Philippines

Am not sure what I expected. For sure I had not looked at the map to actually find out where it was located… I just knew it was a long journey to get there… leaving Saturday, arrive Sunday evening…. skipping 7 hours in time difference for a few days, till the journey would be done in reverse.

Travelling for work is a recurring theme. I like spending time with the people that use the system I helped implement, and visiting them in their location is a great way to find out how we are doing. Visiting the Shared Service Centre in the Philippines meant going to another country I had not been before….

Driving from the airport to the hotel and I was already impressed and confused at the same time. Run down houses next to military installations… very busy roads with very big cars… very cool little busses (Jipnee) and rain… the hotel I was staying in was in the BGC area (Bonifacio Global City): a beautiful very well maintained area. Full of very modern high rise buildings, many shops and restaurants… as I said, very different from what I expected.

I travelled there together with another colleague, who had luckily been there and knew were to go…

The office was modern, the people very very friendly… and luckily we had a little time to see beyond the office walls… we visited all sorts of areas and restaurants… I loved it all..

Below a few pictures…

A few things I learned during the trip: the food is not so spicy but very flavoursome, rainy season means rain…., the service mentality can be found everywhere, people are very friendly, and I would like to return sometime to actually do some sightseeing.

During the trip I read a book: ‘Left To Tell’, the story of Immaculee and her ability to forgive after having survived the Rwanda Genocide. A read worthy book. I recommend it. She recalls her experience of survival and reminds us that love and forgiveness can tear down the walls of hatred. God loves us and wants to have a relationship with us.

I don’t know why I chose this business trip to read the book.. one sentence in the book really spoke to me….’see the world as it could be, not as it is’…. and that is what I am taking to heart… this trip it was very easy to respond kind to kindness shown. The Philippino is so kind, the world is kind….

The real question is, when times are not so easy, or when you are not welcomed with open arms … will you still see the world as it could be? And love and forgive unconditionally?

This is something I am working on….

Life Lessons

As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog post…life doesn’t always go the way you want it to or the way you’ve planned. When you look at the news headlines from the last couple weeks, one thing has been apparent…more and more people are committing suicide. So I asked myself why? The most common answer that kept coming forward for me was loneliness, depression and low self esteem. The three go hand in hand and feed each other.

As someone who suffers from anxiety, depression and a low self esteem, it is easy to be told to just speak up when you need help. But it really isn’t that easy, when I am down I socially isolate myself. I don’t mean to do it…I don’t want to do it either, my brain tells me that I’m being silly but my anxiety ridden part of my brain comes out with all the ‘what ifs’. Now I’m not saying don’t be there for those who are going through this, all I’m saying is that it isn’t black and white…gives us time.

The self esteem issue is one that is growing, I’m seeing the younger generations struggling more and more with their self image, and to be honest I am too. Media nowadays is constantly bombarding us with what is deemed ‘beautiful’. Gone are the days when it used to be ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’…freckles are labeled as imperfections. Curves, which used to be ‘the fashion’ is now considered majorly unhealthy and ugly…We are in a society where instead of building each other up, we are tearing each other apart! And then we get shocked when a young person or a celebrity commits or attempts to commit suicide.

We are all unique, shouldn’t we be celebrating that!? I dread to think what it would be like for there to be 2 of me…my parents would definitely agree there! But I also know that they wouldn’t want to imagine a world without me…and I wouldn’t want to imagine a world without my friends or family. So rather than tearing each other apart…lets celebrate what makes us unique!! Instead of finding fault in someone…find something positive in each person you meet!

We are all beautiful! Whether its your freckles, or your smile…we are all beautiful! Being brought up in a religious family, my parents used to always tell me ‘God doesn’t make things that aren’t beautiful and perfect’ and ‘the God who made the mountains and seas, felt like the world needed a ‘you’’. Those stuck with me and helped me when my self esteem was at the lowest.

I still struggle on a daily basis with my self esteem but I try every morning with a daily affirmation that I repeat to myself all day when I feel low. Some days those affirmations are ‘I release negativity from my body and mind’ to ‘I will not compare myself to others. I stay in my lane. I compare myself only to how far I have come and where I want to go.’

So what about you? What is your affirmation quote of the day? What helps you when you are struggling with depression, anxiety, low self esteem or loneliness?

Castles and Marshmallows

Today we entered Wales, always such a special feeling. Melody studied in Bangor and we made many a trip up there. This was the first time back since she finished 3 years ago.

I know it, I am a shopping addict… so first stop? Farm shop and Welsh food centre. I love it! The fresh fruits and veggies, the lovely breads, the sheepskins, cakes… with a smart car you have to be economical with stuff, but a little bara brith cake and a Welsh lovespoon at least did fit in the car!!!

The next item very high on my list… castles!!!! Bodelwyddan, Conwy and Penrhyn castles.. bygone eras and tales of knights and fair maidens… my imagination knows no bounds when I see the beautiful castle walls… don’t you hear the shouts of Ivanhoe?

Our stop for tonight is Llanfair Hall, a little glamping pod (www.llanfairhall.com) … when you camp, you have to have fire… and where there is fire… marshmallows!!! Melody is expert, mine just burn… those are the best though, with a little crust….

I never want to go back to England.. I am in love with Wales!

UK Roadtrip

As I sit here in the sunshine, am pondering the last couple days. Moving was stressful… what to throw, what to bring, what do we now have double… etc.. another thing that worried me was a car.. as I had moved to the US for a year we sold my little convertible.. and now the pressure was building to buy a little 2nd hand car.

I knew what I wanted, and although it took a little convincing for the rest of the family. They know I like shopping and it’s the smallest car ever… but I now had a little blue smart car waiting for me…

We took it out on sabbath, driving to London where Geert had to speak at an afternoon service…. I can make the car work…. yes, it’s tiny… but we will be fine…

Sunday morning Mel and I packed the car for a couple days camping in Wales.. the car is small!!! But we made it and are now sitting on a garden sofa, having a drink, and enjoying the sunshine… what will tomorrow bring? Destination Anglesey!!! My favourite area in Wales, and something I missed a lot… sea and tea with scones. Yum!

Exploring Cornwall

So as I mentioned in one of my previous blogs (Taking Time for Yourself), dad and I went on a little minibreak to Cornwall. The reason for this trip was that dad had been asked to play the drums at Live in a Field in Chapel Porth (a camp filled with worship and activities) and of course I would join. Who wouldn’t want to escape their everyday life to be beside the ocean for a couple days??

Thursday afternoon came and it was time to drive down…we were expecting awful traffic and a long journey, however, we had managed to beat the bank holiday traffic!! Before we knew it (and after a quick stop off at Mcdonalds) we had arrived in Cornwall. We had decided to rent an Airbnb near the campsite and found a cute flat in Porthtowan. The one downside was that we arrived in the dark and there is no phone signal in Porthtowan. So finding the flat was an adventure…but we managed to find it (a stone’s throw from the beach!) and we settled in and got an early night.

The next morning we woke to dense fog and thick cloud cover…not the weather you hope for when you’re going to the beach…however, I put my wellies on and dad put his trainers on and off we went for a morning walk on the beach. Porthtowan beach is gorgeous, if you ever find yourself in Cornwall, definitely go!! And if the weather is nice…treat yourself to some Cornish icecream from Moomaid of Zennor!! We went looking for shells and found none but did a quick beach clean whilst we were there. After a little exploration, we decided to head over to Trevaunance Cove which had been a favourite spot of ours for the last couple years. However, the beach cafe had been changed and didn’t have the same cosy feel that it had had over the last couple years. So after a quick coffee and a seal or two spotted, we went for another walk on the beach and explored some of the caves.

It soon became time for us to head over to Chapel Porth campsite for dad to drop off his drums and a quick catch up with some friends before heading over to St Ives for a spot of lunch and a quick wander around the beautiful town, and of course another ice cream! We then headed back to the camp for the evening worship and headed off for an early night.

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Saturday morning, dad headed back off for a pretty full day at the campsite. I had decided to take the day for myself and explored the coastal paths between Porthtowan and Chapel Porth. Dad met me halfway and we continued on exploring some of the ruins that Cornwall has to offer! That evening we had a lovely concert filled with Lily-Jo, Speak, Brother and Volney Morgan & New Ye. So no early night for us!

The next morning we were promised sunshine and it definitely came through!!! Blue sky and glorious sunshine! Nothing could beat that! So off we went for ice cream (that I mentioned above) and a quick walk up the coastal path to a viewpoint. After an hour of not spotting anything, we decided to have a quick bite to eat. Whilst eating, we saw the fog coming in and before we knew it…the view was gone! The fog was so thick that you couldn’t see far in front of you at all! So off to Starbucks for a coffee and then back to the camp.

That evening we had the last concert filled with Daughters of Davis and Philippa Hanna. Once that was done, we packed up dads drum kit and headed back to our normal lives. It was a whirlwind of a trip but one that was much needed.

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What do you like about minibreaks?  What do you like to do relax?

Also, check out or Cornwall 2018 Vlog for a more detailed look at what we got up to!!

Fort Snelling

My apartment is now almost empty, just the cleaning left to do. 3 more days and I am moving out. My year in America has come to an end. However, yesterday was my Sabbath day, so no cleaning involved. Instead I visited a local state treasure and historical side. It was open for the weekend, before it opens for the season in 2 weeks.

Fort Snelling is a fort build at the crossing between the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers. A strategic point to be able to see what’s coming from both sides. In these days a pretty idillic spot, from days gone by. It was not always perceived like that though, as it’s also an area where the Native Americans were driven from their lands and send to another state. It’s Dakota land, and for some reason it resonates with me.

Maybe it’s because I am adopted and know very little about my birth family and sometimes feel myself like I am driven off my land. Or maybe it’s because I have felt a little lonely this past year, away from my family and friends. Or maybe it’s just the historical movies talking… over the last couple years my family and I have visited various of these historical areas, learning about the Dakota and other tribes ways of lives.

In today’s day and age, where everything is fast, often changing and hard to keep up with, their lives looked to have a simpler purpose. Gather food, gather families and enjoy the spiritual.

Back to Fort Snelling, a kind of open air museum, with few re-enactments scattered through the day. I had visited before, on an equally hot day, but still enjoyed seeing the living quarters, hearing about the story of Scott Dredd and seeing where they were gathering their foods, enjoying their lives. A fort is a military place, so learned that the soldiers came through this place till just after the Second World War. More recent than I would have thought.

Below a few snaps.

Now am looking forward to coming back to England, where the age of my house would be visited like a relic here in the US…

Another Friday Rivercruise

About a year ago, Melody and I took a cruise down a part of the St Croix river, from Taylors Falls. A beautiful trip, I blogged about it previously and posted pictures.

I wanted to recreate that feeling of peace I had then, after busy days of preparing for the movers arrival next Monday. So I booked a river cruise on another part of the St Croix river. This time from Stillwater.

The weather forecast was showing rain, but when I arrived there were very little clouds in the sky and it was beautifully sunny. I could pick my spot as I was early… top deck near the front. I missed my chatterbox daughter… but the instant peace of being on the water was there…

There is nothing more calming to me than the sound of the water, with beautiful birds up in the sky. Especially my favourite in this part of the world… the bald eagle. Such majestic soaring over the waters…

It always reminds me of the sermon Geert preaches often.. the song of Moses in Deuteronomy, where he compares the father Eagle to our Heavenly Father. Soaring, watching, feeding, and there to catch us when we fall. Seeing these eagles puts things in perspective. He is in control…

‘When the oceans rise and thunders roar, I will soar with You above the Storm. Father you are King over the flood, I will be still and know You are God…’

Enjoy the weekend, my soul is calm.

Why Are We Afraid of Sharks…Should We Be?

When you think about the ocean…what words spring to mind? Water? Fish? Dolphins? What about words such as fear? Scary? Deep? Intimidating? Everyone has their own opinion on the ocean and what words they associate with the ocean. One word we all have in common though…and that is sharks. Everyone can name at least one species of shark, whether that is the famous Great White Shark or Whale Shark, we all know one.

Now when it comes to sharks what word springs to mind? Killer? Scary? Fear? Have you ever wondered where that fear came from? Why are we so scared of sharks? Should we be scared of them? Now I am no expert on sharks, but I have extensively studied them recently and have been fascinated by them since I was 10 years old. The one question that everyone asks me is ‘are sharks really the ruthless killer we think they are?’. Isn’t that the question everyone wants to know?

I know for myself that it was the question that I wanted answered 16 years ago. At that point all I really knew about sharks was what my parents knew (the internet had only just become widely available but it was still dialup so it was either the phone or the computer…the phone won). My parents realised that I had a hunger for knowledge on sharks and ended up buying me a book on them and I remember so clearly that the pages on shark attacks and survivors is what really held my attention. Specifically it was the story of Rodney Fox and how he survived. Now what really surprised me was that after his attack, he became a shark advocate…he admitted that he was not the victim in this attack, the shark was!

This set me off on what I thought was a great detective story. Turned out that the majority of shark victims didn’t blame the shark at all and actually became advocates themselves! Now if people who were attacked by them aren’t afraid of them…why should we be?

So the big question is, where did this fear come from? Many would say, and I would agree, that the media have made sharks these ruthless killers that we are all afraid of. Whether this all started with the film ‘Jaws’ or not is another question. But the author of ‘Jaws’ Peter Benchley also became a shark advocate and regretted writing his book so much that he wrote another book talking about how important the oceans are and what lives in them.

Yes sharks look scary, they are apex predators so they are ‘designed’ to perfection for their environment. But just because they look scary it doesn’t mean that they are ‘cold-blooded killers’. In fact the chance of a shark killing you is so small, you are more likely to die from a cow or a coconut falling on your head! Those that do get attacked are mainly surfers, and that is because surfers tend to go out at dawn and dusk, prime shark feeding time. Plus the major reason surfers get attacked, is because they look like seals in the water, seals being the number one food source for many sharks.

So does this mean we should be scared of them? To an extent yes, they are the apex predators of the oceans and it is their environment. When we step foot into the ocean, we are going into their environment. But, that fear shouldn’t stop us from exploring or understanding the oceans and especially studying and understanding sharks more! The media has made us scared of sharks with behaviours that aren’t natural to them, we love being scared of monsters, they intrigue us. But instead of being scared of seeing them in the wild, lets be amazed! It is not often that you can come face to face with these beautiful creatures!

Sharks are truly incredible creatures and I will spend my life protecting them and making people aware of just how amazing they are and that we shouldn’t be scared of them.

What about you? What about sharks scare you? What about the oceans scare you? Let me know in the comments below!

~ Fear is only as deep as the mind allows – Japanese Proverb ~

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Taking Time for Yourself

It’s important to, once in a while, take some time for yourself…I did just that this last weekend. After dad being away for 2 1/2 weeks last month…my anxiety picked up…it hit me out of nowhere and for those of you who also have anxiety…you know that it isn’t something that you can just stop…

Anxiety can be crippling, it can make you scared to leave your house, talk to new people, try something new…but you also know that it is a completely illogical fear. I’m known as an over thinker…I over think pretty much everything in my life and so my brain is a constant bundle of things I need to do and scenarios that would never happen. I have yet to find a permanent solution where I can battle my anxiety and overthinking. For right now though a few hobbies keep my mind distracted and this last week and weekend I really focused on myself and pressed the ‘reset’ button in my brain.

So last week, Dad and I took a trip down to Cornwall…dad had an event that he was playing the drums at and I used the time to just relax. We rented an airbnb in Porthtowan just minutes walk from the beach. Now for those of you who know me know that there is something about the ocean and the beach…I feel like I’m at home. My love for marine biology intensifies whenever I’m near the beach and I always feel like the ocean is calling me…my mood instantly changes when I see the ocean, no matter the weather…I cheer up…I relax…I breathe more deeply and think more clearly.

I had so many things planned for that weekend, however there were 2 factors that hindered those plans and could have ruined it all for me. The weather is not something you can control and bank holidays in the UK are notorious for having poor weather. Well, the weather in Cornwall lived up to that…I received pictures from several important people in my life showing the blue sky and talking about how hot it was…I looked out my window and all I had was dense fog, the sun wasn’t anywhere in sight…But I wasn’t going to let that stop me from being on the beach! Now the second factor was a little more annoying…2 weeks before I had managed to dislocate my right shoulder (yes I am right handed) and was still in significant pain and arm still in a sling. So suddenly things like picking up trash on the beach, or trying to take a picture with my camera, became a lot harder to do. Yes we had the dense fog for 2 out of the 3 days we were there, but the last day the fog finally lifted and I remembered why I love the ocean and the beach. The colours of the sand and the blue hues of the water…there is just nothing quite like it for me.

Now getting back to what I did to press the ‘reset’ button, I went for numerous walks on the beach and along the coastal path along the cliffs and spent time staring out to sea, anxiously looking to see if I could spot any wildlife (some seals but that was it), I explored some of the numerous ruins that Cornwall has to offer. Spent time reconnecting with old friends, building connections with new ones and drinking multiple iced lattes and peach green tea lemonades. Oh and who can forget the ice creams!!

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Unfortunately, time always flies and before I knew it we were home and the instant lull in my mood was noticeable. I knew I had to do something to stop myself from slipping back into my anxiety driven state. I ended up looking through my yarn stash and decided to crochet something again. Recently I had been knitting a wrap for myself but I really wanted to crochet something. So I picked a pattern and off I went…There is just something about crocheting and knitting that keeps my mind preoccupied and allows me to relax.

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Some people might say that it is selfish to take time for yourself. But if you don’t, then when do you get the time to be yourself…allow yourself to grow and to relax. Sometimes that means a mini break away to your ‘happy place’ and sometimes it means just picking up an old hobby. All I know is that since my mini break…my anxiety has lessened and my mood has improved.

What about you…what is your happy place? Do you have anxiety? What helps calm you down? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear from you!!

Have a great weekend!

~ A cloudy day at the beach, is still a day at the beach – Unknown ~