Half a year since and half a year away…

It’s mad to think that half a year has passed since I snapped this photo. An early morning saw me dragged out my bunk bed to join campers for the long standing tradition of the ‘morning dip’. The haar hovered over the campsite, but instinct told me to run back to get my camera.

It was the only day of that camp I snapped photos on the ‘fancy’ camera last summer. But it couldn’t have been more perfect. The sun trying to burn through the cloud and softly shimmering on the surface of the water. Grey and silver streams through the sand as the campers and leaders ran towards the gently lapping waves on the shore. No sign of the horizon as the mist of the haar hid all signs of the coastline across the water.

Last year camp was a challenge. It’s always a challenge. But to be honest, I didn’t know my place going into it and I’ve never been less prepared. I was on month 7 of dealing with reflux and nervous how I would cope with sleeping in a shared dorm fearful of keeping my fellow leaders awake if it got bad while at camp. The first day of camp I was in pain, trying to greet new campers and be my usual bubbly self when under my clothes I had pain relief patches on my body.

It would also be the first time that my friends would see the full extent of my emetophobia. It’s been a running joke at surf camp that on the first day I tell the girls and all the female leaders where the stock of pads and tampons are (there’s something in that sea air that seems to put every female at camp on their period whether they are due or not!) and let all the camp know that I’m the first port of call for first aid – unless they are literally sick. For sure my friends know that I will avoid it at all costs. But last year at camp, my fear became reality. And I would discover how my surf camp family would have my back.

The once campers that I had one time led, had my back. The first I got wind of the situation was two of those leaders who had once been my campers running to tell me to stay put because a situation they knew I would struggle to handle was happening and they had it in hand. And hours later, my friends were holding me, praying as cried and hyperventilated. Not one of them giving me judgment. In fact, the next day friends who have known me for years apologising for something totally not their fault, as somehow they felt bad that they had never realised the full extent of just how deep seated my phobia was.

We are now half a year away to camp again, and I need to work out if I will return. There’s part of me that can’t imagine my year without this camp. There’s part of me wondering if my job is done knowing that there are people so capable we have raised up to step into leadership. There are medical issues I have that aren’t yet under control – what will they be like in 6 months time? Worse? The same? Or totally behind me?

I do know that whatever I decide, there’s going to be a group of people that have an amazing week of making memories.

TFTD 1: Be kinder than is necessary…

If you’ve been around me in the past year you’ll know that one of my favourite movies is Wonder. I was told about the book by one of my Guides when she became a Ranger telling me that it was one of those books everyone should read.

My goodness, was she right.

One of my favourite characters in the story is Mr Tushman (and sorry Mr Tushman, I’ve been spelling your name incorrectly). His end of year speech to the kids at Beecher Prep Middle School is one of those that has stayed with me. It was what I read out on the first day at surf camp.


When the campers arrived this year, I gave each of them an empty glass jar and a bunch of glass paint pens and told them to write their name on it, decorate the jar however they liked (if they wanted to at all) and leave them on a table. If you are one the young women who has been through Free Being Me at Guides or was part of the Girls Group at the youth project where I worked you know what’s coming next…


The next morning after I read out Mr Tushman’s speech, emphasising that last sentence I explained what the jars are for.

You see, one of the most forgotten spiritual gifts is the gift of encouragement. We are told time and time again in the bible to encourage one another. Build one another up. Disciple one another. I actually sat eating breakfast in the Borough High Street Pret the week before camp looking up every verse I could find on my bible app that mentioned the words encourage one another.

I told them it was a jar of kindness of encouragement. I left out my fanciest felt pens (I know Rangers, I know…it was hard to do), some scraps of paper and placed each jar carefully on the stage in a line. And as the week went on leaders and campers a-like began to fill those jars with thanks, encouragement, kindness for each camper. Some of them came up to me commenting how they liked the idea.

At the end of the week the campers made a jar of encouragement for everyone to put a note of thanks and encouragement for our leaders too. Thank you random ‘sells a bit of everything’ shop in North Berwick for your jar provision.

Kindness became the theme. It’s too easy to moan about someone being different. To criticise when you’re not the person doing the job. To get grouchy when you’re tired. To tease and let ‘banter’ become hurtful. To stick with the people you know, invite only them and leave behind the new people that you don’t know yet.

And so at the start of camp, we wanted to set the tone. Be kinder than is necessary.

I have no idea what ended up in those jars. I do know that the day after I shared this thought, one of my leader roomies left a note on my bed to encourage me. Thanks Katy. I’ve kept it for the days where I need a little encouragement again. 🙂

Thoughts at Surf Camp…

Welcome to the first in a series of posts where you get to hear some of the brain dump of thoughts I had before surf camp and often after I decided that I had done a decent enough job with my fellow leaders on ‘corridor patrol’ that the campers were in their dorms and at the very least pretending to be asleep. And then I would change into my pyjamas and have a sudden panic of “CRAP! I HAVEN’T GOT A THOUGHT FOR THE DAY!!!” and proceed to sit with my head torch, quote book journal and massive study bible (sorry surfer’s bible you weren’t going to cut it this year).

Let me begin by saying that I don’t believe that Christians have a monopoly on truth, wisdom or goodness.

In fact, I believe we can learn a ton from people who aren’t Christians and there are few things that sadden me more* than hearing Christians who only read a very narrow selection of books (found in all good ‘Christian’ bookshops) and listen to a very narrow selection of music (also found in all good ‘Christian’ bookshops, and now iTunes too).

*I was reflecting on this whether this seems shallow and things like poverty, racism and corrupt governments, unethical companies sadden me more and then I realised that those things mainly make me angry as opposed to sad.

Anyway, I digress.

As I mentioned in my last post, this year we started a new tradition at surf camp. You see, a lot of SU camps don’t just have a churchy style meeting in the evening, they have something in the morning too. Personally I think it’s a bit overkill. We’ve never done it at surf camp for the main reason that we’re trying to get breakfast eaten and wash up after so we can get in the bus and to the beach in time for the surf lessons each morning. However feedback we got was that campers wanted our camp to have a bit more of something in our programme. And it’s good to start the day positively. So we came up with the idea of having a ‘thought for the day’ each morning. And I got put in charge of it.

I really loved doing it (even if some nights I was awake at 2 a.m. literally praying for a thought) so I’m going to share them with you. It won’t be exactly the same because I don’t remember all I said. But I’ll be using the quotes and stories I used. 🙂

Tales of surf camp again…

It’s a sleepy 30-something that types to you tonight, as the rain that has been strangely rare this past month thunders down onto the roof. Why the tiredness? Well spending 7 days sharing tight quarters with 3 of your fellow youth leaders and walls so thin you can hear the trumpet sound of a leader that had seconds on Taco Tuesday at Midnight and the giggles and not so quiet whispers of campers on the other side can make you a little sleep deprived.

Actually this year I think may have been the best yet. I was nervous going in, as last year hadn’t been easy. I came home from surf camp with an unease and found it difficult to answer the question ‘How did surf camp go?’ because yes I knew God had showed up, yes I knew that campers had fun but yet there had just been so many frustrations and things that made me feel totally inadequate and I left thinking that maybe I didn’t need be doing this anymore because I had nothing to bring of value.

There was a peace this year that I can’t recall there ever being before. Not that every year before has been awful or totally chaotic. But I think that over the years we’ve learned a lot and we have always wanted to be intentional about creating a week that is more relaxed as well as being action packed. There was a community and any time a camper tried to do anything that threatened that peace, I saw our veteran campers stepping up and showing the way of the culture we’ve done our best to create over the last 5 years. A culture of family. A culture of inclusion. A culture of respect. A culture where it’s a safe place to try and fail, and try again.

I also got to try something that I’m not sure worked, but it has made me want to blog more. Every morning at breakfast, I got to share ‘a thought for the day’. I definitely took inspiration from Miss Val and my old ‘Quote of the Week’ posts many of my social media pals used to tell me they liked but fell by the way side when I got seriously depressed a couple of years ago. I really wish I was one of those people that found creativity through their depression, but honestly? Depression just made me numb, unmotivated and stop writing every time I got to my keyboard. My mind would go blank and my brain would tell me there was no point anyway.

My car became a little sanctuary this year too. We didn’t have enough space in the minibus for all the campers to be transported at once, so each day 3-4 campers were transported in the Lavamobile to and from the surf lessons and trips offsite. It became a little collective of campers who found the minibus a little noisy and would come in with requests of whether we played The Greatest Showman soundtrack or my Disney playlist. It was where one camper who was starting to struggle with the intensity of living with 44 other people came to get space and came out of their shell as the debate began about everyone’s favourite (and least favourite) Disney songs and films. It gave me fond memories of all the transport and conversations that Cassie the Corsa provided back in the day.

I feel weirdly motivated and refreshed while simultaneously feeling totally wiped out since coming back. I dug into my bible this year more than ever before as I got challenged by campers who asked me questions about it. I scribbled in my journal more copying down thoughts and nuggets of wisdom from people far wiser than I.

And so let’s keep on keeping on.

And be glad of the sand, grass and mud that covers my car (and find a valet service, I think the clean up requires a professional with professional tools!)


How not to deal with your mental health…

Trigger Warning: Suicide and Self Harming mentioned here.

For the first few years of high school, I had two choices of how to get there. The first two years I took the main road, until one day a guy tried to pull me into a stairwell on the premise that he needed help reading the names on the entry phone system. I got the gut instinct that he wasn’t legit, and I ran like the wind. After that I began taking the shortcut along by a river and then a cycle path. It was usually deserted and I rarely encountered anyone walking along the river path as it was usually so muddy.

Why am I telling you this? Because it’s on that path that I had what I think was probably my first God encounter.

It was 1999. Devolution had happened, and I with many others took to the streets the night before the last day of the school year to celebrate the opening of Scottish Parliament. Garbage were playing (for the young’uns out there, they are a band, and I loved them). I was thirsty and I drank my older friend’s cheap lemonade. Turned out it tasted gross not because of it’s cheapness but due to the vodka she had added to it.

This was to be our first night of seeing why me and alcohol don’t mix well. I don’t remember much but I do remember getting hysterical at one point and feeling horrific the next day. Soon after I started having panic attacks and I had no idea why.

I don’t think I dared share with my friends about it, they saw me have panic attacks I think. I would also black out. I don’t really remember properly. I also began self harming. I would actually sometimes wake up and find myself with tools for self harming in my hand. I did not understand what was happening to me, and I was so ashamed that I didn’t have it ‘together’.

What I do remember is about 9 months later leaving school and walking not to my house (we had moved) but with my friend who lived close to the cycle path. I said goodbye and I remember thinking that’s the last time I’m going to see you.

I walked down to the river.

As usual it was completely deserted.

I climbed onto the railings.

I took a breath, and got ready to launch myself in…

…and something pulled me off the railings.

I thought it was a person, but when I turned around there was no one there.

That freaked me out even more.

And then I heard a voice, asking me what I was doing.

By this time I was sobbing “I just want to die, I can’t deal with all of this anymore”

And I heard so clearly, “No, you need to live, and one day you’re going to help people that have been through these horrible things you’ve experienced

I think I had a conversation with this voice for a few minutes longer, and I honestly don’t remember now what was said. I just remember hearing someone saying ‘No’ as I got pulled back off the railings and telling me that I needed to live so I could help others.

And no one being there. That really freaked me out.

Afterwards, I took a few deep breaths, wiped my eyes and went home. I did confess to one of my friends outside of school a little of what happened later that night. Not the hearing voices part. Just the trying to throw myself in a river and ‘deciding’ not to part.

That friend told one of my friends from school, who rightfully told a teacher. I was so angry with her, even though I knew deep down she had done the right thing.

At that time, I had two family members who were really struggling with their mental health (one was in hospital). I knew knowing I was unwell too would not help and their reaction would probably add to my problems rather than solve them. A school nurse or psychiatrist called a girl out of class to assess her because the girl had a similar name to mine and thought she was me. This girl also happened to be sharing a class with me the following period and I overheard her talking to her pals about how she’d been pulled out of her last class and asked all these questions about why she wanted to kill herself.

Next thing I was being pulled out of class and being made to do a questionnaire. I was smart enough (or dumb enough) to doctor it. It was fairly obvious how they needed you to answer, so I answered enough to not seem too fine, but enough to make it seem like I was perfectly ok, and convinced both this health professional and my Guidance teacher that I was just having a case of teenage melodrama and begged my Guidance teacher not to call my Mum.

They left it at that, and I was relieved.

I made a decision that I needed to survive, and really did work on it.

A month later I took part in an exchange, met my high school boyfriend and in some ways life got better.

My mental health illness did not go away.

Neither did my physical illnesses – I developed migraines, psoriasis, and continued to experience what we now know to be symptoms of endometriosis.

My Mum got concerned and went raiding my bedroom until she found my journals from the previous year, and went with my Aunt to the school. They then told her about my pondering suicide.

The reaction was pretty much everything I expected and worse.

My GP was pretty shocking when I went to them about multiple issues, and even told me I was to blame for my Mum being ill. She (the GP) had no interest in my health whatsoever.

I turned 16, and I took charge – staying at my boyfriend’s and various friends to avoid being at home. Because I was now an adult I was able to change to a different medical practice and saw a GP who began to treat my illnesses. However, I never confessed about my depression, self harming and panic attacks.

I got scared by the extent to which I would feel like I’d never escape my life. Although I never tried to attempt suicide again, I did fear I would at points where I felt hopeless. I even wrote letters and asked my friend to keep them for me just in case something happened to me.

I should have told the good GP. I should probably have told a friend’s parent (who I trusted) about what was really going on. My blinkered teenage mind who didn’t have enough knowledge and thought I knew enough didn’t know that there was help for me.

In the end, I left Edinburgh and went to Aberdeen. Only then did I feel safe enough to share with trusted friends and process the cause of my panic attacks. They encouraged me to go to a good GP (thanks to freshers flu and other first year uni dramas, between a group of us we had met several of the university GPs and so knew which ones were good and which ones were likely to seem a bit clueless or dismissive). I went to counselling for a bit, which wasn’t helpful because the counsellors weren’t a great fit, but I lacked the courage to try again. I also lacked the courage to go to the support group my GP gave me the contact details of. In the end, it was a friend coming to my flat after overdosing on painkillers and accompanying her in the ambulance that shocked me into doing something to change things once and for all.

Because of not facing the problems head on, and being so ashamed, I drove a wedge between my friends and family in Edinburgh. It was always hard to come back. And on the day that I decided to come back 11 years ago, the thought of living in this city again filled me with a lot of anxiety and fear. Fear that only subsided because a good chunk of friends from Aberdeen moved to Edinburgh in the months before I did, and that made me feel better about it.

So in all honesty? This is a tale about how not to deal with mental health.

I didn’t seek medical help.

I didn’t understand that just like not all GPs are the right match for you, it matters even more when it comes to counselling. And counsellors are not going to be offended if you try them and want to try someone else.

I let shame and fear of stigma stop me from telling the truth to the people that loved me for way too long.

I let fear of seeing how others reacted to medication stop me for trying it – and I probably needed it at some points.

Things got better when the secrets were out. It meant that friends could be supportive, empathetic and understanding. I learned who my true friends were, and they were the people who didn’t call me crazy. They were the people who had my back and didn’t judge.

I’ll also say that the best decision I made was to stop drinking alcohol. I do occasionally have a drink, but I only got better when I stopped drinking. Alcohol makes me hysterical and then brings me crashing into a depression. I also got a bit scared when I used it to numb myself when my insomnia was insanely tough to handle. Because of the timing of this decision tying in with when I started going to church, a lot of people assumed that being pretty much teetotal was to do with me being religious. It’s not. Friends in church were used to people not drinking for religious reasons, so they were cool with it. Friends outside of church wondered where the Bacardi Queen had gone, and used to tease me and pressure me to drink. After a while, I stopped going out with those friends out of self-preservation.

If you are a school teacher or GP reading this…if you have a teenager dealing with mental health stuff, please be sensitive to the fact that teenagers are smart. They know when something is out of the ordinary like pulling someone out of class with no explanation (especially if the staff member pulling them out is not someone who is a known staff member). School gossip will stop kids talking when they need to. Equally if you are a GP, treat a young person with the dignity and respect you would an adult. They might not have the same knowledge as an adult with a bit more life experience, but they aren’t stupid. They just need to have information explained to them, and they are likely going to be terrified about asking ‘silly’ questions, or embarrassed to talk about their bodies.

If you are a parent, your child may need to talk to someone different from you who is outside of the family. Unless your child asks you to be present, let them have the space to talk freely without the pressure of fearing that you won’t like what they say or you getting upset. Your children might know how hard it will be to hear that their baby is in pain…and they want to protect you. Protecting you from hearing stuff may indirectly silence them. Equally they might need you to talk for them or be in the room. Also, know that you probably are going to need support so you can support your child better, and that’s ok. It takes a village (that cliche is incredibly true).

If you are someone who has had depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, I’m not going to say JUST TALK. Because you need to choose the right person to talk to. Talk to someone who has the tools to help you. That might be a Guidance teacher, school nurse, your occupational health person at work, your GP, Community Psychiatric Nurse, a counsellor or a charity like The Samaritans. Likely all that’s going to happen if you randomly choose someone you’re going to find they don’t respond the way you hope, because they don’t know any better. And that’s not necessarily their fault. You might end up feeling more hopeless as a result…but there are people that can help. There are tons of charities as well as the samaritans, like Mind, Scottish Association for Mental Health. It might be you need to find an organisation that will give you support about another facet of your life which needs dealing with and is causing your mental health to take a dip. Do not give up until you find the person with the tools you need. They are out there.


The story I don’t talk about so often…

When I first started blogging 11 years ago, it started as a journal. I was in my early twenties and the world was my oyster. I had healed from so many things during my years in Aberdeen and then all of a sudden all of that came undone. It made so little sense, and writing was the way I was able to talk about it, process it and unexpectedly found community in doing that.

A lot of my blogging was very personal, and I’ve always been an oversharer. I think it’s rebellion against my grandfathers who were all masons. I don’t like secrets. Secrets have a way of eating away and letting things fester and rot.

I used to share a lot on my blog about my faith too. I stopped doing that over the years, because I became a little ashamed about the church and how it treated people. I didn’t want people to make the assumption that because I held a belief in God that I would also follow very prejudice views that have hurt so many and therefore feel I should be avoided for fear of me judging or rejecting them.

A lot of my lovely friends that I made through blogging don’t share my belief in God, and yet they’ve all been very open to hearing about my experiences. They haven’t been weirded out when I’ve wrestled and questioned my beliefs. Or talked about some of the wackier moments like the day I was lying on a floor of a warehouse and got a vision of a woman in South Africa. Or how I came to work in a pregnancy crisis centre. Or the time God told me to pull off a motorway to drive to my Dad’s house before I even got a call saying he was being rushed to hospital. Or when God woke me up at 7 a.m. and told me to get baptised the following week.

Yep they’ve heard them all.

I’ve been a Christian (whatever that means) for 16 years. It’s now so every day that people just assume I grew up with a family that took me to church. Nope. Over those 16 years people ask how I ‘became’ a Christian. I will talk about how I went to university, met my friend who had been praying for an opportunity to share about her beliefs with her fellow residents and I provided that opportunity on a platter. I’ll talk about meeting other Christians, my friend from high school who was a Christian and going to an Alpha course.

I never talk about what I think was probably my first encounter with God. Not that I would have dared acknowledged it as that at the time.

But this is mental health awareness week. And maybe the time has come to take a big gulp and be open about it.

Knowing that after reading it you might think I’m ‘crazy’ or ‘deluded’ or ‘mad’.

Knowing that sharing this on a public forum could risk people I work with reading it.

Knowing that my family may read this, and most of them likely had no idea this event had even happened.

But I believe that the only way we can reduce stigma is by sticking our neck out and saying: “Hi. I’m BrunetteKoala, and this has happened to me…and I’m still here.”

And honestly? I don’t know if it’s scarier talking and no one reading or knowing that anyone could read it…

The one where the things don’t entirely go to plan…

This last fortnight has not entirely gone to plan. When I realised that I’d have two weeks with a car and an empty house before I started the first of my new jobs, I was so excited and immediately got started on what became a 3 page long to-do list. I’d hoped to get a lot of things done in my last week at work, but as you know I got taken down by a cold. It’s been a long time since I got affected so badly by one, and it seems that this hideous cold has been making the rounds. I couldn’t afford to be off (and my work couldn’t afford for me to be off either) so when I wasn’t at work I was pretty much contained in my bedroom which was sporting a scent of eau de olbas oil and taking down the rainforest one box of tissues at a time. And trying to force myself to eat.

This week was going to be about doing things further afield and shopping for a car, and it hasn’t happened. For a number of reasons I’ve ended up staying close to home. Firstly I’m still coughing a ton and sporting a very sexy cold sore inside/outside my nose. But also because I’ve suddenly found myself having to save money because I finished work so I’d have a week off before I started a new job. But despite the usual super quick police check update (I’ve had to do be updated by Disclosure Scotland so many times, there must be people in that office who feel like they know me), 3 weeks later and it’s still not arrived. And understandably, I can’t start until it’s come through. However it now means that I’m 2 weeks without pay and there have been no word from the other employer about when I would first start getting paid…so I’m now holding off on the car shopping until I know that I’ve got a more definite start date (and next pay date). I’m trying not to get anxious about it, but after the last decade…that’s easier said than done.

I have however, had the chance to meet a few friends for cake dates, and tried to do as many errands on either side of those to limit what I’m spending on bus fares (as I no longer have my bus pass). And the time at home has enabled me to do a lot of faffy admin things, pick up on multiple unfinished projects and work through the massive ‘to read’ pile.

What I have enjoyed though is peace. The light mornings mean I wake up early (by early I mean by 8 a.m at the latest) and I’ve loved starting the day eating breakfast at a table rather than on my bed. At the start of this month, I got a call from a local bookshop attached to a church in the city centre telling me a book I’d asked about almost 2 years ago had finally come back into print and they had a copy if I wanted it. I was so excited as I’d hunted every book buying website once I’d exhausted my in person buying options (I like to support bookshops, as they are wonderful, wonderful places usually staffed by passionate readers). It’s a book of liturgy written that was partly written by Shane Claiborne, who is someone I deeply respect for his values and his passion for community organising and following teaching of Jesus. The year I moved to Edinburgh I read his book The Irresistible Revolution, and my friend and I phoned each other more than once while reading it. And I think we both bought copies for friends. I’ve had three copies so far, and none of them remain on my bookshelf. I’ve totally lost track of who has them! This book Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals is really intended for daily community prayer, but as there’s just me I’m skipping the songs and just enjoying the meditation of prayer and daily readings.

I also managed on Sunday to go to an actual church service.

A combination of work, singleness and social anxiety combined with being treated not particularly well by a church I used to be part of has stopped me being a really active part of a church. Of course, with so many friends who are church leaders and having godchildren I’ve never stopped being part of the church. I’ve been to ordinations, dedications, baptisms and more over the last 3 years. I’ve shared meals, gone on walks and had long conversations about life, God, the universe, politics and more. I was lucky to have built in deep rooted friendships to keep me going, but it’s not as healthy as being deeply connected into your local community in an authentic, honest, warts and all way.

I hope to change that.

Meanwhile, I’m enjoying the last few hours of having a house all to myself, sun shine and drinking ice cream floats without fear of having to call in sick the next day if my body doesn’t agree with ice cream being put into it (I’m not being totally reckless, I’m using ice cream that is usually the safest and free of evil beta-carotene colourings!).

And waiting for the postman to bring that all important PVG update certificate…

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.


The one where I’m remembering…


Boxing Day has been a tough day for many years. In 2005, it was the day that my Grandad went into hospital. He never made it out. Several friends have lost parents and spouses during this week. But by far the worst was 5 years ago when we got a call to say that my childhood friend had been found dead on Christmas Eve night. It took until Boxing Day for the police to track us down because our family friends (who were his last known recorded address) were away on Christmas Day. I spent the next 24 hours in total shock, and I still remember about 2 days later stumbling out the house with my Mum to the supermarket and bumping into some friends from high school. I just wasn’t with it and I don’t think they knew what to say. I spent Hogmanay with my high school friends that year for the last time. On New Year’s Day I drove to the beach and saw a rainbow across the sky – that was the day I decided to get my Themba tattoo. Just over two weeks later I was attending the funeral.

Over the last week, I’ve been asked a few times about the yellow band I’ve been wearing on my wrist since September. The Myers family sent it over to me to wear for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. I always remember the families who have lost their siblings/children at this time of year. I loved that in the place where I work, the chosen charity is a children’s cancer one at the moment – they’ve been using the empty shops to use as memory spaces. One evening after work I added to their memory tree all the people that have been our Airmail Christmas honourees. And Oliver too.

Christmas can be really tough when you are grieving. There can still be joy, but also mixed with sadness at the people missing from the table.

Often my church friends comment on how ‘normal’ I am despite everything. And I often wonder – Why me? What was it that stopped me going down the route so many of my childhood friends? It’s not that I’ve made great choices my whole life. I’ve had my moments. I could say it’s because God was looking out for me, but that seems very trite and narcissistic. Because was he not looking out for my brother or my friends? Doesn’t He love us all equally?

Anyway, that is where my head is at today. It pretty much goes there every Christmas Eve-Boxing Day now. And it also goes to all my friends – in real life and in the land of social media who are facing their first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth…. Christmas without their loved one. Sometimes I wish I didn’t feel things so acutely, but I do and I don’t think that will ever change. I just hate seeing people hurting and always wish I could step into their place so they weren’t hurting anymore.


Blogmas Day 21 – the one where I’m a godmother again…

Hi folks,

So I haven’t checked my e-mail in days, and a few comments on my last post were awaiting approval from me. Sorry blog friends!

Since I last wrote, my body had one of its hissy fits where it likes to reject all food – nothing like that in the lead up to Christmas and before a long train journey.

Why the long train journey? Well, I got to finally meet my friend’s baby boy. He’s 3 months old now, and I had the privilege of becoming one of his godparents this weekend. My friends kindly hosted me in their home for a long weekend – this was partly so I could get cheaper train tickets, and also because I wanted to be around to lend a hand the day before the baptism/Christening. And it enabled me to get to know my lovely new godson too. I learned that he reserves smiles for few people, loves to watch The Big Bang Theory, is already showing signs that he likes his independence and enjoys being read to. The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Hippos Go Beserk were hits. He was not happy about a story from The Lady and The Tramp. He also didn’t complain too much on my renditions of Soft Kitty, Smelly Cat and The Cow in the Meadow Goes Moo. He also likes to eat his hand and my pyjama top. (Note to self: next time you visit L-A, don’t wear a black pyjama top as it is the worst colour for showing up milk stains!)


One thing that really struck me was the church community my friends are part of, and how much they already love my godson. I have attended many dedications, baptisms and dedications in my time, but this one felt like such an authentic,joyful and meaningful celebration to welcome this child into the family of God. I also loved hearing about how this church really and truly welcomes everyone. That’s important to me when only a couple of weeks ago someone I know turned to me and said they couldn’t go to church because “Jesus hates me”. There were lots of rituals that were unfamiliar to me but it really wasn’t important. No one frowned at me for not knowing, they prompted me when I needed to say things. They let me take pictures and video so we could remember this important occasion. The robed people carrying candles so clearly doted on my friends’ son, smiling as he looked around trying to take in what was going on. No one grumped when the baby Jesus (yes, we had a nativity during the same service – my friends were Mary and Joseph!) cried and had to go behind the scenes for some milky sustenance. They showered him with meaningful gifts from everyone in the church. They allowed us to decorate a room for a small after baptism party for my friends’ family and other friends. It was such a refreshing change!


It was also strange to go through London and be literally passing through in the space of an hour. I had a little time in Kings Cross on the way home, and was very excited that despite my fruitless searches on websites last month they DO have Newt Scamander’s hufflepuff scarf in the Platform 9 3/4 shop. Said scarf was purchased and it has now been sent up to Santa for delivery on Christmas Day.

My daily mini-vlogs continue on instagram. We’ve had dancing Christmas puddings, bible readings, live party preparation coverage and tonight’s was a special one in remembrance of our previous Airmail Christmas honourees. It’s hard to believe it will be Christmas in a few days. Work is getting busier, everyone is getting more exhausted and customers seem to be getting more grouchy no matter how much we try to be kind and helpful. Ahh….Christmas!

I won’t lie, I’m looking forward to January and having a couple days off just to ‘be’.

Until then….I’m sleeping under fairy lights and enjoying a daily dose of chocolate. 🙂