December Reflections: Hot Drink (an ode to tea)

The prompt for today’s December Reflections from Susannah Conway is Hot Drink. 

HotDrink

It was a very easy prompt for me today because, well, tea…..(!)

The world, and it’s madness, stops for me around 3 every afternoon as I put the kettle on and prepare my favourite mug to receive my afternoon cup of tea.

[It has to be my favourite mug otherwise it just doesn’t taste quite right somehow]

Preferably Earl Grey but when the Earl has done a runner (!), I make do with any black tea.

Steeped for two to three minutes so it’s strong but not stewed.

A generous swish of milk so it’s nice and milky.

I take it to my favourite spot on the settee and there I sit, biscuits and tea by my side, the world stopped, momentarily, as I just savour my cup of tea, sip by lovely sip.

[The littles know not to disturb me when it’s my tea time]

I feel myself getting calmer with every sip, the stresses of the day disappearing as I dunk my biscuits.

Time stills and slows as I feel the stresses release.

A cup of tea.

Not a momentous or particularly grand event, but one that deserves it’s own small celebration.

[I understand why the Japanese developed a whole ceremonial ritual around tea!]

What makes your world stop? What do you savour? 

Helen xxx

December Reflections: Sparkle

Joining in with Susannah Conway’s December Reflections

Today’s (or, rather, yesterday’s) prompt: Sparkle….

Sparkle

Everyone gets a bit more of a sparkle in their eye at Christmastime, don’t they?

The Christmastime world becomes – as if by magic  – coated in a sheen of kindness, a veneer of optimism, and everything seems not only possible but probable. 

An atmosphere of giddy expectation fills the air, and everything fills with hope. 

Kisses under the mistletoe for eager but shy teenagers.

Expectant faces writing Christmas lists.

Even more expectant faces, bodies hardly containing the excitement…running towards the tree on Christmas morning.

Cheer, laughter, joy around tables; family gathered, stories unfolding, delighted in once again.

It’s a magical time of year.

A time to shine, to sparkle.

To put on your best clothes, assume your best mood, to think the best of everyone and everything.

Christmastime life is a life lived more immediately, that much more fully immersed in the moment.

Is that what makes it even more special, I wonder?

December reflections

I’m missing my blog (more importantly my blog friends!) and remember, last December, how much I loved joining in with Blogmas from Sandra at Diary of a Stay at Home Mum.

Sadly, she doesn’t seem to be hosting it again this year but fate stepped in and, via Instagram, I found Susannah Conway’s December Reflections

Susannah’s provided a list of prompts – with the idea of taking a photo in response to the prompt – but, looking at the list, I’ve realised that some of them are perfect for blog post/journalling ideas.

Here they are:

DecPrompts

I’ll be posting as often as I can during December (and printing them out to pop in to our December scrapbook album).

Hopefully some of you might join in too!

(I’ll be posting my first photo/post later tonight!)

Helen xxxx

FMF: Weary

Joining in with Five Minute Friday again. This week’s word: weary.

Here goes…

WeepingAngel

START

Weary:

“…having one’s patience, tolerance or pleasure exhausted”

“…feeling or showing tiredness”

“…physically or mentally exhausted by hard work, exhaustion, strain”

From the definitions, there doesn’t seem to be much that’s very positive about weary, and having lived through weary-making times myself, I can vouch for that fact. There is indeed very little that’s positive about weary. 

But the little positive there is is enough. Enough to teach someone who’s been to Hell and back, several times, that weary is a worthy ride, perhaps an even more worthy destination.

When you’ve ridden the Weary Train and arrived at Chronic Weary, you’ll see life at it’s worst. You’ll experience people at their worst. The entire human race will seem ugly, brutal. You’ll feel beyond hope, the shocking nature of it all will leave you reeling, looking for a North (any point, really, to cling on to).

You’ll drag your weary body around, your weary mind not even hoping to make much of anything and then you’ll catch a drift of something. A sign, a ray, a chirp, spark. (What is that? God? Life force? The energy that Buddhists tap in to?)…

Whatever it is, it’ll grab you and shake your weary ass until you awaken just enough to be able to see again. It’ll help you pop on your rosy glasses and you’ll slowly find small things that’ll pull you out of your weary state.

A flower. Raindrops. A smile. A small kindness.

You’ll use them, feed on them, your weary body growing strong, again, from them as your weary mind tries to process it all.

And slowly – very very slowly – you’ll see the value in weary, feel ashamed you even doubted, find nourishment in the strength of the human spirit that lives inside you…and you’ll start to believe there is a way out, that there is light at the end of the tunnel…

That life is worth it, that someone has your back, that there is beauty to be found everywhere, even in the darkest most desolate times.

Your journey hand in hand with weary – to weary and back – will tell you all you need to know about life and purpose and what it means to be good.

In the end, you’ll be thankful for the path you had to follow, and for the timing of it, because it taught you things you needed to know (reminded you that you have to be humble to be able to learn and that life is a learning game, if nothing else).

I’m tired most of the time. Strained (I guess the word would be). Unsure. Confused. Lost. Isolated. Alone.

But, you know, weary has taught me that those aren’t bad states to be in, or bad emotions to have: they’re simply temporary states that I have to move through. If I’m wise, I’ll learn from them and move on, stronger, more fully equipped.

Weary: a sage old companion ready to teach us more than a lesson or two about humility, patience and the value of reflection…

I’d rather not have come to know you, weary, would rather not have travelled with you, but I’m glad I did.

You taught me more than my joy-filled times ever did and for that, I’m thankful.

END

[Thanks so much for all your good wishes…everything’s been signed and I’m able to sleep that much easier at nights now. Phew!…..I’ll be back to ‘normal service’ here on I Will Bloom shortly and will also be back commenting on everyone’s blogs shortly too! (I’m not able to comment on Blogger blogs at the moment, for some reason…will try to sort the problem at the weekend…..)]

[Thought it quite an uncanny coincidence that I stumbled upon Lee Jeffries feed on IG earlier tonight….and wanted to share the link to his work…he dignifies weary in a quite miraculous way]

FMF: Dance

Joining in with Five Minute Friday. This week’s word Dance.

Here goes…

CaryGrant

START

Dance. It conjures up joy. Happiness. Celebration. All things good. Cary Grant smiling his head off as he does his thing. The inimitable James Brown. Mick Jagger. Joaquin Cortes. Martha Graham. Rudolf Nureyev. Michael Jackson.

Passion. Authenticity. Commitment.

Dance also conjures up tenderness. To dance, you have to be tender to yourself, after all: forgiving (or over-riding) your insecurities and dark thoughts of the ‘What will people think?’ variety…

(I say stuff it and just do it!).

Release. Freedom. Joy.

Dance also conjures up Strictly Ballroom and the line, heard as a teenager, and since imprinted on my brain: “A life lived in fear is no life at all”.

Passion. Belief. Tenacity.

We move through life – one big dance (as someone once said) – and if we’re clever, we learn, eventually, to dance – cha cha, tap tap, salsa, rumba – our way through it.

To enjoy the dance each step of the way, whatever rhythm we choose.

We learn to hear our own rhythm, above all else, and we dare to dance to it. We forgive ourselves: in the dance, we forget, we move on, we move forward, creating our own melody.

And, in this way, we shimmy along, creating – hopefully – a dance we’re proud of. One that actively makes us proud, makes us smile those inward smiles when we just somehow know that all is well.

If we’re lucky, we’ll have the courage to aim for this and we’ll achieve it – perhaps not consistently at first, but the glimpses of it will sustain our efforts.

The music, the dance within, will take on its own life…

If we’re wise, we won’t let the demons drown our music.

We’ll dance, wild and free.

Tenacious.

Enjoying the ride.

END

[Haven’t been around much recently, ladies (either here or commenting, unfortunately), as I’ve a) been writing (yay!) and b) appear to have had all my prayers answered at once and have landed several big work contracts which means my business is up and running buoyantly again (thank the Heavens!)…it’s taken me the majority of the last month to organise contracts etc. and tomorrow night – Friday – I’ll be the proudest small business owner in the land (as tomorrow is signature day! Eek!! Wish me luck!!)]

1+4 = Life – 18th October

Joining in with the ever-wonderful Isabel who has taken over from Pip to host the ‘1+4=Life’ link-up. The idea is to post four photos to describe one week (this week’s link-up is here). Here goes….

  1+4-Rain

The rain arrived – after five months of no rain whatsoever – and it’s very welcome. Not only is it so much easier to sleep at night but….

1+4-Green

The trees have responded beautifully! Instead of scorched grass and parched leaves hanging limply on the trees, they’ve all bounced back wonderfully. It’s a joy to walk in such greenness!

1+4-Eyes

Had to chuckle on my morning run the other day as I came face to face with this! I think it must be a Halloween decoration! (Love his little tongue peeking out too (a brown leaf)!)

1+4-Bee

And, last but not least, it’s definitely – usually – the simple things that can bring great joy…we spent an age watching this little bee doing his thing, moving from flower to flower collecting pollen on his back legs. It was absolutely captivating.

It was also the week when I was:

Reading Maya’s Notebook from Isabelle Allende. I know a lot of people don’t like her work but I’ve always loved how she brings characters to life and how she manages to fill her stories with detail. It’s definitely a ‘rose-tinted glasses’ sort of approach to the story she tells but sometimes that’s all you can handle…

Captivated by Sacramento’s Mis Papelicos blog….love her style and sass!!

Pondering the message from this video…

Excited by this project that my friend Julie mentioned on her blog….the Lucky Dip Book Club…all details here…I’ve been making a scrapbook LO and can’t wait to see everyone’s responses!

– Enjoying rest and relaxation (my body seems to have taken over full control of my will power this week!)…I’ve watched several quietly powerful/moving films that have done me a world of good, including Jackie & Ryan (so gentle, such bare acting, I absolutely loved it and it’s stayed with me all week)

It was a quiet week of contemplation and planning.

I’m dedicating a lot more time to my writing and so think that I Will Bloom may suffer as a consequence. I kind of feel like I’m going round in circles on I Will Bloom, saying the ‘same old same old’ and that I don’t have much I can offer by way of ‘fresh’ posts at the moment. It somehow just feels tired and I need to not think about that for a while (if that makes sense)…

I’m going to commit to posting my FMF posts on Thursdays and to 1+4 on Sundays (and I will probably resurrect my Kindness Counts Fridays posts on Fridays) but I’m feeling the need to write (my book) and so I want to concentrate on that for the moment.

It feels like I just get this done (the book) and I’m putting all my energies in to that.

I will be taking part in NaNoWriMo again this year; I’m aiming to pull apart the writing I did this time last year and add to it with the new energy I’m putting in to my writing at the moment, with a view to having a workable draft before Christmas.

I just need to do this.

So I’m pulling out all the stops so that I can just do it.

I’ll head over to everyone’s blogs as usual (bear with me) so will keep in touch with you all (via your blogs or IG and will, as usual, reply to comments here…).

Wish me luck.

It’s proving to be an interesting journey.

Helen xxx

P.S. I want to take a selfie on top of a really high building! Imagine the thrill!

Still I Rise

Very lazy post today…

Just wanted to let you all know that I’m OK….

[Thanks for the emails…..so, so kind of you all xxx]

The littles were on half term last week and I’m only just back to my laptop/desk after 10 days away….so I’m catching up on what feels like a million things….

Will be back to ‘proper programming’ shortly, but just wanted to leave you with this….

 Thank you, Dr. Angelou.

Hope it hits home with you, too, somewhere deep deep down….

See you soon!

Helen xxx

1+4 = Life – 4th October

Joining in with the ever-wonderful Isabel who has taken over from Pip to host the ‘1+4=Life’ link-up. The idea is to post four photos to describe one week (this week’s link-up is here). Here goes….

1+4=4Oct1

I looked down to find a beautiful fluffy white feather at my feet!

1+4=4Oct2

We spent a lovely few hours by the river just near our house. The littles were very happy to catch some (tiny!) fish and tadpoles and I was very happy just watching them be happy! Wins all round!

1+4=4Oct3

We found a banana plantation less than two minutes walk away from our home. Who knew?!

1+4=4Oct4

Amazing what a five year old can do with some toilet roll insides, paint and scraps! [She spent an entire afternoon making a farm/zoo…so amazing to watch her create!]

And it was the week when I was….

– Bowled over by this BBC report about the people who make last wishes come true.

– Excited to hear about this conference that will be live-streamed: involving Brene Brown, Elizabeth Gilbert and others….

And I’ll leave it at that for now. It’s half term week here and we’re heading off to the zoo.

[I may take a little longer than usual to reply to comments/check out your blog posts this week (depending if I fall asleep when reading goodnight stories to the littles!)…].

Have an absolutely fantastic – great – week everyone!

Helen xxx

FMF: Family

Joining in with Five Minute Friday. This week’s word: Family.

Here goes…

Family

START

The psychiatrist asked me what my childhood had been like. Seeing me stumbling (it was – is – rather an enormous question), he asked, “If you could describe it in one word, what word would you choose?” I chose ideal. Followed up – between tears – with happy, joyous, beautiful and a torrent of other positive, life-affirming words (I couldn’t have asked for a better childhood).

Why the tears? Because I, a Mama, have been unable to offer my children the same sort of childhood and that, for me, is one of my greatest failures: one that I’ve had, and will continue to have, great difficulties overcoming.

Isn’t it, after all, the job of a Mama to make sure her children are safe? That their life is comfortable and free of stress/upset/heartache?

The Dr. moved on, then, to my impressions of their father’s childhood (one I had only come to know of many years after we were married). I explained briefly: his father died when he was four, his mother abandoned him, he was passed around between various Aunts, each of whom seemed to treat him worse than the others. A Grimm fairy tale of a childhood if ever there was one.

“Ah”, the Dr said, “…that explains it. His complete lack of effort to keep his family together and his complete lack of remorse about the effects on your children”. [“Well, yes, Dr, I’d kind of figured that one out by myself, thank you” I chided, mentally]. “He’s repeating his past, because that’s all he’s ever known”, I heard the Dr saying (finding I just couldn’t be bothered to actively listen any longer).

And I found the tears rolling again. I hurt for him too, for all the years he experienced without love. For all the moments he, himself, must have felt so totally alone. For the things that did to him, for the warps it caused and the pain this, in turn, has caused my children.

But there aren’t enough tears in the world to cry away all that pain and chains of pain have to be broken so, as I said to the Dr, we’re a family, a smaller family, a family that’s been through things no family should ever experience, things no child should ever have to witness, but we’re strong. 

You see, there’s a lot of love in our three-member family. A lot. So much love it spills out, actually, all over the place. So much love that people remark on it.

It’s definitely an extraordinary love.

A love that comforts, that covers them both whole, that slowly – just like the waves in a river smoothing the stones shiny – is covering all the hurt, erasing all the trauma. There’ll always be memories, bad memories, but with this kind of love, those memories lose their power.

We’re a family of three. Surrounded by love. Made whole, again, by love.

Yes, bad things have happened but love conquers all.

“Let your children see your majesty” He says. I’m a great believer in that. Light and love from above cast only love-filled, hope-filled, shadows, and this is enabling them – my two precious children – to find their footing again, to rise glorious in the face of it all.

They’re my family. They’re my all. 

My boy. My girl.

[I love you]

END

[Difficult post to think about and to write and a difficult word this week, in light of the events in Oregon – and the events in Syria and the Syrian refugee crisis – my heart longs for the world to realise that we’re all family. Until we develop this consciousness, as a race, I wonder how many more tragedies we have to read about on a daily basis?]

Precious objects, even more precious memories

ClayMemories

My daughter – who’s a great believer in the ‘If I’m told not to do something, well that’s just an invitation to do so‘ philosophy – always makes a bee-line for these two clay figures whenever she comes in to my office.

She knows their history, knows that my Mum passed them to me when we were staying with her when we were in England this time two years ago. She knows they sat on my Gran and Grandad’s mantelpiece, in pride of place, from the time I made them (when I was seven) until the time their house was sold, when they were both no longer with us.

She sits and holds them in her tiny chubby hands – despite being told not to pick them up because they’re very precious – not because she’s disobedient (she isn’t, at all) but because, I’m sure, she wants to feel close to this part of her story, her family, her roots.

I often find her sitting there, at my work desk, clutching them, rocking and singing to the little hedgehog, stroking it’s back, or watering plants that have sprung up in the little garden she’ll have made around the house.

Isn’t this why we all keep mementos? To feel close. To try to feel the love, the care, the joy that must have been poured in to these objects or obtained from having these objects close?

It breaks my heart to see her sitting there, singing away to her heart’s content, in this little world of her own making, transported, as she is in those moments, to wherever and whatever it is she’s seeking.

I watch her and I remember. The memories come thick and fast, at random, books being pulled off shelves in my brain, archival material retrieved at the speed of light, neurones firing, hormones releasing, emotions flooding.

I remember sitting in my favourite teacher’s class, Autumn in the air, the thought of making our way over to the kiln later not only a thrill because we’d never used the kiln before but a comfort because I was sure it’d be warm on the outside too. I remember scratching my initials in to the bottom of both of them, fit to burst because I was so proud of myself.

I remember the sight of the white slatted kiln shelves, everyone’s creations lovingly placed on top and then slid inside for the kiln to magically do its work. Disappointment all round that they wouldn’t be ready for that class, eased somehow by the satisfaction of knowing that if we waited patiently, we’d see them soon enough.

I remember racing in to the classroom the next week (the air even chillier still) and being shocked that my hedgehog’s beady black eyes (that I’d been so proud of when I painted the glaze on) had run whilst being absolutely thrilled by the blue of the door. I carried them both home later, walking on air, so proud of myself. The bubbles and patterns in the glaze endlessly fascinating to me, I kept them at the side of my bed for an age, just staring at them for hours and hours (it seemed), amazed that I’d made them and that they were so beautiful. 

Beautiful enough to be given as Christmas gifts to my Gran and Grandad. Each one wrapped carefully, one for my Gran (Mr. Hedgehog, as he came to be known) and one for my Grandad (the house).

I remember the first time I saw them on their mantelpiece. I couldn’t possibly have been any happier. My Grandad had stuck a bit of cotton wool in the chimney “…so the people inside don’t get chilly” (with a wink). It didn’t for a second even register that it was cotton wool: it was, to me, simply magic that my little house had smoke coming out the chimney!

Every time I’d visit my Gran and Grandad, right through school, right through all my University years, there they’d sit, Mr. Hedgehog and my little house, on their mantelpiece. I’d notice, and note, them every visit: a mark of my Gran and Grandad’s love for me, that they’d keep these clay crafts, always, always with the smoke coming out of the chimney.

Fast forward to my Mum, one evening we were staying with her, calling me upstairs whilst Coronation Street was on (“Must be something important” I remember thinking). Placing a little velvet bag in my hands, watching my face as I opened it. I still remember her face. She couldn’t talk, but the tears said it all: these should be in your house now.

They were transported back with us, in my hand luggage, through Stansted, Frankfurt and onwards across an ocean (the emotional distance being far, far longer than any physical distance we travelled those two days).

I felt them, felt the comforting weight of them, every step of the way. A tactile reminder of the love I knew would support me in the difficult times ahead.

They sit on my desk now, just to the left of where I work. I hadn’t put the fire on in the house when I first took them out but, a few days later, imagine my happiness when I noticed, out of the corner of my eye, smoke coming out of the chimney!

When I asked her about it later, she said, “Mama, they can’t get cold, you know” and then, “Mama, why do you think Mrs. Hedgehog is crying? Do you think it’s because she knows you miss home?”

Two tiny, seemingly insignificant, objects.

Two treasures beyond all worth.

Binding the past with the present and giving hope for the future.

Helen xxx