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Daytime TV and trashy novels

16 Aug

 

Only 5 long days until the hubby & I step onto a plane and head towards the white sands of a Turkish beach. The hours of trawling for bargainous internet late-deals have served us well. I must admit, despite my excitement that I am a more than a little jealous of the super-sized summer holiday you have ahead of you.

‘You are what you eat’ shout the magazines from the stand, proclaiming miracle bikini diets and portraying pictures of celebrity bodies. I choose to ignore the pressures as I make a cheeky detour to the chocolate isle. Instead my mind wanders to planning my holiday reading and am hit by the challenge…

‘You are what you think’

I am so tempted to fill my suitcase with trashy novels. I want a bit of comfortable escapism from difficult family situations and the uncertainty of my future. I’m tired. What is your escapism route? Trashy daytime television? Hours of trawling Facebook… or the internet? Why? Because you can, because you are having a break from the daily routine, and frankly because that’s all that was on when you rolled out of bed at lunchtime!

So it is tempting to fill my mind with rubbish tales of endless pursuits of love and flashy lives…. but it would be about as spiritually nutritional as a deep-fried mars bar is healthy

As the months stretch ahead and we check out of our usual responsibilities, taking a little time away from tough relationships, pressures and stresses….are we going to check out of our minds too? As we step away from our home churches, are we going to step away from the discipleship and the challenge of accountability as well?

In Philippians 4:8 (NLT) Paul urges you to ‘Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise’

If we are products of where we let our mind wander in the quiet and in our down-time, then let’s be challenged by this verse. Of course, lie in, relax, indulge a little, party and holiday. But..make an effort to stay accountable and to keep in touch with your community, keep plugging into God – don’t leave him at uni along with the routines you had built. Here are some tips:

– Spend time asking God how he would like you to spend these months. Pray and think about the following ideas

– Make prayerful plans – pray for great conversations with family and friends

– Make financial plans – save for something or replenish that overdraft!

– Make physical plans – stay healthy

– Make spiritual plans – pray a little more, spend a little more time studying the bible

– Make active and restful plans (rest might be a spiritual discipline… but laziness isn’t!)

– Make creative plans – pick up old hobbies

So…. will this be a summer for checking in, changing, growing, challenging?

Or checking out?

Forgetting about happiness

18 Apr

I remember summer journeys as a child. The car stuffed full of duvets, a weeks worth of food and the air full of that incessant question that drives every parent up the wall –  ‘are we nearly there yet’.

We would chase mirages on the French roads – those big pools of water in the distance that stretched across the melting tarmac. We would get excited about the cars wheels causing a wave of water as we drove through, big refreshing splashes soaking us through open windows.

It never happened. The puddles didn’t exist.

Thirsty desert travelers see these same mirages in the hot, sandy desert. Hoping for cool water for their dry mouths and parched camels. Their hearts sink as the refreshing pools vanish. They’d fallen for it again. Hope removed and thirstier than before.

How many of us are striving towards mirages? Believing that we will find happiness if we get the boyfriend, the job, the car, the iPhone.

And we get there to find that it’s a mirage. It’s fleeting.

We are chasers. Chasing that next experience, thing or person to satisfy our need, to make us happy. Like a forest fire that devours everything in its way, our quest will never be satisfied.

So let’s forget about happiness and focus on Joy. A joy that surpasses circumstances, ‘I wants’ and ‘I needs’; a joy that finds us smiling in times of pain and dancing through heartache. I’m not denying tears and pain; I’m suggesting that the two can come together.

Paul rejoiced in prison. Abused, tortured and shackled, he was joyful (Philippians 4). Like us, he could have said “When my chains are off, THEN I will be happy.  When I am free, THEN I will dance”. He could have chased mirages. But no, he wasn’t into fleeting happiness, only deep joy would suffice.

So let’s give up the chase. Let’s stop the relentless striving for happiness and start worshiping, for that is where we will find authentic joy.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

Codeine plus denial

1 Oct

Sometimes we put things off.

My tooth for example.

It hurts.

It has been hurting for quite a while. Let’s say a year. Tender enough to recognise but endurable enough to ignore.

But recently it’s gotten alot worse. Codeine worthy. It throbs. And now it hurts when I smile.

And I like smiling.

I have turned into one of those annoying people that used to quiz my physiotherapist mother on their aches and frozen shoulders in the middle of town on a Saturday morning. I remember squeezing her hand tightly – wanting to get away as much as she did. Anyway, I have become that person; Facebooking my dentist friend late at night requesting her advice on my painful tooth.

The answer is exactly as I expected – the same thing my Husband & Mum have told me in response to my incessant moaning…

“Go to the dentist”

Easier said than done. I don’t want to.

I don’t like people touching my teeth. Well, specifically my two front teeth. They rest can be mauled as much as needs be.

Why? Because one little slip of a bikes tyre at the age of ten, and I flew over the handlebars – onto my face. Yup – I can almost see the face you are pulling. So my poor two front teeth have spent the last 15 years clinging onto dear life. They have been on the floor, endured a ride to A&E in a cup of milk, put back in (wonky may I add), straightened, root treated, veneered (they went black), straightened again (yes I had braces at 24)… and now what is there left to do?

Take it out????

That is what my nightmares are about.

I’m learning an important lesson about delay. It’s a dangerous form of denial – where what you have brushed under the carpet comes to bite you hard on the backside. Or, in the bank account as I may be about to find out.

Don’t get me wrong. Delay can be a good thing – delaying anger for example. Time can be a sobering. Delay for the right reasons can prevent error, produce wisdom, experience and maturity. Delay in other things such as meeting coursework deadlines, catching flights, booking dental appointments – is stupidity at it’s best – self sabotage!

So whilst I book my now emergency dental appointment, ask yourself what you have brushed under the carpet for the last few years. Phone calls? Job applications? Doctor’s appointments?

And as for me…. 9.00 this morning. I’m facing my consequences.

The song ‘All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth’ has a whole new meaning. But I’m not that demanding – so just the left one will do.

We will deal with the other one next year.

If it lasts that long.

The occasional joys of being a sardine

29 Sep

I thawed like a big block of ice on a hot day.

Two loud Americans were sat next to me on my journey home. Producing a shelves worth of cereal bars and flapjacks (out of an apparently bottomless bag) and loudly examining their contents. “How much fat? Is nothing in this country HEALTHY?”

Beside from being bemused at the irony of their large shapes and their quest to find something healthy (did the two words ‘snickers’ and ‘flapjack’ on the packaging not say something?), inside I was sighing.

Half an hour of THIS? I had chosen the wrong darned carriage.

I was being the typical London Ice-Queen commuter

I’m not quite sure how it happened – but along with the other Ice Queen and King sat with us, I ended up being embroiled in their conversation. Within minutes I was sharing a recipe on healthy breakfast flapjack (that I’d never made), laughing at stories of their holiday, and discussing the delights of British confectionary! Not only that but I’d been introduced to the Mother in Law, Husband, daughter and sister that were spread across the carriage.

I didn’t want to get off!

But that was unusual.

Packed like sardines we journey to work. A carriage full of lives, swimming with memories, problems, excitement, despair. We sit with the closeness of good friends yet avoid communication. Pushed together by lack of space and the only known thing in common is a mutual un-knowingness of one another.

Sometimes I play a game – imagining people’s mornings, conversations, hobbies, how they like to spend their weekends and what makes them laugh.

I’m a straight face hidden behind a paper, a book or folded hands. Nameless and unknown. Another traveller.

My journeys generally fall into two categories: Bad or average. The only ‘good’ journeys are the ones shared with friends, or funny tourists who blissfully unaware of our staunch British etiquette.

Last night, on the half hour train journey home, Chloe and I laughed until our sides hurt, forgetting passengers around us and the ‘hush be quiet’ unspoken London rules.

We were carelessness children laughing at ‘in jokes’.

I wasn’t watching for rolling eyes or dagger stares, oh I bet there were a few. I was having fun. Only now do I wonder whether those unknown and unnamed people saw something of me – a little piece of character, a glimpse of Anna, an insight to add to the straight face they often see.

So I’ve made a little promise to myself.

I will be more than polite. I will be more friendly. More… human. You won’t find me speaking to every commuter in my carriage (for I would probably end up with a carriage all of my very own). Instead I will not be afraid to smile and engage.

I challenge you to do the same!

Focus on the journey and see what happens. See if you can find joy in the doing as well as the finishing.

“People travel to faraway places to watch, in fascination, the kind of people they ignore at home.” – Dagobert D. Runes

I don’t do English food

26 Sep

Right,

We have just had a lovely couple over for the weekend. Hence lack of post yesterday.

After a two hour walk in Chislehurst woods,  inclusive of full enetertainment – seeing my husband attempt to relive his childhood days – unsuccessfully. He got stuck up a tree.

Anyway, we come back to a very belated lunch. Rumbling stomachs call for something very Sunday-ish. Warming and English.

‘Bangers and mash’ was batted around. So off to Sainsbury’s we went.

Us girls made ourselves at home in the kitchen whilst the boys played with jump leads and cars (I know) utilising almost every single pan to hand in the way that British cooking seems to require.

You know what? I’d totally forgotten about the delicious warmth that comes with good old English food! i’ve prided myself in welcoming my hubby home to all manner of cuisines. Indian (his roots), Italian, Moroccan (tagine – my favourite), chinese…

Because the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach right?

And the more complicated food – the bigger the love?

But, after knocking up a waist band-groaning lunch of sausage and (leek, garlic & red onion) a field worth of potato, I’ve suddenly realised how tiring it is attempting to be a live-in food artisan.

As a girl who feels that following a recipe is ‘cheating’, i’ve attempted to, most evenings, design my own cullinary surprise. Never of course, being able to replicate it again, and probably (if i’m honest) not quite wanting to admit the odd mixture of store cupboard ingredients it contains.

So, i’ve rediscovered good old English food. And the stuffed lethargy that follows. Now I have that post sunday lunch slog that demands the sofa and constant replays of past episodes of Come Dine With me.

Right now I’m attempt to peel myself up from my horizontal postition and head to church, musing about the week ahead…

My husband has a week of pies, trifles, potatoes and puddings to look forward to.

Me? I look forward to kicking back whilst he battles with the  aftermath – a kitchen full of British washing up.

Foot massages in the cowshed

22 Sep

Right. I like my feet. They are fine. They serve me well.

I also like giving massages.

Growing up, massages were our currency. “I will cook dinner for a five minuter”. Or, I will endure your chick-flick/action-man/awful film for a good shoulder rub. The tradition lives on, and now my husband and I enjoy almost daily massages in front of the TV (I get extra long ones when I ‘watch’ football). Everyone’s a winner right?

That is until someone utters the words…

“Please can I have a foot massage?”

My instant reaction is to pull an unattractive face and scarper. If I love you –  then you may get one on the following condition –

socks stay ON.

If I REALLY love you, then you will get your fully fledged foot massage and I will suppress my grimaces. To me, that is real love.

Before you accuse me of double standards, I don’t even like massaging my own feet, so on principle, I don’t inflict my feet on another. Therefore, do not worry friends, you won’t find me knocking at your door requesting a foot rub anytime soon.

That of course, comes with one exception.

You let me pay you.

My lovely brother & sister in-law bought me a pedicure for my birthday. Not just a simple 15 minute get-your-nails-looking-shiney one, but a whole hour of scraping, exfoliating and massaging.

So last night, off I trundled to the very chic (albeit oddly named) Cowshed spa in Soho to meet the poor therapist assigned to spend the next hour tending to my runners/walkers/heal-wearer feet.

It was delicious. She did her thing, whilst I felt like a princess on a fluffy white throne reading shiny magazines. Although, I must mention a slightly awkward moment in which she asked whether I minded having my ‘feet drilled’.

Not wanting to seem out of touch with the pedicure world (of which I am – very) I nodded. After a fearing i’d been lured to a dentist under false pretenses, I discovered that a ‘foot drill’ is an electric foot sander. Nice.

So there I was, reclined in my blissful state, playing this little loop over and over in my head. It went like this:

1- I feel so sorry for her.
2- No! This is her job
3- Yeah but my feet aren’t nice
4- She is getting PAID
5- Yeah she’s seen worse
6- Eugh like that woman next to me
7- So relax and enjoy
(Insert a few minutes of pure relaxation – interspersed with feigning the desire to jump out of the chair due to ticklishness).

And repeat 1-7.

So after an hour of relaxing/reasoning with myself, I left. The owner of the smoothest, pampered and prettiest feet in London.

Massage-able, touchable feet.

So husband, if you’re reading this. I’d like a foot massage tonight please. And before you start getting ideas about reciprocation –  in return – i’ll make you dinner.


Option paralysis

18 Sep

Right, I have this problem.

As a female I am good at many things.

(Staunch feminists – turn away now)

Multi-tasking
Chatting
Cooking
Looking after my husband
Making our flat sparkle
Being a friend
Organising
Making things look, sound, smell nice

But there is one particular thing I am terrible at. Awful.

Shopping.

Not just any shopping. The usual mooching around the shops is my specialty. I’m good at it. Bargain hunting is in the genes, and I actually find enjoyment in the weekly food shop. But this isn’t about that type of shopping, the type of shopping I’m talking about is a very specific type of shopping.

Rush Shopping.

Give me a tight time scale, and my decision making skills take a dive bomb into the swimming pool of non existence. Yup – they do a runner. Out of sight. Completely. Whether my list contains 10 items, or simply ‘dinner’ – I am likely to be found traipsing around the shops – dawdling.

Any onlooker would think ‘that girl obviously has the luxury of time’ as they watch me move from aisle to aisle, shop to shop, picking up and putting down. Oh yes, for a while I look chilled, calm and collected. But inside i’m screaming.

My worst is ‘dinner’. One word, so, so many options. Shops full of options, aisles full of options. Do I want a cheap dinner, a treat dinner, a healthy dinner, a lazy dinner? And don’t even get me started on the cuisine – Italian, French, Indian… you see where i’m going with this? After almost an hour or more of increasingly frantic shopping and desperate phone calls to the husband, all I am left with is the option of a ‘quick microwave’ dinner – as I have just shopped my evening away.

Let’s take last Wednesday for example. My list was ‘birthday card’. That’s all. One tiny little item and enough change in my pocket – I didn’t even have to waste time with the old chip & pin machine. So, how long could you do it in? 5 mins tops?

Let’s set the scene.

Time: 15 minutes (more than enough)
Location: Waterloo station
Potential shops: WH Smiths, Paperchase, Perfect presents, M&S….

Should be fine. In the words of the Meerkat – simples. But for me? Not so simples. The very first one I picked up was perfect – Marylyn Monroe pouting over a huge, tantalising birthday cake. Complete with birthday glitter. Any normal person would have paid the cash and gone on their leisurely way (plenty of time you see) to catch the train.

Me?

Nope. Every card was a possibility, every one had to be bettered. Too many cards. Too many. Far too many. As I wound myself up, hopping from shop to shop – time  did it’s thing and…ran out. Not satisfied, apparently, with any card that Waterloo’s mass of shops had to offer, I frustratedly jumped on the train. Just about.

Next was Clapham Junction station. An equally large amount of potential card shops crammed into one building await. With minus time on my hands, and whipped into a completely self-inflicted frenzy, I dash into two shops. Finally, after reading an entire books worth of funny lines and pictures, I settle on a card.

Marylyn Monroe pouting over a huge, tantalising birthday cake. Complete with birthday glitter.

Yes. I know.