O5rcB_NXbIeHbJV7JFNcdfqL-vY Mummy From The Heart...: October 2012

Monday, 29 October 2012

Talking to your kids about a loved one dying

Not the most cheery of subjects really but a very necessary one. How do you tell your children that a loved one is dying?

At the moment I am down at my Mum and Dad's, it should have been that my Mum was coming to stay with us this half term but sadly things have changed. My beloved Nan went into a hospice last Tuesday and of course we want to be close to her, so here we are and what a blessing, I am able to visit Nan every day and spend time with her.

My Nan, last November when we went out for a day!
She has been poorly for quite some time now, poor lady has had a rough 2012. In April she broke her ankle and we had to call off our girls holiday we were due to take, then in May her colon died and she was in intensive care and very unwell but she pulled back and has been struggling on for the last few months.  About three weeks ago she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and has a few other tumours.  We were told the outlook was not good and it would not be that long. My children have been to see my Nan (or Nanny Mary as they call her) in hospital many times in the months since she first broke her ankle.  They have been so good in the elderly peoples wards and have bought a smile to many faces.

I received a call last Saturday to say she was not doing so well, so off I travelled alone to visit. I spent a pleasant day with her and my Mum last Sunday and she seemed pretty well in herself, her pain had subsided and she managed to keep some food down for a while, such a massive improvements on the green bile of the day before. But then once I had gone she got poorly again and things came to a head with my Mum sleeping (or not sleeping as the case was) over on Monday and my Nan being beyond herself in pain, hence the hospice admission.  Looking back in retrospect I can see that many times when I have come to see her/ stay with her she has been well while I was here and then worsened as I left.  I had not knowingly realised that though, not until just writing it now.

That seems quite poignant to me when I think about the fact that in the last 48 hours she has come to Christ and been saved, not because of my direct input I hasten to add, but I hear she told the doctor today that it was my faith that bought her to Jesus. She feels I have led her there and that is very comforting to me but more so the fact that I know she is now heading for Heaven and a wonderful and blissful ever-life with the creator.

Anyway I digress, it is of course a privilege to watch God at work, he really is linking things up and showing us His words and will.  As Nan talked to me about things yesterday and I shared them with my husband last night he then shared with me the message of the sermon he went to and a present he bought me that totally fit with what Nan has said. Then the best part was when my Mum started to hear all the coincidences coming together and kept saying 'it really is as if there is a God'.  Yes Mum, funny that!

We really do not know how long Nan has left, we are led to believe it is days rather than weeks and I am wondering what to tell my kids. I was honest with my 9 year old JJ a week or so back when the terminal cancer diagnosis was given and I told him that Nanny Mary was dying and very poorly now.  He has asked me a few questions and asked how she looks but to be honest I don't think he has really taken it in. Thank the Lord they all saw her the week before I travelled to Ethiopia and were able to spend some time whilst she was in hospital and to kiss and hug her.

The twins are only 5 and to be honest are probably closer to my Nan than JJ, they are still at that age when they are happy to hug and kiss old ladies.  On Saturday we took my Nan a decorated coaster that Miss M had made her and she loved that and then yesterday I took her a beaded necklace that Miss E had made and I'm told she has not stopped touching it yet.  She talks about all the colours and how they represent the messages she is getting from the Lord and her life's puzzle is all coming together for her.  Of course this is stuff that kids cannot get, it is hard enough to piece it all together as an adult.

Because they could not visit they sent a photo instead!

So the girls know she is now in a hospice and more poorly than when she was in hospital.  They have asked me if she will die and I have said yes, we all will sometime but we do not know when.  They know their Nanny is very sad as her Mummy is so poorly but do I just leave it now and tell them she has gone once she dies?  I think that is what I am thinking right now.

I am going down the route of honesty being best and of course I will keep it age appropriate, they do not need to know about the pain or suffering she has gone though.

Because I'm a Christian and now I know Nan is saved this makes the conversation much easier as obviously I believe that Nan is entering the best stage once she leave earth and joins Christ.

I would be interested to hear how other parents have spoken to their children in the same situation and any Christian parenting wisdom would be really appreciated too.  Thanks for sharing, Mich x

Sunday, 28 October 2012

#SilentSunday - 28 Oct 2012


It is Sunday, that day if the week when we share a photo that we have taken during the 7 preceding days. Here's mine, it made me smile!

Have a great week, Mich x

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Operation Christmas Child - Journey to Belarus

I'll make it clear from the start where I stand - I'm a fan of the Operation Christmas Child (OCC) initiative run by the Christian charity Samaritan's Purse

I am a fan of Samaritan's Purse too.

That's probably because I'm also a fan of Jesus Christ and call myself a Christian.

For me Christianity is a good and positive thing.  Not something to be hidden or a dirty word.

However that does not mean that I will stand by or approve of all activities that individual or collective people, or organisations undertake in the name of Christianity.  I know that some people do things with a good intention and it goes wrong, the outcome is not in line with the desires of Christ.  For me being a Christian is about acting as Jesus would have, being humble and leading the best life I can, answerable only to God himself. I don't judge you and I ask you not to judge me. Of course I get things wrong and make mistakes, I'm only human.

Being a Christian also means that I will believe the best of people or organisations until proven otherwise.

So why am I getting all defensive you may wonder? Who has got up your nose Mich? And the answer to that is no-one. 

However, I am travelling with OCC in early December to Belarus and I know this will be controversial.  I'm expecting some flack, I'd like to say I'm ready for some flack but to be honest I'm not.  I'm a right old softie and I'll hate it if people are mean, but that won't stop me being honest and true to myself and God. I'll just have to toughen up!



My remit on this trip is to follow the journey of a shoebox and to write about the stories of the children I meet in the course of my deliveries. My writing will be used on the OCC website, in newsletters, emails and literature. I'll also host some webcasts and I have to be honest and say it is all pretty scary stuff.  I'm not a journalist and I have never yet written for a site which has the kind of traffic that OCC does. What a wonderful opportunity for you Mich, you may be thinking.  Let me just tell you now, this is not about me. I can honesty say that I do not care one iota about the exposure I'll receive from this, I believe God has chosen me for this job and therefore I must stand in His strength and believe I have the skills to do well for His glory.

Already I am hearing from some people that they will not be getting involved with OCC as the evangelistic nature of the outreach is too forceful, that they do not agree with 'tat' that is made in China being shipped to Africa and that it is an outrage that children are forced to become Christians and made to attend bible study.

Guess what?

If I find the evangelistic nature of this initiative too much I'll be honest and I'll say that here. I have a belief that a Christian organisation like Samaritan's Purse will be grounded in the Word of God and that they will evangelise appropriately, in line with 1 Corinthians 3:2 "I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it". The message given will be appropriate for the audience.

With regard to the children not wanting to receive 'tat' made in another country I beg to differ.  I arrived back from Ethiopia just 2 weeks ago and many children there have no toys, not even one. They were beyond themselves to receive the small tokens we gave out while there. A cheap car bought in a poundshop is a major treat to them.

And if I find that children are forced to become Christians and made to attend a bible study course then I'll say so and yes I'll be deeply offended and I'll have to sever my ties with this charity but I do not believe this to be the case at all. My understanding is that literature is offered to the children receiving a box, as is the opportunity to attend a bible study course and they are encouraged to use their free will to decide if they wish to attend. I won't lie and tell you I have an issue with that as I do not. I believe all children should be given the opportunity to come and explore Christianity and to find out about Christ our Saviour. A deep faith makes the world of difference to the joy, peace and quality of life of many people, I witnessed this first hand in Ethiopia.  They have so little materially but so much contentment.

I have sat and read so much tonight, my head is bursting with information. I have been round and round the Samaritans Purse and Operation Christmas Child sites as well as reading articles, forum postings and a ton more stuff out there on the web. I'll leave you to take a peek at the 'why we speak of hope' page on the Samaritans Purse UK site. I love it that UK Executive Director Simon Barrington gets right to the point and says 'we reject any form of coercion, manipulation or exploitation of an emergency or a person’s situation in order to share our faith' but the statement of faith page also makes no qualms about the fact that this is a Christian organisation and they 'seek to be distinctively Christian'.  Perfect I say.

I hope you'll join me on this journey to Belarus. I'll be doing my very best to ensure that I accurately put across the stories of the people I meet and that I honestly report what I experience as I travel with Operation Christmas Child.

I've written about OCC a number of times before, check out some of the following posts if you want to find out more -

OCC -  My response (to all the negativity that arose around this initiative last year)
How to make the best Christmas present ever for under £10
Can I mention the C word yet?
How to pack a Christmas gift box


Image Credit

Thursday, 25 October 2012

#R2BC - Week 43 - Lucky to have my Job!

Reasons to be Cheerful at Mummy from the Heart

Good morning, I hope this Thursday is a good one for you.  As you read this I'm at work all day running a training workshop, I pray this goes well and all my international students who are supposed to help me turn up!

My whole reasons to be cheerful post this week is based around work. I know I am blessed to have a good job with an exceptional manager.  Some others can not say the same, even those working at the same place as me.

So what is making me super cheery at work then?
  1. Blogging and social media have become a real passion for me in the last couple of years, I did not even realise how much so until yesterday when I was asked at work to start researching and putting together a short introduction to social media course, with the aim being that our researchers can start to publicise some of their articles and findings. I am chomping at the bit to get started with this.
  2. I have so many interesting projects going on at the moment that I am not really sure where to start!
  3. I love the flexibility of my work, they have allowed me two weeks off unpaid so I could take my blogger trips to Ethiopia and then to Belarus when I do in December.
  4. The people in my direct team are just awesome, we are all different but together there is a bit of everything and we all support each other, it is amazing to know that if anything goes wrong I can turn to them.
  5. But best of all?  I'm off most of next week to spend time with my family.
Over to you. Share with us what is making you feel happy/ grateful right now. Link your blog post up, pop the blog hop code in if you fancy and then visit some others in the linky and leave some comment love.  I'll aim to come and visit everyone this week and comment, so please leave me some love too.

Have a really great week, Mich x

Link up now -

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Time with my husband at Frankie & Benny's

Do you ever find that life gets so busy that you just end up spending no time with your other half? Or if you do it is to do something for or with the kids?  Oh yes, my husband and I will stand at the side of a football pitch and cheer on our boy or we might catch up about  parents evening before one of us runs out the house but sadly right now ‘us time’ seems not to be making it to the top of the list.
We have been together 18 years now and that’s a fair while, so during that time there have been many periods, especially since having children when we have temporarily forgotten that we must schedule time together, time just to be husband and wife. For months at a time we can be really on top of things and scheduling date nights, going out or cooking for each other and then all of a sudden I catch a moment and wonder when the last time we did that was.
When I was in Ethiopia recently I really missed dh and the thing my heart most wanted was to have him there with me.  I knew he would ‘get’ my trip and really enjoy it but most of all I wanted the closeness that only we have. So returning from my trip and finding that Frankie and Benny’s had sent me through a voucher to enjoy a meal and their new cocktail menu I knew who I would be going with.  By chance we both had last Friday off work and we headed to our local Frankie and Benny’s in Stevenage Herts whilst the kids were at school so we could enjoy some time together.
What a lovely time we had, the restaurant was about half full and had a really warm atmosphere, it was not too noisy and the booth we were seated in was intimate and comfortable. What made our visit even better was that we had the best waiter, he is Russian and called himself 5star, which made us laugh but he had such a quirky/ dry sense of humour and really engaged with us.
Dh and I both enjoyed our meal, we did not go for anything adventurous but who says you have to?  Well except for 5star who teased us about our ‘exciting’ tastes, but as I told him ‘better to know I would enjoy it’. I had New York chicken with chips, coleslaw and a corn cob and dh had a beefburger and chips. Both were well cooked and a good size portion.
After, we decided it would be rude not to enjoy some desserts together and dh went for the brownies, ice cream and cream and I had cheesecake. I thought dh’s brownies looked a bit small but when I tried them they were rich and delicious.  My cheesecake was good too and was slightly chewy, just the way I like it.
Whilst we choose from the main menu we could happily have chosen from the Frankie and Benny’s lunch menu as there is a good range and the price starts at £5.95 for one course or £8.25 for two courses or £9.25 for three, which present really good value.
The main reason we were asked to go and try out a Frankie and Benny’s restaurant was to try their new cocktail menu out. Being a week day and a lunchtime I sort of assumed that we would be trying the non-alcoholic cocktails but no dh decided to surprise me and had a Long Island ice tea, a bit of a turn up for the books considering he drinks about twice a year!  I think the time away from the kids and the American Italian inspired restaurant must have transported him back to much younger years and working in New York drinking many a Long Island ice tea! He told me it was a really good one and he nearly fell asleep as we drove back home to pick the kids up!
I tried out the fruit punch and also the gentle breeze and I was impressed to see four non-alcoholic cocktails on the menu.  Both that I tried were good but the fruit punch was exceptional and the almond liqueur in it really lifted it and made it different to something you might have every day. The cost of the non-alcoholic cocktails is £2.95 and the alcoholic ones range from £4.95 to £5.95 each which is comparable with other similar restaurant chains.  Some of the cocktails are also available in a two eprson pitcher for £8.95 or a four person one for £13.95, both of these represent good value.
I can honestly say that I’d happily come back and have another meal and I’d also love to try a Woo Woo cocktail next time I come, that’s peach schnapps, vodka, cranberry juice with a hint of lemon in case you’re wondering!
Go on share, what's your poison when it comes to cocktails? 
Disclaimer:  I was provided with a voucher for a two course meal for two with two cocktails each for the purposes of undertaking this review.  I was not instructed what to write and I remain honest.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Win a stunning FashionABLE Scarf

Congratulations to the following winners -

Scarf winners are - Sarah S, @gylow321 and @xxjan_axx
Bracelet winners are - Erika Solgos, @MyMillsBaby and @zebedee01

Please email me (mummyfromtheheart (at) virginmedia (dot) com) your name and address so I can organise for ONE to send your prize out to you.  If I have not heard from you by noon 16th Nov 2012 I'll have to redraw the names.

Many thanks, Mich x


Here I am modelling a FashionABLE scarf and also red and white ONE bracelets

Recently on my trip to Ethiopia with the ONE Campaign I was lucky enough to go along and meet some of the ladies working in the FashionABLE factory in Addis Ababa. This isn't a factory like you and me know, it is a small facility where a group of women work together in harmony and often outdoors to make beautiful hand weaved scarfs.  There are loads of designs and colours and although they are all cotton, there are also varying feels and looks to the fabrics.  The designs are beautiful and very cosmopolitan as they are influenced from the US.  These are not scarfs you would buy to just do a good deed.  These are scarfs you would buy because they are stunning and at the same time help women to keep their dignity and earn enough to live a life filled with hope and peace.

I wrote about Mulu, one of the women working at FashionABLE, you can read about her HERE. All the women at FashionABLE are inspiring as they have all come from working in the sex trade, as life presented very little other option to them.
I'd urge you to take a look at the Live FashionABLE site and to find out more about the story of how this wonderful project started out. Of course you can also buy yourself a beautiful scarf or purchase one as a gift.  They cost from $28 each and that's about £17 currently plus about £5 for shipping from US to UK. Here's a link to to my current favourite.

Then if you enter my giveaway you could even be lucky enough to win yourself a FashionABLE scarf.  I have 3 scarves and 3 ONE Campaign bracelets to giveaway.

The scarves I am giving away are from the Etanesh Stripes range and retail for $36 each, who knows what beautiful colour way you might get. Take a look a few friends of mine modelling different colour Etanesh Stripe scarves.

Image Credit:  Karen Walrond/ ONE

How to enter -

  • Mandatory - Leave me a comment and tell me who inspires you.
  • Additional entry - Like the #ONE Moms/ Mums/ Dads facebook page
  • Additional entry - Tweet '#Win a beautiful @liveFashionABLE scarf with @michelletwinmum & @onecampaign http://bit.ly/RicRsn #Giveaway'
  • Additional entry - Sign up to the ONE campaign using the widget below, you'll then receive emails of how you can help
  • Make sure you tell me in the comments below which of these things you have done and how to contact you if you are a lucky winner

Terms & Conditions
  • The giveaway will close at midday on Friday 2nd November 2012
  • The winners will be chosen using random.org
  • There are 3 scarves and 3 bracelets to be won, each winner will receive one item picked at random
  • The prize is not transferable and there is not a cash alternative
  • The prizes will be sent directly from the ONE campaign and suitable substitute may be sent if necessary
  • Winners will be advised within one wee of this giveaway closing.
  • Winners need to contact me with their address details within 1 week of it being advertised on here they are a winner.
  • Postage to UK and Ireland only.
Good luck all!  Mich x

Discosure:  I have not been provided with anything to host this giveaway.  I did travel with ONE recently on an expenses paid trip to Ethiopia to see the Living Proof of how International aid is being used.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Should you lose hope? No you shouldn't! (#ONEMums)

The last Friday when I was in Ethiopia I met a man that I will remember for the rest of my life. This was a kind man with a warm and giving heart, a man that tells me he can relate to the children of the slums, for he too grew up in Ethiopia.

Gebeyehu is living proof of what people can achieve when they believe in themselves and they are willing to work hard and make something of their lives.  I do not know all the details of Gebeyehu's life very well, I spent just a few hours with him. What I know is that he grew up in Ethiopia in difficult circumstances and he trained as a producer and later travelled to England to study for his postgraduate qualification, he then came back to Ethiopia and has worked for numerous humanitarian organisations doing work to fight for a better Ethiopia.

Look at her face, that joy!
To be honest I don't need to know too much about Gebeyehu, when you watch him relate to about one hundred young girls who all live in the Merkato slums in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia you know this man has a heart for his people. How important it is for these girls to hear empowering and uplifting words from a strong male role model. Many of these young female domestic workers (as young as 7 years old - gosh it breaks my heart) are experiencing gender based violence or GBV as they refer to it, so it is so important for them to be able to see someone like Gebeyehu lift them, even if just a fraction. Most men treat them entirely differently, respect was something they did not know was meant for them until they started to attend the Biruh Tesfa program run by the Population Council and funded by USAid.

Biruh Tesfa translates in Amharic to Bright Future and that's exactly what these girls are encouraged to aspire to by attending the program. While at this basic three classroom project housed in the middle of the slums we had the privilege of having this awesome man translate when we went to visit the girls and as we asked him to give them messages of hope from us he went that bit further and showed them how to keep putting one foot in front of the other and to take those steps towards their goals. With passion he asked them 'should we give up?' and then informed them 'no we shouldn't!'. This room full of girls aged between 10 - 15 years were mature beyond their years, probably because of the chores and responsibility they have taken on for years but those uplifting and encouraging words must have meant the world to them. Gebeyehu's female colleague told us that he was instructing the girls 'that someone who cries all the time has no vision' and that they must visualise their future and believe their dreams can happen.



Gebeyehu is ONE man, one relatively unknown man and yet he is having a positive effect on hundreds of vulnerable children.  We can all be like Gebeyehu, that is what my walk with Christ and my work with the ONE campaign is teaching me.  Every ONE person counts.  We all impact people each day and by thinking it though first, we can make sure that impact is a positive one.

If I'm honest I get really fed up of cries of 'why bother?', 'I can't make a difference' and the 'problem is too big'.  Thank goodness Ghandi, William Wilberforce and Nelson Mandela and Jesus Christ himself did not just throw up their arms and say 'well what can I do, I'm just ONE person?'.

I might not change the world on my own and the things I stand for may be different to those that really rock you but I can hold my head up high and say I'm trying. I'm fighting for a better world and I care about our world, about our people. About ONE people.

I don't judge you if your passions are different to mine, I just pray that you feel some passion and that you are able to channel it, for apathy achieves nothing.

If your passion is similar to mine and you hate to see people living in poverty, then please do consider signing up to ONE and offering your voice.  There are no catches, it is as simple as it seems. Every so often You'll get an email from ONE and they'll ask for your help - sign a petition to lobby Government, show your support on social media, write to your MP - that type of thing.  You can choose to act on it or you can choose to bin it, I understand - different days, different things.  Sometimes we have enough head space and time to deal with this and sometimes we don't. I'm no different, I do not join in with every request of me, I just do what feels right.

Take it back 8 months ago and I had never heard of ONE, take it back 8 years ago I was not actively involved in trying to create a better world and take it back 18 years ago I had no idea why anyone would bother.  Times change, people change.  Thank the Lord.

I'll leave you with the words of Gebeyehu shouted at the top of my voice - 'Should we lose hope?, No we shouldn't'.

Who is inspiring you today?

Takea  peek at my giveaway post if you fancy winning a FahsionABLE scarf made in Ethiopia.

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I've just returned from Ethiopia, where I was travelling with a group of 11 other inspirational Mums and Moms as part of an expense paid trip courtesy of the ONE Campaign. Our trip is about success – Living Proof -- of what is working and why it is important that we continue to support projects that are making a huge, measurable difference for less than one percent of the entire US budget. It is about letting more people know what a tremendous difference the US and UK are making in the lives of millions around the world. 

It is also about adding thousands more voices to those already letting their elected officials know they support these life-saving programs. You can sign up to ONE using the widget on my blog right sidebar.


Have you heard of Scooter Aid?



I received an email from my contact at Micro Scooters a couple of days ago and she said she had news about something that would be 'right up my street' and she was so right.

We love Micro Scooters in this house, the girls were bought their first ones when they were 2 years old and those lasted until they were 5 and got too tall for them.  Those scooters have now gone to two little lads who need them and my girls have their beautiful Union Jack Maxi Micro scooters.  I now find that if I had not been passing on the scooters for another couple of kids to enjoy I could have sent them back to Micro for them to be tested and refurbished and sent off to an orphanage in Kenya so that some underprivileged kids could enjoy them.

I love that, like really love that.  Yes I am still very much in the moment, having only just returned from Ethiopia a week ago but this literally made me cry. It is so important in my opinion that when people do well in business they give something back. Until today I did not realise Micro Scooters were going this, as well as this new Scooter Aid initiative they also donate scooters to children in hospital and have fundraisers at schools allowing the school to keep 10% of funds raised.  Brilliant!

Before I gave our old Mini Micro scooters to the boys I was pondering what I would do with them and I had decided I would pass them to school.  Well used Mini Micro scooters seem to go for about £10 on ebay and whilst extra cash is always nice, that amount is not going to change the world so I prefer to pass them on so they can continue to be enjoyed. I have to admit that had I known about this scheme first I would have sent the 2 scooters off and given my friend another couple of non-brand scooters that we have.

Giving a scooter to Scooter Aid is really easy -
  1. Talk to your children about why you are donating their old scooter, write a letter with them to be sent to the children at the orphanage along with their old scooter
  2. Package up the Micro scooter (if must be their brand not just any one) in a box or suitable wrapping
  3. Print off a pre-paid postage label from the Micro Scooters website
  4. Take the package to the post office
  5. Micro will check over the scooter and fix/ refurbish it if necessary
  6. Then Christmas 2012 they aim to deliver 60 scooters to the Tumaini Children's Home in Kenya and each child will then have a scooter each, as well as their first ever Christmas Party
But they cannot achieve that objective without us - the average person who has an old Micro scooter sitting out in the back garden.  Go on take the 1/2 hour it will require and box it up and send it back, so some good can come of it. Just look at these little ones below as they tried out a scooter for the first time earlier this year.


The founders of Micro Scooter UK, Anna Gibson and Philippa Gogarry said "As Mums ourselves, we know how invaluable scooters have been for our children. We hope that Scooter Aid will help less fortunate children rediscover their childhood through play - a gift no child should be without".  It was a pleasure to read that if this pilot works well they hope to spread the initiative to other children's home in other developing countries as well.

I can hand on heart say that this is a super scheme that I'll be proud to support when my girls finally outgrow their next Micro scooters.

Disclosure: Earlier this year my girls were sent a scooter each to review. We were not instructed what to write and I remain honest.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

#SilentSunday - What a difference a week makes..


Joining in with #SilentSunday this week, although I'm never that good at staying silent! If you want to find more great pictures take a peek over at Love all Blogs.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Beautifully Different...... Yes all of us women

Before I say too much, have a watch of this video. It was made by a friend of mine and has no sales or charity angle.  This is just about you, as a woman.... go on, it is 3 minutes of your life that you won't regret...



I only watched this video yesterday for the first time but it had an effect on me straight away.  It is truly awesome (said in my best American accent).

Last week I was in Ethiopia and our official trip photographer was Karen Walrond, wife (to an English man), Mom, blogger, author, public speaker and all round amazing lady.  This woman oozes confidence and beauty and is a perfect ambassador for her philosophy that 'what makes us different makes us beautiful'. Look at that stunning smile, you can imagine what a wicked sense of humour she has.  She was one of the first people to greet Jen and I as we arrived in Addis Ababa and there could have been no-one better as instantly we were hugged and welcomed.

I did not come to a full realisation until last week what an issue I have with the way I look.  Since having Bells Palsy in 2006 I hate my smile in photos, all I see is an asymmetrical smile and I never feel happy with it.  Karen does not see that and I need to learn to see myself as she does. This lady knows that every face tells a unique and fascinating story.

A couple of times last week I recall thinking about the gorgeous smiles of the women we met in Ethiopia, women that might have been in the sex trade, that could have known true hunger or that have so many facial lines from working hard in the harsh sunlight all their lives.  But I did not look at them and think they were ugly or anything else derogatory, I just saw their joy and happiness and the way that translated into their smiles and faces. I saw beauty.

I really loved the fact that they had no vanity and did not worry what the photos might come out like.

I need to take a leaf from their book, I need my joy to translate to my face, so there is something for me to work on, less vanity and more enjoyment of life.  To the right is a picture that Karen took of me and I need to embrace that photo and see the beauty in it don't I? If I'm completely honest what I see right now is double chins, an eye that does not open properly on the right and the asymmetrical smile. So many occasions last week people said to me 'smile Michelle' and that was my smile. I've obviously got used to masking.

It was a real eye opener when a number of the women I travelled with felt the need to affirm me and comment on how I was beautiful or compassionate or the owner of a unique voice. It sure did make me realise that I disrespect myself a fair amount.  I need to stop putting me down and start being my number one champion!

I once wrote a post called I am Beautiful - I think I'll go and re-read that now.  It might be very helpful.

Yes indeed I am sure it will, I truly had no idea that this was even an issue for me, let alone one that has made me sit here and cry as I write this. I could make a flip comment now and put it down to tiredness and time of the month but actually I need to accept this is an issue for me and I need to work on that.

What about you?  What do you see when you look in the mirror?

 


Thursday, 18 October 2012

An #Ethiopian gratitude example to us all (#R2BC #ONEMums)

Reasons to be Cheerful is being hosted over with the lovely Becky at Lakes Single Mum today, head over there and link up.  Below is my entry for this week, I'm sharing another one of my tales from Ethiopia. It would be amazing if you could take the time to read and share, every person that becomes aware of ONE and is willing to share their work or sign up and add their voice is deeply appreciated.
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Wednesday was the most full-on day, to the point that I had to back out of dinner.  I just did not know how I was going to make it through a big dinner with more guests and another compelling story to tell. Of course I want to hear what they had to say but I am only human, I had been up since 4am to catch an early flight up to Bahir-Dar and I was burnt out.

The order of the day was to visit some healthcare facilities and see the work in action and the education that happens at grass roots level. In the Ethiopian healthcare system they have 17 hospitals (which is shocking for the 84 million people that live here), 739 regional health centres, 3039 health posts (small 1 or 2 room clinics) and about 30,000 health extension workers. There is still a long way to go. It needs to be better but I say let’s focus on the positives. Things are changing and progress is being made for the future and as this continues it will snowball; change takes time but it is all heading in the right direction.

I have to be honest and say that that way people live here is a million miles away from my life back in the UK; I could not imagine having to take my child to a dirty and broken room acting as a healthcare facility. But I also see things I would love to take back to the UK, like the sense of community and the way a small group of mothers work as a collective together and each save 5 birr a week (30 birr is one British pound, so you realise how little that is) so that when difficulties arise they can all take from the pot and sort out the problem as a group. Someone on twitter recently said to me those with the least give the most and I can honestly say that is definitely what I have observed here.
I received a text from my husband today to say one of our twin daughters had been sent home from school as they believed she has an ear infection, he was able to take her straight to the doctor’s surgery and she was seen quickly and they got some antibiotics. I saw a picture of her snuggled up on our sofa fast asleep letting the magic medicine do its job. What would happen here? Not a lot I expect, that sounds harsh but an ear infection is not life or death, the child would be comforted by their mother and would have to rest and sweat it out. People are tough here. Thank the Lord.
It is the simplest healthcare interventions here that can have a massive impact. Diarrhoea is still a cause of death in a country such as Ethiopia; people dehydrate very quickly when they have a lack of nourishment, poor quality water and hot weather. Thankfully each health centre and post now has an ORT corner.  Sounds complex doesn’t it?  Basically it stands for oral rehydration therapy and it is water and sachets of a substance such as diarlyte. This is enough to get the essential salts back into a person and gives them the opportunity to live through a bout of diarrhoea.

Whilst every health professional I have met has been welcoming and looked competent it is the health extension workers that I am most impressed with. Predominantly they are women and they run the health posts for about 4 hours a day, in that time they might give family planning advice, administer family planning drugs, give child vaccinations, test for HIV, diagnose illnesses (such as neonatal tetanus, polio, etc) in people that they wish to refer up to the next level of healthcare and they give education classes in nutrition, breastfeeding and sanitation. That is some job description to pack into 4 hours, but it does not stop there.
Oh no, they will then spend the rest of their day going house to house to meet their allocated families (500 each) to educate on home cleanliness, food combining to meet nutritional needs, giving pre-natal care and delivering babies amongst many other duties. Each health post has a small wood, straw and mud built classroom that they will use for their educational classes. These are also used as models to help educate the people about having a dwelling with more than one room and that animals should sleep separate to humans. Currently the sheep/ goats will sleep next to them to protect them from theft

One of the first round of Health Extension Workers, she has been doing the job for 7 years now and yet
looks barely old enough to have left school! She spoke to us knowledgably, passionatley and eloquently
though as only a professional could.
I was interested to learn that Ethiopia spend a bigger proportion of their budget on healthcare than any other African nation, this really shows their determination to make strides forward and to change things for the better.
Whilst I was at the health centre I was very privileged to be able to briefly meet a new mother and her new-born daughter, she was just establishing breastfeeding having given birth half hour before.  We congratulated the grandmother and her face turned from a stony scowl to a bright smile and pride shone through as he told us thank you. This birth that had taken place in the delivery room is a million miles away from the one this lady would have experienced even 10 years ago in Ethiopia.  All births would have been in the home then and would not have been attended in the main.  Now the health extension workers and/ or midwives will try to be with a lady as she labours to ensure things progress correctly.

The delivery suite is very basic and the paint is peeling but it was clean and there
was instructions for sterilisation of utensils etc
Because this lady had come to the health centre she was able to have some pain relief, oxytocin to help with the afterbirth and stiches to any tears if necessary.  After resting up a while and feeding her baby she will be given a lift home in the ambulance and she is very happy for this new service.
The midwife we met was a petite and quietly spoken lady, well dressed and very beautiful. I asked her about twin births and she responded in Amharic for translation but the terms ‘complicated’ and ‘present breach’ gave me a good idea of the kind of issues she has, she told us she needed new breathing equipment if she could have anything but she was grateful for what she had.
We can all take a leaf from her book and be grateful for what we have, I know I am!

What is making you feel grateful today?
I'll just add in a soundclip I made last week about this days visits too, enjoy!


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I've just returned from Ethiopia, where I was travelling with a group of 11 other inspirational Mums and Moms as part of an expense paid trip courtesy of the ONE Campaign. Our trip is about success – Living Proof -- of what is working and why it is important that we continue to support projects that are making a huge, measurable difference for less than one percent of the entire US budget. It is about letting more people know what a tremendous difference the US and UK are making in the lives of millions around the world. 

It is also about adding thousands more voices to those already letting their elected officials know they support these life-saving programs. You can sign up to ONE using the widget on my blog right sidebar.

Image of Health Extension Worker - Karen Walrond/ ONE


Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Down to earth with a bump! #ONEMums



Cards the kids made for me, you can't really read them as they are in pencil
but I loved Miss M's, it said Praying for Mummy
 I've been home 48 hours now, that's not long is it?  No wonder I still feel pretty weird. 

I'm not quite sure how to describe how I feel right now but I'm a bit like an alien in my own home town. I think my biggest issue is that I am completely tried but I am also very overwhelmed, I'm trying to process all the things I saw, heard and learnt during my seven days in Ethiopia and it is taking the wind out of me. I feel kind of fragile, like I might break if you shout at me. So please don't.

We landed into Heathrow early Sunday morning and was greeted by freezing fog - the first big shocker, where has my sun and beautiful blue skies gone? I was mighty pleased to enjoy a cup of real English tea and a toasted sandwich for breakfast whilst I waited for my family to arrive and then when they did we did the movie scene stuff and ran towards each other for a big hug. It felt really good to have my babes back in my arms. I took my girls to the toilet and they were busy chattering away to me about their week and how pleased they were to see me. We came out of the cubicle to find a lady beaming at us with the biggest, most friendly smile and she commented about how lovely my girls were, so happy. It's true, this trip has certainly made me appreciate how lucky I am to have three wonderful children and a great husband, but most importantly that we have all the basics and do not have to worry about where the next meal is coming from. I am so looking forward to the weekend and having some time to just enjoy being with them.

People  keep asking me how Ethiopia was and throwing questions at me and I an a bit shell-shocked, I do not feel ready to answer all their questions yet. When you visit in excess of 15 different projects, areas and groups of people in a matter of seven days you are bound to fell pretty burnt out and overwhelmed aren't you?

I know that I need to be kind to myself and not push too much and just allow the processing to take place and slowly the information will fall into place and then dh and I can make some decisions about how we want our lives to change and we both know that we do.  Last year dh went to India on mission and that touched and changed him and now my Ethiopia journey has done the same for me, but we need to see how those changes translate to real everyday life.

The delightful picture my kids chose to send me whilst I was in Ethiopia!

I can't seem to keep away from twitter and my new friends blogs, reading about our time in Ethiopia helps me to remember it was real and not to let go fully yet. I miss that group of women so much, we had the most amazing time together and I don't think anything will ever break that bond.  I have a lump in my throat just typing this.

There are so many ideas going round my head; posts I want to write and publish, promotion for ONE that I want to do and ideas for the future.  When I hear yet again that people don't know who ONE are or what they are supposed to do I get a little disheartened, it feels like a massive job to help educate the UK about who ONE are. I have written so many posts about it now that I could start to question myself about my ability to transfer information. But I won't as it's not productive. With ONE not being a traditional charity and not asking for money I realise it is a bit harder to be able to fully grasp who they are and want they want. I turn my worries over to God as it is no use me pondering them over and over.

I can't deny that I have been effected by all the talk of our trip, both positive and negative.  I am so thankful to all those who chose to help share our journey and I feel happy that I fulfilled the brief I was given of sharing the living proof that UK and US aid is working successfully in Ethiopia.  As I mentioned elsewhere I never went to Ethiopia to become a blogging superstar, I don't care if not one person recalls my name. I just wanted to do something for an campaigning and advocacy organisation that I have become super passionate about in the last 8 months. At the beginning of this year I had no idea who ONE were but now I am happy to give my time to spread the word and I ask for nothing in return.

But this is not the end, not by a long way.  I'll have many more Ethiopia posts to share and I'll keep doing my bit for ONE as each new campaign raises its head. I'd love it if you feel you would like to as well.

If you want to know more about ONE you can check out their website, any of my posts on here tagged with one.org or ask me a question direct, I'll happily help. Then if you want to sign up and add your voice and be available to sign a few virtual petitions in the future, do the odd blog post, tweet or share or if you are willing to write to your MP to back up a campaign then you will be doing far more than most people in the developed world and that makes you a rock star in my humble opinion.

Thanks again, Mich x

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I've just returned from Ethiopia, where I was travelling with a group of 11 other inspirational Mums and Moms as part of an expense paid trip courtesy of the ONE Campaign. Our trip is about success – Living Proof -- of what is working and why it is important that we continue to support projects that are making a huge, measurable difference for less than one percent of the entire US budget. It is about letting more people know what a tremendous difference the US and UK are making in the lives of millions around the world. 

It is also about adding thousands more voices to those already letting their elected officials know they support these life-saving programs. You can sign up to ONE using the widget on my blog right sidebar.


Sunday, 14 October 2012

Leaving a part of my heart in #Ethiopia #ONEMums

It has been the most intensive week ever, I cannot even remember anything like it before and I expect I may never experience it again but I swear I'll never forget this or the people of Ethiopia and I so want to come back.  I'd be so proud of them to come back in 10/15 years time and see the progress - because I know 100% that things will have moved on massively.

I am a little bit overwhelmed, tearful and tired right now, so this post will be my last for a day or so and I just wanted to share my week with you in photos.  I'll try and cut down the 561 photos that I have taken down to a managble number for this one post.  All photos shared here were taken by me or with my brilliant little iPhone.

Yet again, I'll just say thank you for following this journey.  You are all awesome (yes I have gone all American but still with a very British accent) and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for getting to know who @ONEcampaignUK are. If you can lend your voice, via petitions, emails, social sharing, blogging or even 1 simple RT then you are doing better than most people in the world and congratulations YOU are making a difference joining the fight to end extreme poverty.

If anyone is not sure who ONE are or what they do and you want more information, in easy to understand language then email me and I'll help.  Love you all lots, Mich x


Arrival in Ethiopia - Day 1




Day 3 - Journey to 2 schools in Mojo








Day 4 - Travel to Bahir-Dar and visit a healh centre, health post and bee keeping project










Day 5 in Bahir-Dar - Visiting a farming training centre and health post







Day 6 visit to HIV clinic and Merkato slums project for you g girl domestic workers






Day 7 - Visit to Muta scarf and pottery factory






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I am currently in Ethiopia travelling with a group of 11 other inspirational Mums and Moms as part of an expense paid trip courtesy of the ONE Campaign. Our trip is about success – Living Proof -- of what is working and why it is important that we continue to support projects that are making a huge, measurable difference for less than one percent of the entire US budget. It is about letting more people know what a tremendous difference the US and UK are making in the lives of millions around the world.  And it is about adding thousands more voices to those already letting their elected officials know they support these life-saving programs.
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