Part. 1 INTRO: A little less conversation, a little more action please, or so long and thanks for all the fish

OK, where do I begin? This will be our last blog post, or should I say, posts. I’ve had to break it into 6 easier-to-digest chunks. I just started to write some thoughts and it turned into 11,000 words. If only that had happened at university.

So, I will say this only once (dodgy French accent), and then shut up.

This is my Jerry Maguire moment.

And enough of the social media, especially facebook, at least for now, I’ve got too much other stuff to do. Friends, if you want to get hold of me, please email, skype or call me, or better still, come see me.

I do and say all of this for a few reasons, but the main one is that there’s a lot of people talking. Sometimes that is a really good thing, as some people have never had a chance to talk. But unless it’s really important, I don’t want to add any more noise to our already too noisy world. I have found my peace. I stopped trying to do everything, and finally gave in – a ‘diving bell and the butterfly’ moment, Thelma and Louise jumping off the cliff. And I got caught. Yes, there is a God, He saves, He redeems, His Grace is huge and bigger than anything you can imagine. Jesus is His Son, and He died a horrific, painful, shameful death so that we can come back to our Father and rest in His love. I’ve called myself a Christian for over 15 years but have only just got this. It’s awesome, in the real sense of the world. And wonderful, and scary, and big. It’s how our life is meant to be, and not like The Office. It may sound crazy, but I am of sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). Anything by  C.S.Lewis says this much better  than I ever could.

So, I need to stop talking. And also telling people how to do things, or how great God is and just do what He tells me to do. When I am obedient, it is actually really fun and releasing and free from worry. There are people here and now who really, really need help, right now. Dallas is the place I am in for now, and it is full of hurting people, and they’re right here and I’ve been too busy worrying what you might think of me, or that I needed more money, or more stuff to help them.  I’ve been the Sadducee who walks to the other side of the road, and I’m sorry. I don’t need the stuff and I don’t want to clutter up your life either, but if I have it and you need it, my hope is to let go of it, and to give it to you.

I have been an angry Martha watching Mary for so long that I didn’t realise that all I had to do was sit at His feet and listen. His yoke is easy and his burden really is light. The transition for me to stop trying is hard, its like stopping a hurricane, and bringing forth new things is as painful as childbirth, but a new creation is evolving in me.

I have held my sweet daughter’s hand – her right hand – pretty much from the moment she was born. Now, despite all our efforts to try to get her to sleep with a ‘lovie’, a toy or a blanket like my son, she finds it hard to sleep with out holding my or my husband’s hand. And you can criticize me for my parenting style,  but I love it (and for a long time I put her needs before mine, which is our very normal and natural instinct mothers, but its wrong, you can’t love others if you can’t love and care for yourself). I love to hold her hand and have her close, as much as she loves it too. And she is able to do what I can not yet do but which I must learn from a babe – that you can sleep peacefully, when you know you are safe, and loved.

The opinions expressed here and in the next 5 posts, are my own, not God’s. If you want to find out what he says, ask Him. I am a deeply, deeply flawed human being, saved by grace. Grace is what makes the difference. I say none of this to offend, to hurt or to place blame (apart from the bit about the guns). But I also don’t ask for your approval for my opinion, gained through my experience,  my knowledge, my heart and my brain. But I do need to get it off my chest. It is a wee bit longer than I thought I was thinking, it turns out I have a lot to say, but  if you’re up for listening, get a cuppa and a creme egg and have a wee sit. (and i take no credit for any of the clips).

To be continued….

Family, the section below is from blog no 5, coming up. I wrote this 3 weeks ago. It becomes all the more poignant after the events of today, so just had to include it.

Please my dear father, do this one thing for me. Put as much effort into getting help for your bodily pain as you do worrying about it. As wise Merit says, you need to change your diet, start doing yoga and/or get a dog so that you can relax. Your health was the number one reason that I would have come home (and that I know you both miss your grandchildren so much) but I can’t make you take care of yourself, only you can. Do it quickly, because I love you more than pretty much anybody else on earth and I’m not ready to let you go.


8 reasons why America is good (or isn’t as bad as it sometimes feels), one year on.

I wrote this a while back, and it still holds true for me. The only thing I would add, is no.9, it’s not a dirty word to say you’re a Christian here. 

Thursday 1st December 2011

It’s been a tough year since arriving in the States. One year on and it’s still easier to see the negatives about my ‘new’ home, rather than look to all the great things I have discovered, seen or experienced. I thought it would be a good idea to recap 8 good things about the great U S of A, and Dallas in particular, in no particular order. Well apart from maybe the first two. And in honor of America, I will colorfully spell their way.

1. The people. Hands down, top of the list.

I didn’t doubt it, having met some good types home and away, but you never know, often countries seem to send their good ones out to show good face and leave the duds at home (I don’t believe Sarah Palin has travelled extensively outside of America?). But, the folks I have lived with, played with, worked with, met in the stores (although not on the roads), had chance encounters with and been doing life with over the last year have not put out the light of best America hope – it’s good people. And Texas, well, it might not have been that way. You have a certain reputation you know. I know George Bush really isn’t one of you but that’s all the rest of us have to go on. But for every George Bush, there is an interesting and articulate James Faust. And for every Sarah Palin, there is a smart Sarah Harris, or Alex Mena. Or a wonderfully kind Catherine Stansberry. Or generous friends, Katie Worley and Amy Oswalt. A woman beautiful inside and out – Alex Pursglove or Savannah Helm. Amongst many others, the people I have been with over the last year have shown that friendship can blossom anywhere, even when life is tough, and that people are without a doubt the best reason to be anywhere.

2.       Weather. Toes uncurled, a close second.

Last night J and I went through a list of countries that we would be happy to send our children to for a good education. There were a few that came up, but the clincher in most cases for me was, “yeah, but it’s cold there right?” Yes, I know the summers are unbearable. It is a dangerous and genuinely life-threatening climate. There are things completely out of our control that can actually kill us here. BUT, for most of the time, ie right now, tonight, it is BEAUTIFUL. It’s Dec 1st and it’s 64° (18°). Of course, Dallas does get cold, and I know the cold can be good sometimes, but I have never been that person who relishes putting on all of my clothes (Joey style) – and now having to do that to a stubborn two year old as well – hunching up my shoulders and bracing against the icy wind or freezing fog. In the dark. For at least 5 months of the year. As MrE says when we run the bath, ‘mummy likes the hot’. Or more like, the warm. And the sun. Did I mention it is gloriously sunny 90% of the time? Walking through the arboretum at 4pm on a stunning sunny November day when it is still warm enough for the wee man to play in the fountains and dry off without shivering uncontrollably? That is worth the summer furnace I think. And if not, I can always come back to Scotland for the summer rain.

3.       KXT (and KERA) Public radio at its best

Listening to a great band from Fort Worth today (soulful, U2ish but folksy, didn’t catch their name), followed by The Lighting Seeds and an unknown oldie, I love KXT. It is more than just a station that plays really good music from Texas and everywhere, including lots of great British music you don’t hear much on British radio like The Smiths and The Pixies. It is also a reminder that America is creative and cool and picks the best from everywhere and makes something really good and new from it all. And Kera, (say it with a NI accent),  well that just panders to my middle class indulgence for Radio 4. We have it on through most nights, listening to the World Service. It is a reminder to me that we are part of a bigger world, and that at 4am, is bigger than my problems, and that America can be very intelligent, knowledgeable and thoughtful.

 4. Celebration A decoration for everyday of the year.

A dear friend and former flatmate, and proud American, Sarah Day, introduced me to the concept of celebrating well, whilst we were living together many year ago in Glasgow. Her parties were wonderfully decorated and always enthusiastically put together. Even all of us holiday cynics can’t help but get a bit interested when so much effort is put into celebrating so much. It is over the top, it is too much, it is a commercial exercise in how much shit people will buy (and at the back of my mind I can’t help but think the money spent on decorating and lighting your house with literally thousands of lights, could be better spent on your neighbors a mile away who can’t afford to see a doctor), BUT, the principle is that you should celebrate milestones. And do it as a community, and do it BIG, like you mean it, and that every day is a gift. ‘This is the day the Lord has made’.

5. Food It’s odd, but good.

I got here and the first meal I made was something I’ve made for nearly 20 years, a Shepherd’s pie. But it wasn’t, it was evil ‘ground beef’ and other stuff that I randomly found and I nearly killed my father in law by putting tons of pepper and mayonnaise (?) in it, trying to make it edible. One year on, and I cook and bake more here than I ever did at home. I love cooking. In my darkest moments (or shortly after), my way of getting my head around stuff is putting on a apron, finding a recipe, finding my ingredients, realising I only have half, substituting for something that might work, ignoring the recipe and making some food. Sometimes it works – a great Chicken Pot Pie, or Angel Food Cake (which isn’t the same as our angel cake, much to my surprise half way through making it), and quite a lot of the time it doesn’t work. Don’t put apples in a potato gratin if you don’t have enough potatoes or no leeks (it goes soggy) and I am intimidated by pulled pork and overwhelmed by the amount of meat in Texas cooking. BUT, you can get lots of good, new and fascinating ingredients here. I didn’t know what Masa was, always wanted to use buttermilk more, there’s more shrimp than even I can eat (and its cheap) and there are countless Mexican spices and foods that I haven’t even began to get to grips with. My love of all things Japanese has never abated and I have tried to make sushi and udon here. I bake muffins (can every mother in America bake great muffins? I think so), I try ol’ American recipes and almost every day am in ‘The Joy of Cooking’.

It annoyed me at first when people said, when we first arrived, where do you go out to eat, or what do you like to eat? Well I don’t eat out much, and when I do it is with a playful, impatient and quite frankly annoying two year old. But I do appreciate that Dallas has pretty much every food imaginable, and some of it even tastes very good, and it is on every corner, just like churches in Northern Ireland.

I look forward to more food. And learning more about food. Always a good thing.

6.       Going to the wrong side of the car – I’ve not turned yet

We’re going to a party this Saturday. This is the same party we went to after being here only 4 days last year. But on that occasion, I had never driven in America. And certainly not in the dark. Half an hour before the party I climb (up) into my wonderful almost mother-in-law’s car, and ask if she will take me round the block. I nervously go to the left side, put it into drive (that was easy?) and take 10 minutes to go round the tiny block. I then drive 30mins on the wrong side of the road (ie the right), in the dark, to a place I’ve never been (now known to be Plano), to meet a bunch of people I’ve never met, and drive back. Glorious. It took another 4 months to get a car of our own, and I still enjoy driving, though not Dallas drivers (I think they are the most impatient, rude drivers I’ve ever had to drive in). The point is, however, that, even after a year of driving, because that is all you can do in Dallas (have any of my Dallas friends been on a bus or the DART?), I still sometimes go to the wrong side of the car to get in. And the reason that I like that is because, therefore, I still haven’t turned into a fully fledged American yet. Which means that despite doing all the things done in normal American life for one year, I am still a very British me. Which means that although I’ve been engrossed in this life and culture, I obviously still have the freedom to be me, a GeordieNorthernIrishScot, who loves her country, which is a good thing.

7.       Art It’s everywhere

I didn’t expect to find it in so many places in Dallas. It’s in parks, on the freeways, in the malls, even in the galleries. I find things to do for free for a little person who, since birth, has imputed everything. (As we drove down 75 yesterday, trying to get him to sleep by going on a boring road without lights, ‘bong bongs’ or trains, I rued that we had made him so observant about everything – ‘look mummy, stars’, about the markings on the side 635, when I wanted him to be asleep). We have seen wonderful sculpture at the Nasher, Jackson Pollock at the DMA, and watched moving statues at North Park. All for free. And when you look closely at all those (boring) buildings in downtown, there is interesting, quirky, fascinating architecture. It’s not the underground in Moscow, or the breathtaking skyscape of Edinburgh but it is inspiring and encouraging.

8. Space It, also, is everywhere

Space and light. They were in my top two reasons that we came here. Our flat in Edinburgh is wonderful – a home. But we had no garden and no real space. Here, we have space. Space for my boy to run and jump and play basketball all year round. And there’s loads more of it. On our one roadtrip so far, to lovely Colorado, I discovered what everyone here knows about Texas – it’s really flippin’ big. And that is just one state. There are oceans over there to the east and west, there’s great big mountains, there’s gigantic forests and lakes and lots more space, all over this place. And lots of it is beautiful.

How ironic, then, that my lack of personal space almost drove me over the edge, in this land of 3,536,294 square miles. But, I guess  like America, I’m growing, I’m learning, I’m dealing with it and making my own mark, making it through, and will get there in the end.

A great post from my friend Laurie.

Learning from Sophie

Yesterday I watched the news in horror as yet another mass shooting took place in America. Immediately I felt like I was being sent back in time to March 1996. The day in school we sensed something was wrong, and I returned home to see the news and my Nana running to hug me…my shrieks as I realised that it was the school my friend and her sister went to, and phoning my Dad to check if he knew they were safe. That weekend my friend was pictured in the paper tears streaming as she laid down flowers outside her primary school.

When evening comes and light is fading
And your heart is heavy from the tears
Lift up your eyes and look to heaven
For 17 new stars have appeared
They shine their love down upon us
And the message of their love is clear
Lost familiar voices softly…

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Sundown: Interactive Graphic Novel hits virtual newsstands

Sundown CoverWell, it has finally arrived. After over a year of my own time and even more prior to my involvement, Sundown: Part One – White Birch, has been released to the public.

I first got involved with Sundown around May of 2011 when it was being designed as a fairly bog-standard motion comic – i.e. it was a single panel per page, self-propelled video format production. After a few months of working on that, and two or three other titles under development at the time, the pause button was pressed and everything came to a grinding halt. After some review, revision and restructuring, the project was redesigned as an interactive book with a new layout much more akin to printed comics. This was in no small part due to our discovery of an iPad app created in the same tool we eventually adopted, CIA: Operation Ajax. Since then till now, I have been pretty much buried in layout designs, artwork appraisals, animation and building interaction to create a digital reading experience which, whilst maybe not 100% new and original, hopefully stands out in the crowd as both innovative and entertaining.

I know, at the very least, this project has help to push the development of the tool, The Active Reader, which we have been using. I think we have had to upgrade the tool 6 or 7 times over the course of production to be able to have some the things we were doing work. It has been a lot of hard work which has, at times, driven me to edge of madness – the sound won’t play, or that font failed to load, again, or that layer of art simply doesn’t show up anymore (Thank you everyone at Tall Chair for helping me through). But, as with most creative endeavours, its completion and now release brings a special kind of satisfaction. All that’s left is to panic over whether anyone will read it and, more importantly, like it.

The book has been published by Motion Works Entertainment, based on an original concept from the creator of The Crow, James O’Barr and features original artwork from the same, with additional art created by Space Goat Productions. The build, animation and effects work were undertaken by myself, here at Dancing Fish Productions, using San Francisco based Tall Chair’s Active Reader tool. The book also features the music of Godflesh along with original music and effects created by AK Audio & Design.

Go download it, and let me know what you think.

Sundown: Part One – White Birch can be downloaded from the App Store:

Sundown Icon

giving thanks

We have started a bit of a bedtime tradition in our house.  After stories and before prayers, I ask Wee Man what he is thankful for today. It is always either his toy garage or his train signal box. I was looking for something a little deeper, but no matter.

Thanksgiving is my favourite ‘American-only’ holiday. I’m going to adopt it wherever we end up living. Maybe it’s because I feel no pressure to cook anything, or that my mum doesn’t expect us to travel somewhere for the day, or just the brilliant food. But I also love it because the idea of giving thanks is such a good one to celebrate. I don’t have much of a stake in 4th July. Halloween – don’t get me started. The walking dead? It is taken too far here and it is not little people friendly.Valentines day? Commercialised saccharine. But thankfulness? That’s a holiday I can get behind.

So our apartment complex ran a competition to write a 100 things that we’re grateful for, in the following categories. So here’s mine. Give it a go, it’s a great exercise for today. And mind, these  are things that I am personally grateful for, so they aren’t necessarily the best!

10 physical things (I didn’t know what this meant, but hey hum)

gravity – photosynthesis – colour – dancing – kisses – listening to the rain when you’re snuggled in bed – babies falling over comically – the Force (pre-prequels, pre Disney) – swirls/round things – laughing

1o material things (I took this literally)

velvet – cotton – silk – mashed potato – smooth wood – pretty shoes – cashmere – warm blankets – wellington boots – jelly (jello)

10 living people (I found it really hard to find famous people today that I respected, so most of these are personal and included groups…)

My husband – my children – my family – my friends – Aung San Suu Kyi – Ruth Ghent (a missionary in Japan) – Michelle Obama – Bono (I know, but I like his music and his work on poverty – Jamie Oliver (UK chef and healthy school dinner advocate) – Jessica Ennis (UK Olympian)

10 deceased people

Queen Elizabeth I – Albert Einstein – Rosa Parks – Florence Nightingale (nice name) – Queen Victoria – Virginia Wolf – Eleanor Roosevelt – King David – John Lennon (we share the same name!) – Robert the Bruce (the good one)

10 things about today

Being able to travel quickly -women’s votes – contraception – the middle class – free healthcare and education (Scotland) – films – moisturiser – contact lenses – disposable nappies/diapers – availability of many types of food

10 things about nature

the sea – trees – mountains – autumn leaves – lavender – monkeys – giraffes – hot springs – fresh snow – sunshine

10 places

Scotland (all of it) – Lake Como, Italy – Kobe, Japan – Scarborough, UK – Low Fell, UK – White Rock Lake, Dallas – Colorado Rockies – Seville, Spain –     Northern Ireland – the moon (gotta love those tides)

10 modern inventions (it doesn’t say how modern)

the internet (skype) – washing machines – flushing toilets – the car – music on the go – planes – electric kettle (for tea) – TV – wind turbines – air conditioning (for Texas summers)

10 foods (this was by far the easiest for me)

sushi/sashimi – chips (fries) any potato, but this is the best – real bacon (sorry America  – you just don’t’ have it) – anything made by my mum – poached egg on toast with a cuppa tea – sausage, beans and mash – roast beef and Yorkshire pudding – medium rare sirloin steak – chocolate mousse with cream – salt and vinegar crisps. My mouth is watering.

10 spiritual things

grace – forgiveness – salvation – heaven – mercy – sanctification – compassion – blessing – understanding – hope