Making Memories

Keep all special thoughts and memories for lifetimes to come. Share these keepsakes with others to inspire hope and build from the past, which can bridge to the future.

~ Mattie Stepanek (b.July 17, 1990 – d.June 22, 2004)

Did you notice the dates in the quote above? They are such wise words for one so very young.

Do you ever wonder how your memories would replay in a movie of your life? I do. As I age (gracefully?) and particularly at this time of year my mind goes into overdrive, my life is divided into two sections – before my father’s death and after his death. It is this massive marker of when my life changed. There are times when I think everything in my life was good before that date and everything since has been awful.

But the evidence doesn’t hold up that statement, I had a serious road accident when I was 15 which was pretty bad and definitely happened in the pre 2004 section. I met & later fell in love with a wonderful man in 2006 and that is clearly in the post 2004 section. I just think that at times we are very selective with our memories.

For instance, I really struggle to recall good times in my marriage, yet I know they are there somewhere they have just been buried under all the rubbish and hurt of the last 10 years.

One of the most therapeutic things I have done over the last few years was to compile a book for my daughter’s 18th birthday. Collaborating on the book with our family and her friends, mentors and teachers made me see that despite many challenges I had made quite a good job of bringing her up. My attitude to myself as a parent changed a little from then on and I have more confidence in myself now (as a mother) and I think as a family unit we all benefit from that now.

Making memoriesThis whole blog has been about my thoughts, memories and keepsakes, hoping not to inspire others but to inspire myself to hope, build from the past and in turn, bridge to the future.

18th October 2004 (father’s death), 18th October 2006 (met my previous partner), 18th October 2015 (mind your own business) all have special significance to me and for very different reasons; do you think it strange that one particular date can have such significance? Who knows!

So here’s a bit of news for you…

I have met someone who I hope I am going to move forward with and build bridges to the future. The future could be as short as tomorrow or as long as forever but nobody can possibly tell. I know for sure that making memories is so incredibly important and that with every moment that passes we have far less time in front of us than behind us. So with that in mind we (yes WE) made a conscious effort, put our heads together and have drawn up a plan for memory building.

Would you like to see it?

To build memories we should…*

…Climb a tall hill

…Sleep under the stars

…Skinny dip in the sea

…Bake a cake

…Ride a tandem

…Fly a kite

…Choose each other’s clothes for an evening out

…Plant a tree

…Build a snowman

…Have a picnic in a field &/or in a wood

…Make a sandcastle

…Paint each other

…Row a boat on the Thames

…Visit one castle/stately home every month for a year
#1 Corfe Castle 12th December 2015

#2 Hurst Castle 17th January 2016

#3 Bishop’s Waltham Palace 14th February 2016

#4 Old Sarum 6th March 2016

#5 Kingston Lacy & Badbury Rings 30th April 2016

#6 Maiden Castle & The Nine Stones 29th May 2016

#7 Wolvesey Castle 25th June 2016

#8 Porchester Castle 3rd July 2016

#9 Stourhead 23rd August 2016

#10 Southsea Castle 24th September 2016

#11 Old Wardour Castle 22nd October 2016

#12 Mottisfont Abbey 26th November 2016

…Make a bucket list

…Kiss in a haystack

…Collect Sea Glass whenever we can

…Share a shower

…Plan & go on a holiday

…Go for a ride in a horse and carriage

…Visit Scotland

…See the Northern Lights

…Kiss passionately on a beach at sunrise &/or sunset

…Visit Lake Como

…Volunteer

Share a hot tub 9th July 2016

Share an ice cream 7th November 2015

Visit Stonehenge 23rd January 2016

Go to a Rugby match 29th April 2017

Have a go at stone balancing – I tried & succeeded on 23rd January, the challenge is ON! 12th August 2017 record so far is 18!

…Complete a jigsaw together (1000+ pieces)

…Design a dream home

Create a playlist that we both love 20th July 2017, our wedding playlist.

Kiss under mistletoe 24th, 25th & 26th December 2015

…Create a memory book/blog/photo album

…Write a love letter to each other

…Go star gazing

…Go to the ballet

…Have a snowball fight

Take a selfie 31st October 2015, this has developed into Selfie on a Bridge (wherever in the world we are).

…Have afternoon tea

…Visit a European city that neither of us have visited before

Grow vegetables to eat August 2017, an amazing tomato plant with bigger plans for the future

…Spend the whole day in bed

…Do a fire walk

…Learn a circus trick

…Play Twister

Go for a bike ride 24th January 2016

Play a board game 28th November 2015

…Watch each other’s favourite film

…See a musical

…Kiss in the pouring rain

…Pick Strawberries

…Visit a temple

…Redesign the garden

Revisit the bench in the garden at Mottisfont 31st October 2015

…Make Elderflower Cordial (this looks like a good recipe)

Write our Wedding vows 20th July 2017

12039666_10153691181374479_3793553276061190432_n
A bridge to the future ~ Sept 2015

*All this has been compiled and shared with the kind permission of Mr Bojangles and some of it you will recognise from my own Bucket List.

Something Happened in Bali

Offerings

Anyone who knows me knows that I looked forward to visiting Bali with such excitement that I could hardly contain it. If someone mentioned the word Bali or holiday to me, I broke into this Cheshire cat grin and couldn’t string a complete sentence together. I am not well traveled and my income lies somewhere between minimum wage and living wage so the fact that I had the opportunity to visit somewhere so exotic was the stuff that dreams are made of.

Did Bali live up to my expectations? In short, no it didn’t. Generally speaking if people have asked me if I had a good holiday, I have given a polite society response of “Yes, it was brilliant thanks” for most people, this is satisfying enough. The same applies if someone asks “How are you?” and you respond “Fine thanks”. The conversation then ends and everyone goes on with their business.

If my trip to New York in 2014 made me feel bold & brave then Bali has unsettled me to such a point that at times I feel like I have taken at least five steps back in the progress that I have made over the last eighteen months. The thoughts in my head ricochet like a game of pinball stopping me from concentrating on any one task for longer than a few fleeting moments. Although I know that writing down & organising my thoughts would help; I have done everything I can do avoid doing so, including ironing & washing my car!

The last thing that I should have encountered on this holiday was conflict and yet we did; not between our unit of three I hasten to add. It serves no purpose to share details with you here in much the same way that I haven’t shared details about my ex-husband. Some of you know the story and some of you do not, it’s best that way.

Out of the drama that unfolded I have learned that my daughter has picked up my ability to go into ‘emergency mode’ and by that I mean put emotions aside, find and execute practical solutions very quickly. Can someone please remind me of this when she wants to go travelling next year! Tell me that she is a strong & capable young woman who can handle herself well, with integrity and confidence no matter how scared and hurt she is feeling inside.

For while I saw my son retreat into his own autistic world again, non-communicative and withdrawn, having worked so hard on his social skills and his belief in himself, to see this destroyed by one person’s lack of awareness was heartbreaking. The single mother’s guilt and loneliness I felt for taking them almost to the other side of the world, just to face distress on what should have been an idyllic holiday, reappeared and made me vulnerable. I didn’t like feeling that way at all.

I have been overwhelmed by the kindness of a stranger; the relative of a friend who stepped in to help us. I felt gratitude for my family & friends for the offer of money to assist us, it came immediately and without question and in total trust (although I was too proud to accept). I also felt less alone in a foreign country with the daily messages from those in the know back home who wanted nothing else but to just keep me grounded.

I will have to come to terms with what happened and this is going to take far longer than the week that has passed since we returned. It’s not the worst thing that has happened to me, not by far, but it has left wounds and they need to heal. The process has started by being back home, feeling love from family and friends, being reassured, being hugged, and being told ‘not to be a dick’ when appropriate! Sleeping (or in my case, not sleeping) in your own bed also helps.

So what else happened in Bali?

I should probably start (BD – Before Drama) with Tirta Empul. Tirta Empul (to quote Wikipedia) is a Hindu Balinese water temple located near the town of Tampaksiring, famous for its holy spring water with curative powers.

Of all the temples that we saw or visited, the experience here will say with me forever. We traveled to Tirta Empul as part of a private tour with an English speaking Balinese driver called Ketut (Balinese names explained), we didn’t expect to stay very long but events overtook us. I don’t really know how but Putu, one of the Temple custodians sought us out. Was he skilled at ‘working’ the tourists or was there something else far more spiritual and unexplainable at work? I think the latter.

Water TempleBlimey could Putu talk! He guided Emma through the ablution & blessing process. He then sat and talked to me, he shared part of his life story at first I was extremely skeptical but he quickly (intuitively?) up on my past, mentioning specific things that he could never have known, it disturbed me and I was very guarded but emotion took hold and tears flowed; how can a stranger have such an effect on me?

He escorted us through the Temple explaining this & that (it’s a bit of a blur to me) but every so often he would turn his attention back to me. He was not going to give up on his mission! I am not a religious person, but I do have respect for faith, Putu explained the Hindu belief of Karma & Dharma to me. We think of Karma as someone getting what’s coming to them, but it’s nothing like that! Karma is the law of cause and effect by which each individual creates his own destiny by his thoughts, words and deeds; and dharma, which has no single word western translation but simply put is the eternal law of the cosmos, inherent in the very nature of things – that we are all connected. At times during our visit Putu took my hand; towards the end of our visit he insisted that he could help me and he took my head in his hands, he spoke softly to me (a deeply personal message), and he applied very specific pressure to the back of my neck. I wish I could tell you what I felt; but I can’t even begin to understand it.

Anything else?

I completed two of the items on my bucket list! Whitewater rafting & having a cream tea! I have decided that a cream tea in Bali (lovely though it was) doesn’t count and I haven’t crossed it off yet- I’m looking for the fully English experience with that one, either in a pretty tea room or a house with a history.

Emma & Matt went Canyoning (with Adventure & Spirit)! I did not. They have balls of steel. I do not. I have seen the Go-Pro footage & that was enough adrenaline for me. This was the highlight of the trip for them and the company deserve their Trip Advisor rating.

Is there more? Hell yes!

I have had a massage on the beach overlooking the Indian Ocean! I have worn a bikini in the first time in…well about forever! I have seen Volcanoes, bathed in hot springs, cooled down in waterfalls. Stared in awe at rice field upon rice field, pondered the human endeavour in building the terraces, contemplated the success of the irrigation and water management vs the UK’s hopeless flood/drought methods and wondered why we cannot learn from a system that has worked for over a thousand years.

Rice Terraces

I have been disturbed by the gluttony, extravagance and overindulgence of some of the resorts vs the poverty experienced by many of the island inhabitants. I have felt guilty for enjoying some beautiful meals when others have nothing.

I have always been fascinated by creative people and Bali has more than its fair share of talented painters, woodcarvers, silversmiths, stone carvers, every imaginable style of textile work there could possibly be. Every single village that you pass through bears testament to this.

FlowersBali has many sides and many, many colours. It has a unique landscape and feel to it; grey volcanic ash, lush tropical forests, green paddy fields, golden beaches, blue skies, turquoise sea, vibrant ceremonial clothing, a black undertone of corruption, flowers, flags & kites everywhere. Oh and scooters…nothing can prepare you for the scooters and the ‘no rules’ traffic management! Bali also has a serious waste crisis. The Balinese traditionally used only organic materials, leaving no waste behind. With the introduction of plastics the island is covered in non-degradable waste from head to toe. The blame doesn’t lie entirely with the tourists either.

Catpooccino!
Catpooccino!

What about the coffee?

I don’t like coffee, thankfully! Just Google Kopi Luwak & you will see what I mean!

Final thought?

I am still in awe of the lovely Balinese people that we met on our visits, tours, outings, meals & excursions, many who guided us through our adventures, or who served us beautiful meals or spent time bartering with us when we bought our souvenirs. They are the happiest and kindest people that I have ever met.

Will I go back? I doubt it very much.

The Bucket List

bucket listImpossible

noun

informal

noun: bucket list; plural noun: bucket lists

definition ~ a number of experiences or achievements that I hope to have or accomplish during my lifetime.

In no particular order to be added to, edited, and even deleted as and when the inclination takes me.

#1 Pay full ticket price to watch my daughter perform professionally: And I want to keep the ticket framed.

#2 Visit Scotland: This needs to happen for so many reasons some of them deeply personal. I’d also like to meet up with some special quines who have supported me, made me laugh, and generally been awesome friends.

#3 Sign up for that counselling course: It’s been on the bucket list in my head for a while now. To do this I need to have 3 hours free one evening per week. Not easy as a single mum, but I will get there.

#4 See the Northern Lights: I have actually done this, but out of a plane window on the way back from New York so I don’t think it really counts.

#5 Kiss *name unknown as yet* deeply and passionately on the beach at sunrise or sunset: Situation vacant.

#6 Visit Lake Como: It’s a George Clooney thing.

#7 Go white water rafting: My son didn’t believe me when I said I wanted to do this. I intend to show him that I mean business! Achieved August 2015

#8 Be taken out for Afternoon Tea: I feel that it is really unjust that I have wanted to do this for AGES and then my daughter goes and does it first. Without me *stamps feet in petulant fashion*.

#9 Visit Stonehenge: My Dad took me when I was a child, but we couldn’t afford to pay to go in so we had to look from afar. Achieved January 2016

Balancing_Land_Art_by_Michael_Grab_5#10 Have a go at Stone Balancing: For no particular reason. Most of all I would like to do this with the friend I refer to in Pebbles. Achieved January 2016

To be continued…

Looking Into the Eyes of Strangers

CharacterSo despite telling myself emphatically that I would not return to the world of internet dating, I have done so.

It has taken a build-up of weeks and a gentle push from a friend for me to do this. The first step was writing my profile. I find expressing myself on paper relatively easy WHEN I have the right inspiration but in this case I was certainly lacking. I kept my blurb short & sweet with a view to expanding it if or when I become more comfortable with the idea.

In the meantime, if they want to know more, they will have to ask!

In the interest of keeping a sense of humour about all of this I shall share with you a few snippets of a conversation that ultimately led to me hitting the send button on this ‘adventure’.

On taking the plunge: They are your rules to make.

On casual shagging: It’s a bit like eating crisps; you really fancy them, they’re good while they last, then ultimately they are unsatisfying and best forgotten. (I haven’t got the time or the inclination for that.)

On grammar and poor choice of words in some profiles: Dominant? Or dominate? I’ve just choked on my tea (either way it means ‘deploy barge pole’).

On appropriate response to inappropriate suggestions: Send a message to him immediately- You disgust me you repellent arsehole, no wonder you are single.

So we all know that I like a man who smells nice and since the internet hasn’t yet identified a way to determine this, these are some of my first thoughts:

  • It feels like catalogue shopping.
  • I can’t get past a profile that doesn’t use at least some basic punctuation.
  • Why post a photograph in which you are not smiling or at least hinting at a smile, Mona Lisa style?
  • Why post a photograph in front of a fast car? ‘That don’t impress me much’ – Shania Twain
  • Why post a photograph in SPEEDOS?

And finally for the moment, I totally dismiss anyone who hasn’t taken the time to hit ‘rotate’ on their photograph.

I don’t understand the need to have identical hobbies, likes & dislikes. People are interesting, I like interesting people. They don’t have to like the same food as me, or have the same taste in music. I don’t want a clone of me. I want someone to complement me (compliments are nice too). In my experience the best guarantee of any relationship, be it romantic or otherwise, is a basic moral similarity and values that are harmonious. <This may have to go in my profile.

No. Wait. Before you go. One more thing… I have been categorised by my income, job and ambition and other personal statistics and that is fine except for the fact I am so much more than that. It will be interesting to see what happens next.

Wish me luck!

Will You Smile With Me?

Last year I took the conscious step of trying to heal myself. This year I want to smile more.

Today I was reminded of something that I used to do whilst my daughter danced at The Urdang Academy in London.

The Great Hall at The Urdang Academy.
The Great Hall at The Urdang Academy.

Every other weekend we would travel to London for her classes. She saw very little of the city; we would travel up, she would spend 8 hours in a dance studio, eat and travel home, but I got to explore, shop, eat and observe. I used to try and make eye contact with people, endeavour to walk round with a smile all day just to see if I could get a smile back. It was VERY hard work!

Generally speaking, people don’t seem make eye contact in big cities. New York was different. Or maybe New York was different because WE were different, we were on holiday, we were happy, we were smiling and people respond to that. So here are some things that make me smile:

My children make me smile; they make me cry too, but mostly smile. I cannot think of a better reason to smile.

My friends make me smile; they also make me laugh, proper belly laugh spit out your drink laugh and last year in my ‘healing phase’ I found a new friend. I also found new friends that I haven’t met yet; lots of smiley faces have been shared. Thinking about people like this and remembering conversations- that makes me smile.

When I walk to work and drivers slow down to let me cross the road safely; THAT makes me smile. I have three difficult junctions to manoeuvre across when walking to work, some days the drivers don’t even bother to indicate and I spend ages hesitating at the side of the road. On other days I hit the jackpot and get let across all three. That’s a good start to the day! They can’t know that I got hit by a car when I was fifteen and spent months in hospital. They just slow down and take a brief pause in their day for me.

I have to give cake away!
I have to give cake away!

Cooking & baking make me smile; I ‘stress bake’ which means that if life is challenging I go into the kitchen and bake.I find it therapeutic. If the urge to bake happens when there aren’t enough people in the house to eat the resulting baked goods I give them away; take them to work, share with friends. I hope that makes them smile too.

Thinking about our next adventure coming up later this year, now that really makes me smile. More on that coming soon.

Some of my memories make me smile now and that’s a good thing because it means that part of my self-healing has taken place and it’s time to find more reasons to smile.

So what makes you smile? take-a-smile

The Only Thing That Matters…

IMG_20141218_181910…are the people in your life.

Unlike some people, I prefer to reflect in Autumn and I find New Year celebrations a challenge. What changes can possibly happen over just one night? Well nine years ago tonight my then husband told our children that he was leaving. I choose not to write too much about him because no good would ever come of it and this is my place for healing.

I am introverted. I have again chosen to be at home on 31st December; I am happy with that choice. According to famous Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung- an introvert is most obvious and vulnerable when he or she is in an overstimulating environment. As an introvert, parties are hell for me. I don’t like drunk people- I had a hideous experience with a drunk at a work Christmas party. I am not shy, I am just happiest with a close circle of people around me. I like to socialise, but with beloved friends and family and above all I like to laugh and love, passionately and unconditionally.

I hit rock bottom in March of this year, there was no major trigger point, I just fell apart and sobbed and sobbed whilst in the middle of a pile of ironing (maybe that WAS the trigger). My grief and loneliness had overwhelmed me, I was bogged down by work, the house, bills and the thought that life would never get any better, I no longer had any joy in life and it had to change. My daughter found me and the look on her face when she said ‘Mumma, please get help’ was enough to galvanize me into action. She tells me that I often go into automatic pilot and find solutions when challenges are thrown at me and this was no different.

I had to challenge the introvert in me, expose my thoughts and feelings, reach out. Guess what? I succeeded!

New York made me feel brave.

I have met (and not met) some wonderful people and a special friend that I hope I will have for life.

I realised that I have experienced great love and although I miss him, nothing can erase memories.

I have been educated in Doric, the dialogue of North East Scotland. It’s not lost on me that my partner was Scottish and I have somehow been drawn into a part of the world that he wanted to share with me.WP_000367

I struggle to thrive in any kind of chaos and I had some work done on the house, this proved to be great therapy in so many ways!

I have enjoyed watching my children grow and develop into practicing adults. It has been a real pleasure for me to see their closeness grow now that they don’t have to live together! I can see that I have been a good role model and mother (oh yeah, middle finger to the ex mother-in-law who said I would fail and lose my kids).

If I had to give a name to 2014 it would be The Year the Laughter Returned.

Not A Dear John Letter

A box of memories
A box of memories

Dear Jon

Where do I even start? This is the letter that has been trapped inside of me for months. The thoughts rattle around in my head and bounce back & forth on a daily basis.

I want you to know that I love you, I love you with all of my heart and that will never change. I no longer know where you are or what you are doing or if I will ever hear from you again. I have tried my best with the resources available to me to find out what has happened to you but each time I have met with a brick wall. You either do not want to be found or something dreadful has happened (we are unable to confirm or deny blah blah blah). I now have to accept this.

If you are safe and well, I wish you love, security and happiness. I want you to find your place in the world and to find a peaceful retreat. I want you to sleep gently and soundly like you once did in my bed, in my arms enveloped in love. I used to love watching you sleep.

I want you to know how grateful I am for the time we had together. I do not know who said these words, but I wish it had been me –

“And even if we never talk again please remember that I am forever changed by who you are and what you meant to me”.

I mostly need to thank you for the way your loved changed me. You made me feel beautiful and adored, cherished and wanted.

I have some specific memories and a small box of cherished items. I’ve opened it today, the box that’s been close to me all the years that I have known and loved you.

~A gold gift card from your first Christmas gift to me. It just says “love Jon xxxxx” we’d only know each other a couple of months, a few weeks really, but five kisses showed a lot of promise!

~A card from La Fenice, the local Italian Restaurant where we first went out as a four, you, me and my two children. It wasn’t easy, but it was a milestone.

~A tiny orange post-it note with my name on. Remember the silly game you thought up for Christmas with my family? It descended into total chaos, but we loved it. They also all loved you.

~A piece of lavender from Spa Fields in Islington. We dropped Emma at dance school and walked for miles looking for a peaceful space, not an easy task in London on a scorching hot day! To this day, the smell of lavender reminds me of the conversation, the very public kiss (the place where the bandidos live) and the feeling of total absorption in one another.

~A tiny photo of the corner table in The Chesil Rectory in Winchester, the oldest building in the city. You embarrassed the waitress remember?

Waitress: Have you decided?

You: Yes I have. I have decided that I love her.

It wasn’t the first time you had told me, but it is the one that sticks in my mind.

WP_000062 (2)~My ring, given to me for “love and commitment” it is beautiful, I’d like to put it back on but I dare not. It would undo these last few months that have got me to this point.

~Two small shells from Barton on Sea. I wanted shells; you sifted through heaps of stones to find me two shells with no cracks or chips. WP_000060You wanted to be near the sea that day, but somewhere quiet. A big ask in August bank holiday weekend on the south coast of England. I took you to where my Dad used to live, I hadn’t been back since his death and I thought it would be hard for me. It wasn’t, it was like introducing the two most important men in my life to each other. It gave me peace and tranquility although I doubt I could go back again. This was the last day that we spent together.

WP_000061

~Lastly, a shiny 1p coin. The first thing you gave me, or rather lent to me. I hate owing money and you lent it to me the first time you had to go away. It was to reassure me that you were coming back. Every time you returned you asked if I still had it. I still have it now and I guess it’s mine by default; you can collect it any time.

These are just small things and big memories and wherever my life leads from this point on I will take a part of you with me.

All my love,

Jane xxxxx

Autumn

& Everything it Means to Me.

I do not know why, but my mood changes in the Autumn, more so than any other season. I notice the onset of the season and stop and think about many things.

I am sure that part of my thought process relates to the fact that my birthday is in October and it’s a time to reflect on the years that have passed and those ahead. I know most people would tend to do this over New Year but I try & ignore that celebration altogether.

The last time ever spoke to my Dad will be 10 years ago this Autumn and it was my birthday, I have mentioned this before. When things like this happen on normally happy occasions, you can never let the day go by without thinking and reflecting. I adored my Dad and I only wish that my own children could have experienced that with their own father. I felt safe with him, I felt protected and loved even into my adulthood. He always had my back no matter what.

I also met my (missing) partner in October, actually on the anniversary of my Dad’s death. I have pondered this coincidence many, many times! Since starting this blog I have tried many times to openly express how I felt (still feel) about the gift of his love but I do not have the words yet. I hope that one day I do.

If you have been following my journey you will know that I started writing for therapy for myself, to become more open and (re) learn how to let people into my own personal space. It has worked too.

I have learned that although the leaves fall, the new growth will appear. In the last few months I have made more new friends, received so much support and found some like minded people who interact and seem to enjoy what I have to say. I am beginning to find my happiness again I must say I like it when I catch myself smiling.

with kind thanks to @pixodentist for permission to use this beautiful photograph
with kind thanks to @pixodentist for permission to use this beautiful photograph