Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The re-purposed blog?

Well, it's a New Year - 2017 to be exact, thank goodness 2016 is over I hear you cry. All those dead celebs. The reason I mention the year is because I am basically a useless, intermittent blogger so the date is always useful - it allows judgy people to judge me and how useless I am at blogging.

Once again I have been ruminating, cogitating and generally mulling over a variety of things, some may call them issues, that is their privilege. These things include -

  • I am a hopeless blogger 
  • I want to be a great blogger
  • I love to crochet and might decide to start selling some of what I make
  • I hate going outside. Still.
  • I'm a terrible Christian
  • I'm not a very good student
  • I am an AMAZING procrastinator 

So, maybe by re-purposing my blog it might make me accountable, maybe then I will stop procrastinating and get on with the 'stuff' that is all around me.

The most important thing to stop procrastinating about is finding a church and going - actually, I found one, what I don't have is the courage to bite the bullet and go on my own. New church = terrifying, now why should that be? By definition, a church should be one of the least terrifying places on earth. But, y'know, I'm a Brit. Nuff said. I have some bible journaling stuff which I would like to use - but mainly I don't know what I'm supposed to do with the bits and pieces and I feel weird drawing in my bible. Writing all over the writing just seems a bit, well sacrilegious if I'm honest - even though it may look pretty. Then there is the nagging voice telling me I am a useless Christian, a hopeless artist so what is the point of even bothering?

The next thing is my life as a student. A few years ago I decided I would like to do a history degree with the OU and I am now on my second module of my second year, not going to lie, I love it, so interesting, the OU go the extra mile for anyone with issues and make it all as smooth and easy as possible. However, my Black Dog - I have realised - comes and sets up home in late November and doesn't leave until mid-January - maybe - and so this year, for the second time, I am way behind in my studies and think I will have to defer. Again. Which begs the question, should I just pack it in? Since I am at least half way through I don't really want to but there is that nagging voice telling me to be sensible and accept the fact that I am a failure as a student.

Which brings me to my crochet life - blankets, both of these are at my
mum's house.

 Unicorns, this one is for my daughter's bestie and is named Beryl, she goes with the giant squid I made last year named Cyril.

One of a number of Elves I made in December 2016, I made about 12 altogether and apparently people would like to buy them, which is all a bit embarrassing.

I made this blanket for my daughter, it's cotton and weighs a ton, she chose the colours, the pattern was in a Simply Crochet supplement - I'm not bragging or anything, but this photo got ALOT of positive attention when posted on social media, loads of lovely comments and sharing. Felt a bit chuffed and I'm not even lying!!!

But then there is that nagging voice telling me my crochet isn't that good, my joining is pants and I should just stop being so up myself.

So, if I 're-purpose' my blog will it help? Will it make me more focused and less of a procrastinator? I have no idea but I think I'll give it a go.

My plan for today is to come back tomorrow with news about bible journaling, more unicorns and a blanket that I can't share as it's a gift.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

What I've missed...

As mentioned in my previous post, it has been a long time since I last wrote anything. I feel quite sad about it because, in my absence, an inordinate amount of things have occurred about which I have strong opinions - shocking I know.
Now, obviously, the things which I consider to be worthy of discussion may not be the same as yours - and that is fine, you can express your opinion in the comments, keep them to yourself, start your own blog, or click the 'next blog' button above and just move on.
  • My OU studies continue apace - interesting to me, at least.
  • There was a General Election in the UK and I called it - also interesting to me.
  • ISIS
  • Gay marriage was legalised in the US and the rest of the world went rainbow crazy. 
  • I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia - hereafter referred to as Fibro as I am cool (see previous post for clarification on this)
  • Our son spent almost a year in Toledo, Ohio and didn't really like it
  • I have become a not-so secret fan of The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones
  • People were shocked and horrified when 'private' stuff they stored on the internet was hacked and made public.
  • 'Swarms' of migrants/refugees are trying to come to Europe, by hook or by crook, but usually in totally un-seaworthy boats resulting in the deaths of hundreds of people doing nothing more offensive than seeking out a better life.
  • Our daughter and her husband adopted a standard poodle named Dougal and I became a dog-sitter extraordinaire. 
Right now these are all the things I can think of. Of course there are many more, and maybe you think I have missed something out.  Feel free to add to the list, in the meantime here is my view this morning, well, when I turned around -

See you in the next post.

Monday, August 24, 2015

On being stoical....

Well, it's been a very long time since my last blog post. In reality I suppose I have become an ex-blogger, one of many I suspect.

However, recently there have been a couple of life events that have prompted me to reflect, ruminate and generally wonder about various things, naturally I thought that sharing on my blog might bring about some clarification.

About 20 years ago I was admitted to hospital with suspected appendicitis, in fact I had a massive abscess on (or is that in, I wonder), my uterus. It also impacted my bowel. I won't go into all the gory details, obviously it was serious, obviously the NHS completely rock and obviously I survived and recovered, unscathed but not un-scarred.

The reason I start my current story with this particular life event is that my stoicism is part of the reason I became a medical emergency. I had been to my family doctor with various symptoms, but never all together, I also tend to the self-diagnosis school of medicine, ergo - my periods are bad because they are and I have to put up with them because I am a woman (false!!). Or, I have pain because I am overweight. Or, I am tired because I have two small children, have just had surgery, am overweight, am a woman, etc. etc. etc. Anyway, suffice to say the wonderful staff told me that no woman should ever put up with terrible periods and that a person should always tell the doctor everything.


I recently realised that I have done the same thing. Again.

My regular reader will know that I struggle with mental health issues and have done for many years. In fact, I think I am now a 'shut-in'. A sad phrase I have always thought.

So, something else I have struggled with is pain. Constant, difficult to define, unremitting, movable pain. But, as a stoic, I can come up with loads of reasons for why I am in pain....

  • I am overweight
  • I am over 50
  • I've been overweight for a long time
  • I have a hockey injury to my left knee
  • I am overweight 
I self-medicated this pain for many years (not recommended apparently, who knew?), until recently, in a mental health review, the health practitioner asked me if I had been tested for Fibromyalgia.  Hmm, no says I. Is that a gynaecological thing?

Turns out Fibromyalgia is nothing to do with 'women's things' and more to do with pain. Constant, difficult to define, unremitting, movable pain. The definition says this.....

'a rheumatic condition characterized by muscular or musculoskeletal pain with stiffness and localized tenderness at specific points on the body.'

But, Fibro - which is what all the cool kids call it - is much more than pain.....
  • Lack of restorative sleep - check
  • Fatigue - check
  • Cognitive problems, aka 'fibro-fog' - check
  • IBS - check
  • Stiffness - check
  • Sensitivity - check
  • Headaches - check
  • Feeling too hot or too cold - check
  • Restless legs - check
  • Depression and anxiety - check

So, I went to my GP, he confirmed the diagnosis with a whole lot of blood work which basically rules out any other reasons for the symptoms and then he referred me to the pain clinic. Oh what fun!

I went to the pain clinic today for the initial assessment and was told that I have 'all the red flags for Fibro and most of the yellow ones'. 

Now, I'm not going to lie, I am struggling to get my head around the fact that I have been diagnosed with a condition involving unremitting pain, which has no cure and no known cause. But - I am so relieved it isn't something more serious.
So, there we have it, a life with Fibromyalgia. Is that all of my life? No, of course not. But right now, until I get the hang of it, it feels like that's all there is.

And, I suppose, I shall start to wear a purple ribbon.
The other life event which took place recently was the death of a much loved family friend, one of those 'second mums' so many us are blessed with. This lady was almost 92 and had been ill for sometime, but,  much sadness is felt, plus, any death reminds me of others who have died and who I still miss dreadfully. I suppose that is the same for many of us. Death is inescapable and, I suppose, by the age of 54 I should be used to it. But, I'm not. And that is a tale for another day.

Friday, August 09, 2013

My Black Dog

I have a Black Dog. He doesn’t live with me all the time and he doesn’t have a name, but he visits, not as much as he used to, thankfully, but regularly and, usually, unexpectedly. He just kind of creeps up on me, silently, stealthily, without me noticing, until one day I just wake up and think, ‘aah, there he is, sitting on my shoulder like a malevolent creature of the night’.
Sometimes I can feel his presence, just hanging around my shoulders but not weighing me down, not yet. It is as if this Black Dog is waiting for an opportune moment to surround me with his dark, numbing, enveloping misery.  Maybe if I gave him a name it would make him easier to deal with, to get rid of even.
Most people think it was the great Winston Churchill who coined the term ‘Black Dog’ for his depression, but the phrase has been associated with the condition for many years.

I don’t know how long I have had it - I belong to a nation of copers, am possessed of the notorious Stiff Upper Lip peculiar to my tribe. 

The first time I remember addressing it was in my doctor’s office. I was weeping and trying to tell him what I was feeling, he leaned over to me and gently said ‘Julie, do you think you are suffering with depression?’ at which point I cried even more.
Since that fateful day I have had many visits from my Black Dog, I have been on and off meds, have tried to ‘get better’, tried to live a ‘normal’ life (which, by the by, I don’t believe in! None of us are normal, some of us are just better at covering up the crazy than others). 

I have listened to many well meaning souls saying things like ‘get out more’; ‘keep yourself busy’; ‘go for a nice long walk’; ‘I’ll pray for you’; ‘have you prayed about it?’; ‘trust God with it’; ‘Did you know that Moses/Elijah/Paul/all three suffered with depression?’ ‘Are you taking something for it?’; ‘don’t take the meds, it will make it worse’; ‘take the meds, there’s no shame in it’ etc etc - you get the drift. Maybe you have said one or more of these things to someone - I know I have.  Maybe, like me, you have thought ‘for goodness sake, pull yourself together, what have you got to be depressed about?’
The answer to that last question is nothing. I have nothing to be depressed about. So why does it happen? Why are there days in my life when I feel so overwhelmingly sad it is almost difficult to breathe? Why are there times when I sit gazing into space thinking about nothing and anything? Why do I lack the energy and motivation to engage with anyone or anything? In fact, why do I feel such overwhelming, debilitating hopelessness and sadness that I feel worthless and useless? Why do I feel nothing, just that numbing deadness eating away at who I am?

The answer is, I don’t know, and, I suspect, neither does anyone else. I don’t even know how to explain it to someone. How does one verbalise something that is seemingly so random, that sounds so trite - how many times do we hear someone say ‘oh, I feel so depressed’ ‘I suffer with long term depression’. Maybe you have even thought ‘well, you don’t look depressed to me, just get a life’. The truth is depression is a dreadful thing to live with it saps my energy, my self esteem, my motivation, as a Christian who does trust God with everything it also makes me feel guilty, disconnected from Him and a failure.

My Black Dog takes ‘me’ away - and sometimes it’s hard to get me back. I don’t know where I go, but I do know that during those visits I have to work hard at being Julie, at holding a conversation, at normal, everyday interaction. When, in fact, all I want to do is sit and stare into space.

Depression has a physical effect on me as well as a mental and spiritual effect. I find it difficult to concentrate, difficult to do the things I enjoy like reading. I read somewhere that it is associated with stress and anxiety - I believe that. I have always been a worrier, for many years I have lived with a huge ball of string in my chest; during periods of high anxiety and/or stress, I can feel it unravelling and pinging against my ribcage. For most of my adult life I have tried to please all of the people, all of the time, have done my best never to say ‘no’ to a cry for help - which is how I ended up as Secretary at my son’s swimming club, helping out at nursery, rainbows, beavers, school etc. etc.. Nowadays although I still don’t always say no, I find that too hard, I ignore stuff. Not necessarily the best approach, but it works for me. And that is the key - we have to find our own way of dealing with depressive episodes. Taking the meds helps to keep me on an even keel for much of the time, I have learned to avoid stressful situations and live a quiet, some might say boring, life - that’s what I need to do in order to avoid losing what remains of my marbles. Sometimes I feel lonely. Another symptom of my Black Dog is that I have little or no desire to socialise or communicate; this means that I have lost touch with most of my friends, however good people are at being a friend they become fed up of being ignored eventually.  And who can blame them?

So, that’s the story of my Black Dog, he is here this week, and will probably be here for a while longer, I have the huge, empty void inside me indicative of those episodes, I am experiencing almost overwhelming apathy and disinterest in everything and everyone (no offence intended Dear Reader) - fighting it takes all my effort and energy. So what to do? Ignore it until it goes away? Fight it until I can fight no more, even though I know that, in reality that makes little or no difference. In my experience, it is better, at this stage in my life, to let it run its course and wait for my dark, malevolent friend to disappear over the horizon again. In the meantime I will try my best to break free and get over it. Just don't count on it happening quickly.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Identity Theft, Privacy, 'it's all moo'*

Good Morrow Dear Reader, I wonder how you are in this Great Heatwave of 2013? If you are anything like me you may well be wilting.

You see what I did there? I'm a wilted, English rose - just a pity the image is a Lancashire version and not the beautiful white rose of Yorkshire. I confess that I don't like the heat, I don't like the sun and, for the past few weeks have been permanently sat in front of a desk fan in an effort to prevent heat induced grumpiness, nausea, and exhaustion.

So, what's new in the world of jottings I hear you cry. Well Dear Reader I have a salutary tale to tell. You may, or may not, be aware that the British banks have recently been found guilty of mis-selling Payment Protection Insurance (PPI). This has resulted in them having to re-pay a great deal of money. We didn't think we would qualify - being self-employed for so long meant that we never bothered with that sort of thing. However, we did get a no-win no-fee financial advisory service to check for us. We quite quickly received a small payment which was WONDERFUL.

Some time later the financial people informed us that one of the claims they had entered on our behalf had been referred to the Ombudsman who had then told the bank that they HAD to pay this claim also - this was considerably more, we tried to contain our excitement, being more cynically minded than most due to events in the not too distant past and being life-time members of the 'I'll believe it when I see it' approach to things. However, the bank did indeed send a cheque. Sadly they sent it to the wrong address. No problem! I rang up and spoke to a very nice lady in the Philippines who informed me I needed to go into my local branch and fill in a change of address form. I won't bore you with the whole sorry tale, just the salient points -
  1. We no longer bank with this bank and haven't for at least 6 years
  2. We have moved house three times since then and never filled a change of address form in - because we no longer bank with them
  3. The account is in my husband's name
  4. I had completed ALL the security checks
  5. We had already received one cheque without completing a form of any kind.
  6. After three phone calls no form has arrived.
  7. The phone number is an 0845 number - which means it costs me money every time I call them
 As you can imagine Dear Reader I am, by now extremely irritated. Even though we were never expecting this money, now that we know we are getting it we need it!! Silly though that seems. So, I rang again and, well, I ranted, I was polite, but, nevertheless a rant was had. Eventually I said I was going to submit another complaint to the Ombudsman because, in light of points 1, 2, and 3 above  I felt that the bank was time-wasting and using delaying tactics in order to avoid paying the monies owed.

 Funnily enough the Customer Advisor then advised me that the cheque would be in the post shortly. In fact she said 'I see Mr Inan that it is marked on your file that the cheque is to be sent out soon'.

Dear Reader, please note items 3 and 4 in my list and also note that I am, in fact a girl middle-aged woman.

Which brings me to the salient point of my blog, and let's face it what use is a blog without a cute picture of a dog AND a salient point.

Privacy issues and identity theft - easier than you think! I regularly make phone calls on behalf of my son and my husband - indeed even when making phone calls on my own behalf I regularly get referred to as Mr JottingsbyJools. So, Dear Reader, you may well want to beef up your security with regard to personal information and all that jazz.

*And, finally, if you are not a Friends aficionado, (if not, why not?) then watch this clip.

*Waves goodbye* 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Manners, Compliments and Being English

Good morning to you Dear Reader, I have a number of thoughts rumbling around in my brain and thought I would share with you. They are linked, in a tenuous kind of a way.

The first is manners - good or bad. In recent days sleep has, due to the heat, eluded me, when that happens I tend to listen to the BBC World Service and it was here that I first heard the news item concerning a customer in Sainsbury's who was refused service at the checkout until she had finished talking on the phone. The customer was outraged and complained vociferously - Sainsbury's apologised, until, that is, Tweeters and Facebookers took to cyberspace and voiced their support for the shop assistant. Evidently many of us, me included, think it is the height of bad manners to talk on the phone whilst involved in almost any kind of transaction. Happy days. It used to be that, as a society, we knew and understood what good manners were and why it is important to use them.

Now, I am quite sure the whole world knows that we Brits are experts at waiting our turn - indeed our expertise in queuing is world famous. But what about the rest of this little list? If we are talking on a phone whilst being served, anywhere, we clearly are not listening, cooperating, appreciating, or complimenting the server - nor are we able to speak politely or even give thanks for their efforts.

It used to be, in the not too distant past, that talking loudly in public was frowned upon - regarded as 'common' in fact and the epitome of bad manners, not any more, now many of us have no qualms about sharing any of our conversations, not just those taking place via a mobile phone, with anyone and everyone.

Safe to say then that I am greatly encouraged by the number of people who defended the actions of the worker in Sainsbury's and hope that, perhaps, we will all try and mind our manners a bit more.

This brings me nicely to my next point. Compliments. In recent days I have been subjected to a number of unsolicited compliments Dear Reader - I know, quite, quite shocking. The problem is accepting compliments makes me feel uncomfortable - and, I suspect, I am not the only one. It is not often I receive a compliment - when one is a stay-at-home mum it seems that one's efforts tend to fall into the 'taken for granted' category. So, to receive compliments connected to things I do as *me* rather than as wife/mother/daughter etc. is quite a novelty. I do have, after all, that infamous Stiff Upper Lip 

So, apparently, the etiquette for accepting a compliment is not to fumble and fudge and make the complimenter feel uncomfortable, but, rather to graciously accept said compliment and move on. Even if one is British.

Which brings me nicely to my final thought for the day. English or British? Well, Dear Reader, as you may, or may not know, last Sunday was a red letter day for the whole of Great Britain, after 77 long years Andy Murray became the first British man since Fred Perry to win at Wimbledon. The nation went into meltdown as a result of the ensuing hysteria. Andy Murray is a proud Scot, a Dunblane survivor , world's number 2 tennis player, Olympic gold medalist and of course a Brit. Many of our Celtic citizens are keen to be designated by their individual nationality (Scottish or Welsh mainly - the Northern Irish, ironically, want to be British whilst seeming to dislike The English intensely). I can understand being proud of one's roots - I am after all a Yorkshire lass, through and through.

However, for those of us who choose to designate ourselves as English things can get a little tense - largely due to the unpleasant behaviour of the English Defence League I suspect. It seems that things may be changing, a recent article in the Irish Times indicates that  more and more of us English Brits are referring to ourselves as English first and British second - perhaps the worm has turned due to perceived injustices in the tax and education systems, who knows? And is it a good thing? I am not sure. A sense of national identity is important - but surely no-one wants to be perceived as a 'Little Englander' - even if they are anti-Europe.

In conclusion it seems that as an English Brit I find accepting a compliment difficult, but, understand that it is good manners to do so graciously; despite appearances to the contrary many of us do still think good manners and courtesy are important and, finally, it is OK to say that I am English first and British second - and doing so does not make me a racist. Glad we sorted that out.

Friday, June 28, 2013

World's Worst Blogger?

Perhaps I am, or maybe not. Maybe I am just like millions of other people out there who think blogging sounds like a great way to express oneself, who quite like the idea of writing stuff down, but for whom the reality is somewhat more difficult.

The trouble with the internet is that it is The World's Biggest Time Waster. Ever. Today I am supposed to be finishing up an assignment, on the Benin Bronzes since you ask.

In the mornings I like to drink my coffee whilst checking my course groups and forums, doing the crossword and generally checking that all is right with the world. And therein lies the problem. Inevitably someone posts an interesting item, a funny video - this morning it was a flash mob of an extract from La Traviata - which was all well and good, but then comes the overwhelming urge to check out all the other flash mob videos on YouTube. Two hours later my assignment still isn't polished.

By the time I am on my second cup of coffee I discover that my Lovely Daughter has blogged and that she is trying something out called bloglovin which, apparently, replaces Google Read. Now I am not a techie, I don't know what Google Read is or what it does and I am quite sure I will never understand what bloglovin is or what it is for (much like Instagram - another one of my daughter's 'things') - that didn't, however, stop me going over there, looking around and signing up. Which means I now have quite an array of useless online.....things? activities? web page interests? I don't even know what to call them but so far we have......
Now, I know a smart phone, or a tablet, aren't online things, but rather bits of technology to further enable the myriad of online things we can and, apparently must, do in order to live a life full of fulfillment and joy.

But, dear reader, I am sure you see the problem. The internet is supposed to make our lives easier, when in fact all it does is fill them with what is, let's be honest, a whole lot of useless, time wasting activities which do nothing more than kill our brain cells. Stone Dead.

I saw this somewhere the other day
And I have to agree, but, I also want to add that since 'the internet' has now overtaken television, or so it seems to me, as our activity of choice during any free time we happen to have laying around then surely those books are in even more danger. Certainly I firmly believe that too much screen time, of any description, dulls the brain and has a detrimental effect on concentration and memory - and I think that research indicates that as well.

So what to do? The horns of a dilemma is never a comfortable place to sit.

Get rid of the electronic items that feed the compulsion to read and share information of all kinds, no matter how inappropriate for some people. Try to limit one's online time? What, I wonder, would happen if someone pulled the plug? What if we woke up one morning and the internet was just gone? Would we remember how to communicate properly? Some younger people probably can't remember a time when text speak didn't exist, when phones were fixed line and most people only had one - in a shared room in the house. Who writes letters anymore? Few of us. We can't go back - but perhaps we can all try to have a smaller cyber presence and a greater physical one in the lives of those around us.

So what started as a blog about, well, not blogging, has finished as a blog about the pervasive nature of online activity and technology. Huh. would it have been more fun as a face to face conversation? What about if I had written it, by hand, in a diary?

One final thing to think about. I play Facebook games - yes, yes, I am that annoying person who fills your wall with requests for all kinds of weird and wonderful things. Like a lot of people I play it as a way of relaxing, switching my brain off, all of those things. The people I play with are mostly, like myself, women of a certain age, and a few husbands who have been roped in by their wives. Anyway, last week *all the games on Facebook* crashed, completely, couldn't get into the farming games, candy crush, words with friends etc etc. The reaction was, not to put too fine a point on it, hilarious. As if the world was going to end.  So what would happen if someone turned the internet off? Worth thinking about.