Great Love

 

 

With the recent passing of my lovely father in law – David (Dad) – I’ve been reflecting on what I have always found so deeply inspiring about my lovely in laws.

I still remember the first time I met David and Rosemary. Matthew and I had been seeing each other for a couple of months when he told his Mum that he’d met someone…and that she was divorced! Mum (Rosemary’s) first response was to ask if I had any children. Goodness she would have been an incredible grandmother to them if I had!

We went around to Shepherd’s Lane for tea and Matt had asked Rebecca and some of the children to come along too for moral support! To be honest I think Matt was more nervous than I was. David and Rosemary were nothing but welcoming, kind, gentle and so very sweet. From the moment I met them, I fell in love with them both – and the entire Ash family.

I grew up in a rather non-traditional family. My parents had problems in their marriage when I was very young and I actually don’t remember a time when they were happy and not arguing with each other. They divorced when I was in my early teens. My youngest brother doesn’t remember them being together at all. As a child I would marvel at friends who had parents who were both engaged in their child’s life. I still had an amazing childhood in many ways but I often wondered what a complete family unit with both parents around was like.

There is no doubt that David and Rosemary were incredible parents – you only have to look at their children and grandchildren to see the result! They welcomed everyone into their home with open arms. I loved spending time at their house playing games, drinking endless cups of tea and nibbling on one of Mum’s legendary bakes. I also loved it when Nanna would come and visit (in the early years of my time with the family). She just filled the room with even more joy and laughter.

And of course they were so supportive of anything their children did. Years ago I was singing in a choir concert in Guildford Cathedral. It was a ghastly piece of music and yet Mum and Dad had gone out of their way to buy the score and listen to the music before the concert so that they were well versed to understand the performance. They took it so seriously! On the other hand, my own mother was sitting a few rows behind David and Rosemary, laughing at how bad the performance was…which was very typical of her!

Then there was the time I had to have a wisdom tooth removed. I don’t like needles so Dad gently held my hand while the anesthetic was injected into my gum and looked after me afterwards. Even the elements wouldn’t stop them from supporting us. Years ago I jogged in a 5k run around Stoke Park in the pouring rain. They came out on a cold. wet day to cheer me on. It goes without saying that for everyone in our family – they were always our greatest cheerleader at any event whether a school play or looking after us at hospital visits etc.

Life with David and Rosemary felt like it harked back to a simpler age. An age with a greater appreciation for taking things slowly, marveling at everything around us and enjoying the simple pleasure of time well spent in good company. We could all learn a lesson or two from their example.

More than anything I was struck by how utterly devoted David and Rosemary were to each other. Their lives revolved around their family, friends and service to their church community. They very much worked as a unit. The love that they shared was incredibly strong and everlasting. When Mum got sick, Dad so unselfishly looked after her for 2 difficult years even though it must have been awful for him to watch Mum struggle. I know he missed Mum desperately after her passing and these last few years have been such a struggle for him as he had to learn to navigate the world on his own for the first time.

Before Matt and I married I asked Mum what qualities are important in marriage. She said patience, selflessness, kindness and unconditional love. I’d say she passed those qualities on to Matt as he’s expresses all those qualities and more….he has to being married to me!!

I feel incredibly lucky to have witnessed such a great love between David and Rosemary and I continue to learn from their example. How lucky we all were to have them in our lives. I am just relieved that they are at least reunited again. Although it’s sad that they are no longer here with us, I have no doubt that they’re enjoying a new adventure together again at last.

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Christmas comes but once a year…

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Since both our Mum’s passing’s some six years ago I’ve approached Christmas with equal amounts of excitement and dread. I’m not the only one. This is often a very challenging time of year for many people all over the world.

No matter how turbulent life was, Mum always approached Christmas with joy and excitement. She went out of her way to make sure it was a special week for all of us as well as the many friends and family who would gather with us. Christmas with Mum was always magical – even with some challenging sibling dynamics (Robs – I’m sorry for throwing the aerosol can at your head all those years ago).

There were certain traditions that she tried to stick to such as giving us stockings with a satsuma in the bottom – no matter how old we were! We always had a plate of Turkish Delight on the Christmas table and we had to have proper homemade bread sauce! When we were small Mum would go out of her way to make a huge Christmas cake. She’d feed the cake brandy over the weeks running up to Christmas and then spend hours decorating the cake with beautiful painted pictures of Christmas scenes. We’d also decorate the house with masses of holly and ivy and of course there were the family heirloom tree decorations.

Since Mum has been gone I’ve dreaded Christmas which is one of the reasons why we’ve often gone away over the holidays. Last year we were living in Mexico and loved spending time cooking for new friends. We had a blast! Yet there was always a lingering longing to be with some of our family.

This year we’re heading off to our family home in France to spend a week with both my brothers and their families. For the first time in years we’re both looking forward to Christmas. Matt came home from work earlier today more excited than I’ve seen him in months – and not just because he has a week off work!

Being able to see Christmas through the eyes of two lively 4 and 5 year olds is going to be fun. And being together in Mum’s home – the place she so loved and where we enjoyed many Christmases together in the past – is special. We’ve barely seen my side of the family since we moved back to the UK in March so we’re making the most of the time together this next week.

This year it feels like the right time to make some new Christmas traditions for ourselves. Perhaps a new tradition will be making Gingerbread Men and Mince Pies together on Christmas Eve or decorating the tree. We’ll see what new traditions we cook up together. For now – bring on tomorrow and our 12 hour drive south!

But for anyone suffering in silence at this time of year, know that our door is always open for those who need a warm, safe and loving space to celebrate the gift of Christmas.

 

It’s been a while!

Well it seems I let our blog drop off the planet back in March – some 5 days before we returned to the UK. I had planned to write an Ode to Mexico at some point but in truth summing up 14 magical months in the high desert is hard to do!

We really do miss our friends and life in Mexico – especially since the damp, cold biting British winter has arrived!

2017 has been a year of mixed blessings. We returned home to the UK to keep more of a eye on Matt’s father, David and because Matt was going stir crazy without enough work to keep him occupied. He needed to find some sense of purpose and routine and it was clear that much as we love Mexico, we needed to be back in Europe. If only Europe and Mexico were a little closer on the map!

Dad (David) has had a very challenging year indeed but at last he is now settling into a new normal in a nursing home where he is loved and cherished by the wonderful staff. After the challenges of the past six months this is a huge relief for all of us. While it is never easy to watch a loved one go through such aggressive challenges, we know it’s a part of life – you just want your loved ones to have the best quality of life possible and be happy.

Our move from Mexico back to the UK was relatively smooth. Thankfully our tenants found a new home immediately and we were able to move back into the house the day after we got back. Matt returned to his old job a couple of days later. I set up my home office all over again and got back to work too. Nine months on and we still haven’t brought down all our boxes from the attic – it’s minefield up there but much nicer without the clutter we had before leaving.

I’ve continued with a little travel for work in between settling back in. My trip to Cluj in Romania back in April was fantastic – love spending time with people who really love life! Also had a trip to San Diego again back in October and am looking forward to visiting there again next year. We LOVED our late Summer holiday at home in France even if it was far too short a time. Super excited to be spending Christmas there.

We’ve had a steady stream of friends to visit. From work friends and other international visitors to our Mexican ‘family’ – Joseph, Susan and Larry (missed Eduardo and Zack!) visited within weeks of our return bringing a little bit of Mexican spirit with them. However we’ve been pretty awful at getting out and catching up with family and friends spread across the country. Dad has kept us pretty focused this year but we hope to get out more in 2018.

After the seemingly turbulent year the world has experienced it is our hope that 2018 brings more joy, less division and more love to us all.

And I promise to try and keep this blog a little more up to date too!

 

 

Final weeks in San Miguel de Allende

The last few weeks have been a hive of activity here in SMA. Not only is it busy season at work, but we’re in the process of packing up as we prepare to return to the UK.

One of the highlights was the opportunity to hear David Ebershoff, author of ‘The Danish Girl’ speak about the process of writing his first novel and turning his words into the award winning movie. He is a delightful authentic speaker and it was such a joy to meet him.

We’ve also had the usual flurry of final dinner parties with friends and visits from friends from the UK and US.

Southern California!

Last month we headed up to Southern California for a little work and a little play with friends. We spent 5 days in the LA area visiting friends, exploring Santa Barbara boardwalk and running errands.

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We then headed down to the San Diego area and stayed with a wonderful family in Rancho Santa Fe…gorgeous area. A true highlight was making new friends and exploring a part of the country I know little about.

A day in Bernal

With our departure from Mexico fast approaching the last few weeks have been a flurry of activity. To celebrate our birthdays last month, our dear friends (practically family!) Susan and Larry took us to visit nearby Bernal. Founded in 1642, Bernal is best known

Founded in 1642, Bernal is best known by the monolith rock that dominates the skyline. At a height of over 1,000 ft, people come from all over the region to climb the rock. For some it’s a pilgrimage as there is a chapel at the top of the rock. While we didn’t have the energy to climb the rock, we did marvel at it’s magnificent presence over the town.

Instead we enjoyed a long lingering lunch, some ‘light’ shopping and a relaxed wander around town.

I am Woman

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As the events of the incoming US President’s inauguration unfolded in Washington DC yesterday, around the world millions of men, women, and children were preparing to march today. With the words of Helen Eddy’s fabulous song ‘I am Woman’ ringing in our ears we came together to roar!

Today we marched because we believe that women’s rights are human rights. We marched because we believe that we need to build bridges, not walls. We need to create a world in which ALL women are free and able to care for their families in a safe envionment. We marched in support of Reproductive Rights, LGBT Rights, Civil Rights, Worker Rights, Immigrant Rights and Environmental Justice. Progress has been made but it’s not enough and it’s under threat.

We marched because the new president of the USA doesn’t believe in any of this and has indeed belittled, put down and assaulted women. He is not transparent about his dealings and taxes and has not given the world any assurance that he knows what he’s doing. Indeed he has no integrity, no sense of fairness and few ethics. His ideas to build walls and force Muslims to register are designed to divide rather than unify.

He has openly attacked other nations in a manner that is far from diplomatic. But why should we care…we aren’t US citizens and we didn’t vote in the election. As usual US journalist Dan Rather sums up why we care and why the rest of the world are watching. Read his latest post here.

Over the last year I’ve taken time to listen to the voices of the few friends who did vote for him (which I can count on one hand) because they believe that Trump will ‘Make America Great Again.’ But at what cost? The qualities and ethics of true leadership have been ignored in favour of a narcissistic bully.

For me, my biggest issue is that it seems he doesn’t believe in democracy and wants to coerce and control. Democracy requires leadership with integrity and the ability to make informed decisions based on facts and solid manifestos…not rhetoric and fear mongering. Many of my friends and family in the USA will not stand for this and neither will those of us across the rest of the world. Each us, individually and collectively, has a responsibility to stand up to fear and loudly declare NOT IN OUR NAME! We have to fight hate with LOVE!

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I’m tired of being turned down for jobs, passed over for promotions or being paid less than my male colleagues because of my gender (although this that hasn’t happened to me in a long time). I’m tired of being portrayed as the weaker sex…we’re far from it! I’m tired of seeing women being persecuted, molested, assaulted…or worse. I’m tired of girls being told that they can’t achieve because of their gender. NO MORE.

The world is entering a new age of activism. We will rise. We will use our voices well. We will support those organisations supporting women’s rights. We will challenge our leaders more and we will not sit back and watch from the comfort of our own homes.

I am incredibly proud and grateful for my husband, Matt. He’s a secure man who supports a strong woman! Today we both marched with our friends here in San Miguel de Allende. A small but mighty group of some 1,000 people marched and it was humbling and emotional to be a part of the crowd.

Throughout the day we’ve watched the march in DC and looked at the hundreds of photos our friends around the world have posted on social media of their own acts of solidarity – all over the USA, Berlin, Auckland, Sydney, London, Paris, Mexico City, Dublin, Edinburgh and many more. At least 600 marches took place worldwide – the largest post-inauguration march in history. Friends in 42 cities worldwid took part. And all took place peacefully.

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Most of all, I marched for those super strong women who have gone before us. For my Mum, Mumsy (Matt’s Mum), Grannie-Mum, Nanna Ash, Ciaran, Ning, Bente…all women who have passed on but who each taught me important lessons in womanhood, standing up for what you believe, being in community and loving unconditionally. Today we stood on their strong shoulders.

I also marched for our Sacred France sisters and brothers who have – over the last couple of years – provided such powerful feminine energy, a sense of family and a global community. Many of our little community marched in other parts of the world and I’ve loved seeing all their photos.

And I marched to honour the rights my LGBT friends- particularly my ex-husband Joseph and his husband Eduardo who have had to sacrifice so much for the marriage that they have today. I hope that their rights are not diminished in the USA under the new administration but we just don’t know. To say that nothing is going to change is naive and irresponsible.

This morning I woke up wondering what Mum would have written on her sign today had she been marching with us….’I can’t believe we’re STILL having to fucking do this!’ But here we are.YES we will. WE RISE!

What’s next? Each of us, in our own way, must continue to challenge, to love and to grow through the next four years. For me, my job affords me the opportunity to plant seeds of democracy in workplaces and see them flourish. Now more than ever we have to continue to do this. And most of all….I’ll strive to hate less and LOVE more!

I AM WOMAN, HEAR ME ROAR! 

Happy New Year!

We had a great time ringing in 2017 here in San Miguel starting with a party on our dear friends rooftop overlooking the Paroquia in the centre of town followed by a slumber party back home. Great views, great people, lots of fun. Here’s a bit of a sketchy video of the fireworks but you get the gist!

 

We became honorary Texans for the day. In the South of the USA there is a tradition of eating black eyed peas on New Years Day as a mark of prosperity. This is a tradition Joseph takes very seriously but given that he doesn’t cook…and his usual ‘go-to black eye peas chef’ was out of town (who also happens to be Scottish!) – it was down to me to cook them this year. Following Linda’s recipe, we soaked the dried peas in beer overnight. We drained these the next morning and then fried up some onions, garlic, ham hock and bacon and a few spices before adding the peas and chicken stock to the pan and cooking them for HOURS until they were deliciously soft. I also made a big vat of chilli, rice, cornbread, guac, spinach and artichoke dip, salad and brownies. Enough to feed 30 hungry mouths yesterday afternoon…and then some!

 

 

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