Friday, November 9, 2012

Releasing December 1 2012: Wendy Woo's Year - A Pocketful of Smiles - 101 ideas for a happy year and a happy you

Wendy Woo's Year - A Pocketful of Smiles - 101 ideas for a happy year and a happy you
by Wendy Woo Books

Wendy Woo is 'me' as my friends and family know me. Wendy Steele is 'me' too, with my author hat on but as I'm sharing my year with you, I've written this little book as Wendy Woo.

Wendy Woo loved her dad. He was the most important man in her life, always. His cuddles were the warmest, his lap the safest and his love for me, the greatest. Dad loved life, all 93 years of it and he never failed to notice and appreciate the wonders of nature. He was kind, generous and happy and I hope I'm like him.

This book was inspired by my dad and for the love he felt for all the world and the people, plants and animals that live upon it and share it.

Wendy Woo lives with her partner, grown up children and four cats in Essex, England but hopes to live on a Welsh mountain one day.

Once upon a time, two eleven year old girls made a pact of friendship. One left school at sixteen while the other stayed on to study. The friendship remained. One went abroad while the other stayed at home. Years passed, marriage and children followed and the friendship continued to flourish via letters and video messages.

After twenty nine years the girls were reunited and the friendship sparked with renewed love and affection. Three months later, one friend was diagnosed with cancer. Nine months later, she died.

I was the girl who lived and I made a promise to live my life for two and make sure that every day included a smile in memory of my beautiful friend.

It isn't easy and I don't claim to hold the key to a life of everlasting happiness but the ideas in 'A Pocketful of Smiles' are used or have been used by me and have brought smiles and happiness to my life.

'A Pocketful of Smiles' is about being happy, irrespective of the challenges life brings.

We can all recall odd days, maybe even weeks where we felt happy but each single day is a precious gift so why not be happy every day?

Before I knew what karma was, I'd been brought up with the adage 'do as you would be done by' so thinking of others plays a role in this book.

It's the little things in life that make it special so this is a book of little things.

'A Pocketful of Smiles' is set out month by month, following the seasons but feel free to dip in and out as you wish.

Many of the ideas take just ten minutes so by allocating a tiny amount of time, you can carry a smile with you throughout the day.

1 Stroke a cat

No, I mean really stroke a cat. (I'm sure this will apply to dogs too but forgive me, I have no frame of reference!)

A tickle under the chin as you're passing, a snuggle on your lap while you're working (as you can see, mine love to help when I'm writing!) or a quick stroke or going over with a brush when the cat hair begins to drift down the hall like tumble weed, but we rarely give our whole selves to the experience.

My cats spend more time indoors in the winter so are more receptive to human induced cuddle sessions. Outside, the wind may be howling, the rain beating down but you are warm and snug with your favorite pet on your lap.

Allocate 10 minutes every day to sit and stroke a pet. Watch how they react. Notice a lost whisker or a new white hair. Listen to the purr. Allow yourself to relax into the bliss of being a relaxed and happy cat.

2 Memory of a moment from last year

It's cold today, and it was yesterday and the day before. The days are short and the dark nights long and your body yearns for warm sunshine on your skin. This is a good time to resurrect a moment from last summer or whenever you remember a happy sunny day.

Did you have a weekend break without the children? Did you have a holiday away with friends or family? A day out at the beach? A summer barbecue or just a leisurely day in the garden, pottering?

Allocate 10 minutes to take yourself back and surround yourself with the sensual pleasures of that time. Feel the sunshine through the sun shade, your toes wriggling in the sand or chill sea water lapping at your ankles. Hear the seagulls circling over the bay or the birds twittering in the trees. Smell the sea air or wafts of sugary heaven from the fresh doughnut stall. Remember the laughter and the smiles.

3 Birthday list for the year

I try to be organised but I'm sure, like me, there are times when you are juggling so many balls in the air, you're bound to drop one....and forget, or leave to the last minute, a birthday gift for someone you love.
There are books and calendars to help organize events (probably apps and all sorts) but last year, I tried a different, simple approach to the birthdays in my year. For me, there is no better feeling than choosing a gift that the receiver loves.

Allocate 10 minutes to writing a list of the people you love whose birthdays are important to you. Next to each person, think about the kind of gift they might like. You'll find that when you have a good idea for one person, a similar gift will suit another. As your list grows also try to think about where you could purchase this gift. I like to make gifts. However, I'm often scuppered by lack of time and talent so, I like to support 'crafty' people who are adept in their field. (bigger piece on this in December)

You may have gaps on your list, people who are tricky to buy for so, I carry a piece of card (often a recycled Christmas card) with names of people I have yet to think of gifts for then, if I'm at a book fair, festival or different town with different shops, I read through the names so they are with me as I wander and often I find the ideal gift.

By looking to the year ahead in this way, the promise of warm weather and fun 'get togethers' with the people we care about, are brought into our day.

4 Your photo year

It's so simple to take a photograph now. When I was little, we often waited half a year for Mum to finish the film in her old box brownie so we could see the pictures. Even the camera my brother and I bought Mum and Dad for their silver wedding took a film that needed to be processed and that was a luxury so, picture snapping was kept to a minimum.

Now, almost every mobile phone has a camera and we can instantly see the results. Wonderful!

Make a promise to yourself to take at least one photo each month that captures how you felt at that moment. Buy a small photo album (the charity shops often have them) and begin your year in photos.

Photos in phones and pcs are great but they are difficult to share. Yes, we can 'post' them and mail them to friends but creating an album is a lasting memento for you, your children and grandchildren. (There are clever ways to do this online, I saw an advert)

However you want to make one, create your year for you to look at next January and remember.

5 Start a dance class
The benefits of dancing are enormous and joining a dance class brings even more to the happiness equation. I came to dance classes later in life....maybe that's why I promote them for everyone now.

As a child, I was labelled 'fairy elephant'. I wasn't fat, just chubby but when the option came for me to begin a hobby, ballet was ruled out in favour of piano lessons. I learnt to read music at the age of four when I learned to read words and by the time I was 16, I enjoyed a passion for Beethoven piano music but the 'she's too fat to dance' label stuck.

A great number of years later, my best friend from school was dying from cancer. I knew there was a bellydance class at the end of my road and my perception of life had been changed by the ravages of Sally's illness so, I said to my daughter, aged 9, 'Shall we give the class a go? What's the worst that can happen? They might say we can't join!'. We joined that night and I haven't stopped dancing since. I lost Sally 3 weeks later, and my new 'family' helped to support me. I was living with an unsocial, painful, debilitating though not life threatening illness myself and discovered that, if I wanted to dance, I needed to eat well and look after myself. My whole life changed because of dance.

I went on to found my own dance company and taught Egyptian bellydance for five years but, during that time, I gave myself permission to dance any style I liked! I've tried salsa, burlesque, can can, street, rock and roll, jive, Bollywood, Indonesian temple....the list goes on but I discovered ATS® Bellydance and found myself.

Egyptian bellydance gave me a good grounding, good posture and balance but ATS® Bellydance is my passion. I train and perform with Tribal Unity, my second family, who accept me and love me for who I am. My fitness has improved, my muscle tone is more defined, my toes and feet are stronger but best of all, my confidence and self belief has soared.

Bellydance may not be for everyone but I advocate it as a natural way for the body to dance. There are dance classes everywhere, following on from the success of 'Strictly' and most give a first session free so you can go along and try it out. For me, the music was a huge draw so, if Latino tunes are your style then maybe look for dances that use that music or rock and roll if you're an Elvis fan or maybe try something completely different like Bangra and discover a whole new world of music, dance and culture.
When I was little, I could waltz, fox trot and quick standing on my Dad's feet. He was a wonderful dancer, smooth and natural and he often used to sing as we danced.

Find and commit to a dance class in your area today.

6 Sow seeds for the Spring

These are metaphorical seeds, the ones you may have been germinating from last year. (seeOctober)

If you haven't started to plant your ideas and goals seeds yet, you can start now, no problem.

We all have wants, desires and ideas in our heads; 'I'd love to visit Egypt/South America/Snowdonia', 'I wish I could play the piano/guitar/French horn' or 'I'd love to be able to wear shorts in the summer' but, unless these ideas are committed too, that's how they remain, just ideas and wishes.

To turn our wants and desires into attainable goals, we need a plan. I'm not keen on the word 'goals'. It worries me that if you spend too much time reaching for other things, you forget to live in the now. However, I have attached a 'Wendywooism' to this process which helps me get over the goal thing: 'If you don't have a plan, you can't change it.' For me that means, I can make a yearly plan, or a monthly or weekly or even daily one but as long as I have one, I always have the opportunity to change it. For example, my plan was to carry straight on and write the sequel to 'Destiny of Angels' as soon as it was available to download. For the following month, I planned out how to 'create' three full writing days in my week to write 'Wrath of Angels'. However, an e book won't sell itself and I decided to write 'A pocketful of smiles' before the second novel so, though my time has been spent on writing, it wasn't on the book I had planned but because I had made the original plan and allocated my time, it gave me the opportunity to use that time writing a different book and promoting the first. Without the original plan, I would be panicking about not having time to do everything.

I found two books useful when attempting to find time in my life to achieve more balance. The first was a tiny book from the library on allocating time and the second is Peter Jones' book ' How to do everything and be happy.'

You can follow and copy all of Peter's ideas or just dip in and try the ones that seem appropriate to you and your life. It's easy to read and makes good practical sense.

Once you know what you hope to achieve this year, this is a good time for research. If you would like to visit Egypt, check out the cost of flights, decide if you want a hotel based holiday or a trip down the Nile, bellydance lessons or an all inclusive package. If costs look steep, you could start a savings account and plan to go the following year. If you want to play the guitar, do you have one? If you do, check out local teachers, groups and evening classes. If you don't, start researching possible second hand ones from local music shops or online.

This is the time to start sowing seeds for the spring and the year ahead.

Follow Wendy on Facebook as the release to her new book is almost here! 

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K-Trina Meador, aka K. Meador