Thursday, June 30, 2011

home alone.

All your weekends sound so lovely.  I think it's interesting how you look at your own life and you think well okay, this is what we did and yes, it was nice, but to someone else where it is quite different from their own life, it sounds wonderfully enticing.

We had a woman come into our credit union today leaving to go to Italy.  And I said "OH! I am so jealous will you eat for me" and she just looked at me and said, "The food in Italy isn't any better than here".  And I just thought, oh but it must be.

It's funny because I am just a girl who still lives in her hometown.  I never have really travelled anywhere.  I had the opportunity to go to England in high school with our church group but didn't make the grades at school, so I wasn't allowed to go.  My parents have a house in Canada so I've been there and I've visited about ten of the U.S. states, but other than that I stick close to home.  I would love to travel one day.  I would especially like to go to Europe, everything is so OLD there.  I would like to go to the Caribbean Islands sometime.  I would like to go to New Zealand.  Africa, to see the elephants.  Patagonia, for it's beauty and it's reputation.  I think everyone in my family has been to Ireland but me.  My sister several times and to Scotland too.   My brother has been to France.   He also bicycled all the way across the United States with friends.

For now I stay close to home with my babies, it seems that is what you do.  That and well, single mothers aren't floating in cash for elaborate vacations are they?   I am reluctant to go anywhere without my girls.  It's just this funny thing I have.  I left them for the first time ever this year on my four day trip to Colorado which was a HUGE, scary thing for me to do.

The girls have left me right now.  They left this afternoon for a week at the beach with their father's family.  The ocean is about three hours from here.  So they are off vacationing and I am here, at home, at work.  I flew home from work and managed to see them five minutes before they left.  It was hard to watch them go.  I went up and sat with my grandmother on her porch afterward; she was watching them go as well.  I was okay then.  I came home to read my book then realized I left it at work in my hurry to get home, so I cleaned out a closet, did a load of laundry, cleaned up all the leftover toys from the downstairs.  Then I sat down and cleaned all the photos off my desktop and loaded the edited ones online.

I don't think I've managed to do that much in a week.   I didn't even manage to put some words on the page Monday, I was so spent.  I am actually looking forward to some quiet time and some decompressing.  No one to cook dinner for, no one to get after to pick up, no one fighting with each other.  It will be odd though here as soon as I go to bed.  No one to tuck in or look in on.  Going to bed without having them safe in the next room leaves me feeling....incomplete.  I wonder what the dog will do, she always climbs the stairs and settles in between their beds.  I hope that she doesn't make her way to mine, she licks her paws and it drives me crazy to hear that in the night.

So now, I will sign off.  Make that climb up the stairs.  It is amazing to think that no one will wake me in the night with a bad dream, or a tummy ache, or a foot cramp, or just checking to make sure I am still here.  I better savor it, because it will all be over soon and life will be back to normal.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A perfect weekend: coffee, crossword, countryside and a concert

Pictures of Eye village from here

Morning Jen! Well, morning for you, that is. It's just past 1pm here and a much cooler day than the last couple have been, which is very welcome. As usual I am sitting here with my cup of coffee, its becoming a lovely little ritual every day, to make my coffee and then sit and either read your words for the day, or write my own. 

I loved your photos yesterday, they have such a sense of peace about them. We had a good weekend, and I managed to forget to take photographs most of the time. I am still getting into the habit of taking my camera everywhere and then, crucially, remembering to use it. 

On Friday I met the Prof from work. I went into a little café near the station and had a cappuchino while I waited for him. It was a nice little place, and for once my coffee was perfect. Often I find it so bitter I have to add sugar, which normally I don't take. It was really nice to sit there quietly with my book, drink my coffee and read. This is one of my favourite things to do, to sit in a café and read, or write. It doesn't happen too often, there isn't a café locally that I can walk to, so it tends to be if I am waiting for someone - often the Prof, who is likely to be rummaging through Latin documents in an archive nearby. On honeymoon we spent a lovely hour or two in a bookshop where, not only was there tea and coffee on offer, when we asked for some it turned out to be free of charge. If I lived in Bath I would be in there all the time. Surrounded by books plus the opportunity to sit quietly and write, with free refreshments - what could be better? 

We drove that afternoon to Ipswich, where we went to a lecture on the Black Death by the author and politician Ben Gummer It was fascinating. After the lecture we drove to a little village called Eye. My friend had been telling me about it as her sister lives there, and we decided to go and explore. It is a lovely place, though very isolated, a bit too much so for me! I am coming to terms these days with the fact that my living in the country fantasy is probably exactly that. 

On Saturday, we had to do grocery shopping, and stopped to have a drink and do the crossword in a coffee shop. We have been doing the Telegraph general knowledge crossword together on Saturdays since early in our relationship, and its become somewhat of a tradition. 

We drove to Southend on Sea on Sunday evening for a concert. There were lovely views across the water from the theatre, it would have been nice to sit and look out across the water for longer. The concert was really good fun, I thoroughly enjoyed it, though I came out a little deaf by the end and the Prof had to turn the volume on his hearing aids down. We were amongst the youngest people there, but I am not sure we felt it!

All in all, it was a lovely weekend. It was longer than usual, because we started on Friday lunchtime. We packed a lot in, we also included two lie ins and some gardening. Not bad going! 

Friday, June 24, 2011


The Girls. Debbie, Lisa, me, Gail, Jackie 

Well hello there, Rock Chick!

Sounds like you had a great time! Did the thunderstorms hold off? I was thinking of you as I went to bed last night, imagining you getting ready and then travelling to the concert full of anticipation. What a wonderful experience for you and your friend, building memories, as you said. You made me think of my closest friends, pictured above with me at my wedding in April, and how long it is since I have had a get together with any of them, except of course for the wedding, when I barely had time to see much of them at all. 

Let me introduce you. 

There is Debbie, who I have known since the first day of school aged 4. My brother and his best friend were both called Darren and two each of the Debbies and Darrens made for a lot of confusion at our house when they both came over to play. We even shared a flat for a while, where Debbie did all the housework and cooking and even ran my bath for me in the mornings! She has always been very organised, I think it's because she had six siblings. 

Lisa came to work in my office when she was 16 and I was 20, it seemed a big age gap then and of course it isn't any more, though I still think of her as much younger than me. It was very strange when she turned 40 earlier this year. She is bright and bubbly and full of fun. I have a brilliant video of her on my 21st birthday, in her Brosette gear, singing 'Happy Birthday to You' at the top of her voice and taking up the entire screen, waving her arms around. 

I have known Gail 14 years, since our children were in the same class in Infants' School. We were both single parents, and shared a lot of meals, outings and day to day worries with each other over the years.  We have usually seen each other at least once a week, even if it was just popping by for a quick coffee. She moved up north a year ago, and I have only seen her a couple of times since, I really miss her.

Jackie I met through mutual friends on a girls' holiday when I was 19, we shared many laughs and Indian meals over the years and she is my son's godmother. I have hilarious and wonderful memories of three different holidays with Jackie years ago, we had a lot of fun. 

My goal for the next week or so is to make arrangements to see every one of the four lovely ladies above very soon, and make some new memories. 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

U2 For Me Too.

There is so much to say.  Really, it could be about getting away for an evening.  It could be about two best friends on the verge of 40 living a dream.  It could be about leaving the children behind and sitting in your club seat watching the hoards move in; just enjoying no one expecting anything of you.  It could be reading the board before the band came onstage telling you right now there are 73,692 people in the stadium (73,692, will have to look for the final figure later).  It could be about the rush of energy when they took the stage.  It could be about singing the songs that you've been singing for over twenty years.  OVER TWENTY YEARS.  It could be about the warm air in the stadium or the soft breeze welcoming you after you step out.  It could be about the smell and the heat of the city.  About the faces of those that surround you on the light rail, all with the same type of satisfied yet tired looks on their faces at 1:00 am.  It could be about driving home from a friend's house, following the moon, an eye ever watchful on the road, for the deer, no two, standing on back country roads at 2:00 a.m.  It could be about the noise of the concert and then the quiet of the night.  It could be my mother coming down the stairs at 3:00 a.m., my kids tucked tightly into bed, long into sleep.

But it is 3:24 a.m.  I must get up in three hours to go to work.  No longer the teenagers that first fell in love with this band.  Now working women, with children, who sacrifice one night's sleep, because this right here is about building in your memory forever.  A love of music.  A love of words.  A love of old friends together in the heat of the city, in the night, heads leaning on the dirty side of a train car, looking at each other and knowing it was worth it.  So now off to bed, the rest of the words to come later, though I was dictating them in my head all night long.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

My weekend: chasing rainbows and chilling out

rainbow: just before it disappeared 
There was no country drive for us this weekend, as Saturday was one long round of torrential downpours, not really the weather that makes me feel like heading into the country. We spent an entertaining twenty minutes or so chasing a rainbow on Saturday, though. We were just driving home from shopping locally and a lovely rainbow appeared, but we couldn't park the car on the road we were on. We drove around for a while, trying to find somewhere we could park where there was a good view of it. It was disappearing by the time we were able to stop, as you can see from the photo. Something similar happened last Thursday, when we drove to the river in the hope of finding a break in the heavy clouds that would be large enough to catch a glimpse of the lunar eclipse, with its blood red moon. Sadly, we had no such luck. Next time.

On Sunday we spent the afternoon and evening at my parents' house, with it being Fathers' day. We have a tradition of having a meal together on our birthdays and other special occasions, this time we had a barbecue. It was really nice to be all together - my parents, me and the Prof, the Young Philosopher and his girlfriend and my brother. 

I look forward to the weekends, when the Prof is home from work. During the week I am mostly on my own and often don't go out, so the weekends are when I tend to do more, or go out and about. This past weekend was a quiet one, though. It was nice. I did lots of reading, and finally got around to writing our wedding thank you letters, which was a job that was seeming bigger and bigger the longer I thought about it. Does that happen to you? For the rest of the week I am planning more reading, some writing, and plenty of rest as I have a few things coming up that I need the energy for. What plans do you have for this week? 

Monday, June 20, 2011

{my} weekend.

happy monday!  i hope your weekend treated you well.  i hope you had a country drive.  i love your tales and your photos from your weekend country drives.  we basically live in the country but we headed out to the park this weekend.  it was father's day today, so my father and i did about a two-three hour hike today in one of the county parks nearby.   i took this photo along the way.  you can walk for about an hour on one of the fire trails and think you are so far from civilization and then you meander back to a fenceline like this and see a farmhouse in the distance and then you realize you are not quite so far away.  all in all it was a good time.  my father and i have a love/hate relationship.  he loves to give me a hard time and i hate that he does.  my mother says we fight like an old married couple.  it's just that we do spend a good bit of time together as he is retired and helps me with the girls before and after school.  in the end i know he would do anything to help me, so after breakfast with my sister this morning i invited him out on the trail with me.   

other than that it was a quiet weekend.  the girls were at a sleepover at their other grandparents house with two favorite cousins so i actually had most of the weekend to myself.  the bad news is i laid about quite a bit.  the good news is i actually did some writing.  really it was quite exciting and i found myself really happy with myself, having a bit of time to do the things i really like, finishing a book, watching a movie, having a glass of wine, sitting down to eat dinner at 8:30 in the evening just because that's when i got around to it, not having to do tuck ins three times and still have someone climb in bed with me in the middle of the night.  i got up to go to breakfast and it took me fifteen minutes.  i got up, got dressed, took the dog out, made a cup of tea and off i went.  no pleading, or hassling, or impatience.

i love my girls.  truly i do. but sometimes it is nice to have that small break.  to have a weekend to myself.  it so rarely happens that when it does i feel like i am on a luxurious vacation, even if i am still just in my own living room.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Pyjama Day

Image from here

Hello Jen. This poster that you sent me a link to on twitter today, was so apt. I went to bed last night just after midnight, and with the exception of waking briefly when the Prof kissed me before he went to work, I slept solidly through to 1.45 pm! I don't feel remotely refreshed either, still tired and fed up at having missed half the day. CFS is a pain in the bum. When I went into the kitchen to make tea and toast, I discovered that we had no bread. Then I saw that the dear dog had managed somehow to get her head into a dish that had some fat in from the sausages I cooked last night and, as she could only just reach with the tip of her tongue, had managed to splash the fat all over the worktop, saucepans, toaster and everything else in the vicinity. That will teach me not to leave the kitchen in a mess and go for a drive, as we did last evening.  Anyway, I decided to ignore the mess for the time being, sat down (still in my nightwear, naturally) with the laptop and there was this poster. It gave me a laugh when I was feeling sorry for myself, thanks for that! I must have needed the sleep, to have slept through like that, but I am either asleep or feeling exhausted so much of the time that it sometimes gets me down. A laugh was just what I needed. I also decided to take it at face value and not do much for the rest of today at all. The Prof is bringing in a takeaway for dinner, and I am just going to read this evening. I love to read.

From the moment I learned to read I was a voracious reader. I read all the time. My Dad would not allow me to read at the table, something I thought was extremely unfair. At breakfast with my brother and my Mum in the mornings, she would always read the newspaper. My young self couldn't see that was any different to me reading a book during the evening meal. They couldn't stop me reading though, I used to read the sauce bottles instead. I read in bed at night, by the light coming through the crack of the bedroom door, hiding the book under the covers if my parents came upstairs. I read when I had friends over to play, leaving them to fend for themselves. I read so much that my mother worried about it, because I read instead of playing. By the time I was nine, I had a reading age of fourteen and had read all the books in the school's reading scheme. In secondary school I read in all my break times. I read in the car, even though it made me travel-sick. I read anything and everything, and wherever I was would look for something to read, from the newspaper to the cornflake box, and any books I could get my hands on.

The first book I  remember reading myself was one of Enid Blyton's Famous Five series. I must have been six or seven. I think it might have been Five Get Into Trouble, though I read so many of them after that that I can't be sure. I loved the Famous Five books, about four cousins and their dog, and their adventures every school holiday in the English countryside. After that I remember reading 'What Katy Did', by the American author Susan Coolidge. I found myself in Katy. She was tall like I was, and had long dark hair like mine (in the picture on my copy, at least) and I identified with her temper and lack of patience. I loved that book and still have my original falling-to-bits copy. For some reason I set myself the task of reading it thirteen consecutive times, and then I did. I also read What Katy Did at School and What Katy Did Next, but don't remember those quite so well, especially the last one, when Katy is grown up. I might have to put those on my list to get from the library next time. I also loved my Hamlyn Children's Bible, full of Bible stories in simple text and with lovely full page illustrations. I was not brought up in a religious home, nor do I have any religious belief now, but I loved some of those stories, especially from the Old Testament.   

At the moment I am reading The Namesake, by Jhumpa Lahiri, for another reading group, at Writing Our Way Home. It is about a family of immigrants to the USA from India. I am only two or three chapters in, and I am really enjoying it so far. Next up will be the Time Traveler's Wife. I loved it the last time I read it some years ago, so I am looking forward to rereading it and discussing it in the group with you and others. After this, I have another four novels from the library, as well as my own 'to be read' pile, which I have to say is considerably bigger than yours, Jen! 

I don't blame your girls for not wanting to part with their books. Most of my childhood books are gone now, but I still have a dozen or so old favourites, and reread them from time to time. Some books are like old friends, you might not spend much time with them very often anymore, but it's good to know they are there. 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

love of books.

I loved what you said about anticipating spending time reading the books you had from the library.  I was in the library as well this past Saturday, picking up The Time Traveler's Wife for the book read you mentioned.  I also got another book and two cookbooks.  I am a cookbook fiend, browse them in bed like a magazine.  I love the many good books.  I'm a sucker for a good cover, sometimes it's turns out worthwhile sometimes not.  I remember times before I had the girls that I would just go in and wander up and down the aisles taking down books that looked good until I had a whole stack.

These days I don't have as much reading time, but I'm trying to carve a place back in for it.  I sat down for two hours last weekend and finished my last book, cleaning being banished to the back burner.  The photo above is of the books currently residing in my house that I have yet to read, or yet to finish.  Remember back in the beginning when I said I was working on becoming a better "finisher of things".   So these are in addition to the library books.  I find though that I have to be in a certain mood for certain books, so I am sure I will find my way back to them.

We drown in books in this house, the girls each have overflowing bookshelves of books they cannot part with going all the way back to Karelyn's favorite Goodnight Moon.  With money being what it is I tend to rely on the library more and more.  It is a good thing to have a librarian for a sister!  When I do find books I really, really want to keep for inspiration or for another read, I check out used bookstores online.  I have gotten great used library copies of books for as little as a couple of dollars.  I don't mind that they are marked up or rough around the edges, I figure that's the sign of a well loved book.  One time I got a copy of a book with the little card in the back where it listed the names of the library users and the dates they checked the book out.  Seems so far from our automatic check-outs these days. 

So that's all for tonight.  It's late, very tired as it's been a long week already.  Now to settle into bed with a hot cuppa tea and that book I was talking about.  They say the best writers are avid readers.  Until tomorrow......

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Contentment: today in my garden

This afternoon the sun is shining, and I am sitting here in the garden at my little mosaic table, with a cup of tea. It is so nice to see the sun, though for the last few days it has been quite elusive, only showing itself for short periods and then reverting to clouds and rain. Winter seemed much longer this year than usual, I don’t know why. I am feeling that it still hasn't completely gone, judging by how cold I have been at times, lately. I am spending my evenings snuggled on the sofa under a blanket. We do have thunderstorms here, though rarely. I don’t remember the last time. I like to watch them too. No fireflies here, though. Probably a good thing, as flying bugs are not my favourite, even if they are pretty. Even butterflies I only like at a distance. Maybugs are the worst. Buzz like a wasp, size of a bee and fly at you like a moth. Do you have those?

My house is on the end of a terrace of three. I have a small paved yard at the back of the house, which I call my garden. It really is tiny, and more or less triangular - just about fifteen paces from the back doorstep to the end 'point' of the triangle. I love it though - before we lived here we had a flat with just a small balcony.

I have a few little plants, less this year as I haven’t planted any annuals or vegetables. There are a few herbs, some of which I have lifted to safety on the table out there as the snails won’t leave them alone and they can’t seem to climb the metal table legs! The little table and two chairs are right by the back door, and that is where I sit with a cup of tea or coffee when the weather is nice. I also have a green garden bench at the end of my garden, which is where I like to sit and read sometimes. It is old and shabby now and needs painting, but I love it because it came from the garden of my dear Auntie who died several years ago. We were very close and I have fond memories of sitting next to her on this bench in her garden many times.

It is mostly quiet here during the day, except for the birds and sometimes the sound of children in the playground of the school in the next street. Today, though, I can also hear the occasional yaps of a neighbour's dog, and a disturbing buzzing. Have I told you how much I love flying bugs? Ah, now I see the source of the buzzing is a handful of little bees on the campanula (Canterbury Bells). I like bees. Wasps, not so much. I love Canterbury Bells, with its little mauve star-shaped flowers. It's one of the few plants out here. I also have a weigela hidden behind the bench, I need to move it to the front garden really, and  I have ivy, and then there is virginia creeper all along the fence one side and a large ceonothus (Californian Lilac) the other, which flowers a beautiful purple in the Spring. Those last two belong to the neighbours really, but they hang over my fence so I get to enjoy them. Just to make you and your black thumb feel better, I also now see I have a dead clematis and an even more dead hydrangea, sadly. I am a fair weather gardener, and don't even look at the garden from about October until April, so I am afraid that anything that can't manage the winter with no tender loving care and attention is not going to fare very well. When the weather is bad I hide indoors with a book, a mug of hot chocolate and a blanket and don't give a thought to the garden.

What does contentment look like? Today, I am anticipating spending the next couple of weeks reading the pile of books I picked up on Saturday from the library. I hope the weather will be nice enough to do some of that reading on my Auntie's bench. I was able to put the washing out to dry on the washing line outside today, which always makes me happy, and I have a pot of cream in the fridge for my coffee. I am planning to cook something new this evening, courgette and lemon linguine, open a bottle of wine and sit round the table with my family.

Small pleasures.

Monday, June 13, 2011

contentment lies on the porch.

I'm hoping you had a good weekend.  I did something completely different than usual this weekend....I did nothing.  Not nothing really, but I did try to do as I said I would and live more in the moment.

What I did do was spend a lot of time on porches.  I am so happy that winter is over.  Winter this past year was really hard on me.  Do you get those wintertime doldrums?  So it was a real pleasure to spend some time this weekend sitting outside with loved ones.  Saturday I went to visit my parents.  My brother and his girlfriend were home and so for a few hours we sat on my Mom's porch and talked (my mother, Claire and I) my brother and my step-father tended to flit in and out of the conversation.  We didn't have that porch ( a long, concrete open one, that runs the length of the house) when I was growing up.  It is a new after the children grow up and move away addition.  My brother, the youngest,  is twenty-four and works for a newspaper about three hours away.  He was the second marriage child, thus I am fifteen years older than he.  I used to read him The Many Adventures of Winnie-The-Pooh long before I read them to my own children.  I have a special kind of attachment to him.

When I decided I had lollygagged enough at my mother's I came home with good intentions to get to work.  That is until I saw my Grandmother sitting on her porch.  A small wooden porch just big enough for a wooden swing on the side of their house facing mine.  I walked up so we could fret over my Grandfather who was working way too hard in the heat (he refuses to admit he is living in his eighth decade). So I sat with her until my Grandfather finally gave up, plopped on a step with us and I listened to them talk about when they were younger (something I could do for days, let alone hours).

Finally I went home and did a bit of laundry, a quick trip to the grocery and went to pick the girls up at their father's.  When we got home about nine p.m. they settled in to watch a movie and as I bustled around the kitchen I realized a storm was coming in.  Now one of my favorite things in the world is to watch thunderstorms coming (is it a stupid question to ask if you get thunderstorms, they must be a worldwide phenomenon right?)  I poured myself a glass of wine and went and sat on my own front porch, wooden, wide, pots of herbs and seashells from vacation running along the sides.  I watched the fireflies (ok, fireflies? yes or no?) in the field compete with the heat of the lightning in the sky and felt the temperature drop about ten degrees with the coming breeze.  I stayed out until the rain came down and the thunderclaps became too loud for the girls and the scaredy-cat dog to be by themselves.

Sunday, I had to suffer the consequences of goofing off so much and went to work doing the cleanup around the house in the morning.  By late morning the girls and I commited to one of our happy rituals of warmer weather, snapping beans on (of course) the porch.  Do you get any more country than that?  I have to tell you I am just happy to have children who value where their food comes from (in this case our Amish farmers down the road, I have the evil black thumb) and think that an afternoon splitting open pea pods is a good time.  Exclamations of "This one is stuffed"and "Eight, eight in this one"!!  Karelyn gave up about three-quarters of the way through and chose instead to sit in a chair and read poems from a library book to Emily and I instead of snapping, but so it goes.  Regardless, we ate through that hard work this evening.

Maybe someday you can come and share the pleasures of our porches with us.  They are nothing grand or ornate, simple concrete or wood, a few flowers here and there.  Sometimes it's a bit hot, or the bugs get a bit bothersome, but something about it calls when the weather warms.  It is a nice place to be together, shelling peas, watching a rainstorm, debating local politics or reliving well-lived memories.  It seems a perfect simple pleasure and a perfect weekend way to live in the moment.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Slow moments, busy day

Balloons, from a London bus

Today I went to London to meet up with Sara. We went to an exhibition of work by the artist, Anita Klein. Sara first introduced me to her work by sending me a card featuring one of her paintings. We enjoyed a leisurely few hours in the city, walked around the exhibition and spent lots of time chatting and drinking coffee. It was a real pleasure to spend some time together, looking at the paintings, catching up on news. 

I also really enjoyed my journey to meet Sara. Instead of just burying myself in a book as usual, I decided to take my camera and take photographs all along the journey, from the bus and train as well as in the street. I found myself slowing down and really noticing things around me.  The golden top of the Monument showing above a building, shining in the sun. A restaurant’s gorgeous flower bed on a busy street.  A bunch of balloons.  Soaring glass office blocks.

Your simple evening sounds lovely. I’ve had a full day today, so a simple evening for me, too, tonight. I met my husband from work and we drove home together, stopping for dinner on the way so that neither of us had to cook. We’ve both had a busy day. Then home to relax on the sofa with a cup of rooibos tea.  Shortly I will go and put my pyjamas on and we will both turn off our laptops before watching an hour or two of television.  Then an early night I think, if I haven’t already fallen asleep on the sofa.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

dreaming small.

As much as I love to dream, I think that maybe one of the things that I have learned is that sometimes "too much" is just "too much"  whether it is thoughts, ideas, dreams or things.   And it's through my "conversations" with you that I have begun to see that my dreams might serve me better if they pertain to the right here and the right now. 

So I've decided to make a new list of dreams.  Dreams for the immediate future.  I guess some would call them goals, but goals to me are "lose ten pounds"  or "get a promotion" or "save enough money for a new car or college".  Goals seem to me to be kind of strict and well, a bit boring.  I think what I want more than anything right now, is to spend my days with a sense of peace, with a sense of calm, with a sense of satisfaction.  So maybe I can come up with the "TO-DO" dream list to simplify and calm my life.

Like, planting flowers around my house, tidying up my basement, reading a book to my children each night, hanging some artwork on my bare walls, committing to actually finishing a book.

I'm ready to start making my current life my dream life and thus it is far more attainable and rewarding and far less likely to cause great amounts of stress.

So to start by simplifying and slowing down.  Slowing down is a hard thing for me to do. The very nature of being a working single mother of two young daughters makes it difficult, but I am vowing this month to start.  Take a task at a time.  Decide what is a priority and what can wait until later.

Tonight I tried.  I made a simple dinner for myself with no dishes to wash up.  I took some photos and edited them.  I drank a glass of wine and had a warm bath.  I took the dog for a long walk along the woods and discovered I have multitudes of little white moths living in my lawn.  I sat in the quiet of my daughters' room and held my little one's hand while she fell asleep. Then I crept into bed early and wrote you this letter before I roll over into what I hope to be a full and peaceful night's sleep. 

And really isn't that a dream come true right there?

Thank you, my friend, for pointing out to me that "dreaming  small" is sometimes the best gift you can give yourself.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Motherhood and what comes next

                                                                                                                             “Your children are not your children
                                                                                               They are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself
                                                                                               They come through you but not from you
                                                                                               And though they are with you yet they belong not to you”
                                                                                                                                                    Kahlil Gibran, On Children                                                                                         

As a child I didn't know what to say in answer to the question what did I want to be when I grew up? All I ever wanted to be was grown up. Last year I was asked what I dreamed of as a 10 year old, and that is all I could say, I just wanted to be an adult. As I grew, I still didn't have any idea what I wanted to do, or be. I detested school and got out as soon as I could at age 16 with few qualifications, just enough to get me a job as a clerical assistant in the Civil Service. I did that for a while, then went to work in the magistrates' courts service. Those jobs were okay, some I liked more than others. I was glad to leave work to have my baby.

My son was born when I was 23 and yes, he was the focus of everything I did from then on. I found my vocation in being his mother, I loved it, and would have loved more children and to spend even more years raising them. It is the most interesting and rewarding thing I have ever done, by a long way. I loved watching him grow, helping him to discover the world. I even loved the fact that it was just the two of us, although it was sometimes hard, and there was never enough money. To make ends meet I took in ironing, did cleaning, babysitting, various little bits and pieces to earn a little extra money whenever I could. I rarely went anywhere without him, and from the age of eleven he was home educated which meant we went everywhere together almost all of the time. There was a lot of fun in our house, and a lot of love. There still is. 

He will be 20 years old in July. Over the years they need you less, but that is exactly what you want for them. All the time my son was growing up, I knew these days would come, but they seemed so far away and now all of a sudden, I don’t know where the years have gone. It doesn’t quite seem like the proverbial ‘yesterday’ when I was holding that little baby in my arms in the hospital,  but it seems like maybe five or six years, except that somehow in the intervening years I have become middle aged.

You asked, now he is older how do I look at where to go next? The honest answer is I don't really know. A few years ago I went back to work, but had to leave last year because of my ongoing health problems. Work, at least the jobs I have had, has never been very enjoyable. At least, I have never had a job that I would continue to do if I didn't have to for the money. I think most people just end up doing whatever pays the bills, and probably don't even think of what they would like to be doing. How wonderful it would be to have a job that you love!

For the past year or so a lot of my time and creative energies went into planning my wedding in April and now normal life has resumed. Like you, I have things I would like to do, or be. Somehow I don't quite know how to get there. I don't know where to start.

Monday, June 6, 2011

when i grow up.

I sat down the other day when we talked about revisiting dreams and thought not only about what I envisioned my dream life to look like from a sense of place but also from a sense of what I wanted to be doing.  How I wanted my "work" to represent myself.  It seems a bit ridiculous to be sitting at the age of "just shy of 40" and say I don't know what I want to be when I grow up.  I should be grown up, and I should be "something".

I loved what you said about not needing "big" dreams.  I like that your ideas for a happy future involve small things, like gardens and tortoises.  Whereas you say that you have never allowed yourself to reach out for something grand, I seem to be unable to rein mine in.  What I like so much about you is your sense of contentment in your place and I know that is not 100% true.  I know you think beyond the scope of your front door, but I can never seem to get away from the urgency of needing to be something other than what I am.

So I dream that little dream and then it happens....what always happens.  My mind takes off on a journey of it's own.  It's never simple enough as to be, say, "one day soon I hope to be a _____".  It goes something like this.

I want to work from home.  I want to be my own boss.  I want to be a writer, either magazine contributions, or books, novels or photo journals.  I want to be a photographer, having my work in a gallery, or selling off prints or postcards.  I could do unique and unusual portraits for people, capturing their innermost qualities and letting them shine through.  I want to work with young girls, those in  the midst of their awkward, self-involved teenage years or those on the brink.  I could work with them and help them find themselves through creative outlets.  I want to have classes or seminars where they can come and explore writing, or painting or sketching or photography and express without fear of retribution who and what they are becoming. I want to be a yoga instructor, teaching to children.  I've thought of being a teacher again, having dropped out of college in my early twenties to do just that.  I've dreamed of being a wellness professional, a park ranger, a bakery owner.

I do this until I have so many ideas of what I "could" do that I can no longer see through the clutter at what I "should" do.  I do this until I just sit down with my head stuck in the midst of too many thoughts and just give up.

Apparently I've never felt good enough to be just who I am.  Right now, I work as a bank teller, or a bank cashier as you would say, and it's good work.  I know I will bring home a paycheck every two weeks, I know there will always be enough money for me to buy groceries and clothing and a little more for nights out and little surprises.  I know that when one of us falls ill we have medical insurance that will pay for trips to the doctor and the medicines we need.  (We do not have national healthcare as you do, our medical insurance is paid partly by both your employer and yourself, if you are self-employed you pay the entire chunk.  As an employee, I pay $167.00 per pay as my portion for medical insurance just for myself, not counting the girls, so you can see how costly that would be if I didn't work or we just had to forgo it).

So there are reasons that I do what I do now.  The stability and the protection. I am the sole supporter of my girls, so I must do what I can in this given situation to provide for them.  My current job, though about half the pay grade I used to have, enables me to be at home on the weekends and to also leave only 10 minutes earlier and about 45 minutes later than the girls have school each day.  And thankfully, I have my father and grandparents who are both retired and live close to usher them to and from the school bus each day. So in the end the job I have now allows me to be the mother I need to be for my girls.  I can financially support them and I have (almost) enough time to be here when they need me to be "mom". 

In the end and after spilling all this out to you, it seems there is only one job that really matters to me and that is the job of "mother".  I think sometimes that perhaps that title is the only one that really matters and all the rest is just either a means to an end or a bonus.  If at the end of my days, I can say I raised the girls to become happy and strong women than perhaps no matter how I got there, that is the one thing I can be proud of.  I know that you raised your son alone and that you were responsible for a huge part of his education.  So what do you think?  Was motherhood for you the thing that guided what you did in life?  And now that he is older how do you look at where to go next?  I love these days growing my girls.  I cannot imagine what my life's purpose will be once they are grown.  So maybe, that is where all those big schemes that I listed above come into play.  Or maybe I will just look forward to getting a full night's rest or a little time to sit in the breeze uninterrupted and read a book.

Friday, June 3, 2011

My Dreams

Wordle, created from my Dream list

Funnily enough, I am indeed sitting here with a good cup of coffee, sunshine streaming through the kitchen window. Lately I have been throwing some instant in a cup, but I decided to get the cafetière out.  

Of course, being me I had to immediately go and listen to that song. It’s lovely. I am an inveterate follower of links and looker-up of things, forever going off on a tangent following up something someone has said, or I have read or seen somewhere. I can get lost down an internet rabbit hole for hours. Days.

The list of dreams that I wrote last autumn is scribbled on a folded piece of A4 paper that I tucked away inside a journal, and forgot. Reading the list now, months after I wrote it, I find some of the things I wrote down are starting to happen, others don’t attract me so much anymore, and there are new ones I would like to add. I am struck by the fact that neither writing nor photography made it on to the list, yet I know that it was the process of dreaming, of writing that list, that led me to write again and to start taking photographs.

It took several difficult days to be able to write down those dreams at all. I found it hard to acknowledge there were things I wanted that were seemingly out of reach. Maybe admitting I wanted them was like inviting failure, I don’t know. I used to say I didn't have any dreams, mine didn't seem big enough to deserve the title.  Somehow I felt that I should want to backpack around the world, or excel at something marvellous. I have come to realise that not all dreams have to be big as diving with sharks (my brother) or skiing down a mountain (my friend Gail) or getting a PhD in Medieval History (my husband). Dreams are a very individual thing. Some of us just want to plant a garden, listen to the birds, and watch the tortoises, and some of us don’t know what we want until we give ourselves permission to dream. 

Nowadays, I am dreaming a lot more. That little house of yours sounds a lot like the one in my dream...but maybe mine would be on the very outskirts of a town. Maybe it would have beautiful countryside views, birds in the garden and peace and quiet...and have a regular bus service to the cathedral town where there are craft shops, a farmer's market, pavement cafés where I can eat cheesecake, drink cappuchino and write. Maybe my house would have a cottage garden. Lupins, foxgloves, rambling roses, sweet-peas, side by side with the vegetables and herbs. At least one tortoise. I love tortoises! Something about a tortoise is so wise and ancient, like a little dinosaur. 

Like you I also have some of the things I have mentioned already. I grow sweet-peas  tomatoes, herbs, cucumbers, though this year I fear I have left it too late, I was busy at planting time, planning my wedding. I have a fragrant rambling rose, called 'Wedding Day', a present from my son, waiting to be planted by our front door. I have birds visiting the garden, though the neighbours' cats scare off all but the most intrepid. Ours is a quaint little house - nothing special on the outside, we can't do much with it as we rent - but it is quirky, cottage-style.  My dream house is tidier, more organised, nicely decorated, is filled with flowers from the garden and the scent of baking, despite the fact that I have hardly baked in my life. These are all reachable dreams, something to be going on with, working toward. 

I have other dreams: the impossible, the silly, the potentially embarrassing (just who does she think she is?). Those are staying on that piece of paper, tucked away. Some of them might see the light of day....when they come true.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

On Dreams...

(somewhere over Tennessee or Virginia today)

So is there a better place to ruminate on dreams than above the clouds on an airplane?  First I have to thank you for all you have done working us through these first couple days with this blog while I was 2,000 miles away from home on vacation.  It's a sign of an excellent partnership that we got this off to such a beautiful start with even more distance (and time zones) between us.

So I was thinking about what we were saying about dreams while I was on the plane today.  Right now I am at a very "scratch your head and wonder" kind of time in my life and when I think about the future I want to know if what I envision for myself and what I can make or want to make for myself can come true?

I won't list all my dreams here.  We've both made the lists and some of them are far too personal and some of them sometimes seem far too ridiculous.  The ones you've disclosed to me that you thought were too embarrassing or ridiculous I think are spot on and perfect for you.   But thinking about it, I sat on the plane today and thought well, why can't I take control of my life and make my every dream come true and what again is my dream for my future, has it changed since last year?  It seems sometimes our lives get pushed and pulled in varying directions and we find ourselves falling into old patterns or unsure of new paths and for selfish reasons, having given up so much in my previous life, I would love to put all my energy into continuing to make my way toward the life I have been dreaming for myself.

So I wrote down a few things today.   A little bit of a reminder and a recheck on where I would like to see my direction in life go.  Loose thoughts written on a piece of paper on an airplane, so here goes:

I want to live:

in a small house, cabin or cottage set back in the woods or a field, out in the country. wood, lots of wood. simple furnishings and decorating.  lots of inspirational artwork, clippings and maps on the walls.  decorated with small vases, rocks, and little bits of nature found.  airy and light.  minimalist but comfy and inviting.    a garden shed size studio out back or in a separate room, a wall to showcase clippings and other bits of inspiration.  a nice big wooden desk with a hutch for little bits and a laptop for writing and a space for laying out photos or pages for books.  a wood stove for winter and a screen door for summer and maybe a little porch to sit out and listen to the birds and soak up the sun.  a small garden, feeders for birds and a place for nature walks.  a comfy chair next to the stove with a good book and a cat as the sun goes down. 

In some ways, I have worked a lot of this into the home I have now, so maybe I am working towards this place and maybe one day if I stay focused I will get there.  I wrote some other notes on what I wanted to be doing in this future dream life, but that is for another day.  I am tired and ready to fall into my bed.  Funny enough, I am playing a song from the girl's goodnight playlist I created and am listening to Kesang Marstrand sing "lay your head down and let yourself travel, in the land of dreams, in the land of dreams.  the stories in your heart will start to unravel, in the land of dreams, in the land of dreams".

It's goodnight time here, which means you will be near waking soon.  I hope you have sunshine and a good cup of coffee and that you find yourself lost in your dreams, but not lost too much.