It's Not What ....

How are you this Monday?

It's November and here in the northern hemisphere winter appears to be upon us. In Jersey, it's been a wild and raw weekend. Storm Arwen hit the British Isles bringing gale force winds and, in some areas, devastation in its wake. And parts of the UK have snow already!

It's easy at times like this just to want to hunker down, stay indoors, hibernate. This time of year can make you feel less optimistic, less hopeful. I know that's the case for me anyway. What is it about the cold and dark mornings that makes you feel less than 'get up and go'?

But there is light in the darkness.

We're now in the season of Advent, the month-long run up to Christmas, which is a lovely time for us to look forward with anticipation and to raise our spirit and to change our mindset. To see life differently.

The theme for the first week of Advent (which began yesterday) is HOPE.

So if you need a little hope and encouragement to start your week ... here's something that might help.

Have a great day everyone!

It's not what you do

The Candle of Hope

Today we mark the start of Advent - the month long preparation for Christmas.

I can't believe we're almost at the end of year ... but here we are.

What a year 2021 has been! We started out at the height of the global COVID-19 pandemic ... we were in another lockdown, having already experienced nine months of restrictions. Christmas last year was a bit of a washout ... we couldn't gather in numbers, churches were shut and shops pretty much closed. Back in January coronavirus numbers were still very high, there were many many sick people and, sadly, many people were dying.

In January this year there was a little hope on the horizon. We were just beginning to see a glimmer of light with the news that the first COVID-19 vaccines were beginning to be rolled out, certainly in the British Isles. And here in Jersey those first vaccines were being delivered by the end of January.

Today, at the end of November and as we step into Advent, many of us (in developed nations at least) have either been privileged to be vaccinated or at least have the option to be vaccinated and although Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is still around and people are still contracting the virus, the widespread roll out of the vaccine means that, at the moment, fewer people are getting sick and deaths appear to be lower than at the height of the pandemic. Let's pray that continues!

So today, on the first Sunday of Advent, it's appropriate to talk about hope!

Each year during this season running up to Christmas and the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, many churches and individuals use candles to mark this holy time. The Advent wreath is often used as well  ... and this usually includes four candles which are lit on the four Sundays in Advent. Sometimes there's a final fifth candle which is placed in the middle of the wreath, and which is lit on Christmas morning (Dec 25).

Did you know that in some religious traditions, each of the Advent candles represent something different?

And the first candle - the one we will light today on this first Sunday of Advent - symbolises HOPE.

It's called the "Prophet’s Candle" and links Christmas today  to the prophets of the Old Testament, who foretold the coming of the Messiah, the one to be sent from God who would save the world. Christians believe that person is Jesus Christ and yet many centuries before his birth in Bethlehem at the time of the Roman Empire, the prophet Isaiah told of the birth. In Chapter 9 (v 6) in the book of the Bible named for him we read this:

First Sunday in AdventFor unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

The Old Testament prophets, especially Isaiah, waited in hope for the Messiah’s arrival and often the first candle in Advent is purple which symbolizes royalty, repentance, and fasting. 

This Christmas hope is still in the air. Hope that humankind will come through this dreadful pandemic. Hope that people will be drawn together through adversity. 

And from the Christian perspective ... Hope that people will recognise Jesus this Christmastime, as he comes once again to our world, to bring everlasting peace and joy and to make life beautiful and full of promise and love.


Laugh Out Loud

Every now and again on a Saturday morning I find myself slumped in front of the TV with the remote control, not particularly thinking about what I'm watching.

News? So exhausting and depressing!

Food shows? So many cooking shows with lots of so called celebrities chatting inanely about nothing ... boring! Too many of those and they're all the same.

No, I want a bit of escapism on a weekend ... sit coms and even cartoons.

Now call me childish ( I don't care actually) but SpongeBob SquarePants makes me laugh out loud. It's so silly, yet positive and uplifting.

The cartoon is about a character called SpongeBobSquarePants ... an optimistic yellow sea sponge who lives with his friends underwater, in the fictional submarine city of Bikini Bottom. He lives in a submerged pineapple and his one great ambition in life is to obtain a boat-driving license from Mrs. Puff's Boating School, but he never succeeds.

SpongeBob's favourite things to do include "jellyfishing", catching jellyfish with a net in a manner similar to butterfly catching, and blowing soap bubbles into elaborate shapes. His pet is called Gary - he's a sea snail with a pink shell and a blue body who meows like a cat. His best friend lives two houses away -  Patrick Star, a dim-witted yet friendly pink starfish who resides under a rock.

It's all completely bonkers, and of course, pitched just right for the younger viewer. 

SpongeBobSquarePants is an award winning cartoon series which has captivated the imagination of kids since 1999 - several generations of kids have grown up with him and while they are enjoying the colour and silliness they are also learning about marine life and what happens under the sea. What I didn't realise until I started investigating is that SpongeBob's creator - Stephen Hillenburg - was not just an animator but also a marine science educator and teacher.

He was passionate about the marine environment and as well as two Emmy Awards and six Annie Awards for SpongeBob SquarePants, and the Television Animation Award from the American National Cartoonists Society, Hillenburg was also honoured with an accolade from the U.S. environmental advocacy group Heal the Bay for his efforts on highlighting marine life awareness.

Sadly, in 2017, Stephen Hillenburg was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). He worked on SpongeBob for as long as possible, but sadly died on November 26th 2018 at the age of 57.

So today, in his honour, I share this SpongeBob thought with you. Spongebob laughter

We can all learn from simple things - like a kid's cartoon. For children, life can seem so simple. We adults sometimes just over-complicate things!

That's why, every now and then, I like to sit and drink my Saturday coffee and eat my toast and Marmite (yes, I like Marmite) with a cheery fun-filled SpongeBob and his buddy Patrick, and all the other friends living in Bikini Bottom ... too many to mention here, but if you want to switch them on sometime you'll soon get to know them.

I know some of you will think I'm mad and say 'she's losing it in her old age' ... but, as I said before, I really don't care.

Life can be so depressing and sometimes we just need to step away and into a brighter world and trying smiling and laughing a bit more. 

So today, let's be happy. Laugh for no reason whatsoever.

Let's all be More SpongeBob!






Always Believe in Yourself

Are you full of self- belief? 

Or are you someone who doubts your own ability? 

I'm a bit of a mix really. I go through times when I feel so optimistic, positive and confident. And then, days I wake up feeling so uncertain. Those are usually times - like right now - when I'm just tired and finding it hard to focus.

It's when I have moments like this that I try to remember all the things I've done in my life to make myself realise that I can cope with most things that are thrown at me ... I've proved it in the past... but sometimes it doesn't make the challenge any easier. 

I think I am, by and large, a 'glass half full' sort of person, but I do need to encourage myself and remind myself from time to time to just Believe in Myself.

Here's a great image and saying which helps me to do that!

If you're having a wobbly moment or ten, hope this helps you!

Happy Friday everyone! 

Believe in yourself

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today in the USA is Thanksgiving!

It's the annual holiday, celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November, which goes back to the earliest days of the country that became the United States of America.

Back in 1621, a year after the Pilgrim Fathers (and Mothers) landed at Plymouth Colony on America's north east coast - in the present day state of  Massachusetts - those early settlers held a harvest feast and religious service to celebrate a successful first growing season at the Plymouth Plantation. A year before they had been in dire straits after the journey on the Mayflower ship which brought them from England to a life in the New World where they hoped to be able to live peacefully and to worship as they wished, as English Protestant Puritans.  The journey and first months in the new country had seen disease and many deaths but there was still reason to celebrate a year into their new adventure.

What started out as sporadic autumn harvest or early winter feasts accompanied by religious observances, down the years became incorporated into the American way of life and a civil tradition which today is called 'Thanksgiving'.  Today also marks the beginning of the fall-winter holiday season, which includes Christmas and the New Year and it's a  day for celebrations including festivals and parades, fun, food, family and friends. 

Although, of course, we all know it's good to give thanks EVERY DAY, I do love the idea of one day being set aside where we can think about everything we've been given and say 'thank you'. A day set aside to be grateful and feel appreciation, to thank each other and to thank the Almighty for all his goodness to us, if we're that way inclined.

So today, let's reflect on all the things we have for which we could or should give thanks.

The people who are precious to us - family, friends - our homes and work, the comforts we experience, the love in our lives, the places we live in - the sea and ocean, the beaches and the fresh air. These gifts are on my Thanksgiving List.

I know not everyone may feel blessed, but I hope we all have something which we may give thanks for today - even if it's just the life we have, the air we breathe and the sight of the sky and the sun.

Happy thanksgiving poemI love this poem by the American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson - it sums up this spirit of appreciation.

It's just so simple. It's not about 'stuff', or things we've acquired, or great success.

It's just the world we are blessed to inhabit, the natural world and the dawn of every new day, and the love of family and friends. 

Simple Thanks! 

And we don't have to live in the USA or be Americans to be thankful.

That saying ...

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends.

Have a wonderful day!!



Black Beauty

I'm thinking a lot about writing at the moment - I'm in the final stages of writing my next book, with my friend Debbie Duncan, on the subject of Kindness. I think I've told you that before.

And as a result I've been thinking about some of the books that have influenced me and that captured my imagination so much that it made me want to write.

One of the those is a brilliant book called Black Beauty ... by an amazing author - Anna Sewell!

And it was on this day - November 24th - in the year 1877 that the book was published. 

If you've never read it ... spoiler alert ... it's the story of a horse, told from the animal's perspective.  It's as if the horse is talking to us about his life, starting in the idyllic countryside as a carefree foal playing in the fields with his mother and other horsey friends, and then, being sold on and sold on and having all sorts of experiences - hardships as well as kindnesses - before, as he grows older and less attractive and less useful to human owners, eventually ending up as a cab horse in London. 

I remember reading that part of the book especially - the terrible treatment of the horses, but also the horrible lives of the cab drivers. I remember actually shedding a tear when Beauty recognises his friend from years ago in happier times - Ginger - and then seeing her broken body being hauled away to the knackers yard ... as the toil of being a cab horse catches up with her. And I remember crying again when Beauty is finally recognised and taken back for a happy retirement in the countryside.

'Black Beauty was actually Anna Sewell's only book ... amazing! She was obviously a beautiful writer and a true observer of life .. how else might she have written the descriptions, especially of the cruelty to animals in mid-Victorian England?

I read Black Beauty first as a child, and it's always been considered as a children's novel, but I've learned that Miss Sewell did not write it for children. She is quoted as saying that her purpose in writing the novel was "to induce kindness, sympathy, and an understanding treatment of horses". She'd apparently read an essay on animals by Horace Bushnell (1802–1876) entitled "Essay on Animals" and that obviously deeply affected her.

Her story stirred the conscience of a nation who began to recognise the plight of working animals ... in fact Miss Sewell is said to have been instrumental in the abolition of the cruel practice of using the checkrein (or "bearing rein"). This was a strap which was used to keep the horses head high which fashionable people loved ... it was a trend ... but unfortunately it really damaged the horse's neck. Oh, and Black Beauty also mentioned the use of blinkers on horses, suggesting that this could cause accidents at night because it interfered with "the full use of" a horse's ability to "see much better in the dark than men can."

Black Beauty: His Grooms and Companions, the Autobiography of a Horse (to give the book it's full title) was actually written in the final years of Miss Sewell's life. She had been ill and an invalid since she was sick at the age of 14, and she never married. She was originally from Norfolk, in Eastern England, one of my favourite places on earth ... I lived there for quite a few years. Anna moved and lived in a few different places (including Bath  in Western England ... another of my favourite places ... I went to university there) but eventually returned to Norfolk.

By the time she was completing Black Beauty she was living in Old Catton, a village north of Norwich ... I have friends who live there! She spent about six years perfecting the book during which time her health really declined. I've learned that she was often so weak that she was confined to bed, writing became a challenge and in the final years Anna dictated her story to her mother or wrote on bits of paper when she had the energy, which her mother than transcribed.

And, in fact, Anna Sewell died just five months after the publication of Black Beauty, but fortunately it was an immediate success so she did live to see how well her book was accepted. With fifty million copies sold, Black Beauty is one of the best-selling books of all time, but I'm so pleased that she knew how much she was appreciated.

While its theme of of animal welfare is paramount in the book, Black Beauty also teaches how to treat people with kindness, sympathy, and respect. And that has to inspire us all, surely?

I could have presented you with lots of different Anna Sewell quotes today - there are lots to choose from - but this one really captured my imagination, as her book did so many years ago. Knowing how she suffered in her life and yet was still able to write such a wonderful story is just so inspirational. She used her time well and wisely, even though she was so ill! 

Anna Sewell gave a great gift to the world and left a wonderful legacy. And she was a wise woman.

And she inspires me today to make sure I don't waste time on ... nothingness ... or bother, worry, anxiety.

To make the most of every moment!

Anna Sewell quote

Enjoy the Good Things

Just a quick one today!

From a couple of my favourite philosophers ... the kids from 'Peanuts'.

If you're like me and a 'bit of a worrier' then you'll know this to be true!

Worry saps the life out of you, takes away your peace and can rob you of your wellbeing.

It's easier said that done, I know, but really worrying endlessly about everything ... including the things that have happened in the past (which we can't change) and what is to come ... just steals your joy. Over the years I've realised this and tried to ensure my 'worry wart' nature doesn't get the better of me. 

But, from time to time, it is good to be reminded of the pointlessness of that kind of gut wrenching anxiety!

So - thanks ... Charlie Brown and Linus!

Deep breath ... it's Tuesday!

Enjoy the Good things today!


Peanuts feb 12 worry

Motivational Monday

Ok. We're heading into a new week.

And I thought we'd start on a positive note.

Why not? Start as we mean to go on?

So here's a thought for Monday ... and it's a challenging one.

If we wander through life with 'closed' minds ... never open to new ideas or concepts or philosophies ... then it's likely we'll miss out.

We might not like everything we hear, or learn ... and keeping our minds open doesn't mean we have to embrace every whacky idea around. But maybe, just maybe, if we keep our minds open to the possibility that life might be different to what we are currently envisaging or living ... we may be surprised with the outcome.

Have a great week everyone!

Monday motivation

Motivational Monday

Ok. We're heading into a new week.

And I thought we'd start on a positive note.

Why not? Start as we mean to go on?

So here's a thought for Monday ... and it's a challenging one.

If we wander through life with 'closed' minds ... never open to new ideas or concepts or philosophies ... then it's likely we'll miss out.

We might not like everything we hear, or learn ... and keeping our minds open doesn't mean we have to embrace every whacky idea around. But maybe, just maybe, if we keep our minds open to the possibility that life might be different to what we are currently envisaging or living ... we may be surprised with the outcome.

Have a great week everyone!

Monday motivation

Jesus Will Still be There!

On this Sunday I just want to share one of favourite songs with you.

Down the years this song has been really given me strength!

As time has passed, and lots of my dreams and wants and desires just didn't materialise. As my personal circumstances have altered, when I've found myself with nothing and everything in tatters. And when things have miraculously (it seems) and suddenly improved and light has shone into my darkness.

The song is called 'Jesus will still be there' and it's by a great American all-female Christian contemporary music group ... Point of Grace. Years ago I acquired one of their double CD albums and this track spoke to me then and continues to do so all these years later. I also love listening to them online ... they have a YouTube channel!

I haven't talked a LOT about my Christian faith over this past year ... as I've tried to bring a thought via this daily blog 'One Day at a Time' ... because I know not everyone has a faith or believes in that stuff. But I do hope my 'ramblings' have helped someone. 

However, right now this song is meaning more to me than ever.

Not that I'm in a 'bad' place ... it's just that life isn't quite as I might have envisaged back when I was in my 20s and even 30s ... or 40s. It's different ... yes rather stressful for all sorts of reasons ... and different.  I've never been one to look into the future too much ... perhaps that's been part of the problem because maybe I wasn't determined enough back in the day ... perhaps I didn't go for what I wanted bravely enough. But I'm not one to regret decisions, and life is what it is. 

But all down the line, Jesus HAS been there, in all my circumstances.

I might not have taken much notice of him at times,  but he's not deserted me. I might have gone my own way, but he's always been waiting just to welcome me back when I come to my senses. I might have felt isolated and abandoned, but then I feel the comfort of his spirit and realise that I'm not, actually, alone in this universe. Or I hear a piece of music like this ... and once again I am inspired to go on with life.

I don't know where you are in your life right now... but if this helps... then I'm happy.

You might want to listen to the song from YouTube attached here ... but if not then maybe just reflect on  the words:

Jesus will still be there"Jesus Will Still Be There"

Things change, plans fail.
You look for love on a grander scale.
Storms rise, hopes fade
and you place your bets on another day.
When the going gets tough, when the ride's too rough,
when you're just not sure enough.

Jesus will still be there.
His love will never change,
Sure as a steady rain,
Jesus will still be there.
When no one else is true,
He'll still be lovin' you.
When it looks like you've lost it all
And you haven't got a prayer,
Jesus will still be there.

Time flies, hearts turn,
a little bit wiser from lessons learned.
But sometimes weakness wins
and you lose your foothold once again.
When the going gets tough, when the ride's too rough,
when you're just not sure enough.

Jesus will still be there.                                                                        When no one else is true,
His love will never change,                                                                  He'll still be lovin' you.
Sure as a steady rain,                                                                            When it looks like you've lost it all
Jesus will still be there.                                                                        And you haven't got a prayer,
                                                                                  Jesus will still be there