Sunday, 16 February 2014

One thousand gifts

I picked up a book today called One Thousand Gifts. It was just what I needed at the end of the blah week that I’m been having. Overwhelmed by decisions, and underwhelmed by routines and the ordinary-ness of it all. No grand adventures lined up. No New York trip just around the corner. Just ordinary days, our ordinary selves, hanging out at our ordinary home. 

I’ve picked up my camera a lot this week. This morning I looked through the photos, and smiled, and was reminded of this: that ordinary is what our lives really are made up of. And that ordinary can be extraordinary if you take the time to stop, and notice, and breathe it in. A candle-lit meal. A quiet Sunday afternoon, time marked by the ticking clock, and the smell of baking banana bread filling the air. A small girl sprawled across her bed, resting and growing and dreaming of her next adventure. 

Reading One Thousand Gifts this afternoon, I came across this:

Gratitude for the seemingly insignificant – a seed – this plants the giant miracle. Do not disdain the small. The whole of the life – even the hard – is made up of the minute parts, and if I miss the infinitesimals, I miss the whole. There is a way to live the big of giving thanks in all things. It is this: to give thanks in this one small thing. The moments will add up.

I am so grateful - forever- to my husband for the gift of my camera. Because with it, came a much more precious gift – a greater awareness of everyday things that I barely noticed before. The inspiration to look for, and find, the beauty in both the big adventures, and the small moments that make up our sweet life. And a way to forever freeze those moments that make my heart swell with love, or gratitude, or joy.

I’m learning after all this time to let go of the ‘good’ or ‘bad’ photo. And rather to focus on the moment – the celebration, the people I love, the memories we share. Some photos are prettier than others. But blurry, or grainy, or beautiful -  each one has it’s unique place in our story.

I can’t think of one thousand things yet that I’m thankful for. But I’m going to start my list with these four.

We celebrated Rob’s birthday. Immy and I went shopping (as per tradition) so that she could pick out a gift from her to him. This year, she chose a striped beach towel, four Easter egg racing cars and a purple dinosaur gift bag. I found the perfect gifts, the perfect card and was off the hook for the perfect cake because my baker husband was in the kitchen for six hours making his signature New York cheesecake at the request of his colleagues. His cheesecake is amazing. The best I've ever tasted, and that INCLUDES the cheesecake I had in New York.

Valentine’s Day. Flowers, and hearts, and dinner for three under the night sky. We managed to identify Orion's Belt in the patch of stars above us, and we watched a glowing full moon rise above the trees. Immy declared our evening of eating outdoors in the dark to be an  inventure.

This beautiful girl who lights up our world with her every breath. I am more amazed by her every day - her uniqueness, independence, her fun-loving spirit. These photos were randomly taken on different days, at different times. Always in the garden, always accessorised, keeping herself quietly busy and putting her babies to bed.

An old flame rekindled. Some nights I sit down at the piano after Immy goes to bed and before I know it two hours have gone by. I think I've really missed this. 

My day of reflection ended with us reading Julia Donaldson’s A Squash and a Squeeze before bed. If you haven't read it, it's a children's book about a woman who complains that her house is too small. And when the wise man changes absolutely nothing for her except her perspective, he changes absolutely everything.

In the here. And the now. And the ordinary.  

Give thanks.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Celebrating One. And Twenty.

My friend has the most adorable one-year old girl. And for some reason, whenever I see her, in my mind I become a bit - Scottish? Irish? - with the following sorts of phrases springing alarmingly to mind.

Aye, she's a bonny wee lass.Or: Oh! What a bonny smile she has, the wee one. Or: aye, she's a beauty, and a bonny one at that. 

Bizarre. KIND OF EMBARRASSING. But true. 

We celebrated her first birthday a couple of weekends back. Sticking up hair, the twinkliest brown eyes and a smile that could melt the edge off winter.

My lovely Immy made friends with lovely Emma. They were inseparable for most of the party. There were bangles, divided and shared. Fairies and other treasures to be discovered. And Amy, the doll,  handed backwards and forwards between them.

Matching husbands with matching smiles. And beers.


Her mama and I have been friends for twenty years. Two decades of celebrating the big and small things. A stint in a dingy London flat, awful jobs, boyfriends-turned-husbands, brownies, bridesmaids, and baby showers. So many laughs along the way, and more tears than could be reckoned with in the face of crushing, incomprehensible loss.

Sometimes we look at each other in surprise and wonder - when did we get married? And have kids? And stop BEING kids ourselves?

Since this post is about beautiful Mika celebrating her first birthday, I found an Irish blessing for the wee birthday girl. For all of us, really. Irish accent optional. 

May God grant you always...
A sunbeam to warm you, 
A moonbeam to charm you, 
a sheltering angel so nothing can harm you.
Laughter to cheer you.
Faithful friends near you.
And whenever you pray,
Heaven to hear you.