Monday Meditation: Time to Reflect, Give Thanks & Set Intentions

C8F8B40E-AE15-4D77-BD09-C6C1F10CC09EAs many have commented, the beginning of the new year is a time when many of us take a look at who we are and how our lives are panning out. We often don’t like what we see as our weaknesses or shortcomings and we decide on some resolutions in the hope of rectifying any flaws in our current lifestyle, character or appearance, in order to set our lives back on the track we mapped out.

I’m all in favour of periodic reassessment, but I think we can be too hard on ourselves. I think resolutions can be too hard and fast, too black and white, and can be a means of setting ourselves up to fail because they don’t take account of circumstances beyond our control and don’t allow us to take babysteps or even missteps. We can’t always live up to our own high expectations, and once we miss that gym session or we are pressed to have a celebratory glass of wine, or we can’t cope with the craving for bacon, that’s it, we’ve failed, so we may as well give up and revert to our previous lifestyle.

I do, however, like to reflect and take stock. To see what worked and what didn’t. To look at relationships and my part in them. To make adjustments. But also to give thanks and acknowledge my achievements. I try to learn a new skill every year: this year I took over my mum’s affairs, something I never thought I would manage, and added rock painting to my creative interests.

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I also like to express hopes and intentions, send healing thoughts out to the universe and ask for support, not just for myself, but for all those struggling in difficult times.

For many, the planet has seemed slightly off-kilter this past year, not just politically or economically, but, for those around me, health and welfare issues have dominated our concerns. For me, I know that this year will be a significant one concerning my elderly mum and also a much younger family member coping with a terrible disease. It is difficult to watch loved ones suffer and not be able to take away the pain and the confusion, restore the memories fast disappearing, or provide enough support for those doing the hands-on caring, and in particular for the children of a sick parent.

I have friends who are caring for 3 parents in various stages of dementia as well as serious physical conditions. They themselves are suffering physically from the exertions of lifting, cleaning, cooking, driving back and forth and being called out in the middle of the night, all while working full-time jobs and looking after their own children. My heart goes out to them and I feel bad that I can’t ease their burden. I worry about them.

I have to remind myself periodically that I do what I can. I am here to listen to their worries. I check up on them regularly.  I offer advice and information when I can see where something might help. I lend equipment to ease back pain. I give treats. And that’s all we can do: do what we can. If we all do what we are able, then that is all we can ask of ourselves and everyone will benefit.

Of course, this applies to our new resolutions, our goals, as well. If we do what we can at this stage in our lives, and we do better as we move forward, then we should be proud of our efforts. As the tag line on my Home Page says: You did then what you knew how, when you know better, you do better. (Maya Angelou). There are bound to be times when Life conspires to make things extra tough and we weaken, but that’s ok, it’s human, it’s not a reason to give up. We reflect on what’s occurred, the possible reasons why, acknowledge them and begin again. No recriminations are necessary, just self-care and self-support.

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My Reboot Salad

Every Christmas and New Year, despite my confidence in my ability to stay on the healthy food wagon, I succumb. Not at Christmas, but at New Year. What happens is, we buy all sorts of foodstuffs we – and especially I – don’t normally consume, especially snacky things. We get them in for the teenagers in particular. We also try to find me some vegan equivalents of the foods they like: pizza, sausage rolls etc. I’m not tempted by the cake or biscuits or any sugary foods, it’s the savoury foods that get me every time. I don’t like eating them, but they are completely addictive for me. I can refrain from them all year round, they are not in the house. I rarely crave them. They make me feel heavy and uncomfortable, but once I have them, I have to have them again, and so it goes on until they are gone. I try to send much of what’s left over with them when they go home, but by then the damage is done. I put on weight easily, so by January, I am having trouble fitting into my jeans, I feel bloated and unhealthy. My energy levels have dropped.

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Supergreen Smoothie

It would be very easy to jump on the scales every morning and berate myself while comfort-eating the very things that have got me there. But I know this never works. I acknowledge what’s happened, that it is now an inevitable occurrence at this time of year. I sort out my cupboards, get rid of anything I don’t want to eat (some to the foodbank) and gradually steer myself back to what is normal for me. It’s not easy, I have always been a compulsive comfort-eater and I find January a particular challenge, having said goodbye to all my family for a while and facing the dark, cold days until the first signs of Spring. Changing my lifestyle has helped a great deal, and learning to be gentle on myself has also played a big part. (The Supergreen Smoothie recipe above will be in my next post).

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Election Day Special*

Starting a juice program, doing some work on past hurts, meditating and repeating affirmations, using aromatherapy oils and decluttering my home and my mind have all been beneficial to my health and wellbeing. You can read my story in the links below. Adopting an organic and vegan lifestyle, cutting down on plastic and waste also give me a sense of contributing to the welfare of the planet, of animals and those working with toxic products. I feel proud of my efforts.

We do what we can. Everyone has their line in the sand. If we all do a little bit, we will see positive change in our own lives and in those of the people that surround us. Hopefully, we will see positive change in the way we are governed and in attitudes towards this precious planet and to all its many and diverse inhabitants.

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Mango Chia Pudding**

For those of you trying to change to a more sustainable plantbased diet, looking for ways to improve health conditions or move about more, there are links below to posts that may help motivate or keep you on track.

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At this point, I’d like to acknowledge the fact that at some point over the Christmas period I reached over a thousand followers. I’m not sure how this has occurred, it’s a little overwhelming to be honest. I am very grateful that you all take the time to read and comment on my posts, and for the support you give me when I’m struggling with the stresses in my life.

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Over the next couple of weeks, I shall be taking a break for some much-needed rest and back treatment. I have scheduled some Monday Meditatios for while I am away, but won’t be able to reply to your comments for a while. Thank you all for reading them, they have proved quite popular and I hope I’ll be able to go on more rambles and explorations as soon as the weather (and my back) improves.

Thank you all! Be kind to yourself: look after you body, it’s the only home you have.

PS These links should help keep you out of mischief and on track while I’m away, I shall be asking questions when I return, so make sure to do your homework 😉

About Me: From Vesta Curry to Vegan Sushi

My Road to Raw – Going Veggie

Raw Energy

Pears But No More Parsnips: In Which I Confront My Parsnip Phobia!

Juicing: How to Begin or Do As I Say, Not As I Did!

My Top 20 Tips for Juicing – updated to 25!

*Election Day Special Fruity Beetroot Juice

**Monday Meditation: Mango Chia Pudding or Sunshine in a Jar – no blender required (plus hidden smoothie recipe)

Invisible Disabilities Week – My Story

Taking a Break to Rest My Broken Body + Tips to Cope with Chronic Pain

How I Juiced My Skin Clear: A Rash Decision?

Jumpin’, Jivin’ an’ Jiggin’ About: Your Home As Your ‘Gym’!

‘What Do You Eat If You Can’t Have Anything Naughty?’ – What Vegans Eat

Veganuary

Monday Meditation: Mindfulness and Rock Painting

Painted Christmas Card Rocks & Taking A Break

Copyright: Chris McGowan

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Monday Meditation: Making the Most of Autumn Leaves

29936192_UnknownIf it weren’t for the cold gusting winds, autumn would be my favourite season. We went for a walk in Lilleshall* again the other afternoon on a very blustery day, the wind so strong at times it almost blew us along. I didn’t take any photos because I’ve written often about Lilleshall and will be posting again soon (this picture is from a few weeks ago). The colours of the trees and the carpets of leaves were breathtaking and when the wind gusted, a shower of pale yellow silver birch leaves swirled about us, it was like walking through autumnal confetti. I just wanted to take it all in and not spend all my time framing shots with my camera. Sometimes I feel like I only have the experience secondhand through my photos afterwards rather than in the moment. This once, I wanted to take my time and drink it all up, really feel the wind in my hair, absorb the colours, take in the sounds of the trees, the ducks (all 13 of them) and the birds.

I’ve had a break from online activity recently and have not only been painting Christmas rocks, but also cards using various leaves as templates. It’s a relaxing, peaceful activity and takes no skill, just poster paint or thinned acrylic paint and a paintbrush. Children love to do leaf prints, many of the younger ones do them at school and I remember doing them with my young children.

IMG_4208One of the leaves I used is from the cherry tree I had planted for my dad and brother in our local cemetery – pictured here on a beautifully sunny autumn day a few weeks ago, I tried to catch the squirrel at the bottom of the tree but it ran off as I focused the camera.  I made cards from this leaf for upcoming family birthdays. It’s the top left in the photo below.

Here are some of my efforts:

30201488_UnknownWash and dry the leaves and flatten them between paper under a heavy object to smooth them out.

With fairly thin but not too runny paint, cover the front of the leaf, working the paint into all the veins.

Turn it over and gently position onto your paper or card, pressing down all over, especially the edges, trying not to smudge it.

Gently ease the leaf from the paper and if there are any gaps in the images, you can touch up with a thin brush.

I added some glitter glue to the holly ones when they were dried as I’m going to use them as Christmas cards. If you enlarge the picture below, you should be able to see the glitter.

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No two are ever the same, which makes them all individual and special to those who receive them.

My craft room is getting a little crowded what with all the rocks and cards, my collection of leaves and conkers, my paints and pens, but it is a quiet, calming and light space that overlooks the garden and is warmed by the sun. Virginia Woolf famously said that every woman should have ‘A room of one’s own’, I have waited years to have this space, but finally after all its many previous incarnations, I now have mine.

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PS The smoothie is Pomegranate Chia Pudding. Yum!

*Magnificent Trees, Olympic Medallists, A Czar & Some Sheep!

If you like country estates, you’ll love this!

Ducks Crossing! In Which We Take a Break from House Refurbishment

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Monday Meditation: Mindfulness and Rock Painting

A few weeks ago I wrote about finding a small painted rock by the canal with instructions to post a photo of it on Facebook and rehide it.* It made me smile when I was in a lot of pain. Since then, I’ve discovered painting and hiding rocks is quite the thing. At the end of the school summer holidays, I saw some young children leaving their out-of-school club holding small painted pebbles and looking very proud of their efforts. One little boy was so over-excited, he wanted to hide it straightaway and despite his grandma’s efforts to dissuade him, he couldn’t contain himself and just had to hide it there and then: he put it under the privet hedge of the house right next-door to the school. I loved his enthusiasm and it made me smile.

Soon after, my neighbour’s two young daughters came back from their holidays and told me about sitting on the beach painting stones. I said I’d like to have a go but couldn’t find any smooth stones as it’s all gravel around here. They brought some back from their next trip and we are going to have a joint rock painting session one rainy day in the half-term holiday.

29668112_UnknownSince then, I have really acquired the rock-painting bug! Every time my mum phones, she asks me what I’m doing and I reply, Guess! My first efforts were not much to write home about: I just tried out different media – acrylic v. poster paint, felt tips, matt or gloss varnish, glitter glue – just to see what worked and what didn’t.

I eventually learned that acrylic paint is best, poster tends to lose its intensity and can smudge if you put varnish on with a brush, but if you use a couple of coats of poster paint and a fine spray sealant, it can work well (be aware of solvent fumes and use in a well-ventilated area. I’m going to buy some paper face masks and spray outside!) Permanent markers work better than ordinary felt-tips which tend to bleed.

I soon discovered you can make it as simple or as complicated, as cheap or expensive as you like. I used 20 year old acrylic paints and varnish, 15+ years old paint brushes and a metal water pot I’ve had since I was at school! You don’t have to be an artist, there are many stones out there painted by very young children and not so young adults that have a few stripes or spots on or are sprinkled with glitter. What matters is the doing, the hiding and finding and giving people a smile. It’s a great activity to do with children, especially on rainy days or during winter months.

Painted rocks can make lovely gifts too, and even send a message: many people are painting Halloween stones at the moment but also ones with red poppies for Remembrance Day (see my poppy ones below), others like to write uplifting or humorous quotes on them. I’m thinking of giving the neighbours Christmas stones instead of cards.

The benefits of this activity are many: When I’m painting, I am totally focused. After some time, it comes as a surprise to me that I am no longer repeatedly turning over current family concerns, I haven’t looked at a screen or a clock and I am smiling. I am completely relaxed.  

I liked the goldfish above, and hid it on the girls’ front door step while they were out for the day. They have since rehidden it on a woodland walk. Remember Henry, the young boy next-door whose rabbits kept escaping?** I left my first effort on his rabbit hutch. He was so pleased to find it and then so disappointed when the next thing he found there was a bag of our homegrown tomatoes!

We have since found 2 stones and hidden 5 of mine (see below), one of which turned up on Facebook a couple of days ago. I can’t describe the joy and surprise of seeing it in a child’s hand with the message that they had rehidden it.

(This sculpture of the hares was made with a chainsaw).

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My second crop are a little more adventurous:

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I am particularly proud of the hedgehog and may have to keep him!

Any time I’m on my own, have time on my hands or feel a little overwhelmed, I hide away with my rocks and paints. I fear my supply will soon dry up and like any addict have taken to the (occasional) illicit purloining of rocks from neighbourhood driveways! I decided that couldn’t go on, it was a very slippery slope, so the other day, I traded baking apples from our tree for a few gorgeously smooth pebbles by our friend’s back door!

Here’s my latest batch:

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IMG_4101Why not have a go, leave them on benches, in parks or on woodland trails, in your or your grandchildren’s garden  – anywhere where people saunter or children play; tag them and write a message with instructions to rehide. I even left one in a bistro recently. Join or form a Facebook group so you can track them and other people can join in. Currently I belong to #shropshirerocks and #staffssmilestones . It’s a great way to make friends through a shared hobby, swapping tips and recommending brands of supplies.

It’s a wonderful way to switch off, get creative and relax. The result can also give someone a lift who is not having the best of times: the stone with the lopsided smile and mismatched blue eyes (above) went to a dear friend in hospital last week. She loved it and it made her smile. 

*Laughter Really Is The Best Medicine – Paint a Rock & Give a Smile to Someone Who Needs It!

**Ever Tried Wrangling Young Rabbits?

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Monday Meditation : Gratitude & Faith in Nature

About 15 years ago, I bought a baby tree. The label said it was an hibiscus and that it would grow 6′ wide and 10′ tall. Its job was to fill a gap between a maturing leylandii hedge along the drive and the garage at the top of the drive, so that the back garden was enclosed and private. I liked the idea of a hibiscus tree. I had read of them in novels set in an exotic context and always wondered what they were like.

I waited and waited. It crept up inch by inch but did little to inspire my confidence in its reputed inherent beauty and ability to fulfill its allotted task.

Several years went by. It grew up, but didn’t reach anywhere near its full potential. It did not grow out. It eventually began shooting tight and tiny dark burgundy buds but they resisted any enticement to open out and show themselves off.

About 5 years ago, we released this tree from its obligation. We didn’t think it would ever have the strength or intent to fill the gap. We decided to put a fence behind it. We allowed the tree its freedom. I made sure it was kept watered during dry weather, and occasionally admired the variegated leaves. There were by now lots of plants below and around it that had more colour and vibrancy.

 

Two summers went by and I noticed the tree had grown about 5″ above the fence. It had bushed out too. I didn’t let it know I had noticed, but I kept a close eye on it.

Last year, the tree had put on about another 12″ of growth above the fence and now filled the gap! It was covered in tight burgundy buds. I realised it most likely hadn’t been happy being exposed to chill winds in winter and baking sun in summer. It was much happier sheltered by the fence and was now paying back for our consideration.

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The other day, I was walking on the drive, in a great deal of pain throughout my back and legs and trying to ease it with movement. I had been struggling for several weeks and nothing was improving, or at least, if it did it was only for a brief while and then it would come screaming back, laughing at me for thinking I could get away with making a smoothie or drying my hair. I was finding it hard to keep smiling and have faith in my improved health.

It was getting chilly and I knew I should go back inside, the cold would just make things worse. As I passed the fence, I glanced up and saw the most amazing sight: it wasn’t that big or overly showy, but there it was, a single pink flower in the middle of the hibiscus tree, showing just above the fence. I stopped to take a closer look and smiled. A broad, happy but disbelieving smile. I momentarily forgot about my back and the cold. I reached inside my back pocket, but I’d left my phone inside. I slowly made my way to the house to find my camera. I was afraid that either I wouldn’t be able to make it back outside or the flower would have dropped off before I had time to capture it.

But I did on both counts.

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It is still the only open flower on the tree. It is still making me smile, even just to think about it, just knowing it’s there. I’m so glad I held faith with this tree and it with me: neither of us gave up.

I can’t wait to see what happens next summer.

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Copyright: Chris McGowan

A Visit to Dad’s Tree

I have been in reflective mood this week. This month is full of birthdays – not just my husband and daughter’s, but so many of the people I was close to who are no longer here: my brother, father, grandfather, 2 uncles, they all had birthdays this week.

img_3815Thinking of them, of their combined love of the outdoors, of wildlife, plants, walking, creativity through music, writing, upholstery, gardening, reminds me of our interconnection. I like to think of their spirit living on in me.

I am also reminded that things can change in a split second. It can be a heart attack or a devastating diagnosis. But it can also be an unexplained remission or what seemed an unbearable situation can turn around on the words or actions of a stranger.

These thoughts reawaken my own spirit, remotivating me when I am beginning to feel overwhelmed by pain or by circumstances, either personal or global. Being outdoors, filling my lungs with fresh air, listening to birdsong and the rustling of the trees, re-energises me and helps me square up to my recurrent pain and look it right in the eyes. It feeds my creative urge and I want to pick up my pen, my paintbrush, my camera.

Last weekend, I visited the tree I had planted for my dad and brother, about 11 years ago, a cherry tree. I hadn’t been there for a long time, but felt drawn there on a particularly difficult day. I could see scratches on the lower part of the trunk where the squirrels ran up and this made me smile. Dad used to like feeding the squirrels. I stood with my hands on this now sturdy trunk, closing my eyes and silently talking to my dad and brother, thanking them for helping me through difficult times and asking for them to be with me as I faced another physical setback. I drew strength from the tree, from the warmth of the sun which had broken through the clouds, brightening what had started as a gloomy day. I bade them farewell until the next time.

IMG_4058I slowly opened my eyes and prepared to step away from the tree and make my way home. As I did so, I wondered if the crocuses I had planted all those years ago still flowered in the Spring? While thinking this, I involuntarily looked down at the base of the tree and saw two white feathers beside my feet.

Today is my dad’s birthday. I shall celebrate by watching one of his favourite John Wayne films, which also happens to be a favourite of my husband: The Quiet Man, set in Ireland, and I will set aside my feminist sensibilities and laugh. A lot.

Happy Birthday, Dad.

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Copyright: Chris McGowan

Ducks Crossing! In Which We Take a Break from House Refurbishment

We had been cooped up for so long with all the work being done in the house and having the drive resurfaced: the parquet floor* took 9 days instead of 4, the drive had been delayed and went from taking 5 days to 11 days due to the rainy weather and we were also decorating the kitchen and lounge! The middle Sunday, however, turned into a fine day and I was feeling like a caged animal, so we took a short drive to one of my favourite places: Lilleshall National Sports Centre, where the  gardens and magnificent trees never cease to uplift and inspire.

Here are some photos from that afternoon’s breath of fresh air:

 

 Then, on the way out, along the long drive with its line of conifers, old farmhouse cottages and where we often see squirrels, a badger, pheasant and rabbits, here was a flock of ducks waiting to cross the road. We slowed to a stop so I could take a photo, and waited as they regarded us, assessed the situation and eventually decided it was safe to cross. Tentatively, the first one stepped out, looked at us then carried on, while the others had a little huddle to discuss whether he was wise or insane and then slowly followed his lead in a long line.

 

 Three cars were stopped either side of the road until they reached safety and proceded on to the lake a few hundred metres away. It made my day.

See also: Magnificent Trees, Olympic Medallists, A Czar & Some Sheep! for the history and more beautiful photos of Lilleshall

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If you like country estates, you’ll love this! for a different seasonal view.

*The Tour de France & A Parquet Tour de Force!

Copyright: Chris McGowan

When you are in a good mood and in pain

Having lived a life of intense pain through a series of injuries, it was refreshing to read such a positive post from Nikki on smiling through chronic pain and challenging the stereotype of misery by leading her life as positively and happily as possible, even though it often means people think she has experienced some miracle cure! I can identify with this. I remember many years ago having a visit from friends who hadn’t seen me for some time but knew of my physical difficulties. They were astounded to find me sitting at the table surrounded by course materials when they arrived, in the middle of writing an essay. I was excited to see them after all that time, I was smiley, sociable and happy despite being in appalling pain. They were very confused. It just didn’t compute. As Nikki points out, smiling and living positively is a way of coping with pain not evidence that you are cured or no longer need support. In my case, it is also a means of reassuring those around me, that they don’t need to worry or tiptoe around me. Furthermore,  I am not my disability, I have a personality and that personality chooses to be positive and greet you with a welcoming smile, despite what’s going on inside. Being in a good mood is contagious, pass it on! 😊
Please visit and comment on Nikki’s original post.

Brainless Blogger

I may be chronically ill but I am also me. And me_ Well I am not afraid to be goofy or weird.So be you!

Sometimes you are in pain and you are in a very good mood. And isn’t a contradiction. It is life with chronic pain. I have a migraine today and it isn’t a pleasant one but I am in a good mood for no particular reason. I have also rested, used ice, migraine balm and a few other things to maintain this level of pain. And I am currently writing this post listening to ABBA gently in the background, because it is in my Groovy playlist. And I am in a Groovy mood. Gently, because I am rather sound sensitive. And unfortunately head bobbing is something I cannot do. So sort of sucks that migraines are ‘difficult’ when you are in a good mood such as they limit you substantially. All the fun I could be having and certainly cannot. Not with this one.  But chilling to some good tunes will…

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Veganuary – results

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For anyone who read my post, Veganuary , or who participated by trying to go vegan for a month, I thought you might be interested in seeing this results graphic. This was their most successful sign-up yet since its inception in 2014 when a mere 3,300 signed up.

The statistics make interesting reading: the vast majority of participants were in the 18-44 age group which is encouraging, but probably not surprising. Veganism is the fastest growing social movement among young people at this time. They are also tech-savvy and more likely to have seen the campaign on social media.  However, I was most struck by the percentage of women who took part: 88%! I was expecting them to be in the majority, but not by quite such a margin.

Women have the greatest influence on the family diet and consequently their health, and in the education of their children, especially in their early, formative years, so this is also an encouraging statistic.

Another surprising but encouraging statistic is the large number of omnivores willing to try out a vegan lifestyle, I expected that the vast majority of participants would be vegetarians.

If you took part, well done! How did you get on? 

Don’t forget, all the recipes on this site are vegan (and gluten-free). If you need more information on Becoming Vegan, look under that category in the Menu. Here are some links:

Where Do I Get My Calcium On A Vegan Diet?

Where Do I Get My Protein on a Vegan Diet?

Where Do I Get Iron on a Vegan Diet?

Environmental Benefits of Adopting a Vegan/Vegetarian Diet

Where to Get Nutritional Advice for Young Vegans and Newbies

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Waiting for Inspiration to Strike – The Shower Beckons!

When I began this blog, it was to help people make healthy choices and improve their sense of wellbeing. I envisaged passing on nutritional information and writing about complementary therapies etc., but never imagined that I would be investing so much of myself and my life in this new project or that it would become so chock full of food photos and recipes!

It puts so much pressure on a person to produce something that’s worthy of a photograph and a post, you feel like you can no longer mindlessly throw together a bowl of muesli or a hummus sandwich without making it look beautiful: you feel so guilty if you don’t at least try to create some culinary art. Every evening my husband feels like he has to sit back out of shot and wait to eat until I have finished photographing the meal! (Have you seen the Instagram Husband tongue-in-cheek video about just that?)

Recently, I’ve been feeling like I’ve pretty much said all I have to say in terms of health and nutrition and that I’m just repeating myself. I’m sure you’re all getting as bored as I am of endless recipes for smoothies and raw treats, there are so many bloggers doing this who are much more creative and qualified than me.

The other day I was scheduling posts for another break for osteopathy next week and afterwards I realised I had used up all my draft posts. I had no ideas in the pipeline at all. This was at once anxiety-inducing and liberating. I even contemplated stopping blogging. Was that a sigh of relief at the back there?!

And then I commented on Brian Lageose’s very funny post 10 Things To Do While Waiting For An Inspirational Blog Idea, to which he responded with another gentle push in the direction of writing more anecdotes, more short stories.

I love writing and have always written in some form, but I have no confidence and also feel I have no original ideas. I tend to be reactive rather than creative, I respond to other people’s posts with some witty retort or family anecdote or a blast from the past, a light-hearted observation. I write fact not fiction. Even my poems are based in reality.

The posts I’ve published about my dad, my teacher, my children and so on, have gained a lot of attention and compliments and I would love to do more. My difficulty is that I can’t easily write posts that involve the younger members of the family or indeed older, still living members, it isn’t fair to them and parents don’t always want photos of their children splashed around the internet, with which I am in full agreement.

28062032_unknownSo, I did what I always do when feeling at a loss, I looked in the fridge (no.1 on Brian’s list) and found this amazing mango chia pudding; I looked in the raw chocolate cupboard (averting my eyes from the raw chocolate almonds* while also resisting a bar of Pitch Dark*) – and then I took a shower!

My inspiration always comes at the most inopportune moments, generally when I’m just dropping off to sleep, when I’m in the bathroom (!) and most often when I’m taking a shower! This last is the most frustrating because not only is there no access to pen and paper, let alone iPad, but I have to finish washing, conditioning, drying, dressing and styling before I can jot anything down, and of course I also have to dodge my husband’s frequent attempts at memory scrambling when he inevitably asks me where his phone/keys/wallet/spanner/glasses are (you would understand my lack of inspirational/inspired posts if you realised how often in a day this occurs, it really is nothing short of a miracle that I post anything at all – just now I had to break off to help him decide whether to paint the new wooden drain cover first or the new wooden garden edging! Honestly). Before I can get my fingers to a keyboard, the ideas are tumbling over themselves, the proof-reading has already begun and I want to shut myself in a darkened room to reassemble my brain cells.

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(I was going to caption this ‘Man with a Plan’ – he was making a drain cover – but my wit of a son came up with ‘Man with a Plank’ when I put it on Instagram!) 

The result of his afternoon’s work (just don’t tell him it’s not straight!)

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Today, while cleansing body and mind, it came to me. That elusive next anecdotal post. So now the pressure’s on to get it done and dusted before I take my leave for rest and recreation next week. I won’t give it a big build-up in case it’s rubbish, I’ll just slip it in between the recipes and hope it passes muster. Don’t be afraid to comment, I’ll already be lying down, I can take it, just be gentle, my back hurts.

(I’m going back to finish the Mango Chia Pudding now).

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Links to the posts mentioned earlier:

You Were So Much More Than Your Job: A Tribute to My Dad For Father’s Day

My Dad Walked Straight and Tall Like A Soldier

Hand in Hand: A Poem for Father’s Day

Inspiring Women: An Expression of Gratitude

Mother’s Day: A Tribute to My Children

Ode To Our Piano, a Faithful and Long-Suffering Friend

*The Raw Chocolate Company

Copyright: Chris McGowan

The Sunshine Blogger Award: Who, Me? My Response…

img_6613Many months ago, I was paying another visit to Adam at Weird Weekends, happily reading his latest weird post (he makes me laugh so much); I was minding my own business, when my eyes nearly popped out of my head: he only went and nominated me for The Sunshine Blogger Award! I’m not sure what the criteria are for being nominated, but I hope that I spread a little nourishing warmth with my vegan, gluten-free recipes and bring a little joy with my anecdotes. There’s nothing like a bit of sunshine to perk you up, give you strength (all that vitamin D) and bring a smile to your face.

It’s taken me so long, however, to respond to Adam that now I have received another nomination from Meena at Tingle-UR-Tastebuds and I hope she doesn’t mind that I am responding to both in one post – these award speeches really do take a lot of working on!

Thank you to both Adam and Meena, I am very happy you like my blog and that my posts don’t just disappear into the ether unread and unheeded. Please go visit their blogs, Adam makes everything he can turn his hand to: cheese, wine, hair-crafts, water-colours, and writes in a drily amusing style while Meena has a passion for cooking Indian recipes influenced by her mum and mother-in-law’s cooking and all the places she’s lived.

As in most things, you’re not just handed something on a plate when given a blogger award (see how I’m trying to make this relevant to my theme?), you have to sing for your supper, or in this case answer a few questions about yourself put forward by the nominee. I am sure Adam thought long and hard about these and I am already squirming in my seat at the prospect of people reading my responses. I would make a terrible celebrity, how do they cope with all those interviews asking increasingly intimate and often inane questions?

Here goes (my answers may or may not be the truth, the whole truth or completely made up!):

When was the first time you fell in love and was it “true” love?

Well, I won’t say what age I was because it might give a clue as to who his girlfriend was at the time, and I don’t want him or her to be embarrassed – you know what the tabloids are like – but, it was Paul McCartney. And of course it was true love!

What are you truly passionate about? 

Education. In all its senses.

What is one of your “guilty” pleasures?

I’m not sure I should own up to this, but once in about every 6 months or so, I just have to have a packet of crisps! Just a small one. I eat each crisp individually, slowly and savour the salty crispness. Nothing fancy. None of these weird flavour combinations. Just plain and salty.  I can’t ever take a handful and gobble them down. I enjoy each and every one. And then I get indigestion and don’t want any more for another 6 months until I have forgotten how they make me feel!

What is the thing that “bugs” or “bothers” you the most?

Everything! You’ll think twice about asking this question again! Injustice. Inequality. Poverty. Bullying.

1. People having the wool pulled over their eyes. Government bulldozing a policy through that no-one wants (eg fracking) regardless of the potential consequences and growing evidence of environmental damage and human sickness from those who already have it literally in their back yards. Phew! Glad I got that one off my chest.

2. Those cellophane ring seals on pots of humous that I can never break.

3. Drips of tea on the kitchen counter.

4. People letting their dogs bark outside endlessly first thing in the morning and last thing at night. Do they have a gene that allows them to desensitise to relentless barking and yapping?

I’ll stop now…

5. Oh, and for once and for all I have not had an industrial accident, nor a car accident nor PPI nor do I need loft insulation, cavity wall insulation, double glazing or a new driveway – oh, right, actually I do need a new driveway but not from someone knocking on my door with a spare few tons of tarmac round the corner!

Can I have a cup of tea now? I’m quite exhausted. See, you feel all flattered and fluttery when you see your name up in lights on someone else’s blog, but there are always consequences … I’ll have green please. Tea that is. With jasmine. Thank you. Oh, and I like it so it nearly takes the enamel off my teeth. (I was brought up in t’north, tha knows).

What was your most embarrassing moment?

Oh my goodness. Do I really have to answer this one? I can’t. I still shudder. So instead, I’ll tell you number two most embarrassing moment: out with friends in a local pub, mostly guys I’d grown up with and a couple of their girlfriends I think, whom I didn’t know well, get up to leave as a group, chatting away, I’m leading, talking to whoever was behind me, I stretch out my arm without looking to push open the door. And walk straight into the gents. All the guys I was with knew what was happening and didn’t say a word. They all thought it was hilarious. The gents door was right next to the exit door. I’m extremely short-sighted. Mortified.

Who do you admire? Why?

Anyone struggling against the odds. Anyone in public service. Anyone who can cut through it all and make sense without appealing to the lowest common denominator. Anyone who can make me laugh!

What one thing do you want to change?

I’d like to wake up one morning and find this whole US election/Brexit/Putin debacle was really a nightmare and that everyone had gone back to their kind, considerate and compassionate selves.

What is the strangest dream you have ever had?

I have weird dreams all the time, always very involved and vivid and involving either me packing but never being able to fit all my books in, lions in the house (!) or not being able to find my room on campus or classroom in school.

What is your favorite season and why?

Haha this changes with the seasons! If you ask me when it’s stifling hot (not that I remember the last time), I’d probably say Autumn because I love all the colours, the log fire and fairy lights; if you ask me in Autumn when I’m shivering because I refuse to have the heating on, I’d probably say Spring because I love seeing the bulbs coming up and and hearing the birds sing.

What is your most unique quality or trait?

I am terrible at making decisions and usually end up buying two of something because I can’t decide on a colour etc.

My nominees: these are people who either have great recipes, make me laugh or inspire me with their well-crafted original writing, sometimes all at the same time. I tried to choose people who didn’t already have a cabinet full of award nominations.

 Masala Vegan

Unmeasured Journeys

My Husband and I

Miss Sissinghurst

oh its only steven

Long Player Kitchen

Ask a Teenage Aspie

Our Green Nation

Paris Here and There

Questions:

What would you say to your 11 year old self?

What’s your favourite meal of the day?

Who would you like to play you in a film about your life?

What’s lurking under your bed?

What motivates you?

Who or what tries your patience?

What’s your favourite smoothie?

What’t your favourite poem?

Tell us a joke!

Copyright: Chris McGowan