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  1. Stone Me!

    Posted on

    I started my first little business 20 years ago. And as unlikely as it sounds it was selling painted stones. It was called Stone Me and it was the beginning of an adventure that I started because I had such a strong desire to be my own boss and to build my own business. I was in my early twenties, and although I didn't have much confidence, I was full of energy and love for my little stones.

    stoneme1

    [pic above: me with my stall, sponsored by the Prince's Trust, at the Cheshire Show in June 2000. Martin Bell OBE popped over to say hello on one of the days! Look at all those stones!]

    I travelled all over doing networking events and business training, I had stalls all the time including ones at massive events including the Cheshire Show and the Southport Flower Show and I worked really hard getting out there and building a reputation for Stone Me.

    stoneme2

    [pic above: My front page appearance in Warrington Worldwide magazine in August 2001 and a promotional postcard I used from about 1999]

    And then I got a permanent teaching post. Followed by a mortgage. Eventually followed by children and painted stones faded away for more serious pursuits. I have always continued to have some form of creative freelance work alongside my teaching because the urge was always there – be it photography, fine art and even cake decorating – so to finally take the leap into pursuing my own creative work again full-time a few years ago felt like something I had been waiting a long time for.

    But lately, the responsibility of this has weighed heavy on me. It's not too long ago that I went 'all-in' just on my artwork (rather than selling mainly craft based work to make my income) and this involved some massive financial risks (and sacrifices!) for my family to cope with leaving me feeling extremely guilty a lot of the time!

    I felt a bit lost. And when I should have been working harder than ever I seemed to slow down. I needed to find that energy again, the love and belief in my own art work and where it could take me. So, I went back to my roots. I went back to where it all began and I painted some stones – and I loved it :)

    It reminded me to find the joy in my work again, and reminded me what it was like back then with a whole world of possibilities in front of me. And then I also realised that they fit perfectly with my current mission – about celebrating uniqueness and ordinary joy. The beauty of the painted stones is that each one is different and it's the lumps and bumps and often imperfections in them that suggest the painting that should bring it to life. Every one is different, every one worth celebrating – just like us!

    So, here we are, 20 years after I first started. And I am relaunching 'Stone Me' as part of my current work – to remind myself to work hard, have belief in myself and to be excited about the path ahead. And to remind us all the it's our own lumps, bumps and imperfections that make us unique and amazing!

    THESTONESARECOMING

    Things have come full circle. And I think I like it.

  2. Sorry, not sorry! Let's stop over apologising...

    Posted on

    As I try to grow braver and bolder in my own skin, one thing I am becoming much more aware of is the language I use and the effect it has on my behaviour – and one very strong example of this is the amount of times I say 'I'm sorry'. And so often for things that I really shouldn't be apologising for.

     Now, don't get me wrong – I am a firm believer that an apology when one is needed is both a brave and correct thing to do. But, I have a feeling that plenty of you lot are a bit like me and apologise far too often – like if someone punched me in the face I would apologise to them for hurting their knuckles (ok, that's a bit extreme but you get my point!)

    One example that made me think about this, was planning a Facebook post for my Art page after not posting for a couple of weeks while the girls have been off school. I was going to start it (as I have many times before) with something along the lines of 'Hi, I'm really sorry I haven't posted for a while...' but then I thought, is that really something I should apologise for? Yeah, I should probably post more often, but should I be sorry that I have spent some wonderful time with my husband and children over the last couple of weeks? Should I feel remorseful about the walking, the baking, the gardening, the days out, the late nights and all the fun with family and friends we've been having?

    No, I really shouldn't.

    The more aware I am becoming of the language I use, the more I realise how often 'sorry' creeps into my every day life. How many of these are familiar to you?

     

    When eating in a restaurant: 'I'm really sorry but it seems you have forgotten the sauce...'

     

    Catching the attention of a shop assistant: 'sorry to bother you, but could you show me...'

     

    Turning up a few minutes late meeting a friend due to something genuine or beyond your control such as the dog escaping or the train being delayed: 'I am so sorry I'm late...'

     

    Someone bumping into you quite rudely in a shop: 'oh, sorry...' (yes, us apologising to them!)

     

    All seemingly innocuous, but if like me you are a serial apologiser, these are evidence of us apologising for our own wants and needs (and often, rights), and in many ways apologising for our own existence and the inconvenience it may cause to others!

    So, join me in no longer being sorry that we are here – and no longer apologising for not getting the sauce we paid for or for the failings of the national rail network. By just paying attention to the words we use we can grow in confidence and become more assertive.

     sorry quote

    5 ways to stop over-apologising:

    1) Become more aware of your own language. Pay close attention for a day or two and see if you do apologise as a matter of habit. Only if you are aware of something can you change it.

    2) Pause. Give yourself just a brief moment of time to ask the question, 'have I done anything here that I should be sorry for?'. If not, don't apologise. Is it your fault the train was delayed? If not, don't take the blame. Was the fact the waiter forgot to bring the sauce for the steak your fault? If not, don't say you're sorry.

    3) Replace the word sorry with a more confident substitute! Depending on the circumstances, 'excuse me' or even a friendly 'hello' can be enough to gain someone's attention without apologising for disturbing them!

    4) Say thank you, not sorry. This change of language can be very powerful. Late meeting your friend because of that train again? Don't apologise for being late, thank them for being so patient and waiting for you. Can't make a night out with friends because you're already going to a lovely family celebration? Don't be sorry for going to a special family party that you're really looking forward to – thank them for the invite and explain with no apology your prior commitment but say how you will look forward to the next chance you have for a night out with them. No guilt, no apologies – just circumstances accepted in a much more confident and positive way.

    5) Exist! One of the main reasons we over apologise is because we hate to inconvenience anyone or cause any discomfort or conflict. But life, by it's very nature, creates chaos. There will always be things that happen beyond our control (or even sometimes within our control) that mean we will have to make our existence felt – and we need to embrace this and not shy away from it. Our existence is our one and only life, and we need to stop apologising for it.

     

    And crikey, I have really gone on in this blog post, but I'm not sorry... ;)

    Helen x

     

     

     

     

  3. Come fly with me...

    Posted on

    I've just bought myself a new pin badge.

    (It's from the lovely Bread & Jam)

    I'm a sucker for a badge. I don't always wear them, but I like them pinned to my bag or blu-tacked up near my desk. This one though I think I should wear, proudly.

    winging it pin

    I have come to realise that we are all indeed winging it. All those people we look up to and admire are the same as the rest of us – they are in essence making it up as they go along, but they do so confidently and without any pretence that they know everything. In fact, the most successful people know that making mistakes along the way is a vital step to their success and they welcome the unknowns and the 'failures' along the way. (Remember, what goes on behind the scenes is always – always – different to what we see presented in a polished, public, confident way).

     winging it quote 

    It is easy, when we enter the dangerous game of comparing ourselves to others, to think that everyone else has it all worked out. But they haven't. Really they haven't. So, we need to go a bit easier on ourselves - to stop expecting ourselves to play this crazy game of life perfectly. We are all just doing the best we can – and if we embrace the fact that we are all just winging it then things become a whole lot easier. The mistakes along the way become a valuable part of the journey and we give ourselves permission to sometimes make the wrong move.

    I am indeed totally winging it myself.

    me and quote

    I work hard and I keep on learning but ultimately to change myself and my life I have to do things I have never done before and tread through unknown, and often scary, territory. Sometimes things go incredibly well, sometimes I play things extraordinarily badly. But, I am doing the best I can. And none of us can really do any more than that.

    So, come on, grab your wings and come fly with me... :)

    Helen x

  4. My love affair with oils was more of a weekend fling...

    Posted on

    Well, it's Monday morning and I have got a full, uninterrupted day in the studio planned. I was looking forward to getting stuck into the tortoise I have just started (the meaning of which will be explained in due course!) as well as the small obscure piece that is also underway (which has a BIG meaning which will also be explained in due course!).

    facebookpost_oils

    Now, if you follow me on social media you will know I have 2 paintings underway at once, which is unusual for me, because I wanted to try and push my painting technique by introducing oils which take much longer to dry than my usual acrylics.

    Well, I have already learnt one very important lesson since starting with the oils last week - and that is I am too impatient to use oils!

    The background of the tortoise I painted last Thursday is still too wet for me to work on it today and after spending all weekend giving it a wide berth and pouncing on the kids every time they went in my studio in case they brushed against it, I have decided that right now, oils just aren't for me! 

    So I return to my trusty acrylics, a house that will no longer have to smell of turps and a quicker working pace which suits me just right. And I will no longer have to swoop around my small studio like a ninja in case I touch any wet paint!

    Impatient? Me?...

    Im notimpatienti just hatewaiting

  5. 5 easy ways to beat the blues on Blue Monday

    Posted on

    Monday 15th January 2018, is Blue Monday – apparently the most depressing day of the year!

    This is based on a formula, devised by life coach Dr Cliff Arnall more than a decade ago, which focusses on factors including the weather, debt, the end of Christmas and low motivation after failed New Years Resolutions. But, we don't have to follow the hype! Let's take the 'Blue' out of 'Blue Monday' and bring some joy back.

     

    Here are 5 simple ways to cheer up your day:

     

    1) Wear something colourful.
    I am a big believer in what we wear having a big impact on our mood, so wear something you feel great in and which has a cheerful splash of colour.

     Lets take the blue out of blue monday! (1)

     

    2) Go for a walk.
    A blast of fresh air in the great outdoors is good for the soul at any time. Even in the rain! (Ok, so as I'm writing this it's absolutely pouring down, so if you want to substitute this one for 'dive into the pub to get warm and dry', then I'm ok with that).

    3) Plan something to look forward to.
    Whether it's booking a holiday or just arranging to meet a friend for coffee at the weekend, having something to look forward to can be a great mood lifter. It doesn't have to be anything major – even planning to call at that nice bakery on the way home from work to get something nice to enjoy with a brew when you get home can perk you up (well it would me!)

    4) Put on some cheerful tunes.
    It's no secret that music can affect mood. I think we all like to mope along to sad songs sometimes when we are feeling down, so equally we can select some 'happy' tunes to lift our spirits. So, turn up the volume and sing along to some songs that make you smile.

    5) Have a minute!
    We're busy people. There always seems lots to do. And if you're an overthinker like me then you are probably living at least a few days in advance in your head, cataloguing and mentally scheduling everything you need to do. This can put us under so much pressure and leave is living life at a million miles an hour. So, make yourself take a moment. Sit and have a brew. Sit on a bench along the river for a while. Lie on the bed with your eyes closed for a short time. Bring yourself into the moment – not to the 3 loads of washing that need doing tonight, or the meeting you're prepping for a week on Tuesday or the broken cupboard door that you've been meaning to fix for 6 months and that you beat yourself up about every day.

    Just enjoy a few minutes peace and quiet, without the panic and the stress. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that everything can wait for a few minutes (and that door can probably wait for another 6 months!)

    So, there you have it – a few quick and easy ways to cheer up Blue Monday a bit, and every day besides!

    Lets take the blue out of blue monday!