Robin Williams, mental health, and where to reach out. 3

It’s 4 in the morning, and the kid has woken us up. After he’s settled in, I grab the tablet to lazily scroll twitter till I feel sleepy again. And that’s when I see the simple tweet and link: “Remembering Robin Williams.”

“Remembering”.

 

Oh no.

 

I’m a huge Robin Williams fan. Grew up with Mork and Mindy. Had the old VHS tapes of his comedy club performances. Would go over to my neighbour’s house who had HBO to watch Comic Relief. Been lucky enough to watch him perform standup live. And of course, all the life-altering characters he portrayed on the big screen. He was smart, he was fast, he was truthful, he was poignant. And by god, he was funny.

I’m not interested in the how pertaining to his manner of death – it’s been ruled consistent with suicide. I’m not even interested in the why – it was openly acknowledged he’d battled sobriety and addiction issues for years, and his publicist had stated he’d been going through a severe depression. I’m writing this to remind you…to remind myself that mental health affects 1 in 4 of us regardless of our socio-economic status, or talent, or gifts. It does not discriminate. And while the resources we have or can access (such as having the saved cash to take time off work, or having comprehensive health care) can often facilitate a speedier forward momentum through the mental health issue, “perks” like money, fame, adoration, support aren’t guarantees that you’ll get “better”. Everyone is still facing a challenge.

The tributes have begun pouring in, and I’ve already noticed a theme, the phrase ‘a sudden loss’. It’s sudden, yes…for the people left in the wake of suicide. It’s almost never sudden for the person who has killed themselves. I’ve written about my suicide ideation before, as have many others, and while our stories all differ due to our circumstances, one thing is shared – suicide would not have been ‘sudden’ for us. It would have been the end of a very long battle.

If you are going through a mental health issue, please know you aren’t alone. UK people can call the Samaritans day or night at 08457 90 90 90 or email jo@samaritans.org. Americans, you can call the Samaritans hotline at 1 (800) 273-TALK. If you are really in a jam and can’t remember that number, dial 211 and tell them you need to talk to someone now – 211 is a nationwide health directory number who will connect you to someone who can listen. Everyone around the world can use Befrienders.org’s directory to find their local organization to listen.

I’ll end on a quote by Robin that makes me smile: “Comedy is acting out optimism”, and a bunch of gifs, because..because I need a laugh, and Robin Williams was, and is, the master of making us laugh.

shea wong robin williams Mrs-Doubtfire-Dancing-and-Vacuuming shea wong robin williams rainbow ralph shea wong robin williams the birdcage michael kidd shea wong robin williams throw fruit mrs doubtfire shea wong robin williams peter pan gif shea wong robin williams toys bed shea wong robin williams hook

 

shea wong robin-williams-gif 1 shea wong robin williams win this for mother russia shea wong robin williams mrs doubtfire boobs shea wong robin williams inside the actors studio heaven shea wong robin williams hot dog impression gif shea wong robin williams broke my bag mrs doubtfire shea wong robin williams flubber

 

 

 

And with comedy, optimism…

 

 

 

 

shea wong robin williams z dead poets society

shea wong good will hunting stay alive for shea wong robin williams dead poets society sieze the day shea wong robin williams good will hunting bad times shea wong robin wiliams stole my line

 

shea wong robin williams genie alladian applause

 

 

shea wong robin williams gif thank you


#StopCensoringMotherhood, privacy, and you. A primer.

Mumsnet had a really powerful guest post last week from Hannah Weller, singer and wife of Paul “The Modfather” Weller, who successfully sued the always deplorable Daily Mail after gross paparazzi photos were published of their children. She now spearheads Protect, an initative to protect children’s privacy. Their mission statement: “This campaign is calling on the Government to protect children’s privacy by making it an offence for the media to publish photographs of children without consent from parents or a legal guardian.” Her post about the whole sordid affair is HERE, and is worth a read.

 

I told you that story to tell you this one.

 

I tend to keep the kid out of this blog. It’s rare to see any photos of him on my Instagram or twitter feed – it’s usually the top of his head, or his hands, or just his toes. I don’t call him by his name; he’s almost always known simply as ‘the kid’. My reason for that is the same reasoning that everyone who was really active on the Internet in the early 90’s, but who you can’t find a trace of now, is this: We understand just how awful the WWW can be.

 

Before I continue, a caveat: I get that blogging is about sharing your experience in this world, and for many people, that involves the experiences with your family. This isn’t about shaming anyone who likes to post pics of their kids. This is about making you aware of the quiet but substantial risks online, risks that rise exponentially in line with the types of pics you post. 

 

I want you to all think of an iceberg. The tip of the iceberg, as we all know from science class or that interminably long James Cameron film, is the smallest part of the structure. The really dangerous part sits below the surface. On the internet, every website you have ever visited, every video you have ever watched, every cat meme you’ve ever created, those all make up only 4% of the actual world wide web. The other 96% is made up of what is called the Deep Web. And what is in the Deep Web?

 

 

deep web iceberg analogy

Sorry I don’t have attribution for this – it’s been shared so often, I couldn’t find the originator.

 

Well, it has many strata, from relatively innocuous illegal torrent sites to get the latest films, to drug markets, to human trafficking networks, to assassins for hire, allllllll the way down to a healthy trade in snuff child pornography. (No, that’s not a typo. Yes, it’s a thing. Yes, you will want to hug your child harder after you learn about it).  The further you go down, the worse it gets. More than likely, you will never see or experience the Deep Web, but here’s the sick part….if your children have a major online presence, more than likely, they are there.

 

There is a huge trade in those innocent bathtub or naked-running-through the sprinkler shots that parents used to take and keep to themselves, but now share with the whole world, because I guess if you aren’t Pinteresting it, it didn’t happen.  And those shots, and a whole host more, are finding their way into the Deep Web. Some, like the naked ones, get traded openly. Others get photoshopped to look sexually graphic.  The FBI (the USA’s main arm of federal investigators) has the vein-opening job of tracking down the identities of the children in these authentic or digitally manipulated photos, and informing the family when these shots are about to be used in trials against paedophiles or child porn traffickers. And while the NSPCC has been trying to make parents aware of photography dangers when taking shots for sports teams or dance recitals, etc, there seems to be no guidelines for parents themselves, which is a real shame in my book.

 

I told you THAT story to tell you this one.

 

For the past few months there’s been a brouhaha in the States over facebook’s and Instagram’s TOS regarding nudity, especially concerning mothers. Hashtags like #stopcensoringmotherhood have sprung up in retaliation to what some see as Instagram and facebook unfairly punishing mothers for having mother’s bodies versus being a size 2, etc.  Comparison photos of dick pics from Instagram are put up next to previously banned photos of a mother serenely breastfeeding to highlight how cruel FB and Instagram are being to mothers.

 

Here’s why I think they are full of it.

 

 

  1. The TOS for both Instagram and facebook are clear – no nipples exposed on women, no nudity on children, no genitalia for anyone. However, neither company has the resources to vet each photo prior to upload, so unless a user flags the image for review, you could potentially have an Instagram user who posts nothing but fully naked photos and as long as their followers don’t raise the alarm bells, nothing will happen. So if a mother’s photo was flagged, it means more than likely a follower or random concerned person flagged it.

 

  1. When photos do get flagged, it’s almost never because of the mother in the photo, it’s almost always because there is a semi or fully naked child in the frame. And you can go on all day about how childhood should be innocent and not sexualized and I will nod my head and remind you that we live in the real world, where kiddie murder porn is a thing, and I don’t need to see your 10 month old’s labia on my newsfeed to understand you are a mother. I get it. We alllll get it. You had a kid. Congrats.

 

  1. When a 20 year old ‘hottie’ posts a wet tee shirt photo, it’s…well, it’s stupid in this day and age, especially considering the tough job market and employers’ understanding of how to Google applicants, but that 20 year old is at the age of consent. She can choose how to disseminate her image. That 10 month old with her labia all over Instagram? She cannot give consent for another at least another decade and a half. And the person that is putting her genitalia on the WORLD WIDE WEB without her understanding or consent is the person who is supposed to be her protector.

 

 

Instagram and facebook aren’t stupid, they can see the potential lawsuits coming down the line from former toddlers who will sue the hell out of them for hosting photos of them without their explicit consent. That’s why they take minors’ photos down when there is even a hint of nudity – it’s not that they hate mothers, it’s that they know we are a litigious culture, and they don’t want the future hassle.

Think of it this way – if your neighbour convinced your 5 year old to let him take photos of her naked, and then put them on the Internet, would you be angry? Of course. So why in God’s name do you think its okay for you to do it?

 

 

I’ve been on the Internet solidly for 22 years and counting, almost since the beginning of the public face of the web. And while people think the net is tough today, it was the Wild West back then – you could wander into a whole mess of horrible, eye-bleach requiring stuff with just a few keystrokes. So while I applaud Hannah Weller for her push towards more substantial privacy settings for children in the media, I remind you all that like the iceberg, the majority of shots of kids aren’t coming from gross paparazzi with telephoto lenses – they are coming from our own cameras and phones. They’re being uploaded with glee to prove we’re ‘true mothers’. And they’re being shared on public networks without apparently the slightest thought of how these kids might feel when they reach puberty and realize their naked bodies have been put on the Internet specifically to earn their parents clicks of approval from strangers.

 

We want to do right by our kids, I get that. But I think in the newest wave of social media, where hits and clicks are tied to fame (well, ‘internet’ fame) and money (in the form of blog sponsorships and product reviews), we’ve forgotten how big and bad the Internet can be, and in ‘celebrating’ ourselves and motherhood, we’ve potentially exploited the very people we would do anything to protect.

 

 


YouTube tutorials for OU

Here is list of the Youtube tutorials I have been drawing on for class – every little helps, I suppose! Also, if anyone is re-studying for Strategy exam, I’ve included my strategy youtube tutorial playlist. Feel free to share with whoever, and I’ll be updating every time I find a great video.

 

BB831 Corporate Finance

Financial Theory Yale Courses

Financial Markets Yale Courses

Financial Markets Yale Courses (2011 series)

BB835 – Strategy

 

 


#Rio2Bluray release party and chance to win!

rio2-1

Yesterday the kid and I attended the Rio2 Blu-ray launch event at the London Zoo. It was the perfect day – sunny, warm, full of lots of kids enjoying the festivities, and even some celebrities! We were greeted by Nico and Pedro, two of the characters, and had our fill of palm tree cookies, umbrella-laden drinks, and even colouring stations and face painting (I wish the kid was into painting, the artists’ work looked amazing!).

rio2-3

After chatting on the terrace, we were treated to a live performance of The Barbatuques, the Brazillian musical group who use their bodies and voices to create 99.99% of their music soundtrack (think a cappella singers taken to ridiculously fabulous new levels).

 

As many of you know, the kid had restorative surgery on his hearing about 9 months ago, so he’s quite delayed in language comprehension and speech. However, he’s always been able to ‘feel’ music, so when the Barbatuques gave a live demonstration and had the kids join in, he was jumping on his seat with excitement! He clapped, popped, and shhhh’ed along to each of their instructions, doing brilliantly! We will definitely be searching out their music and videos.

Everyone settled in to watch Rio 2, which sees our main characters Blu and Jewel as they start a family of their own. When a chance encounter leads them on an adventure reuniting multiple generations of family, can they (and the rest of the rainforest) come together for a common goal? The songs were lovely (Kristen Chenowith literally cannot sing a bad note to save her life), and the message of family encompassing all sorts of people (or birds) together made for some truly touching moments.
rio2-4

We finished the day with the zoo in full swing, so we took a moment to pop around some of the animal enclosures. It was a magnificent day, full of music, laughter, and a story worth watching again, all with an infectious, body-moving soundtrack. If the kid’s constant mouth-popping and chest clapping around the house today are any indication, Rio 2 is a film we’ll be watching for quite a while.

Now for your chance to win Rio 2! All you have to do is write a post (or link a past post) that featured Rio 2, The Barbatuques, or Brazil, and add it to the linky here. Five Mumsnetters will be chosen to receive a copy of Rio 2 – and if you aren’t yet a member, it’s super easy to sign up. Check this link for all the details!

Thanks to Mumsnet for the great time!

Win competitions at ThePrizeFinder.com – See more at: http://www.theprizefinder.com/content/rio-2-blu-ray-and-digital-hd#sthash.3S8LLKzv.dpuf


Celebrity and being an expat. 2

Yesterday the kid and I went to the release party of Rio 2 at the London Zoo (write up and chance to win a copy of the movie here!), and in addition to all the fun and kid’s stuff, there was also a wee press area with backdrop, photo op, and interviews, so occasionally I’d see people standing in front of the cameras. Here’s the thing, though: I’m an expat, and I’ve only been here for about 4ish years, so I often find myself in situations where I should know who someone is, but I have no clue.

shea wong anchorman 1

 

It’s before the show starts, and there are these large tables on the terrace to have breakfast. I spot one with two chairs open, and ask to sit down. It’s not till we’re settled in, till I notice I’m sitting next to, and chatting with, Bill Oddie. For those of you not from the UK and of a certain age, Bill Oddie was a presenter of a show called Springwatch, and is a nature/conservationist advocate. Those of you from the UK will probably be screaming right now “THAT’S NOT ALL HE DID, HE HAS HAD A 40+ CAREER YOU DAFT COW!!!!1111!!111eleventyone!!!1111!!!”, because as I know now, he was amongst other things part of one of the biggest comedy groups of the 20th century, wrote hit songs, and wrote/starred in many tv shows. For you Americans, it would be like sitting next to Bill Murray and knowing him from that one funny zombie movie a few years back…and that was it. Anyways, we had a lovely chat about the Barnes Wetlands and my grandfather, who was an amateur ornithologist and whose sketches of the local wildlife were instrumental for studying migratory patterns (and hunting) in the early-mid 20th century on the lake Erie shores, and he even took a super cute pic with the kid, which I promptly sent to my husband, who promptly died a death.

shea wong dying gif

 

Then of course we watched the show, and I chatted with other people, all is well, and the end of the day rolls around. Well, I’m showing the husband pics of the kid and some of the PR’s tweets when he stops dead in his tracks and says OMG I CAN’T BELIEVE IT!!!ELEVENTYONE!!!111..” (you get the idea), and I say “Oh yea, that dad was sitting in front of me at the screening, we had a laugh over the kid wriggling in his seat”, and my husband exclaims “THAT WAS DALEY THOMPSON“, and then slowly has his face fall as he realizes I have no earthly idea why that name should mean anything.
Daley-Thompson-81084004444
A short Googling later, and I at least understood why he was excited. (For non-UKers, Daley Thompson was a decathlon champion around the same era as our Wheaties boy, Bruce Jenner. However, Daley didn’t marry into the batshit Kardashians, and therefore is still a vibrant dude, and not a husk of a human. So…there’s that). 
I suppose in a way it’s nice that I don’t know who these folks are – I can chat with them about whatever with no nerves that I’m speaking with a ‘celebrity’, and they don’t have to worry about me fawning all over them, as I’d never know in a room full of people who are famous and who aren’t. 
shea wong anchorman 2

My Dayre #Microstories challenge update

I’ve been doing the Dayre  90 days of #microstories challenge since July, and have been reasonably impressed with some of the stories I’ve written on the fly.  The rules are simple:

  1. Every day, take/choose a photo I’ve taken with my camera or phone.
  2. Write a 500 character (not word, character) story.
  3. Do it all again the next day.
  4. No pre-writing, you create an entirely new story every day.

And this is all done on the Dayre app. Unfortunately I didn’t have my mobile this past week, and the Dayre app is entirely mobile (no desktop accompaniment like twitter or facebook), so I wasn’t able to update. And yesterday, I had a day school, so I figured why not make the best of a bad situation? I started with a photo of my local café, and told 500 characters of a story. When something caught my eye, I took a picture, and continued the story. The picture informed the story, so I didn’t know where the tale was going till I snapped a pic. Luckily my school was in London proper, which meant some beautiful things to look at, including

-          Café

-          Artwork installation at the tube station

-          Large scale artwork near the south bank

-          Amazing steam engine going through my tube stop

-          The beautiful but algae laden pond in Regent’s park

 

Here it is – enjoy.

 

(And if you’re on the Dayre app, follow me and drop me a line, and I’ll follow you back!)


4 am study time. Back to the grind.

It’s 4 am. I actually enjoy this time of night studying. The kid was little (16 months) when I started my MBA, and as he was always sick, there will lots of times that I’d be pushing him in his pram in the middle of the night with a book propped up in my elbow, just reading and pacing the same 4 steps on hardwood floor. Pre-dawn and I have always done well together. There are no interruptions, no phone calls or urgent emails. The stillness lets me calm down and focus.

I’m not good at studying, if I’m honest. I get good grades, and I enjoy the subject matter, but finding 2 hours a day to sit, read, highlight, notate, etc, feels like torture to me. Perhaps early morning wake up calls are the way forward – get it all out of the way, so you feel like the day is half-accomplished by 8 am.

Enough procrastinating, you enjoy a nice wake-up video while I hit the books.

 

 


My BBC Academy training video on mental health is live!

So beyond proud to have been able to help the BBC Academy on their journalism training videos on how to interview someone with a mental health issue. The more we can educate the media on how to humanize, not demonize, the more we can fight mental health stigma!

Also, I don’t know what possessed me to wear a sports bra and a super chunky sweater, but c’est la vie. :)

Here is the full page with lots of info, and the video is below.

 

 


Celebration Cake Bakespiration Challenge!

Stuck In The Tree challenged me to a bakespiration bake off, and not a word of lie, I said yes because they used like 4 puns in their email to me, and you can’t not love a good pun. It’s physically impossible. Anyway, they’re new, so go check them out, and if you have time, enter HERE for their ‘bakespiration challenge’!

 

Now as you all know, I’m a fan of baking and cooking and such. I love getting into the kitchen and making something show-stopping. However, there is one area I refuse to go overboard on, and that’s children’s party cakes. I’ve seen too many parents so exhausted from a full day of baking and decorating that they don’t get to enjoy giving their kid the cake. Or worse, hurt feelings when the kid isn’t overjoyed by whatever masterpiece mommy or daddy whipped up for them. No thanks. I think creating food with your kid should be fun, and yummy. With that in mind, here is the utterly enjoyable to make AND eat Celebration Cake!
SONY DSCSONY DSC

Look at this. It looks like a cartoon became sentient, decided “I want to be a cake”, and then did. And it’s completely kid friendly to make, with a huge wow factor. On the inside is a super yummy apple-raisin cake with great structure, and packed with flavour. Let’s get started.

You will need:

For the cake:
4 medium to large apples, peeled and thinly sliced.
4 tablespoons sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

For the batter:

1.5 cups of oil (I use safflower or sunflower, but use what you have on hand)
150 grams brown sugar
2 eggs
300 grams flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract, or scrapings of ½ vanilla pod
½ tsp salt
200 grams sultanas or raisins

For the frosting:
140 grams butter
280 grams icing sugar
1-2 tablespoons milk

For the decoration:
Concentrated food colour powder
Cake ‘sparkles’

 

SUPER SIMPLE INSTRUCTIONS:
Set oven to 180C. Grease two round tins with coconut oil (you can use butter, but the cake recipe is dairy free, so I use coconut oil).Dump the apples, sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. Hand to a child along with a large spoon. Have him or her go nuts while you prepare the batter.

shea wong apple mixing3

In a large bowl, sift all dry ingredients together. Add eggs, vanilla, and oil. Stir by hand till smooth. Plop in raisins, and fold in. Pry the bowl of sugar apples away from the child (the child will have eaten some by now, which is why I said use largish apples – it’s an inevitability with kids) and fold in.

shea wong apple 1 shea wong apple 2

Pour in pans, and cook for about 45 minutes, or till stick in center comes out clean. Depending on your apples/raisins, you may be cooking till about 55 minutes. Just keep an eye on it.

Let cool completely, then stack with a small amount of jam (any flavour you like) in the middle. Pop in the fridge.

Plop the butter and ½ the icing sugar in a bowl, and mix with hand mixer. When it looks smooth, blend in the other ½ of the icing sugar, and 1 tablespoon of milk. As you are blending, use the remaining milk to thin the frosting if it starts getting lumpy.

Remove cake from fridge, and just PLOP that icing on there. We aren’t going for neatness here, we’re going for a nice thick layer all around. Take your butterknife (or kid’s fingers, I won’t judge you), and tap at the cake all over, forming the cool spikes.

shea wong pigment and tray

Grab any old piece of to-go container you have lying around, and cut the center of the lid off. It will create a smooth base with no raised edges for your concentrated colour.

A brief word about powdered food colouring

(This stuff is completely non toxic, but whatever it touches, it will colour. My cuticles still look like I’m jaundiced to the point of hospitalization. If you are messy adverse, no problem. You can colour the icing as you are mixing it. I just like this part because I get to be chaotic, but you do what makes you feel comfortable. Also, unless you want really runny icing, do not use liquid or gel food colouring – powder is the way to go. Drop a line in the comments and I’ll send you a link to the stuff I used.)

shea wong puffs of colour

Blow the food colouring onto the icing. It will look uneven – that’s good. The colour will penetrate deeper in some areas that other, creating a cool effect. I’ve used yellow-orange as the sole colour concentrate, but you can (and should!) put a whole rainbow on there. Go nuts.

shea wong celebration cake close up

Follow up by sprinkling patches of different colour sparkles everywhere. You know how sometimes you are decorating something with a kid and they glop a bunch of glitter in one spot? That’s the look we’re going for, so GO BANANAS.

You can decorate the cake on a plate, or I happened to use the bottom of a round spring-form pan that I could then transfer onto a work surface, but really, this is not the time for perfection, this is the time for fun.

As this is buttercream you will want to eat soonish (this is not a cake you decorate and then put in the car for a long ride to grandmas), or if you have a dairy allergy, the cake itself is completely dairy free already, so you can use icing sugar, water and food colouring followed by sparkles for a thinner yet dairy free topping.

shea wong celebration cake

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed this recipe, I sure as heck enjoyed making (and eating!) it. Remember, if you want to try out a recipe of your own, head to Stuck In The Tree for all the details.


Boy baby doll looks like boy baby. Cue the apocalypse. 6

*Sigh*. So, in my homeland USA, Toys R’ Us were selling a baby doll. The doll did all the normal stuff baby dolls do, including wet itself when you fed it. Fine. Apparently, however, although male infants have genitalia, having a piece of molded plastic that you care for also with said genitalia requires a national outrage.  Parents have lost their damn minds over a baby that has committed no crime other than looking like a baby.

 

About two years, I bought this doll for my son – we were at the store, he picked it out, we bought it. Any of you from the UK/EU will instantly recognize the packaging as Tiger, a chain of Ikea-esque stores. I think the thing cost me £5.

"Draw me like one of your French girls.."

“Draw me like one of your French girls..”

And lest you think that I was duped by packaging that tricked me into buying a doll with the same anatomical structure as my child, here’s the back of the box:

Not only accurate advertising, but also EXACTLY what your child will attempt to do the first time you visit a pool.

Not only accurate advertising, but also EXACTLY what your child will attempt to do the first time you visit a pool.

 

Literally does what it says on the tin.

Literally does what it says on the tin.

Now, I could get into the utter hypocrisy of buying hyper-realistic toy weaponry for a child but losing your shit over a tiny molded penis, but I’ll try to keep this on topic. From the time our kid was born, we used medical terminology to describe his body. His penis is a penis, his stomach is a stomach, his knee is a knee. And the reason we did that was

 

1. If he hurt himself (or was being hurt by someone) he needed the correct words to tell us exactly where he was in pain.

2. Making up names for things that have actual names, just to have to change them later is idiotic. I don’t call clouds ‘sky poofies’ for 4 years, then teach him the actual names, we just call them the correct thing from the outset.

3. What does it say to a child when talking about some body parts is okay (heads, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes), but others we are afraid to even mention? Why start him in some weird shame issue over a functional body part?

 

I don’t necessarily want to hear “MOMMY I WANT THE BABY WITH THE WELL FORMED VULVA” during the next shopping trip, but I’m certainly not going to have my kid growing up not realizing what the thing between his legs does, or putting some mystical shame on it. He likes the baby – some times he sings it a lullaby and puts it to bed, some times he uses it as a hammer in his construction set. He hasn’t placed a value judgement on it - why should an adult?