Saturday 31 December 2011


Today was different to yesterday. Yeterday was a mizzling understimulated mopy day with low level feelings of guilt hovering above me in grey wraith like wisps all day. Guilt that I was not helping to build our new home, guilt that I had not initiated any inspiring activities with the children and we didn't get out of our pyjamas until lunch time, guilt that I could be a better mother... etc. Sometimes I just need to step out of the suffocating web of expectation and disapproval I build for myself, walk away from the intense enclave of my home life and be free to just be,  to think or not think, to nip to the loo without three children immediately needing my assistance with a burning project.

But then, today, the clouds cleared, the ones in my head anyway. Despite interrupted sleep again, (Leo lost his wolf twice in the night, Tansy lost her duvet, the cat brought a mouse in) we had fun. Decorating gingerbread for Granpa's present we sloshed chocolate and icing around in a sticky relaxed mess, without any uptight concern from me about how much sugar had gone into Leo's tummy instead of onto the gingerbread moomins.

Then I was left alone, am alone, in the house, for the first time in many weeks, to do exactly what I please. The last time I had two kid free hours I had all my Christmas shopping to do!) Hugh very lovingly suggested that I didn't need to come to his parents house today and they would quite understand my need for rest and peace.
I do need rest and peace.
When I am not surrounded by the details of my life there is space for other things.
When I don't have to wash up the fourth load of dishes that day and simultaneously solve an animation  software problem, find Leo's wolf and help Tansy cast on twelve stitches please, I can look at my life with softer eyes, see myself with more tenderness and love, and feel immense gratitude for what I have.
I can feel things that are usually brushed away and sealed under a welter of practical tasks.

When I am not enmeshed in domestic minutiae, I can physically walk out and feel the wind colour my cheeks and notice and remember things I wouldn't at home.

  • The excitement and love in my kids eyes when I forget about chores and dance and sing with them.
  • How good it feels to move, to run along the cycle path, to dance on Boxing day evening, to cycle up Castle hill into body doesn't do sedentary well.

  • The slender egret, hunched like a white shadow by the weir as I walked to town this afternoon, balanced on one delicate, black leg. The pair of swans, serene and fierce drifting below the rapids.

  • The feeling that some emotions are so deep, swirling dark blue fear trapped far, far down under thick layers of ice that I only catch a tiny fleeting glimpse as a shaft of sun pierces the gloom, for one moment eughh no... a shudder, and the ice forms again and down goes the memory.

  • The realisation that I am not being selfish or indulgent by wanting to spend time alone, meditatively, or writing or creating in some way, that it is necessary to me for my spiritual and emotional well being, and hence my physical well being and hence my family's.

  • Three children with severe disabilities on my path to town which could have been Lily if she had survived.

  • The memory of the feeling in me and the noise I made when the hospital consultant said losing her eye was the least of his concerns. I don't remember this very often.
Space for Lily that's what's hard when I'm at home. I passed the funeral director on my walk today too. Last night Fred and I realised the card game I had bought for him for Christmas was for three players. Hugh was out. Where was Lily? We looked at each other, Lily would have loved it, we said, and played it anyway, it was fun.

Time for me, time for Lily, time for love, time to be. Time for my living family. There is enough time really when I realise how important we are. And enough love for everyone else too,

I wish you all a New Year filled with love and beauty and the realisation that there is always time for what we need to do in our wonderful lives. Can you remind me sometime?

Tuesday 27 December 2011

Before, during and after

Before Christmas I became quite obsessed and compulsive about creating and making the perfect handmade Christmas, even though it was quite plain that we were in fact trying to finish building our new home which we are due to move into in three weeks.
When I was at home I locked myself into cutting delicate paper mobiles, crafting applique cushions, rustling up sugar free mincemeat and Christmas puds, and while I really really tried to enjoy the moment I was in, the loving creation..the reality was quite frenzied. Spirit of Christmas? Hmm. But I couldn't, (or wouldn't let myself) stop. Night after night I stayed up just a bit past when I should to just knit, sew, cut one more line, really wishing I didn't feel the need to keep making, but making myself all the same.

When I was at the land with Hugh hauling an enormous window frame into place, slipping down the muddy precipice with yet another piece of 2x4 balanced on my shoulder, or sitting round our little camping fire feeding Hugh's brother pheasant stew when he came to help, well, that felt satisfying and necessary. We are roughly on track with the build and have had some loving support and help from many generous friends and family, but there's still so much to do. And Hugh did struggle with my seeming inability prioritize a bit of breather membrane on the roof over say, a paper dove.

But I still wanted Christmas to live up to my expectations. And that's what it's all about, expectations. I always make cards and presents, and do genuinely enjoy creating gifts for loved ones, but I now expect myself to live up to and possibly exceed last years efforts. What am I trying to prove? Is that what Christmas is about? Hmm.

Of course, I really like my children to participate in and witness lovely calm homespun activities around Christmas, and to experience  togetherness, creativity and laughter over and above mass material consumption. BUT, when mum is so exhausted from being up all night sewing and then attending to bad dreams that emerge from light sockets (not mine I hasten to add) that she cannot organise a baking session without taking several time outs to just breathe...well it's time to simplify.
And simpify I'm afraid I did not. I was still sewing a last angel on the dual carriage way on the way to my Mum's on Christmas day.

What did my kids need? A calm, happy, loving mum.
What did Hugh need? A frequent calm holder and operator of tape measures, drills, angle grinders, ladders and breather membrane. Oh and all the home stuff obviously!
What did I need? A massage, peace, love and laughter with my family. And sleep.
You see none of those involves making salt dough hearts.

This year would have been a good year to say NO to presents ouside the immediate family, and very simple and tiny within. We do keep it minimal within, but oh it's so complicated further afield. There is so much emotion and guilt and expectation around gift giving.

So, Christmas day itself, was about rushing,  to finish opening our presents so we could hurtle up to North Devon and open more. We sang carols in the car and that felt pretty festive, we saw a tiny Christmas lamb which made me cry, we ate a lovely turkey, thanks mum, we walked around the village where my paents lived and came back and ate ham sandwiches. We watched, actually this is lovely..(for our strictly no tv family) a little animation The Small Miracle which we watch every year. Magical.

And during our lovely Boxing day walk to the beach with friends, and an impromptu dance last night, and a wonderful yoga class next door tonight... I re-evaluated.
The baseline is: if it can't be done in truth love and serenity don't do it. Especially making paper doves. How can you make a stressed dove? Next Christmas, we should be a little more settled, but I will be focussing less on compulsion and more on being. It may involve baking a few gingerbread men, it may invove knitting a small item. But if I can't do it calmly and with love, I'll play a board game or snuggle up on the sofa instead. Or maybe go for a swim.

Or I could just go build a house....

Did your Christmas live up to your expectations? Did you have any?

Wednesday 14 December 2011

Really busy

I haven't written anything for a while..I'm really busy.
Really busy.
(Also my internet connection is not working.)
I'm trying to do a hundred Christmassy things..concerts, doll making, teacher presents, mobiles, biscuits, felt this and that, answer so many phone calls and messages...
Oh my God.. very quickly, and in the rain, and the mud.
That's why I haven't written anything, even though I have so many wonderful thoughts about life, seasons, thoughts, kids, the world....these thoughts usually only happen in the car when I have five minutes break, yes driving is now my relaxation, and I can't write anything down. Whoosh!Out of the window they go..the thoughts I mean.
Well I'll take some more pictures tomorrow, the roof is now going on between showers and kindergarten pick ups, but this is our recycled pallet wall. We spent our morning stapling old woollen blankets, and insulation up and hopefully, hopefully on Friday will have everything water tight.

So much thinking, night and day.....he's working so damned hard.

Wednesday 7 December 2011

Advent, advent, the candle burns

                                             Advent, advent the  candle burns,
                                             Advent advent the candle burns,
                                             First one then two then three then four,
                                             Then stands the Christ child at the door.

These days of Advent are so busy, and at a time when the earth is drawing it's energy down, deep into a midwinter slumber, it feels as if we should do the same. We're not really. The days are running faster than my mind and my ever ringing phone. That's why, in the midst of hauling timber around our building plot, racing to school (late again) for the pick up, cooking vats of soup for hungry helpers, helping with homework and sewing projects, it feels so good to remember Advent.

Every evening we light our advent wreath before our meal blessing, one candle last week, two this week, three the next....
And every evening we walk Mary and Joseph a step further on their golden star path to Bethlehem, and sing the Mary song.
Last night, I played the tune first on my recorder and as we sang I could see the day's frenzy dropping from the little ones... they snuggled down next to the Advent table on their sheepskins, heads on my lap. Instead of a bedtime story from a book, they begged for a Mary one and I told them about a land far away where olive and lemon trees grew and a tired donkey lived in a stable near a young woman named Mary.
It was a beautiful moment and felt like a balm which soothed the rough and fractious edges of my day. These small, special moments of reverence and magic are so easy to pass by and forget, but they nourish me so deeply when I remember. And peace for the poor hurried children in these rushed weeks before Christmas. I crave peace and serenity and a rest. It's hard to find, and moments like this are like gold.

How is Advent for your family? Do you manage to steal quiet moments of anticipation and reflection amidst the overwhelming onslaught of fulfilling expectations at Christmas?