Six Things I Learned from Doing Blog Every Day in May (and Some Links) #BEDM

And now, the end is near, and so I face the final currrrrrrrrrrtain...

Sorry. I know I've got a terrible singing voice.

Blog Every Day in May has come to an end, and I learned some stuff!

BEDM is seriously motivating. Although I didn't post every single day (see below) I managed to 20 which I think is pretty good going, especially because before May I'd only managed to post 10 times this year!
It doesn't matter if you don't stick to the rules. I started the month off determined to post every day, and racked my brains to think of ways to stick to the topic. After a week or so I ended up missing a couple of days... and nothing terrible happened. It became much more fun when I  gave up on the rules (and anyway, I'm trying not to care about what people think of me)!
Blogging shouldn't be a chore. About halfway through the month I did start to feel a bit stressed about the fact that I didn't have time to read and comment much (I get stressed easily!). I gave myself a good talking to and remembered that it's supposed to be fun. I have a lot of admiration for bloggers like Corrine who manage to work full time, post almost every day and engage with their followers, but that's just not for me!
I should write 'heavy' posts more often. I've often found myself avoiding writing longer posts about more serious topics; partly because it felt too much like hard work, and partly because I worried that I didn't really have anything particularly clever or insightful to say. However, my post-election-rage-fuelled post about mental health funding went down very well, and that has definitely encouraged me to try and write more posts in the same vein.
I love Internet People*. BEDM pushed me to comment more, tweet more and generally engage more online. This has reminded me of how awesome my internetz friendz are... Twitter was the perfect post-election support group, and made for the perfect Eurovision party. The internet: making introverts enjoy 'socialising' since 1999.
BEDM is great for discovering new blogs (and bloggers). So...

Here are a few of the ace new blogs I discovered through #BEDM:

Is That You Darling I love Jane's book-themed posts, and I'm hoping to do a little collaborative post soon!
Zusterschap Collective A feminist lifestyle blog that hosts contributions based on a monthly theme. Funny and refreshing... May's theme was women's bodies and I've been nodding along in agreement a lot!
KezzieAG and Nomad Seeks Home. Two funny, unpretentious diary/lifestyle blogs. I love finding and reading blogs like these!

...there are many more and I'll definitely be continuing that list in my next 'links' post!

*A friend once described me as an 'Internet Person' and I bloody loved it.

[2015: 21] The Week With The... #BEDM

A Sunday weekly round up on a Wednesday? What is this madness?!That's just the kind of crazy cat I am.

Meal at The Tudor Barn. For my birthday some of my lovely colleagues bought me a voucher for a meal at the Tudor Barn in Eltham. The food was good, and the grounds are beautiful. It was also mega-easy to get to, so we'll definitely be going back again. It was nice to feel like it was my birthday again (two months on...).

BBQ. We went to a friend's birthday BBQ on Sunday. It featured jerk chicken and dancing to Pulp, so that made me a pretty happy lady.

Eurovision tweet-along! Ah, twitter and Eurovision, my two true loves. What a magical combo. Pete was out during Eurovision (luckily for him) so I joined in the mass tweet-along. My timeline was FULL of Eurovision funnies. I wanted Serbia to win, although listening to the song the next day was like turning over in bed and realising you had beer goggles on the night before!

Walk in the parks. I didn't fancy the gym on Saturday so I popped my headphones in and went for a walk. I managed 7.5 miles, saw Crystal Palace Park and Brockwell Park, and didn't get lost, so I'll count that as a success.

What If I Didn't Care What People Thought? An Experiment #BEDM

Today's Blog Every Day in May prompt is 'Step Out of Your Comfort Zone' so it seems like a good day for this post.*

As I said in my first BEDM post, I care what other people think of me. I think everyone does, and of course that's a good thing to a certain extent; if we didn't care at all we'd probably all behave like absolute w*nkers the whole time. But personally I think it'd do me good to care just a bit less.

My face looks stupid and I (sort of) don't care!

As a teenager I used to really care about what others thought. To the point where I'd be scared to wear newly-purchased clothes or put make up on in case people noticed and didn't like it. Now, this has improved a lot but I still find myself holding back when it comes to silly things like clothes choice, or other stuff like posting on here, putting myself in potentially awkward social situations, and generally standing up for myself.

I've decided to do a little experiment. In situations where I feel awkward about 'expressing myself' (bleugh) I'll try and act as if I don't care what people think. I'm interested to see how this pans out; will I be able to do it? How will it feel? How will people actually react? What will I end up doing?

I'll let you know...

*I know that's not exactly what's meant by the prompt, but I don't care anymore! SEE WHAT I DID THERE?

Photo An Hour [23.05.2015] #BEDM

Every month I see that Louisa and Jane are organising a Photo An Hour day, and every month I forget to participate. Not this time! I can't believe I actually remembered... 

Unfortunately Saturday was the first day of half term, which meant that I wasn't in great shape after the previous evening's post-work drinks. It was, therefore, not the most active day I've ever had! Anyway, here's what happened:

10.30: Still hiding under my duvet.

11.30: I made it as far as the sofa! Beans on toast for breakfast. Obviously I kept the beans separate, because otherwise they go everywhere, and the toast gets soggy... I clearly have bean issues. I'm going to stop talking now.

[I forgot to take a photo at 12.30. Must have been too busy sitting on the sofa.]

1.30: I got off the sofa! Well, I opened the patio door, admired our hanging basket, then sat back down again. Proactive, right?

2.30: A late lunch/very early dinner. Pete was going out in the evening so he wanted to eat beforehand. This meant that he whipped up the world's biggest pasta bolognese. That's why I like him.

3.30: The view from my washing up bowl. The corkscrew sexpot is called Vince, and he is the Best Secret Santa Present Ever.

4.30: I LEFT THE HOUSE!!! I was feeling much better by this point (the pasta revived me) so I put my headphones in (naturally) and headed out for a walk. First stop: Crystal Palace Park.

5.30: The always-lovely Brockwell Park. One day I will actually go to the lido there.

6.30: I stopped in M&S on the way home in search of reduced stuff (keeping it classy). My 35p flowers are still going strong!

7.30: How did it take me until 7.30 to photograph a cup of tea?!

8.30 and 9.30: Eurovision and twitter seriously are a match made in heaven.

10.30: Kindle time!

I really enjoyed doing Photo An Hour, I will most definitely be joining in again (if I remember). If you also joined in please leave me your link so I can have a nosy!

How I Became a Gym Person #BEDM

I am not a sporty person. I lack co-ordination and balance, and grew to hate team sports because I feared letting my team down. I have dodgy knees and running hurts. Yet, somehow, I have managed to exercise 3-4 times a week since Christmas (and do quite a lot before that too). How the frick did that happen?

The short answer: I made myself do it.

The long answer:
I try to think of it like going to work. As in, sometimes I don't want to exercise, but I make myself go just because that's what I need to do. Like work, I don't go if I'm really, really ill but that's about it. Also like work, I always feel a sense of achievement afterwards. Having said that...
I make it as easy as possible. My gym is five minute walk from my flat, which doesn't really give me an excuse not to go... even if it's raining.
I separate food/weight and exercise in my mind. I am terrible with food. As in, I eat a lot of it. Some of it's healthy, some of it really isn't. In the past I've fallen into the trap of exercising to lose weight. Which works... until I overeat then decide that there's no point in going to the gym because I've fucked up anyway. Exercising for fitness means I keep going even if I've fallen off the wagon food-wise.
I try and remember that I won't die. When experience finally taught me that, no matter how terrible I felt during spin, I wasn't actually going to have a heart attack it became a lot easier to push myself!

So that's it really. I sort of hate doing posts like these, because I am no expert, and also who actually wants my advice?! But I figured I should actually try and follow a #BEDM prompt properly for once! Right, I'm off for a run.*

*JOKING. I don't run. I just wait for the next bus.

What's in My Bag, or 'Look How Much of a Slob I Am!' #BEDM

This post ain't gonna be pretty.

Whenever I see 'What's in My Bag?' posts, they're always beautifully shot. They often feature Mulberry handbags, MAC lipsticks and a Filofax for organising one's blogging schedule. I, however, refuse to spend more than £20 on a bag, don't wear lipstick, and have about 70 Bloglovin followers (and therefore no need for a schedule).

My post-work-and-gym bag. Obviously I have a purse and a phone and keys, but so does everyone. Time to move onto the 'interesting' stuff.

The clothes I was wearing before I changed into my gym stuff. I probably should have folded them, but I couldn't be bothered. Fun fact: I continue to wear the trainers even though they have a small hole in the toe area. I love them and I can't bear to give them up.

Tissues, both used and fresh. Gotta have a bit of variety.
Headphones. Despite them being essential to my daily existence, I leave them tangled in the bottom of my bag (under the broken trainers, no less).
Deodorant. Standard.
Work badge (complete with symbols). This should actually be hanging on a hook in my coat cupboard, to stop me from losing it. It's still on my bed, which is why I keep losing it.

An apple I should've eaten after work... I had a slice of cake and two Tunnock's tea cakes instead. I may be a slob but at least I take good care of my body. Ahem.

Still here, honest! #BEDM

Leaves! Sun!

Just a quick one today (it really does have to be quick, I need to go to work in 10 minutes). I haven't been great at posting every day so far, although I am pretty happy with the amount I have posted compared to what I was doing before #BEDM started! I've got lots of ideas for more posts (including a collaboration with Jane that I am very excited about writing) so fingers crossed I'll manage to post every day for the next week or so... I'm loving #BEDM so far, I've found some ace new blogs and I think I'm pretty much over my recent fear of blogging! See you tomorrow...

In Defence of Anti-Austerity Protests #BEDM

I've seen a couple of blog posts recently suggesting that protesting against the forthcoming cuts is a pointless/aggressive/ridiculous thing to do. I wholeheartedly disagree.

But it's just going to turn into violence. Let's get one thing straight. Protesting is not the same as rioting. I do not condone violence or criminal damage. I know that there are inevitably going to be some people who become violent during peaceful protests, but I don't think that's a reason for condemning all protesters.

But the election was fair. Yes, the Conservatives were elected into power. I am not saying that the election was fraudulent. I'm saying that it's still perfectly legitimate for people to disagree with Tory policies, and they have the right to voice this, regardless of the election result.

But there haven't even been any cuts yet. Well, actually there have, where have you been for the last five years?! And even so, there will be cuts, they've been promised (and politicians never break their promises). So anger about austerity is based in reality.

But there are more effective ways to help. Do those as well then.

But it's not going to change anything. Honestly, I agree. It might not, but would it be any better to just shut up instead? That definitely won't change anything.

Am I going to protest? Maybe. I was thinking about joining the End Austerity Now demo, but there are a few elements of The People's Assembly's manifesto that are sticking points for me, and I don't want to march for something I don't 100% agree with. It's something I need to think about properly. But even if I don't do it myself this time, I most definitely defend the right of other people to do it.

Obviously certain media outlets will probably just focus on any violent element that emerges, in order to demonise the marchers, but that's a whole other post...

[2015: 20] The Week With The... #BEDM

First day. This week I started a voluntary job, working one day a week in the offices of a mental health charity. I really enjoyed it, although the whole thing felt surreal. Putting on smart(ish) clothes, getting the train into London, working in an office... It basically felt like I was pretending to be a grown up (I'm 29). I finished the day feeling pretty proud of myself for surviving my first 'first day' in six years. I also felt pretty ashamed of myself for not remembering to listen to First Day by The Futureheads. You win some, you lose some.

Maritime stuff. My parents came to visit this weekend (they've just gone home) so we decided to spend yesterday in Greenwich. My Dad is massively into ships, so we did ALL OF THE MARITIME STUFF. 

Comfort reading. This week has been a bit hectic and my anxiety has been a bit more present, so by Thursday I was massively in need off some 'switching my brain off' time (my therapist would probably call it 'self-soothing'). Cue the ultimate in brainless book brilliance; Sweet Valley Twins and The Babysitters' Club. 

Walk in the park. This morning we went to Kelsey Park with my parents. It was sunny. I took some photos. Nuff said.

Cheesecake. After dinner on Saturday we skipped the desert menu, went across the road to Love A Slice and got some cheesecake to eat at home. We only went there for the first time a couple of weeks ago, and it is so good. They also gave us a leaflet for their takeaway/delivery service. Yes, cheesecake delivered to your door. This could be dangerous.

And, the week without the dedication to #BEDM! I still managed three posts this week (I think) but I've strayed waaaaaay off topic and haven't been very dedicated to looking at other people's Blog Every Day in May posts. This week!

Eight of My Travel Photos That Instantly Relax Me #BEDM

A well-timed sunset on a Norwegian road trip.

Roath Park lake in Cardiff.

Bluebells in the South Downs.

Barcelona palm trees.

Watchet beach. About 1 minute's walk from the house I grew up in.

And, obviously, that lake.

This post was brought to you by water, and the colour blue.

Cake Porn (and the Recipes) #BEDM

Everyone loves pictures of cake, right? Oh, you don't? We can't be friends anymore.

Onto the cake...mmm, cake...

My (slightly too) rustic Victoria sponge.

The only time I actually managed to get my piping bag to do what I wanted it to do!

Pete's birthday cappuccino cake
Sponge cake meets tiramisu. I need to make this again soon!

Christmas cake! Christmas + cake = happy Liz

I took these into work on my birthday. I want my colleagues to like/tolerate me so I bribe them with cake. Works every time. I think.

Coffee and walnut cake
I think I used this recipe but made it as a big cake instead (with the buttercream on top).

Me right now.

Book Me! Six Mini Reviews #BEDM

The last couple of posts have been pretty heavy, so... Books! Whenever I read a book review, I basically just skip to the bit where it says recommend/not recommend. So I figured I'd cut the crap and just write mini reviews. Also, I'm lazy.

24 For 3 - Jennie Walker Novella following fifty-something couple and their teenage son. Neat plot but the cricket metaphor gets old quickly. It's alright, I wouldn't bother sticking it on the wishlist though.

At Home - Bill Bryson Not-so-short history of private life. Interesting and accessible without being patronising. Felt liked I learned a lot, although it did feel like hard going in places. Worth reading if you're interested in the subject, but if you want a more fast-paced Bryson book I'd recommend Notes From A Small Island or The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? - Mindy Kaling Part autobiography, part musings on life. The ultimate in light reading. It probably won't blow your mind but it does have quite a few laugh out loud moments (I mean that literally, I got some funny looks on the bus).

One Day by David Nicholls Will they/won't they epic. Lived up to the hype, and I read it in two days which is always a good sign! Definitely recommended (although I think I might have been the last person in the Western world to read it anyway).

Unsticky by Sarra Manning Grace meets Vaughn, gets very quickly out of her depth. Yes it's chick-lit, but it's good chick lit. 50 Shades without the BDSM, but with decent writing. Top draw holiday/guilty pleasure reading. 

Note to self: write blog post about how much I actually hate the term 'chick lit'.

Thinking in Pictures by Temple Grandin (Cattle guru and woman with autism) Grandin's part-autobiography and part-autism overview. Loved the mix of inspiring personal insights, summaries of autism research, and even the agricultural stuff. A must if you're interested in autism (or cattle). Good springboard for further reading. Avoid if you're a passionate vegetarian.

I've also read the His Dark Materials trilogy recently, but I liked that so much I'm considering naming a future child after the main character, so that probably does deserve a separate post!

[2015: 19] The Week With The... #BEDM

Post-election emotional rollercoaster. Shock then sadness then anger then resolve then sadness again... It's been fun. I'm determined to be more proactive from now on.

Mental health rant. Inspired by the aforementioned post-election rage, I finally got round to writing and posting my 'seriously now guys, we need to invest in mental health services rant' (although I went for a different title in the end!). I'm really glad I wrote it, I've had some very positive responses. Still terrified by the reality of health cuts though.

Realisation that I'm getting on a bit. Grey hairs, eye wrinkles, engagement drinks (not mine), pregnant friends, conversations about The Future... It's filling me with both excitement and fear. Emotionally unstable, moi?

Beginning of my #PostCircle odyssey. I managed to get my first Post Circle letter sent off, and I'm looking forward to sending more. Go Team Bank Vole!

Ridiculous soaking. I'm sure that when you're driving near puddles it may occasionally be unavoidable to splash a pedestrian. This, however, was freaking ridiculous. NB: The phrase I shouted at the time did not include the word 'freaking'.

I'm Expensive and I'm Worth It: Why We Need to Invest in Mental Health Services

I am expensive. For the last five years I have had acute mental health problems and I've cost the NHS a lot of money.

On my behalf, the taxpayer has forked out for: many GP appointments; years of daily medication; weeks of in-patient treatment; several A&E visits; three years of psychological therapy (an unusually generous offering); four emergency service call outs; home visits; a year's worth of support from a social worker; six weeks of intensive out-patient treatment; about six months of sick pay (I work in the public sector).

But, like a terrible shampoo advert, I'm worth it.

From a purely economic perspective, I believe that I will 'pay back' what I have 'taken'. Because of the support that I have received, I am able to financially contribute again. I work in the public sector, I pay tax. I can afford to rent privately, so I'm not reliant on social housing. My therapy has enabled me to make real change, so I am far less reliant on mental health services that I used to be. I no longer need the support of a social worker. I am stepping down my medication. I fully believe that, over the next 30 years, the taxpayers' investment in me will pay off.

And, actually, even if it didn't make financial sense, I'm still worth it. Because I'm a person, and my life is as important as anyone else's. Because we should look after vulnerable people, even if it means making personal sacrifices, because it's the right thing to do.

I am now deeply, deeply concerned. I consider my story to be a success story. One where the NHS largely stepped up to the plate and served me well, and where the state has done it's job. I'm one of the relatively few lucky ones. I have been incredibly lucky to have had the support of a wonderful social worker, and a therapist who has helped me to turn my life around. The allocation of therapy that I have received has been far, far beyond what is typical, and without it I would not be functioning anywhere near as well as I am now. I would go as far as to say that, without it, I might not even still be alive.

Some of my experiences, and the experiences of my friends, serve as 'failure stories'; stories that show what can go wrong when services become over-stretched:
  • I know far too many people who have been reliant on mental health services for 10 years+ because they have never been given the intensive input they need to make lasting changes. These are people who are desperate to be well, and to be able to realise their potential. 

  • Earlier this year I called an ambulance and was put on hold. For an ambulance. I then waited (alone, distressed, and dangerously impulsive) for nearly an hour for it to turn up [yes, it was a necessary call out, I acted on the advice of NHS Direct]. 

  • During my first psych admission, a young woman died on the ward. Obviously this is not a 'never event', but it was a very busy night and the staff were incredibly over-stretched. To this day the idea that this might possibly have been preventable makes me so, so angry and upset. What a waste of a life. 

If even one more person dies because of cuts to mental health services, then we have (been) failed. And they will. 

Moaning Isn't Enough Anymore: My Election Reaction

I'm so disappointed. I've cried several times today. I'm gutted for myself and my colleagues in working in education, for the disabled children that I support at work, for mental health services and the NHS in general, for my friends who are dependent on social housing and DLA...and on it goes...

I also realised this morning that I need to give myself a kick up the arse. I bitch and moan about cuts and austerity but in practical terms I do very little, except vote. I need to put my money where my mouth is (or my mouth where the money isn't HAHA). Even if it's just signing a more petitions, making sure I'm properly informed about what's going on, and actually going out and protesting. I owe that to myself, and to everyone else that the government doesn't give a shit about.

This doesn't need to be a long post because everyone's already written it, and said it better than me. Gemma's written a great post with a few good ideas for getting started.

I'm crying again. Fuck them. Moaning just isn't enough anymore.

#BEDM Blog Love [one]

First things first: if you live in the UK and are eligible to vote tomorrow, please do so! I don't care who you vote for (well, I do, but it's not my place to tell you) just do it. I find it hard to believe that there is anyone out there whose life isn't influenced by politics, so vote! Rant over.

If you're still not sure who to vote for then it might be worth having a look at the Vote for Policies website (it's a survey that allows you to select your preferred policy- without seeing the party name- on issues that interest you, and then it gives you the results at the end). There are other similar sites, that just happens to be the one I tried first!

A few of my favourite BEDM posts so far:

Janet's post about solo travel is one that I wholeheartedly agree with! I've traveled solo and it was one of the best things I've ever done.

I definitely don't feel bad about my love of terrible TV, so I was glad to read Rachel's post about why guilty pleasures are good for us.

Lizzie's enchilada recipe looks yummy. I'm ashamed to say that I've only ever made enchiladas using a kit, so I definitely want to try these instead sometime.

I'm really looking forward to seeing everyone else's posts from today, am always happy to add something new to my ever-growing Bloglovin feed...

P.S. If you want to catch up, you can see all my #BEDM posts here!

Something New Every Week [2015: 11-18] #BEDM

As part of my 30 Before 30, I've challenged myself to do something new every week (totally off today's BEDM topic, but never mind!)

11: Went to Hastings.

12: Had a massage (hopefully not the last time this will happen).

13: Turned 29, and became the proud owner of a hamock.

14: Saw my lovely friend Fee get married.

15: Played Escape From Atlantis. What a board game. 

16: Ate at Zaibatsu in Greenwich. Thoroughly recommend it!

17: Went for a walk around Throop, near Bournemouth.

18: Went to a 90s club night... Where I heard Keep On Movin' mixed into Disco 2000; probably the highlight of my year. 

It's been eventful! I love writing these posts, they always make me feel very grateful for what I have. *cheese klaxon*