Monday, February 27, 2006

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Five Food Challenges

"I have dieted continuously for the last two decades and lost a total of seven hundred and fifty-eight pounds. By all calculations, I should be hanging from a charm bracelet." - Erma Bombeck

Sprink tagged me to come up with five food challenges for 2006. (Hers are really great!!) Let me tell you now that every day has been a food challenge for me in the past little while. I have never liked food very much. I enjoy eating it, but as an entity in my life it has been an unwelcome presence. Food is something that I have trouble enjoying because it is something that I feel needs to be controlled. I have recently realized that I have some food allergies, which has helped in many ways, and in many ways made it worse (MORE guilt!) So I held off writing this post because it was too close to home. But here goes - my Five Food Challenges for 2006!

1. I want to be able to cook dinner for Mark and I and have it all be ready - and hot - at once! (The first time I cooked breakfast for us both I was reduced to tears. His plate was lovely, mine looked like I had stood back and thrown the food at it! I'm getting better, but it's still a challenge.)

2. I want to try to cook at least three of the recipes I have clipped out of magazines. (I KNOW! I don't like cooking but I cut recipes out like crazy - what is that all about?!)

3. I'm going to try seafood whenever Mark gets it in the vain hope that I might like it someday. (He loves it. Me? Not so much. Why do they have to leave it looking like it was when it was alive? Heads? Tails? EYEBALLS?! How can they expect me to be able to eat that?!)

4. Eat when I am hungry. Stop when I am full. (Yes, that IS a challenge.)

5. I am challenging myself to RELAX about food. I want to enjoy it when I am eating it and not worry about whether or not I should or shouldn't be eating it. I want to really, passionately and AWARELY enjoy what I am eating. I want to be thankful for it and not worry about the fat or calorie content.

I just really really want to ENJOY food again.

... so I would like to invite Claudia, Jamie and Laini to divulge - there are others I would like to answer these as well but I expect you will be tagged in due course!

Saturday, February 25, 2006

pretty hedges, scary roads!

This is one of the roads that leads to our house. Yes, you read that right. It's not our driveway, it's actually a ROAD. There are three ways that you can get to our village and two of them are single track roads. The traffic is two way so there are places dug into the hedges where you can pull in so that two cars can get by each other. The system works really well in the off season. Everyone knows where the passing places are, everyone knows how to reverse, and no one is very bothered about the sides of their car getting scratched.

In summertime it's another story. In the summer the population of this area multiplies massively. People drive down in brand new SUV's that they seem to have never reversed before coming to Devon. They won't get over to let people pass for fear of scratching their paint and they panic when meeting another car. It takes twice as long to get anywhere in the warmer months because you spend as much time going backwards as you do going forwards. In fact, there have been a few times I have been in the car when Mark or his Dad have gotten out and directed traffic to break up a traffic jam. People also drive really quickly - absudly quickly - and most cornering also involves a hitting of the breaks. Around here driving is an extreme sport.

I have a love-hate relationship with the hedges. They are there to keep the soil from eroding (I'm told,) they are a property boundary, they create some traffic noise control, and they provide homes for a large amount of wildlife, birds, flowers, and strange plants. Sometimes when we are pulled over waiting for another car to pass us, I can find myself inches away from a rainbow of tiny blooms peeking out of the leaves. They aren't like North American hedges. They are so old and so well established that they are a solid wall of earth and organics. In a car-hedge collision, the hedge will always win.

Secretly I don't like them very much. The part of me that loves the rolling hills and tiny villages and sea views of Devon cries out in protest as we drive by catching only glimpses through gaps in the hedge. You can drive for quite a long time along the roads with only quick flashes of countryside. It's always exciting to turn a corner because you never know what you will find. Often you find a pub. Most roads here lead to a pub!

It's funny how posts can change mid-go! I was going to answer the Friday Question today but I think as I went on I enjoyed introducing you a little more to my corner of England. While there are hedges in other places in the UK, I think that these in Devon are pretty unique. Even people who have traveled throughout the country arrive at our house surprised and a little shaken by their trip down. All I know about driving in Devon is that one of my biggest challenges has been getting up enough courage to begin to drive again. My Canadian license is good here but only for an automatic car. We have a standard car. So I have to learn to drive on the other side of the car, on the other side of the road, how to drive standard AND in a really scary place. I've taken tentative steps a few times but it just SCARES THE HELL OUT OF ME. It's the thing I am the most embarrassed about, the thing that bothers me the most, and the thing I am having the most trouble facing. *sigh*

So that's one of my challenges. By this time next year I want to be driving myself places. You heard it here first.

Friday, February 24, 2006

one month in!

One month ago today I started blogging! So Happy Anniversay to Me and to Us! I am not ashamed to admit that there has been a huge change in me this past month. I now have a new addiction, new friends, the need to write every single day, and a new lease on my writing life. I am rejuvenated! I have sat down to write again, I have added TWO new projects to my 'To-Do' list and I have finished a rough outline for something I have been struggling to get out for years.

The exciting thing is I am just gettting started!


I have more blogging to do and more people to meet and friendships to deepen and widen. Most of all though, I have words to find and pieces to write. That is how I am feeling today. I'm feeling like I have just been skimming the surface - like I am ready to begin to write, to begin to listen to the whispers that have been trying to get my attention for so long. I feel like I can't sit still - I need to go and begin to scribble! So Happy Anniversary! I raise my glass to you, but I just can't stay. It's all your fault, and I love you for it. xo

Thursday, February 23, 2006

gotta do it.

"Each of us has that right, that possibility, to invent ourselves daily. If a person does not invent herself, she will be invented. So, to be bodacious enough to invent ourselves is wise." - Maya Angelou

This is kind of a strange picture but Blue Dog asked what people were writing in and this particular journal is too big for my scanner!! My brother gave it to me a long time ago. When he gave it to me I was only part way through a different one so I put it on my shelf until I was ready for it.

I'm funny about blank journals. I love them. I salivate over them. I buy them just because of how pretty and luscious they are. But I am frightened to write in them. It's an old phobia dating back from the time in my life when I didn't want to waste a beautiful book with whatever I was going to write in it. Once I wrote something down the journal's fate was decided. I don't feel like that anymore. I'm not scared of what I am going to write anymore, but I still hold the empty books like precious treasures, just waiting for the right moment.

From the time I was 12 I kept a journal on loose leaf paper in a duo-tang. A duo-tang (what does that mean anyway?!) was as UNpermanent as it was possible to be. Suddenly at 18 I was finished with that journal. I went out and bought an empty black sketchbook and began to fill it instead. I like that they are completely blank. I can write whatever size I need to, and I can draw and scribble and stick things in if the mood strikes. When I begin a new journal I do things to the covers first so that I know that there is creativity inside. A truly completely blank slate frightens me off as well.

When I was home several trips ago I realized that I needed to begin a new journal. My old one wasn't finished but it was bulging at the seams, and a whole new chapter of my life was really getting under way. Enough was enough. So I got my waiting journal off of my shelf and opened it up, ready to marvel at all of the possibility that was there. Inside I found something that I had forgotten about. When David gave me the journal I had stuck something on the inside cover before putting it away. When I had found these words in a magazine it had made me tingle but I think it must have frightened me too. For some reason I didn't put it into the journal or the illustrated journal that I was working on. I glued it instead onto the inside cover of my new book - hiding it's message and its power for another day.

Now when I look at it, I smile. It's not eloquent or deep and meaningful. (Most of my journals are filled with quotes and clippings that are meaningful!) It's not artistic or creative in any way. But that's not what I really need. I have had enough gentle nudges in the direction of my dreams. I know the path I am supposed to be following. Nope, this little message is something that I think I need more than that gentle nudge. I like to look at it as a kick in the ass from the nervous girl who knew that in the future she wanted to be taking leaps, sitting down and writing, and living an unusual life. She knew what I would need. She was telling me that it's not about the wanting to do something. It's about the doing something. It's hard, but it's the way it has to be. I just have to get on with it.
Dear Younger Me, I got your message and I get it. Thank you! xo

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

hello, it's nice to meet you!

Inspired right back by Claudia and some other conversations that I have been having with fellow bloggers I have decided to take this introduction thing a lot more seriously. When I began this blogging journey I was excited by the slight anonymity. As someone who has often been wrapped up with body issues it was nice to not have a body - just a voice. I didn't want to give away too much at first. I agonized about what to put in my profile. What did people need to know? What would they WANT to know?

I've enjoyed the beginnings of this trip but I have also loved the emails that I have shared with people. I've enjoyed getting to know people's children, people's jobs, and how they feel, what they think and what they are doing. I've loved getting to know new friends through their words alone.

Knowing that I am a Canadian and that I live in the UK isn't enough about who I am, so I'll tell you a bit more. I am a 31 year old ex-teacher. I took one year off after university to travel a bit and after two stints waitressing, a few years and several trips back and forth I ended up living in London teaching high school. A crazy year and lots of decisions later I was living in a coastal village with the love of my life and not teaching anymore. It was a big year!!

I took the test that Alexandra suggested and found out that I was an ENFJ. That translates as a 'Teacher-Intuitive.' The description appeals to me: "Idealist types search for their unique identity, hunger for deep and meaningful relationships, wish for a little romance each day, trust their intuitive feelings implicitly, aspire for profundity. This is the "Identity Seeking Personality" -- credulous about the future, mystical about the past, and their preferred time and place are the future and the pathway." I love this!

I am afraid of the dark and of mushrooms and I don't like to eat seafood. I have a ridiculously sweet tooth, am addicted to blogging, and am an uptight traveller. My full first name is Meghan. I love walking outside and writing. I am very easily hurt and can be an extreme worrier. My secret dream job would have been to work in Jim Henson's Creature Shop. (Ha ha ha! This is sounding frighteningly like a personals ad. )

There is another glimpse into who I am. I promise I will not make any more lists for awhile. The picture above is the one that I was going to put on here - but in a last minute bit of bravery I have attached this one. This is me. Hello! It is very nice to meet you.

other books I've loved

"... and we dance to a whispered voice, overheard by the soul, undertook by the heart." - BE by Neil Diamond, from Johnathon Livingston Seagull

I haven't got very much time today but I wanted to put part 'B' of yesterday's post up. I sat and thought for ages about the adult books I have loved. I KNOW that I have missed some. Without looking at my shelves I know there is one nestled there that I have missed. But that is the beauty of a favorite book list and of Blogger - both can be edited!! So I'll add books as I remember them.

I hope that you will share your own list of books with me. I am ALWAYS looking for new friends. This is my working list and it's in no order at all! Have a wonderful day!

1. A Creative Companion, Living Juicy, Inspiration Sandwich, Succulent Wild Woman, and Eat Mangoes Naked by SARK
2. Endangered Pleasures by Barbara Holland
3. Bliss and Other Stories by Katherine Mansfield
4. Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes
5. Chocolat by Joanne Harris (EAT THIS BOOK!) (I also loved Blackberry Wine and Coastliners and Five Quarters of an Orange - LOVED!)
6. A Woman's Worth by Marianne Williamson
7. Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom by Christiane Northrop
8. Circle of Stones by Judith Duerk
9. Nine Modern Day Muses (and a bodyguard) by Jill Badonsky
10. Bird by Bird, Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
11. Romancing the Ordinary by Sarah Ban Breathnach
12. Who Moved my Cheese? by Dr. Spencer Johnson (very short & very simple but embarrassingly enlightening.)
13. The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
14. Spilling Open by Sabrina Ward Harrison
15. The Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro
16. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (a rough start but you're addicted by the end!)
17. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
18. Bridget Jones' Diary (It was really different when it came out!)
19. Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank
20. Enduring Dreams by John Moss
21. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
22. A Gathering Light by Jennifer Donnolly (called A Northern Light in North America)
23. A Natural History of the Senses by Diane Ackerman
24. Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke

to be continued....

Monday, February 20, 2006

a book worm

I have to admit that I didn't walk to get this picture! We can only see this particular view from the top of a hill and in a gap between the hedges. We always stop here when we are on our way out. Every day the view is different. On the island in the middle of the picture is a hotel. Agatha Christie's book 'And Then There Were None' (or '10 Little Indians' in the pre-PC days) was inspired by this island.

The reason I pointed out the island is because I have been inspired by Cate's post about books. This is probably a tag or something but I still started thinking about the books that I have loved and I wanted to make my own list. I wanted to remember some of my old friends. I have a lot of them all cuddled together on a shelf in my room in my parent's house. Over the years I have gotten rid of some of my old things but there are still piles and piles and piles and stacks of books taking up room that my poor parents could probably use. I've mentioned before how much I love books and how much I believe they wait for us, but I think some books take on a life of their own in our lives as well. There are some books that you can read again and again and still feel like you belong to them instead of the other way around.

There have been many times that I have gone into someone's house and wondered where all of the books were. I can't IMAGINE not having books around me. I think I dated one ex-boyfriend for longer than I would have normally because of his mother's library. She had shelves and shelves of books on woman's issues and creativity. I wasn't sure about him, but I knew I loved her!

A major turning point for me came one day when I was brave enough to go into my first women's bookstore. It was all purple and lovely and it had an intoxicating scent. It smelled like new books mixed with incense and candles and something I could never quite put my finger on. I was nervous and shy about being in there so I kind of lurked around a bit. But they had SARK cards in the window. I had seen her 'How to be an Artist' poster on a friend's wall and I knew I needed to see what else she had. I walked out of that bookstore with Sark's 'Living Juicy' that day and my life was forever altered. Writers could write books like that??!??!

So this is my list of books that I have and still do belong to. They have held me in their arms, cast their spells on me, and altered me forever. I will always be grateful.

Favorite Children's Books:

1. One Fish, Two Fish by Dr. Seuss.
2. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
3. Dragon on Parade by Mary Alice Downie
4. The Olden Days Coat by Margaret Lawrence
5. The Way Christmas Came (I don't know who wrote it - oops!)

Slightly older children's books:

1. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
2. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
3. Emily of New Moon by L.M. Montgomery (I always loved Anne, but it was Emily that I really felt like I wanted to read again and again. There's more darkness and magic in the Emily books. I have read and reread all three several times.)
4. Shadow in Hawthorne Bay by Janet Lunn (I talk about it here. I wrote to her when I wrote this post and she was kind enough to write back! Now THAT was cool.)
5. The 'Little House' books by Laura Ingalls Wilder
6. The Hobbit by J.R.R.Tolkein (it was read to me but I've read it many times since.)
7. Are you there God, it's Me Margaret & anything else by Judy Blume
8. There's a Bat in Bunk Five & other books by Paula Danziger
9. The Tom Austin mysteries by Eric Wilson
10. Ramona Quimby, Age 8 and anything else by Beverly Cleary
11. The Ordinary Princess by M.M. Kaye
12. Tom's Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce
13. This Can't be Happening at MacDonald Hall & No Coins Please by Gordon Korman
14. The Other Elizabeth (but I can't remember who wrote it.)

Children's Books I love NOW!

1. Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
2. The Twits by Roald Dahl
3. Winnie the Pooh by A.A.Milne
4. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
5. The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch
6. Oh the Places You'll Go! by Dr. Seuss

I can't list my Grown-Up favorites because this post is already too long. I loved doing this - I'd love to know what your favorites were. I wish you a few moments of your own wrapped up in memories of old friends.

"You are the same today as you will be five years from now except for two things... the people you meet and the books you read." - Charles E. Jones

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Who am I?

This is my favorite picture of my Grandparents! I love it because it captures who they were and what they loved more than anything.

Blogger wasn't playing last night so I spent a ridiculous hour watching Supernanny and doing personality quizzes on line. I remember in my early 20s I loved that kind of thing. I loved doing personality tests and quizzes. I was desperate for one of them to tell me who I was supposed to be, where I fit in and whether or not who I was was okay.

We all cringe knowing that we are getting older. We know that with each passing year we move closer to being wrinkled and saggy and... well... old. As a society we put such emphasis on the value of being young. But despite all of the scary stuff about aging, I realize now that I am glad I left all of that confusion and angst behind. I still don't know it all. I still have issues that I have to deal with, but I know now that I can deal with those things. I know what I want to do with my life and what I am willing to accept on the way. I guess I know now who I am supposed to be even though that road is still bumpy!

But last night I found out some crucial things about myself that I think have really clarified things for me (har har) and that will help people get to know me better in this online faceless world. So according to the tests, this is who I am:

Celebrity Twin: Drew Barrymore
Star Wars Character: Obi Wan Kenobi
Theme Song: Walking on Sunshine
Bond Film Alter Ego: Solitare (apparently she's a voodoo high priestess?!?)
Chinese Horoscope: Wood Tiger
Star Sign: Scorpio
Desperate Housewife: Lynette (I'm glad - she's my favorite!!)
Ink Blot test: My unconscious mind is driven by love (awww... sweet eh?!)
Royal Most Like: Prince William
Breed of Dog: Collie (I don't know why I am uncomfortable with this one...)
I.Q. Test: I'm an 'Insightful Linguist' (I think that is the coolest!!)
Lucky Number: 4
Aura Colour: Crystal
Trouble-Maker: Risk Taking Rebel (um... okay...)
Inner Rock Star: Britney Spears (uck! Ack! Blech! NEVER. I OBJECT to this ruling!!)
Guardian Animal: Miss Piggy (ha ha ha ha ha ha ha, I LOVE this!!)

Ridiculous, fun, and slightly enlightening! So do you know me better now? I guess that's me as I travel along my bumpy road.

So who are you?

Have a wonderful, silly weekend!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

fancy a cuppa? (that's English for cup of tea!!)

(Sorry if this reads a bit like a history lesson at first!)

If you look really closely at this picture you will see that it is not an ordinary wall. This is a picture of the upper gallery in a place called A La Ronde here in the UK. A La Ronde was built in 1796 as a home by two sisters, Jane and Mary Parminter.

When their father died, the two sisters left rural Devon for a 'Grand Tour.' A Grand Tour took travellers all over Europe and to further-flung, more exotic places like Greece, Egypt and the rest of Africa. In the 18th century it was pretty normal for wealthy young men to do this, but almost unheard of for women to do it on their own. Jane and Mary were gone for ten years. While they were away they bought many trunkloads of souvenirs, finally shipping and bringing their treasures home to England. When they got back they decided to build themselves a home. Let's remember here that this was the late 1700s. What they built was not a normal English manor home. Instead they built a '16 sided' house!

Mary and Jane decorated their house with all of their souvenirs. In one room they used feathers to create a beautiful border, in another, cupboards bulge with strange and wonderful treasures. And what's special about the walls in the picture? They have been completely decorated with shells. Except the ceiling and the floor, there isn't a single centimeter that isn't covered by a shell of some sort. It sparkles, it enchants, and it completely inspires.

So what does this have to do with anything? While walking through this incredible place, I spent the entire time asking the room stewards questions about the sisters. I wanted to know where they had been, what they had seen, who else had been with them. I felt drawn to them through time - these creative, feisty and unusual women. I wanted to sit down and have a cup of tea with them. I felt such a connection.

There have been times in my life that I have been blessed with a close group of women. When I was younger I worked at a summer camp. There I met some of the most sassy and fantastic girls. I still know some of these women as close, close friends. I have friends who I've lived with, friends who I have been pioneers with, and friends that I have grown up with. But lately, living where I do and making the choices that I have has isolated me from kindred spirits.

During the last few weeks I have felt that connection again. From my first blog entry I have been met and challenged and supported and enchanted by some incredible women. Every morning I get up and turn on my computer, excited to get to know them better. Every day someone says something that makes me smile, and someone else makes me think. Every day someone leaves a comment for me that makes my heart jump in gratitude. Every day I want to call at least one of them up to come over for a cup of tea. I am excited to get to know them better. I have found kindred spirits again, and it feels amazing.

Thank you everyone. It is a real privilege to know you.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

another dragon!?!

"...remember: we're always just a breath away from something brand-new." - SARK

I seem to have a bit of a dragon theme going in the last week! This is not intentional, I assure you! But yesterday I read Jamie's post and began really thinking about creativity and about having all of the supplies to try out all of the things I would secretly like to do! The more I read people's blogs and think about creativity, the more I have been inspired to do more, write more, draw more. It's such an exciting place to be!

When I was little I was pretty good at writing but never as good at drawing as other people. It's really too bad that kids get pigeon-holed in this way. When you show a talent for something, your work gets put up on the blackboard for all to see. That is great for the kid whose work it is but it is not so great for the other kids. The ones who did something slightly different than what was expected, or who weren't able to make it LOOK like what it was supposed to look like don't usually get up on the board. So I didn't really think I COULD draw or make art. So I didn't. Well, I thought I didn't. For years I sent colourful letters to people, doodled, and made jewellery - but I didn't ever draw or paint so I never thought about it as 'art.'

A couple of years ago my friend Cindy gave me the greatest job in the world. She hired me to be in charge of the arts program at a summer camp and outdoor education centre. The very VERY best part about that summer was that a brand new building had just been built to house Arts and Crafts. It was a lovely building with lots of windows and cupboards and shelves and as long as I didn't do anything permanent to the walls I could decorate it however I wanted. The campers and staff were used to the old building which was covered in paint where people had written their names all over the walls. We weren't allowed to do that in the new building.

So I had a blank canvas, and I had to show the people who loved the old building that the new building could be as inspiring and creative as the old one. It was so liberating for me! I wrote and decorated quotes to put on the walls, I painted a massive sun to go on the ceiling, and children's art went up everywhere. I made a spiderweb out of yarn in one corner. Thinking it was getting a bit girlie I painted the dragon in the picture above. He took up one whole side of the ceiling, his tail wrapping around one of the lights.

That whole summer (and the next!) became a liberation for me. Because I was the person in charge, people just expected that I knew what I was doing. I became the go-to girl for anything that needed artwork or colour or decoration of any kind. Like a queen in her castle I was in charge of a building FULL of craft supplies. I had paint and glitter and clay and glue and paper and all kinds of crazy things that had been collected over the years. (I have to admit I was a bit controlling about it all too - I mean, would YOU give that stuff away easily?!) It was absolutely amazing.

The other day when I was feeling especially stuck I found this picture of the dragon and I added him to the bulletin board in front of my desk. Now, whenever I look at someone's blog or someone's art and feel like I can't possibly be as creative as they are, I look at him and I think about that summer and I smile. I can do it. Creativity isn't something that only the people who are "good" should be embracing. I know that sometimes in art AND in writing if you just pretend you know what you're doing, you can end up with magic.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Happy Valentine's Day

Today I spent some of the day going through old magazines so we could clear them out. I have made a promise to myself that I am not going to buy any more magazines for awhile. Every one is the same. They all promise a perfect life if I could just buy, eat, do, or wear the right things. Bah. Phhht. Enough of that rubbish.

The problem with not buying magazines is that I do enjoy cutting them up! I learned about 'Illustrated Discovery Journals' several years ago from the book Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach. She says that we can learn a lot about ourselves by going through magazines and cutting out anything that appeals to us in some way, and putting it all together in a collage. I have a whole book full of these collages. I do use it like a journal, and do you know what? She was right - you DO learn things about yourself.

The journal that I kept when I lived back in Canada seemed fairly innocent at the time. Now I look at it and it is amazing how many references to and pictures of England there are! There are some things that don't surprise me - the snapshots of bookshelves full of books for example. But there are other things that do. You know, I am a lot more girlie than I ever let on in my youth!

So what did I learn during this last excursion into the land of clippings? I realized fully how much I LOVE FLOWERS! I always knew I enjoyed flowers. I have clipped out floral pictures before, but they have always been out of a women's mag. Today I had TWO gardening magazines and was astonished to find myself madly and enrapturously cutting out the pictures of the flowers. I'm not talking about pretty floral prints here. No, NO, NO. Don't throw me into Laura Ashley yet. I'm talking about big, bold FLOWERS. Happy, bold, sassy, boisterous BLOOMS! Gerbers and Sunflowers and Peonies and Camellias and Lilacs and Daisies!

I should have realized my love. After all, I have photographs of every bouquet I've ever received. I glance longingly into flower shops, and I have even been known to talk to them every once in awhile.

The photograph at the top of this post is one I took of a flower stall on Portobello Road in London. And the bottom bouquet? It's for you!! I used to hate Valentine's Day. But now I think that it doesn't necessarily have to be about romantic love. It can be about friendship and appreciation too. So I'm sending you this bouquet of flowers. I wish you love, I wish you happiness, and I hope that today you will find something that thrills and enchants you. Happy Valentines Day.

a shaky belief.

I want to say a heart-felt thank you to those who reached out to help after my last post. I've read all that you have said and I am back at my desk trying to start something. I've picked one thing and am going to try to get focused on it today. It's SO HARD. I tried to get some inspiration from my books this morning. Usually it doesn't work and I have to try something else, but today I cheated and opened a book which has inspiration on every single page! I opened it up and found this passage. I hope you like it:

Believe in the power of believing. Say I believe
and believe it. Believe in fairy tales for what they
can teach you about real life. Believe in happy
endings, and believe that they don't always hap-
pen. Believe in something, anything, that gives
you the courage and strength to continue on
when it would be so easy to give up. Believe it
when a friend says you're beautiful. Believe it
when you hear the words You deserve to be
happy. When someone tells you something,
believe the parts that feel right, that resonate in
your belly, and discard the rest. Believe that you
have choices and that you can choose wisely.
Believe your own instincts above anyone else's.
Believe that you can do more with your life than
you're doing, and then do it. Above all, believe
in yourself. When something seems truly unbe-
lievable, it may be worth believing.
Can you believe that?

-Rachel Snyder, 365 Words of Well Being for Women

The more I read through that, the more I blog and read other people's blogs and the more I think about it the more I really do think that the only thing standing in our way is our own belief system. I know that the only thing holding me back is a lack of self-confidence. There have been times when I was so afraid to do something because I thought I couldn't. I have held back for fear of looking foolish or not being accepted. But the things I most regret in my life are the things I didn't do or try. I have an amazing book in my head but I am not starting it because I believe in my own head that I am not good enough to write and illustrate it. I believe that I need to practice more. Rubbish. Today I am going to take the book's advice. I am going to try to believe I can do this. Maybe if I pretend I believe it I will fool myself into it!

P.S. To fellow Bloggers: I found the most amazing link! You can get a tshirt made out of your blog!! (Or as a present for someone whose blog you love.)

Sunday, February 12, 2006

what now?

"You are desperate to communicate, to edify or entertain, to preserve moments of grace or joy or transcendence, to make real or imagined events come alive. But you cannot will this to happen. It is a matter of persistence and faith and hard work. So you might as well just go ahead and get started." - Anne Lamott

For a long time I wasn't writing. I now know it was because of two things:

1. I had written two books and they were sitting there telling me that they weren't really finished and they weren't good enough for publication yet, but I couldn't very well start anything else until I had DONE SOMETHING with them.

2. I wasn't a 'good enough' writer to follow some of the creative ideas I had, and since I wasn't good enough, writing was a waste of time.

So for years I would scribble notes to myself on pieces of paper. Characters would come into my brain and I would write their whispers down. Plot lines or first lines or even closing sentences would seep through, I would hear them, notice them, and write them down. Old school notebooks hold many treasures scribbled in margins. I will often open a book from my collection and find a tiny scrap of paper with a note to myself. The scary thing is that even years later I know exactly what I meant by '2 days on a bus.' I remember the whole story, the whole concept, and where I wanted to go with it. But I never did anything with any of those ideas.

Last year I finally DID get one of the novels out and finish it. I finally used all of the scrap paper scribbles I had made about the story and I finally summoned up the courage to send the thing off. The only problem was that by finishing something, by telling my inner voices that I could do it, I opened up a floodgate that I was not prepared for. All of the ideas that I had ever put off or ignored or tried to forget came back to me in a loud tangle. I found myself scribbling more notes to myself, getting out of bed to look for a note that I was pretty sure was filed somewhere, and putting off actually writing anything all over again.

I've never been struck with writer's block, I get stuck with writer's paralysis. I have three ideas right now for books, a website to work on and an intense urge to paint something. I am frozen in place, seeing all of the things that I want to do surrounding me and not knowing how to prioritize, how to get something done, and even how to start. I know I have to do the website, so it is getting some of my attention, but not the attention it deserves because I am wrapped up with the wanting to be doing something else.

So where do I go from here? How do I break the paralysis? How do I gather the courage to start something even though I don't know that I am good enough to finish it? How do I silence the voices that tell me that it is just a waste of time? How do I decide which direction to go, which pen to pick up, which scrap of paper to read? Does everyone else have this much trouble? I know it's about showing up at the page. But I am here. I am sitting at my desk, surrounded by beginnings. I've showed up. Where do I go from here?

"Even if you are on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there." - Will Rogers

Friday, February 10, 2006

having two homes

This picture shows the sunrise over my wee village. I was up early to go for a walk and found that there was a soft mistiness to the morning that I wanted to capture. When I took this I was standing on a picnic table that was covered in frost and wearing flip flops. I'll try to get a sunset next! Today when I walked I went right up to the top of that big cliff and stood on the highest peak and looked back towards my house. Sometimes this world I am living in really takes my breath away.

Yesterday in my post I decided that I would pay attention to the world as I went about my day. I really tried to yesterday. People often ask if I feel at home in England. I have lived here for so long now that I do feel as if it is another home. I have stopped carrying very much back and forth (except Tazo Green Ginger tea, sweet onion mustard, People magazine and Canadian Crest toothpaste - yes, they have the same toothpaste here, don't ask.) I enjoy where I am while I am there.

On my very first day in the UK I wandered around London. Four days and a job interview over the phone later I moved down to Hope Cove. I was amazed and breathless seeing the sea and these views for the first time. I had only ever seen the sea twice in my life before coming here. To live this close to it boggled my mind a lot. As soon as I could I walked up to the top of the cliff in the picture and stood there, taking it all in, breathing the different air, and whispering messages to the country I knew was on the other side of that vast body of water.

Anyone was has walked in the woods in Canada will know what I mean when I say that there is a feeling of newness. Even though the trees are old and you know that other people have walked the paths, you still feel like you could be the first person who ever stepped there. There is an air of freshness; the forests feel like another world. There is a size and a space to Canada. There is room to breathe, to expand. A few hours drive north from wherever you are and you are in the most spectacular and sparsely populated land. You can still sense what the first explorers must have felt when they saw it. I love it for its rugged spaciousness.

At the top of the cliff in the picture there is a wall. It was built as a fortification hundreds of years ago. The weather and time have worn it down so you don't really know it's there until you are walking along what looks like rough paving stones and down a set of steps. A little while later along a path that follows the edge of the cliff, you look behind you and you can see four circular outlines in the grass. The grass grows differently there. It's thicker, darker. It's the only remaining evidence that people lived in houses there more than hundreds of years ago. Mark's Dad was buying an apartment that wasn't built yet, but building was delayed because the builders had unearthed a Roman Centurion when they were digging. No one else seemed amazed by this.

When I was a little girl I read a book called "Shadow in Hawthorn Bay" by Janet Lunn. I think of this book nearly every time I take a walk. In it the heroine lives in Scotland. She is very aware of the spirits that surround her - the faeries and the 'old ones' who live in and on the hills. When she emigrates to the New World she is heartbroken because she can't find those spirits. She can't hear the voices in the trees and in the earth. It is only at the end that she realizes that it is she and the people she is living with who will become those 'old ones.'

I think about that story because that is how I feel about the two places. Canada, I think, despite its ancient Native culture, still feels like it is at the beginning of its life. You can feel the spirits of the trees and of the rest of nature in the woods but there is a newness there. I love its possibility. The UK, in contrast, feels full of the spirits and energies and remnants of all that have gone before. Every old house has at least one ghost, every path shows evidence of some old settlement. You never ever feel completely alone here. There are definitely faeries and 'old ones' in the hills, and I am really enjoying getting to know them all.

"Roads go ever on and on, over rock and under tree, by caves where sun has never shone, by streams that never find the sea. Over snow by winter sown and through the merry flowers of June, over grass and over stone and under mountains in the moon." J.R.R. Tolkein

Thursday, February 09, 2006

magic and wonder

"It's simply not an adventure worth telling if there aren't any dragons." Sarah Ban Breathnach
So the internet and I are kind of in a fight. First blogger, then our connection, then our server have caused me problems in the last little while. Sigh. I've written two posts since my last one & neither have worked out. Let's see if today is the money shot!!

I wanted to put this picture on today because I realize that I have been very serious and introspective lately and I needed to perk things up!! This fantastic creature was created by Mark when we were in Canada over Christmas. He and my Dad made the most amazing snowman (I'll post a picture when I can find one!) on Christmas Eve in the back yard. Mark hadn't seen snow since he was about eight so building a snowman was pretty high on my to-do list this trip. Then, on my Dad's birthday, my Mom mentioned that it would be nice to have one on the front lawn for when people came over for the party. So they went out to get started. Dad was called away so four hours and a bit of help from me later, this dragon graced our front lawn. I am constantly amazed by the creativity and talent of this man I love!

What this picture doesn't capture is that this dragon was more than six feet high and had a tail that looped out of the lawn three times. It was remarkable. The best part is that everyone thought so - people began stopping their cars by our house to look at the dragon. People in the grocery store and at my Mom's work asked her about it. We watched one morning as two women pulled their car up, got out, and proceeded to take each other's photograph with their arms wrapped around it. Another morning Mom couldn't get out to go to work because some teenagers in a pickup truck were parked across our driveway. They wouldn't move until they had gotten a photograph on their telephones. On it's second day of life it rained and we feared the worst. But that night it went very very cold and he froze solid and stayed that way for weeks!!

We're going out today to collect our friend Matt from the train. I am excited because we get to drive to Totnes. On the way we will be driving down tiny country lanes bordered by hedges, we will drive through little towns with stone churches and 'local' pubs. We'll pass tiny thatched cottages and get glimpses of stunning views through breaks in the hedge. Usually I do this drive and notice a few things but it has almost become automatic because we do it so often. Today I intend to pay attention. There is real magic in the hills here. My friend Karen says we live in Hobbit-land and she's right. It's charming. I am going to notice it again.

Today I wish for you that you stop and pay attention. I hope that you will be inspired to notice things that you normally take for granted. I hope that you see your surroundings and loved ones with new and appreciative eyes. Truly, magic and beauty are everywhere if you remember to look for them. And you never know, while you are looking for them you might even see other things that inspire, amaze, and even surprise you - like a snow-dragon on someone's front lawn!!

"When you discover the universe is full of magic, you fall in love with the world." - Phyllis Curott

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Declaration of Independence.

"If you plant corn in your garden, you shouldn't be real surprised when apples don't start to grown there."
- Tera Leigh

Last night Mark and I were watching this crazy show called "Most Haunted." Usually I am not up for this kind of television. I am a nervous watcher. (I watched fifteen minutes of DieHard last night and had nightmares about men with guns!) But this show has this guy on it that is amazing. He's the psychic & he always comes out with amazing things like names and dates and places. If he's for real, I want him to come to my fantasy dinner party!!

After he does his thing they set up night-vision cameras and all sit around in the dark waiting for the ghosts to come out and do their thing. This part of the show rarely pulls up anything interesting apart from watching adults freak each other out. Last night the whole group of them were terrified and there was chaos on the screen for a few moments. Frankly if I were a ghost I'd have left the loud humans well enough alone. Afterwards, Mark and I talked about the concept of "what you find is what you bring with you." I'm still thinking about it.

There's a scene in The Empire Strikes Back when Luke has to go into a cave and he asks Yoda what's inside. Yoda sits there poking the ground with a stick and says something to the effect of "only what you bring in with you." (But he probably says it backwards and with a nod of his green rubber head.) I wouldn't usually quote Star Wars but it's just another illustration of that same concept. It's kind of the equal but opposite to the oft-quoted, "all you have is all you need."

I'm wondering what I am taking with me. Alexandra wrote a little while ago about the bag that we drag around behind us. I often wonder why exactly I have been too afraid to lose weight, too afraid to send my writing into the world, and why I am so scared of the dark. What demons have I been carrying around, just waiting to mutter in my ear and eat away at my fragile steps forward? What would I find in Yoda's cave? Nothing. Because I would have been too afraid to go in the door!

I think I've finally realized that rather than going in and trying to throw away all of the old fears that I need to FINALLY learn the lesson that they've been trying to teach me all these years. They started out as a protection. At some point I was frightened and they cared for me. They kept me safe in a time when I felt fragile. But you know what? I'm not fragile anymore.

I'm not Fragile Anymore.

In fact, I am strong enough and capable enough to deal with anything that will come from releasing those protection fears. I can cope with rejections. I can cope with being a woman. And I can try very hard to cope with being afraid of the dark.

So I think today I will say a hearfelt and gentle "Thank-you," to those fears. I will say "Thank you for getting me this far, but I am ready to do it on my own now. I am ready to not be afraid anymore. I am ready to take some risks. I am ready to move in the direction of my goals and my dreams. You aren't invited. In fact. You're retired!"

I wonder what I would find in Yoda's cave now?

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Tagged - a new game!!

Whew! Tagged twice in one week. I'm so glad though, these questions are juicy & interesting! Alexandra tagged me so here goes:

What were three things when you were little you wanted to be when you grew up?

An astronaut (after watching the movie Space Camp)
An actress (but only a famous one!)
A teacher

You can live one day over again from your childhood. What day will it be?

A day spent in Algonquin Park with my grandparents, parents, and my brother.

You have two minutes (and a mover with you if you need heavy lifting help!) to grab 5 things from your home before it morphs into a polka dotted hobgblin and hops away. What will you take? (Food/drink/family/friends excluded!)

This is a hard question. In Canada I still have some precious things in my parents house. So I'll pick three from there & two from here. From there I'd take my photo albums, my 'treasure box' that is full of small precious things, and some special books. From England I'd grab my laptop and ... who am I kidding, probably more books!

You have to paint one quote on your kitchen wall. Whats it going to be?

Um. I am so bad at this. I have BOOKS of quotes. For a kitchen I think it would either have to be: "If at first you don't succeed, redefine success." by Robert Fulghum or "...sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast." - Lewis Carroll

What is one thing you want to have accomplished by the end of this year?

Find a publisher. (oh please, oh please, oh please!)

You are moving to the moon for one year and can only bring one flower with you. What kind will you bring?

A gerber daisy.

You just received word that aside from one flower, you can also bring five books with you too! Your choices?

EGADS! Only Five?
- Chocolat (I can't resist the magic and the chocolate!)
-365 Words of Well-Being for Women by Rachel Snyder (one of the most joyous books ever!)
- a blank book to write in
-a big fat trilogy like Lord of the Rings (because it would keep me busy!)
-Meditation Secrets for Women (because I'd have a lot of time to do the sessions!)


Jamie / Starshyne Productions
Claudia / ChestofDrawers
Tara Dawn / life as I know it

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Broccoli vs. Compost.

"Deep in their roots, all flowers keep the light." - Theodore Roethke

(This photo is the view down the road in front of our house. The sea is in there if you look hard enough!)

A few days ago I was writing about strength. I was thinking about it again today as I was gardening. I think that another form of strength that I am looking for is the ability to know what my own limits are. The best example of this that I can think of is my reaction whenever I watch ER or other 'medial' dramas. I always think, "thank goodness there are people in the world who can do that!" Because I really couldn't. I know that about myself. I know that I could never be a Vet or a Doctor or a Nurse or a Dentist. Internal stuff freaks me out.

But those are easy things to know about myself. I know them because I have such a reaction to images and thoughts of blood and guts. But what about the small things? I am a firm believer in wanting to experience things, and to try before you decide you don't like. But when are we allowed to make a stand? When are we allowed to say, "this is what I am?"

Secretly, in my heart I know that I should like gardening. It's all about the connection to mother earth and all of that. But you know what I know after the last few days? I don't like gardening. I have fond memories of planting seeds with my Mom, but that's it. Weeding? Nope. Digging out roots? Nope. Spreading composted poo with a shovel? Nope and nope.

I've tried in my life to like seafood. Nope. I have tried to enjoy being a high school teacher. Nope. I've even tried cooking, lots of times. Definitely nope.

Does that make me stubborn? Fussy? Probably. But I think at some point we have to be able to stand back and take a good long look at ourselves and know exactly who we are, where we stand, and how we feel about it. Don't get me wrong. We can continue to learn about ourselves. We can suck it up and do the things we don't like. And there always has to be room to change, to grow and to breathe. I didn't like broccoli as a kid and now I can't get enough of it. People change. But I think we also forget that we are allowed to like and not like things. We are allowed to know ourselves well enough to take a stand.

So there it is. Gardening's out, broccoli's in. I know that about myself.

What do you know about yourself?

Tagged - 4 Things

I'm not tagging anyone because most people I know have already done this - if you haven't, you're tagged.

Four jobs I've held:

Arts Area Head at a Summer Camp (fabulous job!)
Costumed Interpreter at a Pioneer Village (best job ever!)
Construction Flag-Girl
High School English teacher

Four movies I could watch over and over:

Ferris Bueller's Day Off

Four Places I've lived:

Camp Quin-Mo-Lac, Tweed, Ontario
Ennismore, Ontario
London, England
Hope Cove, England

Four T.V. Shows I've Watched:

Lost (I'm addicted & we are a whole season behind here - aragh!)
Queer Eye for the Straight Guy (hilarious.)
Remington Steele (favourite when I was a kid)
Mr. Dressup (favourite when I was a little kid)

Four Places I've Vacationed:

Lanzarote (Canary Islands)
Singapore (1/2 work, 1/2 vacation!)

Four of my favourite dishes: (JUST FOUR?!)

Vegetarian Sushi
anything Mark cooks - a roast, thai currys, etc., etc.
Mom's dutch meals that I can't spell
Mashed Potatoes

Four sites I visit daily (are there people who only look at four??)

Starshyne Productions

Chest of Drawers
Superhero Designs
la vie en rose
soul of a dreamer
life as i know it
AND... I guess I should stop, this could go on all day!

Four Places I'd rather be:

Italy (never been but I want to!)
Iceland (ditto)
Rotterdam, Holland (to visit family)

And now... back to the garden! We get to put in the 'Soil Enricher' today. I think that's just a fancy way of saying poo, but we'll see!

Friday, February 03, 2006

Roots schmoots.

Last summer we thought about pulling out this tangle and creating a garden. I work at a garden that is also a museum so I was feeling very inspired. Mark is an astounding cook so we often buy strange and interesting foods. We are also trying to be committed to eating as much organic produce as possible. A garden of our own sounded like a great thing. But last summer it was too late to begin. We were told that we had to dig out the space and then add things to the soil well before we wanted to plant. So the plan was put on hold.

The idea came up again on Monday night. Tuesday morning he said, "So are we gardening today?"
So we gardened. We pulled and tugged and clipped and shoveled. By Tuesday night we had cleared most of the tall stuff. This picture shows some of the roots that Mark had to clear out. (I say Mark had to because I couldn't even lift the ancient cast-iron pick axe, let alone swing the thing. Yet another piece in my determination to become STRONG.) I did my part hacking away at the old rose bushes. DON'T feel sorry for them. At one point I was pulling on some tangles, stepped back, found a wire that had been strung up to contain the bushes some time ago, and ended up tumbling over until I had landed on top of the pile of brush we'd created. It cushioned my fall nicely - until I tried to get up. Those roses got their revenge & I look like I've been cat-o-nine-tailed!

So that's where we are at the moment. (Yes, Canadians, Mark is gardening in his t-shirt in this picture!!) And this is the view now out of our front door. If you stand on the ledge and look over the wall you can see down the road to the sea. I'll try to get some more shots of our village on here as soon as I can.

While I was working on Tuesday I got quite philosophical about roots - about people putting down roots, how important those roots are, blah, blah, blah. I thought about all kinds of lovely things I thought I could go on about on here. By yesterday evening I was cursing roots - cutting them and clipping them so the bloody plants would just come out of the dirt already. Today I am nursing my blisters, keeping warm in the office (it's -2 today!) and trying very hard NOT to think too much about roots at all. I guess the philosophical moment has passed. Too bad ;)

I tried to think about a quote that I could add here but I couldn't so I'll add one that I would like to have on my front door someday that someone could read after they walked through my larger, more groomed, and all finished garden:

"If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a hoper, a prayer, a magic-bean-buyer. If you're a pretender, come sit by my fire, for we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!" - Shel Silverstein (again!)

Thursday, February 02, 2006

what pressure!

Your Life Path Number is 11

Your purpose in life is to inspire others

Your amazing energy draws people to you, and you give them great insight in return.
You hold a great amount of power over others, without even trying.
You have the makings of an inventor, artist, religious leader, or prophet.

In love, you are sensitive and passionate. You connect with your partner on a very deep level.

You have great abilities, but you are often way too critical of yourself.
You don't fit in - and instead of celebrating your differences, you dwell on them.
You have high expectations of yourself. But sometimes you set them too high and don't achieve anything.

"as is"

You know that point in a big project where you stop for a minute, look around you and say, "this isn't fun anymore?" Creating a vegetable patch in our entranceway seemed like a fantastic idea on Monday night. We have a raised garden in front of our house that used to be home to an overgrown tangle of ancient honeysuckle, roses, and fuschia. It sounds pretty but it really just was a tangle of old old growth and lots of ivy, and we decided to make it look better and to grow some things we could use at the same time.


I've got pictures that I will share when I can summon up the energy to plug in the camera. One is of Mark using an axe to break up some roots. Remember in the Secret Garden when she brings that garden back to life with the help of one gardner and a robin? Don't believe it. We've had to employ a pick-axe, and an axe and we've already broken a pitchfork.

Still, gardening does give you lots of time to mull. I read Alexandra's post this morning before donning my gloves and my longjohns and then I thought about what I've been saying over the past little while about strength and learning to use your energy in the right ways. For a long long time I was stuck in a rut. I think it's because I was reading all of these books about loving and accepting yourself as is. I wanted so desperately to love myself and to find someone who would love me as I was - no matter what size my thighs or how unhealthy my attitudes. I wouldn't exercise or try to change my diet or try to write anything because I was loving myself as I was. Trying to change myself went fully against what I was trying to believe in.

I was stuck.

Things began to change when I stopped and realized that instead of loving myself 'as is' and leaving it at that, I needed to love myself enough to make the decision to change the things I had control over. I also had to love myself enough to keep on making those decisions, over and over and over again. That's the hardest part. I can't count the number of times I've written in my journals that "from now on I..." or that "I am really going to..." I would get all fired up and start really well and then the momentum would slow and I would find myself back in the same old patterns of behavior.

But slowly I am discovering that the more steps you take towards your goals, the easier they get. A year ago I wasn't writing at all. Since then I have finished a book, started two more, and begun a blog. What changed? I started writing. I stopped worrying about whether or not I could and I just did it. I started showing up at the page. Very slowly I am beginning to use this theory for other parts of my life as well. So now I know that I will get stronger and I will get published and I will do everything I want to do - not because I want to but because I have cared about myself enough to choose to - over and over and over. And that has made all of the difference.

To Change One's Life:
1. Start immediately.
2. Do it flamboyantly.
3. No exceptions.
-William James

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

a perfect poem!

It's been a crazy day so I only have time to share a poem I found today that made me laugh because it is so close to my post from yesterday. It's by Shel Silverstein (one of my absolute favorites!!) It's for the determined little person in all of us. See you properly tomorrow!


Have your heard of tiny Melinda Mae,
Who ate a monstrous whale?
She thought she could,
She said she would,
So she started right in at the tail.

And everyone said, "You're much too small,"
But that didn't bother Melinda at all.
She took little bites and she chewed very slow,
Just like a good girl should...

...And in eighty-nine years she ate that whale
Because she said she would!