A long overdue "life lately" (trips away, taking the plunge back to work, and trying out Tinder??!)

18.6.17

Good morning lovely blog people. I can only apologise for being MIA. Life suddenly got rather busy and the longer that time went on without me blogging the more I had to tell you, which made me wonder where to start. So here I go; I will attempt to summarise the last two months! And I promise to update more frequently from now on. Pinky promise!  

* I'm going to do a separate blog post about my health/CFS situation, but the overall vibe is that my health is getting better all the time; I am able to do so much more with my days without feeling too poorly from it. I still have mild symptoms of glandular fever/chronic fatigue syndrome/M.E. (whatever you wanna call it) but they are tolerable and I am learning how to manage them but also to push myself a little each week. I genuinely feel like I can 100% beat this and it feels pretty awesome. 

* I'm back at work, after a year off! I have managed a few months of part time working, doing a few hours every day, which I seem to be managing well so far. I'm really enjoying using my brain again. My manager is lovely and I am so grateful to be back out in the world of work because for such a long time I wondered if it would ever happen.


* After a few months of being happy as a clam as a single lady I launched myself into the world of online dating and swiftly remembered how stressful and horrendous it is. Thankfully (after a couple of dates which didn't go anywhere) I soon met a rather handsome and sweet chap who I have been seeing for about 7 weeks now. He's had a tough time of things too so we're just taking things steady and enjoying each other's company and that works for me!

* I have had weekends away in Manchester and York, a day trip to Ilkley and have been getting to grips with where everything is in Leeds with plenty of shopping trips, picnics and tea/cake dates.


* I'm exercising regularly and feeling good. It's early days but I really hope I can build up to running again and maybe start doing Parkruns. I would be over the moon if I managed that.

* I have just booked two holidays for this year which I could not be happier about. GIVE ME THE SUNSHINE! I'm going to Kefalonia in a couple of weeks time, and Amsterdam in September.

* I got a pink rinse on my hair and absolutely loved it.


* Life is a million miles away from where it was 6 months ago. And for that, I am one grateful lady!

Books I have read in 2017 (10 - 14)

11.6.17

A Street Cat Named Bob by James Bowen - 3/5

I found this book on my mum's bookcase and I thought it looked like a book I would enjoy, considering it involves something small and furry which is always a winning combination. I am sure you will be familiar with it; the tale of a cat who befriends a homeless man and they become best pals. Overall it was a really nice read but I found the simplistic writing style a little bit tedious in places (says me, the bloody writing pro eh? ;)) It was a heartwarming tale and definitely gave me more awareness into what it's like to be homeless so I would recommend if you're looking for a quick, easy read. 

Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella - 4.5/5

Finding Audrey isn't my usual kind of book as it's aimed at a younger market than my mature years (ahem) but I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Audrey is a teenager struggling her way through not being able to leave the house and not wanting to take off her sunglasses, until her brother's friend comes into her life and helps her find the real world again. I wish I could go back in time to give my 13/14 year old self this book as it would have helped me an awful lot. Recommend recommend! 


Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert 4/5

I have wanted to read Eat Pray Love for ages but it was only once I spotted it in my local library that I took the plunge. It's quite a long, meaty book so it took me a while to read but overall I found the story of Elizabeth Gilbert's life from a newly divorced, kinda lost hot mess to a newly spiritual, kick ass inspirational kinda lady really, well, inspiring! I could relate to Elizabeth's life and thoughts in so many ways and that made reading this that little more special as I've been on a journey of my own (although nothing quite as exotic as going to Italy, Indonesia or Bali, sadly).

Milk and Honey - Rupi Kaur 100/5

Can I give a book 100 marks out of 5? No? Tough because I'm going to. I'm new to the world of poetry books but this wasn't a bad place to start. Rupi Kaur's words are so powerful and beautiful and I would recommend this book to everyone. Go buy it, now. 

The Things You Can Only See When You Slow Down - Haemin Sunim 5/5

Another corker that I thoroughly enjoyed and have since lent to my good pal in the hopes of spreading how wonderful this book is. It's written in such a way that you should take your time with it, drinking in the beautiful illustrations and wise words. Haemin covers a wide variety of subjects and his wisdom and peaceful nature, being a monk and all, really come through in the chapters of this book. Plus it's a hardback and has a pretty cover which are never a bad thing! 

Happy reading! 

Little things I have done lately to declutter my mind.

17.4.17

After my mammoth decluttering session with all of my belongings a whole heap of space became freed up in my brain and it's addictive let me tell you. So I started to think a bit more about what else I could do to simplify my life and keep my mind clear of anything it doesn't need. Once your health goes down the drain you realise what is important in life and what isn't. So I am now on a mission to make my life as simple as possible and use my energy for the things that really matter.

This list contains a few of the little things I have done lately which added up and made a difference to my head space. I hope they give you some ideas if you are looking to lift the load on your brain.

* Deleting things from my phone to make extra storage. Old photos and old unwanted memories. Old notes/to do lists. Old WhatsApp conversations that fill me with dread when I see that little photo staring back at me. Delete delete delete. It is satisfying to delete the old to make way for the new.

* Keeping my bedside table free from "stuff" and conducive to a good nights sleep. At one point I had a whole pile of books and trinkets on there and it definitely didn't give off relaxing bedtime vibes. Now I just have my Himalayan salt lamp, a couple of books that I read before sleeping, and a bottle of water for when I wake up and I'm all set.


* Unsubscribing from mailing lists. This is time consuming at first but then easy to keep on top of once you've got the bulk out of the way. There are also things like Unroll.Me which make this task a whole lot easier! I really don't want to be wasting time reading emails that aren't relevant or I don't even remember signing up for. So now I know that all my emails will be things I actually want to read. I also got rid of anything to do with online shopping and discount codes in an attempt to keep my wardrobe and spending down. 

* Taking a look at my subscriptions on YouTube. My tastes change all the time and I realised that my feeds were full of videos that I no longer had an interest in. However seeing all those unwatched videos was causing me massive amounts of anxiety. There's my Type A personality rearing its ugly head once again! So I spent a bit of time thinking about the type of topics I am interested in at the moment and the end result was a shorter subscription list full of health and wellbeing topics that add value to my life. 

* Asking myself "is this useful?" This is a really good one! Every so often I check in with myself and ask "is what I'm doing right now useful?" If I am mindlessly scrolling through my phone at that moment in time, or watching something on Netflix that I'm not concentrating on, it forces me to move onto a different task.

* Being more "mindful" on my daily walks. I love my walks along the canal, which I do most days, and I try to take in as much of my surroundings as I can. But this can be taken one step further by becoming even more present. Take notice of every footstep and how your foot makes contact with the ground. Pay attention to every sound. The smells (not so good for the patch of canal that goes past a sewage plant!) And so on. 

* Deleting all traces of your last boyfriend. Self explanatory!

* Picking a colour to focus on. Have you ever had thoughts racing through your mind and you want to escape just for a little while? Sometimes I will pick a colour, such as yellow because it's a happy colour, then spend a few minutes looking for anything with the colour yellow in it. Passing cars, flowers, book covers, clothes, whatever it may be. It's a good way of shifting your focus.

* Last but not least, increasing my mindfulness/meditation practice. I have been playing around with guided practice, having a go at doing it on my own to music, breathing exercises, mindfulness at regular intervals throughout the day. I really enjoy incorporating it into my daily life and it has definitely made a difference to my thoughts. I can't recommend starting your own daily practice enough, and if you need a few pointers you can check out my YouTube favourites playlist for some inspiration (click here!)

Why I'm getting rid of most of my possessions and why it feels SO GOOD!

8.4.17

In the last 10 years I have moved house a dozen times and each time I have a "spring clean" of stuff that I no longer need, use or want. It mainly goes off to the local charity shop or is given to friends and I temporarily feel better for it. But the bottom line is, I still have so much frickin' stuff!

When my relationship ended in December 2016 things were different. My health prevented me from moving straight into a place of my own which meant I was limited on what I could initially take with me when I was booted out of my home. For a couple of months I lived off the contents of one small suitcase and not once did I really need anything that was sat in my ex boyfriend's spare room. Whenever I thought about the amount of clothes, shoes, boxes of crap, furniture, and books it made me feel anxious and physically I felt weighed down by it all. It was constantly in the back of my mind and the idea of moving that amount of stuff was overwhelming, to put it mildly.

Over the last couple of months I have done a few trips back and forth to collect my things, with one giant sweep last weekend. After watching the Minimalism documentary on Netflix and listening to a few podcasts from "The Minimalists", and seeing the limited space I had in my new bedroom (and not wanting to be surrounded by mess) I felt inspired to reduce my belongings by a significant amount.

photo source unknown

The first thing I did was send 90% of my books to charity shops, keeping a small selection of special books or self-help books that I like to refer to regularly. I do love having a home with a big bookcase stuffed full of books, but right now I can't have that and that's okay.

For someone who struggles to find their personal style and an outfit to wear for specific occasions I have an insane amount of clothes. Initially it was easy to bag things up for charity but I was still left with way too much. This is when it got harder to let go. I had to get ruthless! I was holding onto things because they were designer and cost me a lot of money 10+ years ago, not that I would ever wear them again. So what was I planning to do, carry them round with me for the rest of my life looking at them or storing them? I managed to get my wardrobe down to a reasonable size but I am still listing things on eBay on a daily basis and working my way through my shoe collection. My eventual plan is to have a "capsule wardrobe" and invest in good basics that go with everything. That's the long term plan but for now I feel so much lighter and less cluttered in my mind for having less clutter in my wardrobe.

photo source unknown

Letting go has been tough but it has been a real healing process for me. The satisfaction of reducing my belongings to a more manageable amount, giving furniture to family whose need is greater than mine, donating to charity, and making a few hundred pounds on eBay has made the process totally worth it. 

Trying to do this with chronic fatigue syndrome hasn't been easy but I am so proud of myself for doing a little each day and persevering with it. 

If you are feeling weighed down or you're going through a tough time, break up, whatever it may be, I can highly recommend decluttering your stuff in order to help declutter your mind! It has worked a treat for me.

My top ten picks for Netflix.

20.3.17

There was one point where I felt like I had "completed" Netflix in that I had watched everything worth watching and anything left looked pretty rubbish, but lately it seems to have upped its game. I always seem to have a whole host of things to watch, so it's fair to say me and Netflix are firm friends.

If you have just joined and you don't know where to start here are the top ten series (actually one is a film) that I would recommend in no particular order.

1) My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
I didn't think this looked like my cup of tea but when I asked for recommendations on Instagram and a lovely lady pointed me in this direction I figured everything is worth trying with one episode so I gave it a whirl. Oh my God, I am absolutely obsessed with this show. I had no idea what it was about apart from I figured out it involved a crazy ex-girlfriend (because I'm clever like that) but I didn't really know what to expect. I certainly didn't expect musical numbers and for the characters to be so hilarious. I binge watched series 1 and was pleased to find there is a series 2 so I am almost done with that now, and I will genuinely be sad when it's over and I have to wait a while for more episodes! 

2) Bates Motel
Bates Motel has been going for a few years now so you've probably heard of it, if not I suggest you go and check it out immediately. It's the story of Norman Bates and his mother in the years before the film Psycho took place but you don't need to have watched Psycho to understand what is going on (however if we're on the topic of recommendations I would suggest you watch it because it's a pretty awesome film).

It's fair to say I have a bit of a crush on Freddie Highmore who plays Norman (is that inappropriate?!) but crushes aside this is one of the only series that has captured my attention and interest episode after episode. It's dark and creepy and the acting is superb. 



3) LOVE
LOVE is a dry comedy about the unlikely coming together of two very different individuals. The female character is a bit of a train wreck and therefore I obviously identify with her ;-) Series 2 was released on the 10th of March and I'm really looking forward to seeing how the new episodes pan out. It's easy to watch, funny, a little bit cringe, and something different to other American TV shows out there.

4) Grace and Frankie
I had heard good things about Grace and Frankie so even though I wasn't sure it would be my cup of tea I delved it. I was soon hooked, loving the relationship between the two main characters played by Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. They navigate their way through life, love and loss after their husbands have an affair with each other, with hilarious results! March also saw a new series of this so I am definitely going to be a busy bee making my way through the new episodes.

5) Black Mirror
I watched Black Mirror when it was first aired on Channel 4 and thoroughly enjoyed all of the episodes particularly 15 Million Credits. The episodes that were shown on Channel 4 are available on Netflix along with a new series that came out last year. I really like how the new episodes tackle social media and are hitting a nerve with everybody who watches them. We can all identify with the slippery slope that is being online and looking for validation! 

6) Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
This is a show that has the potential to be a little bit like marmite but I absolutely love it. The character Titus is enough to make me watch this show alone but the other characters also create a lot of laughs. I've definitely laughed out loud at most of these episodes. It's completely silly and ridiculous but I love it! 

7) Orange is the New Black
I am up-to-date with Orange is the New Black and familiar with all of the characters by now. Although I'm not massively keen on Piper, who is the main character and wrote the book IRL about her time in prison, there are plenty of other characters to keep me interested. There are a lot of subplots and it's not just about Piper any more which is great. It's such an interesting insight into life in prison for women and I don't know about you but it definitely makes me feel better about my own circumstances! 

8) The OA
A good friend recommended The OA to me and I must admit that if she hadn't suggested it I probably would have given it a miss. Boy am I glad that I didn't! It's a little random at first and after one episode I did wonder where the whole story was going but that only whet my appetite to find out more. It's quite different to anything else out there and after the ending of series 1 I absolutely cannot wait to see where it goes next. Also it has Phyllis from the American Office in it which is epic!

9) Stranger Things
I know every man and his dog has been talking about this show but I couldn't exclude it from my top 10 because, like everybody else, I really really enjoyed this show. I loved the 80s vibe and the Goonies feel. The character of 11 is a standout for me and it's nice to see Winona Ryder return to our screens.

10) The Fundamentals of Caring
I will finish with a film recommendation, which is this made-for-Netflix film with Paul Rudd. If that's not enough of a reason for you to watch then how about watching it because it's a funny, heartwarming, inspiring and unique tale of a disabled boy who is cared for by, and goes on a road trip with, his new carer who is a bit lost in life too. I really enjoy films like this; they're what I call a "a good yarn".

Enjoy! x

Books I have read in 2017 (6 - 9) *self-help special!*

6.3.17

I should pop a disclaimer in here to say that these are all self-help books so if they're not your thing this post will be of zero interest to you.

I read some absolute crackers last month so if you are looking for a new self-help read, or you want to delve into this genre for the first time, one of these could be right up your street,

You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay - 5/5

I listened to this as an audiobook, twice over, and I would wholeheartedly recommend it to everyone. It was of particular interest to me because I wanted to learn more about Louise's theories in relation to how feelings and thoughts connect to physical symptoms in our bodies. Louise has a beautifully calming voice and I thoroughly enjoyed every second of this audiobook. I will probably listen to it again and again throughout my life as it's one of those tools that has helped me a great deal.

There are exercises to complete throughout (for example practising forgiveness and sending good vibes to someone who has wronged you *this is as difficult as it sounds!*) as well as positive affirmations to repeat while you are reading/listening plus extra curricular affirmations too. It is a little bit weird talking to yourself in the mirror at first but trust me, it really does help!

If you are having trouble with relationships with your family, friends or partner, or you have physical symptoms that you can't get to the bottom of, I really think this book could help. 

Light is the New Black by Rebecca Campbell 5/5

Another set of full marks for me with this book which I absolutely did not want to put down or finish. It's a book I plan to read again from cover to cover in the near future. It opened my eyes to my spiritual side and helped me to understand the transitional period I am going through at the moment, which provided a great deal of comfort to me at a tricky time.

Rebecca's writing is wonderful and you feel like she is talking to you as a friend. It's a really meaty book with lots of information packed in but I would have quite happily kept reading on and on.

She guides you through how to connect with your true self, answer your soul's calling, and how to avoid dimming your light to fit in. There are plenty of exercises to complete as you work your way through the book which means you get to buy a pretty new notepad. Result!



10% Happier by Dan Harris 3/5

Dan's book tells the story of how he changed from a bit of a jerk (his words) to a more successful, calm and collected character all thanks to his discovery of and journey with meditation. Along this journey he meets the likes of Eckhart Tolle and Deepak Chopra and I found those sections of the book really interesting.

About three quarters of the way through I started to lose interest in the story slightly as I'm not familiar with who he is on the television and I wanted the story to wrap up however things picked up at the end of the book where Dan includes a guide on how to meditate and  practice mindfulness, the benefits of doing so, and a question and answer section which was really insightful to me even though I already have a little bit of knowledge about meditation and mindfulness already.

When I purchased this book on my kindle  it was a really low price and therefore I would say that if you are looking to find out more about meditation, especially if you have a stressful and demanding career, then I would recommend this book to you particularly if you can get it for a bargain like I did.

EFT Tapping by Kelly Ashley 4/5

Short but sweet, Kelly's book is an account of how EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique / tapping) assisted her in her healing from chronic fatigue syndrome, which as you will probably know by now is a condition I have. I stumbled across EFT on YouTube a few months ago and dabbled in it but it was only after reading Kelly's book and having more detailed information about how to do it that I made it a bigger part of my daily routine. It really is very simple once you get your head around it and Kelly explains it in a really clear manner.

I have yet to learn the scientific ins and outs of EFT in terms of how it actually works and what the different points of the body that you tap mean, but what I do know is that it works! It really does work!

There will be more fiction next time, promise! 


Little ways I make social media more enjoyable.

3.3.17

We all at some time or other will have fallen guilty to comparing ourselves to others on social media and feeling like a failure in comparison, because it is so easy to forget that comparing our entire lives to a strangers' "best bits" is never going to be a good idea. But we all do it. I certainly do!

Recently I have been trying to spend more time working on my blog and my Instagram feed because I get a lot of enjoyment out of the interaction and the feedback, but I found I needed to make a few little tweaks here and there to make my time on social media work for me and not against me.

* 'Muting' stories on Instagram. I love Instagram stories, both watching and sharing my own, but if you follow hundreds of people it can be hard to keep up with the constant stream of videos (especially when it's so damn glitchy, anyone else?) I have muted accounts for people whose stories don't interest me which has left me with my closest Instagram buddies whose lives I do want to follow. This works both ways so feel free to mute me if you're not interested in videos of pugs, cups of tea or the occasional life update. I won't be offended!

* Deleting apps. A couple of months ago I deactivated my Facebook account and deleted the app for it to remove temptation to log back on, which are two of the best things I've ever done. My primary motivation for this was that I didn't want to see what my ex-boyfriend was doing and I didn't want to see constant photos and memories popping up. Also since Facebook changed its rules and you see things from people that aren't even on your friends list it's kind of annoying. I don't want to see photos of babies of a friend of someone I went to primary school with (again no offence but life really is too short to keep up with the lives of people that you haven't chosen to follow). I'm also trying to minimise my time on Twitter because I generally find it is a negative place and a place I don't enjoy visiting that much any more so I have deleted the app from my phone and use my browser to check in every now and again because I do genuinely enjoy replying to any comments I get on there.


* Sharing the good and bad bits. One thing that is really important to me is that I am open and honest, sharing the good bits and the bad bits and all the bits in between. I would hate for anyone to compare themselves to me and feel inferior and I think if more bloggers did this it would alleviate some of the pressure that people feel to have a picture-perfect life. Sometimes I wish that I had more readers or my photography was better, or that I physically looked a bit more stylish/polished, but ultimately I like to be relateable and it's important to me to continue to do that. I am happy to be a relatively small blogger in a big pond and to keep things real with you guys because life isn't all sunshine and roses (with a perfect blurry background).

* Making friends. Over the past few years I have made some absolutely wonderful friends through my blog and Instagram; some I now see in real life and others I definitely plan to see at some point. As an adult it can be hard to make friends especially if you have confidence issues or you are shy until you get to know people (like I am). What could be better than having a world of like-minded people with the same interests as you at your fingertips. I always try to reply to comments and leave comments for others as much as possible because that's a side of social media that makes me happy!

5 good things (snail mail, spring cleaning, and so much LOVE!)

2.3.17

1) All the love on this post (and just the love from you guys in general, seriously I feel like the luckiest blogger ever with the people who read my rambling). Just this second I found a couple of comments from one anonymous person that had found their way into my spam folder (which I rarely check because it's usually full of gibberish!) so if that was you, "hello!" and thank you for your kind words and being a reader of Lily loves Lola since the start. It has been a long ol' ride hasn't it?!

2) Snail mail. I was recently reunited with my box of craft supplies and I could not be happier about having cards, envelopes, stamps, stickers and wax seals in my possession again! #nerd 

3) I'm going back to the Isle of Man next week for another week with my niece. It's all fun and games until you get "jelly on a plate" stuck in your head on a constant loop. Argh! I'm hoping for less rain and more outside time/trips to the beach. Fingers crossed!

4) Having a really good spring clean. This week I have taken heaps of things to a charity shop, binned a few old/broken bits and bobs, and commenced the mammoth task of listing clothes and shoes on eBay to raise a few pennies. It is SO satisfying to just end up with the belongings that you need/use regularly. 

5) Crazy Ex Girlfriend on Netflix. Seriously guys, I'm obsessed. Does anyone else watch it?


The art of letting go and starting again.

28.2.17

The art of getting by / getting over a break up - here

The art of sleeping - here

When Paul and I broke up just before Christmas I initially threw myself into looking for a job and house in Sheffield, so that I could be near to friends, familiar places, and (if I'm being really honest) him. Due to the shock of the break up and the adrenaline that was pumping around my body my chronic fatigue syndrome faded into the background and I convinced myself that I was well enough to go back to full time working and running my own home. I attended interviews and painted a smile on. I was barely eating, sleeping or thinking straight and my health came crashing down when the initial shock of what was happening wore off. I felt like I was back at square one; all of my hard work from the last year felt undone and I was so full of anger.

My homeopath recommended doing some "cord cutting" meditation exercises to cut ties with previous relationships, but one day I had the realisation that what I really needed to cut ties with is Sheffield. It's not my hometown; I ended up there through a series of events and stayed there as I had a good job at that time. It's full of bad memories and the more I go back, the more I really hate being there. I don't want to bump into people from the past who I would rather forget, and a lot of friends I made over the years have faded away as a result of people being busy with their own lives, and probably due to my illness, and that's fair enough.

I highly recommend cord cutting if you're struggling to let go of something or someone. You can do it using videos on YouTube or you can make your own up; visualise yourself attached to whatever it is by a thick cord and watch yourself cut through the cord with a big sharp sword. Watch the people/person/things fade away and see good things happening for them (that bit is pretty tricky ;)) Really focus on seeing the cords being severed and the feeling of freedom. Repeat it over and over until the feelings shrink. 

I recently drove past my old high school and primary school, and met up with a couple of school friends, and it clicked into place. Leeds is where I was born and lived for the first 20odd years of my life, and it's where I have to stay for now. The universe has brought me back here for a reason and I have to trust that this is where I need to be. And in the future, if I move somewhere else, then so be it. But for now, it's goodbye Sheffield. Thanks for the memories! Even if some of them are a bit painful.


Isle of Man trip photos [February 2017].

27.2.17

I jetted off (well, took the 20 minute flight) to the Isle of Man last week to spend a few days with my sister; they live in Peel close to the sea/beach which I am insanely jealous about. I was ready for some fresh sea air, a change of scenery and, of course, to see my niece, Mabel. She is changing so much so quickly, so it's nice to see her as often as I can.

I managed the drive to Liverpool airport and back by myself without feeling too poorly for doing it, which is good going considering driving is the activity that wipes me out the most. I still enjoy the novelty of such a short flight and I quite like flying on my own and pottering around the airport while I wait for my gate number.


The weather was beautiful on my first full day; chilly but with blue skies and bright sunshine, but the rest of my trip was drizzly and grey. It didn't stop us getting out and about though. We took one or two walks each day, paid a trip to the park and had a go on the swings, pottered around on the beach, and went on coffee dates. There was plenty of playing and dancing around in the house through the days, which explains my 8:30pm bedtimes each night :)

I am going back again in a couple of weeks to keep my sister company while her husband is away seeing friends. I've got my fingers and toes crossed for warmer, dryer weather next time around!


10 things making me happy at the moment.

17.2.17

1) Learning calligraphy.

2) Netflix. I am currently making my way through Crazy Ex Girlfriend, and last weekend I binge watched Santa Clarita Diet. I highly recommend both!

3) Self-help books (and books with Instagram worthy covers!) I can't get enough of books on the body, mind and spirituality at the moment. Send me your recommendations peeps! 

4) Fresh flowers dotted round the house.

5) Lily and Lola cuddling up with Amber the cat. Three squishy faces instead of two is a delight!

6) Making good progress with my current cross stitch project. I am hoping to finish it in the next couple of weeks and get it posted off to the recipient.

7) Feeling stronger every day; managing to get out walking and doing yoga most days and it feels fantastic. 

8) Chatting to my lovely friends on Instagram.

9) Blue skies and fluffy white clouds (finally!) I am welcoming any future temperature increases and sunshine with open warms.

10) Sainsbury's freshly baked gluten free bread. OMG. Game changer.

You?


Life lately (old mates and lunch dates).

15.2.17

There was so much love for my last blog post - thank you! It was one of the easiest and quickest posts I've ever written because the words flowed straight from my heart into my fingers, and it felt so good to get it all out there. 

It's been almost a month since my last "life lately" post and even though I have been sharing daily life over on my Instagram page, for those folks who aren't on there I thought an update was in order. 

My broken heart has slowly been gluing itself back together. I smile and find joy in my days again, and I truly feel like it was for the best even though at first I couldn't see it in that way. I have been doing a lot of "letting go" exercises; letting go of old boyfriends and living in Sheffield and my old ways of life. My focus is now on being back in Leeds, friends, family, my health and happiness, and taking one day at a time. Some days are better than others but I am finding that when I am diligent with my meditating/breathing exercises, yoga, walking in nature, writing in my diary, avoiding junk food and drinking plenty of water, etc, it is easier to feel good and stay on the right side of my chronic fatigue syndrome. 


What else have I been up to?

Last week I met up with the wonderful Kelly aka Kelanjo (her blog is here) after not seeing her since our early 2009/2010 blogging days. She only lives 15 minutes away from where I'm staying with my parents, so we popped out for a brew and a long overdue chinwag. I genuinely had such a lovely afternoon and was smiling all evening thinking of the daft stuff we had been laughing about. We had a pot of tea and browsed in the shops at Salts Mill, discussing our love for books and trying to hunt down Milk & Honey by Rupi Kaur (still haven't got my hands on a copy).

A couple of days ago I met up with two old pals who go way back to high school. We met in year 7 as diddy 12 year olds and were the bestest of friends through high school and sixth form. Due to a couple of us moving away in our mid 20s we lost touch and haven't met up as a "three" in about 6 years, but I'm determined it won't happen again. It was so good to see two familiar faces and to talk about old times.

Aside from that I have been doing lots of reading (self-help books are my fave), walking along the canal most days, I sent books to some strangers with a note inside, I have been working on a new cross stitch project which I am making as a surprise for a friend, so I can't share it just yet, and I have been hanging out with my mum quite a bit. We had a lunch date at Pie Minister in Leeds a couple of Saturdays ago and it was bloody delicious.


That's all for now; have a good Wednesday people! xx


Why I am glad my life fell apart.

6.2.17

It is fair to say that the last two years have not been plain sailing for me and along the way I have wrestled with a variety of emotions, along with feeling very sorry for myself and often asking "why me!" But in the last couple of months I have had my eyes opened. I realised that I am glad my life has fallen apart because I never would have been able to become a better version of myself without those experiences. I am also kinda sorta glad I have been ill. That last part sounds like a weird thing to say but again, without the wake-up call of becoming ill through chronic stress and not taking care of myself, I never would have been shaken up enough to make massive changes in my life (changes I have wanted to make for so long).

I have spent my entire life trying to fit into boxes.

I went to university because most of my friends were going and that's what you do, isn't it? Do your A-levels and go to university. Except my heart wasn't in it. I picked a random course because I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life (still don't really) and quit after 2 weeks. 

I thought that being engaged and getting married like everyone else would fix all of my problems and make me feel on top of the world. But planning my wedding made me feel physically ill, something I found difficult to verbalise at the time and something I really wrestled with and couldn't make sense of. The wedding felt like someone elses "dream wedding", not mine. After years of pining to get married I wasn't even sure I wanted to get married at all, ever. The end result was that I ran away from it all and threw a 4.5 year relationship down the drain, and have had to deal with guilt and regret ever since. 

At school I always felt different to everyone else and I saw it as a bad thing. 

In relationships generally I have always felt that people have wanted to change me, and dull my sparkle a little. And I have let them for an easy life and to please them over pleasing myself. 


I truly believe that things have to fall apart sometimes in order to get better beyond what you thought they could be. I truly believe that my future is going to be so much better for the experiences I have had with my last couple of relationships and the struggles I have had with my health and wellbeing. 

Before I got poorly I was stressed and on edge all the time. I always felt like I wasn't where I should be in life but I had no idea how to change it. I was impatient and angry about way too much for someone who had a really good life. I didn't do anything to relax or anything for me. My world revolved around what my boyfriends were doing. I was unhappy in every job I had. I was depressed often, and hated myself and my body. I had problems with binge eating and restricting food which I couldn't seem to escape from. 

Being ill has introduced me to meditation, emotional freedom technique (EFT) and has forced me to read a whole host of books which have increased my knowledge about my mind, body and emotions immensely. This has allowed me to uncover hidden emotions and put them to rest. 

Being dumped a couple of months ago has forced me to spot unhealthy patterns in my relationships and, for the first time ever, I want to be single. I don't want a relationship, apart from having one with myself. I want to learn to love myself instead of throwing all my love in someone elses direction.

It feels amazing to have realised so many things about myself and to be able to blossom into a new person. I've still got a long way to go but I know I will always look back on these troubled times with a grateful heart.

Books I have read in 2017 (5-7).

2.2.17

#5 Living a Life Less Toxic by Faith Canter - 4.5/5 

Faith Canter is a wonderful woman I stumbled across on You Tube who has recovered from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome after suffering for many years following a bout of glandular fever, which as you may know is what has happened to me. I purchased Faith's first book on my Kindle, keen to find out more about her recovery story and what changes I could make to my life to make it less "toxic".

I have watched pretty much all of Faith's videos and I am already fairly strict with my CFS recovery "plan" (daily meditation, positive affirmations, positive mindset, detox baths, dietary changes, getting out in nature, good sleep routine, yada yada yada) so a few of the areas covered in the book were already familiar to me. That being said it was a further reinforcement of why I need to continue with these things, and I was inspired to make further changes to detoxing my mind and body. For example, she talks about swapping chemical products for natural ones complete with "how to" guides and this is something I'm going to do in the future. 

If you're newly diagnosed with CFS/ME and don't know where to start, I highly recommend Faith's book and You Tube videos to set yourself on the right path. Don't spend months waiting for help from the NHS like I did. Get cracking with your own research right now! 

I really like the chapter on EFT (Emotional Freedom Tapping) and I have found some good results from incorporating that into my routine. I wish this book was longer and a little cheaper, hence knocking half a point off from full marks. 

#6 The Road Less Travelled by M. Scott Peck 5/5

This book was recommended to me by my beautiful friend Alix. Boy oh boy, it's a good'un! It has opened my eyes to life and love, patterns I have fallen into with relationships and people, unhealthy habits and why they have formed, and has given me the ability to process why past relationships have failed. I hate to be such a cliche but this book has changed my life! I wish I had read it 10 years ago.


#7 A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness 4/5

From self help to a short fiction book, A Monster Calls was recommended to me by my sister and I read it across the space of a couple of evenings. It's a fantasy novel aimed at children/YA about a boy faced with the imminent death of his mother. It is written by Patrick Ness based on ideas by author Siobhan Dowd who sadly passed away before she could write the story.

It's easy to read and I was absorbed in the story immediately. I felt every emotion the young boy was feeling, and the "monster" provides a number of stories that really resonated with me and can be applied to helping in every day life. I wanted the story to go on longer. I am also really keen to see the film now!

What have you finished reading lately?

Things that have definitely NOT helped my recovery from glandular fever and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

28.1.17

In the early days when I was feeling run down and experiencing flu-like symptoms, but I didn't know why, my crucial mistake was not resting and sleeping enough. I pushed myself for the sake of my job, and that got me nowhere. I stayed up late to see my boyfriend after his shift work, and that got me nowhere either. I tried to exercise because I hated the thought of not doing anything physical, and that made me more poorly. My body was struggling to keep going and I didn't keep still or sleep for long enough to give it chance to fight off the virus. My self-care routine was non existent. My stress levels were what can only be described as chronic, after the 6 months previous which had involved moving house twice, calling off my wedding, moving to a new city and starting a qualification on top of a full time job. This was the IDEAL time for me to start taking care of myself but I did the opposite; pushing myself further and further into a black hole of doom! 

Then when I got my blood test results which showed I had the Epstein Barr virus I made the mistake of relying on information from the NHS website which says most people get over it in a few weeks. In the last two years I have come across a dozen people who have had glandular fever and not one of them got over it in a matter of weeks. It was more like years of recovery. My GP didn't advise me to rest or explain that other aspects of my life (stress) could prevent me from getting better, but I really believe that if I had fully rested and relaxed my body and mind in those early stages of the virus I could have potentially saved myself from developing CFS. Seriously, if you're reading this and you've got the flu or GF then just get yourself to bed immediately. Drink 3 litres of water a day, force smoothies and soups down you, have lots of bubble baths, listen to audio books, meditate, stick your head into any patches of sun that appear, and be kind to yourself. I wish I could go back in time and show the old me this blog post. 


After I had been ill on a daily basis for 6 months (think of it like having the flu and a hangover simultaneously, not knowing when it will clear off, never feeling rejuvenated by sleep, and having to battle through a 35 hour working week) I was going out of my mind with worry. I took to the internet to find out if anyone was in the same boat as me. Instead of finding motivational stories of recovery I found forums full of people who had been experiencing CFS for 10 years+. I would spend hours and hours reading about these people and how they were in wheelchairs, stuck in bed, and felt like prisoners in their own bodies, and it made me massively depressed. In those delicate early days of my CFS diagnosis I should not have been reading those forums, but they have a way of sucking you in. I became obsessed with googling my different symptoms and each search I made pushed me further and further from my path of hope and recovery.

When I was living with my ex partner I felt like such a burden to him and a let down in general. We should have been going on holidays and days out, saving up for our next house and all the things that you do in your early 30s. My illness meant everything was on hold until I got better. This meant that I was constantly heaping massive amounts of pressure onto my shoulders to speed up my recovery. I would go to bed each night, praying that I would wake up and feel human again. Then each morning when I woke and my symptoms were still there I would feel upset, and so the cycle went round and round. As my mum frequently and quite rightly reminds me, I didn't get into this pickle overnight so I'm not going to get out of it overnight. It's going to take time, patience, and avoiding additional stress by not worrying about things that are out of my control.

For a long time I hated my body. I would literally tell it that I hated it. It had let me down by failing to function like everyone else and I felt trapped. It took me a long time to realise that actually I had let my body down by not taking good enough care of it. And even though I felt poorly, my body was doing everything in its power to recover, fix itself, build up energy, and I had to be thankful for that. Once I changed my way of thinking I started to love my body. I even love all my lumpy bumpy un-toned bits, because it's the only body I have got and I am never going to take it for granted again. Everything I eat and drink and do for my body now is to serve it, and not to abuse it. 

When you're bed bound, housebound or spending more time resting you suddenly have a lot more free time on your hands and it's incredibly boring doing nothing. So the temptation to browse the internet, read the news, check Facebook and spend hours looking at different hashtags on Instagram becomes rather great. When you're not in a good place mentally and physically it's definitely a good idea not to check Facebook where you will be confronted with people doing things you can't. Reading the doom and gloom of the news will also slowly chip away at any reserves of energy you have so it's a good idea to temporarily swap the type of news you stay up to date with. I found that reading about animal cruelty cases and watching graphic videos that were popping up on my news feed, and getting upset about them, would make me feel physically unwell. So I vowed that I would get back on my crusade to make the world a better place when I am fighting fit again. Deleting my Facebook recently has been one of the best things I've ever done. Instead fill your time by doing things that fill you with joy; reading or listening to audiobooks, crafts, watching a box set, baking or cooking (if you can manage it), pampering, colouring, all that good stuff. Even if you feel like you're at deaths door, try to do something that makes you feel happy.

I used to focus on all the things I couldn't do. I can't work. I can't go for long walks or exercise. I can't hold a book up for longer than 15 minutes. I can't do anything strenuous unless I schedule a full 48 hours of rest afterwards. Negative Nancy, that was me. Now I focus on all the things I CAN do. I can manage gentle yoga sequences and that also makes me feel relaxed, double whammy! I can do as much meditation as I want from the comfort of my bed and that makes me feel fantastic. I can go on short walks with the dogs and, because they're so slow, stop to take in my surroundings as often as I want to. I can do jobs around the house which I definitely couldn't manage this time last year. Progress is progress, no matter how slow. 

Whether you're long term ill, post viral or maybe you're just feeling run down I really hope this helps you to make some positive changes. 

Life lately (breaking up and re-building).

24.1.17

We broke up...

I have tried to write this blog post several times and I'm only just in the frame of mind where I can sit down and share it with you guys. Excuse the blunt delivery but there's no other way to say it really, is there. 

A couple of weeks before Christmas my boyfriend asked me for some space. I turned up on my parents doorstep with a suitcase, the dogs, and an ugly crying face, but I was 90% sure we would sort things out after a bit of time apart. Our 18 month relationship had faced some rough rides with my health problems and losing my job, and the pressures he felt as a result of that, along with disappointment after disappointment of not being able to carry out plans/holidays/special occasions as we wanted to. But we were madly in love and made each other happy, and we were both on the same page that we were going to be together forever so this was just a small bump in the road, so everything was going to be alright, right? Wrong. I guess we all have a limit and his had been reached. So it wasn't true love for ever and ever, as I thought it was.

For 30 days straight I cried pretty much all day, every day. I didn't eat or sleep. I felt like I would never be able to smile or be happy again. But time is a great healer and 6 weeks on I feel a little better and brighter, and I know things will fall into place for me because bad things lead to good, always.

The hardest thing is not being able to move on because of my health. Break ups are usually the time to get stuck into your job or a new qualification, get your hair cut, get a new place to live, go to the gym and get fit, channel your energy into new hobbies and go out on the town with your girl friends. So to have chronic fatigue syndrome which has limited my ability to exercise, work, see friends, live independently, and do normal things like everyone else, has been quite frustrating. But I have to accept that this is where I am right now, and I have to build up my health, mind, strength and confidence before launching back into the real world again. For now I will be taking things steady and giving myself a break.


Books I have read in 2017 (1-4).

22.1.17

#1 The Bucket List to Mend a Broken Heart by Anna Bell - 2.5/5

I ended 2016 and started 2017 with something I thought would be easy to read and familiar, to ease me into my year of reading more; a good old "chick lit" book. I used to devour this genre of books but they just don't seem to hit the spot with me anymore. Perhaps because I'm older, wiser and a bit cynical to the "happy after ever" storyline ;)

The clue is in the title; the storyline follows Abi who is dumped and, upon finding her ex boyfriend's bucket list, decides to tackle each item on his list in an attempt to win him back. I really enjoyed the concept of the bucket list; it was motivating to show how you can reinvent yourself after a break up and use the time to try new things but, honestly, I disliked the main character too much to be interested in what happened to her. "Don't Tell The Groom" by the same author is a much more enjoyable read which I would recommend over this one.

#2 The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey - 4/5


The Snow Child was recommended to me by my sister and I didn't really know what to expect, but I loved it. It's the story of Jack and Mabel, an elderly childless couple living in a remote cabin in Alaska in the 1920s. This book is so descriptive that it's incredibly easy to imagine every little detail of the story, from the changes in the seasons and how bitterly cold and bleak the winters are, to the array of wild animals living in the forest, and the snow child herself.

I won't spoil the storyline but I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed this book and the way it was written and I suggest you pop it on your reading list. 


#3 The Gratitude Diaries by Janice Kaplan 3.5/5

I was drawn to this book firstly because it was 99p on my Kindle and secondly because I am really interested in gratitude and how we can change our outlook by seeing everything with a positive twist. I keep my own gratitude diary as part of my recovery from chronic fatigue syndrome and in an attempt to reprogram the way I look at life in general, so I wondered how it can have an impact on people's lives.

When I first started this book I struggled with it. I couldn't identify with the writer at all, with her happy marriage, smart kids, and a comfortable lifestyle, it seemed so far removed from where I am in life at this moment in time. She certainly has a lot more to be grateful for than I do. However as I persevered I found the book really interesting, especially the parts where Janice meets up with different professors and people who have researched and done studies using gratitude, and they can prove that it does make people happier, more productive, healthier, and so on.

The book is split into chapters with topics on health, relationships, children, and work, each one being a real eye-opener into how Janice's new found gratitude (even when things were going badly) could improve her life.

#4 How To Be Good by Nick Hornby - 1/5

This is the first Nick Hornby book I've read, plucked from my book stash at the last minute before the boxes went off to the charity shop. I expected good things and I was sorely let down! The storyline was so random, the characters were irritating and the ending was disappointing. I only persevered as I don't like to be a quitter. 

It's annoying when that happens isn't it? But onwards and upwards, I have a massive pile of books to get through! 

5 good things (new friends and old favourites).

12.1.17

It would be a fair statement to say that December and January have been far from "good" but I am trying this new thing where I focus on the positives instead of the negatives so with that being said, here are 5 good things from recent weeks.

1) A cup of tea and a good chat with an online-turned-real-life friend (hi Lauren!) We have been in touch for a while now, keeping each other up to date with the ups and downs of our lives/love lives and we finally met on Tuesday. I had such a lovely time; I could have chatted all afternoon! 

2) Moving to a house right next to a canal. This means my walks have become a lot more visually pleasing! Tonight I went for a quick stroll and the sky was the most beautiful colour, the ducks were out, I was wrapped up warm but the wind wasn't too cold on my nose, and I felt really grateful that I had somewhere like that on the doorstep to lift my spirits.


3) The return of the Undateables on the telly. Without a doubt one of my all time favourite things to watch! 

4) Finally getting round to seeing Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them. I took myself off for a cinema date for one, and left with a new appreciation of Eddie Redmayne. He's rather lovely isn't it? Aside from enjoying him I also really enjoyed the film.

5) Getting back into reading. This time last year I could barely find the energy to hold a book up or the space in my brain to process the words. I might not be where I want to be health-wise but I am getting through books at a fast pace and that is amazing progress. Also I forgot how much I love reading!

Goals / gentle reminders for 2017.

8.1.17

Long time no speak! I hope you all had a good Christmas? I took a blogging break throughout December and it was nice to step away from it for a short while, but now I am raring to start writing again. December turned out to be one of the most eventful months of my life, but more on that another time. Today I'm talking goals! 

I keep reading that you shouldn't share your goals because they're more likely to fail, but mine are more like gentle reminders of things I need to see written down in black and white, to help me stay focused and positive. 

- 2017 is going to be all about me, myself and I. I spent the whole of last year worrying about how my ill health was affecting other people to the point where I was walking on eggshells, becoming very withdrawn and negative which was potentially delaying my recovery even further.  I don't want to feel bad or guilty for the changes I have had to make to my diet, sleep routine, habits, and life in general because essentially they're all going to help me live my life to the full again! I also don't want to beat myself up about being negative and not always being the best person I could be last year, because it has been an enormous struggle and I really have done my best to battle through it, despite what other people think.  

- Spend more time writing on my blog and sharing what's going on in my life with you guys. This year is going to be a big one for me with lots of changes and I want to talk about it all (warts and all!). There are going to be ups and downs, highs and lows, and that is the rollercoaster of life. I used to resist it and now I embrace it because honestly, the last few years of my life have been crazy / stressful / amazing / happy / sad, and everything in between. If you want to read a blog of a 30-something who has her life together then you are most definitely in the wrong place. 


- Meet some of my blog friends. When I first started blogging in 2009/2010 I went to quite a few events all over the country. I remember being nervous but it never stopped me going and enjoying myself. These days the thought of doing the train journey alone fills me with terror. In some ways I am more confident than I was back then but when it comes to meeting new people I am definitely a scaredy cat. I don't know how or why this came to be but I know that I don't like it and I want to change it. I want to escape my comfortable little bubble which actually isn't so comfortable anymore. 

- Stop putting so much pressure on myself to go to bed and wake up "fixed". As my mum quite rightly pointed out I didn't get into this pickle overnight so it's not going to clear off overnight. I have come to realise that I put humongous amounts of pressure on myself to get better by a certain day or event, and then I'm constantly disappointed when it doesn't happen and so the vicious cycle continues. When I sit and really think about it I have made huge progress since this time last year and if I keep going it will lead to good things. And boy when the day comes that I feel better I am going to be one happy chappy! 


What are your goals for this year?