Aloha 2016

2015 watercolour

It was a project I started unintentionally in January with the aim of using my watercolour set to capture what that first month of 2015 meant to me. Somehow it continued through 12 months of ups and downs – small catchphrases that summed up 4 week interludes; brief snapshots of an unfolding story.

2015 has been better than 2014 – not that that was difficult. If I’m honest, it was a little bland overall. Nothing huge changed, I achieved quite a few of the things I aimed to achieve but I started out at such a low point that I didn’t really have time to make sense of anything or plan.

It’s been a middling year; a season in which the primary aim was for time to pass and wounds to heal. Sometimes, time just has to take its course without my plans or expectations getting in its way. 2015 carved its own course with little steering or focus from me and on reflection, that has set me up well for 2016.

If nothing else, 2015 has taught me how to relinquish some control over the direction of my life. It has taught me to live each day as it comes – not that I have mastered that quite yet(!) – and it has taught me that time brings with it its own challenges and hidden delights. Like a stream that picks up, carries and deposits the pebbles and debris it encounters, time continues to flow no matter what you try to do to stop or divert it, accommodating whatever life moments it stumbles across.

My aim for this month was to Look Up and Anticipate 2016 and I definitely enjoyed this time. I celebrated with friends and family in lots of ways from parties to carol singing to ice skating. I also read and re-read the Christmas story, which means so much more than the revelry, and I’ve given myself time to ponder the coming year so that the joy of anticipation isn’t lost in fairly lights and Lebkuchen.

I’m not expecting huge things from 2016 other than what the passing of time naturally presents – and I think I’m ok with that. I want to bake more, I want to have more time to myself, I want to read more and I want to move more towards that wonderful Hawaiian lifestyle we were privileged to experience in March. Here’s to hoping that the islands who gave birth to my name will pervade in 2016 with hellos, goodbyes, love and hospitality: Aloha 2016.

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December – Enjoying the Season

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December is always dominated by Christmas and this year was the first in many years where my family have all woken up in the same house on Christmas day. It was nice. Sad because the reason we were together was because we didn’t need to split the family between Germany and England any more but it was nice. It was quiet.

As it should be, this month has been about celebrating and spending time with friends and family. From carol singing and parties to ice skating and eating lots of cheese, December has thankfully been fairly uneventful. It also means that I’ve had a bit of time to take stock and figure a few things out ahead of the New Year.

This Christmas time, I am thankful that Jesus came to this earth so that we could have hope: hope in our earthly lives as well as hope for an eternal life on a perfect, restored earth, with no more tears, death or suffering. What complete joy.

November reflections / December hopes

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November was a month of sadness, of deep prayer and of reflection on life as we mourned the loss of our wonderful Oma. She is with her Saviour so we are assured that she is experiencing a peace we can only imagine, so through our grief we can learn how to take what she meant to us and continue to live out her legacy.

Above all, that’s what I want to remember this Christmas month. That I have an incredible heritage of faith and love and I want that to remain a strong part of who I am.

>Reflections<

Get on top of work.  I may not have had two plane journeys but I have had time to prepare for what’s next at work. My brain is starting to untangle and that leaves me close to being able to let out the breath I’ve been holding for six months, for which I’m very thankful.

Finish my book. Many long train journeys helped me complete this and I loved the escape. I’ve even downloaded some more books as I remember how much it relaxes me to read!

Bake. I baked once, so technically achieved this. Christmas requires some kitchen adventures though so more of this to come I hope.

>Hopes<

Look up. Christmas is all around us. I want to stop watching my feet and look up, both at the crisp weather, the sparkle and the joy around me, as well as the Saviour whose birth we remember. I want to read and reflect on his birth and take time to grasp why we have the hope that we have.

Anticipate 2016. Anticipation is underrated. There is excitement, possibility, adventure and fulfilment bundled up in this package of looking ahead. It’s not always realised, but I love to plan, to think about where we’re going and walk into the New Year with my husband and my hopes aligned.

That’s it. December is about being in the moment and anticipating the joy of a New Year. I will also be considering a different way of setting myself goals that really capture things I want to change or keep on track of, for my own well-being and the contentment of those I love.

October reflections / November hopes

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As predicted, October wasn’t forthcoming with time off. But it was productive enough that, once work calms down, the next couple of months may be less frantic. I recognise that I constantly write about being busy and hoping for a little time to pause and recover but my life seems to run in peaks and troughs of busy. I do love the energy and cyclical nature of this type of life. Just like I love the familiarity and capricious character of the seasons. Let’s see if October afforded the meeting of some goals in there somewhere too…

>Reflections<

Go for Autumn walks in new places. We spent some time at our favourite national trust site this month and the wedding was at a beautiful autumnal estate but I didn’t get as many walks as I wanted. There was just so much planned! We’ve learned our lesson and blocked out lots of weekends next October already!

Get the flat painted (except maybe the bedrooms) and clean again! We even managed the bedrooms! It feels so good to have a home that is ‘us’. We hadn’t even realised how much we’d settled for a half way house between owning our own place but accepting wall colours, picture hook positions, kitchen styles and even furniture to some extent as though we were renting. It’s finally ours!

Be in the moment for birthdays. This we did and I was thankful for it. Family and friends are good for the soul.

>Hopes<

Get on top of work.  I’ll have two plane journeys and some evenings to plan. I want to stop feeling like I only have time to react and start stealing back some time to be pro-active. I really want this to be under control by Christmas. The peak will be over so I want to push forward to gain back some work/life balance. To do that, I need to plan.

Finish my book. It’s fairly easy going and should let my brain switch off a bit. It will also hopefully help me feel like I have a little more time to myself.

Bake. Simple goal. Just one thing. I love cake. If I can push through the work demands I should have time for this simple pleasure!

Christmas will soon be here and I want to prepare wisely so that we can enjoy every moment. That means starting now to get rid of the demands and the headaches and free up some space for life.

October – Restoring order

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October was a busy month. Work will regain a slower pace at the end of November but until then it’s full steam ahead. Somehow in between all of that, we finished the flat. Everything is painted. Furniture is bought and mostly all arrived and order has finally been restored to this household. After three years of faff, it feels SO good to look forward to coming home and for our home to be a place of refuge and relaxation again. I hope I never underestimate the importance of having a home to hide in and share with others.

We also had lunch at the Ritz, saw some unbelievable fireworks and celebrated a wedding and three birthdays. When I stop for a moment and consider all the activity of the past few weeks, it amazes me just how much can be crammed into one month. I’m looking forward to something a little less hectic soon!

September reflections / October hopes

P1030510 (2)September was all about the kitchen really. And the arrival of Autumn. The kitchen was almost completely faff-free and we love the result. We’re even starting to cook together because we can stand side by side and chop/stir without treading on one another!

I don’t think September gave me much time to be still at all. We had wonderful friends who fed us almost every night so that we didn’t have to rely on takeaway whilst kitchen-less, but that did mean it was very busy and very extroverted. The introvert in me is crying out for a few days of nothing. Not quite sure October will offer that but I have a few hopes nonetheless.

>Reflections<

Don’t get too frustrated while the new kitchen is installed. This actually happened. I spent a lot of time preparing myself for the fact that the flat would be a mess and I wouldn’t be able to find anything for a few weeks and as a result, the whole situation felt fairly calm! We now have decorators in so the dust sheets haven’t been put away quite yet. A few more weeks and we’ll be there!

Spend less money. This pretty much happened. We didn’t go over budget, despite the kitchen and need for takeaways. I’d really like to continue this for a few months, especially in the run up to Christmas when I’m sure we’ll enjoy the freedom of spending a bit of money on lovely gifts for the people we love! (If you hate people talking about Christmas in October, perhaps just ignore that last sentence…)

Spend more time with family. Without even trying, this happened. I spent an evening curled up with my mum and sister watching the Great British Bake Off and I spent a very very wonderful weekend away with my sister and got to spend quality time with her – no distractions. The weekend actually happened at the beginning of October but seeing as I’m late in writing my reflections and hopes this month, it totally counts!

Spend less time watching TV. This hasn’t actually been too difficult as the television was under a dust sheet for most of the month! I added rugby to the list of OK television as it’s the Rugby World Cup and not watching rugby was just not going to happen!

>Hopes<

Go for Autumn walks in new places. The leaves are changing colour and I want to take in every crisp breath of this perfect season. I’d like to go for walks in new parks and places and make the most of being outdoors – even if it’s raining!

Get the flat painted (except maybe the bedrooms) and clean again! A month (ish) of dust sheets are taking their toll on our flat. I really want to get the decorating finished and give the whole flat a good clean to get rid of some of the dust. This would include steam cleaning the carpets, although that might be too ambitious…

Be in the moment for birthdays. One of my best friends turns 30 this month and it’s also my sister’s birthday. They both have things planned and I want to take those opportunities to forget the overwhelm of work/life and be present in those times with friends and family. I just want to relax and enjoy them for what they are, no more, no less.

That’s it for this month. I’m loving the darker evenings and cooler weather – the rain and wind give me the perfect excuse to enjoy indoor things alongside the joy of dusk air and beautiful crisp walks. I hope October will let me enjoy both.

August reflections / September hopes

P1030262bAugust gifted us a wonderful 10 days away from work. It was time with family and with my husband and it also gave me some much needed headspace. We succeeded in making a few meals without a recipe whilst on holiday and will hopefully do more of that once we have our new kitchen, which will have a dishwasher!

The kitchen will probably monopolise much of September and that’s ok; we’ve been waiting for it long enough! But life goes on around that and I hope September will continue to make room for time to ponder and be still.

>Reflections<

Stargaze and re-visit my 2015 year aims. I think sitting on a cabin, by a fire, watching the sunset, listening to owls and watching the stars counts 🙂 so good to see some stars but still looking forward to a really dark night’s sky without any light pollution again one day. Also re-visited my 2015 year aims and I’m pretty much on track… with a few things still to work on!

Take time off! Done. Much needed. Would love more of it. Who wouldn’t?

Go on Facebook less. Without FB on my phone, I go on it far less. Went for over a week without so much as a glance and didn’t miss it at all!

Go on more post-dinner walks. Definitely did this on holiday but could still do more of it. Especially as Autumn is arriving, that fresh Autumn air is so great in the early evening!

Sort out my wardrobe. Getting there on this too. Bought lots of new trousers which may not seem like much but for someone who is almost 6ft2, getting trousers that fit is a great way to start the re-planning of a wardrobe! Especially a work wardrobe. Will keep at this one slowly. Aware that I don’t want to spend lots of money all in one go!

Pamper myself. Massage and pedicure most definitely achieved. Not quite on the haircut but I’ll book that soon…

>Hopes<

September officially marks the start of my favourite season so I’d like to make the most of that and all that it brings. That kind of goes without saying, so there are also a few specific things I hope for September.

Don’t get too frustrated while the new kitchen is installed. A new kitchen is likely to bring with it frustrations: unexpected costs, strangers in our home, dust everywhere, not much space for quiet, unplanned meals… I’d like not to let it get to me. I’d prefer to look at it from the point of view that we are incredible blessed to be able to afford a brand new kitchen and look forward to using it in the near future.

Spend less money. August was an expensive month what with the holiday and buying new clothes and with a huge amount of money flying out of our account and into a new kitchen this coming month, I’d like to go back to a little restraint in my spending! Besides, every time I consciously try to spend less, I always end up valuing the little things so much more.

Spend more time with family. I’m realising more and more, recently, how much I love spending time with my family. It relaxes me, it’s familiar, it’s a comforting environment away from home, it reminds me of what really matters. I’d like more of that.

Spend less time watching TV. Exclusions to this include: The Great British Bake Off and Strictly. We don’t actually watch much other live TV but we do spend a lot of time watching box sets. Having finished all seasons of The West Wing for a second time, we’ve moved onto House. It’s amazing how many evenings get sucked into multiple episodes and I find my time and my evenings drifting by much faster than I’d like.

Plus I’d like to continue making a meal without a recipe with my hubby this month! I’m secretly looking forward to a few more rainy evenings and an excuse to be an introvert and stay in my cosy home. I love the summer sunshine but I can’t help but love it when the Autumn air brings with it time and expectation.

July reflections / August hopes

July reflections August hopesWhen I sat down to write this, I only planned to reflect on the goals I set for July. August was already looking busy and I wasn’t sure there were things I wanted to achieve. As I thought about it though, ideas crept through and I realised there are plenty of things I want to do or change in August! Why that surprises me, as a person who loves to set goals and try to improve how I live in the moment and be present in the present, I don’t know, but it did.

If I start with the 6 month ambition: creating a new meal without a recipe every month – we actually did this! Summer is particularly conducive to this aim as almost every meal is a guess as to how it will turn out because we’re just throwing salads together with whatever we have in the fridge. It was fun though – every salad turned out differently! Will probably have to be more intentional about doing this in August but it seems like a fun date night activity so I hope we’ll get a chance to continue this aim this month!

>Reflections<

Stargaze. Not this month, but we’ve put in place ways of doing this in August!! Our summer staycation accommodation has a skylight in the roof above the bed so you can watch the stars as you go to sleep. It’s also in the middle of nowhere so I’m hoping for some great stargazing!

Read the Bible in German more. ‘More’ seemed so vague when I wrote this a few weeks ago but ‘more’ is definitely what I have achieved. By putting my German Bible next to my bed, I’ve read it almost every night this month and it’s been great not only for keeping my mind in German mode but also for the words to come back to life, reading them in a different language and reminding me of what their true meaning and purpose is.

Re-visit my 2015 year aims. Haven’t actually managed this properly yet. I’ll put it on my August aims and hope I get the chance to do this while we’re on holiday and I actually find time to think!

Go to the cinema twice. Jurassic World and Theory of Everything! The latter we even saw at an outdoor cinema which was especially fun. The Theory of Everything is an absolutely superb movie – I would thoroughly recommend it! Hoping this continues next month as we now have 2 for 1 cinema deals and I really want to see Inside Out!

Go to a National Trust site. We managed this without trying in the end by going to Rhossili – voted the best beach in Britain! It is absolutely huge when the tide is out and we had such a wonderful afternoon there with friends.

>Hopes<

Stargaze and re-visit my 2015 year aims. Carrying these over from July…

Take time off! We’ve booked just over a week off work over my birthday to take some much needed time away. It’ll be my first ever staycation and I’m actually really looking forward to it!

Go on Facebook less. Facebook is less of an addiction and more of a habit. My fingers automatically open the app on my phone and I barely read what is in front of me before closing it again. All that it is serving to do at the moment is distract me and fill my mind with other people’s opinions and lives, drawing me away from my own. It is cluttering my mind and August is going to be all about clearing my mind, so I can do with less of the social media influence!

Go on more post-dinner walks. The evenings are already starting to get shorter and my favourite time of day in the summer is dusk so I want to cherish it while it’s still here!

Sort out my wardrobe. Whether that’s buying new clothes, getting rid of existing clothes or starting to save some money so that I can really fill my wardrobe only with clothes that fit me well, something needs to change so that I am more comfortable when I get dressed in the morning!

Pamper myself. I hope August will give me space to clear my thoughts and, as it’s also my birthday month, I figured I may as well give my body some TLC as well. I hope a massage, pedicure and haircut might be on the cards…

Never stop looking for what’s not there

The last few weeks and months have changed me a lot. When I look back on my personality just a few years ago, I see such a stark contrast to who I am today that it quite amazes me. Most of the changes are good, some are neither good nor bad, simply different. I am very aware that I am in a time of learning, trusting, watching, listening, waiting and hoping. That combination brings my introversion to the fore and leaves no option other than to introduce space for flexibility in order to make the most of this time of change because however hard you try, life doesn’t keep to deadlines.

I find it so easy to forget the things I learn so I’m indulging myself by recording a few things that I would love to have known a few years ago.

  • Take life at its own pace, don’t force it to conform to your timings. A life lived according to the schedule of the world will only ever be rushed, unfulfilling and unappreciated. Flexibility gives you permission to enjoy life in the moment without concerning yourself with the paths of others.
  • If the milk runs out, buy some more. Tomorrow will have bigger things to worry about than whether your planned amount of groceries lasts out the week. 
  • Take one day at a time, life can change in an instant.
  • Just aim to be the best you that you can be. No envy, no competition, just you. You will be loved for it.
  • Love with all your heart. Whether or not you are loved in return, to love another makes life worth living and serving friends and family is such a source of joy. The time will come when another person’s love for you will be your strength so in the highs, be their strength. Lean on them. Put pride aside and enjoy all that love truly means.
  • “Never stop looking for what’s not there.” This fantastic quote from the film ‘Once More’ starring Morgan Freeman is so insightful. Dream. Think big. Hope. See light in the darkness. It doesn’t have to be in front of you; it may be years away, it may be tomorrow but never stop looking for it. 

I’m still learning. I hope I always will. For me, this season is so full of new insights into life that I want to capture what I can, if only to read it again in a few years and remind myself that the world is so much bigger than I give it credit for.

Those days are gone

I have just booked a whistle-stop journey to see my Oma in Germany for her 90th birthday. I’ll catch the first flight out in the morning and the last one back in the evening. I won’t have time to visit her home, just the place she now resides in – a home.

The days of us visiting our grandparents, splashing in the pool in the back garden of the home they built themselves, lounging in the sun, playing games with them, eating cake and learning about life from them, are now gone and it is only in this past year, since my Opa died, that I’m finally beginning to realise that.

I am so unbelievably blessed that I have had two grandparents who could not have been better role models for me. Every fibre in their being was love and faith. They exuded wisdom, they laughed from their heart and they demonstrated the kind of devotion to one another and to God that is so hard to emulate.

Dementia now has much of the mind of my Oma, but her heart is still the same. She misses her partner of over 60 years but she is still wise, she still has faith and she still loves with every ounce she has left.

But those carefree days of my childhood with them truly are gone and that makes me sad. I wouldn’t say I didn’t make the most of them because for most of that time I was too young to know the blessing I had, but they made sure that they cherished their time with me and my sister and in doing so, they gave me memories that can never be taken from me.

I am one fortunate girl to have those memories and, though I’m sad to comprehend that they will never be experienced again, I am grateful that I had the opportunity to experience them at all. I will continue to make new, albeit different, memories with my Oma for as long as I get to keep her on this earth. She is one very precious lady.