Categories
bitter/sweet grief hope joy life loss

Beware the Ides of March

Sunset on the M56 on a journey back from our holiday in Northumbria Sept 2020

Misquote from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar but seemed appropriate for this post.

March is a weird month for me because over the years lots of stuff has happened in it. To name but a few – it is the anniversary of not just physical deaths of friends and family but also of the loss of dreams, of anniversaries of heartbreak and relationship ends for both my children, which if you’re a parent you will know this hurts your heart too. But it is also the anniversary of when I got my cute little dog, when I met with God in an amazing, never to be dismissed encounter, when my son was born. So the month of March is a bitter sweet month. But then isn’t that life.

Life isn’t all good or all bad. Even in this pandemic I would say each person would be hard pressed to not be able to find a good time, even if it is just something small, but our newspaper headlines would like us not to see things that way. And I’m not saying things haven’t been tough. For me just entering March each year is tough and it was also why I went into panic mode last March rushed to “rescue” my daughter and bring her back to live in my house, was scared that we would run out of food. It wasn’t just the pandemic but the memories heaped upon it. This year I am calmer because I’ve recognised this is what my body does so I do almost remind it to “beware the ides of March”. Then I can work with my panics and my negative feelings and keep my body, mind and emotions not so much in check, because hiding one’s feelings is dangerous to both your physical and mental health. But I make sure I don’t get caught up in flight, fight or freeze and acknowledge the past in all its hues.

I’m not saying it is wrong to remember these events. It is good to have some time set aside to remember those people and dreams that have gone, but I do believe one should also remember the good in them too. I know sometimes that can be hard when the death has been from a long drawn out illness or mental health issue, or if the relationship or dream ended painfully. That does make it hard. But there is a gap for light in everything no matter how horrendous.

I read a few books last year and this about refugees and people in war torn countries. These books aren’t gloomy. They are honest about the hardness of the situation but they also see the light and joy in things. These are not books I come away depressed from but come away having learned something of another culture, another way of life, that I would not encounter in my daily life. The things I read are much harder than what I’ve been through. No matter what are papers say we are blessed to live in the UK. And yes there are things here that need to change, justices that need to be sorted, I’m not saying that. Same as I’m not saying that one shouldn’t grieve for those we’ve lost. What I am saying is that we need to see the blessings in the sadness, see the joy in the sorrow, see the light in the darkness.

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”

Oscar Wilde Lady Windermere’s Fan

Which way do you want to look?

Categories
Census equinox lockdown spring unprecedented

21st March 2021

Daffodils. Image taken from Pixabay.com by dendoktoor
Image from Pixabay by dendoktoor

Today is the 21st March, the first day of spring. It is also Census day here in the UK, an event that happens every 10 years. It is the 1st anniversary of the first ever lockdown in the UK. So much has changed in the last 12 months but then so much changes every year, but through it all spring stays the same. And it is the mix of mighty changes and the constants that I am holding on to today.

The mighty changes got me thinking about how very different each of my “Census days” have been.. This will be my 6th. My first, I was not quite 10 so my parents would have filled that one in. We had moved from London to a bungalow in the country. I had friends with horses and maybe too much freedom. Fast forward 10 year, as a family we moved twice and now live in a different part of the country, I am married, own a house and have a job. Ten years further on, I’ve divorced, moved a lot, had a crazy ten years that I am grateful to have lived through, and now hold my brand new son in my arms and know I need to calm down to keep him safe. The next 10 years again, are filled with huge changes. I have an amazing God encounter, marry, have a daughter, get divorced, move lots, and as I filled in this census form we are preparing to go to live with a Christian mission organisation. In the ten years from there I have worked in the mission organisation for a while, moved around a lot, settled back in the town I filled in the last census form, then got married and moved again. Now to this year’s census form, again many changes though I am still married to the same person, my kids have left home [though my daughter is staying with us whilst she’s furloughed], we have moved and I have published my first book.

Lots of other things have happened during the last ten years – deaths of family and friends in tragic circumstances being the major ones – but also amazing times of growing up, of getting a degree, of no longer running away.

These past 12 months will go down as a year of monumental change and I know that this year of lockdown isn’t over yet, but what I have discovered as I have thought back through my “census years” is that life events don’t fit kindly into a calendar pattern. Months and years don’t all start on the first day of the week. People don’t die far enough apart to give one time to grieve through each one. Things happen in a mess. They happen in a confused state.

The media and many others are asking governments to come up with a “get out of lockdown” plan, but as someone said on Mock the Week earlier in the year “this is a virus and it won’t stick to a plan”. The phrase that was spoken a lot at the beginning of this pandemic was that we were in unprecedented times. Why do we expect someone to have a plan when things are unprecedented? When I filled in my first census form as an adult I would not have been able to tell you that 4 census’s later I would be living in North Wales with a published book and degree in Creative Writing and History. I’ve had many “unprecedented” years, and most times there is no plan. The “pandemic years” will be different as they are something we experience as a nation rather than an individual. But sometimes I have come to realise is we don’t know our way through we just have to keep on walk.

feel I’ve walked a life time of unprecedented and know that there is a pretty strong chance that the next however long I’m blessed to live on this earth will be unprecedented – some maybe just for me and mine but some maybe for the world country. I am grateful that after my 3rd census I met with God in such a way that I have never been able to walk away. I didn’t met with doctrines or theology but met with the Creator of the Universe who told me how much I was loved even though at the time I was a mess. I believe the Almighty can do it now for each and everyone.

I share a poem from Jan Richardson who has been on an awesome journey through unprecedented times for her and can still say she know she is Beloved.

Today in the Northern hemisphere is Spring Equinox. From today there will be more daylight than darkness, and as I write the sun is shining. I hope this is the start of more light in our world than darkness, more warmth rather than cold, more trusting and less fear. We will all walk, either as individuals, as families, or as nations, through unprecedented times, but as Easter approaches, help us to remember that we do not need to walk alone.

Categories
2020 vision change Change the world Listening racism sexism

Do You REALLY Want To Know Someone Else’s Truth?

looking out to see from Ynys Llanddwyn listening to what the island is saying
Ynys Llanddwyn taken by myself June 2017

“When we don’t know someone’s truth, we project our own assumptions, prejudices and insecurities onto them.”

Sarah, Jo & Team WHQ www.writershq.co.uk

I feel this quote is very appropriate after listening to Prince William’s response to Harry&Meghan’s interview – Meghan felt there were racist comments made to her and William says that the royal family aren’t racist. But also the mix of comments following the death of Sarah Everard in which women are saying they feel unsafe at night and men saying that they are overreacting. In each case it is people not wanting to hear someone else’s truth because they are projecting their own assumptions on to the situation. I know I’ve said this before but we need to be listening to each other not talking over each other. I do not believe we will ever deal with racism, sexism, gender issues, etc, etc unless we start wanting to hear someone else’s truth rather than projecting our assumptions on to them.

One of my daughter’s friends put a post on her family’s WhatApp group about feeling sad about a incident that had happened to her and a friend by a man and that it hurt her more because it was on International Women’s Day, but mum and her brother responded with their own thoughts rather than listening to how she had felt.

If I feel unsafe at night it is how I feel. It is not up to someone else to tell me I don’t feel safe. If someone feels that someone has made a racist slur against them that is how they feel and it is not up to someone else to tell them they don’t feel that way. But if we are too busy talking and not listening then we are not going to hear how someone really feels.

As a middle aged woman who was a teenager in the 70s lots of things my daughter now says are misogynistic I grew up with being told were just how it was. It would be easy for me to tell my daughter that this is just how men are but I instead I am starting to listen, and in listening I am learning.

As with all these issues that are still being brought into 2020 vision in 2021 it is listening to those who are hurt that is important, listening to those who feel disadvantage, but also listening to those who feel they are being blamed. Why did William have to say the Royal family weren’t racist? Why couldn’t he just say he was sorry that Meghan had felt hurt and ask how things could have been done differently? Why can’t men say they are sorry women don’t feel safe and then ask what they can do to change that?

Also let us start having the conversation about why some people have to jump in to defend their position rather than listening. They are having to deal with hurts and insecurities too. As Pádraig Ó Tuama of Poetry Unbound said over a situation a friend challenged him about – “Full of fear as I was, I was capable of being an agent of fear too”. Let us all admit to our fears, listen to each other and stop being an agent of fear. Start listening and then asking what we can do to help change things rather than behaving in a stance of fearfully defending our status quo.

Categories
Uncategorized

Willing To Accept Change?

The ogham stone at Gwytherin, Conwy, churchyard
The churchyard at Gwytherin, Conwy – taken by myself April 2019

I am hearing from quite a few friends with parents in their 80s who need more and more care, who are not telling the full truth as to what they need, and in some cases the parents have been cancelling the care their children have fought hard to obtain. . A couple of these friends have said their parents are saying they can do things when the only way they can do these things if when their children help them.

When I hear the same thing more than once I start to ask myself what is going on. What is God saying through this? And I believe it is something we all need to ponder on.

The words that jumped into my head were – “a lack of humility at accepting help”, “not being willing to accept the situation” and “wanting things to be as they used to be.”

All of which, I believe, for not just elderly but all of us, as very valid things to want.

Thinking through how much has changed during this global pandemic and yet so many are fighting hard to get things back to how they were. We are not accepting that things have changed, more than we will admit.

2020 was the year of perfect vision and, I believe that 2021 is the year when things cannot be swept under the carpet. We cannot go back to how things were. I believe it is why the Harry&Meghan interview and Piers Morgan walking off the set of GMB had to happen this year – to show that Black Lives Matters opened the door but now we need to make the change.

But are we humble enough yet to ask for and accept help – from those who know better and change things better? With this I would say, are we willing to ask God in to all situations? And not just try and get church back to as it was.

Are we willing to accept the situation – that we live in a world of injustice and racial prejudice where too often white middle class males can bully others? Are we willing to really look and really learn?

Are we willing to stop wanting things as they used to be and really, really change? Are we willing to sort out the social injustices of this world even if it makes our lives different or do we just want someone else to change?

This pandemic, like the ageing of many of my friends parents, has shown fault lines in what we used to take for granted.

When this pandemic passes, no matter what we would like to think, things are not going to go back to 2019 ways of life, and yet so many churches and other institutions are trying to get back to something similar to what was. Things will be different! Some places are accepting that things will be different and, like a pub near us are redesigning how thing will look.

We need to be looking for something different, something that will work in whatever our life situation is in the coming years. We need to stop talking about the “new normal” and start asking what the future will be. Like with these elderly parents who are understandably struggling with their new situations, so we need to look clearly at our new situation and see what support structures we need to put in place and make sure we are not in denial as to what the situations now look like.

Categories
Books children parenting reading supporting others World Book Day

Reading to children

Cartoon style pile of hardback books

After I posted my World Book Day post last week I was asked if I could include these statistics:

Did you know: Reading to your child for 20 minutes a day can increase their lifetime earnings by £280,000?

Despite this: Only 18% of new parents read to their children for 20 minutes a day (In The Book reading survey, 2020)

https://www.inthebook.com/en-gb/blog/benefits-of-reading-to-children/

But I felt like the topic was took large to just add to an already published blog post so I’ve written this.

I read to mine from the moment they were born, not only did I read picture books but storybooks, may of which were above their reading age. Also when they were babies, especially with my daughter who preferred to sleep in my arms, I would read myself whilst she slept. But I did not read to mine to increase their earning potential. I read to mine because I enjoy books and enjoy reading.

Even though I was a single parent I chose to home school both mine. This meant that there were a lot of reading opportunities. Every subject we covered involved reading and, as home education is a family activity so was the reading in it.

One of our most enjoyable moments in each month was when the Horrible Histories comic would arrive. We could sit on the couch, read through the magazine and then do the quizzes and activities within it together. I read to them most bedtimes until they were in their teens. I found it was a great way to settle us all down for the evening, but it also gave me a chance to read out loud some of my old childhood favourites, and read some of the children’s books they were reading. Often we would have a novel that I would read to them and then they would read to themselves.

So why do only 18% of new parents read to their children for only 20 mins a day? I think it is because we expect so much more from parents now compared to when mine were smaller. My husband’s friends are career people who work long hours, make sure their kids are having lots of extra curricular experiences but then when everyone gets home they are tired and ready to unplug, so TV is a go-to. And I don’t blame them. I think being a home schooling single mum I had two advantages. One I was not trying to fit in a career around my children’s lives but also I was not having to fit another adult relationship into my life. I had lots of space to read, both to them and for myself.

I believe instead of condemning new parents for not reading more to their children we need to spend time with them and find out why. For a working parent it is hard to get to a library that is open at a time that works for them, because many libraries only have done day a week where they open late and this may not be on an evening they are free. As has been found over lockdown many people, even though they have more time, have had less head-space to get lost in a book. Reading takes focused energy and many avid readers over this time have struggled to read. Imagine if reading is not your first activity to unwind, then imagine you are working all day and trying to run a home too? Where is the time? Where is the head-space?

So I do think instead of saying this isn’t happening we need to find out why, need to find a way to help these new, and not so new, parents, find time to read to their children, and also to be able to read themselves. As someone said the best way to get kids to read is for them to see their parents reading.

8 Benefits of Reading are:

Enhances their literacy and reading skills

Enhances their language skills

Creates a stronger parent-child bond

Better concentration and discipline

Improves performance in school

Widens their imagination

Promotes healthy brain development

Keeps them entertained 

https://www.inthebook.com/en-gb/blog/benefits-of-reading-aloud/

I don’t believe parents don’t read to their children because they don’t want to but because they cannot find that opening into reading themselves. There are many great websites out there to help.

But really as a society we need to ask ourselves how we can stop condemning and instead ask how we can support

How can we find a way to support them?

Categories
Bible Books God The little yellow book trust World Book Day

World Book Day 2021

Front cover of the book the Little Yellow Boat by Diane Woodrow, illustrated by Danielle Chapman-Skaines
Available to purchase at all online outlets

I think an appropriate start to a post around World Book Day would be to give myself a big shout out!

A week ago today I published my first book. It is a children’s picture book which was accepted by the three publishers I sent it to leaving me to pick the contract I liked best. Read more about it on my growing website https://aspirationaladventure.com/little-yellow-boat/. Or follow its Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/LittleYellowBoatBook This is my dream come true – both publishing the book and growing my own website.

World Book Day comes with lovely memories of my children eagerly awaiting the actually date to go and spend their £1 book day tokens. The tokens would arrive from our favourite home education support group a week or two early but my two would wait until it was actually World Book Day before spending them. They never bought the book that was the one especially put together for that specific World Book Day, which only cost £1. Instead they would add their own pocket money to the token and would spend ages in our favourite independent bookshop searching until they had found just the right book. It was delightful. And came only second to the delight of discovering that my daughter had taught herself to read when she was about three years old in the “book cave” I had designed for them.

Both my two are still avid book readers even though not as much as myself. I devour books. Last year I read over 100 different books which I posted on Instagram and I’m hoping to read as many this year. For me and for my children, and most readers I know, books are a way of not just escaping but of learning about new worlds, people one wouldn’t meant in regular life, or reading about how others think and feel which taps into how we think. For myself I come away from a book with greater wisdom about myself and others, whether historical figures or contemporary. Books give one connection to something bigger than just ordinary life, which I think has been so important in these lockdown time.

One of my exciting finds this year has been the Shelter Box Book Club [https://www.shelterbox.org/book-club/] which with a monthly subscription sends out a book from an author from a part of the world Shelter is working in. Through these books I am going all across the world learning about diverse cultures. To learn more about my reading over the past year check out https://aspirationaladventure.com/2021/01/13/2020-goals-100-books/

As I was pondering this and knowing I was going to be posting it on to the Godspace site I was thinking how I could tie in God. Well of course Jesus is “The Word” which is actually isn’t so very different to a book. I believe each reader reads a book differently. We all dive in with our own ideas, thoughts, life experiences and prejudices and read the story through that. As I pondered this I felt that this is what we all do with Jesus if we choose to dive into him. I do not believe we can get to know Jesus without bringing our own stuff with us. I believe that is why Jesus isn’t a static word but “the living word” because we all change who he is by what we pour into him from us, and he then changes who we are by what we take away. .

I also think this makes God even more amazing than ever. When I wrote my book I had an idea not just what it meant but how I hoped people would feel about it, and what they get from it. It is only a 34 page children’s picture book but I still want to sit with each person and tell them how it should be impacting their lives. Yet God released his Son, the living word, as well as the Bible, into the hands of people. People who were going to read and interpret it through their own lens. I know we sit with God and explore his word with him but I don’t believe he ever dictates to us what we should get from him.

I believe God trusts each of us to read his Son and his Bible through who we are, through our own lens, through are own life experiences. And I think that we need to trust others to read through their own life lens and listen to what each other learns. Maybe we need to read the Bible and share what we’ve learned as we would a book club that would make a difference to our growth as followers of Jesus? We should not listen to what others are learning so we can tell them where they are wrong but, as with the book club idea so that we can learn about them, learn from them – and maybe in the process learn about ourselves just as we do when reading a well written novel.