Wednesday, 18 December 2013
So I look forward to getting better. Given that I have a slow-moving flu as well right now I'm just resting my back and the rest of my body with it... and that's fine for now... but I've been planning to get a bit fitter anyway and just the right challenge has come along!
Not just a fitness challenge but also a better commitment to this blog? Jackpot! That's what the Janathon is there for. Come January I plan to - I'm supposed to - well I'll say it, I COMMIT to! - exercising daily and blogging daily. I may or may not run.......
Those of you who've been following my posts know that I won't stick to one topic. I never do! So if fitness and all that isn't for you, I'll still talk about all sort of other things as they happen. And the other way round - there will probably be a few visitors to this blog who wonder about the sheer randomness of this and to you I say: welcome, and I'm not sorry!
Saturday, 23 November 2013
Tuesday, 19 November 2013
|Storage curtains in gold.|
|Sofa cushions (bad quality pic, sorry)|
|Seat cushions on lounge chairs|
|Fred in his new jumper, ready for his walk.|
- It's tight in the chest, hugging him
- No sleeves as he still often pees on his front legs accidentally
- He can still go to the toilet even though it's long in the back, as his tail holds it up
- The length and looseness of the back (the 'cape') means he can tuck his legs in for warmth
Monday, 4 November 2013
Life is wonderful right now. Loving so completely and being loved the same way in return is amazing. And I love our home, my current job, Fred the dog - this married life is truly beyond my wildest dreams.
So why does this make me feel... selfish?
I observe - thanks to God and my always reasonable husband I don't have to act on impulses - within myself, that I somehow can't be comfortable being comfortable. And I'm not sure if that is a good or a bad thing!
A bad thing: arguments for this unease being negative - I've been through more hard times than many at my age. I've been through lean years. I've served God faithfully where I was, single for years, earning less than I could have by choosing to work for His Kingdom at a Christian charity. Why shouldn't I accept blessing without drawbacks? God is good!
But, could this unease be positive - a God thing? So many people are worse off than me. How can I sit on my blessings when I could help others? Could we foster or adopt? (the potential for pain and heartache, hard work and overwhelm are vast!) Volunteer more? Then again, how can I let Mr. shoulder the burden of providing for us; volunteering feels like indulging myself too - assuaging my need to feel like I'm helping others - when I could find ways to contribute to our finances?
See the problem is, both lines of reasoning look valid to me. And I know I have this sense of unease. But which is right? What is God calling me - us - to do, if anything?
Thursday, 24 October 2013
I've had a few of them: 15, my mother's death; 18, my aunt's (who was my foster mother) death; 21/22, becoming a Christian and moving to the USA.
- I got engaged to the love of my life
- Married him legally in January
- Married him officially in March
- Quit my job
- Went to the Caribbean for the honeymoon of my wildest dreams
- Moved cities
- Moved onto a boat
- Got a dog: that truly affirms 'we're making a home here' doesn't it?
At each of these turning points, I could never have foreseen where they would take me! That's the beauty, and the terror, of the unpredictability that is life. The turning point at 32 has now happened: where will this take us? - and I do say 'us' because now and forever, I'm no longer one. I'm part of a unit, a team, and things that happen, happen to 'us' and 'we' are going to deal with them.
Marriage is an incredible thing.
Just over six months in, I'm only beginning to discover the depths of it. And I can't begin to count the ways in which being married to this specific man blesses me; he is truly perfect for me. He obviously isn't perfect, as such; nobody is - God knows I'm not - but he is for me, or perhaps better said, we suit each other perfectly.
Thursday, 22 August 2013
|Fred Willdog, the lurcher.|
|Fred feeling very much at home.|
However, there was one big obstacle to overcome before he could stay: dogs - or rather, any pets - are not allowed at our Marina. Not to new people, anyway; there are several dogs who've lived there for years, but we were told that new animals weren't allowed. This was because in the past, cat owners would let their cats roam free in the Marina and they'd foul other people's boats, which can cause costly damage. So cats were indeed banned and some people had to rehome theirs or move... while dogs were never a problem, the cat owners found it unfair that only their animals would be disallowed; hence the rule that all pets are banned at the Marina.
Luckily for us, and Fred, the Marina's owner loves dogs. After a chat with her, we had the official go-ahead - after two nail-biting weeks of just not knowing! - and could offer Fred a forever home.
He's been with us for about six weeks now and the three of us couldn't be happier!
Thursday, 13 June 2013
What's really difficult for me here is that I can't help him. I can't fix it - and as a typical firstborn, I desperately want to. It's grating to be sitting at home, comfortable and relaxed, knowing that his day is filled with anxiety and stress... and nothing I do will make it easier for him. I can't even make home a relaxing haven for him to come home to because everything is boxed up and ready for tomorrow's move! So all I can do is pray for him.
That's the only thing I get to do: I can pray. And I do. God can give him what he needs to get through this.
Friday, 7 June 2013
The first week I tried various homemade concoctions - baking soda in water, diluted apple cider vinegar - which I had read about, but I found these to be a bit of a hassle and they didn't really make my hair feel nice. So I quit them too.
What do I use, then, you ask?
Just plain old water!
I still wash my hair daily, I just don't use any products on it. It's made an amazing difference! Where my hair in the past has been thin, lifeless, and I couldn't grow it beyond my jawline because it would just have no body to it at all, it's now full and lively and Mr loves it... but don't take my word for it, here's some visual proof:
|Before. Quite flat.|
|'After'. Well, current. Not flat!|
It's been the best thing I've done for my hair, and the biggest change in what I look like, in a very long time. I can't say it has made my morning routine easier or shorter, as I still shower and wash my hair daily (just without any products); or that it saves me much money, as shampoo really hardly breaks the bank... but I love being able to have long hair - and Mr much prefers that look too.
A note of caution: it may take a few weeks for hair to get used to this. Mine took perhaps a week and a half before really loving life without shampoo, but people are different. I've read some people take up to six weeks for their hair to start looking nice, rather than greasy or unkempt, after changing away from shampoo. Also, my hair was thin and flat - I have no idea what this might do to thick or curly hair!!
Give it a try if you like... any questions, I'll try to answer in the comments!
Thursday, 30 May 2013
I'm more than a little iffy about this whole business.
Gok Wan and his campaign to get the nation into the nude, one woman at a time? Well meaning I'm sure, but uh, please no.
Loving - what does that mean?
What kind of love are we talking about? The word has so many nuances... and the way some of these body-love campaigners put it sounds more like infatuation to me. Is it healthy to stand in the mirror and admire yourself? Be excited about seeing your reflection?
|My body serves me very well and does |
almost anything I ask...
it just has a real aversion to cold!
I don't love my body in that way. I don't stand in front of the mirror and admire what's there. I don't avoid mirrors, either; of course, I'll check to see how my clothes fit, and yes, I see things I don't like. No rose tinted 'bodylove' glasses for me! My body doesn't look perfect - without going into details here, but the fact is, nearly everyone deviates from today's beauty ideal in some way. I definitely do.
I do love my body in the Biblical sense: "No one ever hated his body, but they feed and care for it..." - without particular emotions, I do feed and care for my body. It serves me very well, every day, and I appreciate that!
Can't we just 'be', without any particular emotion?
Having admitted I do have my insecurities, I guard myself against making too many value judgements about how my body looks. I don't hide it, or any part of it, from my husband; and when he says he likes what he sees, I choose to believe him. He's the only one whose opinion about it matters; he's the only one who sees it all.
What I question, really, is this: why should we feel a particular way about our bodies at all? Perhaps that's... simply not necessary?
What a thought! All the marketing messages for a billion-dollar industry are... perhaps simply a bit silly?
There are so many things in my life I don't feel a particular way about. I observe them and make adjustments when necessary, but there's no emotion with that. Examples? My heartbeat (too fast? Slow down what I'm doing!), my digestion (problems? What did I eat?), my eyesight (all ok? Great!)... as to the idea that the way my body looks should evoke any particular feeling, I simply refuse to give this any mental space.
Life's too short!
Wednesday, 22 May 2013
I have choices. What I do with my time is my own decision. I no longer have deadlines, my day is not structured for me as it was at school and at work. If I want structure, I have to create it. That's a huge shift to make - I've been either at school or at work all day since age 4!
I could do nothing and spend every day on the couch, watching daytime TV. (Some Saturdays after a tough week's work, that's what I needed to do. Hurray for Saturday Kitchen!) That's not what I want to do. But the fact is that if I don't lead myself, if I don't put discipline into my day, then I won't have any: no one is going to check on me. That's as freeing as it is heavy with responsibility...
But it's not just (house-)work that won't happen if I don't organise myself; it's also people interaction. If I don't make the effort to reach out, put dates in the diary, and meet up with people, then I will be without people interaction all day. Again, at school or work this is ready made; with this gig, it's something I have to organise.
I can see that it would be easy to waste day after day, either on laziness or busy-ness, and miss the bigger picture: what am I here for? Is it just to keep house for my husband? That's but a small part of my work. The big picture, and the two main reasons I need to make the most of the time - my priorities, which should inform my daily structure - consists of these:
- To help my husband. This means:
- Creating a home environment where he can relax
- Praying for him and supporting him in his own walk with God
- Listening to him
- Being there for him, loving him abundantly and being a source of joy to him
- To impact this community. This means:
- Getting to know the people in my community - neighbours, members of the church - and building relationships with them
- Offering practical help where needed, when I can
- Making my home a welcoming place for all who come, where they can relax
- Living a joy filled life that shows something of God's fingerprints on it
Sunday, 12 May 2013
|My mother, long before me|
My mother wasn't willing to be a mum. It simply was not what she wanted out of life.
Her idea of living well was to be free - and a mother is forever (or at least for 16+ years) bound to her children. She felt caged. She didn't embrace the idea of loving, nurturing, supporting these needy beings that had entered her world; our needs were a burden to her, dragging her down, holding her back. I was very self-sufficient and independent by a very young age, because she encouraged that: it meant that our needs suffocated her less.
Because of us, her work life suffered. We sometimes kept her from being able to go to evening events. Or we got sick and she couldn't go to work. Work - teaching music - was what her life and ambition was about. If we wanted love and attention, we needed to enter her world: once I was old enough to learn to play, she took an active interest in me. I was never enthusiastic about the music, but I was desperate for her presence and her approval... perhaps more so than my sister was, who was content being more or less ignored by her and instead forged a stronger relationship with our father.
I have always said I didn't want children. Mostly that's because I was frightened I might react in a similar way to the incessant needs a child hangs onto you with: that I'd flee, need to get away, the way my mum did into her work. I've come a long way from that place; even though at some level the fear is still there, I don't reject children any more. Three reasons for that:
- I have been completely changed on the inside since becoming a Christian and I'm simply not who I was. Her upbringing of me doesn't define me now.
- If God gives us children, I don't have to rely on my own strength, which I know won't be enough. I have access to all the strength I need by leaning into Him. My mother never had that.
- I'm not on my own, and I'm not in an abusive relationship like she was. I have a loving, capable, supportive husband - and with him by my side, I can just begin to imagine motherhood.
Wednesday, 24 April 2013
|Mr & I approaching the finish at the Twilight Run 10k|
But, I will run. It's the only exercise I (semi-)enjoy, it's free, it gets me out in the air.
I haven't done any running since the Twilight Run last October, a 10k obstacle course that was as grim as it was fun, but Mr and I are signed up for the Oxford Half Marathon this October. Six months to get ready, six months of warm-ish weather here, six months without excuses and hopefully, following that time, a solid habit I won't so easily let go again.
So I did my first run/walk, about 4 miles, two days ago. Thighs, abs, calves sore even today, but it's time again now: 3 miles, here I come!
Tuesday, 23 April 2013
I find myself returned home to a place that wasn't home before. Over last week and this week I've been working, mostly cleaning and tidying, to make this place feel like a home, and it's getting there. (Ironically, it won't be home for much longer!) So, just about a week into this new life, I'm beginning to create a routine in my day:
- Morning: get up with Mr, have breakfast together, then I'll spend time with God, then do house related work. Cleaning, tidying, laundry, whatever needs doing. Later, workout and shower, then lunch.
- Afternoon: do out-of-house things i.e. errands, and/or Internet stuff: I'm still in the process of sorting out my name change with banks, insurance, etc. Registering with a doctor, getting to know the local area with its shops and where to buy what is my current project.
- Evening: Mr. returns and I cook/serve food. Funny enough, that's my biggest challenge so far! He likes to eat a variety of food, whereas when I was single, I'd happily eat the exact same thing every day for months on end. (corn on the cob? All winter!) - so I'm finding it really challenging to come up with meals we'll both enjoy, and make them different each day. He just told me today he's getting a bit tired of rice...
Wednesday, 3 April 2013
That is a very personal-to-me revelation that goes beyond the obvious. Of course being married means giving to the other. But there's more, for me.
Since becoming a Christian 11 years ago, I've been surrounded by givers: people who generously, tirelessly, lovingly built and invested into my life. God has completely changed me on the inside, not least through those people who came into my life. You wouldn't recognise me, my views, thoughts, and feelings from before I knew Jesus; and this didn't happen in isolation but through people, givers, the church.
I've been taking, receiving.
That's not wrong or bad, I think I simply needed that much time and investment - I was that messed up. God knew that. And when he knew I was ready to start giving, and Mr. was ready too, he put us together. And this morning I knew that giving would outweigh receiving for me from now on - mostly, not always, of course.
Mr. gives generously, all the time. He serves others joyfully, always has, even before he was a Christian. It's who he is, and one of the things I love about him. He doesn't need to learn how... but I do. How do you go from being a taker to being a giver? Shift from looking for your own blessings to looking to bless others?
Even as I write this I wonder if I'm being too harsh. In the last few years, I did give and serve. To be clear, I'm not saying I never used to bless others, and neither am I saying I will never receive from others again. But I do feel I've been told, quite clearly, that a shift has happened. Time to invest, give, bless.
Wednesday, 13 March 2013
People ask me all the time if I've got a job lined up for after the honeymoon. When Mr. is there at the time, he'll often give a little wry smile and say, "Housewife...?" - I love how he does that.
And of course I want to give my all, certainly my main focus, to the home we are going to build together. But I know so many women who work because they just don't have that choice, and I feel bad to boast about having a choice in the matter - and making the counter-cultural choice, the easy-looking one. As one colleague ironically put it, 'Are you going to work, or just enjoy the lifestyle to which you shall become accustomed?'
I don't believe for a moment that 'not working' really means 'not working'. Making a home is work. And it's not work I have prepared for, the way I have prepared for my career with a degree. Also, it's not a rewarded kind of work - no salaries, no bonuses, no recognition, no advancement. It's a truly serving kind of job: most of it goes unnoticed (only when things go wrong are they noticed), it's a daily commitment, it's physical work, and it's always in the background. There are no awards for homemaking. If anything, a raised eyebrow when an acquaintance asks what you do.
So I need to...
- be secure in my identity, value and worth as they come from my Father, not from the recognition and admiration of others.
- truly desire to serve my husband. He will continue to go out and work full-time, giving lots of energy to his job; I want our home to be a place of rest and peace for him, and creating that kind of home takes work and commitment - which he probably won't see most of the time, or only be dimly aware of. He'll just experience it and, hopefully, be happy to come home each day.
- prioritise all other tasks; whether or not I take on any remunerated work. I might work from home as a freelancer, I might do part-time work; how it all pans out is still open. But my priority has got to be home, from now on.
Sunday, 10 March 2013
I haven't had a good father. Because I am commanded to honour my father, and because it's not good to speak ill of the dead, I won't elaborate on why —suffice to say that as a 12-year-old, I kicked him out of the family home because my mother didn't feel able to, and until I began following God at age 21 I never acknowledged or spoke to him again. He was dead to me.
God is nothing like my father, he is the perfect father - so I needed to learn what that means. God knew that, and has given me not one, but several amazing fathers in the faith over the years; men who have invested their time and love to show me something about what God meant when he said he was my father.
I have just asked one of these men to walk me down the isle at my wedding in 2 weeks' time, Justin from Winchester. He and his wife, Alexia, have walked with me and guided me through an incredibly intense growth period in my life, a time I still look back on as formative years of healing and change.
There is nothing better than family!
Thursday, 7 March 2013
Everyone around us has reservations. Typical questions are, isn't it too small, too dark, too damp, cold, cramped... and funny enough, dark, cold and cramped are exactly the criticisms I have always had about Mr.'s current house. But that's not what this is, at all!
Here are a few photos:
To me, there is a real sense of space - both inside, because of the light and high-quality interior, and outside, where the eye can go into the distance on the water and there is a sense that we could just go there, too. And we could! That's the beauty of this: we aren't stuck in one place. We can go places, right there in our home.
I do realise that not everything will be rosy. It's probably not fun emptying out the waste container on a cold, rainy day. But this has such a good 'gut' feel about it for me - yet beyond that, I've also tried to think about everything (particularly people's reservations). Let's list what I see as the advantages:
- Heating. She's well insulated (foam spray throughout) - holds the heat very well, and being a small space, heats up quickly. Heating a house costs a fortune, and most of that is wasted - heat rises, so the benefit goes out through the roof, and houses are big spaces to heat and much less well insulated. This barge has central heating as well as a wood / coal burner that really heats the space up. Double glazing too.
- Space. Of course this move means a downsize for us, and the need to get rid of a lot of stuff. Yet to me, that is an advantage! I like the idea of a minimal lifestyle, of not accumulating more and more 'stuff'. And there's less space to keep clean :)
However, there is a spacious feel about this boat. Visual spaciousness, rather than physical - the views, the knowledge of being able to move about. It doesn't feel cramped.
- Location. We could never afford to live so centrally. Everything is here! Yet, despite it being city centre, there isn't that cramped feeling of living on top of each other and never seeing the sky or the horizon. This feels spacious, yet is central.
I think this is a major part in why I feel this will work for us as a place to live. When you live in a super small place like this, you don't want to spend all your time there (cabin fever?) - instead, it's a springboard to access all the things around. Libraries, public places, cafes, walks (despite it being central, there's a big green open space not far!).
- Neighbours. Being in a marina, living aboard a boat, there is a real neighbourly spirit and people know each other and help each other out. We are absolute novices, but even the sellers of our boat have said they would definitely be back, take us out on our first few trips if we like, help with any questions. And people with different skills across the marina are happy to help with various things. I look forward to becoming part of a real, local, neighbour community.
- No garden. Not a disadvantage to me, because I can't stand gardening work, but it's a bit of a loss to Mr. - however, there are green spaces around.
- Visitors. Parking isn't impossible, and there are free spaces (for 4 hours) nearby, but any overnight visitors will have to find some solution - either pay for parking, or park far off and we'd come and fetch them. Because those 4-hour spots are there however, I don't feel that is a major issue.
Overnight visitors will have to stay either in the guest room (as long as we don't have kids) or on a day bed in the lounge.
- Mooring cost. Bristol Marina isn't cheap. It does have great amenities, and it's central, and there's no other place at the moment that we could have a residential mooring. Out there in Bristol harbour, residential moorings are extremely rarely available. The way I see it, it's best for us to stay at the marina for the moment, have neighbours around and learn everything we need about this way of living, and if at some point we are able to move to a cheaper place that still works for us, then we can still do that. That's the beauty of being able to move our home around!
- Kids. I can see this working with one, two kids maybe - three would be a stretch. Certainly when they grow older. It can be done, however; there are several kids in the marina. I have a lot to learn about living in small spaces, especially as a family, but I have no doubt it can be done!
- No pets. That's a real downside to me. It's not that pets can't live on a boat, it's that Bristol Marina won't allow them. So at least for the time we are there, we can't have a dog. I would absolutely love to have a dog... but if that's not to be for the moment, that is a sacrifice I'm prepared to make.
Friday, 1 March 2013
However, I do have nerves about how I will do as a wife. It's a radical change of lifestyle. I'm not going into this venture half-heartedly; it's not like moving in with a new housemate, except one that I sleep with... this is about doing life together, making a home: things I've never done before.
So what are my specific worries?
Funny enough, I'm not all that worried about this initial time. It'll keep me busy. (though I do wonder about how physically demanding this will all be, given that all I've ever done for work involved sitting at desks!)
But that time will end. At one point, we'll have a new house, and we'll live in it. Then what? I worry about how well I'll do at keeping the house clean and tidy. Establish a routine, stick to it consistently. I think of my gran, whose house was always spotless and she took care of any messes immediately. Then I think of my own (rented) accommodations... usually tidy, I'm not a messy person, but dirt will accumulate in corners and behind things over time. This is excusable when one works all the time and only comes home to sleep, but when my work is keeping the house, it isn't ok.
Will I be bored, being at home? Ought I go find a job? (Mr. is happy either way, and thinks - and I agree - that as long as there aren't kids, it's a good idea for me to bring in extra money) Or, as my friend S joked, will this all be a moot discussion because I'll return from honeymoon pregnant?
Who knows... God does. I'm just a worrier.
Thursday, 28 February 2013
|The current house. Dark, cramped, small.|
Not so fun is the part where we have to sell his current house. It's on the market, people are coming to see it, but until someone buys it - that is, makes an offer, goes through the legal process, and pays - we can't make a serious move on any of the properties we're looking at. That's tough. Some properties would be absolutely lovely, but we can't do anything and they are bought by someone else. Will the right property be there when we can buy? What if not: a few months in rented accommodation, meaning we're having to move twice? I can only hope not!
Why are we moving?
You might well ask, given that this is a perfectly adequate 2-bedroom house which he owns. I don't yet live there, even. But I have said, when we spoke about ideal places to live - not nagged, not refused, simply said - that I don't love the house. To me, it feels oppressive, dark, cramped inside (it's Victorian). At Christmas, he turned to me and said, "Let's put the house up for sale. We'll find one we both like."
I'm so lucky marrying this man.
Wednesday, 27 February 2013
These are the chronicles of change, of learning, of finding my feet in a joyous new season. Take my hand, dear reader - thank you for taking part in my journey today.