5 things I learned about divorce|a little bird made me

5 things I have learned about divorce

My marriage ended 5 1/2 years ago when my husband announced, via email, that he ‘couldn’t do this anymore’.  At the time I truly had not seen it coming.  Looking back I can see that the marriage was doomed.  Ah the wisdom of hindsight.

Since then I have been through the ups and downs and ins and outs of divorce.  While I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, and while my first question to anyone I meet who tells me that they are thinking of leaving their partner is “Is there any way you can fix this?” there are a few things I have learned along the way that might help someone else going through separation and divorce, particularly if there are children involved.  I am not an expert, these are my personal experiences and learnings, but they seem, from discussion with friends, to be universal.

5 things I learned about divorce|a little bird made me

1. The grief process following divorce is the same as the grief process following death of a loved one.  I truly didn’t understand this until I read a blurb in the back of a vampire fantasy novel by Laurell K. Hamilton (I was hiding in bad literature at the time) where the author talked about thinking that nothing would be worse than losing her mother as a child until she got divorced.  That statement shocked me but also resonated with me.  The death of a marriage is more than just walking away from someone you have loved.  It is the death of your dreams, of your idea of who the other person is, of the idea of who you are, of how you fit into your community and family, and of your belief in your future.

Once I understood this I realised why I had been angry, sad, wanting him back, etc.  It helped me to heal and bounce back much more quickly when I realised that my reactions were ‘normal’.

2. Putting your children first in every decision you make about how to react to your separation helps.  When I remembered to look at my decisions through the lens of ‘how will this affect the children’ my decisions were much better than when I had knee jerk reactions of ‘I don’t want this to happen’, ‘Hell no way am I agreeing with you’, or ‘You need to suffer too’.  (All of which are completely normal but not completely pleasant reactions.)

5 things I learned about divorce|a little bird made me

3. Something that was a problem during your marriage will continue to be a problem after your marriage.  I know – really obvious huh?!  For example it took me a long time to realise that the issues that we had about money during our marriage were exactly the same issues we were having about money after our marriage.  In fact it has taken me 5 years to realise that there is no point engaging in those discussions as nothing changes.  The sooner you learn to change your response, the sooner the situation will change.  By not engaging in these pointless conversations I am more able to gain perspective, less frustrated and more able to just ‘let it go.’

5 things I learned about divorce|a little bird made me

4. Biting your tongue lets your children develop their own relationships and form their own views on their parents.  Look.  I am no saint, and I make mistakes like everyone else.  However I have tried really hard not to tell the children every thought, feeling, frustration or anger I have towards their father.  They need to be able to work out his role in their life themselves, untainted by my history and views.  I try to just give them simple facts, or direct them to him for their answers.  When it is really hard I simply say ‘I don’t really understand why he did that either. Maybe you should talk to him about that so that he can help you to understand.’    What I mutter under my breath, in my mind or to my friends when the kids aren’t around is something quite different!

5. There is no perfect way for children to share their time between their parents.  No matter what people tell you there is no perfect solution.  Week about, every second weekend, every Friday night, half of each week, just on school holidays, and all the other weird and wonderful arrangements that we can dream up will never give our kids the ideal balance or life.  They will always feel a little displaced, out of sync, and disrupted.  There will always be the drama of telling a teacher ‘sorry I left that at Dad’s house’, or ‘Mum won’t sign the form because that is on Dad’s week’ or any of the hundred ways that they are forced to publicly share that they come from a broken home.  All we can do is support them, listen to them, give them a voice (but not control when they are too young), and let them know that we understand.

5 things I learned about divorce|a little bird made me

Life is complex.  Learning more about how to lead better lives helps to deal with that complexity.  Do I sound sage or just weary?  Either way – time for a cup of tea while I contemplate the latest development in the household.

Be kind to yourself today.

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How to make your own gadget cover

Make your own gadget case |a little bird made meI promised a few weeks ago that I would prepare a tutorial for you so that you could make your own iPad or gadget cover.  I probably would have bumbled along and forgotten that promise if it wasn’t for our upcoming school fete.  We always have an exceptional craft stall, with a great range of high end products, and this year a friend has been assigned the task of making iPad covers, so I decided that I needed to get my tutorial writing groove on and prepare it for her (and you!)

These gadget covers make great presents for family and friends – you can personalise them with your choice of fabric, or by embellishing them.

These instructions will make a gadget cover that fits an iPad, iPad2,  etc, and will be a little big for the iPad Air.  At the end of the instructions I provide measurements for making this pattern to fit the iPad Air and the iPad mini.

Materials

1 piece of hat elastic measuring 15 cm.

1 button.

Make your own gadget case |a little bird made me

Ninjas!!

One piece each in your chosen outer fabric and inner fabric measuring 28cm (11”) x 45cm (17.5”).

One piece of your wadding measuring 28cm (11”) x 43cm (17”).

(For wadding I use Vilene H640 fusible fleece.  Here in Australia you can buy it at Spotlight by the metre.  There is a thinner version – Vilene H620 that is also fusible but the H640 is thicker and provides more cushioning for your device.  You could also use non-fusible wadding such as cotton or bamboo, or polyester by simply stitching it around the edge of the outer fabric instead of fusing it.)

Instructions

  1. Attach the fusible fleece to the wrong side of the outer fabric, following the manufacturer’s instructions. You should have a small gap on either side of the fabric where the fleece doesn’t meet the sides.  This is to help you reduce the bulk in your seams.

When I attach the H640 using an iron I place the fleece on the ironing board with the adhesive side up (that is the rough side) and then place the fabric on top of it with the wrong side on the fleece and the right side facing up.  I then use a pressing cloth (a piece of cotton, calico, or a tea towel) over the top of the two pieces and spray it lightly with water.  Then iron the pressing cloth, applying a small amount of pressure, and holding the iron in each spot for a few seconds before moving it along.  You may need to go over the piece a few times to ensure that the adhesive has properly melted and adhered to the fabric.

  1. Fold the outer piece, with its attached wadding, in half with the right side together and the wadding facing out, so that you have a side that is 28cm high and about 22cm wide. Stitch a line from the top of the long side down that side, and then across the bottom.  Use a 1 cm seam allowance here.Make your own gadget case |a little bird made me
  2. Clip the corners at the bottom of the outer layer, then turn it inside out and poke the corners out at the bottom.

    Make your own gadget case |a little bird made me

    And if you are really lucky you will accidentally line up your pattern so that it almost matches perfectly!

  3. Fold the inner fabric in half, with its right sides together and stitch that down the long side from top to bottom, then sew across the bottom for about 5 cm, leave a 10 cm gap, then sew the remaining seam. This will give you a gap for turning your creation in the right way at the end.Make your own gadget case |a little bird made me
  4. Take your hat elastic and fold it in half, then wrap a piece of cotton around the end where the cut ends meet, to bind them together. This will stop the pieces separating when you are sewing them, and give the stitches something to catch so that the elastic is secure in the seam.Make your own gadget case |a little bird made me
  5. Pin the elastic half way across the back side of the outer piece so that the elastic sits on the right side of the fabric, with the cut end just over the raw edge of the fabric and the loop pointing down. Put the pin on the fleece side of the fabric.Make your own gadget case |a little bird made me
  6. Now place the outer piece inside the inner piece so that their right sides are together, and the seams on each one lines up. Make your own gadget case |a little bird made meStitch around the top edge of the two pieces, about 1 cm from the edge, to join them together.  When you cross the point where the elastic is sitting, reverse back and forward a couple of times to reinforce the stitching at that point.Make your own gadget case |a little bird made me
  7. Turn the piece inside out, using the gap in the lining, and tuck the lining down inside the outer piece. Press or iron the seam that joins the inner and outer pieces so that it is flat, and then top stitch a row around the top of the cover.Make your own gadget case |a little bird made me
  8. Now you are ready to close the gap in the lining. To do this you can either hand sew it shut or, as I tend to do, tuck the seam in and then machine sew across the edge of the folds.  Tuck the lining back into the cover.
  9. Yay! The last step!  Time to sew your button on.  To measure where you button should be sewn fold the elastic loop down to the front side of the cover and mark where the bottom of the loop falls, then sew the centre of your button a millimetre or two below that point.  And now – ta da – you are done!!Make your own gadget case |a little bird made me

To adjust this pattern for other gadgets you need to measure the width, height and depth of the gadget.  To help you out I can report that the measurements for making a cover for the iPad Air are 28cm (11”) x 40cm (15 ½”).  The iPad mini requires fabric that is 24cm (9 ½”)  x 33cm (13”).

You are welcome to use this pattern to make items for sale on a cottage industry scale, for fundraising or as gifts.

Make your own gadget case |a little bird made me

 

What no one tells you about parenting a special needs child|a little bird made me

What no one ever tells you about parenting a special needs child

What no one tells you about parenting a special needs child|a little bird made meIn the last couple of years I have had to come to terms with the diagnosis of my boy as having special needs.  I have been walking through the fog of discovery ever since, usually taking one step forward and two steps back.  I have been extremely fortunate that I have a wonderful family who provide great moral support even though none of them live within driving distance, a steadfast group of good friends, and that I have the skills to research and find the information I need.  I have also had to learn a new set of skills and shift my thinking dramatically about so many parts of my life, so I thought that if I shared a few of those discoveries here it might help someone else who ends up in the same boat.

1. You have to become your child’s advocate.   There is no one else in the world who knows your child as well as you, and who has more right than you to stand up for what is right for your child.  If you aren’t comfortable challenging the authority of teachers, principals, doctors, or your own family, it is time to learn. Challenging them doesn’t need to be aggressive, but it does need to involve questioning whether there are other options, whether factors that affect your child have been taken into account, and whether this is in the best interests of your child.

What no one tells you about parenting a special needs child|a little bird made me

2. There are laws to protect your child from discrimination, but the only person who is going to remind anyone about them is you.  Become aware of your rights and your child’s rights. When the school says ‘oh he/she can’t join the class to do (such-and-such) because he/she will be (insert any myriad of reasons)’, don’t agree and apologise for the inconvenience that your child has caused.  Instead ask what reasonable steps they could take to include your child in the activity.  Often just by asking the question they will be reminded that they have a duty to try and include your child, and will take steps to do so.

3. You cannot do everything yourself.  No matter how independent, strong and resilient you think you are, when you have a special needs child you need to make sure that you ask for help when you need it, or accept an offer of help when it is made.  Your child needs to have other people in his/her life that they trust and are comfortable being with, and you need to have people that you can leave your child with, knowing that they will be cared for and looked after.

What no one tells you about parenting a special needs child|a little bird made me

4. You will learn to appreciate little things that make life good.  I used to think in terms of a good week, or a good month. Now I celebrate a good hour, and sometimes even just a good decision about something small.  Being able to sit and drink a good cup of tea in one sitting is worthy of a celebration isn’t it?!

5. You will become very good at making apologies for not attending events.  I have lost count of the number of times I have had to give last minute apologies, not accept an invitation, or rearrange plans because I know that I need to stay home and not disrupt (further) our routine by going out.    I used to feel embarrassed or awkward about it.  Now I just say “I am very sorry but a family commitment has come up and I won’t be able to attend’, and no one ever complains to my face.  It is about establishing your priorities – what is more important – your children or your social obligations?

6. It is okay to trust your own judgement.  I recently took my children on a spur of the moment holiday to Hawaii.  (I know – crazy stuff!)  If I had thought about it for too long I probably would have listened to all the warnings about travelling with my son, and what could go wrong.  But instead I relied on my own judgement that I could manage the situation for him, and for his sisters, and although I began to question my own sanity on the overnight flight there (when no one slept and he was becoming agitated at the sound of a toddler crying) it turns out that I was right.  By taking everyone’s needs into account we had a lovely holiday that was much more stress free than life at home usually is!

What no one tells you about parenting a special needs child|a little bird made me

7. You have to look after yourself.  This one is probably obvious to many of you, but it wasn’t to me, and I learned the hard way what happens if you don’t read the warning signs.  I had a breakdown/burn out at the end of last year that has forced me to learn what happens if you just keep going without caring for yourself.  Whether it is having time to read a book, catch up with friends, have a hair cut, go for a walk – something that soothes your soul, and re-energises you is essential if you are going to be a good parent.

8. Special needs kids fight with their siblings just like other kids.  My boy and one of his sisters argue with each other a lot.  It is loud, it involves lots of whining, and it drives me crazy.  But I have to remind myself, and everyone else, that this isn’t because of his condition – this is standard sibling stuff going on.  And in the same way, the two of them will play together for hours without a cross word and get angry with their older sister for interrupting the rhythm of their game.  Sometimes kids are just kids.

9. You will get to know all sorts of amazing new people.  I have become friends with other parents of children with special needs who I would not otherwise have met which is great for support, but in fact, because my son looks at the world in a different way, he talks to people I would never think to engage with. I have lost count of the number of times we are at a shop and all of a sudden the lady at the fruit section is chatting to us about her life, or at a camp-ground and we are invited to join a camp-fire because they have met my son, or at a park and the other parents know that I make and sell things, thanks to my greatest advocate.

What no one tells you about parenting a special needs child|a little bird made me

10.  You will learn to laugh at yourself and with your child in a whole new way.  Okay, so maybe that is because if you don’t laugh you’ll cry some days, but laughter is good for us, and if you can remember to laugh at the ridiculous, everything feels so much better as a result.

If you have any points to add here, please feel free to do so by commenting!

The rest of my ‘month in the life’ photo challenge

A couple of weeks back I shared the first half of my ‘month in the life’ photo challenge that I was completing with prompts from the lovely Jess from Create and Thrive on Instagram.  I am proud (and quite amazed) to say that I posted every single day for the month of August!  Without further ado, here is the remainder of my photos!

I enjoyed sharing a bit of ‘me’ and my business through this process – I hope to do it again next year!  If you would like to follow me on Instagram you can find me @alittlebirdmademe.

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A sale!!

The last few weeks have been full of all sorts of news, decisions and sewing.  I was laid low with a virus for a while which, while making it impossible for me to do anything, did give me lots of thinking time!  One of the results is a sale in my (slightly neglected) Etsy shop – 50% off any purchase over $10 between now and 14 September 2014 by entering the code SEPT2014 at checkout.

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After the sale I will launch fresh new products, so watch this space!!

I have had to make the heart-breaking decision not to hold a stall at the upcoming Handmade Markets in October.  I love selling at the markets, interacting with customers, getting a feel for what is working with my creations and what isn’t.  But to do that I would need to be creating and sewing flat out for the next month, and that isn’t possible while I am working to stabilize things for my children.  (If anyone ever says glibly that kids are fine and adapt to divorce easily please feel free to punch them in the nose from me!  5 years on and there are still new challenges on a regular basis.)  However it means time to work on new products without rushing, time to build up stock for the Christmas markets, and time to think about how we are living our life.  All good things to be working on and thinking about!

Today was Father’s Day here in Australia, so there has been much activity making in preparation for it.  In addition to the wallets I designed to be ready for gift purchases, I also thought that these ‘man-bags’ might be fun,

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and then spent some time playing around with a design for coin purse key rings, with a card carrying pocket.  I have been using the garment leather I bought from Fabric.com and it is sewing beautifully.

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I also finished preparing the pattern to make this lunch bag, sandwich wrap and snack bag set for the magazine ‘Love Sewing Australia’.  I got quite a bit of positive feedback when I posted it on my Facebook page, so will be making a few to sell in the next few weeks.

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I have also been experimenting in my free time.  I had a 24 hour period of no children this weekend, and while several of my friends thought I would be out partying (!!) in fact I used the time to try to work out how to put a zippered top in my messenger bag pattern.  I am not quite there yet, but think I have worked out how I want it to go in…..   after two hours, quite a bit of unpicking, some mild cussing, and a few light-bulb moments!  Hopefully I can share the story soon!

I hope that you have been having a good week.  The Spring weather has started here, with occasional days like today when you just want to bask in the sunshine, followed by days when you wonder whether winter has returned!  But that little promise of Spring is enough to see me booking a camping trip for October, and starting to think about gardening, mowing, and being outside more!

 

Pottering along

I have been tagged in a blog-along thingy to write about why I write.  This is not the post that will address that.  However thinking about the blog, my business and how it all fits together has been bubbling away in my mind.  When I started the blog I worried that I posted too often and bombarded my followers.  Now I feel that I have abandoned my blog, and my readers.  I have been reflecting on why this has happened and realised that writing here at some point shifted from something that I loved to do, that was like therapy, to something that I had to do but couldn’t seem to find time for.

I have decided that I want to rediscover some of the joy I had from blogging, so will try to post little bits and pieces more regularly.  I think I have also been trying to balance not writing about all the hard stuff in my life, and when things are really hard it means that I don’t write at all.    This, then, is a quick snapshot of what is happening in my life at the moment, with little bits of the hard stuff included.

After years of juggling a high pressured career, and being an organised single parent, and having a neat and tidy home, cared for garden, and an organised house, now that I am home full time I seem to run late for everything, never catch up on folding and sorting the laundry, have truly dirty floors, and forget important dates on a regular basis.  I don’t seem to have time to blog, to sew, to bake, to hang out with my friends, and yet I am allegedly a ‘lady of leisure’!  Now part of it is getting sucked into the vortex of the internet and losing time that way.  But there is more to it than that.  I suspect it is going to take me a while to adjust to this whole concept of creating my own structure, rather than responding to the structure of an office job.

I am setting myself small targets this week.  First of all to clear the back order of custom orders that I have.  Then to spend a day working through the house from front to back and returning it to order and cleanliness.  (I almost added five more things to the list, but if I can do these two I will be very happy!)

A custom order that has been waiting for a while to be made!

A custom order that has been waiting for a while to be made!

I am also back to wondering about the ‘scope’ for my business.  After deciding that I would focus on bags and accessories I find myself making bibs, doing a custom order for bunting, making up heat packs stencilled for another custom order, cushion covers for yet another, whipping up a pillowcase for another, and generally drifting back to making anything that comes along.  This might be contributing to my feeling of being overwhelmed!  I can’t make everything that exists under the sun, no matter how much I want to!  What I can do is choose my scope, and stick to it, and make those things really well.  (Gee – did that sound like a pep talk to you? )

Custom ordered appliqued bunting.  (I love the colours she chose!)

Custom ordered appliqued bunting. (I love the colours she chose!)

Bags and accessories and bibs.  That is a broad category.  It is enough.  This might be my new mantra!

On the topic of bags I can share that I designed and made a laptop bag for my eldest chick earlier in the week.  She has her own laptop now, in preparation for starting high school next year, and in moving between her father’s house and mine it has looked a big too naked and vulnerable being carried in her arms!  I decided that she needed something that reflected a bit of her personality, but could also grow with her.  This is the end result!

The front of the laptop bag showing the detail on the flap, and the red leather base.

The front of the laptop bag showing the detail on the flap, and the red leather base.

Under the flap you see the lining, and another handy pocket!

Under the flap you see the lining, and another handy pocket!

The back of the bag has another pocket, plus a bit of personalisation.

The back of the bag has another pocket, plus a bit of personalisation.

I have had some great feedback on the bag and am thinking that adding this style to my bag range is worth a try.

I can also update you about further developments for the artist in residence.  After her successful appearance at the exhibition, and being approached to sell her painting, this week she had one of her drawings appear in our local newspaper to launch a survey of the Gang-Gang – a native bird that is the faunal emblem for Canberra.  Needless to say she is thrilled and I couldn’t be prouder.  I am going to have to start recording a portfolio for her!

Gang-gang

Gang-gang

My beautiful boy is still struggling with school, and with coping that anything that changes the direction that he thinks he is following, but we have managed to have one fantastic day this week, and a couple of good recoveries from incidents.  The good moments, or days, make the not-so-good ones easier to cope with.  He is now living with me 100%, after some changes in his father’s life meant that it was best to change our care arrangements.  I shared on Facebook that I was fortunate to have him living with me, then added that I am not trying to be a hero, or downplay how difficult it is to parent him, but if I don’t see myself as fortunate I will probably break.

So here we are.  Pottering along with life, trying to work out how to survive financially, caring for my children, and having a creative brain that is in constant overdrive with new ideas of things to make.  I am pretty lucky really!

I hope that you are having a good week.

Creative endeavours

My determination to return to blogging more regularly was severely dented when my site was hacked recently.  Luckily I had friends to turn to for immediate short term help, and was then able to employ a company to finish the clean up.  I hadn’t realised though how it had affected my blogging until I looked at where I was up to in sharing photos of my projects.  As a result be prepared for lots of photos!

There have been some turbulent times here in the nest, which hasn’t helped with my focus.  The chicks’ father has had some changes in his life that have impacted on our tenuous ability to communicate about the children, so much of my energy has been consumed in trying to wade through that murky mess.  The good thing to come of this is that I needed to be creating for therapy, so have made a few things I am quite proud of!

The first step was making up some freezer paper stencilled bags, and some heat packs, to stock in Shop Handmade.

Next was taking the wallet prototype and factoring in all the advice I was provided through my Facebook questions.  As a result I have a design that I am quite happy with!  These are made with ‘fused leather’, which is real leather bonded onto a rayon backing – it makes it lovely to work with and has a gorgeous soft feel to it.  I have been using a bag that I made from it for a few months now and it is showing no signs of wear, so I think these wallets should have a good life in them!

Three wallets ready to go

I also managed to make seven superhero capes as an order for a friend who needed them for an office team exercise.  The delight with which they were received and donned (I love an excuse to use that word) was beautiful.  They even had their CEO put one on and she insisted on wearing it back to her office on another floor!  I commented on Facebook that it is amazing what a piece of fabric and some imagination can do to lift your day!

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My other creative challenge has been to take part in an Instagram photo-a-day challenge coordinated by the very lovely Jess van Den from Create and Thrive.  The title is ‘a month in the life’ and it is designed to showcase our lives, processes and inspirations as creative people.  I am really enjoying participating, and finding new creative people to learn from and enjoy.  If you are an Instagram user I encourage you to do a search under #ctmonthinthelife and see some of the beautiful images being shared!

For now here are my first 15 out of a possible 16.  (Number 6 was ‘action’ so I made a video that appears after the photos!)

 

This is me in ‘action’ folding the internal pockets of a wallet I was making.

In other creative adventures I have been making padded iPad covers (check out out the details on the ‘willow print fabric’!)

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My final photograph is a bragging mother moment.  The artist-in-residence (my 9 year old daughter) had a painting that she did at school selected to be included in an exhibition designed to highlight art in public schools.  She had painted a dingo, and her painting is seen behind the speaker opening the exhibition (and immediately above the head of the artist herself!) in the picture below.  That was very exciting, but even more exciting is the fact that her school has been approached with a request from someone who wants to buy the painting!  I will now negotiate with the potential purchaser and then the artist-in-residence will decide whether she wants to sell or not.  If that wasn’t exciting enough, another piece of her art, a drawing of two gang-gangs (native birds that are the emblem for our area) has been chosen to launch an art competition, and will appear in the newspaper next week.  To say that she is proud and excited is an understatement!

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While this post just skims the surface of what is happening in the nest, I hope that you have enjoyed the pictures!  I will be posting again soon as part of a series on ‘why I write’ that I have been nominated for, so stay tuned!