Friday, 30 September 2011

Sliding Doors

Do you ever wonder how a single minute, or a single decision could change your life? I've just been enjoying a leisurely afternoon in front of a girly film, "Sliding Doors" (well, it would have been leisurely, except my laptop didn't like my choice of movie and kept stopping it repeatedly so that the audio jarred and was out of sync with the picture until I fiddled with it and set it right again). Anyway, it made me think about the consequences behind each decision, and what might have happened at key moments in my life had a made a different choice. 

Like that day, more than five years ago, I got a message from a random guy on MySpace, asking if I wanted to chat. What might have happened had I deleted that email? Well, any number of things really. Let's see...

1. I don't have any lessons on Wednesday, so I go into a local primary school and do some work experience. This is because I want to study B Ed primary at university next year, and I think a little experience could go a long way...

Instead, I spent my Wednesdays chatting to the random guy and falling in love with him. And I didn't get on to the B Ed primary course...

2. So, I got onto the B Ed primary course! It's very intense, but I'm coping with the workload. Anyway, I quit my Saturday job at the shoe shop and moved into university accommodation. I study very hard, but sometimes I go out and socialise. I'm still single, but hopefully I'll meet someone in the next three years...

Instead, I was offered the chance to do English Literature, which, although intense at times, consisted of a mere 9 hours of lectures a week. Although I moved into university accommodation, I went home at weekends so I could continue my Saturday job. I therefore missed out on most of the nights out, and didn't really bond with my house mates. I was also, by this point, in a relationship with the random guy from MySpace and completely smitten with him. 

3. So, my first year of teacher training is complete, and I passed! I also have befriended some girls on my course, and we are moving into a house together - so exciting! I know the city like the back of my hand, although I haven't yet decided whether I want to live hear permanently, or move back home when my studies are complete. I feel more confident now, especially about standing up in front of a class as I have gained lots of experience of this from my placements. I am still single. I don't actually have time for a boyfriend at the moment, but no one has shown any interest in me anyway. I know I'm not pretty, but maybe someone will see the real me someday...

Instead, after my first year, I opted to commute. All of my flatmates from halls had made their own plans (which excluded me) but I had already decided that commuting made more sense, as I only had lectures 2 - 3 days a week, and it was only a 45 mile journey. This, along with the journeys up North to see the random guy from MySpace, increased my confidence when travelling alone (although I was still petrified about standing up in front of people and giving presentations!) The random guy from MySpace had also raised my confidence generally, and my self-esteem. He also proposed to me midway through my second year. I was beginning to feel like a completely new person...

4. So, I passed and I've graduated. I'm in the process of applying for jobs, both in the city and back at home. I'll just have to wait and see what happens. I don't have a boyfriend. I haven't lost faith, but I was sure university would be the place I'd meet someone. I just haven't met the right person yet, but he must be in the world somewhere...

So, I passed and graduated. I moved up North and settled. I endured a crappy job for a while, I moved into what some people would consider an equally crappy job, but I quite like it. Anyway, that doesn't matter, because best of all, I get to see the random guy from MySpace everyday, and next year we're getting married! Ever since moving 300 miles from home, my confidence has increased, and I've done a lot of things I didn't think myself capable of. The independence is doing me a lot of good, and even though the job situation is lousy, I am mostly happy. 

I hope you enjoyed this little spin off of my life. There are other moments in the past that could have changed the course of my whole life. There are the small things: I could have gone to a university further away from home and studied something completely different, I could have said yes the first time I was ever asked out (and then I would've never met Spud). Would life have been any different if I hadn't become a Christian? Absolutely! My faith influences my decisions on a daily basis. Sometimes I make the wrong decision, but I know it's not the end of the world as I can accept forgiveness and start over again, minus the guilt. 

Life is an adventure. Live it to the full, and look on any regrets you have as experience. 

Monday, 26 September 2011

Slowly Getting There

It has been a weekend of partings. On Saturday, my brother left home to go to university. I can't help but remember how far he has come, as just three years ago his life hung in the balance. I watched him deteriorate over the weeks: he lost weight, and the ruddiness faded from his cheeks; he could barely walk because of the mystery pain in his back and leg. We went out for a meal to celebrate his 17th birthday. He should have been talking animatedly about the prospect of driving lessons, but instead he was struggling to hold back the tears. I was frightened as I've never before seen someone close looking so fragile and poorly, and I felt helpless. But he was the lucky one: they discovered the DVT in his leg before it was too late, and acted fast. Had it gone undetected for much longer then it could have gone to his heart or brain and we would have lost him. It was a horrible year for him, as they made the diagnosis of Crohn's disease and began the long treatment process until they had stabilised the condition. 

A year later, he started his A-levels again, and this year he celebrated a pleasing string of results, that wasn't enough to get him to my city, but enabled him to take up an offer at his second university choice. He is healthy now, and can lead a fairly active lifestyle. I'm sure he will enjoy the student life, and hopefully he will apply himself well to his studies. It's scary to think that had his GP not acted as he did, Matt might not be here, and I'm not even exaggerating. 

My other brother, Dave, has left school and begun his first year of A-levels at sixth-form college. He is studying maths, physics and philosophy, which is brave! I would find those subjects very daunting, but it shows where he differs academically to Matt and I, who both studied subjects that fall into the English, Humanities and Art categories. I think my parents are both beginning to realise that in two years they may have an empty nest on their hands, with the three of us setting off into the world, and their feelings about this are very mixed. 

The day after Matt's departure, having spent a few days with my family, I returned home and was reunited with Spud, who remained behind in order to attend three interviews. This proved to be worthwhile, as he was offered a job: the job of the three that he wanted, and will benefit him the most. He has been looking for a job for sixteen months, so you can imagine our relief! There are still worries ahead and no doubt further challenges, but we have had so many prayers answered, and we are all slowly getting there. 

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Always A Writer

Since my return home, I have been greatly amused by the discovery of my old school books. I particularly enjoyed reading through some of my school "diary" entries, and my English books, which hold some of my earliest stories, one of which I will share with you shortly. I was appalled by my ramblings and atrocious spelling, but actually, some of the storylines were quite impressive! Below is one of my diary entries, written when I was 8 years old.

It was about the discovery of a bull in one of the back fields, but as the caption reads: "Luckerly there was fence".

And now, for a story, written in its original form, complete with poor spelling and grammar. Enjoy!

Long long ago in a far away land there was a beautiful cat.
The cat was always saying to herself "Im the most beautiful creature in the world."
Then one day a hansom peacock came.
He was prettier than the cat.
"Drat" said the cat. "Im supposed to be the prettyiest. Not a peacock."
The cat found out the peacock was called Percy.
The cat thought of an awfull plan which was to eat it.
The cat saw Percy and she ran up to him and pounced.
She missed

Then the cat remerbered the animal rule.
If you attack an animal you get bad punishment.
The cat went back to her house and ate tinned cat food.
She saw Percy leaving.
Her owner told her Percy only came for a holiday.
The cat smiled.
The cats owner was a princess who lived in a palace.
Then one night there was an animal meeting.
The animals were exited.
The wise old deer said "my daughter will now become queen of the deer and that cat will now become queen of the cats."

So the cat became queen of the cats.
The cat was so sorry Percy left. She asked him to come and stay.
The cat and Percy were best friends now.
They lived happily ever after.
The end.

I hope this amused you as much as it amused me! And hopefully my writing has come on a bit since then...

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Dress Bought

Well, after a very girly afternoon with my mother, I have ordered my wedding dress and seen the new adaptation of Jane Eyre (which I loved!). In the end, I opted for the dress that has been on my mind for the last six weeks, the second one I ever tried on, and trying it on again confirmed to me that it was definitely the one. It may have been considerably more than I planned on paying, but at the same time it wasn't the most expensive one we looked at by far. As a girl with very simple tastes, I felt I deserved this little indulgence. And I felt like a princess when I wore it! I wish I could show you some photographs, but as we weren't able to take any, I'm afraid you'll have to wait the 10 and a half months (10 and a half months - eeee!) until the big day!

Sunday, 18 September 2011

If Our Love Were But More Simple

This morning, at church, we sang a hymn called "There's a Wideness in God's Mercy", and as I listened carefully to the words, I was really struck by the following:

"If our love were but more simple,
We should take Him at His word;
And our lives would all be sunshine
In the sweetness of our Lord."

What I learned at church today was that very often we forget to perceive God outside the parameters of our existence. Consequently, we often get a false impression of Him:

"...We make His love too narrow
By false limits of our own;
And we magnify His strictness
With a zeal He will not own."

But actually, we cannot measure the goodness of His love. We overcomplicate it, just as we overcomplicate everything. So here is my perception:

God loves every one of us. 
God hates sin. 
When we sin, God hates what we're doing, but loves us all the same. 
When we turn from sin and ask for forgiveness, He loves us like the sin never happened. 

This isn't meant to be a "preachy" post, but I got a lot from this morning's session, and was desperate to share what I took from it. 

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Sitting On The Fence

I've given up on worrying about the future. I've learned time and time again that most problems that appear on the horizon, tend to resolve themselves when they are upon us. It's like seeing a huge wave in the distance, that laps gently at your feet by the time it reaches the shore. It's as though experience and answered prayer has helped me to break through that ageless habit of worrying. 

That's not to say I don't worry. Sometimes I am so desperate for full time work, and I wonder if Spud and I will ever be able to get a mortgage. But most of the time I am calm. I have prayed about these difficult situations over and over again, and I just feel like God is saying to me: 

Don't worry, I've got it all under control. Just sit back, and in the meantime, use all this spare time productively...

Which is what I've been doing. I've been getting more and more involved at church, from attending courses in worship leading and pastoral care, to volunteering to paint the hall during half term. And I've been working on my writing whenever I can, and doing the things I never normally have time for, like trying out new recipes. 

I am sitting on the fence, and this isn't natural for me. I am, inwardly at least, a very impatient person. Do you know the willpower it has taken to wait three and a half years to marry and settle down with Spud? I am a person who's always raring to go, eager to take on more responsibility when and if I am able, and desperate to get my life under way! But at the moment, I am sitting on the fence, and I am fairly calm about it all. Life is an adventure, and I am looking forward to all that's ahead...

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Six Months On

Six months has past since that life-changing phone call, when I was offered a way out of a job I hated, a job that was affecting my health and undermining my well-being. At the end of March I received my uniform and attended my two days of training, with the lovely training manager, who still knows my name, even hundreds of training sessions later. She was strict, but very open and approachable, and I learned a lot about her during those two days. She was positively beaming, as she and her husband had just been cleared for adoption, after the long and nail-biting process, and they were so excited about becoming parents at last. I know she left on adoption leave a couple of months ago, and today at work I saw a sight that warmed my heart. She was in the store in everyday wear (strange not to see her in her uniform), and in her trolley sat a little fair haired toddler, her daughter. I gave them both my biggest smile, as I was so delighted to see my trainer looking so happy and natural in her new role as a parent. My heart was cheering for them both. 

Six months on, she is a mother. Six months on, I am a well-known, valued and established colleague. At the end of the month, my staff discount card (which I received last week) will be validated and I will receive a pay rise, my probationary period being over. I have been in this job for nearly as long as I was in my last, despised job. How quickly the time has passed, and so much has happened. But I am happy, so happy, my friends. 

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Autumn Soup

Back in spring, I wanted to try out a recipe for Parsnip and Apple Soup, but decided it best to postpone this culinary experiment for six months until cooking apples were plentiful, and people couldn't get rid of them quick enough! For the last few days, several cooking apples have adorned Treasure's counter, like seasonal decorations, and so I seized the opportunity to rid her of one. I couldn't resist sharing the recipe with you, which comes from The Observer Guide to British Cookery by Jane Grigson. It's very simple, and smells and tastes of autumn, hence my renaming of the dish. 

You will need:

750g parsnips, peeled and diced
1 cooking apple
60g butter
150ml cream
5 sage leaves
1 good litre (2pt) chicken or ham stock
salt, pepper, chopped parsley

1. Sweat the apple and parsnip in the butter, in a covered saucepan over low heat. After five minutes, stir, and then cover again for another five minutes. 

2. Add the stock and sage leaves, and leave to simmer for half an hour (I actually left mine for nearly an hour, and stirred occasionally). 

3. Remove the sage leaves. The recipe now advises to sieve or process the mixture, but I chopped the parsnip and apple quite finely, and as I like chunky soup I left the pieces in. 

4. Add more stock or water, if required, and reheat with the cream. 

5. If you wish, you can serve with a sprinkling of chopped parsley across the top, and croutons. Enjoy!

Tomorrow I'm going to make blueberry muffins! And, if you're wondering why I have so much time for cooking at the moment, I will share with you my piece of good news. After sixteen months of searching, Spud has been offered some paid work - supply in a nursery that previously interviewed him, and today he works his first shift! 

Monday, 12 September 2011

They Grow Up So Fast!

Today was Little One's first day at school. 

As I'm sure you can imagine, I was a very proud soon-to-be-big-sister-in-law!

Sunday, 4 September 2011


Often, I will unconsciously curl my fingers inwards, and tap them individually against a surface (i.e. my leg, a table, etc.) Just recently, I realised where this random habit has stemmed from - most probably from growing up with a piano at home and near to hand, and which I played from a young age. It's almost like my fingers are so used to being in that position that they play silent tunes of their own accord. What I also realised was that this is something I will start up at any point in the day - it doesn't seem to matter if I'm feeling flustered, self-conscious, stressed or completely at ease. But on the whole, I think it's a comfort thing. When at home I find myself turning to the piano when I'm feeling unsettled, restless or down. It's almost like a therapy - I hammer out the negativity while running my fingers over the keys, and turn it into beautiful music (well, I can't say my playing is beautiful, but they make moderate entertainment...) I guess it's the same when I'm nowhere near a piano, and my fingers start to play nevertheless. 

I'm very tired, and hope I am still making sense in this analysis of my own personal body language. I'm not even very sure why I am writing about this (for want of a subject maybe?), but hope it makes interesting reading. What strange habits do you have?