Looking back, looking forward.

As 2016 draws to it’s conclusion, like many I have been looking back over the past twelve months.

Undoubtedly it has been a very difficult year for a multitude of reasons. On a worldwide scale there has been so much unrest and uncertainty. Here in the U.K. We have been reeling at the unexpected deaths of so many of our dearly loved and respected musical & film icons. I think that many people are holding their breath to see if we can make it to the turn of the year without further famous people leaving us. It has seemed as if everything is coming to a dramatic peak, surely not much else can go wrong? Here of course is where a problem is brewing….

With so much difficult news in 2016 it is easy ( and understandable) for many people to blame everything that has gone wrong onto the curse of the year. But is that really the case?  Disasters happen regularly. World unrest is all too familiar. Famous people die, in fact death knows no barriers, people die everyday. Undoubtedly there has been a plethora of devestating deaths this year, one star after another seems to have cut their ties with this Earth and gone on to who knows where? But is this reason enough to consider 2016 a cursed year?

It’s easy to jump on the bandwagon, adding our own tales of woe and just as in other years, there have been many. However little has been spoken about the positive side of the past year.

I can’t be the only person who has plenty to be thankful for. I know of many people who have had wonderful news and fantastic events, yet the bad news seems to be over riding this. 

My foray into the writing world began in earnest at the beginning of this year. In 2015 I had taken my first writing course which opened the floodgates, other courses and workshops followed, allowing me to enter this year with enthusiasm and new hope. In the late spring I set up my first writing group. On more than one occasion I sat alone, wondering if I had made a major error, but rather than give up ( as I am prone to do), I persevered. At first the uptake was slow, then the trickle grew into a stream and soon I had to stop advertising as I couldn’t accept any more members. It has proved to be a wonderful group and through it I have made some great friends. Running this group is no hardship, It is an absolute pleasure and I look forward to it each week. Fuelled by the success of the group I applied to the local newspaper to see if they would like me to write a regular column, which they accepted. I’ve loved doing this too. Another life changer for me was finding the courage to apply for a voluntary job in a local charity shop. Despite being hard work, as it is a really busy shop, I enjoy every second that I am there. My writing year finished on a high with me completing my first novel during the NanoWriMo challenge, where Writer’s across the globe take up the gauntlet and try to complete a 50,000+ word novel during November. I doubted whether I’d succeed as I suffered a small stroke in the early days but somehow I persevered and was delighted to write my first full novel! Although it still needs editing before it can be published, I am delighted with it.

There were many other highs, including my son becoming an expectant father, as well as finding his own life turned upside down by having two young step daughters moving in along with their now pregnant mother. On the surface it would seem like 2016 has been wonderful for me and in some ways it has, but there have been down sides too. A second voluntary job didn’t work out. My newspaper column is in the balance as the newspaper itself has changed ownership and I’ve no idea If the new owners will want me to continue. My health in recent months has taken a down turn. My finances have nose dived. The point that I’m trying to make is that life is always swings and roundabouts. I could blame the lows on the curse of 2016 but surely they are just part of life?

I was listening earlier to a radio interview about some of this years’ deaths. Although most of them have come as an unwelcome shock, could it be a coincidence rather than curse?  Many of the stars of the music world rose to fame in the 70s and 80s, most undoubtedly lived and played hard, many leading a less than healthy ( and legal) lifestyle in their heyday. Although still comparatively young, I wonder if many of these stars would have dreaded the idea of fading away? How much better for them to go out on a high, while they were still adored by their followers. I can’t imagine some of them rotting away in a nursing home in their 90s. I’m sure that would have seemed like hell! We are the ones who will miss them, their creativity, their inspirational songs, music, words. Perhaps their demise reminds us of our own frailties. Many of us were fans from our youth, now they’ve gone. What about us? Will we soon be following?  Of course it’s possible, but most of us have lived a life far removed from that of the stars. So many of them found sobriety and became drug free in later years, but I daresay that the damage was already done. These departed stars may be gone but they have left their inspirational works and the music will always be part of the soundtrack of our lives. When the majority of us pass on, there will be no major outcry, no public weeping, we will leave this earth, missed only by family and friends. But surely that is the way that life has always been and always will be?

I may have waffled during this blog but I just wanted to show that live has it’s ups and downs, always has, always will. Yes it’s seemed worse this year but there have been many positives to offset the negatives. So when you look back over this past year, don’t fixate on the sadness and misery, look for the good things, I’m sure there are plenty! And when you raise your glass to the New Year, by all means hope for nirvana, but don’t be surprised when life doesn’t turn out perfectly. Everything needs to be in balance. There needs to be good and bad. That is the way of the world. That is real life.

Despite all of the above, I too will be raising my glass ( non alcoholic) to welcome 2017. We all need something to focus on, something to look forward to. We all need new challenges. Let this coming year be the year that you take steps to achieve your goals. May your dreams come to fruition and I hope that it is successful, happy year.

Take care one and all. Till next time,

Rosie x
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Not allowing myself to wallow

This blog is very different to my usual tone. I wanted to write about something that affects many of us.
In advance I want to apologise if what I write may cause offence to members of my family. It certainly isn’t intended but part of this blog will touch on personal issues.

Recently I’ve been unwell, a slight stroke highlighted some other problems, which hopefully are now being addressed. However the exhaustion & threat of losing my personal care has causes quite a bit of worry and stress.
Generally I’m still upbeat and positive but my mood is definitely slipping.

I live alone and because of previous life problems, including a 17 year bout of agoraphobia, the plight of those facing loneliness is always on my mind. I am doing all that I can to highlight the problem. I write a column in the local paper trying to address this serious issue. The difficulty that I have is that I literally feel their pain. When I see or hear someone who is alone or feel unloved, it actually hurts me. If I could, I’d wrap my arms around every lonely person, even the difficult and unlikeable and welcome them into my home. No one should have nobody.

I guess because of the time of year, the whole family thing is going round and round in my head, everyone is chattering about how many visitors they will be having and so on. Unlike many, I am fortunate, I do have family, however we are no longer very close and I have in fact lost contact with two of my sons and their children. I find this really hard. Because of the family situation, I spend most Christmases totally alone. I receive very few presents & only one or two cards from my family. I try to act as if I don’t mind, but really I do! It’s not the being on my own for Christmas Day that’s the problem, after all, it’s just another day. I don’t mind my own company. I have a good social life with lots of friends and lead a very full life. But Christmas highlights the separation between us. I don’t complain, you can’t force someone to like/ love you, even your own flesh and blood.

Everywhere you hear of families driving miles to be with or fetch their distant families, people will be getting together, maybe having a great time, maybe not, but at least they are together. I will be alone, like many, many other elderly people. Through my voluntary work in a charity shop I have spoken to many people in a similar boat. Several tell me that they have family that rarely contact them. I wonder why it happens?

Years ago it was accepted that families stuck together. Now through people relocating all over the country, even world, families are not as close knit as the were. Divorce/ remarriages have added to the problem. It is such a dreadful pity. Youngsters no longer have the security of the family elders ( often grumpy or difficult) but usually a source of love and comfort as well as knowledge. It taught older generations how to tolerate and accept the ‘batty’ great aunt or uncle with peculiar habits. Children were taught how to handle these situations, how to accept the differences between the generations. We played family games, knowing that certain elders would insist on winning, equally we learnt who could be relied on and who would help us cheat ( playfully) at times. A bit like Christmas Cracker jokes, memories of past Christmases can often be remembered with a groan, but we understood our place in the family, our role.

How will young children learn to accept and help older relatives if they are kept away from them? One day, they too will be the elders.

Of course there are a huge majority of families who take their responsibilities seriously and include the older family members, whether they are very fond of them, or not. In some families the elders are very much loved, important figures who are totally involved with everything. The children from these families will undoubtedly be more rounded in their attitudes to others.

Since the split up of families has become so widespread, many children will grow up without knowing their grandparents or Great aunts and uncles, maybe even their cousins. This is such a shame. It is a relationship that cannot be found again. Although there are many extremely successful step families, in most cases, somewhere in the background are the now unwanted relatives.

I’ve been as guilty as many others, having been short sighted about my children keeping in contact with blood relatives, when divorce caused separations. I believed, ( wrongly) that consistency, being only with my side of the family was less painful and less harmful for my children. I know realise how badly I got it wrong. Inadvertently I was teaching them that relatives could be dispensed with, or forgotten about. That was such a bad lesson to show them. It’s understandable that I have now become dispensable.

With my generation, we were taught to accept our responsibilities and would travel regularly to make visits, topping up with at least weekly calls. It wasn’t always convenient or easy, at times the cheerful, chatty banter had to be forced, especially as the years went by. Now that all of my elders are gone, my brother and myself are the new elders. He is fortunate that his family is extremely close knit, I’m sure that the family dynamic doesn’t always run smoothly but they get over difficulties and remain very close. I am blessed to be quite close to this side of the family and love seeing how the younger members are growing. My own relationship with my parents wasn’t always easy, in fact at times it was dreadfully strained but now I can look back over those times spent together and feel so grateful that I have those memories, good and bad.

In years to come, there is a real risk of family unity bepreaking down totally. What stories will the children hear from their rambling grandfather or funny memories of their fussy grandmother? Children are richer for having grandparents. The relationship is very different from the one with their parents.

Times have changed, I understand that, the clock can’t be turned back but I really believe that the younger generation will be losing out.
In many countries the elders are revered, known as a source of wisdom which undoubtedly can only be attained by age and has nothing to do with educational knowledge. Here we are frequently treated with indifference.

Most of us have past memories of times spent with our elders, doing things that our parents didn’t have the time or money to do with us. I am so glad that I have mine. I pity the children that won’t have that because their parents are too tied up with their own lives to include the nuisance older relatives.

I will spend this weekend alone, if I’m lucky I’ll get a few fleeting phone calls. I’ll sound happy enough and I won’t complain. I can’t alter their mindset, but deep down there will be a heartfelt sadness, not just for what I’m missing, more for what memories are being lost from the younger generations. Not just in my own family but in those homes up and down the country who have decided not to bother about the irritating oldies.

I will not allow myself to wallow in sadness, I will keep myself busy with one of my many interests, but not everyone will feel the same. I wonder how many tears will be shed? How many pensioners will be dreading the coming few days?
How many will only have a carers company for an hour or so?

Remember, one day, you too will be that oldie and without having anything to follow,there is every chance that you too will be left alone.
As I said at the beginning – No one should have nobody. None of us are islands.
We all need company, some more than others.

I hope that this gives food for thought. Make that unexpected phone call or trip, it may be an inconvenience but think of the joy that you could be bringing.

I wish you all love and happiness and hope that the coming year will b good to you.

Rosie x

Christmas illusion.

As someone who spends Christmas alone, I am saddened by the amount of people who tell me how much they dread the enforced jollity.

There are a couple of points here.
First of all, although I agree that family get together are rarely ideal, at least they are fortunate enough to be invited. However if it really is such a trial, why don’t they decline the invitation? Getting along with your fellow man can be tricky at any time of the year but when expectations are running so high, it’s so easy for arguments to flare up.

The other side is how false it all is. This whole Christmas thing has become a huge obstacle to sanity!

People inviting people that they don’t like or want to be with, others accepting invites that they don’t want to go to.

Giving gifts is the same – surely presents should be given for the right reasons, not because ‘it’ll do!’

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could get this right?

Many people dread the idea of being alone at Christmas, others are horrified with the thought of their family sitting alone, so people are shipped across the miles so that they can sit there, uncomfortable, like a spare part.

In an ideal world families would be closer, always caring about their elderly or single members but this isn’t an ideal world.

Being alone at Christmas isn’t really any different from any other day – it’s our expectations that make it so.

I find it so false when Granny or Grandad or Great Aunt are invited & then treated as an incombance. What we need is more honesty and a more caring society.

Are people so short sighted to believe that most elderly people want to sit in a room full of screaming, overly excited children, fed totally unsuitable food, then are delivered back home once the family need to get down to some serious drinking. Why are there not more centres where older people can actually enjoy themselves at Christmas? Company needs to be good and interesting, for it to be enjoyable. Not for pensioners to be marginalised or patronised, but to actually offer the form of entertainment that they would actually enjoy.
No one should be forced to be alone at this time of year, but neither should they be coerced to go where they feel uncomfortable.

There will be a lot of people who disagree with this post but I feel it needs to be said. When our Children are young, Christmas is a wonderful, magical time, even when money is tight, the wonder on their faces as they spy the wrapped gifts and all of the glitter and glitz is what it’s all about. A good Christmas with family games, laughter and few treats is what we all aspire to, yet in reality it’s rarely like that. Alcohol, stress, arguments get in the way. Too much emphasis is put onto the achievement of the ‘perfect ‘ day.

So what would be perfect? Surely it all depends on the person involved?
Different ages will usually see things differently. Nowadays it’s all about money, buying the biggest, most expensive gifts. Is that really right?
What about Granny or Grandad? Do they just get chocolates or toiletries or some other thoughtless gift? I bet for many this is true.

Can’t we have a rethink? Putting the Christian aspect to one side, the social & economic drudgery that can be caused is a travesty.
I would willingly help out at a lively, cheerful alternative get together.yet there are so few available. I have previously volunteered at a homeless shelter on the big day ( & a great day it was) but why aren’t there more options? Eating out at Christmas as a single person is virtually impossible. I don’t want to be an imposition on my family but I would actually like to have fun too. Holidays at this time of year are beyond the reach of many pensioners so what choices do we have?
I’ve done the tearful holiday period, now thankfully I’ve come to accept how things are. I’m used to living alone and actually enjoy it, but not everyone feels like me. I’m fortunate enough to have a great social circle so although I won’t have company on the day, I have plenty of events both before and after.

There will be many who are loved and cherished who will be warmly welcomed by their loved ones, they are very fortunate.
With everything shut, too many pensioners will be totally alone, totally uncared about. This is so wrong.
Everyone who believes in the season of goodwill, wherever you may be, bear a thought for others less fortunate and maybe think of something positive that you can instigate for future years. It isn’t charity or pity that most pensioners want, it’s just a bit of genuine consideration.

Let’s put the ‘Happy’ back into happy Christmas.

I wish you all a lovely time.

Rosie x

The power of self belief

As someone who lacked self confidence until fairly recently, I was plagued by doubt over whether I was worthy of true friendships. My faith being pushed to breaking point when my (ex)husband and best friend had an affair. This tore away any little shred of confidence that I had. Following that came my well documented breakdown and lengthy period of agoraphobia.

As can probably be understood, it took me years to trust anybody again.
When I found strength to re-launch myself into the world as a newly single woman, one of my biggest difficulties was how to make friends & of course, how to trust them.

I made aquintences fairly easily but couldn’t take the next step. I decided to resort to Using a positivity aid. I basically used a statue of a circle of women & kept a candle burning in it, asking the Universe to send friends into my life.
It worked extremely well but of course, drawing people into my life was only part of the battle. I needed them to want to remain. I thought long and hard about it, wondering what I needed to do. I read endless books and meditated yet the only answer I seemed to get was self belief. How could I believe in myself, when really I didn’t?

For a long time I struggled,never really understanding why people were hanging around, convinced that they would soon move on. I was really worried about how I’d cope without them.

Then a lightbulb flashed on!

I had been trying so hard to be what I thought people wanted, that I forgot about the possibility that they may ( just possibly) like me as I was.

This seemed too radical to accept at first. I had always tried to be what other people wanted. But my meditations kept telling me to trust myself and to simplify. Eventually I could fight it no longer. I took the huge leap of faith and decided to be myself, warts and all.

I stopped apologising for my inadequacies and tried just being me, pure and simple.
That act of belief and humility changed my life!

I treat people with respect and no longer try to second guess them. Who was I to think that I knew what they wanted?
I learnt to show gratitude for their friendship and realised that it was a two way street.
People now tell me that they feel comfortable with me and that they trust me. That’s all I needed to do- just be myself.
Friends can’t be conjured up, or coerced or forced, they stay because they like you as a person, irrespective of flaws. Once I learnt to respect their choices and respect myself, it all began to fall into place.

I am so fortunate to have some wonderful friends and I thank the Universe daily for sending me the wisdom of learning to trust in myself and to be true to who I really am.

Our uniqueness is one very special gift, one we should treasure.

Until next time, take care,

Rosie x

My apathy Disolver

I have many motivational posters around my home, remindinding me not to lose sight of what’s important.
One such saying is really simple, but helps me if I fall in apathy. It simple says

Always Be Calmly Active and Actively Calm.

I have this written directly onto my fridge. Every time I look at it, it gives me a kick up the proverbial…..

Was there life before trust?

As followers and friends will know, I believe totally that everything happens for a reason. I believe that the Universe has a plan for me and I am regularly tested, not to test me, but for me to judge for myself how strong my faith is.
I realise that to a lot of people this sounds like madness, but it matters not, I no longer need anyone elses approval – it works for me.

A week ago my world came close to crashing down around me. I had 3 major financial hardships in one day, meaning that I am going to have to rethink my life.
Although it came as a shock, I can now see the reason for it happening.
I’ve not got a very good relationship with money, over the years it has caused me much heartache, both in having it and not having it. Following years of severe financial strain during my marriage to an alcoholic, where I had to watch every penny & had no financial freedom whatsoever, when I found myself single, with money in the bank I couldn’t cope.

The money that was rattling in my bank account was thanks to the sale of our marital home, from a marriage that I had desperately tried to save.

How I hated that money!!!
Advice came thick and fast – go on a cruise, buy a huge television, buy all the things that I wanted. I tried, really I did. After a few months of renting, I bought myself a small flat, thus getting rid of a huge percentage of what felt like ill-gotten gains. I didn’t want any of the luxuries that friends told me to buy, I gave quite a bit away, then went on a silly spending spree. I would buy anything ‘pretty’ or ‘girlie’. After a life time surrounded by 5 sons and 3 husbands, pretty, girlie things were in short supply. The thing is, I didn’t really want these things and the novelty soon wore off.

Because my needs were minimal ( I don’t have a car, drink, smoke, do drugs, gamble etc) at first the money didn’t really go down much. I began giving a lot to charity, in a way it was penance for failing as a wife.
After a failed business attempt, where I lost quite a lot of money, suddenly there was very little left. So I began spending on credit cards instead.
I hated the years when we were living in such debt, yet I seemed hell bent on reliving it. I began buying all sorts of things, most of which I never used.
Worried that it could be the return of my mental health problems, I consulted a psychiatrist who assured me that it was a delayed reaction to my stressful marriage and that it would settle in time.

It didn’t.

The difficulty with any habit is that it can get out of control. I became the butt of many jokes about the amount of things that I was buying.
Thankfully, I came to the realisation that it was just comfort buying and that it was no more than ‘stuff’, not really even possessions. I began to declutter my flat ( well documented) I sold a few things but gave most things to a charity shop where I volunteer. Unfortunately as soon as I was getting rid of things, I was replacing them with further clutter.
I wanted to stop. I tried selling a few more expensive things but couldn’t bring myself to ask for anything like the worth, almost paying the purchasers for the privilege of rehomeing my things.

When my first credit card bounced, it came as a shock, never the less the spending continued on another card.

During this time I began to realise how much I despised many of the things that filled my home, so increased the decluttering/ donating. However this wasn’t helping me pay off my outstanding bills. I was running into big trouble and knew it!
I made many lists, cutting out unneccesary direct debits, working out how to save money, but nothing really changed. I looked at homeless people and felt dreadful, I couldn’t even help them because I had nothing left.

I prayed for guidance.

By now, having decided to raise money on my flat through equity release, rather than easing my worries, my haphazard spending increased, bringing no pleasure whatsoever.

Then my guidance came, but not in the way I’d expected.

My expected loan against the flat was refused, due to the high cost of the service charge, making it non viable. Boy was that a shock!
The same day I received two other financial setbacks,one being the quadrupling of my care contribution, also some anticipated extra money didn’t materialise. On top of all of that, adding salt to my already weeping wounds, my computer caught a nasty virus that cost an unexpected near £100 to repair.

I should be devastated, but actually I’m so thankful!

It has forced me to really look at myself and my wasteful lifestyle. My money could have done so much good, yet I wasted it, now with my outgoings far higher than previously and with no equity release to pay off my bills, life has to change. My increase in care contributions was beyond my reach, so I have been forced to cancel my carer. Although I’m nervous about it, as she has been my lifesaver, I realise that I am being told to take personal responsibility.
With no leeway on my credit cards ( all maxed out) it will take me years to get back onto an even keel. But with the financial shocks, coming all together, it has jolted me back to reality.

This week I have searched through my flat and found several things that I don’t use, so have successfully sold them. I have looked at my bursting at the seams food cupboard and have decided to use it up, rather than buy new. Rather than investing in another overflow freezer, as I’d intended, I can actually eat what’s filled up the old one. I have reduced my eating lunches out, choosing to eat at home instead. I have stopped a lot of subscriptions to sites that I rarely, if ever, use.

At last I feel more normal. I’m just a pensioner with a very small income, I don’t need to spend so wildly. However I’m not panicking, or too worried. Things will work out, I’m sure of it. Opportunities to earn money will present themselves. That’s what I’ve needed – to earn what I spend, to give it a value.

To many readers, this will sound bizarre, probably thinking that I don’t know what hardship is – believe me I do. I spent so many years without a penny to my name, convincing the kids that playing games by candlelight was fun, when in fact I had no money for electricity. Hiding from debtors, court summonses etc. Believe me, I’ve been there – for a huge chunk of my life! I now owe more than I ever have, with very little means of paying it off. But pay it off, I will.
Something will come to show me the way. An opportunity will show itself. I really believe that.
When things improve, I want to be able to appreciate what I have and own, not to come across endless carrier bags of things I’d bought on impulse and not even unwrapped. Thankfully my tastes are fairly simple, so most purchases came from second hand shops, I’m not into high living, expensive perfumes and the like.

Yesterday my mobility scooter decided to play me up, I need it for my independence, so will have to get that looked at too. But the Universe wants me to feel more humble and be more grateful for what I do have, not just spending money that I can ill afford, to buy something new. I understand that. I am so grateful for that understanding. Without this wake up call I could have totally gone under, but I don’t believe that this was the Universal plan for me. I need to be more honest with myself. More humble. Live more simply. Something will present itself. Maybe I should apply to magazines or similar, touting for freelance work? Maybe I should get my book finished/ published ?

I trust, absolutely and totally. I was living in a fantasy world. Being honest on here, and to myself has been very freeing. I will be alright. I will find the way that I need to put this right. I have many talents and skills that I’ve not felt confident about.

I give thanks to the Universe for this painful, yet powerful lesson.

Namaste🕉

Rosie x

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Why don’t women speak up?

Broadside

By Caitlin Kelly

photoLegendary celebrity biographer Kitty Kelley and I at a books festival in Bethesda, Maryland, where we were both speakers. Legendary for her ferocious biographies, she was so much fun!

Fascinating, depressing, unsurprising read in The New York Timesthis week:

Women’s voices are often missing and discounted in public affairs, even when they have seats at the tables of power. They speak less, make fewer motions and are more often subject to negative interruptions. Similar patterns prevail online.

If they feel at a disadvantage speaking as women, it’s because they are. In settings as varied as school boards, Vermont town meetings, community meetings in rural Indian villages and online news sites worldwide, researchers have quantified how women’s voices are underrepresented.

Women take up just a quarter to a third of discussion time where policy is discussed and decisions made, except when they are in the majority.

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Difficult Questions.

Having just read a post about homelessness ( happiness blog)
It has hit home how I am as guilty as anyone of not doing anything pro-active to help the homeless.
I care deeply & am in fact writing a novel that features this subject. I try to be friendly but feel awkward about my inability to make any difference to their lives. So I may give a little loose change – big deal! What help is that really? A coffee, then what?
Why are we, as a society, so afraid of upsetting the apple cart by making a noise about the plight of those who, through no fault of their own are without the security ( or comfort) of a roof over their head?
Are we really willing to attempt to help, or are we trying to clear our consciousnesses?
Why do we feel so uncomfortable?
I tell myself that I am caring & considerate, so why am I so impotent over this? Am I really doing all that I can? The answer is simple-no I’m not doing enough.
Caring doesn’t give them a bed or regular hot meals.
Caring doesn’t give them security or the opportunity to get back on their feet.
I suspect that I do more than a lot of people, yet really do so little. Why?
I guess I’m waiting for someone else to set up a workable initiative that I can join. Coward! Why don’t I put my energies into helping instead of simply being concerned?

The happiness blog posed so many questions which are reverberating around my head.

I want to help more. There must be a way. I’ve no idea what, but one thing is certain, bleating about it won’t change anything. Action is needed. Positive, practical action.

Will I do something major to make a difference?

To my shame, probably not.

Rosie x

I’m being honest. Maybe it’s time that we all were?
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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The Homeless – 39 Questions For Your Reflection

Something we all need to ask ourselves….

Kindness Blog

The Homeless – 39 Questions For Your Reflection

by Mike O’Connor

Homeless 1. When you see a homeless person, do you look the other way and keep on walking?

2. Do you avoid making eye contact?

3. Is there a sudden selective deafness when you ‘hear’, or don’t, their requests for help?

4. If you do ignore a homeless person’s request for help, just how quickly does the incident evaporate from your mind?

5. Seconds? Minutes? Hours?

6. What is your honest opinion of these people who are teetering on the very edges of our society?

7. Do they feel that, possibly, they deserve their predicament?

8. Could it be that they are lazy?

9. If so, should they simply get off their lazy rear-ends and look for a decent job?

10. Is it easy to get a job where you live?

11. Do you think it is any easier to…

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Perseverance is the key.

As many followers will know, I’ve pledged to make a booklet in aid of BBC Children in Need. The idea seemed a simple one – just collect a small compilation of work from members of the writing group that I lead. I would comb bind it and persuade friends to buy a copy. What could possibly go wrong?

Hmm, I hadn’t considered a few pertinent points;
1) health has a habit of letting me down.
2) I had already committed to writing a novel during November for NaNoWriMo.
3) I’m rubbish at sticking to the basics!

Already burning the candle at both ends, my health was on a downward spiral & although I recognised it, I refused to do anything about it. I was enjoying life, why would I want to slow down?
A charity abseil that I was due to do was postponed. Concerned friends told me how washed out I looked, eventually agreeing, I took advantage of the postponed abseil weekend to take a break by the sea. A weekend stretched into five days. Sounds great? It was, but rather than rest, I chose to run around like a loon doing all things that tourists do! I came back even more exhausted!

With November looming, I prepared for the NaNoWriMo challenge, setting the plot, sketching the storyline, getting excited & eager to start. I told everybody, so that I wouldn’t back out & on November 1st I sat in front of my laptop & wrote my little heart out. This had been complicated by an unexpected change of storyline. A new idea swept into my brain the day previously & refused to leave, so I was really winging it, having not had any form of plan to work with.
For 4 days I wrote solidly into the night, delighted that I was ahead of my word count schedule. ( NANoWriMo requires that a minimum of 50000 words are produced during the 30 days of November)

At the same time I was organising the charity booklet & had persuaded fellow group members to produce short articles & poetry for me to print. All was going well until I fell out with my printer. It refuses to cooperate. I took this as a sign that maybe I should look into having the booklet professionally printed.
After a lot of googling & comparing prices, I decided to go with a local printing company. Since the cost was greater, so was my need to produce a better book. Sheets of A4 inspirations were being handed to me, all I needed to do was put them into order.

No. Life for me is never that straightforward.

I decided that the booklet should be smaller, A5 size. No worries. HAH!
Now remember that I am a pensioner who only learnt to use a computer about 5 or 6 years ago, apart from the absolute basics, everything has been self taught.
I had also been told that I needed to put individual files into PDF form, then number them, put them onto a memory stick & take it to the printers. Of course I had heard of these new fangled methods, yet had never attempted them. To say that I made hard work of it is an understatement! Googling, books & Youtube to the rescue. I probably could have handled it better, had it not been for me having a slight stroke.

At first I thought that I was simply exhausted, but apparently not. I’ve had several small strokes & a larger one, so recognised what had happened, mini strokes are common place in my family, so the risks have always been accepted by me as just a fact of life.
This one knocked me for six! I was totally wiped out, unable to tackle anything. I did try to do some writing but will need to rewrite it, as it was such rubbish. Unable to go out, my groups & voluntary job had to be put on hold. I became a social recluse.

I have a good relationship with our local newspaper, writing a monthly column for them as well as various small articles & letters, so I had asked them to promote the charity booklet. They happily agreed, asking for a photo of me holding the completed book, to which they would add a piece asking for local support. I would have been delighted, except that the booklet was still in the planning stage. I couldn’t figure out how to do the necessary set up of files.

I didn’t want to fail but it looked like I was going to.

For an entire week, with brain of mush & no energy, I have sat through the night trying desperately to work out how to set up the files etc. One night I didn’t go to bed at all.
Every day I learnt something new. Windows 10 & myself are not best of friends yet & I’m struggling to find my way around it, but every night I realised that I’d found out how to do a new task ( things that most people could do with their eyes closed.) Every morning, before breakfast I would sit at the laptop, ready to use my new found knowledge, only to discover that I needed to learn more, before I could proceed.

I didn’t give up.

In the early hours of this morning, I realised that I’d finally cracked it. I crawled into bed, knowing that I only had a tiny bit more to complete this morning, ready to go to the printers.

The phone woke me from a deep sleep at mid morning. I had a friend arriving at lunchtime. ARGH! I had come too far to allow it all to drag into next week. I had advertised the book to be ready for purchase, Children in Need being next week. I had to complete it. I needed to succeed.

With only a couple of hours before I was due to go out for lunch, I sat at my desk & with absolute determination I set about finishing it. My friend duly arrived, to find me still in my pyjamas. Fortunately very understanding, she made a cuppa while I tapped feverishly on my keyboard. I’m not sure how many times I said to her “Just one last file & I’m finished.”

The important thing is that I got there. A couple of weeks late & very sleep deprived, I was able to proudly hand over the completed flash drive to the printers’. Exhausted & brain dead, yet happy. I’ve no idea how well my work will reproduce in print, I hope it’s good. I want it to be successful, to raise some money, but for me it’s been a worthwhile experience. I’ve learnt a lot. I’ve also learnt that perseverance pays off. The booklet should be ready to go on sale next week. I did it! Me! Little Ol’ me! I figured it out. Even if I’m left with egg on my face & a stack of unsold booklets, I managed to overcome all sorts of obstacles & am very pleased with myself. Yes ok so it won’t be professionally written, it’s only a small scale production, but I did it!

As for NanoWriMo? I had thought about giving up, having not written a word for a complete week, but have decided not to.
Allowing myself the luxury of a relaxing evening, I intend to recommence tomorrow, after a T’ai Chi workshop. There’s a very good chance that I won’t meet the deadline, but it isn’t important. I will write as much as I am able – I have the rest of my life to complete it. I accepted the challenge and will do my best but don’t need to prove anything to anyone. I’ve had a lot to cope with recently. But I have overcome it all & am still here to tell the tale.

My health is improving again. I’m eager to get on with my life. Bring it on!

Rosie x

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Until next time, take care.