Letters to Heaven

Day 8, Reinvent the letter format

14

The day I was born

Dear Dad,

When I remember that you are gone, I am bathed in a deep sadness that overwhelms and consumes me. When I think of our brief time together, I feel immense gratitude to have known you as my father – yet utter despair that life’s brevity escaped me so suddenly and without warning. In my head, I replay the times I was a typical teenager – rushed, preoccupied by my own selfish adolescence, nonchalant, hot-tempered… I wish I could travel back in time, to tell you again and again how much I love you; how much you meant to me, how you were, and still are, the most incredible man I have ever known.

As a little girl, my fondest memories are of times spent with you. It was you who’d walk me around on your feet, you’d give me twizers and aeroplanes and lift me up by my ankles each time I squealed “Again! Again!” Nobody else would spend hours lining up my toy soldiers, only to knock them all down again with ping pong balls. (You imitated the best ‘man-wounded-and-falling-from-a great-height’ impression I’d ever heard!) Despite recovering from a stroke and living with epilepsy, you cared for your daughters dutifully whilst Mum was at work…

41

Sarah, Dad and me

It’s hard to believe that beneath your smiles and laughter, you felt sorrow. The doctors diagnosed you with depression, but at the time, I was too young to notice. Upon reflection, it’s no wonder why you felt immense sadness given the hardships you faced as a young man; you lost both your parents; suffered a brain hemorrhage in your twenties; and lived your life with epilepsy. Yet, in spite of all of this, you showed nothing but love towards your family, in sickness and in health. Our favorite memory is of the times we’d air guitar in the living room using Mum’s badminton rackets. We’d danced our socks off to The Police, Prince and Led Zeppelin, you would shine the lamp at our feet and bathe us in a spot light – you even taught us how to head bang! I miss those days so much…

And then Mum met somebody new. One day you were there, and the next you were living in a one bedroom flat. My world became empty and bleak, I didn’t know why you had to leave, only that our family of four suddenly became a family of three. You visited twice a week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays, but the days in between felt like a life time of waiting. I’d wait at the gate, waiting to see your face as you’d begin your steady ascent up the hill, your pockets laden with chocolate raisins for Sarah and I, and a Walnut Whip for Mum. You’d also buy me a Matchbox car each week, which I treasured as much as I treasured our make believe drives along the open roads.

23

When we were a family of four celebrating my 1st birthday

Living without you brought with it a heartbreak that my little heart wasn’t prepared for, and I longed for you to return to our house, safe under our roof. I hated the thought of you living all alone. I knew of your seizures, I’d witnessed them from an early age. The thought of you all alone made me anxious and worrisome throughout much of my childhood. I remember the days we’d collect you if it was raining heavy, the Rottweiler belonging to the tenant below would bark and snarl from behind the rickety gate. My heart would thump in my chest as we sat in the car, panicked that the ugly mutt would jump over the gate and eat you as you went by. Fears of losing you for good began to plague my sleep, I’d have nightmares that we’d become separated and I could never quite reach you; searching, always searching, until I’d wake with tears streaming down my cheeks.

Life continued much this way into my teens. Your weekly visits remained the highlight of my week. At night, we’d fall asleep listening to Coldplay, Bob Dylan and Maroon 5, you in the bottom bunk, and me in the top bunk, it was funny watching you cram your six foot two self into those tiny bunk beds. But you didn’t mind if it meant spending time with your family.

You never stopped caring for us. You nursed me when I was ill, you even carried me to bed when I drank so much Vodka with Louise that time – I was sick all over the bathroom! You hugged me when I cried, made me laugh when I was glum, and stuck up for me if anyone ever caused me upset. You brought us cups of teas and made the best (and most random) sandwich combinations ever. Your kind gestures, the way you loved us unconditionally, the way you still loved Mum and remained her faithful companion despite her decision to separate, all of those things are what made you so very special. When Lauren was born, as you held her in your arms you told her you’d love her as though she were your own, and you did until the day that you died.

7

When I lost you the second time, it felt as though someone had snatched my heart from inside my chest and replaced it with a heavy boulder. You were taken before I had the chance to say goodbye, before I could tell you how much I loved you, how much I appreciated you in my life. The thought of never seeing your face again, never feeling the warmth of your bear hugs, left me dazed and confused. Even now, ten years later, the thought of spending a lifetime without you leaves me feeling empty and numb. When I feel this way, I make a conscious effort to remember how you lived your life – smiling in the face of adversity.

And that is how I shall live mine. For every one thing that makes me feel sad, I will think of ten things that bring me joy. I will never forget the way you’d burst into fits of uncontrollable laughter, which spread like wildfire throughout our home. How can I? It happens to me at the most inappropriate of times, in a silent classroom, when I’m having my teeth polished at the dentist! Your infectious laughter is remembered by all of my friends who visited, and they talk of you with much fondness. You will always be remembered as our gentle giant. Your size thirteens were destined to leave lasting footprints in our hearts. And so, it is in your memory that I will continue to bathe the darkness with your love and light each day.

A medium once told me that you now reside in the highest of the spiritual planes. That the life lessons you faced on this earth, as well as your selfless nature, progressed you far into the high heavens. It is no wonder heaven claimed you early – to me, you were an earth angel; my very own angel Dad.

I feel blessed to have known you, to have shared my life with you, to have had you as my father. And however lonely it feels at times, I know that you will always be there for me, guiding me, surrounding me with your love.

I love you, Dad.

Loving you always, forgetting you never ❤

Hayley xx

21

Me and Dad

1 + 1 = 2

Writing 101, Day 7: Let social media inspire you

Today’s prompt was to choose one of five possible tweets as inspiration for today’s post. Since I work in a primary school and am studying for a degree in English Literature, this one stood out to me the most. (I don’t use Twitter so hopefully I have been able to imbed this tweet into my post correctly.)

primary-school-education-resources

I am somewhat torn when it comes to education, I am a student of English Literacy; but mostly, I am a student of life. I love to learn new things, but admittedly, I tend to stick to the subjects I am most passionate about and those which are relevant to my life. As a result, I am often at a tug of war when teaching from the National Curriculum; a curriculum which, with its increasing demands and emphasis on Maths and Literacy, threatens to pigeon hole children and crush creativity.

Whilst I love my job and fulfil my role to the best of my ability, I often feel torn between doing what’s right for the children, and doing what’s expected of me in terms of the National Curriculum. So much pressure is placed on schools to meet the paintinglevel of expectations in Maths and Literacy, that nurturing children’s inner passions and creativity are often pushed to one side. Children are quickly categorized into ‘lower ability,’ ‘middle ability’ and ‘higher ability’ groups based on their Math’s and Literacy results. I often find myself thinking; ‘Maybe those particular children do struggle with long division, and maybe they don’t know the difference between a verb and a noun – but has anyone noticed how well Alfie plays the drums? Has anybody else seen how intricate Libby’s drawings are and her care for detail?’

It does sadden me when children have to sacrifice their chance at creativity in favor of extra Math’s and Literacy. In an attempt to bring them up to scratch with the expected level of ‘standards’, they are taken out of lessons that aren’t viewed as ‘core subjects’, such as Art and Music. This isn’t just happening in the school I work in, it happens across the country. For all we know, Alfie could be the next Ringo Starr and Libby the next Beatrix Potter, but we won’t discover that yet because Alfie and Libby are too busy taking extra Maths and Literacy for us to nurture their God given gifts and talents.

It’s not that I don’t see the importance of Maths and Literacy, because I do; but is it really necessary for a child of eight and nine to be doing algebra and long division and calculations that are so difficult even the teachers are struggling to teach them? Surely teaching children how to save, to budget and how to handle their finances has more relevance in the real world? Take Literacy for example, is it necessary for children of primary age to know the difference between an embedded clause and a complex sentence? Or is it more important that they know how to express themselves without fear of forgetting to use the aforementioned? Or that they know how to write a letter or apply for a position in a workplace or college?

In my ideal world, all children would learn how to read and write and be taught basic Maths and Literacy at the start of each day, along with Physical Education. In the afternoons, those who wish to pursue further Maths or further Literacy are given that opportunity; those who wish to pursue Art, can, and those who wish to develop in Science or sport or languages or any other subject for that matter, can. So, in essence – an opportunity to enroll in subjects, with specialized teachers of that field, not just at college level, but at Primary level too – so that children have the freedom to explore the subjects they feel most passionate about and are encouraged to do so from a very young age. If we have the opportunity and skills to nurture our children’s inner passions and creativity whilst preparing them with valuable life skills for their future – why wouldn’t we do this? Why is the focus placed so strongly on Math’s and Literacy? Offering a varied curriculum would also open up job opportunities for parents and adults who can play music, coach sports, sew, paint, have published works etc Every one can get involved in shaping our children’s education and future – regardless of how good we are at Maths and Literacy.

When I read EJ Koh’s Tweet, I realise that I know nothing of the things I learnt in school, other than the subjects I was passionate about. I don’t remember how to do algebra, I don’t remember how to speak in French, but I do remember how to read and write; and that, for me at least, is enough.

What are your thoughts on how children should be educated?

My Writing Haven

writing

Writing 101, Day 6: The space to write

Today’s prompt asks:

  • What are your writing habits?
  • What equipment or supplies do you use to write?
  • What do you need and want in a physical space?

I am really quite old fashioned at heart. I prefer books to Kindles (I was kindly bought a Kindle as a gift, and admittedly, I used it once on holiday and returned it to the box as soon as I arrived home. It has remained there ever since.) Even if it means carrying an extra few kilos of volumes in my luggage, I’d much rather have a real book in hand than a piece of electronic equipment.

The same goes for my writing practice. I have journals and notepads galore! I just can’t get enough of them and am a bit of a geek when it comes to shopping. Mostly, you will find me in the stationary isles. I love the unique design of each, I’m usually drawn to pastels and neutral colours, with designs that incorporate birds, flowers and nature. The crisp white pages invite me to fill the blank spaces in a way that the laptop just doesn’t ignite. I can, however, see the benefits of electronic writing; it allows for easy editing and takes up less space thanks to the invention of hard drives. But there’s something about the thought of discovering the original works of writers, in the early, raw stages of production that inspires me. Many poets, such as Wordsworth and Shelley, left behind extracts of original works that evolved and changed over time, extracts that are still able to be viewed by the public today. When a piece is handwritten, it arrives at the page straight from the heart; raw and unedited, regardless of how many times it has been crossed out or altered and changed. Watching it evolve is part of the process. Often with word processing, we see only the edited, perfected piece at the end, minus the struggles, alterations and changes it took to arrive there. Each time we hit ‘save’, we lose part of the manner in which the piece unfolded and matured. For that reason, I much prefer to use my pen and type it up later; to cross out, to insert arrows or an asterix, so that I can remember the journey and not just the destination.

I’m also quite privy to a Parker. I was first bought a Parker pen when I was eleven, it was a black fountain pen with blue ink cartridges (I much prefer blue ink to black, and tend to only use black when a form requests it.) I loved the way it felt in my hand, the way the ink glided over paper, I felt so grown up. My handwriting was never quite the same when I used other pens, and equally, none of my friends at school could write neatly using my pen! It was like it was made for my hand. I still use a Parker pen today, although I have moved on since the days of my fountain pen. My partner bought me a silver ball point Parker which I simply love.

In terms of my writing space, I just need peace. A quiet space in which I can connect with my heart and my pen. I like to gather ideas and inspiration from my surroundings, conversations with people, walks and solo missions, travels near and far; but once I have gathered this information, I need a peaceful environment to retreat to. If it’s a little noisy at home, I’ll put on some classical music in the background to get me in the zone. If it’s a nice day, I will take my notepad and pen outside to write, surrounded by the beauty of nature. Otherwise, I sit in my comfy armchair in my bedroom as I am doing now. Or on the bed. I do own a writers bureau, which I love. But as much as I love having a writer’s desk in my room to house my stationary, I rarely sit at it. Simply because there’s something about sitting at a desk that reminds me of when I was a child at school, when we were expected to sit and work, or of the time I was employed in an office and I was required to sit at a desk. Whenever I sit at a desk to write, it suddenly feels like a chore. I much prefer to be comfy so that my writing is inspired rather than forced.

So there you have it! My writing habits. What are yours?

Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.

Writing 101, Day 5: Hook ’em with a quote
kindness

Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.

Dalai Lama

One thing I strive for each day, is to be kind. I don’t always get it right, but I do endeavor to be compassionate in my interactions with others; humans and animals alike. It isn’t always easy, especially when dealing with agitated or angry people. However, taking a deep breath before reacting, and ensuring that my response is honest, true and kind, helps to diffuse the situation and keep the peace most of the time. Should I falter and react from a place of ego, such as when I am tired, under pressure, or just generally feeling intolerant, then I will always seize the next opportunity to offer a heartfelt apology and to make things right again. Thankfully, forgiveness is also an act of kindness and one we should never take for granted!

kindness (1)

A simple act of kindness can leave impressions that last a lifetime, but the same can be said for unkind behavior; whether that’s yelling at the dog for getting under our feet, or snapping impatiently at a curious child who has asked too many questions, or ignoring a loved one’s efforts to tidy the house; all of these things can deeply affect those around us. Being kind is not as easy as it first sounds and I like to think that most people do not wish to intentionally hurt others, that the majority of the time we do so when we are unconscious of our words and actions. In these situations, Dalai Lama’s quote can remind us that it is always possible to be kind, even when we feel tired and stressed and agitated. That kindness is something we can all strive for, with a little patience and effort each day.

At the school I work in, we have three school rules:
Speak kindly to others;
Keep your hands, feet and objects to yourself (eg. never lash out at anyone); and
Follow instructions first time.

Whilst all three are important in keeping our pupils safe, the first two endeavor to teach our children from a very young age the importance of being kind to others. If we can nurture kindness in children, then we can also adopt the principles of compassion in our own lives and therefore, lead by example.

How can you be kinder in your interactions with others? How has kindness impacted your life?

kindness-480

Broken Promise

Writing 101, Day 4: A story in a single image

girl in woods

Here I stand as I have stood each day
since you were stolen.
And I would have you by my side should my promise
have not been broken.

My promise to Mother to keep you safe and
Never leave your side.
I told you I was collecting conkers, please forgive me
for that day, I lied.

‘Wait here!’ I said, ‘It’s denser there, not
safe for you to come.’
And off I ran to meet a boy, my
promise was undone.

Your large anxious, quizzical eyes
watched as I did part.
Clutching Bunny, your final wave engraved with
daggers on my heart.

Ten minutes I was gone for but that
time was all it took,
For you to wander some with Bunny, for you to
fall into the brook.

Rows of trees in which we played; leaves
lifted by our laughter.
Now stand before me like forgotten graves and will
Forever after.

Home

snailhome

Writing 101, Day 3: One-word inspiration

Sometimes, a single word is all you need to get your mind’s wheels turning.

The word I chose was ‘home’. I must still be in the mindset of last month’s Poetry 201 Challenge since I decided to write in the form of a poem. I have never seen myself as a poet, yet I do hope you enjoy my take on ‘home’.

Tell me, where is home?
Is it the place that one has always known?
Or the place where time is spent the most
In between travelling from coast to coast?

And tell me, am I alone,
That I should not identify with home?
Those familiar scents of toast and wood,
Reviving memories of all things good.

And please Sir, what of home,
If you should spend your days there all alone?
No callers since your family has flown.
Would this remain your safe, sacred home?

What say you? What is home?
For should I settle and no longer roam,
I shall coin a bosom to safely lay
A fine home of heart to see out my days.

Things I Like

beauty and the beast library

Writing 101, Day 2: Write a list

Things I Like…

  • The sound of rain droplets on my umbrella.
  • Books books books! The smell of them, the sound of the pages turning, the wonder that lies within…my dream is to house a library similar to Belle’s from Beauty and the Beast!
  • Disney films…ahhh the magic…
  • Being in the company of children. I love seeing the world through a child’s eyes.
  • Belly laughing! The kind that causes happy tears to stream down your face…
  • Cooking with wholefoods and proving that healthy food can taste gooooooood. (my website is ‘Wholesome Souls’ if you’d like some inspiration!)
  • Stationary. I love journals and notebooks. (Why do I feel like Forest Gump when I say that?)
  • Meditating and yoga.
  • Watching gymnasts and figure skaters. So daring and beautiful.
  • Downton Abbey and Wallace and Gromit. Basically, cosy TV which invites you to drink a cup of tea.
  • Countryside. Nature. Countryside. Oh…and did I say nature and countryside? It has healing qualities.

 

I Write Because…

writing_4

Writing 101, Day 1: I write because…

…to become a writer one must write. It really is that simple. I have this written on the first page of every notebook and journal that I own. To become a writer one must write.

This is something I told myself after months, years even, of procrastination. And I still have to remind myself of that simple truth daily. Oh…I’m too busy/stressed/tired/insert any other excuse *here*. I am ashamed to admit that I am guilty of all of the above and have blogged about my tendencies to put off the one thing I love doing more than anything else here.

Procrastination is something I battle with daily. In saying that, I am becoming much better at establishing a writing practice (WordPress writing courses have helped significantly with this!) But would you believe, I almost made an excuse not to proceed with November’s writing challenge despite really wanting to take part? (Heh hem – you’re not supposed to say ‘Yes, I can believe it…!’) I signed up to November’s Writing 101 when the first invite was emailed – yet for some reason, I didn’t receive the usual confirmation or daily prompt when the course began. I immediately took this as a ‘sign’ that I was too busy preparing to emigrate in the New Year to commit to a writing practice anyway, and that I should probably wait for the next course to come around when things would be less ‘hectic’ (how easy it was for me to slip into my old habit of delaying the writing process!!!) So I had a quiet (and very stern) word with myself and contacted WordPress support before I could convince myself any further that it would be better to wait for that ‘perfect’ moment to write (you know – that perfect moment that doesn’t actually exist unless you create it?!)

Thankfully, here I am! And hopefully, I shall remain here throughout November, come rain or shine, taking time to indulge in a little writing each day. Yes – I will be sitting my ass down daily and committing to a daily writing practice because after all; to become a writer one must write!

Mourning Dove

Poetry, Day 10: Pleasure, Sonnet, Apostrophe

morning_dew

To know you, to hold you; is a blessing;
Forgo you I shall not, be mine to keep.
And although there are times I am stressing,
you hold me close should I grow tired and weep.

You bring with you the scent of morning dew,
Your dewy droplets rain upon my face.
Washing away my weariness and blues;
Showering me with your love and your grace.

Bequeathed to me your boundless wells of love;
A gift I cannot keep for only me,
But how to awaken this mourning dove,
When her wings remain folded at her feet?

Lift these shrouds so she might fly
you are her wind, her stars and sky.