Travel Sparkles ✨

An Irish Road Trip – Knock

November 2021 I was lucky enough to visit Ireland for a week. I was supposed to go for Easter 2020 but with the lockdowns there wasn’t any travel at all. Since then I have been checking various rules and restrictions both in the UK and Ireland and I was able to plan my trip just before additional restrictions were imposed due to the Omicron mutation of Covid. This was the first time I had ever undertaken a road trip and the first time I had done anything like this alone. I was excited and scared. My mantra was ‘You’re a strong, independent woman, you can do this’. After all, it was Ireland I was going to, it’s almost like home plus, I am blessed with cousins the length and breath of Ireland should I get into any dramas, I would have someone to call on.

Up and Away

My first night was spent in Ashbourne, County Meath and the following day I made the journey across Ireland to a tiny and internationally known village named Knock, in County Mayo.

Knock is famous due to the appearance of Our Lady in 1879, you can read all about this story and the shrine here https://www.knockshrine.ie/ Growing up, the Summer holidays were always taken in Ireland so that my parents could visit their parents and families. Mom’s family were located in the West of Ireland, around County Galway, County Mayo and County Roscommon and therefore whilst we were there, there was always a day out at Knock. As a child I always found this boring because of course I wanted to be out playing or running around on the beach or the farm. I remember returning to school in September and we would all be saying to each other ‘Did you have to go to Knock’?

Knock became very special to my parents when their health declined and they couldn’t go out to Mass. They would watch Mass daily at 3pm online and I would join them for Mass on Sunday. I often thought to myself when watching the Mass online what I wouldn’t give to be in Knock right at that moment with them and how much they would love to have been there. After they passed away I knew in my heart that I needed to go to Knock and therefore as soon as I could get to Ireland, the visit to Knock was my main agenda.

I felt many emotions being in Knock. I was so happy to be there at last, emotional at the memories of past visits with my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. Sad that I didn’t have my parents with me yet at peace that I was there. There is something about Knock Shrine, the stillness, the quietness, the air of peace and tranquillity that makes an impact on you. I needed to experience this healing and I needed to experience it alone, to have the freedom to spend hours looking around, to having a cappuccino to just doing things in my time without having to worry about anyone else.

Chapel of Reconciliation

Knock Shrine has changed a lot since I used to visit with my parents. As you will see from the website, Knock has a lot to offer from youth centres to counselling, retreats to concerts, walks in the grounds and a visit to the museum. Although I was there for three days I didn’t actually get to the museum, that’s for next time. I did however visit the newly created Chapel of Reconciliation. Absolutely beautiful in there, calming, serene and still. Whilst I was there I decided to go to confession and ended up having over an hour in conversation with a lovely, elderly priest. I told him my story of looking after Mom and Dad and how I was now starting on another phase of life. He asked me if I had ever thought of writing a book, he felt my experiences of working, becoming a full time carer, the feelings when the caregiver journey ended and rebuilding life, could be invaluable to others in a similar position. I told him that I have this blog and also about my music, perhaps I could reach people via these mediums? Maybe the motivational posts on my social media could help? All I know is that I came out of that conversation feeling like a weight had been lifted from my soul. I felt a sparkle of excitement for the future and also a knowing that you can’t wait to do things. We don’t know how long we have here so we have to make the most of everyday. That conversation made me feel inspired, gave me confidence to be me and just go out there and do what I feel I need to do. To be me, to believe in myself and what I can give, or share with others.

Photo by Italo Melo on Pexels.com

I do have more to tell about my trip to Ireland but I felt that my visit to Knock Shrine needed a post of it’s own. The visit meant so much to me and did so much for me, I couldn’t have covered it within a few sentences within a travel blog. I hope I’ve given you a sense of the beauty of Knock and whether you are of faith or not, I think everyone who visits this place leaves with a sense of peace and tranquillity.

With love and sparkles xxx

Life Sparkles ✨

January

Magical January.

Some people find January and the start of the year very flat and depressing. After all the hustle and bustle of the Christmas and New Year season, the glitz and the glamour, the excitement and the sparkle, I suppose January can feel quite uninspiring. Winter weather, darker nights and mornings, a long time to wait for payday, January can be a long, dark month.

I don’t know why and taking the above into consideration, I have always loved January. The evenings are starting to get brighter with the promise of Spring on the way. I love it especially if we get those cold, clear, frosty days, it’s almost like a cleansing of the new year ready for the activities ahead to take place.

Live in the magic.

I suppose I am ever the optimist. Always trying to see the positives, look for the bright side of situations, seeing the sparkle however dim it may be in some situations. I must be a pain in the ass to those who see January as a dark place. I hope though that by reaching out to those who are struggling, listening to their story and giving a loving word, we can let a little of the brightness of the new year through and help them to see a path forwards.

365 reasons to celebrate.

January you are awesome, the gateway to a new year, fresh and brighter days ahead.

With love and sparkles xxx

Life Sparkles ✨

New Year 2022

Heather Stillufsen Quotes

Here we are another new year beckons. Has 2021 gone by in a flash for you? Did you set resolutions last year and did you keep to them? Did you set goals or make plans and did you carry them out or was it a case that as the year progressed you had ideas and acted on them? Sometimes we put a lot of pressure on ourselves, especially at new year, to make plans, set goals and follow dreams whether they be diet and fitness (which yes, I’ll be on that one yet again) or career changes, life changes…the list goes on.

I was watching a video recently about not setting resolutions but choosing a word to live by for the year ahead. The man in the video had chosen the word ‘Growth’ as his word for 2021 and tried to ensure that the actions he took throughout the year led to growth within his life in someway. I thought this was a good idea, rather than setting resolutions that I wouldn’t keep to, I would choose a word for 2022. However, I can settle on one word for the year ahead, I have too many in my mind and cannot decide on just one.

Guilty as charged.

I am proud of myself for pushing ahead and recording the four songs I have written. I feel this year has been a year of preparation and hard work ready for next year and launching the music career properly. I know I have a lot of hard work ahead in order to make things happen, I’m ready. I feel there is good energy around for 2022, I think that it is really going to sparkle for everyone. As you get older you appreciate each day and take less for granted. In 2022 I want to celebrate each day, whether I’m working, relaxing, planning or singing. Each day is a new day to live and focus on our health, wellbeing, inner peace and happiness. We really do need to share our inner sparkle.

Celebrate each day and sparkle.

Wishing you all the most wonderfully Happy New Year, I hope 2022 brings you all you could wish for.

With love and sparkles xxx

Life Sparkles ✨

Christmas Season

I hope you have all enjoyed a wonderful Christmas season. I love the sparkle of the season, honestly it is my time with all the lights, glitter and sheer magic of this season. Thankfully it has been a little better for us this year than last although it would appear we still have a way to go in our battle with the pandemic.

Christmas Sparkles

I put my Christmas tree up this year towards the end of November, during the first weekend of Advent. I felt nothing, no joy, no sadness, nothing, just numb. The previous two years I have put the tree up and it made me feel very sad, tears were shed, I missed my parents and the memories of our Christmas traditions with the putting up of the tree. It was always Mom and I who decorated the tree after Dad had assembled it. Once it was done, there would be tea, or sherry and the obligatory mince pies. We would wait for darkness to fall so that we could turn on the Christmas Tree lights and just stare in wonder at the beauty. But this year, I felt nothing. Perhaps this is a further sign of moving forwards with life? Perhaps I have lost the magic of Christmas within my heart this year? Perhaps a number of things, I don’t have the answer, it’s just how I felt on the day. I have shed tears since and no doubt I will in the future especially at such an emotional time as Christmas. Grief I am learning just hits as and when it wants, without warning and you just have to roll with it.

I do know that those that have gone before us don’t want us to be sad and unhappy. I’m sure that my parents and my sister would want new traditions to be formed, happy times shared with the friends and family we love and that we raise a glass, or a cup of tea to them in memory of Christmases past. We are here now, we are given the gift of life with each other each day and we mustn’t waste it. We need to celebrate each day with each other, support each other and share the joys and sadness that life brings to us all. Isn’t that what the message of Christmas is all about? Love.

Merry Christmas

With love and sparkles xxx

The Music Sparkle ✨🎶

Evolving

As if I need an excuse to drink coffee…

Well, a bit like my city in my last post, I’ve been evolving too. I changed my website host to WordPress, because I love using it for my blog and decided it will be easier for me to update something I am familiar using. So my website for my music is https://dawnmaxwellmusic.com/ please check it out and let me know what you think. It’s very different to how I had built the website before and I like this new look. It has just come to mind that it ties in with one of the songs I have written and recorded ‘Fade to Grey’, perhaps that was no coincidence. I admit there isn’t much content yet on the website but I have plans for 2022 and hopefully I will be very busy updating the website with what I’m up to music wise. So exciting.

I have also changed the content to my FB music page. I love positive quotes and affirmations and I was receiving messages telling me that my daily posts, non music related, were very uplifting and gave people positive vibes in the mornings. So alongside the music, I’m continuing with the quotes, affirmations and all things sparkle because that’s just who I am. For some reason I was trying to keep the music separate and then it hit me, it is who I am so I need to just embrace it and bring it all along together. It may not fit for some people but it fits for me and if just one person gets a much needed lift or positive energy from a post then I love that. https://www.facebook.com/DawnMaxwellMusic So if you are on FB, pop over and give me a follow and join in with the positive vibes and sparkle a plenty.

Gratitude

I will take this opportunity to say a very big thank you to everyone who has supported me on my journey. The high’s, the low’s and the rock bottom. Although I encounter some very black, sad days that are hard to bear, I also encounter some very happy, make it happen, you can do this days. It’s amazing how a random comment from someone can lift you up and raise your spirits and give you confidence to believe in yourself. I am so grateful for you all and I feel blessed to have met you along our paths, online or otherwise.

With love and sparkles xxx

Life Sparkles ✨

It’s been a while!

It must be 2014 since I last visited the Birmingham Frankfurt Christmas Market. With no longer working in the city centre and being a full time carer for my parents, going out and about just didn’t happen. The market was cancelled last year due to Covid 19 and the various lockdown restrictions. Earlier in the month himself was able to take a break from his role as carer for his Mom and we went out and about. It felt like normal life and that in itself felt strange.

City Centre Vibes

I haven’t been to the city centre since June 2019 and it has changed a lot since then. There is a lot of construction taking place, some of which is in preparation of the Commonwealth Games taking place next year. The Christmas market is smaller than usual this year because of construction and also in order to limit numbers to try to prevent spread of Covid infection.

The garlic bread with cheese was huge, double the size that I remember from past years. Delicious! The Gulwein with amaretto shot tasted so good. Himself had his hot chocolate. The city was quiet, very quiet for a lunch time. Perhaps a lot of people are working remotely and also with our infection rates currently so high, people may be hesitant to venture into the city. We both felt a lack of atmosphere. Unusually warm for November it didn’t have that cold Winter feel. It was lunchtime so we didn’t experience the magic of the sparkling lights at night. However, we both felt that the reason for our lack of atmosphere wasn’t the market or the weather, it was because life has changed so drastically for us both since the last time we were there together. We enjoyed our trip out, it was lovely to spend some quality time together, to be out and about in our city but the magic of yesteryear was missing.

It was a lovely day out into the city. We talked about how the city was evolving and how our parents used to talk to us about what the city was like when they first moved here and the changes they had seen. It’s amazing the changes that have taken place in our lifetime and how something’s have actually reverted back to what was in place when our parents were younger. In Birmingham there are now trams and more tramlines being fitted in order to connect various city centre main areas. I remember my Dad laughing when I told him a few years ago about trams coming to the city and he told me that there were trams running through the city when he first arrived here and he seen the lines being taken up and main roads being laid in their place. So our cities evolve, change and yet history repeats itself in a modern form.

Nativity Scene

I was delighted to see the Nativity scene in a more prominent place. There were a few years, back when I worked in the city, that the nativity appeared to be pushed to the outside of the market area where not many people would pass by. That made me sad, after all it is Christ that is the reason for Christmas and whatever our beliefs, and for a multicultural, vibrant in differences city such as Birmingham, I don’t believe such an important aspect of Christmas should be pushed to the back of a bustling Christmas festival area. We should not be ashamed of our nativity scenes. Embracing each others cultures, backgrounds and festivals will only make us more connected and accepting of each other. And really that’s what it’s all about.

With love and sparkles xxx

The Music Sparkle ✨🎶

Recording Day

Here we go…

Well, recording day was supposed to have taken place last Monday but I had one of those weeks were I was not feeling 100%. Started off as a head cold which then became a bit of a fever with a sore throat. Monday morning, recording day, I could barely speak, never mind sing so I had to postpone and reschedule for today. Fingers crossed. As last week progressed, I had aches, then headaches, nauseous tummy and more headaches. Thankfully not all on the same day. I rarely get ill so I’m hoping that now it’s behind me, that’s it for a long time to come. I did my lateral flow tests every two days, always negative so definitely not Covid. I did wonder where I picked this up from as I really don’t go to many places or see many people and any people I had seen have not been ill in any way? Life is strange.

I was disappointed at first that I had had to reschedule my recording day. I have been working on the songs I was due to record for over a year and had been rehearsing singing them for weeks. Making sure the timing was spot on, checking how I wanted to sing the song, where to emphasise the drama, the hurt, the pain and the release. However, once I had made the decision that I just wasn’t able to sing and therefore would be unable to give the songs 100% the disappointment left me. Everything happens for a reason so I’m thinking that I must be due to sing better than ever when I get behind the microphone today.

I completed a few modules on the music tech course I’m doing. I also love researching law of attraction and law of abundance. There appears to be so much online to read about these spiritual laws and of course you have to be careful what you are reading and who has written it. I love people who are just glowing with energy and positive vibes when they are telling their stories. The ones who aren’t trying to sell you the impossible or sell you masterclasses. No, the ones who are speaking from the heart, telling their own story. I enjoy those a lot. I do believe that in a way I am manifesting my dream life in singing although I know that I am working very hard behind the scenes to make it happen, I am making it happen. I wonder too if somehow I manifested the strange week of various ailments but not actually fully coming down with a cold/flu/sinus infection. Did I talk myself into having a bad throat? I know the previous week I had often voiced ‘all I need is to get a cold now and I won’t be able to record’. Hmmm, I wonder.

But first, Coffee

Have a fabulous Monday and a wonderful week ahead.

With love and sparkles xxx

Travel Sparkles ✨

A Surprise Getaway

Time to board.

During a Houseparty video call my cousin said ‘Dawn, the flights are £9.99 each way, book and come out for a week’. So I did! I admit I was apprehensive about travelling even though restrictions had been lifted. I decided that if I didn’t go for it, I would keep putting it off and end up never going back out there. I completed the relevant forms, downloaded apps, booked flights and packed my cabin bag. I was ready for off.

Restrictions were in place at Birmingham Airport and people complied. All documentation was checked, I had a row to myself on the plane and mask wearing was mandatory. All documentation was checked at Arrecife, Lanzarote’s airport and the bus company had provided individual taxi’s rather than the usual mini bus to Costa Teguise. Oh how good it felt to feel the warmth of the Spanish September sunshine. We took so much for granted before the pandemic. We could choose to go away for a trip, research the trip, book and go. It’s a very different story now with the various rules and regulations and I felt very lucky to actually be in Lanzarote after such a long time.

It’s so lovely to wake up everyday to beautiful sunshine, to know there was nothing to do but relax, stroll, swim and enjoy the day. After the previous few months dealing with and healing from burnout, this week away arrived at just the right time.

We walked every day, we swam and I was so pleased with myself. I went from four lengths of the pool to fourteen. Although we had our treats, especially some delicious cocktails and ice creams, I didn’t gain any weight, what a result!!! I can only put it down to the exercise. So much easier to go out for a long walk in the sunshine than the cold and pouring rain. Note to self – must push myself to exercise more over the Winter.

Summer clothes were bought and worn. Lockdown weight gain had ensured my usual Summer wardrobe no longer fitted me (a definite note to self – fit into your clothes for next Summer). There was something so healing and gentle about having the week with my cousin in Lanzarote. Regular readers of my blog will know I love Spain and all things Spanish. I was so happy out there. There’s something very therapeutic about being away from home. I can’t worry or stress about anything because I’m not there to deal with it and that thought somehow completely relaxes me.

Back home and feeling empowered to follow my dreams. My cousin is wise and when I am caught up in my head with all the things I am doing, want to do, need to do, hope to do and yet nothing is getting done because of demands on time. Talking things through with her helped as she forced me to see the obvious way forward which I hadn’t been able to see as I was trying to do everything with no real organisation which isn’t really like me at all. Anyway, since the week away I am far more organised, I have implemented a more structured approach to my week and what I’m doing. No-one can make things happen but me. I am definitely emerging from the hard times and leaving some things and some people behind. Life evolves, time evolves, people evolve. We learn lessons and we teach lessons. Sometimes we need the break from the day to day to put life into perspective, take an outside view and move forwards.

Self belief is a must, whatever it is, we can do it. Take the first step and go for it.

With love and sparkles xxx

Life Sparkles ✨

Energy

My mental energy appears to be through the roof at the moment. It must be all the rest and sleep I have been getting. I have thoughts and ideas coming to me about my music, my blog, my website, the garden, you get the drift. It’s all very positive and I’m loving the flow of ideas. I’m writing things down in my many notes books (you’ll remember I wrote a post on my obsession with notebooks and lists). Messages I receive from people about my music page, or a motivational quote I have posted, increase the sparkle. I’ve been told that the motivational posts are infectious and give people a real lift in the mornings. I’m so happy about this, somehow if I have helped someone have a good start to the day, it feels great. I love motivational posts. I do have a fairly sarcastic humour at times so I’m always careful about what I post. I don’t want to upset anyone yet you have to be free to be yourself. Isn’t that what social media is about? Freedom of expression. I will post very different things on FB, Twitter and Instagram. They have very different audiences indeed. I get a lot more interaction on Instagram than anywhere else. I’ve even started learning how to use TikTok. It appears to be the place to be for singers and musicians. It’s all good, my brain is active and learning and I keep getting ideas, ideas and more ideas.

Ideas and more Ideas.

After the success of the three FB lives earlier this year, I appear to have lost my momentum and I have become a queen of procrastination. So I have all this mental energy, all these ideas and I make notes, research, investigate and yet I’m not making things happen. The confidence has taken a knock and I have no idea why. The burnout tiredness hasn’t helped in one way and yet in another, the peace, quietness and reflection has me now full of this wonderful energy. So why I am not putting things into action? I can’t answer that. I don’t know why I have this fear of putting myself out there again and singing out. There is nothing to stop me, I have the equipment, I have the backing tracks and song lyrics and I have a voice yet I’m finding excuses not to do it. I’m encouraging others to step out of their comfort zone, take the leap of faith and make it happen and here I am finding myself back on the edges of my comfort zone, not making it happen.

Woman on a Mission

My physical tiredness is at last starting to ease so I have absolutely no excuse for not getting things done with my music. I have my new laptop now and I can recommence the Women In Music Tech course and learn how to use Ableton so that I can eventually record, mix and release my own music. I’m working with my guitar tutor on four songs I have written with a view to recording them in October. I have songs already recorded that I can release when I sort out the music aggregation so you see, I have it all in hand. Yes, in hand but not out there. I need to take a huge piece of my own advice and just go with it.

Getting out of my own way.

Yes I need to get out of my way and make things happen, it’s down to me and I can do this!!!

With love and sparkles xxx

Life Sparkles ✨

Stepping Back

Well, it has been a total revelation to me, the amount of time I was spending messaging people, catching up with people, checking in with people, doorstep visits to people…you get the drift. I was spending a lot of time making sure other people were ok, how they were coping with various issues in their lives, did they need anything collected, the list goes on. I am a people person, I am happy to chat away, get to know people and help people if I can. The various lockdowns and restrictions have caused a lot of anxiety for people. We have all kept in touch virtually, thank God for the internet!! But until I was told by the Dr to take a step back from everything and look after myself, I had no idea exactly how much time everyday I was spending looking out for others and putting myself last.

You do you!

At first I felt very guilty stepping back but I was so tired out, it was all I could do to get up, shower and start my day. For someone usually so full of energy and on the go this was a tremendous change to the daily routine. I realised quickly that I didn’t need to check up on people daily, or even every other day, or even weekly. They were getting on very nicely without my input. Almost all of them have family members or other friends around them to call on. I have to be honest, some didn’t even notice I hadn’t been in touch. I had taken it upon myself to be there for friends, neighbours, friends of my parents and acquaintances and was happy to be there when needed. In the process I had worn myself out. Releasing myself from some contacts was difficult as I had become someone to let out all their woes to and no matter how hard I tried to turn a negative into a positive, they would turn it into a more negative conversation. I found this particularly draining but I did put myself first and step back from the situation. By trying to help some people, you actually end up adding to their issues as they keep talking about it and then you end up feeling awful too. It’s a fine balance I think between being there for someone and knowing when to step back so you are not drawn into their story. Lessons have been learned.

Be kind to yourself.

I also realised that some contacts weren’t happy with the reduction in contact not because they had anything wrong with them or needed help but because they no longer had access to me or what I was doing. Another revelation! People are nosey, who knew!!! I’ve always been a bit of an open book. My Dad often said to me that I didn’t need to tell certain people everything and not all those who pretend to be friends actually are friends. How right he was. I’ve always known this of course yet by stepping back to look after myself I was surprised that some contacts just wanted news. Honestly, I really don’t have that exciting a life…but I’m working on it!

Honour Yourself.

The huge positives of the stepping back is that I found I had lots of time to do me things. I caught up with housework which I know can be mundane but I actually enjoy it. Finding Mrs Hinch has been amazing for cleaning hacks. I caught up with outstanding administration which had been sat there awaiting action. I sat back and strummed my guitar and wrote some songs. I researched and ordered my new laptop for my music course so that I can download and learn how to use Ableton (Digital Audio Software) go me!! I got out in the garden when the weather allowed and pottered about out there. I was careful not to overload myself with a heavy ‘To Do’ list. If I was tired, I slept. I am so happy to report that apart from still being physically tired, mentally the stress, overwhelm and constant feeling of needing to do something, has gone. I feel so at peace, relaxed and open again. I have fully understood now how important it is to look after yourself especially as we get older. All the time I was spending on other things and other people was preventing me from doing what I wanted to do, because I just didn’t have time. This epiphany has been very welcome indeed. Life has changed so much in the past two years for me and yet it is only now that I am emerging and seeing my life as my life. It’s time for me to do what I want to do. I can still be there for people, help people and support people, I just need to remember to put my boundaries in place and look after me first. As the saying goes, you can’t pour from a empty cup.

Self Care Matters

With love and sparkles xxx