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Share The Joy @ The Family Patch

Share The Joy Linky – The Joy of Community

Welcome to Share The Joy – your weekly dose of positivity and inspiration! Since September this year, I have been co-hosting the linky with three other wonderful bloggers (Carol, Christina, and Lizzie) over on my other blog. However earlier this month I decided to bring everything here to The Family Patch, and it’s wonderful to welcome you to the linky here for the very first time!

what is share the joy?

If you’ve never taken part in Share The Joy, then you’re in for a real treat. Bloggers from across the world and spanning all genres join in by sharing posts that have made them smile. It really is a lovely linky, with several bloggers linking up week after week, and new faces joining in as we begin to spread the word. If you’ve never taken part in a linky before, it’s really very simple – you simply add the URL to your chosen post (new, or old) in the link up at the bottom of this post, and then visit and comment on at least one other link added by another blogger. The aim is to share the joy far and wide, and find new blogs to enjoy along the way.

Share The Joy Linky Sharing My Joy

what has made me joyful this week?

This week has been a really challenging one for us in so many ways – Tim and I have both been very ill, jobs we needed to get done have been postponed (leading to an ever-growing to-do list), and life has just felt hard.

However this weekend reminded me of the wonderful community we are a part of, and what a difference that truly makes in our lives. We spent Saturday at our church’s Christmas Fair, and had a wonderful time chatting to friends whilst Little Man did his Christmas shopping. Oh, how it filled my heart with joy to watch him eagerly write out a list of people he wanted to buy presents for, and then choose presents and pay for them with his own money.

And then, today, we went to Cafe Church and had a wonderful time chatting with friends about our plans for the coming weeks, how we’re planning on going to the Advent Study, and whether we might make the Folk Carol Service on Christmas Eve and even the service on Christmas Morning. This time last year was a turning point in my faith journey, as I began to realise I could fit in here. And this year Tim really wants to take part too, so we really do feel like we have become a true part of the community, and that is so exciting to me.

My favourite post from last week’s linky

Of course, there’s another community I love as much as the one in my local area, and that’s the online community! One of the greatest joys of co-hosting this linky is reading through all the posts each week. When it is my turn to host I try to choose one which really stood out for me, even though it is really hard to choose just one sometimes.

Last week there was a post which really spoke to me, and that was the one by Rachel from Rachel Ridler: Mum on a Mission, about the app for her local council. Reading how Rachel is using the app to report issues to the council, providing the “eyes and ears” that they may not have in the local community, made me realise just how often we feel out of touch with those who run our towns, cities, and countries. How often do we feel like our voices do not matter, or there’s nothing we can do to change the situations where we live? Not very often, it seems, these days.

And so to see a local council trying to change that, and a local resident taking it on board and really running with it, made me smile. Do go have a look at Rachel’s post from last week if you can, to find out more about it and how she’s using it to try and support her local community.

Share The Joy Linky Co-Host Amanda

And so, to this week’s linky…

If you want to join in, it couldn’t be easier. Just follow the simple steps below:

1) Link up a creation that has brought you JOY – all genres are welcome, new or old favourites and as many links as you like!

2) Include the Share the Joy badge (below) or a text link back to this page in your own post.

3) Please comment on one of your hosts’ posts and a few others. Let’s Share the JOY through commenting as well as through our posts!

Share The Joy will run for a whole week until the following week’s linky is open, so you’ll never be too late to join in. Don’t forget to tweet me @thefamilypatch with the URL to your post using the hashtag #sharethejoylinky so I can retweet it. You can also tag my co-hosts, @AllSortsHere, @LadybugHome1, and @lizzie_roles.

Feel free to invite your friends to join in – JOY is always better when it’s shared!


Grab The Badge

Share The Joy Linky @ The Family Patch


Join The Linky


Crochet Pumpkin for Autumn Equinox

New Beginnings at The Autumn Equinox

Today is Mabon, or the Autumn Equinox, a time in the year when the day and night are of equal length. The long summer days are behind us now and we’re heading into the dark of winter. It’s a time for celebrating your successes (it falls in the middle of the harvest) and bringing things to a close. If there’s one lesson that I think this day brings, it’s that all things must end, but life still brings beauty with it – after all, Autumn may mark the end of Summer but its rich colours are a new kind of beauty to enjoy!

Crochet Pumpkin for Autumn Equinox

It’s a slower time of year, a time when we begin to draw within ourselves a bit more and snuggle up close to the ones we love. But just because things slow down, it doesn’t mean that they stop altogether. For me, September has always been a time of new beginnings. I imagine this is partly because the new school year always starts this month. But it isn’t only that, I think Autumn brings a sense of inner reflection, a time for seeing where you have been, where you are now, and where you want to be and it is the perfect time to start laying down roots for the coming year.

Which is why it feels perfectly timed that this Autumn I am heading into a whole new project which has been gradually growing in my heart for many, many years and has finally reached the point of realisation. I am starting a new blog…

Now, before I go any further I want to say that this new blog is not a replacement for The Family Patch. I love this little space of mine and I will continue to use it for personal updates and sharing all my craft and home based posts. However there is an aspect of my life that has never really fitted well here, an area that is far too expansive to be just a part of this blog. And that’s what the new blog is for.

I don’t want to share too much with you right now, as I am still putting it all together. But today seems like the perfect time to share this new beginning with you. I’d also like to invite you to join me in this new venture, because this new blog is going to be different. It’s not going to be so personal, but rather a gathering of ideas and (I hope) a community of people interested in “raising spiritual kids in a modern world”. It is far bigger than anything I have done before, and I sometimes wonder whether I am getting in over my head, but I just know that I need to try this.

It all began when a name popped into my head during one of my morning Kundalini Yoga sessions. I don’t know where the name came from, but it just felt right. I’ve enjoyed letting the idea blossom and despite often questioning the name and how it will work, nothing else seems to fit. So, I’m trusting in it and going with it and will see where it leads.

It is an absolute joy to be working on and it fills me with so much excitement for the future. But I need your help. I’ve reached a point where no amount of self-reflection or research is going to complete the plans. This new blog is about community, and for that to work I need to know what others want and how they may like to be involved. So, if you have an interest in spirituality, particularly if you have children (of any age), and are happy to help me with this next stage of development please do fill in the form below so that I can get in touch with you.

 

Why I'm to be part of a Blogging Community #britmumslive

Why I’m Proud to be Part of a Blogging Community (#britmumslive)

This past weekend, I trotted off down to London for the fourth year running, to attend the UK’s biggest social media and blogging conference. BritMums Live has become as much a part of my year as my birthday and Christmas, and is something I look forward to greatly. Stepping into The Brewery feels like coming home, and seeing old friends again is like having a family reunion… we are, as a community, one great big family that I am so proud and honoured to be a part of.

Why I'm to be part of a Blogging Community #britmumslive

But, as with all families, it isn’t always perfect. As Tim from Slouching Towards Thatcham so wisely wrote today, the men in our community are incredibly under-represented at these events. Dad bloggers may naturally be outnumbered by mum bloggers at the moment, but the disparity between mum and dad bloggers is even more pronounced when it comes to gatherings such as these. Are we doing enough to make dad bloggers feel as comfortable attending these events as the mums are?

And then, of course, we mustn’t forget that many bloggers are introverts, feeling much more comfortable expressing their hearts on the internet than they do in a room full of their peers. Let’s face it, hundreds of people meeting in one place can be pretty overwhelming for anyone, but especially so for those feeling unsure of themselves or star-struck by some of their favourite bloggers.

But here’s where we come to the thing I love most about this blogging community I’m so proud of – we are all working to make things better, for ourselves and for others. Over the years I have seen bloggers reach out to those they barely know to offer a hug and support when it all gets a bit too much. I’ve watched as those who have had a difficult time at the conference receive comment after comment from others saying “if only we had known…” and “next year, we’ll make it better”. And I’ve been stunned by the absolute generosity and grace of the biggest bloggers in our community, reaching out a hand of encouragement to others, sharing their own fears and concerns, and showing that they are just like the rest of us.

We all have our moments when we feel like small fish in a very large pond. It is so easy to see this year’s key bloggers, the ones who are up for awards or speaking at the conference, and convince ourselves that we will never be as good as they are. But you know what? Ours is a community of sharing, a family of support, and when you take that chance and step out there, you find that you do belong, you are worthy, and you’re just as important as anyone else. Your voice is valid, your voice is strong, your voice is heard.

A couple of years ago I came close to giving up blogging altogether. I couldn’t see where I fit in and I didn’t know what I was doing any more. And then I went to BritMums Live. I was surprised when somebody recognised me, told me how much they loved my writing, for I thought nobody was listening. And I was honoured when a blogger I admired so much asked me not to give up, because that meant she had read my post and cared enough to reach out and encourage me to continue. I left that year with a sense of belonging which I’d never felt before, and it is that feeling which now defines the reason behind my blog. I am part of a community, and what an amazing community it is too.

This year I stood on stage to read out a poem as part of the Bloggers’ Keynote, something I could never have imagined doing until very recently. This little fish in that very large pond finally found her voice. But as proud as I was of this opportunity, nothing could surpass how humbled I was by the entire thing. As I looked out upon the room full of bloggers, I knew each and every one had a story to tell that was just as important as mine, just as worthy of being on that stage. And I realised that, far from being little fish in a big pond, we are a formidable force when we all come together.

It is my greatest hope that every single person who attended BritMums Live this year, as well as all those who were unable to come, recognises just how strong and powerful the words and images they share are. The tagline on the back of my business cards this year was “together we can achieve great things” and this is exactly what I took away from the weekend. Every single time we post something to our blog or social media, we add to a growing collective of voices that are slowly changing the world, making it a better place for ourselves and our families. The post we write or the image we share is as equal and valid whether it touches 1 person or 10,000. We each touch the lives of others, and that is what makes this community so great.

So thank you, all of you, for everything you do. Never underestimate your worth, never forget your strength, and never feel like you don’t belong.

Blogging

When Blogging isn’t an Option…

I’ve got to be honest with you. A lot of things that happen in my life never make it onto the blog. I may be an “oversharer” in many ways, but there are just some things which are too personal to put out there. I remember sitting in a session at BritMums Live last year and hearing Her Melness Speaks, Rachael Lucas, and Cherry Menlove all agree that some things are just too sacred to share, despite being incredibly “blogworthy”, and I couldn’t agree more. My blog has always been a place where my heart is revealed over and over again, but sometimes the things in my heart never make it onto the screen.

When Blogging Isn't An Option

But sometimes, this holding back, makes blogging hard. I’ve written before about how, for me, blogging is all about community and I have made some incredible friends through my journey so far. Many of those friendships have been built through mutual experiences, times when it has been so amazing to hear someone else say “me too” when you feel utterly alone. And so when facing challenging times becomes something you simply cannot write about it can feel like you’ve lost one of your biggest sources of support, encouragement and inspiration. Times when people in your close circle of friends in real life simply won’t understand what you’re going through, but you know someone online will.

This year has been one of those times. I’ve been refinding my voice over the past few months and had a really wonderful moment last week when I realised how much my blog has grown in such a short period of time. And yet one of the biggest and scariest things I have ever had to face has been shut behind a closed door. I thought I was okay with that, I knew the reason (or reasons) for keeping it that way, but suddenly it just feels like too much. I feel like I’m losing the battle and the one place I usually come to seek refuge is not an option any more.

But it’s not my story to tell. I am a part of it, but that is a long way from it being my story. One day I might share it, one day when the storm has passed. But not now, not today. All I can say is that someone I love it hurting, terribly, and there’s nothing I can do about it. The depth of their pain, the all-encompassing nature of it, is more terrifying than anything I have ever faced before. And for the first time in my life I feel truly hopeless.

Blogging isn’t going to change that. The hopeless feeling will still be there. But still, right now I wish it could. I wish someone could say, “I’ve been there too” and share their story with me. I wish there was a guidebook for this, a message of hope that all will be well. Because right now, I feel lost, and alone, and that’s the last thing any of us needs!

International Hyperemesis Gravidarum Awareness Day 15th May

Together We Can Achieve Great Things (Thoughts on International Hyperemesis Awareness Day)

International Hyperemesis Gravidarum Awareness Day 15th May

Today is International Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) Awareness Day, an event which will always hold a very special place in my heart. I may not write much about Hyperemesis any more, but it is something I will never forget. Over the past 3 years I have seen awareness of the condition grow, leading to greater support and better care for families affected by it, in a way that I could never have imagined when suffering from Hyperemesis myself in 2011. And that’s all because individual voices have come together to enact greater change than any single voice could.

Now don’t get me wrong, individuals can make a huge amount of difference. I’ve seen it happen so many times within the HG world: the woman who dedicates vast amounts of time to supporting other women who are suffering through a hell that only she can understand; the doctor who goes above and beyond to ensure that a patient in their care receives the best possible treatment; the team of midwives who agree to meet and listen to a woman share what HG was like for her and how to best support other women like her; and the partners, family and friends of a sufferer who rally around her to make every day as easy as possible, and attend medical appointments to help advocate for her when she is unable to do so herself. These are all really important ways in which individuals make a massive difference to those around them. And we should never underestimate how much change one person can make! But it is through working together that lasting change on a large scale is achieved.

The changes I have seen over the past three years have come about because many, many individuals have come together for a common cause. Multiple charities have formed working relationships which enable them to achieve more together than they ever could alone. The international collaboration of the two big HG Charities, Pregnancy Sickness Support (PSS) here in the UK and The HER Foundation in the US, sparked the idea for an International Hyperemesis Gravidarum Awareness Day. And a recent collaboration between PSS and the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) enabled the production of a report on the number of women feeling like they have no choice but to terminate a much wanted pregnancy due to Hyperemesis. This report led to further media coverage, including mentions on the front page of national newspapers and an interview on Women’s Hour, something which may not have happened without working together.

Even within the individual charities themselves, there are great developments occurring, and this is all because of the sheer number of people supporting them. Take PSS, for example: the active forum is only thriving because of the many members supporting each other through the opportunity offered to them on there; the Support Network only works because of the amount of dedicated volunteers who offer their time and support to those in need (it also relies on many others spreading the word about its existence, as well as funding for staff to coordinate it and further developments); and the research undertaken often relies on the various voices of those who have suffered coming forward and sharing their stories.

This time last year my life was pretty much overtaken by the cause – I was working vast amount of hours every week as the Volunteer Coordinator for PSS and also working on final edits of Hyperemesis Gravidarum: The Definitive Guide. I lived in a world that was full of equal amounts of desperation from those currently suffering and passion for change from those who had survived HG. And despite personally dedicating huge amounts of time and energy to the cause (too much, in retrospect, for a healthy work/life balance), I never once lost sight of the fact that it was the multitude of individual voices that were making the vast changes I was lucky enough to see happening right before my eyes.

My life is very different now to what it was this time last year. 12 months ago I was burning out, fast. Despite the fact that there were many, many people working together to enact change there just weren’t enough of us to make change on the scale that we wanted to. It is a battle that so many causes face, and it is one that is only won through people coming together so that their individual voices are amplified by those singing the same tune. The greatest lesson that I took from my time with PSS was this – one person can change the world, but only through working with others.

So today I am asking you to think about what is important to you. What do you feel passionate about and what do you wish you could change in the world? Please don’t ever think that you cannot make a difference, because you can. Don’t compare yourself to others and feel that you aren’t strong enough or wise enough or talented enough – everyone has something that they can give that is unique to them and will, when given the opportunity, make the world of difference. Whether you can give 10 hours a week or just the odd hour here or there, whether you have specific skills, knowledge and experience or are simply passionate about the cause, and whether you feel confident approaching others or terrified of making that first call, please do consider taking that leap and contacting a group or organisation who need your support and will welcome whatever you can give.

Together we can achieve great things… and it all begins with you!

Finding our Voices and Helping Each Other (General Election 2015)

Finding Our Voices and Helping Each Other (Reactions to the General Election 2015)

Like many others, I have spent a lot of time over the weekend reading commentaries and conversations about the General Election, the plans of our new government, and British politics in general.

My initial reaction to the results still stands – I am saddened that we are facing another 5 years of further cuts that will damage our NHS and make life immeasurably harder for those already struggling so much to simply make ends meet. However, as I have digested the words of others and seen conversations taking place on various social media platforms, my focus has changed somewhat.

I have been absolutely astounded by the attitude of some which suggests that because the Conservative Party received a majority of seats, those of us who didn’t vote for them should simply accept this and shut up. I’m not sure how to express my concern that there is this idea in our society that we all get a chance to vote once every five years and other than that we leave the politics to the politicians. It doesn’t end once the votes have been counted and the winners announced, in fact it’s only just beginning…

There has been a lot of outrage expressed about the fact that the Tories won a majority in this election, and it is all too easy for those who voted for this outcome to believe this is just a case of “sour grapes”. And, of course, there is a part of the response which is simply sheer disappointment that “the other party” won. But let’s not be under any pretences that this very same response would not have occurred had Labour won the majority.

However, the bigger issue that a lot of people are trying to speak out about is the fact that we no longer live in a society with two main Parties battling for their chance at leading the country. Our system of First Past The Post (FPTP) is seriously outdated and no longer representative of actual votes cast. The Conservatives may have won a small majority, but that same percentage of votes would have massively lost them the election in previous years. And this is because votes are being cast for smaller Parties, like the Green Party and UKIP, who under Proportional Representation would have gained far more seats than they did.

Don’t get me wrong, I am personally very glad that UKIP didn’t get more seats. But that doesn’t negate the fact that they should have done, that millions of votes have gone unheard under the current system. It’s no wonder people feel like there is no point in voting!

But instead of getting disheartened, instead of giving up, instead of doing what people expect us to do and simply accept our fate, we are starting to realise that we do have a voice, we just have to find it.

Finding our Voices and Helping Each Other (General Election 2015)

For me, as a writer, this means using my voice through the written word. I have never really blogged about politicial things before, but you can be sure that I’m going to from now on. And I shall be watching out for others who are using their voices online, and sharing their thoughts with you too. Because that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it, finding common ground and supporting each other so that we can achieve greater things than we ever could alone. If you don’t already follow me on Facebook or Twitter, please do considering joining me over there as I’ll be able to share things via social media much more frequently than I can here on the blog.

I’ll also be looking for ways of supporting those in my local community, building up connections so that we can enact change right here on our doorstep. This is the time when our communities (whether online or off) are of utmost importance, because with so many cuts in our future, so much uncertainty facing us, it will be the people around us who hold us up and remind us what “we’re all in this together” really means.

I’ve started a new page with links to articles, comments, and organisations which may interest you. This will be the easiest way to keep on top of anything I link to in any of my blog posts on this topic, and you can find it here.

It's All About Community - Celebrating the Heart and Soul of Blogging

It’s All About Community – Celebrating the Heart and Soul of the Online World

Every so often, I find myself coming back to the question, “why do you blog?” and regardless of how the finer details change, there is one thing that remains constant – community.

I was reminded of this again last night thanks to a blog post by Aby from You Baby Me Mummy and a chat on Twitter with Joy from Pink Oddy. These two bloggers are lovely ladies who I have not had the pleasure of really speaking to before, and yet they both reminded me of just how important the community aspect of blogging is.

Aby has a most beautiful and balanced view of what it means to be part of the community. Her recent post called “Finding Your Tribe and Why You Need One” is an excellent example of this, however it was another blog post in which she explained that she spends most of her blogging time reading other blogs and commenting on them, which really got me thinking.

When I first started blogging, way back in 2006, I had been reading blogs for several months. In that time I had come to know some of the bloggers really quite well, through reading about their lives and commenting on their posts. In fact it was the thought that this was a rather “one-way” relationship which made me start a blog in the first place – I thought that it might be nice for the bloggers I knew so much about to know a little bit about this person who was commenting on their blogs too! In essence, I wanted to be a fully-fledged member of this exciting new community.

Fast forward several years and social media has taken a lot of the conversation off the blog and even sometimes impinges on the time available for reading and writing itself. Indeed, I was having a great conversation with Joy (Pink Oddy) last night about my love/hate relationship with social media (on Twitter, I might add, so that would be a moment I loved social media!) We lamented the death of the online forums we used to frequent whilst at the same time finding amusement in that fact that Joy and Aly from Bug Bird and Bee had lost several hours in conversation following the end of their #Fridayat11 Google Hangout, which is a fantastic way of getting to know the people behind the blogs!

So last night, after a really lovely evening chatting with other bloggers, I  felt inspired to celebrate and lift up the community aspect that is so important to bloggers and social media fans alike. I spend an awful lot of time reading posts via Feedly and looking through updates on Twitter and Instagram, and I thought it might be a nice idea to choose two or three things that have really embodied the spirit of community and bring them all together in a post that reminds me of just why I love blogging so much.

Welcome to “It’s All About Community”

It's All About Community - Celebrating the Heart and Soul of Blogging

Not the snazziest of titles, I know, but it is what it is!

I’ve already highlighted You Baby Me Mummy’s post, so I’m going to head straight on to a couple of other things that have really inspired me this week.

First up, it’s the #birthjusthappened hashtag that I stumbled across on Twitter yesterday. It is a hugely inspiring and emotional collection of images, which show that birth doesn’t have to be something we dread and fear. There are so many blog posts and articles about how this went viral and what it stands for, but I wanted to draw your attention to the images themselves. I posted my own because, despite having an induced labour and feeling completely let down in many ways during my actual labour, I still cherish the moment I gave birth as the most surreal and yet magical moment ever. I know that this isn’t true for many women, and birth can be hugely traumatic, but this collection of images shows that a positive birth experience can come in so many different shapes and forms and I love it for bringing women together to share as much and empower each other.

Then there is the incredible post over on The Adoption Social by Sarah from The Puffin Diaries entitled “How Twitter Changed My Life“. I read this post when it popped up on my Feedly app and I felt myself nodding along to everything Sarah wrote about how Twitter can be a real force for good when it brings together people with a common experience or common goal. I think the same can be said about any social media platform, and especially blogging, and Sarah’s explanation of all the amazing ways her life has truly been changed through connecting with a community online is well worth a read. So often we only hear of the negatives around social media, and yet just look at how many positives it has brought to those who simply need to find a community of people they would never have had the opportunity to meet were they limited by their geographical location.

And finally (so as not to make this this longest blog post in history!) I couldn’t miss the opportunity to highlight that the BiBs – that’s the Brilliance in Blogging awards run by BritMums – have opened for nominations this week. I’m not even sure where to begin with choosing my nominations because there are just so many blogs I enjoy reading. But what better way to celebrate the community that we are a part of than by nominating those that inspire you time and time again. It’s like giving people a great big pat on the back and saying “thanks for being a part of my world”.

So that’s it from me… tell me, how do you feel about the online community and who has inspired you this week?

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Linking up this week with Bod For Tea’s Share the Joy Linky – why not join me?

Share the Joy linky at bodfortea.co.uk