The rest of January was a bit crazy.
In the evening of Monday 11th, Scott went to Jack's Parents' Evening (I got the detailed report of ''Jack's a genius'' afterwards - that was it!) and I went to Fire Fighter training. My shoulder was still sore and I felt very tempted to not continue, but I decided to go, and see how I felt about everything once I was there. I had a chat with a couple of the Watches, felt encouraged, and completed the evening of training (doing ladder drills).
The next day I had my hair cut. I'd made the appointment because I was having trouble fitting my hair comfortably under my helmet, so got a good chunk cut off.
On Wednesday 13th, I had an online meeting with my Stake Young Women's Presidency - Emma and Gill. We got lots of stuff covered as usual, and felt such a friendship between us. I wanted to take a picture of us to record this aspect of my life!
On Thursday 14th, I took Lucy to Peterborough for her Theory Driving Test. It was revolting weather, but I wasn't allowed to wait in the test centre, so I wandered round TK Maxx, then sat in Cafe Nero. I think it might well be the first time I've been to a cafe on my own! I had the iPad which the training centre had lent me, and studied pitching ladders till Lucy came and joined me - totally delighted because she had passed!
In the evening I had another exhausting three hours out in the drill yard (and also mentally exhausting, because there are so many commands to learn and specific roles for each member of the crew.)
The next day I helped out at Michelle Trickett-Smith's again.
On Saturday 16th, we drove to Nottingham, dropping Harry and Tom off at Mum and Dad's house, then drove to Leeds to view houses. Scott has been researching buying properties to rent out to students for ages now, and we decided to go for it.
We looked at houses near Hyde Park first - a pretty grotty area of back-to-back terraced houses. Three of the four houses there were possibilities for a cheaper house. Then we went to Headingley, a nicer student area a bit further out of Leeds, and looked at two more houses, one of which we thought was promising.
Afterwards we went into Leeds city centre, ate burgers at Five Guys and did a bit of shopping (Lucy was desperate for some new black boots for school, and I found a lovely Tweedy jacket in a Next outlet place.)
We then went back to Nottingham to collect the boys, who'd had a good day helping Dad cutting back a tree in Robin's back garden.
The next day I was the final speaker in Sacrament Meeting at Milton Keynes Ward. I spoke on the new Youth Theme for 2016:
The week of 18th to 22nd of January was 'Fire Craft Week' at the Training Centre, and it was HARD!!!
As I write this a couple of month's later, the memory of just how hard it was has faded a bit - kind of like how the memory of giving birth does, but I still remember enough...
I left home each morning at 7.30am after making a packed lunch. It was below freezing a few days that week, and we spent most of 8.30am to 5.30pm out in the drill yard, honing our hose and ladder skills. I didn't actually feel the cold too often, because of how physically demanding it was, and I remember feeling glad that we weren't on the summer training course - which must get ridiculously hot.
I seriously had to adopt the mentally of 'just one day at a time'. I still wasn't sure I wanted to carry on with the course, or that I'd be physically strong enough to, but I just kept my head down and kept pushing on.
Driving home each night was a euphoric thing! I'd feel elated at having managed to complete another day, and having a whole evening at home ahead of me! (Though I had to study.) I'd barely be able to walk from the car to the house, because everything would be seizing up. We'd got shopping for the week with easy to prepare meals, plus I did a couple of slow cooker meals in the mornings. After school, Harry went to my friend Donna's, who is a childminder, and so I'd get dinner prepared while Scott picked up Harry. After dinner, I'd unstiffen myself in a hot bath, then spend the evening in bed.
I got to know the people on my course better during the week too. We'd all allow plenty of time to travel there in the mornings, not daring to be late, and often had a fair bit of time sitting in the waiting area of the Training Centre, chatting. We also had an hour for lunch. There was the mainly younger, 'cooler' group, around one of the big oval tables, then the quieter guys at the other table. I usually ended up with the noisy ones, because Vicky knew loads of the same people as a couple of 'the lads' from Chatteris, but she and I would chat too. I had to get used to hearing a lot of swearing, and a couple of the guys talked and joked about some really unsavoury stuff. They knew I disapproved, but we managed to find an OK equilibrium, and I did genuinely feel fond of everyone.
One of the guys, Dave, had dropped out after the first week of the course, and Aruna, the other girl, dropped out during day two of Fire Craft week with an injured arm.
On Thursday 21st, I had a Stake Council meeting at Northampton. I got in from training, got cleaned up a bit then had to head straight out again. I thought I must be mad attempting it! The meeting was OK, though I was pretty quiet, and felt totally wrecked. We had some good discussion at the end about the YSA programme though. I sat next to Martin Guy in the meeting - he makes me laugh, and he was nice and sympathetic!
On Friday, we were assessed on some drills with hoses, operating the Light Portable Pump, Knots and Lines, and on leading a crew to 'slip and pitch' the 9m and 13.5m ladders. I prayed before each time it was my turn, and was blessed with complete clarity - remembering all the commands and elements, and getting the ladders positioned correctly, and extended to the right heights each time. I was so grateful! We all passed the week anyway, and got to go home a bit early. What a totally wonderful feeling of accomplishment and relief at the week being over!
A couple of my Facebook posts from the week!
It was lovely to get this text from Donna one day... Donna child minds two other boys from Harry's class, but it seemed her daughter Emma preferred Harry!
Other things happened while I was doing Fire Craft Week too, as summarised in another Facebook post!
We had picked one of the the cheaper houses and one of the more expensive houses in Leeds to make offers on during the week, and Scott would text me during the day on our progress!
On Friday evening after passing my assessments, I'd had a bath and was in my dressing gown, when the door bell rang. Scott went to get it, and a bit later came back with some Australian guy! We'd all been sitting round the dining table, so Scott made him a hot drink and he joined us. It was freezing outside, and he was trying to get support for St. John's Ambulance, and Scott just invited him in. He was really talkative and friendly. A bit later the door bell rang again, and Scott came back with another St. John's Ambulance guy! We had a lovely time chatting together! The second guy wanted to become a Fire Fighter, so we had a good talk about that, then we got onto talking about religion. It was a happy little interlude anyway, and they seemed really grateful!
Also the central heating had stopped working during the week, so we stuck a fan heater in the living room and the oil filled radiator on the landing and pretty much left them on permanently. It was cold weather, but they kept the chill off.
It was a good day, and I felt very uplifted. Had a nice chat with Jennifer Kearon, Elder Kearon's wife, and we were provided with a lovely lunch.
That evening, I got in, picked up Lucy and we went to Grafham Water for a Laurel activity (16-18 year old girls). I had booked for the girls to do indoor wall climbing and archery. I was feeling pretty worn out by that point, so didn't have a go myself, but had good chats with some of the other leaders.
After that we went back to the Doughty's house about 20 minutes away, for pizza and a fireside. Gill had gone ahead to get things ready. After food we settled down in the living room and Gill lead a lovely discussion based activity. The girls also wrote letters to themselves, which Gill posted to them about 6 weeks later. (One of the girls emailed us when she got her letter, to say that it was just what she had needed!) There were 12 or more girls there and it was such a nice group. Everyone joined in. I closed the evening with my testimony at about 10pm.
On Monday 25th, I went to see Vida, the osteopath again. I told her what kind of week I'd had. She is so wonderful and encouraging, and gave me the pep talk of the year, plus helped my poor body out a bit! She thinks it's fantastic I'm becoming a Fire Fighter and says how proud of me she is! She also does acupuncture on me, and straps me up each time. It was really what I needed.
In the evening I had a Fire Craft session again, but it wasn't quite so arduous. The trainers said that they will lighten up on us a bit now, but one of them said that if we had found Fire Craft week hard, Breathing Apparatus week was even harder! I still had doubts about my continuing.
I also spent some of the week making cards. I hadn't made any for ages, (I resigned from Karen Burniston's Design Team in December), but a new UK company called Craft Consortium had written to me, saying they were working with an American designer called Tanya Whelan to make a new paper range, and would I like to receive some to make a couple of cards with? They said that Tanya Whelan had recommended they contact me! I was so chuffed!! I had made cards in the past using Tanya's previous paper collections, and have tonnes of her gorgeous fabrics, so I was so happy that she had heard of me, and wanted me to work with her products! A couple of days later a beautiful large pad of paper arrived.
This is one of the cards I made. Craft Consortium and Tanya shared the photos of my cards on their Facebook pages etc.
In the evening of 28th, I had a Working at Heights session at Training Centre, which was quite enjoyable. We learnt how to use a body harness and strap yourself onto a ladder if you need to be there for a while, and also how to clip on and off if you are climbing up a tall vertical ladder.
I took these photos of Harry's Minecraft world on 29th. He really does build incredibly creative things! He just likes to tell you about them all in minute detail!
A little snippet showing the randomness of Harry:
Me: I need to give you a haircut tomorrow Tom.
Jack: And me.
Harry: And me!
Me: Ahh nooo!!!! (I don't like cutting hair!)
Harry: Would you rather give everyone in the world a hair cut, or put their dislocated noses back into position?
On Saturday evening (30th) I went with Lucy to Stake Conference in Northampton. It was a nice evening, and I enjoyed chatting with loads of different people over soup afterwards. I had to speak with President Hirst afterwards about some thoughts following the last Stake Council meeting, but he was in with someone else first, so I had a nice time chatting with President Slattery and President Clayton for a while.
The next day we all went to Huntingdon Chapel to watch the broadcast Sunday Session of Stake Conference. I thought the talks were wonderful, and got a lot from them, including the talk from one of the teenage Malzone twins.