Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Bedtime Story (18/04/2018)

It's been a while since I wrote a silly story, so...  Let's break that drought, shall we?!

You can also listen to this story as a podcast.

Harriet's Heavenly Hair

Everywhere Harriet went, people admired her hair.  It was golden caramel coloured and fell almost perfectly straight, until it formed pretty waves near the bottom.  It was long, too.  her hair fell way below her shoulders, halfway down her back.  People would tell her how thick and healthy it looked.  How neat and shiny it was.  How heavenly.

The trouble was, Harriet was starting to rather like being told how fabulous her hair was.  In fact, the more people told her how pretty it looked, the more she wanted to hear it.  It made Harriet feel special and she liked feeling special.

Then, one day, Harriet went to a sleepover with her friends.  Before bed, they all watched movies and ate popcorn.  It was great, until someone suggested one last film, all about a girl called Rapunzel.  

Rapunzel had gorgeous, long, blonde hair.  It didn't just fall halfway down her back and then stop.  No, Rapunzel's hair carried on, all the way to the floor and then some.  It was long enough to wrap around herself like a blanket.  It was long enough to dangle out of a top floor window and let a handsome prince climb up it.  It made Harriet's hair almost look short.

Once the movie had ended, all anyone could talk about was Rapunzel's amazing hair.  That didn't please Harriet one little bit.  And so, after the lights went out and everyone had gone to sleep, she lay awake, thinking.  By morning, her mind was made up.

"I'm going to grow my hair really long," Harriet announced to her parents, when they picked her up, later that day.  "I want it to be long enough to sit on.  Long enough to dangle out of windows.  Long enough that everyone says how amazing it is."

Harriet's mother was very confused.  "People already tell you how amazing your hair is," she insisted.  "And I don't think growing it that long sounds very practical..."

"I don't care," Harriet snapped.  "I need to have the best hair ever.  Better than some princess in a film.  So, I'm not having it cut ever again."

Weeks went by and Harriet's friends were still talking about Rapunzel.  They all wanted hair that touched the ground.  Harriet was furious, but she was determined.  When her mother tried to take her for a haircut, Harriet screamed so loudly, you'd have thought the poor hairdresser was trying to shave her head, completely.

And so, slowly, Harriet's hair began to grow longer.

Soon, it reached her waist.  It took longer to brush in the mornings and much longer to wash in the bath, but Harriet didn't care.  

And still, her hair continued to grow.

By the Summer, Harriet's hair was nearly long enough to sit on.  Having so much of it meant that her head - and back - were almost constantly too hot.  She didn't like to wear it tied back, in case people couldn't see how gloriously long it was, so as the weather got ever warmer, Harriet took to swishing her head around, desperately trying to keep herself cool.

And still, her hair continued to grow.

When the new school year started in September, Harriet could finally sit on her hair.  It actually hurt her head, as it tugged on the roots, but she didn't mind.  Her friends had started calling her Rapunzel and that was all Harriet cared about.  Even when the ends got stuck in her chair and yanked several hairs straight out of her head, she still refused to have it cut.

And still, her hair continued to grow.

As the Autumn leaves began falling from the trees, Harriet and her friends went stomping through piles, kicking crisp leaves in every direction.  They built dens to shelter from the rain and they climbed the trees, calling to one another.  Harriet couldn't climb the trees.  She still refused to tie her hair back and it kept getting wound around branches.  One day, she was stuck for a full half an hour, whilst her friends tried to unknot a large clump of hair from a particularly thorny bush.  And when it rained, Harriet's hair got stuck everywhere - on her arms, legs and back.  But she couldn't cut it.  She had to have the longest hair!  The best hair!

And so, her hair continued to grow.

In October, the school sent a letter to Harriet's parents, telling her she had to either have her hair cut, or tied back.  It was causing too many problems!  People kept getting their school bags caught on it as they walked past her in the corridor.  It was splaying out over the tables at lunchtime and ending up in people's dinner.

Harriet was furious.  But when she tied her hair back, it did stop it getting caught on things quite so often.  And having it off her shoulders felt strangely nice.  Still, if she stopped having hair almost as long as Rapunzel, she wouldn't be special, would she?!

And so, her hair continued to grow.

On Bonfire Night, nobody would let Harriet hold a sparkler, or stand anywhere near the bonfire itself.  Her hair was now so long, that the slightest spark might set it alight.  Harriet watched her friends, drawing shapes in the night sky with their sparklers and she felt fed up.  Every time she sat down, her hair landed beneath her bottom and tugged painfully on her head.  And each time she stood back up, she found crunched up leaves and twigs tangled in the ends.  What was worse, nobody stopped her in the street to say how lovely her hair looked, anymore.  Instead, she got a lot of strange glances.  It wasn't surprising, really - her hair was now only a few inches short of her knees.  She had to brush it before bed as well as in the morning and no matter how long she brushed it for, she still woke up with it all in knots, the next day.  She was using three towels every morning, just to dry her hair, after washing it.  Plaiting it took ages.  Even just tying it back was a struggle, because there was so much of it.

The very next day, Harriet asked her mother to take her to the hairdressers.

Her mother was a bit nervous, considering how badly their last trip had gone, but this time, Harriet was as good as gold.  She climbed up into the chair, smiled sweetly at the hairdresser and asked: "Can you please just cut it all off?!"

Snip by snip, Harriet's hair got shorter and shorter.  It took ages, but eventually, Harriet was sitting, looking at herself in the mirror, with her hair back to its old length, halfway down her back.  She took a deep breath.  "More," she said, simply.  "I need more off."

The hairdresser went back to work with her scissors, cutting and trimming until Harriet's hair stopped at her shoulders.

"Still more," Harriet insisted.

Finally, Harriet's hair was cut into a neat, glossy bob, that reached her chin.  It was the shortest Harriet had ever had it.  She shook her head from side to side, feeling the lightness of such a short haircut and grinning, broadly.  

When her mother had paid and they stepped out into the street, a passing lady glanced at Harriet and smiled: "Ooh, what a lovely hairdo!"

Harriet beamed back at her.  "Thank you!"

And so, Harriet and her mother went back home.  Harriet's hair no longer swished around her, like a golden cape.  It wasn't long enough to sit on.  But she did feel pretty special, all the same.  She'd realised that sometimes, you need to be careful what you wish for.  Her dream of having hair that reached the floor had brought all kinds of problems with it, after all. 

Harriet didn't stop smiling for days.  She kept glancing at herself in the mirror and beaming at her reflection.  She might not look like Rapunzel anymore, but she looked like a new version of herself.  And suddenly, that was all she wanted to be!


Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Bedtime Story (11/04/2018)

Lately, I've been thinking about how much of ourselves we sometimes keep hidden and how easy it is to judge someone based on only a fraction of their personality.  With that in mind, I wanted to write a story about acknowledging a person as a whole, not by only one aspect of who we think they are.  I think that's a pretty important lesson to teach little ones and I hope you enjoy this week's story.

You can also listen to this story as a podcast.

Alex Is The Bravest Boy

Alex is the bravest boy, 
Perhaps in the whole school.
He's the first to go exploring,
The first to dive into the pool.
He isn't scared of bugs or ghosts,
Or anything at all!
He's never one to shy away,
He's always standing tall.

But Alex has a big fear,
That keeps him up at night.
The thought of looking scared
Makes him quiver with such fright!
He thinks he has to be the bravest,
Because it's what his friends expect.
If he admits to being frightened,
His reputation would be wrecked!

Leila is the funny one,
She's always telling jokes!
If you sit next to her at lunch,
She'll make you giggle 'til you croak!
She never takes life seriously,
She's always up for a laugh.
When you hear a joke from Leila,
Your day improves by half!

But Leila's jokes are armour,
To protect her from the world.
"Because sometimes life is scary,"
She thinks, with her lip curled.
"And sometimes life is sad as well,
With troubles heaped on in piles.
And all you can do is tell a joke
To try to make people smile."

Then there's Chris, the quiet one.
He doesn't have much to say.
He keeps himself to himself,
Doesn't like to get in the way.
He doesn't like to take charge of games,
He's not a boy who leads.
He'd much rather sit all by himself,
In a quiet corner and read.

But Chris isn't actually quiet,
He's just ever so shy.
He'd love to really get involved;
He feels life just passes him by.
He's not sure how to leave his shell,
So he watches the others roaring,
As he peeps over the top of his book,
And hopes they don't think he's boring.

People are just like icebergs,
With only the tip above the sea.
There's more to them than meets the eye,
So much more than you first see.
So try to get to know some more:
Find out who they really are.
When a person is more than just one thing,
They become more exciting by far!

They might still be brave, or funny or shy,
But they'll have a lot more to them, too.
So getting to know your friends a bit better
Is what I encourage you all to do.


Saturday, 7 April 2018

I CANNOT Find My Chill...

My brain is a strange - and not always pleasant - place.  As a result, I have something of a love/hate relationship with my own mind.  There are days when my brain takes particularly cruel pride in reminding me of all the things that have gone wrong in my life.  There are nights when I'm trying to sleep, during which my brain will replay all the things I've done wrong in my life.  I'll have moments when, thanks to the little sadist in my head, I'll convince myself that I'm useless at everything, have no actual friends and that if I tell anyone I'm feeling that way, they'll think I'm an attention-seeking drama queen and immediately lose any smidgeon of respect for me they might have otherwise had.


As a side note, my method for cheering myself up again, when my brain is in full-on sadistic mode, is to sing along with this song until I laugh at myself:

And then I binge-watch Crazy Ex Girlfriend and just adore Rachel Bloom for a while.

The thing is, my brain has a flip-side.  The sadistic "you are rubbish and everyone hates you" part of it is sometimes overshadowed by a weird, desperate need to do ALL THE THINGS AT ONCE.  Consequently, I might have a day during which I have to fight the urge to contact everyone I know and arrange lunch, dinner and a night out.  I'll randomly want a holiday.  But not in the usual "ooh, work has been stressful, I could use a break" way that most of us feel, from time to time.  I'm talking: "OH MY GOD, I SHOULD BOOK A TRIP SOMEWHERE!   I WANT TO GO AWAY.  I WANT TO RIDE A ROLLERCOASTER.  I SHOULD MAYBE TAKE UP AN EXTREME SPORT.  PERHAPS I'LL DO A PARACHUTE JUMP!"

 This ludicrous desire to do everything, all at once, almost always follows a period of "everyone hates you."  It's taken me years to realise that, weird though it is, this is actually my brain's way of protecting myself and bringing me out of that mopey, depressive phase.  It doesn't work for everyone - anxiety is a right mare and sometimes it, combined with depression, can make plans seem terrifying and unachievable - but it works for me.  The best way of bringing me out of a mood slump is by... Well, bringing me out, full stop.  Taking me somewhere for lunch.  Arranging drinks, somewhere.  Going on a day trip.

I know this, so naturally, if I don't have any upcoming plans, I guess it makes sense that I might start wanting to make some.  It makes slightly less sense that I decide I absolutely need to go everywhere and do everything, ideally on the same day, but hey...  Essentially, what I need to do is keep myself busy, do things that I find fun, with people I feel comfortable around.  If I can do that, I'll be fine.  If for any reason I can't (lack of money, friends being busy with other plans etc), I just kind of lose my chill.


I can go stir-crazy, even if I've only been sitting around doing nothing for as little as half an hour, when my brain is in "chill-free" mode.  I need to go for a walk.  Except no, I actually need to go out for lunch with a friend.  Except no, I really want to visit a theme park.  Except...

Thankfully, this phase doesn't last too long.  At least, it tends to only last as long as it takes to get over the mopey/depressive phase that preceded it.  Before long, I rediscover my ability to laze about, binge-watching something on Netflix, or reading a book for hours.  I guess that's probably because eventually, I'm able to be alone with my own thoughts, without those thoughts being:" Remember how rubbish a human you are?!"  At the end of the day, my lack of chill and my drastic desire to constantly be doing things is almost certainly a way of stopping myself from thinking too much.  Specifically, stopping myself from thinking really mean thoughts about... Well, me.

So, yesterday was one of those "I'm rubbish" days.  Meaning that today, I've constantly been wanting to make plans and occupy myself with literally anything.  Sitting around doing nothing was not an option for my brain, today.

Of course, the irony is, sitting down to write this blog has actually forced me to think about all the things I'd usually be trying to avoid (probably through desperately attempting to persuade people to go and play crazy golf, or something).

Maybe I will find my chill, after all.  I'm off to look behind the sofa...

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Bedtime Story (4/4/2018)

A bit of a deep subject this week, but I've been thinking about the different places that anger can come from and the other emotions that often hide behind it.  I'm a strong believer that no subject should be off-limits, in terms of children's stories, so I decided to write about this one!

You can listen to this story as a podcast by clicking here.

The Angry Kid

In Jackson's class, there was a boy,
Who always seemed to be mad.
His face was like thunder, his hands were in fists.
He was a very angry lad.

The boy was always stomping his feet,
And giving out furious glares.
Jackson and his friends would cower and shrink
Beneath the weight of the angry kid's stares.

But behind his fury was a different feeling.
One day, Jackson heard him cry:
"My Gran's in hospital, really ill.
I'm just so scared she might die."

Suddenly, the angry kid in his class
Wasn't a tough boy with no cares.
He was a young lad, frightened by realising
That sometimes, life isn't fair.

So, Jackson gently spoke to the boy,
Who admitted that he felt really sad.
"Sometimes," the boy said, "I feel so afraid,
It bubbles over and makes me feel mad."

"Does that sound stupid?" The boy asked.
"To be angry because I feel scared?"
But he didn't seem so cross anymore,
Because he knew now that somebody cared.

"All kinds of feelings can make us mad,"
Jackson smiled as he softly replied.
"If a feeling is bad, it can tangle your mind
And make you feel stormy inside."

"Sometimes if I feel embarrassed," he said,
"I get grumpy and cross with my friends.
I end up frowning and sulking until
The angry feeling inside of me ends."

"I get grouchy when I'm tired as well,
Because then my temper is short.
I feel like I want to block out the whole world
And just be alone with my thoughts."

"We might be cross because we don't feel well,
Or frustrated because something went wrong.
And sometimes that anger can stay a while,
But other times it doesn't last long."

"The important thing is to know how you feel;
What's the reason you're feeling so mad?
Then you can work out what to do next,
To stop yourself feeling so bad."

"You might need to talk to your family or friends,
Or you may need some time on your own.
You might have energy you've got to burn off,
Or you might want quiet time, safe at home."

"Just remember being angry doesn't feel nice.
That feeling can tie you in knots.
It might cause you to make some bad choices.
It can make you feel breathless and hot."

"Being angry happens to everyone.
It's a perfectly normal thing for you to feel.
But if you can find out what's making you so mad,
You'll soon be back on an even keel."

The boy didn't look so incensed, anymore,
Although he did still look rather sad.
But he managed a smile at Jackson;
Just having talked it through made him glad.

So, next time you start feeling angry,
Remember to ask yourself why.
Then do whatever you need to do,
To wave those cross feelings goodbye.

Count to ten, take a deep breath,
Or sit quietly up in your room.
Hit a pillow, or play music loud,
You could even howl at the moon!

Just don't let that angry feeling
Drive you totally mad.
Remember family and friends are there
To help when things feel bad.

And you can help others too, sometimes,
As through life you are travelling along.
Perhaps next time someone seems upset,
You could start by asking: "What's wrong?"


Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Time Heals

Yep.  I've shared a Jason Donovan album track from the 80s.  I'm just that cool.

The thing is: Time, as Jason sings in his lilting Aussie accent, really heals.

I recently made a video on my YouTube channel, in which I talked about learning who I really am and realising how we change and grow over the years, even without knowing it.  As such, we can sometimes look at ourselves and suddenly notice that we're not the same person now as we were a year ago.  The experiences we go through in life have the capacity to change us and that's not something to be scared of; it's something to embrace.

As usual this morning, I was doing my mildly masochistic thing of looking at my "On This Day" memories on Facebook.  And - not for the first time, recently - I barely recognised the girl who was posting statuses just twelve months ago.

The thing is, a year ago, I was drowning.  Every single day was a struggle to keep my head above water and I couldn't see any way of things getting better.  How could I?!  My supposed best friends were all gone and nothing would ever be the same again.  

But here's the thing:  They didn't need to be the same again.  I just had to get used to a different life.  I had to go out and make that different life.

The Emma of a year ago believed that she was permanently in the wrong.  She thought she was worthy of hate, she believed she wasn't good enough.  More than anything else, she believed that she was going to be alone and depressed forever.  And I can't stress enough: Emma from a year ago?  WAS WRONG.

And if you're reading this and you're in a place where you believe you aren't good enough and that things will never get better, I promise you, you're wrong, too.  I know, I know.  Nobody believes that things will get better, when they're in the thick of things being utterly horrendous.  I didn't, so if you're reading this and you don't, I get it.

But they will get better.

We all have this inbuilt desire to fix things that are broken.  Somehow, we think if we can only stick things back together - be they objects, situations or people - everything will fall back into place, again.  The truth is, sometimes life isn't about fixing what's broken.  It's about realising that a broken thing can't always be mended and putting your energy into something else, instead.

The second I stopped trying to fix the situation that held my head beneath the waves, I started finding ways to kick a bit harder and keep myself afloat.  I slowly started to realise that there wasn't a fix.  I'd tried everything and nothing had worked.  It was time to let go.

Instead of fixing something broken, I set about building something from scratch.  Namely me and my life.  No biggie, obvs...

But everything seems scary until you do it.  And even when things are scary after you actually do them, they're usually only scary for a while, then they get easier.  Eventually, you realise you're doing things you'd put off for ages and you haven't, you know, died or anything.  It's just taking that first step that's often the terrifying part.

Of course, you can't take that first step until you're ready.  And that's where we come back to the whole "time heals" thing.  Because for one person, it might only be a few weeks before they're feeling up to moving on.  For another, it could be months or even years.  There's no right or wrong - it's different for everyone.  But it will happen.  It could happen slowly, or it could suddenly happen at all once: you'll just realise you're ready to let go and move forwards.

All I know for sure is that it does get better.  Bad things inevitably lose their impact over time - however enormous and awful the thing may be - and good things will always come along, often when you least expect it.  Learning to balance the good and bad things in life is just part of the ebb and flow of human existence, after all.

I would love to be able to travel back a year and tell 2017 Emma that she's going to be okay.  That someday, she'll look back and memories won't hurt so much.  That newer, better things are coming for her.  But what I can do is tell you.

You're going to be okay.  You're fine, you're worthy of good things and those good things are out there for you.  Keep kicking, keep holding your head up.  The tide will change.  Sometimes, you just have to wait a while.

Time heals.

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Bedtime Story (28/3/2018)

As I write this, rather unusually for Cornwall, it's snowing quite heavily!  The weather has been all over the place so far this year, so what else could I do but write yet another story about it?!

If you'd like to listen to this story, just click here for the podcast!

"What's Your Favourite Kind of Weather?"

"I can't do my homework," Alice loudly moaned.
"It's just too hard!"  She rolled her eyes and groaned.
"We have to write about what kind of weather we like best,
But I like every kind of weather," poor Alice confessed.

Mum pulled a face: "Surely not all kinds?
There must be a favourite type that you can find?
Or maybe think of weather you don't like and rule that out?
Then you'll just be left with good weather types to write about."

"But I like all weather, I told you!"  Alice said.
"Can't I just write about loving every kind, instead?"
And so, Alice decided that was just what she would do.
And she chose to tell her mother all about it, too.

"I love it when it rains and causes puddles on the ground,
Because I can wear my wellies and splash and stomp around.
Sometimes when the ground gets wet, I can make mud pies!
And even if you just breathe in, rainy air smells kind of nice."

"I love a cold, crisp day outside," were the next words Alice spoke.
"You go into the chilly air and see your breath come out like smoke!
Everything is frosty and sometimes, the puddles freeze.
You run around to warm up, with your cheeks pink from the breeze."

"And windy days are excellent," Alice added with a smile.
"You can throw a leaf into the air and watch it blow for miles!
You can't stand still for too long, or you might just blow away,
And when the wind is noisy, you can't hear what people say!"

Alice clapped her hands together, suddenly crying: "Snow!
Oh, it's so lovely to watch those twirling white flakes blow.
Building snowmen, throwing snowballs and sledging down the street.
It may be cold, but snowy days really are a treat!"

"But then again, a hot day is pretty special, too.
When your skin smells of sun cream and the sky is clear, bright blue.
Sunny days are perfect for a fun trip to the sea.
I lie there in the warm sand and let the sun beam down on me."

"Of course, a hot day means finding shady spots to hide,
Just to start you cooling down, before you get too fried!
But feeling the warmth on your skin makes everyone feel better.
No need for Winter boots, or a big, thick, woolly sweater!"

"Even storms are brilliant," Alice told her mum.
"With all that flashing lightning and thunder like a drum.
You have to sit by the window and watch it through the glass.
I don't mind staying inside and waiting for it to pass."

"I even like a foggy day, when the clouds hang really low.
You can barely see a thing; you have to mind how you go.
All the world looks different, depending on the weather.
But all of it is beautiful, when we enjoy it together."

"So, I can't pick my favourite; trying just gives me the blues.
I really do love all weathers and I simply cannot choose."
Alice finished writing and on her pencil started chewing:
"I think it's time to go outside and see what the weather's doing!"


Monday, 26 March 2018

You ARE Ready!!

This morning, whilst I was browsing Twitter from an account I co-run, I stumbled upon the above tweet.  I stared at it for a while, with a look of confusion on my face.  Granted, it wasn't even six thirty in the morning and confusion is basically the only look you're going to get from me at that kind of hour, but even long after I was up and getting on with my day, the general feeling of "EH?!" remained.

Because you guys, I have a pair of legs.  And Spring has literally never affected them.  Ever

The only preparation I have ever done, in the event of warmer weather finally arriving, is to shave my legs if I'm wearing a skirt/dress/shorts and to slap on a bit of sun cream if necessary.  Is that really worthy of an entire magazine article?! 

The short answer to that is no, of course it flipping isn't.  But magazines like Vogue don't make any money out of going "hey, don't forget the Factor 30 on a sunny day."  They make their cash by promoting a particular standard of beauty, which women should all supposedly aspire to, despite it being entirely unrealistic.  They make their money by filling their pages with adverts for expensive products, then printing articles that makes their readers think they desperately need those products.  Hence you'll find some ludicrous piece entitled "Ladies, Make Sure Your Nostrils Are Party Ready, This Season!" nestled close to a full page, glossy ad for some crazily expensive nose-hair trimmers.

And whilst men's magazines do have articles pertaining to a particular standard of attractiveness that guys are supposed to work towards, it's fair to say that this weird cry of "IS YOUR BODY READY FOR EASTER FRIDAY?!" and so on, is a peculiarly female thing.  Ask yourself: have you ever seen an article asking men if their legs are ready for Spring?

I've ranted about this stuff before, but I feel like it's something I will be forced to keep coming back to, as long as this idiocy continues.  Because that's what it is: idiocy.

If you have legs and it's Spring where you are, guess what?  Your legs are Spring-ready.

Do you have a body?  Are you capable of taking it to a beach?  Congratulations, you're beach-body-ready.

And so on and so on for all eternity.

Look, there's nothing wrong with enjoying making yourself look and feel good.  There's nothing wrong with choosing to read make up tips or fashion magazines, if that's what you want to do.  But there is a whole world of wrong when it comes to forcing total nonsense on women and making them feel like they might not be good enough if they're not some airbrushed, perfectly contoured, size zero waif with this season's correct armpit-colour.

You are ready.  

Right now.  

You are good enough.  If you want to lose some weight, go for it.  If you feel like doing some kind of detox or arranging an exercise plan, that's great.  But do those things for you and your own health.  Don't do them because some overpriced, glossy rag is telling you that you need to in order to be valid as a person.  

Take your body to a beach, no matter what your body looks like.  Enjoy Spring, regardless of the state of your flaming legs.  

Whatever you look like, whoever you are, YOU are ready.

Never let a magazine stuffed full of photoshopped models tell you any different.