How to give blogging a bash

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In my last post, I wrote about how I was shocked that I’d been away from my blog for so long. Whilst all my energy was focused on becoming a first-time mum, I really missed writing and it got me thinking about what a good tool blogging actually is.

For me, the best thing about blogging is the fact that it’s a way to do something really productive with your spare time. It also encourages discussion about everything and anything, because there is no end to the topics you can blog about.

It can also earn you money by including ads or affliliate marketing and if you write about stuff like beauty you could get sent free stuff to review. Continuing with blogging after Uni meant I kept up my writing experience, so I managed to get a copywriting position on Copify to earn a few extra pennies in my spare time.

Seeing as I’ve found blogging so rewarding, I thought I’d share Copify’s great guide on starting a blog, as well as offering a few of my own tips if you do fancy giving it a go.

First things first, choose a platform. Explore the sites that offer blogging and pick the best one for you. I went with WordPress because I’d used it at Uni but I’ve heard great things about Blogger and Ghost. If your blog would predominantly be a photoblog, Tumblr might be your best bet as it’s great for integrating media. You can even host your blog on your own domain if you’ve got the know-how.

Next, you need to decide what you want to write about. As I said earlier, you can literally write about anything, but obviously it’s best to go with something you’ve got a keen interest in. When you know what you’re talking about, this gives blogs a real flair of passion and creativity.

Most people have a hobby, whether it be photography, baking, music and everything in between. Hobbies can make great, successful blogs as there will always be lots of people who are interested in the same things.

Once you find your niche, it’s best to try and stick to a particular subject, or at least keep a vague theme. I tend to stick to current affairs and popular culture, but I have interspersed it with the occassional personal post.

When you’ve posted a blog, it’s a good idea to share it on your other social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter to reach a wider audience and encourage conversations with people about your content.

Once you’ve started, post as regularly as possible! You don’t need to blog everyday but at least monthly would be good. It just means you won’t fall off the radar and you keep people interested. I’ve broken my own rule here as I didn’t find the time to post when I had my daughter and I didn’t write anywhere near as much as I wanted to when I was at Uni because I had so much work to fit around a part-time job as well!

Despite that, my post about the Ice Bucket Challenge got over 140 000 views and was read all over the world and my post about miscarriage awareness was shared on the Miscarriage Associations social media accounts. As someone who is passionate about writing, this was a big deal to me, and it shows that blogging really can get your voice out there. So if you have something to say, give it go. Anything could happen!

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Time flies when you’re being a mum

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After having a little look on my blog, I’ve realised my last post was a year ago. A YEAR?! Really?! This is not acceptable!

Clearly the trials and tribulations of becoming a mum for the first time have taken over my life! My daughter is 8 months now, with a little mind and personality  all of her own. Since around 6 months she’s been sitting up, crawling, pulling herself up and is well on her way to walking. She absolutely loves playing and is beginning to be extremely fascinated with all her different types of toys.

Thankfully, this means I now have more time to write blogs (in between getting up to go and move her away from whatever it is she is desperately trying to get off the TV stand/coffee table, despite having about 57 toys in the vicinity!).  So, my (early) news years resolution is to write a whole lot more as I have definitely missed it.

 

 

Nigel Farage, what exactly is openly ostentatious breastfeeding?

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Picture courtesy of theguardian.co.uk

Image courtesy of theguardian.com

Whilst conducting an interview with LBC radio, a question was posed to UKIP leader Nigel Farage relating to the recent incident in Claridges whereby a woman was asked to put a large napkin over herself and her breastfeeding baby.

“If you’re enjoying a pint in your local pub or a cup of tea in Claridges and a woman starts to breastfeed in front of you how do you feel?” Though Farage’s immediate answer “I’m not particularly bothered about it” attempted to absolve himself of any opinion, his following comments did little to prove he was on the fence about it all. He noted that it is “just a matter of common sense… given that some people feel very embarrassed by it, it isn’t too difficult to breastfeed a baby in a way that’s not openly ostentatious.” It is understandable that breastfeeding is a controversial issue and of course there are an array of different opinions, of which everyone is entitled.

However calling breastfeeding “ostentatious” does not reflect the informed and rational opinion that we would expect from a politician. It is therefore quite baffling that Farage would choose a word riddled with extremely negative connotations to describe a natural act.

  • Ostentatious
    adjective
    1. characterised by pretentious or showy display; designed to impress:
    “a simple design that is glamorous without being ostentatious”

    synonyms: showy, pretentious, conspicuous, obtrusive, flamboyant, gaudy, garish,tinsel, tinselly, brash, vulgar, loud, extravagant, fancy, ornate, affected,theatrical, actorly, overdone, over-elaborate, kitsch, tasteless;

    So, what exactly constitutes openly ostentatious breastfeeding, Nigel? If a woman does not go and “sit in a corner” as you suggested, are you implying this is openly ostentatious? If the mother dares to sit in public and not hide away, is she in turn being flamboyant, showy and trying to attract attention or impress people? This is the only impression one can possibly draw from such comments, it is all in the semantics. The word ostentatious does in fact imply all of these things.

The ignorance that such a statement displays is so ridiculous it is almost laughable. What personal experience is Farage drawing from to assume it is not difficult to hide away whilst breastfeeding? It only takes some semblance of common sense and sensitivity to realise breastfeeding is not such an easy thing to control. A screaming, crying, hungry baby is not at the behest of taking time to go out of ones way to hide in a corner. More importantly, why should breastfeeding mothers have to do that? Should people feel uncomfortable, they simply need not look. No one is forcing them to stare.

I cannot speak for those who would feel uncomfortable seeing breastfeeding in public but I do understand why it could make them feel embarrassed. It’s not something that is seen very often and may take many by surprise. However, should someone be flicking through the Sun on the train and the same sort of person happened to catch a glimpse of the latest big-breasted babe on Page 3, they probably would not bat an eyelid. This seems like a double standard, considering that when a woman is breastfeeding the most you will ever see is an extremely short glimpse of one breast. Not to mention that breastfeeding is actually the breasts primary function. Why is it that we will accept witnessing them sexually, but when they are used to aid the growth and development of a baby, the mother simply must wear a huge napkin, otherwise it will put you off your scone?

Why we should talk about miscarriage

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An ultrasound scan of a 12-week-old foetus

An ultrasound scan of a 12-week-old foetus. Photo authors own.

Today marks the start of Baby Loss Awareness week in the UK. The event commemorates the tragedy of babies who are lost during or after pregnancy due to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth and other illnesses. Crucially, the week also invites conversation to raise awareness of baby loss and recognise the pain it causes for mothers, fathers and those close to them. The event has been organised by pregnancy and baby loss charities The Miscarriage AssociationARC (Antenatal Results and Choices), Bliss, the Ectopic Pregnancy Trust, Group B Strep Support and SANDS (Still Birth and Neonatal Death Society).

A miscarriage is defined as the loss of a baby before 23 weeks. It can be difficult to estimate just how many pregnancies end in miscarriage as many women suffer from one early on in pregnancy without knowing they have lost their baby or were ever pregnant, so it’s likely a higher percentage than the statistics currently available. However an estimated 20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage with up to 85% of these happening in the first 12 weeks.

I was unaware of such statistics in my first pregnancy in 2013. In fact, I never gave miscarriage a second thought as I did not know it was common. When I experienced heavy bleeding and painful period-like cramps on 31st December I immediately phoned my GP and was in within half an hour thanks to a cancellation. The doctor made me aware of the threat I faced and told me that one in five pregnancies end in miscarriage. I remember the shock I felt that the rate of miscarriage was so high but tried to remain positive and was referred for an ultrasound scan the next day. Whilst I left the doctors with a little more understanding of what may happen, I was still in no way prepared mentally or physically for the actual reality of it.

The actual reality being that often the pregnancy can leave you naturally, which is an extremely traumatic and horrendous ordeal to experience and is equally uncomfortable to discuss. Yet I wish to this day that the doctor had warned me that this could happen, because when my amniotic sac dropped into my palm on the toilet a few hours after I had returned from my GP surgery it provoked the most acute despair and horror I have ever experienced and promptly gave me a panic attack. Had my fiancé not been with me or I had been anywhere else but home, I dread to think what would have happened to me because at that point I was beyond any rational thought on how to deal with the situation I was in.

I doubt very much that I have been alone in the pain that this particular way of miscarrying caused, however any way of miscarrying is just as traumatic. For those that experience missed miscarriages and only find out at their scan that their babies heart has ceased to beat, they then have to make the decision as to how their baby will leave their body, whether naturally or through surgery. Again, a heart-breaking ordeal to have to go through.

I would never wish to scare-monger pregnant woman, or indeed any woman or man who one day considers having a family, however I am adamant a better knowledge and understanding on the matter could help those suffering be more prepared and able to deal with miscarriage better. I for one would advocate some information on miscarriage during your first doctors appointment when you tell your GP you are pregnant, particularly for first time mothers who may be completely unaware that it could happen to them, as I was. I believe if I had been given some information in this early stage, perhaps a leaflet or even just a brief kind word from the doctor to bare in mind – I would have dealt with the situation a lot better.

Equally as important is mothers and fathers feeling that they are able to talk about miscarriage with their family and friends. When it happened to me, talking about it felt wrong and uncomfortable, like I was being too open and should have kept it private. I didn’t even realise at the time that these feelings reflected the fact that miscarriage is still somewhat of a taboo subject, despite some steps forward with the subject in recent times with high-profile celebrities such as Beyoncé speaking out about her experience of miscarriage and the pain that came a long with it. Sharing the experience of a miscarriage can be important in not only getting support and help and feeling less alone, but it also ensures a wider knowledge and awareness of the issue. Just by talking about it, the potential to help others who may go through the same in the future is phenomenal.

The specific type of grief that comes along with miscarriage can be extremely difficult. You have to deal with your dreams being shattered, the excited moments thinking about names and what your child would look like come tumbling down and something you already loved so much is taken away in a cruel instant. It is an awful time, wrought with sadness, not only for mothers and fathers but for their families too. But the ability to talk about miscarriage also encourages the ability to mourn your baby and could help many women to come to terms with and accept their loss more easily.

I wrote a song about the baby I had lost which was an extremely therapeutic and helpful experience for me. I was proud to have been able to see through my grief and create a lasting memory of my baby. So proud, that I wanted to share it with others. I wanted to shout from the rooftops that I had been given a baby, and no matter how short its life had been, I had loved it more than anything else in the world and if nothing else, I would always have that. I shared the song on Facebook and wrote a brief status explaining I’d suffered a miscarriage for the majority of friends and some family who didn’t know and this felt like I had honoured my baby’s life, no matter how short.

I also had a very supportive manager who made the kind and well-thought out suggestion to ask if I would like him to inform another colleague who had been through the same situation so I could talk to her about it. This helped me so much. I felt isolated and disconnected, but talking to my colleague made me realise I wasn’t alone and helped me so much in those early stages.

So as you can see from my experience, talking about miscarriage certainly helped me and without doing so I don’t know how I would have coped. I understand that such tactics may not work for everyone as some women or men may be private, or simply against sharing such news because it will further fuel their sadness which is of course a totally personal decision. However if you feel able and ready to talk about your loss, please don’t feel scared to do so. Conversation about the life you’ve lost can not only set you on the path towards acceptance but can help others who might go through the same thing.

Babyloss Awareness Week culminates on 15th October with Wave of Light, when people across the world light a candle for babies loved and lost at 7pm for one hour. Share your pictures or stories on social media and you can also join the conversation #babyloss #babylossawarenessweek #talkingaboutbabyloss. Please feel free to share this article and comment with your experiences. Visit The Miscarriage Association for help, support and advice about miscarriage. This post is predominately based on personal opinion.

Why I won’t be doing the Ice Bucket Challenge

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Image courtesy of Rachel Riley/express.co.uk

Image courtesy of Rachel Riley/express.co.uk Please note that Rachel did not do the challenge for the ALSA or MNDA. She participated for the James McCarthy Foundation and the use of the photo is purely for aesthetic reasons as most other pictures are bad quality.

 I haven’t yet been nominated for the ice bucket challenge and if I do, I will not be taking part. This is not to judge anyone else who has done it. Many people that I care about have done the challenge and I know their heart is in the right place. However, I do believe some people have simply jumped on the bandwagon with little knowledge of the disease or where their money is actually going (I do wonder if everyone who has done the challenge has even donated). I don’t mean to deny that raising awareness and money for a cause that was not well known is a good thing. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (more commonly known as “Lou Gehrig’s disease” in America or “Motor Neurone Disease” in the UK) is an awful, debilitating illness and I truly sympathise with sufferers and their families. However, I simply cannot condone the behaviour of the charities involved with it.

The American ALS Association admitted last year that only 27% of donations to their charity actually goes towards research. Other areas that money went to were “Fundraising”, “Administration”, “Patient and community services” and a whopping $8.5 million dollars to the highest paid part, “Public and professional education”. It all looks pretty straightforward and fair, doesn’t it? Well it isn’t. This extremely enlightening article examined the charities tax returns for 2013 and found that last year, over 50% of all money made by ALS appeared to line the pockets of the millionaires running the charity and others working for it. The CEO alone made well over $300 000 dollars last year. The largest amount of what was left went towards “Grants and other assistance to governments and organizations in the United States” and the article explains “Almost all of these recipients are medical schools, with strong ties to the pharmaceutical industry.” There is evidence of viable non-drugs solutions that help sufferers of ALS such as a strict ketogenic diet containing coconut oil, but the charity has not done any research on any of them. The reason being because they support the corporate giant that is the pharmaceutical industry. This article contains reviews of over 500 studies into natural approaches to ALS.

Another point I’d like to make is that ALS is extemely rare. There are about 5000 people in the UK with the condition and approximately 5600 people are diagnosed each year in the US. My aim is not to speculate that any one person is more in need of help than another, however the charity has already made in excess of $70 million dollars which is disproportionate to the amount of sufferers. This article states “As this chart from CDC data shows, last year ALS killed 6,849 people in the U.S., and attracted $23 million for research (a ratio of $3,382 per death). Heart disease, by contrast, killed 596,577 but only raised $54 million (a paltry sum of $90 per death).”

Not only that, this year 3.4 million people will die from a water related disease and 780 million people do not have access to clean water. And yet thousands of us have chucked this precious resource over our heads? 

Both the ALSA and British Motor Neurone Disease Association use animal testing in their research which evidence suggests is unnecessary for this disease because humans and animals do not react to ALS in the same way. More often than not, tests conducted on animals do not have the same result as when they go onto human stages, thus rendering the animals pain and suffering totally worthless. Due to this, I don’t understand why it’s still considered acceptable to use animals for research into ALS. In addition, many other charities have stopped testing on animals preferring to use alternative methods. This article states “mouse experiments have been criticised in the scientific literature for the ‘poor correlation’ between data generated in labs from animal ‘models’ and the clinical reality. That so many drugs have ‘succeeded’ in animal tests but have gone on to fail in human clinical trials is evidence that a more rational research strategy is long overdue.”

Neurologist Aysha Akhtar has published an article on the Huffington Post entitled “In Defense of Pamela Anderson”. Pamela came under media scrutiny when she spoke out that she would not do the challenge due to the fact that the ALSA tested on animals. Aysha cares for patients with ALS and is the principle investigator of grant-funded research. She details in her post why animal testing is simply ineffective towards finding a cure for ALS and it is well worth a read to understand exactly why it doesn’t work.  She explains “ALS is a uniquely human disease. Researchers have artificially created animals who show some symptoms that resemble ALS. But as in so many disease areas, the animal “models” only mimic some of the symptoms of ALS and they differ in what symptoms they produce and the causes behind those symptoms. Thus these animal models are extremely poor substitutes for studying uniquely human diseases.”

The ALSA have continually funded research to create different animal “models” of the disease, each of which have gone on to be proved useless. One mouse model usually died from bowel obstructions when given the disease whereas humans with ALS normally die due to the inability to breathe and muscle wasting. Aysha goes on to say “my greatest fear is that we may have found the cure long ago, but it was abandoned because of misleading animal experiments. Drugs that could have worked in humans may have been tossed out because they did not work in mice.

We need to be smart and strategic with how we use our research dollars. How much closer would we be to a cure today if instead of wasting millions of dollars on failed animal experiments, the money had been used to create more effective human-based testing methods that accurately recreated the disease?”

The ALSA has not yet invested in a cure or anything even close to a cure since it began in 1985. Frankly, the sufferers of this illness deserve better than what the charity is doing. There is glaring evidence of the ineffectiveness of animal testing yet the ALSA and the MNDA continue to fund it. They will not fund natural approaches and the only viable reason for not doing so is keeping the big bucks pharmaceutical industry in their back pockets. The ALSA and MNDA should spend their money on funding cutting-edge, human based technologies and conducting studies directly relevant to humans and perhaps then they would be closer to actually curing this awful disease.

Disclaimer
This blog post is predominantly opinion-based. This post does not aim to discourage people from donating to the ALSA, MNDA or to any other charity. This post does not seek to discredit ALS sufferers and their families. Views on animal-testing and charity are my own and I do not seek to influence or change opinion. All of the facts and figures cited in this post have been researched using trusted resources however I am not responsible for any errors.

Follow me on twitter @_oliviaeaton

Knowing a sex attacker

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Local newspaper website the Leamington Courier recently reported on the sexual assault of a female university student. I was forwarded the link to the story by a couple of friends due to the fact that the attacker is allegedly Bikramjit Baden.

Bikramjit, known as Bik Bad among people in Leamington (where I’m originally from) was a very well-known presence as he frequented the bars and pubs in Leamington and was a photographer for website Resident Clubber. Another reason he was well-known is because he loved to take selfies with girls, of which I was one of a few years ago before I went to Uni. I actually had a couple of photos with him tagged on my Facebook. Evidently, Bik has deleted his profile and the photos have gone with it.

He seemed to love talking to women and taking pictures with them and it was rare to see him out and not chatting to a girl. The consensus among most people was, yes it was a little odd, but he seemed completely harmless. I say ‘odd’ merely because you don’t often see guys going around bars asking for photos with women. But this also relates to what he would say. More often than not, I enjoyed conversing with him because he was a nice guy, he actually had things to talk about and he was interested in what you had to say. But there was definitely times when I thought what he said was a little strange. Something that stands out particularly is a few times when he had taken a picture with me. He’d look back on the picture and say I looked pretty and sometimes asked me ‘Do I look pretty?’. From my conversations with Bik I could tell he was an extremely insecure man who desperately sought approval from what he perceived as beautiful women.

The fact that this story has come out and Bik is the alleged attacker – following a young girl to her door, punching her numerous times then putting his hand up her skirt and sexually assaulting her – was something I found very shocking. Bik has denied the allegations pleading not guilty, saying he was very drunk but he had been attacked himself on the way home. Despite my better nature, I really want to think that Bik didn’t commit this crime. I think it’s entirely human to not want to believe someone you knew and someone who seemed like a nice man would commit such a heinous crime against a vulnerable woman. 

However, the woman has obviously identified Bik and a jury unanimously judged that he was guilty. It just makes you realise that sometimes you never really know someone or what they are capable of. I am disgusted by his actions and my heart goes out to the victim of this attack. I hope that she is able to move on from this horrible incident and is able to gain some closure following Bikramjit’s conviction. 

I am officially a graduate!

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Well, I can’t quite believe it… I have a 1st class BA Honours Degree in Journalism!

There truly is no better feeling than to gain an achievement in something that you have worked hard for and felt truly passionate about. I found myself moved to tears of joy when I read the email from my tutor confirming my degree classification, as the toil of the last three years proved itself to be so very worth it. I was hopeful I would get a 1st, but there has always been a part of me reigning my hope in ‘No, it won’t happen, you’re not good enough’. I guess we all have that voice now and again, but sometimes it can be the driving force to prove your negative conciousness wrong.

Of course, I would have been very happy with a 2.1 which is still a fantastic mark. However this year, as my marks continued to improve, I started to realise I had the potential to get a 1st overall. I’m extremely ambitious and I knew that was what I truly wanted; it may sound ungrateful but I knew anything less would have been bittersweet. I really did strive to make my work the best quality possible, pouring over books, journals and webpages, spending hours wording and re-wording sentences and trying to find the perfect quote. This is where I think my perfectionism trait actually comes in handy (not so much in exams!). In particular, I really put my heart and soul into my dissertation and it means the world to me that my efforts are worth a top grade.

Finally, I think the fact I got a 1st means so much more to me because I managed to get it after having the worst possible start to the New Year and in fact the worst experience of my life to date (explained in an earlier blog post here). It was horrendously tough, and I did miss a few lectures in January because of it. But somehow, it started to spur me on and gave me the determination to fight the sadness of the past and work towards a brighter future. We humans are often much stronger than we give ourselves credit for and we have the ability to exceed our expectations, even when life deals us a bad hand.