About, Mindset, Parenting

Menstrual Cup Mayhem

Using less plastic and creating less waste is something that many of us are very conscious of, and in my own personal quest towards combatting climate change, I have started using a menstrual cup. Oh yes. In this post, I am going to talk about menstrual cups. And periods. Yep. Periods. PERIODS. PERIODS! If thats too much, then I recommend you leave now, and rejoin for my next post, when I go back to talking about mental health or parenting.

Still with me? Well, here we go!

So I have been menstrual cupping for a few months now. I actually bought said menstrual cup about a year ago, but was too scared to use it. Then, after Christmas I bought myself some exceedingly pretty washable pads from Bloom and Nora, and made the decision to go fully cycle-sustainable. Go me!

Now, as we all know, change can be a tricky business. And any lifestyle change takes a little practise, perseverance and usually a few tears. Three periods in (I have a short cycle) and I thought I would message a very dear friend who I haven’t seen or spoken to for several months to tell her my observations. This readers, is a true account of our conversation:

I feel there is not much to add at this point. If you made it to the end without crossing your legs, you have my upmost respect!

And why did I share this conversation? Well, once again we find ourselves not being open and feeling like we shouldn’t talk about the less than glamorous sides of life. Talking about how flippin’ tricky the menstrual cup is, is important and none of the nice eco-packaging or motorway-service-station toilets mention these potential blunders!

The menstrual cup is amazing, but knowing that there are organic, non-plastic tampons from TOM, out there in the world is a happy thing to learn and I wouldn’t have found that out, had I not bared all to my dear, dear friend … Also, my husband is very patient when I tell him of my menstrual cup mis-adventures, but there’s not really that much he can empathise with in these instances.

And finally, I hope if you do use a menstrual cup, or are thinking about using one, this post has some handy-what-not-to-do tips for you! Happy cycles everyone xx

About, Mindset, Parenting

Awesome Amethyst and Brilliant Breathing

As many of you will know, managing and overcoming anxiety is something that is an ongoing project of mine. Last year I took to journalling in a big way, which you can read about in my post, The journals of my mind, and I also completed a course of one-to-one CBT thanks to our wonderful NHS.

Through both of these things, I made progress that has changed my outlook on life. The journalling has taught me to put daily focus on things I am thankful for, things that have made me really happy and also my goals.

Through the course of CBT I unpicked a lifetime of fairly low self-esteem and self-deprecation, and rebuild myself into someone who believes that they are a good mum, and a talented book designer, author and illustrator, and also someone who is allowed to be proud of their achievements. That last one was the biggy.

Although these things had made me emotionally feel much stronger, unfortunately my stresses and anxieties were still there and so instead of attacking my emotional stability, they began to give me strange physical side-affects. Reynauds is one. Reynauds is where your fingers and toes can get very cold, and go whitish yellow in colour. It is painful, and you have to work quite hard to get them back to normal again. I now have to make sure I keep myself very warm all the time.

Another side effect has been a monthly, let’s call it, ‘period poo’. I won’t go into the details, but if you are a member of one half of the population you will probably know what I’m talking about. My gut had started reacting to stress and anxiety that I was taking on board.

After doing some research and seeing that both these symptoms could be caused by stress, I made an appointment with a good friend who is an osteopath. My friend couldn’t have been more wonderful. She showed me some breathing techniques so that I breathe from my stomach rather than my diaphragm, and also recommended that amethyst is a crystal known for its protective powers and that some people wear amethyst jewellery as a protective aid against negativity.

After my appointment I got straight onto Etsy, and ordered myself a really pretty amethyst necklace – you can find the one I bought here – and started practising the mindful stomach breathing that my friend had shown me whenever I could. I have also joined a lovely meditative and restorative yoga class, which is absolutely perfect.

Since that appointment the way I feel is markedly different. The me that was constantly rushing and nervous has calmed down a lot. I don’t seem to rush anywhere now, and that has not affected our punctuality at all. In fact, yesterday morning we were all ready for the school-run five minutes early, so I had time to calmly put a wash on!

When the children rile me, I don’t rise up as much and feel het-up for ages afterwards. I either don’t get cross, or I shout and then I’m peaceful again. Inside I feel more comfortable. The combination of amethyst and breathing so far seems to be working. I still get the cold fingers and toes, and I am careful about what I am eating, but I feel physically calmer.

How do those things work? Amethyst is meant to have a very calming energy, which I will be reacting to. And the breathing? Well, in breathing from my stomach, I am dispelling the stress that is being held around my gut through my breathing. And the yoga is just plain relaxing.

When I was younger I used to cry about everything. I think that was my body’s way of releasing stress. Since having children, crying seemed a little self-indulgent, and it is something I had stopped allowing myself to do. I realise now that crying for me is incredibly therapeutic and important, and I am letting myself do this more.

I guess the lesson I am learning through all this, is once again that it is so important that we are open about the ways that we are feeling. We must validate those feelings by dealing with them, whatever they are, because if we don’t there they find new ways to manifest themselves. I am thankful that I have such a wonderful friend to be helping me, I am thankful that I am feeling better – I hope I can keep it up. And I am also thankful that my lovely amethyst necklace looks just about perfect with all of my clothes.

About, Parenting

When the sh*t hits the fan (or gets on your shoe)

Anyone reading this not in the UK might not be aware of our upcoming election and what feels like a really pivotal moment in our political and community sphere. Please don’t think that I am about to bombard you with my political opinions, I’m not. But, I do have some comments on how things feel as a working mum, and mostly those comments rotate around the word, community.

Community is a word I am aware of more and more at the moment. It is in the semantics all around us: in the words of politicians, in the need to be more climate-aware, the move to shop more locally, and even how we need to be a community in social media too – we all have a duty to care and support – not troll and bully.

As a mum herding two children on the school-run, I am ever frustrated by the lack of community-spirit when it comes to picking up after one’s dog. I am a dog-person through and through, and believe you me, a dog has been on my personal life goal list for my entire adult life. But. Every walk to and from school has become fraught with me trying to keep my children out of dog poo! I can’t understand why people don’t pick up. What I do think is that lack of respect for others, and that thinking from a position of ‘self’ sums up a lot of the problems facing our society at the moment.

When you only think in terms of ‘self’ that disregard for others, which at first may seem harmless, and just a bit lazy, actually has a ripple effect. That one person who doesn’t pick up after their dog creates a series of hazards for everyone else using that path. It means that each mum has to try and develop x-ray poo vision and seriously, at the moment, I think I must sound like a crazy lady the amount of times I am yelling and grabbing my two to keep out of the poo!

That disregard also shows to others that it’s ok not to pick up after your dog, and therefore it’s ok not to care about the other people using that path. So a couple more people stop picking up. And soon, there is literally sh*t everywhere!

Apart from the dog poo, there are pockets of working-mum-hood that are pretty flippin’ fantastic. One of those, is Bizmums, which truly is the epitome of community. It began as a series of networking groups aimed at self-employed mums, the main aim being that you can network with other self-employed mums, at child-friendly venues. I have been a Bizmum for two years now, and truly I have never felt so supported. We are all women who work hard, juggle running a business around our families, and through online and face-to-face I have found a community where we all work to help each other. It is not competitive, it is nurturing and collaborative and open-minded. It shows me that the true spirit of community is a powerful and amazing thing.

Without Bizmums, I probably wouldn’t have created DesignerMum, I certainly wouldn’t have published Reynard, and I would feel a lot less secure and settled where I live.

And how does all this relate to our election? Well. When we operate from a position of ‘self’, we are choosing not to care or support those around us. For me, here we have a problem. If we all remembered that as human beings we have a duty of care to those people and the world around us, I believe our world would be a happier place. It would also be a richer place. A society which places community at its heart is surely somewhere where everyone can benefit, in all sorts of ways. I am not suggesting that we shouldn’t strive for our own goals, of course we should. But instead of only caring about ourselves, we can choose to pick up after our dogs, and make other people’s walks more fun. We can choose to get milk delivered in bottles and keep a local farmer going, whilst also reducing our plastic consumption. We can choose to support those working around us, and improve our local economy directly.

This election feels to me like a choice between self and community. From the bottom of my heart I hope that we can choose community, because I am tired of all the sh*t.

About

A head full of Coldplay

I discovered this week that Coldplay are releasing a new album very soon. Hooray! The 16yr old me just did a little squeak and a swoon.

I have been a Coldplay girl since their first album, Parachutes, and saw them perform twice during the first few years. Both shows are still very vivid in my mind, and some fab memories.

During the last 10 years, I dropped off the fan-boat a little – mostly because I had other stuff going on. Met a beardy guy, moved house a few times, married that beardy guy, had a couple of children and got my freelance business off the ground! But, I am still a Coldplay girl. I can pin-point particular songs and albums to very specific points in my life.

The wonderful thing about music is that it has an incredible ability to infiltrate our lives that way. Music is like something that can inhabit us. So when we are reminded of a particular piece, it can magically transport us to moments, or people, or places in time. For me, Coldplay have been with me since my teens – so they have been with me through some stuff.

So, I hope you will humour me whilst I indulge myself a little (actually, a lot) and share three really clear times that Coldplay evoke in my mind. Thank you for indulging me, reader.

Yellow vividly reminds me of finishing my GCSE’s, and the summer of 2000

First up, Yellow, from Parachutes. I can still remember when this song was Jo Whiley’s Record of The Week on Radio 1, and this would have been when I heard it. I was on revision leave from school, to finish my GCSEs. And the more I heard it, the more I fell in love with it: the words, the guitars and the sound. Then I saw the video. Way back in tender 2000, when my sisters and I were all teenagers, and the music video channels were what we used to bicker over, I remember seeing this slightly geeky guy singing along the beach about how he wrote a song and it was called Yellow.

When I watched this video this morning, to put in the link for you, I was totally transported to my parent’s old living room, and I just completely smiled. This song is magic to me. It makes me smile from my head to my toes. And although I probably wouldn’t say that I loved being 16 that much, this song reminds me of how I would listen to it and be absolutely hopeful that someone like that would love me that much one day. (And if that person happened to be Chris Martin, even better!)

Fix You takes me back to summer 2015, living in London whilst doing my BA in Illustration

I’m not going to dwell on this one too much. Weirdly I’d never seen this video until I posted in the link, and it seems strangely serendipitous that Chris Martin is walking and singing again, but this time in London.

During 2015 I had completed my second year at Camberwell College, and was living with my art school friends in our big old house share in London. That summer I was working in a lovely shop in Covent Garden, and also starting to prepare for my final year at college. It was the first summer I didn’t go home, and I was ridiculously homesick. The words in Fix You married with how I felt exactly, and all I wanted, was to be at home in Shropshire. Even though I had a lovely job, great friends and lots of fun in London. I have a very embarrassing memory of listening to this on my headphones, completely balling my eyes out on a tube train, whilst sitting opposite a family who were quite clearly on holiday. What they must have been thinking, Lord only knows!

A Sky Full Of Stars sums up my learning how to be a mum to my new baby Sidney

This last one happily makes me smile top to bottom again. My memory of this song is linked to my maternity leave with Sidney, and how I felt about him. To me he was My Sky Full of Stars. After a totally normal pregnancy, his birth was a bit scary, and he then gave us another scare at two weeks old, so to say that I found becoming a mum easy, is about as far from the truth as you can get. But I think that is probably fair to say of most mums.

Anyway, once things had settled down, I used to take him for walks each day around where we lived, and this song resonated so much. Its uplifting and beautiful and brings tears to my eyes when I hear it. So much love in such simple words. Now, I often hear this song when I’m washing up in the kitchen when it comes on the radio and it just makes me so happy.

With their new album coming, I am really hoping that Coldplay will tour soon. I have been telling Noel for quite some time that next time they tour, I want to go. By writing this post, I’m definitely putting it out to the universe and declaring my Coldplay fan status! Please tour, please!

About, Mindset, Parenting

A rainbow of mental health

As I write this, today is World Mental Health Day. This post was actually going to be called, “School Day, Short Day”, and be about how short the school day is, and how I now seem to spend all of my time clock-watching now, and the stress that ensues from that, when you are trying to get work done, or anything done for that matter. Instead, I am going to tell you about my week.

Some women will say that they don’t really get affected by the change in their hormones every month. I am not one of those women. My hormones have the ability to increase my core body temperature, undue my ability to think rationally, and they can also create torrents and torrents of tears. They also do other things too when I am particularly stressed, but you get the picture.

One of my favourite mummy friends put it perfectly last week, “It affects your ability to cope”. She couldn’t be more right. For the last week I have waded through a quagmire of worrying, tears and also a snotty nose. Anyway, yesterday it came to a head when I literally felt consumed with a familiar feeling of panic, which I haven’t felt in several months. The same old panic, which I now understand is essentially, “I won’t be able to cope if this happens” – whatever “this” it may be.

I also understand now, that panic of “I won’t be able to cope” is actually rooted to my self-esteem. I don’t believe that I will be able to cope if something beyond the normal, everyday happens, or, things might happen that are beyond my control. On a subconscious level, what I am essentially telling myself is “I am not good enough”.

So, what do you do when you feel like this? You reach out. Definitely reach out. Please, always reach out. Yesterday, I chose my dad. Over the weekend, when everything was too much, I reached out to my sister. Of course, the conversations that I had with them didn’t really alter anything physically, but in sharing how I was feeling, I could attempt to stop internalising. I was still feeling teary and anxious , but I didn’t feel so isolated by my feelings.

What I really wanted to tell you though, was this. As I was gathering in the washing after tea yesterday evening, still feeling panicky and worried, I saw a rainbow. A very clear, lovely, beautiful rainbow.

Now, when Sidney was about 2, he went through a tricky phase of crying every time he went to nursery. I used to tell him, that if he was ever worried, or sad, if he saw a rainbow in the sky it meant that everything is ok. He got that he would remember this, and if we ever saw a rainbow, we would talk about it and remind ourselves that everything is ok. When I told him this, I was thinking of the story of Noah and the rainbow, and the promise that God makes to Noah.

Now, I’m not overtly religious, and I spend my time focussing more on an attitude of gratitude and believing in the universe than going to church these days. But yesterday, God, or the universe, or someone powerful somewhere, had my back. Seeing that rainbow totally grounded me. It said, everything is ok. And I smiled. All the panic feelings, and lack of control pretty much melted away in that moment, and I went back inside the house feeling like my steadier, positive self again.

Today has been much more normal. Thank goodness. Thanks to that rainbow. All day today, I have thanked whoever sent me that beautiful, perfect, magical band of colours.

About, Mindset

The journals of my mind

Since January of this year I have been journalling every evening. I use it to channel my thoughts and engage the mindset that I want to have. At the end of 2018, I was constantly anxious and worrying about a variety of things. I was also full of self doubt and couldn’t really understand why I felt that way. I had everything to be proud of. So, as well as getting stuck into some books about mindset, I began journalling.

Let me tell you what I write. First I write something that I am thankful for from that day. Then I write my ‘perfect’ moment of the day (inspired my good friend, Ali Gill and her My Perfect Journal), and then I write 10 affirmations for myself: I am … Usually these include things like; I am successful; I am patient; I am a great mum; I am the best children’s book designer!
Finally, I write down at least one piece of evidence for that day of why I am important. Perhaps a friend got in touch with me, or I noticed something important for someone. Sometimes, it might even be that I remembered a bit of kit that the children needed for the day!

Many of the things that I write down are pretty inane and very inconsequential to anyone but myself. But to me, they are the moments that I choose to remember for that day. They are reminders of the person that I am choosing to be. They are helpful hints as to how I will conduct myself the following day. They are a guide to my dream life and goals.

It also means that I go to sleep each night remembering some lovely thoughts. It means that I often find myself thinking about what my perfect moment will be, and being really inwardly happy when a wonderful moment presents itself during the day. It also means that I end the day thinking of things to be thankful for, I am in a place of gratitude.

We do this as a family too, usually at teatime. We will take it in turns to say our favourite moment of the day. Sidney will often choose his lunch, ’nuff said there. And Harriet is just about old enough to give an answer too, she might say the name of a friend she played with at nursery, or tell me that she had ‘gardy (garlic) bread’ for her lunch, her favourite.

Today I am already thankful that I can ride a bike with a trailer on the back. It’s been pretty rainy this week, so I thought I would end the week by using the car to drop the children off. Let me tell you – it took longer to use the car to drive around town this morning that it does for me to cycle around it – with a great big trailer on the back! I was pretty irritated, but then I realised how glad I am that I don’t do that every day. I am so thankful that I genuinely love riding a bike, and even in the rain, its more empowering than sitting still in a car.

And there you have it, through journalling I have trained my brain to a mindset of gratitude. There is always something to be thankful for. And, like Pollyanna, I think the ‘glad game’ is pretty good too.

About

A few of my favourite things

This week at one of my networking groups we had a guest-speaker who is a life-coach, Karen Carpenter. She was such an inspiring woman and shared with us a few tips and tools to use as boosters when we are feeling low in confidence. One idea she shared with us was so uplifting, I thought I might take the opportunity to create it as a blog post, which in turn would convey the idea to you, and you could then also use it as a positivity booster yourself.

For a while I have been wondering how to do a post about myself. Not my anxiety or my mindset. Not my children, or my work-ethic, or any of the projects I am working on – a post just about me. I’ve procrastinated about it for a while – “Me, Myself and I” is a pretty epic theme for a blog post – and no one wants to read my entire autobiography when they’re just browsing social media feeds!

So what I am going to tell you in this post, is three times in my life when I have felt a completely overwhelmingly positive emotion*. The idea of this, is that we think of these moments, and make a list of them. Actually, the life coach suggested created them as pieces that fit together as a puzzle. In doing so, we begin to see the wonderful moments in our lives that have shaped us. Often we remember the negative or traumatic moments, but if we can remember more of the amazing and profound experiences – and focus on the powerful feelings that these experiences evoked – we can increase our positive sense of self, our confidence, our emotional well-being and ultimately start to control how we feel about ourselves – hopefully a more centred, happy self! … So … Here you are:

Meeting Noel

Noel and I have been married for three and a half years, and together for ten. We met at our office Christmas party on December 18th, 2008, when we were both working on different floors, for different departments of the same media content agency in West London. I had seen Noel a couple of times around Shepherds Bush, near where I lived and I had assumed he must live somewhere quite close by. I thought he was extremely cool – too cool for me even to have a crush on in fact – but I thought that I could perhaps say hi to him at the Christmas party and then he would be someone cool for me to say hi to around work!

Well … My colleagues and I had arrived fashionably late to the party as we’d been invited to another party first – so by the time we were at our party I was feeling sufficiently sparkly. Fast forward a few songs on the dance floor and I noticed that this cool, tall, beardy guy (Noel) was hovering nearby and looking at me. With my sparkly confidence nicely in place, I tottered over and went to say hi. Next thing I knew, one of my friends dangled some mistletoe and Noel went in for a full-on snog! After I had gotten over the initial, ‘Oh my goodness, everyone will have seen!’, the rest of the night was a bit of a blur. Noel was a little more tiddly than me, and told me that he thought we would be, ‘A good match’! … Now any young woman worth her classic literary salt would instantly hear the Jane Austen rings in such a statement. What choice did I have really. The coolest guy in our building thought that we would be, ‘A good match’! Well, that was that. The memory I have of that night is just one of sheer excitement and a lot of, “Oh my goodness, I can’t believe the coolest guy in the office likes me!”

Being told that Reynard is a child’s favourite book

As it was World Book Day last week, lots of children all went in to school dressed up as their favourite book characters, with their favourite books tucked under their arms. A friend who had bought my story, Reynard the Fox for her daughter for Christmas, this week told me at our networking group that her daughter had taken Reynard with her – its her favourite story!

There are a few moments in my life where I can note that my heart genuinely swelled in my chest, and that is one of them. I know that this little girl really loves reading, and to be told that your book is her favourite story makes me feel so proud and so happy. I have wanted to write and illustrate books since I was a child, and to know that my book is someone’s favourite makes me genuinely feel like I have achieved something truly magical.

Sadie

Sadie was a dog. Not just any dog, she was the dog. Sadie was the dog that I had pretty much spent 18 years begging my parents for. She was a black Labrador and she was a rescue – probably about 6 or 7 years old when she came to us. It took her a little while to settle in – she did not care for being left alone to begin with, at all. But it did not take long for her to be the apple of everyone’s eye.

In some ways, writing Sadie as a profoundly positive experience is cheating a bit – as she clearly was loved for her whole life with us – but I am choosing to include her as she was the dog that I had wanted forever. And she did not disappoint. When I think of her, I am filled with a love and affection that I don’t think will ever leave me. She left us many years ago now, but I can still remember her smell and the feel of her soft, thick fur when you buried your face in it. To my family, she was perfect (obviously she was also a tinker – what dog isn’t in their own brilliant ways?) But when I think of her, I am simply filled with love. And that is the profoundly positive bit.

*I was actually going to tell you about seven or eight moments, but as you can see, no one would want to read that many!!