F is for Fellas & Fille’s alike

Aren’t kids AWESOME? I’ve been a big fan for a while now and I absolutely LOVE hanging out with them. I’ve even been an Au Pair, a nanny and a babysitter AND I get the honour of taking their portraits every so often at my day job.

I’ve been challenged and inspired recently by Lulastic and the Hippyshake‘s post on asking people not to greet her daughter with comments regarding her appearance HERE and I’ve also just read Role Reboot‘s post about her visit to Santa with her daughter resulting in the same issues/struggles HERE.

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I love that Mum’s are flagging this and are feeling confident enough to challenge it publicly – it’s not easy, but I really feel that it is now OUR turn to respond to this outcry. It’s our job as family, friends, teachers and total strangers to help put this right.

I often get the privilege of chatting to children through my work and I admit I become a very visual person and am struck so often by certain physical features that people have – whether it’s a dusting of the finest freckles, eyes that hold impossible combinations of colour, a smile that somehow makes the entire world glow or hair so full of volume I want to get out a spoon and eat it!

My job is centered around capturing an image. It’s about what I can see, and showing other people that image. It’s about colour, composition, light, positioning and physical appearance. But I can’t enjoy or even like my job when it has to stop there. I struggle with it and question it, my feet feel heavy and I can’t give it my all. Why? Because we are so much more than our skin and bones. We’re more than that. So much more that it even intrudes on our appearance, it interferes and meddles with our physical being. That’s when I love my job. When, by some kind of magic, I can capture cheekiness, curiosity, love, trust, commitment, fun, journey, history, truth, character, pain, excitement and so much more. That’s all down to you and your beautiful soul bursting out and making its mark on your face and body. It’s the wonder of being human that makes me love and really appreciate photography.

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So, it’s a challenge to be a photographer. It’s kind of strange doing this job whilst struggling so much with my own appearance and at the same time feeling so strongly that we should live our lives away from the mirror and media. I’m still working it out – big time! – and that’s why I found these articles so inspiring and important for my own journey.

Here’s some helpful and practical conversation starter ideas from Lucy Aitken-Read and Kasey Edwards (thanks ladies!) that should also get you thinking:

How was your journey here? I got the bus and there was loads of traffic!

How has your day been today?

What animals do you like? I love elephants the most.

Are you reading many books these days?

Who’s this dude? (Referring to the teddy/ action figure they may be holding.)

Mostly though, a simple Hello will do and more natural interactions can come a bit later, as you and this child get more comfortable with each other.

–       Where have you been today? or Where are you going today?

–       How old are you?

–       What’s your favorite book/toy/sport/animal/food/song?

–       Check out your surroundings and remark on something such as a flowering plant, a truck, a picture on the wall, even the weather.

And some from me:

– How are you feeling today?

– How do you feel about being here today?

– Talk about their family and your own family – siblings, holidays, jobs, ages, names etc

– Explore your surroundings

– Sing songs or tell stories, poems or interesting facts

– Play games or offer to teach or be taught a new skill

Let’s give our boys and girls the best opportunities to express and explore themselves – starting with a gender neutral, non-appearance based greeting!

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F is for FRANK

Well, it’s been just over two weeks without meds, for the first time in 5 years or so – and I actually feel good!

I was so terrified by the memories of what life was like without meds back then – but with the amazing work I’ve done through therapy and the amazing works that God has done in, with and around me I’m feeling free and chirpy! Yes I still have chronic pain and fatigue and yes I still have depression but I feel that this has been a big and positive step!

Since having a bit of a clearer head I’ve been reading a lot about the meds I was on and sadly realising how little I and my GP knew about them and how wrong they were for me – and how common this is for so many people. I’ve also been saddened by people having similar experiences to me, such as being prescribed drugs and sent away with no real chance to just TALK and the GP having no real knowledge of my/our situation.

I am so thankful for the therapy I’ve had and am having but I know would NEVER had had the opportunity if it weren’t for a lot of financial help. It’s so easy to get lost in the system and to be treated as a number or a faceless problem. If it weren’t for my family, financial aid to be able to access help and my therapist I honestly am unsure as to whether I would still be alive…which makes me wonder about those who don’t have these things. And I don’t say that lightly.

For example, how you’re sent away with drugs, leaflets and phone numbers really upsets me. More often than not – if you struggle with depression, you will struggle with anxiety. Therefore, taking yourself to a group, leaving the house or making a phone call is something you just CANNOT do. Left then only with drugs to take that make you sweat excessively, shake, twitch, salivate, vomit, make you dizzy, make you manic, increase suicidal thoughts and feelings and so much more – you are in trouble.

Oh yes, and of course you’re put on this waiting list to see a free therapist – sounds good right?! Except this list is like, eternal and actually you probably won’t get to have one to one sessions. Sadly, this is hardly ever recommended to you so in reality, you’re put on a waiting list to get approximately 20 group sessions of CBT to learn how to cope practically. Like timetables. And stuff.

Again – not something I ever felt I could do, or infact wanted to do. Perhaps in a few years time when I had actually been given the chance to learn what was going on with me, had begun learning to heal and to express it what was going on inside me, perhaps then….but as a first measure?? NO! No no.

Plus, this is without my (then) GP having any real knowledge of what I was struggling with exactly – all they had to go on was a desperate delirious me saying I couldn’t cope with feeling so low all the time. How could they know CBT would work for me? How could they be sure I was capable of making rational decisions? How could they be sure that I would go? How could they know what drugs would help or harm me? HOW COULD THEY KNOW?

My appointment went (sadly) like this: The doctor asked me what seemed to be the problem, looked out of the window while I tried to answer, asked if I smoked and – with the door half open, having been hastily prescribed drugs – asked if I wanted to kill myself.

Nice.

One of my biggest worries is that when you struggle with this stuff, you NEED accountability. You need a LOT of help and support and encouragement. You need people turning up outside your door to take you to things – even if you’ve said no. You need someone elses voice to block out the ugly noise going on inside of you. Sometimes you even need someone to physically fight you or hold you or drag you! Depression tends to freak you out and make you do crazy things. Being sent away to have to access all of the worlds support groups alone is not something that makes much sense to me.

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I’m still terrible at throwing all of my energy at trying to be normal and funny and ok and good company. I’ve seen so many adverts and videos and leaflets and campaigns that plead with people to be real and to talk openly about how they’re feeling etc (which I actually truly do agree with) – but honestly? People can’t handle it. And how could they? I’VE never been trained or advised on how to cope with somebody who is suicidal or hears voices or who isn’t in control of themselves all of the time. How would I cope if my mother or son started chatting to me about how they were planning to end their lives, or how this person with a strange name was telling them things and would often take over them? Or if they turned up at my workplace in having a crazed episode or having just self harmed?

We can be SO ANNOYING. I am such hard work and I will take you to the edges of your love and acceptance and grace and friendship.

People who struggle with this stuff are hard work-FACT.

You will not find yourself in a nice, neat two way relationship that is fair and equal and rewarding. Oh no. You will be messed around, hurt, quite possibly hit at, cried on, rejected, ignored, shouted at and lied to. You will have to bandage us up, wait for hours outside our door, listen to us sob endlessly about things that may not make sense or indeed be at all real. We will forget things, demand things, refuse things and expect things. We are unreliable, self absorbed, unpredictable and worst of all – there really isn’t much you can do to help.

Not to be too controversial, but I really don’t think you can treat depression like any other illness. Because it won’t treat you like that! And it doesn’t treat its victims like that either. It is unique in so many ways and it is still such a mystery even to the brightest of minds.

So this muddled rant is finished, I didn’t expect to write most of that and it isn’t a work of art – but it’s honest and just my thoughts and experiences.

Here’s to tomorrow!

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F is for (you are not a) Failure

Today I want to say

So many of us live in a world of constant apologies and a constant awareness of failure. We set the bar way too high for ourselves and ultimately end up believing we are, as a person, a failure. We use phrases like ‘I can’t cope’ or ‘I can’t keep up’ and we end up crashing and burning. Quite regularly too – like it’s some kind of insane life cycle. But forget hibernation, forget cocoon making, forget growing wings and gathering food – I’m talking insomnia,panic attacks, relationship break-downs and eating disorders.

Where is the chance of redemption? Where’s the soul-deep rest? Where has prioritising our health gone? Why aren’t these things understood and honoured in our society?

To you who cancelled plans last minute last night – it’s ok.

To you who broke down on the bus on your way to work this morning – it’s ok.

To you who regularly spends time in the office loo trying to regain sanity and oxygen – it’s ok.

To you who eats lunch hiding in the storage cupboard – it’s ok.

To you who went to bed early instead of visiting friends tonight – it’s ok.

And to you who has already failed in five million different ways today – it really IS ok.

I promise.

You are NOT a failure.

You are tired and so, so fed up. You’re exhausted and your head is full. Your heart is weary and your chest is tight and sore – take a breath…there, feel that?Your jaw is subconsciously clenched and you’re on the edge of tears so often.

It’s ok.

I’m sure you can think back to the hundreds of times you’ve said that. To yourself,to others. The ultimate admittance that things are, in fact, not ok. Irony so common it’s not even noticeable anymore.

It’s ok.

Things are upside down and things are a mess. There are hidden walls, monsters andbooby traps everywhere. There’s baggage and lies and disappointments. There’s no time. No money. No resources. No space. No room. Nobody.

It’s ok.

Sometimes I picture life like the Christmas story – stick with me! Sometimes, life is a pregnant woman on a long journey, in labour, with nowhere to give birth.

What I mean to say is, I so often feel pregnant with emotion, confusion, memories,stress, rage, hurt, pressure and trauma – but with nowhere to release it. I’m holding something inside me that’s alive, it’s needy, it takes from me and it affects me physically. It changes me and it has it’s own demands. Sometimes it even controls me and makes me do things I don’t want to do – and the world around me is telling me there’s no room. There’s no room for all of that. There’s no space for me and my baby.

But it’s ok. Mary was ok. She found her bit of space. And people came to that space. And that space became something special because that’s where she had her baby. And people still talk about that space and relate to that space. Not because it was easy, but because of the difficult and near impossible circumstances. It’s ok to feel out of place in social situations. It’s ok to hate the daily, 9-5, boxed in, grey, grimey grind. It’s ok to listen to your body when it’s shouting at you to slow down. It’s ok to do whatever you need to, to get through the day. It’s ok to be different and to do things differently. It’s ok to cancel plans last minute or to go home early. It’s ok to have a meltdown, to stomp and cry and feel lost. It’s ok to feel like nobody gets you – it’s ok to feel like YOU don’t get you. It’s ok to be irrational and grouchy. It’s ok to need certain things or to do things in a certain way. It’s ok to have baggage and for it to affect you. It’s ok to NOT be ok.

But what can we do?

Let’s let each other breathe. Let’s give each other space and time. Create it, find it, BE it.

How? By being authentic. By being the real you and by being honest – painfully so. Don’t float along the surface of life. Don’t be afraid of the deep and meaningful – of the mud and grit. Shareyourself. Put yourself out there and try. Let yourself cry in place of wearing a mask. Admit your weaknesses and ask for help. Say sorry and face your mistakes. Take time to understand each other. Forgive yourself and forgive each other. Remember grace and mercy and rediscover what they really mean. Put love in the centre and work outwards from there. Make the jump a little easier and have a go.

And if you trip or miss or crash and burn?

It’s ok. You are NOT a failure.

Being vulnerable and speaking the truth is difficult. Figuring this life out is difficult.

And just when you feel like giving up, have another go.

Because it’s so, so worth it.

I promise.

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F is for Film Star

A group I support called THE ALTERNATIVE PAGE 3 posts honouring info about women every thursday and I wanted to share this one on my blog today…

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ANGELINA JOLIE (we love thee)

Not a page to shirk controversy, we know our Thursday babe is likely to cause some mixed reactions, but…
Angelina Jolie Voight (38) from Los Angeles was virtually born in a film studio. She had a wild teenhood experimenting with knives, being bullied at school, and self-harming, and suffered for many years with suicidal depression, yet in spite of this, she’s still managed to tuck an Oscar, 2 Screen Actors Guild Awards and 3 Gold Globes under her skinny belt.

However, it was when she was filming Lara Croft: Tomb Raider in Cambodia that her thoughts began to turn to Humanitarian work. As soon as filming was over, she began visiting refugee camps around the world to learn more. She donated $1 million in response to an international United Nations High Commission for Refugees emergency appeal – the largest donation UNHCR had ever received from a private individual. On her missions to war-zones, she made sure she covered all her own costs and shared the same basic living conditions as field staff on all of her visits. In 2001, Angelina was named a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador at UNHCR headquarters in Geneva.

In May 2012, she joined William Hague in a campaign against sexual violence in military conflict zones, the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative. To highlight the problem, they travelled to eastern Congo, where rape has been frequently used as a weapon of war by rebel groups and soldiers. In 2013, Angelina spoke at a G8 foreign ministers meeting, where ministers pledged $36 million in funding to go toward developing international standards for the investigation and prosecution of war rape, and before the UN security council which responded by adopting its broadest resolution on the issue to date.

When, earlier this year, Angelina was told she carried the cancer gene that killed her mother, she made the difficult decision to have a double mastectomy to avoid the risk of leaving her gang of children without a mother (3 adopted, 3 with partner Brad Pitt). We reckon that when you’ve been voted the World’s most Beautiful Woman, it takes a certain strength of character to take a decision like that – AND face up to the crass comments on Twitter and Facebook that followed from men saying they were no longer interested in her…

Still, as Angelina says: “I’m with a man who’s evolved enough to look at my body and see it as more beautiful because of the journey it has taken.”

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About the alternative page three:

A place to celebrate great women in all their humanity and reality. Fighters, survivors, thinkers, doers, PEOPLE. Not just a pair of boobs…
This page is deliberately tongue in cheek. Our aim is to parody the condescending, patronising way in which the “other” Page 3 has traditionally described their models. We deliberately ape their style and apply it to women of note in order to demonstrate just HOW unacceptable and ridiculous this is. We believe that the best way to tackle bullies is to laugh at them, and we believe that women have been bullied for years by what has become institutionalised sexism in the mainstream media.

That said, this is not a militant page. We simply believe that the new Editor of The Sun, David Dinsmore, missed a trick by refusing to reconsider dumping the sexist anachronistic swamp throwback that is Page Three of The Sun when he had the chance. He could have turned Page 3 into something wonderful, a place to celebrate women in all their forms. Women who’ve achieved great things, who’ve battled illness and survived. As he won’t do it, we’re going to show you their pictures, every day. Please feel free to post yours. Your mum, your sister, your daughter, inspirational women. Real men welcome.
“Taking the Pee out of Page 3 since 2013”
Follow us on Twitter: @Alternativep3

F is for Falling through the gaps

Sometimes, I think about what my life would have looked like if I hadn’t been ill. Not very often, but sometimes. I look back over the last seven years or so and I end up feeling seriously confused and alone.

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Over my life time, I’ve heard people say things like ‘complaining is easy’, ‘there’s always someone worse off than you’,  and I’ve seen that quote ‘Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional’ time and time again.

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I’ve heard people talk about Karma and how if you work hard or if you’re a good person, you will succeed and good things will happen to you…or the opposite!

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I’ve been told that if I pray hard enough and if my faith is big enough I will be ok, and I will be healed and I will be prosperous.

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People have told me that things will work out, that I’ll be ok and that things will change soon.

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None of this has happened and none of this has been true in my life.

For seven years.

Where does that leave me? And why? What does it mean? Am I a ‘bitch’? Am I a bad person? Am I doing something wrong? Am I saying the wrong prayer?

I don’t know…

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But somehow and for some reason…

I think I’ll keep trying to be and do good anyway.

I’ll keep believing anyway.

I’ll keep doing my best anyway.

Why?

Well, I was inspired by this poem by Mother T the other day – it hit me hard and it seemed to perfectly put into words what I haven’t been able to.

Anyway

Mother Teresa

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self centered;
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God;
It was never between you and them anyway.

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F is for (strange) Fruit

This is one of my favourite songs for many reasons. A rather large one being that it was borne out of suffering (to say the least). It and many other celebrated songs, poems, paintings, films, books and many other forms of artwork have all come from a place of utter darkness. They were fuelled and brought to life by pain, madness, abuse. They struggled to grow and develop inside a neglected womb filled with fear and doubt and staggering loneliness.

I love that beauty so often comes out of brokenness but it also leaves me asking questions.

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Should the creation of art through, from or because of suffering make us grateful for it? And If not grateful, perhaps at peace with our pain or situation?

We are a nation who celebrates art and music and creativity – is it not a little strange that in turn we celebrate the illness, pain, grief, madness, isolation, addiction or heartache that brought that art into being?

Do we encourage it?

Is there a better way to celebrate or appreciate it?

Do we say thank you enough?

Do we really want to know what lies behind the art?

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What does it mean to the artist when we celebrate how many copies they sold of a song or poem or painting they created out of an involuntary desperation to express pain or devastation of losing their child? Or coming to terms with years of abuse from a parent? Or manic depression?

How does it translate? And what are we saying exactly?

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Personally, I actually don’t think questions like this are about answering.

I think they are about having an ever-present awareness and acknowledgement of the story behind the art.

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F is for fervor

So I haven’t written here in a criminally long time.

Life (excuse my french) is a bitch. And then you die.

Right now, I wouldn’t mind trying out an experimental drug that induces a week long coma. If you’re developing this ,ye scientists, pray do get in touch. Why?

BECAUSE I’D REALLY LIKE A BREAK.

God, come on give me a break

How many of us feel like we’re in over our heads? How many of us are in pain of some kind every day? How many of us are overwhelmingly stressed? How many of us would give our most prized possession, a limb, our hopes or dreams to simply experience 10 solid minutes of health and stability? If I had anything of worth, or the opportunity to barter bits of me for a glimpse of health and peace….

I would hand it over no questions asked.

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I was wondering, does this desperate state of mind & body damage us? Does it mean we forget things? Like the art of patience, forgiveness, empathy and even simple thought? Does it erase the parts of us that had perspective and the ability to dream and hope? Does it mean that we become blind and detached?

Do we lose the will to believe in anything but pain and anger? Do we make menial things, Gods? The small things that actually have some kind of affect and positive interaction in our lives? Or do we let something much darker take hold of us? Do we bow down to medication, alcohol, drugs, sex, food, gambling, self harm, money? Do we sabotage others in a desperate attempt to feel better about ourselves?

Maybe we can take it slow, start over, begin again every day. I may have been able to ignore some of the pain today, but yesterday I let it take over me. Tomorrow I could feel excited and hopeful and be able to help somebody in some small way… Next week I could consider suicide. I don’t know what tomorrow holds, or indeed what this evening will hold, but maybe that’s ok. Maybe then we could release the guilt and release the shame. Take it slow. Maybe?

What do I think?

Keep asking

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Change your expectations

Of yourself, others, life, experiences, the bigger picture.

Stop and think and ask yourself

Do I need to rest, do I need to be sad, do I think I can go and see a friend, do I want to cry, do I feel angry, do I need to get help, do I need to breathe deeper…..stop and think and ask.

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Here’s a song that I’ve been a little bit obsessed with for a while now. I feel hesitant to share it because it’s my life line at the moment, but today I can share and today I can write.

Today I can ask, maybe?

Love and strength to you x

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F is for figuring it out…still

 

Most of what comes out of my mouth is negative, pessimistic, angry, upset, moany rubbish.

Even more is stored up in my mind.

How do you speak out goodness, happiness, positivity and peace when you can’t remember the last time you felt like that? When your reserves of these things have long been empty? When it just wouldn’t be the truth?

I’ve never really been the kind of person who has nothing to say. I love to discuss, debate, wrestle, explore and communicate with people. I love to connect.

But I’ve had less to say of late, mainly because I don’t want to lie. I don’t want to be false and I can’t seem to pretend too well.

I’ve never minded being the one to speak out, to advocate or stand up for someone or something.

In fact it just seems to happen. In fact I will always happily speak out.

I wasn’t always right and I wasn’t always heard. But boy did I try.

Where other people are concerned, I’m on the ball. I’m active, I’m energised, I’m empowered. I’m overflowing with love and admiration, care and encouragement, ideas and time.

But when it comes to me? Not so much.

I just can’t seem to muster the same love I have for others, for myself. I don’t know where to start with the whole loving yourself thing, but I so passionately believe in it and will it for everybody. I would spend every pound, every minute, every day to help  somebody else feel loved and important, listened to and understood, special and cherished.

But me? Not so much.

So, eventually, I ran out of energy. I ran out of energy to sustain friendships. I ran out of health and happiness. I became sick and sick of life and sick of myself for being that way. I let things slip and crack and grow old and unkempt. Life was too empty and cold to fuel my lifestyle. It didn’t seem to make sense and it didn’t feel good at all. In fact it felt like I was trapped in an eternal, internal, invisible, abusive relationship. Where I gave and I served and I loved and I shared and I believed and I tried so hard…..all the time…..and I just kept smacking my head on this giant wall. Constantly. It was relentless and nothing could stop it from growing taller and wider and darker and colder and harder. It got harder and harder to climb and I couldn’t run far enough to get around it anymore. I couldn’t beg it to let me under and there were no more books or boxes to stand on to at least look over it.

Sometimes, for whatever reason, I managed to make a little hole. And a little bit of light came through.

I see everybody and their lives and the world going by, and I realise – nobody can see me. And I have no voice to call out, I have no love for myself and eventually I stop trying to make those holes.

I let the hate and the hurt consume me.

I let the lies have the last word and all I can cling to is sleep.

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F is for figuring it out

I am a wave of colour, a chalky dust that moves freely to a silent symphony. It joyfully plays and dances with the unseen pushes of wind and breeze. The colours that married and mixed on the day I was born can never be separated or contained. You cannot control the ebb and flow or the timings of it’s seasons.

It lovingly surrounds my soul and guides me – eyes closed, arms open wide – into adventures unimagined. It is freedom in its truest form. It is beauty, it is hope, it is love, it is creation, calvary and pentecost. I listen and watch as it changes and grows.

It pleases me. It pleases him. We are inseparable.

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I am an ocean of possibility, a deep cavern of mystery and miracles. I hold promise and pain, truth and deception, wonder and fear. What could be more beautiful?

The sunlight reaches for me, lost in the darkness with the souls of the broken. It shines upon us – the children of the deep. I have so much to discover and love and so much more to love and discover.

Let me share it with you.

It pleases me. It pleases him.

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I am the nudge of a child, excited and anxious, ready with a million things to say and a million more questions to ponder. I am that nudge, that look, that squeeze of a hand. I am my father’s child. People say I look like him and sound like him…I like that.

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I am a willing captive to the whims of my imagination.

I am afraid to fall.

I am afraid to fail.

I am afraid to be hushed.

I am afraid to be shooed.

I am afraid to feel.

I am afraid to shout.

I am afraid to sing.

I am afraid of you.

I am afraid of them.

I am afraid of me.

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But my fear will never be enough to stop me from nudging you.

And that pleases me.

Does it please you?

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The life of Lyndall

... all its glorious twists and turns

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a blog about honesty, hope and losing everything