UNITED KINGDOM: Take Me As I Am

UNITED KINGDOM: Take Me As I Am

michelle_stuffIt’s now April and without really meaning to, I’ve found that in the first three months of the year I’ve not bought myself any clothes or shoes. Now this might seem like a small thing to many people, but sadly where I live in the UK it is very common place to constantly be buying new things – clothes, jewellery, items for the house, cars, gadgets and frankly any sort of status symbol.

Over the last decade I’ve become more and more concerned about the disposable world we live in, the one where we teach our children that as soon as a sock has a hole in it, you throw it away and buy new ones. Of course some of the problem is that in places like England socks can be bought very cheaply now, perhaps five pairs for just £2.00. But at what expense are we buying those socks? How much did the worker in a far off country earn whilst making those socks? A good living wage? Almost certainly not.

Every action we take when it comes to buying ‘things’ or accumulating ‘stuff’ has an impact, not only on those people who are actually involved in the production phase but also on the cost of delivering the stuff from one country to another and delivering it to the end customer. Almost everything we buy has a carbon footprint. I can’t even start to pretend that I am any kind of expert in this area, but I am slowly realising that it is not enough to just be an advocate for an end to extreme poverty. If I want to see that happen I have to also be an advocate for an end to the use of fossil fuels.

A few months ago, Amnesty International and Greenpeace issued a joint statement to the 195 countries meeting together to discuss climate change at the COP21 Sustainable Innovation Forum in Paris. The statement linked global temperature rises with human rights. They stated that an additional 600 million people could face hunger by 2080 due to climate change. What a terrifying thought and completely in opposition to where the situation should be heading.

Thankfully a few days later, the world’s governments signed an agreement to reduce net carbon emissions to 0% by 2050, thus signalling an end to the fossil fuel age. Of course change is not as easy as some officials signing a treaty: there is much hard work to be done and Joe Average, like you and I, has to play a part. So I beg you, starting now, will you please consider if you really need that new blender? Do you have to trade in your BBQ for the self-cleaning one that is just one step up? Or could your old one last you a few more years?

I’m certainly adopting the attitude of ‘take me as I am’ this year and if someone comes round my house and feels that my TV is old fashioned and perhaps a little squeaky, well so be it. We won’t be buying a new one until this one really is past its best and can’t be fixed. It’s far too easy to get caught up in the competitive rat race, the one that says you must have a big smart car, holidays abroad and a well thought-out wardrobe, to be seen as successful.

In contrast, some of the most successful people I have known over the years have been those with no great dress sense, who have had a messy house and a clapped-out old banger of a car. Success is about the person, not their belongings. It is the mother whose four adult children are all thriving and giving back to society in various ways. It is the retired man who goes out and works with street kids to ensure that they stay away from drugs. It is the passer-by in the street who smiles at everyone and takes time to talk to those she knows are lonely.

Those are the people I want to celebrate and to join. I don’t need lots of new things, I just need a heart full of love and by the grace of God I can share that with everyone I meet. Will you join me?

What role do material things play in your life? Are you concerned for the world your children are growing up in?

This is an original post written by blogger Michelle Pannell for World Moms Blog. Photo credit to the author.

Michelle Pannell

Michelle’s tales of everyday life and imperfect parenting of a 13-year-old boy and 9-year-old twin girls and her positive Christian outlook on life have made her name known in the UK parenting blogosphere. Her blog, Mummy from the Heart, has struck a chord with and is read by thousands of women across the world. Michelle loves life and enjoys keeping it simple. Time with her family, friends and God are what make her happiest, along with a spot of blogging and tweeting, too! Michelle readily left behind the corporate arena but draws on her 25 years of career experience from the fields of hotel, recruitment and HR management in her current voluntary roles at a school, Christian conference centre, night shelter and food bank. As a ONE ambassador, in 2012 Michelle was selected to travel on a delegation to Ethiopia with the organisation to report on global poverty and health. Then in 2014 she was invited to Washington, DC, where she attended the AYA Summit for girls and women worldwide. When asked about her ambassadorship with the ONE Campaign, she stated, "I feel humbled to be able to act as an advocate and campaigner for those living in poverty."

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UK: The Online World Is Scary But I Won’t Let It Stop Me

UK: The Online World Is Scary But I Won’t Let It Stop Me

michelleJust before Christmas during a planned break from blogging, I happened to be checking my blog for something a client had asked for. As I logged in, I noticed a comment that required moderation on my little used review blog. It’s practically retired now, but it has a few hundred posts on it, mostly from 2010-2013. I wasn’t too excited to see the comment there, but nevertheless I went over to check it out. As I read, my heart started to race, I felt physically sick and the colour drained from my face.

It was every blogger’s worst nightmare, a troll and not even just an abusive troll, but one that was talking sexually about my young daughters. The comment was disgusting – needless to say, I won’t be repeating it here. The post was from 2011 when my twin girls were 4 years old and they were wearing swimwear. They were fully covered and there was nothing provocative about their poses but that was not enough to distract this person. I deleted the comment and the blog post and tried to forget it.

Roll forward a couple of weeks, and again I noticed there were comments to moderate. This time there were three of them, all on different posts featuring my girls. The girls were fully dressed in these posts and in two you could only see a tiny fraction of them, but it was enough to have sparked the imagination of this person. This time I showed my husband and we were dismayed to see that in the last comment the person had used the real name of one of our daughters (something I do not use on the blog).

This was of course a red flag to us and I called the police to report the abuse. Stupidly, I had been allowing anonymous comments on my Blogger blog and there was no way of tracking where the comments had come from. I quickly rectified this and installed software to track my visitors, and also tightened up the commenting system. Of course there have not been any more comments, as this person will not want to find themselves identified.

It’s hard to put this incident aside, though. The fact that this person knew our daughter’s name concerns us greatly and we have had to inform our community and local people so all of our children (and theirs) are watched more closely. We have many new rules and safeguards in place and we’ve talked to the girls again about stranger danger and being wary of trusting people that we do not know.

It’s so sad that we don’t live in a world where the girls can be completely free to explore the amazing environment they live within but it is imperative to find that balance between being safe and having some freedom and independence.

A knowledgeable friend assures me that it is unlikely to be a pedophile who wrote the comments as they tend to be very clever and secretive about their intentions and desires. It is more likely to be someone who knows me and has a gripe with me. I could send myself crazy trying to figure out who it is, so to be frank I have given up doing so and will place my trust in God to keep all my family safe.

For a week or so after discovering the comments, I just wanted to delete my blogs and run away and hide. But I realised that all the pictures I have ever placed on the web could have been downloaded, moved elsewhere or still be there cached. It was too late, my family and I were out there and I’d always known that someone, somewhere could have seen my children and had inappropriate thoughts, but until they came into my world it didn’t seem real or an issue.

I’ve decided that I will keep blogging, that I must keep blogging. I have a prominent voice and many messages that I feel tasked to spread. It would be wrong if someone sick could use their evil influence to undo all the good my blogs have done. All the women who have contacted me over the years saying they appreciate my honesty and my posts about miscarriage, overeating, imperfect parenting, bullying and so many other tough subjects would be left without the resource I have provided.

The outcome of this terrible incident has actually been that I’ve started a new blog, Progress Not Perfection where I will continue to be totally honest. It probably won’t become anywhere near as popular as my regular blog, and I don’t expect it to rank at number one like Mummy for the Heart does but that is OK as success can attract the kind of comments I never want to see again. Sadly Mummy from the Heart and my reviews blog Honest Mummy Reviews feel tainted and kind of dirty. They’ll still keep going as that is where I earn an income but much of the joy has disappeared.

At the moment I won’t be placing many more pictures of my children on my blogs but who knows, it might change with time. I’m still processing it all. I just felt compelled to share this sad tale with you as a reminder of what can happen online. Stay alert, be aware that not everyone is good, and protect your children with whatever safeguards are necessary. They are our number one priority after all.

Have you ever had any nasty experiences online? How do you safeguard yourself and your family in your online world?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Michelle Pannell of the United Kingdom. Photo credit to the author.

Michelle Pannell

Michelle’s tales of everyday life and imperfect parenting of a 13-year-old boy and 9-year-old twin girls and her positive Christian outlook on life have made her name known in the UK parenting blogosphere. Her blog, Mummy from the Heart, has struck a chord with and is read by thousands of women across the world. Michelle loves life and enjoys keeping it simple. Time with her family, friends and God are what make her happiest, along with a spot of blogging and tweeting, too! Michelle readily left behind the corporate arena but draws on her 25 years of career experience from the fields of hotel, recruitment and HR management in her current voluntary roles at a school, Christian conference centre, night shelter and food bank. As a ONE ambassador, in 2012 Michelle was selected to travel on a delegation to Ethiopia with the organisation to report on global poverty and health. Then in 2014 she was invited to Washington, DC, where she attended the AYA Summit for girls and women worldwide. When asked about her ambassadorship with the ONE Campaign, she stated, "I feel humbled to be able to act as an advocate and campaigner for those living in poverty."

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UK: Raising a Bully?

UK: Raising a Bully?

sticks and stonesI was happily preparing dinner the other day and I could hear my three children chattering away in the hall. Pretty soon the talking turned to bleeting, yes bleeting… and baaing, like a sheep. I could hear my 12-year-old son, JJ, say, “everyone is doing it at school.”

With my parenting radar on alert I popped my head out of the kitchen to ask what they were talking about and JJ explained to me that there is a teacher at school who looks like a sheep and all the students baa at her.

I was pretty horrified at this and I asked what ‘Miss’ (as they call their female teachers) said about their behaviour. JJ told me it was all done behind her back but she was a ‘good laugh’ and he couldn’t imagine she would mind. This of course was one of those moments that led to me abandoning dinner and sitting all three children down for a chat.

If I can help it, I don’t want any child of mine becoming a bully.

You might think I over reacted and that all children get involved in silly things, harmless teasing some might say. Character forming I’ve heard it called before and we’ve all heard the old rhyme ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me’ but it is not true, names really can harm a person, especially a vulnerable one.

I know this first hand, I was called many names as a young child, most of them revolving around my weight and being just a little (and it really only was a little back then) bigger than the average girl but the main reason I know about the hurt and pain that continues for many years long after the name calling stops is because I was a name caller and I really hurt someone else.

I still feel the shame when I write that, I don’t think the regret for the damage I did to a little boy called Simon (name changed for obvious reasons) will ever leave me. I first wrote about having been a bully as a child back in 2010 and it was so important to face up to the past and really acknowledge what I did. I had no idea at the time that what I was doing could be so destructive, as far as I was concerned I was just a little girl desperate to fit in with the gang and going along with everyone else.

But when your whole class cross their arms and mutter ‘fleas, injected for all my life’ each time you come near them, it is a big deal. I don’t recall Simon ever letting on at school just how much this hurt him but I do think he spent a lot of time on his own. The sad thing is that I don’t really remember that much about the whole situation to be honest, as it was inconsequential to me but of course not to him, not when it was damaging his self-esteem each and every day.

That damage went on for a very long time too. I know this as when I was 28 (quite some years ago now) I was contacted by Simon through Friends Reunited and then Facebook. He asked me about our time at school (primary school, ages 7-10) and why certain things had happened and did I remember…. I had to honestly say ‘No. No, I do not remember most of it’.  I think it was therapeutic for Simon to be in touch with a few of his bullies and to be able to finally get a heartfelt sorry from us.

I praise the Lord that he told me he had found a good partner and was at last finding some peace and happiness after years of counselling. He talked about his early upbringing with a stern father in the military and a mother who was never mentally present. Moving areas and schools every two or three years of his life had been tough and a bunch of middle-class kids made it worse and made him doubt himself.

As I quite seriously told my own children this story a couple of weeks ago I had a lump in my throat and I had to fight to stop the tears forming. They were pretty shocked and I really hope they understood what I was saying about how something that seems harmless and just a case of simple teasing can turn out to be life-damaging for some children or even adults.

From the 16th – 20th November, it is anti-bullying week here in the UK but I’d encourage you, wherever you live, to please have a chat with your children about bullying and help them to understand that the line between harmless fun and detrimental behaviour is very fine. Best to just never get close to it and to adopt a positive attitude towards all people, whether they are easy to be around or not.

Have you ever been involved with bullying, either on the receiving or doling out side? What impact has it had on you?

Michelle Pannell

Michelle’s tales of everyday life and imperfect parenting of a 13-year-old boy and 9-year-old twin girls and her positive Christian outlook on life have made her name known in the UK parenting blogosphere. Her blog, Mummy from the Heart, has struck a chord with and is read by thousands of women across the world. Michelle loves life and enjoys keeping it simple. Time with her family, friends and God are what make her happiest, along with a spot of blogging and tweeting, too! Michelle readily left behind the corporate arena but draws on her 25 years of career experience from the fields of hotel, recruitment and HR management in her current voluntary roles at a school, Christian conference centre, night shelter and food bank. As a ONE ambassador, in 2012 Michelle was selected to travel on a delegation to Ethiopia with the organisation to report on global poverty and health. Then in 2014 she was invited to Washington, DC, where she attended the AYA Summit for girls and women worldwide. When asked about her ambassadorship with the ONE Campaign, she stated, "I feel humbled to be able to act as an advocate and campaigner for those living in poverty."

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UK: Helping Our Children Engage With The Fight For A Fairer World

UK: Helping Our Children Engage With The Fight For A Fairer World

Children helping the world

Miss M’s #Strengthie pose supporting the Poverty is Sexist campaign for ONE

I grew up living a pretty selfish life, if I’m honest. We weren’t a terrible family – we would help those we knew if they needed help, and I recall collecting my spare change for charity boxes and joining in with sponsored events, but that was about the sum of my giving to others. I’m pretty sure this is because my parents both grew up in poverty. They understood what it meant to have an empty tummy and to wear clothes that had been mended so many times they were falling off. So we focused on our tight family unit of four and my parents worked like Trojans, across four jobs, to ensure that they could pay the mortgage and offer my brother and I some of the little luxuries they had never had as children.

In my adult life, through becoming a Christian and learning more about the world around me, I developed a strong sense of compassion and a desire to help those who were not living the kind of life I feel we all deserve. As I’ve grown older (and perhaps wiser, some might say) I’ve wanted my children to understand and to ensure that they are engaging with the fight to help our world become a fairer place. I figure if they learn this as a child, they will get involved and start to help at a younger age, and not wait until they are in their thirties like I was.

Of course, as a parent it is my job to help them and to expose them to age-appropriate content and subjects. My twin girls are nearly eight which means we can discuss sensitive issues, but I’m still refraining from talking about sexual matters as I don’t need to smash their innocence at this age. My son is nearly twelve, and we can talk about almost all topics as he has more of an understanding of how the world works.

I’d really love to hear how other parents are educating and engaging their children within this area, and of course that is one of the reasons Jen set up World Moms Blog: to find out how Moms (Mums/Mams) the world over were tackling the same issues but in different culturally appropriate ways.

I thought it might be useful to share the approaches I have been taking so we can all learn from each other –

Child Sponsorship – In 2004 we started to sponsor our first child through Compassion. He was five at the time and over the last eleven years we have watched Carl-Henri grow into a caring young man. It has been a real privilege to pray for him, encourage the children to write to or draw pictures for him and to be able to financially support his place within a Christian project in Haiti. When the earthquake struck Haiti in 2010 we held our breath and prayed for all the people of the nation but of course our soft-spot was for Carl Henri and his family. Thankfully they were all physically well, but they were thrown into the situation of rebuilding their home and lives, which our supported project was able to help with.

Pray with them – I love to pray with my children. There is nothing more beautiful than hearing them expressing the desires of their hearts and offloading the small worries they carry. We have a daily devotional that sits on our dining table and on the nights when we are all together and have some time we read a verse and explore what it means for us and others.

Watch the news together and have open discussions – I probably don’t do this as often as I should but there is so much going on in the world and only so much that a young child can take in. There are some great TV programs nowadays that show the children what it is like for children living elsewhere. In the UK Blue Peter is very good, as is Extreme School and My Life.

Encourage them to raise money for charity – The children have mostly been involved in fundraising for overseas projects through their church groups, and Miss M particularly is keen to make sure she takes some of her pocket-money each week to put in the kids collection. We are signed up to run in the Race for Life soon, which raises money for Cancer Research UK and the girls alone have rustled up £65 in sponsorship. This has certainly made me aware that I need to get them fundraising with me more often.

Involve them in my blog and my plight to fight for a better world – I have been so privileged to travel with ONE and Samaritans Purse to see how donations from the UK and USA are being used in developing countries, and it has been an absolute pleasure to share this with all my children. They have all been very interested and proud as I have shared in Church, schools and within local groups. I also try to involve them in my blogging work and when I am working on a big advocacy campaign they are right there with me sharing the information and championing the cause.

Send them off to offer practical help – Whether in my home country or abroad, I am passionate that young adults should offer practical help to projects that are in need. It might be building skills, playing with children, reading to someone, clearing rubbish, cleaning dishes or something else entirely but so much is learnt when we stretch ourselves and move out of our comfort zone and do something for which we have nothing to gain. My children are all still a little young to have been involved in any kind of mission work as yet but it won’t be long before JJ is old enough and he is already volunteering within our own community.

So that is where our family is at the moment and I really would love to hear from you: what else can we do? What has worked for your family? What do we need to steer clear of?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Michelle Pannell of the United Kingdom. Photo credit to the author.

Michelle Pannell

Michelle’s tales of everyday life and imperfect parenting of a 13-year-old boy and 9-year-old twin girls and her positive Christian outlook on life have made her name known in the UK parenting blogosphere. Her blog, Mummy from the Heart, has struck a chord with and is read by thousands of women across the world. Michelle loves life and enjoys keeping it simple. Time with her family, friends and God are what make her happiest, along with a spot of blogging and tweeting, too! Michelle readily left behind the corporate arena but draws on her 25 years of career experience from the fields of hotel, recruitment and HR management in her current voluntary roles at a school, Christian conference centre, night shelter and food bank. As a ONE ambassador, in 2012 Michelle was selected to travel on a delegation to Ethiopia with the organisation to report on global poverty and health. Then in 2014 she was invited to Washington, DC, where she attended the AYA Summit for girls and women worldwide. When asked about her ambassadorship with the ONE Campaign, she stated, "I feel humbled to be able to act as an advocate and campaigner for those living in poverty."

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UK: The Power of Gratitude

UK: The Power of Gratitude

2 keys to happinessI love reading other people’s blogs and sometimes a post just stays with me and I go back to it a number of times because it is worth reading over and over again. Last August I read a post by Glennon at Momastery and she summed up my stance on life in such a fabulous post, one that quickly went viral.

Go and have a read if you like and then come back, or alternatively, here is the low-down. Glennon starts by saying she posted a picture of herself in her kitchen on Facebook and very quickly people started to comment on her status with offers of help. Help to update her kitchen, pictures for inspiration and advice of how she might move away from her kitchen of clutter, mismatched appliances and 80’s style work surfaces.

Guess what happened? Within minutes Glennon had moved from her place of contentment and was converting a shiny new kitchen, one that did not make her look lazy and dated. She then talks of going to bed that night and remembering a quote from Thoreau’s Walden: “I say beware of all enterprises that require new clothes and not a new wearer of the clothes.”

In her words “Walden reminds me that when I feel lacking – I don’t need new things, I need new eyes with which to see the things I already have.” Of course the next morning as she walked into her kitchen her eyes were aligned very differently and instead of a craft covered refrigerator and overflowing sink she saw plenty of chilled food that could sustain her family and easy access to clean drinking water, things that much of the world cannot take for granted.

I can’t urge you enough, dear friends, to choose to be grateful for what you have in life. Of course your life is not perfect, no-one’s is but there is always joy to be had in every day. Around the same time as I started to write my personal blog seven years ago I adopted the stance that we all choose how our day would go. I had baby twins and a toddler and life was full-on, I could feel myself spiralling into late-onset post-natal depression and I knew I had to make some changes to help me.

The big change was to choose to be happy, happy with what I had in life, happy that I had been blessed with three small demanding children and happy that my life lay ahead of me and that I had the freedom to choose how it might look.

This choice, combined with continual talking about how I felt, led to me feeling so much better, and the depression started lifting. I know I was lucky, it is not always that easy to rise out of the blackness, but my faith and belief in God’s goodness really helped me.

In 2011 I started a new series on my blog called Reasons to be Cheerful and this is an excerpt from the launch page – “Do you know what I believe are two of the fundamental keys to happiness? One, is to choose to be happy and the other is to want what you already have! Endless seeking of things, money, status, time or anything else will never fulfil you! This is where the gratitude comes in….“ And over time I just felt my contentment grow.

For me as a Christian it is important that I express my gratitude as the bible tells me ‘to give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever’ (Psalm 106:1) but you do not have to share my faith to believe in the power and necessity of practising the principle of gratitude. I am living proof that gratitude makes a massive difference in your life. With practise when you choose to look for the good and see where you can be thankful rather than focusing on the bad you will find your mood, your health, your outlook on life and your contentment lift. It is a precious gift indeed to feel content.

So I urge you next time you see someone else’s shiny new kitchen and you start to think that yours needs an update, try and delve a little deeper and see what it is you are really missing, as its unlikely to be kitchen units. What has caused this dissatisfaction? Then once you have pondered this, turn it around and share your #3GoodThings for that day and watch the low feeling disappear as you revel in all the goodness and beauty you already have in your life.

As my lovely friend Karin always says “Not every day is good but there is good in every day.”

What are you grateful for? How do you seek happiness when things are not going well?

This is an original post for World Moms Blog by Michelle Pannell of Mummy from the Heart. Photo credit to the author.

 

Michelle Pannell

Michelle’s tales of everyday life and imperfect parenting of a 13-year-old boy and 9-year-old twin girls and her positive Christian outlook on life have made her name known in the UK parenting blogosphere. Her blog, Mummy from the Heart, has struck a chord with and is read by thousands of women across the world. Michelle loves life and enjoys keeping it simple. Time with her family, friends and God are what make her happiest, along with a spot of blogging and tweeting, too! Michelle readily left behind the corporate arena but draws on her 25 years of career experience from the fields of hotel, recruitment and HR management in her current voluntary roles at a school, Christian conference centre, night shelter and food bank. As a ONE ambassador, in 2012 Michelle was selected to travel on a delegation to Ethiopia with the organisation to report on global poverty and health. Then in 2014 she was invited to Washington, DC, where she attended the AYA Summit for girls and women worldwide. When asked about her ambassadorship with the ONE Campaign, she stated, "I feel humbled to be able to act as an advocate and campaigner for those living in poverty."

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