How to…

… find yourself – I’m still working on it.

I’m continuing my journey to me through music with my next and final four tracks. If this post is coming a little out of the blue you can find the first half here.

So! Onwards with The List:

5, The Rose – Bette Midler

So the major part of my early development happened under the guidance of two very special people – my Mama (the formidable Mama G) and my sister (the equally formidable Jessi). For a while it was just the three of us, which has resulted in us being quite unusually close (our significant others will attest to this most vehemently!). My memories of this time are of a lovely, fun and overwhelmingly 90s period, which is a testament to my amazing mother as in reality she was a full-time teacher, a single mother of two and a newly separated (and I hope she doesn’t mind me saying) heartbroken woman. But we got each other through it, and this song represents that love can cause pain, but it can also be a great force for healing. This song also has a beautiful three-part harmony, so whenever we find ourselves sitting round a campfire on a beautiful summer evening, the three of us sing it, and I am reminded that every storm has its end, and that I come from some pretty amazing women, that I am a part of them and that as a result of this I am ridiculously lucky.

6, Betty Blue – John Cooper

This is a long-standing Desert Island Disc of mine as it is my incredibly talented father, John Cooper playing a saxophone solo at the Millennium Centre, with the composer of the piece accompanying him on the piano (she says, beaming with pride). This piece of music calms my soul and makes me think of leafy autumn walks, with cold red cheeks and brown leather boots. It also reminds me that if my father is this talented, I’ve got to be good at something – just haven’t quite figured out what it is yet!

7, The Songs That Make Sophie Fizz – Martha Tilston

The Songs That Make Sophie Fizz is mine and Jessi’s song. It perfectly describes our past, present and future relationship.  It’s such a wonderful thing to have a sister who is also your best friend. If (and when) I lose myself, Jessi is sure to find me, in one of two ways; she’ll coax me back to myself with Fizz and cheese and dress-up and laughter; or she’ll drag me back to myself by my hair – either way it’s most sisterly and effective.

8, You Are My Sunshine – My Oma

It’s a shame that I don’t have a recording of this because it would be a most treasured sound. But she’s a stubborn woman so I don’t think I’d be able to record her now. She used to sing this to me as a child. She has a card that a friend sent her, with a picture of  blue elephant frolicking on a beach (random) which plays the tune when you open it, so she would sing along and teach me the words. When I’m not sure I like parts of myself or I think my behaviour was a bit out of line (happens from time to time) this song reminds me at least of who I’d like to be; the person I’m working towards being. A woman as strong and bright and wise and funny as my Oma, my sunshine.

If my life was an album these would be the tracks. I should listen to them more often to remind me of where I’ve come from, where I’m going  and how I’m going to get there (by being myself – hopefully…and the all the working hard and stuff like that).

Now I just have to do something worthy of being a castaway – I’m working on it…

“I’m giving you five minutes to get out of my house!”…

… “Mabel for the last time this is NOT your house!”

So I have an icon – the ultimate idol of my life. She is my 89-year-old Oma (Grandma – she’s German) Mimi Gertrud Crosbie. She’s the best woman I know; she’s funny, smart and sharp as a tack; she’s had amazing life experiences and always offers the absolute best advice; she has wonderful sayings and the thickest German accent you’ve ever heard despite living in the UK for over 65 years; she is epic, just epic.

She has Dementia and after years of increasing her care package at home (up in Cheshire) to try to keep her safe the decision was made that she should move to a residential care home here in Cardiff. It was sad to take her away from a home she’s lived in for 58 years but for me in particular it was a source of great excitement to have my role model in life living only a 10 minute walk away, instead of a five-hour drive! And as my time is more my own at the moment I have been able to visit The Legend every day – which has resulted in a lot of time spent sitting in comfy chairs, knitting, drinking tea and eating biscuits whilst completely surrounded by old people. Those who know my habits, hobbies and idea of fun would say that this suits me perfectly and they’d be right, however, spending this much time with those in the winter of their lives is teaching me rather a lot, so I decided to write a blog on what I’m learning.

So one of the major life lessons the residents of my local care home are teaching me is the art of the comeback. I think in general we’re loosing our ability to deliver a scathing, argument ending comeback. We swear more and resort to that, or we use weird colloquialisms like “yeh? Well…your mum!” instead of just responding with a clear, concise and well constructed answer to offensive behaviour. For example, a few residents at the care home believe that the home actually belongs to them, I am going to call them Mabel and Edith (lovely names – I thought about it and decided to change the names of those I spend my days with as I thought it was a more sensitive approach to take). On the first night Oma was in the home I was getting her ready for bed in her room which left Chris in the communal sitting room with the other residents (he dresses like an old man already so he fitted right in). During this time Mabel shouted at him “Right, I’m giving you five minutes and then you have to leave my house!” One the lovely nurses said “Mabel, you know that this isn’t your house”. But this wasn’t really good enough for feisty Mabel who went on to shout at Chris about taking liberties and invading her space and how she paid for everything, etc. To which Edith piped up with “Oh Mabel, just stop being so rude.” And that shut her right up! Which got me thinking, what if instead of saying “your mum!” (I don’t know if this is just a Welsh teenage boy comeback but I’ve always found it rather amusing) to people who are rude to us, or “well fuck you too!” what if we just said “just stop being so rude”? Might that not make the person being rude think about their behaviour? That they’re not being offensive to offensive people, they’re not sticking up for their own rights, they are just being rude. Perhaps that would be a changing point in their lives?! Perhaps the next time they think about shouting at someone, or dropping litter in the street, or posting profanities on social media sites they’ll think hang on, am I being rude here? And instead they’ll say “Good Morning” to someone, find a bin and share a picture of a really cute cat. All because of a good comeback!

Also my Oma  has always been great at comebacks and being surrounded by old people trying to tell her what to do is exercising this particular skill, for example, the other day I found myself sitting in a room full of really old people watching a bald Michael Buble wannabe singing old school hits to them (he was actually pretty good). At first my Oma had decided she didn’t like this man and insisted on shouting to me (I was sitting in a spare chair a little way away) “He’s very loud but not very good!” But after a while the familiar tunes started to do their wonderful work and she started tapping her feet and hands to the beat. The lady sitting in a wheel chair next to her said “sit still dear!” to which she replied “I will sit still, when I’ve stopped moving!” Perfect. Just perfect.

Dementia, what care homes are teaching me, my oma, dementia care

I didn’t think that I could learn so much from a care home but comebacks aren’t the only thing I’m picking up. Next week: The Power of Acceptance.

#FashionFridays…

…got shamelessly self-promotional.

So in a previous blog I mentioned that I’d started making clothes with my trusty teenage sewing machine. The clothing thing is still going pretty well and with Christmas on the Horizon and with my newly acquired unemployment status I turned once again to my trusty sewing machine to furnish my loved ones with lovingly homemade, handmade gifts. Which gave me an idea. What if I tried to sell them to people who I don’t love? (I will of course love these people if they buy my wares, in fact when the first one goes I’m hoping its to a person in lands foreign because otherwise I’m going to have to strongly resist the urge to go to their house and kiss them on the lips.) So in the name of shameless self-promotion I thought I’d write a blog post about it – with of course helpful links to the selling items…

I came across some really beautifully Christmasy fabrics in an Aladdin’s Cave of a fabric shop in Cardiff but being the tight-fisted, or more pleasingly termed thrifty (lovely word) gal that I am, I’m not too keen on things that can only be used at Christmas; spending money on something you’re only going to use for one month of the 12 that are on offer seems a little silly. So when I found the below fabric I thought it simply perfect for Christmas as well as the rest of the year or indeed any pending nuptials that are on the horizon of 2015.

shabby chic hearts and lace table runner, perfect for weddings

shabby chic hearts and lace table runner, perfect for weddings

So I made a few table runners and they turned out really well but I couldn’t for the life of me find the right beaded, tasselly nonsense to stick on the pointy bits until my mum said, “why don’t you use lace?” – genius.

shabby chic hearts and lace table runner, perfect for weddings

And thus this rather festive yet romantic shabby chic (when I proof read this I realised that auto-correct had changed that to chubby chic – just had to share that with you) number was born…

shabby chic hearts and lace table runner, perfect for weddings and Christmas

shabby chic hearts and lace table runner, perfect for weddings

Handmade shabby chic hearts and lace table runner, perfect for weddings and Christmas

You should probably buy one – in fact you can do so here: https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/214917034/a-beautiful-handmade-hearts-and-lace? Convenient.

But if hearts and Christmas aren’t your thing I have another option going on as well…

Handmade shabby chic polka dots and lace table runner, perfect for weddings

Handmade shabby chic polka dots and lace table runner, perfect for weddings

IMG_1657Handmade shabby chic polka dots and lace table runner, perfect for weddings

I think you should probably buy this one too, buy it here: https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/214922338/a-beautiful-handmade-shabby-chic-blue? Equally as convenient.

Of course anything can be made to order; if you need something to match a pair of curtains, or your plates, or the colour of your eyes, or whatever, just get in touch and I’ll see what I can do.

Other designs on the horizon are: too sparkly to resist…

Handmade sparkly table runner, perfect for weddings and Christmas

…and über nautical:

Handmade nautical table runner

Lengthy advertisement over… well not quite – if none of this is quite wooly enough for you then I’m right there with you, stay tuned for the next Arts and Crafts blog which will involve knitted hats, tea cosies and egg cosies (such a thing does exist – and they’re really quite cute)! If you think tea cosies are boring and only for old ladies, then quite clearly you’ve never seen a sparkly tea cosy…

How to…

…find yourself. DEEP.

We all lose ourselves from time to time. We’re not always happy with who we’re being; how we’re behaving; what we’re doing. When I’m flailing around, searching for myself amongst all the nonsense that gets in the way – I turn to music. I have a playlist of music that reminds me where I’ve come from; where I’m going; why and how I became me – the real, unsullied person that sometimes hides under all these layers of crap.

Also, my biggest ambition in life is to be on Desert Island Discs so just incase good ol’ Kirsty gives me a call tomorrow and says in her beautiful lulling scottishness “Milly, fancy being my castaway next Friday?” I can say “Hells yizzle Kirsty, hold the mic, I’ll be right there.”

So, dear readers, The List:

1. Brown Eyed Girl – Van Morrison

I’ve been compiling a list of all the songs I plan to play at the big party that will be my wedding (I am getting married – I’m not doing this in a creepy shopping for your wedding dress before you’re engaged way) and this one came up as the top trumps family favourite. Whenever it comes on they shout ‘Milly’s song!!’ which now means that whenever I hear this song I feel great rush of self-celebration. If such a happy, cheery classic as this represents me I can’t be half bad can I? I definitely can’t be a sour-faced anxiety ridden hag. So I listen to it, smile and cheer the fuck up.

2. All I Really Want – Alanis Morissette

This takes me back to Gin Fridays (this was before we got classy and changed it to Fizz Fridays). My mama and God Mother would get together on Fridays and drink gin (does what it says on the tin kind of situation), which my sister and I loved because my dearest God Mama also had two daughters roughly our age. We used to leave the adults to their gin, go upstairs and listen to Jagged Little Pill (and wear weird hats, mostly Moroccan looking cap things without peaks – we rocked it). So now when I listen to this song I am blasted back to warm coloured childhood memories and reminded that I should think a bit more about what I really want – and be okay with that. I’m a good person who wants good things – I should see about getting them.

3. Wildflowers – Tom Petty

I have to thank my step dad, Robin for this song. It’s me in song form – it isn’t even part of who I’ve become – this is me as I came out of the womb, the most basic instincts of myself to run through fields of wildflowers in the rain, and talk to the sea and wear feathers in my hair. The minute I hear this song I think There you are, where HAVE you been you Silly Moo!? Robin has introduced so much wonderful music into my life but I think the effect that this song has on me means it’s one of my all time favourites – thanks Bob.

4. My Girl – The National

This is really Christopher’s song for me but then a big part of me is all wrapped up in Christopher. I don’t feel like I found myself when I found Chris at all, I was already a fully formed person, but a big part of me always felt a bit lonely, because all of my previous relationships (there were a few) had convinced me that the best I could do was find someone who accepted my eccentricities; someone who wouldn’t mind them, but when I met Chris I found someone who not only accepted the odd bits but loved them too – and more than that, understood them! Suddenly I found that no part of me was lonely anymore. It’s like he saw right through me and said ‘You understand me and I understand you. Good – now let’s be together forever, yeh?’ (don’t get me wrong, every now and again I shock the shit out of him, but one must keep the men folk on their toes). And that’s why you marry someone isn’t it? Because you’ve become a part of them and they’ve become a part of you. Plus in this song a scene is described where ‘the girl’ drives her car into a garden in a fit of anger and then says sorry to all the plants she’s crushed – which Chris is 100% sure I’m going to do one day!

As you may have noticed this post has now gotten a little long, so not wishing to take up any more of your valuable time, dear reader, I’ve decided to split it in two and publish the other 4 songs next week. You’re welcome.

#FashionFridays…

… got themed.

I was going to say that this week is a vintage week, however, I’ve realised that pretty much every time I dress up its in the past and in fact this week is about as modern as it’s going to get:

dress up, fashion fridays, 1980s, gypsy, suburban

It’s the 80s! To be precise I am dressed as an 1980s suburban gypsy. I’m wearing hooped earrings and everything.

gypsy, costume, 1980s, suburban, dress-up, fashion fridays

You can’t really see in these rather blurry photos but those are red boots! RED BOOTS (in your face people who say I can’t colour coordinate)! Actually I’d just like to take this moment to thank my amazing photographer for doing such a wonderful job of these Fashion Friday photos…

weekend drinking!

Then I started to feel just a little bit too up to date (scary) so here I am being a 1950s suburban gypsy:

1950s suburban gypsy dress-up fashion fridays

Dressing up as a gypsy of any kind fills a particular happy place in my heart – a magical place. Normally I want to be dressed up as some sort of medieval sorceress and I have most of the garb I need to fulfil this (I’m currently working up to the sewing skill to produce some kind of velvet, bell-sleeved number – with train, obvs). However, I have to say that it’s not so practical with modern living, for example, have you ever tried to drive in a velvet hooded cloak? It gets complicated. So when I’m being a gypsy I can still be a little magical and a little bit practical, which is a pretty good combination in my book!

dress up as a 1950s suburban gypsy

One thing you will never catch me dressed as – a 2000s gypsy. No way, no how.

1950s suburban gypsy dress up fashion fridays
Cats n’ Boots, Boots n’ Cats

Happy Friday!

How to…

…Recover from a nervous breakdown (6!)

Healing Exercise No. 6: Lists

I have become an avid and devoted list maker. I cannot fully describe to you the feeling of ticking off items from a list – it’s almost as good as hearing the pop of the first champagne bottle at a party. It feels me with a warm, oozing but triumphant glow. I have always been a bit of a list maker, because I like structure, but I am now fully committed to the task and it’s revolutionising my life.

Depending on how I’m feeling the lists vary. Sometimes I know things that I want to do the next day so I make a lot of lists entitled ‘To Do Tomorrow’ but then often I wake up and know it’s a bad day and the list changes to look a little more like this:

  • Get up
  • Shower
  • Get dressed
  • Make the bed
  • Empty dishwasher (this one is pushing it)

And other days I wake up and it seems to be a good day so they look more like this:

  • Buy cat food
  • Hoover
  • Sew table runners
  • Sort out cupboard over microwave
  • Yoga
  • Knit a hat

Either way it’s important to do only what you can feasibly manage, and on the days when it’s a real chore to get out of bed, ticking off that list feels just as good as when I tick off ‘Knit a hat’ and where depression and anxiety are concerned it’s important to be encouraging and gentle with yourself. You wouldn’t punish yourself for struggling to get out of bed with a cold so why would you punish yourself for struggling to do it with depression? Every tick is triumphant, whether it’s having gone for a run or made the bed – you have to congratulate yourself for living life with a mental illness and, when combined with other healing exercises, eventually the bad days will come fewer and further between.

This is hard for me because I’ve always been really tough on myself but this is where mental illness is teaching me things and techniques to lead a better life with or without it. When I’m over this and off antidepressants and not nervous about going out in public, I’ll still be being kinder to myself than I was before (which will ward off more mental illness episodes in itself), I’ll have gone through a wholly improving reassessment of my life and priorities, I’ll know more about myself and what I want. I’ll be more understanding, more able to help others, more experienced and ultimately a better person from going through this than I was before I broke down. There’s something to be said for re-building a life, because you have the luxury of experience and hindsight to utilise when it comes to building things back up – so ultimately you’ll be building something better, more stable, stronger.

Perhaps this is just one of those good days, but I’m starting to feel finally ready to put the last few bricks in that building.

Todays List:

  • Write blog
  • Publish blog
  • Wash sofa cushions (cat wee)
  • Take duvet to dry cleaners (cat wee)
  • Sew a top (Christmas present)
  • Go to Ikea
  • Go to Lidle
  • Be happy

Autumn style, list making, getting on with it