The Universe sends Worms

I am in the habit of chanting, morning and evening.

In the morning I think about the day ahead and how I will behave – my attitude to people and my job, or the tasks I must undertake. In the evening I review my day and determine to do better and acknowledge anything good.

This morning, while chanting, I was thinking about my husband, whom I love dearly but who sometimes receives the wrong  end of my tongue. I’m not snappy but I am critical, and he doesn’t deserve it. It’s a bad habit and I regularly determine during my chanting, to be more tolerant and kind. Sadly, being judgemental is in my karma so overcoming it is quite a challenge.

In the course of my chanting, this morning, apart from dwelling on my shortcomings and forgiving myself, and determining to do better, I drifted into thinking about my novel (this happens. It’s hard to keep focused when you are a natural dreamer). The latest product of my imaginings is the sequel to Be Careful What You Wish For and I have been pondering its title. I have an idea to call it Opening the Can – as in can of worms.

I recently painted the illustration on the cover of Be Careful What You Wish For, but with this title, I was concerned about my worm-painting skills. Was I up the the challenge of painting a spilt can of worms?

With this in mind, as soon as I had uttered my final Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, I went straight to my laptop in search of images of worms. Oh what a lot there were, but I skimmed over them, dozens of them, until one photo caught my eye. The worms were nice and big and juicy with lots of glistening highlights. I clicked on the image.

Image result for opening can of worms
Nice and juicy

The picture linked to blog entitled The Years of Living Non-Judgmentally by Ann Koplow

How apt. It was a message from the universe and I began to read. Ann appeared to be on a similar journey to me and I was curious about her reasons, so I trailed down to her first entry and read this:

‘Judgment is that oh-so-human way of thinking, where we focus on what should be, rather than what is.’

It lit a light bulb. Such a simple sentence, easy to carry with me and act on when I find myself frustrated by the oh so many, insignificant things that clutter my day. The untidy school library (why don’t the children have more consideration and the teachers educate them better?) The toilet roll tube left on the window ledge in our bathroom, not thrown in the bin (such a simple habit to get into,  Do my family expect me to do it every time?) The dishes beside the empty dishwasher (blooming teenagers!) The interruptions while trying to write (enough said).

The above are what we now refer to as ‘First World Problems’. To a homeless person living on city streets, or a Syrian refugee  fighting for his life on a leaky , overcrowded boat, they are but nothing. A luxury.

I have heard it mooted that Nichirin Buddhism is a Middle Class faith, but I happen to know that this is untrue. In Japan,  after Hiroshima, and more recently, the tsunami, people were left with nothing. Nichirin Buddhism held its followers together and drove them to continue their fight to build a new future.

You could call my worm experience a coincidence or the intervention of the Universe known as The Mystic Law. Whatever you choose to think, this was a heck of an enlightening moment.

This star-forming region, captured by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, is dominated by the bright, young star IRAS 13481-6124 (upper left), which is about twenty times the mass of our sun and five times its radius, and is surrounded by its pre-natal cocoon. It is the first massive baby star for which astronomers could obtain a detailed look at the dusty disk closely encircling it. The research provides direct evidence that massive stars do form in the same way as their smaller brethren.
From this archival Spitzer image, as well as from observations done with the APEX 12-metre sub-millimetre telescope, astronomers discovered the presence of a jet, hinting at the presence of a disk. This was then confirmed by observations made with the European Southern Observatory Very Large Telescope Interferometer.
This picture was taken with Spitzer’s infrared array camera. It is a four-color composite, in which light with a wavelength of 3.6 microns is blue; 4.5-micron light is green; 5.8-micron light is orange; and 8-micron light is red. Dust appears red-orange and most stars are blue, though ones deeply embedded within dust (like IRAS 13481-6124) take on greenish-yellow tints.

 

Nam Myoho Renge Kyo

Life is for Learning

You might think that there’s not much left to learn by the time you reach your 60s. Think again. My last couple of years have probably been the most life-changing of all. I suppose that becoming a Nichirin Buddhist has affected that in many ways but this is not intended to be about the benefits of Buddhism. The Buddhism contributes to the self-awareness and thence to happiness and fulfilment and because of that, this post is about creativity and me.

As you know, I am a writer – well, I write, but I also teach children with special educational needs, and run a Bed and Breakfast business on Airbnb, so my writing time is limited.

Our bed and breakfast guests are diverse. Many are inspiring but some, we are pleased to wave goodbye to, and one or two become friends. More about the friends later.

It was our lodger (call him Roger – of course) who started it. He longs for an idyllic life, running a tea room by the sea and selling his paintings to tourists. He and I talk a lot about painting.

Before he started staying with us, I had suppressed my urge to paint, telling myself I didn’t have time for anything else in my life. With Roger’s presence in the house, I have changed my mind. All that talk of landscape and portrait. When I spotted  and an advert in a local magazine for lessons with the inspirational teacher, Lorna Moore, I decided to sign up. What an amazing decision it turned out to be.

I’m not about to be the next Hockney, but I am improving all the time.

The way I have found the extra opportunity in my day, has been to stop watching television. I have also knocked some minor domestic things on the head. I no longer make our bed in the morning – nobody sees it anyway. I run the dishwasher more often and employed a lad to do some gardening for a while at the beginning of the summer. We also pay a dog walker (runner) once a week.

In December I read an article by Jon Westonberg  encouraging readers to make a life plan – duh. How had it taken me this long to recognise the wisdom of his words. Make a list he suggested, and avoid anything that distracts you from it.

I think Jon may be a little younger than I because his list contains 100 items. I’m not saying I’m old but (call me negative …) I don’t believe I have enough years left for 100 things . Here follows my list. It is pinned on my kitchen wall – well, attached by a magnet to a paella pan as a matter of fact. I reckon I have 20 years if I’m lucky assuming I still have all my marbles, which is in the balance as this blog will testify:

  1. Write 4 novels
  2. Get an Art degree
  3. Read The Iliad and The Odyssey
  4. Volunteer at a homeless shelter
  5. Go to Australia
  6. Go to New Zealand
  7. Go to the Galapagos Islands
  8. Go on safari
  9. Find my inner Buddha
  10. Run 2 miles without getting out of breath
  11. Eat at Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant at the Savoy (This is a no-no as it has closed.)
  12. Lose 1 stone (chanting to change my eating and drinking karma for these three)
  13. Lose another stone
  14. Lose a third stone
  15. Get an article published in a magazine
  16. Get a story published in a magazine
  17. Run a writing course
  18. Sell my books in hard copy
  19. Visit all the houses I’ve ever lived in
  20. Illustrate my books
  21. Work with words

The list – thanks to Jon, and my positive mental attitude – thanks to Nichirin (and me), are the reason for my life-changing couple of years.

Note on my list points 18 – 20.:

20 is ticked for book 1

18 and 19 are in progress

I have regained control over Be Careful What You Wish For, re-edited the content and painted a new cover, inspired by Lorna Moore. This is now uploaded as an eBook (see picture, above, and the paperback version is at the printer’s. Exciting times.

I have decided to enrol on an art degree in 2020, when Mavis has finished her first year at university. Wait? How sensible of me – a sign I am weening myself off knee-jerk decisions. If I’m honest I’m a bit nervous about uni, but I’m gonna do it anyway.

Notes 12 – 14: I’ve lost lots of weight – and regained it. Hmm, keep chanting Lil.

I am living number eight, vicariously through Horace at the moment, who is honeymooning in South Africa.

Number 17

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A full course is planned for the autumn.

So, lookout world, here I come, limping but determined. Ooh, I nearly forgot the obligatory funny story, Well I thought this was funny anyway:

One of our guests (call him Boatman), who has become a friend, was at the breakfast table and I was telling him about Mavis’s wedding, and the fact that over the course of the weekend I had found 2 raffle tickets in the turn-up of my jeans. I had kept them for a while, mistakenly wondering if they were a sign of impending fortune.

‘The strangest thing I found in my turn-up was a fish,’ he said.

‘A fish?’

‘Yes. Years ago I was tottering home from the pub and I had to use some stepping stones to cross a stream. I missed my footing and stepped into the water. When I got home there was a Stickleback in my turn-up.’

I don’t know why, but I found this very funny. It’s so random, and the word Stickleback was perfectly placed in the story. I’m giggling as I write. Hope you giggle, too.

Nam Myoho Renge Kyo.

For Horace

Here at the home of the Girth Mother, age rears it’s head even higher. My first daughter, Horace(Ontal),  is to be married in May. I will be Mother of the Bride, and also, to the consternation of Kerching, a Mother-in Law.

I have mentioned before, my quantity of experience negotiating the mountain pass of marriage. I know some the many challenges a married couple must overcome to achieve that distant goal, the Diamond Wedding. I will never make that enviable state although I do hope to make it to my Silver Wedding Anniversary in 2025, when I will be 70.

I have listed a few things here for Horace that I would never have thought about as I launched with supreme optimism into my first couple of relationships. Starting off with the right person is clearly the most important thing but after that…

THE INLAWS/PARENTS: That tricky relationship with the each other’s parents, and being/having a spouse who doesn’t quite match up to their expectations.

difficult mother in law

ADAPTING: The realisation that simply because you love someone, does not mean that they will behave the way you expect. How you deal with this depends largely on communication skills – yeah, yeah, we all know about those but do we think ours are the only valid ones or do we listen and speak out in the knowledge that we are  both entitled to a point of view, and that someone will have to back down? Sometimes it is hard to recognise your shortcomings. Just know that you have them.

TEMPTATION: Many of us have vices or obsessions. It is important to make a life for yourself, but not at the expense of your other half. Interests such as sports, can leave a ‘widow/er’ at home. Flirtations that may seem harmless can lead to damaging extra-marital involvements. Social drinking can lead to dangerous habits, likewise gambling, computer chat rooms, social media, on-line gaming. There are many things that can hurt your partner if they take over your thoughts.

Photo by Schuyler S

BOREDOM: After many years, marriage can become routine, communication sporadic and interests divergent.

photo by RFMIIPhotogrphy

CAREER: Being on the ladder and having to make choices between job and family. Being too tired or preoccupied to give proper attention to your spouse. Getting irritable, working late, not making time for a home life.

Juggling_trick_3b_box

MONEY: Apparently the number one reason for conflict.

Ten-pound-note
By Gktech716uk london

Then there is the biggy: CHILDREN: Nobody can be prepared for the impact of those: squirming bundles, determined toddlers, belligerent adolescents and ungrateful and untidy teens. The changing roles of parents and the way they share duties can be game changers. On the other hand, there are the pressures of not having children, whether by choice or otherwise.

20040804_Milwaukee_Dads_Packer_Practice_31_Small_Web_view
By BCantrall

So I say to my first-born, very special and much loved daughter, I hope and pray that you have a wonderful marriage and that you and your lovely husband are strong enough to face the inevitable challenges that come your way. You seem to know what you want now, but in my experience, what you want can change several times in a lifetime, and changing together, that is the tricky bit.

Be happy, be lucky and know that I am here.

Image result for pink parakeet

With love,

Mum xxx

Twas the Alternative Night Before Christmas

‘Twas the night before Christmas and,
Upon our abode,
Festive lights were agleaming,
Upon Marsworth Road.

The stockings were hung,
By the chimney with thought,
And up on the mantle,
A small glass of port…

And a mince pie for Santa,
And carrots and fruits,
For his faithful reindeer,
Such elegant brutes.

And down in the kitchen,
The dog in his bed,
Gave a deep sigh,
And lowered his head.

While I in my Jim jams,
And him in the buff,
Passed out for the night,
After more than enough.

Then outside the window,
Arose a loud THUD,
As something, who knew what?
Made contact with mud.

My heavy eyes opened,
My heart gave a patter,
I crawled to the curtain,
To see what was the matter.

From up on the first floor,
The lawn looked absurd,
With yellowing patches and,
A sprinkling of turd.

And right in it’s middle,
A road kill, a tangle,
Of reindeer and Santa,
All at the wrong angle.

And Santa was wiping,
His boot with a list
As he glared at the window,
And shook a small fist.

One reindeer, his nose red,
Was struggling to rise,
And gifts of all sizes,
Rained down from the skies.

Eventually, upright,
The gallant old team,
Made it up to the roof, where,
They could not be seen.

But I heard them arrive,
And I heard Santa shout,
From the fireplace,
Something about port causing gout.

Then back up the chimney and,
Into the mist,
The sleigh lurched and twisted,
Perhaps he was pissed.
santa-drunk