The light around here has been incredible recently.
As I Flip through Facebook posts recently, I have loved to see the many walks my friends take and the things they see along the way, things that my legs don’t get to. Some of these things I saw before my body stopped playing, some I may get to one day if I win the lottery, and some of them I will never see. All of the above are ok with me.
We can travel the world to see the most glorious of sites. We can trek up mountains to see a new perspective we yearn for. Potential and adventure is wonderful. But if limitations are set, it doesn’t mean that life has to be less stimulating.
If circumstances change the rules, as they have for everybody at the moment, our fun radar has to look closer for things to appreciate. And for inspiration.
I got asked by a woman over the phone, filling in a medical form how many buses I could walk. ( length of) without stopping, and with sticks .. If you’ve never tried answering that one give it a go. I can walk 2 buses.
But, walk two buses, take a photo or two and then walk a couple more. You can get somewhere, or to your car, and then a little further… And then moments as incredible as any rare truffle are waiting. If your deely boppers are on.
And if that has to suffice until surgery or vaccinations happen it is a start.
The new normal looks different for everyone!
For some the routine has stayed reassuringly familiar ……..
And others of the more active variety have been growing like weeds…
And art has been created in the spaces created like little yawns in the day… where children or animals are sleeping, eating or otherwise occupied .
Next year will be a big birthday for me, and although I could probably still get asked for i.d without make up, due to being partly of the faery variety 😉 It will mean that, including teaching in America at 20, I will have been teaching art for 30 years. It has been a rollercoaster, not least for health reasons. But always the best part, the only part that mattered was giving something to kids that they did not have before.
My first teaching job was in a tough school. some of the kids (and staff) were hard work, and I was going to work full time whilst looking after two young stepsons and a big house. I was keen and sparkly, but at the time, was being knocked in more ways than one, both at home and at work.
Now I think that girl was amazing. Then, I taught my socks off in a blur. I didn’t know what the kids saw. But I knew I gave them everything because I always will. And I loved their inspiration as much as creating with them. Eventually the politics of that post got too much. So I moved schools. Before arthritis got the better of me and I taught in high school for 18 years.
Out of the blue last week, I received a message on facebook from a great big bearded man, who I didn’t recognise. The picture showed him on his wedding day. He just wanted me to know, he said, that I had been an amazing teacher. That he still remembered what I taught him 20 years ago, and that he still tells his niece about being taught art by me. How incredible. This was not something this man needed to do, or gained anything by doing. But I did. And how lovely to gift those words to someone years after they knew you. In a time where our identities are in question because we can’t be fully ourselves, always speak kind words when you think them.
Thankyou to the wonderful Mickey. Keep doing those little things, especially in your own home. The universe and your wife will thank you! I know I do.,
This poem was written for all of you who take the time to read this, for your heart and for your own self care.
In amongst the day to day routine keep an eye out for flashes of colour, a chances to reflect on the details when the bigger picture get too overwhelming. Savour every colour. They are only for you.
Children and seasons will change, so will this situation. For a long time my mantra has been to keep going. Clichéd maybe, but sometimes it is all you can do to put one foot in front of another.
Or one bus
Something today matters for a reason you don’t even know yet.
I am so proud of my groups, friends and some of the community helping one another to stay positive. To see artwork, share your Ideas or experiences with us.. go to facebook, liz at the beach hut and sea sparkle.
One day last week I found a pair of new knickers hiding in the drawer. Saving themselves for an occasion worthy of their debut. For a fleeting moment I almost put them back and then didn’t. And all day, because of my discovery , it felt like I was wearing diamonds..
Often we keep our finest indulgences for such times that we feel they are more deserving than right now. And we create subliminal rules for our hoard. -A magical time in the future, when the perfect us will appreciate and deserve luxury, and step into the limelight to a roar of wolf-whistles…
Our nicest clothes, our best cups and saucers, our Christmas toiletry sets , indulgent hobbies we will do- one -day- when -we- have- time: even friends we promise we will catch up with one of these days -all are placed in a box marked future.
Precious, abstract , future bubbles…… Thing is, such perfect time capsules do not exist; because the tides of life just keep sucking us back, against the shore of good old fashioned normality and remind us what and who we are, and what else is in the flotsam..
There is no perfect . Whether in your longed for acceptance of self image, in the mysteries of your family , your crazy circle of friends, or the situation we are all in right now and how that impacts on the immediate world you had.. A lot of our choices are out of our control because they are too enormous. But what we can do, is choose some of the smaller things to keep or lose.
We have our bodies, in all their states of health and shapes and sizes and the choice in how to dress and celebrate them..For many of us, our clothes have become a uniform; whether through comfort, suitability for lifestyle or because they don’t suit us as we change in age or outlook. But sometimes, we simply forget what is under the pile, always choosing to skim from the top. It can be amazing to find what we used to love, or how good a well worn garment feels on your skin
Every day comes with its surprises at the moment. Today, bumping into an old friend was literally overwhelming and so poignant and lovely. Neither of us could speak but the silence was crammed with a thousand words which we both understood. I know it will keep me going on days when I hear no voices other than a pup and a grumpy pre-teen. So much emotion in those few seconds, and an elixir of wellbeing, much needed.
The now is all about seeing what is under the surface and try to still hear the music
Keeping good clothing and never wearing it is like advertising lunch for critters and a bit like keeping a freshly made loaf of bread and waiting two days for the first slice. Sometimes at the back of our cupboards, are gems that are perfect now. that still fit, that are desperate for daylight
Because, come the time to use your perfect China, the cracks may have appeared in more than just the saucers. You should eat well, off the nicest plates and savour each morsel.
Take yourself on a picnic while the sun shines and your legs work.
Bear and I discovered that was just what the doctor ordered, when the day was dragging and my hands hurt too much to keep drawing. Ginger beer and a fresh socially distanced prawn sandwich , a few doggie hugs by the harbour, and a chat with a lovely old couple, and the sun came out literally and metaphorically .
Things are losing their importance more than ever. We can’t ease our stress with travel, or quick fixes. Internally we are battling with a fight -or- flight response versus the desire to sink -into- the -sofa- with- a- cushion- over -our- ears. Anything written about being in the moment might sound cheesy, but it really is the most important defence mechanism in your arsenal. Our Stuff should be enjoyed, have a place to be stored properly or shared with others. Loved or left go. We are living through a time where our values are changing, our perspectives are distorted like looking through a glass.
Stand still and see what is right there as your own personal gifts.
Children and animals teach us to live in the moment
This strange and frightening pandemic is creating huge uncertainty. And causing everyone different concerns, and fears. Not knowing what will happen in this story is becoming frighteningly familiar now. It is understandable that we feel angry or sad. The loss of the contact with others, pleasurable activities, financial security, freedom to choose, is a grieving process. But because it is ambiguous, there is no finality, we can’t put anything to rest.
To deal with Life right now, it is essential to limit the time spent catastrophizing on what may or may not happen. Things change all the time. including the rules on what can or can’t be done. As these things are out of our control, all we have is what we can do for our immediate world and , find the magic of everyday life, whenever we can. This doesn’t mean we don’t care, it means we care enough to keep going.
Don’t save your Sunday best for Sunday
We didn’t know how lucky we were before. All those adventures kept for the future that are now much harder to plan for..
Life has stopped going in a straight line, and is more like a plate of spaghetti with more twists and turns than Sherlock Holmes. So now, more than ever, we have run out of excuses to save our best for a rainy day. Today’s rainy day is merrily chucking it down and we have little choice but to get out and get our feet wet. The time is literally now.
Treat your self like you would want to be treated at the best hotel (In place of actually getting to one). If you were manager what would you say about a room with crumpled clothes or toppling boxes , and its effect on your customer’s well-being?
My clear out has begun in earnest with a huge clear out of paper teaching resources and old paints etc. Teaching creatively is changing and hanging on to paper teaching resources is becoming harder. Most people I work with have their own equipment and we are on regular zooms.
However, There is no danger of us ever becoming minimalist
Just let’s be more organised hoarders!!
Let’s chuck out old drainpipe Trousers, which will never go over our bottoms again, outdated slogan t shirts, most things with acrylic on the label, anything not loved, useful as hell or utterly fabulous or worth a mint ( ha ha) books we will never read, shoes that are too tight or too boring, broken things, things that should get fixed but never will… All got to go.
Let’s make do and mend a bit more
Things require attention and the more you have the more time they take up. It is far more rewarding to spend time fuelling a pet or a skill than a shopping habit. And slightly less waste disposal.
Personally of late I have had this constant feeling that I’ve forgotten something. Has anyone else felt that the lists we had whittled down to a fine art before, have gone out of the window, and even the days of the week are confusing now !!
The simple fact is, most of the normal, planned activities, groups and connections are on hold.. So the requirement is to just be. And it is the hardest thing in the world to step away from the conditioned responses we have to our feelings and our desires. Our guilt to please the people we have already created a link with, on our journeys so far. To move away from should and towards couldif you want to, that takes courage. We are so conditioned to our structures, our ways and our safety nets, and feedback from other people. These responses validate us. If you have stopped working, you might be losing more than just a wage. People around you every day remind you you’re still alive. Now you have to do that for yourself.
This virus has changed things in strange ways. With far more emphasis on your own personal wellbeing, you will be able to potentially reach out your new found skills and resourcefulness like ripples in a pool into your future. Right now, tread water, steady your breathing and clear your mind as well as your cupboards. Swimming alone is scary, but opens up a whole new peaceful horizon .
Time to take the arm bands off
We are a resourceful lot. Perhaps finding out for the first time what exactly we are made of. What still fits and what we’ve grown out of . Or who.
Are there people around you who you expected to be in contact with and who have disappeared? Is the new world looking a little lonely?
It has surprised and bewildered me how the playing field looks right now Some players in the game have walked away, off the pitch or are sitting on the bench. Some have moved to another team altogether. But I know the team that we have now are the ones we are blessed to have. And those that have gone before, have been important chapters in our story.
Perhaps it takes a pandemic to know who you’re tribe really is. Who has phoned you recently? Responded to your Facebook posts, asked you on a zoom date, left soup at your door? Sometimes we need to let go of the old Christmas card list and be aware of who is showing up now. With an open mind and a willingness to see the glass half full, you might be surprised.
To simply be, ok with your quirky bits, immersed in your own ideas, is your permission to be positive while the world does what it does. Whether blending in…
Or standing out…
Most people yearn for a different version of themselves in some way. It is what advertisers rely on and the diet industry swells its coffers with. But as necessity overrides luxury, it gives us a chance to see what we already have, and what , if anything, we really need. Under current circumstances, enjoying ourselves feels a bit sinful, but in actual fact, with limited access to the network of well-being services at your disposal, support groups, social groups and shops! there is no better time than now to stop being so self critical and celebrate the details of the unique collection of things we already have.
A friend of mine never ceases to amaze me with her self nurture skills. She meticulously plans out her outfits , and in particular a fabulous pair of shoes , does her hair and make up and is a catwalk dream. Only, her audience is a zoom group , and in her day to day life, she is struggling with several medical and psychological issues. She hardly leaves her house. On our zooms, she chats from her bed.
It would be so easy for all of us to give up trying. Instead; giving yourself a few small moments of fabulousness will become an intrinsic part of the you going on your journey recorded for future generations as the hero you are. .
In the absence of a network or a way of life which gives you compliments, you must make your own..
We can’t know what this story will become . We aren’t used to not getting what we need quickly. Our seasonal adjustment disorder has gone wonky, with virtually no normality to Summer (apart from the changeable weather) It is tricky to feel grounded by the things which made us feel safe before…
This of course is different for everyone. But at the same time, is exactly the same for everyone. We need things in our peripheral vision that give us hope. If nobody else can do that for you, you owe it to yourself to grab your best knickers, and stop over thinking. The only way to make sense of the biggest things is to go into battle with a steady hand, and good pants. Surrounding yourself with what you alone love.
You know who you are, what you can do, and what you’ve always wanted to do . Now, there’s slightly less reason to worry what anyone else thinks of that. And make it happen.
Trust your gut
Consuming and then having to find space for more and more things is a distracting cycle. And somehow doesn’t feel important any more.
The diva, her pal and I went on a road trip at the weekend. We went shopping for a couple of gifts for various birthdays before the rules state we can’t drive more than five miles again, we had treats in food places certain to leave us sugar tongued and bloated . Delicious. I sat in the cafe while the girls looked in the shop next door . Every second of it was special. Already in the country, there are places where people are not able to do this. Already it is getting closer that an going an hour away could become a universe.
There was an intensity to the day. The Starbucks was a minefield of masks and form filling, door codes and queue stickers… The atmosphere wasn’t condusive to staying a long time, food given out in paper bags, no listening to jazz or wiling away the hours on a laptop with a cappucino.
But still, the sun was warm on my face through the window. I wrote this to you. My coffee tasted delicious and my cinnamon roll felt devilish and doughy and stuffed a gap in more. than just my hungry belly I wore trousers I should have worn on the beach. A dress bought for a holiday, twice cancelled. Thankfully it still fitted.! Small blessings. Good job Starbucks is so far away.! It is more important than ever to make things count wherever we can from our knickers to impromptu picnics on the park, as the girls did with their pizza and chips on the swings last night. Packed into paper bags like Deli food. Memories are cemented by fun versions of the usual stuff..
There is a feeling in the air that these normal experiences are not to be taken for granted. We ate lunch out and dragged bags and weary bodies into the car, grateful, tired and very aware that this wasn’t going to be repeated for a while.
Entering an Autumn cautiously and feeling grateful, we are mindful of the difficulties that these experiences are now attached to. Having looked forward to our trip, I have to say we are equally pleased to be safe at home. Find new pants if you feel a bit pants; the maddest pants you can find and flounce in them like there’s no tomorrow. Even if nobody ever sees them. Before your knees go.
If things don’t fit today, don’t wait until they do. A pile of things in your peripheral vision waiting for when you are smaller, healthier, fitter just gives you a headache.. Charity shop or dump them.
If like me you have a degenerative condition, or something affecting your immunity, time is always your nemesis.
Covid or no covid, there are rhythms to your day and year which affect how little or how much you can get achieved, with a body that won’t play nice. Sometimes it feels like a race to complete as much as possible on a sunny day, with the clock ticking on the seasons and the unpredictable weather. Flare- ups and immobility go hand in hand with the cold. So having less stuff that requires attention is important.
Although here at Skye Blue House, life will never be minimal
Finding ways to minimise tasks or get help with hard to do jobs is essential too. I am at the moment, indebted to my new gardener, chopping and cutting things my hands won’t manage, and many offers of doggie walks with Bear. This virus doesn’t get dibs on being resilient- ask anyone with arthritis!Go on.. Put on your best hat on. The winds of change might blow away everything away tomorrow….
but then instead, let your hair go free
The future you will buy new clothes, meet new faces, learn different skills. and be eternally grateful you held your nerve right now whilst looking fabulous. The future is an unstable ground to build a plan on. But it will still be there hazily greeting the morning sun. The irony is, the more you make of this moment, and it’s set of limitations, the wider your path will eventually be.
This painting was recently finished for Mum. After my Stepdad passed away. It is a fantasy place of lots of different bits of Greek islands they went to. Although she knows she can’t go back, it will take her there with him whenever she sees it. It, like everything we need to do now was achieved bit by bit, until it was complete. With painful joints, a final outcome was the top of a mountain I knew was there beyond the clouds. And yes, swearing is fine too.
Stay safe and keep your dreams fed and alive. Style it out and trust what you already know
I was noticing how much time I am taking up in the last week or two, and decided to write on behalf of my household. It is quite clear I am pretty much in charge these days and fill in the hours that must have been so empty without me by creating a never ending need for the carpet cleaner and a discerning taste for pyjama hems and ankles. I have a feeling that stuff must happen while I am in my fluffy bed, because it all looks different when I wake up . The big one that feeds me when I sit next to my bowl , splashes a lot of stuff out of tubes in the mornings. I tried tasting it but I just got a blue moustache and a telling off ….
So, as usual, I am in charge today. Paw in hand I am giving Mum a break while she tries to explain to the smaller one (again) why coal, pencils, socks, cheese string wrappers, slime tubs, lipstick, hair bands and crisp packets are very delicious but I’m not allowed to eat them for some bizarre reason…
Still… being a good boy (or girl) does have it’s advantages.. There are some pretty good hugs around here.. And the food is excellent. I would like to present you my first poem in appreciation of my new home. Hope you like it. x
Poem by Bear
. There once was a puppy called bear Who lived in a home with sea air His days were filled up with learning to know which was the carpet and where not to go
He tried to make friends with the cavies and cats And chewed all the corners off tables and mats
His paws were huge and his fur was all tangly His eyes were like buttons, his legs growing gangly She grumped in the morning when ankles were bitten And thieving was common of socks, homework, mittens… But end of the day when school end was done It started to sink in that this was quite fun,
Big paws are great for a play and a cuddle They make the room fun when parents see muddle They take you for walks when it’s rainy or fine
and they curl up inside a warm bed around nine
It’s good being small you can hide under dressers And shake all your toys till they spew out old feathers Your mum feeds you lots when you do your big eyes You have to remember to sit for a prize
Love is so easy to give to your tribe They always still hug if you’re manic at five I’m learning that hands are better for pats My teeth are like needles, and humans hate that
My best fun is paper to shred into bits And icy cold carrots are a teething hit I love My bed best when a heartbeat I hear It makes me feel safe and I drift somewhere dear
I didn’t like feeling alone in my cave The hall wasn’t great for my nightmares and fears. Dogs are like humans, they need to feel safe we need you to know it can take many years
I am so excited for beaches and woods
for hugs with new friends and all that is good life’s big adventures, fun and travels to come But I like it best when I’m curled up with mum xxx
See you soon on the Beach ! Love from Bear, Mum and the zoo xxxx
Today my not so little girl, like millions of other children will go back to school. Its not primary anymore, where she is home by three and I go through her lunchbox , or the madness of home schooling, including the requisite ten spelling words and a project about the number of sultanas in a cake. This is the big.. Wide. World. Of high school.
Unless the government suddenly decide children aren’t safe there either and change the plans again!
I must admit to a tiny wobble yesterday… She is my right hand, (literally) my pest in a vest, my monkey, my friend. It is also wonderful and hugely exciting . We got through all these months, mostly on our own and we got to this huge day, with half an inch before she is as tall as me. . How wonderful is that. I might now get the occasional quiet thought …
Or ….Maybe not. After we lost our beloved Skye, the plan was to wait to get a puppy. A collie, a girl puppy. In Winter. Ha Ha.
We have been blessed with a teeny new addition around here. She is a HE. He isn’t a Collie and he is here right now, with his big fluffy feet.
More paws. !!
You see making plans is crucial, but so is being able to see when a more ideal surprise comes along… Waiting for the perfect moment, home, person, pet, set of circumstances to jump fully in…. means we often don’t jump at all.
Sometimes all of our real life stories read like a Christmas day Eastenders episode. We wonder what madness will happen next, what crazy character will pop up and demand we use our hidden superpowers? . We could never have known what was going to happen as we sat eating our Christmas dinners last December, making plans for Summer holidays, and adventures with our families and friends..We don’t really feel freedom until it has been taken from us. Or appreciate our health, until we dont have it, or how wonderful our connections are until we feel lonely. This has highlighted so much for so many. Not everyone has had the same experience, or network. But your inner resilience will be full. And has given us all a chance to think who was there, and what we truly need.
Throughout this lockdown we have held our loved ones so tightly. Consistently helped others, talked on zooms to maintain connections with groups and shopped for others who couldn’t get out. We have needed faith in there being an end to this , that there can still be learning and gaining positive skills from the limitations holding life back.
To sustain inner strength you need to know there will always be someone to hold your hand, or carry you..
Whether that might be through a friendship or relationship ending, circumstances of the pandemic, or through bereavement. Time with someone can still be cherished, no matter how the story ends.
In February, our charitable enterprise was in the midst of organising exhibitions, collaborations, venues for sales and ideas for projects with different groups. After lockdown began; almost every plan we were making was either culled or put on hold indefinitely.
It was just a different world and required a new trust. Between us we looked after the animals, and as a young carer, My daughter was great at helping with the weekly shop (the highlight of the week) and the dog walking. We drew, created, shared the artwork to the various art groups run with Sea Sparkle , did her homework, looked through old photos, fed our zoo, and each other and existed in our bubble.
Popping the bubble when we initially left the house after four months was a bit of a shock but a wonderful one. Determined to stop and appreciate the freedom of being somewhere other than the garden. Being unable to walk far, it was all the sweeter being able to drive to other places…
Throughout lockdown, conversations have been had making a plan or two for the future and these can now start to come to fruition. It takes a lot of faith to keep believing it will be alright. That the things we do every day, and chip away at, will bear fruit and blossom. They do, they will. It will be OK.
I have faith in the right people being in our lives at the right time. And that as life starts up, in a new way it might just be a chance to recalibrate.
We can soon begin to reach more vulnerable adults through our Art Resources and get on with the new normal. As our children embed new experiences and friendships, another Autumn term begins for parents too.
We will shortly put together a small exhibition on our sea sparkle page to show what everyone has created.
I hope that one day those of you who consistently read this will be at a table sketching and drinking coffee with us. That our shop becomes a physical one where your ideas also take shape.. All we can do is control our thoughts to be positive and carry on making baby steps towards our dreams. Being around close knit family recently might have impacted on these ambitions. Remember, even people who love you might not want you to succeed. There is safety in things staying as they are.
But do it anyway…
Because nobody knows what the future holds. Hold the present in your hands
Eat, Love, read and dress for you and it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. If this has taught us anything, it is not wasting time on anyone else’s fear.
I wonder how they are all getting on. Probably feels normal already. Kids have the fear thing sorted…
We can learn so much from our kindred spirits, the ones that choose us, the ones that just appear in our lives and end up being indispensable, a life unknown before we met them.
Our time indoors has intensified with our relationships, in so many ways, but with our animals, it has been a blessing to have such unconditional love and companionship.
I love the photographs taken by my friend Eve, of animals that gravitate towards her. She collects characters because they can feel her spirit, she isn’t showing fear, but approaches them as them. And to gain an animals love , they mostly just need respect. And she takes a cracking photo.
Our world at Skye Blue House has been made so much fuller and richer through our animal friends. Cats, dogs, guinea pigs, fish, chickens… When a small paw holds yours at the end of a long day, things don’t seem so bad.
So here is a little bit of dogs wisdom on the game of life.
1 Treat everyone as a potential friend
But use your instincts when someone makes your fur stand on end..
2 Eat at regular times
Even though there is delicious temptation everywhere
3 Take plenty of naps
No matter where you are
4 Be free to run up mountains
Even if it is only in your sleep
5 Be photo ready
6 Stay loyal
To the tribe you found. They are your family.
7. Keep your fur neat
Or you might miss a pat
8. Know your humans
Soon they will understand your psychic ability
9. Avoid jealousy
And you’ll make best friends
10. Bathe occasionally
Humans seem to appreciate that
11 .Love with abandon
No matter the time you’ve got
12. Be you
That’s why you’re here xx
After our lockdown experience, 14 years of special times together and a final adventure; it is heart breaking to tell you our news. Due to cancer, Skye deteriorated swiftly and passed away last week peacefully. She had the best of lives and everyone loved her, even complete strangers. We were blessed to have her with us for every single day of Leah’s life. Thankyou Skye, the gentlest, kindest, most loyal spirit. Run free on the beach chasing shadows.
All our love Liz and Leah and Skye’s animal friends X
Lately I’ve been watching how our old collie has masted the art of semi-sitting. If she knows she will have to get up any time soon, she parks just her front feet in a lying down position. The bottom stays where it is. In the air. She’s in pain. But she has figured out how to use her body.
She trusts herself. And the signs around her telling her if food or walking is imminent . She trusts us and the decisions and choices made to keep her safe.
As adults we get to a stage where that luxury is not so consistent. In lockdown it is harder to source comfort when we feel sad or unwell. The initial good intentions of neighbours and communities are either in place or not and we are now more self sufficient than we have ever had to be. Trusting in our intuition, our oldest instincts .
A few wise words well chosen can change so much more than just five minutes of reading
Often when I see posts or messages by my dearest friends I am compelled to channel this trust. If communication has dried up, changed direction or has developed a new rhythm, it is a different language to learn in this new landscape, with mutual trust and hope.
We are all here, missing so many people we have known, or yet to know. But trusting that when the channels open once more, the perfect people will be in your life at the perfect time takes a huge amount of faith. And Those that have been loved by us along the way but chosen another path will journey on in another direction.
To run a dialogue with everyone you care about whilst providing yourselves with care would be like asking poor Skye to get up from a seated position over and over again. Choices have to be made about where to plant little trust trees, and watch them grow.
We are re-finding our way as families, communities, societies . And there are so many voices distracting from the inner one we need to stay grounded..
In a recent letter from my best friend I was immersed in her detailed dream of her perfect home. It was beautiful and complete. I could smell the air coming through the windows, not yet built, feel the tiles under my feet, taste the drink in my hand and hear her laughter. Her vision was so clear and so sure. We worked together in business understanding the process of abandoning the rational mind to creating and believing. She and I both found the courage to sell up and move home, city, even country for her, despite knowing there were fears pinging at our brains from everyone like heavy rain on tarmac.
She did it once, and she can do it again. We all can. Right now like you, trust is something I have felt more than ever before. Like most of us we have spent weeks chipping away at projects and ideas, enjoying perhaps the expansion of time. But not having the press of it. We will look back after the storm has passed and see the enormity of our achievements. But it can be hard whilst being in the centre of the whirling weather.
We are taught to hold ourselves in the present in order to achieve the most beneficial state of positivity. This is true. Dwelling on past failures or journeys, fears, pain and loss can do little to build the new steps ahead of you. It is essential for good health to be present. But having a sudden loss of structure in life has caused a lot of human frustration and resentment. Look anywhere online and the safety valve has popped off . The brain needs a level of stress to perform a series of tasks each day and week. Having a focus is what drives a human.
It just matters what you choose to clutter your life up with. Clearing your inbox of emails, chucking them into folders feels proactive and organised. Yet the moment the empty space of a yahoo inbox is enjoyed, it is once again full of pops-ups of toothpaste videos or celebrity gossip.
Your body, in times of stress is still with you. Remembering how to use itself even when it is deteriorating. The vitality we need to find purpose is lurking inside like muscle memory, it will fight on if we trust it. And only you know when to slow down or stop.. For me, on a personal level, the stubbornness not to give in is what drives me forward. Trusting that there will be a cure or at least some better healthcare management, stops the mental road blocks and enables some progress.
We all need a plan.
With enough B roads in it to take the scenic route every so often..
Enjoy a few funny little conversations with the universe .
In the last few weeks, the gloom, has been balanced by some amazing conversations about new art collaborations and adventures. It has been a no brainer what to get excited about.
Humans can make choices. Believe in the dream doubters and let them stomp on them on your childhood story……
or let them be your touch paper to something marvellous.
I celebrate you doing it anyway, creating, smiling, persevering, finding your tribe, sharing your skills, and keeping moving forward. Each step a chapter of your story.
Nobody would argue that this hasn’t been the hardest few months for most people ever. I wish we could speak to each of you individually and have you round for a coffee! Human contact is the most highly sought after commodity right now. Yesterday a friend of mine came for a cup of tea. We haven’t seen each other in a couple of years. I sort of expected a distant coffee in the garden and was overjoyed by the bear hug I received. It was so much sweeter as it was the first non -11 yr old cuddle in as long as I can remember. (And was given rather than taken!!) I know it isn’t the same, but to all of you who religiously read our stories and share our journey, that hug is for you as well.
In a few weeks this girl of mine starts a new chapter as a high school student.
But we wouldn’t change any of it. Because she is the sum total of everything learnt and more, and has so much more to know and be. She is a fabulous human and the best daughter in the world.
Our vet has given our lovely Skye a reprieve for a while with some medication to take her pain away from the two types of cancer she now has. Before any new rules are imposed on social distancing, before any more body parts completely seize up.. it is time to Thelma and Louise it to England with a car full of animals to visit family before the next big chapter begins for everyone….
Our imminent road trip commences tomorrow and will be arduous and long. We will take guinea pigs and Skye, and enough medication to stock Boots. Daily art will continue from Grandma’s garden….
Without danger life is not life. Without trust in the getting there, the journey isn’t as much fun. It will be fine. It will be painful. It is anyway.
Having a plan is what makes today do-able. Being told it might be hard makes trust in ourselves and the stuff of life even more vital. Never give up if your desired outcome doesn’t happen today , it might be that it is meant to happen tomorrow.
Now things are changing it is more essential than ever to make choices on the contents of your physical and virtual inbox. In every way possible. Most people have had time to consider what has nourished them throughout this, and what is no longer important. Ask yourself what do I truly want? Trust that the things and the support you need, will magically appear at the right time. Your fears are fed from the fears of others, often generations back. If you are told you should not do something, unless it will physically harm you, prove to yourself and the critics why your instincts to take that chance are right.
Getting anywhere with healthcare right now can be tricky, but if you don’t look unwell, it is harder than ever. Look around Skye Blue house and you see a world of colour and vibrancy. It looks like it was built by a makeover tv show that I gave my sketchbook to . Throughout the year, there are probably about 20 days where the heat is strong enough to work outside all day here, where the bone pain eases a little bit. Where the washing up might stay in the sink and the vision of painted pathways, abundant borders, and stripey beach huts overflowing with a cornucopia of fun and magic is created, hour by passionate hour. For plenty of other hours, the wind is too strong, or the damp too invasive to move freely, so the pressure to spew rainbows is almost insane.
It is wonderful . Days where life is precious are a gift. Onlookers judging the results are seeing the joy and the result of painful but passionate marks and planting . Sometimes, however, it can take longer to be ‘seen’ or treated. If your healthcare is based on your garden’s prowess however, there is something very wrong with the nhs. Personally, drawing until my hand goes numb and I cant open my fingers is far more honest and preferable than watching both the grass grow and daytime tv.
No matter what comes along, there must be trust in it being only a temporary state, in your willpower, in your teamwork and in the universe having your back. For us, also in the friends showing up at the exact moment with bread, with garden strimmers, with books and art equipment for classes.
Know what you want. Who you are. Let your imagination open doors. The more you hold on tightly to one perfect vision, the harder it will be for your instinctive sense of wonder to flourish.
Keep looking, moving, enjoying the gifts that are presented and appreciating the help given. Having an adventure or two, making some plans, but knowing when it might be the season to slow down and rest.
Skye, our guinea pigs, Bonnie and Bumble and us girls will be travelling to England as you read this. Slathered in pain patches, and propped up with cushions, we will sing loudly, and pray even louder.
Trust your quiet self. Then shout your plans from the roof-tops
What we don’t hear, we make up. What other folk don’t tell us, we tell ourselves. The human brain is like a empty pool. We can clear it out, and make it shine , but sooner or later it gets filled right up again with stinky old rain water, slime and frogs… read self destructive old ways of thinking, slimey left brain doubtfulness and the clammer of not only poisonous frogs, but a whole pond of unwanted dirge. Especially if you can’t vent your issues in the pub just now..
Unless you say nice things to those closest and to yourself.
Unless you become your own personal pool cleaning system…
How will your kids, friend, neighbour know you love the way they wear their hair, that you think they have a kind heart, that their gentle spirit is uplifting and makes you feel calm to be around. What if nobody ever told us that the lines on our faces outline our best features and illustrate our unique stories ?
Kindness, compliments and praise are contagious. and practicing gets easier, the more you do it. So if you are able to offer up your feelings of awe, love, inspiration to someone, they will take that gift, feel better in themselves and share it . Turn the mirror round.
Some things need to be said to those you care about. ‘You are doing brilliantly, you look amazing, your creativity is awesome, I love you.’
The gaps where we wait to hear those things are like chasms in a time where a lot of people are on their own… And no contact makes those things even harder not to hear.
Say them. Say them a lot. Our childhoods in the 70s and 80s were huge voids of things not said… our schooldays were chock full of compliments we never heard from teachers. Many people I know now as adults were never told how good they were at their art and were never able to nurture their unique style.
Let use this time to start saying what we mean. And stop saying mean things. Let’s forget about the digs, the critics, the gaps where love should have been. If someone hasn’t told you the thing you long to hear.. you have permission to say it to yourself, and to mean it.
Rules to live by
Stop watching other people. The worst thing you can do is to compare yourself to someone else at the moment. People are all interpreting the current rules and their acknowledgement of them, in a different way. Your life is as meaningful as theirs. Just cherish your routine in every way you can. Anyone being unkind or unfair is throwing their fears at you. Don’t play ball in this particular game.
Stop thinking that there is a magical vat of advice that will make things better or easier in a magazine, video or app. Nobody has the answers except for you, for you. Look closer to your instincts and your skills. I had a pile of magazines that I subscribe to, next to the bath. I kept meaning to read them. You know how it is. you never quite get round to those nice things you promise yourself once the chores are done.
And then you finally have all these hours to fill …. And suddenly, you read all these magazines, with the advice you had waited so long to absorb.
And you read and you think. It’s all the same advice. Everything you should say to yourself but don’t. We already know a lot of the best ways to self care. But, I know, and you know we also like the pictures.. and the smell of new magazines! .
We have the skills and the intuition and the fundamental stoicism to get through anything. If we look to what we learnt so far, in life, but also in this strange, twilight time; remember what our grandma taught us.
Stop imagining the image that others have of you. People will think what people will think. Who cares? You cannot control others opinion of you, so why bother? It always strikes me as strange that anyone has the time to think about anyone else’s existence. Isn’t it better to put our energies into our own camp?
Stop getting rid of things. Charity shops are going to be seriously inundated. Who knows where or how we will shop in future? Just keep your stuff! Change it up. Add bits, decorate stuff, put it in a zip-lock bag marked ‘when I’m a size 10’. This saves you buying it when the stress of all this turns you into one x
Stop eating in ways that hurt you.
By now, there aren’t excuses for eating the foods that make your body hurt. But it can be tricky to maintain an allergy free, virtuous diet when you have less money coming in, or significantly diminished places to shop. Vary what you eat, and use your instincts for what you need rather than a generic diet plan. Better to have a few treats during these times than deny yourself followed by overdoing it.
Forgive or forget . (Others) Sometimes in hard times, we all assume people who are not in contact are too busy , or the mind fills in the answers to our questions by telling us negative stories about where relationships are at. Truth is, mostly they are exactly the same. Dealing with the day to day has scuppered some of the usual communication channels.
More often than not, those who have cared, still do. So if the absence is mutually felt, someone has to make that connection, maybe it could be you. Except, occasionally, there is a feeling you can’t shake. Listen to those few times the relationship expiry date is up. You deserve to be treasured.
Make use of what you have now . Trying to get any work done whilst schooling your child is like splitting yourself down the middle. As soooo many of you will know at the moment. So don’t. Find your gaps to create at other times, and be present for the time you are having together. This won’t be for long. Mine is growing before my eyes. And yes, is nearly as tall as me. We still need to be us as well as parents though. I carve a netflix and drawing session first thing into the day. Our whatsapp groups have followed with their own art based on weekly ideas and mini tutorials.
Make use of who you are now and like who that is. Someone said to me the other day, that we were so lucky, he and I, not being too affected by all this. It is impossible for anyone to know that for you. Frankly, we are all affected. And it isn’t always obvious what the fallout is. If your network isn’t there for you, be one for someone else. Be one for yourself and speak up if you need help.
Trust your instincts . A blog post in itself. Use it for purchasing impulse stuff. Are you ever going to use that bargain mini cupcake making machine from the middle aisle of your supermarket? If things aren’t being used in the home now, they probably won’t ever be!
Turn off the internet and shouty tv. Most of the important news information can be sourced directly and succinctly on a sensible web page. That way, you can hear the birds at the same time.
Don’t believe your inner critic, who probably has waited for a time like this to haunt you good and proper . He or she is the little voice that commands you to be more, do more, feel less, speak differently, wear different clothes, stop expressing yourself, or indeed express yourself more because that’s what is expected.
Sometimes it’s hard enough fighting your own battles, without feeling the pressure to jump into someone else’s fight. It doesn’t mean you agree with the person who started the thread..
Eat the frog first. Great life rule… Please don’t eat an actual frog. but the point is, you get the biggest, hardest task achieved before you settle into the more comfortable routines of the day. Get all the irritating things which take time done while you are awake for example first thing…., and at the same time. For example, chop all the fruit and veg for humans, animals, all the meals in a day at once in the morning. Don’t re-visit the same job over and over. The boring bit of the day can already mostly done by nine in the morning. Then you can focus on projects, government approved dog walking and shouting a conversation over the fence…
Make a plan of meals while you unpack the shopping. This saves thinking about meals all week, and stops you forgetting what you bought . My daughter says, it is now like we have a strange round the world restaurant.
Treat your house like someone else is having you to visit. How would they make it feel for you? Today for the 90th day I will still put my make up on, light incense, brush crumbs off the sofa, make my bed and wear perfume. In the absence of outside you got to be your own deli, your own independent cinema, spa and source of soul food.
Learn to be ok with being ok. And it takes time to be ok with that. For our whole lives, it feels that we aren’t meant to feel happiness in times of trouble, or until we have earnt it. Right now, who feels they have earned a good night in? or a glass of wine, time to potter in the garden, or an online spending spree on ebay, or even just to soak in the bath and feel relaxed.? We are so used so doing these things as a reward for hard work, we were in danger of waiting until we were 90 to ever use that bath oil. The thing is, life doesn’t work like that. Take it from someone who knows. I was going to climb mountains after my divorce.. but my bones had other plans. The time is now to be you. Enjoy your health. Enjoy your surroundings. If it helps, pair up all your socks first.
Supporting a cause and a campaign is worthwhile and we like to feel part of a wider tribe. It can be reassuring to feel less alone, reassurance that what we feel is justified, and heightens our life experience. Many people jump, and keep jumping onto the next headline however, and often online platforms are filled with the extremities of our rage and sorrow and anger. There is a pressure to paint a rainbow. And painting rainbows is wonderful. But you should wear your own colours with style, not squeeze your colours from the tube.
To be thought of by others is a gift. But I wonder if a lack of comment on particular issues makes us seem uninterested in them? I, like many just choose not to get into the current debates. Because I work with people who are vulnerable, there are certain things I choose not to discuss.
What we say, do and give should be authentically us. And only what we feel comfortable sharing. It is more important to learn what we can from our experiences, and teach those skills on, than to dwell on the negatives of the past, or immerse in how unfair life is.
Good friends have empathy and compassion. Anyone saying ‘me too‘, every time you speak, might need to hear a little better.
Some things are better not said. Or just not shouted about all the time.
Facebook or Instagram pictures are wonderful for sharing the edited highlights which show no matter what life throws at you; you can choose a positive recall on some of the tough times.
Because what you do at the point of being asked how you are, is to find a few things you are grateful for. When writing your diary, listing a few things which sum up the best parts of the day paints a picture which starts to become positive. Sticking pictures of images which make your soul glow, even just celebrating somewhere that you see every day. Soon these images become your memories.. It sounds cheesy, but be grateful. Tell people what is good. Tell yourself what is good. Stop and look at the day.
The things that hurt, make you curl up in pain, stop you being who you want to be, whether there’s a pandemic or not, are still there. They still hurt. They still stop you in your tracks, make you sad, angry, frustrated, make you stupid tired, lonely, scared. ….
But they don’t define you. You’re not your pain. You’re not the way you feel about what is going on in the world. It isn’t obligatory to tell strangers your political views, your top ten records or holiday destinations fifteen days in a row. You are your smile, your laughter lines, your wonky fabulous view of the world, the snapshots that conjure up little moments of magic, the traits that your friends love. And those things are what your kids and friends see in you.
All else is fluff.
Hold on. You got this, and you are so much stronger than your inner voice thinks. Eat your greens, sleep long, breathe deep, love deeper, laugh at the random thoughts of small people, create lovely things and celebrate all parts of you. Loving what you have around you, doesn’t stop you wanting more from the future. It just means stepping into it with grace and dignity.
Yesterday in the middle of our government approved dog walk around the block, I saw something quite out of this world. My daughter had already raced off home, bored of the slow pace, and I was left watching the horizon.
I watched in awe, as ten, playful dolphins, danced and swirled around each other in a huge circle, leaping clear out of the water, time and time again. It was mesmerising. Yet I was alone to see it and my daughter had disappeared. Guess who had no camera that day too! In all the time we have been here, I had missed every sighting of every sea creature, every time!!
In these magical moments, our eyes are our camera and we absorb each moment more intensely as it presents itself for us. We do this so that we can both remember it and tell someone else. As somebody who loves to take photos, it was all the more special to capture a rare and beautiful memory and savour it for the usual desperate scouring of the sea’s riches. Then my neighbour appeared, and socially distant, we stood together watching and oohing and ahhing. Somehow, an experience is more real when shared.
Human beings need to share. For so many of us, there is thread of intimacy missing in our days right now, little shared experiences over cups of tea, a hug with a friend, knowing how people are getting on, planning local events, marking moments with others.
And there will be people reading this, agreeing that some folk overshare their lives, their dramas and their intimate details, especially in times of internet tourism. It can be very difficult to work out who the real person is underneath layers of posts and ideals, designer personality traits and public expressions of extreme emoji filled emotion..
We all act out of love or fear most of the time. And if someone is annoying you, think about what either you or they might be scared about. Extreme emotions are mirrors reflecting only our true selves. So we had better like who we see above the bathroom sink.
The small daily creations we achieve must be marked and seen in some way. In recent weeks, our issue with schoolwork was magnified because there was nobody to show it to. A convoluted method of downloading 52 pieces of maths, english and art onto a memory stick, posting it to the teacher, was worth it for her feedback.
Because humans need to be seen, heard, celebrated, liked. The tiny precious moments that most people take for granted, all day every day in families and in relationships, are possibly harder to capture and share now. Especially if (like mine) your family aren’t online! Thank goodness for the daily gratitude and love from fur and feathers.
Perhaps right now you might be experiencing a little of this frustration. are you having amazing ideas, but have nobody to tell them to? Are you making delicious meals, but have nobody to eat them with? Is your inner critic making you uncertain about your daily choices? Now is the time to give it that voice a boot. It is thoroughly understandable to have extreme versions of your emotions right now. Feel them. Just don’t believe the ones that sound like your horrible old aunt that never liked you. Treat yourself like another person would treat you, a person that loves you like the sun shines out of your bahooky.
Part of recording and sharing our photographs, is sharing the amazement and joy we feel . Instinctively as humans when something wonderful happens we crave a soul to bounce it off. If you are surrounded by family, mirroring each other’s experiences in a positive way, and sharing over the family whatsapp, you are very fortunate . It is very rare! Now, more than ever, our tribes are scattered, and our shared experiences are online, in letters, in conversations. I was quite touched that my mum said she would write in her diary, 500 miles away, that I saw dolphins. For the few minutes I was describing them, she saw them too.
This situation is making us draw on self resilience and for some people, there isn’t anyone there. We have only the reserves we have bottled on sunny days. Keep opening those jars. It doesn’t ever run out.
My friend Lorna is an inspiration to us all. Throughout a lonely lockdown, she has carried on baking for her own film nights, and has given herself the permission to still experience celebration, even though she is alone. Our shopping too is centered around food these days, and saving on petrol, choosing certain smaller food supermarkets, that feel safer, has enabled a restaurant menu at Liz and Leahs! One of the nicest things has been to share meals that would otherwise have been lost. Leah has become very creative in the kitchen with an egg- egg salad, french toast, scrambled eggs.. and her favourite lockdown thing she says is soup for lunch on cold days, at the table. We have even managed a couple of meals outside.
My gratitude for our network has been enormous recently. We are very much alone here, a long way from family and long term friendships have been tested by distance and disability. We have an incredible online circle but as many of you will now understand, it isn’t quite the same as sitting on the sofa laughing at the tv. together. In recent weeks, this has been even harder on a very personal level.
This week, after a short battle with cancer, we lost my stepfather Dave . For a few weeks before it happened, we knew what was coming, and we were a long way away. We had to watch from the side, while life did what life will do. A few people knew, but facebook doesn’t hug you. And when you and I and all the other parents Aunties, Uncles, grandparents out there are managing a daily survival routine, you don’t crumble, you can’t crumble. Even though you want to.
When the time came for him to be at peace, the distance from relatives got so much bigger. So many of you will be reading this and understanding the pain of separation from loved ones, in times of both joy and sorrow.
When we are really sad, when life happens, it is essential to let your loved ones know you are there. Grief and sadness, flooding memories and feelings of pain and anger will course through at different times for each person. Nobody will know the exact right thing to say. Or when you’ll need it most. That’s ok. If you are feeling overwhelming sadness , tell someone this; that all you need is for them to sit in your bucket with you. When pain, or fear or any emotion which has gripped your brave heart is overpowering; you don’t need to be told how wonderful life is outside the bucket.
You will come back to yourself soon enough. What you really need is someone in your bucket with you. Just being there in the water.
Lorna reminded me of those chads we used to draw in the 80s. peering over walls, peering out from under duvets, over buckets.
Grief has to be sat in sometimes, to feel the loss of someone dear, and the pain of the unfairness of it all. People that love you do so for all your rollercoaster emotions, powerful, beautiful, funny, strange, colourful and they know that you already see the world beyond your bucket. And being under a cloud for a while will only make the rainbow brighter.
Human beings need to be. It is a reflective time for us all, and we will have times of great sadness and great comfort. Don’t judge each other. The switch on your phone or the tv is there for a reason. Feel what is the right thing to do in your heart. And most importantly, don’t judge yourself.
Too many others will do that for you! In recent months and weeks the money put aside from art classes (£5 A week!) and any sales; to build a space for helping others was taken from our kitchen. And the grass I had grown from seed into a lush green carpet for the fairy garden, has been sprayed by someone with weed killer. We have been tested. But we aren’t giving up on anything that we believe in. The abundance of creativity and hugs will just burst out some other way. We hope the person who does these things can see it might feel brave doing these things, but it took a lot more courage escaping our former life to build this one.
We have carried on being and doing. Drawing, playing, watching the magnificence around us and waiting until such times as we can hug those we love.
For those of you who read this, consider yourself an essential part of our family. We always have space around our virtual table. Let’s hope it’s not too long until its a real one ! For those of you who commented on our facebook page this week, Thankyou. xx That meant a lot xx
From our hearts to yours, keep filling your buckets. Liz and Leah xx
Dear friends. Another couple of weeks in. How are you bearing up? Are you surprising yourself with your resilience in this strange new world ? Or are you struggling with groundhog day? Maybe a bit of both, with the scales weighted drastically in different directions depending on the weather…. Like the radio broadcasters we listen to on waking, talking about their outfits and their breakfasts, (instead of their premiers and parties) : we are all now more aware of the details, because it is all we have. Here are some of our moments, from scrapbook trawling, to unwrapping childhood wigwams sent from Grandma’s attic, savouring the last few Christmas soaps, quiet studio moments, learning how to cook and appreciating the time to get a few pieces of artwork finished.
Our mornings have slipped into a routine between animals and the dreaded schoolwork, which actually, has been mostly excellent, although the uploading to a required forum, not quite so easy! We keep on drawing, and stitching, and talking and trusting and hoping and believing in the things we love ……. Every day I draw an object and share this idea to a couple of groups, on facebook and whatsapp… who.. in turn… draw, or share their artwork, and in some cases, haiku, sewing or poetry . It doesn’t matter where each journey ends. The huge thing for many people, has been regular contact, communication between others in the groups and lessening the feeling of only having your own ideas to dwell on. Uploading the videos I made seems to have foxed our local internet provision. So these early morning scribbles have become a new habit for us all.
For animals, life is better. They have us all the time now. Perhaps it was a conspiracy ! This week has included a spa for dogs and the chicken, including all of them being read to…and Skye’s daily walks with her boyfriend Glen. Molly and Max do what cats usually do.