The busy- mum-do-gooders’ Bloggy Blog – The reason why . . . .

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So by anyone’s standards I’m a pretty busy lady, a full time working mum of two young girls who in her spare time likes to organise the occasional fund raiser to help those in need. It was like an epiphany when I decided to embark on my first event. After following the tragic story of murdered MP Jo Cox, a mum who went to work one day and didn’t come home to her young children, it broke my heart. I saw her very brave widow Brendan Cox asking everyone to ‘Get Together’ in memory of his wife, I turned to my husband and declared ‘I love a party let’s do a Get Together!’ He rolled his eyes in a gesture of here she goes again but replied with ‘Go On Then’. The idea was born. I wanted to create a day to remember a special woman, bring the community together and make it accessible to all – so it had to be free too. Having always been the one who liked to keep my head well below the parapet I raised my head high above it and got cheeky and within just a few days I had a line-up of local artists, lovely raffle prizes a volunteer face painter and a way to raise money for a bouncy castle with the help of local We Shall Overcome founder Ste Goodall. I then put it out there on social media and asked if those attending could bring a donation however small on the day for the local Food Bank (a cause championed by Jo Cox). The response was amazing, and the day went far beyond what I had imagined it would for a day of music, games and togetherness. Afterwards people praised me on what had been a wonderful day and asked what I’d be doing next! At that point I hadn’t thought about it but a few days later it hit me . . . An alternative ladies’ night! Music, Boozy teapots, a fashion show (That story is a blog all of its own – what was I thinking ha!) and a chance for local female run businesses to showcase what they do: Women Shall Overcome was a reality (under the umbrella of anti austerity movement We Shall Over Come) another free event but this time raising donations of toiletry and hygiene products for homeless women –  By far my most ambitious party idea to date!! With the help of the lovely Louise Nulty at the studio we pulled off one of the most fun, heart-warming, informative and supportive female lead celebration of Female Empowerment the town had seen and raised tonnes of sanitary, toiletry and practical donations to be distributed to 3 homeless charities in the area. Again it was really hard work and a little bit stress full but I loved every minute!!!! So I get asked time and time again, why do I do it and the reasons are really simple:

  •    The sense of achievement is out of this world and will Hopefully leave my girls a legacy that they too can have a go and do anything they want:  Leading up to both events I have been involved in up to now there has been a bizarre chain of emotions from ‘I’ve got such and exciting idea’ to ‘Oh my word what have I done, I will never pull this off!’. When the sleepless nights kick in and no matter how many things are ticked off the to do list it keeps growing and to top it off you’re not even getting paid for it, your family and friends will quite rightly question your sanity, but once you pull it off and get the pats on the back, and a well done it feels good and what feels even better is the two pairs of little eyes looking up saying ‘ that’s my Mum’. I have included my daughters in my charity events and explained to them the reasons why we look to help those in need and if I’m the littlest bit lucky this will be a mindset they can take into adulthood and make the world a little bit better.

 

  • The warm feeling in your tummy when you see all the amazing things people donate and do for a good cause:   Somedays you can send yourself around the proverbial bend thinking of all the things that need changing in this world to the point the logical solution is .. . . there is so much to do and just a little old me what can I do I’ll leave it to someone else! But the truth is if we all just did a tiny little bit and come together that is when we really make a difference, really make a change and finally get our voices heard together – when you do just a little something and see how people get on board and want to do good too it really does leave you feeling a little bit fuzzy inside.

 

 

  • The People you meet:   Everyday we are out there meeting and mixing with new people . . .and I’ll let you in to a secret . . I love it.  Meeting new people, finding out what makes them tick and just how different, and just how the same we all really are! Sometimes though we come across a person or people who make us momentarily stop in our tracks and have a little re think about just how we are living our lives. They make us stand up a bit straighter, listen a little more carefully and live our lives just a little bit better. Then on some even rarer occasions someone comes along who makes you think ‘Wow I wish I could be like that’ people who are consistent in their selflessness and seem to touch the hearts and minds of those around them  . . .I came across this such a person and her two daughters recently. When  putting together my most recent event,  Hearts4homeless were brought to my attention through the power of Facebook, a mother and daughter team who spend their spare time going out meeting with the homeless of Liverpool providing food, toiletries, blankets and most importantly a listening ear. They tirelessly spread the word of those in need, referring to every single person they meet as their friend and looking for new ways to  get people involved and raise the much needed donations of food, toiletries and dog food that are not accessible to those in need on our streets.

 

 

So now I’m am thinking about what to do for my next project to help those most in need so WATCH THIS SPACE!!

External links for more information:

https://www.facebook.com/Hearts4homeless.16/

https://www.facebook.com/weshallovercomeweekend/

https://www.facebook.com/jocoxmoreincommon/

The greatest great get together in the strangest of times

So this year marked the 4th annual great get together, four years since the tragic murder of Batley and Spen MP Jo Cox, and four years of me deciding being on the sidelines was no longer enough, I wanted to be a more active member of my local community. This year was set to be a bigger and better event than ever. At the beginning of the year our small More in Common team had successfully presented and been awarded some funding from the local police initiative Safer Communities. This plus partnerships with the connections made with other groups and organisations over the past four years it was set to be a really special day of music, art, food and celebrating having more in common and the strength in acheiving together.

Then in March the watched the world slowly come to a halt, the UK going in full lockdown on Monday 23rd of March as we were told as a nation we should only leave our house for a limited number of essential reasons and the over riding message was stay home and not to have contact with people outside your household…….. the absolute opposite of what the great get together aims to do.

As we braced ourselves and watched as our communities suffered hardship and loss, we united in grief for those loosing their lives, those unable to be with loved ones in their last days, those working on the front line continuing essential services all the time knowing the risks to them and their families and grief for life as we knew at as we all grappled with a new normal. Stories began to emerge of everyday people going above and beyond in their communties, random acts of kindness, bringing joy through street entertainments and looking for new ways to connct online….. all new ways of being ‘together’ as we navigated through a crisis effecting every single person.

It became apparent that even though we couldn’t physically be together there was a new found power in communites coming together in a way like never before, after some discussion with our local group and the national team it was decided the Great Get Together would still be marked in ways available to continue to share the message of more in common and the power of community.

Ideas atarted to be bounced around, zoom, houseparty, facebook live all great ways to be ‘together’ online but for me there were elements of the usual event I didnt want to let go.

I have often been asked to speak on behalf of the Great Get Together by the Jo Cox Foundation about my journey of community involvement. Certainly not because I do anything better than anyone else but because before I started the Great Get Together in Halton I had no or very, very little involvement in my local community. I didnt know about all the wonderful work people were doing or the services and support out there in times of need or the gaps that needed to be filled to help those slipping through.

Through my work in both The Great Get Together and since founding a local community group for women, I have been lucky enough to build lots of amazing connections. When I spoke at an online community network forum about my hope to be able to still provide elements of the previous events, which I believe to be at the heart of why people enjoy them so much, it was the power of these connections that made it happen:

Make and Do …. Ever since the very first year, done on an absolute shoe string, we have always tried to provide things for kids and families to do, either crafting or planting or interactive demonstrations from local groups. This year was no different, so as we were encouraging people to be together at home there were online sessions for bunting and banner making by two amazing local organisations Sew Halton and The Studio Widnes. People getting involved were asked to upload photo’s of what they had made to be in with a chance of winning a prize.

Food Glorious Food …. there are two food elements we have always included in previous events. Providing free food on the day when possible and also as a collection point for the local food bank throughout the day. It was important to me to still try and keep these elements in. After a very kind donation from Widnes Rotary we were able to provide lunch for 150 people in the local community as a thank you for their continued work at a care home, local hospice and childrens group. The food bank collection was done by sending out leaflets to all the houses on my street and then placing a drop off point at the end of our drive, this was great as we got a car boot full of donations but also two neighbours popped by to leave bags of items both of whom I previously hadn’t had a conversation with so win win all round.

Music for the soul….. a big part of previous celebrations has been the live music and Djs so this year was to be no different. The neighbours were invited to join us in their front garden for a virtual street juke box ,by which they could text or message through requests and a game of distanced street bingo. It was great to see our neighbours bopping away in their gardens. Plus later on me and my husband live streamed a DJ battle on the internet so people further a field could join in too!

Over all it was a great day and showed just what can be acheived when you put your mind to it and start to think outside the box. Up and down the country there were examples of communtites coming together through online coffee mornings, group worships on zoom and even an impromtu wedding as part of a street celebration.

So what did I learn from this years Great Get Together? That together is definitly always better in what ever shape or format that has to take. It has also taught me the importance of sometimes looking inward rather than out. The three years previous have been amazing great big great get togethers bringing people together from far afield. This year as I spoke to neighbours, some for the first time about the great get together and what it stands for and watched as they got involved and left donations, I realised that the power of community lies not just in bringing big numbers of people together but that sometimes smaller numbers with big hearts can be just as effective.

I think also what this year has taught us more than any other year that the power of community is needed now more than ever and the work of sharing the More in Common message is far from being over fo rthis year… in fact it has only just begun. So please check out The Great Get Together -Halton on Facebook to see about getting involved or more nationally at thegreatgettogether.org or http://www.jocoxfoundation.org and support the wonderful work being done ✅

Online bunting making
Driveway donation point
Street bingo

What is Normal anyway??

So what is normal anyway?

So throughout this lock down since the Coronavirus outbreak I keep hearing lots of people referring to this ‘new normal’ or not wanting to return to ‘normal’ or being keen to get ‘back to normal’ it has really got me thinking what is normal anyway?

There have been lots of things we have done through lock down that have been different to how we usually spend our time, long walks, previously undiscovered areas of our town found, garden camp outs, so although they are quite unusual ways for us to while away our weekends as a family they are all pretty normal things to do and it got me wondering how we were actually filling our time before.

Certainly before the lock down there was a definite sense of rush, the long walks and garden camp outs were always on the list of things we would get round to doing but there was always some place to be or some commitment to fulfil that meant it was always kind of put on the list for next weekend, yet as each weekend came it would be equally full up and rolled over again.

It certainly isn’t that I dislike my life as it was before, as a family we are so very, very lucky that we have a great circle of friends, lots of family living nearby and lots of interests between us all, but that does bring about a busyness that certainly, at times, used to leave me with a feeling of anxiety and restlessness on the rare occasions that we would find ourselves with a time slot not jam packed full , or feeling like there was something I must be forgetting about. It has certainly been known for me to have double (and yep even triple booked) at any one time!

Getting my walk on as given me time to reflect on what normal might be able to look like

If there is one thing I hope many of us can take from this its the joy of doing less and taking pleasure from the more simple things. Previously school holidays saw social media explode with picture perfect captions of lavish holidays and days out screaming ‘ look what a perfect parent I am ‘ and I admit I have on occasion fell into this trap too but seeing the joy and hearing the giggles of letting the kids just being allowed to be has really given me reason to re think.

So what is normal and what version of it do we really want to go back to?

Being normal and normality are very subjective ideas. Certainly what is normal for one family or individual can be very different due to a whole host of variants. Finance, belief, likes and dislikes will all have an impact on how we spend our time day to day but I think if there is one thing this pandemic has done is to level some of this out and with restrictions being applied across the board it has made many of us re think our norm.

Normal before the lock down for a lot of people was about bigger being better, bigger bank balances, bigger job titles, bigger houses and it was faster, because it has to be to fit everything in, after school classes, family wellness sessions, the next restaurant the the latest thrill, an exercise fad, a new project just all to fill fill fill. If I really stare down into my soul this isn’t a normal I’m in a rush to get back too. Although I love the idea of finding out about other cultures, and experiencing new things, seeing different places, this period of having our metaphorical wings clipped has forced a real rethink and maybe its not a bad thing. Looking inward to our own families, instead of thinking about where we need to be or what we need to do next to be seen, be better, more cultured or seem smarter, we are now just appreciating, being,doing and passing on life lessons from when we were younger at a softer pace.

I’ve spent days wandering old routes from my youth when all there was to do was to while away the days walking and talking with friends looking for a spot to stop for our jam sandwiches and I’ve shared many an anecdote with the kids as the memories have surfaced. I’ve enjoyed taking time to answer the million and one questions from the kids that i’m usually only half listening to because I’m thinking of the next project coming up or task to be completed. In years gone by story telling and conversation was the only form of entertainment. We didn’t have the world at a click of a finger. I used to love hearing the stories of generations gone by now we just want it all in an information download.

Maybe taking this time to re write our routines has been the God send we were all praying for to stop us from inevitable burn out. I said to a close friend before all this broke out that I felt like I was on a speeding train and I could see where the tracks ran out ahead but couldn’t do anything to get off. Well the brakes have been well and truly applied and its not so scary ….. in fact its quite liberating and has given me a glance at what a new normal could be, what would you like your new normal to look like?

Revisiting old haunts

The Working Mama keeping sane in insane times …..

Its a strange sensation being in lockdown. Its a feeling of being the most lost youve ever been, yet having the most certainty you could ever have in your life. Let me explain, some days feel strange and blurred, you try to look forward but its like this big thick fog barely letting the headlights through but each day you have the certainty of knowing what you will be doing and where you will be going that day. Theres no room for real spontaneity, the worlds not your oyster and unless it is your weekly shop or daily exercise you will be doing whatever it is in your home or garden.

On the rare occassions I’ve bumped into some one – at a safe social distance of course – or engaged in Zoom chat the converstaion seems to be the same with everyone. We are all experiencing a roller coaster of emotions and reactions in relation to the current crisis. Each and every one is having good and bad days, everyone has experianced fear, acceptance, worry, joy and depression in equal measure. Maybe because of the virus itself, maybe due to lockdown misery or finance difficulties. This period has pushed all of us to the peaks and troughs of all the emotions.

Despite all this as I have said before there have been some amazing things that have happened and to come out of the crisis, Captain to Colonel Tom Moore has captured the nations heart with his 100th birthday fundraising efforts, the community spirit with clap for carers on a thursday, and the army of volunteers and people ensuring people and organisations in our communities dont go without.

But regardless of how lucky we tell ourselves we are still having our health, job, garden or many other things we can be thankful for in these tough times what other ways can we try to keep sane in these very insane times?

Music – playlists, I’ve discovered making and sharing playlists. The modern day way of giving some one a mixed tape so they can enjoy all the music you love. Back in my younger days a good or bad mixed tape could often signal the make or break of a friendship or relationship! Its been a great therapy for me to re vsit songs and memories, I’ve made a chilled out one, a party one, a girl power one and now I am putting lists together with more tenuous links to see if they catch on when I share them.

Zoom – When this all started and people really rapidly jumped into video calling sharing ‘house parties’ and Zooms – all things id never heard of, I was really apprehensive at first. But now I look forward to my regular check ins with different groups and I always feel uplifted after connecting with people. Its a chance to remember everyone is in this thing together and share hints and tips of how everyone is getting through.

Try something new – Ive not had a great deal of meandering time with all the home schooling and working but I did set myself a bit of challenge to try and do a poem. And I did it! It wasnt the best and is unlikely to gain me a nobel prize for wordmanship but I have been a little bit chuffed with myself that I had a go at something and even shared it.

Take a break from the news – we are being bombarded 24/7 with corona related news. Who’s overcoming the battle, who’s failing, who’s dying, who’s in danger etc etc nothing terrible will happen if you give it a miss for 24 or even 48 hours. In the beginning the announcements were coming thick and fast from the governement, each with its own implications and changes. That has slowed in pace now so its a good opportunity to try and switch off from it for a little bit. Theres loads of hints and tips on how to fill your time and distract you mind from reading that book you’ve not time for, to starting or finishing a project you have been putting off.

Finally – No comparisons – None – not even a one. Everyone is suffering in some way during this crisis. It maybe missing a loved on, a drop in income, being struck down with the virus, sadly loosing a loved on or having to face a job that could be putting them at risk everyday. Some people have gardens, some live in flats, some people are feeling highly productive and thankful for the opporunity to get to tasks they perhaps didnt have time for before or some are feeling so overwhelmed by the situation they can barely find the energy to get dressed. Each and every one of these feelings is a relevant reaction, it is heartbreaking for the person suffering and it is ‘normal’ for that person. We shoudn’t judge but we also shouldnt compare. Just because Mrs Jones down the road has single handedly landscaped her entire garden into something worthy of the chelsea flower show – good for her maybe that is her way of coping. And oh no Mr Smiths kids are posting what pie charts to the fraction of Pye they have been coming with (if thats even a thing, sounded quite clever in my lockdown befuddled brain) . . . but what they dont show you are the pictures from the four days previous when they all stayed in their pjs watching movies eating squirty cream directly from the can. If you can get through another day all fed and watered with maybe even a few smiles in between youve done well.

So I guess in conclusion the best way to keep sane is just to remind yourself everyday your doing the best you can, there will be a point at which we will see the light at the end of the tunnel of this crisis and if you do need to speak to some one then do. If you can speak to family and friends thats great but I have also included some numbers for services that can help if the fog is getting a little too much during these times.

Samaritans 116 123
Mind 0300123 3393
Alcoholics Anonymous 0845 769 755
PAPYRUS HOPELINEUK call 0800 068 4141

Working Mama Lockdown Ramblings part II

So things have been pretty quiet on the ramblings front. I had big ideas at the beginning of this lock down period that I would produce a profound and insightful weekly sum up of how the previous week had gone as a stay at home working Mama whilst trying to school two children and discover something amazing about my self and complete a fantabulous home improvement project – you know just for prosperity.
But things didnt quite work out that way.
The first and last installment of Working Mama in lockdown breezed over the fist week since we were asked to Stay Home Protect the NHS and – well you know the rest as we have now heard the very same sentance repeated numerous times a day for the past 36 days (yes I know it feels more like 1453!).


It doesnt really sound alot does it, but that is 36 days of not seeing close family members who do not live in your home, Mums, Dads, Grandparents and siblings. 36 days of socially distanced shopping trips filled with weird and suspicious looks from one side of the aisle to the other. 36 days of the kids not being able to play with their friends and some days really struggling to understand why. My six year old asked again when this Corona will be over and I hate that my answer is always ‘ I don’t know baby, I just dont know’
But since that first week we have been struck with a number of problems in the Working Mama household, firstly me and the husband were both struck down with probable Corona. He started first and I tried to be a the doting wife nurse but then what I thought was lockdown fatigue turned into full on flu like symptoms which left me stuck in bed for a fews days wondering why the hell id bothered washing my hands singing happy bloody birthday 47 thousand times a day until my hands cracked at all!


After a full 14 days full on isolation we were free and both feeling much better ( although looking back the tiredness didnt shift for a good few days still after this) – we decided to go for our alloted daily walk and the Big Mini promptly tripped on her scooter and broke her wrist…. I knew them kids wern’t listening when I kept warning there would be no hospital trips during this pandemic!!
Illness and catastrophe aside there have been some positives to come out of the past few weeks, the kindness we were shown by friends and family when we were ill and isolating was absolutey immense, from soups and cakes to tulips and treats for the girls ill be forever grateful for everyone who checked in. Also it has given me such a gratitude for how lucky we have been, we didnt need hospital treatment and the kids came out of it unscathed. I think in a funny way we have come to appreciate each other a bit more, the littlest mini had her 6th birthday last week. She had been dead set on a big party this year which obviously wasnt oging to happen. Instead we ordered a delivery afternoon tea, set up a blanket on the front drive with balloons and just enjoyed being together and waving and smiling at our neighbours – the minis then went on to tell us it was the best day ever!!


Overall in summary there have been ups and downs, the crippling guilt that I’m failing at home schooling, days my brain doesnt seem to want to engage into home working mode and the endless pangs of failiure issues when everybody seems to be nailing lockdown and quite frankly im just glad weve all made it through another day, but there has also been time for real conversations, chance to really take on board the wonderful humans that are growing and developing every day in front of my eyes and the continued wonderment that I made them – with help of course 🙂 But overall today has been a good day so I thought it would be a good chance to share my ramblings so one day when this is all over I can look back and think, yes we got through that and we got through it all together.

The Working Mama’s week in lockdown pt 1

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Week one in lockdown.

So a week last Friday in an unprecendented move never before seen in peace time schools were asked to close their doors, shortly followed by an announcement that the country were on a partial lockdown restricting people’s movements and social activity beyond four permissable actions.

Ive cried a lot of tears today, I mean ALOT. I don’t know if its exhaustion, overwhelm, fear or just the fact that we have no idea how long this is going to last.

The week has seen an array of emotions from despair and disbelief to acceptance and gratitude for all the simpler blessings. Ive questioned my sanity, my ability, my relevance and how I am at ‘mumming’ during these very strange times.

Its such a weird feeling to spend all your time rushing about, from meeting to meeting, activity to activity, work, family, school, clubs constantly in the hustle and bustle wishing for the day you can just be and have time to think but when it is handed to you on a Corona Guilded plate . . . . . thinking is that last thing you want to be doing.

When the schools first announced they were closing I personally felt a wave of releif as we all sensed it coming but also trepidation as to what this would look like going forward and what measures would be coming next. Over the first weekend the hardest part was trying to explain to the kids why, now they were home for the duration, they couldn’t just play out with their friends as they normlly do at wekends and holidays. As they saw groups of children still allowed to play, as others took time to come to their own realisation of how serious this situation was, we had to have amny converstaions about why they hadn’t done anything wrong, their friends hadn’t done anthing wrong but that this was out of all our control right now.

As the days went on we started to embark on a funny routine of a walk some crafts/school work, lots and lots of eating and me trying to fit in some work whilst crippled with anxiety waving my husband off to work each day. As I look back it feels as though this first week in lockdown has gone pretty quick, surprisingly so.

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There have been a few things I’ve learned on lock down though……

One strange thing I have found and it might just be my worry brain was the absolute overwhelm of online content that burst through, I clicked ‘Interested’ and ‘Going’ to so many online events thinking – I must use this time as an opportunity to better myself in some way – wrong!!! I realise now I must use this time to adjust maintain stable mental health and look after my family. I think the online content is great and i’m sure as time goes on I will find ways to dip in and take advantage but for now I have decided not to berate myself for not diving head first into everything or in deed find my own way of Corona Branding online just yet!

No one’s circumstance is better or worse. No matter what your situation is you will always find empathy/symapthy for every one – regardless of their circumstances. Although I may be finding it hard balancing work, home school/enetertaining two kids and have the anxiety of my husband still going to work. The positives are, I’m able to home work, I’m with my kids for homeschooling and entertaining and my husband still has his job. There are people who dont know how thEy will meet next weeks bills, people isolated all alone, families with two parents going out to work each day – this crisis is indiscriminate and is effecting EVERYBODY and EVERYTHING in some way.

Our NHS staff deserve our applause all of the time. Although its true they are our frontline defence and soldiers during this time please lets not forget that our NHS staff are on the frontline saving lives and protecting people all of the time. When we come out of the other side of this try to remember your admiration during this time when your tempted to gte short tempered because you have had to wait a bit longer than you had hoped for your medication/appointment. I’ve always had upmost respect for those in frontline public services but after this I will try even harder not to let my personal irritations get in the way of these people doing their jobs.

Just how much Community is alive and well. It has been heartwarming seeing how people have come together. Just yesterday on my daily walk I saw a neighbour leaving a Sunday Roast on their neighbours step before knocking and running off. At the end of this once we no longer have socially distance I hope we remember how we cared and looked out for each other and continue doing so. We have been recipients of compost, seeds and computer games from friends and neighbours, when out on our daily walk there is a definite increase in people smiling, nodding and saying hello as we all navigate through this shared experience.

So over all the first week has been one of ups and downs but we have survived, we are healthy and there have even been a few laughs. I hope you have managed to get through the first week in lockdown as happily and healthily as you can too and if all you have managed is to get up keep everyone fed and survive the week you have done an amazing job….. its a bloody global pandemic its totally allowed!!!!

 

 

 

 

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Its a funny thing ……

I’ve been stuck in a crisis of confidence lately. It may be the imposter syndrome, it may be something in the air but what ever it is has made me do a bit of soul searching and question ‘am I as nice a person as I think or hope I am?’

I was involved in a group conversation recently in which someone seemingly felt put out by some of the comments that were made. It played  on my mind a little at the time as what seemed to be a bit of fun appeared to have crossed the line and make them feel uncomfortable. My initial reaction was that there was no malice meant and this person should learn to laugh at themselves a little. But then I mulled it over and wondered, is asking people to laugh at themselves or stating ‘its just a joke’ just a way to justify being a bit mean. As I’d worked so hard at learning to laugh at myself why couldn’t they! But in true pondering style It raised a number of questions in my good old brain chatter so I again took to the trusty t’interweb and came across the following:

“Far too often we laugh at ourselves on the outside and feel dreadful on the inside but we are going along with a group behaviour that we cling to instead of valuing yourself enough. Be able to laugh at yourself must not be at the expense of your own well-being and having healthy boundaries is critical to that. Some people are not laughing with you they really are laughing at you. Know they are not people worth laughing with at all and allow yourself to quietly detach.” 

 

I’m very open about the fact I consider myself a work in progress and that I am continually striving for self improvement. I’m also at a point in my life that I have journeyed many a spiritual path dietary trend, exercise fad and lots of other things that people have felt able to poke fun at me for (among many other things). Generally i’ve been able to laugh this off but it does make me wonder if I should have called this out as a form of bullying or if I was right to laugh along while being the butt of the joke.

As a youngster I was uber sensitive, and took any negative comment or suggestion as an outright insult, but as I got older and would see people and interactions around me, the people who could take a joke about themselves and not feel the need to get in a lengthy and serious discussion to counteract every not so nice word, were always the ones who seemed happier, in the middle of all the fun and the most popular. So what could I do to learn to laugh at myself too. There are lots of articles and writings about the art of learning to laugh at yourself but, part of it I have found to be as simple as this  –

1 – letting go of the need to be right

and

2 – that what other people think of you is really none of your business.

 

I look back and realise it was an innate need to always be right which started me out on the tedious journey of needing to call out everyone on their jibes which were often dished out in the name of good fun but my sensitive soul took them to heart.

It has been a long and sometimes difficult journey that has brought me to the point of not giving in to others opinions and not a complete one, as there is still a way to go but almost as a combination of the two points I started to ask myself what is the worst thing that will happen to me today if I Iet this person leave my orbit not agreeing with me? What actual impact is it going to have on my day? Lets face it once we have parted ways as long as we haven’t fell out or anything I’m much more likely to be bothered by a soggy sandwich for lunch or finding I’ve got a flat tyre or similar – in other words I told myself to Let It Go.  

But can it be as simple as that?

I couldn’t find anything that didn’t encourage us not to laugh at ourselves, there were articles and pointers on how to learn to laugh at ourselves including ‘learn to be your own partner in crime’ and ‘exercise your laughter’ , and I wholeheartedly believe there is something to be said for learning not to take ourselves too seriously. To be able to separate the ‘it’ll be ok whatever happens’ from the ‘Life and death’ choices but I think there is a danger that by encouraging more ability to laugh at ourselves we are not tackling the true issue of why people can’t just be a little more  kind sometimes, and actually when we do cross the line a little bit, which we so often do without even meaning to, why not just say ‘ I’m sorry’ instead of justifying it as a bit of fun.

Also we should consider  the ability to laugh at ourselves may often be affected by the head space we are in on any particular day, sometimes when the anxiety levels are up my reaction to having people poke fun might be completely different. Something that I had laughed off or not really thought much about one day might play on my mind if I’m feeling a bit differently, that off the cuff comment someone made about my wrinkles, or word I used or lunch I ate, can send me right into orbit on a rant of How Very Dare Yous if that’s where my mood is at that day.

Despite the Pros and Cons of learning to laugh at ones self I’m still determined that by being kind we can still find the funny – after all in the words of Charlie Chaplin “a day without laughter is a day wasted” but I would say this, in learning to laugh at ourselves lets make sure its in the name of making ourselves feel better and not to suite someone who should know better.

 

So back to my original ponder – am as nice as I think I am, well I don’t think I’m too bad but I also know I don’t always get it right. And although am I able to laugh at myself most of the time in memory of my super sensitive soul of days gone by I will be trying my best to ensure I consider that not everyone finds the funny in themselves everyday and try and bring some kindness into the funny too.

Is laughter the best medicine?

Tired of thinking about thinking….turning off the brain chatter

According to the Urban Dictionary, brain chatter is the high intensity inner monologue (in some cases dialogue) that distracts or interrupts activities in the external world.

Do you ever get those days when you cant close off the chatter in your brain. Everything feels a bit tense and uncertain and you realise there’s a train of thought running through your mind in circles that you just cant seem to shut off!

All sorts of things can trigger the brain chatter,you start replaying conversations, something brings up old memories, anxiety or worrying about upcoming events or projects. Although we always have a running dialogue somedays the chatter feels louder than usual and stops you from concentrating on anything else. You start generally questioning your ability to make sense, of well, anything.

I often wonder if this is how its always been,or is it worse these days due to constant media and social media stimulation meaning we are being bombarded by triggers almost 24/7.Is it also an increase in brain chatter that is a driving factor in todays ‘busy’ society. I certainly feel as though part of me needing to keep busy, busy, busy, is to try and keep the inside chatter at an inaudible level – almost like putting the lid on a pressure cooker waiting to pop which then creates its own mental and physical issues. So what is the answer for keeping the chatty cathy in your brain at bay?

‘The devil makes work for idle hands – and minds’ ….. one of the main suggestions I have come across for this is journaling. The process of emptying your mind through the process of writing can help focus thoughts and give an opportunity to commit in writing any issues that may benefit from some head on action.

‘Switch it off – switch it off ‘. ….. easier said than done I hear you say but seriously try and physically switch off. Turn off the TV put away the phones and devices and have a break from social media.take a rest from the triggers and the guilt making. Especially before bed – we are plugged in to the outside world from the moment we wake till we fall asleep, is it any wonder we’ve got so much chatter going on.

Meditation – This doesn’t need to be in a special building, wearing special clothes or whilst being able to be at one with nature sitting still for hours on end ( although thats all good too), there are plenty of apps, CDs and videos that can guide you through a short meditation to slow down and pause for a moment.

Plus anything else that gives you a moment of  still and self care, a bath by candle light, a walk in nature, singing along to your favourite song, in short a little something for you.

So is it important to quiet the chatter? Well simply put yes, chemically you can tire out by thinking too much. … When your brain is dealing with an ongoing supply of new information, it must put energy into every decision, which overuses that executive function and can cause mental fatigue. Don’t get me wrong I know, we all know what we need to do to try and quieten the chatter, but if like me your in need of a little reminder now again – take this as your chatty cathy reminder alert for today 🙂

The Busy Mum’s fear factor

Things that frightened me as a child:

Ghosts

Getting in trouble

Being laughed at

The Dark

Aliens

spiders

Things that frighten me as a grown up:

Losing my family

Becoming seriously ill

Dying

Terrorist attacks

Losing my job

Being a rubbish Mum

House fires

Brexit

Driving on motorways

Getting it wrong

Losing hope

Putting myself out there

Not being liked

Being laughed at

Flying

Roller Coasters

Aliens

Spiders

I touched recently in a blog post about some of my fears and how they can help to drive me out of my comfort zone. I don’t remember having much in the way of fear when I was younger ……… It’s a funny thing, described as “a feeling induced by perceived danger or threat that occurs in certain types of organisms”.

We are all taught about fight or flight from a young age and told that some fear is quite normal and in fact something to be embraced to help with certain situations.

But when and why do our fears turn into anxieties that permeate our thoughts throughout the waking day as we get older. Is it the enormity of becoming a parent? The realisation of mortality as we get older? Or in these modern times are external factors like social media, increased pressures and 24/7 news partly or mostly to blame?

Fear and anxiety often occur together but Fear relates to a known or understood threat, whereas anxiety follows from an unknown, expected or poorly defined threat. So when we want to keep our children safe from danger and fear what we know could happen surely that’s normal but the nights we keep ourselves awake thinking of all the unimaginable things that could happen is this pushing more into a anxious response? These perceived dangers seem so real and almost feel so real, but could this be because of the millions of stimuli rushing through our brains throughout the day rather than actual perceived dangers?

Ok but how does this help me overcome fears and do the things I want to do I hear you shout ( or maybe that’s just the anxiety in my brain again).

I don’t have a magic answer and don’t profess to be an expert but I know what has helped me.

Talking – it may seem obvious but sometimes externalising fears can help

Put them into perspective. I found that when I started to talk to others about anxieties and thoughts that would

Keep me awake at night I really wasn’t alone and that helped me to put them into perspective a little bit. I can’t switch of my worry button completely but it certainly helped when I realised I wasn’t alone!

Putting fears and vulnerability on the table – I picked this phrase up listening to Brene Brown. Acknowledging fears and being vulnerable about them through talking honestly to explain why you might feel limited.

One practical example of this is despite my fear of speaking in front of others I continue to put myself up for doing it. But I acknowledge the fear, admit that it’s not my most comfortable place to be and speak from the heart and so far the response I have received has been amazing. I don’t always hit what I want to say or how I want to come across but each time I face my fear I feel as though I’ve taken another step in overcoming it.

Inspire and be inspired – one way to help you face your fears might be to look for inspiration from others. Not to compare (“comparison is the thief of Joy” after all!!) but sometimes when we see others step out and face their fears and come out the other side not only still alive and kicking but often elated and proud of themselves for taking the step, it can help in rationalising our fear a little and help us to also take the first step. Flipping this over sometimes when we need a little motivation to face our fears and take a brave step it can help to remember that you might help to inspire someone else through stepping out.

I asked some people what they were frightened of and if they thought we have more fear now than before.

From the responses there does seem to be a consensus that there is more pressure with one believing modern society “thrives on fear” to control and another feeling increased pressure creates “fear of failure and losing control” but as one person stated.

“One can only do their best, with what they have in the ‘now’ tomorrow has not arrived yet and yesterday is done and dusted with 🤗 and smiles help too”

So with that in mind and a smiling face I’ll dig out the old spider catcher again and see if I can take the first step in overcoming that fear a little bit too 😱😱😱

The Busy Mum and Imposter Syndrome

Having just embarked on the biggest, boldest and most uplifting Women Shall Overcome yet this is a subject that has been a topic of conversation and consideration quite a lot lately. So what is Imposter Syndrome? Why do we get it?And how can we get away from it?

So what is it?

noun: imposter syndrome

1. the persistent inability to believe that one’s success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one’s own efforts or skills.”people suffering from impostor syndrome may be at increased risk of anxiety”

It’s certainly not something that is exclusive to Women as it can effect anyone at anytime but there has been much discussion and research recently around why and if it may hit women more proportionately than men.

Commonly described as an individual who doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. Some people believe that women who suffer from imposter syndrome do so because of internalised sexism from perceptions and ideals they have been subjected to. I can relate to this. From personal experience I have been in conversations were men have been congratulated for achievements that women have been called out for being boastful about. Plus a phenomena that seems to sometimes go along side is a sort of martyrdom that while men embellish and tell tall tales of success I have often encountered groups of women who’s sole purpose is to outdo each other in the who’s the hardest done by stakes.

And I’m certainly not calling these women but I think it goes some way to illustrate the subconscious bias we’ve been exposed to meaning we often feel guilty in celebrating ourselves. Think about it, how many times have you been paid a compliment but feeling so uncomfortable straight away you tear it down with ‘oh this old thing’ or ‘I got this so cheap in the sale’ or similar self put downs. What is it in Society that tells us we can’t enjoy being told something nice?

So why?

In one study it was reported the cause seems to be setting expectations that are “exceedingly high” and “unrealistic notions of what it means to be competent.”

There is nothing that says imposter syndrome can’t effect men too and often in those in successful professional roles men and women will equally be effected. But In more recent years for women the narrative that they should be tying to ‘have it all’ with careers and families and being social butterflies and all of this being played out on a show reel of picture perfect social media highlights it’s no wonder women are feeling a particular pressure.

“Comparison is the thief of joy”

I first heard this quoted when filming local women for a project looking at issues effecting women today. Local PT and life coach Sue who spends her time encouraging and helping other women after facing her own struggles spoke about why comparisons with others fuel the narrative of not being good enough And it really resonated with me.

Every time I get up in front of a group of women, get involved in another event, post about something I want to champion on social media I feel the monster of imposter syndrome creep up and tap me on the shoulder. ‘ who do you think you are?’ ‘ all these people know your winging it’ and ‘if someone else was here doing this they’d be so much better at this than you?’

Every time I’m late to the school gates I imagine serene households all over the country while we get up and out like a tornado crashing through the house.

I am convinced most days that everyone else has got it together except me.

So could this the key to saying goodbye to imposter syndrome for good? If we stop comparing and learn to celebrate our own wins no matter how big or small.

Does it really matter if I’m winging it or if someone could do it better than me if I’m there in the right place and time to make a difference to just one person?

And does it really matter how we get to the school gate as long as we get there chaos and all?

Is it recognising the impossibility of ‘having it all’ despite what we have been told and accepting that in todays busy society making it through the day is not just ‘good enough’ but actually worthy of a self pat on the back and a well done?

If we’ve managed to get through the day doing our job ok, keeping our family fed, healthy and happy enough and if we have done all this whilst still being a fairly decent human being to others maybe that’s ok in fact maybe that’s pretty amazing.

So my challenge to you….. when you feel the shadow of imposter syndrome looming. Take a minute to think of the wins you’ve had that day however big or small and remember your pretty amazing too and your not an imposter ….. your not doing things the same as everyone else because your not everyone else, your you and that’s your super power.

The busy Mum’s photo shoot- Why its so special when women gather

I saw an advert recently for a call to action for women to take part in a body diversity and positivity photo shoot.

I hate Having my picture took. My first thought is always I wish I was slimmer, prettier, had better hair and teeth or could be bothered to do my make up better but recently stronger than that thought, I have a fear. A fear That I won’t be here next week or next year, that some one is going to tell me that my time is up it was good while it lasted but hey ho! It’s a fear that sometimes keeps me up at night giving me anxiety palpitations so Afraid I am that the metaphorical rug is about to be pulled from under me. In those moments despite the anxious waves I’m so glad for all I have especially my family and I’m determined to create memories that my little girls can look back on. Quite sure in lucid moments that once I’m long gone they won’t be flicking through images thinking my belly was too big or that I should have touched up with concealer that day.

With instant media increasing and a growing photo ready culture We see a constant stream of cute and funny pictures of places, pets and kids but so many women are still too self conscious to get in front of the camera …… especially in a real way.

So I bit the bullet, I’m quick to loudly and proudly tell everyone else to ‘love the skin your in’, ‘be brave’ or ‘push yourself out that comfort zone’ yet in so many ways I still don’t take my own advice. Before I could think too much I responded putting myself forward as an overweight, about to turn 40 model for the day Mum Tum, wrinkles and all.

I didn’t know what to expect. We were told to wear black but no other instructions. I struggled a little keeping up with the WhatsApp group as usual spinning a number of commitment plates, the bits I did manage to drop in on the women all seemed confident, supportive and excited but as their excitement grew so did my anxiety. Imposter syndrome kicked in with force. I’m not a serious blogger or an ‘insta’ expert like some of the others seemed was I out of my depth?

The night before the shoot arrived and having done no preparation me and my young daughters dug out the old foot spa and made a night of pampering to get mum ‘model’ ready. Even if I wasn’t that excited they certainly were.

Then the day itself arrived and I luckily knew one other lady who’d signed up so we along with a couple of others made our way in together. As we chatted about what to expect the anxiety tightened a little more ‘ what on earth had I signed up to?’

We got there and were immediately made to feel welcome. There was a group of over 20 women in various levels of dress, from full length black dresses to lingerie and lots of variations in between and what struck me more than anything was that every single one looked beautiful and were so lovely, supportive and complimentary of each other wether fully dressed, half naked and completely regardless of shape, size, colour or age.

All the women there had a common purpose including the amazing voluntary make up artists, they wanted to spread a positive message that we should all take joy in the skin we are in! We are too busy focusing on the bits we don’t like to appreciate the bits that we might not think are so bad.

Despite feeling a little uncomfortable in front of the camera I came away feeling like I’d been part of something really special, we decided to keep the group going continuing to support and lift each other through this shared experience. I still hear people calling women out for certain behaviours and victim shaming which is why projects such as We Are Women is so important it’s a reminder that there is much more love and support out there than negative attitudes.

Women want to lift, inspire and nurture other women. Helping them realise the good they find so difficult to recognise in themselves. We are ready to show the world that you don’t have to comply with the media’s skewed view of perfection to be strong, confident, beautiful and to make a change for good.

So thank you to Emilie Shoots, the make up girls and every single other woman who was part of that day, each and every one made me glad to take such a giant step out of my comfort zone and be part of a wonderful day and also have some rather wonderful pictures for my girls to be reminded of the time their Mum said she would …… and she did!

🙌🙌🙌

#wearewomen

@wearewomen

@emilieshoots