Saturday, 28 June 2014

Faced the Fear

After my previous post about procrastination and holding back from putting pen to paper I am thrilled to say I have finally managed to get over that hump and start to write.  Going away to our haven on the coast made a huge difference.  Not being able to distract myself on the computer due to limited wifi and being in a beautifully tranquil environment also helped.

The view from my writing desk
Finally putting pen to paper
I have started and since this photograph added many more pages, thank you for this journal Tasha
I think this project will take a lot longer than I initially thought, first I am literally spewing thoughts onto paper, then I will need to go through them and organise them into some kind of order before weaving them into my story which is part truth part fiction.  I fear there will be many drafts before I am satisfied with the end result, but if a job is worth doing it's worth doing well!

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Procrastinating ~ Unsure where to begin

I am the queen of procrastination, these days I can find umpteen alternatives to occupy myself other than to knuckle down and attend to the job at hand.

Why the procrastination? I am (trying) to write a book, a semi~biographical novel about our weird and wonderful life experiences to date. Why this topic do I hear you ask? Throughout the latter part of my life I have repeatedly heard people say to me that I ought to write a book about what we have been through. My sister has been especially supportive, giving me encouragement to finally stop pondering about whether I should embark on such a venture, to just do it. Also just a few months ago my therapist challenged me to convert my life story into a book.  She advised me to stop "thinking" about doing it but to take the bull by the horns, commit myself and just write.  That was the final nudge I needed and I decided to take up the challenge. However, after chatting to my girls about it we decided that I shouldn't make it a fully factual biographical book because they didn't want to have all their experiences catalogued in black and white for all and sundry to read.

So we decided on a compromise, to write a work of fiction but incorporating many of our life experiences and stories into it too. My initial plan was to write it via two of the main characters journal entries, alternating a teen and adult perspective of what was happening. I had written a good portion of the first part of the novel before deciding that I wanted to change how I was writing it to allow for more flexibility and a way to incorporate other characters more vividly with their different perspectives.  
So I have binned my initial draft and instead of alternate diary entries from the beginning of the story leading up to the present I decided that I want to start by working backwards from where we are now via reminiscences, conversations with others, journals and utilise using different characters internal thoughts and feelings.

My problem?  I just can't decide how to begin!  I am such a novice to it all and worry. Am I doing this right, will it engage the reader? What if I start but then get stuck and can't finish?  What if it's rubbish? Why should I bother? I know I am being silly after all how can I know anything unless I give it a go ~ right?  I am sure that once I get started it will begin to flow, I will be able to get my head down and won't want to stop until I reach the end ~ after all I am something of a control freak and can't bear unfinished business.  For me now, the tricky part is to face down my fear of re~starting this project and to commit myself again by putting pen to paper and starting afresh.  

So I procrastinate, I have made notes, decided on a title and done a hundred other unnecessary alternatives ~ I have many multicoloured doodles in my pad, designed the layout of my lounge once we have the log burner installed, formatted menus for family dinners, planned Christmas presents (I kid you not!) but as yet have not opened my fresh pad and started to write.
So, how do I break this fear, fear of doing something I have never undertaken before.  Fear of getting it wrong, of no~one wanting to read my story?

Any writers out there who can give this novice some writing tips and advice would be hugely appreciated.  I have decided to give myself a deadline to get started ~ I am going away to the peace and quiet of our coastal caravan next week and have packed my notebooks and pens to take with me. I HOPE that I can break this fear and start again, somehow putting the vision of what is in my head down in print on paper.

Watch this space...

Friday, 13 June 2014

Love the Skin You are In!

I hold my hands up and confess to being hugely guilty of low self-esteem and body confidence. I have never been a particularly confident person, for short periods I can bluff my way through situations but don't do well in large groups, the thought of public speaking makes me feel physically ill and I avoid going out socially very often because I am so unhappy about the way I look.  

What message does my insecurity and complete lack of confidence give to my children?  

I have taken great pains to never be critical of their appearance and allow them to find their own way and look, have piercings, dye their hair and would never dream of telling them they are too fat or too thin or point out any physical flaws.  To me they are all perfect, when I look at them I see three beautiful, individual young women.  So why can't I look at myself in that way, instead I immediately see flaws, I'm too fat, my hair looks awful, my skin is uneven, my toes are stubby, my teeth aren't white enough ~ honestly the list of my faults as I look at myself in the mirror is endless. 

Then a few days ago I had a conversation with my eldest daughter who pulled me up on my destructive self- analysis.  To them I am perfect the way I am, I look beautiful and they think I have great skin, hair and like my curves (admittedly they agree I do have strange stubby toes ~ but you can't have everything).  She told me that it upset them to see me so unhappy with myself and that I was not making the most of life because I was spending too much time pulling myself apart.  If I can't learn to love the skin I am in how do I expect them to do the same?  I was mortified, I hadn't realised I made such an issue of ripping myself apart in front of them ~ apparently I am the first to joke about my flaws and get in first to make the fat jokes aimed at myself.

We have been going through photographs for our family therapy (which I have mentioned in the past few blogs) and the girls have told me that although I look at the photos of me a few years back looking slim and thinking "wow I looked good there" they don't agree.  They say I look gaunt and not like me and that they prefer me with some padding rather than when I was lean because to them I look healthier that way.

So, I have vowed once and for all to work exceptionally hard to overcome my critical negative view of myself and learn to accept that this is me, this is my body and I should be proud of who I am, what I have done and live life to the fullest regardless of my size or weight ~ no more hiding away!
So, step one ~ here is a photo of me, this was taken this morning by my daughter (hair scraped back as I am growing it and my fringe is driving me loopy). I am a mid-forty year old woman who is admittedly fuller in the figure and having hair growing out issues! 
I am reasonably healthy, I am unsure whether I have mild ME or stress induced symptoms which are similar. This means I suffer insomnia, get aches, pains and have low energy among other issues.  However, I am having regular therapy to find ways to address how I deal with stress and have a daily gentle exercise routine that I try to maintain.  Every morning I get up and pull on my exercise gear, traipse downstairs and drink 3 buckets of coffee (I know it's a lot but it's my weakness that I can't give up!).  Then I visit the lavatory a few times and shake myself up and into exercise mode.  I use three pieces of equipment which are my wonderful purple and silver weighted exercise hula hoop, my eliptical machine and my power plate.  
My routine is low key and simple, first I position myself in front of MTV and hula hoop for as long as possible (currently 10 minutes without stopping or dropping the hoop).  Next I pull out the elliptical and ensure I can see the TV and do 10 minutes on that (this is my limit, if I push myself to do more it makes me feel too exhausted over the next few days to be able to do anything).  Finally I do a full routine on the power plate (which doesn't take long as each exercise only lasts one minute).  Then I stretch gently, down a pint of water and wait until I have the energy to crawl upstairs for a shower.  I know to most people this sounds like nothing, but for me it is my limit of what I am able to do.  Quite a shock for me as only a couple of years ago I used to walk 10 miles a day and still be able to do 45 minutes without feeling too exhausted on the elliptical.  

So that is step one, ensuring that I keep my body moving so it doesn't seize up on me.  Next I have looked at my diet and am currently following the Slimming World Extra Easy eating plan, this is not so much a diet but more of a life-style change.  I am more aware of what I put into my body and now eat a huge amount of salad, veg, nuts, seeds and lean meats/fish.  However, I am only human and I do allow myself the occasional treat of wine or cake. I am trying to now look at myself and acknowledge how brilliant my body really is.  It is fed on healthy foods, and apart from the morning buckets of coffee, the rest of the day I fill it with copious amount of water with a slice of lemon.

My body created life, it is amazing how it could house and nuture my three daughters as they grew inside me.  My stretch marks are badges of honour which I carry with pride.  My weight issues don't make me any less of a person.  I am the same person I always was, only now there is more of me to love.  I have great eyes, they a big and brown.  My hair is fine and flyaway but I have lots of it and for that I am grateful.  I have good skin, okay I have the odd age spot and freckles but they add character to my face, as to my "crinkles" around my eyes and mouth.  I love my dimples, being a little fuller in the face just means you can see them more clearly.  This is my body, it has carried me through the first 45 years of my life, it is a little battered and weary and carries some scars.  They are just proof of where I have been and what I have done.  I need to love it and care for it and make the most of what it allows me to do.  I will not squander my opportunities to make the most of what I have ahead of me.
My biggest challenge though is to learn to be confident. Confidence doesn't just come when you click your fingers (sadly) ~ I am going to have to really work at this.  To look at myself in the mirror and see the good and not the bad, to hold my head up, keep my back straight and look life in the eye.  I am trying not to give in and allow myself to retreat back into my shell.  I am going to make a point of challenging myself to put myself in situations I am not comfortable in to prove to myself I can do it. 

I have three fabulous daughters and a wonderful husband who have always loved me unconditionally, they get fed up with me putting myself down.  With their love and support I am going to change the way I live, instead of just telling the girls how wonderful they are and how beautiful I am going to lead by example.  Women are beautiful whatever size or shape they are, it's all down to confidence and to have confidence you have to love the skin you are in.  

I am going to try to live each day doing just that.  I am going to appreciate all that I am and not focus on all I want to be.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Hariy Trio

Today is Loki's first birthday and we are all very excited by this milestone. This got me to wondering, is it just us? Are we weird or do all pet owners like to make a fuss of their furry friends on their birthdays and treat them like part of the family?

We bought Taylor, my gorgeous Border Terrier dog way back in 2010, he was born on 14th April and we visited him a couple of times before he was old enough to be brought away from  his mum.  

He was a little bugger and really tested our patience.  We took him to puppy training where he proceeded each week to show all the other pups exactly how NOT to do whatever the task set was. So failing his puppy training we were asked politely not to return.  However, we persevered at home with him and he would sit and wait and not take his food until he was told to but that was about as far as he would go.  He resolutely refuses to come when you call him and will quite happily sit down and look at you with disdain before turning his head in disgust.  He was boisterous and at times quite aggressive which was a real worry and I was reduced to tears on a few occasions, especially when walking him as he used to jump and pull at the lead and generally misbehave.

However, now he is a very calm and loving boy and I simply adore him.
The vet assured me that we were doing everything right but perhaps he would benefit from another dog to chase and play and burn off his energy with.  Dave wasn't so sure about having another dog but Tara was desperate for a dog of her own as she was very low with her ME and wanted a dog to love and love her back.  She resolutely saved her birthday and Christmas money in a savings account until she had enough to buy her own dog.  Dave was won over by Tara's enthusiasm and excitement and very impressed by her determination and saving skills. 

So towards the end of May we started looking for another Border Terrier and saw an advert for a litter due in mid June. We excitedly registered our interest and left our telephone number.  Skyla Minx was born on 18th June 2011 and we were called the day after and invited over whenever we liked to see the pups, Tara's face that day will be forever etched in my memory as there were two litters of pups to view and she was just in love with them all, but one in particular kept returning to her and trying to get onto her knee ~ so Tara chose her and named her Skyla Minx.  We visited Skyla a couple of times too before we could bring her home and the owner sent us photos of her between visits so we could see how she was getting on.  

Taylor and Skyla hit it off pretty  much immediately and their love affair was born.  She utterly adores him and insists on washing his ears at least 4 times every day along with grooming his face and cleaning his teeth ~ I kid you not, she inserts her head into his open mouth!
AND Tara at long last has her puppy to love and cuddle up with.
So for a while we were a happy two dog family.  They are truly members of the family and even come away on holiday with us.  They have migrated upstairs at bedtime (they used to be downstairs in the utility room which is nice and warm) and love nothing more than curling up round your body at bedtime and to sleep with you.

When Tasha fell foul of ME she started to talk about how she would love to have a dog of her own because she saw how much joy Skylas company gave Tara.   So, again after many negotiations we managed to persuade Dave to go for one more dog.  Tasha has always loved pugs and really wanted one but we were worried that a pug wouldn't mix well with our boisterous terriers, so we compromised and looked for Jugs (Jack Russell and Pug cross).  We searched and there were a few but too far to travel until we came across a short video of a Jug in a kennels in Lincolnshire.  His mum had abandoned him and so he had been put with another dog of a different breed who had just had pups and so he integrated well with them.  He had been born on the 12th of June and no one had enquired or shown any interest in buying him. 

We hot footed our way over to the Kennels to see him and ended bringing him home with us the very same day, the poor thing was very nervous as he hadn't been handled at all and was already 9 weeks old.  Tasha was besotted and we just wanted to bring him away from the kennels he was in and start to give him some love and attention.

We needn't have worried about how he would integrate with Taylor and Skyla either as they both immediately took on parental roles.  Skyla also cleans Loki very thoroughly every day and Taylor teaches him manners and tells him off when he becomes too boisterous.  However, he seems to have an awful lot of Jack Russell in him and not so much of the pug in nature and we are working very hard to reduce his snappy behaviour, he has improved no end over the past couple of months and the vet has assured me that he is making very good progress and is confident we can stop it fully over the coming months. 
Tasha, though is thoroughly enjoying having him around.  She is besotted by him and he her ~ whenever she is sick he "guards" her too.
I can honestly say that our lives have changed for the better with having the dogs, our Hairy Trio are all completely different characters that somehow gel well together.  They are mischievous, boisterous bundles of fur who love as fiercely as they play.
Happy First Birthday Loki from all of us, we are glad you enjoyed your cake and we look forward to many more years with you, Taylor and Skyla Minx. 
I have just ordered myself a dog agility set to put up in the garden and train the dogs to work their way through it ~ this will be an enormous challenge considering they are all selectively deaf, stubborn and plain bloody minded BUT my thinking is it should also be great fun!

Last Word ~ I saw this and thought many of my fellow dog owners would relate to it.


Sunday, 8 June 2014

Night~time musings

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I spent last night thinking about all the things that make me smile, just simple everyday stuff really but made me sit back and count my blessings.

We aren't well off but we do well on what we have, we grafted long and hard at the beginning of our marriage and the sale of Dave's pest control business then set us up and put us in a position of being comfortable.  We don't have spare cash to throw around but instead have tied it all up to hopefully provide for us in the future.  My hubby is canny with the pennies (unlike myself who admits to being absolutely rubbish, if I have cash in my pocket I will spend it and so need his control where finances are concerned).  He is quite simply a great husband, a superb fit for me and he understands my quirks and more importantly embraces and accepts them.  He is oil to my water but we somehow gel and it works.  He is also a very involved and hands on father which is so incredibly important for me.  BUT most importantly he recognises the control freak in me and remembers the golden rule that I am ALWAYS right, even when I am wrong. 
I then went on to thinking about my mum and dad, how they were such a huge part of my children's lives in their formative years.  I am very much like my mum in many ways and miss her indescribably, however I look back at my photographs (of which there are so many) and see her and dad with the girls and although she is no longer with us those precious years we had with her have given us some wonderful memories to hold on to and look back fondly with broad smile. Every now and then, when I catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror out of the corner of my eye I see mum.  As I get older I seem to be looking more and more like her ~ that comforts me.
I said in an earlier blog that I had been going through some photographs to take to our family therapy session and it underlined so absolutely how much joy the girls have brought into our lives.  No matter what they were faced with (and their childhood was full of hospital admissions and illness) they continually found joy and mischief in life.  I can't remember the house ever being absent of laughter ~ if one of the girls was sick the other two rallied round and cheered her up.  They were and still are immensely close and for that I am joyful and proud. My three quirky, beautiful, individual daughters make me feel hugely blessed and I am so lucky they are all so close ~ I think that is partly due to them being so close in age with only 15 months between Keisha and Tasha, then18 months between Tasha and Tara.
Still thinking about the girls all the photographs above were before they became really sick.  Both Tasha and Tara had chronic issues, Tara with her bowels and Tasha with her chest. Which meant they had to spend large chunks of their younger years in hospital but although chronic these illness didn't cause anywhere near the distress ME and mental health issues have raised.  

Since the girls became more sick, which escalated since the early part of 2010 we haven't been able to venture abroad for holidays.  Instead we have bought a static caravan in Filey, close to the sea, where we can go to chill together in our home from home.  BUT, one particular holiday prior to 2010 sticks in my memory, it was the summer of 2007 and we had saved up and gone to Corfu on a two week all inclusive holiday.  It was just fabulous with long hot days spent in the swimming pool and evenings getting involved with the "entertainment" making the girls laugh as we went on stage playing the games and making fools of ourselves.  This is a photo of us all at the beginning of our Greek night...
Then, because it was the middle of the night I started to feel the need for a snack ~ but because I am trying to be good and lose some weight (as you can see above I used to be really rather slim!) I had nothing naughty in (boo!).  Anyhow, I remember my ultimate treat when young was the good old fashioned Texan bar, it was chocolatey chewy heaven in a bar.  I am gutted that you can no longer buy them ~ I even emailed Rowntree to ask them to reconsider and start making them again, sadly the reply was that there is no demand for them any more (gutted).  If you ever had one you would know the sheer delight in taking a bite and seeing how long you could make the strings of nougat stretch before they snapped!
I also LOVE trees, always have.  Sitting under a tree or walking among the woods makes me feel a deep calm.  The only other place that has the same effect is sitting on a beach watching the sea.  I have decided on having a tattoo on the back of my neck and between my shoulder blades, not an enormous one.  The design is not complete yet but I like the idea of something based on the photos below, I will go and chat to the tattooist at some point over the next few months and get him to design me a bespoke tattoo of a tree but to somehow incorporate a family symbol into the design too.
Randomly, thinking of my lovely Nanna Morton, who was a real card ~ she had a habit of keeping a spare pair of knickers in her handbag in case of an emergency (she had a colostomy).  She was rake thin and hilarious, a real personality.  She lived with us almost all of my childhood (I think if I remember correctly she moved in with us when I was about 3 years old and stayed with us until she died when I was in my late teens).  Nanna used to eat those sickly sweet Lemon Puff biscuits and custard creams and boiled onions with butter on toast.   I don't really know why I am sharing this but it seems important.  We used to sit and watch Val Doonican and smoke sneaky cigarettes together. I helped care for her, bath her, help her with her colostomy bags, something she didn't like doing herself, we had a special hat pin we kept close by to puncture the bag if it blew up with wind.  She also acted as bouncer at Chloe's 18th birthday party (a house party due to me caring for mum who had Shingles at the time).  This is her, I think you can see the mischief in her smile.
Talking about Chloe, she is my Big Little Sister aka Lowly CT she is 15 months older than me but smaller than me, beautifully petite.  I adore her, we are close but also fight ~ especially when at boarding school.  I remember throwing a rubix cube at her head and she locked me in the large communal wardrobe at the bottom of the dormitory.  When at home I pushed her down the stairs (I'm not proud of that) which caused her to stop breathing for a little while and turn a strange shade of blue.  To retaliate she pushed my head through the banister stair rods causing three to snap (we carefully pulled them back together and positioned the paint flakes to cover the cracks) ~ dad only discovered the damage fairly recently and we both confessed at his 70th birthday party!  She will kill me for sharing these photos with you, but I don't care ~ she is and always will be very special to me, despite our fights, Lowly CT I love you.
Sadly I am not as close to my younger brother because he is four and a half years younger than me and we went away to different boarding schools (me from the age of 11 and him from the age of 7).  However I often think about him even though we rarely speak or see each other.  He is now very happily married to Debs and has three healthy children.  This is my bro' with his wife...
So, I have shared with you my night~time musings and my trip down memory lane.  I hope you enjoyed it as much as I have.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Time flies...

Has it really been 21 years since I got married?
I cannot believe how quickly time passes, it's quite frightening really.  It has also prompted me to really appreciate each and every day because you never know when life will throw you a curve ball and change everything as you know it.

I have known my husband, The Dave, since I was 4 years old.  He was the year above me and in my sisters year.  It is safe to say we know each others history and there are no secrets between us. 

We had a whirlwind engagement and then married when we were both 24 years old.  Since then we have moved house 10 times, suffered 5 miscarriages, 3 children, lived together part-time, being apart during the week and together weekends for a fair few years when the girls were small due to work commitments,  2 cats (now re-homed on a farm where they live a blissful life chasing mice), 3 dogs and our fair share of grief and loss which has put immense strain on us and tested our marriage to the limit.  Like every couple we have had our ups and downs but have emerged thus far stronger and more together as a couple than ever before.

The secret, in my opinion, is keep the lines of communication open, be honest and to practice the art of compromise.

I've been looking back at some photos which made me smile and so I thought it apt, on this our 21st wedding anniversary, to share them with you.

Memory lane....
Our Honeymoon in Corfu
 Our Babies, now not so small
Me & the Dave over the years...

Raising a glass and toasting the years that have been and looking forward to the years yet to come

Monday, 2 June 2014

Positive Fridge :)

How great is that? "When life gives you lemons, make orange juice and leave the entire world wondering how you did it".  I just love that quote, makes me smile and think, you know what, lets do it!

Today is the start of a fresh week and time to adjust to a medication free body.  I am eating healthy food ~ but not eliminating small treats here and there. Taking what exercise I can ~ which includes watching MTV whilst hula hooping with a weighted exercise hoop, which is glittery and purple of course!  PLUS trying to adjust my mindset via positive affirmations which I am doing my utmost to live by ~ obviously I don't expect it to be easy, overcoming long~standing negative thought patterns and low self~esteem will take practice and hard work.  However, I have support networks in place now to hopefully help me to successfully achieve this.

Do you like my Positive Fridge?

So, I shall
  • Eat real food, not processed.
  • Move my body as much as I am able.
  • Prioritize sleep (whenever possible and hope my old pal Insomnia does one).
  • Play just for fun :)
  • Learn something new.
  • Avoid the negative.
  • Focus on the positive.
  • Take time out & meditate to calm body and mind.
  • Do a random good deed everyday.

My "random good deed of the day" was to fulfil the girls baking requests..

Love this "secret of health" so sharing it with you...

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Anti-D's & Weight Gain = Choices

I have been taking Mirtazapine for depression and insomnia which have really been effective.  For the first time in months I have been sleeping, all be it a little too much (something I never thought I would say). Every morning I have to down a bucket load of very strong coffee to be able to wake up enough to function.  Now, I have been on this medication before and it led to some serious weight gain which led me to be very reluctant to going back onto it.  Sadly, once again this medication has affected my weight and I have gained some serious timber over the past few months.  This in turn has had an impact on my self-confidence because I am ashamed of how I look, which is ridiculous because my family are wonderful, supportive and always tell me how great they think I look, even with some weight on me.  I am not against holding some weight and am perfectly comfortable being a little  on the comely side too.  However, the size I had reached was just too much for me to deal with emotionally and then when my feet started to blister and get sores on them I knew I was approaching dangerous ground.  I have a family history of diabetes ~ late onset insulin dependent on mothers side, and had gestational diabetes too.  This, so my GP tells me, makes me high risk and I should try and keep my weight down to counter this.    It would appear that mirtazapine (like some other anti-depressants) can stimulate appetite and also can alter  how your body stores fat.  Apparently about 25% of people taking this drug will experience weight gain, sometimes even when you aren't eating any differently and still taking exercise.  Also as it is a relatively new drug there isn't a huge amount of research as to why this happens.

SO, my dilemma was ~ do I stay on the medication and ignore the climbing weight for the sake of my mental health OR do I come off the medication, rely on my therapy sessions and work to lose the weight gained in order to counter the real threat of diabetes ~ which my feet breaking down would indicate is a real possibility if action isn't taken quickly.

So ~ two days ago I just stopped taking my tablets, which I hasten to add was a silly thing to do ~ I should have tapered the dosage and come off slowly and would advise anyone else who is coming off their anti-depressants to do this and only on the advice of their GP ~ a case of do as I say and not as I do.  Thankfully I haven't suffered from any withdrawal side effects which makes me exceptionally lucky.

I have also started in absolute earnest to eat a high fibre, low calorie diet.  Hopefully the weight gained will drop off just as quickly as it came, my feet will thank me and all will be well.  I am not aiming to be a skinny ginny ~ that is not my body shape.  Just enough weight off so that my body will thank me and the diabetes risk recedes for now.

So, today was a good day ~ lovely berry breakfast smoothie and BBQ with lots of salad have been on the menu (and fingers crossed if the weather holds the rest of the week).  I have a wonderful therapist who is being a great support who will *crosses fingers* be enough for me.  Utilising her and the power of positive affirmations along with additional support from our family therapy team gives me hope that I can control my depression demons and find ways to relax to counter my insomnia.

HOWEVER, if I ever reach the point again where medication seems the only solution I will  try and work out with the GP the best option which has the lowest risk of weight gain within my limited choices ~ due to intolerances to many medications.
So, today has been a good day, I have enjoyed the sunshine, not had any emotional wobbles and eaten healthily.  I have decided to pin up my positive affirmations strategically throughout the house to remind me always to stay positive, love myself, not be afraid to ask for help and live in the moment.
Wishing you all a great week ahead.