Category: The Creative Corner

The peculiar significance of treacle

Every year I forget how evocative certain Christmas smells are. Not just the more obvious things like candles and oranges and mincemeat and brandy, but certain specifics. It was black treacle and spices the other day, as I was making gingerbread dough. Suddenly as I counted out the syrupy spoonfuls I was taken back to being stood in front of another cooker, aged maybe 7, stirring the pan dissolving the sugars, with my mother watching. Chain smoking, of course. A knot of emotions expanded inside me as they did then. Excitement for Christmas. Some kind of enjoyment of doing a grown up thing. Delight at wanting to make pretty biscuits. Wanting to get it right and please my mother…. well, the desperate need to get it right, impeccably following the process she had shown me. That meant tenterhooks and anxiety and churning emotions, too often teetering on the edge of me ruining everything again (I thought). One mistake, one deviation from her instructions, her watching would explode into anger, ridicule, accusations and threats. Hours of shouting and violence would follow. And everything, I had made her do, and each time I’d have that sick terror inside that this time it was over and the threats were being fulfilled. Looking back and seeing how little was needed to tip us into that disaster, it’s bizarre. Laying a biscuit onto the baking tray in the “wrong” way (ie not the precise arrangement she required), not getting the bow on a package right fast enough, touching the wrong switch on the oven – even simply letting any of my anxiety show. It sounds almost as if it should be funny. But it isn’t funny when someone has you isolated, under their power and in fear; not in fear of them but in fear of yourself. Because one sure thing to me at the time was that it was my fault.

So, standing there measuring the treacle it all came back. As I’ve been making the biscuits over the last day or so, I keep being catapulted into so many emotions and suddenly reliving snatches of good and bad … And to tell the truth I’ve been pulled into the bad too much. Exhausted.

I’m fighting it, because there’s no way my abuser’s having this Christmas. This Christmas is for God and the present and my fiancé and it’s about all the good we can do and are thankful for today. I speak briefly, quietly to God as I roll the dough, cut, bake , ice, package these cookies. I’m pushing through the dissociation to do all I can to hope for this Christmas and for every flashback find twice as much I’m thankful for today.

Ginny xxx

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O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree…

I’m going to start to put up the Christmas tree later. Usually I’d be looking forward to this. This year I’m not. I can’t seem to feel any excitement or happiness or hope. it’s very hard to get any creativity going even when I’ve been making presents for people. I feel guilty for not being joyful, as it feels ungrateful for the good people I have around me and most of all ungrateful for God’s gift of the Christ Child to us. Feelings can’t easily be changed but at least if I can’t feel I can try to do, so I’m going to make my preparations for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and do as many things I can to bring happiness to other people, completing each tiny task with love, out of thanks to God.

So, the tree is going up later. This will be the first time my cat sees the Christmas tree (I did have a foster cat staying with me last year but it was a different cat) so it remains to be seen will her reaction be. Will I find her half way up it or flinging the baubles across the room, I wonder? It’s an artificial tree so hopefully the appeal won’t be as strong as if it were a real tree. Just as well I don’t have a puppy, where this might be the result:

(Not my cartoon – I just stumbled across it and I’m afraid I don’t know who the artist is!)

When do / did you put up your tree?

Ginny xxx

Meet Bert

Hello. Meet Bert.

No, not that Bert! (NCIS joke, sorry.)

I have a way of naming inanimate objects, especially in the kitchen. This is my slow cooker, Bert:

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I’ve had Bert for a year but only today taken him out for his first use (and naming). How bad is that, I know. That’s how reluctant I can be to cook for myself and I’m trying to break that. Hopefully, Bert is going to cook a nice soup tonight, for tomorrow’s buffet dinner. I know I’ll be up til late finishing preparations for tomorrow so I can keep an eye on it. It takes 3 hours.

Two friends will be coming tomorrow, one when she finishes her shift at the hotel where she works, and the other will arrive earlier and we’ll go to Mass together. He has had an indescribably difficult time recently so I’m glad we can celebrate a little together.

I realise soup (and hippos) is a fairly un-festive topic for Christmas Eve. A more appropriate post follows very shortly!

Wishing you a happy evening…

Ginny xxx

Clip from NCIS – possibly series 2 episode 23 according to YouTube, though I am not sure about that, I think it is series 3 ; with thanks to MetalRixer for the extract. NCIS directed and produced by Donald Bellisario / Don McGill, property of CBS / Channel 5 and respective artists.

Tinsel, trees and memories

[Written on Tuesday 20th December]

Thanks be to God I made it in to the day centre yesterday, despite having been ill and “out of it” over the weekend. It was a ridiculous struggle to go, on the way I thought I was going to faint as I was so dizzy and all the way I was praying and fighting what the voices were telling me (and my body aching to stay in bed!). I feel so sick with myself that I was reluctant in doing a simple thing, just keeping my commitment to the day centre for half a day. Then again I did want to do it, really, in my heart. It’s the voices and pain, mental pain having more hold than the physical, that stop me. I pray my resulting weakened and ungenerous desire will be forgiven and eventually transformed if I do all I can to keep on the path and make my actions loving, whatever is going on in my head.

The Lord heard my prayers and guided me. Doesn’t He tell us He keeps us beneath the shelter of His Spirit’s wings! When I felt I could do nothing He gave me the peace I needed and carried me to the right place. It turned into a beautiful morning.

I had been a bit worried because the activities leader was on holiday, so we were to be short staffed and about 15 elderly people come to the centre on a Monday. When I arrived, I found out a new volunteer had started the week before and of course this was a huge help. I was facilitating a craft activity session. Four ladies joined me and we started making mini Christmas trees from empty plastic bottles, tinsel, felt and card. Whilst it was a difficult start, the idea of having an ornament to take home seemed to appeal, as did the brightly coloured tinsel. I was amazed how everyone got right into it and quickly adapted their designs so each little tree was unique. One lady in particular seemed very discouraged and for several minutes kept telling me how rubbish she was at anything like this and that she should throw her tree away. She has a disability affecting use of one of her hands and I think this makes her feel very sad and frustrated. However, during the activity somehow, she grew a little happier and interested in choosing the colours of felt and glitter for a star to top her tree. By the time she finished, she was talking about taking her tree home and she started everyone talking about where they would display their trees. “I’m going to put mine in the front window so all the children can see it when they go past,” one lady said. I was overjoyed that together we’d created some happiness and a sense of achievement.

The other activity I had planned was making a paper star / snowflake. This didn’t go down quite as well on a practical level, partly as we were a bit short of time. It also seemed to be more confusing and less enjoyable than I’d anticipated. This is a valuable experience for me to learn what’s enjoyable and what’s not. I thought the snowflake would be easier than the trees but that was not so. Possibly it was harder to see what we were working towards and for people with some dementia maybe following a set sequence of steps which had to be done in a specific way, was more frustrating than an activity like the trees which didn’t have such a right or wrong. However, though we didn’t make snowflakes, the topic of paper decorations brought back memories for the ladies of Christmases in wartime or when their children were young, when making ornaments from newspaper and scrap paper was popular because there weren’t the materials or money to purchase decorations.

My soul is emptied of a little of the chaos in times like these mornings at the day centre, as I’m focused as completely as I can on creativity and trying to bring encouragement to another person, love them and show them care.

Ginny xxx

Getting ready for the day centre – trying to keep reaching out

I’ve had a really bad dissociative episode this weekend. After therapy group on Friday my mind just shut down and didn’t even seem to slide into my safe escape world. I was frozen and gone and my body wasn’t working either. I think I slept quite a lot and several times was locked into hallucinations, conscious but unable to move. This afternoon I started to be “here” again though I’m longing to escape into sleep. Every movement hurts so much. Returning from these episodes is scary. I’m fighting through fog to speak to anyone and I’ve lost so much time. Where have the last 2 days gone?

I forced myself to go out this afternoon and bought supplies I need for volunteering at the day centre tomorrow (I go every other week to do craft activities with a small group of elderly people). As I was leaving, I bumped into a neighbour who wasn’t well so I picked up a couple of things she needed too. This evening I’ve been preparing for tomorrow. I am dreading it and don’t know how I’ll be able to leave the house, I feel so bad. I feel guilty for dreading it because they need me at the centre and all the elderly people there are struggling with far worse than I am. By God’s grace the harder I have to force myself to go, the more love I will put into it, and in my weakness He is strong and He will lead me.

Tomorrow at the day centre we are going to make mini Christmas trees from empty squash bottles, tinsel and decorated card, and make stars for the top from felt and pretty buttons. If there’s time we’ll make paper stars (or snowflakes). Here’s one I practiced making with scrap paper just now. They’ll look much prettier tomorrow made from glittery paper.

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I thought it would be nice for people to have ornaments to take home. I particularly like the star because you can start with scraps and still make something pretty. It’s a bit like what I’m trusting in God to do with my life – bring something beautiful from the mess of my heart.

Ginny xxx

Magic carpet – update :)

My carpets were fitted a week ago.  I still feel surprised each morning as I get out of bed and step onto squishy carpet instead of cold bare floor! It has made even more difference than I expected. The simple carpet makes a much gentler effect than all the mis-matched off-cuts and rugs I was making do with. It feels luscious underfoot – really soft and springy. I did not expect that. It’s cosier, literally too as it seems much warmer; I think the extra insulation it provides will cut my heating bills.

As the fitting day approached, I was so nervous and felt panicked about coordinating everything and about being able to get the furniture moved since I can’t do it myself because of my physical disability. Thoughts of postponing the date came to the fore, though I knew that would not be a good idea. I’m so pleased I went through with it now. I had the help of knowledgeable, patient staff in the carpet shop and the very personable carpet fitter, not to mention my dad and step-mum and friends L and S’s encouragement to go ahead.

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For some reason, now the carpet is done I’m more inclined to do other things to make my home pretty, for example, I’m looking forward to repainting where it’s greatly needed, or even very simply putting up a Christmas tree this year. This is a hard time of year for me as for many people, and I haven’t been able to bring myself to decorate for several Christmases. Yesterday, I bought a little tree.

Ginny xxx

An evening of baking

What a week it’s been. I feel frazzled. Every day my anxiety has been hitting hard and every challenge exhausting, needing rest and feeling every chance for it is snatched away by the next problem. Therapy was really hard today and I’m very worried for someone else in my group. I told the PD Service and I don’t think they heard or recognise the danger I can see so clear and imminent for the person.

It’s Advent. It’s a precious time. It’s slipping away from me so fast. I really need stillness, to acknowledge what I’m feeling and to draw close to God in prayer. Every day passes and I have the same weaknesses and struggles.

Tonight part of me wants to curl up and escape – but I’m baking because some friends from my old job are coming for coffee tomorrow morning. I put some Christmas carols on and feel a little bit of peace creeping into my heart in the simple repetitive tasks.

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Ginny xxx

 

“See what a morning, gloriously bright…”

Autumn is my favourite season. We’ve had loads of blackberries this year. Here are some pictures from a little earlier when they were ripening, along with some rosehips, which are still brilliant red in the hedges:

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The trees are turning gorgeous colours and I enjoy them on cold sunny mornings. Though I may not like having to get out to early morning appointments when I’m feeling bad, the glimpses of beautiful scenery make me smile. I live near a lovely park as well and I’m fortunate to have the chance to appreciate it.

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Ginny xxx

 

31 Days of Summer Lovin’: Day 16 – Dreamy

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With thanks to Soul Seaker for creating this challenge – for details and acknowledgements please click HERE.

Anna Rose, sleep well tonight

The stars are dancing on the carpet of the sky

 

Time to close your wondering eyes

Where I see the sleepiness creeping

Anna Rose, makes my heart smile, to know you give love so freely

Anna Rose, makes it worthwhile, your love makes me see things so clearly…

With thanks to NibbNltts for the video

I’ve probably shared this before but I love this gentle lullaby by Vienna Teng and it seemed appropriate to today’s theme of “Dreamy”. If I had a daughter I would sing this to her at night. I have two goddaughters and when I’m with them, their love and curiosity and enjoyment has a restorative and hopeful power.

Ginny xxx

 

More cards – trying out some new materials

Feeling fairly useless as I do this week, I’ve tried very hard to do a little bit each day towards creating something good. I’ve been trying out some new materials for my greetings cards – different card backs and adhesive, for example. I focused on making photo cards as a friend had particularly requested some. She likes simple, un-frilly, photographic designs. It’s only recently I’ve started using my photos in my cards (usually I use decoupage, collage and similar) so I need to perfect my technique – a lot!

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It took me ages because of the pain but I’m so happy I persevered. There’s still a lot I need to streamline but I was pleased with some of the results; even more so when I showed them to my friend today and she was delighted. She’d even like some more. It really encouraged me and made me thankful to be able to do something nice for a friend.

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It’s helpful for me as well to make them for friends and get honest feedback so that I can improve and see what kind of designs are popular.

It’s a long range goal at present but one day I’d like to take part in a craft fair selling some of my creations. I think it would be hard for it to be truly profitable financially once my time is taken into account – doing it with the precision and finish I want to is labour-intensive – but I’d get a lot of enjoyment from it. Letter-writing is another favorite of mine though I don’t do as much as I used to as writing can be painful at present. Knowing that sending and receiving cards and letters can bring people lots of pleasure, I’d enjoy selling affordable cards. Many of those available in shops locally are incredibly expensive, maybe over £3 or even over £4 each, and that’s just too much for most people, especially once postage is factored in, and puts people off writing to friends and family.

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This year I hope to have time to make Christmas cards too.

Ginny xxx