Friends across the miles

Polish penpal and her daughterWe’ve just returned from a lovely quick trip to London, (takes about 4 hours driving if we’re lucky) to meet my childhood friend and penpal from Poland. We haven’t seen each other for about 10 years, even though we communicate every few months.

Justyna and I have been friends since I was about 13, when a lady from Church, who knew I was in Guides, asked if I knew someone in Guides who’d like to have a Polish Penpal who was a Scout. I jumped at the chance, and 30+ years later we’re still friends across the miles.

This fairly spontaneous trip has raised a few memories when my boys, and other friends, have asked about our friendship. Things I’ve taken as part our relationship, sound quite bizarre in 2017.

Behind the Iron Curtain

Justyna, when I first knew her, was in Scouts, but it was secret. It had to be in Communist Poland. She sent me a photograph once, (which she was frightened would be confiscated) of the scout group meeting by candlelight.

I wish I’d kept her letters, (I threw them out when I was decluttering), as she not only was learning to speak better English, but she shared a lot about her life in Poland. I’ve always been fascinated by how other people live, and their cultures.

She often talked about queuing for bread, and having a very basic diet. When I visited for the first time in 1990, her Mum still cooked very basic food on very simple cooking stove, in a very small apartment. They were so self sufficient, and were so happy with what they had, it made me feel uncomfortable with what I had available to me.

My most embarassing moment, ever, was when I bought some flowers as a thank you for letting me stay. I spent the equivalent of £5 at the time, which bought a massive bouquet of gorgeous flowers. I remember getting lots of looks on the bus as I travelled home that day, and Justyna’s Mum was virtually in tears when I gave them to her. The present was too much. I’d bought “enough flowers for a wedding”. What I thought was kindness, was showing how much wealth I had. I was mortified! By trying to give a gift, I’d offended them 🙁

Friends across the miles

It’s been a lovely friendship we’ve shared. Not all penpals get to meet, or get on as well as we do. Justyna came to my wedding, and we’ve met a few times in the UK and in Poland over the years.

Today we met her daughter for the first time. She’s 9, and bilingual – her father is English, and they speak English at home. Oh, I don’t think I said – Justyna achieved her goal of getting better at English, and teaches English in Poland to Polish, as well as foreign students. My boys were “well impressed” [their words]. Aisha likes football, judo and chess, as well as Sherlock Holmes, although her state school in Poland doesn’t allow for girls to play football. She was lovely, and I think we’ve made a new friend there too.

Despite it being 10 years since we physically met, we all picked up where we left off – laughing and joking, reminiscing and sharing. Learning from each other about what we all think about Brexit and effect it will have on their family and ours. We walked through a couple of London parks, kicked a football around, played “piggy in the middle” with a small rugby ball, had a drink, and took some photos of each other.

We spent just under 3 hours together. That time was priceless. Not only did we get a very quick trip to London under our belts, which we all love, we met a long term friend from across the miles, and rekindled the friendship we’ve shared since we were teenagers.

With today’s technology, it’s much easier to communicate, and you don’t have to wait weeks for letters to be written and go through the postal system. I will encourage my boys to create long distance friendships, and whilst they don’t always work out, there’s always so much we can learn from friends around the world – even those who have been near, and moved away.

Do you have any long distance friends? Did you meet your penpal? I’d love to hear your story.

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A change is as good as a rest, they say.

At the end of the summer holidays and many of us are reflecting how much we’ve enjoyed the rest, or the change in routine, and whether we’ll ever do ‘that’ again. You’ve heard the saying, “A change is as good as a rest”, but is it always true?

Rest don't rely on changeI’ve just come back from having the most relaxing holiday ever. Whilst we were all very ready to literally do nothing for 11 days in the Lot area of France, I didn’t think that it would do us the good that it has. We enjoy visiting different places, and doing different things, and benefit from the change in scenery. However, the total rest and relaxation we’ve just had has been well worth it and we need to plan that type of “away from it all” holiday regularly to totally recharge our batteries.

My boys, aged 15 and 13, are very sporty and we often have competitions at weekends, mainly in the North West of England, but sometimes in other parts of the country. Whilst we love this family time together, and seeing different towns and places, there’s a lot of organising to be done. Even if it’s just getting the picnic sorted for the day, (eldest does athletics, and youngest does triathlons currently), there’s things to think about. “Have you got your spikes/bike helmet/pins (for your race number)” is something we all have to think about, so you don’t totally relax on the day. Even after they’ve competed there’s things like, “have you done all the stretches and recovery warm down you need to do?”.

We’re fortunate in so many ways to spend this time together doing different things, having a change from our normal everyday activities. We love what we’re able to do, but it’s not relaxing.

Having stocked the fridge up, got the suncream on, there was nothing else to do but relax in our holiday home in France. It’s been a long time since we didn’t have plans to ‘do this’ or ‘see that’. I think it helped that the weather was over 30 degrees everyday, so we really didn’t feel like doing much. We just sat, read, swam in the pool, ate, drank (lots of water!). Fortunately there was Wi-fi so the boys were happy & their ‘nothing’ involved snap chatting & watching you tube videos!

I’m not usually very good at doing nothing, so the holiday was perfect and the sole reason for being there was to relax. 10 books later, (I’m so pleased the house had a little library of some of my favourite authors), I feel refreshed and almost like a different person. I’d forgotten quite how much you unwind when there’s nothing to organise, or do.

As a family we played games, swam in the pool, went shopping together, (which was lovely planning meals together). We had a couple of trips out, with a lovely relaxing float down the River Cele, and wander around Cahors. That was part of the relaxation, and was perfect.

A change is as good as a rest

So, I actually disagree with this saying now. A change is a great way of telling your brain and body that you need to do something different. But for total rest, you need to totally switch off, and do something totally different. For me, the fact that we didn’t have anything to plan for, nothing to organise, check, double check, was a change and a rest. Both things together. Wow! Perfect 🙂

Do you think a change is as good as a rest?

What are you waiting for?

We spend a lot of time waiting for things. Waiting for the right time. Waiting for results. Waiting for someone else to do something. Waiting for something to happen. It’s struck me recently that this time waiting could be put to better use in doing something. What are you waiting for?

Waiting for others

what are you waiting for. WhyThis year I’ve spent a lot of time waiting for others. The main one which I’ve wanted to talk about for a while, is waiting for my Father in law to pass away. This was emotionally draining, as well as physically draining. He’d been poorly for a long time, and ever since last September we’ve been waiting for the call, or waiting the next step of the illness to take hold. I felt I was holding everything together for the family, (my two teenage sons and husband), whilst supporting Mother in law by visiting, taking her shopping and visiting.

I’ve also spent weeks waiting for clients “to be ready” for the next step, or for the moon cycle to be correct, or until “x is in place”. Whilst the customer is always right, I’ve been left waiting for them to be ready to carry out the next tasks they’ve asked me to help them with. Whilst not as physically draining as the first example, it’s still emotionally draining, when I’ve been ready to move forward on their behalf. I can see potential which I feel they’re holding back on, which frustrates me. (Maybe I shouldn’t get frustrated and do what the client asks, but maybe that’s something to explore another day).

I’ve done it myself in the past – waited. I remember I wanted to wait until I felt ready to launch a website. I’ve felt I’ve had my fingers burnt when I’ve rushed into something too soon, (employing someone who was sort of right, because I didn’t want to wait any longer, being one example).

Why wait?

Maybe the summer break has given me the kick I’ve needed to stop waiting for others to do my thing. Or maybe it’s my age, and knowing that life is often shorter than we’d like, so why waste any time? I won’t say I’m wiser as I don’t think that’s true, but I have more understanding now that waiting instead of doing is often redundant energy. You put energy into the waiting process, or being frustrated with others, or juggling all the balls you need to keep in the air at the same time.

Whilst I love my clients, I’m my own person too with my own needs and I don’t have to wait until their ready. I can still progress my work, and business, and interests.

Why wait when you can use your energy to do something other than wait? If you’re waiting for an appointment you can read a book, or catch up with your emails rather than getting frustrated that they are running late. Would that work for you? Turning that waiting energy into something more positive.

What are you waiting for?

As September dawns, and the schools are about to go back, and a new cycle and season is upon us, I’ve decided not to wait for others any more. I know how to handle emotional waiting better now (I should have taken my own advice and listened better!), and I’m no longer going to wait for others. I’m ready now! I have so much energy and so much I want to offer other people, waiting for others is a distraction.

If you want some help in working out if or why you’re waiting for others, I’d be happy to help you – book a discovery call. Don’t wait. You’re ready now too, aren’t you? Would love to hear your views on waiting – let me know below.

 

Thank you Grandad

GrandadWe’ve recently said goodbye to my Father in Law, Edward Hughes. A wonderful man in so many ways. He’s been poorly for a long time, and whilst 82 isn’t a grand age, it’s certainly one which has been filled with many wonderful things for him. He had no regrets, apart from not being able to see his grandsons grow up even more.

I helped the boys create this poem, which the youngest one read at the Thanksgiving service, which summed up their memories and what they wanted to say to Grandad. It’s wonderful it’s a Thank You isn’t it? I’m so proud of them, and felt this may help others create their own words when saying goodbye to loved ones.

We will always have our wonderful memories,

of your loving, encouraging ways.

We’ll never forget our time together

and the games we used to play.

 

We had so much fun in the caravan

sneaking treats when Grannie didn’t know.

Our time together was always special.

We may not have always told you so.

 

We loved learning from, and helping you

peeling vegetables and gardening.

But watching us grow up, we know,

has been one of your favourite things.

 

You’re always so kind and reassuring

to friends and family alike.

You were generous with your time and money.

We thank you for our new bikes.

 

You’ve shown us how to love life

and how family is so important.

We’ll miss your wise words,

your smile, and your singing of the French national anthem.

 

You’ve shared your love of sport with us

and some of your talent too.

We’ve no idea where it’ll take us in life

We’ll try our best in everything we do.

 

We know it was time for you to leave us

as life became hard in so many ways.

You are still there cheering us on

And we can still talk to you everyday.

 

Whilst we will miss you here with us

you’ll be making the most of your new place

Making people laugh and creating mischief

Putting smiles on everyone’s face.

 

Thank you Grandad.

by Ben and Jack Hughes

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Horrible things affect us all

photo outside MEN arena

Paramedics treated dozens of walking wounded, including some with shrapnel injuries . Photo Pete Byrne

On waking this morning to discover the horrible suicide bomb in Manchester, at the Ariane Grande concert, we’re reminded that horrible things affect us all.

It didn’t really hit me until my 15 year old son woke up and he said he had quite a few friends go to the concert last night. That’s when I started really noticing my feelings. Yes, my initial reaction was of horror, but to think my son may be affected by it personally, my stomach fell away from me.

As the morning has gone on, and I’ve seen updates from friends who were at events near by, it’s brought back my memories from the London bombings in 2005, when all I could hear were helicopters and sirens. It’s taken me years to not be affected by the sound of a helicopter overhead. My brother has just written on my facebook page:

I remember vivdly us not being able to get hold of you on 7/7. You were actually in a meeting really early and hadn’t heard anything and obviously let us know as soon as you did. But it was a horrible couple of hours. Big hug to Ben and all his friends and glad to hear ( we hope ) they are all safe. Glad the girls are not that are (yet). Xxx

This morning there are people all over the North West trying to contact friends who may have been, or were at the concert or nearby. Most people will feel relief at hearing their loved ones and colleagues are safe. However, there’s going to be a lot of people who are learning that friends of friends, have been killed or injured in this incident. We need to recognise that their trauma may go on for weeks, or years, and we must help others all we can to learn to trust again.

As I hugged my boys goodbye this morning, I told them that I didn’t want them to be sad at school today. I told them about a girl who was killed on her way to school when I was a few years older than her. I remember that day so vividly too. It was sunny, and the news started to filter through that there had been a terrible accident on the train. Whilst I didn’t know the girl personally, you don’t need to to be upset, or need support. The school were fantastic, and supported those who needed it. It’s amazing what memories we keep hidden isn’t it, until something like this happens.

Whilst terror attacks and wars and murders and accidents are awful, it does show that our communities can work together and support each other in difficult times. Isn’t it time we start working together more? Try to understand our neighbour and create links to help people to talk about their issues. The skill of listening is going to be used so much today and these next few weeks as those who attended the concert talk about what happened to them, so they can start to put things in place in their head so they can move on in their lives.

As we go about our daily lives after a horror like this, we need to remember that horror does affect us all. We may want to protect our children, and even stop them from doing things, but will that help them learn? Life is horrid at times, and stopping doing what we want is surely a win for the terrorists. When the IRA were attacking England in the 1970s and early 80s did we stop our daily lives? Or did we put contingencies in place when we went anywhere? My family always had a plan when we went to London in case of an incident or we were split up. It didn’t stop us from doing what we wanted. We need to prepare our children for horrid things, through love and education, and being part of a caring community who look out for each other.

We will never wipe out all terror and horror in our world (Dark v Light, or whatever analogy you want to use), but we can learn to deal with horror better, and help those who are affected with all the love we possess.

Today, and in the weeks to come, I believe we need to Listen more, Love more, Hug more, and build our communities once more so that we respond to each other positively every day, not just when horror strikes.

My love and prayers go to all those affected by this particular horror in Manchester, and horrors around the world.

Addition – I’ve been shown this helpful free hypnosis download for anyone struggling with fear of terrorism. I’ve not used it personally, but a good friend I trust has used other content for her daughter. Please do let me know if you use it for yourself or your family & how it helps you.

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