• Info
  • Feminine Uprising + The Power of Words (and Big Pants)

    Some days you’ve just got to put on your Big Girl Pants and get on with it….

    I know that this is going to sound a bit odd coming from a slogan t-shirt designer, but some days I’m really not feeling the whole ‘emblazon it on your chest and wear it proudly for all to see’ vibes.  As a self-proclaimed introvert, there are some days when I want to be invisible and definitely don’t want to wear my thoughts on a t-shirt.

    I do, however, believe in the power of words.  I have written about this before, about how I believe that words carry energy.  I hand letter words and phrases as I believe it imbues them with more intentional energy and soul than computer generated letters do.  The resonance of the words radiates outwards.  So, what to do on the days when I want the resonance and energy of the words but I don’t want to radiate them outwards into the world?  When I want it to be radiating towards myself?

    Enter – Big Girl Pants!

    Now, when I’ve talked about this with other people or thought about it myself, I wonder if this idea is so crazy that it’s genius or that it’s just plain crazy?  Either way, as always with our little business, I’m happy enough just making them for myself.  I LOVE them!  And I’m happy to share it, just in case somebody else loves them too.

    I’ve deliberately chosen big pants and not just because they are easier for Luis to print on them.  Eventually I would love to collaborate and make them ourselves, but in the meantime we are using sturdy, 100% cotton pants.  Knickers that cover my bum and my bits. Big pants that make me feel secure and safe.  Fully covered with nothing that is going to slide up between my bum cheeks and make me feel that I’ve got a massive wedgie all day.

    SIDENOTE: What is it with knickers these days?!  I’ve marvelled at the little strips of material that are advertised as knickers and my girls didn’t actually believe me when I pointed out which strip of material was supposed to go where.  I am secretly hoping that they will follow my lead and continue to wear knickers that will keep their kidneys warm, as advised by my nan.

    So, yes, sturdy pants for the win.

    Feminine Uprising is a phrase that has been rolling around in my head for a while now.  I’ve mentioned more than a few times the impact that the writings of Lisa Lister have had on me.  She has a powerful message about the beauty of the menstrual cycle, of living in accordance with your own cycle and how to tune into the power of your pelvic bowl.  I want these powerful words to sit against this exact space, to resonate directly into this powerful space and to give me strength in this knowledge.  I love that it’s secret too.  I’m wearing an inspirational message for my foof, it’s for me and me only, not broadcasting it to the world.  (I would, however, be willing to show you my pants in the corner of the playground like we used to do in primary school in order to cement our sisterhood status).

    Feminine Uprising is a celebration of this power, of the space that we hold within, of the place we can create from.  We can use this power for ourselves and operate from here.  It’s a celebration of accessing this power and knowledge that we have if we just slow down a bit and tune in.

    So, now I’ve explained the importance of Big Girl Pants for me and why I’ve created them, who’s with me?

    PS. This design will eventually make it on to t-shirts, to be worn on the loud and proud days too … it’ll save me having to show my pants to everyone.  But, in the meantime, let’s just enjoy the secret sisterhood, yes?!

    PPS.  Sources of inspiration for me in the creation of these pants:

    Lisa Lister

    Caitlin Moran, ‘How to Be a Woman”

    Wonder Wears the Gold


  • Slow Living Light
  • I’m kind, but not stupid


    “I’m kind, but not stupid…”

    This has been my mantra for some time now and it is something that I’m not passing on to our daughters.

    When I started delving into spiritual practice, I thought I had to be kind to everyone. Jesus was kind, right? So, kindness it was.  But in those early days of clumsily practising extreme kindness, I thought it meant being kind, no matter what; turning the other cheek, being effusively kind.  Giving, giving and then giving some more (I swear that I became well known amongst the street vendors and homeless people in the Mexican town where I lived), it was uncomfortable being so kind.  Thinking back, I did fancy the idea of myself being a spiritual master, floating through life, being kind to everyone.  The funny thing was, that my well intentioned kindness wasn’t always well received, in fact, sometimes it was taken for granted or I was perceived as being gullible and a pushover.  And that’s when I realised that my munificence was actually a teensy bit self serving.

    Luckily for me, around that time I began practising vipassana meditation and was introduced to the practice of ‘metta’, usually translated into English as loving-kindness.  It’s a dynamic practice that stretches our usually narrow concept of kindness and challenges us to apply it to people we believe we are indifferent to, or even hate.  It was during this practice that I realised that my definition of kindness was very subjective and the concepts of who I felt ‘deserved’ my kindness began to fall away.

    After years of practice, my kindness no comes from a much deeper, much more anchored place.  I’m not a pushover, I’m not overly kind to all and sundry. It’s a measured and compassionate kindness.  I don’t get caught up in the drama of other people’s stories, of people who play the victim to get what they want and I don’t allow people to energy feed off me.  But the kindness and compassion is there and serves as my true compass.

    It is this that I want to teach our daughters.  We have brought them up to be kind and considerate of other people’s feelings. We have taught them that it’s much more graceful to move through life operating from a place of kindness. Kindness is usually met with kindness… except when it isn’t.  With our eldest daughter, who is now 9, we are seeing that some people, at present her teacher,  seem to think that she is some kind of saint, that her kindness knows no bounds.  She is being sat with ‘difficult’ kids in her class, the assumption being that she will help them and help them and then help them some more.  But no.  This is not how true kindness operates and we are teaching her this now.  Kindness does not mean that she is a pushover and will bend over backwards to help others.  True kindness means saying no to situations that do not serve her.  True kindness is her strength, not her weakness, and it comes from a strong foundation of self confidence and self awareness.

    This is why I made her the card.  It’s hand lettered by me, imbuing it with all the fierce, compassionate energy I want her to feel as she moves through this life.  I had originally thought of having it on a t-shirt but thought it was too combative, too challenging.  I’m going to laminate the card so she can carry it with her, as a reminder of the true power of kindness.  I gave it to her yesterday and she immediately asked for it to be on a t-shirt (one of the perks of having a dad who screen prints)… this gives me hope for her future.

    PS. I also had to draw another one immediately after for our youngest daughter, age 6… I guess you’re never to young…

    As always, if any of this resonates with you, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below…


  • Limited Edition
  • Help for Mexico in the aftermath of the earthquake

    Here at Slow Living Squad we have a strong link with Mexico. I was born and grew up in Mexico, Pip studied and later moved back there, we had an amazing little Language School, got married. We try to go as much as possible, our daughters love it.

    It is an amazing surrealistic country and I say it in the best possible way, there’s always going on, sounds, smells, colours. With all the problems the country can have like corruption or violence, it’s always the people that makes Mexico a great place, we’ve seen it with the recent earthquakes that hit Oaxaca and other southern states as well as Mexico City. People going out to the street and helping rescuing, sharing, being generous. We want to contribute helping people in Mexico who suffered from the earthquakes by giving all the earnings of this t-shirt towards a counselling service offering help to those suffering from post-traumatic stress.

    The illustration of this t-shirt is by a very good friend of ours and collaborator Julio Chavez. here we have this cheeky skeleton from the day of the dead (our favourite Mexican celebration) eating corn on the cob; corn being an essential part of the Mexican diet and the font is inspired in the Olympic games celebrated in Mexico in 1968 for that retro feeling. Hope you like our new design and want to help people who really need our help.

    Link to the shop

  • Slow Living Light
  • SLOW LIVING LIGHT: Tree hugging


    Lately I’ve been feeling overwhelmed, almost under siege, as though there is too much stuff, too much information and my mind can’t fit in anything else.  My mind is feeling jumbled and I’m finding it  hard to process thoughts.

    I’m finding some relief in getting out into nature, just a simple walk or swimming in the lake.  It’s like a cold compress for my weary head.

    I was talking about this with Luis the other day and during the course of the conversation, I had a flash of insight:  Being in Nature was providing some relief because Nature doesn’t need anything from me, Nature just is.

    When I look at my everyday life, I am literally bombarded with information, products and services, all waving their arms and shouting “look at me, look at me, look at mmeeeeee!!”. Take a supermarket for example, practically every single item in there has been specifically designed to grab your attention, keep it and create a want/need/desire in you to have that item. Looking around, there is very little that hasn’t undergone this ‘commodification’. Once I realised this, going to the supermarket can actually be an overwhelming experience, with products ‘shouting’ at us.  It’s the same everywhere in a busy, urban environment; endless shops, products, billboards, adverts, all trying to pull in our attention and gain something from us.  They all need us, our attention, to survive, to exist.

    In contrast, Nature needs nothing from us.  It doesn’t need us to exist, to survive.  It’s perfectly happy to do its own thing and it is gloriously unconcerned with our existence.  The relief to be found in this is immense.  Yes, we can go and hug a tree and yes, it is a beautiful experience. (I confess, I’m a tree hugger in case you hadn’t guessed by now!)  BUT the tree doesn’t need us, it doesn’t need hugs to survive although it’s perfectly happy with the hugs.  There’s no sense of want emanating from the tree.  This sense of ‘no-grasping’ is amplified by more elements in Nature; the lake, the grass, the water, the sky: all uninvolved in our existence but happy to make space to accommodate us for a while.  It’s all so impersonal and that’s what I love, the brief respite offered by Nature before returning to our world of wants and needs.

    This flash of insight has intensified even further my instinct to simplify my life and continue the process of positive subtraction.  I’m jut beginning to realise the enormity of what’s involved in this seemingly simple insight so I’m sure there’ll be many more posts exploring this.

  • Prints
  • Motherhood as Meditation: Reflections on body image


    While I was getting ready for work yesterday morning, my mind was whirring away, running through all the things I had to do plus handily providing a running commentary on how I didn’t look right (my mind, I’ve discovered, can multi task like a pro and provide many different voices at the same time).  So, after a particular thought about how my arms looked flabby and untoned, I suddenly became aware of a much quieter voice, pitched below the hubbub that simply stated, “Your /our arms are strong and capable.” With that voice I simultaneously experienced a twinge in my sore arm muscles which reminded me that the evening before, I had swum 1.25 km in a cold lake.  That small voice stopped me in my tracks and I quietened down to hear more.

    Since becoming a teenager, I’ve more or less consistently been unhappy with my body shape, always believing that I’m slightly too fat.  Rather than delve into the physicality of it, I think it’s my belief that I was fat together with my unhappiness caused by my belief that is key here.

    This belief was intensified during two pregnancies in which I gained a lot of weight.  Rather than focus on the miracle that my body was making a baby, I focused on my ever increasing girth.  After I gave birth, rather than focus on how my body was again keeping my baby alive by providing breast milk, I despaired at still being in maternity clothes six months postpartum.  In retrospect, this sounds absolutely crazy, even to me.  How could I be so disassociated from my body when, without any input from “me” (ie my mind), it could grow, push out and nurture two babies?

    It seems as though now, at the grand old age of almost forty-two, I’m beginning to think about establishing some sort of relationship with my body.  Just hearing that tiny voice has prompted me to reflect on this body which I’ve inhabited for so long without any real connection to.  I’ve realised that I’m tired of this one track of thought and I’m ready to change the record.  I’m committed to moving through this world with kindness, and yet the thoughts I direct towards my body are downright cruel at times. 

    Almost six years on from pushing out my last baby, I’m able to acknowledge the reality of how my body actually is now rather than how I would like it to be.  There is a curving softness to my tummy, hips and thighs which seems to ebb and flow according to its own rhythm rather than due to my force of will.

    I think I tend to be surprised when I see myself in a mirror as I’m so much more used to seeing my daughter’s perfect little bodies rather than my own.  The contrast is startling.  But I guess this is my point.  We are sold the idea that we should be lean and toned, without any lumps or bumps.  It’s almost a cliche now how ‘celebrities’ bounce back from pregnancy to their pre-pregnancy bodies within a matter of weeks of giving birth.  But it is a pervasive idea…

    What we don’t have is a realistic image of how our bodies should look post-partum, or five years on, or ten years on…

    Reflecting on this, maybe as in pregnancy, my body does know better than “I” (ie my mind) do.  So, the curvy, dimply, softness of my body contours do serve a purpose. The softness of my body reflects the softness required for mothering.  It represents, in the physical, the gentleness, softness and kindness needed for myself and for my children.  I’m beginning to realise that motherhood is knocking off my sharp edges, sanding down my certainties and blowing my seemingly fixed ideas about things out of the water.  And let’s not forget that the softness of my body makes for some damn fine cuddles, as my girls will testify.  But this softness is not be confused with weakness.  I feel stronger than ever in my core, both physically and emotionally.  I have a solid strength that can sustain me through this tough phase of early motherhood and which could also propel me to come out fighting to defend my babies if circumstances required it.

    There must be a reason why universally our bodies evolve and change like this. Now I’ve started reflecting on this, it seems so petty to hate my body because it won’t fit into a garment that has not been designed for a postpartum body (yes, I’m looking at you black trousers from Gap).

    All these reflections are quite raw and new.  In order to give space for my body’s voice to emerge, I have to stop the fight, to try and let go of the mind controls of what I should eat, how much exercise I should take, what I need to DO to shift and alter my shape.  To be completely honest, I feel like I have nowhere else to go.  About two years ago, my body stopped responding to my strict rules of how I wanted to look.  It stopped responding to strict diets and exercise regimes.  I cannot force my will on it anymore, and so, I have to give up.  Maybe in the process of letting go, I will begin to understand what my body is telling me and I will come to terms with what my mind expects my body to be and what my body actually is.  Maybe, just maybe, in the space between expectations and reality, I will find some sort of acceptance and peace…


  • Slow Living Light
  • Slow Parenting: Domesticity and Wildness

    “Wildness is the state of complete awareness.  That’s why we need it.” Gary Snyder quoted in “Wild’ by Jay Griffiths.

    I am writing this at the kitchen table, in the quiet dawn of a Saturday morning.  My family is sleeping upstairs and I have a homemade sourdough loaf baking in the oven, permeating our home with the reassuring smell of our Saturday morning.  I’m carving out a few snatched moments of quiet to write this before my life as a mother kicks back in.

    When we were planning to have kids, I envisaged myself as being different to the harried, tired mums I saw berating their kids as they hustled them to and from school.  Somehow, I told myself, with my extensive knowledge and insight (!), I could carve a different path.  Turns out, I couldn’t and I haven’t.

    Slowly but surely, in the nine years of intensive parenting so far, I have become that tired, aged mum, worn down by parenting responsibilities.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I love my daughters more than I love myself and, with complete self-awareness, I’m completely dedicated to parenting them.  We desperately wanted our daughters and now we have them, I don’t want to miss or begrudge a single moment.  This is a short phase in my life, so while it is hard, I’m not looking for ways to escape it either.

    However. What I have realised is that children need a home, reassuring rhythms (rather than strict routines) and the presence of their parents.  As a mother, I also realise that I am hard wired to provide this for them.  We talk about ‘nesting’ in late pregnancy as though it only relates to that time, but I continue to feel this strong urge to provide a safe nest for my family nine years on.  It feels primal and instinctual, coming deep from my womb and it overrides my conscious thoughts from my mind about what I need for myself.  This last line feels controversial even to myself, in this age of individualism but I cannot deny that this is how I feel.  I want to provide a safe home for our daughters, a refuge from the outside world filled with love, kindness and homemade, nourishing food.  Providing this takes up the majority of my time, energy and my very ’beingness’ and what I hadn’t realised was that providing this entails some serious hard work, dare I say, drudgery at times.

    Take the simple concept of feeding our family: I have to plan, or at least think about what we need, shop for it, put the food away, manage it, prepare it, serve it and then clear it up.  Three times a day plus snacks.  Every single day of the year.  Add to this clothes, cleaning the house, the list goes on and on…  Before we realise, we are firmly enclosed in a cage made up of domestic routines.  What gets to me at times is the sheer repetitive nature of each and every task.  It doesn’t matter uf we are on an amazing beach holiday in Mexico or at home in Bristol, with kids, the same basic rhythms need to be observed: they need to eat, sleep and go to the toilet at regular intervals, and god help us if this doesn’t happen.

    Sometimes, these non-negotiable tasks seem overwhelming and it’s easy for me to feel that I’m on a hamster wheel of domesticity.

    And yet, I’ve found something that gives me a few minutes of release: swimming in a lake.

    Here in Bristol, there is a members only lake, set like an oasis in our urban sprawl, that I am lucky enough  to get to go to thanks to the generosity of my good friend, Laura. The lake is a filled up quarry, set in some beautiful woodland and there is an area for fishing and for swimming. The first time I went, a month or so ago, the water temperature was 14 degrees celsius. We changed into our swimming costumes in an old fashioned, 100 year old clubhouse and left our towels on the grassy side. Laura got in first, drew in a sharp breath and remarked “ooh, it’s cold”. So, following her lead, I gingerly climbed down the mossy steps and plunged into the muddy, freezing water.

    My mind and body just stopped on impact.

    I couldn’t breathe, my mind went blank. A moment of blissful nothingness that seemed to go on for much longer than it actually did.  Then I started rapid, raggedy breaths and my legs and arms started swimming instinctively. I hadn’t experienced anything like it for such a long time.  Everything done by instinct alone.  Maybe child birth was the last time I had been so truly instinctual…?  In those initial moments, my body felt truly alive, completely free from the binds of domesticity, completely immersed in the state of being truly wild.  My mind was free of its continual chatter, there was no past or future, just the all encompassing present, being wholly aware of every fibre of my body.

    It was absolutely glorious.

    We swam up and down the lake, my body taking over and moving without input from my mind.  I could feel my blood coalesce in my core, leaving my head and limbs gloriously free.  After a while, my legs and arms were completely numb with cold and my awareness was able to extend to the beauty of the surroundings.  It was a cold, cloudy day so we were the only people in the lake.  Moving through the calm water, we created ripples and movement and the sounds. Sinking deeper into awareness, I started noticing the pockets of warm water and the little air bubbles and moving circles created by the small silver fish who we were sharing the space with.  When one of the fish jumped out of the water close by, it startled my mind to react with an instinctive “fish?!” before settling back into blissful nothingness.  We saw a moorhen and a heron. 

    The utter stillness and simplicity and wildness of the experience was a balm for my poor, tired soul.

    When we got out, I was so numb with cold that I couldn’t get dressed properly.  My legs were shaking and achy but my entire body was positively tingling with the aliveness and possibility of it all.  “This is truly living!”,  my body was saying to me.  It had been a short sharp break from the warm and cosy confines of domesticity.  And it made me appreciate returning to it even more, I took true delight in hugging my daughters tightly, drinking a warming up of tea, taking a hot bath and eating our Friday night pizza.  With all my senses heightened, I could truly relish it all.

    I truly believe that it is the wildness of the setting that gives me what my body craves and that allows my mind to stop for a moment.  I had tried to find this escape in swimming before at the local indoor pool, but could only find tiny, snatched moments of it underwater.  Swimming at the lake makes my body sing and tingle; my brief respite from domesticity.  I also find that swimming at the lake when it’s cold and empty provides a more intense experience than when it is hot and the lake is full of other swimmers.

    So now, my domestic routine is alleviated by almost daily walks in the forest on my way to and from work as well as this intense weekly ritual of immersion in wildness.  It reminds my body what it is to be wild and provides enough nourishment for me to continue in this domesticated phase of my life.

    As I finish writing this, my family has woken up and joined me here with me in the kitchen. My youngest is writing in her journal next to me and my husband is making my cherished morning cup of coffee. The hustle and bustle of family life has started once again and thanks to my experiences of ‘wildness’ coupled with the self reflection of them, I am happy to be in this full domestic sphere once again.



  • Slow Living Light
  • Be where you are

    I just read an article about travel in India and how it inspired the featured artist’s work… my immediate thought was, ‘oh my god, I have to go that exact place in India so I too can discover my artistic talents.’ My second thought was ‘how the hell am I going to do that?!’ And my third thought was, ‘actually I don’t need to go anywhere, I can start right here’.

    I’m sharing because I found the initial idea so seductive, as though the only way I could access my inner artist, and spirituality was by going somewhere else.

    But, as I’ve experienced, going somewhere else I’ve still been me. I’ve had wonderful moments of spiritual awakening and moments of total and utter dullness of paying bills and working boring jobs. This happens both in Mexico and in the U.K. although just saying I lived in Mexico sounds exotic. …
    By dropping right into that very moment of awareness, I can access my very self; it doesn’t matter if I’ve been sat on the sofa on the millionth round of breastfeeding and bored out of my skull or trekking through the desert in Mexico on a spiritual quest or sat at my desk in the office, I am still me in that very moment wherever I am… and that’s the perfect place for me to be. …. I’d love to hear if your experiences of dropping into the moment, where’s your favourite place to do this? 😍

  • Slow Living Light
  • Slow Parenting: Motherhood as meditation

    “Parenting IS the Practice” – María Deza. Yoga & meditation teacher.


    This was the most valuable piece of parenting advice I’ve ever given.

    We were on a trip to Mexico visiting family and I was struggling. Our first born daughter was 6 months old and I was still not coping very well. I was still very overweight, still in my maternity clothes, breastfeeding around the clock and totally and utterly exhausted. Motherhood had broken me and I had no idea who I was anymore. This was thrown into even more stark relief when I returned to Mexico.

    When I’d left Mexico 3 years previously I’d been part of a supportive yoga and Vipassana group led by my good friend María Deza. I had a strong yoga practice 3 or 4 times a week, meditated every day and regularly attended meditation retreats. I identified myself as a meditator & yogi and continued this when I came to live in Bristol.

    During pregnancy I still meditated every day and made it on to the yoga mat regularly despite my ever increasing girth. Then Sophia arrived, and everything I thought about anything, was blown out of the water. Nevertheless, I naively signed up for post natal yoga for mummy & baby. That turned out to be an expensive way to sit & watch other mums do yoga, holding my baby who refused to lie down on the yoga mat. Also, the stress of trying to get myself and baby to a class at a particular time nearly killed me.

    Back in Mexico, I insisted on going to my previous yoga classes, but it wasn’t the same. I was exhausted, my body felt as though I’d been run over and my gigantic boobs got in the way and were aching for release by the end of the class. I was heartbroken; if I didn’t have the practice then what did I have? María could see my struggle and one day gave me a Thai massage on my feet. She treated me with such kindness and compassion and gave me that piece of advice: Parenting IS the Practice. In that moment, I stopped the struggle, I put down the idea that I had, of who I had been and who I thought I should: the relief was immense. I realised that instead of thinking that yoga and meditation was the only path, I could make parenting the path instead for this stage of my life. Instead of trying to fit something else into my overwhelming daily life with a young baby, I could subtract things instead. Strip my life down to the bare bones in order to have the physical, mental and emotional space to cope.

    This didn’t happen overnight, it’s been an ongoing daily practice for over 8 years now. It’s tough, wearing, exhausting and lonely at times. I can’t say I’ve mastered it and that I’m some sort of serene earth mother who floats through life. I am THAT mum who shouts the F word in the car park at swimming lessons upon discovering that my daughter has forgotten her swimming bag (this incident was gleefully reported back to my horrified mum by my youngest daughter).  I am THAT mum who loses her shit in Tesco and screams “I just bought you the bloody jam doughnuts!” to her kids, much to the amusement of the counter staff. So, no, my life isn’t quite how I envisaged it when I was pregnant with our first…

    And yet, when I’m aware enough and quiet enough in myself; I can drop down into myself, into my awareness and be with my daughters. This may only last for seconds or minutes but it’s the practice of returning to this awareness, this dropping in that has become strengthened over time and countless moments and allows me to be present and not lose my cool each and every time. So, when my youngest daughter has a melt down that her feet aren’t growing fast enough (?!) instead of brushing it aside or getting annoyed at the full on assault of my senses (screaming & crying at the volume that is guaranteed to make me lose it -how do kids get that pitch just right?!) I can identify my initial knee jerk reaction, stop it (because my joining in the shouting rarely helps) and instead drop into myself and just be with my daughter, cuddle her, reassure her, hold her and listen. Because at the end of the day, it’s ultimately never about the feet.

    I’ve been prompted to write this after conversations with friends who have become new mothers. I can recognise myself in the aftermath of pregnancy, birth and early motherhood. There is the expectation that life should continue as normal after having a baby, as though the baby should just fit into the space it’s been allocated in your life that revolves around you. At least, that’s what I thought. So, it was a rude shock when our daughter entered our lives and insisted that our lives change completely to accommodate her. I can still vividly recall my sense of outrage at this.

    I understand that what I’m talking about won’t suit everybody. I know there are so many different ways of dealing with parenthood and all are equally valid, in order to survive, you have to find out what works for you and your family. I’m just sharing my experience just in case it does resonate with someone , in the same way it became my life raft when I was a new mum. I use this simple phrase, “Parenting IS the Practice” almost as my mantra, to help me through the most difficult times and to help assuage the guilt I sometimes feel when I think I ought to be doing more, adding in yoga practice, meditation as a sitting practice, morning pages, daily rituals, the list can go on & on. I use it as a springboard to dive even deeper into the most ridiculously hard, exhausting, frustrating, beautiful, life affirming and soul filling experiences of my life so far.