I am facilitating some training courses this month about balance and wellbeing.  It’s been fun making pie-charts in paper collage to reflect the ‘work, rest and play’ balance in our lives.  I decided to bring  mini Mars bars to reference the advertising slogan from the 1970’s! Most of us in the room even remembered the jingle…

Lagom is an interesting concept – which can influence everything from interior design to work-life balance to environmental activism.  A lovely friend bought me Linnea Dunne’s book on Lagom for Christmas and I’ve picked it up again today.

I’ve been weighing some things in my own personal balance scales – thinking carefully about maintaining my wellbeing and physical health as I take on more work within mental health.  I hope these might be helpful for others who need a little balancing out from time to time.  For each person the amount of different things we need in life will be unique, and changeable.  It’s worth taking time to figure out our own ‘just right’.

My balance scales

Emotionally demanding work <> Time doing practical activities

Time with friends <> Time to do things for my family

Busyness <> Wild swimming and exercise

Planning healthy meals <> Giving myself permission to eat for pleasure

Writing <> Housework!

Getting the balance right with my approach to food can be challenging.  Olanzapine is notorious for its impact on metabolism and risk of diabetes.  There’s a reason to minimise my weight gain.  But more often than not, the reason I want to lose weight is to look ‘better’

The Embrace You course has inspired and encouraged me to stop chasing a body that’s anything different from the one I have right now.  It’s a work in progress, but no dieting is one of the take home messages.  “If I want to eat the f*ing cookie my kid baked, I’m gonna eat the f*ing cookie my kid baked.” – Amanda de Cadenet

As I wandered through the Co-op today I picked up some sachets of 44-calorie miso soup for lunch.  My jeans have been uncomfortably digging in to my stomach the last few days.  I fell so easily back into the trap of fat=bad=diet.  With the words of Embrace You in my mind, I went back to the store half an hour later for chicken breast and vegetables.  Lunch in the end was a delicious, nutritionally balanced soup.

Embrace soup

  • 1 sachet miso paste
  • 4 spring onions, thinly sliced
  • 6 chestnut mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1 inch ginger, cut into thin batons
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • Handful sugar snap peas
  • 2 slices thick cut chicken breast

Fry the spring onions, mushrooms, ginger and garlic in a little sesame oil until softened.  Add the sugar snap peas and chicken and cook for 1-2 minutes.  Add the miso paste and boiling water to cover.  Simmer for 1-2 minutes and serve in a deep bowl.








It’s been a rough couple of days with Little One.  All kinds of reasons, including the snow which we had all eagerly anticipated – yet completely unsettled her.  Snow is a very rare thing in Devon… My rosy image of a family snow-day met with the reality of both of us parents trying to squeeze in working from home while helping Little One understand a totally unpredictable day.  There have been a lot of tantrums.

A moment of joy teaching Eldest to snowboard in the park was cut short by the embarrassment of Little One lying on her back in the snow screaming because it wasn’t her turn.

Tonight I needed to revisit my Sigur Ros Heima DVD.  I needed the bittersweet harmonies and the simple beauty of four musicians totally in step with one another.

Memories flood in when I watch Heima.  Summer 2008 at Greenbelt open-air cinema,  Eldest asleep in a warm bundle of blankets on my knee.  Brandy hot chocolate, and fresh doughnuts as we watched the Icelandic community come together through music.  Feeling overwhelmed with love as I cradled my daughter and rested in my husband’s arms.

Still raw from leaving the church, yet feeling flutters of hope that something like Heima (‘Home’ in English) was what Church could look like outside the walls.  The scene filmed at Gamla Borg  still makes me cry – the simplicity of young and old gathered to share food and be immersed in music.



Most of the time I feel like a piece of pottery repaired with gold;

breakage and repair as part of my history, not something to disguise.

Beautiful possibility written in the cracks.

Yet still on occasion those days come

when my cracks just feel like cracks.

Flaws, vulnerability.

I doubt my potential to support people in seeing the possibility of beauty

in their broken places.


I recently bought myself this necklace from Etsy as a reminder of the cracks, the beauty and the fragility.  All of these things are true about me, all of these things are OK.

The name of the necklace – senbonzakura – means “A thousand cherry trees”

I really like the image of a cherry tree, fragrant blossoms drifting in the wind.



On grief and gratitude


Image from Grief to Gratitude blog

To Little One

It was your 7th birthday last month. Facebook popped up a picture of you, 2 years old in your yellow corduroy party dress (you might not even know what Facebook was if you read this in the future). You had a little sprout of hair tied up in a hair bobble. Even then your fringe liked to fall in your face! Your blue eyes were as beautiful and expressive then as they are today.

I hope you are able to read Mummy’s blog in the future. I know you get cross sometimes when words are so hard they make your brain hurt. I promise we will keep playing musical bumps with your word cards, and laser tag – remember how you love dancing to Minions music and the Trolls soundtrack? We are so proud of how hard you try and how much you love it when we read poems and stories to you.

You had a pizza making birthday party last month – do you remember? You and your friends loved squeezing the pizza dough and rolling it into big ropes to bash on the table! There’s a pang of sadness sometimes that we don’t have pictures of your first birthday party – because we didn’t have one. I’m sorry. Mummy was still so very poorly. I’d love to have made you a cake with chocolate buttons and one pink candle to blow out. But now I get to make you Rapunzel cakes, and rainbow meringue cakes (your big sister is very good at those unicorn poop meringues isn’t she?)

Almost every night-time, Daddy and I pop into your bedroom before we go to bed. You sleep so beautifully! Did you know, sometimes you pucker up your lips in your sleep – just like you are feeding from mummy, or from your bottle. I really missed feeding you when I had to go to hospital. I love it when you lay in my arms even now you’re 7, just to pretend that you’re a baby again.

You love to carry your baby doll in the sling we bought you for your birthday – do you remember it? Grandma and Grandad bought you a talking baby doll who giggles and sounds like she’s saying your name sometimes. She looks so snug when you hold her on your chest. You’ve always loved pretending to be a mummy. You kiss and cuddle your baby dolls and you talk to them in a soft sing-song voice. I love to watch you play ‘babies’ – because I think maybe you learned how to be a really good mummy from me, even though I was poorly for a very long time. That makes me feel very grateful.

You love your new baby cousin Maisie so much. I wonder if you’ll have a chance to feed her some mashed up pear in the holidays? I know you’re very excited about that. Sometimes I have an aching heart, hoping for a lovely person for you to be a parent with in the future. It might be harder to meet a special person when you have learning difficulties… but we’ll find a way. Daddy and I think we might like to be called Pops and Nanna if we are grandparents when we are older. Won’t that be funny!?

Little One, our hopes and dreams for you remain the same. That you know you are deeply loved, that you find fun and purpose in your life, that you have people to support you through sorrow and joy. Love you forever.



The One with The List

Spoiler alert: this probably has something to do with Jung

So, all ten seasons of Friends are on Netflix.  Eldest has been seriously binge-watching and we’ve caught a few episodes of 90’s nostalgia with her.


For some reason, my brain was having an absolute party last night while I was trying to get to sleep.  I thought it might be fun to imagine my thoughts as the different characters from Friends.  Unfortunately this succeeded in keeping me a little more awake thinking about writing a blog… but it made me chuckle.  If I knew more about Jung I’d probably be able to identify my Ego and host of unconscious others.  But here is a glimpse into my brain anyway through the medium of Friends.

Cast (and their raison d’etre)

Monica: attention to detail

Ross: self-pity

Joey: various appetites

Rachel: pick me! me, me, me

Phoebe: wild swimming and thinking about mythical creatures

Chandler: criticism and sarcasm

Episode 3: The One with The List

It’s 1:00 am and the Friends are gathered in Monica’s apartment.  They are trying to settle down for the night.  Rachel has her duvet and pillow on the sofa, Joey is resting his head in Phoebe’s lap and Monica, Ross and Chandler are drinking cocoa at the table.

Monica: I know what we could do, seeing as we’re awake anyway – let’s make a list, a list would be really helpful for figuring out what we need to do for our training courses in six weeks’ time!

Rachel: Seriously, Mon? Some of us are trying to get some beauty sleep here

Monica: But once we’ve made the list I’m sure we’ll all feel much better, and maybe we’ll be more sleepy too!  We’ll have made sure we don’t forget anything… Or… we could clean the kitchen?

Chandler (imitates Monica sarcastically): “Tidy house, tidy mind”

Rachel (smooths her pillow): I don’t know about you guys, but I’m not moving from this spot

Phoebe: Ooh, I wonder what swimming spot will be best tomorrow?

All: Phoebs!!

Ross: I seriously don’t know if I’m going to be swimming tomorrow… my back is so tight.  There’s no way I’m sleeping while my muscles are so tenses.  Hey Phoebs, can you come over and just massage right into my neck there?

Monica: This is getting us nowhere, I really think we should just go back to the list

Joey: Isn’t anyone else hungry? I really need pizza! Come on, guys, we’ve been awake so long since dinner time! Now Monica, there’s a list you can make – our pizza order (smiles cheekily)

Rachel (jabs her finger): Right that’s it you guys! I’m going to my own room with my soft sheets and my double duvet and I’d better not hear any more bickering from you.

All: Night Rach

Rachel brushes her hair in the mirror, shoves a pair of ear plugs in and feigns sleep

Chandler: Yeah right, like we’re gonna miss throwing a kitchen party without Rach!

Monica rolls her eyes and gets out a pen and paper



January Detox

This is probably not the blog you are expecting.

2018 is a year for detoxifying my body image. For changing my attitude towards the way my body looks; towards the food I eat.

I’m taking some steps – and most of them are pretty fun!

On 19th January I’m hosting a ‘leftover Christmas spirits’ cocktail party – after a local screening of Embrace

The Embrace film had a huge impact on me last year. Imploring women and girls (and to be fair, this applies to guys too) to spend the middle years of our lives loving and even relishing our bodies the way we do as children.  Pensioners in the film spoke with great acceptance and gratitude for their bodies – focusing more on what their body could still do and less on how it looked!

What freedom we could enjoy if we experimented with these ways of looking at ourselves. My body is capable; my body is fun; my body can do all this cool stuff!

This month I’ll be running one morning after school drop-off. Over tea, my running buddy and I will be taking part in an online  course produced by Taryn Brumfitt, the woman behind Embrace. We want to check in with our motives – are we running to be fitter, stronger, mentally refreshed or is it all about being ‘bikini-ready’?

Wild swimming will continue to be a completely freeing body image experience. Frankly if you’re going to walk into the winter sea with a swimming cap, wetsuit boots and a bikini on you really don’t need to give a cr*p what you look like as most passers by will think you are a nutter anyway.

I’m challenging myself this year to post more videos of my swims. Now, the ‘rear view’ as I enter the water isn’t remotely reminiscent of a Roxy surf girl ad – but the thing is I feel as free and connected to the world as these girls look, so why not share the joy?


For Christmas my mum bought me a copy of the River Cottage Even More Veg cookbook. Everything in there looks so delicious and I am looking forward to planning meals that make our Riverford  box vegetables the star of the show.

Being on Olanzapine means that thinking about healthy eating is important as I’m at a higher risk of type 2 diabetes. This year I want to do this in a way that doesn’t put sweet foods and white carbs on a ‘banned list’ which I’m secretly hoping will reduce my waistline (and even more secretively enjoying the self-denial and control)

I want to model for Eldest a free and open approach to food, focusing on taste, enjoyment and variety. On the fact that a bikini body is never, ever worth hating yourself for every morsel of enjoyment.

And of course, I want to create more soup recipes!  I published a one-off cookbook for my friend this year and I’ll leave you with one of the quotes;

“Only the pure in heart can make a good soup” Ludwig van Beethoven

I’m hopeful this means my heart is in pretty good shape… More in January Detox #2





We had an unusual talk for a festive day today.  After a beautiful, blustery Boxing Day walk and a couch-to-5K run for me, our conversation turned to funerals.  Little One had been asking about the grave stones she saw as we passed a church, remembering her Great-Grandpa’s burial early this year.

I confessed to my family that I already have a file on my laptop entitled ‘Funeral’.  I didn’t aim to write this in a macabre way, but in the hope of arranging things to celebrate good memories when the day arrives (hopefully many, many years in the future). 
Maybe having been very close to taking my own life has led me to think about things this way.  When the time comes, I want my family to experience grieving in the most thankful way possible.  It could have been so terribly different.

One of the things I’d love is for a family member or friend to sing these verses from the U2 song ‘Grace’ as part of the service.

Grace, she takes the blame
She covers the shame
Removes the stain
It could be her name

Grace, it’s the name for a girl
It’s also a thought that changed the world
And when she walks on the street
You can hear the strings
Grace finds goodness in everything

Grace, she carries a world on her hips
No champagne flute for her lips
No twirls or skips between her fingertips
She carries a pearl in perfect condition

What once was hurt
What once was friction
What left a mark
No longer stings
Because Grace makes beauty
Out of ugly things

Grace makes beauty out of ugly things


We listened to this song on Spotify in the car and I got a pang thinking about my Christmas Eve blog.

Do I believe in a Grace which makes beauty out of the ugliness of the Trump administration?  Out of the ugliness in the way I feel justified to judge the religious people I consider to be judgmental?

Grace finds beauty in everything… not only those who share my world-view.

This should be part of the message at my funeral – that Grace not only found me, but Grace changed me.


One of the three


You were one, one of the three
One in three must find some peace
You were one, one of the three
I need proof before belief
Oh, well, you just knew they’d come for you
So it was suicide, suicide
Oh, well, now you got just what you want
I hope you’re satisfied

One of the three

You were one, one of the three
One in three must find some peace
You were one, one of the three
I need proof before belief
Oh, well, I guess you’re not to blame for what they’ve
Done in your name, in your name
Oh, well, it’s a shame you got so famous for a sacrifice

One of the three

James, 1993

I’ve been pondering my faith again this Christmas time.  There was sadness and anger in Eldest’s face today in the pews.  We went to church for the first time in a long while.  For me today, there was peace in the liturgy.  Much more than I find in guitars and drums, worship that tends to focus on personal happiness as a natural consequence of faith.

It’s pretty hard for Eldest not to question God’s goodness, even existence.  She’s watched me cry out for mercy, wracked with pain in the midst of depression.  Five episodes in her twelve years as my daughter.  She’s learning that so many of her friends are hurting, with complicated lives and broken relationships. She’s living in a word rife with Islamophobia, political polarization and economic insecurity.

For me, it’s more nuanced.  I’ve definitely spent some years being angry and disillusioned – with both God and the church.  Yet there’s still something that draws me back to the fragile hope I feel when I think about God in human form.

The James song hits me right where it hurts at the moment –  I guess you’re not to blame for what they’ve done in your name.  The rhetoric of the Trump administration’s brand of evangelical ‘Christianity’ sickens me to my stomach.  The idea of a monopoly on Truth, the willingness of voters to ignore misogyny, racism and open hatred because of a stance on homosexuality or abortion.

But you see, that’s where the person of Jesus draws me again.  He was a fierce critic of the religious leaders of the time, who were more concerned that he’d broken a scriptural rule of healing on the Sabbath than they were about the brokenness of the people he sought to heal.

When I looked for an image of the Trinity from the film “The Shack”, the most frequent links were angry articles decrying its ‘heresy’.  For daring to portray God as a woman.  For daring to hope that God wants to see everyone healed of emotional pain and brought back into a relationship with the parent, son and Spirit.  For implying that maybe each person of the Trinity suffered on the cross.

Why are some Christians so scared of the idea of a God who is good and fair beyond our understanding?  Of a God who defies definition in human terms?  Of a God who transcends gender, despite the ineptitude of our pronouns to describe that?  Of a God who is love therefore whose very existence is relationship.

Why reduce the mystery of Jesus, fully God and fully human, to a simplistic ‘they’re going to hell and we’re going to heaven’ dichotomy?

I want to say to my friends and readers in the USA, and evangelical churchgoers here in the UK; I know Christianity isn’t as one-dimensional as this for many of you.  I know that we may differ on human issues but I hope we stand united in a belief in the goodness of Jesus – the angels declared his birth to be Good News for all humanity.  I can’t really say it better than Rachel Held Evans so I’ll leave you with her brave and beautiful blog.





Life through a polarizing lens,

Contrast intensified

Darkness, darker.  Deeper

Pulling me under the water

Colour (and some may say)

Beauty heightened

Sunset full of the Spirit’s kiss

The clouds portent

Perhaps a storm is coming


This poem is something of a meditation on the diagnostic label versus the experience of bipolar disorder (if in fact that’s a thing)