9/9/99

I wrote this blog post back in August this year. After writing it my life changed so suddenly and so completely that I didn’t get to post it. In one of my follow up posts I’ll fill you in on what changed my life so much.

Fifteen years ago on the 9/9/99 my life changed irrevocably when teengirl, or baby girl as she was then, got sick.
Less than a week later she was in a neurosurgery ward fighting for her life having already had one brain surgery.
And yet despite that serious surgery doctors were still convinced my baby wouldn’t survive that Thursday night.
Then when she did they didn’t expect her to survive the weekend. Every time they told me this I told them they were wrong. And they looked at me like I was either mad or I just wasn’t hearing them.
Two more brain surgeries later, two blood transfusions and after an infection in the fluid around her brain failed to beat her the doctor’s finally began to see the strength I saw in her – small smiles began to brighten their faces when they came into her room.

Six weeks later and my baby who was repeatedly expected to die was sent home from hospital looking like her head had a fight with a stapler and a cross-stitcher.
And I attempted to breathe out after the truck that hit me every morning drove away. But the breath was stuck firmly in my stomach, a knot of hard boiled air just sat there.

Before teengirl got sick I chased my dreams so hard that sometimes I hit them with such force I didn’t recognise them through my daze.
My twenties were filled with adventures and terror; highlights and lowlights; fights; parties; joy; happiness; discontent.
In my twenties I got married – twice. Engaged 3 times. I also got divorced twice. I had two children, lived in France, Spain and America twice.
I had a great job as a national newspaper news journalist before teengirl got sick. I worked hard, it was stressful but damn I loved it and was actually pretty good at it.
News stories I broke made front pages around the world, news stories that I’d uncovered changed laws and saved people’s lives.

And it hurts me to admit, in fact it terrifies me to admit, that I haven’t worked since the 16th of September 1999 and neither have I chased my dreams. I retreated into a space of tightness, exhaustion and fear where I felt safe despite constantly feeling afraid. A space where I had as close to total control as I could.

For the first year after teengirl came home I was a terrified wreck. Neurosurgeons had no idea what caused her subdural haematoma and they’d no idea if it would happen again. The day I took her home from the hospital teengirl was a ten and a half month old beautiful baby girl with a shaved head featuring black stitches in a criss cross pattern down one side and a multitude of staples running from the front to the back of her the top of her head that would make people stare in disgust.
Just minutes before teengirl was discharged doctors told me she was a miracle. That I should be thankful she was alive. Then they told me they didn’t know what effect the brain haemorrhage would have on her: they didn’t know if she would walk or if she would talk, what she would be able to do.
Now you all know that teengirl can walk and boy can she talk, but those first few years were terrifying for me.
Doctors told me not to wrap her up in cotton wool, to let her go, let her fall, let her bump her head.
And when she walked at 18 months that hard boiled breath that lived in my stomach grew wings and flew to my throat with every tiny little wobbling step she took.
I bet you can guess how fast those wings of fear beat when this tiny little miracle with the head that was too big for her body opted to run everywhere instead of walk. Oh good god, how many times could one little girl fall over?

I couldn’t go back to work. Teengirl had first got sick when I was at work. I don’t think I ever forgave myself for not being there that day.
Year one featured terror, year two fear and mild depression, year three more depression with a side order of hope, year four I was diagnosed with PTSD and so on.
And I just never returned to work.
And for the past 15 years I have stayed at home with teengirl and teenboy and then baby boy when he came along four and a half years ago. I have been firmly and fearfully ensconced in my comfort zone, living half a life – living an illusion.

Last week I did an NLP exercise that involved looking back 5 years and writing down what my life was like. Then I wrote down where my life is now before writing down where I want it to be in five years from now.
I was horrified, absolutely horrified to realise that my life today is the same as it was not just five years ago but 15 years ago.

And it turns out that I’m actually incredibly unhappy in my not so comfy comfort zone.
What will I do every day when babyboy starts school?
I can’t continue to do the same thing every day and expect different results. It’s time for change. It’s time for me to climb out of the space that holds me too tightly perpetuating the hard boiled breath fixed like a fist in my chest, for me to stop trying to control the past, present and future, it’s time for me to let go – to rediscover my dreams and begin to chase them again.

20141206-233706.jpg


What Do You Say When you Look in the Mirror?

On the way to the opticians this afternoon I asked teengirl if there’s anything she doesn’t like about herself.  After a few seconds silence she answered: “My teeth.”

“Is that it?” I asked her.

To which she replied: “Yeah, I like what I see in the mirror.  I like me and I like how I look.”

And the reason she doesn’t like her teeth?  Because when she was younger she hit her two front teeth on the edge of a swimming pool and took a big chip out of both of them right in the middle.  The jolt also pushed them both out a bit so they stick out ever so slightly.  But she doesn’t dislike them enough to bother trying to fix them with braces.

To be honest she sounds very like me at 15, at 25, even at 35 when I’d put on a lot of weight because I’ve never obsessed over how I look to other people and I’ve never put myself down in front of any of my kids.

I’m happy to stand up in front of all of you right now and admit: my name is Mumtoteens and I like myself.  I like what I see in the mirror, I always have.  And I like the person I am.

I grew up around a mum who didn’t like how she looked, a mum who called herself fat, who didn’t bother to put make up on because “there’s no point, there’s nothing I can do to make this face look nice” and call herself a stupid bitch when she did something wrong.

I so easily could’ve ended up despising myself the way she did.  But my dad saved me from that.

I was, and still am at 43, my dad’s princess.  He made me believe I was worthy, that I was clever and beautiful and that I could do anything I wanted in the world so long as I believed in myself as much as he believed in me.

I saw myself reflected in his eyes and liked what I saw.

My dad showed me how I should be treated by men, by other women, by the world but most of all by myself.

Research has shown that 71% of girls feel pressure to be beautiful but are less likely to let anxiety hold them back if they have a positive beauty role model in their lives.

I’ve managed thankfully, to take my dad’s legacy rather than my mum’s and hand it down to my own daughter who has grown up without her father around.

This is my legacy for my daughter – she is comfortable in her skin, she is confident despite setbacks, she is optimistic, kind and quick with compliments.  And she believes that beauty lives in everyone and everyone has the right to feel beautiful.

When I watched the short film, Dove: Legacy, it made me sad: so many young girls (not even teenagers yet) unhappy with their bodies.  So influenced by their mum’s unconscious words they dislike the same parts of their bodies as their mums.

But with 41% of women rarely feeling positive about their appearance and with a quarter of British women with no influential beauty role model in their lives it’s no surprise that mums are putting themselves down, talking negatively about their looks.  There are only two reasons why I don’t do this – one is my dad and the other is because my mum’s dislike of her looks was so passionate it made me want to not be so cruel to myself.

Dove’s research shows that as soon as women become aware of the impact of their words and body language they want to change it to become better role models for young girls.  And the one piece of advice most women want to share with young girls to promote a positive beauty legacy is “learn to accept who you are” with 35% of women opting for this.

Leading language expert, Professor Tony Mcenery of Lancaster University said: “By learning to monitor one’s language and filtering out the negative and emphasising the positive, we are more likely to pass on positive, life-long behaviours that have the power to affect self-esteem.”

Nearly 1 in 3 women said the one thing they’d change would be to be more confident, so they can pass their confidence on to younger generations.

Please get involved to help our future generations of girls feel confident with and comfortable in their own bodies by tweeting  your own positive beauty legacy pledge on Twitter, tell the world who you inspires you to pass on a positive beauty legacy using the hashtag #FeelBeautifulFor.

Watch Dove: Legacy short film here


Morrisons Mums Bank Holiday Challenge

I’d planned to have family and friends over for a BBQ on the first Monday May bank holiday but unfortunately my builders had other ideas!

Apparently an emergency meant they had to turn up to take down the chimneys on the bank holiday instead of the Tuesday.  So that put the kibosh on the BBQ – cos nobody wants builders dust in their burgers and sausages!

I’d planned to take lots of photographs and maybe a couple of videos at the BBQ of everyone having a great time enjoying the food from Morrison’s but sadly that had to go as well – cos nobody needs to see a picture photobombed by a builders bum!

So instead it was just me and the kids.

But what to cook instead of traditional BBQ fare?  I opted for a meal that appeals to kids, is easy, resembles junk food but actually isn’t and is even tastier than the frozen version.

For our bank holiday dinner I created homemade wholegrain chicken nuggets, sauté baby boiled potatoes and broccoli.

low GI, low sugar dinner - homemade wholegrain chicken nuggets, broccoli and saute baby boiled potatoes bought from Morrisons cos I was a #morrisonsmum

homemade wholegrain chicken nuggets, broccoli and saute baby boiled potatoes bought from Morrisons cos I was a #morrisonsmum

As most of you who read this blog know I’m insulin resistant so I eat a Low GI diet (FYI I’ve lost 3 stone since I started and feel healthier than I have done in years), hence, the wholegrain chicken nuggets.

wholegrain low GI chicken nuggets recipe - how to make healthy chicken nuggets that are low gi and low sugar but still tasty

For breakfast we pushed the boat out and instead of toast or bran flakes we devoured brown wholegrain rolls topped with oats filled to the brim with bacon and topped off with lashings of ketchup.

bacon on wholewheat oat topped rolls with lashings of tomato ketchup - the perfect Bank Holiday breakfast

bacon on wholewheat oat topped rolls with lashings of tomato ketchup – the perfect Bank Holiday breakfast

I’m sure you don’t need a recipe for these, we all know how to cook a roll with bacon.  Mmmmm, these ones were particularly delicious and believe it or not Low GI.

Our weekend’s meals also included a Sunday roast and a Keema Curry with wholegrain basmati rice (if you haven’t tasted this rice do it, it’s delicious as well as low GI).

My snacks consisted of strawberries which were great but not quite as sweet as the Spanish ones I was eating in Cornwall last week, salted popcorn (Morrison’s is good but just like every other supermarket’s own make it just doesn’t match up to Butterkist salted), Ski smooth yoghurts and Belvita biscuits (both of these two were on offer and therefore a bargain for me).

a box of strawberries from Morrisons for just £3 #morrisonsmum

For lunch my cold meat and salad sandwiches included lettuce from the living salad I purchased at Morrisons.

What’s a living salad I hear you cry? Well…It’s a lettuce that’s still growing.   I know…I couldn’t believe it!

You buy the living salad still planted in the soil, sit it on your windowsill, keep it watered and voila it will last for up to ten days.  And when you need some lettuce to put on your sandwich or for your side salad you just cut some off, wash it and use it.

Amazing, just absolutely bloody amazing.  The living salad is THE BEST thing I’ve ever bought from a supermarket EVER!!!  And it cost just 99p.

my windowsill living salad - best purchase from any supermarket EVER

my windowsill living salad – best purchase from any supermarket EVER #morrisonsmum

You might wonder why instead of telling you all about the hell my teenagers are putting me through I’m sharing what we ate over the weekend.

Well it’s because Morrison’s challenged me (and a load of other mums) to find out if their new lower prices were as good as they claimed #morrisonsmums.

I’d love to be able to tell you all that their prices are great and it saved me a fortune, but it was difficult for me to work out cos I buy my meat in bulk from Costco and try to shop quite regularly in my village but I was reasonably impressed by their prices and I’ve included a price per portion breakdown for the chicken nuggets and the bacon butties below.

I do have one complaint about Morrisons supermarkets – and I mean every single one I’ve ever been in – have no rhyme or reason to their layout.  Most supermarkets adhere to the same sort of layouts so you know roughly where to find the food on your shopping list.  But Morrisons don’t seem to follow this rough rule, they make their own rules, they walk to the beat of their drum.

Normally I’d have all respect for that but when you’re searching the aisles desperately trying to find the food you need as a 4 year old constantly asks you questions, their refusal to play by the same rules as everyone else can be rage inducing.  I ended up having to bribe Babyboy with some cars just so he would stop talking long enough for me to search out the items on my long and apparently never ending shopping list.

So kudos to Morrisons for lowering prices at a time when families are really struggling financially, as a cash strapped mum I appreciate it.  But please sort out the layout of your supermarkets so I don’t have to search and search and search.

  • CHICKEN NUGGETS, POTATOES & BROCOLLI COST PER PORTION (I made enough for 4 and froze a portion of nuggets) – £2.04
  • BACON BUTTIES COST PER PORTION – £1.09

 

affordable, tasty fruit at great prices is what I want as a mum #morrisonsmum


The Room Exhaled as The Body Image Myth Smashed at their Feet

 

body image myth - the lies we're told that make us feel bad about ourselves

I think the above list startlingly sums up not just what our daughters have to contend with on a daily basis but everything that’s wrong with how women are portrayed in the movies, on TV, in magazines and newspapers and on social media – a Body Image Myth that is impossible to live up to. 

Ask any man, who has any level of maturity, if he wants a woman who looks like the above list and he’ll tell you that all he wants is a woman who will actually go out with him and accept him for what he is.  He doesn’t care about her eyebrows or the size of her feet or whether her boobs are big or not – all he wants is boobs of any shape or size.

But our young women have this image of perfection, this lie rammed down their throats at every turn.  They’re not allowed time to breathe, to find themselves, to work out who they are inside before they’re forced to look at themselves through the eyes of our judgemental social world and find themselves wanting.

Down that road lies eating disorders, depression, self-harm, obesity, failure at school, lack of self-esteem, plastic surgery, poor job prospects and missing out on a life that could be absolutely fabulous if only they could see themselves through the eyes of someone who loves them for who they are not what they look like.

Last year teengirl and I went along to the Dove Self-Esteem Project in London and we both came home slightly changed, different women – armed with the tools to challenge the myths that have manifested in the media and the fashion and beauty industries, armed with the knowledge that it’s all fake.  That what is inside us is what’s real and what’s beautiful.

And now Dove has struck up a partnership with the charity Girlguiding UK that they both hope will boost the body confidence of girls aged 7-14 all over the world.

The Perfect Woman list (pictured above) was actually created by a group of Girl Guide Peer Educators aged 14-25 in a bid to smash the Body Image Myth they all held before they descended upon Whitemoor Lakes in Staffordshire for their training weekend.

It was amazing for me to watch them provide the details for this list – they did it so easily.

And it was incredible to watch them come to the realisation – with the help of their own peer educator Laura Ede – that this perfect woman was absolutely and unutterably unattainable and that we are actually harming ourselves striving to be like her.

I watched the moment this recognition hit them, I watched as their faces lightened and brightened and their shoulders lifted a little.  I saw hope flood their faces.  And I heard the whole room exhale as they felt the freedom of their newfound understanding.

And I feel so privileged to have experienced such a liberating moment in these young girls lives.

These Peer Educators will take what they learned – their liberation from an unattainable myth – and spread that body confidence message across the UK.  They will, through fun activities, unmask society’s beauty myths, expose airbrushing and challenge unhealthy body talk.  They will give young Girl Guides the tools and encouragement to stand up and take action to stop unhealthy body ideals affecting the next generation of girls.

And the girls who take part in this huge empowering girls program will be working towards Girlguiding UK’s first body confidence badge – Free Being Me.

Laura Ede, 24, Chair of Girlguiding’s Peer Education National Co-ordination and Support Team said: “Free Being Me shows young people just how ridiculous this ‘Image Myth’ really is.  Young people today are under constant pressure to conform to impossible and unattainable standards of beauty in a society obsessed with image and appearance.”

The brand new badge comes in direct response to separate research by both Girlguilding UK and Dove that shows our young girls are drowning under the pressure of trying to reach unreachable and ridiculous beauty ideals:

The alarming research shows:

  1. 87% of girls aged 11-21 think they are judged more on looks than ability
  2. 1 in 5 girls of primary school age say they’ve been on a diet
  3. 1 in 4 girls aged between 11-21 would consider cosmetic surgery
  4. 38% of girls aged 11-21 say they have sometimes skipped meals to lose weight
  5. 47% of girls are unhappy with their looks
  6. Because they don’t like how they look:
  • 34% of girls miss out on swimming
  • 23% miss out on joining team sports or activities
  • 23% of girls won’t put their hands up in the classroom

These statistics are shocking and they’re describing your daughter, my daughter, your future daughter-in-law, your future granddaughter all suffering because of the Body Image Myth that we as adults, all too often, have bought into and perpetuate.

It’s time to stop it, to say no more: stop forcing your ideals down my daughter’s throat and stop making her feel bad for being a woman who doesn’t fit your unattainable idea of perfection.

I take my hat off to each and every Girlguiding Peer Educator in that room because they are going to help change our daughter’s worlds and give them the tools to challenge the norms, give them the body confidence to like themselves with all their flaws and the ability and give them the confidence to say “No More” to the body image myth perpetuated by our society.

 

This YouTube video, Evolution, was made by Dove and shows the unbelievable amount of photoshopping this gorgeous model’s picture is subjected to before it can be put in a magazine.


Is Your Mum’s Life as Ordinary as You Think? #It’sAMumThing

My mum’s 72, and I thought until I began writing this that she’d had quite an ordinary life raising me and my two older brothers in a boring little village in Scotland. 

But as I began to consider her life I realised it was far from conventional.

#ItsAMumThing #BYOM by Not on The High Street - celebrating our mums this Mothers Day

Over and above raising me and my oldest brother, my mum also raised a son with  learning difficulties in the 60’s and 70’s when there was very little help or  understanding.  She fought to get him into mainstream education and then she  fought to get him into special education when she realised he’d become a target  for bullies in his mainstream school aged just 5.

She stood as a councillor in a male dominated local council, was a member of the  village community council to ensure her children had a great community to grow  up in and was actively involved in fundraising and spreading the word for her  political party.

She started the first playgroup in the village and was a pioneer member of one of the first women’s groups in the village.

She moved to London with my dad for a while when my brothers were toddlers and she caused uproar upon her return to our little mining village when she walked down the high street wearing a miniskirt.

#ItsAMumThing #BYOM by Not on The High Street - celebrating our mums this Mothers Day

How about this flower made from maps instead of real flowers this Mothers Day?

Because we were never rich she didn’t get to go abroad until in her 50’s when she went on an 18-30 Club holiday to Tenerife!  My oldest brother, throwing his law degree to the wind had become a holiday rep:  I’ve seen the photographs of those holidays and believe me they out-partied every single one of the youngsters.

And when her, my dad and my middle brother, who continued to live with them until only recently, went to Florida they were met with a hurricane.  Everybody else was driving out of Florida as they were driving in.  Mum said: “It was just a wee bit of wind and rain.  I don’t know what they were running away from?”

#ItsAMumThing #BYOM by Not on The High Street - celebrating our mums this Mothers Day

She’s walked down Sunset Strip obliviously videoing the prostitutes, and partied so hard in Times Square when the Yankees won the World Series that she broke that prostitute filming  video camera.

And when oldest my brother came out as gay in the 90s mum didn’t bat an eyelid (and neither did my dad).  In fact, she made it easier for him to tell her:  When he said: “I’ve met someone special,” she replied: “What’s his name?”

Shortly after my brother came out I told my mum that at 22 I was pregnant (and single) with teenboy.  Her response: “There’s worse things than a baby.”

And she looked after teenboy every day so I could go to college to study journalism and then she did the same when I began working in newspapers.  If it wasn’t for her I wouldn’t have been able to study or work.

When I started to write this blog entry my plan to tell you all that getting to go to the Not On The High Street’s #BYOM event was a highlight for a woman who hadn’t had the most exciting life.  But as I began to write I realised that my mum, for all her adverse impact upon my self-esteem (that’s definitely a mum thing isn’t Shappi Khorsandi?), is a women who has really lived a life less ordinary in a very ordinary village where it’s still frowned upon to be different.

#ItsAMumThing #BYOM by Not on The High Street - celebrating our mums this Mothers Day

Mum, daughter & comedian – Shappi Khorsandi

My mum is mad, she’s up for anything.  She’s tired now she’s 72, and she’s annoying and a bit hard work now but I think a lot of that is down to me not wanting her to be old and forgetful.  I expect her to be the mum and granny she was in her 50’s.

But despite getting on a bit she still helps me with the kids and works hard on our business.  She gets excited about the small things in all of our lives; she likes to get drunk on sherry with my brother in law and annoy my dad; she wears bright colours and no make-up; she cuts her hair short cos she can’t be bothered doing anything with it and the only shoes she’ll wear are crocs or flip flops cos all the stilletos she wore in the 60s ruined her feet with massive bunions.

#ItsAMumThing #BYOM by Not on The High Street - celebrating our mums this Mothers Day

When I took her with me to the Not on the High Street event I was slightly embarrassed in a teenage kind of way by the Crocs on her feet and her blingtastic cardigan – I felt self-conscious again in a teenager kinda way by her parochial attempt to be glamorous – does anybody else revert to being a teenager if they spend more than a couple of hours with their mum?  We didn’t really circulate because she can’t stand for long now, so we sat and she ate lots of the delicious little nibbles that were handed round by delightful waiters who had lots of smiles for the old lady who would tried everything they brought to her especially the cakes.

If you sat down beside her she’d chat to you but otherwise she was quite happy on the white couch with her cocktails and canapés.  She sat there with a quiet confidence I hope to one day achieve.  She sat there and rocked with laughter at Shappi’s rudest of jokes.  And showed her naivete when she turned to me after Shappi’s final joke about a middle eastern man always gets his abandoned suitcase back in Paris and said: “I don’t get that one”.

I was supposed to review the event by Not On the High Street but instead I’ve wittered on about my mum.  But somehow I think that’ll be ok because it was an event celebrating mums.  And it turns out my croc wearing, short haired, bling loving, batty old mum’s life was always less ordinary and she should be celebrated for it.

Hmmm, who knew…?

This year for Mother’s Day I’ll be buying my mad old mum something from Not on The High Street cos she deserves something as different as she is.

#ItsAMumThing #BYOM by Not on The High Street - celebrating our mums this Mothers Day

I love the label on these earrings it makes them so much more special

#ItsAMumThing #BYOM by Not on The High Street - celebrating our mums this Mothers Day

the bar at 5 Cavendish Square at the #BYOM event from Not on the High Street

#ItsAMumThing #BYOM by Not on The High Street - celebrating our mums this Mothers Day

my wish on the wishing tree

In case you didn’t realise it my mum and I were at the Not on the High Street celebrating mums event at 5 Cavendish Square in London.

**I am a member of the Mumsnet Bloggers Network Research Panel, a group of parent bloggers who have volunteered to review products, services, events and brands for Mumsnet.  I have not paid for the product or to attend an event.  I have editorial content and retain full editorial integrity.  

Mumsnet Bloggers Network

Not on The High Street


Lou Treleaven, writer

Writing for children, submitting manuscripts, reviewing great books and other wordcentric activities

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