So… the website Permission.Cards is live. I can tick that off the must do list and move it to the must improve list. I’m not great at focusing on one thing at a time so it might seem logical to believe that I would jump from one thing to the next easily. And I do. And in case you didn’t know, it doesn’t work very well. I get less done. I’ve had to teach myself to focus on one thing until I have gone as far as I can go with it and then move to the next thing and focus only on that until it’s time to stop and move on to the next thing. I’ve been working on this strategy for years but it is only in this last strange year that I have made progress. And again the cards are helping me.
The Permission to slow down one has been huge for me. I’m not sure what the rush was? For example I’ve been doing the bookkeeping for Denis for the last 13 years. For the first 12 years I hated it. Then last year somehow I realised there was no rush. I could slow down and do it right. Seems like common sense. But it was news to me. When there was a mistake in the past I was stressed and panicked! How was I going to solve this and what if I didn’t get everything finished in time?
When I slowed down I could see there are always mistakes, I’m always making mistakes and so is everyone else (whether they realise it or not) it’s only human. But when I started slowing down I made less mistakes and my understanding of the process improved.
That’s one of the reasons I wanted to make a Slow Down pack. The other reason is I have a lot of friends and family who are run off their feet busy. I would love to know if intentionally slowing down is possible or even helpful for people who have a lot on their plates and live a very busy life. Or would it just put extra pressure on them?
Edited 5th December 2021… If you landed here looking for Permission Cards, this is a blog post from the time I was making the prototypes for the actual cards you can find at https://permission.cards. Have a grand day♥️
Well… it looks like we won’t be travelling anywhere soon. I thought that would upset me more than it does. But it doesn’t, I am very happy pottering away inside my home with the odd excursion to collect groceries. (An experience exciting for all the senses and not as insignificant as I used to think. But I’m getting sidetracked.) Instead of travelling to other countries or even counties, we walk around the neighbourhood – separately, he walks too fast, I talk too much… We also work separately, he has a very organized workspace, I’m a bit messy. Other than that we are together every single moment, eating, watching stories on the big (enough) screen, sleeping and arguing. Yes we do argue. But as we only have each other we can’t be bothered keeping an argument going, it turns out life’s too short. Denis taught me that, I used to love keeping an argument going. I’m right, how can I stop before he understands that? Turns out everyone thinks they’re right – understanding is overrated.
I’m working on a new creative project. It all started pre-2020 when Denis was putting a board game in the recycling bin. (Remind me to tell you the name of the board game.) To be clear that doesn’t happen, ever, but this was a unique board game. It was designed to be used for one long game over the period of a year and then not reused… Seeing the cards in the recycle bin made me sad. I love paper and card and these were still fully functioning pieces of card, how could anyone throw them out? Maybe I could save them. I did. I already have lots of saved paper and card and at that time I had no organisation, just one big box. In the cards went, never to be seen again… until 2020.
My 2020 started with a lot of excitement (our son got engaged!) followed by a lot of fear (no explanations necessary) followed by a lot of gardening (thank you, Eilish!) followed by a lot of card making. I made cards to remind myself I could say, NO. I made thank you cards, to remind me that the small things are actually big things. Small things like getting groceries and garden supplies were very, very big things. Small things like getting post in the post box, were very, very big things. Small things like receiving offers of help were enormously big things. And then there’s the overwhelmingly big things like front line staff and especially for my family, the nursing home staff who have been going above and beyond to take care of the most vulnerable, including my mother. I had a lot to be thankful for so I made a lot of thank you cards.
It felt like I was reorganising my inner space and so naturally I started to reorganise my outer space too. And that turned out to be very freeing. I dumped loads and gained empty space and found the cards and paper I had been saving. What had I been saving it for? I didn’t know at the time but it turns out I was saving it for now. In amongst all the paper was Denis’ board game cards, looking just as lovely as they had when I first met them. I gave them their own place on a shelf. In November we (the cards and I) started working together. I worked on them and they worked on me.
The Permission Cards began when I was chatting with a friend and she said something mean to herself and it just popped out of my mouth, how about if you give yourself permission to be kind to yourself for the rest of the day? Then I promised to make her a permission card to remind her and we went on to talk about something else. I’ve been hard on myself my entire adult life, it’s a habit that I don’t hear but as soon as I hear someone else being hard on themselves, I notice. I needed this Permission to be kind to myself, too.
Later that day I took one of the recycled cards off the shelf and made a permission card for my friend… and it was for me too. As I made it I read it. Over and over again. I was reading that I had permission to be kind. To myself. My first thought was, “…that’s a bit selfish isn’t it?!” My second thought was, “who said that?” Something I’d heard long ago made sense: We are not our thoughts. Some thoughts are part of a flawed belief system and it’s not always possible to spot them before obeying them. So in this case, I thought that being kind to myself was a bad thing. What if it wasn’t a bad thing? What if it was okay to be kind to myself. Maybe even for the whole day? It’s a big ask so I’m taking baby steps.
With every card I make I am being kinder to myself. Even when I make mistakes! And I’m creating even when it’s ugly. I’m ignoring what does not serve me. I’m making the right decisions for me… on and on these little cards are working on me.
And now I’m selling them! Denis has promised to set up a sales website when he’s less busy (I recognise potential for a future argument here but life’s too short, right?) In the meantime it’s just via email (email@example.com) and instagram (@creativecalm_cards). Get in contact if you want to see the full list of Permissions and I’ll send you an order form and prices. They are handmade so they take a long time to make but fortunately the cards give me permission to take my time – so all good.
Oh and the name of board game? Pandemic. Yup, that’s what it was called. Twilight Zone stuff. Mairead.
Ps He set up the website, it’s called Permission.Cards Tap or maybe Click to have a look!
I could hear Eilish rustling papers in the larder and wanted to know what she was up to, she told me to stop being so curious. Next thing she arrives out with a brown paper parcel tied with yarn. It was for me! The scarf she’s been crocheting for two weeks is mine! I have been eyeing it up since the day she started and she must have noticed. A note fell out as I was opening it. A very funny note about these strange times and our little community.
On Sunday my FenceChat neighbour Aileen put on her angel wings and sent some self-raising flour over the fence. In case you don’t know, flour, of any variety has been impossible to get in the online supermarket delivery. That’s ok I don’t need the extra calories but we were missing the creative possibilities. Eilish’s hidden break-the-rules tendency comes to the fore when she thinks about baking. She’s been scouring the cook books looking for a recipe to break. The contents of our larder has constrained her a bit but in spite of that yesterday she made apple and clove queen cakes and tomorrow she has promised raspberry buns. I will need to increase the number of 2km walks and I’m searching Youtube to find out how to let out my jeans.
In other news, my mother told me a story that made me cry. There’s a school near her nursing home and this week lots of letters arrived from the children. My mother got one from a ten year old boy and she read it to me. It was adorable and as newsy as a ten year old boy can be but the line that got me was, “everyday on our way to school we wave at your home” I’m tearing up again now, I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I shared the story with Eilish and I couldn’t get past this line and again with Denis. It just doesn’t get old for me. I’m imaging the boy and his mother or it could be his granny driving him to school, maybe there’s a brother or sister and the adult is kind and she says, look here we are, start waving! Of course they’re not going to school at the moment so he waves in a letter. Isn’t that beautiful? I’m dribbling on the keypad. Oh and my mother has written back to him. She used her last stamp! Holy god, I’m in bits.
The gardening continues. I’ve just realised this might be why my dabbling in the garden previously didn’t bear fruit (pun intended.) It’s a continuous game, gardening. Persistence is rewarded and popping in and out once a month is very much discouraged. Maybe that’s why a team of gardeners is a good thing. We have a team here at the moment one of us is part-time but we’re getting the most out of him. In spite of his protests about being too busy I’ve seen him secretly checking out the growth of our seeds in the maternity ward.
So last weekend was the first weekend Denis was able to get into the garden. Eilish had a list of jobs ready for him and I learned a thing or two about keeping him on point and not wandering off to do something he liked better. The phrase, oh no you’re not finished here yet! stops him in his tracks. Let me just write that down for future use.
He fixed the fence between our house and my friend Aileen and now I’m not worried about falling over it during our weekly FenceChat. It’s a new app like zoom but no one freezes, except from the cold.
He also hammer-actioned some screws into some wood and fixed the shed door. It seems lifting the door with one foot while undoing the bolt was not the intended way to get into the shed. We are saving a ton of time without all the gymnastics.
Then Eilish found my new favourite tool – a shredder. It was at the back of the shed and one of the things I didn’t know I was grateful for… I woke up on Friday morning with a brilliant idea. With all our enthusiasm in the first weeks we had filled three huge garden bags and numerous smaller black bags with garden debris. Then we had run out of bags and no way of getting more so we were at a tipping point… On the one hand neatly cut plants and pulled weeds, on the other, towering piles of plant cuttings and weeds. I have to be very particular when taking photos for you, one centimeter too far to the right or left and you will be horrified.
I started using my shredder (it’s mine) on Saturday. By the way, I’m the only one allowed to use the shredder, safety issues, you understand. Stay well back now. (Don’t tell them but it’s nothing to do with safety, it’s all about the optics, I look like I’m doing a lot but the machine is doing it all. Kinda like how I used to think about ironing before I realised no one was noticing my neat piles of ironed clothes left lying around the house for weeks. The noise of the shredder ensures everyone knows I’m hard at work…)
So now I’m shredding (well ok the machine is shredding) the contents of the garden debris bags. On top of that we can use the shredded material for mulch (impressed? that’s a new word in my vocabulary, maybe I will become a gardening app next?) on the front garden. It works best with woody material so the weeds will have to turn themselves into compost on their own. For that purpose we have found a good spot and they are hard at work.
Well to be honest they are slow at work, very slow but that’s ok, slow is acceptable too. I can feel myself slowing down too, is it time to sit and enjoy the garden yet?
(This is clematis and it is going to look beautiful soon… possibly)
New experiences continue here and we’re like children (nice children, not cranky children…) as we discover different ways to be in the world together. Denis has returned to the fold and we welcomed him with open mouths as he is cooking again. I can hear him chopping while I type – there isn’t a nicer sound.
(You think you’re missing your hairdresser? Sadie is so concerned she needs Denis to reassure her that Eilish isn’t going to stab her)
Our latest endeavor has kind of snuck up on us. Like everyone else I’ve been doing a bit of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle for years but now I realise I was only playing at it! HaHa, Ha, I laugh in the face of my previous efforts. Here’s what’s happening…
(You can’t eat yarn…)
Yesterday Eilish came in to measure my head. Oh yes, I’ve forgotten to tell you why but first… she arrives over with her knitting, her needles and yarn in a bag. I thought I recognised the bag… And then I thought I’d wet myself with the laughing. You’ll never guess what the bag was? No don’t try, you won’t guess. It was a Tesco Finest Oatmeal and Linseed Loaf bag… (our favourite bread, that we can’t get any more by the way…) Inside you could see the yarn peeping through. Now this is more like it, now we can honestly say we are, REUSING our plastic. Also, every time I look at the bag I remember with affection the bread, oh how we loved you, Tesco Finest Oatmeal and Linseed Loaf, sniff.
(Here are our potatoes, can you see anything? No, me neither but soon…)
So back to the knitting and my head measurements… We are getting all our groceries from click and collect so someone else does our shopping (thank you ❤) and I collect it in the car park of the supermarket. It works well for groceries. Not so well for hairbands. My hair is growing and it’s getting in my face and I find myself swearing and flailing my arms all around the place when I realise I’m about to touch my face to get the stray hairs back. So I thought, wouldn’t a hairband be very useful? And there was a hairband on the supermarket website shop, perfect, right? Alas, no. When the delivery came the hairband was in the Not Available list. 😟 Eilish could see more swearing and flailing in her future so she offered to rip some of my crochet squares ( I have sensed for a long time that she didn’t like my crochet…?) and use the yarn to make a hairband. RECYCLING!
(Hairband doing its job, send Eilish your head measurements if you want one we have 6 stamps left and loads of crochet squares… we’ll happily send you one (free, we’re just having fun here) and then you’ll be recycling too…😁)
We were talking about opening up a website shop because she’s already on the second hairband and I only have one head. But then we realised if the shop was successful we’d never have time to go out in the garden… I can probably wear more than one hairband at a time.
(My favourite gardening tool at the moment, fantastic for management of strong emotions… I hear)
I wish I had a story about how we are REDUCE -ing but with all the baking we’ve been doing nothing’s getting reduced except the contents of the bag of flour. That reminds me… Eilish was telling me that during the war years people used to sew flour bags together to make bed sheets. Yes, I did wonder how comfortable paper sheets could be… turns out the flour bags were made of cotton… oh right.
(Danish cow. Don’t worry, she’s behind an electric fence)
We’re in Germany today, in a town called Friedrichstradt, having arrived from Denmark this morning. We’ve been rambling around a tiny portion of Jutland for the past four days. Not really long enough or far enough to have a good look but we will return in the future.
(Pretty house in Tønder)
Last night we stayed in a small old town called Tønder (I think the ø is pronounced uu, also the d seems to be silent.) Very pretty, very old with a cobblestoned street, adorable thatched cottages and pretty cafes. We spent the night in a car park beside a forest on the edge of town. The night before we were in a specially for motorhomes site on the island of Rømø with very timely washing/drying machines. The night before we were in a field beside the site owner’s house and the night before that on a dairy farm.
(Wheat field and beautiful clouds)
Denmark is very, very like Ireland. First the weather – they seem to get all the weather in one day too – hot sun, blustering wind, driving rain, then back to sun, a little fog and some soft rain. Danish grass – it’s green-green and the fields are surrounded by hedges and small trees. Agriculture – there are lots of cows and sheep and fields of wheat, barley and corn. The language – everyone speaks English! Well, they speak Danish and German too.
(Cobblestones in Tønder)
It rained most of yesterday but when I got up this morning the sun was shining and the sky was full of fluffy clouds. It’s one of the gifts of a rainy climate – beautiful clouds. While I waited for my porridge to cook I stood in the car park looking up at the clouds and remembering gratitude. I had had a moment in Portugal last April when I understood gratitude for the first time and I realised because of that moment I would never, ever again complain about anything…ever. Again. (May have been over-reaching here….)
(The church in Tønder. That’s the graveyard in front of the church where small hedges surround each grave)
Anyways, there I was standing in the Danish car park thinking about gratitude and how it’s a feeling thing, not a thinking thing. So I stopped thinking about gratitude and started feeling gratitude. I looked up at the clouds and felt grateful.
And just at that moment a dog ran out of the forest! Followed by his owner who was looking at me funny (maybe because it was 7.45am and I hadn’t brushed my hair?) To make myself seem less frightening, I said, “isn’t it a lovely day?” and he said, “yes, the weather in Denmark, always changeable.” And, as you do, I replied, “just like Ireland” and he said, “You are from Ireland? I just got married to an Irish woman from Monkstown!” Of course he did.
(Daisies for Daisy)
Long story short, he ran home to make the coffee, I hopped inside to tell Denis and we all met at his house for breakfast, a surprisingly deep chat and a tour of his traditional Danish longhouse! His wife was at work but she rang and I can confirm she is Irish. She was confirming that we were not axe murders from Greystones, I think we convinced her.
Well, I can tell you, I’m back feeling the gratitude. Please remind me if I start complaining again, Mairead.
Today, Thursday, we are in Nantes, France with just three days left of this journey. We have been travelling back since Sunday morning from Lagos in the Algarve, Portugal. We spent Sunday night in a lovely car park in Estremoz, Portugal, near the Spanish border. Monday night we were in the beautiful city of Burgos, Spain (thank you to Angela for this suggestion, two years ago!) Tuesday night we were next to a huge lake near the town of Mimizan south of Bordeaux, France. Wednesday night we stayed in the town of Surgeres, France. For both Friday and Saturday night we will be at Mont St. Michel and on Sunday night we will be sailing home to arrive in Greystones on Monday. At this moment I am very, very tired and very, very grateful.
(Like two old friends by the lake)
I often think about the messages life brings us… not necessarily the hard messages, the illnesses or the problems. But the small warm and gentle encouraging messages. Messages that in a normal day, we can miss. When we started this journey I didn’t think I would be blogging but it turned out I couldn’t stop myself. I missed the extra something writing brought to the experience of travel. Now, I think I know what the extra something is… writing makes those messages visible. When I started with the first blog it had a step, Step 1. Write. I didn’t expect there would be more steps but a step turned up each day when I sat down to blog. Now that I see them all together I can see the gentle encouraging message life has been sending me.
Step 16. Listen, you are alive, isn’t that amazing?
I am human so I like to think that I’m not wasting my time flitting around in a camper van. I’d like to think I was accomplishing something… or at least bringing something useful into being… Now I think that the only thing I can be bringing into being is myself. Wouldn’t it be great if that was enough? Yes. Maybe it is.