So Christmas happened, and for us it was good. Lots of relaxed time, nice food and family movies. There may also have been a little LEGO. We spent the New Year with some great friends, and even the return to 'normality' was a bit less stressed because my children only went back to school this week.
2 weeks with our 19 year old home from University really was a pleasure (it's amazing how much you miss them when they move away) and the whole family were ALL able to enjoy Christmas Dinner together as we always have, on Christmas Eve night. It was a very special meal.
It was sadly also patently obvious we had an empty chair at the table, and that night a space in the room where someone else could place their stocking... Christmas makes it very easy to miss those who aren't there.
January is very hard for a lot of people, and a few of my own friends and family have already stumbled. It's dismal and dark and cold, and we have no mid-Winter Festivals to look forward to, only the long stretch towards Summer and sunlight. Head down, strap on the fin and just keep swimming is a great short-term solution, but it's exhausting and brooding, and it means we miss what is happening around us.
It might seem at first backward, but I hope we all get some snow. You can't deny the calming beauty. Crisp fresh air and a clean slate to the world. It blows away the cobwebs, makes you talk to your neighbours, and gives everyone some vitamin D - intentionally or not. It still works even when you are de-icing your car or clearing the driveway... it still breaks through the gloom. It forces change, it makes us wake up, and even if it gives us something to moan about, judging by Facebook, that alone makes a lot of people very happy.
If you are finding January hard, bear in mind you made it last year, and consider ways that helped you get through those dark Winter months without sunlight.
Book things that you don't want to back out of, and even if you only go for half an hour, you went. You win. Smile at people in queues, take crap to the tip and clean your windows. Draw, get a radio for the kitchen and dance through your breakfast. Take up exercise, craft, wine-making or volunteering. Don't lock yourself away when you can be the light that brightens someone else's day.
If you need a ladder, then please trust that they are there. Once you start to spot them, you'll see they are legion, just like smiles. You have to look up, and you have to know it's okay to ask, and to grab at anything that might help. That is the hardest part, but you are always worth it because you haven't finished your story yet. Your life is full of possibilities, and it is as valuable as any other.
This month absolutely tons of you shared your smiles on Instagram and Twitter with the hashtag #TBCSmiles - thank you for every one. I have spent hours going through them today grinning inanely, and they've been an absolute joy. Please feel free to join in, and from next month I'll share a few of my favourites because it's like a guilty pleasure looking at them alone.
It's probably a good job you shared so many, because I took as much time as I could away from my phone, so I took very few photos. I did though get the essentials. Finally breaking up from school on 23rd December, Christmas, Star Wars Rogue One at the cinema, and New Year....
From all of us here at The Brick Castle, we wish you peace and strength for 2017.