Thursday, 26 May 2011

A place called home

Karen sat on her bike and looked back. There were about two dozen people on the marketplace and she knew most of them. They were all very nice and kind people and over the past two years she started to feel like she’s one of them. She met most of them on that exact spot where they spent their Saturday mornings buying ingredients for lunch and drinking coffee in a café next to the market place. They were all typical Italians, kind, cheerful and loud. She smiled and waved to the butcher. 

Ciao bella, see you tomorrow, I have meat for you prepared in morning he yelled in his broken English with an Italian accent. She smiled and nodded.  

Karen always felt like a foreigner anywhere she came. Her dad was an officer in the military and they moved a lot when she was a child. She knew he loved her with all his heart but they weren’t a real family. She didn’t fit in at home. Her mum died when Karen was seven years old and after her death dad was never the same. He missed her mum very much and a part of him died with her. He was absent even when he was at home.

He once asked her if she didn’t want to move anymore but she told him that she didn’t mind it. She was searching for her home, a place where she belonged. She never found a place like this as a child. She felt welcome everywhere they lived, she easily found friends in every town, but she never found what she could call home

She always thought that she would discover her true self in college but that wasn’t the case. She studied sociology at The university of Texas but soon after she moved she realised that she made the wrong decision and she decided she wanted to travel. Travelling was the only constant thing in her life.

For the next three years she travelled all over the world; she spent some time in Australia and New Zealand and then backpacked in China, Japan, India and Thailand. Then she discovered her passion for old European cities.

She was exploring small villages and big cities in Europe for over a year when she met Fabio in Milan. Karen was working as a model and her agency had a party in a night club Fabio worked with. She noticed him the moment he walked in the room because he wasn’t a typical Italian. She liked his short curly light brown hair and blue eyes but what she liked even more was his smile. A smile that made her feel special.

They talked all evening and spent the night together. She thought she would never see him again when she woke up the next morning in the empty bed in her hotel room. But she was wrong; he came back soon and invited her to go to Sicily with him, because he lived there. 

I’m in love he said and gave her a dark red rose. 

Karen was in love too so she went with him and never left Sicily again. She felt she finally found her home. She felt like she belonged there. 

Photo taken from here.

Monday, 23 May 2011

A humble word - Inspiration Monday guest post

It’s been three weeks since the last Inspiration Monday and I hope you missed it as much as I did. I’m planning on doing some small changes about Inspiration Monday in the near future but I can’t tell you everything just yet.

Today I’m very honoured to host the amazing Caterpillar who writes at Musings And Confessions of a Wandering Mind. She is a brilliant writer and a lovely lady and I’m really lucky to know her (I truly hope I’ll meet her in person some day). Those of you who don’t know her yet should visit her blog right after you read this splendid piece she wrote for my blog:

Starlight here had asked me to write an article about inspiration…and I sat down thinking that this was going to be one easy thing…ha! Couldn’t have been any more mistaken! I thought long and hard about it…I tried repeating the word over and over in my head in the hope that The letters would spring to life and tell me what they wanted me to write…I-N-S-P-I-R-A-T-I-O-N…the word looked simple enough…a little too simple, actually…because it’s this humble word which brought about the big inventions…the lights that blinked to life at the click of a switch, the voice of a loved one close to your ears though they are located miles away when you answered that telephone, the wheels that turned and turned some more to make sure that you could travel anywhere you wanted to without tiring your legs out, the face to face conversations you can have with your Mom when you miss her, even when both of you are in two different continents. 

And does it stop at that? No…it’s this word which inspired all those amazing books out there which allowed us to fly on the magic carpet into the mystical lands, to go on an investigative journey to find that murderer on loose, to sigh at the romantic words uttered by the hero of our dreams, to laugh out loud at the blunder of the well-meaning but naïve girl in the story, to reflect on the complexities of relationships the characters seem to be burdened with. It’s this one word which made Wordsworth muse about the beauty of daffodils, Michelangelo carve the exquisite Pieta, Leonardo paint the enigmatic Mona Lisa and Beethoven create soulful symphonies. 

What can this word do for you, you wonder? The opportunities are uncountable…this word, single handedly allows you to take the empty canvas of a day and fill it with bright, beautiful pictures, to look beyond the obvious and come up with some brilliant ideas which might mean a lot, to look at a problem and come up with an opportunity to overcome it rather than worrying about it, a word which brings out the creator, the inventor, the designer in you… 

Inspiration for me, is a friend, who shows me something and whispers to me “Why not”…a friend who shows me “the path less travelled by” as Robert Frost rightly put it. Inspiration, for me is the invisible someone who helps me look at a problem nagging me and tell me “we’ll find a way around it, trust me”, inspiration is the jester who colors my world when it becomes a little shabby. Inspiration, for me, is someone who allows me to have fun and laugh out loud even when life looks like an uphill struggle…Inspiration, more importantly, is who allows me to be myself through words, scribbles and paints spilled.  Inspiration, my friends, is the invisible friend who will always be by my side, ready to help and lend me a smile. And so, my request to you is this; go find that invisible friend called Inspiration, wake him up, give him a little shake and you will find that pot of gold hidden within you... 

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

100 words: Dew

She woke up early and went to the kitchen, put the kettle on for the coffee and looked out of the window. She had one of her favourite scenes in front of her eyes. Morning dew on a field behind the house. 

She smiled and remembered how she spent every summer at her grandparents farm as a child. She loved waking up early and walking barefoot through the high wet grass around the house and watching the sun rise.

She took the kettle off the stove and ran out barefoot. The grass was soft and wet just as she remembered.

Photo taken from here.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Yellow peep toe high heels

It’s a beautiful sunny spring day and I’m on a city bus on my way to the university. I observe cars driving by and don’t pay much attention to the people on the bus. I don’t notice that someone sits next to me until I hear a high-pitched voice saying something in my direction. 

It’s such a beautiful day, isn’t it? the lady next to me says and redirects my attention to her.

The first thing I notice about her is her hair which is glaring red. Her curls must have been dyed just recently and her hairdresser must have used tons of colour since it’s so striking. The next thing I notice are her full lips on which she applied a huge amount of shiny pink lipstick.  

It’s a nice day, yes I reply and look back out the window. I want to enjoy my peaceful morning ride with the bus and she’s messing up my bus ritual which isn’t a smart thing to do. It’s never a good thing to disturb any of my rituals. 

I love summer, I can’t wait for it to come. It’s my favourite time of the year and I’ve already dragged summer clothes from the dark corners of my closet she continues, obviously not understanding the hint I gave her by looking away. And then I notice her wardrobe... 

She’s wearing yellow peep toe high heels, green tights, a yellow shirt and a white cardigan over it. All her clothes are almost as vivid as her red hair and her outfit isn’t appropriate for her full figure. And I’m putting it mildly. On top of everything she added a very generous amount of jewellery which seemed gold but I’m not a goldsmith and can’t say if it was real or not. 

I’m sure Anna Wintour wouldn’t put her anywhere near the cover of Vouge and Versace is turning in his grave. I can say quite confidently that even Vivienne Westwood would strongly suggest her to leave those clothes in the dark corners of her closet. 

Her family and friends are obviously very nice and regardful people since nobody prevented her going out looking like that. Or maybe no one was at home when she was leaving. I’ll rather go with the latter, it’s much more comforting.

Photo taken from here.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Ferris wheel

Why don’t you ever tell the kids that they can’t do something? Or that they can’t have something? You always let them do and have everything. You’re so easy on them and I’m always the bad guy here. I’m sick of it! she yelled. She didn’t wait for the answer she just turned around and went to the bedroom slamming the door.

Brandon stayed in the kitchen and sat down. He knew that sometimes he should say no to their children but he couldn’t. He wanted them to be happy. He wanted his kids to have what he didn’t have – a sweet innocent childhood. He didn’t want them to worry about anything.

His dad died when he was six and he hardly remembered him. One of the rare memories he had of his dad was him coming home from work one day. He came through the door, looking tired and angry. He was dressed in a black suit, a white shirt and a black tie. The suit was a bit wrinkled on his back from him sitting all day. Dad took it off and carefully hung it on the coat hanger. He had yellow stains on his shirt, under his armpits.

He sat down at the kitchen table and put his briefcase on the table and opened it. The briefcase was always full of papers in dark brown folders. Brandon knew those papers were important and he always wanted to read them but his dad wouldn’t even allow him to touch them.

Can we play cowboys and Indians? Brandon asked.

Don’t you see I’m busy? I’m trying to work here, go away I don’t have time to fool around  dad answered not even looking at him.

His dad was a serious man, an important lawyer in a big law firm. He always went to work early in the morning and came home late in the evening.

Once there was a circus in town and his mum convinced dad to take Brandon and his brother . He remembered how excited he was. He wanted to take a ride on the small ferris wheel because he knew he wasn’t old enough for the big one. He secretly dreamt about the ride for weeks and when they were finally there he asked his parents if he could go.

No said his dad sharply.

Why not, I’m big enough for the little one Brandon asked, still hoping his dad would say yes.

It’s expensive. And I said no!

Brandon knew he shouldn’t make his dad angry if he ever wanted to see the circus again.

Soon after that his dad died. Brandon promised himself that he would allow his kids to take as many rides on a ferris wheel as they wanted.

Photo taken from here.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Invincible - Inspiration Monday guest post

I’m looking forward to Mondays since I’ve started a series of Inspiration Monday guest posts. It’s amazing to read such beautiful and touching stories and it’s even more amazing to share those stories with you all.
Today I’m honoured to be hosting a very talented Bth whose blog Little light in London is very much worth reading. If you’re not familiar with Bth I strongly suggest that you visit her blog and get to know her a little bit.
But for a start you simply have to read what she wrote about Inspiration:  

The C-word. Cancer. You don’t think that it could ever happen to you. Even less so, that it could happen to someone you love with all your heart. You imagine that person to be invincible – always there, doing the things they always do. That’s my Mum.  My inspiration for this post. She’s the one who I thought to be invincible. 

She was the Mum who’d stayed at home, and put her children first. She made our house a home. There were always homemade soups on the Rayburn in our kitchen, when I got back from school. Time for walks in the bluebell woods in the Spring, then collecting pine cones to paint silver and gold at Christmas time.  In stormy weather she’d think up rides in the Land Rover Defender so we weren’t scared of the thunder; we’d be snug in the back with our pyjamas on, racing through enormous puddles and squealing with joy as the water streamed up the windows. She’d make up treasure hunts with lots of little prizes. Together we’d paint pretty pictures on pebbles; she would then varnish them beautifully to scatter in plant pots across the garden. She’d put on her tapes and turn them up loud, blaring out Bob Dylan and Alanis Morissette, and we’d sing from the top of our lungs. 

As I grew older, she became my very best friend. The only person who I knew I could rely on, who would tell me the absolute truth - even if I didn’t always want to hear it. She knew me inside and out. I would listen to her, and she’d listen to me, and together we’d keep our head above the difficult times. I learnt that my mother was a woman first and foremost, before she was my Mum. I spent twenty minutes crying with my back against the door after she’d left me in the little room in my first year away from home, after I’d moved into university halls. I sat on the single bed and read the note in the back of my diary, written in her artistic, familiar scrawl.

‘So proud of you, Baby – Love you. 

Mum x 

And remember, if it doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger!’

She was right. I truly believe that hard times are sent to try us, to test just how invincible we can be. Often, after the storm has quietened down, we surprise ourselves with how well we coped - a little shaken perhaps, but stronger and tougher.  My Mum is one of those people, one who copes and carries on. So it was only for a few minutes that I allowed myself to worry when she told me that the doctor had referred her to check a small lump that had appeared to the side of her breast.  Probably nothing, the doctor had said. No harm in just checking. In no time, she’d had the scan. And that strange little lump turned out to be nothing at all. Then they noticed something else. The doctors glanced at each other, and then looked more closely. They had spotted a clump of abnormal cells hidden deep in the tissue, right inside her breast, under where the small lump had appeared. Never would have found that normally, if you hadn’t gone for the scan. Waiting for the results seemed like forever. I was sure that everything would be okay and I told her so, again and again – after all, it was Mum – she was invincible. 

It was a normal day at work. Except outside it was raining– no, pouring. Then my day stopped being normal and my phone began to ring. I can’t remember the conversation or the bit where she told me about the cancer- I just remember the rain outside. It was dramatic rain, the kind you don’t see every day, like a million tears falling from the sky to wash the pavements all clean. I prayed the cancer hadn’t come to take her away from me, but instead to let her experience something about life - as hard and as horrible a lesson as it might be. No, invincible she wasn’t. She was human, faced with a real human disease. And as if to prove me right, when I travelled back home to be with her, I saw her experience every human emotion possible.

I didn’t know what to do with this human version of my super-hero Mum. She suddenly became very delicate to me - breakable, and I was beyond frightened that I might lose her. At this scary time, using one of the only ways I know how to express myself, when I can’t think of the right words to say, I painted her a picture. I held the paintbrush in my right hand whilst absentmindedly blotting onto the canvas the colours I felt drawn to. I flicked the brush in any old way, and all the time kept my thoughts fixed on Mum. I pictured her face, her dark brown eyes, a pale snow-white complexion, her soft bobbed brunette hair with a flicky fringe and her beautiful high cheek bones. 

Once I had finished, I took a step back. Like all of my paintings, when the energy of the person I’m focussing on takes over my paints and brushes, the canvas radiated Mum. She’d inspired the painting, and it spoke all about her. 

Soft and gentle like the green, but passionate and fiery like the reds contained in the brushstrokes that flurried together and flowed just like her sparky energy. I squinted a little, and noticed how the picture looked a bit like a tree. I could imagine her as a tree; strong and rooted to the ground, able to withstand the greatest knocks and the fiercest winds around her. Her branches stretched out far, seeming to reach for the sky. It was beautiful and I couldn’t wait to show her. 

‘Isn’t it funny how it turned out to represent you?’ I said, holding the picture back so Mum could have a look at it.

‘What’s more amazing is that it looks like you’ve painted my cleavage! Look! And where you’ve painted a star- ‘ 

‘Um, well, that was meant to be a fairy by the tree...’ 

‘Okay – but you’ve painted the fairy exactly where the cancer is positioned on my breast. Did you know that? That’s amazing– and look to the right, it looks like an angel.’

She kept my picture up on the mantelpiece. Whether it was a tree, as I’d thought- the symbol of strength, or a picture of an angel healing her from above; I really don’t know. But slowly over the next few months, although the tablets made her feel sick, the radiotherapy sessions made her tired and feel a lot of pain, with each tablet she took and each radiotherapy session she endured, I watched my Mum come into her own. Mum was lucky, where so many people aren’t, because three years on from all her treatment, the cancer hasn’t come back. She would, without hesitation tell you that it was the best thing that ever happened to her, because it taught her to appreciate her life. She suddenly lived for today- not tomorrow, or for next year. It was as if she had opened her eyes for the first time and had suddenly discovered herself: a stronger, more beautiful woman than she had ever been before, and as human as she could possibly be.  

Thank you to Starlight, for giving me the opportunity to write a post about my inspirational Mum in her guest post series of inspirational women. I am very honoured to have been asked.