Knit one…

I learned something new… and for me at least it’s kind of cool.

When you have dyslexia and some features of dyspraxia, things just don’t come as easily as they probably would to the general population.

I struggle with dexterity all the time, I literally am a clumsy fool… except I’m not stupid even tough it might look like I am when it takes me months to figure out how to open an medicine ampule without crushing it, or give myself a needle stick injury twice before I figure out how to take the cap of a needle correctly. I often think people think I’m stupid but honestly most of the time I’m aware of what I should be doing and just as frustrated as my teacher in that simple manual tasks which I understand in theory seems to take me so long to master. The constant admission of failure is at times embarrassing but I persevere and I do get there in the end… I’m just less coordinated than average

I’ve always been this way and actually I was much worse in childhood. As a youngster, I couldn’t hit a tennis ball with a racquet until at least secondary school. I was that kid who had to hold a teachers hand just to walk along a bench in gym never mind a balance beam, which doesn’t win you any favors in the popularity stakes.  Thankfully over the years things have improved.

I have to say at this point that, in general, my mentors at work are very supportive and I’m always supervised. Basically I simply refuse to give up until I master something. I do live with the almost constant fear that I’ll come up against a skill that I simply can’t master… but among students of my profession  I’m sure I’m not alone.

Anyway, over the last few weeks I taught myself to knit.

It’s something I have been curious about since about age 9. Lots of the women in my family do; my mum, my aunts and my grandmother are all able to reel off knitting rows at speed. At age nine I thought it might be cool to learn, so I asked my mum to teach me. Well, granny was staying with us at the time and so the unfortunate task fell to her.
It played out as one of the most frustrating hours of my life, as my gran tried to describe, show and teach me a basic knit stitch. Needles and wool out of control, I recall her gripping my fingers and trying to force my hands to perform the action correctly which felt awkward and hurt. There were tears on both sides and a massive argument as she just couldn’t understand why I was failing. She proudly showed my mum the scarf “WE” had produced for my baby doll and mum was over the moon. However, I was embarrassed that in reality I didn’t feel I had done any of it.  I promptly decided as most kids would have at that age that knitting was not fun and clearly beyond me. I resolved never to do it again.

This “I can’t knit” attitude has stuck with me right into adulthood. I have a number of very crafty people on my Facebook feed and always admire their knitted creations. Recently, when some of my friends and fellow students were knitting baby hats to be donated to various hospitals, I decided to give knitting a second chance.

Armed with part one of a magazine series and the accompanying DVD recommended by a crafty pal, I started… and after 2 hours I was none the wiser and by now getting really sick of hearing the simple instructions on repeat. So I turned to YouTube and looked up a helpful video called “Casting on – super slow version” finally with another 40 minutes of fumbling with my needles I’d cast on my first row and was pretty pleased with myself..

Over the next 3 weeks I painfully, slowly began row by row to knit my first simple square. It was malcoordinated and slow slow slow, but I was doing it and that felt GREAT.

Great that is until…  I began to suspect I was running out of wool and my square was still looking more like a rectangle… UGGGHH. I totally didn’t want to admit defeat and start over, so stubborn as I am I carried on… and on and on… in denial. Almost literally to the last strand when defeat was obvious.

The pattern had asked me to cast on 44 stitches or keep going till I had a 20 cm row. Well, 20 cm in my first row was about 88 stitches to me but by the time I got to row 4 I discovered that my precious square was 30 cm long. Eventually, I did unravel the whole thing… and at this point I almost gave up again.

But now that I did persevere and have finished, it actually looks better than my first attempt.

Sometimes when things aren’t right its best to pull them apart and start over.  I could do with remembering this lesson haha.

I think I’m going to send this horrifically pink square of knitting to my mum….

It really reminded me that perhaps nothing is impossible… if only we’d keep trying.

Knitting

Ali xX

Do you feel any diffrent … ? (Slimming World 10lbs )

Slimming world 1_2

Ten pounds total loss so far!

Chuffed to bits with that… I actually got my 1/2 Stone Award this week at Slimming World (7 pounds to my US buddies). This led to me wining the slimmer of the week award – Yep, I was pleased and yes I ALMOST cried again.

A friend of mine asked me if I noticed any difference yet, and the truthful answer is no. I don’t really notice any difference. Other people have commented that they see a difference in my face shape, or that they can tell I lost some weight but so far all the folk who are commenting are people who know about my Slimming World attempts and therefore know how much weight I have lost. I take these comments with a little grain of salt and while they make me smile I doubt very much that there is much noticeable physical difference.

I feel GREAT!  I am now at a lower weight than I was when I last attempted to lose weight with Weight Watchers. I seem to have a little more energy, maybe, but the difference is very slight and so I’m not quite sure if I’m imagining it.

There are a couple of different signs that things may be changing slowly, like for example at one of my swimming sessions last week I was bothered the whole time by a label from my swim suit poking into me. It felt sharp and annoyed the heck out of me so bad that when I got home I immediately had to find the scissors and cut the stoopid thing out. Now I’ve been using this same bathing suit for a couple of years now it has always fit me and I have never EVER noticed a label in it before…

Label now removed, I was once again comfortable until this one session of Aqua Fit where there may have been a slight wardrobe malfunction. Yep, I flashed my tits to the assembled class (thankfully all female). I can’t believe my top-half changed that much, perhaps after 2 years the elastic has given up the ghost. Either way that costume has been retired as I’m not flashing twice. I don’t want to get a reputation hehe.

The second incident: I had a meeting at a local chocolate shop to arrange a chocolate fountain for our wedding party. Yeah, I know this isn’t on the diet plan but I’m only getting married once and I will NEVER stop loving chocolate. Anyways, I was mid conversation and gesticulating wildly with my hands as I do when I’m over excited… and suddenly my engagement ring few off and skated across the table… Oops.

So to answer the question.. No I don’t really feel any different YET… though I’m sure I will if I can just keep on keeping on.

HOWEVER…

It may be that my body is indeed losing weight… starting with my FINGERS and my BOOBS.

Sigh.

Totally not my area of choice but at this point beggars can’t be choosers. I’ll take it. 🙂

Ali xX

Choices,Choices….

It’s been cold, wet and miserable. I woke up and I didn’t want to get out of bed at all. I had planned to go to Aqua Fit which started at 10 and it was now 9.15. I was lying in bed, looking up through the skylight, while my in my head my conscience had a debate with my body over whether I will really get out of bed and go to the gym as planned. Couldn’t I justify not going this once?? My bed was pretty warm and comfortable, thank you very much.

Gazing up through the skylight I realised I was looking at a blue sky and sunshine. That’s what made me get out of bed. There was no motivation, and I wasn’t “get up and go about the diet” at all really, but it was sunny, so I made it to the gym. Sometimes it’s whatever it takes to get you out of the door.

When I actually got to the gym, I had a really good session and I actually left feeling refreshed, if exhausted. I arrived for my Aqua Fit Class which I thought was at 9.45 only to find out it was actually an hour later. Now, usually I’d use this lapse in diary management as an excuse to leave the gym “sharpish”. On this day, however, perhaps because I didn’t want to feel like I’d abandoned my bed in vain, I stayed and challenged myself to swim for the hour before the class.

Now understand when I say “swim”, I’m using the term in its loosest possible sense. I don’t want you thinking of me gracefully gliding through the water from one end of the pool to the other, feet never touching the floor. Oh no … me: I’m working up to that. Me: I swim ugly.

We’re talking splashing and thrashing and generally trying to move my all too large and definitely not aerodynamic body from one end of the pool to the next in a mish mash of semi coordinated movement that, with a little imagination on the part of the observer, looks somewhat like the precise strokes I once had drummed into me in swim class.

I make no apology for it… because, well, I have as much right to be in the pool as all the lean coordinated swimmers who actually care about style. At this point, moving in any form or fashion is more exercise than I was doing before and its all got to be beneficial. Despite the ugliness, I quite enjoy it and find it somewhat relaxing.

So, that’s what I did: I swam ugly for an hour then had my usual Aqua Fit Class. When I got out of the pool, boy could I feel it!

I rewarded myself for my effort, not with the usual chocolate bar, but instead chose a sugar free date and banana flapjack despite being a little nervous of my selection. I loved it!

I had one of the most enjoyable mornings and felt in a much better place mentally when I went to bed that night.

Sometimes this “get fit” thing is totally overwhelming. I have such a long way to travel that it’s easy to be intimidated and hopeless because of the amount of change I need to make. But, this day was just about making one good decision at a time. It doesn’t really matter what tools I use to help me make the right choice, whether it is the unusual presence of the sunshine, or setting myself a little challenge, choosing a healthy snack. I’m trying to trust in the process, trying to believe that if I can just keep making one good choice at a time it will eventually lead where I want to go…. but it’s not always easy.

Ali xX

Wheelz

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

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?

SNOW!

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