Self Hope For The Helpless !

Stags & Hens Do It

I got married last year. My wife and I obviously wanted to do the traditional modern thing of spending the day apart, but with our same sex friends, so that they could give us a proper send off into married life. In olden times, the bride to be would have stayed at home and had a quiet day in, where as the groom to be would have been sent out with all of his male friends for the evening only to get completely drunk! And all of this the night before the wedding!!!!

I remember doing that the night before my first wedding, and I seriously do not recommend it - you need to feel well and have a clear head, so the modern approach is much much better. Modern times call for different methods, and in modern times the happy couple go out a week or so before the wedding and enjoy a full day with their friends.

There are so many ways to enjoy a day out, and so many options and deals available to you : spa breaks, theme parks, manicures, pedicures, lingerie parties, adventure days - be they climbing, driving, flying, parachuting, etc, paintballing, zoos, concerts, theatre all manner of things. Once you have enjoyed your day, you and your friends can take in a meal and a drink. It does not have to cost a fortune for anyone there are options available for all people on all budgets.

My Stag night cost a grand total of about £50 per person, which for a FULL day of fun and activity is not a bad price. So what did we do ? Myself and around 10 of my friends all wanted to do something fun. We opted for something called "GO APE" an adventure activity. It cost £25 per person and involves doing a number of assault courses in the trees of our local forest. If you are scared of heights, then it may not be a good idea - although I am and I got through it!!!

Picture this - you arrive to be greeted by a safety instructor, and you harness up and then you are faced with the practice run, some 5 feet in the air to practice using your harness and ropes. Okay, now onto the first real course . . . 30 feet up into the first tree via a rope ladder, across a rope bridge, swing across the chasm and into a cargo net, then pull yourself onto the high platform, saddle up and fly down the zip wire to the end of the course. The courses get longer, and higher and increasingly more difficult as you continue - the zip wires get higher, longer and faster. We all had an incredible time, and left feeling proud of ourselves and smiling from ear to ear and looking forward to the evening.

We all went home - we showered the bark chippings from our bodies and got ready to eat drink and be merry. Our evening's festivities consisted of a meal at the local pub - which given the day's activities we were all more than ready for. This was followed by a trip to a local live music venue where we would sink some beers whilst watching a Meatloaf tribute band. Absolutely fantastic fun!!

It's not exactly everybody's idea of fun, but we all enjoyed it and our ages ranged from 26 to 66, so it proves that it was a varied day with something for everyone. And given it only cost £50 per head we got good value for our money and all had a day and night to remember!

My wife enjoyed a similar value day - I do not know her full itinerary, but I know that again it only cost around £50 per head. The main day's event was a trip to a theme park - you can download 2 for 1 vouchers for most theme parks from the internet, so entrance can cost less than £20 each! Once they were finished at the theme park, it was back to a friend's to get changed and then out for a night on the town - meal, drinks and cocktails! Fun was had by all, and throughout the day the bride to be had to complete many forfeits of differing complexity. All good fun and everyone signed her hen's shirt to give her a keepsake of the day.

Fun can be had, relatively cheaply, to celebrate your impending marriage and it's not so hard to find something to do that does not cost a lot of money. Look around and put together a day you will enjoy, and then invite everybody to come. Its a great feeling when it all comes together and everybody is smiling on the way home to bed.

(c) Copyright Dale Preece-Kelly July 2010

Is It A Crime To Commit

When I met my wife, she told me her about her ex of almost a year. They had been "on/off" for most of their relationship and the main reason was that he would not commit. He lost a beautiful woman and the chance of a wonderfully harmonious life within a beautiful family, and all because he would not show her that he was serious about their relationship. Is it worth that ?

What does commitment mean : The state of being bound emotionally or intellectually to a course of action or to another person or persons. There you go - it really is that simple.

A lot of people, especially men (I'm sorry to say) see commitment as a loss of freedom, and that is so wrong. Simply put by committing to somebody, you are merely saying that you will share with them, everything that life throws. It does not necessarily mean love, it does not mean having children, it does not mean submitting to anothers whims - it just means being solely WITH somebody.

We are all committed to our work (those of us who want to be successful at what we do anyway) - we go every day without fail, we work hard at what we do. At work we are paid in hard cash for our commitment to our jobs. Those of us solidly committed may also see other rewards like raises and promotions. Feels good doesn't it?

But what about a relationship ? No payment - so what is the point ? Someone who is committed to a relationship is rewarded in a way that makes them richer than anyone with money. Commitment to another person gives rewards far beyond financial gain. It rewards you with love, loyalty and respect. As a man if you commit to a woman - you are not saying I will be your slave, I will not go out again, I will do as you say etc. You are purely saying - I will respect you, I will love you, I will share my achievements with you, I will share my disappointments too, I will listen to you, and I will share my opinions and advice with you. Emotional and intellectual.

My wife and I are committed to each other and the children, and we are also committed to our friendships. This means that my wife is free to enjoy time with her friends, just as I am. With commitment comes trust and it is that trust in each other that allows freedom within the commitment. So commitment is not the same as doing time in prison, it is just about doing time with one person and only that person. By abusing the freedom afforded by the trust, you break the commitment and therefore were either not ready for it or did not appreciate what it meant or what you had.

This lesson was learned the hard way - don't let that happen to you.

(C) Copyright Dale Preece-Kelly July 2010

The Big "D"

A friend of mine recently asked how to go about a divorce. The couple seperated about 8 months ago, and they were about to start proceedings, but how ? Well both me and my wife have dealt with divorce and know how it works - I decided to share the advice to allow others to benefit. Please note - this article covers divorce in the UK and other countries may differ.

Obviously a divorce and the details are personal to each couple, and therefore things differ from divorce to divorce. There are several ways to do it. If your separation was amicable, then you may want to wait for two years, because after two years divorce is automatically granted, although the costs are the same. If the separation was not amicable, then you may want to commence proceedings against your ex partner. If you begin the divorce proceedings, then you will have to decide the reason for your divorce - unreasonable behaviour and adultery are two of the most common reasons.

Next you will need to find a good divorce lawyer - there are plenty about - ask a divorced friend to recommend one, or look for one with a testimonial from a past client, a firm who were found to be tactful, sensitive and quick. Cost is around £500 in total (although some firms charge much much more). You may be able to get legal aid depending on your income - and that is down to you and the lawyer to decide. Most good lawyers will give you a one hour no obligation consult for free and will be able to give you (a) advice about what to do next (b) a rough idea of total cost for your divorce and (c) whether or not you can get legal aid.

The process of divorce (if your partner is compliant) - from initiation to decree absolut - takes around 5 months. Be prepared to visit your lawyer regularly to sign documents, and receive regular letters through the post. If your ex partner is compliant then things like finances and child support and visitation are sorted easily and amicably, as you will have already discussed this together and have listed what was agreed.

If the process is not amicable then it may take longer, and you may inherit debts that are not yours. If you dont want to inherit their debts, then you need all joint debts to be put solely into the name of the person that owns the debt legitimately. If you cannot sort this issue out between you then a lawyer will help with this and so will the Citizen Advice Bureau. The only thing that you don't have the right to change is parental rights, as your ex still has rights to be a child's next of kin. In order to sort visitation and support payments then you need to draw up an agreement between you both with a lawyer or talk to the Child Support Agency (although this can take up to 18 months to sort so former is best idea!)

The other way to sort things out with an uncooperative partner is via mediation. This is a process that involves you both sitting down with an impartial "referee". You have about 4 one hour sessions where you both sit in a room with someone and thrash it all out between you and work out whats fair all round - saves all of the heartache of arguments and bitterness!!!! Its kind of a refereed argument!!

In the end, it all works out for the best and you can both continue with your lives. You are entitled to change "next of kin" details on docments at children's schools and doctors etc, and you can change your name back to your maiden name (if you are a woman) if you wish, therefore eliminating all trace of your marriage. Please do bear in mind though, that if children are involved your ex still has rights to visitation and to spend an equal amount of time with their children as you do, although it very rarely works out that way.If you are the none resident parent, then you must ensure that all support payments are maintained in order to maintain access to your children - if you cannot make the payments then you must inform the authorities or your ex partner, with a good reason.

Whatever you choose to do and however the divorce progresses, just remember that there is light at the end of the tunnel, and there is a future for you at the end of your divorce - a positive future.

(C) Copyright Dale Preece-Kelly July 2010

Speak A Bit

Many countries exist in the world, and many of those countries speak a language that is definitely not English. There are 3 countries in the world that speak principally English - the UK, the USA and Australia. Apart from that, every other country has its own language - some countries such as Spain speak more than 1 main language - and they speak English as a second language only.

So what is the point of learning the languages of other countries given that most of them speak English as a second language ? The point as I see it, is respect for other cultures. I speak English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Basque (norther region of Spain), a little Danish and Czech. None of them fluently - except for English of course - but all of them conversationally.

I began learning languages at school, because I had to! Part of our curriculum was to learn French, although it did not really help me. Just after I left school, having gained my certificate and qualification in French, I visited Calais the northern French sea port close to Dover in the UK. We visited the town, my friend driving, and went around the shops. I wanted some French cheese and so ventured into a shop. I was armed with the French I had learned at school, and ready to use it. Inside the shop, I said "Bonjour," with a smile and browsed it's contents. I picked up a bottle of wine and went to the counter to order some cheese - something went wrong! After ordering the cheese in what I felt was good French, I was greeted with a very angry shop keeper who demanded I leave my bottle of wine and leave the shop in very vehement French.

From that point on I vowed never to visit France again. Since, however, I have come to realise that it was not the shop keepers fault, but my own poor French that resulted in such an extreme reaction. Since that visit, I have visited Belgium, Germany, Italy, Demark and Sweden, Czech Republic, and Spain. I was nervous about entering countries where I did not know the language. I did have a plan though - to learn the basics of the language prior to visiting. And it works a treat!

The Spanish was a bit of a different situation, as I worked for a company based in the Basque region of Spain. They spoke both Spanish and Basque, but I really wanted to learn the Basque language as it intrigued me. One of the native guys bought me back a phrase book (it is impossible to find a Basque phrase book in the UK) so that I could learn to conversate with them all. I learnt both conversational Basque and Spanish! I have found that, as I have visited different countries, I have discovered a love for languages. I love learning new languages and there are many advantages to it.

It seems like it, but it really isn't hard work to learn a language. Phrase books not only give you basic words and phrases, but also show you how to pronounce them. Even if you just learn the words "Please" and "Thankyou", then it's a start. Also learn the greetings, and you have the start of a winning package. If you can order things or ask for directions in the native tongue, it not only shows effort and respect on your side, but it also makes travelling SO much easier. These are the advantages - by showing that you have made the effort to learn the language and respect that these people speak a different language, you gain the respect of the people in that country that you are dealing with which makes for a much nicer trip. On top of this, you can understand signage - road signs and warning signs - you can catch the general meaning of most things that are said to you. The people of other countries will also respect you for making the efforts to communicate in their native tongue, and they will show their appreciation by congratulating you and smiling at you and sometimes even thanking you!

It's a really wonderful feeling, and you do not feel like "a stranger in a strange land", you can order what you want to with a smile and with the knowledge that you will get what you asked for. Its nice to know that you can go anywhere in the world and feel comfortable. Give it a go, and make travelling a lot less stressful and a lot more fun.

NB : I find Collins travel guides and phrase books to be the best on the market. A close second are the Dorling Kindersley books

(C) Copyright Dale Preece-Kelly July 2010

A Problem Shared

"Always look on the bright side of life . . ." Monty Python - there you go not only are you smiling, but you are whistling too!!!!

I used to look at problems in a negative way. "Why me?" I would ask over and over again. I would sit and dwell, sometimes for hours about my dilemmas - what could I do to solve them, how would I ever carry on, was my life over etc. Then I had a health problem, just a few months ago, which has changed my life and changed the way I look at problems.

When this problem arrived, I could not believe it was happening to me. The nature of the problem, was an every day occurrence and therefore I knew that I was not alone in my suffering. I assumed, therefore that it would be easy to find information about dealing with the implications of this problem. Unfortunately I discovered that this was not the case, and I found my writing (or rather typing) fingers. I found the information so difficult to find, that I decided to write it down in an article and publish it on the internet, so that everyone could find one page that told them everything they needed to know. On top of this, I found that writing about this matter was very therapeutic, allowing the anger I had inside to dissipate.

I have written elsewhere about the power of writing for therapy, but now I wish to share my view on the power of positivity - positive thinking and a positive attitude. Despite all of my recent troubles, I have found my attitude has become much more positive. I have had many comments from my social media status updates, regarding the positivity I portray and therefore inspire in others. This just makes my positivity grow. OK I do have my down moments, but nowhere near as many, and when I do I look for the positive in it and harvest it.

From writing and publishing these articles I have found an answer to that two word question "Why me?" and in addition found an ability to be positive about almost anything at all!!! The answer to the question by the way is : "It's not JUST me, its other people TOO!!" I have come to find that no matter what your problem is, there is somebody somewhere who is sharing your suffering and going through or has been through your dilemma - and come out the other side. All we have to do is find them - and with the internet, that is SO easy. There are web sites, blogs, forums - all dedicated to sharing experiences and ideas and helpful tips. Use them, I can guarantee they will help - the old adage "A problem shared is a problem halved" is so perfectly true.

By sharing your problems, you take the weight off your shoulders. Other peoples experiences can help - they show you what works, what doesn't work, what can be done slightly differently for better effect. You never know, you may even be able to help others! And what a great feeling that is. I recently wrote an article about bankruptcy - an embarrassing situation that people don't like to talk about. I was contacted by a reader, who was so delighted that the taboo had been broken, and she no longer felt alone - she went on to ask me for advice about it from my own experiences, which I gave freely and happily. At the end of the conversation she was more upbeat and positive about her problem, no longer feeling at the end of her tether but smiling and knowing what she needed to do.

You discover you are not alone in all of your suffering, no matter what it may be. By realising this and accepting it as fact, you begin to smile and laugh more, you begin to enjoy life a little more, and therefore you begin to live again! Once you find your positive side, stay there - positivity is infectious and you are infected, infect as many people as possible, "Two positives do not make a negative", therefore a world full of positives is a great place to be!!

(C) Copyright Dale Preece-Kelly July 2010

Everyone Be-Friends

Everyone makes friends in their life, but some make friends easier than others. Why is this ? My wife says it's a gender thing - she makes friends easily and I do not! If I become friends with someone then that person has a solid dependable friend for life, no matter what.

I have friends, who I have been mates with since school - thats between 30 and 37 years. I have friends I met after school, who I have been friends with for 20 + years, work friends who I have remained friends with for the last 8 years and new friends, who I have only just met but mostly through friends of my wife.

I am a normally confident person, who can speak to anyone about anything - I've been a salesman for the last 2 years and am currently running my own business, so I find it easy to talk to people - right ? Not so - I am naturally very shy around people I have never met before, I don't approach people and just talk to them, if I want to talk to somebody I get nervous and have to build up my confidence to go and speak - at times it can take 2 or 3 meetings. At other times though, I can just click with people I have never met before, and bingo I have a new friend. I am by nature, a loner, as a child I never liked to play with more than one friend at a time as I felt intimidated / nervous in larger groups. This would explain why I treasure long friendships, have few true friends and find it difficult talking to people in group situations (family barbecues, in bars etc)

Take my landlord for instance. We saw his house advertised to let, and wanted to rent it. Something happened - my wife and I came to look at the house, it's beautiful, we instantly knew that we wanted this to become a family home. Our landlord and his family were living in it - that is his wife and 3 children (2 girls and a boy - we have 2 girls and a boy). I instantly clicked with my new landlord, and vice versa. Within minutes we were talking Formula One, and then we were outside looking at the garden and garage having a smoke and drinking a cold beer! We were instantly friends - we had formed an instant opinion of each other and were instantly comfortable talking as if we had known each other for years! We got on so well, that we invited him and his lovely family to our wedding less than a month later.

That doesn't always happen though. Let's take a look at it from my wife's point of view. She appears on the surface to be quite shy, but she is more confident in strange situations than I am. She is really quite outgoing and very personable, thus very approachable and easy to befriend, whereas I can appear quite stand-offish and quiet thus making me less approachable.

My wife does not have that many friends that she has had for a long time (although she is much younger than I so that may explain some of it), but has been friends with lots of people for around 5 years - since her first child started pre-school. She explains this by saying that she was forced into talking to people in groups, as she had to sit with other moms etc at school, at children's parties that sort of thing. In doing this she found things in common with other women in her children, but also pets, hobbies etc, therefore giving her something to conversate about which led to her current long standing friendships. By doing this she finds it easier to talk to people who have that cross commonality with her.

When I met my wife on that fateful evening, two years ago, I was too nervous to talk to her. She was very beautiful and elegant and I felt she was too good for me - I wanted to speak to her so bad, but just could not pluck up the confidence. I spoke to her friends, I laughed and joked with her friends - I found this easy because (a) I had had a few drinks and therefore was more relaxed and (b) they were not the object of my desire and therefore I was confident in my interaction with them. When the crunch came, it was actually my wife who approached me and began the conversation! She found the commonality and we were away!

So is it gender that makes it easy to make friends ? I don't think so. I think it comes down to personality. Mine and my wife's personalities are completely different - they do not clash, they compliment each other 99% of the time! I am the shyer of the two although my wife may not agree, and she is the more out going by nature. The strange thing is that I am probably the more confident! My wife appears to have found a formula for making friends (although she may not know that), that works for her - find common ground and start there, building the conversation to a point where you become firm friends.

She has used this formula in her new job as an Ann Summers party organiser, and it works a treat - all of her customers have befriended her on social media, she regularly texts them, has been invited out by some of them (evenings and as a family together). On top of this her parties go down a storm, they are enjoyable and fun and I think that this is partly down to her formula and partly down to her personable nature. And to her credit, it has been wonderfully successful for her - she is definitely in the right job, and a job she loves.

I think on the other hand that I am the way I am, not because I am male, but because my nature and personality make me less personable and therefore people do not find it so easy to talk to me and vice versa. There is no way to change a personality - you are what you are - and therefore I think I will always find it difficult to make friends. Give me somebody of a similar personality and BANG we're friends, it happens instantly. I am a successful salesman and so I will maintain my working methods, I may however, try my wife's formula for friendship next time I find myself in a group situation :

Common ground + conversation = friendship . . . . . Worth a try!

(C) Copyright Dale Preece-Kelly June 2010

Housewife By Proxy

A man's job is to go to work and provide for his family, and then when he's done he comes home and relaxes - reads the paper, watches TV, eats the meal his wife has cooked and then swills his day away with a beer or two. At least that's the stereotype! Is it possible for man and woman to swap roles ? Is it manly, for a guy to do "woman's work"? Make up your own mind.

Recently, my wife has been talking about going back to work. We discussed the possibility that if this happened, and my wife's new job paid as much as or more than mine, I would stay at home and take over her responsibilities! My mother in law felt that this was not viable, because a man couldn't possibly do all of this work. I disagree - there are plenty of house husbands in the world, although on some TV shows such as Wife Swap USA, people frown on this as the guy being emasculated.

In our house, we share the chores. My wife does the cleaning - she likes to, and I don't do it to the correct standard :) which is cool! We share the cooking, the child care (except for when I am at work), and the washing up. The ironing is shared . . . sometimes! Personally I enjoy ironing, it helps me to think and relax and sort out my mind. I find it relaxing and therapeutic even though sometimes it can take up to 3 hours! My wife is happy with this because she hates it! My friends make fun of me, my wife's friends think that it's great!

If my wife was to go back to work and we were to swap, as previously mentioned, I think I would be just fine. I think the adjustment would be to being at home all day, not to the work load. I am used to leaving the house at 8am every morning, working an 8 hour day and then getting back home around 5pm. I have a job that involves travel and meeting lots of different people each day, I dont enjoy my own company and therefore hate being home alone. So is this the wisest idea that we've ever had ?

I think it would work. We have 3 children - 2 of whom are in full time school, the other is at school for a couple of hours a day. I would therefore have 4 school runs, house work, cooking, washing, ironing, etc, plus child care for the day whilst my wife was at work. I know that I am capable, and therefore I can make it work. By me staying at home we would not have to pay childcare for our youngest for the whole day or for the others after school, on top of that, it would help with my dislike of my own company, because I would have to learn to live with myself. I have a home based business, which I could expand during the time that I am at home, and therefore make extra household income from. It would take a while to get used to the shift in dynamics, just as it would take my wife a while to re adjust to going out to work, but we could both do it and make a success of it.

"A woman's work is never done", is how the saying goes. True I think, working moms are renowned for working all day, and then having to come home and start again. I remember my mom doing this throughout my childhood - and when she had finished doing her motherly duties, she did work that she had bought home from her job. I think us men get off lightly in this. If our partners are stay at home moms, then everything is done when we get in and we can relax pretty much. If our partners work, a lot of them feel that they must come home and do some cleaning, cooking or whatever, where as we do not necessarily think that way and we are happy to relax. We should put an end to this traditionalism - and I know a lot of guys already do - and realise that "No man's work is ever done!"

We were put on the earth together and we should work together and share the load - its time to forget emascualtion, forget traditional values and turn it on i'ts head . . . We should each experience being a house person, and we should each experience being the provider and then whatever is left should be shared - this, I feel, would make for a more interesting life, and a more rounded life, not to mention work wonders in our appreciation of each others role in family life which may even lead to fewer divorces. So come on guys, put away the flat cap and newspaper and give it a go - you never know you may even find it works and you enjoy it (oh, and by the way it's a damn sight harder than our ladies make it look!!)

(C) Copyright Dale Preece-Kelly May 2010

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