2013: Bring It On

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I hope you like my new sketches that I’ve started adding to some of my posts. One of the things I want to do more of this year is draw, as it’s something that I used to do a lot of but I’ve let slip in the past couple of years. I thought my blog would be the perfect opportunity to encourage myself to get drawing again. My idea is to add sketches to my posts that represent what I’ve been up to that week.

This little doodle symbolises how I hope to grow in 2013. But who knows where that growth will take me?

I’m also loving being inspired by other people’s art at the moment. Good street art in particular is really getting me excited, like this great silhouette stencil that I spotted on my way home from the market on Saturday morning.

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Pay it Forward

As I mentioned in my last post, New Years Resolutions are difficult to stick to. One great way to motivate yourself is to pay it forward.

I first became aware of the Pay It Forward movement when I read Catherine Ryan Hyde’s book of the same name. The basic idea of Pay It Forward is for one person to help 3 others. Instead of those people simply returning the favour, they pay it forward to 3 other people and so on.

Last year, for the first time, I made a conscious effort to pay forward my challenge to visit at least one new place and try at least one new activity every year. For Jubilee weekend, coincidentally also my birthday not that most of the nation noticed, I introduced two of my friends to Whitesands, one of my favourite places in the UK. I also took my friend Geri and my godson climbing for the first time.

Sunset at White Sands

Not quite as intentional, but something I am still proud of, is that I encouraged at least two people to make changes in their diet towards becoming more plant-based.

I hope to continue paying it forward in 2013. If you’re already struggling to stick to your resolutions, make the commitment to pay it forward to someone else by the end of the year. If you hold the responsibility to make a change in someone else’s life, you’re more likely to stick to it.

Take a Step Together

Although I discourage people from making New Years Resolutions, especially big lifestyle changes that are near-impossible to achieve, I appreciate that a lot of people do make them. By the start of December every year I hear friends and co-workers talking about their resolutions for the next year and I genuinely believe their determination to stick to them.

During my own personal lifestyle change, one of the things I constantly tell myself is ‘one step at a time’. The longest lasting change is gradual, and if I happen to slip up and take a couple of steps backwards I try not to beat myself up about it and instead work out how I can move forward again. Making those small steps can be incredibly difficult, though, and it is so easy to make an excuse as to why you have to wait until next week to start.

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At the moment I work in an office, a very sedentary environment where it is very easy to become lazy and put on weight. Determined to break this trend, last year my team and I made changes together. All five of us tried to live healthier lives (and I also encouraged them to live more environmentally friendly lives). We all had our own personal reasons for doing it, and we all went about it in different ways, but we encouraged each other daily and shared ideas and knowledge. I have no doubt that, without the support of the other four, not one of us would have succeeded as well as we have so far. Who needs a personal trainer or nutritionist when you have four coaches stopping you from buying that chocolate bar from the vending machine?

After a couple of months taking steps forward together, we noticed that one of our number was regressing. The colleague in question will remain anonymous, but he’d started to take a couple of steps back in his diet and he had started to make excuses not to go to the gym. The rest of us banded together to remind him of why we made our pact in the first place, and what he wanted to achieve. He’s still not entirely back on track. but we will continue to support him in his ambition to lead a healthier life and set a better example to his child.

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In a nutshell, the idea is to get together with some like-minded friends or work colleagues and encourage and support each other in your New Year Resolutions. It might give you the push you need to make the change forever. And don’t forget to check in with people occasionally to make sure they’re still on the right path.

Looking back at 2012

It’s so easy for people to get emotional and sentimental at this time of year, and I’m genuinely not usually one of them, but 2012 has honestly marked a big change in my life. I try not to put too much pressure on myself at this time of year, as I find that a lot of people expect themselves to completely change their habits and routines on January 1st. My approach to life is more like ‘one step at a time’, and I’ve learnt to not beat myself up if I don’t meet my own expectations. The important thing is that I keep trying, and I keep taking those steps forward. However, I do think it’s important to look back sometimes and evaluate what has gone well and what is best left to experience. So I’d like to share with you my ‘highlights’ of 2012. I used to work for a well-known English/German tour operator that was all about ‘highlights’. As a rep, I encouraged my guests to discover the highlight of their hoiliday, whether that be a great excursion they went on, the perfect sunset over the beach or the barman that served them in the hotel. The example I always used was when I was in the audience for the Ricki Lake Show in New York. I’d been travelling around North East America for a month after working in Brant Lake, NY for the summer, and my travelling partner, Kate, and I were spending a few days in New York City before heading down to Philadelphia and Washington DC before we flew home. We saw a flyer pinned to the noticeboard in our hostel looking for people to join the audience, and we thought it sounded like a laugh. We had the best day, and even ten years on I still love telling people that I was in an episode of Ricki Lake.

I’d like to share with you my highlights of 2012. Here’s what I got up to…

Learning to Lead Climb

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This photo was taken when I was a teenager. My brother, a keen climber himself, decided to teach me to climb. What a disaster! I was scared of heights, didn’t trust my brother and, to be honest, I just wasn’t that interested. Fast forward twenty(ish) years, and I decided to give it another go. I’d always been annoyed with myself for not giving climbing my full effort. So, at 29 years old, I decided to give it another go. Three years on, I’m happy to say the perseverance worked. This year I learnt to lead climb, something I’ve wanted to do since I first got back on the wall three years ago.

Completing Cwrs Mynediad

Since I first moved to Wales 14 years ago (oh my gosh, has it really been that long!), it has been my dream to learn Welsh. The oldest language in Europe and one of the oldest in the world, Welsh is difficult to learn, especially when you’re English with a monotone Lancashire accent that doesn’t allow you to roll your r’s. Two years ago last September, I took the plunge and enrolled on Cwrs Mynediad (entry level Welsh for adults). I completed the two-year course in May 2012, and I am so proud of myself. I still study Welsh at home, and obviously I use it everyday to some extent because I live in Wales. I hope to go back to college in the near future to enrol on Silfaen (foundation) and continue my studies. Learning Welsh has not only opened up my world here in Wales (when I first moved here I had to carry a map with me on the bus because I couldn’t even pronounce the names of local towns and villages), it had also introduced me to a whole new set of friends who are incredibly precious to me.

The birth of my niece

I never thought that I would be an aunty. The Church of England and the Church in Wales won’t allow me to be a godmother because I wasn’t baptised, and my brother was adamant that he was never going to have children. I’m happy to say that that has all changed. Although I’m not officially allowed to be a godmother, one of my best friends asked me to take on the responsibility for her two beautiful children. From the day that my godson was born, I made a commitment to him to love him, support him and guide him throughout his life, no matter what the church says about me. The same applied to his sister when she arrived five years later. My brother, the one who was never going to settle down, surprised me by getting married and having children. The third one, my second niece, was born in September 2012. She’s already trying her best to keep up with her older brother and sister, and they want to keep her with them wherever they go. All our family keep trying to decide who she looks like most, but I just tell her that she’s her own person. Just like with all the other children that I am ‘aunty’ to, I’m sure that we are going to have lots of great adventures together.

Having fun with my friends

It might seem quite boring to a lot of people that one of my highlights is spending time with my friends, but I’m always grateful for this time. For six years I worked seasons overseas. During that time I made many great friends, and had crazy and exciting adventures, but I always missed out on what was happening at home. When I moved back to the UK four years ago, one of my ambitions was to catch up with my friends and do the ‘normal’ things that I’d missed out on. Here’s some of the adventures we got up to this year…

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I had a great weekend with my friend Charlie (mother of my two beautiful godchildren) in Brighton – veggie heaven!

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We celebrated my friend Cath’s 30th birthday camping in Port Eynon, the Gower.

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My friends from my Welsh course, and my godson, came together to celebrate my brithday with a camping weekend in White Sands.

Finishing my book and sending it to agents

Since I was a child, it has been one of my dreams to be a published writer. At the start of this year, I set myself the challenge to complete a writing project and send it off to prospective agents. The novel I chose isn’t exactly revolutionary, but I finsihed it and I’ve sent it. No bites yets, but I will keep trying in 2013. Wish me luck.

My new places for 2012

My blog is all about the new places I visit. This year my biggest adventure was to Pisa. Although alot of the people around me struggle to understand why I travel alone, I had a great time.

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New Activities for 2012

The other thing that my blog is all about is new activities. The one that has caught my enthusiasm most this year is Step Class. In all honesty, I thought this was an aerobics class that had died with the 80s, but I’m happy to say it is still here and still very much current. If you want to feel a positive difference in your body overnight, check out your local step class and give it all you’ve got.

Becoming Plant-based

I started my plant-based journey in November 2011, and I am genuinely shocked at where I am now. Before I watched the Planeat movie, I was happy in my beliefs as a vegetarian. I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to give up dairy. After watching the movie, my beliefs completely changed. Although I still couldn’t imagine myself being completely plant-based, I committed myself to making steps in that direction. Twelves months on, I have completely given up animal protein and the decisions I make in my everyday life are a lot more ethical. My choice to live a plant-based lifestyle is still something that I have to debate on almost a daily basis. Ironically, two decades ago I went through the same battle when I told everyone that I was vegetarian, and that is considered ‘normal’ nowadays. Ironically, the people who argue with me about my choice to live plant-based are usually the ones that comment on how good I look now. I’m happy to listen to both sides of the argument, but all I can say is that since I started living plant-based and I had an allergy test I feel better than I have ever done in my life, I’m fitter than I have ever been, my focus and concentration are a lot better, my mood swings have all but disappeared (I’ve suffered from depression in the past and shown signs of being on the autism spectrum although have never been diagnosed), and everyone has commented on how much healthier I seem.

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Making a difference

There was a daily prompt from WordPress a while back that asked us what difference we hoped to make with our blog. I answered that if I could help one person to make just one small step to living a plant-based, more ethical lifestlye, then my blog would be worth it. The proof of my efforts came from a source much closer than I was expecting. I was born in 1980, and I know that I was born with allergies. No matter what my parents did, not matter what my mother did during pregnancy, I was always destined to have a poor immune system. With the knowledge I have now, I know I should have been given an allergy test when I was a baby. Unfortunately, I grew up in the 80s when everyone listened to their western GP with no question. My mum was always adamant that my allergic reactions were ‘psychological’, or I was just pretending to get attention. When my parents saw me this summer, they both admitted that I looked healthier. On Christmas Day, they phoned me to wish me happy Christmas. My mum commented on the fact that I am the only person she knows that hasn’t caught the sickness bug that went round the UK this winter, and that maybe that is due to my healthy eating. She also told me that, due to my influence, she has switched from cows’ milk to soya milk and she feels much better for it. I never thought that one of my first followers would me my mum, but if she has faith in my beliefs then I know I can convince others.

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Improving my blog

One of my biggest changes this year, and probably the most important to everyone reading this, is that I switched my blog to WordPress. It meant that I had to change my on-line identity, but that led to me opening up more about myself which I am glad of. I have come into contact with so many inspirational people since I joined WordPress, and I want to thank every single one of you for opening up my mind and sharing your lives and experiences with me.

It’s been an awesome year, and I can’t wait to see what 2013 brings. I’ve already got some ideas up my sleeve that I can’t wait to share with you. I’m looking forward to hearing about all your adventures. Your blogs are what create my dreams. Happy New Year everyone! Sasie x

If at first you don’t succeed…

The weather here in Cardiff has been hit and miss over the weekend. Saturday morning looked bright and promising, so I walked down to the real food market to do my shopping. As I was deciding which veggies to eat this week, the heavens opened and it poured down. Drenched through, I finished my shopping as quickly as possible and ran home, only for the sun to come out as soon as I got through the front door!

My seven year-old godson had asked me to take him ice-skating, which was originally planned for Saturday afternoon, but after another couple of rain showers and a check of the weather forecast, I decided that activity would be best left until Sunday morning. According to the forecast, double checked by my godson on his games console, there was due to be a gap in the clouds from 11am Sunday that would do us fine.

Ice-skating is far from a new activity for me. Having grown up in Blackpool, where the only affordable place to hang out on the weekend was the ice-rink, I’m quite comfortable skating round in hired skates. My godson, however, has not skated so much. I first took him when he was three and he was still small enough to carry around the ice if needs be. On that first outing he’d loved it, laughing his socks off as he slipped and slid like Bambi. The following winter, unfortunately, was not so successful. Suddenly big enough to be aware of the danger involved, he only managed half a circuit before one of the marshalls had to carry him off. So I was more than a little surprised when he asked me to take him this year. And I have to say how incredibly proud I am of him for being determined to give it another go. He’s still no figure skater, but he completed a good few circuits on his own and was quite happy to pull himself back up after every fall. I did have to laugh at his choice of gloves, though. He’d picked up two left-hand, adult-sized gloves that flapped comically as he tried to stay upright:)

My godson's first time ice-skating

My hope is that some of you are inspired to try a new activity in the New Year. And if you find it a little difficult at first, then take my godson’s advice and keep trying.

Special Photo Challenge: Inspiration

People are always telling me what I can’t do. Like when I was told (by lots of friends, family and virtual strangers) that I couldn’t spend my 30th birthday travelling in the USA on my own. This photo of me stood on the edge of the Grand Canyon proves that not only could I do it, but I did and I had an amazing time.

My inspiration in writing this blog is that I get to tell people to ignore the naysayers. Aim to achieve your dreams.