Thank you!

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Happy February morning to you, and a belated happy new year as well!

I’ve had a long break, done a lot of soul-searching, or soul-dredging more like, and made a decision to put confusion and despair behind me. Not because I am burying my head in the proverbial sand, but because I am most useful in my everyday life when I am positive, calm and clear.

Like many people, I am overwhelmed with the state of things. I care. I care so very much about things that matter and have been feeling overwhelmed at my helplessness. There is so much anger, fear and hate about right now. It’s like an epidemic. I do think it has the effect of a disease by infecting anyone who gets too close too often. And this disease is spreading everywhere. I can feel it when I’ve spent too long on a news site or social media. It’s like a car crash that you can’t look away from. I’m rubbernecking so as not to miss anything, and I get swept up in the mocking, nasty, to and fro of snark and condescension. So I’m stepping away from all of that for the most part. Focus on where I can make a difference and thinking about what that might be.

When I think about the people that have had the most influence on my life, it is those who are living in a way that I want to live. Those people who are wise, kind, gentle, creative, care about the natural world, are contented with their life but at the same time stretch themselves to grow and improve their own lives and the lives of others. People who compose a life on their own terms, whatever that may be. I do want to know the facts about important issues, but I’m rarely influenced by those who shout the loudest, retort the wittiest, or debate the smartest.

There is a quote by Socrates that I read years ago on the Internet (in the days before it became saturated with inspirational snippets), that has always stuck with me. It reads:

‘ The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new’

I think he was on to something. And although, of course, the world needs activists and people to speak out for what they believe in, I think that we especially need people who are focusing on building a better world in whatever small way they can. And it is doubly difficult because it does seem like a small and ordinary thing. There are no Nobel prizes for it. But to live the best life you can is an immense inspiration and incentive to others to do the same.

There are so many wonderful bloggers, writers, artists, film-makers, cooks, musicians and more… who have unknowingly encouraged me to lift myself out of depression and begin again, and again, and again. To persevere. There are too many to name, but I just wanted to say thank you to all the creative people of the Internet and wider world. I think you are building a new world within the one that is burning. At the very least, you are giving people like me hope… in goodness and in beauty, and that is what’s sorely needed at the moment. So Thank you. xx

Tied to the Earth

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“The best poets are tied to the earth. They live regular lives and wear regular clothes. They walk around incognito, yet they look at the world with keen eyes… by listening we can begin to notice, and then eventually tell more”

~ Visual Poetry, Chris Orwig

How grateful I’ve been for a couple of weeks break from the Internet. Time to gather my thoughts, catch up on some coursework and housework, nurse flu-y children, take a few walks and generally just slow down to a pace that I can actually keep up with.

Everything on the net seems to go at such an alarming pace. The worldwide web is a wonderful thing, and it has changed my life in so many positive ways, not least of all being able to come here and type out my thoughts and read the blogs of other like-minded people and not feel quite so alone in the world. But the sheer speed of it all – the constant updates and ever churning out of more more more information – all of this directly feeding into my brain can get a bit much sometimes.

But a break is as good as a change in my book, and so I return with renewed enthusiasm to this small online space of mine.

I’ve been thinking about why I come here. It sometimes occurs to me that it is a pointless exercise – as if there are not enough people chattering on the Internet already, I’m not sure I have anything of worth to add to the conversation. Then again, blogging has been quite eye-opening to me. I’ve come to understand that I blog in order to see my life more clearly. The act of blogging actually makes me slow down and notice the events in my own life. I see my life in greater clarity – what needs to change – what I have to be grateful for – what inspires, motivates, and moves me. And sharing that experience with others who similarly find it a therapeutic or life-enhancing activity is an added bonus.

So, I am glad to be returning to this little space…  expect more gabbing on about nothing much in particular, or even lots of particular but ordinary things. You know, just the very stuff of which life is made 🙂

What I’ve Learned in Three Years of Blogging

unnamedMy last post was my 200th on this blog, and here I am still at it. In this post I wanted to write about a few of the things I’ve learned since beginning blogging three years ago. Three years and 200 posts isn’t all that long and I am certainly no expert, but this list may help those who are just starting out. All these are still things I need to be reminded of when I feel unsure and stuck, which still happens a whole lot.

Commenting with grace on other people’s blogs: This is how you build reciprocal relationships and find common interests. It is a wonderful way to find inspiration for your own posts. Only write positive comments. I say this because it is so easy to be misunderstood. Without the benefit of tone and facial features, comments can be taken to be more hostile than you intended. It is entirely possible to put across your differing point of view in a positive way without being rude and stirring up conflict. I admit to having been guilty of this in the past – we do so like to be right – don’t we?

Commenting with grace on your own blog: If someone came up to you in every day life and praised your latest piece of writing, would you turn away and ignore them? Would you just smile and walk off? If you have a busy blog, it may not be possible to respond to every comment, but your readers will want to see that you have at least tried to make the effort. If you have few commenters, it would be wise to reply to them all. On the other hand, if someone makes a comment that upsets you or is downright rude, have no qualms about deleting it. If it is a comment that is merely annoying then feel free to ignore it. Responding in the heat of the moment can often leave you regretting your words… I speak from sore experience. Take a grace period and think about how best to deal with it.

Ignore your follower numbers: Just that!

Keep posting and confidence and topics will come easier with time: Over the years I have struggled to find that elusive ‘focus’ for my blog and have posted about all kinds of things. Maybe I will eventually settle onto just one topic, maybe not. What matters is to be brave and keep posting. Let your interests guide your way, and the way will become clearer as you progress.

Don’t spread yourself too thin: You don’t need every social media account to have a worthwhile blog. What matters is creating worthwhile content and interacting with your readers, so put those first. The more time you give to your life away from the Internet, the easier it will be for you to write interesting stuff on it.

Find your own way: There are a billion posts giving advice about blogging (just as this one is); take what you need and ignore the rest. Your unique approach to life and writing is what readers want to read. Don’t compromise this for popularity. I’ve seen too many blogs change from personal and unique, to popular carbon copies of a thousand others. Yes, the blogs that write template posts with perfectly pin-able images will get more followers – but take a closer look at their comments section – is there real human interaction or a whole lot of attention seeking and advertising? What kind of interaction do you want on your blog?

Set a schedule: It doesn’t have to be carved in stone, but a regular schedule of posting will help you immeasurably. If you make an intention to post once, twice, three times or more every week, and build it into a habit, you will find that your brain works unconsciously to find material to post about.

Don’t make blogging harder or more important than it is: RELAX! (ha, need to tell myself this every day) Life is full of uncertainty. I am most wary of those blogs where everything seems to be worked out, where the writer is an ‘expert’. We all know that life is not like that. Life changes direction in an instant, some days we are wobbly and unsure, some days we think we are on top of it all. Both are valid. So my favourite blogs are full of both… a little wisdom, a little uncertainty, a little imagination, a lot of real.

It is not necessary to criticise the way other people do things: Whether that be the way they live or what they write, even if you strongly disagree. This is a personal preference. I want to read blogs where we help each other not tear each other down.

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” ~ Socrates.

We all have our flaws; a single ill-thought comment could destroy a person’s confidence forever.

You don’t have to share everything: I recently read an article about sharing opinions. Just because you didn’t post about the latest news headline doesn’t mean you don’t care and doesn’t mean you haven’t taken action behind the scenes. Everyone is making a contribution in their own way though it may not be visible online. Lamenting the fact that you are the only person that seems to care about this, that, or the other, is narcissism. You can’t see inside people’s hearts, or know what they do away from their computer screen.

Maybe we can try to think the best of others and still share what we believe and how we like to do things on our blogs. As a caveat, I do think it is important to share at least some personal details, otherwise there is a feeling that the writer is hiding something and we may distrust them. As a reader we can understand a writer not wanting to talk at length about their children or very personal subjects, but a balance is important. We can share just a small portion of our lives here on the Internet and that is okay.

Connecting with the everyday: For a long while I wondered what it is that brings me back to a blog. There are several that I have read for years, and some I have read a little and left and later returned. Asking the question of what most attracts us to a blog will help us find our way to our own blogging style. I read blogs about all kinds of things – nature, gardening, art, craft, writing, knitting, daily life, cooking, books. I love writers who share titbits of their own personal life – their unique perspective of the world shines through their writing. I love to read about bloggers who are making a difference without pretending to be an expert or criticising the failings of others. These people inspire me to live a deeper more creative life and find a small way to make a difference myself. It has nothing to do with ‘niche’ or professional looking photographs. Though the way a blog looks is important, more than anything, it is authenticity that counts.

These are just my personal findings – your experience may be completely different. For me, blogging is a continual process of discovery – of how I understand myself and the world around me. It is an ongoing process, and it is fascinating to look back and see how much you learn and grow over the years. I am sure I will learn so much more in the years to come. I would love to know what you have learned about blogging, and what you personally look for in a blog?

Follow Your Inner Moonlight

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“Concentrate on what you want to say to yourself and your friends. Follow your inner moonlight; don’t hide the madness. You say what you want to say when you don’t care who’s listening.”

~ Allen Ginsberg

I wholeheartedly believe that we all have something individual to contribute to the world – something important that needs to be expressed. Perhaps something only you can say. Blogging gives us an opportunity to express and communicate this with others.

It means we have to become a little vulnerable, we have to let people see the parts of us that are not so strong and certain. There is deep value in this process for the reader as well as ourselves. It takes time and care to say what you really mean – to say what matters. This is something I really want to work on with my blogging this year.

We all have these mad parts of ourselves, parts that speak of our pain and our hope and our passion. I want to read and write about those. There are some things I will keep private, for sure, but I need to get out of my comfort zone, even if it hurts. Especially if it hurts.

What is your inner moonlight leading you to do or say? What makes life different and real for you? What would you say if you didn’t care who was listening?

Liebster Award

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A very big thank you to Rose at Bohemian Nerd and Jamie at Needle at Sea Bottom for nominating me for a Liebster award. It has been so nice to be welcomed into the WordPress community and I am grateful for the kindness shown by so many fellow bloggers. Do pop over to their blogs and say hello.

Here are the Official Rules for accepting the Liebster Award:

  • Put the Liebster Award logo on your blog.
  • Answer the questions given at the bottom of this post and then come up with 10 new ones to ask your nominations.
  • Nominate 8 other blogs, let them know you have nominated them and put a link to their blog in your post.
  • No tag-backs.
  • You must tell all the blogs that you have nominated them.

Okay, so I have two sets of questions to answer… here goes with Rose’s questions:

1) Why did you start this blog? Reading so many wonderful blogs over the years is what inspired me to write one of my own initially. Learning about the different lives and thoughts of people from all over the world made me want to be a part of that.

2) What makes you smile? The antics of my kitten when she chases my children around the house, or tries to hide in the potted plants (I have some pics to show in a later post). I don’t think we ever laughed so much until she came to live with us last year.

3) What is one of your talents? Dancing. I trained for many years in ballet and other dance forms and went to a performing arts college.

4) Who is a hero in your life? I don’t know about ‘hero’ but a person I do admire would be Robert Smith of the band The Cure. He has achieved phenomenal (but quiet) success on his own terms.

5) What is a great memory from your past? A great memory would be seeing The Cure in concert at The Royal Albert Hall in 2006.

6) If the sky’s the limit, what would you like to do next? Finish writing my book, which gets picked up by a top publisher, which then hits the bestseller’s list, enabling me to take my children on a long trip around Europe… I wish! 🙂

7) What is your favorite season of the year? Hmmm, this is a tricky question because I find something to like in every season. Maybe summer – for the picnics, sunshine, and gardens.

8) What is a piece of advise you would like to share? Wait until someone has asked you three times before giving advice.

9) If you have some spare time, what do you do? Read, read, read.

10) Do you prefer a home-cooked meal, or to go out to a restaurant? Home cooked, but going out is nice too occasionally.

And now Jamie’s questions…

1) Would you stroll along a deserted beach, or sit and sun? Stroll barefoot along the water’s edge.

2) Would you go on an organized cruise, or vacation; If so, where would be your dream vacation? I prefer to make my own travel plans, but a cruise around the Norwegian fjords and Iceland would be wonderful.

3) If you are a person, who prefers self organized travel plans, where would you go if money was not an issue? Peru or maybe Canada, or Italy… but off the beaten path.

4) Would you have a travelling companion, if so who would you take? I would take my soul mate (who I have not yet met, but hope exists).

5) Do you wish your writing style were different? I’m not sure I have a writing style, so finding one would be good.

6) Do you have a favourite artist, if so which of their artworks do you really enjoy? Too too many…. Egon Shiele’s Winding Brook, Samuel Palmer’s Cornfield by Moonlight, with the Evening Star and The Magic Apple Tree, Piet Mondrian’s The Gray Tree, Franz Marc’s The Fox, Vincent Van Gogh’s A Wheatfield, with Cypresses… okay I’m getting carried away.

7) What do you do for exercise? Yoga, walk, dance.

8) Do you enjoy crafting, which are your favourite activities? I love knitting and embroidery.

9) What is your favourite vegetable and why? Kale – because it tastes delicious of course!

10) Where do you go, for peace and quiet? Home, for a walk, to the library.

11) Name your favourite author and which of their books are among the best? Hmmm.. another tricky question, too many to choose from but Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude would be one.

I would like to nominate the following blogs for a liebster award. (I completely understand if you don’t want to take part and I will not feel offended in any way if choose not to):

Chocolate and Bacon

What Katie Wrote Next

Quantum Hermit

The Crunchy Soup

Books and Scissors

The Book Magpie’s Nest 

Good Food: Savories, Sweets & Stories

DeeScribes

And these are your questions should you choose to accept the award:

  1. What do you do to cheer yourself up?
  2. Which book would you like to have written?
  3. Which character from a book would you most like to be?
  4. Name something unusual about yourself.
  5. What is your favourite thing about blogging?
  6. What did you want to be when you grew up?
  7. Name 3 people you would most like to have dinner with?
  8. What is your favourite quote?
  9. What would you like to learn to do?
  10. What scares you?

Better late than never ~ Personal Goals for 2015

Simple ThingsThis should have been written last week, but I’ve been trying to decide whether to stick to my old blog on blogger or switch to a new wordpress one. I’ve been deliberating on this for months, not wanting to make a big change unless I was absolutely sure. But it’s impossible to be sure, right? Anyway, I took the plunge and moved over to WordPress. Just yesterday I moved my domain name and imported all my old posts. I expected it to take hours and give me a headache, but no, it was fairly straightforward and seems to have worked out just fine. Hurrah! I enjoy reading posts about other people’s goals on their blogs and when you put them in writing and publish them it’s a bit of extra incentive to actually achieve them. So, my personal goals for this year in no particular order are:

  1. Write every day (publishing some on my blog)
  2. Draw every day (amended to as often as possible because I’ve already missed a couple of days, oops)
  3. Finish writing my book
  4. Complete a painting a week
  5. Eat more healthily – more whole food, less processed/refined (isn’t this on everyone’s list?)
  6. Complete my TBR pile challenge
  7. Stick to the budget I have drawn up
  8. Improve my writing skills (by reading/researching/practice)
  9. Complete Yale Classical Music Course
  10. Learn to Crochet
  11. Complete online course: Buddhist Meditation and the Modern World (starts in July)
  12. Complete push-up, pull-up and 5K app challenges (I seem to need the promise of a virtual medal to inspire me to get off my backside)

These are just my personal goals, to fit in between the children, work, cat, house, garden etc. etc. that fill everyday life. Some of these will be fairly easy for me (the online courses and writing), some will be difficult (budgeting, exercise). I don’t beat myself up if I don’t achieve all my goals, but I like having something to aim for. It motivates me. I find if I don’t set some kind of intention for the year, 365 days will have flown by and I will have nothing to show for it. What about you? Have you set goals for this year or do you prefer to go with the flow? Also, do you know of any good websites or books to learn to crochet? I found some tutorials on Cherry Heart which look helpful and have a couple of old articles. But any additional ideas would be very welcome…

Silence is Easy

Do you censor yourself? When you speak? When you write? I do. For as long as I can remember I have kept lots of thoughts to myself. Children should be seen and not heard – that is the generation I come from – it is a mantra I carried into adulthood. Good girls are polite, agreeable and quiet.

As I grew older I kept quiet because I wanted people to like me; I kept quiet because I didn’t want to cause upset or outrage; but mostly I kept quiet because I was afraid.

It wasn’t until I was in my late thirties that I realised that no-one, absolutely no-one really knew me at all.

Silence is easy.​ Silence is easy because it is safe. Speaking out takes courage. Most people including me take the easy route more often than not. Occasionally brave people die when they refuse to be silenced. Most of the time ordinary people die inside because they stay silent.

The Blogging 101 assignment today was to write a post to your dream reader. Well my dream reader would be someone who, like me, might be afraid of saying some of the things they need to say. Things that might make other people not feel so alone, or might help another person speak out against something they see as wrong. I would like to encourage my dream reader, just like I try to encourage myself, to be brave, to take the hard way – to speak out.

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A New Year, A New Blog, A Fresh Start

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Hello world and welcome dear reader to the very first post of my new blog. Allow me to introduce myself and tell a little of the reasons why I come here to write.

I’m Kim, a bookish sort, odd and insatiably curious. I live in the south-west of England with my two youngest children – Jay (15), who is ‘unschooled‘, Emily (12), and our black cat Baudelaire. Learning about unschooling has changed our lives immeasurably for the better and I am writing a book about my experiences with school and home education (when I’m not procrastinating by blogging, reading and surfing the internet amongst other things).

I like to create a cosy home; I bake sometimes; I hate clutter but am loath to get rid of a single book. And when I get irritable with piles of dishes to wash and messy floors, or the mould that needs removing from the bathroom ceiling (again), I try very hard to remind myself that it is not forever, nothing is forever, and I try to be grateful for even those things.

I want to slow down and learn to do one thing at a time. I want to take the time to smell roses and watch the ripples on the lake, to lie in the grass in the middle of summer just watching the clouds drift overhead.

Writing is a way for me to let go of a painful and difficult past by focusing on the here and now as much as I can. I want to value this one life, not waste it. Sometimes I get so afraid of wasting it that I am paralysed by fear – utterly stuck – like an ageing tractor rolling its big old tires in the mire and digging a trench beneath itself, sinking deeper and deeper into the squelchy mud. Well, this is my way of pulling myself out, cleaning myself off and moving on.

I suppose I just want to live a well-lived life though I am not at all sure just what that is. And so I write. I write to explore, to discover what I think about things and to be inspired by the lives and words of those who know a heck of a lot more than me.

Writing helps me uncover the truth, or at least my truth. When I write about the small ordinary things – the ‘little wonders’ of an everyday life, I’ve taken time to truly see. I appreciate them and remember them and that feels like a good thing.

So here I’ll write about the books I read, art and crafty projects, growing things in the garden, treasures found in dusty lanes and wild fields, inspiration and ideas to live better, deeper, richer.

I’d love for you to join me for a cup of tea, and we’ll put the world to rights or at least have a darn good try. Thanks for reading.

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