Books, I think I just rambled, Life

2019 – it happened. also, still no grey hair

2019 wasn’t the easiest year I’ve ever lived, but it also was one full of richness and joy and growth. (Clearly, I should write greeting cards.)

Let’s do a little recap, shall we?

TEACHING // BREAST LUMPS // ILLNESS

in a different country, but still lovin’ the same authors

Teaching abroad was an adventure. I believed it was the right place for me, but I missed home and my family and my books. And financial stability.

I earned money by freelance work (read: Fiverr – ONE DAY I WILL TELL YOU ABOUT MY SHORT-LIVED CAREER), and with some support from home and half my rent paid by the school, I was able to live and teach English. I met so many lovely people there who really blessed me. I learned far more than I taught.

I returned home and started working in an office job. And then I discovered that I had a lump in my breast. (The two … are not connected.) It was a pretty dark month, that one. I decided to plan my funeral. I got as far as a room with a coffin and some chairs. (Don’t attend, by the way, it’s going to be completely boring.)

I had an ultrasound and it turns out I have fibre-something-something. I can’t spell or remember it, but apparently – and more importantly – it’s called a ‘breast mouse’. So. Brambly Hedge never had that sort of mice, lemme tell you- Okay. Let’s stop there.

According to the doctor, I’m okay, and my funeral plans were premature. But I can’t help but view my mammary glands as ticking time bombs.

And then there’s been other illness in the family and that’s been difficult and has sucked.

i saw this online and had to recreate it. … months later and it’s still HYSTERICAL

A Hawaiian snail went extinct. Other people and creatures have had a far more rubbish 2019 than I have. Truly. When I compare my life – I mean, I know we shouldn’t – but fried parsnips, it could be so much worse. I don’t have breast cancer. And the fact that I can type that feels like some kind of miracle for which I am so. grateful.

Through the dark times and the good, God has been there. Constant. I haven’t talked a lot about my faith on this blog. I’m worried that it will sound holier-than-thou and God knows I can’t live up to that.

But God can, and so I’ll write it here – 2019 wasn’t easy, but God was good, and greater than every hardship. Under everything, joy has dwelt like a hidden stream.

There will probably be harder years – this is life, after all, we aren’t promised an easy one – but we are promised that He is with us always. And that’s true for 2019.

BOOKS

What – you thought I wouldn’t put anything about books in here? PFFFFT. Of course I would. And will. So let me present you with the books that made the biggest impact on me this year …

*drum roll please*

  • Keep Going by Austin Kleon This changed my life. Truly – it kickstarted a better writing routine and helped me finish writing a book and plunge into other projects. The front cover alone (‘Keep Going’ it proclaims in big letters) I’ve put it on my desk and every time I see it, it reminds me to do just that: keep going. Funny, how two words can mean so much.
  • The Bible – New Living Translation I’ve grown up a strictly KJV kind of girl, but let me tell you this – reading it in modern English, stripped of thees and thous has made it a lot easier to read. You don’t have to think past the older English as much. I’ll always adore and go back to the KJV but man alive, the NLT has really made a difference.
  • The Lord of The Rings by J.R.R.Tolkien I know – I’d never read them before. But I have now and what touched me was the overall backdrop of it – of a world, an age that was fading away and how what was new was uncertain. I ended it in tears. Frodo is so much better in the books than on film. Also, the songs and poems? Dope. They’re dope.
  • Till We Have Faces by C. S Lewis I seldom find books in which I connect so strongly to a character – but I did with this one. I am going to have to read it again, I think. But more slowly this time. I rush when I enjoy a book, you see, gobbling it up instead of savoring it.

There are more, I’m sure. I’ve enjoyed many books this year. I haven’t been keeping my goodreads updated because I’ve lowkey got a conspiracy theory running about Amazon and how they’re probably gathering all the books I’ve read and items I’ve purchased and guessing what kind of a person I am and I don’t need that kind of stress okay?

I’ll give the information to Facebook, instead, via Instagram.

IN SUMMARY

Thank you so much for reading my blog. This is a place where I unload my brain and amuse myself (one of my besetting sins is that I find myself funny – even if the reality, and other people’s groans, point to the contrary.) and the fact that you’ve stuck around and read these posts? Thank you. You’re pretty awesome. Tell me how your year has gone? What’s the best book you’ve picked up? What’s the worst?

Next week brings a new year, and with it, new adventures.

See you there!

adventures and awesome fashion sense await!

*re the title of this post: if my hair goes grey it means that i’m one step closer to the wolf pelt hair i’ve been aiming for ever since i decided it would be awesome to have wolf-pelt hair. i haven’t actually pictured it clearly in my head but i think it would be amazing. Yes, I am a mature adult – why are you asking?

Life

um, why aren’t i a superhero yet?

I think I’ve put my finger on a problem.

We live in an age of instant gratification – we want things and we want things now dammit! (WHAT DO YOU MEAN, YOU CAN DELIVER THIS TOMORROW? THE DAY AFTER YOU SAY?! THAT’S TERRIBLE! HOW DARE YOU! WHAT ERA DO YOU LIVE IN – THE STONE AGE?)

For example:

I would like to have Project If published, and a trilogy of Our Intrepid Heroine professionally edited with sparkling new front covers – all ready to be released into the world.

I’d like to be so physically fit that if a vine suddenly appeared before me, I could swing on it and not fall off.

I’d like to speak several languages. Perfectly.

I’d like to be able say: why YES, I do think that the economy is going downhill. Just compare it to the statistics of 1970 when blah blah said blah blah in blah paragraph two … just like Churchill predicted.

I’d like to have a blog with regular posts and maybe a newsletter full of HILARIOUS doings.

AND I WANT IT ALL RIGHT. NOW.

I’m blaming Amazon Prime – it’s given me unrealistic expectations.

Begrudgingly, I’m learning what I’ve known for some time but haven’t wanted to accept: that life is spent in waiting periods and in steady step-by-step-keep-going days.

I know – it would be so much easier to have a ‘working montage’ to upbeat music:

DA DAAA HERE IS NESS TYPING DA DAAAA HERE’S ALL THE CUPS OF TEA SHE’S CONSUMED AND LOOK HOW THEY’VE BUILT UP AND GROWN MOLDY DA DAAA HERE’S HER SLAPPING HER MANUSCRIPT ONTO AN EDITOR’S DESK DA DA DAAAA HERE’S HER BOOK BEING MADE DA DA DAAA HERE’S READERS ALL OVER THE WORLD READING HER BOOK DA DAADADAADADADA HERE’S NESS LAUGHING HUMBLY AT HER ENORMOUSLY WELL-RECEIVED AND INTELLECTUALLY STUNNING WORK-OF-ART.

But alas, this is not how life works. Or at least, this is not how my life works. Yours may be different. (1, TELL ME YOUR SECRETS and 2, HOW DARE YOU.)

I didn’t win NaNoWriMo – I tried, but as a movie once put it: life … finds a way [to stop you writing.]

Is that an excuse? Probably. But I started a book and I intend to finish it because a) it’s funny [well. To me] and b) it deals with something I’ve been thinking about for a while.

I told myself ‘ah, just put in a few 10k word days – it’ll be done … no problem!’ because doing it in big chunks is so much better than a little perseverance and elbow grease.

(AND ALSO I HAVE VERY REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS AND TOTALLY WRITE 10 THOUSAND WORDS IN A SINGLE DAY ALLLLL THE TIME.)

(Also – imagine if it was elbow geese. Hahahahahaha.)

It’s December and a new year is dawning.

I’m going to try and be patient – with myself, with my projects, with life, with … everything. I’m going to try and learn that big things happen because of small actions carried out every day.

I’m going to edit Project If and I’m going to round-house kick the frustration that wails: BUT MUUUUMMM WHY CAN’T MY BOOK BE PERFECT STRAIGHT AWAAAAAYYYY.

(Because your first draft was trash, Jimmy*! TRASH!!)

*I have no idea who Jimmy is.

**also round-house kicks would leave me on the floor with a pulled muscle. No. With SEVERAL pulled muscles.

Life

sanctuary

Moldova, March 2019

My bed is pushed up so that the headboard is against the window. I leave the blinds open. At night, if I crane my head, I see the stars. Perhaps the moon too. 

But the mornings are delicious. I wake up bathed in sunshine, in a pool of warm light. Perhaps the sky is very blue, perhaps a cloud or two drifts across its face.  

Eight o’clock is the sweet hour. Eight to nine and afterwards the sun slowly drifts up and away. My room is pink. It steals the light and keeps it safe and stored within its walls. 

The rest of the apartment may be gloomy, slightly cast in shadow … but my room? With its curved walls dotted with post it notes and chapter sheets marching along the ground? With the books heaped on the sturdy little drawers and bags piled up in a corner? With white bedsheets which have caught spring blossoms and a faux brown fur that surely was once a fierce bear? 

It’s light. It’s comfort. It’s a secret place where stress retreats just a little. It’s where daydreams are made and fears are kept at bay. It’s where I lie with headphones and listen to songs of hope, full of melody and wishes. It’s where a book and a tune and a cup of tea are the closest things to heaven I have and where prayers are told and heart-secrets whispered. 

In here, I am at peace. 

In this pocket of happiness, I find sanctuary. 

There are other places – a stretch of road where the sun always shines and the bark on the trees is slowly peeling, leaving pure white beneath and a belief that surely, surely they are from another, more mystical world. A kitchen table when it is just I and a window and perhaps a cup of tea – not English Breakfast, but I’ve learned that there are other delights which can fill a cup. A carpet, on which I dance – not elegantly, never that, but with a feeling that youth is fleeting and I must grab it and rejoice in existence, in the life that flows through my veins. In a mirror in which I peer at my face and pretend that she and I have hidden jokes that we must always laugh at. 

There is sanctuary everywhere. Hidden. Between the here and now and the hereafter. 

(In the heart. That too. In the relief that truth brings. In the peace that follows. In the words written in the only book that is living. In the prayer whispered. In the burden shared. )

Sanctuary. Peace. Contentment. Joy. 

Life will try to drench us with worries, numb our bones with cares, and steal our breath with anxiety … but there is always sanctuary. If only we look

Life, On Writing

writing when there seems to be no time

I’ve learned a truth: you’ll never get around to doing anything unless you make time for it. Do you want to organise your bookshelves according to tropes? Do you long to become ambidextrous? Investigate the lifecycles of newts? Have regular conversations with your local oak tree? (Don’t. You’ll receive several bemused looks.) (Or do.) Do you want to write a book? 

Make time for it. 

You don’t need a study overlooking the sea. You don’t need a smoking jacket or a typewriter or a special sort of paper or a desk shaped like a whale. (Though … that would be amazing and if anyone has one going SIGN ME UP!)

BASIC REQUIREMENTS:

  • You
  • Something to write with (ink/a functioning computer/word processor/paper etc etc)
  • Determination

You’ll very rarely have a perfect afternoon to while away in a different world, or an entire weekend free of worry with brilliant weather just right to write with.

Writing can be done in a spare fifteen minutes tapping away at the keyboard. Writing can done scribbling away on your lunch-break. Writing can done when you’re tired, when you’re stressed, just before bed, just before breakfast. 

It can be ten words, a hundred words, perhaps even a thousand (or two!). It isn’t always magical, it’s not secretive and it’s decidedly not glamorous.

It’s the simplest thing which is somehow the hardest – setting down one word after the other. Planting your bottom in a chair, stretching your hands over the keyboard, taking a breath, and diving into the words.

Five minutes. Ten. Or heck – even half an hour. It doesn’t matter for how long, the important thing is: you’re doing it.

Waiting for the perfect time, the perfect moment, and the perfect day doesn’t work. They don’t arrive. They’re stuck in the pipeline. Caught in the ever elusive ‘tomorrow’.

Make time. Cram words into the cracks and little pieces of the day you’d otherwise fill with reddit, youtube, Instagram, or a thousand other things.

Make time and the words will pile up.

happy writing!

Life

how to have adventures

I am an adamant supporter of the having of adventures. They are crucial to life. Cr-u-cial. Just because there is a dearth of dragons, quests, and hobbits doesn’t mean it’s impossible to go on one. Let me expound …

BE PROACTIVE SEIZE THE DAY. OR HOUR. OR MINUTE

Adventures don’t always hand themselves to you on a platter. You have to snatch at them as they whiz by, or spin them out of thin air. It’s all down to you. Do you have an afternoon free? Plan an outting. It doesn’t have to be expensive: buy some snacks, grab a book or a friend (with their permission. Of course) and go.

An hour? Go for a walk. Explore your neighbourhood. Travelling home from an appointment/work/saving the world from killer penguins? Choose a different way home. Branch out into a different genre of book. Go to the cinema and watch a film you wouldn’t normally watch.

BE READY TRY TO BE SLIGHTLY ORGANISED

I know – a little ironic, huh? Adventures are often spontaneous things … only. If you have an organised life, a marginally organised life, it means your brain is free from distractions. You don’t have to waste time cleaning/booking appointments/sending emails/folding laundry if you’re on top of things.

This might be just me, but I do better when my personal life is organised. My brain is like a terrible phone with limited data – I’ve got to keep some memory space free for important stuff. So uncluttering is a must.

Do I sometimes jam stuff out of sight? Shove it under the bed or in the wardrobe? Yes.

I am but human after all.

BE BRAVE ONE STEP AT A TIME

When I was teaching in Eastern Europe, day to day life didn’t always feel like the easiest thing. Go down to the shops? Where they don’t understand a word I say and I can’t understand anything they say either? I do words – I write them, I read them, and I taught about them. To not understand anything? That felt terrifying.

One memorable occasion, after a long day of teaching … I couldn’t quite face it. I had to do the shopping (you’ve got to eat) but I withdraw into myself, wrapping myself with a bit of numbness and a lot of ‘put your head down, don’t draw attention to yourself.’ That kind of sucked and I felt like I was a complete failure of an adventurer …

But here’s a secret: being brave doesn’t always mean doing big huge things. It can be little things too. No one but you knows just how much effort it takes to smile at that stranger, to step onto the bus, to attempt something in a different language.

Bravery – like adventures – comes in all shapes and sizes and every little bit should be celebrated. Being brave doesn’t mean you don’t feel afraid or a little bit cowardly – being brave means you do things in spite of those feelings.

Keep going.

You got this.

BE BRIGHT-EYED IT’S ALL IN THE MIND

Adventures come in many forms. Big. Small. Medium. Tiny. Ginormous. And it’s all down to your mindset. You could view doing the weekly shopping as a chore OR you could view it as an opportunity to slip a pun in when speaking to a cashier, decide who among your fellow shoppers is a secret agent or a shapeshifter or is secretly addicted to growing peppers, make multiple words out of advertising, or buy an item of food you’d never ordinarily touch.

Perspective – it’s powerful. Choose to see the bright side of things. Choose to find the extraordinary in the ordinary. Choose adventures – in whatever way they come.

Life itself is an adventure and it’s a big one.

Choose to see the beauty. Choose to see the fun. Choose, and find joy in it.