It might be your funeral – but it isn’t all about you!

I visited a client recently who asked me to help them plan a remembrance service for their partner who died, because there had been no funeral. The partner had expressed in his Will that he wanted his body cremated with no fuss and no service. No doubt, he thought this was sparing his loved ones the pain and stress of organising everything. Sadly, he also deprived them of the need to grieve his passing; a process that is different for each of us, but often starts at a life celebration, or funeral service, as friends and family get to say their goodbyes.

Leaving clear instructions about what we want to happen when we die, is a useful and sensible thing to do, and here-in starts the problem. When we die, those who love us are feeling pain and loss, they are often ‘holding it together’ for the sake of others and they are not feeling useful or sensible. They are now the ones who need to be looked after; not you. I know, that sounds a little harsh, but it is those who mourn our passing who would benefit the most from deciding how to honour us and what they want to include to help them grieve.

What do your loved ones need from your funeral?

When I meet with families to start planning a life celebration, they often start by talking about the type of service their loved one would have wanted. We work together with the Funeral Director, to ensure those wishes are met wherever possible. I then ask the family what they want included, what they would like to help them gain comfort, remember a special moment, express their love and their sense of loss. They have often not considered this and they all tell me how much this impacts their ability to start grieving.

I believe it is important that we all talk to those we love about what we all want when we die. A conversation like this doesn’t have to be painful or difficult; it can be about joy and remembering the good things. Whilst we don’t like to imagine our nearest and dearest no longer being with us, knowing that we’ve talked about how we can find comfort and support gives a sense of peace to many couples and families.

Is a ‘no-stress’ solution actually what your loved-ones need?

There are several services available to us when we die, that offer a ‘no-stress’ solution at a price that appeals to people who don’t want a financial burden placed on loved ones. Please, consider carefully a couple of key things before you take this approach:

  1. Every Funeral Director I have had the privilege to work with has helped bereaved families through every singe step of preparing for and honouring those who have died. They are some of the most caring and professional people I’ve worked with in my entire working life.  The idea that they will rip-off your family when you die is scare-mongering. Always choose your Funeral Director based on recommendation and check with your GP practice if in doubt; they will know who to go to.
  2. Talk to your loved ones before you put this kind of arrangement in your Will so that they can have their say. Let them tell you what will help them when they are mourning you passing, and it might be possible to accommodate everyone’s wishes.
  3. ‘No-fuss’ means different things to different people, and if what you mean is ‘I don’t want you to have to go to any trouble’ this is about asking friends or family to help with arrangements so that no one person is bearing all the burden. And remember that the Funeral Director will be supporting them and organising much of the detail.

I am pleased to have been able to bring some closure to my client. We prepared a beautiful celebration of life ceremony together and shared a service in a place they loved to walk together with friends and loved ones. Their grieving started that day, and I saw many tears shed, many hugs received and many words of love and hope shared.

If you would like to start having conversations with those you love about making plans for when you die, take a look at this blog I wrote about how my husband and I approached the subject.

From my heart to yours,

Dinah

Herbs for your wedding flowers

herbs for your wedding


Herbs have traditionally been added to wedding bouquets for hundreds of years, not just because they look and smell pretty, but also for their medicinal properties such as the calming effect of mint or calendula teas, to help calm the nerves of the wedding party.

Myddfai has strong, historical links to the study and practice of herbalism. Indeed the Physicians of Myddfai are thought to have been some of the earliest practitioners of herbal remedies. It made perfect sense for me to take up the study of herbs, and to offer herbal wedding blessings and vow renewals to my clients.

Traditional herbs for your wedding table and bouquet

If you are considering using herbs in your flowers, whether on the tables, as an arch to walk through, in your bouquet or as button holes, they bring a wonderful extra dimension to the atmosphere with their scents. They have also been traditionally added for the benefits they were believed to bring to the happy couple. Here are just a few to give you ideas of what to include in your own flowers:

herbs for your wedding
  • LAVENDER – Love – Protection – Happiness
  • MARJORAM – Protection – Health – Love
  • DILL – Good spirits – Tolerance
  • FENNEL – Strength – Determination
  • OREGANO – Joy – Hope
  • ROSEMARY – Fidelity – Remembrance
  • SAGE – Wisdom – Long Life

Practical benefits from herbs for outdoor weddings

The herbs also bring other benefits, of course, such as including Lemon Balm if you are celebrating outside, as many insects will stay away from this herb. Adding mint to a bouquet was believed to help calm an anxious bride and Calendula helped with digestion of a large wedding breakfast.

The smell brought to the venue by the mix of herbs can also be a bonus; I have been to wedding celebrations in pubs and clubs which have smelled like a late night drink-in, and at a recent vow renewal held in such a venue, the addition of a bay leaf and rosemary arch for the guests to walk through, was a brilliant idea from the florist that transformed the experience for everyone.

Herbal smudging for weddings

Couples may have heard of herbal smudging, a technique often used to clear the air in a new home or to transform a space after a negative time for the occupants. I have also been asked by couples to perform smudging before their wedding day, to help them clear the home for a positive future together. Sage is often used for this cleansing process,  and we can create bespoke blessings for the marriage and home together too.

I am expanding my herb garden this year and plan to add several herbs for couples to add to their flowers when they come to Myddfai for their ceremony. What herbs would you love me to include?

Dinah x

Three months later, where is everybody?

The first three weeks after we lose a loved one is often filled with calls and visits from concerned friends and family. Neighbours pop in or stop you in the street to ask how you are doing. You feel a level of support.

Three months in, my clients tell me, is when it seems to suddenly go quiet. They tell me they feel alone, isolated, vulnerable, lost. “Where did everyone go?” They ask me. The truth is, they went and got on with their lives. Not in a cruel way, not in any way saying that you don’t matter. They have to return to their everyday lives.

Grief is different for each of us

It is easy to forget, when we the people supporting someone who is grieving, that this looks and feels different for each of us. Grief is often described as a process and we understand there are several stages of grief that we have to pass through, in order to move on. But let me assure you, telling someone who is experiencing grief what they ‘should’ be feeling, or that they are ready to move-on, is not going to help them. They need to set their own pace for their grief and often the best thing we can do is listen.

After three months, as we return to our lives, we get ‘busy’ and seem to forget the support we were offering to our friend or family member, and it is at this time they really need us the most. When all the goodwill cards and sympathy messages have stopped, when the house starts to feel very quiet in the evenings, that is when we could have most impact. This is the time to be there and show them they are not isolated, they are part of a community who cares about them.

A little effort makes an enormous difference

If this sounds like a big commitment, or if you can already hear the voice in your head telling you it’s going to take up time you don’t have, then take a minute and have a think about how little effort it really takes to include one more person in your plans for a movie night, or one more person to feed at a family Sunday lunch. How much effort would it really be to meet for a cuppa in a local coffee shop once a month, or even go shopping in town together occasionally? And the positive impact this would have on both of your lives might be a pleasant surprise.

I bumped into a client recently, in a local coffee shop. Last year, she lost her husband of 62 years, to Cancer. She was having coffee with a group of five other women, and they were laughing and joking together. She spotted me and came over to say hello and gave me a hug. I looked over at her friends and said how lovely it was to see her out and enjoying herself. She told me that she’d got through the toughest year of her life thanks to those friends. That they had supported her, cried with her, got her out of the house and dragged her to dance classes, swimming, WI meetings and regular long walks. “They were there for me when it all went quiet. They brought hope back into my life.”

Who do you know that lost someone they love in the last few months? Why not pick up the phone to them today and let them know they’re not alone.

Dinah

Outdoor vow renewals

weather aside, there are so many wonderful reasons to consider holding your vow renewal ceremony in a less-than-traditional setting and outdoors is just one of those. As a vow renewal is not a legally binding ceremony, there are no legal restrictions on where or how you choose to reaffirm your love for each other.

i have recently been asked to hold several outdoor vow renewals, and have now added this service to our own woodland based hut for guests, so that they can renew their vows during a stay with us.

There are particular considerations that make your day extra special, and reduce the chance of things going wrong, including;

  1. acknowledge the weather
    We have unpredictable weather in the UK, so either accept that you’ll stand under umberellas in wellington boots, or find a venue with a covered area option.
  2. visit before you book
    Venues will be happy to show you around, without charge, if they are serious about making your day work for you. Ask to meet for 30 minutes to an hour and say that you’d like to see the exact spot where the ceremony is going to take place. Do remember that some areas may only be accessible at certain times of year due to weather conditions.
  3. Be clear about the type of ceremony you want
    before you let hosts persuade you that they have ‘the perfect place’ for you, be sure what your priorities are and what you want your vow renewal to ‘feel’ like. it is easy to get persuaded by the places you visit, to change your ideas. Be open to new ideas, but make sure you let hosts and your celebrant know what you want to help them create the ceremony you have dreamed of.
  4. Wear boots!
    if you are planning to hold your ceremony outdoors, speak to the venue about footwear. This simple thing can totally ruin your ceremony – but it can also make it fun if you’re in a fabulous outfit – with matching wellingtons!
  5. Be sure about access – for everyone
    Not all outside venues or locations will have level access. They may not be suitable for wheelchairs, or may require notice to help gain access. This is such a vital part of your plans, so keep asking about access, parking and any specific access needs you or anyone coming with you has.
  6. what about after the ceremony?
    When you choose your outdoor venue, consider what your plans are for afterwards. Here, we provide a hamper for a woodland picnic after daytime ceremonies, or a hot chocolate flask and hot water bottles for two, to star gaze after night time services.

One of the best outdoor services i delivered, was during a rainy day in a rose garden. Two minutes before we started, the heavy rain stopped and only started as i said ‘now give each other a kiss’. everyone had brought huge white umbrellas, and we dived under them as we followed the Happy couple to their safari tents in the garden. Never let the weather stop your dream of an outdoor ceremony.

I hope these tips help you planning your outdoor vow renewals.

Dinah

Planning a life celebration

Where do you start when planning a service for someone you love? This is one of the first questions families ask me when I meet with them to plan the service for a life celebration. When someone we love dies, it is hard to think about details like this so I put together a short guide for them, to help them get started. I hope it proves useful.

Your Celebrant or Minister will write the service for you. You can have as much or as little input into that as you wish and it is worth talking about the general feeling you want to create (I have carried out services that range from very respectful and traditional to highly festive and celebratory) and also sharing any wishes that were expressed by the person who has died.

I always encourage families to remember that the service is being created not just to honour the person they all loved, but also to provide support and comfort to those who mourn their passing. Before you meet with whoever will write and conduct the life celebration service for you, I recommend the following steps:

Where to begin: photographs tell stories

Human minds are strange and wonderful and behave in very unpredictable ways when we are grieving. There is no ‘right way’ to grieve and feeling confused and overwhelmed is normal and not something to worry about. What it can result in is that, when you are asked about the person who has passed, your mind goes blank. It’s as if all the years and memories you created together just vanished. I’ve watched this happen many times and the pain it causes is very real.

I have found that getting out photographs can help this a great deal. Almost instantly, memories come flooding back and people light up. It is a shame we don’t tend to print off our photos as much now, but well worth doing so with some favourites as these can bring great comfort.

Ask others to share their memories

One of the beautiful things that comes out of a very sad time, is when people hear stories about the people they’ve lost, from friends and family, that they had not heard before. I have watched people well up with pride as they hear how their parent or partner touched the lives of others. Asking for stories to be included in the service, is a wonderful part of the healing process and also allows others to share in your grief and offer you support.

You may wish to ask some of your friends or family to share one of their memories as part of the service. Not everyone wants to read on the day, but whoever is taking the service can be asked to read it on their behalf. Another way to include people’s memories, is to ask them to write in a book on the day, or on a card that can be left or posted later. These memories create a very comforting and special way for family and loved ones to look back when they need comfort.

Don’t try to say it all in the main service

There will always be more that you could say, always a story you think should have been included in the service. Time is strictly limited for services, wherever they are held, so rather than trying to say everything and then feeling deflated when you have to miss things out, instead I always encourage families to prepare two things: the stories they want in the main service and those that they want to share afterwards, when friends and family are together and can give one another hugs or supportive words.

Often, knowing this second chance to talk about some of the memories they want to share, or that friends can be asked to say something after the main service, relieves a great deal of pressure in planning what to include. Whether you want a formal speech session at the gathering after the funeral, or simply to ask people to share stories with others so that they are heard and continue to keep memories alive, there are lots of ways to let people feel they contributed.

If in doubt, ask your Support Team

The Funeral Director and Celebrant or Minister will be part of your support team and expect you to ask them for help. They deal with the situation you are worrying about regularly and, if they don’t have the answer themselves, they will know who to ask. We tend to be ‘brave’ and ‘cope’ with more than we need to when we are dealing with grief.

It is easy to forget that allowing those around you to help can also be a healing thing for them. Accepting help can be selfless. Reach out to friends and tell them how they can help as, often, they don’t know how to offer but will be just waiting for a sign from you.

Give yourself a break from Perfection

“I want it to be perfect”. No matter how much I reassure clients, I know they are all putting themselves under pressure to create the ‘perfect’ service. They fret about every detail and often send me thoughts the day before, asking if these can be added, only to take them out again an hour later. THIS IS ALL NORMAL. All good Celebrants, Funeral Directors and Ministers will understand your concern. And they will do everything possible to achieve what you want. Perfection looks different for all of us though, so remember to give yourself a break over things which are out of your control and trust the people who are there to make sure your wishes are taken care of.

I hope this has been of help. The most valuable things we have at these times is communication so let the people you have around you know what you need, and keep telling them. Mostly, they want to relieve your burden and be a real support to you at a difficult time.

Dinah

Vow Renewals are so much more than words

When John and I got married, we chose a Registry Office to hold the ceremony. Well, I say ‘chose’ but to be honest, in 1987 it was pretty much our only choice. We came from different faiths and neither of us was practicing, so using a place of worship felt disingenuous and would have stirred up all kinds of family discussions (polite term) that would have spoiled the occasion. So we went with the safe option. The ceremony was dull and impersonal and neither of us can remember what vows me made. Thirty two years later whatever we agreed to has been surpassed by each of us as we’ve supported, lifted, laughed with and loved each other. Boy, would we write some memorable vows if we could go back and create them for our lives together now.

That’s the reason I love helping people create vow renewals; they get the chance to acknowledge the remarkable thing they have created – the partnership and bond that is so much more than they could have anticipated on their wedding day. This poem From Captain Corelli’s Mandolin says it eloquently:
Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides.
And when it subsides you have to make a decision.
You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together
that it is inconceivable that you should ever part.
Because this is what love is.
Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement,
it is not the promulgation of eternal passion.
That is just being ‘in love’, which any fool can do.
Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away,
and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.
Those that truly love,
have roots that grow towards each other underground,
and when all the pretty blossoms have fallen from their branches,
they find that they are one tree, and not two.

Louis D Bernieres
Every time I read this it gives me goosebumps!
Marriage is an amazing commitment and a complicated yet magical journey. As a friend recently shared on social media “marriage is like the longest sleep-over ever with your best friend”. And I know for us, marriage has been friendship at the core. Enjoying the company of your life partner, without the desire to change them, is key to our story and to the happy marriages of many friends.
Celebrating these stories of success, whether you’ve been together for ten years or fifty, is a joyful acknowledgement of your partnership and the life you have created together. People often choose to renew their vows to mark an anniversary (either of their marriage or their first date or other meaningful event) or after they have come through a particularly challenging time.
The good news is, there really does not have to be a reason; you can renew your vows any time you like, and because there is no legal relevance to the event, you can do it with the words you choose, in the location you choose and with whom you choose. I was recently lucky enough to carry out a ceremony on a hill top by a treehouse for an amazing couple celebrating their tenth anniversary. They did not invite anyone else, it was all about the two of them and making a renewed commitment to each other and acknowledging their love. It was one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve ever been part of.
Calling this ceremony a vow-renewal is slightly the wrong wording, as this is your chance to write new vows rather than simply renewing the ones you made at the start of your marriage. And if the thought of having to come up with brilliantly worded vows is one of the things stopping you, don’t worry about this. A good Celebrant will help you write vows that are personal and authentic and if you’re doing it yourself there are some great examples online.
If you’re still waiting for a reason to plan your vow renewal, I’d encourage you to make the reason simply that you’ve made it to today, together and that’s worth celebrating!
Dinah xx

Be there to listen; even when you don’t know what to say

When someone dies, we often find it difficult to know what to say to the people they’ve left behind.  Strangely, rather than overcoming this sense of embarrassment, we often avoid having a conversation at a time when, by just being there to listen, we could make such a huge difference.

As an Independent Celebrant, I often meet with loved ones very soon after their loss and it is my job to talk to them about the person who has died, to help us prepare a service to celebrate their life.  It is a huge privilege to be with families at this time and to hear their stories and share their memories.  I love helping them open up their box of happy memories, finding comfort in the joyful moments they all spent together is a wonderful way to start the process of grieving.  And most of what I do at our first meeting is listen.

We tend to over-think about what to say

It is hard to know what to say.  Nobody finds it easy, or comfortable to start a conversation about death, especially when it seems there are no words that are “enough”.  And there really are no words that will ever feel like the right ones, so you have to be yourself and use the kind of language you normally do.  We tend to over-think what to say and this becomes our excuse to say nothing.  “better to say nothing than the wrong thing”, we tell ourselves, but in truth, it is better to say something simple and show you are thinking of them.

Before the age of facebook messages, we used to write to people when they lost a family member or loved-one.  Sympathy cards, which so often seem ‘old-fashioned’ now, are exactly that – a lovely, kind old-fashioned way of showing that you are thinking about what that person and their family are going through.  They cost very little (even less if you make one yourself, or use writing paper) but mean a great deal to the recipient.  I recently spent time with a client looking through more than 130 cards from her husband’s work colleagues and friends.  She was overwhelmed by their kindness and by how many lives her husband had touched.  She told me that their words meant more to her that she knew how to express, and that they were giving her great comfort.

Community spirit is so important

One of the wonderful things about being a Celebrant in a small community, is that you also hear about the way people support each other at a time of loss.  Food arrives regularly, cooked with love and care and with no thanks expected.  Lifts to appointments and offers of filling in forms and informing locals of funeral arrangements are common place and every time I visit a family, there are neighbours popping in to make tea, do washing or collect the kids for an hour’s relief.  I am constantly reminded that life goes on and it is the people around us who ensure we’re able to get back on board as we start to recover.

And as time passes, after funerals and wakes and celebrations of life are over and the family has to return to ‘normal’ life, comes the time when being there is even more important.  Once the initial shock and support has subsided, and everyone has had to return to their own lives, it can be a very isolating time for the family.  Once the organising and preparing for the remembrance has ended, family can feel at a loss and the reality of finality hits home.  This takes a different amount of time and a different form for everyone.  We all grieve at our own pace, and one of the most important things you can do is reassure them that there is no need to rush the process.  Reassuring them that you’re there for as long as they want to talk, whenever that might be, is very supportive.  Don’t be disappointed if they don’t take you up on this offer, and don’t hesitate to keep offering; when they’re ready they’ll hear you.

Don’t stop sharing stories of their loved one

Most of all, don’t stop talking to them about the person who has died.  We tend to feel like we should avoid mentioning them, in case we upset their loved one.  I like to think of this in a different way  – when we talk to them about the person who has died, we help them remember the memories they created together, their shared stories and the good times they enjoyed.  We give them a chance to reconnect with their happiness at a time when they are feeling sad, and to see that the memories will always be with them to enable them to experience those emotions again.  It’s a gift we can give them which might make them cry as they smile.

I think we talk too little about death in our society, and this is a key reason why we hesitate to engage with those who are experiencing it within their family group.  We don’t know what to say, because we’ve rarely heard our parents talking about it and it’s highly unlikely it has been discussed at school unless a tragedy has impacted the school directly.  When we look at cultures where death is more widely discussed and made part of life, we discover the challenges in talking about it are less frequent.  In Mexico, for example, every child has experienced the Day of the Dead celebrations, by the time they reach school age.  Death is part of the culture from art to music to tourism, so offering words of support is second nature.

I’d love to know if you were supported by people listening when you lost someone you loved.  How do you think we can make it easier for people to feel they can offer a hug or words of support?

With love

Dinah

Mixed emotions on Mother’s Day

It seems like a wonderful idea; a day to celebrate the most giving, caring and nurturing person in your life.  The person who gave you life and raised you, perhaps with the help of another, or perhaps alone, to become the person you are.  A day to acknowledge mothers all over the UK who deserve to be pampered and looked after and put-first, even if only for today.

Indeed, it is a great idea.  I’m a big fan of it; especially since I became a mother, 28 years ago.  However, as an adopted child, and as a child who is estranged from her adopted family too, I have mixed emotions each year as the cards begin to appear in the shops.  I find myself staring out of windows and contemplating “what ifs” that become more ridiculous as the frenzy builds.  Radio adverts and reminders to buy gifts, or make lunch or ‘just give mum a cuddle’ seem to bring emotions out that I had not anticipated.  From anger to fear, from instant tears to derisory laughter, I run a marathon of emotions by lunch time that leave me seeking silence for the rest of the day.

Not every mother-daughter relationship is worth celebrating; and that is ok.  Seriously, it has taken me until the age of fifty to be able to add the last bit.  It is ok to not think of your mum as your best friend.  It is ok to not look forward to her phone calls or visits.  It is ok to be real about how she makes you feel and to just “be ok” with that.  I know it sounds like I’m making that seem simple and it is far from that.  However, it is a choice to accept that you can be ok with it.  That it might take work, there might be days when you struggle with being ok with it, and that at times you’ll decide “this is bulls*** of course I’m not ok with it, I want to fix our relationship” and that is ok too.

All I’m suggesting is that, once you’ve given yourself permission to move on from the “if only” you still carry around, you can begin to let go of a lot of baggage.  I know that I carried mine for most of the last 35 years.  When I finally acknowledged that it was ok to not have either of the women in my life who had been my mother, and instead to focus on the incredible young woman in my life to whom I was a mother, I think I actually began to like myself.  I began to see what a great mum I was too.

That’s the great thing about letting go of our baggage;  we’ve got the energy available for new things and feel more able to manage change and make choices.  No longer weighed-down with unrealistic expectations or regrets, we can become open to positive thoughts to replace the often-reinforced habitual negative ones.  The positive self-talk I use in my head these days, far outnumbers the negatives,  I know this change has come since I let go of the daily reinforcement of my mother’s negative words, that had long been part of my own self-bashing,

This weekend, my daughter will be here after a couple of weeks away.  I’m hoping we’ll get some time together to talk about everything and nothing, to hang-out for a bit with a coffee in our woodland and perhaps even watch a movie together.  Being around her reminds me I love being a mum.  It also reminds me of all the women in my life who are amazing mothers that will be spending the day being pampered and loved and appreciated.

Five years ago I wrote a letter to my birth mother and another to my adopted mother on Mother’s Day.  I never posted either of them, and last year I dug them out and threw them in our Rayburn.  I didn’t even bother to re-read them.  I knew what I’d written and I knew I deserved to move on.  That process of letting go has allowed me to look forward with less dread to Mother’s Day this year and instead, focus on being appreciated as a mum.

Dinah

Let’s Celebrate more often in the year ahead

The past twelve months have not brought many reasons for Planet Earth, or it’s inhabitants, to celebrate.  From election results that made me wonder if I had been transported to an alternate reality, to revelations about behaviour that made me feel angry and powerless.  Each day of 2017 seemed to increase my levels of astonishment, fury, despair and absolute astonishment.  And rage.

As we draw to an end of this dreadful year, I ask myself what I can celebrate; I always reflect on my successes at the end of each day, month and year.  It’s a positive, reflective opportunity to acknowledge my achievements and since my change of pace (from a too hectic “doing” life to a more present “being” one) one that helps me notice the little things that make a big difference to my wellness, my friendships and the lives of those I love.

There have been plenty of things to celebrate in my world during the last year, and when I stop looking at the overwhelming world-picture, one I can have very little impact on, and focus instead on my tiny, and rather beautiful, corner of Carmarthenshire, I see far more to be positive about than I imagined.  Each morning here, we sit in awe of the view from our window and watch the birds.  We start each day with a celebration of the decision we made to move here, thanking each other for the brave and bold move me made.

It can be so easy to focus on the negative news, the social media sensational stories that beg us to share the misinformation, stirring up hatred and ignorance.  All too easy.  It takes a bit more effort to focus our energy instead, on the positive stories, the daily heroes who interact with others and change lives, the things happening in our communities that we can be proud of.  Stories of hope and change.  Stories to celebrate.

They are there if we look for them; and when we choose to put our effort into finding, sharing and liking the good and the positive, when we spend time looking for things worth celebrating, guess what happens?  We find them!  We find them and enjoy them, and gain strength and hope from them, and when we share them with our friends and family, they smile and enjoy the thought that “there are things to celebrate in the world”.

I’m setting myself a challenge for 2018 and I’d love you to join me.  I’m going to find more to celebrate.  I’m going to go out of my way to share things I believe will encourage other people to celebrate the positives in their lives too.  And let me be clear, I’m not hiding my head in the sand or pretending that everything will get better for Planet Earth whilst I’m focussing on the positive.  I am not going to be silent, I am not going to sit back and let the world continue on it’s self-destructive path without speaking and peacefully protesting in any way I can.  And I will do that in a positive way, celebrating my ability to express my opinions in a (relatively) free country.

Who’s with me? I’d love to know how you’re going to celebrate more in the year ahead, and what you’re celebrating about 2017 that gives you hope.

Dinah

November Myddfai Musings

I’ve been reminded this week of the first time we saw North Lodge in Myddfai, now our home for almost three years.  It was a rainy day at the end of October 2014 and we knew we belonged here before we got through the gates.  All our previous homes have “spoken” to me long before we’ve reached the front door, and getting that sense of belonging was the first indicator that we’d found our forever-home.

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“If we think it’s beautiful on a cold, wet, grey and miserable day, then we’re going to be amazed by it in the spring” John said, as we sat discussing our offer in the car after just 20 minutes in the woods and even less time in the cottage.

And as I look out at our garden and small woodland, through a typical November drizzle, I still find myself overwhelmed by the beauty of this place.  We’ve found a little piece of our long-term dream and we’re making it work.  I watch the variety of birds coming to feed as the sun sets, getting the last nibble of the day before the bats come out.  I listen to the stream running full thanks to the rain, and still find it one of the most restful sounds I’ve ever heard.

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I am hugely grateful that we took the plunge and decided to follow our dream, and start a whole new way of living.  It’s hard work living this way, using our own coppiced woodland to provide fuel for heating, cooking and hot water.  Looking after a woodland and wetland and bog garden, of around two acres, requires every available hour of daylight and some serious wet-weather clothing.  And we’re learning as we go with the vegetable patch, expanding into poly-tunnels next year (we hope).

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Every evening brings us to the Rayburn, slightly soggy and smiling, covered with aches, wood shavings and clay.  We’re always proud of what we’ve achieved during the day, and mostly knackered but happy.  We’ve found our happy place, our next chapter.  We’re learning, day by day, to let go of the old way of doing, and focusing on being.  It takes time.

Dinah x