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Birthdays
shirleyann21
Had a reminder that someone was celebrating a birthday. I always celebrate the birthdays of my family & friends and have a budget set aside as my family has grown considerably over the last decade. With sons, wives, grand kids, nephews, their wives & great nieces & nephews it's a round the clock task of getting the right thing. ( thank God for Amazon) . It's not the amount you spend but people like to feel acknowledged. If I spent a lot on my good friends I'd be broke but they know who they are and I will always acknowledge the value they bring. So wherever you are in the world, bless you. Be happy & keep on being a blessing to others for as we sow so shall we reap!

Happy Birthday
shirleyann21
Not too much raving or misbehaving ( well maybe a little) and celebrate with some Cauliflower Cheese.

Thoughts of Christmas (In August?)
shirleyann21
Although its only mid August, the control freak inside me has to take the edge of the Christmas shopping. Whilst not adverse to a bit of retail therapy on occasions I actually can't stand being in crowded shops over the Christmas period so for me it starts at the end of July. I love the giving part of Christmas and with so many to buy for I need to put thought into the process rather than last minute wandering round "anything will do" mindset. It's also great to grab bargains during mid season sales and add them to my hidden Christmas stash. By October the process should be complete which allows time for another possible trip abroad feeling stress free knowing that its all taken care of. It's rather odd as I don't like to receive too many presents myself as I feel overwhelmed and don't like the clutter of too much stuff. A present should contain thoughts within it. Thoughts that " this is something that will bring you fun or enhance your life"
I had some friends over last year after Christmas for a meal and I did a round robin gift around the dessert table. Inexpensive little gifts that each could use for practical use but they would not think to buy themselves. It was fun but most of all made them feel appreciated and valued.
Each week I have to have a loved one on my mind to sort them a present (be it Christmas, birthday or " just because you deserve it day" . That's what gardeners do, they keep on sowing and planting.

"That week"
shirleyann21
Today marks the end of "That week" marked in my diary from 4th until 10th of August. That week includes the anniversaries of four much loved family members deaths including my parents. Not necessarily a time to feel downcast but to celebrate their contribution and shaping of mine and the lives of my family. My lovely dad who my sister and I had the privilege of nursing in the final weeks of his life was a true soldier until the end. His first reaction on being told he had terminal cancer was " this is not a tragedy at my age but is for little children who don't get to live their lives"

Taking time to reflect on his life in his final days he asked us to go through the photos of our childhood and asked " have I been a good dad" an overwhelming true response was " the very best given all the difficult circumstances you always put us first" I asked him during his final hours if it was at all possible would he come back when it was my time to leave this life and guide me to the other side? his response was " I will never let you down". Knowing he is true to his word as are all those who left us during " that week" lets me get on with living a life where I hopefully can rest assured knowing that they will be there for me whenever that time is. It is so important when we bring our children into the world for them to know that even if we as humans are not infallible that we lead them along the right path, giving them a long rope on which to roam but never enough to hang themselves. My dad used to say " you may go to the fringes of hell but make sure you never jump in"

So " that week" is over for another year but in the meantime I will carry them all in my heart until they become my tour guides at some unknown time in the future.

The Seasons
shirleyann21
In the past few years I have not been a fan of winter. Dark mornings, scraping frost of the car, evenings that start at 4.30pm, cold, damp or thick snow. That was until I watched a series presented by my favourite gardener in the whole world the lovely creative Alan Titchmarch entitled "The seasons" in it Alan brings to life the reasons behind the seasons with the changing of the earth's Axis. There's a reminder of all the festivals and their evolution. Even in winter when we think life has stopped it's going on at the bottom of ponds and sap is gathering inside the trees. Then spring bursts forward bringing new life all around.

That is my very favourite season as is a reminder that life is eternal and nature keeps the promise that it will keep on bringing forth new life time after time. I loved the series so much I bought it on DVD and on the dullest most mundane days when I have to do the most tedious of tasks like a load of ironing I will put it on and watch all four seasons take place around me. It reminds me how lucky I am to live on the British Isles with so much diversity in its wake. Although by nature I have a built in instinct to fly off every couple of months, like the swallows I will always return home. Every season has its own beauty and as an avid gardener myself I know which of my flowers and trees (my extended family) will visit me in what month and bring me such joy with their beautiful colours. We do reap what we sow not only in our gardens but in all aspects of our lives and likewise our lives have seasons. People may be in our lives like our flowers some for a long season like the begonias and some for a short time like the day lily. My hope is that however long or short a time I come into someone's life, I add lasting value in that season.

All creatures great & small
shirleyann21
My travels are not just sitting in the sun & relaxing they are often educational experiences. Two trips stand out that taught me a great deal about the significance of all creatures great and small are: A walk through the rain forest in Costa Rica & a trip to a salmon farm in Alaska. During the walk through the rain forest , the guide asked us to stop and watch some little ant like creatures on the floor marching along with little leaves on their backs. He explained how this action played such significance in the balance of the ecology as they transferred seed & sap in an sort of cross pollination exercise . I was bowled over by the wonder of it walking almost on tip toes to avoid damaging any of these precious creatures along the way. The trip to the Salmon farm in Alaska and hearing about the life of the salmon from egg and chances of survival in the first place to their journey of hundreds of miles along rivers and coming back again facing a battle of survival to return to spawn again before death showed unbelievable determination and endurance that leaves one lost for words. Not only that but the value of the salmon in the food chain for ourselves, bears, eagles ect! If that was not enough even after its death its skin goes into the earth to feed trees and other life forms before fosillising .... The point of this little rant here is to value nature, always be curious & keep learning. You should never cease to be amazed!

Al Koran
shirleyann21
A friend of mine gave me an old yellow hard backed book written in the 1960s entitled "bring out the magic in your mind" written by Al Koran who was apparently well known around that time as a mind reader / magician. Although dated especially with its old type face its principles are still timeless. It is inspiring to think about how we can use our minds to create our universe and visualise the things we want. The chapters are divided into titles which include: The magic of belief; the power of the subconscious; silence & meditation; the magic of love; the secret of wealth; the magic of friendship; the magic of change;the magic of music; the magic of colours; the magic of flowers and so on and so on.

Like many people I can get tired and a bit low from time to time however this book is like an alternative to other stimulants one might be tempted to consider. It lifts and inspires and motivates the spirit. I keep it close at hand for those times when I need a kick up the backside. My advise (is the greatest vice giving advice?) to anyone who wishes to lift their spirits is to give it a go. They probably sell reprints on amazon or even eBay might be a place to find it.

As I've only added one friend so far to my journal ( you know who you are) then maybe you might give it a whirl !

From Russia with love
shirleyann21
In 2003 we went on a Baltic cruise. Sailing from Amsterdam and visiting Stockholm, Copenhagen, Helsinki , Talin, Visby, Bornholm, & St Petersberg. We were fortunate enough to have some lovely people share our dining table in the evening. Two of whom were from Texas. Barry & Edna. Barry was a self confessed workaholic who told me he had work on his mind even when he was away and found it very difficult to relax. His wife Edna was the homemaker and heart and an ever growing family who had great joy spending time with her kids and grand kids. One day after we had visited St Petersberg they joined us to look out on deck. There was a man white washing the ship, a job that had to be done each day. Barry stated that such a tedious occupation would drive him insane. I quickly pointed out that someone had to do it and someone had to unblock the sewers and serve you in the shops and restaurants and every job had its value and reward and part of a bigger picture of coexistance. He looked at me as though he had just been enlightened and said " I have never thought of it that way" We went on to talk about all sorts of things none of which were work. At the end of the cruise Edna asked us to keep in touch as she felt we had become firm friends. Barry made a pledge to review this addiction to work and we did indeed keep in touch with regular emails. A year on and Edna emailed me to say Barry had been diagnosed with leukaemia. Throughout the next year in treatment he spent valuable time with her and his family and work , well it became less important. A year later Barry sadly died. Edna still keeps in touch and one day we hope she will either visit the UK or we will take a trip to Texas. If not, distance is nothing when it comes to friendships . Thoughts can travel across the miles instantly thanks to that brilliant man who invented the World Wide Web. My last words to Barry & Edna as we saw them for the last time was "See you in another life" and I do like to keep a promise as that's the way I've been brought up.

Simple Pleasures
shirleyann21
Although I consider myself very blessed to live close to the beach, it's always nice to get upto our holiday home in the heart of the Yorkshire dales. The countryside here is green and lush ( probably down to the high levels of rainfall which is the norm) . We are close to Ingleton Falls and a lovely little village with a beautiful churchyard high up looking down onto what is known as Ruskins View. The artist and write John Ruskin made it his favourite place. Close also to the Lake District the Home of the Poet John Wordsworth and the famous children's writer Beatrix Potter. Yesterday we walked the river path and climbed the 90+ steps to just sit at the top and read the morning papers. The peace and tranquility was only temporarily disturbed by the sound of a funeral courtage lead by a glass carriage drawn by 8 black horses groomed to perfection with serene plumage and almost regal black and white sashes across their shiny coats. This was an obviously well to do person judging by the number of personalised black Mercedes and BMWs that followed behind. Well maybe he was? But clearly no more!

Early evening I prepared a barbeque for visiting friends and we dined outside, having a good old chat and catching up with news of our respective families before taking a walk to the lake and watching an apparent dispute between an angry duck and something that appeared like an otter. Listening to the different bird calls and watching swifts skim the water for their insect suppers.

It's now 6.20am and I am as usual awake early enjoying the first coffee of the day and planning the morning ahead. Today it will start with the annual Clapham fair and no doubt a walk along the trail before it gets too hot. The sleep tha eludes me past 5.30 am will no doubt be caught up with this afternoon as I relax on a sun lounger . Just simple pleasures. Enjoyed every bit if not more that the world wide travelling and the sights of famous landmarks. They say that the Yorkshire dales are Gods paintbox and I believe them whoever " they" are.

May the force be with you
shirleyann21
Little did I know that the Forces would play such a key part of my life. My dad ( God rest his soul) was an army man and my husband and both my lads Cops. One advantage of the job is early retirement so my husband gets to play a lot of golf these days. Being a Police wife as a very young mum had its challenges . Examples being him being involved in riots, having to go away when the miners were on strike and countless Christmas's delayed. When your sons take the same career path it can cause sleepless nights in the first instance then an acceptance that they are grown men that make their own life choices and the risks that go with it. I am at a crossroads where I now consider an early dart myself from my job. If I go I get to spend a lot more time here at our Dales holiday home & general travelling which we love , not having to get up at the crack of dawn but on the other hand have to carve out a new identity (or figure out if that really matters).What has become quite evident is that life is very short and like a roll of toilet paper the nearer you get to the end the faster it goes. I know in my heart I have made my mind up and will probably leave next March and I'm sure once I close the door on my present job I won't look back. Or will I? Maybe this is the time we reflect for a while before moving onwards. Time for a leap of faith and putting the next chapter in the hands of an even greater Force . The one behind the promise .