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.

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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. 🙂

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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.

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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!

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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.

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The one where I went to the zoo…

Ok. Since 20th January, things have gotten very bad in the western world. Justin Trudeau and Angela Merkel may be our greatest hope! 🙂 I literally haven’t really slept since Obama left the White House, and been working lots (my only day off last week was spent at the dentist and then doing youth work in the evening). And last week was week 6 since last getting paid. So on Saturday after work, armed with a Christmas gift in the form of a cinema voucher I headed for some happy escape with a few of my work friends. We saw La la Land. I loved it (though, I’ll be honest some of the sound editing seemed very poor – don’t know if that was the film or the cinema). One friend loved it, the other was very unhappy about the ending!

Monday was pay day! HURRAH! This meant a supermarket grocery delivery (i.e. proper meals again) and I decided to renew my membership to Edinburgh Zoo. One of my supervising managers hadn’t been since she was a kid and has been wanting to go for ages and it is rare that we have a day off on the same day. Monday was one of those rare days and so we made plans. We were blessed with a dry sunny-ish day, though very frosty, and ended up spending the whole day there. The zoo was quiet due to kids being in school and cold weather. It felt very peaceful. We both had our fancy cameras, but struggled to get good photos due to fences and glass. But here are a few pics that I hope you can enjoy! 🙂 We actually got to see both Yang Guang (the male panda) and Alinga (female koala) awake. Seeing pandas and koalas awake at the zoo is rare, so felt very privileged!

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The one where I protest…again…

Last week, I posted a Flashback Friday from 2009 where I quoted lyrics from a NOFX song. The first part of that song goes like this

First they put away the dealers,
keep our kids safe and off the street.
Then they put away the prostitutes,
keep married men cloistered at home.

Then they shooed away the bums,
then they beat and bashed the queers,
turned away asylum-seekers,
fed us suspicions and fears.
We didn’t raise our voice,
we didn’t make a fuss.
It’s funny there was no one left to notice
when they came for us.

Yesterday I finished work to discover that yet another executive order had been signed by the President of the United States of America. One banning anyone born in a certain select number of countries from entering the United States of America. He says this is about the war on terror. To me, the tyrant is him. Some people laughed and shrugged off when I said that Donald Trump was following in the footsteps of Hitler. It’s now really not funny and not a joke. My own Prime Minister is in the USA on a state visit, and I am ashamed of her for not standing up and openly and publicly criticising some of these orders he has signed in the last week. Especially one that targets a specific religious group.

I don’t care whether you voted Republican or not. I do care if you do something about these awful acts now – before you become the people that our children and grandchildren around the world look at and go “How could people support such a terrible man?”

It is no shock to me that one of the world leaders on the phone reminding POTUS that what he has done is against the Geneva Convention is the leader of Germany (Go Angela Merkel!). All children who go through state school education in Germany are taught about their history and how it all happened. A huge element of recovering after World War 2 in Germany was community development through re-education. Both the catholic and protestant churches set up organisations to enable people to travel and learn to enable this process.

Today, myself and more than half a million of my fellow residents and citizens in the UK are asking our government to take a stand by not allowing POTUS a state visit while this despicable order – which has had US residents arrested at airports, prevented asylum seekers seeking refuge and more – is in place. Many of us will be taking to the streets for a 2nd or 3rd time since 20th January to protest, raise our voices and show that we stand with our friends who are most affected by this. I’ve been writing to my political representatives to ask them to stand against hate and racism. I’m considering writing to key Republicans, POTUS, and VPOTUS (because only a year ago he expressed condemnation for a ban such as this one).

This morning, I rode the bus listening to songs about Jesus. And I thought…Jesus said when we let a stranger into our home, we welcome him. Jesus stood up against the leaders when they stigmatised and oppressed certain people. He talked to the Samaritans, the poor, the sick, the prostitutes. He was himself a refugee, along with his parents.

Think about that. Then think about how your country’s leaders speak of the people that Jesus loves and asks us to love and care for.

 The petition for any UK citizens or residents to sign campaigning for POTUS to banned from  a state visit is here. approx. 41,000 people have signed it just while I’ve been writing this post. One of my American friends who lives and works in D.C. is currently outside the White House with others protesting. There is a protest organised in Edinburgh tomorrow evening, and one in London next Saturday.

I hope I will never become apathetic so that love continues to win over hate.

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The one where I chose Hamilton over food…

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Hi folks,

You may have noticed that my posts have been scheduled for the last two weeks. I forget sometimes that I’ve written and scheduled them until I get little notifications popping up on my phone telling that my post has gone live from WordPress! After the Dental Drama, I’ve been working every day – I had one day off (but had the dentist and then Senior Section) and now my day off this weekend I have to go in to work for some hours too. I’m grateful to have a job and be getting work…and just as well because um…I managed to book tickets for Hamilton. And so did my friend, so now we’re going twice. The tickets were also more than I had budgeted for, and I’ll confess that I’ve not been eating properly this week as a result because I have no pennies left in my bank account until I get paid on Monday morning. January is a looonnng month and we got paid 9 days early in December so it’s basically 6 weeks between pay checks. I was so proud of myself for putting money for my bus pass, bills, mortgage etc. aside so I wouldn’t spend it before January came. All budgeting went out the window on Monday 16th January. So I have been living on a diet of Christmas chocolate, crackers, freezer food and other random junk food in my cupboard. Don’t worry, I’ve already got my grocery delivery booked for Monday (knowing they don’t take the money out of your account until that morning…phew!!) and there’ll be eggs, bread, vegetables and I’ll be able to pay the dentist too.

Vloguary continues on Instagram and I continue to curse every lovely day I’m stuck indoors when I want to be outside with my camera. I also have a long list of films I really want to see (why is the cinema so expensive?!) including La La Land, Lion and Hidden Figures. 

Anyway, I’m still in my work uniform (Friday nights are late finishes) and I’ve got so many things to try and fit in tomorrow.

So long for now (and apologies that I’ve not yet done a quote of the week. In addition to working lots, I’ve also been watching my friends battle through a massive debate on women’s healthcare on my facebook page, and I’ve been kept awake most nights deeply concerned by the daily Hitler-esque decisions being made by the new American government. It’s like he read the autobiographies of Mussolini and Hitler and went “hey! there’s a great idea!”).

Sigh.

Love wins, right?

BK x