Category Archives: Happiness

Visiting Scotland – What we saw in the Western Highlands and the Isle of Skye

Two years ago we stayed on the northern coast of Scotland and fell in love
with the Highlands, this time we went west, staying just below the Isle of Skye.
The epic western isles, vast mountains, and sweeping lochs will capture your soul.

Visiting Scotland - What we saw in the Western Highlands and the Isle of Skye - The Last Krystallos

We decided to drive the whole way, all ten-and-a-half hours, in one day so it was an early start. Bekah and her partner, Dave, followed, and with regular breaks we reached Scotland. We recalled the drive up and were excited to see the mountains again and just after Loch Lomond we weren’t disappointed. The Bridge of Orchy introduces you to the giants and the A82 though Glen Coe will make you stop and stare – do stop, you’ll need photos! We stopped for photos at Buachaille Etive Mor, or the Skyrim mountain as my family call it, a volcano of a peak! Up through Fort William and Ben Nevis and finally we arrived at the Five Sisters mountain range, nestling the road at their feet, and they welcomed us to the Kyle of Lochalsh.

Buachaille Etive Mor in cloud - The Last Krystallos

Buachaille Etive Mor © Lisa Shambrook

The Lochs, Cluanie and Duich, were smooth and reflective and throughout our stay we passed Eilean Donan castle several times. We visited the castle on our last trip, but it provided the perfect silhouette reflected against the mouth of Loch Alsh on our final night.

Eilean Donan Castle on Kyle of Lochalsh - The Last Krystallos

Eilean Donan Castle © Lisa Shambrook

One of the reasons we’d chosen to stay on the western coast was that I’ve always wanted to visit Fingal’s Cave on the Isle of Staffa, and travelling across Scotland takes time. We booked a Three Island Tour through Staffa Tours which meant our day began early. We caught a ferry across from Oban to the Isle of Mull, it was crowded and I struggled with the amount of people on deck to see us leave Oban. On the Isle of Mull we joined a double decker coach provided by West Coast Tours and through sheer luck got the front upstairs seats. The coach driver was great providing commentary on the history of Mull, whilst simultaneously navigating a single track road with passing points and tourist cars who don’t realise the size of a coach!

Basalt Columns - Staffa - The Last Krystallos

Basalt Columns – Staffa © Lisa Shambrook

The roads across Scotland in general are worth a mention. Many around the coast are single track and all have regular, signed passing points. The rule is to pull in and let faster vehicles pass, and to pull in where necessary to let oncoming traffic through. It works brilliantly, and is inherently better than the Welsh country roads with few passing points we’re used to at home! Btw, if you see a coach coming towards you, back up or pull in and give plenty of space, you’d be surprised how many people seem to be unable to reverse concisely!

To Fingal's Cave - Isle of Skye - The Last Krystallos

To Fingal’s Cave – Isle of Staffa © Lisa Shambrook

Back to Mull, a quick ferry across to explore the small island of Iona for two hours before we took a short boat trip to the isle of Staffa. As Staffa gets closer you are stunned by the tall basalt rock formations that give the island its name – staffa old Norse for staff, stave, or pillar like the columnar rocks. The boat pulls alongside Fingal’s Cave for a spectacular view, though don’t expect photos without people in them at this point. You might berate the tourists clambering over the rocks in front of the cave, but in a few minutes you’ll be one of them!

 

Am Buachallie - Isle of Skye - The Last Krystallos

Am Buachallie – Isle of Staffa © Lisa Shambrook

Fingal's Cave Staffa - The Last Krystallos

Fingal’s Cave – Staffa © Lisa Shambrook

You get an hour on Staffa, it’s not enough – I could stay all day – but it’s all you’ll get. We walked across the hexagonal volcanic rocks, well, I hurried – I’m a child at heart, to the cave. Currently you can’t get down into the cave since it was damaged by fierce storms, but you can appreciate the force of the ocean as it crashes over the stone and glistens in the sun. Greens and blues mingle at the shore offset by white seafoam and black rock.

Staffa Puffins - The Last Krystallos

Staffa puffins © Lisa Shambrook

Dan reminded me the island had more to offer and after a ten minute walk we discovered the island’s other wonder. On the cliffs are a plethora of puffins, nesting on the island from May to mid-August. The miracle is that they’re as fascinated by you as you are by them! We sat on the grassy cliff tops watching the birds as they perched, wandered, flew, and watched us back. I couldn’t believe we could sit literally a foot away from them and they barely batted an eyelid. Fingal’s Cave and the puffins were the highlight of my holiday.

Puffins on Staffa - The Last Krystallos

Staffa puffins © Lisa Shambrook

The next day we went hunting for more wildlife. Dunvegan castle and gardens sit in a bay on the north-west coast of the Isle of Skye. The castle’s history is Viking/Scottish and it’s a well-looked after example of a lived-in castle. Our main reason for visiting was to go on one of their seal trips, but you can only book a seal tour if you’re inside the castle grounds, so you’ll be paying for castle entry and then just under ten pounds per person for the boat trip.

Dunvegan Seals - The Last Krystallos

Dunvegan seals © Lisa Shambrook

The seals were adorable. A small boat and guide took the six of us out just in the bay close to the castle to their local seal colony, and the seals were out basking in the sun and dipping in and out of the sea. The middle of July meant pups were lively and bobbing close to the boat, despite their mothers’ barks to be careful! Our guide gave us lots of seal facts and legend, and told us about the castle’s history. We were lucky with great weather, glittering indigo water, and plenty of selkies, though I wish the trip had been longer.

Dunvegan Castle and Seal Colony - The Last Krystallos

Dunvegan Castle and seal colony © Lisa Shambrook

The Fairy Pools down at Glenbrittle on the Isle of Skye was our next destination. There’s a car park with an attendant, but when we arrived at 5.30ish in the afternoon there was no attendant to be seen, so we left the car. Also, the waterfalls are a huge tourist attraction and the car park could be very busy – there is an overflow car park at the end, but overlooked if you don’t know it’s there. When I said busy, I meant it. There’s a constant stream of people on the hike, you won’t be exploring alone. It’s recommended to go early or late to avoid the crowds and find the best light, and getting those perfect pictures will mean trying to dodge many people, climbing carefully, and missing out on some because people are bathing in the pools. It can be frustrating, but shouldn’t be missed.

Fairy Pools Glenbrittle - The Last Krystallos

Fairy Pools – Isle of Skye © Lisa Shambrook

The pools and waterfalls are beautiful, and caught in the right light they’ll shimmer green, teal, and cobalt blue – truly magical.

Fairy Pools - Isle of Sky - The Last Krystallos

Fairy Pools – Isle of Skye © Lisa Shambrook

Wildlife continued with a trip to the Highland Wildlife Park just south of Inverness. You’ll be entering the edge of the Cairngorms, so if you’re making a day of it maybe travel a bit further and see the mountains too. The wildlife park has a small but very basic self-drive safari, but the main attractions are walking round the animal enclosures seeing polar bears, snow monkeys, an arctic fox and her cub, red panda, deer, wolves and lots more. We went to see the wolves for Cait. Pups frolicked and played and completely enchanted us.

Highlands Wildlife Park - snow leopard, polar bear, red panda, wolves, deer, arctic fox cub - The Last Krystallos

Highland Wildlife Park © Lisa Shambrook

Thursday saw us go out in the Kyle of Lochalsh on Seaprobe Atlantis from the port in Kyleakin, a glass-bottomed boat to see seals and underwater creatures. Plenty of seals, but not so much underwater. Lots of jellyfish floating about, a couple of pipe fish, and lots of hypnotising bootlace seaweed!

Portree, Kyleakin, Underwater and seals in Kyle of Lochalsh - The Last Krystallos

Portree Seagull, Kyleakin, Kyle of Lochalsh underwater and seals © Lisa Shambrook

I wanted to find dinosaur footprints at Staffin on Skye, but we had trouble finding access to the beach. We’d timed the tide, but it was difficult to work out how to find them. There was a stream we couldn’t cross and we couldn’t work out which side of the beach the prints were supposed to be, so we gave up. If you do want to find them, there are online articles which will point you in the right direction.

Family Selfie - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Instead we drove around the top of the island taking in the Old Man of Storr, Mealt waterfall and Kilt Rock. We got fish and chips at Portree and headed back to the south of Skye to Kylerhea and an otter hide. The road over the mountain to Kylerhea was gorgeous, narrow and wild, so pretty. There’s a small car park with an RSPB hide, and a short walk to the otter hide overlooking the bay. You can watch the small car ferry from the bay and spy on sea life and birds. We didn’t see any otters, it’s a long way down to the sea and though there was a small telescope, it was hard to pin point creatures. We did see a seal, gulls, an oyster-catcher, and a heron!

It was late in the day so we missed the last ferry at six, but the Kylerhea scenery was stunning – the green moss, ferns, and trees contrasting with stormy clouds over the slate-blue water.

Kylerhea - The Last Krystallos

Kylerhea © Lisa Shambrook

Our last day saw us take advantage of Plockton and Calum’s Seal Tours, he advertised the tour for free if you didn’t see any seals… Calum Mackenzie was fun and informative and he got paid as there were plenty of seals! If you’re lucky you could also see dolphins and sea eagles.

Applecross Bay - The Last Krystallos

Applecross Bay © Lisa Shambrook

Then we drove right around Loch Carron and crossed the mountain road to Applecross Bay. One of the highest passes, and reminded me of Snowdonia mountain roads, but single track. That evening, we explored a few of the local Inverinate roads, where we were staying and caught the sunset. Nothing better.

Applecross Pass - The Last Krystallos

Applecross Pass © Lisa Shambrook

On our way home we stopped in Stirling to see the Wallace Monument. 246 steps to climb, but a great history lesson.

Wallace Monument - The Last Krystallos

The Wallace Monument © Lisa Shambrook

We had a stunning week, fulfilling dreams, and discovering the West coast of Scotland. If you’ve enjoyed this, you can read more about our North coast Scottish adventure two years ago. It’s pretty much a guarantee we’ll be back!

Fingal's Cave, puffins, Dunvegan seals, fairy pools, Kylerhea, Eilean Donan, Buachaille Etive Mor - TLK

Fingal’s Cave, puffins, Dunvegan seals, Fairy Pools, Kylerhea, Kyle of Lochalsh, Eilean Donan Castle, Buachaille Etive Mor © Lisa Shambrook

This land is a magical land of rainbows, diamonds on the ocean, moss, towering mountains, tumbling waterfalls, mystic lochs, and enchanted landscapes. Just avoid the early morning and late night midges!

One day we hope to return and to stay…

What are your favourite places in Scotland?

When your Dog is your Soul Mate

No one can fully understand the meaning of love
unless he’s owned a dog – Gene Hill

When Your Dog Is Your Soul Mate - The Last Krystallos

We often find parallels in our lives with each other, but what if it’s with your dog?

My dog, Kira, loves deeply, has panic attacks, is needy, anxious, and completely unsure of herself and I seem to have chosen a dog that I mirror to an extreme extent.

Lisa and Kira - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

They say you shouldn’t/can’t *project human emotions onto a dog, but if there is ever a dog that is me – it’s Kira! Dogs, animals, can often have psychological issues. Maybe I have an autistic dog? Who knows?

Anyway, although we have similar physical issues with daily meds and needs, and that might have been what drew me to her, I had no idea we’d mirror each other so completely.

Kira and me April 2019 - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

It’s strange and revealing watching reactions to her knowing I conjure so many of the same ones. I know I overshare a lot, and if she could be understood I’m pretty sure her constant vocalisation would be the same. She trills, purrs, whines, and chats all the time. She and I need to be heard, to put our thoughts and emotions into words. We need constant reassurance. She needs to feel our love even when we’re so loving she cannot possibly misconstrue our affection. She doesn’t always do as she’s told, or follow demands, because (and yes, I’m guessing) they don’t always seem common sense to her – they often don’t to me, but, like me, she tries to please to an extreme degree. She’s well trained and conditioned, but needs to reach out of it to find herself. She struggles to let go but when she does she’s a free spirit and bounds through the forest with utter joy and thrill!

Kira GSD - Brechfa Forest - May 2019 - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Kira is scared of people and dogs. Her fear of other dogs, her own species, is so ingrained, so great that it instantly throws her into a panic attack. I understand panic attacks. We’re supposed to be training her with dog exposure, to normalise it, to show her other dogs aren’t a danger, and to a degree we are. But I cannot ignore a full blown panic attack and just leave her in the situation that fills her with terror. And possibly this is our closest moment – needing reassurance. Ignoring the panic lets it continue, growing into a monster she cannot control, but as I hold her, and soothe her, and stroke her, she calms. She does what a child in fear does leaning close, crying, needing that contact, that assurance, and the comfort softness gives. I know, because I’m the same.

My pup obsesses with her toys, loves routine, is triggered by specific small noises, and loves with complete abandon. I think we’re twins!

Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole - Roger Caras - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Kira is at her happiest when she’s with the people she loves, she doesn’t need anyone else. I laugh, because that’s been my ethos for forty-seven years! Her complete acceptance of us when we collected her and her immediate love and affection was a surprise as we’d been told she’d be slow to trust, but she met us and we became hers.

When people visit, her anxiety rises (I don’t do well with visitors either). I’m not sure she’s barking and protesting the visitor to protect us, but more to protect herself. She’ll calm around people who are more familiar, but with amusement it’s noted, that as she sniffs about them quite happily, until she realises they’re making eye contact or even daring to talk to her, she’ll spike, jump back, and bark again. When people she doesn’t know are necessary and they show authority she’ll give in and accept them, but only because she has to. Back again, with the only ones she needs she’s secure, content, and relaxed, brushing against us like a kitten craving attention, purring like a tribble, and loving like she’s been deprived.

She’s had love in her past, beautiful love, but it’s taught her that she only needs those closest to her, and breaking that cycle is something I’ve never been able to do in my own life, let alone hers!

Kira GSD - May 2019- The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I think we exist in the same bubble. I worry that I overshare, that people will tire of me, that I’ll be too needy, that I’ll do things wrong – say things wrong, that my anxiety and strangely wired brain will push people away, and that despite every single proof otherwise that love will be fleeting, floating away on the wind where I can’t catch it.

I know much of my dog’s behaviour is the same as normal dogs, you’ll recognise it in your own pup, but it’s the detail, the utter symmetry of my life and hers that throws me into wonder. I’ve spent my life fighting my mental health, my debilitating sensory issues, extreme empathy, panic, depression, and anxiety. I’m still battling them, waiting for adult autism assessment, for recognition and acceptance. Like Kira some of my issues won’t ever change, and they can’t, and possibly shouldn’t, be trained out of me, because they are me.

Kira and me April 2019. - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I wasn’t even looking for another dog after losing our beloved Roxy last year, and I have no idea why a passing Tweet from a rescue centre I didn’t even follow caught my eye back in January, a short, one-off tweet about a dog with problems needing a home, and people to love and love her back – but it did. They sometimes say dog owners look like their dogs, it appears Kira and I are much more than that, we’re soul mates, and we were meant to find her. I thank every wheel that was ever set in motion to make this happen, you know who you are.

Finding those you love and who love you back with no barriers
and no boundaries isn’t easy, but it’s what makes life worth living.

A dog smiles with its whole face - ears, eyes, nose, whiskers, mouth, tongue - Pam Brown - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

*My brain needs to add a caveat for those who will shrug, or mock, or claim I shouldn’t push human emotions onto a mere dog. I truly believe animals can think than more than we can possibly imagine, and seeing as we cannot ever know their thoughts, don’t try to shame me. A dog’s love and empathy is inherently deeper and more totally committed than a human is, and maybe, just maybe they are much purer and greater than we will ever be.          

For the Love of the Moon – Mid-Week Flash Challenge

Super Blue Blood Moon over River Towy - Ralph Waldo Emerson quote - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Cara moved slowly down the jetty, enjoying the warm weathered wood beneath her feet. She stretched her fingers by her side, flexing them and releasing pent up anxiety. Air caressed her naked skin and with conviction she pushed her shoulders back, ignoring the twinge of pain, and rotated them in unison, smiling wryly at the cracking sounds her bones made echoing in the humid night air. She drew in a deep sigh then let her breath ride on the breeze that fluttered about her.

The stars twinkled like diamonds studded in blue satin and Cara was exactly where she wanted to be.

Dainty steps took her to the end of the pier and she carefully lowered herself to the broad pontoon, her mouth opening as she smiled at the sway beneath her. Her knees were noisy too as she bent and dropped to the floor, but they would soon be eased.

She sat, her hands flat on the deck beside her, leaning back slightly to gaze up at the sky. The Milky Way stretched across the night and she wondered what it would feel like to float up into the sky.

Cara let her feet dip into the water, toes first, testing the temperature, then her legs up to her calves. She welcomed the flow about her toes as she gently moved her feet.

Water and stars…and my moon, Cara breathed out her words, almost silent thoughts, but a soft whisper took them from her mouth.

She jumped at the hoot of an owl and water splashed about her toes, and she laughed as the bird soared across the lake disappearing into the dark woodland at the shore. Bats also darted, seeking gnats and midges, but Cara felt akin to them and enjoyed their swooping paths.

Cara gazed at the moon. All her life she’d worshipped the deity of the night sky, softly lighting the dark and showing her that even when she wasn’t whole she was still full of depth, and mystery, and power. She smiled at the moon and lifted her hands, cupping them about the orb before her then closing them in a prayer.

Thank you, she whispered.

She shuffled forward on the deck and lowered her body to the water. The little strength in her arms left her and she let herself go, plunging with abandon. She didn’t hear the splash she made, just the bubbles and the oddly comforting gurgle that rumbled in her ears as she slipped down through the water.

For a moment she let the water envelope her, like a cocoon, then she moved her arms downwards and kicked her feet. She broke the surface and swallowed a deep gulp of air, her feet and hands still paddling. It was colder than she’d expected, and it took a moment to adjust her breathing and relax her body, but soon she stopped agitating the water and let it lap at her chin, her hands gently undulating beneath the surface and silver hair spread like a watery spider’s silk.

Her creaking joints quietened, the pressure easing as water supported them and pain lessened as if leaching into the liquid surrounding her. Slowly Cara let her body rise and floated with her head back, half submerged. No sound but the lapping water, and nothing to see but the stars and the moon bathing her in white light.

Still floating, Cara let the moon bless her, its gentle rays soothing away her pain and hurt. Stars shimmered and glitter rained down in spirals like winter snowfall. She smiled, meds kicked in and fatigue faded replaced by lofty intoxication. She was alone in the world, completely and utterly, and when they finally came looking they’d wonder, but they’d never know. Not until she was home.

Cara gazed up at the moon as water closed over her face.

The moon smiled, Selene smiled, waiting for her beloved to return…

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Stars and the moon enthrall me, so loved this prompt picture by James Wheeler – Moonlit Dock for Miranda’s Mid-Week Flash Challenge.

Write up to 750 words inspired by the prompt photograph.

The Journey to Becoming Who You Are…

Figuring out who you are is the whole point of the human experience
Anna Quinlan
Discovering who you are is a journey and one that I don’t think has a final destination.
I am a contradiction, someone who hates change and yet, embraces it too…

The Journey to Becoming Who You Are... - The Last Krystallos
I recently posted a selfie on Instagram captioning it: Sometimes, I’m happy with who I am. Becoming who I’m meant to be. A lovely friend responded that I don’t need to change and become anything else, that I am great as I am.

This set me thinking. Self-acceptance has always been something I struggled with – I’ve always felt out of place, odd, different, and just not for this world. For years I felt lost, cast-aside, and solitary, but as I’ve got older I’ve learned to love myself, to embrace who I am and to continually search for my own truth.

To be nobody but yourself - ee cummings - the last krystallos- lisa shambrook

© Lisa Shambrook

I don’t think this is a journey that has a final destination. We don’t stay the same, we don’t reach perfection, we don’t become someone and remain that person for the rest of our lives. We move on, we change, we learn, we grow, and we become who we’re meant to be at that moment in time.

I write a lot about being who you want to be, about self-acceptance and being yourself: Never Changing Who I Am, Who am I and Who are You, and Belonging, Being a Loner, and Finding your Tribe, are just a few posts.

We must never dilute who we are, because intrinsically, whatever it is that makes your heart sing is you… and that you is exactly who you’re meant to be.

I am so much more than what they see - Douglas Pagels quote - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

In Beneath the Distant Star, Jasmine is fighting to become herself. Jasmine lost her older sister, Freya, in the first book in the Surviving Hope series, but now, at fifteen-years-old, she can barely remember her sister and her frustrations grow as her mother doesn’t seem to accept her for who she is. Jasmine feels she’s always battling a ghost and losing.

In this excerpt Meg, who used to be Freya’s best friend, is offering advice to Jasmine:

Meg took a deep breath and touched Jasmine’s shoulder. “I’m myself, and only myself, no one else, just like you’re you and not Freya.” Jasmine nodded. “But, but, Jasmine, you don’t need to fight it, you don’t need to prove you’re not Freya, you just need to be yourself. Your natural self, not the self that needs to show she’s different, not someone who fights a ghost. Just be you.”

Meg smoothed a twig out of Jasmine’s dark hair. “You don’t need to dye your hair black and red, or even chop it off to avoid being Freya. You don’t need to do the opposite of what your mum wants just to be different.”

Jasmine dug the toe of her boot into the earth and shovelled dusty dirt. Meg took Jasmine’s chin in her hand and brought her face up to meet hers. Thomas drew a nervous breath, people didn’t touch Jasmine, she very often over reacted. Jasmine met Meg’s eyes. “How?” she whispered. “How?”

Knowing and becoming who you are isn’t always easy. I used to think once I’d got out of my teens it’d be easy to discover myself… Not strictly so, like I said, finding out who you are is a journey and as your life changes, so do you.

Goddess, wild child, fragile mess...

S. C. Lourie quote found online

It’s a long standing thing for us – as human beings – to want to better ourselves, and society is always telling us that if we were this or that we’d be better, or if we bought whatever (they’re probably selling) we’d be happy, but life is a rollercoaster, sometimes we’re better, stronger, more confident, and sometimes we’re weaker, less confident, and we struggle. That’s completely normal and exactly as life should be. We rise and fall with our circumstances.

Even when you’re strong, weakness can prevail, those are the times that others need to step in and help you on your journey.

I dislike change. I struggle without a prescriptive routine, and when things change my life melts down. To illustrate that, my favourite body lotion was recently discontinued. I even tweeted to confirm, then I panicked. My favourite toothpaste vanished a year or two ago and I’d been using that brand since I was about twelve. It took me weeks to choose another, just staring at the choice on the supermarket toothpaste shelf wondering if they’d taste okay, feel okay, and just be right for me was hell. Now it’s happening again. I just bought the last seven bottles of body lotion that I could find from several shops in town. I’m not neuro-typical, but that’s okay, that’s my journey.

But when it comes to being who I am, change is appropriate and I embrace it.

Lisa Shambrook 2018

© Lisa Shambrook

I’ve been dyeing my hair since my thirties; when that silver strand appeared and wouldn’t go away, I dyed it. Now, fifteen years later, I’m fed up with colouring my hair. I’m forty-seven and all about embracing myself, so I decided it was time to stop and see what hid beneath the dirty brown. Change is scary. Change can point you out as different, buck the trend, make you stand out. I found a supportive Instagram page: Grombre and I went for it. I stopped dyeing.

I used to look in the mirror as my white roots appeared and I believed I looked ten years older. I actually gazed at my face and it looked greyer and physically older. Turns out you can fool yourself. Now, silver highlights are appearing like glittered stars in my hair and I love it. I look in the mirror as my grey grows and I’m no different to who I was when I coloured my hair. There is no age difference, I look the same!

I can’t wait to discover what lies beneath, quite literally, and after a lifetime of dark hair, I will be able to play with colours, maybe I’ll have blue tips, or lilac hair, or maybe I’ll go dusky pink – whatever I choose it’ll be me for a while. I’ll embrace who I am at that moment in my life.

Brene Brown said: Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.

Brene Brown Quote true belonging when we're authentic and imperfect - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Accept who you are – right now.
Light up the world by being You. Be the star.
Dance until the stars fall from the sky and fill your hair with sparkle and light – (anon)
Never stop walking, dancing, running through this journey we call life,
discovering who you are today, and who you can be tomorrow…

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Beneath the Distant Star by Lisa ShambrookJasmine knows her very existence reminds her mother of something her sister will never have—life. Craving love and acceptance, Jasmine struggles to become her own person, and her fragile relationship with her mother shatters.

Beneath the Distant Star is published by BHC Press and is a novel that will enthral you.

“Jasmine can easily be related to and she pulls at your heart strings throughout the entire story.” — LibraryThing Early Reviewers

Beneath the Distant Star is now available in eBook and paperback (choose your format) at:

Amazon UK, Amazon US, and your local Amazon. Barnes and Noble, Waterstones, Google Play, Kobo, iTunes, and other online outlets.

In Need of a Hug…

Feel the presence of love, wrapped up within a hug – Robert M. Hensel

In Need of a Hug - How Hugging offers affection, love, protection, and compassion - the last krystallos

I read this week that the more you hug your children the faster their brains develop. New-born babies shown more affection had stronger brain responses. This shouldn’t be a surprise. Touch and hugs show affection, love, protection, and compassion, everything a child needs. It’s one of the reasons babies are born and placed on their mother’s chest or at their breast – skin-on-skin touch helps bonding and gives comfort.

I also watched a report of a man, Antar Davidson, working with children recently separated from their mother in a migrant detention home in Tucson, who was asked to intervene and explain to three siblings aged 16, 10, and 8 that it was against shelter policy to hug. He was told to tell them to stop hugging. Antar refused and quit his job. These children only had each other left in a terrifying and alien situation and they were asked to relinquish touch between each other. It seems an atrocious and altogether backward move to make.

Then I saw this video of ten abandoned baby ducklings released into a pond. The pond’s resident mother duck, having recently hatched her own family of nine, immediately rushed to their side and ushered the orphans into her own family.

 

These three reports had a lasting effect on me this week. I’ve been distressed at the news of families being ripped apart at US borders. No matter your thoughts on immigration, removing a child from its parent is categorically wrong and never, ever the answer. Compassion seems to have taken a holiday from the current administration’s hearts.

A hug is worth a thousand words – anon - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Removing touch from a relationship can be dangerous. The ability to convey love and emotion within a relationship is paramount to keeping a bond and an emotional connection. One of our basic needs is to feel closeness, to touch each other, and to feel security within love. Animals know this. My dog welcomes us home with physical touch, and my cats rub against us and crave being stroked.

Most of us welcome each other with a hug, or a kiss, or a handshake, depending on your relationship. I’m not a tactile person, and if I don’t know you don’t try to hug me. I have personal space, control, and consent issues and to share a hug with me I have to be emotionally connected to you. My immediate family, and very close friends are the only ones who can break into my physical hug circle. But I crave touch as much as my cats do!

You can't give a hug without getting a hug – anon - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I love holding hands, hugging, and snuggling with my husband, and my children give me the most amazing hugs! The act of a hug offers me security and love. To be denied this would damage me as a human being.

The mother duck immediately knew what the little ducklings needed. Affection and security and she offered both within moments of meeting them. This world is so divisive, judgmental, and bigoted we need acceptance, compassion, and love.

Can we welcome all those in need the same way this duck embraced an expanding brood?

In Need of a Hug - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

The best place in the world is inside a hug – J Quest

There are myriad articles out there extolling the benefits of hugs
and physical touch – and as long as consent is given – always ask first –
you should get and give as much as you can!

Ten Places I Found Joy This Winter

The cold months hold some real treasures –
here’s how and where I found joy this winter…

Ten Places I Found Joy This Winter - The Last Krystallos

It doesn’t matter what the weather, I spied a meadow through a gate swathed in fog and it made the most beautiful picture. The Elan Valley was cold and crisp when Bekah and I visited and the walk was stunning. A simple dog walk through local roads and fields conjure up joy especially when you’re wrapped up warm. The girls and I went up to Brechfa Forest to do a photoshoot for Cait’s art, the mist and rain offered a haunting vista through the woods.

Misty Meadow - Pen y Bont Elan Valley - Local Dog Walking - Brechfa Forest - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Vince and I escaped to London for a weekend, it rained, but The Phantom of The Opera made it memorable along with the sights and sounds of the city. Seeing the Shard disappear up into fog was beautiful. The seagulls perching atop George IV’s head and horse in Trafalgar Square were highly amusing as the statue itself had anti-bird spikes about the plinth, didn’t bother the birds, George’s head will do just fine!

Lisa and Vince Tower Bridge - Shard City of London - George IV Trafalgar Sq - Phantom of the Opera - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I mentioned being wrapped up warm. Winter is cold, and my Scottish fingerless gloves were invaluable during the cold. My Stargazer pyjamas, I don’t think I’ve ever owned nightwear up ‘til now, but I love these! My grey scarf was a must this season, and I got Dr Martens, Cherry Red Arcadia for Christmas and matched them up with this cute burgundy tulle skirt to feel especially good!

Scottish Gloves - Stargazer - Grey Scarf - Cherry Red Arcadia Dr Martens - Burgundy Tulle - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Those fingerless gloves helped keep my fingers typing during my edits, even if Raven wanted attention instead. Writing and reading brings me great joy and tapping away at the keyboard during winter months is one of my favourite things. I redrew my maps and sketched for my new work in progress The Seren Stone.

Raven interrupting edits - research - A Symphony of Dragons - Maps and Edits - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

The best thing is getting out in the cold is for a Hot Chocolate and weekdays means my kids joining me at Pethau Da in Carmarthen.

Pethau Da Hot Chocolate - Bekah and Lisa, Dan, Cait and Lisa

© Lisa Shambrook

The other thing I spent a lot of winter doing was painting, some are secret projects, but I treated myself to some gorgeous art this Christmas from Tahina Morrison and J Edward Neill’s Hither The Wind and Amanda Makepeace’s Winter Raven. My children bought Vince and I the best anniversary gift with a print of the constellations on our wedding day. The stars are my thing!

Art - Hither the Wind - Winter Raven - Constellations - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Crystals and stars are my happy place. Peridot gems have been part of my research for The Seren Stone Chronicles, as are both smoky and clear quartz, I’ve been learning much about crystal therapy and using stones within my writing. The bracelet brought me great joy when Vince bought the Trollbead Wishful Sky set. It came along with one of my favourite quotes: I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the dark…

Peridot - Smoky Quartz - Clear Quartz - Trollbeads - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Our pets give us huge joy, Roxy will flip to her back and ask for a belly rub which just melts us, Raven curls up and purrs like a motorbike, and Misty had us all in hysterics when I took my new Docs out their box and she jumped in. When I tried to reclaim the box you can clearly see her warning to just walk away…

Roxy - Raven - Misty - Roxy - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Then nature gives us the most spectacular displays. In December we had a Super Blue Blood Moon and as it shone over the River Towy, I stood totally entranced. It snowed, briefly in Carmarthen, but much more the country over, and just crunching in the little snow we had brought me joy! Snowdrops have just begun to nod their stunning heads, and chasing rainbows has always brought glorious moments.

Super Blue Blood Moon River Towy - Rainbow - Snow - Snowdrops - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Lastly, there are moments of joy in unexpected places. Discovering baby reindeer in town at Christmas, finding Jack Frost’s handiwork on your car windscreen when you get up, holding a baby dragon in an acorn cup… and the beauty in things that aren’t always beautiful, the rainbows of colour in an oil spill on the pavement.

Reindeer - Jack Frost - Baby Dragon - Oil Rainbow - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

These are the things I notice,
simple and, sometimes, small things that bring me great joy.

Loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night - Sarah Williams - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Where did you find joy this winter?  

Belonging, Being a Loner, and Finding your Tribe

I’m a loner. I’m not alone, I’m not lonely – just a loner.
But when I find my people, I am one with them and of them.

Belonging, Being a Loner, and Finding your Tribe - The Last Krystallos

I’ve always wanted to belong. I ache to belong, to find my place. Outside of my family, this has been so difficult. In Real Life, except for inside my own four walls, I’ve never felt I belonged anywhere. For a long time, for many years this saddened me. I spent my early adult years longing for an attachment outside of my family and this yearning crushed me.

An introvert by nature with severe social anxiety meant close friends would always be hard to find and maintain. I held back, fearful of pushing myself where I wasn’t wanted, or of people leaving. I developed the skills of being a loner. I knew I could always trust myself, so my own company became comfortable, along with the close companionship of my husband and children. The only place I belonged was with them.

I am homesick for a place I am not sure even exists. One where my heart is full. My body loved. And my soul understood - Melissa Cox - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I used to be lonely in real life, but I lost myself in writing, in creating worlds and characters, and with each word, line by line, chapter by chapter, I became a fulfilled loner. I value my time alone, as much as I adore my time out with my family. I relish time to sit and be me, as much as I love sitting in a coffee shop with one of my children. I jealously guard my own time.

But this doesn’t mean I’m antisocial, or adverse to friendships. In real life I have, maybe three people, outside my own family, who I feel I could go for a hot chocolate with and chat when I need to. And this is okay, because the pressure to physically socialise doesn’t weigh me down. I can still develop real life friendships.

Heathens - Twenty Øne PilØts - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I often hear that technology has ruined communication, or made us lazy, or stopped us from developing relationships. You’ll never find me blaming tech when it has exponentially enhanced my life in so many ways! As a loner with social anxiety I avoid social events and activities as much as I can. Tech doesn’t change that. That’s who I am. If I was a gregarious extrovert, I might be out partying, but I’m not, so, much of my social life is technological. I socialise online.

People talk with frowns of teens being glued to their phones and not getting out and enjoying themselves. Have you ever stopped to discover that the extroverts are still actually out having fun in person with their friends – they never stopped doing that – and the introverts with their noses stuck to their phones are also conversing, messaging, laughing, and sharing and having fun with their friends? Some love to go out and watch a movie with mates then go for a drink afterwards. Others are watching movies in sync on Netflix with their friends in other countries or towns then chatting about it after in the comfort of their own homes. We are perhaps, via tech, the most sociable and informed society ever!

I am aware that I am less than some people prefer me to be, but most people are unaware that I am so much more than what they see - Douglas Pagels - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I discovered my people on social media. My friends, my tribe, are right there at my fingertips whenever I need them. They span my own country, they live in Wales, England, Scotland, and Ireland, and they live further afield – in the US, Canada, Australia, Israel, Europe, and in many other places. They are moments away from me when I need a virtual hug (I get plenty of real ones at home), advice, laughter, news, deep conversation, superficial conversation, and best of all – love.

They love me for who I am, I don’t need to fit into their schedule, we don’t need to answer private messages immediately, tech offers us relationships with people we’d never have discovered at home without it.

Social media is not perfect, but it helped me belong. It helped this loner discover a plethora of like-minded people, of people with differences, people who disagree with me but love me anyway, people who have time for me. I know some of these people in real life, some I will never meet, but they all have a place in my heart. And I am never lonely.

true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world - Brene Brown - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Do you belong?
Are you happy with your place in life and who you are?

When Darkness Falls – the Midnight Hour

What is your favourite time of the day?
Is it dawn with the light of a new day,
or the gloaming twilight and the indigo blanket
that sweeps across the sky bringing night?

When Darkness Falls - The Midnight Hour - The Last Krystallos
I love the night, the dark, the stars, and the romance of the cloak that night draws over us as dusk trails into starlight. I’ve always loved the dark, the late autumn evenings moving into the dark, cosy nights of winter have always brought me comfort. Maybe it’s because I like to hide away, maybe because I’m a night owl, maybe it’s just because I’m a stargazer and a dreamer…

Loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night - Sarah Williams - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Just as some love the break of dawn and a new day, I love the closing of the day, its end and a time to snuggle down and sleep.

I wonder if the time of day we like the most says something about us? Perhaps those who love the sunrise and a new morning are more positive and forward thinking. Maybe those who love midday love the hustle and bustle of a lively world and enjoy being in the present. Maybe those of us who adore the quiet, solitary hours in the middle of the night are perhaps reminiscent, not negative, but maybe we dwell a little too long on the past? There might be nothing in my pseudo-psychology, but I know I might enjoy the night a little more as a dreamer.

Memory - Midnight - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I was recently listening to Memory the song from the musical Cats and it never fails to make me cry. My throat tightens and my eyes are wet every time the words fill my soul. I remember the song from my childhood, one of those classics that stay with you forever, like On My Own from Les Miserables. Memory is so evocative, so real, so heartfelt, and so lonely, and I relate with every fibre of my being. I have spent too many nights standing beneath the moon in the early hours…

On My Own - Midnight - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

But, the night brings so much more than just memories…

It brings stars, searching out Orion as a child with my dad, teaching my children about the constellations, watching the Perseids meteor showers, and gazing at the ISS – International Space Station as it moves overhead like a single-minded shooting star.

It brings safety, home, and nights cuddled up with my family.

It brings solace after a tough day.

It brings late nights out and excitement at being out when others have gone to bed.

It brings rest, sleep, and relief, and dreams.

It brings love.

It brings silence, and introspection, imagination, and inspiration. I get some of my best ideas, clarity, and moments of sheer genius late, late at night. The early, early hours are when plot holes fix themselves, characters decide what they want to do, and endings of novels are resolved.

Stargazer Lisa The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I love the night, the stars, its encompassing darkness, and the velvet night sky.

What is your favourite time of the day, and why do you love it?  

At midnight, in the month of June, I stand beneath the mystic moon. Edgar Allen Poe - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

The Power of Letting Go and Finding Joy

Sometimes the hardest thing you will ever need to do is to let go…

The Power of Letting Go and Finding Joy - The Last Krystallos

I have lived a life of clutter, of clinging on, of holding onto things that are no longer important. I’ve been attached to physical items for much longer than they were fruitful, and I’ve spent time in my life living in the past. How long have we lived amongst things that have outlived their value, or people and relationships that have become toxic, or stayed connected to past events that no longer benefit us, or remained within groups and communities that no longer make us happy?

A few years ago it became very popular to embrace minimalism, to clear out your clutter, to live with fewer material possessions. Books were published helping us declutter, to purge the objects that no longer satisfied us, and remove the distractions that stopped us being happy.

Back in 2014 Marie Kondo released her book: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying: A simple, effective way to banish clutter forever, and offered a solution. She told us to ask ourselves when looking at the things that surround us, “Does this object spark joy?”

Surely, this question is one we should ask ourselves in most aspects of life. There will always be things we have to do that don’t make us happy or spark joy, we have to work for a living, and we cannot remove all the negative or problems from our lives. But when there are things we can change we should create as much joy in our lives as we can. I don’t want to live my life missing out on happiness, fun, and joy.

Sometimes, letting go means releasing things that were once important – if they still are, you_ll find them again - Lisa Shambrook - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Oprah Winfrey explained, “I define joy as a sustained sense of well-being and internal peace – a connection to what matters.”

What matters to you?

I am moving forward after years of severe depression and moments of psychosis, and allowing myself to let go. I am slowly progressing through my home removing things that no longer hold emotional value and if they don’t spark joy, they will go. I am re-evaluating, working out what makes me happy and what doesn’t. There are things that are important to me, yet they have brought me great sadness rather than the joy they should. Sometimes, letting go means releasing things that were once important – if they still are, you’ll find them again. I’m going back to basics in many ways, in an attempt to remove the negativity in my life and replace it with positivity and joy.

I’m learning to let go.

Frozen The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Have you ever ditched something from your life which has made you infinitely happier?

How easy do you find letting go?

Acceptance, Courage, and Wisdom – Living without Guilt

If there’s one thing I will take into the New Year – 2018 – it’s living positively,
and to do that convincingly I am doing away with internal judgement and guilt.

Acceptance, Courage, and Wisdom - Living without Guilt - The Last Krystallos

Not only are we quick to judge one another, but we do it to ourselves all the time and it piles on the guilt. We have to appreciate that we are human beings and we have limitations. We can do all we can, but then we have to know that we can do no more and not sink into a pit of guilt. That metaphor is real, guilt is a pit. It’s a pit of sludge that weighs us down and sticks and stops us from climbing out.

I beat myself up about what I cannot do, and I persuade myself that others are judging me on my flaws and failings. None of us are perfect, none of us are meant to be.

We are all creatures that struggle and rise and fall, and need support, compassion, understanding, and love. Practise those same tenets on yourself too.

The-Prayer-of-Serenity-Niebuhr-The-Last-Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

The Prayer of Serenity was written for all of us, whether you believe God gives you power or you find your power from within, this plea is for all: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference – Reinhold Niebuhr.

Let us practise love and acceptance from within and without. I know that when I struggle I’m not the only one, others around me are struggling too. If we could remember that when we think of others, even when we feel hurt or betrayed, we will be better, kinder, gentler people. I wrote recently about Being Kind, and it truly is the way to be, the only way to be. If we can be kind to those around us we can be kind to ourselves.

I wish as human beings we could live as the twelfth Doctor recently prescribed: Never be cruel, never be cowardly, and never, ever eat pears! Remember, hate is always foolish, and love is always wise. Laugh Hard, Run Fast, Be Kind. OK, pears are fine, sorry Ten, really they are, but the rest – yes.

Always – Be Kind – within and without.