A date with myself

Weird? No. Essential? Yes.

But first, what is a date with myself?

Well. It is time to escape and recharge the batteries, explore and be open to possibilities.

It is taking time out. No dog, friend, kids or phone. Just go and be in the moment.

Be in the moment

I came across this a few months back in a book called the artist’s way by Julia Cameron. A friend of mine told me to get a copy and it started changing my life.

The man thing is that I started looking after the artist within. It was a strange concept at first but I did not count on synchronicity! Taking time out never came easily to me. It was more long lists of things to do and feeling guilty when doing nothing, with that feeling that I should be doing something, anything. Grace Marshall would call it scanning in that clever article (http://grace-marshall.com/diving-deep/ ) and it gave me very little time to dive deep into nature, inspiration and new ideas.

There is this guilt though, almost a nagging voice that loves to remind me to do all these things at home. I wonder where it comes from. Education? The age of technology and multi-tasking that keeps adding tasks to our daily routine? But guess what? Strange and wonderful things happen when I ignore that voice.

So this morning it was my first long day with myself whilst little P. was at pre-school until 3pm. The weather was finally softer and brighter. All I needed was a destination.

The qtearroom in St Agnes

The qtearroom in St Agnes

I did not go very far, just a few miles down the road and my first stop was  cafe called the q tea rooms which also works as a tiny gallery. Just before walking in, I had a look in the studios next door and some ceramic work caught my eye. No name or cards left but… chatting with the owner of the cafe, it turned out she was the artist in question. We exchanged mental notes about laid back wedding, mine just gone and hers in a week. I felt I had made a connection.

The work of Caroline McDonald

The work of Caroline McDonald

What’ s important here is not where it takes me in the future but how an artist date helps me being in the moment. Everything else can wait. This is what makes me wonder why on earth this is not what they are teaching at school. This would be a gift everyone should be able to enjoy whether they are creative or not. Instead a lot of the teaching goes into these subjects that are to me, very remote from making well rounded individuals that will value time to stand back, enjoy unplanned encounters and recharge batteries. So one day at a time, I am learning myself so I can pass this on to my little girl. I know she is much stronger inside than I ever was when I was a child. But somehow, I can see that some of my experiences might be in her already. We can share and enjoy times together. The world can wait!

Upside down

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When hope takes over

4 weeks ago, my life got turned upside down. Mind you, not just mine. My whole family’s. There are many times I could have sat down and started to write… but somehow it did not feel right. How could I write about flying to see my dad because it could be the last time I saw him? How could I write about some of the dreadful things that we were told to expect? But in the midst of what I could describe as testing time at the very least, my brain carried on doing that positive thinking that I started when we came back after Easter. I had decided then that, if I could do nothing else, I would inject stories and other things into the repetitive medical conversations. I thought that I could talk about something else to make him think of something else. Call me naive but in the two weeks I was there, everyday he improved, one smile and one joke at a time.

So I started by putting my little one at the local pre-school to create a language immersion. It was also a distraction for little P. to avoid long daily commute to the hospital and having to behave for long hours, coming back late in the evening (there were also too many visitors so I had to share). She was so good though and never complained about going to the hospital. I have never mentioned on this blog that despite my first language being French, I find it hard to speak it at home. I know, I know, I agree, it is a shameful waste so I made this trip a milestone in changing that. The second week, we started a summer camp instead because it was the summer holiday. It was fascinating to see how adaptable she was and how popular she was too. From her usual half days, she started spending long full days in a new set of schools, with a new language and she loved every minute. It took the promise of feeding the Billy goats on the way back to get her home everyday!

We also designed things together and took them to my dad, watched hardly anything other than French kiddy programs at home (more immersion) and now she understand why she is learning French. She started asking for more words and understand which language is which, negotiating sometimes to revert to English! Gosh, I wonder what she will come up as a teenager!

But as all these things happened, my dad started benefiting from the brain radiotherapy to stop the bleed in his head. He also started loosing his hair but generally he was comfortable physically. I hate to think what he is going through emotionally though. As he said to me a couple of days ago, “I can’t plan anything long term anymore. ”

photo credit: canonfather via photopin cc

photo credit: canonfather via photopin cc

I left the days little P. was at school to visit the library, reminisce about my childhood and design a few concepts for my new fabric design range. See, when I was a child, I lived in places quite remote with very little company of my age. When we moved to where my parents are now, it was better but relationships did not materialise like they have later in my life. My knowledge was so little. The window onto the world was small and I started wondered what would have happened if I had had access to internet then. What if I could have explored the world from my bedroom? Would this have changed what I do now?

I know “what ifs” are immaterial. I am a different person now and the designs growing in me at the moment are the results of years of yearning, experiencing and exploring with new media. I think we underestimate how much we have at our fingertips. The downside it that we have to wade through a lot of rubbish and we take on too much. We also have to ask the right questions and, trust me on that one, it took me a long time to find the right words. So maybe this is it, now is now and talking design with my dad for the first time in a very long time  keeps bringing more positive energy because, each day that passes with him is filled with hope and everyone has moved onto “hope mode”. We can’t help it, we all have and we take each day at a time until such a time that we have to drop everything and be where it matters the most. Hope is a very powerful emotion and until recently, I had no idea. Not about this kind of hope. I am still not sure this post will be one of my best but it goes some way towards reconnecting, because writing also heals…

Not another month!

As we were approaching the end of the month, things got exciting. The under-floor heating has just been fitted and the concrete screed (thin layer of very wet concrete) was poured over it yesterday. Apart from the fact we can’t go there for a few days and that applies to our building team, it was all falling into place.

DSC_0159[1] DSC_0163[1]DSC_0164[1]  Pictures of our downstairs open-plan

That was until I asked the question if we could give our notice to our landlord for the end of June… silence… and then the response ” it will have to be the end of July I’m afraid. If it was only the two of us, we may just about camp back in but with a two and a half year old, it simply isn’t safe.

Of course, my brain gets that. Yep, that’s my heart that takes over and want to move boxes, set up the craft room and get back to normality. A few other things have been put on hold for when we move back but they can’t wait. The rent money would be better used for a few things that we need. He ho, never mind, what is 4 weeks in a lifetime?

Good job I have started planning for a few projects and the latest is re-upholstering my sofa, just because I can. It will stretch it life-span a little, entertain me and almost make me feel as it is a new one… Cushions covers are now done with final wooden leaf finishes added this afternoon and a trip to IKEA next week should give me what I need to start on the rest. Did I mention that I have never done one sofa cover before? Don’t worry, that never stopped me before and I tend to go for bold and big projects rather than baby steps. More fun than way… until I pull my hair out if I get it wrong. Nothing that can’t be fixed. Let the fun begin!

Unlocking potential

In the last few years, I have done more growing up than I did in my childhood. I have discovered more things, I have experienced more, I have learnt about myself too. Maybe I am taking more chances. I guess the first was leaving my country for the one that felt like home, having grown up in the “wrong place”. I had this feeling of inadequacy somehow that I could not shift. Never quite at the right place or having the right skills. Never quite satisfying anyone fully including myself.

Until now, I had a few ideas about education and things I wanted to pass on to my little one. But something hit me tonight. It went deeper than that. I want to give her something that you can’t buy or pick with your hands, the gift of learning whilst being nurtured and being herself. Too many places fit you in a box with a label on it. Some work by formulae or joining the dots. One thing I have become quite cynical about is the use (or should I say Abuse of) NLP (neuro-linguistic programming). I guess expressions like “thinking outside of box” for example has almost lost any meaning because I have heard it too many times and it has because the norm. Quite a contradiction. Maybe I did too much networking and everyone followed the same tips!

Anyway I digress. I came across the “ The Playful Learning Guide to Raising Lifelong Learners”. In a nutshell it speak about creativity as an essential tool more than intellect.  (this link will takes you to the ebook http://info.playfullearning.net/ebook-childrens-learning-guide if you want to know more)

So it talk about essentials skills which are:

  • creativity
  • curiosity
  • discernment
  • open-mindedness
  • perspective taking
  • persistence
  • understanding
  • and finally intuition

Now it is not very often these days that I read 26 pages (less if you discount the large pictures within) in no time, devouring it and thinking where was this when I was a child? Don’t get me wrong, my parents did a great job but I feel that I would have achieved much more if the creative side of me had been nurtured. My mind as I read through the eBook started applying the simple examples given and took them much further. This in itself means that I have found what I was looking for. (Does this make sense? Sometimes you can’t find an answer if you don’t know what question to ask in the first place). I wasn’t really looking for it but I knew there must be something out there that would feel right for us and for my little one so that we all grow from the process and enjoy it. She has been amazing me since we did the potty training and is now bursting with self-achievement and it only feels right that I try to find the best for her. This means unlocking her potential and mine at the same time. 

Cuddles all around

What a weekend this is turning out to be!

The biggest thing is my daughter potty training (bear with me on this one as this post is not all about that and there is some deeper learning from it). The other day I mentioned that book I heard about which would train her quickly and empower her whilst making the whole process more pleasant. We are on day 3 and cutting a long story short, I could not be prouder. My little one is glowing with self achievement with being such a big girl. Her dad is breathing with relief that it is working even though we are so tired. Emotionally it has been draining, a real roller-coaster of being completely immersed in the process and living it through her. Now, the bit I am especially proud (other than the obvious) is that I feel so good from having had the courage of my conviction. I believed that there was something out there that would be better for all of us. My daughter is rarely affectionate except when she is under the weather or ill. The last 3 days, we never had to give her so many cuddles! In fact, this is the word we have heard the most since we started! “mummy cuddle” “daddy cuddle”… cuddles all around!

This weekend is also a long weekend due to a bank holiday and an extra day tomorrow as a family. To pay for the renovation, Adrian has been working all hours and some weekends too which means time together is precious and rare. 4 weeks ago a friend of mine told me about a vintage craft fair. As usual when she mentioned it, my heart jumped and I could see myself there. But then reality kicked in because of my operation, not being able to drive for the two weeks leading to the event which was today and having family staying for three weeks. Well I had to be honest with myself, my head was (and still is) full of ideas but I had no stock, had all my bits and bobs in boxes still and was not even sure if the fair was worth it. So, if in doubt, go and visit and book the next one! So today, in a bright sunny day, we set off to Perranporth by the sea front and went to the fair. It was brilliant! I loved every minute of it and the quality there was amazing. I was so impressed about how prepared people were that I was sure waiting that the right decision. I still have images of the event tonight, floating in my head. I have to talk to my friend to have her feedback from actually being there rather than visiting and I look forward to that.

So this afternoon, still inspired, I played with air drying clay and texture and realised that one of the blocks I have to overcome is to get my hands dirty. Let me explain this. My arts and crafts have always been tidy and clean. Either by lack of money, materials or both, I started with drawing. I continued with graphic design and photography (mainly digital) and finally scrapbooking. Another friend of mine who a few years ago did an art degree has always been hands on, messy (in a good way) and daring. I was, on the opposite, a conceptual artist. Now I am not saying that this part of me is not there anymore. However, I know now I have missed out on the journey of discovery, the fun of trying things, having creative accidents and just doing it.

So tomorrow is a brand new shiny day. We are moving boxes. Eh?? Yes, all my stamps, brushes and millions of other small things are in boxes, probably at the very bottom of a big pile. I can’t wait another two months to move back in (and that is if there is no further delay!) and I can’t afford to buy them again. So tomorrow will probably feel like every year when I open the box of Xmas decorations…

The world through her eyes

One of the things I have noticed since having a little one is that I take my time more. For once I am not rushing and I think this is because I know now is such a  precious time and if I miss I won’t get it back. So goodbye stress, hello life.

I find fascinating how she discover the world one day at a time, a word at a time. When we get older we are surrounded by so much stuff that, whether we comprehend or not, we can feel overwhelmed by it. We can’t escape and  this especially hard if you are creative like me. Now and then we need to escape, take a breather and see what is around us so that we can recharge the batteries. Seeing the world through her eyes is making me take the time to see the world again. I can’t wait for sharing the magic of Christmas with her or playing in the snow!