If You Believe


If you like your Christmas films to have as much magic and warmth as those made for kids, then, this Christmas, check out If You Believe, starring Ally Walker, Tom Amandes and Hayden Panettiere. It’s got the lot! Christmas, snow, a writer, an editor, a New York apartment, a family house in Queens, a clapboard in New England and some great acting… what’s not to like!

Don’t watch it with Santa age kids, though; this one is for grown ups, but in a nice way.

Merry Christmas!

Thank you for all the joy you’ve brought this year by reading, subscribing or commenting. Until I log back on, I’d like to leave you with a coach’s thoughts on The Christmas Story. I wrote it a few years ago when I was helping coaches develop the skills they’d need on their journey towards coach certification.

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A Coaching Hallelujah ~

These past few days, I’ve been looking back over what I’ve done with my home life, my coaching and my writing since I started working online, taking stock of the year’s unexpected joys and challenges as well as the dreams I’ve had to let go of. You may not be a Christian or even celebrate at this time of the year, but please bear with me, stay open and join me in a coach’s exploration of a well known story.

Thinking about my abandoned goals usually leads to me moodling about George Bailey from the film ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’; this time I found myself wondering about Joseph. Were his dreams of a simple family life turned upside down when he heard the momentous news about Jesus? How quick was he to recognise the perfection in the situation or was he simply stunned for a while, following his own instincts as well as trusting the guidance given to him by a greater power? What we do know is that he was supportive and loving and that he didn’t give up and walk away when things got tough and scary. But in this story, it isn’t just Joseph who embodies the qualities that we can use to strengthen our work and enrich our lives.

Imagine in the dark, frosty crispness of night, a bright band of angels bursting into glorious song, the most perfect example of matching the radiance, joy and vibrational energy of the occasion. And what a triumph of clear communication and channelling too! In any choir – even the angelic kind – it takes all kinds of unique voices and a love of synergy, resonance and harmony to create the kind of soul music that fills you from your heart to your toes with amazing Aha!’s.

Imagine too the humanity of the shepherds, their hearts and minds filled with a tumult of human thoughts and emotions as they grapple with shock, overwhelming panic, awe and hope in the face of an astonishing new reality.  Then there’s the little shepherd boy, bringing his gift of childlike innocence, wonder and curiosity to the tableau in the stable. 

And while the shepherds remind us to love the simple dignity of our humanity, it pleases me to think of the hardworking ox and ass instinctively providing warmth with their bodies and their breath, standing there powerful yet still in the silence, breathing, looking on, listening, understanding…

I also like to think of the innkeeper (and his wife?) contributing practical solutions and resources – shelter, blankets, food, a jug of fresh water and directions to the well – all of this while bustling around, tending to an innful of guests, reminding us that people still need to have their basic needs met, no matter what life changing events are taking place. 

And imagine, silhouetted against the starry night sky, gliding along on camels, the three mysterious magi, following a shared dream, a vision, never stopping till they reach their destination and deliver their gifts. Gifts which remind us that value is subjective and that our skills and senses are to be cherished: gleaming gold, bringing with it the power to do great good if it’s used wisely and with compassion; frankincense, its heady, smoky fragrance evoking the power of holy places, prayer and contemplation; myrrh, the balm that reminds us to treat our bodies with love and respect and to tune in and enjoy and them while we can.  The three kings also bring the gifts of magic and mystery, wisdom and knowledge, intuition and synchronicity. They travelled together, sharing support, solidarity and resources on their long journey towards the unknown,  reminding us that if we remain open, alert and responsive, we have a lot to learn from the wisdom and experience of others, from people of all cultures and faiths.

But behind this rich tapestry and the birth of one special child, let’s not forget the tragedy that arose from Herod’s terrible personal agenda born of power and fear, his quickness to judge and his conviction that he was right. We all have the power to hurt or help each other, to react or respond, to forgive or let ourselves be consumed by fear, pain, bitterness, anger and overwhelm; but we also have the power and skills to ask the right questions.

And the answer to them all, the simple answer that glows like a hallelujah in the silence? Mary, serenely holding the greatest gift we’ve ever been given. Love. Pure, unconditional love.

Wishing you a season filled with miracles and love, wherever you are, whatever you believe in…

A Patchwork Post: Writing Tips, Christmas Tips and Susan Boyle…

M's xmas cushion

Are you working on a novel for NaNoWriMo at the moment? Having a creativity crisis? Or simply in need of  a blogging boost? Are you hoping to collate your best blog posts into a published book some day?  Here’s a book I’d recommend by Hugh Macleod of Gaping Void, a blogger who did just that.

ignore everybodyI’m not going to wax lyrical; you don’t have time for that. Let me just share a few quotes from it with you and tell you that I’ve re-read the book  twice. Yes, twice. It’s an incredibly easy read because each chapter is blog post length. I warn you; you’ll be twitching to jot things down in your quotebook.

If you’re looking at a blank piece of paper and nothing comes to you, then go do something else. Writer’s block is just a symptom of feeling like you have nothing to say, combined with the rather weird idea that you should feel the need to say something.  ~ Hugh MacLeod

A Picasso always looks like a Picasso painted it. Hemingway always sounds like Hemingway. A Beethoven symphony always sounds like a Beethoven symphony. Part of being a master is learning how to sing in nobody else’s voice but your own. ~ Hugh MacLeod

You can’t love a crowd the same way you can love a person.

And a crowd can’t love you the way a single person can love you.

Intimacy doesn’t scale. Not really. Intimacy is a one-on-one phenomenon.

It’s not a big deal. Whether you’re writing to an audience of one, five, a thousand, ten million, there’s really only one way to truly connect. One way that actually works:

Write from the heart. ~ Hugh MacLeod.

Never compare your inside with someone else’s outside.  ~ Hugh MacLeod

Hugh’s book Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity would make a great gift for any creative adults in your life.

Embrace your real life and be aware of what makes you happy…

Are you wondering what that photo of a hand-crocheted Christmas cushion has to do with inspiration, creativity or writing? Well, those of you who’ve read a lot of my pieces will know that I do my best writing when I’m away from the computer, out in the real world, in cafés or at my kitchen table. I need to live well to be able to write well; I need be aware, present and open to experience and inspiration for the jug to fill to overflowing.

Over at The Kitchen Table Space, my monthly column at The Calm Space, I’ve written a piece about one of my favourite Christmas rituals – keeping a Christmas book. It combines my triplet  passions – family life,  homelife coaching and writing. Truth is, I’d write about the Festive Season every day if I could. It’s the season that restores my faith, my soul and my energy more than any other time of the year.

Please drop in for a cyber coffee and a chat about Christmas; I love having friends at my kitchen table.

Take a break from writing and listen to some music that makes you cry…

As I seem to have blogging OCD and have followed a dearth of posts with one that thinks it’s a magazine – go figure –  I leave you with a song I heard this morning from fellow Scot Susan Boyle. I’ve heard it before but this time it caught me unawares as I was looking out of the kitchen window; I was  stunned by its beauty. These were the only words I could make out as my throat ached and my eyes welled up with unshed tears… “Wild horses..”

And the Angels Sang

Cradling a coffee to my lips like a prayer in a begging bowl, I sat alone, half hidden behind a pillar and a potted palm. The owner of the hotel, a friend, kept throwing me reassuring glances. The lights on the huge Christmas tree twinkled and raucous laughter and the smell of beer drifted in from the public bar next door.

A pretty dark eyed Polish waitress and the owner’s son and daughter smiled as they rushed back and forwards from the bar, fussing around thirty elderly residents from a local nursing home who sat at a long table drinking tea and coffee, clinking their teaspoons as they relaxed after their annual Christmas meal.

Some sat very still, their hands clasped in their laps, their eyes rheumy, dreaming perhaps of Christmases past. One dignified man in a tweed jacket and sombre tie smiled and thanked the waitress graciously for every small service. A bald man with ruddy cheeks leaned over to chat to friends who had to strain to hear, their lined faces creased in smiles.

“That’s them comin’, Charlie!” shouted one of the regulars at the bar and my heart started pounding. A group of bustling schoolchildren in school uniform was herded in by two teachers, one anxiously smiling, the other firmly issuing orders in a hushed voice that brooked no opposition.

Tall gangly boys with dishevelled uniforms jostled with nervously giggling girls as they took off coats and scarves and flustered around, gathering sheet music and producing shining brass trumpets and trombones from black leather cases lined in red velvet. One lad heaved from a heavy case an accordion that was almost as big as him. Several of the girls spotted me, smiled, whispered to my daughter, nudged her and pointed: “Look! There’s yer mum!” She saw me, broke into a sunny grin and waved a shy half wave as I smiled back and fought to stop myself grinning like a doting idiot. Her teacher leaned down smiling and whispered to me “You’ll be glad you came.” One of my daughter’s classmates started to announce the short programme. “Thank you for inviting us to come here to entertain you today.”

A short dance routine, a brass band Christmas tune, a boy playing Flower of Scotland on the accordion. I listened with half an ear, clapping loudly at the end of each performance but ever aware of my beating heart and the faces of the old folk. From behind the pillar, I couldn’t see my daughter, sitting on the floor with her friends. Only those who stepped up to perform were in my line of vision. The old folk clapped each child, each performance till their fragile hands must have ached. But one old lady in a pastel coloured cardigan didn’t clap; her face intense and panicky, she searched the faces of the youngsters, stirred perhaps by memories of Christmas concerts gone by, looking for and not finding the face of a child long gone.

And there she was. My baby, standing tall and proud in front of the assembled choir of young people I’d known since they’d played with sand and plasticine at playgroup. Nearly as tall as me now, silver tinsel in her blonde pony tail, the same intense look in her pale turquoise eyes that I’d seen in every photograph of me growing up. My friend Charlie looked over, saw me struggling with a lump in my throat and the throb of unshed tears as my girl began to sing. “It was on a starry night…” and then he looked at me, looked back at my daughter, stunned. He’d never heard her sing, knew only that I was a proud mum, knew that like him, I’d lost my elderly mum before she’d had the chance to know her youngest grandchildren. “And the angels sang for him…” The public bar fell silent. “The bells in heaven rang for him…” As her golden voice wrapped itself around everyone in the room, I felt my mother’s arms around me, holding me together. I saw the faces of those proud old people transfixed and tears streaming down their faces. After her last note had faded away into silence, there was a pause before the whole room started clapping.

The children gathered up their instruments and sheet music, chatting and giggling proudly and my daughter came over to me, her face beaming. She grew anxious when she saw my blotchy face but when I smiled, unable to speak, and pulled her to me, she stroked my hair with a wisdom beyond her years and gave me a huge, silent hug.