Sunday, 24 April 2016

Discovering talents

don't know who to credit this image to, a cousin of mine posted it last week on Facebook and it was just what I needed to read at the time I needed to read it. 

Each day passes and I don't feel I've achieved very much. I have a strong desire to succeed but it's prevented by a body and mind riddled by illness. This proverb reminded me that I can still achieve, little by little. 

Living with a chronic illness means having to think outside the box to accomplish what we want in life. I'm always inspired by Jessica Taylor, who runs a charity from her bed, 'Share A Star'to send a message of hope and to help children who are seriously unwell. I meet people daily online who, despite living with chronic illness, make such beautiful creations and works of art; bloggers and writers whose words motivate, inspire, spread the word and transport us away from our sick beds. 

Before I developed ME I enjoyed walking, exercising, and dancing.  When I could no longer do these I struggled. I don't have any particular gifts or talents and I had to try a few things, when I could, to see what I could do with the limited 'spoons' I had. 

I spent a lot of time pondering and reflecting. The main questions I asked myself were: 

What excites me? 

What do I enjoy reading/watching? 

What gives me energy? 

What do I think I'm good at?

What would others say I am good at? 
(Don't be afraid to ask them!) 

What are my core values? 

What is important to me? 

Whilst in this process someone suggested writing a blog. I discovered a passion I didn't know I had and I became a blogger. I love writing, but I wouldn't say I was a proficient writer. Blogging gave me a platform to express myself informally. It also opened up a world online of like-minded people. It felt like the perfect fit for me and I still absolutely love it. It's not been an easy route, but then the best routes never are!

What's been your experience? Have you discovered new talents or ambitions? Were you able to continue and strengthen the talents you already had? I'd love to hear, leave a comment below :) 

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Helping others to help ourselves.

One day last week I was feeling pretty sorry for myself. I was driving home from the school run contemplating yet another day lay on the couch until it was time to go and pick my boys up again. 

I had sat in the car watching all the other school parents chatting away, feeling lonely and sad that I kept having to cancel or postpone their offers of meeting up. I knew those offers wouldn't always come and that each time I said no I was closing the door to my chance of a social life. Some doors had already closed. 

I was having a good old pity party (which I think we just have to allow ourselves to do sometimes before we can move on). Then a thought occurred to me. I was being selfish, thinking of all the things I couldn't do and feeling robbed. 

President Thomas S Monson said "unless we lose ourselves in service to others, there is little purpose to our own lives. Those who live only for themselves eventually shrivel up and … lose their lives, while those who lose themselves in service to others grow and flourish--and in effect save their lives.”

I was waiting for people to contact me, to offer me their friendship. But in this day of technology and social media I can offer my friendship. I can send a message to ask how someone is doing, ask them how things are in their life etc. I can show interest and my support in the things they post. Instead of thinking about what they can do for me, I can think about what I can do for them within my capabilities. 

Service doesn't have to be physical.
"We live in a contentious world. We give service when we don’t criticize, when we refuse to gossip, when we don’t judge, when we smile, when we say thank you, and when we are patient and kind." Cheryl A Esplin

Before I became ill I was always serving some one in one way or another. In my job, in my church, in my family. Developing ME changed all that. 

Living with a chronic illness made me selfish. Actually, selfish is the wrong word, it is self-preservation. Nobody else knew what I needed and when so I had to think inwardly to take care of myself so as not to precipitate more deterioration. Although self-preservation is still absolutely necessary for me, in order for me to remain upbeat I need to think of others too. 

Before I became ill a lot of my service to others was based on doing something for someone else. Now when I'm helping others most of the time it is based on being something - a friend, a listener, a shoulder to cry on, an empathiser, a smile, someone who shows love, someone without judgment, a supporter. 

Ralph Waldo Emerson said 
"The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well."

Regardless of our abilities we can all find a way to be useful, honourable and compassionate. However, it is my belief that by doing this we will be happy. I believe we will find happiness when we lose ourselves in helping others. 

Friday, 15 April 2016

Amanda Carroll Art

Art, colour and the great outdoors are my therapy in a life consumed by pain and Amanda Carroll combines all three to produce art work that I simply can't stop looking at.

Despite living with a chronic illness Amanda produces art that brings the outdoors into our homes and I find looking at them is like a breath of fresh air. 

'Energy' an original seascape by Amanda Carroll

My favourites are the paintings of the waves. I find tranquility when I listen to and watch the waves of the sea, it's the place I feel the happiest. I love how Amanda has used shading and texture to portray the crashing of the waves so well that I can almost hear them and smell the salty, refreshing air. The two pieces are cleverly titled 'Freedom' and 'Energy'. Both words describe things that we crave whilst feeling trapped and worn down by pain and fatigue and yet they are traits that the majestic sea has in abundance. 

'Blaze' an original aurora painting by Amanda Carroll

Her paintings of the Aurora Borealis are also remarkable. The contrast of the light and dark create a breathtaking image that captures the beauty and awe of the real Northern Lights. 

'Into the Light' an original sunrise painting by Amanda Carroll. 

I'm drawn to Amanda's site regularly to view her artwork again and again as I see some of my fondest memories of sitting watching the sun set behind the sea perfectly illustrated in her seascape paintings. They allow me to be transported there without having to actually go anywhere. 

If you, like me, are a fan of Amanda and her art you should visit her new folksy shop where these stunning paintings are available to buy.

 You can also follow her blog where she puts updates, and unveils each new work of art.

You can also find Amanda on Facebook  
and Twitter.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Conscious Crafties

I'm Karen and after becoming sick in 2011 almost overnight, I found my way to various support networks. I noticed that many of us turn to crafts to help distract from our illnesses and to feel useful again. Seeing so much untapped talent, the idea was born to create a community for everyone to showcase their work, in one place and give people a way of creating their own business. It was also a way for me to feel useful again, by using my skills to help others. is about empowering us all to be successful through our crafts, tell our stories and meet new like minded friends who understand our struggles. I'm also hoping it plays a key part in changing the way disabled/sick people are viewed by the world. We can still contribute and are incredibly talented!! has been built in honour of Sam, my beautiful friend I met through sickness and our love of crafts. Her strong fight with Gastroparethis and POTS sadly ended in Oct 14. Heartbroken, I knew then, after years of thinking about it, the idea for us all to sell our crafts within a supportive community needed to be launched, so it could help people now and give them hope for the future.

Stories are told:
As most of us feel unheard, each 'Craftie' gets to tell their story on the site to help spread awareness of our (sometimes invisible) illnesses. Stories appear in the 'Meet the Crafties' page and also posted on Facebook and Twitter. We've gained a massive following on Facebook in such a short space of time (thank you everyone!) so our stories are seen by thousands. Our crafts are regularly shared through social networks and many of our Crafties have appeared in various online newsletters, all helping to increase sales whilst raising awareness. Every new Craftie also gets invited to our 'Crafties Community', a fun place to share crafts, selling tips and form close bonds with friends who understand our struggles.​

Here's my story:

In 2011 I was perfectly healthy going about my workaholic lifestyle when BOOM! - I started fainting up to 10 times a day and my bed became my best friend. A year later I was diagnosed with POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome) a rare condition affecting the blood vessels and heart rate. There's no cure, but reaching out to others with the same condition has been a huge help in learning to live with it. 3 years later I was told my POTS was caused by EDS (Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome) a connective tissue disorder affecting the skin, cartilage, ligaments and blood vessels - everything that holds us together! I also have some bonus conditions: Fibromyalgia, Raynaud’s Disease, Chronic Pain Syndrome, Migraines and Asthma. Life has been tough, but I've met some wonderfully strong friends who also live with chronic illnesses.

Conscious Crafties is a handmade craft buying and selling community for creative people living with chronic illness, disability or caring for those affected.

If you would like to join up please visit Join the Crafties

Here's some testimonials from Crafties:
"Conscious Crafties has given me a direction. It has given me beautiful friends who understand. . . No questions asked if I am having a bad time. That understanding alone is HUGE. Looking back now, if it wasn't for Conscious Crafties, I would be stuck in that black hole. The support is great, everyone is so lovely and helpful even when they themselves are having a bad time of it. Its encouraged me to keep going with my crafts!" Hazel, Li'l H Crafts

"Conscious Crafties has given me motivation, an uplifting boost of confidence. That we are not alone and the opportunity to meet fellow crafty Spoonies ☺" x Claire, LS23 Bespoke Crafts 

"Conscious Crafties has been a lifeline, when I was lost and heading down a dark slippery slope, its given me something bright & shiny to focus on and a new purpose. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for creating such a wonderful community xoxox" Ceri, Cute Creations

Friday, 1 April 2016

Dream Accomplished: A Story of Cancer, A Mother's Love & Taylor Swift.

This week I 'met' a lady called Elizabeth, or as I knew her @ourtaylorstory 

I was feeling a little bit down after another set back in my blogging journey, when she offered me the chance to read her book  "Dream Accomplished: A Story of Cancer, A Mother's Love & Taylor Swift".

After a look at her Twitter profile I was intrigued and jumped at the chance to read it. She was prompt in sending it so I was able to start reading it that very same night, and reluctantly had to put it down a few chapters in so I could sleep. 

The next night I couldn't wait for the kids to sleep so I could begin reading again and I didn't want to stop. Although Elizabeth wrote about her experiences with her rare disease and the medical profession it wasn't a hard read and her story flowed well.

The book is split into two parts. The first part deals with her cancer journey, while part two focuses on their goal of meeting Taylor Swift. Elizabeth gives the reader the option at the beginning of the book to skip to part two if they just want the Taylor Swift story. 

I enjoyed reading part one, yet I wasn't prepared for all the emotions I would feel as Elizabeth describes the day she was told she had cancer and all the events that happened after. She writes in such a way that I could try to imagine what it felt like to be in her position and the plethora of emotion that goes with it as well as frustrated and exasperated at all the doctors with their conflicting theories that ensued. 
I was amazed and inspired by her strength as she never gives up. 

This part of the book is fantastic for people wanting to understand more about the process: medically, emotionally and physically, that someone goes through in a situation like this. Although Elizabeth stresses that this is her story and her experiences she is very comprehensive in her description of each stage and how the family experiences them, that I think many people will benefit from reading it.

Part two filled me with amazement at Elizabeth's tenacity once again and the mothers love that saw her push through her debilitating symptoms to pursue her goal to fulfill her daughters dream. I found the strong bond and love between Elizabeth, Marc and their daughter Page extremely endearing and found myself rooting for them throughout their adventures. So much so that I almost cheered out loud when they saw their first sign of success! 

I was also pleasantly surprised and moved by the kindness and generosity of Taylor Swift and the people around her. 

I enjoyed "Dream Accomplished: A Story of Cancer, A Mother's Love & Taylor Swift" by Elizabeth Gross and am impressed that she battled through her illness to share her story. I am grateful that she did and I'm sure it will benefit many others as it did me. 

Visit to purchase the book, all profit goes to raise funds for cancer and invisible illness research and support. 

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter to all who read my blog! Thank you! 

I've spent much of this Easter in bed, but this meme reminded me of the reason we celebrate Easter and that how I feel is only temporary. When this life is over I will have a working body once again. That's something to be happy about :) 

Saturday, 26 March 2016

The Importance of Good Self Care


For this years Mother's Day my sister and I decided to give my mum a pamper day at home. My sister prepared a lovely afternoon tea for us and provided treatment in the form of face masks, foot spa's and hand massages, to name a few.

I spend the vast majority of my day-to-day life resting, so I was taken by surprise at how therapeutic I found being pampered. I realised then what my poor achey body had been craving - good self care. I made it a goal to spend some of my spoons taking care of me

Self care doesn't come easy as I feel guilty and selfish, but as a mum if I take care of myself I benefit my family. In their research for the book 'Work andFamily-Allies or Enemies?' Stew Friedman and Jeff Greenhaus discovered "The more time that working mothers spent taking care of themselves, the better were the emotional and physical health of their children."

In addition Stew Friedman says "while it might seem noble in the short run to sacrifice the needs you have to cultivate your mind, body, and spirit, over time it’s a recipe for burnout." 

Everyone of us needs to spend our spoons wisely, and make sure we take time to replenish. 

The Mental Health America website also had this to say:
"Taking good care of yourself is paramount to the success of your recovery process. People in recovery find that their physical, spiritual, and emotional health are all connected, and that supporting one supports the others. Taking care of all aspects of you will increase the likelihood that you stay well."
(Underline added by me)

I'm a firm believer that we'll only have a shot at recovery if we treat it holistically - mind and body. I resolved to take care of myself better.

One place in particular that I found the pampering beneficial was my eyes. The cooling, refreshing mask was a nice contrast to the usual aches and pains I feel there, so when I went home I ordered one. 

A good gel eye mask has many benefits: 

• The coolness offers great relief from the constant aches and pains I usually feel in my face, particularly around the eyes and forehead. 

• The chilled mask helps to constrict the blood vessels, reduce puffiness and makes dark circles appear lighter and the skin smoother. 

• A cool mask helps to regulate my body temperature if I get too hot at night time (which I often do). 

I also use cucumbers for a more natural way to do the same job as the gel mask. They can reduce dark circles and the ascorbic acid helps to reduce puffiness. 

The added benefits to cucumber are that they are high in silica and anti-oxidants so they're anti-aging (something I'm definitely more interested in now I'm getting older) and help to soothe irritation.

I'm looking forward to taking care of myself more. 
What are some of the ways you take care of yourself? I'd love to hear them, leave a comment 🙂