A Blogiversary Top 10

Today marks my first ever blogiversary!

I started my first blog back in 2014, but I got as far as one post before the PND hit. I’d been thinking about starting another one for ages, and last year decided to just go for it. At first I just wanted to log my thoughts and experiences – mainly the good ones – but it took a bit of a turn when I realised I had lots more ideas that I wanted to share. I outlined my plans for a new set-up in Bright Blogging Days but although I have the ideas and the motivation, everyday life comes first.

Still…37 posts later I’m still going. To celebrate I thought I’d share my top 10 of my blogging year.

  1. Getting to know people from all different communities in the blogosphere. Having a mix of subjects on my blog has led to interaction with a range of different people.
  2. Writing a guest post for the Sewcialists page. You can read my contribution to the #sewstripes challenge here.
  3. Having a place to share my witchy side. It’s not something I talk about with most of the people in my life, so it’s nice to have a place where I can be more open about practising magick.
  4. Breaking the silence on my experience with PND. Mental health needs to be discussed more openly.
  5. A world of inspiration awaits me in my feed. So many different people writing about different things in different ways!
  6. Gathering followers – this wasn’t ever one of my aims, as I started this blog for me. I’ve been amazed at how many people have stuck with me though, and taken the time to read what I have to say.
  7. Giving myself a voice. I have a lot to say, but sometimes find I can put across my point more coherently when it’s written down.
  8. Logging my family’s adventures. The blog acts as a way of recording our time together.
  9. Encouraging me to actually do the things I think/talk about doing – then to blog about them!
  10. Celebrating one year of blogging.

Thank you to everyone who has read, liked and commented on my posts. It’s nice to know that my voice is being heard. Any ideas on improving the blog/posts you’d like to see will be welcomed in the comments. I’m working on some new post ideas for the upcoming weeks, so watch this space.

Here’s to a bigger, bloggier second year!

Healthy Goals

Since my teens, I have had a precarious relationship with food. I can’t pinpoint exactly when it started, but it is undoubtedly linked to my mental health. Comfort eating has always been a big part of my life. At the age of fifteen I was heading down the road to bulimia, but luckily for me my dad found out in the early stages, and was able to help me nip it in the bud before it escalated.

The thing is, I love food. But I don’t like what it does to my body when I overindulge: the full-to-bursting sensation; the heavy feeling in my limbs; the bloated feeling. I especially dislike the pounds that then creep on as a result. These physical reactions are then coupled with negative thoughts about myself, which can send me into a downward spiral. It’s a hard cycle to break, but break it I must!

I was a skinny child, and my shape didn’t really change until I reached the age of twenty. Other than my bust, of course, which suddenly appeared one day. Measuring 34DD, it was disproportionate to my small frame! I then started to go a bit podgy around the belly, my bust got bigger, and at eleven stone I was the heaviest I’ve ever been. For my height, that weight is at the very top of my healthy BMI, so I decided I would do something about it: I was going to join Weight Watchers. I’d heard a lot of good things about it, and when I did my research I found that it centred on making healthy food choices, rather than cutting out certain foods completely. They also fully encourage exercise, in order to create a balanced healthy lifestyle.

Three days before my first meeting I found out I was pregnant with my first child. Morning sickness – coupled with the desire to eat healthily for my growing baby – meant that when I gave birth I was a stone and a half lighter than when I fell pregnant.

Another nine months and I was back up at my heaviest weight. I took myself off to Weight Watchers, just as I’d originally intended, and found a healthy way to control my eating habits, my weight, and my mental health. I loved going to the meeting every week, loved listening to other members’ stories, and loved watching my shape change. I was three pounds away from my goal weight when I found out I was expecting my second child. Unless medically advised, you aren’t allowed to attend Weight Watchers when pregnant, so I had to stop going to my meeting.

I did go back after having my second baby, but I started to help out at the meetings, so it became more like a job than a weight-loss journey for me. I had a different leader this time (who is now one of my best friends), plus my head wasn’t in the right place. Apart from a couple of fluctuating pounds, my weight didn’t really change. When my local meeting closed I didn’t look for another one.

Then two years ago I started afresh at a meeting taken by the first leader I had. Two months in I discovered I was pregnant with my littlest ray, so halted once more. Today I went back to the meeting. I’ve joked that it’s her last chance, as that’s now twice I’ve fallen pregnant within a few months of joining her meeting!

I know that Weight Watchers works for me. Anything that creates a calorie deficit will in fact work, but I know that this plan in particular fits in with my lifestyle. As a family we eat home-cooked food, so meal planning will not be a problem. I’ve also looked out my exercise DVDs, so that I can tone up as the pounds shift. My littlest ray’s morning nap is the ideal time to burn off some fat, as well as boost the endorphins.

My aim is to lose around a stone and a half. Although I have that number in mind, it’s not the final goal. I want to focus on non-scale victories too: inches lost, clothes fitting better, and feeling fitter. My first goal is to fit into a dress for my step-sister’s wedding next month.

My biggest aim is to show my children the importance of making healthy choices – getting them to “do as I do, not as I say.” We are our children’s first role models, so it’s imperative that we step up and demonstrate good choices to them, instead of simply waxing lyrical.

I’ll be posting updates of my getting-healthier journey here. I’ve realised that I need to have accountability for my weight-loss, so this will be my sounding board! Have you set yourself any health goals recently?

Possibilities

I’ve been quiet for the past month, but there’s been a lot going on! I can’t disclose all of it at the moment, but be assured it’s all positive.

First of all – my husband got a new job! It came out of the blue, and all happened very quickly. He’s been working at a university as a research associate for the past four years, playing about with planetary drills and robots! I’m playing it down, but he’s actually a super clever guy, and is always looking for ways to develop new technology. He has a PhD in robotics, although rarely uses his title.

That’s about to change, as recently he was advised to apply for a lecturing post that had suddenly opened up. These posts are few and far between, and usually only become available when someone either retires or relocates. He got the job, as I knew he would. This means that he now has a permanent position at the university, instead of having to apply for funding every year or so to keep his job. He’ll need to get used to people calling him Dr! It also means more stability for us, since I’m still doing the SAHM thing!

That could also change sooner than we expected! After toying with a few ideas, I had sort of made my mind up that I would go back to teaching when my littlest ray starts school. I was initially a bit apprehensive about this, as it’s been a long time since I’ve been in the classroom. The curriculum has changed, policies have changed, plus my referees have now retired, so references will be a problem.

I found a refresher course at a local university though, which helps teachers who have been out of the classroom with new policies, plus gives help and advice when it comes to applying for jobs. This eased my mind a bit, and I began to look forward to the thought of being in the classroom again.

Then I stumbled across something which threw me a bit of a curve ball: Forest School.

Forest School is where children can learn in an outdoor environment, usually woodland. They learn survival skills through different games, plus anything which is covered on a typical curriculum can be incorporated into their surroundings. They get fresh air, will learn about nature in a natural environment, plus have plenty of opportunity to run around and just be kids.

Forest Schools are run by Forest School practitioners, whose training includes outdoor safety and working with children. It sounded right up my street! I did a bit of digging on the entry requirements, and was over the moon to discover that one of them is a teaching qualification. It will be at least a year before I would consider doing the training, so I have plenty of time to make my mind up about whether or not it’s something I’ll pursue. At the moment I’m really excited at the thought of being able to work outdoors, yet still put my diploma to good use. I’ll also be able to take my littlest ray with me to work, as well as my older three during school holidays.

I love that life is full of possibilities. One decision can be the beginning of something wonderful. It can also have the opposite effect, which is why some decisions are very hard to make. You’ll never know whether they’ll pay off if you don’t take a risk once in a while though. My husband and I are currently in the process of making one of these decisions. It could either go horribly wrong, or be the best decision we ever make. I can’t say much else on the matter at the moment, as it’s a very personal consideration. I’ll disclose everything once we’ve reached a decision either way though. (I know you kind of hate me for leaving you hanging right now, but I completely understand. 😉)

Its good to have options, and we count ourselves very lucky, as some are not as fortunate to have choices in life. All we can do is live our lives in a way that makes us happy, without harming others. For us, this means the best possible life for our children, giving them the freedom to live their lives as they choose, and showing them the importance of looking after our planet.

Where will life take you today?

The Sparkly Grimoire

Since I’ve started exploring my witchy side, I thought it would be a good idea to write everything down. In doing so, I hope to learn what works for me, what doesn’t work, plus I can log all of the new discoveries I make along the way.

A few years ago I looked at bullet journals (bujo) and thought I’d start one of my own. There were so many beautiful spreads on Pinterest, and the styles really appealed to me. Just one catch – I’m artistic in the creative sense, but I can’t draw for toffee! I laboured over the first five pages of my bujo, but a weekly spread took me about two weeks to get “just right”, so I abandoned it. There are so many ways of creating a bujo without using the artistic spreads, but by the time I came across them, I was scunnered with it all!

I kept diaries in my early teens, and it’s always been my intention to start one up again, but apart from my brief liaison with a bujo, I’ve never got round to it.

Until now.

In my post The Magick Within I talk about how I’m not following any specific witchy tradition. I want to discover what works for me; what resonates most with me, without feeling the need to follow any strict teachings. There will of course be some rules that must be adhered to. However, there are certain rules which must be followed in cooking, but that doesn’t mean you can’t experiment or mix things up a bit.

I’m going to write down everything witchy that appeals to me. I’ll include moon phases, the elements, herbal remedies, and spells. I’ll also note my experiences with oracle and tarot cards, plus Sabbat celebrations. I have plans for a magickal garden space too. Anything and everything I come across on my spiritual journey will be included, so that I can adjust if and when I need to. It’s also a wonderful heirloom to pass down to my children, should it be a path they wish to follow.

A witch’s journal can be known as a grimoire or a book of shadows. There are many different images on Pinterest and Instagram of beautiful leather-bound books, covered in magickal symbols. My grimoire is an A4 gold sparkly notebook that I bought on sale at my local supermarket! It looks like it’s been sprinkled with gold faery dust, which suits me just fine, as it looks like magick just waiting to happen!

Do you have a special way of recording your path? Is there anything else you would include in a sparkly grimoire? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

The Magick Within

In my post A Spiritual Life I talked about how I had stepped away from the religion that I had grown up with, and was getting a feel for what I believe to be a more natural approach to spirituality. I’m pleased to say that the more I research the pagan ways, the more I truly feel that it is a path I was meant to follow. In my childhood religion, the word pagan was synonymous with unspiritual – not quite evil, but certainly not something anyone would want to be associated with. What astounds me most about this, is the fact that every Christian holiday has its roots buried deep within the realms of the pagan festivities. Of course, this was done in order to make Christianity more palatable to the pagans, but in fact it has actually made it easier for me to go back to the old ways, as each Sabbat contains elements of the holidays that I was brought up with.

A few weeks ago I had a conversation with my Mum. She mentioned that my Grandad (her Dad) had been a pagan. He died when I was sixteen, although I hadn’t seen him since I was three. I was sad for all the conversations I couldn’t have with him on the subject of spirituality, as well as all the knowledge he would have passed on, but in a way I felt more connected to him, as if pieces of the puzzle were starting to come together.

Along with the pagan way of life, I have also been delving into witchcraft. Again, previously synonymous with evil and unspiritual, I have found it to be a very natural progression in the way I live my life. At first I was merely interested in herbal remedies for my family, but this interest graduated into exploring how invoking different deities can have an effect on these remedies. I’m currently exploring which spirits I most feel an affinity with, as it’s a very personal two-way relationship. I do have a particular interest in the Faeries, although that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are interested in me! In Catholicism people would graduate towards particular Angels or Saints, asking them to intercede for them and grant favours. Invoking spirits for favours/blessings is no different, although caution should be taken, as some spirits can be quite mischievous if they aren’t handled in the correct way. I’m finding Judika Illes’ book Encyclopedia of Spirits to be very detailed and informative.

Witchcraft is an umbrella term for so many different forms of magick. The Wiccan rede includes the phrase “harm none”, which I think is just good common sense, no matter what your beliefs are. I’m still researching most areas, finding which ones appeal to me the most. Botanicals and moon magick are up there, and I’m looking forward to the arrival of my first deck of tarot cards. I’ve been reading about different types of witch, and can confidently say that I’m likely to remain a solitary, walking my own path and not following any set tradition. Looking at the different profiles I’d say I flit between the Kitchen Witch and Hedge Witch depictions.

If you read my Feeling Bookish post, you’ll know the relationship I have with books. In this instance they are more of a friend than ever, as I truly believe that knowledge is power. I’ve read/am reading multiple books on the Sabbats and magick, cross-referencing everything to make sure I know what I’m doing. It was my birthday this month, and I was kindly gifted some new reading material, as well as some money – which I of course spent on books!

I believe we all have magick in us. Some are more in-tune to it than others, much in the same way some of us are great dancers and others have two left feet! I’m enjoying exploring the magick within, and already incorporating it into my everyday life. As I grow more confident in my practice, I’ll be sharing my experiences here. How will you explore your inner magick?

Whimsical Wednesday: Spring Invitations

Today my children and I spotted the first shoots of the Spring bulbs that we planted back in September. It seems hard to believe, given that we celebrated the shortest day less than three weeks ago! In another three weeks we celebrate Imbolc, the first day of Spring. At this time of year I usually turn my thoughts to Spring cleaning, DIY jobs around the house and (my favourite) gardening.

As I was researching Imbolc and the different ways we can celebrate it, I was delighted to find that I already did most of them, year after year. The pagan in me has clearly been there all along! In the run up to Imbolc, I decided to compile a wee list of activities/jobs that will prepare me for the arrival of Spring.

  1. Light candles to welcome back the light. (These can be battery operated ones – essential for when my little rays are about.)
  2. Clean all corners of the house. Blow those cobwebs away and prepare for new beginnings.
  3. Reorganise areas of the house to maximise order. (Also known as organised chaos in our house!)
  4. Organise routines/schedules and regularly review them.
  5. Soak in a herb and milk bath as a way of cleansing the body.
  6. Plant seeds, both indoors and out – welcome new growth.
  7. Set up a mini altar, using appropriate items to depict the season/festival. (I’ll be using my new celebration ring for this.)
  8.  Talk about the life cycle of a plant with my children. Look at age appropriate activities to further enhance their learning.
  9. Bake a seed cake.
  10. Create a family Spring-themed mood board. 
  11. Take a trip to the walled garden in our local park. Look out for signs of Spring approaching. 
  12. Cast a growth spell, in order that our growing season will prove fertile.
  13. Read Tree by Britta Teekentrup – a wonderful book that depicts the changing seasons.
  14. Talk about the goddess Brigid and her significance in the natural world.

    This is just a snapshot of the things I can do to prepare for the new season. I’m sure as the days pass, I’ll add more to the list. As will my children – they like to get involved and we spend many a school run discussing the finer details! I’m really looking forward to celebrating Imbolc, but for now I can get on with my preparations and embrace the coming of Spring and the promise of new life. 

    What are your Springtime rituals?

    Writing the Next Chapter

    As 2017 fades, we begin to think about all the possibilities that 2018 holds – continuing the Winter Solstice Festivities theme of letting go of the old and embracing the new.

    One of my dearest friends used to say that she despised the New Year celebrations. The thought of having a big party to celebrate one day and making resolutions seemed pointless to her; it was just another day. I could see what she was getting at, to some extent. For many, it really is just an opportunity to drink as much as they can, whilst making the usual promises to lose weight/stop smoking/get fit – then abandoning said promises on day 3! 

    For the most part though, I love the idea of a fresh start. The year stretching ahead like the crisp, blank page of a book, waiting for your next chapter to be written. You can write about anything you like! Will this be the year you finally take up scuba diving/get to know your neighbours/take that road trip? It can take whatever form you like – beautiful poetry, all flowery and romantic; an epic novel, full of detail; a haiku – simple, yet elegant.

    There are some who like to be always moving forward, but it also does us well to look back. We can take note of what we were grateful for, any mistakes we made, as well as all the memories that we carved. 

    I have so much to be grateful for over this past year. The highlight, of course, being the birth of my littlest ray – my beautiful little Jessica Rose. She was a surprise baby, but very much wanted and a delight to us all. Watching her grow and become her own little self has been a wonderful (if slightly sleep-deprived) adventure. I expect our next chapter will be full of whatever antics she gets up to in her 2nd year.

    I also have my other wee rays to be thankful for. Littlest-middle, Keira, started school this year and is absolutely thriving. Her teacher described her as one of the strongest in her class, despite the fact that she is the youngest. She has been learning to cross-stitch this week and we’ve discovered that she’s a natural. I look forward to seeing what other knowledge and skills she acquires this next year. 

    Biggest-middle has overcome her fear of water this year at her swimming lessons. When she first started, she would only get into the water once she was wearing her armbands, had a pool noodle wrapped around her waist, a float in one hand, and the other hand clutching desperately to her instructor! Risk assessment at its best! With the help of her brilliant instructor though, she gradually began to drop the flotation aids, one by one. She is now swimming confidently, without any aids, and her instructor has told her that she will soon be moving up a class (possibly after the next block!) We’re also looking at sending her to a local dramatic arts class, to further bring out her love of performing. The next year should see my amazing wee Julia’s confidence soar!

    My biggest ray also did well at his swimming lessons this year. Andrew moved up to the next class and is thriving in the deeper water. Our intention is to send him to scuba diving lessons, as he seems pretty intent on pursuing a career in marine biology (although tomorrow he could be back to his aspiration of becoming a butler!) He is full of ambition, and absorbs facts on each one as he moves through life. I’m sure the next year will be no different!

    My lovely husband, Kevin, is the glue that binds us all together. He works hard to keep a roof over our heads and put food on the table. After eleven and a half years of marriage, I still love him as much as ever, and I’m not afraid to shout it from the rooftops. I’m of the belief that if you love someone, say it. Some may feel it doesn’t need saying, but I really don’t get that. You shouldn’t say it because you need to, but because you want to. And I do – frequently!

    We have lots of aspirations for this year, both as individuals, and as a team. We intend to grow more of our own food, as well as continue with our eco journey. There are lots of plans for family time, as well as new discoveries to be made. I’m looking forward to exploring my witchiness, and letting nature be my guide. Most importantly, I’m looking forward to just being me: mother, wife, Mags.

    My pen is poised, ready to begin the next chapter, ready to write the next year as it unfolds. I’m ready to write the funny, exciting bits, as well as the more sombre moments. It’s important to include everything, since every moment, every word shapes who we are and who we will become. 

    What will your 2018 chapter say?