Celebrating 2017, Welcoming 2018

Happy New Year everyone! May 2018 be a year of love, success, joy and peace for all of you.

An Old Irish Blessing

May love and laughter light your days,
and warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours,
wherever you may roam.
May peace and plenty bless your world
with joy that long endures.
May all life’s passing seasons
bring the best to you and yours!

Usually I can’t wait to finish the year and start a new one, in the hope that the new one will somehow be better than the old. This year was different. At the start of 2017, I made a “good memories jar” and throughout the year, I added slips of paper with special memories of all the good things that had happened to me.

This was the cover of my jar, with images of things that are special to me.

Last night, I opened the jar.

And throughout the evening, we chose a slip and read it to each other. So saying goodbye to 2017 was a very pleasant trip down memory lane and 2018 was welcomed in with hope and joy. This was the best New Year’s Eve ever!

What New Year’s Eve traditions do you have? Share them with us in the comments.


“I’ll play tomorrow,” the child cried, while rushing headlong to maturity. Forever and forever lay ahead in golden days and unexplored dreams but the child, in petulant stubbornness, reached steadfastly for tomorrow, while today lay wasted and neglected at the door. Climb a tree? No thanks. Must watch TV. One day I shall be that princess, teenager, twenty-something. 

“I can’t wait for tomorrow, ” the teenager cried, reaching with greedy hands for independence,  sexuality, sensuality, childhood left behind like the tattered teddy bear forgotten on the porch stair. Play a game? No thanks. Must send this chat, watch this video, do my makeup. One day soon I shall find a partner, start a family.

“Not today, I’ll play with you tomorrow, ” the young mother cried, while frantically juggling home, work and family. No time to play now. Must clean the house, do the washing, cook a star meal for an ever-more-distant and stressed husband. Tomorrow I’ll play. Tomorrow I’ll be your play princess, but not today.

“There’s always tomorrow, ” the retired couple cried, while navigating a life filled with hobbies, meals, appointments with friends and living past each other every day. No time for midnight chats, afternoon love or coffee dates. Not now! Tomorrow I’ll tell you my dreams, but not today. Gotta rush… friends to see and places to be. Tomorrow I’ll see you. Tomorrow we’ll talk.

“There is no tomorrow,” the wise man said. You have only today. This day, this moment. Live it wisely. Live it fully. Give yourself fully to the task, to the person you are with. That moment will never come again. Life is NOW. Hold it NOW. Live it NOW.

Questions to ponder


Let me start by saying that the purpose of this post is not to garner sympathy or expressions of solidarity. Rather, it’s a genuine attempt to understand what other people do, and more specifically, other people of a similar age and background.

In many ways, life has become easier for the majority of middle class westerners in developed countries. We have easy access to food and water, and electricity allows us to be plugged in to entertainment and information 24/7. All of this ease comes at a price however, and the bottom line is that we have to continually earn a dollar to spend a dollar. That’s fine when you’re young, fit and healthy, but what do you do when age, health or circumstances make it difficult or impossible to earn a living in the conventional ways, or make it necessary to supplement your income in order to make ends meet?

I’ve just started this journey of discovery and wonder if others feel the same as I do. I’m fifty-five this year. Not particularly old if you ask me, but living in a country whose language is not my mother tongue and whose unemployment statistics are high and steadily rising means that I will probably never be able to find employment in the general market. Add to that my age, and I’m out for the count! Although I can earn a little by teaching English, it doesn’t pay very well, and during the summer holidays here, everything stops, including one’s earnings.

Spurred on by these thoughts, I decided to investigate other means of earning some cash, focusing primarily on Internet-related possibilities. After ruling out a number of ideas for various reasons, I settled on writing and online work and set about investigating these in more depth. After all, I’m an English teacher with a BA degree and I have a blog, so surely I should be able to make it in the world of copy writing and such? That’s what I thought!

I started my research at Textbroker.com and was surprised to find that they only accept writers living in the USA. Scratch that then! My next step was to investigate Textbroker.co.uk but they only accept people in the UK, Canada, New Zealand or Australia. So much for that idea! I moved on to the next websites on my list, which were eLance and Odesk.

A quick browse of both websites gives the impression that working online as a freelancer is as quick and easy as the click of a mouse. “Sign up right away and you’ll soon have plenty of work and much more money in the bank,” is what they would have you believe. I then did a quick stroll around some writer profiles to see what kind of background and experience people had, and that’s when my heart sank.

Seasoned writer with more than 17 years of journalism, public relations and marketing experience. I have a proven ability to produce engaging copy, meet tight deadlines, clarify complicated issues and write about a wide array of topics.

My background is in journalism and advertising. I ran my own small advertising agency for several years, which helped me hone my ability to put words together in fresh, meaningful ways. Along the way, I also created thousands of graphics for a wide range of marketing purposes. I have over 25 years of professional writing and graphic arts experience…

These are just two examples of the kind of profile that almost every person had. How could I compete with people like that in what I’m sure is an extremely competitive environment? What can I bring to the table? I don’t have any marketing/advertising/copy writing experience and if I’m honest, very little Internet experience ( I only started really using the Internet about 12 or 13 years ago and there is an awful lot I don’t understand). I’ve always been a mother first and an employee second. I have 9 months of experience teaching English in a high school and some years of freelance ESL teaching experience, but how is that going to help in this situation? My only other working experience has been my seven years as a receptionist and office manager for a dentist. Granted, I wrote quotations and reports and corresponded with the medical aid companies regarding the payment of patients’ accounts, but I don’t know how I could make that relevant.

So you’ve probably guessed that I’m feeling more than a little discouraged! I would love to know what other people think and what other people do when faced with this kind of situation. If you are my age, you’ve probably resigned yourself to the fact that you will always have to work (unless you have a secret method for winning the lottery, in which case, let me in on the secret, please!) but you realize that the opportunities for work will probably narrow as you get older. What will you do? What do you do? Please let me know in the comments.

This post was written in response to the Daily Prompt’s weekly writing inspiration.




In Search of Better Health

Hi there. I’ve been a little AWOL in the last couple of weeks, so I thought I’d let you know the reason why. My life has been turned upside down and time to think and write has been drastically cut. Nevertheless, I’m not too worried about that as I’m focused on this present journey. I need to see it to the end, or rather, to the next stage, where I hope to be able to manage my time better.

So what am I doing?  Well, after reading a very interesting book over Christmas ( It Starts With Food by Melissa and Dallas Hartwig), my husband and I decided to do a Whole30 diet month. At the moment, I’m married to the kitchen and feel like I’m spending all my spare time (and more) cooking, but I know it won’t always be like that.

What’s the Whole30 diet, you ask? In a nutshell, it’s a month of following a very strict diet of good protein, fats, vegetables and moderate amounts of fruit. Every meal (including breakfast) has the same basic make-up and snacking between meals is to be avoided if at all possible. Here comes the difficult part. You cut out all of the following foods: dairy, cereals (including rice), legumes, seed oils, sugars (of ALL kinds), soy products and all the bad things to be found in processed foods like MSG, nitrites and nitrates and sulfates. The book gives you a list of what to avoid and why it should be avoided. So you’re eating “whole” foods for 30 days.

At the end of the 30 days, you can slowly add back foods like dairy, cereal etc and you will be able to see exactly what effect they are having on your system. You can then decide if or how much you will eat those foods in the future. This allows you to end up with a personalised diet which should be right for you. The premise is that the foods you cut out may be having a bad effect on your digestive system, and consequently, on the rest of your body. According to the authors of the book, many people have seen dramatic health results from following the diet (lowered cholestrol, lowered fasting blood sugar and lowered blood pressure to name a few) and have consequently changed the way they eat permanently. Although people report losing weight on this diet, my main reason for doing it is to improve our general health and keep us healthy into the future. I like the way the book gives simple explanations of why certain food or additives should be avoided. It makes you feel that you’re making an informed choice.

If you haven’t come across this diet or read anything about it, you’re probably wondering what it’s like and how we are managing to cut out so many foods. Surprisingly, we’re managing very well, thank you! We’re on day 12 now and although we miss some things, we haven’t really felt hungry at all. It’s definitely not a diet that leaves you feeling lean and mean and craving food all day. During the first week or so I had a low level headache that just didn’t want to budge. I presume it was due to my body going through a detox process, but that has passed and I feel generally ok. I have yet to feel the surge of energy and clear mindedness that many people report, but I’m hoping that will arrive soon. My husband is Italian, so the thought of doing without pasta, pizza and risotto for a month had him quaking at the knees, but now he says he has hardly missed them (ok, he really missed his Friday pizza last week, but he held strong!).

The interesting thing about this journey is that you learn so much about yourself and your relationship with your food. We’ve realised that most of our between meals snacking is psychologically motivated and not prompted by hunger. “I could have told you that,” you say. But there’s a great difference between being told something and realising something yourself! And I’ve realised that we are stronger than we think we are.

What’s amazed me perhaps most of all is the way that I’ve been able to embrace cooking for the first time in years. I knew that if we were to succeed, I would have to make meals that were specially tasty to convince my husband to continue with this for a month. I’ve been browsing the paleo cooks’ sites and also bringing my own creativity to the pot. Who knew that a fragrant vegetable curry and fried eggs would make a good breakfast? Or that you can add spicy meatballs to vegetable soup to get some protein? Today’s surprise was a meatloaf made in the slow cooker. It was spicy with cayenne peppers and a natural spice mix and cooked in a delicious tomato gravy made from tomato pulp, salt, pepper , parsley and dried chives. I just mixed the gravy together in a cup and threw it over the meatloaf. The magic cooking process did the rest! We’re saving the recipes we really like and keeping them for the future!

Have you tried this diet or any other diet with success? I’d love to hear about it in the comments. If you are doing a Whole30, what are your secrets to success? What are your thoughts on diets and dieting in general? I’ll update later on as to how it’s going for me. Suffice to say that no sugar has passed these lips for 12 days. Amazing! And if you have any questions, fire away. I’ll answer if I can.

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Sweet and syrupy

I’ve just seen another of those saccharine posts on facebook that seem to have become the norm lately. A man is asked by his wife to take another woman out on a date. Turns out that woman is his mother, a widow. He admits not having spent much time with her recently and they spend an enjoyable evening together. She promises to go out with him again if he will allow her to pay for the meal. He agrees. Soon after, his mother dies unexpectedly. Some time later, he finds an envelope with a receipt for a pre-paid meal for two and a note from his mother telling him how much she enjoyed their time together.

Like most people, I immediately thought of my own loved ones. We are all touched by articles such as this, but I wonder how many of us act on what we’ve read. How many of us finish the article and pick up the phone to a paret, sibling, or child we haven’t spoken to in a while? Or do we make a “mental note” to be in contact more and then forget our intentions with the next post.

So much of our lives are lived online now that we need to guard against “Good Intention Syndrome”. We think about calling or writing to someone in a brief, fleeting moment, and then because we have thought about it, it’s as if it is done, and the mind moves on to other things.

I’m going to phone my dad now. He doesn’t have Facebook, so he doesn’t see my posts and my photos. If i don’t phone him, he’ll never know how much he’s on my mind. If I don’t tell him, he won’t know how much I love and respect him.

Who are you going to phone? Do it now!

To a partner who smokes

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Fear lurks in the furtherest corners of my mind, in the darkest hours of the night and in the deepest heaves of your ragged breath. Most of the time I can push the fears back, hold their heads under water until they stop struggling to manifest themselves in my over-active brain. With a final whimper, they surrender. But they aren’t gone; they merely retreat to gather strength until they can torment me again, and again, and again.

Some say that to overcome your fears, you must face them head on. So here I am, trying to verbalise something which, until now, has been a visceral reaction to your inability or refusal to change your destructive habit. Every year you have another bout of bronchitis and I wonder what kind of toll each winter is taking on your lungs and your ability to breathe. You’ve been told to stop smoking, but never seem to be able to get beyond a few days without your pacifiers. I’m not afraid of you getting sick every year. I can cope with nursing you for a few days. I’m afraid of winters and summers trapped at home because you can’t breathe enough to go out and walk about. I’m afraid of being forced to live life at your pace and not mine, and of resenting you more for it with each passing day.

I’m not afraid of you dying and leaving me before the appointed time, I’m afraid of you getting cancer. I’m afraid of having to watch you die a slow and painful death because of something you chose to do to yourself. I’m afraid of you not dying, but living on in limbo after a stroke or a heart attack. And I’m afraid of hating you for making me go through that experience.

I’m not a weak person. I’m strong. I’ve lived a lifetime with you and weathered many tears and fears. But this, this is my secret fear. And I’m afraid of the strength of my anger and resentment towards you for not taking care of yourself, for not caring that every little puff you take on those cigarettes is impacting on my life and my future as well as yours. I pray every day that I will never have to face these fears in reality, but I wait with a trembling heart.

The start of something new

Once upon a time there was a village in Africa. People in the village followed the ways of their forefathers and, as ordained by the forefathers, all the young women of the village entered womanhood through the path of a painful ritual. No one knew when the ritual had begun or why. Now it was the way because it had always been the way. Daughters wept and begged to be spared from taking part in the ritual, but were met by the stony faces of their mothers who replied, “We did not die from the pain. Neither will you. No decent boy will want you if you are not cut.”
And so a new generation joined their mothers in a horrific continuation of painful abuse, whose far-reaching effects stained their lives as mothers and wives.

Nancy and Gertrude were two young girls who should have been cut already, but they were fighters. Nancy absolutely refused to have it done. She had ambitions to complete her schooling and train for something which would equip her to return to the village and help her people to improve their lives. Marriage, which would immediately follow the ritual, was not in her immediate plans.

Gertrude too, was adamant in her determination not to be cut. A soft spoken and generally obedient child, she was to be married after the ritual so that her family could use her dowry to eucate her brothers. She wanted to continue her studies and dreamt of being a doctor one day. She was fortunate to have a mother who was her ally, who didn’t want her only daughter to suffer the pain and abuse that she had suffered. Nevertheless, her father was determined that she must suffer the ritual cut and be married as soon as possible. A husband had been found and the dowry had changed hands.

Into this situation came a group of people who were determined to change the lives of girls from the Pokot villages. Some were from the tribe and some were from without. Together they began to formulate an alternative ritual, one without cutting, which would symbolize the move from childhood to womanhood. It was hoped that the new ritual would gradually become accepted until there would be no need for the cutting ritual.

After much planning, the day of the new rite of passage dawned. Surprisingly, a substantial number of girls attended the special “camp”. Nancy quickly showed her leadership qualities and was chosen by the girls to be their spokesman at the final ceremony. Her speech at the ceremony was passionate and articulate. Elders and parents alike listened with new respect. It was a new beginning…

Written in response to the monthly writing competition prompt over at elizabethfrattaroli. Although this being a true story may disqualify it, I would like to share it if I may. Thank you.

This is a true story. Every year, many young girls undergo the painful ritual described here. But the alternative ritual and Nancy and Gertrude are real too. You can watch the video of their story here.

Update:I did an internet search to find more information. Nancy and Gertrude have continued their secondary schooling which appears to be funded by money collected by the Guardian after the screening of the video in which their story was told. Cath Holland, the Lancashire midwife who started the campaign for an alternative ritual by inviting local midwives to Britain and educating them on the dangers of FGM, is still passionately involved in the campaign to end it. There are many worldwide campaigns to end this violent practice. If you want to help, google “end FGM”and support one of them.

Posted on the run


My heart is also sore today. I can claim no right to be hurt and indignant, other than that someone who is kind and loving has been treated in the most undeserved way and that they have had to endure pain, heartache and genuine hardship because of this treatment.
Rara, I hardly know you and Dave, but I feel your love and kindness through your blog. I am so sad that you have to go through this. I am amazed at your strength and your ability to remain true to yourself. I am spreading a little rawrlove for you. Thank you for sharing your posts and making my life more insightful and loving.
Sincerely, Margaret


This is Cervino, The Matterhorn to most of the world. Look at the blue of the sky and the pure white of the snow. It has been there for millenia, and will continue to be there for many more. It is beaten by the rain, hail and snow. It is battered by the heavy winter gales. The sun beats down on it in summer. But it is steadfast and remains. It reminds me that Faith, Love, and Friendship will endure. Weeping endures for a night, but Joy comes in the morning. That is my sincere prayer for you and your family.
Posted on the run


Afternoon tea, every Englishman’s dream
Cucumber sandwiches, scones with cream
Boy, twelve, rapes girl, ten
What is happening to the sons of men?

County cricket so sportingly civil
A day at the races talking of drivel
Man knifes partner after stalking
And here we are talking

Of Big Brother and film stars
New diets and fast cars
Scratch the veneer and
The beast will appear

Violent, ferocious, voracious
Our appetites capacious
We turn upon ourselves
Feed upon each other

Note: This post was inspired by various news items on the English news. It could just as easily have been inspired by the news from any other country in the world. I’m not suggesting that the English are uncivilised, but that we all are to some extent. If you have an opinion, please make a comment. Thank you.

Posted on the run

Marry in Haste, Repent at Leisure

Recently I found, to my own chagrin, that this timeless adage applies not only to the most important decision of anyone’s life, but also to other, almost equally important, decisions. Here’s what happened.

About a month ago, in a frenzy of excitement about Poetry Out Loud and poetry in general, I decided to open another blog. It was a brilliant idea! A blog dedicated to poetry of all kinds, it would showcase not only classic poetry, but also the poetry that I found while browsing WordPress, and which I felt deserved to be shared.

It was so easy to click those buttons, and before I knew it, I had a name, theme and blog all set up and waiting to be filled. Ah! There’s the rub! Filling that blank page was not so easy. I hadn’t thought about the fact that contemporary poetry is still under copyright, and can’t just be copied and pasted. Scratch that idea. I don’t have the time or money to go the right route with that. That left classic poetry and WordPress poets, both of which require time and dedication to read widely and choose wisely. Time I don’t have.

I stewed over the site for a few weeks, anxiety eating at me as I thought of how I was wasting time while I frantically tried to fit in reading and looking for poems, neglecting this blog, my first love. In the end, there was only one thing to do: my new blog and I went through a brief and (relatively) painless divorce. I deleted it. It’s gone. I’m over it. So learn from my mistakes, dear reader: marry in haste, repent at leisure. Think well before you jump into a new blog marriage, or you may be regretting it before long.

Have you made any major blog mistakes? What have you learnt along the way? I would love to hear about it.

Update May 2014: Shadowofiris is exactly the type of poetry blog I had in mind. Visit there for poetry of all types and shades organised by theme (separation, acceptance, longing are some examples). I also love the poems about turtles.