The Happy Day Project

Monday 4th April 2016

Age is just a number.

A random conversation this morning had me telling an anecdote about my Sons which also involved me saying that they were 22, 20 and 18. The surprised expression of my conversational ally was accompanied by a comment of ‘you don’t look old enough to have a son that age!’

Of course, we all just love it when we are told that we don’t look as old as our actual age but when I told her that I was, in fact, 48 she looked truly shocked, as I undoubtedly did when she then informed me that she was 79! Oh my goodness, never in a million years would I have said she was that age!

In a follow-up conversation with a colleague regarding this small interaction, I said that I am not precious about people knowing my age to which the colleague replied that I would change my mind when I got even older than I am now and this set me thinking.

Ok, I have an issue with people telling me what to do anyway, that is a given, and even more so when I am told what I should be thinking, but I have always believed that as there is only one way to stop ageing (and no, I don’t want to go down that road) then I have to be happy with what I have. I am proud of all…well, most…of the experiences that have filled every single one of the years that I have lived. Some have been good, a few have been bad, but they all make up the person I am today. I cannot be embarrassed about that person, despite her foibles and quirks, because how can I be embarrassed about the amount of time that this journey I am on has taken me? What gives me that right?

I actually consider myself to be quite lucky. I am fit(ish) and healthy(ish) with no long term medical conditions (the dodgy back doesn’t count here). I look around me and I see old school friends and people much younger than me who are determinedly battling debilitating illnesses and, in some cases, sadly losing those battles. I admire them the strength they show in the ever present wars they are waging against the odds. I’m not sure that I could be quite so stoical in the face of the same hardships, but I know that age is no determining factor in what they are facing. I’m also pretty darn sure that they are envious of my fit(ish) and healthy(ish) 48 years, 4 months and 2 days of life.

In today’s society we see many more opportunities available regardless of age and experience doesn’t happen overnight, we have to learn it and to learn things properly it always takes time. I still have dreams of personal achievements, I still have a bucket list of things I want to do and I am quite sure that my 79 year old conversationalist of this morning has those too.

So no, I won’t change my mind when I am even older, I will always be proud of whatever age I am lucky enough to attain and I recommend that you do too. Life is a gift and each new day that we see is a present just waiting for us to open and absorb its delights. So rip off that wrapping paper, stick the bow in your hair and celebrate each and every minute.

me new hair

And make sure that every day is a happy day.

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The Happy Day Project Sunday 11th October 2015

I was lucky enough to be given a bag full of windfall pears during the week and as I am also lucky enough to have weekends off from work I decided to put them to good use today.

I do tend to be a creative but solitary soul and I am quite happy when I am on my own, at home, and making stuff. A little while ago I came across a recipe on my Facebook page for a one bowl apple cake which I have since made several times and it is always a hit…well, apart from with my middle son Michael who says he doesn’t like apples but will quite happily tuck into his great great Aunt’s apple pie….he reckons it is a different thing altogether….Admittedly, Aunty Fred’s apple pie is delicious….

But back to the apple cake. I figured that there can’t be that much difference, recipe wise, between an apple cake and a pear cake so just a quick substitution of the fruit content and I was off:

First, the recipe…

The original was in American terminology so I have, very kindly, translated it to UK measurements – ok, I had to for myself..what sort of measurement is a ‘cup’ anyway???

One Bowl Apple/pear cake

2 Eggs

2 Heaped spoons cinnamon (although I prefer mixed spice)

275g sugar

120mls vegetable oil

6 medium apples/pears

2 teaspoons baking powder

300g self raising flour

  1. Preheat oven to 180
  2. In a large bowl mix the eggs, sugar, spices and oil. Peel and slice the apples/pears and mix straight into the bowl to prevent the fruit from turning brown
  3.   .Poldark          Poldark-2
  4. Mix together the baking powder and the flour and add to the ingredients in the bowl. Poldark-3            Poldark-5
  5. Pour mixture into a greased 9×13 or two 9 inch pans (I used two 1lb loaf tins)Poldark-6             Poldark-7
  6. And  ok, i cheated and used paper loaf tin liners…sometimes life is just too short ok?
  7. Bake for about an hour until a knife comes out of the mixture cleanly. Ideally, while this waiting time is happening you would now be having one of these…Poldark-10
  8. Unfortunately, I had to sort this lot…Poldark-9
  9. I guess we can’t have everything, but, at the end of the hour we do have this…Poldark-11

And that makes everything worthwhile. I recommend eating it warm with some runny cream.

Enjoy.

Today is always a good day. x

Anita. x

The Happy Day Project Weekly Roundup

I have realised that with my busy schedule it is not very feasible for me to be able to sit and write a blog post every day. If my world were perfect then i’m sure that I would be able to do this, but as we all know, nobody’s world is perfect.

This week has been quite up and down for me. As I said in my last post, my youngest son had been given a credited extra part in a popular TV drama. We knew when he got the part that he would be filming last Wednesday so I went into work hoping to be able to get that day off so that I could both take him there and watch the filming being done…as well as get a sneaky glance of Aidan Turner (Sssshhhh, yes, it is Poldark that he has got a part in). Unfortunately I could not be granted my wish as there were already too many people away. Gutted is an understatement. One of the biggest things to happen with my boys (and as a single parent for 15 years I have taken them everywhere, seen them do everything, generally been there to support and encourage) and I couldn’t be there. It wasn’t a problem getting him there as my eldest son drives and was at home anyway, but I just really, really wanted to be there – not just for Aidan Turner, honest! We didn’t know his casting call time until Tuesday and when it came through for 2pm I thought, maybe? Might just catch the tail end? So when my boss came to me at 3.30pm and told me to go home (this is an hour early, although I was owed time off in lieu of hours worked) I was definitely not going to argue. Drove home, picked up my eldest (he had dropped his brother off and driven home again-the shoot was only about 25 mins from home) and we hot footed it over there. We got to the designated beach by 4.15, his shooting started at about 5.30 and ended at around 7.30 when it was no longer light enough to do anything else. My son was cold and wet, at one point during the filming his temperature had dropped to 34 degrees and the crew did everything they could to get him warmed up. In between takes he was bundled up in silver cloaks, puff jackets, hot water bottles and blankets. He also had sole use of the ambulance that had its heating on full blast all the way through. Afterwards, when my eldest and I were back at the car we got to see him pulling up at the base camp in the ambulance and watched him get out. One of the main actors ran up to him, threw his arms around him and I could hear him say,

‘You did fantastic Mate, well done!’

as they headed off to where he could shower and change.

walking down beach

My son is the guy in the puffa jacket and joggers, staying as warm as possible before he got wet and cold. He is walking to his filming point with Ross, Demelza and Dwight Enys.

So that was both my intense low and my incredible high for this week. I think it is going to take quite a lot to beat it somehow. But, this is supposed to be about others smiling, so what I have I done to attempt to achieve this? Well, a quick synopsis is that I made an apple cake for a friend who gave me loads of apples and pears from her trees and gave it to her. She said it was delicious. I have learnt how to crochet flowers and put them onto some baby hats that I have donated to the children’s clothing bank.

Knit hats-8

Another friend mentioned that her grand daughter is mad about Minnie Mouse and It coincided with me having some Minnie Mouse headbands in the car that I had made. Cue, give her a random present for her gorgeous granddaughter. I will say here that she wasn’t aware that I had made these head bands, they are a new addition to my sewing stock.

Headband collage-2

I took a few photographs of another friend who wanted them of her favourite tree in the grounds of where we work – it is a beautiful tree… tree

I have also been quite busy behind the scenes preparing other surprises as well as being my general kindhearted, generous self, smiling, saying thank you and waiting patiently for people to walk through doors…I even managed not to get cross (well, outwardly) when a little darling was pushing her toy pushchair around the local shop, generally getting in the way and screaming when her mother wouldn’t let her have a yoghurt because she already had some at home…..

Now that takes an awful lot of kindness…..

This week has been an awesome week.

Anita. xx

The Happy Day Project Day 10/365.

Today has been an awesome day which I have spent in turn being chilled out or extremely excited. I still can’t really talk about the extremely exciting bit other than that it includes my youngest son getting an acting part that he wanted on a big tv show. See, very exciting stuff and it is all go here.

The chilled out bit was while this afternoon, the sun was shining, I was in Newquay and we went for a short walk. It doesn’t sound like very much but while we were on our route we stopped and watched a group of about 5 youths riding their skateboards in the skate park, we then stopped and watched a dog who was having fun jumping in and out of a river while his owner chatted to us, next we sat on a bench and watched a few people playing tennis in the tennis courts. Another dog was walked past us on a lead and stopped to be petted, we then went around the bowling green where a match was in progress and we made our way slowly back to our starting point.

As i said, nothing spectacular but what struck a chord is that everyone was happy and everyone was having fun. I know all the health professionals say that exercise is good for lifting you out of the doldrums, but I think this is the first time that I have actually taken note and seen how this actually works. Cameraderie, team spirit and just the adrenaline surge all seem to combine to make life better, more worth living.

And probably the sun helps also…

Today is an awesome day. x

Anita. x

The Happy Day Project Day 9/365

Last night I went to bed knowing that I was entering a black mood. I was tired, i was teasy and I just wanted to be left alone. Obviously, both sons who live at home decided that last night would also be a good time to have a conversation from either side of the lounge while I was watching the one programme of the day that I really like….apologies now….I am a Big Brother addict and we are currently in the Celebrity Big Brother season and last night was a live eviction.

‘One hour, all I want is one hour and one programme,’ I was heard to say.

Part of me is then left feeling guilty at putting a tv programme before my kids – even if they are now grown – and the other part says, ‘hey! I deserve to watch what I like. I pay all the bills and I work hard. They can discuss wrestling in another room or wait until this is over if they really need my input into it’, which they don’t by the way…I know nothing about the wrestling world and they know that. But my guilt complex always ends up winning and I resent my greedy self for not putting others first. So I smile, and say goodnight, and wander up the stairs to the isolation of my room and curl in my bed and feel bad.

This morning I awoke not feeling much different, just as tired as when I went to sleep, still feeling bad but with a day of work ahead of me. Perhaps knowing that I also had a dentist appointment to attend today didn’t help very much but it was only a check up, not half as scary as the root canal I had to have a few months ago.

Luckily, I love my job. The Guys I work with are fantastic and generally succeed in brightening my day. I am also very good at compartmentalising and turning off the sad stuff when I walk in that door, usually, by the time I walk out again, I find that the baggage I dropped there is nowhere to be found. I realise that this is quite unique, not many people can say they enjoy their job so much. For me, it has been one of my major saviours.

So, I left work and went to the Dentist, all is good, no treatment needed _score! – I had bumped into my dentist at a Paloma Faith Concert earlier in the year and we had a conversation about that, ‘yes, she was good,’ I said, ‘as was Elton John’ who had performed at the same venue a week earlier and I had also seen. I did manage a trio of concerts there this summer though and I also said that Spandau Ballet won the prize for being the best though, they were absolutely amazing,

‘and Tony Hadley…..he is just….ooohh…like velvet…’ I said as i walked out the door. She laughed, the assistant laughed, I laughed…a random comment, a random memory…..and spontaneous shared humour gave us all a reason to smile.

I also found out on arriving home that my youngest son has had some absolutely brilliant news today that I can’t share at this moment, but I will be able to shortly. A tiny bit of news that arrived over the telephone…but it has left me grinning and dancing around the house like a lunatic.

Yep, Today is definitely a good day. x

Anita. x

The Happy Day Project Day 8/365

It has been a whole week now since I started this project and it is going strong. I have learnt so much already within this process that I never really thought I would. Most of all is the realisation that it is the little things that make just as much difference as the grand gestures.

Today it has been a very long day at work, where I maintained my happy outer shell and, I hope, kept everyone happy. This has been followed by a meeting with my accountant – I will admit to hating doing the monthly accounts and unfortunately it is time to submit those for the tax mans perusal – and I know that I will keep my accountant happy when I pay the bill for his services….

I have also checked out my drying rose petals and lavender and they are all crisping up nicely.

This evening…in approximately 15 mins…I also intend to relax with my ball of wool making a baby hat for charity.

So, no grand gestures today, just a pleasant day in the glorious Cornish sunshine with the satisfaction that my work day went well, a pleasant chat and catch up with my accountant (ignoring the fact that we had to do figures and stuff, the chat was nice) and an evening with my feet up and another good deed being sorted.

Nothing spectacular but just making sure that,

Today is always a good day. x

Anita. x

The Happy Day Project Day 7/365

As I said in my introductory post, one of the reasons that I am doing this is to try and help others see that there is life during and after intense stress and depression. In order to achieve this then I feel that I have to be open and honest with things that I have dealt with, what caused me to be that way in the first place and how I got through it. I’m not going to go into the whole story all at once, it is far too long and to relive the whole 7/8 years would likely end up sending me right back to square one. I can do it in pieces though, when something happens in my day to day life that impacts on my memories and experiences.

A quick précis though is that I was a divorced mother of three boys with their father living 350 miles away. I was working to pay the bills which involved a 52 mile round trip, I was studying for a Diploma in Counselling with my main placement as a bereavement counsellor for Cruse, my Father was disabled with my Mother as his main carer…and my Mother had cancer. She passed away after a long five year battle, and just five months after this my Father had a heart attack in my arms and went to join her. There were times during her illness and following his death when I felt that I couldn’t carry on. I felt that it would be so easy while I was driving to just turn the wheel into the side and hit a tree. The pain would be over and I wouldn’t hurt anymore. Knowing my kids would hurt was enough to stop me. Over-riding all of that pain was the knowledge that I want to see them grow up, I want to see them settled, I want to hold my grandchildren in my arms one day, I need to be alive for them. In all honesty? If it weren’t for them, I’m not sure that I would be here today.

And what has happened today to spark that confession. A school football comrade of my middle son committed suicide last night. He was about 20 years old. He hung himself in the lounge of his house where his parents found him. Reading his Facebook page it is filled with love and compassion from old schoolmates, the main thread of conversation being, ‘I was only in the pub with you drinking a beer last night Mate? You seemed fine?’ My Son told me he saw him in Asda last week, ‘he seemed fine?’ he said to me earlier. But that is the thing with depression. We wear a mask, we put on a brave face and don’t allow anyone to scratch below the surface. We carry on with our normal day to day but when we get home we curl into a ball in the blackness of our rooms and wish for the world to just go away and leave us alone. Obviously, I can’t say how this lad was feeling, I have no idea, I haven’t seen him for at least 7 years, but I do know how I was feeling and I was able to stop myself. This Guy, with his whole life wide open, organised to hang himself. It can’t have been a cry for help, there can be no coming back from being hung. It’s like jumping off a cliff, once you let go, you are finished. Therefore, I can only imagine that he was in a far worse state than I was, that for whatever reason, he felt that his life was no longer worth living and he chose to end it.

There are so many other people like this young man out there. People that I cannot see or help. People that I cannot possibly know how they are feeling or what mask they are hiding behind, and that is why I feel that it is important to try and make the World a happier place. We never know how just one simple act of kindness can be received by others, just how much difference it can make in their lives. This afternoon my work colleague and I were leaving work. We use the ground floor of a building and there are offices on the top floor, accessed through the main entrance. I went upstairs and saw that two ladies were working in one of the offices, knocked on the door and asked if they were ok to lock up after themselves as we were finished for the day now. They said yes, they were, but could we please lock them in so that nobody could enter the building who weren’t supposed to be there. I like to think that by taking that short time to just let them know that we were out and their reply left them feeling safe and secure. Maybe, if they had just come downstairs and found us gone with the door wide open they would have felt unsettled and worried. I hope that I saved them from that, I showed that I cared enough about them to make sure that they were ok when we left. It’s not much, but I know that it is when my friends showed me that they cared by seemingly very little acts of kindness that helped to pull me through.

And that is why we have to make sure that no matter what happens in our lives, whatever triggers we may face, we focus on just one thing that means that,

Today is always a good day. x

Anita. x