Halfway …

Well I have just completed week four and am halfway through the OU writing course. It has been really interesting so far with the exercises, knowing who we are, this week being the most useful. I guess I have led a fairly mundane life being a wife – several times – and a mother to eight of my own and minder to many, so trying to stir my imagination up to write something that is completely out of character was going to be difficult. This week made me ask the question ‘what if’. How I love that little phrase. How many other opportunities, adventures would I have been in if life had offered me a different plate. What would I liked to have done, where would I have been.. I just love the idea of ‘what if’.

I have also switched to fiction in the other course I am working on. The non fiction section expected me to research and analyse various magazines. Analysing is no problem, have done all that on my degree, but the last thing I want to do is write letters to a magazine that I have absolutely no interest in. Women’s magazines have their place for those who like reading them but other people’s hard luck stories and ‘dramatic events that changed my life’ really turn me off, as does the sensationalism behind it all. I could write my own story, and I did write my autobiography, for my eyes only and to release my demons. It was he most carthartic thing I have ever done, but it wasn’t to indulge others in their need for … well whatever they get out it. The fiction aspect of the course will go along with what I am working on at the moment but because it has a set storyline, it will be much easier to develop.

There seems to be a great weight lifted off my mind having switched the aspect of my course and I am having no trouble fitting everything I need to do in any more. I have a couple of books I am working on the illustrations for and another waiting to come in, watercolour pictures this time, something I am looking forward to doing. My life is definitely taking another turn and the horizon is looking clear and inviting.

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Juggling!

Well, I think I am managing to achieve everything I hoped to. I mean just about everything. Just over a week ago or is that nearly two weeks.. hmmm #scratches head# anyway I had a whole list of projects and stuff I needed to finish. You know, the sort of slightly non-essential projects like altering clothes, well they had been sitting around in a neat pile for several weeks so maybe they had become more urgent. I love sewing but mending hmmm one of those jobs, anyway I actually got round to doing it. I had to be creative with my time and I had to close my eyes to the very essential stuff like housework and laundry, in order to get it done. I was so pleased with myself, two tops altered, Harry’s trousers turned up and a pair of PJ bottoms finished. I started making these PJs some time ago they had become yet another UFO in my sewing drawer but I am so proud that I completed then and that they actually fit me..
sheeps

I just love this fabric.. I haven’t yet cut out the top but well that’s another project.
I have also been working on a 6 week writing course, or was it 8? Anyway, that is going really well, I am disappointed with the haphazard way it is organised and feedback is almost non existent but you can glean a lot by reading other people’s writing. It is soo great to get back into writing.
At the same time I have been illustrating several children’s books for Trevor Forest and this week I have completed a marathon 30 odd pencil drawings for his Magic Molly series. Then I have also drawn pictures for another writer in South Africa, they were really interesting to do and took me well out of my comfort zone then I feel that it is also progressing me as an artist too and everyone seems happy with my work. I have another writer that has asked me to work on a second book with her too. Busy, busy, busy.
My biggest and longest UFO has been in progress for over thirty years, a patchwork throw. When my children were small, over forty years ago some of them,I used to make their clothes and, being a bit of a hoarder, I kept all the scraps from the little dresses and shirts. Even my marernity smocks are there . Then when they got older and grandchildren arrived, I collected pieces from their clothes and fancy dress outfits I made for them until today I have a spread not quite the size I want it to be but it would possibly fit a double bed. I want it king size! My children all love looking at it and remembering the dresses they wore and the times they had wearing it. Fabrics are matched up with photographs, wonderful! It is a real memory treasure. Today I buy fabric and the colours are much denser on the outside than the much more reserved colours of the seventies but that makes the cover even more interesting. The following pictures are the stages and supplies, boxes of hexagons, flowers made of seven hexagons and then nine stitched ready to make into a strip , at least twenty tiny hand sewn stitches to every side that is then attached to the body of the cover… hours, days and years of work and a lifetime of memories.
patchwork

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It is this project that keeps me sane and grounded when I am getting bogged down with everything else. I am just pleased that I have been able to find the time to sit and write. My next challenge is… time management… hmm maybe.

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Nearly there!

I have done most of the work on the course but still have one day to complete the first week. I am still looking for my character and can’t make up my mind if it is to be the bag lady or the ‘hoodie’.. knowing me it will be someone completely different but I must get him or her written tonight. Getting excited about writing and have looked out all my books which always inspires me, now can I get this thing going again?… I guess my biggest hurdle is time-management and that is something I really have to work on, I think I need a little switch on the back of my neck to keep my storytelling brain on, oh and a radar for seeking out those illusive ideas that keep escaping me.

 

 

Ok so I managed to procrastinate till Sunday but I am pleased to say today.. I am in total control. Dinner in the slow cooker, fruit and other veggies are all prepared and in the fridge. I completed the last pic in a set of illustrations for the Magic Molly book – The Yellow Eye, bread puddings on the go.. there’s no stopping me today… Mind you I look out of the window and think that I really ought to be outside soaking up some vitamin D while the sun is out but hey! I wouldn’t enjoy it knowing I had a load of other stuff to accomplish indoors. Maybe tomorrow will be a good day too.

I am keeping this post short so that I can come back later on and add that I indeed completed everything I hoped to, including the pile of ironing and some clothes I need to take up, so watch this space!

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Dipping my toes … again!

How I wish I could just dive into the waters and come up swimming, instead I paddle at the edges and lose myself in a variety of rock pools and trapped creatures floundering and, like me, seeking a way out. Or worse, I do dive in and find myself drowning in water way above my head so turn around to the nearest easy port and go off to a completely different place. So what am I referring to? Writing of course. I love writing, I love reading, I love being creative but I am lazy. Well, that’s not strictly true. I am constantly ‘busy’ with all my UFO’s – that’s Unfinished Objects. I flow and ebb like the tide and whatever project grabs me by the ankle I dive into and concentrate on that until the tide turns and I change tack.

Well I have started a writing course with the OU. So writing is my creative thing at the moment. It is quite interesting to read other people’s work and get motivated with suggestions and ideas, a bit of structure. I’m not sure what I was hoping for but it seems that the course is set out but it is our responsibility to carry it out. There are so many people on the course all posting their work and comments that there is no way of following anyone easily. There is no feedback from tutors that I can see at the moment and, considering the enormous amount of work to plough through, I doubt there will be that tutor/student relationship. However, I do plan to do the exercises and use the experience to try and develop the areas of my writing that I fail in – making an exciting storyline!

So here I am, picking up my blog again and endeavouring to keep it going for longer than I have done before. I think it will help me to keep focussed and it is only eight weeks, surely I can do that? At the least it will give me a record of what I am writing and doing and maybe even some thoughts along the way. So here goes, I’m back! this could be my only feedback on my work.

I was unsure of the first exercise but I understand why it was given to us. It is to write to paragraphs including three facts and one bit of fiction on one and reversed for the second. three pieces of fiction and one fact. I wasn’t sure how to approach this so wrote as if I was writing a story.

3 fact, 1 fiction
I had a feeling that something was wrong as I peeped through the gap in the curtain. The smug look on his face as he left crossed between insolence and indifference; my skin crawled. I was afraid of him, afraid of his reaction. Cautiously I opened the door and stepped outside. The evidence was lying beneath the overhang on the forsythia. The eyes of the lifeless body stared motionless into space and I turned away. I needed some help here. I went back indoors to call my wife. ‘There’s been another murder, you need to come and help me, now!’

3 fiction, 1 fact
I re-read the letter…. How could he do this to me? How could he end all these years of marriage like this? Why couldn’t he just sit calmly and talk it all through? I had known about the affair for a long time and had hoped it would pass, a fling, middle age crisis, whatever you want to call it. I waited for the smile and invitation to go out for a meal. Just like the time before. I screwed the letter into a tight ball and threw it into a plant pot. I poured another cup of lemon tea.

The whole of the first piece is fact based on my wonderful ‘other half’ Harry. Most people will have read and know how ‘brave’ he is, especially when it comes to the cat hunting birds or catching fish from the pond. I wrote it in the first person – myself- so the fiction element is the fact that I am female and it is clearly not actually me doing the observing. A bit obscure I know but hey! until I see what others are writing and what is expected that will have to do.

The second piece is entirely fictitional apart from the fact that I made myself a cup of lemon tea. I thought that a good play on emotions, you know, just adding a bit of bitterness to the cup.

So , in picking up my writing head and diving head first into the world of creative writing again my course has changed from the more practical sewing and illustrating back to the creative where I have to think. Do give feed back and criticism, I don’t think there will be much on the course – if I could find it in the confusion anyway. I love constructive criticism, it is the only way to improve my work.

Now onto the next bit which is to pick a character from my notes, which I am supposed to keep daily and write a character sketch in 200 words. Not a problem but it will have to be from memory and imagination because I don’t go out much but what a great exercise! Hopefully, this time I will come up swimming instead of drowning.

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There I am!

I was still trying to take control of all the things I wish to achieve this year, well, at least start to make sense of some of them. It wasn’t until this week when I’d had a lot of re-arranging to do ( furniture, rooms, hobbies) that the de-cluttering process that I was fighting to continue decided to lend its own hand. Questions popped into my head saying things like ‘ what on earth do you need this for?’ as I was rearranging part of my ‘library’. It, that awe-ful (maybe awesome?) conscience bit of me, was taking control of my thoughts. The worse thing was – it was OK, really OK for the first time in my life and I smiled as I once again threw out more ‘stuff’. What a wonderful feeling! Not only that but losing a bit more ‘stuff’ made way for other things in my life, my creativity for example.

During the reorganisation and somewhere between Art, English studies and Spirituality I found the literary pocket of my brain hiding in the corner of the bookshelf twisting a finger in her hair and rocking gently. She looked up at me, smiled as if she knew I was coming and pointed to a large blue ringbinder laying horizontally on the bottom shelf. I looked cautiously not knowing what to expect, opened the folder slowly and there sat Conscience grinning at me and offering a piece of purple paper – Assignment 3 – Oh bother! ‘Over £300 you have three years to go, a year out is quite common, time to pick it up again!’ She was right. I haven’t picked up pen and paper for well over a year and I had paid a lot of money for a writing course. I’d let it slide among all the stuff, hidden and neglected at the back of my mind.

As if that was bad enough, I had lost the aforementioned assignment during all the reshuffling and I needed to find my organisational head to be able to locate student numbers, email addresses to make contact again in order to request a copy of the number four assignment. Far too easy to just ignore and store it away for another day but there is something about decuttering that makes room for these other things to take place. Things like completing forgotten tasks, putting papers into some sense of order and generally making things ‘right’. A scary thought came into my head… don’t old people do that? You know what I mean.. ‘I love visiting Grandma, all her photo’s are in books and not in jumbled boxes’ that kind of stuff.. I must be getting old! Oh dear!

I actually achieved the whole thing, apart from the reply of course, but I set up everything to pick up where I left off as soon as I get the paper. The writer in me was stirring wildly at the bottom of the murky pool but in coming to surface, unhindered by clutter, she is grasping at the lifeline being offered. A sense of satisfaction is creeping over me as all these little parts of me begin to merge and congratulate each other with grins and a great deal of patting on the back. Heavens, I’d even resurrected my Twitter Account, such organisation going on here.

Not bad for January, I’ve finished one and read another book and am well on time with my reading quest – a minimum of 12 books for 2014. Less time playing games and more on productive things like art and writing. What a waste of time! I like to think that this is the true beginning of this year and so far it has been a great success. Not least for the thoughts and ideas that have inspired me since I started decluttering my home, nor for the achievements, small as they are, that I am proud to have completed but more for the change in me as a whole person. Am I just accepting this new age? I think I can say it now – retirement… My forced retirement always left me with a hope that I might be able to go back to teaching but now slipping well into ‘past retirement age’ I am able to accept that the past is gone, look forward to a new future… Chucking out my resources at the beginning of the month gave me permission to let go of all the things that have held me back.  The nicest thing in the world was said to me just this week and confirmed my place in the world. This new era of retired, a Grandma, a lady with time to enjoy doing the things I always planned to do has me grabbing my pen and writing those wonderful words. Spoken by my 3 1/2year old grand daughter Millie  “Grandma, you are my best friend.” I think I’ve arrived!

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Getting there!

I was thinking about those resolutions the other day, you know, the ones I might have written about had I thought for one second I would be able to keep them for more than a few weeks. All those good intentions about decluttering for one, there goes that thought again and in the next second I am revaluating all the ‘things’ that bind me to a commitment. Funny, there’s a change this year that’s got me thinking, some might call it procrastination but I firmly believe that even procrastination has it’s purpose. I mean where did all the great thinkers get their ideas from? I’m willing to bet that they started out with procrasting somewhere along the line.

So why do I have this butterfly mind when I really want to be focussed on something. I know I am capable of concentrating, I have books and stories I have written, paintings hanging on walls, a brood of amazing offspring, all telling me I can do this. Perhaps it’s an age thing? I wonder. That has always been my problem ..wondering… until now that is. I can’t put my finger on it but something this year has changed, my thoughts are focussed, I am even achieving things. very gradually but never the less, they are being crossed off my list. Still that question, why now? what has made me accept that these things are no longer so important that they control the way I think about them?  It was only a few months ago that, had you told me to get rid of all the stuff ( don’t you just love that word – stuff!) my heart would have sunk and I would have wallowed in the memories that held them dear to me resulting in a total panic and loss of the ability to reason with myself. Yet suddenly everything really has changed.

Not wishing to be morbid but, as I am getting older and struggling to cope with a disability that frustrates me, I got to thinking what would happen if I died. All my stuff would mean nothing to anyone else but me and worse than that, they, my kids, would have to go through it all. I have recently been looking through papers and documents that belonged to my mother who passed away just over a year ago. I discarded a good two thirds of writing, early drafts from one folder of college work that she undertook in her seventies but the  other third contained writing that was irrreplaceable. She wrote about her childhood, her parents, what it was like to be a child of seven when war broke out, her school, her father, her grandfather and different characters in her childhood memories. As I read them I realised that  these few papers were really worth keeping. They contained information that can never be recovered, a connection to three older generations!  My ancestors and their history. How many papers and written stuff ( that word again) is there of mine? I can tell you vast amounts and a lot, like my mother’s work, are rough drafts but if my kids are like me they will be interested in my autobiography and the little blog type diary entries I wrote from when they were growing up. I think I need to condense the whole lot into a readable book that they will be as delighted to read as I was my mother’s writing.a A big challenge for me.

Last week I went through all my teaching resources, university notes, books and papers that I’d loved writing and reading through and I am proud to say I kept only one folder of a course that I want to read again. Resource books, curriculum guidelines, dyslexia training too, all the trappings of teaching in fact… I threw them all away without even thinking twice and I felt better.

Have I finally let go of ‘things’? That stuff that was important to me, so important that I couldn’t let it go before now no longer had that hold on me. It felt good! But what had made me hang on to it for so long? What was I afraid of? Have I just accepted finally that I am not going back to teaching? I think inside me I was always hoping for a miracle that would enable me to go back to work and maybe I still needed everything – just in case. Maybe I have finally come to the realisation that my life has taken a different turning that doesn’t include stuff of the past, I don’t know, but one thing is for sure, I suddenly feel freer than I have ever felt before. It’s not that I have lost hope, more that I can let go and not hang onto the past and that I am finally accepting the change that made me retire early. I can say ‘I am retired’ at last.

Now I feel that finally I am owning my life. I am beginning to feel the freedom I should have had years ago. I have books of resources still to go through but these are going to be harder. In my head I will go through them and put together a couple of good packs of resources and take them to the college, after all it took me a lot of hours sourcing them and organising them into subjects, ability, etc. They would save another lecturer a lot of time and effort. Then the other half says let them go.. I’m still torn on that one but am working on it.

Meanwhile, as this is only my second blog entry for the new year, I still need to write two more before February, an entry a week is a more realistic target for me. There is still a loft full of my past to be cleared out too. Hmmm, time to organise my procrastinating for once and for all. I can do this!

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New Year’s Eve

New Year’s Eve! The end of 2013 and the start of another year, another journey and a new lot of wishful resolutions. I say wishful because I am the world’s worst blogger, totally hopeless at keeping resolutions and most of my plans fall by the wayside at the drop of a hat. What I am good at is procrastinating, dreaming, wishing and praying. OK, I believe in the power of prayer and it’s incredible value to us but the rest? hmmm just me not letting all the amazing thoughts and ideas that cross my mind get out and become manifest as, well maybe, something useful.

Every year I have made resolutions. Some active others more passive. Every year I try to look at why I didn’t carry them through , or for those I did, what made them easier to keep? This year I am not analysing at all. I accept that 2013 was a wonderful year for me. Not for any particular reason apart from all that dreaming and procrastinating just helped me to find a bit more of me. How easy is it to lay down a list of things I want to achieve, lose weight…still…write more, keep up with my correspondence better, well just write letters would be a start, follow up on all my good intentions, but even though I failed on those practical things, I did achieve so much more.

I stepped onto the scary place of letting go. I had an incredible urge to de-clutter my life. For the first time forever I was able to look at things and see them as just that – things. Some I had kept for many, many years, such a high sentimental value placed on them that I was unable to let them go. I often write about my love of little boxes and the way I have organised all the emotional, tragic or joyful times in my head. Shutting away those thoughts and emotions that hurt me and only allowing access now and again allowed me, or so I thought, to be in control of my life. I can’t be sure what caused the change in me, maybe getting older and revaluating my place here in this life, maybe my mother, my last remaining parent, dying just over a year ago. I don’t know. I do remember thinking that I was now the oldest in my family, was I the next on the waiting for God list? Then there’s that title seldom used these days – matriarch – someone called me that at the funeral, one of my brothers I think. Now that really is something to live up to.

I guess I had been so emotionally bogged down with a difficult, neglectful and sometimes traumatic, childhood. My only significant others being my grandparents who died when I was in my teens, I had no role models to guide me and I blundered my way through life making mistakes and feeling totally inadequate and without direction. Once I had my own family, when I was sixteen, I started keeping little mementos of events in my life. A shoebox to start with then a bigger box, a suitcase, a loft…. forty odd years later I have a houseful, a lifetime of treasures. The few birthday cards I got as a child, my first transistor clock radio – poems I wrote. The first playgroup painting of my son – now in his mid forties – and the many pictures and schoolbooks of all eight of my children, the little notes they wrote, cards they made, school achievement certificates… you get the picture? I believe the insecure childhood was the catalyst for my collections. I needed a reminder of the good things I guess.

I am a neat freak, well not obsessively, I like things in their place. So I have seven bookcases of books all neatly in their genres. Not as far as Dewey catalogued I might add. I have many hobbies, crafts and things I have collected. Lacemaking, knitting, sewing, cross-stitch, patchwork, dolls house building, painting, writing, postcard collecting, stamp collecting and so on, everything is neatly stored in it’s place or box ready for when the mood takes me to pick it up again. I’m never bored I might also add. A lifetime of things. It is that word that has made me revaluate my life… things… that is all they are. My most prized possessions are really my memories and relationships I share with my family and friends. It’s only taken me sixty-one years to see that and to finally begin to let go of … stuff.
cove letting go

I love my books but once I have read them why do I keep hold of them? I rarely read a book again. Hobbies that I can no longer do due to the practicalities of space and place. I no longer live in the country so why keep all my winemaking gear? I know my books would give pleasure to another reader so I have started by donating some to the local library, others to a charity shop. Clothes I have had in a box for years, I’m never going to wear again – charity shop. You know? once I started it gave me such a wonderful feeling of freedom. I could almost feel the house sighing with relief. I’ve a long way to go but I am so enjoying it.

So looking back over 2013, I believe it was a successful year for me. I found myself and have begun to value myself as much as I did all my little collections. 2014 is going to be the year I continue to let go of the past, keep de-cluttering and be in control of who I am. Then there’s losing weight, write more letters, paint more, read at least 20 books in the year, pick up my writing course and continue it, oh, and being a better blogger ….. I believe I have more chance of achieving at least some of them this this year but if I don’t then that’s a little more about me I will find out more because I was doing other stuff!!

time to taste life

time to taste life

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