Every year, on January 1st, I see social media ablaze with promises of this being the “perfect year” with weight loss plans and fitness memes promising the perfect body. I hear january-1conversations about how last year was a difficult time for someone and that if they could only start again, or that this is the year they are going to put the fire back into their relationships, or start that Masters degree course again: that this year they will be the perfect husband or mother or colleague.

Why do we need the 1st of January to convince ourselves to be better only to disappoint ourselves annually by the end of the first week and spend the rest of the year planning to be better in the following year to come?

I call “BULLSHIT!”

There is no doubt in my mind of the last 15057 days of my life, the most recent 630 days have been the worst of them combined. Of course, I want things to be better and I have cefa1975f1626154a46d36c3c9c8809db5rtainly tried to do so personally by removing myself from bad situations, going to therapy, taking up exercise and eating more healthily. I have bought the self-help books and read daily devotions, I have taken walks along the beach and felt gratitude for the sunrise and all of creation, I have hugged my family more and told them “I love you”, I have checked my attitude and made sure that I have left things that would weigh me down in the past as I look ahead into my wonderfully positive future, just like those Facebook messages told me to do.

So, how do I know that this will be “the best year of my life”?

 I don’t.

I can start by getting through today without making promises that I know I cannot keep. I can focus on making my breakfast and taking the dog a walk despite the freezing cold temperatures and frost on the ground or that I have lost my gloves – again. After that, I can enjoy reading a few pages of my new book or an episode of that new TV show on Netflix. I can have that afternoon nap, because today I am still on vacation and the dishwasher can do my dishes and I don’t have to worry about ironing that shirt today.

i-can-do-it-thisone1I need this to be a better year – emotionally, personally, socially, financially, mentally, in fact in every sphere I can imagine. I would love to catch a break and live a life on the crest of a wave from now until next year rather than in the depths of the lowest valley. But I sure as hell am not willing to fake smile my way through crap any more and give myself little “pep talks” to tell me that it is right around the corner or that a little New Years resolution will make it all better, knowing that in the next week I will fail to do those 30 squats a day or forget to say my morning affirmation by Joel Osteen or Deepak Choprah.

I am learning that life is not a block of 365 days at a time. It is a fluid, dynamic and organic thing that grows and sometimes stagnates because of a series of choices we each make – every choice with a consequence that may be good or bad or simply indifferent. It is something that is a result of being brave every day and facing countless unknowns, because (let’s face it) none of us has this thing figured out.broken-promise

I want this year to be great and easy and full of good
things, but I have no idea what is going to happen tomorrow. I can try to make good choices, but there is no guarantee that I will get it right. All I can do is face it head on and hope for the best, without making myself promises I know I won’t be able to keep.

So, here goes…

 

This is the first timg_1048ime since starting to write these missives that I have not wanted to write anything at all. As most of you will agree, 2016 has been a difficult year and I would prefer to look forward to 2017 with hope and determination after my very own annus horibillis…

But here I am and I will do what I must to reflect on this terrible year in order to move forward in confidence and determination, because “nothing will keep the old boy down”!

I ended last year in a mix of emotions and felt that despite the year being a difficult one, I had so much to look forward to. Well, sadly that was not to be as I initially hit the ground. Hard. With my face. Sliding on the gravel. Into a wall.

Long story, short: My American Dream was coming to an end with the sudden eimg_0507nd of my relationship with my partner and a tenuous position at work due to incredibly bad management, and FBI investigation and a vengeful colleague. This cocktail mix of bad luck was the way I met 2016 and it was a massive shock to the system. How much easier it would have been to stay in bed at that point and hibernated until 2017, but alas, life needs to be lived, and sometimes that means facing everything – all at once.

By the end of February it had been decided that I would no longer stay in the USA despite a valid Green Card. I conceded that it was easier to throw my hands in the air and admit defeat. Dreams are wonderful things, and for those of you who know me well, this was one dream that I had had for my whole life, but I have learned through experience, that a dream can be something that takes you to the next part of your journey. A dream is not a destination and living in the USA was only a part of that journey which was clearly coming to an end. Surprisingly, I am still quite comfortable with this – although I was very hurt and disappointed at the time.

Finley of course, being the seasoned traveller was ever-willing to take part in this new adventure with me and it was not long before we were saying our goodbyes to Texas and winging our way from the USA in search of something somewhere else.

img_0236I will always be grateful for family and the chance to heal and lick wounds. March and April was mostly about that and finding out what I wanted to do in the next chapter of life. I needed time to just “be” and to talk my way around what had happened. It was a very difficult time and very raw emotionally, but I had some great people around me and I spent many hours walking the beach with Finley happily running beside me – that made me feel very glad because he was oblivious img_0193to recent events and reminded me that I would one day not feel so sad anymore and run just like him with wild abandon…

As an international educator, I have been very fortunate in seeing many parts of the world and had many adventures on my travels. I continued to look at opportunities worldwide from Singapore to Switzerland and interviewed with many schools from Cayman Islands to Canada, but something had changed as a result of my recent professional experience and I was left feeling very uncertain about my future.

I try not to let the grass grow beneath my feet too long and I needed to pull myself together and move on with my life and make some adult decisions and it was not too long before I came to a decision to move to a little town outside of Venice in the North East of Italy. At the time of choosing to come here, I needed to earn a living and get back on the proverbial horse; I was not sure what to expect when I decided to do this, but after a few months of being here, I have been reminded that I am a good person who has gone through a rough spot and despite being faced with more challenges than I anticipated, I can say that I have lived in Italy and that I still have my sanity…barely.fullsizeoutput_2c2This year has taught me the difference between living life and existing. I have done my fair share of both. It has taught me that I have loved…hard, even if it was the wrong person. This year has taught me that I can be kicked down and dragged through hell, but that I am so much stronger than I give myself credit for, because I can still hold my head high and walk all the way through the valley of the shadow of death and come out the other side.

This year has taught me that as a professional, I am still learning, but that I have already learned so much and that I am so much further along than I ever thought. I have the respect and esteem of my colleagues and that I am far more resilient than my reserves allow me to believe. This year has taught me that there are people in life who tell you that they love you or that they will forever be your friend and stand by you in good and bad, but trauma has a way of rooting out wheat from chaff – and there has been plenty of that.
I have chosen to reflect on this year briefly because this has, without doubt, been the most traumatic and painful year of my life. I don’t want to give any more power than I need to to a time that could have ripped me apart.

So, I had a bad year: “Get over it!”

I still choose to believe that there will be better years ahead with adventures to remind me that life is for living and “nothing will keep the old boy down”…

Happy New Year and a blessed 2017, see you on the other side…img_0067

Treviso: August Part 2

Posted: August 24, 2016 in Snapshot
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I don’t know what excites me more: the church bells on the hour or the fact that the cobbled streets are so uneven that the slightest misstep will send me back into the emergency room with another broken ankle! Needless to say, I am taking my chances and venturing out into my new town: Treviso.

For now I am housed in what can only be described as a commune for old people and the odd overseas teacher. I think that most of the guests have been sworn to a vow of silence because I am tip-toeing around with the fear of God in me that if I make a sound, someone (probably a nun) will come out and “shh!” me. But it is nice to be here and have this enforced silence surround me as I reflect on my adventure ahead. Breakfast here, however, leaves much to be desired. I think I had a corn-flake type product this morning sans sugar and the milk was UHT, all of this tasted strangely like styrofoam – which is never the best for consumption. But I am in Italy! I should have been eating fresh fruit from a local market and sampling pastries and salami, but I got machine coffee sludge and old folk with blue hair and walking sticks staring at the “Inglese”. I have decided that I clearly look non-Italian with my Ayrean blonde hair , fair skin and blue eyes. There is nothing Mediterranean about me, and so I must accept the fact that I will stand out for the duration of my stay here. (The fact I sound like an outsider compounds this lack of Italian-ness).
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I have been here for three days now and despite the travel injuries I have endured, I have managed to explore so much of this gorgeous little town with its confusing little narrow streets and ancient buildings. It is clearly an ancient city with its distinct lack of order and structure, which is what makes it so charming. There are little shops which sell the most random of “stuff” like lavender or old books to the more modern stores we all know and expect. Absolutely everyone rides a street bike and combined with the church bells, the air is filled with the trill little sound of the bicycle bells as the riders pedal nonchalantly by.

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But one of the best parts of wandering around this city is the access tho the most beautiful little canals and bridges – even the likes of Danté have lent their names to! I have spent hours walking around this little town completely lost and in awe at the sense of history and artistry. It is simply stunning! Despite the hustle and bustle of everyday life, there seems to be an innate peace here. People are calm and friendly – even to those who struggle with the language. And I get the impression that what does not happen today, someone will get to tomorrow the next day – a concept that my Type A personality will take some time to adjust to. Around 1pm without warning there is a distinct hush over the city and I am not too sure where everyone goes, but it becomes eerily silent and desolate. Shops are not open and even the few al fresco eateries that do remain open serve very few customers – no doubt tourists. The city settles into riposo as everyone goes home for lunch and a snooze…Now we’re talking!

Of course one cannot write about Italy without discussing its cuisine! I have already had one Italian home cooked meal upon my arrival and it is simply what you imagine it to be. Simple. Effective. Delicious. In my wandering around the city, I was shocked and secretly appalled (but at the same time a little vindicated) to find out that whilst dining al fresco, most Italians eat their pizzas with a knife and fork! All my life friends have teased me for doing this and have ridiculed me and pointed fingers, laughing! Well the joke’s on them! But pizza here is unintentionally an art form and probably taken for granted by the common Italian. It is hardly your vulgar Pizza Hut or Dominos. I stopped at a tiny little alley way restaurant and helped myself to pizza by the slice and found it in a word: sublime…

 

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Ciao!

So, I admit, I am glutton for punishment and will not let the green grass grow for long under my feet before I am off again to some far flung place to live a new adventure and traumatize my poor family back “home”. I say “home” because it hasn’t really been that for me for many a year now and although I guess I keep going back there, it is never for very long. Perhaps to replenish and revive, or just to remind me that there is a great big world out there and it needs to be seen (and there are so many ironies in that statement that I will need a whole other blog to write about it – and more on that later), there is something inside me that makes me not want to settle down in one place – or at least until I have found ‘the’ place – if it, in fact, even exists.

And so, through a series of (un)fortunate events in the soap opera that has become my life, I find myself venturing away from what I thought was the “last one” and, once again, I find myself sitting in a random B’n B in a strange land about to embark on another adventure. This time it feels very different, because I did not really ask for this one or even seek it out in the ways I have done before. And as a result, I have approached this adventure of living in a different country with a sense of indifference and a wholeheartedly lackluster attitude. That is not to say that I am not grateful for the new adventures about to befall me, or that I don’t want this to happen, it just means that it is not quite what I was expecting…whatever that means!

So here I am in this random little B’n B in a city I don’t know yet, thinking to myself “Here we go again!” (And you get to come along, dear reader, for the ride!)

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La Dolce Vita?

Italy. Land of “La Dolce Vita” and gelato. Ancient, boot-like in shape, gorgeous sculpted men, beautifully attired women, waiving hands and Vespas. It is not important how I came to be here, although it is for the same reasons as every other move I have made: simply to give you, dear reader, something to read and to allow you to live and travel vicariously though me (and for the odd few, a holiday destination with free accommodation). But regardless, it is here that I find myself, desperately underprepared in linguistic ability and over-anxious for the experience.

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A very unhappy luggage-hating Finn.

So it wouldn’t be an experience like mine unless there was some drama involved. (Why else would I be writing this blog?) So whether it was having to pack and re-pack and further pack again my every belonging into as few suitcases as possible while trying to conserve as much weight for flying, or trying to find another pet carrier for Finley who would provide door-to-door service, I was certainly expecting something to go slightly awry. So far so good, right? What could possibly go wrong…?

Sunday. 5am. Glasgow Airport.

Upon arrival, I genuinely thought we had met with the Apocalypse. Hoards of people decided that today was clearly the best day to fly…anywhere, which in itself is not a bad thing until you factor into the equation that three people were hired to staff the British Airways front desk while all of Glasgow lined up in zigzags outside the airport entrance. (Thank goodness for Business Class lines, eh?). But alas, after the lofty heights of Business Class, I came crashing down though security where it would seem that two people were on hand to pat every single person in Scotland down. And I had 10 minutes to get to my now boarding flight! If my anxiety levels were borderline before this, you can imagine the red alerts going on in my brain now! And of course, Scottish people clearly do not understand the concept of Ziplock bags and 150ml bottles of liquid in our ubër-security conscious culture. A pair of scissors, anyone?

After losing the will to live and moments from collapsing on the dirty airport floor in an anxious, dread-filled heap, I made it though with seconds to spare. But it is at this point that I need to tell you that my plane was (naturally) the furthest gate away, and I was in possession of one back-pack filled to capacity, a carry-on bag that would house the contents of a small African village and my computer briefcase filled with every tech gadget Bill Gates and Steve Jobs have competed against!  Oh yes, and then there was all of Glasgow traveling too. I would hardly call what I did to get to my plane running, but it was nothing short of Olympic walking standard, mixed with a dash of chest pain and profuse armpit action (thank goodness for anti-perspirant).

Blisters. 11am. Gatwick Airport. Blood.

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Trusty Converse sneaks

Change of shoes (replacing the brand new, trendy, but now blood-soaked suede brogues) and finally Business Class lounge (notice that I have managed to mention my level of travel TWICE). I am not sure if I remember what it was like being a plebeian traveller, but I am very glad that free breakfast and coffee in an actual ceramic cup was availed me. My only disappointment was that there was no one there to peel my grapes and fan me with a massive ostrich feather…

Ho hum.

After a brief respite and fully sated, the next leg of my flight was as you would expect and, which of course, in my case included: screaming toddlers on take-off and landing that not even noise-canceling earbuds could cope with!

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Obligatory shot from plane on landing in Venice.

So now once again, I have left what is my “home” and I am starting a new life. I may appear blasé, and trite, but I have done this more than a few times and have earned the right to sound bored with the newness of it all. I will of course, continue to humor each of you when you tell me how jealous you are and when you threaten to come visit, but don’t.

Stay tuned for more of my adventures: there are bound to be a few…

 

Ciao

 

 

Source: 13 Things To Remember When You Love A Person Who Has Depression

What Self-Love Means

Posted: February 14, 2016 in Snapshot

Source: What Self-Love Means: 20+ Ways to be Good to Yourself

Letter for 2015

Posted: December 31, 2015 in Snapshot
Tags:

Another year gone! More reflections…and, as always, many events to look back on with fondness. Each year I write these letters

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Skip and Gray

I realize how far away my life is from most of you reading these and how much of your lives I am missing, but the memories we have together is the reason why you still receive these annual “catch-ups”. Wherever you are, I hope that you are blessed and happy and that as you prepare for a new year filled with resolutions and promises, you remember who you are and where you come from.

2015 for me has been a whirlwind (as usual) and I have to say that I am ready for this year to be over. It has not been the worst year of my life, but it certainly has been a year of change and growth – with many challenges, but I am grateful for the opportunity to use these experiences for the better.

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Mum, Gray and Skip 

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Anti-Wedding 

January of 2015 began with me being a newly married man to an amazing partner in crime – Skip. My mum had travelled to be with us for the “anti”-wedding of 2014 which was a lot of fun – but very low-key (by choice). We celebrated New Year together with Skip’s family and solidified a bond between the two families. Sadly, as mum was leaving Skip’s father had been ill and passed away. Much like my own experience with my father, Skip was privileged enough to be with him as he passed, but it proved to be a very difficult time as goodbyes were said and brought back many painful memories for me. I am learning that this is as much a part of life as living is and it is never easy to say goodbye, but it has to happen. It was not the perfect way to meet Skip’s extended family, but it was lovely to see a large family like his close in on each other and support each other with loving memories and much laughter.

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Finley walks himself in winter

Beginning the year in Indianapolis meant that I had to prepare for another brutal winter, which of course, it was. I was so nervous on the icy sidewalks minus my walking cane, but apartment life demands that an 80 pound Labrador gets at least two walks a day and Finley made sure I made good on that! Socially, winters ensure that people don’t get out much – especially in the mid-west, so we hibernated for much of winter and watched too much Netflix and ate loads of junk food. We were so lazy that many weekends were spent in pyjamas (and a few visits to the local Chik-fil-A). Of course winter wouldn’t be winter without a good bout of manflu, which hit us with a vengeance at the same time this year. We were two VERY sick puppies and were miserable! But winter wasn’t all doom and gloom, we got to dress up and go to a very snazzy gala in our newly purchased tuxedos
– we danced the night away and made a few good memories – I had no i

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Tuxedo Fun

dea Skip was such a great dancer. He led the dance floor on quite a few dances and became a sensation! Of course a few weeks later, we were back in our tuxedos for the Senior Prom – but this time feeling more like awkward dads dancing on the dance floor with the young kids…seriously awkward!

March marked the great “SelfieGate” saga. I innocently too

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“Selfie-gate”

k a morning selfie on my drive to work and it resulted in something not unlike a Donald Trump news event! The number of comments on how terrible and tired and old I looked nearly shut down Facebook – and reminded me that approaching 40 was going to be harder than I thought! Yes people, I am getting older and obviously not as fresh faced as I once was! I guess Santa Claus will have to bring me Botox for Christmas!

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Back on the boards

2015 marked a return to the stage for Mr Galloway. I had the opportunity to sing a few ditties with a talented student of mine (and for a brief moment my singing duo “MilesAway” was a hit!). I also got the opportunity to direct a long-standing favourite sho

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Crooning

w of mine: “The Compleet wurks of William Shakspear”. It was great fun directing this insanely difficult show with an ensemble cast of truly talented and crazy kids – so many great memories made making me wish that I had stayed the course and followed my dreams all those many years ago

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Skip broke himself

Of course all this time Skip and I knew that our time in Indianapolis was clearly drawing to a close as I had accepted a significant post in an exclusive private school in Houston, Texas. We were saying goodbye to the old and beginning afresh in an exciting new city and state! This was supposed to be an easy move, but proved to be the most difficult experience I have had moving to date! Packing up boxes and loading trucks became a challenge after Skip damaged his bicep and ripped his tendons leaving him practically immobile! He had an uphill battle of recovery over a few months, surgery and a lot of pain medication!

Thanks to a handful of my recently graduated seniors, we were able to get all the boxed safely dispatched in the moving truck – minus Skip who had to stay in Indianapolis due to a massive mistake made by the new school regarding my visa. We ended up having to make an emergency application to the US government for my green card (this normally takes around 8 months) in order for me to start working in July.

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Texan Teacher

Frustratingly, Skip was required to be employed in order to sponsor my green card and that meant him staying in Indiana while I took up residence in Texas all alone! What was supposed to be an exciting time for us became a very isolating separation for a newly married couple. At least some good news for us was that Skip managed to start a new job in an exciting directorship and I started working in executive leadership here in Texas. My new job has been incredibly demanding, but rewarding and I have enjoyed the challenges that I face daily. My staff are wonderful and although I am working less with the students and more with the teachers, I am learning new things about education and from a totally different perspective.

Navigating a new huge city on my own is something I am used to and I have enjoyed the challenges that this brings, however it was not the best start being forcefully separated from my husband. Further challenges included having my identity stolen by a disgruntled member of staff who had been fired, resulting in some awkward breaches of my personal security, only to discover that the FBI were involved with this person and almost putting my green card application in jeopardy! It was a very stressful time and when my visa interview finally arrived, I was very doubtful and expected to be packing my bags and moving back to the UK with my tail between my legs. Fortunately, after an excruciating interview (which made me wish I was having root canal surgery instead) I was granted my long-awaited green card, making me a semi-permanent resident of the USA! And my gift: a brand new Audi TT! Well done me!

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Mad Hatter Re-boot

So as I draw to a close this 2015, I am still very uncertain what will be faced in the new year. I am excited that Skip will finally be able to join me in Houston by the end of January and I am sure that professionally we will both be expecting to grow immensely. I have done a lot of growing up this year and turning 40 had allowed me to see what I have done with my life and what I still want to accomplish. Next year I will be focusing on my health and on really settling into my life in the USA, knowing that for the first time in many years, I don’t have to leave (thanks green card). The thing that I have not been able to do for so long is start collecting books and having a decent personal library – a reaction to moving countries so often. Being a literature teacher means that I have a passion for books and I have given so many away, now I get to indulge and collect ‘till my heart’s content!

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Bowties and Waistcoats

Wherever you are, I pray God’s blessing on you and yours and hope that 2016 brings you what you have been dreaming for. I know that I have dreamed many years and it seemed that they would never come true, but sometimes, when you are not looking, they do.

Much love

G x

Moth to a Flame

Posted: March 21, 2015 in Snapshot

UnknownI am sometimes a moth, but very rarely am I the flame.

I have wanted badly to be that flame and feel the heat and the passion of burning alive and lighting a room. But alas, I am fated to be the one darting around the room in an epilepsy of chaos, chasing something that will be forever my demise. I have flown headlong into that flame and burned myself time and time again, one would think that I would have learned my lesson by now, but no, deleriously and with wild abandon, I foolishly dive kamakazi-style into my fiery death.

Put another way, I am like a child who without sense, is rummaging through his father’s closets looking for the secret Christmas presents and finds secret a wooden box. Knowing that he shouldn’t look, the beating of his heart drumming loudly in his ears, deciding to take the box to his room and hide…only to discover a revolver. Childhood curiousity demanding that it be touched; held even despite all internal warnings to the contrary…and with fatal results.

I want to be the flame for a change, I want to be the box that contains the treasure – however deadly it may be.

The Book of Love

Posted: February 19, 2015 in Snapshot

“The book of love is long and boring
No one can lift the damn thing
It’s full of charts and facts and figures
and instructions for dancing

But I
I love it when you read to me
And you
You can read me anything

The book of love has music in it
In fact that’s where music comes from
Some of it is just transcendental
Some of it is just really dumb

But I
I love it when you sing to me
And you
You can sing me anything

The book of love is long and boring
And written very long ago
It’s full of flowers and heart-shaped boxes
And things we’re all too young to know

But I
I love it when you give me things
And you
You ought to give me wedding rings”
–PG

 

 

Cotton Candy

Posted: February 19, 2015 in Snapshot
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When all is said and candy-candy-floss-cotton-candy-cottoncandy-cute-favim-com-180406_large1done (and usually too much is said) it is best to close your eyes and walk away – looking back is lethal.

There was a time when, finally I had to do just that…but in my case, I lingered too long and looked too hard as I drank in the last opportunity to see the last however many years of my life walk away. To see the past, and what I thought was my future collide with the present and the vicious reality that was Goodbye. I had decided that it was important to see one last time and to freeze that moment in time in order that I could caress that memory on grey days when life might be harsh and unforgiving. I still have mixed feelings about that night – looking for as long as I did. I had not prepared myself emotionally for that and am still shaken by the whole experience.

Things were ragged and raw that night and when that is the case, people say and do things that are borne out of anger and hurt. I hardly remember what I said that night, but I know that it was the truth. My head refuses to let me know exactly what I said on that street-lamped, rain-spotted road, but my heart and my spirit comfort me and re-assure me that what I said was necessary and that it was all true. I know this because my heart still swells with the memory of it.

My past stood in front of me as I struggled to say goodbye and tried to hold on for a few more minutes. “Let’s go for a cup of coffee, get out of this rain and do this properly.” I begged. “Let’s do this right. Don’t let’s walk away like this.” We had just discarded what was left of the last nine years in an empty trash can: music we had shared when times were good, poetry written in moments of splendour and solitude, gifts given in celebration and happiness, pictures held in frames that framed our world and held the past in a moment frozen forever, ready to be gazed upon to bring us back to that very moment when all seemed to be right and steady. “Let’s not part like we never had times when we thought we would never have to do this.”

In an instant my mind, and even now as I recall that horrible night, flashed back to the day when it all came together, experiencing as though for the first time that face, that wonderful smile, those gentle eyes, hearing that melodious laugh. And the brevity of it all suddenly hit me like the cruel pronouncement of death: I have to let go! I have to say goodbye!

We never shared that last cup of coffee. We never got to touch hands and feel the spark of energy which brought us together over a golden circle, slowly ebb and fade until it had withered into nothing. We never got to have one last laugh about the things that brought us happiness and joy, like cotton candy on a windy day, because the past had to leave and the present had to get in the car instead.

I looked for as long as I could bear until it disappeared behind a moving bus…or did it alight the bus? I could no longer see clearly. Every memory flooding my eyes with the tears that spilled over and down my cheeks. Tears of bitterness and unforgiveness. Tears of rage and hatred. Tears of regret and sorrow. Tears that screamed “No don’t go, please don’t go.” and begged for mercy from a tortured soul.

And the tears have long since dried…

…and the the past is gone…

…forever…

February Numbers

Posted: February 19, 2015 in Snapshot

Hildegarde of Bingen is chanting mournfully in the background as I compose this blog today, the sun is shining paradoxically in through the window and I am  feeling a sense of ironic calm as I considHildegard_von_Bingener what I need to say…

I have been presented with a number of options of late as to what I am to do with the next little “episode” of this adventure called life. Options are good to have, but I am aware that I have to eventually choose one. There is a comfort in the knowledge that you have more than one to choose from, but once you have chosen, there is very little chance of turning back andhaving a second chance at choosing for the first time… Robert Frost got it right I guess “…I shall be telling this with a sigh…somewhere ages and ages hence…two roads diverged in a yellow wood and I, I took the one less tavelled by…”. The challenge I have to face right now is to decide which is the road for me to take…

New jobs, new homes, new friends, new outlook on life…new me? I look over the last year of this rollercoaster and I see a metamorphosis of such gargantuan proportions that I can hardly beleive I was who I was this time last year! Change is sometimes painful and I am sure I have been through a modicum of pain, but I can say that it is worth it. I call these emotional scars “soul scars” and when I run my fingers ever so gently over these scars, it reminds me of the place I have been brought to, the place I have had to fight to get to. I am now finally doing what is right for me! You may think that that is an incredibly selfish remark to make, but I have seen in this year that those whom you call “loved” may not necessarily reciprocate that. Cynical? Perhaps. But I have experienced the terrible loss of those who cannot see that change in one’s life can be a good thing – sometimes you just have to be a little patient.

There are only two people in my life whom I believe have been sent to me as angels. I know who they are. They know who they are. They have known me well and have seen the impurities in my life and the gold. I have never seen such devotion and friendship displayed in this last year as they have shown. Not because they offered to take my burden on their back. Not because they told me what to do. Not because they picked up a phone or emailed me to cheer me up on dark days. No – it has nothing to do with that! It was something so simple…they held my hand this year when everyone else let go. They walked beside me when most chose to run away.They did not let me fall down and hide as others hoped I would do.

To those who let go, ran away and hoped I would fall… I don’t feel anger. A little disappointed, maybe. Mostly, I feel pity for them, because in doing what they did, they have shown that they don’t value friendship and although they may fill their lives with many people, I wonder if perhaps they feel alone.

And so I feel I am ready to plunge on ahead and make this momentous decision and face whatever fall-out there will be afterwards.

Here goes!

GULP!!!

Ameri/Afro/Scot

Posted: February 17, 2015 in Snapshot
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When people ask Flag-Pins-Scotland-South-Africame where I am from, I pause and smile: I really have no idea how to answer that question.

I am not one of those people who claim to be Scottish because my great great great grandparents were on the Mayflower. Nor am I one of those people who claim to be one tenth Scottish, one tenth French and three tenths German, but one half Swedish. Ancestry.com informs me that my family is Scottish as far back as I can trace (to date I have managed to go as far back as 1600s). My birth certificate and passport confirm that I am Scottish. When you hear me with my family, there is no doubt that I am Scottish. I was born there – in a tiny hamlet on the West Coast where most of my family still reside among the sheep and tartan and whiskey and shortbread.

Flag-Pins-USA-ScotlandYet I still struggle to answer that question.

When I think of home, I think of houses that I lived in while growing up in South Africa: towns like Secunda, Evander, Edleen, Birchleigh North, Illiondale, Edenglen.  Stellenbosch Avenue, Gosling Road and Dent Road: that’s where my memories are.  Vacations to the coast: Ballito Bay, Durban, Mossel Bay, Cape Town. Safaris in the Muldersdrift, Pilansberg, Kruger National Park. African red dust on my skin, in my lungs and coursing through my veins.

And still I struggle to answer that question.

Of course, any attempt to discuss this would be met with confusion on your part. At age 6, there would have been no doubt as I answered you in my wee Scottish brogue. At 20, you would have instantly recognised the flat “a” of the Johannesburger. At 30, an Anglicised mangled mess with shadows of a past straddling two continents. Today, I embark on a further accent development as I struggle between pl[ant] and pl[aunt], w[awe]ter and w[aah]ter, d[e]nce and d[aah]nce as I morph into an American twang.

Ask me in another Flag-Pins-USA-South-Africadecade where I am from and I may laugh hysterically at you as I try to figure out the best way to answer…or I’ll just show you my current passport.

Long live the queen as Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika in the land of the free and home of the brave.

Dark Despair

Posted: February 16, 2015 in Snapshot
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The winter intrudes

my dark despair piles higher

searching for light


G is for…

Posted: February 16, 2015 in Snapshot
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7.-Shakespeare-Wise-Fool

Gowk:

noun (Scottish & Northern England, dialect)

a stupid person; fool
a cuckoo

There is an old saying that suggests that if one is fooled once, the shame lies on the antagonist; the second time, however places the blame on Self. Foolishness is only excused once.

I will admit to being an impatient man. I am impatient with people who continuously go around the mountain fighting the same fight, with very little victory. I am impatient with people who ask for the same advice, but never listen. I am impatient with people who ask for change, but when it comes, refuse to move.

How often have I been one of those people? How many times have I searched for the light in the shadows only to realise that had I merely turned around, it would have been there all along? How many times have I bruised my knees praying for the answer of a life jacket, but had I only opened my eyes to realise that I was already wearing it?

We play roles: the wise man, the jester – and what a fine line there is between the two. Sometimes in our wisdom we are foolish. We see the logic, we pursue the dream, we fail. Sometimes in our foolishness we have wisdom. We see the fear, we embrace the pursuit, we succeed. If there is a difference between the two roles, the answer lies in where we look. Fools look at the future without learning from their mistakes from the past. Wise men look at the past and ensure they don’t carry those mistakes into the future.  Mistakes are allowed, that is where wisdom is birthed and what results in change; not changing is what makes a man a fool.

Letter for 2014

Posted: December 31, 2014 in Snapshot

Letter for 2014

An eventful year, this yIMG_0818ear and I look back at all that has happened and I am amazed that I have managed to squeeze everything I have done into it! It has been a good year – with as many ups as there have been downs, and as usual, I am happy that it is drawing to a close, allowing me the opportunity to reflect and look forward to the exciting new adventures ahead.

2014 began quietly as Snowmageddon descended on the city of Indianapolis in what was probably the worst winter of my life. I have been spoIMG_0673iled growing up and living in warmer climes. I was certainly not created for cold weather and fought kicking and screaming every step of the way. School snow days abounded and I felt that I was hardly at work at all in January and February! My Jeep was a welcome, although scraping the ice from the windscreens daily was a challenge! Of course the climax of the winter season was the massive and somewhat concerning “Polar Vortex” which brought with it plunging temperatures of minus 50C! We were not allowed outside for more than five minutes at a time and I spent most of it indoors bundled up with blankets and endless Netflix movies. Finley was in his element, however, as he had never really seen any sort of snow before and he would chase snowballs and dive in the growing mounds of snow and ice – some higher than eight feetIMG_0756! I took a few tumbles myself along the way.

Falling in the snow and ice was something to be expected of course, as the black ice is hard to see and navigate, but nothing prepared me for the fall I took in February, which has pretty much altered my life! I had been preparing to sit my driver’s license exam on my final day of February Mid Term break and took Finn for his morning walk before going to the BMV, however fate would have me out of the driver’s seat for a few more months as I took a spectacular tumble on the sidewalk shattering my left ankle requiring three surgerie2014-03-18 08.31.53s and a plate and screws in my leg. This experience has left me terrified of walking Finley in winter and I have a walking cane at the ready whenever I feel unsteady! After the first surgery, I had to walk Finn on his leash in a clumsy air-cast boot, two crutches and high on Oxycodone, which was a whole bunch of fun for me. At school I slurred my words and made the kids laugh when I didn’t make any sense. It is a relief to know that I could never cut it as a drug addict as I could barely manage on the drugs they gave me and ended up not taking any pain-killers at all except a few Tylenol. It was difficult being on my own for this, but as I am fiercely independent and would not accept any help save a few lifts to school from a supportive colleague. Of course, I was asked out on a date just before my fall and needed to cancel that shortly after for fear of making a tIMG_1259errible first impression! (But more on that later!)

My first real outing this year was getting to see Johnny Clegg in concert in Indianapolis, which was absolutely fantastic! It made me homesick and so proud of my South African cultural upbringing, not to mention getting to see all the South Africans in the Mid-West who travelled near and far to see a cultural icon. Another highlight amidst being high and limping a lot was representing the International School on NPR radio. It was pretty awesome being interviewed and discussing my own international teaching experience and I got, what I imagine to be, my 15 minutes of fame. It hasn’t really changed my life much, but I would like to think that if I were to change careers, I wouldn’t mind being a talk-show host oIMG_0894n the airwaves. Alas, I think I will remain in teaching for a while longer as I am growing into that after 17 years!

My first group of American seniors sat their external exams in May and by the time their results came out in early July, they were revealed to have been my best group of students ever – way above the world average and the highest average of my teaching career – a feather in my cap. My department faced more than a few challenges and the parents at the school were nervous about the changes I was making, but I was encouraged by the end result and I am encouraged to say that “all’s well that ends well”. My boss further encouraged me to begin considering Upper School principal posts and broaden my horizons. (Again, watch this space!)

With the end of the school yearIMG_1034 came summer and this was to be labeled the “Antiques Roadshow” as my mum and her friend, Wilma arrived for a whirlwind driving tour of Indiana. This was to be my mum’s first ever visit to the USA and she thoroughly enjoyed her time here. We ate every type of international cuisine and visited the Amish and also celebrated 4th July watching fireworks – the accepted format for all American celebrations. We travelled to every corner of the state and saw all manner of American culture from small town middle America, to the McMansions of Carmel. The ladies shopped ‘till they dropped and had a blast – even if their accents weren’t perfect, but everywhere we went they were asked where they were from!

Towards the end of summer and all ankle-related surgeries were complete and I (mostly) was healed, I finally got to go on the date I cancelled way back in February.

Skip and I had coIMG_1188ntinued to chat and get to know each other online throughout the year before meeting, but I was stubbornly unwilling to make a bad first impression with a gammy ankle and so waited until I was literally back on two feet before venturing out on our first date. Things pretty much escalated and before long we were an exclusive “item” and I was part of a couple again for the first time in a very long time. It felt great and it was so easy! He moved in to my apartment and Finley fell in love too! It has been a while since I shared a house with anyone and I expected to find this a challenge, beiIMG_1500ng used to being on my own with my own things, but we merged our different styles – mine; postmodern, his; more mid-century. Our home is now quite eclectic, but we both like it and are quite happy.

New school year began and back to work and the usual politics involved in navigating teens and staff. So far, the highlight of the school yeaIMG_1631r has been the annual Catharsis Literary Arts evening that I run and I got to sing again (dressed up in Hallowe’en Mad Hatter costume). I also was the vocal coach for “Oliver!” the annual musical production – that brought back a few memories for me. I continue to live for each of my school breaks and this time, managed a few trips with Skip to his Tennessee cabin in the mountains – a haven far enough from home to feel  a proper vacation. By October I was engaged and planning the anti-wedding of the year, which was a whole bunch of fun! We planned on having the IMG_1375smallest wedding possible and short of travelling to Las Vegas to be married by some Elvis wannabe, we elected to make this one everything the typical wedding wasn’t. After some negotiation, we got my mum back out to the USA for her second trip of the year and after celebrating a wonderful Christmas with Skip’s mom and mine, we were married in a very intimate ceremony by a childhood friend of Skip’s – appropriately a minister, which wIMG_1682e both felt was a vital aspect of our marriage.

Right now as we look to our future, we agree that Indianapolis is probably not the place for us to be. I (or at least like my ankle) have an aversion to winter and Skip is in full agreement having lived in sunny Florida for 22 years, so we are looking to expand horizons and get out of “Dodge”.

2015 looks to be a fantastic year ahead with a brand new marriage, new jobs for both Skip and I, a new city (hopefully) and many other exciting new opportunities. I am filled with renewed hope again and could not feel more blessed than I do right now. I am excited and happy once more and although I have loved my adventures of travelling the world on my own, I realize that life is meant to be shared with someone; whether that means settling down into the “white-picket fence” lifestyle or not, I know that this is aIMG_1601 new beginning for me and I cherish what lies ahead.

Wherever you are my dear family or friend, I pray God’s warmest blessings on you and that you have a blessed and rich year ahead. Drop me a line and let me know how you are, where you are and what news you have. We may only occasionally chat online through social media, or only once a year through letters like this, but if you are reading this, you are a Someone in my life and I am grateful that you are.

Much love as always

Gray

Letter for 2013

Posted: December 26, 2013 in Snapshot

Letter for 2013

Greetings and Salutations!

Another year gone by, a few more wrinkles and in my case handfuls of hair thinning into my hairbrush! But, I still have to say that all is well.

What a year it has been looking back from where I am sitting today, to the last letter I wrote in reflection: a year of adventure, change and growth. These are the years that make my life fulfilling and result in the afore-mentioned hair-thinning!

The beginning of the year started with a few goodbyes with my mother leaving Bermuda at the end of her Christmas vacation – which as usual was a great time. Our New Year celebrations were a far cry from the old days of typical Scottish “Hogmanays” but we made good and enjoyed Bermuda’s “Frog and Onion Tavern” for its pub grub. My next good-bye was to my wonderful home on South Shore Road, which was bittersweet. I have learned that not all roommates are “mates” and it was best for me to vacate the premises and move into more humble accommodation, which ironically was a lot more fun! To say that this new place was small is an understatement, but it was home sweet home and only temporary as I had far bigger adventures ahead of me…more on that later.

School was good, but things were changing fast for me there as I had been offered an exciting post in the UAE to help start up a new IB Diploma school. It was time for me to start looking elsewhere as my time in Bermuda was drawing to a close and I needed to move on. Bermuda was an amazing experience, which I will cherish as long as I live and although isolated and small, it afforded me an opportunity to find a lot of peace and growth – both personally and professionally. My star-class was graduating and no longer needed me and I knew that it was the right time to go. It is always hard to say goodbye but when the time came it was easier than I thought.

Finley’s departure was earlier than mine – although I took him back to Scotland at Easter-time, as he was not going to Dubai with me. That experience was not without its own adventure. An emergency Gall Bladder removal (I have fallen in love with Morphine) and last minute flight cancellations due to mechanical difficulties resulted in a massive panic and re-routing flights – all within a 12-hour period of time. Of course, true to form, the paperwork completed by the company I hired to take the hassle out of doing it myself was woefully incorrect and by the time I got to Gatwick, Finley was under threat of a 6-month quarantine or being deported back to Bermuda! After hours of expensive and irritated phone calls and a few extra pounds sterling, he was released from Gatwick Pet prison and instead of winging our way up to Glasgow, we now needed to drive up instead. Good Friday on the M6 was not so good, but rather more like a very large parking lot. Needless to say, the 12 hours prior to our flight from Bermuda, the flight itself, the stress of our arrival and the resultant 15-hour trek up to Scotland by car on the coldest and busiest day of the year made for a very grumpy and exhausted Gray. You couldn’t make this stuff up!

Of course, saying goodbye to my baby boy was traumatic as I headed back to Bermuda for the final leg of my time there to finish packing and wrapping up the school year. But, in usual Gray-fashion, things had dramatically changed. Whilst in the UK I was offered a post at a prestigious IB school in the Mid-West of the USA – Indiana, with the option for me to get my permanent residency…eventually. For those of you who know me, this has been a lifelong dream and I grabbed it with both hands…who wouldn’t? Of course most people on hearing of my leaving Bermuda reacted with great surprise and questioned my choice of location in the US, Indiana is not exactly a hotbed of excitement, but it is a foot in the door and the promise of a new adventure loomed.

My last few weeks in Bermuda were filled with soaking in the sounds of tree frogs, pink beaches and turquoise waters and preparing to say goodbye to a life which afforded me comfort and stability – the first I had had in a long time. Don’t get me wrong, Bermuda was an adventure filled with many ups and downs, but 4 years in one place was good for me. I spent my time researching my new destination and online house hunting…that was fun. I left Bermuda on July 3rd and although I don’t think I will ever be back there, I kicked the beach sand off my heels and headed back to Scotland for the summer.

Summer in Scotland speaks for itself when compared to Bermudian summers…

First class tickets on US Airways at the end of July saw me winging my way with two suitcases and Bellagio bear as my companion to the start of my new adventure… Being handed a set of car keys to a hire car on arrival and set loose on the city of Indianapolis was pretty much how I hit the ground running. Cell phones with GPS, apartment searches, searching for furniture and all within 6 days prior to starting new school orientation (a.k.a deep fried brain), and I was on my way!  The new school is great – although not without its own challenges, and my new department was in desperate need of direction and structure (what I seem to do best). I felt like this was the place for me to be.

It did not take me too long to settle in to a new life here. My apartment is great and overlooks a lake, my new Jeep is awesome (I finally have a backseat and a boot/trunk after the MG) and I seem to be living the dream – although the American Dream seems to be very much like real life, with money to be earned and accounts to be paid…but by God, I am here! I still have to pinch myself when I see yellow school buses on my morning commute, and Old Glory flying proudly everywhere I go.

Finley’s arrival at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport was met with much fanfare and, much to my relief, he adapted to life here in the US with as much grace as a duck to water. We have a great time in the mornings walking at 5am (no comment) and a weekly run on the school grounds where he takes great pleasure exploring the woodland and lake. He chases the geese and ducks relentlessly and I am terrified that one day he will actually catch one and bring it back to me…

Of course I cannot fail to mention the wonderful Autumn and Winter I have so far experienced here: from a burst of earthy colours (notice the British spelling please), to the sub-zero Arctic temperatures (-17C so far), it has been a vast change from what I am used to and although my wardrobe has increased in scarves, hats, gloves, boots and overcoats, I think I may just get used to this…(ignore any future complaints regarding the weather).

Hallowe’en was fun this year for the first time ever as I went full pelt at school, dressing up as William Wallace in an attempt to show the Americans my roots (they love that kind of thing) and Thanksgiving here was a turkey-induced affair and marked my official entry into the culinary delights of cooking big meals by myself! I was very proud of my efforts and Finley seemed very happy with his lunch this year. I have much to be grateful for and I reflected on my many adventures which have led my to this point. Most of you know that I am not so good at Christmas and so I have hibernated this year (no tree, but more culinary adventures however) and enjoyed a quiet wee dram to myself without the hubbub of commercialism, which I am sure you can imagine is at its peak here in the States. Part of the Christmas fun however was appreciating the neighbourhood (again, note the British spelling) competitiveness with all the lights and decorations. I refuse on principle to take part in this endeavour, but I am sure as the years progress, I will remain stubbornly against this tradition myself, or with wild abandon give in to the hype and join suburbia.

So as this year finally draws to a close, I look back on a very exciting year of change and progress. I used to think that goodbyes were hard, but I have come to see in 2013, that it is not so hard to do anymore and sometimes can be a very good thing.

I wish you well in the year ahead as I pray for all of us to have a healthy, prosperous and depending on your plans, a stable or adventurous 2014!

Much love from me and licks and wags from Finley.

Gray

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Autumn 2013

Posted: December 2, 2013 in Snapshot

Where I live:

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Who is that voice…?

Posted: June 2, 2013 in Snapshot
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Who is that voice that quietly prompts me to do the things I want to do and then when I work up the courage to do it, says “Don’t”?

I have always been a cautious type of person who thinks things carefully through, weighing up the pros and cons, thinking of as many eventualities as I can. Stripping each potential outcome of each of its layers, down to its bare minimum and offering it to the altar of my over active imagination as a sacrifice waiting for the gods to shine their favour on the right one…But of course there are so many eventualities that I can never decide which one is best and I am lost in the haze of choice which not only obscures my vision, but ironically dulls the excitement of making any choice with the clarity each deserves.

I do not believe in coincidence. It has to be said that any “chance” that may exist is not actually a result of two or three happenings colliding at the right time or place, but rather that the decisions that we make in our daily lives lead us and guide us like hand-held children in the midst of a crowd to what we commonly refer to as our “destiny” (whatever that may be). 

We choose to cross roads far enough from the traffic lights to know better and survive the head-on collision. We choose to make those seemingly vital credit card transactions, knowing that there is only one slice of moulded bread left in the bread basket and a scraping of butter left in the tub. We choose to fall headlong in love knowing that the last time our hearts were torn and broken and we never thought it possible to start over. These are choices not coincidences. It is no coincidence that we survive the hit and run, or the starvation or the broken heart. It is what we do best – survive.

I don’t know what it is inside of us that gives us that will to survive. But it is there clinging to our psyche with every ounce of strength it possesses. Refusing to let go. What inside the amputee convinces him that his limb is still there? What drive and determination moves him? Where does he find the motivation to continue? Or the broken-hearted spurned lover who is alone and destitute in love – “love retarded”. How does he find the will to look again for love, when all that is presented to him is heartbreak and disappointment? What drives these people in the choices they make?

Hope.

We all get knocked down from time to time and we somehow – from the depths of our being – find the mechanism, the switch by which we push ourselves to continue. We live in a world of decay and futility, but somewhere in us there is a seed that has taken root and will not die. It grows and anchors itself in our heart. It germinates, sometimes rapidly, but mostly all too slowly and it bears the fruit of Hope. 

It is this Hope which makes us consider the options presented to us, even when we have lost our limbs, our homes, our loves. It is this Hope that breaks the dark cloud of decay and hostility and illuminates, albeit momentarily, a future brimming with possibility. 

Sometimes that Hope, like so many other fruit, rots and wastes away. It becomes bitter and loses its ability to refresh and sustain. It becomes distasteful and poisonous. We often choose at this time to partake of the fruit and are left stunned at the death of our desires. We spit and splutter the disillusionment of our rotten dreams and discard the worm-infested fruit in disgust…It is then that the voice inside us tells us ever so softly – without sound – “Don’t”.

Today I took the fruit in both hands and greedily bit into it allowing the sweet juices to run down my neck and stain my skin. I chewed the flesh and savoured the taste of sugary sweet excitement. And as I swallowed, I knew that I may be without limb or home or even love, but I have Hope and a future and that the letter that was secretly concealed inside my jacket pocket did not represent a coincidence of happenings colliding with each other in time and place but it represented the choice to survive and move my life forward and hear the voice that shouts “Do!”.

Fabulous

Recent graduates of mine who decided to immortalize me…

Image  —  Posted: June 2, 2013 in Snapshot
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“Somewhere over the Rainbow” as many have sung, wondered and mused.

I was listening to this song and humming along to it when it struck me that this is not a hopeful a song as I once thought… I mean yes, the sentiment is that eventually you will get your dream and all will be well…it is there “somewhere” if you look for it “way up high”. Dare to dream those dreams and one day they “really will come true”.

But in reality clouds are grey with regret, death, divorce and birds have already flown away to greater and better things because of recessions in the economy or better jobs in other countries and you are left alone to wonder where this elusive place of calm and peace is as you continue to pay your rent and buy your shopping in the same grocery store you have for years and drive in your beaten-up Ford to the same dead-end job you have had for years. The whole idea of the song is that the singer is unable to get there: “then why can’t I?”

And this is the point I am trying to get my head around.

If there is this place beyond the rainbow, why are we not able to get there? The song is based on the fantasy that life will eventually get better and easier which, let’s face it, is completely untrue because if we actually ever got Somewhere, then there would be another Somewhere to get to.

Another concern I have is what would Somewhere be like…really? I mean sure, blue skies are great and bluebirds are sweet and happy and clouds are far behind me because troubles have all melted “like lemon drops”. Talk about burying your head in the sand! Seriously? When have any of us ever lived a life where troubles don’t exist or we are not faced with challenges in our lives – ask me, I should know! Is this what we need in life – absolute perfection every day? I don’t think so! Are you thinking what I am thinking? Spineless.

Of course the true sentiment of the song is carried in the last line: “If happy little bluebirds fly beyond the rainbow, why can’t I?” Well first of all isn’t this just typical of the human condition? The elusive “if”. Never happy with what we have in life, we look elsewhere and throw a hissy fit and say, “That is not fair! Why can’t I have that also?” Does this make us better people? Does this push us to work harder and reach for what we want? No, it makes us look at our neighbour’s brand new BMW and then look at our beaten up Ford and ask – why can he have that I can’t?

I am quite happy that I have my Somewhere right here and that the rainbow exists because the rain has fallen heavily all night and soaked me through and the sun is shining again, warming my weary bones and I have hope – not for some other place – that in the right now, I am happy with what I have and who I am – flawed and broken, but facing each day head on as God intended me to.

100 things to be grateful for…

  1. Finley the Wonder Dog
  2. My wonderful mother
  3. Sarcasm
  4. Casa Galloway (“Maplins”)
  5. Travelling the world through my job
  6. Living in Bermuda
  7. Growing up in South Africa
  8. Sunsets at Maplins
  9. Morning coffee
  10. Long trail walks with Finley
  11. Being a teacher
  12. Herbal fruit tea  – Cinnamon Apple Spice
  13. My seniors: Class of 2013
  14. Flights home
  15. The MG – Ahmed
  16. Curling up and reading a book
  17. Snuggles with Finley in bed
  18. All day TV marathons
  19. My Levis
  20. My daily work diary
  21. Memories of CYB – nearly 8 years
  22. Airconditioning
  23. Tie/Cufflink collection
  24. Havianna flip flops bought in Brazil
  25. Getting to bed early
  26. My sense of humour – what’s left of it
  27. Dog treats for BubbaGump
  28. MacBook Pro
  29. TV/Cable Remote control
  30. My digital piano (aka Therapy)
  31. Pinot Grigio dates with Max B
  32. Boat rides on the Great Sound
  33. Lindor White Chocolate
  34. Full moons
  35. Il Capo Crème Brulee
  36. Ocean views from my bedroom
  37. External Hard Drive
  38. Last days with Dad
  39. Friends who give me perspective
  40. Finley’s daily welcome home greetings
  41. My blog
  42. My sanity – or near insanity
  43. Spiritual belief system
  44. Sunblock – when I remember to use it
  45. Aloe Vera – for when I forget to use “44”
  46. The Classics (Literature)
  47. Trashy novels
  48. Rain at night against my window
  49. Dad’s vegetable soup
  50. Big red gecko from Florianopolis vacation
  51. Opportunity to visit Machu Piccu
  52. My blue suede shoes
  53. When Finley dreams
  54. Long beach walks
  55.  Artwork collection from Prague, Peru, Bermuda, Africa and Brazil
  56. Cold crisp October days
  57. My deformed finger
  58. XRays of my broken elbow
  59. Pugsley and Dawn drives
  60. Green and red pens
  61. Mum’s tenacity in fighting cancer and heart disease
  62. Old family photographs
  63. The cold side of a pillow
  64. Hot-buttered toast
  65. Dad’s gold watch
  66. Future vision
  67. Online banking
  68. RayBan sunglasses
  69. Salt ‘n Vinegar Pringles
  70. Ambi-Pur plugins in my classroom
  71. Rainy days off
  72. Long drives along the coast
  73. Flea markets
  74. My manbag from Gap
  75. Candle-lit evenings
  76. Crisp starched white shirts
  77. Digital camera
  78. Red wine in front of the fireplace
  79. Ability to laugh at myself – often
  80. Christmas tree lights
  81. Afternoon naps
  82. My dishwasher
  83. DKNY spectacles – both pairs
  84. Christian Dior’s “Farenheit”
  85. Smell of freshly mown lawn
  86. Surprise emails from far-flung friends
  87. New friends
  88. Dead Sea mud
  89. Pineapples
  90. Intellectual conversation
  91. Breath mints
  92. People who thank me for going the extra mile
  93. Vanilla custard
  94. Fearlessness in finding new adventures to conquer
  95. Quiet moments of reflection
  96. Being debt free
  97. My O.C.D.
  98. Full night of sleep – when I get it
  99. Good mental health
  100. My education

Getting a handle on things...

Brass handle on cedar

Image  —  Posted: December 31, 2012 in Snapshot
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Finley

aka Bubba Gump

Image  —  Posted: December 31, 2012 in Snapshot
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Day 8

Posted: September 21, 2012 in Snapshot

ImageThe greatest sign of success for a teacher… is to be able to say, “The children are now working as if I did not exist.”  Maria Montessori

Sadly, for me today this was not the case. 

My seniors know me very well – I have been around them for the last four years and in that time they have come to know a lot about me – a lot! Of all the things they have learned, it is my personal penchant for order that they have come to know most intimately. In particular, the fact I have classroom O.C.D. 

Everything in my classroom is near perfect. The walls are colourfully painted and have bright posters adorning the boards. My desks are straight (because I have stage tape on the floor to help the students keep them so), all the department’s books are all neatly stacked in bookshelves around the room. Everything is at perfect 90 degree angles. My desk is the picture of perfection!

Therein lies the problem.

For years my students have found my Classroom O.C.D. a great source of entertainment. I have oft times wandered into my classroom to find things just slightly out of order: pens moved around my desk, my schedule or a file just at the wrong angle – or , God forbid, on the wrong side of my desk or turned upside down, my computer monitor on the floor and the hard-drive on the desk…the usual teenaged misbehavior.

Today I had a late Recess meeting with my Head and it overran. On arrival at my classroom, I found everyone working really hard and they were all silent. I smelled a rat immediately! I have experienced the pure horror of arriving at a classroom of silence and know that this phenomenon is rare, unless the presence of a nearby teacher is threatening. The hairs on the back of my neck bristled as I looked around my classroom to discover what was missing, what had been moved or which poster had been turned upside-down.

I stealthily moved in the direction of my desk at the front of the class to ensure any important documents were still there and there is was – or in this case wasn’t…MY DESK! They had moved and hidden my desk!

I had to stifle a shriek of laughter at their brilliance, but instinct told me to switch tactics and turn on the “Evil Teacher” mode on my internal remote control. This, on reflection, was far more effective as within minutes my desk was back in place with everything perfectly replaced and further silence for the rest of the lesson – and all their set work completed… and I was once again safe in the knowledge that my desk (or any other thing in my classroom) won’t be moved again…

…at least not this term.

 

Day 7

Posted: September 21, 2012 in Snapshot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As this is our first  full week back at school, kids and teachers and managers in my face, it is turning into a blur. I am actually writing this post a whole two days after the fact and am now trying to chase my tail. Don’t you hate that?

The seniors are already into exam mode and although a few weeks away (November), I have had tears and tantrums already! This will pass however, as they begin to calm down and get the work done. It is always interesting to watch them a year earlier when their seniors are in the throes of these exams, as they are so nonchalant about the process and the bravado of them being able to cope when it’s their turn is stunningly arrogant! This is clearly a rite of passage and when finally, they are alone in the exam room – with just a teacher a microphone and their brief notes, they will perhaps realise their own academic mortality!!!!

[Cue:Evil laugh]