What I’ve been reading, a bumper March-April edition.

The last two months have run away in a haze of illness, coughing, holidays and more. Books were harder to pick up as life got more intense but I have read some stuff and here it is from the last two months.

we are all

We are all Completely Beside Ourselves- Joy Fowler.
It took me about 5 attempts to get into this one for some reason. When I did I found a fascinating and interesting read. The kind of twist happens early on and it’s a good unfolding story.

 

Wild – Cheryl Strayed
I confess I only read this because of the Gilmore Girls last
few episodes. I haven’t yet seen the film but the book had me hooked and determined to find time to complete the South Downs way. An interesting insight on dealing with grief and some damaging life choices. I always find it interesting to see how people do this without the God perspective. A good old walk in the wilderness seemed to work well.

funFun Science- Charlie McDonnell.
Charlie is a youtuber we’ve been following for a while, mainly because he was a sweet teenager who was engaging and fun. He grew up and wrote an intro to science book because he loves science. I read it because I felt my science knowledge could do with some refreshing. It was a fairy engaging read, funny and basic enough for me to understand and realise I knew more than I thought.

perfectPerfect- Rachel Joyce
I remember enjoying this book. But for the life of me I can’t remember what it was about. Ah yes, a book focusing on the summer of an 11 year old and flicking between that and a man struggling with OCD. A compelling read.

prayerA Praying Life- Paul Miller.
My second read through and as helpful as ever. This is the only book on prayer that has ever made me pray. He really helpfully talks realistically about prayer and cuts through my cynical heart that refuses to ask. I love this book because it is so honest about how life is hard, how good God is and how we can carry on asking in the face of life’s struggles and pain. He doesn’t duck away from the issues of prayer but leads the reader through to not giving up on praying because of those issues but praying in the midst of them. Not letting our lack of answers, or confusion about how life with God works, lead us away from God but towards him.

operatingOperating Instructions- Anne Lamott
I can’t believe I was so late to the love of Anne Lamott party but I’m here now and this was a brilliant introduction to her and her writing. I loved this book SO much. It’s the story of her first year as a single parent with her son Sam. I identified with loads of her writing and discovery of the anger and frustration revealed inside when you have to deal with a small creature crying in your face all night. And the next day when you think you might die with how much love you have for the same said small creature. It’s a brilliant read if you have a child, are about to have a child or know anyone with a new small person.

graceGrace Eventually, Thoughts on Faith- Anne Lamott.
I mainly read this for more stories of Sam but it was a fascinating, thought provoking read through some of her thoughts on life.


The Gingerbread House- Kate Beaufoy

I didn’t really get on with this one. I found it fairly annoying and although it was meant to be a sympathetic take on dementia and how it affects a family the ending was a little to contrived for my liking.

Good me, Bad me- Ali Land
Another one of those horrible thriller books you can’t quite put down. A grim story of abuse and killing from the perspective of the daughter forced to watch the mother do it all. I’m sure there are horrific stories out there like this and the psychological affects are well documented here but I really should stop reading books like this. It makes me think everyone is a serial killer out to abuse my kids. I’m sure that’s not true.

roadOn the Road with Kids- John Ahern
Technically I haven’t finished this one yet but I’m sure I will have by tonight or tomorrow. It’s the story of a family Motorhoming through Europe for a year. If you saw my last post you’ll understand the inspiration behind this one. It’s a very entertaining and informative read. Husbandface said he stopped reading it due to extreme jealousy. I haven’t quite got that far yet, it’s an enticing life but also seems crazy stressful, but also has really positive effects on their family life and relations with each other. Argh. Someone lend us a motorhome for the summer eh.

And there we go, a mixed bag. With some gems.

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13 thoughts from our first Motorhome Adventure…

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Living the dream…

I sit on a Saturday evening (now Tuesday evening) at the end of another week wondering quite how we are heading to the end of April already. Time is truly a swirly weird thing. This week we headed off in a Motorhome (all of my heart would love to call it a camper van…but it wasn’t that cool. It was amazing but just not quite the level of cool I would have liked…) for a few days.

We’ve been dreaming crazy dreams about the open road and Motorhomes. It being a good compromise between the hardcore nature of camping and the relative luxury of holiday cottages. We love the idea of the outdoors but, lets face it, camping for anymore than a weekend is hard work. Especially when it rains. Camping for a weekend is silly hard work as well but kind of feels worth it for the slow pace, the lack of creature comforts and the great outdoors. Life in a Motorhome seemed to offer the best of all worlds according to the husbandface.

I was, it has to be said, unconvinced to start with but by the end of our three days I now find myself drooling over Motorhomes on the internet and planning a summer tour of the UK visiting all our friends and family.  My main issue was that I didn’t really get the whole rocking up to a campsite, but then being unable to get off the campsite without taking your house with you thing. It seemed weird. I got over that soon enough. I decided being a snail is actually a Good Thing.

Here’s my list of things about the motorhome holiday that I am too lazy to put into proper prose.

  1. It was terrifying driving it for the first time. I have driven minibuses and Luton Vans before but only for a short time and on fairly major roads. This was a house on wheels and not ours. The deposit on the credit card scared me but the husbandface was too sick to drive so I bravely stepped into the cab. After a very slow rattling drive to our campsite I felt proud but like I never wanted to drive it again. After realising that son2 had lost his shoes and we needed to get more then next day I began to get a bit worried about manoeuvring the beast around. Thankfully after rocking up at a Sainsbury’s (other supermarkets are available…) and having a gentle cuppa in the van before heading off on the road again I began to see the benefits. A twisty drive around the country, through a town and onto a seafront later and my confidence was up. We stopped at the beach for lunch, husbandface napped whilst I played on the beach with the boys. This whole taking everything with you as you drive around seemed to work well.
  2. The boys loved the playground on the campsite. Mental note. Must check the campsites we go to in the future have playgrounds. They also seemed to love the outdoor life and kicking balls around the campsite.
  3. Motorhomes are a pretty small space. Especially with small boys and a whole load of buttons to play with. It got intense but we lived through it.
  4. There is heating on these things. Did you know that? I didn’t. It’s the way to feel extremely smug in the morning, especially when looking out the window at people waking up in tents.
  5. Sleep was pretty good for most of our Team. Husbandface slept the best he has in months (reason enough to get hold of one of these beasts in my opinion), the boys slept in all three mornings (Motorhomes have blackout blinds, none of that hideous waking up at 5am camping thing for us). I slept less well but that might have been due to the epic snoring of everyone else.
  6. Curtains across the boys bed made us feel like we had some space in the evenings to sit and read.
  7. No TV for a few days was a lovely break.
  8. We were forced into more interaction with each other and the boys. Mostly this created fun and increased creativity.
  9. But shouting and bad choices still happen in a Motorhome.
  10. The best bit before setting off in it was my constant pretence that we were in an aeroplane and had to prepare the cabin for takeoff. Storing all things away in lockers and restoring tables to their upright position. I am hilarious.
  11. Every time you drive off in a Motorhome you have to sing, ‘On the Road again’. It’s the law.
  12. We spent the whole trip saying that somewhere on the dashboard there should be a handy sticker outlining the dimensions of the van. It was only as I drove it back to the hire place that I pulled down the sun-visor. And there it was. Ah well.
  13. It was sunny enough to eat outdoors each night. I love eating outdoors. Everything tastes better and there is NO sweeping up after. This summer we are going to eat outside every chance we can.

So there we are. We loved it. We are desperate for more adventures and five days on son2 is still longing for his Camper Van. All in all it was a brilliant break from the norm, we had at least 2 days of a pretty engaged husbandface before things got bad again and we all benefitted from getting out of routine and into the outdoors more.

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The first week of the holidays…

IMG_9822.JPGTechnically we are well into the second week of the holidays but nevermind. We survived the first week of the Easter ‘holidays’.  The boys coped well with the flight to Northern Ireland, the strange world of a holiday cottage, the lovely world of Auntie Katy’s house, the new world of dogs to follow around and the daily departures of their beloved Daddy to the world of bed and rest. It was a holiday in the true form of a change being as good as a rest, which the world of preschool holidays seem to be. It was lovely to be around family, it was amazing to enjoy panoramic views of the Mourne Mountains from our flat and it was good to get home and appreciate our house again. (which as I told son1 this morning is probably the point of going away).

Easter felt a little disjointed this year but it was wonderful to head to the beach on Easter Sunday with others from our church and celebrate Jesus risen. It was good to be reminded of hope in a world that frankly looks fairly bleak right now. It was good to be reminded that wherever we end up, whatever life throws at us we are promised the presence of the One who loves us most and who crashes through the bushes to find us in our pain.

I am glad of this reality right now.

I am glad because the road ahead still looks covered in fog.

The land of husbandface’s mental health is still a dark long valley.

The light punches in but the long road twists on in the gloom.

Mostly I live in the day to day survival and that is ok. Every now and again I look up scared and terrified at not knowing the future. Every other now and again I can see glimmers of light.

These past couple of weeks the light has been harder to see. Darkness is insatiable in it’s appetites and I am unsure as to when this tunnel will end.

I wrote something this morning that expresses what life with the amazingly brave husbandface is like at the moment. I share with his full permission. I share because this is a glimpse of life with complex PTSD, anxiety and depression. I share because this goes on behind the smiling pictures on facebook, because this is reality and we all need to be honest about reality. I share not for sympathy points but to help in your understanding and so that you may understand better when someone talks of anxiety and depression and what that might look like. Obviously please pray on if you do that kind of thing.

“I lie next to him in bed. He moans and twitches and shakes in his sleep. I lie still, desperate to reach out and touch and hold and comfort. I lie still, knowing that to reach out would only cause more tremors through his exhausted body. 

We sit in a room. Everyone smiles and laughs. He joins in but I can see the hand clenching the wrist stopping it shaking. I can see his face getting paler and paler and the response time slowing down. 

We sit and chat with others. Out of the corner of my eye I can see him shrink into himself, the tremors start and as I reach out a hand in comfort I sense the flinching away as his body refuses to accept my love. 

We watch TV together with no-one else around. I forget for a moment and stroke his face without warning. His body jumps as if being touched with a hot poker. We push through and I hold his hand briefly. Wanting to show somehow that I am here in this dark. 

The boys are confused again. Is Daddy not feeling well Mummy? Will chocolate make him better? Is Daddy coming out today? I wake Daddy up, yeah? Remember when Daddy used to go to work? Their small brains try and process the changes in their beloved Daddy. He reaches out, tickles them, hugs them tight, winds them up and then has to withdraw to cope with the loud. 

Friends ask him if he’s alright? What other answer is there beyond the ‘fine’, ‘ok’? How can he explain this weird shadowy terrifying land he finds himself in now? How can he know truth when his own subconscious is stamping on him, telling him lies, rejecting love and affirmation?”

Behind the smiling wonderful face I love so much lies this reality. It’s complex and hard.

I wonder if you are wondering what helps? I think that’s what I would wonder if I were you. I think it’s being normal, acknowledging that there is more going on that the surface you are presented with. I think it’s saying you care, are praying, not asking too many questions but sending texts, emails and messages of love.

So there we are. Tomorrow we head off in a Motorhome for a few days hoping for some more change and in search of some fun with the small ones. Lets see how that goes…

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Back to Friday roundups :)

Friday morning in the park. The sun shines down. For the first time all week my body is no longer hurting, aching or sore. For the first time in 3 weeks I feel like writing and pondering our life again. It’s the last Friday of term. A phrase that feels very odd in the world we inhabit right now. It’s been a pretty horrible few weeks up to now. I’ve been ill for most of it. Husbandface had a week of being vaguely awake and engaged with the world, and then went he back to work. Oof. Which has been hard on him and fairly grim whilst I’ve been ill.

This morning I woke without feeling rubbish and instantly saw the effects. The boys were happy and played well together. I was able to be more calm with them. Nothing felt overwhelming anymore, the day before I’d been crying over the arduous task of trying to work out when I could send my Dad’s birthday card so he would get it in time. Today that was an easy task. Illness and exhaustion change everything. It’s good to realise that and feel less rubbish about the way I’ve been behaving recently. 

I feel like I’ve dropped the ball many times in this parenting world, in living life well and being aware of people around me. Sometimes life is just about trudging through the fog until bedtime. There still doesn’t seem to be much clarity about the future, things changing, husbandface magically being healed or any of the other things I would like to make life feel better. 

But this morning the sun is shinning, our estate is full of luminous green grass, our garden is full of wild primroses, the sky is blue, friends are coming for an Easter egg hunt this afternoon, we are off on an aeroplane to Northern Ireland tomorrow morning, holiday is happening, the boys are being mirrors of my positive happy mood and it’s impossible to not feel hopeful today. 

Ah the changing shifts of my emotions. We ride out the waves. We ride through the dark days and the silent stares. We ride through the stressful shouting and bad choices. We ride through the weary exhaustion and sometimes the fog breaks. I think I’m glad I write when the fog breaks. I know that Psalm 88 is in the Bible for a reason. It is good to express the reality of no hope. But more often than not I write looking back from the top of whatever peak I have climbed. Able in a Psalm 77 type way to express the horrible and then to see the hope. 

Anyways. Whatever the reasons, today the sun shines and I can envision hope again. Phew. 

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In the grey light of morning…

We’re lying in bed early on a Saturday morning. Me and the smallest. He’s squirming around and vaguely swimming in and out of sleep, eyes closing as soon as he makes contact with my skin. Opening again when he fears I’ve sneaked out of bed like I did 10 minutes ago. I’m not allowed to leave this circle of snuggle. Not for a moment.

I give into it. The grey light of morning shows me his little face and I savour the small hands that stroke me and the arms that grab me tight. I look in his face and become aware of the other parent in the room. The invisible one who knows me well. I talk to him. I ask for so much for this small one. For protection, for kindness to grasp him, for him to cherish the women he meets throughout his life, for his life to be full of compassion. Softly I am reminded that he may not become the perfect man. Neither of my beautiful boys have perfection in their future. I love small broken ones who are full of self and demands. I am one of those myself.

I sigh. Imperfection haunts me here. I ruefully adjust my requests and pray for deep grace and love for these boys whatever they grow into. Through their dark nights when they won’t love as they should. Through their pain as well their joys. Through their failures as well as successes. I ask for patience with the ups and downs of seeing their anger and rage when they don’t get what they want. I ask for an environment in our house that nurtures their faith. I ask for patience when they get it wrong and for patience and grace when I get it so so wrong. I too am full of anger at times and I haven’t been given up on yet. The fears of what they might become fade and I am reminded of a story that redeemed me and is still redeeming us. Of grace on the road and new starts.

I soak up the small ones smell, gaze deep in his eyes and bop his nose. He giggles and we snuggle some more. Who knows how long this need will last but for this moment I cherish the wonder. In the grey light of morning. I cherish the wonder. 

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Trudging on. 

Saturday lunchtime. The boys are watching their latest obsession. Tom and Jerry, which is bringing back all sorts of memories of Saturday afternoons/whenever on earth it used to be on TV back in the 80s. I’ve just got in from a very helpful morning at the women’s prayer breakfast at church. Pastries, good coffee, lovely chats with others and space to remember the invisible world I forget is still all around me.

I haven’t felt at all like writing anything here for these last two weeks. My head has been a trail of reductionist blergh. I’ve been moaning. Complaining. Weary. Frustrated. Resentful. Still coughing after 3 weeks. Shouty. Stressed. Wondering if I was a different person if I would be coping better. Wondering if our world will ever be normal again. My boys have suffered under my stress anger. I’ve found myself just as confused as them as to what is going on. 

Much of that is still there. This morning though I sat in a circle with some women and listened as we talked about what God is like, as we spoke truth about his tender care, his loving ways, his trustworthy heart. I sat and looked as a small baby wriggled in its mothers arms/sling and cried in frustration. I felt the frustration in me echoed in that tiny person. I sensed again the sling holding me to my divine parents chest. The arms that comfort me in the anger and pain of not getting what I want and being unable to express my need clearly. 

Somehow hope has crept in again. All I can see is the grim situation we are in and yet somehow I have been touched deep in my tender soul and can feel the tears welling as I have encountered again the safe and close love of God. It defies explanation but I am glad. Glad of a church to belong to that provides such spaces. Glad we are not alone. Glad the frustration is being soothed and glad I don’t have to just write a list of my moans to sum up the last two weeks. 

In other news we’ve enjoyed the sunshine. The annual membership to a local farm has proved its worth time and again as we’ve had a known space to escape to where the boys can enjoy lots of physical outdoor play and we can sit. I have loved running in the daylight and even an evening run last night gave me a glimpse that dark running is over soon for the year and I have made it through winter. We have made it through winter and spring growth is all around. We are still in a very small world. A forest glade with no view but lots of green invading the floor. 

We trudge on. Today slightly less wearily than recently. The fog of these few weeks has lifted a little and I’ll stop with the metaphors now. Lunch calls. 

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What I’m into. The February Edition.

It’s time for my monthly round up of books and other stuff I’ve been into over the last month. I really like recording lists and remembering what I’ve read. I’m not sure I have any great insights to offer about these things but I like the idea of a future me remembering them rather than forgetting. So. Eight days into March here’s what I’ve read/watched/listened to since the last of these posts:

Behind

Behind Closed Doors- BA Paris. 

Another of those Girl on the Train and Gone Girl style reads. Fairly predictable and not as good as those others but still tense and one to read if you want total escape from the rest of the world for a few hours. 

BrokenThe Broken Way – Ann Voskamp. 

Really helpful book reminding me that life doesn’t have to look sorted before I follow Jesus and that sacrifice is a Good Thing. Here are some of the quotes that hit home the most. A good one for this season of life we are in right now. 

“Never be afraid of broken things – because Christ can redeem anything. When I’m no longer afraid of brokenness, I don’t have control or possess anything- dreams or plans or people or their perceptions. I can live surrendered, cruciform, given. This feels like freedom.” 

“There is nothing to fear in the wilderness of suffering- it is the land where God woos. The crush of crisis is but a passage into communion with Christ.”

“The self is ultimately never really sacrificed in giving but our real self is ultimately found. In the sacrificial giving of ourselves we give ourselves back our real selves, the self we were made to be- blessed to bless, given to givenness, loved to love”

Sacrifice isn’t so much losing what you love but giving your love on to whom you love more. When you sacrifice for what you love you gain more of what you love. Love is a risk, that’s never a risk….

What matters is that in the act of loving we become more like the givenness of love himself. What matters most is not if our love makes other people change but that in loving we change. What matters is that in the sacrificing to love someone we become like Someone. Regardless of anything or anyone else changing, the success of loving is in how we change because we kept on loving… in sacrificing ourselves we are guaranteed to discover the depths of our best and realest selves”

reasonsReasons to Stay Alive- Matt Haig. 

Excellent journey through his depression, what helps, what doesn’t and some really good explanations of what he went through. It was really easy to read as well, which helps in times where getting out of bed seems a step too far. Reading it and Susan Calman’s book on depression last month has made me aware again that the experience is different for different people and we all have to find out what works for us and the people around us who are struggling. I’m thinking of maybe reading a book on depression a month. Any recommends for March? 

spectacleSpectacles- Sue Perkins

I really enjoyed this. Mainly for her descriptions of life with her family and tales of uni days that sparked off my own nostalgia fest. 

loveThe Course of Love- Alain de Botton

A kind of part novel, part philosophical meandering about what love is really all about. It was very fascinating and insightful as to the reality that love is a thing to be worked on and worked out, rather than a feeling that comes and goes. I think every person in a couple should read and discuss it. I’m not sure I agreed with all of it but it sparked off many thoughts and much truth was spoken. Most telling of all was the chapter on sulking which made me think he’d had a secret camera in our house. I like this quote: “We should add that it is a privilege to be the recipient of a sulk: it means the other person respects and trusts us enough to think we should understand their unspoken hurt. It is one of the odder gifts of love.”  Over all it was a book full of realistic, helpful, interesting stuff about the ordinary everyday life as a couple.  

faithfulFaithful- Alice Hoffman. 

Really can’t think of much to say about this. It was ok. Fairly readable story of a teenager growing up and figuring life out against the backdrop of having being involved in a car accident that left her best friend dead.

wonderWonder- RJ Palacio 

Oh I loved this so so much. A tale told from different perspectives of a boy with a severe facial disfigurement going to school for the first time. A beautiful book that made me cry. It was also brilliant to see good parent/teenager relationships portrayed where they engaged with and talked to each other. It gave me hope for the years ahead. 

museThe Muse- Jessie Burton 

Intriguing novel set in two time periods and two country’s dealing with art, identity, is something of intrinsic worth and value or do you need to be appreciated for your work?  Loved the way it made me think and be at peace with people not seeing what I do all the time. 

goats and sheepThe Trouble with Goats and Sheep- Joanna Cannon

A great book themed around whether we can really tell who the sheep and goats really are. Really well written, intriguing right up to the end and a lovely hot summer 70s vibe. One to challenge the assumptions we make about people.

We’ve also watched lots of films recently:

Bad Mums – Hilarious and much needed if you have children and mess up as much as I do. 

London has Fallen– possibly the worst film I’ve seen for a while. But we don’t care cos they blew up London and America saved the day and there were guns and explosions and swearing. So much swearing. Yeah. A no brainer with the saving point of being short. 

The Martian– simply brilliant sci fi joy. Matt Damon is left behind on Mars and has to somehow survive and get home. Of course we all know he makes it. He’s Matt Damon after all. But it holds great tension in all the right places and brought to life lots of sci fi books I read as a teenager. Lots of it looked just like the things I had imagined. I liked that. 

Sully – Tom Hanks rocking as the pilot who successfully landed a plane in the Hudson River saving all 155 people on board. I never knew the fight he had to prove it was the right and only decision and it was an interesting portrait of an expert flyer proving his judgement was sound and dealing with the decisions he made. 

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.- I know we are late to this one, I blame the small ones. Not much to say other than I loved revisiting the Harry Potter world from a different perspective. 

Passengers– Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence as the only two passengers awake on a space ship headed to set up a new colony. Watchable enough but not life changing.

As for music. I’d love to say I’ve discovered a whole load of new lovely music but I haven’t. Martyn Joseph’s Sanctuary Album still accompanies my weekend breakfast making routines. Ed Sheeran’s new one is on heavy rotate when the children aren’t moaning about their choice. Really, honestly, all we’ve listened to this month is an album friends gave to us for the boys. Awesome Cutlery.  A kind of less cheesy English version of Colin Buchanan it’s a whole load of God songs that are fun and annoyingly catchy. Son1 has learnt all the lyrics and both boys can recite the amusing sketches in between the songs. If you are in the line for some more music with brilliant God stuff in it I can recommend heartily.

This is our favourite song. Mainly for the rhymes. We like rhymes. All the time.

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