Sunday, 19 June 2016

Fresh Start

I have a lot of exciting things coming up so decided to spruce up the blog a little. If you want to keep following and reading then go check out and you can follow along with the conversations!

I will leave this page up for a while before taking it down, but please make sure to hit 'Follow' over on the new page!

Thank you!

Erin :)

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Edge of a Cliff

Well, it’s been a while. 

My last post was all about getting priorities straight for this year, giving more time to writing and working on this blog. And, oh look, we have already hit April! And oh look, I haven’t posted since January …

The last few months have been difficult and confusing, and although I wouldn't say my priorities have gone completely out of whack, I have continued to feel stuck with life and that I haven’t always had my priorities in the right order. Work has been fraught and stressful. I have been overloaded and bombarded with a never-ending list of things to do. Every day has started early and hasn't let up until far later in the evening than I would have liked. Being busy throughout the week has continued into the weekends leaving little time to unwind before a new week begins. This has meant that the time I would have liked to dedicate to this blog, music and just writing in general has been sparse. When it did appear I felt as if I was being forced to spend time on my hobbies. Needless to say I began to resent them. Am I alone in this?

This blog has been a sort of pillar for me. I get to vent and share my experiences, whether they be frustrations or full of excitement. But I have always wanted it to be a place where I could highlight the joy in life, in spite of any pain or unhappiness. I have wanted it to be a source for others to see that life doesn’t need to end when something terrible happens. 

I have had to remind myself of that.

Besides the crazy chaotic-ness of school, and perhaps what has had more of an impact on my life, my family has hit a rough patch. My grandfather came over to attend my brother’s graduation back in the summer. Our dad not being able to be there was obviously a painful experience but having our grandad there somewhat softened the occasion. And, our brother got to have his own cheering squad consisting of his two sisters and girlfriend! We are proud to say that we started the cheers in the Cathedral. Our brother was apparently less than impressed, even though he definitely smiled! Anyway, we noticed at this time that our grandad wasn’t quite himself. 

Sadly, by the time my graduation came around our grandad was too sick to travel over to attend it. Thankfully, my uncle took the role of representative, which was incredibly sweet and touching, and made the ceremony more bearable. But my grandad’s absence just placed a greater emphasis on the fact my dad wasn’t there. 

About a month ago things got serious. My aunt had been flying back and forth to the Isle of Man to make sure our grandad was being looked after and try and sort things out, but as a family we had to start discussing a move to Cyprus for potentially better care. However, before any plans were concrete and had been set in motion, our grandad had passed away. 

With five weeks to go we had frantically planned on going to the Isle of Man for a week to spend some time with him as we knew he really wasn’t doing too well and a move to Cyprus was looking more than likely. But a week to visit turned into a trip for a funeral. 

The whole time we were on the island was difficult. There were memories of being with our dad as children, taking us to all of the places he spent as a child or youth himself, where he, his cousins and our aunt played. We have been to some of these places since his death but they still held some raw emotions, which I'm sure will always be the case. On top of memories with our dad were the memories we had with our grandad. Going on train rides and walks around the island, stopping off in many coffee shops, going out for meals and many more. With other family members still on the island we had lots of people to catch up with too. It was somewhat overwhelming.

In typical British weather fashion, the Isle of Man tends to be the home to a lot of wind and rain. We were definitely treated to a lot of it, including hail, at which time we were thankful to be inside and awaiting food! Each time we go we are armed with warm clothes, scarves, umbrellas and winter coats. Hairbrushes are also packed but rarely used due to hair being just as tangled as it was prior to any attempt of brushing out the knots. Soon, even washing hair seems too much effort. Dry shampoo was made for the Isle of Man, people, I promise!

However, on the day of the funeral the weather seemed far from rainy and windy. It was not gloomy at all in fact. To unwind a little from an emotionally draining morning and afternoon, our family went on a hike up Bradda Head with our aunt, uncle and cousins. It is a special place to all of us for many reasons and it seemed appropriate to climb to the top on that day of the week particularly. Whilst the 'adults' waited on one of the many benches overlooking the idyllic scenery, us 'young' cousins ventured to the top of Milner’s Tower, and even to the edge of the cliff. Believe me, the opportunity for photos from up there is well worth the shaky legs afterwards, even if we got a little out of breath.  

Sitting close to the edge of the cliff, trying to one-up my brother, I sat looking out at the ocean surrounding the island. It was spectacular. I remember thinking about how rough and choppy the sea had been for the few days before that day. It was such a contrast to how calm and still the waves were in that moment. The sun was glorious as it was beginning to set. There was only a gentle breeze in the air and it all seemed very fitting. As Psalm 30:5 says "weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning".

The time we spent with our cousins that week, and on this hike specifically, seemed to breathe a little life back into me. We were all so exhausted by the events of the week that just being together was what we needed, or at least that is how it felt to me. Just laughing together and taking pictures of a place we have all grown up to admire and love was perfect. 

Sometimes life is hard. And sometimes it is even harder. But, then there are moments that just bring a perspective to it all. Despite the fact that a key member (or rather two) of our family wasn’t with us as we made our way to the top joking and reminiscing about the past, we had a rare week where we were all in the same place at the same time. We spent part of everyday together just enjoying each others’ company. 

It was a hard week, but I am so glad for that time together. We got to talk and plan for the times we have to look forward to. And in the pain of loss, we were reminded of the joy that is ahead for us all in the future. 

(Please feel free to comment on the blog and if there is anyone reading these posts that would like to email me to share their stories or experiences, then please do - - I would love to hear from you!) 

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Grown Up Christmas

It's Christmas Eve!!! Another year is almost over - how has it gone so fast?! 

Christmas is a huge deal in my house. My mum decorates every room of the house to look like Santa's Grotto - no, I am not kidding! Those of you who know my mum will understand the pain we go through. ;) 

As a child I remember being so excited for Christmas! I would get so giddy just like any child in a Christmas movie. The whole idea of waking up to snow (which never happened because we never had snow on Christmas morning!), seeing the Christmas tree with presents surrounding it, having all the family around the table for Christmas dinner and just genuinely having a whale of a time. As I have gotten older, I still get excited. But I guess, as I have to (at least try to) act like a grown up, my excitement is a little bit more reserved. I still love opening presents, but I love to see the look on the faces of my friends and family when they open the presents I got for them - it's mostly shock at my horrific wrapping skills .... which reminds me, I really need to get wrapping! But there is a lot of commercialism involved with Christmas, and it gets even more commercial with each year that passes. The true meaning is being lost in more places and fighting it out to get the perfect gift causes more arguments than it should. So, as a family, we take time to remember Jesus being born (every childhood video of Christmas morning shows my brother, sister and I saying 'happy birthday' to Jesus) and celebrate the beauty of this and hope we have because of it. Jesus is the reason for the season y'all! Can you tell I have listened to a lot of country music already today?

To encourage getting excited for Christmas, you have to put on those Christmas songs! There is a mountain of Christmas songs that I listen to at this time of year. Michael. Buble. You know what I am talking about! His Christmas album is completely on fleek (as my sister would say). I also have a lot of country versions of different Christmas songs that are on repeat. The classics of Bing Crosby, Point of Grace and Steven Curtis Chapman are played too. All of these remind me of when my family and I celebrated Christmas as a child and some have been added to the playlist since. 

However, one has been played quite a lot this year in particular. Amy Grant's 'My Grown Up Christmas List' (or Kelly Clarkson's depending on whose I feel like listening to). This year it rings particularly true with all that has panned out across the world. We live in beautiful world, but at the moment, we frequently see it's darkness. The media has shone a huge spotlight on events in Syria and Paris, but there are countless other events that we do not see on the news. There is so much hurt and violence happening on a daily basis, yet we don't always hear about it, often because the latest celebrity scandal is deemed more newsworthy or because politics has brushed it under the carpet. 

Listening to the song, I think about how Christmas was for me as a child, and how I see it now. I still get a kick out of seeing the Christmas tree, giving and receiving presents and getting to spend time with family and friends. But, I realise that this is not everyone's reality at Christmas. Not just those in foreign countries, crippled by war or poverty, but those in my own country. 

Additionally, there will be many people celebrating Christmas without some of their loved ones. This sucks. When Christmas is built up to be 'family time' and family or friends are no longer around, it can be really difficult to enjoy this time of year. It's often lonely. It's often sad. It's sometimes bittersweet. I have so many family memories of Christmas that include my dad, and I wish he was still around to celebrate it with us. But just because we have the people around us that we love, doesn't mean everyone else does too.

So this Christmas (no, don't start singing Wham!), I encourage you to count your blessings. Cherish all that you have and be grateful for it. But take time to remember those who are not as fortunate as you. And if you are in the position where you can, do something to make someone else's Christmas special, whether it be taking some gingerbread men to your grumpy neighbour, giving money to a worthy charity or just phoning the relatives you don't speak to often enough to wish them a merry Christmas. 

I hope you have the most wonderful Christmas, spent with the ones you love! 

Erin x

(I have been informed that the hair WAS fashionable at the time ..... ;) jokes - I always wanted curly hair!)

(Please feel free to comment on the blog and if there is anyone reading these posts that would like to email me to share their stories or experiences, then please do - - I would love to hear from you!) 

1 New Year, 6 New Approaches

And just like that, it's 2016! Where did 2015 even go?!

When New Year rolled around last year I wrote a blog post about my lack of faith in resolutions (read it here I still believe they are essentially hopes and dreams that we make, but they are also simply ones we can make every other day of the year. 

I may have also mentioned that it makes sense to start the new year with a sense of clarity and a fresh approach to what you want the year ahead to hold. But along with this, there often comes a focus on ourselves. For many people, 2015 hasn't been a great year. Unfortunately, 2016 won't be that great for some either. When asked what I believe 2016 would hold for me, I honestly felt really anxious. 2015 hasn't been the most clear, and it makes me nervous to think if 2016 will be better. But I did think. Instead of thinking about what was going to happen in 2016 for me and those around me I thought about the different ways I could approach this year ahead. I hope I can remind myself of these when I feel frustrated with the year, and I hope these will give you some ideas as to how you can approach 2016 too!

1. Remember to breathe

Life is busy. Can I get an 'Amen'? I'm sure we all wish we could be a little like Zack Morris and be able to pause time, even if that means our friends are really bad at pretending to freeze. There are piles of to-do lists we can write for ourselves (and delegate a few more to others) and often it can feel as if they grow before we can tick anything off. This is literally my life when it comes to my job. Eventually though, some things become irrelevant because the time they needed to be completed for passes by. Honestly, this is actually quite satisfying. I'm not saying give up on what you need to get done, just don't stress if you don't get everything done! This wasn't even my main point here .... My main point is that sometimes your lists need to take a back seat and be put on the back-burner. You need to take time to breathe - do something that relaxes you. Get a new hobby and spend a little bit of time (or a lot if you put the 'pro' in procrastination) every now and then, as frequently as possible, giving yourself a much needed break!

2. Stop focussing on the past

This is very easily said but very difficult to do. Whilst is can be nice to reminisce, focusing on what has already happened can lead to missing what is happening in the present. I often overthink what has happened previously and this just adds to me being anxious. I need to learn to take every experience and opportunity for what it is and not bring any luggage of failure or fear. If we all approached different work opportunities, social experiences and people this way, would we have more confidence? Would we be more willing to step out of our comfort zone? Would we be more likely to realise our potential?

3. Just keep swimming

I am 90% sure that I have quoted Finding Nemo in a previous post, and I am 100% sure I will quote the movie again in the future (#sorrynotsorry). The whole concept behind Dory's ridiculously catchy song is relevant to anyone. Whatever life throws at you, whether it is something you've been waiting to happen for years or something that just flat out sucks, you have to keep going. Life is meant to be lived and even when you feel like you are crumbling under the pressures of school or work, or whether you could just really use a duvet day and spend it watching day-time TV, there is still beauty and hope in the life you live ...

4. Search for beauty and hope

I can pretty much guarantee that there will be moments in 2016 that won't exactly be fun for you. But, there will still be plenty of beautiful things about your life that you can look to and be thankful for. Maybe a life-long friendship will take it's course and fizzle out, but you will have other relationships with other friends and your family that you can look to. These relationships might even benefit and develop into something even more beautiful. Also look for the hope in your life. There will be things that you can be hopeful for. What are you hopeful for?

5. Focus on other people

Another easily said, harder to do one. When you're finding it tough, know someone else is finding it tough too. Maybe your 'toughness' won't be the same, but if you put your focus on someone else who is hurting, it may help. Do this even if you aren't finding anything tough - if someone else is, you can help them. Make sure you also take the time to develop the relationships in your life. Don't choose to only interact with people via social media - crazily enough, you can speak to someone face-to-face without one of you bursting into a ball of flames! Choose grabbing a long-overdue coffee (or caramel hot chocolate for us non-hipster people) with someone you haven't seen in a while over binge watching Netflix. Or, have that coffee while watching Netflix with that friend! Just spend this year with other people. Make memories and encourage one another. 

6. Prioritise right

As I have said, life is busy. But if we can learn to put what is important first and not put greater emphasis on far less meaningful things, life would be a lot smoother. I know that if I spend less time stressing about work than I spend actually getting it done (fellow procrastinators will understand me) my life would be far easier! That's a basic example, and probably one that relates to all of us. My main focus for this year ahead is to get the big priorities right. 1. God 2. Family and friends 3. Work. I know people reading this may not believe in what I do but I know that I need to put God first in my life. There are so many things that I waste time worrying about that could have not even developed into an issue if I had prayed or read my Bible. So, this is something that I am approaching differently going into 2016. As for family and work, I understand I have to work, and so does my family, but it's when work life takes precedence over spending time as a family that we have issues! In 2016, I have to make sure that my priorities are in the correct order! I don't want to look back in a year from now and realise that all my issues and struggles were a result of my priorities not being in the right order .... because that would be my fault, and I would rather blame someone else .... just kidding!

Despite nerves and anxieties growing each day over many different things, I look forward to seeing what 2016 holds, and what we all do with it. As corny as it sounds we only have one time to make 2016 count. So approach it the right way and actually make it count!

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Stop Worrying About What Others Think

There is always going to one person that disagrees with you or what you are doing. Let's just put that out there straight away!

We go through life doing whatever it is that we do. For me, I teach (no clever comments about how all I do is finger-paint or "those who can't do teach"), I am involved with my church, I love ice-hockey and country music just to rattle off a few things. From these, there are a multitude of things that people disagree with. For example; my sister probably couldn't care less about ice-hockey, my brother is one of those people who is convinced that teaching is a 9 - 3 job ..... and all you do is finger-paint, a lot of people will choose to dislike my choice in music because the 'country twang' makes them cringe and the biggie, many have criticised me for my faith.

I'm sure you have heard this before - but stop worrying about what others think! If I let other opinions bother me, and at times they do - trust me, then I wouldn't 'be me' anymore (cliche!!!). Honestly, all I have to do is hear a deep southern voice or listen to a hockey game to hear the puck sliding across the ice and I feel relaxed. I understand others may not feel the same way, but that doesn't mean it makes it any less relaxing for me. It doesn't mean I have to change what I enjoy to suit them and make them feel satisfied.

My faith, is just that. It's mine. Yes, I believe what I believe and if you want to question me about it then go right ahead - I won't hold back and I'd love to share. But at the same time, I hate the perception that all Christians are indoctrinating people. We're not. At least we really shouldn't be! I share my faith where I can, but I recognise that it may not be something that others agree with, and I accept that.

So same for you! Choose to enjoy what you enjoy and what matters to you. If you are constantly looking for the seal of approval from those that surround you I guarantee you will be left disappointed. Don't let their opinions sway who you are - stand firm in what you believe. We are all different, and isn't that what is so great! We also have our own beliefs and opinions. They may not be shared beliefs and opinions, but we all need to respect that about one another, and show a little more love and kindness. Just because we stop worrying about other opinions doesn't mean we disrespect the people with the opinions!

I honestly believe that life can be lived to the fullest when we start living and seeking out life, as opposed to worrying about the negative things that others think of us. I challenge you to do the same and to challenge your friends to do the same with you! :)

(Please feel free to comment on the blog and if there is anyone reading these posts that would like to email me to share their stories or experiences, then please do - - I would love to hear from you!) 

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

One Year On

There are many cliches that go along with death. One that I have heard a lot is "time heals". Firstly, it doesn't heal. Think about it, you lose someone you love and yep, wait a year and you'll be hunky dory! Hate to break it to you but it just doesn't happen like that. Yes, there are advantages to time passing. With time comes distance. Distance from the event. Distance that helps blur it all a little bit (for lack of a better phrase) and give you a chance to find a new normal. That's another one - "things will never be normal again". This one used to make me laugh - seriously, is that not a given? 'Normal' changes and adapts as you and your circumstances do and the event kind of becomes a part of you and your life.

It is the now the sixth anniversary of losing my dad. So crazy that we are already at six years! In the past six years, life has carried on (ooh, another cliche ;) - although very true). My family and I have adapted to our new normal by plodding on with our lives. It has not been easy. There have been many tears and fights, but a lot of laughs too. We have fought to stay strong when all we wanted to do was crumble (and still crumble). We have pushed each other away and held onto each other when no one else has been there.

I know I have mentioned this in previous posts, but I have felt really let down by the people around me. People I thought could and should have been there for us instead of (literally at times) crossing the street to avoid us, forgetting the anniversaries or birthdays, or walking straight passed us without so much as a hello, all because they thought a picture on the wall was enough, or having family as leaders in our church meant we had someone looking after us. It was even said that they weren't there because they thought others had it covered.

If there is one thing that I need to take away from all of this, and should share (and in the words of Hunter Hayes), it's that you can't love too much. If you know, or even suspect that someone is hurting, don't just assume that someone else will be there for them. Go out of your own way to do something to help.

Another year on and being let down still hurts. Losing my dad still hurts. But I am learning to be grateful for the time I had with him. The obnoxiously loud laugh he had and his cheesy grin. There were ups and downs, but he was my dad and I miss him. I have hit milestones that I wish he could have been here to see and be a part of. But with time also comes new experiences and I could have chosen to not carry on with life so that he wouldn't miss out on them. But then I wouldn't be living. I want to experience what life has to offer, even if that means that it's hard at times.

I encourage you, if you have ever gone through a similar experience to do the same - experience life. Maybe you won't feel like doing it right away. Maybe it will take a few years. That's okay! But eventually, you'll get there. Remember, don't be afraid to ask for help or even for a friend to just grab a coffee with you. You'll be surprised how good it feels to smile and laugh for five minutes! And eat cake and ice-cream!!

So, one year on, the purpose behind this blog remains the same. I want to share my experiences in the hopes of helping and encouraging others. Despite being written a year ago, the following words still ring true - whatever you are going through or have been through, or even will go through, there is life out there - you just have to go out there and find it!

(Please feel free to comment on the blog and if there is anyone reading these posts that would like to email me to share their stories or experiences, then please do - - I would love to hear from you!) 

Monday, 17 August 2015

Chapter By Chapter

I'm sure you have heard it said that your life is like a book, and you are writing your own story a chapter at a time. I'm sure you've also heard it said, or at least read if you've read some of my previous posts (I'm really hoping there are other people reading this ...), that I'm not completely convinced that I am doing what I'm meant to be doing - but really who is, right?

In Philippians 4:11, a verse that has quickly become one of my favourites, Paul speaks of how he has learnt to be content with wherever he is in life (and he didn't exactly live a life of luxury) - something we should do also. I admit it's often tough to feel happy when feeling out of place and feeling unsupported in what you really want to do. Maybe you can relate. Maybe you too have friends - family even - that discourage your ambitions and dreams. Maybe your story at the moment is just a chapter in your life. But in some way, doesn't that offer a little comfort? That one day, this chapter will end and a new one will begin?

I'm sure authors agonise over some of their chapters whilst they find others an absolute breeze to write. Similarly, readers probably fly through some chapters yet find others boring to read. And in this way, our lives really are like books. Some chapters are really easy to get through. They are gripping and exciting, filled with new experiences. However, there are also some chapters that simply aren't the same. They may seem endless and difficult, and they may suck. But remember, just like in a book, chapters end.

Wherever we are in our lives, there is always something else about to happen - whether it be good or bad. But I believe that there is a reason behind everything we go through, even if it is not evident at the time. We get through life like we get through a book - chapter by chapter.