Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Inspirational Women #7 Kakenya Ntaiya

I have started an Inspirational Women series on this blog and on Pintrest because women are great and sometimes we forget that and try to act like men, which we suck at.

Kakenya Ntaiya was born in Kenya and in 1993 she endured Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).  However unlike many girls in her situation she negotiated with her father that if she allowed herself to be circumcised he would allow her to finish high school.  She achieved excellent high school grades and gained a scholarship to an American university..  The local villagers rallied round and helped to raise the money for her air fare and in return Kakenya promised to return and help the village.

“I lived in a hut made of grass and mud that we shared with goats and sheep. But I had dreams. I kept pictures of beautiful green places with nice homes and somehow knew there was a different life out there."

Over the next decade Kakenya earned her degree, a job with United Nations and a doctorate in education, however she was determined to keep the promise she had made.  In 2009 she opened the Kakenya Center for Excellence A primary school for girls from grade 4-8.  The girls live at the school so that they are spared the long walk to and from, and the dangers that can put them in.  Even though it is only 4 years old the school already ranks among the top in it's district.  The main rule of the school is that parent of the students must agree to never circumcise thier daughters. or subject the to early marriage.

"Our work is about empowering the girls.  They are dreaming of becoming lawyers, teachers and doctors"


Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Happiness Project - November

So, last months resolutions didn't go very well.  I could give you a bunch of excuses, but why bother.

This month:

Laugh out loud
Use good manners
Give a positive review
Find an area of refuge

I have continuing buying needful things, I now buy a new underwear set every month that actually fits not just is cheap.  G is happy with this resolution!

I have also just moved house (hence, not getting far with october's resolutions) and have been trying to not expect praise from G about all the unpacking have been doing.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Influential women #5 Cerrie Burnell

I have started an Inspirational Women series on this blog and on Pintrest because women are great and sometimes we forget that and try to act like men, which we suck at.
If you don't have kids you might not know who Cerrie Burnell is.  I include myself in this group i found her when i was looking for an Inspirational Woman for this months post.

Cerrie was born with one hand but has not let that stop her from going after her goals.  When she started working for Cbeebies in January 2009 the channel received complaints that she was scaring children.  But she rose above it and refused to wear long sleeves as the restricted her movement.  She felt it was important to raise awareness of disability.

Cerrie decided aged 9 that she would never again wear a prosthetic arm and she never has.  She made the decision that if it affected her getting work she would just have to deal with it.  She gave birth to her daughter 3 months before she got the job and is a single mother.  When reading to her daughter she realised that there was not a lot of mixed race faces in picture books and so she wrote one herself.  Snowflakes is about a little girl who moves from the city to live with her grandmother in the country.  She feels out of place because she looks different to the other children but one night it snows and she realises that all the snowflakes are different and they are all perfect.

She tries to bring diversity and acceptance to all her work.  And for this reason she is inspirational

Cerrie's book Snowflakes is available now.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Happiness Project - October

October Resolutions:


Stimulate the mind in new ways

Keep a food diary

Ugh.  Food diary.

So last month I did not manage to write 30,000 words.  I managed about 17,000, but i am going to keep going with it because i am enjoying it.  I am sure the book is utter drivel but it's a story i would like to read so i don't care.

I did not manage to do any crochet but i did learn how to needle felt thanks to Crafty Creatives so i am please with that.

And in the spirit of September i am forgetting about results.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Saturday, 21 September 2013

What it feel like to have depression - Conversations with my brain

Me: What a nice party.  I wish i'd seen S before she'd left though to say goodbye.
Brain: She didn't come and say good bye to you because she doesn't really like you.
Me: No Brain that's not right.

Me: hmm that craft project didn't really turn out as well as i'd like.
Brain: That's because you can't do anything right.
Me: No Brain that's not right.

Me: Damn, i forgot i to send that birthday card.
Brain: They'll think you are selfish and stupid when it turns up late.
Me: brain, that's not, not right.

Me: I have that party tonight but i really don't feel like going.
Brain: Everyone will think you are a loser and no fun.
Me: No...well maybe they will.
Brain:  They will and you are.
Me: No Brain that's not right.

Me: The world is a terrible place with all this war and starvation and poverty.
Brain: The world is awful, people are selfish and lots of them are bad.
Me: But there are some good people.
Brain: but look at all the misery
Me: *sigh* ... No Brain that's not right.

Me:  Arg, i can't do anything right.
Brain: No you can't you are useless.
Me: I am aren't i.
Brain: Yep, and everyone knows it.  They all talk about it behind your back.
Me: No...No they don't.
Brain Yes they do and they hate you.
Me: *sad face*

Me: I texted R two days ago but she hasn't replied. I don't know why.
Brain: Yes you do, it's because she doesn't really like you.  She only pretends to because she feels sorry for you.
Me: No brain she does like me, maybe i've just upset her.
Brain: Yeah that's it, she's mad at you because of that thing you did.
Me: What thing...when i forgot to send her card?
Brain.  That's right.  She thinks you are selfish and stupid and she doesn't like you any more.
Me: No...that can't be true.
Brain: It is.  Everyone hates you.
Me: *sad face*

Me: I messed up the order at work and not enough stock came in.  I really am useless.
Brain: I told you so.  You should believe me when i tell things.
Me: I should, People at work are mad, they hate me.
Brain: Yep, everyone does.
Me: Arg, I am so pathetic.
Brain: Yep.
Me: *crying*

It's a slow constant process.

What it feel like to have depression

I haven't done a what it feels like post for a while so i thought i would do this one.  I was inspired by reading The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida.

Depression is very individual and not everyone has the same symptoms.  That is why there are so many types of medication, therapy, etc.  Some things will work for some and some for others.  

Below are a list of symptoms that Mind class as symptoms of depression I have marked the ones that i feel:

My feelings
  • I am low-spirited for much of the time, every day 
  • I feel restless and agitated 
  • I get tearful easily 
  • I feel numb, empty and full of despair 
  • I feel isolated and unable to relate to other people 
  • I am unusually irritable or impatient 
  • I find no pleasure in life or things I usually enjoy 
  • I feel helpless 
  • I have lost interest in sex 
  • I am experiencing a sense of unreality
My behaviour
  • I’m not doing activities I usually enjoy 
  • I am avoiding social events I usually enjoy 
  • I have cut myself off from others and can’t ask for help 
  • I am self-harming
  • I find it difficult to speak
My thoughts
  • I am having difficulty remembering things 
  • I find it hard to concentrate or make decisions 
  • I blame myself a lot and feel guilty about things 
  • I have no self-confidence or self-esteem 
  • I am having a lot of negative thoughts 
  • The future seems bleak 
  • What’s the point? 
  • I have been thinking about suicide 
My physical symptoms
  • I have difficulty sleeping 
  • I am sleeping much more than usual 
  • I feel tired and have no energy 
  • I have lost my appetite, and am losing weight
  • I am eating a lot more than usual and putting on weight 
  • I have physical aches and pains with no obvious physical cause
  • I am moving very slowly 
  • I am using more tobacco, alcohol or other drugs than usual
But what does all this really mean?  What does it really FEEL like?

When I am having a depressive episode it feels like, imagine you have been taken hostage, and have had your hands and feet bound so you cannot move.  Your Hostage taker then starts shouting at you:
  • "Remember when x did that?  It's because they don't like you"
  • "Remember when that happened?  It's because you are useless"
  • "Remember when Y said those mean things to you?  Well they are true.  You are stupid,useless, and rubbish at everything"
  • "If you were dead no-one would miss you, they would be relieved"
They shout this over and over again.  How long would you be able to listen to this before you became quite upset and distressed.  Before your brain would start to question if what your hostage was telling you had any truth in it.

Well that is just the start.  It would keep going even after you were upset.  Your brain would keep saying "NO, that's not true" but the hostage taker can shout louder and for longer and keeps going.  This continues for hours or days depending on how unwell you are. 
The hostage taker keeps looking for chances to take you, so you have to constantly be on the look out to deal with His attempts.  This is exhausting.  When i am well I can see Him and knock the Him out then carry on.  When i am not well He takes me and the torture begins.

It is easy to see how this exhausting and upsetting treatment can make the symptoms of depression appear.  For me the two worst things about this are:
  1. It is my own brain doing this to me.
  2. This is something i will have to deal with for the rest of my life.
The constant attempts to take me are exhausting and i have to be on my guard all the time. It makes me tired but i can't sleep, I comfort eat because of the stress, I feel too tired to do things or see people and i can't concentrate on what is happening "in the now".  The weaker i get the more likely He is to take me.

With the help of medication, CBT and family and friends i can head Him off and stay safe, but sometimes, even with all of this i get caught.

So there you go.  That is how it feels (for me) when i am depressed.  It is a slow process of wearing down and eventual despair. The conversations with my Brain go something like this

(I am sorry if this has bummed you out.  If it has here are some pictures of cute animals to make you feel better)

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Inspirational Women #4 Waris Dirie

I have started an Inspirational Women series on this blog and on Pintrest because women are great and sometimes we forget that and try to act like men, which we suck at.

Waris Dirie

Waris Dirie was born in Somalia in 1965.  She was 5 when she went through a female circumcision (or female genital mutilation).  At the age of 13 she escaped from a forced marriage to a man old enough to be her grandfather.  On the way to safety she had to stare down a lion.

Every day, women move mountains. It is an insult to have an international women's day.

She managed to escape to London where she got a job as a house maid and then in Mcdonalds.  At 18 she was discovered by a leading fashion photographer and became a supermodel (traveling on a fake passport under the name "Marilyn Monroe").

I love the truth. Tell the truth and live the truth, because we've seen enough lies and look what it's doing.

In 1996 Warris was apointed a UN Special Ambassador for the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation by Kofi Annan.  She has been awarded “Women’s World Award” by President Mikhail Gorbachev, n 2007 the French President Nicolas Sarkozy presented her with the “Chévalier de la Légion d’Honneur”. The ‘World Demographic Association’ nominated her as the first woman for the ‘Prix de la Gènèration’ and the ‘Martin Buber Foundation’ nominated her as the first woman for the ‘Martin Buber Gold Medal’.

Female genital mutilation targets little girls, baby girls - fragile angels who are helpless, who cannot fight back. It's a crime against a child, a crime against humanity. It's abuse. It's absolutely criminal and we have to stop it.


Sunday, 1 September 2013

Inspirational Women #3 Katherine Graham

Katharine Graham-publisher and head of The Washington Post.

Born in 1917 Katherine Graham grew up in the washington suburbs.  She attended Vassar and the University of Chicago and began writing lifestyle pieces for various magazined.

Her Father had purchased the Post in 1933 when it was on the point of bankruptcy and in 1945 Katherine's husband, Philip Graham took over.  Katherine had stopped writing to concentrate on raising her family.

“The longer I live, the more I observe that carrying around anger is the most debilitating to the person who bears it.” 

When Philip committed suicide in 1963 Katherine stepped into his role and took control of the paper.  In 1971 she made the decision to publish the Pentagon Papers.  The Post played an integral part in unveiling the Watergate conspiracy with Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein reporting for them.

She took an active interest in making the Washington Post a more diverse workplace hiring more black and women reporters.  When she handed the reins over to her son in 1979 she had turned it into a vibrent modern newspaper.

“A mistake is simply another way of doing things. "

She won the Pulitzer prize in 1997 for her autobiography "Personal History"

In 2000 she was named one of the International Press institute's 50 World Press freedom Heroes in the last 50 Years.

And, in 2002 She was posthumously awarded the presidential Medal of Freedom. 

Happiness Project - September


September Resolutions

  • Write a novel
  • Make time
  • Forget about results
  • Master a new skill
I have bought a beautiful notebook to write my novel in.  I thought it would be easier and i'd have a better chance of doing it if i hand wrote it.  This way i can make use of my free time at work and not be distracted by pintrest / facebook / ebay.

I am also going to try and master crochet.  I have wanted to learn for ages but i find it really hard.

I read memoirs of catastrophes and really enjoyed them I am going to try and read one a month from now on.

I read about Mata Amritanandamari Devi but i don't know how much i was able to imitate her.

Also my gratitude journal fell by the wayside but here are the ones i manage to do:


Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Read Memoirs of a Catastrophe

1) Take Me home by Tessa Cunningham - 3 

When Tessa Cunningham's ninety-five year old father fell and broke his hip, it was clear that this previously independent man could no longer live on his own. A care home seemed the best option. But visiting him one day, he held Tessa's hand just a little too long, and in his eyes she saw the yearning he was too proud (and loving) to articulate: Please take me home. Tessa had just recovered from breast cancer, was in the throes of getting divorced, her daughters were leaving home (soon to head off to university). Already struggling with three of a woman's worst fears, battling bitterness and betrayal, she couldn't cope with any extra stress. And yet she found herself moving her dad in, along with his zimmer frame, collection of hearing aid batteries, monogrammed hankies and tins of Black Bullet mints. Her dad can't abide moaners, is given to tactless remarks and, as he's deaf, is definitely not the best listener in the world. Yet in the months that followed, his unexpected wisdom and irrepressible ebullience helped heal Tessa's pain. Written with searing honesty, Take Me Home is a funny, touching, inspirational story that teaches us the true value of contentment.

This was the first "catastrophe" book i read and i enjoyed it but i didn't feel connected with the author and despite all she had been through i didn't feel inspired by her journey.

2) Loves Last Gift by Bébhinn Ramsay -

Bébhinn Ramsay was only 31 when her husband died suddenly, leaving her widowed with two small children. In the aftermath of his death she tried to come to terms with the sense of lonelieness, loss, injustice, and devastation she felt at the premature death of the father of her children, and the great love of her life. Here we see Bébhinn retrace the steps of her relationship with Alastair from when they met and fell in love in London, to the birth of their two sons, to when he died over the course of three days while on vacation in America, to the days, weeks, months, and years that followed his death. In a searingly honest and at times heartbreaking account she describes the ways she tried to come to terms with his senseless death, and how, through opening her mind and her heart, she ultimately found acceptance, peace, and eventual happiness.

This was the second book i read.  I found it really moving and interesting as my worst fear is that G will die and how i will cope.  I got a few links to further reading from it.

3) Lets Take the long way home by Gail Caldwell -

“It’s an old, old story: I had a friend and we shared everything, and then she died and so we shared that, too.”

So begins this gorgeous memoir by Pulitzer Prize winner Gail Caldwell, a testament to the power of friendship, a story of how an extraordinary bond between two women can illuminate the loneliest, funniest, hardest moments in life, including the final and ultimate challenge.

They met over their dogs. Both writers, Gail Caldwell and Caroline Knapp, author of Drinking: A Love Story, became best friends, talking about everything from their shared history of a struggle with alcohol, to their relationships with men and colleagues, to their love of books. They walked the woods of New England and rowed on the Charles River, and the miles they logged on land and water became a measure of the interior ground they covered. From disparate backgrounds but with striking emotional similarities, these two private, fiercely self-reliant women created an attachment more profound than either of them could ever have foreseen. 

The friendship helped them define the ordinary moments of life as the ones worth cherishing. Then, several years into this remarkable connection, Knapp was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.

With her signature exquisite prose, Caldwell mines the deepest levels of devotion and grief in this moving memoir about treasuring and losing a best friend. Let’s Take the Long Way Home is a celebration of life and of the transformations that come from intimate connection—and it affirms, once again, why Gail Caldwell is recognized as one of our bravest and most honest literary voices.

Book 3, I found the descriptions of alcoholism in this book.  The loss of her best friend was detailed movingly and realistically   I felt emotional thinking about those i do not want to lose.

4) The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank  ★s

In Amsterdam, in the summer of 1942, the Nazis forced teenager Anne Frank and her family into hiding. For over two years, they, another family and a German dentist lived in a 'secret annexe', fearing discovery. All that time, Anne kept a diary.

An intimate record of tension and struggle, adolescence and confinement, anger and heartbreak, Anne Frank's diary is one of those unique documents, famed throughout the world, that portrays innocence and humanity, suffering and survival in the starkest and most moving terms.

I was amazed at how well Anne wrote.  I also found it good to know that teenagers were the same then as they are now.  The diary was sweet, funny and heartbreaking.  I was so happy when she kissed Peter.

5) Prisoner of Tehran by Marina Nemat

In January 1982, Marina Nemat, then just sixteen years old, was arrested, tortured, and sentenced to death for political crimes. Until then, her life in Tehran had centered around school, summer parties at the lake, and her crush on Andre, the young man she had met at church. But when math and history were subordinated to the study of the Koran and political propaganda, Marina protested. Her teacher replied, "If you don't like it, leave." She did, and, to her surprise, other students followed.

Soon she was arrested with hundreds of other youths who had dared to speak out, and they were taken to the notorious Evin prison in Tehran. Two guards interrogated her. One beat her into unconsciousness; the other, Ali, fell in love with her.

Sentenced to death for refusing to give up the names of her friends, she was minutes from being executed when Ali, using his family connections to Ayatollah Khomeini, plucked her from the firing squad and had her sentence reduced to life in prison. But he exacted a shocking price for saving her life -- with a dizzying combination of terror and tenderness, he asked her to marry him and abandon her Christian faith for Islam. If she didn't, he would see to it that her family was harmed. She spent the next two years as a prisoner of the state, and of the man who held her life, and her family's lives, in his hands.

Lyrical, passionate, and suffused throughout with grace and sensitivity, Marina Nemat's memoir is like no other. Her search for emotional redemption envelops her jailers, her husband and his family, and the country of her birth -- each of whom she grants the greatest gift of all: forgiveness.

This was a wonderful / awful story.  It was moving and made me realise how lucky i am to live in a "free" county.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Imitate a Spiritual Leader - Mata Amritanandamayi Devi

  • In this universe it is love that binds everything together. Love is the very foundation, beauty and fulfillment of life.

  • Is God a Man or a Woman ? The answer to this question is neither---- God is That. But if you must give God a gender, God is more female than male, for he is contained in She.

  • Look at the optimism of Nature. Nothing can stop it. Only the ego makes humans pessimistic, and this causes suffering.

  • Only when goodness awakens within, will one's personality and actions gain beauty and strength.

  • Serving the world with love and cooperation, you will find your own true Self. As you help those in need, selfishness will fall away, and without even noticing you will find your own fulfillment.

  • When love overflows and is expressed through every word & deed, we call it Compassion. That is the goal of religion.

Friday, 2 August 2013

Happiness Project - August

August Resolutions:

  • Read memoirs of a catastrophe
  • Keep a gratitude notebook
  • Imitate a spiritual master
The spiritual master i will be imitating will be Mata Amritanandamayi 

I plan to read The diary of Anne Frank.  I don't know if this technically counts as a catastrophe but i think it does.

I already try to keep a gratitude notebook but i'll try and be more regular with it.

My July resolutions went well.  I tried to but needful things including a radio for work and starting my christmas shopping.  I also bought a nice dress and some jewelry to go to wedding.

Saturday, 13 July 2013


I spent the last couple of days in New Lanark at a lovely hotel and took in the beautiful weather and scenery.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Happiness Project - July

July's resolutions are as follows:

  • Indulge in a modest splurge
  • Buy needful things
  • Spend out
  • Give up something

My June resolutions went ok.  I remembered birthdays and other important events.  I made the effort to show up for meditation class.  I know some pretty juicy gossip about a co-worker and it's killing me to not tell anyone, but i haven't.  I don't think i've made any new friends but i have tried to be more open and chatty with strangers.  I'm not sure i have been especially generous though.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Happiness Project - June

So, I'm a bit late doing this post.  This months resolutions are all about strengthening friendships.

  • Remember birthdays
  • Be generous
  • Show up
  • Don't gossip
  • Make new friends

My May Resolutions went so so.  

I went off the path with my reading choices - World War Z
I added to my photo collection -
I was silly with G

I feel a bit like i'm running out of steam with this but i am determined to keep trying.

Inspirational Woman #2 Malala Yousafzai

Born in 1997 Malala Yousafzai is a pakistani school girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban for talking openly about and demanding women's education.  She was unconscious and in a critical condition, but managed to recover enough to be brought to the UK for intensive rehabilitation.  The Taliban still intend to kill her and her father.

She is the youngest ever nominee for the Nobel Peace prize and won the first Pakistani National Youth peace prize.  Malala started speaking publicly about education in 2008 when she addressed a local press club.  And, she started writing for the BBC in 2009 about life under taliban rule.

Malala was back at school in Birmingham 6 months after her shooting which is pretty impressive.  She describes it as er "happiest moment".

I hope one day i will be as brave as this girl.


Thursday, 9 May 2013

Happiness Project - May

May's resolutions are as follows:

  • Find more fun
  • take time to be silly
  • Go off the path
  • Collection
In the spirit of being silly i started a pillow fight with G.  I have also just bought some new old pictures for my collection which i will blog about later.  I have also started reading World War Z, going off the path of what i normally read.

As for my April resolutions I failed big time.  I did sing a little bit and it did make me feel good (the same cannot be said for those listening).  That was it.  

March Resolutions I am still blogging a lot more than i used to.  And i've been promoting my blog on facebook.

February Resolutions I am not doing too well with these either.

January Resolutions I am going to bed earlier still but the rest i've forgotten about.  (sad face) still always good to get a reminder (and heres me enjoying the fun of failure)

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Inspirational Woman #1 Aung San Suu Kyi

I am starting an Inspirational Women series on this blog and on Pintrest because women are great and sometimes we forget that and try to act like men, which we suck at.

I have admired Aung San Suu Kyi for a long time.  I remember watching the tv (probably in 1989) and thinking how beautiful she was. I loved the flowers in her hair and although i didn't understand the political situation (I was only 7) she stuck in my mind.

Aung San Suu Kyi was born in Burma in 1945.  Her father, Aung San was involved in founding the modern Burmese army and in negotiating Burma's independence from Great Britain in 1947.  Her mother, Khin Kyi was a prominent political figure and was appointed Ambassador to India and Nepal in 1960.  Aung San Suu Kyi went on to live in New Delhi, Oxford and New York and gained degrees in politics and philosophy, politics and economics.

She returned to Burma in 1988 to take care of her mother who was sick. Around the same time the long time military leader, General Ne Win, stepped down from power.  There were mass demonstrations calling for democracy but these were violently suppressed and a new military leader, Than Shwe, took control.  Aung San Suu Kyi called for a democratic government and entered politics to work for it.  On the 20th Sept 1989 she was placed under house arrest, though told she would be freed if she left the country.  She refused.

The government called a general election in 1990 but then refused to hand over power.  In 1991 she won the Nobel Peace prize though was unable to collect her award.  Aung San Suu Kyi remained under house arrest until July 1995.  After this her movements remained restricted.  Her husband died in England in 1999.  He had seen his wife only 5 times since 1989 when she was put under house arrest.  The last time had been in 1995.  In 2000 she was again placed under house arrest and released in 2002.  In 2003 she was detained after clashes between the National League for Democracy and Junta forces.  This lead to another period of house arrest.  She was finally freed in 2010.

While under house arrest Aung San Suu Kyi kept herself busy studying and exercising.  She meditated, worked on her French and Japanese language skills, and relaxed by playing Bach on the piano.At times she was able to meet other NLD officials and selected diplomats.  But during her early years of detention, she was often in solitary confinement. She was not allowed to see her two sons or her husband.

In April 2012 She stood for parliament for the first time and became leader of the the opposition.

Despite political oppression Aung San Suu Kyi remained an advocate that peaceful protests were the only way to gain democracy.  She is a remarkable woman.