Newcastle Photographer and Content Creator, Mandy Charlton, Always on a quest for adventure, often seen on buses, trains and planes. On a quest to be happier and healthier. Lives in Newcastle with her 3 cats, Iris, Maggie and Arthur. Loves good vibes, musicals and cakes. Full time professional wedding photographer in the north east of england alongside content creator on Tiktok, Instagram and Facebook

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Years Resolutions

I've never been one for complicated lists of new years resolutions which I'll promptly give up or forget about 3 days into January, usually my one resolution is to continue to be fabulous dear reader, both in life and in business!  I'm sort of half joking as that sounds a little arrogant so maybe the plan has always been to continue to be happy although I sort of fell off the log on that one too this year even if it wasn't intentionally.

I really wanted to have a list of goals for next year but I think that the first one has simply got to be to make it through the next year as unscathed as possible, divorce after all isn't exactly a joyful thing, looking at the positives in that though means being able to really move on and start again.  I always think each year should have your own personal buzzword, just one word to focus on and pull you back in times of need.  My word for 2015 is renewal or rebirth, it's the start of a whole new phase in my life, one which will hopefully end in completion and by that I mean that I end up complete, it's not the same completion as in Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro! it's a very good book/movie if you haven't read/watched it but it's definitely not a happy story!

If you're a regular reader of my blog you'll know that each week we have tasks to do on our family to-do board, usually they're all written by Looby as she comes up with much more interesting ideas than I ever could!  This week, number 5 on her list is Write an inspirational quote, so here goes :-

It is only once you have experienced the dark that you can truly appreciate the sunshine on your face.

So back to those New Year resolutions - 

1. Try not to be bitter
2. Try always to be positive
3. Try to learn from the past to move forward to the future
4. Try always to appreciate the sunshine on my face
5. Continue to surround myself with wonderful friendships
6. Love my friends and let them know how much I appreciate them
7. Don't let toxic people upset me in business or personal life
8. Be Happy and smile every day
9. Allow myself to make mistakes without beating myself up about it
10. Sparkle!

So, what's your buzzword for 2015 and what goals are you going to set yourself, remember that you should think about these things and don't just chuck a list of things together which you know you'll fail at by this time next week, it's good to write them down and if you don't get it right first time, don't get cross at yourself, no one is perfect after all!

Whatever you are doing tonight to celebrate the passing of the year and the birth of the new one make sure when midnight comes that you are happy and content, the birth of a new year is not the time to get grumpy!


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

What are you doing New Years Eve?

Yep, I pinched that one from the song dear reader, you can forgive me because when I was thinking about writing a blog post it kind of got stuck in my head.   It was either that or "The Perfect Year" and well you know, it hasn't exactly been the perfect year, next year maybe?

I'm pleased to report that my Christmas break has been full of friends, food and festive goings on and I'm having a lovely time off thanks very much.  I have been on epic dog walks every day and I have a very happy beagle puppy!

Excuse the me in this photo, I really do love going to places with Holly but I am awful in photos, even Looby says I have my eyes closed in nearly every photo of me, destined to be behind the camera forever and out of sight I think, haha

I caught up with friends and had festive drinks in town like a grown up, there was much laughter and slight tipsiness

I went out for lunch and Holly came too, in fact she's really never left my side for the whole two weeks, we live near so many dog friendly places it's easy to just do the things she wants to do.

We've had friends over to visit, some of them also have very cute doggies so Holly likes visitors just as much as I do.

and I think it's fair to say that Holly might have as many outfits as I do, except she looks amazing in everything!

So anyway, New Years Eve, it's always so filled with expectation and I think almost a pressure that it has to be the best night out/in of the whole year and quite often we all put far too much pressure on ourselves instead of just having a few drinks and enjoying ourselves.  There's a carnival in town which starts at 4pm at Monument and then moves down onto the quayside for 6pm and then there's fireworks, I am planning to go along with the kids, I really want to take Holly too but I'm not sure how she'll get along with the fireworks, doggy ear defenders maybe?  After that we'll be having drinks and party food and maybe some Singstar.  So at the moment it's just me and the kids but it's open house so if you're not doing anything or you're going to be on your own then come to our house, just email and we'd love more people here, you can even stay over (as long as I know you) and we'll make up the guest beds.

I'm back to work on Monday but in reality I have to catch up with newborns this weekend that I missed over Christmas so it looks like 1 newborn at home on Saturday, 2 photo shoots in Saltwell Park and  newborn at home on Sunday and that's me having a light work weekend!!

I haven't really thought about New Years resolutions yet but I am going to set myself a few goals both personal and professional, I think my main aim is to just continue in my journey to happiness, I remarked to Looby yesterday when we were out walking with Holly that I'm actually pretty blissfully happy reconnecting with friends and enjoying the company of Holly who really has healed my heart and made it shiny again, I love and adore her so much, she's such a tonic for a broken heart, you can't be sad around her because she's a cuddle monkey and she's so blooming funny, you never quite know what she's going to get up to next.

I'm hoping to get a lot more social next year so do drop me a line and lets fix up a date to go and eat cake or drink cocktails or maybe even come along on an epic dog walk!  I'm going back to Slimming World tonight, hopefully I haven't put on too much weight over the last couple of weeks, I think the 3-5 miles of dog walks every day has to make a bit of a difference...fingers crossed!


Friday, December 26, 2014

And so this is Christmas...2014

Good morning dear reader and Merry Christmas, I hope that you had the most splendid of days and that your boxing day hangover isn't too bad this morning, if it is then I suggest a quick Bloody Mary might be just the ticket, I'd have one myself but I need the coffee first!

Yesterday exceeded all of my expectations, we had a truly brilliant Christmas day, a little different to the last 15 years but really, I think having friends over for Christmas is such a brilliant idea that I want to do it every year, I also want to have an open house policy at Christmas because I truly believe that no one should be alone at Christmas.

I didn't take a lot of photos yesterday because to be quite frank if I wasn't cooking or eating I was generally kicking back and having fun.

Obviously there are just 1 or 2 photos of Holly, she's so blooming funny and cute, she was like an overexcited toddler yesterday and definitely overtired by the end of the day, so much so that she didn't even wake me up until 8am and even then it was by jumping on the bed for a huge cuddle!

I think all of the above photos were taken on Christmas eve just in case you're wondering why Looby is dressed and then in pyjamas and then dressed again.

Christmas day started off at a really respectable time, in fact it was around 9am when the kids finally got up, Holly and I had a lovely hour on our own having cuddles from about 8ish, it was certainly a very gentle start to Christmas day.  First present Looby got was a unicorn, she requested a unicorn specifically but because I couldn't fit a real one in our house I thought a knitted one might work just as well.

Abigail doing her self tickling I don't know either!

Holly got a lovely Christmas outfit to wear and it was greatly admired when we went for a lovely Christmas morning dog walk down to the park!

Despite what you would think Li and I only drank 2 bottles of Prosecco yesterday, it seems we're quite good at fun family portraits and the ones with me in them were taken by top photographer Looby, I wonder if I could send her to future portrait sessions.

I have to say that I really excelled myself with Christmas lunch yesterday, a huge rack of pork was a massive success, Iain and Looby both has poussin and I don't think anyone left anything, it was simply yumptious!

Holly loves Li's daughter, new best friend!

and in the midst of all of the Christmas chaos Looby set up her foot spa and read a book whilst we all got vibration related illnesses, how noisy are foot spas?

We played festive bingo afterwards for chocolate coins and then we settled down for Dr Who which was pretty good, I'm not sure it was my favourite Christmas Dr Who but to be honest I need to watch it again when I can properly concentrate on it.  After that everyone watched Miranda (recorded for later for me) while I made a huge Christmas buffet supper full of yummy treats though we all mainly just picked at stuff!

Today is all about taking it easy, the girls are going to their dads for Christmas number 2, Li is going to her mums for Christmas number 2 and Holly and I shall be very much in relaxation mode, i'd stay in my pyjamas if it wasn't for the fact that I've promised her a very long dog walk.

Whatever you get up to today, have a fabulous Boxing day and I'll be back in a few days with more festive tales.


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Happy Christmas Adam

You know that Adam came before Eve right?  Yep it's officially Christmas Adam dear reader and tonight will be the night before the night before!

At chez Mandy we are definitely in the Christmas mood and I have a couple of friends popping in today, thankfully after the cleaner comes as my kitchen looks like it's had a volcano go off, either that or malevolent pixies have snuck in during the night to trash the place.

I'm still struggling with feeling festive, our house is so quiet that it just doesn't feel like the usual festive chaos I love so much, I haven't even wrapped any presents yet, Looby has been my wrapper this year and has done just about all of them except her own, I've told her I need to try and actually stay awake tonight when she goes to bed so that I can actually wrap them as tomorrow night she wants to go to Midnight Mass, that's the new tradition we've chosen to start and as the kids are older and it's not so necessary for them to be in bed super early I like the thought of all going to Church for the midnight service instead of the afternoon one and then coming home and opening a present before we all go to bed, this of course will hopefully help with sleeping in, even my dog likes a lie in!

Holly seems to be loving her first Christmas, she's very good at festive posing and also eating the Christmas tree decorations.

I'm so thankful that she came to live with us, it's really helped me focus on happy things as I have to admit I'm finding the whole season of Christmas a tough one this year and I know that some of you who read this are also in similar situations or just situations where you don't feel full of the joys of the festive season.  My offer still stands to anyone on their own or feeling low, just drop me an email and come spend Christmas (or any part of the 2 week holidays) with us, the guest bedroom is only being occupied for one night so we've plenty of room and Waitrose delivered enough groceries to feed a small army so you really won't be imposing!  Don't spend Christmas alone though, that truly would be sad.  I hear somewhere that 5 million britains will spend Christmas alone this year and although I can't promise to find room for 5 million I'm sure we can squeeze in a few extra bodies.

Today is all about friendship, mince pies and mulled wine and with that in mind I better go and actually start making the mince pies, luckily I made the mince meat last week and the pastry is in the fridge, I like to simplify as much as possible at this time of year.

One amazing thing has happened, I've dropped another dress size, that truly is a Christmas miracle, I feel lighter than I have ever been, in fact childhood withstanding I know I am the lightest I have ever been, we'll put that down to flu, dog walking and copious amounts of hot water with lemon, it's very good for the constitution you know!

I hope whatever you do this Christmas Adam you get to do it with the people you love and adore, now go give them a big squishy cuddle or maybe a squeeze under the mistletoe.


Saturday, December 20, 2014

2014, a year in review...erm, maybe not

I think it's fair to say that 2014 has been for me a bit of a rough one, there were good things which happened don't get me wrong but on the whole everything that happened ended up being consumed by final collapse of my marriage and it's been like a death really and I find now that some days end up being harder than others.  There are some core things which I hope I've held onto though, I think even though inwardly I beat myself up and think I'm letting my children down the fact remains that I am a pretty good mum with the most fabulous children.  I wrote them all long messages in their Christmas cards thanking them for being amazing.

I didn't really get around to sending out cards to all of my wonderful friends but the chances are that you're one of the people reading this here blog and so let me say this now...

You guys, you're the ones, the reasons I'm here today, still relatively well balanced and in charge of my life, my business, my kids and I guess my destiny.  You will never know just how thankful I am for each and every one of you.

I guess you could say that the cruelty of one person revealed the warmth of human kindness of a multitude.

This little wonder has made the end of the year very happy, even if I am 1 rug down and my vintage milking stool only has 2 unscathed legs, this week we're dealing with Hollys first season, Abigail has taken her under her wing telling her hormonal girls know how hormonal girls feel, I hope they don't plot to kill me ;)

I'm going to work today because I just can't let 5 families down, the chances are that this is going to completely wipe me out for the rest of the weekend but hopefully given a nearly 2 week break at the end of it makes it doable.

To those of you in emotional pain this Christmas do remember that in just a couple of weeks it will be 2015, if ever there was better time to start afresh it's just around the corner and you know, we're all amazing really, you can choose to be anything you want because there's so much more ahead of you than there is behind you.  If you're unhappy, you have the power to change it even if you might not feel that you do, it's in there though burning away and the second you are ready grasp onto it run like hell until you find the happiness you desire, in fact if you want a running partner then run with me and we'll all go and grab that happiness together.  Things are better when there are more of you than just 1!

I feel my blogging may end up being a little erratic over the festive holidays, I'll still be popping on and writing my scattered thoughts at varying times but I find I'm planning nothing and seeing where the wind takes me (not my personal wind) so let me take this opportunity to say thank you for being my readers, my friends and I hope you all have the merriest Christmas ever.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Anyone need a tipsy Auntie for Christmas?

Friday dear reader and never has it taken so long to get to the end of a week.  This week has just been awful from a health point of view, I don't think I've ever been as ill with flu as I have been this week and it's only today when I've woken up that I finally feel like I'm turning a corner though judging by the fact that I also woke up with all of my hair stuck to me I still have a little way to go before I am back to tip top health!

It's a relief though as I'll be able to get out to do the 5 planned photo shoots in my schedule tomorrow but I'll do them knowing I can come home and go straight to bed afterwards and any Christmas shopping I haven't done yet, well quite frankly it's just got no chance although I do know that the Christmas elf who brings us all new pyjamas on Christmas Eve probably still needs a little help. Thank goodness then that I did my Christmas grocery shop weeks ago and that's all getting delivered on Monday afternoon (though goodness knows where I'm actually going to put it all, anyone got a spare fridge?).

I managed to get 2 books ordered for myself so that I have something to occupy me whilst the girls aren't here, I'm just a bit sad that I'm not excited about Christmas, every year all I ever wanted were huge family christmases, the ones where you have to have 3 separate christmases to fit everyone from your family in, well I've achieved a family so huge I could fit them all into a half hour of Christmas. I know you hear people complaining about drunk aunties in the corner or snoring uncles but I'd love that, i could even be the tipsy auntie in the corner if anyone needs one?  I've been thinking this week and crying a lot which is I think due to flu but also due to the realisation that this year has been pretty horrible and I feel responsible for the pain I've caused my children and myself I suppose.

My offer still stands to anyone who's feeling lonely over the Christmas period, if you have no one please do consider my offer and come to our house, the best thing about 2 or 3 lonely people is that you put them all together and the loneliness isn't there anymore.

This Christmas let us all hope for togetherness and then we can celebrate that!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The curse of flu

I came down with flu on Saturday tea-time quite suddenly and managed to work on Sunday but since then I've been pretty much housebound which isn't fun at all, so far this week I've had to reschedule meeting 2 new borns because I'm too ill to leave the house and there's no way you could risk giving a tiny newborn actual flu.  I know we're always saying "Oh I've got flu" when really we just have cold, I'm sure I've probably done it myself but I promise from this point on to never confuse the 2 things ever again.

I can't remember feeling so completely horrid for so long for a very long time, in fact probably the last time was about 2010 when I had flu.  I'm so lucky to have Iain who has been taking Holly out for her walks, I've managed to get out once a day for walkies but today I'm totally and utterly beaten, I've pretty much slept for the last 24 hours, can't eat because I have no appetite and anything I do try tastes like cardboard.  Iain even went to get me some aspirin and brought back some Lucozade saying in his opinion I should try that, I have a brilliant son!

There really isn't much else to say at the moment, yesterday I wanted to burst into tears every half hour because of that awful depressive low you get with proper flu, I realise that crying isn't going to make anything better and I guess I was just so sad at the entire situation with Christmas and my failings in so many areas, financially, emotionally, practically, I was supposed to be decorating Abigails bedroom this week and I haven't even made it off the sofa today, every single inch of my body hurts and the chills caused by the high temperature have just made me want to go and sit in a sauna which probably wouldn't have been a good idea considering that you have shivers because you're actually too hot.

I'm so grateful for Holly, she's such a chilled little beagle, apart from the mass destruction of anything made of wood, Iain took her out this morning after I regaled him with the news that she'd even had a go of eating the TV stand and my vintage milking stool will never be the same again.  She's a happy little puppy though and hugs me lots, 2 new toys have arrived today for her and she loves her new bear which has no stuffing and her doggy entertainment toy where she has to find the treats, took her about 10 minutes to figure that one out, she's a clever little beagle.

I'm supposed to be working tomorrow afternoon but whether it will happen is another thing entirely, the aspirin seems to have worked so much better at bringing my temperature down than the paracetamol (thanks Sue for that advice), whatever happens though I must work on Saturday, it's my last day for 2 weeks and if I don't we'll probably be sticking pictures of turkey to the walls and licking them instead of being able to afford the actual real life Christmas lunch.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Holly "the chomper" Beagle and the decline of my soft furnishings

I had rather hoped,  dear reader that I would be feeling significantly better by now but blimey I'm still really not well at all, flu is such an awful thing, I got up super early to take pain killers again for my muscle pains, I feel about 4000 years old right now!

I'm thinking of changing Hollys second name to "The chomper" and so she will now be formally known as Holly (the chomper) Charlton, we have a lot in common my beagle and I, we both love our food a little too much, it's just as well I don't actually like to eat wood, rugs or blue lametta, you don't ever want to have to pull blue shiny lametta out of your beagles bottom...

She's definitely keeping me on my toes and it's hard to imagine life without her, she really is my gift from the whole universe.

You'll note that butter wouldn't melt expression whilst being surrounded by soft toy stuffing, RIP Mr Camel!

I think Christmas combined with all of that gift wrapping paper might just be the most exciting thing ever if you are a 6 month old beagle, she's so like a toddler it's unreal, you know instantly if she's quiet and you can't see her then she's probably doing something she shouldn't.  I think someone might be getting some doggy toys to keep her entertained this Christmas, it might mean I have a slightly better chance of still having my remote controls still in one piece!  My rug on the other hand, well lets just say I'll be looking for a new beagle proof one in the January sales.


Monday, December 15, 2014

Worrying about Christmas...

You'll have to excuse the lateness of my post today, after 3 hours on the beach in sub zero temperatures on Saturday I came down with flu, still went to photo shoots yesterday because I hate letting people down but even I was too ill to do more photo shoots today so after taking Holly for a walk this morning I shan't be going anywhere anytime soon.

This week has a lot of important things going on in it, it's the final date for Christmas orders today, it's always quite an exciting day as the orders usually come in right up to the 10pm deadline, after this it's really all down hill into Christmas, on personal note I just need to make enough money to have the 2 weeks off without worry, since becoming a single parent life has definitely gotten harder in many respects, I just can't be away from the kids like I was previously, I feel every spare second I have I need to be at home with them rather than working, it's brilliant in one sense because I was definitely guilty of being a workaholic but I just wanted them to have everything I could provide, last night as I was sorting through my Christmas cupboard I apologised to Looby for the lack of Christmas presents this year would bring, "Don't worry mammy, Christmas is about the baby Jesus not presents"  I'm not sure where I got that one from but she's amazing, Iain also said I shouldn't worry too much because he understands, I haven't actually had the conversation with Abigail yet!  I could get cross and angry about it all and the position I've been forced to be in but what would be the point, who has time for bitterness, Christmas is a time for forgiveness after all, the girls are actually going to visit their grandparents on the day after boxing day and I'm not looking forward to the fact that Abigail and Looby are now going to dads on the night of Christmas day and won't be back home until the night of the 27th, I just hope I can get those books I want and then I can read myself through the lonely gap which is supposed to contain wall to wall family time.

It's funny, while writing this I'm watching The Wright Stuff and they're talking about how the marketing men shove big family time down our proverbial throats more at Christmas than at any other time of the year, we're constantly bombarded with messages and adverts about all those amazing big family meals we'll have, parties, constant social engagements, though the chances are that there will be days where I might not see another living breathing human, thank goodness then for Holly, she really is a blessing from God.


Saturday, December 13, 2014

Don't be lonely this Christmas, come to our house!

Apologies for not blogging yesterday but between work and this sweet little face all of my time is taken up right now.

She's just so blooming adorable and I'm totally in love!

So I was lying half awake this morning worrying about Christmas again, I worry a lot dear reader, my daughters inform me that they will be away from Boxing day until late on the 27th and as Iain is getting new games for his PS4 it's unlikely he'll be coming down stairs very often so there's just a chance that I might be a bit blue, obviously I'll have Holly but it would also be lovely to have some company or have something planned to do and I'm wondering if maybe you're reading this and feeling the same, well my message to you is don't be lonely at Christmas, get in touch and lets do something, even if it's just coming around here and drinking copious amounts of Hestons Mulled Cider.  I'd also like to extend that invitation to Christmas day, if you are going to be on your own, why not get in touch and come here, the more the merrier in my opinion and no one, and I do mean no one should be lonely at Christmas or indeed that whole 2 week holiday period, I literally have no plans for the whole of the 2 week period and I love seeing people, kids, animals so lets do stuff!  Now obviously if you are a serial killer I might not be able to accommodate you but lots of regular readers of this blog I already know so if you're one of them and you might have moments of loneliness during the festive period just get in touch and we'll try to make this Christmas the best one ever.

I'm off to the beach this morning for 4 very chilly photo shoots, I'm thinking there aren't enough thermals in the world for being out there for 2.5 hours today dear reader but someone has to do it and tomorrow I have 6 back to back outdoor photo shoots in Saltwell Park, luckily it's supposed to be a tad warmer tommorrow.  Monday I have another 2 photo shoots and then next weekend I am out on Saturday for my final day of photo shoots and then it's a gradual downhill slide into Christmas, I have my shopping deliveries booked for next week, Christmas and the New Year, quite frankly I have never been quite so organised.

What I want to do now is make enough money to secure the time off without worry, a few more gifts on the wish lists for my children and some of my wish list for me, mainly books which should keep me entertained for the 2 weeks I'm off.  It's funny really, I've always worked on the middle weekend but I found that I just never really relax when I only have a few days off so this week 2 whole weeks and hopefully I will be as relaxed as I was when we went to Gran Canaria.

Whatever you are doing this festive weekend I hope you have the most amazing festive spectacular filled with wonder and magic, send me some warm thoughts!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Dealing with alcohol in a relationship you don't understand

2 weeks until Christmas dear reader, am I ready?  Well my wine rack is for sure, I won another bottle of wine yesterday, suffice to say I'd be dead if I even attempted a row of it never mind the whole of the rack!

I was just talking to someone yesterday about my filling my wine rack obsession, it's come about of course because when you have lived your life with an alcoholic binge drinker you can't exactly have wine in the house, well that's not strictly true, every Christmas we would go and buy a ton of bottles of wine and spirits and I would declare that from December the first you could drink whatever you wanted.  For just one month I gave up trying to manage the drinking, it did of course mean we went through untold amounts of alcohol and hangovers but there were definitely less arguments although I did note on time hop that a couple of years ago we went to a Scissor Sisters concert where he got very very drunk and dragged me out into the foyer of the arena and was pretty horrible and told me it was over, there was no hope for us, he didn't know why we were still together, I think that was one of the times when he couldn't remember anything of it the next day, sadly I think that's an easy get out when you drink, you might not remember the hurtful things you say but the people you say the hurtful things to certainly don't recover from the comments so quickly.  The worst thing was that sometimes when alcohol was involved he would be lovely until a certain point when he just became horrible.   

We do that in relationships don't we, we make excuses for the people we love to deal with their personality flaws which hurt us, more often than not we feel it's easier to blame ourselves rather than the people we love, sometimes it even seems unfathomable that those people we fell in love with could be the person who is hurting us, it must be us that are the imperfect seriously flawed people. This is of course why it's still so very hard when you're no longer in those relationships, if not by someone else you have conditioned yourself to believe that you aren't good enough and the recovery from that is the hardest thing entire.

I'll leave it here for today so we can all muse on those words and thoughts, if you figure them out before me do email and let me know and if you are in a similar situation just know that it's not always your fault and most probably you are way better than just good enough and you only ever have to be good enough!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Happiness is a dog called Holly

I make absolutely no apologies that my blog is about to come the most dog filled blog in the world, I can't help it, I am totally and completely head over heels in love with Miss Holly Berry Charlton, we had lots of fun yesterday though I have to admit that I'm quite glad it was my day off because beagle walks and cuddles beat doing anything more productive hands down, She's my phone wallpaper, she's fully insured this morning, well she actually came with 4 weeks insurance free from Beagle Welfare but this morning I've taken out pet insurance for her so that's it she's definitely a family member!  Last night we both went to bed at 10pm as I've had a headache which won't go away since Monday, she was ever so good though and slept pretty much until 6.30am this morning with just one little getty up for a wee at 1am.  House training is going exceedingly well, in fact I think we've nearly cracked it and yesterday we had 2 big walks, I'm assuming she didn't get a lot of walking before she came to me as she was pretty shattered afterwards and then she got up this morning, went out in the garden, had breakfast and she's snuggled on the settee beside me.

She's simply the best cure for loneliness, I was watching This Morning yesterday, they had a phone in about loneliness at Christmas, one of the calls had agony aunt Denise in tears as well as presenters Phil and Amanda and also me, I just feel so much for people who are lonely at Christmas and of course just because you are surrounded by people during the festive period doesn't mean that you can't be lonely, I am so thankful that I will have my dog, cats, children, one of my best friends and her daughter around me on Christmas day as I know that a part of me will still feel a little lonely because it's my first Christmas since my marriage ended.  There's always going to be some sadness there and its' funny the things which get you, with me it's mostly music, suddenly out of nowhere it'll get me and I'll find myself crying wondering how on earth I arrived at this point when I always assumed that by 40 life, love and everything would be sorted out forever, I do sit and wonder if everything in my life has happened because I've been a bad person and the ether is delivering karma, I used to spend a lot of time thinking I was evil and going to hell until my therapist told me that you only have to be good enough in this life and in her opinion I'd always been better than good enough, she told me to look into the mirror and smile every day and tell myself that you only have to be good enough, it's one of the most important things I ever learned, if you constantly strive for perfection you will honestly never achieve it, as humans we are perfectly imperfect and I know from my years studying psychology that scientifically and statistically people don't actually like perfect people, it scares them!!

I know one thing to be true and that is that pets come into our lives and help us heal our hearts, they show us the true meaning of unconditional love with absolutely no expectations, they have the purest hearts and they, those little furry paws, are the nearest things to angels.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Say hello to Holly the Beagle

Apologies for no blogging yesterday, this weekend has been a very busy one with a wedding on Saturday, portraits on Sunday and then a couple more portraits early yesterday morning and then the rest of the day was taken up with patiently waiting for the arrival of our new family member, my gorgeous forever dog Miss Holly Berry Charlton, that's quite the fabulous name don't you think? Fabulous name for the best dog ever and obviously even though it was late and nearly dark by the time she arrived I still managed to get just a couple of photos of her.

She's 6 months old and already very clever, she sits, she'll do wait and I don't think it's going to take too long to finish off her house training, I reckon we'll have her doing high five by the end of the week!

This year has been by far one of the hardest of my life and also one of the saddest though it's had a lot of good things, when I look back in retrospect I do cry about it but some tears at least are happy. Yesterday at least I cried because I was so happy and thankful for Beagle Welfare bringing Holly for us all the way up from the West Midlands.

She's settled in surprisingly well and whilst I thought I would be writing this at 5am I actually woke her up 2 minutes before the alarm went off at 7.15am

If anyone is a gift from God it's got to be Holly, sent to heal our hearts and be ours with her cheeky funny personality, the cats it seems aren't really even bothered, Pyracantha did her comedy growl and has bashed her on the nose a couple of times which of course is the way it should be so she knows the cats are friends not food!  Poppy though just let her have a sniff and then wandered off completely ambivalent to the whole situation.

Abigail, Looby and Iain all completely love her and for me, well I lost my heart in the first five minutes.  I can't wait to go on lots of adventures.  First on the agenda is a day time walk to the dog park, we did go for a big night time walk yesterday but it's nicer in the day time when there are other doggies to play with.

I know whatever happens in the rest of the year we'll always have at least 1 amazing reason to remember 2014 for.


Friday, December 05, 2014

Anxiety, Panic attacks and the passive aggressive personality

I've noticed something lately dear reader, when I am on my own and left to get on with my life I have less anxiety than I've had for over 15 years.  There's something about living your life constantly walking on egg shells but I spent a lot of the time which has passed before me never knowing what would be the next thing to trigger the dark cold silences.  When they happened all emotion would be switched off like a punishment and situations could become so tense that in myself I would want to just explode and break down.  I remember in the early years of our marriage and I would go and hide in the loo and cry before coming out like nothing had happened because that's another thing about people with passive aggressive tendencies, they can't can't handle emotion.  I was actually told "I can't handle your emotions so if you want to talk to me about something you better not cry"  and so of course I learnt to shut those emotions away and I went from being someone who cried at most things (kittens, puppies and romantic movie endings) to someone who has massive problems unlocking her own emotions to be able to let them out.

I want my children to be able to express all of their emotions whatever they are, don't get me wrong, give me a primary school nativity play and I am still a weeping mess which is exactly as it should be but I've lost the ability to break down and get deep seated pain out of my system, this has of course over the years lead to anxiety and panic attacks and during my marriage if that happened that was as bad as being emotional, there would be anger and almost a "pull yourself together" attitude.  When I went through my years of dark emotional mental health I really wasn't as supported as I should have been, it was only ever when it got to crisis points and I was just about to see doctors that the darkness would soften and kindness would be shown because of course the passive aggressive person never wants anyone else to think badly of them.  You know they're often the kind of people who will do anything for anyone, it's not a selfless act though, it's so they can believe that people will think highly of them.

I spent my life proclaiming our love and telling everyone how amazing my husband was, he loved it, he drank it up, before nights out he would ask me how he looked and expect compliments, it wasn't exactly reciprocated and if anyone else gave me compliments he hated that, possibly because of his deep seated jealousy issues, there been more than one or two male friends warned off over the last fifteen years even though I would never ever have done any misdeed and it's just a case of me having lots of lovely male friends as well as lovely female friends.

There's worse stuff of course, deeper darker stuff which I'd prefer to not put out there, I have no problems with my children reading this blog because it's the truth, a document of my life and they themselves will only read it when they feel able but I don't want to cause more mental scars than they already have.

If you are in a similar situation you must know that you are never to blame, no matter how bad you feel and if you are reading and you recognise these behaviours in yourself please consider going and getting some help, I think it is possible to change but therapy needs to occur so you can deal with the very deep seated issues which caused the behaviours in the first place, passive aggressive is definitely a learned behaviour and so perhaps with cognitive therapy it's also possible to unlearn those destructive personality aspects.

I hope this post hasn't been too depressing for a Friday, the good news for me is that given 6 months I think I shall probably not suffer from anxiety and panic attacks anymore, I still have times but that's because of the last grasps of control which are still occurring despite me being free, one day though, full on sparkle with no hint of ever being frightened again!

Thursday, December 04, 2014

5 Christmas things for a very festive Thursday

Good festive morning to you dear reader, I wrote a blog this morning which I have to admit was a bit of a mis mash and I want to sit back and consider it before I post it, I also need a little more bravery, it's still hard to talk about some stuff even though it probably does need to be said so I'll leave it in drafts and work on it!  So lets talk about my favourite subject of Christmas instead.

  1. The top selling Christmas gift of 2014 is of course the Frozen Snow Glow Elsa doll it's the toy every small person wants and it's not going to be cheap to get one at this point, they are simply sold out everywhere, last week though I randomly clicked on that very same link when trying to help a lady find one for her niece and we actually managed to get one for the RRP, at the moment there are none for less than £60ish but occasionally someone will get a new batch, stick them on and they'll go for the normal £35ish, keep checking would be my top tip, don't go and buy one from Ebay for £800 though!
  2. The 2014 Christmas TV Schedule has been announced, what I haven't managed to google is if there are any new wonderful food specials, there always are of course and I'm ever hopeful for Jamie Oliver, Nigella, James Martin and Rick Stein
  3. It's exactly 3 weeks until Christmas and I am just about ready to go, I've been gradually Christmas shopping since the beginning of October and adding just 1 or 2 things a week to my shopping has really paid off, it's not going to be the biggest pile of presents ever underneath our Christmas tree but as Looby reminded me, it's not about the presents, it's about the people, I do hope that Abigail and Iain are ok with that too!
  4. Being that I won't get any perfume for Christmas this year, I've been thinking about treating myself to my favourite Juicy Couture Viva la Juicy  I still have some Chanel number 19 left, don't know what I'll do when that runs out, that's definitely one I can't afford to buy myself!
  5. Christmas is the time for new books so I'm going to buy myself some new ones to read during my 2 week Christmas break, on my list are Russell Brands "Revolution", "We are all completely beside ourselves" by Karen Joy Fowler and Stephen Frys "More Fool Me"
and so that's the things I'm thinking about on this thoroughly festive Thursday, on a work note I have the following availability to fill before the end of the year - 

Tuesday 9/12 - 10-1.30 anywhere 
Friday 13/12 - 10-1.30 anywhere
Monday 15/12 - 11am - Jesmond Dene
Wednesday 17/12 - 10-1.30 anywhere
Thursday 18/12 - 10 - 1.30 anywhere
Saturday 20/12 - 12.30, 1 and 1.30 - Jesmond Dene

30 minute sessions at Jesmond Dene, Saltwell Park and Tynemouth Longsands are £25, other locations/ at home/ larger family portraits start from £40

All photo shoots come with a web gallery for 30 days, 15% off for the first week your gallery is live and a complimentary print.

Please all manifest with me so I can fill those final sessions, my last planned photo shoots of the year will be on Saturday 20th of December and then I plan to resume photo shoots from Saturday January 3rd however, if you have family around this Christmas who you only see once a year and you want to celebrate that with a photo shoot do get in touch and I'll see what I can do, all photo shoots during this time will be a minimum of £40 depending on location.

and so go forth dear reader, drink egg nog (but not too much) sparkle like a Christmas fairy and I'll be back tomorrow with, well who knows, some days I find blogging easier than other days.


Wednesday, December 03, 2014

How to recognise and survive a passive aggressive relationship

When I think about it now, the man I married and spent my life with was always hot headed, irrational and possessive but I chose not to see it.  We do that don't we?  We meet people and then we ignore all of their flaws because we want to see only the good in people, we want to believe in true love and meeting that special someone you can spend the whole of the rest of your time on earth.  If there's one thing that life has taught me about the passive aggressive relationship it's that you can never win.  I have literally trawled the internet and read books seeking to find the person who managed to stay in a successful relationship despite having a partner who was passive aggressive. Often the problem with passive aggressive personalities is that the cause is so deep seated they're often not aware of their own controlling behaviour. 

I think it can almost be an involuntary compulsion to control and if you couple that with a heady hint of a narcissistic personality then they're so far to believing that they are perfect and everyone else is at fault that they'll never acknowledge control or indeed ever doing anything that was less than perfect behaviour.  In my own personal case even the alcoholism was justified as being something he had to do to remain married to me.

People with control issues, particularly passive aggressive personalities can often be the loveliest most charming people you could hope to meet, they will lavish you with gifts (they want others to know how perfect they are) but often they'll set you up to fail at something and that can be quite difficult to understand, for instance they'll forget that special date that you had booked and if you confront them they'll just deny all knowledge and then they may huff or strop so you feel that it's your fault until you actually start questioning if you ever had the conversation.  They really do thrive on you thinking it's all your fault but if you are reading this and nodding along let me just say now, it's not your fault, you didn't do anything wrong and this is all part of the game of control.

Let me give you another example of control which is so subtle that you can mistake it for someone being in love with you, so you're out with friends and you get text messages asking when you are coming home, they miss you so much, they can't survive without you for hours, they want you to come home so they can love you and hug you and be with you, you are their world.  Let me just put this out there as being a huge warning sign.  In the 15 years of my marriage I've lost count of the times when I felt I had to go home from nights out because of the above or angry calls because there was nothing for dinner or they couldn't remember how to order dinner, when I look at these things now I ask myself if I was actually crazy myself, a grown up adult should always be able to source food/cook something/have a few hours on their own.

If dear reader you are in this kind of situation please don't ever let yourself feel that you are anything less than good enough, I've struggled for years thinking I am a bad person and not good enough and I would hate others to go through the same thing, I guess that's one reason I chose to record this journey, to get it out there, because the victims of silent control might not have bruises but that doesn't mean the damage isn't there.  I don't wish to be categorised as a victim however, I am most definitely an expert in survival and no matter what happens in my future I'm going to survive and grow and flourish like the sparkly person I have inside of me.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

The festive period has well and truly landed at Charlton towers, yesterday we festooned the house with as many Christmas lights as we could find and Looby, the little gem that she is did the entire tree apart from fluffing up the branches and putting the lights on, she's a little Christmas wonder that one, she even said as we were having our 10 minute bedtime chat that she knows that Christmas isn't about presents, it's about spending time together as a family, I told her she should never change and she told me her teacher had said that to her last week too!

Apologies for the slightly dodgy quality of the Instagrams but it was pretty dark by the time I was able to photograph it and still no photographs of downstairs, I might do that after the cleaner has been as it's abysmal!

There was a certain sadness yesterday as putting the Christmas decorations up was always such a family occasion, I would do all of the decorating, the kids would put the decorations on the tree and Paul would sit in the corner getting drunk on egg nog, it's not that I miss that part so much but I've always so strongly firmed in being a family that it's sad the way that things ended up.  Poor Abigail is really poorly and stuck at her dads, too ill to come home apparently so Abigail if you are reading this, get well soon and come home to see that Christmas has arrived!

Tonight I am going to a Christmas party, my first foray into the world and being social, I've already tried to get out of it several times but I am taking Stacey to thank her for working so hard for me this year and also because there was less chance that I would actually chicken out of going.  I did say to all of the children that I could stay home if they needed me more but Looby said this morning that she wanted me to go out.  This is the first of 3 festive events I have invitations to but this one is the only evening event out in the big wide world, I'm slightly terrified but at least it's at The Stand in Newcastle so 1, it's in the dark and 2, it's comedy so I don't actually have to talk to people.  I don't actually have anything to wear at this point and there's a bottle of hair dye on top of the fridge which stands between grey haired old lady me and slightly younger red headed me.  I'm running to the retail park once lovely Daria stops cleaning around me and I've seen the black dress I'm going to buy so it's just a quick run into the M&S outlet store and a grab at the nearest rail!

Back tomorrow, if I survive...


Monday, December 01, 2014

Christmas Memories and trying to remain positive...

Well it's officially December the first dear reader and at the time of writing this I made it to December before putting up my Christmas tree, I hope you're proud!  You see the thing is, well Christmas was always going to be a tricky proposition, it's not that we always had the most amazing Christmases because lots of them involved things which just took the edge off like blatantly awful hangovers which meant grumpiness or being ill which meant saying things you wouldn't normally say but did because of the pain levels.  I remember when we had been together for about a year and we would beg for no grumpiness and so it would be declared some time on Christmas Eve and if we were lucky it would last until Boxing day.  We also had some brilliant Christmases though, I was proposed to at Christmas, the 22nd of December 1999 to be exact, it was after 3 bottles of wine and a biryani so I'm not sure how romantic it actually was but I said yes straight away.  Then there was the Christmas where I was pregnant with Abigail and my present was a hamper filled with about 50 individually wrapped small presents, these are the things I'll always remember and I'll treasure and I'll try to not be too sad if the memory takes me unexpectedly.

The other day I was in the kitchen baking with the music on and suddenly I found myself sitting on the floor crying to Ewan Mcgregor singing Come What May, yes I gave myself a stiff talking to afterwards and then laughed at myself and the ludicrousness of the situation but it's funny how things creep up on you unawares like that isn't it?!

It's been a good but busy work weekend and I'm not out of the woods yet though I do feel like I am entering the home strait now that it's actually December, I have my eyes on the prize, 2 weeks off with my children in the most festive part of the season.

This week I've said to Looby that we are going to do at least one festive activity every day, we have Christmas crackers to make, Christmas decorations to sew and I think once my shopping has arrived tomorrow we can actually make some mince pies, the first batch ever with my home made mincemeat, I can't wait to use that for sure.

When our Beagle Welfare visitor was here she asked if we were having a party because of all of the bottles of alcohol under the bench in the kitchen but the reality is that if I see a bottle I like I buy it, I rarely drink any of it, it's just the power of knowing I can have it in the house, something I could never do before, it's funny the things we do isn't it?  If anyone does pop around at Christmas they'll be sure to be offered a festive tipple for sure, it's funny though that Iain and I rarely touch any alcohol, that's what happens when you have lived with someone who drinks heavily, I think you see the damage it causes and it puts you off for life, don't get me wrong, I still like a nice glass of wine on an occasion but 1 or 2 and I am done, to be honest anymore and I tend to fall asleep anyway!

This weeks family to-do list is another wonderful thing from Looby, you know I think that girl may be the reason I get through difficult weeks, she's a total wonder and her bright enthusiasm cheers me up even in the darkest moments, she's got such a beautiful heart and I hope that her uniqueness never changes.

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