Project ‘She Shed’ Comes to Fruition!

“We shape our buildings: Thereafter, they shape us.”
~ Winston Churchill

The rise of the She Shed…

The rise of the #SheShed is no surprise to me! Mothers who have typically sacrificed either their time, money, career, space, privacy, sanity – or even all of these, are now claiming back some much needed space for their own projects.

Like other women, I have reached a point in my life where I feel justified in being a little bit selfish. It’s hard to feel good about being selfish, because I’m used to putting my children’s needs first. I love them unconditionally, but selfishness is a necessity that enables me to continue giving most of my energy, (and pretty much everything I have) to my family.

In my case, selfishness comes in the form of a dedicated garden office to write, study and hold meetings in.

Except, oh, wait a minute – my son beat me to it!!!

My perfect offspring, who walks around with a bright halo gleaming above his head most of the time, suddenly threw me the biggest curve-ball of his life two weeks ago.

I had not long sorted out an ongoing situation and emergency for my eldest son in New Zealand, and then the builders had a quiet week, so our bathroom and water damaged ceiling were ripped out and our home resembled a building site.

Chaos reigned.

I had been busy organising new furniture and moving my files, books and stationary across to the garden, looking forward to the peace and tranquillity it would afford; when he chose his moment to strike.

It is just as well the cabin was built, or I would be even more stressed than I am right now. For reasons which I won’t go into, I will have to wait until the summer to move in full-time.

On the plus side it also means my daughter has her birthday/early Christmas present – a new piano to practice on when she comes home from school. She is preparing for her ABRSM Grade 1 exam.


Project She Shed began in the summer, with clearing the overgrown area at the bottom of our garden. I am grateful that we do have a relatively long, flat garden in the first place, otherwise a She Shed wouldn’t have been an option.

Once the land was cleared by my step father and step brother the builders created a base and built the structure (which was delivered mostly in planks of varying sizes and thicknesses, except for the windows and roof panels), like giant Ikea furniture.

I opted for extra insulation knowing that I’m prone to feeling the cold, and I’m glad I did now. My next novel definitely won’t get written with icicles hanging off my nose and my teeth chattering. My dad supplied two heaters which will keep out the chill this winter.

I spent many hours in the late summer and early autumn coating the cabin with protective undercoat and paint.

A local electrician updated the main electrics board of our 1930 built house and wired a Cat5 cable down the garden – then I had power and broadband. He even fixed motion sensor lights outside should inspiration strike in the middle of the night. But, I fully admit that’s unlikely to occur in the middle of winter!

The oak wood floor was laid and my anticipation grew…

I had visions of meditating, journaling, planning, reading, writing and placing mind-maps around the walls, spreading out scene cards and getting stuck into my next novel.

“You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.”
~ Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

Even the cats were keen to join me and test out my plush new seating arrangements with their muddy paws.

Sammy boldly ventures into the unpacking labyrinth…

Waiting to be admitted

Simba gives the sofa his seal of approval

However, in the tradition of being stoical, I have deferred to my family once again. I just hope there are no more curve-balls waiting to knock me sideways before Christmas.

The festive season gets pretty crazy chez Burges.

I don’t mean to come across as whingeing when there are so many people suffering in the world.  I am learning to embrace challenges and be thankful for my many blessings. My mother admonishes me whenever she senses a whiff of a moan, pointing out that there are plenty of people worse off.

And she is right.

A close relative is battling an extremely aggressive form of cancer and we thought we might lose her a few months ago.

Thanks to a stent she has been able to go home – hospital was not helping her – the machine she was hooked up to bleeped incessantly and so she rarely slept. To our horror she appeared to be wasting away over the weeks she was confined to a hospital bed.

But with the help of her iron will, nutritionally therapeutic supplements, a loving, supportive family and ongoing care, she is getting stronger and showing us all what grace under pressure looks like.

We are grateful and overjoyed to have her with us still, and hopefully for Christmas.

Despite life’s challenges, if we have our health, that, in my opinion, will always be the greatest wealth.

I love and appreciate my family for everything they have done to make this project happen. I feel what’s needed at this point is a hefty dose of patience rather than increased productivity.

I visited Dylan Thomas’s writing shed a couple of years ago whilst on  a trip to Laugharne with my family, and it has the most stunning view out over the estuary. I think I would just sit and stare out the window all day…

I am fortunate to have my new She Shed sanctuary, (the place where my creativity will be unleashed and future novels will be written) waiting for me, one day…

“Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.” ~ Franz Kafka

Celebrating Unique Mothers and Women on International Women’s Day #IWD2016

“The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new.” ~ Rajneesh

In celebration of Mother’s Day in the UK this past Sunday, and International Women’s Day today, I would like to share a few heartfelt verses. I have always maintained that mothers are the ultimate executives. After all, they are not just raising profits; they are raising humanity…

Motherhood - life quote

The bottom line is not money, it’s love. Love makes the world go round. People perform best when they are happy and aligned with their purpose. The unconditional love that mothers give to their children is essential to foster self-esteem, confidence, courage, kindness and healthy development. Those early years, all the way through to adulthood cannot be underestimated.

Yet so often in the corporate world mothers are discriminated against, paid less and struggle to work rigid hours that make the challenging job of raising children even harder than it already is.  Let’s not forget, before the working day starts we’ve already done what feels like a day’s work, and when the working day is over mothers are on over-time until their offspring are tucked up safely in bed. Even then we have to be on call 24/7.


Just ask one of America’s most powerful and influential women, Anne-Marie Slaughter, and she will attest to having experienced exactly the same situation that most women, and especially working mother’s face in today’s world. Why Women Still Can’t Have It All is a compelling read.

I admire and respect the men who notice, value and share our lives in all their inspiration, talent and daily drudgery.

This is such a brilliant and uplifting advert! #ShareTheLoad

#PleadgeforParity #IWD2016 International Women’s Day 2016

Let’s celebrate our mothers and all women!

Mother and Child by Frederic Leighton

Mother and Child by Frederic Leighton

Dear Mum

You held my hand through thick and thin,

You shared and celebrated my triumphs,

You encouraged me after each disaster,

You helped me when needed, to bear my pain,

You wiped away my tears…

You gave me your precious love and your time,

You sacrificed your sleep, and at times, your sanity!

You learnt fast and on the job, without vanity,

You saw no immediate return on your investment.

You did your best, even under trying circumstances,

You instilled manners, morals, and values to be proud of,

You never gave up on me.

You kept me safe; yet gave me wings…

You nurtured and nourished me no matter what,

You took me places, cheered me on,

You cooked me delicious, nutritious meals,

You washed and ironed my clothes,

You never asked for anything in return,

You taught me how to learn,

You always gave me a smile, a kiss and a hug,

You nursed me when I was poorly,

You were quite handy with a bandage and plaster!

You pushed me to work harder, achieve more,

Your wisdom and advice I ignored too often,

You and I are different; but I couldn’t be who I am without you.

You and I share an unspoken, unbreakable bond,

You remember when it was sometimes stretched…

You and I know it’s forever flexible and strong,

Your example is a beacon for me to follow,

You guide me in my own journey as a mother,

You want the best for me; my hopes and dreams are yours…

With all my love, and eternal gratitude,

Long may you flourish and prosper!

Motherhood is a tough but rewarding calling and shouldn’t be underestimated or undervalued.

Mother and Child by mary Cassatt c. 1880

Mother and Child by mary Cassatt c. 1880

If the basic human need to be loved and supported isn’t met, the chances of dysfunctional behaviour in the individual become vastly increased, alongside the implications for society as a whole.

David R. Hawkins on the role of mothers:

“Motherhood is near to divinity. It is the highest, holiest service to be assumed by mankind.” ~ Howard W. Hunter

The Motherhood Milestone

“Mothers are the ultimate executives. Instead of raising profits, they are raising humanity.”

rsz_mothers_day_with_kids2 (2)As it was Mother’s Day in the UK on Sunday, my thoughts have turned towards the last seventeen and a half years that I have been a mum. The funny thing is; I never really felt maternal up until I became pregnant, and then something miraculous happened. I was responsible for another life form, and my love for that being was indescribable. It’s a really special and beautiful bond.

Please forgive me if I ramble on a bit, it’s hard to be concise when sharing about one’s kids. I have a lot of raw material to draw on!

My first pregnancy wasn’t easy. I had a high powered job in London, a lengthy commute, and a business trip to Sydney to get through. At the time of the meeting in Australia I didn’t know that I was pregnant. I knew I’d suffer with jetlag, but I could hardly venture out of my hotel I was so exhausted. I had been sent as a representative of the UK Sales Team for Qantas Airways, and I had to be on top of my game, as it was my job to report back to the UK staff on the Annual General Meeting of the airline. This would have been around February 1998.  When I got home and did a test it became clear why I barely managed that long-haul trip. I wasn’t a big drinker, but I cut out alcohol altogether, I never smoked, I took folic acid and I went to antenatal classes run by the NCT (National Childbirth Trust). I worried about everything. Would my baby be healthy? What would it look like? Would it be a boy or a girl? How would I manage the birth?

mother baby Max and catDespite first time nerves my pregnancy went swimmingly. It’s a magical time when you have your first 20 week ultrasound scan, and you can see the little bundle growing inside you. Apart from some mild morning sickness all had gone okay, up until I had a fasting blood test at about 32 weeks. My sugar levels were too high. It turned out I had gestational diabetes. I knew those early morning chocolate bars I scoffed when setting off in my car at 6 am to drive to London were responsible. From then on I had to monitor my blood sugar levels every day. I was assured that after the birth my blood sugar levels would return to normal, and they did.

It wasn’t a problem I had with my other three pregnancies, which all had their own unique characteristics. I suffered with a bit of post natal depression after having Max. I found it such a shock to the system, that loss of freedom, the sleepless nights, getting used to being a feeding machine with much in demand udders, in a seeming endless cycle of nappy changing, feeding, weaning and blending of homemade baby food etc. Thank God I had a circle of friends and family support, because every new mum needs it, no matter how young or old you are. But I eventually got into a routine with him, and went back to work full-time until I had William. At first you feel like a limb is missing.

The main challenge initially is to get the feeding well established. I wrote an earlier blog about breastfeeding.

me and wills on summer solsticeI remember having extremely strong and sometimes painful Braxton Hicks contractions from about six months on when pregnant with William. My work colleagues used to put their hands on my bump and feel it go rock hard. I suffered with excruciating sacroiliac joint pain after William, as my pelvis had been pulled out of alignment, and because I carried all out front my abdominal muscle wall had separated, which along with hormonal changes aggravated my PGP (pelvic girdle pain). I had a quite a few months of physio therapy to get my muscle imbalances sorted out. I’ll be forever grateful to Mike Ker for his amazing remedial massage skills!

William was such a happy baby, and he loved it when I blew raspberries on his tummy and neck. One of his early words was “shamage” and I later realised he was trying to say sandwich.

Five years later, when I was nine months gone with Emily, my waters broke in a public car park. But I didn’t go straight into labour, (she was too cosy in situ), and twenty four hours later I had to be induced. Not to be recommended! My labour with her was the most difficult of all. Ruby moved around in my womb a lot, (the sign of things to come), but her birth was quick and straightforward. I remember thinking, I should be used to this intense pain by now.

Emily & Ruby at mums wedding

And just as each of my pregnancies was different, so it is with the personalities of my four children. Because I had my daughters close together that brought additional challenges. I was potty training Emily not long after Ruby was born, and usually I’d just sat down with Ruby latched on for a voracious suckle, when Emily would sneak off and do a number two in her nickers without telling me. I think it was her way of saying she didn’t like not being the centre of attention any more. When Ruby was about eighteen months old she broke her arm. Luckily it healed quickly, but she is still a dare devil.

It has been a roller coaster of a ride, with many ups and downs. A learning curve like no other!

I have three main tenets for raising my kids:

  1. I love them unconditionally. Even when they cause me grief, (which has been regularly over the years). I try to remember that they are not perfect, and I shouldn’t expect perfect behaviour. I’m no saint, so I’ve tried to create an atmosphere of love and harmony where they can be themselves, whilst instilling key values. I won’t tolerate violence between them. Sibling rivalry is an issue with such a range of ages and genders sometimes.
  2. I never criticise them as people, only ever their actions. Discipline is vital, but it’s also important that it’s done in a kind way. I want them to grow up with confidence and a healthy self-esteem as far as possible, and effective learning happens in a fun environment where they are not afraid to make mistakes.
  3. They are their own people. It’s hard to let go sometimes and let them make their own decisions, especially if I don’t agree with them. I try to relate to them as individuals with their own unique personalities, talents and challenges. It’s their life and I encourage independence and creativity as these are valuable life skills.

It wasn’t until I became a mother myself that I really appreciated everything my mother had done for me, or understood her protectiveness. Even now she still worries about me, and I know that will always be the case for me with my offspring, as long as my heart beats.

I think there should be a special date marker for motherhood, just like B.C. and A.D. are used for the birth of Jesus, only B.C. would stand for Before Children, and then there would be N.E.E.V. (numquam erit eadem vita), life will never be the same…

Reflections of motherhood:

It’s a massive milestone in a woman’s life. Your body goes through extraordinary physical, hormonal and emotional changes.  It’s also a way of measuring your own mortality. I feel the same as I did when I had Max, but when I look at him now and he’s taller than me, I can see where the years have gone!

They grow so rapidly. You never look back wishing you had spent less time with your kids. I’m sure I’m not the only mother to have felt guilty on many occasions that I haven’t spent enough time with them.


Over the years I’ve learned not to beat myself up so much if I don’t have a productive day, it’s part and parcel of being a mum. The priority is always making sure I’m the best parent I can be.

I have enough washing volume to get through each week that I could open a Chinese laundry, or the endless cooking (they are always hungry), the cleaning and tidying up after them, the running around after school to do various sports and activities, the haircuts, the doctor’s and dentist appointments, school plays, assemblies and parents’ evenings, exams, homework, special projects, shoe shopping, birthday parties and sleepovers; it’s a wonder I have any energy left! And sometimes when I have no time, and I’m juggling all that plus my career and a home, and I’m exhausted beyond belief, I moan and get down about my workload.

When this happens I try to remind myself how lucky I am to have four healthy, mostly happy kids. I look at other families around the world living in dire straits. We all have our challenges.

It helps to laugh. I love this sassy rap advert by Fiat, The Motherhood:

Motherhood has so many milestones: the first words, walking, talking, sleeping through the night, the first tooth,  learning to read, write and ride a bike. It makes me happy and proud to see my children learning, growing, playing and achieving new goals. I’m sure most parents know the kind of joy I’m talking about. I’ve always been my children’s biggest cheerleader…

They are my gifts – precious gifts that I have been entrusted to bring into the world and raise to the best of my ability. Maybe one day I’ll have a clue what I’m doing!

“Motherhood is near to divinity. It is the highest, holiest service to be assumed by mankind.” ~ Howard W. Hunter

Simply the Breast

Recent controversy over mothers breastfeeding in public in certain US states has brought the #FreeTheNipple movement to my attention .  It’s about time…

Everybody’s Gotta Eat:

It made me reflect on my own experiences with nursing my four babies. There is much science to back-up the health benefits to mother and child of breastfeeding one’s infant – I won’t go into that here. Suffice to say, my choice was to do the best I could to nourish my little ones. I’m not judgemental about mothers who don’t, or who have problems trying, each of has our own unique experiences and circumstances. But what I do find hard to stomach is the intolerance of others towards mothers who are committed to the long term health of their children. That, to me, is unacceptable. Nursing mothers should be protected by law.

funny breastfeeding picTo effectively be a prisoner in your own home because you are fearful of what others might think is a sad state of affairs. I remember I didn’t venture out after the birth of my first son until I was ultra-confident and we had established a comfortable routine of feeding. Even then I tried to avoid lactating in public. But hey, you have to buy food and other provisions, visit other new mums and attend social engagements, so at some point it has to be done when you’re out and about.

I’ve had to endure sneaky feeds in the car, in the toilet, at the back of restaurants, in friend’s homes etc.  When I had my second son I was more self-assured about feeding, but despite our success at it, and the beautiful bond I had formed with him, I only managed to breastfeed him for 3 months because I had to return to work and it was just too difficult to be expressing milk in an office environment. I couldn’t get on with it at home, let alone anywhere else. Some of my mates would fill whole bottles, compared to my measly few ounces. Somehow the attachment of a machine made me feel a bit too much like Gertrude to really ‘let go’. I had a real guilt complex about that for ages. Luckily Wills seems none the worse for the fact that he was fed for the shortest amount of time of all my offspring.

I remember going to a wedding reception when Wills was only about a month old, and he was voraciously hungry all the time. My let down reflex was so powerful that I didn’t even need to be in the same room with him, I would just leak milk when that strong tingling feeling came over me. It’s time for a feed.  I only had to get caught out once to invest in a ton of breast pads.

Breastfeeding uncoveredNone of us are blatant exhibitionists who can’t wait to show of our new, non-surgically enlarged mammaries: we just have a biological need to feed our babies when they need feeding. There’s nothing more stressful than being in the middle of a food shop only to have your wee bairn exercise his lungs to the extent that the whole store has to cover their ears. It’s very distressing. There’s nothing more natural and easy than being able to attach them to your body, which doesn’t need sterilising or heating to the perfect temperature and has all the exact nutrients your baby needs.

Given the choice many of us would rather feed in private. I would even retreat to the bedroom in my own home if we had visitors, but sometimes it’s unavoidable in public. It’s important for mums to retain some semblance of a normal life, other than being purely a feeding and nappy changing machine in those early months. When I had my girls I used to love going to John Lewis because they had designated comfortable feeding areas that were not a toilet. If only all major retailers had the same ethos and caring attitude towards their customers.

There has been so much education for new mums, and many midwives will help you to get the technique right so that you don’t feel like your nipple has been plugged into the national grid. There are breastfeeding clinics and organisations such as the NCT that do wonderful work all-round for mothers.

Reading about some of the negative experiences of other lactating mums I feel the education really needs to be aimed at the general public. I think most people are tolerant if the mother is fairly discreet in the UK, and companies like Mamaway and Jojo Maman Bebe do stylish nursing tops that make it easier to feed with minimal flesh exposure. But looking to the US, I do feel they are un-necessarily prudish in their outlook. If a woman happens to flash a nipple while trying to get her baby to latch on (and sometimes, if they are really agitated it can take a few goes to get them on right, even for a seasoned pro), to then be liable for arrest because she is ‘exposing’ herself is just beyond the pale. It’s a ticking time bomb. If mums feel isolated and unwelcome  in society in those early months that’s another reason not to breastfeed. A generation down the line there could be all sorts of health issues. Attitudes need to change – fast.

Why should keeping a helpless baby alive stimulate so much prejudice, annoyance and downright scorn?

There is something inherently sick in a society where violent films rake in millions at the box office, where graphic scenes of murder and killing are celebrated, but the sight of a mother doing the right thing by feeding her baby who is in need of sustenance can cause offence. Perhaps the mothers of those individuals should not have bothered with them!

Many first time mums are coping with either some, or all of these symptoms: sore bodies, sore nipples, lack of sleep, lack of confidence, post natal depression, loss of freedom, fear about their abilities as a mother…

The last thing they need is to suffer the accusing stares of ignorant people, and worse, the interruption of a feed by someone asking her to stop or leave when her baby is latched on.


Artemisia Gentileschi – Madonna and baby Jesus (1609)

Breastfeeding has been celebrated in classical, Baroque and Renaissance art, with beautiful paintings from the likes of Peter Paul Rubens, Giovanni Bottrafaffio, Botticelli, Joos Van Cleve, Leonardo da Vinci and Artemisia Gentileschi to more recent artists such as Jean-Baptiste Greuze, Paul Cezanne, Camille Cortot and Mary Cassatt.

Here is a link to a blog on the Facebook issue (but also mentions the prolific amount of Renaissance art on the subject).

breastfeedingI’ve always said that mothers are the ultimate executives. Instead of raising profits we are raising humanity. Let us do that with some humanity! Don’t make us feel awkward or embarrassed about it. We come in for criticism about so many things, either for working too many hours, or for being a stay-at-home mum, or for not breastfeeding, and it is totally unfair. Juggling a career and raising children is challenging, and most of us feel we are not doing enough in either area.  But I think the ‘having it all’ debate is worthy of a separate post.

Every woman must do what she thinks is best for her young one, and someone’s aversion to seeing her God-given assets being used in the manner that God intended –  for the nurturing of her baby, is just not her problem!

I applaud The Guardian for this article written a year ago.

It’s not all bad, some companies are forward thinking, I remember reading about a Japanese firm that allows its new mum employees take their babies to work and feed them on the premises. But that is the exception rather than the rule.

With diabetes, cancer, heart disease and other diseases on the rise and with the NHS and GP’s constantly under so much pressure, isn’t it a worthwhile goal to prevent illness?

You can’t beat a mother’s milk, hence my twisted take on Tina Turner – Simply the Breast!

Useful links: