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Posts Tagged ‘Scotland’

We’ve arrived.

Took months to get us here, it seems.

Passport renewals and plane tickets.

Hunting out the next size up of clothes for the boys (all three of them, and this new little one who will arrive while we are here).

Cleaning the house in the way that only a nesting mother-to-be can do.

Packing and nesting and saying “See you next spring,” to our friends.

And up until the last two weeks, immersing myself for an hour each day back in 1941.

And it was tiring.

I was tired.

Tired like an addict of some sleep-inducing drug.

But planes and newborn babies, they don’t tend to wait.

And so I pressed through, and I made it, and we’re here.

We’ere here!

Scotland.

Scotland, which was home for eight years, and now hasn’t been for three.

Scotland, where everything is dear and familiar, strange and new.

Even after all that time, the hills never disappoint me.

Never seem less beautiful than ever they were.

And I can never help but think that all of this–all of this crossing of oceans–must mean something. Must DO something, deep inside of me.

Because it always has.

But when you’re away, out of your routine, it’s easy to forget the working, the striving, and try to get by just sailing for a while. And sometimes you still learn this way. Sometimes the haphazard can still help you grow. But I don’t want to leave it to chance.

I’ve got people. Dear ones. They need me at my best.

And though in the rush of the sea I hear the whisper of my Maker calling, it can be hard to hear His voice amongst so many other things that charm. Here in this place that always stirred my heart.

But hearts, as you know, are not always true. They can lead us on a merry dance.

And so while I want to savour each misty hill, each cup of tea, each warm embrace of a dear friend, I want to end this journey with a clearer eye, a clearer vision, and a closer walk with my Saviour than when I began.

Join me? 

Walk with me?

Let’s see where this road goes . . . 

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 Our view from the house

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The weather kept me guessing yesterday.
Couldn’t make up its mind between radiant blue and stormy grey.
Kept me running in and out to fetch the washing off the line–
rescue those white sheets billowing in the wind.
Reminded me of a Scottish summer’s day.
And so I dug out an old poem I wrote whilst we were still living there.
I’ve been told it needs tweaking, but I’ll share it anyway.

Summer

Another dreich* Scottish day—

The air, it runs with silver grey,

With droplets on the window panes,

And from the sun, the mist reclaims

The gently sloping highland hills,

All purple-clad and heather-filled.

Down in the glens, and ‘long the shore,

The wind, it howls, the rain, it pours.

The burns* are filled, the roads a-flood,

And many-a-field’s a sea of mud.

The mums, they all bemoan the rain,

For now their washing’s wet again.

And the children long to get outside,

For games to play and bikes to ride.

The farmers say their barley’s soaked,

And though it’s June, the chimneys smoke.

But in castles great, and wee bothies*,

The folks enjoy a spot of tea,

Or don their trendy Wellingtons*

(What good are these, when there is sun?).

The strawberries are somehow picked,

And beaches walked, and ice-creams licked.

There is no lack of summer fun

Even without the shining sun.

And if the sun stayed for too long,

They’d all complain, and wish it gone.

© Avonlea Q. Krueger

*dreich – wet and dreary , burn – stream, bothie – small cottage, Wellington boots – rain boots

 

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The posts haven’t come as regularly recently. Did you notice? But they aren’t done and the inspiration hasn’t stopped. 

The whirlwind of life has kept going, providing me with more life-lessons than I’d sanely choose, if given the chance. And after the long bitter winter, I find myself still in awe of the heavy fullness of the trees and the strange new sensation of heat.

And so yes, still the words come to me, click together like magnets in my head, demand to be spoken, printed, heard. 

But in spite of all I long to share, I’ve been otherwise engaged, and I’ve found there simply isn’t enough time in the day (not until I get a housekeeper like the Brown family in Paddingtion Bear, as the Professor suggested I do). 

Otherwise engaged? Yes. 

Lying on the sofa, mostly. Enduring the drug-like fatigue and debilitating nausea of the first few months of pregnancy. Baby #4 is due to arrive in December, and before you even think it, no, we don’t know the gender but are counting on the baby being another wee boy. 

And when I was well enough to be up and caring for my family, holding up the walls and trying to keep the layers of crusted on food from becoming too thick, I’ve been writing. 

Writing?

Yes! Fiction, this time. Fiction that I deeply hope I will get the chance to share with all of you. 

And what is it about? 

It’s set during WWII . . . and the present day. 

A wee blurb for the back of the book might go something like this:

Two women. Two generations. Separated by an ocean. Brought together by a house. 

So, yes, I’ve been writing fiction, trying to churn out a few pages a day. 

Then there’s been the preparation for our Scotland trip. Oops, I didn’t mention. Yes, a trip to Scotland. A long one. We’re hoping to have the baby there. And I wouldn’t dream of going without you. So stay along for the journey! 

Stay and see the view of the Moray Firth from John’s parents’ house. 

Stay and find out if #4 is indeed a boy. 

Stay and maybe even find out more about my book. 

For today, I leave you with a quote–a thought to keep you soaring–aptly taken from the words of a German Christian who was martyred by the Nazis for standing up for all that’s right. 

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Sometimes it helps, remembering where you’ve been.

Other times it’s enough to leave you in a fit of tears.

Make you crawl into bed, yank up the covers

to hide your face,

blot your tears.

It can be regret

for what you did

or didn’t do

that leaves you feeling this way.

Regret for what you did

or what was done to you.

Other times it’s the life you had

but don’t have any more.

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And it’s a combination, I suppose, of all those things, that can get me, really get me, make me want to head for bed, cocoon myself in the covers, throw a temper tantrum of the grown-up type.

A photo can remind me. Bring to mind all that once was.

A photo, or basement, maybe. A basement full of boxes that represent my life.

Boxes. Time capsules.

And that’s just what I created, though I didn’t know it those many years ago, when I wrapped my treasured possessions in old t-shirts and lace, arranged them carefully in empty banana boxes until someday when I was older, when I’d want them again, when I’d have a daughter . . .

And I didn’t know, when with slim, tanned hands, I slid the lids off the dozens of silver boxes we received for our wedding, that I wouldn’t hear the rustle of that tissue paper or see the gleaming stainless steel and sparkling crystal again for another ten years . . .

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Now, with a house of my own back on this side of the Atlantic, they have been delivered to me—water stained banana boxes and silver gift boxes alike, and a thousand memories come back, along with a thousand questions, as I unpack it all and set on the floor around me.

It brings a smile, leaves an ache, when I remember. When I remember that we only meant to stay in Scotland for a year, though it turned out to be eight. When I recall how desperately I’ve always wanted a daughter, though God knew I needed sons.

And I’d like to claim it doesn’t matter. That I’m above all that.

All that wishing for weekend trips to London.

London, when it was just a few hours’ drive away.

England, with all the birthplaces and resting places of those literary geniuses I so adore.

Scotland. Our home.

Our stone house in the village, with our view of the valley, and the short walk to a friend’s front door.

And the rain—how I learned to love the rain!—and the sound of the kettle when we made our tea.

And the mist, and how it never did stop putting wonder in my heart.

And I’d like to claim I haven’t cried for a little girl I could gift with my tea set, my Anne of Green Gables doll.

Yeah, I could pretend. I could pretend that it’s fine.

It’s just fine with me.

And I don’t have to wrestle. Not one little bit.

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But I know, and you know, that would all be one fat lie.

And there’s such a thing, I’ve learned, as pain that’s clean.

Clean pain, like from a surgeon’s knife.

Clean pain, when you learn to see

He knows a better way.

And though I’ve always known it, in theory, that His ways are best, that He’d take you round the world and back again to bring you closer to Him, I didn’t really know it till I’d gone.

Round the world. And back.

And I have to still my heart a little, to realize He’d do all that

just for me.

And so when I doubt, when life seems about as predictable as a Kansas plain, when I’m pretending to let go, but my thumb and finger are pinching, holding tight to something I think I need to make me happy, that I can’t live without, that’s when I’ve got, just got, to remember what He’s done.

On the cross.

In my life.

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The adventure! I’d never dared to dream.

My sin! Yet He has drawn me back.

My former life can seem quite rosy, in the scrapbook of my mind.

It’s easy to forget the shadows when we think of the past.

But when Love is waiting to catch you

it’s best to let go.

Let go and rest.

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You might also be inspired by “Sinking in Deep” https://happylittlesigh.com/2013/11/02/sinking-in-deep/

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Happy Little Sigh in now on Facebook and Twitter. Join me there?

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AileenDonan5

It all began with a cup of tea.

He wanted one.

And so did I.

We were the only ones.

Earlier, on that cold walk through the night to the student flat where a group of us were meeting for a DVD, there were questions about peanut butter (isn’t that what Americans eat?), and secret smiles, and I thought he must be very young.

I was in Scotland.

The world was green, and there were castles, and though I could hardly understand a word of what he said, my red-haired Scottish loon from the village on the sea,

on the pages of my journal I swore I could marry that boy.

And, more to my amazement than anyone else’s, I did.

We moved to Scotland, and life began.

It began. It didn’t end.

Not like the movies or the books, where it ends with “I do.”

No, that was the beginning.

And I went to teaching and he went to working. And meals were cooked, and floors were swept, and a baby came. And although it happened, every few months, that I’d pinch myself and wonder how little me ever ended up there, in the Highlands of Scotland, most of the time it was just life.

And while life was happening, it also happened—as it happens to us all, I think—that somewhere between the tenth time washing the dishes and the hundredth time making the bed, between the hundredth night up with a crying baby and the thousandth time wiping a toddler’s face, that I began to wonder.

I wondered if this was right.

Because this was not how happily ever after was supposed to go.

Castles and Scottish mist aside, I wasn’t supposed to be tired all of the time, and the housework wasn’t supposed to take so long. I wasn’t supposed to get lonely, and we weren’t, no we weren’t supposed find within our hearts such moments of hate that with our words and our eyes and a turning of our backs we would wound each other. Leave each other bruised, starved, and with our very hands widen the cavern between ourselves and God and between each other.

And yet we did.

And the days were dark.

We could have walked, either one of us, in search of our real life. Our real fairy tale. And though we didn’t feel it, we chose to believe it when we heard that the grass is always greener where you water it.

And even yellow grass, or even brown and dry, can become green. But you’ve got to water it every day.

Even when it’s the last thing you want to do.

And you can try to be happy with it just being all right, or so-so, but I’ve got to ask you, like I asked myself, don’t you want the very best?

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More than anything, I love to talk of those first days.

The first dance. The first giggle. The first time I dared to touch his shoulder with my head.

Because I know I must remember who he is. Who he really is, deep inside—that boy I first met.

We’re the same people, he and I, deep, deep inside.

Oh, sometimes we’re both still so angry, we’d like to do a whole lot more than spit. And it takes a whole lot more than a little grace to make it through.

But love is not self-seeking.

And real love gets a little less sleep, a little less time for what we want, a little less of what we most love to eat, to make the other person happy. To give them joy. To make them strong.

Never underestimate the power of a smile. The power of a kind word.

Like water to grass, they are spring rain to the soul.

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No, life doesn’t end with “I do.” That is where it begins.

For you and your Mr. Darcy.

For me and mine.

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“Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.”
~ C.S. Lewis

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“When you see someone putting on his Big Boots, you can be pretty sure that an Adventure is going to happen.”
~ A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh 

Wellies by our backdoor in Scotland.
Two of the pairs are mine – John does not wear pink!

Findlay having a wee adventure at Glamis, our local castle and favourite place for a family day out when we lived in Scotland.

*It’s been a rather long time since you’ve heard from me, I know. It’s just that life has been a bit of an adventure recently, and not in the inspiring, tramping across fields in wellies sort of way. Adventures usually includes a few surprises,  it’ s true, but this move to America has included just a few too many surprises to make it a nice, comfortable sort of adventure.  A few weeks ago our house was burglarized and almost everything of value taken. This included our laptops, of course, which housed my many notes and photos. The whole experience has been a bit traumatic, I must admit, and the loss of our files was devastating. But . . . I have found myself being forced to look at my life a little differently since it happened, which I pray will turn out to be a good thing. I’ll have more to say on the subject, I’m sure, but until then, I give you this small offering–a little quote and some photos in honor of this colourful, wet, puddle-filled season we call autumn . . . or, on this side of the world, fall.

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“If God had devised a solar system that lighted parts of the globe only at the seasons that showed His best handiwork, the rest of the world would be dark in October while New England enjoyed its hour, just as England would light up for the few magic weeks in late March and early April for its incomparable spring.”

~ Alistair Cooke

The American Home Front 1941-1942

I must hasten to add that ALL of Great Britain enjoys a glorious spring, perhaps most especially Scotland 😉 Nonetheless, enjoy these snaps I took in Oxford last spring

 

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Americans, I’ve observed, are good entertainers. And by this I’m not implying that we’re all qualified to play the leading role in Swan Lake, or that we can belt out the Hallelujah Chorus with perfect pitch. What I’m saying is that Americans, on the whole, know how to throw a good soiree, shindig, bash, or whatever you’d like to call it.

Growing up, I was taught the importance of presentation. If food looked beautiful and appetizing, then it would taste even better. Whatever the occasion, whether a tea party, child’s birthday party, or summer cookout, my mother would put care into choosing just the right invitations, menu, decorations, plates, and music to make sure the gathering was something special. This was her way of saying that both the guests and the person she was throwing the party for, were special and worthy of a true celebration.

I missed many American holidays when I lived in Scotland. For not only do Americans love to celebrate, we seem to find more reasons to do so than many other countries. On top of our extra holidays like Thanksgiving and Independence Day, we also have baby showers, wedding showers, and graduation open houses, none of which were the norm in the UK. But one thing I did take with me from my time in Scotland was an appreciation for simple, spontaneous entertaining, which is perhaps even more useful in building friendships and encouraging others than the carefully planned dinner party type of entertaining. True hospitality is not always convenient, polished, nor planned. It is, however, warm, welcoming, and real.

Most hospitality in Scotland, whether planned or not, involves the drinking of tea. As all devoted tea drinkers know, there is something soothing, healing, and inspiring in a good cup of tea. It is not only reserved for tea parties, nor just an after-dinner treat. It is offered to the workman who has come to fix the boiler. To the neighbor who stops by to return a dish. To the friend who has come round so your children can play together.

Most of the time a wee something to eat is offered along with the hot cuppa. Some hostesses disappear into the kitchen for a few minutes and return bearing a tray laden with mini sandwiches, crackers and cheese, or tray bakes. Other times, especially in the case of busy mums, the hostess raids the children’s biscuit tin, with its mismatched and broken contents. Or, loveliest of all, you might stop by someone’s home and discover they were baking that very morning, and can offer you a warm fairy cake or scone.

The most common tea in the UK is black tea, but green tea, herbal tea, and other varieties such as Earl Grey and Darjeeling are also popular. Whatever the offering, a cup of tea is not only a gift of nourishment, of calm, and of warmth (especially welcome on those blustery Scottish winter days). A cup of tea also says, “Stop for a minute and rest. Let’s chat about the weather, or, if we are true friends, about life.” With a warm cup between your hands and a friend’s face across the table or sofa, problems can be solved, joys and sorrows shared, and spirits uplifted.

In most Scottish households, the kettle is boiled for tea many times a day. It’s a drink for life’s many ordinary moments. But I’ve appreciated the times when a friend has done something to make our gathering a bit special, such as using teacups and saucers instead of mugs, lighting a candle and placing it on the table, setting out decorative napkins, or even trying a different tea such as Lady Grey. These simple touches go a step further in making moments special, and letting your guest know how much you treasure time spent with them.

So next time someone stops by unexpectedly, instead of telling yourself they’re an interruption to your day, offer them a cup of tea, dig out the treat you’ve been waiting for an excuse to open, and sit back and let the laughter (or the tears) flow.

Raspberry Fairy Cakes and Tea

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Spring. Who doesn’t like that word? For most of us, the mention of spring brings pleasant images of balmy weather, flowers in bloom, and wooly lambs frolicking in the fields. Spring can also make us think of new possibilities, new beginnings, and hope for a better future.

Now that spring is finally here again, pause for a moment to reflect on some of the hopes and dreams you have for this coming year. If you’re anything like me, your list includes improving the appearance of your home, creating more special memories with your family and friends, reading more books, and cooking better meals. And maybe, if you pause long enough, you’d find some other dreams, ones that seem even less likely to come true than the others, but are dear to your heart all the same–starting your own craft business, travelling to a different continent, or visiting the home of Jane Austen, perhaps?

Scottish daffodils in my friend’s garden

Those goals and dreams may not seem related, but they’re all ideas for making our lives more meaningful. More BEAUTIFUL. Having a more beautiful life is certainly one of my goals, which is why I created this blog. Happylittlesigh is a very special little place, created for all you hopeless romantics, bookworms, tea drinkers, period drama fans, and anyone who is looking for simple ways to bring more beauty into their lives. More beauty, more peace, and more reasons for letting escape from your lips . . .  a happy little sigh.

I’d love for you to join me, and you can start today by pulling on your jacket and wellies (or trainers, if you don’t have boots), leaving the house, no matter what state it’s in, and escaping to the out doors to look for signs of spring. Bits of green poking through the rich dark soil. Fuzzy buds on the ends of delicate tree branches. Or daffodils, like the ones I photographed today in my friend’s garden. Aren’t they happy?

Hoping to see you back soon!

Saying Cheery-bye for now,

Avonlea x

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