The one where I’m a proud sister…

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People ask me all the time ‘Why brunettekoala?’ Well the picture above semi-explains that. Long ago, when I was 21, my hair was dyed brunette and my 14 year old sister was a very tall long limbed teen. She started handing me up her clothes from around the age of 13. We called her the Giraffe. Our little brother was the mischief maker, and we called him Monkey. They decided that as I was small, and liked to sleep (they were kids who liked to wake up at the crack of dawn on a Saturday morning while I was a teen who felt that getting out of bed before 9 on a Saturday for no reason was all kinds of wrong). I also was the hugger of the three of us. So they decided I would be koala. They even programmed the housephone so that if I called from my flat in Aberdeen or my mobile it came up as ‘Koala’.

Today, that cute (but slightly stinky) almost 11 year old is the same age as I am in that picture. My little brother stole my heart just as our sister did. I was 11 years old when he was born, and there are many pictures of me holding him as a baby. He was a terrible sleeper and often I would be the one to get him out of his cot in the mornings. I would feed him his breakfast – turning spoons of disgusting baby food into planes, trains and race cars. I took him for walks through the woods at the back of our house and he would only sleep if I did the woods first and then back around the neighbourhood – he would not sleep if I did neighbourhood before the woods. He became obsessed with trucks when he was a toddler – we had to wait every Monday for the bin lorry to come so he could watch it reverse in front of our house before we could go anywhere. He learned about the christening of Eddie Stobart lorries, and soon had everyone keeping an eye out for their names so we could cross them off his checklist. He was a bigger chatterbox than my sister and I (which my friends didn’t believe until one time they spent a car journey with him…and left the car shellshocked). He went to A&E so many times that the nurses there knew him by name. Why believe us when we tell you the toaster is hot, when you can stick your hand in it and turn it on to find out?

Monkey, you taught me how to rock a baby to sleep. You made me learn how to build toy garages because well…Dad tried, and he superglued himself to it. And then fix toy cars. And trucks. Often early on Sunday mornings. I know all the characters in the Teletubbies and their favourite things because of you. You taught me how to turn a buggy into a racing car, complete with race car noises which made you giggle and laugh when we went out and about. You were my buddy for watching Top Gear with. I still remember you calling me in Aberdeen upset when Richard Hammond got injured in the jet car crash. You and our sister encouraged my love of Winnie the Pooh, and I still remember how the two of you were so miffed with our parents when they refused to let you club together to get me a giant  stuffed Pooh Bear from the Disney store for my 16th birthday. You always gave me a hug when I asked for one. Even if you grumbled and sighed. And when I returned to Aberdeen for my final year of university, you put all your Winnie the Pooh toys in my bed with mine ‘so they wouldn’t get lonely’. And then you called me up to tell me that they missed me even if you didn’t so I needed to come home to visit. When kids teased you, you still remained kind. When you didn’t understand why people didn’t see the world wasn’t as black and white as you saw it, you still stood up for what you believed was right. You were afraid sometimes, but you still tried. And you always had a reason for everything. Why are you crying about being at nursery? Because someone needed to hold your Mum’s shopping list at Tesco. Why aren’t you going to sleep? Because Mum & Dad aren’t home yet, and you needed to know they got home safely. Why are you calling your 21 year old sister at 5.30 p.m.? Because she’s usually home for tea, and you better check up to make sure she’s ok. And then tell her off for not calling.

Of my four siblings, I’ve seen you go through the most challenges. I’m insanely proud of you Monkey. And I’m glad I get to be your big (even if I’m the shortest) sister.

Happy birthday xx

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The one where I wandered by the river…

As I’ve mentioned previously on the blog, I took a wander down the Water of Leith Walkway from Roseburn to the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art on Mothering Sunday. These are just a few of the pictures I snapped. I’m still learning how to use the camera, it’s different settings and sometimes I use auto-focus, other times I’m doing it manually. I love experimenting, and would love to spend more time learning how to take better photographs.

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I would also love to know what the pink pinecone like plants are that I found just by the bridge over to the gallery steps. Does anyone know?

The one where I don’t look like I’m 7…

So I’ve now lived on the earth longer than Jesus did. The night before my birthday my friends invited me round for tea, and they surprised me with a yummy dairy free chocolate cake that had been beautifully decorated by their eldest daughter. They brought it through with 7 candles in it, and their 5 year old son asked me “Laurie, are you really only 7? Because you look like a grown up“.

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If only he had seen me the next day. I was made to dress up like a medieval princess. I was annoyed at the boys had to be knights, girls had be princesses. So they gave me and Miss S swords too. We are more Merida than Aurora. And it did lead to this photo being taken of me, which according to Holly (and I quote directly from Vicky’s facebook page here) “is the most Laurie picture ever!!!!”

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Hoodie, dressed up as a Princess and taking photos of things. Oh, and wearing a Newt Scamander scarf. OK. Holly and Vicky have a point. Kudos Vicky! If you are wondering where my sword is, my Mum had borrowed it so she could have a fight with Sir Kahuna the Knight.

Oh, and how did I celebrate? Well, after munching on cake the night before, my Mum and I travelled to Alnwick to meet up  with my lovely friends Vicky and her two kids (Miss S and Mini K). We wandered around Alnwick Castle, where we learned to fly broomsticks (because it’s where Harry Potter learned to fly)

IMG_1902 And we ended the day in a bookshop I’ve wanted to visit for a long, long time. Barter Books is a large secondhand bookshop inside what used to be Alnwick train station. Weirdly I stumbled across a copy of the book I’m named after. I’ve never, ever seen a copy of Laura’s Summer Ballet anywhere but my Nana’s bookshelf (ok, on my bookshelf but it’s the same copy!) so my Mum and I were shocked to find it there.

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I mean, I really hope there’s a room in heaven like this. Actually, there’s a room in Alnwick Castle that is floor to ceiling bookshelves (not too dissimilar to the Beast’s library in Beauty and the Beast). It had a foozball table, open fire, a supply of gin and these incredible looking furry beanbag chairs. It really is the dream…

For sure my birthday this year was a vast improvement on the previous two which were pretty miserable birthdays. I do not feel any more grown up but am very much appreciative of every friend and family member who made me feel like my presence here on earth is something to be celebrated. Good to know nobody wishes I’d just die already!

The one where I wonder if there are miracles…

The other weekend I had a Sunday off. I thought about going to church, and then I realised it was Mother’s Day. I’ve spoken before about why I don’t celebrate it, and it broke my heart to see people on social media dealing with the pressure of declaring their Mum ‘the best in the world’ when they’ve been treated poorly by their mother. I also saw again friends who are in churches giving out things to all the Mums, and making a big deal about this fake hallmark holiday. Before you think I’m a totally horrible person, I did take my Mum to see Beauty and the Beast the night before. I decided instead to go out into the sunshine with my camera. I ended up wandering down the Water of Leith to the National Gallery of Modern Art. And was struck by this sculpture (for want of a better term?) and the fact that you can see churches behind it in the background.IMG_1698

The church you can see on the right, is (I think) the cathedral where every Autumn they hold a service for people who have faced pregnancy, stillbirth and infant loss. It really sucks to be part of that community on Mother’s Day in a church. I’ve spoken before about the insensitive comments I faced when I first started going to the hospital for tests and scans from my fellow Christians. I was told that the only reason I was so ill was due to my lack of faith. I was also told that despite doctors telling me I would struggle to have my own children, God would give them if I prayed enough.

Eh, what?

If only it were that simple. I had a friend who went to every prayer ministry you can imagine and they still died of cancer. I have a friend who had her sixth miscarriage this last year. I have friends that got told they wouldn’t be able to have children and later in life had a ‘surprise’ pregnancy. I know a girl who died of cancer. I know a girl who got given 6 months to live with her cancer and is still here 3 years later. 12 years ago my Dad almost died and surgeons thought they’d have to remove a huge section of his bowel – only for a few days later to find it all better with no knowledge of how that happened. 12 years ago my grandmother woke up suddenly paralysed, and died 3 weeks later and doctors had no idea how or why until they had done endless tests and an autopsy to discover she had a rare form of lymphoma.

There is no rhyme or reason to why one person lives and another dies. There is no rhyme or reason to why one pregnancy ends in with a healthy baby, one ends with a sick baby and another ends in miscarriage.

Do miracles happen? I think sometimes they do. I don’t know that we have any control over when, where or why.

Yes, it makes me sad to think I’ll likely never be part of the parenting club. I never dreamed about getting married, but I did dream about being pregnant and giving birth to babies. But I also remember the day the doctor talked to me about it, and being astounded by the peace I felt. And now that I’ve spent more time with friends who are parents I think maybe God knows exactly what He’s doing…quite frankly kids seem to throw up waaaay more than they did in the 80s and 90s and I quite like my independence. I also like sleep and to eat my tea while it’s still hot.

So let’s stop putting the pressure and the judgement on people who haven’t got the miracle they hoped for. Let’s be real and recognise when life sucks, and when we’ve had the chance to rage and cry about it…find out the good that can be brought out of that crappy situation.

And if we do get a miracle…let’s be humble and remember it likely had nothing to do with us. Be grateful, and sensitive to others who didn’t get theirs.

x

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. 🙂