The Value of Friendship

I’m discovering so much more than ever that friends are important. Scratch that – people who genuinely have your best interest at heart are important. We need to surround ourselves with such people. We may never know when their counsel or strength may be needed but one thing’s for sure. When you are down they will be there to lift you up. When you are weak, they will be your strength. When you are sad, they will bring laughter to your lips. And when you don’t feel like laughing, they’ll give you a hug. That’s what true friends are there for.

Make sure you are surrounded by such people. For without them we are alone.

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Feeling Really Special

I woke up this morning with a glow after a really lovely and restful half term break which culminated with lunch with a lovely family.

This morning, I was stopped at the school gate by a friend who greeted me with a bright, “thank you for your blog”. She had spent a whole day reading it from start to present day and wanted to let me know she loved it. I was really surprised, encouraged and floaty on my way to work. I suddenly understood why I got a WordPress alert at the weekend telling me I was getting hourly views. 🙂

Then I got to work and found these sitting pretty on my desk.

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Now you can imagine that I’m levitating. I pray this is a sign that the week is going to be pleasantly sweet.

Wishing you all the same too. 🙂

Giving Up Anonymity For Lent

I walked into church yesterday and was greeted by an usher who was handing out name tags.

It turned out that the congregation is being encouraged to give up anonymity for Lent. So every Sunday, we’ll be given stickers to write our names on as part of a commitment to encouraging communication and fellowship amongst members.

This is just the thing that gets me excited. So often we nod and smile at people we see regularly but we never introduce ourselves or get better acquainted and for me this was just awesome.

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Unfortunately church can often be a place where people tend to stay in cliques, particularly those who have been members for years. And if intentional steps aren’t taken, to break down the walls, it’ll stay that way.

My office also has a social committee who organise regular events so that new staff and team members always get the opportunity to interact better, some of whom have been there for twenty years. Again, so cool.

The name tag really did break down the walls of anonymity. We got talking to a lady over coffee and then ended up sitting together and talking for about twenty minutes where in the past we might just have said hello and left. We had a wonderful conversation with her and I’m looking forward to doing this some more.

This is so much better than giving up chocolates!

Everyone Needs Friends

I got a cold just before Christmas! Passed it on to my husband and daughter and they graciously passed it right back to me. Happy New Year to me. -|)

Having pushed myself through the first week back at work, by the end of the week I just couldn’t cope anymore and had to take the day off. I knew the only solution was to sleep it off but there was the issue of the school pick up which would undoubtedly break into the sleep. You know when you’re asleep but awake at the same time because you know you have to be up for something? So I sent a text to a friend and asked if she would take my children home with her and I would pick them up about four-ish. That would give me about three hours sleep. And then she replied to say I could leave then till later. I could have kissed her. It was so nice to know I could really rest. I felt blessed, really blessed.

One of the questions people often asked me when we were moving to Cambridge was, “do you have friends or family there?” No was always my answer.

I’d lived in London for seventeen years and had a few friends but never friends from my immediate community. I hardly ever saw my neighbours talk less of hanging out with them. A couple of years before we moved, a group of American students rented a flat on the ground floor of our building. Of course being American, they had a different concept of neighbourhood and it wasn’t nod and smile at each other in the lift.

Within a couple of months of moving in, they started to run monthly bring and share events which were just for people to get to know each other. I never had the opportunity to go to one as with two children under five, it was frankly the last thing I wanted to do. However, I often chatted to them in the hallway or when they knocked on the door inviting residents to the party. I regret not going to one because they seemed so nice. As I got my groove in parenting, it was time to leave so that opportunity passed me by but I admired those guys.

However I’m talking about friends not knowing people. I’m talking about people who share your life; people you can run to when you need help; people who will comfort you, strengthen you, listen to you; people who won’t judge you for your failings; people who are supportive; people who put a smile on your face; people who tell you the truth and don’t mind that you tell them the same. People you can be yourself with – friends. Not acquaintances, not the crowd – friends.

They are rare, they don’t often hang out in the crowd and I suppose to an extent that’s why people asked me if I had friends or family in Cambridge. Perhaps deep down they knew that friends were not easy to come by. Perhaps they weren’t ready to build a new network of friends. Whatever their reasons, I think the question was justified because we needs friends.

I had thought my friends in Cambridge would be church members or fellow students and partners from my husband’s college. Surprisingly, they are parents from my children’s school. You never know what surprises new friendships can bring. Whether they are your family or strangers who become family, we need them. Without them life would be dreary.

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Photo credit: Warner Bros

Live Life

What does it mean to live life?

To walk on the beach and feel the water caress your feet; being aware of every grain of sand that gets caught between your toes.

To feel the sun shining on your face; it’s warmth like a healing balm that keeps the cold away.

To hear the chirping of birds outside your window; discerning each and every distinct call they make.

To walk down the street with your head up; making eye contact with each stranger and offering the gift of a smile.

To be ruffled by the blustery wind, pulling your coat tighter around your neck and bracing yourself for the next gust.

To smell sizzling sausages and onions from the hot dog van and have a myriad of childhood memories flood your mind.

To feel pain and cry.

To experience the experience yourself and not through someone else’s eye.

To have an opinion and be able to articulate it.

To be in the moment and not just a passer-by.

To keep learning new things.

To notice others around you.

To appreciate the people in your life and their contribution to shaping you.

To develop friendships with strangers even when you share different values.

To discover spiritual insights.

To take risks and step out of your comfort zone.

To ask the questions no one asks.

To fail and get up again.

To listen more.

To have the courage to stand up for yourself.

To educate yourself.

To love yourself.

Mid Week Kick: Pick Up The Phone

Today I thought about a friend and rather than letting it die with a thought as usual, I asked another friend for her number and called. I could have sent her a text but I chose to call. A lot more personal; just that much more thoughtful.

She was pleasantly surprised and appreciative. I’m glad I did it.

Who can you call today? Who’s day can you make brighter with a call?

Even one step better, a long overdue visit might be the way to do it.

Change Can Be Pleasant

I was at a wedding over the weekend and was looking forward to seeing some people I had not seen in a while. By the time I got to the ceremony there weren’t any spaces left close to friends so I sat next to a couple I didn’t know. Turned out the man was the groom’s line manager and we ended up talking about our sons’ obsessions with football, after school clubs, life and general things. It was really nice talking to them.

Still I was hoping that at the reception I would get to sit with some of my friends. As I entered the marquee, I suddenly realised there were no place settings. I looked round for familiar faces but couldn’t see any. I contemplated sitting at an empty table with the hope that friends would soon gather and we could regale ourselves with updates from when we were last together. However, it didn’t happen quite like I had hoped.

At the same time, a woman who I had served with at my previous church sat at the table I was thinking of sitting at. I thought well I know her and there were two spare seats next to me if any friends came by soon. So I sat down, particularly as the place was filling up rather quickly.

I got up to get a cocktail and I met two friends who asked if there were spaces at my table. I replied yes and pointed at the table and one of them commented, “you are sitting with people you don’t know?” And my puzzled response was “so?” They politely declined the proposition of sitting with strangers.

We all like the familiar. It’s comfortable and comforting. I don’t think of myself as a sociable person but perhaps having to make friends in a city with no friends or family has morphed me into a more sociable person.

I had an absolutely pleasant time talking to this lady for the best part of two hours or more. We talked about children, our childhood, what we were up to, the food (which was really nice), some future plans, my blog – we really talked. And it was none of that stilted conversation where you are thinking of what to say. It was just an absolutely lovely time. I really didn’t miss my friends at all. Truly amazing how you can know someone for so long and not really know them.

Change is good – particularly when it opens up opportunities like these.

Quote of the Day

I think it was Alfred Hitchcock who said 90 percent of successful moviemaking is in the casting. The same is true in life. Who you are exposed to, who you choose to surround yourself with, is a unique variable in all of our experiences and it is hugely important in making us who we are. Seek out interesting characters, tough adversaries and strong mentors and your life can be rich, textured, highly entertaining and successful, like a Best Picture winner. Surround yourself with dullards, people of vanilla safety and unextraordinary ease, and you may find your life going straight to DVD.

    Rob Lowe, Love Life

In Honour Of Sisterhood

I have three sisters and I feel really blessed to have them as my sisters. As I get older I really really value my relationship with them. Growing up, I frequently wished I had a brother or that something was lacking for lack of having one. I suppose in a sense my male cousins were my brothers and any guy who would be brave enough to be my friend. 🙂 In my ‘wiser age’, I value my relationship with my sisters so much more. Having people to talk to about everything, sharing my life with them is just invaluable. My husband knows to highlight the things he would rather they didn’t know otherwise they will hear of it. Lol.

Beyond that, I truly value female relationships. I’ve always marvelled at how true girlfriends can get together and have so much fun and that deep throaty-from-gut laugh in spite of a lack of alcohol. It’s marvellous. Even if you don’t have sisters, you should have girlfriends in your life. I have quite a few girlfriends. I have a group of five friends from primary school believe it or not; four very tight friends from secondary school; a couple of women from my previous work place and even in my short time in Cambridge, I have gained a trio that I regularly dine out with.

I spent a lot of time avoiding females friendships when I was younger. In the past, I simply found it easier to form friendships with men. My male friends didn’t seem to be plagued by the incessant need to pretend to be someone else, were a lot more open, less judgemental and unencumbered by their issues. I guess as a young adult I didn’t have the patience for that. Or perhaps I had enough drama In my own life that I sought the simplicity of male company. As a result, the one stage of my life where I didn’t really form a bond with women was at university.

I know I’m not the only woman who has struggled with female friendships. I’ve spoken to a few people who have even given up on trying. As ‘complex’ as women can be, the quality of female friendships is totally different from that of male friendships – and I say that as someone who has a male best friend. Without coming across as stereotypical, I would say my male friends bring a refreshing objectivity, practicality and sometimes, protective taint on our relationship. However my female friends, including my sisters, have a depth of loyalty, wisdom, EMOTIONS and camaraderie to friendship that knows no bounds. I’m not necessarily comparing the two; more like highlighting the merits.

I suppose this post is only relevant if you were like me or have been burnt by ‘females’ :). Nonetheless I think everyone should have a band of sisters around them. They do not have to be biological but you should have women you can hang out with and be real to. People who won’t judge your actions but be honest with you about your choices. People who you can share your weaknesses with but will not use it as an opportunity to get one up on you. People who will listen and share your moans, cries, joy and secrets. Women who are bold like you who have great aspirations for their lives; who will cheer-lead you all the way. We all need that band of sisterhood surrounding us.

It may take some time to find the women like this, who you can trust but if you take the risk, it’s worth it in the end.

Playdate, Bubbles And Cake

My sisters and I always had friends over for playdates when we were younger only they weren’t called playdates then.  I remember pretending to smoke by rolling up paper filled with talcum powder; emptying a bucket of water and detergent on the floor so we could ‘skate on ice’; jumping off scaffolding next door pretending to be acrobats and so much more.  By the look of things my children’s lives are quite sedate. 🙂 

They have a friend over and thankfully there’s no rain today so they are out playing football. Oops I spoke too soon. I’ve just seen Wonder Boy charging at his friend with a rake.  They must be playing knights then.  Not so sedate after all.

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We’ve brought out our bubble machine which kids never fail to like.

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And there’s cake for later.

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And I got flowers.

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Now it’s time for popcorn and Winter Olympics. No rest for the wicked. 😉
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