Goodbye 2013, a year of positive change. Let 2014 continue in your footsteps

Last month I finally plucked up the courage to sign myself up to a big charity challenge, the Inca Trail Trek, raising funds for St Cuthbert’s Hospice. For years I’ve been tempted to sign up for one of these big challenges, but I’ve always been a bit scared of needing to raise a minimum amount of £3500+ and so have never quite had the courage to sign up. What is different about this challenge? Not much really. I still need to raise a minimum amount of £3800 which is a scary figure. What helped is that the Hospice held an informal talk about the challenge, the trek itself, preparation for the trek and raising the funds. Attending the talk and listening to our guide talk about the Inca Trail and his own personal charity challenges made it feel much more achievable and inspired me to sign up.

2013 has been a very positive year for me, particularly as the past few years have been really tough as numerous family members have been diagnosed with and were battling cancer. Thankfully this has not continued in to 2013, and that alone is an extremely positive feeling. On a more personal note I have moved jobs in to a new department, currently on a secondment basis until the end of June but I am hopeful it will turn it to something permanent, and if not then I have gained a lot of experience in a new sector and developed new skills. Early in 2013 I lost 2 stone (14lbs) in weight, dropped two dress sizes and am now feeling much more confident and happy in myself. My weight loss inspired me to become more active and exercise regularly, resulting in a new hobby which I love. For the first time in my life I actually enjoy exercising! And earlier this year I took the holiday of a lifetime with my other half, a road trip around California with a few days in Las Vegas. I was lucky enough to go with my parents when I was 16, and I’ve been desperate to go back ever since, and I’m so pleased that I was able to go back there and share some amazing experiences with my husband.

I’m also pleased to say that my fundraising has got off to a great start, (if I do say so myself!). In just seven weeks, and with the help of my friends and family, I’ve already raised 12% of my personal target of £4000. I am so pleased to have got off to such a great start, and it’s certainly boosted my confidence in being able to successfully complete this challenge. There is still a long way to go so I just hope that the next 17 months are as successful! You can follow my financial progress at any time by visiting my JustGiving page here, and of course if your feeling a little flush and generous you can always donate via my JustGiving page too :o)

A big thank you to everyone for your support so far, and for the support that I know will continue into 2014 and 2015. As we say goodbye to 2013 I’d like to wish you all a very happy, and positive New Year for 2014.

xx

Gift wrapping for charity, and a not so secret Secret Santa

Well I’ve been a little lax with blogging over the past few weeks as I’ve been keeping myself pretty busy in the run up to Christmas; parties to go to, presents to buy, family to visit and before I know it three weeks have gone by. Isn’t it scary just how fast time passes by once you’re an adult? I remember as a kid that Christmas could never come quick enough and nowadays it feels like Christmas comes around every few months!

So, I’m sure you’re wondering what I’ve been doing for my big Inca Trail Challenge this month. Wrapping. Lot’s of wrapping. And more wrapping. I’m all wrapped out. In fact, I’m looking forward to just ripping wrapping paper off of presents tomorrow, and not worrying about neat edges and pretty ribbon! But, on the plus side the gift wrapping has brought in £40 so far, with another donation on the way, so it was well worth offering up my services to raise funds. It would also seem that I will get more wrapping jobs next Christmas so I’ll have to be more proactive with my Christmas shopping and wrapping next year and get everything sorted out long before December.

So far I’ve only opened one Christmas present this year (another sign that I am definitely grown up now!) which was my Secret Santa gift. It’s a really lovely and thoughtful gift, inspired by my upcoming challenge so I’d thought I’d share this one with you all.

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A handmade vanity mirror with personalised message and a map of Peru on the back, complete with its own little bag and box to keep it safe. When I first opened the box I thought it was a small coaster for drinks which I did think was a bit odd, but my Santa (yes we figure out who our Santa is, so hardly very secret!) told me to turn it over to see the mirror – I got a bit of shock as wasn’t quite expecting a face staring back at me! It will be so handy on the trek itself, and one of those items which I hadn’t really given any thought to. In fact I hadn’t really given any thought to appearance in general. Is now a good time to panic about the lack of hair straighteners and make-up?! Maybe I’ll worry about that later. Anyway, I now have handy little mirror, just for me and perfect for the trek… and hopefully I’ll only need to use the mirror side and not need to study the map if we get lost!

Things I have learnt after a few hours in a supermarket

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Today I’ve been coin collecting at Tesco in Durham market place, and want to say a big thank you to Tesco for giving me a slot so quickly, and the generosity of their staff. I’ve had a really productive day, raising £147.75 in less than five hours (I had to leave for a bit to go to the dentist or I’d have put a full shift in), which is a fantastic boost to my fundraising total so far, I’ve almost doubled it in one day! 

You might think it quite boring to stand in the doorway of a supermarket for so long, but I’ve actually had an interesting day. I love to people watch, and standing there with a big bucket that you’re trying to fill with the loose change in people’s pockets, purses, wallets and hands is the perfect people watching job to be doing. I am often baffled by what I witness when people watching, and often wonder what ever happened to common sense? Here are a few people who baffled me today:

Mr. “I Must Send This Text/E-mail/Tweet RIGHT NOW”

I’ll just set the scene first – the walkway from the tills to the exit doors is pretty narrow, no more than two people can walk alongside each other at one time, and this happened during the busy lunch hour rush. Mr. “I Must Send This Text/E-mail/Tweet RIGHT NOW” decides that just after he has paid for his shopping and is leaving the shop, he MUST send a message on his phone, so he stops dead right in the middle of the narrow exit, discarding the notion of sitting down on the bench two feet away from him. He doesn’t move for at least a minute until the message has been sent, creating chaos behind him as people struggle to get past. What confuses me further is that no one actually said “excuse me” and instead chose to struggle and say nothing!

Another similar situation in the same area, I watched a guy who had dropped something crouch down on to the floor and then stick his leg straight out behind him without even looking, and a poor elderly lady nearly fell straight over it! Seriously, do people like this create havoc everywhere they go, or I’m just been pessimistic?

The “Jokers”

Sadly I noticed this type of mentality in a few people throughout the day, suggesting that there are a number of people who just need to get a life, but there was one person in particular who stood out. A few times I noticed that as people were passing me they seemed to be bouncing change around in their hand or would pull their wallet out for no reason, whilst smirking my way, as if they were depriving me of a slice of cake at a birthday party. I didn’t think too much of it until late in the day when a young lad, maybe late teens or early 20’s, purposely stopped in front of me and told his friends he would catch up. He then proceeded to spend a good two or three minutes rooting around in his backpack, taking things out and putting them back in again, shooting glances at me all the while, only to eventually stand up and walk out whilst trying not to laugh. Thankfully, some of that rare female insight had held me back from expecting any contribution from him, so I did not give him the satisfaction of acting like I was expecting anything, or look disappointed when he left.

I did of course come across some lovely people who really demonstrated that there are still some kind souls out there

The Explainers

I really appreciated the “explainers” as they made sure that I didn’t feel invisible and that I was somebody to be avoided – which is sadly how many people acted (and no doubt how I have acted before when passing a collection tin and have no money!). These type of people included those who contributed and those who didn’t. Whether it was just to explain that they only had 5p on them, or that they only had lots of small coins in their purse, or that they didn’t have any change with them, or even that they already donate to the hospice, they all felt it necessary to interact with me and explain their situation. I feel that they have taught me a valuable lesson, and I will never again walk past a coin collector without acknowledging their presence!

The Supporters

I’m classing anyone who stopped to talk to me about the Hospice, or that I was collecting for charity, a “supporter” as I couldn’t really think of another term which summed them up. The supporters included at least three people who all volunteer or fundraise for the Hospice themselves so it was lovely to meet them and hear about what they do. I spoke with a number of people who have had experience with the work of the Hospice with their own family members, and it was great to hear their kind words of support and about their own experiences. I also met a man training a guide dog for the blind, who told me that having a dog with you really helps collections – he was once stood in the street with the dog and his can of pop and someone tried to put money in his can! If only I could train my cats up to come collecting with me and we could be on to a winner!

All in all it’s been a good day for fundraising and inspired me to arrange more coin collection days!