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 🙂

 

Predictions for 2017

happy2bnew2byear2b20172bposterOk so I’m a bit late. All the papers, etc had their predictions within the first year of the year. But I’ve been pondering and reading them and have been amazed at how, when they were so inaccurate for 2016 why they are now rolling them out again for 2017!

Most seem to be doom and gloom and that we need to be fearful and worry. Some of this might come to pass but some of it might not. Donald Trump may end the world as we know it but he might not. Brexit may be another end of the world as we know it but it might not. Things may get better or they may get worse. We could be overrun with refugees and as someone told me we could all die because “all the refugees are coming here to kill us.” I am thinking that one might be a bit over the top, but it is what this person believes.

I tell you what I do know will happen this year: there will be countries that in the West we unknown-futureeither do not know or do not take that much interest in that will be at war and atrocities will be committed in them but our newspapers will ignore them; the cost of some things will increase; people we know and love will die – whether friends and family or celebrities; people will marry; children will be born; some will move house and some will stay put; etc, etc. I could go on but won’t. I hope you get what I am saying. There are a lot of things that will happen but we don’t actually know what.

And in all this we have a choice – do we live in fear that things might happen? Do we ignore it all? Do we try and do our bit? Do we believe we can change something? Do we live in peace with the world? And again there are many things here that I have left out. It is our choice what we do and how we think. We can choose to live, as the person who fears all the refugees does make her act in a certain way. We can choose to ignore there are any people in need and that will cause us to act in a certain way.

How will I choose to live? How will you choose to live? As a friend and I were saying soulspark_year_in_the_making_ilo_inspired_edited-1yesterday we need to set little goals and then not beat ourselves up when we don’t achieve them. For me my goals revolve around writing and people. For others it will be other things. I know people who are fired up about politics and that is great and I want to encourage them. I have people due to circumstances who are fired up about disabled – both physically and mentally – people and are doing something about it, big and small.

I believe we need to get up each morning and see it as a blank page that we can enjoy whatever our circumstance. And actually I met with a friend yesterday who has cancer and does not know how long she might live and yet it was the most joyful lunch I have had in ages. Every thing was fun and enjoyable. Yes we did talk about tough things too so we didn’t ignore what was happening to her but she has chosen to be alive for however long she has left. Not Pollyanna-positive, but real, open and honest but living every moment. I have also spoken with other people who are fit and healthy and ok financially and who live with worry and fear.

It is a choice how we look at this year and how we live it out which is not based on circumstances.

Didn’t know it was gone till it returned

I know I journeyed through some stuff over the past 3-4 years, and it has kitty20high20res1been a challenge, but I have thought I was getting stronger. What I didn’t realise, until I got it back, was how much my confidence had taken a battering. Mind you as I look at it I do wonder if I was ever a confident person. I put things on my blog because its easier than saying it to people. And at times I have been quite controversial!

How did I notice this? Well I started work in a local college as a learning support assistant, with a team that had been there for a long time who knew I was only going to be there until the end of the term, and I got taken seriously, what I had to say was valued, and not just that they expected me to input and give feedback. It made me realise that I had lost confidence not so much because of what had happened but by the way people reacted to me. So how did I notice that I had more confidence? Well I offered to read someone’s daughter’s psychology degree essay and when I’d done the mum said that it was nice to have it read by someone intelligent, and confidenceinstead of saying some put down about myself I said yes I am. Also I was in a play at our church and the compare did, what I thought, was a poor introduction and so instead of just sitting back and thinking it I told him so, in a gentle way. And I didn’t blush or make it into a joke which I would have done before.

But you see the thing that has struck me is that I didn’t realise that I needed to have a confidence boost and the team I was working with were not doing what they did for me at all. They were just being them.

The thing that has struck me is how I have got something that I didn’t know I needed and got it from people just being themselves. So I want to white-blank-page-sketch-book-pen-24674827thank my team for being themselves. I want to say how pleased I am to feel an inner strength of confidence that I didn’t even though I needed. And I am also pleased that I didn’t know I needed it until I got it!

Wonder what things I’m going to get in 2016 that I didn’t know I needed. Interestingly I’ve been doing a piece with “Abbey of the Hearts” about asking for a Word for 2016 and what I got was:

Blank Page – Wait patiently for it to be written. DO NOT start to plan and fill it.

Enjoy the empty days

For me, with this realisation of regain confidence that I didn’t know I needed, this Word says that instead of thinking and planning and working it out I just need to sit and let God come with what He has and let Him fill it.

 

(Interestingly in this my fresh meat man Tony of Wiltshire County Fayre has asked if I will consider doing his newsletter once I’ve moved; which he will pay for. So already something is coming. But I need to be careful that I think don’t try to second guess that the other things might be.)

So what’s the Vision? What’s the big idea?

‘ve stolen this line from the poem “The Vision” but I think it sums up what we’re up to. Ours is not some big website ministry. The Vision Ian and I have is a little one; a front line out of sight living life vision. As my friend John Bell would say “We’re doing Life” – with a capital L.

So what is the Vision? The Vision isn’t Wales – though God has led us there through our love of the country, our love of beach, mountains, walking, and the people of Wales – and when we are there we will be praying for the land we’ll be standing on, and interacting with the people. But the location is almost incidental without that sounding disrespectful to the country that is accepting us. No the Vision is also the house and the space in the house’ the space for us to grow to be more like God intended us to be and to help and support other people to grow into their God given destiny. So what it is is

the front garden

the space. We asked for 6 bedrooms, 2 living rooms and a big communal space. What are these spaces for? This is the important part of the Vision.  We can “see” a space to have a lodger living full time with us as part of our family, with the whole giving and receiving that comes with family. Plus we want to be able to do the Airbnb thing more; having holiday makers, travellers and business people pass through our home. This is something we have enjoyed doing already but have found our little house a bit too cramped. We have been able to host Chinese, Londoners. Polish, Brummies, Australians, Americans, Lithuanians, Bulgarians, French, Italians, Indians, others from across the UK, some who have been working in the area, some who are holidaying, some who are on long term travelling, some who need to talk and eat with us, some who want some space. All of which has taken some discerning. We like doing it via Airbnb because then we can be a spare room in a family home rather than having to comply to all the regulations that come with official Bed and breakfasting.

So that is 2 bedrooms with functions. We also feel like we would love to have our own separate spaces. We were both single for a long time and it has been a challenge to get use to living and sharing our space, but we have done well and are enjoying it, but it is like to expand as who we are we could do with “a room of my own”. For me it will be to write, to be able to leave my writings out and not have to tidy up, to be able to have books piled about so I can pick up when I want, and for room to study, though as to what the study and where it will go I do not know. For Ian it will be a place to explore, to work from home and also to not have to tidy away because this house now is too small for us both to leave things out.

Two more bedrooms with functions. Then of course we will have our bedroom and that leaves one more bedroom. This will be for our children and for our friends; a place where those we already know can come and be with us, can enjoy what we have got, can walk on the beach, can be revived and refreshed.

The reason for the space downstairs? We believe there was need for a communal space where every one could draw

the kitchen/diner viewed from standing in the kitchen

together. Plus a living room for us to relax in and another living area that was just for us as a family so we could withdraw when need be.  This house we hope to get has a kitchen/diner with one end a lovely square cooking space, with breakfast bar, that then reaches into a space for a reasonable size table (6-8 places) and room for a couch too. The reason for 2 living rooms is, much as we want to share our lives, we also want space to withdraw. We also found with the Airbnb guests there were times when one of our children needed just us but there was no place to withdraw and just chill out. So the front living room will be our family space alone and then the other one will be for sharing. There will be times when we have a lot of guests and the functions of the rooms will have to change but that’s ok. This is very much God’s house and He will have His way. We hope that it will be filled with love, laughter, prayers and tears. We’ve done too much of life to know that tears are very much a part of real life and that is what we want this place to be.

So this is The Vision. This is the Big Idea. As Habakkuk 2:2 says “write the vision plainly so the runners can run with it/so that it can be read on the move”. Here is our vision written plainly so we can keep moving ever closer to it. Unless it is written clearly it is easy to settle for second best. In fact when we were house hunting we so knew that God wanted us in this area that we almost settled for a house that did not have what the Vision called for. It is so easy to  miss out when it isn’t written down.

It is also like God has given us this house vision and then the desire for the area but also kept us in mind to our needs. Things like the need for a large attic because we do still carry a lot of our children’s belongings, which gives them freedom to travel and explore the world unhindered, but also we have things that we would like to keep too, as well as Ian have all his outdoor stuff which will be so important to him when we are so much closer to “the big outdoors”.

Sometimes I think we get afraid to write it large and write it bold and stick to it. I know we have which is why it took us so long to get here. But we cannnot look back on shoulds and oughts but only keep on going forward, ever growing.

Do Life

I have a lovely friend who, until recently, wound me up with his expression “I’m off to do life with … ” or “let’s do life together.” I use to think it was obvious that we all do life and that’s what goes on. But I’m now not so sure everyone “does life”, I think there are people who just get on with things and put their heads down and don’t enjoy life.

This weekend my husband’s Uncle Ron died. Here was a man who “did life” even if some of the family didn’t get it and thought he was being irresponsible. Nine and a half years ago he had a horrific car accident which cost him his legs. He was a big man and was wheelchair bound with no legs so never a possibility of walking again. I only really met him once not long after the accident and he was in hospital, but even there he was busy. He had decided to grow tomatoes on the roof of the hospital, where patients were allowed to go. Even though he didn’t know what life would bring he was planting something for the future. From what I heard from my mother-in-law Uncle Ron was always having barbecues, growing various flowers and vegetables and keeping his carers busy. He had to have full time carers because he couldn’t even get in or out of bed without help. Last summer him and his carers went on holiday to France. He wasn’t going to lie down and die. Because of his over-eating and lack of physical movement he had problems with diabetes and in the end that was what killed him. Uncle Ron could’ve decided to eat properly and give himself an extra five or ten years but he would still have been in a wheelchair, and in fact from the accident he did get another extra nine and a half. He could have died in that accident but didn’t and decided to “live life.”

My friend who has the expression “do life” is also someone who has see death and come through it. Life is a big thing fordo life him. As we get older we do see more and more people die, some in old age, some too soon, but eventually we will all die. The big thing actually to always ask ourselves is “have we lived life.” What does that mean?

To Uncle Ron it appeared to mean enjoying life, inviting people round to eat, and planting flowers and veg. For the friend I’ve just mentioned it means going on mission and giving to others. To some it means going to war torn countries and nursing or reporting to let those people know they are not alone. For each of us to “do life” means something else. As I mentioned in an earlier post about being able to “act on what transpires” which actually is living life. I don’t know what will  happen next at all. Take this morning – my neighbour and I set out with our dogs and were in the middle of a long deep conversation when we aspired a fellow dog walker and his Labrador puppy so we walked with him a bit, then he went off and we got back to our deep conversation, then bumped into some other walkers and walked and laughed with them for another hour. That wasn’t planned. In fact the plan for me was to have a quick walk then get to see a friend for coffee, who had cancelled that morning because her son wasn’t well. I was going to “do life” with her but in the end got on and “did life” with what transpired. Maybe this was the same for Uncle Ron. He never planned to be without his legs for the last nine years of his life but he made the most of the life he had without those legs.

We do all need to plan and to put things in place to look to the future but we need to be flexible so that things can change. And when we do put things in place we need to hold them lightly but hold them with joy and then hold the changes with joy and not with fear. Life is too changeable even in nice middle class England (a place I know and love).

So thank you John and now I get it completely. I have been lucky and not personally come close to dying but I’ve enough to know life isn’t static, isn’t predictable. There is a choice to live in fear and just get on with it, or to “Do life”. What do you choose? What do I choose?

Calling and role rather than setting goals

Like the chameleon I need to be able to adapt to my surroundings

I’m now at the day when I was going to “start the plan for the rest of my life” but I think what is being revealed is that things don’t always go as planned. My daughter was meant to go back to university either yesterday or today but isn’t now going until tomorrow so I’m spending time with her. My husband now only works a 4 day week and doesn’t work on a Monday so he wanted to have time with me, which was lovely because we haven’t really seen much of each other this year as he’s been working away in Holland for a few days and then I was away this weekend studying. Also I’d arranged to dog walk with a dear friend who’s input is very special in my life. So “the rest of my life” didn’t start it’s planning today. But I think what this has said to me is that flexibility is part of the plan.

An old home schooling friend who is now in business as a life coach for simple, authentic living recently published a blog post that said how instead of setting goals, which means we are always either looking at the past to what we didn’t door to the future of what we hope to achieve, which can so easily lead to disappointment, we should look at who we are. So one looks at one’s calling, one’s role and also how one can serve, and in serving it isn’t just serving others but serving ourselves in the situation. So often we are taught that to serve ourselves is selfish and that we should be giving to others when in fact the advice given on an aeroplane is to put on one’s own oxygen mask first before helping others. In other words check you’re ok and can breath before rushing off to help others. So if I make sure I’m safe and breathing then I can serve others but if I’m struggling and can’t breath then I won’t be able to help anyone else. A bit of a change of culture.

There is a challenge inherent in this process of allowing ourselves to accept, be with and act on what transpires. (To begin with, what appear to be concrete goals can seem a lot safer!)

Who are what would you rather be guided by? What gives you greater peace?

So following on from my friend’s advice above I need to accept who I am and be me and then act from who I am and see what happens. So there is no plan, no set of goals but an living out who I am. So no goals are going to be set on the fact that I am going to this on this date or that or that date, or that I’m going to get thinner by x or more healthier by y. In fact last year I did lose a lot of weight and I am fitter but not because I set a goal to be but because I took a simple blood test to find out what foods I was intolerant to and then cut them out. I’ve gone down a whole clothes size and I do look good. I’m also healthier because I’m no longer eating foods that my body doesn’t like. I worked on accepting who I was and what I could eat and acted from there.

So for now I have to work on my MSc in creative writing for therapeutic purposes because its what I love doing, part of who I am and see what happens from there. I enjoy being with my family and with lots of my friends that I am being able to catch up with now I’m not doing any paid work. And work-wise something will come about that will help to pay the bills, but it won’t come by me setting goals but by me accepting who I am and living my life from the place of being me.

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
We have come to our real work…
And when we no longer know which way to go
We have come to our real journey.
Wendell Berry