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christmas Joseph

Joseph

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Who is your favourite person in the Christmas story? Mine is Joseph. I think Joseph was one of the most amazing people in the Christmas story and we hear so little about him. Here was a man who willingly gave up his life, his reputation, his livelihood and even his family to look after Mary and the promised child. We know he gave up his family because when he arrived in Bethlehem for the census a culture that is known for its hospitality did not have room for a relation and his pregnant wife. Part of the story we don’t get in our closed nuclear family world of today. But it was something that those few words that spoke of “no room” would have spoken to the audience it was written for.

I wonder how God showed up to Joseph. It could not have been full on angel vision with lots of trumpets and things because the whole town would have known and would have believed. Again we can so easily forget the way towns were in those days and how doors were open and everyone lived on top of each other, knew each other’s business, and didn’t have to put up with all the noise and light pollution we have just got used to. Though again with that in mind I wonder how Mary spoke with the angel and was impregnated. Probably much more subtly than we could imagine.

Anyway God managed to find a way to speak with Joseph in way he understand, listened to and believed, which caused Joseph change his mind about divorcing Mary and leaving her to possible stoning to totally looking after her. He took her with him to Bethlehem even though she was heavily pregnant. He would have already presumed that his family there would not welcome him in because news would have reached them that this girl was pregnant before they had wed. But by taking her he protected her from any harm that may have befallen her back in Nazareth. He was then being willing to move down to the Jewish community in Egypt to save the life of this child that wasn’t his.

Would we have been able to do this? To give up all including our reputation for something we don’t know to be fully real? But also why do we not honour Joseph in the way he should be? Why is he such a minor character? I think there needs to be more sermons focused on Joseph and the understated, Godly way he behaved as an example to us all.

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Choose Joy

View of autumnal leaves of the tree outside my house taken by Diane Woodrow
View from my study window today

It is the start of the Celtic Advent. Celtic Advent gives 40 days run up to Christmas and then on into Epiphany. I like it because it gives time to reflect and ponder without some of the same intensity as the Anglican Advent time of just that mad December rush to Christmas.

In today’s reading Christine Sine encourages one to “choose joy”. As I looked out of my study window to the gold and oranging leaves of the cherry tree, my constant companion through all the seasons I think it is easy to choose joy today. It is easy to choose joy when there is beauty just outside my window, when I can go and walk in the beautiful park ten minutes from my house and enjoy the changing colours of the glorious autumn season. But how does one choose joy when life isn’t so beautiful?

Yet even when there is beauty around one still has to choose whether to see the glorious colours or to see that they signify impending death. As this season turns around again it is easy sometimes to see what hasn’t been done – the minimal progress at COP26, the impending next covid wave, etc ,etc. Or the path that was blocked or the job that hasn’t happened or the relationship that has gone awry.

But what is joy anyway? The Bible says “The joy of the Lord is your strength” Note it is the Lord’s joy not you trying to be happy clappy that is your strength. And I think that’s the depth of and truth of it all whether you believe in God or not, that you don’t have to build up that joy yourself but just need to turn to it, to accept it.

I read this from a blog post this morning. It is from Alcoholic’s Anonymous, which I seem to be coming across more and more these days in things I’m reading and I am sharing it with the young Youthshedz people I am working with

We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace.

Call it what you wish – peace, joy, or as the Youthshedz girls were telling me the other day, hope – but you have to choose to walk in it. It is there all the time just waiting for you to reach for it, just waiting for you to accept it.

I’m learning a lot from these young people who have gone through so so much at such a young age and yet they have chosen hope. Ok so not all the time and they have down days and bad days, which is fine. If we are honest then we all have those days, though maybe not so openly, but they make an effort to choose hope/joy/peace.

So as the tree outside my window will soon cast its leaves to the ground and stand bare before me, even though the joy/hope looks like it has gone, I will, no matter what this next busy season throws at me, choose joy, choose peace, choose love, choose hope. It isn’t going to be easy but if these young people can do it then I certainly can.

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For pleasure writing

Using That Writing Muscle

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[Writing] isn’t a tender flower that needs cossetting and protecting. It is a muscle that grows stronger with use

Christopher Booker “Seven Basic Plots”

In my writing groups I say that writing is like running a marathon. One has to train for ages and ages, have a plan and a schedule. Stick to that schedule. Know that we could get tired so need buddies to run with. But also know that there are hundreds and hundreds of other people who will be out there on marathon day who will have been training too which means we might not win!

This doesn’t mean we don’t try, that we don’t put in the work. But we need to be like the woman in the above picture – enjoying ourselves as we go. The goal is to finish and to better oneself but also to have a good time

Writing is a muscle one must use regularly. So we do need to put in the time every day if possible. WritersHQ suggest 20 mins per day. We can all find 20 mins per day if we want to. Then we work that muscle. We give ourselves goals of 500-1000 words per day and we work that muscle. From that maybe a novel will appear. Maybe something like The Little Yellow Boat materialise or like my poem. If you read my stories behind those they took a lot of time and effort and using that muscle.

Of all the creative activities writing is the one that fits differently. People go to pottery classes but don’t expect to become potters. People do bead making and most do not set up stalls to. People paint not expecting to set up a gallery. But many people come to writing groups expecting to be published. It is a great goal to have but I do believe that first and foremost one needs to be working that muscle and enjoying the process, producing lots of work that sits in files on the laptop or in notebooks in boxes under the bed.

Yes I do know that if you go to pottery or art or beading groups you can make Christmas presents for friends and family and with writing groups it isn’t quite the same. Though I often write one of stories or poems for friends and family and think I might start doing it more often.

But I do think writing first and foremost has to be for fun, for exploring ones own thoughts, feelings or as I did with a story about a terrorist, entering someone else’s thoughts and wondering the why of what they do. Winning a competition or getting published being a lovely outcome but will not come without working and working at that writing muscle – a muscle that includes editing and reworking as much as the process of writing. The Bell Jar is only 6 lines long and less than 80 words. It look me three weeks of editing and reworking to get to the point of sending it to the competition. This is why I had to enjoy what I’d writing and enjoy the process of editing it.

So when I say to groups make sure you write for fun and that most of what you do will sit on your laptop I want to introduce them to the reality of writing.

On another ponder – which I will not answer – I wonder why so many people will say to someone who write “what have you published?” when they wouldn’t say to someone do went to an art class “what have you sold?

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2020 Review

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Normally I would do my end of year review to coincide with Christmas cards I was sending, whether physical or electronic, but this year I have decided to wait until 31st December to post, and am even tempted to wait until midnight just in case. It is not that I am fearful but this has been an “unprecedented” year.

At the time I would normally have done this post I was still laid up with bruised ribs from falling off that horse though was starting to plan what I would write, and I suppose even Different Christmas was a lead up to that. But then just as I was in the planning stages for that my husband got shingles and has been very sore with that. Then on Saturday 19th Dec Wales announced that all was change for Christmas and we were going into lockdown again – though from the volume of traffic I would say that only means that pubs and cafes have now closed. Not sure if I can see much other difference on the roads. It is definitely not back to April’s sparse traffic volume. But then on Sunday my daughter announced that she had tested positive to covid and so, even though she wasn’t coming up here for the holidays it did mean she was going to have to spend it home alone! All this in just a week!

This has been the strangest of years. Even to the point that our cat went from eating biscuits to demanding that we feed her cat meat from a tin. She now has meat twice a day and ignores the biscuits that sit waiting for her to be hungry enough. If it hadn’t been for the local cat rescue places being closed all the tins that had been in the cupboard for the last few years would have gone to them but now she’s eaten them all.

Talking of pets – our crazy rabbit died in the summer, happily of a possible heart attack whilst he was sunbathing before begining yet another digging project. He was buried inside his own warren of tunnels that he had constructed over the four years he had been living here. He is still very missed and the amount of veg peelings in our food recycling bin has increased.

As with everyone 2020 started normally enough, though it was odd for us because my husband chose to stay home for New Year’s instead of going to a youth hostel with old university friends. So actually even the start of the year was different for us with us being together when we woke on 2020. We went away as always for our wedding anniversary at the end of January, which was followed by my husband going off for a week of intensive Welsh learning on the Llyn Peninsular. He managed to get away climbing with friends in Scotland at the start of March, but by the time he went away then things were starting to change and covid was being muttered about. We had two Airbnb guests, both in the medical profession, who went from saying it was nothing to worry about to slowly getting more and more concerned about it, to our guest from Burma having to cut short his stay so he got home before all airports were closed.

I was supposed to go on my regular March writing retreat but felt uneasy about going which was just as well because suddenly things got serious. So instead of being in Gwynedd I went Cardiff to bring my daughter to stay with us when the pubs closed. We bought her some walking boots the day before the country went into full lockdown. We thought we were going to be walking all over North Wales, but then the 5 mile rule was introduced and we finished up doing lots of walks around where we live. We have seen my daughter more this year, probably a good 4 months of the year, than we have since she went off to university about 7 years ago. I picked her up yesterday, now that she is over her coovid isolation time and will spend New Year with us and stay until this lockdown lifts. So even though we have seen so much more of her this year when it comes to everyone else – my son and our mothers and our friends – we’ve seen them less than normal.

My husband changed jobs at the start of lockdown and has now been working for his new company for 8 months and never seen the inside of his office or met any of his colleagues face to face. We are so grateful for our lovely big house and him being able to work upstairs in his own office. But his is the only work going on in the house because, with all the guidelines and restrictions, it is not safe to run our house as an Airbnb rental home for the time being. Read more about that on Humility. And since not having guests coming and going it has changed how I see the house and what it is for. For now I’m not making any decisions how things will look regarding Airbnb and room rentals in 2021, but I do know I see this place much more as a family home now than a business.

We did manage to get away for a flying visit to Somerset to see our mums and a couple of friends at the beginning of August and my son and his fiancee came up to us for a long weekend in mid August. Both times we were blessed with great weather. And we managed 6 days in Northumberland in late September, though because Northumbeland went into tier 3 we were not able to see one friend who had moved there a couple of years ago, and also a friend’s 50th wedding anniversary party was cancelled. But we did manage 6 days of walking, reading, and resting together.

As well as Airbnb all my work has stopped – no more writing groups, no more schools work, no more workshops in the library. All very strange. But I have been doing a lot of my own writing and a few of my blogs from here are being published on Godspacelight.com which is quite exciting. I have also been working with a young illustrator and we have a book called The Little Yellow Boat which is with BumbleBee Publishing in the process of being put together and published later in 2021. I will tell more about that once it is out in the big wide world. My plans for 2021 are to work on more short stories and other ideas and of course to blog more. I do not want The Little Yellow Boat to be my only publications. I have also been working towards an MA in Celtic Studies and have loved the modules about the Mabinogion, especailly the Four Branches. I am thinking of doing some stores around the women from the Four Branches.

Every year we do not know what is going to happen, but I think 2021 is probably the one where we have the least idea. Will the vaccine prove effective enough to bring back “normal” life? Will we have enjoyed some of the changes and not want “normal”? For some their business will never be the same again. Many will be bankrupt. For others there plans will be delayed and will be able to move forward a year or two later. But also within that not knowing are things we do have control over. I plan to continue with the Quantum Energy Counselling healing work I’ve been doing. I will work on my own writing and develop a body of work and look at being published. I will meet up with people when I walk with my dog and have great conversations. I will email my friends. And I will carry on reading. All these I have control over. As to whether I’ll start Airbnb rental again or whether I’ll be able to restart writing workshops and schools work, that I have no control over, so will hold lightly. Also I do have control over how I behave towards what is going on around me and I hope I can hold Joy and Hope in the right place and walk as God wants me to through whatever is thrown my way.

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Finding Hope …

Wales is now back in full on lockdown as of midnight on Saturday 19th December. This morning I was on the beach praying for all the pubs and restaurants that would lose hundreds of pounds today because they had bought in food to prepare Sunday lunches, which up here is the time when most people go out to eat, and will have to throw it all away. Where is the hope in all this?

I wrote a piece not so long ago called Full Moon and I still hold to that – of God being above our chaos looking down and being with us through it. But this morning as I turned to walk back from the beach it started pelting with rain, cold icy rain, and the sky was just filled with black clouds. There was not even a fringe of false dawn or red tinged clouds. It was black. And it made me wonder “how can we know there is hope when all is dark?” But then I got thinking about the Christmas story, which many of us won’t get to hear in church because of lockdown, about of how when we tell that we tell it full of hope and yet I am sure there were very dark days.

Can you imagine how Mary and Joseph must have felt as they came into Bethlehem and were shunned? How dark must that have felt? They knew God was there, knew God had planned this, but so much was clouding that hope. I think often we “big up” the Christmas story too much and don’t show the other side of things, which then leads us to feel like we are inadequate, that we have to rise to a place that is beyond what we can reach.

I totally believe that God is in all that we are going through, even this sudden lockdown and the loss of earnings from too many places, and mental health and suicides that have come from the anxiety and fear and stress of all this time. This, though for me, is where faith comes in. But too often the burdens we bear make it too hard to look up and find that faith. And that is when we need to be kind to ourselves and to each other, be honest that actually on some days we have no hope, we have no faith. We can only see the storm that is gusting around us.

[I was in the process of pondering how to finish the above paragraph on this post when my daughter messaged to say she’d tested positive for covid-19. She has very minor symptoms and had done the test because someone she worked with had tested positive. So it was all a bit of a shock, especially as she’s been trying to work out how she could get from South Wales to North Wales now we were all in lockdown. So sometimes the storms are crazy and the sky is dark but I am pleased I could find the words for the above paragraph to give myself the encouragement I needed]

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A Christmas Carol

Advert for BBC’s adaptation of A Christmas Carol

The BBC have done a fascinating interpretation of Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, where they have given Scrooge a larger backstory than the Ghost of Christmas Past shared in the novel, as to why Scrooge is the way he is. Episode two where Scrooge is taken to Christmases past should be shown to all business people who put profit first. This is not a problem that has gone away

But the thing that stuck me most were the issues this version has chosen to highlight. Scrooge was as he was because he had been unloved and abused as a child, been told the only way to survive is to have money in the bank, not to trust others, and be be his own person. Bottom line – he was afraid and had built his own saftey net around him.

The alcoholic or drug addict doesn’t abuse their body and their families because they think it is a good idea. They do it because they are afraid. Even the person who abuses their partner or children or attacks others does so because they are afraid. And these are the things society notices. But there are also those who have more money than they could spend in a life time, but they are also afraid – of not having enough, of not being safe, etc, etc. If each of us is honest we are all afraid of something and have all built walls, big or small, to keep ourselves safe.

But this is the time of year when the Bible expounds with “do not be afraid” – to Mary, to the Shepherds, to my big hero of the Chrismas story, Joseph. Joseph has such a bit part in this story and never gets any of his own lines, but twice he is told not to be afraid; the first time when he finds out Mary is pregnant and is told not to be afraid of how she got with child, and the second when he has to leave everything he knows and go to Egypt to keep this child that is not his own safe. He is amazing because he marries Mary, but doesn’t sleep with her till after Jesus is born, takes her with him when he goes for the census so that there is no chance of her being stoned whilst he’s away, and then goes to a land to live as a refugee until God tells him it is ok to come home again, and home to a place he really doesn’t know what his relatives will think of him.

God tells him not to be afraid, and we too often read that as “dont be scared” but I think it means “to let go of all those issues you carry with you that will encourage you to build walls of self preservation around you and trust God“. I think Jesus learned a lot from Joseph about how to be open and trusting even in a place of fear. And Joseph through all that went on around him learned to trust God, to not be fearful, to put aside his own strength and not build up walls.

I believe fear kills because it causes us to shut ourselves away from not just others but from out true selves. Fear causes us not to trust others, causes us to use other things for our safety; like career, profit over people, having ‘enough’ money, etc, being accepted by others, alcohol, drugs, being the life of the party, food, overly caring for others at the detriment of ourselves, not being able to say yes, or not being able to say no, relationships, and … here ponder and name your own.

I don’t think God asks us not to be scared but asks us not to be afraid and to stay open and trusting to all the facets that make up the Godhead, and trusting others too. So as we enter this season of vaccines and Brexit and being unsure let us be open, trusting and not afraid, not build walls, and lean on the One who can hold us through.

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Dealing with a different Christmas

My son putting the final touches to our tree 2018

I know we are all going on about how it wil be a very different Christmas this year. Even if we gather the same people around us there will still be that hit of either defiance about breaking guidelines or fear that just maybe that person has brought the virus home. No matter how hard one tries the conversation will slide round to the Covid issue.

Both my children have decided to not come to visit us this year for various reasons and that is fine. This will be only the second Christmas I’ve never seen either of them and probaby the fourth my son has not come up. Life is constantly changing just because that is what life does. Who was it said “change is the only consistant thing in life”?

Last time it was just going to be me&him for Christmas we sorted out an frenetic trip down south to visit all our family and friends over a four day period. It was crazy and stressful and I did vow never to do it again. Well this year we can’t because of all the restrictions and not knowing what we’re allow or not allow to do. And even though my Mum will be at home for Christmas for the first time in 16 years, I still don’t want to down. All wayyyyy too complicated to organise.

Also this year due to not doing Airbnb and the guests that come with that, not being an elf at Gwrych castle, not doing the town council Christmas play or a skit in church for Christmas eve, not trying to fit in a prayer day before Christmas, and all those other things that I did, I have had time to think through how I really see Christmas and what I really do want from it. I have been working through Beth Kempton’s Calm Christmas book. She does also do an online writing course around this but that just didn’t work out for me. One of the things she suggest looking at is – what are your views of Christmas? Traditional, Reglious, Magical, Connected, Abundance.

A big thing for me with this was that I struggle to do the same thing every year; to build up a tradition. I can do the same things for 2-3 years but then life changes. Also I was struggling to remember Christmases as a child. Realising that “traditions” were not my thing was a great release. In fact as I went through it all I found that I love present giving but it has to be just that right thing for the right person, that I only like the religious bit when I was involved which really then was more about connecting than anything. Yes I do love the magic of God coming to earth as a baby and of the angels doing their stuff, and the lowest of the low, the shepherds, being the first to see him, and then those who weren’t even of the right belief system being the next one recorded as seeing the baby God. But as in going to church etc? Naw!

So with guidance from the book and checking in with my own heart (which probably comes from having done the Untamed book and the QEC counselling) I am having the Christmas I want. I haven’t put a tree up because that was something I did with my kids so with them not being here it isn’t a thing. I’ve got lovely fairy lights in my window because I want those passing by to see. I’ve still gone for a turkey and a joint of ham because I love those meats so much. I’ve sent presents I feel are right to my kids and have got 2-3 presents for my hubby. I’ve managed to book some trips to local cafes with friends so we can wish each other happy Christmas.

This year I am having the most almost perfect Christmas The only thing that would make it totally perfect is if both my kids were here but also I’m not going to force them. And my challenge will be next year if they do decide to come and I am back renting via Airbnb to make sure things are just as chilled for me and not to get sucked back into the crazyness of how life used to be.

And these are my fairy lights Christmas 2020
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Winter Solstice

winter-solstice-scenery1366x76854654Today is the winter solstice. The day when the sun stands still for three days before days start to lengthen again.

Today I got a revelation as to why the early Christians picked December 25th as the day to celebrate Jesus’ birth. It is a random day I’d always thought. Or had heard stories of how the pagans had celebrated on 25th because the sun had decided to reappear rather than disappear completely. But then I remembered another time when it looked like The Son had disappeared completely.

Two thousand years on from the event, knowing that outcome, as we also know that the sun will move on and the days will start getting longer, we forget what it must have felt like. Imagine firstly being a pre-science person and each year wondering if the sun would really continue or whether it would decided that it had had enough and the days lunar-eclipse-icelandwere just going to keep getting darker until there was no more. [Though maybe that isn’t so hard to imagine as we see the news and read the newspapers. We appear to be in dark times that are getting darker. So maybe we can understand.] Now imagine how it must have felt when you realised that the days were slowly minute but minute getting longer. I’m sure they had devises to be able to show them this was happening because their fear must have been great. Don’t think with 21st Century eyes and minds but with ancient minds who were not sure.

Then think back to that event two thousand years ago at Passover. So many people had given up everything – livelihoods, reputations, status, money – to follow Jesus and he’d been crucified. They knew he was definitely dead. If they hadn’t seen it they would have heard about the soldier putting his spear in Jesus’ side and the blood and water flowing out. Here was someone who was definitely dead. The Son had stood still for three days. The Son had been put in a sealed tomb – not because he was anything special but because it stopped the stench of a decaying body from seeping out. He had been still for 3 days.

I also think we miss some of this because the organised church decided that people wouldn’t wait that long so they put the crucifixion to a Friday and Resurrection to a copy_of_tombofkingsjerusalemSunday. Often I’d miss the whole Easter story by seeing the detail in that and so deciding it wasn’t a true story. There are not 3 days between Friday and Sunday no matter how hard you try. But there are scholars who have said that in certain years there are more “sabbaths” due to Jewish tradition and that Jesus was crucified on a Wednesday. [I suggest googling this yourself before I lost the thread of what I’m saying 🙂 ]

So try to imagine you think this is the man who will light into the world, who you have given up everything for, but here he is not just one day, not just two days, but three days still. Dead. In a tomb. Imagine then how you would feel when he came to stand with you, when people you knew told you they had seen him. When people said The Son has risen.

 

It was like a big light going on. The whole idea of the sun staying still at the time we 1-3-1393234669celebrate Jesus birth fits hand in glove with the time we celebrate Jesus resurrection. God is so clever. And I also think as we do feel like we are entering a very dark time politically with Brexit, Trump, North Korea, wars and rumours of wars, refugees, more famines, and other atrocities we often don’t hear about we need to remember that it might look like The Son is standing still but the light is still with us and it will conquer the darkness.

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Memories and how we handle them

Christmas does seem to be the time to focus one’s memories as I was saying in a pre-Christmas post. But how we decide to handle them is the important as they race through vsour minds. We cannot stop them coming in. A smell, a look, a place we’ve been to and enjoyed, and even that card that does not arrive all can release painful memories. And it does seem as we get old there are more memories that evoke sadness due to either death or that person just no longer being in our lives. So what do we do with all that?

We have a choice on how we handle them. Yes we do. We do not need to let that first initial, what can be gut-wrenching lose take over our day. We can let it go that way and that is our choice. It will be important to acknowledge that pain and loss but we do not have to dwell there. We can choose to remember the good times we had with that person, can choose to enjoy the memory. But we can also choose to let it totally envelope us to the point where we do not see what is good around us.

After what I’ve gone through over the last few years I would not say with certainty that “the dead are gone” even though in the flesh they are. They still haunt us. But also the tumblr_lt6x1rkwun1qf70r5o1_500living are very much with us. If we get too far down the sadness of those who have gone – whether died or just no longer part of our lives as they use to be – they we can so miss those who are with us now. I know of someone over  Christmas who was in a place that evoked memories of those past and also those who were really ill. She was with a new partner but could have stayed with those sad memories but she didn’t stay there. She remember with sadness and with fondness, prayed a bit, but then also went back to enjoying her time with her new partner.

Many loses are really hard to get over, especially ones that are untimely and too early – although I do know of someone who said his mother died at 99 and that was a year too soon for him. It could just be that every death or loss always comes too soon. Although violent young deaths do cause so much pain – but that is not to say that we must stay in that place where our grief overwhelms the joy that we have.

There is a verse in the Bible that says “The joy of the Lord is our strength.” During 2012 I joyofthelordfound it hard to find how to deal with it. I felt it was saying that I should not acknowledge what had happened but now I think that is wrong. I think it means that if we can look at where we are, the good things we still have around us, can remember with poignant joy those who have gone, then we have the strength to keep going, keep loving, keep being there for those who we love who are still with us,

This year I think I made it through, and enjoyed Christmas, not just because both my children, who are in their twenties, were with me, but because I decided to not let the sadness of the memories overwhelm me but to see what was good around me, to remember those I’ve lost with that poignant joy and to wait on what is to come.

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Tis the Season of the Christmas Newsletter

 

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

 

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

Merry Christmas and Happy 2017 to everyone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

much love

Diane, Ian, Renly and Damson