Being A Mum With Chronic Fatigue

When you say you have chronic fatigue a lot of people don't really understand what that means. Also referred to as M.E., chronic fatigue, or CFS, is a long-term condition that causes severe physical and mental tiredness, and often chronic pain, to a degree that it restricts everyday life. It affects around 250, 000 in the UK and 17 million worldwide.

Pro Blogger Interivews: Coombe Mill

Welcome back to my fortnightly blogger series, where I interview today's top bloggers and ask those burning questions you would love to know the answer to. Hopefully these bloggers can help unlock some insights that will help us all grow our blogs and develop to a place we would all love to be.

Today interview is with with Fiona from Coombe Mill. Fiona and her husband Farmer Nick run fantastic self catering farm holidays and alongside this Fiona runs their blog where she shares activities from the farm as well as the weekly linky, Country Kids. Fiona has won four awards for her blog as well as countless nominations and is widely recognised as both a fantastic blogger and brand.

How do you think your experience as blogging from a brand perspective differs from personal bloggers?

In many ways not very much and I think this is actually the secret of my success. I really like to know and understand and connect with bloggers as fellow parents and not just see them as potential customers. I chat just like any other parent on social media and try to remember significant events in others live. On the blog I am mindful not to alienate followers so my posts are not ranty, shouty or sweary and few posts are controversial. The odd post that has involved a little controversial debate created great interest but on balance I decided it was best to steer away from such subjects. Generally my posts cover the happy events on the farm, things in our personal lives which are well received though interestingly they are often nothing to with the business. I believe it is good to have a mix of posts, those which are designed to entice you for a visit and those that are purely an insight into our lives away from working. I am keen not to be a pushy brand but rather a friendly blogger. I join linkys, host my own and comment widely and am always striving to improve my blog.   

Do you get many requests from people looking for freebies? How do you feel about them?

I do receive a fair few requests for freebie holidays; they are generally nicely worded and opportunistic. I don’t mind at all, after all I think it is quite common with the bigger companies and ambassador programmes. However in reality we are only a small family business and apart from an occasional competition, like the one I’m running now on my blog to Win Christmas with us, I don’t offer freebies. Not that I wouldn’t like to, simply that I can’t afford to and for all the popular times we are fully booked anyway. I think I have been extremely lucky to have appealed to the parent blogging community and now have a full Pinterest board of holiday reviews for Coombe Mill from paid for visits.

If you could advise someone on the best way to pitch to brands, what would it be?

My advice on pitching to brands would be to be clear what you can offer them. They may not understand the blogging community and social media as well as you do as a blogger so spell out the obvious and don’t feel shy to shout about your commitment and achievements and what that will give them in social media presence, but be realistic and honest to them and yourself about the time you have and what they can expect to see from your efforts. Find out the person you need to speak to and address them by name then email, tweet or phone, sound confident and friendly, the worst they can say is no, this is why I never mind if someone approaches me. Despite being a brand I still pitch to brands myself, like my linky sponsorship of ‘Country Kids’ with Muddy Puddles and ‘Trash 2 Treasure’ with Duck Tape Colours.  

You obviously run your own business as well as your blog -  how you find time to fit it all in?

Do you schedule posts or is it more when you have time you write a load at once? Running a business, a blog and bringing up 6 children is a juggling act. I work late into the night 7 days a week and thrive on just 5 or 6 hours sleep every night. This said I will also take an hour out in the day to go for a run or a bike ride and my children are now growing up and do help with the business. I have days when I have my “writing head” on and will draft up 3 or 4 posts, coming back to them during the week to edit and add photos. I usually work a week ahead in draft as I hate being up against deadlines and always worry about the unexpected with the children or the business so I like to be prepared. 

What is your best advice on running a linky and how to make it successful?

My advice on running a linky is to choose a topic you are really interest in and know you can create a host post for easily. For me outdoor fun was a no brainer with the freedom of our 30 acre holiday farm. Make your theme wide enough to encompass a range of posts but with clear boundaries and try to be original, no one likes to be copied. Having done this, tell the world about it, make reference on your other posts and share on twitter but be careful not to spam people with it. Be a good host and comment and share all who link with you. Never take those who link up for granted, it takes time and effort to join in and it is important they know you appreciate this, but be warned, it takes me about 10 hours a week commenting and sharing and inviting back on Country Kids, so give it some serious thought before you jump in to run one. I think linkys work best run weekly or monthly, personally I find bi-weekly really annoying as I forget which week it is and I’m sure I’m not the only one; I run Country Kids weekly and Trash 2 Treasure monthly.

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Halloween Party & Giveaway with Nick Junior

Next Monday we are hosting a party to celebrate halloween on Nick Jr at 4.30pm and you are invited!

Join us from 5.00pm until 6.30pm to watch Halloween episodes of Nick Jr favourites including Paw Patrol, Peppa Pig and Wallykazam to be in with a chance of winning some Halloween themed goodies, and make sure you join us on Twitter using the hashtag #NickJrPumpkinParty, and set your Tv channel to Sky channel 615, Virgin 715 or TalkTalk channel 318.

And as if that's not enough, I have a Halloween bundle to giveaway to one lucky reader! Simply follow the Gleam below:

Win A Halloween Bundle with Nick Jr

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Low Energy Play: Learning Letters

Last year I wrote a series on low energy play - ideas for mums who don't have a lot of energy but still want to set up fun and educational play for their children. I still have trouble keeping my two entertained, although with Miss H being in school the pressure is off a little, but there are times when I know I need to be doing more. Little J is not one for sitting still much so colouring, writing and the like are pretty much out the window. I have been looking a lot for ideas on how to retain his interest but also teach him letters, particularly his name.

Your Youtube #44

Welcome back to another week of Your Youtube - the place to share your recent videos and find new channels and vloggers to watch! Thanks to everyone who joined us last week and a big thanks to all those who have joined in our #YourYoutube chat! If you want to join in it's at 8pm every Sunday, and we will covering a whole manner of subjects relating to vlogging.

 This week's video of the week is from A Moment With Franca who is sharing her favourite products from September and has some great suggestions.

Over to the linky - share up to two videos and please watch and comment on the host video and at least one before your own to ensure we all get some engagement. Ready....go!

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The School Run: Don't Be Late Again!

If you're anything like me, adapting to the new school routine has been a bit of a challenge and there has often been mornings where we are all rushing out of the door at the last minute, as I shout and the children run half dressed to the car. However with a bit of practice I feel we've got the routine down a little better so I thought I'd share how I made sure the morning routine ran a little more smoothly and we were all a bit less fraught.

Pro Blogger Interviews: Honest Mum

Today is the first in a fortnightly blogger series where I interview today's top bloggers and ask those burning questions you would love to know the answer to. Hopefully these bloggers can help unlock some insights that will help us all grow our blogs and develop to a place we would all love to be.

Today I'm kicking things off with Vicki from Honest Mum. Vicki is a full time professional blogger who works with some amazing brands. She has modelled, presented and been the face of several companies all the while blogging and being mum to her two boys.

You work with so many amazing brands and have fantastic opportunities, do you tend to pitch to brands or do they find you? 

They come to me 99% of the time but if I see a brand I like who are usually following me on twitter perhaps, I will send an email or dm and ask if they are seeking bloggers or have any upcoming campaigns. I'm for being proactive, and self-promotion. My background as a filmmaker helps with this hugely, I've had to pitch to producers and networks a lot in my past. Definitely bloggers should pitch and start relationships with brands. Don't limit yourself whether you've just started or are established, everyone has targeted, niche audiences that matter to brands. Also when I'm approached for campaigns, I pitch my own ideas or offer my own angle on campaigns. We are digital storytellers who know our blog and audience best, great brands respect and understand that and will let you make paid posts personal. Those are the most successful and most natural campaigns. Be yourself.

If you could give a blogger any advice on how to approach brands, what would it be? 

Ensure your blog is as a professional and slick as possible and that you have a media kit (without fees ideally - always negotiate based on brief) and a 'work with me' page too. Make it easy for others to discover and work with you. An clickable email at the top of your blog along with social media badges and an 'About' section. Always be polite and professional and work with brands which fit your ethos and style.

You come across as a fantastically confident person - is this something you've had to build on over time or does it come to you quite naturally? 

I think most outwardly confident people are not necessarily always confident inside (it's impossible to be all of the time), we're just used to fighting the fear and doing it anyway - and confidence is a muscle to be practised, the more you feign confidence the easier it becomes and the more opportunities you push yourself out of your comfort zone, the greater you grow. A bit cheesy but true.   I lost my confidence hugely after a traumatic birth with my first son Oliver - blogging, the support of my family and a councillor ultimately helped me regain it piece by piece after losing my identity after a tough time. Confidence is fluid for all, I think as long as we are aware of that, it's OK. No one really talks about feeling worried or nervous to save face so those who are struggling feel alone whereas in reality we are all struggling to varying degrees dependant on what day we've had and tasks await. It's natural for most creatives to struggle with confidence, we are laying ourselves bare whatever our medium and craft and it takes great courage to do so. It really is crucial to push through the self doubt though, to pursue our dreams and goals.

How do you manage to fit your busy work schedule around your family? 

It works, I have a small team here, a publicist who negotiates my contracts and help with business development, someone who deals with IT and keeps my blogs looking their best, and an assistant. My eldest goes to school, and my youngest is in nursery part-time and my parents help a lot too. My husband shoots for me when he's not working in IT and we're a team. I expanded the business as it grew and having the support means I can focus on what I love-the written word and moving image. I work a lot on business development too and have some exciting new areas I want to pursue. This job is wonderful because I am in control, in the driving seat. I am there for my kids, working on my terms and in my own time. I work full time hours but they are structured around my family so I don't get to miss out on dinner, bedtime, fun. I always have Fridays off for Xander and I, and weekends are dedicated to my family too. This year more than ever has made me feel more balanced and happier than before. I'm also in a position to say no to projects I don't love and focus on those that feed me creatively.

If someone was looking to become a professional blogger like yourself, what would your top tip on how to go about it? 

Trust your voice. The Internet can often feel like an overcrowded space but there is room for us all. The beauty of blogging is, with a touch of a button a like-minded audience can and will discover you instantly. Follow your passions, write from the heart and share what you love.

Vicki is a full time blogger, award winning filmmaker and Mum of two who writes and style blog

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Handling Hard Times With Chronic Fatigue

I have never been one to hide away on this blog and despite my problems often being very personal, for the most part I try to be open and honest about what is going on. Maybe one day someone may read it and realise they are not alone.

I've talked previously about my dad who two years ago he was diagnosed with stage IV Lymphoma - cancer of the lymph nodes. He has a very rare form which was difficult to diagnose and by the time it was it had already reached terminal diagnosis. Now he undergoes treatment to hopefully stop the cancer spreading and help him manage his symptoms so he can live as much of a life as he can. Last week we got the news that his cancer had spread and he needs to resume chemotherapy. 

It was a cruel blow for us all to hear. He has been pretty steady for a while and whilst we are all very aware of his illness, we were able to try and put it to the back of our minds and focus on life right now. Once you hear devastating news everything comes rushing to the front and knocks you for six.

That has certainly been the case with me. Chronic Fatigue comes with its own baggage - not just the tiredness, but anxiety and depression are common predisposals to the illness, and both of which I struggle with. When you mix all these together it is not a fun concoction, let me tell you. Feeling down about something, anxious over those feelings and tired to boot which only serves to exacerbate those moods, and you have someone who can barely function. Which has been me for the last few days. It's why my blog has gone deathly silent and why I have reached out to friends in a way I rarely do. It's affected my relationship with my husband as I have been snappy and impatient and there have been endless tears. It's crazy how one thing can set off a string of a whole host of other things and life can seem almost impossible. In fact just yesterday I told my husband I felt I was failing at life - as a mother, a wife and just a human being. For the past week I've barely lived, it feels.

So this post is a message to anyone out there who suffers and feels the same hopelessness I do -  you are not alone. Often I feel that way, that I am the only one who struggles with this and that nobody else understands. But that isn't the case really, in fact there are many of out there, handling our illness alone. And badly.

What gets me through these difficult times is talking about things, resting as much as I can and just taking each day at a time. If I can get through one day, maybe I can get through the next too. Often the days seem never-ending and completely overwhelming but there is nothing to do but get through it the best you can, and hope that the next day will be that bit brighter.

If you are struggling and need some support then please do contact me. You can leave a message on this blog or tweet me @hollybobbs on twitter. In the meantime, keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Today is World Mental Health Day, if you are struggling and need support you can visit the ME Association website.

Your Youtube #42

Welcome back to Your Youtube and this week sees an exciting announcement! But first, a big thank you to everyone who's joining in each week, Sian and I are loving watching all your videos and enjoying discovering new channels every week. This week's video of the week is from Victoria at VeViVo's who has linked up video of her reciting a beautiful poem dedicated to her daughter.

So, onto our announcement! After the success of the linky we have decided to host a twitter chat for our fellow linkers and anyone else who wants to join in. The chat will be about all things vlogging and we will cover many different topics each week. Hopefully it will be a fantastic way to connect with each other, learn something new and share our own knowledge. The chat will be at 8pm every Sunday so be sure to follow the hashtag #YourYoutube to join us!

Over to the linky, as always please link no more than two videos, make sure you like and comment on the host video and the video before your own so that way we all get some likes and comments.

Off you go!

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