Thursday, 5 July 2018

#Vlogstars 1: Facts and Favourites

Hey guys! Welcome to the first in our new series of #Vlogstars. Our vlog is below, the rules are below that, the badge code and then finally, the most important bit... the questions! Then you need to get filming! We can't WAIT to watch your videos! 






How #Vlogstars works...

  • Each month you will answer 10 questions
  • Videos must not exceed 10 minutes
  • You must add your vlog to your blog along with the #Vlogstars badge
  • You must link up to Jess and Kelly's linky on their #Vlogstars post of the month
  • You must watch Jess and Kelly's vlogs
  • You must watch at least two other #Vlogstar vlogs
  • Optional: add your vlog to the comment thread found here

Badge Code: 
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</a>


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The Questions! 


  Facts and Favourites
  1. What is your middle name?
  2. What is your Favorite drink?
  3. What is your favourite song at the moment?
  4. Have you participated in any sport?
  5. What is your favourite book?
  6. What is your favourite colour?
  7. What is your favourite animal?
  8. Do you speak any different languages?
  9. What is your favourite clothes shop?
  10. What are some of your favourite tv shows?
OK now your turn! Go! Then link up below! 


#Vlogstars - The New Generation!







Are you keen to start vlogging? Or are you a Vlogger looking for a bit of fun? Kelly Allen Writer and myself have resurrected #Vlogstars and we want you to join us! #Vlogstars is a monthly Q&A vlog linky, and most importantly, it's bags of fun! Check out our Facebook group to find out more! 

Monday, 30 April 2018

If you think Anxiety is fun, try the new improved META version!


What the heck is META anxiety? It’s anxiety about anxiety (also known as Generalised Anxiety Disorder). And up until a little while ago, I was suffering from a big fat dose of it. It’s not fun.

If any of you have experienced episodes in your life where you’ve had anxiety or panic attacks, you’ll know it’s one of the worst feelings you can experience, ever. I wrote about it here. As I say there, it’s hell. But usually when we suffer from episodes of anxiety, there’s an underlying cause that’s definable. E.g. grief, stress at work, post-natal depression etc.

Usually when I have experienced anxiety it’s linked to events or circumstances which I could identify. I had generalised anxiety when I knew I needed to change my job in 2001. I changed jobs and within 6 weeks my anxiety symptoms disappeared.

Previous Periods of Anxiety

In 2004 my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, just as her mother, my beloved Nana, was in hospital with secondary cancer of the womb. 7 weeks later my Nana was dead. I developed anxiety whilst my mum was receiving chemo. After a traumatic year, my mum had recovered well from the cancer and I went travelling in the Far East for 2 months. My anxiety went.

Four months after my first child was born in 2009 I developed post-natal anxiety. This time I used therapy and an increase in anti-depressants to deal with it. I’d gone on anti-depressants in 2005 for depression (I wasn’t experiencing anxiety at the time). I knew that I couldn’t just “change” my situation! I had to deal with being a mum because it’s for keeps! So therapy and increasing my drugs helped me overcome the anxiety. It took a good while, a couple of months, but then having a baby is a pretty big adjustment!

I got a small bout of Meta anxiety about four months after having my second child in early 2014. I’d assumed that I would get post-natal anxiety with her because I did with my first, but of course the second time around everything is different. You know the sleepless nights will eventually get less frequent, you know the crying will stop, everything is a phase. So when I got anxious, I went to see my therapist and she told me I was anxious because I was expecting to be. There was no reason for it and within a week, my symptoms disappeared again.

Between now and then, I’ve THANKFULLY had hardly any brushes with anxiety. The odd panic episode (not even enough to call a full attack). But mostly I’ve been completely free of it.

What's Happening Now

Just before last Christmas I had a panic attack. It was a one off based on cumulative stress but I think it might have opened the floodgates. The fact that the panic feeling seemingly came out of nowhere (e.g. not one specific event to trigger it) made me feel a bit more vulnerable to it. If I could feel panicky about CHRISTMAS, which is historically my most exciting time of year, then I could feel panicky ABOUT ANYTHING AT ANYTIME.

So when I got ill at the beginning of March with a flu during heavy snowfall that kept us house bound for 4 days, I started to get anxious. And after my daughter had also come down with it and I’d been stuck inside for nearly two weeks, I felt the full force of it. I couldn’t eat or drink properly, I felt sick and shaky the whole time. Desperately exhausted from the adrenaline pumping around my system 24/7. I couldn’t concentrate on much. I couldn’t look forward to any plans because I couldn’t see that I’d ever feel normal again. It makes you so incredibly insular and in a way, selfish too. You can’t think about anything other than the anxiety.

I went back to my therapist and after my first session, I felt better. I could see why it might have come back, quite often people can feel quite down after a viral illness so I expected that it would just peter out, the way it has done in the past.

Except this time, it didn’t. It lingered. That nasty, pervasive, gnawing feeling that things aren’t quite right and you might at any moment start REALLY panicking and lose contro was there almost constantly. And I didn’t know why! It impacted every part of my life. I couldn’t fully enjoy anything because I couldn’t ever relax. Thinking about plans I’d made pre-meta (!) filled me with  dread because there was an evil voice in my head telling me I might have a panic attack. I MIGHT properly lose my mind and unravel in front of EVERYONE. Even though intellectually I knew it was unlikely. There’s a lot of evidence from my past to suggest that I have lived a happy, non-anxious life for MOST of my adult life (and almost all of my childhood/teens). But I might. I might start to feel that rising panic, crawling up my throat from my jelly-like stomach, making my legs weak, my heart beat faster, my head feel lighter and my throat drier.

At the next session I had with my therapist, she reminded me that what I was experiencing is Meta anxiety/GAD. I cried. I cried because it felt like I was going to feel like this forever. It felt like I was never going to get rid of it. It felt like if anything remotely bad happens in my life, I won’t be able to cope because I’ll be in a permanent state of anxiety. I cried because I am ashamed that I can’t cope and I don’t know why. I cried because I didn’t know how to stop it.

We talked some more and she reminded me of the fact that I haven’t always felt anxious so I won’t always feel that way. It WILL go. 

I was unconvinced.

But guess what? I am fine. I am over it. For now. I am back to not waking up with crippling stomach ache and feeling shaky. I wake up and don’t even THINK about it. I am NOT worried about feeling anxious in the future. If anything I feel emboldened by it, I've proved to myself that I can get through it!

So YEY! I am SO GLAD TO BE BACK!

The only positive thing to ever come out of a period of anxiety is how grateful you feel afterwards for everything good in your life. Right now I am absolutely thrilled with life! Woohoo! Let’s DO this!





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Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Feminism has Changed. Time to Embrace it!



What it means to be a Feminist has changed. It’s constantly changing and definitely for the better. We live in a society where we are aware of what everyone thinks about everything is broadcast all over social media 24/7. So Feminism is becoming more accessible and less exclusive. It’s less about anger and more about wanting everyone to have equal opportunities regardless of gender/race/sexuality and ability. And being aware of your place in the privilege hierarchy whilst you’re doing it.

I really became aware of what Feminist meant when I was at Uni. I never felt like boys and girls weren’t completely equal and thinking otherwise was absurd. I'd grown up never consciously feeling "less" than my male peers. But now, at Uni, I had a name for this feeling. So I decided to do a gender studies course which of course confirmed that yes indeed, I was a feminist. However, this was the mid-90s. It was the 3rd wave of feminism…. what I learnt about feminism then intimidated me. So much so that I never felt confident actually saying I was feminist, lest I be interrogated about my beliefs and forced to account for my make-up wearing, men shagging, leg shaving, Patriarchy-kowtowing ways! I wasn’t able to articulate why I was interested in being attractive to the opposite sex. I certainly didn’t feel brave enough to try and defend myself to the bare-faced, hairy, natural-fibre clad, Birkenstock-wearing, uber feminists!

Feminist at this point very much seemed like a militant, all-in-or nothing stand point. And even though I agreed with it wholeheartedly, I wasn’t prepared to come out as one! I was 19 and I was not ready!

That was until the 4th Wave, which started a few years ago (by now, my mid 30s). The emergence of social media in our everyday lives has means that people are much braver in what they “put out there”. You have the edit / delete function. You can craft your arguments much more succinctly and articulately than when you’re sat in a lecture hall or a class room. So women have been starting to say, more and more, “No! This is STILL not OK!” We still have a massive gender divide in our society. We still have unequal pay, we still have victim-blaming, slut-shaming rape culture, disfiguring a woman is seen as acceptable in Afghanistan if she attempts to go to college, until recently women weren’t allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia, Female Genital Mutilation STILL EXISTS. There are endless reasons why feminism is still a very much a conversation we need to have.

But. Saying that. I have friends who don’t want to call themselves feminist. They don’t like the word. They think it’s associated with extremism...bra-burning, man hating anger. Which, in the 60s and 70s it was a bit. But then in the 60s and 70s, women were angry! The distinction between how the sexes were treated was stark. Things have definitely improved in terms of equality since then. We have a long way to go but things are definitely changing. The face of feminism is changing. People want to be seen as “equalists” not one favouring one over another. My answer to that is this. For time in memoriam the pendulum has swung in favour of men. That pendulum has to swing back the other way before it settles in the middle. That’s part of why we have women only events, awards, grants etc. Where are the men-centric equivalent? Note: See all of history!

But thanks to the likes of Caitlin Moran, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Lauren Laverne, Malala, Meghan Markle even flipping Beyoncé (A POPSTAR….shock, horror!), people are talking about Feminism more and more. It’s becoming much more of normal thing to call yourself feminist. Modern feminism isn’t concerned with what you wear, who you sleep with, or what you look like. We aren’t saying we are superior! We are saying, just budge up and give us ALL room at the table! Give our Trans sisters and sisters of colour some room too! Let’s get intersectional & trans-friendly around here, OK?! 

The emergence of the #MeToo is further proof the war is not over. For all the women who use that hashtag, there are more women/men coming muttering about how some of the famous women are fame whores who just want some limelight. There’s still suspicion that SO many women have experienced abuse/harassment. And then there’s the super helpful (!)  “Not All Men” hashtag, a tasteless, badly timed response which totally detracts from the female experience to make it yet AGAIN about them. (Writtenabout quite brilliantly here.)
  
My outlook on this definitely changed, not just as I got older and more confident (the bonus of ageing to counter those wrinkles… you care less about them!). But having kids has made me see the world through their eyes too and, more importantly, the future. I don’t want my daughter to be faced with a future where her only options are pink and sparkly and I sure as hell don’t want my son growing up thinking mummies are domestic slaves and it’s OK to do a cheeky rape if you’re all drunk, especially cos she was wearing a mini skirt! No way.

We need to keep this momentum going, this sisterhood which is emerging across the social media world. The word of 2017 according to online dictionary Merriam-Websterwas Feminism! We need to keep spreading the word, it’s OK to be feminist! It’s GOOD to be feminist! We’ve all got your back! The future is Feminist!


Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Motherland Depresses The Shit Out Of Me.

Motherland is a relatively new comedy series on the BBC that follows a modern, middle class white working woman and her struggles with balancing childcare, cliquey playground mums, an unhelpful grandparent and an absent/selfish father. Whilst I do think it’s very funny, and in some ways quite perceptive, I am also depressed as shit about a few key details. And I actually don’t think it’s helpful to have another TV series which represents childcare as solely a woman’s responsibility, however hilarious and possibly true to life it is.

I do get that art reflects life so in this instance the popularity of this show is down to the fact that mothers see their lives reflected back at them. That IS the experience of many women in the UK right now. They work and they struggle and they sort out the childcare. But if we keep portraying that as the norm on screen, it’s not going to change anything is it? At some point, instead of saying this is your experience...isn’t it shit? How about challenging the stereotypes and having a comedy which represents BOTH parents struggling? Because it IS the responsibility of BOTH parents.

My biggest problem with Motherland is the representation of men. They are either entirely absent – the husband of the main character (Julia) is always off at the football or a stag weekend or at his “more important” job. OR they are simpering weirdos who the female characters either tolerate or are mildly repulsed by. WTF? WHY?

Why are the fathers depicted like this? Like they don’t give a shit about their kids parties or schooling or have any interest in their lives at all? Is this the experience of the writer? Because if it is, I feel sorry for her. Of all the partners / fathers I know ...even the ones who are the most self-absorbed and Neanderthal in attitude (thankfully not many) NONE of them have ZERO interest in the lives of their kids. I’d say at the very least most fathers would be present at their kid’s birthday party, no?

And if they ARE totally absent, as much as that is totally shit, it’s also surely partly your responsibility for putting up with it? There’s a point where Julia is on the phone to her husband, at a stag weekend and he asks, albeit insincerely, if he needs to come home. YES. YES YOU FUCKING DO YOU SELFISH PRICK. And she says no, it’s fine. I’m sure many women relate to that. You feel guilty asking them to help because “they need a break too”. They work hard too. Sure. But when do YOU get a break? Why isn’t he organising the kids party and navigating the social awkwardness of kids parties with cliquey parents? Why aren’t YOU off on a canal boat with a donkey hat on, swigging Pimms and singing songs about vicars and tits?

Because you’re a woman. And that’s your job. According to TV adverts, soap operas, comedies, dramas. Woman sort the kids out, men go to the pub. Still. Now. In 2017. W.T.F.

Also, a small note here as well….the writer, who LIVES in London, doesn’t seem to have noticed ethnic diversity either. Which is odd, given that only 44% of London is White & British according to the 2011 consensus. But perhaps I am being picky here? One thing at a time, eh?

The one character I do really like and I think IS true to life is Liz. Liz DGAF. She’s single, she’s always trying to get a date, she takes parenting with a pinch of salt and she’s singularly unimpressed by the bitchy mums. She’s #squadgoals for me. But what IS Kevin? Does ANYONE know a Kevin?


My plea to the BBC is this…. Can we PLEASE have some Fathers in comedy who aren’t totally shit? They do exist. And even if they don’t exist in abundance, then seeing them represented on screen can only help encourage them to be less shit? And maybe encourage some mums to put up with less shit? Surely? PLEASE? In 2017? Yes?  

Friday, 13 October 2017

I’ve been Sexually Harassed. You Probably Have Too.

The Weinstein thing. It’s everywhere right now. Big (male) Hollywood Producer in casting couch shocker. The term originated there. I am GLAD it’s everywhere, but it’s about time. Finally more and more men who have abused their positions of power are being held accountable.

And it’s obviously creating a wave of emotion from people who have experienced sexual harassment. I’ve seen quite a few girls on Twitter who have felt “triggered” by the news events recently and have had to come off social media to preserve their mental health. Which completely makes sense, despite it being a desperately sad situation.

But then I realised. I’ve been sexually harassed. I’ve been sexually harassed loads in fact. And do you know why that fact has only just occurred to me? Because I’d always just dismissed it as expected behaviour from the environment I was in. I’ll expand.



I’ve have had my bum pinched by a male teacher, aged 9. Thought it was normal (actually I thought it was a bit weird but not enough to say anything to anyone).

I’ve had my bum patted so many times by so many different men that I can’t even remember numbers.

I’ve had my boobs grabbed, and felt up by strangers in bars, night clubs.

I’ve been forcefully kissed on the mouth by a man I was arguing with.

I’ve had my PUSSY grabbed at by a man in a disgusting pub in Canton, Cardiff. And when I protested this, of course I was called a frigid, lesbian bitch. The stock response. Again I've lost count of how many times I've been accused of either or both. 

I’ve never put up with it. I’ve ALWAYS called out whoever has done the grabbing, rubbing, touching. None of it was invited and where I was (in a club/bar) and what I was wearing (maybe a low cut top) NEVER meant I sanctioned being TOUCHED by a stranger. I’ve had many verbal fights with men and a lot of “almost” physical fights before being pulled away by my friends / boyfriend (who mostly got the stick for not controlling his “bitch”).

Now I am lucky. None of these events have traumatised me. They’ve stayed with me. They’ve hardened my determination to see that women get treated more equally in society. Inevitably they HAVE made me feel bitter and angry that we have to put up with being treated like bits of meat in a butchers shop. But I don’t bear the scars and for that I am grateful.

I am not alone though am I? I am willing to bet that most women who read this will also have, at some time in their lives, been on the receiving end of unwanted touching. Or behaviour that has made them feel uncomfortable… like wolf whistling (For which we must all respond graciously for fear of being told we were ugly / fat / disgusting in the first place).

But this is the thing. We’ve grown up expecting it. Even though MOST of us hate it, we know that we have to “just put up with it” because it’s just a bit of fun, isn’t it? It’s a compliment!

Does that seem like an “equal” society to you? That one sex can predominantly make the other sex feel uncomfortable? Of course there are plenty of instances where the tables are turned. Women groping men. I had a friend who would regularly grab men when she was drunk. They were visibly repulsed by it most of the time. Unsurprisingly. But I don’t condone that either. Of course not!

No one needs to touch ANYONE else, unless they are invited to. Lets stop acting like it’s OK.

PLEASE let this persuade you that we still need feminism! Having your bum pinched is a feminist issue! REPRESENT!!!!

Friday, 22 September 2017

Screen Time Revelations!

My husband and I have recently made a fascinating discovery about screen time. The result of which has been, quite frankly, life changing for us.
Since it’s become the norm to own a phone or tablet and more importantly, be glued to that device playing games or scrolling social media endlessly, there has been a lot of media attention focused on whether or not screen time is healthy for us. The blue light emitted from most hand held devices such as phones and tablets can inhibit sleep, for example. So there is plenty of readily available advice about the downside of not having to stare awkwardly into space, avoiding eye contact on public transport!
But. Did we, the Helicopters, as a family, HEED this advice? DID we? Did we heck.
Emlyn and I are as guilty as anyone of coming in from work, feeding and watering the kids, plonking them in front of the TV and then ignoring each other whilst we autonomously check our own newsfeeds in case something amazing has happening in the half hour since we last checked.
This is pretty shit parenting, granted. But I am sure we’re not alone. And I'm being glib here, obviously we’re not that bad….we don’t leave the TV to babysit for hours imprisoned into our own screen addiction. Also I think most people these days feel a bit of guilt about the amount of mindless phone scrolling they do.
With kids however, how do you know how much screen time is too much? Some kids will be naturally drawn to hand held devices. I know it can be a life saver for parents with kids on the autistic spectrum. Jodie from A First Time Valley Mam who’s son is on the scale says it helps him get to sleep every night.
Other kids will love the adrenaline buzz of playing games, watching funny videos or even just watching regular kids TV on them. This is great if you’re on long car journeys or in a doctors waiting room etc. It’s less great when you’re trying to get them out of the door for school or upstairs to brush their teeth for bed.
And then there’s the question about filters and parental controls… are they watching appropriate stuff? Are they chatting to weirdos? Eeek!
So what’s the answer? Well ….we’ve been a bit tardy to the screen-time-is-bad party. We have a 7 year old boy who’s a quite the regular to the “hand held device show” and a 3 year old girl who vaguely showed an interest in the iPad then got over it. However, we've just made a BIG stand with screen time and the results have been remarkable.
As I mentioned, we've been pretty lax with how much screen time our oldest has had. From the age of about 3 we’ve very lazily and let him take our phones (then later the iPad) to play on when he wakes up in the morning. This is because for years he woke between 5-6am everyday. It would enable us to have another half hour-hour asleep when he was younger and then a bit more time as he got older and more independent. But a young boy who’s had a good few hours on an iPad with no breakfast, is probably not going to be Mr Happy when we eventually roll our lazy butts out of bed. And yet it’s taken us years to realise this. I know, WTF is wrong with us?!
He's always been quite an angry kid but when his sister came along we put it down to jealousy. Then when he started school we thought it was tiredness. Things got particularly bad at the end of his last school term. He was permanently stroppy about everything. It was getting to the point where I thought we might have to get some professional anger management advice for him. I was gutted that he seemed so unhappy with his life and I felt like we really might need someone to help us work through whatever it was making him so frustrated.
I planned a trip to the doctor to discuss this and his issues with sleep. He’d stay up late (despite being in a proper wind-down bed routine since he was a baby) and still wake up at the crack of dawn. The day before I took him, I'd heard from a friend that she'd banned screen time with one of her sons who’d been sneaking off and watching YouTube. It had a huge impact on his behaviour. We'd been reluctant to try it really because we were cowards. We knew that the few times before when we had hidden the iPad in the mornings, he'd wake the whole house up at 5.30am singing or playing loudly.
That night though, we bit the bullet and gave him and out and out ban on all hand held screen time in the week and no longer than a handful of 10 mins intervals on the weekends. His behaviour DRASTICALLY improved. The doctor did give us some advice about sleep which has really helped too. The two things must be related. He’s currently not waking up super early and it can’t be a coincidence that he’s not allowed to race down stairs and get the iPad. He gets up and draws or plays with his lego. He doesn’t bellow the house down! Who knew?! I’m utterly gob smacked by the whole thing! Why the HECK didn’t we do this sooner?! I mean really?! What is WRONG with us!
Mornings are so SO much easier without him being stroppy and rude after being asked to put the iPad down. He's a different child. Not only has his mood improved, he's stopped being so horrible to his sister which is a bloody miracle. He spends his time either on the trampoline, writing stories, drawing or making stuff. It seems so completely obvious now…
It is still a bit of a battle sometimes. When he’s feeling tired and lazy, he’ll just want to sit down and zone out and he’ll beg to go on a phone or whatever. But we are standing firm. He’ll usually just settle for a film on the TV.
So my advice to you, at the end of this, is if you are having behaviour issues with your kids and you can’t work out why, maybe check how much screen time they get. Kids aren’t all the same but for some, it’s most definitely a perpetrator of doom! So perhaps it’s time to step away from the iPad….
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