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My Illness Doesn’t Define The Person I Am Today

Illness isn’t a defining role in my life, it may have shaped me but it isn’t who I am. I’m a wife, sister, friend, fundraiser, blogger, and cat lover amongst many other things. These are how I define myself, I just happened to have a neurological illness. I am no more defined by my illness than I am by my blonde hair or the fact that I survived an abusive childhood. Having an illness or being a survivor of abuse doesn’t define my character, it’s what I’ve done afterwards that’s made all the difference to the person I am today.

Every time I have a bad day there’s an overwhelming feeling that hits me like a slap in the face. Irrational thoughts of I’m a failure or I’m not good enough come out of nowhere. The frustration that follows a neurological relapse is unreal, parts of my body no longer work as they’re supposed to and stop me from physically doing things I once took for granted. I’m willing my legs to move, my speech not to sound slurred and my hand to un-clench, but without Harry Potter’s wand it’s never going to happen.

On the outside I “look so well” but on the inside I’m trapped while the world moves on around me. I feel so alone. The fear hangs over me like a dark cloud. What if something happens to Adrian and I can’t get out of bed for days and no one knows I’m there? A million “What if” questions run through my head and bring on a panic attack. I can’t breathe, the walls are closing in around me and I want to scream but no sound leaves my mouth.

I’m both mentally and physically exhausted.

Life has been difficult at times. I had to give up full time work due to my physical disability. My eyesight is failing, I have tremors and lack of sensation in my legs, arms and lower back. I suffer from seizures that leave me unable to move for days and often I’m crying in agony because the pain is so severe.

With the help of a counsellor, a physiotherapist, an alternate therapist and, of course, Adrian, I’m making the best out of life that I possibly can. I had to re-evaluate how I did things. I joined a support group for people in the same situation as me, eventually becoming a “buddy” for newly diagnosed members to talk through how they were feeling. I began raising money for the charity by doing a sponsored wheelchair push and arranging a pamper evening for all the ladies. I developed new friendships as well as strengthening life long relationships. I also gave a presentation to health and social care workers where I talked about the advantages of using a day care centre or charity support group from a clients’ point of view.

It gave me a sense of purpose again. My anxiety improved and I felt mentally stronger. It was one day a week but I was making a difference to someone else’s life, not just my own.

I started writing my blog which allowed me to continue my love of fashion and beauty. I began talking to people on line who had similar interests to me, we’d have a laugh, a moan or support each other in whatever way we could. I learnt new photography skills by working my way round the manual settings of a camera, all about lighting and the use of props to tell a story. I stepped out of my comfort zone by posing in front of the camera and (hopefully) inspiring people on what outfits to wear. I’ve explored local places I perhaps wouldn’t have done if it wasn’t for writing my blog. I’ve even learnt how to bake cakes which I especially love doing for friend’s birthdays or baby showers. I find it very therapeutic mixing the ingredients from scratch and creating something that tastes delicious.

I still have bad days, both mentally and physically. I’m proud of all the little things I’ve achieved despite having a disability. I’ve learnt to understand what triggers a neurological symptom to flare up or what causes my panic attacks. Everything feels a million times worse if I cannot control a situation, however much I try to use my coping techniques. Yes I need the help of carers and cannot leave the house on my own or go to the ladies without assistance. But I won’t give up living life and doing the things I enjoy.

I’m incredibly proud of the small things I’ve achieved and won’t let it hold me back. I take life at my pace and still need to hide in my sanctuary every so often, but there’s nothing wrong in that. We all need to a day or two to recharge, no matter what we’re going through.

However bad life gets, I won’t let my illness define who I am, I’m more than just medical appointments, tablets and a wheelchair. It doesn’t make me a failure just because I’m not able to do something the way I once did. My illness isn’t a barrier to stop me doing the things I want to achieve in life, I just have to do them slightly differently.

If you’re in a dark place, remember there’s always someone you can talk to and get help. Most importantly, remember you’re not alone.

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A Celebratory Picnic At Hitchin Lavender

I’m extremely lucky to live in such a beautiful part of the UK with places such as Hitchin Lavender practically on my doorstep. I didn’t need to think twice when it came to deciding how we’d celebrate our anniversary this year. No fancy meal in a restaurant, no weekend break or a big family party.

I wanted to enjoy a picnic, surrounded by a sea of stunning purple flowers and feel relaxed by the divine smell of lavender. Adrian and I packed up the hamper with pasta, fruit salad, a Victoria Sponge and a bottle of wine to toast our happy day.

We couldn’t have asked for better weather, the sun was shining and the skies were blue. The lavender fields were extremely busy, yet so peaceful with everyone going about their business, getting lost in their own thoughts. We were both given a paper bag each on the way in, so we collected as much lavender as we could to take home. I love to let the flowers dry out and make lavender bags for my wardrobes and drawers, they keep my clothes smelling fresh and the moths away!

Naturally, we had to take plenty of photos, I’ll be popping one in a frame to remember the day. Our actual wedding anniversary is in April when the weather can be a bit hit and miss. Instead, every year on 4th July (the date of our first night out together) we do something a little extra special rather than just watching a film and having a take away.

I felt super feminine in my white broderie anglaise mini dress, a straw hat that’s so old I can’t remember where it’s from and a basket bag I picked up from a charity shop for £4. My pearl jewellery is from a local vintage shop and made the perfect finishing touch to a pretty summer outfit.

We both had a wonderful afternoon, extremely full from all the food we ate and a little merry from the wine. I certainly slept well that night!

Have you been anywhere to celebrate a special day? I’d love to hear about the place you visited.

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Let’s Catch Up: What Have I Been Up To

Wearing my favourite pair of ankle boots while I sit down to have a catch up

I can’t believe we’re well into December and only a few weeks away from Christmas. I love this time of year, coming home on a dark evening and looking at all the pretty Christmas trees people have in their windows. I love getting home, closing the curtains, lighting the candles and switching on all the fairy lights we’ve got hung round the room, The first thing I do is change into my pyjamas, make a hot chocolate and get cosy under a blanket on the sofa for half an hour and enjoy the peace and quiet. 

Since the first of December I’ve been opening a mini stocking from my home made advent calendar that Adrian puts together for me. So far this year I’ve had some fantastic mini Decleor skincare products. I haven’t got round to taking any photos yet as I’m such a bad blogger.

In this month's catch up I'm toasting my husband's birthday with a glass of moet
In this month's catch up I show how we made a candle out of left over bits of wax using a candle making kit
In this month's catch up I show how we made a candle out of left over bits of wax using a candle making kit

On the 24th November we celebrated Adrian’s birthday with a glass of Moet that I was lucky enough to have been sent via the O2 Priority app. I wasn’t going to turn my nose up at a free bottle of drink. Adrian chose to stay at home on his birthday, order in a take away and watch a film. We are complete opposites when it comes to birthdays, I prefer to get dressed up and go out to celebrate. 

There’s so much waste left after a candle has finished burning. We’ve been saving up all the autumnal smelling bits of wax, then melted them down in a saucepan and made our own layered candle using a candle making kit we found on Amazon. Each layer smells absolutely delicious. 

having my hair cut and coloured in my monthly catch up post

I love that feeling when you’ve just had your hair cut at the salon. I’ve been going to Style Me Hairdressing for two years and my hair is in much better condition than it was back in 2016. The ends were dry and kept splitting, and my hair had absolutely no shape to it at all. I love how it looks now, especially when my hair stylist, Amy, puts a few waves in for me. I colour my hair at home using Clairol Nice and easy Permanent Dye in the shade SB1, it’s just been redone and will last me until the New Year.

in my monthly catch up I wanted to  talk about Blogosphire magazine where my photo had been featured
In this months catch up I'm featuring the candle and reed diffuser I won in a competition

There was one week where three fabulous things happened all close together. It started off on the Monday when I was extremely lucky and won a competition run by Alice and the prize was this amazing bundle from Heyland and Whittle gift company.  The room smells absolutely divine with this very festive Frankincense reed diffuser and Winter Spice candle, perfect for our cosy nights in, watching Christmas films and wrapped up under a fluffy blanket.

Next I got a wonderful opportunity to collaborate with the high street fashion brand Warehouse, featuring What To wear To An Office Party. I was so excited to put this post together and have chosen the trouser suit and pleated midi dress to wear to two parties I have coming up. 

Finally, I could not believe my eyes when I opened the latest edition of Blogosphere Magazine, which is run by bloggers for bloggers. On the page where they feature their favourite photos of the magazine was one of my photos. I quite literally cried with joy. 

in this months catch up post I'm wearing a cosy coat and bobble hat

At the end of November we went into town to see the Christmas lights being switched on. We had a fantastic evening watching the Christmas parade with Santa on his sleigh, drinking mulled wine and going round the stalls tasting all the yummy festive food. We enjoyed listening to a local school choir singing all the old Christmas carols and the DJ who kept us all entertained by playing our favourite Christmas number one songs and got us all excited ready for the countdown to the light switch on.  It was so busy, Adrian and I went back a few days later just so I could have my photo taken next to the tree. 

Adrian and I are just about ready for Christmas now. Our decorations went up the first week in December and I’ve finished all my Christmas shopping, apart from fresh items which I’ll get a few days before. I’ve wrapped all the gifts and written out cards ready to posts to friends and family far away. This year we’ve chosen to send personalised cards to close family and the photo we decided to have on the front was this one of a robin sitting in our garden. Adrian took it a few years ago and it’s one of my all time favourite winter themed photos. All that’s left is to make some mince pies, it’s amazing how many of my friends still think these actually have meat inside.

I also had a great time at a Christmas Victorian themed market where we bought little stocking fillers from small businesses. The atmosphere was buzzing and I wish I was able to get dressed up in one of the amazing costumes. 

I’ve been going through my wardrobe and recycling clothes that have been in there for ages. I’m much more mindful about the way I shop now, instead of buying loads of items I’ll never wear I add in a few new key pieces all built around my 10 Winter Wardrobe Staples. It’s been great to make up new outfits from clothes I already had just by wearing them with a different accessory, skirt or jumper. I did treat myself to a new pair of nude ankle boots from TK Maxx, they’re the ones in the main photo and worn with this dress from Zara. I can see myself wearing these all year round, how cute would these look with a floaty knee length dress on chillier summer days?

Well that’s all for now, I hope you’ve enjoyed this very festive catch up.  Are you ready for Christmas? Have you been to a Christmas light switch on or festive themed markets?

You may also enjoy last year’s festive catch up.

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Remembering my Nan on the anniversary of her death

Remembering my Nan

For those of you who have lost someone close you’ll know exactly how I am feeling today. It’s the anniversary of my Nan’s death and I still miss her so much with every single year that goes by. She passed away when I was 17 and I had spent so many of my early years with her, between my Nan and my Aunt they gave me the love that I needed as a child. Sadly I only have these three photos and not any from when I was a teenager, that breaks my heart. If I could go back in time I would spend more time with her and take a stack load of photos. Thank goodness I’ll always have my memories.

Remembering my Nan

Alongside losing my Nan, the hardest thing I had to deal with was not being “allowed” to attend her funeral. A certain person in my family wouldn’t let me go, I think she thought I was going to tell the rest of the family things that had been going on, when all I wanted to do was say goodbye to “Nanny”

In 2006 I was seeing a counsellor for a number of things and she suggested I said goodbye to my Nan in my own way. So went into the nearest florist and purchased a bunch of Sweet Williams, which were her favourite flowers, and a took those and a copy of our photo to the river in town where she used to take me to feed the dunks as a young child. I do the same every year to remember my Nan.

Remembering my Nan

She used to work on Hitchin market and while I was staying with her during school holidays I’d go with her. Even in the coldest of weather she’d always be there at some ridiculous hour of the morning. Tuesdays were my favourite, she’d take me into the near by cafe for a bowl of hot soup and an ice bun. I got to know all the stall holders and some of the local shop keepers, one year I went round telling everyone “I’m going to be 5, it’s my birthday soon.” One shop had a collection and bought me a little red bag with Mr Happy on the front.

Ny Nan used to cook the most amazing Sunday Roast followed by apple pie and custard. Then we’d take a walk through the park to visit my Great Grandmother Agnes, we’d make jam tarts and have some with a cup of tea. I remember we’d sit in my Great Grandmother’s room at the back of the house which was always kept for “best” and there’d be china cups and saucers, at 5 I felt very grown up.

My Nan was a great lover of music, it was mainly songs from when she was a girl. She’d always be playing records by Andy Williams (who sang Moon River), big band music such as Glenn Miller and tunes by Henry Mancini. If you’ve seen Love Story or you’re an Audrey Hepburn fan then you may recognise some of Mancini’s music. I still love listening to these even today, they remind me of special times when my Nan and I used to dance round her living room, it was great fun.

It’s not always the big grand gestures that you remember. It’s the simplest little thing that can often mean so much, like when she’d make me chicken soup if I’d got a cold and the biggest hugs she’d give me for no reason at all.

I used to love taking her little black poodle, Francis, for a walk with my Nan. That tiny dog had so much energy and would always come back for more. I think he was company for my Nan and I literally cried on the day he was driven away by his new owners when my Nan could no longer look after him by herself.

Remembering my Nan

As the years when by and my Nan got older she started having falls and was constantly in pain. She had to move from her two bedroom flat into sheltered accommodation and eventually into a nursing home. I used to travel by bus to visit her and each time I went she’d deteriorated a bit more. I’d read books to her, tell her about my day and read her horoscopes from the news paper as she’d always read those herself.

I was living at my Foster Mother’s house when the phone rang, I knew exactly what she was going to tell me just by the look on her face. On 21st November in St Katherine’s Nursing Home, my Nan had fallen asleep for the very last time.

Good night Nanny, sleep tight.

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Things I Want To Do This Autumn

Things I Want To Do This Autumn

Blimey, it honestly doesn’t seem a whole year since I was last thinking about everything I wanted to get done during Autumn, where has time gone? I don’t know about you, but  the Autumn is my favourite time of year, I’m sure I say that about every season but right now it’s Autumn. I love everything about it. yet there doesn’t seem to be enough weeks to enjoy everything I want to do. Just like  my Autumn Bucket List from last year, I’ve written down all the things that get me super excited for the season and I plan on having loads of fun over the coming months.

What better way to tick off a few things from my list than while my sister is staying with us, all the way from Canada. Perfect timing.

My Autumn Bucket List

Make The House All Cosy

A simple way of getting myself in the mood for the season is by making my home a little cosier, just in time for those colder temperatures. Drape a fluffy blanket over my sofa, and squishy, soft cushions everywhere. I want to stock up on candles that smells like apple and cinnamon or gingerbread, or maybe have a go at making my own potpourri using cinnamon and nutmeg mixed with dried flowers and orange peel. Then display it in a pretty bowl with items I’ve collected from a woodland walk, like acorns and pine cones. This year I also want to hang an Autumnal wreath on the front door.

Cook From An Old Family Recipe

I do miss my grandmother’s home baked apple pie and biscuits. I’m sure my Aunt has some of her old recipes written down in a book, and I’d like to have a go at making some of my own just the way she used to. I’ll be sure to invite family round for a tasting session and they can give me their honest opinion. I also want to make a stew from scratch and start using my slow cooker, can you imagine how divine the house would smell when I come home that day.

Enjoy Pumpkin Spice

I’ll admit that I’m a true convert to the seasonal pumpkin spice latte (be right back after I’ve just popped to Costa!) For breakfast I’ll be swapping granola for a bowl of hot porridge made with almond milk, berries and bananas and a hint of pumpkin spice, believe me it tastes so gooood. It wouldn’t be Autumn without having made enough pumpkin spice muffins to feed an army. Oh this is making my mouth water.

Attend An Autumn Fair

We have quite a few held in Church Halls near where I live and they are a great place to find unique gifts for Christmas and Birthdays. The stall holders sell items they’ve made such as jewellery, ceramics, modern and classical art, glassware, haberdashery and clothing, I’m sure I’ll even find a section for homemade jams chutneys and cakes. I love to have a good natter with local people over a steaming hot cup of tea.

Stock Up On New Season Makeup

There are so many new Autumn makeup launches I have my eye on right now, they have got me rather excited. This time of year I live for Berry, Plum and Burgundy. I’m just about done with pinks and peaches of Summer and ready to wear a bold plum lipstick, a smokey eye look or a beautiful burgundy nail polish.

Go To The Seaside

This may sound a bit strange but I’d love to stroll by the sea on a chilly day, with the wind blowing the cobwebs away, snuggled up in a cosy coat and jumper, eating chip shop chips and freshly made donuts with a hot mug of tea. Finishing the day by watching the sunset over the sea, getting some amazing photos.

Visit a Local Market

These are the last few months to enjoy seasonal, locally grown food from a market. When I get home I’ll aim to be creative with apples, beets, leeks, parsnips, and mushrooms and cook something amazing for all the family. Well, wish me good luck.

Pick My Own Pumpkin

I’d like to find where the best pumpkin field is near me and bring home one I’ve literally handpicked. I’ve never done this before and it always looks great fun, have I left it too late? Maybe I’ll have to buy one from the shops again this year, either way I want to make the traditional jack-o’-lantern, or have a go at carving a unique picture into my pumpkin just in time for Halloween.

Make Caramel Apples

Autumn is definitely apple season, making it the perfect time to enjoy some sweet, sticky caramel apples. I’ll have a cosy evening in with some friends and set up dishes with toppings such as crushed peanuts, granola, chocolate chips, and marshmallows ready to dunk them in. It could get messy, but an awful lot of fun and we’ll have something really tasty to eat.

Play In The Leaves

I plan on for a long woodland walk, collecting leaves and conkers. I love watching the leaves change to their bright autumnal colours and the crunchy sound they make.  I want to rack up huge piles just to have a kick about and yes, I will be letting out the inner child in me, but who cares, it’s all great fun. Autumn is such a colourful season, it smells different too, there’s more of a crisp, earthy smell or as I used to say when I was younger “It smells like potatoes!”

Make Leaf Art

I’ll hold my hands up, I am the least creative person when it comes to art but even I can manage to make something with all the leaves I’ll have collected on my walk. Possibly pressing and painting a couple in a frame that I could mount on the wall to make an autumn inspired artwork that I’ll be able to keep forever.

My Autumn Bucket Lis

Watch A Scary Movie

Until recently I had a huge fear of masks so I couldn’t celebrate Halloween. Thanks to therapy I had to help me over that fear I’m able to join in with everyone else. This year I want a full on scary movie night, with the lights turned off and huddled under a blanket. I’ll also be decorating the house with all things Halloween to really get us in the mood.

Stock Up On Halloween Treats

I may be be too old to go trick or treating, but I’m definitely not too old to enjoy sweets. Watch out Poundland because I’ll stocking up with all the jumbo bags of treats ready for our Halloween movie night. I could quite possibly end up on the biggest sugar high ever.,

Dress Up For Halloween

I’ve been invited to two parties this year and I can’t possibly go in the same outfit twice, that would never do. I’ll need to get a move on if I’m going to sort out two Halloween costumes, last year I dressed up as Wednesday Addams from The Addams Family and so many people didn’t recognise me.

A handful of conkers over autumn leaves

Start A Gratitude Journal

Although we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in the the UK, there’s no better time to appreciate everything I have to be thankful for. I want to get into the habit of acknowledging something I’m grateful for every day of the year, and record it in a journal. Then I’ll be able to flick through whenever I’m feeling down.

Enjoy Bonfire Night

I am so excited to for 5th November, getting all cosy round bonfire with our friends. We’ll be roasting jacket potatoes and marshmallows, and telling stories while we gather around the flames. There’s bound to be loads of laughter too as they’ll most definitely be alcohol involved. It may be freezing cold, but that’s half the fun and I’ll be wrapped up in my thickest Parker (ok, more like a duvet!)

Celebrate Adrian’s birthday

It’s 24th November (in case I forget) and I hope to get all the family and his friends together for one big party. I already know what I’m getting him this year, it’s been something he’s wanted for quite a while.

Do you love Autumn? Have you got any plans for this year?

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