Valentine’s Day – love it or hate it?

The 14th of February is Valentine’s Day.  Is it a day that has been hijacked by commercialism?  I think so.  However no matter what I think, it is a day that dawns in the middle of February and puts all sorts of pressure on people to think about romantic love.

I did a little google search on Valentine’s day and it looks to me like the day we celebrate today originally had little to do with the plethora of red hearts, chocolates and overpriced roses.  To be honest I am not particularly bothered with celebrating love on this day.  I would far rather celebrate it on anniversaries, on special days and on the unexpected days and moments that are important to me and the people I love.

Why does Valentine’s Day stress me out?

What does stress me out, is the pressure that the media put on us.  It really isn’t fun to be just out of a relationship, to be going through a separation, or to be feeling simply lonely.

Even kids going to school on the 14th of February are put under pressure.  I remember going to school (many moons ago) and having to partake in a system when cards were posted in a box in the classroom and counted at the end of the day, with one girl and one guy being awarded some sort of made-up award.

I have spent many Valentine’s days either single, or wishing I was.  I have spent the day with hope in my heart only to be disappointed. I have been blessed to spend some months of love in ‘love’, and the interesting thing about that is, when you are in love you don’t need that many reminders at all.  You simply need to be grateful.

Romantic life under the microscope

Valentine’s Day makes people examine their romantic life and sometimes land up feeling fed-up.  I would hope that we can rise above it and simply fall in love with ourselves which would be far better for us.  Self love builds esteem and confidence.  We are subjected to a huge amount of messages from Facebook and other channels.Almost every product, no matter has jumped on the Valentine’s bandwagon.  It is hard to avoid.

How do I choose to spend Valentine’s Day?

So despite being quite happy in a relationship myself I choose to celebrate the 14 of February by spending time with the man, but also with friends.  Let’s have a feast of love, but not make it about being paired up like the animals on Noah’s Ark.  Let’s make it about gratitude for the wonderful people we share our lives with.

Don’t spend money on overpriced and underwhelming gift items.  These won’t last in the hearts and minds of those people you truly love.  Simply tell them how grateful you are that they are in your life.

Reading through this I realise it is a bit of a rant, so apologies for ranting.  Thank you for reading my rant.

Kerry xx

My Holiday with Stan – in Beautiful Albufeira

I have wanted to travel more for a long time.  Most of my ‘holidays’ for the past 20 years have been about visiting family and friends and exploring Ireland prior to our big move.

Now, don’t get me wrong I am not complaining.  I love my regular trips back to South Africa (of course stopping off in Dubai as often as I can), but I longed for a holiday that was simply that.  A trip where my choices included exploring, resting and simply being present –in a beautiful place.

This January I escaped the cold and wet in Ireland and travelled to Albufeira in the Algarve along the stunning Portuguese coast.  It was a package deal from Love Holidays and I can honestly say that it was money well spent.

So who is Stan?

Well you might be thinking he is a real life man, but he isn’t.  Stan is my walking stick.  I had to start using a stick last year after having a terrible fall which resulted in concussion as well as some other complications.  I actually fell twice.  It seemed that I didn’t understand concussion and went out a couple of days later and simply crumpled like a crisp packet on the pavement.

I suffer from quite severe arthritis which affects my hands, knees and feet.  This is complicated by other auto-immune diseases that affect my fatigue levels and my balance.  Hence the addition of Stan to my life.  Stan is sexy, or so my Mom tells me.  I have chosen a beautiful paisley design and tried to inject some personality into my stick.

Onwards to Albufeira

We flew from Dublin, and chose to drive up from Galway early in the morning and park at the long-term parking.  Note to self – book this in advance it is much cheaper!   I most often fly using the passenger assist option.  As I had a companion (as well as Stan), I tried the regular way and managed fine.  I think it helped that the airports were not that busy.   Soon we were on the Aer Lingus plane drinking a cup of Barry’s tea and chatting away about all the adventures to be had in the Algarve.

Our transfer was easy enough to find and soon we were whizzing through orange groves on the way to Albufeira.  The sky was bright blue which was a stark contrast to the Irish grey we had left behind.

I was not expecting a luxury hotel, that isn’t what we booked.  What I was looking for was clean and comfortable.  At the Eirasol apartments we got exactly that.  A really friendly welcome and a sparkling clean apartment which was so well located, but more about that later.

Pain and Portugal

I am in pain most of the time.  My arthritis means that life is a game where you get different pills and potions and try them to relieve the pain.  I had heard that the weather could make a difference, but I was sceptical.  Very hot weather makes my joints swell.

The Portuguese winter was just right.  Like Goldilocks I felt that I had found a temperature that worked for me.  Within 12 hours I could feel a difference and within 24 I realised that I hadn’t taken a pain-killer for a whole day!

Simply having lower pain levels gave me more energy and also made me feel brave enough to get out and do things.

The simple things – travel on a budget

Our trip was a budget trip.  We didn’t have the funds for expensive tours or lots of eating out, but we were determined to enjoy ourselves.

The beach was a top priority so we set out to find our way to the see walking though cobbled streets (with Stan to ensure that there was no chance of falling).  The beach when we found it was sublime.  Blue sky, a long stretch of golden sand as far as the eye could see and turquoise glistening sea with frothy white waves.  As I was a bit tired from the walk, we simply sat and gazed.  Eventually the call of the sand and sea was enough and we started walking.

Dodging in and out of the surf, with my dress hitched up into my knickers we ambled along.  Picking up shells to admire, we chatted with other fellow beach walkers.  If you told me when we set off that I would be able to walk from our starting point to the old town I would have laughed.  I did though, I plodded along and was very grateful to Stan for his help.

Albufeira is very hilly, but the clever people who have developed this town have taken everything into account.  There are escalators that take you up or down to the beach!  How cool is that?

After our long walk we treated ourselves to and ice-cold beer at the seafront.  We then wandered through the old town before taking the escalators up the hill and taking a tuk tuk ride back to the apartment.  I felt giddy speeding down hills with my hair tangled behind me.

Taking time to be present and enjoy the special moments in Albufeira

Every day was special.  I like the idea of the open-topped buses as I think it is a great way of getting to know a place.  Our tour was two hours long, but definitely gave us a sense of what we wanted to see for the rest of the week.

This included some great foody moments, a visit to the local market, shopping in the old town, breakfast on ‘the strip’, and of course many more walks along the beach.  We found a fabulous restaurant where the young man kissing me below promised that if we sat down we would be happy!  His natural exuberance was contagious.

The apartment we had chosen was really conveniently located and in easy walking distance to bus stops (great service at a great price).  The beaches and the local supermarket – Pingo Doce, where you could get everything and at really good prices were an easy walk.  Self-catering certainly helped on the budget side.  It was also fun as we explored new foods and figured out that butter was the block with a cow on it – not the other one!

A perfect holiday

If I could describe a perfect holiday for me it would have to be great weather, good company, yummy food and lots of rest, not in any particular order.  In Albufeira I certainly had that.

Although I was a bit embarrassed at taking my walking stick Stan, I realised that many people have sticks.  Truthfully Stan allowed me to do so much more, to walk with confidence.  I am simply content as I am, a 53-year-old fabulous woman who walks with a stick!

Thank you for reading about my trip.  Lots more travel to come on the blog this year.

Kerry xx

I am unique – and so are you!

 

It’s fascinating to think that with 7.6 billion people in the world there is only one of me.  I am unique and so are you.

We spend so much of our life conforming and trying to be part of a crowd, part of the gang at school, part if the it crowd that I think we forget to celebrate our uniqueness.

I often talk about authenticity, especially in terms of personal branding.  And I have been known to quote my favourite childhood author Dr Seuss – ‘Today you are you, that is truer than true.  There is no one alive that is  youer than you’.

It has taken me a very long time (the best part of half a century) to realise that I don’t need to conform and try to fit into a mould that has been created by the media, my peers or anyone else.  I don’t need to dress according to fashion and try to fit my curvy shape into a style designed for another form of unique that is slimmer than I am.

I dress to be me – I am unique

If I want to wear sparkles and leopard print I will do just that.  It doesn’t matter if I am staying at home doing the cleaning either.  How we express ourselves through our attire is part of our uniqueness.  In this busy world of mass production, social media, lots of people and lots of pressure, we need to carve out a place that is simply for us to be totally authentic and true to ourselves.

A unique gift

Today I received a gift.  I love it so much because it is mine and mine alone.  Joe Duff, a friend and fellow artist from Athenry has started making the most unusual jewellery ever.  You simply write out your name (or get a significant other to write it for you).  He will then hand cut it in sterling silver and polish it to perfection.  Each piece is different as each person has a unique handwriting.

I did a bit of googling there and apparently our handwriting is as unique as our fingerprints.  Even identical twins have different handwriting.  As Joe bases his pieces on this seriously individual trait, there is only one of these pieces and it is hanging around my neck!

Visit Joe’s facebook page to see some of the process in action.  It is really special to think that something is being carefully handcrafted for a specific person.  In chatting to Joe I found out that there is a huge demand for these pieces.  ‘People order names written by loved ones that have passed away as a way of creating a treasured memory and keeping that person close’, he said.

I bought one for my niece for Christmas, and she loved it.

Of course with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, there is no excuse for not thinking up a great gift.  Simply write down your loved one’s name and there you go!

Time to clear the clutter and make way for the special

This gift got me thinking about the huge volume of stuff we have in our lives, and how little of it is significant and unique.  January is traditionally a time when we clean, we clear clutter and feel determined to make a difference.

I am no different.  Over the last couple of years I have done a digital detox, embraced the Kon Mari method, and have felt the wonderful freeing feeling.

I subscribe to the idea that anything new that comes into the house has to be followed by at least one old or broken thing going out of the door.  The gift of this beautiful necklace has inspired me to do a jewellery clear out.  I will however keep those unique pieces that are filled with memories.

Thank you for reading.

Kerry x

What would it feel like to be content?  My word of the year for 2018

What is contentment?  Is it that elusive feeling on simply being myself?

If in doubt consult the dictionary about your Word of the Year

I love the dictionary – in years gone by I always had a battered, dog-eared copy at my desk and although use the computer these days, I miss the habit of leafing through wafer thin pages to find a word I was looking for and then getting lost finding other new words to add to my vocabulary.

When I looked up the definition of content – it really resonated with how I feel right now, but more importantly how I want to feel in the next year.

Content as an adjective is described as being in a state of peaceful happiness. Synonyms included contented, satisfied, pleased.  Pretty good so far.

Content as a verb means to satisfy (someone) – “nothing would content her apart from going off to Barcelona”.  I kind of like that one too, although I may alter that to the Algarve, Tuscany or elsewhere.

The synonyms for the verb content are soothe, pacify, placate, appease, please, mollify, make happy, satisfy, still, quieten, silence.  There are some positive words here, but some have little red flags.  One thing that always happens when you choose a word is unexpected consequences. After reading these verbs, I will be quite wary.  I have learnt over the years that it is important to be content yourself before trying to placate others.

Content as a noun is simply a state of satisfaction, and that is really what I am after.  I am grateful and satisfied with what beautiful abundance that I have in my life.

Why I choose a Word of the Year every year.

Choosing a word of the year is something that has become so integral to my life.  I am so grateful for the moment many years ago that I said to myself, “Kerry, things must change”.  I chose the word balance and started the change that has given me the life I have today.

2018 will be a year in which I relax into myself and let myself be content.  I will remind myself that  I am ok just as I am and that I can take joy in being satisfied.

Three magnets for your Word of the Year

Part of the process that I have developed while following the Word of the Year programme,  which I now share with others is that I try to identify three areas in my life as ‘ magnets’ for ensuring that my word works towards my overall vision for my life.

For my year of content I have identified these three areas in no particular order.

  • To be content with what I have – especially in relation to food. When I feel content with what I have eaten I will stop, relish the taste and know that being content is enough.
  • To learn that I am ok as I am. I don’t need to push myself beyond my limitations.  Suffering from arthritis and fibromyalgia amongst other things means that pain is my constant companion and that I get very tired.  I have always been the person that pushes myself beyond, believing that there is something left in the reservoir.  I learnt the hard way last year that isn’t always the case.  Giving myself a serious concussion as well as other injuries was a big wake up call.
  • I will be open to new opportunities and then choose to be content with what life offers me. If we open our eyes, ears and hearts to what the world has to offer and simply accept, we stand a far greater chance of happiness than if we are continually looking for something better.

I am ready to embark on a wonderful year of contentment.

If you would like to know more about the Word of the Year programme I run (which is free!) join our group on Facebook.  You can also look into how choosing a single word for each year has changed my life by reading some of the other posts I have written.

http://fabuliciousfifty.com/my-word-of-the-year-idea-balance/

http://fabuliciousfifty.com/new-year-new-way/

http://fabuliciousfifty.com/writing-my-first-book-and-how-words-changed-my-life/

 

Thank you once again for reading my ramblings, and would love to hear your feedback.

I wish you a happy and contented new year.

 

Kerry xx

 

 

 

Top 7 Best and Worst Christmas Moments that I can Remember

The more I think about Christmases past and present, I realise that the best ones are those packed with memories of moments that cannot be wrapped.  Here are my top seven Christmas memories, funny, not so funny but all memorable.

Seven memories that will not be forgotten

  1. The Christmas when I was about ten year’s old when  I fell asleep in the sun in my bikini on Christmas eve.  My bum was seriously badly burned and blistered – I couldn’t sit down.  I will never forget it!
  2. Last Christmas – when Christmas and birthday’s came together as we had a family reunion to celebrate my Mum’s 80th It was a typically crazy family celebration with countless memories that can be taken out again and again.
  3. The year I put my back out and Santa chores had to be delegated. I opened my Christmas stocking to find that I had been brought a number of different laxatives and pain pills.  Not that I wasn’t grateful, but really Santa??
  4. When I was growing up we spent our Christmases on the south coast of KwaZulu Natal, at a family hotel. A highlight of Christmas was Santa arriving by helicopter and then walking along the roof of the hotel and then descending in the lift to deliver all the kids presents.  One year when I was about 7 there was a serious glitch and I was gifted with a model aeroplane – just like all the other boys my age.  I was devastated!  I was the girliest girl about.  That Christmas memory lived a long time.
  5. My first Christmas as a mother. I was a new mom as my son was born in November, and still reeling from the changes in my life (including post natal depression).  I was spoilt rotten with lots of gifts to unwrap and the best gift to cuddle.
  6. The year of the big snow! We had no power, I was recovering from a car crash after sliding in black ice and yet we made it happen.  We somehow sneaked a large gaming chair into the car and revealed it as a big surprise on Christmas morning.  This was a year that I learned that shopping was not essential for Christmas – creativity and imagination and a good attitude where.  The pipes were frozen and we were using baby wipes to wash and boiling snow for tea, but we were warm in family festivities.
  7. In my twenties I spent Christmas with my childhood friend and her family. I will always remember the joy and laughter of those special days.  We laughed until we cried.  We over-ate, and we behaved like children getting into the spirit of the day.  One year I tried to do a dye job on my own hair. My blond hair turned purple and there was not much I could do about it except pretend I was a lavender haired fairy from the Christmas tree come to life!

There have been many more Christmases and so many more memories.  As I sit writing this listening to Christmas music, thoughts are flooding though my brain.  This year Christmas is again a bit odd as I have been without my car for a month.  What I am realising is that it is the gifts that don’t come wrapped that create the best memories.  The love and laughter, great food and even better company.  It is the time of year, when we connect with friends and family by sending a card, carefully choosing a gift, and taking time to visit and catch up.

My wish for us all this Christmas is that we create new and wonderful memories that we can unpack year after year.  Remember to take photos and most importantly to give hugs.

 

Happy Christmas 2017

 

Kerry xx

 

 

 

Give a Book this Christmas – December Girl

I just had a delivery from Amazon.  My son commented that the Amazon Deliveries are modern-day Father Christmases.

Perhaps they are, and what better gift to give that a great book.  Books are my friends.  They allow me to travel to other world and experience the lives of others embellishing their lives with my imagination.

As an aspiring writer I have met so many talented authors online and have really enjoyed the gift of reading some really good books recently.

December Girl by Nicola Cassidy

Nicola is a blogger, who I have been following for a while, I loved her writing and was really delighted to hear that she had secured a publishing contract.  The arrival of her book, complete with a beautiful snowflake ornament was like Christmas coming early.

It is a cracking read!  Historical fiction crossing between north County Dublin and London.  It is a mystery about a missing baby, but it is so much more.  It is dark, but entertaining with such great characterisation that I couldn’t decide whether to like and admire the heroine Molly – or not.

Molly, the December Girl, was born on the Winter Solstice and despite many hardships but she never loses her strength and belief making her such a great character.

It is a tale that transcends geography and could have taken place in a different country and at a different time.  I am writing this review and wanting to give spoilers but trying to resist.

Buy it on Amazon, wrap it up and give it to someone for Christmas, or simply to tell them you care. And the exciting part is that if you are running late with your shopping you can send a Kindle version.

It is a gift that will give the reader pleasure on a long winter’s day.

Preferably accompanied by gallons of tea and perhaps some December food like a mince-pie or a slice of Christmas cake.

Happy reading and look out for some more book reviews soon.

Kerry x

 

What does Loneliness look like?

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Everyone gets lonely.  There are those moments when you feel quite simply that you are on your own and you do not feel supported.

When we think of loneliness, especially at this time of the year, we think of people who live alone.  Old people, single people and those that have reduced mobility to get around.

As I type this I realise that I could fall into those categories, but truthfully I am thankful that I don’t feel lonely very often.  I enjoy my own company, and I am blessed with many friends, both online and offline that make me feel cherished and loved.  I do however lives many miles from my birthplace and must admit that sometimes this isn’t easy.

So how do you recognise loneliness?

I think the answer is that you don’t, for the most part.  If I think of the many people in my life, I know that many are lonely and have lonely moments, and they are not always the ones you would expect.

My own lonely moments have made me very conscious of others, and what they might be going through.  I have created myself a pair of imaginary loneliness glasses and am trying to always be aware of the less obviously lonely.

One of the biggest upsides of wearing these specs is that you will bring so much joy into your own life, just by being in someone elses.

Here are just a few thoughts of where you might look to deliver your own antidote to loneliness

  • Self employed people (they spend hours alone and probably miss having colleagues. I blogged about social isolation before and it all still remains true.
  • People living away from home (either expats, or immigrants). Being separated from your children, your parents and your childhood friends is simply hard.
  • Single people of all shapes and sizes – divorce has left many people alone and lonely, but they are not the only ones. All the media buzz shows Christmas as a time for holding hands, and family moments under the tree.  This is not true for everyone.
  • Older people – especially living alone, or in retirement homes. Memories are special but they can also make you feel melancholy
  • Those living with a chronic illness.  Being limited in what you can do physically means that you often spend many hours alone.  And these people also struggle to find people to understand what they are going through. These people might be lonely, but I am betting they could do with a little help as well as company. I had a group of friends come round to help me decorate my house this year.  Imagine my surprise when they left and I went to light a fire to find that the fire-place perfect.  I was very grateful

The truth however is that loneliness has no face, it has no colour and no archetypical image.  It is up to us to be open, to listen and to hear.

I am always reminded that you can be lonely in a room full of people.

Do lonely people know they are lonely?

I suspect in many cases that lonely people don’t realise that they are lonely.  They know that they are not happy. They know that it feels like there is something missing in their lives but they don’t necessarily identify that this feeling is loneliness.

What if we simply go about our lives with an open heart, offering friendship and noticing the world around us? We will realise when the time is right to offer a cup of coffee or simply make a call.

Let your Christmas present this year be to take some loneliness away from someone.  Either someone you know is lonely – a neighbour, friend or acquaintance that lives alone, or someone who may not realise that they are lonely but whose face lights up at the thought of a hot chocolate and shared conversation.

 

I wish you a joyful festive season filled with love and laughter.

Thank you for reading

 

Kerry xx

 

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