chance meetings

Dear friends

If you’re part of any type of community, you will know the phrase, it’s a small world. That’s true but it doesn’t always feel like a small world when you live in big cities, visit new cities or when you’re taking a break.

Not long after I moved to London, 1996, big metropolitan city, home to approximately 6.5 million individuals, I was in an area of London, I think heading to an exhibition and coming out of Angel tube station during rush hour. And who do I pass entering the tube station, my little brother. Yes, I knew he was one of those 6.5 million people but he lived the other side of London, and had been in London for a few years. He was just as shocked and let out a jovial laugh of shock as we hugged and he explained he couldn’t really stop because he was on his way somewhere!!!

Same year, still in London, leaving another tube station (St James Park), middle of the day and I hear someone call my name. This time a lady who I really did not recognise. But she knew my name and then told me she hasn’t seen me since I was about 14 years old. We used to attend Sunday school together at the New Testament Church of God! As she told me her name, I was still in shock that she recognised me, then in my late 20s but I could barely recognise her. Clearly I hadn’t changed that much! We politely asked for each others parents, wished each other well and continued on our independent journeys.

Later that year, 1996, I travelled to Canada and USA on holiday, and I was in Salt Lake City, Utah, casually wandering through a shopping mall on my own. Across the atrium I see another black person, possibly the only black person that I saw in Salt Lake at that time :), so imagine my shock as he called my name! As I approached I recognise him from the stake (area of the church) in London – he had moved to live, or study, in Utah. We arranged to meet up later that day and that was the last I heard of him. I was already engaged, I think he was too as I recall. Remember, back then the Internet was rare, expensive, and the term social media had yet to be coined!

A couple weeks ago our family went to the London Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. These are sacred places and this temple serves the southern half of the UK. We decided stay overnight so it wasn’t so rushed even though we are only a couple of hours drive from it. Saturday afternoon we prepare to head back home. Daur2 and I quickly head towards the accommodation for… something… (I forget what) and see two men; the tall black man recognises me, calls my name, and, lo and behold, it’s the same friend from Utah, now living back in England, in the Midlands, 200 miles from us! It has been nearly 23 years!!

Before we make it into the building we meet two more people that know me – well, one knows my husband – by which time Daur2 states: “You and Dad know ALOT of people!!” I don’t think we do, but that day, there certainly were lots of chance meetings. And it is more lovely to meet old friends at the Lord’s house and knowing that in our own party of the Lord’s vineyard we are each individually trying to remain true to the Lord.

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The waiting game…

Dear friends

Waiting for a building to complete is like waiting for spontaneous labour to start.

I can say this because I’ve seen a few building projects complete and because I’ve waited for labour to start, four times.

My latest project is a small new block for a local school consisting of a kitchen, hall and a classroom. In fact, it has been under construction for about 38 weeks. The school will start moving in some furniture over the next few days as they need to decant out of half of their existing Victorian school into the new building for the rest of term so we can remain on programme and continue the major refurbishment of the Victorian building. It’s a great project but difficult for the school as they’ve had to deal with changes to the routine.

I thought you’d be interested in seeing some of my earliest sketches for this project from my personal sketchbook. I’m really pleased with the outcome for the new building visually and functionally. It’s a compact layout, minimising circulation space, optimising orientation (it’s long elevations face east & west so it’s not prone to overheating) and traditional materials complement the adjacent Victorian architecture. This sounds a bit like an architectural journal but that’s part of the architectural language which one develops to sell proposals, to clients, to planners.

I’ve surely stated this before but I do love being an architect πŸ™‚ it is a very rewarding though humbling profession. Humbling because we are constantly learning from specialists around us – architects are the generalists of the construction industry. Rewarding because it is the images of our imaginations that can become reality and we have to share that, through drawings and words, with the specialists.

The phrase at the beginning I used today in an email to the headteacher to try and show empathy for how they are feeling, desperate to move in before end of half term this week, but it is my responsibility to confirm that if it’s safe and ready to handover to the school, that it’s complete. Right now, it’s not so I’ve told the contractor, as we agreed for the last 38 weeks that the school will begin to move in furniture. I had to tell the school that the furniture will have to stay in the middle of rooms until the contractor had finished some small aspects, like fitting skirting to a store room. Nothing too big but enough for the project manager to step in to the email conversation and suggest that plans were changing. I explained nothing was changing, the school can still set up their rooms by theend of the week. I’m sure all well be fine and I’ll visit tomorrow but as architect, I’m administering the building contract and I also have the role of principal designer (under UK health and safety legislation) so I’m going to deliver this baby when all are safe and ready!

Light The World

Dear friends

Happy New Year 2019! This time of year, Christmas and New Year can be difficult times for many; loneliness, cold, reminders of darkness in our lives when light seems to surround. Here’s a story and a thought to encourage you to light the world, light your community, throughout the year. Seehttps://www.lds.org/church/news/2018-lighttheworld-asks-members-to-give-as-christ-gave?lang=eng

In recent years our town, city, has become home to the homeless. Tents in the city parks have appeared and a soup kitchen takes over at 6pm outside a coffee shop which serves as additional meeting rooms for nearby businesses during the day. As a local government worker, I’m aware that there are targets for building homes over the next few years. As an architect, I know what can be done to the physical structures that lie empty while someone sleeps on the ground in it’s shadow. As a Christian, a Latter Day Saint, my heart aches to do more.

And so it was a few weeks ago that on a rainy morning as I left the office for a morning site visit that I passed a motionless figure wrapped in a sleeping bag at the base of an advertising kiosk, in the open rain, on the pavement. The guilt engulfed me as I passed on to my site visit – how many times have I been in lessons and heard the parable of the good Samaritan. Site visit done, I headed back to the office and determined that if that figure was still there I would offer assistance. I prepared myself by visiting the bank first and purposefully walking back the same way. The figure still lay there but I could see movement and rain had stopped, the sleeping bag was, of course, sodden. I knelt and began speaking. Food and drinks were on the pavement for the person so I explained that before trying to persuade them to let me help them to a local launderette, to wash and dry the sleeping bag. As this offer was refused I realised that the person was a woman. I then decided to give her the money which I had withdrawn and asked her to put out her hand so she could receive it. And I pushed the note into the grey hand which emerged from the side of the sleeping bag. Our family has been blessed throughout this year, we’ve not struggled for food, managed to pay bills and debts and though I’m not in the habit of giving money away, I felt humbled to do so. I then headed into the warm dry office.

Whatever you may feel about homelessness and how a person finds themselves sleeping on a rainy pavement in a sleeping bag under some cardboard, I know that individual is known to God who is the Father of us all. And we can be His hands to bring comfort to each other. And as this life is a test, I remember the scripture (Hebrews 13 v2):

Be not forgetful to entertain strangers : for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

And, of course, this one (Matthew 25 v40):

… Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

student days… (a quick memoir)

Dear friends

30 years ago I was towards the end of my first year studying architecture. I may have mentioned before, I studied at University of Edinburgh – it had been my long time desire to study there and I was blessed to make it. I absolutely love my Edinburgh days; I made great friends and had great experiences. I loved studying architecture, that had been my long time desire since the age of about 14 years. However it was not a pleasant experience as generally I recall struggling with the large egos of tutors and fellow students, not all, but enough!

30 years later and I am traveling to a local university where I have been tutoring first year architecture students these past six months. How enlightening it has been for me to discuss architecture with these young people. And how difficult!!! And how sad as I see them not working and continually falling short of what I see so clearly in them. We recently did a hand drawing quiz, prepared by one of the full time lecturers, i.e. 1 minute to draw an internal wall with a door at scale 1 to 50. (This may sound technical but remember these students have been drawing and studying the topic since last September so it should not have been a difficult task). Only a few managed to correctly draw this in the minute given to them 😦

I’m now on my way to see the annual school exhibition. In my first year, my hand drawn sketch of a half onion was exhibited πŸ™‚ I’m interested to see what the third years produce at the end of their degree since some of my first years will be there in two years. Hopefully this will also help me to understand the ethos of this school of architecture and current architectural education.

Much can happen in two years… not to mention thirty years…

I’ve been much more reflective about time in recent months as I approach the age of Kylie Minogue! I recently heard a radio journalist who invited two friends to live by a motto for a month, such as, live every day as if it’s your last. I was impressed by the attitude of the individual as they made the effort to contact extended relatives and even organise a simple family gathering.

The recent words of living prophets and apostles – #LDSconf – have also touched my heart. I keenly feel that we are living in the time of the parables specifically concerning the last days, like the parable of the ten virgins. These are wonderful but perilous times – we must prepare and that doesn’t happen overnight… two years?… thirty years?… a lifetime?…

You can judge for yourself πŸ™‚

prayer

Dear friends

What have you prayed for?

While it is good to pray for and work for physical protection and healing during our mortal existence, our supreme focus should be on the spiritual miracles that are available to all of God’s children.

What do you pray for?

No matter our ethnicity, no matter our nationality, no matter what we have done if we repent, no matter what may have been done to usβ€”all of us have equal access to these miracles.

What will you pray for?

We are living a miracle, and further miracles lie ahead.

(Quotes from Donald L Hallstrom, October 2017, #LDSconf)

perspective

Dear friends

I feel the last several weeks have been fairly unbalancing for me… as if my life is ever balanced but things were OK and we were coping. Things have tipped and I know that any balance regained will be different. This is on account of family fractions, fractures, whatever you want to call it. It’s difficult and painful.

I admit, one of these is my doing… I couldn’t keep my mouth shut when listening to my children being compared (negatively) to other grandchildren in the family. The other, I am right in the middle, between two close family members.

Outwardly, I’ve tried to keep going. Praying, fasting, reading scriptures, listening to uplifting talks, trying to get some calm in myself. I’ve delved into work – which isn’t difficult since we are currently at technical design stage so lots to do – but I’ve had some ridiculously scary dreams… car going over a cliff with my dear husband and I inside, me on a motorcycle being rammed by a car but left unharmed, the car was written off, and then alien raptors attacking the city as we hid out in an edge of town estate. Trust me, these were very scary, very vivid dreams.

There’s been other things happening too – some members at church have passed away, the husband of a friend, the youngest sister of some friends of our children and the son of some other family friends who has children.

Physically our home is not settled as my dear husband arranged to have the kitchen replastered, before we’d ordered a new kitchen… the result, we’ve been camping out in the garden for washing up and cooking in the dining room – since end of December. (The end is near – new kitchen is installed next week).

During this winter of discontent, shall we say, there have been moments of enlightenment which have helped me regain my perspective.

Daur2 (who wants to study architecture) was discussing with me, on the way to school, how she’d got 17/30 in yet another maths test whereas the rest of the class got 20+. As I reassured her that it would be OK, she exclaimed, but you can say that, your successful!! I was quite surprised by this and asked her if she ever remembered me not being an architect. Daur2 doesn’t remember and I explained that it was 14 years between me finishing university and successfully getting a job where I could finish training, and the week after I was offered the job, we discovered Son2 was on his way, and all this after failing my final project submission at university and having to resubmit in the autumn.

We all have our moments – some last 14 years but that doesn’t mean we give up on our dreams.

Son2 and I had a discussion recently about 3D vision, and how if you close one eye, you see things in 2D, with no sense of depth. Our brain uses the information from two slightly different angles to give us that depth that we see. Our students at university have also been exploring this as they’ve been to draw sections – some make the mistake of drawing the section as a perspective, showing depth.

I realised that in my life, I can choose to view it in 2D, in a very linear manner, dictated by time. This can be quite limiting and discouraging as it gives a sense of running out of time or not having enough time.

Or I can choose to see events in 3D, things past, present and future, wide-screen, full surround sound. A bit like Ebenezer Scrooge’s experience of Christmas Eve night in A Christmas Carol. Essentially that helped gain perspective in his life.

So I’m training myself to approach my life and trials with perspective, seeing events and people more holistically. This is the correct view – anything else is like having one eye closed!

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known

(1 Corinthians chapter 13 verse 12)

Change is necessary for progress…

Dear friends

It’s been more than 10 weeks since my last post and much has happened, in your lives as well as mine.  Change is necessary for progress is my personal motto, it has been for a very long time.  In modern speak, I suppose that would show I have a growth mindset.  Anyhow here’s a synopsis of what I’ve been experiencing these past weeks πŸ™‚ 

1. Children grow – when our eldest was about 9 months old, a friend gave me some advice which I believe she had received from another friend who is a mother of 10 children.  That advice was, remember it’s a phase.  Whatever seemingly difficult stage you or your child is at, view it as a phase.  This advice has served me well and has certainly helped me to remain sane! I strive to apply it to other aspects of my life, other relationships.  I think one day we will realise how brief mortality is and we’ll see all things clearly (see 1 Corinthians chapter 13 verse 12) For now, when I had to buy yet another pair of school shoes for our youngest, Son2 (approaching 10 years old) and discovered he’s now in the smaller men’s shoe size, I thought, it’s a phase… what size feet will he reach as a grown man!?

2. I’ve decided to look up more, seize the moment, capture now, be a little more impulsive and take more photos of life as it happens – like this photo (no filter) of our yellow sky, pink sun, as a result of Saharan sands a few weeks ago.  Related to this, I’m going to post more photos, probably of trees and skies as this reminds me to see the beauty all around.  We live on a beautiful planet which serves life well.  We, humans, need to serve life well too. 

3. The long awaited restructure began at work and some of my older colleagues have been taking stock of what their pensions look like and is it worth retiring a few years early.  I’m in the generation that’ll work till 67 years so it’s not something I’ve paid too much attention to (I probably should but I’ve not…)  So I was traveling to a meeting with two older colleagues, both male, and one mentioned his wife retired several years ago, she earned quite highly so they were OK.  The other chuckled, commenting his wife never earned much and “my wife retired at 23!” I impulsively stood up for his wife and said, “I don’t think she would call it retirement, I’m sure she did a great job raising your sons!”  He did accept this but I realised how many people out there devalue their own family, because they are making a different contribution.  I’m so glad that as a working mum I could still stand up for my sisters.

4. Glass an hour – this is a little mantra I’ve been telling myself in relation to drinking water.  It’s like the fruit & veg, 5 a day, here in the UK.  I’m blessed to live where I can turn on a tap at home and work and drink safe water.  I know many in the world can’t do that and I, sadly, remember a time when living at my dear mother’s home and she’d been unable to pay the water bill and it was cut off (I don’t think they are allowed to do that now).  I walked a couple of miles each day to public toilets to fill bottles of water to bring back home.  So I appreciate water and what it means for our health.  I don’t think we can ever drink too much but we can certainly have too little, so, as I’ve noticed myself feeling thirsty more often, I’ve tried to drink a glass of water each hour.  I always feel much better and less tummy aches when I do this.

5. I mentioned the long awaited restructure at work began.   I’m one of the few whose salary will increase, quite significantly, as a result of this due to the grading of my job.  Our jobs have now been aligned to public sector gradings and although people many are grumbling that it’s less than private sector pay, I say, well, go and work in the private sector if you want to earn that kind of money; don’t expect public taxes to pay ridiculous amounts for you not to deliver!  And around the time the restructuring consultation began, I was approached by the local school of architecture to see if I’d be interested in studio tutoring πŸ™‚  Of course!!! 

6. The world wide General Conference #LDSconf was, in my humble opinion, absolutely sublime. I am steadily working my way through all the talks, starting with those given by the apostles.  I can only suggest you listen to it – check it out on LDS.org or on YouTube.  I don’t have a favourite but memorable messages for me are: am I Sad, Mad or Glad?; women in these last days; the need for humility.  

7. Finally, the changing world.  The past 10-12 weeks have seen human tragedies on an increasing scale of horrific-ness (i.e shootings, terrorism acts) plus natural incidents, fires, hurricanes, earthquakes.  And then political incidents across the globe affecting whole countries and regions.  For comfort in these difficult times, I gain comfort from the words of prophets reminding us Who wins in the end and I am striving to be on that team. Elder Dallin H Oaks reminded us of these words from 20 years ago in his talk at conference:

I see a wonderful future in a very uncertain world.  If we will cling to our values, if we will build on our inheritance, if we will walk in obedience before the Lord, if we will simply live the gospel, we will be blessed in a magnificent and wonderful way.  We will be looked upon as a peculiar people who have found the key to a peculiar happiness.

President Gordon B Hinckley, November 1997.

drafting skills

Dear friends

A few evenings ago, I helped Daur1 complete the first draft of her personal statement for medical school, reducing it from 6000+ characters to less than 4000 (the maximum allowable). At the end, at 2359h, she exclaimed to the rest of the awake household (Son1 and her father):

Mum has a superpower!! A gift!!

I know! replied her father, and they began discussing how I should do proofreading after retirement… in 20 years πŸ™‚ I explained that it’s a bit too plain English for the academic environment!!

It took me a while to discover this skill and I do recognise it is a little unusual. It’s closely related to my other superpower, the ability to quickly assimilate large amounts of information and identify the salient points. I first realised I had these twin skills some years ago when I re-wrote and collated a submission for beacon council status following a rather inadequate draft from a private consultant which my boss was not too happy with. We were shortlisted and went on to win the status.

I’m actually quite a slow reader; with the statement last night (made worse because I was tired but then adrenaline kicked in…) it took me a good 15 mins to read the initial 6000+ words and understand what Daur1 was trying to write.

I’ve learnt that skills and abilities come in many, many ways, some hidden, some more obvious. I know all of us have a super power, probably several, something that makes you uniquely you and something that you can use to help others. Gifts, talents, skills, super powers, are not there for selfish reasons and I think rarely directly benefit the person who possesses them, except in a way that they can serve others. I’ll let scripture explain more eloquently what I’m trying to say, from Doctrine and Covenants section 46:

11 For all have not every gift given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God.

12 To some is given one, and to some is given another, that all may be profited thereby.

26 And all these gifts come from God, for the benefit of the children of God.

the value of time… 13 reasons

Dear friends

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

I’ve always taken great comfort in this passage of scripture (Ecclesiastes 3 verses 1 to 8). There’s time to be all I need to be, but maybe not I’m one day!

The list below is from a post, from one of my cousins, following a story about a young man who learns, from an older man, that the most valuable thing in the old man’s life was the younger man’s time. Hopefully there will be something in this list that encourages you. Thank you for taking the time to read πŸ™‚

1. At least 15 people in this world love you in some way..

2 A smile from you can bring happiness to anyone, even if they don’t like you.

3 Every night, SOMEONE thinks about you before they go to sleep.

4. You mean the world to someone.

5. If not for you, someone may not be living.

6. You are special and unique.

7. When you think you have no chance of getting what you want, you probably won’t get it, but if you trust God to do what’s best, and wait on His time, sooner or later, you will get it or something better.

8. When you make the biggest mistake ever, something good can still come from it.

9. When you think the world has turned its back on you, take a look: you most likely turned your back on the world.

10. Someone that you don’t even know exists loves you.

11. Always remember the compliments you received. Forget about the rude remarks.

12. Always tell someone how you feel about them; you will feel much better when they know and you’ll both be happy.

13. If you have a great friend, take the time to let them know that they are great.