19 for 2019

If you follow me on Instagram you may have seen my 19 for 19 goals.  Inspired by the ‘Happier with Gretchen Rubin’ podcast, I decided instead of New Years resolutions I would instead set myself some goals for the year.  These are by no means all my aims in life as I can’t afford to do everything I want to do this year.  But I have put some in there that will cost me money, some that will cost me nothing but time, some that will be hard work, and some to bond with family and friends.  So I hope there’s a good challenge that’s doable, but enough to keep me going and feel like I’ve achieved something by the end of the year.

 

So here are my 19 for 19:-

 

Night away child-free with A

We went abroad last year and I found it a massive guilt-trip to be away from the children for so long and so far away, yet I don’t want to not have a child-free break this year.  So I’ve opted for one night, maybe in the Lake District, to just relax, have a nice meal and see some sights.

 

Get the girls in their own bedrooms

The girls are desperate for their own space, but it’s going to be a massive expense and amount of work to move the boiler out of their playroom and plaster where it once was, re-lay new carpets, decorate, furnish and do all the other work involved in converting the playroom.  But it’s definitely something that HAS to happen this year, so it’s on the list to motivate me to get started.

 

Clear the loft

We’ve never used a loft until this house and having kids, and it’s quickly accumulated stuff.  I don’t want it to get to the state of my parents’ loft with a lifetime of hoarding, so I’m clearing it this year as much as I possibly can.

 

Complete my happiness project

I was so inspired by the book ‘The Happiness Project’ by Gretchen Rubin (I know; a bit of a theme going here) that I wanted to take the 19 for 19 further and really focus on areas of my life throughout the year.  I wrote about it further in my blog post ‘Bring on 2019’, but I’m excited to get started on new ideas to improve my life as it is.

 

Have a gong bath

I can’t wait for this and it’s already booked for this Wednesday.  Now I’m not presently sure how it all works, but I know I won’t be sitting in any sort of bath, as my friends envisaged.  It’s a very relaxing experience where we lay on the floor, all comfy with pillows and blankets, whilst emersed in the sound of gongs chiming.  I’ll be able to write more after the event, but I’m totally intrigued by it.  And as the lying down under a blanket bit is my favourite bit of yoga, I thought why not do a whole session of it as a treat!

 

Get my spends out of the red

I’ve done it before but I need a little focus again, and putting it on the list may just stop me from wasting money on junk food and all the other unnecessary spends that keep me in the red.

 

Get M swimming with 1:1 lessons

Poor M has a perforated ear drum, and at 4 years old isn’t allowed to swim in case it causes further ear infections.  But at present it won’t be operated on and fixed until she’s about 11, so I want to push for an ear guard to be made to enable her to start swimming.  Once I feel her ear is a bit more protected I want to invest in 1:1 lessons so she can catch up to what stage she would have been at had this not happened to her.

 

Get the girls photographed in my wedding dress

People think I’m mad to want to get rid of my wedding dress, but it’s pointless keeping it in my eyes.  That said I want to do something special with it, so my plan is to have the girls photographed in it before I donate it to a charity that will very skillfully and careful re-sew it into burial gowns for stillborn babies.  I can’t think of a more special thing to do with my wedding dress, so my aim for this year is to get the photographs done.  Then it will be on my 20 for 20 list to get it professionally cleaned and donated. 

 

Knock down the shed

Another job I’ve been putting off, but now it’s on the list I’m more motivated to get it done!

 

Trip to London

I like to go several times a year, but for some reason we didn’t make it to London last year at all.  It’s one of my favourite places, and whether I go on my own or with friends I’m wanting to go in May and just soak up the atmosphere and revisit my favourite haunts.

 

Climb Kinder Scout

Now I really wanted to do a longer hike, something like 70 miles over 3 days, or another challenge I’ve wanted to do for ages that is 40 miles to be completed between midnight and midnight.  But for this year I will have to settle for just climbing this local mountain.  The only reason I’m not going for a bigger challenge is money and knowing I have no-one in my life right now that is up for that challenge.  But Kinder Scout is doable in a day at about 18 miles on the route I want to do.  I walk every week, but I want the kind of challenge that’s going to turn my legs to jelly for a couple of days after, and this is definitely it.

 

Go camping with K and the boys

I desperately want to take all the kids camping.  I’ve done a few trips on my own with the girls, but this year I want to take my sister and my 2 nephews too.  They’ve never really camped further than their back yard, and I have a fabulous plan to take the kids crabbing off a pier in Anglesey and then set up camp on a site with a private beach just inland Wales overlooking the Irish sea.  The hope is we can toast marshmallows on an open fire on the beach and watch an amazing sunset.  If I only do one camping trip this year that’s the one I want to do, and I know the boys will just love it!

 

Start going for coffee on my own

This is quite daunting for me, but I like the idea of sitting in a café with my laptop and getting to the stage where I don’t feel self-conscious. 

 

Sort photos and make albums for the girls and fill frames in the house

This is a mammoth task, and just downloading the latest photos from my phone took me most of Sunday morning.  I have somewhere in the region of 35,000 photos to go through and organise.  And from those photos I want to make some photo albums of happy memories for the girls as they love flicking through photo albums, and I need a broader range of frames filled in my house as I haven’t updated most since the girls were tiny.  I’m chipping away at this task every day and am determined to keep my photos under control this year!

 

Paint the kitchen ceiling

Yawn!  Another task that needs doing that I’m hoping I’ll be motivated to do now it’s on my list

 

Read a proper book with M

I really want to get M reading more as in the past when she’s found a book she loves she can’t put it down.  But unfortunately the material school send her home with has just knocked any enthusiasm out of her.  M is a rebel child (more to follow on this in a future post) so I have to handle this carefully as buying her a book and saying I want to read it with her will make her do the opposite.  But she has dreams currently to be an author and I would love for her to find the same enjoyment and inspiration in books that I have.  Life is perfect when I have an inspirational book to read, and I’m hoping we can spark that same enjoyment in her too.

 

Clear my credit cards

A massive source of anxiety for me as we went massively over-budget on an extension 4 years ago, through an unfortunate set of circumstances, and had no choice but to put the remaining £16,000 on credit cards and loans.  We’ve been chipping away and balance transferring for all this time, but the end is in sight and this is the year I’m determined to have those credit card debts gone.  We’ve never overly lived off credit, and it’s been a really difficult way to live for us.  But it’s something that was unavoidable and has been a great lesson in gratitude for living the debt-free life we used to, and that I’m determined we can get back to.

 

Do a life coaching course

I’ve already started on this one too and have bought and started a life coaching course.  What I’ll do with it I’m not sure, but I know it will be a great skill just as a friend, parent and partner to have life coaching skills.

 

And lastly…

Book a yoga retreat

Now I may not have the money to attend this in 2019, especially if I want my spends out of the red, but all I have to do is book it for it to get ticked off the list.  I’m thinking of the Lake District again, but I know I want to meet interesting people and do lots of hiking, lots of yoga and meditation, have a complete break and eat some beautifully healthy food.  It will be a massive achievement to go on holiday on my own and put myself in that social situation, but it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. 

 

So that’s all my tasks for this year.  And while it seems like a lot, I think it’s all doable, but enough to keep my mind occupied and life exciting.  And that’s what’s going to distract me from all the stuff that used to weigh down on my mind.  So I’m excited and motivated to get started.

 

Have you set any resolutions for the new year?  Do we even need to start at the new year?  Surely we can just pick up a pen and paper and plan a bucket list any time we want.  And does it even work for you to have a tick list, or do you have another way to motivate yourself to do things? 

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Thank You 2018!

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As we approach the end of 2018 I can genuinely look back on the last year as a real turning point in my life.  It was the year that I finally realised a lot of things that have been repeating lessons throughout my life.  They say if you don’t learn the lessons you’re supposed to they will keep appearing throughout your lifetime in different forms.  My life lessons, I am convinced, are to do with relationships with people, feeling lonely, and not being dependent on other people to help me find happiness. 

 

2 years ago one of my closest friends became very controlling, and when I wouldn’t do as she told me to she took it upon herself to spread lies about me.  If I wasn’t with her I was against her, in her eyes.  I laughed it off at first, but when those lies subsequently impacted my life and my family it felt like my world had fallen apart.  I felt like I lost everything as my whole friendship group at the time either believed her, didn’t even defend me or question the lies, or worse still admitted they knew she was lying but said they didn’t want to cross her themselves.  I sunk into a deep depression fueled by loneliness, humiliation and absolutely destroyed self-esteem.  Everything I’d known, the people I spoke to daily and confided everything about my life in, my social life, the people my children thought of as family; all just gone.  And I had to not only get through the depression it brought on, but I had to then pick myself up and go through a massive period of anxiety and loneliness and literally survive that day by day while working, running a family and dealing with the side-effects of the anti-depressants and anti-anxiety drugs I had eagerly sought out as a quick fix.  But from that whole episode I eventually grew.  And now I look back I realise these type of situations have presented themselves throughout my life, albeit in much less damaging forms; but all the same I never took note.  Then finally the universe could take no more of me bypassing and dodging the lessons laid out for me, and it slapped me round the face and screamed, “Wake up once and for all and sort yourself out!”  So these are the lessons I have learnt in 2018 that have made me a better person, and in some cases proud of the person I’ve grown into and how I’ve dealt with my knocks:-

 

Don’t over invest yourself in people – find a balance.

I was that person that never said no to an invite, that took it upon myself to be the person to fix someone when they fell apart, that had other people and their problems on my mind all the time.  I invested everything in my friends, thinking that’s what would lead to happiness, to have a group of people, a family I’d sought out myself, that would in turn pick me up when I needed them.  During my worst days none of those people were there, nor did they care.  And as a result of having to deal with that reality I have much more of a balance now in my relationships.  I don’t invest everything in one group of friends.  I don’t even invest all my friendships in this little village that I live in.  I purposely spread myself around and say no to some things that don’t serve me, knowing I don’t need to fear losing that relationship if they’re real friends.  I also have a better mix of friends from all walks of life now.  I don’t ignore the friends that are hard to pin down in exchange for the friendships that are easy and always available 24-7.  But most importantly I’ve not let my previous bad experiences of friendship scar me.  I will still be there for people if they need me.  I just accept that I can offer help and then leave them to it.  I don’t worry as much about people, but I’m still going to be there if they ask me themselves for help.

 

Keep your dignity at all times.  Even if it doesn’t get you anywhere, you can at least live with your conscience.

When everything fell apart I was well aware of who had been told what and by whom, but I refused to follow that person around correcting my side of the story.  I’ve never told mutual friends what to believe or even what actually happened.  And some people that know the truth think I’m absolutely mad and that I should have forwarded text messages proving my innocence to people that didn’t believe in me.  But I stood by what felt right to me, and not only did I feel it was better to lose anybody that listened to someone else’s lies, but I also recognised if I could influence them too they really weren’t worth having in my life.  And that was hard because when you’re at your loneliest it’s challenging not to accept the dregs of life and have some crappy two-faced friends over absolutely nobody at all.  But I stood firm and lost everything to start from scratch with the hope of a better tribe one day.  And even when other people came to me eventually saying they’d experienced the same issues with this girl, I secretly jumped for joy inside, but refrained from spilling out my whole story and instead just said, “Yes, that’s what I experienced with her too.”  And it felt so much better for this girl to have had her comeuppance from genuinely continuing her behaviour than for me to spread rumours back about her and influencing events myself. 

 

Sometimes people disappoint you, but maybe they were only here to set you on a path, not to be with you on your whole journey.

I believe in forgiveness if only to free myself, but I’ve learnt to forgive from afar.  I believe that whilst I was better keeping away from these people, that they were an integral part in my growth and have genuinely put me into a situation that has ultimately made me a better person.  I now know my values, I am very aware of my own intentions, and I know what kind of person I want to be and what I want to surround myself with.  So many people go through life in a dream, just following their emotions and never questioning their own or other people’s behaviour accurately, if at all.  I feel fully awake to life now, and for that I am very grateful for everything that happened.  In fact when I look back I would hate to have continued in that bubble of thinking I was surrounded by good people that were genuine friends.  I’m grateful for that period of depression and loneliness because it taught me to value genuine people and to value the time I now have in my own company.  In fact when I realised being alone wasn’t the thing I feared it was, and that was a real game changer.

 

There’s no right or wrong way to deal with a situation, as long as you learn lessons from it you’ve done the right thing.

There were so many different ways I could have dealt with the situation I ended up in.  But there’s no point in thinking, “What if I’d just done what she’d told me? What if I’d have defended myself more?  What if I’d have turned a blind eye to the friends that let me down and pretended I’d not seen or heard their behaviour?”  I actually truly believe I would have ended up in the exact same position, just maybe years later, because that was what I was always destined to deal with.  So there’s no point in going over ‘what ifs’.  I need to just deal with where I am today, because today is all there really is.

 

Most things people do is out of a need to be loved, even if their actions hurt people.  If needs be, give them the love back from afar, but forgive and hope they find the love they’re seeking whilst you move on to better things.

This was a real important lesson in forgiveness.  I sat one night and focused on losing the hate and anger, and I meditated on the sad stories I really knew of these girls and their backgrounds.  I thought about the girl who started it that was so desperate to be liked because she’d never been liked throughout school and work.  She’d found people she could influence and mistook their fear and her power for popularity.  It was making her feel big right now, but there was a girl underneath all that that was terrified of going back to being unaccepted by people.  I thought about the friends that turned a blind eye because they too were so terrified of not being part of a gang that they were scared to experience life without it.  Their fear of not having any friends, no matter what they were like, outweighed any values they may have.  And that fear must be terrible to be able to see someone purposely hurt another person and not have the courage to do something about it.  I thought of the people that believed every word they heard because they can’t think for themselves and have subsequently lost a good friend in me for being so easily led.  All these people have their own issues to different degrees and are having their lives dictated by those issues.  They’re desperately battling their own fears and behaving in a way that they think will protect their own happiness.  But their issues will come and bite them one day, and they will have that slap round the face that I had for ignoring an opportunity themselves to grow and be a better person.  Most of us would take the easy option if we could, especially to avoid any sort of hurt or unhappiness.  But I’m very grateful I’ve been through my slap round the face and come out the other side. 

 

If you’ve tried and tried with a person and it doesn’t feel good, move on.

The ultimate lesson; that not everyone is meant to be in our lives.  And part of working out if people are worth fighting for is in knowing when to let go.  Everyone makes mistakes and everyone should have an opportunity to correct their behaviour if it’s hurting others.  But if they can’t even see, or don’t even care if they’re causing hurt to another person, then it’s absolutely okay to walk away knowing that you at least tried to make it work. 

 

So I’m actually looking forward to going into 2019 to continue putting a lot of my lessons into practice.  What has this year taught you?  Have you had a life lesson that you’ve beaten and grown from?  Or are you even aware what your life lessons may be?  Whatever your situation, and wherever you are in life, I hope 2019 is a year of positivity and happiness for you all.

Ever had a problem you were too ashamed to share?

adult alone anxious black and white

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I keep trying to write this post, but every time I do it just doesn’t feel right to put out there.  It feels petty to talk about.  I can’t condense the story enough to explain it properly, or express how deeply the events actually impacted me.  And I keep questioning why this is such an important part of my life, yet I cannot write on it.  So today I’m biting the bullet and just putting out whatever comes.  And maybe I’ll expand on the whole story in the future if it’s relevant to do so.  In fact it’s too big a subject in my life for me not expand at some point, as it’s impacted me in so many ways.  And that subject is friendships; or rather, broken friendships.

 

And the reason why I’m ashamed to share how this has affected me so much, is because I’m nearly 40 and this shouldn’t happen at my age, surely?  I’ve googled it many a lonely night for advice, and all I seem to find is websites telling me to talk to a teacher or adult.  And that just reconfirms it to me, that this is something a child would get upset about, not a grown adult; a Mum with far bigger responsibilities to be thinking about!  But it did happen to me, and I’m just going to put it out there; it’s one of the most difficult experiences I have ever gone through in my life.  And I feel ashamed even saying those words when there’s people out there that have gone through really awful events in their life.  So maybe I have led a blessed existence for this to be the worst thing to ever happen to me.  Except I haven’t had a perfect life.  I’ve suffered from depression and anxiety all my adult life; probably even before; I just didn’t know how to label it as a child.  And maybe that’s the reason why it has affected me so traumatically, because I do feel deeply and I do analyse everything and think the worst as I catastrophise and get overwhelmed by my thoughts.  But on talking to another friend last week whose best friend of nearly 40 years has just completely changed, disowned her, and is actually quite nasty to her now, I realised we do grieve when friendships break down and it’s not been our choice for them to end or for things to change.  We do take it to heart and ask ourselves where we went wrong.  And it does affect our self-esteem as we fear it will happen again and put our guard up.  As my friend quoted to me, “One of the hardest things you will ever have to do is grieve the loss of a person who is still alive,” a quote she’d actually just re-posted to facebook that day in an attempt to grab her ex-best friend’s attention!

 

I’ve recently joined a women’s networking group, which on paper should have filled me with fear, but something guided me to go.  And in the first week we were asked what our experience of other women was.  I started the discussion, which is very unlike me, and shared my hurt over a group of friends that had believed one narcissistical friend’s lies about me.  Or rather I should be more accurate in saying they didn’t believe her at all, but they told me they knew what she was doing and didn’t want her to do it to them, so all but said they were abandoning me to save themselves.  I told this group of strangers how it had led to my children having their own friends distance themselves as guided by their mothers, and as 4 and 6 year olds they had no comprehension as to why everyone they’d known their whole lives had just gone all of a sudden.  And I couldn’t explain it to them either, because I couldn’t explain it to myself!  I told of my anxiety of doing anything within our close knit village in case I bumped into any of them, or even worse the whole gang of them out together, carrying on like I’d never existed.  And I told of how it had put this fear in me of women and how I must in future tone down my personality so as not to rub someone up the wrong way and inflict all this hurt on myself again.  It had fundamentally changed me to the core.  And what followed was other women in this networking group sharing their own fears of women, and similar experiences of maybe being too happy or being too friendly or kind, and just triggering someone to feel threatened by that, and the dramas that followed.  And I felt immense relief at not feeling alone, and yet fascinated that we’d all still felt drawn to come to a group that was essentially about meeting other women and opening ourselves up and feeling vulnerable in front of each other.

 

This week I shared a new story with the group on how someone I thought was a friend had let me down badly.  I said that I couldn’t carry on feeling like this with people, not knowing how to stop it happening to me.  And the girl who ran the group, who is some kind of spiritual energy guru, just stared at me intently and told me I’d done absolutely nothing wrong to invite the kind of hurt I was feeling.  Then she said that I was unbelievably strong.  And I realised in that moment that yes, I am bloody strong.  I’ve felt the loneliest I’ve ever felt in my life these last 2 years.  And yet here I was, sat with a bunch of strangers, crying and telling them all my innermost fears.  And this woman was looking at me and literally reading me as unbelievably strong.  And she really meant it.  She wasn’t saying it just to make me feel better and be supportive.  She could see it in my aura.  She told me I was such a big energy that I will always attract this sort of thing because some people just can’t handle that type of energy and feel threatened by it, and that made sense to me and resonated with what I’d felt myself.  I felt immense relief that someone understood me finally, and someone that barely knew me at all.  And that’s when I realised we can have day to day people, and people we’ve known all our lives that just fill a space and do nothing more, and maybe eventually let us down and abandon us when we need them.  Then you can meet your true tribe in the most unexpected of places.  And you know, even if they’re not the sort of friends you’ll go on holiday with, you’ll grab a coffee with, that you’ll exchange Christmas presents with or ask to babysit your kids; you know that they get you more than anyone you’ve ever met.  And they’re the people you need to meet to know there are good people in this world.  They may only be in your life for a few weeks, months, or even years.  But the impact they make, and the memories they leave your life with makes you realise it’s not women that are your problem at all, it’s just you haven’t found your true tribe yet.  And I can guarantee that it’s totally worth continuing your search.

Happy Memories Jar

shallow focus photograph of clear glass mason jar with fairy lights

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With the New Year fast approaching I wanted to write about a little family tradition we have in the hope it inspires people and gives you time to prepare if you want to try this with me in 2019!  Wow, how did we nearly get to 2019 already?

I heard of this a few years ago and I just thought it was absolutely brilliant.  It’s a happy memory jar.  Every year I buy a big glass jar and a pad of post-it type paper.  My OCD needs everything to match so God forbid I use scraps of paper or we have more happy memories than there are sheets of paper in the pad!  But of course if you aren’t inflicted with this terrible desire to have everything match then any container and scraps of paper will do the same job!  Then anything that makes us happy gets jotted down, folded up, and put in the jar to be read by the family on New Year’s Eve.  Now this can be anything as long as it’s positive and a happy memory, from things people have done or bought for me, trips out and holidays, pleasant surprises, special events, funny things the kids have said, funny things that have happened at work or in text conversations; anything that brightened up your day.  What a good way to remember all the little things over the year and again, go to bed on a good note, literally writing a little happy memory for ourselves to re-read one day. 

 

One note that we found the other day from an old jar that really made me giggle was something my nephew came out with while sat on the toilet at about aged 4.  “Grandma, if you hear me shout “f…” it means I’ve finished but I don’t know how to say the word ‘finished’!”  Now would we ever have remembered that had it not been jotted down and popped in the jar that night?

 

And now that we have children too the prospect of making a night of New Year’s Eve has gone out the window, and to be honest if we make it past 10pm it’s a miracle.  So our tradition now involves us all ordering takeout and laughing and reminiscing over the jar.  But if you still have a social life it would make a great Christmas or New Year’s Day tradition too!  Whatever fits your family. 

 

I do also think that it would be a fantastic thing to have if you ever felt really down and overwhelmed by life.  Who cares if you cheat and dip in halfway through the year for a little pick-me-up?  If pulling out a memory of the time that friend left a couple of cans of G&T on your doorstep because she knew you were stuck in alone with the kids asleep in bed and had had a day where you desperately needed a drink (another one from my jar) reminded you of how loved you actually were, what an amazing jar of positivity to have at hand!!!!

 

You can get the kids involved too, or let them create their own jar.  Me and my nephew made one once and the things he wrote that were important memories to him were beautiful: “When Daddy reads to me at night,” “The day me and Isaac were allowed to eat our dinner on a picnic blanket on my bedroom floor was the greatest day of my life,” to remember a couple.  And when his parents read them they couldn’t believe the little things that this 6 year old counted as his most joyous moments to date! 

 

So give it a go and let me know how you get on.  Maybe next year we can all come back and share our happiest memories of the year! 

 

Boo Bagging

So as we approach Halloween I am going to share with you our Halloween tradition.  Now you may wonder how on earth this is going to tie in with happiness and well-being.  And when I tell you that this is something that I do with my children you may think, “Well I don’t even have children, so it’s going to be even more irrelevant to me!”  But hear me out. 

 

So I am dead against trick or treating.  I used to judge people massively who went trick or treating or let their children trick or treat.  And I will cover judgement in a completely different blog one day, because that is something that I am really working on – to not judge anybody.  So please don’t judge me for my judgment!  And I do now have a lot more tolerance for trick or treaters.  But my reasons are genuine behind it, in that I once knew an elderly lady that had her home vandalised by trick or treaters that she didn’t answer the door to.  And I too have had my car windows put through as a result of not answering the door.  So when I say it’s a judgement, it’s more of an ingrained fear.  A fear that actually drove me to park my car in overnight car parks on Halloween many years ago because I was that terrified. 

 

But what is important to me now, as I have learnt more about judgment and re-training my anxious brain, is that I can’t tar a 3 year old walking down my street in Halloween gear with the same brush as the people that I’ve based those fears on.   

 

Now with the basis for my beliefs laid out there I just didn’t want my children doing it, because I didn’t want to inflict that same fear on someone that had experienced what I had.  So I had to find a compromise, because let’s face it, what child doesn’t want to go trick or treating? 

 

So in desperate search for a compromise I went on Pinterest and stumbled across this apparently American tradition called ‘boo bagging’.  And this is what we do now every year as a compromise.  We pick out some random friends and neighbours, and we fill bags with sweets and toys, all Halloween themed loot; black and orange balloons, glow sticks, jumping pumpkins; you name it.  And we make a little bag of gifts.  Then in the darkness of night my children approach each house like 007 and we leave these boo bags as a surprise on the child’s doorstep.  We do this about a week before Halloween.  And in that bag there is a sign for them to put up in their window to say they’ve been booed, and there’s a poem with it that reads as follows:-

 

You’ve been boo’d

This treat is for you,

I hope you enjoy,

The idea is simple,

One I hope you’ll employ!

You pass the ‘Boo’ along to two other neighbours,

Along with any Halloween favours!

If we all do our part,

And spread the good cheer,

By Halloween night,

It will be very clear…

We are a friendly bunch,

We like to share fun!

So please help us keep

‘Boo’ on the run!

 

The idea is that apparently this tradition is carried out in streets where they will ‘boo bag’ their neighbours, and once the sign goes up to say they’ve been booed, other neighbours know they’ve already received a surprise and look for a neighbour without a sign in their window to leave their gift.  So everybody, in theory, receives a boo bag, and the joy of receiving a surprise gift is passed on throughout the street.  Hence why we put ours out about a week before Halloween. 

 

And we have had such a wonderful response to this.  We don’t tell people that it is us, and I feel that I’m giving my children that amazing feeling of being able to give without needing thanks.  Which is actually a wonderful feeling, as I’m sure Santa Claus will testify to when he sees a child’s little face light up on Christmas morning!  It’s that same feeling of knowing that you’ve made somebody happy.  And that is what this blog is really about. 

 

A massive source of happiness is giving and making other people happy.  There are a lot of things, and I’ll cover as and when appropriate, that I do to give to people.  And it’s pretty much always anonymous.  And I find the thought of somebody out there thinking, “Wow, somebody’s thought of me in my hour of need, or has thought to leave a boo bag for my child on our doorstep,” just absolutely fills me with joy.  So this post is meant to inspire.  It’s meant to make us think that maybe times of the year that bring a bit of fear or bad memories can be turned into something good if we just think outside the box. 

 

My children always get boo bagged back too.  Admittedly it’s usually Mummy that comes to the rescue.  But every now and then if we’re caught on CCTV and our identities are discovered, one of the recipients may drop the girls a boo bag back.  And their little faces and screams of joy…  They forget all about knocking on people’s door to demand sweets or money because they’re so chuffed and touched and surprised by what’s in that gift, that it makes me literally cry with joy to watch.  I feel it’s just such an important lesson to teach them.  It fills me with joy and I am more than happy to put the time, effort and money into this little project each year to make all these children happy.  And it really has inspired other people.  When we’ve been caught on CCTV we have been told by other mums that they absolutely loved the idea, they think it’s brilliant, and they’ve passed it on themselves.  So the joy has carried on further into the community.  Hearing that just really makes my day. 

 

And of course there is a great metaphor for life in this article.  We are all fearful of different things.  What excites one of us fills the next with dread.  Is jumping out of a plane on your bucket list or does the thought of even looking up at a parachute send you dizzy?  Our thoughts build our reality, so if we can change our thoughts we can change our reality.  If something fills you with dread or fear look for a way to change how you feel about it.  You may not always be able to do that, but to be aware that there’s a possibility of changing your thoughts that might actually lead you to happiness is a great place to start. 

 

So this is just a little bit of inspiration for anybody looking for something different to do at this time of year.  Let me know if you do boo bag your friends or neighbours.  And let me know what your children thought of the idea.  And for any American readers, please get in touch and let me know if this is genuinely a tradition over there, because nobody in England has ever heard of this!  And I just think it’s absolutely fantastic.  So I really am interested to know if this does go on in America.  And even if you don’t have children I think this would be lovely to do to your friends and neighbours.  There’s some great ideas on Pinterest for adult Halloweeen gifts, maybe a bottle of wine wrapped like a mummy with the same ‘boo’ sign and poem attached.  Spread some joy and see how it lifts your own spirits, because little random acts of kindness just absolutely make my day!

GRATITUDE JOURNAL

This week I’d like to talk about gratitude journals.  I’ve been keeping a gratitude journal for a while now, and I’ve even encouraged my kids to start one too, which is just the cutest thing ever!  Alright, they get a biscuit at the end if they can think of three things they’re grateful for that day.  But I figure a little bribery is just setting them up for good habits of positive thinking and recognising and giving thanks for the little things in life.

We have so many negative thoughts swirling round in our mind that half the time we don’t even know what we’re telling ourselves.  It’s just automatic.  To write down what we’re grateful for or happy about starts putting positive thoughts back into our head and eventually creates a new habit; a new way of thinking.  It can be the simplest of things.  I often write down things I’m grateful for, nice things people have done for me, nice things I’ve done for others, things that have made me happy.  It’s a good reference to look back on at a later date when the world seems like such a horrible place, as a reminder that actually it’s not.  That person that let you out at a junction when you could see people getting impatient behind you and your anxiety levels were going through the roof might just have changed your whole day for the better.  Acknowledge it!

I like to write ten things I’m grateful for every morning.  As soon as I wake up I grab a cup of tea and I start listing on my phone.  It only takes a couple of minutes, but it just sets me up for the day. But you may prefer to write things at night, maybe just before you go to bed and go to bed with happy memories of that day.  Or you could even write your list first thing and add to it at bedtime or re-read it before you go to sleep.  Whatever works best for you. 

I do often say things I’m grateful for out loud on the way to work while I’m driving.  I challenge myself to see how far I can drive on the same monotonous journey whilst giving thanks.  Even if I’m clutching at straws saying thanks for the fact I own a car, the fact I can afford petrol, the fact my car is running without needing repairs.  In reality they are all things we should be grateful for.  I can be very competitive in an attempt to beat where I got to the day before, even if it is only to outdo myself.  But if you try and fit it in wherever it best fits your schedule you’ll soon find it just becomes this amazingly uplifting habit.

Today I had a killer migraine.  My worst yet.  I could have gone to bed cursing the fact I’d lost a day of my life, been in so much pain, left my house in a mess and missed the chance to see my kids take part in activities at their school fair.  Instead my gratitude journal read:-

 

Today I am grateful for:-

  • Finally being migraine free. I feel fantastic and ready to cleanse my body and appreciate my migraine-free time.  I am also grateful for the moments my little girls massaged my head or brushed my hair in an attempt to make me feel better.
  • My husband for taking the girls to the school fair when I was too ill to get out of bed even though he was supposed to be working from home today and will have to catch up on all that work tonight.
  • Finding my motivation to blog and come up with some creative ideas.
  • That first wanting of food after a period of being sick. Food never tasted so good.
  • My mum for helping me and taking my youngest when I couldn’t cope with the noise any more, even though she had my nephews too and she’s having the girls tomorrow.

Now the reality of my day was that my husband was not at all pleased that I was ill and had actually made me feel very guilty for messing up his day by inconveniently having a migraine.  But the point of this is that he did still take the girls to the fair, and for that I am grateful.  That is the memory of today I want to acknowledge and remember.  Not anything negative that was said before that!

So you can see from that how easy it is to find even just 5 things to be grateful for on what turned out to be a day of sickness.  And I have literally not even got out of my bed all day! 

I like to also end my gratitude journal for the day with a positive affirmation.  I don’t know why, I just started doing it as a little extra thing to do.  And it felt a good time to do it when I was feeling so positive.  So I often write little things like ‘I am hopeful’, ‘I am adventurous’, ‘I am moving in positive directions with my life’.  And these affirmations are often linked to the things I’ve been grateful for that day, so I find them easy to think of at that moment.  You may want to do something more with those affirmation than just write them.  You may want to meditate on them, create some art work with them, say them repeatedly before you go to sleep, or even do yoga moves as you repeat them.  Whatever feels good for you is the way to go!  But if you’re going to think of a quick affirmation to sum up your day it is the perfect time to be inspired!

I just use my phone to quickly list, but there are lots of purposely written gratitude journals out there.  Let me know if you already use one, which one you have chosen and why! 

 

Happy gratitude journaling!!!!