Positive Mindset

365 Days of Happiness

‘Beautify your new day!’

‘Beautify your new day!’

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‘Think of water and how it moves around the rocks

It always finds a way to flow around, above, and even underneath them. Water flows wherever it wants to flow, and does not stop or get held up by the rocks. It keeps its focus on its purpose … To stay true to your flow, don't make the rocks in your life the most important happenings. Instead, keep your focus on your purpose to flow, and with that, find other ways around them to be and live your truth.'

This is how Jacqueline Pirtle encourages us to keep focus, in her book, 365 Days of Happiness,*  publisher Freaky Healer (2018)

‘Your NOW is where all your power lays’

‘Your NOW is where all your power lays’

Reflect on some of your Monday mornings.  It may look something like this:  alarm - groan - snooze - alarm - expletive - get up and comment on unfairness of the world - Monday mornings should be banned - look in mirror - groan - expletive - mental list of every flaw/imperfection/excess flesh - shower - open wardrobe - groan nothing to wear - clothes are all meh! .... you get the picture?  Sounds great, doesn't it?  Er NO?  How are we to maintain healthy bodies and minds with such a negative start to the day?

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Jacqueline, an energy healer and mindfulness teacher, offers an alternative start to the day.  374 pages cover 365 days of inspirational approaches, insights and mindfulness exercises to achieving happiness every single day.  In 2017, she decided to document her method for choosing happiness every day.  As adults and children take to social media for their next fix from 'likes', Jacqueline gently redirects this attention to being and living in a "high for life frequency of happiness".

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The Mind Body Spirit or New Age genre is as much in vogue today as it was in the seventies and eighties.  While the subject of happiness – what it is, how to find it, and how to keep it, has been studied extensively as far back as Plato, new additions to the library of work on this topic are still being produced.  However, as culture, language, and external pressures change over time, so does the approach that writers take to address the issue of happiness.

One of the author's core beliefs is that happiness manifests itself through a healthy mind, body and experience.  She further believes that although happiness is how we are meant to BE,  this state is not necessarily passive but something that we can learn.  Furthermore, we all have a responsibility to seek to BE happy.  Based on the premise that everything is connected, everything is ONE,  an investment in our happiness is an investment in the universe.  We are a part of that universe.

Books on stool in fireplace with rug

 365 Days of Happiness invites you to take an affirmative and mindful action each day to BE your best happy self.  Jacqueline invites us to either reflect on a routine activity, imagine a specific scenario or remember a past event.  This is then developed into a mindfulness task, visualisation or decisive action for the day.

Dogs playing on the beach

Playful prodding and encouragement steer us towards an energetic shift towards happiness, and we are reminded of our…

' full power to change the state you are in … your thoughts, feelings and perceptions'.

Jacqueline’s whimsical approach to life and happiness is infectious; it will have you smiling at your willingness to 'do the twist' or imagine you have 'inherited a pair of pants'.  While these may sound simple and fun, her analogies are pertinent reminders of actions we can take or thought processes we could change.  She turns these into 'what if?' scenarios, list-making exercises, visualisations, questions, affirmations or 'Aha' moments.  The messages are timeless, and I imagine that when you reach the end of the book, you simply go back to the beginning again? 

Spilled coffee on journal

‘Imagine someone spills a drink!

Usually they are in distress about this happening. Now imagine that you say to them ‘‘it is OK, it is all OK. Are you OK?’’ Hearing these words lets them relax … to smile or laugh about their mishap. The word ‘‘OK’’ carries an energy of resistance-free, peaceful, acceptance, respect for what is…’

Self-acceptance, openness and happiness are examples of what you will be asked to embrace within 365 Days of Happiness.  It is slightly meatier than a simple quote of the day and some days the message may resonate with you more than others.  However, if you are forgetful, like me, it is only far too easy to ‘forget’ to start happy.  This is probably why I called my little dog ‘Happy’, it means that one of the first words that escapes from my barely functioning mouth in the morning is ‘Happy!’ 

One of my favourite analogies from 365 Days of Happiness is Day 154 where Jacqueline invites you to imagine creating your garden of ‘thoughts, intentions, wishes, dreams…’ You are welcome to visit other beautiful gardens that inspire you and bring happiness, but always return to your own. ‘Overstaying creates a disconnect with yourself’. Conversely you are advised to avoid gardens that do not feel good. We can sense negativity or destabilisation if we have strayed into the wrong garden throughout the day. Being mindful of this enables us to act swiftly and implement an escape strategy. In such a situation, Jacqueline advises us to ‘race back home’. Although the advantages of remaining true to ourselves is hardly breaking news, this captivating image of tending, improving and adding to your own garden is an enchanting one.

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If you read the book as intended, one day at a time, you will not only reap the benefits of a positive and uplifting start to the day but additionally, a thought-provoking message to ponder on.  This is not a book to digest in large chunks, as I did for review purposes.  I would recommend placing 365 Days of Happiness by your bed so that it may greet you with its happy cupcake on the cover.  Upon opening it, allow its gentle guidance to inspire and embrace you every morning with its happiness for the day. As Jacqueline states at the end of each day’s guidance,

‘That IS happiness!’

  Alternatively, you may feel guided by intuition, or a slightly rebellious streak, and open the book at a random page.  If so, go ahead and absorb whatever message speaks to you on that particular day?  Ideally, in the spirit of giving and sharing, position it strategically on the breakfast table. Other family members may ingest its daily dose of positivity with their morning coffee, smoothie or maybe …  a cupcake?

*Gifted for review purposes

 

September

Rag Mill Window

For me, this is the month of exciting anticipation.  Summer is over, we have rested and warmed our bodies - some fried, baked or toasted even, and the freshness of Autumn is lifting our spirits.  Often there is still sun, using up the remains of its warmth before settling down for the colder months of the year in the UK.  I will always miss the sunshine, but for me, and perhaps many us, September is a fresh start.  Children go back to school or university and routines are re-established.  New books, new uniforms, new weekday suppers and maybe a few new items of clothing for the new season (if we need to replace anything).  For me, September really feels like a New Year, much more so than January when we are still full of baubles and John Lewis adverts, and New Year feels like an anti-climax, an end to all the fun.  

Whilst in summer, I have more motivation to rest and play, in autumn and winter, I want to keep moving and be productive.  This is the time when I am more inclined to make new year's resolutions.  This is the time when I feel motivated to make fresh starts or realise ideas that have been rattling around in my head.  The new term at school has started today and I feel ready to tackle unfinished projects, start new ones, get back into yoga and generally kick ass.  

Fire and Scones

It has been a busy and trying year for me.  Despite my advice to everyone else, I have not been taking as much care of myself as I should have been; basically, I have been the pot to your kettle.  With the onset of menopause, I have noticed that not all of my previous behaviours work for me anymore.  Changes in my body have been noticeable and I have been at war with the 'why bother?' attitude.  Why not wait for winter with its cosy chill, and sit by the fire with a mug of the mulled stuff and read a good book?  You are all with me aren't you?  I can hear you scuttling away to log on to 'Just Eat' and fiddling with the Netflix controls.  Why not have it all?  We have the gift of experience, the capacity to grow and the wisdom that comes from making many mistakes.  I want to eat well, have fun, exercise, travel and look after myself ….. then, sit down with a good book and glass of wine, by a crackling fire. 

With Happy in White

"You must learn a new way to think before you can master a new way to be"

Marianne Williamson

 

 

With the onset of this new year, I am ready to thank my body and thank it for going through the processes it needs to go through.  It has progressed from childhood, navigated its way around adolescence (albeit the long way around ha ha) and blundered through the maze of young adulthood with all of its expectations and disappointments.  I can make this stage easier by gratefully acknowledging the changes that turning fifty brings, making appropriate adjustments and adopting new strategies.  Who knows what exciting new things I will learn along the way and what amazing people I have yet to meet?

Happy New Year everyone!  I hope September is an awesome month for you and that it is choc full of promise and excitement! 

Send me your comments by clicking on 'comments' and then writing in the box.  I would love to hear your experiences and when you feel the year starts.

Being Yourself at Fifty

Are you in your 40’s or 50’s and feeling just a little lost?  What is expected of you now?  Maybe you have had a successful career so far or maybe you are finally ready to launch one but feel guilty investing time in yourself?  Do you look at photos of a younger you and think ‘this is it, I’ll never look or feel that good again, just have to stumble on as best as I can’?  Or are you optimistic about your future but wonder what is acceptable to pursue?  Can I have fun, start a new career or venture, invest time in my health, body, looks?  Do I have to start eating chia seeds?  These are questions that I would like to explore with you.  

Walking near Jagiellonian Uni

"Be what you are.

This is the first step toward becoming better than you are."

Julius Charles Hare

Just to be clear, my Lady Chic Pea blog is not concerned with dishing out unwanted advice; it is not designed to control how you go about your life.  The honest truth is, Lady Chic Pea is unashamedly about ‘me’.  The content is purely to share how I go about ‘doing me’ and what works for me (and what does not).  It has taken a long time to learn to be me, so I am going to celebrate the fudge out of this!  If anyone likes anything they see, then please go ahead and copy or adapt what I do to suit you and I am honoured to have been of service.  Thank you (takes a bow).  Ignore what you do not like.  Please feel free to share what YOU do and what works for you; I would love for this to be a conversation and supportive platform.  There are however, certain considerations I wish to draw your attention to before you go ahead and blindly follow where I am stumbling along.  These include:

1.  I fully accept that my way may not be everyone’s way

Just because I feel that metallic platform thigh boots are not a stylish accessory for a fifty year old young lady (or maybe for anyone??), that does not constitute a scientific fact, nor even part of our general social contract for what is or is not acceptable.  There is much we can learn from each other. 

2.  We are all different so go at your own pace

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Yes I know, this is not a profound statement, however, how often have you had to listen to advice from someone regarding what is ‘good’ for you?  If you have great legs, then your ideal skirt length will differ from mine.  Training for a marathon* when you have a heart condition or eating walnuts for their good oils when you have a nut allergy could easily put you in the nearest A&E.  Tread with caution when following advice and of course, consult your health care professional as necessary.

 

3.  I don’t always follow my own rules

Well I never professed to be a saint did I?  I do stuff that I am fully aware goes against what I would advocate; this could be due to lack of willpower or resources, laziness or sheer defiance.  We all have our ‘couldn’t give a f***’ moments; hello chocolate mousse cake (well it’s vegan so it’s fine right?).

These will do for now.  I think you get the point?  Having said that, I do think it is important for every woman, whatever her age, to feel confident, beautiful (in every sense of the word) and good about herself.  We are awesome human beings who have accomplished the extraordinary in our journey as friends, sisters, wives, mothers, teachers, counsellors, carers, engineers, doctors the list goes on….  All this whilst fighting for our right to be seen, heard and respected as equals in our society.

Tattoo and Bikini shot

"She wore her sexuality with an older woman's ease, and not like an awkward purse, never knowing how to hold it, where to hang it, or when to just put it down."

Zadie Smith

Who Am I at Fifty?

Be you!  There, that should be easy should it not?  If only….  If, like me, you have come to realise that trying to please everyone else never works (Mary Poppins cracked it, but don’t set yourself up for failure), you may have come to the conclusion that adopting a degree of selfishness may make you a better person to be around.  That, in itself, may well do more for others, than foolishly second guessing what you think is the right thing and consequently upsetting everyone.  If you are comfortable in your own shoes (or metallic platforms), then people around you will not only be comfortable around you, but also may well gain much from your calm and level headed presence.  Being kind to yourself facilitates kindness to others.  I believe that kindness is more than just an act; it is a state of being and thinking.  Acts can be carried out for point scoring, popularity, promotions, climbing social ladders or simply to quell guilt.  Harbouring kindness towards others from within involves humility, acceptance, forgiveness and positive energy towards others.  Wishing others well removes hate, jealousy and insecurity from the equation.  This is not an end state of course, and we can all be judgmental (you take your child to McDonalds??) however, it is the awareness and the intention to be better that resonates with our higher selves and improves us.  As I have said before, I reiterate – I am not trying to be Mother Theresa, but a better version of myself.  Looking after myself and my needs enables this process, and it is very much still a work in progress.

Meditating on bench at saltburn

Confidence first, then comes beauty

The unintended consequence of this is that the confidence that comes with pleasing yourself** enhances your beauty and allure.  It gives you youth, vitality and a confident beguiling sense of style and self-assurance.  Only when I look after myself properly, internally and externally, can I be of better service to others.  That may be simply having the emotional energy to support them or the physical energy to assist them with some practical difficulty.  We all deserve to grow and flourish, and this, lovely people, includes those of us going through our middle years.  Many of us are in a position to unfold untold talents that have been lying dormant during the years of partying, working and raising families, among other things.  When wishing others well, please do not forget yourselves;  if you do, you may become invisible and the whole world misses  out on what you truly are, even if it’s an elderly neighbour who looks forward to seeing your smile and exchanging some cheerful banter every so often.  Me?  I am still raising a family and trying to develop my writing and photography, but it is very early days.

What Am I Currently Focussing On?

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Decluttering and minimising

Getting back into exercise and finding what is right for me – this is changing as my body changes

Using good quality, organic and vegan skincare

Taking the supplements for my body’s needs and for optimum skincare

Eating a plant based diet – wholefood at least 80% of the time, with around 20% at most, allocated to treats such as vegan ice cream and wine

Developing myself and skill building

 

I would really love to hear what you are working on, how you are developing yourself or how you are handling the middle years.  I would welcome any tips and advice, as I would like this to be a sharing platform where we can hang out together and share our experiences.

 

*you will NEVER EVER see me training for a marathon! 

**without being an asshole – (thanks and acknowledgement to Sarah Knight ‘You Do You’)

The 'M' Word and 7 Top Tips for Coping

Glass half full at fifty

Who wants to age?  When we were children, we could not wait until our next birthday to be a year older, a year nearer to being ‘all growed up’.  At what point do we say ‘actually, next year I would like to start counting backwards’?  What makes us say that?  Is it anything to do with how we feel, physically or mentally?  Is it how we look?  Is it how society makes us feel?  Perhaps it’s when we realise we need glasses to see the ingredients list on a packet of rocket tortellini?  … or, more specifically, when we begin to start even beginning to show an interest in the ingredients list!  Oh … gone are those carefree days when the last thing on our minds was a list of ambiguous E numbers or trans fatty acids. 

Your 40s are good. Your 50s are great. Your 60s are fab. And 70 is f*@king awesome!
— Helen Mirren

This is all good my lovely ladies!  This is a glass half full or half empty scenario.  Yes indeed; we could catch a glimpse of ourselves in the mirror and squirm in horror at the imposter we see trying to impersonate us.  We could say ‘This is terrible, I have to fix this!’  Reactive damage limitation, glass half empty scenario sets in, yikes!  What if, just IF…. we could see this lovely lady in the mirror for who she really is?  Wow!  The younger woman I was has really grown into herself and developed wonderful features that are hers and hers alone?  What if we could adopt an attitude of ‘This is perfect, I want to stay like this for as long as possible’, feeling, looking and being healthy, visible and vibrant? Enter the glass half full scenario.

 

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly at Fifty

OK, it is time for honesty now.  This is a safe place and we can get some issues out of the way.  Just as we would never dream of putting make up on blindfolded, without assessing what we are working with, neither should we invalidate what we feel about some of the booby prizes we were given at a certain age, be it 40, 50, 60 or beyond.  For instance, the ‘M’ word is hovering above us like a flying cow, ready to drop a ton of …… 

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''Well behaved women rarely make history!''

- Katherine Hepburn

Our experiences of this phase of our lives will differ from person to person, however, from my experience, sometimes it really is rubbish.  Again, it could be that our society does not explicitly nor readily accept the menopause as a ‘thing’ very much and it is given little, if any, consideration by those around us.  These could be made up of employers, friends, family, younger people, pets…?  As oestrogen levels decline, our bodies react like spoilt brats that have had their Xbox taken away from them for half an hour!  We potentially become grumpy, hot and bothered, incapable of rational thought and plagued by inexplicable anxiety.  A simple request such as ‘would you post this for me today?’ becomes the most unreasonable request on the planet … after ‘could I have a piece of your chocolate?’  A myriad of subtasks flashes up and you wonder whether you need to hire the services of a personal PA to organise this?  Just think …. I might have run out of stamps so I have to buy some; if I’m going out anyway, I should get the shopping in; but I usually do the shopping later in the week so I need to prepare a list earlier; I have appointments and other things to do though, so cannot start to plan the following week’s menu …. you get the picture?  Then none of it matters because you missed the reminder flashing up on your phone and you’ve forgotten the whole exercise anyway.  This is clearly a ridiculous scenario and I confess, slightly exaggerated, but totally acceptable for illustrative purposes. 

 

What is on the Horizon at Fifty?

Anxiety and brain fog aside, all of a sudden, your waist looks slightly expanded!  WHAT is going on?  I haven’t changed a single thing!  I eat the same types and amounts of food, I still go to pilates/gym/knitting club?  Yes, this is all a reality for many and of course it will be the precursor for feeling less than wonderful.  However, again, what if we could see all this for what it really is?  Just because puberty was basically rubbish at the time, it was merely a transition to moving on; it was a positive period leading up to further development into a young adult.  Once the spots and hormones settled down, oh what fun we had!

 

7 Top Tips for Maintaining Sanity During the Menopause

Perspective and Middle Age

"The woman who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd.  The woman who walks alone is likely to find herself in places no one has ever been before."

- Albert Einstein

I believe this is an exiting time, albeit challenging.  It is all about perspective.  Look after yourselves in every way that you can, given your individual responsibilities and commitments. If you do, your body will thank you for it.  Here are my top tips for navigating through these fascinating, yet unpredictable waters:

1.   Speak to people or find someone to confide in.  The menopause is grossly ignored and therefore not on peoples’ radar, no matter how well meaning they may usually be.  I cannot stress enough how much difference doing my research and speaking to those closest to me made. Not only is it a relief to speak with friends who are going through the same process, but it enables other family members, significant other or even your children to understand you.  This makes a difference to how you will ultimately feel.

2.   Eat healthily.  Avoid too much refined sugar, alcohol, refined grain products such as bleached white flour, over-processed anything and denying yourself treats.  Do include plenty of vegetables, fruits, wholegrains, food made from scratch, matcha green tea, healthy fats such as nuts, seeds, avocadoes, and limited amounts of oils such as coconut, avocado, hemp, cold pressed extra virgin olive oil and of course, treats.  Eat organic as much as you can.  Some pesticides have been linked to endocrine hormone disruption.  This is something we wish to avoid because it means that potentially, the thyroid, pituitary, adrenal, pancreas, thymus, and ovaries could be adversely affected.  A nice website to look at is Alisa Vitti’s https://www.floliving.com/pesticides-hormone-health/  She is a bit of an expert in women’s health and hormones and writes in a way that is accessible to non-scientists.  In addition to containing more anti-aging antioxidants, organic produce is required to comply with strict regulations on pesticide use and is therefore a safer option.

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away
— Maya Angelou
Beautiful sunset

3.   Consider HRT or alternatives.  It may not be for everyone and is safer for some than for others.  However, that said, I would strongly advise conducting your own research around this subject in addition to speaking with your healthcare practitioner; it may be the relief that you need and can protect against some forms of cancer. A good place to start would be Menopause & HRT: Q & A With Dr Louise Newson on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EwjLP9O1inw

4.   Exercise.  Now I am known to be averse to overexerting myself, but even I concede to the benefits of appropriate and regular exercise.  It releases feel good hormones, it keeps your body supple and toned and your heart healthy.  Although I sometimes vary what I do, (I get bored easily) I am consistent in my devotion and belief in pilates, yoga and brisk walking.  I have a couple of hand weights which I use sporadically as and when I feel like it. Bingo wings are never pretty, so prevention is key.

5.   Use a broad spectrum SPF.  I cannot emphasise this enough.  There is no shortcut to youthful glowing skin but protecting it from the sun is the single, cost effective and most effective anti-aging strategy you can adopt.  Start now! I know that we require our vitamin D however, rest assured you will still benefit, as this vitamin will get through. This is largely due to the fact that sun protection is generally applied neither thickly nor frequently enough to block it; see more on this in the vitamin D consensus statement from British Association of Dermatologists, Cancer Research UK, Diabetes UK, the Multiple Sclerosis Society, the National Heart Forum, the National Osteoporosis Society and the Primary Care Dermatology Society: https://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Summerhealth/Documents/Concensus_statement%20_vitd_Dec_2010.pdf.  A huge amount of time in the sun is unnecessary to generate sufficient levels of this vitamin; casual short bursts of exposure during the summer months is adequate.  Furthermore, the PHE (Public Health England) advises that everyone should ‘consider’ taking a vitamin D supplement as sunlight and food alone may not be sufficient. See https://www.nhs.uk/news/food-and-diet/the-new-guidelines-on-vitamin-d-what-you-need-to-know/

6.   Nourish your emotional wellbeing. 

Lagom

'Lagom' - a Swedish word loosely meaning 'just the right amount, not too little, not too much, just right'

This doesn’t have to be an exotic spa weekend on some island of Paradise (but if anyone is offering?).  Think of the simple things that energise your body and mind, such as spending time outdoors in nature or meeting a friend for a coffee and chat.  Chocolate cake is a non-negotiable essential in this matter.  There are so many healthier options for treats nowadays too; I personally love the raw chocolate OM bars, and I find that the better quality the treat, the less I actually need.  Conversely, if you need that slice of white toast with chocolate spread (there is a bit of theme there methinks), go for it.  Ultimately, doing a little of what you fancy (ahem) is free medicine for the soul and will put a spring in your step.

7.   Think yourself young!  Avoid negative resignation talk – ‘I don’t do dressing up any more’, ‘The days of doing xyz are in the past’ or ‘I just wear comfy cotton M&S knickers, no more lace for me’.  You are NOT past your sell by date and the world is still as much yours as it is anyone else’s.  Respect yourself, embrace your changes with grace and make your contribution to society.  You deserve to have fun, share your knowledge, put on a chic outfit and wear black lace whenever you like! Take care of your manners, your health and your appearance but most of all, take care of your attitude; put on some lipstick, grab yourself some sass and sashay your chic into the world, or at least … the local cocktail bar.

I know I said 7 tips, but there is a sneaky bonus one for free!  Follow, as much as you can, a whole food plant-based diet!

This not an exhaustive list by any means and I am more than happy to share more tips, strategies and advice that I have incorporated into my life.  Please feel free to comment below and ask any questions.  I would love to hear from you. xx

Turning Fifty and Embracing Vulnerability

Well that's three posts under my belt and the world hasn't stopped turning! See?  What have I lost?  What is the worst that could have happened?  Sounds easy doesn't it?  But wait …. was it really easy?  Whilst the end result of the three posts seems pleasing enough, what about the journey?  What about the moment you press 'publish'?

Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about Creating Yourself.
— George Bernard Shaw

For a tech muppet, it was a huge step to attempt to build a website.  I just about knew what a domain name was but 'clickthrough url'?  What I discovered was that although this is still a work in progress, I have really REALLY enjoyed it so far.  The satisfaction gained from creating something is unsurmountable.  Although overwhelming at times, there is so much out there in terms of help and advice from youtubers, online workshops and other bloggers that you cannot fail to put something out there.

Eating Frogs at Fifty

Reassessing Life after Fifty and Beyond

Reassessing Life after Fifty and Beyond

Having navigated through the technicalities, I had not predicted the impact of the raw realisation that I was about to expose myself online.  Never before have I had to be so brave and so vulnerable at the same time, and at fifty, I have had plenty of time to experience all sorts of emotions.  Finally, I was not making excuses about why I cannot or should not do something.  With the support, encouragement and even requests from friends and family, I treated any misgivings with the contempt they deserved, and put metaphorical pen to paper.  I attempted to research where they were selling bags of confidence 'two for the price of one' but finding none, I dug deep into my own reserves and wrote as me;  just a little person who wishes to connect and share my experiences with others.  Furthermore, I was aware that although there are areas of my life that I was introspectively confident and happy to discuss with myself, translating these private musings into speaking out loud was another matter.  Will people judge me?  Eventually, I decided that my blog would not be for all people and that I simply needed to grow a thick skin.  After all, if I couldn't write with confidence, then why bother at all?

Reflective moments

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.

-Eleanor Roosevelt

Gratitude and purpose at Fifty

So here I am ready to share with you everything that makes me feel, look and be better.  If anything resonates with you, then I am happy we have found each other.  Everyone has their way and my way is not a Roman road.  It is very much the twisty, hilly unpredictable Yorkshire road; it is the road that is working for me at the moment yet I feel there are further surprises still to emerge.  I hope that you can all find your inner strength and confidence to follow your road of choice, rather than letting others drag you up theirs.  There is so much I am grateful for and especially to everyone who has acknowledged, liked and given positive feedback so far.  I feel I am really putting myself out there and the scaffolding of everyone's encouragement gives me strength and happiness. I thank you all.