An Ode to Mums

It’s funny that no matter how old I am, or how long I’ve lived out of home (four and a half years), I still run to my mum when I’m sick. This morning I didn’t think twice before texting her before work to pray for me. And only a mum would call you at work from three hours away just to check in. That’s a mother’s heart, whether you’re two, 22 or 42.

Tonight I stood in the medicine aisle at the supermarket on the phone to Mum asking her question after question about paracetamols, active ingredients, dosage . . . When you’re vulnerable, she’s often still the default. And my amazing mother stood at the kitchen bench on the other end of the line cooking tea for the rest of my family (asking my brother to help her chop the carrots because I assume one of her hands was busy holding the phone for me) while advising me on low-strength pain killers.

Mums are the most hardworking, caring, underappreciated, faithful people in the world, and worthy of our deep respect. Today I want to honour my mother, and all mothers, because for starters we wouldn’t be here without them, but we also wouldn’t be who we are without them. Your mother has such a profound impact on you and for the last however many years I’ve been taking close mental notes as I observe my mine.

Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her.

Proverbs 31:28

Who else will make you an average of three birthday cakes each year, decorated like a pro, no matter what you pick out of the Women’s Weekly  recipe book? Or can turn crusts into normal slices of bread (the seven-year-old moment when I knew I had a super-mum), or reads you and your sister seven whole novels out loud? Not to mention pick you up, drop you off, clean you, feed you, wash for you, cook for you, discipline you and teach you? This is the short, non-comprehensive list, in case you were wondering.

How much do we appreciate these amazing women in our lives? In our hearts, probably a lot, but how much of that makes it into our words or actions?

Try thinking of a nice thing you can do for your mum in the next week, then go and act on your warm and fuzzy thought. I know it’s not Mother’s Day, but why should it have to be?



Image 1:, sourced 15 June 2016.
Image 2:, sourced 15 June 2016.


The Headstone (creative)

Here is a short story I wrote in my third year at Deakin. It’s a bit quirky and longer than my usual blog posts but stick with it if it’s holding your interest. I’m really passionate about fiction so I hope you enjoy this.



The little decisions were always the hardest for Tom. The most important, heartbreaking things could be going on in his life and the thing that he was wrestling with was which flavour ice cream to get at the school canteen or which friend to sit next to at lunch. Was there a way to pick one without offending the other?
The shop was bustling, like death was somehow electrifying, and not quiet, like it should have been. “Glasgow’s Most Exciting Headstones” the sign outside boasted. If the sign was boastful, the inside of the shop was positively up itself. The hodgepodge of items crowded around shoppers, pressing in from every side like mourners at an open grave. It looked more like a Poundland tribute to Halloween, with black crepe paper and badly cut cardboard crosses strung limply around the room to strike a certain ‘mood’. Were those cobwebs real or manufactured? Tom wondered as he pulled back his hoodie to get a better look. Why had Sarah left him in here to make this choice by himself? She was the adult, after all, and from what he’d seen the last fifteen years, capable of making a decision. Tom always manipulated people’s view of his age, depending on what suited him, and right now he felt seven and about three feet tall.
The girl behind the counter beamed out at the room like she was about to give them all a prize. Maybe it was a smug smile because she felt like she was further away from death than the rest of the room—except for Tom. It was hard to tell. Tom would have guessed her to be about the same age as him, but why was she working here? Tom checked his watch. School wasn’t out yet. Over leggings she wore a fluffy purple skirt that reminded Tom of a tutu, and a festive looking cat winked at him from the girl’s t-shirt. Tom thought she belonged in a store selling tiaras or frosted dream cakes, not working here as some kind of fairy of death. He wondered what her name was.
“Ashley with three e’s?” whispered Tom to himself,  a grin wrapping its fingers around the corners of his lips, hanging on, before falling backwards, arms flailing, into a deep abyss.
“What was that?” the girl asked, leaning low over the counter to catch the words that had already vanished. The ends of her braided strawberry blonde hair brushed the newspaper at her fingertips. She pulled her lips further back to reveal more slightly crooked teeth. She wasn’t altogether unattractive and Tom might have felt flattered if this were a normal situation, but it wasn’t. Her smile reminded him of a happy meerkat baring its teeth.
“Uh, nothing,” he mumbled, and looked away.
“Can I help you, sir?” she persisted.
“No, thanks. Just browsing,” Tom replied as a reflex before realising how idiotic he sounded.
She gave him a knowing look and turned away.
A family of four came side-shuffling down the row of gravestones toward him, the two young children shrinking back into their parents, making it hard for the parents to walk. Tom tried to shift politely out of the way, but his bulky school backpack knocked an urn on a shelf behind him. His foot shot out as a reflex to break the urn’s fall and the girl behind the counter lunged forward. Most of the other people in the shop glanced up, but only as a reflex, and then carried on with their browsing.
Tom muttered a general apology as he replaced the lid on the unbroken urn and returned it to its shelf, gingerly. It had a black and white sticker that said ‘test urn’, whatever that meant.
“No bother, son,” the father of the family said brusquely, patting Tom on the shoulder with a clumsy hand.
That damn backpack. His mum had always said—
But which headstone to get? He wished Sarah would come back. About ten minutes after walking into the shop, she’d remembered how she’d forgotten her dry cleaning “just up the street”. She’d been gone half an hour and Tom was feeling more awkward by the minute, especially with the girl behind the counter staring him down. He would have gone out to find Sarah by now, but he’d only been to Glasgow a handful of times, and never to this section. The times he hadn’t come with school, he and his parents hadn’t strayed far from Sarah’s university. Tom had one awful, sudden thought that maybe she hadn’t really needed to go to the drycleaners. That maybe she wasn’t coming back. His tongue felt swollen, like it might choke him any second, and he forced himself to look around—really look—while he talked himself down.
The walls of the shop were a staid grey, the paint peeling off at the top corners, like it was tired of being there and wanted to crawl away. A few people around Tom were crying as they perused the headstones, noses wrinkling as they sniffed, and dragged crumpled, expired tissues of their pockets again and again, trying not to drop their umbrellas in the process. He felt a numbness filling him from head to toe, and the emotion of the other customers made him uncomfortable, rather than sympathetic. That’s what death was, above all things: uncomfortable. And there was nothing weirder than a group of strangers wandering around a graveyard-themed store, trying to find that one particularly exciting headstone that the wet sign outside promised in cursive letters and no uncertain terms. The blonde fifty-something lady to Tom’s left—a widow, most likely—stepped deep into his personal space to peer down at a white marble headstone. She smelled like his grandmother’s perfume and public transport.  Her hair was pinned back in sedate curls and her expression was appropriately demure, as if only missing a black fascinator. Tom wondered what his expression was like, and decided it had to be less impressive than hers. She sniffed almost violently and blew her nose into an already full hankie, tucking it back into her black sleeve. Tom glanced down at his blue jeans and maroon hoodie almost guiltily.
She turned to him, gesturing to the headstone. “What do you think?”
Tom panicked. “How should I know?” he said somewhat roughly, and immediately regretted it when the lady’s eyebrows pulled together and another tear slipped out. She didn’t wipe this one away and it hung off the edge of her downy chin, accusing him.
The girl sprang out from behind the counter and said, “I think this one’s just gorgeous, love. And for the low price of £900.99, well, you can’t really go wrong.” She snuck a glance at Tom in her peripherals and smiled brightly at the lady. “Tissue?”

When he was thirteen, Tom had come home from school with a black eye and a busted lip. His face was grubby with streaked dirt and dried, crusty tears; his fists were aching from clenching them for hours on end. His dad had come home early and found him at the kitchen table digging his HB pencil hard into the pages of his maths homework. There were no lights on, and through the window the light was fading out of the sky.
“Hey, Dad.” He had spoken first, trying to sound casual, but keeping his eyes down. The Trigonometry sum under his pencil swam out of focus and back in again.
His father greeted him while hanging up his coat and switching on a lamp suspended above the table. Picking up a pencil like usual, his dad took a seat opposite him and finally noticed the way Tom was clawing at his pages, head bowed.
“What’s wrong, Tom?”
“It’s this maths problem. I just can’t—” As he said this, Tom finally looked up, the events of the day stamped on his face. He ground his teeth, mouth closed.
“Son, what happened to you?” His dad leaned forward. His eyes were wide, waiting in tense concern for Tom’s answer. Instead of speaking, Tom watched his dad absently bend the pencil he’d picked up, pressing the top end down with his thumb until Tom thought it would snap. Suddenly he dropped it and it clattered to the table in the silent room, rolling a little toward Tom.
“I just don’t get Pythagoras theorem,” Tom sniffed, stifling his dad’s suspense and driving his own pencil further into the paper until the lead finally snapped. “And sine, cos and tan sound like types of vegetables.” e He tried to laugh but it was squeakier than he intended; he cleared his throat lustily, shoving his shame down deep. “My teacher says I’ll pick it up in no time, but I find it hard to believe her. And I can never choose which one to use for which problem,” he huffed.
“Tom,” his father said firmly, his brown eyes kind. “Forget your maths. We need to talk about what’s really going on.”
What’s really going on.

Tom wandered around the shop for a while, looking for more signs of peeling paint, while the girl retreated behind the counter; one eye on him, one on the lady with the big flashing dollar sign over her head, and apparently one strange, third eye to look down at the newspaper. She was the kind of person he could imagine saying, “I’ve got my eye on you” to a customer and winking, without getting fired. He inched closer to the signs above head height behind the cash register—promoting ways to R.I.P eternally, memorably, fashionably—and didn’t look her way until he felt obligated to by her stabbing glances every couple of seconds. What was she so fascinated by?
“What’s the time, please?” he asked, self-consciously running his tongue over his top teeth to check for food, and then felt stupid. Ice cream didn’t stick.
She beamed. “Half four.”
His mum had always believed that telling you when you had something in your teeth was the hallmark of a true blue friend. She had quoted Dr Seuss in her gentle Northern Isle lilt: “Be yourself, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” Never be ashamed of who you are.


At thirteen, when his dad had finally got it out of him, the most embarrassing thing for Tom was not that he’d been beaten up in the school yard. No. The most shameful thing was that his sister had come to stand in front of him and fight back. He appreciated her efforts, but even at thirteen he’d been sure that men had to fight their own battles. It didn’t escape him that the whole thing seemed kind of topsy-turvy.  Sarah had unintentionally made his situation worse because, of course, they wouldn’t hit a girl, and she couldn’t be around every time they came for Tom, which he learnt the following afternoon in the locker room. That night he’d struggled to find the right way to tell her not to interfere again. That that was the best way to help him. To not help him. Surprisingly, she had tried to prolong that conversation, drawing Tom gently from his masculine cave with words like “safe space” and “trust circle”, even though it had only been the two of them. She was the fix-it, stiff upper lip kind of person when it came to these things. It was the first time Tom had not given in, had kept it together, and it felt good. At least for a while.
The girl rested an elbow on the counter, reading the day’s obituaries and twirling the end of her braid around her fingers. Occasionally she paused to errantly chew her left thumbnail. Reading the daily death column could have been misconstrued as morbid, but Tom saw it as how passionate she was about her job—or even keeping abreast of the current industry trends. He didn’t take the time to wonder how a girl this young had ended up in a job selling headstones in the first place. He tensed as the name MacDonald caught his eye, yet couldn’t stop himself from leaning over to get another look at what his sister had drafted the night before.

Loving parents
Tom and Eilidh MacDonald
passed away in a road accident
5 miles outside of Ullapool
Sunday 22nd November 2008
Aged 49 and 46 years
leaving behind two children
Sarah and Tom Jr.
Funeral Friday 10am
St. Bridget’s Cathedral

Tom caught a glimpse of his face in the mounted wall mirror below the ridiculous signs. His brown hair hung limp on his neck and forehead, a mixture of grease and the afternoon’s rain. His dark brown-black eyes stood pronounced by the bags comfortably encircling them. His mouth was twisted into some kind of unintentional snarl, which was surprisingly hard to get rid of. He knew why the girl looked at him now with a renewed, but different, kind of interest. Tom didn’t like being observed in this way, like he couldn’t be trusted not to throw his backpack at one of the headstones or start juggling the urns. He turned away. Where was Sarah?
People always thought they could help when you were grieving. Two days after the accident, an old friend of the family had run into Tom in Ullapool, outside a shop along the bay. Under low clouds the storefronts followed the curve of the shoreline, huddling in close to each other like old gossips, most likely in conversation about him.
“Tom!” Tears had sprung into her eyes as soon as she spotted him and moved in for a bosomy hug. “Oh, you must be just devastated. The whole community is rocked. What a horrible way to die! All strewn across the wet road like that. I always say, these roads are so dangerous . . .”
Sarah had stepped out of the shop behind him a moment later and moved in front of him to take over the conversation with Mrs MacAvill, although Tom could still see over her head. At that moment she hadn’t seemed twenty.
Tom remembered going home and kneeling by the toilet, vomiting until his stomach was empty; the way his dry retching had bounced off the bathroom tiles after there was nothing left to throw up. He slumped back against the cold, hard wall, trying to catch his breath. People always thought they could help, but they couldn’t.

“You look a bit lost, dear,” the blonde lady wearing black observed with another sniff. “Do you have someone here to help you? Who are you finding a headstone for, anyway?”
The girl behind the counter looked over at him, waiting to see what he would say. The young family from his clumsy moment before turned their bodies to stare at him too, seeming relieved rather than irritated at the distraction.
Tom stared back at them, his vision blurring at the edges. His throat closed over, and he felt like he would choke. He swallowed convulsively, trying to arrange his face into a smile.
The motorbike crashed again and again and there was nothing he could do to stop it. The tires screeched. Tom willed the brakes to work. He screamed. He screamed. The blood flowed out on to the road, pooling, and then was absorbed by the frozen bitumen. The wind nipped at the edges of the strap holding a backpack to the back of the bike, and whipped his mother’s chin length hair against her face.
What was it the neighbours and relatives had all said? “Thank God the kids weren’t there to see it.”
The bell on the door jingled cheerily and Sarah’s voice came from behind Tom. “Sorry I took so . . . long.”
Tom turned and saw her assessing the situation, everyone’s gaze now encompassing both of them.
“What’s wrong, Tom?”
        . . . Those who matter don’t mind.
“Are you . . . sure I can’t help you, sir?” the girl working there ventured tentatively, now that the room was finally quiet. “You’ve been here a long time.”

Fanning the Flame

Imagine a single coal. Alone. Burning bright, now softer, now fading as the heat recedes into the center. The colour dulls, and the light diminishes. Now visualise yourself leaning in, placing a red hot coal beside it and blowing on it, gently enough that you don’t snuff out the cooling one. The coal pulses and soon is burning. You fan until it bursts into glorious flame.

Are you hot, cold, or lukewarm for the one who saved you?

How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of Heaven’s Armies. I long, yes, I faint with longing to enter the courts of the Lord.

I’ve mentioned that when I went to the travel agent some months ago and she asked, “So why are you going to Europe?” my answer was, “Because I feel like I’ll die if I don’t.” Laugh if you will but that is passion. Our passion is like a coal and if we separate from Jesus it gets lukewarm and eventually dies out. And sometimes we’re too busy to even feel our spiritual toes turning blue.

What joy for those whose strength comes from the Lord, who have set their minds on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of refreshing springs.

Where does your strength, your security come from? From your job, your marriage, your ‘position’ at the church, your youth or talents, what people think of you? Don’t just give the answer you tell yourself, if it’s not the truth. We need to be relying on the Lord for that Valley of Weeping to burst with refreshing springs.

It can be easy to lose our passion. It’s scary how easy. Do we still weep in times of worship, still long for alone time with our saviour? Still feel soul sick when it’s absent from our lives? Does our heart yearn for him like the heart of a lover?

A single day in your courts is better than a thousand anywhere else! I would rather be a gatekeeper in the house of my God than live the good life in the homes of the wicked.

Are we radical? I know people can be wary of letting emotion play too big a part in their relationship with God, but the love we experience with him, both given and received, is not without emotion. He is passionate about us, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Always has been, always will be. Jesus is like a burning flame (a face like the sun, what could be more glorious?) and the closer we get to him the quicker and more fully we catch fire.

Does he still command our attention when he walks in the room? Are we still captivated, awed, brought to our knees, overflowing, obsessed? No one could be more worthy of these reactions.

For the Lord God is our sun and our shield, He gives us grace and glory. The Lord will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right.

As I sit here in my room, in the quiet, I think, with tears in my eyes, “Jesus, you gave us all your righteousness while all we forfeited was our sin and the right to die. Who does that? Why would you choose us (much less stick with us)?” The truth feels too wonderful to be true.

And I also pray this prayer: “Jesus, forgive me for having a wandering eye, a wandering heart, for allowing my passion to dim.”

Never forget that he wants us close enough to hear the whisper.



All quotes from Psalm 84, New Living Translation.
Image 1:, sourced 13 July 2016.
Image 2:, sourced 13 July 2016.

Thievery schools, boxing with Hitler and writing to strangers: World War II books to read

I thought to broaden my scope in writing I could review and recommend some books, because any writer, accomplished or aspiring, must as a prerequisite be obsessed with reading. The two undoubtedly go hand in hand.

At the moment I am finishing Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. I don’t usually read a lot of non-fiction but have challenged myself to branch out lately. After a months long journey through the ‘survival, resilience and redemption’ (front cover) of a Prisoner of War in Japan during World War II, I have a new level of respect for veterans. As well as an ache in my heart for those who walked away from their tormentors in the war, and then went on to spend every night afterwards with them, still at their mercy in their dreams.

After reading The Book Thief by Markus Zusak earlier this year (another brilliant read and now one of my favourite novels), I am starting to get a rounder view of the second World War. Depending on what country you’re from, and go to school in, you tend to a get a certain version or ‘side’ to the story, and while The Book Thief made me realise that so many Germans were also just victims, innocents caught in the middle, Unbroken opened my eyes to what was happening behind closed doors to our men while the rest of the world seemed to have their eyes glued on Nazi Germany.

Hailed as an international bestseller–I can see why–my copy’s blurb says:

In 1943, a bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean. Against all odds, one young lieutenant survived. Louis Zamperini had already transformed himself from child delinquent to prodigious athlete, running in the Berlin Olympics. Now he must embark on one of the Second World War’s most extraordinary odysseys. Zamperini faced thousands of miles of open ocean on a failing raft. Beyond, lay only greater trials in Japan’s prisoner-of-war camps.

Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini’s fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would depend on the strength of his will . . .

(Fourth Estate Paperback edition published 2014)

This book is gripping and you can’t believe the odds Zamperini comes up against, although as you read you’re hoping that it’s not a true story once you get attached to Louis and see what he has to endure.

The Book Thief is all about an obsession with words, and how guns didn’t start a war, words did. Tanks and soldiers didn’t kill the main character Liesel’s father, words did. It shows how Germans were forced to support the Nazis if they wanted to survive. They were punished for even showing sympathy to Jews.

The descriptions are like I’ve never heard, but not out of place in an effort to be obscure and the format of the book, whilst still in chapters, is creative and humorous, despite the heavy topic.

My favourite books combine heartbreaking, serious subjects with the very lightheartedness and wry humour that is necessary in order to survive them. Along those lines, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows) is another World War II book (an epistolary novel) that combines these elements beautifully, but I would probably only recommend that one to people who like quirky humour.

If you’re looking for a good read on World War II, check out one of the above. Happy reading!



Image 1:, sourced 12 June 2016.
Image 2:, sourced 12 June 2016.
Image 3:, sourced 12 June 2016.

Four things that young women don’t need to be told

Working in a bra shop, I get to interact with a somewhat skewed demographic of the population, I admit. Add to that the fact that most of the people I know in my current city are mums or at least married ladies, and it might be fair to say that I’m getting a bigger dose of these comments than the average person.

However, it is often true that when you’re a young adult, older people like to project things on to you and tell you what your life’s going to be like. Good, bad or ugly. True, or not. I’ll never forget the first time it happened. I was thirteen and what might not seem a big deal to a lot of people really bugged me. I told someone I don’t drink coffee and they replied, “Just wait till you get to my age and you’ll definitely be addicted.” What my friend Gen calls a spirit of rebellion rose up in me and I came straight back with, “How dare you speak that over my life? I reject that completely.” Guess who is now determined to never give in to the coffee addiction?

Listed below are some things that older women/people really need to stop saying to younger people, because in doing so they are actually speaking death, rather than life over young women like me. Before the list I would like to say that of course this is not everyone, and I really appreciate the ladies in my life who have encouraged me after I’ve been deflated and rocked by these other comments. You are an example worth following, for sure. Also, I am not here to offend anyone, just to remind people of the effect they can have on others, and whether it’s positive or negative is up to them.

  1. “I used to really want to get married but it’s when you stop looking, then your spouse will come along.”
    The problem with that is that it’s like saying, not only do you want a relationship, but it’s a sick system where only by not wanting what you want, will you get what you want. Good luck with that.
    Do we think we can somehow manipulate God’s timeline?
  2. “You may like to wear pretty things now, but wait till you get to my age and you’re married, you’ll stick to ‘these kind of clothes’.”
    The concept that once you’ve ‘got a guy’, you now have a licence to stop putting in any form of effort is heartbreaking, to say the least. And why do pretty things have to have an age limit? Ladies, don’t give up on yourselves, and don’t make the younger women in your life give up on their future.
    This attitude of being resigned and making young women feel like they have no choice over their mindsets, their marriages and their lives in the future is poisoning, and also false. My mum, known for pulling out the wise words when needed, pointed out the other day that pretty much everything is a choice. We can choose to give up on ourselves (this can be in many different ways at many different ages), claiming that we don’t have a choice, but we always do. If you don’t like the way things are, change it.
  3. “Enjoy being skinny because you won’t have a body like that forever. Once you have kids it’s all down hill from there. And don’t expect your boobs to stick around.” (Did I ask for your opinion on my body, random stranger?)
    This one is usually uncalled for, unasked and downright depressing. Yes, I know everyone’s body changes throughout life, especially women having babies etc, but women who are calling the 30 kilos they still have on three years after their last child was born “baby weight” and telling young women that this is what happens to all women when they have kids, is misleading. Everyone who knows me knows how much I adore kids, but I am not kidding (pun intended) when I say that for about a month had decided I was better off not having kids naturally, because I was so afraid of what it would do to my body (luckily I got over that after noticing some amazing women I know who still have incredible figures even after several children).
    Ladies, this is not helpful, and neither is your resentment. It says in the bible for the older women to teach the younger women but that should be equipping them, not scaring them. At work I am sometimes openly resented or scorned for my figure but I have to realise that people are often speaking out their own insecurities and issues. I step back and remind myself: their issues are not your issues, and their body does not have to become your body.
    Also, the way some parents talk about their kids (take all your money and time, interrupt your sleep and bathroom visits/showers, ruin your body, change your marriage, drain your energy, stop you from doing x,y and z) it makes you wonder, “What do you like about them?” You yourself know the joys of having kids, and so do other parents, but people without kids don’t, so sometimes it’s good for you to share those aspects with the young people in your life, so that you don’t put them off or have them thinking that you’re living with regret.
  4. “What do single people even do all day? I can’t remember what I used to do before I had kids.”
    I don’t understand how people don’t perceive this as flat out rude to say to a single person’s face. It carries the message, “You are not valuable, nor is your contribution, until you are married with children.”
    While caring for children is obviously a full on job and mums are without doubt a lot like superheroes, making girls feel like their contribution because they’re not a mum is some how lesser is far from encouraging. And you may be poking at some raw wounds without realising it.

I am a firm believer in the power of words. For example, a few weeks ago I was at my friends’ house having dinner. I am very close to their six year old daughter but didn’t think she was listening when I said to her mum, “I hate kidney beans.” Two seconds later I overheard her declaring to her brothers, “If Louis (her nickname for me) hates beans then I refuse to eat them!” I quickly turned to her and said, “Just kidding! I love all kinds of beans.” She just looked at me as if to say, ‘Nice try.’

Now I’ve got to think about the words I’m speaking over girls younger than myself too. Are they life giving? We want to present our stage of life well, and gently usher younger ones into it, not scare them into thinking they’re headed into the next stage, ill-equipped to handle it and believing that it’s too depressing to bear (how I’ve been feeling lately).

It all comes down to choice. Everything is a choice. The way we live, eat, behave, dress, and the words we choose to speak. From one woman to another, please, please choose life.





Image:, sourced 11 June 2016.