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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Those holiday moments.

I haven’t abandoned my blog again, I just went away on holiday and despite paying for internet access, was unable to get onto the internet successfully. Ah well, not being a computer geek I failed miserably at that. I also never mentioned the holiday. It terrifies me that, in this day and age, people announce they are going on holiday to the world. It’s like saying ‘hey! my house is empty, if you check online you’ll find all my details somewhere, come on by!’ OK my house is never actually empty because I have various offspring that live locally who come and look after it for me and look after the cats, but I would still not want to put them in a position to have to deal with unwanted intruders.

Anyway, the holiday was a welcome break. Nothing special, we stayed at a holiday caravan park in Devon. I’ve never had that many holidays but this was still a new experience to me. One of my sons invited Harry and myself to spend time with his family. I was unsure at first because this was the first time I would have stayed with them and caravans are small right? Wrong! the caravan was a static home and slept the five of us easily with two separate bathrooms. Now H and I are big people and the space round the bed was no wider than my laptop, we had some laughs I can tell you. The bathroom and a wardrobe were at the slightly wider space at the bottom of the bed but you couldn’t get to either if doors were open or another person was in the same place. We were reminded of those little games where you move the tiles around to make a picture. H slept next to the window wall which also had a heater beneath it, more than once he lay slightly over the side of the bed and got a very hot backside… more uncontrolled laughter from us in the middle of the night. Good job we were the other end of the bed small space for big people

We had a great time and probably went more places than we would have had it just been H and I. But it was also the little things that made the holiday for me. The journey from Gosport to Devon was great. The roads were good, it didn’t rain either which is also a bonus but it as being back in the country that touched me the most. What a perfect time to travel, along side the roads and motorways the gorse was in full bloom. I have never seen so many flowers on the bushes in my life.

Roadside Gorse

Roadside Gorse

holiday 2013 156
These pictures were taken through the window of the moving car and don’t capture the amazing colour well enough. Hooray for digital photography. The next two were in a tunnel.. I couldn’t resist it.
on the move the other side
We visited some really amazing places.. take a look at the next two.. just another village? well yes… the model village at Babbacombe.
model village wedding bells
I could post dozens of photos but that is like inviting friends round for drinks and subjecting them to hours of boring holiday pics so I will end with just one more of a feathered friend sheltering from the rain in the new buds of a roadside tree. sheltering from the rain

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Daily Post – The Little Things..

It’s the little things that mean so much. I love that statement because it is those little things that have touched my life more than anything else. It’s a smile, a touch, an image, a beautiful piece of music, a song, a word, a kind act… those things that make everything ok. I don’t wish take anything away from these moments they are the moments that make life worth living. I crave them, yearn them, notice life around me, look and listen for them. It’s all about being positive and I like to think I have a positive and loving heart but there are so many little things that have plagued me, taunted me, haunted me and …. eat my garden!

I went out to water the shoots, plants and flowers that are responding to the beautiful warm weather. The roses so far look amazing and healthy, marigolds that the children planted last year are in bloom. Along the border the blue of grape hyacynths is a joy to behold and the herbs are in flower, mint strong and green, oregano, chives, sage and rosemary and thyme nearly ready to use, ferns unfurling their fluffy fronds, hostas uncurling their pointed spikes,lily of the valley leaves cupping their tiny buds and the miniature narcissus …. bare; nothing but stem and leaves, my primrose is flowerless and the primula – little clutches of miserable leaves and bloomless cups holding onto life with desperation. It’s the little things, those tiny little buggy things that are the negative influence around me.

On my walls, minute snails nestle in the crevices, under leaves small green caterpillars seem immune to the cold winter weather, in the soil grubs waiting to grow into weevils and each one doing its best to destroy all my efforts at growing strawberries and a little piece of country in my garden. I watch them as they creep nearer and nearer my goji berry and blueberry bushes and wonder .. why they don’t eat weeds. I mean that I wouldn’t mind. Overrun with cats there aren’t any birds to help rid my garden of pests and it is only a matter of time before I put my hands up and either let them chomp their way through everything or get out the bug sprays against all my efforts at being green.

Hmm sometimes it is the little things that have biggest effect for sure and I know which kind I prefer…

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There’s a tiny house….

My love of miniatures and little boxes was being fed right in front of me this evening. The One Show had the perfect shed. Ok, not as miniature as I prefer but something that was so cute as to almost qualify. I dream of that ‘room of my own’ and I know I have a room to myself right here in my home but it just feels like any room. It’s a work room, I paint, make models, draw, write, build my dolls house, do the ironing… do the ironing!!!?? That makes it just another room and besides the light is awful so I practically have to sit on the windowsill to do anything creative and move around to dodge the shadows as the sun slinks silently across the window. Now this shed was a miniature house; lounge, kitchen, bathroom and two bed spaces upstairs. It was on wheels and could be moved anywhere, a little like the size of a caravan and just perfect to have that time alone to work on all those things that need solitude.

It’s all about the light see. Many years ago I lived in very rural Sussex and our garden was huge with trees and bushes and hedges. It backed onto farmland that nestled in front of a yew forest, actually the largest natural yew forest in Europe, and the track from the road led up the hill to Kingley Vale. I was blessed with hundred and eighty degrees of sky and all the noisy silence of the countryside, fresh air and all the uninterrupted light I ever needed. I had a caravan in the garden, my space, my solitude and surrounded by all the wonders of nature tucked away in the garden; truly a room of my own with all round natural light. I miss that so much. If anyone asked my one big regret in life, it would be making the decision to move to a town. I mean I swapped all that for views of bricks and mortar houses, traffic pounding past the window, noise constantly droning past my windows day and night, drunken reveller not heeding the hour, polluted air, tiny slivers of restricted light and less that 45 degrees of light polluted sky….

My house in the country...

My house in the country…

But this little shed was perfect. I might not use it as a house and I might have put an extra window in the roof for all round light. I could make it my special room but I think I could only put it somewhere remote and deep into rural England to give me that unique feeling of just being… being creative, being alone to think, to meditate, to pray, to write, to find myself. My own little box, my miniature space, my room just where I want it. How perfect would that be? Well, I can dream can’t I?

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Am I a reader or a writer?

Trouble is, I love both! I believe the two go hand in hand; to be a writer you need to be a reader. Now I have always wanted to be a writer and indeed I have books and boxes of stuff I written from poetry to almost a complete novel but, and this is the question, why, oh why do I prefer to read when inside me there is a whole library waiting to get out?
I know I am the world’s best procrastinator, drifting from hobby to hobby as the mood takes me and it irritates me. I want to write, ideas come to me all the time but by the time I get to put pen to paper, the words refuse to sound as good as the thoughts in my head. Hmm, I need to focus and make some sort of strategy to encompass everything I do.
I am a writer, I know I am, I am a reader, avidly so, what I also need to harness is the belief in myself to succeed.
I started a writing course in order to focus and be a little challenged but the problem remains. I can give advice, point people in the right direction, I mean I taught creative writing, so why can’t I write it myself…?
Then there are the books, a big passion of mine. In fact it might categorise me as a hoarder, I have hundreds. More than the stories I have written, but I love each and every one. I keep records of the ones I have read, I keep records, scribbles in notebooks, ideas for stories that I never get to write and every time I find them and reread them I am amazed at the philosophy behind each statement or quote.. So why can I not write to demand? There has to be an answer!
Hmm… ok an outpouring of thoughts, hey, Im good at that and now all I have to do is work out how to use it all.Maybe I should stop trying to analyse it all and sit down and apply myself ….

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