2015

It’s only by looking back at this blog that I remembered that I’d made some resolutions at the beginning of 2015. Which is probably a sign that I didn’t really stick to them.

Move more

Actually this one’s not been so bad. I started the year off well. I did two rounds of Level Up, and I really threw myself in to the first twelve weeks of the course. Lost quite a bit of weight, ate so much better and felt so much stronger. It felt great. By the second round of the course life had seemed to get a whole lot busier and I didn’t put in the commitment I needed. The weight, and more, is back. It taught me that I can challenge myself physically but I’m no good at doing it on my own.

Which has also been hammered home to me by the running group I joined towards the end of the year. I’d volunteered to help cheer for those running in the Cardiff Half Marathon to raise money for the charity I work for and left feeling pretty inspired (especially by the guy who stopped at the ice cream van to have a Magnum – life goals). But I had plenty of excuses why I wasn’t a runner. I don’t want to do it on my own. Running groups are full of people who can already run. I don’t have time. And then, a couple of days later, I saw on Twitter that a women’s beginners running group was starting in the park a few streets away from my house. So there went my excuses! I almost didn’t get myself out of the door, but then I remembered Nadiya, who’d won the Great British Bake Off the night before. “I am never going to say I can’t, I can and I will.”“I am never going to say I can’t, I can and I will.” (And besides, I needed to run off all the cakes I’d been eating while watching Great British Bake Off.) In December we did out first organised 5k, a Santa Run, which was great as I could wear a silly hat to detract from my big red face.

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Joining Samba Galêz as a dancer is one of the best things I’ve done for myself over the last couple of years and it’s been a pretty big part of my year. It’s a lovely community and being part of a carnival is good for my soul, even if that just means Barry on a rainy day. Being part of the mass busk at the Welsh Encontro, when samba bands from across the country descended on Cardiff, was particularly fun.

Get Outside More

I made an effort with this. MiniRegz, however, is not an outside girl. She is definitely her father’s daughter. We went to Mountain View Ranch last week, a kind of outdoor activities centre that promises ‘free range fun’. Sat at a picnic table looking at the map we were given, I asked her where she fancied going. The Gruffalo trail? The fairy forest? “I will go to the cafe” came the reply. Ho-hum. I will persevere.

Make more

This definitely didn’t go to plan. Although I did finish my sodding crochet blanket for MiniRegz’s bed despite the best efforts of the cat (I’ve still not worked out if it was the cat or the toddler that pissed on it).

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I also had a big fight with my sewing machine and made a dress for the Encontro that actually stayed intact through the performance! I keep thinking I’ll get the sewing machine out again now I’ve recovered from the trauma.

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Read more

I really meant to keep track this year of what I’d read but this hasn’t gone so well. Reading for fun has taken a back seat since starting my MSc in Child Public Health in September. My reading pile is a bit like this these days:

Big ole pile of books

And you know why you’re getting a blog post from me right now? Because I should be reading these! Best get back to it.

For 2016 I think my resolutions will be pretty much the same. Starting on Monday, I need to eat better. No alcohol in January. Stop eating the crap I’ve been eating over Christmas. January cliché I know but last week MiniRegz asked me if I couldn’t fit on a swing because my bottom was too big. Thanks lovely. And a shopping ban until my birthday in March. I did this a few years ago (still have a blog post about it in my drafts folder…) and it made me think about what I ‘needed’. So only the essentials – food, enough toiletries to make sure I’m not an unpleasant person to be around. Events and experiences don’t count, or presents for people, and I’m not counting books for my course. My trainers are reaching the end of their life so I may allow myself a new pair of those if I keep running. Right, I’ve written it down now so please hold me to account!

2015

Hello blog. Glad I could still remember how to find my way here.

I’ve had a mild case of the Blahs the last couple of months (the Blahs aren’t as bad as the Blue Meanies). Just a bit like my brain’s gone into hibernation. Tired, unmotivated. I need a brain dump so here I am. Hello!

The beginning of the new year seems like as good a time as any to give myself a kick up the bum, cliched as it is. These aren’t really resolutions, or goals. Just habits, things I do anyway that I know make me happy and I just need to make time in my life for.

Move more

I signed up to a samba dance class last year and I’ve now joined the group. It’s been a lot of fun, interspersed with falling over. I used to see the band busking in Cardiff City Centre on Saturday afternoons when I was younger and loved their energy. I’ve just signed up to go away to Pembrokeshire for a weekend with them in February. Not sure how I feel about leaving MiniRegz for that long but it should be fun. So dancing is a way of getting fit but I also need to be fitter so I can dance better (there has also been talk of hotpants for a performance in the summer which scares the bejeesus out of me).

I’ve also just joined the hordes of people joining the gym in January only to be regretting the monthly direct debit by March. I have already used the membership to take MiniRegz to soft play though…

I need novelty to keep exercising. I just don’t feel I’m one of those that can keep plugging away at something, improving bit by bit. Hot yoga, hooping, fencing, roller derby, bellydancing, fitbox – all things I have tried, enjoyed and abandoned for various reasons. But I don’t see them as failures as they got me moving at the time! I want to try one new thing to get me moving every month this year. I will let you know how it goes.

Get outside more

I think part of the reasons I’ve been feeling so blah is hibernation. I know I feel better when I get outside. So I’m going to aim to have one outdoor trip with MiniRegz each week. Nothing too adventurous, even if it’s just to the park.  2014-12-21 14.36.15

Make more

I love my cat, I do, but my crochet has definitely slowed down since she came to live with us in the summer. She loves to conform to stereotypes and bash a ball of yarn around. I’m going to aim for making one thing a month, doesn’t have to be crochet. I’d love to get my sewing machine out again and get that in a tangle instead.

crochet

Read more

And make an effort to record what I’ve read so when it gets to the end of the year and someone asks about my favourite books of the year I can actually tell them.

So it’s all pretty self-involved really. It goes without saying that I’d like to change the world for the better and work towards achieving global peace but that needs a bit more thought.

Happy new year!

Christmas belly

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Christmas seems like a long time ago now already. As I was working Christmas day, we delayed ‘proper’ Christmas by a couple of days and Andy’s family came down. It was lovely having them to stay and it really made the new house feel like a home. Although as lovely as it was, introverted me was a bit relieved when it was just Andy and I again!

Just as my body will be relieved when ‘Christmas eating’ is officially over. Having the thought that ‘Hey, I’m getting fat anyway’ in my head, has not helped me to show restraint in any way while eating over Christmas!

This year was our first attempt at cooking Christmas dinner, and I was pretty impressed with how we did. We didn’t kill each other or anything. So, just for my own benefit in case we make it again this year and to save me scrabbling around trying to remember what we made, here are the recipes we followed:

Festive Filo Pillow

Brussels Sprouts with lemon, garlic and toasted hazelnut crumbs

Honey Roast Parsnips and Carrots with Parmesan

Traditional Braised Red Cabbage with Apples

And now, as my body is screaming for non-chocolate based food, to make my second batch of raw cabbage and sprouts salad, yum…

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The cards I made this year. Good old Washi Tape. 

Nadolig Llawen!

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Merry Christmas everyone!

Hope everyone has a lovely Christmas full of whatever it is you need – fun, peace, time with family and friends, and lots of food of course.

I, for one, am very grateful for maternity jeans this morning! That’s right, I’ve been growing a…

Mr Bump

(or indeed Miss Bump). MiniRegz will be with us in May! (Although I think the maternity jeans may stay longer, so comfy and Christmas-chocolate friendly). Next Christmas there should be three of us! So today, apart from working later, is a lazy, late-starting one.

Hope you’re all well however you’re spending today.x

 

 

Still miss you lil bro

Today, if he was still with us, my brother would have turned 27. I can’t believe it’s been five years since he died. I thought I’d share the piece I wrote earlier in the year for CRY who were putting together a booklet for those who had lost a brother or sister. (Warning: a bit long and depressing!)

How old were you/where were you/what were you doing when you heard your brother had died

As I write this, it is five years ago to the week that we lost Gareth. He died in his sleep when he was 21. It’s difficult to think back and write about this time, as it all seems like such a horrible blur, and one that I’ve spent most of the last five years trying to put out of my mind.

I was 23 when Gareth died. Life was just starting out in a new direction for me. I had just moved into a new flat in Cardiff, and on the weekend that Gareth died my boyfriend Andy, who is now my husband, had moved down from Bolton to live with me. The day after, I was due to be starting a new job and was set to go down to London to start training. It was due to be a busy and exciting time.

It was a Sunday that Andy had moved down to Cardiff. To celebrate we had gone out to see some bands in town. It was a good night and I remember feeling that life was turning a new corner for me. And it was,  just not in the way I was expecting.

I’d left my mobile at home, and when we got back to the flat after the gig there was a post-it note asking me to ring home. I knew this could only mean bad news, but I wasn’t prepared for what. When I rang home, my mum told me that Gareth had died and that they were coming to pick me up.

 

What was the impact on you of hearing this

I went into total shock. I remember pacing around the flat aimlessly , before trying to pack some clothes to take with me. I was so out of it I realised I’d packed an evening dress before realising what was going on. My parents, along with their best friends, came to pick me up and take me back to stay at my parents’ house. I tried to sleep, but couldn’t, so ended up spending the night reading some of my old university coursebooks in the hope they would lull me to sleep. I remember reading the whole of The Communist Manifesto, which is more than I’d ever managed during the whole of my politics degree. I felt numb, and not quite sure how I was supposed to acting or what I should be doing. Everything felt a bit surreal.

I had only seen Gareth a few days before. My mum and dad, Gareth and I had all gone out for food and looking back I’m so glad we had. Gareth had seemed fit and well so hearing about his death made no sense.

 

What was the impact on your parents when hearing this

The impact on my parents, and the rest of my family, was immeasurable. My mum has described being told that Gareth had died as ‘every parent’s worst nigthmare’.

Two policemen had come to the door on the Sunday evening to tell them that Gareth’s friends had found that he had died in his bed.  He had gone to bed around 2.30am on the Saturday night and at 3.30pm on the Sunday, his friends looked into his room but thought that he was still asleep and as he had had a late night they decided to leave him alone. When they returned to the house two hours later they were surprised to find that he was still in bed. It was then they discovered that he had died. They called an ambulance and tried to revive him, but sadly there was nothing anyone could do. My parents had been allowed to see Gareth in the hospital mortuary, but hadn’t been allowed to touch him whilst the police continued their investigations.

I can’t imagine what that must have been like. The following days were just as painful. On the Monday morning we had to drive to visit both of my grandmothers so we could tell them in person. That was really difficult. They both seemed to see it as really unnatural that one of their grandchildren would die before them.

 

How did you feel in the lead up to his/ her funeral

The funeral was ten days later. Looking back, I don’t really remember much about the time leading up to the funeral. It was a surreal time where things started to sink in. There were a lot of practical things that needed doing but I really wasn’t sure what I could do to help. Until the post-mortem, a policeman had to stay stationed outside of Gareth’s room, and they had to take photos of all of his things and make sure they weren’t touched.

When we were able to go in and get his phone, I offered to ring some of his friends from university to tell them what had happened. They weren’t people I knew, and I hated having to deliver such bad news to them. However, at least it made me feel somewhat useful. I also rang a couple of places where Gareth had job interviews lined up. That was horrible as it made it sink in that Gareth’s plans had been cut short, and also because the people on the other end of the line weren’t sure how to react. I found that this was something that I would have to get used to.

I also had to sort things out with the job I had been due to start. They were really understanding and we decided to postpone my start date for a couple of weeks. This meant that there was a lot of time sitting around the house which I found difficult. I had never been so grateful for the coffee shop nearby. I spent a lot of time there just to get out of the house.

 

How did you feel during the funeral

The main way I was involved in preparing for the funeral was helping to pick the music together with Gareth’s friends. This was really emotional, and I was really sad to find that we shared more music taste than I had known.

The funeral all seems a bit of a blur now. One thing I do remember is being on our way to the funeral in the car and passing my old headteacher rushing towards the church. It meant so much that he had taken the time to attend, even though it had been years since both Gareth and I had left school. A number of our old teachers attended, and I was really touched. In fact, I was touched that every person at the church was there, and the church really was packed. It was a really emotional service, and everyone that spoke did so really movingly.

We spent the evening in the pub with Gareth’s friends which was nice, but I remember thinking that it was such a shame that this terrible thing had to happen in order to get everyone together.

 

How did you feel after the funeral

After the funeral, things felt a bit empty. At least with the funeral on the horizon there was something to focus on. However, after the funeral, life had to start getting back to normal again, but it was a ‘new normal’. I started my new job and worked on making our new flat into a home. I’ve never been as fit as I was in those few months after the funeral as I found the gym to be a good escape (although I’m sorry to say this didn’t last very long!).

As a family, we also had to start the process of being tested for heart conditions, as Gareth had seemed perfectly fit and healthy. This was strange process to go through as we all obviously didn’t want to find that any of us had heart conditions, but at the same time we did want to find something, so that we had answers about what had happened to Gareth. Quite soon after Gareth had died, I underwent a number of tests, including an ECG, an echocardiogram and provocation tests. It was found that I did have some signs of Long QT syndrome, although I have never had any symptoms, and was prescribed beta-blockers as a precaution.

This was something else I would have to get used to. I was struggling to adjust to things, and found myself drinking a lot more alcohol than I would have normally and getting really emotional and argumentative. I wrote in my journal at the time that I felt like I had constant PMT, and felt very irritable at everyone. I think Andy had to put up with a lot at this time. His support, along with the support of family and friends, helped me to get through this. One friend in particular helped by booking a three-week holiday to Australia with me later in the year, which helped a lot by giving me something to focus on and look forward to.

Were you involved in the Inquest

I attended the inquest, but like the funeral, it feels like a blur to me now. It’s the funny details that I remember. The Coroner’s Court felt like a concrete bunker and the carpet was like astroturf. The Coroner’s Officer had his hair in a quiff, and was wearing a large ‘Elvis’ belt and a cape. I think my mind has latched onto these details in order to blank out the statements that were read out. The statements taken from his friends were particularly difficult to listen to.

How did you feel after the Inquest

To me, the Inquest was just another horrible day to be got through. I just remember being glad that it was over, even if it didn’t really provide any answers that made sense of why Gareth was no longer with us.

What impact has your loss had on your life

The loss has had such a big impact on my life. It’s funny, as part of me feels that I should be putting more effort into seizing the day and living each day as my last, now that I know just how fragile life can be. However, sometimes just getting up in the morning and facing the day can sometimes feel like an effort. This contradiction has been something I’ve coming to terms with over the last few years.

One thing we have all done as a family is to try and turn our grief into something positive by supporting CRY. A few months after we lost Gareth, we signed up to do the CRY Bridges Walk which was held the week after what would have been Gareth’s 22nd birthday. It was really nice to all get together and do something positive like that, and we’ve also taken part in and helped out at subsequent walks.

In September 2009, I was given the chance to take part in the One and Other ‘Fourth Plinth’ project in Trafalgar Square. This meant that I had an hour to do anything I wanted on the empty plinth. I chose to use my time to raise awareness of sudden cardiac death and CRY’s Test My Hearth screening campaign. I held up a sign saying “12 fit and healthy young people die every week of undiagnosed cardiac conditions. My 21 year old brother was one of them”. It was a very surreal experience being up there for all the world to see, but I hoped it would make at least some passers-by stop and think, and I had lots of support from other CRY supporters which was lovely.

I also took the chance while I was up on the plinth to propose to Andy. We were married four months later! As I said earlier, I had found it sad that something tragic needed to happen to bring family and friends together, so I was really keen to bring everyone together for a happier occasion. Although of course it was really sad that Gareth couldn’t be there, and I really missed him on the day.

One of the things that I’ve found most helpful over the last couple of years is training to become a bereavement supporter for CRY. It was really good to be able to get together with others who have gone through similar experiences and being given the chance to talk things over. I really hope I can turn my experiences into something positive, and be there for others. I really believe that talking can help us to deal with things, and I wish I had taken up the chance to speak to a counsellor a few years ago.

What impact has your loss had on your other relationships i.e. friends/ extended family

The loss has had a big impact on my relationships. As I said earlier, Andy had to put up with a lot when I was struggling to deal with things, but he has been my rock and I am so glad that he has been there for me throughout all of this.

It was more difficult with friends. Some friends, mostly those who had known Gareth and I since school, were brilliant and I really appreciate their support. Others weren’t quite sure how to react, and drifted away. I remember someone who I’d not seen for a while asking me how I was on Facebook. I told them exactly how I was feeling, and I don’t think they knew how to deal with that and I never heard from them again. I’ve since learnt how to mask my feelings a bit better.

At 21, it feels like Gareth was just starting out in life and it still makes no sense that he’s not with us any more. He was a really sweet guy with a wicked sense of humour. We had our arguments growing up, but we were getting to know each other better as we both got older, and I’m so sad that this was cut short. I will always miss him.

 

Happy holidays!

I hope you’ve all had a nice Christmas. Despite having to work Christmas day, it feels like we’ve had a nice break. Christmas Eve was spent with my folks, drinking lots of red wine and making plans for next Christmas. After work on Christmas Day we went to Dave and Laura’s, where Dave had made an awesome Christmas dinner. We had a lovely day, playing Trivial Pursuit and falling asleep in front of Doctor Who (that might have just been me!).

On Boxing Day we made a flying visit up north and watched a version of the Wizard of Oz where Bolton had replaced Kansas and the Wonderful Wizard was from Wigan.

It’s nice to be back home and chilling out a bit now. In the weeks leading up to Christmas I was busy crafting and baking, when I wasn’t busy stuffing my face with cheese and chocolate. I made a few crochet flower badges, and a crochet Christmas garland (2011 will go down as the year I finally conquered crochet, mwahaha).

I also shamelessly nicked Hayley’s Cookies in a Jar idea, and made batches of White Chocolate & Baileys Fudge, spiced apple chutney, chocolate truffles and Christmas cake truffles. I haven’t heard that anyone has been taken into hospital with sugar coma/food poisoning/stabbing from badly sewn on pins yet, but I fear it may only be a matter of time!

So it’s just about getting ready for 2012 now I guess. 2011 has been mostly fun. I’ve ridden a camel on the banks of the Nile, trekked a llama in Herefordshire, moved house (again), started a new job, passed year 1 of my counselling course, passed a photography course, failed a photography course (couldn’t get my arse in gear to submit my coursework), bellydanced in front of a whole cruise ship, volunteered briefly at a psychiatric hospital, actually got round to going non-festival camping finally, and had some awesome holidays here and abroad. I’m hoping 2012 brings more adventure. Next up is Tokyo in March, can’t wait!

And as I think I probably put every year on my blog when I remember:

May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself. Neil Gaiman