Trouble Ahead – Stand Up for Equality and Be Counted

There is trouble ahead – times of turmoil, division,
and loss of liberties are invading our lives.
What will we do about it?

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I’m not getting into politics or policy – I’m assuming we all know what is going on throughout the Western World right now – if you don’t, you can scroll Twitter Trends or check out your Facebook newsfeed, or search #Trump for that.

I’ve got friends who have stepped back from politics because they are overwhelmed with the current state of affairs, and others who are stepping forward to fight for their rights and their beliefs. Neither response is wrong, but if we really want to prevent inequality then we need to stand up and be counted.

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© Lisa Shambrook

There are people across the world, not just in the western world, living in fear for their lives because they are not the majority, or they are different, or they are repressed by regimes and powers that have control.

Those who are strong enough need to protest the status quo, fight the patriarchy, and stand up for civil liberties and human rights. As the rights of those around us diminish – those hard fought for rights that Suffragettes Susan B. Anthony, Emmeline Pankhurst, and movement leaders and activists Martin Luther King Jr, Abraham Lincoln, Eleanor Roosevelt, Margaret Sanger and Marie Stopes, Rosa Parks, Malala Yousafzai, and many, many more – battled for.

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© Lisa Shambrook

We need to Stand Up for those who can’t.

We must Stand Up for Equality.

We must Stand Up for Gender Equality, Racial Equality, Religious Freedom, the Right to Vote, Consent, Education, Working Conditions, the Control over our own Reproductive Organs, the Right to Safety, the Right to Health Services and Medication, Fairness, and Liberty.

We must Stand Up for those who are discriminated against, whether they are Women, Men, Native Americans, Refugees, Trans, Gay, Young, Old, Poor, no matter what Nationality, Colour, Sexual Preference, or Religion they are or have.

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© Lisa Shambrook

When walls are being announced, divisions widened, gag orders and censorship put in place, and freedoms curtailed we must Stand Up, we must Stand Up for what we know is right. So, March, Write, Protest, Contact your political representative, and make your Voice Heard.    

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Acapulco Gold – Catatonia

We are Human Beings – Brothers and Sisters – and we are all different but all the same.
Let the same blood that runs through each of us enlarge our
Hearts with Compassion and Love. Stand Up for Love.

Loving Winter’s Chill – The Best Bits of Winter

Winter is the season of warmth and chill –
the warmth of sharing and loving and the chill of blizzards.

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Night Sky and Scented Candles…
I love it when the clocks go back… Night draws in and the stars twinkle with winter diamonds, and this winter Venus has sparkled like a gem in the sky. Inside, I burn scented candles: Cherry Vanilla, Chocolate, Berry Trifle, Honey Clementine, and the sweet aroma of Macaroon, Apple Strudel, and Snowflake Cookie waft down the stairs from my daughters’ rooms…

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© Lisa Shambrook

Frosted Leaves and Winter Trees…
I adore the bling that Jack Frost brings, sifting icing sugar across nature.
Leaves fall from trees, leaving them bare, and swathe the ground in glittered jewels.
Moss, the emerald survivor of the season, carpets the forest floor
and adorns the naked trees, clothing them in winter beauty.

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© Lisa Shambrook

Warm Boots, Hats, Gloves, Scarves, and Cosy Blankets…
Don your best boots, wrap a cosy scarf about your neck, pull on a hat, and slip your hands into fleecy gloves – and you’re all set to wander out in the winter wonderland. If that doesn’t entice you, then snuggle down beneath a warm blanket and enjoy the central heating!

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© Lisa Shambrook

Woodland Walks and Winter Landscapes…
The skies are a mixture of clear and frosty, rainy and dull, and rolling mist and fog,
enjoy those late sunrises and early sunsets and warm up with a walk.

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© Lisa Shambrook

Hot Chocolate and Winter Baking…
Baking takes centre stage with Christmas on the cards
from cookies, cakes, and pastries to hearty soups and winter cuisine.
Enjoy homemade fayre and settle with a steaming mug of creamy hot chocolate…

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© Lisa Shambrook

Winter Flowers…
Delicate fairy-bell snowdrops peep through the snow or push through the soil to bring
new growth to the dormant season, accompanied by the beauty of hellebores.
Let winter flowers bring colour and hope.

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© Lisa Shambrook

Ruby Red Berries…
Like flowers, red berries, often associated with Christmas, shine bright like rubies, especially against the frost and snow, and they’re great sustenance for birds coping with the cold.

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© Lisa Shambrook

Christmas Joys…
My favourite holiday season is Christmas; it’s filled with so much joy and so much meaning. There are a multitude of celebrations during winter, all wrapped in lights, warmth, and love.
I love the Christmas cake, decorations, gifts, giving, food, and family time –
a time for peace and goodwill to all…

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© Lisa Shambrook

All That Glitters…
Glitter everywhere – frost, snow, jewellery, stars, Christmas decorations, lights.
December glistens with Christmas sparkle,
and the rest of winter embraces the shimmer of nature
and the crackle of fire in the hearth.

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© Lisa Shambrook

A Crystalline Carpet of Snow…
When it snows I hurry to my window to watch the fluffy white stuff then rush outside to let it fall around me! That moment when you wake up and look outside and see a blanket of snow sparkling in the early morning sun is pure magic.

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© Lisa Shambrook

How is your Winter and what do you love about it most?

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© Lisa Shambrook

Check out The Best Bits of Autumn

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!

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    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.

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    Five…

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

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    Six…

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

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    Seven…

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

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    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!

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    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!

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    Eleven…

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

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    Twelve…

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

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    Thirteen…

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

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    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.

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    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.

Honour those who’ve Gone Before – Send 2016 to its Grave – and Fight!

This is a difficult post to write… We are at the rear end of 2016
and many of us are very pleased to see it close.
I’m not blaming the year itself, but it’s as good a time as any to start anew…

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It’s been tough year politically, personally, and for many of us devastating in different ways. We have mourned political change, grieved lost and broken promises, and endured lies and political manoeuvres. We’ve lost celebrities, almost at a rate of several a month, and we have lost many close to us. Members of my own family and my husband’s family have lost loved ones, and we are holding those still in ill health close to us. As human beings we have also mourned the loss of families and individuals unable to escape war and destruction, and have seen refugees both rescued and shunned.

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© Lisa Shambrook

We’ve been hit by celebrity losses, usually those who’ve been part of our formative years, like Harper Lee who inspired me with To Kill a Mockingbird, Alan Rickman who’s acting has been a delight, and as a huge Star Trek and Star Wars fangirl: Anton Yelchin who played Star Trek’s latest incarnation of Chekov, Kenny Baker – R2D2, and yesterday, Carrie Fisher. You’ll be able to add many more to that list, as we’ve all been affected by those we loved.

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I’ve been hit more this year by the personal losses, not only mine, but many around me have lost loved ones. I was deeply affected by the murder of Jo Cox during the Brexit campaign. It added to my despair of humanity that someone who preached “We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than the things that divide us.” could lose her life to an extremist. It was a terrible indictment on society.

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© Lisa Shambrook

My personal depression grew and was compounded throughout the year with the political and public reaction to refugees and those escaping regimes and war. I wondered where compassion had gone that society could publicly turn away from those in need?

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© Lisa Shambrook

At the beginning of September I stood in a place I never want to stand again. I won’t go into detail but I was on the cusp of becoming one of 2016’s statistics. After that night, I went for help and am currently taking antidepressants and counselling. My depression has grown over the years as I’ve spread myself thin to help care for my ailing parents and battle for help through Social Services.

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© Lisa Shambrook

Last Thursday, after about twelve years of constant illness including breast cancer, then secondary breast cancer of the bones, severe diabetes, a partially collapsed lung, glaucoma, and progressive Alzheimer’s, my mum peacefully passed away in hospital with pneumonia. Her Alzheimer’s had broken my heart, and almost taken my dad. I am currently coping with grief and relief, and everything this year has thrown at us.

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Yesterday, Carrie Fisher passed away after a massive heart attack. I loved her for more than just Star Wars…she fought for mental health awareness, she battled addictions, and kicked the media’s ass when they attacked her for her looks and weight when she returned to Star Wars. She knew who she was, she was excellent at what she did, and fought for what she wanted. Carrie Fisher made Princess Leia badass and turned her into a fighter, who survived and lead the resistance even when the men in her life let her down. Princess Leia grew into General Organa, and Carrie did the same in her personal life.

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© Lisa Shambrook

It’s hard for me to lose my mother, then another inspirational woman, but when we lose heroes we need to try and live what they taught us. My mother taught me much, and I have aspired to be an even better mother to my own children, and I want them to live in a world where those who’ve gone before have made the world better.

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© Lisa Shambrook

So, in the words of Anne Thériault on Twitter –  ‘May we all be able to get up every day and, in spite of our pain and loss and fear, put on our boots and vest and plan to destroy the empire.’ (Check out Anne’s thread on Princess Leia/General Organa…it rocks!) This is how we live, how we continue to go on, to move forward and to honour those who’ve gone. We honour those who’ve trail-blazed, who’ve worked hard, and who’ve left us more to do – so, let’s do it!

Be bold, be Leia. Be true, be Carrie Fisher…

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Let’s relegate 2016 to the dark and distant past, and kick 2017 into gear and fight!

We have empires to destroy!

 

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!

Pottery – Falling in Love with Clay and Time Out for Carers

Those who know me will already know I’ve been attending a pottery class for a couple of months. I’ve learned so much and come to love the medium of clay and sculpting. It’s not only therapeutic but also highly creative and fun.    

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I was really lucky when my friend, Ruth, invited me to a special class, put on by Dorothy Morris of Greenspace Gallery, Carmarthen, to learn pottery. Dorothy received funding for a class for Carers and she also runs a Textile class for Carers on Wednesdays. I’m my father’s main port of call as he suffers from disabling Ataxia and as he cares for my mother who has Alzheimer’s and Cancer, so I qualified, and it’s the best thing that has come out of the heartbreak of elderly parental care.

It’s worth noting that this came at the perfect time for me, having just asked for help to deal with crippling anxiety and depression myself. It came at a time when I was as low as I’ve ever been and unable to cope, and I fought my virulent social anxiety to attend and am so glad I did!

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My sleeping dragon before and after glaze and firing © Lisa Shambrook

Pottery is, as I mentioned, therapeutic, and I get huge peace from working the clay with my fingers, from considering and thinking of ideas, and from learning techniques and skills. Dorothy has a curriculum and we are learning right from the beginning, which is great as most of us are beginners! We began with pinch pots, moulding a ball of clay and pushing your thumb inside to create a pot shape, then smoothing and shaping into a bowl. The following week we made two pinch pots and sealed them together and created something from our imagination – you know my imagination – I made a sleeping dragon!

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Oak Tiles, Clay biscuit fired work, Tree Trunk Vase and some of our work in class © Lisa Shambrook

I sketched it first and began to mould it and this is where learning works, I began to cut out and shape two separate clay wings, to fix onto the sides of my dragon, but Dorothy showed me how to use the clay to sculpt impressions of wings adding ribbing and ridges to show where the wings lay. This worked so well, and I knew I was going to learn a lot.

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Bust and Bowls and other class members’ work  © Lisa Shambrook

We made busts with two pinch pots and another for shoulders, then we moved onto slab work making tiles and my natural inclination took me to acorns and oaks. A tree trunk vase came next, learning to curve and seal the slab into a cylinder. After that we had time to design our own project using both pinch pots and slabs of clay. I designed bookends. One was an acorn, I have a penchant for them, and the other was a reference to my three books: Beneath the Rainbow, Beneath the Old Oak, and Beneath the Distant Star, a rainbow, an oak leaf and a star. Sadly, these bookends blew up in the kiln.

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Acorn and Hope Within Bookends in clay © Lisa Shambrook

Accidents will happen, so it’s best to be prepared for them. Any air inside the clay that hasn’t got a hole to escape from will create a bomb inside the kiln – and any piece could have an air bubble, especially as we are all beginners. There’s no blame, as it could have been my own piece or anyone else’s that caused the explosion, we’ll never know. It did serve to help us be more careful with our rolling out and avoiding air bubbles!

Coil work came next. I had no idea that many, many pots, large and small, are first created with coils then smoothed, but it’s a great way to way to make pots without a potter’s wheel and to vary the shape. My coil work was a little suspect, not very tidy, and it rather frustrated me. But I did learn to use it in a later project.

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Castle Turret Box © Lisa Shambrook

Our next brief was to create a box, or at least a lidded item, using slab, pinch pots and coils. I designed a square castle turret using six tile slabs, scored the edges and used slip (clay and water mixture) to seal the sides to each other, and added the pinch pot to the lid, decorated with tiny coils. I wasn’t sure the coils would work, and worried about how they would look, but in the end they actually looked like roses and I loved them! I put battlements around the lid and a smaller square tile to the base of the lid so it would sit on top and not slip off the box. I pushed air holes into the lid beneath the pinch pot – I didn’t want another explosion! A decorative handle, a door and window, and creeping vines finished it.

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Castle Turret Trinket Boxes © Lisa Shambrook

I’m quite an efficient worker, so with my spare time leading up to Christmas, I made two more boxes. These were circular turrets, one in brown clay and one in white. Curiosity, I suppose, to see how the two clays differ. I rolled ‘snakes’ of clay and coiled them into discs that I then smoothed out, and they became my bases and lids for my castle turret boxes.

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Ruth’s work glazed and fired

I love this class. We meet in a small, cabin studio on a Friday afternoon for three hours. There’s no internet or mobile phone connection and I feel so free and at peace for those hours. I get to chat with my friends and work on being creative; it’s a win-win!

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Greenspace gallery and some of our Carers class…

You can find Dorothy Morris at The Greenspace Gallery and enquire about whether you would qualify for this class, there may be a few places left and we’re keeping going through next year too. She is also putting on an evening class for £10 per lesson working with pottery, textiles and art, so take a look if you’re interested.

I’m truly glad I took up my friend’s invitation – pottery has become a favourite outlet, and I’m thinking of playing and working with airdry clay after Christmas (as I don’t have a kiln!). It’s not something I want to give up!

Have you ever tried pottery or are you a potter?

What’s your favourite creative outlet?

Tell me what you’ve made…

Llandeilo X-Mas Book Fair in Pictures and Review

This is what I got up to last weekend – and I wore antlers!

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writerchristophfischer

15069158_1255388731194546_2608188367540591925_oOn Dec 10th the second Llandeilo Book Fair took place at the Civic Hall. It had a lovely Christmas theme and the town of Llandeilo continued its marvellous tradition of supporting the arts. Despite heavy rain there was a reasonable footfall an15493730_10153868506042132_6044812924487945261_od the characteristic positive vibe in the hall.

Many of the over 30 authors present had dressed up for the occasion, festive music added to the atmosphere and the popular “Hangout at the Yard” offered delicious refreshments.

15327500_10153868348822132_4609684603723834833_nEvery half hour a different events lured some of the audience to the upstairs event room throughout the day for performances ranging from interactive story telling, poetry open mic and author readings. On this occasion the organisers put particular emphasis on ‘Welsh’. Almost all authors present live in South Wales, and books with a Welsh theme or location were plenty afoot. 81ae2-hiraeth-a-loss-front-cover-artworkLiz Riley-Jones read from her Hiraeth Trilogy – introduced in Welsh, Graham…

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A Winter’s Romance and Human 76 – Christmas Book Blast

This Christmas season I’m promoting two books
(other than my own Hope Within novels) which are great books to gift.
And as a bonus I have stories in both of them!
Romance and Post-Apocalyptic Adventure…

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Many people love receiving books for Christmas, myself included, and choosing the best book can be tough. However, I’m covering many bases with these two!

If you, or the person you need the perfect gift for, love romance, I have a beautiful book to cosy up with this winter: A Winter’s Romance from BHC Press, and if you prefer adventure, I can heartily recommend the brilliant post-apocalyptic thriller: Human 76 put together by myself and Michael Wombat.

Both are available in paperback for the discerning reader who likes to hold a physical book in their hands, and you can download them onto your device or Kindle for the more progressive type! All buy links will be posted below. A big plus is that you will help a charity when you purchase either of these books. Spread the love!

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A Winter’s Romance – When winter and romance mix, the elements are anything but predictable…

This book gives you 19 beautiful stories from amazing authors. Tales that will enchant you, and stir you and some that will terrify you. You’ll get dragons, music, and thrillers, history, and laughs. You’ll shiver and tingle and giggle and smile. You’ll get a whole variety of short stories and the one thing I can promise you is that you won’t regret reading them!

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A Winter’s Romance features authors: J.S.Bailey, LaDonna Cole, Drea Damara, Sara Daniell, Natalie Gibson, Bibi Hamblin, C.R.Hiatt, Kaite Jennings, S.R.Karfelt, D.M.Kilgore, Alice Lakewood, Elise Manion, Emmie Mears, Melissa Hladik Meyer, Tom Mohan, Patricia Paris, Lisa Shambrook, Hannah Steenbock and A.D.Trosper.

My own tale Between Ice and Fire is a captivating chance meeting on an icy winter’s morning – and you’ll want to know what sends shivers down Laine’s spine…

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You can find A Winter’s Romance in a gorgeous Paperback , Hardback from 9th December 2016 or Kindle on Amazon and on B&N, and Kobo and iBooks. $1.00 from the sale of each book will be donated to Forgotten Harvest (A member of Feeding America).

Human 76, Human 76 An unprecended post-apocalyptic journey, fragments of a fractured world, Lisa Shambrook, Michael Wombat,

Human 76 – An unprecedented set of stories set in the fragments of a fractured world…

You can read about how this collaboration came to be in two of my blog posts: Human 76 – Ghabrie is on her way… and Human 76 Release as this is a project very close to my heart having been inspired by a photograph of my own daughter on our family post-apocalyptic photoshoot!

What you get is 15 stories from 14 authors written without knowing how they would intertwine. Ghabrie loses her little sister in a raid and sets out to find her. On her journey she discovers eclectic communities, enemies and allies. Ghabrie and her search is the theme that threads through the book, but what you get is a gorgeous vignette of many lives, some struggling and some prospering, in the Post-Blast world. What leads them to Ghabrie? How do they meet her? Does she affect them? How do their stories impact hers? You’ll have to read them to find out.

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Human 76 features authors: Lisa Shambrook, Michael Wombat, Alex Brightsmith, Denise Callaway, KJ Collard, Alison DeLuca, Michelle Fox, Rebecca Fyfe, Jeff Hollar, Nick Johns, MS Manz, Julia Rios, KR Smith and Steven Paul Watson.

My own tales Leaving the Nest and We Make the Future open and close the book and you’ll need to read it to discover how all the tales entwine in the most amazing way…

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Snippet of 'We Make the Future' by Lisa Shambrook - Human 76

Human 76 is available in Paperback and Kindle on Amazon and in Paperback and Download on Lulu. All proceeds from this book go to Water is Life (a global charity that provides clean drinking water, sanitation and hygiene education programs to schools and villages in desperate need worldwide.)

Seriously, you cannot go wrong with either of these book,
so, order a paperback and slip it into a loved one’s Christmas gifts,
let them discover a great read in their Santa Stocking,
or buy it and give yourself a well-deserved treat!