We can be richer than industry…

When I first heard about second hand September it seemed like an excellent idea. However after listening to some small businesses I have realised it’s not so simple. With the covid pandemic already putting a massive strain on independent makers a whole month of reduced sales could be the final straw for many.

Obviously reducing waste & our reliance on fast fashion is an excellent goal. Buying second hand is not the only way to go about reaching it. By shopping with small businesses we can minimise support for damaging practices whilst boosting ethical traders. If you’re looking for some excellent places to spend your money I have some suggestions for you.

Grlclb create clothing & accessories with a radical message. They’re size inclusive and offer a pay it forward scheme to help folks with less spending power. Stock is handmade to order meaning no waste. I’ve been after some of their gear for ages, but could never decide which design to opt for. I finally took the plunge and am eagerly awaiting my purchase.

Three models wearing grlclb tees

Fuck the Tories are an old fav of my mine. Their name sums up the company’s mission. The jewellery they create is beautiful & makes one hell of a statement. These guys support lots of charities. They even offer freebies to customers short on funds who need a lift. Isn’t that the kind of business you want to give your money to?

Fuck the Tories hoop earrings and fuck the daily mail necklace

Rosana Exposito designs gorgeous and extremely wearable clothing. All handmade in limited numbers from natural fibres and deadstock. These pieces are timeless. Rosana is another supporter of good causes including donating profits from her face masks to Glasgow Night Shelter. From stunning silks to quirky metal accessories every piece is a dream.

Orange linen trs,  linen face masks  grey & black skirt all by rosana exposito

Lucky Sew and Sew are a mother & daughter team crafting stunning lingerie. They are completely body positive, with each piece bring custom made. These beautiful pieces are created from surplus stock & fast fashion left overs. I am desperate for a set of earth friendly undies. These are next on my buy list.

Leopard print and galaxy print bras by lucky sew and sew

There are so many fabulous independent makers pursuing ethical production. You will be thrilled to discover what treasure you can find whilst also supporting amazing people.

Nothing is like it was…

This month’s insomnia has been sponsored by infertility. My inability to reproduce occupies far to much space in my head & life. A big problem with healing from pregnancy loss is how taboo the topic remains. Things have improved a little, but on the whole I still feel like most people do not want to hear about it. Some have very valid reasons to shy away from those conversations. Others merely feel uncomfortable. Rightly or wrongly that leads me (& others) to feel we must keep it to ourselves.

Obviously I have attempted to combat the silence both in my writing & my life. I know it helps those who have lost & those around us to be more open. My own attempts to get on with it quietly were incredibly harmful to me. Still, there is so much that I have not shared. There are important people in my life that I’ve never spoken about my miscarriages or infertility with. It’s not a secret, but many things have prevented me from feeling able to discuss how I have felt.

Beyond emotion there are so many details that aren’t revealed. Common place aspects of miscarriage that are only ever referred to in hushed tones by those who have been there. There are various behaviours that I kept to myself because I feared they veered towards crazy. I’ve subsequently discovered they’re common rituals. Humans find comfort where they can, it would have been less frightening to know I was normal.

Most of all, the secrets are weighty. I feel laden with the obligation to keep the unmentionables shrouded. I don’t want to feel this way anymore. I definitely don’t want others strapping on this load. I need to let some of it go.

I say some, because, there are people & realities I cannot change. Crashing against solid stone will bring me no comfort. Thus, I want to reveal the parts that I can with this kind & ultimately faceless audience. Hopefully it can help others who feel burdened by conventional decorum. At the very least I may finally feel lighter.

I fear you’ll judge the box I’ve kept for 20 years. Adding items that others have hinted should not have been saved. Very few know it exists, the suggestion that it shouldn’t have has always hurt. I don’t think the positive tests from each pregnancy are gross. I’ve still felt the needed to hide them. Saving hospital bands & paperwork makes sense to me. I don’t understand why wanting to hold onto something (anything) connected to my children is morbid. I’ve been assured it is.

Positive pregnancy tests
Document requesting blood pregnancy test

I’m embarrassed of the few new born pieces I dared to purchase. So often I’ve seen childless women with tiny socks stashed in a drawer portrayed as lunatics. Dangerous, even. The type who might steal your baby. I hide the pregnancy, early years & baby names book. They’re packed away with the baby grow I saved from my niece’s early days. I thought one day I could frame pictures of them both babies identically clothed. Yes, the frame that would have housed those photos remains box fresh alongside. I have no need for this paraphernalia, I just can’t bear to throw them away. I worry this will be viewed as pathetic. Another crazy lady whose biological clock went bang. They were logical purchases when I made them. I was pregnant. When those pregnancies failed I was certain the next one wouldn’t.

I’ve never shared the pictures I took when my stomach started to change shape during my last pregnancy. I wanted to show off that development, but I didn’t think I was allowed. At the time it would have been tempting fate. Afterwards, there is instant unease if the subject is approached.

ly is wearing a red dress and taking a side on mirror selfie

Then there are the memories that will never leave and are never uttered. Unpleasant shards of the mess no one wants to witness. The exact tone a nurse used when she told me it was for the best because I was so young. Or the ice cold that runs through me everytime I see an examination table with stirrups. The fact that a miscarriage is more than blood and that more must be dealt with. I don’t talk about sitting alone in my bathroom trying to decide what to do with the bloody fragments of the child that will never be. Or the torture of bleeding a little & then having to wait. Clinging to hope through blood tests and scans. Only to be told you’re technically still pregnant, but it’s no longer viable.

Risk of infection, prolonged bleeding, the extent of the pain are all things I only become aware of through experience or via other women in private groups. We’re all so squeamish about the reality of pregnancy loss. I think it’s entwined with the patriarchal disgust of ‘female’ bodily functions. The same whiff of shame hangs over the process. I have felt I must not reveal anything too corporeal. Almost as though declaring the facts of my physical condition is gratuitous. Likewise, I have restrained aspects of emotional responses for the comfort others. It simply isn’t sensible to treat such a traumatic event with polite moderation. The inhibition has damaged me.

The older I get the more I seek clarity. Much of the pressure that society brings to bear obscures my view. I don’t want to submit to it anymore.

Pale white feet standing in Loch with pebbles

Pigs in zen…

I turn 40 this month, which means I have to accept that I‘m definitely an adult. Thus I realise that I will not achieve some the things I wanted to when I was grew up. One such thing being, rescuing animals from slaughter.

I’m not fit enough to care for farm animals, so my dreams of saving livestock & showering them with love will not be realised. The next best thing is to visit & support sanctuaries who can do just that. Which brings me to September’s Charity of month. Tribe Sanctuary does exactly what I dreamed of; they rescue and care for animals that might otherwise end up on someone’s plate.

Tribe sanctuary logo

You can visit this gorgeous brood, gift items from their amazon wish list or make a simple cash donation. I have always been passionate about animal rights. I believe all creatures should be respected and cared for. Look at these wee faces & tell me they don’t deserve all the love.

Orange and black highland cows eating straw
Moorag & Lachlan
Piglet in front of fireplace
Huxley
White ram with black spots on face eating grass
Rooster on grass with chickens in background
Rudy

The September Issue…

Autumn has always been my favourite season. The drawing in of the nights & cooling of the air used to be welcome. These days this time of year is more complicated.

All of my babies were due in August or September. As the weather changes I am beset with anniversaries and reminders. People who were pregnant with me throw birthday parties. I quietly mark dates I had hoped to celebrate.

This year my orbit is congested with pregnancy announcements creating a perfect storm of emotion. All are depressingly familiar. I’m sad and lost. I don’t know how to find a purpose big enough to fill up my life. Each time I begin to believe I’m approaching acceptance I’m overtaken with this stale grief.

It’s so heavy and I’m so tired of dragging it around. I want to be able to move past this, but there are too many ghosts. A million tiny pricks. Triggers lurk everywhere; always something to yearn for. Even in my happiest moments I’m aware of what’s missing.

I can’t comprehend ever making this ok. Yet, I don’t wan’t to be this tragic old bitch. I’d like to stick all my consolation prizes together & collage myself a happy enough ending. I’m scared I’m not sufficiently good/strong/grateful to make do & mend.

Let me tell you that I love you…

I have been quiet because I slipped away for a wee break. I joined my Mum, sis, nephew & Sebby for the perfect seaside getaway. My sister found the most wonderful cottage by the sea and man alive did I need it.

We stayed on a tiny village with only a church, a corner shop & hotel. Oh & of course a stunning beach. The view from our patio was wow. It was the perfect place to take some deep breathes & refresh my head.

Cove beach surrounded by cliffs and cottages on hill

Add 24hrs with the boy to all that soothing scenery and you get a very happy ly. I did bath, bedtime and constant carry on. It was bliss. The little man is a total beach baby. He adores the seaside. Rain or shine he can’t wait to get his toes on sand. His doggy big brother can’t get enough of it either.

Sandcastles  on sunny beach

When the sun was out we built sandcastles, jumped waves & found big sticks. Followed by chilling on the patio whilst the sun went down.

Feet up on table  with seaview
Sunset over sea and cliffs

We didn’t let the rain stop us, though. We donned our waterproofs and headed to Cullen. The beach took my breath away. A wild deserted beach is my absolute favourite; the Moray Coast did not disappoint. I felt calmer & more centred on that wind battered beach than I have in months. With soft golden sand, dramatic rock formations and clear blue waves crashing on the shore it was blissful. My nephew was enchanted with the ‘fairy pools’ and couldn’t wait to do some splashing. Meanwhile Seb was able to run free.

Woman chasing toddler and dog on windy beach
Two women in anoraks sheltering on beach
ly in pink anorak with windswept hair in her face

Our encounter with nature over we headed into town to check out a magical antique store. It was packed with stunning pieces. Plus more than a few whimsical items to please a toddler.

Toddler in armoured helmet and looking at  Egyptian sarcophagus
Antique books

On our final night my sis & I decided to play some scrabble. We set up by the patio doors to enjoy the view while we got our words on. Mum enjoyed the real fire in the next room with a sleepy boys. I was very rusty, but still managed to just beat my sis. Don’t tell her I told you, she’s a tad competitive.

Dog asleep by fire and woman cuddled on sofa with toddler

To soften the pain of leaving we broke journey home at St Cyrus. We again found ourselves on a dream beach. I am continuously amazed at how beautiful Scotland is. I feel so very lucky to live here. St Cyrus is also a nature reserve, so if you’re interested water birds and wildlife it is an amazing place to visit.

Bridge with sign to the beach. Woman on hill
St Cyrus  Beach

Shining down on me…

I started last week with a trip to Edinburgh to do my first out of the house project in months. I have to be honest being out in the world was incredibly stressful. Until that point I had only really been out in parks, quiet streets etc. Bustling stations & city centres were a whole other deal. My train anxiety was through the roof. Thankfully, my hotel had taken every possible precaution. I was able to close my room door & breathe easy. I take my hat off to all you amazing folk who have been out there throughout this entire crisis.

Ly poses in white towel in hotel room
It’s not a hotel stay if I don’t get posey.

On my last day in Edinburgh I managed to catch up with my very favourite man. I found a bar with great socially distanced corner table & we had an al fresco tipple. The months of separation led us to lose track of time and gab for 8hrs. All that delightful conversation meant I got back to a deserted Glasgow. These days silent streets are my jam.

Glass of rose & pint of beer . Ly in black shirt dress with illusion tights.
Deserted Buchanan street with lots of bright lights

After a few days recovery I got back to my usual pursuits. Last Friday brought my first solo adventure with the boy. We fed some birds & discovered some new street art. Then it was time to find Mummy & hit the swing park.

Glasgow street art,  toddler feeding birds
Woman  screaming on child’s death slide
Mummies need a little play time too.
Glasgow street art, don’t you forget about me.

This week I returned to beavering away at home. I’m finding the transition to the next phase of lockdown tricky. I just cannot feel confident about what is safe & that leads me to continue to limit my activities. Outdoors is much more comfortable for me, especially in places controlling numbers. Thus, I was excited to take the kiddies to a farm park with strict pre booked admission. My sis & I teamed up with my bestie to get these two rascals together. We ended up missing most of the animals because they were having so much fun in pirate ships, digger parks, schutes & sandpits. The weather was perfect. It was such a good day that we had some tears at home time.

Plus size woman and toddler on a trampoline
Toddlers running up steps to a slide
Mirror selfie of ly in sheer dress & sunglasses.
Trying my best to remain a cool auntie.

It feels like I’m in love…

I am often asked how I learned to feel good in my body. Whilst the answer to that question is long & winding there is one thing I always suggest. I’ve noticed tonnes of folk in the Bopo community offer the same advice; immerse yourself in fat positive content.

It’s an easy starting place. You can follow social media accounts, read articles & watch shows without having to make deep commitments to changes. Removing messages that make you feel bad and replacing them with joyous fat imaging works. It was my first step into accepting my body as it is. It remains something I expand upon.

Red  gallery wall with various feminist pieces of art

This is how I came to create my sexy self love wall. The deep red wall in my bedroom long hankered for some art, but I could never decide on what I wanted up there. When I commissioned my first Spunk Rock piece a vision began. I decided to create a kinky, feminist ode to myself. If that sounds conceited, I don’t care. It’s a private part of my house. My bold proclamation is for me.

Mirror selfie of women in knickers

Which leads me to my newest pretty. This gorgeous water colour is by Mia Macauley . She reproduced one of my all time favourite selfies. I am in love. Hot curves, delicious rolls & leopard print knickers too. I cannot wait to get me up on the wall.

water colour back view of plus size womsn in leopard print knickers

Down by the sea…

Friday has taken over from Tuesday as my adventure day. This week was a really good one. We took a wee trip to Culzean Country Park & had all the fun.

Culzean castle, formal garden with  large decorative water fountain on lawn

I started the outing by throwing up in a car park, so I was really hoping the day picked up. It totally did. We had a picnic lunch (I stuck to water )in a gorgeous courtyard & then headed down to the sea. The boy has been asking to go to the beach for ages & Auntie ly has been yearning for the calming waves, excitement ensued. There’s no guarantee of a sunny July in Scotland, but grey clouds didn’t impede our jubilation. The beach was almost entirely empty, it had a conveniently large log for sitting & sand castle supplies were abundant. We all bloody loved it.

Once we shook the sand from our crevices it was time to capture the castle. Atop the ramparts awaited a serene view & rest for the older members of our party. Meanwhile our ickle companion exuberantly explored the castle grounds.

I always find being close to the sea very calming. It did me good to combine a spot of serenity with a big scoop of rascalling. The further reduction of lockdown that comes into force this week will allow me to restart my life somewhat. I’m both excited & nervous about tackling things like trains in the time of covid. Thus, it was extra nice to dip my toes in the water & recharge before facing the world.

Will you feel better…

My recent flare up has been tenacious. Stronger pain killers aren’t a practical long term option. As a result I’ve been trying other pain relief methods to back up my existing medication. Thankfully I have had some success, which I’m happy to share.

I’ll kick off with the simplest & easiest to access tool; the foam roller. I saw some insta posts about their usefulness with muscle pain. I had previously associated them with sports injuries & hadn’t realised it might be worth trying one myself. Over to eBay I go & purchase myself this neon friend. Including postage it cost around a tenner. They’re available in various sizes to suit different body parts. I opted for a bigger version to use on my lower back. It couldn’t be easier to use, simply amply a little pressure & roll the problem area. I’ve found it to be helpful for brief periods. I use it whilst sitting at my desk to reduce pain & stiffness. I also use it before bed so that I’m getting into bed in less pain. I’d definitely recommend giving this a try.

Orange & pink neon foam roller

Lidocaine patches are less accessible, but more effective. They deliver topical pain relief directly to a painful area. NHS guidelines on prescribing this treatment have recently changed due to cost. Meaning it is very hit & miss on which GP’s are permitted to prescribe them. The patches are only licensed (& mostly marketed) for treatment of shingles pain. However, this is only because shingles patients were used in the testing of the product. Pain specialists are increasingly prescribing this product for ‘off label’ uses. I found the 5% patches really effective at reducing pain in my arthritic knee & also fibro pain in the other areas. They don’t remove the pain, but I found a significant improvement. Unfortunately I’m not sure if I will be able to continue using them due the new restrictions. I will absolutely be pushing for them. I’d certainly suggest asking your Dr about them.

My latest discovery is Capsaicin cream. It’s derived from chilli peppers. It’s a topical cream that works by interfering with pain signal to the brain by reducing the level of a chemical (substance P) that binds with pain receptors. Studies are showing good results with Arthritis patients. I have been pleased with the relief it provides on my knee & other joints. My Gp suggested this cream & is happy to prescribe it. You can buy it over the counter (but it’s seems is not widely available yet). If you’re dealing with fibro, arthritis or similar conditions this is something to jump on.

Blue body with spine lit up orange & red

For reference I use regular pain medications along side these treatments. I’m not a medical professional, I share my experiences in the hope of helping others. If in doubt, always seek professional advice.

The Fear…

Spoonie life comes with many challenges. There are the obvious constrictions. Then there’s the hidden toll. The less apparent complications that pack a punch. It’s those tricky unseen issues that I want to talk about.

A major component of my chronic illness is anxiety. I have mental health issues which include anxiety, but my physical difficulties bring their own particular stresses. There’s the guilt; a feeling that’s perpetually nestling in the background of my consciousness. Guilt over letting people down, asking for help, using resources or saying no too many times. I have a million things to feel guilty about and every one of them has it’s own additional worries. I feel huge anxiety about cancelling anything due to illness. I worry people will be angry, upset, left in the lurch. I analyse every response and feel certain someone is annoyed. I overthink every request for help. Surely I can get this done without inconveniencing others. Am I asking too much? Always, always I worry that I’m just not worth all the extra effort.

Unfulfilled potential offers me unlimited scope for guilt. I am sure that I have disappointed. There are expectations that I have not met. Chronic illness has interrupted or ruled out so many things. I know my limitations have impacted more than me. I am haunted by the moments I may robbed folk of. To not live up to the hopes of those you respect is crushing. Not reaching your own is no party either. On an existential level it feels negligent not to maximise one’s talents. I spend more time than is reasonable worrying about all the ways in which I have short changed society. I am ashamed of all the things I cannot do.

Orange light is sunset shining in to a dark room

Shame looms large. Intellectually I know I cannot control any of my health issues. However, I’m not always great at translating that knowledge into feelings. I’m embarrassed about how little I can get done during the bad times. I often feel less capable, less valuable, just less. I stress about the judgements that will be passed. It’s very humbling to be unable to keep on top of all the housework. Likewise to have a head like a bird’s nest because your body just won’t allow you to shower & do your hair. I cringe at needing help to stand up. Wince every time I have to explain why I’m ordering a taxi to take me round the corner. Each unproductive day is a dent in the ego. It’s hard to feel worthy when writing two paragraphs & heating soup are a whole day’s accomplishments.

Then, some days you’ll wake up and feel relatively good. That should be lovely, but so often it’s tainted. Coloured with more guilt. How dare I enjoy myself when I’m supposed to be sick. Imposter syndrome creeps in. I start to feel if I can manage doing this nice thing I should be able to handle everything else. I feel bad for feeling good and I’m scared. I fear that I’ll be judged on my good days. I’m terrified that everyone else is thinking I should do better. When folk see me having a couple of glasses of wine with a friend do they think I must be fine? If I succeed professionally I’m convinced everyone believes I’m faking it. It’s such a difficult juxtaposition to live with; feeling terrible for all the things one cannot do whilst also believing the things you can will be held against you.

Yellow road sign with text, I’m scared my good days will be used against me

Even writing this is giving me anxiety. Will this be perceived as whiny? Or as me making excuses for myself. It’s not intended to be either. I just want to have honest conversations. Large aspects of the disabled/chronically ill experience are never acknowledged. Too often we’re judged or dismissed without ever having been listened to.