Carrying too much?

In recent days have been acting like that removal man who believed he was being clever by carrying all the clothes from a wardrobe inside the wardrobe. You know, to save everyone the weight. 

The Peak of Très Chic: Pretty Organization: Closets

I have been asking God to carry me (this is normal, and makes a huge difference in my day when I remember to do it). I have not, however, been asking God to carry all the weight of life for me. I kept hold of much of it. Carrying all the things. You know, because someone has to.

The more I considered this, the more I realised how foolish I have been.

God is carrying it all anyway.

Why not ask God to carry my burdens, as well as myself?

Life is complex and rich and messy. It takes me days even to list all the things I am working on. (Days more to plan how to tackle the many tabs which spring open in my head). Trying to solve, resolve, own and appreciate every one of them is genuinely impossible.

Having chatted it over with a wise person, I now have a new daily schedule. It involves a rhythm to my day which develops routines I have already put in place and carves firmer boundaries for better self-discipline.

There are so many areas of life which demand attention at one time or another: children, friends, food, schools, church, reading, writing, social media, admin, housework, fitness, the dog, rest times. But I cannot carry more than one at a time. Some are hard, or emotive, or tedious. There are times I’m not even sure I can carry one all that well.

So I will let go. God’s got them. They’re not going anywhere. In his strength, beating in time with the unforced rhythms of his grace, I will tackle the ones I can as I can. One task at a time only, for 45 minutes. Forgetting the rest of it I choose to trust God to direct me, focus me and use my energy.

The process may need tweaking, but it is better I give this a go than to flounder and drown in the sea of worries and tasks. There was no way I was going to be able to continue to carry so much without sinking. The tides come and go. The waves rise and retreat. The rhythms which work now are not the rhythms which worked for me twenty years ago. In this season of life, I was not designed to carry as much as I thought I should. I was designed to let God carry me and lead me.

There are times when God leads me to rest, times when he leads me to be with others, times when he leads me to do the trivial everyday things and times when he leads me to work.

In his Message translation of Matthew 11, Eugene Peterson came up with an inspired way of explaining what it means to walk in step with God. Jesus says to a group of people:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Are you carrying too much? Finding life doesn’t fit right? Just wanting to live more freely and lightly? Don’t be like the guy carrying clothes he didn’t need to carry. There’s a better way, and a better rhythm.

Rhythms of Grace - Candice Elaine

Letting Go – Ode to a Car

Just over ten years ago we bought a car which thought it was a van. Or maybe it was a van which thought it was a car. It was a good car van. It was functional, utterly practical and so, so roomy inside. It was a silver Peugeot Partner, almost identical to the Citroen Berlingo and the good points about it (in no particular order) were:

  • sliding doors for the back seats which made it easier to unload/load young children in car parks without them opening car doors on to neighbouring cars;
  • you could stand a Phil&Ted’s double buggy in the boot without folding it down;
  • you can fit a lot of luggage, children, dog, presents for Christmas all inside the vehicle without needing a roof box;
  • the number plate included the letters LE……GO which I always thought was fabulous;
  • it had a CD player (meaning we often had dozens of CDs in the car – even some for the adult travellers);
  • it was so tall we could always find it in car parks;
  • it was so ugly no one ever tried stealing it;
  • you could tell where the front of the car was for parking because you could see the headlamp bars (not sure it needed them, but they did help in that regard);
  • most of the doors worked most of the time;
  • it was not a car I needed to be precious about with children in, so it was allowed to get untidy and there was so much capacity in the foot wells we could get a full load of shopping in there (much easier than opening the boot);
  • I have transported all kinds of large furniture in it (beds, mattresses, book cases and even a dresser);
  • the boot was big enough for eating fish and chips in;
  • pretty good visibility and a high driving position;
  • a glove box which held together really well with gaffer tape;
  • storage everywhere – practically a caravan in fact – I loaded it to the roof when I helped my mum empty her parents’ house – and we could fit all the guinea pig stuff (including the hutch) in the boot.

It was a car we took to France. A car we took our children around the UK to meet family and friends, take holidays, eat picnics. The car we brought the dog home in.

SONY DSC

We replaced the front windscreen (several times). The battery. The starter motor. The boot door. The tyres. The cam belt. The rear bumper. The wiper blades. Various bulbs. I learned how to take a wheel off by myself on this car. It was pranged one Christmas but was very forgiving. Yes, it was noisy, bulky and boxy, but it was a car we grew very attached to. Our son would lock himself in it when he was not in the mood to leave it and go indoors. Our daughter would insist on putting the music on, even at (no, perhaps especially at) junctions when we were concentrating on traffic. We gave lifts and sang badly. Well, I did. We tried to fit a roof top box – even bought the special spanner – and then realised it wasn’t going to happen. The necessary bits had rusted through.

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It was a workhorse of a car, and the only one we’ve had for several years now, but it was getting more unreliable, and besides, we wanted to move on from diesel.

So, in the usual way with these things, we spent the past few years assessing what our next car should be, and settled on a Golf SV. We then made a longer shortlist. A long list. Shortened it. Consulted the children. Consulted the dog. Reduced the list. Settled on a Golf SV again. It is not a trendy car. Jeremy Clarkson has nothing nice to say about it. This stands in its favour in my opinion. When one came up which met our specification, we went and saw it last weekend, and part exchanged yesterday.

Our boxy brute of a car is sold.

Gone.

Ready for auction (well, aside from the glove box, the dodgy door and the necessary deep clean). It may have enough life in it for someone to make good use of it for a while – I hope so. And I hope they have use of the official dog guard, which we won’t be needing any more as it doesn’t fit the Golf.

I do love the new car though. All the doors open. It has many buttons, and I already know what some of them do. I finally found the CD player – in the glove box. Which opens. It has a sun-roof (the car, not the glove box, as far as I know), which was high on my list for years. It has enough cup holders for a sports team. We bought it from a dealership in Essex, it has a Suffolk number plate and now lives in Cambridgeshire. Who knows how long we’ll have it? Perhaps it will also take us on many adventures.

New year, new car. But, to move forward, we have had to let go. It’s a lesson I think my old car had been trying to teach me for some time.

See?

IMG_2246_LIOr, maybe it wanted to go to a car wash, to let go of the winter muck.

Or, maybe it wanted a part in Frozen. And just couldn’t let it go.

Or, it wanted to drive to Le Tango in Venice.

Who knows?

I will miss my big silver van car. I’m very grateful for all the memories. Now it’s time to make new ones. And to find a home for the 64 CDs which won’t fit in the new car…

The Year I Finished 70 Books

There are always many reasons for not writing enough. Writing is hard. Writing involves sweating your soul out of your fingertips.

Reading is one way of enriching your soul and feeding those muses. Reading gets the fingertips buzzing again. Writers need to read widely to understand how to write well, to learn what is being read by others and to find their niche in a busy market. This past year I tackled my own reading by challenging myself to see how many books I could complete, noting each one down as I finished it. The rules were fairly simple. I could already have begun the book, but needed to have finished it completely within 2019. This rules out books I only read a portion of to my son, or ones which are still ‘live’, but rules in books I had almost finished at the end of last year. Magazines, articles, essays, chapters of books didn’t count, no matter how erudite or obscure. Only completed volumes could be added to the list.

As I went through the year I found more questions arising and various patterns emerging in my reading. I have been working through a number of books at any given time, but wanted to vary the genres, authors and lengths. I kept long books for trips and read short chapter books to my son or read them myself. I worked on books for my research in my morning quiet time and easy reads in bed at night. I challenged myself to complete the New Testament in Greek, which I had begun a year before (this only counted as one book, but might easily have been 23) and allowed myself to count Genesis and Exodus in Hebrew as a book each. I included Molesworth (a four-volume book) as one. I included poetry, autobiography, devotional, fiction and academic works. For the first time, I actually read the Harry Potter canon, and found that I really enjoyed the series. I’m now working through the spin-offs. I read books by friends and those I’ve met at events, and books by people with completely different world-views to mine.

Today I finished three books, taking the total for 2019 to 70 completed volumes.

Of these, half were fiction, 29 were children’s books and 6 were poetry. I read 14 autobiographies and a couple more biographies, 28 books by Christian writers and 6 which were definitely academic or theological. The number of ‘live’ current reads is, I think, another 6-10. In all this, I am not aware that my ‘to be read’ pile has shrunk in any way.

I rated each book out of 10 for how much it impressed me, and 26 of those I finished scored a 10. The others varied a lot, but generally did very well.

Here are my 12 recommended reading highlights from 2019. Links take you to Amazon, but there are many alternative and very worthy sellers: I recommend buying from independent sellers wherever possible. See these links for reviews and information on each.

For Children:

Eye Can Write, written against the odds, challenges the reader on a number of levels. Jonathan Bryan is a poet, deep thinker and baker of cakes. He also lives with severe cerebral palsy and was thought not to be able to communicate at all.

I am amazed that Jonathan wrote this while only 12 years old.

I want to be as good a writer as he is one day.

 

 

 

Rooftoppers is #1 in ‘Home Improvement Roofing’ on the Big A, but that’s not all.

This page-turner has rich characters, a clever plot and amazing writing.

Great for children and those reading to them.

 

 

 

 

Wonder is worth reading before you watch the film adaptation: it is told beautifully and is a great way to get children (and adults) thinking about how we act when we encounter difference.

 

 

 

 

For People Needing Purpose:

Liz Carter has managed a great feat in producing this book: Catching Contentment is readable and full of empowering truths. Satisfaction is hard to come by, and Liz knows a thing or two about that. She shares her story and challenges and encourages us to look at what contentment really means and how we can experience it ourselves.

 

 

 

Lysa TerKeurst is another woman with a powerful testimony of huge disappointment and how to find strength to rebuild a life. It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way may be a bestseller, but its popularity demonstrates how important this topic is for so many of us.

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer: I’ve not finished reading Image of the Invisible, but that is because the daily readings last until 6th January. So far it’s been excellent

I was drawn to Amy’s book because I like to be challenged when I have devotional readings and Amy has an intelligent, godly and articulate voice. She connects biblical truths intuitively with experiences many of us resonate with, and I highly recommend this book for future Advent readers.

 

 

For Those Who Love Wit:

Brian Bilston signed my copy of Diary of a Somebody when he came to Cambridge recently. I love his marvellous wit, original ideas and allusions to works of literature, films and music. His tweets made him famous through his clever poetry; this longer book is great fun and a super read whether or not you like poetry.

(But particularly if you do).

 

For Those Who Love a Well-Crafted Story:

 

Madeline Miller is both an academic and an astonishingly good writer. I felt drawn into her world of ancient Greek myth and I thoroughly enjoyed reading Circe. I would like to read her Song of Achilles before long. I aspire to be able to write as beautifully as Miller, and to be able to evoke the ancient mind and place so well.

 

 

 

 

Until this year I had only read the first in the Harry Potter series, but I wanted to read the set, especially now I have a child at high school.

I was spell-bound. The stories are full of adventure and the plotting is superb. The characters were mischievous and lovable and I enjoyed the names and the details. I found all of the books great in their own way, but Deathly Hallows brought everything together neatly and was the most satisfying for me, despite some scary moments.

 

For Theologians with too little time:

Peter Williams is the Principal of Tyndale House in Cambridge and a renowned New Testament scholar. This short and very readable book is a super look at the reliability of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, looking at details such as undesigned coincidences, outside sources, local knowledge and textual variant questions.

Williams makes a strong case and references his points well. A good book for pastors and biblical teachers, as well as discerning seekers.

 

 

Technically, I don’t know whether I have finished reading The Marriage of Heaven and Earth: A Visual Guide to N.T. Wright so I’ve not included it in the book count, but I have read over 80% of it at various times in preparing for my most recent lectures.

If you have time, read N.T. Wright. If you have read some of Tom Wright, but don’t have much time, read this too.

Very clever. Punchy text and illustrated with diagrams to help the visual learner.

 

The Bible Project Book: Illustrated Summaries of Biblical Books

This is an amazing resource, and works best in conjunction with the free videos on Youtube. I’ve not read all of Read Scripture: Illustrated Summaries of Biblical Books but as a biblical scholar I love what the team have done. Each book of the Bible gets a large spread and there are lots of details as well as overviews. The book is actually quite big, but it comes with a cover to slot into; it needs to be big to fit some of the many details in.

 

If you have written a book which I haven’t reviewed here, I may not have read it (or finished it) yet – send me an email or drop a comment below and I will read and review it as soon as I am able.

In 2020 I intend to progress further with my own writing projects and will continue to note down all the books I read as I go. I wonder how many books I’ll be able to complete in the coming decade?

Well, ideally I will need to focus more time and attention on my own writing: all being well at least one of those ought to have my name on the cover.

A very happy new year to you, and happy reading!

Mental Health and Tools from A to G

 

wmhd

Today I am marking World Mental Health Day by considering some important things I have learned over a number of years. Over time and with a lot of help and medication, I have acknowledged, accepted and come to accommodate the strange limits my mind puts on me.

Except when I don’t.

(Some days are better than others.)

Bad days are brain fog. Malfunctioning. Panic.

Bad days are forgettory days.

Bad days are dissolved dreams. The fear of fear.

Bad moments leaking into good days tie my words and emotions.

Bad days are full of can’ts and empty of most of the other stuff.

The world might have woken up with a bottle green sky and velcro pavements and nothing would feel alien; I would just be aware that – as usual – everything is odd again.

Then the frustration and the disappointment and the grief at so many little inadequacies and unfulfilled potential returns, so that even if the initial anxiety was inert, it is now tainted.

But.

But. This journey is a familiar place now; a commute I know well enough to recognise.

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I have learned to see that I am not alone, and not being ok at times is ok too. And, instead of letting the journey focus me on myself, my healing has involved looking outwards. How can I help others? What are other people’s stories? How can I be part of someone else’s solution?

Those around me almost all seem to be affected by hurting minds too, perhaps in different ways, and at different times. Caring people. Intelligent people. Wise people. Thoughtful people. Decent people. People carrying burdens they weren’t designed to have to carry alone.

The journey is always better when it is shared. Relief comes when you accept you are not sufficient to meet your own lack. When you can grieve this with others and release emotions as many times as you need to.

Talking helps. Honesty and truth will get you a long way.

Medication helps too.

Realistic targets help, and celebrating the wins.

Self-forgiveness and acceptance, and guts to keep on when you are blindly navigating territory you don’t want to be in.

The Mental Health Foundation has lots of good advice on their website.

 

Rollei Digital Camera

For me, the journey hasn’t always been as bleak as the first time I made it. Familiarity means you can find and practise using tools to equip you when your brain does not want to work. It is more than 25 years since I started facing down depression and anxiety, and if you are interested in knowing some of the tools which definitely work for me and may well for you or others too, here’s a start…

Autopilot and habit forming

I make a lot of lists and plans, and fall back on routines to get through busy times of the day. Plans help me to identify the most urgent and important tasks of the day and put my mental resources into these. At times when I cannot focus well for more than a minute or so, I know I have many tasks I can do around the house on autopilot.

Breaks

It has surprised me just how much my own condition has affected my concentration and mental stamina. If I know I have to be alert for a period of time, I’ll need to prepare exceptionally well and allow considerable recovery time afterwards. This has meant giving up full-time teaching and moving into part-time tutoring. This is not a problem though, as it is a job I love and which feeds into my passions.

I find that I need regular breaks on a daily and weekly basis, and when weekends fill up with activity I need to give myself a day during the week to recharge my mind. This often falls on a Wednesday, which is the day when my mind is usually least likely to be functioning.

Cups of tea or coffee

I make a point of having a quiet time every morning after the school run with a nice snack and a hot drink so I can pray and read and prepare emotionally for the day. When I don’t manage my quiet time I almost always regret it later in the day. I also make a point of noting what I did the day before in a diary, which helps stimulate my flagging memory, and to consider what the ‘best thing’ was that day.

Delegating

Although I would like the family to take on more of the chores, it is not simple to teach housework to or supervise tired children when I am mentally spent – this means the kids are not doing enough around the house, but it also gives me a deeper sense of purpose when chores are all I can manage. Even these can be too much some days. I have responsibilities in various forums and would love to be able to take on more roles in the children’s schools and at church, but experience has told me (many times) that I cannot do as much as I think I ought to be able to without burning so low on resources that I need excessive recovery time, and that it is ok to share the load with others.

Eating healthily

IMG_0877Three months ago I decided, rather suddenly, to stop eating chocolate for a period of time. My resolve was almost certainly connected to my expanding waistline. After a few weeks of feeling sorry for myself and inordinate amounts of salted caramel ice cream, I discovered that I had lost the desire for it.

This was proved when I visited Cadburyworld with the family during the summer; I just didn’t want any. I still have my free chocolate bars (and a lot I bought in case I change my mind), sitting on the shelf at home.

I now aim to cut out other offending junk food, one area at a time. The results are slow, but already I fit some of my clothes better.

Fitness

Having Faye has meant a good routine and discipline for walking twice a day for at least 20 minutes, and more often than not a lot more. Getting outdoors is good for my mind in lots of ways, but stretching the legs and the satisfaction of hitting more than 10,000 steps in a day is a real mood-lifter.

Good friends

My friends who don’t judge me, who accept me, listen and encourage me are utterly precious. I have found friends in different places and at different times who have helped walk with me in the darkest hours, and I am grateful to God for every one of them.

Friends who can distract with activity, or enrich with beauty, or enable with words.

Friends who see the me I want to be, not the me I think I am becoming.

Friends who can tell me, in the best possible way, that sometimes you need to stop, and return to something a little later, when you are ready.

The Myrrh and The Gold

Last year I was published twice in anthologies produced by the Association of Christian Writers, which was a great big step for a fledgling writer like me. It helped my writing esteem enormously and gave me a feel for some of the other elements involved in producing a book; behind the scenes several friends worked long hours proofing, editing and typesetting. When I got my copies I learned about marketing and selling dozens of copies of each.

Click on the links below for the Kindle versions. Print copies are available too, and I have one remaining copy for anyone local to me who asks quickly enough on the Christmas book.

New Life: Reflections for Lent by [Jones, Wendy H., Robinson, Amy]            Merry Christmas, Everyone: A festive feast of stories, poems and reflections by [Jones, Wendy H.]

As I was researching and writing about frankincense for Merry Christmas Everyone, I considered also writing about the other two gifts the Magi presented to Jesus in Matthew 2. Getting under the skin of a biblical passage is a real passion of mine, and presenting information in original ways. I had written a poem about frankincense, which is a dried resin used for lots of purposes, but principally known as a fragrant material for burning in religious ceremonies. If there was intended meaning behind the gift, as many believe there was, the symbolism may well have concerned priesthood.

The symbolism of gold is far easier to connect to, as we recognise its potent regal connotations across many cultures and times. Gold represents majesty, honour and treasure.

Myrrh is a more strange material; it is also a gum from a tree, and produced for medicinal and religious purposes, but it has a strong association with ancient embalming, and has traditionally been held to represent the importance of the death of Jesus as a sacrifice.

Strange gifts for a young child, and certainly things to give Mary reason to ponder. Each of these elements were present in prophecies about the coming Messiah in the Jewish scriptures, and each featured in the way Jesus lived his life on earth. A king. A priest. A sacrifice.

Frankincense, growing in Socotra Island, Yemen

You’ll need to get hold of a copy of Merry Christmas Everybody to read my poem in there about frankincense, but here to complete the set are the other two poems.

May you have a blessed and joyful Epiphany!

 

The Myrrh

The soldiers showed no mercy when they came
and murdered David’s sons inside our town;
the orders of an angry king to blame –
despising any who could take his crown.

The merchants saw them first, as daylight broke:
on horseback, wearing armour, wielding swords;
the little boys were sleeping. We awoke
to screams and murmured prayers and broken cords.

The mothers who had fed these sons from birth
(their hopes and futures, joys, inheritance),
traded their blessings and exchanged young mirth
for myrtle baths, and wept at the expense.

My God, my God, do not forsake these ones,
whose myrrh and tears embrace their precious sons.

Commiphora myrrha - Somaliland - Nov 2014 - 04 - natural exudation

 

 

The Gold

We were given gold
and told to leave the land of Egypt,
so we ran from slavery
bravely, fearfully, tearfully,
carrying our treasures close to our hearts.

And journeyed into furnaces of sand.

We learned in pain that gods of gold
had not received us, saved us.
Melting
in our shame,
we learned the Name alone
– not gold –
was pure,
bright, heavy, sure,
carrying His treasure close to His heart.

We built a tent and used our gold
to show our gratitude.
We covered all the wood –
made ornaments and bells,
to show our worship for our King.

He took us from the furnace to the land.

The tent came too. But,
so confused by gods of other clans
we looked to gold for answers,
carrying our hearts close to our treasures.

Measuring ourselves with others.

We want a king!

You have a King.

No – a king like all the others.
Give us a king.
With a crown.
A crown of gold.
We’ll build him a gilded palace.
We cannot see our King.
How can he save us?

I will give them a king. A boy from Bethlehem
who carries me close to his heart.

Our kings had golden crowns
and splendid rooms
and saved us sometimes.
And sometimes broke us.

There was a golden temple too
(our King was there).
But other temples grew
and who knew what was true?

Until armies came from the East.

They took our gold,
gold from our temple,
carried it close to their hearts,
back to their temples where they worshipped the stars.

We want a king!
A king who will save us.

I will give them a king. A boy from Bethlehem
who carries me close to his heart.

We journeyed from our land, as slaves again.

Our captured hearts sang songs of times of gold,
and how our King had saved us once before.

And when our hearts, refined, were moved to Him,
He took us home.

And we were given gold,
restored to us,
and told to build our land again.
Bravely, fearfully, tearfully, we went,
carrying our Treasure close to our hearts.

Humbled and tested, and tested again, and humbled.

More kings, and battles, and languages and rules
and every king so hungry
for power, wealth
or taxes.
Our humble heads hung low –
we didn’t see the star
that told of Treasure coming to our hearts.

They came with gifts of gold.

capitonet_babylon_bangles_641.641

 

 

Year of the Dog – December

It is almost a year since we met Faye, at Epiphany, at the King’s Lynn kennels of the Retired Greyhound Trust. We took her home at the end of February, and each month I’ve blogged about how things have been going. I still feel – much like parenting children – as if we are at the start of the adventure; every month we move forward in confidence and experience, and every month Faye manages to surprise us with more of her character, or quirks. Yesterday I got my first dog-related injury, when she tried to help as I was leaning over to collect my muddy trainers. Her skull is still intact, but I got two split lips and a sore tooth. No major harm, thankfully. Perhaps it is payback for forcing her to wear a reindeer hat.

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I look silly, don’t I?

With Christmas approaching, I thought I’d better help Faye learn about the new smells, textures and experiences she might come across. I took her to the village Christmas tree, which she was indifferent to (except for sniffing where other dogs had got there first), and I showed her that tinsel looks exciting, but is not for playing with. She was keen at first, but realised that it was not a toy.

After this I decided that she must be very clever to learn what is and is not for playing with; I let her have a large amount of packing paper from an Amazon box. She loved it. She spent twenty minutes or so joyfully pulling it into shreds with her teeth and playing in the paper. And then she squatted and weed on it. So now we have learned that Faye must have used newspaper when she was younger to amuse her and to line her toileting area. Oops. A quick distraction to get her away, a bin bag and some pet-friendly carpet cleaner did the job however. No more indoor wees!

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You can’t see me!

On the final day of term I dressed Faye up in her festive attire and took her to school to collect Lily and Joe. She got lots of smiles (as usual) and children coming up to see her (as usual) as well as extra comments on her antlers. Children are not discreet when it comes to commenting on something they have spotted, so it was clear the hat was popular with the crowds.

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Tell me truthfully – do I look ridiculous?

 

After the end of term we spent a couple of days recovering, but still had to get up and walk and feed Faye. I am actually relishing the discipline she has brought to my life in this respect. I am not a great morning person, but over the last few months I’ve been able to cultivate a really good morning routine for getting things done.

Faye will wait very patiently for her morning walk. If she’s really ready she might even lay her head on the bottom stair. Such a chilled out dog! Most of the day is spent lying down somewhere or other – I’m amazed she manages to sleep all night after a heavy day’s napping.

We went up to my parents-in-law in Blackburn for Christmas. We’d asked about borrowing a roof-top box for our car as we knew it would be a tight squeeze with all five of us and gifts, but the fittings weren’t the right size, so we had to jam everything in. Faye did not complain at all. She loves car journeys and was excited to revisit NT Clumber Park en route, with the finished ‘Central Bark’ cafe, other dogs, lots of squirrels and Christmas decorations. The dog-friendly cafe is one of several eating options, but has space and provisions for dogs with their owners. Faye was quiet and well-behaved, but we hadn’t realised that not all the other dogs would be so relaxed.

When we arrived, Faye needed to sniff around and investigate. She had a place to sleep, but wasn’t keen to use it – there was a noisy grandfather clock nearby and she wanted to be at the bottom of the stairs instead. For two nights she woke us several times with whining and whimpering, so Matthew had to spend some of the time sleeping downstairs. Thankfully she relaxed and got the idea by the third night; excellent timing and much-improved sleep for us, as ‘not a creature was stirring’.

She spent a lot of the time asleep, but also loved staring out at birds and squirrels. We allowed her a few treats, but not too many as she was unsure about eating usual quantities of her regular food in a new place.

 

We took her to a couple of parks in Blackburn. Corporation Park has lots of steps; Faye managed most of them, but wasn’t happy when water was running down one set and wanted to go through brambles instead. Other times she wasn’t quite sure what to do.

 

At Witton Country Park there were lots of other dogs, and Faye enjoyed a little bit of off-lead time, running and chasing. She is a real show-off when other dogs or new people are around, and tends to run even faster. There were longer walks to do and places to explore. Great for canine enrichment.

It was certainly colder in the north, but when she’d been running she got warm, which is why she doesn’t have a coat on while she was looking at the rabbits at Witton. (And has she been secretly been learning to read? Joe’s been reading to her, but I don’t think she really listens properly.)

It’s almost the end of the year, but what a super year it has been here. Adopting Faye has brought real joy to our lives and enriched us all. May 2019 be a joyful year for you too, and one where you can make the most of every walk, treat and opportunity to snuggle down in front of a warm fire.

Year of the Dog – November

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Faye was not impressed this month when I finally got around to chopping up daddy’s old, threadbare dressing gown so that she had something cosy to wear on cold nights. On the first night she managed to escape from it, and even shook her house collar off in the process. Subsequent occasions proved no better; it must have felt all wrong, or smelled funny. I had seen a lot of hounds wearing lovely PJs on the Facebook groups I joined for Greyhound owners, and after some thought, and in order not to have to put the heating on when the temperature drops at night, I ordered her a fleece nightcoat, in racing green. Ok, olive green, but I’m sure she goes pretty fast in her dreams. The colour doesn’t really show well here; perhaps she’s dreaming of accelerating quickly enough to fly. Superdog! I was able to order her fleece from the Retired Greyhound Trust here.

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November is a month for fireworks, and dogs are known to get very frightened of the loud noises and sudden explosions. Faye is not keen on surprises, but she didn’t seem to mind any fireworks we encountered on twilight walks. However, I didn’t want to have her worried when the major local events were on. Our daughter Lily is averse to the sensory overload of fireworks events with thousands of people, distracting music, smells of food and a long wait in the cold, followed by noise and shocks. This year Lily, Faye and daddy stayed at home, while I took Joseph to the display.

We had found when we first adopted Faye that having a calming oil plugged into a socket near her bed had been valuable in settling her, and we have a spray we can use out and about if we need to. In the end, with her relaxed attitude to fireworks we didn’t need to calm her down as it happened. She’s far more likely to yelp if she is worked up about going out for a walk. Crazy girl.

A first for us this month was a trip to the vet for a growth on Faye’s back, in her shoulder area. The abscess had been there for quite a few weeks and looked harmless, but we weren’t sure what to do about it. Greys, like other dogs, can get spots and growths, but this one kept growing and didn’t look too good to me. It was also painful for her. An internet search had given me some nerves over the many possibilities, so in the end I booked her in to the vet and went along to see what they suggested. The vet was very good and shaved the area before piercing it; we were both relieved to discover it was a simple abscess and nothing dangerous to Faye or that would need cells sending off to a lab. It had already grown to the size of a broad bean, but thankfully is healing up well, and at this time of year her shaved area won’t be on display all that much.

While I was at the vet I asked for Faye’s microchip to be checked, which was worth doing as we learned it had never been properly registered to us, despite adopting her in February. I have chased this up with the Greyhound Board of Great Britain and registered her as our pet. They keep records of retired racers and having our address and details associated with Faye’s microchip is very important to me, just in case she ever runs off and is found by someone else. (She does have my number on her collar, but that does occasionally come loose).

Faye has really enjoyed cosy evenings at home by the fire, especially if she has has the opportunity to tear up a cardboard box or a good ear rub. She has to get her walks in a little earlier at weekends if she is to get out while it is still light, but even sighthounds use their noses a lot, and she gets very excited about finding interesting* smells.

*Interesting for Faye might include: small animal smells, checking other dogs’ weemails, occasional fragrant plants and new items in her path. She was not all that fussed about a small animal hole we found yesterday, however:

While I work, Faye likes to curl up nearby, often in the same room (releasing toxic gases at times), and sometimes in the hallway watching the world through the window. She tends to sleep with one leg under her tummy while I work, but when she’s really crashed out she will melt on to one side and splay out. There is no logic in where she lies down; sometimes she is on the duvet or dog bed, having ‘dug’ at it for comfort, but at other times she misses the soft areas entirely.

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I’m pleased that she’s so relaxed at home (except of course for the toxic gas emissions), but out and about she can go rigid instantaneously when there is prey in sight. At a writers’ group last week she came across a cat through a doorway, and froze. We realised what was happening before she had the chance to act, thankfully. The cat was not keen to meet Faye and doubled up in height, all the while trying to out-stare her from a table. Faye had wanted to get close or chase the cat, but obeyed our instructions and allowed us to keep the cat away. It did cause her some confusion when the doors were closed and she was stuck in a room with people eating lunch though – she would normally excuse herself when we are eating.

She’s such a super pet. Like so many other greyhounds, she is a wonderful breed to own, even if you’ve never had a dog before. In Florida, lots of greyhounds are going to become available in the coming months as the racing tracks close, following a vote on the matter. In the UK there are hundreds waiting to be adopted, after retiring from a racing career. They love a bit of a run at times, but mostly they just sleep and want to chill out with you. I cannot recommend them highly enough. Click on the picture below for more about adopting a grey.

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