enough to stop those ladies from coming up to me to say those lovely things so am I just overthinking things like I usually do?

The whole journey home is dotted with negative self-talk and self-doubt with my rational side fighting the very brave fight and refusing to let the Boggarts and Dementors in my head win the argument. Strange things continue to calm me down. There are fewer pretty villages and railways bridges and even the trees don’t seem to be catching my attendton as much. Instead I feel a smile creep across my face when I start to see signs for Guildford, Godalming and Farnborough. 
And the smile gets bigger the closer I get. I think of my dear friends who live there. I think about popping into to say hello, but quickly think again. 

They are probably doing something and it would be rude to turn up unannounced. 

I also have a stinking cold and it’s not fair on the babies regardless of whether they are crawling or still cooking. The thought of them continues to calm me down. I know they may not always understand my inner demons, but they are there for me on so many levels and I don’t tell them enough how grateful I am to for all they do.

In no time at all I have passed Guildford and I’m on the home run. Beautiful scenery is now off the menu, but the M25 provides a comforting familiarity that means home is not far. By now I have the majority of this post planned out in my head. I could write it in my journal, but I want to share. I need to share. Those closest to me know that I find it hard to talk. Talking equates to tears all too often, but I can write and people can choose to read it or not. I don’t care if no-one reads this. I feel I have spoken to someone. I know that may not make sense, but it does in my mind and there’s the added bonus that it could help someone else. If it does, then I’m glad.

You don’t have time to write a blog post tonight. You’ve got to write your reflections on this weekend, type up the session plan for next weekend, go through your work emails from Friday...

I let Sam’s voice fill my head instead. “Just go home and rest.”

At one point while trying to ignore my inner dialogue, Ron Weasley’s voice comes into my head. “One person couldn’t feel all that. They’d explode!” I often wish it would be easier and much less painful to have the emotional range of a teaspoon, but then I wonder how much I would also miss out on if I did.

I notice that dark, grey clouds are filling the sky, but I leave my sunglasses on. They help to dull the headache that I feel I’ve had for most of the week.

I’m so close to home and can’t wait even though Foxlease almost feels like a home away from home now. I start to think about what I can do instead and know that a shower is at the top of my list. I consider the benefits of a bath despite the fact I’ve never really liked them. I always feel a pang of envy when I see people instagramming their super bubbly bubble baths complete with candles, a glass of Prosecco (which I don’t even like) and a book. I decide that I’ll crack open the bottle of Shea bubble bath that I got for my birthday and try the whole relaxing in a bath deal.

“Cross the roundabout second exit, go turn left at the roundabout third exit.” 

Yes, OK Mister TomTom. I know where I live thank you very much. The only reason you’re still on is because you’re not as clever as my phone. My phone changes the time itself. Why don’t you do that?! 

I pull up in my usual space by my house and change the time on my SatNav. It’s now that I remember what I usually just leave it on BST. What a faff! My car clock is changed much more quickly and all is right with the world again.

I open my boot and fill my arms with as much as I can carry. The rest can wait! I walk through the door to the smell of Spaghetti Bolognese being batch cooked for later in the week. Then I hear ask Mum asking for help to print something. I ask her questions so that she finds the answer herself. I’m pleased to hear that my voice is calm and I’m more patient with her than I tend to be. I feel useful.

Now I’m home I feel a mild wave of productivity wash over me. It lasts long enough to put my clean laundry away and empty my dirty laundry from my weekend bag into my basket. I grab my Shea gift bag that I got for my birthday and notice that my bubble bath is in fact shower cream. That settles that!

I shave my legs and ignore the judgy bitch in my head that says I’m conforming to social pressure. I shave my legs because I love the way they feel on crisp, clean bedsheets and for no other reason. I climb into the shower and wash my face with my favourite Deliciously Ella Rose, Lime & Cucumber Facial Wash. I feel the spots that cover my face and wonder what is causing them. 

Is it what I’m eating? Is it hormonal? Is it stress? 

I decide to let these thoughts go and enjoy the feel of the soap on my sin. I use my Shea Shower Cream and Exfoliating Sugar Body Scrub. The smell takes me back to school when I first discovered Shea Body Butter and it makes me smile. 

I finish washing my hair, then wrap myself in my toasty, warm towels before going on autopilot and brushing my teeth. Even though I don’t need to, I feel refreshed and more awake for having done it. I put on clean pyjamas (surely the best part of having a shower in the middle of a Sunday afternoon) and tentatively open my dōTERRA box. Essential oils are still fairly new to me and I’m not use to using them every day yet.

How do you want to feel?

The voice has changed. It’s now caring and reassuring. I scan the contents and my eyes fall on one of the smaller bottles in my collection. 

Peace - Reassuring Blend. 

Perfect. 

I come downstairs, pop a few drops of oil into my diffuser and settle down to write an account of my journey home. While the main points have made it into the final piece you are now reading, I know many have not. Ironically it was one of the things that the earlier, less friendly voice taunted me with.

You won’t remember it all. You never do anymore. That’s one of the reasons you’re such a rubbish Trainer.

But I think the fact that I can no longer remember my own mind’s taunts just an hour or so later is the most important point I have to make in this long, long tale. Taking the time to indulge in a little ‘self-care’ as soon as I got in helped me to put things into perspective. 

This weekend is over. It’s in the past. I can’t change what has happened. I can’t go back and remind myself to do what I forgot. What I can do is try to use it as a learning experience for the future. Turn it into something positive. 

I also need to remind myself of the Promise that I have made as a member of Girlguiding. 

“I promise to do my best...”

My best. No one else’s. And I need to remember that ‘my best’ will vary depending on a variety of different factors, perhaps the most significant being what headspace I am in at that point in time. 

For the remainder of this evening I am taking time out for me. I’m currently trying not to think about my counselling session tomorrow morning. I liken it (perhaps unsurpsingly to those who know me) to Harry trying to learn Occulmency with Professor Snape. I felt so horrible after my first session last week. It brought all my emotions to the surface which is where they have stayed since. I don’t feel I’ve recovered enough to go at it again tomorrow and I’m dreading having the echo of those feelings with me all week. 

I keep telling myself I have to give it a chance to try and get to the bottom of the way I feel all too often nowadays. I wanted to be medication free by the end of the year, which I am currently on track to do, but my counsellor feels I still need it. “You wouldn’t expect a doctor to stop a diabetic from having insulin because their body doesn’t produce enough, so why do you feel that you shouldn’t have the medication that you need because your body isn’t producing enough serotonin?”

The fact is that I currently feel torn between a doctor at my surgery who didn’t want me to go back on them in the first place and is pushing me to get off them as soon as possible and “my” doctor who I have been seeing since I was very young who knows me and my history extremely well and encourages me to take them if I feel I need to. 

There’s also further pressure from society who still don’t recognise mental health in the same way that we recognise physical health. A lack of understanding can lead to “helpful” comments that just lead to further self-doubt. As if I don’t have enough of that at the moment already! 

The more I experience these things for myself, the more I know I have made the right decision in taking on the London 2 Brighton Challenge in aid of Mind. The support from Mind has been amazing and I am learning more about mental health issues every day. I can’t expect people to become more compassionate and understanding if I don’t make the effort to understand myself. 

I’ve rambled on for too long now and if you’re still reading then you deserve some sort of award. I’ll end it here with one last thought that for the first time in ages I have switched my phone off. Not just on silent. Off! It’s staying off until the morning and sitting here I’ve decided that I’m going to do it every Sunday evening. It’s been bliss and it’s such a simple thing to do.

Now to figure out if I can watch E4 on my iPad do I can watch Die Hard 2 from the comfort of my bed. Night everyone. Sleep well. Xx
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