@NotAloneAtXmas to go 365

This blog post is about a chemical reaction.

It is about a domino effect which has accelerated in a way I could never have thought possible in my wildest dreams.

@NotAloneAtXmas was born out of a hellish 3 months and an indescribable feeling of loneliness which I couldn’t shake. In the middle of the night about 1.5 weeks ago I woke up abruptly to the thought that if I was feeling this, there must be millions of others going through the same – especially coming up to Christmas. The feeling that I had to reach them was so strong in my head that I had to get up there and then and do something about it … almost as if the idea would dissolve if I didn’t act on it straight away. How I would do it was suddenly obvious … Twitter! I don’t think I even had to think about a name – it added itself.

On Friday afternoon, I waved goodbye to my little one until January, cried a lot, put my blinkers on and launched the account.

By the morning of Christmas Eve we had gone viral. One of the original tweets I put out to plug the account was being RT’d so often the #notaloneatxmas hashtag was literally spinning. By the afternoon, the RT’ing had calmed and I could see that followers of the account were starting to really chat to each other – already friendships were growing.

All I can say, is that what followed was nothing less than a small miracle; people who had come to the account because they were lonely were shaking themselves off and going out of their way to proactively contact others who were tweeting loneliness, sadness, depression, frustration etc. People stayed on the stream for hours, hand-holding others, consoling, chatting and offering company and a friendly ‘ear’ to others who were really struggling. By Christmas Day we had hit Twitter around the world and tweets were coming in in several different languages.

The number of offers of support we had from people who were not actually alone over Christmas was also incredible. These people were using time while OH’s were snoozing, or babies napping etc to just ‘be there’ for anyone wanting to chat. One follower who was home alone stayed online for the entire Christmas period – from Christmas Eve through to the morning of Boxing Day and contacted literally 100s of people. Absolutely astounding generosity of spirit.

I have shed many tears just observing the way that people have picked it up and, using their own initiative, developed it and pushed it and have, collectively, driven it to the point where NotAlone could now become a real institution. @carlplant has been invaluable already in simply taking someone’s suggestion of ‘putting us on the map’ and has created us a fantastic crowdmap for us to plot people, help offered / help needed, events, etc as well as a comments forum for future development: https://notalone.crowdmap.com/main

Others are volunteering to help with online forums, events and online support. One group of amazing people who came to us initially and separately for company is now being phenomenal in their drive to help promote us by targeting other charities, prominents and getting the word out by RT. We have already received tweeted support from politicians and from help organisations with whom we plan to form an online collaboration.

At this point in time we have 789 followers and the stream has been active around the clock, following the sun. It goes without saying then, that I will not shut the account down now just because Christmas is over. As so many have commented, loneliness and depression are not simply symptoms of the seasons, but are experienced by millions of people all year round. We will develop what we have started and we will stay open under the new name of NotAlone365. This institution will be a 24/7 service – all day, every day.

I am truly, truly overwhelmed by the warmth and fellowship of every one of the people who joined us and can only touch the surface when I say the biggest THANK YOU! to all those who have helped me turn a simple idea into something of such incredible value. I am excited to the point of popping! about what the future holds for us. If we can touch and help such a large pocket of people in 3 days, Heaven knows what more we can do if we sit down and plan, strategically how to move forward. Many of us already have ideas about where to take this and, whatever happens, move forward we WILL! We’re here for the duration.

If you are reading this and didn’t find us over Christmas, we will continue to operate under the name @NotAloneAtXmas with hashtag #notaloneatxmas until the afternoon of Friday 30th European time when I will amend the account name to @NotAlone365 with hashtag #notalone365 (this hashtag is actually already being used as a stream).

If you are reading and know someone who might benefit from the company of the friendliest group of people I have ever come across, please direct them to the account.

Thank you again to everyone for your support so far. Please continue to plug @NotAloneAtXmas soon to become @NotAlone365 and the hashtag #notalone365. I really believe we can help change lives.

 

MJM.

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Leoni the Catkin bug

My 4yo went to a birthday party on Sunday afternoon. He returned clutching three things: a blow-up aeroplane, a large catkin and a Kinder Schoko-bon.

The blow-up aeroplane was enormous fun but moving on …

In my most innocent typing voice, I’ll just say that no-one can deliver a big, fat catkin into my hands without me wanting to do something with it. So while L demolished the Schoko-bon (did I say Schoko-bon?? .. I’m sure I didn’t as I never do advertising on my blogs unless I’m in love), so,  anyway, while my son devoured the afore-mentioned Ferrero wonder-sweet called a Schoko-bon, I disappeared into the cupboard and came back out with some googly eyes, a roll of wire, a pair of scissors and some glue.

Said Catkin is now called Leoni and is my 4yo’s new best friend.

Copyright MJMnL Craftybits 11th October, 2011

Copyright MJMnL Craftybits, 11th October, 2011

Copyright MJMnL Craftybits, 11th October, 2011

10 minute crafts before tea – we love ’em!!

MJMnL.

Posted in 10-minute Crafts, Autumn, Entertainment, Kids, MJMnL Craftybits | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Silent Sunday

Copyright Metajugglamum 09 October, 2011*

MJM.


Posted in Germany, Kids, Parenting, Photography, Silent Sunday | Tagged , , , | 15 Comments

The Gallery – Colour

I haven’t posted for the Gallery in what seems ages – not for lack of motivation, rather just life getting in the way over the last couple of months, but this one got to my get-up-and-go for a number of reasons: The first being that I just adore colour; the second, that it intrigues and fascinates me and third, well, the link to the Dulux site Own a colour, help save a child’s life for UNISEF, on the Sticky Fingers host blog, was a stroke of genius by Tara (#applauds loudly and is looking forward to spending ages picking out a colour for this wonderful cause.)

So there’s something about colour that still takes me back to the age that my son is now – believing in fairies and elves and pixies and magic … colour is what ‘does it’ for my world and is right up there with music for being able to transport me in an instant to somewhere  far beyond the stress of everyday life, to where I can really appreciate just how amazingly stunning our planet really is. Almost ethereal.

I need colour in my life – I need to be surrounded by it, it inspires me, it excites me, it makes me feel at home. The fact that there are, according to the Own a Colour for UNISEF site, 16.7 million identifiably different colours is staggering, but somehow, when I stand on my balcony and stare out, day after day, at the fields and the sky beyond my  little flat, it doesn’t surprise me at all; it’s the same view, but the colours change by the second, depending on the time of day – the light, the weather, the seasons and, I guess, my own state of awareness. Whatever the conditions, it is always jaw-droppingly beautiful.

But my appreciation is non-scientific. It is almost purely sensory and perhaps also a little artistic. Having studied physics only to O-Level I have relatively little understanding about how colour really works – I have read up on the basics, but the answer to one question still eludes me – the question of ‘perception’; is what I see as red exactly the same as what you see and call red? Maybe I see red and call it ‘red’, where you see a different actual colour (e.g. green) but still call it red …. and the thing is, how could we ever prove that we are, in fact, seeing different things? I am sure this must have been proven scientifically somewhere, but, so far having asked hundreds of people, no-one has given me a satisfactory answer yet. Do you know? If you do, then please, please share your explanation in the comments.

So I considered many options of photos with which to ‘paint’ my text … perhaps a series of seasonal images of the view from the balcony, or some high-colour images of flora and fauna, or skies at sunset … but nothing really did it for me … each image was missing something somewhere – as if the picture itself had swallowed up the very point I was trying to make by scaling down the dimensions. The true colour in the images fell way short of my memory of the scene. So I came up with the pictures below … and my point? Well, my point is a sort of an experiment; our world is so rammed with colour that our brains cannot possibly process every detail of what our eyes are seeing. But what if we lower the saturation and offer an image which is void of colour as we know it … do we really only see ‘black and white’ … ? My guess, from my own experience, is that an effectively colourless image may serve to stimulate the viewer’s brain to filling the image with its own perception of colour … back to the world of the fairies – a black and white image can essentially become a fantasy land and as rich as any scene you will ever experience in the real world… because we make it so!

Am I right or am I completely insane?! What do you really see in the images below?

Copyright Metajugglamum 05 October, 2011Copyright Metajugglamum 05 October, 2011Copyright Metajugglamum 05 October, 2011Copyright Metajugglamum 05 October, 2011Copyright Metajugglamum, 05 October, 2011Copyright Metajugglamum 05 October, 2011*

(oh, and don’t forget to go and pick your colour

£1 can vaccinate 10 children against Polio … fact.)

MJM.

Posted in Campaigning, No child born to die, Photography, The Gallery | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Create your own Sock Monster

Copyright MJnL Craftybits 27th Sept. 2011

When I saw that my sock post from last November had been viewed a few times this week, I suddenly remembered that I had promised to blog the actual sock L. and I made for the OnlyDads tree. L was tickled pink with it and this is reminding me too, of my, as yet, unfulfilled promise to make another one. Big fat sticky note to self.

So if you fancy having a go, you will need:

Materials:

  •  1 socktrainer-socks are probably a tad too short unless you want to make a beetle monster – although that could be an interesting variation on the theme!
  • Two smallish plastic screw-on lidsours were from 1 litre orange juice cartons. We opted for the same colour, but again, variation is always good!
  • Two similar sized wine bottle corks
  • Two metal can ring-pulls
  • A length of sturdy string – ours was about 20cms long
  • Various metal bottle tops / plastic juice carton tops
  • One dispenser end from a washing-up liquid bottle
  • Two googly / stick on eyes (if you don’t have pre-made eyes, they are simple to make with paper and glue)

Tools:

  • A strong needle and some thread (I used nylon thread as it’s more durable)
  • Scissors
  • A bradawl (thanks Twitter for supplying the name ..still laughing at some of the responses!) or very sharp ended Phillips screw driver
  • Hammer
  • Some strong glue

What to do:

 The tail – preparation

  • The carer prepares the materials in advance by punching a hole through the centre of all bottle tops to be used for the tail. A bradawl and hammer is the easiest way to do this, but make sure you are resting on something that doesn’t matter (granite work-tops and glass-topped tables should probably be avoided!).  I used an old wooden chopping board.
  • Cut string to desired length for the tail
  • Tie a generous knot about 5 cms in at one end of the string. (You will need some free string to sew the tail to the monster later.)
  • Let child thread all bottle tops onto the string – this is an excellent exercise for concentration and motor skills. Also interesting if different types / colours / sizes of tops are used. It also keeps the child happy and occupied while you do the more strenuous work! :

The ears

  • Using the bradawl, the carer pushes a hole through the side of each wine cork approx ½ cm from one end. Make sure the hole is clear – this takes some patience!
  • Turn the sock over so that the heel is at the top
  • Pinch up the heel of the sock and sew the two corks to the doubled material, through the holes you just made. Your sock monster now has ears! (We were pushed for time, but you could paint the corks first for variation)

The eyes – preparation

  • Carer takes one of the screw-tops to be used as eyes. Punch two holes in the sides of the lid, one opposite the other. Repeat with the other ‘eye’.
  • Sew the two eyes to the sock through these holes so they are touching at the base (see pic)

Copyright MJnL Craftybits 27th Sept. 2011

The tail cntd:

  • Once the child has threaded all tops onto the tail, tie a good sized knot in the string to secure them. (Tip: If the tops are threaded loosely enough to move a little on the string, they make a great sound when the puppet is moved. This was L’s favourite aspect to the whole toy.)
  • Add the squeezy bottle top over the end to finish it off (“like a dragon’s tail” as my then 3yo put it.) We were lucky as our squeezy bottle end was the perfect size and fit snugly around the last metal tops so we didn’t need to sew or glue it on. You may need to improvise here.

Copyright MJnL Craftybits 27th Sept. 2011

  • Sew the tail into the open end of the sock with the free length of string, as shown below.

Copyright MJnL Craftybits 27th Sept. 2011

The finishing touches:

  • The child can now stick on the eyes
  • We then stuck the ring-pulls around the eyes as glasses

Et voila! Long live the sock monster :-)

As ours was made in a bit of a rush,  he is very basic but there must be hundreds of variations to this. Ask your child what they would like to add – they will come up with some fantastic ideas I’m sure!

If you make one, feel free to link back in the comments. I’d love to see what you come up with!

Enjoy!

MJnL Craftybits 27th Sept. 2011

MJM.

Posted in Home, MJMnL Craftybits, Parenting | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Thank you

Copyright MJM, 26th September, 2011

So on Saturday, I published my 100th post without realising it. It was only after hitting the button that the new happy-happy WordPress notification told me and it sort of blew my mind.

When I started this back in November 2008 I was terrified. The blog was a voice I didn’t have in my day to day life, it was never going to conform with any standards and I was not going to have a lot of time to administer it. I had no idea if it could survive. The best I could do was just to write when I had something to say and stay true to myself. This many posts down the line, I’m gob-smacked people are in fact still reading.

All I can say is a massive thank you to all who have taken the time; you have given me so much confidence, not only in my writing but in my parenting and my survival skills over the last 3 years. This period has been the hardest of my entire life but we are on the up, and you have absolutely no idea how much you have helped me get through it.

I’m raising my coffee mug to you and to all new readers – Salut! Here’s to the next 100! :-)

*

Copyright MJM, 26th September, 2011

*

MJM.

Posted in Parenting | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Bong …

We heard the church bells donging “Wedding here … This is a wedding!” while we having lunch today and the question came for the first time ever:

“Mummy, when did you get wedding’d?”

“Oh, Mummy’s never been ‘married’ Poppet” I answered, in as blasé a tone as I could muster – then breathed in and waited …

“Why?” ….

There it was. The first time he’d asked, ever.

“Beeecause … well, Mummy’s not found the right person to marry yet, Sweetheart.” The ‘yet’ was almost whispered.

There was a really long silence. So long that I hoped some other thought had distracted him, but then he looked me straight in the eyes and said, with a face so serious it made me cry:

“You can marry me Mummy”.

Jeez, just when you get to the point where you can actually live with yourself living alone …

I guess this is not ever going to get easier. Is it.

MJM.

Posted in Kids, Life Stuff, Parenting, Philosophising, Relationships, Single Mum, Single parenthood | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Georgian justice

Convicted American Troy Davis had been on Death Row in Georgia, Alabama for over 20 years for the alleged murder of an off-duty police officer. He has always maintained his innocence. His execution had already been stayed three times due to serious doubt pertaining to evidence, witness testimonies and a dubious line up of initial jury representatives.

On 7th September, Georgia set what would become the ultimate date for Davis’ execution, the 21st September, 2011 at 7pm EDT.

Shortly after 7pm EDT on that date, the social media buzz rippled that Troy Davis had been prepared for execution but was, in fact still alive. The reason for delay remained unclear for almost half an hour.

Davis had been granted a ‘reprieve’ while the Supreme Court took on a plea for a final-hour review. It was still within their power to halt the proceedings for good, and to launch a full, federal investigation into the murder he was alleged to have committed and behind which several questions remained unanswered. A reprieve rather than a stay meant, however, that Davis could still be put to death at any point over the next 7-days. He would have no idea when his time would come, or indeed if it would really come at all. Once again he was in limbo. Just waiting.

Shortly before 2am GMT+1 (8pm EDT) a brief headline by the BBC reported that a statement, issued by the White House, had concluded that although Obama “has worked to ensure accuracy and fairness in the criminal justice system,” it was not appropriate for him “to weigh in on specific cases like this one, which is a state prosecution”.

Troy Davies was finally executed at 11.04 EDT – four whole hours after the original time set for his execution. The Supreme Court failed to produce a statement to support their rejection of the plea.

I had not heard of this case until yesterday, but have spent several hours today reading around the sequence of events from 1989 onwards, and a number of things have shocked me greatly, particularly about the last 24 hours:

1. that a man – even a guilty man, could be brought to his execution for the fourth time, strapped down and then forced to wait 4 whole hours while the Supreme Court deliberated on a plea I suspect they knew they were going to reject.

2. that there is still so much doubt behind this case but that Troy Davis was still sentenced to die by a Supreme Court when they had the option and the power to halt the execution once and for all and to launch a federal investigation.

3. that even requests for clemency for Davis submitted by the family of the murdered man were ignored by the state of Georgia as irrelevant and that Davis was denied a request to perform a polygraph test in a last attempt to prove his innocence.

4. that the Supreme Court could not prove Davis’ guilt, but refused to allow him to live as he could not prove ‘without doubt’ that he was innocent.

5. that the Whitehouse considered it “inappropriate” that the President Obama “weigh in” on a state trial, despite intervention by Amnesty International and a petition signed by over one million people world-wide and, more to the point, despite the lack of concrete evidence that Davis was in fact guilty.

I was alarmed by the media silence last night and in the cold light of a new day, it saddens me greatly to see tweets like “he’s dead. Get over it.”

I can only concur with another which stated (paraphrased) “When smart people have to deliberate on the element of doubt behind a case, then that should be reason enough not to execute a man”

My one and only question to the Georgian state and to the President of the United States is How in the name of your own collective conscience, could you let this happen?

MJM.

Posted in Campaigning, Life Stuff, Protest | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Rekindled

For the last 2.5 weeks I have been lying flat on my back in my lounge.

For the last 2 of those 2.5 weeks I have been a disobedient patient and, instead of doing “nothing,” I set up a makeshift table on a cushion and, laptop on cushion, I immersed myself in following and (hopefully) supporting the Save the Children “No Child Born to Die” campaign for more health workers – project devised and executed by Liz Scarff with a number of solid ambassadors at her side, including a blogging community icon Christine Mosler. (You can see updated progress of this campaign here – it is not too late to get involved!)

I may be sore as hell for not lying flat as ordered but I’ve not felt this alive since the day my child was born. My heart is on fire and last night I lay awake until dawn, my mind racing after following the UN General Assembly proceedings for over 13 hours on the livestream.

Even just participating as an observer/commentator in such a miniscule way this year has been enough to rekindle a fire in my gut which, through all the ups and downs of the last two decades, never ever went out. I know that what I am currently doing with my life is simply a stepping stone to something else, a bridge to the day when I can combine providing for my son with using the skills I have to truly make a difference. Ultimately, I’m a sleeves-rolled-up type o’ gal: tweeting from the sidelines is fine, but it makes me restless as hell. There is so much out there to be done and I want to be doing more. I need to be in it up to my ears. Full on.

Even as a teenager I knew I had to find a vocation that ‘made sense’, that meant something in the larger scheme of things – that my life would never be just about making money for myself, but that it would ultimately be dedicated to serving a cause which could make a difference somewhere. It all seemed so easy back then – I would go to university, study languages and culture and would come out with the world as my oyster… I was passionate, I had a dream, I was determined … I never doubted for a minute that I could just walk out onto the front line and DO something useful.

How wrong I was.

I had all the wrong qualifications and no experience. I went out, I got experience, I came back … I had the wrong experience …

They barricaded all main routes in. So I headed for the back-roads.

My life has taken some very odd twists and turns since then – rat runs at rush-hour are as full as the motorways these days and I have lost myself a number of times trying to hack my way around. But.

I have not stopped believing that I can do this. I will do this. Getting involved, even as a millionth-order pawn, in such a majestic effort, to such an incredible cause as the Every Woman Every Child / No Child Born to Die campaign has, once again, reminded me that I have to get out there and do something more. Whatever it takes. However long the journey.

It’s what I believe in.

If you would like more details on the call to action at the 2011 UN General Assembly, the following sites contain reports, updates and general background information:

PMNCH (Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health) contains a detailed summary of the EWEC high-level meeting and outlines the Global Strategy for women’s and children’s health

The online brochure: Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, written by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon

The Save the Children UK web-blog updates hourly on global events and is currently issuing details of the commitments and progress of the UN Assembly meeting as they are being officially communicated.

The Save the ChildrenNo Child out of Reach” report can be downloaded here

healthworkerscount.org displays a visual count of the number of actions taken in favour of more health workers. It outlines global events and statistics and calls for a sustained commitment in increasing the number of health workers to ensure fulfilment of the targets set by leaders as part of the Global Strategy.

MJM.

Posted in Back pain, Campaigning, Health Workers, Kids, Life Stuff, No child born to die, Parenting, Save the Children, Work, Work-Life Balance | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mutant Bavarian Mosquitos / No Child Out of Reach cntd

Click the image to see what this is all about

The new generation of Bavarian mosquito is small, stealth-like and nasty! They tend to leave me and go for L when he is asleep. He now has a high bed and the net doesn’t fit properly around the ladder. He pulls up the duvet tight around him .. so they go for his face. Some mornings he walks out of his room looking like he has the chicken pox and twice his eyes have been swollen almost shut after being bitten on the lid. Sometimes he cries as the spots itch to the point of pain. It grieves me when I hunt for the offender in the middle of the night then leave his room over 30 mins later knowing the beast is still in there, waiting until the light goes out to continue his feast on my child. I feel helpless, as if I am contributing to his pain.

Despite his discomfort and my frustration, I have never once worried that my son would suffer effects any more serious than itching and a little swelling for a while. I give him a couple of doses of Apis and rub the spots with Apis Gel. Half an hour later he has forgotten all about it and so has his body.

How lucky we are in Europe! How much we take for granted!

The mosquitos here do not carry Malaria. My child will not die from his bites.

How many millions of mothers in other regions of the world have to watch their child exposed every day to mosquitos, but rather than reaching for cream and then going about their daily business, they have to resign themselves to the fact that their child is not immune. Their child may well actually die. Their child could DIE a cruel, horrible and painful death, due to one tiny, disease-carrying insect.

PLEASE sign the petition!

The fantastic results of the Save the Children No child Born to Die (Vaccines for All) campaign earlier this year means that the GAVI alliance can extend its fantastic work and provide essential vaccinations to millions more children in poorer regions most exposed to these diseases.

However.

There is still a 3.5million deficit in the number of health workers required to administer these and to treat those who are infected. Children are still dying at a rate of one every 30 minutes … 2 kids die during our lunch break and another two while we watch Eastenders .. can you imagine?? The irony is, Malaria CAN be treated if the person affected can get medical help in time. Putting a health worker in reach of every child could mean the difference between that child living or dying. It is as extreme as that.

If a child (your child? / my child?) here in Europe were suffering from a life-threatening disease, we would expect that child to be treated by our respective healthcare systems. Doesn’t the rest of the world have a right to expect the same? What makes them any different from us? They too are people with children after all.

We need to help them exercise that right. We need to be their voice.

If you value the life of your own child, please sign the petition to help others ahead of the summit (more info in my previous post) and shout loudly for more health workers. We have them. Millions don’t yet. But they could have with our help.

How cool is that!

MJM.

(This is linked as part of the #healthworkers blog-hop. You too can blog and add your post to the linky over at Michelle Mummy from the Heart Blog. Every single voice counts. We still need 20,000 signatures to achieve our target of 60k on the petition going out to David Cameron tomorrow, so let’s make a whole load of noise. We can do this! We still have a day left!)

Posted in Campaigning, Health Workers, Kids, No child born to die, Parenting, Save the Children | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments