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High Days & No Days

we'll be in a hut in a field
 - not this one

The Season & the Reason


Well, folks, it is time for the Davis household to have some Time Off. Regular readers will know this has been a long time coming. And it will be high days and no days because ill-health has caught up with me again.

I have no idea when I will return to regular cardmaking and writing online. Mainly, I may just please myself because that is how I feel right now.

But you won't escape my attention


if you fall into either or more of these categories:

- family member or fond friend - they know I know who they are

- one of my favourite papercraft designers or makers - you know exactly who you are

- one of my favourite authors or prospective authors - I've got you on my Kindle

- my favourite Prospective Labour Parliamentary Candidate for the Kingswood Constituency - one Jo McCarron - high there, Jo! - or a member of the local support team

or

- someone whose Tweets, Posts or Instagrams I love to read

Over & Out


As I created this list, I pictured quite a few lovely people. Thanks for being here. I'll be in touch.

(This looks like a Poor Me post - it isn't. I never like being offline for any amount of time without an explanation to those that really matter.)

Realistic Realities

Note: Readers of my last post will be ecstatically relieved to learn this is going to be a positive one! If you didn't read Questionable Queries when it was published too long ago, best do so now.

Realistic Revisited


image taken from this web page
It only takes a day or two of sketchy schedules in the charge of Fate or Others, for me to be knocked off-balance, rudderless and lacking any sense of realisticity (I made it up).

When you have MS and you love two pastimes, Writing (you are here) and Crafting (see it there; opens in new tab or window), being flexible has to be organised. 

It is no good getting het up about 'all the cards' I must make and then fretting because I haven't 'written a word' for weeks. The novel doesn't grow on trees; the cards don't get made by elves. It is necessary to keep a diary, and an eye on the rollerball nib or the trusty pokey tool. (that last one is exclusive to crafters - you may ask me).

I've used this lovely Sunday 



Realities Reborn


Tesco Retro Electro range
All this information is now stored on my Google Calendar - the one that's dedicated to my Card & Writing Schedule (don't go searching; it is kept private) - and in my brand new lever arch Writing File (storing all kinds of printed information and my past efforts) and my rather large zipped leather writing case (with notepads and ongoing work).
my own notebooks, used and waiting

What prompted all this activity (apart from self-inflicted guilt) was a post, Practically Perfect, on Su Bristow's blog. (I came across Su Bristow because she won last year's Exeter Novel Prize).

That's another two competitions noted in one pause on the net's thread-weaving journey, which continued until I suddenly needed to write.

So here I am. Blogging. That is writing, isn't it? Oh, you say it is procrastination? Please don't take me back to the last post...

And the best bit about all this? I do love a new file, or two. And, Su, I will use my pristine notebooks...


Footnote: lots of links but no product incentives, I promise.

Questionable Queries?

Running Commentaries


http://atantalus.com/blog/2012/05/over-thinking/
I recall being told, many years ago, that it is impossible to think about nothing. Even if you get close, what you are doing is thinking about thinking about nothing. So, you aren't, are you?

I have a permanent voice in my head. It is my own Voice and there is nothing amiss. I believe it normal to have a running commentary inside me. In fact, it is essential for me - without it, I might launch myself out of our patio doors and forget the concrete step that awaits my careful negotiation. 

Last week, I did just that and landed with my hands resting on the patio chair that was thoughtfully placed (ie no one planned it) in my way. I shook, I nearly cried. And The Voice said: "you could have cracked your skull on the patio stones if you'd fallen"..."could have", it said. A leading remark, if ever I heard one.

I did not have a nasty accident; I was not hurt at all, but The Voice would not shut up. Living with a physical debility is bad enough without my Own Self reminding me every five seconds that I am in mortal danger from the actions and reactions of my Own Body.


Overthinking


Before we abandon this fascinating subject, I have one more thought to share and to leave you to explore. Having that nagging, doubting voice in your head is also called overthinking, according to my psychology-fascinated friend. After this, we'll get more positive.

Enjoy the links:
http://www.workology.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/overthinking-work.png

If you are really into this topic, you can look up overthinking disorder, although I wouldn't recommend it.

Creative Mind = Peace of Mind


So, what can I do about The Voice? I can make up my mind to stop listening to the negative speeches and tune into the positive ones. Desist Destruction - make way for Creative Construction. That's what!

http://www.ajr-designs.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/10
/sticky-note-stop-overthinking1-307x250.jpg
From this day forth, I would like The Voice to know it has a new raison d'ĂȘtreIts new role is to think creatively for my good, as in, to enable my creativity to have direction, to be active day and night in the quest for story lines, sketching subjects and plain silly play topics.

I will no longer be subjected to this barrage of Questionable Queries. It is time for Quantifiable Questions.

Follow the latter link and you'll go round and round in circles, just like I used to do. Or is that, around and around... like I refuse to do?

Try to click on the bold typed words and you'll find they lead to nothing because I am no longer thinking about thinking. Nor should you.

Perfect Purpose

The Plan


A long time ago, I realised that my brain has two halves - just like yours - and two purposes, one to each half - just like yours. I wish I could find the piece of original writing on this topic but, long ago, I consigned it to the place where online prose goes when you kill a blog. Oh yes, I've had a few ...

The plan for someone with Multiple Sclerosis is to recognise the two halves of the brain and use them alternately.


I don't mean, 

'today I'll switch on my right side and see what I can make at the craft table' or 

'today it is the turn of my left side so let's write'. 

Change the syntax - 

'today I will make things' or

'today I will write'. 

By recognising the fragility of my brain cells, synapses and all-the-other-workings that MS can zap as the years proceed, I can practise what each half does one day and give it rest and recuperation on another. Surely, this is so ...


If Only It Were That Simple


Mood, general health and will-power all collude to decide what I will feel like doing each day. Exercising freedom of choice can put feelings in their place - 

'Today I don't feel very artistic but if I sit at the craft table and make just one card/draw one new SquirlDoodle, I will have helped my right brain out'. 

'Tomorrow I will write a blog post about the experience and the following week, I will get on with my novel/that short story competition I found last week'.


Fear Has Feelings: Faith Has Function


In faith, I will pursue my writing life because 'I have to', while sometimes making craft items as a hobby that gives me pleasure.

Why Have a New Writing Focus - Again?


Because I announced on Twitter today:

I have won a set of @WritingMaps author @Shaun_Levin via the great writing magazine for women @Mslexia - thank you everybody - they're great

More Links



Obvious Orchestration

Obvious?


What will I come up with next! As in titles ... It had to be 'O' and it had to serve a purpose, as you will see.

Orchestration ...


I am out of habit with regard writing letters to the press. At one time, I was prolific with many to the local paper and quite a few to the nationals. The gratifying thing was that whatever I wrote about was published. I lived in Swindon then; now, in Bristol, I have taken up the pen again. To the Editor.

I make no apology for my politics for they are born of experience, older, newer and immediate. Being disabled under this current regime is not much fun (Late Into Labour). Enough written about that - for now.

My Inaugural Bristol Post Letter 

I have just found that my letter, written to the Bristol Post as an email on 14th April, was published today. Sadly, we failed to buy that issue - isn't it always the way? - but I've been looking online every day ... as you do.

The topic I wrote about is dear to all our hearts - how much is your shopping costing these days? In Kingswood, Bristol, South Glos, this matters even more because those who work are not all paid the Living Wage. They get the Minimum Wage but that is £1.34 an hour adrift from the LW.


The Text


Copied from my original, read the letter please, and comment below.

Like many of your readers, I was shocked to learn that, according to findings by the TUC, Kingswood is "the worst black spot in the country for people who earn the lowest wages ... 48 per cent [of workers] earn less than the Living Wage". Fair Pay Fortnight has just ended; the struggle for many families shows no sign of ending.
In Kingswood, Labour's parliamentary candidate, Jo McCarron, and her supporters have been talking to thousands of constituents. They found that for more 80 per cent of people the rising cost of living is a serious concern. My allegiance to Jo's campaign stems from similar concerns. The size of our supermarket bill is increasing while the actual amount of the shopping we bring home is decreasing. People struggle to buy enough food and household goods, having already cut down on many 'luxury' items, and they no longer find it possible to save for treats or a rainy day. Doing the right thing under Cameron’s government has become a burden to many citizens. 
The point is many Kingswood people are in work but still struggling while Chris Skidmore seems obsessed with organising job fairs in his constituency. It is right that unemployed or underemployed people are helped to find jobs but they need to be fair-paying ones. Employers such as South Gloucestershire Council can, and do, set an example by voluntarily paying the Living Wage. Job fairs are not enough. 
In November 2013, a press release by the Labour Party announced, "firms which sign up to paying the Living Wage at the start of the Parliament will benefit from a 12-month tax rebate of up to £1,000 – and an average of £445 – for every low paid worker who gets a pay rise". This needs to happen after May 2015. 
This is a vital issue. The MP for Kingswood needs to give some answers to our questions together with a commitment to engage with local employers with regard the Living Wage.

Thank You


My parents taught me to say Thanks for having me so, Thanks for reading this. Now I'll just email the Editor with my Thanks for publishing my letter, and my work is done. For now.

Note: For more information about the Labour parliamentary candidate for Kingswood , please see Jo McCarron

Naughty Nutrition...


...otherwise known as huge gooey muffins brought here by my good friend Liz Hinds.

Liz had to be in a town near me today. She didn't undertake to visit me too, I understood and that was that.

Then, as I prepared my highly interesting crackers, cheese, soup-in-a-mug, and apple, I spotted a lady approaching my home. I hadn't seen her for about 5 years but I knew it was Liz right away.

Liz is a slender lady; I am not. So if I crushed any of her ribs when I hugged her more than once - I was pleased, very pleased, to see her again - then I hope I'm forgiven. As my dear Gran once said (when I knocked her spectacles flying upon being told my little sister had been born, "It is just angel's wings".

We had the cakes (instead of my lunch), talked lots and will be able to do it again next week when hubby and I call in to see her on our way back from deepest welsh Wales.

Meanwhile, have I been writing? Nope. Crafting? A little - enough to plan out a project. Adminning? (Yes, I know the word is administrating but it is too grand a term for the bits & pieces I have to do). Nope. Only editing one piece of paper to make this year's version. And much downloading of newsletters, course materials (for PAs, as in carers - but much better than that) & the occasional document or email, tweeting and f'bing. The only thing I've done little of are those I care for most. Writing and crafting.

I have watched some TV only to fall asleep. I have read only to drop my Kindle into the bed or onto the carpet. (No damage that I kow of Basically, I am still having a MS episode. But Liz thought I looked well. That's the thing with hidden illnesses. Sometimes they can be disguised when a really nice thing happens.

Thanks so much Liz! xx

Mid-life Moments

the age is hiding, as am I
(it's not until next year folks)
I am standing on the threshold of my next Big Zero-ending birthday (NEXT year). Near but still far away. It will not make me old or pensionable, other than the fact I drew on my teaching pension when I was four score years and one. Thank you MonSter.

Does Mid-life Mean Anything?


It certainly does. Coming to the furthest limit of it as I am, life is now pretty cool. My mantra has not changed tack; I still take each day one at a time. But excitement for new horizons bubbles up despite any natural anxiety for new places and new faces that might threaten to pop those spheres of hope and expectation.

Daily Duties & Pleasures


Dealing with the MonSter's needs takes time and this is not the place to list the trials involved. Trust me, the only way through is to rely on husband and two personal assistants. And a razor sharp sense of the ridiculous.
So we'll cast aside the mantle of medical mayhem and look at what I do with the rest of the day. Let's make

A List of Daily D's & P's


  • writing blog posts, tweets and other social media matters. Maybe I should have been a journalist jotting down the details of other people's lives while neglecting the perplexities of own. Is there anything more pleasurable than covertly people-watching without running the risk of being called a nosey Parker?
  • learning different self-taught topics such as using a PC and navigating the Internet. I should have been a teacher (for much longer than health allowed me). However, since 1998 I've been connecting with like-minded e-pals. In 2005 I married one. 
  • other topics of interest are creativity in writing and papercrafts; combating the MonSter's myriad of mysteries; and, the latest arrival, politics. (see previous post).
  • having time to read the newspaper in print or on my phone, to read books on my Kindle, and to sit and stare at The Box in moderation, is the one plus of having a medical condition that restricts my movements from home.

Mid-life Conclusions


Whoops, that sounds like a new euphemism for death. I meant, of course, my conclusions about the merits of being a mid-lifer. You might even have decided that I am not in my middle years but, now that so many live until eighty or ninety, I disagree with you. Guard your own year tally while I look after mine.

For: The ability to choose more daily activities has many attractions to those out there in the workplace, but I must add a disclaimer here. If I had my fully health and mobility, I'd still be teaching and running my own home. 

I could be an (enforced) lady of leisure
As it is, I could settle down as an (enforced) lady of leisure. Instead, I choose to be occupied and challenged, concentrating on the things I can do rather than regretting those I can no longer do.

Against: Being self-directed at any age can run the risk of being unfocused, distracted or idle. The Internet is a marvellous tool but, in a few clicks, it can take you into other worlds and away from the here and now. 

Conclusions: The right mix of leisure and occupation is not easy to achieve, but it is worth striving for. Once the Holy Grail of being at one with your world, and your circumstances, has been found, hold on tight and never let go.

All in all, being who you are, with no pretentious or dishonest traits, is what matters. 

Whatever your age.

Knowing...

Knowing contains the word 'no'...

Why is this significant to me as a writer`/crafter/person with MS?


It's as easy as ...


One


The need does not equal the call ...
This was once explained to me by a wise lady. At the time, I was dithering over the need for a leader in a group. I needed to know whether it meant that I should step up to the committee room despite being a young mum with ill-health. In my head, I could do it; in reality, I needed to think hard. I opted for 'no', and it was the right decision then.
What about now? How do I know what is right?


Two


Life is too short to be treated as a rehearsal ...

This became abundantly obvious last year. It takes a brush with death to highlight the importance of taking opportunities when they are presented, provided the maxim above in One is applied. If the answer is 'yes', I can go for it.


Three


Take each day one at a time ...


I do. As someone with Multiple Sclerosis, I am used to the vagaries of numbness; pain; total fatigue; & walking like a drunk (I never drink alcohol - too many tablets).
I also have the cognitive function of a morning after the night before, and the short-term memory of a gnat. That was a brief list of signs & symptoms.

I wake each day and ascertain what events are planned. My husband may be home; my PA (carer) might be expected soon so I can bathe and do whatever it is we are going to do, or not, if my MonSter is dictating the agenda.

Other days, I use my free time like a teenager on a skateboard - across to the park at full pelt, keeping other pavement/road users in my periphery vision, and not stopping for anyone.

This past week, I have:

  • completed two (small) craft projects 
  • planned several more
  • attended TWO local health-provision events, meeting new people there (a bonus)
  • bought craft goodies online
  • written this post (a cinch, but still an achievement)
  • rested & slept really well
  • eaten too well

Last week, I:
  • did NOTHING because my MS symptoms were just too much

It pays to be knowing ...


Who knows what tomorrow will bring (a long lie-in, I hope)


Jolly Japes with Journalling

Not me - the others! There are many online folk who journal for the sake of writing and art journal for the sake of art, and loads who do both for the sake of it, full stop.

I Tend to Write Comments on Blogs 


that go further than saying the minimum.

Let's take a look at something I've written today:

In her excellent piece Love Yourself As You Are: A Weight Loss Story by digital Diane Rooney, a graphic designer, artist & aspiring writer, who runs her own UK-based design business.
"Hi Diane. I was one of those people who emailed you. I loved your video and you made me see me in you. Read that back slowly. I could see we were alike physically as well as having similar life stories and it meant a great deal. You utterly inspired me. So much so that I made my own DVD application to B-School, but pulled out when I realised I could not raise the funds. 
Since then I have (as you know) been seriously ill and unable to craft for well over six months. I am now, just about, concentrating on my writing, and also card making for current clients.
Weight? I lost a lot while ill, it fell off. Then it has returned a little (not all of it) during winter. For me, portion control is key and that means my chef (hubby) also has to get back into thinking Smaller for Shirl.
I will never be thin or active (MS) but I know what feels good for me. And that, I think, is what you've just written about here.
Another by-product of illness was losing my hair through chronic anaemia. I now have it cut short and adore it! Always did - only grew it to catch a chap! You may laugh. I laugh at me all the time!"

It was good to write that as I realised I'd made the video this time last year, a few months before the Summer of Horrors enveloped me.


If You Fancy Art-Journalling


follow artist, crafter & blogger, Kim Dellow, also UK-based. This year, Kim has started a series, Art Journal Sharing Thursday on her excellent website, Kim Dellow.

I made an art journal many moons ago and even used it for a while. Nowadays, I spend a lot of too much time tweeting and fbing and staring into space. I need to follow the examples of these two busy creative women. I need to have the energy but fatigue lives up to its name.

Last Thing - Did You Know?


To find me online, just go to www.ShirleyDavis.co.uk One day, I'll get the co.uk addresses back into the address window but whether you go for the this one or www.SDCrafts.co.uk, you'll find me.

Very Last Thing


Of late, I tend to write huge blog posts infrequently rather than shorter ones often.

That's me.

For now.

Initial Instigations

Another Alliterative Title


I had to stick with the next letter in my title alphabet - 'I' this time.

Writing Weekend Whispers


Rather than New Year Resolutions, I prefer to consider myself goal-orientated and work best when I know what long-term project I am working on. For 2014, I am aiming to finish my first draft of Changing Manor Barn. To put this in perspective, folks, I first wrote plans for this novel in 2000. Yes, just over thirteen years ago. Interruptions for Life Events and Ill-Health have not been inconsiderable.

With this in mind, I spent the weekend writing in two half-day sessions. There are not twelve hours in my half days. To write, I sit in my wheelchair at my keyboard situated on the large table I call my desk. I am surrounded with my plans and charts etc. It is not possible to have a walk every half hour but I do stretch my legs and flex my ankles. My wrists are well supported and I do not type like grease lightning so, hopefully, no RSI will ensue.

Silence is not Mandatory


Just as well. The wind rattled anything that could move on a modern property or in its garden, and threw rain and hail at the window panes. Still I pressed on with my story world, lost, oblivious of outside other than being pleased I wasn't part of it.

Then I heard faint footsteps coming along the corridor to my office. A hand reached over my shoulder and placed various drinks and food on my desk for my intermittent consumption. However, this was not a friendly ghost.

After an afternoon of this, I asked the owner of the footsteps if he could stop tip-toeing about and make more noise. His reply: 'I've put my back out and was trying not to disturb you because I knew you wanted to write.'

Better to be Selfish or Selfless?


Authors often refer to writing as a selfish hobby. Now you know why it sometimes feels that way. Despite my mobility and health issues, I do like to look after my friendly ghost when he is poorly. I just need him to tell me when he is not as able as normal.

But his own selflessness was not in vain. I clocked up just over 2700 brand new words and a quick edit of the book so far.

And I was shattered afterwards. There were achy pains where there should not be any feeling. So, is being overtired a cure for MS? It doesn't work like that at all. Having a lack of sensation is not overcome by pain in the same place, sadly.

But we are here to talk about writing,

Better to be Prepared than Repaired


I have identified the reason I have to run through the whole book every time I sit down to it - the gaps between one writing session and the next are too long. So, the answer is to write little and often, more when I am able to. I am amending my charts and plans so that they reflect the true events in the lives of my characters as they lead me astray.

Housekeeping note: Always copy your PC files and rename. eg CMB - plans-revised became CMB - plans-from-manuscript. This way you leave a trail of files that tell the history of your writing. Simlarly with your drafts. I update the date in the title and also the word count which is another part of the tiles. Right now were on 2014.01.26MB1st-16780wds. The 1st refers to first draft even though my self-critic has been unleashed too often.


I hope I've found a way to keep up with the beat of the Barn!

Holiday Happiness, and Hope for 2014

All at Chez Davis have had a happy time


We've consumed mountainous quantities of food, a more modest gallonage of drinks, alcofrolic and boring alike. Games have been played willingly and accompanied by gales of laughter and fun. All in all, we haven't had a quiet Christmas, thank goodness.

As the year 2013 fades


I'm left with mixed feelings towards its gifts to me. Yes, I still Live[d] Each Day One at a Time. It's the only way to stay sane! Yes, I renewed my writing pledge to myself. Yes, I managed to make cards for many family & friends. Enough has already been said/written about that topic so let's put it behind me.
see more images like this, here: http://www.hdpaperwall.com/happy-new-year-2014-images/
...to all my readers - please stay with me all year.

Love Shirl xx