A Present to Remember

I hope you enjoyed reading about my first few days in California in my previous post. On the Sunday (our third full day in the States) we picked up the hire car and left San Francisco for a motel in Napa. We didn’t go straight there though as we had an exciting stop on the way.

For Christmas our (adult) kids bought us a present to remember. While videoing the moment for our daughter to watch later, our son handed over a rolled up piece of paper; like a scroll. When we opened it out it said this: You are going Skydiving over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco! My jaw almost hit the floor. I don’t know if our kids were trying to thrill us or kill us 😅. Amazingly, since I’m pretty scared of heights (or at least looking down from a height) my reaction was actually one of excitement. I might have mentioned this when I wrote about facing this fear in Croatia last summer but I don’t even like looking over the rail on the first floor at the shopping mall so jumping/diving/falling out of a plane at 10 000 feet is just a little bit terrifying! 😱

We arrived earlier than expected at the skydiving centre and were quickly handed a four page form to fill out. It was pretty repetitive but required a lot of signatures. In effect it said ‘I understand that I might die doing this and my estate cannot sue the company for any reason’ over and over. Almost seems like they’re trying to talk themselves out of business? Obviously though, many people like us, are daft enough to go through with it despite all the warnings.

I was a little nervous walking out to the tiny plane (we were literally squashed in like sardines) but not as much as I thought I’d be. Maybe it’s one outcome of having struggled with depression for a while but death doesn’t feel like the worst outcome these days (not that I actually thought I’d die). I don’t mean that to sound morbid, I’m not suicidal and I don’t want to die but it just doesn’t feel like it would be that terrible any more if that makes any sense? Anyway, I did also pray heading up in the plane. I literally told God that my life was in his hands – which it was. Well that and attached to a guy, with the same name as my son, by a harness.

The views from the plane were stunning. The Golden Gate Bridge was visible in the distance (we weren’t actually skydiving over it) and we could see San Francisco and the coast and lots of lush green countryside. Hubby and his instructor were nearest the door while I was squished in with my instructor behind the pilot. This meant that they left the plane first. I didn’t exactly have time to think though before we were getting into position too.

They had given us brief instructions while on the ground about how to position yourself for the dive etc and one of those instructions was to keep your head back while exiting the plane. This worked out pretty well for me as I had decided that I just wouldn’t look down until I was actually falling. My reasoning was that the instructor I was harnessed to was about 6’5″ so I knew that if he decided to leave the plane I was going too, like it or not 😂. Right enough that’s pretty much how it happened. We got into position at the door with our legs dangled out of the plane (my heart was definitely in my throat just a bit at this point) and without much further ado we exited the plane and were falling at break neck speed towards the ground.

The initial free fall was an equally thrilling and nerve wracking experience. I did feel a bit panicked when I couldn’t catch my breath but I knew it wouldn’t last. There was a sudden jolt as the parachute was deployed and then calm. I could breathe again. As soon as the chute was open it was a really cool experience looking down at the earth and floating towards it and before I knew it it was all over and we were back on the ground. I have to admit that I was slightly relieved, but what an experience! Incidentally my hair looked hilarious when we landed; it was sticking up all over the place 😂.

There’s something significant happening with me to do with taking risks I think. It feels like I’ve started taking more risks like this one in life and I think it has some spiritual significance too. I started going to a study group at church just about a week ago and there was a lot of talk about taking risks in terms of growing your faith and also of not allowing fear any place in your life. When I heard that it resonated with me and I have a feeling I’ll be having to take some risks in my spiritual life too.

Once we were all safely back to the skydiving centre we purchased our videos and photos (have to have evidence since there’s a pretty good chance I won’t be doing that again 😂) and hopped back into the car to continue our journey as if jumping out of planes is something you do every day.

We drove on up to Napa where we ate at a lovely restaurant/cafe that reminded me of someone’s living room. After a decent night’s sleep we were up again for a slightly more relaxing kind of day – wine touring Napa Valley. We met a lovely couple from Vancouver on the tour and visited four different wineries. I have to say that I enjoyed pretty much all of the wines we tried – and there were quite a few. Thinking back I’m actually kind of surprised that I didn’t have a hangover after that. Maybe because it was spread out over the whole day? Anyway it was a gorgeous sunny day too and we had a fab time.

The first winery we visited (kinda forgot to take photos after this one 😝)

I guess I’ll leave it there for now and fill you in on the rest of the holiday (which was a lot quieter) in my next post. Talk soon.

I like to be in America!

I’m home! A few days ago now actually. Totally thought I’d have time to write and fill you in as I went along when we were away but the days were so packed that I didn’t get a minute. I’m still trying to decide whether to give you an overview in one post or several more detailed posts about what’s been going on over the last couple of weeks. Maybe I’ll just play it by ear?

Anyway as you know this was my first ever trip to America, in fact my first trip outside of Europe. I always enjoy going on holiday and seeing new places (especially when that’s accompanied by sunny weather) so I was expecting to like seeing the States (well one state anyway). What I wasn’t expecting was how much I LOVED it! Wow! California was beautiful. I was surprised that some of the landscape (mountains, lakes and coast) reminded me of home but with sunnier weather and bluer skies. Everything about the place was just a bit EXTRA if that makes any sense?

We arrived in San Francisco on the same day as our daughter. She’d been in Michigan for Christmas and New Year with a friend. It was SO good to see her again although as soon as we saw her it was like we hadn’t been apart. Naturally the best thing about being over there was seeing her but there were many other lovely things too.

Our first view of the city

San Francisco made a very good first impression on me. I loved the cable cars and Fisherman’s Wharf.

San Francisco cable car
Pier 39 at Fisherman’s Wharf
Sea lions on the pier

We enjoyed a trip to Alcatraz and went on to the Golden Gate Bridge.

Alcatraz
The Golden Gate Bridge

We ate in restaurants that we don’t have back home and I confess I didn’t stick to my diet 100% of the time (probably worse for everyone else than for me 😝). On our first day there we had a delicious meal at an authentic Chinese restaurant in Chinatown courtesy of one of our daughter’s friends who was able to order for us in Chinese.

Clam Chowder in a Sourdough bowl from Boudin’s Bakery

We visited the Musée Mécanique which is like a museum of arcade games that you can play with quarters. It was pretty good fun as there were some really cool old games there.

One of the old arcade games

We enjoyed exploring the city and visiting shops (stores) that we hadn’t been in before.

My first visit to Bloomingdales
A public space in the city centre

I did pretty much all of the driving which was fun/slightly terrifying for my passengers. The car we hired was really comfortable and had some nice features and I’d forgotten how much I enjoy heated car seats. I think I coped pretty well with the driving and different road rules because I only had one meltdown with the ‘backseat driver’ 😂. I was pretty much getting the hang of it when it was time to leave. I never really got why anyone would want to take a road trip across the States before but having driven there a bit now I’d be up for it. It’s not like driving here. That would be a fun trip to plan – maybe for my next big birthday? 😝

I haven’t posted much about songs or music recently but some of you know that there is often a random song going around in my head. Perhaps unsurprisingly it was this song from West Side Story that was in my thoughts during my first couple of days in the States. 😊

I’m thinking that’s probably enough info for one post. So that takes us to Day 3 of the trip. I’ll fill you in on the escapades of Day 4 soon. Let’s just say it was a pretty hair-raising day. 😱

Leaving on a jet plane

Right now I’m a little over half way through the longest flight I’ve ever been on (I’m somewhere over Canada in fact). It’s not the most comfortable experience – I’m definitely not used to sitting on my butt for this long and it’s been a bit bumpy in places. It will be worth it though. In a few hours I’ll get to see my gorgeous girl and actually give her a hug which I haven’t been able to do since she headed off to California in August. I can’t wait.

I’ve been keeping myself entertained. Got a nice wee pic of the sky this morning taken on flight number 1 to London.

I’ve got through a couple of chapters of the book I’m currently reading (Becoming by Michelle Obama). It’s a great story so far. Hopefully no one will think I’m making any sort of political statement reading her book on the way to Trump’s America! 😂 I’ve listened to a bit of an audio book (Blink by Malcolm Gladwell) and played a couple of games on the console on the back of the seat in front. I think that seat is actually broken. It looks like it’s at a bit of an angle and the man sitting there keeps shifting about to try and get comfortable. I’ve watched a couple of movies that I’d been wanting to see but not got round to yet – Wild Rose and Rocketman. Is it significant that I go for the music related themes? Anyway I loved both stories. Neither of these artists have had easy lives. I felt pretty sorry for Elton John watching Rocketman. I mean I know he’s loaded but it seems like he’s just a little boy craving love. I guess there are quite a few people with that story.

They said at one point that there was WiFi on this flight and I was thinking I could catch up on reading some blogs and stuff but it turns out the availability is limited and of course there’s an extra charge so I’ll just wait till we get to the hotel before I do that.

I was planning to sleep a bit first thing when we left and then stay awake to try to adjust my body clock and avoid jet lag. I didn’t manage to sleep much though so now I’ll just need to try to stay awake. It’s going to be a long day! 😝

The airline food has been pretty good although I didn’t request a special diet and now my stomach is a bit sore. I’ll survive of course. 😊

Well I guess I’m just rambling on a bit here and not saying anything that’s of much interest to anyone else 😂 so I should probably leave this for now. I’ll have landed before I can post it obviously. We have lots of cool plans while we’re in California (wine tour, visit to Alcatraz, skydive – yes you did read that right 😱) so I’ll fill you in when I get a chance.

If you have any ‘must see’ suggestions for our trip let me know in the comments. Talk to you soon.

Goodbye 2019!

I’ve been thinking about writing this post for a few days now and I keep putting it off. Partly that’s because I’m a little scared to look back on this year and go through some of the most painful emotions again… so I’ve decided to avoid those to an extent. It’s not that I don’t want to be real – it’s just that I need to work out when it’s helpful for me to look back and when it just makes the depression more difficult. Having said that there have also been some really good times this year and I’m grateful for those and don’t want to forget about them.

I’ve been to some cracking music gigs – Charles Esten; Country 2 Country (where my favourites were Lady Antebellum and Ingrid Andress); Cassia supported by Alfie Neale (twice); The Cactus Blossoms; Joseph and finally Emeli Sande supported by Ben Monteith. I’ve loved all of these for different reasons. I don’t have any more gigs lined up right now but there will definitely be more next year. There have been good books, meals out, trips to the cinema, mini adventures, board games and lots of quality time with great friends and family.

Some of this year’s highlights have been travelling to Belgium and Paris, Croatia and some places not so far from home like Edinburgh and Carnoustie. I had a bit of fun looking for the Oor Wullie models in Glasgow and Edinburgh in the summer – sometimes with little B and sometimes not. For those of you who have never heard of Oor Wullie; he’s a pretty well known Scottish cartoon character who’s been around since the 1930s so he’s a bit older than me 😂.

One of the Oor Wullie models in Edinburgh

I had the Best Surprise Ever!! when my son came home from Australia in the summer and a more difficult time when my daughter left for California. Can’t wait to go over there to see her in a couple of days. I finally took the plunge and left teaching – no regrets about that. I’m loving my new job even though it’s not exactly a viable business yet. I’m spending more time with some new friends and some old ones than I had been doing and that’s been really good for me. I’m still blogging! Not something I’d ever thought I’d end up doing but it’s been a useful processing tool for me and a way to express myself. I’ve also found the blogging community to be really supportive and friendly.

At the beginning of 2019 I had decided that my goal was to ‘be a blessing‘ but I’ve found this a lot harder than I anticipated. I guess it takes that bit of extra effort to go out of your way to be kind to someone or help them. One of my friends insists that I’ve probably been more successful at this than I think just by being there for people but I suppose it’s not what I had in mind. I guess I know that across the year I have managed to be a blessing to a few people and hopefully that will continue and maybe even develop in the future.

I haven’t made any resolutions as such but looking forward to next year I have thought of a few things that I’d like to do more or less of. I’d like to try to restrict the time I spend on social media and spend more time reading books. I want to spend more time living in the present and being grateful for God’s blessings in my life now. To help me with this I’ve bought this cute little diary and I’m going to try to write down some things that I’m grateful for every day. I want to find a new freedom to be myself and say what I think (I don’t want to allow myself to be silenced any more). This one will probably be the hardest for me as I’ve trained myself to keep quiet over the years. I guess it’s taken me a long time to realise that it wasn’t good for me. I want to grow more as a person and in my relationship with God. I want to grow my business too – a lot easier said than done but I’m hopeful that as I feel stronger in myself I’ll be able to do what it takes.

That’s a lot of things to work on and if I plunge straight in to trying to do all that I will probably feel overwhelmed and fail miserably so I’m going to start first with the little diary and take it from there.

What have you been grateful for in 2019?

Is there anything you want to do more or less of in the New Year?

Thank you to everyone who has stuck with me through this year; reading my posts and sending lovely comments. I really appreciate you and I hope that 2020 brings you good health, prosperity and joy.

Merry Christmas!

I’ve been a bit quiet again for the last week or so. I’ve been busy getting organised for Christmas and I’ve been tired (got my energy back now though 😊). I kept thinking about writing different things but never quite getting round to it. Or starting draft posts and not finishing them.

I love Christmas! It’s probably the big kid in me 😊. It’s definitely different now that we don’t have little ones waking us up all excited at the crack of dawn (these days I’m first awake and probably the most excited 😂) but I love it all the same.

On Sunday at church we were encouraged to reflect on the first Christmas and what it would actually have been like to be there. I can’t help but wonder what it was like from Mary’s perspective. Pregnancy (especially the first time) is a strange experience anyway. It’s kind of like having a little alien growing inside you. How weird would it be to be pregnant as a virgin? I imagine that could be pretty terrifying at times. I wonder if she had morning sickness or worse all day sickness like I had with my son?

Then to have to take a long and uncomfortable journey to a distant town just days before giving birth. No option to phone ahead or book a nice hotel online. No fancy air-conditioned car to travel in. Instead a bumpy ride on a donkey – her back must have been aching!

Arriving in Bethlehem there were no hotel rooms left and they ended up slumming it in a stable or at least a room with animals in it. Imagine the smells; the moist, warm air from the animals’ bodies and breath. No proper bed to lie on while giving birth. Just some prickly straw and an audience of animals. No midwife or doctor on hand. No pain relief or water baths. Just her husband-to-be who probably had little experience of delivering babies.

All the same it must have been an awesome experience. To carry the Saviour of the world inside of her and to look into his little face when he was born. I’m sure, like most mothers, all the pain and difficulties were forgotten and love overtook her in that moment.

One of my favourite Christmas songs is Mary did you know? I love thinking about the words written to Mary and the tune is beautiful too.

Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you

Mary did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
When you kiss your little baby, you kiss the face of God

Mary did you know? Mary did you know? Mary did you know? Mary did you know? Mary did you know? Mary did you know?The blind will see, the deaf will hear, the dead will live again
The lame will leap, the dumb will speak, the praises of the lamb

Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect lamb?
That sleeping child you’re holding is the great I am

Source: LyricFind

Mary did you know? Mary did you know? Mary did you know? Mary did you know? Mary did you know? Mary did you know? Oh Mary did you know?

Songwriters: Buddy Greene / Mark Lowry

Mary, Did You Know? lyrics © Warner Chappell Music, Inc, Universal Music Publishing Group, Capitol Christian Music Group

I will write again soon but for now I just wanted to wish you all a very Merry Christmas! I hope you’re having a blessed day. 😊

The little girl inside

There’s a little girl inside

And she’s hurting… but she doesn’t understand why

She’s always been loved and cared for

All of her basic needs were met

But she’s still broken

She still aches to be wanted, to be loved, to be enough

No matter how hard she tries to please she always comes up short

She can never be perfect or even good enough

The expectations are crushing but whose expectations are they?

Are they even real or are they all in her head?

She hates to disappoint

But she always does

Why can’t she be like her sister?

Always a good girl, tidy and neat, straight A student, hard to beat

Even now, though she’s reached middle age

The little girl is still trying to please

Still coming up short

Still hurting

Why am I not just

Good enough?

A drop in the ocean

What are your thoughts on looking after the environment? What about single use plastics and the damage they can cause? We’re all encouraged to do our bit to reduce waste and stop the damage to the ozone and so on; but some people I know are quite skeptical that we are either contributing to the problem or able to do anything about it.

I think that God wants us to be good stewards of his creation so I believe it’s important that we do our bit. Maybe it is just a drop in the ocean in the scheme of things but every little helps right? In our house (like most families in the UK) we recycle as much as possible – glass, cans, plastic bottles, paper and card, food and garden waste. We plan our meals to avoid wasting food and we take our own reusable shopping bags with us when we go to the supermarket. Recently I’ve made a couple of other changes too though.

Instead of using cotton pads to remove makeup and apply toner I’ve bought some washable pads which are made from bamboo (my daughter is always telling me that it’s good to use products made from bamboo because it’s so sustainable). They’re so soft and they come with a little net bag that you can wash them in.

While we’re on the subject of bamboo do you like the new bamboo socks my friend K bought me for my birthday? They’re super cosy and the colourful design is really cool.

I ordered some reusable/washable net grocery bags to put loose fruit and veg in at the shops. Much better than using a plastic bag for the few minutes it takes to get things home. They’re also very light so you can weigh your produce in them without hiking up the price if you want to.

The most recent thing I tried was making beeswax food wraps to use instead of cling film. We already own some of those reusable silicone food covers but they don’t fit all of our dishes and sometimes we run out of one particular size. I didn’t fancy the idea of trying to put together the ingredients for them because I’d heard that it can be tricky to get just the right amount of ‘stickiness’ so I bought a couple of ready mixed little blocks online to try it out. I’m quite pleased with my first effort and I’m planning to make some others in different sizes soon.

The last change we’ve made recently is reducing beef and dairy in our diet. This was my son’s suggestion. As you know I’m already dairy free so I didn’t have to adjust anything there. My son has cut dairy out now too though. We’ve also been trying to cut beef out as much as possible although it still creeps into a couple of recipes as Hubby much prefers it to lamb or pork.

Have you got any tips for reducing plastic waste or any eco-friendly products you’ve bought recently and loved? Please send me your ideas so I can see if there are any more changes I can make. I like to make a difference where I can. 🙂