Tag Archives: reflecting

How to Create Clarity in a Busy Mind in 15 minutes

 

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How to Create Clarity in a Busy Mind in 15 Minutes

I don’t know about you but the beginning of the year is a busy brain season for me. I’ve been creating goals, working on new ideas and doing lots of training. My brain’s been on overdrive, with so much that I want to do this year! I’m going to share my own busy mind experiences with you and my top tips for clearing mind clutter.

Thinking Ahead 

Our brains can easily go into overdrive when we start acting on our goals and it’s tough keeping all that information in our heads. I wrote about planning the year ahead in this post:  How to Write Awesome 2019 Goals Without Feeling Overwhelmed

  • I’m sharing my social media plan printable with you. It’s great for anyone who wants to limit time on social media, but I did create it with Chronic Bloggers in mind. If you want productivity over busyness, grab it at the end of this post ⬇️

My problem with plans, is that I want to just crack on and forget I’ve got brain disease! I’ve always had a passion for planning, but it doesn’t always go to plan. I go full-on Laura mode, with ideas taking over every tiny bit of headspace left I have left. The bits not backlogged with blood and CSF. Ewww, sorry for that image. Wondering what’s CSF? ➡️ What is Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension/IIH?

I’ve not planned properly, since having left teaching, but this year I got busy creating planning grids for my blog, email and business strategies. I hadn’t planned to make them, which messed up my plans. 🤔 I was trying to do it all, forgetting to review and adapt and I gave that anxiety monster a VIP pass! As I practise grounding strategies often, I was able to calm my busy mind quickly and worked on strategies for organising my thoughts.

Write things down to make sense of your thoughts

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To Do Notes are ok if they have some structure to them

 

If your brain’s overworked, get a pen and some paper and write your thoughts down. I don’t think ‘to do’ lists, are a productive way to form clear ideas from jumbled thoughts. They’re great for quick reminders, but not so great for bigger issues. So what could you use instead? Here are my top tips for creating clarity in a busy mind.

I normally use a diary but this year I decided to try a more structured planner.  Structure is important for focusing  your thoughts, whichever format is for you.

 

 

 

I brought my planner from StarCreationsCo on Etsy   It’s great because:

  • It has a yearly and monthly calendar for planning ahead ✅
  • it has a space for me to write my goals ✅ (I want those everywhere)
  • It has a monthly page of squares for bullet journaling, so I can test the idea ✅
  • It has space to plan, reflect and add your most important jobs ✅
  • Most of all it’s really pretty and I can add stickers and washi tape ✅

You can see where I’ve rubbed out where I’ve planned too much here. No filter…

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My planner has a week to view and is formatted to helps me organise my thoughts on paper

Reflection 

At the end of each day I always write 3 positive things which happened that day. There’s not quite enough space in the planner. So I’m using a gorgeous diary covered in recycled vintage Korean fabric from my friend’s lovely Etsy shop – The Vintage Bookworm. I write:

  • I’m Happy because…
  •  I’m Grateful for…
  • I’m Proud of…

It’s so important to reflect on each day, each week, each month and each year to have a success with positive mindset! Take time to celebrate your successes, big or small. Reward yourself with a pamper, a bubble bath or just a pat on the back. These rewards trigger the pleasure centres of our brain and make us want more positivity.

 

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An overly busy mind leads to overwhelm

An Overloaded Mind

When things get too much and start to become a mess in my head, I create head space by getting my ideas down on paper or notes on my phone. I’ve been creating structure so I can be productive and focused. I’ve made a social media plan a free printable for you ⬇️

 

 

My anxiety is usually from having an overloaded mind and this still gets the better of me sometimes. Structuring my thoughts and writing them down always calms my mind. I’m sharing the strategies I’ve built up over time with you and some I found on these sites;

Anxiety Canada.com  and Anxieties.com

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How To Create Clarity In A Busy Mind In 15 Minutes

 

Top Tips for Creating Clarity in a Busy Mind in just 15 Minutes

 

When One Big Problem is Bothering You

  1. Set a 15 minute timer and free write – This is a cathartic activity and works best with a real pen and paper so that you can let your thoughts spill onto the paper; clearing your mind clutter. If you avoid doing this your problem will get just bigger in your head. If you write it down, it may not seem as big a problem as you thought!
  2. Speak to someone you trust – Find someone you know is a good listener, such as your partner or good friend. Set ground rules before you start and be clear that you’ll only spend 15 minutes talking about this. Going over and over the problem will create more negativity and isn’t good for your headspace. Say it, listen and move on.
  3. Act on your negative feelings, before it becomes a problem – Are you feeling Stressed, Nervous, Frustrated or Anxious? Set a 10 minute timer and use this feeling to turn the problem into a question – e.g. Why am I anxious about going to the doctors? Then quickly list the reasons that come up. Write your answer down using positive language i.e ‘I can stop feeling anxious by writing my questions’.
  4. Be solution focused
  • Using a 3 minute egg timer – write down your problem. You can create a mind map or flow chart if visuals help you.
  • Turn over the timer – write down your negative feelings about this problem. You may have many or just one. Write them as one main sentence about why you feel that way e.g. I feel really nervous about this job interview.
  • Turn over the timer – write down what’s stopping you solve this e.g. I’m nervous because last time I forgot to say…! Be specific and don’t make assumptions.
  • Turn over the timer – think about your ideal solution or a 1st step. Write this down e.g. I’m going to make notes on flash cards so I remember to say…

Some problems will need more than 15 minutes to solve completely, but these strategies can be adapted. If you ignore these big problems they’ll start to affect your health.

How to Cope with an Overactive Mind in 15 Minutes 

  • Exercise daily – Daily you say? Yes, daily! I don’t mean a full on work out, we’re talking about 15 minutes here! You could: Take a 15 minute walk round the park, do 15 minutes of reps/sit ups etc or try a 15 minute morning yoga stretch. Exercise helps clear your mind and releases serotonin, which makes you feel good! Even from bed I do bed yoga (Yep, it’s a thing) most days. *Please make sure to check with you Doctor before starting any new exercise routine.
  • Set a daily worry/thinking time – This one might sound strange, but you can retrain your brain by setting a regular time to sit quietly for 15 minutes and let those thoughts free. This only works if you’re able to distract yourself the rest of the day as we don’t want to lose you down that rabbit hole before you get to that time.
  • Carry a little notebook and Pen – This one might seem obvious, but it’s a must. I tend to use my phone’s notes, it just needs to be portable. Offload your thoughts quickly before they get too heavy. If you’re a night worrier then keep one next to your bed too. Just set a timer for 15 minutes.
  • Meditate regularly – Many of us struggle to fit this into our lives or think it’s too hard. I’ve used meditation daily since becoming ill as it’s known for creating calm. At first work on controlling your breathing and let your thoughts come to mind. Then let them go by focusing back on your breathing. A guided meditation will talk you through this process and there are loads available for free on YouTube or apps, such as Insight Timer. This is one of the top 5 things that help me stay positive. I’ve written more on this here. These are both great guided meditations for beginners.
  • The Honest Guys Body Scan Guided Meditation
  • Jason Stephenson Beginners Guided Meditation
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Use Meditation to focus and create space for your thoughts, before letting them go.
  • Turn negatives into a positives  – Set a 15 minute timer and grab a piece of paper. Draw a vertical line half way and write everything busying your mind. Then look at each one separately and try to turn it into a positive statement. E.g I’m not sleeping well, I’m so tired  | I will go to bed early and sleep will happen. This redirects your thoughts and establishes positive language, which helps you to remain focused and find solutions quickly.
  • Use Affirmations for daily positive thoughts – I use these to focus on the big dreams, I dare to dream. They help keep me positive even on the worst days when pain and/or anxiety are off the charts! Affirmations are positive statements or intentions that tell your brain___ is totally going to happen! Using these daily can help you become who you dream of being! I’ve used them successfully for three brain and skull surgeries 😵. If you still want to be rid of negativity, I can help. I’ve created a set of affirmations for my Etsy shop and you can get your hands on a free sample today. See details below ⬇️
  • Use a strategy to reduce the time you spend on Social Media – Let’s face it, we can’t get away from social media and as a blogger you need it. I take a total break or limit the number of sites I’m on when I need to rest. I recommend using an app to schedule your content ahead. You can be more productive by planning in bulk so that you can focus on engagement for 15 minutes before you post. If this is your style then please download my free social media planner printable below ⬇️. I created it for Chronic Illness bloggers, but it can be adapted for anyone.

Social Media Planner for Chronic Bloggers

Social Media Planner for Chronic Illness Bloggers using 15 minutes Engagement time before posting

In Conclusion 

Please take away the most important message from this – You need to write your thoughts down to make sense of what you’re stewing over. Set up regular habits to kickstart a cycle of positive thinking, reflection and reward. It’s really worth taking 15 minutes to convert your thoughts into beautiful ideas or solutions and it’s just as important to look after your brain as the rest of your body! Try out some of these ideas to find what works for you!

I’d love to hear from you if you try any of these out or want to share ideas that help you. Sharing is caring and with mental health, we need to keep an ongoing conversation!

Before you go…

My Etsy shop The Paprika Jewellery aims to support positive thinking by creating designs from positive themes. Jewellery & Accessories made from the soul, for the soul.

Want to be the first to know what’s coming and get your hands on exclusive deals? Grab a 15% coupon code for your next purchase in my Etsy shop and a free printable sample of my ‘Positive Affirmations’ by signing up to my occasionally regular newsletter today!

Click here to subscribe and grab your freebies! img_2933

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5 Meditation Myths Stopping You Relieve Hidden Stress

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5 Meditation Myths Stopping You Relieve Hidden Stress

Meditation Myths

Are misconceptions about meditation preventing you from relieving stress and pent up anger?  If you want to learn how to develop techniques to think more clearly and positively, then find out how meditation can aid better sleep and restfulness. Find out how releasing negative energy through Meditation can help you live a happier, healthier and more positive life. Please don’t run away – I know the M word is scary as, but if you’ve got any investment in reducing stress levels, then keep reading!

*DISCLAIMER – All thoughts are my own, backed up by genuine research. Please don’t confuse me for a Doctor or anyone educated in Meditation. I just like it a lot!

I think Meditation is one of those Marmite (American? read this) words. Either someone snores you to death talking about Om postures and staring at a candle for 3 hours or the tumbleweeds roll when you mention it. No one wants to talk about 3 hour candle watching, so if you’re a sceptic, stick with me; it doesn’t have to be this way people!

If you’re in the ‘love it’ camp, please read this to consider if you’re adding to these myths. If you’re in the ‘hate it’ camp, then please read this to learn why these myths are giving meditation such a bad image. The word ‘Meditation’ evokes feelings of confusion and disinterest, even in a world where you can’t move for talk of self care!

But before I dive into the myths, I’d like you to reflect on your character, consider your day ahead or the one just gone and remember what your big goals/dreams are.

Reflect

I wonder what goes on in your everyday life and what you wake up to each day. Do you fret over the frenzy or dread the drudgery of your day? Are you fashion frantic or gagging for the gym?  A vocal vegan or a loudmouthed lobbyist? Actually, don’t answer those last questions! My point is, whether you’re a Conscious Charlie or a Trendsetting Tara, you’re expected to live by rules created by someone you’ll never know.

Consider

24 hours a day, we have access to news, emails, social media, shopping, partying and more. We drive when we could easily walk and lose that feeling of holding a real book as we download them. We have the TV on late at night, affecting our sleep and eat microwave meals instead of cooking even a simple omelette.

Remember

I believe we’re losing the art of engaging with our world. Forgetting to create magical moments for our children, like those from our own childhoods. For me it’s cooking crumble with my Nana and hauling 20 books home from the library. What about you? Do you talk with your family about their days? Do you actively take baby steps towards your ideal life and focus on your family’s hopes and dreams?

As I sat with my youngest and taught him how to make apple crumble without a recipe, I realised our responsibility to pass down the simplicity of life: before technology. The smells, sounds, look, feel and taste matched my memories of Nana and I in the kitchen, I knew she’d be smiling down on us. This was the first cooking I’ve done for a long time, as I need help, and it was wonderful. It was such a calm, peaceful and gratifying activity.

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Hidden Stress Can Result In Pent up Anger

Hidden Stress

We must do what we love, but our zest for success can seep into every area of our lives. We go to sleep with our phones in unnatural light. We compare our lives to the ideal image filling our newsfeeds. These are the hidden stresses of our fast paced world and can only get worse.

Without knowing it, we’re under strain from overwhelm. With no warning, sneaky stress can creep up on us and invade. Read more about overwhelm on this blog post. We all need to find some head space, so that our brains don’t fry and our bodies don’t burn out.

Headspace

I’ve been thinking about the vast space in our noggins for a while, but then read this article and found that we’re using most of our brains most of the time, even whilst sleeping. “The brain is constantly making new connections and breaking old ones” so surely we need to do as much as we can, to keep our grey matter healthy.

This made me consider how much we can balance before we buckle and whether we have any control over what is going on in those active minds. I concluded that we need armour in case of a headspace invasion (I think I may have just revealed my secret geek 😲). This brings me back to Meditation! You thought I’d forgotten then, didn’t you? 🤔

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5 Meditation Myths Stopping You Relieve Hidden Stress

Meditation Myths

If your reaction to this heading is hostility, then maybe we should part ways here – but you’re always welcome back of course. However if you can bear facing your meditation anticipation, then these are the 5 main excuses used when that word gets mentioned:

1. I’ve done it before and still have the same problems, it just didn’t work!

2. I can’t be quiet for long enough to read this post, let alone silence my mind!

3. I don’t have any time for it, there’s just too much in my life already!

4. I don’t really need to do it, I’m fine as I am thanks!

5. I don’t do that sort of hippie nonsense, sitting with my legs crossed and all that!

All that negativity gives me the heebie-jeebies. Anyway, any of the above rsound familiar? I bet you’ve said at least one of those. You’re not alone, meditation is misunderstood, but remember that busy mind I’ve unmecically diagnosed? That’s you, that is (I’d love it if you got that reference)! You may think you’re fine but do you really have all your shizz together?

Let’s start myth busting and see if meditation is something you’d consider. Could you learn to create some head space? Do you want simple techniques to help calm you when anxiety strikes? Come this way and learn how to solve problems the easy way!

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The Typical Image of Someone Meditating

1. Ok, so maybe you tried it once or twice and it didn’t solve your bitchy boss problem, or *________ (insert problem here). There are have been heaps of studies about meditation solving all sorts of things – mental and physical things. So when life goes pear shaped, it’s easy to pin your hopes on something you’ve heard might solve it all. However, like most things in life, you can’t just try it once and be all ‘winner winner’! When has that worked for you? I bet you didn’t just take one antibiotic dose and lose that throat infection either, did you?

You have to practise, practise, practise. But first explore and find out what works for you. Yep, that sounds like loads of work but you’re likely to find one that suits you pretty quickly. I know within seconds if the voice is right for me; if not, I change it. Look for beginner guided meditations first. I’ve recommended some of my favourites at the end of this post ⬇️.

2. Now then fidget pants, close all the other tabs on your phone – Yep, thought as much. I bet you’re doing way too much. No wonder you can’t concentrate, you need to stop sometimes and chill. If you had to sit in silence, could you? I doubt it, but that’s not the point. The goal for meditation is to help you cope with life!

You don’t need to silence your mind to meditate. You’re not a Buddhist monk! (unless you are, then I wholly apologise for everything I’ve said). This whole malarkey has actually been researched! They found that people when asked to concentrate on something, say a candle, for 5 minutes, couldn’t. Then they were told to not think about that candle and let their mind wander for 5 minutes. Guess what? They all thought about that sweet candle. I bet you’re imagining a candle now! 😂 Let your mind roam free and you’ll calm it. Silencing the mind to mediate is a total myth!

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Meditation is Not About Silencing The Mind

3. No time for it? Well I’m going to blow your mind right now… I watched this awesome Ted Talk and found out that there’s a study published in the International Journal of Neuroscience about this time thing, I wasn’t expecting what the speaker told us. So, our biological age speeds up when stressed and meditating can reduce the rate we age at. e.g. If you start meditating daily on your 30th birthday and had a matching biological and chronological age (Science stuff), something awesome happens – on your 35th birthday you’d have the skin, sight, hearing, memory and sexual responsiveness (yes, I went there) of a 23 year old! Say again???

Crazy – but logically from this research, meditation is the one activity where you get back the time you put in! You can meditate for 1 minute or 10 hours! You can concentrate on that candle for hours or learn a quick breathing meditation to calm your mind in minutes. I use an affirmation such as ‘Everything is going to be okay’ when the anxiety monster bites me. Just as it starts to sink those teeth in, my muttered words start to become reality; I know it’s going to be👌🏻and I can relax. This has stopped me having a panic attack more than once! You can use these quickies anytime, anywhere; on the train, in the office or lying in the dark.

4. Alright, you’re fine are you? Be honest – it’s only you and me! Do you have a busy mind; ever worry over things; lose your rag with your kids or argue with your partner? If you just nodded, raised your hand (it’s ok, no-one’s watching –  unless you’re on that train) or accepted those may be a possibility; you might want to rethink your excuse. It sounds to me like you need some time out, headspace or coping strategies! In a day we have tens of thousands of thoughts, it’s highly unlikely that you really are just fine. Meditation Mindfulness is a great way to take some time to consider what you need and how to get it. I bet after a few weeks meditating, a loved one notices something – an normal argument topic, becomes something you let go of instead! 

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Meditation after Brain Surgery

Meditation in any form, has more restorative effects than sleep. It’s thought to release feel good hormones and free the tension that’s built up over a stressful day. In my case, my pain is often worse than when I gave birth to my 10lb 9oz son naturally (really)! 15 minutes of meditation will reduce that pain to a tight band feeling – I know, right? I even use it after brain surgery to help me cope with the pain and busyness of a hospital ward. Mediation is a very important part of my daily routine; it can reduce my pain and let me write to you!

5. Ok, some meditation is full on hippie (no offence – I love that myself). The four (some say 30+) types of meditation vary in that between and within each category.

  • Concentration meditations are tough – this is where you have one single point of focus, such as that flickering candle and try and clear your mind of everything else.
  • Contemplation meditations are beginner friendly – guided meditations, visualisation and affirmations. Your mind is active and your thoughts roam free.
  • Mantras or Chanting meditations are the typical image of meditation. This involves prayer beads and chanting ‘om Shanti om’ and is typical Buddhist prayer practice.
  • Transcendental meditations are about going beyond thought. They’re usually way out, using vibrations to take the brain from using beta waves to Delta wave (beyond conscious thought). But can be as simple as closing your eyes and focusing on your breathing and being in the present/now.

There are studies that say meditating can heal such and such, but honestly can a medical meditation trial work? The Ted Talk linked above, explains this much better than I can. But as a beginner, if you try sitting cross legged in the lotus position with palms up in ‘om’ pose and start chanting;  you’re setting yourself up to fail. You’ll feel like a drowning peacock with all your beautiful feathers ruined; losing the attention you crave!

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Meditation Myths Busted! Silencing Your Mind is Not Typical Meditation Practice

My point is made now, but these myths are holding people back from using simple tools and techniques to deal with stress, hidden or not, that would ease the impact on both their mental and physical health!  Whatever you felt about meditation before reading this, I hope I’ve made you think or at least chuckle – unless you’re a Buddhist Monk of course.

Meditation can be an amazing tool for calming your mind. So, I’ll just finish by saying this: Anyone aged 3 – 103 can meditate. We all experience stress in this age of fast paced living. You can stay calm along this busy path through life with simple meditation techniques. Don’t be swayed by the myths and don’t add to them! It really is easy to let meditation into your life.

Here are some links to my favourite beginner meditations if you want to give it a go. * These are not affiliate links, they’re just my recommended go to’s.

Guided Body Scan for Beginners By The Honest Guys

Back To Basics Meditation By Jason Stephenson

Easy Beach Visualisation and Breathing Meditation

3 Minute Breathing Exercise

Deepak Chokra 3 Minute Focus Meditation

I use this App which has access to loads of meditations at different levels of ability and the different types of meditation. Insight Timer

Do you have any questions about meditating?

Do you meditate or is it still not for you?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and feelings on this. Please pop any comments or questions below. I’m looking forward to hearing if you’re a lover or a hater! Peace my friends!

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Reflection after #brainsurgery; positive outlook with a hint of disappointment 

After my brain stent surgery in September 2016, I promised that I’d write an update. I waited initially, to see what would happen. Preparations for my online shops; including my Conscious Crafties shop took over. This amazing site helps those of us with disabilities and chronic illnesses, and our Carers to have purpose and stay positive. It is one of my biggest lifelines and has helped me stay up during these tough months. Then Christmas and the post Christmas crash happened. 

All of this has kept me very busy, but, I am prioritising being kind to myself in 2017. This includes spending more time resting and reflecting on my achievements. I have been working very hard to improve sales on my Etsy shop too, but I’ve forgotten how important it is for my whole family, that I look after me. Today I realised how important writing these blogs are for my health. They are a key expression of myself and free therapy. If I feel I can help or encourage others then that makes these blogs even more special. So, I apologise for neglecting you all and I will do my best to keep posting regularly.


Next week I have my brain surgery follow up appointment with my neuroradiologist (The Boss Man) in Cambridge. I am booked in for a CT venogram and cerebral angiogram.  We will discuss the impact the brain stents have had; based on test results and my description of changes and improvements. As I need to reflect anyway, I thought I’d share this with you.

Following surgery, we noticed an immediate difference in my cognitive function.When I returned to the ward, even behind the large sunglasses; my husband could see a difference. I continued to improve and almost felt like Laura again. I have been able to hold conversations again, instead of just information swapping and I now even ask how Joel’s day has been. My boys engage with me more and seek help to help resolve issues again. My GP has noticed that I slur my words less and my friends noticed a change too. One friend told me how she used to leave my house upset at how distant I had become. I’m so glad she could tell me this, even though it was upsetting; but we are both so happy to be properly connecting again.

All parties were unsure of the impact the stents might have on my pain levels. I’m not going to lie, this is the one thing I was and am still desperate to change. Despite knowing that this was only a pawn move in the game of chess, that is my health, the opposition (hospital politics), may just be caught out with the strategic moves we’re making towards their King; (jugular foramen decompression surgery). We knew it was unlikely to be a game changer, but I’ll never give up hope. 


I was hopeful and as the weeks went on, I noticed a small improvement in the severity of the constant pain. This was quite something after having to replace the large dose of naproxen I was on, with paracetamol; due to needing to take aspirin as a blood thinner. Although still in constant pain, I was going downstairs more regularly and coping better with the pain levels when I did go out; using less oramorph. I did and do still suffer heightened pain levels and insomnia after any activity. The insomnia drops me back into the pain loop, until I manage to reset my spoons. Going against my consultants’ recommendation, my GP decided that until the pain was more stable; I should continue to use morphine (a hint of disappointment).

Disappointingly (more than a hint), I feel I’ve taken two steps back in all aspects since Christmas. I’ve passed out a couple of times and been holed up in my bedroom with chronic fatigue, horrendous pain etc. I feel safe in my bedroom, I think; I can still make cards, jewellery and write poetry as a distraction from the pain. Since having the stents fitted; I’ve only had one or two vertigo attacks, however, the pulsatile tinnitus, phono/photo sensitivity and hyperacusis are all much the same. 


Writing this has made me reflect on our life before IIH barged it’s way in to our life, our old life where I would plan every minute of every day. Disappointingly, once one of you becomes chronically ill/disabled; you and your family unit have to make huge life adjustments. However, I wouldn’t change the life we had before IIH; other than spending more time together. In December, I watched my son’s last ever Christmas show from inside the hall. I am engaged in life again and I have seen a glimmer of hope; we may yet reach check-mate. So, my trusty earplugs, wheelchair and sunglasses will still be with me when I journey back to Cambridge next Thursday. These stents were never meant to work miracles, but there are so many positives I can take from this latest episode of my story. This is yet another piece of evidence that messing about with my jugular vein, really is worth the hassle.  I will let you know what The Boss Man says about our next strategic move.

 If you are new to my story, then you may wish to see where the game really got started, over a year ago, our first chess move, made in October 2015 Read about it here. Or like my Facebook page here for all my updates.