You Aren’t The Only One With Worries

LIPS_FOR_QUOTESpainting-681410_1280“All good things are difficult to achieve; and bad things are very easy to get.” Morarji Desai, former Indian prime minister, could so easily have been talking about financial security and debt, respectively…

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The Do’s And Don’ts Of Debt #2

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I’ve paid off a mountain of debts in my time, and my quick hints will help you focus on what needs to be done to keep your own debt under control. Make sure you follow my blog, so you don’t miss a single episode.

DO get professional help as soon as you can. As a first move, get on the phone to your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau. They’ve seen it all, and they’re trained to be helpful, not judgemental. Get an appointment with them and take along every scrap of information about you and your situation. Once they’ve studied the paperwork. they can help you take the next step in tackling your problem.

Don’t believe anything you hear from friends, or read online. Deal only in facts, and that’s the facts of your case, nobody else’s. Get all your information from registered, recognised sources. Everybody’s situation is different, and everyone’s debt is different, too. Don’t be tempted to take what may turn out to be very bad advice.

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What To Do About Your Worries

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“If you keep on doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep on getting what you’ve always got.” Jack Canfield

Posted in Self-Help

The Do’s and Don’ts Of Debt, #1

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January is the month when holiday overspending comes back to bite us all.  I’ve been rich, I’ve been poor, and I’ve been destitute. Rich is the best option, I can tell you that from bitter experience of the alternatives.

My quick hints will help you focus on what needs to be done to keep your debt under control. Make sure you follow my blog, so you don’t miss a single episode.

DO open every letter, statement and email you’re sent. Keep copies (printing out emails, and keep them in a file), and write the date on them if it’s not already there.

DON’T hide any correspondence, don’t ignore reminders and never delete anything from your computer. However bad you feel now is nothing (believe me, nothing) compared to how you’ll feel when your unsuspecting OH opens to door to the bailiffs.

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You’re Not The Only One With Worries #2

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“The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.” Vince Lombardi.

Posted in Quotes

Beating The Blues—Part 2: When To Change Tack

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If you’ve read Beating The Blues Part 1, you’ll know I struggle with  mental health problems. I suffered both Ante- and Post-Partum Depression (which is more usually known as Post Natal Depression), but bad as things were, I survived. I kept going, and with a lot of expert help I eventually beat it into submission.

Then I lost my job as a copywriter, and couldn’t  find another. All my demons came back with a vengeance. The harder I tried to get work, the more desperate and vulnerable I became. I was all at sea, drowning under waves of childcare problems, money worries and parental disapproval: “Why can’t you be bothered with the housework? It’s not as though you’ve got anything better to do.”

Looking back from high ground, it doesn’t take a genius to realise any prospective employer who interviewed me must have seen me for what I was at that low point. Needy.

One night I was led in bed, worrying, and listening to the constant banging of my toddler’s bedtime ritual. He would rock back and forth until he finally dropped off to sleep. This had been going on for months, but for some reason that was the first time an old joke came into my mind.

You bang your head against a wall because it’s so good when you stop.

Suddenly, that made sense to me.

As the great self-help guru Jack Canfield says, “If you keep on doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep on getting what you’ve always got.”

In my case, that was rejection. The message was clear—I had to stop trying to get a facsimile of my old job back. That boat had sailed.

But it didn’t mean I had to give up trying to find a job. To carry on with the nautical theme, I didn’t drop anchor, I changed tack. Stepping back from the situation, I tried some lateral thinking. I’d been good at my job—very good. Budget cuts were the only reason I lost it. What else was I good at?

I’d made myself brilliant at childcare, for the sad and desperate reason that many people said I’d never manage and I wanted to prove them wrong. Revenge is no basis for a career, so I had to look elsewhere.

I loved writing, so I wrote a novel. This was in the far-off days of publishers’ advances—although in my case, as an unknown author I got less than two thousand pounds. It didn’t result in any lasting fame or fortune, either.

That meant I’d learned to budget. Having a family taught me to cook, and brought me into contact with young mums who, like me, had been latchkey kids living off sliced white bread and Findus crispy pancakes.

The cakes I made for playgroup (to prove that I could, see above) always vanished in seconds, so I did a basic, certificated food hygiene course at the local college. It was part-funded by the council, so it was cheap but excellent.

Then I stuck a notice up in the mini-market, offering to make cakes for children’s parties. My short career in catering was a mixture of triumph and tantrums (not all of them involving the under-fives). If you follow my blog,  I might write about that experience one day, as therapy.  One day, when the scars have healed.

Creating my own little job gave me a boost that was worth far more  than the few pounds a week profit I earned after paying for ingredients and breakages.

Better than that it proved I was worth saving, to the only person who could save me.

And that was myself.

Follow my blog for tips on self-help from someone who’s been there, done most of it, and survived.

Posted in Self-Help

You’re Not The Only One With Worries…

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“I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.” Mark Twain

Make sure you’re not missing out on the good things in life, by following my blog.

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Beating The Blues—Part 1: When To Keep Going

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How do you cope when the weather’s foul, the holiday season’s left you with a pile of debt, and the last of your Christmas cheer dribbled away a lifetime ago?

There’s no substitute for professional help if you’re in the grip of clinical depression, but there are things every one of us can do to improve our situation.

Sitting back and moaning never helped anyone. If you try, you  might fall—but equally, you might fly. You’ll never know unless you try and frankly, when things look bleak, what have you got to lose?

First, know you are not alone. The only people who say they’ve never had a bad day, week, month or year are liars. It happens to everyone. Some are better at hiding their pain than others are. That’s all. I’ve had days when it was all I could do to get out of bed. The only reason I did was because other people were relying on me. I still had to drag on the cap and bells, with Winston Churchill’s black dog shadowing my every thought and footstep. Yet you’d never believe it to look at me, then or now.

You must believe things will get better. Use the mantra, this too, shall pass. Repeat it to yourself as often as you can as you look for ways to improve your situation. Change is inevitable: for every down, there will be an up. Remember, we can only appreciate sunshine by knowing shadows.

Life’s a roller coaster. Hang on tight—and know that I’m screaming too, right alongside you. Follow my blog for tips on self-help from someone who’s been there, done most of it, and survived.

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Three Ways To Beat Holiday Hell With Christmas Cheer

BEST_FRIEND_christmas-ornament-1042543_1920Holidays, and especially Christmas, are times when images of happy families grin out at us from every type of screen and publication. But if you’re on your own, this can be the toughest time of the year. The big thing to remember is you aren’t the first, and you won’t be the last. From the dawn of time there have always been those who, by accident, design, choice, or misfortune, find themselves alone at Christmas.

Here are three tips which worked for me at a difficult time…

Work out what it is you’re missing. Is it the presence of children, the presents, being plied with  drink, the noise, the drama? Don’t forget, rows over kids, gifts and drinking often mean the noise and drama turns nasty. Thank your lucky stars you won’t have to listen to anyone else noisily engulfing sausage rolls, satsumas and sherry by the skipful, before calling up Huey on the big white telephone all night.

There’s nothing wrong with being alone at Christmas. You get custody of the remote control. If you want to eat donuts for breakfast, dinner, tea, and supper, there’s no one to stop you. Heck, you get to choose whether you want to celebrate at all, so if you don’t feel like putting on the cap and bells this year, leave them under the bed. Shut yourself in with  your favourite foods and a few films. Let the world roll on without you for a day or two

Being lonely is a different thing altogether. That’s not good. If you crave the company of others, the worst thing you can do is sit at home and mope, so…

Get out, and see who’s about. Fresh air is free. Walking is, too. Add a dog, and you’ve got the perfect icebreaker if you feel like striking up a conversation with others on the same mission. No pooch? No problem! Offer to entertain a neighbour’s pet for an hour.

If you can’t face that, try feeding the birds. Dried fruit and breadcrumbs aren’t good for them, so if you can afford it, get a pack of proper wild bird food. Or go old style, and string up a few peanuts in their shells, or half a coconut. It’ll take a while before bird pluck up the courage to visit, so only put out a little to begin with, first thing in the morning. Once you’ve started feeding them, don’t stop. They’ll come to rely on you. They’ll appreciate a shallow pan of water for drinking and bathing, too

Our solitary, work-and-internet obsessed lifestyles mean many people never see their neighbours. Christmas is the perfect way to make that first contact, without it seeming creepy or weird.  Knocking on the door to deliver a Christmas card only takes a minute, and who knows—you might set a trend, or make a friend.

Help out

If you can’t be happy yourself, maybe you could help someone else become less miserable. Volunteering at a shelter for the homeless, or with a befriending service (just google the term to find groups local to you) are two ways you can get involved. And church isn’t just for Christians—at this time of year, they should be making an extra effort   to help the marginalised. Ask if you can help.

Finally….

It’s a big day today for my friend and fellow author, Christina Hollis, as she’s launching her new novel for The Wild Rose Press, Heart Of A Hostage with a blog called Capturing The Castle over at Christina Hollis. It’s a great story—I was her Beta reader, so I know what I’m talking about! Why not visit her blog, find out more, and snap up your very own launch-day copy of Heart Of A Hostage here!

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One Natural Remedy For Stress—Bake Bread

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You are what you eat, so improving your life starts from the inside. Feed your body with what it needs, and you’ll be in a good place to start fighting anxiety and depression. Make your own bread, and you can create good food from a stress busting work-out. Bread dough is the perfect punch bag. It can absorb as much aggression as you’re willing to give it!

Carbohydrates are the latest bad guys on the dietary block, but that’s partly because while we have many different lifestyle choices these days, hardly any include the vigorous, almost continuous activity of hard manual work done by previous generations.

The belly timber of starchy foods filled people up when other foods were hard to find. Before refrigeration, unless you lived in the country, meat and fish was expensive. Fruit and vegetables were seasonal, and highly perishable, so you filled up on whatever you could get.

Now we can eat what we like, when we like. It’s the “fast” in fast food that appeals, and its cheapness as much as the food itself. Count the ingredients listed on the packaging of a white sliced loaf. There’ll be at least a dozen. Nearly all of them are there for the convenience of the manufacturer, not the people like you and me who eat it.

Big businesses want to make bread as cheaply as possible, to rake in the biggest profit. That means using additives to make sure inferior ingredients look good, and will last a long time. The trouble is, because what they create is the cheapest way to make air visible and water stand upright, the stuff they sell as bread doesn’t fill you up.

My dad worked on the land all his life. He’d have a slice, or maybe two at most, of homemade bread with his full English breakfast. If for some reason there was only shop-bought bread to be had, he’d happily polish off half a loaf!

Good homemade bread has only a handful of ingredients, it’s easy to make, and pummelling it into life is the best stress-busting activity I know. Yes, it takes time and practice, but there’s a rhythm to the process that’s a natural remedy for anxiety. not only that, but like many of the best things I feature in this blog, it’s free!

Why not step out of the workplace waterfall for an hour or two, and treat yourself to a therapy session with edible results?

To make one loaf of bread, you’ll need:

Around 500g of strong white bread flour + extra for dusting your work surface.

2 teaspoons of salt

2 teaspoons of fast-action dried yeast

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons of honey (you can use sugar, but honey is better for you)

Method:

First, take off any rings you wear, and your watch—this is going to be messy.

Pile the flour on a large, clean work surface. Sprinkle over the salt, and mix it in with your hands. Then sprinkle over the yeast, and mix that in too (if salt comes in direct contact with yeast, it kills it).

Put the olive oil and honey (or sugar) in a measuring jug and make this liquid up to 300ml with warm water.

Create a volcano from your flour by making a well in the middle. Pouring a little of the sweet, oily mixture into the crater at a time, gradually work in the surrounding flour until you have a soft, slightly sticky dough.

Bread making isn’t about exact quantities—you go by feel, rather than measurement. Different flours absorb water at different rates, so you may need all the liquid and more, or you might need to add a extra flour. Your first steps on the bread-making road are all about experimentation.

Then the fun begins. Knead the dough by pushing it away from you, then gathering it up and bringing it back. Push and pull it about for at least ten minutes. During this process, you’re stretching the flour’s gluten so it can expand when the yeast gets to work.

After a nice long kneading, your dough should be smooth and springy. Put it into a large bowl, and cover it with cling film or a damp cloth.  Bread dough will rise whatever the temperature of your kitchen, although the warmer the room, the faster the rise. Aim to leave your dough alone for at least an hour and a half.

When your dough has doubled in size, tip it out onto a floured surface and give it another kneading, but this time for no more than a minute. This is called “knocking back”, but you don’t want to whack out all the bounce the yeast has produced!

Grease a loaf tin, or a large baking tray. Make your loaf into a sausage shape, tuck the ends under and drop it gently into the greased and floured tin if you’re using one. If not, place it on the baking tray.

Make a few deep slashes across the top of your loaf with a sharp knife. Cover it again for a second rising, but this time you only need to leave it for half an hour.

Switch your oven on, setting the temperature as high as it will go. It needs to be at least 200 Centigrade when the dough first goes in, to give your bread what’s called a “baker’s boost”.

Wearing oven gloves, gently transfer your bread to the oven. Let it cook at maximum temperature for no more than ten minutes, then turn the heat down to 180 Centigrade for another ten minutes.

At this point, put on the oven gloves again. If your loaf is in a tin, tip it out and replace it on the oven shelf, to crisp up the bottom. If you’re using a flat tray, simply flip your bread over to achieve the same effect.

Cook it for another 5-10 minutes, until the base of your loaf sounds hollow when you tap it.  When the bread is done, take it out of the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack.

That’s all there is to it! Delicious home-made bread which will perfume your house, look great, taste better and improve your well-being with every mouthful.

Each loaf you make will be better than the last, so start practicing now!

 

 

 

 

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