Burlesque, bravery and making mama time

Smile - a leafy love note from Story of MumHow are you, mama? 

Well, January has been busy! We're literally bursting with news over here, and have barely had a moment to write this newsletter...

We have new mama-nurturing experiences to announce, a lovely creative activity for this month, and even a big body-shame-busting reveal (meet my burlesque alter ego...!). It's all going to come tumbling out in an over-excited jumble of a newsletter this month...

But before we start, remember - this email is your official excuse to take a few moments for yourself. 

So take a few breaths, relax your shoulders, and have a think - do you need a wee? Now's the time! Then, what would you like to drink? A cold glass of water? A hot drink to warm your hands? Grab yourself a drink, put your feet up, and read on...

First exciting bit of news coming up...

Would you like to be one of the extremely special cohort of mamas to join our first ever mini e-course and online party: the Mamas' Mini Sofa Retreat? It will run from 29 February to 4 March: the perfect me-time preparation for Mothers' Day...

Mamas mini sofa retreat: a mamas' retreat and ecourse with Story of Mum

Mums have been telling us that you want more encouragement to make time for yourself, deeper connection with other honest good-enough mums, simple creative inspiration, laughter and community, straight from your sofa...

So Mamas' Mini Sofa Retreat is a cosy online retreat for amazing busy mothers who are trying to do it all but often feel inadequate (hmmm, me too then!). Stuffed with quick bursts of inspiration and connection over 5 days, it’s a a virtual mamas’ retreat designed to bring more rest, creativity and joy into your life, even when that feels completely impossible… and as it's our first ever, it's at a bargain price!

Even better - when you join us, you won't just be helping yourself, you'll also be helping women and children all over the world, as we'll be donating 50% of all ticket sales to Save the Children and Womankind Worldwide. We are so excited to try this for the first time, and can't wait to see you on your sofa, making more time for you, with us!

And there's more exciting Mamas' Retreat news....! 

 Join a Mamas' Retreat with Story of Mum and Leif Olsen Yoga in Cornwall

We've just announced our 2016 residential Mamas' Retreat in Prussia Cove, Cornwall on 11/12 May, and we'd love you to join us for some precious space and nurturing.

This residential is for a small group of 6 mamas, and there's an early bird offer to make it as accessible as possible - because we really want you to be able to come!

Find out more over here.

If you'd love to join us, but you can't stay over, we're having a creative day retreat on the 11th May, followed by a heart-warming dinner and treats. Just picture yourself looking out from the window of the house above: our venue, the Haven....

We're also offering a couple of one to one sessions with Pippa on the 12th May if you'd like some extra space to be heard and supported.

Why all the busy-ness this month?

You might remember that last year I graduated from the School for Social Entrepreneurs with all sorts of ideas about how Story of Mum could reach and help even more mamas, and do our bit to change the world for the better. And these are some of them...!

All this trying new things and bravely becoming even more visible (eek!) is thrilling, but it can also feel exhausting at times.  

Over the past few years, I've learnt that I need to retreat too sometimes, to ensure I've got enough energy to keep doing all this scary stretching stuff, while still being there for my family when they need me too. 

For us mothers, change is pretty much a constant state of being - and sometimes it can feel like there's too much of it to manage. That's when making space for you becomes even more important - so do make some time for this month's activity if you like the sound of it.

What's this month's creative activity?

Sewn words: sew the words that matter to you, with Story of MumI hosted a lovely virtual mamas' retreat for an inspiring mum who loves sewing last month. And putting her mama-nurturing programme together reminded me of the power of sewing words. Sew that's what we'll be up to this month ;)

There’s something beautifully calming about slowly embroidering a word onto material - allowing that word to sink into your mind and body as you carefully sew it into place. 

That is, if you can manage to thread your needle, avoid pricking yourself with it, and accept the many likely imperfections you'll encounter... Which is as good a lesson for life as any!

Pause for a moment, and think of a message you'd like to give yourself right now, or a quality that you'd like to invite more of into your life. For me right now, I think it's courage - as I'm calling on all my reserves at the moment. What do you need?

Sew this word or words on to a piece of material. As you sew, allow yourself to mull on this quality or message: what does it mean to you and how are you engaging with it right now?

Sewn words: sew the words that matter to you, with Story of MumWhen you're done, you might like to frame your word and display it. If you're feeling especially crafty or in need of some extra mama me-time, you could try using it for one of the projects on the activity page and gallery over here

We'd love you to join us at our next #somum mamas' retreat on twitter on Wednesday 10 February, where we'll attempt what we already know is pretty much impossible: tweeting while sewing!

Naturally, we'll have a go anyway...

We'll slow down, share our sewn words with each other, and inspire each other to spend more time on gentle pleasures...

And as extra inspiration, we'll randomly give away a couple of spots on our Mamas' Mini Sofa Retreat for free to tweeting mamas as we go!

What happened last month?

Collage how you most want to feel in 2016 with Story of Mum

We had a lovely #somum mamas' retreat on twitter, and a fabulous Sunday Morning Mamas' Retreat (which was one of the most special ever according to the attendees!). We spent some time collaging how we want to feel in 2016, and encouraging each other to think of simple activities that make us feel like that. 

In the weeks since #somum, we've been spurring each other on via social media to spend time doing those things - letting each other know whenever we manage to make time to sew, scrapbook, or be fearless.

You can catch up on our conversation and get inspired in this post, and see lots of gorgeous mama collages in the gallery.

I'm still filling in the Leonie Dawson workbook I mentioned last month. If you're reading this thinking oh my goodness it's February already and I've completely missed the January bus, it's not too late. You can plan your year, or make your collage with us any time you want.

Got a story to share this month?

For some more sewn word inspiration, you might like to take a peek at our previous activities inspired by the Craftivist CollectiveI'm a Piece and the Wellmaking Craftivists Garden...) 

Inspired by those Craftivists, we'd like to share a few more blog posts from 'mama activists' this month.

So if you have a story to share about how motherhood has made you want to change the world for the better in some way (it doesn't have to be crafty), get in touch - we'd love to share it. 

Reply to this email and let us know.

Didn't you say something about burlesque...?

Why yes I did, time to get ready for the big photo reveal! A big thank you to Pete Knight and Kymm Sandum for these pictures...

Story of Mum newsletter: join us!Those of you that remember our Love Mum Body activities will know that body image is something that many of us struggle with in motherhood (and before) - and much as I've grown to love my body for the miracles it's created in my two children, dancing in skimpy clothing would not be top of my list of enjoyable things to do.

Up until a few days ago, it would probably have been right at the bottom of my list in fact.

But I'm always looking for exercise that will make me smile (I basically can't do exercise unless it makes me laugh at least every ten minutes or so), and so three months ago, I decided to go along to a burlesque class with a friend. I was pretty terrified before I went.

The class was full of friendly women of all ages, shapes and sizes, all nervous too... And learning how to do hip shimmies, boa wiggles and a chair dance definitely made me smile.

Then someone mentioned costumes. 

Buying myself a leotard was completely demoralising. The largest size, XL, was equivalent to a size 14, and I haven't been one of those since many years before motherhood. It brought up all the shame I've ever felt about my body, and I nearly quit at that point.

And much as I love dancing, I am most definitely not confident wearing a leotard (is anyone??) or sheer tights, in a dance class, let alone in public.

But amazingly, step by step, with the help of a fabulous group of women, and the encouragement of our inspiring dance teacher, Madame Fandango, I started to go to my classes in a leotard. 

Story of Mum newsletter: join us!I learnt how to do hilarious 1920s stage make-up (pretty impressive for someone who can barely use mascara) - and quickly discovered that no amount of concealer stick, pritt stick (really!) and foundation can disguise my unruly eyebrows.

And last weekend - by some incredible mama-fuelled miracle - I (or rather, "Peachy Divine") took part in my first ever burlesque show! I even performed the chair dance in the front row, XL leotard and all.  

I love dressing up, I love dancing, and I try really hard to love my wobbly bits. But never in a million years did I think I could possibly dance burlesque-style on stage in front of a crowd of strangers.

It was terrifying, liberating, exciting and exhausting.

Teetering down the steps to the dressing room, with warm and courageous women at my side, was an amazing feeling.

So why am I telling you all of this?

Because I hope that it will inspire you to take a small step towards those life-affirming shame-busting things that scare you too.

Story of Mum newsletter: join us!Because I want to show you that we all struggle, we all think that we will make complete idiots of ourselves and that people will judge us. We judge ourselves.

And so we spend too much of our time worrying, instead of doing the things that would make our life bigger.

Sometimes, it's the obviously scary things like a burlesque show, or launching our first ever ecourse, that we resist. 

And other times, it's the less obvious 'big' things - like self-care.

So we don't make time for ourselves because we worry about what other people might think if we do. We judge and criticise ourselves too harshly. We don't ask for the help we need. 

Is there a little stretch that you could take today that would bring more ease and joy into your life?

Whatever your fear is right now, we're here for you. Drop us a line if you have something you'd like to share and we'll send you some encouragement in return. 

Story of Mum newsletter: join us!

Your fears will be different to mine. Burlesque probably won't be the shame-busting adventure you need right now (if ever!).  And that's fine.

But it's always worth taking a moment to notice where you're holding yourself back. Is there something you're not allowing yourself to do because you simply can't be kind enough to yourself?

Try to be one notch kinder to yourself today.

I took it slowly with all of this. Really slowly.

Each time I felt uncomfortable - when the burlesque challenge felt too big - I checked in with myself about whether this was a step too far. And if it was, I pulled back a little.

I was kind to myself whenever I needed to be.

For me, a little bit of discomfort is good - I like to feel a little bit nervous-excited sometimes - to me, that means I'm stretching, and living life to the full. But too much of a stretch too soon has the opposite effect - that's when I'll end up exhausted, feeling like a failure, and no good to anyone.

The same is true when I don't make enough time for myself, - not enough early nights, sea walks, and laughter. So right now, I'm choosing to play with the kids instead of clean the house (well, to be fair, I make that decision most of the time anyway...). I'm speaking to friends and family about my latest challenges.  I'm asking for help when I need it.

And that's what makes it possible for me to go that little bit further each time. It gives me courage - the word I'll be sewing this month.

So look after yourself, brave and beautiful mama. Speak to yourself with kindness, sew love and compassion gently into your heart, and allow yourself to live today with gentle courage.

You are braver and more amazing than you know. Just take it step by step. And keep breathing.

Much love,

Pippa and Penny 

PS Come join us from the comfort of your sofa at the Mamas' Mini Sofa Retreat, mama xx

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