Category Archives: Positivity

Coping with Alzheimer’s: Sadness, Love, and Humour

I saw a lonesome forget-me-not gaze up at me the other day,
late in the year for these delicate blue flowers,
but they will always remind me of my mother.
They will forever be linked with the disease that stole her.

Coping with Alzheimer_s amid Tears of Sadness, Love, and Humour The Last Krystallos

The forget-me-not is the poster flower for Alzheimer’s, so when I noticed this little blossom peering up at me, it brought the condition back to my mind, and reminded me that I hadn’t yet read a book loaded up on my Kindle. Maybe it had been too soon when I bought it, Mum passed away at Christmas last year, but sitting in the Dr’s waiting room with Dad the other day I clicked on the book and opened it.

Coping-with-Alzheimer's-Forget-me-not- The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Instead of bringing tears, which it does too, it brought a smile to my face, many smiles. Finding a kindred spirit can do that. I relate strongly with the author S. R. Karfelt. Her candid humour, outright frankness, and sincerity shone through in her words. Our situations regarding Dementia are different, we’ve been through very different circumstances, but the familiarity of her anecdotes and narrative rang so true.

Alzheimer’s is the thief of time, stealing memories and lives with no compunction at all…and it is on the rise. More and more people are being diagnosed and figures show that 850,000 people lived with dementia in the UK in 2015 and it’s set to rise at a rate that will mean over 1 million in 2025 and 2 million in 2051. I’ve blogged about Prevention and Awareness before, and there are things we can do, changes to our lives, diets, and routines that can help, but this post isn’t about prevention or cure, it’s about living with the disease.

Coping-with-Alzheimer's-time-The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Please remember that living with Alzheimer’s affects a whole plethora of people for every one person diagnosed. Whole families and communities have to come together to care. When someone in your family has dementia, you can’t walk away, you can’t hide, you can’t bury it. The condition sneaks up and robs you of your loved one, but unlike other diseases that leave you to grieve after you lose your cherished family member, dementia leaves the shell of the person with you. I can’t describe the pain that that instils.

In her book, Nobody Told Me: Love in the Time of DementiaS. R. Karfelt has been through all of this and eloquently puts her experiences on paper. For anyone facing dementia within their family, this is a book that will show you that you’re not alone. You’ll know you are part of a growing number of people dealing with this disease and staring it right in the face with defiance – and humour you have to laugh, and you’ll cry too. Lots.

So many stories in this book tickled me, made me smile, and made me belly laugh, because I’ve been there. You have to attack Alzheimer’s with humour, wit, and love, they give you the strength to carry on.

Coping-with-Alzheimer's-Home-The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

When Mum complained of the noisy street party going on in her back yard, outside her house, we had to humour her, because my parents lived in the middle of a field, not a sound anywhere. When she thought I was her mother, I held her close and rocked her. When she was convinced Dad was a doctor, I told her she’d better take her medication with no complaints. When she thought Dad was a stranger who had kidnapped her and was holding her hostage, I talked her through it, tried to allay her fear, and help her calm down.

Can you imagine believing you’re only fourteen, and then finding out you’re married and he’s an old man? Imagine looking in the mirror expecting to see your twenty-five-year-old-self gazing back and instead seeing a seventy-year-old with a very different face? Imagine nurses/carers visiting every day when you don’t think anything is wrong with you at all.

Coping-with-Alzheimer's-raindrops-The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Imagine forgetting how to walk, or how to lift your food from the plate to your mouth with a fork. How would you feel if you couldn’t remember the beginning of the movie you started watching an hour ago? How would you feel when your grandchildren walk in and smile at you, but are complete strangers because you believe you’re twenty, and there are still eight years before you give birth to their mother yet?

Think about being in hospital or a home and not having a clue how you got there, or why, or for how long, or who took you there, or where you are, or why you’re there, or how long you’ll be there, and there’s nothing wrong with you, where are you, how did you get there, there’s nothing wrong, who took you there, when can you go home, as there’s nothing wrong… Where am I?

This is life with Alzheimer’s. It hurts – not only the patient, but the family, and carers, and friends… Alzheimer’s hurts everyone it comes into contact with.

So, if you’re dealing with, living with, coping with Alzheimer’s please know that you’re not alone. Please laugh as much as you cry. I’ve told my children that if I ever get this disease they are to treat me like normal, but play to it, allow me to stay in the time that I believe I am in, humour me, give me adventures, if I don’t know where I am – make it up!

Coping-with-Alzheimer's-leaf- The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

People will tell you how to cope with this condition when you’re caring for a loved one who doesn’t know who you are, but as long as you are compassionate and loving, you’re doing the right thing. Take time out. Laugh, I cannot say this enough, not at the person sometimes not even with the person, they won’t understand and you don’t want to hurt or alienate them even further, but you need to deal with the mess it makes of your life too, and once you’re out of the immediate situation talk through the absurdity Alzheimer’s proffers you and laugh at it. Irreverence can see you through it all.

Tears will fall, that’s a guarantee, but don’t ever think you’re alone.

The Alzheimer’s Society is an amazing resource who will help you through this minefield, as will those who’ve been there already. Stay strong.

Nobody-Told-Me-S-R-Karfelt-Dementia

You can buy
Nobody Told Me: Love in the Time of Dementia
by S. R. Karfelt on Amazon UK Kindle Hardbackand Paperback.
Amazon US Kindle, Hardback,
and Paperback, and from your local Amazon and other online bookstores.
Please visit her website for further information and links.

Where does the Beach take you?

It’s turning into beach weather here in the UK…
though, in my opinion, all year is beach weather for me.
I love wandering a lonely, cold, winter beach as much as
paddling through the surf on a warm, summer evening.
But what entices you to the ocean, what floats your boat?

Where does the Beach take you... - The Last Krystallos

Is it the heat, the sun, and the chance to sunbathe, or family time and BBQs, building sandcastles, and jumping waves, or do you prefer to explore, climb rocks, and appreciate the beauty?

Do you enjoy the sounds of the ocean rolling across pebble beaches? I grew up in Brighton, and the sound of the sea turning pebbles brings back all kinds of memories.
I adore walking barefoot over sand, and letting the surf lap across my feet, so the gorgeous West Wales beaches, where I live now, fit me perfectly…

Pebbles-vs-Sand-The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Do you like the flora that thrives in the salty air, and the seaweed decorating the beaches? I have a weird penchant for wearing seaweed hairpieces…

Flora-and-Seaweed-The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Do you collect shells, do you search out conch, mussels, and pretty shells, and do you put them to your ear to hear the sea? Do you listen to the shrieking gulls with pleasure or irritation?

Wildlife-and-Shells-The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

And speaking of irritation, do you feel compelled to share your chips with the local birds? Fish n’ chips on the beach can’t be beaten! Do you sit on the beach with can of coke and newspaper wrapped chips and watch the sunset? Do you embrace your loved one as the sun disappears below the horizon in a fiery ball and the stars begin to sparkle?

Sunsets-and-Food-The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Do you love your feet in the ocean, do you paddle or dive right in? On the hottest days, dunking beneath the waves can be refreshing and invigorating.
Or do you prefer to sunbathe, lying on the beach worshipping the sun, or do you take a book and lose yourself in stories?

Feet-in-the-Sea-and-Relax-The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Are you one of the lucky ones who can surf the waves – either on a board, or in a boat? Can you relax on board and let the ocean rise and fall beneath you?

Boats-and-Ocean-The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Do you love to explore, to climb the rocks, dive from cliffs, build dens, and get creative? Do you take photoshoots of mermaids, dystopia, and conquer pirates?

Explore-and-Dystopia-The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Are sandcastles your thing? Are you an architect of the golden grains? Do you build turrets, and moats, and make lolly stick flag poles? Do you sculpt the sand to your every whim, designing and creating with imagination and the salty breeze? Can you build towers of pebbles, balancing in an ever more intricate game of Jenga?

Fun-and-Craft-The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

The Palace Pier, now the Brighton Pier – though I can’t ever call it that – was a haunt for my childhood self, walking along the wooden timbers watching the green sea swell beneath me, feeling the ocean in my hair.
Do you search for lonely bays, lost coves, quiet havens, and romantic harbours? Do you walk from one end of the beach to the other, kicking through the rippling waves?

Bays-and-Piers-The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Or are you like me, as long as my feet are in the water, I let the siren call of the ocean beguile me, and I lose myself in the beauty of the sea?

Beauty-and-Waves-The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

What is it for you? What draws you to the beach, to the salty sea?

What entices you to the ocean?

Losing your Armour – Breaking Down Walls – Embrace YOU

If I’d been a fairy-tale princess, I’d have been Rapunzel – not because of my hair –
but because I keep myself locked away in an impenetrable tower…
Have you lived behind walls – a self-imposed fortress?
Is there really a way to break down those barriers?

Losing your Armour and Breaking Down Walls - Embracing You and Becoming who you should be - The Last Krystallos

Living with anxiety, panic, depression, and low self-esteem lead me to seclusion. I only had a few really close childhood friends. I was open and friendly, but also detached. I was very hurt when in one of my school reports my class tutor wrote that I was aloof. I was about fifteen and though not shy, I was reserved and quiet, and the thought that anyone believed I was unapproachable or lofty was painful. If you truly knew me, I opened up, and was as fun and as giggly as the next teen, but you had to fight and get past my demons before you were allowed into my space.

As clinical depression hit in my late teens, I withdrew. My husband soon became all that I needed, especially after I cut the proverbial apron strings. I brought up three children in my twenties and hit a major crisis in my thirties. Except for my husband I had no one to fall back on, and I felt increasingly lonely. This loneliness lead me to build walls, and when friends I made generally moved away, I stopped making close friendships. My family became my life and my sole focus, even to the detriment of knowing myself.

It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are -E.E.Cummings - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

An assault took me to medication and therapy, and finally I began to take time for myself. My psychiatrist once told me that women in their thirties made the best psychiatric patients as they truly work hard to know themselves, and can make changes in their lives. My children, then teens, also encouraged me to know who I was and to venture from my tower.

To be nobody but yourself - the last krystallos- lisa shambrook

© Lisa Shambrook

Midlife can be the best time to work on you – to truly learn who you are and what you can become.

Brené Brown put it like this:

”I think midlife is when the universe gently places her hands upon your shoulders, pulls you close, and whispers in your ear:

I’m not screwing around. It’s time. All of this pretending and performing – these coping mechanisms that you’ve developed to protect yourself from feeling inadequate and getting hurt – has to go.

Your armor is preventing you from growing into your gifts. I understand that you needed these protections when you were small. I understand that you believed your armor could help you secure all of the things you needed to feel worthy of love and belonging, but you’re still searching and you’re more lost than ever.

Time is growing short. There are unexplored adventures ahead of you. You can’t live the rest of your life worried about what other people think. You were born worthy of love and belonging. Courage and daring are coursing through you. You were made to live and love with your whole heart. It’s time to show up and be seen.”

Over the past fifteen years I’ve started shedding my armour and discovered how to break down my walls.

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© Lisa Shambrook

I’d spent so long hiding that emerging was tough. It still is. But there are so many reasons to open up and become who you should be. Just watch spring blossom, or a rose, bloom – it’s worth every painful moment of development.

We grow all the time, inside us – ideas, passions, talents, confidence, courage, all these things are slowly rising ready to develop wings to lift us over our walls, bursting forth preparing to shatter our armour. We only have to acknowledge and embrace who we are.

If you cannot be the poet, be the poem-David Carradine-Lisa Shambrook

© Lisa Shambrook

How? I hear you say, weighed down with cares, emotions, and an introvert’s anchor plunged deep into your ocean bed…

It’s all about beliefself-belief. That armour that served you so well, keeping you safe, will eventually crush you, it will weigh you down more than your anchor, and will crush your spirit. Instead of hiding behind your walls, let those wings open like a phoenix and lift you over your fears and everything that overwhelms you. Soar like a dragon, set fire to your inner demons and 

Know that you are perfect just as you are.

Know that you don’t need permission from anyone else to be great.

Know that you are exactly who you are meant to be.

Know that you are loved and worthy of love.

Know that only you can ever be the best you.

Our deepest fear... - Marianne Williamson - The last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I still live in a tower, but I’m learning how to break down the walls, how to fly and soar, free from the anchors and armour that weighed upon my spirit and dampened who I am.

Be who you are meant to be…

Figuring out who you are is the whole point of the human experience-Anna Quindlen-Lisa Shambrook

© Lisa Shambrook

Break down those walls and become who you are…

It's time to show up and be seen - Brené Brown - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Your Vote Counts – Vote for the Future #GE2017

This week, in the UK, we Vote…

Your Vote Counts - Vote for the Future - General Election 2017 - The Last Krystallos

My colours are nailed to the wall, always have been…
I’m the kind of person you can read like a book
and I wear my heart on my sleeve.

I’m not going to tell you who to vote for, but if you’ve seen my Facebook or Twitter you’ll know where my heart lies, and I won’t apologise for posting information and my political beliefs.

My plea for this election, a sudden – out-of-the-blue – UK General Election, called purely because the Prime Minister thought she’d win with a landslide, is to vote for those around you rather than for yourself, if your circumstances permit.

We’ve seen this world – this society – become overwhelmingly selfish. Those who are wealthy – want more, those who have enough – want more, those without – want more. It’s a natural ideology, we all want more, and that’s okay, but only one of those groups actually need more.

I’ve been on both sides of the coin, excuse the pun, we’ve counted the literal pennies and had nothing left at the end of the week, and at other times we’ve been able to save and spend. 90% of those without are without because of circumstance, not a lack of hard work, or laziness, and it’s highly offensive to blame people for their circumstances without knowing or understanding them.

The test of our progress... Franklin D. Roosevelt

We need to be considerate and compassionate and vote accordingly. We need to vote to help jobs, to save the NHS, to save lives, to offer affordable education, to raise living wages, to raise living standards, to eradicate poverty, to care for our children, the environment, and their future.

I want to vote for the future of this world, not my present one, but for policies that will guide and save our future – not condemn it and future generations. If I can do that I will save my present world alongside the future.

I want to vote for the future o f this world... Lisa Shambrook The Last Krystallos UK General Election 2017

© Lisa Shambrook

Please educate yourself, learn about the parties and their policies: Labour Conservative Liberal DemocratsGreenUKIPPlaid CymruSNP…  Read the manifestos and vote with your conscience.

As a final point – no matter what, please vote.

It wasn’t long ago that only Landowners and the Aristocracy could vote.

It wasn’t long ago that only men were allowed to vote.

It wasn’t long ago that only those over the age of 21 were permitted to vote.

There are still countries that deny the right to vote, through gender, age, circumstance, and still countries that do not hold free elections.

People have died for your right to vote, and every single vote matters. It doesn’t matter if you are 18 or 118 – your vote is important in free politics.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. Edmund Burke

© Lisa Shambrook

There are plenty of apps and information out there to help you make your decision. Take a look at this 2017 Election Quiz or this one 38Degrees GE2017…and see whose manifesto policies you affiliate most with. Don’t listen to the mainstream media, do your own research.

But, most importantly, use your privilege to cast your vote – make it count…

…For the Many, Not the Few…

Life Lessons We Can Learn From Dogs

I was never a dog person,
but that all changed when an eight-week-old
bundle of German Shepherd was placed in my arms.

Life Lessons we can Learn from Dogs - The Last Krystallos

To be honest, it actually took me a couple of weeks to become comfortable with her, but she rested her little puppy head on my feet, and there was no going back. I fell in love. That was almost nine years ago, and she has given our family great joy.

So, here are some lessons we can learn from these most devoted of creatures…

A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than she loves herself – Josh Billings - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Truth. The most unconditional love I have ever experienced has been puppy love, the love of a dog knows no bounds and is pretty much infinite. A dog loves unconditionally and that’s a quality we should emulate as much as we can. I’m not sure we can ever love with as much purity as a dog, but we can try!

When a dog speaks, it is not language but pure feeling given voice – anonymous - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

This matches their ability to love. Dogs can’t hide their emotions, they don’t lie. When my dog greets me, leaping up at me with excitement, I know she really is happy to see me. When she’s stolen a packet of biscuits and eaten them all, and left the wrapping torn up on the floor, the look of guilt is right there for all to see. The trust in her eyes gives you everything. There’s an honesty in dogs that many humans don’t ever show.

Your dog will never wake up one day and decide he doesn_t love you anymore… anonymous - The Last Krystallos

© Caitlin Shambrook

Once dogs have given you their heart – it’s yours forever. Treat their love with respect and you will never want for affection. Let’s try and show this kind of love to all those who mean much to us. This trait revolves around love, joy, trust and forgiveness.

I think we are drawn to dogs - george bird evans - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Oh, yes, dogs know how to have fun! They don’t waste time when adventure is on the menu, just watch your pup race across a sandy beach, splash in the ocean or rivers, and lope through shady woodland. They emit pure joy! Watching my Roxy leaping into the air to catch bubbles was a true delight, and I often think I should mirror her abandon and spontaneity and embrace life for all it offers!

Dogs have a way of finding people who need them - Thom Jones - The Last Krystallos

© Bekah Shambrook

Did you ever know how a dog would fill that void you never knew existed? I had no idea how rewarding owning a dog is until I had my own. We can be that for those around us. We can be there, filling empty hearts with friendship, love, and company.

He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog - Agnes Repplier - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

This quote means a huge amount to me. My favourite poem is Beddgelert by William Robert Spencer and is a poem that makes me weep (and I dare you not to cry when you read it), but if you want pure devotion those words are where you’ll find it, within Gelert’s pure hound heart.
My Roxy sits at the window most of the day, my own personal guard dog, she saves me from the postman, delivery people, neighbours, cats that prowl the neighbourhood, and anything that might attempt entry into the house. She makes me feel safe. Outside, I know if anyone attacked me while she was there, they would have to get through her first. Devotion, loyalty, and trust are huge parts of a dog’s life, and you truly are your dog’s life, you are what they live for. Be worthy.

If we could only emulate a few of dogs’ qualities, we would be better people. We would love unconditionally, trust, guard, and care for each other, with honesty, loyalty, and pure devotion.

A dog’s life is a good life.

It’s the Little Things…

Have you ever thought how it really is the little things
that make the difference in life?

It's the Little Things in life - that make you truly happy - The Last Krystallos

Last Saturday I had a good day, a really good day! I had no commitments and it was a beautiful sunny morning. I popped into town nice and early, enjoyed the sunshine, and listened to the birds sing amid the hubbub of town life. It’s the little things.

star wars tattoos - the last krystallos

Great legs! © Lisa Shambrook

I wish I’d told the man in front of me on the escalator how much I loved his legs! I did call out how cool it was to hear two girls (mother and daughter) singing ‘I’ve had the time of my life’ at the top of their lungs as they paused at the traffic lights in a cabriolet. And I smiled at a six-year-old Ironman swaggering through the precinct, flexing his muscles and grinning at everyone. It was that kind of day!

The evening before, in the warmth that predicted a beautiful day to come, Vince and I walked Roxy and listened to the birds in the trees. Noting how different their calls and songs were, from the courting couple of cooing and crooning collared doves, to the blackbird’s familiar call, to a robin red-breast singing his little heart out on the top branches.

robin singing - the last krystallos

Sometimes the smallest things are the loudest © Lisa Shambrook

Sometimes the smallest creatures sing the loudest and have the most beautiful voices.

Do we listen?

We even attempted to get a photo of the tiny robin atop the tree (our phone cameras were pitifully lacking for this!), and it was a giggle to watch passing motorists’ passengers straining their necks to see what we were looking at!

It made us realise how lucky we are, and how the littlest things can often be the best things.

It's the Little Things - The Last Krystallos

The little things are the best things © Lisa Shambrook

…Like the way your cat purrs when she snuggles into you – one of your favourite songs playing in your car – brushing your hand across velvet moss – a flower blossoming – new leaves appearing on trees – getting lost within a great book – your dog’s welcome home – your favourite hot chocolate – being silly with friends – the feel of your favourite jumper – a hug – snowflakes – your bed after a hard day – creating art – dancing in the rain – fresh baking – holding hands – watching a sunrise – something that makes you laugh and many more…

What are the little things that make you grateful and happy?

Trouble Ahead – Stand Up for Equality and Be Counted

There is trouble ahead – times of turmoil, division,
and loss of liberties are invading our lives.
What will we do about it?

trouble-ahead-stand-up-for-equality-and-be-counted-the-last-krystallos

I’m not getting into politics or policy – I’m assuming we all know what is going on throughout the Western World right now – if you don’t, you can scroll Twitter Trends or check out your Facebook newsfeed, or search #Trump for that.

I’ve got friends who have stepped back from politics because they are overwhelmed with the current state of affairs, and others who are stepping forward to fight for their rights and their beliefs. Neither response is wrong, but if we really want to prevent inequality then we need to stand up and be counted.

the-only-thing-necessary-for-the-triumph-of-evil-is-for-good-men-to-do-nothing-edmund-burke-the-last-krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

There are people across the world, not just in the western world, living in fear for their lives because they are not the majority, or they are different, or they are repressed by regimes and powers that have control.

Those who are strong enough need to protest the status quo, fight the patriarchy, and stand up for civil liberties and human rights. As the rights of those around us diminish – those hard fought for rights that Suffragettes Susan B. Anthony, Emmeline Pankhurst, and movement leaders and activists Martin Luther King Jr, Abraham Lincoln, Eleanor Roosevelt, Margaret Sanger and Marie Stopes, Rosa Parks, Malala Yousafzai, and many, many more – battled for.

darkness-and-light-i-have-decided-to-love-martin-luther-king-jr-the-last-krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

We need to Stand Up for those who can’t.

We must Stand Up for Equality.

We must Stand Up for Gender Equality, Racial Equality, Religious Freedom, the Right to Vote, Consent, Education, Working Conditions, the Control over our own Reproductive Organs, the Right to Safety, the Right to Health Services and Medication, Fairness, and Liberty.

We must Stand Up for those who are discriminated against, whether they are Women, Men, Native Americans, Refugees, Trans, Gay, Young, Old, Poor, no matter what Nationality, Colour, Sexual Preference, or Religion they are or have.

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© Lisa Shambrook

When walls are being announced, divisions widened, gag orders and censorship put in place, and freedoms curtailed we must Stand Up, we must Stand Up for what we know is right. So, March, Write, Protest, Contact your political representative, and make your Voice Heard.    

acapulco-gold-catatonia

Acapulco Gold – Catatonia

We are Human Beings – Brothers and Sisters – and we are all different but all the same.
Let the same blood that runs through each of us enlarge our
Hearts with Compassion and Love. Stand Up for Love.

Self-Confidence and the Selfie

We live in a selfie society, note: I said selfie, not selfish.
If you look around at any given moment while you’re out and about,
you are likely to see someone taking a photograph with their phone.
And often, if you’re with young people, you’ll see them whip out their phone,
hold it at an odd angle, grin and take a selfie or two – or three – or four – or lots…

self-confidence-and-the-selfie-putting-you-in-the-picture-the-last-krystallos

Cameras on phones are a given and most of us carry a phone with us, not only as a means of communication, but also as a record keeper, journal, diary, clock, educator, newspaper, personal stereo, entertainment centre, and, of course, a photograph album.

self-confidence-and-the-selfie-putting-you-in-the-picture-the-last-krystallos_all_my_selfies

All my selfies…gaining confidence © Lisa Shambrook

I grew up in a time when trying to take a photograph of yourself pretty much meant setting up a tripod and a timer on your camera then posing in front of it. I mean, did you ever try taking a pic of yourself at arm’s length with a Kodak Instamatic? The biggest revolution in cameras I saw, as a child in the early eighties, was the invention of the Polaroid and an instant picture at your fingertips. But none of these were suitable for a quick snap of yourself, even less indoors unless you wanted to be blinded by the biggest flash cubes ever!

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Selfies the old fashioned way – getting someone else to take photos of you! And how it usually turned out if you tried yourself… © Lisa Shambrook

I used to bribe my brother or get my Dad to come and take pics of me as I posed in my latest outfit, and they’d get bored fast as I said, “Take another just in case that’s blurry, or if that one doesn’t come out…” or the old, “Take a few so I can choose the best one…” or “I blinked, take it again!” Then there was the waiting and the expense. I’d send my films off to the printer in Bonusprint’s big envelope with a cheque, and sit and wait for the pictures to be returned. Can you remember that moment, opening your pack of 36 plus photos and flicking through them? Yep, and there was always the inevitable, “Well, at least there’s one or two good ones.” or maybe there weren’t and you curl your lip thinking, I’ll never look that good again and I didn’t get a decent print!

So, today we have it easy, you can snap a selfie within seconds, and if it’s rubbish or blurred you can delete it, and you can take as many as you wish until you get the one you like.  And even if your favourite isn’t quite as good as you hoped, hey, there’s always Instagram and you’ll find a filter that does you justice!

When front-facing cameras on phones became the norm, over the last decade, I watched as the selfie society grew, and I watched with fascination as my two daughters sat taking multiple pictures of themselves. I say I watched in fascination, not as a criticism, but because I struggled to do it myself!

I struggled for several reasons. One, because I came from a more restrained time, when posing for multiple selfies in public just wasn’t done without someone accusing you of vanity. Two, I lacked the self-confidence to take pictures of myself in public. And, three, I just could never make the damned angle work whenever I tried!

bekah-dan-and-cait-selfies

My children can do it! © Bekah Shambrook, Dan Shambrook, Caitlin Shambrook

My daughters would reel off picture after picture, deleting what they didn’t like and keeping what they did, and sometimes the pictures they took were so stunning, I wished I could do the same!

I had to overcome my sensibilities to be able to take a good selfie! I have had to be able to step outside myself and conquer shyness. I’ve had to become more comfortable with myself, with expressing myself, and not feeling vain. My daughters have taught me that I can be comfortable in my own skin and I can celebrate who I am. Taking a good selfie has increased my self-confidence.

There are still those who believe vanity is a part of our selfie society, and to a degree it may be, but I also believe this next generation has become more self-confident, bolder, stronger, and accepting. And those are qualities I wish to emulate. This Millennial generation, on a whole, is a brighter future, a more compassionate band of peers, a younger generation who want to include everyone, who are accepting and generous, and who aren’t afraid. These are people who want to be heard, who will fight for their beliefs, for equality, and for human rights. They accept themselves, they accept who they are and are much more comfortable within their own skins than my generation and those before ever were!

They can snap selfies and laugh at themselves, and can use social media to inform and grow, and can, I hope, in the future create a more forgiving and a more loving society. I do not believe the selfie society is a selfish one. A large percentage of selfies include others, groups gather together and take a selfie, a record of the moment, the occasion, the people. Selfies are about people, individuals and groups.

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Selfies celebrate family and friends © Lisa Shambrook and Bekah Shambrook

I am no longer embarrassed to take a selfie, to record myself at a moment when I feel good about myself, or I am somewhere I want to remember, or I want to grab my nearest and dearest as close as I can so we can all fit into a picture together.

My ability to take a selfie has grown with my confidence, and as I become happy in myself, I am able to celebrate who I am, and, you know, as much as it’s great to grab a quick shot of the sunset, or of a beautiful flower it’s also fun to whip out my phone and catch the moment, my moment! I can be beautiful too.

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When selfies work © Lisa Shambrook

Do you like taking selfies?

How do you put yourself in the picture?     

 

 

Bucket Lists and Dreams – Just Do It

Just recently I looked back at the things I’ve been doing for fun,
and it made me search out the Bucket List I made a few years ago!
What have I done since writing it?

Bucket Lists and Dreams - Just Do It - The Last Krystallos

Eleven years ago, back in 2005, I wrote a list. I realised as I came out of a long period of depression that I just wasn’t happy, we weren’t having fun – and I wanted that to change! The list included some easy, simple ideas, and some bigger, more out of reach dreams. Some of the simple things: meal out with the family, go swimming, paddle along the shore, swim in the sea, kick autumn leaves, play football on the beach, build a sandcastle, have a barbeque, write a poem, build a snowman, do a big jigsaw and more… The bigger things included: fly in a helicopter, romantic evening with Vince, night away with Vince, learn Welsh, paint a dragon, take a family holiday, outline a new story, take a maths GCSE, fly in an aeroplane, do Vertigo, buy a Suburu with rally decals…

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Family Portraits © Lisa Shambrook

We did some – as you, and your family, get older there is often a little more money available and we managed a surprise trip to Edinburgh on an aeroplane. We bundled the children into the car at 4am and took them on a mystery tour ending up at Cardiff airport and spending the day in Scotland! We went up in a helicopter for Bekah’s 16th birthday as Vince had a client who flew a helicopter and he was paid in kind with a ride up in the sky! Beaches were easy and we had barbeques, including getting pushed off the beach by the rising tide and finishing the barbeque at home in the back yard, in the rain! I swam in the Blue Lagoon at Aberieddy, a 90’ deep lagoon, loved it! Vince and I have had some nights away. Ice skating on the Isle of Wight, bought a real Christmas tree, family holidays to Butlins, got a dog, I passed my motorbike test, decorated some amazing cakes, took some awesome family portraits. I began a whole new career as an author and published three books. Vince flew a plane, and I got air sick.

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Helicopter, motorbike, planes, Blue Lagoon and Vertigo © Lisa Shambrook

I even did some things not on the list: I started a business – Amaranth Alchemy. I got my first high heels, got my first Dr Martens too. I didn’t paint, but I did create art and many stories.  I went to the ballet and saw Giselle. We went to Harry Potter Studios, saw Les Miserables in the West End, wrote a book in 30 days doing NaNoWriMo – twice, and I’ve dived from a 10ft diving board and lots more!

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Bucket List and Boots © Lisa Shambrook

Some things will be crossed off the list because they are no longer important to me: I have lost the desire to skydive but my daughter did a couple of weeks ago – and it wasn’t as big a thrill as she’d hoped! I don’t think I’ll ever be able to afford piano lessons or a piano, I don’t want a rally car anymore, and I don’t feel the need to complete a maths GCSE, I’m at peace with my F grade!

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Theatre, Bekah’s Skydive, wild camping, London © Lisa Shambrook

So what is there now? I’ve flown in that helicopter, I’ve done Vertigo at Oakwood Park, I passed my bike test, and taken the kids on a surprise holiday, and we even slept out in the wild in a tent on Dartmoor when we went wild camping, and began a pottery class.

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Cosplay © Lisa Shambrook

There’s a lot more to come!

My new/current Bucket List contains more dreams
and some I haven’t ticked off my last list.

Build a big, old fashioned sandcastle on the beach.
Go to a Spa.
Visit the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland.
Ride a gondola in Venice.
Climb the Eiffel Tower.
Go up in a hot air balloon.
Climb mount Snowdon.
Ride a long zip wire.
Rewrite my dragon books and publish.
Paint a dragon!
Stand out in heavy rain and get soaked.
Swim in a tidal swimming pool.
Learn sign language – I did once, but have forgotten it.
Travel with Vince on our motorbikes.
Get a professional massage.
Go on a Norwegian Fjord Cruise.
Drive a rally car – but not own one!
Do NaNoWriMo again.
Have a gardener fix my wild garden so I can redesign it.
Achieve consistent book sales.
Write a best seller.
Visit Canada.
Visit Iceland.
Bathe in hot springs in Iceland.
Walk on a glacier.

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Decorating Cakes © Lisa Shambrook

In my debut novel Beneath the Rainbow, Freya leaves a list behind and her family vow to do the things she’d wanted to do… One of her dreams is one I share – to build a big sandcastle, on the beach complete with turrets and a moat! 

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Author, art and Amaranth Alchemy © Lisa Shambrook

What about you, what’s at the top of your Bucket List?

What have you already ticked off your list?

Get out there and have fun!

How to Keep Calm and Carry On – During Times of Stress and Anxiety

Lately, especially lately, the world seems to be bursting at the seams with stress.
Life is fast-paced, aggressive, selfish, and anxious…and
we have to try and stay calm when everything about us appears to be falling apart.

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World events, local events, and even familial situations are rarely under our own control and we can feel like we’re drowning, so how can you take control and remain calm under pressure?

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© Lisa Shambrook

Mindfulness and Meditation: I am only just beginning to learn about each of these. Both offer techniques to centre yourself. I used to think I could never try meditation because I had no idea how to empty my mind, but I have learned that meditation is more about harnessing your thoughts, bringing them back to you, and accepting who you are. When my thoughts wander during meditation, as they will, I can recognise that they are and refocus, bringing myself back, focussing on my breathing and my presence.

I am learning that knowing myself and loving myself helps me immensely to remain a calmer person. It also helps that my daughter has been studying Buddhism which has some beautiful teachings. My favourite was something she told me from a Buddhist friend:
Imagine yourself as a mountain and your thoughts as clouds, let them drift by…

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© Lisa Shambrook

Anchoring: I have used anchoring for many years without really understanding it. Generally using an anchoring technique means to recall a time in your life when you were calm, in control, and happy, and focus on that moment, and combine it with a physical sensation like pinching your thumb and forefinger together. Then when you feel stressed, if you recreate that physical sensation by pinching your thumb and forefinger together you will recall the moment you felt in control and calm, thus restoring a sense of peace.

I have a stim/totem that I clasp and smooth between my fingers when I feel anxious and it helps to calm me. I’ve carried acorn cups and hazelnut halves about with me for years and years, they reside in all my pockets, and I have a compulsion to collect them when I’m out and about… Being able to channel a memory of a happy time and combine it with this action/stim is anchoring, and it really helps!

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© Lisa Shambrook

Go for a Walk: Take time out, remove yourself from the place of stress, get outside and into nature – all good advice to help you stay sane. I find nature a hugely calming influence, and it gives you space, both literally and figuratively. I’ve written before about harnessing Nature’s Antidepressants and it’s true that the natural environment can inspire and calm you. And remember it’s free, so, get out there and take your fill…

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© Lisa Shambrook

Gain a different perspective: When you’re stressed, anxious, or panicked, try and analyse how you’re looking at your situation. I tend to worry and dwell on the ‘what ifs’, my husband can embrace change and looks at the positives. If you are a negative thinker, then switch perspectives. Ask yourself if you can change anything about your position, if there is, do it, if not then you need to accept the circumstances.

We need to understand the idea behind the Prayer of Serenity: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. Some things are out of our control and we cannot change them we just have to go through them, but some we can, and we need to embrace the times we can change and take control of our destinies.

It’s important to note that we do have to go through many things we cannot change, and we should do that with courage and, hopefully, positivity. The most damaging advice I ever had was to visualise my problems and if I couldn’t change them then put them in an imaginary box and close the lid. It doesn’t work, and eventually you’ll end up with an imaginary cupboard full of boxes of things you’ve never been able to face. If you have these boxes, and cannot face opening them, ask for help. There are many therapies and counselling that can help you confront your deep held demons.

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© Bekah Shambrook

Calm your Environment: These days decluttering is a definite word in our dictionaries. The things within our homes can help define our moods. Now, I quite like mess to a degree, I’m creative and like bits and pieces everywhere, but it can go too far. I don’t like to be surrounded by rubbish or negativity. Too much clutter can distract me and bring me down. I have to go through stages of clearing out and decluttering at regular points in my life. I usually use the adage if it doesn’t hold a memory, or make me happy, or I haven’t used or looked for it in two years, then it can go. Except books…I struggle to let books go! Spring cleaning, at any time of the year, can be cathartic and cleansing, and help you create a healthy environment.  

Add beauty to your home, pictures that you love, candles scented with the fragrances that inspire you, flowers, anything that you love. Make your home your sanctuary.

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© Lisa Shambrook

Affirmation: The more you repeat something the more the unconscious mind accepts it, and this goes for both positive and negative intonations, so embrace the positives. Tell yourself something that makes you anxious or stressed will be fun, that you’ll enjoy it, and the chances are that you can alter your perspective!

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© Lisa Shambrook

Let off Steam: Sometimes when we’re stressed we just need to let loose, to release the tension and the pressure. Adrenalin often accompanies stress and anxiety and sometimes you need to ‘run that off’ to coin a phrase. Stamp around the house, yell a bit, get outside and exercise. Listen to music and sing along. Shake it off and rid yourself of nervous tension!

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© Lisa Shambrook

Chocolate: *shrugs* Like I‘ve said many times before, chocolate is a winner. It contains serotonin and can help you relax. Go get a hot chocolate with whipped cream, or grab a bar of chocolate… *grins* Chocolate is good!

What helps you during stressful times?