Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Eve

I adore these days between Christmas and New Year, languid days of staying up late, sleeping in, falling asleep on the sofa in the middle of the day if I feel like it. I don’t do any chores beyond the absolutely necessary during this gloriously lazy week; the decorations and tree are still in place, there are piles of presents scattered around and we are running out of clean clothes. I have  just relented and put a load of washing on so that the Prof has his favourite t-shirts  to wear tomorrow and Monday, before he goes back to the daily grind of smart shirts and trousers. We are spending a lot of time watching DVDs, reading, once or twice we have been out for a drive.  The Prof’s been working on an essay for his MA, I have been reading my Kindle. We’ve been eating simple food and drinking Baileys. It’s been a comfortable, slow time. It’s been good.

Today is New Year’s Eve. Tonight as always, just before twelve, I will leave the back and front doors to our house open, to allow the Old Year to depart and the New Year to enter. Through that back door I am sending too many late nights, days spent multitasking and doing nothing well, some excess poundage I will be glad to say goodbye to,  and this infernal grasshopper mind of mine.  I will be standing by the front door as Big Ben strikes midnight to welcome one thing: peace. Peace in my surroundings, peace in my mind, peace in my life. Under the heading of peace, these things can enter: Healthier habits; good food, regular bedtimes, exercise, fresh air. Routine; I both detest and crave routine, it is boring but I know it makes life easier to do set things at certain times, I am thinking eating, sleeping, cleaning. Creativity; more writing, photography, some crafting and drawing. Family and friends; more time with both. Fun; drives in the country, weekends away, films, music, laughter. Peace. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

11 days

I need to pop out once or twice and finish the Christmas shopping. I want to spend an afternoon putting up the Christmas decorations, with a glass of cherry brandy and Christmas music on the CD player. I have Christmas films to watch while I write Christmas cards, and a new camera to play with. I have friends and family to see, and a lot of things to do.

I'm taking off the rest of the month from posting here.  I might pop back and post a photograph or two if I take any worth sharing, and I will still be posting at Notes Across the Sea, but other than that, I'm resting my brain and my typing fingers.

See you in 2012.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Reverb:12 Things

12 Things - What are 12 things your life doesn’t need in 2012? {prompt from geekinhard, written by Sam Davidson} 

Dear Father Christmas

It's a long, long time since I wrote you a letter, if I ever did. I would like to assure you that I have been a very good girl this year, and I was wondering if you would do me a favour? It's not about what I want for Christmas, I think my husband and family are taking care of that. It's more about what I don't want. This year, do you think you could organise for me to have less of a few things, please? 

1. Multi tasking. I usually am writing a blog post, cooking the dinner, pausing to run back and forth hanging out washing, and keeping an eye on twitter, emails and sometimes the tv at the same time. In 2012 I would like to make an effort to focus on one. thing. at. a. time. 

2. Excess weight. Oh, the bane of my existence. I have just slowly and steadily inflated all of my life, more or less, but the couple of stones or so that have gone on in the last few years are just the last straw. I started a diet a couple of weeks ago, I don't have any great hopes of losing much in the next few weeks with Christmas approaching, but if I can least avoid putting any on it will be a good thing. Then full steam ahead in the New Year.

3. Clutter and lack of organisation. Oh, the clutter. Next year the Prof is going to build lots of storage, as currentl we have hardly any, and I will continue my decluttering efforts. Might even sell some stuff on ebay and do that boot sale. 

4. Social media noise - mainly, twitter and emails. I would like to clear out my email accounts. Again. Why do I not delete them as I go? I have two email accounts that I use regularly and each of them has hundreds and hundreds of emails in, read and unread. Periodically I do go through and clear them all out but then I let it build up again. And I need to check twitter a couple of times a day, rather than leave it there all day and keep looking at it. 

5. Stress. I am not good with stress. I believe my CFS was caused partly by the enormous stress I was under in the previous year or so, and like most people with CFS, stress now makes it considerably worse. 

6. Self criticism/self-doubt. I am going to stop thinking/saying I can't do things. Your words become your world, and all that. 

7. Staying up late. I do this too much. Always have. 

8. Colouring my hair. I am totally inspired by Julie Do I dare take the plunge and grow out the grey? I am totally fed up both with the bother of doing it, and with having a little white stripe along my parting again within two weeks. I would really like to see what it looks like with my grey grown out....but I don't relish the thought of growing out that stripe for months. Thinking about this one. Hats? Scarves? 

9. Lack of fresh air/natural light/exercise. I need more of all these. 

10. Going out to eat/takeaways. I don't mind eating out or having a takeaway as a treat, but sometimes we end up spending a lot of money for something we don't even enjoy much (local options are fairly rubbish) because I am too ill to cook, or we can't be bothered. I would like to make sure there are easily cooked options in the house for those eventualities, and reduce the treats to once a week or so, 
which would help both the bank balance and the waistline, I am sure.

11. Procrastination. I am very good at it.

12. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Of course.

Thank you very much FC. Merry Christmas.

D x

P.S. I would leave you out mince pies as I used to do, but please see number 2.

Finding JOY: twelfth

 After thinking about which one to get and driving myself mad with the research and comparisons, I finally bought my first DSLR camera yesterday. It's even more special to me as I bought it with some money left to me by my lovely Auntie. I know she would be thrilled to see me buying something I am so pleased with.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Finding JOY: tenth and eleventh

Canterbury Cathedral again, this time from the inside. We were there for a concert last night, one of the highlights of which was Justin Hayward singing Nights in White Satin. Phenomenal. So today I went looking and found this old clip from 1970.   

Reverb11: Nostalgia

Nostalgia. Anything that you were feeling nostalgic for? Something you were yearning for from your past? A memory that wouldn't leave you, or tradition that you wish you could continue? {Prompt from Besottment by Paper Relics}

I visit your home for the first time in over six years. As I enter I hear your two chihuahuas yapping as usual. It seems that if I look down they will be there as always, circling my ankles, but of course they are not. They are long gone.

I remember coming to tea. You would talk about why you could never lose weight, “After all, I eat a lot of salad,” and I would look at your ‘salad’ laid out on the table. Ham, sausage rolls, pork pie, cheese, scotch eggs, coleslaw, potato salad……and a few lettuce leaves, a tomato and some cucumber as a garnish. I remember you always pronounced ‘pizza’ wrong and made my little boy laugh. To you, pizza, or was something exotic, as also was the lasagne you discovered you liked and then would always order in restaurants. You never went abroad in your life, and you were terrified when any of us travelled by plane, you worried constantly until you knew we were safely on solid ground again.

I recall watching you peeling potatoes, always with the same old knife, and telling me it had been your mother's. You kept your saucepans on top of the cooker all the time, you said it was the old-fashioned way and what your Mum always did, and it's something I do too because it makes me think of you. You and your Mum were very close. You lived at home with her until she died, and you were eventually buried with her; the gravestone reads ‘Reunited’.

You always had pets. There were various dogs and cats over the years, and usually an indoor bird or two. You loved your animals and pampered them. Every day you cooked and then fed little morsels of chicken by hand to the two chihuahuas, for their evening treat. I was irritated at having to do the same when I stayed at your house to look after them when you were on holiday. They were temperamental and either refused to come near me, or would sidle up to my outstretched hand, all friendly with tails wagging, and try to bite me. I would throw the chicken in their food dishes and let them get on with it.

I was touched to find that so much was the same. That he kept your things as they were. I was so sure that, many years after your death, the gifts my little boy made for you so long ago would have been thrown away. Yet there they were. Half an eggshell; coloured patterns in felt tip pens on the outside, a tiny chick glued inside. The papier mache plate. A valentine card with my toddler son’s scribble and a mug in the cupboard with his picture on. I opened a drawer. A pad with your writing, lists and addresses, scraps of paper everywhere with your writing. I found your Mum’s knife and brought it away with me to peel my potatoes with. A magnet bearing your name, still there on the fridge. The sheet music for the organ you loved to play. In another drawer, your knitting needles and the patterns for clothes that I remember my son wearing. I just recently gave away the bagfuls of clothes you knitted for him when he was a baby, though I still have the cot blankets in a box on top of my wardrobe. It’s so hard to part with them, but I will. I’ll donate them to a charity that provides blankets to orphans. So much love in every stitch; I will pass on that love to other babies.

Your husband, my uncle, has gone now too, and I stand in your home looking at the framed photograph of you that I gave him on his birthday just after you died. I am touched that it has been on the mantelpiece all these years after I thought you had been surpassed in his affections. I am taken aback by all these things remaining where I remember them. Still in place, despite all the years that have passed and despite the woman your husband became involved with, the woman who began to make a play for him as we started to lose you, whose presence meant we no longer visited your house or your husband. This has remained your home, with your things as they were.

It is seven years since I lost you. A strange expression, because you don’t feel lost to me. It’s as if we haven’t seen each other for a very long time, and of course we haven't. Yet you remain, like your dogs at the bungalow, almost in my peripheral vision. You are only just out of my sight, and never out of mind.  

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Reverb11: Music

Music: What song did you fall in love with this year? 

One day, I used to think. One day, one day.

Eventually, I stopped believing. Many years alone forged high walls around my life and my heart, a few short and bitter lessons along the way serving only to deepen my unbelief. Inside me, though, burned an infinitesimal flame that I barely knew was there, a tiny torch I carried all my life for a man who did not exist.
Then one day, there he was.

I walked down the aisle to this song.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Finding JOY: ninth

It's been a difficult week, but these things made me smile. Two magazines, Myslexia and Mollie Makes, with a free calendar that has lovely photographs, and a Christmas card from a friend across the sea

Reverb11: New Name

Let’s meet again, for the first time. If you could introduce yourself to strangers by another name for just one day, what would it be and why? 

This year I have a new name and an old name.

I grew up thinking that you got married and you changed your name to your husband's, I think most of us of my generation did. The older I got though, the less I felt like I would want to. My identity is wrapped up in my name. It's my Dad's name, my Mum's, my brother's and especially my son's. I have been Debbie B for 43 years and I feel like Debbie B.  Having been single all my life,  I used to say I would never change my name...but then, strangely once the prospect of being married was a reality for me, I started to feel differently.

 It was one thing thinking about changing my name to the name of some hypothetical husband-of-the-future - why should I? Why would I? I liked my name, if felt like me, and I wasn't going to change my name for any man - and quite another to think about becoming a family with my very real and wonderful husband to be. He by the way, as in everything else, doesn't mind which choice I make, as long as I am happy. Of course, it goes without saying that if he were insisting I change it, I Absolutely. Would. Not. When I thought about not changing my name to his, about being Debbie B forever, I felt as though I would be not acknowledging our marriage, and the creation of our little family together. So I decided I would change my name to Debbie M, but that after the wedding I would change my name by deed poll to include my name as a middle name. Sorted.

But. After the wedding I kept meaning to notify all the organisations you are supposed to - and somehow every time I thought about it, I put it off. I thought I was just procrastinating, but over time I have realised that it wasn't that at all, I just don't want to do it. It feels like erasing myself, my connection to my past and to my family.

I have read other women's accounts of why they have chosen to keep their own name, or to change it, and I understand all the very valid reasons for both, I just can't seem to come down firmly on one side of the debate or the other. I want the best of both worlds - to remain one of the Bs, and especially to keep the same name as my adult son, but to become an M, part of a new tribe and this very special team of two with my new husband.

So I am staying in both teams. I am leaving everything that is in my single name as it is, and I am using my married name for joint activities and enterprises with my husband. Best of both worlds. Why not?

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Finding JOY: eighth

I'm cold, I'm tired, I have too much to do and I'm too exhausted to do it, hence I am fed up. Hot buttered toast is helping.

Reverb11: Create

Create – What did you create in 2011? {prompt from Jennerosity}

A wedding. Groom's outfit by mother of bride, artwork and creative projects by the Prof, with assistance on creative input and general concept by me ;) 

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Finding JOY: seventh

A beautifully sunny, windy day. Perfect for drying the washing outside. 

Reverb11: achievement

What goal did you set yourself and achieve this year? Did you achieve something you didn't think you could? {prompt from resound11}

Last January I wrote '43 things to do while I am 43', so I will take a look at that now and see how I did!

  1. See an Imax film not got around to that one yet
  2. Learn to crochet and make something I tried to learn to crochet, I did! Went on a course, and everything. I was the dunce of the crochet class.  
  3. Get married! Done!
  4. Organise my digital photographs Yep, I did that. It needs a little work again now I have taken more photos, but yes, I did do that one
  5. Organise my old photos Does it count that I got them out of storage and left the box on my living room floor from July until last week, when I put them away again to make room for the Christmas tree?
  6. Take a writing course too scared
  7. Pass ECDL Level Two gave up the course after a few months, due to a combination of wedding stress and ill health
  8. Have a colour analysis consultation Yep! Lovely parents bought it for my birthday
  9. Paint the garden bench Disastrously, yes. I did it too late in the year, it got rained on immediately and the paint is all pockmarked. Will do it again in the Spring.
  10. Take part in an online photography course or challenge Failed miserably with Picture Inspiration, but completed August Break. Go me!
  11. Do archery again No opportunity really. 
  12. Make a birthday cake Make a birthday cake? I haven't even bought a cake tin. 
  13. Renew my passport No
  14. Go abroad for a holiday We were planning France for our honeymoon and then changed our minds and went to Bath in Somerset.
  15. Put a piece of my writing (other than the blog) online No, just blogging
  16. Knit a flower brooch I recently got the pattern out and looked at it intently for a few minutes,
  17. Knit 10 dishcloths, enough that I don't need to buy them anymore. Oh I love knitting dishcloths! Mindless and therapeutic. I don't like sewing the ends in though, so I have lots of unfinished ones from this year.
  18. Make a pair of earrings Surprised to find this on the list, don't remember writing this. Would quite like to have a go though!
  19. Visit the Tate Modern Nah
  20. Visit 5 places in London I have not been to before Ooh. The Crypt of St Martin-in-the-Fields, The Thames Foreshore, um does an Anita Klein exhibition count?, Womens' Library. Not bad, but that's only 4. Must do better. 
  21. Go on a walk with London Walks No, sadly. I love London Walks, but walking briskly for two hours is not one of my superpowers most days lately 
  22. Go out with the Dusty Professor for proper London pie, mash and liquor Still not done this one. Can you believe I have been with this man for over three years and he has never been to a good old East End pie and mash shop? This needs to be rectified in 2012.
  23. Take part in 30 days of yoga Yoga hurts.
  24. Get a dining table and have people over for dinner! Dining table, check. People for dinner, not yet. Only Lisa, and she came for dinner before the table anyway and balanced her plate on her knee. 
  25. Have a picnic at the ruins of Hadleigh Castle Sadly, no. 
  26. Sort out and organise the house made progress
  27. Sort out and organise the loft and shed hah!
  28. Send some parcels of little goodies to certain people some
  29. Try 10 new recipes again I say, hah! I think maybe I tried a couple. I seem to remember some chicken thing with lots of spices that stank the house out for days. Oh, and the one with the lemon wedges in, that I forgot to take out before eating and the Prof ate several wedges, peel and all. He thought they were chewy parsnips. 
  30. Send the Young Philosopher's baby blankets here I have not done this yet, and I should. First thing on the list for January.  
  31. Keep a record of the books I read I started keeping a list on the blog, it got long rather quickly and I got bored and deleted it. Now I wish I hadn't, as I have a poor memory and can't remember what I've read. One to do again next year, I think. 
  32. Keep a record of the meals I make Oh, yes, now I remember I was going to write down what we have for dinner each day in a little diary to look at when I am lacking inspiration. Forgot to keep up with that one.
  33. Take part in Susannah Conway's unravelling course Yes! Done!
  34. Write real letters No...always mean to, rarely do.
  35. Find and buy a pair of shoes (not boots or sandals) that are actually comfortable Forgot I write this and again I can say yes! Just last week I paid £80 (gasp) for a pair of Mary Janes from Hotter which I am hoping will be very comfortable.
  36. Work my way through Part One of my French BBC course, or at least some of it! Without the French honeymoon on the horizon, I didn't bother.
  37. Learn more about how to use the features on my camera Yes. Next step, Stop procrastinating over which model I want and buy that DSLR camera. 
  38. Join a Tai Chi class Yes
  39. Attend a traditional craft workshop Yes. Tablet weaving and drop spinning
  40. Do some Saxon-style embroidery No
  41. Have a boot sale No
  42. Sell some books and DVDs on Amazon/ebay Amazon yes, still shying away from ebay as it looks damn complicated
  43. Have a weekend away with the proceeds Not enough in the coffers, but it went towards a short break
Actually, now I look at that, I think it's not too bad an effort. I am quite impressed, I did better than I thought I had!  Time to start thinking about my 44 things list, it's my birthday soon....

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Finding Joy: sixth

Is it cheating to post another photograph I took yesterday? This is a close up of the Christmas tree outside Canterbury Cathedral. I really like the effect of the lights. Isn't it pretty?

Reverb11: The Best Day

I am thoroughly enjoying Reverb11, and am awestruck and impressed and all sorts of other adjectives about the manner in which the blogging community rallied with such speed and determination within a few hours and filled the vacuum with so many great prompts. I am discovering new sources of prompts every day, and actually this way of doing things works better for me than last year. Last year I felt that the prompts, or at least my responses to them, were becoming repetitive. I love that this year there there is so much variation. I even wrote a haiku for one of the prompts, for goodness' sake! Fab. I hadn't written a haiku since school, it was fun.

For today I am being rebellious and using a December 1st prompt from a site I have just discovered. Just because there are no rules, and I can.

If you had a “snow day” announced right when you woke up, what would you do with your day? What would your perfect day look like? {prompt from #reverie11, at Eat The Paper}

To start with, I love snow, so just the fact that it was snowing in the first place would make the day pretty perfect. The last real snow day I had was when I was working. These days I am at home mostly anyway, so what a snow day would mean to me would be my husband and son home for the day. The company on a weekday would be welcome. I think I would rise about ten, and stay in pyjamas and fluffy socks all day. Breakfast would be the special patented sandwich made by my son. I'm not sure exactly how it goes, it has mushrooms, ham or bacon and a slice of fried bread in between another two slices of bread. It's crunchy, greasy and quite delicious, and would have to be accompanied by a cup of builder's tea with sugar - rooibos just wouldn't cut it in this instance.

We would then settle down on our battered old sofa for more tea, and the Saturday Telegraph crossword - it might not be Saturday, but this is my perfect day, right? My husband and I (bit of a Queen of England moment there) have been doing the Telegraph General Knowledge crossword on Saturdays since we met. On this perfect snow day we would find for the first time, that we do in fact have enough General Knowledge to complete the whole thing without having to use books and the internet for the last few clues.

We would watch some films, obviously the Princess Bride, best film ever (inconceivable!) and for laughs, Fawlty Towers or a Monty Python film. Followed by the King and I, which I love and my husband doesn't but this is MY perfect day, so he wouldn't only watch it, he would join me in singing along to all the songs and crying when Yul Brynner dies. There would be Galaxy hot chocolate with marshmallows of course, and maybe I'd pop some popcorn - sweet for him, salty for me and the Young Philosopher. Then a small nap.

For dinner it would have to be my all time comfort food which gets far too many mentions in my blog posts - egg and mash. Or tomato soup with cream and basil, with crusty bread. I think in the evening the Prof would draw, and I would curl up with a wonderful book. Oh, and cherry brandy, there has to be cherry brandy in there somewhere, and a roaring fire. Bliss.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Finding JOY: fifth

I was Christmas shopping in Canterbury today. After a couple of hours of walking around and not managing to find much of what I was looking for, I was feeling exhausted and then I came to Christchurch Gate, and there was the Cathedral. It was lovely to see it at night all lit up, and with hardly any people around. Beautiful. 

Finding JOY: fourth (belated)

This was not so much joy, as hilarity, when I noticed this on the wall of the Chinese takeaway last night. The photograph doesn't do it justice, it is larger than it looks, 3D and the shells and crustaceans inside the frame are real. 

Reverb11: Theme song

Think about this past year. Is there a song that you've heard that has really struck a chord, one that has spoken to you?  {this prompt from resound11}

This is my boy. He was born when I was 23, 20 years ago.  Before that, a lot of things happened in my life.  There were jobs, boyfriends, friends, holidays - but once he was here nothing was ever the same again. It was just the two of us and there wasn't much money. Life was sometimes hard, but it was good, and he has brought so much joy into my life, and continues to do so. I have been various things in my life, both before and after he came along, but I am first and foremost his mother, always. 

I have posted this song here before, but I love it so this prompt is a good excuse to do so again. 

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Reverb11: Haiku

Sum up your year, via Haiku {prompt from WEverb11

Just watching the world,
Living life in a slow way.
I found I liked it.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Finding JOY: third

Him and me, this afternoon.  

Reverb11: Moment

Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year {prompt from University of Venus}

I worried about wearing a fancy, expensive dress, the sort of thing I would never normally wear. I worried about having to make a grand entrance, everybody standing up together and watching me enter, 70 pairs of eyes on me. I felt the weight of expectation, so much pressure to look wonderful, to be beautiful, and I kept thinking what if I'm not? What if they all stand up, turn round, and I just look ok? What if they are disappointed? More than anything I wanted to look and feel like myself. So I wore red, my favourite colour. I wore my hair the way I always do and did my own make up. 

And when it came to it, you know what? I was announced, everyone stood up and looked at me and I couldn't have cared less. All I saw was him.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Finding JOY: Second

The berries on the pyracantha, and the sun shining through the branches. 

Reverb11: Who are you?

Who are you? Describe Yourself. {today's prompt from Diana Prichard

I am red, especially a red satin wedding dress. Sometimes I am blue, rarely black these days.  I am multicoloured handknitted dishcloths. I am saluting, good morning Mr Magpie. I am Christmas. I am wife and best friend to the love of my life. I am words. I am long, long drives in the country. I am lists, writing them, losing them, and writing them again. I am rooibos tea. I am a bit of Tigger and a lot of Eeyore, a little Country Mouse and rather more Town Mouse. I am trees, and expansive skies. I am Essex and I am the East End. I am rainbow painted toes. I am an owl. I am hot chocolate with marshmallows for breakfast. I am long bubble baths, trying not to get my book wet. I am soft boiled eggs mashed with potatoes, eaten with a spoon. I am Mango Body Butter and Dolce Vita by Dior. I am snuggly blankets knitted by a beloved Auntie, I am Doris' niece and I will never forget. I am cherry brandy. I am grasshopper mind. I am feeding the birds. I am sweet peas in a windowsill jam jar. I am odd socks and pashminas, long skirts, jeans and Converse. I am silver. I am Joseph's mother, it is written on my soul. Here I am.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Finding JOY: first

The little rose on my back doorstep that is still blooming in December, despite the cold. 

Reverb11: One Word

One Word. Encapsulate the year 2011 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word.
Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2012 for you?

When this question was asked last year, the word I chose that I felt represented 2010 for me was change. A lot had altered in my life and I was trying to come to terms with it. I had to give up my job in January due to ill health and had found that, contrary to my expectations, it was taking a lot longer to recover than I thought. My 'stress' turned out to be ME/CFS and I was finally diagnosed in the summer of 2010. I spent 2010 feeling ill a lot of the time, and mostly housebound.

In the autumn of 2010 I had taken the online courses Mondo Beyondo and Dream Lab, discovered an interest both in writing and taking photographs and realised I had options. Having spent years as a single parent on a low income, and home educating my son from the age of 11 too, what I wanted to do with my life had never really occurred to me, I just got on with what had to be done. For the first time I started to think about what I wanted to do with my life. So for 2011 I chose the word opportunity. It seemed to me, that with the luxury of not having to go to work (well, not being able to) the world was my oyster. My brain went leaping around as always, this grasshopper mind I have, I can do this, I can be that, I can change everything....I didn't really factor my health into the equation, as usual. With a wedding in April to plan, the first part of the year was taken up with that, then the honeymoon, then the inevitable health setback that followed. By the time I felt better, several weeks had passed. This had been my pattern up to this point. Overdoing things, then relapse. I realised it had to stop. Since then, I have tried to slow down, to focus on the here and now, and eliminate stress and worry (easier said than done). 

In retrospect, the word I would choose for 2011 is patience, which is the thing I most needed to learn.  I have learned that this illness will take its course, and trying to ignore it results in me feeling ill and miserable and it takes weeks to build myself back up. I have to slow down, I have to listen to my mind and body and I have to rest. A lot, and far too much than I generally want to. Yes, it is frustrating, but it is the only way I am going to recover. And I am going to recover. As 2011 comes to an end, I have found myself in a place of peace, most of the time anyway, and so this is the word I am choosing for 2012.

Peace. Next year I want more peace in my life. I want to feel comfortable with who I am and where I am. I want to continue to build this new married family life, and continue making our little house into the home it wants to be. I will take the writing course I am scared of, and I will stop procrastinating and buy that grown-up girl's camera. I will rest, particularly that grasshopper mind. Peace in all things. Sounds good to me.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Finding JOY

December. Despite having done well with my November Parade of Adventures and my decluttering efforts, I'm feeling a little flat lately. For the first time ever I am ahead with my Christmas preparations, but not as ahead as I planned. There is still a lot to do, and I am just starting to feel the threat of overwhelm. The thoughts in my head are going nineteen to the dozen as they always do at these times, leaving me feeling stressed and muddled. I feel the need to take a breath. To stop, breathe, look around, find the joy in each day. Inspired by Denise of Capturing the Days, starting tomorrow, for the next 25 days as we approach Christmas I will be looking for the joy. There will be pictures, there may be some words. There will hopefully be some peace, some love and plenty of joy. I'll see you here tomorrow. 

November update and December Parade of Adventures

Here's how I did with November's POA

Finish knitting that scarf I got bored with it and took it off the needles and started knitting something else
Go to a firework display on Guy Fawkes Night done. We had planned to go to the organised display nearly, but were invited to a firework party and went there instead. I had my first toasted marshmallows!
Buy sparklers Sadly, I never did get my sparklers. Maybe next year...
Go out for lunch with the Young Philosopher Not yet, due to his working schedule, social plans and my health
Buy a winter coat and new jeans got the coat. As for the jeans, I can not find anywhere where I can buy jeans in my size with NO STRETCH. What is it with the stretch jeans? I want jeans, not jeans that think they are leggings. The elastane also makes me itch. Where have all the jeans gone?
Tidy and clean the house ready for the Christmas decorations in December work in progress!
Make a lovely warming vegetable soup The butternut squash I bought a couple of weeks ago is still sitting in the kitchen
Eat breakfast every day I managed it a few times..
Get to bed before midnight ditto..
Assemble the mini greenhouse we bought done
Plant bulbs and sweet peas I didn't want to go out in the cold...
Buy myself flowers, or accept them gratefully when the Prof buys them Done, but they have died now so I think I could do with some more, or maybe a nice red poinsettia

I am pleased with my achievements last month. I also decluttered huge amounts of stuff as part of Louisa's Declutter November Challenge Bagfuls of things have made it to the tip and the charity shop, with more to go this weekend. 

There's not so much on this month's list, I have deliberately kept it small. For the first time ever I am fairly ahead with the Christmas preparation and I am hoping to actually do some fun things this December. We are going to a Victorian Christmas Fair this weekend, a Vintage Fair and a Christmas concert the weekend after, and I am hoping to make it a carol service for the first time in several years. 

December Parade of Adventures  

Plant sweet peas and bulbs
Buy a poinsettia
Get myself some new trousers
Research beginner level DSLRs and get myself one. Any suggestions, anyone?
Go out for lunch with the Young Philosopher
Put the tree and decorations up by the end of this weekend (4th Dec)
Finish all Christmas shopping by 11th December (a little optimistic, but one can hope)
Get all wrapping done by December 18th
Have all cards in post early
Go to a carol service

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Small stone: Brighton beach

The world turns slowly orange as the sun slides down the sky and slips into the cold waves with a hiss. 

photo by the Prof

Friday, November 11, 2011

11/11: Lest We Forget

My great-grandmother was somewhere in the crowds in London on that day, 11th November 1920. Her son died on the battlefields of France, and was represented, as they all were, by that unknown soldier.  

For The Fallen - Laurence Binyon (1869-1943)

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

 Sergeant Thomas William Saunders 1895 - 1917

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

November Parade of Adventures

image: dereksky

I wrote an Autumn Parade of Adventures back in September, and looking back now I see that many of them haven't been done yet, so here is my November list, containing some of those and some others. I will post again in a month with my list for December, which hopefully won't be exactly the same. I am so much better at setting goals than accomplishing them! Here is my recap of the Autumn list and my new list for November.

Autumn recap

I started knitting the scarf, it's about a third done. I haven't bought my winter coat yet, I should do that soon, before they have all gone and the shops are full of bikinis. I have made a start on getting the house ready for Christmas, but not a very big one, to be honest. Plenty of time! (manic grin). The garden is mostly tidied for the winter, but we haven't decluttered the shed. I still have bulbs and sweet peas to plant, baked apples and cinnamon toast to eat, and I never did buy myself those flowers. 

November Parade of Adventures

Finish knitting that scarf
Go to a firework display on Guy Fawkes Night
Buy sparklers
Go out for lunch with the Young Philosopher
Buy a winter coat and new jeans
Tidy and clean the house ready for the Christmas decorations in December
Make a lovely warming vegetable soup
Eat breakfast every day
Get to bed before midnight 
Assemble the mini greenhouse we bought 
Plant bulbs and sweet peas
Buy myself flowers, or accept them gratefully when the Prof buys them. He reads this blog. 

This month I will also be joining in with Louisa of The Really Good Life's Declutter November Challenge. I will be getting rid of something that I don't love/need/want every day during November. I might even post photographs of some of them. Yesterday it was a half-dead basil plant from the kitchen windowsill, I put the few reasonable looking leaves in the Prof's lunchbox salad, and the rest of the plant in the bin. I will spare you a photo of that, as I didn't think to take one at the time, and I am not digging through the bin, even for you. 

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Reasons to be Cheerful, Part Two

A year ago today, on 1st November 2010 I started this blog, wrote my first post, and titled it 'Reasons to be Cheerful, Part One'. I intended that to be an occasional series, but I never did write another. So here, in honour of the first blogiversary of 'Debbie In London' are some more of my reasons to be cheerful. 

Autumn. Chilly evenings getting cosy in front of the fire,  fireworks, scarves and gloves, home made soup and crusty bread, looking forward to Christmas. 

The Womens Institute. Still reeling from last month's laughter therapy session, I am looking forward to tomorrow evening's cake competition. Surreal, but fun. (no I am not entering, just eating).

On 23rd of October it was the six month anniversary of the day I married my lovely Prof. I love married life. 

Notes Across the Sea, the blog that Jennifer I started in May of this year, where we write our 'notes' to each other, comparing our lives in very different places, and finding that we are really not so different.

The original Reasons to be Cheerful!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Unravelling: a picture of me

This is the collage I made as part of the unravelling course I am taking. The brief was to use words, photos, and images to create something that I feel represents me. I really enjoyed doing it, and I am really pleased with the result.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

unravelling: memories

Last week on the unravelling course was memories week. Or maybe it was the week before. I am a little behind, and the task of digging though the box of unsorted photographs that represents my life so far was daunting. I decided not to do it, and went for recent memories instead, plus a couple of older photos that I had on my computer already.

The first pair are both school photographs. In the class photograph I am the tallest child in the class, a full head above the other children. I hated being tall and standing out. By the time I was eleven I was over 5 feet six inches in height. As I grew older I started to quite like being tall -  then I stopped growing not long after that and was left at 5 feet 8, which I still am - on the tall side, but not particularly so.

The next pair of photographs are of me and my friend Debbie. We were best friends from the first day of Infant School aged 4, though sadly this seems to be the only photograph of us from that time. The second photograph was from my wedding this past April.

The next photos are the first pictures the Prof and I ever saw of each other. We met on a dating website and I thought his personality just shone out of his face. he looked friendly, funny, kind - and he is all of those things. He loved my smile and says he knew right away he would like me. The rest is history!

More photos of our wedding. I love both of these, we look so happy.

I have a huge box of photographs to go through, it's a job that has been hanging over me for years, and that I never get around to. Truthfully, I don't really want to do it. Although I take quite a lot of photos, I don't tend to look back at them, certainly not one from years ago. When I do, I find endless shots of landscapes and zoo/farm animals that it must have seemed like a good idea to photograph at the time but now I don't even remember where and when they were taken. I also find photographs of people and relationships that are no longer in my life, some I don't particularly want to remember. In amongst them though, are the gems - all the photographs I have of my son as a baby and growing up, photos of family occasions and holidays, pictures of friends I don't see often these days. I know there are photos in there that I would like to have on display, too. Maybe it is about time I waded through all those memories, threw out the ones I don't want and did something with the ones I do.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

unravelling: favourite things

Last week was the third week of the Unravelling e-course, and we have been thinking about and taking some photographs of our favourite things. One of the questions asked was, what would we save if there was a fire? This question really pulled me up short, or rather my answer did.There are lot of things I am fond of and that I couldn't really replace. In the photos above are my childhood books, our wedding rings and handfasting ribbons, and a garden bench which belonged to my Auntie. I have hundreds of photographs in a big storage box, but so rarely look at them I can't even recall what most of them are of. I've been planning since forever to sort them out and put them in albums.  I have ornaments I love, and notes and cards I have kept....but really, is any of it that important? 

Buddhism teaches non attachment. You can love a beautiful or precious item but when it breaks, or is lost, you can be philosophical about it. It came along, you had pleasure from it, its time is past, let it go. I think there is something to be said for that. When I thought about my possessions, the accumulation of objects I have acquired over the years, that fill this house,  I realised that none of it is that important to me. In the case of that hypothetical fire, if my son, husband and dog were safe, I really don't think it would occur to me to try to save anything else. So then that begs the question, why do I have a house full of stuff? 

Maybe we are so attached to things because they anchor us. Who would we be, without the photos and ornaments, the books and CDs, the accumulated stuff of a lifetime. Maybe we would be freer without it all, perhaps it would be easier to move on, try new things. It would certainly be easier to do the housework, and to find things, if there were a lot less of them. 

The exercise was valuable for me. I realised both how many lovely treasured items I possess, but equally that none of them is of great importance really.  I am reminded of this quote from Art Buchwald:

Image from stevey

Monday, October 17, 2011

I will say that you're my favourite one in town

My little boy was twenty in July. Somehow, I never imagined this time. I thought vaguely sometimes of  'when he is grown up' but mostly I just got on with the present. It wasn't always easy being a single parent, there was never much money, but being everything to someone, is in my mind, a very precious thing, and we were very close.  Life has become simpler as he has got older and also more complicated. As the mother of my grown up little boy, I watch while he lives his life and makes decisions I don't necessarily agree with. My advice isn't always welcome, I am learning to wait until it's asked for, and to step back and let him find his path. He has grown up into a bright, caring wonderful man - I still want to write boy, but he is twenty, so I will write man and try to convince my heart.

The other day I came across this song by My Brightest Diamond. The singer wrote it for her son and I think it's beautiful.

'If you grow up to be king, or clown or pauper, I will say you are my favourite one in town...'

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

unravelling: reflections

Those of you who get these posts by email have probably already had an incomplete version of this...apologies! I hit publish instead of save to draft yesterday.... blame the fact that it was two in the morning.

I read somewhere that you should think about how you want to feel in your life, then work out what things make you feel that way, and those should be the things you are doing, or working toward.

Interesting. I like to feel:

Content I feel those things most of the time? Uh...probably not. I'm not sure I want to! If I was comfortable all the time, it would be yoga pants and fluffy socks all the way, not the best look for all occasions. Peaceful - well, that's nice but but I wouldn't want to venture into zen territory really, certainly not permanently. Joy, what a wonderful feeling, but every day? And much as I look to look nice, it would just be too much effort to keep it up all the time. Back to the yoga pants and fluffy socks, at least in the house. Contentment, though, now that's something I would like to have all the time.

So many people seem to me to be putting off contentment to some elusive future place and time. When they retire, when they lose weight, when they can buy that bigger house, or get a better job.  Of course I am not content with having CFS, or the fact that I can't do so much that I would like to, but I do get a lot of contentment from other things. For me right now, it would be milk in the fridge and bread in the bread bin, as we have run out of both, there's nothing for lunch and I don't feel well enough to go to the shop! But seriously, a cup of tea and the crossword, a drive in the country, an evening spent with family or friends, a nap on the sofa, and yes, wearing my yoga pants and fluffy slippers - these things spell contentment to me just as much as the bigger things.