Worth The Drive

So last night was our wedding anniversary and we drove for one hour fifty minutes one way and one hour thirty minutes the other to go to a small coffee shop in Manchester -going via Chester to pick up a friend to share this time with. Why did we do it? To see the img_20170127_205453428most amazing group of young musicians that we know – Orphan No More.

What makes them special and worth a trip like this on our anniversary? We met Josh and Kara, the founders of this gathering of musicians not so  many years ago when this was just starting and we believed in what they were doing so have been supporting them since. So we know them that’s one reason – Relationship. The key to so much.

Why  go via Chester adding half an hour at least each way to our trip? To pick up a friend that I went to university with who moved back to her home in Chester only weeks before we moved up here to North Wales. She came with us when we saw these musicians perform a couple of years ago when we all lived near Bath and I knew she’d enjoyed them as much as we had. Again – Relationship.

Talking of driving a long way for Relationship, my facebook memories tells me that this time two years ago we did a similar long journey to see my daughter in a play when she was at university. Relationship! And that was the reason we went all the way to Iceland for a wedding in September, and actually went to Oregon, USA nearly 10 years ago for another wedding. Relationship! I think there could be a whole blog just listing the miles we have driven or flown for Relationship!

Last night was not just about Relationship bur also about talent. The set was only about an hour and a half long but was so gifted. We saw Sophia do the hardest bit of being the opening act. She has the most amazing voice and sings about her life from her heart. She did really well to pull the crowd in and get people listening. Definitely a lady to watch. She was then followed by Tom Bishop, a spoken word poet and his alter ego Bish, a rap musician, who made us sit up and think as he rapped and spoke about Palestine, refugees and also our love for our homes. Amazing man and made us all think. (Unfortunately can’t find links for him so you can check him out. Will edit when I do) And of course headlining was the main man – Josh Luke Smith and his band. I must say I am always so amazed when I see talented singers like Kara Ann Marie and Rachel Jane will to be backing singers when they are amazing in their own right. As always his song “Carry Me” left me in bits. A song about a young person hurting their mother which hits me on many levels being both a mother and a daughter.

It was an evening that touched my heart in many ways. It was church in a different form. There was preaching as Tom told us to think about migrants, as Sophia got us thinking about relationships, as Josh reminded us who we were are and how we should be. For me I could feel God speaking and moving through it all. Yes we heard the words of God in a way that was fresh, real and deep. We didn’t get told how to behave but got challenged on how to think. There is so much more I want to write and probably will as I start to unpack what I heard and saw last night.

But for me this morning the thing I woke with was the importance of relationships and why I am who I am, why Ian and I are who we are, which actually has been echoed in the likes, comments and reactions to yesterday’s post. Relationships are hard but often worth driving to encourage.

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Success …

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This blog is about my key to success 🙂 

Success – an interesting word. What is success and how to we measure it? (Yes another deviation from the who am I/what do I do mini-series but this does rather cover it too)

This week I had ran my first ever creative writing workshops. And being me I didn’t start with just one but with 4. The reason this came about was because when I was discussing it I came up with 4 ideas and the woman who runs the community centre I’m putting them on in was enthusiastic for all of them and I couldn’t decide which one I wanted to do. Yes that is a bit of “who I am?” – multi-faceted and not single-focused. And then when I mentioned the workshops to a couple of people one could come Monday and the other Tuesday so … Again that is a bit of “who I am?” – wanting to please people/encourage others, which is very different to a people-pleaser. So there I go from not ever having really run a workshop on my own to running four in a place I’m not really known, starting something that had not been done in that venue before and was a bit different to Zumba, Kick Boxing and Weight Watchers.

So how did I do? Well for one class I got my friend who was staying with me and one other

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Workshop number 2

woman, in the second class I got my friend who was staying with me and two other women, in the third class I got no one but had one and half hours to sort out some room rental bookings, the fourth class had three people in, one of whom has said it is not for her and won’t be coming back – though she did say that what I had done was really good and she would recommend it. So I only took in fees half of what I needed for the room rental.

How do I feel it went? For me it was a success. Why? Because all that attended said they loved the content and would recommend it to friends. The one on the first workshop will come back but cannot commit regularly, the two on the second are committing regularly, and two of the three on the fourth are committing to come regularly. So no one is dropping out – apart from my friend but that is because she lives over 200 miles away – and the lady who is already being published in travel publications. All through I felt calm and confident, felt like I knew my material and was able to explain it clearly and confidently. I want to do it again.

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A momentary indecision 

I did on Monday evening have a bit of a dither about whether I should continue in the community centre paying the rental or whether I should have it in my home. The attendees on the fourth workshop very much encouraged me to keep going. So I am going to. I feel at peace with it all and want to carry on.

Success, like Enough which I keep meaning to blog on, are both non-quantifiable. But I think it is something deep inside that helps. In fact the Airbnb guest we have at the moment says that I ooze contentment and appear happy where I am. Ok there are days when I’m not but on the whole I am happy and content where I am doing what I do. Hence the reason for doing the mini-series which isn’t happening much at the mo. But I think this one can be included because “who I am/what I do” is these writing workshops, facilitating others in their writing and CWTP (using creative writing for therapeutic purposes) and feeling successful and contented with who I am and where I am is very much a part of all that.

Timing

(Once again I diverge from doing my mini-series of who I am/what I do but this struck me this morning)

HonorLast night we were watching CSI: Los Angeles. Ok so I’m a bit of a CSI/NCIS addict. It’s low key drama that doesn’t take a lot of thinking about and the characters are nice people – the main characters, and there is generally a good reason why the bad guys have been bad.

Anyway last night’s underlying story, to do with the main characters, was that the tough guy had promised his daughter a toy flying pony which was the ‘must have’ toy that Christmas. He had left it until the last minute and of course it was almost impossible to get. The programme starts with him trying to get it on line with no success. Then the geek guy takes over bidding on various online auctions to be outbid every time as well as doing the crime solving bits. At the end the whole team gather together as their boss says that because its Christmas eve they need to have a drink together. There is some teasing about the tough guy letting his daughter down but then the geek guy gives him the toy flying pony. The boss takes him to one side 810kiwzkabl-_sl1500_and says to the girl geek who is standing with the geek that she knew he had reserved this for himself at Comic Con in the summer and that he was giving away something special.

Ok so what stuck me about this was timing. The geek could have told the tough guy at any time to not worry about it because he had on anyway and that tough guy could just buy him a replacement after Christmas when all the fuss had died down. Or even when he gave it could have said that he’d had it all along. And yes I know it made a better story but it struck me about how as Christians we often get our timing wrong.

If the geek guy had given the gift too soon then the tough guy would have felt ineffectual. He wanted to get for his daughter. If the geek guy had not given at all both daughter and tough guy would have had a not so great Christmas – especially probably the dad because the daughter may have forgotten.

How often as Christians do we step in too soon? We tell people what they want and how to 11406317_10155600699790648_4390248065953060695_odo it and disempower them or alienate them. We think we know best because we have this hot line to God!!! Or we step in and say we can do something when actually when it comes to it we can’t. I have been guilty in the past of saying “yes I will always be here for you” or “I can support you there” when in fact when it came to it I was either too busy helping other people that I had said the same thing to or just didn’t have time or energy or even resources. What if the geek guy had said he could get the pony but his reserved one had not arrived in time? He would have looked stupid.

I also think we need to let people work out what they really really want. I think Jesus makes us ask and ask and look and look but in the end gives it to us. Yes He could have given it to us earlier but there is something in the seeking that makes us more grateful in the receiving. But also makes us feel empowered and also realise that this is what we want.

There is a possibility that if the tough guy had got the pony straight away he would not have been grateful to receive it at the last minute or more likely, if it happened more often would just come to rely on the geek to get things rather than his own resources.

I remember once when I lived in Belfast at a church event one woman really stealing fromstealing the church. It was a barbecue and the lovely church members took those in the local area for a barbecue at a local nature reserve. It was common to do this every year. The church booked the coach, picked people up, cooked the food and provided everything – drinks, crisps, sweets – and waited on the people who came. This one woman was sending her son up to keep getting cans of drink, packets of crisps and sweets and had brought a small rucksack to put this in. As the bottom feel out of her bag because she had too much she laughed and said “well that will have to be enough for lunches for the next week.” She saw it that the church had more than enough – which they may have done – but she was not grateful just grabbing.

Yes there are people in need but I think, as Christians, or as any person who supports others, we need to wait for them to know what they want and then help them to get it, and if all else fails then give it, but I do think too often we jump in as do-gooders and give something that actually people aren’t sure if they really want.

New Venture

So part three of what I do with my day/who I am/what I do mini series.

I’ve had rush to get a website and facebook page up and running so that I can post here. jumble of ideasFor a while I have fancied running creative writing workshops, especially after I started the Creative Writing For Therapeutic Purposes MSc. I have loads of thoughts and plans and ideas written all over the place and half baked ideas for websites. It was some of the reason I started this blog; to get an online presence that I liked.

When we moved here I thought I would start in earnest planning workshops. I am a great planner but not so great a doer but it looked like God/fate/destiny had other plans for me. I was connected to this lovely Christian lady who is the most amazing networker and encourager I have ever met. She is amazing. So there we are one day, me and her, chatting down in a local cafe she wanted to show me and in pops the person who runs a local community centre. After chatting a bit I say “so you’re the person Penny wanted to

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Very much how I network 

introduce me to to talk about creative writing workshops”. Well before I really knew what had happened I was signed up for running 4 writing workshops over two afternoon/evenings at this community centre.

So I’m working for myself, having to find my own insurance, do my own publicity, etc, and pay for the room rental. Now both these lovely ladies are networkers so they are putting my publicity out there as fast as I can get it sorted. This has meant that I have then been connected to other people. One of these other people as well as working for the local council on their well-being team is also a business coach and networker! So she now has the local council supporting half of one of my workshops but also has given me great advise on marketing, etc, which is why things have started a bit ad hoc but are getting a bit more professional.

I have also been connect to a lovely online lady called Lisa who runs Roots And Wings, an online support site for business people. I haven’t had much time to look at her site but the big thing I have got from it is about being in for the long term. And thankfully because of that I am not panicking that my start isn’t as professional as it should have been.

So I have now started on a website called Barefoot At The Kitchen Table, because I know

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The mobile kitchen table

that some of my best times with people are around my kitchen table and that really I only wear shoes because it hurts my feet to walk outside barefooted. As soon as I can I will take my shoes off. I would love it if you would click on the link and have a look at my site and share it with your friends.

I have also set up a Facebook page, Barefoot At The Kitchen Table,  which has been hard work in the making and in the trying to get profiled but please again go on and click “like” so that it boosts its profile figures.

But both the website and the new facebook page have come into being after I started advertising. At the moment I do not have many people signed up for the workshops and could finish up having to support the workshops via the Airbnb income, but you know I’m not worried. Why?

bare-female-feet-under-vintage-table-white-retro-tired-businesswoman-woman-girl-leg-cramps-relaxing-no-high-heels-50400483_origBecause I’m in for the long haul and through starting I have connected with other people, have actually got something off the ground, am being known as a person in this area who does this sort of thing, and feel like I am doing something. I feel excited about what is going to happen in two weeks time with the start of these workshops but also excited about what will grow from it. Now I’ve started I will keep going. In fact now its out in the open I will get encouragement from these lovely ladies that are now in my life and who knows where it will go and morph and become.

Airbnb Host

People, both friends and those I meet walking, ask me what I do with myself. My roles are many and varied. I had a some business cards printed that say a multitude of things and so I thought I would write a series of post unpacking what those things mean.

airbnbI am going to start with Airbnb hosting for a number of reasons; one it comes first on my business cards, two is comes first alphabetically, and three it does hold the structure of my day in place.

There are many articles that can be found giving Airbnb a bad name, but I think a lot of that is because, as Brits especially we do like to moan, don’t really like something entrepreneurial and do enjoy a bad story. For myself as both host and guest I think it is great. We have a dog and that means that finding campsites and hotels that allow dogs can be hard work, but the Airbnb filters let us search for dog friendly places to stay.  Yes I know these can be put on other websites for looking for hotels and bed&breakfast establishment, but I have done this before via a site, booked and paid for a dog-friendly room, arrived at the hotel and they have looked at my dog in amazement because the part about having a dog had not been passed on by the website. With Airbnb there is a chance to chat via the Airbnb app to the host and make sure they understood about the dog.

Also as a host, being able to chat to your guest before they arrive is nice, though sometimes it does mean that I have form presumptions about people before they arrive as I have mentioned before 🙂

So why do we host strangers via the Airbnb site? One reason is that we can pick and choosebnb_billboard_011 when we have people. The calendar is easy to use and so holidays for us are possible. Also Airbnb do have a vetting service or sorts, though that is more just to check the people are real! We wanted to make some money and this gives us a way to rent out our rooms easily. Airbnb do take their cut, which is making the guys who set it up rich, but you know for me I think that’s ok. It’s a great idea and by the moment of people using it show how popular it is so why not let them make some money. Really it is just lots of little bits. We are not put out by them taking their small cut and our guests say they still find it cheaper even paying the service charge.

The big thing for me is that we get people like us coming to stay, people who enjoy a chat, want to learn about the area, and want a cheap holiday. My husband says it is like having the world come to us. So far in this house we have had Italians, Polish, Australians, Welsh, English, Latvians, Malaysians, Singaporeans, and more. Most we have had chance to chat to, share breakfast with, eat supper with, learn something from. And it is also something we can do when we have family and friends to stay. Over the last couple of weekends we have had friends as well as Airbnb guests staying. So we sit down to breakfast with our friends, the Airbnb guests grab their breakfast and our friend is teasing our Brazilian guest about football. My husband breaks his foot the day before we are having a new bed for a new Airbnb room we will launch soon delivered and friend and Airbnb guest carry bed to top floor. I couldn’t have asked that if we had been running a hotel!

Also we can say what we want to supply for our guests. We do not need to do a full English breakfast. Our listing says there is bread and cereal if required in the kitchen. We do not supply an evening meal but do allow our kitchen to be used by our Airbnb guests to cook in.

Woman Changing SheetFor me there is a lot of cleaning and changing of beds and washing that needs to be done. But actually I was looking round the house today I realised that because of having guests so often the house is always clean and tidy. We were very lucky that when we moved into this house the previous owners had left it spotless, well decorated and with amazing carpet and curtains. That was a great help to the running of things. So I spend 2 hours a day keeping things up together. Sometimes it is a pain, like this Sunday when we had 2 couples leave Sunday morning and 2  couples arrive Sunday evening. I will give out my business cards to Airbnb guest that we have enjoyed saying and so we do have Airbnb guests who text to ask to come again. This was how we had this big change round on the weekend. So, because we then had paying guest on both floors of our house I had to spend about 3-4 hours cleaning everything. Also one of the couples who left on the Sunday were friends and so the housework had slipped a bit. But this does not happen that often. On the whole it is a steady stream of guests and cleaning and I can pace myself.

The reason it is controlling of my time is that it does need to be done. Airbnb use a rating system both for hosts and guests, and one of the scores is on cleanliness. I work hard to get 5 stars for everything every time. I find this very rewarding.

The hard things about hosting is that we meet such lovely people and then have to say goodbye. We know in truth that we will never see them again even though we all promise 13600090_10153796842010698_7018399500870131622_nto stay in touch. We know deep down we won’t. This is where we need to take guidance from our dog. Renly is loving and welcoming to everyone who stays, after he has done the initial barking when they arrive.  He is friend, follows them everywhere, sits at their feet, wags his tail when they come back from trips and then when he sees them go for the last time with their bags and I start to strip the bed he goes to sleep. His friendships are deep but the ties easily cut. If we are to do this well we do need to make sure we do this more; to love the people whilst they stay and then just let them go. We hoped that we would have a hospitality house where we could bless people on their journeys. With this we have a double portion – being blessed as we do the blessing 🙂

How we view things …

I have realised it has been over two weeks since I last wrote. There has been a lot happening in my life so not much time to find head space to write. My days have been full of family visiting, my daughter’s graduation and then her visiting, as well as spending time getting ready for the open day at the community centre where I will be running some writing course in September.

walking_in_the_water___by_dodephineIt was strange but I felt really flat after the open day and had to ponder why. Some of it was because I had been really busy and was tired and needed some introvert time. With running a hospitality/Airbnb/room rentals house it can be hard to find that time. I need to learn to seize the moment rather than expect long days for just me.

Some was because it would have been my sister’s 53rd birthday yesterday. It’s odd but I miss her more and more as time goes past. There is that old adage that “time heals” but for me it seems to hurt more at certain times. And it got me thinking about anniversaries. There are so many and then can converge on each other and we have to choose how we look at them. We could focus on what isn’t, what has gone 122378_story__movingonbut then miss out on the good. As you should know I do not want to bury my grief but I do know the anniversaries of deaths, birthdays of those gone too soon, things that didn’t happen, coincide with good things – graduations, moving house, birthdays and weddings of the living – so much. Which way will I look?

This is some of what I journaled this morning:

As I look through the window at
the trees billowing
the raindrops
the small clouds drifting in front of the bank of trees on the hill
I marvel
Marvel at the blessings
It would be so easy to remain
in this well of sadness
to count the losses
court the pain and
let them rule.
I want to list them to let the world see
how much I have to grieve
And yet …
I look out of my rain splattered window and know
that I am blessed.
Like that small cloud emboldened on the darkened landscape
I can drift
I can choose which way I look.
At the dark backdrop or
out to sea.
I can look up or can look down
I can choose, for now,
to take myself away
Like that small cloud I can enjoy the view
I can choose to marvel at my God
Today I choose to look and see
that I am blessed.
Today I choose LIFE!

Maybe not the greatest of poems but it says what we can choose. And so yes I do feel sad waiting-for-godand needing space but also know that I am blessed.

I have a follow on to this about being open. Both the thing about perspectives and about living in the light seem to be reoccurring themes for me at the moment.

 

Life Moving Fast ….

4221396001_5030726696001_5030697883001-vsWe seem to be in a time of great political change in our country. For the first time ever we have an uncontested leader of our country. Is this right? Who can say. But it is a first, at least since the time of voting democracy. Watching satire programs in fascinating because by the time they are screen, having been recorded 24 hours earlier they are no longer news but old news. Things have moved so fast. All program makers know that there can often be items that are changing, like with an election coming up or a big football match – like the Wales/Portugal semi-final. Oh and as an aside – I thought it was great that the team that beat Wales went on to win Euro2016. Wales was beaten by the best not the second best 🙂 Anyway that is an aside.

Talking of that who would accept a team as champions if they had not had to beat anyone to win? No one! But we now have a leader of this country who is leading because her rival shot herself in the foot, so to speak. I find this hard to know how things will go when speed_of_lightsomeone is uncontested like this. But again it is saying something about the speed things are moving – within 3 weeks the UK is a very different place.

On a personal note things have started to move here. I came back from a lovely relaxing 10 days visiting friends back where we use to live and enjoying 3 days of a writing retreat but since arriving back things have not stopped. I came back to a full calendar of Airbnb, my mum and her husband staying followed by my mother-in-law staying, in a gap I went for coffee with a friend up here and in a chance conversation to someone who runs a local community centre am now in the process of building publicity to start not just one but 4 writing courses at the local centre, and also have my daughter’s graduation and a full summer. Things are moving fast here.

As I was dog walking this morning I wondered if maybe the world, or at least the UK, is moving quicker. I know time is a relative concept but within the scope of how our country is run has changed dramatically. But also within my own life too. It is a dramatic change. Yes I had put it out there – not prayed as such but mentioned in a post on a writing facebook page that one of my adventures I would like to do would be to run creative writing

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Canolfan Dewi Sant, Pensarn – the location of my writing courses

classes. I did not expect that to happen. I was thinking I could start putting feelers out come September but not start in September. But now the publicity is out there. I’m getting my public liability insurance and will start really selling it in 10 days time at the community centre’s open day. I am a person who doesn’t mind change which is probably just as well. Even within the thoughts on the change of direction of the UK and the whole political situation I do find it fascinating and something I can roll with. With myself and these writing groups I find it a challenge because there are things I need to do – like posters, go chat to people, get publicity out there, put a reasonable facebook page together. All of which I find challenging. Also there is that concept that sitting in my room on my laptop all day isn’t really work – I think this myself at times but also I know others do too. It is hard to say “I’m writing/thinking all day” so I do get lost in the whole thing of emailing friends, reading stuff, buying things that I know we need but maybe not yet. The whole writing phenomena, whether building up a facebook page, a website, or even writing my target of 1000 words for my novel, do seem to slide. And of course there is still the house cleaning to fit in.

Another fast moving things too is that a young girl – 2 days younger than my daughter – has asked if I will support her with Bible study. She says she needs an older Christian 6e4314dd3eb384859b9d1bdaa2e6a591friend and thinks I’m it 🙂 That’s good news but again it is faster than I thought. She goes to the Bible study group we sometimes go to on a Thursday evening. We are still at the point of trying to work out what church we want to connect with and get involved with but here is a girl who wants me to do the discipling/bible study/mentoring bit already.

We have not been here 6 months yet and yet when we went to the local carnival on Saturday we saw 4 people that we knew to talk to!!! And I am moving into that stage of knowing more. I think for me within in all this I have to trust that God is God and He knew before the beginning of time that things would move and happen as they are. That Theresa May is the undisputed leader of not just the Conservative party but the Prime Minister of the UK is not a surprise to Him. Neither is the fact that I’m going to be running creative writing groups and doing some discipling earlier than I thought.So for me I have to trust in Him and believe and pray and wait and see. And also get on and do the things hqdefaultthat I can do, the things I’m meant to do. Trusting God isn’t an idle time but a time of listening doing what He is leading me into – which at this moment means posting this and getting on with some publicity stuff 🙂