Tag Archives: Christmas

Twelfth Night

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Taking down the decorations

This is the part of Christmas I hate.  The clearing up.

Today is the day for taking the decorations down.  If you leave them up any longer, its supposed to be bad luck.  And since I don’t want any more bad stuff in my life for a good while, I’m diligently stripping the tree, just to be on the safe side.

Once all the cards and baubles are gone, the place looks rather sad and naked.  Empty.  You can see where all the dust and cobwebs have built up.  (I’m leaving the hoovering and dusting till tomorrow, so I don’t use up all my strength in one day.)  It looks especially empty this year because we made such an effort to bring that Christmas magic back into the house.  The first annual holiday without a loved one (in this case, my mother-in-law) is always a tough one, and especially so for my Husband this year, because his mother was such an enthusiast for the season, such an integral part of the family’s celebrations.  We had to make a particular effort to reclaim it not only from grief, but from the difficult memories of the last few Christmases spent in the shadow of her Alzheimers disease.

I think we managed it (mostly).  At least, I’m pretty sure it could have been a lot worse.  And when I came downstairs one evening and found him lying on his back on the sofa, gazing at the twinkling lights on the tree and listening to the soft music of Vaughn Williams, relaxed for the first time in months, I decided we’d found a reasonably happy medium.

Now the Yuletide festical is over, and we have to face the stark reality of a future year, the uncertainties of Brexit and Trump, as well as clearing out and selling the home of a loved one.  However, I don’t feel as desolate as I thought I would.

I always said I was a ‘glass half full’ kind of person.  You know the old adage, the one about looking at a glass with some water in it, and choosing to be optimistic about there still being something left to drink, or being pessimistic about the fact that its half gone.  The joke I heard recently about, ‘well, there’s plenty of space for more vodka’ seems to chime with how I feel today.

The house may feel bald and empty, but now there is space to fill it with new things.  Good things.  Things we can choose together, not the baggage of caring for someone with dementia, of watching her suffering, and of our own powerlessness to help.  There is new opportunity in the space that is left, both by the decorations and the lifting of the burden of caring.  And we get to choose what we fill it with.

Which is quite exciting when you think about it.

(Think of all the writing and painting I’m going to get done!)

So don’t look at your dusty, de-Christmassed home in dismay today.  Look for the gaps in between, the space for possibility.  Don’t mourn the loss of Christmas.  Think to yourself, in your best Mary Poppins tone, ‘well, what shall I do today?’

Happy Creating,

EF

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A Last Minute Roundup

Dear All,

Christmas is fast approaching here in Darkest Norfolk, and in traditional style, there are no decorations up yet, and we still have presents yet to buy!  It wouldn’t be the same without that last-minute panic.

I’ve been working so hard to finish my guide-daughter’s Christmas stocking that I have had no time to write, which is making me thoroughly grumpy and frustrated.  Hopefully, I shall get some writing time in after the festivities are over, in that gloomy pause between Christmas and New Year..

In the meantime, I thought you might like to see the finished product:

IMG_20141218_142508This shot gives an idea of the amount of quilting I put into it.

Here is the completed version:

IMG_20141218_163619 IMG_20141218_163610I have to say its the best thing I have managed to finish in years, and I am indecently proud of myself.  I hope Lottie likes it.

And in the spirit of trying to get into the Christmas Spirit (…), I’ve finally managed to get around to transferring my favourite Christmas fanfic, A Christmas Soldier, over to AO3.  You can read it here.

Well, that about wraps it up.  I’d like to thank you for bearing with me over recent months, and I hope that this festive season brings you joy, peace, good health and lots and lots of creative fun!

With love,

Evenlode’s Friend.

Inspiration Monday: The Fun of Childhood or My Quilting Adventure

lotties stockingLately I’ve been rediscovering sewing. In a fit of madness, I offered to make a Christmas stocking for my dear guide daughter, Lottie. I bought some of that lovely fabric, where the stocking is printed on the surface, and all you have to do is cut it out and sew it together. So far, so simple. But then I had the bright idea that it would look lovely quilted. I had some batting and calico at home, so that could be had free. Why not?

I haven’t quilted properly in years. To be really honest, I haven’t done proper quilting since the winter after my dad died in 1982, when my mother and I made a quilt for my bed. We sat through the winter evenings with the quilt over our laps, sewing together. It was one of the most profound and loving ways we found to survive our grief.

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Pink Quilt made by my mother and I, Winter 1982-3.

I still have that quilt. We have voyaged through life together, through college, university, adversity and marriage, my quilt and me. Now it sits, pride of place on the futon in my study, ready to wrap around me when I’m reading on a chilly afternoon. It is a bit threadbare now, the cheap cotton we used almost see-through. But it still gets used on our bed on cold nights, and I’ll occasionally patch it up if it develops a hole.

For me, quilting is an emotionally important skill.

Pride of place on the futon in my study, ready for snuggling duty.

Pride of place on the futon in my study, ready for snuggling duty.

It is not really hard, just running stitch. You just have to make sure you get your needle through all three layers on each upstroke and downstroke. Of course, you can make it more complicated than that, but I don’t.

I’m really enjoying my simple running stitch work on this stocking. I’ve finally finished the first side, the one with Father Christmas’s sleigh. There were lots of fiddly bits on that one, and I began to realise the wisdom of a lady I once saw demonstrating Durham quilting at a quilt exhibition. (For more about exquisite Durham quilting, try here.)  She was using a frame to hold the fabric layers taut while she worked. You have to with Durham quilting because it is incredibly detailed. I always fancied doing it, but it was one of those crafts that I got all the books from the library about, but never had the guts to have a go.

When I was a kid, not having the guts would never have occurred to me. If I didn’t have a book or a pencil in my hand, I had a needle. I made all kinds of things, but mainly dolls clothes. As I got older, a branched out into making historical costumes. Tudor and Elizabethan ones particularly. I spent hours researching the historically accurate way of dressing, the different layers required. I dressed my Sindy dolls in bead-encrusted gowns, each bead sewn on with my own hand. I even made ruffs!

I loved doing the tiny stitches. I still do, it turns out. That’s why I’m now addicted to quilting again. I’m so pleased with my little stocking. Its so satisfying to see the work develop. I had forgotten that simple running stitch could be so enjoyable. And I know that Lottie will enjoy her stocking when she gets it, and in years to come, I hope that she will regard it as an heirloom, just as I do the pink quilt I made with my mother when I was a teenager.

What crafts did you used to enjoy when you were a child? Did you love pottery, felt crafts, beading? Did you make things with matchsticks or balsa wood? Did you put together plastic models, or build go-karts?

The run up to Christmas is a great time to remember those simple activities you used to enjoy as a kid, and maybe have another go. Maybe, like me, you can rediscover a new outlet for your creativity. Because, let me tell you, when I’m finished with this stocking, I’m going to try some Durham quilting. Nothing is going to stop me this time!

Happy Creating,

EF

Merry Christmas

Dear All,

Its that time of year when it falls to each of us to receive with grace, and give with love.

I want to say a particularly heartfelt thank you to each and every one of you for reading and following this blog. 

Its been a work of my deepest soul to create this corner of the web for you.  I am still finding my way, working out what I want and need to say to you, and what you want and need to hear.  I began writing in a spirit of great trepidation, not sure if anyone out there would want to listen, afraid to show my face, like the ugly duckling.  Now here I am, months later, fulfilling my dream.

And its all because of you.

Thank you for listening – or rather, reading.  Thank you for being here.  Thank you for replying, commenting, participating.  Thank you for reading and reviewing my fanfictions.  I’m hoping to be putting out more original fiction soon, but the fanfiction journey will continue.

Over Christmas and the New Year, my posts will likely be erratic.  I’m dealing with a family emergency and I don’t know how it will turn out.  At the moment, all is uncertain, except that profound change is coming.  That said, the thought of my writing and this blog is part of my creativity inention for 2014 in a BIG way.  I’m looking forward to DARE-ing with you.

In the meantime, I wish you a peaceful, creative and love-filled Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year.

May all your dreams come true,

With love and grateful thanks to you all,

Evenlode’s Friend

How do you want to feel?

“Be willing to look at your own life and want more for yourself without beating yourself up or making it about another self-improvement plan.” -Jennifer Lounden

Jennifer Louden’s recent post about Freedom from Self-Improvement seems completely apposite right now, in the run-up to Christmas, when we are all feeling the ‘we’re not worthys’ very badly.

Everyone else seems to have a nicer house, prettier, more stylish decorations, tastier cocktail treats, better fashion sense, better-behaved kids.  My own melt-down usually comes with present-wrapping.  Everyone these days makes present wrapping into an art form.  Me, I struggle to fold neat corners in my artfully chosen, blends-with-the-bauble-colour-scheme wrapping paper, never mind the hand-cut decorative snowflakes and layers of gauzy ribbon that some people cook up!

Christmas is a bunch of big red emotional triggers for me anyway.  So right now, I am choosing how I want to feel, and doing only those things that make me feel the way I want.

Sounds too good to be true?  Too many SHOULDS on your plate to even think its possible?

Remember, you always, always have a choice.

In the last post, I was talking about Intentions as an alternative to goals.  There is a process to setting intentions, and it starts with this:

How do you want to feel?

I found this exercise in Danielle LaPorte’s excellent book, The Firestarter Sessions.  It is another book I heartily recommend, and if you want to know how to do it properly, I suggest you grab a copy and check out the worksheet on page 73.

Journal Exercise:

Take some time with your journal.  Write about the feelings that give you a sense of wholeness, enoughness, satisfaction, happiness.  How do you want to feel about yourself?  How do you want others to see you?  What qualities do you admire in yourself and others?

Come up with between three and five words that describe how you want to feel/be in your life.

Mine are:

Radiant

Calm

Wise

Joyful

Creative

Take your time over this.  Make a long list, if you like, and sit with it for a while, weeks if necessary.  Then hone it, edit it, pick and choose until you come up with a series of words that describe heart of who you are.  How do you want to feel in the future?  What symphony do you want to start in your heart?

Key to this part of the process is NOT BEATING YOURSELF UP.

Choose words that resonate with you.  Not what other people would like you to be, or what you think you OUGHT to feel.  You are shaping your life, your coming year.  What feelings do you want to feel?

This is not about self improvement.  It is about self-actualisation.  It is about being fully and deeply yourself.  And by being fully yourself, you can let your innate creativity loose.  You can choose your creative direction and flow with it.

For more on this, check out Danielle LaPorte’s website.

In the next post, I will be talking about your word for the New Year

Happy Journaling,

EF

Getting Christmas in Perspective

A woman on the radio was just saying that years ago she was broadcasting a Christmas phone-in show about Christmas wishes.  People were encouraged to ring in and say what they’d really like for Christmas.  Not the latest XBox, or a fur coat, but something real.    Something genuine.  Their true heart’s desire.

The first caller was a woman crippled with arthritis.

She said, ‘I wish I could go downstairs.  I wish my two young daughters could see me in the kitchen and not in bed.’

Merry Christmas,

EF

 

Reflecting on our Creative Achievements

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My mother-in-law’s mad Christmas tree. Apologies that the carpet is all ruckled up!

Christmas is coming.  We are all rushing around panicking about what to buy Great Auntie Flossie, trying to get trees up and mince pies made.  And once all the kerfuffle dies down, we’ll be trying to formulate New Year’s Resolutions while our heads are still spinning from the tinselly onslaught.

The blogs I follow are already jam-packed with ideas for resolutions and how to plan your goals for next year.

Aren’t we exhausted enough?

Let’s just take some time to stop and reflect.  To consider what we have achieved this year, before we start pushing ourselves about next.

I don’t think we take enough time to recognise and celebrate what we achieve. We are constantly encouraged to move on to the next thing, the next goal, always more, more, more!

Because we are never enough.

Yesterday I came across Dr Brene Brown’s book, ‘Daring Greatly’, in the library.  I have read and benefitted greatly from her earlier works, but I had avoided this one because for some reason I had got it into my head that it was about parenting, which isn’t exactly relevant to me.  I was wrong.  The first chapter, on Scarcity, had my head spinning!  I highly recommend you read it.

As writers, scarcity is a constant problem.  After all, in such a subjective realm, how can you measure enough?  I wrote recently about the problem of owning yourself as creative.  This is intimately linked to the problem of enough.  How can you know when you have done enough, produced enough, published enough?

I think one way to tackle this sense of dearth is to recognise and celebrate what we have done.

This year I have started this website, something I really didn’t think I had the guts to do.  This is my 86th post.  That’s a whole lot of words.  A big achievement?  You’d better believe it!  I have published over 40 fanfics too.  I have put myself out there.

This is not blowing my own trumpet.  This is stating the facts.

I am proud of what I have made this year.  It may not tally with the list of goals I made in January, but I’m okay with that – I’ll tell you why in the next post.  I’ve been telling myself I didn’t achieve a lot this year, but actually when I sit down and reflect on what I’ve done, I’ve moved mountains!

Journal Exercise:

Before you get too lost in the melee of Christmas, set aside some time to take stock.  Sit down with your journal, and a glass of wine if you like.  Perhaps light a candle, and put on some gentle music.

Think about what you have done this year.  Don’t look at your list of goals and resolutions.  Don’t think about all the things you planned to do, and didn’t.  Think about all the things that did get done, and the unexpected achievements too, things that came out of nowhere, the gifts the Universe has given you.

Count everything, from getting to see your favourite actor in a play, to passing that exam, from painting your biggest picture yet, to being in the village Christmas Panto.  Maybe you had a poetry collection or a novel published, exhibited your art, won a competition, or maybe you read out your first poem in public, or tried painting or drawing for the first time.  No matter how big all small, list everything.  Think about all the creative things you did, the cakes you made, the dances you went to, the pumpkin you carved, the costume you made for your kid’s school play.

Be proud of yourself, of where you are now.  Do it for yourself.  Savour it.

Because you are enough.

Happy Reflecting,

EF