As part of our Project Enough we got to hang out with a serious Mama Crush of mine, the incredible Claire - better known as Ned In The Clouds on Instagram. Claire is a mother to two amazing little boys, Kit and Ned, and also writes a wonderful and heartbreakingly honest blog over at Ned in the Clouds, detailing their family experiences of Autism. She is seriously one of the most inspirational people I've ever met, although she'd most definitely cringe at me saying that. She is as lovely as she is strong, and as warm as she is powerful. There are so many things I would love to say about Claire but I'll let her words do the talking. She's incredible and I would encourage everyone reading this to check out her blog and her Insta feed, and you'll soon see why I think so much of her.
Claire is currently running AUT:CTION, an Instagram auction in aid of the National Autistic Society, for the third year in a row. She's aiming to beat last year's total of nearly £14,000 but she needs your help. From 31st March she will spend 7 nights posting some seriously awesome lots to be bid on, including plenty of items you wouldn't be able to buy otherwise. As well as the auction there is always an incredible raffle and plenty of other ways to support the event so head over, take a look and get involved in any way you can.
Project Enough is a new interview series, featuring some of the most awe inspiring, talented and inspirational people we know. We'll be asking what keeps them going, what inspires them to be better and who reminds them that they are enough. Check out the last interview with the talented Carly from Lucky Sew and Sew.
Read on to find out more about Claire, Ned and their family, including how AUT:CTION started and what inspires her to be better every day. Warning: you may need tissues. Claire - thank you so much for being an important part of this project, you are more than enough.
What inspired you to start writing, to create AUT:CTION, to push harder every day?
I never really meant to start a blog. The first posts on Nedintheclouds are the posts I copied over from Instagram that I'd written a day or two after Ned's diagnosis. As I started to talk about autism more, the posts were getting longer and longer and the word allowance was smaller then. I needed the space to say everything I wanted to so transferred the IG posts over and started using the Wordpress platform instead. I am not a prolific blogger. I write when I can't not write. When I need to get something out. The success of the blog has been a complete surprise.
AUT:CTION was a whim. I had a vague idea what I wanted to do and ran it passed my husband. I said "do you think if I ask people to give me free stuff, they will?" And they did. In their droves. The kindness of strangers never fails to astound me. AUT:CTION was the first Instagram auction of its kind. There had been nothing like it before. No template. I had no idea if it would work. I am lucky enough to be pals with some amazing stores and makers and artists through Instagram so roped them in! Before I knew it we were having an auction. I winged the entire thing. We made £3500 over the week and donated it to the National Autistic Society.
The next year I learned my lessons. I had a spreadsheet. An actual spreadsheet. We had more stuff to auction. More people joining in in different ways. We had more followers. It was huge. We raised just under £14,000 for the NAS.
This is year three. We have more lots, bigger donations, unbelievable donators. We have a print and an amazing raffle. Who knows what might happen!?
I am, of course, inspired by my son. The little boy who has no idea about auctions or Instagram or autism or what he has created without even knowing it. Things are not always easy but he has taught us all so much about being brave, being willing to fight and about saying yes to any adventure.
Both of my children inspire me to be better. To be more. To learn more. They both challenge me in completely different ways and are so, so different. My husband inspires to say yes. To go through with ideas I have. His confidence in me is much greater than the confidence I have in myself.
I am inspired by other parents of children with autism. The ones that message and say thank you for talking about it. I am inspired when someone tells me they have learned something about autism that they didn't know before. Autism awareness is my bag. If I can make even one person understand just tiny bit more about the condition then I have done my job.
I don't want to change my son. I want to change the world he lives in.
What keeps you going on a bad day/when things get tough? What motivates you to carry on?
We celebrate the small things. The small wonderful things keep the big bad things at bay. New words, new understanding. Things that seem insignificant to so many can be huge for us. We hold on to them tightly.
I try not to think too much about the distant future. It's so unsure for us. Instead we take one step at a time. One foot in front of the other. We just keep walking forward. We enjoy each other. We revel in our togetherness. We laugh a lot. Ours lives are not sad. They are joyful and funny and sweet and mundane and beautiful.
Where do you find your strength?
You'll never know how strong you are until strength is your only choice.
I arm myself with knowledge and fight and surround myself with love and badasses who can be strong for me when I am temporarily broken. With people who walk a similar path to me. We are stronger together. I am empowered by the women around me. By beautiful souls who fight for their children and make a noise and refuse to be beaten. I am empowered by a sense of what is right and wrong. By wanting to fight injustice. By standing up for what I believe in. I have never been so sure of my beliefs as I am now. I am empowered by finally knowing who I am and what matters to me.
How do you remind yourself that you're enough, or who reminds you?
My husband, my parents and my girlfriends. They tell me I'm doing pretty good. Sometimes I even believe them.
What is motherhood to you?
Motherhood is about fetching drinks and wiping up spilled stuff interspersed with moments when you feel like your heart might actually burst out of your chest or you might be sick with the love you have for them. It's about when their hair smells like chlorine and their breath smells like biscuits. It's about sacrifice. It's about trying not to laugh when the little one is mad. So, so mad and he's stomping and getting redder and looks so stinking cute that you can hardly breathe.
It's about doing the wrong thing lots and lots of times and every so often getting it right. It's about saying flip instead of fuck. When you remember. It's about having your heart broken and then mended by two little souls who think you are the most important person in the world. It's about wanting to put your head in a wall instead of reading that book one more time. It's about having pockets full of sticks and feathers and stones and tissues.
It's about giving something when you are empty. Working hard when you are tired and forging a path for your family to walk on.
Motherhood is humbling, challenging, terrifying, beautiful, painful and a privilege.
You can follow Claire and her family on Instagram, and over on her beautiful blog. AUC:TION is running now until Friday 7th April and there are plenty of chances to get involved and support the cause so please head over and take a look.
Photography by Mr. Adam Robertson