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Writers Block and Other Stumbling Block Confessions.

May 23, 2012

I am writing this with a smile on my face as I reread the promises I made to you and myself back in January. I would like to be reporting that yes, I am a woman of my word and the first draft of the book is in the bag. I am now reminded of one of my blessed Mum’s favourite sayings, the one about “the road to hell” being” paved with good intentions.” For some inexplicable reason, she always uttered this in a deeply irish accent- she was born and bred in the North East of England.

I am resuming writing my blog after a three month sabbatical during which I have faced some of the toughest decisions in my life; consequences of the choices OH! continues to make that have tested my resilience to the hilt. Being a mother, these trials naturally affect my children; if I’ m going through the fire they are going through it with me. I can hear a song coming on, you know that one from High School Musical “We’re all in this Together.”

So just to make you all feel better about your writing procrastinations, I have a confession to make. I am still at chapter six of my book!!!

Thanks to the work that is being completed in me, this process is not so much writers block for me. My book at the moment is more like the butterfly above.

I can see it’s colours and patterns but it is in the middle of being transformed as the walls separating my spirit, mind and body are being dissolved and I am becoming new and whole.

The caterpillar has gone (you should have been there at my first creative writing classes. I am still in awe of the amazing  women who tolerated my mad ramblings and loved me anyway). To complete this transformation, I have had to  fight my way out of the chrysalis and shed my old skin. I needed to do this just to survive, let alone begin to fly away home.

This has been a profoundly spiritual journey for me in which I have been humbled again by what a faithful God he is, how he always keeps His promises to us. The extent to which my children and I are not just surviving but thriving is truly miraculous. From the word reconciliation, He led me straight to the word recovery which he explained to me as the ‘sober return to good health’. For the first time in my life I am truly trusting him and being obedient to his will for me. I have never felt so safe in my own skin and home despite Oh!’s sad decision not to join us in our journey to a healthier life.

Godincidently this transformation led me right back home to my parent’s favourite prayer

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I can’t change,

the courage to change the things I can

and the wisdom to know the difference.

I will be delighted to share some of my families recovery stories with you in the coming weeks. There is hope, dawn after the darkest nights and we are “all in this together.” You can even sing with me if you want -or at least hum.


‘Outing’ myself.

January 19, 2012

Well, I am certainly out of the closet in terms of where I am coming from spiritually and at a rather interesting time. The strands in my life seem to be coming together like a persian carpet. I was so busy examining all the tiny knots on the back, I nearly missed the magical design on the front. 

This week I hooked up with a writing support  group and realised how much I have been been missing my WWW‘s -Wonderful Writing Women-back in Holland. About twenty writers met in Bread and Bean which of course reminded me immediately of Bagel and Bean back in the Hague; where I met writing friends for writing chats.

At my suggestion, we exchanged blog details, forcing me out of the blogging closet.

So far my followers are either my WWW’s- dear friends and trusted confidents- or total strangers, I never meet face to face.

Then bam a profound dilemma landed in my comment box curtesy of big sis WWW and I find myself being painfully honest to writing strangers; who I will be meeting with twice a month- with no cyber space to protect me. Steep learning curve in authenticity.

An interesting thread woven into my writing life is my newest WWW who I invited along to the group. She  just happens to be a very experienced professional in international publishing. She may be the professional but she now wants to write. I am a great encourager,” look you can do it, see I’m just one step ahead on the path, come on you, catch up, let me show you how!” A perfect warp and weft.

I am delighted to tell you that I am no longer shaking in my writing boots because I know what is at the heart of my motivation to write. It is what I have in common with my first ever WWW Jo, whose professional motto is ‘share what I know to help people grow.‘   For me to be truly honest, my writing cannot exclude my spiritual self.

Just to be clear, not about religion but all about love.

Tennessee Williams once wrote “if the writing is honest it cannot be separated from the man who wrote it.”

Oh and did I tell you I once lived in Tennessee !

The Power of Words Part Two

January 18, 2012

“My big sister’s been in touch,” I said to Oh!

“What did she want?” was his ever practical response. I did not have an answer until today.

One of the reasons I love writing is because I have always been deeply fascinated by words. I love to delve into their meaning and how they impact us in our thoughts, feelings and perceptions. Wise people know that there is no reality just perception, which is a theme in my book.

My perception was that seventy percent of my childhood ranged from wonderful to pretty good and the other thirty percent ranged somewhere between not very good to absolute hell. I’m sure if you ask any of my six sisters, they would have different percentages and different perceptions; they would also be able to describe things I have said and done which powerfully hurt them. I am writing about times in my life when I hurt badly and I am trying to do it in the following way.

“You can complain because roses have thorns or you can rejoice because thorns have roses.”

I truly want to walk the walk on this not talk the talk. So the writing challenge is to be authentic and honest while truly counting the good that came from these experiences. The good for me meaning God. Jung said “I don’t believe, I know.” I know God turns all things for His good, that He has a perfect plan for me and that He wants to bless the socks off me when I am in the right place to receive.

For those of you turned off by the mention of God, that’s okay, you may not want to continue to walk with me because I can no more take Him out of the true, authentic me then I could extract my DNA. I love Julia Cameron’s definition God=Good Orderly Direction. I know He is so much more but sometimes it is good to explore relationships one step at a time.

One word which is at the heart of God and central to His relationship with us was gifted to me today and left me in no doubt which path into the yellow wood is the right one for me to take.

It came from my one and only big sister who had the courage to answer the question I posed yesterday; to reach out and invite me into that word which is at the core of God’s love for us.

She asked me a question, “Which path will truly bring reconciliation?”.

To test if I have a warped perception of this powerful word, I looked up the meaning in a dictionary; settlement, understanding, resolution, compromise, reunion, ceasefire, appeasement, bringing together.

Then I cross referenced with my favourite book, the all time best seller. Reconciliation comes from a Greek word katallasso which means to change from enmity to friendship, to reconcile.

Then I wept.

Then indescribable peace settled in my soul.

So do I want to receive this precious gift from her and from Him? Yes, please!

The Power of Words

January 16, 2012

No pictures today, sometimes words are powerful enough. I have shared before my thoughts on words like discipline and self-control. Building more of both into my life has led me onwards to another word which is closely linked, priority.

I have really prioritised writing my book over the past few months with the satisfying result that the chapters are flowing. In the process, I am having to say no more often than I ever have in my life. This is requiring me to practice what I preach about discipline and self-control as my natural tendency is to say yes whenever I can. This is mainly because I am generous, kind and giving. Yet there is also the unhealthy part of me that will turn myself inside out to please others. The very part of my flawed personality that has blocked my writing for decades.

Ever since my secondary school English teacher peeped over her glasses and said to me,

“Sarah, you must write about your family, this is great!”- I have been shaking in my writing boots. That means thirty years of quaking and not writing, wasted. The dilemma is how do I write about my family, express what I think, feel and experience and not hurt or blame?How do you write about painful childhood issues or destructive behaviour and “honour your father and mother?”

One of the reasons I write under a pseudonyms is to protect myself  and to free me up to be authentic when writing about my extended family. My fear was that if they ever found out I was writing my story they would definitely do their utmost to stop me or possibly sue.

I am currently totally estranged from them after years of struggling to overcome a painful injustice. When I told them I was sexually abused as a child, I was not believed and then punished for telling. I finally had to say no, “I can’t do this anymore.” I prioritized my life and let go of being a sister and daughter and devoted those energies into being the best wife and mother I can be.

I make no apologies or justification for what was the most painful decision of my life.If I had not taken this drastic action I know I would not be where I am today. I am not sure if I would even be here at all.

Here I am, finally writing and guess what happened?

After five years of no contact and almost ten since I have seen most of my siblings, they have tracked me down via this blog and left some simple words with the power to have me shaking in my boots, again.

Please get in touch!

One of my favourite poems is by Robert Frost and  begins “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood.” Do I take the yes road or the no road? What would you do?

I don’t believe in coincidences just Godincidences. He has given me free will and his timing is always perfect. Do I continue to prioritise in the way I have been or do I take a risk and open myself up to the possibility of grace, forgiveness and love that may be the perfect end to my story?

2012 My Writing Resolution Year

January 9, 2012

Happy New Year!

No I have not died and gone to heaven, well writing heaven may be. I have been very blessed with the time and space to get really stuck into my book these past weeks and I have chosen to go for it.

Did you know that many successful people actually have tendencies towards personality disorders or mental health issues that they chanel positively and constructively.

Take David Beckham. He has obsessive compulsive traits and has openly shared the fact that he can’t leave the house unless all the tin cans, three of each variety including bake beans are lined up perfectly in his cupboards. It is this attention to detail and perfectionism that probably gave him the focus  to kick a ball endlessly until he got his goal scoring as perfect as possible. He was also wise enough to find himself a partner who did not mind his quirks and let him get on with it.

Maybe I am currently obssesive  compulsive about writing. I passionately loving telling my story and in this season I am going to focus on this to the exclusion of lots of other distractions. My New Years resolution is to get this job done as well as I can this year. Preferably before next summer but I am also not going to let my perfectionist tendencies dictate the pace. I am so loving this creative process that seems to have a life of it’s own at times, as though someone else is guiding my hand.

What a start to the year, focus, purpose, self-control and a higher calling to use what I have learned to help others. Who needs fame and fortune. as far as I am concerned this is as good as it gets, the perfect excuse to stay in my pyjama’s all day and do something I passionately love, at least for four days a week. Must remember to brush my teeth today, at least before the kids and Oh! get home!

A Rose By Any Other Name

November 29, 2011

I have just received my official Qatari residence permit and ID.Card. This means that I can now leave the country AND get back in again without applying for a visa so I have been booking a holiday to Petra for New Year. New Years Eve is my wedding anniversary and I will have reached an interesting milestone, being married as long as I was single. My pen name is a hybrid of my married and maiden names which my children and I created, thereby celebrating my past and present with a uniquely new writing identity for the future, Sarah Koblow

Looking through my new documents has proved very disturbing to me as they seem to relate to an unknown person Sarah Jane Bedlow.

I personally have never heard of her but it is my picture and date of birth on the plastic cards. Oh!’s reassurance that “it doesn’t matter, it makes no official difference, I checked.” Only makes me feel worse, somehow rubbed out again. I am still smarting from his definition of my occupation. I can only live in Qatar under his ‘sponsorship’ so he completed the forms. He has lived with a devout feminist for twenty three years and knows how this dependancy bothers me. He also should have known I would hate his definition of my occupation. I would never have written housewife because I did not marry a building.Does this label stink any less because it is in Arabic?

What rankles more is that had I known the authorities were so nonchalant about the accuracy of their ID’s, I would have forged and defined a new one for myself. I would have ensured that my  new plastic ID card officially confirmed my new identity and occupation every time I looked at it or showed it to others.

Name  Sarah Koblow

Occupation Writer

Then again this is my new internal ID and no-one can tamper with, officially or not.

On a more humorous note, I saw this in my local shwarma shop and the image of what would happen if I brought these four words together in real life, keeps running temptingly through my mind. For those of you who are non- British, I will translate. ‘willy” is an affectionate term for the male reproductive organ.

 What an interesting picture of revenge just four words can paint.

Historic Sarnie

November 23, 2011

When we moved to Qatar for the first time a decade a go, I remember well the look of horror on our friend Neil’s face as he declared “What on earth do you want to go there for?! There’s nothing there and you can’t even get pork.” He was speaking from experience as he had lived here for some time before moving to Bahrain. Bahrain is also a Muslim country but pork, bacon and sausage were freely available in separated sections of  Spinney’s supermarket in the capital, Manama.While I enjoy a full English as much as the next person, I always felt sorry for the Muslim shop workers who still had to handle the pork produce at the till.

Devouring a bacon sarnie in a Muslim country did add extra flavour, like doing something illicit. Eating my favourite snack in my kitchen in Awali reminded me of that beautiful rebelliousness, going to communion after my very devout mother, knowing that I was technically in ‘mortal sin’. Even if she suspected my transgressions with my boyfriend, how could she prove it? Qatar’s pork ban resulted in peculiar expat behaviour as scores of business men and visiting relatives  passed through Doha International baggage claim with suitcases stuffed full of tightly wrapped packages marked Turkey Ham or beef bacon; turning entire families into smuggler’s. A sin I have to admit occasionally indulging in.

Spinney’s did open here, just for a week, six years ago. It closed when the authorities stood their ground and said “No, not here.” I remember feeling proud that they had stood up for their Muslim faith and identity in a world where difference is increasingly less available.  Interestingly, being deprived of pork in Qatar only made it more delicious for me. Months of delayed gratification just wetted my appetite as I fantasized about toad in the hole with lashings of onion and bacon gravy. On re-entry to Europe, gorging on a  porkfest became a treasured family ritual. Sadly, no more. For the first time in Qatari history, look what we had for tea last night.

No, I have not been breaking the law or encouraging others to do so for me. This is pork produce purchased legally in Qatar, for the first time. It is so extortionally priced it will remain an occasional treat. Ironically the bacon label reads “Dutch Farm back bacon.”proving what a small world this is becoming with this slice of value smashing globalisation.  We never saw bacon like this in Holland and the Dutch cut available was very different to our British pallets. At the time we could only get ‘proper’ bacon in  the equally pricey expat shop.

Just to give you a glimpse of how my international life has been woven together in a sandwich. I am sitting writing this in my garden. It is warm and sunny with a refreshing breeze carrying the mid-day call to prayer to my ears. I am tucking into a delicious bacon sarnie, crusty French bread with lashings of Brittany butter, crisp Dutch bacon perfectly cooked by Lena, my new Indian house keeper who is the best international indulgence of all. Heavenly.