on endings

a little over two years ago, I, like many other people, became aware of the plight of fellow humans trying to escape from a brutal war, travelling towards safety and hoping to find sanctuary.

I have written here before about what happened next, about setting up a grass roots organisation, about learning more than I ever thought possible about aid, about support and about the evil in this world of ours.  For the last twenty five months, I have stood with wonderful people and together we have made a difference.

From a small start we grew, a shop, containers, baby boxes, bras, medical equipment, all sourced, donated and shipped.  I learned just how much hard work this involves.  Hours and hours of sorting and packing, the aching limbs salved by cake, coffee and friendship.

It is really hard to paint a picture of how all of the above feels.  At times it is like being in the midst of a crazy tornado, with boxes hurling themselves towards you, at others it is like being cocooned in a warm fuzzy blanket, such is the love and friendship we have found.

In the two years gone, we have also changed.  Circumstance have shifted, children have grown, our personal priorities have to be different now.

It was with heavy heart we decided that now was the time to stop  Now, before it became too tricky to continue with our own high standards.  Now, before we stretched the elastic so much it snapped. Now is the time

We have a plan, of course we do, we shall end well.  We shall certainly be more organised than our beginning became.  We vow to make sure all the love is parcelled up and sent to reach it’s destination, we shall spend every last penny donated on help and support for those who need it most.

Yet, this is the practical side of the ending.  The other side, the emotional side will take, for me at least a little longer.  Firstly there is the friendships made across the globe.  From the West Coast of American to the South of France, from the Greek Islands to Turkey, I have forever friends.  People who also stood up and spoke out.

Locally there are even more special people, who I cannot imagine not knowing.  One friend, who is dear to me, is the woman that the first time I met her told the tale of her literally taking a coat of someones back in a department store, to give to a cold tired refugee!!  There are so many more, near and far, my life is richer for knowing them.

So, endings, are even more important than beginnings.  Endings have to be done carefully, and each memory taken from the shelf of experience and placed into it’s own special box, to be kept forever.   Then they shall be ready to be opened again, to bring back the love and the laughter as we tell and retell the story of the twenty five months when we made a difference.

It has been my utter privilege to be a part of this, I shall miss it and yet will remain ever thankful that we did it.  I always had the thought that one day my gorgeous Granddaughter will be grown, and these cruel times will be history.  I wanted, when she asked the question of me, as  I am sure all those to come will do, ‘what did you do to help Nanna’  I wanted to be able to say, ‘I did my best, darling I did the best I could’ and alongside hundreds of others this is the truth.

Thank you Hummingbirds, for you have given me far more than I have ever offered to you.

 

 

on being in the right place at the right time

those worldly winds know what they are on about for sure.  Here is me, dramatically depressed, lonely in our paradise on a hill, worried about hubby, about homelessness, about lack of motivation, and feeling useless, remember that?

So, after fixing the dryer yesterday I had a new determination to get on with stuff here.  Now last week I was inspired by the donation box for the Food Bank in Tesco, to come home and find out more.  I rang the number and offered to volunteer.  Come along they said, next week will be fine. Today was the day.

Now, I have been poorly all week, this horrid cold and cough have left me feeling knackered, and it was half in my mind to cancel the meeting and rearrange. Old habits die hard, and if I have said I will be somewhere, then that is where I shall be.  So, at 10am this morning I pulled up outside an uninspiring building on the outskirts of town.

It is true that you cannot judge a book by it’s cover and the inside of this building filled me with delight.  A bright, clean and lovely place, with a bank of computers, soft cushions, home made cake and a coffee machine.  So, how have I missed this treasure?  Along with the Food Bank this is home to lots of community projects.  I am greeted warmly by a smiling volunteer, who tells me he has come over on his day off from a new job to help out as they are short staffed.  A good cup of tea later and I meet the man in charge of the Food Bank.  We are chatting, as you do, and I am feeling very much at home.  I explain about working on a weekend and he asks what I do. I tell him I am a youth worker, he smiles. Apparently they need a youth worker. Of course they do.

Two hours later, after meeting with the most inspiring women I think I have ever met, I am back home sending my CV, fixing up how I can help and before I left I am booked in for a meeting with the Project director next week. Suddenly I am somewhere I recognise. I can feel the energy and the can do spirit in this place, it has been hard fought for and is closely guarded.  It feels right.

As I am leaving I go back to the cakes and coffee to say goodbye to the volunteers, and I notice a sign on the wall.  It says, Rules of this Place, and there is a list of expectations for everyone to follow.  The very first one, at the top, is simply this   ‘Always try to be kind’.

I feel at home.

on mending not moaning

My Mum would never allow us children to whine or whinge, ‘self pity does no one any good’, she was fond of saying, ‘you have to get on with stuff’.  Yes, Mum, I say to myself today, you are quite right.  I am deciding to do just that.

Last night storms blew strong, keeping me awake, and this morning when the winds dropped we have no phone or internet signal, the mast must have been affected by the winds.

With no early morning social media to do, I decided to get on with our washing, which isn’t actually a simple as it used to be, although it isn’t difficult either.  I just use a small washing machine and a spin dryer.  All was going well until the washing machine jumped off its stand, well actually a makeshift stand that is a plastic box and it fell to the floor, breaking the lid from the base.  Luckily I was able to sort it quickly, it just clipped back together and after finding a more stable stand it continued to wash our bedding.

Soon it was time to spin it and as usual I placed a flannel over the top to keep it neat.  Except it didn’t, instead it jumped down between the drum and the case and jammed the spinner.  Today is just not my day.  I tried to fish the flannel out but it was impossible to reach, it was all too tight. The spinner wouldn’t spin, the clothes were soaking wet, oh my. Never mind I thought, I wil buy a new one, turning as ever to Google to find suppliers locally before remembering the internet was down, following the storms.  My life is ever more interesting these days.

So, I thought to myself, what would Mum do? I also then remembered the times, when I, as a single Mum, had my own tool kit.  How hard can it be to take a spin dryer to bits?  Turns out it is a lot easier than putting it back together.   A small screw removed the cover at the base and then just three more screws and the drum was free.  I just popped my hand it and removed the flannel. Fantastic.

It is fair to say it took at while to locate the nuts I had failed to notice falling off when removing the screws, and a bit longer to fiddle them into place, but with perseverance I did it.  The spinner lives to spin another day.  Washing done, all is well.

The whole thing has helped me to remember that I can actually do most things if I let myself try.  I am thinking of all the jobs I have done over time, fixing shelves, sorting squeaks and creaks and generally getting on with stuff.

I am going to treat everything that is happening to me at the moment just like that spin dryer.  If it is broken I shall fix it, if things don’t go to plan I shall make a new plan, and maybe, just maybe things will turn out alright in the end.

So, thanks Mum, for a long lost memory, so many things you said and did stay with me, and help, especially in the difficult times. You were tough on us as kids, when along with lots of love made sure that we could stand on our own two feet.  Self pity is an indulgence, occasionally an essential tool in the survival kit, but never a default position.

So, this afternoon the sun is shining, and yet rain still around falls often in crazy bursts of energy in the Welsh hills, phones are back working as is the internet.  Things are being fixed all around. All will be well.

on raindrops and tears

there is a reason for the lack of blogs this month and it is quite simple really, I do not have the words for how rubbish I have been feeling.

It is increasingly difficult to motivate myself to do anything really, I seem to spend my days wondering what is going to happen next.

Hubby is in the middle of lots of tests and we are hoping to find out soon how broken hearted he is, and how they are going to fix him.  Meanwhile, he is going to work, loving his new job and coming home with lots of tales of new colleagues and new places to go.  I am so happy he is happy, and yet there is a cloud around us, for we don’t know what is going to happen next.

I started walking again last week, going out every morning, to the route I love, down towards the sea, along ‘my’ beach.  It felt good, I felt good, we can do this I thought, all is going to be well.  We are booked to walk the London Bridges in October, hubby and me and I was excited to do this challenge together in his home city.  As I walked daily, he joined me in the evenings, we are training for our epic stroll across ten miles of bridges.  The hotel is booked, as are the train tickets.  We are both looking forward to a normal fun weekend, the sort we used to have often.  It seems like it has been a long time.

You may remember that our previous trip, to the Para Athletics in July had to be cancelled as we were in the midst of his poorliness.  This was to be a chance to chill, have fun and raise some money.  Sponsors are coming in, the excitement was building.

Then, you guessed it, the letter for the test, the one were hubby has to actually go into hospital, that one, is booked for one of the days we are due to be in London.  I admit I cried.  I know his health comes first, I know we are lucky to live in a place where tests are done quickly and with care. I know all that.  But really, universe, did you have to book it for that day?  I cried again.

As I am getting used to the not going to London thing, the weather decided to take a turn for the worse.  Storms and high winds, rain making a loud sound on the caravan roof. It is cosy and warm inside, but I have no inclination to go outside at all.  It is almost as if the weather is joining me, with tears of its own.

I try so hard to put a positive spin on life in this blog, but frankly it is getting hard to do so.  It seems that every step of the way a barrier is put up or a bridge is torn down.  It is as if no matter what we do, or how we try, the tears are going to fall.

I have to keep reminding myself that it will be alright in the end, I just don’t know when the end will come.

Anyone fancy a weekend in London, we have a hotel room for sale?

 

on the saddest time of all

today my thoughts are far from our troubles and firmly with good friends who have had an unimaginably difficult summer.

Right at the beginning of the holidays,  their gorgeous Granddaughter lost her life in a road accident, which also left her Mum very poorly and her brother injured.  At one point the family were in hospitals across two counties while medical staff fought to save them.

Today, some five weeks on, the family will say goodbye to the little girl, so full of life, who was the centre of their world.  Siblings are bereft, Mum is in a wheelchair and Dad doing his best to hold it all together.  This breaks my heart.

When you become a parent the world changes forever. Suddenly so many fears you had no idea existed are at the front of your mind.  Keeping them safe, helping them to grow, to develop, to come to adulthood, becomes a priority.  Later once they are grown they begin to follow your journey, with children of their own, then, as a Grandparent the level of anxiety trebles.  All the same hopes and dreams you had for your babies become extra important for the little people they have created.

So, it is with heavy heart I put myself in my friends position.  Watching her baby boy, saying goodbye to his baby girl is a pain I cannot envision.  It actually takes my breath away.

Throughout this terrible time my friends have worked together to make things as good as they can be.  They are strong for the family, although I am sure at times they are falling apart in private.  I feel unable to do anything to help, but send love and warm thoughts, every day, and especially today.

You see it really is true that nothing material matters at all.  In the end it will always be love, and those we care about that are the only things that we should focus on.  In the end it is people not places, houses, or possessions that count for everything.

After today, the world will carry on for this family.  School will reopen, Mum will continue to recover and gradually things will go back to as they were.  Except they will truly never be the same again.  It is my hope that they find their way back and that one day they will smile again.

Another good friend of mine lost a child some ten years ago.  She says that she never wanted to be defined by this one terrible accident.  She has, through love and time found a kind of peace.  I hope beyond hope that my friends and their family can do the same.

It is a cliche that we all should live for today, but sometimes the world reminds us just how tenuous life is, and I for one am going to hold onto that and try my best to use it wisely.

 

 

that will teach me to be content (hubby with a broken heart)

so we go off to the hospital to see how broken hearted hubby actually is.  We are fairly confident it will be something simple, something easily fixed.  We were perhaps a tad optimistic. It would seem all is not good.  It was one of those occasions when a doctor who is called a Mr explains patiently all the possibles and none of them are particularly good.

All is not lost, hubby is booked in for a raft of tests, thank goodness for the NHS, we would never be able to afford what is on offer, and once tested, scanned and screened we will all know a bit more about what is going on.  Best case is that medicine will do the job, followed by the possibility of surgery down the line, really it doesn’t matter as long as he is fixable.

Hearts are good things to go wrong.  From my experience of almost sixty years ago, there is much known, and much skill in this area.  He is in good hands.

We make our way back to this, our once special place, which is feeling a bit different these days.  I am panicking about being so far from friends and family while dealing with this latest trauma, hubby is reflective and together we are individually trying to get used to what we have heard and how it might affect our new life.

I still feel in shock, it doesn’t seem long since we were living an ordinary life, working, making a home and enjoying life without much thought.  Now less than three months later, here we are.

Obviously the only thing we need to think about is getting him well, but it all seems really difficult. I thought I had learned lessons over this time, but now I feel that there is more that the universe needs us to know.  What other reason can it be for the seemingly constant onslaught of problems, nearly all those that we have no power to change.

Today, twenty four hours on, it is feeling, at least for me, a bit more manageable.  I am thinking that if we had never had to leave our home he would not have had a medical and this would still be happening, unseen and untreated.  It is a sobering thought.  Now, at least the doctors are on it, they can investigate and treat and in time all hopefully will be well.

A silver lining perhaps, in what has been a dreadful few months.  It makes me realise that the unexpected, is just what it sounds like, and from one unexpected event the rest is following.  Tears have been shed, so many this past few weeks it is unbelievable, but now we have to dry our eyes, put on a happy face and deal with what the future holds.

Four years ago tomorrow we married.  We said for better for worse, in sickness and health, and we meant it.  So, universe, bring it on.  We will be ok in the end, and if it isn’t ok, then it isn’t the end.

 

on feeling like a holiday and remembering it isn’t

Bank holiday weekend is almost done.  Unusually the sun has shone, the sky blue and it still feels like summer.  We have been busy.  More unpacking, some sorting and we are almost there.  Just one box and a million DVD’s to find homes for and it is finished.

We have pottered pleasantly around.  Gin o’clock on the decking with neighbours yesterday put us in holiday mode, and this afternoon we are just back from a walk along one of our very favourite beaches.  Watching the waves and soaking up the sun, this is what holidays are made for.

It was a very strange feeling to realise, as we did, on the shore this afternoon, that we are not on a lovely break.  That we are actually returning home to our place, and it was quite exciting.

You see, with all the turmoil and emotion of recent weeks, I had forgotten the feeling of walking along the beach with the sun on my back.  I had forgotten how much we love pottering in our garden and how sunny it is here.  I had lost my way.  This afternoon I remembered.

So, tomorrow is Tuesday, and we are off to the hospital, where someone will tell us exactly what is in store for my lovely hubby.  We shall find out if indeed he is broken hearted, and if so how they can fix him.  It is worrying, but at the same time it is just another hurdle and we are getting good at hurdles.

Later this week will be our wedding anniversary, and it is a good time to count my blessings.  I am ever grateful to that get together in London town, almost ten years ago, for it was there we found each other.  It is true to say we have faced many storms since then, but as I type I am watching him cutting the grass in our garden in the evening sunshine, and feeling very grateful for now.  There were times in my life when I could never have imagined this sort of contentment, and yes, despite the trauma, contentment is close to how I am feeling just now.

You  see it really is true that we cannot control what happens to us, but we are in control of what we do about things. Tonight, on a Bank Holiday Monday, I think we are finally doing ok.

on there and back again

it has been a funny old weekend, at the end of a funny old week, so that is probably apt.  Having started to settle in our new home, it was the day to head back to work. Friday traffic was on my side and I soon arrived at my best friends home.  We chatted a bit and soon I was off to do my job.  All was well, it was just as it always is.

Saturday dawned, and my planned day of fun with my gorgeous Granddaughter was thwarted by the rain. It poured down.  Undaunted we found indoor games and it was delightful.  We dashed out at lunchtime and dodged the showers in the park, I love how this tiny girl is in the world.  She assumes everyone will be her friend and is open and lovely to all the children she meets.  Introducing herself with a smile, she reminds me so much of my other gorgeous girl at that age.

Later, work is done and I am heading home.  It is quite a shock, this driving in the dark lark.  It has been a long time since I have had to do it and felt quite put out.  The bright headlights heading towards me were confusing, I drove slowly and eventually made it back home.

In truth I felt a little out of sorts.  Seemed the difference between old and new was blurred and for a while I was unsettled again.  I guess I shall get used to this.

Midnight and my gorgeous girl is on the phone.  She is waiting at a Spanish airport for a dawn flight.  She is in a city that has seen trouble this week, and she is very aware of the police and the guns around. Mostly she is annoyed at the lack of plugs.  Don’t they realised she needs to feed her phone battery?  Luckily she finds a plug in the Baby Change room.  There are very few, if any, babies in the airport at 1 am so she settled in, only to be disturbed by a knock on the door.  She has made herself comfortable it seemed and it took her a while to make her exit, apologising profusely and with smiles!  She does make me laugh.

We talk for an hour, she updates me on her travels so far. We laugh a lot, my girl and I.  I miss her when she is off doing her thing, but I am so happy she can do so.  I say goodnight, and go to sleep, when I awake she is already in another country, on another adventure.

Seems to me we are all on a journey.  Some of us don’t even notice the daily movement through life, instead we busy ourselves with things that probably don’t matter at all.  I have been awakened to the notion of this travel, of moving from place to place and adjusting to each new situation.  In time I know I shall be grateful for this experience, I truly have learned so very much.  Mostly I have learned that where ever we are we are still ourselves.  It is our sense of self and how we relate to the world that comes with us.

So, no matter if we are three years old in a playground in the rain, or uprooting our world for pastures new, it is all made easier if done with an open heart and a smile, we are all moving there and back again, I am just noticing it all so much more.  All will be well, indeed it already is.

on getting on with life

so today is the end of the week, I have been here since Monday,  and have spent my days unpacking boxes, filling bags for charity shops, and settling into this corner of Wales. Luckily the weather has been kind, long days filled with sunshine have been joined by night time rain, the perfect summer weather.  The garden is looking good, yesterday I cut the grass, providing a welcome respite from those boxes.

Today I am heading back to my old home town.  Each weekend I shall continue to work as before, at least until this job is done.  Good friends are letting me stay with them and all will be well.  I am wondering how it will feel, I guess I shall shortly be finding out.

The other big appointment today is for hubby.  The health problem that almost scuppered our move is to begin to be addressed this afternoon.  Sadly, the timings and distance mean I can’t be with him this time, but hopefully as this is the start of the process he will be fine without me. I shall be anxious, and hope that whatever it is, it is fixable.

It is fair to say that the past three months have been difficult, one thing after another throughout July almost finished us off.  I am glad to say it didn’t succeed, and we are still here.  It is testament to the strength of us, my hubby and I, that we got through this together.  Whenever one of us, (mostly me) was losing the plot, the other’s calm and hopeful determination saw us through.

We still have no clue what life will bring, but then again, no one really does, do they? What we do know, and one of dozens of lessons I have learned through this, is that nothing is as bad as it appears as long as we face it together, and make it work.

on getting by with a little help from my friends

things are progressing, boxes are being packed, charity shops are benefiting as there are lots of things we don’t need. In truth I enjoy the process of decluttering and reorganising our possessions, even if it is tricky this time.

Yesterday I didn’t cry, not even once, a first I think in many days and weeks. Perhaps I am resigned to this process, I am finally accepting that we will no longer have a home here in this town.  I don’t know.

What I do know is that having friends around is helping so much.  I spent time with three people yesterday, and each, in their own way offered help and support.  Humour too.  I have learned that filling boxes is much easier with someone alongside you.  I have learned that sharing stories of past situations makes me realise that all things will pass.  I am also considering the possessions we have, and my feeling is that it is all just stuff.  Stuff that is useful, stuff that holds memories, stuff that is replaceable.  All stuff.  None of it really matters at all.

It seems to me that lessons are being learned.  Perhaps the universe is showing me to how live my life in a better way. Maybe I needed to have a word with myself, I was too complacent perhaps, taking things for granted. I am remembering the people I have supported over the years who have been without a home.  Yes, I tried my best, but I had not a clue how it actually feels, how they must have been feeling, to be vulnerable and uncertain.  In my sixty years on this earth I have never known this, so I have to reflect how fortunate I have been.  I had a settled childhood, with a lovely home, then I have brought my children to adulthood always with a secure place to live.  We have chosen our homes, with care, making sure it was right for us, and I have always been able to furnish it as we please. There has mostly always been food in the fridge and enough money (sometimes, in the overdraft) to allow us to live comfortably. All that time I had no idea what a gift this is.  Until now.  The feeling of powerlessness, the feeling of uncertainty is at times overwhelming. It is as if the world has slipped on its axis and I have my shoes on the wrong feet.  I simply have not been able to ‘get a grip’.  It has taken the support of many people, all offering to hold my hand, to steady the ship to calm waters, for once in my life I couldn’t do this on my own.

I have learned that my old Auntie was right when she said ‘a little help is better than a lot of pity’ .  A lot of help is better again.

Today there is still much to do, we are on a countdown, 96 hours left, but I know I can do this, I can get by with a little help from my friends.