#Lockdown ‘Every cloud has a Silver Lining’ #MondayMotivation #MondayBlogs

I live in Spain and we’ve been on Lockdown for ten days now due to the Covid-19 virus and I haven’t written a single post, until today.

I’m not going to talk about facts and figures, prevention, medicine or science, because I’m not an expert on any of those major aspects and there’s plenty of reliable information online.

I’m going to write about my personal reflections, feelings and how my life is being affected by the lockdown. This means owning both the positive as well as the negative experiences derived from imposed isolation, because every cloud has a silver lining.

First I’m going to tell you about the clouds, or what I miss:

 

1) Hugging my children and grandchildren. 

I have four wonderful grandchildren (ages 3,5,6, and 9, and a fifth on the way!) I love playing board games, ping pong, telling stories, going to parks and fun fairs, or just chatting with them. 

My husband and my daughter walking in the countryside, near where I live.

2) My daily walks.

My husband and I have retired recently and we enjoy long (2-3 hour) daily walks. We choose different parts of the town and countryside, have a coffee or a beer on the way there or back, depending on the time. We chat, take photos, pop in to museums or exhibitions, wherever takes our fancy. No walks allowed now.

I took this picture of some of my oldest friends last year at a local flower festival ‘Flora’

3) Going out with friends.

I enjoy going out with friends. We go to the movies, to a coffee shop, window shopping, real shopping, or out for drinks and tapas. No going out with friends.

 

Last year we popped over to Bari, on a bargain Ryanair flight, just for the fun of it!

4) Impromptu outings

We love getting in the car and popping over to Malaga (an hour and a half drive) to walk along the seafront, or to meet up with friends and family, or to any other city for a day trip, weekend at home or abroad.

60th Birthday Party at home with some of my best friends!

5) Receiving guests

I love cooking and having guests, especially when the weather’s nice and we can eat in the garden. On other occasions, friends come over for tea or coffee, some home-cooked cake and a chat. 

Secondly, this is my silver lining, or what I can appreciate about this situation.

1) More time to write. 

I’ve just finished and sent the umpteenth draft of my latest novel to my editor, Alison Williams. I managed, to block out the lockout and get on with it with no one to distract me. I plan to continue with other unfinished novels and literary projects, too.

2) More time to read

My TBR pile is slightly smaller! At the moment I’m reading and enjoying When We Believed in Mermaids by Barbara O’Neal, on my kindle and listening to L J Ross’s Alexander Gregory Thriller, Impostor, its Book 1 in the series (I read Book 1 first by mistake!). She’s a wonderful author as I learned when I read her DCI Ryan Mysteries.

The Alexander Gregory Thrillers

3) Watching series I never have time for.

I’m not much of a TV viewer, but I was able to binge watch over a couple of days, eight episodes of The Stranger, by Harlan Coben staring Richard Armitage.

4) Phoning + texting friends and family 

I’ve spent the last few days contacting friends and family all over the world, by phone, text and email, making sure they’re all OK. I haven’t finished yet, there are still a few more to contact.

With my three best friends from London University, celebrating our 60th birthday, last July, back on our College site, now luxury residential homes.

5) A time for introversion and reflection.

I’ve never been faced with so much time for myself or so much worry about family, friends and myself. Facing one’s own vulnerability in such an unpredictable world is daunting. Facing our finite and limited time on earth and the possibility of illness, or even death in complete isolation was not how I expected to spend 2020.

Momento Mori is not welcome, but it’s a necessary reminder that my life is brief and finite and every moment is precious.

Stay safe, virtual hugs and love to you all.

#MondayBlogs My 11 Positive Affirmations #MondayMotivation

I’ve recently experienced an important milestone in my life, my retirement, after 38 years a teacher. In the months leading up to my retirement, and beyond, I’ve had a lot of time, and desire, to think about my life so far, goals achieved, goals to be achieved, done lists, to do lists, etc.

I’ve also been listening to a lot of Ted Talks and reading motivational books, both of which I’ll be gradually reviewing and discussing in future blog posts.

There’s plenty of information on the Internet regarding affirmations. This post is about my daily affirmations and what they mean to me and do for me. I hope they’ll be useful for you, too.

Why do we need positive affirmations?

It’s simple, we need to counteract negativity, which is harmful and far too easy to get stuck in. If you want to know more about how negativity works and how to avoid it, listen to Alison Ledgerwood’s Ted Talk, which has been watched by almost nine million people on the Ted website and Youtube.

We need to promote optimistic thoughts and counteract the power of negativity with positive affirmations.

What are positive affirmations?

Well, in spite of being very simple, the process is complex, because you have to be convinced it’s worth investing in them, which is a personal and non-transferable procedure each one of us has to go through themselves. However I hope my affirmations will help you think about your own.

This Ted Talk by Marisa Peer was an eye opener for me about the power of positive affirmations. Here’s another one of her talks about affirmations.

My 11 Daily Affirmations

  1. I am enough
  2. I am complete
  3. I am safe
  4. I am ageless
  5. I am limitless
  6. I am loved
  7. I am loving
  8. I am loveable
  9. I am wise
  10. I am grateful
  11. I am a writer

These affirmations are like the tip of an iceberg. Each three words have a much deeper meaning and conjure up a complex and life-changing thought processes.

As an example, I’ll explain what each affirmation means to me, so when I say it, I’m encompassing a much wider meaning in just three words.

  1. I am enough. This is the first one, and in fact, I believe it’s the only one you need, literally it’s enough, because you are enough. Try saying this sentence changing the emphasis in each word: I am enough, you and just you, not anyone else. I AM enough, because you consciously accept your responsibility in the action. I am ENOUGH, you have the power to decide what you want to be and when it’s enough, so You. Are. Enough.
  2. I am complete. This one is complementary to the previous one, I am enough and I am complete as I am. I am the sum of my physical, emotional and intellectual being, my likes, loves, achievements, hopes, knowledge, every day of my life, all of it is part of me, I’m complete in myself, because I’m the sum of everyone I’ve loved and will love, of everything I’ve done and will do, etc. I am a whole person, as I am.
  3. I am safe. I cover my basic needs every day, I have a job, a roof over my head, food on my plate, clothes, etc. I need not fear I’ll lose that safety, because I will lose everything at the end of my life. We all know life is transitory, but we can’t live in constant fear of losing what we have. I choose to feel safe at this moment.
  4. I am ageless. Age is just a number, it only means what we want it to mean. I’m 60 and I can do the same things I did when I was 50. I’m aware that not everyone can say the same, there may be some things we can’t do now and could do ten years ago, but are those things solely due to age? I bet most of them aren’t directly age related. People die, become ill, lose a limb, have accidents, fall in love, make friends, go to the gym, etc. at every age, so what’s all the fuss about age? Let’s think about the positive aspects of the passing of years, embrace the stage of life you’re at. I’m now helping to bring up grandchildren instead of my own children, it’s not the same and neither am I, but my ability as a grandmother is linked to my age in a positive way, that means I’m wiser. I refuse to be defined by a number.
  5. I am limitless. I can do whatever I really want to do, that means that what I want, really want, has to be backed up by motivation, effort, hard work. I decide on my limits because I decide how much effort I’m going to put into any project, be it preparing a marathon, learning a language or writing a novel. I decide how much time, finance, and effort I am willing to devote to each project. I am limitless, because I choose my limit.
  6. I am loved. This is not only about romantic love, it’s about love in a wider sense, including fondness and friendship. Think about or make a list of people who love you, who value you in a wider sense, this includes family members, friends, colleagues, neighbours, and it can even include people you haven’t seen for a long time, or people you don’t know, such as your fans etc. We can be and are loved by people who are not standing beside us at this precise moment. Recognise and value all the people who have ever loved you.
  7. I am loving. I love, again in the wider sense of value, appreciate and care about, other people, because love is a two way street, in fact if you made a list, the vast majority of names will be the same in both lists.
  8. I am loveable. This refers to the future. I can be loved, because I am enough, I am loving, I am not an island. I am worthy and available to be loved, because I give love and I am open to love, so I will receive it, too.
  9. I am wise. We all have abilities and knowledge depending on our training, jobs, books read, travels, hobbies, life events, family, etc. I can’t make a pavlova, but I make a mean paella, I don’t know anything about surgical processes, but I could translate a novel from various languages into English. I don’t know everything, no one does, but I can do many things, and I know plenty of things, so I am wise. I will honour and acknowledge what I know and can do.
  10. I am grateful. Finally, we all have things we feel fortunate for, some we’ve worked for like a profession and others we were born with, such as green eyes. I am grateful, that means I don’t take anything or anyone for granted, I thank my children for phoning me, because they’re busy and make the time to do so. I thank the sun for shining because it makes me smile, by saying this affirmation you are thanking everyone and everything you are grateful for.
  11. I am a writer. I write every day, I write blog posts, poems, flash fiction, I’ve written five novels, articles on education, in Spanish and English, so I can safely say I’m a writer. I think about writing, I read about writing, I speak about writing, I read and review novels, I care about writing, I interact with other writers, I feel like a writer. I want to be known as a writer.

By writing down, repeating out loud and owning my personal affirmations, I’m recalling them, acknowledging them and summoning them and everything they mean to me every day.

This process takes some time, certainly more than the few minutes it takes to write them down, and yet those first minutes are vital, because every journey starts with the first step.

So, I urge you to read up about affirmations, make your list and think deeply about what every affirmation means to you, own them and be happy!

Happy Monday!

#PhotoOfMyLife Day4 Autumn Leaves #Poem #MondayBlogs #MondayMotivation

On my way to town this morning. What a lovely autumn day!

Enough

The path is narrow,

With many a winding turn,

Which leads us to who knows where,

Who knows when, or why?

So, Crunch the leaves,

Stare at the sky,

Feel the wind swipe your cheeks,

While the sun tickles your eyes,

And smile,

Because that’s enough.

Enjoy your walk!

On my way back home. I’m nearly there!

I live outside my city, but not far enough that I can’t walk into town. I could take the car or catch the bus, but as I’m in no hurry at the moment, I enjoying a long, brisk walk. (I spent many years rushing to work, shopping and taking the kids to school and after school activities!).

Sometimes life is so demanding that we forget what a simple, quiet walk can do for us. We can stop for a few minutes to listen to, see and feel the trees, wind, and sky, which is so mentally and physically refreshing.

I love walking. It’s great exercise and I have time to think about so many things that time flies by!

The rules for this Twitter Challenge: no people, no explanations and challenge one new person every day. I was challenged by @GeorgiaRoseBook check out her blog.

Today I challenge @bakeandwrite check out her book blog.

As I already told you, I’m terrible at following rules, so not only have I written a poem, I’ve also told you all about the picture!

Enjoy your Monday! I hope you can spare a few minutes for a walk:)

#MothersDay ‘Jane Eyre’s Mother’ #MondayBlogs #CharlotteBronte

Jane Eyre is the most famous female, literary orphan in English literature, but what do we know about Jane Eyre’s mother?

pixabay.com

Surprisingly, for a character who doesn’t appear in the novel and is hardly mentioned, we know a great deal. We know her name and maiden surname, how and we she died, who and why she married, a few things about her family and some significant aspects of her personality.

The first time her mother is mentioned, Jane is at her uncle, Mr Reed’s house. Jane tells the reader:

I could not remember him (Mr Reed); but I knew that he was my own uncle—my mother’s brother— that he had taken me when a parentless infant to his house;

Consequently we know that her mother’s maiden name was Reed and that her husband’s surname was Eyre. We also learn that Jane has no memories of her father, her mother or her uncle, because she was an infant when they died.

Jane also tells us about the effect that the lack of loving parents or relatives affected her personality. Well before Freud identified and shared his theories regarding the conscious, subconscious, and unconscious mind, Jane Eyre was fully that her parents’ absence was affecting her moods and character were due to factors beyond her control, within her psyche.

pixabay.com

Ten year-old Jane tells Mr. Lloyd, an apothecary, called in by Mrs.
Reed when she fainted after being punished and locked in the red room:

I am unhappy,—very unhappy, for other things.’

‘What other things? Can you tell me some of them?’

How much I wished to reply fully to this question! How difficult it was to frame any answer! Children can feel, but they cannot analyse their feelings; and if the analysis is partially effected in thought, they know not how to express the result of the process in words. Fearful, however, of losing this first and only opportunity of  relieving my grief by imparting it, I, after a disturbed pause, contrived to frame a meagre, though, as far as it went, true response.

‘For one thing, I have no father or mother, brothers or sisters.’

Jane describes herself as unhappy because she is missing the family she doesn’t have. A contemporary psychologist might suggest that, as an orphan, Jane was vulnerable and predisposed to physical and psychological risks such as depression and antisocial behaviour, and would probably need counselling. Instead she was plunged into an unloving household, where she was demeaned, neglected and physically and psychologically abused. There could have been many outcomes to her future personality, she could have sunk into disruptive behaviour or swam to the surface as a stronger, fiercely independent, determined and kind person.

There were many real and literary orphans in Victorian Literature. Here’s some more information in two previous posts including information about orphans in Victorian England

Jane Eyre found out about her parents’ death and bad relationship with her maternal grandfather, Mr. Reed, from Bessie, a servant at her aunt’s house. Bessie in turn had learnt this information from another, older servant at the house, Miss Abbot.

“On that same occasion I learned, for the first time, from Miss Abbot’s communications to Bessie, that my father had been a poor clergyman; that my mother had married him against the wishes of her friends, who considered the match beneath her; that my grandfather Reed was so irritated at her disobedience, he cut her off without a shilling; that after my mother and father had been married a year, the latter caught the typhus fever while visiting among the poor of a large manufacturing town where his curacy was situated, and where that disease was then prevalent: that my mother took the infection from him, and both died within a month of each other.”

This passage informs us that her mother married a clergyman for love, against her family’s wishes. Jane was aware that her mother valued love over social convention or economic stability.

Nine years later, while Jane is working at Thornfield, she was called to visit her Aunt Reed, who was on her deathbed. Jane took the opportunity to ask her why her aunt hated her so much.

‘I had a dislike to her (Jane’s) mother always; for she was my husband’s only sister, and a great favourite with him: he opposed the family’s disowning her when she made her low marriage; and when news came of her death, he wept like a simpleton. He would send for the baby; though I entreated him rather to put it out to nurse and pay for its maintenance. I hated it (referring to Jane)  the first time I set my eyes on it…’

Thus Jane learns that her aunt had hated her mother and that she was jealous of her husband’s affection towards the helpless baby.

In summary, we know that Jane Eyre’s mother, Mrs Eyre, née Jane Reed, was beloved by her brother, Jane’s Uncle Reed, who had been a well-to-do magistrate, before his premature death. We also know she was estranged by her parents for marrying a clergyman, Mr Eyre, whom they considered was below her station. We know she married for love, that Jane was born nine months after their marriage and was a three-month old baby when her parents died, a year after marrying. Mrs Jane Reed Eyre died of typhus, a disease contracted by her husband first. We can infer that she was a passionate, independent and determined woman, who was prepared to turn her back on her family and material comforts, in order to marry the man she loved.

It surprises me that Jane only mentioned missing her mother once as a ten-year-old child and never mentioned her mother as an adult. Grown up Jane seemed to have completely wiped her mother out of her thoughts, perhaps because she had no memory or image to cling to. On the other hand, we can imagine her mother’s influence in Jane’s famous quote that she’d rather be happy than dignified. It definitely seemed to have been her mother’s motto too!

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I’d also like to remind you that today, 31st of March, is the anniversary of Charlotte Bronte’s premature death in 1855, at the ge of 38. She was pregnant when she and her unborn child died.

Her death certificate gives the cause of death as tuberculosis, but biographers, including Claire Harman, have suggested that she died from dehydration and malnutrition due to vomiting caused by severe morning sickness. Charlotte Brontë was buried in the family vault in the Church of St Michael and All Angels at Haworth in Yorkshire, UK.

Photo by Dave Green of St Michael and All Angel’s Church, Haworth (Wikipedia).

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P.S. If you haven’t read Jane Eyre, you’re missing out on one of the greatest novels ever written, and it’s almost free on amazon kindle, including the audiobook!

If you have read Jane Eyre, perhaps you’ve wondered what happened after Jane and Rochester married, so have I, that’s why I wrote The Eyre Hall Trilogy, on special offer at the moment.

Five Reasons not to #Blog if You’re a Writer #BloggersBash2019 #BookBloggers #MondayBlogs

Writers in the dawn of the third millennium have more options to publish, connect and share than any previous generation ever dreamt of, but is blogging worthwhile, or time-consuming and ineffective?

1. Don’t blog if your aim is Isolation. If you don’t want to connect with anyone else, because they might copy or steal your ideas and waste your precious time, blogging’s not for you.

Blogging is for people who want to connect with other writers, readers, and bloggers. Bloggers want to be part of an online community, sharing, learning, being creative, and helping, encouraging and inspiring others.

2. Don’t blog if secrecy and privacy are vital, because if you blog, others might see what you’re doing or find out about your plans.

Blogging is for people who want to make use of the window display to the world which blogging offers. Bloggers want to show others what we think, feel, and write, receive feedback, encouragement, share ideas, maybe inspire other readers, writers and bloggers, too.

3. Don’t blog if you’re an excellent, driven, knowledgeable,  inspired and self-motivated writer who needs no external incentive.

Blogging is for those who aim to improve their writing, because we know it’s an invaluable aid, encouraging us to think about, schedule and hone in on our writing skills, by reading and writing blog posts about our craft.

4. Don’t blog if you’re self-sufficient and self-absorbed. You’ve never needed anyone’s help or advice, and you’re certainly not going to give any away for free.

Blogging is for those who want to become a bigger person by sharing knowledge, opinions, thoughts and work, freely and generously in the blogosphere.

5. Don’t blog if you don’t need virtual friends to have fun, because you have a ‘real’ life with plenty of ‘real’ friends, and you are not interested in meeting, or trust, ‘virtual’ strangers.

Blogging is for those who love meeting other readers and writers, enjoy reading other writers’ opinions, poems, flash fiction, and generally enjoy connecting, networking and interacting with like-minded people. If that’s your idea of fun, the blogosphere is the place for you!

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This post was written in response to the 2019 Bloggers Bash Blog Post Competition.

#MondayBlogs ‘Write from the heart’ #WritingTips @BathFlashAward #FlashFiction

I was recently browsing the Bath Flash Awards website when I came across an interview with this edition’s (March-June 2019) Flash Fiction Award Judge, Christopher Allen. You can read the whole interview here.

It was the final question and answer that has mesmerised me all weekend. I quote the question and answer here:

  • Any final suggestions for writers entering our award?

Yes. Write from the heart. Edit it and edit it and edit it. Have other people read it. Ask them if it has an emotional impact. Did it make them feel something? Write something you think the world needs.

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So much advice in so few words, a true ‘flash answer’ to a complex question.

My thoughts on this priceless and concise advice:

‘Write from the heart’

Inspiration is entwined with emotion. Whatever we write should spring from passionate feelings about an issue. That’s an easy one to fulfill. Most of us write stories about people, places and events that are meaningful to us.

‘Edit it and edit it and edit it’

First drafts are necessary, but also messy and too long. Most of us need to ramble to ourselves to get to know our characters and understand their thoughts and actions, and yet those ramblings need to be carefully edited, more than once, thus the repetition, before they can be shared with readers.

‘Have other people read it’

We all know and appreciate the invaluable task of alpha and beta readers, friends, agents, editors, proof readers, and an array of generous and professional people who are usually acknowledged by authors in their books.

Ask them if it has an emotional impact. Did it make them feel something?

Words need to go beyond an aesthetic use of language in order to make an impact on the reader. It’s not only about organisation, expression, wording, pace, and grammar, but about the inspiration and feelings conveyed in the writing.

Write something you think the world needs.

Finally, the most important attribute which distinguishes good writing from outstanding writing, the content or message of the text.

Is there an intention beyond entertaining readers? And secondly, is the idea worth writing about? Do readers need to know or think about the characters or issues in your flash/novel?

Christopher’s answer is great advice for writing, a haiku, a birthday card, a flash, a letter, a short story, a novella, a novel and everything else.

If it’s worth writing, it’s worth doing it from the heart.

My twenty-word flash conclusion:

Write with passion about a meaningful issue, edit, aim for emotional impact, edit, share and test, edit, publish. Start again.

And now, let’s finish that flash/novel and start the next one…