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.


The best and worst of my job so far

I have to say that becoming self employed has been a really good move for me. I was nervous about it at first because I knew there were no guarantees that it would work out. I mean my business is not exactly thriving yet but I feel good about how it’s going.

I work with several children who are really struggling. They so need love and security and connection in their lives and it feels great to be able to give them that. One little boy told me recently that I was his safe place. That just melts my heart. I love being able to make a difference to these little ones.

It’s tough sometimes when I’m alone in the house catching up on admin stuff. I’m not great at being alone. Sometimes I can just stick my music on and I’m fine but other times I struggle emotionally when I don’t have people to distract me. My boss is pretty understanding though 😉 so that’s another positive. She totally gets the importance of self-care. 😊

It’s really cool being able to mix work up with the rest of life too. I like that I can go to an exercise class or for a swim in the morning when I don’t have work scheduled or read a chapter of a book or watch some TV in my lunch break. It’s good to be able to put a washing in the machine between emails and catch up with friends between classes. It also means I can fit in brief trips to the supermarket like the one I made yesterday to return the stickers I accidentally stole last week. (If you haven’t heard that story read my post Mini Moral Dilemas.)

Money has the potential to be a hassle. I’m not worried as such (I guess I’ve learned not to worry about money – that’s another story) but I’m not making (anything like) as much as I did in teaching. Hopefully the gap will close a bit in time. I really dislike doing all the money stuff – doing my accounts and thinking about pensions and tax stuff. I also dislike chasing people up when they say they’re interested and then don’t get back to you again or when they haven’t paid since May and it’s now October.

Last minute cancellations is kinda a negative (at least work wise) but I just turned one that came in today into a positive by arranging a wee night out with a friend to see my niece’s band play tomorrow night. It’s nice to be able to be that flexible.

On the whole I’m enjoying being self employed right now. There are probably lots of good business ideas I could employ to make the business more successful but I’m also aware that I need to look after my health and not get too stressed about it. One day at a time. It’s getting there. 😊

Busy, busy, busy!

Hey guys! Sorry it’s been so long since I posted anything. Life has been pretty hectic since our return from Croatia. It’s not that I haven’t had thousands of thoughts that I wanted to blog about – I even started writing a few that never got finished – it’s just that life has taken over or I’ve engineered it that way. It’s a tricky one ’cause I like to be busy and sociable. I get bored if I don’t have much on so I’m inclined to fill every minute in my diary. The downsides of that are that I then have no ‘me time’, no processing time and I have to be careful not to use busyness as a numbing strategy ’cause I’ve done that plenty too.

Anyway I’d better fill you in on what I’ve been up to. There were a few big events lined up just after our return. Our daughter was leaving for California ten days after we got back so I was trying to help her with last minute arrangements and packing and stuff. She’s off to Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry for 10 months. I’ll miss her a lot but I know this is an exciting opportunity for her and I think she was ready for a bit more independence again.

We also had our local community fun day 8 days after our return. I’m on the organising team for that so I was busy with everything from signing the licence to occupy the site at the council offices to clearing weeds from the car park and picking up dog poo before we could get set up. 😝 Thankfully despite a lot of red tape this year it turned out to be a successful day and the sun even shone for us after what had been a pretty damp week. I think we must have had around 500 people turn up across the day – not bad for a small village. My boy’s band played a slot in the music tent and my lovely girl gave up three hours of packing time to face paint less than 48 hours before leaving.

We had a friend of my son’s staying with us from Australia for a few days while all of that was going on. I’ve looked after little B every week for a while and caught up with a few friends too. I went down to my parents new house and prepped and painted their bathroom ceiling for them one day. I’ve had a few fun nights out like one with my teacher pals to escape rooms and then out for dinner. That was such a good laugh. We’ve had some nice meals with friends and a trip to the spa with one of my besties K which is always so relaxing.

This last week or so I’ve been working a bit on my business again too. I’ve got a few classes lined up (and some supply days at my old school) but I need some more confirmed. Getting work set up is one of the hardest things about being self employed. I do have a few people interested just now I just need them to confirm. Hopefully that will happen soon.

In amongst everything else I’ve finally finished Skelly’s Square (started it towards the end of my holiday but I’m a slow reader at times) an excellent debut novel by one of my fav bloggers Stephen Black of Fractured Faith Blog . Totally recommend this. It’s a great read and I can’t wait for book 2.

If you’re still with me thanks for reading. That was a bit of a whistle stop tour of the last couple of weeks. Hopefully I’ll share some more soon. 😊

Best Surprise Ever!!

I’ve had a busy week this week catching up with friends I haven’t seen in a while for lunch or coffee and fitting in some work and housework around that. Although it’s been busy I’ve been feeling low. My friend E called on Thursday morning to check I was still up for going for a walk with her and asked how I was. At first I gave her the standard ‘yeah okay’ and then I was more true to myself and told her I was feeling down. Anyway we arranged to catch up about 2pm after her meeting.

I eventually got myself out of bed and ready to go out and went for coffee. I hadn’t seen this particular friend for a few months so it was good to catch up. Afterwards I decided to squeeze in an appointment for an eyebrow/eyelash tint and wax so I messaged E to say I’d be home slightly later for our walk.

When I eventually walked into her kitchen that afternoon I did a double take. My mind couldn’t quite process it properly. My son S who was in Australia was sitting at her kitchen table! My jaw hit the floor and I was dumbfounded for a few minutes. I couldn’t believe he was there!

Needless to say the walk I thought I was going for didn’t happen. Instead we went home so S could get a shower and we went to visit a good friend of his in hospital. His friend had a nasty accident at work two weeks ago and ended up having to get his lower leg amputated (another reason why S was keen to get home).

Later we were able to surprise my hubby and my daughter R when they got home from work. They were both late in as R was going wakeboarding after work and hubby was going to an Escape Room with some colleagues. The reaction from R was particularly fun. She was so excited to see her brother.

We were banned from putting anything on social media until he’d seen all the friends he wanted to surprise (hence the delay in my post) although I’m pretty sure none of his friends are following this blog. 😄

So looking forward to hearing more about S’s trip and seeing all his photos. It will be interesting to see how he has matured during his time away too – I think that’s inevitable. We have a family holiday planned in a couple of weeks too. We’re off to Croatia (a first for all of us). I will definitely post some pics of that. 😊

Putting Myself out There

You know from a pretty young age I wanted to be a school teacher. I remember playing schools with my younger sister and my two little brothers. I remember organising a kids club when I was only 10/11 years old myself and planning and running it for a few years. I remember helping our lodger (a teacher) to create worksheets (I drew pictures on them for her) in the days before photocopiers when they used Banda machines and all the copies came out purple.

The last couple of years of high school were challenging for me for various reasons and I only managed to achieve the minimum requirements for uni to train as a teacher. At the time that was three Cs at Higher level, one of which had to be English. I did well at the interview for uni but because of my grades only managed to get a place on the waiting list for the course. In the end I didn’t get in.

As a result I needed to get a job or find something else to do for a year until I could try again. At my parents suggestion I went to volunteer for a year at a Christian healing centre in England. My tasks included cleaning toilets, washing dishes, peeling potatoes and singing in the worship group. While I was there I met the guy who became my husband the following year.

After our year out he went to Bible college and I went to work. We weren’t entitled to any support from the government at that time for his college fees so working for a while became my priority. After we’d been married two years my daughter was born and 19 months later my son. Obviously now teacher training was pretty far back in my mind. I did various part time jobs but primarily I was a stay at home mum.

When my son went to school at 5 years old I decided to try again to become a teacher but by now the entry requirements had changed and I no longer qualified. Never one to be beaten I decided to take a different route. I decided I’d get another degree first and then do a post-graduate certificate. I wanted to do something that would interest me since I was going to be at it for three years so I applied and was accepted to college to study BA Theology with a Children’s Ministry Specialism. In my third year when I was nearing the end of my degree and writing assignments and on placement (not to mention looking after two children) I looked into applying for teacher training again. This time I discovered that I needed to update my maths qualification as the one I had done at school was now ‘too old’ and no longer acceptable. So in addition to everything I was already doing I went to a different college to take a maths course.

After graduating from Bible college I finally went on to do my teaching qualification. It was hard work cramming in the study and placements and raising a family and looking after a home but with a lot of sweat and tears (literally) and lack of sleep I did it.

I’ve been teaching for thirteen years now. I love working with kids and I’ve made some great friends in the different schools I’ve worked in but there are lots of downsides and difficult parts of the job that I won’t go into just now because it’s not the point of this post. For the last two or three years I’ve been feeling like it was time to move on but wasn’t sure what I could or should do or what else I was qualified for.

Just over a year ago now I did some training to enable me to teach relaxation to children. Since then I’ve been running those classes part time in a couple of different schools and in the community when I’ve not been in my own school. About six weeks ago I took the scary step of resigning from my teaching post to focus on running my own business.

I had very mixed feelings last Wednesday when I went to school as a teacher for the final time. I was a bit emotional about leaving the children and my friends but also very excited about the future, about stretching myself and taking this leap. It made me wonder about my identity again. In the UK we tend to link our identities very closely with what we do rather than who we are. What will my identity be when I’m not a teacher? How will I tell people who I am? I felt nervous about leaving the security of a regular income for basically no financial security.

Going out on my own feels like a huge risk but it also feels life-giving. I’m so excited to be doing something that I love. To have more control over my working hours and my own days. I’m excited to get my logo made and my website going (hopefully soon). I hope it won’t be a complete flop. I hope it doesn’t become a chore. I hope I’ll make enough money to live on. It feels like it could go either way but I had to do it. I had to try. One of my favourite speakers/authors is Bob Goff and I really like this quote by him.

Don’t let what you’re afraid of keep you from what you were made for.

Sometimes you have to take a risk in order to move forward. So that’s where I’m at. Taking a risk and putting myself out there. I’ll let you know how it goes. 😊

Cry me a river

Just so you know straight off this post has nothing to do with any song by the same name. I guess it just seemed like an appropriate title today. It’s been one of those days (do you ever get them?) when something sets you off crying in the morning and then you basically don’t stop.

This morning it was this Facebook post that set me off. As you know my kids are in their early twenties. My son is currently in Australia and my daughter is heading off to California in a few months. Like almost every mum on the planet I’ve poured everything I could into my kids – so much love and patience and encouragement. I’ve tried to teach them and train them and prepare them for life the best I could but they don’t come with a manual do they? I’ve tried to be everything they needed me to be as a mum but I’m not perfect and I’ve made mistakes and I wonder if I’ve let them down? Do they still love me as much now that they’ve grown and they know about my imperfections?

I didn’t understand ’empty nest syndrome’ when my kids were younger. I guess I always thought it would be nice to have your freedom back again and be able to do whatever you want without having to worry about looking after little ones. When the reality starts to hit though it’s pretty different. You realise that you’re not the same person you were before you had kids. Maybe your other half isn’t the same person either. You need to figure out what you like and what you want in life all over again. The house is too quiet and your friends are busy with their own lives. You have responsibilities like jobs and bills that restrict the freedom you dreamed of having once the kids were grown. I guess for me raising my kids was always the most important job I had even though I was only a stay at home mum until they started school. So maybe it’s also about an adjustment in how I think of myself.

I’m not quite at the empty nest stage yet but it’s definitely becoming more real and looking like the reality is getting much closer. I guess I’m beginning to process it now in the hope that I’ll be properly ready for it when it actually happens. To all the other mums and dads out there who don’t see as much of your kids as you’d like and wish you’d made more of the time you had, I feel your pain (if only a little bit of it right now). Change is the only constant in life as they say. Just gotta learn to deal with it I suppose.

Life’s not fair!

Do you ever feel like screaming at God?  I do.  It’s not fair is it?  It’s not his fault that I’ve stuffed up.  Not his fault that I’ve hurt people.  I don’t know why I want to scream at him.  He’s the one that has stuck with me though everything.  When I’ve been sad he’s held me while I cried.  When I’ve been down he’s pulled me through.  When I’ve had suicidal thoughts he’s reminded me why I can’t do that.  When I’ve felt at ease he’s held my hand and reassured me that he has a good plan and a future for me.  Why do I want to lash out at the only one who loves me completely and unconditionally?  It doesn’t make sense.  I guess my feelings aren’t rational a lot of the time.  I feel like I’m fighting some sort of battle and not getting very far.  Having said all that I don’t want to focus on the negative stuff.  I guess I’m just trying to come to terms with where I’ve been and where I’m at.  Trying to accept that God wants me here for a reason and will bring something good out of my situation.

You can probably gather from the start of this post that I’ve still been struggling a bit over the last few weeks.  In spite of this I’m actually trying to be more positive and look at things from a different perspective.  I guess sometimes I remember to do that for a bit and then I almost come under attack again (I’m not really talking spiritual attack although I guess that could be involved) and it’s hard work to remember to keep my mind set on God and his will.  I will keep picking myself back up and dusting myself down and trying again though.  As exhausting as that is I am a fighter.

I’ll fill you in briefly on what I’ve been up to since I haven’t done that for a while. Obviously there’s been all the usual work and business stuff and church. I’m still seeing the counsellor and looking after baby B each week. I’ve had a few coffees and lunches and dinners out with various friends which is always fun. Apart from that there have been a couple of events that stood out.  I had a little run in with a bus one day – well the bus ran into the back of my car – it wasn’t a great day to start with so that one made me a bit emotional at the time.  I wasn’t hurt though (well not badly anyway – just a sore foot) and the car was quickly sorted out through the insurance.  My in-laws visited for a week over the school holidays.  I had a birthday as you know and one of my lovely friends took me for a night away at a spa hotel.  That was a treat and we enjoyed hanging out together and catching up.  My hubby started a new job too which is an answer to prayer.

One of the most rewarding things recently has been my business.  I started it earlier this year and I’m running relaxation classes for children – sometimes they help me to relax too.  Over the last couple of weeks I’ve had some lovely moments with the kids.  One little boy who’s about 5 years old and who told me his mummy died just climbs on my knee and wants cuddles all the time.  Another slightly older girl told her friend who was new that it was okay to hug me – it wasn’t weird 😆 (I’ve never said anything to the children about hugging me – I don’t encourage it – they just do).  One boy of about 8 kept saying stuff like ‘you’re the best person in the world’ to me when we were doing an affirmation web activity – so sweet.  Actually this next moment that stands out is pretty sad but it made me feel like I was doing something worthwhile.  The children were relaxing and I was reading a whole list of affirmations over them.  I got about half way down my list and one little boy started saying things like ‘no I’m not special, I’m not loved, I’m treated like dirt at home.’  It broke my heart to hear him say those things.  I went over to him and put my hand on his shoulder and kept reading positive affirmations over him.  I pray that what I’m doing will make a difference for these little ones.  When I’m struggling I need to remember the kids I’m working with.  Their lives are often unfair.  They have too much responsibility and stress and not enough love and attention for young children.  Thinking about them helps me to get my life in perspective.

There are people suffering and lost and lonely all over the world.  Life’s not fair!  Much of that is down to our choices as humans I guess.  But alongside that God is good and has good plans.  He is on a rescue mission – to rescue us from ourselves.  He loves us and wants what’s best for us.  He also wants us to grow into the people he wants us to be and wants to use us to rescue others.  Maybe my own struggles will help me to help others in some way?  I want to be part of his rescue plan.


Unless you become like little children…

Do you ever get weeks that just seem to fly in? It happens to me all the time. I get really busy and barely have time to stop and breathe or notice life passing by. It’s been one of those weeks. The good thing is that being busy stops you from getting caught up in your own head and overthinking things. So what has happened since I last blogged?

Well the first thing was helping with the summer holiday club in my village. It was so refreshing to be involved with little ones again. I had the group of 4 and 5 year olds who were just getting ready to start school. They were so sweet. I just love the way little ones trust. They seem to see people pretty quickly and decide who they trust and who they don’t in a very short space of time. It was lovely when they came back on the second night and were giving me hugs – as if they’d known me for years. Little kids always remind me that we should come to our Heavenly Father like that. We know he’s good and we trust him so we should run into his arms at every opportunity, whether things are going well or we’re feeling sad. He’s longing to just hold us and love us. The other great thing about holiday clubs is just getting to be a bit daft, singing and dancing and jumping about with the kids and getting away with it; although I have to admit I didn’t always feel like it last week.

I also had a couple of ‘baby dates’ with my favourite 8 month old again in the last week. He’s into everything now. So alert and active. I’m sure he’s going to be walking very soon. He’s already pulling himself up and walking round the furniture. He was doing this cute fake cough that was making me laugh and today he was blowing kisses and dancing on all fours – so cute. And lots of cuddles of course – I love baby cuddles! Our friends came over on Saturday with their three adopted children. They love lots of attention but I can see such a difference in them since they moved to their forever home just over two years ago now. So good to know that those wee lives have been transformed.

Then Sunday was my daughter’s 23rd birthday!! I can’t believe it. I’m not old enough to have a 23 year old. And I’m definitely not mature enough or wise enough! I’m so proud of the young people my kids have become. When they were little I used to sneak into their room every night before I went to bed and pray over them. I always prayed that they would grow into a young man and woman of God and He has answered that prayer. It’s an amazing blessing. There was a time (especially when my son was a teenager) when it looked unlikely that he’d keep following Jesus but somehow God has kept him and I’m so grateful for that.

Going back to work on Monday after the summer break was something I’d hoped wasn’t going to happen and I wasn’t particularly looking forward to. It turned out to be a good thing though. It gave me some sort of normality and routine back in my life which made everything seem less intense. It was good to be around some of my friends too. And of course going back to work means there are more kids in my life again which is definitely a good thing for me. I know they’re hard work, don’t get me wrong, but you can learn so much from them and they’re so real and honest. On the whole they live in the moment and take time to appreciate what’s around them. I know I found that much easier as a child. They also have great imaginations, which leads me to the next part of my week.

On Tuesday evening we decided to go and see ‘I Can Only Imagine’. Wow! What a great story. I must confess to tears streaming down my face in the cinema. There were so many things in the movie that I could relate to even though Bart’s childhood was nothing like mine. The idea of music getting you through tough times is so familiar. Music also reminds you of good times of course. I was thinking that at some point I must do a playlist of the songs that have been meaningful for me this year. There are so many. Some I’ve mentioned before. Since going to the movie I’ve been practising a few MercyMe ones: I Can Only Imagine (of course), Greater and Even If. Playing guitar and singing has definitely been a lifeline for me this year. Now I’m wishing I’d made a note of other things that stood out to me in the movie cause my mind has gone blank and I can’t remember what I was thinking of at the time. 😝

So I guess this post has really just been a snapshot of my week. Hopefully I’ll have something more inspiring to share soon. Until then I hope you’ll run into the arms of your heavenly Daddy more often and remember that he loves you unconditionally and has great plans for you.