Thursday, May 29, 2014

Miss Representation // How you can challenge the portrayal of women in the media

From here

You're likely to have seen tweets flying around about the film "Miss Representation" - a feature-length documentary that absolutely everyone must see, in my opinion. If you know me or are a regular reader, it'll come as no surprise to you that it is to do with the portrayal of women in the media and the damaging effects that has. I've spoken before about not quite being able to articulate how passionately I feel about issues revolving around sexism - I'm still learning - but here is some advice given at the end of the film about how each of us can spark a change in attitude and challenge the terrifyingly normalised evils we are bombarded with daily.

What you can and absolutely should do [some lifted/some paraphrased]

  • Measure yourself by your accomplishments, not by the way you look
  • If, every time you pass a mirror, downgrade our how we look or complain about how we look, remember that a girl is watching us and that’s how she is learning
  • Reflect on the ways you may contribute to sexism – e.g. we scrutinise women “Look how old/grey she has become” “What is she wearing?” We need to stop that destructive behaviour that we inflict upon each other and also onto ourselves
  • Support media which champions accomplished women – we need strong women role models who are in the media because they did something, because they’re doing great work, not because they have the most “banging” body or they’re the “sexiest woman of 2010”. That’s philanthropists, those in the medical field, and it’s not about the way they look, it’s about who they are inside
  • Boycott magazines, TV shows, movies that objectify and degrade women
  • Speaking your mind and criticising media companies when you think they are doing things which are inappropriate to children
  • Go see movies written and directed by women – important to go on opening weekend and Friday nights because these are the nights that Hollywood tracks.
  • Write your own stories and create your own media about powerful women in non-traditional roles
  • Teach those around you to look at the media critically
  • Ask your school to start a media literacy course focussed on female issues – look at whose perspectives are framing a story, there’s always two or more sides to a story etc
  • Don’t be afraid to challenge your friends if you hear them saying derogatory things about women – the problem today is not the vitriolic words of bad people, it’s the appalling silence and inaction of good people
  • Find healthy role models and be a mentor to others
  • Encourage women to become leaders and support them in the process
It is heart-breaking how few people know their true worth. You as a completely splendid human being are 100% worth standing up for, as are those around you. Whichever gender you are.

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Monday, May 26, 2014

Versailles // My favourite photos

Words keep failing me.

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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Versailles // the Palace Gardens

Equipped with a picnic and the rest of the gardens to explore, A and I wandered around in the sunshine, stopping for lunch by the lake. We were incredibly lucky with the weather given that it was early March and not wearing a coat felt like an utter luxury. It was probably even too warm for tights!

Adventuring and relaxing in the vast grounds of the Palace was an absolute dream - the perfect setting for the ultimate catch-up.

Have you had a picnic yet this year?

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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Taking Stock #8

T A K I N G // S T O C K

Making :: lists and then ignoring them

Cooking :: naan bread pizzas in the absence of any kitchen parties
Drinking :: green tea, mint tea, vanilla and rooibos tea 
Reading :: "Bossypants" by Tina Fey, school books
Wanting :: complicated things to be uncomplicated 
Looking :: for a car and finding one!
Playing :: student for a couple of days with my sister
Deciding :: to get my phone fixed and to buy a car
Wishing :: something could be done
Enjoying :: the quotation above. A lot.
Waiting :: for more results
Liking :: days where I dress well for the weather and disliking those I underestimate the skies
Wondering :: how long before I feel comfortable driving
Loving :: productive moments
Pondering :: much of the same
Considering :: car insurance, holidays, 
Watching :: Revenge, Made in Chelsea - you know, excellent bits of television like that
Hoping :: for brighter days 

Marvelling :: certain scenes in Les Miserables at the theatre that were terrifically acted
Needing :: luck
Smelling :: birthday flowers for Mumma
Wearing :: comfy new trainers with everything, everywhere 
Following :: my best friend's travels in the southern hemisphere 
Noticing :: how time flies
Knowing :: I've made some progress
Thinking :: about all the work that's to come
Feeling :: worried about change
Admiring :: wisteria on campus
Sorting :: out documents
Buying :: the types of things that you sort out when you're a grown up
Getting :: distracted
Bookmarking :: Art as Therapy
Disliking :: the usual things
Opening :: my 5 year Q&A diary whenever I remember
Giggling :: at the lengths M will go to make me laugh
Snacking :: on apple crisps and leftover Easter chocolate
Coveting :: a cover for my iPhone
Helping :: a friend
Hearing :: Chvrches


Let me know if you're also taking stock (as discovered here). If you haven't already seen, it would mean a lot if you read this and comply with the request at the end. Thank you.

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Sunday, May 11, 2014

2014 Blogger Challenge // Nine

Found here
From here
Unsure of original source. Help?

Topic :: Music

Currently, what I listen to.....

 in the car // Muse, Florence & The Machine

 in the mornings before class // Arctic Monkeys Glastonbury 2013 set, The xx

 to relax // a Ben Howard acoustic set, Beirut

 to feel // London Grammar, Daughter, Bastille

 to remember // Laura Marling, Damien Rice, Regina Spektor

 to cheer myself up // Arctic Monkeys

 to study // the Harry Potter soundtrack, silence

 to exercise // The Black Keys


This is entry 9 in the 2014 Blogger Challenge.

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Friday, May 09, 2014

52 Lists // Nineteen

Cheated slightly as this was yesterday's to-do list but this is blogging and we pick our more glamorous days to share...! What I actually did today was visit the dentist, catch up with some school work and help out my Year 6 buddy with her Maths revision. This is almost a Mundane Midweek post now!

Before I go, please take two minutes out of your day to have a look at Lifeblood's website, in particular these 10 questions answered about thrombosis. This week is National Thrombosis Week and having suffered extensive DVT, it would mean a lot to me if you could learn a couple of things about it today which might help you out later. For example, do you know the symptoms? It is mainly pain, swelling and discolouration of the skin, but blood clots are known as silent killers so very often there are no obvious symptoms. Take a moment to learn a bit more about it here.

Hope you all have wonderful, restful weekends.

This is List #19 in the 52 Lists project, hosted by Emma at Made in Hunters

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Thursday, May 08, 2014

I've got something to say.

Maybe grab a cuppa, this is a long one...

Earlier this week, I cried with a big group of strangers.

This isn't just a new hobby that I've taken up as a Tuesday afternoon affair, nor was it an expected or planned reaction to what I thought was just going to be an informative event. Actually, what it was was a realisation. A realisation about myself, my health, other people and gratitude.

I've spoken a bit in the past about Deep Vein Thrombosis. Indeed this blog was reborn a couple of years ago following my diagnosis and a desire to fill a void as the world I was used to and knew how to survive in was re-landscaped and I started to learn how to readjust my lifestyle. Along with that came the forced realignment of expectations and a change in the way I viewed myself.

My space on the internet was never really intended to be somewhere I vented about my health; I just wanted to educate people about my condition because it is something which can affect literally anybody and I didn't want anybody to come across it like I did and not know what was happening. I didn't want to complain about my experience, nor gain anybody's sympathy, through my posts about DVT and hospital visits etc, just to raise awareness. This was certainly fuelled by the other things that have been going on in my personal life and those closest to me in the last few years, meaning that as much as my illness had completely shaken up life as I knew it, I had this new-found sense of perspective that discouraged me from taking it too seriously. I'd had a rough time, sure, but the way I saw it, I felt lucky and humbled to be alive and that's as far as it went.

There were far more pressing and heart-breaking things that needed my attention and that of my closest friends and family, that I felt like I didn't want anybody to worry about me. I was fine, on the mend, learning to cope and had achieved some pretty cool stuff like finally finishing my degree and getting a job. Life had changed but I'd received amazing medical care, had a helpful operation and had got to know my physical limits.

Naturally, putting a positive spin on things that aren't all that positive will catch up with you from time to time. The event I went to this week was the first ever Lifeblood Thrombosis Patients' Day at St Thomas' Hospital, London. I had signed up to attend because I like knowing as much as I can about most things, especially when it comes to my own health. I had expected the day to be an educating experience from a medical perspective but I hadn't thought it would be such an emotional one. Hearing other patients, similar to my age, tell their stories unlocked this grief I suppose I had been hiding all this time.

I realised that for months and months, I had been plodding along trying to explain what it feels like everyday even though you cannot see that there is anything wrong. More accurately, I'd given up attempts to explain because I'd been met with comments like "Why are you still unwell? It's been ages" and "It must be psychological". People's ignorance and audacity to air it had discouraged me from voicing what it was actually like. At the same time, the knock-on effects of the illness became more and more part of my everyday self and I'd slowly started to forget the trauma I'd been through as the physical and lifestyle adjustments I'd made became more ingrained in my routine and almost taken for granted. I was beginning to forget that I was ill and that was a wonderful feeling. I didn't ever want to be known as the "girl with the blood clot" and I was finally teaching myself to shake off this label.

The words that I was hearing explaining other's experiences could have been lifted from my own tales. Listening to other people describe things like taking a rest day after a busy one, spending most of life in pyjamas, dragging their leg, having to cancel plans, constantly feeling exhausted, apologising for needing to sit down or stand up or putting their leg up, daily pain, a love/hate relationship with compression stockings, feeling lost and lonely, made me realise that I had forgotten how far I have come. I'd been ignoring the reality of my situation and that works a lot of the time but there was a time when these things were not things that I took for granted, not part of my everyday life. I'd gone from not being able to place my foot on the floor, not being able to sit up for longer than 30 seconds, struggling to get by on even the strongest medication, needing help getting out of bed, being pushed around in a wheelchair, being stopped in the street to be asked what had happened to me to have to be using crutches, being stared at and obviously spoken about for using a stick, to making tiny steps forward to eventually get to where I am now. I'd vented my frustration to my family and those friends who are pretty much family anyway, and their support was unbelievably helpful, but if you put me in a hospital where I'd been rushed into A&E before, or if I walk past a ward I'd spent nights in agony, or I meet with people who know how vulnerable I'd been but not reached out, then those feelings get tucked away and I sit biting my lip for want of trapping the tears.

And here these strangers were, articulating exactly how I felt. Without knowing me at all, they knew all of my innermost secrets, worries and feelings of uncertainty. They knew what I had been through and what it is like because they had been there and are there too. So I cried. I cried because I hadn't been able to articulate how I had been feeling all this time for fear it would be belittled and not serious enough to warrant airtime. I cried because these people knew that when someone asks "How's the leg?" what you really want them to be asking is "How are you coping?" and then be there for you without asking for it. I cried because they had taken their illness and the frustrations that come with it, and positively channelled that into making a change in a variety of ways, such as fundraising for Lifeblood with their friends and making connections to psychologically support fellow sufferers. I cried because they re-emphasised how lucky I am to be here and that I've had access to such incredible treatment. And these strangers were receptive, they were warm and they cried with me too. They recognised the importance of somebody just listening, just being there and if they understand it, well that's just a ridiculously comforting bonus.

What I would like to say is the following:

1) When you're going through a difficult time - whatever that might be - it is all too easy to think that nobody understands what it's like. It's true that most people won't get it and will throw about insensitive comments that stick with you longer than you'd like them to. But, however unique our situations may seem, we are not the only people who have experienced them. We are not as alone as we think. It may take a bit of time to find them, but when you feel ready to, try - whether that's online, at a support group, in a friend or by complete accident.

2) Whatever comments are thrown your way, never feel like you need approval for how you're feeling and whether it is worthy enough. Keep perspective in mind, but don't let somebody who has no idea what you've been through dictate how you approach your coping mechanisms. Only you know how things work for you, what your body is capable of, whether you need to rest, what adjustments need to be made, or how much time something completely personal to you takes.

3) Who do you love? What are you doing about it? If you care about somebody, please show them. Consistency is key but it's rarely too late to start that.

My day with Lifeblood wasn't all tears. I became even more appreciative of the care I have received, the quality of the medical teams looking after me and the genius procedure I have had which hopefully has set me up for long-term recovery. I heard stories of those who have found themselves battling clots for years and years with a strong smile on their face and unwavering positivity and gratitude for life, and those who have lost loved ones suddenly. Like I mentioned in this list I drew up a few weeks ago, gratitude gives me a bit of a wake-up call and the realisations I experienced have given me a much better idea of the attitude I wish to go forward with. I'm going to take inspiration from the current fundraisers and follow their lead. I'm going to go back to not dwelling on where I find myself having now almost cleansed myself of the negative responses I've had. The hugs and sweet words of encouragement are things that I'm going to focus on and take forward with me.

If you've read down this far, congratulations and thank you. I'll go back to posting about naughty kitten tales and ridiculously aesthetically pleasing food soon enough, but I couldn't not share these revelations with you. Blogging is a glossy version of events a lot of the time and although I've barely scratched the surface with this topic and don't intend to talk too much about personal matters, I hope this helps you feel strong enough to stand up for yourself and your health.

I'll leave you with a small request, if that's okay with you. I met the founder of the website "Take Time Out", who is fighting to raise awareness of Deep Vein Thrombosis and Pulmonary Embolisms after sadly losing his son, Chris Staniforth, very suddenly from DVT. His message is a very practical one - take time out. Whether you're behind a desk, in front of a games console, during a flight or on a coach, get up and move around at regular intervals to reduce your risk of acquiring a blood clot. They really do not discriminate against young or old. Once you've had a look at his website, could you forward it and/or the message to a few people you know and ask them to do the same? We might all be able to save a few lives without even knowing it.

Thank you again for reading.

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Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Revisiting an old skill :: featuring a story

Last week was an exciting one. From the picture above, I guess you're trying to figure out which skill I've taken up again - am I a budding landscaper? A driver? Am I taking up tea-drinking professionally? Or have I been fine-tuning my vocal skills?

Things have been fairly monotonous for a while but all of a sudden, I've found myself with a car and the challenge of getting used to driving again. My parents are generous souls and the little story about how the car came about goes something like this:

/In 2010/
Bee :: Oh cool, I have passed my driving test but I have no car.
Dad :: Don't worry, it's nicer for your Mum and I to give you lifts anyway.

/In 2011/
Bee :: Woooo, I love trains. I don't really need a car... there's no need for one as a student.
Dad :: Phew.

/Early 2012/
Bee :: Ergh, I need a car. I know "need" is a strong word and we have excellent transport links, but yes I NEED a car.
Dad :: Gosh, you whine a lot. Ok, ok, why don't you get on with some job applications for after you graduate and when you get a good one, I'll get you a car?
Bee :: DEAL. (Rushes frantically to a computer and makes self sound amazing and pings application forms off with fingers crossed, dreaming of driving)

/A bit later in 2012/
Bee :: Wow, walking is an actual luxury.
Everyone else :: Come on, crutches!
Dad :: Looks like getting a job is out of the window for a while then... *

/End of summer 2012/
Kind lady on phone :: Congratulations, we'd like to offer you a good job starting in 2014!

/A few hours later, on the phone/
Bee :: Daddy, daddy! I did it, I did it!! I got a good job! Wooooooo.
Little sister in background :: Errr, Dad. Don't mean to burst your bubble but this means you actually have to get her a car now...

Bee :: Don't worry, I love walking and trains these days. No need for four wheels just yet.
Dad :: Phew.

Bee :: It's vroom vroom year!!!!**

*Probably wasn't his overriding thought at the time, but I'm sure it was lodged in there somewhere...
** I'm not just a spoilt brat... I do actually need a car now for work.

I haven't driven in FOUR years. Flipping flopping oh my goodness, yikes. But for job-related purposes, it has been fairly essential for me to remember how it is done. My Mum braved my first drive with me and I would be fibbing if I said it wasn't hard. I have completely taken it for granted hopping into the car so easily with parents and friends and having them zip me from one side of town to the other, and often further afield. There are so many things to think about and look out for! It's so much easier being the passenger!

I'm sure you're thinking that I'll get used to it and that as so many people drive, it really isn't that big a deal. And I'm certain that you're right. I'm looking forward to the day where it's second nature to me A LOT.

In the meantime, I would love to hear any tips and/or fun car-related stories you may have. Oh, and any suggestions for absolute essentials to keep in the car are warmly welcomed too! (So far, I've listed important documents, a blanket, a first aid kit, CDs, tissues, an ice scraper thingy... what else?)

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Sunday, May 04, 2014

Versailles // Temple of Love

Goodness knows what we would have done if there had been no queue for the actual Palace and we'd had to cram that AND the gardens into one day. I'm certain you could spend a few days here and still not see all of it. A common feeling throughout the day was "What on earth did these people need all this space for?" but at least now they're sharing the love and we all get to picnic.

This bit here is the Temple of Love, A's favourite part of the whole of Versailles. Isn't it just beautiful? I showed the photos to my parents and both said that it reminded them of the tomb of Hafez in Shiraz, Iran , but this was in fact part of the English Garden built in 1778. It sits by the Petit Trianon (where Marie Antoinette used to hang out) and is made entirely from marble.

I can only assume this little boy's t-shirt is a reflection of his life motto as he was the only one we saw playing football with Cupid...

After that, A decided it was going to be her day too ...

...I almost left her to it but there was at least another two hours of walking to be done, ice-creams to be found and I needed my tour guide back!

I think A was right - this was definitely one of the prettiest places I have ever visited. Ever so peaceful too. What do you reckon? Where's the most peaceful place you've been to just outside of a city?

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Friday, May 02, 2014

52 Lists // Eighteen

Before I drew up this list, I really had to think long and hard about what it is that I would do with lots of money. Sure, there are things that I would like to do and currently don't have the budget for but none of these are extravagant. More importantly, none of these are really important. The things I would like to do aren't things that money can give me. Perhaps it could speed up the route to some of those things, but perhaps it would wipe out the journey that may give me something more worthwhile.

The things that I could have put in this list felt too trivial and frivolous to even contemplate documenting. It goes without saying that the things that I want most in the world and the problems that I want solved, are not things that will bloom from money.

The things I did include, however, except the first and last, are things that someday I will achieve anyway - millionaire or not - so that renders half of my list pointless. Looks like just giving people a fresh start financially and gifting the rest to a worthy cause would do me just fine.

I'll let you know how these plans go if I ever get round to buying my first lottery ticket... In the meantime, let me know what's most important to you.


This is List #18 in the 52 Lists project, hosted by Emma at Made in Hunters

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Thursday, May 01, 2014

Pies and rain

Weird comfort :: After being in an extra busy museum, walking in the rain for a couple of hours because you're determined to have the day you set out to have and eventually reaching somewhere for lunch - that lunch being a HOT pie with MASH and mushy PEAS at Pieminister - squeezing water out of hair, shaking umbrellas and not wanting to leave the indoors.

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