Domestic Goddess, Families, Family, history, Inspiration, Laughter, love, Motivation, New life, real life, Whatever, women

1st week of retirement

Well, I’ve got that first week over with! It was a little surreal I have to say. I have been planning this now for about a year, but because of COVID I put it on hold (together with anything real) until the planned date was the end of March 2021. So it’s been in the fore front of my mind for a long time.



How do you plan for these things? The first thing I did was to go on some retirement training provided by the organisation I worked for. I walked in foolishly thinking it would be all about the best day time TV programmes to watch, the best place to buy fluffy slippers and what is the acceptable time to open the wine and/or gin! Actually it was far more helpful than that. They spoke about investments and wills and protecting you assets for the future. Its sounds rather dull – and to be honest it was a little, but very informative. I did learn things I never knew before. It also gave you time frames for the agencies you needed to contact to start the wheels in motion for this to happen seamlessly.

My count down started in December – the day I wrote my notice, and handed it to my manager!

I have been working since I was about 16. This is the first time apart from a short period when I had my two children I haven’t had to go to work every day. Not that that was an opportunity to sit and do nothing!

My first Saturday job was in the good old fashioned shop F.W.Woolworth It’s a long disappeared shop from the high street. In 2008 the chain went into administration and all shops had closed by the following year. It was a well know shop famous for its pick ‘n’ mix sweets, and ability to sell just about everything. Vinyl records, books, garden plants and tools, ladies underwear. Tinned foods, paint, nuts and bolts, children’s books and toys. The shop I worked in was in a little Welsh high street in the Rhondda. At the time I worked there we were in the throes of some dangerous activities in the British Isles. They called it the ‘Troubles’ – fighting in Northern Ireland spilling out to England and to Wales. I add this to my story – as the first job each Saturday was checking under the counters and displays for bombs! Seems odd now when you say this out loud – but the organisation involved had been known for placing incendiary bombs in shops and places where crowds of people met. Luckily I never found anything like that – just a few Riley’s chocolate toffee rolls and jelly babies that had fallen off the plastic scoops the day before and rolled under the cabinets!

I next worked for a few weeks before Christmas in a fruit and veg wholesalers, making up orders, weighing fruit and veg, and packing them into large cardboard boxes ready for deliveries. Problematic? Yes  – I didn’t know the difference between a Satsuma and a Mandarin orange. Or the different cabbages and potatoes. I soon learned!

My next job was as a waitress for a catering company. They generally did weddings, and anniversary celebrations. A great place to work as a 17 year old. Lots of banter from the ‘older’ waitresses – who were probably only a few years older than me – but seemed so much wiser on how the world – and the minds of men – worked! An eye opener to be certain. I worked here most of the time I was in college, it gave me the money to be able to go out and party. It was hard work, trying not to tip plates of food down the dresses of brides! The wedding venue was above a row of shops – the kitchen was at the back of the shops- a logistical nightmare. Although there was a dumbwaiter lift that took the food from the ground floor to the venue, the empty plates were carried down by the waitresses!  One advantage was that at the end of the night – the company took everyone home in a mini bus, more opportunity to listen to more about these young women’s lives. And I saved money on bus fare!

I left home the day after my 19th birthday, and moved to London as a nanny. I’ve worked in a makeup factory on the production line,   I then moved into the offices sales. From there I worked for an insurance company in the sales office – before computers – manually working on their sales cards. What a job!

I tried working in a pub – but that only lasted 1 week! It was too complex for me to remember the drinks, the prices of each drink, and then using a manual till and giving change- all while smiling and looking like I knew what I was doing – no chance…  I’ve typed architectural reports, sent messages on telex machines for the tax office, worked for a local hospital in the Nurse education department typing and preparing exam papers, I’ve typed meeting minutes as the secretary to the chair of the board of governors at a local school, produced a newsletters for the local scouts and organised fund raising events. I’ve been a pot washer and a waitress in a local restaurant.   I’ve cleaned offices, and polished brass handrails. And I’ve sold eggs on my own market stall! Whew! Lots of those job gave me the money to put down a deposit on a flat with my boyfriend.

I’ve  worked in a stationery company as an import sales clerk, a PA to the operations director, and then a computer operator – all for the same company over a span of 5 years. I them moved to an insurance company where I was an assistant manager.  

Then I had my two babies. But I didn’t give up work, I was my husband’s book keeper, and I did regular deliveries across south London while carrying my babies in their little carry tots in the car.

When my youngest was 4 weeks old- I went back to work as an early morning cleaner in the local Beefeater restaurant, while my hubby looked after the two boys until I came home and he went to work.  I’ve worked in Waitrose as an early morning cleaner and in a private hospital as an evening cleaner and seamstress.  Things were tough and I did what I had to do to keep food on the table and to stop us from going under.

I’ve worked as a book keeper for a carpet shop, and managed one of their shop. I’ve worked in a centre for Adults with Learning Disabilities, a fruit & vegetable import company as a sales clerk, then an Office manager in a team that provided wheelchairs. Finally I’ve spent the last 17 years &  ended my career as a Lead Administrator for a mental health service! Although during those 17 years – I didn’t let the grass grow under my feet – I was offered two secondments. Firstly within the performance management team – looking at data and how to improve things. And as a project manager working with a team who were undergoing change.  I’ve also done my sons paper rounds when they were ill, and to give them a weekend off every so often.

Is it time for me to hang my gloves up? No chance – I’m not ready to stop yet. My brain is still active, and so are my fingers. I’m looking to start some training that will allow me to go into schools and read with young people. Reading – whatever it is – is the way to learning, and independence. And as an avid reader – it hasn’t done me any harm through my life has it?

For someone who didn’t do very well in her exams, didn’t go to university – I’ve realised that life hasn’t been about learning on paper- but learning through experience. Maths isn’t my strong point. But working in retail has helped, especially when the business is yours- you don’t want to give the wrong change it’s your profit! I had an amazing accountant who helped me understand VAT when it was 15% then 17.5%, and suddenly the maths fell into place, by using it for practical matters! Making what little money you have go round also sharpens your sense of budgeting, and with it – maths!

For me retirement is about doing things at my pace, and if I want to work on days it suits me. I’m lucky to be able to do this now, and not when I’m too old to enjoy the choices.

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Families, Family, Inspiration, Laughter, loss, love, real life, women

Mother

Tomorrow we say goodbye to my mother-in-law Maureen. She has been with me through the fun times, through silly times, the sad times of loss and the happy times of marriage and children.

I knew her longer than I knew my own mother. My father in law graciously gave me away at our wedding as I had already lost my dad and my lovely mum. We are a family unit and always will be. I wanted to write something for her funeral to be read out, but didn’t have the courage to do something, so I wrote something for my hubby – her adorable son – to write on the card for her flowers from us.

You will always be my mother
and I’ll miss you every day.
I’ll miss your disposition
and the thoughtful things you say.

Your gentle touch and shining eyes
will just be a glimpse away.
I won’t ever forget you mum -
here in my heart each day.

And of course I write this for my mother – who I miss every day.

<a href="http://<span>Photo by <a href="https://unsplash.com/@franho?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText">Francesca Ho</a> on <a href="https://unsplash.com/s/photos/yellow-flower?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText">Unsplash</a&gt;http://<span>Photo by <a href=”https://unsplash.com/@franho?utm_source=unsplash&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_content=creditCopyText”>Francesca Ho</a> on <a href=”https://unsplash.com/s/photos/yellow-flower?utm_source=unsplash&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_content=creditCopyText”>Unsplash</a></span&gt;

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Inspiration, mental health, Motivation, real life, social media, Uncategorized, women, Writing

And….she’s back in the room.

I was signed off sick for a few weeks at the end of last year. Work related stress. The NHS Trust I work for is a Mental Health Trust, and they run courses and classes through their Recovery College. I took advantage of signing up to a Mindfulness course of 6 weeks. We meet in a beautiful building opposite a park – that’s sets the scene for the 2 ½ hours, calm and serenity.

I have to say that on my first session, I felt a little bit of a fraud. The rest of the group had their own story to tell, but I knew they had been on medication, had troubled histories and issues that were still current and plaguing them. I had had a crisis which had taken me away from work for a short period of time – I didn’t feel my problems warranted such support. How wrong could I have been?

Each week we were given the opportunity to try different mindfulness techniques. From simple 3 minute breathing exercises to more intense 30 minute full body scans. Each time for me it became easier to appreciate the opportunity to relax and go to a different place in my head!

And just because I’ve done this 6 weeks of Mindfulness I’m not professing to be an expert. But this is what I’ve taken away from this very useful course.

Be kind to yourself

It is ok not to be ok, but don’t beat yourself up if you’re not.  You wouldn’t be mean to a friend who needed help – why be mean to yourself! We put so much energy into helping others – often we forget that we need to invest time in ourselves in the first place to be able to offer that help to others.

Habits can be quickly formed, but with training can be un-learned. We were told that the technical term is ‘Neural pathways’. Something goes wrong, you get into the spiral of self-doubt and anxiety and ruminating over it. By using this knowledge and skills – we could lean to accept this may happen again and avoid this spiralling pathway by taking back control. For me I think this is task I need to get better at. It should probably start by not saying ‘sorry’ each time something isn’t quite right!

We all have an ‘inner critic’.

It’s how we respond to it that sets the scene going forward. We don’t have to listen to them, you wouldn’t listen to a bad TV programme would you? You would use your skills to turn it off and watch something else. Perhaps over time, you realise this inner critical voice may in fact be someone who has criticises you in the past. Allow yourself the knowledge that everyone makes mistakes and can be wrong. But give yourself the opportunity to accept this and learn from it. I know who my inner critic is – someone in my past – who made me afraid and criticised me for lots of little things. He is still there, and is probably the one who I’m always saying sorry to.

 

Be in the moment – it’s not a bad place to be.

They said children are great at this, they don’t think of yesterday or last week or last year, or tomorrow or next week. They don’t worry over what’s gone before and if they could have done things differently. We are never going to change what happened in our past, but we all have the opportunity to learn from those events, and either do them differently next time, or try and avoid them. The meditation techniques they teach you give you the skills to bring yourself back to the present time. They encourage you to think about your breathing, your body, different sounds and sensation. It’s difficult to think of too many other things while you’re doing this – but my mind has a tendency to wander – and believe me it did – but I brought it back and tried again. My mind is normally all over the place, I’m thinking of lots of things – and you are given the permission to do this – but these are the skills and techniques to stop you from engaging in those thoughts and taking you off down that spiralling path.

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Breathing is really important!

Deep regular breathing from your belly allows you to get into a natural rhythm. It helps you to concentrate and centre yourself. If you’re concentrating on this way of breathing it is calming and fills you with oxygen. Combine this with the rhythmic voice of the tutor, or a mindfulness CD it gives you the opportunity to relax, and find some peace from the constant chatter going on!

We have all forgotten how to live in the moment. Well – we like to think we do. We engage with people over social media, on the phone, in the shops and in the work place. But do we ever give ourselves the opportunity to look at our surroundings, the beautiful scenery and nature? Not often, we are too busy rushing from one place to another. We buy ourselves sweet smelling shower gels and toiletries, but are often too busy with our own thoughts to appreciate them. We were encouraged to take some time to carry out daily tasks mindfully. Showering, cleaning out teeth, cleaning, cooking and baking. Concentrating on the task, using all our senses. Every little helps, doesn’t it?

I need to change those bad habits I have and using this process it will be so much easier and 2nd nature.

At the end of the course, I mentioned to one of the others on the group that I had felt a little bit out of place at the start. She said something that I will take with me, that everyone’s problems are their own, and should be equally valued as such. Everyone deserves to be offered as much help and support as anyone else.

I learned something equally as important over these 6 weeks too. Things I do, jumping from one thing to another, following those thoughts in my head can be so annoying to others! I often have 3 conversations going around and need to say them all. But for those who are not party to my minds way of working- it can be pretty confusing! So now I park the two seemingly lest important things, and just concentrate on the most important. And I have to say it helps.

 

Image by John Hain from Pixabay

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Inspiration, Laughter, real life, Uncategorized, Whatever, women, Writing

Is it twilight or night time?

That time of night when the bedroom is dark, but just light enough for you to get out of bed without banging your foot on the bed side table, or falling over the random pair of shoes you have left under the radiator.

Enough light for you to head down the stairs to the peace of the kitchen to make a sneaky cup of tea and toast.

What are you doing!!!!! It 4am.

It shouldn’t be any time to be creeping around the house. It should be the time you are snuggled up in bed – asleep. Not tonight though. You wake up for some unknown reason, and that’s it…..

If you were an author and writing a book about those romantic twilight hours when the world is asleep, but animals and young lovers are bight eyed and busy tailed, it would sound plausible. But I’m not an author. I’m not writing a book about the misty twilight hours. I’m writing about the night time- yes lets address this as it is. The middle of the night when the rest of the northern hemisphere should be asleep – and you are awake!

Shall we start this again?

That time of night when the bedroom is dark, and cold. The light from outside fights its way through the blinds, and as you turn around in bed for the 10th time at 3.30am it shines right in your eyes! Your husband’s phone has pinged a few times, and when you unplug your phone from the charger a WhatsApp message comes up and lights up the whole room. It’s from your son telling you he has landed in some far off place at 2.30! No wonder you are awake – it’s like Piccadilly Circus.

That’s its then. The ‘thought worm’ enters your head – well to be honest he is actually always there, but he loves the twilight hours! There is absolutely no chance of any sleep now.

Good Morning!

 

 

 

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Families, Family, Inspiration, mental health, Motivation, real life, Spirt and soul, women

It’s harder when there is no plaster

I have just had the most beautiful bouquet of flowers and a sweet ‘get well’ card from my work colleagues.

flowers

I can say with my hand on my heart that I’m never sick from work, I can tell you the number of occasions I’ve been off over the last 20 years! The odd bout of sickness, a back problem where I couldn’t get up of bed, and two occasions in the same month where I was bitten on the leg by a horse fly – I don’t think it was the same fly – it was very painful, and my poor leg swelled up to the size of an elephant!

So, when I say I have been signed off sick for 3 weeks – it will be as much a surprise to you as it was to me! ‘Work related stress’. Me? How can that be? I know how and why it happened, but I don’t understand how it has affected me this way. I’m normally the swan on the water graceful above, but paddling furiously beneath the water! I don’t get fazed by hard work, juggling lots of balls in the air all at one time. Managing multi layers of complexity in work, different personalities and their own health issues, angry aggressive and sad phone calls from customers. But of course there are times when it just catches up with you. And this is just one of those times!

At first I fought it furiously. I didn’t think I needed the time away to recharge – because really this is what it is. I thought I could manage all the additional pressures, then as the 1st day at home went on and it hit me why I was like this – I realised it would help.

I have resilience in cart loads, I grew up surrounded by parents and grand-parents who had mental health issues, and from a young age have seen the effects it has on families. I learned to manage the fall out, and how to avoid some of the issues that these health problems come with. I swore before I ever had children, they would never ever see me the way I saw my parents. My beloved mother suffering weeks and months of sadness, non-communicative and zombie like, never leaving her bed – drugged up and desolate. Crying for a ‘cure’. Then more months of shopping and more shopping. The roller coaster that is Bi-Polar. My 90 year old grandmother – repetitive counting and cleaning and hand washing, all the symptoms of OCD. Ambulances and police cars late at night, and the harrowing visits to the hospital – a place no 10 year old should ever have to visit even to see their lovely amazing father, a broken war hero with ‘shell shock’. Thankfully treatment for mental health has improved over the years, but the illness has never ‘gone away’. Many people have to suffer with OCD, Bi-Polar disorder, PTSD and psychiatric crisis. The places of treatment are far kinder than 50 years ago, the long walk between locked doors in psychiatric hospital are a thing of the past – for some. Medication and other treatments have improved. And thankfully there are now initiatives to help us to talk about our issues. My mother always said that if she had a broken arm – she would have had far more sympathy and understanding – from those who saw mental health as the unseen illness!

And for some who just need that duvet day or a long time to recharge batteries, and regroup their resilience’s – there are those who see the simple things that help get them back on that road to being themselves again.

I’m re-building my mental strength. Swimming, watching favourite TV programme. Walking in the fresh air, basically doing things for me and my loved ones.

And I’d like to think I will be back as strong as ever, to support those who need me going forward.

 

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Adoption, Families, Family, history, Inspiration, love, New life, real life, Spirt and soul, women

Healthier babies, happier parents.

I found a book this week while clearing my loft out! It was called ‘Healthier Babies, Happier Parents. A practical guide by Specialists’ First published in 1959, which fits in with when I was born.

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What is most poignant about this book, is not so much the book itself, but the fact that in the front cover of the book is a note book with lots of handwritten pages lovingly written by my mother.

How do I know it was written lovingly your probably thinking? Surely each and every mum who is able to – takes love and care over things that concern her child.

There are 3 sets of notes. 5th Months old, 6 month and finally 7 months. It’s really poignant to me as I was adopted at 6 months old, and these notes show that perhaps initially she wasn’t sure when I would be coming into their lives. She wanted to be prepared I’m sure, and be ready for me when I arrived.

When I found the book, it was instantly recognisable as something that had been around me when I grew up, but the note book at the front brought me to tears as it was something I don’t remember and was so very personal.

My parents had always told me that I was a special baby, one who had been chosen from lots of others, and when I look at this snap shot from my young life – I know deep down in my heart I was so very much loved, and they wanted to do their very very best for me!

All the love they showered on me over the years, and the kindness they showed me at the darkest times of my life culminate in this simple book of handwritten notes produced even before I became part of their life.

 

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Animals and birds, Domestic Goddess, Families, Family, Food, Inspiration, Laughter, love, real life, Whatever, women

Who is in control?

I’m away on holiday with my other half. We are celebrating his birthday.

I love to be organised.  I need to have things in order, what I’m eating, where I go. My work needs to be arranged in advance. So when I’m on holiday I find that I’m a little out of my depth! Others are doing things for me, making my decisions. And will have had to be organised in advance, so I literally don’t have to be.

I find it a little disconcerting.

Of course I love being looked after and relish the idea that I don’t have to cook or wash up. But I have to make the bed, tidy the pillows and push the chairs back. I even wash the little cups before the cleaners come in to the room in the morning. Yes – I’m the woman who has to clean the house before the cleaner comes in – if I had a cleaner…

We are in a complex, in an apartment. That is a posh hotel room – with a little kitchen. We are overlooking a beautiful golf course, surrounded by trees. The geese fly over head to get to the lakes that surround the accommodation, and squirrels run up and down the trees finding their next meal. Of course the place is kept spotless. The cleaners wizz around on their bikes, and the maintenance people are in electric vans. They have it down to a tee.  Each villa and apartment is made with the same material and fitting so when something brakes they don’t have to work out what is needed – its all the same, so is easy to repair or replace! Brilliant, quick and efficient!

For someone who is so organised and controlling – this is the place of my dreams!

Now we are going for dinner tonight. It has taken us a few attempts to decide what restaurant we want to go to. We wrote the names of all the choices on pieces of paper, and picked the one that we were going to tonight. Please don’t tell me we are the only ones who do this. In fact I find it focuses the mind! If our first choice isn’t really the one we want to go to – we discard it and actually commit the one we want to go to!  So we are going out for a steak to the French restaurant, and if I can I will sit on the right hand side, near the window so I can watch the world go by!

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Domestic Goddess, Families, Inspiration, Laughter, real life, Whatever, women

Tea from a china cup

There is nothing nicer than drinking tea from a bone china cup, or a mug. To me that is a real luxury. Hot tea, with just a drop of milk so the flavour comes through. Just brewed for enough time. 3 minutes. I’m not talking about loose leaf tea, but a simple tea bag will do.

Isn’t it odd how everyone’s definition of luxury is so very different. From the mum who want 5 minutes to her self, to those who demand high end goods, and the best of everything.

We all have our own definition.

The chink of the china as you lay it on the table, and light weight feel  as the handle cradles your fingers. as if it was made for you. Bright white, not a gaudy colour insight.

Now, if it wasn’t in the sink with a pile of dirty mugs, then that would be luxury its self. Better get washing!

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Families, Family, Inspiration, real life, social media, Uncategorized, Whatever, women, Writing

Exile from social media….what have I missed?

Its been 11 days since I decided that I would take myself away from social media. I’d read this blog and it has inspired me.

Unplugging and Reinventing

So I signed off from Facebook, my Instagram and Twitter account went cold.  I realised that these things were taking over my life. As soon as I woke up, before I had even put my feet out of bed, I was on my phone scrolling through ‘social media life’ and what had happened while I had been asleep. Every spare minute I was catching up with the life of others, where they had been, what they had eaten, what they were wearing, and who was celebrating a birthday or a friendship!  All the time neglecting my own life. Neglecting my blog and the other more important things – like talking to my long suffering husband. Cuddling my grand children.

At first it felt weird. I kept thinking ‘what is so and so doing?’ and then gradually as the time has gone on that feeling of missing out has diminished. Of course I still get the notifications when I log onto my computer, but I don’t follow the link back into the twisted world of Facebook. It was todays notification that prompted me to write this blog.  Apparently I have 90 notification and I had been tagged in 5 pictures. I know it doesn’t sound very much to some people, who get hundreds and hundreds a day, but its quite a lot for me.

Do you know what I miss the most? Seeing the pictures of my grandchildren that are posted by my daughter in law! I also missed two events that friends had arranged I had forgotten to put on my calendar. There is an awful lot I don’t miss. The sometimes boring lives of others who endlessly post about their pets, the weather, who has parked over their drive, cakes, and what their favourite celebrity is doing. And I’m sure there is a lot that others miss about me…or not!

I have about 4 weeks left of my exile. I know it will teach me something. Remove things that don’t enrich my life. Don’t bother to follow pages that are a fad, or if I do as soon as I fall out of love with those pages – un-follow them. Simple.

Social media in one form or another has a place in anyone’s life, but not as a replacement for real life and communication.

See you on the other side.

 

 

 

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Families, Family, Inspiration, loss, love, mental health, New life, real life, social media, Spirt and soul, Uncategorized, Whatever, women

My life

Looking back on the story of my life, I see a time punctuated with love and laughter, with sadness and joy.

From the poor childhood filled with green and grey memories, the grass and the slate, the rain and the rain!
A life filled with loneliness and rituals.
Sickness and long corridors. Crying and sadness.

Lifelong friendships made on bus journeys, new experiences, and places.
Others lifestyles, and others laughter.
Finding love and loosing love, finding it again – only for it to drift away as young lust does.

A change of life, a change of culture, change of pace and language.
A change of love, a father figure who was anything but an ideal role model,
and thankfully never a father.

Memories left behind, together with the bruises and what little hope there was of happiness.
Anger and rage, rules and rebukes.

A knight in shining armour, a prince who had shared my memories before.
He who gave me back my hope and love, unconditional and everlasting love!
And in return I gave bricks and mortar and sunny times.

A time of sadness, a time of loss again and again.
The ones who loved me in a sea of others, stolen away without saying goodbye.
Without being able to share my hopes and telling that better life story I’d planned with my prince.

Stolen love and kisses at 1am gave milky smiles, not once but twice.
Tiny hands clutching at hair and sleepy eyes, and the smell only new born have.
Blue and blue double trouble!

Lasting memories of A&E and adventurous toddlers.
Nuts and bolts, falling off logs and stitches, diving for alligators, snails, M&M’s and runny noses.
Each word conjuring up a memory of boys and daily life in the household! Words when said, run like a film clip in my mind of those events.

Chaos and bike chains, swimming lesson, dirty football boots.
Discovering difficulties and challenges, jam and pizza.
Mundane and regular.

Summer holidays with kites, camping and caravans.
Rain and sun cream all rolled into one. Lasting friendships made – for 10 days.
Dancing and slush puppies.
Family holidays under the dome, ducks and deer, silently watching the apples and the bread through the glass of a cosy warm chalet.

 

A time of horror.
Of long train and bus journeys, of sadness and pain.
Innocence gone in the blink of an eye. Scars carried like armour, making him strong, but still so very innocent.

Driving and cars. One, two, eight or is it nine?
Young love, innocent and gentle. Shared beliefs and dreams.
Counting the years, counting the homes and now counting the babies.

A time of joy. Of long train and car journeys, of happiness and new experiences.
Hard work, and new technology.
Missing the long and lean boy sleeping on the sofa, mixing with the rich and elite, a new life experiences, built on hard work.

And now in the autumn of my life, I look back on this colourful patchwork of events. Some with sadness, most with joy.
Each nugget of memory lodged in my heart to bring out in conversation with family and friends.
Not too dissimilar from other’s lives, but my memories never the less.
Each day, each year, each smile, each tear punctuating hours and years.

It’s not over yet, more memories to have I plan and hope.
More holidays, more sun, less of something.
Lets see!

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