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There’s always a bright side. Even if that bright side is that you only lost a finger.

Lessons come from the most unlikely places.  Like from children and applesauce. And crack.  Sometimes from manky, infected toes and bubblewrap, but that’s another story altogether.  Today’s lesson is courtesy of applesauce and crack and I don’t really know how I feel about it all.

Ash, eating applesauce straight from the jar. “It’s Apples Mum.  It must be healthy.”
Me, trying good parenting. “Yeah.  But how much sugar is in it?”
“Only 12%.”
“12% of that jar was sugar. That’s not healthy.”
“Look on the bright side.  It isn’t 50%.”
“That’s like saying to someone who just lost a finger.  ‘Look on the bright side, it wasn’t half an arm.’ It isn’t helpful.  They still lost a finger.”
“Well I’d rather lose a finger than an arm.  I don’t think you’re getting it Mum. There’s always a bright side.”

Ten minutes later…

Me, trying some more parenting “…I’m glad you asked. The inserts for the cup holders are on the sink because *someone* <eyeballs Ash> left iceblock wrappers in there and they got sticky.”
“Look on the bright side, Mum.  At least I’m not a crack addict”.

Today applesauce and crack have taught us valuable lessons.  I’m pretty sure the lesson is that if you’re a total smartarse, try not to raise your children to be just like you.

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WHY DO PEOPLE KEEP TRUSTING ME TO DO THINGS? IT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE!

sw_header_bar_nonsense

So here’s the thing.  People keep putting me in charge of stuff and I can’t work out why.  No, really.  Managers are supposed to be fully functioning adults and if we have learned anything on this blog, we know I am not a fully functioning anything.

I used to be Assistant Manager at a refuge for homeless youth.  I’m pretty sure I can’t be allowed to raise other people’s children, this is how my own son’s twisted little mind works:

Me: (writing notes on a client for staff meeting): “hmmm social networks…”
Son: “tumblr, twitter, facebook..”
Me: “No dear, my client’s social networks.”
Son: “Just because they’re homeless doesn’t mean they can’t have a tumblr”
Me: “heheh they usually have a facebook”
Son (horrified at himself) …….. “ahhhahahahahahahahahah….ohhhhhh….”
Me: “Oh god, what?”
Son: “If they have a facebook at least the homeless have one wall”
Me: “…..
……..
….you’re going to hell.  You know that right?”

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Roll Up Beach Bed Tutorial

sw_header_bar_diyLife takes us on many unexpected journeys,  and this craft project was the beginning of our 2015 holiday that did not exactly work out the way we had hoped. Or happen at all that year in fact.  However, as with many disasters faced with a positive attitude and a healthy dose of irreverence, in the end it worked out better.  While it took us an extra twelve months to get there, in which we had a 7 month wait for permission from Minister’s delegate to get passports for our girls, we managed to amend our holiday to take in New Zealand, New Caledonia and Vanuatu so it wasn’t so beach oriented for the girls.  In all honesty, this is a post I started writing about 18 months ago, however after our holiday fell through, I put it aside for a little while.  But here we are, so let’s have a wander down my crafty memory lane together.

Create a Roll Up Beach Bed.  Comprehensive Sewing Tutorial.

So there I was planning a superb family holiday to the South Pacific, fourteen glorious nights cruising around three gorgeous countries – Fiji, New Caledonia and Vanuatu.  Sun, sand and snorkelling, who could ask for more?  I could almost feel the sun on my back and the waves gently rocking me as I snorkelled through the reefs.  The only drawback was that, in the words of my youngest daughter, “I’d like the beach if it wasn’t for the sand and the waves.” Also, there is no wifi on Mystery Island, which is a problem if you are a fan-fiction addicted 14-year-old who secretly dreams of being a superhero.

I shouldn't need to be sewing to make this place enjoyable for my nerdlingsNow obviously I wanted my girls to enjoy our tropical holiday as much as the snorkelling aficionados in the family.  And since I was unable to convince them that swimming with turtles and all manner of brightly coloured fish is the most amazing experience to have when on tiny islands in the South Pacific, I found a crafty, lazy compromise.  The amazing Stella at The Golden Adventures of a Very Dark Horse came up with the solution; I’ve just tweaked it to fit with my family’s love of fantasy and things that deviate from the traditional norm. (And also because I’m essentially a 7-year-old in a grownup’s body and I like to DO IT MYSELF! *stamps foot in a petulant and precocious manner*).

Seeing Stella’s idea on Pinterest made me think about how I could make the girls’ island adventure relaxing and fun in their own way.  We’d planned horse riding in rainforests and abseiling down waterfalls to cater to their uniqueness, but I wanted them to enjoy their beach time as well, even though they don’t like to swim at the beach.

So with tutorial chosen, I was off to Spotlight to find some suitable material that wasn’t all ‘beachy’, ‘girly’, or ‘old lady’.  I chose a cotton fabric with a Wonder Woman print for Miss Ash, one of the only DC characters allowed in our house without a heartfelt discussion on why Marvel is better than DC and serious debate over whether Batman is a Super Hero or not.  (For the record, my vote is cast for Ninja with Gadgets in the Batman debate.  He’s not a superhero.)  And then off to the nearest department store for two bath sheets in matching colours, I went with a dark grey to satisfy the curled-up-in-her-room-not-being-social-and-reading-by-the-glow-of-the-tablet vibe she had going on at the time.

I’d like to point out that this is an excellent craft to use up bits of leftover fabric and upcycle old towels. I used new because I was trying to make a brand new gift for them rather than indulge my inner hippie.

Create a Roll Up Beach Bed.  Comprehensive Sewing Tutorial.

With two beach sheets, some hobby fill, a metre of Wonder Woman fabric and matching thread in hand, I was ready to begin the day’s crafty adventure.

Create a Roll Up Beach Bed.  Comprehensive Sewing Tutorial.

The first step was to decide how big I wanted the pillow part of the bed to be.  Keeping in mind that the finished product will wrap around this, making the finished size of the bag slightly larger than the size of the pillow.

Create a Roll Up Beach Bed.  Comprehensive Sewing Tutorial.

I cut the first towel into four pieces as shown above.  The large piece on the right is for the pillow.  I made mine the width of the towel x 33 cm.  The two skinny pieces in the middle are for the handles and once again they are the width of the towel x 15 cm.   The last piece is leftovers, don’t throw it away though, I have a way to use it up at the end.  I hate wasting crafty goodies.  And Tim Tams. Never waste a Tim Tam.

Sew a Roll Up Beach Bed.  Comprehensive CraftTutorial.

Next I put the pillow part together by folding it almost in half, leaving about 5cm of the raw edge exposed (this ‘flap’ is where the other towel will be attached to the pillow).  I sewed the open ends together and raw edge down, leaving a gap along the raw edge to push the stuffing into.  (Don’t worry about the exposed raw edge as it will be hidden by the other towel very shortly).

Sew a Roll Up Beach Bed.  Comprehensive CraftTutorial.

I sewed the gap closed and then pinned the second towel over the exposed raw edge to hide it and create the rest of the bed  part of the beach bed.  To make sure it was strong and the stitching reinforced for lots of lazing, I sewed it in three separate places as marked above.  Sewing along the side of the pillow was awkward; somewhat like trying to drive a car with a Pillow Pet under each arm.  My best advice is to take it slow, pull it through straight, use LOTS of pins and remember that the towelling is quite thick, you’ll want a sturdy needle on the machine unless you want to break a few.

Sew a Roll Up Beach Bed.  Comprehensive CraftTutorial.

Sew a Roll Up Beach Bed.  Comprehensive CraftTutorial.

I rolled up the beach bed with the right side on the inside of the roll, set it aside for the moment and got the Wonder Woman fabric out.  I cut two strips that were 6.5 cm wide…well, in reality I made two small cuts in the fabric 6.5 cm apart and ripped the fabric down to the end.  This makes a much straighter line than I could ever cut freehand, is quick, and oddly satisfying.  But if you want to cut it like a grown up with scissors and the like, go right ahead.  I folded the edges of the strips 1cm in on either side and pressed them.  If you want ties that aren’t as wide as mine, turn the edges in further or make your strips slimmer. I wanted the strips wide enough that I would be able to reinforce the stitching as they will be holding the whole project shut while there is a fair amount of weight in the side pockets.

Sew a Roll Up Beach Bed.  Comprehensive CraftTutorial.

Fold the strips in half longways so the pressed edges meet and press them again.  There is an inordinate amount of pressing at this stage of the game. You may as well leave the iron plugged in for the time being.  Run a seam down the open side close to the edge. At one end of each of the ties, fold over twice to hide the raw edge, press and sew to keep it in place.  At the opposite end, fold 1 cm over and press down.  This is the end that you will attach to the towelling.

Grab the rolled up beach bed that you had put aside and place the ties evenly along the opening.

crossPin and sew the ties in place.  I wanted these stitches to hold with the weight of books and sun block pulling at them, so I sewed the ties on with a cross pattern for extra strength, like sew (like so… I slay me):

Incidentally, the answer to your unasked question is yes.  Three of the ties will be on the edge of the foot of the bed and three of them will be in the middle of the back of the bed.  This is why we rolled it up with the right side facing in.

Sew a Roll Up Beach Bed.  Comprehensive Wonder Woman CraftTutorial.

Next, it was time to put the pockets on the side.  The size of the pockets you create will be dictated by the size of the stuff your little nerdling wants to carry to the beach. The best way to create the pockets is to measure the nerd crap your non-snorkelling, geekling wants to bring to make the outdoors feel more like indoors and custom-create the pockets.  For the ones I did, I made sure that there were pockets and sleeves the right size for books, headphones, sunblock, a Nintendo DS and sunglasses.  They will also be dependent on the size of the towel you started out with.

For the long pocket, I cut (and by cut, you know I mean ripped) a length of fabric that was 66 cm by 21 cm.  Then it was back to the iron to press the edges over by 1cm.  Along one of the long edges (the one that is now the top of the pocket) fold it over again and press so this edge does not have a visible raw edge on the back. Run a line of stitching along this top edge to keep it in place.

Grab your rolled up beach bed and position the long pocket underneath the ties as shown in the picture.  Make sure it is parallel to the foot of the bed so things aren’t inclined to fall out of wonky pockets as it is being carried.

Sew the pocket in place then, measure the items most likely to be carried in the pockets and sew dividers along the pocket as illustrated by the dotted lines above.  I do not suggest leaving it as one long pocket as it will sag in the middle and things will fall straight out.

Sew a Roll Up Beach Bed.  Comprehensive Wonder Woman CraftTutorial.

Flip the bed over and create pockets on the other side.  Mine were cut at 33 cm x 21 cm and were created with the exact same process as above.  Create as many small pockets or another large one if you wish.  If Donna’s first meeting with the Doctor has taught me anything, it is that pockets are always handy.

Sew a Roll Up Beach Bed.  Comprehensive Wonder Woman CraftTutorial.

The only thing left to do to finish off the beach bed is to make the handles using the two 15 cm wide pieces of toweling you cut in the beginning.  Fold each one in half and sew down the raw edges.  Turn right side out.  Using your patterned fabric, create sleeves for the ends of the handles.  Cut 4 pieces 10 cm x 21 cm.  Fold 1cm down on each end, wrong sides of the fabric together and press.  Flip it over and fold in half, right sides together. Press.  Run a 1 cm seam down each side and clip the corners.  Turn right side out and slide them on to the handles like end caps.

Sew a Roll Up Beach Bed.  Comprehensive Wonder Woman CraftTutorial.

Unroll the bed and place the first handle on the foot of the bed near the ties, top of the patterned sleeve flush with the edge of the towel.  The width of your towel will determine how far in from the edge the handles are placed. Mine were 14 cm in from the edge.  Pin in place.  Place the second handle the same distance in from the edge as the first.  Pin in place.  Using the same cross pattern as above, sew the handles one.  Roll the bed back up and pin the other end of the handles in between the ties on the other side of the opening.  Sew using the cross pattern.

Clip all the loose threads.  Sit back with a self-satisfied smug look of self-congratulatory contentment.

Oh, remember that piece of leftover towelling that you kept aside for the end?  It is perfect for cleaning off sandy feet before sitting on your newly created beach bed.  Use some leftover patterned fabric to cover the raw edge of the towelling then fold it up and place it in one of the handy dandy pockets of your beach bed.

Sew a Roll Up Beach Bed.  Comprehensive CraftTutorial.

Sew a Roll Up Beach Bed.  Comprehensive CraftTutorial.

Sew a Roll Up Beach Bed.  Comprehensive Wonder Woman CraftTutorial.

Wonder Woman Beach Bed Craft Tutorial.

 

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She Really Sucks at Teamwork

sw_header_bar_nonsenseConversation with my daughter bourne out of possible swine flu and too much cough syrup

“Bekah, if I die, I want you to avenge my death by becoming a world famous scientist and waging war on all the bacteria and viruses in the world.” “Okay, Mummy” <I walk off content in the knowledge my daughter loves me>

<pops head back into the room as an afterthought> “Also, if you accidentally turn yourself into the Hulk, I’ll understand if you have more pressing things to deal with than avenging me.”

“She Hulk.  I’d be She Hulk”

“Huh…. That’s the problem you had with that sentence….”

“Well, I’d have to be She Hulk, wouldn’t I?…”  Quite frankly I tuned out somewhere in the middle of talk of marvel characters and avenging but I tuned back in when it sounded like she was coming to an end and I had finished thinking about things I find WAY more interesting.  BECAUSE I’M A GOOD MOTHER.

…”and then I could be The Avengers all by myself”.

“You suck at team work”

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Love Your Children In a Manner That They Can’t Help But Love You Back. Whatever That Is To You.

sw_header_bar_familyWe have just recently moved in to a rental property that is… less than ideal.  After piling all the trash left at the property by the previous tenant out on the curb for council clean up one evening, I was walking arm in arm up the driveway with my 17 yo daughter.

Me: “Thanks for helping.”

Bek: “I love you too.”

That right there is everything I could have hoped for as a parent.  No matter what I say, my daughter hears ‘I love you’.

Their whole lives, the last thing my children have heard before they leave the house is “I love you”, even if we have just had a disagreement or I am feeling less than loving towards some of their behaviours.  “I love you” will always be the last thing they hear when they leave our home.  It may be “I really want to choke you Homer Simpson style for your stupidity right now, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love you beyond compare.”  Or “we’ll talk about it when you get home tonight and  you’ve removed your head from your arse.  Just know I love you no matter how special your behaviour is.”  But it is still “I love you”.

When I say love your children in a manner they can’t help but love you back, I don’t mean give them everything they want and never impose any rules on them.  What you get in return for that is not love and it is certainly not respect.  We are there to be their parents, not their enabling best friends.  I am mother.  Mentor.  Enforcer of Rules.  Shepherd through life.  Often begrudging, but generally chatty Taxi Driver.  Chores and Homework Badger.  Our friendship, though it exists, exists with strings attached.  With caveats and boundaries.  I am first and foremost their mother.  We will but heads on the odd occasion that they are being buttheads.

Now I know that my style of parenting isn’t for everyone, we are quite sweary and NSFW behind closed doors.  That is why I encourage you to use whatever it is about the amazing human being you are, the thing that makes you lovable and unique, in order to love your children so much they can’t help but love you back.  If like me, you love building box forts in the lounge room and creating indoor beach barbeques, engage with them using quirky part of your personality that meshes with yours.  If you are crafty, show you love by creating things you know they’ll adore.  If you are sporty, make chores fun by turning them into games and competitions.  If they enjoy both fishing and animated films, exclaim “I don’t understand fishing metaphors” before collapsing to the ground if you get lost when they start talking about inline spinners and jerkbait.

Birthday forts are parenting done right!

Parenting is difficult and tiring.  But it also the most wonderfully joyous thing to be a part of.  For me, my children can’t help but love me back because my love shines through in all the nonsense I bring to their lives.  And in the fact that within the circus we call home I put in the effort to set consistent rules and boundaries.  All the fun, laughter, and inappropriate joking is underscored by boundaries and discipline.

I was at the store on the weekend and a tired looking mother was on the travelator with her twin boys.  One was running up the down travelator and the other was walking calmly in front of her towards me.  I smiled knowingly at her and we in that moment of understanding we bonded as parents.  She was clearly overwrought, the shopping centre was near on empty and there was no one else on the travelator but us so it was no big deal that the boys were not standing perfectly by her side.  They were quiet, happy and quite well behaved for 6 ish years old to my eye.  “It gets easier as they get older and less active” I encouraged her.

“Yeah but I’ve still got to go through that horrible stage that comes after this.”  I always find it interesting that parents just assume their children will be difficult, as if they don’t have any control over it.

“My boy is 22 and he didn’t have a difficult stage after he stopped running everywhere and breaking bones” I responded.  Her response floored me.  I wish it was the first time I had heard words to this effect, but sadly it isn’t.

“My daughter is thirteen and she’s a bitch.”

If I thought my mother had that opinion of me, I probably would be too.  In fact, thirteen year old me would go out of her way to prove she was a bitch.  That’s what thirteen year olds do.  If children don’t have someone believing in the person they can be, why would they try to be anyone different?

Loving our children in a way that they can’t help but love us back is about modelling the behaviours we want to see in them, engaging with them in a manner that they connect with and taking the time to experience the world from their own frame of reference.  If we treat our children like a hindrance or a difficulty then that is what they will think we believe of them.  There is no connection in that, it communicates disappointment in who they are and the gap between what we want them to be and who they actually are.  There is a vast difference between hearing “Will you just shut up and stay still for a change?” or “Why can’t you just behave like your brother/friend/anyone other than them” than hearing “Sweetheart, you know how sometimes you get tired and grumpy and I look after you? I’m feeling that right now, can we just take some time out for me to rest so I can be my fun self again soon?”  They all ask for peace and quiet, but the last one creates a shared experience and helps our children understand and connect with us and how we are feeling.

How we deal with those moments when we butt heads with our children is every bit as important as all the moments in between when they are actually nice to be around.  In fact, they speak volumes to our children about our role in their lives and how we view them as people.

One of the reasons my children can’t help but love me back is because they see the love in everything I do.  Even when I have to discipline them.  Rarely are there raised voices and harsh words in our house, no matter how spectacularly stupid or hurtful the behaviour by the adorable little miscreant has been.  I always speak honestly and openly with them about where I am coming from when I do have to play the Parent Card and squash their fun or any misbehaviours.

After all the hurt feelings and teenage anger has died down to a simmer, I approach my child and explain to them why I did what I did.  I assure them that I understand that they are hurt and angry and I would have felt the same at their age.  But I’ve lived a life and I can see the pitfalls of their decisions even if they can’t.  I remind them that I am their mother and my job is to get them through to adulthood safe, well rounded and happy.  In that order.  Happy sometimes has to take a back seat when the other two goals are jeopardised.  I make sure they understand that loving them is much bigger than just making them happy in that moment.  I love them so much I will be the one to put my foot down so they can go on to have rich and happy lives as adults, regardless of how unhappy it makes the both of us at the time.

Speaking to my 16 year old about parenting styles and how we show love to each other, including my setting of rules and boundaries, she said “I was an asshole for a bit but you refused to take any of my crap and I pulled my head in pretty quickly.”  While we as parents are not wholly in control of our children’s actions and attitudes, we play a large part in them as they grow up.

After thinking about writing this post I presented all of my children a seemingly simple question.  I asked “This is not a self serving question for gratification; it’s a genuine question for a post I’m writing.  Why do you love me?”

My 17 year old daughter gave me the most insightful answer which, thankfully, confirmed what I had suspected.  She said she loved me because I was funny, kind, silly and thoughtful.  All good answers and, if I’m honest, did give me the gratification as a parent that I was not intentionally seeking.  It is easy to see why someone would respond well to kindness and thoughtfulness, but I wanted to know why my personal characteristics of funny and silly were reasons to love me as a parent.  To her, those qualities are a reflection of her and she likes that we connect that way.  She responds well to being parented in a style that meshes with her own personality.

All my children have their own wonderful, unique personalities and are experiencing life differently to myself and each other.  To have the kind of relationship where they can’t help but love me back I take the time to see life through their eyes, listen to everything they have to say to me even if I. Really. Don’t. Care. About. Pokemon Go.  And I recognise that the little things aren’t worth saying no to if they don’t take too much time out of my day or cause inconvenience.  Is it a pain in the butt to detour past the gym to go past three pokemon stops? Yes.  Does it take more than two minutes? No.  I have two minutes to give to my children to make them feel that I care about helping them with the things that interest them.  Did I just clean the lounge room?  Yes.  Is it a pain in the butt to step over lego or a stuffed toy tea party? Yes.  Does it actually hurt me in any way for the lounge to be messed up again for a few hours? No.  Off you go, have fun, clean up after yourselves.  If you don’t, the next time you ask to mess the house up will be a learning experience you won’t enjoy.

I show my children that I not only love them but like them.  I seek out ways for us to spend time together doing things that we both enjoy.  I have created a comfortable space that they can ask anything they like (seriously, once my child came out with ‘I heard something at school I don’t know.  What’s a rim job?’), and they know they can call for help if they have made a mistake and they won’t be instantly met with attitude.  They know there will be consequences, but they also know they will be met with love and support before the consequences come after they are out of danger and distress. The punishment always fits the crime, if I think I am going to overreact I tell them I love them but will talk to them when I have had a moment to collect myself because I’m too angry to make good decisions.  I am consistent.  In short, I treat them like individual, thinking, feeling people, not possessions for me to own or control.

Parenting Tools – TL;DR

There is no magic formula for parenting. But I can tell you that your children can’t help but love you back when your chief parenting tool is love.  Love and patience.  Patience and love.  Your two main parenting tools are love and patience and respect.  Your three main parenting tools are love, respect, patience and honesty.  Your four…no amongst your parenting tools are such elements as love… no wait, I’ll start this again.

Amongst your parenting tools are such diverse elements as love, patience, respect, honesty, fairness, boundaries, consistency and a genuine desire to connect with your children and understand where they are coming from.

Throw in a liberal handful of your own personality and they will never realise they are in the middle of the Spanish Inquisition.  Or a Monty Python Sketch.

 

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DIY Wedding Sign Tutorial

sw_header_bar_diyI figured the next item on the list of things to make for my friend’s wedding was a nice, easy project that could be done in a day.  I was thinking that if it weren’t for the two hour dry time between coats of paint, I could have knocked this out in an hour or so.   What I didn’t take into consideration with the time frame was making a typo in the initial printing stages.  So, unless you’re total muppet like I am, this is a brilliant piece to pass the time while binge watching Netflix of an afternoon.  Otherwise, it’ll take an extra four hours to add two extra coats of paint to cover up your mistakes.

Design and make your own personalised sign with your response to his big question to display on your wedding day.

The beautiful bride-to-be posted this picture on Facebook.

screenshot_original-sign

Now I’ve known her for a quite some time.  And having heard the tumble of filth and profanity that spills from her mouth on a daily basis, I knew there was no chance that a simple “Are you serious?” happened after he asked her to marry him.  Not to be hoodwinked by an innocuous picture on Facebook, I felt the need to query her response to The Question.

Design and make your own personalised sign with your response to his big question to display on your wedding day.

And so it was decided that I would make the same sign for her but with the original swearing included.

Sadly common sense and good judgement prevailed over fun and poor decision making.  The desire for profanity was recanted at the eleventh hour and the sign was made with a more PG feel to it.

wedding-sign-list

Now, at Bunnings, you can get the board cut to size for free.  So I asked a much-less-clumsy-than-I-am person to cut it at 500 mm leaving me with a 50 cm long piece and a 73 cm piece of board.  Once home I sanded the ends where he had cut it to smooth them off.

step_1_wedding_sign

With the white paint, use a wide paint brush to paint the background colour. You’re going for the rustic feel from the original photo,  so don’t extend the paint all the way to the edges, and angle your brush to create the rough effect. Oddly enough it is harder than it looks to get a look of casual indifference on purpose.  Especially if you’re a bit of a perfectionist.

Two coats should provide enough coverage to create a base you are happy with, but if you have chosen a particularly porous piece of timber or a different brand of paint, you might need an extra coat.

step_2_wedding_sign

While the paint is drying, use your software of choice to design what you want to paint on your sign.  My personal favourite is Photoshop, but you can download The Gimp for free.  It is a superb piece of freeware for image editing.  Careful what you google if you go looking for this and avoid image searches unless you are sure no one will be looking at your browser history.

With the page in landscape aspect, I used Lover’s Quarrel, 400 pt for the cursive writing and Eccentric Std, 300 pt for the block letters.  At this size, it will print over two pages.  So due to laziness and care factor, I just had the words run off the edge of the page.  Once I was ready to print out the second page, I nudged them over to print the rest of the word.

step_3_wedding_sign

To transfer the type to the board the correct way around you need print your words out backwards. If you are using Photoshop, rasterise the type and flip it horizontally.

Time to grab a glass of wine and wait for the last coat of paint to dry.

Once the base is dry, rule a straight pencil line for the bottom row of text to be lined up against.

step_4_wedding_sign

Tape some greaseproof paper to a piece of A4 paper.  My printer kept jamming if I didn’t tape it all the way around.  And after a little trial and error, I can tell you that, for my printer, the key is straight, thin edges.  It worked best when I used a card from my wallet to flatten the tape down so the printer could pick the paper up properly.  And clipping a small amount from one of the top corners let any trapped air out, stopping the printer from jamming.

Print your design onto the greaseproof paper.

tips copy

 

 

Any printing on the sticky tape will not set and make a mess on your board, so it is best to line it up so that you can cut these bits off.

step_5_wedding_sign

Working relatively quickly, cut the greaseproof paper from the A4 sheet you used to stabilise it and cut off any sticky tape with wet ink on it.  Once both pages are printed and cut, tape them together at the back, taking care to line up the text.

Ink side down, line the bottom row of text up against your pencil line and tape the greaseproof paper in place.  I’m sure you’ll notice that in the picture my text isn’t lined up against the pencil mark.  After I placed the print out on the board I wasn’t happy with the placement and moved it.

Using a card from your wallet, rub across the back of the greaseproof paper, transferring the ink from the waxy paper to the board.  Pull the paper aside to check enough ink has transferred to make the letters distinct enough to paint over then discard the greaseproof paper once you are happy with the transfer.

step_6_wedding_sign

Working carefully, paint over the ink.

tips copy

 

 

Just a couple of quick tips if you’ve never done this before:

·         Work top to bottom, left to right.  Unless you are left-handed, in which case you should start on the right.
·         Move the board around so you do not accidentally smudge the paint with your hand.
·         Use a decent quality, reasonably stiff brush.  You want defined edges, not soft watercolour style edges.
·         You will more than likely need two coats of paint for the lettering as well.

Once your lettering is dry, erase the pencil line and flip the boards over to affix hooks if you are intending to hang them.  I spaced mine 9 cm from the top and 5 cm in from the edges.  Although I don’t believe these are going to be hung at the wedding, I put the hooks on in case the couple would like to hang them at home as a memento of their day.

Design and make your own personalised sign with your response to his big question to display on your wedding day.

finished_sign_2_wedding_sign

finished_project_3_wedding_sign

And there you have it, a personalised decoration for a wedding that you could potentially make with leftover bits and bobs you have around the shed.

 

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Posted on

I am a tree. Or a poor imitation of a circus clown. Hard to tell which. Help me please.

 

sw_header_bar_nonsenseDear Sir/Madam/possible inheritor of $5,000,000 from a Ugandan Prince

Do you ever have those days where your creativity feels stifled in your windowless, soulless, office?  Do you feel like you need light to grow and thrive?  Like a tree?  I am a tree trapped in a box with no soul.

Sometimes you just need your email signature to express who you truly are inside, rather than the corporate shill you are paid to be. I’m a little bored and a little trapped in this office.  Help me please.

Kind regards

Jo Sargeant

Chief Supreme Clinic Manager and Demi God/Princess

Executive Wordsmith and Super Mum
…also good with glue and glitter

Clinic Manager/Future Trophy Wife of Chad Kroeger

Clinic Manager/Princess

Clinic Manager/Aspiring Wizard

Clinic Manager/Potential Sweepstakes Prize Winner

Apocalypse Prevention Team Manager

Administrator Extraordinaire and Very Poor Juggler

Expert procrastinator/Very good at colouring in

Clinic Manager/Social Media Assistant/Located far too far from a decent winery

Clinic Manager/ Chief Wordsmith and Purveyor of Bullshit

Tree

 

Posted on

A Response to ‘Your Anxiety Isn’t An Excuse to be an Asshole’

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Or ‘My anxiety may not be an excuse to be an asshole – but neither is good intentions.’

Now my personal opinion is that there is no excuse to be an asshole to anyone.  Anxiety disorder or not, being an asshole to people is not okay.  Part of not being an asshole is exercising tact and making the effort to understand things through other people’s frames of reference.  It just takes a little respect and the ability to remove your head from your anal sphincter long enough to consider that not all people are the same as you.  Mental Health Training 101 really.

Assholery is not endemic to people with anxiety disorders.  Anxiety presents with many different symptoms, the most common of which are

  • Chronic fears or thoughts that interfere with daily living
  • Panic or anxiety attacks or fear of these attacks
  • Trembling
  • Sweating
  • Feeling faint
  • Rapid beat
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Nausea
  • Numbness or tingling in the extremities
  • Inability to stay still, ‘jumpiness’
  • Avoidance behaviours
  • Sleep disorders

Being an asshole is not among the symptoms on that list.  Nor any list I have ever read or studied.

Sometimes the sheer terror associated with an attack could cause a person to lash out.  I don’t do that but I can understand why someone might.  When you can’t control your own mind, it is beyond petrifying and it is easy to lose control of your actions.  But my point is that ‘snapping at’ the people around you, treating them as your ‘your neurotypical punching bag’ or ‘taking out your stress or anger’ on friends and family are not symptoms of anxiety.  Those are reactions to the symptoms.  And how we react to the symptoms we experience is as individual as our own experience of the mental illness itself.

Depending on the severity and causation, not all of these symptoms can be controlled by force of will and management.  Sometimes none of them can.  Or all of them can.  My point is that everybody’s experience of anxiety is different.  It is hard work to manage these symptoms and function through them and sometimes it actually can’t be done without medical intervention and a whole lot of regular therapy.

When I talk about mental health solutions it is from the context of this-is-what-worked-for-us-try-it-if-you-like.  That is why it saddens me to read articles like this one, which are full of incredibly valid points but are approached from the this-is-what-worked-for-me-and-you’re-an-asshole-who-isn’t-trying-hard-enough-if-it-doesn’t-work-for-you-too school of thought.  Even though the author goes on to say that what worked for her won’t work for everyone and she ‘gets that’, the often vituperative post that follows that disclaimer points to anything but ‘getting’ other people’s experience of mental illness.  The world is full of people who have never experienced mental illness, who don’t understand it and judge those of us with it as just not trying.  We can’t be divided as a community, it is hard enough finding acceptance out there as it is.

One time I came across this picture on my Facebook.

not_at_all_helpful

I was shocked that this ill-informed, judgemental picture was shared by a girl I consider to be kind, compassionate and beautiful inside and out. After myself and another person commented that it had taken both of those things to keep us alive at various times in our lives she removed the picture and apologised.  Having never had clinical depression she only knew that nature soothed her when she felt depressed and down.  We could have used this moment of ignorance to rant and demand people see the world our way.  But we didn’t. The wonderful thing about that experience was that it opened up a dialogue on what it is like to live with anxiety and depression.  I shared with her one of my favourite, and seemingly hated by the author of the Asshole piece, comic strips by Robot Hugs that explains society’s attitude to mental health problems perfectly.

2013-11-21-Helpful Advice

Now, from reading the aforementioned article it appears that the author is trying to support people into being proactive in their own mental health recovery.  That in itself is a wonderful and important thing to put out there.  It isn’t going to get better unless we work towards being better.  But we don’t need to be judgemental and rude to help others achieve that goal.  Both defining characteristics of an asshole, by the way.  Weren’t we trying to avoid turning into assholes here?

Can we just start with the sentence ‘But first, some credentials, because I don’t like yelling about things I don’t understand. (Yes, I do.)’ wherein the author goes on to describe her own Generalised Anxiety Disorder.  When I was shown this article by a friend who wanted my opinion on it, my immediate response was ‘I ate a lasagne once, that doesn’t make me qualified to be a chef.’

It’s fantastic to share your experience of mental illness.  In some settings I’d go so far as to say brave and inspirational.  However, experiencing something from our own frame of reference does not make us qualified to judge other people or even give advice on how to solve something.  It just means we can empathise rather than sympathise.  We can share how we worked through the issue and offer understanding.  We can encourage others to try it our way if they think it would be a good fit for them or to use our experience to find their own solution. But credentialled?  No.  In becoming qualified to support people with mental illnesses you learn not to belittle their experience, call them assholes for not having gotten better yet, encourage people to get rid of their medication without professional support and advice or tell them they don’t deserve friends because they aren’t good enough people.  That’s how you create suicides.  Or Daleks.  Do you want Daleks?  No you don’t.

I also want to look at the sentence ‘it is important we talk about these things in a constructive way’.  Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.  It is more than important.  It is imperative.  I could not agree more with that sentiment.

Webster’s defines constructive as  “helping to develop or improve something : helpful to someone instead of upsetting and negative”.

While I think the intention behind the article was to help people improve their lives, this diatribe does not come off as constructive in any way.  Constructive discussion encourages people to engage, creates a space where all opinions can be heard and is non-judgemental so as not to upset people, as by its very definition.  Constructive is not using phrases like “the last thing in the world I would need is this dumb fucking self-care rhetoric that essentially tells you, “You’re a golden anxiety flower, and everyone else has to deal with you.”  with no forum for response.

Speaking of “dumb fucking self-care rhetoric”, the author states that what worked for her was “getting regular physical activity, eating a balanced diet, and working a job that does not trigger any of my stressors. I also have a dog now, which is by far the most soothing and helpful thing that’s ever happened to me.”  So, what worked for her was taking care of herself.  Do you know what taking care of yourself is called in mental health circles?  Self care.  That’s right.  Self care is the thing that simultaneously allowed her to become functioning and is the object of her disgust.  I don’t think it is self care that she is opposed to, it is a pervasive attitude of entitlement amongst a certain subset of of the population and the advice that encourages people to look after themselves in a manner that is counterproductive to recovery.  Neither of those things are self care.  Yet self care gets thrown into the same basket with other “terrible, indulgent advice.”

I completely agree that embracing the symptoms of your anxiety and consistently giving in to every desire to run, hide and withdraw from society on the whole is a very bad thing.  Giving in to the urge to yell at someone or treat them without respect is a very bad thing.  Being compassionate towards yourself however, is a positive step towards recovery.  The World Health Organisation who coined the phrase in 1998 defines Self Care as “the activities individuals, families and communities undertake with the intention of enhancing health, preventing disease, limiting illness and restoring health.”  The “dumb fucking self care rhetoric” she refers to is the type of advice that does not promote any of these goals when taken to the extreme.

To this author there is nothing worse than strangers on the internet writing opinion pieces or drawing comics that “tell us that people with anxiety are these fragile butterflies who must be catered to at every turn.” “Just take care of yourself,” this rhetoric says. “Practice self-care! Take a bath! Cancel your plans! Don’t explain yourself! If your friends can’t give you space and be totally understanding, that means they’re not your friends!!! They’re toxic! GET THEM OUT OF YOUR LIFE. You have no obligation to keep around Toxic People. If you need to throw your phone into a river and spend two weeks locked in your room eating Ding Dongs, that’s what you need!! :3”

I’m tentatively along for the ride there.  No one can sustain their real lives by locking themselves in their rooms and eating whatever a ding dong is.  Possibly a prepackaged cake that has an expiry date of 2078 if YouTube has taught me anything about American snack food.  Unless, that is, you work full time, are single and have the leave owing. Then call all your friends, tell them you care about them but you need to practice self care by giving yourself recovery time from the world so you can continue to be your amazing self in future.  Good friends who have an understanding of your illness will understand that you need to look after yourself as well as your relationship with them.  Sometimes their needs take precedence over yours.  Conversely, sometimes your needs take precedence over theirs.  Relationships are about give and take.

I agree that people don’t deserve to be treated with disrespect just because you suffer from a mental illness.  That they don’t have to be understanding if you cancel plans without explanation and neglect your friendship.  I agree that this does not make them toxic people who need to be shed from your life.

However, there is overwhelming evidentiary research pointing to the importance of self care and self-compassion in managing anxiety disorders¹.  So she lost me at the beginning there where the idea of taking care of yourself, practicing self care, taking a bath or cancelling plans was the worst advice that could be given.  Self care and self-compassion need to be a part of your life and  form the basis of a coping strategy.  They do not take the place of your life.  It is is not taking a bath instead of doing an activity that causes you anxiety, it is taking a bath to show yourself the compassion you would treat others with after after an anxiety producing activity.  Pushing yourself into situations that challenge your anxiety is necessary to fully engage in your own life, and on this we completely agree. However we need to recognise the effect of heightened and continuous levels of anxiety on a person’s well-being.

In 2010 a study was conducted into the connection between anxiety and suicide². The results of this two year study of  34,653 adults in the United States is summed up and concluded as follows:

Results
Among individuals reporting a lifetime history of suicide attempt, over 70% had an anxiety disorder. Even after adjusting for sociodemographic factors, Axis I and Axis II disorders, the presence of an anxiety disorder was significantly associated with having made a suicide attempt (AOR=1.70, 95% CI: 1.40–2.08). Panic disorder (AOR=1.31, 95% CI: 1.06–1.61) and PTSD (AOR=1.81, 95% CI: 1.45–2.26) were independently associated with suicide attempts in multivariate models. Comorbidity of personality disorders with panic disorder (AOR= 5.76, 95% CI: 4.58–7.25) and with PTSD (AOR= 6.90, 95% CI: 5.41–8.79) demonstrated much stronger associations with suicide attempts over either disorder alone.

Conclusion
Anxiety disorders, especially panic disorder and PTSD, are independently associated with suicide attempts. Clinicians need to assess suicidal behavior among patients presenting with anxiety problems.

Did we all catch that?  Over 70% of suicide attempts went hand in hand with an having an anxiety disorder. With devastating figures like that, I fail to see how telling people they don’t deserve friends because of the symptoms of their anxiety is constructive.  Telling someone who has a high predisposition to suicide that self care is akin to selfishness and self-indulgence is detrimental. Possibly fatally so.  Some people with anxiety really are the “fragile butterflies” she puts down for needing to take care of themselves. For having the indecency to practice self-care. Take a bath. Cancel their plans.  Take time to enjoy space away from other people and get rid of the toxic people in their lives.

Personally, I would rather a friend cancelled on me regularly than felt so overwhelmed by living their own life that they had to take their own life.

But I concede that the thing the author is railing against in that moment is the aforementioned counterproductive coping strategies touted by a well meaning, yet ultimately misguided internet cheer squad.  I just feel that it is crucial to be unequivocally clear about the difference between healthy self care strategies and self-destructive coping mechanisms. This article consistently refers to self care as a bad thing, throwing it in with all the other advice inimical to recovery.  Healthy self care and self-compassion are pivotal in affecting positive change and keeping people with suicidal ideation alive.  Sometimes you need to take a bath or cancel a plan just to stay on top of things.

I can completely understand the overwhelming relief in cancelling plans.  Oh my lordy that is like crack to a whore for me.  Does that make me flaky?  A little, yes.  Does it keep me from pushing myself to a place where I unintentionally injure myself during a panic attack?  Hell yes.  So I cancel plans to events all the time.  But not if it will inconvenience people.  If it is a large party, I will cancel the hell out of that shit and be honest in saying that I just can’t do that.  I wanted to.  I tried.  I’ll try again next time.  Thank you for thinking of me and inviting me.  Please continue to invite me because one day I will be well enough to come.  And on that day we will celebrate the hell out of that occasion together.  There will be many drinks and much whooping.  Can we have a coffee together soon because I adore you and value your friendship.

But if someone has made an effort for just me and my family or a small gathering, I’m going to go regardless of how much I want to hide at the back of my closet and pretend the world doesn’t exist.

That is where self care and self-compassion come in.  I don’t take baths, to me that is like creating a stew of your own filth.  Not at all relaxing.  But I look at my situation and consider it from the perspective that it is happening to someone else.  What kind of compassion would I show another person going through the same intense emotional crisis as me?  How would I assist them to get through this moment and take care of themselves?  After all, I am as important as everyone else in this world.  No, that doesn’t entitle me to be a “golden anxiety flower that everyone else has to deal with”, however it does entitle me to the same respect, understanding and compassion that I would show everyone else.

I see what the author of the piece is trying to do and say and I applaud the desire to share what she has learned to help other people the same diagnosis, however it is my own opinion that it is irresponsible and injurious to go about it in this way.

So no, my anxiety isn’t an excuse to be an asshole.  But neither is the ability to put my digits on a keypad and mash out an invective against other people’s coping strategies or misguided advice.  Perhaps if a person transitions from treating family and friends poorly to treating strangers on the internet poorly then it isn’t the anxiety that was the common denominator in acting like an asshole.

 

By me.
With actual credentials.
That have fancy certificates.
Diploma of Counselling.
Diploma of Child, Youth and Family Intervention.
Diploma of Community Services Work.
Lots of professional development in mental health.
But mainly from my experience with mental illness, raising a child with a mental illness and not being an asshole.  Except for in the last sentence of this article.  That was a pretty dick move, but well worth thinking about.

 

Citations

¹Van Dam, Sheppard, Forsyth and Earleywine
‘Self-compassion is a better predictor than mindfulness of symptom severity and quality of life in mixed anxiety and depression’
Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 2011-01-01, Volume 25, Issue 1, Pages 123-130, accessed 30/8/16
<https://www.clinicalkey.com.au/#!/content/playContent/1-s2.0-S0887618510001751?returnurl=http:%2F%2Flinkinghub.elsevier.com%2Fretrieve%2Fpii%2FS0887618510001751%3Fshowall%3Dtrue&referrer=https:%2F%2Fscholar.google.com.au%2F>

²Nepon, Belik, Bolton and Sareen.
‘The Relationship Between Anxiety Disorders and Suicide Attempts: Findings from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions.’
Depress Anxiety. 2010 Sep; 27(9): 791–798, accessed 30/8/16
<http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2940247/>