Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Internet is not what's Stressing New Mothers

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So apparently this whole idea that modern mothers are more anxious because they have access to too much information, is not exactly true. 

I bought into that same myth myself and even rant about it in my mission statement. I have no idea why I adopted such a belief other than maybe it was easier to have something to blame for how I felt.

A survey of 4,000 Australian women, by Medela AU, showed that after seeking advice from a family Doctor or midwife, the next place mothers looked was the internet.
click to view infographic
Most women saw having access to expert information 24/7 as a huge benefit.  They also found value in connecting with like-minded people. Of the women surveyed only ten percent felt overwhelmed by the amount of information available online. So there you have it. The interwebs are as convenient a place for parenting advice as they are for grocery shopping. #whatagift

Seriously. What did breastfeeding mothers do before smartphones? I remember Googling every. single. thing. It's a solitary job, being a milk maid.

So if the web isn't stressing us out...it must be something else.

One sobering statistic the Medela AU survey revealed is 48% of women experience some form of depression/ baby blues/ low mood after childbirth. That is basically HALF of all mothers!!!

Let that sink in for a moment.

48% Half.

I mean, even as a fellow PND sufferer I had no idea the numbers were that high.

Why is this disturbing?
  1. It tells me not nearly enough people are comfortable talking about their experience with PND 
  2. Therefore I highly doubt those women are getting the help and support they need
Maybe there is a stigma with the word ‘depression’ but my guess would be that there is more of a stigma surrounding the "M" word. Perhaps we feel that if we admit we are struggling with motherhood then we are failing at it. 

Which is simply not true.

Opening up about my own experience with PND was terrifying. I literally felt sick when I published my first blog post about the subject. When I was flooded with emails, messages, and kind words from women who had all been through (or who were currently going through) the same experience, I no longer felt alone.

The main lesson I learned is that those metaphorical villages, you know, the ones it takes to raise a child? Well, they look different today.

More and more families are relocating for work, study or even an International romance (guilty). I live half the world away from the people I grew up with.

By opening up about my struggles, I didn’t know it then, but I was inviting people into my own, albeit virtual, village. 

So what can help? According to the Medela survey three main things can help mothers who are suffering.
  1. Speaking to a friend/ partner or family member
  2. Reading about people’s similar experiences online
  3. Consulting a Doctor or Midwife
So just like my advice in the video- we need to create our own villages. These could be online communities, forums, blogs, new friends. Medela AU have created a personalised app with all of these elements and more at your fingertips...Available even in the dim glow of a 3am feed.

To learn more about the Medela app clik here. I will plan to have it for the next bub because it’s a combination of several different apps I used when I had my daughter.  

Note: Can I just say, participating in this campaign has been a privilege. I’m proud to work with a company like Medela AU who are clearly sensitive to a mothers needs. I hope this study encourages women to speak out, because they will find that they are definitely not alone.

If you or someone you love is suffering from depression please contact your local crisis hotline or beyond blue in Australia.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Makers Monthly: April

A crafty project waiting to happen!

Makers Monthly FAQ

I’m starting to think that this month, personally, is about that easel cradling a blank canvas, or a blinking courser or...maybe even the bones of a brand-new building waiting for finishes. It’s that moment of anticipation before the making begins. It’s full of doubt, trust and inspiration right before the hands and mind are set free.

It’s been a busy month! Lots happening creatively but I have had zero time to paint and that makes me twitchy.

When I feel overstretched the first thing I look at is my time management. I will need to book myself some 'free' time- really make it a priority. This is not an easy task when you have lots of other priorities (ah-hem toddler). Obviously not all priorities can share top billing. 

How do I achieve this?

By rotating the important things. 

My family and my own (mental and physical) health come first (not necessarily in that order). My work is my passion and, I think, key to my overall happiness. Some weeks I feel more inspired to write and others it's more about painting. So I switch it up depending on my mood. Of course there are those tasks I never feel like doing (ah-hem admin & accounting) so I need to force myself to do those as well.

The last few weeks I’ve been concentrating on the blog. A bit of writing and a bit of networking with brands…more exciting news on those soon! This was a fun post I wrote about how April is National Craft Month #ncm here in Australia where I got to partner with Spotlight craft stores. Hello craft mecca! They are hosting free events this month so check it out if you have time. 

In other news

Etsy has unveiled a new look with mixed reactions, my own? I just try and roll with it. Social media is constantly evolving anyway. Adjusting might be a pain but I try not to fret- the minute I get used to something sure enough there will be another change on the horizon!
Also... our home extension is almost finished. It's going to seriously change our family lives for the better. And for the first time in my life I will have my own dedicated art studio.

Trust me when I say A LOT of creative energy has gone into dreaming up that space. Every finish has been chosen with the utmost care and consideration. It’s been such a long process that it feels completely surreal now that we are near the end. I recently wrote about how my brain was starting to feel like the empty shell in our backyard, bursting to be decked-out, in this post here

In the interest of that beautiful moment of nothingness before it becomes something- Let's share our latest and greatest projects in the link-up below!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

4 Craft Ideas For Beginners: Crafting Confidence in Kids

*Sponsored by Spotlight*

Know how kids tend to make things for fun and then destroy them? Think sandcastles or if you grew up in a place like me, snow angels. Making stuff can be just as much fun as wrecking it for no other reason than it rocks our socks.

So why shouldn't adults have a crack at it? Even if our 'castle' ends up in the garbage can.

When we overthink things we tend to take less risks. We stop trying to make stuff. Joy gets dusty along with our creativity. I for one am guilty of worrying too much about the end result. Can we just collectively turn-off our brains and let our hands guide us for a while? Just for this month?
Did you know that April is National Craft Month here in Australia? I was recently invited to a launch party sponsored by Spotlight Craft Stores (American readers, think JoAnn Fabrics or Michaels). The afternoon was full of fabulous demos, creative peeps and plenty  of inspiration.
It's April! Like you needed an excuse to get some craft on! Or maybe you do...

Is something holding you back?

I know fear is a big reason many of us 'adults' keep the glue and sparkles close to our chest. Maybe we are afraid of judgement or even our own ability. But seriously guys! We don't want to show our kids this sort of negative thinking do we?

Kids don't sit in front of a blank canvas and say, "Hmm...I'm not sure I'm feeling this today because- pressure," OR "I'm not good enough," OR "Everyone is going to laugh at me." They just grab for the crayons and go nuts. You can too!

How about we make a deal? Try some of these little crafts with your kids and then...maybe take on a project you've always wanted to. So what if it ends up in the rubbish? Do it in the name of joy.

"Whats worth doing even if I fail?" Brene Brown

Here, I'll even hold your hand: Let's get messy. These are just a few little ideas off the top of my head. Google will have a million more should you like some more. 
I'm sorry I always want pasta
1. Pom-poms
Have you seen this website? It features apologies with Pom Poms. Think Post Secret but with colourful, fluffy balls instead of post cards and apologies instead of confessions (though sometimes the apologies are confessional too "I'm sorry I cheated on you." Juicy. I met the lovely redhead behind this clever campaign at the National Craft Month launch party. Here is a simple Pom Pom tutorial- try it! Kids can easily get in on the action too...Obviously G rated apologies only in their case! "Sorry I spilled my milk."
2. Photography Series
No fancy equipment required- all you need is a smart phone. There are tons of apps that can send daily photo prompts (with different themes, colours or ideas) to get the creative juices flowing. This article has the top 100 apps- I've personally used the 'Little Moments' by Fat Mum Slim app. This article talks specifically about iPhone photography and this article is a 30 day photography challenge that you can easily follow along with your iPhone or digital camera. Get the kids involved as subjects or photographers!
Only fingers and a fun attitude
3. Finger Painting
No brushes needed! Squish it, smear it, feel it. Just let your hands and digits guide you. It's actually a mental health tool being used by professionals to help adults release repressed emotions. Finger painting is pretty self explanatory but just in case you need a refresher- this article is an 8 step guide to finger painting. Prep is king to avoid a mess when you're getting into the zone. Pro tip: Make sure you get washable (water based) paints if you have real little tykes.
4. Colouring Books
Don't knock em till you try em. I mean, I definitely did. Adult colouring books? Pshaw, whatever! I despise staying within the lines. HOWEVER. I have to say that I 'accidentally' grabbed one my Mother left behind at our house to colour with Lavinia...and I'm not gonna lie- it was kinda relaxing. Colour me surprised!
Bonus: It's a great distraction for the kids on long afternoons when they are begging for TV.

Now get out into your life and make something! If the results aren't Pinterest-worthy at least you'll be crafting confidence in your kiddies. Besides, it's fun.

Don't forget to check out the FREE crafty party happening in all Spotlight Stores on 23 April. Click here for more information. Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Purging The Head, Heart And Home

The big extension we are building on our house seems like a metaphor for my state of mind at the moment.

This dream manifesting in our backyard will more than double our living area. It's so close to being completed that I can almost feel the carefully considered finishes on my fingertips and sense the way we will use the thoughtfully planned spaces.

Since our first meeting with the architect 15 months ago so much has changed. Our daughter has gone from baby to little girl, I've lost family members, started a business, struggled to keep depression at bay, tried to practice gratitude.

I think these last few weeks of the project will transform it the most, from blank canvas to bespoke, as soon as the cabinets, flooring and fixtures are installed.

That is where I am with my own mental health. The foundation is sturdy. The walls have been constructed. I have been working on it, hard, since facing post natal depression when Lavinia was five months old. Now I'm digging deeper and discovering the root causes of my emotional dysfunction. Things that go back to my childhood. It's both excruciating and illuminating...like waiting for something you desperately want. I'm so ready to discover the person I am destined to become.

Everything feels crowded in my head and home, ready to burst into a new space. I keep buying homewares and shoving them into cramped closets reluctant to throw anything away because *soon* there will be more room.

So, maybe creating new room for old junk is not the solution.

I had itchy feet as a young adult and my feelings now are similar to how I felt back when I needed travel to escape myself. I often heard; "Where ever you go, there you are." A true warning indeed yet I believe a new place can allow you to see yourself from a different perspective. Even if it's in your own backyard.

If I've learned anything from running it's that you can't rely on a shift in perspective alone to wipe your slate clean. 

It's easy to 'wait' for a big change to make a big change but I think the lesson is: do it now. Hunker down wherever you are and get comfortable in your own skin.

Maybe we need to purge the things we don't need immediately-not-later so we don't drag them along into our future.

A little reminder to myself: Make your baggage a little lighter (literally and metaphorically), Stop counting down the days, Be more patient, Feel where you are in this moment, Declutter the heart and mind now so you can enter your new space with an already gleaming slate.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

7 Books to Inspire Creativity in Everyone

Hi, my name is Dawn and I’ve a recovering creative.

Just like you, me, and everyone else- all people are creative. Period. I don’t care if you’re clever at spreadsheets or crafty the way you make grilled cheese. All humans make things for survival. I believe this to my core.

I can't tell you how many people say to me, "I wish I were a creative person," when I tell them what I do for a living. I want to shake them and say, "Simply by saying that is proof that you are!"

Don't believe me?

Think about your childhood, what did you enjoy playing most? (Remember PLAY?) Finger painting? Superheros? Playdough? Building forts? All of these activities take imagination (and creativity). Perhaps the adult world bleeds it out of us. We feel like we have no time, too much responsibility, take ourselves too seriously.

I was OBSESSED with arts and crafts from day one. In fact, the only way I directed my copious youthful energy (my nickname was zippy) was through coloring, painting or crafting. 

So that means I get it. I get you. Even I, childhood art addict, I rejected creating as frivolous when I became an adult. But I found my way back, and you can too.

Be forewarned It’s not easy. Maybe you received negative messages or even shame about your creativity growing up. Maybe you have too much self-doubt. You must 'go there' to recover the magic. It's worth it. And so are you.

This is a list of books I’ve read over the past two years (I’m not affiliated in any way shape or form with the authors or with the links provided and I've tried to include links to the actual author's site where possible) this is just my genuine, life-changing cannon for the creative soul.

If you only do one thing, please read number one on this list (not just for artists!)

1. The Artist’s Way

Julia Cameron
My bible. I still haven’t properly worked through the lessons but I’ve read it twice. This book is not just for artists! It’s life changing. This is number one in my list for a reason.

2. Show Your Work & Steal like an Artist (2 books)

Austin Kleon
Two clever, short, easy reads that will help you learn a little more about how to create, be inspired and market yourself.
link & link

3. Big Magic

Elizabeth Gilbert
I don’t want to love her but I can’t help it. The Author of Eat, Pray, Love, Gilbert dives deep into the spiritual waters of creativity and her perspective on how it all works. The first story she tells absolutely blew me away. I was upset when it was over because I wanted to read more.

4. Daily Painting

Carol Marine
This one is great for painters or people who want to try painting. Her system is a fantastic way to dabble in different styles, and try new things without spending a fortune on supplies. Also she breaks down HOW TO PAINT in easy, digestible steps. Everything from composition, to color-mixing.

5. The Gifts of Imperfection

Brene Brown
Know how everyone who eats at a restaurant should have to wait tables for at least a day in their life? Well every person should have to read this book. It explores shame, vulnerability and how those things are misunderstood in our culture. Her research shows that people who are vulnerable live the most fullfiling lives. Let your heart out…in the form of a creative life. This will lead you to beautiful connections and experiences. To get a taste, watch her TED Talk here.

6. Art Inc

Lisa Congdon 
So you want to get serious about your art and start a business? Congdon breaks down what the artworld is like today- a vastly different, and more expansive world than it was a few decades ago. The gallery system is outdated. This book teaches you about modern platforms, gives tips on things artists ten to avoid (like book keeping) and draws a comprehensive map of creating a business for your art.

7. Creative Block

Danielle Krysa
I’ve just started this one and so far it’s a fantastic read so I want to include it. She writes really well and is super relatable, honest and gives great advice at how you can 'unblock' yourself when you feel stuck. It features interviews with artists who work in all different mediums.
Happy reading you crafty little devils!

BTW let's keep in touch sign up to my (occasional) newsletter here. Muah!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Makers Monthly: March

Life has been a bit heavy lately. I lost my cousin, a childhood friend since February and I'm reminded of all the other people I lost in 2015.

Another friend of mine was about to become a grandmother for the first time. Unfortunately the baby girl has heart complications and will not be long for this world. I'm not sure if it's happened yet but my heart goes out to her family for the pain that is sure to follow.

This friend is a lovely person whom I worked with when I first moved to Australia. I was struggling with homesickness and finding my place here and she always made me smile.

She asked me to paint something to commemorate the life of this little baby girl, she mentioned butterfly wings.

With loss on my own mind as well I came up with the idea for this painting and I'm happy with how it turned out. I would love to paint it again maybe with a different variation.

I'm going to save this painting for my friend but will make variations (custom copies with different colored backgrounds) available in my Etsy store. Sometimes artwork, much like music, can help us through hard times. Let's see what the other creative Etsy crafters have been up to this month. Let the creativity heal and flow.

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A Life Saved And A Life Stolen

My Mother was in Australia last week and I was asking her (and taking notes) on how she (almost) always caught me when I was up to no good.

Except that one time when I stole her car before I had a license. I never got in trouble for it so I suspected she couldn't prove it.

I was trying to get her to admit how or if she really knew.

What happened was, my parents were out of town and during one of my Grandmother's epic afternoon naps I decided to sneak my Mother's car out of the garage.

As I pulled into my friend Laurie's driveway she wasn't quite quick enough. Her mother, hot on her heels, practically leapt at my window; "Dawn, I didn't know you got your license?" (This would have been big news).

My stomach turned to ice and I will never forget that moment. It was like being interrogated in a movie. I looked her right in the eye and lied.

"I just got it," I replied, trying to be vague and casual.

Laurie's Mom raised an eyebrow but appeared satisfied enough to let us go. Where you ask? To buy candy at the local pharmacy. We might have shared a cigarette. I can't really remember.

When the story came up my Mom asked if Laurie and I kept in touch I said; "No, but I should look her up soon."

A week later I learned she was found dead on her bathroom floor, weeks before her 35th birthday. I never got to contact her.

The car jacking story perfectly encapsulates how dangerously innocent we were back then; ballsy, stupid yet not (too) jaded- we went to buy sour patch kids for Christ's sake. Definitely not worth getting caught over. Well maybe I'm speaking for me because even at a young age Laurie was skeptical, smart, opinionated. She kept a close circle. I always admired that about her.

Laurie died of a drug overdose. And before you judge her, know that she once saved me from a similar fate.

It was another stupid thing I did as a teen. Mom was out of town and Dad was supervising. He agreed to let me have a small party. Two of my mates acquired fake ID's, a gallon of Gin and a gallon of Vodka.

We were sitting in my bedroom drinking Gin and Juice like our Rap idols (what else would suburban white kids do on a Saturday night?) I decided to kick the party up a notch and snag some attention by challenging the boys to a chugging contest. Right out of the bottle, no juice. Things got real messy from there.

I remember someone breaking up the party after I started vomiting. They tried to put me into bed but I continued to throw up.

I would spend the next 8 hours or so on my bathroom floor, violently ill, with Laurie by my side.

She spoke to me soothingly, held back my hair, fed me sips of Pepto Bismol, stripped me down to my underwear when my Dad instructed her to throw me in the shower. I whimpered, puked, called out for my ex boyfriend. It was pathetic. She never said a word to anyone.

I know how it sounds, you're probably thinking it's simply a right of passage- we all have that 'one time' when we are inexperienced with alcohol. But I swear to this day- I almost died that night. I could feel the reaper breathing down my neck. If I wanted to give up I could have. It scared the shit out of me so I fought like hell even though every time I opened my eyes my stomach heaved.

I woke up on my bathroom floor with a pillow and blanket. My skin was grey and I had chipped off part of a front tooth. But I made it.

I know she didn't leave my side until I was completely safe. I doubt she slept at all until she got home. But that's how she was. She always tried to save everyone around her. Never herself though, never herself.

We all do foolish things for various reasons. Sometimes we get away with them, sometimes we get saved and sometimes we don't.