Dear Lord

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Winter really does kick my ass. I tread water, and some years are easier than others, but by the middle of January I’m seriously considering moving to the equator. Ecuador sounds nice.

So far this winter the skies have been clear, so the shortening days have been bearable, but for the last couple of weeks we’ve been living under a mountain of cloud, and some days it just wasn’t worth opening the curtains. It doesn’t take long before I start to unravel and start speaking in tongues when that happens.

To make matters worse I’ve been without a laptop (again!) for the past week. Not even two months old and Windows basically imploded and it had to be wiped. No light and no laptop, it is without exageration to say I’ve been going bonkers. Unable to work effieciently and having most of my material online was hard. And even the cozy vibe at home is starting to grate on my nerves. Most nights look like this – Xboxing football, or attending football, or talking football, or listening to football matches. I know I should insist on less screen time, but honestly, the thought of having to use my brain and engage in talking or chess makes my skin itch.

But hurrah, here I am with my laptop, I’m busy again, I’m planning things for sale and preparing my portfolio.

But Dear Lord if winter could just bugger off now that would be greaaaaat.

Inspire me. What are you up to?

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Into 2018

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It’s usual at this time of year for a bit of reflection on the year that was. To be honest, I don’t really want to do that, but I think it will help focus on the coming year.

This time last year some heavy truths hit home and it was clear that the family and life I had envisaged was no longer a reality, nor had it ever been, nor would it ever be. I had been fooling myself for well over a decade in the hope that I could make the pieces of my life fit the jigsaw picture on the box. Unfortunately it was someone else’s box. When I saw the picture of my actual jigsaw I knew it was time for change.

Since my children were born I have home-schooled them. I’m not sure I’ve done a very good job, but they have had room to play and explore, and a closeness to family that is rare these days. I hope that counts for something in the scheme of things. It has meant that working outside the home took a back seat, and I have made pennies by working from home in several guises over the years – from selling hand made items, establishing and publishing a magazine, and now art.

In reality I’ve been solo parenting all my children’s lives.

For many years I’ve lived with the feeling of anxiety and worry over money, my children’s futures, and a constant physical ache of feeling utterly buckled. Sometimes this would spill over into actual depressive episodes where I would then spiral into being even less useful than I was already. Doing everything spreads you thin, and when there’s no help from anybody ever you get used to putting yourself last. You get used to never asking for help.

But what’s worse than that is living with lame hope it will ever change.

Last year, on Solstice eve, that final snap saw me adrift with both paddles for the very first time. For the first time ever the boat was all mine, I was looking for shore, unconcerned with what had passed, and zero shits were given about anyone else apart from the two reasons I get out of bed in the morning – my children. I was unencumbered, unconcerned, willing to depart from the course set by others, welcome of the challenge and glad to be free. I didn’t just burn bridges, I razed them and the surrounding territory to the ground.

It is worth noting that I have not had a depressive episode since. Perhaps it is true that ‘before you diagnose yourself with depression that you first make sure you are not surrounded by assholes’.

It was then that I got serious about making my art work for me; if you believe in second chances then why go for second best? I’ve had office jobs and teaching jobs, and pin money jobs; what I wanted now was to be able to do the work I’d always wanted – I knew that I wanted to be an Illustrator (and get paid for it).

Setting the ship on a new course my art work has been stepped up this year; I see it as work and not a game. I no longer listen to the snide ‘frenemies’ who say things like, ‘Oh I wish I could draw all day too’, (but I don’t – I’m still homeschooling and mothering 24/7 and my art is additional to that). I no longer doubt myself.

On a whim I applied to the local college to enrol in an Art A-level course. At the interview I was accepted instead to the pre-university Foundation Course and told to start applying to universities straight away. The ship was setting sail.

This coming year my children will be readying themselves for school, and I will be readying myself for college and hopefully university thereafter. I will have to take so many loans that I’ll have to live a week past my death just to pay them off. There are going to be so many ducks to line up that it will look a fairground stall here. During all the plotting and planning, it never occurred to me to ask for help – firstly, because I’m used to doing everything all the time, and secondly, because I hate the feeling of begging – the feeling of being in debt to someone else’s kindness or patronage.

But pride doesn’t pay the bills, and British Gas do not take goodwill to all men as payment. So after much squirming I opened my Patron Page. And to my utter amazement I got patrons!

At first I felt like paying them back and closing the page. I’m not worthy of your support. I am a fraud. I should be able to do it all and not bother anyone. But the extra income did make a difference. For the first time since records began I felt my shoulders ease up about money; not because I was making enough to live on, but because I knew there were people out there who supported me. It let me plan ahead, buy a few art supplies that I would not have bought, and be able to think that maybe I could be a real live illustrator one day.

This coming year will see me prepare a portfolio, hopefully line those ducks up, and get into college to hit the ground running of making this dream a reality.

But this year will also see me work harder on my store than ever before. I have many ideas – many things that I can’t wait to share with you – that I am working on right now. My house will probably look more like a warehouse than a home. I have no idea if they will work, but I have no option but to try. I will be opening a new website (with integrated cart rather than rely on Etsy) – only made possible due to my Patrons support – business websites cost a lot to run, and my Patreon contributions have meant I can step up my web presence and also have money for food this week. If you are one of my Patrons, I cannot thank you enough.

And so in 2018 there really is change in the air, a definite new direction, but instead of doing it all I’m also asking for help a lot more. If you have a spare ยฃ1/$1 it would make a huge difference to my, and my children’s, life to have your support as a Patron. It may not seem like it could help, but you have no idea how it really does. And I know times are difficult, oh my God how I know that, which is why I appreciate the support I get so much more.

If you would like to support me this year on this new adventure then please consider signing up to my Patron Page by clicking HERE. You will get to see behind the scenes, into my sketchbooks, works in progress, earlybird offers and money off vouchers, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

I’ve been walking this path silently solo for so long that it feels good to feel the support of people who have no ulterior motive other than to see me fly. It’s humbling in every way.

So here’s to 2018! I hope and pray that it will be a good year for you and your loved ones. Onwards and, hopefully, upwards!

EDITED TO ADD: And I would just like to say ‘thank you’ to my sister – her support and goodwill, and the example she has shown by proving change can be for the better has inspired me in some bleak times. More than she probably knows.

Food & Family

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Hope you had a relaxing week; I find this time of year hard – just waiting for life to begin again. It’s draining. But a little food and some family is a sweet reward for patience for these in-between days at the end of the year.

Still Sewing

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During my epic clear out I found a bag of cut pieces for a couple tunics. They had been sitting on the shelf for over a year and a half. I’ve been avoiding sewing for so long; my patience for it is wearing thin (it used to relax me).

Spurred on by the promise of a little more space on the shelf I quickly ran the tunics up and, save for the elastic in the casing, they were both done in under half an hour (the seams aren’t great, I’m a sloppy seamstress).

It makes me wonder why I put things off when sometimes it takes so little effort to get the job done…

And now I have a couple summery tunics for garden weather and a clear shelf. An all-round win.

Outside : Inside

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Although we don’t celebrate Christmas, we do try to stay sane in this season by enjoying a cosier vibe at home. The winter village is set up, decorations twinkle from every corner. If ever a season needed a facelift it’s winter (sorry, Winter).

These uber short days are made bearable knowing that we are nearing the solstice; all we have to do is hold on, enjoy the closeness of family, and know that the sun is nearing his return.

We’ve hit the holidays here; I hope this involves some lazy days with no demands on our time.

Knitting Furiously

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As I write this there is snow on the ground; I am wrapped in my studio scarf, a shawl, a cardigan and socks and can still feel the nip of cold on my nose. All of a sudden those woollens are necessary and not an optional add-on.

I always forget how cold it can get in winter. And to be fair, it rarely snows here and so far the weather has been so mild we’ve even done without jackets some days. But oh boy, when the weather does turn I appreciate those knits so very much.

So this week I am knitting furiously again – hats, gators, the basics. And as I tuck my boys up at night with woollen blankets and home made quilts, I am so very grateful that so many of the things that give us comfort are handmade. It feels like an added layer of warmth: mama-made love.

Hope you’re warm too!

As You Were

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As one door closes another one opens. It’s been a bit bumpy here lately. Lots of changes in the air. Maybe I’ll talk about that at some point, but for now, just wanted to pop by and say ‘hello’.