Today is my 38th birthday and I thought to mark the occasion I’d share 38 things from the 38 years I’ve been around. Not one per year and not in any special order either, just 38 random things that I appreciate, that I enjoyed, that I’m glad happened or that I always want to remember.
The main reason for writing this is that, right now, life is doom and gloom. We have had some really tough years as a society – with the pandemic, the cost of living crisis and even the Queen dying. And now the rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer and none of our bills are getting cheaper. So I needed something positive to think about – and this is it.
So here are 38 things from my life so far that make me happy to look back on and think about:
I feel like I should add here, this is a LONG post. It ended up being quite cathartic and I love to write, so it ended up much longer than I expected. I completely understand if you just look at the photos or skim read it!
1 – Learning to swim as an adult
I didn’t learn to swim as a child. We had free swimming lessons at school for a term or two but, other than that, my parents didn’t have the money to pay for lessons – or holidays where we could swim regularly. So I didn’t learn to swim until just a few years ago when I was 33. Learning to swim has changed my life. It’s allowed me to do so much more, to be more present with the children and it’s given me confidence in the water that I’ve never had before. It’s one of the best things I have ever done.
2 – Going to Florida for the holiday of a lifetime – and then going back again
As a child we always dreamed of going to Florida but it was a when we win the lottery pipe dream. I hoped that, instead, I’d be able to take my own children one day. But it had always been a quiet hope. I didn’t really see it as achievable until we went in 2018. I can’t remember how many times I cried, it was a dream come true.
But we also got to have that holiday of a lifetime again last summer, our post-pandemic, blow out holiday. And it was epic. I’m so glad we got to experience such a magical holiday – and twice too.
3 – Buying our forever home – and then extending it, twice
We bought our first home in 2006 and then our current home in 2010. At the time we saw it as our forever home, a three bed Victorian semi with loads of potential. A big garden and a house like I’d never dreamed of owning.
Since then we have done our extension, converted the loft and it’s now a home that can last forever. It’s big enough for all of us and has so many memories associated with it. I can’t imagine ever moving – despite how often I look at Right Move!
4 – Having our cats, Luke and Leia
Luke and Leia came into our lives early in 2007, just after we bought our first home. They made Dave and I a family for the first time, taught us so much responsibility and were the little sidekicks we’d never known we’d needed.
We originally got them to keep me company when Dave was working evenings and nights but they ended up being the best impulse buy we have ever made. Costing just £20 each, they were little black balls of fluff and they grew to be our awesome little buddies. We lost Luke a few years ago but Leia is still going strong, she’s my shadow and I would be lost without her.
5 – Meeting Dave – on the internet, long before it was a done thing
Back in 2003 I found myself on an internet dating site, researching a college project about the evolutionary theories of sexual attraction, originally a study based around personals columns in the newspaper. When I ended up dropping out of college and breaking up with my boyfriend at the time I thought I’d use internet dating for its intended purpose – and met Dave on my last attempt at internet dating.
He sent me a message saying I had a nice smile. We spoke constantly for a week, met up for a drink in Surbiton and the rest is history. We bought a house 2 years later and got married 3 years after that.
6 – Getting married
Getting married was something I never thought I’d do. Coming from a family with more marriages and divorces than Eastenders, marriage never felt that important to me. Or having kids really. I had quite a traumatic childhood at times, despite the wholesome, grounding impact it also had, and it put me off traditional family life.
But, when I met Dave I thought that, actually, getting married and having kids wouldn’t be so bad. It could actually be something I dare hope for. And so when we got married, and I said my vows, I cried through the rest of the ceremony. It felt like such a relief to have got that far, getting married was huge, and something I never thought I’d do. We had the best day, surrounded by everyone who was important to us at the time and it couldn’t have gone better.
7 – Having amazing pre-children holidays
Before the kids came along we had some fantastic holidays – my first trip abroad to the Dominican Republic when me and Dave had only been together for three months, Mexico for our honeymoon, a beach break in Egypt with my Dad, his partner and my baby brother, and city breaks in Paris, Rome and our pre-babies blow out to Las Vegas. So many memories made.
We did go to Tunisia too but we won’t talk about that.
8 – Having the kids
Obviously, having the kids is on this list. They changed my life, made me into who I am today and completely moved our goalposts in life. Everything we do is for the children, all our decisions are with them at the core and I cannot imagine life without them.
I feel so incredibly lucky to have two amazing children. They’re polite, respectful and kind but they also know so much, make me laugh constantly and give the best cuddles. Watching them grow into the people they’ve always been destined to be is such a privilege and I just love having them by my side.
9 – Showing the children the world
Since the children came along, and moved out of nappies, our main aim has been to show them the world. To travel and to see everywhere through the children’s eyes. We went on a couple of Mark Warner holidays to Greece – Lemnos and Lakitira – that were amazing,we went on a villa holiday to Mallorca and went to Mauritius just before the pandemic.
We also went to Rome, our first proper city break were the kids walked their socks off, and have also been to Puy Du Fou and Billund which felt like real adventures. Holidays with the kids are always such great experiences for all of us.
10 – Having speech therapy
When I was little I had speech therapy and I remember it clearly. Going to a little NHS building every week and talking to a nice lady who got me to colour in a snake and say snake every time a box was filled in.
I had speech therapy because I’d had a dummy until I was 5. I had it constantly and learnt to talk around it. I couldn’t pronounce letters properly and I’d drop letters off the start of words. Thankfully speech therapy fixed the issues and we went through the same thing with Little Man when he was at nursery school and it brought back so many memories. I’m so glad we had the treatment we needed.
11 – Having squint surgery
Also, when I was about three, I had surgery to correct a squint. One of my eyes had turned in and I had corrective surgery followed by a patch over my good eye and NHS glasses. Considering this was in the 1980s they did a fantastic job and I know I’m a more confident person because of the surgery I had as a child.
12 – Learning to love myself
I was bullied throughout school and had really low self esteem. I hated everything about me that the bullies picked on – being ginger, wearing glasses, my face, wearing braces. I was literally picked on until the last day of secondary school and it took years for me to look in a mirror and like myself.
Now, over twenty years after leaving school, I love being me. I love being ginger and passing that gene on to my daughter. I love that I can see, and glasses make that happen. I love that my body gave me two beautiful children and that I am able to function happily in life. There’s a lot to love when you don’t get hung up on other people’s thoughts, the media or stereotypes but it took a long time to get to this point.
13 – Working my way up to management at the bank
When I got kicked out of home just after my seventeenth birthday I had to work full time at Woolworths, where I’d been working part time since I was 14. But, when I was 18 I moved to working for a high street bank and worked my bum off to progress.
At the peak of my career, when the kids were born, I was a branch manager and I am so proud of myself for that. I left school with just my GCSEs, never got to finish my A Levels but worked hard and got a decent job. There’s a lot to be said for hard work and perseverance.
14 – Becoming self employed
I’m so pleased I took the leap to go self employed. It’s not something I’d ever imagines doing as I didn’t think, earlier in life, that I had the skills, the talent, the education. But, I taught myself so much about blogging and marketing that the jump to self employment came really naturally – and I’m so proud of myself and this space online.
15 – Learning to drive
It may have been pretty much twenty years ago but learning to drive really opened up my world. My whole life had covered such a small area before I learnt to drive and once I passed my test I felt like life had opened up for me. It was such an amazing feeling.
16 – Finding my love of reading again
I loved reading when I was a child and teenager but as soon as I started working full time at 17 I just didn’t have time to read. I only really found my love of reading again a few years ago and have ploughed through books ever since, making up for lost time.
I love reading. Books can take you on so many adventures, give you some time out from day to day life and make you feel such a huge range of emotions too. I can’t imagine stopping reading now.
17 – Doing well in my GCSEs
My parents split up the weekend before my GCSE’s started. I focused as best I could, throwing everything I had at just getting through the exams and not letting myself down after five really hard years at secondary school.
I came away with ten GCSEs, 2 A’s (in art and geography), 5 B’s, 2 C’s and a D (in electronics) and I couldn’t have been more proud of myself.
18 – Attempting college
My GCSE results opened the door to college for me and as soon as I started it was like a breath of fresh air. It was so different to school – differences were celebrated rather than ridiculed and it was just so diverse. I felt like I’d found my happy place and I loved getting up in the morning, choosing what to wear and then debating my way through law classes, english literature, psychology and sociology.
Sadly, I was only able to go to college for three short months. After I got kicked out of home I had to work full time and it was a massive adjustment for me. I tried to go back to college in the evenings over the following two years but never lasted more than three months. It was too much to deal with when I was 17/18, working full time and trying to hold myself together.
I’ll always be glad that I had that college experience, even just for a short time, and it showed me what education could be like. A happy place with supportive teachers, inspiring classes and so many different people.
19 – Getting a Digital Marketing qualification
This year I decided I wanted to have something formal to put on my CV for all the social media and digital marketing stuff I had learnt since becoming a blogger all those years ago. So, I did an online Digital Marketing Qualification. It was only a short course – a few months – but alongside family life, blogging and starting a new job it was a lot of work. But I did it!
20 – Getting a banking qualification
I also managed to get a banking qualification whilst I was working at the bank. A certificate in retail banking. It’s something I doubt I will ever use again but I worked really hard to get it and, after dropping out of college, I value every qualification I’ve been able to get.
21 – Getting my first job in Woolworths
One big thing for me was starting working at Woolworths when I was 14. Back then I had to get a work permit from the local council and my school had to sign forms to say they were happy that working wouldn’t affect my studies. I jumped through hoops, got the job and worked there for nearly five years.
Woolworths was definitely an experience. It had good and bad times whilst I was working there and it was the backdrop to me moving out of home, dropping out of college and a pretty bleak time in my life. But, it was also somewhere I could be me after years of bullying at school. It was somewhere that gave me confidence, taught me life skills and gave me a step into the world of work.
22 – Donating my hair to the Little Princess Trust
A few years ago I donated my hair to the Little Princess Trust. I’ve always felt quite meh about hair. I was bullied for being ginger for a long time but learnt to love my hair by the time we had children. But, I’ve always felt that hair isn’t too important because if you cut it off it grows again. It’s not the end of the world if you have awful hair – you can change it.
So, I cut my hair off, donated it to the Little Princess Trust, fundraised to generate money for them to make a wig too and now I hope there’s a ginger child somewhere with a wig that is perfect for them that I helped create. I’ll donate again at some point.
23 – Coming home to a house that smelt of baking after school as a kid
One of my biggest childhood memories is the smell of baking when I came home from school. My mum didn’t bake with me often but she did always bake. There’d be jam tarts, biscuits or some sort of cake most weeks. She’s was very traditional and great in the kitchen. I’ve always associated baking with being a mum and I now bake all the time too. I hope our children always remember that baking smell and love our weekly baking sessions in the kitchen too. They often bake with me.
24 – My snowy bear
The children asked the other day if I had a favourite cuddly toy when I was growing up and it reminded me of my ‘snowy’ bear. A super soft, white cuddly bear with a brown nose and big brown eyes. I’m sure he had a ribbon around his neck at one point and I have no idea where he came from but I slept with im every night until I left home – and then he was one of the things that I didn’t have space to take with me.
He used to have a little plastic but velvety nose and I remember picking the velvet off when I was half asleep, leaving him with this super shiny, hard plastic nose. He wasn’t the same after that, and regretted picking the velvet off, but I still loved him all the same.
25 – Roller skating – and ice skating
As a teenager I wasn’t allowed out much as there’d been a big news story locally that had made my mother super protective. Our local corner shop had a one child at a time policy because of people stealing and a little girl was snatched whilst waiting for her brother outside the shop. It didn’t end well and because of that my mother hardly let me out of her sight.
So I spent a lot of time rollerblading outside our house. We lived in a cul de sac that was opposite another cul de sac and I could skate from one to the other, around and back again. I’d listen to music and practice going forwards and backwards, turning and spinning.
At those times I was just in my own little bubble. Every so often other kids would join me to skate but most of the time it was just me, headphones in, skating and listening to music. It was my happy place at a time when school was tough.
I found out later that because I could rollerblade, ice skating came naturally to me and I absolutely love ice skating. I don’t do it often – once a year at best – but absolutely love those minutes on the ice. It just makes me feel so free and slightly nostalgic too.
26 – Maternity leave
One of the best times of my life was maternity leave. It worked out that I had 15 months off with each baby – maternity leave with annual leave tacked on to either side – and only worked for 6 months in between. Working for 6 months out of three years definitely wasn’t bad.
But, maternity leave was hard. I was isolated and lonely at times. Dave worked shifts and I didn’t know many other people who had babies or young children – most people I knew were working during the week. But, I got quality time with LP and Little Man, I started a blog, I went to coffee shops with lovely friends when we could and I spent a lot of time in my PJs, relaxing at home, watching daytime TV and just not worrying about anything. It was lovely.
27 – Friends
Throughout my life I have had different groups of friends but, aside from on social media, I’m not in touch with anyone from school or my younger years anymore. But, I do have a handful of amazing friends who I love dearly and really appreciate. I don’t see them all very often but when we see each other it’s like we haven’t been apart.
28 – Time with friends
Because I don’t see friends often, time with them is precious and I really look forward to it. Whether it’s a day out with the kids, a spa day or just a catch up over a cup of tea, it’s always time well spent.
29 – Spa breaks
Over the last ten years or so I’ve found a love of spa breaks or even just a spa day with a few hours to switch off and unwind. I love going somewhere with a good friend, relaxing and catching up whilst wearing a fluffy robe, having a swim or sitting in a jacuzzi. It’s pretty much perfect me-time!
30 – Afternoon tea
Another thing I have found a real love of is afternoon tea. Dainty sandwiches, little cakes, scones and a lovely pot of tea. I think I’ve reached peak middle age – afternoon tea, spa days and a good book. Pretty much me sorted.
31 – Binge watching TV
Something else I love, but don’t get much time for since starting a new job, is binge watching TV shows. Gilmore Girls, Pretty Little Liars, Chesapeake Shores, Virgin River… I even started watching Grey’s Anatomy from the beginning before I realised how long it is!
I can multitask quite well and fell into a really nice routine of working really hard in the mornings at home and then at about 1pm I’d relocate and sit in front of the TV, watching a couple of hours of TV whilst doing admin. Pretty much the perfect work/life balance.
32 – The blogging community online
A huge part of my life for the last ten years has been the blogging community online. Whether it be in a Facebook group or bloggers on social media, it’s something I have really valued over the years. Other bloggers are a great source of inspiration but they also really understand the freelance, influencer life. They just get it like ‘normal’ people don’t which is something you really need at times.
Plus, the blogging community has brought with it amazing events – from my first Britmums Live conference to the Flea Retreats and so many Blog On conferences too. But, the main thing the blogging community has brought me is some amazing friendships. I have so many friends online, and some who I see regularly offline too, that I wouldn’t have without blogging – and I love them all.
33 – Doing a skydive
Another big moment for me was doing a skydive in 2004. It was just after I’d met Dave and I’d booked it a few months before as a way to draw a line after a really awful couple of years. For me, throwing myself out of a plane was a bonkers thing to do and a way of saying ‘f*** it’ to everything that had been before, starting afresh afterwards.
Despite only meeting me a couple of weeks before, Dave came and sat in a field with me, all day until it was my turn to skydive. It was a tandem skydive and I paid to have a photographer jump at the same time, giving me photos that I’ll always appreciate having. Life definitely picked up after that and it was a big turning point for me.
34 – Amazing days out
We have had some incredible days out over the years and the ones that I love to remember most are Lapland UK – one of our best blogging opportunities that came when the children were the perfect age for it, our Mauritius boat trip where we snorkeled, went sightseeing and just relaxed on the water for the whole day, and Blists Hill. Somewhere we have been so many times now but somewhere that never fails to make me happy. It’s a wonderful place.
35 – Getting my teeth straightened
Another big moment for me was getting my teeth straightened. It was a blog collaboration but it completely changed me, giving me so much confidence and helping me smile so much more. I only had braces for 6 months but they worked so well and I now have fixed retainers behind my teeth to stop them moving again – as I had braces as a teen but as I got older my teeth moved massively.
36 – Starting a blog
Starting this blog was a spur of the moment decision but one that changed my life in so many ways. It gave me a new career path, income when I most needed it and so many days out and experiences for the children that we would never have been able to afford.
The blog has helped us travel, shown us more of the UK, given us so many products to test and even seen me sing with Alexandra Burke. I can’t believe that starting a blog one morning when 6 month old LP was having a nap could turn into what it has. I’ll always be thankful that I was bored and started to write. I have never looked back.
37 – Feeling settled
I know many people get itchy feet and want to move, want to do more, want to progress in careers, what to achieve more. But, right now, at 38, I feel pretty settled. We have lived in our home for nearly 12 years and it definitely feels like home.
We have solid roots here and I cannot imagine living anywhere else – as much as I love the idea of living by the sea. Knowing our children have always lived in this house, they were born in this house, seeing the memories almost ingrained on the floors and walls. It’s a really lovely feeling to just be happy where you are and not striving for something else.
38 – Being content
And lastly, a nice follow on from feeling settled – I feel pretty content in life. I have had a lot of ups and downs over the years but I have such a nice life. I have two incredible kids, a solid relationship with a man who still makes me laugh every day and a beautiful home.
We go on holiday once a year, we can afford to maintain our pretty simple lifestyle and I enjoy my work – on the blog and the social media work I do for a local charity. I feel like I’m at a point in my life where most people are looking for the next thing and I’m just so content where I am.
Up until now there has not been a point at which I’ve been truly content with life. When Dave and I met we were soon buying a house then we were planning a wedding, moving house, having babies and extending our house, changing jobs, going self employed and then doing a loft conversion. Then the pandemic hit and it was hard to feel content about anything when life was turned upside down.
But now, a couple of years later, I’m 38 and life is pretty good. I’m healthy, I have people that care about me, I have little adventures on the calendar and I have so much to look forward to without needing much more in my life. It’s a really good place to be.
And there you have a walk through 38 years of me. If you’ve got this far – I’m amazed. It turned into an epic blog post but one that was quite cathartic to write. Here’s to the privilege of getting another year older. Here’s to 38.