A Lovely Christmas Eve

It’s been a lazy Christmas Eve so far at the Suzie household. Mum and I woke and had a nice breakfast, followed by half a box of chocolates, I’ve had plenty of doggy snuggles and I’ve watched lots of pointless television whilst relaxing in my jammies and under a duvet on the couch.

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During a moment of boredom I remembered that I had brought up a sequin covered Santa hat, and have been torturing the dog with it ever since. After initial indignation, Max eventually gave up and went to sleep. The resulting pictures were hilarious (for me, at least).

I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to visit the blog over the next few days, but I hope that wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, you’re happy and peaceful. May you have a lovely holiday season, filled with joy, laughter and cheer.

 

2014: A Blogging Review

2014 is almost over, and it has been a roller coaster of a year. My blogging endeavours began in April 2013. I was experiencing a difficult time in my personal life and as I have always found writing therapeutic, starting a blog seemed to be the perfect solution.

Twenty months later, Suzie81 Speaks has grown above and beyond all expectectations and has become the most effective form of therapy that I have ever received. I have built up a community of over 9,000 followers and hit the 300,000 view mark earlier this month. This year in particular has been wonderful – I have been featured on Mumsnet several times (which I find amazing considering the fact that I don’t have children), I was lucky enough to be invited to a blog community meet up in Birmingham a few months ago and #SundayBlogShare, my weekly Twitter party that I started in October now has hundreds of participants every week. Above all, I have been able to communicate with a truly amazing group of people from all over the world, some of whom are now email and Facebook friends.

The process has been a huge learning curve, predominantly because I knew nothing about blogging when I started. Suzie81 Speaks does not have a theme or a niche – I like to have the freedom to write about whatever topic I am interested in at the time. Consequently, I have created a collection of varied and eclectic posts. I like to take the opportunity to review these regularly, deleting and editing where necessary, and recently I have created buttons for some of my favourites which you can see in the sidebar. I wanted to be able to share with you some of these with you – you are welcome to click on the images that take you directly to the post.

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What about you? What have been your favourite posts from your blog over the last year? If you wish to share a link, you’re welcome to do so in the comment section below!

#SundayBlogShare

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It’s Sunday tomorrow, and that means only one thing: my #SundayBlogShare Twitter party!

I participate in several parties throughout the week – #MondayBlogs, #WWWBlogs and #ArchiveDay, and decided to start my own each Sunday to give the blogging community another chance to share their posts and meet other people.

It has turned out to be a much bigger success than even I expected – with the first two weeks hundreds of people have participated, sharing over a thousand posts and I’ve received lots of messages from bloggers who saw a increase in traffic and followers. A huge part of this was due to the promotion given by the wonderfully supportive WordPress community that I am part of particularly Gene’O @sourcererblog and Austin @Austin_Hodgens, to name a few.

The instructions for #SundayBlogShare are simple:

Tweet a link to a post from your blog.

Include the hashtag #SundayBlogShare.

Enjoy! Retweet posts from other bloggers, comment and follow! You don’t have to follow Suzie81 Speaks or it’s associated social media profiles.

To make it a positive experience, here are some simple rules for everyone to follow.

1. #SundayBlogShare is a happy place. Racist, homophobic and/or sexist comment are not allowed. If you disagree with the content of a post, do so in a polite and respectful manner.

2. No pornography.

3. You are welcome to share more than one post. However, don’t use is as an opportunity to spam by posting everything that you’ve ever written.

4. Only share blog links – while I enjoy inspirational quotes, #SundayBlogShare is not the place to post them.

5. Don’t beg for follows or retweets, but feel free to retweet others!

Looking forward to seeing you all there tomorrow! Feel free to reblog this post and invite all your friends!

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog, and you can also find my Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/suzie81speaks

 

Twitter Party: #SundayBlogShare

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If you’re in the blogosphere today I will be hosting the second of my #SundayBlogShare Twitter parties – it was a huge success last week and I’ve been receiving lovely messages all week from bloggers who shared their posts and met new people. It’s a simple process – post one of your recent links to Twitter using the hashtag #SundayBlogShare and enjoy! If you include my Twitter handle (@suzie81blog) in your post I can retweet it for you too! Your posts can cover any topic, you don’t have to follow my blog or any associated social media accounts and there isn’t a limit on the number of times you can post. I will remind everyone again on Sunday but here are a few rules for everyone who wishes to participate.

1. #SundayBlogShare is a happy place. Racist, sexist and homophobic propaganda will not be tolerated, and if you disagree with the content of a post it should be done in a polite and respectful manner.

2. Blog posts only.

3. No pornographic images are allowed.

4. Do not use it as an opportunity to demand follows and retweets from others, but feel free to retweet posts that you like.

It will start from Sunday morning and will end at midnight. I’m in the UK, so you will need to work out times for whichever country you live in. This may mean that some of you may be participating on Saturday, but please use the same hashtag…

Looking forward to seeing you there!

You can find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog

 

Happy Friday!

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Today is a good day. It’s Friday, it’s The Bloke’s birthday, it’s the last day of the half-term and it’s a training day, which means that I haven’t had to plan any lessons and instead get all my evidence together for my performance management review. The Bloke has taken next week off, we get paid next week too so I’m looking forward to a few days of spending some time with him, catching up on my blogging endeavours and meeting up with some friends and family. It’s been a long half-term, I’m tired, my students are tired and we have just reached the point where we need a break from each other.

If you’re in the blogosphere on Sunday I will be hosting the second of my #SundayBlogShare Twitter parties – it was a huge success last week and I’ve been receiving lovely messages all week from bloggers who shared their posts and met new people. It’s a simple process – post one of your recent links to Twitter using the hashtag #SundayBlogShare and enjoy! If you include my Twitter handle (@suzie81blog) in your post I can retweet it for you too! You don’t have to follow my blog or any associated social media accounts and there isn’t a limit on the number of times you can post. The subject of your posts is entirely up to you. I will remind everyone again on Sunday but here are a few rules for everyone who wishes to participate.

1. #SundayBlogShare is a happy place. Racist, sexist and homophobic propaganda will not be tolerated, and if you disagree with the content of a post it should be done in a polite and respectful manner.

2. Blog posts only.

3. No pornographic images are allowed.

4. Do not use it as an opportunity to demand follows and retweets from others, but feel free to retweet posts that you like.

It will start from Sunday morning and will end at midnight. I’m in the UK, so you will need to work out times for whichever country you live in. This may mean that some of you may be participating on Saturday, but please use the same hashtag…

Looking forward to seeing you there!

Happy Friday!

You can find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog

 

Twitter Party: #SundayBlogShare

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It took me a long time to add social media accounts to my blog and it has always been one of my biggest blogging regrets that I didn’t start sooner, as they are now responsible for about 75% of my overall traffic. Twitter, in particular, is a great way to share my posts and ideas immediately, and there is the possibility that posts could reach thousands if promoted by enough people.

I’ve decided to do a Twitter party in which all bloggers can share their posts and meet new people. It is going to be going on all day so feel free to join in at any time. Here is what you do:

1. Choose one of your favourite recent blog posts.

2. Share the link.

3. Use the hashtag #SundayBlogShare

Enjoy!

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog.

If We Were Having Coffee #4

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If we were having coffee, I would tell you that the weekend went far too quickly for my liking. I met some old friends for a meal and a drink in the town where we went to college fourteen years ago. They’re all beautiful, glamorous ladies who turned up wearing lovely dresses, and as usual I had a great time catching up with them. Almost all are new mothers to beautiful children, so a large part of the conversation was about motherhood, to which I could only offer an occasional ‘aww bless,’ but I’m really pleased for them.

I would tell you that my mum’s house felt a little strange after the death of one of her dogs last week. She still has two, and the dog was only small, but the atmosphere of the house seemed quieter and a little more empty. One of her other dogs was behaving very strangely towards me throughout, approaching me with caution and being very nervous when I stroked him, which upset me a little as I have never been cruel or raised my voice to him.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you how saddened I am at the execution of British Aid worker David Haines. While I will keep my angry thoughts to myself (and I am not going to get involved in a political discussion surrounding this), I will say that my thoughts and condolences are with his family – I can’t possibly imagine what they’re going through.

I would tell you that I am feeling a lot more refreshed, having slept for hours this afternoon, almost causing me to miss my train to return home. However, I haven’t been able to completely relax and have remained anxious for a lot of the time, so one of my tasks for this week is to research relaxation exercises and practise them.

I would tell you that I’m delighted to have access to WiFi again. My mother doesn’t have the Internet and my phone finds it almost impossible to find a connection. I’m surprised at myself at how frustrated I get after a while…

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I’m excitedly planning for The Bloke’s birthday next month, despite the fact that he’s always a miserable bugger when facing the prospect of being another year older. I’ve bought him the Lego Ghostbusters car and a few figurines that I’ve seen him eyeing up, and hopefully that will take the focus off his age. I’ve also told him that he’s only as old as the woman he kisses, and as I’m 32 he’s got nothing to complain about!

I would share with you my recent playlist, most of which features tracks from 80’s films. I seem to be revisiting my musical youth a lot recently – you can’t beat a bit of the Footloose soundtrack!

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I’m really annoyed with my vets. One of my cats was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes a year ago and since then we have religiously injected her twice a day with insulin and spend a fortune on special food to ensure she remains in good health. We have learned how to take her blood sugar levels regularly and her levels are good, and she is in an excellent, happy condition. However, when we went to pick up the usual two vials of insulin for the vets the other day, they told me that they have only given me one vial and they wouldn’t give me any more until I brought her in for blood tests, that apparently are compulsory every six months. This is the first we had been told about it, and nobody mentioned it six months ago. Apparently, these tests are going to cost me ¬£100, which I don’t have, and her insulin is not going to last until next pay day. Can anyone in the UK with vet experience advise me on the legalities of holding back essential medication as a way of holding me to ransom?

I would tell you that I’ve lost 10lbs in weight since the summer. I’ve got another 50lbs to go, but I’m quite pleased about it… I will have a beach-ready body by next year. I want to go to Vegas, so I’ve got something to work towards!

If we were having coffee, I would share with you the picture of my youngest sister that appeared on my Facebook wall yesterday. She is getting married at the beginning of next month and so held her Bachelorette Party in York, a beautiful, historical city that is miles away from where my mum lives. I expected to see pictures of penis – shaped straws, drunken women in fancy dres etc. However, nothing quite prepared me for the image of my sister being straddled by a very unnattractive, completely naked male stripper. My eyeballs were bleeding – it’s something that I can’t unsee. My mum, however, thought it was hilarious. At least she’s having a good time – I hope they didn’t pay too much money for the experience – I’d be wanting my money back!

What about you? What would you tell me if we met for coffee?

 

Created by Part Time Monster, these are a series of conversational posts. They’re a great idea if you don’t wish to focus on a specific theme. Check out her blog and create your own!

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog.

http://parttimemonster.wordpress.com/

Putting Things Into Perspective

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I’m sitting on a train on the way up to Manchester. It’s 7.00am – I have been awake since 5.00am, and currently resemble the closest thing to a zombie that a live human being is going to get. Despite this, I always enjoy travelling at this time in a morning – it’s quiet, there aren’t usually any screaming children and the nutters haven’t yet surfaced, so I’m enjoying the calm of the carriage at the minute.

I’m spending the weekend with my mother, who is still reeling after the death of her little dog, and tonight I am going to meet up with some friends that I made during sixth form college when I was sixteen. We’ve always kept in touch, mainly through the efforts of one or two of them, and we meet up at least once a year. Most of them are married, some have children, and over the years we’ve supported each other through our various achievements and life events. It’s nice to be around people who enjoy each others company, and it’s always guaranteed that I’ll have a good time.

I’m in need of a good night if I’m being honest – the last week has been a sea of paperwork and headaches as the new academic year has started. While it usually eases as time passes, the initial list that I find myself working through is always astronomical, and I always marvel at how calm and relaxed my colleagues seem during this period. I have managed to keep up, but don’t mind admitting that the pressure has reduced me to tears in the privacy of my own home on a few occasions.

By Friday afternoon I was feeling a little down – I was saddened by the news that a teenage scumbag had set fire to Manchester Dogs Home, resulting in the death of sixty animals (yet another reason why I don’t like people sometimes), and my friend informed me that his Nan passed away. Her death wasn’t unexpected, but I still feel sad for him and his family. If you’re reading this my lovely, you know I’m here whenever you need me.

However, when the chips are down, things always seem to happen that put me firmly back in my place and offer a little perspective.

Our school has its Open Evening next week, and my choir (who are brilliant) have been asked to perform. I have been a little worried as a few of the members of the group left at the end of last year as they had graduated, and so our numbers were down and there wasn’t the time to rehearse new starters. However, when I went to my classroom at the end of the day to start a rehearsal with the remaining students I was surprised to see all the ex-students sitting there, complete with a visitors pass and a big smile on their face. It turns out that they had heard about the performance next week and wanted to help out. I gave them a massive hug, and one of them told me that they wanted to surprise me ‘because you’re a legend Miss.’ Suddenly, the paperwork worries didn’t really seem to mean anything – THIS is what the job is about. I almost cried.

The Bloke, as always, has been pretty amazing throughout as well. Last night, after I had regaled him with the story about my choir cherubs, he told me that he was quickly going to the supermarket around the corner, and when he returned I saw that he had bought all of my favourite foods, and we cuddled up on the couch while watching NCIS: LA and talking rubbish at each other. It was exactly what I needed.

I’m lucky. I’m lucky that I have a job that (while challenging and frustrating at times) continues to give back. I’m lucky I have a lovely bloke, a family, amazing friends and the opportunity to spend time with them…

…And this morning I heard that Manchester Dogs Home has received over ¬£800,000 in donations since the fire.

Good things will always happen during bad times.

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog.

A Quiet Goodbye From a Feisty Little Dog

We never really worked out what breed Jess was. She resembled a small Alsatian, but seemed to have characteristics of collie and whippet in her too. She found a place with my mother not long after my father left in 2002. We think that she was about three years old, and her previous owners no longer wanted her because they were relocating to Spain. My mother, upon seeing her sad face when they left, knew that she had taken the made the right decision in offering her a forever home, and within weeks Jess had transformed from a rather nervous little thing into a ball of boundless energy, with a cheeky personality and a seemingly big smile. She adored my mother and her other dog, a bumbling retriever named Ollie, and the two complemented each other perfectly.

Jess was a constant in my mother’s life from that moment. She followed her around, making sure that she knew where she was, and was fiercely defensive of anyone who came near her, or indeed the house. She only seemed to truly relax when she knew that Mum was asleep, inevitably taking the opportunity to curl up next to her. She was a happy, contented softie, always enjoying a cuddle. For the last twelve years she’s been a friend, a protector and a member of our small, rather dysfunctional family. She helped Mum though a nasty divorce, several house moves and a number of jobs, and I always felt a little comforted by the fact that she was there to keep Mum safe when my sisters and I moved into our own houses.

As she aged, her little personality grew into that of a stubborn old woman. Armed with bowels that could be used for chemical warfare, she knew what she wanted, and made sure everyone else knew it too. It was a regular occurrence to be woken up in the early hours of the morning with a slobbery chew toy being placed on my pillow, and despite my protestations she would quite happily chase it as often as I was willing to throw it. She would sell her soul for a crisp, barked at other dogs on the tv, took great delight in shredding any post that came through the door and made a point of threatening the postman in the process. She had her own box of toys, and a preferred place on the couch. At Christmas, her presents would be placed lovingly under the tree with all the other gifts.

When Ollie passed away, she gradually accepted another two dogs into the family, but always managed to maintain her position as top dog. She was the boss. She knew it. They knew it. We all knew it.

Mum took her to the vets today after seeing a quite a sudden deterioration in her health. After receiving X-rays, she was brought back home this evening. Jess jumped on the couch with the other dogs, curled up, and quietly passed away. She knew. She waited to come back home, to be with her family, and said her goodbyes before she left.

I’ll miss her very much. I’ll miss the cuddles and the constant affection, I’ll even miss the slobbery toys. Most of all, I’ll miss the unconditional love that she brought to my mother’s home and to our lives.

Goodbye, my feisty little friend. I’m sure that wherever you are, and whatever you’re doing, you’re showing them who’s boss.

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Questions, Questions, Questions: The WordPress Community Experiment

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Last December I asked a set of seven questions to the WordPress community and invited anyone and everyone to participate. The response that I received was incredible, and the resulting answers gave me a small insight into the blogging world and it’s members.

Since then, my following has tripled, I have received nearly A QUARTER OF A MILLION views (I still can’t believe that) and over the last eight months I have ‘met’ and formed small relationships with lots of wonderful people, so I thought it would be a nice idea to do this experiment again. It isn’t a blog party, so please don’t leave links to your general posts, but it (if enough people participate) will provide a great opportunity for bloggers to meet new people who share similar interests. You don’t have to follow this blog, or have a lot of blogging experience to participate.

Here’s how it works:

Answer the questions below, either in your own post (link it back to this one) or in the comment section below. They can be as short or as detailed as you like.

The post will remain open for the next three days, during which I will compile all the answers. Any answers you provide will be directly linked to your blog, and I will include examples of everybody’s answers in the follow up post.

1. How did you create the title for your blog?

2. What’s the one bit of blogging advice you would give to new bloggers?

3. What is the strangest experience you’ve ever had?

4. What is the best thing that anybody has ever said to you?

5. When presented with a time machine, which one place and time would you visit?

6. If you had to pick a new first name, what would you choose?

7. If you were a B Movie, what would it be called?

 

I’m looking forward to reading your answers! Feel free to invite your bloggy friends to participate – share, reblog, and retweet to your hearts content!

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog, and you can also find me on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/suzie81speaks

THIS EXPERIMENT HAS NOW ENDED. COMMENTS HAVE NOW BEEN DISABLED ON THIS POST. THANK YOU TO ALL THOSE WHO PARTICIPATED!