Life Story Writing

Teaching Life Story Writing and Musings On My Life ~

This Is The Story Of Lorraine

IMG_7767In a two bedroom end terrace home in Greystone Passage, Dudley, England lived the Jackson family with Mother Annie, Daddy Percy, big sister Beryl and younger sister Lorraine.

Lorraine loved her life growing up. She loved to watch her mother serve neighbors and friends in their little front shop. She loved to watch as her Mother built the fruit display in the window or see the different vegetables in boxes on the floor. There were even sweets on a shelf in a jar. Their home was always filled with good food to eat. Lorraine’s Daddy was a tailor and made their clothes. As she would say, they were well dressed and well fed.IMG_7388

As a little girl Lorraine loved to go with her Daddy up the street to the allotment, he carrying his keys and bucket of water. Percy loved it when Lorraine came to the garden and even let Lorraine help pollinate the tomatoes in his greenhouse.

Her Daddy had a dry sense of humour and many a time would have them dying with laughter. ‘Oh stop it Perce!’ her mother would say. They loved to laugh.

IMG_7589Lorraine and Beryl shared a bed in the second bedroom. It was cozy. The privy was outside and once a week they went to a relatives house for a bath. If they were naughty they were made to sit on the stairwell in the dark. And if they were ill they were taken to Mother and Daddy’s bed and cared for. It was comforting to Lorraine there in her parents room. She felt safe and loved and she especially loved it when her Mother sprayed lavender water in the bedroom. Lorraine loved the smell of lavender.

Lorraine looked up to her big sister Beryl. Although Beryl was four years her elder she was her best friend and would remain so their whole lives. Beryl was beautiful, funny and kind and had lots of friends and admirers. Lorraine loved to tag along with Beryl and her friends. When the war came Beryl went off to work in the land army.

Later Beryl married Fred and moved far north to a distant land called Yorkshire. Still they stayed in touch. They would call one another on the phone, send each other postcards and when time allowed visit one another and their growing families. Beryl and Fred now had two boys Nicholas and Jeremy. Beryl and Lorraine loved to laugh and sometimes they would laugh until it hurt and tears were streaming down their faces.

Lorraine became a beautiful young lady and met a lovely lad called Geoff at the local dance one night.

IMG_7711 He asked her to dance. From that day on they spent many hours together cycling all over the country on a tandem. Lorraine loved sports. She was a great netball player and swimmer. With Geoff she enjoyed cycling, rowing boats and climbing trees. Geoff loved to take pictures and in his pictures was a beautiful girl full of life and fun, love and adventure.Laneadventure

IMG_7720Before long Geoff and Lorraine fell in love and were married. First they lived in a room at The Gables, Geoff’s family’s home and later made a life together working hard in the little riverside shop and then The Hop Pole pub at Bewdley.

The years rolled by and then, one day life changed. Louise was born. Becoming a parent changed everything. Lorraine did not know how much this adorable big eyed baby girl would change her and challenge her but she held her in her arms and loved her instantly.IMG_7382

Lorraine soon learned that Louise was born with special needs that would require constant, vigilant care her whole life long. But God knew that Lorraine would have a heart big enough and strong enough to give all the love Louise needed and all the strength it would take to keep going, to be a champion for a good life for Lou.

IMG_7057A few years later Lorraine and Geoff welcomed Teresa and Nigel and Louise became a big sister to them. Family was everything to Lorraine. She loved them dearly and lived her life for them. Lorraine’s heart was heavy when she realized that Louise would have to go away to live. She searched carefully for the right place. When Louise was gone during the week she thought about her and worried if she felt loved and cared for. She missed her deeply.

Lorraine taught her children to be good and kind and polite. She taught them to look for the good in people and to be hopeful and optimistic. She taught them that music and laughter are great medicine and that family are not only born to you but sometimes are not even related to you. And she taught them to never go outside with wet hair!

Lorraine loved wise sayings and quotes and beautiful poems. Her children would often hear her say things such as the following:

‘You can’t please all the people all the time’

‘Necessity is the mother of invention’

‘This above all to thine own self be true!’

‘There’s always someone better off and worse off than you.’

‘Kill them with kindness.’

Lorraine filled the home with love and discipline with song and laughter, with smells of roasts on Sundays and smells of perfume and hairspray.

Lorraine loved to be her best and look her best. She would squeeze her feet into those pointy stiletto shoesIMG_7726 for a night out only to come home with tired achy feet and tell her little girl ‘Dont ever do this to your feet!’ And the little girl listened and she took good care of her feet.

Lorraine loved her ear rings and scarves, her suits and her sweater top shirts. Lorraine had a fashionista sense. Sometimes people thought she looked like a model, and some would say she was a real lady or classy but under it all she was still just plain ol’ Lorraine.

Lorraine believed in her children. She encouraged them and listened to them. Whether IMG_7458they were near or far they were always close to her heart. Lorraine taught them every day about sacrifice and how to love and forgive but she also taught them that sometimes love would say no.

Although Lorraine never went to Church she believed in God, she believed even though she saw bad things happened to good people. When her Mother and Daddy left this earth she would keep pictures of them near and go and talk to them. She knew they had gone to a better world and knew she would go there one day too and see them again. This gave her strength and she continued to feel their love in her life.IMG_7465

Lorraine loved the outdoors. She loved flowers, especially daisies, she loved to watch and feed the birds that came to her garden. And she especially loved cats.

As sometimes happen Lorraine and Geoff’s happiness came to and end and their lives separated but they would still remain good friends. Lorraine in time would also come to love, respect and deeply appreciate Geoff’s new wife Sue for many reasons but especially because she too loved Louise and wanted the best for her. Together Lorraine and Geoff and Sue continued to love Louise and care for her.

Time marched on and a few years later Lorraine found love and happiness with Ted. Ted and Helen were now included in her family circle and all of Ted’s family. In time Steve, Bethany and Ryan joined the family. And Lorraine loved them all.

Many years passed by. Teresa and Nigel were grown and gone living far away. Lorraine found the joy of grandchildren, Ryan and Bethany who lived far away in London and Mitch, Anie, Elliott, Brooke and Brieya who lived so far away in America. Any time with them was precious.

When she was with them she would get down on her knees at their eye level and play with them. Her eyes would sparkle as she watched them and you might hear her give a secret chuckle at something they might say. Lorraine delighted in them. Together they would put milk out for the cat or sneakily hide Grandpa’s stick, the one he used to chase the squirrels away. When the grandchildren were far away she would send them packages of socks, tea towels and random things from here and there. Sometimes the packages came with books filled with fairies and unicorns and ABCs or even poems. Lorraine loved looking for beautiful cards when she was shopping. She would send the grandchildren birthday cards and get well cards and thinking about you cards and congratulation cards. Inside these cards she would squeeze some extra love and good cheer. At Christmas she would send them Christmas crackers and Christmas decorations for their tree and Christmas cards with robins on them.

When the grandchildren grew older and came to visit she taught them things like how to iron and knit, how to swim and even how to take care of their nails and teeth but especially how to love little furry things. She also taught them to be fair minded and to love unconditionally. She would make them sandwiches with the good crunchy bread and good cheese and she’d tuck a heaping portion of love into each sandwich for good measure. Sometimes she made salmon sandwiches too. She only fed them cereal with the good brown sugar. Her house flowed with an endless supply of squash and biscuits and happy sounds of children. She would take them to the Black Country Museum and tell them what life had been like when she was a little girl and they would eat the best fish and chips in town cooked the old fashioned way. Lorraine loved and cared for her grandchildren unconditionally and the grandchildren loved her back. Now although the grandchildren don’t see her they each of them carry a little of Lorraine with them and will pass that on to their children too.

Lorraine’s grand children now married. She welcomed Amber, Will, Miranda, Trevor and Ryan to her family circle. Now she was a GREAT GRANDMA and had great grandchildren: Emma and Kenzie delighted her when they came to visit her all the way from America. The others she met on Skype, Adelyn and Levi, Raylee and Odie, Kanden, Bridger and Pierce and the newest baby Madeline Camille she was able to see in a picture. She loved them all.

Lorraine loved her friends. Over the years she would call them, do things with them, send them cards and visit them. Lorraine especially loved to go to the garden centers with them, she loved to look at all the plants and maybe pick out a pretty card to send to the grandchildren. Lorraine was a good listener and her friends loved that.

Often Lorraine would sit at the dining table looking out the window at the beautiful garden that Ted had made and think about the many good things in her life.

Then one day Lorraine was too sick to stay at home anymore and she went to a place called Mary Stevens Hospice, or really a Heaven On Earth but Lorriane didn’t know that till she passed through the doors. Then a miracle happened. All of Lorraine’s worries and cares melted away. She was so happy and carefree, almost like a little girl again.

Teresa and Nigel jumped on airplanes and were by Lorraine’s side in an instant because they knew that she never wanted to be alone. And so they stayed day and night, night and day, taking turns.

Many nurses and volunteers cared for Lorraine. Lorraine called them her angels. One nurse even brought lavender from her garden for her. They would move her gently from side to side, bathe her, help care for every need. They brushed her teeth and combed her hair and even sprayed lavender water for her.

As Lorraine lay there in her bed she would often talk about being back in Greystone passage and her Mother and Daddy and sister were there too. She remembered being ill and laying in her parents bed and then she would have Teresa or Nigel spray the lavender water and she would smile.

Lorraine’s smile lit up the room. Some nurses were overheard saying that if they were having a bad day they would go to ‘Laineys’ room because it was so peaceful.

Lorraine would sometimes go to sleep and smile. Teresa and Nigel wondered what she was smiling at but inwardly they knew she was drifting between this world and the next. One night she opened her eyes and said ‘flying’. Another time she opened her eyes and said ‘I’ve connected.

On her wall in her little room filled with love hung pictures of family who were too far away to visit. It made her so happy to have their pictures there and she felt their love and prayers.IMG_6165

Even though Lorraine was not well she made sure that every family member or friend who came to visit left with a golden memory of her. She would make them laugh with her quick wit and funny expressions. She would give them words of wisdom and let them hold her hand and kiss her. She wanted to see everyone, just one last time to let them know that she loved them. And she did.

IMG_6639Lorraine filled those last days with as much joy and living as her little body could hold. She even celebrated her 87th birthday! Nigel picked flowers from the garden and heather from Kinver Edge and brought them to her. She loved flowers. All the family and friends she loved filled her little room. They sang to her and gave her a cake. She opened her cards and Teresa read them to her one by one. She beamed. Light shined through her eyes. She had never been so happy. Even the nurses had their own cake for her and sang to her. Louise who lived far away sent her beautiful flowers too sent with her love.

Lorraine was happy. She loved everyone so much that now there wasn’t enough room left in her body for Lorraine to stay there.

So when all the people had been seen, all the words had been said, all the hugs and kisses had been given, Lorraine knew it was time to leave. She was sad and it was hard for her to go. But family told her it was time and that her Mother and Daddy were waiting for her and that Beryl was so excited she was jumping up and down and dancing!

So Lorraine thought about her Mother and Daddy and sister in a better world and beautiful garden and found herself there.

Lorraine’s family and friends were sad that they could not see and touch her anymore but they knew Lorraine was happy and at peace and full of life still and this gave them a feeling of supreme comfort and incredible joy. They thought about Lorraine and smiled. Sometimes they even talked out loud to Lorraine. They even imagined that she could be watching over them helping them or just visiting them and listening. Because in the end, nothing worthwhile is lost. The love goes on and on and one day they knew they would see Lorraine again.

Until then her family and friends would continue to love her and whenever they saw daisies or robins on Christmas cards or small furry animals or smelled lavender, they especially thought of her and every moment in between. Because they knew now how much Lorraine had always been a part of them.

This earth was a better place with Lorraine on it now heaven is a better place with her there. And if her family and friends could take a peek into heaven I think there just might be a whole lot of laughter going on there now.

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Where Have I Been This Past Year?!

Well they say …’the best laid plans of mice and men…’  Where do I start?  Almost a year ago on a visit to England, my Mum wasn’t well.  By December she was diagnosed with stage iv colon cancer.  Since then I have been flying back and forth to spend time with her and help her.  Its really a two edged sword.  I found myself looking at life juxtaposed with death, happy memories with sad, health with illness, expectations clashing with reality.

For years I had asked Mum to write about her memories, her life, but her pen never met the paper.  We realize we are down to her final weeks, I believe, maybe even her final days and its all water under the bridge.  As I scan her photos I have questions: how old were you when you met Dad?  Where did you meet him?  Tell me again about your knee injury?  How did you ever get your parents to let you go touring with Dad on a tandem before you were married?!

LanepersonalityThere are gaps. We gather what we have.  Old photos become treasures, a door to a bygone era, a Mother bright and beautiful, full of energy and adventure, a Mother I never knew.  How I wish I could have known her then.  We ask family members endearingly to take time out of their busy lives to start jotting down the memories as they come, and come they do: the high heel shoes and bleached hair, the Val Doonican records piping through the house, how she would run out and strip off her shirt and bathe in her bra to grab a little sunshine and tan, her cheesecake, her grapes smothered in cream and sprinkled with brown sugar, her legendary Sunday roasts, her brushing my wet hair and insisting it be dried before I go to bed, her devotion to family, her love for small furry things, her fashionista sense, her mad knitting and ironing skills and the list goes on.

Memories can come in fragments, they can come in torrents, they can come in a scent or a tune or a taste.  They can come from standing in a certain place or being with familiar faces or as conversations of shared memories are spoken.  These are the golden nuggets.  Sometimes we don’t get to choose what we remember so when the memories come we cherish what we have.  Grab that pen, write it down, text yourself, leave yourself a voicemail, write in your journal, write yourself an email, share it with Laneadventurefamily members.  I have found an interesting phenomena, that as I let these treasures surface and as I skim them carefully off the top of my mind and put them in a safe place, quite often they are followed by another memory and another.

So muster the troops! Call family members! Text them or email them! Ask them to write their memories.  Take all these gems and compile everything in a book using software such as found at http://www.blurb.com.  As we take the collective memory of many people and add to them the photos we begin to create a picture of a person’s lifetime.  Because when all is said and done all we have left of life is memories. Happy remembering!

The Thick Of Thin Things ~ My Love/Hate Relationship With Technology!

IMG_0194These past few days I have been contemplating my love/hate relationship with technology. It seems to have me, more often than not, by the neck, holding my life for ransom. One day, one hour, one minute at a time I am trading out the other things I could be doing for time on the computer. There is this invisible thread that pulls me to check out my Facebook notifications, check my email, maybe do a little research for a post to my Visit My British Isles page or my Life Story Writing page. Not bad I think to myself. Yet it seems as if there is some kind of time distortion going on when I engage in technological pursuits.

My list of things to do, people to see, seems to grow, not diminish. My writing does lies abandoned. My multiple reading books sit waiting for me. Surely with a husband and daughter at work I have no excuse not to carve out one hour of writing time and one hour of reading time?

I have in times past closed the computer and walked away for a day or a week. It feels somehow freeing. Its like those other addictions, sometimes easier to go cold turkey than to piece meal my way along.

For good or for no good at all, my life is inextricably linked to technology. I love the instant connections. I hate the time consumption. I love the wealth of knowledge at my fingertips. I hate that I drown it endless web pages. I love the friendship and kinship I find. I hate how frazzled I feel trying to not ‘miss’ anything. I love that my words can be heard around the world. I hate that I feel dependent on technology for this. I love the opportunities it presents. I hate how overwhelmed I feel trying to figure things out and keep up! And so the list goes on.

This struggle is playing itself out in my mind in one more arena right now: whether I should get a smart phone, or not. I went to a class last week, where the instructor said ‘If you are using your phone as a phone and entertainment device only then you are using it as a dumb phone!’ He pointed out that in the future when we want to go to the store we will dictate our list to the phone and the phone will use a GPS to take us efficiently through the aisles to pick up our products. At the checkout it will price match. And of course we will pay with our phone. He said we do nothing riskier than carry a wallet full of cards around.

Next month Apple comes out with a Health Kit that will monitor your health to the extent it may save your life!

When I pull my little $30 flip phone out in public I feel quite self conscious. I realize I am a dying breed.

Its coming and there is nothing I can do to stop it. I do however have a choice on how I choose to manage the technology in my life, and its time I figured that out

Does anyone else struggle with this? Please do tell me what has worked for you!

Feeling Beautiful?!


Ha, you know those days when you look in the mirror and you feel haggard, washed out, maybe a little scary or even feel a little ugly? For those days I have a special mantra that I repeat to myself. It goes something like this:

G-irl! If you looked in the mirror ten years from now and saw THIS, you would be HAPPY!

I laugh a little to myself and decide to be happy now.

Outward beauty is lauded and worshiped in our society from GQ looking men in retro suits to lithe, photo-shopped women with perfect teeth and skin. Yet paradoxically a focus on outward beauty can lead to an ugly life. Have you ever wondered where true beauty has gone?

Today, my friend, Denise challenged me to ask myself, ‘What makes you FEEL beautiful’ and here are my thoughts.

BEING MYSELF: As long as I have memory I have loved being me. I like who I am. The fact that I am different from others has always been way more exciting than trying to be the same as everyone else. So I feel most beautiful when I am being most ‘me’. Sometimes this is challenging when I feel scared, intimidated or threatened. I am in this life to live it fully and not for the acclaim or praise of the world. When you find your own beauty its a part of every facet of your life, you feel it intimately, radiantly. You don’t suck the lifeblood out of others, you give them energy, life and a gift of your own beauty in the form of love.

TAKING CARE OF THE WHOLE: For me beauty is a holistic experience, that is, its an inside as well as an outside thing. If I’m taking care of my body, feeding it well, exercising it, giving it rest and recreation, the company of others then I know I will feel beautiful. This goes for taking care of my spirit too. As I feed my soul with spiritual things I feel an increase of beauty in my life and I feel and radiate beauty.

LIVE MY TRUTH: Being honest and authentic has a beauty all its own. As I live my life according to my beliefs I feel joy and that joy makes me feel beautiful. I am at peace with myself and those around me. This doesn’t mean I don’t make mistakes, I do, but I try to put things right. I admit my mistakes and try to be an agent of healing in my own life and in the lives of others. Life has no guaranteed happiness but I do believe in the Prince of Peace and that no matter what adverse curves life throws there is a way through and a brighter day will dawn. Living my truth, believing in peace and having hope make me feel beautiful.

UNCONDITIONAL LOVING: When I see others as God sees them and love them as He would, I feel beautiful. When others overlook my faults, see the earnest good intent in my heart and love me unconditionally, I feel beautiful. When God and others give me grace, I feel beautiful. When I can give others grace, forgiveness and acceptance I feel beautiful.

BEING IN NATURE: When I am surrounded by beauty I can’t help but feel beautiful and for me that is being out in nature. My hair can be wind tossed, my face, make-up less, my clothes can be unfashionable yet I feel so one with the beauty around me it permeates every part of me! Maybe that comes from my growing up in beautiful, verdant English countryside or maybe I just love the world around me, green or brown, sunrise or sunset, desert or ocean, valley or mountain top. How can you not feel beautiful when wrapped in so much beauty?!

So here’s a shout out for more ‘true beauty’ in our lives!

Well there you have it, my bottom line on beauty. What’s yours?! ^_^

Thoughts On Writing

The heights by great men

I have always loved this quote by Longfellow.

You don’t have to be really smart to write.

You don’t even have to be really talented to write.

What you do have to be is patient, with yourself and with the process.

And you have to be willing to work.

Whether that is literally writing in the night when others are sleeping or just putting in the effort anytime.

How is talent created? Over time with earnest effort.

I truly believe that writing improves with… well, writing! (Surely someone who writes every day is going to be ahead of the game.)

Your thoughts over time prepare you to write. Take note of your thoughts.

Anything you do in life to develop discipline will pay off in the writing department. Dealing with difficult challenges and not giving up or honing your ability to be tenacious will show up in your writing skills. Whether its just getting your butt in the chair late at night when you are tired or working through a difficult scene, you just start and do and keep going.

There is something extremely empowering in the actual doing, no matter what the end writing result is. You sharpen the saw in many ways when you sit down to write; your ability to be disciplined, your ability to focus, your ability to concentrate, your ability to think positively and your ability to open yourself up to a higher source of inspiration are increased.

When you sit down to write, there is before you, a moment of a thousand possibilities. Some of your best writing may be done without you knowing beforehand it is about to be created.

Creation is a process, so at one sitting you may fairly lay down a skeleton of jumbled ideas. Is that a brilliant piece? No. Is it a place to come back to and start from the next time? Yes. Does it have value? Certainly. Who’s to say what your skeleton of jumbled ideas may become…

Writing is like drawing lines in the sand. At any given moment when we sit down to write we draw a line. We can edit and change the shape and direction of the lines, each line adding to the overall picture, each line having value. But the picture takes time. Beautiful things are created, over time.

Sometimes you really need to take yourself out of the way of your writing. You need to practice being a conduit and let the writing come through you without judgment, without thought, without planning; let the thoughts flow down onto the paper. Sometimes you just need to write, to start and be a little less controlling and see what comes.

Over time, your writing will add to who you are, it will help you become the person you want to be. At tough writing junctures, whether its to write or not or how to write or even what to write, you will keep the vision of where you are going, where you want to be. Knowing you are on the path, headed in the right (write?!) direction helps you know writing is worth it. And you are worth the writing too.

You are blessed with the gift to write. You live in the light ages not the dark ages. You have a knowledge of language and literature and a world wide audience like no other generation.

Someone in this world needs your voice whether to uplift, educate or entertain.

These voices call you to your writing.

Writing; the most thrilling, unknown adventure you will ever embark on! And its only a pen stroke away.

The Infamous, Larger-Than-Life Gerry!

Gerry and little 'Teraza Maria'

Gerry and little ‘Teraza Maria’

Its seems only fitting that I should end this day by writing about Gerry Fairless, Auntie Gerry, as she was known to me.  In the early hours of this 4th of July 2014, in a hospital in Montevideo, Uruguay, Gerry began the greatest voyage ever.

Ninety one years ago a little girl was born to Ada and Alf Hill.  I can’t help but think that from her very first breathe she stole hearts and had a captive audience.  Four years later she became a big sister to her baby brother, Geoff, my father.

Nellie as she was known in her earlier years lost her Mother to cancer at age 14. Life could not have been easy. During World War II she was to meet a handsome pilot, Colin Fairless, whom she later married.  Colin was from Montevideo, Uruguay.  And so began her first of many trips to Uruguay (and back) and a new life there, half way around the world.

Gerry was big on family.  She wrote on aerogram letters every week to her ‘Daddy’ back in Brierley Hill, England.  Her Daddy eagerly awaited each letter and wrote faithfully back too.  They numbered their letters in case they were lost.  Gerry was very fond of her baby brother, Geoffrey. They wrote, then telephoned, then at 80 she entered the technology age and learned how to email and finally to Skype. Their friendship has spanned 87 years.  Today my Dad not only lost his longest and closest friend but last connection with the past.

My earliest memories of Gerry are at around age 3 or 4.  I remember sitting in the back of my Dad’s delivery van as we drove her back to Southampton to take a ship home.  It was dark and uncomfortable back there and maybe that is one of the reasons it was memorable.  Or maybe because of the huge cruise ship although I have no recollection of that, just a photo.

I remember she smoked which in my young child like mind I found an oddity.  I was never around people who smoked.

Gerry was loud and vivacious.  I was quiet and timid, but my Mum says I was just like her!  Throughout my life my Mum would all of a sudden look at me and say ‘Oh, that was so Auntie Gerry!’

Gerry could do the best ‘little girl’ voice, ever. It made me laugh. On one visit she called me ‘mon petite chou,’ my little cabbage!  She was one of the few people who could truly pronounce my name right and she would say it with her singing, Spanish accent. ‘Teraaaza, Maaaria!’

She seemed to have mastered being fully alive in that body of hers.

In Montevideo she became part of an amateur dramatic society, the Montevideo Players.  She adored acting.  It literally was true that the world was her stage, darling, because you never really knew if she was being Gerry or was still ‘in character’.  In a way, it’s as if she walked onto the stage and never walked off.

In her last days at the hospital the doctor asked her who the Queen of England was, testing her mental capacity.  She replied ‘Mary’.  When her son visited her he asked her the same question.  ‘Queen Elizabeth of course,’ she replied.  Mark, her son, explains that she was ‘acting’ for the doctor because lets face it what else could she do in a hospital bed?!

Oh Gerry! True to the end.

Gerry’s life was not without heartache.  She lost a son Neil and her husband Colin.  She has lived 25 years without her sweetheart.

A week ago her son Mark and grandson Morgan arrived in England for a visit.  Four days ago I skyped with them for the first time, catching up, we chatted about Gerry.  I talked about visiting.

I had so hoped to see you, Gerry, just one more time.

And now she is gone.

We play Russian roulette with the possibilities and probabilities of our lives.  So many times we hold the things that matter most, hostage, to things that matter least or to things that don’t matter at all.  Why do we do that?  Why do we let this life whiz by us half-lived?

Maybe my brother said it best of all; that in her infamous way, Gerry has gone out with a bang, stealing the show on the 4th of July.  Because lets face it every 4th of July I will think of Gerry and celebrate her crazy, beautiful life!

When all is said and done we are shocked she is gone, it almost unthinkable. She was in her own way iconic, a legend.  Yet we are glad she did not linger suffering in this body that wouldn’t work for her; this body that wouldn’t let her completely be ‘Gerry.’

I like to think there is a grande reunion in heaven today.  Gerry, her Mum and Dad, Ada and Alf, her son, Neil and sweetheart, Colin.  And guess what?  She is stealing the show again. ^_^  ‘Cheers, darling and goodnight Auntie Gerry, till we meet again.’

Behind A Closed Door

In life we make lists, we separate or compartmentalize our things and experiences.  We organize and categorize our living.  Yet in the end everything is connected, there is no separation in reality.  Okay so maybe I am just trying to explain this to myself.  Why?  I do have a reason and it goes something like this:

A couple of months ago I found myself in York England living out a dream I’d had for many years.  Although born and raised in England I now live in the States so going home is a much looked forward to tradition.  But this was a homecoming of a different kind.  I was travelling alone in England for six weeks and I would finally have time to live out some of my long-held dreams.

Alfred William Hill

Alfred William Hill

Why York and what does it have to do with Life Story writing?  My great-grandfather Alfred William Hill was born and raised in York.  From what little we know that has been passed down he sang in the York Minster and was trained as an Organ Builder no likely at the Minster too.  So what relevance does that have to me today?  Well for one I was born a Hill and secondly I carry some of his genes.  I don’t know about you but for me there is a strong connection to the past, where I came from and who I came from that helps me better understand and appreciate who I am and maybe even why I am the person I am.  Now that has direct bearing on your Life Story right?!

Evenson Chapel

Choir Stalls

The Mighty Organ

The Mighty Organ

 

My time in York was short but I was there and I reveled in that simple delight.  To think that I was walking where he walked, seeing in part what he had seen.  Well lets face it the Minster Cathedral hasn’t changed that much since he was there.  I was even hearing some of what he had heard as that beautiful organ bellowed out her ancient melodies that lifted our thoughts and eyes heaven ward.  At Evensong I sat a few rows away from the choir stalls and imagined him as a boy singing there.  As the organ played I wondered if he had been trained as an organ builder by knowing some of the intricacies of that organ.  As I climbed the tower up its several hundred steps to the view of the spreading city below I wondered if he had ever seen his world from that perspective.

 

I thought about his life, how he left this beautiful city to come to the industrial and blackened country of the Midlands.  Did he miss his family?  Did he miss his home?  He had married the daughter of an organ builder who had gone to York to work on the Minster organ, or at least that is what we are told.  Alfred married Bertha and they had four children.  Bertha was carrying their fifth child when she heard the news.  Her husband Alfred was dead, killed in an accident at work.  He had been working on repairing a lift (elevator) when it fell on him and crushed him.  He was just a young 35 years.

 

The York Minster

The York Minster

My mind was brought back to present day as I stood there in the Minster, breathless with its beauty and its enormity.  These two worlds present and past seemed momentarily to converge as it was as if I could feel Alfred so close that I half expected him to come from behind a closed-door and great me with sparkling eyes and a infectious smile!

Although long gone from this world, I believe my great-grandfather exists as a spirit being, that he is aware of my life here.  I find it realistic to believe that knowing of my visit to York, knowing of my awareness of him, that it is quite possible that he joined me in spirit there that day.   Real or imagined, I was there and it impacted me.

What can I take from this?  Alfred was born an illegitimate child of my great-great grandmother who was in service as a servant in great house at the time.  Taken in and raised by his grandparents as one of their own Alfred made something of his life.  We know of his love of music and singing and his ability to build and create.  We know he dared greatly to leave his home and move to a new place and made a new life.  We know even in those impoverished and challenging times he found love and married, raised children.  In his short life he truly lived his dreams with passion and conviction.

Thank you Alfred for the legacy: Create, Dream, Love and Live!

 

Is there someone from your past, recent or distant that you feel a connection to?  What have you learned from them?  Write about it!  Capture their story from your perspective.

Four Lesson I Learned From My Friend’s Viewing

There has been a great tragedy in our neighborhood, we lost a whole family, Mom, Dad, children and Nana.  One minute they were full of life, the next they were gone.  This has affected so many people but especially their extended families and close friends.  Hearts are aching, eyes are wet, sleep is hard to come by, so much emptiness.

Life is fragile for many reasons.

Here are four things I learned from my friend’s viewing.

Lesson number one: I walked by Kelly’s casket.  It was her body but it wasn’t Kelly.  The same with her children, their bodies lifeless almost manequin-like.  It never ceases to amaze me at open casket funeral’s that every time I see the body I get this overwhelming feeling that what I know is true.  The body is the empty shell that once housed their spirit, their essential essence, the thing that really makes them who they are.  Because day in and day out we see and interact with one another on this physical plane its a stretch for us to realize that who we are isn’t purely physical.  The physical is only the outward manifestation of spirit, emotion, thought and personality.  All those remain intact and leave the body as one at death.  The real life force of a person cannot be snuffed out.  There is a far greater, wondrous plan at work.  This once again brought peace to my heart even if my mind still reeled at the horror of their tragic deaths.  This was lesson number one.  They still live, not here but in another realm.  They still think and love. They are still the same people we knew here.

Lesson two came to me as I watched the video, the montage of a myriad of photos that passed before our dewy eyes.  I stood clinging to my husband.  And then it happened, Kelly pulling a goofy face.  We all need be goofy in pictures on a regular basis.  Why?  To bring a burst of laughter and smile to the faces of our loved ones, after we are gone. Kelly also took a ton of pictures. Lesson two, be goofy and take lots of pictures.

Lesson three.  Short though there lives were, Kelly and her children shared this immense loves for one another that was almost palpable.  Kelly always had a smile for everyone, was a joy and a light.  Lesson three, live life with love.

Lesson four.  Don’t fret too much about the worldly things.  I thought about Kelly today and realized, she didn’t have her cell phone or Facebook, she wasn’t worried about what she was going to wear, or if her house was clean, she wasn’t worried about how much money she had.  She was with people who loved her and was looking down on people who loved her who were sorrowing and wanted to comfort them and tell them everything was okay.  Lesson four: Write a letter to your loved ones on what you want them to know if you don’t have a chance to say goodbye.  Kelly would want us to be happy, remember the good times, live life and celebrate each day. That is what she would want us to do. That is how she would want us to honor her memory and not worry about her.  Besides if we really think about it we know what she is doing, she is busy making friends in heaven.

Kelly and kids

Perfection In Writing In An Imperfect World ~ Just Read It!

perfectly imperfect 2Perfection has been on my mind for a while now. The subject keeps cropping up here and there as if the universe is calling out to me to write this.

Today I posted this in response to a discouraged writer on our Facebook Writers Group:

I think as writers and as humans we need a more accepting, loving attitude, a gentler way with ourselves. We are not perfect and that is so blatantly obvious. Yet it seems we spend our whole life trying to come to terms with our imperfection. The opposition and struggle in life is what shapes us and our writing. Your words have value, they have power. Sleep on it, go for a walk in nature, listen to beautiful music, laugh, sigh, ponder. And write again. Write for you.

At age 20 I was living away from home for the first time. Up to that point in my life I had taken things to heart. I was conscientious and a striving perfectionist. You get the picture, kind of neurotically disappointed because I never fully lived up to my own expectations. Then out of the blue one day I was pushing my bike up a hill in Leicester, England when I had this epiphany. This striving for perfection wasn’t the right perspective on life. It was making me miserable. In that moment something changed inside of me and I let go of perfectionism for good.

Did that mean that I didn’t care about myself, my life and my goals anymore? No, that would be ridiculously counter-productive. I just took a step back and looked at life a little more realistically, maybe a little more logically. The pattern of, get up each day and try, was still there. There were days I succeeded and that was great but there were also days I failed. However, now instead of dwelling on the negative, I just joyed in the knowledge that tomorrow I would wake up with a clean slate to try again. And that is exactly what I did. I just kept waking up each day and trying. I showed up and I practiced at improving my life.

Fast forward many years. I am close to 40 years old, divorced with five children ages 4-13 and in school full-time. In one of my many classes, a class on morality, perfectionism was discussed. The Professor suggested to us that instead of seeking for perfection we seek for excellence. Something stirred within me. This resonated with me and felt right. From that time forth I viewed my life as seeking for excellence. Does this mean I am an overachiever? No. Does this mean I think I am pretty awesome? No. It just means that I am continually seeking growth and improvement in my life.

excellencevsperfectionDisappointment, struggle, opposition, failure are part of our allotment in life and we don’t like it. Yet without these things there would be no learning, no growth, and really in my eyes no life. Imperfection isn’t the enemy its the path.

So as in life, in writing. Imperfection: the disappointment, the struggle, the opposition, the failure are not the enemy, they are the path. We just need to learn from them, not dwell on the negative, be gentle with ourselves and keep showing up, practicing and seeking excellence.

My Love Affair With England

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Well today has been a landmark day. I started to live one of my dreams. I have made a new FB page called Visit My British Isles. https://www.facebook.com/visitmybritishisles?ref=hl In conjunction I will also be starting a new blog.

Why? I was born and raised in England for the first 24 years of my life. Then I removed to the United States when I married. Every time I have had the chance to visit ‘home’ again I have fallen in love once more with the endearingly beautiful countryside. Walking in the green-filled landscape always fills me with a bounteous peace.

Over the years I have spear-headed many an adventurous family excursion across the Atlantic taking my five children to their Mother’s ancestral home, and they love it!  We have done the traditional London double-decker bus tour, Stonehenge, Warwick Castle touristy things. But also the more off-the-beaten-path things too. We always traipse up Malvern Hills to the beacon, there is such a view from up there.  And even if its raining, its exhillirating and bracing.  We always go to Grandpa and Grandma’s holiday home in Wales and sit on the beach at Aberdovey.  We eat sandwiches and crisps in the sand dunes, make sand castles, paddle in the cold sea and fly kites. We have traveled and stayed in random B&B’s (Bed and Breakfast accommodation), toured the highlands (Scotland) from Stirling to Loch Ness and back down to Edinburgh. We have bought souvenirs from near and far, whether Scottish jewelry, tartan kilts and bagpipes or teach yourself Welsh tapes andWelsh love spoons to scads of English chocolate.

For the time we are there I make believe I live there just for a few weeks. Returning to the mock Tudor home I was raised in since I was seven years old, walking around the gardens and woods, soaking in the colors and scents, being amazed that the weather turns out so well, catching up with family and friends like it was only yesterday. Everything is so familiar.

The people are so down to earth and welcoming. They exude a ‘take me as I am’ air, quietly confident in being themselves. Not necessarily given to following the fashions of the day, they make their own style. British people have that outside weathered look from walking in the wind and rain. If you find any sun-tanned folks they are usually recently returned from ‘abroad’, some sunny south of France location or Spain or Majorca. Living so close to the continent they can enjoy the best of both worlds.

Not only do I love England for the greenery, the history, the memories, the family and friends but also the food. Food is so nostalgic. To go home and eat fish and chips, faggots and peas, a sumptuous Sunday roast and a great curry (er yes very British) not to mention the ‘pudding’ (desserts) topped in custard or the baked goods with fresh cream. Its a good thing I do a lot of walking when I am in England. It usually balances out all the extra yummy food I consume.

In a few months I will once again make my pilgrimage to England. My folks are getting old now, they are in their mid 80’s. Our time is numbered to days, however many days I can visit with them. Each trip could be the last time I say hello and goodbye. Yet I know even when they are gone, England will still call me home and part of my heart will always be there.  My quiet love affair.

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