Why I’m a Mumsnet Blogger

Mumsnet

Earlier this week, during one of my frequent occasional Mumsnet coffee breaks, I came across an interesting (and now deleted) thread.  It seems a Mumsnet blogger had received what she felt was unfair criticism from another Mumsnet member on one of her blog posts.,So the wounded blogger hit the forums to remonstrate with the culprit.  Being easily led, I clicked through to the offending commentary to see what had been said.

Well.  What struck me when I got there wasn’t the unnecessarily catty comment (which it was) on an inoffensive mum’s blog. I was more surprised by the blogger’s response:  “AIBU?  Never heard of it…”

Ok.  This is only an opinion.  But perhaps if you’re thinking of joining a blogging network, or attending and posting about their blogger’s events, maybe you might wish to familiarize yourself with the site beforehand.   You see, AIBU refers to “Am I Being Unreasonable?”, Mumsnet’s most highly trafficked, fast-paced and emotionally charged  board, contributing largely to the Mumsnet reputation as a “nest of vipers”.  Stripped of the sunny influence of avatars, tickers and hugs, posters evaluate the reasonable-ness of each other’s predicaments with a barrage of opinion, sarcasm, swearing and above all, grammar correction.

Grammar_Police_by_Rysis

Indeed, even on a national level Mumsnet posters have gained renown for not pulling their punches, whether challenging David Cameron on free nappy provision for children with disabilities or demanding an investigation into Gordon Brown’s biscuit preferences.  Although it’s open to anyone, this parenting site won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.  So if you want to join the Mumsnet blogging network and stick one of their shiny badges on your sidebar, you should anticipate that Mumsnetters might stop by your blog, and bring their opinions with them.  They may hand you your grammar on a plate, and they won’t even ((hug)) you first.

So why join our project blog to this particular network?  For me, it’s because…

kiddiwinks

1.  We are mums–some of us, anyway.  Parenthood comes as part of our package, with all the funny and frustrating aspects of being a working mum.  Our work on the Re-Creations Project often happens with kids in tow, underfoot, mucking in and helping out, just like everybody else. And since we try to break down our projects for all ages and abilities, lots of our crafts and tutorials will be fun for crafty mums and kids to try.  It makes sense to belong to a network of parents whose interests may overlap to share info and ideas.

But there are plenty of parenting sites out there.  Why choose Mumsnet in particular?

2.  The Swearing.

I can’t actually remember what first led me to Mumsnet, but I do remember what made me decide to stay.  It was the unabashed and copious use of the F-word.  You see, I had put in time on  other popular parenting sites.  Bounty, MDC, Netmums, Babycentre, Kelllymom…  In the early days of no sleep and a desperate search for answers about reflux, PND, mastitis, weaning and potty training, I lived on parenting forums.  While on the surface, many were “nicer” than Mumsnet, underneath the “huns” and kisses were parents with equally strong opinions.

On one site I was told that the way I was feeding my 17 month old to sleep was inappropriate; that my husband should “remove me” from her evening routine. I was banned from another forum, having confessed that my 22 month old had “stolen” a juice box during a shopping expedition, while I was struggling with her newborn sister.

It wasn’t that they were all a bunch of big meanies, any more than Mumsnet is really a nest of vipers.  It’s just that parenting brings out some of people’s strongest opinions, and people get awfully defensive about the way they do things.  More than once, I fled in tears from message boards of “supportive parenting sites” under the cover of shiny profile photos and tickers celebrating years of co-sleeping.  The bans on swearing and insistence that everybody play nicely, gave me a false sense of security.   I was vulnerable and unprepared when I was told:  “How disappointing, hun.  Perhaps you should dig a hole and crawl inside it to meditate on how to become a better person.  HTH! xx”.

bite me

Ahh, the relief when I crash-landed on Mumsnet in the middle of a thread about a poo-covered-pouffe. These were human beings, who accidentally got naked at the swimming pool or farted on their pets (you know who you are) and sometimes even lost the plot and swore about life.  Instead of masking their derision under hugs and huns, Mumsnetters tell you exactly what they’re thinking with warts and all.  If they want to say “Screw you!”, they say “Screw you!”  Then they come up with a hundred new ways of saying it just so nobody gets bored.

lion belly

3.  The soft and fuzzy underbelly

Like any parenting site, Mumsnet can be a harsh and opinionated place.  Just ask Amanda Holden. Sadly, the same is true just about anywhere mums come together.  From baby cafes up to the school gates, mums will defend their way of child-rearing to the hilt.  But if you hang around the site for a while, listen to what everybody has to say and take some of it with a grain of salt, you’ll start to witness amazing things.

You’ll see that a mum at loggerheads with a poster on one thread will offer to drive 50 miles to help that same poster out in a crisis.  You’ll see a dozen parents working together to reunite a toddler with his precious cuddly toy.  On one thread, hundreds of mums flood Downing Street with letters in response to a familiar poster’s cry for help, while on another thread parents stay up late into the night looking for solutions when a taxi with a baby arrives unexpectedly at a poster’s home.  In my case, you’ll see hundreds of Mumsnetters raid their rubbish bins to find ring-pulls for our project.

Because in addition to their diverse and candid opinions, Mumsnetters also have compassion and the courage of their convictions.  When parents unite for a purpose, they can offer collective knowledge and support, and bring about real and positive change–which is what parenting sites are all about.

I’ll admit, I may have flounced from Mumsnet once or twice.  I’ve  disagreed with some very notable bans (you know who you are) and there are some posters with whom I’ll just never get along.  But if I’m going to have my arse handed to me on a plate by a parenting site, then for today I’ll have mine with a cup of tea, a biscuit, a few passive aggressive strikethroughs  and a smattering of creepy wee brackets.

<skulks off to await annihilation by Mumsnet grammar police>

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Oh, it is SO on! (buttoneering website launch)

Say, remember in my previous posts I mentioned the upcoming buttoneering website launch?  Well…

Hallelujah, People!

The time has come!  Today is the day!   But what the heck are we talking about?

Buttoneering is what happens when you round-up Stacy & Jacqui’s wildly acclaimed* Upcycling and Sensory parties, The Re-Creations team who brought you Wedstival 2012, and the can-do attitude from Mel and Lou of The YouCan Hub…  And then shake them all up and stick a button on it.  (these guys really like buttons…)

Buttoneering means you can have events you want in the way you want, however far off the beaten track it may be.  (Keeping within the laws of physics and current UK legislation, of course!)

Fancy dress wedding, or bride & groom want to splash down the aisle on a slip and slide?  Seems Legit.  Need a Starship Enterprise shaped pinata for your baby shower?  Of course, why wouldn’t you?  Maybe you’ve got big ideas for your kid’s birthday, but you’re not sure how to pull it off? We have lots of coffee and few inhibitions–get in touch!

The best part (IMO) is that all the proceeds from these amazing shindigs will help fund the work of TheYouCanHub and Re-Creations Project.  So while you’re partying down, you’ll also be supporting social enterprise and helping others achieve their goals–everybody wins.

So, in addition to the awesome upcycling you’ve come to expect from Re-Creations Project, you can also check out the Buttoneering Blog for how-to’s and posts on how to make your events as awesome as is humanly possible.  I’ll be offering my two cents worth on “Tutorial  Tuesdays” full of caffeine and sometimes messy DIY.  So without further ado…

Go check it out.  Follow the group on twitter, Like it on facebook and enter the launch competition for a chance to win one of 4 bodacious prizes!

Wedstival 2012 Photos!

I know, we’ve been teasing you with previews of the wedding for ages.  And now its finally time for some of the photos from Wedstival 2012 to emerge!  The ones with the bride and groom are going to have to wait until they come back from honeymoon, but in the meantime we can walk you through the setup and shamelessly boast about all the prettiful things we made. What we love about this whole celebration and all the decorations is that it’s handmade, eco-friendly, and it doesn’t have to cost the earth.  The cost was more in terms of time and effort than money, so it’s an effect that anybody could achieve.

For starters, here’s the view as you walk up the drive towards the Pavillion:

Check out all that lovely bunting, courtesy of our very own nimble fingers!  As you reach  the top of the drive, you begin to encounter some funky signs put together by the bride and groom:And some helpful instructions about what you should be doing:

And then you might go inside to check out the Pavillion.  And wow.  The first thing to discover inside is the amazing catering display. I’m not sure which was more incredible–the smell of all the amazing tea and cakes or their collection of vintage teacups!

We had a few tables set up inside, complete with the group’s handmade chair garlands and table flowers.

upcycled fabric flowers

Each of the flowers was upcycled from the same scrap fabric as the bunting and garlands, then attached to a brooch back or hair clip so they could be worn away as favours–beautiful and eco-chic!   The Pavillion was also the place where guests could place their cards and presents.

But one of my favourite views from inside the Pavillion, was actually the ceremony spot where the bride and groom would look out over their assembled guests:

I love the picnic blanket seating for the ceremony, and the “altar” made from apple crates that were borrowed from the awesome Ruth of the YouCanBike  project fame.  Exiting the Pavillion, one of the most noticeable attractions was Andy’s beautiful vintage photo booth. 

It would have been churlish not to have a go! On the beautifully papered walls, you can spot a selection of frames that were sourced and revamped by the fine folk at the Wednesday group.  And next there was a Polaroid “guest book” table where visitors could take photos of themselves with all the available props and pin them up with their advice and wishes for the bride and groom.There was a great under-cover chillout space next door where you could lounge underneath the fabulous bike-tire chandelier, and even more miles of bunting!

From there, you could watch the other partygoers try out some fun carnival games.

Or sit down to watch the ceremony with a lovely cup of tea.

And here are some of my favourite views and details from the day:

The Ceremony Spot

Andy’s funky leg planters

The garden party in the sunshine

guitar pick buttonhole, plectrum flower

The guitar-pick flowers we made for the groomsmen to wear, and

The miles and miles of upcycled bunting!

If you’re planning a celebration of your own and like any of the decorations or ideas you see here, there’s good news!  Follow @buttoneering on Twitter or Pinterest for news about the launch of a spanking new wedding/events service with workshops, tutorials,  prop hire, and custom-made swag for a party that reflects your own personal style.  Keep watching–this is going to be good!

Women’s Social Leadership Awards 2012

With all the talk about awesomeness around here recently, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention what’s happening tomorrow.  You see, at hub Westminster Central London, the 6th Annual Ogunte Women’s Social Leadership Awards will take place.  If you aren’t familiar with them, Ogunte is a Social Innovations Development Company that focuses on social ventures led by Women.  Each year, they host these awards to recognize and celebrate the achievements of women both in the UK and abroad whose leadership and innovation have made a positive social impact. In other words, these women are heavy hitters who take awesomeness to a whole other level!

There are 9 finalists in three areas:  Leader in the Workplace, Social Business Leader, and Campaign Leader.  In addition to the awards, there will be a number of inspiring speakers, including Melanie Stubbing of Weight Watchers Europe, Diane Verde Nieto of Positive Luxury.com, and Laura Haynes of Appetite, UN Women, UK National Committee and Design Business Association (DBA).  Phew!

But, why am I all fired up about this? (Apart from the fact that these are all just generally cool people doing great things?)  Because…   I get to go there!

It just goes to show, that when you associate with groups like The You Can Hub, cool things tend to happen to you.  And as a result is I’ll be travelling down to London with YouCan’s own Lou Shackelton to cover the event on Twitter, while Mel Findlater provides remote social media support.

So,  I get to:

  • a) work with the YouCan guys,
  • b)meet amazing, inspiring women, and
  • c) tweet the whole time without being considered rude.

If we could throw in an upcycled bike tire somewhere, I’d be in Nirvana.  (The state of profound peace, as opposed to the grunge band. Which would cool in a very different way.)

The only drawback to the event is that standing alongside such accomplished and talented people gives you an amplified opportunity for… appearing a doofus by comparison.  While I’m covering the proceedings and using all the right twitter handles and hashtags, a special part of my brain will focus on not falling down, spilling stuff or breaking things.  If you know me in real life, you know what a challenge that is!  Gravity, it would seem, has a rather special interest in me.

I urge you to take a look at Ogunte’s website and Scoopit to find out more about how they support and recognize socially innovative women.   Also, check out You Can’s Pinboard of all the WSLA Finalists.  I’ve been really inspired reading about  their accomplishments and wish them all a safe journey and good luck for tomorrow night.  Provided I escape any embarrassing catastrophes, you can watch events unfold by following @ogunte and #wsla12 on twitter.  With any luck, the people I meet will perceive me as a talented tweeter–instead of a twit!

 

 

An Awesomesauce Project Update

Well kids, if you’ve been keeping up with our recent activities, you’ll know that last week we got an awesome parcel from Sheri of Awesomesauce&Asshattery and Mensch T’s fame.  It was a lovely and thoughtful gift for the members of Re-Creations Wednesday Group in Cambridge.  And I was all

and then so was she, and then the whole love-fest carried on over in the Regretsy forum where warm fuzzies were shared and it was generally agreed that the situation was awesome and that we were all kick-ass individuals of the highest caliber.  And then…

Yesterday I got to deliver the bags to the group.  And boy were they thrilled!  There were no tears (at least not initially), they checked out the bags and loved that they had their names on them.  But what really got them was the notes Sheri included with each bag, commenting on the work in their gallery!  I noticed a couple of people with itchy eyes at that point–the pollen count must have been really high…  And then, since no good deed goes unpunished, we got straight to work on a couple of cool bits of swag to send over to Sheri in Berlin.  Here’s a gratuitously smiley photo:

If you look closely, you can see I’m holding a super-duper specially made Awesomesauce Jar Lantern, that’s going to be wandering over to Sheri as soon as I break open my piggy bank for postage!  (But I’m not telling what else we made for her because we want it to be a surprise!)

And if that wasn’t enough coolness for one day, Luci over at Idle Hands Yarn wrote this feature about us on Love 2 Upcycle–The Etsy Upcycling Team Blog.  As a result, lots of cool people have stopped by to visit our little corner of Etsy, and lots have stayed for a cup of tea and a chat!

While all of this has been going on, the team has been incredibly busy.  We had to finish off our bottle top door mat, which turned out pretty cool. (It also feels amazing when you stand on it in socks!)

And the rest of the time, we’ve been getting ready for: (drumroll, please) a wedding.  Not for any of our team–that ship has long since sailed for Jacqui and I.*  But a near and dear friend of the group has asked us to do upcycled wedding decorations for her very special day, and we are soooooooo excited!  This might just be the most fun we’ve had yet!  So if posts are running a bit thin over the next few weeks, don’t worry.  It won’t be because we’re slacking off and putting our feet up over the summer– we’ll be out there somewhere in Cambridgeshire, working all of our fingers to the bone!

*however, if Robert Downey Jr. should become available, we would take the situation into consideration.**

** You don’t necessarily need to mention this to our respective spouses.

Fighting the Good Fight

Working in social enterprise can be a heady business.  When I spend time networking with other social enterprises or fellow UnLtd. Award winners, I’m surrounded by people who have stepped out of the traditional “9-5 employee” role and devoted themselves to social good.  They’ve spotted a need in some part of the community, and used their passion and ingenuity to set about filling it. And they’ll keep going just like the Energizer Bunny, because their success won’t all be measured by profit–it will be in the names and faces of people whose lives are improved as a result.

Re-Creations also has the the added bonus of associating with the Arts and Crafts communities who exhibit endless amounts of creative genius and inspiration every day.  Like Regan Kerr and her Upcycled Prom Dress, or Garth Britzman with his amazing car park roof.  Or even my sister & sister-in-law, who made an amazing art car with bottle-caps!

And then you’ve got the “Change the World Gang” at The You Can Hub, who are celebrating their first birthday today.(A very happy birthday, guys!)  Together, they bring the best in creativity, empowerment,, “buzz”  and square-framed specs to bear on the challenges they encounter.  I can’t confirm it, but it is rumored that these ladies wear their pants on the outside, in true superhero style.

Surrounded by such passionate, inspirational people, it’s easy to see the world through rose-tinted glasses.  It’s tempting to assume that everybody’s honest, that people who work hard will succeed, and that the good guys will always win.  And it sure is nice to forget that accidents happen, that bureaucracy can be impenetrable, and  that sometimes people screw you over.

But then sometimes reality can bring you back to earth with a bump.  For me, that’s what happened last week.  A combination of red tape, sad news and some utter human badness left me feeling like this:

As i drove my battered ego home on Friday, I found myself listening to Janet Devlin’s cover of Coldplay’s “Fix You”.  That first line, “when you try your best but you don’t succeed,” echoed in my ears for ages afterward.    Because despite what Hollywood might like us to believe, doing the right thing doesn’t mean we’ll come out on top.  Outside of primary school, nobody takes home a ribbon just because they took part.  Inevitably, shit will happen, and working hard or being a kind person is no guarantee against being kicked in the teeth.  In fact,  some people view “kindhearted”  as code for “easy target” and will be happy to lie, cheat, and steal from you if it gets them what they want.  (Like I said, it was a rough week.)

So why carry on?  Why invest your blood, sweat, and tears (and innumerable cups of coffee) in improving other people’s lives–especially if it may not pay off in your life?  How can you make yourself keep going with no clear path ahead, or get back up when life has knocked your feet from under you?  And what happens to the nice guy who finishes last?

These were the questions I mulled over this weekend, between playing Peppa Pig Dominos and never-ending episodes of Sponge Bob Square Pants.  For a little while, I thought about chucking in the towel, and what life would be like if I went back to the regular 9-5 job and focused on earning money like most people do. But then two things happened.

The first was an unexpected parcel in the post:

Unlike most of Re-Creations post, this one didn’t contain rubbish for upcycling.  Remember Sheri from AwesomeSauce&Asshattery, and owner of the attractive Mensch T’s logo on our sidebar?   She used her super-secret-ninja-powers of awesomeness to make a surprise gift for each of the Re-Creations group members.  One that I know is going to make their day.  (I’m not going to tell what it is until after the guys have all seen them!)  She’s never met the guys.  Actually, she lives approximately 561 miles away, in Berlin.  But she woke up one morning and thought “Dude* What shall I do today?  I know, I’ll do something Awesome for these guys in England.  After all, I am the Awesomesauce”  (*may not have been her exact words)

The result:    

And the other thing that happened?  My husband disappeared for ages, late in the evening.  Eventually he walked through the door, cradling a dripping wet, flea-ridden and rather smelly old cat.  It wasn’t our cat, and the husband has never really been much of a cat person.  But when he heard that a neighbor had suddenly passed away, leaving a pair of elderly cats stranded outside in torrential rain, he couldn’t rest until he knew they were warm and fed.  In all, he spent over an hour outside  in the storm, coaxing the cats into trusting him and coming indoors.  He had nothing to gain from it, apart from the expense of feeding and flea-treating a couple of cats who would moult on his furniture and quite possibly leave hairballs on his pillow by way of thanks.

So in the midst of my crisis of faith, these two events showed me a couple of things:

  1. Good stuff can happen, even in the middle of a big, fat, stormy suckfest.
  2. Awesome people just can’t help being awesome. Across different species and great distances, and with nothing to gain, awesome people are just compelled to do awesome stuff.

So when everything hits the fan, instead of asking “why do I bother?”, the real question I need to ask myself is: “Are you awesome?”  Because if you’re awesome, you keep chipping away at the problem, even if there’s no end in sight.  You can’t help it, because the awesomeness is just part of who you are.  Think about your heroes for a minute.  Do you admire them because of their easy success?  Or is it because they busted their butts in dismal circumstances, and fought for what they believed in against all odds?  There’s a reason we’ll remember Martin Luther King Jr forever, while we’ve already forgotten last week’s lottery winner.  Without the struggle, there can be no heroes.

And meanwhile (whether you know them or not) all around the world there are other inspired people chipping away at  problems and committing random acts of awesomeness.  When you add all those people and all their efforts together, the result is that

If sad things or wicked people catch us unaware, we may lose a battle.  But that doesn’t make our good deeds any less good.  And awesome people will still be working, fighting the good fight because that’s who we are.  So next time I feel like giving up, I’m going to be thinking about Sheri & her Awesomesauce.  And then I’m going to start channeling Barney Stinson:

Now where the hell is my cape?