Saturday, 31 December 2011

2011, A Summary

2011 didn't get off to the best of starts. I was unhappy at work, and it was beginning to take its toll on my health and mindset. All I could do was pray for an escape route, and that came in March when I was offered a job at Sainsbury's. The job was nothing spectacular, and the wage barely enough to cover rent and petrol, but I was overjoyed with it. 

At about this time, my grandfather deteriorated and passed away at the beginning of April at the ripe age of 79. I absented myself from my last two shifts to attend his funeral, and started at Sainsbury's a few days later. 

The following months were fairly uneventful. I settled into my new routine, and took on as much overtime as I could get. Spud had to have a tooth removed in hospital, because of his heart condition, and while I wasn't there for the initial procedure, I had to take him back due to complications and witness the follow up surgery. Surprisingly, I could handle the blood. I think the worst part was Spud screaming as the injections were administered in his jaw!

Spud and I celebrated our 4th anniversary in the summer, and went out for afternoon tea in a hotel to mark the occasion. We didn't go on holiday this year, but we did spend a week at Bible camp as Tent Officers again, possibly for the last time. 

In September, after sixteen months in unemployment, Spud was offered a job, and words can't express how relieved we both were. We made up for lost time, and arranged an appointment with a mortgage advisor who confirmed that we could indeed get a mortgage. We had already fallen in love with a little terrace house, and got proceedings going with that, only to be gazumped days before we were due to exchange contracts. We weren't disappointed for long, as Spud found us a house that was double the size. We exchanged contracts just before Christmas which means the house is safe and we are legally obligated to buy it. We complete next week and the house will be ours. 

I wanted to say a personal thank you to everyone who has encouraged, supported, and prayed for me throughout the year. Thank you for being such loyal followers, and most of all, for being my friends. Next year is going to be a big year, and I may take a step back from blogging. That isn't to say that I'll stop altogether, but I think my posts will be a bit less frequent. I'll still continue to follow you guys though, and will post when I have news. Happy New Year! I hope 2012 will be a happy and prosperous one for you all!

Saturday, 24 December 2011

#24 Christmas Message

Yesterday seemed to last forever, but we made it safely home in the end. I was surviving on just three hours sleep after completing my final night shift, but the roads weren't as busy as I'd envisaged, or if they were, we weren't effected. After a false start, when Spud realised he'd left his driving gloves and glasses at home, we left at around 1430 and arrived around 2045 to a bowl of beef stew and homemade mince pies.

Despite being totally exhausted, I still managed to wake at 0530 today (due to my body clock being completely messed up, rather than excitement) although I dozed on and off for a bit (and no doubt will this evening). I spent some of the morning lounging about in my pyjamas with my mum, drinking coffee and catching up. The tree is up but it's really obvious my brothers decorated it this year. Honestly, I think even Little One could have done a better job!

Spud is now helping my dad change a punctured tyre, and I'm just taking the time to type a brief Christmas message, before settling down and watchign The Muppets Christmas Carol with one of my two favourite muppets brothers. I did create a video log for today's final Advent installment but it was so terrible that I couldn't bring myself to upload it. I may work on another for the New Year, so watch this space.

Anyway, what I was really meaning to say is, I wish you all a very happy Christmas. May it be a restful and peaceful one, full of fun and cheer. I want to thank every one of you from the bottom of my heart for sharing in my adventures this year. It hasn't been the easiest year, but I've made it through, and next year is looking to be a very exciting one indeed.

Love to you all,

Kess (and Spud)


Friday, 23 December 2011

#23 I''ll Be Home For Christmas

I'll be home for Christmas
You can count on me
Please have snow and mistletoe
And presents under the tree

- I'll Be Home For Christmas -

As you read this, Spud and I should be travelling downwards to spend Christmas in my family. I have, by now, worked my last night shift, and I am probably tired, but excitement is spurring me onwards. This is my last proper Christmas at home. Next year Spud and I will make our own Christmas, incorporating traditions from both sides of the family, and making some new ones. We’re bound to spend some Christmases in my family’s part of the country, but I think it will be different. I will have a home of my own by then, so it won’t be Christmas at home. We may even be parents ourselves. 

I am excited about spending Christmas with the five people I love the most. I am excited for the sight of the Christmas tree, with the lights, ornaments and decorations I’ve known since childhood. I am excited for those familiar Christmas songs flooding the house. I am excited for the old Christmas routines, traditions and games. I am excited for the taste of turkey, with stuffing, sausage and bacon rolls, brussel sprouts, and parsnip bake. I am excited for Spud to be there sharing it all with me. I am excited for a great many things.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

#21 The Unscheduled One

I was planning a Wordless Wednesday post for today, complete with some festive photos, but it just didn't happen. I was meaning to take some at Spud's since his family have a Christmas tree (Treasure doesn't have one), but my third card reader broke and I decided it would be pointless taking any photos when I couldn't upload them anyway. Spud did kindly buy me a fourth card reader, but I haven't been to his since. 

So you will just have to make do with this aimless ramble from a girl who's had three hours sleep in the last 28 hours. I am in the process of searching for more, and if yesterday's anything to go by, I will find it in a couple of hours when it starts to get dark. As the shortest day of the year, this will supposedly be even earlier than yesterday, if only by a fraction of a minute. 

In the meantime, I am munching dark chocolate Leibniz biscuits because that's what I woke up craving, and I don't really feel like venturing downstairs in the search of something more nutritious. Spud will be over later, and I will most probably sleep then, as will he no doubt because he always gets tired at the end of the day. 

It's strange when your life suddenly revolves around sleep, and all routine gets thrown out of the window, but I am enjoying the novelty of pulling all-nighters and sleeping during the day. And I know I am over halfway through now, with just two nights to go. Just two nights to go until I see my family. 

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

#20 Handmade Christmas

I think handmade Christmas gifts are often the most thoughtful and delightful of all. The following are my top ten, but they aren’t by any means in ranking order.
1. Knitted gift. This can come in the form of a scarf, hat, gloves, socks, a child’s toy... Choose the right yarn and knit with care, and you could have something that looks like it’s come from the knit wear department. If you’re a novice knitter, though, be warned. It may be wise to stick to scarves until you have mastered your stitches. I remember producing a rather disastrous pair of gloves for a friend’s birthday present once...
2. Truffles. Again, an easy make, but can look professional, particularly if these are displayed in a nice box. Recipes can vary, but Spud and I tried one consisting of melted chocolate and fine biscuit crumbs, which we’re going to use to make wedding favours.
3. Cross stitch. The thing I like about cross stitch is that it can be used in a variety of gifts: bookmarks, murals, Christmas tree decorations... And there are so many different designs that the stitcher can improvise to create something to suit everybody.
4. Gift boxes. While this isn’t strictly handmade, it can incorporate other handmade gifts. Take a box or basket, and fill it with little gifts that the recipient will love. Another variation on this idea is to make a stocking and fill it with small presents. This is something that might suit an adult or a child 

5. Handmade Christmas cards. Not a gift, but could mean a whole lot more than a shop bought gift. Handmade cards can stand out from all the rest. I have received some lovely ones in time, many of which were made by my soon to be sister-in-law Tamara.
6. Salt dough decorations. As long as you’ve got the right recipe, these can last for years. But if you get the consistency wrong then they’ll go soft or crumbly. Experiment a bit, and when you have the perfect batch, decorate them. Cover them with paint or glitter. You could even varnish them. Don’t forget, when you are cutting out the shapes, make a hole in the top to thread ribbon through.
7. Handmade jewellery. This is something I never really got into, but I know of people who have made some wonderful pieces. You can buy kits, or you can buy the components individually, depending on your style. These are gifts that will be delighted in.
8. Photo gifts. Again, something that can be used in a variety of shapes and forms: mugs, mouse mats, photo books, t-shirts, or simply a picture in a frame. This can be a real personal touch, and keep a good memory alive for years to come.
9. Jams and preserves. This is one of Treasure’s gift ideas. She makes jams and preserves all year round to sell in aid of charity, and has put some different samples together in gift boxes to give to some of her friends.
10. Advent calendar. This would suit a child and could be made out of anything, from card doors concealing festive artwork, to fabric pockets for chocolate treats. I can even picture a cross stitch advent calendar in my mind. It’s something that could potentially become an heirloom. 

Monday, 19 December 2011

#19 Hibernating

Being cold is one of the things I hate most of all, so although I like aspects of all four seasons, winter time is hardly a favourite. It is sheer determination that gets me out of bed at 0345 in the morning, and the prospect of a few more minutes in bed with my dressing gown and a hot cup of coffee. When I am out, comfort comes before fashion. I wear layers: extra jumper, winter jacket, woolly hat, scarf, mittens. I’ve even requested a pair of ear warmers for Christmas... When I’ve finished work, I often crawl back into bed and luxuriate in the warmth until I’ve thawed out completely. Alternatively, my dressing gown goes back on over the top of what I’m wearing.

Every year when winter comes, I think wistfully how nice it would be to hibernate, if just for a few weeks - unlikely and impractical, maybe, but pleasant. While the warmth of the summer sun entices me out of the house, the cold drags at my energy levels and motivation. I’m sure, as unrealistic as it sounds, a lot of people would share in my fantasy about the world standing still while the people sleep, just for a few weeks in winter. 

Sunday, 18 December 2011

#18 Snow

"Oh the weather outside is frightful
But the fire is so delightful
And since we've no place to go
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow"

When I woke up this morning, the small scattering of snow had mostly melted away, but all morning the snow clouds were gathering, and just recently the snow has started to fall again. A part of me was enchanted (I have even moved my laptop to the window so I can watch its progress while I type), but another, more practical, side to myself was displeased, not so much by the snow, but by its fiendish counterpart, ice, which paves the roads, turning them into a deathly ice rink. I did not enjoy driving on the slippery roads yesterday, and really don't fancy venturing out again tonight! So, as the words go in the song above, if you don't need to be anywhere, then bring on the snow. Unfortunately, though, like many others, I do have places to be!

At midnight I begin my first of five consecutive night shifts at Sainsbury’s. I have few expectations as I am rather stepping into the unknown. I don’t know how tired I will be. I don’t know how well I will sleep during the day. Consequently, I have made the decision to schedule the remainder of my advent posts, to ensure you, my dear readers, don’t miss out, in case I am too tired to post. Please know, however, that I have taken great care over each of these posts and put much thought into them. I hope they will be of interest to you, and enjoyed. Please wish me luck this week!

Saturday, 17 December 2011

#17 Wrapping Techniques

I finished all my wrapping for good earlier in the week and thought tonight I would discuss techniques with you. I have to admit, I am very pedantic when it comes to wrapping presents. I like each parcel to be tightly and neatly bundled up, although I realise this isn't always possible. When choosing gifts for people, I don't tend to think about the shape or size, and how easy this is to wrap. I also have the tendency to overuse the tape. In the past, friends have commented on how difficult my presents were to get into because I had taped down every edge and every possible opening. Spud is the complete opposite. He uses a minimal amount of tape, meaning that sometimes the edges are slightly loose. I think this is to do with the fact that he is economically minded, meaning his view is, the less used, the better. On more than one occasion he hasn't even bothered wrapping some of my presents! 

It is always a real pleasure to wrap presents. I normally leave mine until the last few days before Christmas, and then do them all in one go, with carols playing softly in the background. However, this year I have had to get on with it in advance, at least it's all out of the way now, and the last few days will be all the more relaxing. 

On a different note, the snow arrived here this evening...

Friday, 16 December 2011

#16 The Unexpected Christmas Cake

I wasn't planning on making a Christmas cake this year, though to be honest, I have rather missed the aroma that gradually fills the house when the mixture is put in the oven. However, I had an unexpected change of tune today when a colleague pointed out that the Taste the Difference Christmas Cake baking kits were reduced to £2.00 (with my discount that's £1.70). At that price I couldn't resist, and bought one. I whipped up the ingredients this afternoon, and now, as I sit and type this, I am enjoying my favourite scent of the year!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

#15 Counting Christmas

Days to go until Christmas... 10
Cards received... 17
Presents currently occupying the spare bed... 33
Of which are for me... 3
Of which are for Spud... 11
Of which are for family members... 8
Advent chocolates eaten... 15
Work shifts left... 7
Days left of 2011... 17
Hours until my bedtime... 4

Can you tell I have nothing to write today? It's nothing personal, the reason being that I am planning ahead for next week. As I am working nights and sleeping during the day (supposedly...) I intend to schedule all of next week's posts (just to ensure you don't miss out). I have ideas for every day, but that has left me lacking inspiration for today...

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

#14 Back To Work

It isn't easy tumbling out of a warm bed and into the cold, uninviting night, all before 0430 in the morning. But it sure beats my old job. 

It wasn't the most restful of nights, and I remember being awake about an hour before the alarm, and feeling grateful that I could still soak up the warmth and cosiness for a little longer. When the alarm did go off I was jerked suddenly and rudely out of unconsciousness and into the realms of reality. I was confronted by a mixture of emotions: tiredness being one, but whilst I was groaning inwardly, I was strangely cheerful. I had been away from work a while, and I was looking forward to seeing my colleagues again. And I also realised that this was just another day that separated me from other, more exciting, occasions, such as Christmas, and, not so far beyond the horizon now, my wedding day. 

Shivering, I dressed quickly, folding my dressing gown around me, over my uniform. I went through the motions of a typical work day: tie back hair, clean teeth, use toilet, make coffee, eat cornflakes, read Bible, pray. One glance through the downstairs window was all it took to confirm that I had an extra five minutes as the car was thankfully free from frost. 

At 0425 I picked up my bag, exchanged my dressing gown for my winter jacket, complete with scarf and gloves, and hit the road. I was the sole driver this morning, at least for most of the journey, although I passed a juggernaut midway there and was tailed almost until the journey's end, as though the driver inadvertently wished to prove they could keep up with me. Or maybe it was because I always stick to the speed limit. Even at that time in the morning. 

I pulled into the car park, and made my way in, greeting one or two colleagues on my way. I parted with my jacket, scarf and gloves at the lockers, forced to make do with my work fleece. It wasn't long before I was in work mode again, focused on the task, but alert enough to greet the people I met on my way around the store. I was calm and collected, comfortable in my work environment, and I couldn't help thinking to myself, I am here indefinitely for the moment. I see no door, nor am I looking for one. I smiled at this, and continued, feeling safe and fully at ease. 

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

#13 Left To Do

Write cards:

Family and Friends
Boy's Brigade

Send long distance cards

Christmas shopping (Completed yesterday)

Decorate house/tree (don't have any decorations of my own, but helped decorate Spud's house/tree)

Christmas cooking (N/A - I wasn't ambitious enough this year)

Wrap presents (more or less)

Print photos for photo gifts (in progress)

Send parcels (As of today)

Stick up cards

Attend functions:

Boy's Brigade carol service (Last Wednesday)
Ladies carol service
Men's Club Christmas social with the ladies
Carol singing in the village

Not doing too badly, although it's not a record by any means. I expect the list next year will be considerably longer as Spud and I hope to host a Christmas of our own!

Monday, 12 December 2011

#12 The Last Laugh

Well, Spud and I have learned a valuable lesson: when you nearly buy a house and get gazumped at the last minute, go and buy another that's double the size, better by far, and not that much more expensive. That way, when the estate agent rings to tell you that the sale of the last house fell through and asks if you're still interested, you can have the last laugh...

Sunday, 11 December 2011

#11 With A Pocketful Of Stars

I left behind the warm glow of the restaurant, the laughter and the taste of Spanish food, and with a pocketful of stars, swept carefully from the table and into my waiting hand. I walked the streets, alone yet unafraid, praying silently under my breath, though knowing I was safe because God had already answered my prayer and made me invisible. 

Saturday, 10 December 2011

#10 Silent Night

I've shared this once before but it's so good I think it deserves a revisit!

Friday, 9 December 2011

#9 Rejection

I spent the first half of today waiting by the phone to receive the outcome of my interview on Wednesday. I was told that I would hear "Friday morning" but it was nearly midday when the awaited call arrived - that's one of the disadvantages of having a surname that comes near the end of the alphabet! Although I wasn't expecting to get the job, I took the rejection a lot harder than I normally do, and I think this was because I spent the whole morning feeling on edge as I waited in anticipation. It was hardly the perfect job for me, as I was having to compromise on location and hours. I didn't get even upset over my last failed interview, which was for the perfect job. But maybe this time it was just one blow too many. This year I've applied for countless jobs, attended twelve interviews, and only been successful once, and that was after attending an interview that wasn't even a proper interview. 

But I didn't stay down for too long, because that isn't my style. I have always been an optimist, and unlike last year, I am at least in a job where I am happy, even though I wish I could have the opportunity to do something more skilled. I just have to keep reminding myself that it isn't me, it's the time that we live in, and it seems that I am of the lost generation. One day someone will see something in me and give me the chance I so desperately want. In the mean time I just have to trust in God's plan for me. 

Thursday, 8 December 2011

#8 Festive Anthems

I was a teenager before I was really aware of the popular Christmas songs such as Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas" and, everyone's favourite, "Fairy Tale in New York". I grew up listening to John Rutter and Amy Grant Christmas albums, or compilations of modern and traditional Christmas worship songs. Perhaps this is why these artists and tunes resonate deep within me every time Christmas comes around, and mean more to me than the ones we hear again and again on the radio. 

I currently own just one Christmas album, one by Sixpence None the Richer, which I love so much I could play it over and over again, but I also have a lot of the tunes I grew up listening to on my laptop. They bring back a whole lot of memories. Christmas wouldn't be the same without them! 

What Christmas songs mean the most to you?

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

#7 Nativities

This evening, Little One took part in his first school nativity, starring as a cow. Unfortunately, Spud and I couldn't be there as we were going to the Boy's Brigade carol service, but we hear from his parents that his debut went well. I think a child's first nativity or school play is very special, both for the child and for the parents. This is one of many things Spud and I hope to experience a few years down the line. 

I can still remember the school plays I participated with as a young child. Obviously, back then, my teachers saw a budding actress in me, as I got to play Mary twice. The first time was when I was four and just about to leave playgroup to start primary school in January. I was given a doll at the end of the performance (probably because I was leaving) and to this day she is known as Mary, as a memento of that day. 

The following year my class starred as the various farmyard animals that attended the birth of our saviour. I chose to be a sheep, and I remember making a mask. The year after that, I was chosen to be Mary again, and this time I was given four lines to learn. My parents have a few photographs, and I wish I could share them with you. 

Over the years that followed I played an elf, a sheep, a soldier, a rabbit and Martha Cratchit. Towards the end of my time at primary school, I became very shy and self-conscious, and as someone who hated drawing attention to myself, the school play was hardly my highlight of the year. But my memories of that time are good ones, and I can still remember some of the songs we learned eleven, twelve, thirteen years ago... 

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

#6 Meeting People

Each year, people come and people go, and a handful remain a part of our lives, whether as a best friend, a colleague, or a mere Facebook acquaintance. Recently, I've taken to reflecting on the people I've shared a few moments with this year. Some exchanges have been brief, like the colleague I worked with for the first time on my last day in my last job, and yet we chatted easily all day. Some acquaintances have been infrequent, but a little more lasting, like the older couple who we've recently got chatting with at church, although they don't come to our service every week. There's Swift, who I befriended at the end of last year, but have got to know a lot better in recent months. She is my first real friend since moving here. And then there's the whole crowd of colleague's I've been getting to know since starting my job at Sainsbury's. They have all been very kind and welcoming, and I have enjoyed getting to know them all. Their answering smiles as we pass down the aisles have meant a lot to me. I feel like I have finally found my place here. 

I haven't met anyone this year who I'm certain will be a friend for life, but for the moment I walk side by side with many people, caught in the moment and making the most of it. I feel my purpose in life is to love everyone I meet. As someone who treasures the friends I make along the way, it's the people I meet in life that mean the most to me. I have a long memory, and if you have ever been a part of my life at some point in time, then you most probably haven't been forgotten. 

Monday, 5 December 2011

#5 All I Want For Christmas...

I finally realised what I want for Christmas, as I can't remember the last time I woke up later than about 6am! Here it is, to the tune of "All I Want For Christmas is My Two Front Teeth"...

All I want for Christmas is a good night's sleep
A good night's sleep
Just a good night's sleep
Gee if I could only have a good night's sleep
Then I would wake up feeling rested

It seems so long since I slept in
Later than the early morning sunrise
Gosh, oh gee, how happy I'd be
If I could wake up later!

All I want for Christmas is a good night's sleep
A good night's sleep
Just a good night's sleep
Gee if I could only have a good night's sleep
Then I would wake up feeling rested 

Sunday, 4 December 2011

#4 Christmas Wishes

Spud will tell you that I am a most difficult person to buy a present for. I am not a materialist at all. In fact, I am the complete opposite. In my opinion, I have all that I could possibly want or need, and I am constantly clearing out my possessions whenever I feel I have too much. That is not to say that I don't like receiving presents, or don't like the gifts people choose for me. I am always very touched by the thought people put into my gifts and take great delight in discovering what they have chosen for me. I also take great care of the gifts I receive. 

I have a short Amazon wishlist, consisting mostly of DVDs and CDs, but naturally, as my fiancĂ©, Spud wants to put a little more thought and effort into my gifts, and over the years he has bought me some wonderful and surprising gifts, like an expensive fountain pen, which I use for writing in my diary, or my state of the art camera. Here is a typical conversation between us, which recurs throughout Autumn:

Spud: What do you want for Christmas

Me: I don't know

Spud: You must want something

Me: No. Don't get me anything

Spud: I can't do that. You would be very disappointed

Me: No I wouldn't

Spud: *looks despairingly at me* 

Me: Okay, I know what I want. I want a house

Spud: That doesn't count

Me: *changing the subject* What do you want for Christmas, then?

Spud: *switching on his computer and going onto the Modelzone website* Well, I really like this... and this... and that one's on offer at the moment...

Last year, my Christmas wish was for a new job, and four months later, I got one. It wasn't the dream job, but it got me out of my miserable circumstances and into an environment where I am currently thriving. This year, I'm so happy that I honestly can't think of anything besides a house that I want, and even that is undergo at the moment. My Christmas wish is for others to be happy and have their Christmas wishes come true...

On a different note, and for the record, my lovely in-laws presented me with an advent calendar yesterday, so now I can countdown advent the old-school way! Of course, I will still be posting everyday for your pleasure!

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Friday, 2 December 2011

#2 Acrostic Advent

Anticipation. As a time of preparation, excitement and anticipation hang in the air. But we must also remember that Christmas falls a week before the new year. When we get a moment to spare during all the festive mayhem, we may stop and reflect on the year gone by, and consider our hopes for the coming year. 

Decorations. With the days becoming shorter, and the nights more drawn out, these serve to brighten the atmosphere. We do, however, tend to go overboard, and are normally glad to take them down when Christmas is over. 

Valued Traditions. We each celebrate Christmas in our own way, using our own varying set of traditions that mean the world to us. Some of these have been passed down through the family for several generations, and others will have been inspired and introduced by others. Without these, Christmas just wouldn't be Christmas!

Everywhere! It is literally impossible to escape from Christmas. Wherever you go, you will be confronted by decorations and merchandise (often on display from mid August), the Christmas carols blaring through the tannoy and on the radio... If you truly want to get away from the festivities, then your only hope is to barricade yourself in your home for the next month, having thoroughly eradicated the tinsel and mince pies beforehand. 

Nativity. Despite the commercialisation of Christmas, Christianity still lies at the core, even if it has been obscured by wreaths, and cards pronouncing "Happy Holidays". Many schools enact the Christmas story, and there's something deeply endearing about the miniature angels and tea-towel bedecked shepherds. 

Togetherness. There is a strange sense of unity towards the end of the year, when people pause for a moment and take stock. The festivities serve to lighten our spirits and encourage goodwill towards one another, and I think for the most part they succeed. 

Thursday, 1 December 2011

#1 The First Door

I remember, as a young child, opening the first door to a pictorial advent calendar and being very disappointed by the image behind, which was almost always something boring like a candle or a sprig of holly, or perhaps a bell. This was back in the days when time really dragged, and the 24 days ahead seemed endless to a small child like myself. 

Now, as a grown up girl of almost 23, I find the reverse is true. Christmas arrives sooner with each year. The first day of December is a reminder that in just three and a half weeks time the long awaited holiday will be here, and with the blink of an eye it will be gone again. That's just three and a half weeks to write Christmas cards, finish my Christmas shopping, and wrap presents. Advent is a time of preparation and the first door marks the start of the countdown until Christmas. 

I don't have an advent calendar any more, as I feel far too old (Spud has one, but that's a different story...) However, I have various routines that mark the passing of each day: writing in my diary for example, or doing my devotional readings. And, this year of course, this blog effectively serves as my advent calendar. 

So here is my first door. I hope it hasn't been too much of a disappointment. 

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Half A Dozen Excuses

I apologise for my distance of late. So much has been happening recently, and it's almost as though the more that has happened the less I've had to write about if that's even possible. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say the more that happened the less I felt like writing. 

I'm tired because my body clock finally broke... Most of the time I'm awake at 5, sometimes earlier, sometimes a little after, which means at weekends I don't catch up on my sleep. This hasn't affected me as badly as you might think. I've adapted well to my unplanned sleep pattern, and I'm supplementing my sleep by going to bed earlier, but this has in effect made my days shorter, if you get what I mean. 

I am also writing again. Setting a target for my novel has really got me working. Five pages a week seems manageable and as this is a second draft I can sometimes use old material with a few minor changes. But because I've been working so hard on my novel, I haven't much felt like writing other things, like my blog. Fellow writers may be able to identify with me here...

Finally, Spud and I, as you know, have been in the middle of buying a house, which took up most of our time and attention. While this fell through over a week ago, looking for a house has still occupied centre stage in our lives. 

It also doesn't help that my internet connection is fairly poor at the moment, I have plenty of Christmas shopping to do, and I have another interview coming up! 

So, I've thrown half a dozen excuses at you, and you may well ask, what am I going to do about it? Well, I'll tell you what, I'm going to blog every day in Advent. And if I get the time and inspiration, I may even produce another video log. 

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

November, When

November, when the days are grey, but looking out of my window all I see is orange, as the horse chestnut tree is ablaze with autumn leaves. 

November, when it's not quite acceptable to play Christmas tunes on the radio, but it's perfectly alright to play Christmas compilations at home. 

November, when anticipation hangs heavy in the air, along with the rawness that indicates winter is on its way. 

November, when we almost bought a house, only to watch it fall through, like a single dried up leaf, because someone else offered more than we could afford. 

November, when the year is almost at an end, and we begin to take stock. 

November, often overlooked, but pleasant in its own way, bleak and beautiful...

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Friday, 4 November 2011

Parting With My Paperback Friends

As you know, Spud and I are in the middle of buying our first home. I'm afraid I haven't any update on that yet. We've applied for a mortgage, engaged the services of a solicitor, and now we're just waiting for a survey to be done and for our application to go through. We have literally done all we can, and now we just have to play the waiting game. 

I realised, though, that there was one thing I could do... The house is small, and I hate clutter, so, I decided to have a ruthless clear out and get rid of some of my belongings. This included several books, that previously, I couldn't imagine parting with, such as Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer, The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, and (as an English literature graduate, I'm ashamed to admit this) my Nicholas Sparks collection. I just realised that I was never going to read these books again, and was just hoarding them because the characters and story lines remained with me after I'd finished reading. 

I probably told myself at the time that I was going to read them again, but now I think life is too short - there are so many other things I want to read. If I ever want to read these books again, I can always go and find them at a library. That's not to say that I've got rid of them all. I've kept many which I want to share with my children someday; ones that I couldn't part with so easily, and will almost certainly go back to and reread. 

Parting with my paperback friends wasn't nearly as painful as I'd envisaged. I was able to let go of them very easily. Okay, they are still in a pile, waiting to go to their new home (the second hand bookshop) but I know I'll definitely be able to let them go when the time comes. 

I never have been a materialist or a hoarder. Spud is a bit of a hoarder, but I've told him he can keep his junk (anything I deem unnecessary clutter) in the garden shed!

Thursday, 3 November 2011

On Camera


This was filmed on Sunday. Sorry about the bad quality. My voice sounds terrible on camera *cringes*

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Like That Other Autumn

Imagine this: In October 2006, after two months of correspondence, a young man and woman felt they had something special together, and agreed it would be good to meet and find out. However, due to circumstances and the nature of their meeting, they had to endure an agonising ten month wait before they could be together the following August. 

Five years on, and Spud and I are going through the exact same thing! We're into the last nine months of a very, very long wait, so it probably doesn't surprise you that I'm experiencing a lot of nostalgia and deja-vu this autumn as I think about that first wait, the first of many. 

That first wait really dragged. It felt like a lifetime had passed when August came round and we stood face to face for the first time. This last wait drags only sometimes. On other days, I look ahead and see the date (our wedding day) steaming towards us like an express train, powered by the busyness of life. 

And now that I think about it, there's only a few weeks left until Christmas, when we send out the invitations, after which there'll be so much to do, and barely the time to count off the days. Will I notice the warm breath of spring on my neck as I ransack the shops for lilac bridesmaid dresses? Will I feel the sweat of summer trickle down my back as I stand in a bridal shop for my dress fitting? 

I no longer suffer from my nightmares about not being ready on my wedding day. I am calm through and through. I just remember the wait we endured that other autumn. I know our big day will come around soon enough, and when it does, we'll both be ready for it. 

Monday, 31 October 2011

To Spook, Or Not To Spook

My Reasons For Not Celebrating Halloween

For most, Halloween is simply a night of having fun and partying in costume (and for many my own age, involves lots of drinking) but it's just something I've never done. I was brought up in a Christian family, and was sheltered from the Halloween traditions and festivities. I never felt deprived, as I never had a strong desire to participate. All my life I have grown up loving God, and I feel as a Christian I shouldn't be celebrating a holiday that contradicts my faith. 

Yes, for most, Halloween is simply dressing up and having harmless fun, but it's the themes that trouble me. It centres on scaring people, demanding treats and playing tricks, dressing up as devils, ghosts and ghouls... 

I'm not condemning Halloween. I'm just giving my own reasons for not having anything to do with it. In the future, I certainly won't be taking my children trick or treating. Instead, they will have to put up with going to light parties until they are old enough to decide for themselves. 

This year, my church aren't hosting a light party, but instead they order 'bags of hope', a free resource from UCB, for members of the congregation to take away. These are simply bags containing two Christian booklets, one for a child and one for an adult, and a handful of sweets so that the kids aren't completely disappointed. I don't remember any trick or treaters calling last year, but I took one just in case, and it's now waiting in the porch for any callers I may have tonight. 

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Smiling On The Outside, Bleeding On The Inside

Sometimes I get down, but it's not you that gets me down

Aztec Camera - The Birth of the True

I went through a spell, just recently, when I felt quite down. It began mid September, and I thought of it as my six month blues because I'd been in my new job six months. This was the length of time I was in my last, much detested job, and also the length of time I'd been away from it. I was beginning to acknowledge the stress I'd been going through during that period. I'd denied a lot of it, and put it away, but it was starting to resurface again and I was having to deal with it. 

Alongside this, I was beginning to feel the pressure to get a better job. It's not that I want to leave my current job, but I just felt that I needed to do better. Spud didn't have a job, but he's saved all his money since the age of ten so that he could buy his future wife (aka me) a house. I felt like I was letting him down by not getting a better job, even though he assured me I wasn't. Anyway, after my perfect interview for my dream job back in August (when I was told, in Spud's words: you were excellent, but there was someone more excellent...) I was still applying for jobs, and not even getting an interview. 

Finally, as I said before, Spud didn't have a job and we were beginning to talk worst case scenarios. With only me in employment, we couldn't get a mortgage, and we definitely couldn't afford rent. So, our options were starting married life at Spud's (which wasn't really an option, because there is no space for me and I would literally be living out of a suitcase!), at Spud's Nanny's house (which was a bit more of a possibility, but still meant a lack of privacy), or Treasure's house (again, a possibility, but no privacy). 

As you can imagine, this issue was getting to me. I've been here eighteen months now, and I feel like I've effectively been in suspended animation - waiting around and seeing no prospect of change, and feeling trapped and helpless, unable to do anything. 

Thankfully, change was just around the corner. Spud got a job, and the worst case scenarios flew out the window as we realised we would most probably be able to get a place of our own now. However, I had just spent a week visiting my family, without Spud this time, and for the first time since leaving home eighteen months ago, I suffered from quite severe home sickness when I returned. 

This hung around awhile, although alleviated fully, along with the rest of my negative emotions, when Spud and I found out we could get a mortgage, and then started looking at properties. It seems that excitement is a good cure for just about everything. 

Anyway, what is the purpose of me writing all this? Well, firstly, I wanted to explain why I haven't been around much lately. I know I have posted a few things, but they have mostly been photos or somewhat detached, not really my style. This was partly because of the emotional baggage I was dealing with, exhaustion, and just general busyness. 

Also, when I'm feeling crappy, I don't like to open up, as I feel like I am burdening people. That's just the sort of person that I am. I like to talk about such things when I have got through a bad patch, thus making it a tale of survival. There are people in this world with far bigger issues than I have to deal with, and my own complaints don't really compare. I am a very blessed person. I think it's important, though, for you to know about that side of me, and that sometimes I am quietly bleeding, even though I am trying to be brave and keep a smile on my face. 

I guess, really, this my attempt to put my feelings into words and to make some sense of them myself. I am fine now. I am my happy, sunshiny self again now that things are moving. Hopefully, I will post again soon. I say hopefully because the coming week is looking to be a busy one, but I intend be a proactive blogger again. 

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Oh, And Did I Mention..?

...Contacting solicitors... Applying for a mortgage... Gathering together documents needed for this... Meeting with our mortgage advisor at very short notice... Applying for jobs... Overtime, including a 3am shift... Painting the church hall... Painting a mobile classroom (in Spud's case)... Attending Ofsted (Spud again)... Reading through contracts... Paying for a survey to be done... Praying the house doesn't fall through... Dreaming about possibly having a house of our own by Christmas!

Sunday, 23 October 2011

We've Been Busy!

...Working our socks off... Researching second hand cars... Buying a second hand car for Spud to use... Babysitting Little One... Going to Little One's first assembly... Saving every penny... Going country dancing... Wedding planning... Sampling wedding cakes... Watching repeats of Don't Tell the Bride... Speaking to a mortgage consultant... Viewing properties... Putting an offer on a property... Waiting to find out if that offer has been accepted... Just waiting in general... Enjoying some peace and quiet... Going to church... Picking up overtime (at least, in my case)... Keeping parents updated... Planning... Dreaming... Praying... Sleeping... Feeling happy and excited... Finally feeling like things are starting to happen!

Friday, 30 September 2011

Sliding Doors

Do you ever wonder how a single minute, or a single decision could change your life? I've just been enjoying a leisurely afternoon in front of a girly film, "Sliding Doors" (well, it would have been leisurely, except my laptop didn't like my choice of movie and kept stopping it repeatedly so that the audio jarred and was out of sync with the picture until I fiddled with it and set it right again). Anyway, it made me think about the consequences behind each decision, and what might have happened at key moments in my life had a made a different choice. 

Like that day, more than five years ago, I got a message from a random guy on MySpace, asking if I wanted to chat. What might have happened had I deleted that email? Well, any number of things really. Let's see...

1. I don't have any lessons on Wednesday, so I go into a local primary school and do some work experience. This is because I want to study B Ed primary at university next year, and I think a little experience could go a long way...

Instead, I spent my Wednesdays chatting to the random guy and falling in love with him. And I didn't get on to the B Ed primary course...

2. So, I got onto the B Ed primary course! It's very intense, but I'm coping with the workload. Anyway, I quit my Saturday job at the shoe shop and moved into university accommodation. I study very hard, but sometimes I go out and socialise. I'm still single, but hopefully I'll meet someone in the next three years...

Instead, I was offered the chance to do English Literature, which, although intense at times, consisted of a mere 9 hours of lectures a week. Although I moved into university accommodation, I went home at weekends so I could continue my Saturday job. I therefore missed out on most of the nights out, and didn't really bond with my house mates. I was also, by this point, in a relationship with the random guy from MySpace and completely smitten with him. 

3. So, my first year of teacher training is complete, and I passed! I also have befriended some girls on my course, and we are moving into a house together - so exciting! I know the city like the back of my hand, although I haven't yet decided whether I want to live hear permanently, or move back home when my studies are complete. I feel more confident now, especially about standing up in front of a class as I have gained lots of experience of this from my placements. I am still single. I don't actually have time for a boyfriend at the moment, but no one has shown any interest in me anyway. I know I'm not pretty, but maybe someone will see the real me someday...

Instead, after my first year, I opted to commute. All of my flatmates from halls had made their own plans (which excluded me) but I had already decided that commuting made more sense, as I only had lectures 2 - 3 days a week, and it was only a 45 mile journey. This, along with the journeys up North to see the random guy from MySpace, increased my confidence when travelling alone (although I was still petrified about standing up in front of people and giving presentations!) The random guy from MySpace had also raised my confidence generally, and my self-esteem. He also proposed to me midway through my second year. I was beginning to feel like a completely new person...

4. So, I passed and I've graduated. I'm in the process of applying for jobs, both in the city and back at home. I'll just have to wait and see what happens. I don't have a boyfriend. I haven't lost faith, but I was sure university would be the place I'd meet someone. I just haven't met the right person yet, but he must be in the world somewhere...

So, I passed and graduated. I moved up North and settled. I endured a crappy job for a while, I moved into what some people would consider an equally crappy job, but I quite like it. Anyway, that doesn't matter, because best of all, I get to see the random guy from MySpace everyday, and next year we're getting married! Ever since moving 300 miles from home, my confidence has increased, and I've done a lot of things I didn't think myself capable of. The independence is doing me a lot of good, and even though the job situation is lousy, I am mostly happy. 

I hope you enjoyed this little spin off of my life. There are other moments in the past that could have changed the course of my whole life. There are the small things: I could have gone to a university further away from home and studied something completely different, I could have said yes the first time I was ever asked out (and then I would've never met Spud). Would life have been any different if I hadn't become a Christian? Absolutely! My faith influences my decisions on a daily basis. Sometimes I make the wrong decision, but I know it's not the end of the world as I can accept forgiveness and start over again, minus the guilt. 

Life is an adventure. Live it to the full, and look on any regrets you have as experience. 

Monday, 26 September 2011

Slowly Getting There

It has been a weekend of partings. On Saturday, my brother left home to go to university. I can't help but remember how far he has come, as just three years ago his life hung in the balance. I watched him deteriorate over the weeks: he lost weight, and the ruddiness faded from his cheeks; he could barely walk because of the mystery pain in his back and leg. We went out for a meal to celebrate his 17th birthday. He should have been talking animatedly about the prospect of driving lessons, but instead he was struggling to hold back the tears. I was frightened as I've never before seen someone close looking so fragile and poorly, and I felt helpless. But he was the lucky one: they discovered the DVT in his leg before it was too late, and acted fast. Had it gone undetected for much longer then it could have gone to his heart or brain and we would have lost him. It was a horrible year for him, as they made the diagnosis of Crohn's disease and began the long treatment process until they had stabilised the condition. 

A year later, he started his A-levels again, and this year he celebrated a pleasing string of results, that wasn't enough to get him to my city, but enabled him to take up an offer at his second university choice. He is healthy now, and can lead a fairly active lifestyle. I'm sure he will enjoy the student life, and hopefully he will apply himself well to his studies. It's scary to think that had his GP not acted as he did, Matt might not be here, and I'm not even exaggerating. 

My other brother, Dave, has left school and begun his first year of A-levels at sixth-form college. He is studying maths, physics and philosophy, which is brave! I would find those subjects very daunting, but it shows where he differs academically to Matt and I, who both studied subjects that fall into the English, Humanities and Art categories. I think my parents are both beginning to realise that in two years they may have an empty nest on their hands, with the three of us setting off into the world, and their feelings about this are very mixed. 

The day after Matt's departure, having spent a few days with my family, I returned home and was reunited with Spud, who remained behind in order to attend three interviews. This proved to be worthwhile, as he was offered a job: the job of the three that he wanted, and will benefit him the most. He has been looking for a job for sixteen months, so you can imagine our relief! There are still worries ahead and no doubt further challenges, but we have had so many prayers answered, and we are all slowly getting there.