Learning with Props.

Learning with Props.

A couple of weeks ago, I started learning to drive again. I need a driving license so bad, not only for my future aims in my midwifery career but just generally it will improve my quality of life having driving as a option. Anyway, so far my lessons seem to be going ok. It was a relief to find that I hadn’t forgotten everything since my last adventures in a car and I love the Nissan Micra that I’m learning in. It’s just too cute – in fact I love it so much that when I pass (thinking positive here) I might actually buy one.

It helps a lot that I’ve been able to find an instructor that I can get on with. We do have a giggle and a laugh, but he’s also pretty good at explaining things, noticing my mistakes not as isolated issues but looking for trends in my driving and developing strategies to help me solve some of the issues. I’m happy that so far I seem to be making progress in each lesson and long may this continue.

In a vague attempt to increase my activity level, I have also made the decision a little while back to purchase a bike. In theory, I’d like to be able to cycle to and from work which will help to keep me fit but also cut out the unproductive hour I spend after my shift is over sitting on my bum waiting for the bus. I could walk, I know, but really walking home at my pace would take me almost as long as waiting for said bus haha. I know, I know… initially cycling may not be any faster and in fact I’m totally incapable of cycling up the hill to the hospital at my current fitness level which is about -2 on a scale of 1 to 10. However… I used to enjoy riding my bike once upon a time many, many moons ago whereas I have NEVER EVER enjoyed walking for pleasure up a hill or otherwise. That’s what happens after years of being Mrs. slow plod along left trailing behind her family of enthusiastic hill walkers. It sucks. It sucks getting to the top last, hurting all over and barely having time to rest and maybe look at the view (that’s if you’re lucky enough to have caught a clear day in this country) before you’re being marched on again by those who due to their superiour hill walking powers have already been lollygagging around the summit for a good half an hour waiting for you to show up. Most people who know me probably could tell you I hate being forced to do anything and that includes being frog marched up a mountain because supposedly its good for me.

I’ve never really been a mountain fan anyway. Sure some of them are spectacularly stunning but I’d much prefer to take photos of them than images from the top of them. In my humble opinion, they are best appreciated looking up at an atmospheric summit shrouded in mist. (quite possibly hot chocolate in hand)  than scrabbling and scrambling risking life and limb only to freeze your butt off at the top trying to see through the mist attempting to locate the so called “fools” who have no idea what they are missing. Meh – enough about mountains and my aversion to walking haha.

Back to bikes… well, my bike specifically. I decided to really go for it, blow the budget style. I mean really I’m not going to use it if it’s not comfortable.  So with the help of a very knowledgeable pair of guys in the local bike shop, who are probably still chuckling at the clueless giggling girl who walked in with bags full of shopping looking for a bike and demanding it be pretty! Yeah, I make no apologies I’m a girl – I want things to go together and match and look nice. Function and style, yes sir, and if you think that makes me a silly biking novice with no clue… well you’d be right but my bike my rules :p

I negotiated a spot in the garage with my lovely landlords and all was set for me to pick up my noble stallion. Then it snowed and it was so icy and treacherous that I was forced to leave it in the shop for an extra week……

Eventually the day came… the little ding of the bell as I opened the door once again laden down with my shopping… they carefully helped me pack all my goodies in my shiny new pannier bags. Helmet on… oh crap I put it on back to front, embarrassed. The guy did look more than a little nervous as he chuckled and fixed my lid, offering to walk the bike outside for me (perhaps in fear of further mayhem).

I’m very proud to say I cycled my new steed home, which wasn’t far at all and thankfully was along a very quiet road. I was wibble-wobbling in a way which would have made motorists mutter bad words to begin with but I did at least get things under control by my arrival at destination.

I’ll admit I need more practice. but I put the bike away in the garage feeling pretty pleased with myself.

Some of my Uni girls have been joking that I’ll be the next Call the Midwife style Madwife on a bike. What an idyllic image, I’d actually quite enjoy that at times I think. You know, sunny summery times when the weather is playing along. Right now my reply is that is will be marvelous so long as all my women live along quiet flat straight roads or along lovely cycle paths…

Alas, so far this is where the story of  bike (yet to be named – Suggestions welcome) and me stops. So far I’ve owned it a couple of weeks and it has yet to leave the garage where I settled it after my first ride home. I need to figure out somewhere I can go to have a few hours practice and get my confidence up. I have not given up, though.

This is not the end of me and my duel quest for new wheels…

New Wheez

New Wheez

Ali xX

An Oasis.

KM finally made it down for his visit. We chose to stay at a charming local hotel for a couple of nights, and I’d bought The Game of Life for us to play seen as we have rediscovered our love of board games.

I took nothing Uni related with me, which is actually quite unusual.

We enjoyed dinner together on Friday night at the hotel restaurant and I sat there feeling like a proper grownup on a proper date. You can tell it was posh as everyone was talking in hushed voices, our wine came in a wine bucket and the waiter called me madam plus it passed KM’s “fancy place test.” His hypothesis: if you pay before you eat = not so posh. Whereas if you pay after you eat then it must be classy.  I looked across the table at KM and it really hit me how much I miss just going out to dinner with him for a nice meal and some conversation. We talked about KM’s business and some projects he’s working on. We talked about our flat (where KM is still currently living) and how much we miss THE best cat ever: Benji, who is sadly no longer with us. I realised how much I miss this.  We’ve been together going on 12 years. Yes, there have been a few ups and downs along the way and even a couple of break ups, but I love the guy to bits (thankfully – seen as I’m marrying him.)  Now that we are living at other ends of the country and only seeing each other every couple of weeks, I feel sometimes like I haven’t got a clue what’s going on in his life.  I don’t mean to sound controlling, but I like coming home at the end of each day and getting a little report on the days happenings, cooking together and snuggling up in bed. When that report happens by phone or in our case more often than not by Skype text…well it’s just not the same.

Not only that, but my brain totally can’t keep track of all the things I need/want to share with him or worse: I assume I told him about something only to find out I didn’t and he has no clue what I’m talking about.

This weekend was like a little oasis in the desert – 2 precious days of time together.  It was wonderful. We didn’t do anything particularly special. There were no grand adventures or days out, in fact we didn’t even leave Salisbury. Sometimes the simple things in life can bring as much pleasure as the grandest of adventures. We enjoyed some great food together, shopped at the weekly market for my groceries and caught a film. On Sunday afternoon I found myself sat in our room knitting and enjoying my new drink of choice: peppermint tea. KM was taking a nap. During this couple of hours peaceful contemplation two strange and delightful thoughts struck me…

First I really do feel more peaceful when KM is nearby, I relax better, feel safer and happier within myself. Even when he’s not doing anything to directly affect the way I feel (at this point he was lightly snoring but I’m sure he wasn’t doing it for my benefit). This is love to me; grand romantic gestures are all well and good and I’m not going to fool anybody if I try to claim I don’t enjoy them, but it’s this calm quiet unassuming love that endures. I don’t believe in the popular analogy where two become one through marriage, it’s simple maths to me … I will not become less than I currently am through marriage, nor do I expect KM to stop wishing I would do the dishes more often, or scale down my shoe collection, I expect we will continue to have the same fiery, bickering relationship we have always had as each of us walks the line between the person we are currently and the person we wish to be. I see the union more as a bonding of a complimentary pair. Each remaining separate, but reinforced and strengthened by the presence of the other. KM’s love for me enables me to go out into the big wide scary world and be more myself knowing that I have a safe haven at home with him in our KM-ALI bubble. It’s easier to stand tall on your own two feet when you know someone is willing to catch you when you fall. We won’t always get it right, but our intentions are true. I really believe I’m marrying an amazing man, though after nearly 12 years I’m far from setting either of us on a pedestal of being perfect or even perfect for each other. It’s not inconceivable to me that on the surface of planet Earth there might not be a woman who is a better match for my KM… somewhere… (Hopefully far, far away where he will never meet her :P) But KM has given me his piece of his heart, and it’s the most valuable thing I own.

Second, it was truly odd to me to find myself mindlessly knitting for a couple of hours without once feeling guilty about the huge mountain of Uni work waiting for me when I get home (by 3 hours the guilt was back in full force) I actually found myself thinking wow this is what a real day off feels like? It was bizarre for my fried brain to realise that a day will actually come when I will actually have days off. Whole days… no guilt included… what an amazing luxury. 2 years and counting… Keep swimming, Ali, Keep swimming.

I have to admit to feeling mentally stretched to my limit right now, between missing KM, learning to drive, trying to change my exercise and diet habits, planning a Wedding, and year 2 of my training… I’m left reminded of the women I look after in labour who are often brought to the point where they believe they can’t go on anymore only to find somewhere within themselves the strength to endure a little more… a little more… a little more … pushed to their very limits the strength of women amazes me almost daily, I find myself looking for that same power somewhere within myself, not to birth a child but to build the life I want for myself.

I could do with a compassionate midwife figure to support and guide me at times hehe

Ali xX

Slimming World


If I started the story of me and my weight issue from the beginning, we would be here all night. Suffice to say that I have struggled with being overweight (lately, seriously obese) all my life. I’ve always been a big girl and usually with a big personality to match. You get kind of defensive when all you hear most of your life is negative comments and pressure surrounding your weight.

My mum batters me about it constantly, and I even recall when I told my family about my PCOS diagnosis; my grandmother piping up “well, I always thought there was something wrong with you, you know because you’re so big”. I can’t say it didn’t hurt or that I wasn’t so embarrassed. I wanted a swift exit out of there. But to be honest, I was also mighty pissed off. As far as I was concerned, there was nothing wrong with me! Other than being the largest of the family…

I’ve been described using various offensive adjectives so many times I couldn’t begin to count…  and I’m here to tell you: I am not: Gross, Disgusting, Sick, Minging, or Lazy. What I am is FAT. I’m not claiming to be big boned or to have some kind of fat genes to excuse it. I’m overweight and largely it’s my fault.

Yes, it’s true I have PCOS and perhaps a bit of an underactive thyroid, which makes losing weight harder than is should be, but the simple facts are I eat too much and I exercise too little.

It’s unhealthy. It affects my life probably in lots of ways I don’t even know yet, but like many other things about me its only one facet of the person that makes Ali, and If you think you have the right to comment or make assumptions about me because of it, then I’m first in the queue to tell you you’re either an insulting A$$ or you’re too stupid to realise the damage your words can cause and in both cases this fat chick feels sorry for you.

It makes me even more angry in the work that I do when I hear women with a “raised BMI” described using all those same offensive adjectives that are partly responsible for my low self esteem. Sadly, I have heard them being used by both professionals and lay people. I have even heard comments that “women that big shouldn’t be having children”. I have news for you: it’s not your call! You are there to provide care, and it seems to me that if you’re caring and compassionate while in the room with a woman and then slating her with your dumb ass judgmental comments behind her back, you’re two faced and untrustworthy.

I would venture that as most women with raised BMI, we could open the whole “BMI is not always a great indicator of a person’s health, anyway” debate… but really, i’m just using the term commonly used by the NHS. As I was saying, women with a raised BMI, myself included: WE KNOW WE’RE FAT. It’s not a revelation.

It’s a bad habit. It’s a lack of information. At worst, it’s an addiction. All in all, it’s a problem with food surrounding food. Unlike other forms of addiction, you can’t really hide this. It’s visible for all to see, but next time you’re harshly judging a fat person. it’s worth thinking about your own faults. What would people think of you if your failings were likewise as visible? Imagine if a smoker’s tumors were growing on the outside of their body, if money visibly constantly poured away from the pockets of those with a gambling problem, or alcoholics began their downward spiral by turning bright yellow from their damaged liver.  It’s amazing the secrets the most judgmental people hide – they could really do with a look in a mirror before they begin throwing stones.

Also, like other forms of addiction, you can’t help someone who doesn’t want your help. Each must decide in their own time when they are ready to confront the issue, but chipping away at someone’s self esteem is going to push them further away from the help your offering. The next time you find yourself commenting on a my weight or what I’m eating, ask yourself first: are you close enough to me, or do you have a duty of care to me which makes my problem your business and second: are you REALLY approaching the issue in a way that encourages me to open up and be honest with you? If you’re the one metaphorically beating me up it’s not going to be you that I ask for help.

Cigarettes, alcohol, gambling… these vices defeat many and are extremely hard to overcome, I grant you, but with each of them your basic strategy is to find a workable way to cut the thing your find yourself addicted to out of your life. You can’t give up food and there’s no patch for it either, it’s all about reeducation and that’s a slow process that takes time.

Going back to my journey, I think I’m finally ready to confront this issue in my life. For a number of reasons:

I feel like a hypocrite at work advising women about healthy eating and the risks of being overweight. I’m not exactly practicing what I preach.

I’m really sick of shopping in the fat girl stores.

I actually would like to avoid diabetes and other nasties in later life.

I have excellent motivation to lose a little weight before my wedding.

About a year ago I actually was on weight watchers for a couple of months and though short and with limited success for the time I was on the program, I actually felt the best I have in a long time and I’d like to get back to feeling that way.

To that end, 2 weeks ago I went along to my first Slimming World meeting. I chose Slimming World over Weight Watchers – a couple of ladies in my class at Uni seem to be doing this program and we have been supporting each other. It really has been helping.

In the last 2 weeks I’ve lost 5lbs. It’s a start, and I know I’m at the beginning of a very long journey, but hopefully this time I will keep walking down this road.

Today, at group, I was given the slimmer of the week award and a sparkly sticker and I was all but speechless. I must have looked kind of silly, but to be honest I was trying very hard not to shed a tear because, well… it was the first time I can remember hearing positive comments and feeling good about my weight issue. Plus, you know you can always win me over with sparkles.

Ali xX

Over the Moon

Hawaii 2

We booked our Honeymoon!!

Well actually KM told me: “I’m letting you take care of the moon, but I express a preference for Hawaii.”

So really I booked the Honeymoon haha

I considered a few suggestions: Grand Tetons national park, Boston, Florida and the Caribbean, but in the end I also decided to go with KM’s preference. So 2 weeks in Hawaii it is!

I decided to just go for it – in the middle of this cold spell I was freezing and wanted some tropical trip to look forward to.

I was a little hesitant to go with the Hawaii choice as I just went last year BUT we have solved the problem by doing a split location trip: we will spend a week on Maui – an island I haven’t actually been to before, and then a week at the same resort in Waikiki on Oahu where I stayed last year.

I can’t wait!! I’ve been so excited thinking of all the things for last summer that I want to share with my love. I can taste the Waikiki Cosmo now… ahhhh.

Wedding in Chicago, Honeymoon in Hawaii. I’m a lucky, lucky girl.

Ali xX

Snow Day 2013 … Britain : ” Normal Service Shall Resume Shortly ”

They have been warning us for about a week. The Powers That Be apparently knew it was coming. In fact KM and I decided last night that we would cancel his visit this weekend just in case (BOO!)  and, thankfully, I managed to rebook the hotel booking for next weekend (YAY!)  Be prepared… yet here we are at a standstill.  Schools are closed, University: all classes cancelled, no buses, no taxis, planes grounded,  limited trains….. Half the shops in town shut.

“What is the catastrophe,” I hear you shout?


My road when I got Up this morning !

My road when I got Up this morning !

Heavy Flakes that actually stay on the ground. Layers upon layers of them. Well 3-4 inches anyway.

Yes dear friends…Snow Day 2013 is upon us.

Now, unlike many that I know, *I* love Snow. Yes, I really do. It’s so pretty and picturesque. I love the excitement of all the children listening to the radio, eagerly waiting to hear if their school is on the “Magic List.” One friend’s children even layed out their warm clothes and welly boots by their bed last night, just in case. She said it felt like Christmas all over again. It was Snowmas Eve and all through the house not a creature was stirring… and so on. It has to be said that my Facebook feed was lit up last night by almost the same level of excitement, expectation and discussion from my fellow classmates. Would the university actually shut!?!..

No news.  I went to bed.

My usual alarm goes off at 6am and this time as I turn my light on,  I look up. A blanket of white covering my attic skylight. JACKPOT! We have snow… but still no news. So, good little student that I am, I bundle up and prepare to brave the cold. In my new walking boots – hastily purchased yesterday (when snow is on the way and the only casual pair of shoes you have with you are a flimsy old pair of Sketchers you can be forgiven for panic buying!) Just as I’m about to set off , I get the call from a thoughtful classmate “The bus isn’t running – go back to bed 😛 ”  Woohoooo!! But I didn’t go back to my warm cozy bed, tempting as it was. It was 6.30 AM.. and the thought of all that fresh undisturbed snow had me as excited as if you had dangled a massive sheet of bubble wrap in front of my nose… pop pop pop poppopopopopop !

So off I went, Camera at the ready! And it was Beautiful. Not to mention, peaceful.

Statue near my home.

Solitary Lady

Cathedral Close Nearby.

Cathedral Close Nearby

A walk in the park

A walk in the park

Snowman :-)

Snowman 🙂

I’m always left shaking my head in disbelief as my country grinds to a halt as the slightest smattering of the white stuff. It is farcical, really, and I’m sure it gives our cousins in colder climes much to laugh about. We Brits just don’t know how to deal with it. We don’t have the infrastructure and we do just seem to collapse in a quivering mess. A few years ago, I’d have defended us to the hilt. I mean, I had hardly ever seen snow in these parts of England… that I can recall anyways. The last few years it has become more common and I can’t help feeling that the authorities aught to take note and make some appropriate changes. There are definite losers in this whole situation: small business owners, self employed folk who will feel it in their pocket books or even the kids… and the big kids it has to be said whose schools and workplaces are open as all around them have a bonus day off.

That’s how Snow Day feels to me: Bonus Day.  You have nothing to do, and you can go nowhere – life slows right down. It’s magical to see. So few cars on the street I can and do literally stop down the middle of the road. The bright splashes of color Winter clothing amid the Sea of white. Most people so bundled up you really only see a face. The seasonal frosting makes me wish to visit all my favorite places. The beauty of the crystal white landscape making me take time to really appreciate the places I already knew were stunning but usually hurry past in a frantic rush to do this or fetch that or get here on time…

There seems a new sense of friendship, like we’re all in on some fun prank. We’ve blown off most of the responsibilities of our mundane lives just for this one day. We’re all in this together and isn’t it fun!  Giggles and shouts fill the air… people are making snowmen, throwing snowballs, whizzing down hills on sledges, snowboards, and now snow scooters apparently ( I still like to see the kids using tea trays and dustbin lids) Whole families spending hours outdoors together!

Yes, it’s true I was lonely this snow day without KM to share it with. I had my moments of sadness, feeling more like an observer than a REAL participant, watching the families and children playing in the snow… and the toddlers who have NEVER seen such a thing before..

Even seeing the puppies bouncing round eagerly trying to figure out all this white stuff… to the meandering old dog that’s seen it all before… who looks up at his owner yelling “SIT! SIT!” as if to say ” would you put your bare bum in it!?”  Its cold his paws are wet and he’s not impressed.  I still feel on the outside of this wonderful life… wishing… hoping and praying… that one day… my kids will be clomping down the stairs in their winter boots and slamming the front door shut as they rush out loud with the thrill of it. I hope one day “Daddy” will have to stay home from work, too, and we can all build a snowman together. Yes, I do still hope. I do still pray… and I do still feel like this is missing.

BUT I can see the beauty all around. I allow myself to really pay attention to what’s going on around me – to be infected with others joy. I laugh as I crunch crunch crunch through the snow and back up the hill to the warmth of home. Sometimes, it really does us good to grind to a standstill…

Normal service will resume shortly….

Just me with added frosting.

Just me with added frosting.

Ali xX

On The Road Again.

Back in the driver’s seat… Wooo hooo! Yes, I did it! I had my first driving lesson in Salisbury today. Overall, I feel it went O.K. and more to the point, the instructor actually agrees with me! Now, saying I hadn’t been in a car for over a YEAR, I’m pretty *smug face* proud of myself today. Junctions, roundabouts, no problem coping with some traffic over the whole hour and a half. I don’t think my panic level went above a 4 out of 10 and that’s pretty good going for me… when it comes to motoring. I forgot: Driving is REALLY FUN! I love Pootling around in the little Nissan Micra with Googly eyes. (The fact that I’m learning in the same model car as the one KM and I have just scrapped after some A$$HAT drove into the back of him at Christmas – that makes me a wee bit sad. Haha… I never even drove my first car – but, hay, at least *I* wasn’t the one that crashed it, and KM was unharmed).

Mr. Instructor Man says I have a lot of knowledge and really just need to build my confidence up! Smiley However, he did identify the fact that apparently *I* do not like being on the other side of the road AT ALL. So, when moving round parked cars and such I come back in way too quick! Anything that takes me over that centre line and its all nerves and not much brain Worried. It even got to the point where he stopped and asked me if I’d ever had a crash on that side of the road. NOPE. It’s just one of those things my subconscious brain does not like. I mean, driving on the wrong side of the road – BAD – right!?! We will work on rectifying the situation. Excited that I wasn’t a total fail, even more excited that operation FINALLY GET A  DRIVING LICENCE has begun. Another lesson booked for next week… bring it on. Smiley

Mr. Instructor Man made me promise not to shout at him. I agreed, but I didn’t say nothing about squealing… squealing was not covered in the terms of our agreement. Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!


2011 & 2012- The Highlight Reel.


SEPTEMBER 2010 – Achieved my main goal of the Blog formally called Cyster A.C.T. I enrolled at university and became a “Student Midwife ” and I still get a little smile on my face when I see those two words and my name in the same sentence.

Moved from one end of the country to another in order to complete my training.

Promptly fell off the blogging wagon as my life took off. It takes a lot to go from unemployment to studying full time and working 12 hour shifts at the hospital. It was indeed an adjustment.

Many things happened in this year… but suffice to say I passed my first year of training with better marks than I ever thought possible.

DECEMBER 2011 – I was having some family trouble and I actually experience an incident at work which caused me to have flashbacks and nightmares from my past. I ended up not sleeping at all for a number of weeks, and in the end it just wasn’t safe for me to be on shift. There is too much at stake when you work with mum’s and babies, so I made the decision to withdraw and restart my 2nd year of training in September 2012.

I pretty much gate-crashed at a friend’s house for November and December last year and I will be forever grateful. I spent New Year at Disneyland in Paris with my goddaughter and her mum and dad, which was a very very cool trip BUT I was so sick with the WORST cold I have ever had in my life and was in bed by 8.30pm on New Years Eve.

Got myself back on my feet and was getting pretty depressed watching all my Uni girls progressing and leaving me behind, so I decided to up and go traveling.

I had a fantastic trip to Tuscany (I’d always wanted to go to Italy) with my Mum which really helped us with our relationship. We’re never going to be best friends or anything but we managed a week together without falling out and this was a HUGE step for us.

Next, I rented a Holiday Condo in Chicago for 2 WHOLE MONTHS and disappeared there… I had theeee most fantastic time, full of fun and adventures it was AMAZING.

Turned 30. YES the Big 3-0 on the 5th of August 2012 and really, the less said about that the better. I was mega down about the milestone and I can’t say I feel too much better about it now, but I do have less time to dwell on it.  I should try to write a post about it… meh Worried

Actually spent a week in paradise aka Hawaii… and it was out of this world. Honestly, the most beautiful place I have been on this earth. It was the perfect way to celebrate, I’m only sad that KM didn’t travel with me. Being in one of the most romantic places on earth – alone – that’s rough.  I missed him loads! However I compensated it by taking a ride in both a submarine and a helicopter, I spent my afternoons listening to music and drinking Piña colada’s, or more often the Waikiki Cosmo, which I sometimes still dream about if only I could remember what’s actually in it :S Also the holiday allowed me to send this text ” Hello KM, miss you! However I am currently looking at the blue, blue ocean and taking a nap leaning against a palm tree, so it’s not all bad. Luv ya! ”

Booked our WEDDING… uh huh that’s RIGHT – me and KM (Who really needs a new name seen as the kayak has long since disappeared) are actually going to tie the knot in less that 6 months from now and although weddings are still far from my favorite thing, I am excited about ours and I can’t wait!!

SEPTEMBER 2012 – Started the life of a student midwife once more: shifts, course work, essays, assessments… you name it. My schedule is just as manic as it was in first year. In fact, if anything, it’s WORSE.  2nd year is meant to be the hardest year of training with the highest drop out rate and so far is living up to all those claims… but I’m here and I’m still swimming… Fingers crossed.

So here we are now JANUARY 2013 – KM is studying a master’s in Micro Electronics at one end of the country and lives in our flat, I’m studying to be a midwife at the other end of the country and splitting my time between our flat and being a lodger with two lovely ladies and their 2 dogs in the town where I’m training. KM and I try to see each other as much as we can, but living apart most of the time isn’t easy.  However, hopefully our plan will eventually come together and we will both be better off. Between studying and planning a wedding… Busy, busy, busy.

Ali xX