Sunday, 30 November 2014

The Beauty of Small Things


How are you?  I hope life has been treating you kindly and you're enjoying the sweet things of winter.

Back in July, in the midst of summer, I made a commitment to tell you my truth.  (You can read more about that here.)

So, I'm going to launch right on in...

At the beginning of 2012, completely out of the blue, my beautiful mum was diagnosed with cancer. She was given treatment for it and we were told later that year, that the treatment had been successful.

As you will know if you've been reading my blog for a while, in the summer of 2013, my beautiful sister was diagnosed with cancer. You can read more about that here and here.

Just as life was starting to settle into a gentler flow of warm summery days, after my sister's chemotherapy had finished, my mum was diagnosed with cancer again this August.

My beautiful mum died in October, just over a month ago, ten weeks after her diagnosis in August.

My mum and I were very close.

For the past few months since my mum's diagnosis and her subsequent death, I have been feeling immense grief.

The past couple of years have been an intense journey for my dad, my sister and I. A journey where we have become much more intimately acquainted with cancer and the effects it has on individuals and families. It has been and continues to be extremely challenging.

Grief is a strange thing.  Not one emotion but a combination of many different emotions.  Each taking their turn to be felt.

I have been left with choices about what I do with what has happened.  And I find myself stepping tentatively along a path where the world looks and feels different and strange, and "normal" isn't normal any more.

There are some things that I am learning as I go along.  Things that matter and have become the bedrock on which I am building a new normal in a world without my mum, a world which contains cancer, and loss and messiness, alongside beauty, huge love and immense kindness.

I'd like to share with you those things that The Universe is teaching me. That I'm doing my best to learn.

Lessons From The Universe

1. Emma, above and beyond all other things, it's important to look for the beauty in small things.

When life hurts, and you feel like your heart is breaking, it's important to bring things down to their smallest common denominator.  Look for the beauty in small, simple things. A warm blanket that you can snuggle in, a soft pillow where you can lay your head for a while and rest, a cat to hold while you listen to it purring, a hot bath to ease your tired, stressed muscles.  Grief causes tension and it's important to be especially kind to yourself as you're feeling it.

2. Emma, let yourself be loved by the people in your life who want to love and help you.

Letting someone help you is giving that person an opportunity to show you how much they love you, and even though it can be monumentally difficult to do, be courageous enough to really let people love you.  It's easy to dismiss an offer of help for fear of putting someone out, to deflect a compliment, to reply with "I'm fine" when people ask you how you're doing. Don't.  Tell the truth about how you're feeling, what you need and what you don't need.  Allow the people who love you to show you their love with their actions.  Let people help you.

3. Don't judge what you're feeling or how you're expressing what you're feeling.  

People deal with loss and grief differently.  Some people cry a lot.  Some people don't.  Some people feel angry and frustrated.  Other people feel confused and isolated.

Emma, it's OK to feel what you feel and to let yourself feel it without judging yourself.  Allow yourself to feel what you feel.

4. Stay in the moment.

It's normal to feel overwhelmed when you experience a loss like this. To feel disorientated and confused. Try not to project  into the future and grow frightened of what's around the next corner.  Live in the present moment, which is ultimately all anyone ever has, and make that moment matter by doing the "next right thing".

Even if doing the next right thing is climbing into bed, pulling the duvet over your tired head and sleeping.

All you have to do, Emma, is listen to your heart and gut, and you will know what you need to do in this moment to take care of yourself and be kind to yourself.

All of those small moments of being kind to yourself and following your heart will add up to hours, then a day, then days, then weeks, of doing all the things you need to do to take care of yourself, and move through this grief.

All you need to do is listen, in this moment, to what you need to do next, and then gently do it, without pushing yourself, or judging yourself.

Always remembering that, sometimes, the next right thing to do is "nothing".

5. Trust that you will not always feel like this.

Emma, when you're in the midst of feeling such immense sadness and loss, it can feel all-consuming.  The world can feel a little bit broken and life can feel as if it's lost it's sparkle.

Trust me when I tell you that you won't always feel like this.  Your heart will heal and you will laugh huge great belly laughs again.  Sooner than you think.

6. Life is made up of contrasts.

You appreciate warmth, Emma, because you have experienced cold. You soar with joy because you've had times where you've been metaphorically face down in the mud. You are experiencing huge grief at the moment, and there will be a time where you feel huge happiness and connection, and will appreciate it with a new intensity, because you have felt the depth of grief you are feeling now. Life is full of contrasts, and part of living life to the full is experiencing all of those contrasts.

7. You are not broken.

Losing your mum hurts deeply, but you are not broken. If you can allow yourself to feel the full weight of your grief with your heart wide open, you will know what it means to be present.

As Leonard Cohen said "There's a crack, a crack in everything, it's how the light gets in."

8. You're doing better than you think.

Emma, you're doing brilliantly. Be gentle with yourself.  You are enough.

So, these are the things I'm learning. That the Universe is teaching me.

I know none of us get through life without experiencing huge grief and loss.  If you are experiencing great loss right now, I'm sending you huge love.

Bonkers Betty is doing everything she can to make sure I know I'm loved (including sitting on my shoulder and shouting in my ear.  For a small cat, she can make a lot of noise.)

The painting "Embrace the Beauty of Small Things" is one I did a while ago and didn't get round to posting.  I'll put it in the "Free Glitter" section for you.  A small gift from me to you, with love.

P.S. We raised £535 for Cancer Research UK.  The winners of the prize draw were Rashell, Liza and Annie, who have all been notified that they were the winners.  Thank you so  much for all your support.  It has an added importance and poignancy for me now.  Em x

Thursday, 7 August 2014

All About Betty

Betty, aka Miss Betty, or Her Royal Stroppiness, came storming into my life at the beginning of May this year.

I was in the kitchen when I thought I saw a kitten in my garden.  Then two more.  Being of an age where "readers" have become something I wear, not listen to, I got my glasses and squinted out into the evening gloom.

This is what I saw...

A week later they were back again...

According to neighbours, Mum-cat had belonged to people who lived a couple of streets away, but they had moved away and left her behind.  And she'd been living in my shed for a couple of years.

I had no idea.

Two thoughts went through my head when I found out she'd been living in my shed.

1. I'd be rubbish on Crimewatch.

2. How had she survived through the winters?

Each day, I put food out for mum and her kittens.

With the help of the RSPCA and a local animal welfare charity, homes were found for all three kittens.

No-one wanted Mum.

So now I have an extra cat.

A Betty.

Here she is...

She is small, feisty, chatty, thinks woolly blankets are the best invention ever, and loves pink.

Kind of like me, but in miniature.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

The Art of Living a Glittery Life: Telling My Truth

Hello.  How are you?

I've missed you.

I'm sat at my computer desk, with a little cat called Betty, who is walking over the keyboard and head-butting my hands, making it very tricky to type.

This is Betty...

I know.  She's a doll.

Betty and I got acquainted in May, when she decided to take up residence in my shed and have her three kittens in there.

We got further acquainted when I managed to bring her and the kittens safely into my home (with the help of the RSPCA and a very supportive local animal welfare society).

I fell in love with her when she developed a severe case of peritonitis after being neutered, and I very nearly lost her.

Here she is this week.

Yes, that is an inflatable rubber ring around her neck.  No, I don't have ambitions for her to become the next Esther Williams. (Carmen Miranda, maybe, with a little hat made of mini fruit.)

Ernie the cat has a big ole crush on her.  Eric the cat is 15lbs of wibbling mess in her presence. Terrified. Of. Her. She weighs 6lbs. You do the maths.

I will tell you Betty's full story in my next post.  Today, I wanted to tell you about something else.

A few days ago, a very dear friend of mine came to visit me.  It was the first time I had seen her in 19 years.  As soon as she stepped through my front door, we hugged and cried.  It was so amazing to see her.  The years fell away and we talked about all the things we had experienced over the past 19 years.

I told her my truth, she told me her truth, and it was beautiful.

As we talked she said to me, "Why don't you write about all of this on your blog?"

I told her that I struggled to walk the line between being open on my blog and giving way too much information. She responded with...

"Emma, people want to know your story."

So, as scary as this is, I think it may be time to go deeper and tell you my truth here on my blog.  Not because I lack a healthy set of boundaries (OK. sometimes I do. I can't help it.  Rude jokes are funny.) but because, in all honesty, living with several long-term illnesses that all trigger into each other and cause a lot of physical complications, limitations and pain has taught me some things about how to be happy.

I know that sounds odd, but you read me right.

I have learned some things about how to be happy because of the pain of living with illness.

If you're ok with it, I'd like to start sharing that sh*t with you.

Above all things in my life, I want to be honest and authentic.  It feels scary to take off the mask and go deeper with you, but, if you'll be patient with me, and excuse my clumsiness as I get used to doing it, I'd like to tell you my truth.  The reality of life living with illness, and what I've learned about how to live a glittery life even when it doesn't look exactly how you expected it to look.

There will be swearing.  I will make inappropriate jokes.  Sometimes things will get a bit dark.  And I will probably get giddy and over-excited without meaning to. But I promise, above all else, to be absolutely honest with you, in the hope that you will be able to read something that touches you.

So, here is the first piece of my telling my truth.  My sister has finished her chemotherapy and is recovering from the strenuous nature of that.  She is doing amazingly.  She's actually doing the Race For Life in a couple of weeks (walking not running) to mark her claiming back her life.

I am so proud to be her sister.

I went to the Family History Unit at the hospital today.  Due to the history of different cancers in my family, I have an increased chance of getting breast cancer. I will be having annual screening for breast cancer from now on. I will also be referred to the genetic testing unit to see if I need to be tested for the breast cancer gene.

This is good news.

I am being given the opportunity to get intimately acquainted with my boobs, and to share with you how important that is. I now know what I need to know. There is no mystery for me.  Today, I was shown how to check my breasts for lumps and was shown exactly what a milk duct feels like in my breasts and how different that feels to a lump. I now understand fully how important it is to get to know my own breasts and what's normal and abnormal for them.

I was pretty much close to hyperventilating on my way in to the hospital.  I have studiously avoided having anything to do with my own breasts ever since my sister got her diagnosis. That's quite impressive considering my breasts are pretty much, you know, right under my nose. But going into the hospital today and being given very clear, open, supportive information about what I needed to know, took the fear away for me.

I know what I need to know.

When we have all the information, we know what we're dealing with and can make good, safe, loving choices for ourselves about what we want to do.

So, stepping off the deep end in my first post digging deeper into honesty and authenticity, I'm talking about boobs, touching myself, personal lumps and bumps.

You lucky, lucky people. I am on fire...

Is there something you've been putting off doing or checking out health-wise because you're nervous of knowing what it might mean?

Have you never checked your breasts because you're not quite sure what to feel for?

Could you feel OK about taking a deep breath and doing it anyway?

Wishing you the courage to do what you need to do health-wise to take care of yourself.

You are important.  You matter.

With huge love,

  P.S.  We've hit £350 on my Cancer Research UK fundraising page at and have only £150 to go before reaching our target of £500.  Thank you for all your donations. There is still time to donate and enter the fine art raffle to win a signed and framed print of my painting of Ella.  Please donate if you can. Em

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Fundraising For Cancer Research UK

Hello there.

If you've been reading my blog for a while you will already know that my beautiful sister, Charlotte, is currently undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer.  She has her final chemotherapy treatment this coming Tuesday 27th May 2014.  Yaaaaaay!

In 2012, my gorgeous mum was diagnosed with cancer and was successfully treated for it.  She has been cancer-free for two years.  That feels good to write out.

Two of my grandparents died from cancer.

Cancer is an illness very close to my heart. It's an illness that can leave you feeling very powerless when you are watching members of your family experience it.  The fear and the physical hardships they are going through can be very, very painful to witness.  I have felt at a loss to know how to help my sister and mum as they have been walking their journey through living with cancer.

Supporting my sister, holding her hand, as her husband shaved her head will be an experience that will never leave me. The memories of hearing both my mum and my sister say to me, "it's cancer" within a year of each other will stay with me. Watching them both bravely face their fears, and the gruelling physical treatments, will stay with me.  Watching my dad worry about his wife, and then the following year, see his eldest daughter go through chemotherapy, will stay with me.  As a little girl, and young woman watching my grandparents fight and ultimately lose their battles with cancer is something that will stay with me.

Cancer sweeps into your life and brings with it huge change, uncertainty, fear and gruelling physical treatments.  It is devastating for the person going through the treatments.  It is frightening and painful in ways I don't know how to explain.  It is devastating for the families of those diagnosed with cancer, as they watch their loved ones suffer and feel powerless to know how to help.

Because of this I have decided to raise money for Cancer Research UK.  A wonderful organisation that fundraises to finance research and studies into the causes and treatments of all kinds of cancers. Cancer Research UK receives no government funding and relies on donations from people like you and me to support their wonderful work.

Due to my own physical limitations I am unable to do the traditional things normally associated with fundraising.  Running marathons, climbing mountains and sky-diving are not things that I am able to do (I'm slightly relieved!) but I have decided to raise money by doing something I can do.  I have painted a picture in honour of my family members who have been diagnosed with cancer. I am raffling three prints of this painting, all proceeds going to Cancer Research UK.

Here is the painting I have created...


She is called "Ella" which is a derivative of "Eleanor" and means "beautiful fairy".  She is made from antique book pages, vintage Japanese washi paper, acrylic paints, Prismacolor pencils, and art pens.

She has been painted with huge love, and has the words "Love", "Joy" and "Hope" hidden within the layers of paint and paper.  In honour of my sister , mum and grandparents and all other people living with cancer.

I have opened a JustGiving page here, and am asking people to make donations to Cancer Research UK through my JustGiving page in increments of £5 (£5, £10, £15, £20 etc), giving whatever you wish to give in increments of £5.  Each increment of £5 = one entry to the raffle.  So if you donate £5 your name is entered into the raffle once. If you donate £10, your name is entered into the raffle twice, if you donate £15, your name is entered into the raffle three times, etc, in increments of £5. If you enter your full name when making your donation, so that it is visible to me next to your donation amount,  I can enter your name into the raffle the relevant number of times.

If you donate anonymously, I will take that as meaning you want to make a donation, but do not want to be entered into the raffle.

If you are NOT UK based and wish to enter, make a donation at the current exchange rate, of £5 British sterling or in increments of £5. For example, at today's rate £5 GB Sterling = US $8.42

Please follow this link to my JustGiving page to make donations.  Thank you so much for each and every donation you make to support Cancer Research UK.  A wonderful organisation that doesn't receive any government funding at all, but tirelessly works to fund studies into the causes and possible treatment of all types of cancer.

There will be three fine art glicee prints of Ella available to win, printed on fine art paper using archival quality inks, tested and printed to Fine Art Trade Guild standards. The first prize will be signed by me, mounted and framed, and will be A4 sized. The second and third prize will be mounted and signed by me ready for you to frame yourself, and will be A5 sized.

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you will know that I don't sell my paintings. They are something I do, as and when the illnesses and  energy allow, to lift me. No other paintings or prints of my paintings are currently available. Only these three prints of Ella will be made. No further prints of Ella will be available.

I have been scared of doing this in case no-one likes my paintings or is interested in owning a print, and I'm therefore not able to raise much money. But, on reflection, my sister and mum know the meaning of fear. With that in mind, I can put prints of my painting out into the world...! 

The draw for the raffle will take place on 21st September 2014, when all the names of the people who have donated will be entered into a hat the relevant number of times based on their donation amount, and three names will be pulled from the hat by my sister, Charlotte, my mum, and me. The winners will be announced here on my blog in the days following 21st September 2014.  The 21st September is my sister's and brother-in-law's wedding anniversary, and seems a happy day to draw the prizewinners on.

I hope that this is all easy to understand.  It seems the easiest way to do the raffle with the money going straight to Cancer Research UK.  I will not be handling any of the money.  All proceeds go straight to Cancer Research UK once you have made your donation via my JustGiving page.  Thank you so much for all your donations. I spoke to my sister, Charlotte today, and to my mum, and they both wanted to let you know, they very much appreciate your donations and your support.

Much love to you through the internet ether,


Friday, 2 May 2014


This is Grace.
I painted her about this time last year.  She's the first A3 size canvas I painted.  It felt lovely to be able to fill the space and try out different shapes and textures.  


She was a real labour of love.

Before doing anything else, I drew and coloured her face so that I could get an idea of who she might be. As weird as it sounds, every lady I draw is completely different and seems to have a personality all her own.  I never know what colours the finished picture is going to have.  It all depends on what the lady's face looks like.

So I sat for a while and got a feel for what kind of colour combinations might suit her.  That's when the background of the canvas started to take shape.  I used vintage sewing patterns, pages from antique books, vintage Japanese washi paper, pastels, acrylic paints and art pens to layer up the background.

I positioned her face onto the background and started to paint in the details of her body and dress.

Every dress I paint is different.

Finally, I used art pens to draw in the details.  The white dots on her face and the lace of her dress.  Adding the final touches.
Each painting takes time, but I enjoy doing little bits here and there when energy allows, in short bursts.  Layering up and playing with colour.  It makes my heart smile.


My sister has one more round of chemotherapy left.  Hopefully, by the end of May she will be be able to say that the chemo has finished and she will start to feel better.  It has been six long months for her going through this gruelling physical marathon.  I had no real concept of what it meant to watch someone endure chemo until seeing my sister go through it. The hurt of watching her suffer and the complete powerlessness I have felt to make any difference at all. She has always been bubbly, feisty and funny, but I had no idea she would be able to make me snort laughing about the indignities of the cancer treatment, or that she would opt not to wear a wig, and instead, boldly and bravely take off her scarf in public. Allowing herself to be truly seen while at her most physically and emotionally vulnerable. She has carried herself with such grace and I am so proud to be her sister.

When the end of May comes and her chemotherapy treatment is finally over we'll breathe a huge sigh and things will feel lifted. Just in time for Summer. 

With all of that in mind, I opted for a new blog design, based around one of my latest painted ladies, and some of the colours I have used in my mixed-media canvases. In honour of new beginnings, and a bright, happy summer. With huge thanks to Darius for his marvellous computer trickery. 

What do you think?  Do you like it?

How are things with you?  
I hope that you are enjoying your days and that life is treating you kindly.

With huge love,

Sunday, 27 April 2014


I'm in the process of giving "Mimi & Tilly" a design overhaul, so for the next few days things here will be a bit messy!

I'm incorporating a lot of the colours I find myself using in my mixed media canvases to see how that feels.
Thank you for your patience and understanding as this happens. 

 Much love,

P.S.  I hope you've had a Bobby-Dazzler of a weekend!

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Stephen's Story

This is Stephen.  A hugely inspirational 19 year old living with terminal cancer.  He has helped raised over £1 million for teenage cancer research, the £1 million target being reached today, just at the point where he has become very seriously ill and Stephen is now hospitalized.  I find his attitude to the illness and his ability to  be such an inspiration, really moving.


You can find Stephen's page on Facebook here.  
If you wish to donate to The Teenage Cancer Trust in honour of Stephen then visit his JustGiving page here

With much love to Stephen and his family and friends.

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