Happy New Year!

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Happy New Year to you and yours! What an interesting year 2018 was. Full of opportunities, learning and changes. I keep thinking about a post that I must write, a moment that I must share, but I haven't stopped in the last six months. Not even for a minute. Not even to jot down notes or stitch a tiny bit of that embroidery or even have a play with paints. All I've done is work. It's been the most bizzare time of change, upheaval, acceptance and opportunity, and I find myself back here as a way to share our journey with you all, my friends and family who seem further now than once before. Shall I tell you what's been happening? You might need a cuppa for this.

I'd been working a lot of long hours, seven days a week - making soap, wrapping orders, attending markets and events, stocking shops - and was burning out fast. I couldn't sleep, I was constantly ill, and I was struggling with a thyroid problem that the doctors just couldn't crack. And then in the blink of an eye, Isla turned four. We had a unicorn party (with a pinata of course). We started a new school year. We moved into our soap workshop, and I started teaching classes more regularly. And then - Graeme was offered a job abroad, and accepted it. I was suddenly a single parent with two children and a more-than-full-time job. I burnt out.

We'd agreed that the best decision (for now, for health and happiness) was to follow Graeme a few months later, packing up our most treasured belongings to pursue an opportunity in the UAE. My heart was broken, my soap business - a true labour of love and commitment - would need someone to nurture and grow it. And I'd always seen that as my job. In a marvellous meeting of opportunities, this coincided with exactly the moment that my mother-in-law decided to emigrate and return home to her native United Kingdom.

More and more people are switching to bar soap which is a brilliant thing for the planet, and for everyone's skin which has collectively long suffered from exposure to the harmful chemicals included in liquid soaps and handwashes (included for their ability to dilute and stretch the product, and to prolong the shelf life of liquid soaps or body washes, producing a commercially viable product). Every month we meet new people who have suffered with eczema, who get rashes from body wash, or who are newly enlightened to the benefits of using natural soap. They tell us their stories, share their journeys with us, join our family. It's an incredible place to be - humbling, honoured. We've expanded, and now have two people who help out and Audrey (my amazing mother-in-law) has jumped in to help too, making soap and wrapping orders. She's become the gardener who looks after the seeds I've planted. Once again, I've been so humbled and honoured to have family like this, it takes a lot of patience to share an inherited dream and to work across continents to make something that is so filled with love.

We recently did a few markets together and so many other traders were appalled and completely taken aback that I was working with my mother-in-law. Yes, we do get along. No, she's not wicked. We are actually rather good friends!

And what of moving? Well, we did it. We've been here in Abu Dhabi for a little over a week. It isn't permanent by any stretch of the imagination but it is home for now, a base for traveling and for our comings and goings across the world as we go between home in South Africa to visit family, and home in England to work and to teach soapmaking. It feels a bit like a no-man's land to me right now, but I'm sure in time it will evolve. I can't spend crazy hours in our workshop making soap any more, I can't work late nights wrapping soap, and I can't attend market after market after market while I'm here. So that means I can do all the things that I've not had a chance to: a new brochure, an updated website, better social media posts, blogging. Most of all, experimental soapmaking. The spices and teas here are extraordinary, my mind has been reeling with ideas and new combinations that would be the perfect addition to a luxury bath time collection.

And of course, all the things that I've been wanting to do for me. Watercolours. Project Life books. Studying. Are you on instagram? I'm sharing my progress there. I'll be back here more, too, with big group updates so you can all see at once. Skype and Whatsapp calls are blocked here, so we've had to come up with new creative ways to communicate with relatives abroad. I'm going to try post a little more regularly with the things we're discovering as we travel, and the things I'm making too as we go along. I've enrolled to the Herbal Academy's introductory herbal foundation course which I'm thoroughly enjoying and so excited about. I've unpacked my paintbrushes and notebooks. It's time, I think, to get creative.

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