Thought for the Week

"A hug is a perfect gift - one size fits all and nobody minds if you give it back."

2006 overview

OK, I was sorta challenged to do this... I think.. at least if I wasn't challenged I stole this from Miss U who in turn stole it from rn_buffoon... so here goes!

What did you do in 2006 that you'd never done before?
I started this blog. I lost over 2 stone at weight watchers. I began a photography course. Celebrated my 20th wedding anniversary and my 40th birthday. Became a great Aunt!

Did you keep your New Years' resolutions and have you made more for this year?
On account of the fact that I have a REALLY bad memory... I can't say if I kept them! I didn't make any this year really, just to try not to be so hard on myself.

Did anyone close to you give birth?
Yep, my nephews partner gave birth to a beautiful baby girl.

Did anyone close to you die?
No, had a touch & go moment early in the year, but thankfully he pulled through.

What countries did you visit?
None. I live on the S.E. Coast of England and so I have cross-channel ferries and the Channel Tunnel rail link on my doorstep, and I didn't even make it to France!

What would you like to have in 2007 that you lacked in 2006?
Sanity. Think I have already blown that one

What date from 2006 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
October 11th, my anniversary. I have a fantastic husband, and every single day I wonder how I got to be so lucky to have found him. We celebrated with a champagne flight on the London Eye which my children bought us.

What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Finally doing something positive for myself and enrolling at college

What was your biggest failure?
Every day that I woke up and thought to myself "I'm not sure I can make it to the end of another day" Most days for the first 6 months, then a few less.

Did you suffer illness or injury?
Not that I am trying to copy Miss U but yes, I was a little crazy for a while... hang on, if I'm honest I was a lot crazy for a while. I had an abscess which the dentist didn't allow to clear up before extracting 3 teeth and ended up having my gums sewn up to stop the bleeding. Had a large cyst removed from my thyroid which stopped me talking at any level above 'gentle', but everyone at home thought they were in heaven, so 'every cloud....' etc ... lol

What was the best thing you bought?
My posh New Years Eve dress. The first time in a few years that I have actually enjoyed shopping for a dress... this one was 2 dress sizes smaller than last years!

Whose behaviour merited celebration?
My husbands; he put up with mine for yet another year!

Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
A work colleagues who thought it was OK to sit and play on the computer all day whilst muggin's here did all the work!

Where did most of your money go?
Money?? What money?

What did you get really, really, really excited about?
I am easily excited!! Too many things to list, but I guess starting my photography course came high up the list, sad I know, but I LOVE learning, always have, always will.

What song will always remind you of 2006?
Damn, if only I had a memory, I would be able to tell you.

Compared to this time last year, are you: Happier or sadder? Thinner or fatter? Richer or poorer?
A Lot happier generally, (maybe less mad would be a better description); A LOT thinner, 2 stones in fact. Neither richer nor poorer in the monetary sense, but the happier and thinner make me feel richer in other ways

What do you wish you'd done more of?
Job Hunting

What do you wish you'd done less of?
Crying and feeling sorry for myself.

How did you spend Christmas?
As always, at home with my family around me, just the way I like it

Did you fall in love in 2006?
Tough one. I think I fell in love with life again. We still have our little differences, but not in the way we used to... does that count?

How many one-night stands?

What was your favourite TV program?
Oh gosh. I don't watch a lot of TV really. Have to admit I do get drawn into the reality shows like Big Brother!! (cringe) but my favourite has to be LOST.

Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
I hated everyone at the beginning of last year!! lol... generally I try not to waste precious time and energy hating, it's very destructive.

What was the best book you read?
My daughter lent me a couple on serial murders, which I found intrigingly deep and very interesting.. Harold Shipman was one, I did realise, when given some strange looks by the nurses when I was in hospital having my thyroid op' that it probably wasn't the right place to read it though.. what d'ya reckon?

What was your greatest musical discovery?
That it is OK to do karaoke when I'm drunk, it sounds pretty damn good!!

What did you want and get?
My Canon EOS 400D SLR camera, (sorry Elaine)

What did you want and not get?
A new car. Well not new as in never used, but new to me. My rust bucket needs to visit the big metal graveyard at the breakers!

What was your favourite film of this year?
Memory, memory, why does every question require me to use it??? I can't remember which films I did watch, but I know I did!!!

What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I was 40, and I believe I finished my christmas shopping. The evening was spent at the pub, with all my friends and family, that had been secretly invited to join us, dropping in.

What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Easy. Sanity.

How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2006?
I don't have a fashion concept. If I see something I like, I wear it. That said, G has renamed our daughters Trinny and Susannah, as they keep a tight lead on us when we are buying clothes!!!

What kept you sane?
Look back a couple of questions!

The little sanity I had in the first 2/3rds of the year was courtesy of my wonderful, supportive, patient husband, my fantastic Mum, and a very special lady who took the time to befriend me and encourage me, thx Elaine. (Had I known at the time that you were as barking mad as I was..... just kidding honey)

Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Jack in LOST was pretty hot!

What political issue stirred you the most?
The appalling, cowardly act carried out by the London Bombers, and the fallout that always follows these events, where one government agency blames another, and they blame their lack of intelligence, or their lack of reaction to intelligence they had on another agency and so on.

Who was the best new person you met in 2006?
I think I have already answered that, and although I have not met her in the flesh, Miss U is the best new person I met in 2006. (Elaine, you can pay me later love)

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2006?
That sometimes in life, no matter what, you have to look after number 1, cos if you don't, no-one else will.

Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
Can you see
The honest questions in my heart this hour
I am opening like a flower
To the rain
And do you know the silent sorrows of a
Never ending journey through the pain

Do you see a brighter day for me
Another day
A day

Do you wonder whats in store for me
The cure for me
The way

Oh look down and see the tears I've cried
The lives I've lived
The deaths I've died
Would you die them too
And all for me.
- Daniel Bedingfield

PS - Elaine, as promised....

The answer to the "Whose eye is it?"

Meet Maverick

It's that time of year again, when everybody around you is talking about their family holiday, or their romantic 'just the two of us' holidays that they are planning for the summer, and in some cases have already booked, (I know, can you believe it!).

It got me thinking... I wonder if I will get away this year? Holidays are not something we have had many of over the last 20 years for one reason or another. When the family was young and the kids were growing up, it was as much as we could do to put food on the table some days. There were a few years where we managed to scrape up enough to take them away for a week at Butlins or a caravan park with entertainment thrown in. Later, when there was a little more money to spare, I had developed a severe 'sun intolerance' and even hanging the washing out in the summer was done under the cover of Factor 60 sunscreen and at breakneck speed. Needless to say, we have never had a sun holiday.

Last year however, at least while wearing factor 60, it seems my skin was more tolerant of the sun. I even sunbathed for 2-3 hours at a time with no really bad ill effects. It was heaven on earth. To finally lay out in the sun and soak up its warmth, and get tanned. A tan was something I had not had for over 12 years, not a proper one anyway.

My holiday to the States at the end of 2005 was the first holiday I had ever taken on my own with G, exluding 2 weekend trips in the last 20 years. It was also the first proper holiday I'd had abroad. One day I hope to go back. I would go back tomorrow if it wasn't so expensive, but it also gave me the travel bug. I want to see some more of the world, experience some other cultures for myself rather than just read about them.

Where would I go? Anywhere if the finances were as willing! But the novelty of going somewhere warm, or hot even, is the only criteria I feel the need to fulfil this year. Somewhere far away from here, far away from work. A place to relax, soak up the culture, and wind down. Somewhere to have fun, to have a laugh, to be carefree for a few days. A destination that does not involve me being required to plan every day around the daily grind of work and social commitments, or around cooking a meal every night, or ensuring that the laundry is done and the housework is kept on top of.

So, imagine my surprise when my younger daughter, who is 17, suggested that we should go on holiday with my other daughter and my sister, and have a girly break. At first I thought 'great idea' I'd love to spend a week away with my girls. This however was immediately followed by the thought that I couldn't go away and leave G on his own, he should be able to go on holiday too. So, although I agreed with her that it would be nice, I didn't pursue it with anything concrete.

A week or so later, she mentioned it again, over dinner. I said it would be unfair to go and leave Dad behind. He just said "Why"? He seemed to think it was a good idea and he genuinely didn't seem to mind that he was not included. So we talked a bit about where we would go for a cheap, sun holiday as none of us are particularly flush. For Brits, that leaves the choice of Spain, or even Spain!!! Having spent 5 years at school learning the language my daughter was keen to go and try it out for real. She has never been abroad. Never been on an aeroplane. Never paid for her own holiday. So she is VERY excited at the prospect.

I still had reservations about going away without G. We have never spent any real time apart before. Two nights is the most I think; once when I was away at a trade show for work and once when he went to the Bol D'or with a group of friends and their motorbikes. Other than that, the only time we have spent apart is whenever I have been in hospital, and to be honest, I don't think he was missing out on a lot was he!!! lol

After a bit of research, mostly by me and a little by my eldest daughter, we settled for cheap, cheap all inclusive holiday on the Costa Brava. I booked it last night, payed for the air fares and a deposit on the hotel for each of us. So that's it. I'm going on a girly holiday with my daughters and my sister in the summer, and I am quite excited about it. It will give me something to look forward to later in the year, and while I am trying to lose the last 8lbs I need to lose to get to my goal weight it will keep my mind focussed on succeeding with it.

Sanitary Towels and Tampons

I am sitting here, at my desk, fighting my own compulsion to ‘do the right thing’ and try to find some work to do, but it’s impossible. The aftermath of Christmas is always a very quiet time at work, and today the boss is away and hence there is unlikely to be any work forthcoming until later when he has returned.

I have spent the last hour adjusting some of my macro photographs that I have taken for my college project, but my eye-sight has been strained this last week, a sign of getting old I guess, and I cannot scrutinize any more bloody pixels!

For anyone who has never taken really close-up macro photographs, the depth of field, ie the amount of the image in crisp, sharp focus is minute, often only a couple of millimetres deep, and so the rest of the image is unfocussed and plays havoc with your eyes.

Here is one of my favourite shots of the stamens of a beautiful Lily.

Wondering what to do instead, a visit to the office by the woman in the factory who sees to it that the toiletries in the ladies are always kept topped up provided some light relief.

This woman brought the change from the dispenser in ladies toilets into the office, and when we enquired with her whether these items had been delivered she replied,

“Yes, Geoff came to find me to tell me ‘the ladies things’ were in”!!

I said to her that she should have replied, LOUDLY,

“Do you mean the sanitary towels and tampons Geoff”? to which she laughed, and commented,

“Out there they are referred to as Bullets and Hammocks”

How many times during conversations, other than those with our girly friends, do people who are talking about these items actually use the correct terms? How many euphemisms for these products are there, and why?

This got me thinking to when I was younger. I have one sister who is 3 years older than me and one who is 4 years younger. I guess that maybe the first girl in a family has it the toughest, and maybe this is where girls learn to first use euphemisms for sanitary products. At the time when my sister started her periods I was sharing a bedroom with her, and so I knew fairly soon after. Being only 3 years younger than her, and with her starting her periods a little later than average, I was aware of them already, although still young enough to want mine oh so badly because that meant I would be all grown up, and at the same time feeling quite disgusted at the thought of it all.

I remember an occasion that first year, where my eldest sister had been caught out with her timings and was stranded on the toilet, no sanitary towel to hand and not knowing what to do when my younger sister happened by on the landing outside. Perched on toilet, helpless to move, she called out to her;

“Can you go and ask Mum for a Woolworths bag” she said to her youngest sister.

Well. With 7 years juniority (I just made that up, but it must be the opposite of seniority, right?), and a constant readiness at her tender age to help and please people of she ran to find Mum.

“D said can she have a Woolworths bag please” she conveyed, just as she had been requested.

This was a pre-conceived code between the two of them for a sanitary towel, saving my sisters embarrassment at having to discuss such things infront of her sisters, brother and father. Quite clever I suppose, but the beginning of the slippery slope of euphemisms.

My Mum duly gave T a paper bag in which she had placed a sanitary towel for D. The bag had ‘Boots’ written on it!

“No, she said she wanted a Woolworths bag” my innocent young sister protested.

“That one will do just fine” she was told.

The ever thoughtful T didn’t want to take the Boots bag to D as she had specifically asked for one from Woolworths. For several minutes, she disputed the fact with Mum that D had definitely asked for a Woolworths bag, but eventually Mum convinced her that what she had in her hand was OK;

“and if she complains when you give it to her, bring it back” she told T, knowing of course that she wouldn’t.

With so much discussion, and with the toilet seat creating ever deeper indentations on her backside, D had waited quite some time. My youngest sister, God bless her, ever aware of the time she had taken, rushed back, apologetically handed over the Boots bag and never once questioned or thought to look in the bag to actually see what she was carrying.

She learned of this story only about 5 years ago, but she still remembered the time she had been duped into fetching the sanitary towel, revealing how she had felt quite bad that she couldn't get the bag that D had asked for.

26things December

After my first attempt at 26things in November of last year, I was determined to get more of the words on the list for this next one during December, little did I realise that Miss U's fan club had SUCH a great sense of humour!!! Guys, come on... honestly... necrophilia!!????

Seriously though, you are all fantastic. We asked for a list of 26 words and you were all up to the challenge. In no time at all Elaine was sending me the final list and we were frantically emailing each other to say "What the **** are we gonna do with this lot"?

Remember when I said that the rules stated the photographer should use artistic licence to produce a photographic response to the words on the list? Well, I didn't just use artistic licence, oh no, not this gal, I used it, abused it, bent it, contorted it, damn near broke it, then I went to work.

I hope you find some of the pictures of interest, god, I hope you find some that actually relate to the word!!!

Here we go.

1. Despondent (Dan)

2. Hopeful (Dan)

This is my form for what I hope will be my final blood test after having my thyroid operation half way through last year. Fingers crossed, it will come back clear, and that will be that.

3. Reap (Art)

4. Beneficial (Art)

These are little glass stones, about the size of an English penny. To me, they represent the benefit I have gained by attending Weight Watchers for two thirds of last year. Each time a member loses half a stone (7lb) they are given one of these stones to keep in their purse to remind them how much they have benefitted from all their hard work. I keep mine right beside my kettle in the kitchen and that way I get to see them every morning before I eat anything I shouldn't!!!

5. Panic (Suze)

Christmas has come and gone, and it's not the only thing!

6. Honesty (Suze)

7. Larger than Life (justmee)

8. Hot to Trot (justmee)

One of my ALL TIME favourite meals - curry, and the hotter the better. I could eat it every day of the week and not get bored of it, and lucky for me, it rarely has that undesired effect that many people seem to suffer with after extremely hot and spicy food!!! So this photograph is in recognition of all those people that do suffer the after effects and eat it regardless.

This is also my favourite photograph this month.

9. Brainstorm (rn_buffoon)

10. Pallid (rn_buffoon)

A bit more of an interpretation than a literal meaning, but we couldn't leave rn_buffoon out now could we? Can you guess who's eye this is?

11. Fluffy (Kitty)

A shot of the fluffy white clouds I took on one of my trips to Langdon Cliff which I blogged a few months ago. Yes, I know this isn't a cliff! As I walked along the cliff top, my attention was drawn in the opposite direction by a tractor ploughing a field and being followed by about 120 seagulls. These clouds looked so gorgeous and the three pilons in the centre provide some scale.

12. Wild (Kitty)

13. Comfort (Robyn)

14. Peace (Robyn)

15. Fascination (Cherrie)

16. Boredom (Cherrie)

17. Transparency (Mike)

18. Urban Decay (Mike)

19. Christmas (The Big One)

Even with the allowance of artistic licence, it had to be a christmas tree or the big man himself! This is my latest addition to my christmas soft toy collection. Each year I buy a new one and am building quite a collection. My plan is, when my youngest daughter leaves home and I don't have the time or the inclination to decorate in the way she does, I can have all my christmassy toys out, then when christmas is over, I can throw them all in a bag and put them back in the loft for another year... job done!!! Good plan huh!

20. Artichoke. (The Big One)

21. Happy (Kristen)

22. Weekend (Kristen)

23. Religion (Janet)

A picture of the Parish Church of Fornham St Martins which I visited last summer as part of my research into my family history. I was hoping to find the grave of my Great, Great Grandfather, as this is where he grew up, alas I was unsuccessful on that attempt.

24. Sticky (Janet)

25. Necrophilia (Steven)

Well I know that this is where I broke the mould with the old artistic licence, but hey you can't knock a girl for trying!!! They have assumed the position after all, and as you can see not only are the dead, they are most certainly stuffed... so this is my interpretation of your word Steven!

26. Prostate (Steven)

27. Equilibrium (Darfuria)

28. Benevolence (Darfuria)

29. Merry (Leigh)We have a refridgerator in our garage in which we keep beer and other bottled happy juice, and over christmas, partly because it has been so cold, and partly because there were a lot of visitors at mine Christmas eve, hubby put a selection of different beer cans and alcoholic bottled drinks into a large bucket to bring indoors. He marched into the dining room, big grin on his face and said "How's that for a party bucket"? We certainly got merry on that lot!

30. Wet (Leigh)

Another photograph similar to one I have blogged before. I took this photograph to use in my college project as a visual representation of a slow shutter speed. The sea is one of my favourite places to be when it is high tide, or in the winter when the weather is very rough and stormy.

This was quite a challenging list, but great fun to do. January's list is up on the web site now, and believe it or not I have actually already started taking photo's for it!!! (Yes, Elaine, really!).

We couldn't have done it without the list created by Miss U's friends, and for that, I thank you. I do however have one small, tiny request! If you want to play along in February with creating the list for us to photograph, please click here, it's a fantastic group of words you can select from.. honestly, click the link!!!

If you haven't already been over to check out Miss U's list... go now!

Life (and a bit more)

Two events in the last week have made me involuntarily take stock of where I am in life at the moment, and what hopes life has to offer.

The first was the birth of my first great neice. A truly miraculous event. From conception to birth, the whole nine months is one little miracle after another.

When I had my first cuddle with my new neice, at a day old, she lay there in my arms, all warm and cosy and sleepy. I looked down at her, in fact I could hardly take my eyes off her. Children are a miracle. Looking at her laying in my arms, totally dependent on other people for food, warmth, health, happiness and love, my mind began to wander to a time when I wished I could have been as care free as she was at that moment. I even slightly envied her. No worries. No hurt. No pain. Just this magnificent bundle of joy, wrapped up in the love of her family, with the whole world open to her. At that precise moment in time, anything and everything for her future was a possibility that was open to her. She could do and become almost anything she chose. It is a precious gift that our children are born with, I only wish the world always remained an ocean of dreams and reality for them.

The second event which has touched me deeply this week was an entry on Miss U's blog entitled 'Time for a bit of honesty' where she very bravely, very honestly, and very openly talks about what a nightmare year she has had during the first half of 2006. Why did this touch me so deeply? Not least because of the very powerful, strong and beautiful writing skills which she possesses, but more than that because there are a lot of parallels between what she went through and what I went through myself. Our root was very different, but the dark minutes, hours, days, weeks and even months were very similar.

Reading through Miss U's blog, so full of passion and the deepest of feelings made me want to blog some of my own from the time I wrote them, more as another step on the healing process as anything else, but I don't think I am that brave.

Elaine you are the most courageous women I know. You talk of all the people from blogland who helped you through those months. Of certain special people who were there on the end of a telephone or email, who gave you the strength to carry out what other, more fortunate people, might think were everyday, mundane tasks. You talk of hardly being able to function and yet, at that very time of your life when you thought you had shut down and switched off ..... you were there for me.

Little 'ol me. Barely able to function myself somedays. Having decided that to begin to climb out of my big, black hole I needed to get my feelings down on paper so that I could hopefully make sense of them, I was blessed enough to find a friend. That friend was you.

For obvious reasons, I had never shared many of my deepest, darkest thoughts with anyone else before, and I chose a place to write where I would remain anonymous to allow me to be very frank and honest with myself. Then you came along.

You took the time and the trouble to converse with me, at first through my diary, and then also through email. Where most people ran away for the simple reason that had no clue what to say, you offered encouragement and support. At a time when I barely knew if I had remembered my own name correctly, you did not judge me or label me. You did not assume that I was beyond redemption, or that I would never find my way back. You were just there for me. In my life's darkest moments, you were my angel.

Looking back into 2005/beginning of 2006 sometimes feels like looking into a different world. At other times, it can feel like just last week. Nowadays the clouds, when the come, are more of a grey than the jet black they used to be, and nowadays I can see them coming over the horizon before they are right above me, so I have made a lot of progress I guess.

Another comment you made on your post was about accepting that you will never again be the person you once were jolted me into the past. Accepting that the woman I used to be was gone, and more than that, accepting that I needed to learn to like the changed me, to become best friends with the different me, that I believe, was my turning point. I'm not sure I have fully accomplished that yet, maybe I never will, but if I don't I will die old and still trying, I will not die because I stopped trying to reach the end of the road.

Hell, see what happens when I start talking about real, deep emotions... I ramble. Maybe I should leave it there. I could say so much more. This was never meant to be an 'Ode to Laney' but once I started, there were things I needed to say. (Elaine, don't worry, there are only a couple of people who regularly visit here honey!! but I sure hope you are not uncomfortable with what I have written).

On a final note, get that bloody camera out and start shooting girl!! January's list is up you know, have you seen it? No. 25 is 'Newborn'... how lucky is that!!!

Quick Hello

No time, what's new, so here is a little catch up of my last couple of weeks

* Eldest daughter now fixed, fit and back at work after 6 weeks off
* Had a great Christmas Dinner out with the footy team players and supporters
* I am broke after Christmas, like the rest of the world no doubt!
* I turned forty, yikes.
* Have spent hours on my college work while I have been off work over Xmas
* Had a fantastic Day on the 25th with all my kids coming for Christmas Dinner
* I became a Great Aunty for the very 1st time
* Watched the Boxing Day Dip for the very 1st time too
* Had a wicked New Years Party, getting home at errrr, uhmmm, 4am (ish)
* Have decided that within 2 years I want to be working for myself as a photographer
* Did I mention I became a Great Aunty for the very 1st time?
* Took some photos for our 26things December list, only a handful though guys, sorry.
* Back to work today, yuk, how depressing

OK have to go. Will post Decembers 26things photo's when I have confirmed which day with Miss U.

I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas and an even better New Year.

Oh, and did I mention.... yes I think I did well here she is, one day old!