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My brown bag

28 Jun

The writing workshop theme over at Sleep is for the weaks blog is ‘Personality catwalk’. Here’s my attempt:

I’m not a handbag kind of girl. Give me a rucksack any day of the week, but there are just some days that call for a handbag. I’ve only really got one that I use (though during attempts to be more feminine, I’ve collected a few). It is a bag made from lots of brown leather patches. My dad bought it for a birthday one year and I loved it instantly.

It’s been through some of the hardest moments with me (though it didn’t make it to the hospital when I had Toby). It’s sat in interviews and watched me stutter. It’s been in new business pitches and watched me succeed. It’s been to yummy restaurants and it’ll definitely make an appearance at Cybermummy. I will continue to take it to important events (when I cant get away with a rucksack) and I hope we see in many more successes – and not failures – together.

The brown leather is rather worn and quite shabby in places; probably a lot like me. If I had the time to get it treated it would probably look a thousand times better; probably a lot like me with make-up. Its leather patches are all just slightly different And it’s two straps allow me to revert to my preferred bag of choice – a rucksack – when cycling through london to meetings.

What lurks inside is a great analogy for my life. It is utter chaos and (while Tom, my partner would disagree) what makes up this chaos is vitally important and represents every aspect of my being. There’s always a nappy, baby wipes and a small toy or two. That’s the mum in me. There’s my book of to-do, which is the mum, the house partner and the career girl in me. There’s usually an iPad or laptop (not to be confused as a toy as Toby often does). There’s always half a dozen pens, which shows the paranoid side of me – what if they all were to run out of ink?! There’s old sweet wrappers – I have a terrible sweet tooth and my purse (which holds a whole host of other rubbish). There’s lipgloss and mascara, which is usually used en route and shows the disorganized side to me. And of course my phone, of which I have a serious addiction and helps me navigate my way – sometimes unsuccessfully – through life.

I love this bag and everything it represents, even if its contents can become a little overwhelming at times.

Cybermummy 2011: Oh what a day…

27 Jun

The big, hugely anticipated day came and now it’s over and I’m still trying to piece together my thoughts on just how fantastic it was. Here’s just a few snippets of the highlights for me:

1. I got to meet the #Mumentum ladies and other gorgeous bloggers: After many emails, tweets, blog posts, comments I finally got to meet the fabulous ladies I speak to so regularly on the internet.  This. EXCEEDED. MY. EXPECTATIONS. I’ve always felt a bit out of place around other mums I meet at music class and swimming lessons. I can’t quite put my finger on the reason for this, and nor do I care to dig to understand, but all the ladies I met at Cybermummy were on my wavelength. I wonder if there’s a certain type of mum who takes to the blog as a way to muddle through? Anyway, big, enormous bear hugs to everyone I met because you were all awesome.

2. Inspirational Women: Sarah Brown, Erica Douglas, Sian To, Kate Cannard what can I say? You’re juggling it all and doing so well. Being a mum and trying to keep on top of things is HARD and you guys have certainly given me an inspirational boost. However, it’s not only you guys. It’s the other bloggers I got chatting to that made me feel slightly less conscious of my failings as a mum, a self-employed person, a partner, a person who does housework and the guilt of that enormous washing pile began to lift. I came across some great advice –  ‘we can’t hold onto the things that we feel we’re failing at, we just have to go with the successes’. The modern mother has a bloody tough job on their hands and I give a big, virtual high-five to every single mother out there.

3. Why do I blog? This question was posed several times and each time, my thoughts were reinforced. For me, my blog is a catalogue of disasters, successes, fears, insecurities and happy times during my attempt to be successful as a mother, partner, family member, house dweller, friend, hobby triathlete, career person. It acts as an outlet and a way to chat with others in my position, keeping me from the straight jacket. That is all.

4. A good excuse to let my hair down: Where’s the child? Oh, he’s at home with daddy, which means Mummy can sit still and concentrate on a conversation, really taste that coffee and breath without fearing that said child will run around the room creating utter devastation. It was a break from the snot and the dirty nappies (though there was an attempted poo throwing before I left the house) and I could wear a nice dress in the comfort that it would not end up with food thrown down it or my breasts exposed to the world with Toby grabbing at the straps.

5. Toilet talk: I was able to go to the loo alone and in peace. This is the thing I miss most from my single years. I also gleaned a bit of advice on potty training, which has been bugging me for some time. The outcome: It’s not time to start just yet.

So, there’s some immediate thoughts (not quite so immediate, but the day was too beautiful yesterday to lift the laptop lid). Fingers crossed I’ll get to see you Cybermummiers again soon. x

Monday MuMenTum – why is it so hard to fit in exercise?

6 Jun

It’s MuMenTum Monday again, which means some hopping and skipping over at Liska’s (New Mum Online).

My mission in joining in on this fabulous blog hop is to reach the required level of motivation to get my fitness back and shift that last stone of ‘baby weight’. But I have a question for you: Can I really call it baby weight still? Toby’s 16 months old! Who am I kidding, it’s just weight.

This week I am going to use this blog post as a virtual couch in a psychologists office. It’s been a bad week and there are so many reasons why getting your fitness back – and maintaining it – is so darn difficult.  Following a major high point after completing a day of the dreaded Tour of Wessex, I failed to squeeze in no more than a couple of runs and a spinning session last week. I have let myself down – failed.  The problem is, there are too many things that take priority over and above exercise these days. When I was single and baby-less, I had no distractions. Since having Toby, I’ve started down the road of WAHMing (working from home mummying) and this new venture is more time consuming than the full-time office job.

With the office just upstairs, I’m finding it difficult to switch off – even on the weekends. Then there’s Toby; when I’m not working (or blogging) I really should be spending time with my little monkey. And if I don’t he’s taken to punishing me – like a rabid dog – with bites. The whole point to me working from home was to have more time to spend with him and though this goal has been met from a physical perspective I could do better with paying him attention. Why did no one point out how guilty you are left feeling – no matter what you do?

Then there’s the housework, the cooking, the garden, trying to find time for friends and family. Working from home and having Toby running around the house like the tazmanian devil creates the biggest amount of chaos. The house constantly looks like we’ve been burgled and no matter how hard I try, I just can’t make it tidy. I need some elves.  Since Toby turned up, I’ve had to shift things up three gears just to fit things in… And I’m still only treading water. Once that’s all done, I am shattered. So, how do these amazingly fit mums do it? I have so much respect for Paula Radcliffe, who months after giving birth won the New York marathon – amazing.

I used to get a lot of my exercise done before work, so I’ve tried this tactic, but Toby seems to beat my alarm every morning. I’ve never been great at evening exercise and frankly, once I’ve fed, bathed, read a story, given bottle, brushed teeth and got Toby into bed, I simply haven’t got the energy to spare.

Anyone got any tips on how to squeeze exercise into a hectic day with a toddler?

Save the Children: All children should be allowed to grow up

27 May

Save the Children has launched a very worthy campaign ‘No Child Born to Die’ and it aims to save 4 million lives in 4 hours at the global vaccines summit, London on June 13th. The objective of the campaign is to secure the shortfall in funding from donor countries (4.7 billion) for vaccinations for all children. You can help them achieve this by signing their petition.

As Red Ted Art points out ‘Every year 8 million children under five die from illnesses we know how to treat or prevent, such as diarrhoea and pneumonia.’ Now I don’t know about you, but since becoming a mummy I find reading sentences like this even more unbearable. Having a little toddler running around the house brings it all a bit too close to home. In the week’s that followed Toby’s birth my tired mind contemplated life issues in great detail. Bringing new life into the world makes you question everything so much more (either that or I was suffering from some sort of post traumatic stress disorder. And the long, lonely nights of breastfeeding a newborn gives you far too much time to think).

So, during these weeks, possibly months, I began an inner dialogue: What made Toby so lucky to be born a healthy 9 Ibs 1 with no major problems when other babies are born into poverty, undernourished and don’t survive? What made him so lucky to be born into a loving family (that’s not to say that poverty and lack of love are synonymous, just that there are a lot of unloved babies in the world). What made him so fortunate to be born with all the medical care he could want for? Not to mention the food and warmth? And I questioned how I would deal with things if they were in any way different. I was lucky too.

Now don’t get me wrong. Toby deserves it all, but every baby born into this world – indiscriminately – deserves the same.  So when Multiple Mummy tagged me into Red Ted Art’s meme, I began thinking about all those questions again. To help raise awareness of this campaign, Red Ted has devised ‘crafty challenge’. Our mission, should we wish to accept is to discuss what our children want to be when they grow up and get them to draw about it, teaching them about the sadder side of life through play.

So I began the impossible and sat Toby, 15 months, down and asked him: What do you want to do when you grow up? This question was met with silence, but a look of serious contemplation crossed his face. My tone was fairly serious, so I wonder if he thought I was telling him off. I repeated the question with a kinder tone. Still nothing. One final attempt and I got the response ‘tea’ (which, as of Tuesday, takes ‘first word’ status). So Toby wants to be tea when he grows up. Fair enough – I like tea, hence its place as word number 1. I then took the time to explain to him the Save the Children campaign and let him know that he is a lucky little boy and there are many little boys in the world just like him who don’t get to go to the doctor. I’m not sure he quite understood, but it was worth a shot.

Now for step two of the task. Toby had to draw his future job – tea! I gathered up his big crayons – which he prefers to eat rather than use to draw with – and sat him down with two pieces of white card. He looked at it for a while with a puzzled expression. Then – result – he picked up the yellow crayon and scribbled a very faint line. He has scribbled more in the past, but today he was not going to and I could read his mind: ‘I’m not a performing monkey, mummy’ and with that he put the pen down got on his choo choo ride along and was off, picking up a book on the way. Perhaps a sign that he has decided being tea is no longer a suitable career option, replaced by train driver or novelist.

I tried again, but he then got distracted by the bikes sat in our conservatory. So on to the next job – a professional cyclist. I’ll take that!

To conclude, I have no artwork to share, but I do have the memories and a few pics to show the process. I also hope that this blog post goes a very small way to helping raise awareness of Save the Childrens’ great campaign. Please take the time to sign the petition. If suffering is preventable, we should bloody well do something about it.

And now the final part of the task. I must tag eight others wonderful mummy bloggers to take part. Here goes, and sorry if you’ve aready been tagged!

Blogcamp – how to build a great mummy blog

14 May

Last Thursday I went to Blogcamp. Oh lordy, I sound like a true geek, but actually it was incredibly fun, informative and there were some rather lovely cupcakes (must find out where they came from!).  The best thing about Blogcamp was that I got to meet some fabulous blogging mummies (New Mum Online, Working London Mummy, Actually Mummy, Red Ted Art, Lunchbox World, My Mumdom, Ravelled Threads (who’s not a mummy, but a brill blogger), An Imperfect Life and The Scrummy Mummy).

The first presentation of the day was utterly hilarious. Bangs and a Bun, whose blog I highly recommend, provided some genius snippets of advice. The first being that when you’re writing your blog, you have to know what you’re purpose is – your identity – and inject some of ‘you’. As a PR professional, this is pretty standard advice, but applying it to my own work is not so easy. I feel I found my voice very early on in my blog, but its purpose changed as I came to realise what that voice was. I started my blog to discuss both work and mummy issues, and working mummy issues. I quickly realised that PR and mummy stuff didn’t really fit together and have since started another blog (along with my own business) to discuss the PR side of my life.

My main goal from this blogging exercise was to engage with other mummies. As a working mother, I fast found myself losing touch with the NCT ladies I had spent my early parenting days discussing sleepless nights, smelly nappies and breastfeeding issues with. There was simply no time to meet with them and entering the blogosphere gave me not only an outlet for my thoughts on the highs and lows of motherhood, but conversation and reassurance from other mothers out there. And that’s why I loved Blogcamp so much. I got to meet other mummies going through the same weaning, teething, sleeping problems and I met other people with a passion for words and blogging. We all want to feel understood and in this group, I felt I was.

The next presentation was from Domestic Sluttery about building your community. All very useful stuff and another great blog I was introduced to. We also had a presentation on Internet safety from TalkTalk. Following my recent post on my nephew’s jaunt around the net, this was very interesting. Toby is not quite at the age of having to worry, but he sure as hell knows how to work an iPad. Before he’s out of nappies, I’ll need to form a game plan to keep him safe.

We then moved onto the more technical side of blogging. The most interesting thing from the design man, Daffyd, was that we read websites in an F pattern. Again, it’s something I do every day, but without realising. This behaviour should dictate how your blog/website is formatted. We read along the top first, then down the left side, then back across the right (or something).

The final talk of the day, was brilliant. @LeeSmallwood managed to take the fairly techie topic of online search and turn it into something meaningful. We discussed meta description, titles, trends, H1 headers, images and tags – all of which can help your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).

I now have a blogging to-do list as long as my arm.

Thanks Sally Whittle, over at Who’s the Mummy for organising such a fab event. It was mucho enjoyed.

Twitter: The next CNN?

10 May

In the aftermath of Osama bin Laden’s death, there was much noise suggesting that Twitter had seen its CNN Moment. While I don’t deny that Twitter is a powerful force of news aggregation and dispersal, I wonder whether those articles were placing just a bit too much emphasis on Twitter as a source of ‘breaking news’.

There is no denying that Twitter had an important role in the world’s awakening to the events on 2nd May. Sohaib Athar or @ReallyVirtual, unknown to him, was tweeting the mission live as it was being carried out: ‘Helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1AM (is a rare event)’. Twitter was also the first to ‘speculate’ on bin Laden’s death. Keith Urbahn, Chief of staff for Donald Rumsfeld, tweeted at 10.45pm EDT, ‘So I’m told by a reputable person they have killed Osama bin Laden. Hot damn”. It then took 20 minutes for the media to confirm what many now already suspected, thanks to the Twitverse. So the question is, did Twitter break the news? Are CNN, The BBC and others now at risk of being outdone by Twitter.

In this case, and the many that have come before, Twitter did not break the news. By Urbahn’s own admission he was not a reliable source. His tweet was unconfirmed speculation; It was rumour – not news. 20 minutes later the news channels confirmed his theory and this is news. Twitter is not a form of journalism; journalism is a profession with specific skills and best practice. Twitter is a platform for news to be spread. It would be crazy to say that everyone using Twitter is a journalist. Had Keith been a journalist, from a reputable media outlet and had he confirmed sources and statements, then that is another matter.

What we can say with certainty is that Twitter and other social media are changing the rules of news for journalists and consumers. The World is shrinking and news spreads like wildfire. At 11pm ET, ahead of Obama’s speech there were 5,106 tweets per second and once the speech was finished 5,008 tweets were being sent per second. According to Geoffrey Fowler, Wall Street Journal, there were 1.3 million people commenting in some way on bin Laden’s death between late Sunday night and Monday morning. These conversations, whether they be on Twitter or Facebook, find themselves onto people’s screens; people dont have to be looking. The information society has created a 24/7 flow of news and while I’ve no idea how many people these tweet’s were reaching, I’d guess it was an absurd amount. What this hammers home: Twitter and other social platforms are incredibly powerful.

Osama bin Laden’s death a double-edged PR sword for Obama

6 May

When Osama bin Laden was shot dead in Islamabad the President must have been ecstatic. The news has propelled his support in the polls, with four in 10 Americans seeing Obama in a better light.

Obama was once seen as a weak Commander in Chief; a poll by Reuters in March this year revealed that only 17 per cent of Americans saw him as a strong and decisive military leader. His action, or inaction as some see it, over the recent spate of Middle East uprisings have left many with a feeling that he lacks the hard decision-making skills necessary for the Presidency. This apparently sent Hilary Clinton over the edge!

I wonder whether his critics will be quite as harsh on him now. Probably not. This is PR win number one… Obama is no longer the most indecisive, weakest Commander in Chief in American history, but the guy who rid the world of evil.

The second PR win from this is that the killing of bin Laden will help Obama in his quest to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. These combined factors will give Obama some breathing space and a very healthy start in his election campaign.

However, a PR fail, has been the inconsistencies in information provided to the public on the circumstances surrounding bin Laden’s death. At first there was a torrid of resistance by bin Laden’s armed men and bin Laden had used one of his wives as a shield from the bullets. This made the story spectacularly more palatable to the media, allowing sensationalist headlines. Yet this information was then overruled by stories that bin Laden was in fact unarmed and the wife had run at the US military. Just a small U-turn then!

This has cast a shadow, albeit small, on the success of Obama and his military’s actions, which makes you question why they couldn’t just get their story straight from the outset? Well, social media probably played a role. The story ‘broke’ on Twitter and the power of social media spread the word thick and fast. Obama’s administration had very little time to produce their statements and when the news went public he was probably still in the middle of working out what he was going to say.

This is one of the more pertinent examples of how social media is playing a role in world news. The trend of hearing news first on twitter or facebook is not going away and organisations need to be aware of the implications of social media and plan their communications accordingly.