It has taken my body two days to realise that the pressure of last month was finally off. Easing into down-time mode, although I guess the weekend surrounded by friends with colds didn’t help either, and the lurgies have found me.

Currently just an annoying niggle in the throat, I am determined to overcome this. Down time it may be but a race still has to be trained for and run by the end of the month: being sick is not really an option right now body – sorry. What are the chances of me outrunning a bug?

In other news, before actually dealing with ‘the evaluation of life plan’ as intended this month, I decided to find myself the release valve first. An emergency stop if you like, when planning turns into over-analysing and subsequent panic. Running is one method but sometimes not physical but mental distraction is needed. Thus I decided to find myself a book: I can’t remember when I last finished one (Ballard’s Empire of the Sun still lies on the table after having been opened on numerous occasions and still not read.)

Being lucky enough to have ready access to quite a few books at the moment, it was hard to decide what to choose. It’s a bit like a meal in a restaurant: do you order what you know to like or do you try something new? I decided to compromise and choose a never read classic. Having set a month aside in the slow lane, the story could be a longer one ( something more than Animal Farm), yet not too daunting (the epic War and Peace), and it was not yet the time for another attempt at Catch-22. ( I usually don’t get further than p33, even though I really want to like the book.)

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by tgoldenburg

On the hunt for a story I know but never read, I found Dumas’ The Three Musketeers. If the recent film version was something to go by, it would put you off the book. However, there is a familiarity with the characters already (wasn’t there a cartoon of some kind?)  and quite frankly the film made me want to read to book, so M Dumas could reassure me that it was not how he had meant to tell the story originally.

I have just finished the first chapter and already D’Artagnan amuses me, young and hot-headed I find him surprisingly easy to identify with… October, a whole month with a book as entertainment: even the lurgies cannot spoil that.

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space (Photo credit: Sweetie187)

Six weeks have passed since my last post, aptly titled ‘Silence’. What can I say kids, I never promised you the world. Life happened and since this blog was supposed to roll with the punches, that’s what it did. WordPress apparently has changed interface since I last logged in. Well, will you look at that.  September was filled with a playwriting project,  a little melancholy, reflection and celebration over ten years gone and the beginning of autumn. Sharing all this with you would have seemed a little over-indulgent, even though a few years ago I would have happily wallowed in the drama.

Enfin, it is October now and having placed a drinking ban on myself this month to aid the half-marathon,  that will be run on the 28th as part of the 12 Challenge project, I think this month should be positive reflection and active planning.  I am in a good place and have quietly (haha, as if.) laid the foundations of the life I want to build. I think it is time to progress to a new level. This means setting goals and making plans. My personal preference is to write about it and share with you part that I choose because a) I’m more likely to keep to it if my plans are out there. b) you might have ideas that can help me achieve my goals.

So expect more updates this month, a little diversion from the original concept for this blog but I hope you don’t mind. In fact, if you do mind: just don’t read it – simples.

Day one of October project:  Room overhaul. Symbolic as well as practical. It is the easiest way to create a good thinking space ( which triggered the picture suggestion I believe) : declutter the physical space and proceed from there.

Let’s put some music on and let’s go!

True story: when I was 15 I was given a mandala colouring book for my birthday. For those unfamiliar with mandalas, this is one:

From Mandali.com

The mandala comes from Sanskrit meaning circle and I quote the mandala project here:

” It represents wholeness, and can be seen as a model for the organizational structure of life itself–a cosmic diagram that reminds us of our relation to the infinite, the world that extends both beyond and within our bodies and minds.”

According to mandali.com

Coloring mandalas is a relaxing activity that helps us feel centered and peaceful. This explains why it appeals to children and parents, the elderly, therapists and teachers, and those in the health and healing professions. It is a perfect activity for anyone who seeks relaxation, quiet and inner peace.
I’m not sure how many children you know that are looking to feel centred and peaceful, I at 15 certainly wasn’t but it might give an indication of how I was perceived at that age. In hindsight, perhaps it wasn’t as much a birthday present as a plea: please sort it out. Whatever it was, my unpeaceful and uncentred self shoved it in a drawer and that’s where it lives 13 years on.
The memory of this mandala experience kind of puts me off opting for the meditation group silent retreat; the silent retreat bit being one of the 12 challenges. Another option would be in a convent or another religious house but missing out on becoming centred and peaceful, I’m genuinely worried that I might hurt a well-meaning nun if I’m struggling with being silent.
The only reason why I want to try to be silent for a couple of days is to give myself permission to do nothing. Doing nothing is my biggest fear: hence the running, the reading, the listening to music, the endless pondering about how to keep moving forward if not upward. The restlessness that drives me and which I love, can at times drive me insane. It tires me and then I get upset about being tired and go for a run to prove I’m not tired that I can keep going. Pushing my body, so I can push my mind.  It’s a fine line and I have crossed over to the wrong side of the line a couple of times, which is good because you start reading the signs better, know when you have to step back.
Stepping back yes, but complete silence? Complete shut down communication, just to be able to do nothing. That’s what I long to do. I’m not looking for the meaning of life, what to do with my life or whether my prince will come. (He’s probably not in a convent anyway!) I just want silence of the brain, of the soul. So I might just do it myself: lock myself in somewhere nice for a couple of days and let the world go by.

Tough week this week. Mostly in my head but isn’t that always the case?

It all accumulated to this morning I guess when I went to run my usually route. Half-way through it felt a bit funny, then I realised: Oh no, hungry! Those who know me well, know that hungry is not good. Hungry means grumpiness, tunnel-vision, erratic driving and potential shaking. Though not this severe, this morning just past half-way point my legs just said: no. I stood still and could only walk the rest home. Game over.  I was annoyed with myself because my diet this week has been less than ideal. Nothing terrible, just nog ideal when you are running or walking a lot like I’ve been doing. Too much sugar, not enough carbs, I know this. But like I said, it’s been a tough week ok so give us a break.

I must have looked a state though because an elderly man walked past me, kindly encouraging: Come on! Don’t give up, you can do it! I smiled because I know I can do it. Just not today thank you very much. Today I need to eat more and take a brain break.

Break is exactly what I’m getting this weekend as I’m flying home for flying visit: Amsterdam, home, Friesland all in the space of 2 days. It might not involve a lot of sleeping but that is ok: I don’t think that sleep is what my body and mind need. Perhaps a change of scenery will do and food of course. Luckily, I know that food won’t ever be lacking at home.

Happy Friday everyone.

Life’s been busy lately and the days seem to fly by: all of a sudden it is Wednesday again. More importantly, we are now half way through the year so let’s review the challenges that are left:

– Learn to shoot a gun
– Learn to sing the Ave Maria
– Learn to play the mouth harmonica
– Spending a day with my 13 year old cousin
– Going on a short silent retreat
– Run a half marathon with my sister
– Write courage on Ipanema beach.

Learn to shoot a gun, will have to involve booking a clay pigeon shooting day. Real guns are hard to get by and you have to get through too many checks for just a bit of blog malarkey. Does it matter I only have one eye perfectly working? The other one I read with…

Ave Maria

Ave Maria (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Singing the Ave Maria, this needs some co-ordination with Maya who was interested in helping me, but then we never got around the details. It will be nothing like the picture  of Beyonce, not sure what the concept behind the dress choice was…

Learn to play the mouth harmonica: so this one is a bitch. It needs patience, something I lack profoundly. Anyway, that’s the point of a challenge I guess.

In two weeks time I’m hopping over to Neverneverland for family business so will speak to cousin then and try to arrange meeting up – if she is still interested of course.

Running is on track, found a new route today: hoping to hit 10K in two weeks. Have also found out that the race is sponsored by another energy drink than I trained with two years ago. Hopefully it will taste better, though I fear it won’t. #firstworldproblems

Brazil… well that is going to be the real challenge: time and money required. Usually you have one or the other. Have to think about how to make that work.

Anything left? Ah yes the silent retreat…Options galore, be it in convents or buddhist tribes, but the real question is: what do I want from it? And why am I so reluctant to think about that question…

*to be continued – no doubt.

It’s a bit of an in-joke between me and my friend Rachel G: if things don’t work out for me in London, I can always move to Stroud. Stroud, for the record, is very small – yet the town lies in the beautiful Cotswolds and the views around are pretty marvellous.

As a challenge, Rachel G had invited me to spend a day at St Joseph’s; the post-16 program of St Rose’s school where she works. St Rose’s is a special needs school founded by the Dominican Sisters of St Rose Convent and has provided special education and support for a century. Rachel works as a TA and assists a group of teenagers with a variety of needs: different levels of cerebral palsy, learning difficulties and wheel chair users. She also learned British Sign language to communicate with a student who is deaf. This has always sounded like hard work to me, but Rachel genuinely loves her job invited me for a personal experience.

As the school year is nearly at an end, there were no regular lessons and therapy: the day was spent rehearsing the school play Peter Pan. It is a great example of the extraordinary support St Rose’s staff give to their students: they push wheelchairs on stage, help with recorded lines on voice machines for those with trouble speaking and support the singing. The whole school is involved with students ranging from the ickle ones in the nursery, a mix of mainstream and special needs students,  to primary and the Post-16 group.

I hung out with The PIrates and one student who was the crocodile as he enthusiastically signed to me. ( Yes, I now know the sign for ‘crocodile’, which will no doubt come in handy one day.) I’ll be honest, when I was introduced I was daunted: every student has an individual way of communicating and sometimes it takes time to decipher. Luckily they were kind and patient with my ineptness, unlike other teenagers might be. Still, boys will be boys indeed: as an attractive female member of staff left after conversation with two boys, the two (one who is deaf and the other strapped to his wheelchair) exchanged looks, communicated in noise and then gave each other a knowing fist-bump. Oh, Purrrlease!

The staff’s day is a logistical puzzle as everyone has to be helped from A to B, and assisted with toilet breaks and specific snack/drink needs. I also spent half an hour playing Amy Pond on a Dr Who adventure through the gardens of the school with one of the students, during his one-on-one time. Life at St Rose’s school feels like being part of ‘the ideal family’ whose love and time gives students the care they need to flourish. The fruit is the students’ confidence, not only oozing from the pictures of the many community field trips and educational excursions, proudly displayed on the schoolwalls, but in daily life.  St Rose’s gives students skills for life, and as much as Rachel claims her job doesn’t feel like a job, one day exhausted me: so excuse my gushing admiration for all the staff whose hard work makes the students very happy.

PS: I spoke to one of the students who asked me what I did, so I told him I write. His face lit up: “Are you a blogger?”  Well Ryan, I am – and I just wanted to thank you and your mates for letting me hang out with you. I really enjoyed my day and I hope that the play will go well. Have fun being Pirate Alan, oh and sing loudly because I can’t wait to see the DVD footage of that sea shanty! 😉

After a quiet mini break to the beautiful land of Fin where the summer sun never sets, it’s back to the challenges for me. Just returned from a run, so on track still for the October challenge, and invigorated shall share with you the news of another completed challenge. Turns out the mini break was actually necessary to complete it, so look how that worked out. Ready? The latest challenge completed is….

*drumroll*

The photo album! Finally! I mentioned the photo album ages ago and I never got around to it (sounds familiar? Yes, that’s life.) Then two weeks ago, I got an email through the spambox, excuse me  “gray mail”, that actually offered me a deal to CTRL-C CTRL-V (or cmd-C, cmd -V for the Mac users) a photo album together. It offered a discount, I bought the credit and I just had to use it on an album before the 19th of June. Pics were collected, and yes if you tagged me in it or put it out there on the web I might have nabbed it for posterity. Sorry – but more importantly: adjust your privacy settings. And that really is only a half joke. * more on this to come.

The album contains pictures of family (a whole section on my best girls, who will be joined by a best boy in autumn), friends in all sorts shapes and sizes ( The fab four, the Exmouth Seven, New York, Liessel Legendary and erhm, B and Sura.) Oh and section with my very cool sister of course.

* here we go: One thing I have learned from my own picture gathering antics, is the power of the almighty accessible interweb… The internet is great to keep connected with all my friends/family across the world: it’s much easier to stay in touch and meet people years after you last saw them and not feel like complete strangers. Still, we need to be aware who can see what: if you use social media, especially FB, double check the settings on your albums. It all got reset when Timeline came in. I might have clicked on a picture that your friend took of you and me  and could click through to the rest of her albums too. Check your settings now: you can adjust it per album. Click on the arrow  on the bottom right hand corner for a dropdown.

This is an open blog and even though this challenge indirectly included those I care about, at no point should it be a bother to them. So here the hopefully non offending front page as proof of album, and once it actually comes in, I will place a pic as well.

Next challenge is coming up next week:  spend time shadowing a teaching-assistant in a special needs school!

Report to follow y’all, thanks for reading.