2020 Review

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Normally I would do my end of year review to coincide with Christmas cards I was sending, whether physical or electronic, but this year I have decided to wait until 31st December to post, and am even tempted to wait until midnight just in case. It is not that I am fearful but this has been an “unprecedented” year.

At the time I would normally have done this post I was still laid up with bruised ribs from falling off that horse though was starting to plan what I would write, and I suppose even Different Christmas was a lead up to that. But then just as I was in the planning stages for that my husband got shingles and has been very sore with that. Then on Saturday 19th Dec Wales announced that all was change for Christmas and we were going into lockdown again – though from the volume of traffic I would say that only means that pubs and cafes have now closed. Not sure if I can see much other difference on the roads. It is definitely not back to April’s sparse traffic volume. But then on Sunday my daughter announced that she had tested positive to covid and so, even though she wasn’t coming up here for the holidays it did mean she was going to have to spend it home alone! All this in just a week!

This has been the strangest of years. Even to the point that our cat went from eating biscuits to demanding that we feed her cat meat from a tin. She now has meat twice a day and ignores the biscuits that sit waiting for her to be hungry enough. If it hadn’t been for the local cat rescue places being closed all the tins that had been in the cupboard for the last few years would have gone to them but now she’s eaten them all.

Talking of pets – our crazy rabbit died in the summer, happily of a possible heart attack whilst he was sunbathing before begining yet another digging project. He was buried inside his own warren of tunnels that he had constructed over the four years he had been living here. He is still very missed and the amount of veg peelings in our food recycling bin has increased.

As with everyone 2020 started normally enough, though it was odd for us because my husband chose to stay home for New Year’s instead of going to a youth hostel with old university friends. So actually even the start of the year was different for us with us being together when we woke on 2020. We went away as always for our wedding anniversary at the end of January, which was followed by my husband going off for a week of intensive Welsh learning on the Llyn Peninsular. He managed to get away climbing with friends in Scotland at the start of March, but by the time he went away then things were starting to change and covid was being muttered about. We had two Airbnb guests, both in the medical profession, who went from saying it was nothing to worry about to slowly getting more and more concerned about it, to our guest from Burma having to cut short his stay so he got home before all airports were closed.

I was supposed to go on my regular March writing retreat but felt uneasy about going which was just as well because suddenly things got serious. So instead of being in Gwynedd I went Cardiff to bring my daughter to stay with us when the pubs closed. We bought her some walking boots the day before the country went into full lockdown. We thought we were going to be walking all over North Wales, but then the 5 mile rule was introduced and we finished up doing lots of walks around where we live. We have seen my daughter more this year, probably a good 4 months of the year, than we have since she went off to university about 7 years ago. I picked her up yesterday, now that she is over her coovid isolation time and will spend New Year with us and stay until this lockdown lifts. So even though we have seen so much more of her this year when it comes to everyone else – my son and our mothers and our friends – we’ve seen them less than normal.

My husband changed jobs at the start of lockdown and has now been working for his new company for 8 months and never seen the inside of his office or met any of his colleagues face to face. We are so grateful for our lovely big house and him being able to work upstairs in his own office. But his is the only work going on in the house because, with all the guidelines and restrictions, it is not safe to run our house as an Airbnb rental home for the time being. Read more about that on Humility. And since not having guests coming and going it has changed how I see the house and what it is for. For now I’m not making any decisions how things will look regarding Airbnb and room rentals in 2021, but I do know I see this place much more as a family home now than a business.

We did manage to get away for a flying visit to Somerset to see our mums and a couple of friends at the beginning of August and my son and his fiancee came up to us for a long weekend in mid August. Both times we were blessed with great weather. And we managed 6 days in Northumberland in late September, though because Northumbeland went into tier 3 we were not able to see one friend who had moved there a couple of years ago, and also a friend’s 50th wedding anniversary party was cancelled. But we did manage 6 days of walking, reading, and resting together.

As well as Airbnb all my work has stopped – no more writing groups, no more schools work, no more workshops in the library. All very strange. But I have been doing a lot of my own writing and a few of my blogs from here are being published on Godspacelight.com which is quite exciting. I have also been working with a young illustrator and we have a book called The Little Yellow Boat which is with BumbleBee Publishing in the process of being put together and published later in 2021. I will tell more about that once it is out in the big wide world. My plans for 2021 are to work on more short stories and other ideas and of course to blog more. I do not want The Little Yellow Boat to be my only publications. I have also been working towards an MA in Celtic Studies and have loved the modules about the Mabinogion, especailly the Four Branches. I am thinking of doing some stores around the women from the Four Branches.

Every year we do not know what is going to happen, but I think 2021 is probably the one where we have the least idea. Will the vaccine prove effective enough to bring back “normal” life? Will we have enjoyed some of the changes and not want “normal”? For some their business will never be the same again. Many will be bankrupt. For others there plans will be delayed and will be able to move forward a year or two later. But also within that not knowing are things we do have control over. I plan to continue with the Quantum Energy Counselling healing work I’ve been doing. I will work on my own writing and develop a body of work and look at being published. I will meet up with people when I walk with my dog and have great conversations. I will email my friends. And I will carry on reading. All these I have control over. As to whether I’ll start Airbnb rental again or whether I’ll be able to restart writing workshops and schools work, that I have no control over, so will hold lightly. Also I do have control over how I behave towards what is going on around me and I hope I can hold Joy and Hope in the right place and walk as God wants me to through whatever is thrown my way.

I Am Who I Am

I have been reading this book, Untamed by Glennon Doyle, in the afternoons after walking the dog. The subject matter is brilliant – about hearing with your heart what you want to do and not pleasing people. Actually just this morning it made me decide to write this instead of doing an online Welsh class. My heart said “get this written” but it was interesting explaining to my husband why I was doing one thing and not the other how I started to not trust my heart. But despite it being an amazing book I think Glennon could have made her points in half the time and still had an excellent book. It does go on reiterating the same point a wee bit

But the bit that will stay with me is the end chapter which reads like a poem. Glennon has taken that passage from the Bible when Moses asks God “Who shall I tell the people you are?” and God answers “I am who I am” [Exodus 3:13-14], and from that writes a list of quesions as to whether she’s happy, sad, straight, gay, Christian, heretic, good, bad, believer, doubter, etc, etc. And she answers with “I am, I am, I am”.

It made me wonder if God never meant “I am” to be sacred but was just saying “I am who I am”, as in I am a conundrum of all difference, full of love and yet I do get anger, totally involved and yet sometimes distant, in each situation I will be who I will be. If “I am” is not a holy phrase but just God saying they’ll turn up as they will in a given situation surely that also releases me to follow my heart for each situation?

I am who I am. Today I am a writer who has so much stuff in my head that is tumbling out that I need time to get it out. Other days I don’t want to write a word. I am funny and crazy but also deeply serious. I like people but only in small amounts and get my energy from being alone. I like to plan but can’t stand it when those plans get to tight. I have roles like mother, wife, friend, but none of those should define me.

I believe, after reading this last chapter in Untamed that God spoke those words and Moses, or whoever wrote down Exodus, recorded those words to release us and not to keep us afraid. It was to show both the conundrum of God and the conundrum of ourselves. We should be free then to release God to be all God will be at any given moment and release God from having to confrom to a formula. But also we should be able to release ourselves from shouds and oughts and whatevers, or even “but last time I did x then y”. I am who I am gives me the freedom to be who I am whenever and wherever I am.

I am who I am gives me freedom to listen to my heart at that moment, and also means that I can trust God to listen to their heart at that moment in time. No formlua. No explaination. Freedom!

Recommended Books

I am now not going to recommend you any books 🙂 Well I might.

the bloody chamberI am reading a book at the moment, “The Bloody Chamber” by Angela Carter, which was not recommended by someone I know. In fact quite the opposite. She said she had had to read it for her book club but had not enjoyed it. It was too dark for her. I must say I am loving it. In a way she did recommend it because she said that I, and another in our writing group, might like it.

I have just given up, for the second time of trying, on “Ulverton” by Adam Thorpe because I still can’t get into it. It does nothing for me and a long time ago a friend said ‘life is too short to finish a book you are not getting into’ and that is so true. So I’m afraid once again I am going to have to give up on Ulverton, even though I am hoping to write something similar in future, which is why I keep being recommended it.ulverton

Books, like art, like music, like food, like coffee have a certain taste to them and one likes them not because they are amazing but because they fit in with one’s taste. Interestingly both the above mentioned books are Vintage Classics. I did just check that because I was about to say that I don’t like what are commonly known as classics. I do have Dostoyevsky’s “The Idiot” in the pile of books I have from the library. I am plucking up the courage to read him soon.

When I look back on the books I have borrowed from the library I would be hard pressed to give my best 10. There are some I don’t even remember getting, so they won’t go down. I loved Emma Healy, both her books, have been stuck by joy of catching up with “old friends” in a Raymond E Feist novella, learned all sorts of different things, realised how much poetry I have read this year. But faves? Not sure

my study
Random pile of books on the desk in my study that I have to read at some point. They will have to wait until 2019 

So as 2018 draws to a close and everyone comes up with their ‘best of …’ lists. I think we all need to be careful not to think we have missed something just because none of what we liked is on someone’s ‘best of’ list.

Historian and Researcher

So back to the mini-series of Who I am and what I do.

6912b-historian
though I do not have a beard!!

So I’ve done the “biggies” on my business card – writer, airbnb host –  and also the easy to define one, Dog walker, and now it moves down to the ones that are harder to define. What do I mean by a “Historian and Researcher”. Well it was made clear to me the other day when I had some round from the Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust to talk to me about doing workshops up there. For one we talked history and threw ideas back and forth but then once he had gone I googled what we’d been talking about, sent emails to friends to ask for information, and then went to the library to gather books. I printed stuff off, made notes all over it and then pondered. Yes that’s what I do after I’ve gathered lots of information – I ponder it all. But also I googled the man I’d met to see more about him.

But I realise that actually I only do this when it comes to historical things. When it comesgwrych-1161 down to other things I go by “feel”. So if someone asks to meet me I first of all go by gut instinct and only after I’ve met them and want to go further with what they have said, and actually only if I feel like I have connected, do I research the subject and then the person. I discovered that, for me, to try to research something beforehand leaves me jaded and uninterested. Something has to have piqued my interest first.

Also with things like History and even Bible study, I do need to see many different sides. So with history I love historical fiction and find that is an easy way to learn things. Often I would like to do it with my laptop by my side so I can google things as I do to check out whether the author is stick to the facts. But a lot of historical fiction is interpretation – in fact so is a lot of historical fact where flesh has to be put on the bare bones of an article – so  it is good to read many different authors stories about the same period in history, covering often the same characters. Some people will have a passion for a certain king, some will have a hatred for the same person. With Bible study what is written is interpreted differently  as I did say before in “It says clearly in the Bible” that it does not say it quite so clearly as one would like. There are few words and what one thinks it says is interpretation, which is why we should hear from many different people; some we will love and agree with, some we wont. A bit like the historical fiction writers. And we will gravitate to an interpretation we like but … I digress!

keep-calm-and-read-everything-9I should have known I was a researcher years ago. When I first became a Christian I read every book I could lay my hands on in regard to what I was now believing and read my Bible 2-3 times a year (not boasting, just showing what sort of researcher I am!)  for the first few years, wanted to go on every course and conference, just wanted to know. When I had my children I bought nearly every child rearing book I could and then borrow from the library. And the same as they grew  older. I think I’ve got lazier but maybe not.

So don’t just tell me something – give me the references and then a bit for me to run with.

And also if anyone out there knows anything about the Picturesque Movement and some suggested books I could be reading I would be very grateful 🙂

Searching For Sunday – book review

I’m really late in getting this out. I should have had the review out by the launch date of 14th April, but life got in the way, as life does. I will stick to the task and then blog later on my priorities.

So I had the great privilege of being on the Searching For Sunday review launch team. This meant I got to read the book in pdf form and put comments up on a special closed facebook page, as well as commenting on my own facebook page. This did mean writing with facebook open which is not ideal for me.

I would say one of the best ways to see the bits that influenced me would be to go on my facebook page and look for #seachingforsunday  In fact there are loads of post across the world from the other reviewers.

For those of you who haven’t read Rachel Held Evans I would suggest reading her “A Year of Biblical Womanhood“, the first one of her books that I read which looks at the things that Church says women should and shouldn’t do. Rachel looks at it with open eyes and candour, not slating it but showing the roots of where these “rules” come from.

In “Searching For Sunday” she looks at her own journey from evangelical church life to exploring congregations, of finding places to question what is meant by what she believes. Like many of us, Rachel has reached a point where she wants to know why she believes what she believes and is off exploring. For many of us we haven’t lost faith in God but want to find a genuine way of working it out. Interestingly I read a piece by Richard Rohr, which I can refind to post, where he talks of how the apostle Paul had to go away and work out how it was this Christ revelation fitted into his understanding of the world. It is like having met Christ we are taking into an already formed world and there comes a time where, not so much we have to question God, but we have to question how we work in relationship to God. Here Rachel talks openly and honestly about her’s. She breaks it down into the seven parts which equate to seven sacraments; baptism, confession, holy orders, communion, confirmation, anointing the sick and marriage. Through these sacraments and Rachel’s journey the reader gets to visit with all sorts of people who are walking out their relationship with God in their own ways. As with “A year of Biblical Womanhood”, Rachel is not judgemental or condemning. This is a book full of exploring, discovering and most importantly hope. As she says at the end

But if I’ve learned anything in this journey, both in writing this book and clumsily living its content, it’s that Sunday morning sneaks up on us—like dawn, like resurrection, like the sun that rises a ribbon at a time. We expect a trumpet and a triumphant entry, but as always, God surprises us by showing up in ordinary things: in bread, in wine, in water, in words, in sickness, in healing, in death, in a manger of hay, in a mother’s womb, in an empty tomb. Church isn’t some community you join or some place you arrive. Church is what happens when someone taps you on the shoulder and whispers in your ear, Pay attention, this is holy ground; God is here. Even here, in the dark, God is busy making all things new. So show up. Open every door. At the risk of looking like a fool buried with his feet facing the East or like a mockingbird singing stubbornly at the night, anticipate resurrection. It’s either just around the bend or a million miles away. Or perhaps it’s somewhere in between. Let’s find out together”

Go buy it. Read it. Get the study guide. There is so so much to explore. If I could afford it I would buy you all a copy but I’m broke, again!

The dilemma of being both relational and an introvert

introvert

Along this journey of self-discovery I am realising that I am an introvert. More and more I am realising that I need time and space alone to recharge. This was why, even though many people felt sorry for me, having New Year’s Eve all to myself was just what I needed.

I am also realising that I am a relational person. I make connections with people easily. People like me. They want to be with me. I love talking with people, encouraging them, hearing what they have to say, connecting. But this then tires me. I love walking my dog but I have connected with many of the dog walkers in my area and most mornings I walk with someone. My dog is uber-sociable and he just wants to be with other dogs, so will look very sad if I try to go off just us two. And there are other dog walkers who crave other people being about and they will look sad if I say I want to be alone. So I have to learn to be sociable and relational but also to get time to introvert and to recharge.

It helps me understand why, much as I did enjoy my job, before the incident that rechargecaused me to leave, why I found it so tiring. I was with people for too long. So how do I make sure I get time to recharge, to introvert, but also have time to be with people. It’s not a job. It is a vocation, connecting with people, and it is what I like doing, but it’s not something that recharges me. Actually it gives me life to hear about other people’s stories, to be able to learn how they see they world, to look at the world from another perspective, as well as encouraging them along their journey. I encourage them, they encourage me. It’s not a one way path but goes back and forth.

My key relationships are with my husband then my children, but if I give too much time to others, because of being on that introvert scale, I can finish up with not enough internal resources left to give to my husband or children. So I would work – which was giving of energy, catch up with friends – another giving of energy, manage a bit of time with family – more giving of energy, and then wonder why I got snappy. I wasn’t angry but I was short tempered, but was because my inner energy tank was empty. People would challenge me on whether I was doing the right thing see people and I would always answer “yes it was the right thing.” And actually I do believe that to be true, but what I wasn’t doing was making sure I had time alone to recharge, either with writing or a book or just a lie in the bath.

As I journey through this I am learning to plan my time better. Not that goal-orientated-time-management stuff where one makes sure one fits in as much “productive” stuff as possible, but actually making sure, as I look at diary for my week, that I have enough time to be alone. Some days will be harder to sort than others. Some days I’ll just have to be kind to myself, tell myself and my husband that I will be more tetchy because I’ve not had space to recharge. It’s ok not to get it right every time.

I do wonder at times if we live in a world that says we should fill it full of things and people, of goals and busyness. I am reading “Quiet –The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” and can see how we live in a world that praises extroverts. I have been given “The Introvert Charismatic” that I need to read too. It will be interesting to see if we can bring about an “Introvert’s Revolution” or whether that is just too much for introvert’s to execute? 🙂

Along this journey of self-discovery I am realising that I am an introvert. Moreintrovert charismatic and more I am realising that I need time and space alone to recharge. This was why, even though many people felt sorry for me, having New Year’s Eve all to myself was just what I needed.

I am also realising that I am a relational person. I make connections with people easily. People like me. They want to be with me. I love talking with people, encouraging them, hearing what they have to say, connecting. But this then tires me. I love walking my dog but I have connected with many of the dog walkers in my area and most mornings I walk with someone. My dog is uber-sociable and he just wants to be with other dogs, so will look very sad if I try to go off just us two. And there are other dog walkers who crave other people being about and they will look sad if I say I want to be alone. So I have to learn to be sociable and relational but also to get time to introvert and to recharge.

It helps me understand why, much as I did enjoy my job, before the incident that caused me to leave, why I found it so tiring. I was with people for too long. So how do I make sure I get time to recharge, to introvert, but also have time to be with people. It’s not a job. It is a vocation, connecting with people, and it is what I like doing, but it’s not something that recharges me. Actually it gives me life to hear about other people’s stories, to be able to learn how they see they world, to look at the world from another perspective, as well as encouraging them along their journey. I encourage them, they encourage me. It’s not a one way path but goes back and forth.

My key relationships are with my husband then my children, but if I give too much time to others, because of being on that introvert scale, I can finish up with not enough internal resources left to give to my husband or children. So I would work – which was giving of energy, catch up with friends – another giving of energy, manage a bit of time with family – more giving of energy, and then wonder why I got snappy. I wasn’t angry but I was short tempered, but was because my inner energy tank was empty. People would challenge me on whether I was doing the right thing see people and I would always answer “yes it was the right thing.” And actually I do believe that to be true, but what I wasn’t doing was making sure I had time alone to recharge, either with writing or a book or just a lie in the bath.

As I journey through this I am learning to plan my time better. Not that goal-orientated-time-management stuff where one makes sure one fits in as much “productive” stuff as possible, but actually making sure, as I look at diary for my week, that I have enough time to be alone. Some days will be harder to sort than others. Some days I’ll just have to be kind to myself, tell myself and my husband that I will be more tetchy because I’ve not had space to recharge. It’s ok not to get it right every time.

I do wonder at times if we live in a world

This explains so much of why I don’t like small talk. 🙂 Clever tortoise

that says we should fill it full of things and people, of goals and busyness. I am reading “Quiet – In praise of Introverts” and can see how we live in a world that praises extroverts. I have been given “Introverts in the Charismatic world” that I need to read too. It will be interesting to see if we can bring about an “Introvert’s Revolution” or whether that is just too much for introvert’s to execute? 🙂