I was determined that I would catch up on my blog today, so here I am.
There have been tough times this year - my MS diagnosis in March, my Dad dying in September.
There have been good times this year - moments of joy with my lovely husband, my family, my friends and colleagues, daft jokes, fine baking (I do tasty, not pretty :) ), writing, reading, learning, teaching, laughing, crafting and mucky time in the garden.
The most active space on this website has been the Personal blog and the associated tools (Flickr and blipfoto). twitter is proving a valuable way of combining everything and getting me back into the habit of writing, reading and researching as mobility returns to my fingers. One of my goals for next year is getting the Professional blog up to speed.
I've tweaked the theme of the website to echo the wintery weather, and have done the same with my twitter banner. I hope to keep that up, so watch out for the change of website "weather" as the first spring flowers raise their lovely heads :)
I've learned this year to relax more, to let go when life decides that something can't be done for whatever reason, so I'll be keeping that up :) My wish is for more of the same good times in the coming year as I've had in 2012 - it's a good life and I am content.
Here comes 2013... wishing you all the very best too :)
Today, just after his dinner, my Dad fell asleep for the final time.
Dad was sick on and off my whole life, but he was a patient, optimistic man, and with the incredible support of my mother, he kept going through the hard times and kept his sense of humour.
Last year, he was taken off the heart transplant list as he was no longer well enough to survive the operation, should a heart become available. Earlier this year, we were all told he didn't have much longer. But Dad had always pulled through before, so somehow it didn't seem real, even after he had gone. He was Superdad.
Miss you Dad.
This is the man who, though 6 foot 4 inches and an ex-rugby player, would skip down Patrick Street in Dun Laoghaire and try to clip the shop signs with his fingers. The man who perfected eggy mash and thought that a head of garlic was a clove. He loved jigsaws, puzzles, quiz shows and Sue Barker. He could draw the most amazing Celtic knot patterns for us to colour in and always drew a cowboy sitting on a horse smoking a cigarette. He was Robin Hood, one of the three musketeers, Andy Pandy, Jason Bourne. His favourite sayings were "Who sees the rain when the sun is shining in your heart" and "If I wasn't so much in love, I'd be miserable" - he was very much in love and died one month before my parents' 40th wedding anniversary. He lived his life with passion and indeed had a fondness for yelling "Passion!" at random moments of happiness, usually followed by a bear hug for my mum :) .
I would watch the Six Nations rugby each year with him, and the World Cup when it came round. When we got the chance, we would go to Murrayfield to see it live. Last year, when he was too sick, the Scottish Rugby Union called for people to send in movies - they planned to create a mashup of people throwing a rugby ball to create the Longest Pass. So we filmed Dad throwing a toy rugby ball in his chair in the sitting room. It was included in the official movie and he was up on the big screen in Murrayfield even though we were sitting in Dunbar. He threw like the pro he was - see him immortalised at 0.33 below. The next time the Six Nations is on, I'll be watching wearing his Scotland/Ireland jersey. I like to think he'll be watching too.
Love you Dad.
(Posted on 31st December and backdating it as this is the first time I've been able to write about this.)
... I guess this blog is me trying to open my suitcase, though I don't find it all that easy :)
It's been a strange couple of months, a sort of in-between time. The Weebly theme of the bridge in the mist seems appropriate somehow. I've thought about changing it a few times, but in the end, it fit better than any of the others.
I described MS as a "learning experience" and a friend pointed out that I have always said I love to learn... :)
While most people celebrated the warm weather in May, I discovered that heat really does cause MS symptoms to flare up. The MS team had prepared me for possible consequences, so I knew what was happening and didn't panic. I tried cold showers, which bought me an extra day, but instead of taking it more slowly, I kept going at my old pace. Bad decision!
I lost the feeling in my hands and arms and experienced vertigo again and had to spend a day in the cool and dark. I was a little frustrated (always thinking about what "needs to be done"), but was too tired and brain-burned to do anything but, literally, lie back and chill :)
Thankfully, flare ups are not relapses, so recovery is swifter - when you're sensible (as I'm learning to be). Taking things more slowly has its benefits - time to look and listen and live.
In listening, we're hearing the silence as well as the sound - how the tick of the clock in the living room of our quiet house highlights the peace inside compared to the bustling sound of the town outside. I've never been comfortable in busy crowded places, they seem to rub my thoughts raw. This house calms me, the silence fills me and brings me back into balance. It's quite a nice peace - full and comforting.
Life has been full of synchronicities too - funny little things like walking out of the office and meeting exactly the person you need to see, but not necessarily the person you first went looking for. Or picking books on seemingly different topics in the library and finding that, as you read through them, the same places, historical references or character interests keep recurring, or seem to run like a chain linking each book together. I like that feeling of connection, of flow.
Aren't libraries marvellous? Silence and synchronicity under one roof... and now that the rain is back, time to sit back and lose myself in a good book :)
I have just finished reading The Library Book
and it is brilliant.
ot normally quite this determined about something, but if education and social equality are important to you too, you have to read this and you'll see why I'm so set on encouraging everyone to do so and to defend their libraries.
It contains a selection of short pieces written by well-known authors either about their own experiences of libraries or extracts from library-associated pieces they have written (fiction and non-).Again and again I was reminded of the long walk my mother took with us to reach our nearest public library (no mean feat with two wee ones in tow). How she made sure that, even on holiday, we joined the local library to be kept supplied with reading materials. (I still have a fear today of being caught without a book.) I laughed with Val McDermid remembering how closely the librarians guarded the adult section - my Dad bravely volunteered his adult book allowance so I could venture into the forbidden haunts and access the works of Gerard Durrell and J.R.R. Tolkien
before my alloted time.I loved my introduction to China Mieville's UnLunDun (have to read that) with the librarian "bookaneers" and a Kate Mosse tale was a suitably ghostly fiction teabreak. I cheered each and every defence of the library and the unsung heroic genius of librarians (and not just because some of them are my friends). And an excerpt from Lucy Mangan's work is always good value - I totally agree with her 10 rules, though I'm prepared to stretch to any pet, not just kittens :)
Public libraries must be saved.Scottish Book TrustThe Reading Agency (receive proceeds from the sale of this book)
I was determined to post before the end of this month - a challenge to myself to be able to type this, to know that my fingers are really coming back. That, and I wanted to have at least something in my March 2012 archive :)My last post marked the beginning of the quest. I have to say, I really enjoyed the MRI process, which is just as well, as it looks like they will become a regular event. I have been diagnosed with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis, and MRIs are part of the long-term observation. Avatar was on the television at the weekend, and it added a whole new dimension to the process (that, and dragons... :)
Having a clear diagnosis has made everything much easier - the hardest thing has been telling my family. Those who know me will already know that we're no strangers to serious health problems, and having to add to that history has been one of the most difficult challenges I have had to face.Harder still was knowing that, as I was being supported and cared for by an amazing medical team, both in my GP surgery and in the hospital, the NHS were under attack by the government in England. A government that appears to be in the pocket of medical health companies looking to make a killing. And the frightening thing is, I may come to mean that literally.
Gavin has been my knight in shining armour - one check of his twitter history will show how active he was in defending the NHS
, though that would only be effective in a true democracy, as we have learned to our sorrow
Through all this trouble, one choice has been a ray of light in a dark time. Qigong classes
were advertised in my local paper and, with the agreement of my GP and consultant, I have taken it up and I'm not regretting it! Gavin has joined with me, and that just serves to make it more embedded in my life, more connected somehow.I have gone from complete numbness back to normality as the inflammation on my spine has diminished. Qigong may have assisted with that, but if all it has done was to make me feel more invigorated, to restore a sense of "me" in my body, that alone would be enough.Why have I mentioned becoming an alchemist?
MS can be triggered by, among other things, stress. A good antidote to stress is meditation. Writings on qigong speak of neidan, a meditation practice, an inner alchemy
. The cauldrons, or dan t'ien, brought to mind the three cauldrons of Celtic tradition
(and I'm by no means the first to make this connection). So it seems I was right, this is my own personal grail quest after all.Here's to the future :)
It all started when I was doing research for the last MSc course assignment before the holidays. I came across an interesting article by Kathleen Heinrich concerning a doctoral student’s quest for voice
. In it, she draws on the work of Kathleen Noble, particularly in her book “The Sound of a Silver Horn”
So I bought a copy and sat down to read it. It concerns the search for the female hero archetype – what is a female hero and, more importantly, how can we recognise that archetype in ourselves and accept our heroic abilities. Noble talks of the “dragons of initiation”, obstacles in life that must be overcome on the traditional hero’s quest that we have undertaken. I can understand her use of the dragon, a fearsome beast that must be overcome. And yet...
The battle between the knight and dragon has been viewed by some as the transfer or move from a matriarchal to patriarchal society, the suppression of the female creative power, female power in general, as evidenced by a reflection on the changing fortunes of the dragon goddess Tiamat
. Granted, this has later been discounted by other researchers, but the seed is still there in my mind, particularly as we entered the Chinese Year of the Black Water Dragon
(highly appropriate connection there, I thought, getting all deep and philosophical).
This blog post has been a month in the making – you know the way you get an idea and it burbles around and gets in the way of other posts, but just isn’t complete yet? Well this is that post :)
following popular culture and viewing them as a source of wisdom
At the same time, I was reading Margaret Atwood’s (2005) Curious Pursuits
. As I was returning it to the library, I quickly jotted down the following quote – “as we know from the Offenbach opera Tales of Hoffmann
, she who loses her shadow also loses her soul” (p185). In my speed at writing this down, my handwriting makes the word “loses” look like “loves”. So, she who loves her shadow loves her soul.
Putting it simply, I like dragons, I’m very fond of them, one of the faces of my avatar is a small blue dragon I call Cobalt. So thinking of slaying one isn’t really my thing, I seem to be
sharing his shadow archetype dialogues
. The dialogues describe the process of embracing aspects of your shadow – “loving” your shadow, as per my misread handwriting. Or was it misread?
I spent the holidays helping my husband with his new website too, and this included introducing him to Xtranormal as a potential tool for
With Nessie in Second Life
reflecting on embracing the dragons
, those aspects of myself or situations in life that act as obstacles for my progress.
The next step in my life involves bringing together many interests into one dissertation, focusing on the Carbon Conversations programme
. I came back from my facilitator training last week with a little sore throat. Not much to think of, but it was Noble’s “sixth dragon” in waiting. I woke on Wednesday morning numb from the chest down. Being my father’s daughter, I thought, ah sure, it’ll be sorted by lunchtime, or I’ll be fine in the morning. By Friday, still no improvement so I contacted my GP. Cue Saturday in the Western being tested for all sorts. As we speak, I’m waiting to hear about an MRI scan – entering the dragon’s cave, I like to think :)
I have faced the sixth dragon of illness and chaos before, and came out changed. I wonder again what this period of ill-health will teach me. I’ve not been a perfect patient – I railed against this and get frustrated with myself, but there is no rushing it.
Noble speaks about the goal of the quest, achieving “the Grail of wholeness” (p106). Those who know me, know my fondness for all things Arthurian, the Grail Quest
among them. There are the Celtic references to the Grail
, the source of restoration and healing . My work on Carbon Conversations reflects on what ails the planet – perhaps first, in true Grail quest fashion, I must reflect on “what ails me?”
This weekend, my brother asked if this was the precursor to me developing my latent X-Man talents – I like that. I’ll come out of the Grail as a whole new me and with a host of dragons at my side.
So I have been
Gavin and I both enjoy Harry Eyres' Slow Lane column in the Financial Times
at the weekend, he blends the arts and nature quite beautifully and is one of the few items in the FT that I read.This week, his Plan C for Humanity resonated with us - encouraging us to pause and reflect on our lives and how we live them. As the news and television has become increasingly harsh and empty, we have recently chosen to turn the television off and listen to classical music. It is amazing how much we now seem to get done in the evening - reading, writing and being crafty - and we are a lot less tired than we were. Evenings now stretch on into a relaxed haze and it is lovely. Granted, we didn't watch that much television to begin with, so perhaps it makes it easier, but we have certainly found an increase in our creativity through turning it off - from an hour a night to perhaps two hours per week on average.
We find we are less stressed too, calmer and less inclined to dwell on troubles from the workday.
Harry says that "Plan C involves depth. I have the sense we need to go a bit more deeply into things; that means into ourselves as well as what is around us. When we discern depth in a work of art, we must also be recognising it in ourselves."I agree with the comment left on the FT website
by atimoshenko, it's easy to be inspired and reflective when we are warm and well-fed, not hunting for a safe place to sleep and food to keep us going. It would be travelling to the other extremes of shallowness if we were only to exist in a make-believe world where we pretend hardship doesn't happen. But Harry speaks about allowing art to inspire our empathy and humanity, to make use of our time to connect rather than disconnect - I see how lucky I am and then find ways to help others in the hope that the joy spreads - I am becoming more active.This is about making time and healing ourselves, so we have the strength to help others. Removing unnecessary "chatter"
so that we have space to find what is truly important and of value to us. It isn't "stuff", it is the sound of beautiful music, Gavin sitting in his chair with his nose in a book while I darn socks - he looks up and smiles, and the day is glorious and the moment at peace. Jewels in my day and the time to appreciate them. As the nights get brighter, thoughts turn too to the garden and allotment and the pleasures of growing and digging :)What are the gems of your day?
You've got to love the way the web world works. Earlier in the week, Gavin handed me an article on hutting in the Guardian
, as he knew it'd interest me. I love the idea of sitting in a secluded woodland dell outside my wee hut with a mug of tea and the sound of birdsong and the wind in the trees. Magic :)The article was great, and I decided to tweet about it - in the process, I checked out the A Thousand Huts website, following @thousandhuts on Twitter, and joining the Facebook page (as you do :) ). In themselves, wonderful links and part of what I love about the web community - so many ways to link with inspiring and like-minded folks.One of the Facebook group members had posted a message about a new magazine, Earthlines. This is the cherry on my web-wandering journey - it's a magazine that will focus on nature writing, both an interest and a hobby of mine.
Who knows, I may in time get an article in there :)What excites me is their goal of inspiring environmental change
and discussion by building a community of artists and writers that are raising awareness and fostering a connection with the land through their work and bringing this work to the wider world via the magazine, blog and newsletter. Very exciting indeed and links with my MSc dissertation (more information on which will appear on the website shortly, honest! :) ).I came up against an eco-conundrum when
taking out my subscription - do I go for paper or digital? Decided to go for paper, at least for year one, so I can share it around and hopefully get some more people taking out subscriptions too! :)
First issue out in April and I can't wait! :)