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Thursday, 28 February 2013

family connection

this week i have been smiling. a lot. memories have been stirred by family far and wide. i forget sometimes how connected this world can be over the world wide web. on monday my youngest cousin contacted me through this space. i had no idea she was reading. it was such a lovely surprise to get her comments and have her open up a whole new memory stream of our grandparents. no matter what age we are nor where we are located, the power of words evoking memory can be surprising, even on a computer screen.

one of the most used places for connection online i would imagine is facebook. and facebook was the location that brought further memories flooding back with the help of pictorial evidence. on tuesday my brother posted a photo of our family tartan and suddenly my sister was photographing her old photo album and posting the evidence. yes, that's me in the tartan jacket and my brother in the kilt.

these pictures were taken at the wedding of our beloved cousin pete (left in the above photo). the following day his brother in law alan took up the baton, posting photos we had never seen before.

these pictures were taken in the front garden of the house i grew up in. memories flooded back of an innocent age spent playing in wide open spaces. so much of it we took for granted and only realise with the benefit of experience the privileges we were afforded. yes the photos are old and the colour faded but our memories have not. especially when we remembered these pictures were taken on the day charles and diana got married. we had a big family get together, the glaswegian branch of the family needing a place to watch the wedding on their way to france offered the excuse needed to get together and party. these pictures are made all the more poignant as the bottom photo shows my dad (centre) with his big brothers jimmy (left) and derek (right). we lost dad when he was 57, jimmy when he was 60 and his son pete when he was 27. it all started nearly 20 years ago but i can guarantee we can all remember it like it was yesterday. it is good to see these images and keep their memory alive, to keep telling each other their stories, to keep writing our history.

hello my family. those that are gone; i miss you. those that are here; i love you. stay in touch.


Wednesday, 27 February 2013


Last week I was off on leave most of the week, as it was school half term holidays. It was so good to not have to rush out of bed in the mornings, to have time to sit and read, but most of all to spend time with family.

We played lots of this:

which included lots of bargaining to get the right properties, and me seeming to land on the 'Go to Jail' square far too many times.

We also went for several very cold walks, but it didn't matter, because the scenery was beautiful. The bracing sea air permeated down to what felt like deep under the skin, but in the process my head was cleared of all the clutter that had been accumulating over the last few weeks. It could not fail to refresh and renew.

Sunday and straight back to routine with a bump, washing to be done, packing for a weeks school trip to be sorted. My head reeled in shock at being forced back to reality.
To-day like the rest of this week it has been the full on daily routine. Back to back meetings at work, washing, food shopping and paying bills. In days like to-day it's hard sometimes to think 'What was this day for?' there is nothing exciting like holiday to write about, and some days are just full of jobs that have to be done. Yet within that I'm learning to recognise the moments that help you lift your head from the shore line to the horizon beyond.
To-day I can say God helped me through challenging moments at work, and I've known his peace helping  me through. Sometimes I find it hard to say that, to-day it's been true.

Tonight whilst washing up a song came on the radio. I've heard it a few times recently. and it's one of those that seems to linger in my brain. To-day it came on, and immediately I was transported to a different place, and that's all it takes. Even in a routine day there is still a moment that lifts you away, and that's good. Tonight I'm kicking of my shoes and in my head stopping and sitting in a green garden.


Monday, 25 February 2013

speaking up

i sat restrained by the seatbelt not knowing how to respond to the words i had just heard. silently walking towards the shopping centre destination of choice i was actively trying not to utter words that were racing around the track inside my mind. this was the start of a girlie day involving shopping and dinner, the hours stretched out ahead of me. 

glass doors swung open as we approached the department store, bright lights blinded, loud music filled our ears. still silent we walked through shoes, we walked through clothes, as we arrived at the beauty department i heard her say "i've upset you, haven't i?" nervous laughter overtook me as i responded "no, but you obviously don't think i'm very good at this." 

then i listened again as she spoke specifically about what she thought was wrong with my writing. 

in my minds eye i was back at school being given instruction on how you communicate correctly. the race car in my mind hit the sidings. out spilled the words i had tried to contain; this space is a joy to me, it's not homework it's something i actively want to do, it is a shared space with a good friend, it's our observations of our life journey, i don't want my creativity stifled by red pen imagery. she apologised, said she was only trying to help. i told her i knew that and accepted her apology. 

the next day i pondered what had been said. quietly i sat in my living room and wondered if really i needed to overhaul how i write. she was specific about just one thing, all i needed to look at was that, wasn't it? the more i thought about it the more i saw a pattern. this was the third friend that had spoken to me about what i was doing or how i was living my life. i wondered what was it about me that friends felt able not just to criticise but to vocalise that criticism to me?

the following day i thought about the pattern. i had listened to what those former friends had said to me but i had never responded. i let the words they spoke become valid by never challenging them. 

i realised i had to speak up.  not just for the sake of not loosing an old, long and trusted friendship but because i knew i had to be truthful. i had to be open about how i felt. i couldn't just say that i hadn't been offended to make her feel better whilst making myself feel worse. i was the one who had to acknowledge the truth in what was said but be truthful about how important what she criticised is to me. if i didn't do it, who would?

the following week i spoke up. although i knew her intentions were good, i needed her to know how she made me feel. i wanted her to know this because her friendship is important to me and because i knew if i didn't say anything, however much i tried, i knew our friendship would be affected and i didn't want that. 

through tears i spoke of hurt caused by incorrect assumptions, of the difference between asking for help from friends and of unsolicited advice offered, of personality types and communicating with all. and this beautiful friend of mine she not only graciously accepted my words but she thanked me. thanked me for taking the trouble to explain how her words had affected me, thanked me for helping her understand that hurt and thanked me for caring about our friendship enough to speak up. 

i have learnt that others learn to love and respect you by how you love and respect yourself. don't sell yourself short. you are valuable. don't be afraid to let the world see that. dare to speak up. dare to love yourself.


responding to emily's dare.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Tuesday afternoon sunlight

A day off work, and unexpected spring sunshine. Jobs pushed to one side, the to-do list can wait.

A seat in the sun beckons.......

Watch off, time put to one side.

Sunlight bringing rest inside and out.


Monday, 18 February 2013

First concert

This weekend it was time for Ellie's Christmas present. For Christmas as a surprise we'd got her tickets to see 'Little Mix' the girl group who won the UK X-Factor back in 2011.

What was special (apart from the excitement of seeing Little Mix) was this was Ellie's first ever concert. It's one of those rites of passage, you will always be asked and remember who it was you first heard play live, I had the privilege of taking Ellie to this important 'first'.

Em and I were reminiscing over text of what our first concerts where, Em's was much cooler than mine, my parents didn't really do proper gigs (listening to Radio 1 was strongly disapproved of) and I can just remember being taken to see The Wombles, as an attempt at going to something, and my Mum complaining it was too loud!

So Saturday night we got dressed up and made our way to the venue. What was noticeable was that everyone who was going in was female, and the general demographic was 10-14 year old girls with their big sisters or mums. We fitted right in.

Expectantly we waited, soaking in the atmosphere, looking at the stage, watching everyone take their seats.

The background play list music went through the loop of Grease lighting, and Gangnam style, designed to get everyone up and dancing before the big event.

Then, it went dark, spotlights shone out into the crowd. The screams increased, and Little Mix arrived.

It was a true girl event, with screaming, singing and dancing. At the end we all sang again for the encore of the last hit, the audience joining in to 'Change, change your life'. We went away with it resonating in our ears, believing that anything was possible.

The blue Little Mix hat bought on Saturday is still being worn today, the smiles were beaming all the way home. It feels good to know that you've been part of one those first memory moments, and it was good.


Saturday, 16 February 2013

saturday morning

appreciating the small things this morning. the first cup of the day, warm sunlight reflections, natures beauty.


Thursday, 14 February 2013

joyful, joyful

last week i wrote about taking small steps to rediscover my joy. the dictionary defintion of joy is "a feeling of great pleasure and happiness".  i want to feel that in my life, i have spent too many years looking at the trees to appreciate the woods. but i have come to realise that it is an active choice to look at life that way. i am in a season of ill health, to be honest, i'm boring myself with it. boring myself because it is a general feeling of malaise, one i want to ignore and get on with life but one that keeps knocking on my door, turning up as depleated energy cells. in short it is forcing me to stop. this kind of stopping is different from the kind of stopping jane and i are both practicing on sundays. it's the kind of stopping that enables you to get up for work the next morning. the kind of stopping that happens for just the length of time you can ignore the piles of washing up or washing and ironing before you get up to do something about them. it's not really stopping at all.

jane has written here previously of how we have been challenged by our friend shelly at redemptions beauty to slow down and treat sundays differently. i remember well doing this as a child. the pace of life was different then, before the 24/7 culture really hit the uk. in honesty as a child i remember sometimes being bored by the quiet. but it is as i have tried to stop; to not go shopping on a sunday, to not clear the ironing pile on a sunday morning, to actively slow down and look at what i do and who i spend my time with, then have i had full rest and only then have i appreciated the calmness it brings to the rest of the week. 

the rest i am talking about is different from the rest you take when you are ill. when you are ill you stop because you don't have the energy to go any further. when you choose to stop it is to recharge your batteries for the week ahead. we weren't designed to go for seven days solid, we were designed to rest for a day. we are not meant to be the duracell bunny

last weekend i had the busiest weekend i have had in a long time; there were no gaps, no space for myself, no time to stop from the minute i finished work on friday night until i went back to work on monday morning. up until that point i thought i had been a failure at stopping on a sunday, a failure at trying to live differently on that day. in honesty the sense of failure stemmed from stopping on the wrong day in previous weekends but through the busyness of last weekend i have realised i was not a failure. i put time aside; time to rest, reflect, recharge and refresh. time that revived me physically and spirtually.

this week i have had snatched rest times. i have found myself counting minutes in my car on the daily commute, grabbing half an hour after work whilst doing the washing up or the minutes before i drift into sleep at night. but because of illness i have found myself awake in the night and i have taken that time for refreshment too. during one night i found myself singing joyful, joyful. like i said, it's a choice to be joyful in all circumstances and i was glad that the time of wakefulness brought a chance to seek the peace i have felt sadly lacking this week. i am grateful to shelly for challenging us to think differently about sundays. previously i would not have thought there was a difference between stopping and resting due to illness and stopping and resting full stop. why? because i didn't stop to think about it. at the outset i told shelly i wasn't sure if i would be able to do it but i wanted to at least try to build the memory muscle. it's been a matter of weeks since we started, that muscle is already getting stronger and is one i am actively trying to build.

today at my desk joyful, joyful came into my head again. this time i was reminded of the updated version featuring lauren hill in sister act 2. in the middle of the night i sounded like her, at least in my head. here is the real thing - i'm a sucker for a musical number.


linking with emily for the first time at imperfect prose

Monday, 11 February 2013

mealy monday

my parents were born in aberdeen, scotland. when we were growing up we spent two weeks every summer in aberdeen visiting our grandparents, great aunt and uncle, aunties, uncles and cousins. 

each year we would stay with my mum's parents. my brother and i would share the bunk beds in the little room with the tall stack of records my uncle graham had left behind. i remember they were all 7" singles and none of them had sleeves. i don't remember ever playing them as i don't remember a record player in the room. my grandparents house had coir matting in the hallway and stairs, to a little girl who never wore (and who still doesn't wear) slippers that memory somehow makes it near the top of the list every time; scratchy matting on soles that had yet to harden. i also fondly remember my grandmas love of ornaments. i remember coloured glass ashtrays and bowls, vases and little brass bells all lined up in every nook and cranny and on every windowsill in every room.

my main memory of my grandparents house was every sunday the whole family would go round for lunch. i remember being shocked when i realised that this happened every sunday not just the sundays when we were visiting. why? well my grandparents had seven children, all of them married and most had children, not all of them still lived in aberdeen but the majority did, for us it was a great way to see everyone in a big swoop but grandma did this every week. a full house without us would be ten adults and six children, with us it swelled to twelve adults and nine children. it would all start on saturday. grandma would go for her "messages" (shopping to us kids that were brought up in england) and come home and prepare. the meat was always scottish beef and grandma always cooked it the night before while grandpa stood and prepared all the vegetables ready for cooking on sunday. the beef was always served cold with hot vegetables and gravy. there was always more than enough for everyone. the adults would sit around a table which was pulled out from the wall and put up behind the sofa in the living room, the children would have their places set on the main coffee table or tables pulled out from the nest of tables. i remember it being a happy time when the adults sat around chatting, sharing a drink, watching the tv or whatever sporting event was on that day with the kids playing games inside and out. i remember it being an innocent time, a special time for family. i also remember a huge amount of washing up that was done in the large, deep double sink my grandparents had but i also remember the many hands that made light of the work. 

last night we went to meet our cousin kevin who was down from aberdeen with friends and his girlfriend to watch manchester united play. at the end of dinner he slid a bag across the table which contained mealy puddings. this is the other main scottish food memory i have; white pudding suppers. as teenagers we would have white pudding suppers from the "chipper" which were deep fried mealy puddings with chips. don't know what mealy puddings are? find out here. to my mum, brother, sister, and myself these are like gold; we can't buy them in england (although just recently we have found a website that sells them). after trips to scotland we would bring home bags of mealy puddings and aberdeen rolls (that's a whole different story for a whole different day) and mum would freeze them. as kids one of our favourite meals was mince and tatties but our favourite ever meal was mince and tatties with mealy puddings (especially if the pudding burst and went through the mince). that was what we had for tea tonight. there is nothing like having a meal cooked for you after a long working day. a favourite childhood meal cooked for you by your mum on a monday night = heaven. thank you kevin and tracy. and thank you mum.


Thursday, 7 February 2013

thursday morning

this morning i pressed the snooze button on the alarm many times. finally as i opened my eyes i realised the light flooding the room was not the usual light. there must be a red sky i thought. i was right. i scurried to get my camera. the alarm sounding could not move me this morning but the soft subtle light of god's great creation brought me to attention.

have a good day friends.


Wednesday, 6 February 2013


from sunshine on saturday to snow on tuesday. i think i may like early morning light the best.  i'm not an early riser. maybe that's why, when i make the effort it feels like a gift. 

at the start of this week i have found small steps are good, especially when trust seems impossible. encouragement is a good thing, especially to those whom you cherish. showing love and care doesn't just change other people, it changes you.

i was so wiped out with stress and illness last week that one of the points on my to-do list at the start of this week was "get your joy back!" i've taken small steps and by tuesday lunchtime realised i was joyful again. an attitude change was required. remembering to be childlike helped too. then not only did i rediscover my joy but my hope in faith too.


Saturday, 2 February 2013

not once but twice

yesterday i realised i hadn't picked up my camera all week. this is not a usual week for me. this week the fog of illness and work stress has crowded in. succumbing finally to the winter bugs of my nieces and nephews, sleep has laid claim to me for much of this week.

as my energy levels slowly increase so too do my observation levels, my ability to look outside of myself, to see the wonder of the world around me and the beauty in relationship. i am reminded that it wasn't always the case that i was this observant or this thankful. it is easy to take life and relationships for granted. i am thankful to friends and family who have offered help, sent encouraging texts or phoned me. that may be a picture that is difficult to take and share in this space but the reminder of the no man is an island mentality is a helpful one and one which can all too easily be overlooked in the name of independence.

so today i picked up my camera, not once but twice. each time i headed outside towards the light. little by little the days are getting longer. spring is not far away.


Baking Saturday

The last few Saturday's we've been into baking in a big way. Ellie has acquired the baking habit, and each week plans have been made as to what will be cooked at the weekend.

Here is a selection of what's been made since Christmas:

And that's in addition to chocolate brownies, biscuits and jam tarts. To-day for the first time ever we have made bread, which looks like something you would buy from the Baker's.

So, Saturday is now officially baking day in our house, and it's good. Ive learnt to make things that we've never made before, and make time for things that in the past I would have said we were too busy. It's good what a 10 year old can inspire you to do......