Author Archives: mfoulia

About mfoulia

I live between two coutries, Wales and Cyprus but half my life has been spent between England and Cyprus. i am 44, a mum of 3, I home educate, write, travel and try to change the world. :)

Losing my mother, the start of trauma.

January 2020.

I published the piece below around the 19th or 20th of November 2019. It was automatically sent out to the blog subscribers some of whom contacted me to comment, some posted their feedback on the site itself. Then, one day just like that, the post disappeared and in its place was an older draft unfinished version. What happened is as much your guess as mine and to make matters worse it was the second time in less than 4 months that this happened. WordPress tried to salvage it but like the time before, had absolutely no record of its existence. Strange but true.

Frustrated and demoralised, I decided to just let it be and leave it at that. The weeks that followed since then have marked a continuation of the journey that began back in August 2019, a critical piece of the puzzle that is my life. What started then and continues today, is the uncovering of the effect trauma had on my mind, brain, and body.

I realised that the blog has been part of this uncovering, as I process when I write and putting things out there publicly has helped me allow myself to be vulnerable as well as to receive feedback from others who identify with what I write, who have been or still are travelling their own trauma journey.

I decided to republish the post about my mother so for those who receive this twice, I apologise. Bear with me as I navigate the undesirable yet necessary tech world before me.

The 18th of November was the anniversary of my mother’s suicide.

I had no recollection of the date until I stumbled across an old notepad in which I’d written the date of her passing and the date of my father’s birthday (19th of November).

Some months before, my mother had lost her husband – my father – to a freak sea accident. Clearly, for her, the pain was intolerable. I was five years old when she died, and this was her third and final attempt to end her life.

Finding this date scribbled in the old notepad served to remind me of the season I’m in right now.

A few months ago, I started to become aware of feelings I had suppressed over the years but could no longer hide from. I say ‘suppressed’, but maybe it’s more accurate to describe these feelings as a force that was recognised but disconnected from me. It might be that I was in denial.

There were signs, of course, such as being overprotective of my kids. The truth is, I have lived in constant fear of anything happening to them; that they might be taken from me or they would somehow lose me, their mother. This was a very real fear and it triggered a serious bout of depression in me a few years ago. Living in a continuous, gruelling state of hyper vigilance, I would think of every possibility, at every moment, that could bring them to harm, and it was exhausting. Even sleep meant taking my eye off the ball; leaving them unprotected. So, I slept fitfully, semi-aware of every turn they made in bed because there was every possibility (in my mind) they may suffocate while sleeping.

Photo by Keenan Constance from Pexels

Clearly, something had to give and ultimately my body protested – leaving me screaming in agony from an old condition called fibromyalgia. This is a condition that can start after serious trauma and my symptoms started after my mother’s death, only it took 17 years to get the diagnosis and I still suffer the effects today, aged 45.

Other ‘milder’ impacts of my mother’s loss include being affected to the point of grief by any movies with orphans in it – Heidi, Annie, Storks, Ballerina – all of which means watching family movies with my kids can be a traumatic experience because I relive the loss and all its carnage as I battle silently with reawakening trauma.

As a child, it was not uncommon for me to get lost in daydreams, pretending my mother would suddenly turn up at school and knock on my classroom door. I also remember the hours I spent hidden in my grandparents’ wardrobe clutching my mother’s handbag and inhaling her smell that remained long after she had gone. I would wear her clothes and shoes and role play being her for hours. My grandparents didn’t protest. They were going through their own ravaging grief of losing their son months before and now their daughter in law.

But on the flip side, this trauma made me a very devoted, hands-on mother who has always been present for her children, helping them to make memories, allowing them to be themselves and offering hugs and kisses at every opportunity. The trauma has also seen my husband and I consciously craft our lives in such a way so as not to have any regrets later on. We will not be absent during our children’s growing years and we will be fully available to protect them and to fight their corner while equipping them with the agency to be themselves. This promise has led to us throwing out the rule book. In short, we will not allow others to tell us how to raise our kids. From sleeping techniques to potty training and schooling, we have done it our way and given them the freedom to grow at their own pace, in their own time, without anyone holding a yard stick against them. In some circles it is called unschooling, free range learning, gentle parenting, self-directed education. Whatever.

Of course, I make tons of mistakes, all the time. I’m absent minded, overloaded, fighting a chronic illness, forgetful, fatigued. I space out and dissociate frequently through my day and momentarily disengage or disconnect while still being aware of my surroundings. It’s almost a superpower, as if I’m there, but not there; detached.

I’ve taken the children for weekends with family members who live hours away only to find we’ve gone on the wrong weekend and we’ve had to drive all the way back again. I’ve taken them to birthday parties at the wrong venue or on the wrong day. I’ve shouted at them and then dropped to my knees apologising. I’ve raged at my husband, vile, frightening, out of control anger. And I’ve been so absorbed in surviving that I’ve not always noticed things. My forgetfulness due to PTSD and fibromyalgia means I don’t remember my children’s first words or accidents or illnesses they’ve suffered. If the memory isn’t written down, it’s gone. As a result, I constantly take pictures to capture as many moments as possible so that if my brain deletes it, I have evidence. The fear of losing the memory triggers anxiety attacks and on and on we go in a vicious unending cycle.

Currently, I’m studying for a counselling qualification at evening class. I’ve waited and waited for the right time, for when I am healed, for when there is more time, money, energy. In the end I realised that I don’t need to be in a perfect situation in order to live, to pursue dreams and to make a difference to others. So, I went for it and enrolled. It has been transformative.

During lessons, we take part in exercises designed to equip us with the skills to counsel others. These exercises have been paramount to my own journey of healing. I never planned it, I never even considered the fact that the course would inadvertently help me, but there you have it. God (or whatever higher power you believe in) knows what we need and when we need it. For me, it’s now. My time has come.

Each week I drive home from the class reflecting on the nugget of a revelation I have gained that evening. Every session brings something new – or rather, old – popping up, like toast waiting to be buttered while warm. And it’s while these memories are warm that I want to address the issues they represent. The realisation that I am still profoundly affected by the loss of my mother is one such prevalent issue.

During one class, I talked about the panic attacks I suffer whenever I’m faced with a child in distress. I spoke of the times I have abandoned my shopping in the middle of supermarkets because I could hear a child crying in a pram or having a meltdown or a tantrum. It’s the sound of distress that causes my panic attacks. Heart palpitations, cold sweats, strangling anxiety and a need to escape all surge through my body within seconds and I simply have to get out. Interestingly, I never named this reaction – a panic attack -because it didn’t fit the movie-like panic attacks I am aware of, hyperventilating and breathing in a paper bag. I don’t get that. I get every nerve in my body fully alert, every muscle, adrenaline, energy, pow. It was my fellow students who put a name to it and led me to an epiphany of what takes place.

Paradoxically, I had never made the connection that this behaviour might be connected to the loss of my mother. I never saw it from that perspective; that I feel what I perceive the child is experiencing, chiefly a need for comfort in their distress and a cuddle. When one of my fellow student counsellors pointed out the connection, the lightbulb came on. I realised that when the distressed child is being comforted by its mother, I don’t have a panic attack. I cope just fine. But when a child is distressed, kicking in their pram, crying to be let out or for attention and the mother ignores the child or shouts at it, I am completely overwhelmed, and I run for my life.

These moments of creeping connection all came to a head when I met a visiting Christian preacher working with a healing ministry a few months ago. She came from the USA, she was free, and many people were testifying to her prophetic insight and healing abilities. Never one to turn down a possibility for healing, I arranged to meet her. We had half an hour, that was all she could afford as her day was packed with others like me, eager for answers, insight, hope.

The preacher knew nothing about me, only my name. We sat down together, and she asked me to give her five minutes to pray. She then unfurled a roll of knowledge about me and my situation and I was so astounded I could hardly breathe. She said God had shown her two particular ages in my life where there was serious trauma and for which I still needed healing. Age 3-4 and age 15-16. As time was of the essence, we focused on me aged 3 to 4 and the loss of my parents. I immediately knew the trauma experienced at both those ages but as I said, we focused on age 3-4.

It was in the months between 3-4 that my father was killed (or disappeared after the accident), and my mother dived into depression. Over those months she made two suicide attempts, one landing her in the Aglantzia mental asylum, outside of Nicosia, Cyprus. An uncle would take me to visit and hold my hand while she stood on the other side of a chicken wire fence. He would say to her “Annette, look at her, look at your child, is she not worth living for?” She would reply that she wasn’t a good enough mother for me, she didn’t deserve me, and I didn’t deserve a mother like her. Despite the fact her third attempt at suicide was when I turned 5, the months between the age 3-4 were probably the most traumatic as I lost my father and was then brutally separated from my mother, often within inches from her yet unable to be held, comforted, reassured. The last memory of her – the only memory of her – is of me finding her dead after her third attempt.

 Linda (the healing minister), asked me a question that would reveal the true depth of this open, festering wound in my soul. She took two pillows and placed them in front of me. Pointing at each one she said.

“This is your mum, and this is your dad”. What would you like to say to them?

Ignoring ‘my dad’ I looked at the ‘mum’ colourful striped brushed cotton cushion and without even taking a second to consider or even process the question I blurted

“Why did you do it? Was I not worth living for?”

And with that I broke down. It was time.

It was time to recognise the pain I still felt – the rejection, the sense of abandonment and what it has meant throughout the decades of my life – and it was time to let that pain go. That question allowed me to fully see patterns in my behaviour that were borne from a place of insecurity, fear, abandonment and hurt.

Since then, I have welcomed every opportunity to allow the healing process to take place. And it is taking place. In the past, I would shut the process down, prioritising my duty to my marriage, my kids, the debts and all of life’s demands and expectations of me. Now I am openly allowing my healing to happen.

I mocked myself when I told my husband that here I was, 45 years old and aching for my mother. He looked at me with calm, serious eyes and said, “What does age have to do with it? Loss is loss.” He is right. There is no shame.

We need to open our hearts and receive that which will clean out the wound, disinfect it, pour medicine into it and allow it to heal, leaving a clean scar. The scar will then be a constant reminder of what was, but without the pus, the stink of death or the rotting flesh. All what will remain will be the result of the process, grace, love, acceptance, presence and healing.

This is the way to arrive at peace, a reclaiming of our identity and a certainty in who we are and our worth. Lessons are learned and our hearts are shaped softer, healthier and ready to extend the lessons to others who like me, like you, like us, have been wounded and are in need of healing and restoration.

Photo by luizclas from Pexels

So, with that, I mark this anniversary as a turning point; a new chapter. I am walking into new territory, carving a new path in my story; expanding my heart, allowing me to feel, to heal, to understand, to remember and celebrate what was, without collapsing under the weight of ‘what could have been’, clearing the way of what is to come.

I choose to forgive my mother and to love her knowing she had her reasons and she loved me. I choose to respect her journey and her battle without judgement or bitterness. I choose to forgive myself for feeling not good enough to live for and as a consequence, not good enough as a mother to my own children. I choose to make my choices and allow myself the grace to make mistakes. I choose to live free from the fear that controlled me. I choose to love unconditionally no matter what. We all have a choice. I choose to turn those wounds into lessons that bring forth wisdom.

I step forward in my quest for more answers and deeper understanding, my vessel is love, courage, vulnerability and gratitude. My torch is hope.

The Kindness Diaries – Inspiring kindness, giving hope, sharing love, oceans apart.

Courtesy of http://www.leonlogothetis.com

” The world is filled with travelers. Some travel by force, some by choice. But for some of us, it is a calling. At the heart of this brotherhood is the desire to connect, find community and a place to belong. And every single connection made, makes the world a little better because as Mark Twain put it “travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindness. Charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in on a little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime” “

Leon Logothetis – the Kindness Diaries
https://leonlogothetis.com/

Television is really not my thing. Give me books, books, books and yes please, even more books! Every now and then however, when I need to take a break from reading, writing or studying, I flick through channels and Netflix categories looking for something worthy of my time.

I don’t mean this in a proud, derogatory way, please do not misunderstand. What I am trying to say is that I channel my focus and time into whatever feels productive, not wanting to miss a moment, not wanting to waste an opportunity. So if I am going to watch something, it needs to be good, impactful, powerful. It needs to leave me with something to ponder, reflect on and from which I can grow.

https://leonlogothetis.com/

The Kindness Diaries is such a program. I watched series 1 a few months ago. I was so impressed by it that I set everything aside to watch almost the entire series back to back. As Leon set off on his trusted canary yellow motorbike (with side car) from Hollywood, L.A, I journeyed with him. Together, we crossed through the United States of America, Europe, India, Cambodia, Vietnam, Canada and back to Hollywood.

https://leonlogothetis.com/

Relying entirely on the kindness of strangers to feed him, put petrol in Kindness One, and give him a bed or sofa for the night, Leon was gifted an inside view to the lives of the strangers who offered kindness. Each one with their story to tell. Their own journey of hope and reason for offering kindness to a stranger. I laughed. I cried. I paused episodes and contemplated in silence. Each episode – each story left a mark on my heart and filled it with fresh motivation, inspiration and hope.

But there is something more. Leon does not only receive kindness. He also gives it. Every now and then, when he meets someone who has profoundly touched his heart, who has given out of their lack, Leon gives them a gift. It may be a home to get them off the streets, funding a charity, a dream holiday, and much more.

https://leonlogothetis.com/

In series 2, Leon embarks on another journey, this time with a canary yellow VW beetle with no modifications, heating or power steering. Kindness 2 takes him through Canada, Alaska, America, Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Peru, eventually ending in Argentina.

https://leonlogothetis.com/

Listening to their stories, Leon connects. Sometimes, like in the case of Rena who rescues stray dogs in Colombia, the story is a bit too close to home. Moved to tears, Leon shares with Rena that his own dog Winston was the one who taught him about love. Winnie loved him unconditionally and marked Leon’s life profoundly.

Winnie with Leon. https://leonlogothetis.com/

Rena shares the story of her and her siblings’ abandonment by their mother and how they were treated like dogs by their father. It caused her to commit her life to rescuing and re homing stray dogs. Rena and Leon shared a common thread, a deep connection, visible in their interaction, Rena, an elderly lady who hugs him like a wise, loving grandmother and prays a blessing in his life. Leon in turn, shares with her the real reason for his travels. To find kind, selfless strangers who are in need of his help. And help he does, by funding the rescue and rehabilitation of 100 stray dogs for Rena. Her joy is magnetic.

Rena who rescues the stray dogs of her region in Colombia. https://leonlogothetis.com/

“We are all travelers in one sense or another but what matters between life and death is our journey. But while we are here, there is an opportunity for us to connect in ways great and small, to experience the richness of cultures not our own, and thereby, enriching our own journeys as we travel this road on this ultimate adventure we call life”

Leon Logothetis.
https://leonlogothetis.com/

Each episode in series 2 is connected to a particular theme, each is a gift. We see the gift of faith, community, purpose, home, food, shelter, hope, Winnie love, connection, knowledge, travel, friendship and of course kindness.

” As humans we don’t control the circumstances of our birth, but our lives can be changed by the decisions we make. Some people spend their lives taking while others spend their lives giving. And while each can leave their mark on history, ask yourself for your own life and for the legacy you will leave behind what story are you trying to tell?”

Leon Logothetis

We also learn of atrocities and meet people who are battling insane red tape regulations to reunite with families across oceans. This series is not a travel documentary. It is so much more.

When Leon asks two paramedics why they are travelling around the world, their reply is simple yet heartrending. “So that we don’t have any regrets’. They explain that because of their job they experienced conversations with the dying. On many occasions they were told their regret was not seeing more of the world and not having a family.

https://leonlogothetis.com/

A deported Mexican father, is staying on the border in a shack, planning his third swimming attempt to cross to the USA and be reunited with his wife and child. Each time, he is caught by the coast guard and sent back. Many drown, he has survived twice and is not stopping until he arrives or dies. Sobering.

When Leon travels through postcard perfect images, breathtaking views and surreal adventures, we are faced with stark reminders of the darkness within us when kindness or love is absent. He visits a plantation outside Lima, a stunning property fit for a holiday brochure. Yet underneath, in the basement, its dark narrow terrifying maze of catacombs tells of a slave trade 400 years ago and the shocking truth of how they lived here. Above ground, beauty, joy, fresh air. Below, desperation, stench, death.

But then he enters Urumbamba and surprises an old friend named Duska. Duska, a missionary who has devoted her life to caring for the orphans of her community, met Leon when he volunteered at the orphanage in his late teens. Duska was one of the first people in Leon’s life who showed him what kindness is. Before leaving, he pays for the orphanage and school to be extended.

” The construction of a person is similar to the construction of a building. Each begins with a clean slate on a foundation built by others and sometimes the external facade can hide an ugly truth or fail to show true worth. Eventually, people and buildings are left on their own to brace the elements of the world, but how well each holds up to those forces is always determined by the care taken when the foundation was laid. “

Leon Logothetis

In Costa Rica he meets Father Sergio who runs Espirito de Santo, a mission to feed his community’s poor and destitute of all ages. Leon gives him a gift to help feed even more children before he remarks. “My gift made one day easier for the children in need, but I guess every day we are given is a gift and a chance for rebirth, redemption or reinvention”.

https://leonlogothetis.com/

There is much more to this series than I can do it justice in this blog. I would recommend you watch it for yourself, with your friends, with your children. Inspire the younger generation to look for opportunities to make a difference. If they dream of travelling, they can travel in a way that is not only kind to our planet, but kind to its inhabitants too. They can live out their adventures by making a difference to the world around them, by giving their own gift of hope.

” So, as my story comes to an end, another story, your story may be just beginning. And on this journey, I’ve been inspired by other people’s kindness, day in, day out. It’s changed me. Because truly the greatest gift that we have to give another human being, is ourselves. You are the final gift. Because how you show up in the world, it matters. It matters profoundly. We all have the power to change the world. Because to change the world, all you need to do, is change one life. And the most beautiful, the most profound way to change one life simply, is to be kind. So my challenge is simple. the final gift of the kindness diaries is for you to go out into the world and give of yourself, be kind, share love and have as much fun along the way as you can”

Leon Logothetis

Planting hope

Me at Yeri primary school maybe around 1983-84

I haven’t always celebrated my birthday. While there have been occasional candlelit meals with my husband or outings with my children, many birthdays have come and gone with only a passing acknowledgment thanks to matters more pressing to deal with – such as loss, pain, debt, survival.

Today is an exception.

As I begin the 45th year of my life, I feel ready to celebrate. It’s a special date after all – 19.9.19. So, this year marks a new chapter for me. This is the year I step into my writing career, which I hope will be the catalyst for so much more.

Already I am working on a children’s book and a memoir, but it seems fitting to celebrate all that is to come with the ‘formal’ launch of my blog.

When I began the blog, not so long ago, I thought it would be a travel blog, detailing all the places I love in Cyprus and Wales – the countries of my birth and my second home. But as the weeks passed and the words flowed from my keyboard, I noticed a trend in my writing. I wasn’t writing about my travels, but rather my journey. I was travelling through my life stories, remembering the places that had left their mark, breathing new life into past moments that had inspired, motivated and left me with a desire to make a difference.

Having decided to embrace this new path, I am now finding ‘my voice’ as a writer. This remains a work in progress involving a daily battle with the shouts of doubt and disbelief. But at least I am on my way. I celebrate that. This the end of contemplating, desiring, wishing, dreaming and 35 years of procrastination.

For many years I have written, on and off, caught in a cycle of starting and giving up, daring to submit a piece and dealing with rejection, but this year I shall not be deterred because this journey is not only about the writing, but about me and my calling.

The destination of this blog is self-discovery through stories that capture my attention and captivate my heart. Through this journey, I am fulfilling a calling to write stories that make a difference, bring transformation, awareness and change. I am walking towards a bigger vision.

Many years ago, when I was 10 or 11 years old, I was lucky enough to come across someone who planted hope in my heart – the hope that I could be more than the village gossip allowed me to be, that I had a gift, an ability and that I could dare to dream. Over the years, that hope has nourished me through many periods of doubt, rejection, criticism and ridicule. And the person who gifted me that hope was Mrs Nitsa.

Mrs Nitsa was my primary school language teacher when I lived in the village of Yeri, on the outskirts of Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus.

Mrs Nitsa ( Nitsa Anastasiou) with our class at Yeri Primary School, Cyprus.

At the time, Nicosia was still finding its way following the disastrous Greek coup that triggered the Turkish invasion of the north of the island leaving the capital divided. In 1984, half of the city was wrecked, naked and groaning from the pain of death while the other half was fast developing into a modern, cosmopolitan city. Half an hour away, my village had expanded overnight with the influx of refugees from the north and our little primary school perched on a hill was subsequently a mish mash of kids trying to understand the world, claiming our bits of territory and establishing hierarchies like every other school in the world, but with the added aftermath of war bringing a deeper layer of confusion to events.

Mrs Nitsa came from the city. Slim, tall, eloquent, even in 30C+ her make up remained intact and her blonde hair backcombed into a perfect bouffant style that was fashionable in the 80s. With a long thin stick, she would tap words written on the blackboard for us to repeat and I would marvel at her ability to walk on such high heels. I can remember the scent of her skin moisturiser when she walked by, blended with foundation and perfume. It took me to memories I could not see, but recognised. It was the scent of my mother. By then six years had passed since her death and I grasped every opportunity to feel her presence.

Back in that school in 1984, I didn’t know then that I was dyslexic or that I had AD or PTSD or hypervigilance or any of those labels we like to attach in order to understand. I knew I could read and that I loved stories, but everything else was a blur and day in, day out I would gaze absentmindedly out of the window oblivious to the lessons. Except for language class.

Mrs Nitsa knew. She saw what others missed – a child hurting from the loss of her parents, lost in a world of structure, judgement, conformity, ridicule, religious rituals and gossip. A child whose coping mechanism was to write stories. So, write I did. Mrs Nitsa would give me a word or a subject and leave me to it, letting me lose myself in my imagination and the pages I created. Today, I am still writing like that, but I’m learning to edit, to cut and crop instead of letting the rant flow because I want to share this journey.

When the final term came and it was time for us students to move on to high school, Mrs Nitsa knelt in front of me, coming to my level, casting off the towering presence that had so intimidated much of the class. She took hold of my hands and looked me in the eyes. Hers – sparkly blue, fierce and soft at the same time – were that day wet and red. She trembled as she spoke.

“Michelle, I have no idea where you will go. You have been through much, God only knows. I don’t know if I will see you again, but I want to tell you something and ask you a favour. I want you to know that you have a gift for writing. I want you to write, keep journals and no matter what is happening through your life, write it all. Then one day you will write your memoir, your story and I want to read it. OK?”

I nodded, not understanding, embarrassed by the attention, yet not wanting to let go of her hands and watching heartbroken as she walked back to her desk.

And that was it.

The years passed with all their seasons, and I didn’t keep my promise to write a journal, not until seven or eight years ago. Each time I visited Cyprus, I asked about Mrs Nitsa. I heard she had lost her husband and was living in Nicosia. Then three years ago, I met her again. I found her number and when I called she recognised my voice. I could see her tears in the quickness of her breath over the telephone line. “Are you writing?” were the first words she said to me.

After the call, we met for a coffee, she gave me copies of her own published books and she made me renew my promise to write. She also asked to be the one to edit the Greek language version of my memoir.

Mrs Nitsa and I at our meeting in 2016

So, here I am; another three years have passed and I am working on that memoir, hoping one day to hand over the gift I promised 35 years ago.

And that’s why today, as I ‘officially’ launch my blog, I celebrate this woman who planted hope in my heart and soul, who saw a way to connect with me, who recognised something good in me when no one else did and who spoke words of life into the broken 10-year-old child that stood before her.

Perhaps I can use this blog to plant hope in the hearts of my own readers one day and, in turn, maybe those readers will go on to plant hope in the hearts of others. Every life needs a purpose and what greater purpose can we live for than to walk with the hurt, inspire the desolate, believe in the forgotten, bring joy to the sad and plant hope in the hopeless.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels

Hopelessly in love with Hope

Watching my 7 year old daughter walking with her best friend towards the Packhorse bridge confirms in my heart that we are where we are meant to be…

Four months have passed since we moved to Caergwrle, a picturesque village in north east Wales that sits nestled under the protection and beauty of Hope mountain.

Not a day has dawned when my heart hasn’t overflowed with joy and gratitude at this gift.

Traveling through the pages of my life, I count roughly 26 house moves in my 44 years. That does not include foster care placements in Cyprus, long summers visiting maternal grandparents in Spain, the time leading up to my third birthday when my mum and I accompanied my father on his merchant navy vessel, or the in-between houses that hosted me and my family over the years.

I spend a lot of valuable time (when I should probably be more productive) reflecting.

Evaluating, re-evaluating. Small, seemingly unimportant moments, events, words, can speak volumes to my heart, visiting places of past pain and healing, mistakes, failures, lessons and restoration.

I want to grasp it all, not lose a second, not miss a memory, not forget, not to be passe, ungrateful, apathetic. I want to live it all, appreciate, soak…

The photographs I chose for this post speak of this inner need to connect with the simple pleasures and unrepeatable joys. The quality of the photos is certainly not professional and the camera on my phone is old and decrepit but still, they capture what my heart wants to shout out. Joy, joy, joy. Hope, hope, hope.

Two sweet little girls, my daughter and her best friend playing pooh sticks on the bridge. Joy.

There was a time in my childhood when I lived on my paternal grandparents’ farm in a small village outside Nicosia in Cyprus.

It was a difficult time, my grandparents were grieving the loss of their only child (my father), coming to terms with the shock of my mother’s suicide, trying to manage the bureaucracy that comes with death, finances, debts that would one day take our farm & home away from us. They battled chronic and severe illness, isolation, lack of basic facilities like running water or electricity. In the chaos of those years, they tried to provide for me. Their love was unfaltering, unconditional but in a practical way I was neglected.

Still, while trying to make sense of my own pain, while adapting to my new identity as the village orphan (pentarfano), I took refuge and experienced joy in the simple momentary things, which most of us miss in the fury of our busy days.

Photo by Carl Attard from Pexels.

My pet dogs, the metal swing that allowed me to throw my head back letting my hair brush the dirt on the ground, the golden wheat swaying in the welcome breeze and where I lay hidden for endless hours, the hot sun on my face. The fig tree I hang from staring into the water reservoir that watered the farm’s orange, olive, almond and fig trees. The imaginary monsters underneath the filthy water.

Sitting by the fire listening to my grandmother recite stories of surviving Turkish persecution from her home in Constantinople (now Istanbul).

The fragrance of wild thyme in the fields, evening jasmine and Cypriot roses. Unforgettable. Unmistakable. Precious. Joy. Hope.

Joy abundant and overflowing.

Though my life has been filled with its share of challenges, it has also been filled with victories, successes, overcoming.

Hope. It taught me lessons one cannot learn in school not even with the best teachers. Life has been my teacher. Life is everyone’s teacher. Each and every one of us have a story filled with challenges and victories, failures and successes, mistakes and achievements, hurt and forgiveness, pain and healing.

We all have a story. Mine is no sadder than another. It just is what it is. What matters is what I can draw from it. What I drink from this well of fresh water. What I glean from the threshing. What remains inside me that makes me a person who can appreciate more, complain less. A person who can make a difference to others. A mum who recognises that while trying to be the perfect super mum, what truly matters is that I give my children unconditional love, safety, security, presence, memories, joy, hope.

We have no control of our circumstances and we all get our fair share of the good, the bad and the ugly. Some people get more than their fair share. It can be utterly heartbreaking.

And yet, I often read of so many amazing transformational changes that come from adversity.

The mother whose son was stabbed to death now runs a charity visiting prisons and speaking to inmates about forgiveness and restoration. Not only is she preventing further crime, but those men and women are leaving prison transformed and determine to live with purpose.

Charities that provide medical help, surgery, equipment and palliative care, birthed after a child lost its life to terminal illness.

Organ donations that give life after the tragedy of an unexpected death.

Refugees who have found stability in their new home now helping other refugees, ex homeless, ex addicts, ex violent fathers bringing about transformation due to a change in their heats and a need to give back and bring hope.

Hope. Our tests become the testimonies which give hope to the hopeless and propel the hurting and broken to keep walking one step at a time towards their victories and testimonies.

Spot the ducks
Family…

Hope is what keeps us fighting, battling, swimming. When everything else is gone, we cling on to hope.

“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death.”

Robert Fulghum

Forty four years on, I live in a village I didn’t know existed even though I lived 30 minutes away for the last 18 years. It is a fitting place to be in at this season of my life. It is a place that speaks loudly to my heart and soul. It represents all that has taken place over the last 44 years and the direction in which I have traveled, that of HOPE.

Friendships that last through the ages and seasons of life.

Nature and animals were the undoubted keys that kept me clinging on to hope throughout my childhood and held me in survival mode. All through my adult years with every house move I asked God for a tree or water. It gave me hope.

“Please, just a tree to look at, some water, and I can keep pushing, I can keep swimming.”

And He did. With each move there seemed to always be a tree outside my window.

Even when we lived in dire lodgings that belonged to an employer of a take-away shop we worked for. Even then, I looked out of the window of the hopeless miserable flat and spotted a tree. I beheld that tree every day while traversing yet another miscarriage, another loss, another day stuck in a place I hated, with no way out. The tree gave me hope. It happened at every house move. I had found something to help me, to lift my spirits, to being me joy, to keep me hoping.

Imagine the excitement, joy and gratitude I felt with this move when not only did I get a tree, but I got a whole mountain! And not just any mountain, Hope Mountain. wow. Really? Yes really.

But it didn’t stop there. the gifts came abundant. Not only a mountain of trees but a river too. Water AND trees. Double portion. Whoa. Grateful.

Alyn river

It isn’t wasted on me. I don’t take it for granted. I remind my children of the countless children growing up caged in high rise blocks, in flats with no greenery of fresh air, in city pollution. I tell them to practice gratitude for this gift for however long it lasts although I hope it lasts forever.

I am not complacent and as I walk through the village each day I can’t take the beaming smile off my face. All my senses come alive and my heart feels like bursting. I think I can cope with anything living in Hope.

Of course, nothing is guaranteed for ever. It doesn’t need to be. The gift of hope is right now, right here is what I need in order to keep moving forwards, living, hoping, giving.

It is a time of respite, reflection, orientation as my family and I walk into the new. New things are awaiting us all. Exciting, nerve racking, change is scary but not when you have hope.

With hope you can face anything, even your wildest fears because you know that on the top of that mountain awaits you the most spectacular view. The most wonderful picture. The most precious gift. Freedom from the fear that kept you climbing it. And everlasting hope.

Play…

“We must accept finite disappointment but never lose infinite hope”

Martin Luther King
Laughter.

“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”

Helen Keller

“Hope is the thing with feathers

that perches the soul

and sings the tune without the words

and never stops at all”

Emily Dickinson

H.O.P.E

Hold

On

Pain

Ends

” They say a person needs just three things to be truly happy in this world: Someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for.”

Tom Bodett

“When the world says “give up” hope whispers, “try it one more time”

Photo by Engin Akyurt from Pexels.

My week in posts, pictures and ponderings…

photos by https://www.instagram.com/kyriakos_achilleos/

I’ve fallen behind with the blog. Still in it’s infancy, I have been relying on inspiration on the hop to know what to write about. Then, doubts come in. Does it fit in with the blog’s theme? Can I convey what is in my heart? Will I do it justice? And so I have favoured other tasks over writing the next blog post.

The light bulb moment came while catching up with a friend. “What have you been up to? What’s been on your mind?” Within moments my week flashed before me as if a video in fast forward mode. And the idea came. Why not post my week in this way? Why not give you an insight into the musings, wanderings, reflections, and troubling thoughts of my week? So here they are. A small snippet of the mish – mash of my week. The photographs are from my good friend, Cypriot photographer Kyriakos Achilleos. I’m not going to title them, I’m going to let you ponder over them and see what they say to you. I’ve chosen the ones that spoke to me. Let’s see what they say to you.

https://www.instagram.com/kyriakos_achilleos/

Refugees… Never far from my mind or my heart. I’ve been on the frontline, in northern Greece in 2014, watching as they arrived exhausted, thirsty, carrying frightened children, worried, hoping, only to face red tape, political games, cold shoulders, indifference or even anger. If we could just stop to put ourselves in their shoes. To look at life through their eyes, to fear for the safety of our children the way they do. Would we still turn our backs?

I met Salam Noah through a friend who was helping him in Greece about 3 years ago. He had crossed the border with his wife after a most treacherous journey. Having forfeited university in Iraq several times in order to work and put his younger siblings through school, his turn finally came to study and in his last year of university, war broke out and he decided to flee. He succeeded where others did not. Not allowed to work, not allowed to move, he decided to turn his hand to painting for whatever he could get. Years later, now settled in France, his paintings tell us the stories of what he has witnessed and the heartbreak he has felt over and over again. This is one powerful example and reminder for us all.

Things we carry On The Sea”

We carry tears in our eyes: good-bye father, good-bye mother

We carry soil in small bags: may home never fade in our hearts

We carry names, stories, memories of our villages, fields, boats

We carry scars from proxy wars of greed

We carry carnage of mining, droughts, floods, genocides

We carry dust of our families and neighbors incinerated in mushroom clouds

We carry our islands sinking under the sea

We carry our hands, feet, bones, hearts and best minds for a new life

We carry diplomas: medicine, engineer, nurse, education, math, poetry, even if they mean nothing to the other shore

We carry railroads, plantations, laundromats, bodegas, taco trucks, farms, factories, nursing homes, hospitals, schools, temples…built on our ancestors’ backs

We carry old homes along the spine, new dreams in our chests

We carry yesterday, today and tomorrow

We’re orphans of the wars forced upon us

We’re refugees of the sea rising from industrial wastes

And we carry our mother tongues
爱(ai),حب (hubb), ליבע (libe), amor, love

平安 (ping’an), سلام ( salaam), shalom, paz, peace

希望(xi’wang), أمل (’amal), hofenung, esperanza, hope, hope, hope

As we drift…in our rubber boats…from shore…to shore…to shore…

by wang ping

Acrylic painting on canvas 
Size 60*46 cm
By Salam Noah 
#refugeesart

My friend Laura lives in the UK, raising her family and doing life like all of us. But she is a woman of action. She sees a need and acts. For years, she has been making little blankets for newborn babies and sending them all over the world. Recently, she decided to start creating goodie bags for refugee children stuck in camps in Greece. Faithfully she has gathered items for each bag. Finally, they were ready to be sent. 1200 children will receive gifts they could only dream of. 1200 children will smile and squeal with joy. 1200 children will know that someone somewhere cares and thinks about them. 1200 children will receive renewed hope…

“I’ve made 1200 goodie bags for the refugee children on Samos Island. These kids have nothing. They live in shoddy tents, with extremely limited facilities. They need to smile! :)” Laura.

https://www.instagram.com/kyriakos_achilleos/

I came across this article in my LinkedIn account and it has been on my mind for days. I struggle greatly with understanding the logic behind decisions that leave people in desperate situations. Although I don’t have the experience of raising a disabled child, I have friends who do. I don’t have the words to describe the daily highs and lows, the terrifying sound of alarms on devices that are keeping their children alive, the humanely impossible efforts to give able bodied siblings quality time with their parents, the utter exhaustion. But I cannot accept that we live in one of the richest countries in the world, able to fund entire wars, send millions of pounds in aid to other countries and yet are unable to care for our most vulnerable.

I urge you to click on the link and read the article that Daisy’s mum has written about the plight of children’s hospices in the U.K. It is eye opening.

http://www.wasthisintheplan.co.uk/

https://www.instagram.com/kyriakos_achilleos/

We have the opportunity to make a difference just by being a little alternative, by looking at things through a different lens, through taking a step back and considering. This story of a senior who celebrated his graduation by throwing a pizza party for the homeless folk, is just one example. Click the highlighted link.

https://www.instagram.com/kyriakos_achilleos/

Another example of using what we have at our disposal to make a difference is this story of a farmer who planted a wildflower meadow to raise money for charity, Elliot’s touch. Not only is he benefiting the charity, as well as the meadow, the soil quality and the local wildlife, but he is improving the mental health of all who come to sit on the benches and soak in the majesty and beauty of it all.

https://www.instagram.com/kyriakos_achilleos/

Tongue cancer survivor Elly Brown not only survived cancer but she also refused to allow it to rob her of her singing career. Despite losing most of her tongue, she determined to not be beaten and with much hard work she has learned to sing again. May Laura’s determination and beautiful voice, inspire you to keep going, to not lose hope, to not be beaten and to know that you have been gifted so as to bless others.