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 – September

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ROTFL

When I told my dad that I was going to blog about getting and owning a dog for the first twelve months, he suggested that I might run out of material.

I’m not sure Faye would agree.

She has recently discovered rolling on her back in the grass. It’s very funny to watch; she rubs her neck and spine from side to side and wriggles around carefree, before lifting her head, batting her eyelashes and pretending that it wasn’t her. A polite, graceful lady dog would never behave like that!

When greyhounds roll on to their backs it is called ‘roaching’ as they are a little like cockroaches. Faye hadn’t roached at all for us in the first few months; she has only quite recently added roaching to her body language vocabulary. I believe it indicates she feels settled and safe. In any case, most of the time she sleeps in all kinds of random ‘bed fail’ positions, but it doesn’t seem to be any problem. She loves the soft fabrics on her beds and blankets, but sometimes forgets how to position them (even after ‘digging’ them up a little and rotating herself a few times).

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Bed fail

This month has also been the month that I decided trimming claws was just too stressful for all concerned with the regular clippers, and turned to the dremel instead. I wish I’d done it sooner. When we had guinea pigs I could wrap them in a towel and trim their claws. Occasionally they would bleed a tiny bit if I got the quick, with a sharp squeak in case I hadn’t noticed. Faye is substantially larger, and also needs her claws trimming as she doesn’t wear her claws down enough on walks. She prefers trotting along on grassy verges as much as possible and often we walk in the woods or by fields.

So I looked out my husband’s grandfather’s old dremel. Trimming Faye’s nails with an electric tool meant getting her used to the sound for a few days first (it is rather buzzy) and then preparing lots of high-value treats (cheese), before enticing her into the kitchen, holding her down with a towel (husband assistance needed here) and speaking gently, while taking each paw and rounding off and trimming down the claws.

DREMEL® 300 Series (300-1/55)A dremel is a rotating hand-held tool which has many end pieces – we use one like a little drum with sandpaper on and that seemed to work really well. I did forget to get photos, but once Faye got the idea she complied really well and didn’t fuss at all, which was a big relief.

It’s not just claws that I’ve been keen to care for though. We’ve been adding oats to Faye’s food to help with her bare bum – we think the fur is actually returning but need to keep the oats going longer to be certain.

We also try and remember to clean her teeth to keep them healthy, but to make this work and so that I don’t forget I’ve moved her toothbrush and toothpaste to my office, so that I can catch her while she’s lying down near me. Faye enjoys having her teeth cleaned.

She’s getting a little more assertive with us too at times.

This term the children’s school will be completing an extension. At the moment the kitchen is out of action, so all school dinners are served in pre-packed paper bags. We now have a lot of these. One time I tipped Faye’s breakfast left-overs into a bag and gave it to her to take into a safe space (the living room!), tear it open and snuffle around for all the kibble. It only took one occasion and she’s learned to leave half her food most breakfasts to get a paper bag experience most days. I will have to find a new solution when the school dinners are back to normal.

In any case, last week she must have shaken the bag around or carried it upside down, as the contents were all over the living room, and she came up to me and wanted me to see.

It was not art.

I told her firmly that she had to come over and eat it all up. After a few repeats, she got the message. Her tail dropped and she went around the room systematically crunching each little bit until it was all gone. Tearing up paper bags is stimulating for her, but making a mess is not encouraged, so we clear it up afterwards. She has not made a mess again, thankfully!

With the longer summer evenings Faye and I have enjoyed trying some longer walks. I discovered a new walking route to a nearby village with some paths alongside fields which have gates both ends. Perfect for a little off-lead time, but she doesn’t run away. It’s nice that she doesn’t like to be too far away anyway. This has been useful as we have encountered lots of blackberry pickers this year near the fields.

We also discovered a larger field in the next village designed for running dogs off-lead. Apparently today she made friends there with a whippet. She’s super with other sight-hounds, but I am keen not to let her run with other dogs without a muzzle, in case she suddenly bites. Racing dogs always wear muzzles as they do get highly charged, and she can be silly when she’s running about. Half the time she seems to be on squirrel watch. I have to admit I would never have realised quite how many squirrels live near us if I hadn’t had Faye stopping to watch them so often.

The shadows are longer now as the year progresses, and the air is often cooler when we are out walking, so frequently now we are back to putting Faye’s coat on and remembering not to let her overheat.

Coat or no coat, Faye is still something of a local celebrity; walking into the village invariably involves stopping to chat with people who want to ask questions about her, and if I started charging children at the school gates to stroke her, I’d be making a fortune. Many of the children smile when they see her and love how friendly and approachable she is. Faye probably thinks her real name is “Look-at-that-dog!” now. She takes it all in her stride though.

After all, she can look at me, bat her eyelashes and remind me with her huge doggy eyes that she is a polite graceful lady dog really.

And most of the time, I’d have to agree.

Year of the Dog – August

Happy National Dog Day!

The weather has been glorious this summer in England; for a while our garden looked like straw after a mini-heatwave, but the rain has arrived and outside the grass is now green and thick again.

Oh, and here’s a bit of interesting chemistry, if you are keen to know why ‘wet dog’ smells the way it does:

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Faye has had a super month, staying for a couple of weeks with three other greyhounds and learning new games at home like ‘tug’ and ‘whose chicken carcass is that?’

Apparently Prince Albert brought a Greyhound with him when he married Queen Victoria. Eos even came with them on honeymoon. Eos certainly had a regal look, but looks to be quite nervous here.

Eos,_A_Favorite_Greyhound_of_Prince_Albert

Greyhounds do have a habit of looking quite noble, although they are equally good at looking very silly. We took Faye to Audley End in Essex recently, but she was confused by her reflection in a mirror in the stables. Didn’t know where the ‘other dog’ was!

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She’s hoping for a walk soon actually, and keeps whining at me. I’ve been hoping she might play with her peanut butter jar a little longer, but perhaps I’ll have to take her out, despite the weather, and see how she does with it. She’s not keen on getting wet and I am not keen on how she’ll smell if she does.

Still, I could always try shampooing her afterwards, if she lets me!