Monday, 29 August 2011

Kids, Canines, Canals and Cameras!

This time yesterday we were enjoying being where we love to be most, down by the canal on "Elisa" our home on the water. This is where we can truly appreciate the simple things in life, where we feel really connected with the natural world and the rhythm and flow of it's changing seasons.                 For the first time, we were able to bring Bleu's lovely friend Elisa to visit her namesake and here they are enjoying the evening sunshine on the bow!

So here I am writing my third post, only my third post! That isn't for lack of desire or motivation, more a lack of quality time! This is something I am going to have to work on, IF I want to make this blog work!

So, although I haven't particuarly had too much time to devote to writing, I have given alot of thought to what I am hoping to achieve by keeping this blog. I have been unusually and suprisingly quiet at work during this last week, and during those times, I have done a little reasearch into what makes a popular blog and armed myself with some knowledge which I hope will inform my posts.

Personally, for me, the biggest challenge is going to be finding the time to devote the few hours I am going to need to make this interesting and entertaining! and I am going to need a few hours, because writing does not come naturally to me. I know what I want to write, but transferring it from my head onto the screen can take an infuriating amount of time, by which time, I tend to have got bored and distracted and loose my momentum!

The question however remains -  WHY a blog which has the potential to be read by anyone, anywhere in the world, rather than my own personal journal which would remain my personal property, only to be read by others if I choose!
I have kept personal diarys. This was at a different time of my life however. A time when life was difficult. I don't read these diarys because they remind me of painful times. However, I believe it is useful to have written and kept these. Afterall, our  memory is heavily edited, translating the past into beautifully lit and softly focused scenes. It's not that these scenes are not true, but they are not always an accurate reflection. Our brain protects us by excluding the painful memories. This is why the world is filled with remarkable individuals, who have survived traumatic experiences, but who go on to use those experiences to make a positive difference.
"If you have enough inner resources, you can live in isolation and not feel diminished by it"
Aung San Suu Kyi
Reminding ourselves of what we have experienced rather than avoiding and denying it, can spur us on to do something extrordinary.A diary is a corrective to our own editing process, thrusting all that untidy footage from the cutting room floor to under our nose!
This blog will be different from my diarys because it will be positive and I want to write about who and what inspires me, lifts my spirits,  nourishes my soul and leads me forward.
It has taken a lifetime, but I now know that there is alot of truth in that saying:
"Every cloud has a silver Lining"
There is a lesson to be learnt from any experience, good or bad and if we can remain positive in difficult circumstances, we can change how we see ourselves, other people and the world.   This enables us to move forward and helps us to avoid self pity which can be soul destroying and stops us achieving.
It's not easy to turn a negative thinking pattern into a positive one, but like everything, it takes a willingness to learn, patience and belief.

So............this post, so far has taken rather too long!. As the title would suggest, I want to write about the lovely weekend I have just  spent, rather than musing on my reasons for writing a blog!......
A weekend consisting of entertaing kids, walking canines alongside the canal, and taking alot of pictures along the way!
Really we didn't have to do much entertaining, because, as you can see, the wildlife did that for us!

It has been 3 weeks since we were last by the canal. That time was on our honeymoon when we spent a few days quite different from the last two days becasue we didn't have any children and for the first time, we experienced the truly chilled way of life that the canal brings! However with two energetic young girls laughing and playing, the calm is slightly rippled!
Living on the water really connects you with the natural environment. I find myself completely absorbed by the tranquil, gentle, soothing serenity of the surroundings.

The Natural world is a source of solace, pleasure, delight, beauty and reassurance. I think it will become evident over the course of this blog, that our earth and all it's natural wonder and beauty has a huge impact on my life. Respecting our environment is one of the most important messages we can pass onto our future generations.
Our connection with nature is inherrant.
 I worry that if the human race fail to love and respect our natural world, we may become out of kilter with it which would be a catastrophe and the assocciated emotional, spiritual and physical loss would be a disaster.
If we all live in a way that seeks to minimise the harm to the naural environment, we will find our true nature in harmony with our environment.
"Do as you will, as long as it harms none"

So over the past two days, we have taken lots of photos of all the beauty and wonder of our surroundings and enjoyed what felt like some of the last long summer evenings of 2011. The girls have fed ducks, swans, pigeons and fish and the dogs have enjoyed chasing said pigeons while  Rob and I have once again been dreaming about the day when we won't have to come back to the bricks and mortar we currently call home, and can truly get back to basics and live on the canal.
 The canal way of life is a simple and humble way with a big emphasis on community. The people we have met who both live, work and holiday on the canal are friendly and approachable and that, along with that closeness to nature is what makes it so appealing for us. Our faith in the human spirit is always strenghened when we are on the canal because that community feel is so strong and we always find that we are treated with the same values that we strive to live our own lives by; kindness and compassion. So this has been our dream for some time, to up sticks and move to the sticks as it were, but that is never as easy as it sounds when you have kids and dogs in tow! For a start, it would be a squeeze, but we have had so many other things to consider too.
Post Joyfest however, that dream has changed into something maybe abit more realistic for now. Another challenge. more goals for us, and the reality is, that the canal may not be a part of that at all. In fact we may have to part with our beloved Elisa, but....only time will tell......
"Live Simply, so that others may simply live"

 We enjoyed a beautiful display of air balloons which kept us all amused for a couple of hours while they slowly made their way to wherever they were going. I have a simple camera so I couldn't do justice to the sight we saw, but it was quite something to see all these balls of colour over the church! The dogs obviously thought the aliens were coming because, far from being able to watch these graceful objects floating in the air in peace, this aerial event was accompanied by cacophony of barking and whining!

So we had a warm weekend of companionship, Friendship, Love, Peace and Nature. Our energy is restored and back in balance and we know the way forward and trust that our faith in Nature and humanity will take us there.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

JoyFest Memories

After lighting two candles to symbolise our lives before we were joined in formal union, we lit this Third Candle to symbolise our lives and  hopes together.
My bouquet of dragonflys rests behind it.
The three candles stay alight as a symbol of our togetherness and continuing individuality. We were lucky to be blessed with a wonderfully calm, warm and sunny day, which meant that the candles DID, in fact stay alight!

Three weeks ago to almost exactly this time (around 6pm) I was finally able to get in a shower after a day of goodbyes and Thankyou's! It is the only thing I would change about that whole amazing weekend, Not having a shower, but having a shower at that time!
I had been trying to get in a shower ever since I had got up but with 40 or so relatives and friends leaving throughout the day, I just didn't seem to find a time when I  could go without missing saying goodbye to someone!
So, finally, after I'd had myshower, I found myself so exhaused and emotinal after 72 hours of what I can only describe as the most memorable and significant weekend of my life so far, that I crawled into our hired tipee and missed the last evening of fun with the few family and friends who stayed with us until the very end!

Joyfest is what we called our weekend of celebration and much merriment! and Joyfest took about a year and a half to bring about. We went completely over budget, we have totally no money left, but it was absoloutely worth every penny that we have saved over the 15 years we have been together!

We had a vision, and somehow, even more than that vision became reality and we created the wedding, festival weekend that we had hoped and dreamed of, but never in a million years, did we dare to believe that it would go so well and be so wonderfully full of love, friendship and real warmth which radiated from every adult and child that honoured us with their presense!

We have been truly humbled by the whole experience, and, as I said in  my last post, life will never be the same again, not just because we are now husband and wife (nothing has changed there apart from my title) but because when you can actually see and feel so much Love around you, it gives you a different perspective. It is hard to explain, I knew we had incredible friends and family, I knew they loved us but maybe it's that we took that for granted.

Joyfest could not  have happened were it not for these ultra remarkable, truly special, beautiful inside and out, lovely, very dear Friends and Family, and they became our theme along with Love, Peace and Creativity. Friends and Family were the reason that we wanted  this, without them, there may not be an us, and certainly would not have been a JoyFest! JoyFest was about being with the wonderful people who we love, respect and from whom we have learnt so much, it was a thankyou to them for being in our lives and we are so priviledged that they were there.

It was because of them, that JoyFest came together in the way it did. We wanted our frieinds and family to feel that it was their JoyFest, we wanted them to feel truly a part of it and to stamp their own unique individuality on it! We didn't want presents, but instead asked people to bring a dish of food, games to play, and to make an item of decoration. This they did in abundance. The marquee was beautiful, the food was delicious and there was 24/7 entertainment! We also made our own decorations and, because one of our passions is recycling, much of what we made was from recycled material, such as our green bottle candle holders and bunting from old material! My beautiful friend Emma, painted jars with dragon and butterflys and decorated them with beads for a fabulous table display! Rob is an amateur potter and made all the pots that went on the tables, in which my wonderful friend Kate, bought and arranged the eye catching sunflowers.
My sister in law made an incredible wall display of butterflys which proved to be the main eyecatching attraction!
When we jumped the broomstick, it had been decorated with ribbons which had messages on!

So life has changed a little in the respect that we will be certain NEVER to take Love and Friendship for granted and also because we now truly comprehend how blessed and lucky we are, which maybe we didn't quite understand to the full extent before 3weeks ago.

As I said in my first post, maybe now I understand the significance of Living in the moment. Before JoyFest I may have been guilty of not giving enough of my time to friends and family. I am always trying to fit a million and one things into a day, and making time for my friends suffers as a result. No more though! I thought I understood the value of friendship but I don't think I could have understood it enough. Now I totally see. I am going to stop feeingl guilty if I don't hoover or don't make dinner before 6, or don't get the dogs out for at least an hour and a half walk! If the hoovering has to wait, the dinner becomes pasta and cheese and the dogs get 20 mins, then I know that is perfectly OK. What is important, is giving my time to the people in my life whom make it so fulfilling, and without whom, I wouldn't have a life worth blogging about!

I have also been guilty of holding onto those times when I feel let down or disappointed in someone. I can see now, how ridiculous this is.  We can't please all of the people all the time, however hard we try, and my friends and family have commitments that won't include me, just as I do. My Friends and Family have shown me how important I am to them in the most wonderful expression of Love. This knowledge and memory will inform every decision and choice I make in the future and I can say in this blog that I  will NEVER doubt that Love EVER! I will live in the moment, appreciate what I have here and now, have a notion of what is going on around me in any given situation, won't be oblivious and won't predict the future or hold onto to past disappoinments which I am ashamed to say I may have done before JoyFest. How Stupid I feel about that now!
I don't want to forget one single moment of JoyFest and it was during that extraordinary weekend that I understood the importance of not missing any moment when it is happening and to live in the right here, right now. That was a life affirming lesson learnt.

Rob and I are lucky enough to have the most special and inspiring people as Friends. Two of these Friends are the wonderful wedding photographers Pen and Cam. Pen is my oldest, closest Friend and we have been in each other's life for nearly 26 years. This gorgeous couple worked their socks off during JoyFest and did us the honour of taking photos of the whole weekend! We are eternally grateful to them and thier website is amazing. Give it a visit at:

Pen and Cam's photos are available to see on their own blog.  The photos here are a mixture from all our Friends and Family. Many of them were taken by my cousin Kirsty Hogg, who, is herself just starting out as a wedding photographer. Here she is with my cousins and below that is another wonderful photo of my cousins with Kirsty behind the lens.

When I look back at our invites and our explanation about what Joyfest is, it is hard to believe that we ( us and our Friends and Family) achieved all that. This is what it read:
"We knew we wanted something different.
We wanted to celebrate with people who share and understand our values and beliefs.
We had the ideal of a festival type celebration where we could have only OUR friends and family, in a peaceful and natural environment where we you can relax and feel comfortable.
We love and value the beauty of nature and we love and value YOU, our Family and Friends, both enrich our lives.
We came across a place that could accomodate all those we want to celebrate with, Stokes Barn, a beautiful and tranquil setting, PERFECT!
Bleu came up with the name "JoyFest".
Ok, so we don't have loads of live bands but we will have YOU, and if a festival is about chilling our with friends in a field with good food, nice drink, entertainment for the children, bit of music and generally feeling relaxed, happy and joyful,
Then we hope, that's what we will have!"

And we DID!

 So what about Life post JoyFest? ........................................................................
New experiences and new challenges and a NEW BLOG........................!!!
I have now completed my first 2 posts, and it doesn't seem quite as daunting as I thought it would be! I appear to have managed to work out how to download photos and pictures, although I know there is alot more I can learn to make it look more interesting!
So, here is a challenge I have set myself, to update this blog at least twice a week and to learn how to create an interesting, worth reading blog. I know I have a long way to go, and ALOT to learn! I am the most impatient person when it comes to technology and I need to learn how to write articulately and eloquently. But I have taken my 1st steps, and it feels good!
And I could not have done this without my wonderful husband who has done all the odd jobs around the house, looked after the kids, made the dinner and walked the dogs this weekend, while I have mastered the art of creating a basic (so far) blog!
So, my wonderful Robbie, you are my only fan so far and this post is dedicated to you as a Thankyou for being SUCH a hard working, uncomplaining, amazing husband and helping me take on a new challenge by giving me the time and space to do so.
You are such a hard grafter and continue to astonish and amaze me with your unassuming and modest attitude.

New adventures await..........................................................................................!

Friday, 12 August 2011

The Beginning of a New Chapter!

2 weeks ago, I experienced an event which means that life will never quite be the same as it was before the last weekend of July 2011!
Rob and I celebrated our love with the incredible friends and family who have enriched our lives over the last 15 years.

I have thought about writing a blog for some time. We've all got a story to tell and I have been taught so much by listening to other people's stories. I have met so many people with fascinating backgrounds and incredible tales of survival. I have learnt humility and gratitude from these passionate, strong, determined, tenacious and motivated individuals.

So, here I am, taking my first amateur steps in blogging land, and hoping that what I have to write may inspire someone in the same way that those people have touched me and helped to shape the person I am now and the person I strive to become.

The title for my blog comes from my love of nature and the beauty that surrounds us. The Dragonfly perfectly represents the wonder of our world with it's elegance and loveliness. The Dragonfly represents change and our ability to strive for self actualisation and find the deeper meaning of life through a spiritual awakening. This is something I aspire to keep doing. I believe that we must go through several growth experiences in life before we experience our true purpose and get to a place of inner peace. We have to make life happen, things won't happen to us unless we are proactive in enabling them to happen. We have to keep moving forward if we want to achive our goals, and hopefully make a positvie statement on the world and effect real change.

The Dragonfly also reminds us to live in the moment because it lives as an adult dragonfly for not more than a few months. Therefore it has to mature and reproduce in this short space of time. Living in the present, rather than the future means we will appreciate what we have in the moment rather than always looking for something more. By living in the moment, you stay aware of who you are, where you are, what you are doing and what you do and don't want. This is a skill we can all benefit from in our busy lives as it allows us to make informed choices on a moment to moment basis and if we do this, we can avoid regretting our decisions.

I believe that through our own force of will and intellect, we chart our own path through life. By making the right choices, we can all be predestined for something great. It is our own free will that mucks it up. Sometimes we can be yanked dramatically off this path by fate, chance or coincidence; The people who intersect us on our path can change what our fated destiny is for better or worse. One event might be the catylyst for a thousand other things. However, if we take the opportunities life gives us and use them to our advantage, I believe pretty much anything is achievable!
"The point is, Not to survive, but to thrive with passion, compassion, humour and style"
Maya Angelou
I am all too aware however that there are too many people for whom the above statement really can't be applied. In this global village that we live, there are people fighting for, not only their civil and political rights, but also their economic, social and cultural rights. There are people for whom the basic right of a drink of clean water is denied to them, and for whom, opportunities are non exsistent. I live my life feeling guilty that, by a error of geography, I live in a country where, in the most part, there ARE opportunities, even though, for some, they will have to face more challenges for these occasions to present themselves.

I will have reached self realisation when I have done something that will have an impact on the earth and it's inhabitants. Something that will have positive conseqences for those people who do not have the opportunities that I have been so with.
"Try to be a rainbow in someone's cloud, do not complain, never whine; Be certain that you do not die without having done something wonderful for humanity"     
Maya Angelou

Like I said at the beginning of this post, my life changed more than a little at the end of July. I thought I knew what I had. Since meeting Robbie, I have gradually learnt to accept that maybe I do deserve what I have. I know we've worked hard to get to the place we are today.  I feel so lucky and blessed to have what I do and over the last 15 years I have come to realise that, maybe I am deserving of it, rather than to continue believing that something will go wrong to balance the equation.
Instead, I have come to realise that life is full of ups and downs and we are facing challenges every day. It is how we approach and deal with those problems that determines whether they have a greater, negative impact on our lives.
"Treat others how you want to be treated"

Since the weekend of the 29th-31st July 2011 however, I have become aware that I am even more blessed and lucky than I knew!........................................................................................