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Me, Myself & I: Part 3

memyselfi

Welcome to part 3 of this fab Q&A run by Suzie at Suzie Speaks and Sarah at Diary of a Techaholic. Check out their posts too and show some love to these great bloggers.

1. How do you get your ideas for blog posts?

Generally from what’s going on in my life. Places I’ve been, conversations I’ve had, news I’ve heard and so on. Taking part in these memes helps to get regular posts going too. Many of my posts have been about the research I’ve done for my books.

2. What’s the one piece of advice you would give to new bloggers just starting out?

Blog as often as you can. Blogging, like all writing, is a skill and you only get better with practice. Blogging often also gets you into good habits and will help you to become part of the blogging community.

3. How would your closest friends describe you?

I dread to think! I hope they would say I was passionate, caring, intelligent and funny. They might also say I was sensitive, a bit of a drama queen at times and extremely opinionated!

Meeru24. What’s the best place you’ve ever visited and why?

Meerufenfushi, aka Meeru, an island in the Maldives. It’s paradise on earth. I’m so lucky to have been able to spend a week there 11 years ago. I’ve been feeling a bit nostalgic for the place lately and would love to be able to go back.

5. What has been your biggest challenge so far?

Accepting myself. I haven’t overcome this challenge yet, but I am trying. It took me a long time to accept my vocation. I always wanted to be a writer but that booming voice of society told me “you’ll never earn a living at it” and I let that voice divert me. But I was so unhappy in everything else I tried to do. Now that I’ve embraced my path I’m so much happier. I need to do that with all sorts of things in my life, accept myself for who I am and stop worrying that I’m not good enough. I need to change the voice in my head from one of constant self-criticism, to one of love and nurturing. It’s not easy to do, but I have a mantra now “Forgive yourself and move on”. I’m trying to live by that.


Me, Myself & I: Part 2

memyselfi

It’s week two of the Me, Myself & I series. This week’s questions were set by Sare at Confessions of a Techaholic. Find out more about the linkup over at Suzie Speaks. On with the questions!

1. Why did you start blogging?

Hmm… I have to reach back about ten years to answer that one. I think it was to ease boredom at work! I had a tedious job in insurance (I know!) and blogging gave me an outlet for my creativity and a chance to be me. Because being sat at a desk, doing a soulless job wasn’t me. Once I got the bug, blogging became part of my life forever.

2. What is the best book you’ve ever read?

Just one?! Well for sheer re-readability and how much it moves me every time I read it, I have to say Harry Potter: Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling. The first book I ever queued up before midnight on release night to get. The first first edition I ever owned. The first time I didn’t sleep or eat until I’d devoured every word. I must have read it a dozen times by now and it makes me cry every single time. As do the last two books in the series, but I had to pick one!

3. If the next song you heard was the last, what would it be?

Everlong by the Foo Fighters. This song touches something deep in my core every time I hear it. It was released during my most formative years and carries with it potent memories of lost loved ones, dear friends, glorious memories, the first feelings of belonging. All of those memories captured and stored in a beautiful melody and rhythm that makes me soar. If I never heard another song again, I would die filled with love, happiness, sadness and loss all at once; everything human.

4. What is your favourite post that you’ve ever created?

Ooh, good one. Bear in mind I’ve had several blogs over the last decade! I’m going to say my birth story. It still gets viewed today, and is still shared in online birth communities despite being three and a half years old. Its companion posts on my birth contract and rebirthing ceremony are also frequently shared and viewed too, but this one carries most of the emotional weight. It was a joy and a challenge to write and reading it back now still moves me. My birth changed practices at the hospital I ended up at and this story, and my contract, have been used by midwives on training days. I’m honoured to be part of the process of making birth better for other women.

5. What is the one book, album and luxury item you would have if you were stranded on a desert island?

I think I would want to take something funny to read, or something massive to keep me going. Lord of the Rings, perhaps. Nothing like the daddy of all epic fantasy.

Album? Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles. I had to think about this a lot and hopped around a few before settling here. I used to spend hours and hours watching Yellow Submarine as a kid. I had it on video recorded off the tv and would watch it, rewind and watch it again, and again, and again. The songs are closely connected to my childhood and I could listen to them on repeat forever. It also happens to be a musical masterpiece, voted the number 1 album of all time by Rolling Stone.

As for the luxury item, I’d have to say a working fridge! I wanted to say chocolate, but then thought “it would melt in the heat!” So a fridge it is, to keep my coconut milk cool. Of course, I’m assuming that I have something to play the album on!

So that’s all for now. Tune in next Sunday for more.

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Me, Myself & I – Week 1

memyselfi

I was just looking for something like this to post to my blog today, when fate intervened and dropped this little morsel in my inbox, courtesy of Suzie81 Speaks. The idea is to answer 5 questions each each and share them around the bloggosphere, reading, liking and commenting on other people’s replies too. Each week Suzie and Sare (at Diary of Techaholic) will post the new questions. So, without further ado, here is the first set.

1. What has been your blogging highlight so far?

I’ve blogged for years, across various different sites and about a range of topics. But the last 18 months or so, writing this blog has been very special. I’d say the highlight is probably when I see people sharing my posts and knowing that something I wrote was share-worthy.

2. What or who inspires you more than anything else?

Music inspires me. A certain song, or even a single lyric can set my creative juices flowing. A good rhythm is amazing to write to. I have a playlist for writing to, which contains some of my favourite bands and even entire albums that flow amazingly well. I’d say that up there as my most inspirational albums are Damage by Kosheen and The Heart of Everything by Within Temptation.

3. If you won the lottery, what would be the first thing you would do with you winnings?

Oh I contemplate this A LOT! Before going property-hunting (I browse the net for amazing properties already in anticipation of winning the next Euromillions jackpot!), or flying off to travel the world with my kids (Florida first as it’s already booked, but then we’ll get on a train and travel around Europe in style), I’d actually get the dull stuff out of the way, like clearing my credit cards and buying a new family car! But I’d also be making some important phone calls to my close family and friends and asking them what I can do with some of the money to make their lives better/easier.

4. If you could describe yourself as a plate of food, what would it be?

Sunday roast. Warm, loving, homey, a little bit indulgent and stuffed full of yumminess.

5. What does a perfect day look like to you?

A long, long lie in all by myself! Followed by a tall glass of cold orange juice outside in the sunshine by a stunning pool. Then sitting by the pool with my laptop to write, taking a dip after lunch during the hottest part of the day. It would just be me, my words and tranquillity.

So that’s it for now. If you want to participate, just copy the questions and answer them in your own blog post. Then leave a comment on Suzie or Sare’s blogs. Don’t forget to read and comment on other people’s posts too. Happy Sunday.


What Drives Me?

WordItOut-word-cloudI’ve been giving some thought to the things that are important to me. I’ve been a passionate campaigner for a few causes throughout my life, and while at first it may seem as though those subjects are unconnected, there are common threads weaving together the causes in my life; empowerment, equality, and the environment.

Common wisdom in the world of blogging as a writer is to steer clear of politics. Writers are in danger of putting off potential readers by expressing our political opinions. I guess this is supposedly true of all types of artists and even businesses. But my political opinions and the action I take because of them are such a big part of my life that it would feel disingenuous to ignore them. If the purpose of blogging is to connect with my readers and allow them to get to know me better, then I shouldn’t hide who I am behind a veil of politically neutral blog posts. That said, this is NOT a political blog, and I don’t intend it to become one.

All I want to talk about today are those core values that intertwine the threads of my life and drive me to do what I do. It’s all relevant to my writing too, and those who read my books will see what matters to me glinting through in the actions of my protagonists. It’s not consciously done, far from it, but when you carry fierce beliefs, they are bound to sneak their way into what you write in the form of character traits that you admire or threats you perceive.

reclaiming birthOne area that I have been engaged with for about 6 years now is childbirth. My first birth was a traumatic one, like too many women, and since then I have been involved with a number of groups and organisations seeking to improve birth for women in Britain. I won’t get on my soapbox now, but suffice it to say, I believe that women should be empowered by their birth experiences. Every single birth can and should be handled with care, dignity and respect by all those involved. Sadly one or more of these is absent from far too many births in this part of the world. These days I don’t attend many marches or demonstrations, as my commitments often prevent travel. But I keep my toe in the water by supporting women to get their birth choices met by care providers, and being there to listen if they have a negative experience.

When institutions steal power from people, it is up to every individual to reclaim that power and speak up for what they want and need from those institutions. In the birth world that means women doing their research, finding the right care provider, and having a robust plan that covers various contingencies. It shouldn’t be necessary for women to have to demand dignity and respect from their midwives and obstetricians, those things ought to come with the job, yet it is often necessary in Britain today.

The same guidelines for empowerment are true in all walks of life. One of the things that many people need in order to feel happy and fulfilled in life is a sense of empowerment; to feel in control, listened to and confident of achieving the things we set out to achieve. In a society rife with inequality, like ours, it can be nearly impossible to feel empowered. So to me, these two things are intimately linked. We could see a snowball effect if we can generate the kind of society that nurtures individuals and communities, rather than worshipping at the alter of wealth and inequality.

Every year for the last few decades Britain has been getting less and less equal, we’re now one of the least equal countries in the developed world. A shocking claim to fame and not one to boast about. With the current government we’re likely to see inequality accelerate even more over the next 5 years.

earthMy third driving passion is the environment. I’ve always had a green core and supported environmental causes. At times it feels like a lost cause, with those who hold power seeming to care little for the planet we live on. But there are small victories along the way that make it worth continuing to champion the cause. Recently, campaigners managed to prevent Lancashire Council giving planning permission to fracking giant, Cuadrilla. Also, at a summit in Germany last month, G7 leaders (Germany, Britain, France, the US, Canada, Japan and Italy) agreed to a commitment to “decarbonise” the global economy by the end of the century and to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030. But they have to be held accountable and be made to follow through on these commitments.

Which brings us back to empowerment. Individuals have to stand up and make their voices heard. We are powerful when we speak together, we can achieve anything if we set our minds to it. I’ve blogged before about technology predicted in sci-fi, especially Star Trek. Well that’s the future I’m aiming for: technological advancement, but not at the cost of the planet. Green technology, an equal society where everyone has their basic needs met and everyone can achieve their dreams.

If you love the idea of people taking back their autonomy and believe in communities working together to achieve great things, check out the Transition Town Network. And if you’d like to support this author in getting the best books possible published then please chip in to my crowdfunder on Pubslush, which is running through July!

Whatever you believe in, even if it’s very different from my vision of the future, I hope you can take something from this post. Leave a comment and let’s see if we can have a meaningful dialogue about it. Maybe there is common ground to explore?

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My Top 5 Ted Talks of All Time

Inspired by Vicky over at Single Mother Ahoy! I decided to list my top five favourite Ted Talks. I absolutely love Ted, the whole idea is amazing. People come together in venues all around the world to give inspirational talks on all manner of subjects. It was hard to narrow it down to just five, but here goes.

5. Hackschooling Makes Me Happy – Logan LaPlante. Learn from a teenager how unschooling works and why his home education is focused on what really matters.

 

4. The Art of Asking – Amanda Palmer. A wonderful and inspirational talk from one of the most successful crowdfunders ever. Palmer describes her experiences of interacting with her fans.

 

3. Why we should give everyone a basic income – Rutger Bergman. I’ve been an advocate of universal basic income for a few years now and whenever I get into a discussion online about it I direct people to this video. It’s a simple explanation of the idea and why it would work.

 

2. The Power of Introverts – Susan Cain. Our society tends to value the traits of extroverts far above those of us introverts. Cain explains why we shouldn’t try to change introverts and how we can contribute to society.

 

And finally, my absolute favourite Ted talk of all time…

1. Changing Education Paradigms – Sir Ken Robinson. All of Ken Robinson’s Ted talks are brilliant, but this one, with the RSA animation, is my favourite. It’s my go-to video whenever I have a wobble about my children’s education.

 

I hope you enjoy these talks! Let me know your favourites in the comments below. I’m always keen to broaden my horizons so would love suggestions of what to watch next!


Sticks and Stones

bullying-679274_1280Remember that old rhyme that your parents used to recite every time you fell out with someone as a kid? Ah, if only it were true.

Sticks and stones may break my bones

But names will never hurt me

Names hurt. Harsh words sting. Cruelty is punishment.

I like to kid myself that people grow out of being bullies and that by adulthood we should be free of the cruelty of youth. However, that hasn’t been my experience. Far from being toughened up by being bullied as a child, I find myself still fairly easily hurt by the cruel words of other adults, even complete strangers. But then, I am a sensitive soul, and I wouldn’t dream of taking that away from myself. I wonder if those people were like the bullies I encountered in childhood. Have they always been that way? Or were they themselves bullied as a child and have in turn become the bully?

The internet is a strange land, full of people from all walks of life. But it does seem to be the case that while it can be a wonderful tool for communication, it can also bring out the worst in people. It’s easy to lash out at people you don’t really know well, to say things that you would never dream of saying to their face.

Meaning can get lost, especially on a medium like Twitter where characters are limited so harshly. It’s hard to get a point across succinctly sometimes. But at other times it is abundantly clear that a person’s intent is to cause upset, or at the very least, they don’t care if they do. I’ve been guilty in the past of being rather blunt on the internet, and have gotten into disagreements with people, so I’m not claiming perfection. But I like to think that I’ve grown as I’ve matured and such incidents are less and less frequent.

All communities have their sharks, I’ve found. Amongst the wonderful, friendly and supportive folks, there are usually a handful who care little for the feelings of others. The “bigger fish” in any group often seem to be very popular, surrounding themselves with devoted fans, but when you scratch the surface you find that there’s not a great deal of warmth there. They are effective salespeople, having sold their personality to a lot of people through a carefully crafted online persona, but they have a ruthless edge that is easily provoked. I’ve encountered two such people in totally different circles in the last few years and both times it has come as a rude awakening.

While vicious words hissed across the internet can be shocking, sometimes the deepest wounds are inflicted by indifference.

I had a falling out with a friend about two and a half years ago and she said the most upsetting thing that anyone has ever said to me. She told me that arguing with me was insignificant to her, I mattered so little to her that she wasn’t remotely affected by our argument. That was like a knife to the chest, as I considered her to be one of, if not my single closest friend and our argument was utterly devastating to me. While we were actual “real life” friends, the entire argument took place via text message. Would she have said such a hurtful thing to my face? Maybe. Maybe not. We haven’t spoken since.

Wonka CarefulThankfully such painful experiences are rare, but they do tend to stay with me for a long time. Writing helps me to process the complicated feelings that arise from upsets. A particularly cathartic exercise employed by some writers is to create characters based on the people who have hurt us and revelling in killing them off in the most satisfying way possible. It’s not something I have done myself, yet, there’s always the possibility of that changing!

For those of a sensitive nature, like myself, I highly recommend reading The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine N. Aron. Reading this in my late teens really helped me to appreciate my sensitivity, and when I need to I still go back to it to help me cope with some of the harsher elements of adult life.

Have you had a negative experience with someone online? How did you handle it? Are you a dweller? Or are you able to move on quickly? Let me know in the comments below, perhaps we can support one another.

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