2016 in review and 2017 goals

So the annual review is upon me!  Let’s see how I went…

Enjoy time with Family & Friends: Quality not quantity but making time to keep up the relationships in my life is important to me.

Highlights of this year definitely include a holiday to Niagara Falls with Dad, resuming a close relationship with my sister in the wake of her marriage break-up, and spending time at Christmas and New Year with both.

Niagara Falls was great.  It was a hectic but lovely week.  The Falls themselves are breath-taking.  The moment when we were on the boat and stood beneath them, water falling all around us, spray everywhere, the sound of thunder in our ears…there is nothing like nature to really gain perspective of our place in the universe.

It was a tough beginning to the year when my sister decided to leave her relationship and begin anew.  It was good to be able to provide her with a shoulder and a safe place to turn.  It was sad to say goodbye to her partner who has been a part of the family for so long.  In some ways the nature of the split lessens that as undoubtedly I’m biased to my sister’s point of view, but still the ending of something is always sad.  It’s been nice though to welcome my sister’s new love interest and be supportive of their relationship.

So, it was nice to end this year with time with family.

On the friends front, I still enjoy weekends with my best friend, with our mutual Uni friend; still managed a lunch with an old school friend and to meet up for dinner with my old work friend.  However, admittedly friendship time has been sacrificed because of my health once more so that’s something to improve on next year.

Be creative: Spend time on my writing projects

On the positive side, I was able to finally finish the epic Harry Potter fanfiction I was writing.  It ended up being a colossal 800,000+ words.  Eep!  No wonder I’ve barely been able to write anything else in the interim.

I also managed to write a 60,000+ word fanfiction novella for a challenge back in November.  It proved that I can if I put my mind to it write a good story in a short space of time – and helped cement my ability to write original characters (even if they were surrounding a canon Stargate character).  Of course, I managed to do this while I was off sick from work so…I need to find a way to do this and work.

The other two projects I wanted to work on – finishing off a second part to a previous fanfiction, and resuming my Aftershocks series did not progress as planned.  But I am hopeful to make headway in the New Year.

Think long term: Make a step towards my future and don’t just focus on paying the bills today

This goal I think went really nowhere this year bar a couple of applications to Universities which were not successful.  I need to put some time and energy into this next year.

What I think this year has shown me workwise is that I have no long term future with the place I currently work at.  It’s a great organisation; good people; very supportive of my health issues but…I cannot see a future for me there – not long term.

Improve my health: Better diet, more exercise and keep on with the positive thinking

This did not go well.  I’ve struggled health-wise and continue as we close the year to struggle.

A large part of that can be put down to the fact that I think I’m in perimenopause and pretty much getting hit with every single negative symptom from hot flushes to dizziness, from increased severe headaches to poor sleep, from mood swings to cramping.  And what I have only just realised in the last few months is the impact this condition is having on my chronic conditions; poor sleep and headaches increase my fatigue while mood swings trigger my fibromyalgia.  Joy.  I’m only just learning patterns and need to get a better grip on managing the perimenopause before it floors me completely.  My mum once told me when Nana went through an early menopause Nana took to her bed for 3 years; quite honestly I wish I could.

Some of it though can be put down to my own continuing poor habits; too much work, exercise-shyness, not going to sleep in a regular way, and sliding into poor eating when I’m tired.  There are things I can do to improve my health despite my chronic conditions.

2017 Goals

  1. Manage my health better; good diet, regular exercise, good sleep routine, balanced work/life and positive thinking.
  2. Spend quality time with family and friends; make time and make sure I have energy to keep my promises and spend the time with people!
  3. Decide what I really want in the work part of my life and make it happen; really determine my future work, plan for it and start to work the plan.
  4. Write what makes me happy; I love writing and I just need to write what makes me happy and stop obsessing over unfinished projects or worrying I’m never going to get that original fiction written and published.

 

 

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Women to Admire – the U.S Election

I’ve spent the last six weeks basically at home trying to recover from my latest run in with my chronic conditions and a new condition (because physically my body hates me) which has left me with an enormous amount of time on my hands.  Rather than waste it watching UK daytime TV, I decided to watch the unfolding drama of the 2016 U.S Election via YouTube.

It’s a historic election with the first female presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on one hand, and Donald Trump on the other.  And there is probably a hundred blog posts which detail the twists and turns of this election with its scandals and its stresses already so that really isn’t my focus of this post.

What is my focus is the women who I have noticed and admired during this election campaign.

Michelle Obama: The current First Lady of America.  Intelligent, warm, funny and stylish.  She is a class act.  In every speech I have seen President Obama give where he mentions her, his respect and love for her is visibly apparent.  And when she speaks, she demonstrates a poise, a way to comport yourself as a woman, as a strong woman which is admirable and aspirational.

In all honesty I have no idea what her contributions have been during her time as First Lady.  What I do know is that the speech she gave in response to the revelation of Donald Trump’s Access Hollywood video (where he was recorded talking about immediately beginning to kiss women, about getting away with it because he was a star, about grabbing a woman’s body)…that speech was nothing short of epic.

Most women at some point encounter the disrespectful man who stares a little too long at her breasts, or legs, or bum.  They encounter men who won’t take no for an answer in a bar, a club or at an office party.  They encounter men who think they are entitled to take what they want from a woman without consent because they believe there is a power differential which allows them to take what they want; to use women, to consider them as less than a man and therefore free game.

And Michelle Obama’s speech captured exactly what I felt about the video, about the predatory behaviour women deal with and reminded us all very sharply about why it is not OK.

Ana Navarro: American Republican strategist and contributor on CNN panels.  Feisty, fierce and formidable.  Her biting wit and wonderfully tell-it-how-it-is bluntness have been a real highlight for me.  I think we’d disagree about a great deal of policy but I admire how she has handled herself in some of the most contentious panel discussions where Trump surrogates have attempted the most bizarre justifications and spin for his behaviour and actions.

Samantha Bee: Host of Full Frontal with Samantha Bee.  I’ve enjoyed a lot of the commentary from the comedy/talk shows arena (Seth Meyers, John Oliver, James Corden and Stephen Colbert) but she holds her own amongst the crowd.  For me she picked up one of the stand-out moments in the third debate by pointing out Hillary’s authenticity and sincerity at making the statement that government has absolutely no place in telling a woman what they can do with their bodies.

Jedediah Bila: One of the hosts of American TV show The View.  Again, politically we’re probably on opposite sides of a lot of policy, but I find she talks a lot of just plain old common sense; her arguments are well-constructed; they’re practical; she shows a great moral core – she comes across as someone who lives her values.   Outside of the political discussions, she just comes across as someone who would be a fun friend, a great person to share a drink at a bar and talk about the world with.

Megyn Kelly: Host of The Kelly File.  Another person with whom I probably don’t share much political agreement but I admire her journalism.  Regardless of network, she has been fair in her coverage; poised, sensible and intelligent in her commentary.  Her response to Newt Gingrich remains one of my favourite moments of the campaign.

Hillary Clinton:  She’s not perfect but actually she’s more admirable because of that.  If society and women’s equality had moved faster, she would have been and arguably should have already been president instead of her husband back in the ’90s.  I hope the U.S. gives the chance to become their first female President.  I admire her on many levels; I admire her service, her intelligence, and I admire her fortitude.  She has continued despite the haters and the misogyny; despite the double standards which have meant like many women she has had to achieve twice as much and demonstrate over and above the required skillset to gain her place and make her case.  Whether she wins or not, she deserves plaudits for making the attempt and making it possible for the next woman to stand up and be counted.

So, that’s my list of admirable women.  If I had a dinner party and could invite who I wanted right now, this would be my dream guest-list.

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Brexit -Democracy in action

On 23rd June 2016 Britain voted to leave the European Union.

It is an historic, significant and important event which has already had a political, economic and cultural impact even within the first twenty-four hours of the announcement, and will continue to have impact for the years to come.  Perhaps that is why as someone who has studied history I feel the need to document my thoughts today.

I voted to remain. The constituency where I live – a major UK city voted to remain.  And yet, almost 52% of the total population of the UK voted to leave.

Shock and disappointment has been the reaction today within my community.  It’s been a bit like tuning into the results of a reality talent programme and realising the favourite who could actually sing and go onto have success is out because not enough people voted.

But that’s not true here.  Over 70% of the population turned out.  We’re engaged in this debate, in this issue as an electorate.

Clearly the nationalistic rhetoric on taking back our sovereignty, the very real concerns people have around immigration and terrorism (leaving aside the more racist aspects of those arguments which undoubtedly were at the heart of some votes), and the inherent and historic bias against Europe which is so part of the British culture has all led to a winning vote for the Leave campaign.

The Remain arguments centred around economic strength, cultural liberalism and the position that we have more political leverage working as a member of the EU than as a single country – better in than out. It wasn’t enough.

Perhaps the forewarning of a negative economic impact was too general, too esoteric.  Perhaps the cultural liberalism which appeals to city dwellers who see the living reality of a cultural melting pot in action on a day to day basis is not the reality of the majority of the population (most major UK cities voted to Remain).  Perhaps cultural liberalism in a world which deals with the threat of terrorism does not provide the security blanket some feel is required.  Perhaps the fact that even Remain supporters sheepishly concede that the EU needs reform and is perceived as a gargantuan bureaucratic money-pit was a gaping hole in the argument.

I’m sure the coming days will see a lot of dissection of why the Remain campaign failed to achieve a successful outcome; why the Leave campaign was successful.  From my perspective it comes down to two things: security and identity.

People forget that the primary reason why Europe came together economically was to effectively tie ourselves so closely together (although admittedly France and Germany were the main targets of that binding) that a third world war would be too devastating to even consider.  We went into Europe to maintain security.

But in recent years, Europe hasn’t been the main threat to our security. 9/11 changed the world.  Terrorism rooted in Islamic extremism became the major security threat to Western civilisation. This was underpinned by the terrorist attacks that followed including the 7/7 attack in London.  The rise of ISIS and the continued terror attacks across Europe in the recent year has increased concern about security, especially when media reports regarding the Paris attacks drew attention to the ease in which terrorists were able to traverse across borders within Europe.  Compound this with a surge of refugees fleeing Syria and…and there is a valid and real security concern.

And security is important.  To feel secure is important.  It is an essential human instinct in order to survive.  If we truly perceive our being in Europe to make us less secure than more secure now…is it any wonder that this need in the end proves stronger than by contrast an idealistic dream of tolerance, peace and harmony which is not the harsh reality in which we live?

Personally, I believe that immigration is an essential part of growing as a society as it brings skills and ideas to our economy, politics and culture – needed catalysts and impetus for positive change which brings us closer to that dream of a reality of tolerance; that compassionate immigration is a sign of a civilised and mature society.  I believe strongly in Benjamin Franklin’s oft paraphrased proposition that those who sacrifice freedom for security deserve neither.

To me, leaving the EU because of security is a sacrifice of our freedom.  It is saying to the terrorists that we are terrorised.

But I understand the fear.  I understand the concern.  And I don’t discount the validity of either.

Undoubtedly there are some in the Leave debate who have taken this concern and played on those valid fears; have taken the argument further into racist and bigoted rhetoric.  And undoubtedly there are people who sincerely agree with that rhetoric.  As a mixed race woman who grew up in a school in the Eighties with only three other coloured children, one of whom was my sister, it’s safe to say I know racism exists and continues to exist.  But I think it would be very foolish to believe that all Leave campaigners are racists.  Unfortunately I also think the second key reason why the Leave campaign won, cultural identity, has been co-opted in recent years by a political party which is a racist and bigoted organisation.

I like the cultural melting pot; I’m a child of the melting pot.  I like being able to eat from a different part of the world every night if I wanted to by simply walking down one street in the city in which I live.  I like the fact that we acknowledge faith is important no matter what the religion is and that everyone has a right to their faith.  I like that people can be open about their sexuality and have the same rights as heterosexuals.  I believe social and cultural tolerance is important and strive to work to correct my own prejudices and misconceptions. I like being a citizen of Europe.

But I like being British.

I love tea.  I like how the weather is always a topic for small talk.  I applaud our queueing behaviour and silent disapproval with raised eyebrows and pursed lips when someone jumps the queue.  I enjoy how every time there is a football tournament the country goes mad and we all get caught up in Wimbledon every year.  I have a soft spot for the Royal family.  I’m proud of our music, literature and art; our rich cultural history.  I love how there is a core of British upper lip and inner strength within our people when something goes wrong; how we can all pull together in a crisis.

Identity is so important to every single human being.  How we identify ourselves creates our world; it creates the perception of our world. And perhaps the truth is the majority of our population still identifies as British and considers Europe as ‘Other.’  There are culturally ingrained prejudices against Europe built over years of past conflict and skirmishes.

And let’s be honest; the paraphernalia of the European Union doesn’t help itself.  There is a perception of a lack of transparency with bureaucratic dictates conjured up in the corridors of Brussels coupled with an impotent European Parliament that holds no real power.  There is a cultural grumbling against European laws which make no sense; of the very real sense that we have lost our voice in the formation and implementation of many laws which govern us.

Despite my fervent desire to remain, I will concede I do believe the European Union needs to change and reform its machinery of governance and engagement.

And so I can understand why identity and the want to retain our identity through enacting laws in our own parliament and which we can hold our elected members of parliament to account for might be at the heart of many who voted to Leave.

In the end understanding the need for security and that we still hold such a strong sense of identity, it is perhaps somewhat explainable why the vote came out the way it did.   Which is good because I needed an explanation and a way to justify this for myself.  Whether I’m right or wrong, who knows really, but this makes sense to me.

Why do I need to justify this?  Because I am at heart a democrat.  I believe in democracy and the right for people to say to their law-makers ‘this is what we want’.  I believe that someone has the right to stand up and argue for the opposite position to mine and that they should be heard no matter how much I dislike and disagree with their point of view.  I believe that if we have a democratic process we need to follow it.  We’ve voted to Leave.  It’s not the outcome I wanted. I don’t think it’s the right thing to do, economically, socially, politically, culturally.  I’m disheartened and disappointed that this is the result.  But as a democrat I acknowledge that Leave is the result.

So now we will need to put in motion the apparatus which will enact the reality of it.  We will renegotiate our treaties and agreements; we need to enact a number of legislative bills where the UK has been covered to date by EU legislation, and we need to work out what it actually means for our day to day lives.  We’ll need a new Prime Minister since David Cameron stepped down in the wake of the result.

Leaving will be long difficult process, and today has seen only the beginning of the impact it will have on our lives, on our economy, politics and society; on Europe. We are seeing history in the making, democracy in action.  And that both enthrals and terrifies me in equal measure.

 

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2015 in Review & 2016 Goals

OK, so I haven’t visited for a while.  I figured on just stopping the blog completely in 2014/2015 but I figured I needed somewhere to plan 2016 and this offered itself up as a location!

I didn’t really set myself goals in 2015 but let’s have a look and see how I did against 2014’s.

2015 in Review

1. Family & Friends: Make time for them and make this a priority

This year has been difficult on family and friends front.

Uncle Ken passed away early in the year.  It was devastating for all the cousins since for most of us, he was the last link with the parent (whether father or mother) we have lost, and for the older cousins an era with Nana and Granddad that they remember more than my sister and I.  The funeral was lovely – packed church, a great coffin hand-painted with a cricket scene and a nice wake at the cricket club to follow.  In many ways, he was already gone and had been when the tumour did its damage, and so it felt like a relief for him that he was in a better place; that he was no longer stuck in a home and the inactivity his physical condition imprisoned him with.  But I miss him.  I miss him a lot.

I managed to get to my sister’s for her birthday so that was a win.  My sister and her partner are facing some challenges and so towards the end of the year we’ve seen a great deal of my sister; Christmas and she’s due to spend the next weekend with us.

Dad continues to spend a great deal of time in Mauritius and I did fail to get there this last year due to a poorly kidney and then exhaustion.  I must make a concerted effort this year as seeing him in the UK alone means that we’ve hardly spent any time together, especially as I retreat to my room to prevent the cognitive drain of constant noise – he usually has either the TV or radio on.

On the friends front, I did badly but I think I’m doing better; my best friend and I get together fairly regular and we now include our other mutual Uni friend on at least one weekend.  I’ve established a good friendship with a friend at my old workplace which I think will lead to semi-regular lunches/cinema trips/etc. I’ve kept in contact with an old school friend and we both enjoy boozy lunches so…altogether not bad but really I could do with getting out more.

Balancing my life between work and play is something of an ongoing battle within me.  Unfortunately as work gets very busy and I spend time being conscientious and putting additional hours in, my energy levels just don’t have enough juice in them to accommodate spending time with friends and family.  Clearly I need to rebalance.

2. Write More: I’d like to complete the epic story I’m working on but beyond that simply write for fun!

Well, I completely failed here.  I’ve hardly written anything.  Which is kind of not true as I have written over 150,000 words here and there – there’s just not a great deal of completed work to show for it.

The epic fanfic remains that – unfinished although we are almost there.  I want to finish off a fanfic I started in 2014 and which is also almost there.  And, I want to return to finish my Aftershocks fanfic series.

Beyond that, I have the outline of two novels I want to write and self-publish and a non-fiction book on leadership.  I really need to ensure I create time for writing.

3. Financial stability

Short term: think about finding something else to bring in money

Well, I left my old place (let’s call them ABC).  Let’s just say that between the outdated HR policies, the lack of understanding around my disability and the pace of the business (there was never a moment to take a breath), I wasn’t sad to leave.  There were some great people there though and I hope they find continued success.

Short term wise I have found another job.  The new organisation is much more supportive on the disability front although the pace has been frenetic because of an ongoing project and deadlines as soon as I started.  I’m hoping things settle down in the New Year.  That said, I’m concerned that it won’t be a long term option as I’m not seeing the need for my role long term.

Long term: focus on what I really want to do and make it happen!

I’d like to get my Masters and Doctorate in psychology and go into academia.  It’s just configuring how I make that happen when I’m working full time and barely have enough energy for family, friends and writing as it is.

4. Think positive / health: Continue focusing on improving my physical and mental health

Health-wise I’ve had a very dodgy year.  Kidney problems, followed by nerve damage in my once-broken elbow, and then I managed to wrench my hip and knee aggravating inflammation there.

And I’ve been exhausted because I’ve been working too much and not taking the time I need to rejuvenate.

Plus I feel overweight and unattractive.

Sigh.

On the positive front, I’m not depressed.

2016 Goals

  1. Enjoy time with Family & Friends: Quality not quantity but making time to keep up the relationships in my life is important to me.
  2. Be creative: Spend time on my writing projects
  3. Think long term: Make a step towards my future and don’t just focus on paying the bills today
  4. Improve my health: Better diet, more exercise and keep on with the positive thinking
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New Year

So once again we’re at the start of a New Year, and once again I abandoned the blog to other things.  However here’s my yearly review…

2013 Goals in Review

1. Have fun: (i) cherish my friendships and family

This went much better at the beginning of the year when I wasn’t working!

Family was a huge part of last year from dealing with Uncle Ken’s brain tumour and recovery to dealing with my own situation.  But my sister has moved and we’ve had hardly any contact recently apart from Christmas.  She did ask us for New Year as after the move and everything they wanted to have it at theirs but I’m working either side, and just plain exhausted, plus Dad had plans to go to Windermere, so we suggested we catch up at the weekend instead.

Friendships have fallen by the wayside a little.  My best friend and I are very much still in touch but I’ve been so busy at work and so exhausted when I’m at home that I’ve had very little energy to make contact.  I need to change that and reconnect with people.

(ii) write what I want when I want

Writing is something else that I haven’t had a great deal of time for with beginning to work again.  I need to make more of a concerted effort to spend the time writing rather than escaping into reading.

2. Make money  (i) find work that pays consistently

I have a five day job as a project manager and have been working since the end of May.  On one hand, it’s too tiring, the company culture has a tendency to drive me nutty on occasion, and it’s reminded me of why I stopped being a project manager.  On the other, I work with really nice people and the job is one that I can do and it is meeting the goal.

(ii) pursue new avenues to raise revenue

I had ideas but no action here!

(iii) take additional step(s) to my future career goal

It would probably help me to really fix on what that future career goal is as I think the ambiguity or lack of passion about what I thought should be a future career goal is why I haven’t put much effort into doing this

3. Think positive

Apart from broken elbows and recovering from two lots of surgery to do with that, physically it hasn’t been bad but it hasn’t been good.  I have attempted to think more positively and I do think my mental health is much better than it was.

2014 Goals:

1. Family & Friends

Make time for them and make this a priority

2. Write More

I’d like to complete the epic story I’m working on but beyond that simply write for fun!

3. Financial stability

Short term: think about finding something else to bring in money

Long term: focus on what I really want to do and make it happen!

4. Think positive health

Continue focusing on improving my physical and mental health

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Celebrating February 25th-28th

Cherish family continues to play a role in my life given my elbow continues to be broken (if mending while being technicoloured and looking like Frankenstein’s monster’s elbow).  Dad has been a huge support and I should probably tell him at some point that I do appreciate that he came home and has looked after me (even if I don’t appreciate the lectures on vitamins).  My sister has also been a boon although I think we’re both grateful that the cast removal on 26th meant she could stop showering me.

Ultimately, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking positive about my health and my elbow.  I can use it a fair bit now in doing normal things – like typing – and it is getting stronger even if it needs to be protected, continues to ache and is very stiff and weak.  I was even prepared to head to London for a networking event but was thwarted by the rail network which decided to make travelling a nightmare (or maybe it was the Universe’s way of saying ‘we went to all this trouble so you only had a broken elbow and make sure it is fine; stop trying to mess it up by doing too much!’).

Which brings me neatly onto make money because it has been a frustrating week in that regard.  Mostly because of delays in talking to people but the conversations did happen and are positive…just not immediate.  I can’t actually see money happening until April…but focusing on the positive, there are at least opportunities!

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Celebrating February 15th-24th

I decided to bundle these days together as they cover the Incident With My Elbow.

The incident occurred on the 15th at the hotel.  I had a lovely massage but when I went to pay there was a torrential rainstorm.  Thinking I should get back as /I had my sister’s keycard, I left the safety of the spa, got drenched and managed to slip on the wet slippery outside corridor.

It was a painful landing for my elbow which cracked off the concrete in a way that will never leave me.  I knew immediately that it was broken and it was.  Five hours later I was in surgery; twenty-eight hours later I was back at my Dad’s and my flight delayed until Thurs so Dad could travel home with me.  I wasn’t happy as I wanted to leave ASAP frankly.  But that said, I saw the benefit of having Dad home with me and I knew it was more about him feeling like he needed to be with me so I waited.

Cherish family indeed.

The following week saw me take visits from concerned relatives, be bathed by my favourite aunt like I was 8 months rather than 38 years old, and essentially let others take care of me.  My independent spirit was slightly irritated but it was all done kindly and with love so to refuse would be churlish.

I ended up flying alone as Dad could only get a flight on another airline.  It was fine – and that independent spirit kept me going.  I won’t deny it was a relief to see Dad at the end of the journey.  Still, being back home in my own space means that I want – need – to assert some independence over things like showering.  My sister has taken over from my aunt but I think I could now manage alone as the pain is much better.

Overall though I feel incredibly blessed.  The fall could have been so much worse – if I’d hit my head or my shoulder or gone down on my hip or my spine badly…I’m lucky it was only a broken elbow.  So a definite think positive on my health!

And my family have rushed to support me so as much as I cherish them, it’s nice to know they cherish me too.

Luckily, the break hasn’t delayed things too much on the make money front as I managed to make email contact from abroad and will have the delayed conversations this week.

The only thing really suffering is my write what I want which…I’m tired!  And achy!  But I am doing some writing and getting used to writing with only one hand!

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