The one where a brother visits…

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So clearly, a big massive blogging fail this week! APOLOGIES! But I have some good excuses and one is pictured here. That is the rare sighting of a sibling people. A sibling in the same place as I am. I came home from work on Sunday evening to find out that Brother 2 was coming down. Yes, I already had a huge list of things planned for my two days off this week (like choosing and purchasing new glasses, getting organised for International Women’s Day, writing blog posts etc) but suffice to say that when I returned home from a meeting and Monday’s errands to find my brother on the sofa the rest of my to-do list got benched.

Especially when Brother 2 asked if we could go to the Zoo today. People…you know I love the Zoo. You know I love opportunities to keep learning how to use the fancy camera. How could I say no? And I’m so glad we went, because for the first time in YEARS I managed to get some photos of the otters. Genuinely, I got so excited my Mum gave me the eyeroll. She doesn’t understand the frustration of the otters hiding from your every visit for years on end.

So here we are, it’s 10 p.m. the night before I start my work week (and tomorrow is also International Women’s Day) and I’ve still to put together my inspiring woman story to share, I’ve not blogged at The Girlguiding Life or done a quote of the week, I’ve not purchased any glasses and I’ve not looked at stuff for Surf Camp.

I do however have some aching legs and a memory card full of photos to upload and edit.

I also can’t wait to share what the meeting was about. I’ve been in talks for months with a friend of a friend who I connected with through twitter (yay for Twitter!) and the time has come to put an idea I’ve held onto for years and actually attempt to make it a reality. I’m nervous, because the fear of failure is strong – too often it paralyses me into inaction. If you are in East Central Scotland, I really, really hope you’re going to like what it is and get behind it to share it with your pals.

 I feel like I’m missing so many friends this week, so please leave a comment and tell me how your week has been. Is there anything I can pop into my jar of gratitude, or be praying for? Let me know, I love hearing from you Koala Tree followers. 🙂

The one where I leave you with a sunset…

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It’s been quite the week. A lot of stuff has been happening, but I am so thankful for two days off in a row this week so that I’ve begun (but not completed) a ton of stuff that has been on my to-do list. Like seeing my lovely friend Kathy and her awesome sons – we had a lovely afternoon making the biggest road we could, fighting fires caused by a dragon and watching Paw Patrol while eating hot cross buns. Oh, and discussing our friend Emily’s book launch which happens next week at Waterstone’s West End store. I’ll be stuck at work, but if you can you should go! I’ve been to Emily’s book launches before, and they are so good I vowed never to attempt to get any picturebook ideas I’ve tried to write published because I never thought about the book launch part. Seriously…Emily’s are awesome.

A lot of friends are going through crummy things at the moment and that is really hard to watch. I *may* have had a temper tantrum to God about it on Sunday night.

I’m sad that a laptop failure kept me indoors today because for first time ages there was sunshine and I really wanted to go to the Zoo or just go somewhere outside with my camera. I did however, make pancakes, track down some Girlguiding receipts, upload a ton of photos of Guiding stuff from the last couple of weeks and I’m going to see Hidden Figures tomorrow. And I’ve ordered my Our Shared Shelf book for April since the last few I’ve not been able to get copies of as they’ve been out of stock everywhere.

Let’s not go into what I didn’t manage to accomplish. 🙂

Anyway, I leave you with a Leith sunset and perhaps I’ll find a quote of the week before the week is over too.

 

 

Quote of the Week: Good Turns

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Sorry I’ve not blogged all week. I got sick with a yucky cold, and it was also Thinking Day this week. Thinking Day would have been enough, but we also had a last-minute planned celebration for one of the Guides who had achieved the highest honour you can as Guide – The Baden Powell Challenge Award. I’ve also been working out how to navigate a time of enforced change our organisation is putting my Rangers through. It’s been stressful, upsetting but also strangely encouraging. It’s rubbish to see the girls feeling unvalued, ignored and uncared for. On the flip side, I’ve had girls who have left my unit coming back hearing from those still here what’s been going on getting in touch and telling me what Girlguiding, and particularly Rangers has meant to them.

I’ve now been back volunteering with Girlguiding working with young women aging from 10 years to 21 years old for 6 years. I’ve now had the chance to watch these girls grow into adults and what Olave says is true. And what a privilege to see. There are girls that I tore my hair out over wondering if they’d ever see their own value, the change that a smile or a small act of kindness can bring. We persevered. We tried to set an example. And now I know that it really is worth it, because I have watched so many of them grow into kind, compassionate young adults who are willing to stand up for what is right, and show such kindness to people.

One of my role models who lives in the North East of Scotland, she often tells me on facebook that she can tell when girls are Brownies or Guides because of their attitude. She is always sending me words of encouragement and telling me about Girlguiding members she meets in her own community and how it makes her think of me and my fellow leaders. I love that. I really do.

And even though at the start of this week I all I wanted to do was curl up with a hot water bottle and hug a box of kleenex, I’m so glad that instead I was being the paparazzi Guide leader as the girls played pass the parcel and admired the congratulations cake (and consumed it). Because I realised that actually…it does all make a difference.

 

Flashback Friday: Your Life’s Soundtrack

Originally posted on November 29th 2013 as part of a collective blog writing project “Blogember” hosted by A Happy Girl.

Every kid has a record that they make their parents play over and over again. For my youngest brother it was Lighthouse Family’s High (known as ‘The Toaster song’), for my sister it was Whitney Houston’s I Will Always Love You (known as ‘Love You’) and for me it was Laura Branigan’s Self Control (known as ‘The Pink Record’ – because when I was born we only had vinyl records and it was a while before we upgraded to cassette tape. And that vinyl record EP had a pink cover).

We lived with my Nana and Grandad for a few years after my Mum & Dad separated, and until I was old enough to be home alone after school, I spent most of my time in their house. I was brought up on the music of the 40s like Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby and Glenn Miller.

And of course then I got my very own cassette radio! The first tapes I owned were Dançando Lambada, Jason Donovan and Kylie Minogue.

From there, it was the soundtrack of Grease and the music of Buddy Holly. I even had a ‘Rock n Roll’ party for my 9th birthday. Any chance I got I would be making up dance routines with my friend Debbie at school to songs from Grease. And yes, I also liked to listen to a bit of 2 Unlimited. I loved Buddy Holly so much, and was really upset to hear that he had died in a plane crash with Richie Valens. I tried to teach myself how to tap dance from a book in the library and made up a tap dance to this song…

But by the time I was 12 and leaving primary school, I was all about Oasis. I have clear memories standing with the rest of the two Primary 7 classes and singing this together in front of the school on our final day before we all went our separate ways to different high schools…


it remains one of my favourite songs, and one that I want played at my funeral.

Of course then came the Spice Girls. I was not immune to the girl power message and their dance routines were so easy to learn. I would watch the music videos, learn the routines and teach them to my friends and my little sister (and all her wee pals!). I’m hoping my stepmother has lost the video footage of us performing this one Boxing Day…

Every one has a coming of age film, for my generation it was Now and Then, the girls equivalent of Stand By Me in a way. I loved this song, and remember me and two of my best friends when I was 14-16 would walk along the road singing this song.

There are so many songs that remind me of being sixteen that it would have to be a soundtrack all of it’s own. I’ll thank my Dutch friends for introducing me to Krezip. They even did a cover of my Oasis favourite song…! And this one is another like Stand By Me that means a great deal…

If there is a song to remind me of university, it’s being in the student union and yelling TUNNNNE whenever this song came on. We’d all get up sing and do a bit of rocking out to this every. single. time. And will therefore have to be repeated at every birthday party or wedding we all gather at for the rest of time.

When I was really sick with post-viral fatigue syndrome, there were days where I couldn’t move from my bed. This song by Phatfish was what got me through that summer when it was at its worst.The song has a great many stories, but the main one is that the first time I sang this in public was on the day I was baptised in 2003. The church leadership graciously allowed me to sing it as I didn’t want to share a great deal of my backstory (what you’ll hear Christians calling ‘testimony’).

The final song is from One Tree Hill, and one I had on repeat as I basically sobbed my way to Australia in 2007 after leaving Aberdeen. Thank you Nada Surf for reminding me of the simple message Jesus had already taught me… always love.

Quote of the Week: You will get hurt, but..

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I love this quote from John Green’s novel The Fault In Our Stars. Because it is so very true. We are always going to get hurt. There is just no escaping it.

Us humans, we aren’t perfect. We get tired. We get grumpy. We second guess and we misunderstand. But there is such a huge difference from being hurt by someone who doesn’t mean to have hurt you, to someone who does it intentionally or just simply doesn’t care enough about you.

In the context of the story here, one person is worrying about causing the pain of loss. Loving people, caring for people comes at a cost. I know that I love hard…and easily. The cost of that is that I physically hurt when I see others in pain. And I get upset when I feel like I’m not trusted. It’s also meant that I’ve always cared about people more than money. Something that has probably cost me a steady income. I’m discovering that the people who hold power don’t like people like me who care more about treating employees well, people like humans of equal value instead of how much money I can make from people or how unquestioningly subordinate I will be.

It’s also why as I’ve gotten older, I don’t make the huge effort to keep reaching out to people in my life who have continually let me down, spoken friendship without really being genuine about it. It’s not that I lock the door to them…it’s that I don’t continually extend my invitation anymore. I spent so much of my early twenties making efforts that got thrown back in my face, or experiencing “FOMO” (except that it wasn’t so much fear but reality – seeing that yes, I was missing out…the joys of watching all your family or all your friends doing something that they invited everyone else to but you).

It hurt.

And I kept letting it happen again and again, until one day I just decided no more. Rather than trying to maintain relationships with people who didn’t really want to have one with me, I focused on the people in my life who did. And I became a lot happier and content as a result.

I recommend following John’s characters wisdom. 🙂

The cat with the yellow eyes…

I imagine if you’ve been popping over to this here Koala Tree for a while, you’ll have read posts where I’ve mentioned Kylie. People at my work are very used to my yellow band that is always on my wrist, and many friends have had the courage to ask me “Why do you wear that yellow band, what’s it for?” and I get to tell them about Kylie, and why I wear the band…to remember Kylie, to remember her family and closest friends (I pray for them pretty much constantly) and to raise awareness about the need for more research and better treatments for childhood cancers. Sometimes when I mention Kylie, people who have asked also end up hearing about Oliver, Anna, Kate and Keira too.

Today marks two years since Kylie left this earth. Please be thinking of her family today. Anniversaries are tough, this I know. But I think (I hope) that people remembering the one that’s gone, helps the people left behind here who are missing them. A couple of weeks ago, Kylie’s family shared a short film that has been made by Mutual Rescue. It tells the story of Kylie and her kitten Liza. Liza had a very special role to play in the days leading up to and days after Feb 13th 2015, and in this film, Kylie’s Mom, Dad and two of her sisters share Kylie & Liza’s story so beautifully.

I’m also not sure if I’ve mentioned this already, but Kylie’s family have now set up a non-profit to raise funds and awareness for a cure for childhood cancer. You can find out more on the Smiley for Kylie website.

Today it’s likely that if you see me, my nails will be painted yellow and I will be wearing my Smiley for Kylie wristband. And tomorrow, I may just have to go and find some penguins.

Flashback Friday: How I didn’t become a politician in Germany…

There could be only one flashback post this week, when it popped up on my Timehop app yesterday that 3 years ago I flew out with some fellow University of Glasgow School of Education postgrads for a two week intensive programme in Germany. I have such good memories of the friends I made during that experience and this story is something my friends and I still laugh about.

Original Post: March 1st 2014

I feel I should explain something. There’s a woman in Germany called Prof Dr. Christina Völkl-Wolf and she is not me.

On our first day travelling to the university in Würzburg, we immediately began to notice posters with people’s faces on them. They reminded me of American car salesman ads – I don’t know why. During our guided tour of the city centre we saw even more and certain faces began to become familiar. Eventually I asked the professor from the host university what they were all about.

It turned out they were posters for politicians campaigning to be voted in the local elections which are this month.

One of the girls I travelled with has a tradition with her sister of taking pictures imitating statues. She had got me to take photos of her to send to her sister, and me being me, I joined in the banter.

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A couple of days later, I think cabin fever got to us (there were 42 of us sharing one kitchen, 52 of us in one room at the university for most of each day…) and we decided to get some fresh air by walking from the campus to the train station rather than taking a bus. Chariots of Fire was reenacted in a park. And we started posing next to the election posters.

We worried that maybe the folks in Germany would be offended, but it turned out they thought it was funny too (phew) so we did it a few times, as well as doing the statue imitations. At the weekend, we were free to go explore the region as much as we wanted. While I went with most of the Italian university group to explore Nuremberg and Bamberg, two of the Scottish group went with one of the Hungarians to explore Würzburg. When I returned they told me I had to see the poster they had found, and showed me on their phone the picture they had taken of it.

You have to get your picture taken next to one of these posters they said.

The next day, I went into Würzburg with one of my roommates and while walking up to the Fortress we saw one of the aforementioned posters. And I obliged.

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And then I made it my facebook profile pic, which got plenty of comments, the best of which came from my sister who said “HIMYM doppelgänger moment x” (How I Met Your Mother fans will understand). Yes. We had found ‘German Professor Laurie’, and she was a nominee for the city council.

One of my classmates was disappointed my hair hadn’t been straightened that day, so on the last night we took a photo of another poster we found walking back to the main station.

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I did check with the Würzburg students she wasn’t some crazy conservative,  because I was concerned I might be inadvertently promoting someone from the German equivalent of UKIP or something. They told me she isn’t though they didn’t know much about her.

So there you have it. Some say we don’t look alike at all, others think it’s a bit freaky! Good luck Christina, and serve your city well.

What I’m currently reading: February edition 

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Between The World And Me  by Ta-Nehisi Coates – A must read for the world  we are living in right now. It’s basically a (very long) letter Ta-Nehisi is writing to his teenage son, explaining the history of colonialism, white patriarchy and it’s continued legacy oppressing people of colour. Most specifically he is talking about his own experience growing up as a man of colour in the USA, but to be honest I think it’s just as relevant to British experience. It’s a read that is making me think more about my white privilege (because it’s real) and I hope gives me better understanding so I can be an ally rather than yet another oppressor.

Lion by Saroo Brierley – Previously known as A Long Way Home, I went to see the film based on this book last week and basically came out going EVERYONE NEEDS TO SEE THIS FILM. I had seen numerous interviews with Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman and the real Saroo Brierley and been waiting a while for the film to be released in the UK, and to have time to go see it. I deliberately waited to read the book until after I saw the film – I didn’t want to be sitting in the cinema annoyed by parts changed or left out. Saroo tells the story of his beginnings in the neighbourhood of “Ginestlay” (Ganesh Talai), getting lost by becoming trapped on a train for two days that took him from Central India to Kolkata, life on the streets, to spending two months in an orphanage while organising for him to be adopted by an Australian family to finding his home again using Google Earth. I’ve felt very uncomfortable with international adoption for a long time, and I think this story is one people need to hear. The issues surrounding it are complex, but having met people who are transracial adoptees and hearing their experiences – there are discussions that need to be had. The book has answered some of the questions and concerns I had watching Saroo’s story unfold in the film, as well as raising more questions and ponderings but what the answer is to some of the massive social issues like children living in poverty around the world…

Penguin and Pinecone by Salina Yoon – I found this book in the Edinburgh Zoo giftshop, and came away with two copies which I’m likely going to give as presents. This story is so lovely, all about a penguin who finds a pinecone and makes friends with it – only to discover that pinecone is not coping in the penguin environment as it wasn’t made to withstand the cold temperatures of ice and snow. So penguin makes a long journey to take pinecone back where he belongs…it’s a story of love and how it multiplies!

Quote of the Week: Friends don’t silence or oppress you…

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At the start of Black History Month, it feels only right that I quote from one of the great wise women who walks this earth, writes so eloquently and speaks such wisdom.

I walked through the door after being at the dentist the other day and my Mum saw me and was like “What’s wrong? Was it really bad? Did it hurt?” it wasn’t my mouth that was hurting. I was saddened by things popping up on my phone. A man, a prominent voice in the Scottish evangelical church landscape who believes that women are not of equal value to men. The sadness that I’ve watched two incredible young people go through teenagehood, become passionate for Jesus and be brainwashed by such teaching and become more excluding rather than welcoming. More superior rather than supportive. And another young adult who has been brainwashed by evangelical Christians who believe that Trump is some kind of messenger from God and that by locking our doors to people in need (despite the bible teaching us that we should do the complete opposite) it’s about loving our family, rather than fear and hate of strangers.

I made a decision last week to stop attending church because I realised that church seemed to demand my silence. It seemed to be denying my friends. After my friends (and my Mum I’ve since found out) were appalled at the way three other friends – all male, all “Christian” – spoke down to me about a subject they knew little about and I knew much about, and how they talked about some controversial issues with very strong and hateful language, I realised that I had not been affected by their speech. Why? Because I had become so accustomed to it during the years that I ran a pregnancy crisis centre. Over the last couple of years I have felt lost because I have not understood how this life of mine could be part of some plan God has for me (people in church often talk about ‘the plans God has for us’, usually taking a bible verse from the book of Jeremiah out of context in the process). The last two years have taken me out of a bubble and into the world, opening my eyes and heart to so many different people. These friends have not held me silent, and they’ve not denied my right to grow. They’ve been patient with my ignorance, they’ve helped me learn so much more about experiences I’ve never personally gone through. However, for many of them, when they’ve walked into a church community – they have been silenced and denied. Because of this, they believe God hates them.

I love community. I really miss being part of a community that studies the teaching, prays together, lives collectively, welcomes in strangers, learns to get along despite many differences. Knowing that inclusive church does exist,  I hope that some day soon I’ll find one in my city.