Best guess, i’m a little late for this post as we are heading into February all ready, to be truthful it’s not really occurred to me to post on my blog as I’ve not done anything yet. I imagine I am the same as a great number of people in being glad that 2021 is now in the distance, it was another tough year but we are out on the other side now and we have the chance to aspire to excitement and change.
One of the things that I have been talking to my husband about is saying ‘No’ more to our family, not in a mean way but in a way that will help them understand that they are capable enough to stand on their own two feet and not need to come to us whenever they break a nail. Each of them in their own unique ways have needed our help emotionally and financially but I can see, even if they cant, that they are capable adults now so please stop leaning on us, I suppose it’s me cutting apron strings.
What do I hope to get from saying No more? Well time and peace to nurture both mine and my husbands passions, I want more time to grow artistically, to learn more about photography and to explore the genre more and I want to give my husband the time and peace to write and to be able to balance them out so we both get to do the things we love. 2022 has to be a better year but saying that word ‘No’ is very hard! What do you want from 2022?
I began taking photographs for myself in 1995, the year my eldest child was born. We bought a Canon Sureshot to start documenting the life of our baby, lots of people do it. As he grew and more children were added to our family the photos continued. I graduated to a Minolta bridge camera and discovered i actually enjoyed going out exploring with my husband and taking photos of landscapes. After a while i borrowed a Canon D60 and that was my KERPOW moment, i finally knew what i wanted to be when i grew up, a landscape photographer!
I was encouraged by my friends and family and started to print photos, looking back they were so bad! Fast forward a bit, i’ve become a better photographer but now i’m a carer for my mum who has cancer. I fast became my mums nurse, taking her to appointments, scans, radiotherapy, chemo was by mouth so i became very knowledgeable about her drugs and i lost myself. Photography became a lifeline, a crutch that has helped me through so many things, while mum was well and the kids in school my husband and i would drive off for the day, just the two of us and pick a destination about an hour from home, here we could relax, be ourselves and i could take beautiful landscape photographs, no people allowed!
Fast forward to the present, im grieving and Covid strikes, no more trips out, forced to stay at home and there is that voice in the back of my mind, ‘Karen you don’t want to do this anymore’. Throughout the pandemic i have been very lucky to have the support of three incredible sources, the Wirral Chamber of Commerce, the Visual Artists Society and Independent Wirral, the webinars they have put together have been amazing and much needed. Every week there seems to be something to participate in and i have increased my knowledge base in social media, business, art practices and much more.
You know when every day is the same and it gets so frustrating? I was up to the point where i was considering wearing my pj’s all day, bored with life, a little voice getting louder in my head telling me things needed to change, i needed change when i booked a strategy meeting through the VAA with Karen van Hoey Smith. I didn’t know what to expect, Karen had spoken on several webinars i had seen and to be honest i felt she was rather intimidating with her knowledge and background. Our meeting came around and i hadn’t prepared anything for a strategy meeting but i took the bull by the horns and started just talking to her about my life. Towards the end of our 2 hour session Karen looked at me and changed my life! She had put 2 + 2 together and made 4, not 3 not 5 and having put all of the pieces together she made the analogy of me being a caterpillar pupating into a butterfly.
Yes it really is time for change, just like that voice is telling me. Why? Because i have used creating landscape photographs with no people in them as a way to decompress from the hospital visits and constant care for my mum, to be alone with no more people around me and now with the voice in my mind whispering ‘change matters’ i am pupating! turning to mush to create a beautiful butterfly that will fly far and wide photographing PEOPLE! My grief process has led me full circle and now i am slowly recognising that there are no people being forced into my life to crowding me and i am free to seek them out for myself. That is why the voice in my head has been telling me i need something new, something with human contact, why i am drawn to portraiture and why my mind has been recreating the images i want to photograph…..TBC
No one can say that their lives are not influenced by their parents, it is guaranteed that your Dad will influence you in a different way than your Mum will. I am lucky to have had a very close relationship with my parents, we have understood each other the majority of the time. Yes there were times we argued, i was a teenager once. Somehow I became the daughter who was nominated as the caring daughter, I was the one who was left to look after my parents, I didn’t really mind , you don’t do you they’re your parents after all. When my Dad died my husband, son and I moved into the family home to look after Mum and over 20+ years we lived together through arguments, peaceful times, births, deaths and cancer. I was there for Mum 24/7 and when she was diagnosed with cancer, Multiple Myaloma, i became her carer. We were able to laugh through much of her battle, she was lucky with her Chemo she didn’t loose her hair or suffer sickness, we had the same sense of humour but at the end she did suffer terribly and when she finally passed away peacefully early one December morning my sister and I were able to say a peaceful and loving goodbye. I held her hand and told her how much I loved her and she was gone. Her funeral was a family affair, we were all able to catch up with each other, to talk and reminisce and wonder about the strong woman she was. After Dad died she restarted her education and ultimately gained a Ba hons in the History of Art and Irish Studies, a 2:2 no less! Last night with my loving family and my sister and her girls, we said the final goodbye when we scattered Mums ashes along the beach where we used to go in the summer, near to where Dad worked so he could pick us up in the late afternoon. We said goodbye just as the sun set in a riot of glorious colours and walking back from the beach i felt the weight of caring lift from my shoulders, when we went into our home i could no longer feel Mums presence, finally I am free to start living my life for myself, with the closing of the door a new stage of my life has begun and I hope i finally get to live it how I want not around others needs. Goodbye Mum, hello me.
My Mum died. In December last year, so it is still a very raw feeling. We had an amazing relationship, very close. We could talk about anything and we did. We could sit for hours with a cup of tea for her, coffee for me and we would go around the world, figuratively, fixing things.
The other day i was walking my dog Storm, on our route we go up to the cemetery and walk along the pathways there before walking along the main road back home. This day we were wandering along and i was looking at the grave stones when i realised that the actual graves of the older burials were sinking and that a large portion of the headstones had fallen over. Which got me to thinking, if you bury someone you love, leaving a lasting memorial wouldn’t the family keep that grave in good order and what did it say for the older graves, had all of the family moved away and it made me sad and a little mad. Not just because no one was looking after these memorials but also because i couldn’t go home and talk to Mum about it.
She would have recognised the names and she would have had a little anecdote about the family but she was the last of her generation in our family so there is no one who can hold that conversation with me and it caught in the back of my throat, brought tears to my eyes, i had lost my friend as well as my mum and i wont ever be able to get that back again.
My husband said ‘talk to me’, i tried but it wasn’t the same, i feel like all of the conversations we would have had are now stuck just under my breastbone not able to come out and it is so frustrating. I loved our talks and we continued them right up until she passed away, now i need to find a way to have these conversations with someone else, to put those i had with mum into a little box and tie it with a ribbon to put up onto the top shelf to be remembered another day and to find a new way to hold long conversations about life with someone else.
How many weeks have we been in lockdown in the UK now? Feels like its been MANY months to me! You know when you suddenly realise you can’t actually remember the last time you actually worked, well that’s me, I no longer recall my last sale, now that is a SCARY thought!
Last year was, you could say, quite a year. I have cared for my Mum for over 8 years as she battled cancer and last year, after being in remission, it came back. She passed away in December thank God as i know she would not have made it through Covid 19. But i hadn’t been earning even before that as i was a full time carer, so when and what was my last sale? Who the hell knows but i would like to know what and when my next one will be so follow the link and have a browse around my FAA website, support the small businesses, a small sale goes a long way. Thank you.
I am often asked how I came up with ‘spikey mouse photography‘ for my business, I have to admit that it is all thanks to a boy called Ben who wanted to buy his mum a birthday present. Ben is my eldest son and one day when he was out with his grandmother he decided that he was going to buy me a present for my birthday, I think he was around 3 or 4 years old at the time. They finally came up with a ceramic ‘Hedgie’ hedgehog and Ben has been buying me 2 or 3 of them a year ever since. It is an understatement to say that I now have quite a collection and when I was naming my new business adventure everyone suggested using ‘Hedgehog’ but I wanted something a little different and found that in Bengali Hedgehog was spikey mouse and a business was born! Strange how things happen, I have a great and memorable company name and am reminded every business day of my little boy Ben and my lovely Mum who has sadly passed away now. Ben is now a grown man and a father himself and is really happy I chose to use him as my muse, thank you Ben. x
Picture it, the start of a life, your born into a loving family, are brought up by that family to the best of their abilities given their social and economic backgrounds. As you grow up your family instills in you a sense of person, of responsibility and an ethos of how you should live your life and when you reach adult hood all of those things mean nothing because the government have messed up the economy of your country through their own greed and ego.
At the age of 19 you want to leave home and start out on your own, you feel compelled to do this not because you have been forced to but because you have a partner or just want the adventure. What do you find out there in the big wide world? Well no jobs that’s for certain, not for your age group with no work experience and not so many qualifications. Now you don’t want to go home and say you have failed because in essence you haven’t but if you want to continue living in your little apartment you need to fund your living costs. There are different avenues open to you, get a job (?), live in a place with no intention of paying for it until you are tossed out, turn to crime or claim benefits.
The benefit system was introduced to help specific people when they fell on hard times, workers who had lost their job, fallen sick or didn’t earn enough to pay for rent etc. You didn’t grow up and go straight onto benefits, that’s not what they are there for. But if you are that young person who has had to leave home, through abuse, death of parents, or by just being made homeless what is there in place to help you?
Apparently there are a few places which offer assisted living for kids aged 16 to late 20’s, find one if you can, government cuts and all. There is living on the streets, no thanks. If you are lucky to find a room to rent and are old enough to claim benefit the dear old boy network which our government is made up of these days has made it so hard to get any help that it is a wonder that there are not more kids living in a cardboard box under a bridge or committing suicide. You go to the job center, yeah right, benefits office and ask to sign on a benefit, you jump through hoops filling in a mound of forms only to be told ‘no sorry you can’t claim that, your not eligible’ on to the next form and in the end you finally manage to sort something out, yes they will pay your rent and housing benefit, they will give you money for your electric and food but to get it all they want you to perform so many different tasks on different days and if your early or if your late or if you don’t or if you do but at the wrong time, well now they have you over a barrel. There is a new word, ‘sanction’, the dreaded word no one on benefits wants to hear, because if you don’t do as your told when your told we will stop your money you naughty poverty stricken person.
Who came up with it? Oh yes those elite and very wealthy men in suits. What they don’t understand is the harm they are doing to the young people who have no other option other than to ask for help. Like the kid who has left home, is job hunting but hasn’t found a job they like enough to stick at it, maybe they forget an appointment, don’t job search enough to satisfy a little hitler behind a desk and get a sanction. Maybe they make a few consecutive mistakes and are sanctioned for months on end, their money stops, they are told that as one benefit isn’t paying their rent then they have to pay full council tax, you owe us £700 mate, pay up by next week or else. No food or elecy? tough it out, ask your mum and dad, find the money from somewhere, don’t get caught shop lifting a butty because your starving as you’ll end up in court with a fine you have to pay out of thin air, your starving, you have nowhere to live as you have been kicked out of your supported accommodation because you can’t pay, you can’t go home, you don’t want people to think you have failed, you can’t bear to think you have failed. You wander the streets and a couple of months down the line you are sitting on a park bench wondering how you came to be homeless. Your dirty and haven’t eaten a proper meal in weeks and now you have absolutely no chance of getting a job because businesses don’t employ the homeless. All the while the suits in government shake their heads at the unemployment figures and try to find new ways to force people to get off their butts and find a job.
Today’s government are so far removed from ordinary folk that they can’t see what harm they are doing, it would be very interesting to find out figures over the last four years, how many have committed suicide because they have been denied the help they were receiving, how many sick and disabled, young and old who have been driven to the brink when they have had their much needed money stopped because the government have moved targets or changed requirements. You can’t tell the suits to go and live like ordinary people because the suits who have enough can never live long enough like an ordinary person to understand what they go through every day, every week of their lives.
Unfortunately there isn’t a political party at the moment who can run our country like the good old fashioned Labour party, the party run by working class men for working class families and until there is a party who can we are stuck with Eaton educated wealthy men trying to tell us how to live our lives. You can’t vote them out as there is no one to replace them with so for the foreseeable future young people, the people who will eventually be responsible for our country are being battered and down trodden and forced into poverty. What kind of future can they look forward to?
January passed in a blink.
We have sleep issues in our home, our youngest daughter, E, has decided to take control of her sleep and do it during the day instead of the usual night time.
Ramifications; 1. Beautiful daughter is butt ugly in the morning.
2. She doesn’t go to school for the correct time.
3. She doesn’t go to school at all.
4. She disturbs MY sleep.
5. Even though she is in school for a short period each day she is still reaching or passing her goals.
6. She makes us tear our hair out in frustration and husband is going thin on top anyway.
Short of gaffa taping her to the bed with a blind fold i don’t really know what else i can do.
We have learnt that there is ‘VAMPING’ teens using social media at night to talk to friends and kids they meet on line, dangerous possibilities there, E knows of these dangers, she has been taught them at home, school, scouts and we keep an eye on the facebook page but there are so many different social media sites for them to use these days. Bedtime comes round, the bedroom door is shut and the light clicks on and you just know sleep hasn’t a hope in hell.
Hands up, i can say whole-heartedly that she has us over a barrel, we are frightened of her and the shouting that goes on if we take computers, phones, ipods off her. We can’t face the scene she makes and will often let her have here own way, to a certain extent, just so we have a quiet life. That’s not to say we let her get away with murder, she is dragged to school if she is unwilling, the phone is taken away but i think we are fighting a battle we could loose if we are not careful, just because we are up against everyone else’s kids and parents.
But is Insomnia something you can catch?
Big bro B spends all night on the playstation, i have no control of that as he is 19 and has moved out, there is a job in the offing maybe that will turn him around. Next bro A, 16 left school, not in further ed or training, plays on the computer all day and night, not a good role model. I often wonder if i did something really bad in a past life to earn these kids, i wouldn’t have dreamt of doing the things they do, reading until late was about the worst it got.
Yet tonight here i am at 2.10 am and i am cooking. There is a big pan of chicken and noodle soup on my stove simmering away for tomorrows lunch, the smell is delicious and i am writing my first post of 2015 and instead of it being about photography it’s about sleep or the lack of.
I’m not sure how many nights have been disturbed since last June when things started to go pear shaped but i figure that over the past month i have only had a handful of nights that haven’t been disturbed in some way. Yes i feel sorry for myself, who wouldn’t, and i want EVERYONE to know how sorry i feel, battling my daughter is taking massive chunks out of my day, bits where i should be working, out taking photos, looking for craft markets, on social media sharing my work, out selling it or arranging for gallery space. It is SO frustrating!
Finger’s crossed this phase will pass soon, year 9 at school is options year and we are nearly there. My business needs my attention or it wont grow. Please God of sleep smite her down and lets get this Insomnia thing beaten!
I don’t think Insomnia is catching, you suffer from it/with it and you suffer with those you love. We will do everything we can for E to help her overcome this and will do it with love and i hope understanding. It’s a tough one but we will do it together, as a family.
My paternal grandfather ‘Joe’ was a young lad of 15 when he signed up for ‘Queen and Country’ at the beginning of the 1st World War. He lied about his age to become a private in the Cheshire Regiment and to go to war. Like him many young men disobeyed their parents and left for a grand adventure never to return home, staying forever young. My grandad never spoke to us about what happened to him during the war, i know he was mustard gassed and shot in the face but don’t know where he fought. To his grandchildren he was a small grumpy man who walked with a stick, to others a hero. Now i am older and have learnt of the things he may have suffered i consider that small slightly built old man a true hero, for having the courage to disobey his mother, for bravely going into something that would change the shape of his life without knowing how truly horrific it would become and for coming home and remaking his life, for living in a society that had no understanding of the things he had seen and done and for getting on with living. I have a painting of him as a young man in his uniform, it was painted especially for his mother and has passed from great grandmother to grandmother, to father and now to me. I don’t think it is an especially good portrait but it is a true reflection of the man. It is framed nicely and has stood the test of time, being bombed, stuck up in the loft, left in the cupboard. I knew at an early age that i would keep it and cherish it. For my grandfather and all of the men and women who have heard and answered the call to war this photograph and poem is for them. The poem is written by Chris Lawrence.
Family holidays. Love them or hate them they are an integral part of the trial by summer school holidays. Ours usually consist of mum, dad and two out of three kids now, with the usual bickering and moaning and wanting to go home. We’re used to it and a holiday wouldn’t be the same without it. We had a weeks camping owed to us from last years flooded camp site, so we upgraded to a caravan as i didn’t think we had it in us to camp this time, just too tired, and it was great! We planned our week so we had flexibility for the weather and managed to fit in some great days out. Its done us, me and Chris, a great deal of good to get away from the trials of cancer treatments, (my mum) and the angst of late teenage, (eldest child) . From the get go i said this would be a holiday on MY terms and they would do what I wanted to do and you know what, they did. We went to all of the places I wanted to go and take photos, they even enjoyed themselves and i took them where they wanted to go and took photos there too. Re visiting places was great and i also found a ‘tin tabernacle’ hidden at the side of the main road in a copse of trees, hidden and abandoned since the mid 80’s, which was a fantastic find. I love going to Cumbria because the land is totally different from the Wirral. It has High hills, deep valleys, folds and dips and lots of forestation. It’s also inland so the Lakes are spectacular, we went to Windermere and cruised the lake which is great fun, Ambleside to see the house on the bridge, Penrith, Ulswater, Kendall, Appleby, we visited waterfalls which were fantastic because of the rain, South lakes wildlife park to see the snow leopards and we also took it easy, resting, relaxing and having family time together, yes we were one short but we can make up for that another time.
I was a little worried about the new car and if it would live up to expectation as its smaller but we did ok, no one was squashed, all our stuff fitted in the roof bag and boot and we learned some good stuff about the car, so good all round, i will be posting on my other blog wanderingsinafiat500l.wordpress.com my findings if you are interested.