A Difficult Journey

It’s been a while. I hadn’t quite realised just how long. I am in turmoil somewhat about writing again and when would ever be the right time to do so. A lot of you will know that these past months have been a very difficult journey for us. A journey we would never have chosen, but one we walk daily with our eyes fixed on Jesus, our good shepherd, as we walk through a very dark valley. Tony passed away on March 1st after a very short spell in hospital when the doctors discovered that he had cancer. It was a great shock, a shock that still hits me with great force every day.
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I don’t feel ready at the moment to write here about a lot of things from the past six months. I’m not even sure if I ever will, or even what I feel ready to write about now. But I have to say that without faith, family and the greatest of friends, I’m not sure how we would have got to this point in this terribly difficult journey.

From closest friends and family, people I don’t even know (some who had known Tony), people near and very far away, have come the most generous expressions of kindness. Cards, emails, visits, lasagnes, dog walks and toilet rolls. Every single gift showing love to us at a time when we have felt very, very empty.

Tony was the most generous person I have known. If he could give it to you, fix it for you, or take you to it, then he would. He always, always went beyond what was asked or expected. So to receive generosity in such an outpouring has been very humbling.

This is a short post. A post to say ‘thank you’ to all those who have generously poured in to our lives over the last six months. It is all greatly treasured.

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Soul Food

These last few days have been the laziest I have had since…..well, probably last Christmas. It has truly been blissful, sitting by the fire for hours on end, reading, playing games, dozing and watching movies. I have managed to win through in the ‘I should really be doing something’ argument with myself, and put my feet up. Lucky me! We have, between the two of us, drunk an awful lot of wine (well it feels like it anyway) and eaten an awful lot of chocolate (breaking my sugar free run, for a few days anyhow).

I’m not going to use this post to reflect on the past year, or make unrealistic resolutions about the new year ahead. I’m just enjoying this moment, these few days of spending time with family and friends, eating, drinking, snoozing, walking the dog and not even thinking too much about anything.

Today, I took Lacey to our local park and discovered a mountain of top soil altering the landscape. It’s probably been there for weeks, but this is the first time I’ve been here in a while. And it’s one of my favourite places too. I find it interesting that there are some things and places that I don’t particularly miss or necessarily think about until I revisit them and then realise what a special place they are for me and how good they do my soul. The same happened yesterday, visiting Seapark, Holywood for the first time in ages. The invasion on the senses that comes by the sea. We recently visited our previous church, and the same was true. It felt like ‘coming home’, to be among friends who have shared our journey. I suppose there is comfort in the familiar. The shoreline walked a hundred times before, the muddy perimeter path with the outline of a thousand pawprints, the sanctuary of hearts well-loved and well-known. If there was a promise to myself for this new year, it would be to be more determined about revisiting the familiar, known places which feed my soul – both physical and spiritual. I wonder what are your familiar places? How do they feed your thoughts and emotions?

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I hope that in 2018 we can all determine to revisit those nourishing spaces.

Happy New Year!

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ABC of ADHD

On the last day of ADHD awareness month, I am just squeezing in a quick and simple post of words. Words that for me are part of living with our boy with ADHD. Hopefully you will find a mix of the positive and the challenging.

Affection

Boisterous

Challenges

Diet

Energy

Fads

Gregarious

Humbling

Immediate

Journey

Knee-jerk

Laughter

Medication

Never-ending

Obssession

Patience-testing

Quiet (rarely!)

Rollercoaster

Smiles

Tears

Volatile

Worry

eXhausting

Yesterday (when current requests have to be done by!)

Zebras (this last one represents the apparent and complete randomness of an ADHD mind – plus I was struggling to think of a word – any ideas?)

* distracted by fireworks and GBBO I missed the last day of October! Apologies!

 

 

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Leaving

IMG_3368Whenever I left Brentwood to move to Belfast there was physical pain and wrenching as well as huge emotional outpouring. I drove away from my parents’ home, the home of my teenage years, in my little yellow Cinquecento (which had been my sister’s), with Holly the cat beside me and my new husband driving a truck ahead of me filled with all my belongings. The tears flowed most of the way to Liverpool and my body ached. It was grief. Grief for the loss of not being near as my niece and nephew grew up. The reality of not being a tangible part of their lives, having been so very close to them from birth (literally with one of them), hit me hard and broke me. I had never known sadness like it, saying goodbye to Mum and Dad, sister and friends. It was the hardest thing I had ever done.

Leaving the town where I’d been born, gone to school, worshipped, fallen in love (and out again a million times before I was 17), worked at my first jobs and learnt to drive, was hard too. I’d been away and come back twice. This time was different. This time was permanent.

I was leaving behind my history and my roots. I was letting go of things I had held tightly.

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The excitement and joy of being newly married, making a home and starting a family made the first few years an adventure. We were making our own history and growing our own roots in neighbourhood, church family, school life and work community.

Right now I am back in Brentwood, sitting in a park and listening to the distinctive Essex accent all around me, wondering if I’ll gain a twang before I go back. Maybe Katy’s growing Belfast accent will have an Essex edge by the time we leave?!

I have just met Kathleen (92) handing out puzzle pages and crosswords she has cut out from the paper. I heard her story of how she and her husband came to ‘accidentally’ buy the beautiful Victorian house just there over the park fence. Our histories intertwine. One of her children was born in the same maternity home as me. Her uncle owned the locally famous toy shop from my childhood and she knows the streets where I grew up. We even share a name – kind of!

This encounter stirs a warm response from me, a comfortableness of knowing and being known just because of this town and my history. I have left physically, but there will always be a part of me, in a deep place inside, that calls this place ‘home’. There will always be a part of me that meets the familiarity with welcome and memories and contentment. There will always be a part of me that wonders how it would be to go back.

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We will soon pack our bags, board our plane and head home. Home to Belfast. We will find pain in the leaving again but gratitude for these days of intertwining our lives briefly with family and friends here. We will head home to continue growing our roots and have our history shaped by the next season of life for our family, safely in God’s hands.

In leaving, there is loss, but there is also a heart full of memories, love shared, lives entwined forever and new adventures ahead for us all.

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Dear June,

Dear June,

As usual, you have been the busiest, most emotional, expensive and tiring month of the year. Every year, I know it will be the same, and every year you manage to surprise me with how intense you are. This year you even brought extra luggage with you. The ‘end of primary school for ever in this family’ bag and the ‘interview for a new job’ bag which definitely fell into the ‘excessive weight’ category. It was difficult unpacking the first one and the second one seemed to take forever to empty. Now they’re both zipped up again and the contents transferred to my mind and heart where I’m continuing to process them, but at a much more leisurely pace now that you’ve gone.

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Who’d have known that driving out of the gates of E’s school for the last time would be such a wrench. What an amazing place Lough View has been for both of our children. A place of polytunnels, creativity, respecting rights, buddy systems, Lifeguards, Judo belting, musical excellence, pond dipping, Roots of Empathy, amazing teachers, oh and academic learning! We will certainly miss it.

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And who’d have known that you would bring with you the opportunity of a job which I love, made permanent. I certainly wasn’t expecting that and am truly grateful. Not just because it’s a job, but because of where it is and with whom I get to work. I am very blessed.

So, now you’ve packed your bags and gone again. Thanks for the lovely moments of variety shows, visitors, P7 discos, fairs and fun nights, plant sales, end of year ‘do’s’, Prosecco, hugs from friends, flowers and whiskey.

Thank you for the endings, and the anticipation of beginnings.

See you next year,

Much love,

Kathryn x

PS. Please could you forward some sunshine – July arrived without it!

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Celebrating generosity

Yesterday the postman called with a package full of surprises from dear friends. It’s always a joyful IMG_2825moment that brings close those who are physically far away. As we untied the string around gifts which brought smiles and excitement, I thought of the precious hands that had tied the bows thousands of miles away – their touch brought near again. (Can you understand why I have to keep that string now?!) As I opened a letter full of news, hopes, words which were thoughtful and kind, the heart of a friend was brought close. I didn’t feel sadness in the missing, I felt joy in the nearness this package had delivered.

Yesterday was the day that Ethan and I had planned to surprise the postman with a bar of chocolate – something to keep him going for the rest of his round. This was an idea from 40acts.org.uk. We had wondered if we would even see him and so having him knock the door was just the perfect thing to happen. He was a bit surprised and very thankful for the treat. But, in the giving, I think Ethan’s heart was even fuller than the postman’s. ‘This is for you. Have a nice day!’

IMG_2826Over the last 2 ½ years, as a family, we have been totally overwhelmed at the financial and practical generosity of people. Envelopes put through our door or into our hands with cash or vouchers tucked inside. Food parcels from a local church who understood our need. In times of despair and hopelessness these profoundly kind and timely gifts have brought us tearfully to our knees. The gratitude in our hearts has not always been expressed in person as often these were anonymous gifts. But I am convinced that the joy in the heart of the givers has matched and even surpassed our thankfulness.

If you are reading this and are one of those givers (secret or not) – THANK YOU. Please know that you have impacted our lives in remarkable ways, helped us when we couldn’t see a way, and blessed us beyond anything we feel that we deserve.

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Thankfully the darkness of those times has largely passed and we are again hopeful for a new season ahead and the opportunities for us to give again in the way that we have received. Believe me, I know that it’s not all about giving financially. There is so much that we have received from the hearts of our family and friends that is immeasurable: support, encouragement, listening ears (often while I cry), kindness, prayer and understanding – because of ALL of this, we are still standing.

In this season of #doinglentgenerously I wanted to mark the sand with this expression of gratitude.

THANK YOU     IMG_2828

 

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Cyril – a chance encounter

I have seen Cyril many times over the last number of years. Driven past him, him walking purposefully to somewhere. Or pushing a bike. And always with a few plastic bags in his hands or hanging from the handlebars. The look of a homeless man. Dirty clothes, worn shoes and a big beard. But I’ve never met him. Until recently.

My Tuesday Cregagh Glen walk was much later  (because I’m trying to get this book written  – you know, the one we all have) and there were lots more people up and down the glen at 11.30am than there are at 8.30am. At the bottom, on the way down, I met Cyril. We had a conversation about how long the Glen has been ‘renovated’, the fact that I’m from Essex (and wasn’t Brentwood famous? Yes, but for all the wrong reasons!) and that I’d first met my Glenravel husband at Gatwick airport en route to Jamaica, before I went and lived there 26 years ago. And the fact that my son is on the Autism spectrum. It’s amazing how much of your life story you can share with a stranger in the space of 2 1/2 minutes.

And then, for the next 45 minutes, a patient Lacey at my feet, I listened to a man, self-diagnosed with Aspergers, retrieve from his phenomenal mind, fact upon fact, quote upon quote. He is Mr Ology. He has read it all. Quantum physics, natural healing, Northern Ireland’s heroes, scientists, authors, spirituality. As he spoke, non-stop, with brief cross-references to my Essex roots and my son with ASD, I was amazed at the holograpicuniversetalbotmemory that shone from behind his flickering eyelids as he read (I’m guessing here) from the memorized pages of books. He can quote page and line number of the information he is expounding. An amazing man, who will share his natural healing theories with you on the bench opposite the lifts at Forestside. He’ll even write down possible concoctions to heal your ailments, having himself partaken of his daily tonic before leaving his ‘home’. If you don’t catch him at Forestside, maybe your paths will cross on a walk in Botanic Park where he passes the time of day with tourists and lecturers and proudly shares the fact that his photo is all over the web.

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And sure enough, if you Google ‘Cyril of Botanic’ you will find out more from others who have met this fascinating character. My day was made undoubtedly richer by this chance encounter.

 

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