Where did April go???

Ok so I know April isn’t over yet but where did it go? This month was to be my quiet hello-april-images-1planning month – which actually I have successfully done – on the whole. I have workshops planned and ready to go. I have advertising sorted and sent out to whoever I can think of.  Actually as someone said to me it wasn’t so much a quiet month as an unstructured month where I had few time restraints – at least on the days I had at home.

Mind you I did fit in a friend’s hen do which because it was back where I use to live was a whole weekend away for me. Then said friend got married on 20th. It was a lovely wedding filled with much emotion – which will be saved either for another blog or to be kept in my private journalings.

Someone asked me about how to journal. I find that a hard question because I just write. I write as if no one else is going to read it and let my thoughts flood through. I had a great how-does-journaling-help-addiction-recovery-drugrehab-us_time of journalling over the hen weekend and came to some great realisations. Ok this might seem obvious to many but I have finally realised that

  1. I am  only one person
  2. I can only do so much
  3. if I want to do things well then I have to work out what is important to me what really grabs my heart
  4. I am not as young as I would like to think I am
  5. I have commitments that I cannot get out of – home, family, dog
  6. Airbnb will keep me busy but also free to explore

Ok so not rocket science but it still led me to saying No to things, or rather not so much no but actually stepping down from some things so I can put my whole energy  into a few things. I normally hold on to things so that I don’t hurt or upset people but then probably am not as committed as I should be. Whilst I journaled I looked at the things that gave me life and made me buzz. The things I’ve said I do not have the time to do are not bad things, are not things that I think are great and hope they come to fruition but they are things that I know I do not have the time for. Interestingly too as I journaled I saw that the things I was keeping all fitted together even though to begin with they looked separate. This would not have come about if I had just tried to think about it.

journaling-quoteMaybe it is because I’m a writer that I have to explore my thoughts via writing? I don’t know. All I know is that by the end of that weekend at the beginning of April I knew the things I had to put my energies in for the next year. Oh yes not the next month or so but the next year. This has been such a help in planning the workshops I am going to be doing, doing the advertising which I find tedious and also filling the rest of my month.

Interestingly too after committing to these handful of things that I felt were interconnected they then went and got even more interconnected with people from one set of workshops giving me openings to take the other project to another level.

Rather than repeat myself I am going to copy in bits from my Barefoot At The Kitchen Table newsletter which show what the plan for now is:

Three workshops for this new season, all of which I’m very excited about and am looking forward to starting.

  • Tuesday starting 9th May (not 6th June) for 7 weeks – Releasing the Legend Within at Llandudno Museum, Gloddaeth Street, Llandudno LL30 2DD from 1-3pm  A writing for well-being course looking at archetypes, journeys and being set free to be who one knows one is deep inside. £2 per person per session
  • Wednesday fortnighly starting 3rd May for 5 weeks – Write your life story at Gwesty Glyndwr, Marine Parade, Pensarn LL22 7PR from 11-12.30pm. £5 per person per session. Email to check dates. Always room for more and great tea, coffee and cakes at Gwesty Glyndwr.
  • Thursday starting 11th May (not 8th June) for 10 weeks – Creative Writing Group at Gwrych Castle, Abergele. Two chances to come and write in the Countess’s Writing Room – afternoon workshop from 1.30-3pm and twilight workshop from 6.30-8pm. Booking is essential as there is only enough room for 8 people in the writing room. This term I plan to be looking at questing and sagas. Cost £7.50 per person per session (£2.50 going to Gwrych Preservation Trust). Under 18’s welcome but must be accompanied by an adult.
The Project
I have been asked by Mark Baker of Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust to get involved in a year long project called “Gwrych Castle and The Great War: People and Place” which will be looking at The Countess of Dundonald, others who lived and worked on the estate and lived in and around Abergele, and how live was just prior to the First World War, during and then just after. The First World War caused the greatest change for the landed gentry in history.

​It will be an amazing project with three phases –

  1. Researching the period, hopefully getting in touch the relatives of people who lived and worked in this area during this time, taking their oral histories, copying diaries, photographs, etc.
  2. Taking this material and holding a series of writing workshops to explore and unpack the material and turn it into plays, poems, short stories and maybe even a novel, with the help of various writers and writing groups in the area. Which will take us to
  3. Taking the plays and turning them into performance pieces which will be held in and around the castle grounds at the Midsummer Open weekend in June 2018.
Of course all this is subject to gaining funding. So even though the project itself will only run for 12 months I am already working hard to secure funding. A long and arduous task!

If anyone is interested in finding out more about this project and getting involved please email me on grwycheducation@gmail.com and I can give more information.

So in my journalling it transpired that I really did want to immerse myself in this but I had to then sort out what else I could do and what I would have to put on hold for a while.

Will try to do another post soon 🙂

 

Doris – A Silly Name For a Storm

15867717-largeSurely if you are going to  name something then the name should fit. Why call a storm Doris? Is there anything that conjures up wild, fierce wind, storms, snow, plans being changed or cancelled in the name Doris?

My grandmother was called Doris. From what I remember she was feisty and I like to hope I get a bit of my stubborn nature from her, but storm force. No I don’t think so. Might have to ask my Mum to comment there because I was only 5 or 6 when my grandmother had a major stroke which back in the 1960’s was totally debilitating. She never really communicated after that. She did live with us for another 3 years in a bungalow in Dorset. My mum must have still thought she had some fight left in her because she would go to work and leave her with my sister and myself who were both not yet 10 years old then. But she definitely wasn’t storm force because from my recollection I used that time when my mum was at work and Nan was in charge to be horrid to my sister and make her do loads of awful things that a small child should not have done. And also swore her to secrecy about it. Don’t worry I did write her a very long letter of apology.

Most of these storms that batter our coast that they have started naming have got silly 1500546_billgiles_bbc300names. Names that don’t suit a storm. I think that is because it is scientists, meteorologists, who names them. I’m sure they have a very sensible way of doing it. I am convinced they work through a book of names picking at random. I wonder what would happen if you had a group of creative writers naming the storms.

I name this storm Desdemona. I think that conjures up someone that would wreck havoc around the country, that would love to make people scared, make them want to run for cover, to cancel things that aren’t major emergencies. She even sounds like she should come with an orange warning. Desdemona from Shakespeare enraged and disappointed her father and ran off with Othello, a man much older than herself. Yup that sounds like the storm that’s wiping around here, that made my dog only want to go out to do the ferdinand-theodor-hildebrandt-othello-und-desdemonaessentials and pull to come home, that made my writing workshop group all want to stay home. Desdemona has sent waves of rain water under my front door and soaked the free paper that was there. Thankfully it is only in the porch and only the free paper that got ruined. Also I think a storm called Desdemona would wait till we had cancelled the group, till she had wrecked her havoc and then stopped raining and made wonder why we’d stopped everything. Though I must add that Shakespeare’s Desdemona does eventually get strangled by her estranged husband because his sidekick makes him think she’s an adulteress.

From what I remember of Doris, my grandmother, she was someone who made things happen for me. I remember her catching me in the bathroom early one morning attempting to wash my own hair because my mum would always get shampoo in my eyes and I didn’t like that. I remember her being patient and helping me to do this myself. I don’t remember my mum ever washing my hair after that so my grandmother must have shown me well enough for my mum to be pleased with what I did. This isn’t this vindictive storm that has messed my day up today.

Come on whoever names these storms. More appropriate names please!

Footprints in the sand

Now I’m sure I’ve blogged on this before but it seems relevant again  – at least for me for now.

bd8142d355ec494c723ae48d3e39be40Most Christians, and many who aren’t, will know the story of the Footprints in the sand; where there are two sets for a while then only one and the person says “where were you Lord when I was struggling?” and God says “I was carrying you.” And it is to encourage Christians to realise that when they cannot go on God carries them. A great metaphor! But why footprints in the sand?

As you know we now live by the sea and most days the dog and I go to the beach for a walk. Sometimes we get sand to walk on, other times we have to walk on the grass and stones above the high tide level. I have noticed, after being here for a year, that the revealed sand is constantly changing. There are streams and rivulets that go across the sand. Last summer I knew where each of them were but now they have moved. Some are deeper, some going a different way, some gone. Even today there was a change between a place I could cross which the sand has now moved around on and it isn’t there.

Which is where I get back to the “Footprints in the sand” piece. Yes I do think there is footprints-in-the-sand-wallpaper-4something there about how God does carry us but I also think that it is in the sand because footprints in the sand get washed away twice a day and as fallible human beings we quickly forget what God has done for us. Just over a year ago I wrote a piece about trusting God and about struggling with trusting God and yet I still want to walk in my own strength through things. So we have  only been living here a year – exactly today we got the keys 🙂 – and I now run a successful room rental via both Airbnb and word of mouth, and am running workshops in various amazing places. Yet I struggle to trust that God will provide – work, participants for workshops, money, people to stay in our home. Because of workshops and also with room rental bookings not all coming via Airbnb there can be times when people cancel due to change of circumstance or ill health. I have noticed that these things happen when I  have projected how much money I should be earning that particular week/month and have started spending it in my head. It is like God then says “excuse me, but you’re trusting in yourself and not in me” and I have to have a rethink. I want to be self-sufficient but God is saying I have to be God-sufficient. It happens again and again because I am so bad at learning my lessons. But I’m getting there 🙂

8504328-animal-footprints-in-the-sand-copy-space-stock-photo-dogSo I think the reason that the it is “Footprints in the Sand” is, one because we forget when we cannot see the evidence, but also because we need to walk in trust with God all day every day so that we can make those new footprints with Him every single day – like I do on the beach with my dog each day 🙂

Tis the Season of the Christmas Newsletter

 

… and seeing as Facebook has reminded me that I sent one this time last year I will sent this one. I feel like I am cheating a bit because I have lots of ideas in my head for a proper blog about stuff but actually Word decided to fight with me about doing this so it has probably taken longer than a regular blog 🙂 Anyway here is it 🙂

 

christmas-bellsTis the season of the Christmas newsletter and here is ours

Merry Christmas and Happy 2017 to everyone

This letter should be title “2016 – the year of change” because I don’t think there is one thing that is the same this year as last. Yes I know we could all say that every year is not the same as the last but this one does seem to have much more changes in it than normal!

Where we live – is now totally different. As you may remember this time last year we were in a state of angst and packing boxes, waiting for the solicitors to sort a moving date for us. We moved in stages; first to a short term Airbnb let on Anglesey on Friday 5th February so Ian could start work at Bangor University as IT manager of their medical trials unit on Monday 8th, our stuff moved from Bradford on Avon on Wednesday 10th, got the keys on Friday 12th, moved to Sea Road on Tues 16th Feb and our furniture caught up with us on Fri 19th Feb. Because of the wonderful state the house had been left in we were able to get settled very quickly. By 30th March we had our first Airbnb guests, and have had a steady stream all through the year, along with a regular stream of friends and family coming to visit too. We opened our second top floor bedroom officially as an Airbnb room on 8th October, although we have had paying guests staying there before that date. Many of our Airbnb guests come back to stay with us again which is lovely. We may have only been in this house for just over 10 months but very much it is home, which has been helped by those who’ve come to stay in it – both paying guests and friends and family.

Ian – last year was going to work on a busy commuter train to work on wind turbines, now drives on a not so busy A55 looking at the wind turbine farms in Colwyn Bay to manage the IT side of the medical trials unit at Bangor University. A change from catching a train to driving, from working on wind turbines to looking at them, and also from working 5 days per week to working 4, giving him scope to explore other ideas that he can use his talents in. He is now going to a pottery class once a week, slowly connecting with others in various church things, and trying to fit in swimming and cycling. Unfortunately a lot of walking has been put on hold because Ian broke his foot at the beginning of August and it has been taking a while to heal. He was not able to drive for 3 weeks but is now on the mend but he has to be careful, which is hard because the mountains are becoming to him every morning.

Diane – last year was working at Lackham college and helping in the office of Characters Stage school, and now is spending 2 hours a day keeping the house clean and tidy for guests, putting on various creative writing workshops, connecting with others in the creative scene. Doors keep opening on more and more opportunities to do writing workshops and story telling sessions in local community centres, at a local Christian conference centre, within the home and at the castle we can see from our bedroom window; Gwrych Castle. She has set it all up under the title “Barefoot At The Kitchen Table” (www.barefootatthekitchentable.weebly.com) She is also finding time to write and has finished one novel but needs to sit down and edit it, as well as having several short stories and poems in a similar position. She has connected with creative people at the Anglican church we’ve been attending on a Sunday which could lead to organising a creative therapeutic weekend at a local Christian conference centre that is reopening in April 2017, and is also starting a regular St. Michael’s church creative group to put on plays, parades and similar through out the year.

Ben – this time last year he was waiting to go to hospital to have his collar bone rebroken and fused properly and was out of work. Within this year he had a successful operation, moved to Bath to work, then moved back to Cornwall where he is now living with Sarah in St. Just, and is working at a lovely restaurant in Penzance. We have not managed to catch up with Ben as often as we like because of the distance he is away. It takes 10 hours on the train and 7 if we drive non-stop. We did finally get to see him, where he is living, where he is working and to meet Sarah in October. Both of them are making the mega train trip to us for Christmas.

Tabitha – has gone from being a student to being out in the work place. She graduated in June with a 2.1 in Theatre Arts, moved into a flat in Forest Hill, London with a friend, went from working in one restaurant to working in another with better hours. She is adjusting to life having to pay bills, etc in London. She loves where we live and comes up to visit us often as London is just over 3 hours on the train. She also is coming up for Christmas.

Animals – we still have Renly, Damson and Archie-rabbit living with us. We are no longer chicken owners. The last of our chickens went to a chicken retirement farm just outside Devizes a week before we left Bradford on Avon, which meant we were able to Freecycle the chicken housings. Renly is enjoying long walks through Gwyrch Castle grounds and woods, regular walks along the beach and in our local park. We are very spoilt to have woods, a ruined Victorian castle, a beach and a park all within 15 mins of our house. Renly is making new friends, both dogs and humans. Damson has become an indoor cat and loves that. She is much friendlier and more content since living inside all the time. She even comes to talk to our guests. Renly of course loves every guest who comes to stay, although some more than others. Archie-rabbit lives on the raised bed in our backyard where Ian worked hard to make a secure run for him which he jumped straight out of and also has dug himself a large burrow under his cage. He is happy with it all though which we’re sure is the main thing – probably!

Church – we now attend an Anglican church. Very different from Bath City Church! But the people are warm and friendly and very welcoming. Diane has instigated the performance of a Christmas play there on Christmas Eve and has managed to encourage others to join in. Ian attends a mid-week Bible study there. We are slowly making friends there. In fact due to a lovely friend of ours who lives in Llandudno emailing all the people she knew who live in Abergele we have made lots of friends in different churches which helps to make us feel settled and that it is not just the house that is home but the area.

We did mange to travel a bit – Between us, either separately or together, we have managed trips to Ireland, London, Cornwall, Manchester, Peak District, back south a couple of times for manic rushing rounds seeing family and a few friends, and most exciting of all to a friend’s wedding in Iceland. That must come under the highlight of the year.

We are quite tied over the summer with Airbnb bookings so this does make it hard to go visiting, but always make sure we have one room spare for our family and friends to come and see us. And of course family and friends do stay for free. All we ask is good wine and/or good conversation 🙂christmas-dragon

Merry Christmas and hope to see some of you in the new year

much love

Diane, Ian, Renly and Damson

Up or Down?

Ok so the title was going to be about focus again but I thought I’ve used that before so feeling-low-670x402would try something new. I’m feeling a bit down. I had a bit of a not reprimand but just a feeling of screwing up when I sent out an advertising for my writing workshops on a new email group I’m part of. It left me a bit low. Also we are having our first long time Airbnb guests after the hard work guests of a couple of weeks ago. I am feeling apprehensive.

I was giving myself a talking to whilst out walking the dog this morning. I was telling myself that we have had way too many lovely guests so why am I letting one 3 night stay discombobulate me so much? And also with this reprimand regarding advertising – why am I letting it get to me when I have so many people supporting me and this whole writing workshops stuff is growing so fast? Then I remembered something a friend had said to me the-curious-paradox-is-that-when-i-accept-myself-just-as-i-am-then-i-can-change-carl-rogersages ago about how much easier it is to get down about something than up. The analogy was of someone standing on a chair and someone else reaches up to them and of how it is much easier for someone to pull the other person down off the chair than it is for the one on the chair to pull someone up. Down is an easier place to go.

In our well-being group yesterday one of the things that came out of my facilitating for me was that we have to all be our own cheerleaders. It is great to have other people rooting for us and we do need that mightily but if we do not have that self-belief then no amount of others cheering us on will ever get us anywhere. Yes to get to where I am now with Barefoot At The Kitchen Table I have needed a host of people to encourage me from my lovely friend Penny, to Theresa at Canolfan Dewi Sant Centre for booking me in the first place, to Clara and her business coaching, to Mark walking me to do things at Gwrych Castle, to the lovely people who come every week to my workshops. I needed all of those to get me to here but if I had just said to Theresa “great idea and I’ll think about it” I could still be here thinking about it. If after talking with Clara I had not then done anything about it I would still be sitting here thinking. And so on and so forth. I have now got an opportunity to go on local radio, to work in a local arts and community centre, to discuss ideas for working in a local hotel, and more. Even from making a mistake with advertising on this new emailing group too soon has meant I have learned something – but also have 2 people who are interested in coming along. Nothing wasted.

l395675541Oh I’ve just given myself the pep talk I should have earlier on 🙂 I do need to remember that I am a writer and that is how I think. I love walking with the dog and talking to God as I go but actually when it comes to sorting out life, etc then I do need to write. Which brings me to the question of that self-belief but also self-knowledge. We all have to know how we can problem solve that works best for us as individuals. If I walk and talk and think I get somewhere but when I write I get answers. For other people it is the other way round. But again this comes from self-belief. In fact I walked out of a craft day put on by a lovely new friend of mine, Dee of Poke the Muse, because it was craft based rather than writing based and I couldn’t figure out what I was doing.

And now I feel confident in who I am. I’ll make mistakes because I often think too fast but then I would rather have made mistakes and learned than never to have tried at all.

Are You Willing To Be Filled?

Well there were repercussions from the Airbnb guests that I mentioned in my last post. They wrote a very damming review about their stay. Needless to say it really upset me. I think I was still feeling vulnerable from their time with us anyway. What upset me most about the review was that most of what they said was not true. Anyway I got on to the community20profile20website20imageAirbnb community forum. Well what an amazing bunch of people. No one made me feel daft for having let them stay and everyone who responded to my post was helpful. Airbnb said that unfortunately they could not take the review down because it didn’t quite break their guidelines. But with the help of the online community from around the world I was able to put up a succinct response to the review which actually, so the community said, took the sting out of the review and gave me the higher ground. And also helped others to see that here was someone just ranting. But it took me a while to potter through all this and come out feeling ok.

Being a well-being writer I of course did my own journaling and explored my thoughts and feelings about what had happened via writing. I realised that I got upset because it was not pen-282604_1280true and I did not like someone saying things that were untrue. As always timing is amazing and I was meeting with my spiritual director and so I told him all this. His response was that we all feel like that, which I sort of know to be true, and that it was ok.

On Monday I was facilitating a writing for well-being group and it came up about the glass half full/glass half empty explanation for pessimist and optimist, when someone said that in an Eastern philosophy (sorry I forget where) they talk about emptying yourself so that you can be filled. So with that thought an optimist would be someone who was happy to be a glass totally empty. But then I thought Jesus talks of us being like streams of living water and of how we need to be constantly emptying ourselves so He can fill us. Very similar philosophy. I can hold on to my half full glass-half-empty-or-half-full-awesomistsglass and oscillate, as most of us do, between feeling like glass is half empty or half full. Or I can go to that total place of letting go where I am happy to give away everything in my glass and wait for the Holy Spirit to fill it.

As I’ve had time to chew this over I have realised that I had to look at the guests from the weekend as ones who did drain me and leave me empty but that then I had a choice what I filled up with. I could have filled up with fear and not ever hosted anyone again unless they were people we knew. I could have filled up with anger and responded from that place both on the response to the review and in a message to the man himself. I could have filled up with hopelessness and just sat and cried. Instead I chose to fill up with forgiveness for the man for being so defensive and so angry, with hope that actually the world is full of some really lovely people who I want to met and I will carry on host and a joy about the world.

Mind you this does not come about by being on my own. The Airbnb Community Forum community-1helped as did various open and honest posts on Facebook from my daughter, from a friend whose total openness about his struggle with his sexuality was amazing, but not just that but the love with which his friends responded. As well as friends I have who are willing to let me be myself and my spiritual director, and my time being able to walk with my dog and think and ponder with God. And also we have just had two Airbnb guests who’ve stayed who have been totally lovely and have reminded me why we do this. So it is by community that we survive and can choose.

So I have to sometimes empty myself and let those who support me, whether I know they are or not, fill me with hope and wisdom and peace. And I do often think when this happens that the Kingdom of God is bigger than just those who profess to be Christians 🙂

Dog Walker

So I continue with this piece on “who I am/what I do”. Probably what consumes most of my time after the Airbnb hosting is walking my dog. Even though he is only small we walk gwrych-11614-5 miles a day which takes a couple of hours. In the morning is the big walk – through the castle grounds, across the main road, down to the beach and back up via the park. This one is about 3 miles and takes from an hour to an hour and a half. Why the difference in time?

There are two types of dog walkers – those who go walk the dog to be alone and make sure they keep as far from people as possible and even if they do get caught they make the conversation as short as possible. They do not encourage conversation. Then there is the other type, which I come into, those who chat with people they meet. Why do I chat when I am an introvert? I chat because I like to see people smile and like to make them happy so I will have a quick word, try to remember what they said the last time we met so ask about that, and also because I seem to have the sort of face that people want to tell things to. I know a 4445558_380638b3lot about some of the dog walkers I meet. They need someone to tell their tales to. For some it is that they have recently lost husband – either through death or into care homes – , for others they just are lonely and want to tell someone what they did yesterday. But also I learn things from people which enrich my life here in our new town  but also enrich my writing life: to hear about why the lady got 3 greyhounds not just one and that he husband was one of the first high speed engine drivers; to hear  the tales of how this man tamed a
Staffordshire bull terrier after it had been rescued after being mistreated and encourage him; to find out about the places that I see along my route; of the old lady who use to work in the castle that now lies in ruins on the first part of my walk. But also I love just hearing about the general things, not just how the town use to be but where to get the best meat and things like that. All this gives me insight into my area and some of the people in it meaning I can pray for it in general and for the people that I meet.

By stopping and talkabergele-2000-si-panton-r00322542xing I get to learn so much and also am able to bless people along the way. And Renly gets to make new doggy friends and find out who the people are who will give him treats along his way. And also he loves the beach and will rush to the sand and run round in circles when he finds it is still there. As someone responded to my last post about channelling their “inner Renly” – another part of that is just having that whole joy of living and taking delight in what is just there.

pug_dog_bookends_resin__86798-1382849861-220-290
anchor/bookends – in between is my working day 🙂 

And the reason why it fills so much of my day is because it is the anchor in my day. I cannot start any form of work until I’ve walked the dog and I have to remember as the day comes to an end that the dog does need another walk. In fact I do my work, whether writing, cleaning, or preparing my writing workshop business, between the dog walks – so my working day starts with the coffee pot when I get back from my walk and ends around 5.30 when I get a text from my friend to say she’s calling round for us to walk the dogs together.

[looks like part 3 will be my new business venture so I’d best get the website up and running to share 🙂 ]