Happy New Year

It’s the 13th January.  You might be thinking WTF?  Am I in some weird time warp that only happens when you are the mother of cats?   No.  Well possibly, but that’s another post.

I’ve always hated New Year, and specifically New Years Eve, or Hogmanay as it’s known in Scotland.  It’s the expectation that everything is meant to be wonderful, filled with friends and family, toasting glasses of champagne in bars and restaurant’s with twinkly lights and everyone else as happy as you are.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had those Hogmanay’s and they were great, but I also had the year when I had a severe chest infection and decided to drink on antibiotics anyway.  Or the year that my then boyfriend refused point blank to go to Princes Street to see the fireworks despite me having tickets because it was tacky.  Or the year I did go to Princes Street and ended up freezing cold, soaking wet with champagne and snogging some dodgy Australian tourist.  Or the year I had arranged to go out with a friend, causing a huge argument with my then boyfriend only to receive a phone call from my friend two days before hand to say she was snowed in, in Greenock.  Or the year my friend killed herself on New Years Eve when I was out having a great time.

So needless to say, I don’t look forward to New Year.  I think of Debbie every year at this time, and of her nephew that she didn’t see grow up.  I think of the arguments I had with then boyfriends and the fall out, and the times when, despite my best efforts to arrange something I ended up trying to get to sleep as all around me I could hear fireworks going off in celebration.

So I don’t like New Year.

Which is why, when I read an article on the island of Foula in Shetland, and how they still celebrate Christmas and New Year according to the old Julien calendar, meaning that Christmas Day is on the 6th January and New Years Day on 13th, I decided to follow their tradition.  So this year I celebrated New Year today, and it feels right.  It feels like I’ve skipped a beat and today feels like the fresh start of a New Year.  It’s missing all the huge amount of food and drink consumed and family fights that normally happen on the 1st.  It’s missing the ‘most depressing Monday of the year’, as that first Monday of the New Year hasn’t happened for me.  It feels like a fresh start, and isn’t that what everyone wants for a New Year?

Happy New Year!

The photo is of Ruben ready to party.

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Bounceability and Bahookie’s

My sister has a reputation.  No, not that kind of reputation, every where she goes she trips up.  Doesn’t matter where it is, or what shoes she has on, she lands on her bahookie, every single time.  It’s now the family joke, whenever we go anywhere we are waiting for it to happen.  The thing is she knows what she’s like, and that we all laugh at her, but she doesn’t care.

Last year we went to Dunnottar Castle. it was one of those winter days with a clear blue sky and a bite of frost in the air.  I had been a bit reticent about going as I’m not great with heights, but the castle itself was stunning.  However, as we were leaving my sister suggested walking down to a small cove at the base of the castle.  I wasn’t sure about it, but she insisted.  I stumbled down the hill, boots sliding in the increasingly muddy slope but managed to reach the bottom in one piece.  I turned around to see my sister sliding backwards towards me, bahookie completely covered in mud, her hands digging two trenches in the mud as she tried to get a hold of anything to stop the slither.  As usual she had tripped and landed on a soft spot, then getting to her feet, continued the slide downhill.  Eventually, after much hilarity, mine not hers, we got back to the path and the safety of the car (sis with a plastic bag under her bum).

But it got me thinking, how many times do you get up when you fall down before you give up?  I ask this because I’ve sent my novel out to 29 agents.  29…And I’m still none the wiser as to whether no one wants to take it on because its the biggest load of grammatically incorrect twaddle ever written, or because it’s really just not for them and they don’t want to take a leap of faith with a middle grade novel about two warring tribes of cats in Scotland in Victorian times (yes you read that correctly).  But when do I give up?  How bouncy is my bounceability?

One writer I was a writing class with sent her novel to 79 agents before landing a deal, 79…, if you factor in the stomach churning moment every time you open that email to see if they liked your work, then that’s a lot of churn.  I don’t know if I would go to that length, but then it’s seen as a right of passage, it seems every writer has a stack of rejections, and if you don’t then its seen as being that you’ve not served the apprenticeship correctly.

When I see the list of extremely talented authors rejected more times than I have, best sellers initially rejected, then it gives me hope to keep going, and be like my sister and just keep getting back up every time my bahookie is covered in mud.

The picture is of the aforementioned bahookie, and proof she was still laughing afterwards.

 

Finding my Why

I’ve just finished reading Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl, and it’s completely changed my thoughts on my life.

In it Frankl talks about finding your why, your reason for living, and it got me thinking;  What reason am I on this planet?

A number of google searches later and I came across Simon Sinek’s talk on TED about finding your why in life, here’s the link; Simon Sinek Ted.Com

Apparently finding your purpose in life, your reason why you’re here is working out what your values, passions, skills and expertise and your natural talents are, and within those things you’ll find your why.

For example to find my values I looked at those times in my life when I’ve just had a warm glow inside me, things have gone right and you want that moment to last forever. For me it was all about being creative, being free of the 9-5, connecting with animals and nature and learning.  My passions were quite easy to find; writing, photography, animals, fashion and makeup (I wanted to be a make up artist at 14).  Finding my talent’s was tougher, does anybody really shout out about their own talents? Or is it just me that always says, ‘oh, that’s just something I do, I don’t think I’m any good at it’? Therefore I think of my talents as being writing, photography, pet whispering (I’ve worked with a few abused animals) and my organisational skills.  The last category is skills and expertise or strengths. There are many know your strengths quiz’s online so I did one of those (as I was stuck). It turns out my strengths are what I was already focusing on.  Creativity, appreciation of beauty, love of learning, hope, gratitude and leadership were my top ones, which fitted in with my values, talents and passions.  Now what?

I sat and thought about it for a while, I drank coffee and watched a bit of tv.  Still nothing bounced out at me to what my why was.  So I did what I normally do when my brain refuses to work the way I want it to, I free wrote.  There’s lots of ways of freewriting, either with or without a prompt, but if I’m struggling with something my way of sorting it out is just sitting down with my notepad and pen and writing for three pages.  I’ve done the morning pages for years and it works, usually by page three I’m writing and thinking ‘really? where did that come from?’ at the same time.

So I freewrote my Why, this is what I came up with;

‘My purpose is to combine my love of animals and nature, to protect them and keep them from harm.  To change other peoples attitudes to how animals are used by humans, to see it as something akin to the holocaust.  To promote veganism through everything I do, and to bring it into all areas of my life.  To continue to write, to expand my knowledge of the world around me, and be at one with the planet.  To love the wildness, the open space and find my true heart there.’

Now, its by no means perfect, and I don’t even mention writing until over half way through, but that’s how it came out in the freewrite.  My next step will be to condense it down into a pitch line, a couple of lines that will keep me on the straight and narrow if I ever deviate from my why.  Then I’m going to print it out on a card to keep with me and read whenever I’m not sure of what I should do, or why I’m doing it.

Has it helped?  I would say so far (it’s only been a week or so since this all happened) it’s clarified things for me.  Even though its not perfect yet my Why has pulled me up short when I’ve thought about doing something and I’m hesitating.  If it’s not in line with my Why, then I’ve not gone ahead, and I don’t think I’ve made any crazy decisions so far off the back of it.

Where my Why will take me in future is a whole different adventure, I’m excited about it for once, not scared.

The picture is of Johnshaven beach at sunset.

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I am George Gray

Obviously not, but I found this poem the other day by Edgar Lee Masters, and it really resonated with me.

I have studied many times
The marble which was chiselled for me —
A boat with a furled sail at rest in a harbour.
In truth it pictures not my destination
But my life.
For love was offered me and I shrank from its disillusionment;
Sorrow knocked at my door, but I was afraid;
Ambition called to me, but I dreaded the chances.
Yet all the while I hungered for meaning in my life.
And now I know that we must lift the sail

And catch the winds of destiny
Wherever they drive the boat.
To put meaning in one’s life may end in madness,
But life without meaning is the torture
Of restlessness and vague desire —
It is a boat longing for the sea and yet afraid.

It’s called George Gray.  Edgar wrote a book of free verse poetry (i.e. not rhyming) about a small fictional town called The Spoon River Anthology.  There really is a Spoon River apparently, nearby to where Edgar lived.  In the book is the stories, in poetry form, about the inhabitants of Spoon River, of which one is George Gray.  When I read the poem I just thought that’s my life, the opportunity of adventure and unknown destiny but fear holding me back.

Written in 1915, it reminds me that I’m not the only one that feels like this,  and throughout time and space people have felt the same way.  When it was first published the book caused outrage and Edgar was  ostracised from the community, which to me, means that he managed to chisel away at the artifice of the public face of the town and managed to show the true heart of their feelings.

The world is in a scary place right now, maybe if we all did what Edgar managed to do, show our vulnerabilities and be true to ourselves and others there wouldn’t be so much hate and anger in the world.  If we weren’t all so afraid to say this scares me, I’m frightened, I’m hurt and feel ashamed, then maybe we could all show each other more love.  It’s a thought anyway.

The picture is of Lunan Bay beach in the North East of Scotland

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500 days and counting

As of Sunday 19th August 2018, there are 500 days to 1st January 2020.  I know that seems a while away, 2020, but when you break it down into days like Joel did in his blog http://5amjoel.com/500-days-until-2020/  then all of a sudden it seems scarily close.  So I’ve been thinking about what I want to achieve in that time.  This is my list so far;

  • Publish all three books of my trilogy. (I’m currently writing number 2)
  • Be living by the sea, somewhere in Scotland.  My preferred place is a beautiful wee fishing village called Johnshaven, a place I’ve loved for many years, but I’ll be happy anywhere with a view and a beach.
  • Get my eating in gear.  I’m vegan, but an healthy one.  Instead of plant based my diet is more skittle based, so that will change.  And with my food intake comes my fitness level.  At the moment it’s shockingly bad, and with my hypermobility its better for me if I keep fit.  I know it, I just need to do it.
  • If the books are received well I will set up an animal sanctuary.  Whilst I would love to sell my house and do it tomorrow, I’m sensible enough to know it takes a lot of time and money (all that cat food!) so until I’m in a better place financially then I’ll have to wait.  But it is part of the big plan.

So that’s my main goals for the next 500 days.  I’m sure they will change throughout the next year and a half, but these goals have been part of my soul for so long that its about time I gave them wings and let them fly.

So here’s to the next 500 days (or 499 days now to be exact.  I am a control freak after all!)

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Tree in the grounds of Falkland Palace.

Really? has it been that long?

I think it’s been about a year since I blogged.  There, I said it.  The truth is I didn’t really know what to write, which is a bit poor if I’m calling myself a writer.  I’ve taken a 9 month career break from work to get the novel published, I’m two months in already, and I’ve finished my 5th draft, and emailed it to my sister to edit (she’s better with coma’s and full stop’s than I am).  Then it’s the scary jump of putting it out into the world of agents to see if anyone love’s my characters as much as I do.

In the meantime and because I’m not running on nervous energy like I normally do at work (30 minute walk there and back, running about all day, up and down the stairs, eating for 15 minutes without interruption if I’m lucky and hyped up on coffee) I’m getting a bit doughy looking, so I decided to start a diet.  Or at least cut back on the amount of takeaway’s I’m eating and alcohol that I’m drinking (this is what happens when you live with a teenager.  Instead of giving him good habits, I’m catching all his bad habits!).

Anyway, today is my first day of this new eating plan.  Considering I’ve been vegan for about 8 years you think it would be easy, wouldn’t you… Well, so far today I had cereal and almond milk (healthy), lunch consisted of a baked potato with chives and a side salad (definitely healthy), then I had a big family bag of bacon crisps (yes they were vegan) and a gin and tonic.  And its only gone 2 o’clock!  Just to make up for my misdemeanour I had some chopped raw mushrooms.  I am the only person that eats like this?….

And there is a can of Brewdog’s Dead Pony Club calling me from the fridge.  So going well so far…

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Mishka

 

Little Buddha

dsc_0096_1Some days you just feel like the world is against you.  It doesn’t matter what you say or do, it’s going to go belly up no matter what.  Then other days it feels like the planets are aligned and there is a big universal hand pushing you in a certain direction. I’ve been feeling this way lately, so I’ve started asking the Universe for signs, and its quite strange how its happening.

The other day I went out for lunch with my sister to the college restaurant my nephew is at (he’s training to be a chef).  The car park was full to bursting with cars parked on verges and pavements.  ‘Lets ask the universe for a really good parking space’ I said whilst Myra sniggered.  ‘Universe, we would like a parking space right outside the restaurant’ and out of the blue the most perfect parking space was right where we wanted it!  Even the cynic Myra was was impressed.

So maybe there is something in this Universal Consciousness. At least that’s what I would like to believe.  But isn’t that human nature?  We all want to believe that we have someone beside us, walking alongside us as we navigate our way through this jungle that we call life.

What’s this got to do with my cutting costs and budgeting?   Well bizarrely enough since I’ve started to focus on my finances, or lack of them I keep seeing emails and blogs about minimalism and cutting budgets.   Now it may be just a coincidence, but isn’t more fun to believe that there’s an invisible hand shoving me in the right direction and saying ‘For God’s sake girl do the bloody work!’.  I’d like to think so…

The picture of Mishka showing off his Buddha belly.