A 'Halo' of Autumnal Hues......

Well as the dreariness of the October Bank Holiday Monday seamlessly flowed into Tuesday, we concurred that 'so what'?, we still had some place to be, an important task to be fulfilled. So as the early morning arrived off we went walking, the teen wonder and I; wind and rain be damned.

We completed our most important task first then followed that with a much needed breakfast, before beginning our return walk home.

Miserable is as miserable does so we totally ignored the rain, preferring instead to wonder at the autumnal beauty that surrounded us.

We admired the enormous height of these ancient big-trunked trees that stretched eerily into the low grey skies....

And loved how they all lined up in their various shades of autumnal shedding....

We particularly admired the lovely panoramic view that lay just inside the park gates. Just as much as we enjoyed playing with my new iPhone camera in fact!

The colourful blanket of once crisp leaves that now lay seeping on the ground, yet emitting a sense of great comfort, was gorgeous.....

We adored the beautiful 'secret passageway' that creeps behind the trees in the park, and that kindly offered us some welcome shelter from the rain. We also marveled at how much we actually like to be close to nature, and even vowed to do this more often!

Although we were quite happy to be strolling along in this weather we did feel sorry for these horses, left out in the rain that was now falling with intent...

And so it was that we slowly meandered our way home, walking and talking as we went. The rain fell more insistently and our conversation flowed, keeping pace. How lucky we are to live where we do, we mused.

I really enjoyed this early start to our day and the chats that we had but as his presence will only be felt for essential feeding and such like in the next 24 hours, I may need to live off this memory for a while. 

You see there was a reason for this morning's early adventure. No doubt you were wondering at how on earth I got a teenager out in this weather at that hour of the morning.... and had him enjoy it too?

Well, today was a special day in the life of Gamers with the release of Halo 5. There was only one copy of the much-coveted limited edition being delivered to our local Gamestop store. 'First come first served' and all that.

Today was therefore a life lesson to my teenager - there is more to life than a screen and the early bird is sure to catch the best 'worm'!

Oh and gaming can, albeit very indirectly, promote healthy exercise and good interaction ;)

Reasons to be Cheerful: Flashback Perfume, a Happy Dance... and more!

It's been a while since I've shared moments that have made me smile, despite there being plenty of them. They certainly outnumbered the ones that made me frown, and that's always a good thing. So, what recent reasons do I have to be cheerful then? Let me see .....

Flashback Perfume 

Well, there was the finally opened Christmas 2014 present of a perfume fragranced with a hint of nostalgia. That definitely turned any frown I may have had upside down! A spritz of this flashback perfume is enough to hurl me back to the heady days of the late 80's and early 90's, at warp speed I might add, to a time when this was my perfume of choice.  Without the padded shoulders and permed hair of the time you'll no doubt be glad to hear!

Happy Dance Day

Standing on a weighing scales to find that - after many ups and downs, determination and false starts - you have reached your weight loss target and are finally down one whole stone since Christmas! That's 14 lbs in old money. Not only that but the psychological achievement of getting barely below the 9 stone mark, for the first time in two years, is the real cause of my Happy Weight Loss Dance this week! My current cholesterol lowering healthy eating regime seems to be keeping me on track. However this will be challenged by  an upcoming Bank Holiday weekend and a school midterm break, which will hopefully be filled with meals out and, let's be honest, a glass or two of wine! A short-term, mini abandonment of my regime is a sacrifice I'm willing to make. I have to 'live' too you know! 

TY Midterm

All of a sudden we seem to have come to the end of the first school term. It has gone by in a flurry of uniform pressing and lunch making, with tons of emails and phone calls sent and made with enough regularity to make your head spin. These work experience opportunities and the Gaisce President's Award challenges don't land themselves at your front door, after all. I am happy to report that the apparent general consensus out there about Transition Year being a 'doss year' is clearly mis-informed! Organisational skills aside this school year has gotten off to a great start with the teenagers at our school being kept very busy in lots of areas. Lots of checking their own phones for text messages and making their own way on public transport to meet up in Dublin city centre for a charity collection, or in a nearby town for a course for example. Opportunities for opening their minds to new experiences, new found lunch venues with school friends, burgeoning independence and self confidence abound. Confident enough even to insist on going to school on the bus today, wearing a daring yet ridiculous Hallowe'een costume of an all-in-one  - that's head-to-toe-to-fingertips people - body skin for the final day of term. In purple! It was so naff it was extremely cool! 

Sea Views

I don't like to bore you with yet another sea view, honestly I don't. But living so close to these readily available, anytime any day views, I simply cannot resist. I will never tire of them and they will never fail to put a smile on my face!

I wish you all a very cheerful, pre- Hallowe'en, October Bank Holiday weekend, wherever you are in this world.

What I Have Learned From My A & E Experiences.....

The issue of overcrowding in Irish Emergency hospital departments have been very newsworthy stories for some years now. Stories that never seem to go away. So much so that nurses in a certain Dublin hospital engaged in a work-to-rule this week - an activity that allowed them to make their point without risking patient safety - in order to bring this overcrowding issue to the attention of the Government once more. I support them in their efforts. particularly since this week's budget did nothing to relieve this burden.

That said I have had on four separate occasions in the past year, in respect of both myself and an elderly loved-one, cause to experience this particular Emergency department. And I have learned the following from these experiences.......

Although there was overcrowding evident on all my visits here, and medical staff always seemed very busy, there was never a sense of panic, with calmness and professionalism being the order of the day.

I noticed that there was a lot of clerical work involved for our nurses, with the same nurses sitting at the same computers for the hours that I spent there. On one of my visits I also noticed two doctors engaged in a lengthy conversation with an ex-patient with regard to some forms that required signing. Well, locating first, then signing.

From my personal experience in this hospital it appeared that medical decisions are made on a very clinical basis and are, understandably I suppose, dependent on their considered best use of the resources available on any given day and not necessarily on all patients' immediate needs.

It appeared to me that patients, like me, may not be considered 'bad enough' for a hospital bed - perhaps with reference to beds available and in comparison to other patients' needs on the day? They may, despite a referral from their GP stressing some urgency, be sent home (on two separate occasions) to continue to be cared for at home and by said GP. Even though this may be entirely unsuitable for someone with an extremely painful back injury. I base these conclusions of mine on my ultimate referral, due to the request that I finally had the sense to make when I was being sent home on the second occasion, to the nearby Private wing of this hospital; where I was retained for the three whole weeks that it took to bring my condition and pain levels under control.

I learned that the well known method of judging such over-crowding is not fully reflected by the number of bodies on trolleys alone. They need also to consider those sent home who are actually in need of hospital care. Sending as many patients home as you can is, after all, one way to deal with some of the overcrowding. This could perhaps be measured with reference to the number of necessary patient re-visits and the ultimate need for hospitalisation? In any hospital, not necessarily the one they initially presented to.

I learned to be very, very grateful for my basic private health insurance and vow to never let it go. It is very wrong that this can be a necessity in order to receive proper medical attention. I honestly believe that having this cover prevented some unnecessary complications for me, and perhaps even the ultimate need for a back operation, had I stayed under public care.

I also learned that although elderly stroke-survivor patients are dealt with respect and kindness they are not guaranteed any special treatment, and will also be dealt with on a very clinical basis. These patients can definitely expect to be sent back to their homes, or nursing homes, if at all possible. And this I do understand, as it is far better for them to be in their familiar surroundings if a hospital stay is not necessary.

Although it went unsaid it did appear to me that medical decisions are very clinically made with regard to 'likely outcomes', or the considered 'ultimate prognosis', of these patients. This I also understand to an extent, but sending a patient, who has a severely reduced capacity to swallow, home with a prescription for oral antibiotics at 5.30 pm of an evening might need a re-think.

I learned that there does not appear to be any facility for dealing with the personal care needs of such incapacitated elderly patients. On a clinical level, I suppose, Emergency departments are there to primarily deal with a patient's medical needs, feeding them if necessary, but if these compromised elderly patients have to join the lengthy queues like everyone else then this issue needs addressing.

I learned that although the catering staff are lovely there are no special food menus in this Emergency department for these patients, who cannot even sip water that has not been specially prepared for them. If you have the presence of mind to think of it do bring some Nutilis powder with you, so at least you can thicken drinks for them, if they are allowed fluids.

I learned that when these elderly patients are discharged after spending many hours on a trolley they then have to join the equally lengthy queue for an ambulance transfer, which is the only suitable transport option for some of them. This can take up to (and possibly more than) six hours. Yep, you read that right. Six hours. Although ready to go home, where they need to be to have their nutritional and personal care needs properly attended to, they face the likely possibility of waiting many more hours. And being very clinical, that's six more hours that a valuable trolley is being unnecessarily occupied. I have no idea how this issue can be dealt with but it clearly needs addressing.

I therefore learned that those who can afford it can of course book a private ambulance with the wonderful, and relatively reasonable, Lifeline Ambulance people.

I learned that it is a good idea for all patients in our emergency departments to have someone with them to act as their advocate. To speak up for them when maybe they are not able to think straight, especially the elderly patients who may be unable to speak for themselves at all.

These are my personal thoughts from my personal experiences here. It is written with honesty, whilst also protecting privacy.

I support all nurses and doctors in our hospitals who work in such difficult circumstances. I understand, but don't always agree with, the need for the clinical decisions as they must make the best use they can of the resources available to them.

It's the available resources that I have a problem with.

I note that earlier this week, according to the article I linked to at the top of this piece, the nurses at this hospital's Emergency Department withdrew from 'clerical work, non-nursing duties and the use of computers and non-emergency phones as part of the industrial action.'

While I do not have any answers for our overcrowding issues I do wonder if, based on one of my observations above, some cannot be found in the nature of the duties the nurses withdrew from this week?

Healthy Eating Journey.....

I really don't like the words 'I'm on a diet', do you? They conjure up such unsavoury thoughts of deprivation, starvation and the absolute need for a will of iron, don't they?

I far prefer the words 'I'm on a healthy eating plan'. I'm not just playing with words here, trying to convince myself. Honestly! While shedding some pounds is a nice feeling it is just a bonus to eating healthily, there are lots of other benefits too. And it is with this belief and attitude that I began the year 2015....

I've just had to remind myself of this by having an interesting read-back of my Slim With Tina blog posts from this January, written at a time when I was full of  New Year cheer and determination.

Tina's approach to healthy eating and a healthier lifestyle really is commendable but I have to be honest and tell you that, although it consistently resides in the recesses of my mind, I didn't continue with it. I did need to continue my post-injury healthy journey to a better lifestyle though, with the added bonus of some lost pounds, but I also needed to apply some control and a method of ensuring that I stay on track, and for me that meant trying something else.

I did rather well on my programme of choice, until the summer family holiday beckoned and most of my progress was written off..... in a mere two weeks! But to my mind that was okay - I had a wonderful time, enjoyed my food and beverages and got back on track pretty soon after. Although things have been up and down since then I am now almost back to where I was before the holiday.

And a 10 lb weight loss - even if it is a boomerang 10 lbs - is not to be sniffed at!

But it is not enough. Like I say eating healthily is about more than weight loss, and when you're in your nifty fifties there are additional health issues for consideration! Certain weight-loss plans will keep you on track, allowing you additional weekly points or syns etc to treat yourself so that you don't feel deprived. And they work too. On paper at least. However, contrary to any advice given by course leaders, one can easily let these plans fool one into a sense of achievement. Personally I found that I could be really good from Monday to Thursday and really, really, bad for the weekend and still lose a pound or a half-a-pound.

See, losing weight does not always mean making healthier choices - it's easy to limit the foodstuffs that are good for you in order to allow the treat stuff, and still lose weight. A very bad habit to easily slip into. The result being that yes you may be a little slimmer but what about other health indicators?

In my case there may well have been a weight loss but there has also been a slight elevation in my, already slightly elevated, cholesterol readings. And this despite being quite active and including lecithin, and more recently Benecol,  in my diet.

So, now it's time to tackle this. I've started with a little google research on cholesterol reducing foods and some cholesterol friendly recipies and have made a start with this lot....

There will be porridge, or wholewheat delights and the occasional egg for breakfasts and I will need to make far healthier choices for snack-times. That 'something nice' with a cup of tea and the savouries that seem obligatory with a glass of wine, which has undergone a colour-change, also needs some re-thinking!

As you can see I don't intend on being entirely virtuous! I need to 'live' too and this plan I develop for myself needs to be sustainable in the long term.

It will not be easy to lose weight on this cholesterol reducing plan of mine as foods that contain the necessary 'good fats' are also high in calories. But it can be done. It is possible to include the good fats in your diet and still lose some weight.

I will also be re-reading my Slim With Tina book as there are some healthy recipes (and thoughts) that are also quite tasty in there. For me I think that combining some of her programme with some of my other one might be a successful way forward.

As I like challenges and find that keeping track helps me to succeed I also intend taking the Flora challenge! They have some lovely recipes too.

I will of course be continuing to exercise which I enjoy, especially my honky tonk line dancing!

So, having done my research, made my plans and having shared them here it's time to set off on my challenge.

While I am not entirely comfortable sharing my journey I do hope that doing so will make it more likely for me to succeed.

After all, I'll have to let you know how I get on now, won't I?

I have just under three months to my next check .......

A Catch-Up with Honky Tonk Jazzy......

Hasn't the the weather for the past ten days or so been amazing? It's like we were given a late reprieve for the appalling summer we have suffered. A last hurrah at the tail end of September before the more seasonal autumnal weather envelops us. Not that I can blame this recent lovely sunshine on my lack of blogging but I certainly made the most of it by getting out and about! We'll be long enough muffled up in dark coloured winter woollies and warm footwear, after all.

I had a particularly lovely start to this week, when my return journey home from an early morning drop-off for a friend led me slightly astray to witness these beautiful views.....

   A stunning sunrise..........

                           A much-used iconic view of the Dart through this arch

It Definitely kick-started my week with positivity I can tell you. And I sincerely hope that this late weather reprieve - which seems to have now concluded - helps these forlorn blackberries that I recently noticed to fully bloom and produce a late harvest. Here's hoping. 

Last week saw the start of a perfect techie placement for my teenager as part of his Transition Year (TY) work experience options. I have to admit at being unexpectedly a tad emotional when dropping him off on that first morning. It was like that first junior school morning and his first secondary school start day all rolled into one.  Except this was like his first day at 'work'. Yet another step on his life's journey I guess. I think TY is a very helpful step in this process. It's also a perfect year to take the time to teach another important life skill. A skill that I believe a lot of teenagers have yet to master and one that will be important in their working lives. The skill of which I speak is of course alien to most of them right now - and currently the bane of my life - and goes by the name of 'timekeeping'. I mean, we can't exactly be responsible for hauling them out of their beds when they're adults now, can we? Best to start now I reckon, and it's a skill that I'm determined to teach. It can be taught the long laborious easy way, or the short sharp hard way. I'll leave you to guess which route I'm taking on this!

The final piece of catch-up news I have for you concerns this ex-dancer who really has Gotta Dance and has been determined to do so again after a recent injury. It was part of my recovery goals you see and saw me take part in a great event last weekend. Gosh, there's such a world of a difference between both those old posts of mine I've linked to and this one! One that I didn't believe I would be able to do, and promised myself that I wouldn't even attempt! But I couldn't resist, dancing being very much an integral part of my DNA after all. There was a build up to this event with my need to return to 'proper' dance classes this summer. There are exciting plans afoot for such dance classes you see, but before I could even think of attempting those classes I needed to prepare myself with some 'easier' dance classes. Pre-dance, dance classes, if you will and dance/exercise classes just wouldn't cut it for me. I wanted, and needed to see if I could learn proper dance routines again, so I went to the only available local adult dance classes I could find and spent the months of August and September learning Line Dancing! 

I have to say that I have enjoyed these classes enormously, mainly because of the lovely ladies (and one gent) that frequent them but they were not easy! They were preparing for their event last weekend you see, a Line Dancing Marathon for a cancer charity, and were pretty much flying through their three-year repertoire of dance routines. The dance instructor kindly facilitated me in keeping up, when she could, and I pretty much picked up as many routines as I could on the hoof, whilst also doing some you-tubing at home! At least my ability to quickly pick up dance steps is kind of intact, however my ability to retain them needs some work!

The marathon last weekend was such fun. I took part as much as I could by getting up whenever a dance I knew was played, or repeated, and even staying on the floor to learn some new ones. I did mind my back by taking some time-out too though. I also thoroughly enjoyed watching the seasoned-pros in action. While we're all of similar age, some are younger of course but some of these ladies have ten years or so on me; and they are all fantastic to watch. As was a younger guy with the rhythm and feet of a dancing angel - and the rest of him wasn't too hard on the eyes either! - whom we were all watching in awe. A sea of syncopated dance movements from all. Wonderful to watch. And some much needed funds were raised in the process too.

I have to tell you that it feels really, really good to be donning those dancing shoes once more, and I intend to keep dancing for as long as I can.

I'll leave you now with this facebook photo that a good friend kindly tagged me with this week.

I share this because it's oh, so true ..... and it's a also photo that I intend to re-enact with some dancing friends some day!! 

You know who you are.... get ready now!

Keep Dancing....