All posts by Caroline

Diary of a sugar addict

Diary of a sugar addict – one year on

I am alive and kicking. Diary of a sugar addict

This time last year I was diagnosed with candida albicans a yeast infection of the gut.

Long term side effects were just that, long term. I was always tired and lethargic. It didn’t matter whether I had ten or six hours of sleep a night, I would wake up feeling like I had ran a marathon.

I would literally drag myself to the bathroom such was the exhaustion I felt. I put it down to the menopause, hormone imbalances, mood swings, nausea, sickness, fuzzy head, a feeling that all I ever wanted to do was lie down and sleep for a week.

It was awful and the final straw was mid January 2016 when my husband and I took a day off from work to meet with some friends from Spain who were celebrating their wedding anniversary with a trip to the UK.

A lunch and two prosecco later I felt grim my face went a darker shade of puce, I vomited and my heart felt like it was about to explode, without exaggeration I sat in the toilet of the restaurant downstairs thinking what the heck could I be allergic too that could cause such a severe reaction?

Having eaten I assumed it must be food related and although I had been keeping a food diary for the last year I could not see anything in my diet that cause such a violent reaction.

Fortunately Rocio our friend happens to be an ER nurse she was concerned for me and tried to ascertain what the problem was. By the time we came to leave my heart rate had slowed and my stomach felt a bit better. But I still felt awful.

We travelled back from Cambridge and I was able to get a Dr’s appointment the following morning.

By the time I went to bed I was wasted, the nausea had lessened but I had a headache and felt like it was the morning after the night before.

The visit to the Dr didn’t highlight any abnormality either she felt around my abdomen explaining that she wanted to feel if my liver was swollen.

I had the proprietary blood test and after an explanation of my symptoms my Dr was none the wiser.

Diary of a sugar addict

It was my six weekly maintenance check at my osteopath and a quiet mention of what had happened prompted her to recommend seeing an allergy specialist.

Two days later there I was right palm turned upwards with a strange looking copper probe attached to a machine, a type of acupuncture, non invasive and totally pain free.

Having been asked a whole host of questions and being grilled about my lifestyle, when was the last time I had taken antibiotics, had food poisoning, was I on HRT and so forth. I was convinced I was allergic to something, but what, I had no idea.

I hinted maybe it might be shellfish? Did you have that at lunchtime when you started to be ill, no I said.

She set her pen down gave me a wry smile and said I know exactly what it is but, I am going to do the proprietary tests to confirm my diagnosis.

Almost forty minutes later Sam sat back in her chair and said ‘you have candida albicans.’

In its basic form it is like having thrush in the gut, ‘that sounds nasty’, I said.

It is, ‘and if we don’t get a grip of it now the long term side effects are awful.’

I am severely allergic to sugar and yeast and the change I had made in my diet in the middle of 2015 going vegetarian eating bran and oat based products were full of sugar.

Those two prosecco I had had were the last straw on my body, finally it had had enough and that was why the reaction was so bad.

Was I really a sugar addict?

Sam explained that even though I had been keeping a food diary, I couldn’t see the correlation between any of the foods because what I was looking for is invisible.

It is hidden in all the foods we eat, SUGAR. Over time I had unwittingly increased the amount I was consuming not by fault but because the healthier food alternatives I had substituted into my diet were full of sugar.

In fact the more I studied the ingredients the more I found that these so called healthier foods contained more sugar than the standard food items.

Diary of a sugar addict

Yeast wasn’t so much of a problem it meant replacing bread with sourdough bread, gravy, mushrooms, cheese, but I was allowed the creamy cheeses, nuts had to go and I needed to make sure I didn’t over do it on the carbohydrates which if you remember in biology, convert to sugar.

Trying to find food products without sugar that turned out to be another story.

Pretty much everything I had in my cupboard contained sugar in some shape or form, even my organic pasta, rice, soups, pasta sauces. I couldn’t believe it sugar was in all the food groups I presumed to be good for you.

Take Kellog’s cereal it boasts that it has niacin, vitamin C and D and yet sugar lurks there the same with babies’ follow on milk.

That was the biggest shock as I picked up the milk I used to feed my two boys after I finished breastfeeding and there it was again, sugar, easy to miss and why would you examine the ingredients in such detail you assume that these brands have your babies’ welfare at heart.

Think again.

We are a nation of obese people, we are addicted to the white stuff and yet half of us don’t even know it. Sugar is introduced into our diet at birth and we have no control over it.

In spite of the various campaigns to highlight how bad sugar is, brands are still incorporating it into all their foodstuffs.

I’m not advocating complete elimination a little bit of what you like does you good my mother’s saying goes but we cannot get on top of the obesity or diabetes crisis unless we do something about how brands communicate exactly how much sugar is in the product.

Running outsideOne year on and the brain fuzz has gone I am fitter and leaner than ever, my diet consists of three meals a day and no snacking in between.

When I was tested in January, Sam gave me a clean bill of health I had nuked the candida.

This wasn’t a sign for me to get back on the wagon but the occasional glass of red wine which I had sorely missed and the odd bit of chocolate was allowed.

I am in this habit now and old habits die hard, a subtle reminder of nausea tells me that I shouldn’t have had that hot cross bun, a reality check that sugar can’t ever be in my diet.

Diabetes and obesity is costing the NHS billions which is great news for the pharmaceutical companies, they sell their drugs needed to help people with diabetes and health related problems, therefore they have a vested interest in ensuring sugar stays well and truly in our diets.

I am reminded of the that wonderful film Wall-E when the human race has left earth because of the huge garbage pile up, we are there except it is obesity and not garbage.

A worrying thought for the future of the human race?

We are on a self destruct button without even knowing it.

And unless the food giants start taking responsibility and take the necessary action to support our well being and health then I fear that candida will be just the tip of a very long and deep iceberg.

Further Reading

Diary of a sugar addict

My six weeks of digital detox

 

What I've learnt since reaching my 50s

How life has changed since I reached my 50’s

Hell it’s January, my birthday was on the 3rd and as I stirred from my slumber I smiled inwardly and then buried my head into the pillow as it dawned on me it was another birthday  a-g-a-i-n, another year older. What I've learnt since reaching my 50s

It comes around  too quickly and it is the worst time of the year to have a birthday.

You are after all, just an afterthought following the excitement, stress and tension leading up to christmas.

The third of January was the festival of sleep day I probably should have stayed in bed but my domestic goddess heralded an early start to clean my house from top to bottom following christmas festivities.

A glass of champagne mid morning and I remembered that it is ‘Dry January”.

And, after the amount I had consumed over christmas ( I can only drink champagne, gin or vodka because of my sugar free diet, you can read more here, whoever thought of the idea of giving up alcohol for one month?

Here I am eleven days into the start of a new year and, like most women, contemplating what new year’s resolutions I should make and  what goals I should lay down for myself.

I have decided the only resolution I am sticking to this year is keeping my journal updated more regularly.

The last few days have given me the opportunity to reflect on what it’s like to reach my 50’s.

What I've learnt since I've reached my 50s

I’m looking good for my age, I can still turn a head or two when you look at me from behind and I’m wearing sun glasses. It is only a number but it leaves me feeling like I haven’t quite lived up to my own expectations.

There is the lingering thought that I should have done more at this more than halfway stage of my life.

I feel restless, my children no longer need me as much as they did nor my husband for that matter, the family we have created with our children is no longer as tight knit as it once was.

Trying to get everyone to sit down and do something together as a family is becoming more infrequent.

I am in my early 50s, in a happy marriage (mostly) but I feel I am in danger of disappearing from view, I will be sixty in seven years, it’s out there, a time bomb slowly ticking and, is this really my lot?

I can understand what mid life crisis really means when men and women want to cut loose break free and pursue dreams, new adventures with new partners even.

Women who feel they’ve lost out on life being a wife, mother and work can be demanding and thankless on the best of us.

What does reaching your 50s really mean?

Could I accomplish more?

Is there anything left to do?

Your fifties is unlike any other age it is truly a milestone, you have blossomed into a mature woman, strong capable confident and independent.

You’ve gained experience from life’s mishaps, you’ve stumbled along the way but managed to get up and soldiered on.

You’ve made compromises, sacrifices even, at your own expense, you evaluate, examine every square inch of your life and although you may be lucky enough to have found your place in life’s rich pattern, you are still developing and learning but, confident where you are.What I've learnt since reaching my 50s

You realise that you can not be in control of your destiny and this is part of growing older.

I have spent some time getting to know myself, getting in touch with the inner me and I think this has a lot to do with the fact that I have ageing parents, one of whom suffered a mini stroke before christmas and my husband’s father who recently passed away.

You become more aware of your own mortality and that of others around you, the onset of old age, accidents and illness are potential life changers.

Losing loved ones, friends and family reminds us that death is but a short breath away.

Your fifties are about navigating your way around ailing parents, death, health issues, career,education and maybe divorce and new relationships.

You look at the footprint behind you and wonder, is this the life you wanted, did the the map get you to where you wanted to go, is this where you want to be?

If life has thrown a few curved balls at you, then, the question is, if not now then when?

In our youth obsessed culture, fifty seems to be a turning point, the juncture at which it feels like you are disappearing from view.

There is the realisation that time is passing quickly it is also marching right across your face,  no amount of money spent on invigorating skin care and promises of age lifting and highlighting creams will change the fact that you are no longer fit for purpose.

The spin on the internet, in women’s magazines and the movie actresses looking glamourous and gorgeous only reinforces that the stigma of being over 50 is very real.

Too young to retire too old to start over?

Yet, in spite of this we come with a wealth of experience and knowledge, we are competent, reliable, trustworthy emotionally mature and capable.

Pro-agingImagining your future over the age of 50 requires courage and imagination we can be physically, mentally and emotionally agile but we can’t predict what the future holds so we need to be adaptable and resilient to cope, we must have a willingness to be bold, step back take a fresh look at where we are and what we want as our needs change.

My fifties have come to symbolize a new starting point a launch pad into my 60s, a kind of starting over.

I feel that this is the year I must make changes, take that trip to Croatia on my own, travel to the US, on my own like I did when I was 19, try that mindfulness/meditation class I keep meaning to go to but seemingly make excuses for.

In our self-obsessed, self-prioritising and self-help culture it seems that I am forever questioning what I should be doing,  am I doing the right thing and where I fit in when really all I need to be is bold, beautiful and forever audacious.

What do you think? Is 50 a game changer? Should we give up now and bury ourselves or are we really just fabulous darling at 50?

Further Reading

How to stay young at 50

What is holding women back?

Beauty woman is showing middle finger

I’m f****d off with the swearing in my household.

I have been in a quandary over my kids who seem unable to string a sentence together without using bloody, shit, crap and my eldest son’s frequent use of the “F” word. iStock_000017748204Small

I have taught my kids to use swearing judiciously what I mean is sometimes swearing just damn well makes you feel better in certain situations, but, if you have to use a swear word when there are literally thousands of other words in the english dictionary then it shows ignorance.

I admit I express my anger or frustration with someone or something by swearing.

Anyone who doesn’t swear – move over because I have yet to meet a clean mouth but should we swear in front of our children?

I have become increasingly annoyed with the use of swear words in our household, from the aforementioned to the blatantly rude.

If my husband is telling off one of the children, does the word shit or your f*****g useless have to be in every sentence?

And when I attempt to point out the overuse of swear words, I am reprimanded for having sworn at someone who chose not indicate at a roundabout on the school run.

My retort was that although there is no excuse, I felt justified because the chap was a complete idiot for not using his indicators, I wasn’t actually swearing directly at anyone, merely showing my exasperation.

Do you have a favourite child?A swear word in a sentence reinforces an argument or justification it helps get the point over, and whilst I do not advocate swearing in front of the kids I am well aware that they probably got to know most of them by the time they were ten.

Having boys usually means it is never too long before a fight ends up in a war of swear words.

As I was preparing dinner one night, I heard the boys arguing, ‘you are a c**t’, the word hung  in the air, I stood, motionless, my mind blank, what should my response be?

There was no denying the fact it was the C word.

The word cunt is the ultimate profanity, a filthy dirty word that can only be used when all other words have been expended.

I confess to using the word when I believe it is absolutely necessary for emphasis when I am describing something or someone to my husband to unleash my anger or irritation but certainly never in public and definitely not in front of my kids.

What upset me more was the fact that it was used, there are after all plenty of less explicit words. It may seem like I have double standards but this word has never been used in earshot of our children.

Beauty woman is showing middle fingerI remember the first ‘dirty word’ I hurled at my younger brother, ‘bastard’, I was no more than nine or ten.

We were arguing and I had heard it at school and thought it was cool to use it even though I had no idea what it meant. I hadn’t bargained on my father being at the bottom of the stairs.

He shouted at me to come downstairs, expecting a whack on my backside, unsurprisingly, I got a good telling off making me die of embarrassment.

I wasn’t told what the word meant and why in that situation it was wrong.

If children swear and we hear them using such words surely it makes parenting sense to explain to them what the word means and why it wasn’t or isn’t the most appropriate word.

Some of you reading this may be disgusted and appalled by the use of any swear word, but they exist and you will find them in the english dictionary.

I love words, I love our language including all the swear words and I use all of them within reason at the right time and place.

There is nothing like saying ‘fuck it’ when you bang your knee or shit when you forget something. I also love the obsession americans have with ‘arsehole’, pronounced ass-hole.

I can remember my youngest son, who was three at the time going through the phase of repeating everything he heard, he used a word that even now just makes me cringe on a holiday flight to Spain.

He shouted out as loudly as he could, ‘’vagina, vagina vagina’ much to the laughter of those who were in earshot.

I don’t use swear words as insults they aren’t hurled at people to be offensive or for the sake of it often swearing helps reduce the pain you feel when you bang into something.

They are also effective for demonstrating your feelings.

As parents I see it as my job to teach my kids the nuances of swearing, what words mean and why they are not always acceptable to use because I believe it is all part of the growing up process.

Kids swear in front of their peers so they feel accepted and equal.

I can insist that my children do not swear at each other or at their parents but if they hear us swear then there is no validity in me admonishing them.

Children who hear their parents swear will also swear if they think it is the norm, telling a child off for swearing is hypocritical.

How do we strike a balance?

I have given a lot of thought about swearing in our household:-

Is swearing a problem or becoming one in our house? 

How often do we, as parents, swear in ear shot of the kids?

How often do I hear my kids swear?

How do I react when I hear them swearing?

As parents, are we in danger of becoming complacent and swearing for the sake of it, irrespective of whether the children are around us?

Considering all of the above I can genuinely say yes we have a problem.

Whilst I cannot lay claim to being holier than thou,  if we are not careful, swear words will become the new standard and I am bloody well uncomfortable with that.

What do you think about swearing?

Do you talk to your children about it, do you tell them what words mean if you hear them swear?

Does it bother you and if so what have you done to curb swearing in your household?

istock_000000568002small

What IS holding women back?

Are you a feminist someone asked me the other day?

‘What gave you that idea’, I said. What is holding women back

‘You’re very passionate about women’s rights, the ideal working environment for women, the desire for women to succeed and achieve more without feeling they are honey monsters wearing skirts’.

I walked away scratching my head.

Am I a feminist?

I am feminine yes, but a feminist?

I have issues with the ‘ist’ there are many words ending with ist –  sexist, misogynist, ageist, alarmist, educationalist, in fact, 1,201 words to be precise and these words represent some of my views.

Women who succeed are portrayed very poorly by the media, which means they must be bitches capable of whisking that proverbial rug right from underneath you, trip you up on the way to the board room, stab anyone in the back who gets in the way of them.

Yet, many women have worked hard and have achieved success on their own merit, putting in over and above the next man to reach their professional goals.

istock_000000568002smallWe wouldn’t talk about a man in the same way and yet it appears to be normal to assume that a woman at the top has demolished everyone in her wake to get there rather than through sheer bloody hard work.

Conversely, why is it so damning if you give up your career and have children and then choose to go back to work.

The overriding feeling is one of guilt, women are made to feel bad because of the choices they make.

Who or what makes them feel this way?

No one made me feel this way it was my own self doing, the media and other populist channels perpetuating the myth that women with children who work, stay at home mums and career women with children are made to feel guilty.

‘Motherhood’ is the problem, yet millions of us do it.

Balancing work and motherhood and feeling guilty about the choices we make.

It is hard being a woman in the 21st century.

No matter how hard we work we are still facing the same misogynistic rhetoric; women, work and motherhood still doesn’t quite fit into our ‘man-made’ society.

Have we come far enough since Emmeline Pankhurst ardently fought for women’s rights?

And whilst we have made great strides we are still having to justify our existence.

We are biologically different, we have vaginas and are capable of reproducing the species.

If men could reproduce would they still face the same injustices and inequalities as we do?

The longer your maternity leave the less likely you will be able to enter at the level of job at which you left.

How is this fair, just because we have babies does not mean we go deaf dumb and blind.

Why should having time off be damaging to your career path?iStock_000010266186Small

Keeping in contact with the company that employs you during your maternity leave is a good way of ensuring longevity at the firm.

Men don’t face this conundrum so why should women?

If organisations were open with their employees women would feel able to talk to their boss, share their desire to have children and when pregnant be able to work out a strategy that is best for the company and for the woman so that once the baby is born she has a plan on when to return to work, if that is what she chooses to do.

How do we change the perception of womanhood and motherhood for that matter?

Girls are brought up to do girl things we are stereotyped from birth this then continues through the education system, girls are not always encouraged to pursue studies in science and engineering  because they are seen as typically male.

It is difficult for girls because there is a lack of strong female role models they can look up to.

Businesses need to value the contributions that women add and they should be recognised for the talent and ingenuity they bring.

Such small steps can influence the impact on gender diversity.

Mother embracing her little girl before leaving to workLook at the meteoric rise of Ms May, Sturgeon and Frau Merkel who announced recently that she is intending to stand for a fourth term in office; these are women at the pinnacle of their profession.

Senior women in business demonstrate that it is possible to reach the upper limits.

When I was pregnant with my first child, my boss wanted to keep the whole thing quiet, I on the other hand came up with a great marketing idea that also included telling all my customers I was expecting and what to do in my absence.

My boss was mortified, if he’d had his way I would have been put into a shed for nine months not to be seen again he was paranoid about my pregnancy bump being on show in public.

Seventeen years after the birth of my eldest and we are fighting the same battles and I find it disheartening that women’s liberation hasn’t got us further forward it has just enabled us to shout loudly.

How do we change this status quo?

Women need to be firm with employers by discussing working alternatives that suit both the pregnant woman, before and after birth.

There is a perception that a pregnant woman is less likely to want to continue with her career after the birth of a child and is automatically discounted from any future involvement within the company.

Pregnancy is not a disease, many women want to come back to work in the same capacity in which they left.

Women should be allowed to enjoy time off with their newborn without worrying about the consequences of maternity leave.

Sheryl Sandberg’s ‘Lean In’ offers an analytical overview of the inequalities that still exist in the workplace.

But having read the book I am still left with unanswered questions, what is the solution and has anything really changed?

I rather think it is boils down to women to educate their offspring, especially where boys are concerned, if I teach boys to do only male jobs they will never:

A/ be able to manage so called traditional female jobs like washing and ironing

or

B/End up married or living with someone only to perpetuate the cycle all over.

The pressure on women and girls is even greater than when I was a younger woman the insidious nature of social media and the desire to be famous for a minute puts us at greater peril than ever before.

We have to mean or stand for something, being just a woman, whether working or stay at home mum is not enough.

There are survey’s that have to justify every choice a woman makes:-

  • Why it’s better for women to stay at home with their children
  • Why it’s better to go to work when you have children
  • Children of working women do better in school
  • Children of stay at home mothers do better later in life

And the list goes on.

No wonder we are screaming from our desks and kitchen chairs we are constantly trying to be seen to be doing the right thing.

Women are being made to feel guilty for not feeling guilty enough, it is exhausting.

I am teaching my sons the value of women what we have achieved, african businesswoman sitting in officewhat we are capable of, that there is no such thing as women’s and men’s jobs either in the workplace or at home.

I too have feelings of guilt when it comes to work, career and motherhood.

I asked my boys how they feel about mum working, did they ever miss me when they were younger, did my absence at times make them feel less important?

No, came back the answer, you have always been there for us.

Changing this male/female mindset is challenging, men are not genetically wired to think like women but with perseverance and hard work next year when my eldest son leaves for university he will be able to work out the difference between the oven and a washing machine and cook a mean spag bol.

Here’s to the next women’s revolution.

How do we encourage our kids to read?

How do you get your kids to read?

If like me you’ve watched your children spend most of their holidays in front of an X-Box  or glued to a play station and absolutely no time reading you will understand how frustrated I get when the youngest comes to me at the last hour and says he has a book review to hand in after the half-term break.Getting your kids to read

I am not alone when I share the frustration I have with my boys when they tell me they are bored, pick up a book and read I say, “Booooring” comes back the response.

The love of reading has to start at an early age often instilled by parents, if they see you enjoying a good read you hope that this rubs off onto your offspring.

Given the exposure children have to screens and their use in classrooms and for schoolwork does printed content still have a place in our digital future?

death_to_stock_photography_weekend_work-6-of-10How would it feel to never read from a book or turn over the page of a magazine?

Imagine a world with no books, magazines, printed publications, catalogues and leaflets?

Print is all around us from advertising billboards in towns, bus shelters to newspapers and magazines you find at your doctor’s surgery.

Print is tangible, it evokes your senses, picking up a glossy, high quality magazine can appeal to our senses.

Publishers are able to incorporate different smells into the magazines we read making it more inviting to touch and smell.

I work in the print industry and I enjoy reading digital and print content, and, in spite of the misconception that digital has taken over print, nothing could be further from the truth.

How do we encourage our kids to read?
How do we encourage our kids to read?

Parents face the greatest challenge – to encourage the love of reading.

Whichever medium a child feels comfortable in is better than no reading, and, as long as they are reading something they are using their imaginations and developing the use of words.

The physical aspect of picking up a book and sitting down to read without any online distractions is far more beneficial than reading from a screen.

I attended a print seminar on the harmful long term effects of too much screen time on children.

latest top news on a newspaper page
latest top news on a newspaper page

Professor Susan Greenfield CBE presented a compelling case for the long term effects of screen time and the impact it is having on our lives.

In an article to the Telegraph in 2008 Professor Greenfield was one of the leading researchers on a project undertaken into research seeking to establish the effects of too much screen time.

The findings concluded that children who play video games have the same brain function as gamblers with side effects that include short attention span, anxiety, depression and boredom.

Children have become dependent on external stimuli with boredom setting in when they have to give up sitting in front of a screen.

istock_000025176791smallGreenfield went onto say that reading helps develop individual identities, imagination and the ability to tell and recall stories.

Screens do the opposite they demote creativity are hugely distractive, often cause anxiety and  reduce attention span.

The worrying aspect of her findings was the mindset of the future she pointed to a study where participants did not enjoy spending 6 to 15 minutes in a room by themselves with nothing to do but think, preferring mundane external activities than doing absolutely nothing.

The implication being that we are incapable of sitting still, resting in a contemplative reflective way. We are just “too busy” and we use the phone as a means to escape to check in on social media.

How often do you check your phone each day?Death_to_stock_photography_weekend_work (7 of 10)

In a report by Deloitte 18- 24 year olds use their phones all the time while eating meals.

What is wrong in switching the damn thing off and staring into space or people watching?

The smartphone has become an integral part of our lives it is an extension of us, we are lost without it if it’s not in our hand or within easy reach of us.

Reading from a physical book is more restful enabling the person to think about what they are reading.

The greatest thing a human being can have is creativity and thought.

Print should be the first medium children come into contact with when they learn to read.

Good reading and writing skills coupled with common sense is essential.

Lily Cole, actress, model and ambassador for Project Literacy wants it to be on the humanitarian agenda unlike war, famine and poverty people won’t die because of being illiterate but being able to read and write equips people with the necessary skills to navigate the world in which they live, being able to read ingredients on an item of food to a road sign.

When people can read they are informed about the world around them, they can make choices.

The power of the printed word and the ability to understand what you are reading is a basic human right.

Comprehension and literacy are the cornerstone of understanding, from  instructions on how to build a wardrobe to being able to understand what medication the Dr. has prescribed for you.

Reading demands that we are constantly learning even when we think we aren’t or can’t be bothered.

94% of the vietnamese population aged 15 or over are literate.

The OECD rated english teenagers aged 16-19 children the worst of the 23 developed nations in literacy and 22nd out of 23 in numeracy.

In Korea, teenagers have the highest levels of numeracy/literacy of all the OECD countries.

Japan, Finland and the Netherlands are all placed highly for 16-19 year olds with good literacy/numeracy skills.

Contrast that to english teenagers where 1 in 5 have a lower level of literacy and the same in numeracy with more than 25% lacking basic skills.

A survey undertaken by Two Sides, an independent not for profit organisation, in 2015 demonstrates that 88% of the respondents believe they understand and retain information when they read print on paper, the preference to read from paper rather than a screen was evident across all age groups.

  • When given a choice, 81% indicated that they prefer to read print on paper.
  • 81% indicated they are most relaxed when reading print on paper. Age group differences were minor with only 30% preferring to read from smartphones.

Encouraging children to read, to lose themselves in the story and the language can broaden their knowledge of words and spelling.

I have books lying around the home, bookshelves full of books, magazines, newspapers so there’s no excuse for my children not to read, but getting them to pick up a book is an entirely different matter.

With all these online distractions how do we get our kids to read?

  • We can start by limiting screen time, if it is a school night and they have to use the PC for homework then that is the way it has to be but, if they ask to play on the playstation the answer is a simple No.
  • Setting them a challenge to read two books in a month and the offer to take them out to their favourite eating place or cinema to see a film, this incentive has currently been offered to my thirteen year old, after I bought three books from Amazon (see the bottom of this post to see the books I bought)

This is not bribery it is about getting them into the habit of reading so it becomes something they miss when they don’t do it.

To my amazement last night he gave me a hug and kiss goodnight and said: “I’m going to bed to read”.

Not content with the spoken word I sneaked upstairs to check and there he was READING one of the books I had bought.

My youngest tends to spend time on the loo looking at his iPad so, I’ve taken it away and suggested that he reads a book instead, two things happened, he got out of the bathroom swiftly and strangely enough he now has more time to get things done.

Whatever it takes to get them to read.

  • Reading in bed before the lights go out is a great way to relax and get the brain ready for sleep rather than looking at a screen.  It is hard work but persist and the rewards will pay dividends because your child will get into the habit of wanting to read and going to bed earlier.
  • Set them a challenge – get them to read all the books by Jeff Kinney, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, there is a box set available from Amazon just click the button on my website to order it.
  • Ask your child what is the longest word they’ve discovered whilst reading and get them to find out what it means by using a real dictionary.
  • Get your child to read to you, they don’t have to be young to practice their reading, my youngest loves to read to me, he lies next to me in bed and reads a chapter we get mother and son time and share a great story often trying to figure what is going to happen next.
  • Photo copy extracts from books and encourage them to read it, if they enjoy it suggest you buy the book for them.
  • Read to them, this is a new one for me, I haven’t read to my children since they were very young. I started reading the book I’m currently reading, a dry throat and half an hour later I had one son snuggled up on the bed next to me ready to go to sleep but wanting more.
  • Let them read wherever their interest takes them they should be encouraged to venture from one type of book to another.

Finally, if you’ve tried everything else allow them screentime with Kindle and download books for them to read, yes, it is easier in some respects but at least THEY ARE READING a book and not glued to a screen.

My recommended books:-

Teenage Kicks: 101 Things to do before your 16 – Clive Gifford

The Art of Being A Brilliant Teenager – Andy Cope 

The Midnight Gang – David Walliams

The good old days what do you miss about them?

What I miss about the good old days and other rants

Good old days, nostalgia what does it mean to you?What do you miss the most about ‘the good old days?’

Was there a time when life seemed easy, less frenetic and more relaxed than the competitive treadmill we now call life.

Carefree, TBC (Time before children) , single holidays, independence, Thursday nights watching Friends and ER, Friday nights clubbing, Saturday night clubbing, no emotional baggage, no real work issues to worry about, only fun.

I have yet to meet someone who says I have it all and the perfect work-life balance.

I have misplaced my zest for life, the zing is missing out of my step, a bit like that elusive orgasm you vaguely recollect what it feels like but it’s been so long since you had one.The good old days what do you miss about them?

“Maybe you have to let go of who you were in the past in order to become who you will be or truly are now” Carrie Bradshaw says in Sex and the City.

Her words have true meaning holding on to a time when you were independent, younger and very different from the person you have become.

If we are holding onto the good things from our past does it really mean we want to be that person, relive it again rather than embracing the future and all its unpredictability?

I have been hearing ‘I miss the good old days,’ a lot recently, what does it mean?

Is our lifestyle more complicated than it use to be?

Are we hunkering after something lost?

We live in a world of terms and conditions governed by rules, regulations and instructions, we are drowning in a sea of rules.

We are so overtly regulated that no wonder many are feeling that their independence and liberty they experienced in their youth has been slowly eroded by time.

Was life really simpler thirty years ago?

I was in my late teens, I had University ahead of me, a whole life before me filled with a sense of foreboding and excitement.

Thirty years later I look back at my life not with anger or resentment but with a sigh and shrugged shoulders, that person I now see in the mirror was she really bold and brassy back then?

Did I really get to do the things I wanted to do, go to the places I was desperate to see or have I sold myself short?

I didn’t travel as far and wide as I hoped, I didn’t achieve the red porsche that I hoped I’d get by twenty-five and I certainly didn’t become the millionaire such was the confidence, hopes and arrogance of my youth.

I am not young enough to know everything. Oscar Wilde.

I’ve lost my sense of adventure and my audaciousness it went when I married for the second time and had children.

I have forgotten what it is like to step out and be me, free from all of the shackles and constraints that go with being a working mother, husband, friend, confidant and lover (ok so the latter maybe a little exaggerated).

When we are young we do know everything, we are bold, enlivened and audacious.

Are we wrong to question how our life turns out, should we strive for something big and better or settle for being happy with what we’ve got?

Buddhists say that you need to let go of your past to create a new future.

It’s hard to forget especially when the pain from the past follows you into the present.childhood: stack of old photos

When I look back on my life I see pain, mistakes, some heartache and nostalgia for a time when life seemed less complicated.

As I consider my present I see strength, lessons learned, pride in my family and achievements.

I believe it is important to look back because it helps understand who we are, what we’ve become or are becoming, where we are going and where we finally end up.

We celebrated our son’s thirteenth birthday recently along with the rest of the family, we talked for hours about how life seemed a lot more fun when we were teenagers compared to being adults, time passed more slowly so it seemed, we remembered long school summer holidays, going out with friends great memories and happy times.

My eldest step-son now twenty-five who married a year ago said I can’t believe how time flies by I can’t believe it’s a year since we were married’.Memory Lane in Sepia

If you think it goes fast now wait until you get past fifty!

I sat and listened to them chatting away and reflected on how quickly they have grown, each one with a different story to tell and at different stages of their lives, excited, exuberant, full of the joys of youth.

I glowed with pride at my brood, how they’ve embraced life and are making the best of it, my youngest step-son had these words of wisdom to share, ‘life is too short, what is the point in worrying and getting stressed we can’t always change the outcome but we might be able to influence what happens in our future’.

Are we fixated on where we think we should be, how we are going to get there and whether we really are enjoying our life?

We can change direction, it just rather depends on how confident we are and knowing where we want to be, but, sometimes looking back reminds us of the importance of what we have in our lives and to make more time to do the things we really want to do.

 

A huge A+ with a red circle on a paper

The spoils of youth. Parent, friend and everything else in between

Another school year and with summer over it is back to reality.Gratitude

This year is particularly poignant because it is my son’s final year of school.

It did not seem that long ago when my husband and I walked him through the school gates on his first day of school, age 7.

There we stood, lumps in the back of our throats, a quietness descended upon the parents as they waited for their children to be filed into classrooms.

Parents, friendshipNew beginnings as they were about to start the first stage of the rest of their life, a life that takes them from childhood into teenage years and finally into adulthood.

Parents refer to these years as the best but living them at the time nothing seemed farther from the truth.

The human psyche has an amazing propensity to forget the bad times we all experienced during our school days and only recall the fun times.

Larking about waiting for the bus, sneaking out of R.E. lessons when the old timer teaching it more often than not fell asleep.

How do we know we’ve done the best for our children?

What grading system do they use to mark us by?

A = Excellent

B = Good

C = Adequate

The parent-child line is a fine divide, I am constantly resorting to How do we know if we are good parents?disciplinary tactics because one or the other steps out of line.

Maybe it is the answering back or worse still the pretending “I didn’t hear you mum” as I end up screaming for the tenth time of calling.

How can we be sure that we have raised our children right and that they are thankful for all that we do as parents?

We aim to show children right from wrong and hopefully steer them onto the right path. As my husband so neatly described it ‘if our kids are still talking to us in our sixties then we’ve done something right.’

It appears to be a good barometer to measure parenting, but, I want to be sure that god willing when the eldest leaves he will turn around and say thanks mum and dad you’ve been good parents, it hasn’t been all bad.

Is that too high an expectation?

Should parents expect their children to say “thank you” does it appear narcissistic that we should want our children to be grateful for all that we’ve done, the sacrifices we’ve made and changes we’ve adopted to accommodate their well being.

It is a question that has perplexed me because I have never ever questioned the need for my children to validate me as a person or as a parent so why now?

Where is the line drawn?

We want to give our children everything we didn’t have and more.

The competitive nature of society and peer pressure at school means that children want but don’t necessarily need the most current popular gadget.

How do we know if we are good parents?Are we subliminally buying our children’s’ love by giving them things that in some instances aren’t a necessity, a smartphone where a mobile phone will suffice?

If our children are to be thankful it is because we have taught them “gratitude”; learning to appreciate what they have when there are others less fortunate.

Teenagers don’t understand the value of money or the real cost of things until they have to work for it, a car that costs £8000 or a mortgage of £1,250 a month but they do understand that a new PS4 game is £40+ or to download an album from iTunes might cost £7.99.

If my children ask for something when we are out shopping together it usually comes in the form of I wish I had enough money to… when I ask them how much it is?  I ask them if they had to pay for it out of their pocket money would they still buy it?

I get a very different answer,  it is easier for them to spend someone else’s money but when it’s their own they aren’t quite so keen.

By helping them grasp the difference between I don’t really need it but I’d like to have it my kids have started to appreciate that there are loads of things that we could go out and buy if money grew on trees but, when funds are limited looking at something and deciding if you like it but don’t really need it makes more sense.

It is Open University season where mad parents like me drive their kids to all corners of this great country to visit Universities.

With 4 done and 2 to go I’m at least grateful that my eldest had the gumption to narrow down his choice to six.

As I walked with my son in Durham chatting away whilst we looked at his course options and the facilities, I couldn’t help but think how fortunate he is to have me as a mother, and I am sure I speak for many mothers who give up a lot of time and money, more so than our mothers ever did for us.

The realisation that each step we were taking together represented another step closer to him making a decision that would mean leaving home and I had to fight back the tears

I couldn’t help think about my relationship with my own parents, and the importance of ensuring you keep the door open and welcome your kids through it no matter how insignificant their problem is, making it easy for your kids to come and chat with you about anything is surely the start of developing a long term friendship with them.

The relationship has to change from being parent-child to parent-friend, with mutual respect, love and a relationship on equal terms.

As the child grows they rely on the care, love, support and advice their parents offer them and you hope they listen.

As parents grow into old age this pendulum swings toward the children, they are more switched on with what is going on in the world, news and technology it is at that point that parents start to rely on their children for advice and support.

If that balance is unequal then the parent- child relationship continues into adulthood with parents treating their offspring not as fully grown adults but as children in adult clothing, not allowing them to be adults in their own right with their own ideas and choices to make.

I have my preferred choices where I think my son should study, he is a young man and must make his own choices it is not for me to try and dissuade him but it is difficult.

It was at that pivotal moment that I realised what the parent-child, parent-friend relationship truly means.

Our relationship is moving on from me being the parent advising, telling and pushing him to being a supporter, advisor and hopefully trusted friend.

I will always be his mum and I hope above all else a friend and as long as he knows he can talk to me and that I will always be there for him then our friendship will hopefully stand the test of time and love.

 

 

Father and teenage daughter with head in his shoulder sharing something funny in a mobile phone

When you just can’t be friends with your parents

One of the most complex human relationship is that of a child and its parents.Toxic parents

The beautiful baby that you have been carrying in your womb for 40 weeks is handed to you by the mid-wife without a manual that tells you how to be the perfect parent.

You have limited knowledge, no real idea what you are doing and few are naturally born gifted as parents learning as we go along and often mimicking how our parents raised us.

We look to our parents for guidance and expertise, they are our role models, the people we look to for help and advice when we most need it.

But what happens if you love your parents but you don’t get on with them or worse still dislike them?

Two months ago I made the painful decision to divorce my parents, not literally but consciously.

After yet another awful weekend when my father chose to be verbally aggressive, my husband decided to share some truths about his father-in-law.

Toxic parentsFor twenty years he has held his tongue but on this occasion he told his father-in-law exactly what he thought of him in no uncertain terms.

The fall out reverberated around our house for the next two weeks affecting my physical and emotional well being.

My husband was right to say the things he did, he was protecting me and standing up for what was a very unfair and unnecessary outburst from my father.

When we left for our family summer holiday I made the decision to mentally and physically cut lose my parents for my own well-being and self preservation.

For many years I have sought a loving and caring relationship one where my parents are proud and respectful of me, who want to be involved in my life and spend time with their grand-children only to be left disappointed by their lack of interest and involvement.

The truth is, it isn’t so much my mother that is the source of so much distress and animosity, more my father.

Can you really have toxic parents?

He is opinionated, bullish, rude and incapable of saying anything nice, his words are like arrows, sharp and critical.

Never a good word only a bad one, sad really given that he has two amazing children who have grown into adulthood successful, reasonably well adjusted and with four beautiful grand-children.

I know this is fairly typical of the generation and I also know that I am not the only one who has similar experiences.

My parents are in their eighties and need me more than I need them, yet, they are intent on alienating themselves from the very family they know can offer support.portrait of a angry young man

My husband and I aren’t the only ones who feel this way, my sister-in-law shares the same sentiment about my father and has made it abundantly clear on many occasions how she has little time for him.

And whilst I have made excuses for his behaviour and attitude in the past and have gone to great lengths to defend him I am now at the stage in my life where I no longer value or want him in my life.

This is not the first time but it will be the last.

Seeing this in writing is a bitter pill to swallow I am forthright, opinionated but neither nasty or vindictive and I can’t help but feel that in spite of trying so many times to make the relationship work it is doomed.

You can put the hard work into a relationship and get little in return and be made to feel worthless and unimportant but you do have the choice to leave it.

In a marriage, you can divorce your spouse, leave an abusive relationship, walk out when your lover mistreats you by having an affair.

What happens when the source of your mistreatment and to put it bluntly misery is your parents?

No parent is perfect and parental failure seems to be a common issue often leading to some kind of therapy for the offspring.

Father and teenage daughter with head in his shoulder sharing something funny in a mobile phone

Why is that good parents who love, care and nurture their child or children often end up with a difficult or petulant child and, conversely children of toxic parents turn out to be decent human beings?

What happens to the grown child who is left bereft and lost by a parent or parents who, on the outside appear to be normal rational human beings but exhibit completely different behaviour in the company of their children?

Among my circle of friends there are one or two who push the idea that any relationship is salvageable even more so because they are, ‘your parents’.

If the relationship is unhealthy and detrimental to the son or daughter is there any point in trying to make it work?

There is also the presumption that parents should be predisposed to love and cherish their children unconditionally but what if they love conditionally and as the child becomes an adult he/she ends up with poor self-esteem and feels utterly valueless?

Should the relationship be saved even if parents cannot accept who you are even though you may be unaware of what it is you do to provoke them to behave in a certain way toward you?

As human beings we are hard wired to bond with one another, we yearn to be loved and accepted which is why the parent child relationship is so crucial during a child’s development.

The relationship that exists between the child and that of his parent undoubtedly determines the future of all other relationships throughout their life.

This lack of maternal/paternal love and warmth affects that person’s self esteem, self worth and makes them view relationships with suspicion and doubt.

Serving only to weaken the son or daughter’s sense of well being, by constantly undermining them, making the person feel negative and doubting their own ability to manage relationships and life once they reach adulthood.

How can anyone love me if I feel my parents don’t love me, am I really worthless?

A healthy and connected relationship with parents provides security and freedom to be listened to and respected, is empathetic and supportive, not self involved, worried about appearances and what others think.

Becoming a parent is a demanding yet fulfilling role, it is more than a job, there is no on/off switch nor can you send the child back when the going gets rough.

Your influence, guidance, love, emotional support and security can make the difference between a child feeling rejected and lost.

By demonstrating love, cherishing and adoring that child for being the other half of you can make a difference from them feeling dejected and lost like a ship without an anchor or, being made to feel special and that they truly do have a place in this world.

As Susan Forward writes in her book: “Toxic Parents: Overcoming their hurtful legacy and reclaiming your life”,

Loving behaviour doesn’t grind you down, keep you off balance, or create feelings of self-hatred. Love doesn’t hurt, it feels good.

Loving behaviour nourishes your emotional well-being. When someone is being loving to you, you feel accepted, cared for, valued, and respected.

Genuine love creates feelings of warmth, pleasure, safety, stability, and inner peace.

And that is exactly as it should be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

iStock_000023887471Small

My six weeks of digital detox

There isn’t a day that goes by without reading the future of communications is digital and interactive, heck, I should know I am in the business of delivering communications in the form of payslips, letters, invoices, cheques, statements sent to customers either in digital or paper format.Digital detox

Earlier this year I felt I had reached online overload. The internet, social media, blogging, Instagramming, Facebooking I felt overwhelmed and under so much pressure because being online is an important aspect of business marketing.

I needed a digital detox.

When the school summer holidays finally arrived I made the decision to go offline.

Oddly it wasn’t even a conscious decision more a case of I just couldn’t be bothered or see the point, I had lost all desire and I really wanted to get away from the falseness of social media and shut down.

iStock_000012614300XSmallI read dozens of articles about how too much time being online and in front of a screen are bad for you and so I thought I would share with you what I did as I tried to get off the so called social media treadmill and re-energise my life.

My eldest son and my husband noticed an improvement in their eyesight because they were spending more time outside rather than stuck in front of a screen for 8-10 hours’ a day.

My decision was vindicated when I happened to find Ofcom’s communications market report which in a nutshell described how internet users were becoming tired of being online.

This report validated my choice of staying offline during the summer holiday.

According to the report 15,000,000 of us have undertaken a ‘digital detox’ with the report highlighting the need for people to seek time away from the internet and spend time with friends and family.

One in three adult internet users (34%) has sought a period of time offline, 25% spent up to a day internet free, 20% took a week off and 5% went web free for almost a month.

According to the report many people had said that being offline was liberating.

I can certainly vouch for that after all, this isn’t world breaking news.

social media = an always on culture
Our work and lifestyle means we are always on

Getting away from online digital distractions and having the opportunity of an extended summer holiday allowed me to get in touch with the real world.

I fell out of the everyday work routine and made a few changes which, had a huge beneficial impact on my mind and body.

Running a business does not give you the option of turning everything off. Customer emails and calls need to be responded too, a complete ‘digital detox’, in other words, turning everything off completely isn’t feasible.

Faster internet access enables us to be better connected than ever before, three in four of internet users (75%) consider the web intrinsic to their everyday lives and adult users in the UK spend an average of one day per week, approximately 25 hours online.

59% of internet users consider themselves compulsively connected to their devices and 34% find it difficult to disconnect.

I had unwittingly become one of those compulsive phone checkers, grabbing the phone every time it pinged.

Everything we do has an effect on us either physically, mentally and emotionally.

In Noel Janis-Norton’s book “Calmer, Easier, Happier Screen Do you have a favourite child?Time” she highlights the negative effects of screen time on children, she writes:

“Screen time is one aspect of our children’s lifestyle that parents worry about the most and often feels powerless to do anything about.

Children are affected by every aspect of electronics: how much screen time they have, what they are doing in front of the screen, when and where they do it and with whom. All of these factors will influence a child’s mood, her behaviour, what she thinks about herself and her family, her friends and her teachers.”

Although the book primarily talks about screen time for children; the same really is applicable to adults.  We are more likely to be in front of a screen and online for significantly longer periods during the working day than children.

  • Too much screen time means we are more sedate, we move less, we burn less calories and this has resulted in us being overweight and unfit than the last generation.
  • Nutrition is affected, screens are absorbing which leads to mindless eating of junk food. It is much easier to grab high sugar, high fat snacks rather than make a nutritious meal.
  • Being on the screen for longer than four hours results in lower levels of well being
  • Screen use affects the brain like a drug to the point where we are demotivated to do anything else other than stay in front of the screen

And I had fallen into the same additive, compulsive routine of being online from the moment I wake up ‘checking in’ to going to bed and ‘checking out’.

Omnipresent, but, in reality I wasn’t ‘there’ it took this summer vacation to make me realise how much I overuse technology.

Death_to_stock_photography_weekend_work (7 of 10)Over use of the internet – reading my daily online newspaper, magazines, flitting through Pinterest, Facebook timelines, posting on Twitter and uploading photos to Instagram even going to the loo with my iPad in tow.

What made my internet overuse more evident was my children’s apparent lack of interest and attention because they too were absorbed with their devices.

Rather than switching everything off I developed a digital routine for the holidays which, has now become part of my working life habit.

  1. Check emails first thing when rising in the morning, lunchtime and finally after the evening meal. I worked in the morning before heading to the beach between 1-2PM. Now I am home I am following the same routine but am now back at work.
  2. I chose to stay off social media altogether only posting fun things to Facebook and Instagram but allowed myself the occasional timed 15 minutes online(approximately 5 times in 6 weeks) when I would check notifications and respond to any conversation I thought was interesting or funny. Now I am back at work I still haven’t gone back online fully but my intention is to do 20 minutes whilst I cook the evening meal. This routine does not disrupt my working day and ensures that I don’t get absorbed by social media wasting work time.
  3. I muted the phone and set it on vibrate so I couldn’t hear the notification ping but would know if there was a call. This hasn’t changed other than when I am available I will turn the mute button off.

What changed for me?

I read four books, caught up on reading a whole host of other stuff, had many conversations on the beach with my family when we walked, I exercised daily, cleared my mind out fully, discovered and now use a great app called ‘Headspace’.DeathtoStock_EnergyandSerenity4-672x372

I had changed. I feel more calm and relaxed than I have done in a long time. I regrouped, reconnected with the real world, had face to face conversations and heated discussions, I telephoned customers and friends instead of emailing and saved a heap of time.

Digital detoxing is like being on a diet, you work hard to achieve your desired weight only to start back on the bad eating habits once you reach your goal.

Totally switching off from the internet and the online world is impractical, I would love to, permanently, save for ordering from Amazon.

There are more advantages to using the internet than there are disadvantages, the key is breaking the habit so it doesn’t seep into your life insidiously, like kicking a smoking habit, small steps that are sustainable and achievable.

Like many of you I thought that “I really didn’t use the internet that much, not really, but I did”.