Reflections of 2021!

What a year this has been for everyone…yet another year revolved around Covid which is becoming a new ‘normal’. Absolutely it has had an impact on 2021 for me personally but as I sit and reflect on this year it isn’t the first thing that springs to mind, instead its more like a sideline. Admittedly it is heart-breaking that it is still affecting so many lives and that so many lives have been lost to Covid, what I find more saddening and disappointing (although not surprising) is the governments handling of it and the anti-Covid/anti-vaxxers out there.

I howled with laughter when I watched Live at the Apollo Christmas Special on BBC iPlayer when Jason Manford spoke about Covid….the best bits were when he spoke about people who listen to the scientists and medical professionals and trust and accept what we are told (even if we don’t like it) and those who don’t believe what incredibly intelligent people are telling us and instead take to the university of Facebook for ‘facts’ on Covid. He talked about someone taking the piss out of him for wearing a mask and he said well ‘I figure if I’m wrong, I just accidentally wore a mask for a year whereas if you’re wrong someone’s nana died, you know?’ Brilliant!!

I know this is the time of year when you’ll see lots of posts about creating jars filled with positivity and some people write down all the good things that have happened throughout the year so that on New Year’s Eve, they can empty the jar and remind themselves…I love that idea, but I admit that I can imagine I’d get to the end of January and stop doing it. However, if I had done that it would have helped me write this post!! Instead, I’ve had to wrack my brain and look back through my calendar and photos to remind myself.

So much has happened this year…. I’ve certainly been through a lot, even I can’t quite believe it.

So, I’ll start with the not so brilliant things….

-Lockdown – although I enjoyed spending quality time with my girls, particularly as I knew that Florrie would be starting school in September. A highlight of lockdown was being able to legitimately go to York for my Covid vaccines!!

-Going through another court case…this time for divorce proceedings and it was pretty horrendous, it could have broken me at the injustice but instead I had to focus on the positives which were that I was finally free from my ex, and I was given a lump sum.

– My first surrogacy experience with a set of Intended Parents went pear shaped and knocked me down to the point where I questioned if surrogacy was something I wanted to carry on with.

– Having my jaw broken by my dentist which resulted in me being in a lot of pain for 2 months and led to me having to have an operation under general anaesthetic which petrified me, but it’s done, and I am now pain free and hopefully my jaw is pretty much healed.

Now for the better things!!…

  • I GOT DIVORCED!!!!! – Definitely a highlight of my year!!!
  • I booked 2 holidays for 2022 (Covid permitting) …so I’ll have to get over my fear of flying for one of them!
  • I completed the Ration Challenge and raised £440 for refugees. I am proud of this achievement, not only because it was tough going but also because I never imagined that I would raise that much, I didn’t even know if I’d raise £50 as I don’t know that many people. I’m very grateful for everyone who donated and sent words of support!
  • I passed the first year of my counselling course
  • I gave a presentation to the rest of my class at college where I had to speak openly about myself for 10 minutes…it was the first time I revealed so much about myself. It was a major milestone for me.
  • I got a tattoo… which I never thought I would do and I still love it. (Which is lucky because I’m stuck with it!!)
  • I started my placement as a trainee counsellor, and I am now more than 1/3rd of the way through the 100 hours I need to qualify!
  • Amazingly I was incredibly lucky to find and be able to purchase a house of my own – I still can’t believe it. It has taken a huge weight off my shoulders as the rising cost of renting was terrifying. I have to admit that I found moving and the process of buying a house rather stressful, but I did it.
  • I got to spend some quality time with my best friend, and we had annual trip to Bettys for afternoon tea which we hadn’t actually done for 3 years!
  • Florrie started school!! Fortunately, she has taken to it like a duck to water and loves it! She had a glowing report and ended the year by playing Mary in the school nativity! I am very proud of her.
  • Even though my first experience of surrogacy didn’t work out I met Paige through my old IPs, and I feel very lucky to have her in my life.
  • I met the lovely Ali & Andrew through surrogacy, and we are embarking on our journey together.
  • I have enjoyed discovery myself (even though there is still more to go) …I am so much happier in my own skin and feel like me and I quite like me. I have definitely taken more risks in the past year, mainly speaking more openly which I find risky as I still have a fear of judgement and rejection, but I am getting better at this. My best friend has massively helped with this as she has encouraged me to say how I feel and take more risks as life is too short.
  • And….my Christmas wish came true!!!

I am looking forward to 2022 and can’t wait to spend time with the important people in my life, to create lots of happy memories and hopefully qualify as a counsellor!

On reflection, I have realised that it is too easy to get caught up in life and to forget the good things that have happened. So as much as I still may forget to carry it on, I think keeping a notebook handy to jot down some key happy memories throughout the year would be a lovely thing to do. Having a notebook by the side of your bed is an easy way to jot things down before you go to sleep, and it will become something really nice to look at either at the end of the year or whenever you want to remind yourself of these things.

So, here’s to 2022…I hope it brings you all happy memories!

‘It’s the season of love and understanding…’

It’s one of my favourite times of the year and so much more magical having 2 little girls who believe in the magic of Santa!

We’ve been singing and dancing to Christmas songs for the past few weeks and our favourites include Last Christmas, All I want for Christmas is you and Merry Christmas Everyone!!

However, I have often felt that the build up to Christmas starts earlier every year and by November everywhere you turn you will see or hear something to do with Christmas. Most adverts on television are to do with Christmas, there are Christmas songs playing wherever you go, and people are posting about all their festive plans on social media.

Now whilst I do love Christmas, I can’t help but feel that with all this comes a certain amount of pressure or expectations about what you should be doing at Christmas, how much you should spend on food and presents and this idea that everyone is surrounded by large family and continual social gatherings. Whilst this may be true for some, it certainly isn’t true for everyone.

This time of year may be hard for some people due to varying circumstances…. not everyone can afford a luxury Christmas and there will be parents who hope that their children aren’t hoping for an expensive present from Santa. There will be those who don’t have family or friends, those who may have lost loved ones or who can’t go and be with their loved ones.

Yet for those people they can’t avoid Christmas (well not easily) even if they wanted to. It is all to easy to get wrapped up in our own busyness after all most of us have lots of things to do at this time of year on top of all the usual jobs.

However, it’s worth taking a minute to think about those who may not be looking forward to Christmas and take the time to reach out to them. You’d be surprised at what could make a difference to someone and how a small act of kindness can mean a lot to someone. It could be something as small as smiling at someone, wishing them a Merry Christmas, sending someone a message to let them know that you are thinking of them, asking if there’s anything you can do, posting someone a card or giving someone a gift.

I also feel that it is important to never assume that people are busy or that you would be disturbing them or that you are too busy to find time to check in on someone. I would imagine that something as simple as sending someone a message will always be appreciated, even if you don’t get a reply and we all know how easy and quick it is to send messages these days. In less than the time it takes to make a drink you can send someone a message.

I am surprised and somewhat saddened that Covid appears to have divided people more than brought people together and that there seems to be less of a community spirit. We never know what is going on for someone and now more than ever I believe it is important to look out for one another. I don’t like to think of anyone feeling sad or finding life hard and although I know that I can’t change peoples lives, I like to try and do what I can to at least put a smile on someone’s face.

What means the most to me at this time of year is spending time with loved ones…there were so many Christmases where I didn’t get that opportunity so now, I make the most of it.

So, whilst you’re putting your feet up with a glass of something or in the middle of baking yet another batch of mince pies, it would be nice to consider those around you or to check in on that friend or family member who may not be finding the festive period as fun and exciting.

In the words of Shakin’ Stevens, ‘it’s the season of love and understanding, Merry Christmas everyone!’

End of lockdown…week 1

This week saw the beginning of a return to probably pretty much the new normal when it comes to day-to-day life in England. We have adjusted to having a mask with us everywhere we go and wearing it pretty much all of the time when out and about. I remember when shops opened for the first time after the first lockdown I daren’t touch anything unless I was buying it but how can you sift through clothes without touching them? Now we use more hand gel than you can imagine regardless of if we have touched anything or not!

I have to admit I quite like having to book to eat out or to go to the cinema or indoor play etc as it makes me feel reassured regarding how many people will be there. Not just because of Covid but also because I have never really been one for crowds. It is a much nicer atmosphere and far more relaxing to be somewhere that isn’t rammed and incredibly noisy.

I know some parents were counting down the days until they could go back to soft play, but I was never a fan anyway let alone now, I mean everyone knows all the toys particularly the ball pools are a hub for every bug going! It’s like taking your children to a chicken pox party! How on earth soft play centres can make sure everything is clean I do not know.

As soon as cinemas announced they would be reopening I have to admit that I booked tickets for myself and my eldest daughter as she has been wanting to see Peter Rabbit 2 since it was first meant to be released last year. It was good though as you booked online, selected your seats which showed the seats around you that would be blocked off and there was no waiting around.

I also ventured into a bar for the first time since last year – aren’t I a rebel?!

I think there is still a lot of confusion around what we can and cannot do and trepidation with the Indian variant taking off in England. I know it was part of the plan for restrictions to be eased this week, but it does feel odd how last week we could only eat or drink outside yet this week we can be inside and not always sat 2 metres away from others. It’s also odd that in college we have had to wear masks all the time yet this week we didn’t. The main thing that boggles my mind about this is that colleges are predominantly filled of 16–21-year-olds who haven’t had either vaccine yet and cases are increasing again but the rules regarding masks and social distancing no longer exist. When I was in college this week 17 adults were sat in an average sized classroom with no ventilation, no masks, and no social distancing for 4 hours, I find it bizarre that that’s now ok. I suppose people at work are there for longer and with more people, but I don’t understand the change of rules when we’re not out of the woods yet.

As I have said before I believe that people should do what feels right for them. Just because we are now allowed to do more does not mean we have to. If you feel more comfortable wearing a mask at all times, that’s ok. If you feel safer being sat outside even though we can sit inside, that’s fine. If you would rather still do shopping online, go for it. If you would rather wait until you’ve had both vaccines before you dish out hugs, fair enough.

I have noticed a lot of people have been saying how tired they are feeling lately, and I read an article about how people may feel fatigued as life returns to ‘normal’. This makes perfect sense to me as the majority of us have had a more subdued life for months, we’ve not been going out socialising or dashing around as we’ve not been allowed. Suddenly people are generally doing more (even if it’s on their own) and this will make you tired, just being in a busy environment may affect us as this isn’t what we’ve been used to.

However, you are feeling after this week I’d just like to remind you to be kind to yourself and not pressure yourself to do anything that you don’t feel comfortable with.

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I received an email this week from Concern Worldwide that said I have raised more than £75 and earned salt for the duration of Ration Challenge week. Even more importantly, £75 is enough to provide medical referrals for six refugees. Because of you, refugees will have access to life-saving treatment. We cannot thank you enough.

This made me very happy, to be making a difference however small it may be.

I also received my ration pack and although I have read what would be included, when I opened the box, I was shocked at how little there was and worked out that under normal circumstances the ingredients would probably make no more than around 5 meals yet these rations (+ a bag of flour and an extra bag of rice) have to make 21 meals!

It is going to be tough, but I know I only have to do it for 7 days unlike refugees.

I have decided to start the challenge tomorrow (24th May), instead of 13th June as it feels as though it’s hanging over me, with the anticipation building up. So, rather than worry how I’ll manage, I thought I’d just go for it!! Wish me luck!!

Thank you to those who have sponsored me so far, if anyone wishes to donate (there is no minimum amount) I would be incredibly grateful.

L.O.S.T Mum • Ration Challenge UK 2021

Lockdown part 3…. Week 19

I can’t quite believe that tomorrow marks the end of most of the restrictions in England and that life will return to as normal as it has been for a long time and what may be the new normal for some time to come.

Not a lot will change for me on a day-to-day basis, but I imagine some people will be desperate to go to restaurants, bars, the cinema, indoor attractions etc.

Whatever your plans are moving forward, I hope you will be kind to yourself and only do what you feel comfortable doing. Some people will feel cautious or uncomfortable and others may feel completely relaxed but the main thing is to consider how you feel and not to feel pressured by anyone. We have spent more than a year living with varying degrees of restrictions, some of us have been working remotely, some may not have left their house, ventured into shops or been anywhere crowded (in some large towns and cities social distancing seems to have already gone out the window!).

Some people may feel excited about having more freedom and others may be anxious, I hope that people will be kind to one another as there is no right or wrong. We don’t know what people are feeling or what their personal circumstances are. Yes, there are lots of people who have now had either one or both vaccinations but there are also lots of people who have had neither and of course there is the unknown about how the Indian variation may affect things. I am hopeful that vaccinations will still protect us at least enough to prevent anyone from being hospitalised.

I read an interesting article based on the virus experts’ opinions about the next stage of lockdown easing and the general consensus was cautiousness particularly in the next couple of weeks until we see what impact the easing has had on the number of cases etc. Like the experts I will still feel more comfortable sitting outside at cafes or restaurants or at least somewhere where there are limited numbers and 2 metres between tables. I found it interesting to read that all indoor exercise classes can resume but that high intensity classes pose more of a risk than say yoga as people expel more air when doing such classes. Fortunately, I wasn’t planning on attending any indoor exercise classes!!

There is still a feeling of limbo or that the government are hoping for the best but taking a stab in the dark when it comes to making decisions (yes, I know they say all decisions are based on data but it is obvious that a lot has to do with the economy, and we know the UK government has made mistakes otherwise we wouldn’t have the 5th highest number of Covid deaths).

Wales has advised people not to travel abroad until next year whereas England is allowing foreign travel to resume from next week. However, I am not sure how many countries will want us due to the increasing number of cases linked with the Indian variant. People won’t find out if they can go on holiday until the government updates the traffic light list which could mean you may not find out until the day before you are due to go. Although I had hoped to be able to take my girls abroad before my eldest starts school in September, I am relieved that I didn’t book anything and instead have planned a couple of staycations!

I got another chance to drive to York this week for my second Covid vaccine and I am now one of 15 million people in the UK to be fully vaccinated. I was a little anxious about having my 2nd vaccine as I had the Astra Zeneca and not long ago it was announced that all under 40’s would be offered a different vaccine because of a small number of people getting blood clots. However, I found it interesting that you are more likely to get a blood clot from taking the pill than from having the Astra Zeneca vaccine, yet a lot of people take the pill without batting an eyelid.

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As tomorrow marks the end of lockdown as we know it, this will be my last lockdown blog, but I will still write about life after lockdown!

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I am excited that my blog now has 100 followers from all over the world! I cannot tell you how much it means, and I want to thank everyone for reading my blog. My blog has now been read by people from the UK, USA, Malaysia, India, China, Japan, South Africa, Canada, Romania, Ecuador, Russia, Indonesia, Egypt, Ireland, Switzerland, Poland, Netherlands, Sweden, Albania, Slovakia, France, and Israel!

So, thank you, thanks, terima kasih, dhanyavad, xiè xiè, arigatou, dankie, mulțumesc, gracias, Спасибо, shukraan, Go raibh maith agat, merci vielmal, Dziękuję, bedankt, tack, faleminderit, Ďakujem, merci, todah!

Lockdown part 3…. Week 18

1 week to go until the majority of lockdown restrictions are eased! This week marked the announcement of foreign travel rules with the new traffic light system which will also begin on the 17th May alongside the return to life as normal as it is likely to be for a while.

There has been a lot of confusion and frustration over foreign travel, and I don’t feel it’s much clearer after the recent government announcement. I know some people are desperate to travel and may not care about the potential risk of bringing new variants of Covid into the country but then there are others (like myself) who would rather the government do everything within its power to keep new variants out.

As it stands the government have decided which countries are on each of the green, amber, and red lists and have said that these lists will be reviewed every few weeks. This seems to make sense as we know how quickly things can change when it comes to the spread of Covid, however I also appreciate that this doesn’t help people when it comes to planning a holiday and may have left people in limbo. Some people may have booked holidays or decide to book a holiday in a country on an amber or red list with the hope that it will be moved to the green list in time but with a lot of companies not being able to provide refunds unless holidays are cancelled as well as people having to book time off work, pay for tests etc it seems more hassle than it’s worth right now.

We have been told this week that anyone coming from a green list country needs a negative pre-departure Covid test and they will also have to take a PCR test on day two after their arrival. (I am not quite sure what would happen if this were positive once they’ve arrived on holiday!) Isolation is not required for people returning from green list countries.

If people decide to travel to an amber list country, they also need a negative pre-departure Covid test, have a PCR test on day two AND day eight. They then have to isolate at home for 10 days on their return, however, they can use the test-to-release system on day five and if they have a negative test result, they can end their quarantine immediately.

Finally, people visiting red list countries need a negative pre-departure Covid test, have a PCR test on day two and day eight and stay in a hotel for managed quarantine for 10 days which cannot be cut short.

The government have said that no one should travel to amber and red countries for leisure, but I can’t see the majority of people following this advice. However, unless the government allow people to purchase PCR tests anywhere instead of through limited and expensive companies then this will put some people off as it will significantly add to the cost of a holiday.

The first countries to be added to the green list are: – Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Brunei, Iceland, Faroe Islands, Gibraltar, Falkland Islands, Israel, Jerusalem, South Georgia, South Sandwich Islands, Saint Helena, Ascension, Tristan da Cunha, Portugal, including the Azores and Madeira.

However, I had to laugh because I have no idea why the government has produced this list as only Portugal and Gibraltar will allow British tourists to travel there without quarantine or vaccination requirement and Iceland and Israel will only allow entry if people have had their vaccinations. So really the green list consists of four countries!

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I decided to set myself a challenge this week which took me way out of my comfort zone. I am aware that I don’t like to speak in front of others and so I am the quiet one on my counselling course when it comes to whole class work. There are people who are happy to take centre stage, so this has made it easier for me to take a step back, but I realised that I didn’t want people on my course to think that I didn’t want to contribute or judge me for not speaking up often. I also thought how much more difficult I would find standing up in front of them and talking about myself for 10 minutes if I didn’t take the opportunity to voluntarily speak up beforehand.

So, I thought about what I wanted to say and built up the strength and courage to do this. I am proud that I did speak up and that I was brave enough to share with the group how I didn’t value my voice so why would others and that this had stemmed from my abusive ex where I had no voice or say in my life. I couldn’t look at anyone as I spoke and felt myself getting teary (which isn’t what I wanted).

When I finished speaking, I was taken aback by the response I received from the group – I wasn’t the only one with shiny eyes. One person told me it was the most touching thing they had experienced; I was told how brave I had been, how people like hearing my voice and when I do speak up how valuable my contributions are and how touched people were. My tutor asked me to say what I needed afterwards, and I said that I needed a hug but certainly didn’t expect one given the restrictions but ended up getting a group hug! I was surprised how much it took out of me, but I am pleased I did.

I have always been a private person but know that sometimes it’s important to share and to take yourself out of your comfort zone. I’ve been left realising that I need to have more belief in myself as well as what others say about me without almost shrugging it off (not in a nasty way as I was very touched by the comments, but I struggle to take compliments).

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Finally, this week me and my girls re-designed our front window with a summer theme. We may be the only house that is still decorating our window, but I have received such positive comments about how much people love to see our window and how much children enjoy walking past our house so of course it had to be done!

131 Confidence Quotes To Help You Believe In Yourself

Lockdown part 3….Week 16

This week has felt almost as if lockdown is over…doing school runs, seeing friends, going in shops, seeing beer gardens full and the return to college. I’ve been doing my counselling course remotely since October and when we did go in during September, we were split into groups, so I had only met some of my fellow students. I am surprised that I wasn’t nervous due to Covid and meeting people for the first time but having seen everyone virtually for the past 6 months it felt like I knew everybody already. We had to keep our masks on for the full 4 hours which was rather unpleasant particularly as it was so hot inside, I should have turned up in my bikini!! (Not that I ever would, let alone be seen in one!) I feel a little safer being out and about having had one of my vaccines, but I am aware that people can still carry the virus even if they don’t get it themselves. I have been taking lateral flow tests now that my girls are back in pre-school which I am now used to but still find myself sneezing like a trooper afterwards as it tickles! It is interesting how it doesn’t phase my girls when they see people in masks or taking lateral flow tests, it’s something that I think they associate as a normal part of life and are more likely to find it odd if they see people without masks on, but I imagine it will be along time before this happens when generally out and about.

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I managed to submit my case study and final assignment and with time to spare! I don’t know if I have passed yet, but fingers crossed! Now all that is left is the presentation, where we have to talk about ourselves for 10 minutes with reference to our own philosophy and beliefs and our journey so far. No where does it say that we can’t play a song for 10 minutes as long as it fulfils these objectives!!!! (Wishful thinking!) I have never felt comfortable talking about myself or talking in front of a group of people, so this is going to be a challenge for me. It’s almost as if I have barriers that go up at the thought which prevent me from even thinking about what I could say about myself. I was asked to write a bio about myself to go on the website of the provider that I will be completing my counselling placement at and I drew a blank. Despite reading what other people had written about themselves I didn’t know where to start. So, I called on my Mum for ideas and she did an amazing job, so I got out of that one!!

We’ve got at least a month before we’ll be released into the big wide world on placement so aside from the presentation, we have finished our first year of the course! It has flown by and I can’t believe that in a years’ time I will (hopefully) be finished and therefore be a fully qualified counsellor. I realised that next weekend I can actually have a weekend off from studying and don’t know what to do with myself!

I had a wobble this week when someone said something that knocked me down, inside I was fighting crumbling and telling myself that I am a failure and should give up my course. I know it wouldn’t have been long ago that I would have fallen apart, felt very down and lost sight of everything I have worked so hard for. However, thanks to this course and my own counselling and inner strength I am trying to fight against these thoughts and feelings and reflect upon why the words of one person can affect me so much. Why do the words and opinions of so many other people suddenly no longer matter but instead I am only thinking about and valuing the words of this one person? Admittedly I have them on a pedestal which may be why I value their words so much but equally I have learnt on my course that we do not need to value what other people say, instead it’s our choice to accept what other people say and it’s down to us what we do and how we react.

Do I allow one person to have such an impact on me? I know that I have worked incredibly hard to get where I am, battling through despite everything else that has been going on with my life. I have secured a placement at a fantastic independent organisation working with children, young people and their families and I have a lot of people that believe in me and have encouraged me to do this. I need to reflect on where it stems from this feeling of failure based on what one person says. Does it come from when my ‘father’ walked out when I was 8 or is it when I was at school and teachers humiliated me when I was having panic attacks? It could be something that has become internalised as I remember from an early age wanting to give up when something happened that either upset me or make me feel uncomfortable and because my Mum didn’t want me to be upset I often ended up giving up rather than carrying on and I have realised that what I wanted and needed was to be encouraged to carry on but as a young child I either wasn’t aware of this or couldn’t verbalise this and so it has carried on throughout my life.

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I saw someone who hasn’t seen me in a long time, and they commented on how well I looked, and I said it’s because I am finally free! It does feel like a huge weight has been lifted and that finally I can rediscover myself – at times it feels as though I am having a 30 something life crisis or rebelling!!! Talking of which…. look out for next week’s blog!