Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 - the year of the wedding!

This year has been dominated by weddings and when I look back over the months of 2008 I remember all the brides I've photographed and how much I've learned over that period. I really hope I am lucky enough to be able to photograph more weddings in 2009 as I have enjoyed it beyond words! I enjoy my photography much more now it has a real purpose and I'm hoping I continue to grow and develop (bad pun!) all aspects of the art over the next 12 months. I've got a new (to me!) camera as well as a couple of new lens.

2008 was also the year of "Mamma Mia" and "Sex & the City - the movie" - both made me really happy and continue to do so now I've got them on DVD :)

Looking back over the year I have very mixed feelings. Phil and I spent quite a lot of time apart as he was away on his commission but although it was hard at first I got used to it and came to appreciate time spent alone with the girls.

I especially missed him on our summer holiday in Bath but my lovely in-laws made it a very enjoyable and special holiday for us Mann females! We had one of happiest ever weeks in the Lakes in October - it was great to be together again.

As I wasn't away so much I was able to put more effort into the garden and my success with veggie growing in a small way has inspired me to create a vegetable garden for 2009.

Work has been great, with the reading groups and other projects going well, but all the uncertainty about cutbacks and changes is making for an uncertain start to 2009 in the libraries. I'm hoping I have the courage to face the challenges ahead and above all make sure my staff are ok.

I'm enjoying RDA and my time at the stables more than ever and am proud of Sian's continued progress at riding.

The worst happenings 0f 2008 were the deaths of Karen in August and Kathy in November. I will miss them both so much and cherish every memory I have of them.

I've been thinking a lot about friendships, as I've mentioned in previous posts. I'm really sad that a couple of people I thought were close friends aren't anymore but I'm trying not to dwell on that or waste time trying to work out what, if anything, I did wrong!

I'm happy I've continued blogging for another year and made some new blogfriends along the way. I'm grateful for the challenges I've come across and the lessons I've learned and for all the great books I've read along the way.

Healthwise, I'm no better but thankfully neither am I any worse!!

I'm continually reminding myself how blessed I am with my loving husband, my wonderful daughters, a great extended family, brilliant workmates and loyal and supportive friends. They all have a lot to put up with as I'm not easy to live with!

I love my two cats so much, and they give me pleasure every single day of my life. Maybe 2009 will be the year I finally feel able to get another dog???

As another year draws to close, I'm thinking (as I often do!) when will I start to feel truly grown up? When will all that "wisdom", "maturity" and "confidence" arrive?

I hope everyone has a very happy New Year's Eve and I'll see you all next year!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I have had a pretty good day :) Got all my ironing done this morning and then went to the cinema with Sian. We saw "The day the earth stood still" and really enjoyed it. I always get such a buzz out of going to the movies. I was telling Sian that in the olden days" when I was younger, cinemas were smaller, the seats were covered in some scratchy red stuff and the rows were really close together. The shallow slope to the theatre also meant if someone tallish sat in front of you, your view was blocked and you then spent the entire film with your head at an angle as you peered between the shoulders in front. Oh, the joy of having found a nice seat with no-one sat in the seat in front - and the misery when some latecomer (usually six foot tall and five foot wide) plonked themselves down in it at the last moment!

I also remember queuing around the block for certain films - almost unheard of these days! When we first moved to Helsby our nearest cinema was in Warrington. We'd seldom go as often we'd drive there but be unable to park in time to make the film. When we got our multiplex cinema at the Coliseum just down the road we were thrilled!

Some things don't change - like the theme music for Pearl & Dean adverts!! That takes me right back. But I much prefer the cinema of today to the ones I remember from my youth!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Akelamalu gave me this lovely award - this has to be one of the nicest!I love getting awards but I hate passing them on to just a select few, so please, my lovely blogfriends, this is for ALL OF YOU who brighten my days, give me advice, make me laugh and make me think!

This is the thinking behind this particular award:
These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers. Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award.

The girls and I hit the shops today; they had vouchers to spend and I needed a few "bits". Well, all I can say is "what credit crunch?" as the shops were HEAVING in Cheshire Oaks. There were lots of discounts available but not on the sort of stuff I'd buy. For example, a case of Ruby & Milly cosmetics down from £50 to £25. A bargain if you like Ruby & Millie (and I do!) but with makeup sets you always get stuff you don't need/already have or are in the wrong colours so at £25 it was still too dear! I was tempted by some black boots in next reduced by half from £60 but then realised I don't actually NEED any boots! I guess the economy will have to recover without much of a contribution from me! I plan on being a LOT more frugal this year as neither Phil nor I can be assured of still having a job by 2010!

I'm puzzled by people who say they do all of the Christmas shopping in the January sales. Do they have a crystal ball which tells them what their friends/relatives will want in 12 months time? I have enough problems winkling ideas out of people in November! Do these people buy lots of "stuff" and then allocate things to people? And what about things that only have 30-day return policies or 12 month guarantees?? What if people lose or gain weight, get allergic to stuff,

Well, however it works, I'm so disorganised there's no chance of ME doing that! Although the MIL and I did each buy a half price Christmas garland yesterday while we were out...

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Today was chilly but sunny. It was REALLY cold at the stables when we were watching Sian ride!

I'm suffering a bit from post-Christmas blues. I love the build-up to Christmas so much and it's over in a flash. New Year is ok but doesn't hold the same excitement for me sadly!

Shea, one of our cats, has been off-colour the past couple of days but he seemed a little better today - able to tackle a few morsels of turkey!

We've been talking about New Year resolutions in our house. Kate and I are giving up crisps and planning on taking more exercise. Sian and I are giving up trying to make everyone like us - Sian is also going to eat less (yeah, right!) Phil reckons he's pretty perfect as he is :)

Friday, December 26, 2008

This is one of my favourite Christmas tree ornaments: Karen gave it to me :)

Christmas Day was lovely - the girls really liked their gifts and the dinner turned out well! For once my turkey stayed juicy; I cooked it to the specifications of my CA friend A - it was wonderful as was the gravy. We all had a great day and I can heartily recommend Nigella Lawson's Poinsettia cocktail - champagne, Cointreau and cranberry juice - chin, chin :)

Today was very relaxed; the weather was good so in the afternoon Phil and I walked up Helsby Hill. Afterwards we phoned California - it was great to talk to our friends there - we miss them all loads.

Hope everyone had a great Boxing Day.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Christmas Eve! I've been awake since 7 am; too excited to sleep. I've made cranberry sauce, chestnut stuffing (oh, how I HATE peeling chestnuts!), meringues and the ham is boiling on the stove. Phil wrapped all the presents last night and they are under the tree. Tonight we are having a little family party - just the four of us.

Now I'm watching "Scrooge" on DVD with Sian and Kate. Oh, I love Christmas Eve!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Buttermere Church

I love the days leading up to Christmas Day. Christmas Eve is probably my favourite day of the year! This year I'm lucky as my shift pattern means I have the whole of Christmas week off :) Plenty of time to savour and enjoy and prepare for the big day. Sian & I are shortly off to brave Tesco and buy the food for Christmas Day. Tonight I'm going out with the Helsby Coven for a few Christmas drinks.

This morning I paid my car tax online, then tried to pay a few more bills only to find my card blocked! As I didn't want to be stopped at the checkout in the supermarket or forced to use a credit card, I rang the bank. Apparently unusual activity on my card had activated a security block on further transactions. I'm glad I was at home next to a phone when this happened rather than standing red-faced and sweating next to the till in Tesco. I'm pleased the bank is looking after my money so carefully but I think their definition of unusual activity needs adjusting.

My joints are pretty bad right now. As well as my sprained ankle which hasn't healed yet, I have pain in both arms (yet they both hurt differently!), pain in my right hip and an aching pain in the middle joint of the middle finger on my right hand!! Plus my ever present ankle and foot pain. But my knees are ok right now - go figure! I know, I know...I'm just a wreck!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I am thinking of Kathy so much but determined to do as she suggests and "savour the simple pleasures of life" - the best way to honour her memory!

Last night was our library Christmas "do" which was really enjoyable. After getting ripped off year after year with over-priced, mass produced Christmas meals in restaurants, we now get together in someone's house and bring our own food. We all contribute and it costs us very little and we get great food, a comfortable environment and no hassle! I feel very lucky to work with such a great team of people and hope we'll still be together come the New Year!

I went on a wedding shoot with A on saturday. I bought a new lens the other day (a Sigma 70-200 mm f2.8) and it had it's first outing - I loved it! It's quite heavy but it really performed well. It focuses fast, performs well in low light and has great DOF.

The next three days I'm working :( I would much rather be at home getting ready for Christmas but the atmosphere in the library is always quite jolly at this time of year.

Monday, December 15, 2008

It is with great sadness and regret I write that today I found out that a dear friend of mine died on 25th November. She would have been 45 on Thursday.

I "met" Kathy through the same penpal site that brought me Karen. We knew each other for many years and met up in NYC a number of years ago.

Like me, Kathy was a librarian. She was dedicated and enthusiastic and a keen reader.

She was devoted to her family and to her fiance. She was a talented photographer and artist and had a wonderful way with words. You can see this on her blog (she is KAYCEE in my sidebar).

She never said a harsh word about another person.

She never told me how ill she was. Brave and very private, she fought her battle without inviting sympathy.

In her last email to me she wrote "I treasure our friendship".

I have been re-reading her blog and here is one of my favourite posts, accompanied by a photo of a snow covered garden chair. It says more about Kathy than I ever could, in better words than I could ever find...

I have always taken time to ponder the passing of an entire year as well as the beginning of a new era. As a child, I would wonder about such things as past news stories that I heard about in my parents' world of the late 1960's through the mid 1970's: US astronauts landing on the moon, the end of the Vietnam War, and the resignation of Nixon. I wondered about the world outside of my small town, even though I didn't have a clue what Watergate was all about at the time. Of course, I was thankful for blessings in my life such as the birth of my siblings, family celebrations and spending time with friends.

Imagine, if you will, this pony-tailed ten-year old taking time to look at life this way. I can still remember going over the past year, even at this young age, and thinking that there must be a better way to live life in the new year. It was then that I knew that doing simple things with great pleasure is a key to a better life. (I still enjoy some of those simple pleasures to this day: reading, cooking, and doing craft projects.)

And so I developed the personal philosophy of viewing the new year as a blank canvas; a canvas waiting to be filled with such activities as learning a new hobby, cooking a new recipe, or discovering a new author. Yes, I realize that it is a simple view of the world, indeed. But I truly believe in the positive energy behind each and every creative act.

Now I am in a contemplative mood as we welcome 2008. This new year began very quietly for me as I spent time with friends and family. This New Year's Day has been snowy and so I am tucked in at home just watching the snow fall. I try to visualize my "internal canvas" as I watch the enormous white flakes enveloping the mighty pines. My canvas, not too surprisingly, remained a glistening white for much of the day. I did not rush to change the canvas scene as I somehow instinctively knew that ideas would come swirly to me as the ground receives its cover from the winter sky.

Slowly, my canvas was painted with hunter green pines that reached majestically towards the late afternoon sky. The gigantic flakes of white gave way to a gentle dusting as the buttery-yellow sun peeked through the opaqueness of the sky. And a barn red Adirondack chair, left over from the autumnal leaf peeping season, was covered in winter splendor.

Somehow, that snow covered chair seemed to inspire me. The chair remains there as the seasons pass and the year turns. Of course, it will need maintenance, but it is still sturdy and ready to serve it purpose over and over again. Purpose. It reminds me to use my talents wisely and make my world, our world, a better place.

No, these simple ideas are nothing new. Henry David Thoreau, one of my favorite American Transcendentalists writers once said, "This world is just a canvas to our imagination." And I do believe that this world would be a more peaceful place if each one of us would look inside and visualize how our own creative canvases can be used to serve ourselves and others.

What do you see when you take some time to look inward at your creative canvas? Do you visualize the same canvas, or has it changed and evolved? Do you start with a blank canvas as the new year arrives or do you add to an existing canvas?

And so I wish you a new year filled with creative endeavors, whatever they may be. Please take time to savor the simple pleasures of life and to embrace the creative side of life! Kathy Caruana

I was very lucky to know her and I'll treasure her memory always. Rest in peace, dear Kathy.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Hearts of gold...

Christmas time always gets me thinking of relationships I have with people; I suppose it's because at this time of year there is so much emphasis on parties and getting together with family and good will to all men....

Looking back on the past 12 months or so, I think it's been one of my worst periods ever as far as friendships go. Just over a year ago I had a falling out with one of the closest friends I ever had; which affected me very deeply and still does to tell the truth. I have hoped at times that this relationship could be repaired but if I am honest I have to accept that this probably won't be possible. In the summer my dear friend Karen died and I feel her loss every day. Karen was such a wonderful person and I felt that I must have some value as a person because she cared about me so much!

At some point in the year, two email pals just stopped writing and despite many attempts to get back in touch, they haven't responded. I hope they are ok and wonder why they stopped writing and I miss hearing from them a lot.

Two other friends I felt very close to this time last year seem in the process of withdrawing from my life. I spend a lot of time wondering what I did wrong - that way madness lies? If friends stop liking me - or appear to - I start to doubt myself as a person. I always feel if I was better in some way then this wouldn't happen. If I end up with no friends will that make me a non-person? A total failure as a human being? You know those lines near the end of "It's a wonderful life" - "no man is a failure while he has friends". Is the reverse also true?

When I'm thinking with my head I remind myself that there is mo such thing as a person EVERYBODY likes! That friends drift out of our lives for lots of reasons, not necessarily because we've done anything wrong. That some friendships aren't meant to last for ever and we should try to remember them with love not bitterness and regret. That (as Phil so often tells me!) everything isn't about ME.

But when I'm listening to my heart, I feel it's telling me I've been a failure this year as regards some friendships and I wish there was some way I could turn back the clock and be a better friend.

I can't post about friendships without saying how blessed I am by the friends who **still** like me, for all my faults, and for the new friends I've made this year. I have some of the most amazing, loyal and caring friends in the world and I thank them for putting up with me! Not easy, I know!

So often I send my thoughts and worries out into the blogsphere because it helps just to write things down and get them out of my head. Those kind blogfriends who comment with their support, common-sense and wisdom help me more than I can say.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Brrr, another chilly day today!

I had a great meal out with my friend C last night. It was great to catch up with her - it's been ages since we got together for one reason or another.

As it was the last RDA before Christmas we did games. Finally we found a game Bruno and I excelled at - the slow walk race. Last past the post wins....and we did!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Phil and I went for a walk a couple of weeks ago and found lots of beautful things to photograph.

I'm feeling much happier and more positive. Nothing much has changed externally but I'm looking at things differently.

I'm actually starting to look forward to Christmas. What has helped, funnily enough, is I gave the house a good clean & tidy yesterday! Go figure...!

I'm at a wedding on Saturday next with A. I so enjoy wedding shoots with him as it's such a great learning experience AND very little responsibilty for me LOL. I'm hoping like mad that my new lens arrives before then so I can give it a good work-out.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

I'm happy to say after a few "down" days I'm feeling a bit more cheerful. Thanks for all your kind comments. I will be round catching up on everyone's blog soon.

It did help to hear that the bride & groom from our recent wedding were really happy with the photos we took - that gave both Phil and I a big thrill!

Christmas is racing towards me now. I bit the bullet and wrote out our Christmas cards last night. I remember when we were first married, I was desperate to get lots of cards so I sent out about 90 to every single person I could think of. I must have been mad! I also used to keep a very anal Christmas card list - if someone didn't send me a card for two years running I deleted them from the list. Invariably on the third year they WOULD send a card and would get reinstated. However as I hadn't sent THEM a card the third year, they wouldn't send ME one the fourth year....and so it went on. I now can't be a***d with a list so I just work through my address book...!

Phil and I went for a lovely walk this morning. It was another frosty day. I'm loving this cold snap we are's proper winter!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

No photo...because somehow I can't be bothered to edit the ones I took on Sunday.

No walk this morning, because although it's a beautiful day, I can't bring myself to leave the house.

I have a ton of stuff to do but I'm sitting here hunched over the computer making excuses to avoid getting on with things.

I am so scared.

I am scared that bad things are starting to happen and will keep on happening. I don't know where it will end! That sounds really crazy. Doesn't it?

I thought I was getting stronger and more able to cope with life's ups and downs but instead I realise I'm pretty feeble.

I just can't let myself go back down this road again! I can't.

So I'm going to get on with Wednesday and do the bloody ironing.