Category Archives: My Family

Coping with Alzheimer’s: Sadness, Love, and Humour

I saw a lonesome forget-me-not gaze up at me the other day,
late in the year for these delicate blue flowers,
but they will always remind me of my mother.
They will forever be linked with the disease that stole her.

Coping with Alzheimer_s amid Tears of Sadness, Love, and Humour The Last Krystallos

The forget-me-not is the poster flower for Alzheimer’s, so when I noticed this little blossom peering up at me, it brought the condition back to my mind, and reminded me that I hadn’t yet read a book loaded up on my Kindle. Maybe it had been too soon when I bought it, Mum passed away at Christmas last year, but sitting in the Dr’s waiting room with Dad the other day I clicked on the book and opened it.

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© Lisa Shambrook

Instead of bringing tears, which it does too, it brought a smile to my face, many smiles. Finding a kindred spirit can do that. I relate strongly with the author S. R. Karfelt. Her candid humour, outright frankness, and sincerity shone through in her words. Our situations regarding Dementia are different, we’ve been through very different circumstances, but the familiarity of her anecdotes and narrative rang so true.

Alzheimer’s is the thief of time, stealing memories and lives with no compunction at all…and it is on the rise. More and more people are being diagnosed and figures show that 850,000 people lived with dementia in the UK in 2015 and it’s set to rise at a rate that will mean over 1 million in 2025 and 2 million in 2051. I’ve blogged about Prevention and Awareness before, and there are things we can do, changes to our lives, diets, and routines that can help, but this post isn’t about prevention or cure, it’s about living with the disease.

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© Lisa Shambrook

Please remember that living with Alzheimer’s affects a whole plethora of people for every one person diagnosed. Whole families and communities have to come together to care. When someone in your family has dementia, you can’t walk away, you can’t hide, you can’t bury it. The condition sneaks up and robs you of your loved one, but unlike other diseases that leave you to grieve after you lose your cherished family member, dementia leaves the shell of the person with you. I can’t describe the pain that that instils.

In her book, Nobody Told Me: Love in the Time of DementiaS. R. Karfelt has been through all of this and eloquently puts her experiences on paper. For anyone facing dementia within their family, this is a book that will show you that you’re not alone. You’ll know you are part of a growing number of people dealing with this disease and staring it right in the face with defiance – and humour you have to laugh, and you’ll cry too. Lots.

So many stories in this book tickled me, made me smile, and made me belly laugh, because I’ve been there. You have to attack Alzheimer’s with humour, wit, and love, they give you the strength to carry on.

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© Lisa Shambrook

When Mum complained of the noisy street party going on in her back yard, outside her house, we had to humour her, because my parents lived in the middle of a field, not a sound anywhere. When she thought I was her mother, I held her close and rocked her. When she was convinced Dad was a doctor, I told her she’d better take her medication with no complaints. When she thought Dad was a stranger who had kidnapped her and was holding her hostage, I talked her through it, tried to allay her fear, and help her calm down.

Can you imagine believing you’re only fourteen, and then finding out you’re married and he’s an old man? Imagine looking in the mirror expecting to see your twenty-five-year-old-self gazing back and instead seeing a seventy-year-old with a very different face? Imagine nurses/carers visiting every day when you don’t think anything is wrong with you at all.

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© Lisa Shambrook

Imagine forgetting how to walk, or how to lift your food from the plate to your mouth with a fork. How would you feel if you couldn’t remember the beginning of the movie you started watching an hour ago? How would you feel when your grandchildren walk in and smile at you, but are complete strangers because you believe you’re twenty, and there are still eight years before you give birth to their mother yet?

Think about being in hospital or a home and not having a clue how you got there, or why, or for how long, or who took you there, or where you are, or why you’re there, or how long you’ll be there, and there’s nothing wrong with you, where are you, how did you get there, there’s nothing wrong, who took you there, when can you go home, as there’s nothing wrong… Where am I?

This is life with Alzheimer’s. It hurts – not only the patient, but the family, and carers, and friends… Alzheimer’s hurts everyone it comes into contact with.

So, if you’re dealing with, living with, coping with Alzheimer’s please know that you’re not alone. Please laugh as much as you cry. I’ve told my children that if I ever get this disease they are to treat me like normal, but play to it, allow me to stay in the time that I believe I am in, humour me, give me adventures, if I don’t know where I am – make it up!

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© Lisa Shambrook

People will tell you how to cope with this condition when you’re caring for a loved one who doesn’t know who you are, but as long as you are compassionate and loving, you’re doing the right thing. Take time out. Laugh, I cannot say this enough, not at the person sometimes not even with the person, they won’t understand and you don’t want to hurt or alienate them even further, but you need to deal with the mess it makes of your life too, and once you’re out of the immediate situation talk through the absurdity Alzheimer’s proffers you and laugh at it. Irreverence can see you through it all.

Tears will fall, that’s a guarantee, but don’t ever think you’re alone.

The Alzheimer’s Society is an amazing resource who will help you through this minefield, as will those who’ve been there already. Stay strong.

Nobody-Told-Me-S-R-Karfelt-Dementia

You can buy
Nobody Told Me: Love in the Time of Dementia
by S. R. Karfelt on Amazon UK Kindle Hardbackand Paperback.
Amazon US Kindle, Hardback,
and Paperback, and from your local Amazon and other online bookstores.
Please visit her website for further information and links.

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Which Animal Lives in your Heart – what Animal Are You?

Many of us identify with animals…
we relate to certain creature characteristics, to animals we connect with,
on both an aesthetic level and on a much deeper spiritual level.

Which Animal Lives in Your Heart - What Animal are You - The Last Krystallos

Lots of novels bond their protagonists with animals, from Philip Pullman’s Lyra and Pantalaimon, her dæmon, in His Dark Materials, to Harry Potter and his stag Patronus, and countless other books. My own Seren Stone Chronicles, which I’m currently writing contain animals that have connected with some of my characters, and it’s definitely fun to write.

Many cultures have beliefs that connect them to animals like Native American Spirit Guides and Animal Totems. There is huge significance to those who recognise their animal guides, and it’s not a frivolous choice of whatever creature you like, but a deeply sacred experience. There are plenty of online games and quizzes to find your Spirit Animal, but it doesn’t work like that, a Spirit Guide will come to you, not the other way round and no one can assign an animal to you.

So, I am not talking about Spirit Guides or Spirit Animals here, I’m taking a more light-hearted look at animals that we feel a commonality with.

Years ago I wrote a paragraph, at a time when I felt trapped and confined in my life, and I yearned for escape: ‘I once answered a question: If you could be an animal, which would you be and why?  No hesitation… I would be a horse, a wild horse. “I couldn’t stand being a trained horse, left in a field and ridden when the owner wished…” I wrote. “I would be wild and free, roaming valleys, mountains, forests… I would race, chase the wind and explore, as free as the air. Graceful and beautiful.” Then I put a spin on my answer, I wouldn’t be a horse, I’d be a unicorn. I would not only be wild and free, but I’d be mythical and mysterious. People would wonder if I really existed, I would live in dreams, a free spirit, magical and carefree… I would be a unicorn.’

When I came upon this piece recently, it made me think about animals we relate to, and what animal I would associate with myself? Then I expanded and was curious which animals I would link my family to. I wonder if they agree?

Although I don’t like to limit the choice to one, I’d still love to be a unicorn – I know much more about myself and I believe I am probably a Squirrel

Lisa Squirrel

© Lisa Shambrook (bottom right: Squirrel wallpaper)

I’m anxious, socially awkward, and a hoarder. I scamper about erratically, bright-eyed and bushy tailed, collecting treasure – acorn cups in particular – and I am very much at home in nature, within the forests, wandering through mossy glens beside trickling streams. I will observe you from a distance, and maybe, just maybe, if I feel confident enough, I’ll sidle up close to see if I can trust you enough with my presence! I am soft, nervous, bold, a paradox, and wild, just like a squirrel.

Vince Bear

© Lisa Shambrook (top left: Bear wallpaper)

I see my husband as a bear, a big, brown bear. He keeps me safe, and gives me confidence and my trust in him is implicit. He’s large, in the best way, has a huge heart and when I’m in his arms, nothing can touch me. When he’s grizzly and grouchy he needs love and appreciation, and then his fur fluffs up and he’s happy to explore and adventure with us. His inner strength shines like the sun. Vince is cuddly, protective, tender, warm and passionate, just like a bear.

Bekah Fox

© Lisa Shambrook (top left: Fox wallpaper, bottom right: Fox wallpaper)

Bekah is a wild one, she moves to her own beat, and follows her own path. She has a nature that embraces adventure and exploration, and a spirit that defies definition. She knows what she’s doing, constantly bettering herself, learning new things and developing. Bekah is an individual – conforming is not in her dictionary – and her style is her own. She is passion and cunning, spirit and character; she’ll twinkle like the stars and keep you enchanted and enthralled, just like a fox.

Dan Dog

© Lisa Shambrook

Dan is definitely a puppy dog. He’s cheerful and loving and sensitive to everything about him. He’ll play with gusto and disregard, and throw himself right in at the deep end. Dan will be your rock, your companion, the person you can rely on, and he will trust you just as you trust him. He is faithful and strong, playful and open. You’ll know exactly where you are with him. He’s adorable, happy, stubborn, funny, and caring, and will always be there for you, just like a pup.

Cait Wolf

© Lisa Shambrook (top left: Wolf wallpaper)

My lone wolf is Cait, a spirit that seeks something deeper and won’t rest ‘til she finds it. She’s a deep thinker, an empathic soul that desires the best in an imperfect world. She wonders in the simplicity of nature, and yearns for compassion in her fiery heart. Cait will champion your cause and fight for your rights while wrapping herself within her own aesthetic. She is quiet, sullen, bright, and quick-witted, sharp and devoted, and she will move beneath the moon, just like a wolf.

What animal do you relate to most and what do you think others’ would perceive you as?

If you could be any animal, which would you choose?    

And…I might be a unicorn, or a squirrel, but I am also a dragon, and a cat…
and much, much more! What about you?

 

What is the Love in Your Life?

Valentine’s Day always makes me think about the love in my life
So, here it is, everything that means Love to me… 

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What brings you LOVE in your life?

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Vince, Bekah, Dan, and Caitlin © Lisa Shambrook

My instant response to what brings me the most joy and love in my life is easy – my Family. My husband and children have brought me every emotion under the moon, but love overrides it all. My marriage and partnership with my husband is the most important relationship to me as my children came from this union. I’ve written about our love before and it’s blatantly obvious how much my children mean to me. Each one of them is a unique human being and I love how different each relationship is, how much fun and laughter and joy they bring to my life.
This is Love.

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Rusty, Roxy, Raven, and Misty © Lisa Shambrook

Soft fur, purrs (the cats, they can’t help it!), devotion, dependence, twinkling eyes, curling up on your lap (yes, even a sixty pound German Shepherd tries this!), adoration, kneading kitty paws, wagging tail (generally the dog!), wet noses, pricked up ears, padding paws. Rusty, Roxy, Misty and Raven.
This is Love.

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Nature, scriptures, freeagency, and crystals © Lisa Shambrook

I don’t often write about my religious views and my Faith. My faith is vast, ever evolving, and it embraces humanity with a Christ-like vision, but my Christianity intertwines with aspects of nature and Paganism and the peace of Buddhism. I think Spirituality is a vast subject and faith is very personal. My beliefs make sense to me, and no one can challenge what my heart reveals to me.
This is Love.

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Art, worldbuilding, sketches and notes, and dragons © Lisa Shambrook

I need a Creative outlet, without it I’d go quietly mad. I draw, plan, sketch, paint, sculpt, write, design, craft, photograph, and create. I create worlds with words, characters, plots, emotion, and dragons. I share my emotions in every piece I write or make.
This is Love.

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Acorn Cups, Trollbeads, Leather jacket, and Dr Martens Boots © Lisa Shambrook

Most of the things that bring me love are free, family, faith, nature, pets, imagination, but sometimes we have material items that mean something to us. If I wear something ‘til it’s worn out, then it’s been needed and loved. My leather jackets end up worn and torn, as do my beloved boots. I adore gems, I love pretty things, so my bracelet adorned with silver tokens and Murano glass beads means a great deal to me. Each trinket and bead means something, a moment, a place, people, something precious. And as I’m a squirrel, bushy-tailed and anxiously curious I have a thing for acorn cups and hazelnut shells.
This is Love.

What is the Love in your life?

Self-Confidence and the Selfie

We live in a selfie society, note: I said selfie, not selfish.
If you look around at any given moment while you’re out and about,
you are likely to see someone taking a photograph with their phone.
And often, if you’re with young people, you’ll see them whip out their phone,
hold it at an odd angle, grin and take a selfie or two – or three – or four – or lots…

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Cameras on phones are a given and most of us carry a phone with us, not only as a means of communication, but also as a record keeper, journal, diary, clock, educator, newspaper, personal stereo, entertainment centre, and, of course, a photograph album.

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All my selfies…gaining confidence © Lisa Shambrook

I grew up in a time when trying to take a photograph of yourself pretty much meant setting up a tripod and a timer on your camera then posing in front of it. I mean, did you ever try taking a pic of yourself at arm’s length with a Kodak Instamatic? The biggest revolution in cameras I saw, as a child in the early eighties, was the invention of the Polaroid and an instant picture at your fingertips. But none of these were suitable for a quick snap of yourself, even less indoors unless you wanted to be blinded by the biggest flash cubes ever!

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Selfies the old fashioned way – getting someone else to take photos of you! And how it usually turned out if you tried yourself… © Lisa Shambrook

I used to bribe my brother or get my Dad to come and take pics of me as I posed in my latest outfit, and they’d get bored fast as I said, “Take another just in case that’s blurry, or if that one doesn’t come out…” or the old, “Take a few so I can choose the best one…” or “I blinked, take it again!” Then there was the waiting and the expense. I’d send my films off to the printer in Bonusprint’s big envelope with a cheque, and sit and wait for the pictures to be returned. Can you remember that moment, opening your pack of 36 plus photos and flicking through them? Yep, and there was always the inevitable, “Well, at least there’s one or two good ones.” or maybe there weren’t and you curl your lip thinking, I’ll never look that good again and I didn’t get a decent print!

So, today we have it easy, you can snap a selfie within seconds, and if it’s rubbish or blurred you can delete it, and you can take as many as you wish until you get the one you like.  And even if your favourite isn’t quite as good as you hoped, hey, there’s always Instagram and you’ll find a filter that does you justice!

When front-facing cameras on phones became the norm, over the last decade, I watched as the selfie society grew, and I watched with fascination as my two daughters sat taking multiple pictures of themselves. I say I watched in fascination, not as a criticism, but because I struggled to do it myself!

I struggled for several reasons. One, because I came from a more restrained time, when posing for multiple selfies in public just wasn’t done without someone accusing you of vanity. Two, I lacked the self-confidence to take pictures of myself in public. And, three, I just could never make the damned angle work whenever I tried!

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My children can do it! © Bekah Shambrook, Dan Shambrook, Caitlin Shambrook

My daughters would reel off picture after picture, deleting what they didn’t like and keeping what they did, and sometimes the pictures they took were so stunning, I wished I could do the same!

I had to overcome my sensibilities to be able to take a good selfie! I have had to be able to step outside myself and conquer shyness. I’ve had to become more comfortable with myself, with expressing myself, and not feeling vain. My daughters have taught me that I can be comfortable in my own skin and I can celebrate who I am. Taking a good selfie has increased my self-confidence.

There are still those who believe vanity is a part of our selfie society, and to a degree it may be, but I also believe this next generation has become more self-confident, bolder, stronger, and accepting. And those are qualities I wish to emulate. This Millennial generation, on a whole, is a brighter future, a more compassionate band of peers, a younger generation who want to include everyone, who are accepting and generous, and who aren’t afraid. These are people who want to be heard, who will fight for their beliefs, for equality, and for human rights. They accept themselves, they accept who they are and are much more comfortable within their own skins than my generation and those before ever were!

They can snap selfies and laugh at themselves, and can use social media to inform and grow, and can, I hope, in the future create a more forgiving and a more loving society. I do not believe the selfie society is a selfish one. A large percentage of selfies include others, groups gather together and take a selfie, a record of the moment, the occasion, the people. Selfies are about people, individuals and groups.

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Selfies celebrate family and friends © Lisa Shambrook and Bekah Shambrook

I am no longer embarrassed to take a selfie, to record myself at a moment when I feel good about myself, or I am somewhere I want to remember, or I want to grab my nearest and dearest as close as I can so we can all fit into a picture together.

My ability to take a selfie has grown with my confidence, and as I become happy in myself, I am able to celebrate who I am, and, you know, as much as it’s great to grab a quick shot of the sunset, or of a beautiful flower it’s also fun to whip out my phone and catch the moment, my moment! I can be beautiful too.

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When selfies work © Lisa Shambrook

Do you like taking selfies?

How do you put yourself in the picture?     

 

 

The Practicalities and Fragilities of Death…

Death is a strange thing and people react to it in many different ways.
This post isn’t about grief it’s about the more practical aspects of death.

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My mother passed away three days before Christmas and though I’ve dealt with bereavement before, I’ve never had to deal with it in such a hands-on way.

I knew my mother was dying – it was expected, yet unexpected. There had been no time frame. She’d survived breast and secondary breast cancer for over twelve years, until pneumonia and Alzheimer’s took her. My father’s devastation was hard to bear, and when it came to dealing with death – he couldn’t.

We were there during those bitter-sweet moments that she took her last breaths, and as I hugged Dad I knew I’d be dealing with the arrangements. Don’t get me wrong, I was happy to, I would have done anything to make this loss easier for my father, but making arrangements for the death of a loved one is tough.

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© Lisa Shambrook

I didn’t know where to start. Who does? Life is about living, not dying, and death – and what comes with it – is very much avoided in general day-to-day life.

The practicalities put you into an auto-pilot mode, and can sometimes dilute your grief. There are things that have to be done and I was very grateful for the sensitive help and administration from my local hospital. The ambulance crew, nurses and doctors were considerate and caring and kept us informed and looked after. We knew this was a one-way trip, and my father would be leaving without his beloved wife.

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© Lisa Shambrook

Our local Health Authority produced a booklet Bereavement Information for Relatives and Friends (The government have a What To Do After Someone Dies site) and it helped us make sense of what was to come. The following day we contacted the hospital’s Bereavement Officer, no, I didn’t know that was a job, but I am very glad it is. He was wonderful, making sure we knew exactly what needed to be done. It was Christmas, and the holiday season was about to start the next day, but he made sure the medical certificate and coroner’s report were hurried through and he made us an appointment to register her death and get her death certificate before each of the offices closed for Christmas. It was good for us to have these technicalities out of the way so early.

The Registrar was lovely, making sure we were comfortable and informed, and he was gentle and calm despite the raging torrential rain storm outside rattling the windows. Carmarthen also had access to the valuable Tell Us Once service, which informs all the government agencies of the death at once, so you have less people to inform.

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© Lisa Shambrook

We had also called a trusted local Funeral Director and met him that afternoon. So many commercials on television claim you need to spend a small fortune on a funeral, upwards of £7k, but that’s not necessarily true. You can arrange a service to fit your needs and budget, though I won’t lie, it’s still an expense most us will agree is very costly. Council fees for a burial plot are about £1,000, but you can arrange the rest of the funeral to your budget.

You can have a direct burial or cremation without a service for about £1,000 – £1,500 and you can add to that any extra you wish.  There are several sites that can give you advice which you can find with this article from ITV’s Tonight Funerals: A Costly Undertaking?

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© Lisa Shambrook

I, and two lovely friends from church, dressed my mother’s body before my father offered his last respects, and it was a privilege to do so. It’s difficult to see your parent’s empty body, and not everybody will have the chance or choice to do this – we did in accordance to burial rites within our religion, but it’s a sure testimony to our loved ones having moved on and left this mortality.

My parents wanted simplicity from coffins to flowers, and we had a memorial service at the church we belong to without cost. We made it beautiful with words, simple white flowers and red roses, and love. Our Funeral Director, Peris Rice, was informative and accommodating, and Mum’s service, and then burial in the cold January rain, just before her 74th birthday, was beautiful and poignant.

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© Lisa Shambrook

The whole process has left me with grief, relief, and a deep desire to be sure that I have talked about and thought about what I want in the event of my own demise.

We weren’t sure what Mum actually wanted, and I was floundering with putting together a service, then Dad phoned. He’d been clearing pieces of paper and notes from a box on the coffee table beside where Mum sat, and had come across a piece of paper. On it was a list entitled Hymns for my Funeral, and she had listed about fourteen hymns, numbering four of them. Beneath that list was a poem Death Is Nothing At All by Henry Scott Holland. I gave thanks, because we finally knew what hymns to choose and which poem my sister could read and they were perfect. The hymns we didn’t sing during the service became prelude and closing music, and they all spoke of Mum.

In the end I offered a eulogy inspired by photographs of my mother from her childhood right up to the present, which gave an insight into her life and what she loved, Jules read the poem which spoke exactly what I knew Mum would have said, and a dear friend spoke about Mum and our spiritual beliefs. I hope it was what she would have chosen.

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© Lisa Shambrook

I have moved away from this experience with the need to make any future plans my husband or children might have to put in place as easy as possible. We are all going to die. I don’t fear death, but I do have wishes and desires I would love to accompany my flight from this earth.

Neither of my parents had wills, and Dad now understands the importance of making one. We are now facing looking at Probate, and are discussing Lasting Power of Attorney, and Wills…and I want all these things sorted out, not only for him, but also for myself and my family in my own mind and on paper too. We need to talk about what we want – from services, coffins, wills, music, organ donation, religious rites, finances, do-not-resuscitate forms, living wills, and anything else that might be, for some, uncomfortable to discuss.

I want my views known to my family, not only about decisions made when I die but decisions that will affect my life. I want us to talk about care as I get older, what I want in the event of Alzheimer’s or cancer, or any other life changing/threatening disease. I want them to feel loved and not burdened, and I want to be sure I continue and leave this life with grace and dignity.   

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© Lisa Shambrook

My views on remembering the dead are a little different from the norm. I would very much like to keep it simple and quiet, perhaps even without a church service. I wish for flowers to be gathered from the season and tied simply with string and left wherever my ashes are strewn, and a poem, or reading, or memories are shared, by woods or a river among nature that I love so much, with my family and loved ones.  

How do you feel?

Is death a taboo subject or have you made your wishes known?

What are your thoughts on the fragility of death?

Twenty-one Things I Love About Dan…

Twenty-one Things I Love About You…

To my son, Daniel, on your Twenty-first Birthday!

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Dan…Twenty-one on friday!

  1. You lit up my world from the first moment you kicked into this world, my head-strong beautiful son.

    1-1997-daniel-1-heronsbrook-aug-1997

    One…

  2. Your smile has always been one of my favourite things about you. You can light the darkest place with it.

    2-1998-vince-dan-may-1998

    Two…

  3. Your eager delight at the world about you. Your excitable nature from shweep to slox…(sheep and socks!)

    3-1999-dan-3-model-school-nursery-photo-oct-1999

    Three…

  4. Our little Danny boy, full of mischief and fearless adventure!

    4-2000-dan-4-danny-boy-llansteffan-june-2000

    Four…

  5. Your straight-forwardness is strength. Your favourite animal at Gelli Aur aged five was “A big animal with sticks on his head!” A stag.

    5-2001-carreg-cennan-dan-5-oven-august-2001

    Five…

  6. Like a bulldozer you throw yourself into everything with true gusto and sometimes very little thought for consequences, but you always survive!

    6-2002-dan-6-donkey-june-2002

    Six…

  7. I love how you share and love, your love runs deep and strong.

    7-36-dan-7-st-davids-march-2003

    Seven…

  8. You have empathy that will guide both you and those about you, and your example will always inspire.

    8-2004-dan-8-cait-4-model-school-photo-oct-2004

    Eight…

  9. I have never met anyone who can bond so easily and so well with so many, and make a positive difference in their lives!

    9-2005-dan-9-army-july-2005

    Nine…

  10. You have an endearing innocence and naivety, and this is why so many will love you for your honesty and integrity.

    Before Dan had his hair cut.

    Ten…

  11. Your smile lights up so many lives as your sense of fun shines through!

    11-2007-dan-smile-may-2007

    Eleven…

  12. You embrace the simplicity and beauty of life with courage and joy!

    12-2008-freshwater-dan-12-smile-august-2008

    Twelve…

  13. You can be anyone you want to be, dig deep, work hard, and be true to yourself.

    13-2009-dan-and-cait-firth-of-forth-aug-2009

    Thirteen…

  14. Don’t ever give in. Life can be tough and frustrating, but you can always overcome and win!

    14-2010-dan-14-by-bekah-june-2010

    Fourteen…

  15. You have grown slowly with confidence and you will become a beacon of light, a lighthouse…

    15-2011-dan-15-may-2011

    Fifteen…

  16. The way you love is deep and honest and without bars, and your hugs can heal broken spirits.

    16-2012-dan-roxy-july-2012

    Sixteen…

  17. Your sense of adventure will take you far and help you carve your place, don’t lose it!

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    Seventeen…

  18. I love your spirit of generosity. You care deeply for those around you and always fight for those in need.

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    Eighteen…

  19. Strength and devotion are both naturally abundant in your nature, a true soul of beauty.

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    Nineteen…

  20. You know your worth, a son of faith and spirit, our son…

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    Twenty…

  21. The world is at your feet…it’s yours…

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    Twenty-one…

*Note: All photographs within this post are copyright to Rebekah, Caitlin, or Lisa and are not to be reproduced or copied in any way.

Let Sleeping Dragons Lie – Christmas Cake 2016

It’s an exhausting business protecting your castle ruins…
but it’s good to keep a hoard of snowballs at the ready while you take a nap…

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It wasn’t difficult to choose a theme for my Christmas cake this year – I’d spent November writing a first draft of my next novel dragon post-apocalypse fantasy, and over the past few months I’ve been making dragons and castle turrets in pottery, plus a secret piece of art involving dragons, and putting together my book of dragon short stories… It’s funny, really, that I chose dragons, lol.

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© Lisa Shambrook

I made a vegan cake, as Bekah’s been vegan for about a year now. It meant using vegetable fat and switching eggs for an egg substitute. Last time I used the egg supplement, I made a chocolate cake which tasted amazing, but crumbled straight away. This time, it worked better, the fruit cake held together, but I didn’t risk moving it around too much before covering with marzipan and fondant. It may still be a bit crumbly when we cut into it!

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© Lisa Shambrook

I had to slightly alter my design when I realised I’d thrown out my deep 7” cake tin, and only had a shallow 9” tin. I had wanted to create a turret all the way round the sides of the cake with a door in the side, but I think I prefer the ruins my dragon’s ended up with.

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© Lisa Shambrook

My dragon is based on the sleeping dragon I made in pottery class, and I added the ruined wall, a broken wooden door, a log and snowballs. After all, defending with flames will just melt the snow and my ice dragon enjoys the fun of winter, so it’s snowball ammunition!

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© Lisa Shambrook

I’m hoping for snow this Christmas, not really had any for a few years, and I’m looking forward to my feet crunching through the white stuff, building snowmen, and breathing dragon smoke in the frost…

What’s decorating your Christmas cake this year?

I hope you all have a great Christmas!

Destination Star Trek 50th Anniversary

I’ve been a Trekkie for a long, long time,
and I always wanted to boldly go to a Star Trek Con!

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Since my teenage years watching Jean-Luc Picard, “Make it so” has been a watchword, a phrase that encapsulates my own dreams, and the spirit of adventure that we all need. So, throughout The Original Series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager… (sorry, haven’t seen Enterprise, yet) and eagerly looking forward to the new incarnation, I am right there. Got the movies box set and enjoying the new films and parallel universe, and handing the fandom down to my children too, yes, I’m parenting well!

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© Lisa Shambrook – Caitlin Shambrook – Bekah Shambrook

Birmingham NEC was the destination for the 50th Star Trek Anniversary in Europe and we spent our Saturday amongst a sea of red, gold, and blue. Uniforms of all generations, and wonderful cosplay! Data, the Borg, Klingons, lots of Andorians, and many more aliens.

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© Lisa Shambrook – Bekah Shambrook

My daughters cosplayed as Spock and Jadzia Dax, Vince wore his Enterprise Haynes Manual t-shirt, and I wore sleek black with my DS9 communicator!

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© Lisa Shambrook

We saw Armin Shimerman (Quark – DS9), Walter Koenig (Chekov – TOS), Robert Duncan McNeill (Tom Paris – Voyager) and Nicole De Boer (Ezri Dax – DS9) signing photos. Marina Sirtis (Deanna Troi – TNG), Gates McFadden (Dr Crusher – TNG), Will Wheaton (Wesley Crusher – TNG), George Takei (Sulu – TOS), and William Shatner (Captain Kirk – TOS) were also there. We’d have loved to have seen Brent Spiner (Data – TNG), Michael Dorn (Worf – TNG), John De Lancie (Q – TNG, Voyager), Jonathan Frakes (Will Riker – TNG) and obviously Patrick Stewart (Captain Jean-Luc Picard – TNG) but many of these actors had other commitments.

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© Lisa Shambrook

I’d hoped to find exhibits of the ships, Enterprise etc, which would have been cool, but there was a great art exhibition, talks, and lots of mechandise.

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Destination Star Trek Art Gallery

Anyway, we had lots of fun, photo opportunities, great cosplay and the pleasure of being amongst our people! 

Here’s to the next 50 years
to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations,
to boldly go where no one has gone before…

Silver Wedding Anniversary – Twenty-five Years Together

Today, 5th October, Vince and I celebrate 25 years together
and our Silver Wedding Anniversary…

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I want to link to a couple of posts, the first is: our 20th Anniversary and our Twenty Expressions of Love…♥ I’m so moved when I read back over the words that our love has produced…

I want to add five more:

After twenty-five years we know each other well, we understand each other as well as we can, given our differences, and what we don’t understand we lovingly accept.

We both feel that spiritual and physical bond that holding hands gives you, and physical intimacy brings both immense emotional and spiritual intimacy.

Time is a blessing, time spent together strengthens and deepens our love, and walks on the beach, or through woodlands, or across mountains, or anywhere together increases and heightens our affection.

The love and humour our family has is an eternal bond, something that ties us together no matter where we are. We, as a family, will always be united whether we are oceans apart or sitting side-by-side, and the winds of time cannot change that, our family makes us whole.

We know the strength of a hug, of arms wrapped tight around each other. We know it in sorrow and in joy, and in unity of love.

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Twenty-five years – Vince and Lisa… One photo a year from 1991 – 2016

We’ve changed in many ways: in looks, personality, character, knowledge, wisdom, emotions, understanding, and much more. We’ve grown and become very different people to who we were twenty-five years ago, but we’ve found solace, compassion, love, strength, and passion within each other and a bond that pushes the boundaries of this life.

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On our Twentieth…

I’ve written a couple of other posts about love and relationships, so if you’re interested: How to Feel Loved – Discover your Love Strategy and learn about how you feel and give love, and: The Most Valuable Way to a Happy and Successful Relationship and see how kindness works.

Here’s to the next Twenty-five Years!

♥ With all my love ♥

From Two Extremes – Wild Camping to City Break

Wild Camping on Dartmoor and a Weekend in London
– you couldn’t find two more extreme activities
and we did both in one week!

From Two Extremes - Wild Camping to City Break - The Last Krystallos

Firstly, let’s explain the term wild camping: in the UK you are only legally allowed to camp out and pitch a tent on a camp site, unless you have permission from the land owner first. However, there are exceptions. Scotland, for the most part, allows wild camping (except in one or two regions) and Dartmoor. Do your research before you decide where to go. Dartmoor has a great website and forums are excellent for advice and help. Wild camping allows you to pitch your tent (only small tents) wherever you wish and as long as you abide the laws of the countryside and you only stay up to two nights you’re good.
Also on Dartmoor be sure to check out the Military Firing Range times…you don’t want to get caught in the middle of an exercise!

So, we took two 2man tents and (far too much) gear in rucksacks and off we went.

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Dartmoor tors, Dartmoor pony, sheep © Lisa Shambrook

We parked in a free car park in Belstone, just to the north of Dartmoor, and hiked up onto the tors. Now, we were beginners. I don’t even like camping! I abhor organised camps and dislike being tied to one place, or to other people…so this was an experiment. We thought of reaching Yes Tor, but we quickly realised we were carrying too much and weren’t as fit as we could be! Instead of miles of hiking we ended up at either Winter Tor or Irishman’s Wall. Being beginners we had no OS map, just a print out from the web…

Still, it was stunningly beautiful and we were off the beaten track and out in the wild!

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Pitching and taking down tents © Lisa Shambrook

We pitched and explored and set up a small camp. We had lots of fun, played games, talked a lot, learned more about each other, and had food.

So, a couple of things: We took a disposable BBQ – don’t bother. Wind, did no one mention the wind! We ended up using a gas camp stove instead for the most part, and find something as lightweight as you can! Think of food that either doesn’t need cooking, or is easy, soups etc and keep it simple. Baked beans in the morning, at dawn, on a camping stove was lovely! (And remember everything you take up there has to be brought back down – take all your rubbish home again) We carried a 4 litre bottle of water, just in case – we didn’t need it and it was extra unnecessary weight.

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View from tent, sunrise, family selfie, Dartmoor pony © Lisa Shambrook

There’s not a lot of privacy so choose your site well, you’ll need rocks or bushes to do your business behind. (And take a trowel if you need to) It really is back to basics! Don’t be shy…though the sheep up there are!

Sleeping. We took self-inflating mats to place our sleeping bags on, and for me that worked. I was worried my back wouldn’t hold out, but I took preventative pills and was careful. And I would just use a hoody or jacket for a pillow. Remember to take warm clothes, socks in particular! Even in a sleeping bag you can get cold.

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Vince and Lisa © Lisa Shambrook

Hubby didn’t sleep. Hubby has decided he’s never camping again! But he did take a look at the stars and stared in wonder at the clarity and beauty up there in the night sky!

I didn’t sleep much myself, half hour stops and starts, but that may have been due to hubby’s discomfort. Anyway, at 5am we called it quits and got up to see in the dawn. We’d watched the sunset the night before and now as the clock moved to 6am the new sun peeped over the misty horizon and graced us with its presence. It was mighty cold up there, sitting on the rocks wrapped in sleeping bags, watching the sunrise, but spectacular, and a sight not to be missed.

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Main: Sunrise on Dartmoor, moors, and bottom left: sunset, bottom right: sunrise © Lisa Shambrook

After breakfast we packed up and trekked back a much easier way. We were greeted in Belstone village by a herd of gorgeous Dartmoor ponies, and tired but happy, we made it to the car and I drove home, letting hubby catch up on sleep!

Two days later and we were catching the 2am coach to London…to experience the other end of the spectrum!

We stayed in Travelodge in Covent Garden, which was very good in comparison to some Travelodge’s we’ve been to. We slept well, on lovely beds, hubby mentioned the comfort more than once…

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Street Art, Captain Jack Sparrow, bubbles, living statue, Covent Garden © Lisa Shambrook

We ate out at Zizzi in Covent Garden too, absolutely gorgeous Italian fare, pizza and carbonara, and desserts to die for.

We’d spent our first day at the Science Museum, and had our first experience of IMAXWow! The Red Arrows simulator was cool, the others not quite as much, but we had fun.

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Les Miserables Queens Theatre © Lisa Shambrook

We saw our very first West End show, drinking in every moment of Les Miserables at Queens Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue. It was amazing and we’d happily watch it all over again! We know the show well, from the film, the DVD’s of anniversary shows, the soundtrack – everything. I had the original soundtrack when I was a teen and had always longed to go and see it live, and now I have! I can’t praise it enough.

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Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, The London Dungeons, Lion Brewery Lambeth Lion on Westminster Bridge, Tube © Lisa Shambrook

The next day took us to Westminster and all the touristy stuff. The obligatory Big Ben and Houses of Parliament pictures, and then The London Dungeons. I hadn’t expected much from the dungeons, most attractions these days are over-priced and we hadn’t been able to use our Tesco vouchers to pay for entry – plan ahead – The Dungeons can be covered with Tesco vouchers but they need to post your tickets to you. The Dungeons blew us away with a great show and fun history – think Horrible Histories and you’re right there. Another attraction we highly recommend!

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The Tate Modern Art © Lisa Shambrook

We wandered the Southbank, and ended up at the Tate Modern, which I’d always wanted to visit too. Now, I have a lovely husband – he’s not interested in modern art at all – but he patiently walked round the gallery, then waited out on the Thames in the sun, while we finished. That’s love.

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The London Underground and maps © Lisa Shambrook

London is busy. The tube is busy, the buses are busy, the pavements and parks are busy. There are people everywhere. I’m not a people person. But I did love the atmosphere, the street artists, the energy, the excitement, and my daughters drank it all in!

I might also have had a slightly obsessive interest in walking down streets found on the Monopoly board… We ate in Bow street, and we went to Leicester Square…

So, thus, we experienced both extremes in a matter of days…

My conclusion, if I pitch the stark, lonely, beauty of Dartmoor against the busy, social, bright lights of London, the countryside wins for me. I’m always going to be a country-girl, despite having been born and raised in vibrant Brighton! However, I’ve now spent more of my life in the country than the city and it suits me.  

So, what about you?

Are you a lover of the natural countryside or
do you adore the city and its bright lights?