Close your Eyes…

Close your eyes for a moment. Block out the noise from around you and engage your imagination.

Done it?


Now I want you to imagine a Sunday at home. You and your family doing whatever it is that you normally do on a Sunday. Don’t tell me about it, it’s your world, your reality.

I’ll describe mine though; just to give you an idea of what I mean…

It’s now sunny; the day started out wet and stormy, but the sun has come out and the green trees outside my windows are blowing in the breeze. TOH is playing Destiny, running his character through what looks like a cave system, shooting at various aliens that keep popping up in front of him or round rocks… SB is gurgling happily in his bouncy chair, munching on his favourite firefly toy. From upstairs I can hear the two girls laughing as they play Mariokart together (for a change) and NOS has disappeared into his bedroom to play Overlord on his PS3.

The cat is sleeping in a curled up pile on a box by the patio doors, sunshine warming her white, orange and charcoal coloured fur.

I’m sat on the couch with my laptop, typing away. It’s relatively peaceful or at least as peaceful as our house can get anyway.

So, have you got your imagination primed with your personal reality?


Now let’s alter it a little…

* * *

You’re sat there in your Sunday at home and there’s the sound of boots and shouting coming from outside. You look out the window to see a unit of military piling off the back of a lorry into the quiet peaceful street that you live on. That truck pulls away and another pulls up, disgorging another rload of soldiers.

The first set of soldiers start going door to door in pairs, carrying assault rifles and wearing identical serious expressions. Your partner goes to the door when they knock at yours and comes back looking unhappy.

“We’ve been told to stay in our house. No one is to go outside as Martial Law has been enacted due to a major terror threat to the country.” He says.

You turn on your TV. The same information is being relayed on the news channels, the presenters looking scared, as if there was someone pointing a gun at them to make sure that they said the correct thing.

After a few days of martial law, there’s a change in government. Not an election, a change. The Prime Minister is marched away in handcuffs and replaced by a man in a suit that has the unmistakable bearing of a Military Man.

The TV tells you that everything is safe now, but that the soldiers will still be on the streets with guns until further notice.

Day after day a new face is seen in an important position. Newspapers are shut down unless they print what the government give them. The national curriculum is altered; all children from the age of 16 are trained in using an assault rifle and the younger ones are taught to fight with their hands and kill with a knife.

The media are telling you that there is an imminent invasion threat and that everyone over 16 will be drafted into a suitable position for their documented talents.

Your oldest son comes back from college with an official draft notice. He’s being sent into the Airforce. Your Partner receives a draft notice the same day, telling him to report for duty in the local engineering corp. Your oldest daughter is drafted into working in an ammunition factory that has sprung up down the road.

Only you are left with the two youngest to watch as your world goes to hell.

Every single day you hear of people being shot because they refused to do what the government told you. The TV exhorts you to do as you’re told “for your children’s sake”.

You wonder when it will end.

The invasion happens. Strange soldiers are shown shooting at your country’s soldiers. The local gossips all say “It won’t get anywhere near us.”

You and your partner discuss it and the decision is taken that you will raise as much money as you can and take the two youngest to stay with your father in the USA, where they’ll be safer. You suggest that you’ll come back, but he shakes his head, “I can look after the older two, you stay with the younger ones; they need their mother more.”

Reluctantly you agree.

Getting out of the country is tricky. Your passport is out of date and the govt aren’t issuing new ones, so you pay the exorbitant price that a local forger is asking for to ‘update’ the old one. You buy tickets for yourself and the two children, pack as little as possible so you can qualify for just carry on and head to the airport.

The soldiers there examine your passport and look at the children. They strip search you and the children, check your body cavities and laugh when your youngest cries from the pain.

They let you go though.

The flight is crowded with women in similar situations, carrying a crying toddler or baby with one or two children under ten clinging to them. There’s not enough food and water to go round on the flight, so you let your portion go to your kids, knowing that it might be the last food you have for a while.

At the other end, an airport somewhere in Europe, you are rushed off the plane by the police and military of that country. You’re shoved into what looks like an old caravan and told to wait there until you can be cleared to travel onward.

You have to write a letter to your father to beg him to get you into the USA. Then you write another one to your partner and children back home, to reassure them that you’re all still alive. The people running this ‘camp’ take the letters but you have no idea if they’ll get to the people they’re addressed to.

A month later, the news coming out of your country is not good. Other countries are intervening in the war and more and more deaths are happening. You hope that your older children and partner are okay.

Then your older daughter arrives at the camp. She’s filthy, her hair is matted and she looks as if she hasn’t eaten for a month. She tells you that your partner got her out of the country by bribing a govt official with the last of the money you left with him.

They haven’t heard anything about your oldest son, so you hope that means good news and not bad.

A flight to New York is chartered to get eligible families across the Atlantic.

You spend what little money you have to get your three children on the flight, into the care of your father. The official that allows them on says that you can go too, as long as you let him do something to you that only your partner should do.

You’re so desperate that you do it.

Finally, you’re on the flight together. It’s crowded by as the miles fall away below the plane’s wings, you feel safer.

Landing at the other end, you’re ushered into a holding area. The US soldiers surrounding it look just as scary and angry as the ones that you’d left behind in your country. A woman comes in with a pair of suited, sun glassed men and calls you and your children over.

“Your father died last week. There is no other relative here for you to go to.” She says.

“What does that mean?”

“You’ll have to go back to your country.”

You hold your youngest to you and groan inwardly. Your older daughter is cuddling the younger one, both of them looking terrified.

“Let them stay, please?” you gesture to the children.

She looks them over, frowning, “I can see what I can do.” She walks away again, followed by the besuited men.

The crowd of old men, women and children in the holding area settle down on the floor for an uncomfortable night. You hold your children to you and watch them drop into an exhausted sleep, but you can’t rest because you’re too worried about what is going to happen to them.

The next morning, the woman comes back, gestures to the soldiers and steps back.

The soldiers grab at the babies and toddlers, dragging them out of the parent’s arms. Your youngest screams as he is ripped from your embrace. Your younger daughter shrieks with fear as she is pulled away from her older sister. Those soldiers march away, carrying the children. You don’t know if you’ll ever see them again.

“These children will all be placed with foster families. If the war in your country should send, we will send them back to you.” The woman announces.

You look at your oldest daughter. She looks at you.

“The Teenagers here will be accommodated in barracks and enrolled in our military schools. They will then be sent to fight for the war in your country to be ended.”

Your daughter gasps and hugs you. You can feel her trembling.

Then she is pulled away by another soldier and forced to line up with the other teenagers. They are marched away.

“The rest of you will be returned to your country. We do not want you here, taking up jobs and homes that decent law abiding Americans need. If you want your country back, you must fight for it and that means returning to it.” The woman turns on her heel and stalks away, as the remaining soldiers herd you and the other women and old men into another area, clearly intended for a flight away from the US…

* * *

Obviously this is a story. I haven’t actually experienced anything I’ve detailed. I’m lucky that way. I live in a stable country with healthcare, peace and tranquillity. I’m not being bombed or attacked on a daily basis. I don’t have to worry about my children’s future in any way more serious than what they’re going to have for dinner or where they’re going to go to school. Obviously this piece was mainly inspired by the recent news from the USA, but it also takes in things that I know about the second world war, that have been reported about the problems that the refugees from the middle east have faced on their trek to perceived safety.

There are mothers, fathers, grandparents and other family members that are having to worry about the sort of thing that is in my story. There are people having to make the journey with their children to another country only to be told that they cannot stay with them or that the children have to be separated from them, even if they are allowed to stay.

There are politicians that could fix these things, that could extend the hand of kindness, but they’re not interested in anything other than what might fill their bank accounts… and the ones that are interested in helping, are being stymied by the ones who aren’t interested.

All I’m interested in is opening up minds – if you can imagine the above story happening to you and your family and you can make a difference somehow, then do it.

I’ll do my bit as well… what that will be I don’t know yet.


But you can rest assured that I will do it.

100 days to be happy: Catch up – My Top Ten ways to relax.

You may have noticed that I haven’t been posting my happy reasons recently… well, doing this sort of kick-started my writing and I’ve managed to write two and a half chapters so far! So I’m really rather happy…


I thought today I’d catchup a bit by doing a sort of summary post… in the form of a Top Ten List:

My Top Ten ways to relax.

1) Breathe.
On of the things that happens when you are stressed is that you take shallow breaths, so the best thing you can do to relax is to take some deep breaths. Try my Breathing Exercise from my earlier post on Breathing.

2) Close Your Eyes.
Shut your eyes and you shut out the world. Yes, your hearing intensifies, but by shutting your eyes you put your body into that “pre sleep” state and it automatically relaxes. Just don’t keep them shut for too long or you might doze off…

3)  Listen to the Wind.
Find a quiet place and listen to the wind and everything it carries with it. Try naming the things you can hear. Don’t think about anything else.

4) Read a Print book.
There’s one thing that Print books have that e-books don’t. It usually occurs with older print books; that wonderful relaxing smell that reminds you of trips to the library as a kid…

“Scientists say that “old book smell” is more than just mustiness; it contains hints of grass and vanilla.  That’s because all the compounds used to make the book release distinctive odors as they break down. For example, lignin, which is present in all wood-based paper, is closely related to vanillin. As it breaks down, the lignin grants old books that faint vanilla scent.”
– Taken from ILAB website.


5) Listen to Japanese Music.
There is something ethereal about Japanese Music. Maybe it comes from the unfamiliar instruments they use or the inspiration of their beautiful islands, I don’t know, but listening to it can be very  relaxing.

Here’s a taster:


6) Go for a Walk.
Gentle exercise can be strangely relaxing. In fact there’s a type of meditation that relies on walking. You just focus on what your body is doing and forget about anything else. Sadly this doesn’t work if you have children with you…

7) Play.
This is fairly simple actually. Just let go of all those stifling adult inhibitions and play. It doesn’t matter what. Have a tickle fight with your partner, throw water balloons at each other on a hot day, play tag, find a playground and go on the swings, build a sandcastle on the beach… enjoy yourself. Who cares what it looks like.

8) Sex.
This tends to be something that falls by the wayside when you have kids. You’re tired all the time, they keep interrupting those loving moments with your partner and you can’t catch a break… so when you do manage it, it can be incredibly relaxing!

9) Stretch out those muscles.
I’m not talking about a full blown yoga session or a session down the gym (although those will work too), I’m talking about standing up from your chair and stretching. Just soft gentle stretches to the ceiling and floor, maybe some leg lunges to lengthen the calf muscles and ease the upper leg a little.
For some strange reason stretching the body out also relaxes it!

10) Get a decent amount of sleep.
I’m not just talking at night, although that helps. If you’ve been doing a lot of intense mental or physical work, or you’ve not had a good night’s sleep then having a nap can be incredibly refreshing.

Bonus Item:

You may notice that if you do #1,#2 & #5 all together,  you’ll probably end up doing #10 naturally. Do not fight this – if your body needs it, then it’s best to listen to it!

100 Days to be Happy: Escapism

My house is stuffed full of Escapism. Everything from books through DVD’s to console games.


Just so we’re clear, here’s a definition from the Collins English Dictionary:

noun 1. An inclination to or habit of retreating from

unpleasant or unacceptable reality, as through
diversion or fantasy

This can be a good thing.
Why? Well, The Dragon’s Tower (my name for our house)  is too crowded for the number of people in it.
If you can’t physically escape people, mentally escaping is perfect:
I dive into one of my favourite books; NOS gets lost in the Pokemon worlds in several different ways; TOH becomes Batman, a Skylander or an Artist; PT embraces her inner fashion diva and creates outfits for her dolls. PW is too young yet to need to escape…
Recently, tempers and tension have been running high here.NOS is Aspergers and he’s having problems at school with the amount of noise and stuff going on around him. He’s been holding in his temper perfectly, doing his work and generally being a good student, even if he’s reading in class a little too much!

All of those stimuli have irritated and niggled at him every day. Peace is difficult to come by at School and tricky at home  – his sister insists on talking to him, when he’d prefer to have some down time.

Saturday, he almost blew up.  Unable to take his sister’s irritating singing, our requests to dry up the washing up and the lack of silence in the house generally, he came and talked to me.I could see how tense he was. No one should be so het up that your muscles strain against your bones. I talked him down. I let him tell me what the problem was and then gave him a solution to put into place the next time he felt it building up.  I taught him a meditation routine – breathing exercise and music, and explained how to use it in different situations.

He was fine after that, but then TOH blew up… figuratively speaking.


The Dragon’s Tower was thick with tension so strong that you could have used it to build a wall. It didn’t help my temper either. I blew up at him back. He escaped by taking his sketchbook down to the beach; I headed for our bedroom and shut the door.

Escape was essential at that point in time, and thus, I celebrate the fact that we have somewhere to escape to mentally most of the time. Without it, occasions like the weekend would crop up nine times out of ten.

When was the last time you escaped and where did you go? Physically or mentally?