A place to call my own?

I’ve been living in my current home now for 10 years. After splitting with the father of my Son and being officially ‘homeless’ for nearly two weeks, my local council found this property for me. My fear even then was that the rent was too high and I would never be able to afford it alone. I was assured, however that this would not be a problem and I don’t know who was most keen for me to move in; the council – as they were helping me to stay in a hotel in Portsmouth where the price was considerably higher, or myself so I could be back in the town where I worked and not have to wake early enough with my little boy to miss the inclusive breakfast so that I could leave in time to drop him off at nursery and get myself into work.

A Hotel? Sounds Nice really…

Every time I think back to this point in my life it brings up such an immense menagerie of emotion, I am so grateful to have been somewhere comfortable in a more than pleasant location,  somewhere that I had discussed with my boyfriend previously as a place I would have been happy to live. I had my closest friends come to see me and some family members, so that I didn’t feel too isolated and alone. And I wasn’t even there for long. The manager or owner of the place (I can’t remember which) seemed lovely and from the poems and letters of gratitude I could see on display I was not the first person to be helped here. I always meant to send some thing myself but a combination of procrastination and that half feeling of wanting to distance myself from that time period meant I never quite got round to it. In writing about it now I am fighting back tears and so very much has changed since then. But also not.

If anyone knows of the manager/owner of the then Anstey Hotel, Southsea in 2007 I wish for him to know of my gratitude too. I fear, however that it may be too late.

The house I’m in now came up and I couldn’t believe my luck. I often describe life as a roller-coaster (it’s no wonder I get depressed- I hate roller-coasters and can’t do them with my eyes open) This particular part of the coaster track was especially jam packed with climbs and falls. Go with it, yeah? I love to over-elaborate on an analogy.

It was a two bed room house with new carpets and white goods gifted to me. It was easily walking distance from my sons’s nursery and my work and I could get up and have breakfast whenever I liked.

Due to a combination of my propensity to think I’m not good enough anyway and anxiety that prompted me to hide from tricky situations there were two major things that I gave up during the split & move. One was an Open University course which I didn’t feel I could continue with in my new position as a single Mum, not knowing where I was going to be living and without a computer (I’m good at excuses). Despite leaving the course fairly early in, I still had to pay back my Student budget loan which made having given it up all the more frustrating. I also gave up my Job as a ‘TAB’ carer, as prior to moving this involved visiting a lady who was just round the corner to me for a couple of hours a week. I didn’t know where I was going to be living etc and how I was going to sort anything out. Again, I made excuses.

I had already been in my retail job for a while but hadn’t progressed in this and still maintained that this wasn’t where I wanted to stay. Before I had my boy I was going to go to university to do Fine Art: the one thing that had remained constant throughout everything, I still did the odd drawing and bit of painting throughout everything that went on. I have never believed myself to be some creative genius and  have never got close to being as skilled and able as I would like in this profession but I believed that my passion, ideas and what small skill I did possess meant it was worth giving this another shot. I got to the stage where it was ‘now or never’, I  had to go with it and perhaps it was just as well I  did because the whole recession thing happened near the beginning of my course, a bunch of political stuff happened too and in among every thing some thoughtful beings decided to triple tuition fees. It turns out I did my degree just in the nick of time.

My plan was to go to university, work my socks off. Then maybe put my socks back on again before doing a PGCE. If we could see round the corners and get visions from those crystal balls I wonder if we would make any of the decisions we do. As it happens, I’m kind of glad we don’t have this power, because we wouldn’t take any risks and would stop learning from our perceivable mistakes.

Where I’m at now is a complete unknown. There’s lots of story to tell between then and now and there’s an even bigger prologue. I’m in a bit of a funny state at the moment but bare with me and I might just have some more to say.

 

 

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Running for Alex

From what I remember, my son befriended Alex in his last year at infant school. He said how cool and funny Alex was, that he liked DOCTOR WHO and  talked about how eagerly he wanted to be picked as Alex’s partner when he got to go to the computer room.

 

Whilst my son grew to love one of his new best friends we learnt a little of Alex’s enormous battle to get to where he was. Even now I find it hard to comprehend what he and his family must have been through. Let me explain:

When Alex was 7 he suffered a stroke, which left him unable to ‘talk, swallow, lift his head or even move the right side of his body.’ This led to a long hospital stay where he received physiotherapy and occupational therapy. By the time he joined my son’s class , he had made huge progress in his recovery but has still been left disabled and struggles to do a whole heap of things that many of us take for granted.  His attitude and approach astounds me – he is funny and has reprimanded me on at least one occasion because I didn’t realize his memory had also been effected by the stroke. He has taught us things we would have never known. The friendship between he and my son makes me smile.

Alex’s Mum Angela, is also amazing. I’ll never forget the time she took to stop, chat and listen to me jabber away before going home to make an appointment for Alex regarding the migraines he was enduring. Angela has always come across as patient and understanding despite the fear and worry that must some times be prevalent. Alex has a kind and caring family who go to great lengths to get him the continued support that he needs to prevent his condition from worsening.  Understandably, they hope to give Alex a chance at the best quality of life possible. There really are a myriad of health problems that stroke sufferers can be left with. One thing Alex desperately needs to optimize his health and to support him in the things that – again many of us take for granted, is intense physiotherapy.

This intense physiotherapy costs, and in order to raise the money for this Alex’s Aunt, Barbara is running  the Great South Run. If you can give anything towards this please see the link to Barbara’s Crowdfunding page which I shall include in this post.

It is believed by medical professionals that Alex’s stroke came about due to an extremely rare but very serious reaction to the Chicken pox Virus. Before anyone panics about this let me say that according to Live Science ‘about 6 out of 100,000 children under 15 have a stroke each year‘ and it is an even smaller proportion of children whose strokes are linked to chicken pox.* However, it can happen, and when I contacted Alex’s mum about writing this post she was keen to raise awareness of the risks.

Angela also pointed me in the direction of http://www.stroke.org as I wanted to include information about signs and symptoms. The national stroke Association suggest the following things to look out for:

SUDDEN numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body;

SUDDEN confusion, trouble speaking, or understanding;

SUDDEN trouble seeing in one or both eyes;

SUDDEN trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination;

SUDDEN severe headache with no known cause.

The advice on their page in the event of the above symptoms is:

Call 9-1-1 immediately if you observe any of these symptoms.

And to

Note the time of the first symptom.
This information is important and can affect treatment decisions.

I wish Alex’s aunt all the best fot her run and hope Alex and his family can raise as much as possible to help them with Alex’s Physio. If you would loke to make a donation the link is to Barbara’s page is Here

 

The following websites were useful for this post and are good sites to visit if you wish to find out more:

*Live Science article

National Stroke Association

 

Waa Hooo – An Award: 2017 Liebster Award

Liebster Award

 

I was nominated for this award thing by the talented author of this blog:

http://www.studiodiary.stephanieoplingerarts.com/

This lady makes some pretty cool art work and I was chuffed to be chosen as one of the nominees, even if taking part means more work…

Basically the award works by bloggers reading, liking and promoting the work of other bloggers – spreading the blog love and helping each other out. A blogger will nominate some blogs that they think are good and deserving of some recognition and in turn the nominees are then invited to make nominations and put  links to these in a blog post of their own.

Confused? I was a bit too. After a somewhat flummoxed search online, I concluded that it’s actually quite an organic award process and happens by word of virtual mouth if you like. Despite the fact that there are some ‘rules’ peoples’ take on said rules vary.* I thought it seemed like a fun way of engagement and decided to take part, so here we go :

Nomination Time (Come on!)

 

jppyro~ A brilliant lady writes this blog, she has no idea how brilliant she is, posts include the authors arty crafty endeavors and more recently some of her poetry amongst other things.

sincerelyann~ I was drawn to this blog by the post about gardening and am intrigued by the journey of this blogger. it’s also worth having a look if you’re interested in veganism.

auntyask~This blogger has a tag line about bringing back the agony aunt, but actually writes some really intersting and informative pieces. I particularly liked ‘Little People Big feelings’

lynntolmon~This is a blogger who I know has interesting stories to tell. They are honest about tough subjects and posses a wicked sense of humour, on top of that they make some damn good art which you can see on their blog. I look forward to seeing more from this blogger.

juliealicechappellart~Also known as The Butterfly Lady, if you’ve not heard of this artist already you should check out her blog

themumfeels~This awesome blogger captured my attention with a really interesting article about grief and hope

travelswithmyhusband~ I love this blog as it sheds some light on a fabulous initiative to do with working on farms with the acronym: WWOOF. It has a lovely personal touch with plenty of cool photographs too.

 

*To my nominees, you can check out this site for some rules etc

liebster-award-2017

If you fancy taking part, you can just put your own spin on it I’m sure. Have fun and happy blogging!

 

 

A holiday and a cross roads

I’ve had two weeks off – lovely.

Seeing a photo of my little niece reminded me just how much I had missed her but a two week break was refreshing and much needed. I managed to draw, for myself – because I wanted to draw, not because it was part of a project – I had almost forgotten what that was like. In the second week we managed a little break to the isle of wight – the five of us. This is something that is extremely rare and precious, being that we do not normally all live together  there was some uncertainty as to how we would cope in such a small space for that time, but we enjoyed ourselves, I think  it helped our family and we left feeling like we could have stayed for longer. For us – success.

This two week break is soon to be followed by a period of changes. In September my niece starts alternative childcare, something prompted by myself and understood by my brother and sister in law. I’ll miss having that time with my niece and although it is something that I will always remember and she will not, I hope it has helped our bond. My youngest will also be starting to pick up more hours at nursery which means I get a little bit of time back – something I don’t feel I’ve had for a long time and am trying not to feel guilty. I’ve absolutely loved being able to spend time with my daughter something I struggled to do with my son between working, volunteering and studying.

I expected to have a good solid plan of what I shall be doing in this time but actually because of indecision and a seemingly endless amount of possibilities, I’ve not settled on any fixed thing. The vague plan was to pick up some volunteering in a school and prepare for teacher training. I have semi arranged at least one batch of volunteer work but need to get back on it with communication in September to confirm. I also need to make sure I’m getting some money coming in, I am hoping that being available for more invigilating and able to keep up the set design work will help this but as usual I’m bracing myself for a juggle. Nursery hours are only so long and I need some energy to feed my children and be some kind of half decent Mum at the end of the day.

I’m trying to keep calm and still practice/make time for self-care – yesterday this was forced by a headache on my first day back home and this morning, I can feel the tension across my shoulders. I’m thinking of the many things I could or should be doing but trying to catch and steady myself as I do this. Often, when I plan or intend to do too much I end up having a crash which takes some time to recover from. This leads to a downward spiral of depressive thoughts  and my mind gangs up on itself for being useless. I’m aiming for less of that. (“You hear me brain?”)

I wanted to compile a book. I still do. I wanted to make more art and attempt to sell some of it at craft stalls. I need energy, time and a tad more confidence to pull that one off. I want to read more, learn more and wise up. I’m constantly on the lookout for useful courses but trying not to get overwhelmed. If I’m going to begin teacher training I need to prepare – there’s no chance I’ll be passing any professional skills test unless I begin the process of working my arse off. Which is an odd phrase. It didn’t occur to me that the sacrifice for becoming a teacher would need to be loosing my bottom…

I really don’t know what the future holds, who does? Usually this uncertainty would worry me, and it does a bit but I’m trying to embrace the idea of change and make those changes positive. I do want to get to a stage where I am more self-sufficient. Where I can better provide for my family’s needs  and contribute, give back to the local and wider community. To get here involves transitions and hard work.

Hard work is okay. I just need to organize and use my time wisely.

Exciting times lay ahead.

A trip back in time

Clay and home made dye and ink are mediums I find inspiring. I always mean to master the use of such materials. When I was at university I created 25 ceramic wings, many of which I have since let erode back into the earth in my own back garden.  I was never brave or sure enough to spend a long time in the ceramics workshop getting to know my material but I have been fascinated by the work that can be made from the earthy substance. If you scroll down on my various blog posts you will see the original project to inspire my posts was one involving natural pigment and dye.

With this in mind, I can now tell you that I was genuinely excited to see The 17th Century Kiln Firing Day advertised in ‘Primary Times’ magazine. 

Little Woodham: A 17th Century village

We ended up missing the kiln firing day but visited instead, the following weekend: Rural Craft Day.

It can take alot for us to manage a family day out and on this one, we were not disapointed. Set in The Alver Valley, The 17th Century replica buildings are delight to wonder into. The volunteers in their period costume and their eagerness to answer questions and share knowledge make the experience educational as well as fun. 

From previous visits I recall the acting skills of the folk in the village made for an authentic atmosphere. So authentic infact, that one of my early childhood memories involves a family visit to the Village where the believable fear and passion in some of the villagers’ anti witchcraft talk had me in tears. This however was craft day – everyone was very friendly, I was no longer 5 and had somewhat of a clearer understanding of what it was all about.

We were able to admire the fired wares of the kiln- a kiln which boasts to be the only replica 17th century kiln of its kind. We spoke to the potter who was happy to demonstrate & share his skills. I was a happy lass and may even get the chance to go back for a turn on the wheel myself. 

We spoke to a young man tuning 17th Century style stringed instruments. My son got a nice helping of ‘Horrible Histories’ upon learning about catgut strings. (Not actual cat gut, silly. But not any nicer than that really either – I dare you to look it up!) 

My partner was excited to learn some history of long bow archery from the archer who had small audiences fully engaged in learning, and able to handle some of the weapons and armour. 

I don’t do the place justice, as I know there will be trades people that I will have left out. There were some we were not able to talk to between toilet runs and chasing after our two year old, who was excited about the village and playing in the surrounding woodland, in equal measure. To name a few there was a seamstress, some weavers, a sawyer and blacksmiths. On a visit prior to this one, we met the village scribe who told of the method of ink making. Although he was not in character this time round we managed to meet him out of character, by chance and he imparted his knowledge once more. 

On this particular visit I ended up accidentally networking too. (Networking- a term I still struggle to use without feeling pretentiously pompous and a bit silly. I’m trying to go with it.) The artist Di Alexander was in one of the cottages painting some beautiful work from purposefully blurry photographs. (“Photographs in the 17th Century?” I hear you cry! This lady was not part of the village as such but was still invol ed in the craft day and painting work that portrayed an essence of the time.) We swapped details and chatted briefly until toddler chasing became priority.

I’m not sure what it is that excites me about traditional craft. It might be the idea that things don’t have to be made en masse with contemporary materials and there is an awesomeness in the craftsmanship. It might be the sense of satisfaction from the texture and natural appearance of clay and wood. Or perhaps it is a misplaced nostalgia from the sepia tones I associate from old dye and ink. Whatever it is, an occasional visit to Little Woodham is a welcome temporary escape from moden life. Now, instead of tears, I find myself smiling and content as I wonder round.

The babies are asleep. Ready, Steady Arrrrgh-what to do?

Isn’t it a luxury when the children are sleeping? If there is one thing I have been blessed with in motherhood (and aunthood) it is sleepers. Not that It’s been an easy ride from day one by any means. There are also far more nights that one or two of my children will insist on finding me during the night and invading my sleep space, than not. By hearing the horror stories of others, I realise I have had it comparatively easier in this department. Which is just as well because the sleep deprived version if me is something that no one should have to endure.  I become an absolute mess and it is a far from pretty sight. To all the sleep deprived parents who get through the day in some shape or form- RESPECT!
I was pretty chuffed with myself the first-time I managed to get a 10 month and 21 month  old to have a nap during the day – in unison. I think on this first occasion I might have spent some bewildered time floating around in disbelief.  But also maybe not, because I know I had a lot of work on  and sleep time for them soon became time for me to fill with a patch of other working.
I shall add that an issue which has arisen here is that I have been spoilt. When the sleep aka sanity refuel bit of the day doesn’t happen smoothly, I get a bit twitchy. They owe me that time right? It’s alright though I love them dearly and it gets us through the day. 

One thing that hasn’t changed since the first short & precious newborn naps to their sleep now is the sudden rise of bizarre pressure. Pressure to USE THIS TIME WISELY (or regret it it for the rest of the day).

So initially I usually stop, listen out to check that I’m not imagining the bliss of peaceful infants. Then there’s the countdown panic of what to do… I might have an hour? what do I do..? I could: prep some activity for when they awake; get some of those emails looked at and replied to; pay bills or brave HMRC  and try to make sense or better still – progress with my self assesment. I could stick some paint on that bit half finished temple I’m building, do the washing up- the list goes on. All the things that whilst I am Mummying, I think would be so much easier to do child free suddenly become a possibility. But possible on an uncertain time limit. Quick do all those things!!! Some times I just sit down and have a cup of tea and a sandwich. That’s nice. 

Of course when they are still tiny you get told to sleep when they sleep. I’m not sure at what point this becomes less acceptable. (Not that acceptable should matter – you do what you need to do- I mean that.) I try to use the time mine sleep to do something productive or ‘worthwhile’ but actually Some times I do wonder if sleep might be more productive. This, however, is a tiny bit of time I get to be me. 

The other bits of time available to me are hideous O’clock in the morning. That depends on whether my ninja skills are up to scratch and I can successfully creep out of the room without the company of my littlest one.  There is also evening, I think I explained the pillow  race in my last post. Evenings are frequently a write off.

I am lucky, I get to have time to myself and even the luxury to write a blog. The space to process excessive overthought. 

This partivular post is being typed out at 4 am. Quick….They might wake up soon!

 

Wound up, wind down.

I used to feel ever so guilty about being lazy, or rather, worried about being perceived as lazy. It didn’t matter how hard I had worked or how I was feeling or what I  needed. I would compare myself to other more capable, admirable hardworking people. If those people did have a break they were worthy of it, and I know people who carry on like absolute troopers. Perhaps that works for them.

I don’t feel like I can do that though. I get so incredibly tired, I have been known to some times get up at 5am – or earlier, push on through the day – It’s a struggle, and when I get to early evening I am spent. I NEED my children to be in bed because I can’t stay up any longer. Sometimes the bedtime routine, or what little there is of one, goes completely AWOL in my desperate bid to get my head on that pillow. My head doesn’t always make it to a pillow. I have laughed with friends about my super power being that I can sleep almost anywhere if tiredness hits me. Sometimes I feel close to exhaustion, or just so low that I physically don’t feel like I can pick myself up. If I do move I feel slow and my body feels especially cumbersome.

On days off I regularly encourage my children to watch a film, read books and my favourite outfit is pyjamas. Then I might just pop on Facebook and see all the good, worthy hardworking people and what fabulous things they are doing with their friends and family. I would berate myself for being lazy, useless and rubbish. I still do this a bit but I am slowly learning not to.

Since the Easter holidays this year I have been on an anxiety rollercoaster. I had just finished one set project and then I received a letter from my boss asking of my availability to invigilate for the exam season. Invigilating. Nice, easy job. Borring even, if you like. What’s there to be anxious about? Good money for not alot of work. Sorted. But my brain doesn’t work like that. It doesn’t take long before I go into ‘what if’ overdrive. What if I do something wrong and inadvertadely mess up some poor students future? What if when I’m supposed to address a group of students, panic hits me, my words get stuck and I can’t speak? (That’s happened before but thankfully not in a formal setting). What if I cry? What if my daughter is poorly and I have to let them down at work at the last minute? What if she doesn’t like nursery? What if they leave me on my own now and I get it all wrong? What if? What if? What bloomin’ if??? It’s just invigilating, but what if? I ended up on the phone to my cousin in floods of tears through anxiety, I fell out with my Mum and I couldn’t arrange to do anything fun because the knowledge that this work was looming prevented me from actually enjoying myself. I ended up taking a trip to the doctor and was prescribed some SRIs to help level my mood. If I hadn’t, I honestly don’t think I could have worked this time round. Maybe that sounds pathetic. I was feeling like wasn’t in control, I was miserable andfelt like everything was completely impossible. I got through the invigilating, still looking after my niece three days a week and tried to be kind to myself for doing so. Then with about a weeks reprieve I was given the next set making project with approximately one month to complete the work. I wad tired and on one ocaasion found myself in the bathroom staring vacantly in to the air and shaking my head at no one declaring ‘I can’t do this’! It felt like more and more events were happening in my son’s last term at primary school that I couldn’t keep up and that being self employed/working from home meant I had to attend everything. It’s actually been lovely and I fully appreciate that I am fortunate to get to do this and share in my son’s achievements. It has however been another emotional climb on the rollercoaster and I have been trying to help my son deal with his anxieties as well as my own.  

Throughout this I have had to take time out occassionally. I’ve hermatized somewhat and again, I am fortunate that my very best friends and family do not take this personally and understand my need to rest, recuperate and recharge. If I allow myself to take time. If I allow myself a day or so where I do little and don’t call myself names or make shaming jokes about myself when I explain how my day went. If I let myself rest; I have found that when I confront the next day or pocket of bussyness I have the energy to do so. I feel more healthy and able. 
Having a lot on, especially lots of various different jobs and responsibilities is tiring and I can end up in a semi prolonged fight or flight state. This can be useful in that the adrenaline can help get me through certain activities or events. Did I mention that between invigilating, set building, childminding, and parenting I also applied for a job? I got an interview, prepared a 15 minute reading activity, survived the interview but just fell short of getting the job. Maybe I’ll explain that in more detail another time.  I’m pretty sure that remaining in a fight or flight state would be detrimental to my emotional and physical health and also my productivity. After a period of tension it can take a little while to believe that It’s okay to slow down and let my guard down for a bit. It’s like I’m still ready for that Sabre Tooth Tiger y’know? It probably goes someway to explaining why I get so very tired. 

I have had the fortune to have the most wonderful friends who encourage me to administer self care. Who let me know that this is not an indulgence. Instead it is a vital part of looking after ones self, of staying healthy, and by doing this I am in a better position to look after others too. 

I could try to make myself keep soldiering on until I burn out, but what good would that be? So this summer holiday I’m going to have some days off. I might read a book, soak in the bath, enjoy some time in the garden, with my children, family and friends. I might stay in pyjamas all day some days, drink tea and eat cake. I am NOT however on any account going to apologize for any of it. 

I think this could be called a Mum Post…

Working at home? Being a freelance artist? Working with children? These things are living the dream, I thought.

The reality is – as with most things, there are pros and cons.

This post will be a slightly different piece to my previous posts, a ‘mum post’, if you like. I mentioned previously that I considered writing a blog about the ‘mother from hell’ I become when there is a deadline looming. A friend of mine pointed out that this was not such a good idea whilst I was stuck in the middle of everything. I listened to this advice and three months later, I’m ready to write a piece that has evolved from my original idea.

To say I become the Mum from Hell IS unfair and untrue. Juggling three different jobs on top of being a parent, is testing. Let’s take the scenario from the end of last year:

I began looking after my then 10 month old niece alongside my 21 month old daughter in October, a 7am to 4pm (give or take) job, just 3 days a week. I realize I am lucky to have a brother and sister in law who are and willing to pay me for this, and it’s great to be so involved to with my youngest niece. But it is hard work, keeping two little ones safe, and well looked after and takes some planning and organisation.  I had also agreed to complete two lots of set design for a children’s drama group. A job that is great fun and allows me to use my creativity, it also takes a lot of energy, planning and obviously – time.

So, on my days off I have a fridge raiding boundary testing young lady to look after. I also have to be constantly ready for conversation with my 11 year old about who my favourite Pokemon character is or who would win in a fight between various marvel characters. My answers must be backed up with reasoning too. These are conversations that I want to stop and enjoy.

I desperately want to tell the to-do lists in my head to evaporate and not be so concerned about what I didn’t get done that day. I want, of course, endless amounts of quality time with my children. I’m poignantly aware however, that the cardboard set will not wallpaper itself, and that I’ve a whole room out of bounds, because of a giant tree (who’s ridiculous idea was it to build that..?) Modrock, ‘pom-pom spiders,’ and countless other ‘good ideas’ in progress. Good ideas which of course I can complete… if I start work at 2am!

When I get an email from my invigilating job to ask of my availability, well that’s, like meditation in comparison. Like meditation if you subtract the hugely disproportionate amount of anxiety that seems to go hand in hand with me ‘going out’ to work.

I’ve spent the last nine years of my life trying to prove that I am not only a good Mum, but a good person, a worthy member of society and fighting the stigma attached to being a single parent in receipt of benefits.  I’ve put enormous pressure on myself to do things outside of my comfort zone. Things which before becoming a mum I would have taken any available opportunity to hide from and made excuses for not doing things. I’ve still got a way to go but it wouldn’t be a journey if I didn’t. Sometimes I may make decisions not to go for particular jobs because it will prevent me from being the best I can be for my children. I am fortunate in that I have people who know me and care about me well enough to remind me to look after myself. These people encourage me if that’s what I need but remind me to take a step back when I need to as well.  I am lucky that I do have a special someone and that I have hopes of one day being able to live together so we can be one family unit. That’s a whole other battle which I shall not bore you with, but I count my chickens, having someone close enough is pretty good chicken to have.

Constantly juggling and trying to achieve a balance between  being a good mum – helping my children to become healthy & happy well balanced individuals, working – contributing to society to & the world, being a good friend & family member – these things are important to me but, sometimes, I get tired. Sometimes I do hide just for a bit.

I couldn’t sustain the amount of work I had going at the end of last year. I took the set work on knowing there was an end point and that I would have a little time to recharge before taking on the next project and I NEED that.  My children NEED that.  Sometimes it takes an unbelievable amount of energy to leave the house, to get out there and just face the world. Sometimes I have to put a little protective bubble around us, feeling like I am in a world where people are judging and waiting for me to mess up, to fail. I have to remind myself that I am not failing because trying deserves credit too and not giving up is awesome! (Just going to do a little shout out to my Mum right here for being an inspiration in not giving up!)

So maybe, I snap at my children, when I’m under stress and maybe I’m a lot less fun to live with when juggling all the balls and spinning all the plates (and any other relevant circus themed analogy). Working at home means I also get that bit of time, because I have more flexibility and say over when I’m working, to talk things through with my children. I can stop and explain myself, apologise. The ability and time to communicate with my children is something I am forever grateful for. I also work hard to make sure that we get family time when we can

I hope that their recent game invention ‘hide from the Mummy Monster’ is just a game and a bit of fun. I hope  they will grow to appreciate that whilst I can’t always be their friend and sometimes have days when I struggle & when my energy and good nature feels compromised; I do the very best that I can, and a lot of it, I do for them.

 

~I am a tiny little fish in an enormous ocean. The way I muddle through life is just one way. Everyone finds a way that is unique to them. I specifically want to acknowledge, everyone working hard to survive, everyone trying their hardest to be good kind people whilst battling their own demons and anyone stigmatized, marginalized or demonized unfairly. There’s far too much hate in the world. I’m trying to swim against that tide and I know that others are too.~  

 

 

They Did It! I did it; we all did it!

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Jungle book set

 

So the last couple of months has seen me spend every spare moment I have had, working on set and props for a children’s drama group production of Stuart Paterson’s The Jungle Book. (This may be a slight exaggeration but it has certainly felt like every spare moment.) I’ll tell you about that and pop up a picture or few in a bit. First I need to tell you a little about the show and Acting Up.

Yesterday, I  got to see the show and was absolutely blown away. Don’t be dismissive when you hear the term children’s drama group. The cast ranged in age from around 4 – 16 and each and every one of them were amazing. Sure there were a few lines forgotten and bits where they stumbled slightly but the overall brilliance of their work was not lost, they pulled together and go through it. This was great to see. The work and effort they had put in to get the show to where it was, paid off on the day. The characters were cast fantastically – so that their anthropomorphic personalities were a joy to watch.

This was probably closer to Rudyard Kiplings original story than the disney productions, so there were some darker, more serious themes that were touched upon. Themes such as law and justice, morality of class and hierarchies, the sometimes precarious balance of human kind and nature, themes of abandonment and not belonging. The list could go on. These deeper themes and content were dispersed by humour – I found myself laughing at some of some scenes – the whole audience were amused at Kaa’s hunger dance.

So I want to give a great big shout out – congratulations, well done, to all the cast from Acting Up in Gosport, especially Rosanna Sloan – and Sammy Tyler without whom there would have been no show at all. As a mum to one of the young actors, I can say from a parents point of view that the learning opportunities and benefits the children get from their drama classes are huge.In acting up, us parents are treated to a mini show at the end of each term, which gets the children used to performing in front of an audience and means we get to see what they have been up to; all of the end of term performances are lovely but to see their end of year performance is a proud moment that tops the rest.

Set Design

I feel like I’ve been on a bit of a journey with the group this year and feel incredibly lucky to have been this involved.* I was asked to help with set for two shows and between September and December. I had set for Matilda finished and ready to use by  the middle of October. I didn’t get any whole set pictures of this work but I hear it went well and didn’t fall apart which is a big relief. I think one of the worst nightmare scenarios doing set design is imaging something you have made falling apart in the middle of the show and being responsible for ruining the whole thing!

For the Jungle book set, I was invited to go and spend a day with the cast getting them involved with the making too. They created such a fantastic array of delights and this hopefully gave them an idea of another aspect of theatre, and more of an appreciation of set when it all came together later on.

I could keep writing about my work and what it has been like getting involved with a project like this but I think the best thing I can give you for now are some pictures.

Matilda Set Work

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The Jungle Book Set Work

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Jungle Back drop including art made at the making day
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Origami leaves: made by children at the making day
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‘Hut backdrop’ for village scenes

 

 

 

* Some of my closest friends and family will know I have been more than a little stressed at times during this journey. It’s been hard work. I said to a very good friend of mine not so long ago that when I get the time I want to write a blog about how I’m a ‘mother from hell’ when I get close to a deadline. (that could be extended to girlfriend, daughter etc etc)

Thankfully my friend is wise and suggested that I wait until the work is finished so I have some perspective and calm. I may still write a piece soon, but I wanted to do this celebratory piece first.

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Eureka!

In my last post I was trying to accept the fact the I may not have the time to concentrate on making art and I needed to focus on a ‘proper career’. This morning I reminded myself that it doesn’t have to be that simple. I can still find ways to be creative and may still be able to use this in between now and beginning teacher training.

 

Enter the Kettle Vase…

 

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No, don’t actually get inside it. That’s silly, that was just my attempt at a dramatic introduction.

Often, I don’t throw things away in the hope that they’ll one day be useful. I feel like I should be able to use my creativity to make something desirable from the things one might often discard. This is despite the fact the this involves hoarding ‘rubbish’, and the clutter in my house gets me down. So, when my kettle broke last week, I couldn’t simply throw it away. It’s been sitting in the kitchen redundant until I had one of those eureka moments – the Kettle Vase. So here we have a most simple work of art.  (I shall call it art so therefore it is. Ha!) Simple, but I am very happy with it. I also love the fact that the  weeds inside the vase are actually rather pretty.

So what’s my plan now..?

Well, I’m still intending to get on to a Primary PGCE course but it seems I just can’t put those paintbrushes down! Or kettles, or lightbulbs. (See picture below.) I aim to get on to a course starting in September 2017 and am seriously considering becoming self employed in the mean time.

I often feel people – family and friends even, don’t take me seriously as an artist – this may be paranoia rearing its ugly head – and thinking about I don’t always take myself seriously either,. Despite making myself post online and sharing my work as much as possible I still have that tiny seed of embarrassment, I can’t be a real artist- people are laughing…

On the flip side there have been a few people and situations that have made me think I might just want to give that little artistic bit of me another chance. By registering as self employed, attitudes, including my own attitude, might change. I might actually begin to be more productive. Firstly, Acting Up have asked me to join them for a meeting in August to discuss having me as an official prop maker for this years Christmas production. This is very exciting and makes the last few years that I have helped out on a less official level, feel even more worth it. I have also spoken to some arty friends of mine who have been encouraging and offered advice.

As you may glean from reading more of my blog posts, my moods can be up and down. (Although I usually write a blog post when I’m feeling a little more positive.) My mind is prone to changing and I’ve got more on over the next year than I could begin to write here. (If you haven’t lost interest already you would by the time I had typed up all of my plans.)  I’m pretty sure there will be times that it I will question my sanity and feel like I can’t do any of it. But I can and I will.

I’m just going to leave you with a picture of another up-cycled artsy crafty thing I couldn’t help but make.

 

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