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.

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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.

hope in a rainy mood

Dear friends

It’s feeling like summer is almost over and somehow that was beginning to be reflected in my mood. My latest design project was handed over, issued with completion, even though there’s an outstanding item list of over 50 items with the main contractor (who appears to have not been paying their subcontractors, who are therefore not working…) Not my final decision and I’m glad I wasn’t part of it but I fear it doesn’t bode well for the school at the start of September….

The weather has also been quite wet and unsettled for the past several days. And there’s a fair amount of anxiety with exam results due in a little over two weeks.

Several days ago there was a massive thunderstorm literally right over the area we live (I say massive but I do acknowledge that other parts of the world have far more extreme weather than I’ve experienced, but this was massive for the UK south coast!) I had been explaining to Son2 how you can estimate how far away a storm is by counting in seconds between seeing the lightning and hearing the thunder – light travelling faster than sound etc – when there was a particularly bright flash with instantaneous thunder. Well, that’s virtually on top of us, I chuckled, giving a quick thought to the insurance job recently finished on our bedroom following a leaking roof.

Maybe our house will be struck by lightning? Son2 queried, a little nervously. Oh, I don’t think so, I reassured him, there’s taller buildings in the area (we live at the bottom of a small hill and I was rapidly thinking of a 90m diameter sphere rolling across the landscape – a rule of thumb I’ve heard somewhere in my architectural career), taller buildings like… the school! He was calmed.

The next morning as we waved goodbye to Daur2, a text message arrived, and visualise Son2’s sheer delight! Son2 & his school friends lost 3 days of school due to the school being struck by “lightening” and the fire alarm system needed to be replaced! Don’t you love spotting spelling errors in school correspondence πŸ™‚

How oddly prophetic my words seemed to be!!! But we are grateful for the rain – it’s what stops southern England becoming a dessert and we’ve really not had much rain this year (I’m quite pleased that the water company rate our water usage equivalent to the average household with three people – there are six of us).

Our garden, though green, has been somewhat wet recently and the cherry tomatoes are ripening & bursting at the same time with the water deluge. However, through the rain yesterday I caught sight of a rainbow – this photo does no justice – and this evening is beautiful blue skies. A great reminder that we can always have hope, however grim, miserable and unexpected life’s journey feels.

protecting our children

Dear friends

This morning I read the headline that Brady was dead and my mind went back to many years ago.

In 1994 I was serving as a full time missionary for the Lord, assigned to the England Manchester Mission of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  One of my first areas was at the edge of the Pennines, a town named Oldham.

As we met people on the streets, a question was often raised concerning the nature of God and:

Why did He let that happen to those children?

I didn’t understand at first and then someone mentioned the names – Ian Brady and Myra Hindley.  I understood; I explained to my American companion.  This is where it happened, this was the town, our view to the hills was a view to the moors, Saddleworth Moor.  Five children, tortured and killed in the 1960s, buried on the moors.  I was not born but the murders were notorious and 30 years later, even with the guilty ones in jail the community still felt the pain and anger; no remorse was ever shown.

I have not come close to feeling what those parents and the community felt.  But there will be some people who sadly have.

Summer is approaching and growing up it seemed this was the time when children tragically featured in the news – Sara Payne, Milly Dowler, the Soham girls, Jamie Bulger.  This has made me cautious as a parent; I think it’s made many parents cautious and changed the way children play outside the home.  

Today the world has predators, games, social media and wrong influences in the form of images, music, films that can reach right into our homes, through modern technologies.  We can not let down our guard or let anyone else raise our children.  Our children are still vulnerable; they are our treasure – they need teaching, they need our protection.  Its difficult but not impossible.  As parents, I believe, that we must trust God, stay close to Him and His counsel, and everything will be alright.  

The world is incessantly pulled by a flood of enticing and seductive voices.  Overcoming the world is trusting in the one voice that warns, comforts, enlightens, and brings peace β€œnot as the world giveth.” 

Elder Neil L Anderson, April 2017

having hope – it will be alright

Nothing really to do with post, but I was on a train while finishing this post so thought you might like a view!

Dear friends

It’s a month to go until the general election. 

It’s a couple days after the local elections – not in our area.

It’s great results for the government.

It’s dismal results for the opposition.

It’s concerning to me how the media can villify and how the public accept it – as if everything in the media is true! 
I work in local government and I live in an area with an opposition member of parliament and an area with majority vote remain rather than Brexit.

In this unfair society in which we live I’d be quite happy for high earners and high profit businesses to pay higher taxes to support publicly accessible and high standard education, health and social care services.  Hey, I’d pay more taxes if that were the guaranteed outcome!! 

But, in this unfair society, there are those who exploit, those who cheat, those who take advantage of others, and those who suffer.

I sat in a meeting this week to hear a headteacher say the school would have an Β£80k deficit within the next year, and there are others.

I sat in a meeting this week to hear a residential care home manager say they need more nursing care beds, needs of the elderly are increasing.

I sat in a meeting this week to hear my manager say that we may all be asked to do our jobs on less salary; we may have to apply for our jobs in the imminent restructure; he may be served a redundancy notice.

So much uncertainty. So many troubling issues.  

**(5 days pass…)**

But, I don’t feel hopeless.  I will keep hoping for a better world, because I know there is one.  

I read this verse in the scriptures (Moroni 9 verse 24) this morning: 

but I trust that I may see thee soon; for I have sacred records that I would deliver up unto thee.

This is a prophet writing to his son as they are separated and being hunted down by their enemies.  He did see his son and it occurred to me that his hope, his trust, was led by his understanding of a greater purpose, the bigger picture – which was the need for the sacred records to be safe.  

So even though I don’t know what to title this post which stayed as a draft, to a certain point, for nearly a week, I want it to be more hopeful than the way it starts​.

I know that we can have hope, when we know and understand the bigger picture.  We do not need to feel helpless nor hopeless.  There’s​ always someone who needs you and who only you can be  πŸ™‚  Take care! 

Why it will all work out!

Spring time…

Beautiful park scene in town, 18 April 2017

Dear friends

It’s most definitely spring and despite a chilly breeze – we’re on the coast – we’ve had some glorious sunshine the whole week and I’m feeling guilty that I haven’t done a good spring clean.  

Last year’s spring clean didn’t really happen and I resolved to make sure I took time off this year when everyone else is at school or work to take care of the house.  Though I’ve took days off in March they were spent doing my second job (reviewing student work experience log books) and only one day I managed to do some work in the garden.

But in the last few days… (the Easter weekend) … we’ve assembled two chests of drawers (to replace the one big one that we’ve had since not long after we married), stripped our sons’ bedroom of wallpaper (that’s been pending since the ceiling was filled in about 6 months ago), and I got my hair done (pick & drop, curly lion mane style – I’ll try taking a selfish and show you) and Friday opticians, I have permission from Daur1 to spend money on myself and get new spectacles, you deserve it she beamed having recently purchased a Chromebook for herself… even though I keep giving her bus fare to get to work because she never has change!!

Anyhow, it is a wonderful time of year! Sunshine yesterday, rained at night, sunshine today.  I took some tree photos and spotted a Norway Maple – I know this tree now because on my latest project the tree officer is objecting to a grade B1 Norway Maple being felled to make way for our development.  So we’re going to work on keeping it… 

Norway Maple – distinct red and cream colour during Spring

Anyhow, I’m rambling!!  Easter weekend was great – though I had an awful piano lesson (too little practice) and my teacher said my cuckoo sounded like it was on drugs – and as I tried to sit peacefully in sacrament meeting on Sunday, to focus on the speakers, the atonement of Christ, His love for us, my love for Him, I couldn’t help thinking which way would an intercontinental nuclear missile be launched from North Korea, east or west? And where would that be intercepted? Where would the fallout be if it exploded in the atmosphere? Over Africa? Over the Pacific? Would we, here in the UK, see pink skies?… troubling times.

And at the moment the BBC news app replaces North Korea and Trump headlines for some UK news on the royal family (Prince Harry coping, or not, with the loss of his mother at age 12 and the reality of mental health), it hits us.  We’re going to have a General Election in less than 2 months (7 weeks and 1 day from when I’m writing this).  

The media is going to be full of it!! But I suspect the electorate are full of apathy. 2014 Scottish independence referendum (phew, we’re all together); 2015 general election (conservative clear win, not a surprise), 2016 EU referendum – WHAT!? I’m still to openly meet more than one person that owns up to voting leave but, I’m told, they are there! Oh, and a new PM; (And 2016 US presidential election, which, although it’s own another country, let’s face it, the whole world got involved! WHAT!?…); 2017 Brexit notice really served – farewell to EU legislation et al 😦 

And now, bring it on, 2017 UK General Election!  Son1’s first opportunity to vote, a cohort unable to vote in the EU referendum and hugely affected by the outcome, gets to vote in a snap general election.  However, the context has changed: Article 50 notice has been served, the UK will leave the European Union; EU residents are openly made to feel unwelcome – sad but true in many places; and there will be changes to immigration laws, something which could have happened without leaving the EU but….  I suspect that whoever chants UK First the loudest will win.  

It’s Spring, Jesus did rise from the dead and is alive today, and one day will come back, meanwhile let the games begin… again.

Primary role

Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 19 verse 14

Dear friends

In recent weeks I have been called to serve in the Primary organisation of our church ward (local unit).  The Primary organisation is for the children, up to 12 years.  

It’s been about 10 years since I last served there – I recall because Son1 had not long been baptised (at age 8) when I was released. Daur1 and Daur2 were also there, but Daur2 was 3 years old so doesn’t remember.

You can imagine how excited Son2 has been since finding out that his Mum will be with him each Sunday:)!!  And I’ve been excited too.  I’ve already had a week in nursery (with children aged 18 months to 3 years) – I’d forgotten how delightfully stubborn a 2 year old can be! And this month I’ll be doing sharing time, with all the 3 to 11 year olds, about 12 of them so not too many.

Of course, I will miss the youth Sunday School class… not sure if the feeling is mutual πŸ™‚ … and Daur1 did remind me they are little children!!  We had our first presidency meeting – I’m a counsellor -the secretary is the same, and filled us in on recent issues. With a couple of families moving out before summer we will lose several children in a short space of time. But things change quickly so we’re not relying on a small number of children to ease anything.  

This will take me out of my comfort zone, that’s always a good thing for me as it stops me becoming complacent. And I feel it’s so important to be able to share the gospel with children; the gospel of Jesus Christ is beautifully simple, and simply beautiful (not my phrase… I think one of the modern day apostles) and so to be able to explain eternal concepts in a manner that a child can understand is important.  That’s the way the Saviour taught us πŸ™‚

Mummy spam…

I love my Motorola!!

Dear friends

It’s been a while – we’re all fine. There’s bits of news – like I started piano lessons!! again, after… 30+ years = πŸ™‚ my dear husband is paying rather than my dear mother – but I’m going to quickly ask:

How often can I message my children?

I mean, I’m embracing the technology! Making sure they are safe! And on time for lessons at college! I, me myself, I don’t see a problem with that!!  After all, I carried my children in my tummy for 9 months each and nurtured them, I think they can at least text back when I check up on them. Right?  I don’t bother anymore with Son1, I only receive monosyllabic responses so I only message when picking him up from work (he works part time in a fast food restaurant) or when he’s picking up Son2 from school (an occasional reminder!). Daur1 always politely replies, letting me know where she is on her journey.

But this evening as I chauffeured Son1 & Daur1 (18 and 17 years old respectively), I suddenly heard Daur1 say:

At least you don’t get the Mummy spam!

And proceeded to list off how often I text her (we have unlimited so…) – did you get bus OK? Did you catch the 8h train? Have you been to your chemistry 1-1/ workshop? Are you nearly home? 

It did sound ridiculous and Son1 said – I’ll block you if you do that with me!!

So I clearly need to restrain myself!! Even Daur1 can distinguish if Son2 has used my phone to message her because:

Mum uses punctuation!

So there you have it.  Despite having phones which do everything, so quickly and easily, and let’s face it, they’re like the communication devices in Star Trek! (I’ve recently discovered you can video call through WhatsApp!!) – despite this there seems to be some unwritten protocol about how often is too often! … And I was thinking about getting an App to track where they are… in case of emergency!! 

listening…

Dear friends

I’m here at Son2 piano lesson. His teacher feels he has great finger technique, and he’s definitely more natural than I ever was as a child. But… 

Son2 is 9 years old. And trying to get a nine year old son to practice is tough, unless he’s in the mood, which most of the time he isn’t.  

Son2 struggles with reading the notes or at least remembering them and currently has the attitude that as long as he can play the piece, reading the music is secondary.  Last night I gave him some notes quizzes to encourage him, but it began and ended with tears, Son2’s.   Son1, who was doing Chemistry revision, said did I really need to put Son2 through this?  I took Son1 out of violin lessons when he reached the age of no practice (around 9 years), and my dear husband feels that was a mistake, so I’ve made it quite clear that Son2 will continue unless Son2 declares to his teacher, grandma and father that he wants to give up.  Is that too tough?  

As I recall, at nine years old, one, generally, has little experience but you feel like you can do everything and anything given the chance – be a pilot, be a train driver, be a famous dancer/ singer/ actor.  But you don’t know what it takes to get there, i.e. the self discipline to practice, the humility to learn. 

So I’m listening to the scales, listening to the notes, listening to the teacher, listening to Son2 struggling and achieving!  It may be difficult right now but one day you will appreciate the self discipline that you will develop πŸ™‚

returnee…

Dear friends 

I’ve returned to my blog – it’s been a while, I know.  After the surgery I was signed off work until Christmas Eve and then I already had annual leave booked for the last week in 2016.  Then a wait for the biopsy results – all OK for which I am grateful to Father πŸ™‚  So, unexpectedly, I was not at work for the whole of December 2016.

I returned to work on 3 January 2017, as many people.  And due to the transfer of the property business, I returned to my former and first ever employer, the city council.

I returned to my desk, with various trade literature and unopened post – after two days it’s still in my in box, unopened.

I returned to my projects – a little model completed for the feasibility study and several outstanding technical queries on the construction project (with a contractor stating the delay is due to ‘us’).

I returned to discover that such was the concern for me that they had approached a local company for costs to deliver the feasibility study!  I’ve had several colleagues welcome me back.  Since they are all predominantly male colleagues my stock answer is I’m fine – no point getting into a conversation about recovery after laparascopic surgery of a gynaecological nature! – and I swiftly move the conversation on to QS resources, retaining walls or the return to local government.

Back in the home, we’ve also been looking into returnees to Africa.  There’s lots on YouTube.  As the house in Africa is becomes bigger and our mortgage here becomes smaller (can something grow smaller?…) the prospect of going to Africa long term becomes more real.  It will be an adventure for me; it will be returning home for my dear husband. Some would say for me too, clearly, as my ancestry will include slaves taken from Africa to the plantations of the Caribbean islands.  I have many deeper thoughts on this.  I am grateful to Father to know that somewhere in my family, ancestors survived the ridiculous barbaric cruelty of slavery to have offspring and become free.  Free to grow and return.