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My first blog
This is my first ever blog, so I'm not really sure what I'm doing *Shock*. I guess I'll learn as I go along.
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January 4, 2017 at 6:20am
January 4, 2017 at 6:20am
Day Four - What's one place in the world you have yet to visit, and have absolutely no intention of ever, ever going? Why are you so adamant about never visiting?

This is another difficult prompt. A lot of the places I have no intention of ever going; I feel that way because of the governments who are abusing the citizens. Not because I have no desire to see the country. For example: India. For as long as I can remember, I've thought it is a beautiful country (in the main part). I remember seeing Alan Rickman as Colonel Brandon in "Sense & Sensibility" describe India as, "The air is full of spices." It sounds so exotic. So different from my little English life. Also, I remember as a child watching Michael Palin travelling through India on a train. There was great poverty in places, but it looked so beautiful. But there have been stories in the last few years of women being gang raped and beaten and killed, and men getting away with it. Women being blamed. I couldn't go to a place that allows that to happen. I understand it's not everywhere, but it's too common.

Saudi Arabia is probably the place I have never wanted to go, and would never go. Their treatment of women as second class citizens is hideous. Beating women who are raped because they "cheated on their husbands." It makes me sick. Women can't even drive there; they are considered that inferior. I would never want to go to a place like that. I've been there before in my own home, and I am never going to choose to go there in another country. Plus, it's unbelievably hot in Saudi Arabia. Nope. Not for me.

North Korea. Never. Ever. Ever.

January 3, 2017 at 5:48am
January 3, 2017 at 5:48am
Day Three - Does any government have a right to say what you can or cannot do with your body?

No. That's the short answer. No government has the right to force you to do, or prevent you from doing, anything with your own body (providing it's not something that affects someone else). Nobody has the right to enforce their desires onto you. Nobody!

I was trying to think of some examples of what this quote may be referring to, as it seems odd to question a government's right, rather than that of a loved one. The first thing that comes to mind is abortion and control over how many children you have. Abortion is a tricky issue. Personally, I feel a woman has the right to choose whether or not she goes through with a pregnancy. Nobody can force her to go through all the changes that having a baby brings. But then we reach the grey area of late terminations when there are medical issues. Whose right should be preserved: the mother or the baby? And when we are looking out for the baby, do we take steps to ensure they aren't born to a lifetime of pain, or do we force the parents to proceed with the pregnancy because they have no right to take a life? I don't know. Maybe I'm thinking a little too much into this. Maybe this wasn't what was intended with this prompt.

On a slightly lighter note: tattoos. I have some. I know many people judge those who choose to carry their life stories on their skin. But what right do they have? We are all different. We have different hair, different skin tones, we're different shapes and sizes. I hate the part of living in the "civilised" world that determines we should all look a certain way. Because I haven't ever looked that way. I never will. I don't wear make up, dress in designer gear, I'm far from skinny. I'm me. That's all. In my teens, things were very different, and I felt an enormous pressure to be thin, and I lost so much weight I got ill. That was because of society's pressures and, also, my Dad's pressures. But I'm digressing now.

There is one exception to these thoughts. There are times when we are hurting our bodies, and without the intervention of others, we could become very ill. Or worse. I still don't believe it's down to the government to say what you're doing is illegal. It's the place of your loved ones to try to make you safe and well.

January 2, 2017 at 3:32am
January 2, 2017 at 3:32am
Isaac Asimov, born on this day in 1920, once said "Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers." What are your thoughts on this quote? Is writing simply a brain-to-hand exercise, or is there more involved?

I like this quote. It sums up really well what it's like to write. My fingers sometimes get way ahead of my brain. Sometimes, they get all tangled up because they are so far ahead. Thinking through your fingers. That's beautiful. Like your fingers are separate from you; like they hold the answers to all your worries, concerns, and happinesses. Everything can be written about. Everything you think can leave your body, and be expressed, through your fingers.

Although, I think it's more that fingers are like a conduit for your thoughts. They don't really think for themselves. They translate whatever is burning inside of you. I do like the analogy, though.

January 1, 2017 at 7:21am
January 1, 2017 at 7:21am
I've signed up for the 30 Day Blogging Challenge in January. I'm looking forward to it. It'll be good to write something every day.

Day One ~ What is the most fun you've had breaking a New Years resolution? And if you don't make resolutions, imagine making one, and then tell us how you'd most enjoy not keeping it.

New Year's Resolutions. Those soul destroying impositions we place on ourselves because we're never happy with who or what we are. That sounds really miserable and bah-humbug-ish, doesn't it? But I don't care. Yes, I've made resolutions in the past, and I've had some fun breaking them. But the fun is always replaced with guilt and self loathing.

But, to answer the question. About four or five years ago, after struggling to find the money to buy Christmas, I decided I would put £5 aside every week and not spend it for any reason whatsoever. It would, at least, allow buy our Christmas food and some presents. I had it all worked out. "Look, I'm being a proper grown-up," I believe I may have said to David. It was going to be great. We were going to have the best Christmas ever.

Then, one day in (I think) June, I was going for one of my daily power walks (another resolution - one I was sticking to really well). I walked along the high street, and I swear I heard my name being called from the other side of the street. That's when I saw it. In the window of a small boutique shop, the most beautiful handbag I've ever seen sat; shimmering. It was like it gave off a signal that only I could hear. I crossed the road. My feet had taken over my body. I had no choice. I stood before the shop window, taking in the beauty of the small, jade-green, leather-style bag with tan straps and a silver buckle. It hypnotised me, magnetised me. I glanced at the price tag—£125— and immediately my mind turned to the Christmas money. I couldn't use that. Could I?

I power walked even faster than normal all the way home; all the time, trying to figure out a way to get the money without David seeing. Not because I felt guilty and knew it was wrong, but because I didn't want him to stop me. (I am feeling shame now, whilst writing this.) Fortunately, David was engrossed in something he was reading on his iPad, so it was easy for me to take (I will not say steal) the money. Still no guilt at the time. All I could think was how beautiful the bag was. It can be my Christmas present to myself. Or David's present to me. That makes it okay. When I stepped through the door into the shop, an intoxicating flowery scent drifted toward me. The kind of scent that makes you nostalgic; although you don't know why. Adrenalin coursed through my veins as I counted out £125 and handed it over to the shopkeeper. When I held the bag, it made me feel warm and light. It really did. I knew we were meant to be together.

I practically skipped all the way home. I felt special, I felt loved, I felt invincible. I threw the front door open, and David was stood just the other side. His eyes fell to my bag straight away. "Where have you been?" he said.

I swallowed and felt the magic ebbing away. I proceeded to tell him how I fell in love with the bag, and that luckily it was on sale and only cost £40, so it was a bargain I couldn't ignore. I am not proud of this. And the conversation that finally came when he discovered we didn't have as much Christmas money as he thought was not so much fun.

But you see, that's why new year's resolutions shouldn't be made. We are setting ourselves up to fail. That said, this year I will lose weight. I will get fitter and healthier. I will write more. I think general plans are okay.
December 31, 2016 at 7:25am
December 31, 2016 at 7:25am
There is a lot of talk of resolutions at this time of year, and that is understandable. A new year can be a new beginning. 2017 can be the year my life changes, the year I win the lottery, the year I fall apart completely. Who knows? What I do know is I am not as apprehensive as usual for this time of year. Don't get me wrong. I'm not all, "Bring on 2017. This is my year!" No. But I am feeling like 2016 wasn't all bad. In terms of writing and WDC, it's been incredible. 2016 is the first year—whole year—I've gone through without truly wishing I was dead at some point. That's some achievement, right? I'm okay with being alive. I'm enjoying vast portions of being alive. That's new. I like it (although, I'm cautious not to like it too much, or it will be taken away.)

I don't know. It's been a funny old year. So many talented, beloved people taken from us far too young. From David Bowie, to Alan Rickman; Prince to George Michael; Victoria Wood to Caroline Aherne; and now Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. And these are naming only a few. The ones who shocked me the most. It feels like we will be missing a lot of talent, as we saunter into 2017. I only hope the losses take a rest now. Leave us to grieve those who are gone. Give us some space. But, you know what? Sometimes the most effective way to grieve is to remember them when they were most alive. Watch Star Wars, or Singing In The Rain. Listen to some Wham!, or solo George, play some Prince. Appreciate their talent. Lose yourself in their talent. This clip I'm attaching is of Victoria Wood, singing "The Ballad of Barry & Freda." I think, maybe, it's a British sense of humour and may not translate very well. But I think it's hilarious, and this is how I want to remember her:


So, WDC . . . well. I looked back over my blog at the end of last year. I had many plans, many things I wanted to explore further. And guess what? Pretty much all of them, I didn't. I've realised that it doesn't matter how many plans you make, life almost always has other ideas. My plans for this year include focussing more on autobiographical pieces; working on my memoirs. It feels odd to say that. I mean, my life is pretty uneventful really. But I feel like I'm ready to tell my story now. Even if no one else ever reads it. It's been simmering under my skin for a long time now. I've always been too frightened to open myself up to the memories, but I've written a few pieces this year that have totally opened myself up. And I've survived. More than that; I've felt good about it. Eventually. These are some of the pieces to which I'm referring: "PTSD & Me, "21st July 1988, "Behind Closed Doors and "To cancer. Each of these won first place in their respective contests. The feeling of validation brought me to tears each time. So I think that's something to focus on in 2017.

This year, I was honoured to be nominated for six Quill Awards. I won Best Drama/Emotional for my Poetry folder, and I won an Honourable Mention for my poem, "Royal Wootton Bassett. A Quill Award . . . me! Seriously?! I cannot describe how good that felt.

Two more fantastic honours happened this year. At the end of October, I discovered I have been chosen to join the Future Rising Stars Programme. Again, I couldn't believe how lucky I am. It's such a great opportunity for growth and developing my writing. It's pushing me to write in ways I've never before considered. And the other future stars are a massively talented bunch. It's great to be alongside them in this programme. I have to mention, at this point, the wonderful Hannah ♫♥♫ who is my sponsor in Rising Stars. She has been a great friend over this year, and the best mentor a person could ask for. Love ya, Hannah!

The other honour (and, oh my gosh, what an honour!) was being promoted to preferred author. Yes, that's right! I'm yellow. I had a smile on my face for about a week after I found this out. I hadn't thought it was important to me before. But when it happened, I discovered it really, really mattered. Fantastic! Such a confidence boost.

All through this year, I've been active in Paper Doll Gang, Newbies Academy Group, and WDC Power Reviewers. It's hard to fit everything in sometimes, especially now I'm in the Rising Stars Programme, but I'm doing my best. I love being a captain in Power Reviewers. Reading other people's reviews, and crediting them, is something I enjoy immensely. It also gives me tips on things to improve in my own writing and reviews, so it's educational, as well. I love leading the Special Occasions Forum also. It's the friendliest, most welcoming, supportive forum ever. I love how people stand behind each other. It's great.

I've been running the Verdant Poetry Contest since June. I wanted my own contest for this year, and now I have it. Okay, it's not a contest that I created, but I it's been transferred to me, and judging it is brilliant. It means I get to read more poetry, and that's something I never tire of.

So, I guess I should think of my plans for next year. Write, write, write. It's how you get better. I must listen to others, and learn from their advice. I have done this a lot, and I feel like I've learned a lot.

This is an idea I stole from Shaye💻 . I have a list of all the different WDC genres, and I aim to review in as many of them as possible. Starting tomorrow. It could be very interesting. Or it could not happen. Who knows? We'll see.

Well, I think that's me for 2016. I hope you all have a happy and healthy new year, with lots of writing included!

I'm a little embarrassed to do this but, what the heck? Here is some ABBA:

November 24, 2016 at 6:19am
November 24, 2016 at 6:19am
What a fantastic surprise to wake up this morning, and find I've turned yellow overnight! *Delight* I'm so happy. I can't even begin to describe this feeling. It's like, wow. I've been recognised as deserving this. Wow. So many other, talented people have been promoted as well ( Whata Turkey , Warped Sanity , and Mare ~ extended hiatus to mention a few). What a beautiful day. The sky outside is grey and pregnant with rain, but I am filled with sunshine *Bigsmile*. Okay, that was a little cheesy. But, hey, cheese is yellow . . . Yeah, I think I'm getting carried away now. Time to reign it in. But I'm so happy. Thank you so much, The StoryMistress and The StoryMaster . You have no idea what your wonderful website has done for me. It's given me purpose, and made me begin to believe in myself. Blimey. Now I'm getting all choked up. I think I'll leave it here *Smile*.
November 17, 2016 at 11:59am
November 17, 2016 at 11:59am
Well. I'm actually finding myself with a few minutes to spare today. This is the first day in over a month. So I thought I'd take time to pause, and reflect through my blog.

Towards the end of October, I received the fantastic news that I have been selected for the Future Rising Stars Programme. To say I was honoured, and excited, is the biggest understatement. Me! Seriously: me! Hannah has chosen me, and is my sponsor. Fantastic news, but also a lot of work. What I love most about it is the diversity of activities. One day I'm writing and essay on Mark Twain and one of his poems; the next, I'm writing a travelogue from a hot air balloon floating over WDC. The kind of things I would never dream of writing normally, I'm getting the chance to do. It's stretching me, but I'm loving it. So, so much. I've even surprised myself with some of my work (am I allowed to say that?).

Then, we have NaNo. Dear, exhausting, crazy NaNo. I have now finished my first draft. It's 53,477 words. I've typed my fingers off. If I'm honest, I was pretty demoralised at the beginning of NaNo. Because I was writing so quickly, without correcting as I went along, when I read back over it the next day, all I found was a lot of drivel. Every day. I think I was hoping I'd learned a few things about writing since last year's NaNo. I was hoping I would write better. But that didn't happen, and I was disappointed with myself. But, as my hubby pointed out, when you write fast, you don't write good. The two don't go together. That's why it's called a first draft. The name implies there will be more. Many more, I suspect. After I realised this (about a week into it) I wrote more quickly, and really enjoyed the experience.

For the rest of this month, I must keep an eye on the Special Occasions Forum. Also, complete any further Rising Stars tasks I'm given. Review. I need to review. It would be good to write a story about Alfie's naughtiness for the Pet News Contest. Ummm, I think that's about it. Oh, I need to write the family Christmas Quiz as well. Must not forget that!

My beautiful Rising Stars sig.
September 21, 2016 at 7:39am
September 21, 2016 at 7:39am
21st September is a day every year when I feel particularly sad. I dread its arrival, imagine terrible things happening once it's here. But the bad thing already has happened. Nine years ago today. I lost Dad to the evil cancer that stole every part of him over the previous two years, three months. This year, I am sad, but I feel compelled to write about him, and his illness. I feel like it's time (after all, I seem to be on a bit of a demon-releasing roll at the moment!).

So . . . my Dad. He was complex, that's for sure. My feelings about him are complex. The older I get, the more I understand him, and the more I forgive the parts of him that hurt me. I was a Daddy's Girl. I was always closer to him than to Mum. It was hard to be close to a woman you called "mum", but who you spent so much time looking after. Dad and I were alike in many ways, and he . . . got . . . me. At the same time, he didn't have a clue. He wore these blinkers that told him everyone in the world saw things the same way he did, if only they were honest with themselves. He thought everyone reacted in the same way he did to problems and criticisms. But they didn't. I didn't. So when he constantly told me I was fat (and no one loves a fatty!) from the age of, like, five, it hurt. It did not make me try to lose weight (at least, not until I entered the teenage not-eating years, but that's for a whole other blog post). Similarly, when he told me I was thick, and would never amount to anything, it hurt. It did not make me determined to prove him wrong. It stole my confidence.

The good, happy things I remember about Dad are many. I remember the night before I got my G.C.S.E. results at school, I completely freaked out. I cried and apologised over and over for being a failure. Dad held me, stroked my hair, kissed the top of my head. He told me I would do just fine, and that they would love me whatever. When my results came back really good, he didn't say he was proud. In fact, he told me I was stupid for thinking I would fail.

My overwhelming happy memory of Dad is of dancing. Now, I know it's not cool to dance with your Dad when you're a kid, but he was really good. He was passionate about it, and had been all his life; teaching ballroom and rock'n'roll, and calling square dancing in his youth. His love for dance seeped into me the moment I was born, I know it did. As soon as I could walk, he was teaching me dances. Dad's cousin was in a band (they had a Top 10 hit in the 60's) and we often went to their gigs. Rock'n'roll was our specialty. I loved how fast and energetic it was. So many times, we had the floor clear all around us, and everyone stood back, clapping us on. Dance is the one thing Dad always told me I was good at (honestly, the one thing). It makes me sad to know I'll never dance that way again.

Dad spent his whole life frightened of getting cancer. He never smoked, grew his own fruit and vegetables, exercised all the time (although, he was always overweight - there is another thing he passed on to me). His mother died of breast cancer when she was fifty-six, and he never really got over it. He worshipped her, and watching her in so much pain terrified him. Which made the diagnosis of cancer of the oesophagus so hard to take. He hardly spoke a word for the first few weeks. He was told there was a cancerous mass on the junction between his oesophagus and stomach, and there were shadows on both lungs, which they needed to investigate further. If the shadows were cancerous, palliative chemotherapy, with a prognosis of eight to twelve months. If not, they would operate, and hopefully remove all the cancer. That week we spent, waiting for the results of his lungs, was torture. Mum, Dad, and I were scared more than I can say. Every time my phone rang at work, my heart leapt into my mouth. I didn't want to know. But I desperately needed to know. When Dad got the call to say the shadows were probably just scar tissue I broke down and cried. I couldn't believe how lucky we were.

So, chemotherapy commenced. The doctors said it would give him a better chance of complete recovery. Also, they could check the size of the shadows on his lungs after the chemo. If they hadn't changed, it confirmed they weren't cancerous. They didn't change. Dad had the operation (which took 14 1/2 hours, due to complications). Slowly, Dad began to recover. He was so brave through all of this. So brave. Then, he started to get pain in his stomach. This was four months after the operation. The doctor thought it might be a hernia, and booked him in for a scan. The day we got the results of that scan is burned in my memory. I knew it was bad news. I can't say how, I just knew. I took Dad to his appointment, and I think he knew as well. I remember being left until last to see the doctor. Another sign that things weren't good. I held Dad's hand as they told him the masses (no longer shadows) on his lungs had grown considerably. The only treatment was palliative chemo, in the hope it might give him a few extra months. Rather than support Dad, I cried, and cried, and cried. He had to comfort me. How I drove us home, I don't know.

Over the next nineteen months, he had two rounds of chemotherapy. The first one worked really well, and Dad was a lot better. But it didn't last long. Slowly, the poisonous cells worked their way into his brain. He had some radiotherapy, but it didn't help much. He started falling over and bumping into things, having fits, and finally he was unable to stand. In the last few weeks, he was confused, and said the most bizarre things. It was devastating for Mum and me. We had carers come to the house and Mum (despite her own physical disability and pain) did what she could for him during the day. We had a wonderful neighbour who helped a lot, too. I continued working full time because my boss was an asshole, and I was afraid to ask for time off. I looked after Dad in the evenings. Then, two nights before Dad died, Mum called me downstairs, at around 3 a.m., saying Dad wanted to tell me something. But by the time I got there, he was confused, and his sentences fragmented. I understood, though. He was asking me to look after Mum. I told him I would. I slept on the sofa that night, in case his brain found a way to unscramble the words. It didn't. I took that day off work. It was a Thursday. I thought we were going to lose Dad that day, but he fought on. On the Friday, I decided I would go to work, clear my desk, and to hell with my boss. I was taking time off to spend with Dad, until he passed away. That morning, I held Dad's hand, and told him of my plans. He tried to say something, but again, his brain wouldn't help him. He said, "But, Rach, you do need me." He meant to say, "But, Rach, I do need you." When I got home from work, he was in and out of consciousness, incoherent all of the time. He died at 10:35 p.m. What breaks my heart the most is his last words to me were saying he needed me, and I went to work. I will never forgive myself for that. Never. I was too chicken s*** to ask for time off before. I was too conscientious to a boss who treated me like s***, so I spent Dad's last waking moments away from him.

Well. I've cried my way through this blog post. I've never written about this before. One of the most bittersweet memories I have from his illness is from around three months before he died. I was exhausted from work, looking after Dad (and Mum), looking after my diabetic dog. One Saturday morning, I was walking my dog (Jake). It was just a little walk around the village. I tripped over. It didn't hurt at all. Not even slightly. But I was hit by a wash of tears. I started crying, and cried the whole way home. When I got indoors, Mum was on the phone, and Dad was sat on the sofa. He asked what was wrong, and I said I fell over, but it didn't hurt, yet I couldn't stop crying. I was inconsolable, wailing, at this point. I sat next to him, and he held me for the longest time. He understood. He knew why I was crying. When Mum came off the phone, she asked what was wrong. But she didn't understand at all. I think that's why I was closer to Dad.

I miss him. I wish he could see me, happy, with David, and writing on this website. He would be proud (I think). I miss him *Heart*
September 13, 2016 at 7:57am
September 13, 2016 at 7:57am
Whew. September is a busy month, both on here, and in real life (not that this isn't real life, but you know what I mean). I haven't taken part in the WDC celebrations as much as I had planned to. I really wanted to do some of the merit badge challenges, but I didn't feel like it last week. I'm annoyed with myself that I didn't. I signed up for the Masquerade Party, but haven't been able to join in. I'm really annoyed with myself about that. I did send a few lucky bags. I loved that activity. Gifting other people, just because . . . brilliant. I think that activity might still be running. I don't know. I should check.

9th September was my best friend's birthday. Nina and I have been friends since we were three, so I've celebrated a lot of birthdays with her. It always kind of freaks me out when it's her birthday because it signals just twenty-six days until mine *Worry* I can't believe how quickly this year has passed. It's unbelievable. I guess that's a sign of getting older. We are going to the cinema on Friday, with our other best friend, Shell. It's been the three of us forever. We're going to see the new Bridget Jones. I'm not sure how it's going to work, but we'll see. I have to be honest, a part of me is dreading our outing. I have so much trouble leaving the house. That's my first barrier. Then, we have the cinema. I haven't been for about six years. The last three times I went, I had panic attacks, pretty much, as soon as we sat down down. Then spent the entire durations of the films trying to keep from acting like a crazy lady in front of a room full of people. So, yeah. I'm nervous about this. But I want to do it, for Nina.

17th September is my favourite aunt's birthday. So I have to take her present to her this week (which is another trip away from the house). I need to phone her to check when she'll be there. I've been wanting to ring her since the weekend. I should just do it.

21st September is nine years since my Dad died. Nine whole years since I watched him take his last, frightening breath. I hate 21st September.

So, actually, September isn't really busy when I look at it like this. Not compared to most people on here. It just feels big. I hate that. I wish I could just deal with life with ease. I wish everything wasn't a big deal. But it is. It's ridiculous.

Anyway, writing . . . I've written a massively personal account of my PTSD for the Mysteries of the Mind Contest. I've never written about it before, and this was hard as hell. I'm sharing it, although I almost didn't. In the end, I figured, I want people to understand the disorder. Because so few people really do. Big kudos to Soh ~ Luminousa for highlighting it this month.

I think that's it for now.

Choco *Heart*

September 7, 2016 at 2:12pm
September 7, 2016 at 2:12pm
I was just watching the news, and (as often happens these days) I felt huge fear about how the world is going. Fear, and sadness. It seems everyone is in it for themselves. Nobody wants to help others. Refugees dying in attempts to be free, Trump looking more and more likely to be U.S. President (and have power over the nuke button!), Britain leaving the EU because politicians and the media terrified us into voting "Leave". Trouble in the Middle East (pretty much how Nostrodamus predicted the world would end), it's all scary.

It got David and me talking about how we need to find a Utopia, in which we can live. We made a list of requirements, and I think it might be pretty tricky *Laugh* Leading on, it reminded me of the Simon & Garfunkel song "I Am A Rock." I remember listening to it, and studying the lyrics in school. I was in year eight, and the subject was Integrated Studies (history, geography, and R.E.). I don't know what the song had to do with anything, but I remember finding it really profound, as a thirteen year old. When I thought of it tonight, the lines, "I touch no one and no one touches me" came to mind. That would be my utopia, I thought. A place with no feelings.

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