Friday, April 27, 2012

Joy pockets

This week's gratitudes

Being the proud owner of my very own Etsy store!
Knowing I have nothing more to prove - to myself or anyone else!
Snuggling up with my boy on the sofa watching cookery shows after bed time
The Hairy Bikers
i pads - they are incredible
Getting through a pile of work that I didn't think was doable
The smell of banana bread cooking
Anticipating seeing Ina May

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The road less traveled

Every day that I walk down to work in the tea house, the winding muddy path through the woods, my own road less traveled, these words run through my mind.

I know them in every cell of my body.

I know the conventional me that I could have been, should have been in the eyes of the world - the PhD, the job in academia, having a proper job, not getting married too young, or having kids too young, for that matter. I certainly should have had them in a hospital, and not breastfed them half too long. And once I had kids the pressure to "just" be a mother started. The pressure to be a good woman, take care of my family and let my own dreams slide.

I know all this.

And give thanks for the courage it has taken, to walk the road less traveled.

Have you taken the road less traveled in your own life?
Was it worth it?
Or if not, how might you take the first step down it?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Hobnobbing with heroes

I’m leaving on a jet plane. Don’t know when I’ll be back again!

Yes! This mama is heading off to the bright lights and big city of London. Two whole days by myself. Minus kidlets. What am I going to do, you ask?

Visit the British Museum. Eat sushi. Sleep all night long. Chat with friends and not be interrupted. And the main event… two full days at… a parenting conference!

I know, madness! Time away from children - to spend all my time learning and talking and thinking about them!

But when I heard the line-up I knew I had to be there. All of my birth and parenting heroes were lined up over two days. Dr Michel Odent, Naomi Aldort, Naomi Stadlen, Dr Margot Sunderland, Francoise Barbera Freedman and Sally Lomas of  Birthlight and Dr Kerstin Uvnas Moberg.

Each of these people, through their books and work, has personally transformed my views of parenting and motherhood, empowered and equipped me with knowledge and skills which have since become second nature to me.

My path to “aware” parenthood started in Cambridge, in the summer of 2005, with the yoga for pregnancy antenatal classes run by Sally Lomas. Then my mother bought me a copy of JUNOmagazine – which I devoured and promptly subscribed and ordered three back issues – in finding JUNO I knew I had come home.

In preparing for birth I read my stepmother’s copy of Michel Odent’s book Birth Reborn. A few years later he was the first interview I ever did!

I read Naomi Stadlen’s book What Mothers Do (Especially When it Looks Like Nothing) religiously when each of my babies were infants on the breast, bathing in its loving wisdom. It is my standard gift to new mama friends.

As my son was entering toddlerhood Dr Margot Sunderland released her seminal book The Science of Parenting which taught me how to deal with tantrums, and reassured me with brain science that I was doing the right thing not leaving my child to cry-it-out.

Naomi Aldort is on every one of my friend’s bookshelves and her SALVE method has helped me.

And finally, Kerstin Uvnas Moberg, who wrote one of the most beautiful science books I have ever written and transformed my understanding of myself, my biology and the influence of oxytocin in all areas of our lives. I have just written a feature on it The biochemistry of peace and love over on the JUNO website.

So when I was offered a ticket to go and help run the JUNO stand at the LIGHT ON PARENTING conference, I almost bit dear Saffia’s hand off!

Two days of soaking up ideas. Heaven! Two days of talking shop (aware-parenting-changing-the-world-loving-our-children-shop!), learning new tools, making new like-minded acquaintances, getting inspired and perhaps setting up some interviews for future articles.
There is one other ultimate hero of mine who will not be there: Ina May Gaskin, whose books have been with me in the preparation for every birth. But I shall be seeing her the weekend before in Dublin at the Home Birth Association Conference (see my recent interview with her in the Irish Examiner and the best bits that were too racy for print over at The Happy Womb) – where I shall also be selling JUNO!

Happy days! Hobnobbing with heroes! What would make it even more incredible is if you would join me there – and then I can meet you too! Do say you’ll come!

Come and listen to Dr Michel Odent, Naomi Aldort, Naomi Stadlen, Dr Margot Sunderland and many other luminaries at the Light on Parenting conference in central London, 5th and 6th May. For more details visit

Ina May Gaskin will be at the Home Birth Association’s 30th anniversary conference, Louis Fitzgerald hotel, Dublin, 29th April. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Creative corner

If at first you don't succeed... 

As I shared a couple of weeks back, I have been wanting to paint a mandala and struggling for years - they are my bete noir! I am pretty happy with how today's turned out - part of the series that I will be selling on Etsy. Two of the first four from this series have already sold!

And getting back into collage, via Soul Collage process - making them in preparation for a workshop that I'm leading for my women's group on Sunday entitled Standing in your Power. 


 What have you been creating? I'd love to see all the beauty, colour and imagination YOU'VE been bringing to the world. Knitting, painting, poetry, photography... Do link up... will make this a weekly thing on a Thursday and will figure out a linky tool for next week!

Monday, April 16, 2012

How to glow!

I am glowing.

Remember my posts two weeks ago about wondering how/ if I should lose weight. They were very popular. They seemed to strike a chord. Many thanks to you all for your cheerleading as I dedicated myself to making my health more vibrant.

Well you know what? I've lost 3 and a half pounds in 10 days! Yippee!  And I'm feeling good.

My trade secrets? You won't believe me! OK, I'll tell you, but don't laugh... fairies and grapefruit. Yes, it's true!

It was Rachel who suggested that I add in nutritious and fat burning foods: kale, spinach, green tea, grapefruit (which zanily, my two little girlies ADORE as much as me - double surprise!) and smoothies. Which I have done!

And thanks to Motherfunker - I am upping the exercise and water intake.

And really, truly I am not dieting - simply loving myself with food, and my choices. There is still chocolate, and ice cream and cookies - just not as much - and more salad and veggies and protein.

And exercise- let's talk exercise - this is not "no pain, no gain", self flagellation on a treadmill -oh no! This is joyous movement to make your heart pump and your spirit soar: bellydancing in the sunshine, walking the cliffs with my best friend in the world, bouncing on the trampoline with my kids, cycling down to the beach to make a labyrinth, and my trade secret - doing my 4 year old's "Dance Like the Flower Fairies" DVD with her every day since her birthday!

And now I'm ready for stage two: project uber-glow. Leonie over at Goddess Guidebook has a Radiant Goddess 21 day program starting on May 1st - with oodles of inspiration, love and a mainly raw, wheat nad meat free vibrant menu guide for three weeks and a support network of other women who are doing it too! I looked at it before when I was feeling shitty and we were heading into autumn - and just thought no "I can't". In fact looking back, I felt that about EVERYTHING!  But now the sun is here, and I've made a good start myself, and the fresh produce is getting more local and I yearn for freshness and more fruit and veg goodness, I am longing for a little loving guidance and encouragement to really fill my body up with vitality.

So I'm jumping in.The way I look at it I can fast and be a grouch for a day and then eat double to make up for it. Or I can do this - fill myself brim full of nutrients, learn some new habits, some new recipes, get some moral support. And when it's over then see where I go from there!

Anyone joining me? Goddess circle members get it for free- just sign up! Those of you who are not part of the Circle can take part for $89 or join the Goddess Circle for a year for just $10 more, with access to all her incredible goodies, including the Business Goddess E Course which was the impetus behind every major thing which I have done this year: the book, the self publishing, the making art, selling art, setting up The Happy Womb - all thanks to the sparkly, feisty, practical guidance of the wonderful Leonie. This woman is a well-head of wisdom and an ocean of knowledge.

NB (If you sign up to any of her stuff via me you pay the same, and I get a lovely, juicy kiss of abundance from her! We all win!)

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Transition - the nauseous stage of creative birth

That's how I feel right now.
Because people want to buy my paintings!
That's nuts, right?
Totally flipping bonkers.
I should be cracking open the champagne.
But instead I feel like I'm upside down on a rollercoaster.
This is the nausea of risk-taking, of big dreams being set free.
This is the feeling of the ego rubbing shoulders with the elusive will-o-the-wisp who creates my work.
For some it stops them in the midst of their creative work. For others it stops them even making a start.
For me it happens when I am ready to birth.
The work of creation is done, the product that I have laboured over is there. And I feel sick.
What if they hate it? What if they laugh? What if it's crap? What if they all see that I'm a total fraud.
Remember this from the book.
Yup, we're here again.
This is transition. I remember it from birth. It's the point where the adrenaline kicks out for a moment, your internal rhythms shift gears and you feel like you're in free fall without a parachute - shit - how did I get here? What do I do now?
The conscious mind panics. The intuition and body knowing that have brought us thus far, on faith and fairy dust, cut out.
And then, just when you feel you can't bear it any more, wooooooooooooosh, the urge to push. Like breaking through a screen, and into the movie itself.
The truth arrives.
As you give birth to your babies, you give birth to yourself.
Raw, vulnerable, beautiful, joyous, terrifying, magnificent, heart stopping, exhilarating.
THIS is creativity!
Now pass me a sick bowl!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Mandala mind

Mandalas are calling me - I have been looking at book on them, websites, art... I love the colours, the pattern, the spiritual dimension. Quilts and mandalas both communicate to me on a soul level - I am a pattern freak at heart.

It was a mandala that closed down my painting journey ten years ago - a shattered mandala interestingly. It is a mandala that I am painting again - and getting frustrated.

And then today I tried drawing one, with simple guidance from an online site - and I was pleased

 And then I started playing with a photo editor and became entranced...

Do check out my mandala board on Pinterest too.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter Blessings

May you find new growth, new joy, may the sap rise in your veins and the green shoots unfurl in your creativity, health and all aspects of your life.

May the crack in your own cosmic egg release the gold that lies within.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Swallowing god

This is what came to me. When I pondered my thoughts and feelings on the last post about whether I needed to lose weight.

Rather than starve myself,  and punish myself for being greedy, fat, lazy, as I previously always have in my body image journey - rather I want to fill myself full of life, of flow, of glowingness, of godforce. Rather than diminish myself by dieting, I continue my practice, and deepen it. I choose life, all of my life - not just honing the surface to please others. Nor the scales to please the charts and books. But my, complete, entire self - which in this lifetime is built in flesh, bones, blood and organs. All of these deserve the best care I can give them as an expression of my commitment to myself, to life, and as an expression of gratitude for life.

I have learnt this past year, that when you don't know what to do you 1) ask the audience and 2)ask yourself - you frame this question as though you were asking your older, wiser or higher self, or as if you were being your own best friend.

And what came to me when I approached it was that it is really important for me not to approach this as an eating thing. I have come quite a way with my disordered eating, and need to honour that this is a tricky area for me. I need to instead take the opportunity for deep, profound, loving self care. To become more mindful in my body, my consumption. To be here, in my body, now.

Sounds easy. It is what I most struggle with.

I discovered a couple of months ago in an energy book called Light Emerging that my "energy body" type is schitzoid - which means that long ago when times were tough, I learnt to escape my body, to disappear off through my head, to not be in the room, or my body. When I feel anxious (which is quite a lot when you are an anxious personality type) one of my ways of soothing myself, comforting myself back into coping with reality is through food. One dear reader-friend pointed out that this is also a way of boosting oxytocin levels - especially by eating sweet things - which is totally spot on.

I have gotten much better at not running for chocolate, alcohol or bingeing on sweet things when I am frazzled or running on adrenal burnout. But I acknowledge that this is the function these foods play and have been needed for - grounding and bringing me back from my shocked, out-of-body state.

So this is what I need to learn, gently, to do for myself - to keep myself here, more in my body, rather than bringing myself back with food.

In the intensity of mothering, with full on demanding two and three year olds I find this my biggest challenge. I am overwhelmed, I request escape, am not granted it, so physically or mentally escape, and they haul me back in. To me when my nervous system is aroused the world feels too much to bear - I need out.

I came across a useful practice just two days ago I which you mentally drop a line down from your spine in to the earth and drip all the negativity and anxiety which you do not want or need down into the earth. It is a very effective grounding exercise which I will be practicing as often as I remember. Ditto breathing consciously. Feeling my feet rooted in the earth. Drinking water or herbal tea.

And moving. I am going to try some belly dancing along to You Tube tutorials :). I have wanted to belly dance for so long and the local classes I went to last year were a real disappointment. So I will be doing that for flexibility and toning, joy, pleasure and self expression. And now that dear Mr Dreaming Aloud has fixed my bike, and the evenings are getting lighter, more cycling - I love to head off on my bike, a freedom denied me for years by the ties of motherhood - I have such happy memories of whizzing round Kyoto and Cambridge - some of my happiest, slimmest and fittest times - all to do with cycling, not controlling my eating.

And I will add, as the season unfolds, more and more freshness to my life and diet. I yearn for a couple of days fasting, a practice I used to do pre kids - but am not sure I can manage it whilst mama-ing - perhaps on a work day.

Today is the women's ceremony part of Wilde Tribe - which for me is an extended, and deeply feminine part of the Birth 2012 experience. Indigo Bacal, the founder, suggests we each commit to something which will impact our lives and that of the world beyond today, this full moon, for the next forty days. So me, I commit to deep, loving, joyous self care. To deeper embodied living, and loving of this physical form that I call home.

Will you join me in committing yourself to something of value to yourself and the world for forty days? How might you care for yourself more fully? What is your life calling out to you for? Will you answer the call? Will you be your own best friend?

PS It's coming at me from all angles - Dr Christiane Northrup's newletter just arrived saying this...

If you’ve read, Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom you know there is a chapter about flourishing. One of the steps I describe is getting clear about your past so you can identify any subconscious beliefs you have that no longer serve you. Your family’s outlook on health and aging, coupled with your family history is a good place to start. For example, when you were young, you may have noticed that your grandparents took a lot of different medicines or that they died in the hospital. Without realizing it, you may think that this is the natural aging process. Although it may be common, it’s not “natural.” My mother is 86, takes no medication, and was healthy enough to hike to Mt. Everest Basecamp about a year and a half ago!
One belief I encourage you to update (if necessary) is the belief that Western medicine—drugs, surgery, and technology—hold the answers to most all health concerns. Of course, these have their place and are wonderful for treating true emergencies. But a system that focuses only on treating symptoms with drugs, excessive medical testing, and surgery for potential problems is not a better healthcare system. Whether or not you admit it, you can always improve your health by working with the wisdom of your body. There just is no substitute!

In my last blog, “The Missing Piece of the Diabetes Puzzle”, I shared an insight that’s ahead of its time. One of the reasons for the rampant rise in type-2 diabetes is that the range for normal blood sugar is too high. Now that I’ve exposed this little known fact, I want to also offer ways for you to manage your blood sugar. Click here to read Puzzle Solved: Easy Tips for Healthy Blood Sugar. Here’s one of the suggestions in this month’s blog:
Exercise helps. When you are stressed, the excess cortisol produced by the body is designed to help you run away from the threat! When there were tigers to run from, the body used the cortisol to flee. The problem is that, today, our stresses are not the kind you can run away from. So instead of running from the tiger, do ten minutes of exercise.
I know this topic isn’t particularly sexy. And I know many changes require commitment and discipline, which isn’t too appealing. But following the advice I give in Puzzle Solved: Easy Tips for Healthy Blood Sugar is true preventive medicine. And incorporating even half of these tips will help you set the stage for better health on many levels.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Less than what we naturally are

My biggest struggle at the moment is the one against myself.

It is an old familiar one that I have had as long as I can remember.

I am bigger than the world expects a woman to be. Bigger than normal. not massive. But not "slim". I used to be able to justify this with the sequitur "but I'm not obese".

But now I can't.

According to my BMI I am.

And according to my three-year-old. "You're fat!"

She informed me the other morning. Ungrateful sod, my mama brain growled, this fat grew you and fed you and hugs you even when you're being a brat.

She's officially "right".

And yet I feel the best in my body that I ever have. I wear funky clothes that sing my soul to the world. Rather than the "fat clothes" I wore at two stone lighter. When I was 16 and "normal" according to every chart in the book, I felt fat. At my lightest, on my wedding day I could not eat properly. I felt fat still in places. Now four and a half stone heavier I feel good. I have been wondering whether to ask my doctor if I need to take action, or relax... but it seems so trivial - to him.

But it's not just about feelings is it? If being "obese" is bad for my health then I need to lose weight. However good I feel about myself. However well I (generally) eat. Despite the fact that I am active, though not sporty, I am not as healthy as I could be. My cake pounds could be putting a strain on my organs, beckoning diabetes my way perhaps.

Looking in the mirror I don't think I look obese. Sure, I hate my double chin which finds its way into every photo, and the tummy which looks like the empty baby pouch it is. But mostly I look like a juicy woman with curves in ALL the right places, mama!

If I lose weight, then comes the social approval because we (women) are "supposed" to be slim. We're supposed to not take up to much space. To apologise for our existence by being quiet and thin. When I start to lose weight the self hatred and judgement and playing food games in my head also begin. I stop being my own friend, and instead my body, my appetites become the enemy.

I am the size I am because I have a large appetite. I eat well. I am a social eater and this is challenging when there is always food around. I eat differently because I am feeding children. I have carried three babies in quick succession and have had almost seven years of extreme sleep deprivation that most people can barely imagine. Not to mention breast feeding. My spare time goes into creativity not pounding the treadmill. But I walk and ride my bike, as any one car family understands. As the days of little kids and walking at a snails pace with kids dragging of me fades so , I think, will a few of the "excess" pounds.

So here's the battle. I feel like I should be taking action to stop my weight continuing to rise as it has in the past year. But I have no desire to be thin to please others or excuse myself or fit in or look good on the beach. Those days are gone. I want to be OK in my fullness in my curvaceous feminine shape. Not taming my deliciousness and starving my desires because that's what our society believes women should do. I don't want to be less myself in any way...

I am not fishing for nice words - nor looking for a fat bitch slap. I'm looking for reality. And to know how you walk this road yourself...


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

This moment

Sore ankle
House a tip
Spring springing
Mandala art with kids
Snotty high needs toddler with no nappy farting at me and laughing
Technicolour painting fantasies
Mama pride in a very talented creative boy
Rainbow girls
Anticipating a Happy Womb face lift - ahhhhhhhhhh!
Moon time self care
Naked kung fu 
Boy saying "fuck" to Grandma

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A Quarter of Miracles

As we cross into the next quarter of the year, moving towards the sun and full blossoming. I want to take a moment to reflect just how far this last quarter has brought me...

It is almost unbelievable.

Do you remember, dear reader, this desperado mama who had to escape, who needed a creative retreat, who one dear commenter suggested might need anti depressants. Yes, that was me!

But the very next day I had a realisation - that I needed to let myself out of my box and do my thang! I declared this the year of abundant rainbows. And boy has it been. And it feels like it's only just beginning!

In the past three months I have:
  • Launched my first book - to greater success than I dared to hope! Over 120 paperbacks are out in the world in just one month, in over 10 countries! And set up international online stockists!
  • Learned to enjoy selling my work!
  • Done some serious spring cleaning in most of my closest relationships - and come closer, clearer and more honest with those who are dearest to me 
  • Started painting again ... and set the wheels turning for my first exhibition (to be held at Stephen Pearce Pottery in June
  • Made some headway in my mama-ing which I was beginning to despair of with some great new practices
  • Put my woman-craft teaching out there and have my first course booked
  • Been asked to teach what I love at a prestigious place, right next door to my house - blogging at the Ballymaloe Cookery School!
  • Really enjoyed my two working days a week - REALLY enjoyed
  • Interviewed my biggest heroine - Ina May Gaskin - who I will be meeting in person at the end of the month
  • Had a really great rejection letter for one book, and an acceptance for my submission to another (the Rhythm of the Home BOOK)
  • Had work published in : Modern Mum, Juno, The Irish Examiner, 
  • Had a photograph accepted for the 2013 Earth Pathways Diary (the third year in a row)
  • Found more balance in my life - despite all these busy sounding achievements, I have enjoyed more calm, balance and headspace and down time than I have in years, thanks to my two satisfying work days and shaking my creative tail-feather with joy. My life is full of picnics, good friends, days on the beach, cake and cocktails, a loving husband!
Perhaps to you, dear reader, it all looks a little inevitable. This rosy looking life, the first book, the Pink House, the tea house work space. Lucky her, she's got it sorted.

Oh mama, how wrong, you'd be. I really feel like I've earned every little bit this last few years.

Let me take you by the hand, three years back. When life was not so rosy. When I felt very wobbly in myself, in my marriage and threatened to disappear. We were living unhappily at my husband's parents house. Just getting my first article published, what an enormous achievement that was, and then another surprise baby. I wanted space, community, beauty, depth, spirit, creativity, my own life in my own image. Instead I felt clipped, held, restrained, unsure, angry...

Something,no,  everything had to change. And so I commited myself to it. Act by act. Doing what I could, with what I had, where I was.

Since then we have bought our own house and created our own garden. I have been on anti-depressants - and off again quickly. I have claimed my need to creative work - space and time, I have started to paint and teach again after years of crippling anxiety over them both. I have turned around very challenging relationships with my daughter and my own mother, and continue to work on other deeply challenging relationships. Grown a strong, loving and secure partnership with my husband and  with a number of deeply special friends. Become a published author in a topic that is deeply meaningful to many women. I have asked for permission to use the tea house. Founded a women's group of precious women which has held and supported me every step of the way and taught me about true community. Every dream that I articulated there has come to be.

There are many more challenges ahead. But for now, let me stand at the top of this mountain and say I feel truly blessed.


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