Thursday, 24 December 2015

The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

The letters have been written.

Photo of letters on a glass table with a Christmas tree in the background.
Letters To Santa

The Christmas Tree is up.

Photo of Christmas Tree
The Christmas Tree

The candle's in the window.

Photo of a candle in the window
The Candle In The Window

The angels are singing.

Photo of straw and glitter traditional style angel decoration from Germany
A Christmas Angel At Mad Mammy Towers

The presents are delivered.

Photo of Christmas tree with lights and presents under it
Presents Under The Tree

Now, let Christmas begin!

Happy Christmas to you all from the Mad Mammy.

Photo of a drawing of a Christmas Tree
La-la's Christmas Tree


Friday, 30 October 2015

I Dream Of Halloween....In Times Past

There's great excitement and planning in the Mad Mammy household this morning as La-la and The Dude put their outfits together for Halloween.  La-la is so tall now she actually fits an adult costume and is going to be a very scary looking Grim Reaper.  She is delighted with herself.  The Dude is thrilled he fits into La-la's costume from last year (as am I!) but has yet to decide exactly on what he is going to be - zombpire, vampire and a mini grim reaper are the current options.  I was supposed to be dressing up as a dementor but as you might have seen on my facebook page that idea was shot down on a number of points and it was decided I should just go as myself, since, both my children are agreed, I'm scary enough!

Photo of young girl dressed in a grim reaper halloween costume
La-la As The Grim Reaper

I love my children's excitement and delight at the prospect of dressing up and going out but I wish I could drum up a little more of it in myself.  Whereas the the trick or treat concept has its roots in history and tradition, I'm afraid the prospect of answering my door all night to a constant stream of kids who half-heartedly mutter, "trick or treat" and then stick a grocery bag in my face so I can top up their already considerable sweet/junk stash, doesn't hold much appeal.  Thankfully, I currently live in a community where there is a Halloween themed event in the local park which is where I'll be going with La-la and The Dude and should miss most of the door-knockers.  Such are the perks of living in Australia, where it's currently springtime and this year it is mercifully cool and still under thirty degrees.

Still, I think back to the fun-filled Halloweens of my childhood and can't help but be a little sad at the realisation my children don't know those sort of halloweens.  They've never dunked for apples, had their fortune told by reading the cards, "heard" the banshee or felt the ice-cold touch of the puca. They've never sat around a blazing fire eating barnbreac (an Irish fruitbread traditionally eaten around Halloween) hoping they'll get the coin, hidden within it, in their slice, thereby guaranteeing them riches for the coming year.  They've never scared the living daylights out of each other with friends by telling ghost stories and stared wide-eyed into the embers of a dying fire, too terrified to go to bed. Okay maybe I can do without the last part, visions of the Dude sleeping in my bed till he's eighteen are enough to terrify me!  However, I'm sure you get the picture, somewhere along the way I feel the fun of Halloween has been lost to a going through the motions exercise known as "trick or treat" which only seems to be a means to a very sugary and additive laden end.


A photo of barnbreac - a traditional fruitbread eaten on Halloween in Ireland
Barnbreac - A Traditional Fruitbread Eaten In Ireland
on Halloween

Last year I promised myself I would organise a Halloween party along the lines of a more traditional Halloween like the ones I experienced.  However, even after three years of living in Australia, I'm still not used to the fact Halloween is in Springtime.  My internal clock just doesn't get it and therefore my mental faculties don't receive the Halloween alert, so here I am yet again planning costumes at the last minute and intending to do the absolute minimum to get through it.

The Dude keeps pestering me as I write for face paint (we don't have any!) and to come and help him make a scythe (!)  He has obviously decided on the Grim Reaper option.  He is now singing the "death song" his sister made up and now she has just lodged a complaint about him copying her and huffed off, not very happy.  It's still only 9:30 in the morning!  It's shaping up to be something of a horror filled day for me.  I hope it's better for you.  Happy (?) Halloween!

Photo of young boy dressed in a grim reaper outfit for halloween
The Dude And His Little Feet
As The Grim Reaper



Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Here's To You Mr. Robinson

The Mad Mammy has been wandering and I was all set to write a nice little post about my recent wanderings when I decided on a spot of procrastination instead and where better to indulge in that particular passing of the time than on facebeook.  Whilst there I came across a fabulous TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson, a man who believes we need to acknowledge multiple types of intelligence, cultivate creativity and radically rethink our education systems.  And I just happen to agree with him! However, Sir Ken puts it much more eloquently than me.

Photo of man in his fifties wearing a dark jumper and dark glasses
Sir Ken Robinson


Click on the link below and check out what he has to say.  You won't be sorry.

http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity



Thursday, 10 September 2015

Fat-shaming And Why It's NOT Okay.

There was a video doing the social media rounds this week of a vile rant against fat people by a woman calling herself a comedian.  Now, in my book, a comedian is a title reserved for someone who is funny and makes people laugh by telling jokes or funny stories.  There was nothing remotely funny about this woman and what she had to say.  After having her video pulled by youtube and google, she then tried to claim it was because these companies didn't understand satire.  Satire requires a certain level of intelligence to carry it off and again this was something that was not evident in this woman's video, which, no matter what way she wanted to tag it, was simply a rant outlining her own personal views.

To be fair, the video  had a lot of shares and there were those who even applauded what this woman had to say.  Thankfully, there were a lot more people who thought what she had to say was disgusting and there were even a number of response videos.

I'm not naming the woman here and neither am I featuring the video as I don't want to give her even two more seconds of "fame" than she deserves and I also don't want to be responsible for sharing what I consider to be "hate speech".

It's alarming enough to me that "fat-shaming" has become a thing - like it's okay.  It is NOT okay!

It is not okay to make anybody feel of any less worth than you.  If you feel the need to do this then this means there is something wrong with YOU not the person you are attacking.

If you choose to spend your days counting every calorie that passes your lips and validate your self-worth via how many hours you spend in the gym, then good for you.  If that's what you need to feel like you count, then go for it.  However, DO NOT make the mistake of thinking that everybody else should judge themselves by the same things that you have chosen to build your self-worth upon and DO NOT JUDGE THEM BECAUSE THEY HAVEN'T CHOSEN THE SAME THINGS AS YOU.

People derive their self-worth from a whole host of things other than their physical appearance.  For many it is how many times they made someone smile in a day, how they could be of help to others, showing kindness and consideration, being brave in the face of adversity, their honesty, kindness and compassion. The list goes on......  

Sadly, the obsession with physical appearance has somehow translated into a general belief that people must be thin to value themselves or to be valued by others.  This bullshit needs to STOP!

We need to start accepting that there are all different shapes and sizes in the world.  We need to stop defining our self-worth and that of others by some media-defined look.  

I'm all for healthy eating and regular exercise but that will translate into different shapes and sizes for different people - we need to understand this and to accept it.

Judging and shaming people based solely on their physical appearance is simply unacceptable.

As an overweight woman, I am subjected to other peoples' negative beliefs about me all the time and they couldn't be further from the truth.  Thankfully, I base my self-worth on much more than what I look like but it still pisses me off when people assume I never exercise and spend my days stuffing my face.  

I really don't know where one person gets off making assumptions and judgements about another.  To do this about a whole sector of society, to make a video of it and to then share it across social media is, in my opinion, not remotely funny.  To purposely make another human being feel they count less in this world through ridicule or shame is more of a reflection on the person doing the ridiculing and shaming than the person who is their target.

Below, is a video that I much prefer to share with you about a woman who struggles with her self-esteem because of the way she looks.  She very bravely "put herself out there" and the result is wonderful.




Today is International Suicide Prevention Day (Sept 10th) and this blog post is in memory of someone who felt the weight of others' and her own shame so much in relation to her physical appearance that she decided to end her own life.  She was someone who shared her kindness, compassion and wonderful smile with me until a time when she could smile no more.  





Sunday, 16 August 2015

When Illness Masquerades As "Wellness"

It seems you can't open a paper or magazine or go online these days without being bombarded by a relentless stream of selfies of celebrities posting photos of their abs or asses.  The photo is usually of them in the latest gym gear and possibly even with a slight sheen of sweat on their skin to reassure us they have indeed just come from a marathon gym session.  Whereas the narcissistic self-promotion of your average celebrity is something we have all come to accept as part of our culture there has been a more worrying development in recent years  - the rise of the so-called "wellness" blogger.  



Photo of Kim Kardashian in a gym, dressed in black, taking  a selfie
Kim Kardashian - The Selfie Queen

Many of these grew out of the all prevailing celebrity culture with the earlier ones being trainers or dieticians who helped celebrities get in shape, most notably after having a baby.  However, in recent times there has been an explosion of these types of blogs across social media and it seems anyone who looks lean in lycra feels qualified to share their daily efforts with the rest of the world and dish out advice as to how, you too, can look "lycra lean".  And people (especially women in the 16 - 30 age bracket) can't get enough of them.  

The problem is very few of these people are properly qualified to be dishing out any sort of advice and if they do have any sort of minimum qualification it tends to be in only one area such as a personal trainer certificate but lacking in any proper qualifications to do with nutrition and dietary requirements. 

The bigger problem is that all too often what is presented by these people as an obsession with wellness is in reality masking a serious illness.  Eating disorders have been well documented for the past fifty years and despite recognition by the medical and psychiatric communities and frequent awareness campaigns, admissions to hospitals and treatment centres continue to rise.

The link between unrealistic and unobtainable body image in the media and the rise in eating disorders has been well documented and in recent years there have been many high profile campaigns by leading brands to address this.  Which makes the whole "wellness" craze currently sweeping social media all the more difficult to understand.

It's something I've noticed has intensified over the last eighteen months and is an issue I have to admit to having a sort of morbid fascination with.  I'm a relatively fit, healthy woman who is also overweight.  I believe in eating a healthy diet and taking regular exercise.  Admittedly, I detest gyms. I prefer my exercise to take place outside - walking, swimming, hiking, surfing, snow-boarding - you name it, if it's in the great outdoors, I'm there.  That some other people are into a particular sport or want to take their fitness to a level other than mine is something I don't have a problem with.

What I do have a problem with is when people are presenting a lifestyle that is supposed to be about the attainment of health but in reality is the exact opposite.  I have a problem with people who are, in reality, suffering from eating disorders espousing and prescribing dietary and exercise regimes that lead to ill health both mentally and physically.

So much of this "wellness" philosophy has suspect psycho-babble at its core in the form of what are supposed to be slogans designed to inspire but are really cynical exercises in self-loathing and shame.  Just a quick look at one of the "fitspooration" websites has thrown up a number of these:

"Suck it up now and you won't have to suck it in later."
"Stress is caused by giving a fuck."
"Go hard or go home."

It's all about push, push, push.  There doesn't seem to be any emphasis on enjoyment of exercise but only on exercise as a means to an end and that end of course is the attainment  of a body type that is all too unrealistic in so many cases.

Then there's the shaming of those who don't work out as this little beauty demonstrates:


Why people who choose not to spend hours in a gym should be deemed as leading a "mediocre life" or be considered as anything less than those who do is beyond me. Believe me, there is nothing mediocre about my life! And of course this leads to the development of superiority complexes and feeds the general narcissism that is so much part of this "wellness" craze.  

Then there is the promotion of dietary supplements such as protein shakes that are so often recommended not as meal supplements but meal replacements.

For the life of me I cannot figure out how the promotion of deprivation and hunger and exercising the body to the point of exhaustion can be believed to be in any way about "wellness".  This  is an illness, a pathology and it needs to be seen for what it is.  Wellness is about nourishment of the body, mind and soul NOT punishment.

The following article is taken from this Sunday's Daily Mail and is an insight into the world of some of these "wellness" bloggers.  I found it fascinating and it's what prompted me to write about this subject today.  It's a subject that causes me great consternation as I face the challenge of rearing my children in a world that is increasingly obsessed with the attainment of a body image that comes at the expense of so much else.  I can't do an awful lot about it but I can call bullshit when I see it and when someone is promoting starvation and excessive exercise as "wellness" then I say they need to stop and see that what they are really promoting is "illness".

Exposed: The sick truth behind the great 'wellness' blog craze taking social media by storm and one online star battling a secret fitness addiction.


  • Celia Learmonth is one of a handful of bloggers with thousands of fans
  • At 21 she is enviably lithe but admits to seeking help at an eating clinic.

  • She survives on little more than avocado and eggs and exercises daily
  • Experts warn of the dangers of health and fitness social media craze.
  •  

By POPPY CROSS FOR THE MAIL ON SUNDAY

This may come as a shock to at least some of fitness blogger Celia Learmonth’s 20,000 Instagram followers: ‘I’m trying to get help at an eating disorder clinic,’ she bravely admits. 

On her site, London Fitness Guide, the beautiful and enviably lithe 21-year-old dishes out advice on exercise, diet and how to have a healthy lifestyle – along with a steady stream of selfies.

Live like her, look like her. That’s the message. But having known her for a while, I suspected that what lay beneath the flawless facade was something more sinister.



photo of Celia Learmonth, wellness blogger in a yoga like pose on a bridge
Celia Learmonth - "Wellness" blogger

I once ran into her coming out of the loo before a gym class looking very bleary-eyed. I asked if she was OK, and she admitted that she’d been sleeping in the cubicle, as she was so exhausted.


Still, I was stunned at what she admitted: she’s been putting herself through regular six-hour exercise marathons and 14 miles of walking a day, fuelled by little more than a few poached eggs, an avocado and toast.

Celia’s body is shutting down: aside from crushing fatigue, she hasn’t had her period for months.

Thankfully, she’s finally admitted she has problem, and is seeking treatment. But, worryingly, I know Celia is by far not the only ‘wellness’ blogger whose lifestyle is, quite bluntly, making her sick.



THE NEW FITNESS IDOLS

In a few short years, Celia and those like her have rocketed from ordinary enthusiasts to power players, courted by gym chains and clothing, food and supplement brands.
Just look at ‘Yoga Girl’ Rachel Brathen (1.6 million Instagram followers), firm-bottomed New Yorker Jen Selter (6.9 million followers) and six-pack-sporting Victoria’s Secret model Izabel Goulart (two million followers).

HOW MUCH EXERCISE IS TOO MUCH

Three sessions a week of 30-minutes’ moderate exercise is the minimum you should aim for. 
About 60 minutes a day of moderate or vigorous exercise is enough. Here are signs that you might be overdoing it:
  • You are doing several sessions of exercise a day, every day, though not training for an event.
  • You put exercise above everything else, including friends, work or school.
  • You get upset when you miss a workout and worry about your weight.
  • You may have unrealistic ideas about what your body ‘should’ look like.
  • Injuries and illnesses are slow to clear up.
  • Your menstrual cycle is interrupted.
And there are dozens of others. All of them beautiful. And very thin. They’re not household names, maybe, but famous on social media for revealing how they achieve their ultra-toned physiques.

Encouraging others to live a balanced, active lifestyle is a good thing. If you do too little exercise you run a greater risk of suffering from heart disease, strokes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis and poor posture, and are more likely to be overweight.

However, I feel compelled to be honest. I can’t speak for the above-named stars but in the fitness-blog community, faked and photoshopped selfies are commonplace.

And I’m worried that they hide their eating disorders in plain sight, inadvertently encouraging their followers to do the same.  And so is Celia. She says: ‘I look at other girls and think, why isn’t my life perfect like that? Why aren’t I on top form all the time? That’s why I’m talking about this – because life isn’t a stream of perfect selfies.’

So what’s the truth? One blogger I know will often exercise until she’s physically sick, but instead of resting, she’ll do another workout later the same day. She survives mostly on kale chips and coconut water.
There is the ambassador of a protein-shake company who appears muscular in photos, but in real life she is an incredibly frail, severely underweight girl who struggled breathlessly to get through the exercise class I was in with her.  And there’s another twentysomething blog star who is secretly on hormone-replacement therapy in an attempt to rediscover periods, which have stopped due to excessive exercising.


A DANGEROUS TREND

As with all social media trends, there’s a hashtag that followers look out for. It’s #fitspo (a portmanteau of fitness-inspiration). It is similar to #thinspo – thin inspiration – which was banned by Instagram for being a signal used by girls with eating disorders who refuse to accept they are unwell. 

But has fitness addiction become the new anorexia?

Dr Ian Drever, consultant psychiatrist at The Priory, believes it could be. He says: ‘We see a lot of cross-addiction where one behaviour gives way to the next. A patient might improve their eating but then start over-exercising.’

The obsessions that drive both behaviours are the same: feelings of self-loathing, and desire for control and fear of weight gain. 

The number of teenagers admitted to hospital with eating disorders across the UK has nearly doubled in three years, to more than 1,800 last year, according to the latest NHS figures. A driving factor is social media, say experts. Dr Carolyn Nahman at the Royal College of Psychiatrists said she is increasingly concerned with the pressure that teenagers feel when looking at what are supposedly ideal bodies. The problem is, if these bodies haven’t been digitally manipulated they often have achieved #fitspo status through incredibly unhealthy means.



IMPOSSIBLE PERFECTION

Celia, who still lives with her mother Tina, admits: ‘I set myself crazily high standards. I really want to have rock-solid abs and be in the athletic body-fat percentage range of between 14 and 20 per cent.’

She says she was an overweight child and has openly shared this, and her subsequent anorexia while training to be a dancer, with her followers. Her blog charts her progress from obsessing about being ‘skinny’ to wanting to be ‘strong’.

But Celia now agrees she has just substituted one form of calorie-restriction – starving – for another – feverish exercise. 

‘I wake up, go to yoga, then Barry’s Bootcamp [a famously intense hour-long treadmill-based workout class that claims to burn 1,000 calories], do another class after, then another, go home and then do gymnastics, so it can be up to six hours but it’s usually more like four,’ she says. ‘I’ve recently got into swimming on my rest days.’

She uses a fitness tracker and posts her graphs on her Instagram feed, charting miles of walking each day (‘I don’t see that as exercise,’ she says).


Graphic of data from a fitness tracker
The All Important Fitness Tracker


She adds: ‘I’ve tried but I can’t get my nutrition right. I have porridge in the morning, and then snack throughout the day. Maybe a Greek yogurt or a protein shake with oats. I’ll have four slices of toast with coconut oil before bed. But sometimes I wake up starving in the night and binge on whatever I can find. I often feel better when I eat more but I don’t have time to eat properly.

‘I probably don’t manage more than 1,600 calories on some days. But I feel like I have a tendency to over-eat so I try to cut it back.’


EXERCISE OVERLOAD

The condition Celia suffers from – not having periods – is called athletically induced amenorrhea and it occurs when, in the face of an inadequate diet, the reproductive system shuts down.

‘It happened last December,’ says Celia. ‘I did go to the doctor, and they did tests. They said it was because of all the high-intensity exercise I did producing too much testosterone. I did put on some weight to try to sort it out, going from eight-and-a-half to nine stone this year, but I’m now back to 8st 10 lb. I know I should be more worried than I am but in some ways I don’t miss them.’

Without menstrual periods, oestrogen levels, which are necessary for bones to absorb calcium, are reduced. Not only do the bones fail to absorb calcium but the body removes calcium from the bones for other functions, further weakening the skeleton. The damage can be permanent.

I have been in classes with Celia, and she has a bull-like determination to be top of the class. So it is heartbreaking to hear her say she ‘loathes’ her body. Celia, who is also a personal trainer at a gym, confesses she finds each day ‘a struggle’. She feels ‘a failure, as I don’t look the way I want to look... but my periods have stopped. I do very much beat myself over the head with it’.

SEEKING HELP

The thing that is unusual about Celia is not that she’s got a problem. It’s that she’s come clean about it.

Research has shown mothers can ‘infect’ their daughters with eating disorders, and social media does the same. Yet another blogger, Zanna Van Dijk, a London-based personal trainer with 52,100 followers on Instagram, agrees, saying: ‘There are girls who compete in competitions and train for several hours a day, and their followers assume they have to do this too.’

So what’s the solution, I ask Dr Drever. ‘We try to help patients find perspective. Find out what works for them and their body, no matter what any fitness blog says.’

But for Celia, this seems bewilderingly hard. ‘The idea of putting on weight scares me,’ she says. ‘I know I’m not healthy, but there is a 14-week waiting list to even get a consultation with a therapist. It’s so frustrating, sometimes I just cry.
‘But I feel as if people only want to see the online, happy “me”. And no one is like that all the time.’

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Loss

Babies, we spend so much of our lives trying to avoid having them, in the firm belief that one day we can just throw away our birth control and then magically, by the power of our will alone, we will get pregnant.  In this day and age when we control so much of our lives with the push of a button or tap of a keyboard, we expect something as basic as our fertility to be completely under our control.  It comes as quite a shock to most modern women when this fails to be the case. This is often the first clue that the path to parenthood isn't always an easy one.

Photo of birth control pills in pink packaging
Birth Control Pills

I realised from an early age that the reproductive organs weren't always co-operative.  I hit puberty and I hit a wall of pain.  Severe endometriosis sentenced me to days of monthly agony and wreaked havoc upon my body - both physically and emotionally.  By my late twenties I was diagnosed with fibroids and ovarian cysts were a regular feature of my thirties.  I was told my chances of ever getting pregnant were slim but that just sounded like a challenge to me.

Photo of woman holding abdomen, showing pain from endometriosis
Endometriosis

And it was one I pulled off!  "Ha! Take that you medical experts," I secretly congratulated myself as I retched and swayed through the first months of pregnancy.
However, my self-congratulation was short-lived.  My first pregnancy ended on a miserable night in January as my body cramped and bled and my heart broke.  The loss of my baby wasn't something I ever expected.  I'd defied all the odds and got pregnant and I believed my baby was meant to be.  It was like a Hollywood script - heroine defeats the odds and goes on to give birth to bouncing baby, this is her reward for all she's been through - cue happy ending.  But real life isn't like that, as I was all too painfully aware in the months following the loss of my first baby.

Fifteen months later I was pregnant again, older and wiser this time and nervous but as the weeks and months passed my nerves eased and I started to believe I was going to have this baby, that this baby was meant to be.  At twenty-three weeks I learned otherwise as I cradled the lifeless body of my little girl in my arms.  This loss completely obliterated me.  I disintegrated on many levels and life became a "going through the motions" exercise.

Black and white photo of an adult hand holding the tiny foot of a premature baby


Eventually, I pulled myself together and realised children were most probably not going to be a feature of my life.  How to face this?  How to make peace with it?  This realisation was like a huge boulder before me made of pure granite, one I couldn't get round, go through or climb over.  I knew I needed to break it down piece by piece and this was going to take time.  So my response was to wrap up my life as it was and look for a new one.  Myself and Big D literally sold up, bought a camper van and hit the road.  We didn't know where we were going or what we would do but we knew we needed to go, to try and put some distance between us and heartache and envision a future that didn't involve children.

And we were doing really well and having a wonderful time living in the camper van on the west coast of Portugal when I discovered I was pregnant again. Excitement and joy filled our hearts along with terror.

The decision to return back to Ireland was an easy one.  I knew the doctor I wanted and I knew, if things went wrong, I wanted to be in the care of the incredible people who had carried me through the worst days of my life with a kindness and compassion that I will be forever grateful for.

In December 2005 I got the most amazing Christmas present of all, my beautiful baby girl.

Two and a half years later, after a difficult pregnancy, four months of hospitalisation and much drama my son was born.  He was three months premature and it was touch and go but he made it.

Photo of smiling little girl holding her baby brother for the first time
La-la Meets The Dude For The First Time

It hadn't been my intention to write about this today but I was moved by Mark Zuckerberg's admission about the three babies himself and his wife, Priscilla, have lost on their journey to try and become parents.

Miscarriage is so common and yet is often surrounded by silence.  It's a painful subject but it's one that needs a voice.  I don't mention my experience often and even writing about it today has seen the tears flowing but I want to add my voice to the discussion.

All too often, people don't know how to react to the person who has suffered a miscarriage and some don't even consider it to be that much of a big deal.  Well let me give you an insider's view.

The loss of a baby is the loss of the future.  It is the loss of your dreams and very often the loss of hope.  And when  a person loses hope, which is very much the case after recurrent miscarriage, then they have lost everything.  I think Priscilla and Mark are exceptionally brave trying again after three losses.  I don't know if I would have been able to.

If you know someone who has lost a baby then know this:  no matter how brave a face they put on things, their heart is broken and they are hurting in  a way they have never known before.  This is a time for kindness and gentle compassion.  Don't be afraid to express your sympathy, as you would do for any other person who has suffered a loss but please do not belittle their grief.  Do NOT say things like:
"Oh well you were only a few weeks along."
"It's nature's way of dealing with babies who would have been born severely disabled."
"It was probably for the best."

And absolutely DO NOT say the dreaded:
"Oh you can go again."
or
"You're young, you have plenty of time to have another one."

You might mean well but this is the worst possible thing you can say.  They have just lost the baby that meant the world to them.  They have no reasons why and you are telling them they can just go on and have another one! This is the most ludicrous comment of all.  The person who has just lost their baby can't understand why you would think they would be able to hold onto another baby more than the one they just lost.

Sympathise.  Embrace and hug. Be kind.  Tell the person you are there for them if they need you. Listen.  Check in with them.  Do something nice for them.  Know that the date of the loss is a difficult time, as is Christmas.  Just acknowledge their pain and be sensitive to it.

I count myself incredibly lucky to have my two beautiful children.  When I took my first step towards motherhood, I had no idea of the agony that lay ahead.  We take what seems to be our right to have children so much for granted and it is only when we are faced with loss and infertility we realise becoming a parent is a gift that is not bestowed upon everyone.  If you know someone struggling with this in their life right now then please be kind and sensitive to them because it is something they never thought they would have to face.

I sincerely wish Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg all the best in the months ahead and to any of you who are reading this who are also expecting a baby after a previous loss.  I hope happier times are just around the corner.

Photo of Mark Zuckerberg and his pregnant wife Priscilla Chan
Mark Zuckerberg & Priscilla Chan
Announce Their Happy News


Thursday, 16 July 2015

Thinking or Over-thinking - That Is The Question

Okay, so I'm having one of those situations where I might possibly be  accused of overthinking something.

"Noooooo" I hear you cry, "it's not possible!"

Well I'll have you know, it's something I've been charged with in the past and it has been known to happen from time to time but just like a smoker in the face of an ashtray full of cigarette butts, I am aware of this naughty little habit of mine and have done a lot to kick it in recent years.  However, I am prone to the odd lapse but this morning I'm not sure if the subject of my thoughts is a case of overthinking or if it's something I really need to think about.....

The subject is my desk - the centrepiece of my writing cave, the hallowed piece of furniture upon which I create my literary masterpieces (well blog posts anyway).  And the item I can't actually see due to the incredible amount of crap on it.  Correction, the piles of crap on it!


Photo of messy desk
The Desk

So, I'm sitting here looking at it (actually I've been doing this for a few weeks now - don't worry I've taken toilet breaks...) and I'm wondering if the state of my desk reflects the state of my mind.  I'm wondering when (if?) I tidy it, will it make a massive difference to my productivity?  Will my mind suddenly clear and will magically worded, fascinating blog posts fall like glorious rainbows onto the page - all bright, shiny, colourful and perfect?  Or will it make damn all difference?

I know people who take great pride in their desks and who believe a pristine desk is the sign of a clear mind and being super-organised and efficient.  Then there is the other school of thought, the absent-minded professor type, whose desk seems to be in a constant state of disarray but the professor knows where everything is down to every word on every single page.

My desk takes things to a whole other level.  I have the mammy stuff, the writing stuff, the financial stuff, the insurance stuff, the health stuff, the school stuff and a whole load of other miscellaneous stuff sitting in various piles. Then, of course, there are the kids' contributions - Captain America is peeping out at me from under the spare screen (yes, a spare screen!) and a self-portrait of La-la dancing in the rain is sitting atop a tupperware container which also has a pile of Monster High stickers on it (note to self: check out what's in the tupperware container).

Pencil drawing of little girl dancing in the rain
Dancing In The Rain


Now, I can hear you all say, "would you just ever clean that shit up."  Actually, I can hear some of you screaming it.  However, this is my dilemma: I have a whole heap of other shit I need to do and there are only so many hours in the day.  I have this idea in my head that at some point in the not so distant future I'm going to have a day where I magically have time on my hands, all the time I need to take on this particular job.  You see, it's not just a case of throwing all this crap in the bin. Experience has taught me that the one bank statement you throw away, the electricity bill you don't have, the insurance document you can't find - THESE ARE THE VERY THINGS THAT WILL COME BACK AND BITE YOU IN YOUR UNTIDY, DISORGANISED ARSE!

So, I am a fanatical filer.  Yes, I file every blasted thing - even the kiddies contributory artwork.  You may point your eyebrows skyward at the last statement and whisper, "saddo" but the one piece of artwork I throw in the bin is the exact same piece of artwork the Dude will be looking for just as soon as the binman has driven off - it's happened people.  Now the only thing with filing is that you have to actually have files.  You may remember a few months ago we moved?  Well, since then my files have been somewhat in disarray.  So, in order for me to clear the desk, I first have to sort out my files.  Are you starting to see where this is going?  Yup, the mere clearing of the desk is turning into a three day job!  And I don't see a point in the near future where I am going to have three whole days to devote to it.

And this is where the thinking starts (or overthinking as some might accuse....)  Every lifestyle magazine and blog exhorts the value of de-cluttering, whether it be your home or your entire life. The benefits, it would seem, are wide-ranging and many.  I have yet to see an article on the benefits of clutter.  Of course the sub-text of all these articles is that clutter is deadly and will eventually kill you. One of the best selling books on amazon is called The Life-changing Magic of Tidying in which the author expounds upon the Japanese Konmari method of de-cluttering or in other words "sorting your shit out."

The Konmari method, we are told,  " will not just transform your space. Once you have your house in order you will find that your whole life will change."  Your whole life!
It goes on to claim, "you can feel more confident, you can become more successful, and you can have the energy and motivation to create the life you want."


Book cover for Konmari - The Japanese Art of decluttering
The "Magic" Book!

Now if all that isn't a tempting proposition then I don't know what is.  And I think to myself, "well I could make a start with my desk....."  And then I read, "the key to successful tidying is to tackle your home in the correct order, to keep only the things you really love and to do it all at once – and quickly."  Uh-oh.  Quickly?  I'm estimating three days just to sort my files and clear my desk.  And what about all the kids' crap, the stuff they can't bear to part with? I'm hitting road-blocks and I haven't even started!

And then I think (there's that word again....) back over my life and about the different abodes I've lived in and if their relative states of tidiness or lack of had any relevance to my life at the time and I can't spot any connections.  I can't definitively say when I was living in a one bedroom cottage in the West of Ireland with stuff falling out of wardrobes and piled to the rafters that my life was any worse than when I lived in a pristine apartment in Hong Kong.  I remember going on de-cluttering binges in the cottage (God bless my thirty year old, child free self) and waiting for the life-changing transformation to happen.  It didn't.  

So now I'm thinking (yup more of it....) perhaps I just didn't do it right, maybe I did it in the wrong order or maybe I wasn't quick enough.  So I'm thinking of buying the book and then I get to thinking how long is it going to take me to read it and then how long is it going to take me to put what I've read into action?  And what about all the other shit I have to do on a daily basis - who is going to do that stuff whilst I'm all ninja housewife?  Is there a book out there I can read to help me catch up with that after I've turned my living quarters into a shrine to Japanese minimalism?

And then I get to thinking (I just can't stop!) would it all be worth it anyway?  The house is tidied and cleaned from top to bottom every Friday (the only area not touched is my desk) and by Saturday afternoon it's usually a wreck again.   


Photo of Rodin's sculpture of the thinking man
I Think This Guy Knows How I Feel
Some of the other stuff I do on a daily basis, I'm hoping really does have the power to transform my life but will that happen sooner if I just tidy up?  There's a whole bunch of people out there who thoroughly believe so.  Do I?

I don't know.  I suppose I'll just have to think about it.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Yulin - Stop The Slaughter

Dogs.  I adore them. Always have and always will.  To me, dogs are angels that walk on this planet with us and accompany us on various parts of our journey through life.  Guardians, comforters, companions and endless sources of joy.  If there is one thing I can depend on in this world it is the total, absolute and unconditional love of my dog.


Black labrador type dog on beach
Miss Billie


A number of years ago as I was setting out for a new life in Hong Kong, a friend commented that I'd better keep a close eye on my dog because "dogs end up in pots" over there she said - half joking, half serious.  I dismissed her words as a joke at the time, thoroughly believing the dog-eating stories of Asia to be exaggerated tales of a practice that was dying out and still only to be found in the more remote regions.  Sadly, how wrong was I?
Social media has been a hotbed of stories in recent months regarding the dog-eating trade in Asia and attention has focused in particular on the upcoming Dog-meat "festival" in Yulin, China.  I think to call what takes place in Yulin a "festival" is a gross misuse of a word which implies something is being celebrated.  The torture and barbaric slaughter of thousands of dogs is most certainly not a celebration but a blight upon the world and an event that deserves all the international condemnation it has received in recent months.  
The Poor Unfortunate Dogs of Yulin
Those who defend it do so in the name of culture and "way of life" as if this means it is somehow excusable and shouldn't be questioned.  Whereas the local authorities have officially banned the event it is still expected to go ahead as the ban doesn't seem to extend to actually taking action to prevent the slaughter and is more of a saving face exercise than anything else. Meanwhile, the ruling proletariat in Beijing are content to sit back and do nothing.  Well that is simply not acceptable.  If customs, superstitions and the "way of life" argument were acceptable arguments for doing nothing then we'd still have gladiators fighting each other to the death, witches burning at the stake and kings, queens and emperors ruling empires.  The Chinese authorities have shown themselves well capable of tackling cruel practices before, such as foot binding, now completely eradicated throughout China but a common practice till very recently.  This was even more embedded in the Chinese psyche than dog-meat and is now gone as a result of the Communist Party banning it as a consequence of many campaigns by conscious objectors both inside and outside of China.

Thankfully, there are a growing number of animal welfare activists in China who are trying to to do something about the Yulin situation and the dog-meat trade in general.  It is thanks to them and their use of social media that the rest of the world is aware of what is going on. We can't stand with them in Yulin to physically rescue these unfortunate animals from their terrible fate but we can stand with them on facebook, twitter, and every social media site available to us and let them know we support them and their efforts.  Share the hashtag  #StopYuLin2015  and do one small thing for the animal we all know as man's best friend.

Monday, 8 June 2015

Chubbygirl And Big Bertha

Well the Queen's birthday saw me and my family enjoying the mid-morning sunshine out on the deck and the conversation turned to superheroes, as it inevitably does when the Dude is involved.  This morning he wanted each of us to tell him, if we could be a superhero then which superhero would we be.  The fact that he was asking was merely a formality as he had already decided who everyone should be.  La-la was Batgirl, Bid Daddy was Superman and I was......., well this is where the poor Dude hit a bit of a road-block.  You see if there is one thing all superheroes, either male or female, have in common, it's that they have rather impressive physiques and the ladies in particular are on the slender side.  The Dude looked most perplexed.

Torso of Superman with head of Big Daddy superimposed on it
Big Daddy as Superman!


"Mummy," he said, "I don't know who you can be because there aren't any chubby superheroes."

"Oh, I replied," that's ok, "all mummies are superheroes anyway, I'll just be super-mummy."

I could tell by his face that this just would not fly.

"Nooooo," he protested, "that's not the way this works!  Mummies don't wear capes!"

So then I thought about it and thought how sad that there wasn't a superhero with at least a little bit of padding, I mean how handy would that be if you were a superhero?

Big Daddy tried to help out and searched for a curvy female superhero on google but the best he could come up with was The Vixen, who I might add has some pretty sensational curves going on but who was dismissed by the Dude as being "too sexy."

Cartoon depiction of The Vixen, a superhero who wears a tight-fitting yellow costume
The Very Sexy Vixen


"Okay," I chirped in, "then I'll be Chubbygirl."

"Huh?" asked the Dude, whose face suggested he didn't quite like the sound of what he was hearing.

"Chubbygirl, she's a new superhero," I informed my lovely family, who were pretty much all catching flies with their mouths at this stage.

The Dude was unimpressed.

"Chubbygirl!" He exclaimed, "what the hell is her super-power?"

"Well," I started to explain, "she rolls herself up in a ball and launches herself at villains and goes really fast and knocks them out."

The Dude was impressed.

"What else?" he asked.

"She squashes things," I replied, "she's a bit like the Hulk.  He crushes things and she squashes things.  She also has some deadly ninja moves."

The Dude was liking the sound of Chubbygirl more and more.

"But what does she look like?"  he asked.

That's when Big Daddy started snorting.

"Something like this," he managed to squeeze out through snorts.

The Dude took the phone offered by Big D and looked on in horror.

"No way Mummy!  You can't be her!  She's enormous!"

It seems I can't win on the superhero front - I'm either too chubby or not chubby enough and I most certainly am not allowed to be sexy!

I took the phone and looked at what Big Daddy found so hilarious.

Cartoon depiction of Big Bertha and overweight superhero who wears a yellow swimsuit
Big Bertha


Big Bertha - who knew?  Looks like someone beat me to the "superhero with a bit of padding" idea. All I need now is for Big Bertha to show up and sort out the husband known as Big Daddy.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

What Do You Do All Day?

"Snake! Snake!" I heard over the tears and the screams, so with my heart in my mouth I headed off to the garden to see what the hell was going on.  I should state that after three years in Australia and having come across some fairly hairy and scary critters, we haven't, so far, encountered a snake.  So it was with a certain amount of resignation (as in - feck it we've finally got a snake) that I landed in the garden like the Mad Mammy on steroids.  I was literally ready to rip the scaly one apart with my bare hands.

Well, I needn't have worried.  The "snake" in question most certainly wouldn't be found on the "ten most deadly" list.  With it's bright pink and purple markings and rather furry skin, the only problem with this snake was that it is one of La-la's favourite cuddly toys and somehow it had landed in the bamboo.  La-la was beside herself and the Dude was still shouting, "snake!"  I fixed him with a laser beam death stare and told everyone to calm down.  Once the shouting and wailing had stopped I assessed the situation and decided it could be solved with those old staples the garden rake and a brush.

photo of pink and purple cuddly toy snake
Snakey


I told everyone to stay calm, whilst I retired to the house to find the brush.  Five minutes later Snakey was free and everyone was happy.  I decided to grab the washing off the line whilst I was in the garden anyway and not remember it three days later (hey it happens....)  La-la was happily cuddling Snakey and the Dude was contentedly slaughtering ninjas when La-la scrunched up her nose in that nine year old girl way and announced, "eeuuuuw, what's that awful smell?  Like dog poo?"


Photo of young boy in black and red ninja outfit
The Ninja Warrior


"Eeeughhh," chimed in the Dude whilst grabbing his throat as if choking, in the way that seven year old boys prone to a touch of drama do, "I think I'm going to die!"

Now, I have to add here that we don't usually have an issue with land-mines in the Mad Mammy household as Miss Billie is the soul of discretion in this regard and usually does her business in the bushes.  However, with the recent monsoons she has been dashing out between the raindrops, depositing a doo-doo and dashing back to base.  We've been clearing any remaining land-mines during dry-spells but my nose was  now telling me we had obviously missed one, so I asked my minions which one of them had stepped in the poo?  They  checked each others' shoes and responded with much shrugging of shoulders and puzzled expressions.  That's when it dawned on me, the schmuck who had stood in the doo-doo was yours truly.  I looked at the bottom of my shoe and there was no doubt as to who the culprit was.  The Dude was shocked, "Mummy, it was you!" He exclaimed.

Oh My God meme of OMG in big red writing over a black and white photo of a young Burt Lancaster
The Dude Be Like This

"Yup," I replied, just delighted at the prospect of now having to wash dog poo off my shoes.  I remembered the garden hose, so I handed the clothes to La-la and went in search of wherever the last person who had used it, had abandoned it.  Rolling it up and putting it back on its hook would have been too much like hard work, obviously.  Anyhoo, I found it in the middle of the garden and surprise, surprise it wasn't working.  I have to confess, with a million other things I had to do waiting for my attention back in the house, frustration was starting to get the better of me.  Therefore, I applied more force than was perhaps necessary to the attachment  and the next thing I knew my eyeballs were at the back of my skull, such was the explosion of water into my face from the now attachment-less hose.  I immediately dropped the thing - after all it was trying to kill me, and it proceeded to do the crazy hose dance around the garden like a snake out of its mind on cocaine.  The Dude at this stage was bug-eyed and riverdancing his way around the garden to avoid a soaking.  La-la had returned from depositing the clothes in the house and was staring wild-eyed at her mother and sibling engaged in some rather alarming jiggerypokery.  I grabbed the hose and brought the monster under control.  I washed the shoes.  I dripped into the house and was about to change my clothes when I heard:
"eeeuwww dog poo!"
"Whaaaaat?" I squealed.
"Poo, there's dog poo on the stairs," La-la exclaimed.
"Faaaaaack!"  I screeched as I abandoned all plans to dry myself off and change.


Drawing of confused and agitated woman with question marks coming out of he head
I Was Starting To Feel Like This


I had a new job to do - clean the floor before someone stepped on doo-doo and brought it through the house.  So off I went in search of the mop, bucket and bleach.  A half an hour later we had a shining floor and one slightly frazzled mammy.  Two minutes later Big Daddy arrives into the house and asks, "are you ready? We gotta be at rugby in five minutes.  What the hell have you guys been doing?"
Death stare number two sorted him.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Happy Mummy's Day

The little arms curled their way around my neck and seconds later I felt the excited puff of his breath in my ear before he plonked the mother of all kisses on my cheek.  "Happy mummy's day" he chattered excitedly into my ear as he bounced on the bed beside me.  I opened one eye to see the Dude beaming from ear to ear.  It seemed the obligatory mother's day lie-in was to be sacrificed at the altar of the Dude's excitement.  I opened both eyes and spotted La-la sitting on the other side of the bed looking on sympathetically.

The Dude has been looking forward to Mummy's Day for the past two weeks and has been reassuring me constantly that he will be doing all my jobs!  "I will be Mummy for the day," he proudly announced this morning and the first order of the day was to don one of my tops which looked like a dress on him so he was instantly in touch with his feminine side.

The second order of the day was to make a list of all the things mummy does in a day.  The Dude entered into this exercise with what can only be described as the enthusiasm of the innocent, much the same way as a new mum-to-be thinks her life is going to be the exact same post-baby except for afterwards she's just going to have her very own little bundle of love in it.


Photo of boy in hulk costume, jumping.
The Dude - Ready To Take On
The Mother's Day Challenge

So the Dude found a pen and a piece of paper and proceeded to write what he thought was going to be a very short list.  He very quickly realised it was going to take more than one piece of paper!

Here's the list:

Make Breakfast.  Include chocolate milk for me and La-la and don't forget the prebiotics.
Clean up after breakfast.
Empty dishwasher.
Pick up clothes off the floor.
Put on a washing machine.
Take clothes off clothes-horse.
Fold clothes
Put clothes away.
Take clothes out of washing machine.
Hang clothes.
Satisfy random demands for food.
Break up fighting.
Settle arguments.
Deal with whingeing.
Find lost items of clothing.
Put together a superhero outfit.
Trawl google for colouring pages.
Print colouring pages.
Figure out what's wrong with the printer and then print out colouring pages.
Fight zombies - try best to head off the zombie apocalypse.
Make up a game that everyone wants to play.
Deal with unwanted creepy crawlies.
Send text regarding playdate.
Find the random lost toy that must be found immediately or else the world is going to end!
Go to park.
Keep everyone alive and know where everyone is every thirty seconds.
Deal with injuries.
Clean up the sitting-room.
Go shopping.
Put the shopping away.
Pick up random crap off the floor.
Feed the dog - don't forget her medicine.
Walk the dog.
Don't forget to bring bag for the doo-doo.
Pick up the doo-doo - euuwwwww!
Put doo-doo in bin - after carrying it for a mile or two.
Find the scissors.
Say a prayer for the scissors because they have obviously followed all the other scissors into the big black hole where scissors go and are never seen again.
Figure out how you are going to do the task you needed the scissors for - without the scissors.
Clean, wash and prepare vegetables for dinner.
Cook dinner.
Set the table.
Clear the table.
Wipe the table.
Empty the dishwasher  - again!
Fill the dishwasher and put on - again!
Put rubbish out in the bin.
Do the recycling.
Get uniforms ready for school.
Find shoes.
Make sure ice packs, lunch boxes and schoolbags are ready for morning.
Do reading.
Look for a movie or T.V. programme that everyone wants to watch - deal with all objections and demands diplomatically and with respect to everyone's wishes.
Give lots of kisses and cuddles throughout the day and make sure everyone feels loved and wanted.
Get ready for bed.
Do water bottles.
Supervise bedtime routine.
Kiss and cuddle for bedtime and deal with any troubles, concerns or worries.
Sleep.

At about page two he asked if he could stop now because that was enough really.  At this stage we had only just hung up the washing!  I explained that we really needed to carry on as there were a few other things that needed to go on the list - he looked quite dismayed.  Out of kindness I decided to leave out the following: check emails for school related stuff, pay bills and oh yeah - write 1000 words and put a blog post together.

So far he has managed to clear the table and go shopping with Big Daddy.  In the dog's best interests I decided to feed her and administer her medicine.  I'm not holding out much hope for her walk.


Billie on the beach
The "I need to walk" look

Amazingly, the Dude hasn't felt the need for a colouring page so far today and has foregone his usual superhero transformation.  Also, no toys have been lost and we have not had a zombie invasion.  It's all just as well really because as the Dude himself observed, "how would you get all that mummy stuff done in ONE day!"  How indeed son, how indeed.


Photo of boy sleeping
Pretty Soon I Think The Dude Is Going To Look Like This