Breaking the rules

All my life, I have taken pride in the fact that I am good. I do what I think is expected of me. I fear taking risks in case they fail and I leave myself open to judgement and criticism.

As I have grown, I guess these actions have served me well but it’s also stopped me growing as a person. I’m finding now that as I delve further into my creativity, it is becoming an enemy rather than a friend. What helped me get through life in a way I found acceptable is now hindering my work. I find that I am torn between continuing the way I have always done, of doing what is expected of me and wanting to walk towards my dream life – by stepping over that line and being a rebel.

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The more I accept the daredevil inside me, the more the fear builds and ultimately, the louder that voice gets. You know the one; the one that is quick to criticise, to tell you what is going to go wrong, to let you know just how you will let others down – how others will judge you.

So the other morning I sat and thought. In a rare moment without my girls and husband around, I turned off the TV. I refrained from listening to music, made a cup of tea and sat outside. Listening to the birds, I just sat and closed my eyes. As seconds passed and I thought about where I was and where I want to be, I suddenly started distinguishing between what my heart was screaming and what my head was telling me. For the first time, I realised that my head was always a fraction behind my heart. Everything my heart was saying made me feel good to my core. Whenever my head spoke, I felt fear.
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That moment defined my future. It has helped me to make the first steps towards the life I want and the life I need. I want to rediscover the joy in life and teach my kids that money is not what counts; its how happy you are that matters. I don’t know what will happen in the long term after I make this change and that scares the life out of me, but I already feel as though a weight has been lifted. If I listen closely, there’s another voice inside that’s whispering that it’s ok; that I need to have faith, that I should trust that everything thing will be good and when those bumps in the road come along, as they inevitably do, I will cope. Everything I’ve done and learned has led to this and it’s time to move forward….one step at a time.

Until next time,

Toni x

Learning to learn…and relax 

I don’t know about you but I’ve never been very good at learning. I don’t mean I find it difficult to take on new knowledge and information but I find it difficult to put myself in the position of ‘learner’ and all that comes with it. 

You see the thing is, when I sit down to do something, I expect perfection. I expect to get it right first time and as a result I put a great deal of pressure on myself. I do wonder why we do this to ourselves? Surely life would be so much better if I learned to accept the joy of practicing, of making mistakes and letting go. 

So here’s what I decided to do… 

1. Spend time in my craft space just doing something. Not working on a new item for Dollies Daydream,  not with an end product in mind but just attempting something and see where it takes me. 

   
       My ‘just doing’ activity for this week. Using my Folk It Starter kit I made a sign for our bathroom.  I loved it – so simple and effective this was the perfect project to start my resolution as I really couldn’t go wrong!  

2. I will talk to myself supportively as a friend instead of being my worst critic. I will aim to congratulate myself for something at least once a day. 

3.  I will plan out my projects. I’m sure it is my subconscious trying to sabotage me but I tend to leave things to the last minute and then I end up stressing and inevitably make more mistakes.

4. I will quit while I’m ahead – three things are plenty to work with. After all I need to chill out a bit and rediscover the fun in living a creative life! 

Until next time, 
Toni x 

Lessons of life 

In my other life, I teach Psychology to college students on a part time basis. At this time of year, I mark another set of mock exams and hope beyond hope that the students will achieve their potential I know they are capable of. I keep my fingers crossed that that will prepare for their exam and break through those self imposed barriers that they put in place because they don’t believe they are good enough.

  
One of the most frustrating things as a teacher is to listen to the negative opinions some students have about themselves and their abilities and the constant challenge to get them to see that they are good enough.  Unfortunately, it seems easier to put ourselves down than it is to acknowledge our strengths. I was no different at their age and still have my moments! There are so many things that I wish I had know, believed or been taught when I was that age, that would have saved me from a lot of worry and fear.  It got me thinking, what would I say to myself at that age?  Here is my answer…

Dear Toni,

I know life feels like a struggle at times, like there’s a lot of people who don’t take the time to listen or that you find hard to understand. Some day in the future, the things that scare you now will become second nature to you but don’t forget the experiences or feelings that you have now because they will be invaluable in the future.  Here’s a few things you will learn along the way…

1. Teachers are not perfect and their opinions are not the be all and end all. Teachers are, at the end of the day, human. They come with their own baggage, prejudices and personality. When these experiences are used positively, this experience can be what makes a great teacher but unfortunately that’s not always the case. Those teachers that seem to take an instant dislike to you, those teachers that make you feel like you can do nothing right, that teacher that acts surprised when you exceed their low expectations of you – their opinions of you do not define you and don’t give them the power to make them true.

2. You are capable of anything you put your mind to. Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do something – even if they are coming from a place of love. Don’t miss out on opportunities because you are scared to fail. You may try something and fail but you did it, you experienced it and you will learn from it.

3. You have choices. This is an important one! You can make decisions and choices for yourself and when you do, you will say goodbye to those feelings of dread. That twisty knot in your stomach and feeling of sadness that you feel when you agree to something or do something you don’t want to do will magically disappear. NB. It doesn’t happen overnight! Making your own choices comes with it’s own challenges it takes time to practice, you have to own up to your mistakes, you have to accept responsibility but it’s totally worth it – especially when you no longer have to take everyone’s opinions, thoughts, and behaviour on board and let it control how you feel. There will always be people who put you down but you have a choice whether to believe it or not.

4. Creativity comes in many forms. Yes, there is value in learning from the art of the past but creativity and art can be spontaneous. They beauty of creative pursuits is there doesn’t have to be any rules. If you have an idea, if you want to create something – a drawing, a ceramic pot or painting… DO IT! Not everyone will like it. YOU  might not like it but…you may love it. Regardless, you will learn so much from it. You will improve because of it.

5. You will never be perfect. Stop tying yourself in knots trying to be. Everyone makes mistakes, its how we learn. Take comfort in the fact that you will become wiser, stronger and happier because of the fact that you aren’t perfect.

6. No matter what life throws at you, make time for fun. Do not forget what makes you smile. There will be days when tears seem never-ending and those days when it all seems too hard – in those times, do something that will bring a smile to your face, however small. You will get through whatever life throws at you. Things may happen that will change your perspective, that will scar you but do not forget how to smile and see the good things life has to offer.

I won’t tell you want to expect or avoid because, well, where’s the fun in that?!

T x

….So there you have it. I may have written it but in all honesty, I can’t say I would have read it. Actually, that’s a lie. I would have read it just because I’m so nosy but I doubt I would have took anything on board. I would have ripped it up probably with scorn on my face and thought ‘What the hell do you know?’ It pains me to see the same stubborn, determined streak in my girls and I dread to think what I’m in for as they get older!

Maybe if I had listened maybe I would have become a completely different person, I would have learned different lessons and who knows who I would have become? There are times when I wonder what role I will play in the lives of my students – the teacher they disliked, the teacher they were sooo bored by, maybe the teacher they forget. There are students who won’t listen to a word I have to say but I have a choice. I can sit back and become a teacher who doesn’t care about anything but their paycheque or I can encourage my students. Even if no one listens to my words of encouragement, I will be able to sleep at night knowing I’ve done my best, I have treated my students how I wish I had been treated and how I hope my daughters will be treated. When all’s said and done, there is more to education that passing an exam.

  
Until next time,

Toni x

Christmas here we come

So…who has got their decorations up? Who is prepared for the big day? Who is actively avoiding the whole idea of Christmas?

I used to think there were two types of people when it came to Christmas: those that love it – that dive into the festivities and everything related, and those that detest it and everything it stands for. Now I realise there is a third type of person – those that love Christmas, that love the idea of slowing down and spending time with family and friends but just find that the festive season passes in the blink of an eye and while they thought they were preparing well for the celebrations, suddenly it’s two weeks away and they still need to get everything sorted….I confess this is me this year.

I am yet to feel that Christmas buzz, that childlike joy, that moment when you silently say to yourself ‘now it’s Christmas’.

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I have felt flutterings of that contentment while making my wares. It would be impossible to make Christmas decorations and wreaths without some festive spirit but I haven’t welcomed it, sunk into it and let it take over.

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Thankfully, there is still time. There are still plenty of opportunities to turn up the Christmas crooners, to sip warming mulled wine and for cold walks in fields crispy with frost (and…fingers crossed a dusting or two of snow). There is time to finish our Christmas cards and gift tags too.

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What is your favourite festive tradition? What was the moment you welcome Christmas? Here’s hoping it will be filled with happiness and magic for us all.

Until next time,

Toni x

Christmas cheer

Christmas in October? The mere thought of it has people groaning and running for the hills. Despite this, it’s now common place to see ‘Back to School’ displays being replaced by the festive displays to entice the shopper in. From the earliest moment they can, shops are encouraging the consumer to buy the latest toy or gadget to make their loved ones Christmas perfect.

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As a crafter, I hold my hand up that I have also begun to create and advertise my christmas items. Although there are many who deny the festive season is coming, many people embrace it and prepare. They drool over beautiful displays in shop windows and purchase gifts before the panic buying begins. I have been working through a pile of Christmas orders for a few weeks and starting to look forward to December and all the sparkle that comes with it.

Facing an impending house move with two kids under 6 and a busy half term at work, the thoughts of a cosy Christmas in a new house with all the decorations up has cheered me up and given me something to look forward to in the midst of what feels like a mountain of cardboard boxes and endless rolls of packing tape. It has made me wonder if that is one of the reasons behind our enthusiasm to welcome the festive season.

Maybe shops are partly to blame for advertising the must have present of the year, the endless stocking fillers we should buy and the mountains of food we need for the big day and the dayss up to it but are we happy to buy into it because it is a nice escape from life? There’s something about Christmas that (for me anyway) brings excitement, anticipation and happiness. Yes, the shops are busy but there seems to be a buzz in the air. It is a time when life slows down, even for a few days. We have an excuse to watch cheesy heartwarming films and indulge in food and drink we wouldn’t normally eat.

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There may be arguments, there may be burnt Christmas dinner offerings and not everything will go to plan but I love going to my mums for Christmas morning bacon sandwiches. I won’t lie that I like opening my presents but I love watching others open their presents; watching my daughters faces as they discover their presents from Father Christmas is a joy.

In today’s world, I think we are all looking for that little bit of magic in our busy lives. To start preparing for and looking forward to Christmas earlier, I think, is to encourage the positivity it brings for a bit longer. There is a danger of focusing on all the consumerism of it all but Christmas is what you make it. There may be those that won’t even mention the C word until mid December but I am not one of them. It’s true that you won’t find me finishing my Christmas shopping early or buying a mountain of presents but give me a Christmas CD and some festive fabric this time of year and I am happy. Stopping for coffee and cake breaks during my shopping, making mulled wine and sitting down to my Marks and Spencer christmas dinner on the 25th is heaven.

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Needless to say, the thought of all this makes me smile. When I have finally unpacked all my craft supplies in my new den 😀 I shall breathe a sigh of relief and make a new Christmas decoration for our new home – well it would be rude not to! When we move to the new abode, I will be motivated to get the house straight to enjoy a clutter free Christmas.

Whether you are a fan of celebrating Christmas early or whether you prefer to ignore it altogether, I hope there is a bit of magic waiting for you in the days and weeks to come. Oh and when I regale you with all the stories of moving house, remind me to re-read this and reaquaint myself with my sunny disposition 🙂

Until next time,

Toni xx

Creativity amongst chaos

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I seem to have been a little quiet on the writing front of late and that is because we have finally got the house sorted and put it on the market. It’s felt like a huge uphill climb but now we are at the top we just have to sit and wait, praying the right person will come along and love our little house.

Throughout all this, I have been trying to carve out some me time – time when I can complete orders, sketch and sew. I have promised myself that if I can only take half an hour out a day (or less!) it’s better than nothing….and it would be a huge waste of my super tidy craft table 😉

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I have also closed my order book for now. I never thought I would be busy enough to do that when I began creating again. I have to say it snuck up on me but all of a sudden I was faced with that choice and for my own sanity and ongoing creativity I had to press pause. The difference in me was amazing – my head felt clearer, I felt calmer, I took stock and thanked my lucky stars.

So here I am, concentrating on orders and looking for houses. We missed out on the fun of looking for houses last time as we bought our house from a relative. This time, in addition to experiencing the fun of keeping everything super tidy, (not easy when my natural tendency is to make a mess!) we get to look round other places and decide where our dream home will be.

Exciting times ahead,

until next time,

Toni x

100 happy days revisited

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Yesterday, my 100 days challenge came to an end. I can honestly say, I cannot believe how fast they went. When I posted my last happy day, it felt slightly anti-climactic. I don’t know what I was hoping for; a fan fare? A round of applause? A pat on the back? There was none of that if course but there was a change.

Yes, there was a few days when I completely forgot to post as I got swept away with life but at no point did I not post because I wasn’t happy. Every day I enjoyed moments of happiness. Some days were filled with it, some days, happy moments interspersed the tears, the stress, the tiredness but the important thing was they were there and I got to share it with others.

It made me look at life and wonder whether our default as a society was to look at the doom and gloom around us. When did that happen? Why should that be the way of the world? Looking back, I remember a pivotal moment in my life when I consciously thought to myself ‘well, if I don’t get my hopes up, if I don’t feel excitement or anticipation, if I don’t pray for the best, I won’t be disappointed if it never happens’

Now I look back and I want to hug that person I was. I want to sit her down and tell her how much she will miss, how much she will hurt herself if she walks down that path. In these past months, I hoped. I prayed. I got excited. I got excited and felt happy for other people and it was great. I dealt with any disappointments. They were worth it.

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My 100 happy days have technically come to an end but I will still keep it going in one form or another. I don’t want to go back to being automatically gloomy. I don’t want to be Eeyore. I want to enjoy life and teach my girls to enjoy happiness and deal with disappointment. Whatever happens, if you want to look for it, you realise the good in life far outweighs the bad you just have to stay focused on the positive.

Until next time,

Toni x