Just be

This weekend has been a delicious treat. It has involved work. I rarely work at weekends any more, but when I do, it is always doing the parts of the job I love the most. Speaking to people about why I do my job, how it fits with my faith and my life view and how much my small actions – combined with the many small actions of my audience, are tangibly changing the world for the better. These are opportunities for me to lift my gaze above the day to day and give me perspective. Sorely needed after last month.

I am away from home, on the south coast in Torquay. Delightfully, “home” agreed to come with me for the weekend. We are all feeling the length of winter and are tired and stressed.

Time away turns out to be just what we need. Without really deciding to, we have made the very most of hiring an AirB&B for the weekend. I have resisted doing my usual thing of insisting that we all get out and see everything. Instead, we are going with the flow. Which is restful. The dog is struggling with arthritis, so the walks have to be short. The nights are long and cold and we have bowed to Mother Nature and stayed indoors, cosy and companionable when it’s dark. The sunshine has been tremendous and we have had plenty of it – but gently. Everyone was sleep deprived this week, so we’re catching up on that too.

I was feeling overwhelmed because I have not had much planning or yoga time this week. Instead it was a week of having meetings which created more tasks to do and took away the time to do them. After finding time yesterday to plan February I am feeling better. Plus I found half an hour to get on a yoga mat. Spending some time breathing properly undoubtably helped.

Right now it is getting later on a Sunday morning. No one is stirring. I am staying with this flow though and me and the dog are enjoying just being, catching up on a load of blogs I usually read, now writing my own (on my phone) and in a minute that yoga mat will come out again.

I was aiming for an early morning walk on the beach today – the need to see everything and do everything is not quite gone! Instead I shall just be with whatever is actually happening now. The beach will still be there later and the cafe will serve elevenses as well as they do breakfast I am sure.

Happy Sunday

Losing my blogging way

It’s Thursday and this is the first blog this week, it’s been six days since I last blogged. I have had the time to blog, have found myself in blogging mode – awake, coffee, laptop – but have been distracted by other things.

This could be because the other things are genuinely more important. So far this week, I have had a meeting every evening, and have felt a need to use that precious morning time to sort things out for those meetings, so that may be true.

It could be because I am just not enjoying blogging any more. Also possible. I have been blogging gently for about 11 months now, maybe it’s getting a bit boring? I can’t say I love the new format that WordPress have created, and the lack of access too free photos is taking away some of my delight. I used to enjoy trying to find a photo that in some way illustrated my thoughts that morning. I did toy with the idea of making sure I always took my own photos, but I have no real desire to be a photographer.

Or, I have nothing really to say. I have run out of thoughts . There is nothing to write about. That seems unlikely, I am still able to think and life is no less full of things to write about.

No, I fear the problem is not planning. Yep, everything that goes wrong in my life is generally blamed (by me only!) on me not having planned properly. The control freak in me is dominant as planning is in full swing in January. I am planning furiously for work, Scouts, Birmingham Children’s Book Group, CAFOD group, World Day of Prayer, holidays for the year, theatre visits, offspring’s next step in life, dog’s health, my exercise regime, my Slimming World-friendly food for the day. And there’s probably more that I am planning to the nth degree.

Every morning I sit down to write this, with no plan, I have not totally planned to write on any particular morning. In the midst of a planning frenzy I feel utterly overwhelmed by the lack of a plan in blogging. So I have avoided it. Wrongly, as I suspect having to deal with no plan is a good thing for me.

it’s been a couple of weeks of meticulously planned days – even down to pretty tape keeping my spoon in place. Just no blog plans.

Visiting Birmingham

One of the spring time resolutions is to discover more about my home town of Birmingham, UK.  I am an immigrant to the city, arriving here 19 years ago, drawn by a sense of friendliness, a real buzz as the city changed dramatically from its industrial roots.  There seemed to be a desire to do something different, not develop, that implies it was in some way backward, but that is not true at all.  This is a city built on discovery, on science and industry, and on a strong sense of being Birmingham.

For those of you not from here, I know the reputation is not always of a dynamic city, but believe me it is.  I have myriad political views about whether that dynamic nature is being encouraged and allowed to thrive, but despite cynicism on my part on the reduction of local facilities, education, health care, social care, I suspect that there’s something in the nature of being here that will ensure the city continues to thrive.  Ever the optimist.

So this spring I intend to visit some of the many places I have never actually been to.  Feel free to add to the list, but so far I have Aston Hall, Selly Manor, Blakesley Hall, chunks of Sutton Park (I have done some, but seriously, it’s huge!).

I have one of the brilliant Independent Birmingham cards and intend to start working through the members of the scheme.

I haven’t been to the Ikon gallery for ages and there are rooms at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery that I have never seen.  And – confession time – I have never been to the Barber Institute of Art.

There are a couple of quirky places I want to get to – the Coffin Works and the Pen Museum are on that list.

Add to that the miles of canal to explore and the parks to visit, and I am wondering if this is a whole year’s work?



Writing slowly

Well maybe the title is misleading.  I don’t write slowly, in fact I write quickly, but I write in order to slow down.  I have discovered that posting a small chunk of writing to a blog, makes me slow down as I sit quietly and ponder and jot down thoughts. So I am a bit addicted to this way of making me feel productive, whilst still being a bit more deliberate and a bit slower in my actions.

The aim is to give myself time to think and to challenge myself to put that thinking in a more public domain.  But also to write quickly and relatively succinctly, to prove to myself that I can blog without spending hours on it.  It may indeed be obvious that this is a time challenge as much as anything.  How much can I write in the time it takes me to drink a coffee?

So far it has been a fun experiment in writing whatever springs to mind, but I am now wondering how real bloggers write so prolifically.   At some point I will need to plan out blog posts.  So, a new way of sitting and pondering and still feeling productive presents itself.  Let’s grab another coffee and get planning.




Anatomy of a morning

I love mornings, I am a lark, not an owl.  That said, I need sleep, if I have not had my sleep I cannot wake up – those are the mornings I do not like.

The morning routine is something I think about a lot.  And it is a routine which changes over the years.

Pre-children it was a short shower, breakfast, leave for work routine.  With a lot of talking to anyone alive in the house.  They did not always respond, I did not always notice this.

Offspring the elder is a similar lark, so morning feeds were sometimes in the World Service broadcasting hours rather than Radio 4 (which means before 5.20am).  The mornings were long, cuddly, busy.

Offspring the younger is a night owl, he woke late.  So, I had a year or so of a child-free half an hour or so at about 6am.  I drank tea and baked bread and listened to the radio in a blissful time.

Now they are teens, they need to up and out early, but they do not need my assistance.  How times change.

Now my early mornings can be a good chunk of time in which to do what I want. I have discovered something exciting this winter.  Getting up and doing something quiet and sedentary feels as legitimate as getting up at the crack of dawn to exercise, which seems to be the usual recommendation.  So, to soothe me through the dark cold mornings of the quiet season, I am indulging in mornings of coffee, reflection, writing, reading and prayer.  Not all of those every day, but always the coffee.   Here’s to mornings.


An unexpected day

So, the thought occurs that having to cope with the unexpected is what throws me most.  I am a planner by nature.  Some may say an over-planner, but actually I like it that way.  I enjoy knowing what is going to happen, I enjoy the anticipation.

I have just had a couple of working days which have been filled with what can only be called the unexpected.  It does not matter to me if the unexpected is a large event or a smaller one.  Even something trivial can push me off my tracks.

Nevertheless, I am very good in emergencies, at least I like to think so.  I love thinking on my feet and generally respond well.  But that is not the whole story.

One part of me wants to run my life within a well-planned routine; ticking off the to do list, attending scheduled meetings and appointments; keeping all habits in the same way and the same time every day.

But the odd thing is that I do not believe that even as I write it.  It sounds boring actually.  Both realities are totally true.  I love planning, I love having varied and challenging days.   Maybe my solution is to plan for the unexpected.

There are a few ways to do that I think:

  1. Block out parts of my day and week for the unexpected, I am not sure I can do that practically, but I may give that a go next month (this month’s diary is now full – mainly with annual leave though).
  2. Leave a few spaces on the daily to-do list to fill. I try and have a limited list for each day, recognising that in order to prioritise my brain finds it easier to have a short do-able list in front of me every day, rather than a huge long list from which I then have to pick a small number of things every day.
  3. Actually write down on the list: “react to the unexpected”.
  4. As soon as the unexpected hits, then my next action is to triage the to-do list and move other things off it.
  5. Spend two minutes every day jotting down what went well in the unexpected, not just noticing what did not get done on the list.

And maybe I need to spend a bit of time being grateful for challenges which exercise my brain, stop me from getting bored, but do not turn my world upside down.  And equally grateful for the weeks where the routine is less stimulating, but allows for some time to reflect, to rest and to enjoy the process.  I have experienced the illness of a child, turning my world upside down, stopping all usual routine and imposing a way of life that was very unexpected and even more unwelcome.  God forbid that level of challenge ever returns.  I am strangely grateful for the manageable unexpected and the boring routines.