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Squirrel antics

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Well how was I supposed to know that the squirrel would bring along his friends to feast on the bird food in our garden? My husband and I thought it was just the one who was just greedy and kept coming back for me but no, it turns out there are three and they have been taking it in turns. We caught them by surprise one afternoon, they must have assumed we were out. As we entered the back garden we saw all three of them were hanging upside down one on each of the three feeders. We all stopped dead in our tracks and looked at each other wondering what we should do next. Hubby went to get his phone out to take a picture as they looked so comical but they were obviously upset about being caught red handed and, with a flick of their tails and a tsk tsk they were off, scampering across the grass and darting up the trees at the back of the garden. 
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National Poetry Day

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Edited by Lisa Hartwell, Thursday, 7 Oct 2021, 12:49

This is a poem I wrote incorporating characters from my favourite authors stories. 

Dear Stephen

Hope this letter finds you well

It’s been so long, I have lots to tell

This morning Georgie passed by the house in his yellow coat

He was playing in the rain with his paper boat

Am I right in thinking you made it for him?

Seems he has gone missing, the searchers found a limb

Yesterday, Carrie White caused mayhem at the school prom

A fire raged and the school went up like a bomb

Arnie Cunningham has a new car. A Plymouth Fury

I heard it took itself for a drive and drove over a bully

Oh, By the way Annie Wilkes has a new fella

She keeps him hidden away down in her cellar

Anway Stephen, give my love to your mommy

I’ve got to go as Here comes Johnny!


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New normal

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Edited by Lisa Hartwell, Wednesday, 22 Sep 2021, 19:39

Work life seems to be getting back to normal or the 'new normal' as the press like to call it. The company I work for are trialling a hybrid way of working. I'm back in the office three days a week and working from home for two days. It's a shock to the system having to wake at 5.15am. It's still dark!! It's strange having to get dressed for work. What do you wear? Pyjamas and lounge wear just won't cut it. Work trousers and tops seem to have shrunk over the last 18 months and my shoes have half an inch of dust on them.

We have to wear a mask while 'on the move'. This means every time I go to the photocopier, kitchen or toilet I have to mask up. Which is fine until you forget and you're half way to the toilet and you see the scowls from your colleagues as you walk past them smiling and saying hello. "You're on mute"  has been replaced  with "You've forgotten your mask" although it is said with a bit more malice. So you trot back to your desk and then think 'Sod it' and wait another hour before you feel safe enough to try again. 

On the plus side seeing colleagues face to face is lovely albeit without the hugs. Just being able to sit near someone and have a coffee and chat or have lunch with is priceless. I missed that. It was lovely being able to sit at home in my pyjamas and watch Netflix while scrolling through emails but after a while you start to crave contact and face to face conversation. 

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What a difference a day makes

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Yesterday I  sat in the garden with the sun on my face catching the last of the summer sunshine. I shared  a Mediterranean lunch with my husband, drank wine and read the newspaper. Today, by contrast is grey and wet. It's still quite warm so I have the French doors open onto the garden where I can listen to the rain and watch the birds on the feeder. Scrub that, I meant watch the squirrel on the feeder. It's entertaining watching him bound across the grass, climb the fence and then hang upside down on the feeder, it's like watching the rodent version of Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible. 

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Returning to study

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After deferring for a year due to moving and looking after my mother in law during the height of the pandemic, I am now starting A215 Creative writing module. I have received my book and I am working my way through the activities. Even though a year has passed it seems so familiar, I have no anxiety just excitement about studying again. 

Life is different, we managed to sell our house during lockdown and moved in to a rented bungalow in Hove. We have views over the South Downs which are only a five minute walk from home. All in all it's pretty perfect apart from the cost of renting. We've been searching for a bungalow to buy for the last seven months and we have seen plenty and put offers in for a few. The problem we have now  is that it is a sellers market, not enough houses and too many buyers. My husband would like to semi retire but that is not possible at the moment with the cost of renting. I wouldn't say we were desperate but we may need to think seriously about moving further afield and out of Sussex entirely.  

So my main focus for the foreseeable future is trekking round Sussex of a weekend looking at houses/bungalows and hoping we find something we can afford and, have our offer accepted, along with studying on evenings and Sundays. The good outweighs the bad.



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Get up and gone!

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Our house sale has fallen through as our buyer couldn't get his mortgage agreed, so we are back to square one. My husband is not happy at all. He was so looking forward to a new chapter in our lives, especially as he is nearing sixty. But, onwards we go. The house is back on the market and I'm sure it will be sold again very soon.

Study is not going well either. I've been so busy at work. I am working from home mostly. I sit down at my desk at 7am and work through until 4pm with a short lunch break. Then I start preparing dinner and once that is done and washing up etc is done I don't have any desire to start reading again, my job is mainly reading and looking at text so my eyes are very tired come the evening. My husband is very good and encourages me to do a little bit each day just so I don't fall behind and I am very appreciative of this because if he didn't I would just sit on the sofa and watch trash tv whilst drinking a glass of wine. Another distraction is the grandchildren, my son brings them over for dinner most Sunday's and by the time they have left I am worn out!! I'm not complaining, I just wish I had the energy of my 21year old self. 

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A new adventure

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Tomorrow is the day the module website opens. I am so excited. I received my module books a couple of weeks ago and have started reading through and completing some of the activities. It will be good to know what the first TMA is about so I can take appropriate notes and get some initial thoughts going. It feels such a long time since I finished AA100, and I'm itching to get studying again. 

I will need to be on top of my work this year, we are hoping to move just before the first TMA is due. We have sold our house and will be renting until my husband and I decide where we want to live. We have lived in our house for 30 years and now that our two boys have moved out and are dispersed at various ends of the country we can relocate anywhere. I'm torn between Littlehampton on the south coast or Westward Ho! in North Devon. The world is our oyster, and I can't wait for our next adventure to begin. 


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Got the blues

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I feel so down today. I can't put my finger on why I should be feeling this way, I just woke up feeling very sad. I have been very anxious over the last month, I can feel it in the back of my mind. I will be working away and suddenly my shoulders are very tense and a tight feeling goes across my chest and I start to feel dizzy. It's overwhelming at times. I worry about everything, even things I know I have no control over like Covid-19. I find I get cross over silly things, I'm going to bed at 9pm and falling asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow but waking up around 4.30am. I know I'll feel better tomorrow, it's just a blip. I have so much to be thankful for, family, health and a job. I just need to get over it. Tomorrow is another day as they say 

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Missing working in the office

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I'm starting to hate working from home, the novelty has well and truly worn off. I miss the company of other people, being able to pop over to someone's desk and ask a question or just have a chat. It's not the same when you have to check whether they are available. It will be a long time before we are back in our office at full capacity, even when we are allowed back we will have to adhere to social distancing. Perhaps I'll buy a megaphone, skype chat is not the same. Rant over... back to work, I have 4 video calls to get ready for. 

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Lockdown lunches

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The one thing I have really enjoyed working from home during lockdown is lunchtime. My husband has been furloughed but I am still working. Every day at 12 pm prompt, we meet in the kitchen and together we make lunch. We are fortunate to have a great butchers and deli near us. My husband rides up there on a Monday morning and comes back with ham, cheese, sausage rolls, quiches and anything else that takes his fancy and then through the week we devour it for lunch. When I worked in the office I never took a lunch break, I always ate at my desk and it is so refreshing to take time away from the screen and have a chat, a nice cup of coffee (I have a Nespresso machine) and lunch and just unwind. I will miss this time terribly once we are back at work. 

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Motivation

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The novelty of working from home has well and truly worn off. My concentration levels have gone way down. I'll start something then my mind wanders off and I forget what I was doing and start something else. We have a morning team call on Zoom which initially was fun, seeing everyone in their various homes, some would be in the garden, kitchen or at one point  one of them was still in bed with her partner!! But, personally I have found it difficult. Being an introvert it's hard to join in a conversation, especially when there are a few, how shall I say, more forceful characters on the call. One of them is always eating breakfast on the call, I'm sure she takes great delight in doing so, all eyes are fixed on her as she piles porridge into her mouth, licks the spoon and then flicks her hair. God, give me strength, I just want to reach right into the screen and tip her breakfast all over her head. 

I have one more TMA to submit but can't get the motivation up to start it. I know once I have started it I will be able to finish it in a couple of days, I just need a kick up the bum to get going. 

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Spring time

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Edited by Lisa Hartwell, Sunday, 5 Apr 2020, 12:17

Spring has arrived in my back garden. For the first time in over 20 years we have had robins nest in our bird box. Yesterday 4 little chicks hatched. We have put out water and mealworms nearby for them. This is mum getting a mealworm for their elevensies. Feeling very blessed. 

Robin with mealworm in beak



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Working from home

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Edited by Lisa Hartwell, Tuesday, 31 Mar 2020, 19:01

I'm adjusting to new working arrangements, I'm lucky to be able to work from home, I have a desk and chair and with all the technology around I can attend group meetings. Skype and Zoom seem to be the best that I have used so far. The only thing I don't like is the solitude. I miss having a quick coffee break with my colleagues and just having a chat without having to request a time slot!! Radio 2 in the background breaks up the silence and I have become a master at Pop Master. My desk faces the kitchen wall as that is the only place where it fits without having to rearrange the house. I do have a Funko Pop of Stephen King to keep me company, he sits by my keyboard and gives me inspiration 

I had a Sainsbury's home delivery today. I must have been one of the lucky ones to get a slot. I have to say I was very impressed, they delivered everything I had asked for with minimal substitutions, the only thing missing was light bulbs and body moisturiser. I take my hat off to all delivery drivers working round the clock. I no w have a fully stocked fridge and freezer and shouldn't need to go out for a couple of weeks. 

I do miss my family terribly, I haven't seen my sons or my grandchildren for a couple of weeks and it seems like a lifetime. We have had a couple of group callls using Zoom, my youngest grandson is only eight months old and looked very bewildered by all these faces looking at him from a computer screen. It was very amusing. I think a lot of families will be planning big get together's when all this is over. My husband is finding it hard not being busy, he is not one to sit around and do nothing. So far he has cleaned the conservatory roof, the windows and the oven ( a job I really hate), and is now cleaning out the gutters. Not sure what he will do once everything is clean and sparkly. 

Before the lockdown we had sold our house and was in the middle of buying our dream property in Littlehampton. Our buyer has now pulled out, so our house is back on the market again. Although at this moment in time we can't have any viewings. Everyone is in the same boat, all house moves have been stopped so all we can do is sit and wait. 

I am thankful though that all my family are safe and well and we can still keep in touch, so many people are going through much tougher times and I keep them all in my thoughts. 
Stay safe everyone, 


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Steady studying

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I have to say I am quite pleased with how much studying I have done this past week and I have also found the time to do the icebreaker exercise set by my tutor on the forum page. It feels good to be slightly ahead. I enjoyed the chapter on the Kula Cycle and even made a little diagram to make it easier to remember the cycle and the important words. I need to stay ahead of the game as my husband and I have decided after living in our house for 27 years to move to Littlehampton. Our two boys are grown up and have moved out so we can downsize. I love Littlehampton and the surrounding area, the sea front is gorgeous and it has a lovely harbour and it is very close to the South Downs which we both love walking along. An Estate Agent is coming round next weekend to give a valuation. Eek... it's very exciting. 

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Dogs in the office

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Edited by Lisa Hartwell, Wednesday, 2 Oct 2019, 19:53

I am lucky to work in an office where dogs are allowed. I don't have a dog myself as my husband doesn't like dogs so having access to dogs at work is a real benefit. Just being able to sit down next a dog and stroking their fur and having a cuddle is heaven. All the dogs are well behaved, they are vetted before they get a pawsport to enable them to come to the office, and love all the attention they get. If I want 10 minutes away from my desk their is always a willing dog owner who will lend me their dog to take for a walk in the garden. Very therapeutic. 

Below are a couple of my favourite dogs in the office. Buddy and Lily. 


Staffordshire Bull Terrier

Black labrador


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Family emergency

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I was in the midst of studying, dressed in joggers and hoodie with my hair tied back when I had a frantic phone call from my son  saying that my grandson Hunter had been rushed to hospital with breathing difficulties. I felt my heart stop briefly and blood drained from my head but in that split second I had grabbed my car keys and my bag and was out the door before we had even finished the call. Arriving at the hospital in record speed, and hopefully without a speeding ticket, I rushed to A&E to be with my family. Hunter is only 7 weeks old, he is my third grandchild, and to see his tiny little body on the bed surrounded by machines and with a tube coming out of his nose was heart breaking. He was diagnosed with bronchiolitis and kept on oxygen for two days before being discharged on day three. My son's partner was marvellous and was calm and serene throughout his stay in hospital. I felt totally useless, apart from bringing them food and clean clothes there was not much I could do. As a mum all you want to do is make things better, this time I had to relinquish my mum duties to the nurses and doctors. They did a wonderful job and looked after Hunter and his mum and dad marvellously, I take my hat of to them. Needless to say I didn't get any studying done during this time. I realise that I have to be a bit more flexible with my study timetable and be ahead of myself so that if any other emergencies happen I have a bit of breathing space.  I'm now back on track with my study and Hunter is back at home with his family making all the demands of a new baby. I wouldn't wish it any other way. big grin

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Year 2 - Here I go.

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Right, I am back from my holidays and ready to get going on my second year of study. My books have arrived, I have my tutor details and I have booked all my tutorials. Now all I need to do is get my arse into gear and start studying. It is so easy to procrastinate and find other things to do. I'm glad my husband is around to nag me, without him I would spend all my time reading. 

I have looked through all the books and read the assignment booklet and though it looks harder this year the modules look really interesting. There appears to be a mix on self study, searching for information outside of the OU website, some collaborative working and the dreaded exam at the end of the modules. I have glanced at a previous exam paper and that has relieved some of the anxiety. The OU's website is fantastic and full of resources, I could spend all day looking through it but I shouldn't procrastinate. Tonight I will hit the books. Wish me luck 

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Good day

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Today is a good day. Free Krispy Kremes given out at work. big grin

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Sustainable living

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Sustainability and recycling have been in the news for many years now and I, like many people, have tried to cut down on plastic waste and look at what I am buying with a different mind-set. 

I've never been a person who generates much waste. When my two boys were babies I used terry cloth nappies instead of disposable. I used disposable nappies if we were going on a long car journey. I was lucky that my mum looked after them when they were tiny babies and so it wasn't a problem for her to change a terry nappy. It may have been different if they were in a nursery. Subsequent child minders were ok with changing a terry nappy too. I never used baby wipes, I used cotton wool and a bowl of warm water to clean their little bottoms. When it came to weaning they had exactly what me and my husband had for dinner, it was just put through a blender and blended to a consistency suitable for their age. Luckily neither of them were fussy eaters. 

For a family of four we only generated one bag of rubbish per week, sometimes two at Christmas time. I've never wasted food, I always find a use for food that is going out of date. I suppose my biggest waste is plastic bottles of coke and lemonade but even that we don't drink much of anymore. I now have two jugs of tap water in the fridge, as I have to have cold water not lukewarm from the tap, and I either put a splash of cordial or squash in it or a slice of lemon or lime to give it a bit of flavour. I have recently bought a butter dish so that I am not buying plastic tubs of butter, that has saved at least 3 plastic tubs a month going for recycling. 

For the bathroom I used to get through at least 3 body washes and numerous body puffs a month. Now I use soap with a flannel or with a body sponge made from recycled milk bottles from the Body Shop. For my face I have been using Liz Earle cleanse and polish for over 20 years. It comes with a reusable muslin cloth that can be washed in the washing machine and when they need replacing I use them as cleaning cloths, so no need for face wipes. For my hair I use Aveda's Shampure shampoo which you can buy in 1litre bottles. 

For cleaning I use Method, I don't use wipes at all. I have a number of spontex cloths and also my used Liz Earle cloths that I use. Some are for wiping the dirty surfaces and others are used for drying. My glass shower door always looks sparkling after cleaning with Method and the cloths. I have just started using Ecover washing powder. It is an absolute delight, it smells delicious and cleans divinely. I really don't know why I have only just bought it, it has been around for years.  

Finally, I have found the most wonderful butchers. They sell local meat and veg and also have a delicatessen which sells local made wine. I go there every two to three weeks and stock up. They will make up packs of what I want, the size and amount I want so there is no waste. 

I am constantly looking at ways to reduce my recycling and to live more sustainably. But unless we all do our bit it could all be in vain. 


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I passed!!

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I passed my first module with the Open University. Well done me. I am so relieved to get over this first hurdle on the path to my first degree. I have so enjoyed my first year of study. Some of it was hard going and there were occasions when I cried because I could not even form the first sentence of a TMA. But somehow you get it done and submitted. 

After a lot of thought I have decided to study A105 as my second level 1 module. I was seriously thinking of studying L101 as being the easier of the two modules. But, on reflection, I believe A105 will give me a greater grounding in the Arts and Humanities. One other reason for choosing this module is that I have been tempted to maybe change my degree from English Literature and Creative Writing to the new degree of Religion, Philosophy and Ethics for which A105 is a requirement. 

I've spent the summer re-reading the module books at a more leisurely pace and making notes that I think will be helpful for the second module. The set book for A105 is Charles Dickens, Hard Times. It's not my favourite Dickens book, it's quite a slog at the beginning but does get easier. As the start date for A105 gets nearer I am getting more excited. I cannot wait until the courier delivers all the module books and get started with the next year of study. Only 19 more sleeps to go. 

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End of first year of studying

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It feels very surreal that this time next month I would have submitted my EMA and my first year of studying with the OU will be over. Overall I have enjoyed my study time, although there have been times when I have had to supress the urge to throw my laptop and books across the room. Most of the subjects in AA100 have been engaging and interesting and I have been surprised to find that the history subjects have been my favourite which, considering I am studying towards English Literature, has me a bit worried. Here's hoping I get more than 40% in my EMA.  

I wasn't sure what to expect when I started in October but the OUs text books and study guides have been super helpful. All the tutorials have been at a pace that has suited me, it can be a bit daunting when other students seem to know more, or have grasped the subject better than me, but my assignment scores have been good so perhaps it is just me feeling insecure. 

I am struggling with deciding what module to study next. I am useless at exams so A105 is freaking me out, but it seems it is the most logical choice. I'll just have to prepare, prepare, prepare and then freak out!! 



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Unexpected results

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I got an unexpected 82 on my latest TMA. I really struggled with this essay on the Benin Bronzes. Normally I write more than double the word count and then have to cut and reduce it down. This time I barely managed to get to the word count. I have been wracking my brains trying to work out why and have so far failed. I thought I was engaged with the subject, I even travelled to London to see the bronzes at the British Museum. I hate making excuses, but I do wonder if going the menopause is having an effect. Having a hot flush whilst trying to analyse a text is not easy!! But my score suggests that something is sinking in, so I guess I will just plod on. 

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50 and fabulous

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This weekend I finally reached the grand old age of 50!!!  I am now a quinquagenarian. It was an age I was dreading getting to although I don't know why, I didn't have any qualms about reaching 40. Half a century seems like a long time to be alive.

I was born in the year man landed on the moon and I am the same age as Sesame Street. Woodstock festival also happened in 1969. Gap opened it's first shop, Concorde made its maiden voyage. I am in great company, celebrities who are also 50 this year include, Jennifer Anniston, Jennifer Lopez, Cate Blanchett, Christian Slater, Jack Black, Catherine Zeta-Jones and the great Dave Grohl. Most importantly I celebrate my 50th along with the Open University which is also 50 this year. 1969 was a great year. 

There are lots of things to do on my bucket list. Number one is to complete my degree with the OU, but others are a bit more random. I would like to learn to tap dance, I want to go paddle boarding, climb the three peaks and get a short story or poem published. I have many other dreams and I am sure over the next 50 years some of them will come true and I will have other dreams to add to my list. 

Roll on the next 50.....


 

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The Menopause and Studying

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For the past few months I have been suffering from what I thought was anxiety. I would wake in the middle of the night and my chest would feel very tight and adrenaline would be coursing through the whole of my body. I would occasionally feel very hot and couldn't cool down even when I threw the covers off. I would wake up in the morning feeling like I had run a marathon. I've never really suffered from poor sleep, quite the opposite in fact. I could fall asleep even before my head hit the pillow and eight hours later I would wake up feeling refreshed. Now I wake up feeling like I have gone 10 rounds with Muhammad Ali. I've put on weight and my skin feels very dry. 

It has affected my studying to some degree. Because I work full time I can only really study in the evening and at weekends. Now when I get home from work all I want to do is get in my pyjamas and veg out. The last thing I want to do is study. I can't seem to focus for any length of time. I've made an appointment to see the doctor but I really don't want to take any tablets. I have also been searching the internet to find some natural ways to help with the symptoms. There is so much information out there it's really hard to know where to start. I will start with my diet, limit my caffeine intake and cut out other stimulants and see if that makes any difference. It will be hard to cut down on caffeine, I do love my coffee.

Hopefully the symptoms won't last forever and my body will get used to its new normal soon. in the meantime I will have to adjust how I do my studying, little bite size chunks in the evenings and more studying at the weekends. 

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Post Christmas Study

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Ok, Christmas is over, time to get back to studying. Mother-in-Law deposited back to her base in Brighton, number one son sent on his way leaving me £100 poorer, "just to tide me over" he says, "I'll pay you back", yeah right, I'll add it to the tab! Number two son still has another week of leave but spends most of the day in bed recuperating after nights out and, finally, husband has gone back to work. I now have time to myself. And yet, I find myself tidying up, hoovering, polishing, ironing and watching Netflix. Stop procrastinating Lisa, get you arse into gear!! Coffee first though with my new Nespresso coffee machine and milk frother, can't study without a coffee by my side. 

Does anyone study over Christmas? I had all good intentions of doing so but there was always an excuse, another mince pie to eat or a large glass of wine to drink. Visitors coming and going, phone ringing, grandchildren running through the house, how am I meant to study with all that going on. Order has now been restored and now I need to go through my study plan and put together a timetable for the next month. My 50th birthday is half way through January so I will need to factor in my celebrations too. That's one weekend written off, but you are only 50 once.  Best get a wriggle on. I'll let you know how the celebrations went. 


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