Are you a hoarder?

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When I packed up our ‘spare’ possessions in January 2012 and put them into storage, pre-empting a quick house sale and a speedy move to Wales, I tried to have a clear out.

m_mum's phone photos 338After we re-decorated our house and put it on the market in March 2012, dressed as a show house, I had another cull.

DSC00894As the days and weeks tick by towards the much awaited new thatched roof, I attempt to live and work in a couple of rooms, with my possessions in boxes, scattered between three barns and upstairs, but the need to sort boxes and attempt some organisation has become critical.

But what to throw away or recycle? I came across a bag of shimmy belts. As I no longer dance Egyptian bellydance, my need for these belts is zero and yet, as I tip the bag onto the bed, the coins jingling and tinkling, memories come flooding back to me. There’s my first, heavy, gorgeous, purple and silver belt and memories of my first class, the joy of shimmying my hips and twirling my veil and the breathless exhileration of dancing.  My teaching belt, lightweight and less noisy, emerges from the bag and I remember the hundreds of women and girls who attended my workshops, who I opened the door of belly dance for and invited them to follow a dancing path. Then there’s a stunning black and gold belt, a birthday gift from Mike’s Mum and I know why I still have these belts. When I first started Phoenix Bellydance, she came with a friend to my first taster workshop and they enjoyed it so much, they signed up for the beginners course…and never left.

…And that’s why we and the children have Memory Boxes. Into these boxes go cards, notes, pictures and possessions, ready to evoke memories from the past. Our Christmas Box is also a Memory Box as, each year, when the children came back from school with a cotton wool covered snowman, glitter stars and pictures, they went onto the tree and then into the box. The following year as the box was reopened, old memories emerged and were reshared before the tree was adorned with family memories once more.

I’m not a hoarder…I’m a treasurer of memories.

 

Autumn Equinox…Everything changes

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walk in woods SeptFrom Autumn Equinox, 21st September, the sun’s strength diminishes until the Winter Solstice, when the sun grows stronger and the days become longer than the nights. This is the time of year we can look back to the abundance of the harvest and prepare for the coming months.

Since coming to Wales, the changes in the seasons and the weather are more obvious. A neighbour visited yesterday, leading her young horse and we talked about the past few months. While our focus has been Bramble Avenue, digging decades of poo from our cow byre, cutting down dead and damaged trees for firewood and freezing or potting up the produce we’ve grown or been given, the farmers are overwhelmed with an abundance of animal feed. From one cutting of their fields in June, they have twice the silage, more than they would usually get from two cuts. This profusion of lush grass is the product of the sunshine and rain at the right time this year so changeable weather plays a huge part in how the farmers deal with the land and livestock from season to season.

My first ever batch of apple chutney

My first ever batch of apple chutney

The poo heaps...and we're not finished yet!

The poo heaps…and we’re not finished yet!

The riverbank at the end of Bramble Avenue

The riverbank at the end of Bramble Avenue

As I look back at the summer and mourn the loss of the summer sun, the cold winter lays ahead of me so am I ready to change? Can I bring light into a dark situation? Have I the power to change like the seasons?

While waiting for news from Planning and CADW, we’ve done our best to put other plans into action, rather than dwell on a situation we have no control over. The good news is, Planning and CADW have now agreed to issue us with the necessary paperwork to go ahead with our roof…there are conditions but nothing we can’t work around so, we’ve put a call in to the thatcher and we will know tonight when our thatching will commence.

The even better news is, I may have found a society who may give us a small grant towards getting a roof on the byre before the winter so I’ve emailed for an application form. This help will be greatly appreciated as working on the byre was not in the budget for this year…or next but, the storms in February have necessitated a speedy response or we’ll lose the byre completely.

We lost the light from our hillside location at 7.29pm last night and the chill and damp that descended was almost tangible but we’re proficient in producing heat quickly from our two wood burners and the pile of wood in the drying barn is huge, both for this year and next, so we will be warm this winter….especially with a roof!

Since Mike came back from Essex, he is getting more and more work by raising his profile and doing a great job so where one floor was quoted for, they want him back to do another. We’ve both been promoting and I’ve been invited to take part in ‘Making Together’ on 4th October in Lampeter, to talk about my books, sell some and offer the opportunity of workshops to new writers. I’m also dancing with Tribal Unity in Lampeter on 11th October at the ATS® Belly Dance World Wide Flash Mob where dancers from across the world dance to the same music at the same time, Friday 17th October at the Lampeter World of Dance event and teaching a beginners workshop the following day.

Have I the power? I think I have.

 

 

A Lifetime of Experience

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At the beginning of this year, I went under the needle for my first tattoo. Four years I had waited, making sure I chose wisely before embarking on this piece of permanent jewellery. I chose a triskele. For me it represents the three stages of womanhood, maiden, mother and crone so, it was appropriate to begin my journey in Wales as the sum of all of me and my lifetime of experience.

Wales 2014 020I didn’t enjoy the ‘maiden’ bit, to be honest. My childhood and early teens left me naive and vulnerable, insecure and bereft of confidence. My children became my passion and I was happy to lose myself in their lives, supporting them through their childhood while my personal relationships crashed and burned. Though I had always written, heartfelt poems for my eyes only and accounts of where I’d been, what I’d seen and how I felt about it, it wasn’t until I was forty and I attended a two day writing course about characterizarion, that I knew it was part of me, who I am. Around this time, I discovered dance and the two combined filled an enormous empty hole in my life.

For forty years I was living on this planet for other people. Whenever I gathered my strength, put myself forward and asked to be acknowledged, I was squashed, physically beaten and verbally abused. I tried to fit in, be the daughter, sister, friend, wife I was expected to be but wearing a mask every day while I sunk lower into depression left me exhausted and miserable.

Regrets are unnecessary baggage, while lessons learned make us the person we are today.  Pocketful of Smiles is a good indication of how far I’ve journeyed and how much I’ve learned about myself, my world and how I choose to interract with the people around me.  Having the benefit of experience makes me the person I am today, promoting my passions, dance and writing and living my life with respect for the earth and all that life upon it.

This person, the real me, attracts people to her that enhance her life, providing opportunities and ideas for the future. For example, the lovely Cwrtneydd Scribblers have welcomed me and we’re planning our table for the Christmas Fayre at Lampeter University and I’ve been invited by one of the Transition Lampeter organisers to have a table at a ‘Make It’ day, a day of creativity in the Victoria Hall, to sign and sell my books and talk about my writing. He suggested I might like to consider running workshops to help new writers.

And my first reaction to the writing group and ‘Make It’ day invites? I can’t do it. I’m not good enough. I don’t have enough experience. My second reaction recognises these are past doubts, worries and fears and sets the third thought into motion insisting, why not have a go? What’s the worst that can happen? If I go, I’ll meet new people and, if they don’t want to buy my books, they might like to join a dance class but if I don’t try and I don’t face my fears, I will never know and be the old me, living in fear again.

In March, I had my second tattoo, an eight pointed star, the symbol of Ishtar, goddess of love, war, fertility and sexuality. To me she represents womanhood and I’m proud to wear this symbol as myself, the earthly manifestation of the goddess and as part of the sisterhood of Tribal Unity.

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Don’t let your past life be a burden but an inspiration for what you can achieve today.  Surround yourself with people who inspire, love and respect you and live every moment with joy and excitement. Open your eyes to the beauty of the world, to positive people who want to make a difference and to the happiness that can be found in the simplest of tasks. Be a human ‘being’ and be your true self every day of your life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Monday!

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A happy memory of Swanwick for Happy Monday

A happy memory of Swanwick for Happy Monday

Last Monday I was warmly welcomed to the Cwrtnewydd Scribblers and I came back with homework. I’ve penned a short story for the first time in years and thoroughly enjoyed it. We read out our work and in return receive feedback and suggestions. This afternoon, we’re trying a writing exercise I enjoyed at Swanwick Writers Summer School, to keep us writing and focussed. It’s the one where you take it in turns to choose a word through the alphabet and then have 30 minutes to use as many as possible to begin a story.

I thoroughly enjoyed the two years I went to Swanwick. I loved being back in the class room atmosphere with time to do my homework, great people to be around if you wanted to or the lake to sit by for quiet contemplation. I met fellow writers, all on different writing paths and that’s the bliss of summer school or writing groups, people of all ages and occupations, brought together by their passion for writing.

I am very lucky to have a writing group in the next village and I’m excited about this afternoon. I joined the Billericay Writer’s Group, graciously chaired by Ivy Lord, aka Elizabeth Lord, prolific author and wonderful lady. (I loved the Chandelier Ballroom!) I met a diverse mix of authors and poets, sharing their WIP for critique as well as getting updates about successes and rejections but, most importantly, I met my writing buddy and true friend, Peter Jones, whose support and advice, when I wavered and doubted, kept me writing. Every writing group is different, some more formal than others so try them out and find one that suits you.

 

I’m also happy because I’m seeing my daughter today. Her kind and thoughtful boyfriend, knowing she was low, especially after hearing the news of Olly’s passing (our much loved old tabby cat), has booked a hotel close to where we live and is bringing Jasmine to her Mum. There’s homemade chocolate cake in the tin and I’ve pulled the last of our potatoes for dinner. It’s hard to describe how I feel about her being here with me in Wales, even if only for a few days, but I can’t wait to hug her.

My beautiful daughter and I at the Beltane Picnic, another happy memory

My beautiful daughter and I at the Beltane Picnic, another happy memory

Do you get the impression I’m a happy person? I like to think so. I’ve lived with depression all my life but chose not to let it be my life. You can find the strategies, ideas, pictures and focus I use in ‘Wendy Woo’s Year – A Pocketful of Smiles – 101 ideas for a happy year and a happy you’ which features in my ***FULL MOON BOOK PROMOTION***, available for 99p/99c for one week only.

Have a Happy Monday:-)

Circle of Life

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The countryside around where I live is getting quieter. From March until July, the area is buzzing with life as new lambs and calves add their voices to the sheep, cows and birds. As the trees become one great verdant canopy, life below is vibrant. Tractors are in abundance pulling trailers and machinery. Four vehicles were needed to turn our field into hay and watching them in action is like front seats at the ballet. Not only do you get to watch the machines dancing, turning, crossing and twisting but you get to smell the grass and fresh turned hay is deliciously sweet…no wonder the new calves love it.

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Lamby (aka Ben) was born in the spring with his brother Jerry, to an older ewe who sadly died. My neighbour Liz was helping the farmer with lambing and offered to take on Ben and Jerry and I enjoyed helping bottle feed them, though I didn’t have to get up in the night to them as Liz did! Sadly Jerry, the seemingly more able and aware lamb, died leaving Lamby, partially sighted and with learning difficulties.  Wales 2014 084 Flibbertigibbet (aka Jibby), a little white female cat, became a full time member of our family, moving on from the house Mike, my partner, built her in the porch. Once the wood burners were installed at the end of January 2014, Jibby decided to stay and made the most of the warmth of the house and it’s occupants. Wales 2014 079 Other new things started for me in the spring, teaching ATS® Belly Dance from the beginning of March and publishing Wrath of Angels at the beginning of June. Tribal Unity Wales is now flourishing in Lampeter and my students have already performed at the Cardigan Belly Dance Festival. It’s been a joy to teach them and I’m so lucky having the opportunity to make friends with such a lovely group of ladies. 10603378_10202597850844530_906991781996694645_n

My New Moon Book Promotion went well for Wrath of Angels and I’m in the process of finishing a novella, The Standing Stone – Home for Christmas which I hope to have available by November 2014. Wales to 21st June 2014 013

But as the evenings grow cooler and the mornings greyer, our little corner of countryside doesn’t bustle any more. Indoors, jam and preserves are being made in kitchens and vegetables are being bagged for the freezer, but outside it is quiet as most of the lambs are no longer grazing. It makes me sad, as a vegetarian, but the only reason the lambs are on the hillside is because of the demand for sweet, tender lamb for Sunday lunch. I’ve witnessed first hand how hard the farmers work looking after the sheep and how much they care but I can’t help my stomach flipping when the sheep trailers drive by.

And as the summer nears it’s end, we have lost a member of our own family as Olly, brother to Tiggy was helped to the Summerlands by the vet at our house on Saturday. Olly was the perfect cat. Found in a box with Tiggy and another kitten, who had sadly died, at just three weeks old, the kittens had had acid dropped in their eyes and on their paws so Olly was blind in his right eye. He loved his new home in the countryside and I shall always remember, when we were tent living, the first time Olly ran the full length of the field. His body at full stretch, he bounded like a leopard through the grass. Before he became unwell, he and Rowan our black tom cat, would roam the area together. I buried Olly in our field, next to the plum tree we planted in memory of my dad. Every day I carry stones to the field, building a cairn to keep him safe.

As the wheel turns and autumn comes into view, the circle of life continues.

Olly, Tiggy and Rowan camping

Olly, Tiggy and Rowan camping

Olly being king of the castle, Oct 2013, the day we moved into the house

Olly being king of the castle, Oct 2013, the day we moved into the house

Olly being Olly

Olly being Olly

Loved, missed and always in our hearts

Loved, missed and always in our hearts

I am writing …Day 4

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With my partner working away for two weeks, I’ve taken the opportunity of a quiet house to launch myself into the story that’s been buzzing around in my head since last October.

The day he left, once I’d had a good cry, I picked up my fountain pen and new lined pad and….nothing. It took four hours and four cups of rooibos before the words began to flow.

The hardest thing is blocking out the world. Neighbours knock, which is lovely, with eggs to swap for cake and courgettes and onions in return for home made vege burgers but they interrupt the flow so, on the second day, my best writing emerged on the page between 10.30pm and 2am.

Yesterday, after errands were run in town, wood chopped, neighbours dispatched and a lovely long Mummy/Daughter conversation, I began writing at 3pm and called a halt at 7.30pm as my stomach rumbling was distracting. I typed up (when I give my writing it’s first edit) for a couple of hours but I felt weary and left it for today.

This morning, the big wood burner is lit, the heating has clicked on and I’m about to jump in the bath.

As I’m more than half way through writing my new book, a novelette entitled ‘The Standing Stone – Home for Christmas’, I’ll post the BOB (back of book) blurb very soon. Writing has been a joy these past few days and, with the last pages from yesterday to type up before I begin my new writing, I’m looking forward to a fulfilling Friday.

Happiness ….a slippery little blighter to hang on to

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I wrote this post a year ago but didn’t publish it…Reading it now, I can sense my own disappointment and fear…house on the market but no offers, weeks and months ticking by, feeling like my dream will never be part of my reality….So, I focus on all the positive aspects of my life, the things that make me smile and make me happy and guess what? There’s a happy ending.

 

Every day since 2013 began I’ve tried to remain positive and keep happy whatever life has thrown at me. Some days have tried my patience or rendered me a useless blob as depression clouds my thinking. Other days have been smattered with tiny pockets of happiness, silently crushed by despair in minutes.

This month’s new moon received my full attention and I worked on myself, relaxing, calming and revitalising my tired, sluggish chakras and, once full of energy, sending healing to those in need. The new moon is a time of creativity and new ideas, it opens doors onto paths unthought of previously. So, pinning the happiness down has been the problem and I’ve been knocked off my path and bombarded with difficulties.

But now I’ve stopped trying…to be happy that is. I’ve decided to just be and make the most of the things that make me happy…..dancing with my Tribal Unity sisters…

Dancing is a great way to be happy and, because I have the support and love of such amazing people, I stay happy when I think of them or receive a text.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My children…every time I feel frustrated and restrained from doing what I want to do, I think of the three wonderful human beings I brought into the world who bring joy to my life every day. I may feel my life is in limbo but they continue to grow and blossom into amazing adults. This photo was taken on Mothering Sunday 7 years ago.

 

 

 

 

Friends… I’ve always struggled to make friends but my dancing friends are always there for me. A message from a friend I’ve not heard from in a while is a wonderful boost to my day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My man…. a hug from him will always make me happy. This was taken at Dunwich in May last year. I’m so lucky to have such a supportive partner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My cats…both Tiggy and Ollie pictured here love a good cuddle and a tickle and their contented purring makes me happy too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And finally, I’ve dared to look to a brighter future……….in Wales.

 

 

One year on!

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It’s a year today that we arrived in Wales. We went from a tent m_summer 2013 and tent pictures 440 to a caravan …and finally moved into our house Wales to May 2014 011

 

We’ve achieved an awful lot in physical terms…we have a bath and a flushing toilet and our chimneys are lined and wood burning stoves installed…but how does it feel emotionally after a very different year?

Though I miss so much about Essex, my tribal sisters and family, I’m blessed with wonderful neighbours (just picked up the key to feed a neighbour’s cat this weekend and received a jar of blackcurrant jam and a rhubarb one that I’m told is very moreish!), live in an amazing place and I’m teaching and getting to know a fab bunch of ladies in my dance classes.

Honestly, emotionally, I’ve been to the peaks of the mountains and the very depths of these lush green valleys. Out of routine for so long, I feel like a leaf, shaken from the tree, swirling in the maelstrom…sometimes I latch onto a bank, take a breather, try to work out where I’m going and then I’m flipped into the chaos again….but I’m living, really living and I’ve never felt more alive.

Sometimes I bemoan my middling years, wishing I had youth on my side but age is just numbers, not a rule to guage life by. My body aches most mornings, injuries acquired reminding me of their presence but the determination to make each day a good one keeps me going as well as the knowledge that I am lucky, truly blessed. I have my health, the love and support of my friends and family, my books are selling and my dance classes blossoming and on top of all that, I have the love of a great partner.

Follow your dream….don’t expect it to go to plan, expect everything to take twice as long as you imagined and cost twice as much but don’t panic…enjoy the journey. You’re allowed to have days where you’re angry and frustrated (gaining planning permission would make a saint scream!) but remember, each day is part of your dream and you can choose how you spend it.

Now follows a short advert….

If you haven’t grabbed your copy of my new novel Wrath of Angels, you can find it here:

If you are unfamiliar with my non-fiction book Wendy Woo’s Year – A Pocketful of Smiles – 101 ideas for a happy year and a happy you, you can find it here:

………….and if you’re in the Mid Wales area and want to join me to dance, you can find all details on the Tribal Unity Website http://www.tribalunity.co.uk.

Thank you to everyone who has supported my writing and dancing over this year and I look forward to another exciting year in Wales, my new home.

 

 

 

One step forward……two steps back

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Our planning application to return our farm house roof to thatch was handed into the Council Office on Wednesday but on Saturday, we had to put back the tin on the front of the roof as on Friday, the tarpaulin couldn’t cope with the downpour of rain. Roof problems for both the house and the attached cattle byre began in February 2014…..

As the wind and rain hammered the British Isles, we did our best to protect our property….Wales 2014 044but as the wind blew up the valley from the south, it entered the byre and lifted the roof frame from the house, spilling tin sheets onto the ground. In a lull between storms, we attached metal struts across the top of the roof in an attempt to hold it down but as the wind picked up, we watched as the roof lifted and sheets fell to the ground.

Wales 2014 051 There was nothing we could do…not even a temporary roof over the byre would have saved it from such a violent storm and would probably have lifted off and caused even more damage. The force of the wind pushed in the front of another barn…Wales 2014 056 but it did save our caravan from being blown down the hill to the bottom of the field! The river rose to the highest point we’d seen it but didn’t burst it’s banks…..Wales 2014 059 and our neighbours in the water mill below us, escaped from being flooded out.

The house roof coped well and we had enough buckets and bowls to cope with the drips and the waterfall running down the chimney breast upstairs.

Once the weather eased, we secured a local conservation architect to work on plans for the house and the byre. Our original plans were not to work on the byre in this first stage of work but the storm damage necessitated a quick response in order to preserve an already damaged building. As far as we knew, all was going ahead and at the end of April, the scaffolding arrived for the thatchers to begin at the beginning of May. Wales to May 2014 004 The thatchers arrived soon after but unfortunately, our desire to press on with making our home water tight, to preserve the stone walls topped with clom and the amazing cruck frame roof structure was met with refusal by Listing. The front tin had been removed to ascertain which purlins and common rafters needed replacing before thatching could proceed and this act was deemed ‘criminal damage’. We just escaped without a fine but all work was stopped until full planning and approval by Listing could be obtained.

We managed with buckets upstairs for a while but the wind and rain began to creep under our tarpaulin. New purlins were inserted in the roof ….trunks cut from our own land….Wales to May 2014 028Wales to May 2014 035 and we set up a new funnelling system to catch the rain water…Wales to May 2014 021 which worked well….Wales to May 2014 024 until now so, the tin is back on…Wales to May 2014 011

We await planning and Listing’s pleaure as to when we can have a roof on our house and our dream of a water tight home has taken….one step forward…two steps back.

 

Wrath of Angels is here!

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It’s been a long time coming, I know, but my second book in the Lilith Trilogy is available in kindle and paperback…I was very excited when the proof arrived………..Wales to 21st June 2014 013

After 8 months hard slog at the house and on the land, we decided to hold a Summer Solstice get together for all the lovely people we’ve met since we arrived here, to celebrate the longest day and to say ‘thank you’ for all the kindness and support we’ve received.

Wales to 21st June 2014 020 Kind neighbours lent us their gazebo to set up the food and made the floral decorations. Tiggy liked the food tent…..Wales to 21st June 2014 021

and the sun shone down on our Welsh decking, only ducking behind the trees late into the afternoon……Wales to 21st June 2014 022 As evening fell, with curry warming in the oven, we broke out the drums…..Wales to 21st June 2014 023 before lighting our Solstice fire and consigning to it all the negativity of the past six months before looking forward to the next exciting months.

It’s been a roller coaster at the house….first, we made a bathroom……….Wales 400 One wall had to be lime mortared, one replaced and one rubbed down before finally…….Wales 435 a flushing loo, sink and bath. We made a temporary kitchen……….Wales 337 acquired another cat…………….Wales 434 and finally, after much hard work and freezing temperatures, the chimneys were lined and the wood burners went in…….we had heating! Wales 2014 037Wales 2014 040 So when the storms hit the country in Feburary 2014, at least we were warm and we’d achieved tent to house heated by our own wood in six months.

More news to come in the next posting but for now, I leave you with Wrath of Angels……..

Angel Parsons – wife, lover, entrepreneur and witch – is back and though she strives to put her past behind her, Lilith the Dark Goddess has other ideas.

Angel has the power at her finger tips. The choice is hers. Will she evoke her wrath to take her revenge on Lilith or will she summon nature’s forces and the strongest emotion on earth to put right the wrongs of the Dark Goddess?

 

You can find all of my books on my Amazon author page

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Wendy-Steele/e/B007VZ1P06/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1365459567&sr=1-2-ent

 

http://www.amazon.com/Wendy-Steele/e/B007VZ1P06/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

 

I hope you enjoy the new book and will continue to follow my postings as I settle into my new life in Wales.