08 Dec

Harsh Words, Critical Judgement, Emotional Messaging –

What Effects Can These Things Have?

 In the past I have experienced many moments of insanity – allowing myself to get involved in heated discussions using cross words, sometimes leading to horrible consequences. Yet, each time, I would say to myself – “I will learn from that and not make the same mistake again.” We’ve all been there, right?

 Every time I allowed myself to get into one of those awful situations of starting an argument or adding to one, words would be spoken in anger, and judgement would be passed. Over and over again, the same cycle would continue. The major fallout would follow shortly after with the whispers – he said, she said etc. and before you know it other people have been caught up in the mess and more bad words and judgement have been passed.

 By the end of it - all you have left is a bunch of unhappy people wondering around misinformed and hating for the wrong reasons. Even if they don’t know it, these same people will now be feeling more negative than they were before, because whatever bad words that were spoken or poor judgments passed – each will have left a lasting scar.

 You may be nodding in agreement at this point? Because let’s face it, every single one of us has been guilty of using a poor choice of words at some point in our lives, or passing judgement without fully understanding the situation – wouldn’t you agree?

 Allow me a moment now to share with you a recent experience which may demonstrate just how damaging choosing the wrong words can be. Also, look out for the RED FLAGS AND TIPS – as these may just help you (and will serve me well as a good reminder) the next time we find ourselves in one of these horrible situations. Oh, and please don’t judge – I am sharing my experience with you, knowing full well that on this occasion, I made every mistake possible, even though I’ve taught myself differently over the years - but hey, I’m still only human, I slipped up.

 So, a minor argument had begun between myself and another over something quite silly. In my opinion the other person was at fault as they hadn’t communicated with me properly over a certain situation, which ultimately had left me in a bit of a tight spot. I tried several times to relay this, but my words were falling on deaf ears.

RED FLAG – This was my first mistake. I was so adamant at this point that I was in the right that I hadn’t really given much thought to the other person’s opinion of the situation. Even if I was right, I still hadn’t thought about their reaction.

TIP – In these moments, take a deep breath (or two). When feeling calmer, take a few moments to try and understand the other person’s opinion – you may not agree with it – but by trying to understand it may make a difference to how you chose to respond, hopefully defusing the situation. 

 As I wasn’t being heard properly during the conversation, I later chose to send a message via text, (while my emotions were still running high.)

TWO RED FLAGS – I attempted to get my point across via text. I was determined to be heard. I figured that at least by text I could say exactly what I wanted without any interruptions. Plus, by this point my anger had reached nearly boiling point. Surely it would be better than screaming down the phone?

TIP – STOP…MOVE AWAY FROM THE MOBILE PHONE…MOVE AWAY FROM THE COMPUTER…MOVE AWAY FROM ANYTHING THAT YOU CAN WRITE ON AND PRESS SEND INSTANTLY. Like spoken words, once something has been written and sent, it cannot be taken back. Even when you are in a good mood or sharing something positive, you cannot expect the receiver to feel the same as you while reading plain text. It is very hard to be able to express real feelings of any kind over a text message, email or the like. Even the most skilled Author will tell you that their biggest challenge is creating the “right feeling” or the “right emotion” at the right moment within their work. Therefore, it is a bit of a deluded idea that we could conquer that challenge in a text or email etc. Yet as humans, we are more than likely to make this mistake over and over again - unless we break the cycle. When your emotions are running high, you’re feeling ready to explode, or your mind is full of negative thoughts… walk away. Put down the phone, move away from the laptop. In the instance that you just need to write it down, do it, then sleep on it, then go back to it the next day.  You could even ask a trusted friend or colleague to take a look at it and ask them what their feedback is. Once you’ve slept on it and got a second opinion you will be ready to make a rash decision on whether you still want to send it. I bet the answer will be no?   

 My text message went on and on. It was filled with jargon about how their actions had made me feel, the situation it had now put me in, how angry it had made me… blah blah blah. Quite frankly, reflecting on the whole thing now, I’m surprised they even reached the end. However, I felt at the time I was making some valid points and I had tried my hardest not to make it personal. I believed I had put blame on the situation and not on them directly.

RED FLAG – I thought, I believed, I tried, I, I , I…

TIP – Simple, don’t send messages when you’re writing with your emotions instead of your rational mind. When you write with your emotions, it is very hard, if not impossible, to think of the other persons thoughts, opinions, feelings, reactions or any possible consequences. NEVER EVER WRITE WITH YOUR EMOTIONS.

 My message had ended up being sent with nothing but emotional jargon attached to it. Neither of us had had the opportunity to think things through, so, obviously the response I received was not quite what I was expecting. I’d kinda convinced myself that once they knew exactly how they’d made me feel, they’d apologise and everything would be OK! Oops…

RED FLAG – The assumption was that only I had been affected by this situation. I assumed that because my opinion was right, then they’d have to fix everything.

TIPAssumption is the Mother of all …… ups! Hmmmm - Never assume anything when there is more than you involved with any situation. We are all individuals that think independently with our own views and opinions. Potato / Patato – The same thing can be viewed very differently from different peoples perspective. That’s not to say that we have to just roll over and give up on something we feel passionate about, but it does mean that it would be wiser to choose your arguments. You could ask yourself these few questions – 1) Did anyone come to any harm? 2) Have there been any financial loses? 3) What’s the worst that can happen? 4) Is it worth losing sleep over? If you can answer no to all of these questions, then it’s a safe bet the situation is definitely not worth an argument. If there are some minor issues (example only here): “The worst that can happen is that I may have to go elsewhere for the help I was looking for.” In that instance, my next question would be: 3a) Would there be any problems attached to looking around for other options? Of course not. In the long run it’s actually a good thing not have all your eggs in one basket. If something is broken, you cannot assume that one person will fix it. You are your own fixer first and always – there is always other choices and options.

 At the time when I had received my reply I was a little dumbfounded. It was nothing like I was expecting. I must admit, as I began reading my heart began racing. I realised that things had quickly got out of hand. As I reached a certain point of the reply, about half way through, there were these few words that cut through me like a knife. (Please forgive me for not sharing the exact words with you, I am trying my best to keep this written in a way that it could be about anybody, as to not cause any further issues or offence. I just wanted to reach out through a perfect example to you and others, to offer an opportunity to learn from my mistakes, and my tips – of how I would normally try to deal with these type of situations.)

By the time I had reached the end of the message I felt awful. Completely and utterly wiped out. One sentence – a few words - had not only made me realise how little this person actually knew me, but they had also passed judgement on me as a person at a very personal level. All my fears of not being good enough came flooding back like a tsunami – crashing against every inch of my being. Without being too dramatic, it basically felt like I’d been slammed to the floor. The tears ran thick and fast, my mind swirled. LAST FEW RED FLAGS AND TIPS TO FOLLOW AT THE END…

 Without realising it (I’d like to think), the other person had managed to hit a real sore point. A big part of my life has been spent believing I wasn’t good enough, and although I have done many things to help myself to learn, and practice ways of being able to live a more confident and happy life, with a few words, this person had managed to reignite my fears. Thankfully, this was only temporary as I have learnt to rationalise things a bit quicker these days! It’s because of my own experiences, like this and many others that I wrote The Secret in the Rainbow, because I want to help children realise that they are good enough. Anyway, getting back to the subject. As I was saying, it wasn’t a hundred percent the fault of this other person, but, the biggest mistake on their part was that they became personal and passed judgement without truly knowing me or understanding me as a person.

RED FLAGS – The whole thing became too personal. Words and judgement was used against me personally, and not on my actions or choices. Too much emotional jargon was used from both sides. Pride, ego and anger took over rational thinking – had the whole thing been slept on, or discussed with a trusted, unbiased third party, would the outcome likely to have been the same?

TIPS – Remember, it doesn’t matter how much we think we know someone, everyone will be fighting their own demons. Nobody reaches adulthood without knocks and bumps along the way – and what may seem insignificant to one person, could be life changing to another. We do not have the ability to see the paths that others’ have walked to get to where they are today, so therefore we shouldn’t judge. We do not have the ability to know what triggers could possibly send someone into a downward spiral, therefore we should practice and demonstrate compassion, and empathy. We do not know what goes on behind closed doors, therefore we should offer kindness and understanding. We do not really know everything about anyone but ourselves, therefore we should keep learning and allow room for growth.

“Once words have been spoken, or judgement has been passed, it cannot be taken back. An apology can be made, but that is simply placing a plaster over a scar that has now been created.” T.Clark

Thank you for taking the time to read this extremely long blog. I hope you found it useful.

If you enjoyed it, please share or comment.  

10 Nov

Is it OK not to “Man Up”?

If I had a pound for every time someone has told me that I need to toughen my boys up, I would not be writing this now. I'd probably be living like a Queen!!

 I love this quote by L. R. Knost, as it resonates with me at a deep level.

Personally, I do not wish to make my boys tough! I have no desire to teach them to be "a man!" They will learn those lessons from watching their dad, from being at school, and throughout their lives when they are faced with the challenges of growing up.

As their mother, with the full support of their father - I want to teach my boys that it's actually ok to have emotions and feelings. It's ok to cry when you are sad, it's good to talk when you need to get something off of your chest, it's ok to be angry sometimes and feel out of control - it's ok to release your anger by screaming into a pillow, having a punching match with a punch bag (not a person!), go running, swimming, etc... I want my boys to know that it's ok to say 'I love you', it's ok to give hugs, it's ok to smile as much as possible, and it's ok to open doors for others. I simply just want my boys to know that above all, it's ok to have a kind heart!

Throughout history, it is a well-known fact that men have been taught to keep a stiff upper lip. Even now, if a young boy shows interest in dollies, cries “too much,” chooses ballet instead of Karate, they are branded and judged as being weak, or too girlie! Carers of these type of boys will receive comments such as, “oh dear, he needs to toughen up a little bit!” “What a little fairy that boy is!” “He should have been born a girl!” Thankfully this is happening less as time is moving forward, but sadly, it is astonishing how much this actually still goes on.

I know only too well of the effects that these negative comments and attitudes can have on young boys as well as on the entire family. For a while, I began feeling like I was doing things wrong, and for the sake of my children being able to cope in the big wide world, I felt like I was doing them an injustice! I stopped “mothering” them when they fell, and found myself saying things like “Come on, brush it off. You’ll get worse then this as you grow up. Toughen up my son!” I acted against every inner belief that I had! My children started to behave in ways that I didn’t recognise and were quickly becoming extremely hot headed.

The day that I realised I wasn’t going to carry on like this was following a conversation I had had with my dad. For the first time in my life my dad actually spoke to me on a level that I had never experienced! He “opened up” to me. He told me how he regretted not crying at my Nan and Granddads funeral’s years before. He went on to talk about different regrets in his life and how it had led to ongoing emotional suffering! My dad looked at me towards the end of the conversation and said “I was always told I had to be a man about things. To man up! I’m nearly 60 years old and this is possibly the first time I’ve ever talked openly about how I feel to my daughter!"

I learnt two lessons this day. I learnt that I would no longer listen to the opinions of others when it came to the emotional needs of my two boys. I would teach them that to share their feelings was actually a good things, and that having emotions is normal.

I also learnt that my dad, as happy and fun as he can be on a daily basis, will live his entire life with emotional baggage. He still finds it hard to open up fully, but thankfully my mum is a patient woman and has her ways of making him communicate! I also believe that the emotional baggage was probably a big cause of the major heart attack he experienced a few years ago. However, I know that he has developed ways, over the years, of finding his own peace.

My closing statement. Trapped emotions and feelings, and not being allowed to express who we are will only lead to unhappy lives for all involved. It has been scientifically proven, that when our emotions become to heavy a load to carry, they will boil over into physical illness.

Boys that are allowed to express their emotions, cry with ease, and say ‘I love you’, will be the boys that are better grounded and more confident in their own skin. They will be the great communicators and the ones that can show empathy and compassion. These boys are the ones that are more likely to make the positive differences in our future world.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog.

If you have been affected by the above, please feel free to share your experiences in the comments. I would really like to hear first-hand of how much the “Man Up!” attitude can affect people’s lives. If you would rather not share your comments with the LinkedIn community, please feel free to PM me. Thank you and take care.

12 Oct

Credit where Credit is Due! Tony Herbert

Today I have chosen to write about a very special man – Tony Herbert. A few years ago I was introduced to Tony via a mutual friend. My aim was to create books for children with the understanding that Tony, as a printer with many years of experience, would be able to help and deliver the finished product.
From the moment of our first meeting I felt an instant connection. Tony completely ‘got’ and understood the concept of my books and felt passionate to help due to his own life experience.

Sadly, Tony lost his beloved Son, James, at the hands of the police in 2010. He was only 25 years old. Tony’s son was known to the local police station of living with a mental illness. During the time of James’ arrest, he was placed handcuffed and with two sets of leg restraints in the cage of a police van. The way that he had been put into the vehicle made it difficult for him to breathe for the entire forty-five minute journey to the police station. Upon arrival at the station James was unresponsive, but still was not administered any medical help. Instead he was placed straight into a cell. James’ crime was nothing more than the act of a confused young man, suffering with a mental illness, found wandering along a public highroad with a winter coat on in warm weather.

An ambulance was finally called when James had been stripped naked and left on the floor of the police cell, and he still did not respond. He stopped breathing before the ambulance arrived and he could not be revived.

The evidence that surrounded James’ case should have resulted in a quick, open and closed case with all concerned taking responsibility for their actions. Instead, to this day, Tony is the voice for justice in the memory of his son, and for anyone else that has suffered by the hands of the state. Tony fights with compassion, empathy and strength. Although I have lost many loved ones over the years to illness and old age, I cannot even begin to imagine how much pain this man has had to endure – and yet, as a person, Tony is warm, kind and finds pleasure in reaching out and helping others. He has turned the anger and frustration into a voice of action to bring justice and changes, not only for his own son, James, but for all the victims of mental health that are not being recognised or treated in the correct way.

In 2014, Tony reviewed my book and listened to the concept of what I was trying to achieve, he was on-board from the word go. I had designed The Secret in the Rainbow to be more than a book. I wanted it to be something that could help change the lives of children – a prevention rather than a cure. My aim is to help children with their confidence, self-esteem and ultimately giving them a strong sense of self-worth. Tony believed that had something like this been around when his son was much younger, he just may have been able to deal with his mental illness in another way. That was when and how we became connected.

Fast forwarding a few years, on his personal journey, Tony is still fighting for justice for James.
On the business side of things, Tony and his company, 21st Century Print, has just completed the print run of my first order of sixty books for a school in Gravesend.

Tony is an absolute pleasure to work with and unless you took the time to listen to his stories, you would never know the type of heartache he has endured. He is always professional and will go beyond his call of duty for customer satisfaction. He is a jolly chap with years of experience under his belt and the patience of a saint. I have not been an easy customer, I can tell you. For 24 months, Tony has listened to all my excuses as to why I hadn’t taken my book and ideas to the next level. He continually gave me guidance and advice (and still does!)
There were a few occasions that I spoke to Tony and told him, “Thanks for everything you have done, but I don’t think I’ll be needing your services for a while as I’m changing direction!”
Each time, he was courteous and demonstrated only kindness, ending our conversation with – “Well, if you change your mind, I’ll still be here.”

When I finally got my head together during May this year, the first person I thought to contact was Tony. As soon as he answered the phone I received a warm welcome. Tony expressed how pleased he was that I had come back to him with my project and was as supportive as ever. Together, we finally got the finished product complete. I took in the first delivery of my new improved books on the 6th October and I must say, I was completely overwhelmed with the end result. The books have been finished to an excellent standard. They completely exceeded the expectations of myself and my customer. I enjoy working with Tony and will definitely be passing more projects in his direction.

Within the fast paced industries of today, it is rare to find that hidden gem, a supplier who is willing to go the extra mile and finds pleasure in more than just the profit in their pockets. I feel truly thankful to have found such a gem in Tony and his business. For anyone who is looking for print management and print I cannot recommend 21st Century Print high enough. 5* all the way.

I end this now by saying – Tony, thank you. You are an absolute superstar.

21c_logo_rev For more information or to contact Tony, please click on this link.

Email sent from Tony to his customers to advise on re-branding

Thank you very much for choosing to work with Print2Please and MC Print Services.
Carol Miskimmon and I have decided to rebrand as 21st Century Print Limited. We will continue to offer the same level of service to all of our clients, who are the reason we are in business.
Print has changed a lot in the sixteen years of this century. It is now one of a number of means of communication, where previously it dominated. 21st Century Print will make sure that your print works within that context—relevant, functional, beautiful and individual. We will make sure your print expresses, informs as in an increasingly virtual world, print is actual. It is real.
We have moved location and are now at Excalibur Building, Securehold Business Centre, Studley Road, Redditch B98 7LG. That will not affect in any way the level of service we offer to Print2Please clients in and around Coventry and MC Print clients in the Potteries.
Every time you place an order for print you have a choice of with whom you place the order. We hope that you will continue to work with us and 21st Century Print will ensure that you get the best value for print that stands out and expresses exactly what you need it to.
21st Century Print Limited is a new company. Any outstanding account balances owed to Print2Please are payable to Paragon Bank, as before. Future order will be invoiced by 21st Century Print and payment details will be on those invoices.

Warmest Regards

Tony Herbert
(Director)

01 Oct

Keeping thing’s simple!

It's funny how our minds tend to drift over things when we are in a situation where the only thing we can do is think!

Sitting waiting for my little boy to go down for an operation to fix a double hernia. Watching him making friends with other children on the ward and playing on the Wii with not a care in the world. Just being a normal eight year old, taking everything in his stride. Wearing his PJ's and seeming at ease with his surroundings.

Me on the other hand, a nervous wreck. I know it's only a minor operation and I trust that he'll be absolutely fine - but, he's still my baby and I worry!

However, the more I watch him, I find myself in a strange situation. As a parent I hope that I can be a positive role model, hoping that I am someone my boy can look up to - yet, here I am looking up to him.

He has genuine confidence without arrogance, acceptance without judgement, and radiates wonderful charm and charisma without intention.

I wonder at what age or point in our lives it is that we reach that sad stage where things are no longer just 'a thing' and they evolve into being 'something'?
I don't remember it but I certainly wish I could go back to it.

I take a moment to think about it - is it a series of natural occurrences which would happen regardless of our surroundings, or the way we were raised, or the choices that we make through life? Is it something that is taught or instilled? Is it something that we loose during our journey to conform within our society? At what point do we stop having fun and seeing the world as a beautiful place full of adventure? When does life become so serious? When and why do we start worrying about what others think of us? When and why does material items become more important than our true happiness? So many questions!

Even as this thought process starts to become something that started as a thing, I marvel at my boy in awe. I realise that I'm being influenced as much from him as he is from me!

Without overthinking all those questions - I guess I could just keep things simple. There is nothing stopping me from living my life along side my inner child. Carefree and happy to be me.
Thank you my son for constantly reminding me to appreciate the more simpler and beautiful sides of life - I'll be waiting for you when you wake.

01 Oct

The darker days!

Last month I decided to create a new personal blog page; Me, Myself and Chaos! An Adventure through Love, Life and ADHD.

I also began making mini video clips which I was uploading to my YouTube and Facebook pages. I did this in the hope of giving people a glimpse into my manic life and to show that we are never alone when facing times of difficulty, or new challenges. I think that sometimes we can feel completely on our own when facing certain situations which can then lead to bigger challenges or the feeling of failure. I felt that by opening up and letting people in, it would allow myself and those choosing to watch, the opportunity to understand and realise that as human beings, no matter what we are trying to achieve, or what challenges we set ourselves – there may be times we may fail, or we may make mistakes, but ultimately, we are not alone in doing so.

I started off by setting myself a double whammy of a challenge! Quit smoking (again!) and lose weight to become fitter and healthier. I started off well, as I always do. I was focused and determined. As I went into day ten, I was still a happy non-smoker and following the Slimming World plan 100%.

Then…day eleven arrived. I woke that morning like a bear with a sore head. A strong, horrible negative force had taken over my mind. I hated the world and the world hated me! I had no idea why this had happened as every day leading up to this had been hunky dory. The more I tried to work it out the more I just wanted to scream. This eerie feeling of doom and gloom had just descended over me while I’d slept and there was no escaping it.

Before I emerged from my bed I tried in vain to use a wonderful technique I’d learnt a few years ago. It’s called tapping (also known as EFT). Normally this is something that works well for me and allows me to calmly, and collectively return to my normal self. But, on this particular morning I just couldn’t focus. As I began tapping through the points I quickly found myself tapping faster and harder, to the point of actually causing myself pain. I was talking to myself like a woman possessed! It was a horrible place to be in.

Finally I gave up and gave in to the darkened mood! All day I moped around like a scorned child trying not to allow other people to notice. I bought a packet of cigarettes and binged ate on anything and everything containing sugar or heavy carbs. I just couldn’t be bothered with anything.

I allowed the dark mood to completely consume me for a further few days, wallowing in self-pity and destructive thoughts. I felt like a failure and a hypocrite. I was choosing to ignore all the knowledge I had and the techniques I’d learnt and practiced to make myself better. The darkened force of nothingness had its tight grip on me, suffocating me within an inch of my life!

I pushed through each moment of those few days, in a zombie like state, desperately trying to seem like a woman in control, trying to be the best mum I could to my boys, the best wife I could to my hubby, the best friend, daughter, sister etc. to everyone else – yet still having that feeling inside of boiling over!

With every comment and judgement ‘You don’t seem yourself today,’ ‘Back on the fags again, Tam!’ I just wanted to explode – really scream at the top of my lungs, ‘You have no fucking idea!’

Instead, I would smile awkwardly and reply, ‘I’m fine.’ I’d make up all the excuses under the sun to search for forgiveness for yet another failed attempt at giving up the fags, and then I’d make constant jokes about my ever growing curvy figure, claiming that I didn’t care anymore and I loved my food too much!

Yet still, inside, I was boiling over, Screaming, Crying. Feeling weak and hating myself for lying. Deeper and deeper I descended into the darkness, everything becoming harder and harder…

Then, day fourteen began. I woke up full of the joys of spring. No negative feelings, no darkness, and no emptiness. I was free again. My confidence had returned and I could breathe again. There was a feeling of light and happiness all around me. Nothing had actually changed. Just my mind!

It was during this moment that I found myself reflecting and questioning my actions and experiences over the previous few days. I was searching for answers as to why I allowed it to happen and what I could do differently next time to stop it. Then it dawned on me…

I’m a human being. I’m living in a fast paced society with many responsibilities, just trying to do my best. I am not perfect and don’t claim to be, and I am definitely not super human. Therefore I forgave myself for having a few bad days and reset my focus back to my original goals, this time with less pressure.

I began by reciting some positive affirmations: My body is a beautiful machine which I love and respect. My mind is a creative pool of experience’s, beauty and peace. I am who I am and that is perfectly ok.

I think that with every experience we go through, there is a lesson to be learnt. From this recent episode I realised that I must stop putting so much pressure on myself all at once. I do still want to break free from the nicotine monster and believe that I can and I will. For now though, I have transferred over to the e-cigarettes which I feel is a good start, I will then choose to face the hurdle of the e-cig in due course.

With regards to my health, I am going to get back into female bodybuilding. It was something that I’ve done in the past and absolutely loved. The only reason I stopped was due to an operation which came with a long, drawn out recovery period. I lost momentum and found it hard at the time to get back into it.

Being realistic though, I know that I’ll be unable to dedicate myself to a full time programme while my boys are still on their six weeks holiday. However, I will begin by improving my nutrition and put in place a plan (hopefully with the help of a friend), and once the boys return to school in September, I will hit the gym hard.

Now there it is – A realistic goal that I trust and believe in, and one that I can achieve; step by step, one day at a time!

Before I sign off, I just need to make a quick confession. In a moment of embarrassment, I deleted all my recent video blogs from my YouTube and Facebook page out of fear of rejection and negative judgement. I’ve since reflected on the whole thing and decided that I will never do this again. I made a promise in my original blog that I would keep things raw and true, and moving forward that is exactly what I am going to do.

Thank you for taking the time to read this extremely lengthy blog.

I know, I know, you’ll never get those minutes of your life back again! I just hope it was worth it. 😉

Hope you have a great day.

Tam X

08 Feb

Are you surviving or living?

Do you believe that there is a difference between living and surviving? Have you ever stopped to think about whether you are living or surviving? What is the difference? you may ask. Allow me to share my theories with you.

To survive is waking to an alarm each morning. Following the same old routines; shower, eat, get ready for a day’s work. Feeling nothing and thinking, Is it the weekend yet?

To live is to bounce out of bed feeling energised and excited for the new day ahead. Following no daily routine; every day is different, singing in the shower, enjoying your favourite breakfast, and clothing yourself in something that makes you feel amazing! Feeling whole and thinking, I love my life!

To survive is to join the daily commute, by car, train, tube or by bus. Following the same old routine; traffic, no seats on the train, squashed like a sardine, heads in phones, tablets or newspapers. Feeling nothing and thinking, Is it the weekend yet?

To live is to skip off to something that keeps you smiling until you arrive; at home, out in the open space, outside of the rush hour. Different experience everyday; saying good morning to the people you pass, moving freely, making conversation with those around you, fancy a latte, oh, why not! Feeling whole and thinking, I love my life!

To survive is to turn up at your destination, not actually wanting to be there. Following the same old routine; bills to pay, things to save for, material items you must have, sticking to your comfort zone. Feeling nothing and thinking, Is it the weekend yet?

To live is to feel butterflies in your stomach as you arrive at your destination. Feeling excited to be there. Facing another new experience; anticipation about the day, a fun way to pay the bills, living for the moment, not bothered by materialistic things, way out of any comfort zone. Feeling whole and thinking, I love my life!

To survive is to clock watch throughout the day. Following the same old routine; a quick break, squeeze in lunch, mundane mind. Come on five, I want to go home. Feeling nothing and thinking, Is it the weekend yet?

To live is to savour every moment that passes. More new experiences; new people to meet, a lunchtime of freedom, a mind full of new ideas; is that the time already! Feeling whole and thinking, I love my life!

To survive is to join the rat race once more, taking far too long to get home. Following the same old routine; traffic, no seats on the train, squashed like a sardine, heads in phones, tablets or newspapers. Feeling nothing and thinking, Is it the weekend yet?

To live is to skip off home, fulfilled and proud of another successful day. Amazing experiences added to the belt; saying good evening to the people you pass, moving freely, making conversation with those around you. Feeling whole and thinking, I love my life!

To survive is to do the same old thing once home. Following the same old routine; cook the same meals, watch the tv, light entertainment with the kids or partner if you've made it home in time, shower, then bed to start it all over again tomorrow! Feeling nothing thinking, Is it the weekend yet?

To live is feeling happy, swapping stories of your day with family or friends once home. Sharing exciting tales of new experiences; all round the dinner table, never a routine of meals, something new to taste, taking a walk in the fresh air, maybe even indulging in some fun exercise. Reading a book, loving to learn new things, before falling into bed, exhausted! Feeling whole and thinking, I love my life!

To live your life doesn't always mean you have to earn a fortune, it doesn't mean you have to be surrounded by material items, or have a big title, or have to live in a big house, or have to have holidays all the time. Life doesn't care what you look like, it doesn't care what colour your skin is, or what size your body is, or if you are young or old, or if you are male or female, and it doesn't care what god you believe in. Living is none of those things. Living is finding your gift, a butcher, a baker a candlestick maker! You could fall, you could stumble, but if you believe in yourself and keep moving forward you will find your gift. Once you begin working with your gift, you begin living, because all of a sudden your life has purpose and then, life becomes fun and easy.

Take a chance, find your gift, start to live. You can do it!

20 Apr

It’s OK Son; Make mistakes, that’s how we learn!

As parents, or careers of children, we tend to get ourselves quite worked up at the idea of perfection. Wouldn’t you agree?

I remember my thoughts even during my pregnancy, all the preconceived ideas I had about what my child would be like. How they would look, how clever they would be, and what kind of life they would have. Even before this little person entered our world, I had already mapped out its entire future!

The level of stress I placed on myself, to reach a ridiculous goal of perfection following the birth of my second son, actually caused me to miss pretty much the first year of his life, due to postnatal depression! A condition that was made worse by the pressures I had put myself under. I believe this situation could have been less severe, if only I had been kinder to myself!

Over the past eight years, I have continued to feel stress and anxiety about my children, and the kind of mother I am. Something I guess most parents and careers can relate too. I’ve worried far too much over school results, behaviour issues, and what other people think, mainly of my parenting skills, or lack of them!

I have gone out of my way many times to encourage my boys not to make mistakes, listen and learn to what they are being told, and be a better person. My main motivation underlying this was to believe that their behaviour and choices were an absolute reflection of how I was caring for them, or raising them.

What a huge responsibility to place on such a young mind!

These days, my way of doing things has completely changed. I realised, not so long ago, that I am the person I am today in spite of all the above. My mother always reminded me, and still does, that I was a difficult child, due to my free spirit, and strong mind.

During my own childhood, I made many mistakes, costing me friendships and my freedom, due to being constantly “grounded”! I stood up for what I believed in, which as a child to an adult, was

viewed as “back chatting”, or being “mouthy”, and I stood my ground when I believed I was right! This was a huge irritation to my parents.

As I grew into a teenager, my opinions and attitude towards life only strengthened. I was louder, more boisterous and somewhat arrogant. I believed that I knew it all! Yet now, looking back and reflecting on my own experiences, I realised that every good thing that I’ve achieved, has more or less been a direct result of previous mistakes. During childhood and my teenage years, I did make the same mistakes over and over again, but as I reached my early twenties, I began learning from them, and making things better for myself.

Now, when I speak to my boys, my advice is very different. I tell them that I am only advising them, to keep them safe, and help them to learn, but if they feel they need to experience a situation differently, then they are free to make their own choices. However, I always follow this up with a warning; “If you want to do things your own way, don’t cause harm to other people or yourself, and be prepared for the consequences, if there are any!”

I no longer spend my days striving for perfection, for me or my children. Perfection is a preconceived idea that will always be different in the minds of each individual. What is perfect to me, will most defiantly be imperfect to the next person.

With all the mistakes that I’ve made in my lifetime, and all the things I could have done differently, I wouldn’t change a thing. I haven’t turned out to be such a bad person. I enjoyed a successful career for over a decade that took me places I once never thought possible. I have never brought harm to another, and I am now following a lifelong dream of owning and growing my own business, and helping children through my books, illustrations and workshops. It is only due to my life experiences that I have been able to make this dream a reality.

Right or wrong, I will never pressure my children again to meet my own expectations. I did not give life to two little people to become a dictator. However, as a loving and caring mother, I will do my best to guide them positively, and always look out for their wellbeing. I don’t concern myself anymore with how clever they are compared to their peers, or worry about their future. I now give my boys the freedom to be true to themselves, and follow their own paths, wherever that may take them, be there for them if they fall, and to pick them up to start again.

“I am but a humble person living life the best way I know how. I will not purposely bring harm or sadness to my fellow human, but will

strive to bring light and happiness wherever I go. If I make a mistake along the way, forgive me, as I will learn, make it better if I can, and move forward. I will do this, because this is what I am about, this is me, and that is fine!”

20 Mar

The “System” V’s Our Children!

This morning, I woke with an overwhelming need to write! Thoughts and feelings that have been running through my mind for some time, I felt compelled to share, because as adults we understand that “the system” is outdated for “our children” of today!

So here goes...

My eldest son is currently eight years old. During his time at nursery, Paul (my husband) and I realised quite quickly that he was a little different, not a bad different, but just different to most of the other children. He expressed and showed empathy at a level far more advanced than his years, he had the energy of an everlasting Duracell battery, and asked questions that you would expect from a teenager. Yet, academically speaking, through the expectations of society, my boy had the attention span and focus of a sloth!

On a regular basis, Paul or I would be requested to speak with our son's group key worker about his behaviour during the day. The majority of the conversations were focused around him being disruptive. After several times of this happening, I asked the key worker to explain in more detail, giving specific examples that demonstrated her interpretation of disruptive behaviour. Her examples were; ‘Your child becomes saddened or angry if another child wants to share a toy he is playing with, he fidgets and often calls out during reading and quiet time, and he often encourages other children to play chasing games with him in the playroom environment, when all the children are constantly reminded that we only have walking feet inside!

At that very moment, I found myself going into a complete tug of war frenzy! Outwardly, I found myself feeling embarrassed, and questioning my abilities as a mother whether or not I was giving my precious boy the right discipline and guidance, and yet inside, my heart was screaming – surely this is just the actions of a two / three year old with a strong will, and plenty of energy? Surely this is the natural instincts of a boy at his age? Why is that wrong?

Even as a grown up, there are times when we just don’t want to share something with someone else, it could be something we have become attached to, something we have worked hard on, etc. I don’t know about you, but I sometimes find myself fidgeting in certain situations, that ether I’m not happy or comfortable in at that moment, or I might be bored! And just sometimes, I like to run, just for the sheer fun of it! Does that now make me disruptive? Does that now mean that I am a difficult adult? Of course it doesn't!

Sadly, Paul and I have experienced this same pattern right through our son's academic life. I have watched my child, who started life with bags of confidence and self-esteem, slowly lose these fantastic traits. Little by little, year by year, the “system” began turning our boy from a very confident, happy little soul into a weakened, self-loathing, nervous child!

It was during this time, that it suddenly dawned on me that as his mother, I could not put all the blame on the educational system. I had allowed this to happen. I didn't use my freedom of speech, neither did I dare challenge the “system”! After I expressed my concerns to a professional body, I got this response; ‘I have 32 children in my class, I cannot focus all my attention on one child!’ As outraged as I felt, I still did not use my power of speech.

It was some months later that I realised how much I actually needed to step up. At this time, I decided to contact someone at a higher level and expressed my concerns and outrage at the previous response I had received. Although this individual expressed empathy to the situation, in so many words, the outcome was basically that their hands were tied. Without a recognised professional diagnosis, there was only so much they could do. Without a label, I would be fighting the ‘system’ for ever more! So here I was, my hand being forced from the “system” that our society has put in place, believing to have no other option than to go through a process of getting my beautiful, full-hearted son a label, just to get the help he needed within the academic environment. Once I gave myself time to reflect on this situation, I actually decided to take matters into my hands. Paul and I invested in a private tutor, over a 12-month period, called Jo.

Jo had an amazing ability to quickly work out the best environment for our son to work in. The effects of this alone was amazing! Just by making a few minor changes, his confidence in his academic abilities began to grow. Also, during this time, I began focusing

more on what my son was actually good at, what made him tick, and what excited him. Simply supplying more of this to his daily life also made a huge noticeable difference.

Regrettably, as the year passed, due to lack of funds, we had to let Jo go. However, with the changes that she had implemented, and the way Paul and I had applied ourselves to the situation, and allowing our beautiful boy to flourish, in a way that came naturally to him, listening more to what he had to say, and not trying to force him to conform, he quickly started to become the confident, happy soul that we once knew, in the home environment!

Sadly, although my little shining star has begun showing progression, we still have a long way to go, because ultimately the ‘system’ is still in place. Unfortunately, we have continued to find that unless we conform to ‘the right way of doing things’, our son will still not get the right kind of help and support he needs in the school environment.

This now brings me to what I feel is some important points of this blog. Can you imagine how different the world would be, if, during the pre-school and nursery years, rather than ticking boxes and teaching children how to conform, we actually took the time to understand them? Focus on what comes naturally to them, and what they are good at, and enjoy? Then, encourage them to do more of it! Help and guide, not dictate, allowing the children to blossom in all the things that excite them, whether it be physical activity, creative activity, reading, writing, numbers, etc.

By the end of the pre-school years, rather than ticking more boxes, and placing all children into the same category, with the same expectations and requirements, imagine if there was such a thing in place, that allowed children to attend schools that supplied the type of teaching and guidance matched to their actual needs and understanding levels. Because let’s face it, throughout our life, we all have a different way of being able to process and store information.

Now, I’m not trying to create an unrealistic goal here, or reinvent the wheel. I understand that everything comes at a cost, and time management. But, what if – just imagine this for a moment – there was a way that the ‘system’ could create and implement some kind of breakout sessions? Rather than trying to judge all our children by limited abilities, and placing them in grades and charts, wouldn't it be amazing if we focused more on the bigger picture?

Allow me to share with you two examples – example one: Primary age boy struggles terribly with reading and writing – becomes disruptive during the lessons, gets in trouble, loses self-confidence,

leading to lack of self worth, begins withdrawing from tasks in hand, negative mindset creeps in, begins hating school, starts to change at home, becomes agitated, gains a “I can’t do this” attitude, begins resenting other children who finds reading and writing easy, bullying begins, and so on so forth…you can see the pattern emerging here.

Example Two: Primary age boy has a natural ability to produce great pieces of art work, which was identified during his pre-school time, and because he is good at it, he loves doing it. School begins – ‘Positive Natural Ability (PNA)’ break-out group, starts the day on a high, confident in himself, enjoys the session, less reluctant and more focused on conquering the next task – reading / writing? Try’s a bit harder, positive mindset, “I can do this” attitude. After lunch – Second ‘PNA’ break out group, enjoying school, sharing his pride of his ability with other peers, positive feedback at home, more focused, more confidence to face other challenge. Private stage schools all over the world are able to work in a similar way, focusing the majority of their time developing a child’s ability to act, sing and dance, etc. So why can’t the same process be put into place to allow all children in all schools the chance to become amazing at their natural given ability / talent?

Even for a child that does not have a recognisable natural ability / talent at the time of starting school, they could still blossom by taking part in a mixture of different break-out groups, because let’s face it, some of us just have to try everything, and that is what makes us tick, and gives us confidence!

Can you imagine how different our ‘society’ could be, if we were to entertain this process just through to secondary school? By eleven years old, with the level of care, guidance, knowledge and confidence a child would have acquired, they would be able to take that next giant leap, with pride and a great feeling of self-worth, and accomplishment!

I wonder then, how that would impact the overall attitudes and results during the secondary school years? As adults, we understand, that when we are in a situation that doesn't feel comfortable for us, or we are stuck in a job that we hate, it places a huge negative impact on our everyday lives – our emotions, decision making, zest for life, relationships, etc. That light that we were born with eventually burns out! We know this is not right, we know this is wrong! Yet, every day of every year, ‘society’, “our” ‘society’ is doing this to our own babies and children!

I am now on a mission to implement change. I hope that I will be able to start a ripple, which will soon begin to grow. One voice can be heard, but thousands can change the world! Oh boy, this has

been a very long blog (if this can still be called a blog?!) as it is something I feel very passionate about, and I would just like to take this opportunity to thank you for taking the time to read it. I hope it has left you with some food for thought. I would also like to stress that I do indeed have full respect to teachers and schools, of every kind, my opinion is they do have one of the toughest jobs out there. My frustrations and opinions are more with the ‘system’ that is currently in place! For my closing statement, I would like to reflect for a moment over the biggest lessons I have learnt up until now as a parent. I've realised the importance of simply celebrating my children for who they are. Allow more time to indulge in the things they enjoy doing and are good at, and most importantly, to remind them every day that they are FANTASTIC, just the way they are!