Posted in Project Discovery, Project Discovery: Month 1

Birthday, go day: Subtitle ‘Fortune Favours the Brave’

Today is my birthday and my official start to my next try at Project Discovery Me!  Here is the plan for this year.   My theme this year is to Be Brave.  As I was thinking about a  presentation I have to give at work, I was trying to think of how to explain a project that some may not like and one thought struck me both for the presentation and for this year’s Project Discovery, the old proverb, ‘Fortune Favours the Brave.’  My history interests kicked in and I realised just how true that actually is. Most of the historic biographies I read, the person had to be brave and take a risk at some point.  I need to be brave.  And for me, I need to be brave enough to let go of perfection.  Be brave and risk not being perfect, just do.  Since that thought hit me earlier in the week, I simply cannot get it out of my head.  So, I’m going to do the best I can, and damn well be brave trying.

How am I going to be brave you may ask?  Good question.  The honest answer is I don’t know yet.  It may be that I actually put my writing somewhere someone can see it.  It may be that I restart a public photography site.  I am not totally sure yet.  But what I have worked out as my starting points, well you can find these below.

  1. Writing – I have started a sister blog for this one and I have a few ideas to start writing some short stories and perhaps a novel.
  2. Photography – After a random comment from my husband along the lines of ‘I miss your photo of the day thing’ I am restarting my photo of the day.  For now, I think I might put them on my private Instagram account, but I am thinking about this.
  3. Reading – While I was out the other day I picked up a few books to read (as you may have gathered from yesterday’s blog).  I will be starting to read again!  I have so many interesting things to read.  Plus, I received audible credits for my birthday! SO. MANY. STORIES.
  4. Cooking – I have already started this.  I can make bolognese sauce which is something I didn’t think I would crack.  The other day we started watching Ugly Delicious, which is an interesting show telling the stories of the people who make different types of food – like tacos or pizza.   A comment the host made though completely summed up my favourite type of food to make.  He called home cooking ‘Ugly Delicious’ food because when you cook at home, you don’t have to present the food in a ‘pretty’ way like he does in his restaurant.  I love to make ugly delicious food that warms my soul.
  5. History – Well, we signed up to the local museums’ trust and I am hoping that means we will go do historic things a bit more.  We are also members of the National Trust.  We need to use that.
  6. Container gardening – I am giving this a go to see if I have any kind of green fingers at all.  I once had an allotment but that was quite a lot of work and I could not devote that amount of time to it, so I had to give it up.  I am hoping container gardening will be a good compromise.  Our yard is very shady so it may not work, but I’ll try.
  7. Travel – We have booked our first trip of the year to Washington DC.  I haven’t been there since I was a child.  We will see if it lives up to my memories of it.
  8. Interior Design – We will be doing something with our bedroom this year – probably over Easter.  We first need to fill in a few areas where the previous owner glued art to the wall (yes, you read that correctly, glued) and then we will need to paint.
  9. Spiritual side & Intuition – Apart from trusting my gut, I am not really doing anything much with this at the moment.  I am thinking about ways I can develop this more.
  10. Astronomy – The same, not a lot at the moment, but I am formulating some ideas.
  11. Horesback riding – I am still waiting for my car to be fixed so I can drive to the stables without concerns about getting there and back before I re-start my lessons.

Will I get anywhere with this or not?  Tune in for a weekly round up as I try to learn a few things before my next birthday.

Posted in Project Discovery

An ode to the humble bookstore

Yesterday we were out with friends in the morning and early afternoon, and as we had tickets to see Guys and Dolls that evening, and a pre-theatre dinner reservation, it was not worth a 40 minute bus ride home to turn around and come back to town.  Instead, we spent the rest of the afternoon slouching around town and going into one of my favourite places, Waterstones.  There are few places in this world that I feel completely happy and at home, but a bookstore is one of them.  Don’t ask me why, because I don’t know.  I have a few guesses though.  Most of these relate to being a child and on Friday nights we would go for Chinese food at our favourite restaurant and then we would spend something like 3 hours wandering Borders.  We would each pick out a book to buy and then we would go home and dad and I would watch Doctor Who on PBS.  After that, I would start reading my book.  I have the warmest memories of those Friday nights.  I am sure they were not all Friday nights, but still, they stick in my memory with a rosy glow.

And now, whenever I walk into a bookstore, I can immediately feel the anxieties and weight of the world slip from my shoulders.  I feel strangely alive and engaged.  There are so many things I want to read, so much I want to learn about.  It’s amazing I don’t become overwhelmed and shut down, but I don’t.  I feel encapsulated in a happy bubble.  None of my worries or cares can break through.  When I am in a bookstore, nothing else matters. What is perhaps most interesting is that I am a slow reader who often gets frustrated.  This is why audible is a godsend to me.  I love stories, but get frustrated by reading.  And yet, bookstores still make me happy and I absolutely love wandering around them and looking at all the knowledge, stories, advice, guidance and lives lived.  Yesterday, I came away with 3 new books after at least an hour of wandering and browsing.  When bookstores finally disappear, I don’t know what I will do.  I do know, a piece of my heart will carry a hole where bookstores lived.  This leads me to wonder where other people’s happy places are? Where do they go to reduce anxiety and get away from the world when it feels like things are closing in?

Posted in Project Discovery

The oddities of life that make you think

Our everyday adventures plan to go to different restaurants in our home city is going well.  We had a fab supper on Friday at a new restaurant.  We were supposed to be seeing friends this weekend, but my husband came down with a particularly bad strain of something.   He was up all night on Friday night coughing and spluttering and unfortunately that meant no sleep for us either.  That was disappointing.  I booked my own birthday celebrations as well. I was hoping for London but instead we are staying at home.

What was the most interesting is my own reaction to the death of Emma Chambers.  Now, I have never met this woman in my life but she was in one of my favourite shows.  Still, celebrity deaths never usually get to me.  But this one did.  And thinking about it, first of all, I LOVED Vicar of Dibley when I was a teen.  I just loved the show.  And I get that it was about the reaction to allowing women vicars but it was also about a community of oddballs and as an oddball who often never felt like she fit in, I loved that.  I don’t think it is a lie when I say that one of the reasons I came here was to feel like I could fit in.  And yes, I realise that sounds ridiculous, but stick with me here.

Firstly, it is a village full of misfits just being themselves and being accepted for being themselves. For a girl who never felt like she fit in where she was, watching the show gave me hope that you could be as weird as anything, but in Britain that was just lovable eccentricity. If Dibley residents could live in Britain, then I could too and maybe even find a community to fit into and thrive! Secondly, it was a community who pulled together even through adversity, and I loved that. They chained themselves to the church, held village fetes, and survived the great bunny disaster! Sure it was a script, but tv shows have to have some basis in reality to make them relatable, right? There has to be something that the British public could relate to in the show. Thirdly, it was so charming and peaceful, and yes, I realised it was a set, but there were probably places like that, right? And even though it was about the Vicar, religion was very much in the background, and it was about the people coming together to make their little part of the world better, or odder if you prefer. I loved the small village idyll of Dibley and I think I secretly hoped I would end up in one, strange characters and all. So, it isn’t really about the loss of Emma Chambers, lovely as I am sure she was, my sadness was about the loss of Dibley. There just can’t be a Dibley without Alice.  

As we consider our lives, sometimes it is really nice to take a step back and remind myself how I got here.  Vicar of Dibley helped me become that person.  So, rest in peace Emma Chambers and Dibley.

Oh and PS, no one tell Dawn French that I didn’t like French and Saunders, but freaking adored her in Vicar of Dibley.  I bought her diary and had to scratch them off the list of people who always make you laugh.  Don’t tell.  Emma Chambers will probably make the list though.


Posted in Project Discovery

Adventures in the normal life

This week has been an intense one for me and I have not had any time to focus on ‘life’ stuff.  But, husband and I are starting a new thing where we are ‘rediscovering’ our home city.  A few weeks ago we realised that since moving out into the ‘burbs, the restaurants had all changed over and we needed to rediscover it.  Each week we are trying new restaurant on a Friday night as nice way to end the week. Last week, when we were meeting friends for a drink so we went for a place that does Thai tapas.  It was delicious, but because I had not been hungry for lunch, I was starving by dinner and I couldn’t fill up.  Luckily, there was a lovely tiny Italian place around the corner from where we were having a drink so a friend and I could grab a pizza there.  It was also delicious and new to me.

On Friday night it was a new Polish restaurant in town.  I had some delicious pirogi which I will definitely be having again.  One thing I love about moving to the UK is that,  when going to a European restaurant, there is a good chance that people making the food are from the country the food represents.  I am enjoying this so much that I have made us reservations at our next planned restaurant for Friday.  It is really a great chance for us to talk, catch up, and decide what we want to do with our lives or just for a week ahead.  At our dinner on Friday, we talked about what we wanted to do for our annual leave this year. We came up with some really good thoughts and I think we will have some interesting adventures this year.

On Saturday night, because we had a late lunch husband made me pancakes at 9 pm, when I finally became hungry, and we watched a ridiculous television show in bed.  He went with a few of my comedy bits all day and we had fun.  It was a really nice evening and reminded me of all the little touches that make life worth living and enjoyable.  But now, I need to crack on with the other life things that make me happy or that restore me, like my writing.  I was working on it, but it seems to have been dropped by the wayside this week.  But I am determined not to lose it completely, only occasionally.

Posted in Discovery Project preparations

A New Year and new ideas

The end of 2017 was a blur for me with many changes happening in my life.  I won’t go into the list of changes or their impacts, but lets say my vow to make 2018 the year where I find meaning in my life even if I cannot change my circumstances was developed over this time period.  Whereas before I have made work the most important thing in my life, I am working to move it into a more appropriate place as one important thing in my life.  This has been a struggle but I have found when work is the dominant force in my life, I was not as effective.  Now, I feel that I am being effective, and I have a restorative focus on my home life.

What does this refocus mean?  Well, several things really.  The month by month thing didn’t seem to really work quite as I hope last year.  Many times, other things got in the way or there were not as many opportunities to focus on the ‘interest of the month’ in that month. So, over the last month or so, I have been working on my 2018 thoughts.  Firstly, I have decided to begin next month, my birthday month, also known as the real start to a new year for me.   Secondly, I am working on all things together.  Some months may be heavy on one aspect, but not necessarily deliberately so.  More importantly, I have decided on an overarching theme for this year.  It is ‘Be Brave!’  2018 is going to be the year that I write terrible novels without fear, take photos I think are cool and post them without fear.  I am going to offer my thoughts, advice and opinions in a hopefully helpful way but without being apologetic for them. I want to focus on the little day-to-day adventures in life.

But the most important thing is, I now have a ‘BIG IDEA’ that I am working for.  Or at least a bit, overarching life dream.  And to be honest, it is probably everyone’s life dream, but I am going to challenge myself to work for it.  Now, if anyone is reading this, you may ask, ‘What is her dream life?’  And I could tell you, but I won’t.  But, really, I am working through how I can achieve this and what I may need to change/alter in my life to get there.  So, for now, what you can have is the list ‘hobbies’ for lack of a better word that I am going to be dabbling in this year.

  1. Writing – I am setting up a sister blog to this one to write stories on.  I have 2 ideas already
  2. Photography – Taking more photos, playing with more settings, and applying filters
  3. Reading – I am getting more and more into reading again and I have set myself a goal of reading 30 new books this year
  4. Cooking – I love making food. But, baking still isn’t my thing
  5. History – Learning more about history because I freaking love it.
  6. Learn to grow my own veggies in containers – it is part of the ‘BIG IDEA’
  7. Travel – going places and seeing things, because I love exploring the world
  8.  Interior design – I love designing spaces, and I want to develop it further
  9. Spiritual side & Intuition – Can this be developed or is it already formed – I am not sure, but I have a very good emotional IQ and I want to develop that further and help people
  10. Astronomy – I just want to learn more about the constellations and what we can see from earth
  11. Horseback riding – I had to stop for a little while, but I will get back to it

These are not all connected to the ‘BIG IDEA’ but they help keep me sane in this crazy world.  Over the next month or so, I am going to think about what I need to do with each of these to help me develop them into proper hobbies.

Posted in Discovery Project: November

Writing and Thanksgiving

As inevitably happens each time I try to Nanowrimo, I failed spectacularly.  None of my ideas ever seem to pan out.  I have them, think they will go far and by day 2, my idea dries up into a cold, husk of an idea with nothing left to give.  I am left with no where to take it.  However, rather than give up in an angry rage, I began to think harder about what I really wanted to write about and a few ideas came to me wandering around Waterstones in search of Christmas presents.  So, I have an idea, two actually and I am seeing how I can develop one of them further.  While not actually writing, I felt this was a much more productive way to spend my writing month than just producing dribble which dries up after 250 words.

Instead, my writing has focussed on the more personal and the more intimate.  For example, I am replicating here the enormous outpouring that I wrote in honour of Thanksgiving this year.  Each year, I always post on social media about what I am thankful for in my life.  It is one of those nice little gestures, a gentle reminder when it all feels hard that actually there is some good happening in life.  And I love this holiday for that.  So, for anyone reading this, please find a little nod to the good things in my life right now.

As we are heading to Devon tomorrow and there may or may not be good internet/I hate doing long posts on my phone/I will be busy chasing down the Hound of the Baskervilles on Dartmoor, I thought I would post my Thanksgiving thankfulness post a little early. There are so many things in my life that bring me joy and for which I am truly thankful but here is a small selection:

1. Friends and family, far and wide. You keep me going when times are hard, you make me laugh when I need it most and you always, always make my life better. Thank you.
2. Full-time employment that allows Chris and I to visit America, keeps a roof over our head and our house warm and food on our plates, and helps us live a comfortable life where we can go and do things with our friends and family.
3. Finding activities I love. I am so lucky that I found horseback riding which gets me out and moving and brings some truly lovely characters in animal form into my life. Yoga, that keeps me grounded and helps me find my centre when the world is crazy. Theatre where I can watch amazing live performances often with people who love it as well. Reading interesting books, which is something I am doing more and more. Writing badly, but it is fun to try to create my own stories. And taking photos of things that inspire me or that I find pretty. 
4. Travelling. While we haven’t done much this year, the fact that we can and we are in such a great place to help us explore Europe still amazes me every day. 
5. Living in a historic place. I just love that so much history surrounds me every day. 
6. Owning a house. Every year we own a bit more and a bit more of our warm and cozy house and I love that we can open it to our friends and family. 
7. The internet. While it has many faults, it allows me to have my existence where I can live here, but still check on people that I love back in America. It offers me a small window to see into the lives of those I may not always be able to connect with in person and I love that. 
8. The opportunities I have had in life. I feel that life is a mixture of luck, opportunities you create, and taking hold of the opportunities presented to you. I personally feel that I have done my best to use all of the avenues open to me. I also like to try, when I can, to help others find their own opportunities if I can, both big and small. I would not be where I am if I hadn’t kept trying to find them and I am grateful for all those along the way who created them for me, helped me see them and helped me grab them. I am grateful for all the opportunities I have had to grow and change and learn. 
9. Being an expat. It has really opened my eyes and changed me to my very core. When everything you take for granted is different, you have to be different and you have to see the world differently too. I am so grateful that I was able to change my life in this way and to grow because of it. 
10. Finding a little bit more of my father in myself over the last year. He was above all a great communicator and a wonderful people person. These were two characteristics I never saw in myself, but over the last year, I have been told that I have high emotional intelligence and that makes me good with people. It has been very humbling to sit with people in their darker moments this year and help them find the light which will lead them out of that place. From friends to colleagues, I have received thanks and hugs which has been absolutely brilliant. I am still working on the communicator bit, but a year ago I would have never called myself a people person and now I think I would. I also appear to have his sense of humour, for better or worse.

If I don’t get a chance to say it on the day, Happy Thanksgiving America!

Posted in Discovery Project: October

October in Pictures

Well, not really because some days I didn’t get a nice shot or even a chance to get a nice shot.  But, I tried.  And I shared my photos with friends and family using Instagram.  I didn’t study techniques, but tried a few  little filters and one photo really inspired people.  It is a photo and a filter I could only use because of where I live.

Dark and stormy night in Old York Town

I love this photo because it is so dark and eerie.  It makes you think that there are all sorts of ghosts and ghouls hanging around York just waiting to come out for Halloween.  It also proved popular among my friends and family.  And as October is drawing to a close, I have at least picked up some aspects of my project again.

Next up is November, my writing month.  I had anticipated that I would do a Nanowrimo story, but this begs a few questions.  Where to post my writing, when to write (I have limited time), and how will I be accountable.  I am toying with the idea of writing my novel on here for the month.  But, I am worried it would be a confusing though as this blog was set up for a purpose and I would need to suspend that to post here.  Would that be too confusing?  I am not sure.  I could create another blog to hold my stories. Or, I could just write it in Scrivener.  My concerns with just using Scrivener is that I am not accountable for writing everyday. Maybe I should just create a stories blog?  It could be like the Strand from Victorian days with installments.  Hmmmm…. maybe.

Posted in Discovery Project: October, Discovery Project: September

September into October

September was supposed to be about learning something new.  I originally thought this could be learning a language or a new skill. However, what I actually learned was a little more about myself. September we made a life changing decision and I learned that I sweat the small stuff but not the big decisions. I can make those decisions and stick to following the plan.  Those things don’t scare me.  But small stuff always makes me feel like I am going to lose my job. I worry about what people think think of me and then I think I am bad with people and downward spirals begin.  But, big stuff, I can just do with no problems.

However, I am moved up in my horseback riding lessons and I am learning coaching skills through a training programme.  But I feel like I didn’t really make much effort to learn something new.  I feel like I am hiding a bit again.  I also am feeling tired.  I keep trying to do things but I feel like I am just phoning it in and not really trying at this project.  I am feeling low too and I think that contributes to my lack of effort on the project. I also think that if I do this project again, I would do quarterly themes like creativity or spiritual and divide up the months. But, I am trying to collect and refocus on this month of October which is photography.  Or at least that was plan until I had a major incident with my phone which I use for many photos.  I ended up losing many of the photos I have taken over the last year and a bit.  After that, I felt exhausted and tired and lost my focus again.

But, still I need to pull my socks up and get started again.  So, here’s what I want to try to do with what is left of my month.  Firstly, I am going to try to get my Instagram account up and running.  I am going to try to read about different techniques.  If possible, I am going to try to find photography blogs.  I am going to try to experiment with my photos.  I am going to try to take some and experiment with light and maybe even filters.  My hope is that I can develop a bit more as a photographer but also, I hope this helps me leave behind my other thoughts.  I can’t let life get to me.  I can’t feel inadequate or at least, I shouldn’t need to feel that.

Posted in Discovery Project: August

History & Travel

The past two months have gone by in a flash. I am not sure what happened to them.  And who knew that history and travel could go together so well?  Probably everyone.  But, history for me was more personal history and exploration along with a little bit of travel. History – just straight history, I largely ignored for the month of July.  I have a very demanding job which required working on the weekends to some extent and my head was full of work.  It was a major set back for me when it came to my work/life balance I am trying to get.  I didn’t get to read any history books or visit any historic sites.  Feeling like I had to focus on the work rather than history in the evenings and weekends made me feel morose and depressed.  But, I knew that travel was coming up and I had 3 weeks off work.  While travel wasn’t going to be about going around the world or even to any place particularly exotic or new, it would be a chance to slow down and really focus on me and my husband.

Our month of travel mostly contained a trip back to the home country, America.  It consisted of about 4 days in San Francisco and then 2 weeks in my home town.  San Francisco because it was somewhere I always wanted to visit.  We went on a wine tour and spent the rest of the time just exploring the city.  I love exploring new cities and feeling the vibes of it. We did explore the city, and the Redwoods nearby.  It was an amazing trip.  I loved the fog rolling into the bay and I loved finally getting to see part of the west coast.  Anyway, it was a glorious 4 days followed by time in my home time with family, which was great in another way.  I felt like we really were able to be in the warm embrace of my family – or at least those we had the opportunity to see.  I explored my own personal family history by looking at old photos, reading old letters, and learning all the interesting things my mom turned up. It was like my own personal ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’

But, through the past 2 months, here’s what I learned:

  1. You can’t go home again.  Not really.  It changes while you are away into something you probably won’t recognise.
  2. New places still mean a routine – I go find breakfast, go do a thing, find lunch, go do a thing, relax, and then find supper.  Maybe grab a glass of wine.  Different places, same routine.
  3. Beauty is in the eye of beholder – this is particularly true about vacation destinations.  What I find beautiful and amazing, many others may not be interested in or think isn’t as lovely.
  4. What you think you will miss about the familiar isn’t necessarily what you will miss.
  5. Travel changes you – you will be different from those who stay at home.
  6. New is only better for a while.  Then new becomes routine, the same.  And then, it becomes new shit you have to deal with again.
  7. Amazement is fleeting – even if you feel it for something you always wanted to do or somewhere you always wanted to see.  Eventually, it will just be a thing you did, saw, felt, explored, etc.  It will become part of your normal.
  8. The world is big and you will only have some much you can see.  You have to prioritise – no matter how much you don’t want to.
  9. Family are those who love you, care for you and about you, are there for you, and support you when you need it.  They aren’t always blood and they won’t always be those you expect.  Sometimes they are the ones who quietly think about you in times they don’t expect.
  10. Time changes relationships.  You can grow together, you can grow along similar paths, or you can grow apart.  People change so much based on their experiences, including me.

I do think my time away helped me reconnect with myself, come up with a life plan, and now I am beginning to work on how to execute these.  That is a major victory for me.  I feel better and in control of my life again and that is no bad thing.