Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Unsubscribing from life

That sounds more melodramatic than I intended but it captures a certain something of what I'm feeling.

I spend a lot of time on my computer and it's only a short click to spending time on social media and the internet in general.

The short list in the right hand column is only a small list of the places I like to hang out.   And then I'll see another site mentioned, or a book, or a film, or I'll see a picture and go to look at the spoons (I kid you not) and before you know it I'm downloading a film, reading a new book and waiting for a delivery of hard carved wooden teaspoons (they're wooden how could I resist).


Earlier this year (2014) I read about a great app that 'rolled up' all your subscriptions and sent you an daily email so you could briefly scan through and read what you wanted and ignore all the junk.  

I realised this week that I never read those rolled up emails - I just delete the single email. Yesterday I read it and there were almost 100 subscriptions.   I noticed how I was missing reading some of my favourite blogs because notifications were rolled up and I saw how subscription clicky I am when I know my inbox wont overflow with emails.

I unsubscribed from the roll up service (oh the irony) and the emails are flooding in.   And I'm reading each and every one and unsubscribing to most of them.

The timing is perfect as I'm in the process of reflecting on 2014 and thinking about 2015 and what it may look like?  How do I want it to feel? Will it have a distinctive smell (2014 smelt of Nag Champa Gold thanks to the Incense Fairie)?  What will it look like?  How much money will I earn and how will I earn it?

For the second year in a row I'm using the Create your Shining Year workbook from Leonie Dawson.  You may have seen her on fb, instragram etc.  Amidst the fairies, unicorns, bright colours and hyperactivity there is a serious and powerful business woman.   Leonie knows how to build women up, to support, nurture and challenge.  I have a feeling that what you see is what you get and although it's totally not my style something in her work speaks to me and gives me a much needed kick up the backside.  Plus her business ethics are something I aspire to - family first and world changing philanthropy before profit.

Yes I did discover her on my one of my frenzied internet sprees. Will I miss opportunities by cutting back on all the flotsam and jetsam?  Perhaps.

But right now, in this moment I have opportunities and all the time I need to explore them.

Friday, December 26, 2014

After four years........

This was my Christmas present this year.   A week before Christmas and after four years on the waiting list I got a telephone call letting me know we had reached the top of the list and an allotment was ours,if we still wanted one.

We weren't able to go and visit until Christmas Eve and when we did we were gobsmacked.   It's huge (a useful measurement) and divided up into beds marked with planks.    There are at least two strawberry beds and one bed of raspberry canes.   And various beds that have been growing exactly what you would expect in your allotment.

It is a little daunting.  Our current garden is the size of a small kitchen table and the allotment is the same size as the footprint of our house.  However, it is midwinter and that gives us few months to get it tidy and ready for planting before any serious work needs to happen in the spring. 

A couple of the beds will be coming out and a shed, compost bins and a bit of patio/decking will be going in (one of the benefits of having a carpenter in the family).   The raspberry canes will be the first thing to be given some tlc, followed by tidying up the edges and paths between the beds.  And then.....................and then I have no idea but you can be sure there are books being read, websites being surfed and a new notepad started.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Seasons Greetings

It is Christmas Day - I have a cup of tea and the rest of the house is sleeping.    Christmas, Yule, Winter Solstice, Navidad - all over the world people are celebrating this day.  Families are gathering, friends are laughing, food is being cooked and presents exchanged.

I notice how as the 21st December dawns there is an increasing number of social media posts welcoming the return of the light.  The pagan festival of Yule/Winter Solstice seems to be making a return to everyday consciousness.   Compare that gentle acknowledgement of the year turning, of nature doing its thing to the posts during the night of the 24th/25th when my timelines fill with pictures of trees submerged by piles and piles of brightly wrapped boxes #he’sbeen.

Exploring my discomfort with Christmas I am aware of a slow build up of anticipatory anxiety, an overspill from teenage Christmas’ where I spent the holidays home alone as I fell between the gaps of divorce and new families.  It lifts when I wake early on the 25th next to a snoring husband and realise he’ll be chattering by my side all day.

Consumerism and social rituals have little to do with Religion. And, for many, Religion has little to do with Christmas in the UK.   For many years this ruined Christmas for me.   Growing up in a Catholic family the holy days of the year, of the week were significant, important and observed.  I have never been able to align the religious with the materialism or the intellectual.  The hours are spent shopping, spending money - where is the contemplative prayer, the worship, where is the holy?

Our increasingly intellectualised society has rationalised the mysticism and wonder - at least for the adults.   The children see frenzy, lists and busyness rewarded with presents and fun.      Because it is fun.   Making the effort to spend time with family and friends, sharing food and making memories is what life is all about.   And for many the permission granted by corporate institutions  to have time away from the office, from work gives the ideal opportunity, and for many the only time in the year to travel and spend time together. We are fortunate, hardly anyone in my family works within the corporate world.  We are actors, writers, musicians, carpenters, chefs we can step off the world whenever and wherever we like - and we do.

There is value to this time of year.  Looking inwards, reviewing the year past, a pause in the busyness to reflect on what is in important to each and every one of us. After a busy year full of changes in my work and family life it’s great to know that for the next seven days my diary is (almost) empty.  

When I am asked if I’m ready for Christmas I always reply yes.  Because I always am. There are no holy days or holidays observed by Quakers…..
‘…all of life is sacramental; that since all times are therefore holy, no time should be marked out as more holy; that what God has done for us should always be remembered and not only on the occasions named Christmas, Easter and Pentecost.’
f&p 27.42

Friday, November 28, 2014

Poetic ranting

I mostly write on my laptop.  If I'm taking notes I may scribble thoughts on paper but the writing is done on keyboard to screen.

Sometimes though, when the words are given, when they flow fast and furious, capturing mood and moment then I write with pen on paper.  

I write in a battered and old notebook. For ten years it has held some of my more creative work.   The work that is not suitable for polite company.  Work that is uncivilized, dark and a little dangerous. 

It is never planned and always a surprise and tonight I've sat for hours at my kitchen table with mugs of warmed spiced cider and like a wild woman poured forth a poetic rant of a story.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Time to spare

George Owen my paternal grandfather was a fascinating man.  I know very little about him but his influence on my life is visible.

When he retired from being a Mental Health Nurse he started a volunteer job and then set up a whole project run by volunteers.  Long before community transport was a thing and before health and safety and insurance curtailed such things he had a 'gang' of retired gentleman with CB Radios* in their homes and cars.  People who wanted a lift to the hospital, day centre or the shops would ring my Nana and her or one of us grandchildren would get on the CB and put a call out.

As an aside Mr P now works two days a week doing exactly the same job - the only difference is these days it's managed by the council - although I gather a CB Radio and a bunch of kids could possibly improve things!

That was my very first experience of being a volunteer and it kindled a life long commitment to volunteering.  So after the CB apprenticeship I did shifts at the local hospital shop with my Nana.  When I was 13 I volunteered at the local swimming baths in the changing rooms.  You were given a strange hanging basket to put your shoes and clothes in.  You handed that in to the volunteer attendant and were given a rubber bracelet with a number on it so you could collect your belonging after your swim.

My next significant volunteer role was as Hospital Radio DJ at Harrogate Hospital Radio.  That was 23 years ago and it's where I met Mr P who was also volunteering.  My fondest memory of that time was the day after Calum was born.  Mr P went to do his radio show while all the mums and Midwives on the ward gathered round to listen. He opened his show with a touching tribute to the Midwives and his newborn son and then played Moon on your pyjamas by Paul Weller.   It still makes me cry to think of it.

Since then I've had three roles - I worked at a shelter for the homeless in London, was an LEA school governor in Birmingham and for the past 10 years my volunteer work has been an overspill from my NCT role as an antenatal teacher.

I mention all of this not to say 'look how wonderful I am' but to share something that is part of who I am, who my family were and are and to share part of my approach to life - to serve.  It's an uncomfortable concept, at least it is for me.   I am not servile by nature or inclincation.  But it's an important part of my approach to life.

I see it as a tithe, except instead of money to a government or religious organisation I am tithing my time.  My commitment for 2015 is to volunteer one day a week (excluding NCT overspill).  Yesterday I picked up a shift at the local Oxfam shop.  On Friday mornings I will be upstairs in the boutique and craft corner, where I have been actively encouraged to knit and sew and teach customers crafting skills - what a perfect role for me. 

"....Without volunteers many of the statutory services would be overwhelmed.  Voluntary work gives the sense of being able to give something - whether in time, money or expertise - and that is precious to the person doing the giving.  The feeling of having contributed, the satisfaction of a job lovingly done, is the reward.  We should not regard voluntary work as of less value because it is unpaid and the rewards intangible, nor should we exploit the goodwill of volunteers...."
QfP 23.64

* This was the 70s and strictly speaking CB Radios weren't entirely legal - that happened in 1981.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Rhythm and routine

One of the biggest changes this year has been the loss of routine.   For 25 years, Monday to Friday, I got up at a certain time to go to work.  The jobs changed (17 times) but the routine was familiar.  Home at 6ish to cook dinner and grab an hour or two to knit or sew.  Saturdays were all about chores and Sunday whatever was left over got attention and that included family, friends etc.

Becoming self employed took all that away.  Thursday at 2pm you are just as like to find me sat in front of the fire knitting as working.  Right now it's 9am and I'm in bed with a cup of tea and the laptop.

I was working until 10pm last night and I'll be doing the same tonight.   It took me a while to realise that if I didn't pace myself and rearrange my expectations of time then I would be working all the time - and to be honest that's not what I want.

Becoming self employed was as much about me as it was about being able to focus more time on the work that matters to me.   It was about creating my reality, a reality that sustains, fulfills and allows me to nurture my own health and wellbeing - physically, mentally and spiritually.

Twice this week (and it's only Tuesday) I have felt criticised because of some of the choices I am making.   Apparently I need to be an activist and I need to market my 'business' more.  On both occasions I was challenged to explain and justify my decisions and approach.  I didn't respond well.  I need to find grace and let go of my ego in order to articulate my sense of self, passion and purpose. 

When I was working five or six days a week in a job that was easily understood, in a routine that was recognisable I was only ever challenged to justify my approach to life by one

I have lost the safety net of routine and have yet to find comfort in the rhythm. 


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Dear Sweet William

Some people get company cars, bonuses or expense accounts as job benefits.  I once worked for a tobacco company and got 200 cigarettes a month as a perk of the job.

Now as an Antenatal Teacher and a Doula my job benefits are baby cuddles and occaisionally I am present when a new human being is born.

Last week I was at a birth that touched and changed me as much as I believe know it has the parents.

When I support a woman through birth in a way that is right for her I need to step aside from myself.   I have always said 'it's not about me'..................except last week it was..........

It was about me and my passion and purpose.  It was about me and my faith.

Part of my journey through the past 10 years has been the opportunity to discern what it is I am to do - what is my purpose.  It doesn't always make sense but it is very clear to me that my work with couples during pregnancy, birth and beyond is my purpose and therefore it has become my passion.  

I do not always enjoy it.  Sometimes it is hard and nasty, heartbreaking and messy.  But every time I pick up my basket I thank God that this is how I serve.   When I hear of a baby being born I thank God and over 350 babies later I still cry each and every time.

I am very uncomfortable talking about religion and faith - yet it has always been part of who I am.  I believe in God, I worship, I pray, I read the Bible and Quaker Faith and Practice.  If I am declaring a denomination then it is Quaker.  I was raised Catholic by an extraordinarily devout Grandmother, I have skirted CofE and for a while now I've found a home with Quakers.

Last week I was at a birth that touched and changed me.  

And after a lifetime of silence I am blogging about my faith and practice because it's important to me and because last week as a newborn Baby lay in the arms of newborn Parents I was asked two questions:

'Are you religious?'

'Would you be William's Godmother?'

So Dear Sweet William my testimony to you is that we will have fun and adventures, quiet time, laughter and tears.  But above all I will be there alongside you on your journey toward your passion and purpose with faith and belief.

Lots of Love
Your Fairy Godmother

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Work - the first

Earlier this year I took a huge step away from what's been my life for 25 years and became self employed.   It sounds so simple when I write that single sentence.   In reality it was the culmination of seven years of preparing and working six days a week plus an evening or two. 

It feels like such a simple decision now but the twelve months leading up to the change were challenging.   I wasn't sure who I would be without a job.  Of course I am exactly who I have always been and I have more time to be that person.

So what exactly do I do?  

Firstly I write.  

I had my first piece of writing published in the local newspaper when I was 14 years old and I wrote a lot until my mid twenties (coincidentally the time I became a mother).   Then I started to write again nine years ago with my sporadic blogging adventures.

Last year two things happened. Early in the year 'the wheels fell off' I wasn't coping with life.  I had too much to do, too little time to do it and I was unhappy. This led to the Pause - for twelve months I didn't do any workshops, courses or study days. I cut back on my work as an antenatal teacher and withdrew from volunteer commitments. This gave me time and space to connect with my passion and purpose, to recover and begin to consider what was next.

Secondly I tentatively started writing again and when I did I instantly felt better.   A fog would lift and I would relax, there was therapy in those words. I was encouraged by one friend and challenged by another who told me if I wrote it she would publish it (if it was any good and she liked it - or words to that effect). How could I refuse?

And so for the past year I've been writing for The Mother Magazine.

I write articles on pregnancy, labour, birth, parenting and am currently in the middle of a series of articles on Mothers Health - how to nurture ourselves whilst nurturing others.

And this month I have an article in Starflower Living Naturally Magazine where I've written an article on Soul Mates.

Starflower Living is an online magazine published each New Moon, it is for people who want to embrace earth-based conscious living.   Articles are all about natural living and lifestyle choices to support people making an effort to live a conscious, mindful life. Their ethos based on integrity, passion and right livelihood is a perfect match for me and I hope I get the opportunity to write more in the future.

But I do so much more than that.....................

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A year of silence.

In the 12 months since my last post things have changed quite a lot.

The biggest change was my desicion to become self employed.    It was a well thought out and supported process that started about this time last year, lead to a reflective Christmas and New Year and then I finally took the plunge in April.

It has not been at all like I imagined.

It's taken almost all of those seven months to begin to find a rhythm.   There was an inherent routine in having a job that for 25 years I took for granted.   It's as simple as getting up in the morning.   For 25 years my morning routine has been guided by what time I start work, how long my drive is, do I have nursery/school drop off etc.   Suddenly it's gone...................and I realise I'm not as much of a morning person as I thought I was.   These past couple of weeks I think I've found my morning routine.   Mr P's alarm goes off at 6.30am and at some point between then and 7.30am I get up make tea and breakfast and take it back to bed where I sit for an hour reading/listening/thinking. 

I also fell quickly into the trap of working 14 hour days.  Being at my desk at 8am and because I often work evenings I'd get home about 10pm.  I also regularly work weekends yet wasn't compensating with taking day off during the week.

I've a long way to go before I find an ease with my new lifestyle.  Today I'm baking cakes (an apple one and a lemon drizzle) doing some chores and then I'll sit knitting for a while before working this evening.

Oh and it's nice to be back - I've missed you.